The Transformation of David, a $0.99 short by S F Hopkins

This was an interesting story for me to write—and it’s selling regularly, which suggests that it’s also an interesting story for people to read. Mandrill Press likes books that are “on the edge” and I have a particular interest in those places on the masculine/feminine continuum that get less attention. Not many people are really “all man” or “all woman”, hard though some try to appear to be one or other of those things. Most are somewhere in between—and some men are very close to the female half of the spectrum, while some women are just a fraction away from the male. That was what interested me when I wrote this story: the way in which someone removed from their accustomed place on the male/female curve and set down further along it might not respond only with revulsion. Emails I’ve received suggest that most of Transformation’s readers are men, and I find that slightly disappointing—I’d have thought there was something here for women, too.
Anyways, here is where you can find it.

This is what it’s about:
The Chakin teach Andrew Matthews how to transfer people between bodies. Breaking a solemn promise, he turns his daughter, Lottie into David Walters in order to seize David’s fortune–and, along the way, enjoy the carnal pleasures of the beautiful female body that was forbidden him. The Chakin cross the seas to release David from his bondage as a woman, and David is grateful to them…but the gratitude is not total. Has David, in becoming a man once more, lost more than he gains?

And here is an extract, which should allow you to decide whether you’d enjoy this book or wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole:
It was a wicked thing they had done to him. He knew that. Wicked. As he lay on his front in this beautiful female body that he had been trapped into, skirt raised to his waist, a hand playing gently over his bottom, he knew that he should hate the person who had done this. She sat on the bed beside him in the body of the young man he had so recently been, and she toyed with him. Through the soft silk of his panties her thumb traced the space between his firmly rounded bottom cheeks. Her hand pressed on, down, down, until the tips of her fingers grazed the lips of his sex. Lips that he knew were moist with longing. A sex that ached to be entered once again.
Her head moved down, close to his own. She nibbled the lobe of his ear; she kissed him gently on the back of his neck. Her other hand was now in play, sliding beneath the waistband of his panties. ‘You want me, don’t you,’ she whispered. ‘You want to be fucked again. Turn over, my little darling. Let me give you what you crave.’
He rolled onto his back. Her hand now was right inside his panties, drifting over the smooth skin of his stomach, stroking where the fine hair had once been until she shaved it off, sliding down between the legs he opened wide to help her debauch him. ‘That’s it, my sweet,’ she murmured. ‘Open for me.’ She slipped a finger into his yearning sex, finding with her thumb the little nubbin, stroking it erect. He put his arms on her shoulders, reaching upwards, looking for a kiss. She obliged, pressing her lips against his, pushing her tongue into his mouth, searching for his own.
He lifted his bottom as she took down his panties and threw them aside. He lay, legs splayed, knees raised as she undressed without haste. Then with her knees she pressed his thighs further apart. Her cock rested for a moment on the moist lips of his sex. Then she pushed forward and he, helpless in the hands of one bigger and stronger than him; helpless also in his overwhelming need; was filled once more. She rode him, that handsome cock driving furiously in and out of his cunt, whipping him on towards his climax, his mind empty now of anything but this, on and on until the sudden, devastating leap over the waterfall into some unknown, unnameable nirvana, and he collapsed beneath her as she pumped her seed—his seed—deep into his honeyed cavern.
He was a man, desexed and used like a woman. Everything he had been raised to do and to be had been taken from him. He should hate the person who had done this to him.
So why did he feel this aching, remorseless need?

