Friday, August 29, 2014

Adventures with Sterek or WTF

So, confession time: I've been reading Teen Wolf fan fiction. Specifically the "Sterek" subgenre, featuring Derek Hale and Stiles Stilinski doin... stuff.

And whatever you have to say about that, you can just keep to yourself, thank you very much.

Anyway, it's pretty hot. (Okay, some of it is really hot.) But since I'd never watched the show (or the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie), I realized I was missing many of the nuances. Soooooo, I just bought the show's first season and now I'm watching it with my teenaged son. For those unfamiliar with Teen Wolf, here is a sampling of "Stiles" moments.

For those curious about the massive universe that is Teen Wolf fan Fiction, here are links to the texts that I have sampled so far:

Eat, Knot, Love, by the very talented "pandabomb"

The Worst Thing I Ever Did, by the equally talented "RemainNameless"

I am at best a curious bystander in the world of fan fiction, so I am trying, haphazardly but I hope respectfully, to find my way through its terminology and concepts. For what it's worth, the first story listed is "non-canon" (the label used is "alternate universe/no werewolves") in that it borrows the characters from the show, but then creates its own universe with completely different rules, i.e. instead of werewolves people are "Alphas" and "omegas," the latter of which go into "heat," requiring something called "knotting." (If knotting is unfamiliar to you, you'd best get on that ASAP,  because it is a Very Important Concept in fiction featuring werewolves or wolf shifters.)

The second story is "canon," meaning it adheres closely to actual plot points within the show, with the small added detail of Stiles and Derek gettin' it on. Needless to say, it was the second which sent me running to I-tunes for back episodes of Teen Wolf.  It's been years since I've watched any TV, let alone a series marathon--most recently for me was March 16-April 5 2009 when my husband and I watched all 77 episodes of Battlestar Galactica. (An experience which bore an alarming and humiliating resemblance to the classic Portlandia episode.)  

My son and I are up to episode five, and we only stayed up until 1:15am, which, yeah, is not exactly "world's-greatest-mom" behavior, but fuck it, he doesn't start school for another week, so my husband can just shut up about it and let him enjoy the end of his vacation. Anyway, I can't say Teen Wolf is likely to become the sleep-destroying, world-changing obsession that Battlestar Galactica ended up being in my life, but it does feature a sexily glowering "Alpha" in Tyler Hoechlin's Derek Hale and a fantastic, scene-stealing performance by Dylan O'Brien as Stiles Stilinski.

Perhaps most tellingly for me and my evolving relationship to Fan Fiction, Stiles and Derek in their handful of scenes together demonstrate about a bajillion times more chemistry than the official, and depressingly generic, love plot between the titular hero, Scott, and his pouty lady-love, Allison.

I'm not sure if it was entirely a coincidence or some unconscious impulse at work, but during the same period I was reading "Eat, Knot, Love," I did pull out a (very dusty) copy of my dissertation which I handed in almost exactly eleven years ago and then immediately shut out of my mind as you would a crappy ex-boyfriend. I stayed up until 4am rereading it, and honestly it wasn't bad. In case you're wondering, it was on free indirect discourse in the novels of Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Henry James, all covered in a mere 6 chapters and 244 pages, not counting the 11 page (single-spaced) bibliography.

No one will ever know the lurid, terrifying tale of how I got from Sense and Sensibility to Sterek fan fiction, which involves 100-year-old vampires, nubile virgins, and a werewolf's destined mate... Okay fine--you can just read my "It all started with Twilight" post.  Go ahead and laugh--I'm not going to stop you.  I'm too busy loading up Teen Wolf season one, episode 6, "Heart Monitor": apparently Stiles isn't speaking to Scott because of the wolf attack on Stiles' dad, and then Derek tells Scott he may have to give up Allison in order to control his changes!  OMFG!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lilia's Best Multigrain Cookies Ever Ever

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite authors, K.J. Charles, had a terrific blog post about the difficulties authors have today managing the pressure to share details about their real lives for the sake of curious fans. I write with a pen name, and since one of the main rationales for that pen name was to keep my authorship of gay tentacle porn off the radar of my kids' schools, I have not had much temptation or opportunity to overshare, though I admit to prostituting my incredibly cute, dare-I-say "Boo-esque," pet Corgeranian anywhere I think his adorable wittle face might my help my career. In fact I'll do that right now:

Isn't he precious?

