Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Kiss at Midnight

It wasn't deliberate, or what she'd expected.

Laura had actually planned to leave around eleven. She had to work tomorrow; hospitals didn't close for New Year's Day. The one glass of wine she allowed herself was long gone. She was exhausted from last night's shift. Her jaw ached from the constant smiling. She really didn't want to hear any more about Jill's and Howie's upcoming trip to Jamaica, or Martha's promotion, or Reese's engagement. All that Laura had to look forward to was curling up in the new quilt Mom has sent for Christmas, with a paperback mystery and her plump tabby Morris for company.

She'd made moves toward the bedroom where the coats were piled, but Gretch had intercepted her and begged her to stay. Gretchen was her best friend. Laura felt guilty refusing. She accepted a plastic glass of champagne and stood by the window, watching the drifting snow. Most of Gretchen's guests huddled around the TV, counting down with the broadcaster in Times Square.

Huge flakes swirled lazily like feathers from giant down pillow. She hoped that she'd be able to get a cab. Without thinking, she sipped at the effervescent liquid in her hand. It was chill and sweet on her tongue.

"Five. Four. Three. Two. One..." came the chant from the rest of the crowd. Laura barely heard them.

She felt his presence behind her an instant before he laid a firm hand on her shoulder and turned her around. She had a confused impression of worn plaid flannel and tousled brown hair as he gathered her to his chest and brought his face to hers.

His mouth was silky and strong and tasted like champagne. His brazen tongue played along the seam of her closed lips, teasing her into opening. A rush of heat flooded her when he entered, turning her earlobes and her nipples to burning coals. The air seemed to leave her lungs, sucked out by his energetic kiss. She staggered against him, suddenly dizzy. He held her closer, one bold hand cupping her buttocks while the other supported her under her arms.

He delved deeper, fanning the flames that whipped through her body. Between her legs, under her tights, she was melting. His scent rose around her, cherry pipe tobacco and old-fashioned lavender cologne. She ventured a tentative hand up his back and felt solid muscle move beneath his shirt. His fingertips grazed the side of her breast. A spark shot from her nipples down to her sex. She gasped into his mouth and he swallowed the small sound, kissing her harder.

Laura lost herself in the velvet darkness behind her closed eyelids. She didn't want to break the spell. She relaxed into his arms, letting him explore her body as though they were completely alone. Rigidness pressed against her belly, kindling a drunken sense of triumph. He was as aroused as she was.

The kiss lasted for hours. One moment he nibbled delicately as her lips. The next, he forced her wide and plundered her mouth, grinding his thigh against her crotch all the while. Champagne bubbles had found their way into her blood. She felt bouyant, giggly, light as air.

Finally he released her. "Happy New Year," the stranger murmured into her ear, nuzzling her throat wetly. Laura gazed up at dark eyes brimming with laughter and intelligence. She realized that she was trembling.

"Do I know you?" His face was vaguely familiar, but the rich baritone voice was completely new.

"You do now," he said with a grin. He raised his champagne glass to her in a silent toast, then took a sip. "I'm Dan. Gretchen's brother. And you're Laura, right?"

"Um--right." Laura felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment. "Did Gretchen put you up to this?" She forced herself to move away from him, even though what she really wanted was to throw herself back into his arms.

"Put me up to what?" Dan raised his eyebrows in mock innocence. "It's midnight on New Year's. You're supposed to kiss the person standing next to you."

Laura looked around. Sure enough, lots of couples were locked in heated embraces. She would have sworn that Dan's kiss had taken hours, but clearly it was only moments after midnight.

"Hm--well--thank you." Her still-taut nipples pressed against her sweater. She was sure that Dan could see them. She took another step backward and was acutely aware of how damp her panties had become. "I've got to go home now. Happy New Year."

"Wait!" He grabbed her hand. His strength was obvious. Laura wished she could melt into the floor. "Don't go yet. It's early." He searched her face and she saw doubt in his eyes for the first time. "Unless there's someone waiting for you...someone else...a lover..."