Change

John Yorke begins Chapter 4 of Into the Woods with this extract from The Godfather:
“He locates the gun behind the toilet cistern, composes himself and moves towards the washroom door. In the small Italian restaurant, Sollozzo and McCluskey sit impatiently. He makes his way back to the table. He takes his seat, a subway train rumbles above but he hears nothing but the sound of his own heart. Diners talk on obliviously, the train screams past, he rises, pulls the gun, pauses and then in a moment plants a bullet in the forehead of both his guests. A mist of blood, a table upended, and Michael Corleone’s life is changed for ever.”
This chapter is called The Importance of Change and Yorke does a pretty good job of showing the importance of change to the creative artist—doesn’t matter whether you’re writing novels or screenplays, change is (or should be) the essence of what you do. He says that, “in three-dimensional stories the protagonist goes on a journey to overcome their flaw” and that “Change is thus inextricably linked to dramatic desire: if a character wants something, they are going to have to change to get it.”
When I’ve talked about Into the Woods before, it’s been to say how something that should really be obvious did not become clear to me until I read what John Yorke has to say about it. That’s the reason I recommend that we all, neophyte to established bestseller, have something to learn from this book; a well-thumbed copy should be on every writer’s bookshelf. It happened again with this chapter.
As I’ve said before, my degree from the University of Toronto was in English; I didn’t take Creative Writing and I’ve never done a Creative Writing course. I’m not against them—in fact, I think they’re probably a very good thing—I’ve just never done one; and the result is that there’s a lot of writing theory that is second nature to some writers but that I don’t know. I’ve always been aware that sometimes I get it right and sometimes when I read what I’ve written I realise I’ve a heavy restructuring/rewriting job on my hands and until I read Into the Woods I often didn’t really understand why this book worked and that one didn’t.
I’m a lot closer to that knowledge now.
Roadmap of Change

I’m not going to reproduce great chunks of Into the Woods because (a) I want as many writers as possible to buy their own copy and read it; and (b) I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism or—worse—sued for breach of copyright. However, I find this graphic so irresistible I’ve printed it and stuck it on my wall. Planning and executing the structure of a novel is so much easier if you keep this sequence in your head. And, when I look at the books of mine that have worked and compare them with the near-misses, I can see that the winners followed this structure and the others didn’t. The winners followed it accidentally, though, because I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was trying to reproduce structures that I’d found satisfying in other people’s books, and now I have a better handle on what I’m supposed to do.
My book, The Unquiet House was ready for publishing and due to go live in October. Now I’ve pissed off Ron Lynch’s cousin, who does his best to keep Mandrill Press writers on the administrative straight and narrow, by withdrawing it so that I can strengthen Act Four—the part where the characters, having grown in self and situation-awareness, regress and suffer doubt before girding their loins (and not just figuratively; Bernie Kells told me the other day in a Facebook post that I was a rude woman and I really don’t dispute that) and going into Act Five ready to get what they want. And, actually, I’ve just lied because I’m not going to strengthen Act Four—I’m going to write an Act Four that, in the original, doesn’t exist.
This reminded me of my very first sale, a short story that was published twenty years ago when I was half the age I am now (Yes, that’s right, you clever mathematicians). The magazine’s editor rang me to say she’d be pleased to see more; and she congratulated me on my excellent structural technique—the way I’d put the last and biggest hurdle the heroine had to climb over right before the joyful ending. I had? Well, I had—but I hadn’t really known I was doing it. And now I did.
This is how writers improve—by having an expert explain technique. Not content—that’s the domain of the writer alone. Technique.
I wish I’d come across John Yorke twenty years ago. By now I might know what I’m doing.

Another story went live last night

The Dream went live on Kindle last night. I don’t know exactly where the idea for the story came from, but then I almost never do know where the idea for a story comes from. It arrives, and I write it—though often there’s an interval between the seed and the finished article. In this case, I typed out these sentences several weeks ago:

She had the dream again last night. The one set in 1941, which was thirty-five years before she was actually born, but that’s what dreams can do. In the dream she’s the English head of a private girls’ school in France. Another thing that dreams do is skip over all the little linking bits, like how the soldiers surrounded the school and whether the girls are all safely asleep, and lead straight in to the action.

Which, in this case, is the Leutnant and two of his men standing in her office. The two men are smiling, grinning in fact in anticipation of what they no doubt know as well as she does is going to happen, but there is no smile on the face of the Leutnant. A Leutnant isn’t a proper officer, she knows that. He’s the equivalent of an English Second Lieutenant, a glorified NCO really, but he has the power here and he knows it and she knows it.

