Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rest in Peace, my lovely

By Jude Mason


Roses Have Thorns

By Jude Mason

ISBN: 1-60054-084-8

Genre: Paranormal Horror / Retribution

Contains: Vengeance, Torture, Death, Bondage

Rating: Super Nova

Cover Artist: Ron O.


Buy Now





What happens when a whore hooks up with the wrong john? What happens when he murders her? You'd think she'd die; there'd be an investigation that went nowhere and that'd be the end of it, right?

Wrong!

Rose did all these things…both of them. The first Rose died and swore vengeance, somehow. When the second Rose died, something horrible, something supernatural happens a
nd Rose comes back. Months pass, while she heals the body, transforming it into and searches for him. When she does, she takes her vengeance, and it's not sweet. Not sweet at all.

Sigh, I love erotic horror. This may not be exactly what Garce had in mind when he came up with the idea for this week's topic, but I just had to bring my Rose's up. I actually opened this book with a death. The grisly, macabre death of a street prostitute whose body was quickly taken over by the ghost of another woman who had also died horribly. The paranormal aspect was the heart of the book, yet without the horrible death, the rest would have really had no meaning.

I've written a couple of books where characters died, or were dead before I started the book. A nice ghostly scare is enough to drive many hesitant couples into a sexy clinch! And if that ghost is troubled, in need of love and horny, all the better.


Scorpio Tattoo

By Jude Mason

ISBN 978-1-59426-994-3

Contents: m/f, menage, paranormal, contemporary
This cover was created for me by Kathryn Lively
Publisher: Phaze http://www.phaze.com

Buy Now


A tattoo is one of the most personal art forms that can adorn the flesh of a human. What happens when women are kidnapped and tattooed? What happens when those women die? And, what happens when the tattooist isn't alive?

Jonathan Rorke searches for the answer these questions and others when his psychic talents lead him to the latest victim. Jessica Crane, latest victim, and the only one who's still alive. Why? Together, Jonathan and Jess have to find out who and why she's being tattooed, before her tattoo is finished and she becomes casualty number three.


In this book the main characters had to learn a dreadful secret in order to save the woman from a terrible fate. The twists and turns in this book as well as the suffering of the ghost make his anger and confussion understandable. It also enhances the terror of the woman. Those emotions are strong and make for some 'sitting on the edge of your seat' moments. To me, that's what makes a good story. Grab your reader and don't let them go. If you, as the author, can keep that suspense going from beginning to end, well, you've got one fine read.

The teasing and torment, that just adds flavor, in my opinion. I'm a great one for teasing. I adore dragging the sexual frustration of a character on for pages. From the comments I get from readers, they seem to enjoy it too. Keeping it going, sustaining that special 'note' of frustrated pleasure takes some doing. In my opinion, it's worth it though. It's a bit like, how long can you hold your partner, during sex, on that pinicle of pleasure? I want my readers to dangle there too, breath held, blood racing, ready to explode when the powerful 'I' let them.

Hugs

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stuck in the Proverbial Box

By Jenna Byrnes

I thought long and hard about the subject this week, "Killing your darlings."

Huh.

None of my darlings has ever died.

You see, I write HEA. Happily ever after. Killing off one of the main characters works directly against the HEA affect I strive to achieve.



Do I ever put them through torment before that last page is turned? Duh. Books need conflict, or there won't be an interesting story. Most often, the conflict involves something dreadful that's keeping Boy #1 away from Boy #2 (or Girl #1, if you swing in that direction!) As with most good movies or TV shows, the conflict could usually be solved if an objective third party would sit Numbers 1 and 2 down and set them straight with the facts. But that wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Recently, I tried to kill off a character. Not a main, but a secondary 'snitch' that had a fairly decent role in a cop short story I wrote. As usual, I sent it to my second set of eyes, Jude, for editing. She sent it back with some red marks, some nice comments, and the phrase, "I don't think killing that guy is going to work."

Harumph.

It was my story, and I wanted the dude to die, so I left it in. I got the acceptance back with a contract and short note from my editor, "I really don't think that guy should die at the end. Not a very 'romance novel' thing to do."

Well, whaddaya know? Jude was right. LOL (Okay, she usually is. But sometimes I fight it as much as possible.) And so, with the click of a few keyboard keys, the snitch was pulled back from the brink of death and was healing nicely by the end of the story. I didn't really mind making the change, but sometimes I question the 'in the box' parameters that romance writers have to stick with. I get tired of men who must be alpha males, and just once, I'd like to send one careening over a cliff at the end of a book. I know, I know...not a very 'romance novel' thing to do. But I've often wanted to try my hand at horror. Maybe there, it would work.

Heh heh heh!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Narrative Inertia

By Lisabet Sarai



I love tackling Chris Garcia-Sanchez' topics. They invite multiple interpretations. The subject he proposed for this week is “Killing Your Darlings”. I wondered for a while whether he was talking about doing in one's characters, and I was going to write about Exposure, in which the hunkiest guy in the book gets murdered in the first chapter. Then I realized that he probably meant something quite different, the anguish involved in taking the editorial knife to one's own writing, cutting out the passages, the ideas, even the characters that you feel are not working.

I suspect that this is what he intends because we're crit partners and I know something about his writing process. It involves multiple revisions, each one often a radical change from the last. I've also counseled him fairly frequently that his early drafts are too long. But it's often tough for me to suggest what he should excise, because it's all so good.

Anyway, this is my post and so I should be talking about my own editorial anguish. I'll be honest, though. Rarely do I even attempt the type of wholesale revisions that other authors describe. I find that my work has enormous narrative inertia. Once I have a first draft, it's rare and exceptionally difficult for me to make significant structural or thematic changes. I'll tweak, I'll polish—I may eliminate paragraphs or even a scene—I may add sentences or paragraphs to heighten an effect or clarify an ambiguity. But there's no murder in my editing, no more than minor plastic surgery.

