Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trust your heart (#MFRWHooks #pnr #shifters)

The Eyes of Bast color

It’s Wednesday! That means it’s time for another MFRW Book Hooks blog hop.

I managed to visit almost everybody’s post last week. One thing I noticed is that my fellow authors were posting much shorter excerpts than I’ve been doing. They’re true “hooks”... just snippets to get readers interested.

I have a tendency to be long-winded, but I thought I’d try a similar approach today to see if that increased the number of visitors. I’m featuring my cat shifter erotic romance The Eyes of Bast today. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Blurb

Trust your heart. Follow your dreams.

Shaina Williamsgrandmother bequeathed her that wisdom, along with an old pendant from the Islands, carved from an ocelots tooth. When instinct tells Shaina to visit the feral cat trap shes set in Central Park, she listens to that inner voice. She discovers shes caged a magnificent black tom, but the cat inexplicably vanishes after she tends to his wounds. Seeking the errant feline, Shaina encounters instead a handsome stranger whose slightest touch sets her body on fire. As the day dawns after a night of ferocious passion, her mysterious lover is forced back into his true shapethe tomcat she rescued.

Born a cat, Tom was transformed into an unwilling shape shifter by a sorceress who craved a human plaything to satisfy her perverse lusts. Centuries old and irresistibly powerful, Delphine Montserrat will stop at nothing to find her runaway familiar. Shaina vows to do whatever is necessary to defeat the vicious but seductive witch and save the man she believes is her soul mateeven though it might mean losing him forever.

 

Hook

Its not safe here after dark, you know.

His earnest tone made me chuckle. I held up the can of mace.I can take care of myself.

Worry furrowed his high forehead.That wont help against some of the things that come out at night.

A chill shot through me. I shook it away.I was just headed home anyway.

Good. You should be careful.His smile returned, melting my last vestiges of suspicion. He pronounced his English with a precision that made me wonder if he spoke something else as his native language. It wasnt exactly an accent, but I could tell he wasnt a native New Yorker.

What about you?

Oh, I know my way around here,he answered. He ran his fingers through his curls and arched his back a bit, as though stretching. Despite that odd awkwardness, he was lithe and graceful. A brief pang of desire shot through me.And I have excellent night vision. Exceptionally sharp hearing too.

I couldnt figure out why, but something about him felt familiar.Have we met before?I asked then cringed, realizing it sounded like a pick-up line.I meanumI dont mean…” Hot blood climbed into my cheeks, though the shadows were probably too dense for him to detect my discomfort.

His bold laugh rang out in the growing darkness.Maybe we have met,he said.I live in the neighborhood. Do you?

Pretty close,I answered, alarm bells sounding in my head. No matter how handsome and charming he was, I wasnt about to give him my address.

Well, then, you never know. You said you were heading home. May I walk with you?He took my arm without waiting for my permission.

UmActually…” His touch stopped me cold. It drove out rational thought. As if someone had turned on a faucet, hormones poured into my blood. My nipples tensed and my lower lips grew plump and slick. Fire tipped the fingers resting on my bare forearm. I gasped, staring up in wonder at his strong, even features, overcome by his imminent maleness.

I wanted to stretch out in the grass and pull him down on top of me. I was dying to feel his weight on my chest, his hardness probing between my thighs. Skin on skin was what I craved, with an urgency I’d never experienced in my all my twenty-eight years.


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review Tuesday: Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (#ReviewTuesday #literature #fantasy)

Chronic City cover

Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
Vintage Contemporaries, 2009

A perpetual, impenetrable gray fog shrouds Wall Street and the rest of lower Manhattan. Artic temperatures chill the inhabitants of the city and fierce blizzards blanket the streets well into May. Above the skyscrapers, American and Russian astronauts orbit in a doomed space station, cut off from Earth by a deadly ring of Chinese mines. Meanwhile an enormous tiger stalks the streets and avenues, undermining buildings and wreaking havoc. No one has actually seen the tiger, but the Mayor’s office issues periodic reports and its traces crater neighborhoods all over the city.

In Jonathan Lethem’s New York, it’s impossible to know what’s real, what’s imagined and what’s fabricated by the insidious powers that be. Chronic City shows us this enigmatic city through the eyes of Chase Insteadman, refugee from Indiana and former child star on a classic TV series, now living an untethered existence as a perennial guest at dinner parties of Manhattan’s rich and powerful. Handsome, well-spoken, and unbelievably clueless and uncritical, Chase drifts through his mostly comfortable life without asking too many questions. His popularity is partly due to the fact that he’s engaged to marooned astronaut Janice Trumbull. His reactions to her tragic isolation offer a diversion over cocktails. In fact, he can barely remember Janice. Despite his guilt about his infidelity, he’s engaged in a torrid, difficult affair with a prickly ghostwriter named Oona Lazlo.

