Tag Archives: writing

What’s going on with me…writing and reading and hygge

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I’ve been awful at keeping this blog updated with what I’ve been up to this year.

So far in 2016, I’ve released a grand total of 0 books and… well, that’s going to be the 2016 total. Which is not to say I haven’t been writing. I have. I wrote and completed a new novel, am in the middle of a second novel AND am co-writing a third with Carolyn Crane, but none of those will come out till 2017. So this is the lowdown:

  • In April 2017, I’ll be releasing A GATHERING STORM with Riptide, part of the Porthkennack series. The Porthkennack universe, devised by the wonderful Alex Beecroft,  will feature stories by me, Alex, JL Merrow, Garrett Leigh and Charlie Cochrane. It will be a mix of contemporary and historical titles. I’ll be publishing one of each – A Gathering Storm is my historical, a Victorian-set novel that focuses on the twin Victorian obsessions of science and spiritualism. One of my heroes is an aristocratic scientist, the other the half-Romany by-blow of the richest family in Porthkennack.
  • In August 2017 (I think), my contemporary will release. This one doesn’t have a title yet. I actually wrote a whole song for his book, words and music–because I needed to hear it in my head for a key scene. This one is about abandonment and forgiveness.
  • In October 2017, I’ll have a short vampire story out in a charity anthology.
  • And finally, I’m hoping that in addition to the above, Carolyn and I will manage to get our co-written story out too. It’s a …God, how to describe it? It’s MM spies basically. I love our two characters, American Will and British Kit. I adore adore adore Carolyn’s writing (we’ve been CPing for each other’s stuff for about 7 years, I think) and I feel like we both bring something of ourselves to this book.

So, yeah, 2016 has been a publishing famine, but 2017 will be (more of) a feast.

And after that? Well… 18th century werewolves in Scotland. I’m planning a pair of books on that. It’s been brewing a long while.

So that’s my writing news. In other news, I’m all about the hygge at the moment. God knows, we all need a bit of hygge in the face of 2016’s horrors: Brexit, Trump, terrorist atrocities, the rise of right wing nationalism and… well, I could (sadly) go on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m trying to be aware and outspoken during the day (in person) while finding a little kindness and sanity for myself and my family at night.

In the hygge spirit, I’m greatly enjoying my newly renovated front room, complete with new fireplace (which glows beautifully orange, even if it does look purple in the picture above).

And on the reading front? I’ve read some great stuff these last months that I’ve been very remiss in talking about. Most recently, Josh Lanyon’s fabulous Murder Between the Pages, a number of Keira Andrews’ books (both zombie apocalypse ones, Kick at the Darkness and Fight the Tide and the fab new baseball one, Reading the Signs), JA Rock’s latest two Subs Clubs books, 24/7 and Slave Hunt.  Oh, and Kim Fielding’s Rattlesnake. And then, of course, there’s audiobooks. Right now, I’m listening to Josh Lanyon’s The Mermaid Murders and enjoying it all over again. Murder in Pastel was another treat. My book listening has slowed down a bit recently though, as not every author I enjoy reading translates well to audio. As ever, any reccs gratefully received.  Part of my personal hygge is the time I spend walking to work each day in coat, hat, gloves, soaking in the city I love while listening to stories, or music.

I should go to bed now, but the husb just put another log on the fire…

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My 2014 in review: the writey stuff

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2014 has been a pretty good writing and publishing year for me. I published two novels, two novellas and a (very short) short this year which is a pretty good output for me given my work and family commitments.

The stories were:

  • Enlightened, the final novel in my Enlightenment trilogy (my most ambitious writing project to date)
  • Introducing Mr Winterbourne, a novella in the Another Place in Time charity anthology organised by Susan Lee
  • The Dream Alchemist, my first, um, paranormal-y novel (I struggle to label this story – it doesn’t *feel* like paranormal or fantasy to me, but something else)
  • Rest and Be Thankful, a contemporary set novella in the Comfort & Joy Christmas anthology organised by Josh Lanyon
  • Seasons Pass, a very short story in the Enlightenment series. Although this is only 5k, it’s one of my favourite things I wrote this year

In terms of next year’s output, I have notebooks full of ideas for future projects – some of those are stories I’m desperate to write and others are stories I’m interested in more for the challenge they pose.