Sometimes I worry about this. Do I really believe that my first draft is so close to being “right” that I don't need to slash it apart to make it better? No, not really. If I wanted to work harder, spend more time, submit my stories for multiple crits, I'm sure that they could be significantly improved. But it would be really hard. Once I have a story out on the electronic page, it seems to acquire a concreteness that makes it highly resistant to change. It's not because the story is “my darling”, my words so precious that I can't bear to alter or eliminate them. Rather, it's the fact that, once a story's born, I can't imagine how it could be different. It takes on a life of it's own.

I work as a software engineer. I love writing programs. I always marvel that something that begins as a disembodied idea ultimately becomes an artifact capable of influencing real world phenomena. The air traffic control system, your local ATM, the business behemoth that is Amazon.com—all these things are mostly software, abstract concepts made manifest in the physical realm.

Writing stories, for me, is somewhat similar. First there are the ideas. Then by some miraculous process, the notions kicking around in my mind are transformed into a book that someone can read in bed, a book that may entertain or arouse dozens (or in my dreams, thousands!) of other people. Once the book is written, it is no longer as malleable as the ideas that inspired it

It helps that my second, lightly edited draft, even if far from absolute perfection, is likely to be good enough to get published. I'm not being conceited here. I don't think I'm a wonderful writer, but I'm a fairly competent hack. My ratio of acceptances to rejections is pretty high. (I only wish my royalty statistics were comparable!) I'd rather spend my time working on a new story than polish my current one into a glittering diamond of a tale that will astonish everyone with its brilliance. Especially in the fast-paced world of e-publishing, I feel that I can't afford to spend months editing and revising a single title.

I am learning, though—partly through working with Chris, in fact. I'm trying to force my way through the brittle shell that seems to surround my stories and rework them in fundamental ways, if that seems necessary.

I had an interesting and revealing experience a few months ago, when I was working on Truce of Trust. This 16K story grew out of a shorter tale called “Detente”, which was included in my Fire anthology. “Detente” is told in the first person present, and it ends with a M/M/F m√©nage. Claire, my editor at Total-E-Bound, liked the overall concept but asked me to change the POV, the tense and the sexual orientation (she was looking for M/F/M submissions), as well as to make the story substantially longer.

I knew that this would be rough, but agreed to give it a try. When I began, I found the process extremely difficult. Gradually, however, I gained confidence. The characters changed. The story changed. The initial premise was the same, but the final result was quite different. I hadn't revised an old story, I realized. I had written a new one.

Like all authors, I have discarded fragments on my hard drive. These chapters and scenes are more orphans than darlings, though. I'll work on something for a while and then lose the spark. If I'm bored, I reason, my readers will be, too. Or else I'll start something and then not have a clue as to how to develop it. Without the ideas to feed them, my stories wither and die. But I don't deliberately kill them.

I'll tell you a secret. Authors like Chris, who agonize over their work, cutting and rearranging, feeling the pain of wielding the editing scalpel, make me feel embarrassed and guilty. Embarrassed because I feel that I somehow should be doing the same, that I'm lazy and insincere and complacent. Guilty because I do manage to get published, even if my sales aren't what I'd like, while many true artists have a far more difficult time.





This week at the Grip, we welcome our new member Ashley Lister. Ashley will be posting on Thursdays, in the slot previously handled by Kim Dare. I'll let Ashley introduce himself. I'm sure that you'll enjoy him.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Banging Away in the Great Outdoors


By Faith Bicknell-Brown

“Look, honey! There’s a couple having sex on the balcony across from our window!”

When I was about 18, I was at a local park where there was a manmade beach. I swam past a couple who were in the middle of sex. I didn’t know this at first, but as I dogpaddled by, their movements and soft noises made it clear what they were doing.

It embarrassed me to pieces; I suddenly grew flippers and got the hell out of there.

Over the years, I’ve bumped into couples who were doing the dirty deed in dark hallways of bars or in parking lots, and, as I got into writing for men’s magazines, I used some of the ideas these encounters inspired to write fiction that sold well. Heck, I’ve even fictionalized a couple of my personal experiences.

So what is it about sex outdoors that is so enticing? Is it the chance of getting caught? Maybe it’s just the idea of someone watching as you do the oingo-poingo.

What? You’ve never boinked outside? Why not? Are you afraid?

Regardless of whether or not you’re one who has or hasn’t enjoyed outdoor sex, the thrill of getting caught is a heady sensation. Those whom I’ve spoken to about having sex in the great outdoors also state that the bare sensation, your butt on a flat rock, in grass, or on a sandy beach as the wind or water caresses your skin serves to heighten the feeling spiraling through the body as you reach for the big boom.

Hmm...there might be some truth in that theory, but perhaps it’s merely that outdoor sex awakens something primeval within us. After all, our ancestors were whacking one another over the head as they chose the man or woman they wanted and then bent him or her over a boulder or a log. {Damn, that bark’s rough!} Or maybe humped against a tree as the dinosaurs roamed in the distance. (Ouch! Who let those giant red ants out? Now my butt’s gonna be three times bigger. Oh, no. I know that look you Neanderthal beefcake. My hoohaw’s already chafed from all the bark!) So is it instinct that awakens within us when making love outdoors?

I really don’t know, but it would be cool to ask the dinosaurs what they saw going on in the bushes. No! Not those bushes! Sheesh.

To read more of Faith's work:

Curious about outdoor sex? A Taste of Ecstasy is full of stories where sex happens in wild places and the chance of getting caught in the act is almost guaranteed. Some of these stories appreared in a few of the men's mags I've written for, but have been revised. One involves a strawberry patch, another a candy cane in a subway car, another in a titty pink Cadillac. And if you like a good laugh, this title is full of zany humor.


Available at RRP: http://redrosepublishing.com/bookstore/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=141&products_id=420


Fictionwise: http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b88978/A-Taste-of-Ectasy/Zinnia-Hope/?si=0


At ARE: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-atasteofecstasy-16432-149.html



If you'd like more information about my work, please visit my website www.faithbicknellbrown.com


Thanks so much, Faith, for sharing your take on our topic this week.

