The Controversial Life of a Book: The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray

December 11th, 2013

Controversy. You gotta love it.

I got a shedload of controversy when I wrote my sex parody Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts. (Some of those Jane-ites really got their knickers in a twist over that one!) Now I’m getting even more raised eyebrows and shocked intakes of breath with the recent publication of The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray, my sequel to Oscar Wilde’s Faustian classic The Picture of Dorian Gray.

But surely you didn’t think it was a fluffy little romance about a man whose primary goals in life consist of hedonism, human destruction and even murder? “Fluff” just isn’t in my vocabulary!

I was fortunate to interview Mr. Gray as preparation for the writing of my novel. I’m not ashamed to admit that he managed to shake me up quite a bit, despite his charm and great physical appeal. Writing about his life and his descent into what can only be described as unrepentant debauchery took some doing. We’re not talking about a poster boy for Boyfriend of the Year here. We’re talking about an individual who desires sensation at all costs. Extreme sensation. Sensation that the average person would run away from in horror if confronted by it.

But we aren’t dealing with the average person. We’re dealing with Dorian Gray – a man whom I’ve brought back from the dead. The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray continues where the original novel by Oscar Wilde left off. And for this to be done with any reasonable level of believability and allegiance to his true nature, Dorian had to descend into a hedonistic chaos with no moral restraint whatsoever. There was only one logical direction for Dorian to go – DOWN.

Hey, you didn’t seriously think he would become a Born-again Christian, did you? If you did, then perhaps you might also believe that Norman Bates would make excellent husband material (as well he might, providing you don’t take a shower).

Is there violence in the book? Yes. Is there sex? Absolutely. Are they sometimes offered together on the same plate? It goes without saying. Dorian dishes it out, but even more so, he eagerly consumes it when applied to himself. He lives for sensation – and after living for more than a century, he requires increasingly extreme ways in which to achieve new sensation. Is this novel suitable for readers of a delicate sensibility? No, it is not.

So is The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray a work of Gothic horror? Yes. Is it Gothic romance? Yes. It’s both of these things and more, reaching into dark fantasy as well as paranormal, LGBT and historical fiction; in fact, it’s even been dubbed erotic horror. Do you need to read Wilde’s book before reading mine? Not at all.

The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray by Mitzi Szereto

The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray by Mitzi Szereto

Does Dorian eventually find himself confronted by a moral awakening? You must seek the answer to that on the pages. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a little taste of the novel. You might be shocked. And you might even be offended. But so too, were readers of Oscar Wilde’s original text, which is why he was forced to censor portions of it and revise others in order for it to be deemed fit for public consumption. One can only dare to imagine what his novel might have contained had he been alive to write it today. Why, it might make my sequel look like the proverbial shrinking violet!

***

Excerpt from The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray – a novel by Mitzi Szereto
© 2013 by Mitzi Szereto

Dorian remained as flawless as ever. He knew that no matter where he went, the situation would repeat itself, therefore he adopted a more primitive form of existence, neither mingling in society nor engaging with others save for acquiring the basic necessities of life. He passed nearly two decades in this fashion, reaching places as far-flung as India and, eventually, the southernmost end of Peru, where he decided to remain for a while. The years had gone by slowly, and he felt the tedium of each one, not to mention the anguish of tamping down his desires like a fire doused by a torrent of cold water. There were no more salacious reports following him from country to country and continent to continent, leading to his whereabouts like a trail of breadcrumbs. Since fleeing Marrakesh Dorian had avoided establishments catering to the more debauched members of society, knowing that even a small taste of such delights would propel him back into his old life. Instead he fought the urge for fleshly sensation until he believed he would go mad, finding a perverse enjoyment in his self-deprivation that added to his repertoire of sensations.

The war raging in Europe had ended, leaving behind ravaged landscapes and countless casualties. But his native England had endured. Dorian wondered if he would ever step foot upon its shores again. Was there anyone left alive whom he had once known? He thought of Lord Henry and the last time he’d seen him. It had been that evening he’d relayed with such naïve pride his sparing of Hettie Merton’s chastity.

“Play me a nocturne, Dorian, and, as you play, tell me, in a low voice, how you have kept your youth,” Lord Henry had said. “You must have some secret. I am only ten years older than you are, and I am wrinkled, and bald, and yellow.”

Only ten years older.

Even back then it was difficult to imagine so small a number separating them in age when the eye declared otherwise. Could dear Harry still be alive somewhere in the world at this very moment? Dorian hoped it to be so. The man had been like a father, a lover, a god. Although at the end he had disappointed him, Lord Henry was the closest Dorian had ever been to another human being—and this had given him a curious sense of belonging, which he’d never experienced since.