When I think about it, pretty much everything I’ve published has had something in it that’s been some kind of challenge. My first book featured a woman masquerading as a man – I began writing that book after reading a few blogs that talked about this being a trope readers struggled with because they found it difficult to believe a woman could successfully pass as a man. My second book featured that most loathed of romance characters, the philandering husband (I genuinely love the hero of that book but he’s been roundly despised by many readers). With the first book of the Enlightenment series, I wrote a romance with no HEA or even an HFN and that really bothered some readers (but I genuinely felt it had to be that way) and across the broader arc of all three Enlightenment books, I set myself the challenge of creating an ultimate HEA for two Regency men that readers could really believe in and have the same sense of pay off as from a het historical. With my more recent stories – The Dream Alchemist and Rest and Be Thankful – the challenge has been in the change of genre. I’ve discovered that paranormal and contemporary genres present vastly different challenges than historical… and that no genre is easy…

In terms of what I’m writing right now, I’m in the luxurious (I think) position of writing something that is both a real book of my heart and a new challenge. This is Captain Iain Sinclair’s book. Readers of Seasons Pass will have briefly met Iain and his love interest, James Hart. James and Iain have known each a long time so I’m trying to tell their story in two interwoven narrative strands – the ‘present’ strand (1824) and a second strand which shows how their relationship has developed between 1808 and 1824. This is not an easy way to write a story, but it gives me lots of opportunities to set up satisfying emotional pay offs – if I can get the tension and the pace if it right (I’m a firm believer that so much in romance is about pace and timing). That novel will come out late 2015.

Enough of 2015 though, what else happened in 2014?

Well, I was nominated in Dabwaha which was very cool, though I went out after round 2 (albeit respectably, to the eventual winner, Captive Prince 2). Oh, and I attended my first conference, the UK GLBT Fiction Meet in Bristol where I met some fabulous people, such as Susan Lee, K J Charles,  Sam Higson, Liz Whinder, Helena Justina,  Rachel Maybury, Clare London, Jo Myles, Elin Gregory, Johanna Ollila, Jordan Castillo Price, LA Witt, Aleksander Voinov, Charlie Cochrane, Calathea, Jay Northcote – the list goes on! It was a great meet and I hope to be at the next one in September next year, all going well.

I loved doing my two anthologies. It was a thrill to see my stories published with other writers I highly rate. In both cases, I felt very much like the ‘junior partner’ in the line up (which felt quite a luxurious place to be in all honesty). Hopefully, these anthologies have introduced my stories to a few new readers.

Another new-to-me for 2014 has been self publishing, which I dipped a toe into the water of with the Comfort & Joy anthology. Having had my hand comprehensively (and generously) held through that process, I plan at least one self pubbing venture in 2015. I have to say, I love working with my publishers, Samhain, but I would like to put something out before the Iain and James book, hopefully around summer time and self pubbing is the best way to achieve that, given the timetable I’m working with.

Is there anything you’d particularly like to see from me? Genre? Characters? Tropes?

 

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Noo book… an excerpt

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Bryn took a deep breath, then rose smoothly into the air. Flying took a lot of concentration—flying slowly and hovering were even harder. These were impossible feats in the real world, and undertaking the impossible in Somnus required a dreamwalker to achieve a complete disconnection from his real-world self. It took huge mental effort, and that was not something Bryn had ever really excelled in. While he had a certain natural ability that had put him ahead of other new dreamwalkers when he’d first arrived in Somnus,  he’d later found it difficult to develop those natural abilities to the higher level Dylan and Finn had achieved.

Today, though, Bryn’s elevation was smooth, and he managed a controlled glide over the treetops as he carefully scanned the ground below.

At last he came upon Laszlo, sitting on the ground in the middle of a clearing, his head bowed, his hand worrying at something round his neck. The man was like no dreamwalker  Bryn had ever seen, nor any drone. He sat there, alone, seemingly without purpose, without desire. He looked to be all at sea, at the mercy of tides he could not control and didn’t understand.