Friday, June 26, 2009

If It Ain't Raining...

by Helen E. H. Madden


Like many others here, I have had my share of outdoor experiences. My father was the consummate outdoorsman - hiker, camper, hunter, fisher, boater - and he insisted the entire family share his love of nature. My mother was from Philly, so you know camping was right up her alley. Not.


Anyway, I went on many a camping and canoing trip, growing up. It was an occasional thing, something the women of the family did to humor Dad, and though I didn't absolutely love the great outdoors, I didn't hate it either.


Until I joined the Army, that is.


No acronym strikes fear into my heart like the letters FTX. FTX is short for Field Training eXercise (I know, it should be FTE, but apparently the X makes it sound cooler). I started going on FTXs my freshman year in college, and boy did they suck! Unlike the camping trips with my father, where the old man took responsibility for setting up the tent and hauling our gear, FTXs actually involved a lot of WORK on my part. Every soldier or cadet had to carry their own ruck sack, a backpack filled with fifty or more pounds of equipment and food. And we had to set up our own tents. Unlike my dad's pup-tent which set up at the flick of a wrist, the standard Army shelter half was not a cozy little affair. It was a smelly, OD green swatch of canvas with grommeted holes set in it for rusted metal tent poles and a coarse, hairy rope. And you had to have TWO shelter halves (obviously, that's why they were called shelter HALVES) to make a whole tent. Which meant you had to have a buddy to bunk with, and trust me, there was nobody in ROTC or the Army that I liked well enough to want to be tent buddies with.


The food on these little excursions was always interesting. Meals came in plastic packets called MREs. MRE was supposed to stand for Meals Ready to Eat, but was more often referred to by the politically incorrect epitaph of Meals Rejected by Ethiopians. Yeah, they were that bad. MREs consisted mostly of mushy stews you had to dig out of foil pouches or freeze-dried meats and fruits that you had to reconstitute to determine what you had. I frequently couldn't tell whether I had the dried peaches or the pork patty until after I'd added water and taken a bite. Then there were occasionally treats included in the MREs, like the cookie bar, which was basically a terra cotta brick coated in cheap chocolate. And if you needed a sweet shot of caffeine, you could mix together the bag of cocoa with the instant coffee, creamer, sugar and a little water to make "Ranger Pudding." The best item found in an MRE was probably the cheese spread, a thick gooey glob of salty orange processed milk product packaged in a little foil pouch. The cheese spread was a hot item in the field. It was sort of like Cheese Wiz's slutty cousin, really salty and very bad for you but absolutely delicious! It was also, unfortunately, a rarity, turning up in only one out of every one hundred MREs. Anyone who got an MRE with the cheese spread in it could barter for anything he wanted, including someone else's last clean pair of underwear.


Ah, clean underwear, the holy grail of FTXs. Everyone always started out with clean underwear, but after a couple of days in the field, we were all so dirty and sweaty and gross, we couldn't even pronounce the words "clean underwear." Showers were not de rigueur in the field. The best you could hope for was a quick swipe with a rag and some water from your canteen. Though there was this one time, when I'd been out in the field nearly two weeks straight. It was at the tail end of Camp All American, a six week trip in Hell where the Army dumps cadets into Fort Bragg to separate the boys from the men. How I survived that I'll never know. But I had made it to the last week, and had been without a shower or clean underwear for almost 10 days at that point. I reeked, of course. No, actually, I was beyond reeking. I was in fear that parts of me were rotting inside my uniform, I was so unwashed and smelly. I couldn't stand it anymore, so veeeeeeery early one morning, before oh-dark-thirty, I turned to my "buddy" and said, "Cover me. I'm taking a bath." We were in a fox hole, a six-foot-deep pit, so no one could see us unless they were standing on top of us. My buddy, a male cadet, dutifully looked the other way, keeping watch for the enemy and anyone else who might happen by, while I stripped naked, washed with my rag and canteen, and then slipped on the last pair of clean undies I had in my ruck sack. Once I was back in uniform, he looked me over and said, "Okay, my turn now." And thank god he followed through on his turn, because he stank even worse than I did.


(I swear to you, this incident was the only time I was ever naked in the dirt with a guy around. Romantic, huh?)


In addition to the joys of shelter halves, MREs, and poor hygiene, there was also the issue of weather. There is a saying in the Army. "If it ain't raining, it ain't training." I don't think I ever went on a single FTX where it didn't rain. Okay, maybe the one time, but that was snow, and snow is frozen rain, so it still counts. I can remember being out in the field with it just pouring rain, in buckets. The ground was a mire, mud up to the tops of my combat boots. And the thunder and lightning! Safety is always an issue during FTXs, so when the lightning started, the officers in charge made us stack our M16s and then go sit in the next field so we wouldn't get struck by lightning while waiting out the storm. There was no shelter in the next field, of course, so we all sat on the ground with our ponchos tucked up around us, looking like little trash bags while our last clean pairs of underwear slowly got soaked and turned muddy brown.


I spent eleven years in the Army Reserves, and four in ROTC. My days in the military had a profound influence on my life. When it came time to choose a topic for my master's degree thesis, I decided to focus on the influence of gender stereotypes on military leadership. I recall pouring through research documents and coming across a paper on the behavior of women soldiers in the field. There is a commonly held perception that female soldiers are rather... friendly, shall we say? Yet after spending six weeks in the field, observing and interviewing female soldiers, the researcher came to one conclusion.


"Field conditions depress sexuality."


No shit, Sherlock.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Promiscuous Universe

Why Alien DNA May Make you Smarter

In the city you never see the stars the way they really are. When my son Anthony and I went to see Dad a few years ago, we spent the week at his fishing cabin near the Canadian boundary waters. During the day we fished and watched the eagles. In the early morning hours I wrote three stories. At night I introduced Anthony to the Universe he lives in. Standing on the dock, the loons making their insane laughing call, we looked up at the clear night sky far from any city lights. Anthony had never seen so many stars or even known so many were possible. There in the north woods you can see the zodiacal band that arcs from horizon to horizon, a sparkling band of creamy light, like self illuminated clouds. “Do you see that band crossing the sky?” I said to him. “When they call it the Milky Way Galaxy, that’s what they’re talking about. Our sun is in a spiral wing of the galaxy, just like the one you;re looking at up there.” I pointed up. “You’re looking at the edge of the galaxy you live in. Try to imagine that.”