Dorian settled for a time in a quiet valley located in the shadow of a volcano in the south of Peru. To anyone in the village who asked—and with a population comprised exclusively of Quechuas there were enough who overcame their shyness to speak to him—Dorian claimed to be a man of faith who had come seeking spiritual enlightenment so that he might pass on his knowledge to others. This was how he’d first learned of a monastery located high up in the mountains. Its presence proved to be an unexpected bonus, since everyone believed this was why he’d chosen to come here. To add further credence to his tale, Dorian purchased a battered old typewriter from a shopkeeper in a nearby town, which he kept out on the scarred wooden table beneath the dusty window of his room in the event the old woman from whom he rented his lodgings called in when he was absent. He quite enjoyed his new persona and even spent some time typing away on the decrepit instrument, finding that his random entries would, indeed, make a fine book after he was finished, particularly since they pertained mostly to the hedonistic philosophies Lord Henry had instructed him in.

Had Dorian been anyone else he might have been content with his new existence. Life had been pared down to a beautiful kind of simplicity, and for some it might have been enough. For Dorian it was not. The pressure of his lust had been building like the pressure inside the volcano that hovered over the valley; an explosion was imminent. The catalyst that finally triggered it would need to be masterfully executed, for he had many arid years of self-denial to make up for.

Donning the humble garb of a peasant that had become his daily attire, Dorian set forth on foot for the mountains, looking like a man with nothing but the clothing on his back and his wits to guide him. When he first set out he had no purpose or destination in mind, yet his feet seemed to be leading him somewhere. The first night he slept rough, awakening dusty and dirty and resembling the impoverished beggars that occasionally traveled through the towns and villages. His shabby appearance combined with a few words of Quechua aided him well enough to locate a bed on the second night. The fact that it was located inside the monastery he’d been told about gave rise to a plan that would be his masterwork of corruption. It came to him the moment he saw the young priest working in the vineyards. The frank purity in his broad brown face cried out to Dorian to sully it.

At the monastery he was given a tiny cell-like room in which to sleep. The little cot that served as a bed proved as hard and unwelcoming as a boulder, but it inspired within Dorian thoughts of martyrdom, re-invigorating his former fascination with the Roman Catholic Church and men who lived lives devoid of fleshly pleasure. He spent a fitful first night, though this didn’t stem from discomfort in his accommodations, but rather his mounting excitement over his intention to commit an act of sacrilege so hellishly divine he could smell the brimstone in his nostrils.

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An Interview With Dorian Gray

November 24th, 2013

The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray by Mitzi SzeretoI had the very unique privilege of interviewing the infamous Dorian Gray in preparation for the writing of my new novel The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray – a sequel to Oscar Wilde’s Gothic masterpiece The Picture of Dorian Gray. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of my book, here is a synopsis:

Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mitzi Szereto continues where Wilde left off in her Faustian tale of a man with eternal youth and great physical beauty who lives a life of corruption, decadence and hedonism. The story begins in the bordellos of Jazz-Age Paris, moving to the opium dens of Marrakesh and the alluring anonymity of South America. In his pursuit of sensation and carnal thrills, Dorian’s desires turn increasingly extreme and he leaves behind yet more devastation and death. He ultimately settles in present-day New Orleans, joining with a group of like-minded beings known as the Night People. They inadvertently return to Dorian his humanity when he falls in love with a young woman he rescues from becoming their victim. Will she be his redemption? Or will she be his final curse?

And now for our interview!

MITZI: Thank you, Dorian, for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me. I’ll try to make this interview as painless as possible, since I imagine you have other places you’d much rather be!

DORIAN: My dear, I am pleased to sit here and chat with you. As for being painless, I’ve found that painlessness is vastly undervalued.

MITZI: Indeed. And what do you have to say on the subject of pleasure?

DORIAN: I’ve discovered that they are often one and the same. The important element is sensation. There must be sensation at any cost. I learned this from my dear friend Lord Henry Wotton.

MITZI: Lord Henry was a major influence on you, wasn’t he?

DORIAN: Absolutely! Dear Harry was my mentor as well as my friend. Though I daresay I’ve far exceeded his expectations!

MITZI: Of that I have no doubt. Are there any limitations to your desires – any line you won’t cross in your pursuit of sensation?

DORIAN: Limitations are for the weak and those who fear their innermost desires. I have no such fear. I live for my desires. I see no reason to deprive myself when there is so much pleasure and sensation to be had in this life!

MITZI: Even if the pleasure and sensation is entirely one-sided? If you don’t mind my saying, but surely your victims have not enjoyed the same levels of pleasure and sensation as you have, particularly those who died as a result of them.