Bryn had just been telling Dylan he’d been an emotional, impulsive kid, and the truth was he was still like that, still lacking in control. His impulsiveness hadn’t come to an end that day with the dogs. No, he’d continued to make stupid decisions all through his adult years, both here and in the real world. The only difference now was that, these days, he was more consumed by regret afterwards.

Now that stupidity came on him again, and instead of shifting away when he saw the man who’d tried more than once to capture him in Somnus, he lowered his body a few feet from above the treetops to a lower elevation, coming to a halt on one of the stout upper branches of a sturdy tree.

Sitting himself down on that broad wooden limb, Bryn waited for Laszlo to notice him.

At first, Laszlo didn’t react to his presence at all, but after a while, his dark head lifted, in the way a dog’s head lifts when it scents something, and in one fluid movement, he stood up, unfolding his long limbs, and looked around.

Then up.

When he spotted Bryn, his expression transformed. One moment it was no more than vaguely curious, the next it was intensely yearning.

“It’s you!” he said, and his voice cracked on the words.

“Hello, Laszlo,” Bryn said, mouth dry, heart thudding with fear and something else—anticipation, maybe. “Do you remember me today?”

Laszlo Grimm regarded him unhappily. Then he shook his head.

“No,” he said. “Do I know you? I feel as though, perhaps—”

His gaze locked with Bryn’s, and something flickered in his eyes. The next instant, his expression went strangely flat and he was launching himself at the tree, grabbing the lowest branch and swinging himself up before reaching for the next one, climbing so quickly that panic sent Bryn soaring upwards again, scratching himself on the branches above in his hurry to get way.

He only slowed when he was well above the canopy, wondering sickly if Laszlo could fly too, and if he did, how fast he would be.

He knew he should shift away now, be done with the man.

Instead he watched Laszlo climb ever higher, swallowing against his own dread but helpless to avert his gaze as the man balanced on a branch that looked far too flimsy for his bulk, then bent his knees with the plain intention of launching himself into the air at Bryn.

Shit, he’s actually going to do it!

And he did.

Laszlo leapt into the ether, his vivid blue gaze fixed on Bryn, electric bright with determination. For the briefest instant, Bryn thought the man was going to succeed. His body rose far beyond what any drone could ever manage, and for an instant, he hovered, reaching his hand towards Bryn, who floated ten or more feet above him.

Then he dropped.

He fell backwards, his face morphing from triumph to shock in the moment before it disappeared into the canopy of leaves, and then there was only the thwap and crack of branches as he crashed through the upper boughs, and the final sickening thud as he hit the ground.

In the eerie silence that followed, Bryn could only hear his own panicked breaths.

He knew he should shift away right now, while Laszlo was incapacitated, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Slowly, carefully, he lowered himself through the trees, stopping a few feet from the ground to hover anxiously above Laszlo, who lay very still on his back, his eyes open but unfocused.

“Laszlo,” Bryn murmured. The other man stirred a little, then moaned as though in pain, and Bryn had to suppress the urge to move closer. Instead he forced himself to stay where he was and watched, his anxiety only beginning to ease when, eventually, Laszlo slowly sat up. When he spotted Bryn, he tried to rise, only to fall back with a groan.

“Do you recognise me now?” Bryn asked. “Do you know who I am?”

Laszlo frowned, thinking hard, but didn’t answer immediately. “I think I’ve been waiting for you,” he said at last. “For a long time, maybe.” He struggled to his knees.

“We’ve met before,” Bryn said, his voice a little pleading.

“I don’t remember,” Laszlo replied. He was back on his feet now and looking up, his vivid gaze growing determined. He’d leap again, Bryn knew. And again and again. He would just keep coming.

Time to go.

The waves began to shush in Bryn’s ears.

“I wish you could remember me,” he said, barely able to hear his own voice.

He saw Laszlo’s mouth move as he answered, but the waves drowned out the words…

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It’s all about me, babe (or, Revelation of Self)

I’ve been pondering a lot lately what it is I write about. This is intimately related to what I like to read about, given that part of my reason for writing is to create something that Reader-Me craves.