The setting is surreal. One might even label Chronic City science fiction. To me, however, the book is fundamentally a love story. Chase thinks he’s in love with Oona, but his true preoccupation is with the brilliant, cryptic cult figure Perkus Tooth. A dandified scarecrow of a man who favors wrinkled velvet suits, Perkus ventures outside the fortress of his rent-controlled apartment on Eighty-fourth Street only to indulge in cheeseburgers and coke at the diner down the block. Surrounded by art, books, and videos—stimulated by vast amounts of the most potent pot Chase has ever smoked—Perkus spins wild tales of conspiracy and transcendence that hold Chase rapt.

Chase’s fascination with Perkus struck me as the most believable part of Chronic City. I’ve personally experienced that sort of sudden attraction to people in my own life, people whose energy and charisma simply stop you in your tracks. Chase enters Perkus’ small circle, and under Tooth’s influence, he starts to question things he’d simply accepted previously. At the same time, he comes to realize how vulnerable his peculiar and insightful mentor really is. As the situation in the city deteriorates, Chase tries to save his friend from the dire consequences. His efforts trigger important changes in his own reality.

I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Lethem’s work since I read Gun, With Occasional Music more than a decade ago, so I was predisposed to like this book. Certainly it exhibits the same fertile and disturbing imagination that characterizes Lethem’s other novels. As the tale became darker, though, I found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I had to force myself to finish the story, and I’m glad that I did; though the ending could not be called exactly happy, it has a sort of soothing symmetry, with the satisfaction of some secrets revealed.

I probably couldn’t fully appreciate the novel, though, because I do not have a deep knowledge of New York City. I also didn’t recognize many of Perkus’ cultural references. Indeed, I couldn’t tell how many related to real people and how many were fabricated. Of course, this is part of the book’s point. What do we mean by “real”?

Chase provides a mirror for the madness around him. Seeing things through his eyes, the reader experiences his typical bewilderment and occasional passion. Unfortunately, there are several chapters where Lethem switched to Perkus Tooth’s point of view. I understand his motives; it would have been difficult to convey some aspects of the plot without this shift. However, I thought this narrative choice weakened the impact of the novel.

Overall, Chronic City is an original, frenetic, disconcerting tale, alternating between existential anxiety and manic glee. Though it was published eight years ago, it vividly depicts our current era of “fake news”. Despite its fantasy elements, Lethem’s New York feels all too familiar. Readers will wander its tiger-ravaged streets at their own risk.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charity Sunday 3: Oxfam International (#CharitySunday #poverty #donation)

Charity Sunday Banner

When was the last time you were hungry? I don’t mean that time when your meeting ran late and you didn’t get lunch until 2PM. Or the recent evening when you just had to have a chocolate sundae or you’d go crazy... Have you ever gone days without any solid food? Do you know anyone who has died of malnutrition?

Most of my readers very likely reside in wealthy or at least middle income countries,where serious hunger is fairly rare. So you might not know that today, the world stands on the brink of unprecedented famines. About 30 million people are experiencing alarming hunger, severe levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. Ten million of them are facing emergency and famine conditions.

That’s why today, for my monthly Charity Sunday, I’m supporting Oxfam International (https://www.oxfam.org/en/about). Oxfam is a global confederation of twenty organizations, working with local partners to alleviate poverty and hunger around the globe. What I particularly like about Oxfam is that they look for systemic solutions. They don’t just provide food aid. They don’t just drop off emergency supplies and disappear. They try to deal with the root causes of poverty and famine, in creative and sustainable ways. For example, they provide goats to families in poor rural communities. One goat produces not only milk, but also fertilizer. And two goats can be the start of a herd, and a chance to escape from poverty.

One reason I chose Oxfam this month is that they have an offer for matching funds. All gifts before the 15th of August will be doubled. So I hope you’ll leave me a comment today; for every comment I receive on this post, I’ll donate $1 – and Oxfam will get $2!

Of course, Charity Sundays are for fun, too. I don’t have any stories about hunger. Instead, I thought I’d share the infamous Thai banquet scene from my first novel Raw Silk.

Why infamous? Read on! (This is definitely not safe for work!)



Come, have something to eat. I hope that you enjoy spicy food.”

Definitely. At home they say that it is because of my red hair.”

Somtow ran his fingers through her curls. “I see. So perhaps red hair is associated also with hot blood? Try this, then.”