If you imagine it just right, you’ll get dizzy. You’ll feel like you’re standing on the edge of an infinitely tall building, that if you lifted your arms as in a dream, or if you even stumbled, you’d fall skyward forever and ever. Look down at your feet and you’re standing on a ball of boiling molten iron, the thin egg shell crust frozen by the cold of outer space, warmed by the sun and internal fires like a Catholic Hell, and a thin skin of fragile atmosphere. Life appears to be a rare thing in the cosmos so far. Intelligent life even rarer. Me and my kid, looking at the stars, we wonder if there are people like us up there wondering about us. Who is the seer? Who is the doer? Here is the planet – alive. Here is the human being, conjuring the stars. Did the soul choose this place, or did it choose him? Where did he come from before? What does it mean to be alive?

The woods are full of ghosts, Chippewa indians who traveled in canoes and fished here. Tribal families dressed in animal skins around fires late at night, smoking, talking, loafing, listening to wolves and loons looking at the same star’s cold fire. Many of the stars themselves are ghosts whose death hasn’t reached us yet.

Dig this:

Panspermia is an idea not much discussed by scientists, because they find it intellectually gross. Science has its orthodoxy and dogma, as much as religion. The dogma of life’s origins on earth is that it began in a primordial soup a few billions of years after the formation of the earth. Panspermia proposes that life was shipped in from outside our world. It began somewhere else altogether. Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, proposes that an intelligent civilization manufactured tiny spacecraft and launched them randomly into the cosmos. These craft, unmanned, but containing preserved microbial life, could have landed over time on potentially fertile planets and seeded the beginnings of primitive life there.

Sir Fred Hoyle thinks the spaceship element is too elaborate. Microbes are tough little bastards. They’ve been discovered thriving in the most unlikely of places, including active nuclear reactors, manmade instruments recovered from the moon, the Antarctic and the extreme bottom of the sea. Hoyle proposes that microbial life is scattered in vast amounts through the Universe, and that much of what is being interpreted as dust in space is dormant microbial DNA packaged in carbon casing. In fact the infrared flux from the center of the galaxy almost exactly matches that of E. Coli bacteria.

There is even the recent discovery that meteorites have arrived routinely on the earth from Mars, fragments blasted into space from impact events. If Mars had life before the Earth did, and some scientists think this is possible since Mars at one time had a thicker atmosphere and free running water, it’s possible that we are all Martians.

Hoyle takes this a step farther.

Extraterrestrial DNA is not just a past phenomenon. If Hoyle is right, no doubt extraterrestrial DNA in the forms of dormant microbes are lightly drifting down through the high atmosphere at this very moment and may be landing on your skin as you read this. This could have some interesting implications about human beings.

Species evolve in jumps, “punctuated” evolution in modern theory. What causes these jumps? Left to themselves, species should evolve by small insignificant steps, changing no more than is necessary and then stopping. Two of the earliest forms of life, cockroaches and silverfish, both survivors of the great Permian extinction, have changed virtually not at all in hundreds of millions of years. Instead, with few exceptions, there is constant innovation among species, much of it superfluous, and much of it causing a species (panda bears) to adapt in ways that actually cause its extinction rather than survival. Why?

Hoyle proposes that extraterrestrial DNA survives the fall to earth and infects living organisms, mostly vegetation, mundanely every day, causing various mutations. A benign mutation may cause no change at all (recumbent DNA chains abound in all organisms), because the DNA can only take root with a compatible host. A malignant DNA can emerge as a virus (a virus is an inanimate string of RNA code that takes over a cell and reproduces its code in the cell. No one knows for sure where viruses come from). Is it a coincidence that flu and plague epidemics often occur after the earth passes through a comet debris trail, asks Hoyle. It may be that evolutionary jumps, including man’s, occur when a string of extraterrestrial, microbial DNA infects a primate, usually through the vegetable food chain, and takes hold causing a benevolent mutation up the intelligence scale. If this is true, homo sapiens is at least partly the result of eating food in which extraterrestrial microbial DNA has been incorporated and then passed into human genetics. The stuff that doesn’t work, gets set aside (recumbent DNA) the stuff that does could fire radical evolutionary change in ANY direction. Given this possibility, it begs the question of what guides the choice of what DNA is kept and what is thrown away, when more than one DNA string is compatible enough to be accepted by an organism?

Alongside evolution and Intelligent Design a new theory is being knocked around, something sort of inbetween. The theory is that life itself, on a very deep sub atomic level of basic matter and energy may have intelligence. This has always been the bedrock principle of mysticism in all its forms since ancient times.

Now dig this – what if:

A species, maybe Homo Sapiens, in the course of its evolution transcends dualistic ego and creates a vast, associative intelligence, the grand pooling of all the virtue, wisdom, and knowledge gained from the suffering and experience of the entire collective organism into a limitless and disembodied intelligence?

What if :

The Universe could be “saved” and preserved eternally by a vast and controlling intelligence - if it were large enough? If somehow intelligence and energy were being constantly added to it, increasing its power and influence? What if it became powerful enough to decide the fate of the Universe?

Maybe this is not possible, but what might be more realistic is if this intelligence could preserve itself and find means to survive the death of its native Universe and continue its existence in the newly born Universe it consciously engineered to its own preference. What if this intelligence, pure consciousness, is indwelling in our physical universe, subservient to its laws, but wise enough to manipulate those laws and matter so as to make a cosmos friendly to carbon based life forms such as ourselves? What if this intelligence, with mastery over time and its laws, could influence the past to conform to a future that fits a benevolent agenda?

What if:

This has already happened?