Anyhoo, one really shocking, tabloid-worthy RL factoid that I have kept deeply under wraps until now is that I am really into baking, specifically baking with whole grains.  Yeah, I know, it's bad: cupcakes, cookies, quick breads, fruit crumbles--I make them all.

Except pies--I have "personal issues" with pie crusts, as in mine suck.

Generally, my family is pretty "supportive" of "Mom's whole grain thing," meaning if they ever want to eat another goddamn cookie in this house again, let alone bring three dozen top-sellers to their school bake sale, they'd better keep their traps shut about my refusal to cook with insipid, nutritionally castrated refined flours. But even my junk-food inhaling teenager would agree that my Multigrain Chocolate Chips are the best cookies he's ever eaten.  So I thought in the interest of promoting the scrumptiousness and health benefits of whole grains as well as my own coolness, I would share the recipe.

If you've ever made a chocolate chip cookie, you will realize that 100% of the innovation of this recipe is in the combination of grains, specifically the use of Spelt, Kamut, and Teff flours. Spelt and Kamut are older varieties of wheat, both far superior for most non-bread baking than regular whole wheat. Teff is a gorgeous Ethiopian grain that is used for their famous flat bread, injera. It is also a supergrain like quinoa or amaranth thanks to its kick-ass nutritional profile. All three are available from Bob's Red Mill. I buy them by the case from Amazon (You can click each name for the buy links).

So here's the recipe: 

1 cup spelt flour
½ cup teff flour
½ cup kamut flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks of butter (softened)
1 cup Brown Sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips or to taste

Prepare cookie sheets—use parchment if possible, otherwise grease lightly.

Bowl 1--Dry Mix
1 cup spelt flour
½ cup teff flour
½ cup kamut flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Mix together thoroughly

Bowl 2—I use a stand mixer

2 sticks of softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar

Beat together until light, then add:

2 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla

Mix lightly until blended—don’t overbeat.

Add flour mixture, mix gently until blended.
Add 1 cup chocolate chips or to taste

Place spoonfuls of dough approximately 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

Bake 10 minutes—then check frequently.   

DO NOT OVERBAKE—I find this recipe more forgiving then the regular one, but almost the only thing you can do to ruin chocolate chip cookies is to overbake them—SO DON’T DO IT. This is what they should look like:  

A few final notes:
"USE PARCHMENT."  It's annoyingly expensive, but you can reuse it (just wipe it off), which I do since I am really cheap and make tons of cookies. But you should just trust me on this. Parchment makes better cookies. Much better. Just use it. 

"1 cup chocolate chips or to taste."  Confession: I like but don't looooove chocolate, so I go very light on the chocolate chips (I use ordinary Nestle chips--Ghirardelli are oddly hard). Yes, my kids whine, and when they make the cookies themselves they can use as many chips as they want.  (Me smiling sweetly). Since you, dear reader, are making your own cookies, you can use the whole damn bag if that's your preference.

Here's one final photo--aren't they gorgeous? (Another super-juicy Lilia factoid: that's my wedding china they're sitting on.)

Yikes, now I want one. Seriously, I recommend these cookies. Everyone loves them. I could probably say more but those photos made me hungry--like, I have to have a cookie. NOW.

Time to yell at my son to get off the damn X-box and put the butter out.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Goodreads Reviews: Games Boys Play



Brian and Dylan have been best friends for years. They have no secrets between them, except for the ones they’re keeping from each other.

When Dylan lets himself into Brian’s apartment to drop something off, it couldn’t be worse timing—for Brian. He’s tied himself up to play out a kidnapping fantasy. He’s mortified, but Dylan is intrigued. He even offers to help Brian out next time he has an urge to be tied up.

No. That’s all Brian can think. No way. But the idea of someone else being in control overwhelms his thoughts—and self-bondage is suddenly a pale substitute for the real thing. He gives Dylan permission, on a trial basis, and comes face to face with a side of Dylan he’s never seen before. A really hot side.