He offered her a plate of raw papaya salad. She recognized this as one of the spiciest dishes available from Thai restaurants at home, but was not prepared for the stunning effects this version had on her tongue.

Goodness!” she said, taking a spoonful of the coconut rice that normally accompanied this dish, to dampen the fires in her mouth. “I thought that I could handle hot food!” They both laughed.

Somtow opened another bottle of wine and refilled their glasses. They continued to nibble on the exotic delicacies he had provided, sitting half-naked on the cushions in the balmy night.

Kate found her gaze drawn again and again to his smooth, muscular chest. The folds of the sarong around his waist hid his penis from her eyes. She wondered what he would do if she reached down to touch him, as she longed to do.

Somtow was talking about Thai cuisine, the two thousand royal dishes and the hundreds of other‘country-style’ recipes. Suddenly, it seemed, he noticed her looking at his body. She blushed a little. He said nothing, but reached across the table to pick up a bowl of raw chilies.

Did you know, Katherine, that Thai chilies are considered to be among the hottest in the world?” He picked up a bright green pod between his thumb and forefinger, and raised it to his mouth. Instead of eating it, however, he ran the pepper across his lips, almost as if applying lipstick. Then he leaned forward, and kissed Kate lightly.

The chili oil made her lips tingle and burn. “Mmm,” she murmured, as she returned the kiss with enthusiasm. She felt him untying her sarong. Then his lips captured her nipples again, first the left then the right.

She was not prepared for the sensations that assaulted her as the pungent oil touched her skin. The nubs were still hard, sensitized from her recent arousal. They burned and throbbed, almost painful, as Somtow deliberately anointed them with the remnants of the pepper. The near-pain was overwhelmed by the pleasure, though, as a delicious warmth radiated out across her breasts.

Oh…!” She sighed, closing her eyes and savoring the heat. “That’s incredible.”

A light touch between her legs caused her to open her eyes. Somtow had another chili in his fingers, brilliant red this time. With one hand, he parted her lower lips. Then, holding her open, he began to stroke the rigid little pepper against her equally rigid clitoris.

The effects were explosive. Sensitive though her nipples might be, the delicate tissues of her sex were much more so. Her labia swelled and ached. She rubbed herself against the fingers that kept her sex spread. The little knob of flesh directly in contact with the pepper pulsed and flamed. Part of her thought she could not bear it—and she knew he would stop immediately if she asked. Still, another part of her craved even more of this intensity, hotter, fiercer, consuming her flesh. She groaned.

Somtow made some soft sound in answer. Looking at him, she saw that he had crushed the pepper between his fingertips. Now he was rubbing the red pulp over his penis, up and down its stiff length, over the bulbous top. Kate realized his cock must be burning with the same almost unbearable heat as her labia and clit. He looked into her eyes, without a word, and she knew he understood her wordless consent, as he plunged his fire-laden member into her depths.



Hey, I warned you!

So – I hope you’ll leave a comment and help me support Oxfam. Meanwhile, please visit the Charity Sunday pages of the other authors listed below. You can make a difference, just by reading erotica and romance!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Authors – Sign Up for Charity Sunday (#CharitySunday #bloghop #altruism)


This coming Sunday, the 13th of August, will be my third Charity Sunday. Charity Sunday is a meme designed to give us authors a chance to give back to the world—as well as, hopefully, attract new readers.

How does it work? Each participant selects a favorite charity. On Charity Sunday (the second Sunday of each month), prepare a blog post that 1) talks about the charity; 2) provides a link to the charity; 3) includes an excerpt from one of your books. It’s fun if you can make the excerpt relate somehow to your chosen charity, but this isn’t required.

For every comment left on your post, you commit to giving some amount to the relevant charity. The posts stay open all month, to maximize the size of our donations.

If you’d like to participate in the next Charity Sunday, just sign up using the Linky List below.The click on "Get the Code" and add the Linky List to your own blog!

You can get my Charity Sunday banner here.

For an example, check out last month’s Charity Sunday post.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kicking and Screaming (#HEA #romance #Exposure)

Exposure cover

Let me say right off that I have nothing against happy endings, if they're right for the book. My first three novels end happily, with plenty of sexual satisfaction and the intimation of more to come, possibly even in the shape of - gasp - marriage (although non-traditional in every case). On the other hand, my fourth novel Exposure has a far more ambiguous conclusion. The heroine has lost everything she owned. She's torn between two relationships, neither of which is completely what she wants. Her future is a huge question mark.