Laura's resistance fluttered away like the snowflakes outside. "No, there's no one waiting for me--except my cat. I don't have a lover."

Dan's relief was obvious. He circled her waist and pulled her against him."Now you do."

His lips claimed hers once more. Laura knew it was going to be a good year.


Wishing you all a glorious, romantic, sexy New Year's Eve!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Lure of a Happy Ending

By Cassandra Gold (Guest Blogger)

I admit it—in real life I’m a cynic. I’m always trying to stifle a natural inclination toward pessimism. Maybe that’s why I love the romance genre so much. No matter what trials and tribulations the characters face, love wins out in the end.

True romances have a couple of possible endings: happily ever after (HEA) or happily for now (HFN). Some people always prefer one or the other, but I prefer to see whichever fits the story best. If the characters have only just met, I find declarations of undying love a bit hard to believe. Other characters face such huge obstacles that anything other than an HFN would ring false. Sometimes the hope provided by a happily for now ending is enough for me.

Not every story can pull off the happily ever after ending. Recently, I’ve read several books with happy endings that seemed tacked on. The characters’ problems were miraculously solved in deus ex machina fashion, and everything was perfect. Rather than being left with a warm feeling, I was annoyed. The characters didn’t have to grow to reach their happy ending, and the whole story became unrealistic as a result. I read romance for the conflict as well as the ending, so I felt cheated.

I have to confess, though, when it’s well-done I’m a sucker for the HEA. The idea of people finding their soul mates, whether they live forever in wedded bliss, a same-sex partnership, a D/s relationship, or a happy ménage, is incredibly appealing. I guess that’s why most of my own writing ends with HEAs. Granted, I tend to make my heroes work really hard to get their HEA, but I guess I’m just mean like that. To me, it’s important that characters grow and learn over the course of the book, and that conflicts are resolved in a realistic manner. Only after I’ve dealt with those things can I give my characters the happy ending they deserve. After all, the more difficult the journey is, the sweeter the ending seems, at least to me.

What about you? Do you expect every romance to have the traditional HEA ending, or are you fine with HFN? Have you ever been annoyed by an ending that felt too happy, or not happy enough?

About Cassandra: By day, Cassandra Gold is a middle school teacher who spends most of her time trying to get sixth and seventh graders to read. On nights and weekends, she can usually be found reading and writing stories about men falling in love. To find out more about Cassandra and her writing, go to her website at

Coming January 31 from Amber Quill Press: Quinn’s Hart

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The First Line

I set aside most of yesterday to work on a new story, targeted at an erotica anthology entitled "Naked". The deadline was January 1st, and I knew I wouldn't have much time during the week, with my job and taking cats to the vet and getting ready for the New Year's Eve party. I've been in quite a few collections from this editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel. She comes up with fascinating themes and this one was no exception.

Here's an excerpt from her call for submissions:

How you interpret [nakedness] is up to you; literal nudity, being emotionally naked, voyeurism, exhibitionism, body piercings, sex toys, tattoos, dressing and undressing, orgies/mass nudity, etc. Those are just the tip of the naked iceberg. All sexual orientations welcome though the book will primarily focus on heterosexual stories. Please do feel free to go outside the box, as it were. Naked doesn't have to mean literally without clothes and a woman doesn't necessarily have to be naked ...for a story to work. The more creative, the better.

Maybe you can understand why I was intrigued. I really wanted to submit a story to this anthology. But I was intimidated. Every idea that came to me seemed trite, ordinary, obvious. I began working on one story line and had developed it to a fairly detailed level, when suddenly I lost faith in the whole approach.

So there I was, terribly aware of the clock ticking away, beating my head against the metaphorical wall. I went back to an earlier notion, but still felt uncertain.

All at once, a first line popped into my mind:

I didn't cry until the last session.

I heard the character's voice in my mind. I knew who she was, what she wanted, what she feared, and what nakedness would mean to her.

The next thing I knew, I had the title: "Clean Slate".