I’ve realised that my major abiding obsession is about the revelation of self.

When I first started thinking about this question, I initially decided that my books were all about discovery of self – essentially, “Who am I?”. But whilst that is certainly true of the characters in my latest three books, the Enlightenment trilogy, it is not true of my first two books, in which I wrote about women whose true selves were concealed. These were not characters who didn’t know themselves, but rather characters who struggled with revealing themselves.

I’m not suggesting at all that all romance is about revelation of self, but for me, this is something I crave and greatly love. This theme speaks to me so very deeply – it is, for me, a golden thing and when I think of many of my favourite romances I see it there: from Pride & Prejudice to this year’s Dabwaha winner, Captive Prince.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post, namely, the beautiful film I watched last night, Romeos. This gorgeous German movie, directed by Sabine Bernardi, is the story of Lukas, a young pre-op female-to-male transexual and his struggle to find a place for himself in the world. Within the wider story is a romance between Lukas (who is not only transsexual, but gay, two things that he angrily tells his best friend are “completely separate”) and a physically beautiful man called Fabio.

The movie is very sparse on dialogue but the acting is powerful. Rick Okon is wonderful as Lukas. His depiction of Lukas’ feelings through facial expression and body language is beautifully observed and heart wrenching.

There were many many rich and wonderful things about this movie but I’m going to restrict my comments to this stuff about revelation of self and how that was explored.

Lukas is a man in a transitioning body. He has female sexual organs but thanks to the drugs he’s been taking, he looks male. His sense of his own masculinity is both robust and fragile and this is shown beautifully in his angry insistence on being treated like a male, his heartbreaking loathing of his female body and in a number of scenes in which other characters’ actions and reactions make him feel bad or humiliated or less than in some way. That none of these scenes feature violence or anything egregiously traumatic is a testament to the power of the acting and storytelling because these scenes just wrenched at me. And this was merely the ordinary, everyday stuff of life: people teasing each other, showing prurient curiosity, showing disapproval and barely concealed disgust.

I’ve been thinking about trans people a fair bit recently – for various reasons – and this film came along at an apt time for me. I can’t tell you how much it moved me – beyond anything. It took me somewhere I’d tried to imagine and made it vividly real to me.

Art is the greatest teacher because it can make us understand things beyond our experience. Because it shows rather than tells. If you’re willing to open yourself up to it, you can live another life in a small way, for a little time.

It can change you, and I love that.

Whilst Lukas is the main focus of the film, he is not its only subject. Fabio also has a hidden self that is slowly revealed. I adored the way the film both contrasted and aligned Lukas and Fabio. They are both men, attracted to one another, wanting the same thing. But whilst Lukas is gauche and lacking in confidence, Fabio is all unselfconscious beauty, male arrogance, sexual confidence. Early on, he is dismissed (by a seemingly more sensitive character) as a man slut who is only good for one thing. But it is Fabio – brash and thoughtless as he is at times – who comes to ultimately see, and love, Lukas’s true self in one of the most beautiful love scenes I think I’ve ever seen on film. One of the reasons this love scene is so good is that it follows a prior sex scene between Lukas and another gay man. Whilst that character is willing to have sex with Lukas despite his female body, his ‘acceptance’ takes the form of mingled shock, amusement and a sort of prurient arousal over Lukas’s exoticism. In other words, this not acceptance at all.

I didn’t think about this character’s reaction in anything like that detail when I was actually watching that scene. It only occurred to me later, after the subsequent love scene in which Fabio and Lukas come together. They do so, not as a man and a man, or as a man and a woman – how they should be classified, scientifically or otherwise, just doesn’t come into it. They come together as themselves, as Fabio and Lukas. What you see, in that final scene, is very lovely. Revelation and discovery. Deeply personal and individual.

It’s difficult to find a scene on You Tube that gives a good sense of the film. The scene I’ve embedded here is an odd dreamlike sequence from the middle of the film – but it is thematically representative. The blue lighting, and choice of song, are very deliberate. There is a running metaphor of a watery voyage of discovery – dangerous and elemental – to a new land, a rebirth, that runs through the film. The drag queen in this scene is a sort of kindly siren. Beckoning Lukas, acknowledging how hard the journey is. Telling him it’s worth the fight.