Personally, I really liked that ending. However, I had a tough time getting that book published, and it hasn't sold all that well. Meanwhile, over the past three years I've been drawn deeper into the world of erotic romance, where a happy ending ("HEA", i.e. Happily Ever After, or at least "HFN", Happy For Now) is the single most important requirement of both readers and publishers. These days, romance can be sweet or steamy, with any mix of genders and quite a level of flexibility in numbers, but the story must conclude with the protagonists in love and together for the foreseeable future. And I'll admit, sometimes I find it difficult to deliver the sort of HEA that readers want.

Before I began writing romance, I really hadn't read any of the genre, the one major exception being Daphne DuMaurier's delicious Frenchman's Creek. The stories I've always considered the most romantic - Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The English Patient - have tragic or painful conclusions. Meanwhile, sexual relationships are so often fraught with conflict - even if it's something as simple A desires B but is married to C - that not-so-happy endings are far easier to imagine than happy ones where everyone gets what he or she wants.

So, sometimes I find I have to drag my characters, kicking and screaming, to the rosy resolution that readers seem to crave. Even worse, sometimes the constraint that all must end well limits my story ideas in the first place. I'll throw away a perfectly usable premise or set of characters because, honestly, I can't imagine a happy finish.

Some of you might be shaking your heads, thinking, "So why the heck does she keep trying to write romance? Why doesn't she go back to her first love, erotica?"

First of all, the romance publishing world offers some things that are hard to come by in erotica: a plethora of publishers, a huge pool of potential readers and many opportunities to interact with them, and yes, money. More seriously, I see signs that happy-ending-ism has infected the erotica publishing world as well. More and more calls for short story anthologies are looking for "romantic erotica". Others explicitly say that they do not want "dark themes". There are fringe publishers who will look at such work, but the mainstream erotica publishers (if one can use this term without snickering) seem to seeking fantasy-generating material, where everyone orgasms and even more sex looms on the horizon. Unhappiness, darkness, even serious ambiguity, threaten the post-climactic glow.

Obviously I'm generalizing here (and every generalization can be attacked). One could also claim that my complaints are the result of sour grapes. I recently had a story rejected, a story that I wrote specifically for a particular call from a well-known editor working with a well-known publisher. I may be wrong, but I strongly suspect that the ending of this tale was the main reason for its rejection. The story concludes with the woman leaving her husband of thirty years for a man she has just met. The ending is right for the story; I'm quite confident of that, although I wavered as to whether I was brave enough to write it. It's not a happily ever after, though, certainly not for the abandoned husband and probably not for the woman either. No matter how fulfilling her relationship with her new lover may be, she'll always have doubts and possibly regrets. Not HEA material.

In short stories, especially, I'm drawn to the unresolved. The very first short story I published, "Glass House", ends with the following:

Still, I am not thinking. I do not dare. Mechanically, I gather my clothing and make myself as presentable as I can. I turn off the light as I leave, and stiffly navigate the spiral stairs, every step reminding me of my exquisite violation.

On the sidewalk, I wonder where I should go. The city is foreign and strange. I am fragile and lost, but not, as I had imagined, empty.
There is something in my pocket: the delicate glass unicorn Lukaš gave me. The horn has broken off, but it is still a lovely thing.

I do not know what will happen next. But I sense that something will shatter.

This is the way of real relationships. We meet and couple with strangers, then say goodbye. We discover, sometimes, that even our long-time lovers have secret faces we've never seen. We desire multiple futures, with multiple people, and are forced to choose only one. Love and sexual communion are both peak experiences, to be celebrated in fiction as well as in life. However, the intricacies of desire thwarted, the bittersweet pangs of longing for what might have been, the bite of envy and the sting of rejection, are equally worthy to be chronicled in our stories.

Then I remember my deadlines and drag my imagination, kicking and screaming, back to the task of making my characters happy.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When love is forbidden.... (#MFRWHooks #MM #scifi #giveaway)


Book Hooks button

Hi, everyone! I'm doing a Book Hooks post again this week. Today I'm featuring my Rainbow Award winning dystopian MM romance, Quarantine. And, to thank you for dropping by, I'm giving away a copy of my MM short, Crossed Hearts. All you have to do is leave a comment with your email address!



Blurb

When love is forbidden, the whole world's a prison.

Dylan Moore will do anything for freedom. Seven years ago, a gay plague spread to heterosexuals, killing millions and sparking brutal anti-gay riots. The Guardians rounded up men who tested positive for the homogene and imprisoned them in remote quarantine centres like desolate Camp Malheur. Since then, Dylan has hacked the camp's security systems and hoarded spare bits of electronics, seeking some way to escape. He has concluded the human guards are the only weakness in the facility's defences.