(You can read an interview with Fred Hoyle here: http://www.panspermia.com/hoylintv.htm )
Fiction By C. Sanchez-Garcia
http://csanchezgarcia.blogspot.com
www.myspace.com\csanchez_garcia

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nekkid in the great outdoors!

by Jude Mason

A childhood spent closer to the outdoors than many of you were lucky enough to enjoy led to a great love of skinny dipping, sun and wind on naked flesh and the joys of outdoor lovemaking.

I never felt as if I had to hide away in some dark and dingy room to free myself of clothing when I was younger. Living in a small town surrounded by woods or ocean, there simply wasn't a need. We camped and fished, and us kids were encouraged to swim or go play on the beach. There really is nothing like the feel of a cool breeze on your supposed-to-be-covered flesh.

As the town got bigger and I grew older, more c
ivilized mores took hold, much to my annoyance. It became dangerous, as well as illegal, to go traipsing around nude, so swim suits and shorts became the norm. But I will always cherish my carefree youth of skin and sun, and all over tans.

Now, I write about those situations or surroundings allow if not urge nakedness. Sometimes the 'forced' nudity is the kink in a story. Sometimes it's more along the lines of
my upbringing. Who doesn't love a hunky guy living in a cabin somewhere in the woods. His closest neighbor miles away, his backyard the wilderness with only the odd deer or wolf to worry about.

Cat's Claw is one of those books. The death of a long time friend, leads Morgan Fields on an extraordinary quest into the backwoods where she finds love and so much more. Joshua Lansing, the son of her deceased friend helps her explore the heritage she never knew was hers. Those backwoods are the backdrop for the entire book and I took advantage of it to share some of the pleasure there is in racing through the trees unhindered by what society might think of as appropriate attire. Joshua lives there and Morgan soon learns to love it as much as he does. Here's a little snippet about why and how it comes about:

Morgan held her breath. If she breathed, she was sure she'd
scream. Her heart felt like it was going to strangle her; it was beating so hard and so fast. The sharper sense of hearing was gone; all that remained was the loud drumming of blood pounding through her veins and the deep, steady breathing of the naked man in front of her. Sweat covered her, adding to the scents she couldn't escape—lust and fear—a heady mix.

"Are you all right?" He spoke so softly, she was sure that if she ignored him, none of it would have happened. She could close her eyes and drift off to sleep. It would be just another one of her strange, nightmarish dreams. Why hadn't she brought her meds? "Morgan," his voice was more insistent that time, harder to ignore. He still hadn't moved, perhaps afraid he'd scare her. "Are you okay?
Morgan, please say something."

She blinked and took a deep shuddering breath. Cool night air brushed her nipples, erecting them and making her shiver. N
aked. She was naked in the woods. She opened her eyes. He was staring right at her.

"Yes," she whispered. It couldn't be a dream then. As soon as she'd spoken, the spell was broken. When she took another deep breath, it c
ame out as a sob. Biting her lip, she fought to keep from screaming.

"You're not alone." He smiled. His entire face lit up when he did, and she found herself drawn to him all over again. His gentleness, he didn't reach for her, like
so many men would have. Her fear slowly faded as her desire leaped ahead. He knew—he understood what was happening to her. Glancing downward, she felt heat wash over her. He was naked. She knew he was, but until that moment, her mind hadn’t comprehended it.

In one incredibly smooth, easy movement, he sat up. Morgan followed him with her eyes, and when he offered her his h
and, she reached for it. That first touch was magic. A thousand fireworks flared and she sensed something special between them.

"Not alone. Never again," she murmured, unaware that she'd actually spoken, until his reply.
"No, never alone again. I'll be with you." He drew her up to a seated position
, kept hold of her hand, anchoring her to their present. "If that's what you want."

She went effortlessly into his arms. She felt as if she was on fire when his cooler chest touched hers. Her nipples were so hard they ached, and
she longed for him to suckle them, to ease the pain. There bodies melded together, two halves of a whole. His breath fanned her face, and she inhaled the wild scent of him. His hands pulled her in, and hers leapt to help him. She slid her arms around his neck, sighing when his face moved in closer to hers. His lips parted. He kept his eyes wide as she leaned forward, into the kiss.

His tongue slid across her lips, wetting them, tasting her, teasing with i
ts tip, until she couldn't stop them from parting. He tasted of wildness, of mint on his breath and a heady cedar tang to his flesh. She caressed his neck and shoulders, all the while, lost in the sensual passion of his mouth on hers. Entwining tongues dueled, stabbed at each other, hot breath wafted across fevered cheeks. Breathless, he pulled his mouth from hers and smiled at her when she came forward, seeking more of his lips. "Here, or would you rather go back to the cabin?" He smiled wickedly, mischievously.

I believe this was the first changeling book I wrote, but it definitely wasn't the last. It felt wonderful to share that special feeling I had with the wilderness. And if readers enjoy it too, then what better thing to focus on. When Jenna Byrnes and I decided to try some writing together, we knew the genre we were going to target for a little while at least. Male/male was selling well and we both enjoyed writing it. Now, what better thing can you imagine than two, or more, not guys frolicking in the woods?

Our series, Untamed Hearts goes into the wilderness of western Canada, or the US, if you're more comfortable there, and each of the changeling clans has their own special part of it. Cougars, bears and wolves, so far, share the immense area and manage to live in peace thanks to the amulets they wear.

Check out the covers. Do these look like wild hunky men? Oh yeah! Tame me baby!


I believe this was the first changeling book I wrote, but it definitely wasn't the last. It felt wonderful to share that special feeling I had with the wilderness. And if readers enjoy it too, then what better thing to focus on. When Jenna Byrnes and I decided to try some writing together, we knew the genre we were going to target for a little while at least. Male/male was selling well and we both enjoyed writing it. Now, what better thing can you imagine than two, or more, not guys frolicking in the woods? Oh, and #4, Stallion Pride, is in the works!

There just seems to be something amazing about getting back to nature for the most natural thing in the world two people can share. Being able to shed what society dictates is proper, even if only for a little while, is incredibly refreshing, even rejuvenating.

Now, if you can tease a man into shedding his clothes, then lure him into a naughty chase in the great outdoors, that's even more special.