 

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May 1, 2014 · 8:49 pm

Sex and Intimacy part 2 – reflections on particular books

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As promised, I’m coming back to the topic of sex and intimacy in romance books, but this time I’m looking at a few recent reads and the stuff in them that I thought was interesting about how the sex scenes worked with the overall story. Time has moved on since my last post, and I am ever fickle, so I’m going to talk about a slightly different list of books than I mentioned in the last post.

First up is Unbound by Cara McKenna. Cara McKenna is a completely new to me author. I heard about Unbound when I noticed a couple of tweets about it. Jill Sorenson said (I think) that it had been a favourite of hers last year and that made me swipe my tablet screen to Amazon and get a sample before flipping back to Twitter. In such ways are sales made and gloms begun! I never sample or buy a book based on a promo tweet that tries to hook me in re what it’s about (When a were-pig meets a flame demon, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire!). It’s the word-of-mouth I go to Twitter for.

But I digress.

Unbound. This was story of American Merry, who has recently lost a lot of weight and is hiking in Scotland. She falls ill and has to seek help from Englishman Rob, who lives alone in the remote Highlands. At length, they get together and Merry discovers that Rob has a rope fetish and is submissive. At greater length, she discovers he is also an alcoholic who has isolated himself to get away from the temptation to drink.

This is a story in which one character’s very specific fetish is explored and analysed alongside the other character’s much more ‘normal’ sexuality. I thought McKenna did some very interesting stuff around how sex and intimacy relate to both characters’ personal development and the way they fall in love. It features, unusually in romance, a hero who in one scene is unable to perform (in an early vanilla encounter with the heroine). It also features a heroine who is frank about what she wants but not in an aggressive way – MacKenna portrayed Merry’s sexual straightforwardness in a way that read very truthfully to me.

Merry was a satisfying character all round. At the start of the book, she is partway through a journey towards gaining power over her life and her body – her confidence has grown already, following substantial weight loss – and she doesn’t need Rob to repair her or make her whole. But it turns out that giving Rob what he needs further builds her confidence and power and satisfies her too.

I loved that Merry didn’t discover some burning desire to be a domme. Rather, she falls in love with someone, gains satisfaction from giving that person what he wants, and finds her own power from asking him for what she wants too. For me, this book did something a lot more interesting than putting a whip in the heroine’s hand. It showed a heroine becoming truly active – both sexually and emotionally – leaving all conventional female passivity behind. Really, it’s about female independence and it’s beautifully written too.

Next up is A Case for Possession, book 2 in K J Charles Magpie Lord series. I loved this, more than book 1 even. I adore the characters in this series, but most especially Lord Crane who is everything I love in a hero – a mixed up ambiguous fellow if ever I met one.  So, what was it, sexually, about this book that bears mention?

K J Charles did something very interesting in this book – she shuns the typical approach to sex scenes in romance (see last post) with paced “set pieces”. Instead, she makes lots of delicious little sideways references to the two MCs’ very hot sexual relationship without doing sustained sex scenes.

As I read, I found myself thinking a lot about the conventions I am so used to, the deliberate escalation and variation of sexual content that is so much about reader expectation and romance convention and so little about character and story development. I was intrigued to find that KJC’s frequent but more passing references were more than ample to reassure me that the MCs are sexually compatible (important to me) and to give the book a sexy feel. Loved it.

Finally, I have to mention the book I am reading right now, Transcendence, by Shay Savage. This book may get a blog post all of its own because I am  loving it in many ways. However, I’m talking about sex scenes today, so I’ll limit myself to that aspect of the book.

This is a book in which the reader is invited to conclude – via the prehistoric hero’s internal (and very endearing) POV – that the heroine has arrived in his world through time travel. The hero, Ehd, lost his entire tribe years before Beh (Elizabeth) falls into a hunting trap he dug and he cannot believe his good fortune that a mate has dropped into his lap like this. Ehd has no speech and a very different view of the world than Beh (or us). He is something of a blank slate with virtually no cultural baggage regarding sexual behaviour. He is delighted by any sign of interest from Beh and makes no judgments about her behaviour beyond that.