DORIAN: Oh, but that is untrue! I can assure you that my – as you refer to them - victims, attained the utmost in pleasure and sensation, even if it was the final pleasure and sensation they were ever to experience. It might even be said that I have been responsible for granting them the ultimate pleasure and sensation, regardless of whether they met their end after the experience.

MITZI: But in so doing, you have destroyed lives. Surely many would say that death is not a fair trade-off for pleasure?

DORIAN: My dear, that is a pedestrian outlook that the truly superior such as myself would take umbrage to.

MITZI: You’re certainly not averse to self-compliments, are you?

DORIAN: I speak as I find. I see no point in doing otherwise – unless, of course, it suits a specific aim of mine. I’ve been known to indulge in a bit of game playing, especially when it’s fraught with danger. Danger, especially when tinged with the threat of personal harm or death, is an excellent aphrodisiac.

MITZI: I’m sure there are those who might disagree on that point, but as they say: to each his or her own.

DORIAN: To each his or her own, indeed!

MITZI: Do you believe that you’ve finally experienced every sensation there is to experience?

DORIAN: That remains to be seen. For it is you who are putting my story onto the page. Therefore we shall let the reader decide.

MITZI: Thank you again for speaking with us today.

DORIAN: Thank you, my dear, for inviting me. Are you perchance available for a late supper this evening? I know the perfect little cafe! Then perhaps afterward you might grant me the opportunity to expand further on the tenets of my philosophy via a demonstration?

*Interview terminated*

Teddy Tedaloo opens the box of author copies

Teddy Tedaloo opens the box of author copies

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Mitzi and Teddy Hit Montreal, Eh?

October 20th, 2013
Teddy Tedaloo tries the famous smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's

Teddy Tedaloo tries the famous smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s

Right, that’s it – I’m moving! I’ve been to a lot of cities (and I’ve lived in a lot of cities), and I will say this: if you like food – good food – and food from every conceivable place on the planet, you’ve got to be in Montreal. If you want someone to cook it, you’ll find a restaurant that has it. If you want to cook it yourself, you’ll find a supermarket that has anything you’d ever want or need – and you don’t have to go broke to get it either.

Alas, poor Yorick!

Alas, poor Yorick!

After all this high praise, I’ll be polite and not discuss the Quebec drivers. I think someone must’ve really got on the wrong side of these guys.

I’ll also be polite and not bang on about the traffic jams or the endless road construction or the collapsing overpasses. (You didn’t hear any of this from me, you got it?)

But hey, Montreal has mayoral candidate Richard Bergeron! In fact, we even ran into him (though not with our car). It felt as if we were meeting an old mate, what with his mug being plastered on every street corner in the city. Oy, and what a mug! Now I ask you – would you buy a used Chevy from this man?

Dodgy mayoral candidate for Montreal

Dodgy mayoral candidate for Montreal

Mind you, I’m thinking I should have a chat avec Monsieur Bergeron about the complete load of bollocks I was given crossing the Canadian border. I must have been saddled with a seriously bored border control agent, since he appeared to want to hang about and chew the fat with me all afternoon, grilling me about everything from who my friends in Montreal were to who owned the vehicle I was driving. (You’d have thought I was the driver who had an arm dangling from the rear of the car!) Heck, I’m surprised the guy didn’t ask what brand of antiperspirant I use! I notice he didn’t ask my famous bear Teddy Tedaloo any questions. Like, what’s up with that, eh?

It was all I could do to keep our Ted from biting him. (I have no idea what the penalty is in Canada for bears biting border service agents, and I didn’t wish to find out.) All I can say is, if you lot want tourist dollars to be spent in your country (or province), this is definitely not the way to go about it. And here I thought it was the American border agents who go all John Wayne on you when it comes to entering the country. Oddly enough, I had a very warm welcome on the way back when crossing into New York. Maybe the fellow was a fan of mine. He did address me by my first name as if he knew me.

I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t heading up to Canada for the book launch of my new novel The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray. Can you imagine the panic that would have ensued at the border crossing? I mean, the book hasn’t even been published yet! (That doesn’t mean you can’t pre-order it from Amazon – so what are you waiting for?) I’d have been taking my life in my hands if I hadn’t come armed (maybe “armed” isn’t the right word to use in this context) with an autographed copy for the border services agent. Hey, maybe that was his problem – I didn’t give him a free book! You’d be amazed by how weird people can get when they meet an author and aren’t given freebies.

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo high above Montreal

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo high above Montreal

Anyway, it’s not me who’s important here.