What do you all think? Got any special outdoorsy stories you'd like to share? Do you like skinny dipping? What about making love on the bluff overlooking some gorgeous lake?

Monday, June 22, 2009

I like the view from inside, thanks

By Jenna Byrnes


I never was the outdoorsy type. Sure, as a kid, we did the usual camping, boating, swimming thing that people do when they live near a lake. I liked it well enough then, of course I didn't have to do any of the work. Dad set up the camp and did the outdoor cooking, mom cleaned up after us and did the rest of the cooking. I had older siblings who were probably in the trailer helping mom wash dishes. I just remember swimming all day, and sitting around by the campfire making s'mores and playing cards into the evening.

One night I remember sitting in the car after being roused by dad in a raging thunderstorm. Six of us and a dog piled into a rocking car and watched through flashes of lightning as our pontoon boat got picked up from one side of the cove and was returned, upside down, on the other side. We were fine, the trailer was good, but that boat was toast. The next day we went cove-diving for lawn chairs and whatever else had sunk to the murky bottom, and the boat shop came and towed away our pontoon. One of those memories I won't ever forget.

As an (older) teenager, I spent time outside with my friends but I never did acquire the art of, as one friend called it, 'pissing in the wind'. When we'd drink enough beer I'd make her drive me to an outhouse to take care of business. She did it, but she always scoffed. All she needed was a private spot and a tissue- and I think the tissue was optional.

The appeal of outdoor sex also passed me by. It was never a fantasy of mine, and I can't recall writing about it except for in the shifter series that Jude and I have (which is not really the same, since those guys live outdoors anyway.)

These days, I don't enjoy spending a lot of time outside. Allergies are mostly under control, but they're still miserable. Mosquitoes, wasps, chiggers, and flies seem to love me. I could do without them. We have a nice yard, and had enough foresight to create nice kids to take care of it.

When I want to see nature I'll look out the window. Who am I kidding? My blinds are usually drawn. I'll turn on the TV or the computer. *G*

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Love Al Fresco

By Lisabet Sarai


As soon as I saw Jude's topic for this week, “The Great Outdoors”, I started rubbing my hands together with glee. What a fabulous opportunity to post some of my favorite photos! The posed snap of my husband and I stretched out naked together on a granite slab in the Sierras, sharing a kiss. The topless shot of me from that camping trip on Mount Shasta. Some of the many hot tub photos of us with friends, including the couple we've known for nearly thirty years who claim that we turned them on to nudism and who went on to establish a nudist resort in Arizona, which they then sold for more than a million dollars. Then of course there are the pictures from our coed stag party...

Fortunately rationality kicked in and I remembered my cardinal rule: never put anything on the Internet that you wouldn't be willing to show to your employer, your mother, or your priest. My mom had her wilder side and as far as conventional morality is concerned, I'm probably already damned, but I definitely don't want to take any chances with my job, which I dearly love. So I had to nix the pix.

I could tell you stories, though. There was the glorious June day at the Renaissance Faire, when my husband and I were so turned on by the lusty lads and buxom lasses that we sneaked off into the woods for a coupling au naturel. He tore off my laced-up bodice to expose my breasts, then burrowed under my long skirt to taste how excited the Faire had made me. I vividly remember making love with my grad school boyfriend on one of our trips across country. We were driving across eastern Colorado, basically desert, but we couldn't wait for a motel. We pulled into a rest area, wandered about fifty feet from the road, and jumped each other. Only afterward did I notice the gritty sand sticking to my sweaty body, the sun blazing relentlessly down, the scrubby cacti threatening our tender, bare flesh, and the shiny black scorpion ambling by, a mere six inches from my face!

Probably my favorite outdoor experience was one which did not involve actual sex, but remains in my memory as one of the most sensual and arousing nights in my life. It was just after New Year's in the mountains of Montana. With a close girlfriend, I'd driven all the way from Los Angeles to Missoula to spend the holidays with the young man whom I adored. (His feelings for me were, I believe, more equivocal.) He took us to a natural hot spring buried deep in the forest. I remember hiking a narrow trail in the darkness, under snow-laden evergreen boughs, until we reached a boulder-lined creek where steam rose from the water into the night air. How strange and wonderful it was to strip off our heavy jackets and sweaters, our jeans and our boots, and plunge our bodies into the deliciously warm pool! Someone had brought a flute. The plaintive melody echoed through the wood, and I was sure satyrs and nymphs were about to join us. Then we were alone, just the three of us, speechless in the silence of the winter night, exquisitely aware of our naked limbs brushing against each other under the surface. Lazy snowflakes drifted over us, vanishing as they touched our heated skin.

I recall the frigid winter air as we dressed afterward, the magic of being naked in the forest in the heart of winter. We found a cozy mountain lodge on the road back, and then my paramour and I did make love, silently, still caught in the spell of the enchanted spring. (My friend slept in the next room; my fantasy of making love to her never did become reality.)

As I got older, my outdoor adventures became less frequent. I've lived mostly in cities for the past decade. It's a bit difficult to find the privacy for an outdoor tryst. As I've gotten older, too, the balance between lust and the desire for comfort has shifted in the direction of the latter. I'd rather make love on a clean, sweet-smelling bed in a luxurious hotel than on a hard, damp bench in the park. I'd rather be groped on a leather couch in a sex club than pressed against a dank stone wall under a malodorous bridge.

Thinking about my characters, I realize that most of them are as urban as I have become. I've written a few outdoor scenes. However, sex in the great outdoors doesn't feature in all that many of my stories.

Nevertheless, I did have a contribution accepted to the recently published altruistic erotic anthology Coming Together: Al Fresco, edited by Alessia Brio. The theme of this collection is outdoor sex. All profits benefit Conservation International. My piece in Al Fresco is a chapter reprinted from Raw Silk, entitled “Reclining Buddha”, in which Kate discovers that Somtow, the handsome and decadent Thai aristocrat who has become her lover, has no qualms about coupling in the great outdoors.