Whilst the plausibility of this is probably up for debate, I’m not awfully interested in that – I think there are more interesting things going on. The fact is, this set up neatly disrupts the reader’s normal assumptions around what is sexually acceptable – there are no rules for Ehd and Beh. They discover sex together, openly and honestly, and that is the great joy of this book.

Transcendence also provides much food for thought on the universality of human love and desire as well as many entertaining nuggets on the eternal differences between men and women, but I’ll leave those observations for another day.

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Sex and intimacy

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I’ve been musing a lot about sex scenes in romance novels lately. What function they serve. When they’re good and important, and when they’re not important at all, though possibly good – or not. When they just feel superfluous. And in musing about this I’ve noticed stuff in many of my recent reads that relate to this. Initially I planned to talk both about my general thoughts and the particular books I’d been pondering in this regard, but the general part ended up being a bit longer than I originally envisaged, so I’ll come back to the particular books in a subsequent post.

Some romance readers are very specific about what they like and/or tolerate sex-wise in their reads. Not so for me – I like books across the whole spectrum, provided they’re well-written and the sex scenes serve some kind of purpose. That’s not to say the purpose has to be serious – the purpose can be nothing deeper than a cheerful romp – so long as it works with the overall direction and theme of the book, I can get with it.

What I’m not awfully keen on is entirely sex-free romance novels – I like sex to be present, even if at a low level.  For me, a romance novel with absolutely no sex in it at all lacks something. When I re-read old and much-loved Georgette Heyer novels, I occasionally worry that the whole relationship’s going to go south as soon as the MCs try to consummate it. I loved Friday’s Child when I was 15, but now I can’t imagine Hero and Sherry having sex. (Actually, that is a lie, but I do have a vivid imagination).

That’s not to say that I need the sexual content of a novel to be a huge and graphic element of the narrative – I absolutely don’t. One of my favourite writers, Josh Lanyon, often writes fairly low-key sex scenes, but I find them amongst the most effective and satisfying ones I’ve read – I actually remember them, which is saying something, isn’t it? When you really think about it? All those thousands and thousands of identikit, paint-by-number sex scenes that have been written? You read them and some are good and some are awful but most fade away very quickly. There are Lanyon ones I remember years after reading them, because he did something that was genuinely meaningful in terms of plot or character development and it stayed with me.

It’s not just about the volume and detail of the sexual content either – it’s about approach. The extent to which romance authors use genre conventions and the ways in which they sometimes disrupt or play with those conventions. Take the clichés around ascension of intimacy. You see this both at individual scene level (*clears throat* I think you’ll find you have to the suckle the nipples before you go down there…) and as part of the overall story structure (*clicks pen and smiles brightly* So, we’ll be starting with a handjob, then a blowjob before we finally move onto the penetrative sex!).

These cliches are used because they work – both conventionally and unconventionally. That is to say, used conventionally, they can be a useful and satisfying way of showing (or mirroring) the slow breaking down of the barriers between the MCs and the growth of trust. Used unconventionally – say, the highly sexed MC who is incapable of emotional intimacy e.g. in Dirty by Megan Hart – they can challenge our ideas of what intimacy really is, what it means to share yourself with others.

Beyond all this though, you know what I’m looking for in a sex scene? And beyond that, in romance itself? You know what I actually crave? 

Sincerity.

Really good romance – and really good sex scenes – don’t wear a sneer, not in my book. Fundamentally, for me, romance is about ripping away all the protective layers and exposing the pulsing, vulnerable, bloody heart beneath. It’s about making a tough old beast (or beasts) willingly roll over to expose the soft little underbelly we all have. It kicks wise-cracking and eye-rolling in the teeth and asks – no demands – that the reader believe something – love something – that the World is generally inclined to mock.

My favourite sex scenes are usually a mix of the expected and the unexpected – something that honours the genre with a little bit of realism to dirty the edges. Or something fresh that chimes with me, at a sensory level. A new simile or sound effect can truly delight me when I’m traversing this most well-trodden of literary ground.

And what do I like least? (This is a personal list, feel free to disagree).