Teddy Tedaloo at Musee des Beaux Arts

Teddy Tedaloo at Musee des Beaux Arts

The official star of the show was Teddy Tedaloo, whom everyone was expecting. Our official Quebec hosts in the section of Montreal known as “Peter’s Bottom” (I’m not even going to try to explain this) were initially his friends, not mine. In fact, our host was a fluffy white cockapoo with a penchant for raising his hind leg whenever it suited him. He and Teddy got on like a house on fire. Mind you, everyone gets on with Teddy like a house on fire. Even a trip to the Musee des Beaux Arts was filled with members of the Teddy Tedaloo Admiration Society. One of the security guards insisted upon a formal introduction, offering Ted a hearty handshake along with the compliment that it was good to see a bear who appreciated fine art.

As for me, no one was really that bothered save for my new best friend at border control. Having said that, if he’s reading this, he’d better not be expecting a free autographed copy of my new book any time soon!

As for Montreal, I can’t wait to return and get cracking with some serious eating!

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Facebook Cull Harming the Harmless

September 12th, 2013

Well, folks, they’re at it again. Yes, our favourite anti-social social network is doing their utmost to destroy whatever joy there is in using the site by initiating a mass deletion of any users who don’t fit their description of what a user should be.

In a nutshell: Facebook is culling any user profile from their site whom they do not consider to be of the “human” species, pets in particular. This includes many friends of mine, be they canine, feline, and ursine (including “stuffies” – ie those whose innards are not of the moist and pulpy variety). This cull also includes a large number of animal rescuers who do good and valuable work to help animals whose lives have been harmed by this apparently superior species known as HUMANS. Condescending to allow non-human users to have a Facebook page is not the same. The interactivity of pages is very limited and designed to be, therefore the experience and usefulness of social networking is greatly diminished from a page. I know this from my own personal experience using a profile versus a page. There is no comparison!

These Gestapo tactics are destroying the fun and usefulness of social networking and hurting a lot of individuals and animals. If you think the word “Gestapo” is too strong, believe me, it is accurate. There is such a fear among users these days that many are even afraid to speak up for fear their profile will be deleted. It has happened before, with people such as social media and tech bloggers who dared to call Facebook onto the carpet discovering that their profiles were mysteriously disabled. So if the Gestapo fits… (Keep an eye out to see how long I remain on the site – I might be next!)

Many users rely on their Facebook friends to bring them joy, entertain them, and convey useful information. Indeed, there are large numbers of elderly, home-bound and disabled individuals who rely heavily on their daily interaction with their Facebook animal and stuffy pals to help get them through the day and bring a much-needed smile to their faces. And I am no different. The fact that some of our pals do not fit the biological specifics Facebook claims a user must have is irrelevant and prejudicial. In fact, it is species-ist.

Since Facebook went public, there is an increasing push from their end to earn revenue off the site. This is perfectly understandable and logical. However, if this latest cull (and this is not the first by any means) is about generating more advertising dollars, non-human users are just as likely to click on an ad and make a purchase as “human” users, perhaps even more so. Facebook is missing out on a major revenue-earning opportunity by deleting all these profiles. Instead they can be targeting these users with appropriate ads and doing better than they’d ever dreamed of. Talk about being short-sighted.

If you think these deletions of non-human profiles are not important, you are dead wrong. This cull has now come to the attention of major media, including ITV television in the United Kingdom. If ITV considers this issue important, it won’t be long before other major media outlets start taking notice. There is already a backlash against Facebook regarding privacy concerns, and the shine on Mr. Zuckerberg et all is dulling by the minute. Some users have already jumped ship rather than remain on the site having their private information being used in ways they did not intend for it to be used. It seems to me that Facebook should be trying to keep our business rather than drive us away and further earn our enmity. This latest bit of nastiness with the mass deletion of non-human profiles is not the stuff a good PR campaign is made of. Nor does it make good business sense.

I urge you to contact media outlets as well as Facebook’s corporate offices and express your outrage that Facebook is deleting accounts in good standing that cause no harm, yet meanwhile Facebook has no problem allowing pedophiles, pornographers, animal crush enthusiasts, animal abusers, hate mongers, prostitutes, and every kind of scammer out there to proliferate on the site like flies on dog shit.

Please give your views about these unfair and unjustified deletions and why pet/non-human Facebook accounts are valuable and important to you or your friends or even just in general. These profiles are causing no harm to anyone. If anything, they do far more good than most of us realise!
If you’re interested, here is a petition that’s been started.
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/838/040/777/give-us-back-pet-profiles-on-facebook/

 

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Visiting the King(s) in Memphis

July 10th, 2013
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo visit Graceland

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo visit Graceland

It’s pretty much impossible to visit the American South without at least stopping by to see the King. Celebrity bear and bestselling author Teddy Tedaloo of Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) fame just had to pop over to Graceland to pay his respects to the man who sang with such affection about teddy bears – and he took me along for the ride.