Here's a brief peak at this lusty little interlude.




They wandered among the ruins, which had a kind of melancholy beauty. The day was getting hot, but there was still a breeze. The vines rustled softly, whispering of days long vanished.

As they continued, they came to a grassy expanse dominated by three huge chedis, conical towers that looked like upturned children's tops. "The ashes of two royal princes and an abbot are buried within those monuments," said Somtow. "During the prime of the Ayuthaya, the chedis would have been gilded, and could have been seen from a long way, above the city walls. They are positioned to catch the last gleams of the setting sun.”

They stood at the foot of one of the chedis. Katherine looked up. Most of the stucco that had once covered the structure had worn away. She could see the precise brickwork used to create the tapering outline.

Next, they reached a temple that appeared to be intact. "Wat Suwan Dararam," said Somtow. "This temple was built near the close of the Ayuthaya period; it was badly damaged, but now has been restored. Shall we go inside?”

"Oh, yes," said Katherine. The shady interior looked very appealing.

"Leave your shoes on the steps," said Somtow, doing so himself. As they entered, an elderly monk bowed in a respectful wai. Somtow put some money in the wooden box beside the man, and picked up two bundles of incense sticks.

The interior of the wat was fragrant with sandalwood. Woven straw mats covered the floor, their texture pleasant under Katherine's bare feet. Columns carved with mythical beasts supported the peaked ceiling; brightly-painted frescoes decorated the walls.

An enormous bronze Buddha image sat at the far end of the sanctuary, surrounded by banks of candles, jars of flowers, and many smaller images. Several orange-clad monks sat before the figure, chanting softly. Somtow approached the Buddha and knelt reverently. He lit his incense from one of the candles, holding it between his two palms. Then he repeatedly bowed, bringing his hands and the incense to his forehead.

Katherine watched him with some surprise. His eyes were closed. His lips moved slightly with some inaudible prayer or invocation. His devotion was clearly genuine.

She lit her own incense and stuck it in one of the bronze pots, filled with sand, that were provided for this purpose. Then she sat quietly, marveling at the peace that pervaded the place, and at the transformation of her lover.

Eventually, Somtow opened his eyes. He looked at her and smiled, then took her hand and led her out of the temple. The sun was blinding as they emerged. The heat had intensified.

"I hope you were not bored," said Somtow.

"Oh no," said Katherine."It was lovely, very tranquil.”

"It is important to pay one's respects," said Somtow seriously. "Especially for me. I have such a need to make merit.”

Abruptly, his mood lightened. He grasped her hand again, smiling his infectious smile. "Come, I have something else to show you." He led her down the road, and then turned onto a winding path through thickening vegetation. Suddenly they came to a clearing. There, surrounded by bricks and rubble, was a massive statue of the Buddha, in a reclining pose.

As was traditional, the figure lay on its right side, the stone head resting on the right palm. Calm eyes contemplated them serenely. From the flame of knowledge rising out of his head, to the soles of his feet decorated with the eight-petal lotus, the statue must have been at least ten meters in length.
Katherine gazed at the figure, impressed by its scale, and its overwhelming air of quiet power. She lost track of Somtow for a moment. Then she heard a sound behind her.

She turned to see Somtow, totally naked, lying on the grass in the shade. Like the statue, he lay on his side, his ear resting on his hand. Unlike the Buddha image, though, his expression was one of mischievous invitation.

"Somtow," Katherine exclaimed. "You are completely outrageous! Don't you consider this disrespectful?”

"The Buddha rejected asceticism. He taught the middle way, moderation in all things." Somtow grinned."I am just more moderate in some areas than others.”

Katherine shook her head, disbelieving. Her Thai prince looked as irresistible as usual. His hair was a bit disheveled, curling damply on his brow. His pale skin flowed with patterns of shadow as the sunlight filtered through the trees. His cock was hugely erect, glistening with a bit of premonitory moisture.

What the hell, she thought to herself. She pulled her tunic over head, and stepped out of her skirt. The breeze was delicious on her bare skin.




The great outdoors – doesn't everything seem cleaner, purer, more natural? Even the raunchiest scenes!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Footsteps

By Ellen Ashe

The old farm house where I grew up is haunted.

Before I go on allow me to explain that there are those, including myself, who take great pains in rationalizing the odd goings-on. The midnight voice in the kitchen could be a radio inadvertently left on, the squeaking rocking chair, where there was no rocking chair, could be floorboards complaining about the wind, a long deceased pet cat sitting in the window could be a trick of the sunlight, and the few notes played on the piano when there was no one there, well…

Despite any and all explanation, my youth was spent terrified of the dark. I refused to spend a night alone there, in fear that the former residents we affectionately nicknamed ‘the old maids’, would suddenly decide to sweep down the attic steps, rattle the latch on the door, and call out for a cup of tea. But it’s not just the Grey Sisters who seem to take up a ghostly residence; over the years a death has often been followed by the throwing open a cupboard door, a muffled incomprehensible sentence, or a broken clock that suddenly chimes. True, it is an old house, built around 1848, as confirmed by the old maps of the county, and my family has been there since 1953. But try as I might I cannot blame every squeak, groan, whisper, or chime on the wind.

One of the most startling incidents occurred with my soon-to-be husband as the witness. Stuart and I had come home from England where we were both working, to marry in Nova Scotia during the summer of 1989. Two bedrooms share the upstairs. I happily reoccupied my former room, even though for only three weeks, the length of our happy vacation. About two in the morning I was certain I heard mother climbing the stairs, and I assumed, in my fuzzy half-sleeping brain, she was returning to bed after a visit to the washroom. Stuart shook me. “Wake up! There’s someone in the room!”

I immediately sensed the presence as well. The floorboards creaked with a shifting weight and at first I thought something was wrong with mother and she had stepped inside to speak to me. But loud snores from the other bedroom across the landing soon denoted this wasn’t a good theory at all. “Turn on the light,” I suggested as calmly as possible, and he did. In the split second it took for the light to brighten the surroundings it was evident someone was standing in the doorway, looking at us, saying nothing. Together we peered at the door but once the light was on, the willowy image vanished.