  • Paint by numbers sex scenes that read like a collection of worn out sentences that were thrown at the page
  • Mechanical choreography
  • Plodding observation of the proper use of sex toys and other hardware (if I want a manual…)
  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Soap used as lubricant
  • Ditto hand lotion
  • Smirking
  • Coy euphimisms
  • Bodily fluids that taste like nectar

The books that I’ve been reading – and loving – that I want to talk about in another post are:

My Heartache Cowboy by Z A Maxfield

Unbound by Cara McKenna

A Case of Possession by K J Charles

Static by L A Witt

More to come. Meantime, I invite your wisdom.

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On muses and musings

I have decided what to write about for my next project and am super excited about it. It’s an old project I set aside when I decided to start writing David and Murdo and very different from my historicals – a UF I suppose.

I was in two minds about even looking at the project again. I’d done a lot of work on it pre “Murvid”, but my lingering memory of it was that the characters felt kind of… dead. So, my first job was to re-cast. Step one was to change it from a M/F to a M/M, which wasn’t too taxing. The trickier bit came next though – creating personalities, goals, obstacles, dreams – stuff I realised my original characters didn’t have very much of (I’ve been learning by doing, people…)

For reasons that aren’t easy to put into words, this song was part of that process. This is The Killers’ annual Christmas song (although I don’t think it’s a Christmas song at all). It has a particular tone and feel that I find very beautiful and very poignant.

My book isn’t about Christmas or LA and doesn’t feature a character that looks anything like Owen Wilson. It doesn’t do anything, really, that in any way relates to this video or song except this: this song is how my guy feels.

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January 11, 2014 · 5:24 pm

Enlightened – blurb and excerpt

I’m excited to share the blurb for the final book in the Enlightenment series along with an excerpt!

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Blurb

Five months ago, David Lauriston was badly hurt helping his friend Elizabeth escape her violent husband. Since then, David has been living with his lover, Lord Murdo Balfour, while he recuperates.

Despite the pain of his injuries, David’s time with Murdo has been the happiest of his life. The only things that trouble him are Murdo’s occasional bouts of preoccupation, and the fact that one day soon, David will have to return to his legal practice in Edinburgh.

That day comes too soon when David’s friend and mentor takes to his deathbed, and David finds himself agreeing to take on a private mission in London. Murdo is at his side in the journey, but a shocking revelation by Murdo’s ruthless father leaves David questioning everything they’ve shared.

As tensions mount and the stakes grow higher, David and Murdo are forced to ask themselves how far they’re prepared to go—and how much they’re prepared to give up— to stay together. And whether there’s any chance of lasting happiness for men like them.

———-

Excerpt

While David undid the buttons of his breeches, Murdo moved to sit beside him, shouldering his way out of his coat and wadding it up to make a cushion of it, careless of its fine elegance.

“Put that at your back and lean against the wall,” he said, handing the wadded-up coat to David. “Then lay your leg over my lap, and I’ll see to you.”

With another sigh, a more contented one this time, David obeyed. Just changing the position of his leg helped ease the pain, letting Murdo take the aching weight of it across his powerful thighs.

“Can you get your breeches off from there?” Murdo asked.

“Perhaps if I leave one leg on—”

Murdo made a huffing noise of frustration, cutting him off without words, and leaned over to grab hold of David’s borrowed breeks and tug at them, forcing David to arch his hips off the seat. A moment later, Murdo had drawn them off altogether and tossed them unceremoniously onto the opposite bench. The next moment he was rolling down the stocking on David’s right leg and peeling that off too.

David watched, unprotesting now, as his injured limb, pale and somewhat wasted still, was laid bare. Despite regular exercise, his right leg remained slightly thinner than the left. The knee looked wrong to David too, a bit off centre somehow. He made a face, not liking the sight of his weakness. It wasn’t just how it looked. It was the physical reminder of everything he couldn’t do. Walk, climb, run. The things he’d always loved and, until now, had taken for granted. Abilities he may never fully recover.

“What’s wrong?” Murdo asked. He missed nothing, damn him.

“I hate the look of it,” David said shortly. “It’s ugly.”