Ted had a blast checking out the home and the life of Elvis Presley. Being a creative artist and famous entertainer himself, I must say he was a tad envious of all those accolades “Elvis the Pelvis” received for his work. As for me, I think the writing was on the wall when I ended up having chocolate sauce spilled all over my trousers and shoes as we took a break for some ice cream in the Graceland ice cream parlour. So much for all my published books and fame (not fortune)….

I spent the rest of the day feeling…well…sticky. And on a hot summer’s day in a southern state with ants, this is not a good thing.

Hanging out on Beale (Mitzi Szereto with Teddy Tedaloo)

Hanging out on Beale (Mitzi Szereto with Teddy Tedaloo)

I had considerably better luck the following evening when we decided to visit the other king: namely B.B. King. Unfortunately he was out of town (he was probably out searching for that thrill that’s gone), but his nightclub was up and running for business on busy Beale Street, where I fared far better with an order of barbecued ribs than I did with Elvis’ soft serve. It was also Hog Night, so the bikers were out in force, showing off their nifty two-wheelers (and occasionally three). We even saw a werewolf biker.

Teddy Tedaloo gets down with the blues at B.B. King's

Teddy Tedaloo gets down with the blues at B.B. King’s

Or at least I think it was a werewolf. Perhaps that microbrew I drank was stronger than I thought.

I should tell you that Memphis is not exactly a town full of shrinking Southern violets. On the contrary, some of the ladies are quite, shall we say, forward. One afternoon as we were leaving a downtown parking garage, my friend was asked by the female parking attendant in a very no-nonsense soulful drawl: “Is that a tongue ring?” – followed by the demand: “What’s that for? Let me see it!” When my friend complied by sticking out her tongue, she was then asked: “Is that for sex?”

Only in Memphis.

Unfortunately Memphis has a very high crime rate. And unfortunately yours truly became yet another statistic of it. Was I robbed at gunpoint? No. Was I carjacked? No. In fact, I was safely sequestered (or so I believed) inside the living room of my friend’s house when the crime was committed. As I was chilling out with a glass of wine, little did I know that only a few feet away just down the hall my bath poof was being murdered by a dodgy local character who goes by the name of Udo. I mean, you only need to look at him to see the word CRIMINAL written all over his furry face. Talk about being caught in the act!

Wanted by Memphis Police Department

Wanted by Memphis Police Department

Out of respect for our lovely hostess, I didn’t bother telephoning the police. (However, she doesn’t know that I plan to sue for compensation.)

I suppose there’s a bright side to all of this: at least I didn’t take my bath brush with me. I dread to think of its fate had Herr Udo got hold of it.

As the locals can be heard say, Lord have mercy!

 

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Game of Thrones meets Thrones of Desire

March 31st, 2013

With the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones launching its third season in America as we speak, it’s no surprise that the fantasy genre is attracting a lot more people into the fold. Adapted from the bestselling epic fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice by author George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones offers viewers a hearty bite of the genre without requiring them to slog through a novel as fat as the yellow pages telephone book.

This has often been the case with epic fantasy novels (or high fantasy as it’s also known), most of which contain complex worlds that you need a road atlas to navigate. In an era that offers less and less leisure time, it takes a true devotee of the fantasy art form to be willing to commit for the long haul. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why some people just don’t bother with the genre. I know it has been true for me.

Another reason why some might give fantasy a miss is the perception that the genre is directed toward the younger reader. With the success of the Harry Potter books and films along with those of J.R.R. Tolkien, such a perception is understandable. Game of Thrones knocks any such perceptions out of the water, for it contains enough “adult” content to make your dear old Aunt Agnes in Hoboken blush (and she used to be a stripper!). This very subject was discussed by legendary fantasy author Piers Anthony in his foreword to my anthology Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and FireIn fact, it eventually led him to seek out alternative publishing models due to the overly “family-friendly” nature of many fantasy novels and fantasy publishers. He considered it restrictive, particularly in light of the fact that he was writing his novels for adults, not children.

Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire

Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire

I wanted to address some of these very same issues in my Thrones of Desire anthology, offering readers epic fantasy that didn’t require a month of their lives to read while also offering epic fantasy for the adult reader. Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire is not intended for children. It’s sexy, steamy and at times, explicit – just like the TV series that inspired it!