I sat down and wrote 3000 words in a single three hour session. (All right, I did stop to make lunch.) I edited the tale and sent it off to Rachel the same day.

True, it may be crap. But somehow I don't think so. Anyway, I don't care, not much. The experience of inspiration, the miracle of that first line that led me into the story, was almost enough to satisfy me all by itself.

Of course, I do hope that the story is accepted...Keep your fingers crossed for me, okay?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Today's the day!

I feel as though I've been waiting forever, but Necessary Madness is finally available! If you've been waiting as anxiously as I have, you can buy it here...

I want to thank everyone who has visited Beyond Romance over the past two weeks and helped me to celebrate the release and new blog. Here's a list of my daily winners. If you haven't yet sent me your postal mail address, please do so soon. Email to "lisabet [at]". I'll be sending out your books early next week.

14 Dec   -  Estella
15 Dec   -  Tamsyn
16 Dec   -  Wendy
17 Dec   -  Judy
18 Dec   -  Sherry
19 Dec   -  Lindsey
20 Dec   -  Tracey
21 Dec   -  Anna
22 Dec   -  SiN
23 Dec   -  Ginger
24 Dec   -  Gayle
25 Dec   -  H
26 Dec   -  She
27 Dec   -  EdgesAngel23

(Don't be puzzled if you see your name picked for a date when you didn't comment. On the few days when there were no comments except from previous days' winners, I went back to an earlier day to select the winner.)

The winner of the Grand Prize is Kari Thomas. She wins a six-pack of my ebooks including Necessary Madness. Kari, please get in touch!

Meanwhile, you still have a chance to a copy of the new book. All you have to do is enter my monthly contest. See my newsletter for details! The contest is open until January 15th.

I hope that you'll continue to visit often and share your thoughts with me. I'll have lots of excerpts, interviews, articles and guest bloggers over the coming weeks and months. But it's no fun if you're not here!

To round off the day, I've included one more brief excerpt from Necessary Madness below.

Thanks again for your support.



Delicious heat blossomed in the bare skin under the older man’s palm. Unshed tears made Kyle’s chest hurt. It has been so long since someone had touched him with any sort of tenderness or concern. “No one can help me,” he said. “Even the shrinks can’t make the pictures go away.”

"How long have you been having these—hallucinations?”

"Since I turned thirteen. The older I get, the worse they become.” Tears welled up, to his extreme embarrassment. He turned away, trying to hide them from his inquisitor. A gentle hand cupped his chin, bringing him back to meet Murphy’s sympathetic gaze. “I don’t know how much longer I can stand it.”

"You’re schizophrenic?”

"That’s the current diagnosis. But I don’t think so. The usual drugs don’t work. They deaden my emotions, but they don’t kill the visions. And when I’m not having a spell, I’m more or less sane.” He stopped, familiar guilt overwhelming him. Sane enough to search the papers, looking for, and eventually finding, accounts of the disasters his dreams prefigured. Disasters he could see but not prevent.

Kyle scanned Murphy’s face, trying to read his expression. Some struggle was going on inside the man. His lips were set in a grim line and his brows knotted into a scowl, but his eyes shone with excitement. He still clasped Kyle’s arm, his fingers tense now, digging into the flesh. Kyle placed his own pale hand on top of Murphy’s in a gesture of reassurance. The policeman started as if he’d been burnt.

Kyle felt the shock too, electricity sizzling between them. Murphy snatched his hand away, staring down at his shiny leather boots. When he looked back at Kyle, he seemed to have made a decision.

"I might not be able to do anything to help with your hallucinations, but I can give you a safe place to stay, at least until you recover.”

"I don’t know…” Kyle began. He didn’t want to get mixed up with this cop. The signals were too strong. The man’s sheer physicality unbalanced him. Already, he felt that queasy sensation that presaged his visions. Powerful emotion often triggered his crises.