Murdo’s brows drew together in a puzzled expression. He turned his head to the offending limb, caressing the length of it with his hands while David watched. Murdo had strong, capable hands that could rub the pain in David’s leg away, gentle hands that could wring such sharp pleasure from David’s body he couldn’t stop himself crying out from it.

David watched, mesmerised, as Murdo went through the now-familiar motions of opening the liniment jar, dipping his fingers in to get a bit of the dense, waxy stuff, then rubbing it between his hands, releasing a scent that David would associate forever with soothing comfort and relief. And then Murdo’s hands were on David, slowly sweeping up the length of his thigh, his thumbs digging into the wasted, perennially tired muscles, the blunt heels of his hands kneading and working over the damaged architecture of David’s injured limb.

David closed his eyes, giving himself over to the singular pleasure of pain relief, letting himself have this, take this. This freely offered gift.

“It’s not ugly,” Murdo murmured. “Nothing about you could ever be ugly to me.”

His voice was soft and deep, as free from laughter as David had ever heard it, and David’s heart clenched in the cage of his chest to detect the sincerity in it. He swallowed, embarrassed to realise that Murdo had probably seen the bob of his throat and correctly read its meaning.

This vulnerability seemed to grow deeper each day, in direct proportion to the depth of his feelings. The two were linked, quite inextricably, his affection for Murdo exposing him in ways that horrified him. The protective barriers he’d spent a lifetime building up felt like they were crumbling away in the face of emotions he was helpless to deny. There would be no protection left to him when this ended.

And the end was coming.


 

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What I’m excited about right now

So, I haven’t blogged in forever, but actually lots of good stuff is happening!

My next novel, Provoked, is out in a few weeks (23rd July 2013 from Samhain).  You’ll find the blurb and link to an excerpt on the Books page.

I’m excited.  It’s my first M/M and my first serial; this is book 1 in a trilogy. I can also confirm that book 2 (Beguiled) will be out on 23rd December and book 3 (Enlightenment) on 6th May 2014.  So all three books will be out within ten months.

And oh, I love writing these characters, David Lauriston and Murdo Balfour.  I think I’ll be quite sad when I finish book 3.

The story is written from the sole POV of David i.e. a limited third person POV.  This was a departure for me.  With my previous novels, I’d grown used to writing in what is the established norm of M/F historical romance, namely revolving third person POV.  I’m not sure why it’s so prevalent but it’s really ubiquitous in M/F romance.  One of the things I found a little bit discombobulating when I started reading M/M romance was the sudden apparent freedom to write in all sorts of ways – first person POVs, limited third person, revolving third and first – anything goes!  I soon went from being discombobulated to being intoxicated.

And ok, so a move from revolving third to limited third isn’t the HUGEST change in the world but it’s more challenging than you might think.  The thing about revolving POV, you see, is that you get the chance to show both characters’ development through their own internal narratives, but with limited POV, you have to show both through one character and that character is hampered by his own views and flaws and issues.  When I first started, it felt like it was it was all challenge and no opportunity, but as I got further into writing from David’s sole POV, I began to see that limited POV is freeing too.  You get to hint. You get to (in fact you have to) show things through dialogue and action.  You learn to respect gaps. The unsaid.

Maybe I’ll tackle first person POV next.

In other news, I’m currently loving wasabi peas. Crunching away on some right now.

Provoked_cover

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Ooooooh! New book!!

Yes! Release day for Unforgivable, book of my heart, is almost upon me! Tomorrow, 15th January by lovely Samhain Publishing!  Tres exciting, mes chums!

Unforgivable72lg

I’ve already had lovely reviews from Joyfully Reviewed and Night Owl Reviews. What’s more, Dear Author has (both excitingly and slightly nerve-wrackingly) indicated it’s a recommended read for January – but I won’t see the review till tomorrow.  *bites nails*.

What else?  Oh yes, I have blog posts and giveaways lined up at Novel Thoughts tomorrow, at Smexybooks 16th Jan and at Book Binge at some point next week hopefully (details to follow).

And FINALLY, I am also giving away a copy here, tomorrow.  Please leave a comment for a chance to win.  Go on, it’s free!

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