Attracting readers who are the more hardcore devotees of the genre is no easy task. Indeed, for me the ultimate stamp of approval has been seeing the anthology on bestseller lists in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy categories. Although I have worked in fantasy before with my solo short story collection In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales, tackling epic fantasy was far more challenging, especially when I had to rely on other writers to understand my vision and help bring it to fruition. Let’s just say that I did a lot of finger crossing, hair pulling and wide casting of nets to bring in stories that offered that sexy epic fantasy flavour that we see with Game of Thrones and which makes it the popular TV series it is today.

As I state in my introduction to Thrones of Desire:

You’ll find it all right here: corrupt kings, lusty queens, handsome princes, virginal princesses, randy knights, wicked sorcerers, kick-ass heroines, vengeful witches, mysterious shapeshifters… and we’re definitely not short on a few dragons either!

Heck, all that’s missing is Sean Bean!

For those of you who enjoy spoken word, several of the contributing writers have performed readings of their stories (or enlisted professional voice-over actors to do so) and these can now be found on the Thrones of Desire website. http://mitziszereto.com/thronesofdesire/author-readings/.

So grab up your swords and call for your dragons and let’s get going!

 

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Hurricane Mitzi Hits Miami

November 26th, 2012

Everyone knows that South Florida is prone to hurricanes, and I’m afraid I made matters worse during my recent appearance at the Miami Book Fair International, where I was invited to speak on The State of Erotica panel. Erotica is the hot topic these days, thanks to 50 Shades of Grey or, as I refer to it in my blog post, 50 Shades of Nothing New. Since I had a new book to promote (Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire ) and since people are always asking me when I’ll be doing more appearances in America, I figured this would be a good way to show that I’m making an effort to be more visible in the former colonies.

Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire

Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire

Well, the red carpet was laid out; however, it was not laid out for me. On the contrary. In fact, I had no idea that the real motive for my being invited to appear at the Miami Book Fair was, to put it bluntly, nothing but a thinly disguised plot for them to cozy up to someone I’m very closely associated with.

I knew the writing was on the wall when I arrived at the author hospitality suite and was asked almost immediately where Teddy Tedaloo was. Even the woman in possession of the media interview schedule remarked with forced politeness that I should have “brought the bear.” After all, how could I possibly expect her to come find me in the crowd when the photo on her printout was of both Teddy and myself? I had to concede the point.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I’d barely shaken hands with SiriusXM’s Kim Alexander from the Book Radio programme when the first thing out of her mouth was: “Where’s Teddy Tedaloo?” I felt like slinking beneath a chair. This continued throughout the day, even when I was speaking on the panel. At least two people in the audience asked where Teddy was – and need I say that he was very prominently mentioned in my introductory bio that was read off before the whole thing had even begun. Oh, the shame of it!

It appeared I’d made a major error by not bringing him with me to the book fair. A very major error.

May I take a moment to defend myself? I was operating with the best of intentions. By not taking Teddy, I thought I was sparing him some grief. You see, I normally do appearances in the United Kingdom and mainland Europe – and he always comes along for these events, be it literature festival, book festival, talk, or writing workshop. They’re very bear-friendly over on that side of the pond. However, I wasn’t too sure how welcoming of bears an American audience would be, or, for that matter, a Miami audience. (Have you met any bears in Miami? I haven’t!) Plus I generally do solo appearances, so there was the issue of whether Teddy would be happy being on a panel with several writers (all female) as opposed to only sharing the spotlight with me. And if the venue hadn’t thought to provide a chair for him to sit on… well, it could have been highly embarrassing for all parties concerned.

Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles)

Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles)

There was also another problem – and this was the real sticking point. Teddy felt snubbed. You see, he too, is now a published author. He’s the co-author of the quirky crime novel/cozy mystery Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) - and he felt (and rightly so) that he should have been invited to appear at the Miami Book Fair on his own merit and given his own slot, not playing second fiddle, or even third fiddle. Therefore he flat out refused to go to the book fair at all, opting to stay in bed in his pajamas all day and sulk.

A dubious Teddy Tedaloo as he checks out my author badge

A dubious Teddy Tedaloo as he checks out my author badge

If you think that’s bad, it gets worse. No one enjoys a pint as much as Teddy Tedaloo, so when he found out that I’d met up with Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh for a post-book-fair drink, well… he was none too chuffed, let me tell you. I, however, was. It was such a relief to run into someone from the homeland that when Irvine invited me along for drinks, I couldn’t say no. So in true British fashion, we headed on over to the nearest pub (or in this case a well-chilled downtown bar), where thankfully there were some decent beers on tap. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay out too late since I was tired and I had a testy little bear waiting for me back at the home of my Miami friends. I was in enough trouble as it was and didn’t want to exacerbate the situation by returning in the wee hours of the morning.