"No arguments. I live alone. I’ve got plenty of room in my apartment.” The quiet authority in Murphy’s voice sent a delicious thrill up Kyle’s spine. He shivered. Murphy’s tone softened. “Seriously, Kyle, I don’t want to see you back on the streets. Stay at my place for a few days, a week. Give yourself a chance to heal.”

Murphy’s hand rested on Kyle’s thigh, stroking it through the sheet. He seemed unaware of what he was doing, but with every moment, Kyle felt his own resistance melt further.

"Well, I…” All at once, the vision hit, knocking the breath out of him like a punch to the gut.

Terrible doubt. Scalding desire. He was naked, kneeling on a wooden floor. He could feel it bruising his knees, but he didn’t care. A nude man towered over him, corded thighs spread wide, gripping his swollen cock with blunt-fingered hands. Offering Kyle the veined column of flesh. Pressing it against Kyle’s lips.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Mystery of Man-Love

It is common knowledge that M/M romance sells well with female readers. Some romance enthusiasts won't read anything but male/male titles. When I first became aware of this phenomenon, I found it quite puzzling.

A few months ago, to try and unravel this mystery, I ran a “M/M romance” contest. I asked participants to email me, telling me whether they enjoyed homorerotic romance, and if so, why. I gave away a book to a randomly selected entrant.

The responses that I received were enlightening. One person said that she'd never read an M/M romance, though she was open to doing so. Every single other message offered enthusiastic approval for the sub-genre.

One reader wrote:

I love m/m romance. I think it's the thrill of the unknown for one thing, and the fun of exploring men's feelings and thoughts. Of course it doesn't hurt that I have a great appreciation of the male body--LOL.

Another said:

I think it's really sexy to "see" two men in sexual acts. The sex is usually more intense and raw. It has a vaguely voyeuristic quality which is quite exciting. In heterosexual romances, which I also enjoy, the story is usually told from the woman's perspective, with the man's feelings/thoughts coming in second. In contrast, MM romances give a unique perspective to how men are in relationships.

A third person commented:

I have to say that I do enjoy reading m/m romances, probably because I think that the self actualization & realization of their sexuality is a journey worth witnessing. I appreciate the way passion and love is written from a male perspective, where it is both soft and tough at the same time. I love the aggression and the gentleness, the contrasts constantly present; I hope that makes sense to you.

Then there was this endorsement:

I love M/M romance. I started reading it about 3 years ago and have been hooked every since. It has added new insight to my sex life!

So a major draw in M/M romance seems to be the voyeuristic and transgressive nature of M/M love. Women enjoy imagining scenes that they might not be likely to see in real life, namely two men in a sexual situation. I find it fascinating that romance readers seem to be so visually oriented. This seems to violate the common wisdom that men are aroused by things they see, women by what they feel.

On the other hand, feelings are also tremendously important to these readers. Many participants commented that they enjoyed both M/F and M/M romances because love is fundamentally the same regardless of gender.

One person said:

It is also nice in m/m books, that you get to see the softer side of men in love.

And another mused:

I find the m/m romances are beautiful, they are a love between two that they could have been m/f or f/f, it totally doesn't matter. I read one recently and cried, it was just so emotional a read as well as sizzling.

My informants made it clear that they were not interested merely in M/M sex, but in how the protagonists in a M/M story relate to one another, and to society.

The irony is that most M/M romance is actually written by women. It's not clear that the vision of homoreotic love or male emotion that they portray is particularly accurate. They offer a woman's perspective on gay love – a perspective that appears to be very popular with other women.

I have read a certain amount of gay male erotica. Although you do find romantic, emotionally-charged stories, many tales in this genre celebrate anonymous sex for its own sake, and depict M/M relationships as rough, even cruel.

What is the truth? I don't think that's a meaningful question. In fiction, the author articulates his or her vision of the characters and their journey. One author's perspective is neither more nor less valid than another's.

Women romance readers clearly enjoy reading about sensual, caring relationships between two men. I doubt that it really matters whether these stories are “realistic”, as long as they are believable. And from my experience, emotional authenticity is a more important determinant of what a reader will believe than objective fact.