As their games pick up steam, so does their relationship, along with Brian’s courage to go after the things he wants. Like, Dylan.

It might be happily ever after, but there’s one secret left, and it could ruin everything.


(Note: This review discusses the big "reveal" towards the end. I have marked it as a spoiler, but so far as I can tell there is no way to hide it like you do on Goodreads.)

I was pleasantly surprised by how strong I thought this was. I've noted in other reviews how certain books really fit my idea of a good, solid example of erotic fiction, and this book absolutely does.

In erotic fiction, as opposed to contemporary or other genres with some (or a lot) of erotic content, the main focus of the story is almost completely on the erotic relationship and, usually, on sex. Many of us use the "porn-without-plot" label to designate those books where not much happens except sex, or, for me especially, where I don't find the sex and erotic relationship interesting enough to carry a book.

I call Games Boys Play "erotic fiction", because the overwhelming focus of the story is on Dylan and Brian's experiments with bondage fantasies. The other aspects of the story grow out of it--how Brian, the book's narrative center, feels about the escalating intensity and elaborateness of their acts, his understandable worries about how his feelings towards Dylan might be changing, hidden aspects of his own personality that come to light, and so on.

For me, strong, insightful erotic writing explores how sex and intimacy change you. The kind of acts that sometimes get labelled "kinkery" are not there just to titillate or shock, but because those acts, and the desires that provoke them, have the potential to force people to confront assumptions about themselves, inhibitions, illusions, fears, self-deceptions. There is a nakedness to complete helplessness, both for the individual and the dynamic between two people, that makes certain habitual deceptions and comfortable assumptions impossible. When done intelligently and sensitively, it can also make for a great read--which this book emphatically is.

My only qualm was that I wanted more on Dylan. We are only given Brian's perspective, which I thought was very well done and insightful. But Dylan, despite the not-very-revealing "reveal" towards the end, remained a mystery. Rider does a wonderful job hinting at Dylan's motives and the kinds of desires that would lead him to go as far as he does. You get the impression that in a way he has even less control or self-knowledge than Brian does, which is a really cool twist, and a relief from the very irritating and ubiquitous "all-knowing Dom teaches the repressed sub what he truly wants" dynamic in most D/s fiction. There is a sense that Dylan is making some quite uncomfortable discoveries about what he likes--which strikes me as authentic. If I suddenly discovered how much I wanted to backhand my closest friend and business partner, I would have a lot of soul searching to do. (There was a similarity here to Lana McGregor's His Roommate's Pleasure, which I also really admired, but there are a lot of hints that Dylan is more conflicted than Josh in that story, which I thought added a lot of intriguing complexity.)

START SPOILER: But I did end up feeling more teased than satisfied by what we did learn about Dylan. The revelation that Dylan is gay, and has been hiding it all along, did not really cut it for me. The whole story feels like it's leading up to a relationship between Brian and Dylan, so the reader is already expecting some kind of gay-for-you or similar revelation. The fact that Dylan is gay felt a lot less momentous than that he's willing to go to such incredible amounts of trouble to play out these elaborate kidnapping fantasies--and with Brian of all people. Where are these feelings coming from? Has he explored them before? His orientation also felt a lot less momentous than the fact that he'd kept his sexuality hidden, which in our day and age actually requires an explanation. Keep it hidden from fans, perhaps, but friends and family? We're not told they're raging homophobes or fundamentalists, so it says a lot about Dylan that he chose that route rather than just coming out--I believed it, but I wanted more about why. The prolonged secrecy from his loved ones seems to tie into the kidnapping and domination fantasies, which struck me as incredibly fertile ground for exploration. Perhaps because most books focus on the sub and his or her motivations, I found Dylan more unexpected and provocative than Brian (not that Brian's in any way lacking), so I just wanted more of Rider's great insights into what makes him tick. END SPOILER

Bottom line: I really recommend this. It's a very hot read--hooray!--but also a great example of what erotic fiction can, and at its best, should do, which is explore depths and complexities in the characters that could never be revealed in any other way.

Rating: FOUR Stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads: Link to Amazon)