She wonders, as she does every time she has the dream, how this young officer can possibly be so tall, so well built, so powerful and so blond. The German economy has struggled since the end of the previous war, starving its people to pay reparations to a vindictive France. That’s how Hitler found it so easy to take power, isn’t it? This young man, this boy really, was born during that time, so how does he get to look like a corn-fed child of the Canadian prairies? He should have rickets. It’s a mystery.

That was as far as I got, and then I went back to what I’d been working on before. On the surface it might have seemed that I had forgotten about The Dream but I knew I hadn’t. It was ticking away in my subconscious, which is the way it always happens with me, and three days ago I had the finished thing lined up in my head. All I had to do was write it J.

It’s now done and last night I put it on Amazon—you can find it here (at $0.99) on Amazon.com and here (at £0.79) on Amazon.co.uk. If you’d like to see a bit more, to make up your mind whether you might like this story, this is how the beginning (above) continues:

‘What’s your name?’ He’s asked this question every time she’s had the dream, which means every night this week, really; he should know her name by now but still he asks for it.

‘My name is Christine. I am a British citizen. You have no right to keep me here.’

He smiles. It is not a nice smile. ‘You are correct, Christina. So what shall we do? Would you like to leave? Of course, a woman on her own making her way on foot through an occupied country might have difficulties. Not all our soldiers are as polite as I am. And I don’t know what you’d do if you ever reached a port. But, please. Feel free to go.’

She stares at him. She knows what he suggests is not really a possibility.

‘And when you have left,’ he says, ‘I will be disappointed. I shall have to enjoy the Head Girl instead. What is she? Eighteen? Perhaps my disappointment will not be so severe. And I shall turn my men loose on all these girls you have here. You think their parents will like to have them back with German babies?’

This, also, is not a possibility. A headmistress takes on responsibilities along with the prestige. Protecting the young ones in her charge is her most important task. If it means she must sacrifice herself, then…

In the dream she is still a virgin. She isn’t, of course; not after eight years of a marriage now thank God dissolved, but in the dream she has never known a man. That has remained constant all week. Something that has changed is what she wears. On the first night when she removed her tweed skirt at the Leutnant’s behest she had on the Marks and Spencer knickers and tights that are her usual wear, but in her musings on the dream the following day she saw how ridiculous that was. So on the second night she stripped to what her father used to call Harvest Festivals. “All is safely gathered in.” They were no more right than the St Michael’s cotton; her great-grandmother might have worn them; she could see from the Leutnant’s face that she had displeased him; so on the third and each subsequent night she adopted what she thinks a well-off French woman in 1941 might have worn.

‘Have you considered your position?’ asks the Leutnant.

‘I cannot leave my charges to your care.’

He nods. ‘Take off your clothes.’

‘I…’

‘Take off your clothes.’

And so she does. What choice does she have?

That’s how it starts. If you like the idea—good. If it doesn’t appeal, no hard feelings. But, just in case, I’ll repeat the locations: it’s here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk.

x

Suzie

10 September 2013

And this is why I write!

MaryH reviewed Lovers in Their Fashion on Amazon.com, and I’m so delighted. This is what she wrote. Thank you, Mary!

This is the kind of book I became a reviewer for, July 29, 2013      

By 
 
This review is from: Lovers in Their Fashion (Kindle Edition)      