Camp guard Rafe Cowell is H-negative. He figures the lust he feels watching prisoner 3218 masturbate on the surveillance cameras must be due to his loneliness and isolation. When he finally meets the young queer, he discovers that Dylan is brilliant, brave, sexy as hell – and claims to be in love with Rafe. Despite his qualms, Rafe finds he can't resist the other man's charm. By the time Dylan asks for his help in escaping, Rafe cares too much for Dylan to refuse.

Dylan's plan goes awry and Rafe comes to his rescue. Soon they're both fugitives, fleeing from militant survivalists, murderous androids, homophobic ideologues and a powerful man who wants Dylan as his sexual toy. Hiding in the Plague-ravaged city of Sanfran, Dylan and Rafe learn there's far more than their own safety at stake. Can they help prevent the deaths of millions more people? And can Rafe trust the love of a man who deliberately seduced him in order to escape from quarantine?

Excerpt (PG)

He brought the cycle to a stop some thirty feet beyond the moat and let his lungs empty. He stared back at the ugly bulk of Malheur Camp. The floodlights came on, bathing the ground around the fence in a sickly yellow glare. The barren soil where he stood, outside the range of the lights, was still a featureless grey. Evening deepened as Rafe perched there on the trike, trying to figure out what to do next.

If Dylan had made it past the moat, he’d be on foot. Rafe could easily catch him on the cycle, but only if he knew which direction the boy had taken. Dylan was probably too smart to keep to the road. On the other hand, he’d said he was headed for the city. Rafe guessed he meant Sanfran. Ellay was too far away and since the eruption of 2024, nobody really considered Portland a city anymore.

Southwest, then. If he wanted to find the boy, that’s the way he should head. But maybe he should give up, go back to the camp and admit that they’d all been outsmarted. The Guardians would probably discipline both him and Turk, but what could the higher-ups do, really? Fire them for incompetence?

Rafe gave a bitter laugh. As the sound died away, he thought he heard something else—something like a moan, barely audible but definitely human.

He listened carefully to the quiet night. There it was again—a soft sound of someone in agony, coming from near the bridge.

Dylan! Rafe scrambled off the trike and headed towards the sound, holding his breath once again. He scanned the bank. There! By the edge of the moat, in the shadow of the criss-crossed girders, there was something that looked like a pile of rags. He inched closer, trying to ignore the sting as the toxic vapours attacked his skin. The bundle of cloth stirred and coughed. Rafe rushed over, crouched down and turned the body onto its back. Then he gasped and choked himself as noxious fumes rushed into his throat.

Dylan’s cheeks and brow were peppered with oozing sores. His eyes were swollen shut. His thick tongue protruded between cracked lips. His fingers twitched feebly.

Rafe half-dragged, half-carried the younger man away from the river of poison. He stretched the limp body out on the ground, shielded by the trike. “Dylan!” he cried, as the fresher air filled his chest. “It’s me, baby. Oh God, Dylan!”

Dylan coughed and sputtered. Greenish spittle trickled from his mouth.

Breathe, kid. Breathe!”

Dylan seemed to hear. His raw lips moved, as though he wanted to say something.

Rafe needed water, to wash the man’s wounds and clean away the chemical residue. He needed anti-bacterial salve and collagen strips and enzyme patches to stimulate healing. Not to mention an oxygen tank to force the poison out of Dylan’s lungs.

That meant civilization, or what passed for it here in the wastelands of Oregon. The closest settlements, though, were at least two hundred miles away.

Rafe lifted Dylan’s body once more and settled it on the seat of the trike. Dylan slumped against the windscreen. Rafe mounted the bike behind the inmate, slipping one arm around his waist for support while steering with the other.

Rafe?” Dylan’s voice was weak but intelligible. He raised his head then let it flop back onto Rafe’s chest.

Yeah, it’s me. Just relax, boy. Hang on. I’m going to get you some help.” Rafe started the cycle and turned it towards the ribbon of crumbling asphalt that stretched westward.

The other man leaned against Rafe’s body. “Mmm,” he murmured. “Good.”

Strangely enough, it was good. Despite his worry about Dylan, Rafe felt a kind of contentment as they raced off into the night. The wind was fresh and cool in his face. The motor hummed between his thighs. Dylan’s weight was a welcome reminder that for once, Rafe was not alone.

The cycle ate up the miles. Dylan slept, curled against him. Inside Rafe’s chest, a quiet joy took root and grew stronger. For the first time in years, Rafe felt free.

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