Mitzi Szereto hanging with Irvine Welsh at a local watering hole post-Miami Book Fair, minus the trainspotting!

Mitzi Szereto hanging with Irvine Welsh at a local watering hole post-Miami Book Fair, minus the trainspotting!

In retrospect, I suppose it’s just as well Teddy hadn’t been there or I suspect he and the Scottish wordsmith might’ve been going hand-to-hand in the drinks department until the joint finally kicked us outside into the street. As for the Miami Book Fair, hopefully next time the selection committee will know better not to snub a critically acclaimed author and major media personality. After all, it’s not as if they have a lot of ursine authors to pick and choose from, especially an ursine author with as much charm, good looks and talent as Teddy Tedaloo!

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Is it Illegal to Transport a Lizard Across State Lines?

November 12th, 2012

Yes, it’s a serious question. For one thing, I don’t know if he was underage. For another, well… I’m not entirely certain the lizard in question was fully consenting to the act. I mean, in some states you can go to jail for this kind of thing!

You see, the other day I discovered a lizard lurking outside my front door. When I shooed him away, he gazed up at me with such a woebegone expression of embarrassment and chagrin that I now wish I’d been a bit kinder and invited him in for a glass of wine and some cheese or at least a cuppa.

Anyway, I forgot all about him until I went to Chattanooga, Tennessee with the famous Teddy Tedaloo to meet up with a mate of his from “opp north” in England. Pints were on the agenda, and I was already running late. I was driving around the downtown area frantically trying to find my destination when suddenly I saw a familiar face staring in at me through the windscreen. Yup. It was my would-be intruder from the front door. Apparently he’d been there all the time, taking a nice leisurely snooze in that thingie where the windscreen wipers live (probably staying nice and cozy in a bed of decaying autumn leaves).

So there I was, zooming up and down the streets of Chattanooga with the little chappie clinging onto the hood for dear life. I finally parked near to my destination, at which point he scrambled down the hood of the car. And that’s the last I saw of him.

Teddy Tedaloo tying one on with his mate Ethan

Teddy Tedaloo tying one on with his mate Ethan

A pint of microbrew later (or its American equivalent, which is by no means a proper pint) and I’d forgotten all about the lizard. You can forget a lot of things when you go out drinking with bears. You should try it sometime.

It’s now been a couple of weeks since the event and frankly, I’m worried about the little guy. My dislike of his less-charming brethren is well known, having been honed and refined from spending time in South Florida and having the local versions sneaking into the house every chance they got, either to end up in the shower with me or to die behind a piece of furniture, leaving me to discover their mummified remains. But this hitchhiker… Okay. I’ve been won over. Slightly.

I can’t help but wonder if this creature that bears a tenuous resemblance to a dragon (minus the fiery snout) was hoping for a signed copy of my new anthology Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire when he’d first appeared at my front door. I mean, it’s possible. He might have heard there are some dragons in the book and figured he might know one of them. And if you think that’s far-fetched, is it any more so than a lizard hitching a ride across state lines? I’ve come to accept and embrace the far-fetched. Indeed, the more far-fetched the better! Ask anyone who knows me: I thrive on far-fetched.

Missing lizard last seen in the vicinity of downtown Chattanooga. Any information, please call Crimestoppers.

Missing lizard last seen in the vicinity of downtown Chattanooga. Any information, please call Crimestoppers.

I can only assume that Mr. Lizard is now happily ensconced in Chattanooga, Tennessee embarking upon new and exciting adventures and making new friends. I hope so anyway, because I feel quite bad about it and am not ashamed to admit that I worry about his fate in “the big city.”

Of course it’s also possible that he returned to his hiding place by the windscreen wipers and drove right back with me to where he’d begun. Why, he might be lurking outside my front door at this very moment, hoping for another opportunity to be invited inside for that wine and cheese. If not, I hope he’s enjoying life in Chattanooga because frankly, I kinda miss him.

 

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Thrones of Desire: A Foray into Sexy Fantasy à la Game of Thrones

October 9th, 2012

I know I’ve not been around for awhile here at my “Errant Ramblings” blog, so I wanted to give you a little update about my latest book release just so you know that I’ve not been skiving. (As if I’d dare!)

Those of you who follow my work have probably figured out that I like to do many different kinds of projects. I’d be bored if every book I did was the same – and I imagine my readers would be bored as well or, at the very least, feel let down. Therefore I decided to take a foray into the mystical worlds of sexy fantasy with my new anthology Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire.

Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire

Now let me say that this isn’t the first time I’ve delved into the realm of fantasy. My short story collection In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales was a study in fantasy, albeit from the folk and fairy tale tradition. However, with Thrones of Desire, I’ve taken a leap off the cliff and gone the full Monty, grabbing onto a few kings, warriors, knights and dragons along the way, not to mention adding a bit of flavouring from the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones (based on the bestselling George R.R. Martin epic fantasy novels). Oh, and I also grabbed onto Piers Anthony, the legendary fantasy author who lent his prolific pen to the book’s foreword. I mean, if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it right!

I’ve amassed an eclectic collection of stories from an eclectic collection of international writers, all of whom are deserving of the highest praise. I’ve got stories ranging from lighter fantasy fare to stories that would satisfy even the most die-hard fantasy lover – and there’s plenty of steam to keep those engines running too! There’s even a website featuring excerpts, contributor info and other bits of news that you can check out at THRONES OF DESIRE.

So for those of you who can’t wait for spring of 2013 and the return to the television screen of Game of Thrones, I’ve got the cure for what ails. Pick up a copy of Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire today (and don’t forget to pay for the book at the till – don’t just walk out with it)!

 

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Normal for Norfolk: The Literary Collaboration of the Century

July 13th, 2012

Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles)I guess it was inevitable that I’d finally end up being completely usurped by my famous celebrity sidekick bear Teddy Tedaloo. His popularity has continued to grow over the years, and many of my fans and readers have been going over to his camp. Obviously I don’t wish to begrudge him his successes – he deserves every bit of it! But what’s a lowly author to do when she discovers that her star is waning while that of her bear’s is waxing?

Why, write a book together, of course! I’m referring to the release of our new venture Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles),  billed in the publishing industry as a “quirky crime novel.” It’s the first in our new series featuring the diminutive ursine protagonist and unlikely hero Thelonious T. Bear – a Mini Cooper-driving photojournalist teddy with a fondness for deerstalker hats, cologne, and real ale.

Unfortunately for the hapless Thelonious, he keeps ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time, which accounts for why the spotlight of suspicion shines upon him in a murder enquiry. The fact that he’s far too small and far too short to be battering grown men with crowbars and hauling their dead bodies around makes little impact on the man in charge of the investigation: the bumbling Detective Chief Inspector Horatio Sidebottom of Norfolk CID.

At the risk of sounding like a book publicist, if you like your crime and mystery a wee bit different, you’ll definitely get your shilling’s worth with Normal for Norfolk! Did I mention the flatulent dachshund, the tobacco-cured rock guitarist, the beekeeper, the celebrity TV chef, the whisky-drinking old granny and the 21st century’s answer to the Kray brothers? They’re in here too. There’s even a grumpy vicar. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if the county of Norfolk appoints Teddy and I their official authors laureate!

Not surprisingly, the novel is taking off big time with the ursine community. Ted’s furry friends (and even those who aren’t so furry) are rallying around the novel like gangbusters, giving it some major paws (and claws) up. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been putting my eggs into the wrong baskets all this time. I mean, here I’ve got a slew of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and yet I’m not getting nearly the amount of cheering and celebration and recognition that Teddy is. Hmmm… Funny, that.

Mitzi Szereto & Teddy Tedaloo (photo credit Eric Schneider)

Mitzi Szereto & Teddy Tedaloo – The hottest literary partnership of 2012!

As for my new literary partnership with Mr. Tedaloo, some of you might be thinking that I’m trying to get a free ride on someone else’s coattails. Sure, we’ve seen it before – writers who can’t come up with their own stuff and freeload off someone else’s labours, even latching on to a bigger name to gain some glory for themselves. I’m afraid that in this particular instance I might be guilty of the latching-on business. But times are tough, and it’s not easy trying to make a living as a writer. To stay alive as a writer, one must expand one’s literary horizons – and expanding my literary horizons is something I most definitely do.

It’s always good to keep folk wondering (and hopefully wondering with anticipation) what you’ll come up with next! As for riding on coattails and all that, I should tell you that Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) was in its inception long before the film “Ted” showed its face in cinemas or was even being spoken about. Besides, our hero Thelonious doesn’t use foul language like (ahem) a certain animated bear. Which is not to say you won’t find some foul language in the novel. When you have Vinnie and Desmond Clark, two thugs from Bow, East London featuring prominently in the book, you’re bound to run into that sort of thing. So for that reason I’ll give our novel a PG rating.

So go on, you lot. Buy your print or e-book copy of Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) now, because if you don’t…well, maybe Teddy and I will need to have a friendly word with the Clark brothers. And I don’t think you really want that, do you?

(Watch the book trailer!)

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