I wrote this review for Manic Reviewers, for whom I write three or four reviews each month. I’m reproducing it here because I loved this book more than almost any and I wanted to give it as wide an audience as possible. When I first became a Manic Reviewer, I saw myself finding unknown gems on the Web and bringing them to a wider public. I know now that I was mistaken. Like unusual vegetables, unknown books are mostly unknown for a reason–they’re not very good. After two reviews with so few stars I didn’t want them published for fear of hurting the writers’ feelings, and having taken myself off the reviewer list for what turned out to be the worst book I had ever read, I adopted a different approach. Now, I look for the authors who have shown they can write good English and the publishers who (a) exercise some kind of selection over what they publish and (b) make sure the book is properly edited before it reaches the public. Lovers in Their Fashion is the second Mandrill Press book I have reviewed, and the second book by S F Hopkins. I’m not sorry I chose to review it because I’m giving it the full five stars–something I almost never do.
This is not an erotic book–there is some sex in it and it’s very satisfying sex, but primarily this is a contemporary romance between two people who come fully to life in Hopkins’s hands. Alice Springer started out with not very much but by the age of 30, through her own talent and hard work, is the retail director of high fashion company House of Pharaoh. John Pagan is about to become chief operating officer of a multi-national company. As it happens, I am PA to the chief operating officer of a multi-national, which may be why Lovers in Their Fashion and I connected so well, and I can say with certainty the world he moves in is extremely well portrayed–it’s authentic. Of the other characters, Alice’s American friend Merrill and the villainous Martin Planer are also very well drawn. When reading a story like this there is a natural assumption that the central two characters will go through a few ups and downs before getting to the inevitable happy ending. I was astonished by the size of the wall S F Hopkins throws up between them and the apparent impossibility that they could climb over it. My heart was in my mouth till the last page–but, my word, I was rooting for them. I don’t expect to read many books this good this year.

I was pleased with this

Manic Readers reviewed my book, The BindingThe Binding Cover:

“The Binding by SF Hopkins is an enjoyable read. In the beginning I felt just Rodney and Melissa’s story. It had more substance. However, as the story went on I came around to Caroline and James. Still Rodney and Melissa were my favorites in this book. I like how the past and present intertwined with each other. There was good balance between the past and present. Readers who like historical romance stories with a happy ending and don’t mind some spice should check out this book.”

I like it! Thank you, Manic Readers

Zoë Ferraris

I read Zoë Ferraris in the “wrong” order—I started with her third book, Kingdom of Strangers, realised what I’d done and read Finding Nouf (also published as The Night Of The Mi’raj) and now I’m about to start on the middle one of the three—City of Veils.

Two months ago, I hadn’t heard of Zoë Ferraris. Now she’s in that small group of writers where I know I’m going to be watching for the next book and I know I’m going to buy it. She got into that group because she writes good, well constructed thrillers and because her characters are human and believable and she makes you care what happens to them. The added attraction, though, is that she writes about Jeddah. I spend a lot of time in Jeddah and Zoë Ferraris describes both the place and the society extremely well. She’s qualified to do so—she’s American, born in in Oklahoma in fact, but she was married to a Bedu from Jeddah who she met in the States and who took her back to Jeddah when their daughter was born.

I’ve seen comments by Arabs that she doesn’t really understand Jeddah society. Oh, yes, she does. She understands the basic decency of so many of the ordinary people and she understands how thoroughly they are supressed by the rich, the powerful and the devout. If you read her books, you’ll understand, too—and you’ll have a really enjoyable read into the bargain.

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

You can tell a good painting because the eyes follow you round the room. (If you’re not familiar with this piece of art theory, learn more about it here). Whatever your view of that idea, you can tell a good book by the way the characters come into your life as real people and won’t leave. Anais Hendricks, protagonist of The Panopticon, held me from the moment I opened the book and she never let go. When I was half way through and going to bed, I dreamed about her. When I was thinking about how to deal with something, I found myself wondering what Anais would do. This is a wonderful book, and for a first novel it’s one in a million. Anais is as unreliable a narrator as narrators get: she didn’t put the woman PC in a coma (or did she?); the blood on her clothes is from a squirrel (or is it?); she has no idea who her birth mother was (or does she?) Fagan is in complete control of her material from the first page to the last sentence. The ending had me in tears. I’m not going to say what the ending is, or whether the tears were happy or sad, because I don’t want to spoil the book for you when you read it. But read it you must.

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