“Did you see that?” he asked. “Someone came right up the stairs, stood there,” he pointed to the landing, “and then sat on the edge of this bed!”

Somehow I had missed that last part, but I did remember hearing the steady footsteps and sensed that I was being firmly stared upon. Yet, not once had I become frightened. Perhaps years of eerie happenings had finally forced me to be somewhat blas√©. And, whoever had visited us certainly hadn’t done so in malice. My future husband however, was shaken. I went right back to sleep; he didn’t. Funny though, because the next morning he refused to talk about our late night visitor. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” he said decisively, and the topic was closed.

Those who know the old farmhouse, however, were far from surprised at my retelling of our late-night ‘incident’. It was one of many, many tales of odd goings-on. How exactly my husband rationalized what had happened, he’s never said. Me, I think it was his presence in the house that was the object of curiosity, especially since he, an unknown person, was sharing my bed!

Stuart’s never been troubled with ghostly stares since the wedding twenty years ago. Having said that, he’s never again slept in the old farm house!

Ellen Ashe

http://ellenashe.blogspot.com/



Love Not Forgotten

Kirkland Hall is haunted. Kate Daniels, part inheritor to the Scottish estate, knows nothing of its history- that a bloody scene four hundred years ago between rival clans saw two lovers separated by murder- and that these tortured spirits have spent the centuries searching for each other. Nor does she know anything about the dark and moody ‘caretaker’, Alex MacTavish.

No sooner does Kate arrive when she feels the house whispering its welcome and pleading for her help. And as her relationship with Alex begins to deepen, Kate discovers the name Daniels is interlinked with the home's violent history of betrayal and murder. So too, is the name MacTavish. Together the haunted lovers must reach beyond an evil that lurks in the estate’s underground crypt, destroy its malicious hold on not only the Clansman’s past but their own future.

Purchase or read an excerpt here

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Haunting of Helen E. H. Madden

Allow me to turn this week's topic completely on its head.


I am neither religious nor a superstitious person, so I do not believe in ghosts, i.e. the restless spirits of the dead. Though I enjoy a good ghost story, and might try to write one on occasion, I cannot convince myself that the dead are anything more than... well, dead. Haunted houses, to me, are nothing more than abandoned empty buildings that are scary more because they might collapse on you than because some spooky dead person is hanging around inside waiting to jump out and go "Boo!" As for Ouija boards, forget 'em. They only deliver messages from the subconscious or practical jokers. And I think people who claim they can speak to the dead either have a screw loose or are out to get your money.


So no, I don't believe in ghosts. But nonetheless, I find I am haunted with rather alarming frequency.


It starts every time I set to work on a story. I have a weekly deadline, so I can't afford to wait for ideas to come to me before I start writing. I have to jump start my brain, kick it into gear, and turn out that story before week's end. My latest gimmick for starting stories is to pull some random words out of a hat. I convinced a lot of people to send me random words or phrases, which I wrote onto small strips of paper and then put in a hat. For the last few weeks, whenever I sit down to start work a story, I pull out three slips from the hat, and then use whatever is on those slips to create a coherent tale. I think some people have tried to deliberately screw me up by sending strange or unusual words that you'd never expect to read in an erotica story. But no matter, it's made for some interesting, creative tales.


Until this week. This week's words were "money," "well, it worked," and "wombat." I drew them out on Sunday and promptly slammed my head into the desk. Wombat? I'm supposed to use the word "wombat" in an erotica story? The first two I could fit into any story with little trouble. But wombat? Impossible! I stared at the slips for half an hour, trying to form some idea for a story, but I came up with nada, zip, bupkis. I dropped the slips of paper on my desk and shook my head. There was no story here. I decided I would pull out new words the next day.


But the word "wombat" was not so easily set aside. It hung with me throughout the day, nibbling at the back of my mind. What was a wombat, exactly? What did one look like? Where did they come from? What did they eat? Were they sexy? Such random questions floated through my brain, pestering me through the night, until I finally cried "Uncle!" early the next morning and hit Wikipedia for some quick research. Wombats, I found out, are stout, sturdy creatures like badgers, but with teeth like rodents. They can chew through just about anything, and their backsides are made of cartilage, making them nigh impervious to attacks from the rear. They dig tunnels and protect their territories with a vengeance. They're surly creatures, to be sure, ones that seemed to have a personality I could relate to. In my mind, the word "wombat" began to take form.


By Tuesday, I had the nigglings of an idea that involved all three of my random slips of paper. The wombat would important, one of the main characters in fact. Before the day was out, the creature had a definite voice and a name - Wildorf, the Merciless. He was grumpy, wore leather armor and was handy at defeating foes twice his size. And he had a problem that he couldn't solve on his own. Enter the Lady Amadira, a high priced courtesan, and Wildorf's friends Nob and Hilde, and a shady character named Duke Vermeer, all of whom lived in the far away land of the Three Kingdoms.


Once discovered and named, this cast of characters bedeviled me without mercy. I lay awake all of Tuesday night, listening to them whisper in my head, feeding me tantalizing bits of dialog and plot. By Wednesday morning, I was possessed. I got up before the sun and headed straight to the office. Wildorf and company demanded to be written.


What happened to me? How had I gone from an impossibility to a story I felt compelled to write? I was haunted, plain and simple. You see, before a story becomes a story, it's the ghost of an idea. Not a ghost in the sense of something that's already died and needs to be put to rest, but something yet to be that's waiting, demanding, to be born. When I have a story in my head, it's like my brain has become pregnant. My noggin swells to stupendous proportions as the story grows, until I can't hold it inside anymore. And then I'm forced to become both midwife and mother, coaxing and pushing and struggling to get the story out of me and onto on the screen of my computer. It may come out messy and covered in blood. It may need to be cleaned and swaddled and nursed and loved into final form. But once it's been given birth to, it's a story, no doubt about it.


While it remains inside me, though, it's a ghost, and it will haunt me without mercy until I heed its cries.