If I were concerned only with my royalties, I'd probably stop writing anything except M/M work. I really try and resist the temptation to write what's popular at the moment. When I do, I risk strangling my muse. However, to be honest, I think that Necessary Madness offers readers what they are seeking in this genre, a mixture of gentleness and toughness. The following (X-rated) excerpt will give you a sample of what I mean.


Rob leant forward, brushing his lips against Kyle’s. Kyle moaned into his mouth as Rob thrust again, filling him further. Rob laid his hand on Kyle’s chest. He felt the boy’s heartbeat, strong and fast. “One more push,” he murmured in Kyle’s ear. “Can you take it?”

“Please…” Kyle whispered. “Do it. Now.”

Rob arched his back and drove his cock in up to the balls. Kyle yelled, but when Rob tried to pull out, Kyle arched up, trying to jam him in deeper. “Fuck me,” Kyle groaned. “Don’t hold back. Fuck me hard.”

The words cut Rob loose, breaking the last threads of his control. He pulled back then rammed into Kyle with all his strength, once, twice, again, while Kyle screamed and ground his buttocks against Rob’s groin. Rob grabbed Kyle’s thighs to support himself as he pistoned his cock in and out.

He’d never had a fuck like this, so tight, so smooth, so purely sensual. He’d worried whether Kyle could take his whole bulk, but Kyle’s asshole enclosed him like a velvet glove, a perfect fit. He bucked and moaned, piercing Kyle again and again, tension building in his balls as wave after wave of pleasure broke over him. He stopped worrying about whether he was hurting his partner. The gleaming dark eyes, locked on his own, told him that he was not.

Kyle gripped Rob’s wrists, writhing in obvious pleasure. “More, more, more,” he chanted, clenching Rob’s shaft, rising up to meet each thrust. Kyle’s pale cock danced in front of Rob’s eyes. Kyle’s body shook with the force of Rob’s fierce onslaught. “Oh, fuck, yes. Fuck, fuck, oh, that’s so good. Ream my ass with your huge dick. Ah…”

Kyle’s eyes rolled up and his mouth grew wide. Sudden panic swept through Rob’s mind. Was the boy having another fit? A steaming jet of cum erupted from Kyle’s cock, spattering Rob’s chest, and Rob laughed in delight. Kyle was simply coming, coming from the feel of Rob’s cock buried in his ass.

The realisation triggered Rob’s own climax. The jism churning in his balls finally boiled over. He slammed his gushing cock deep into Kyle’s body, wanting the other man to feel the force of his convulsions. Kyle moaned and tightened around Rob’s still hard flesh, milking spurt after spurt of cum, kindling jolt after jolt of pleasure.

Rob lay on Kyle’s chest for a moment, catching his breath. Then he rolled over to relieve the weight, stretching out beside his companion’s slender frame. He closed his eyes, a bit weary. He’d had more sex in the last twenty-four hours than in the previous two months.

He was roused by Kyle’s silky lips pressing against his own. “Thank you, Rob.” His voice was soft, almost reverent. “It was just like I dreamt.”

He opened his eyes to find Kyle hovering over him, radiating happiness and contentment. “It didn’t hurt too much?”

“Not too much. Just enough.” Rob felt something bounce against his stomach. Looking down, he was astounded to see that the younger man was hard again. “I’m so grateful.”

“And I’m exhausted!” Rob peered at the alarm clock. “It’s nearly two a.m., and I’ve got to work tomorrow. So don’t get any more ideas in your slutty mind.”

Kyle gave him a lascivious grin, and stared pointedly at Rob’s cock. Damn if it wasn’t half-erect! “But…”

“Not tonight. No more sex.”

“Can I sleep with you, at least?” Kyle snuggled down next to him, not waiting for an answer. A strange lump rose in Rob’s throat as the youth’s limbs tangled themselves with his own.

“Yeah, okay.” Rob smoothed Kyle’s hair out of his eyes. “I’d like that.” Peace settled over him like a warm, fuzzy blanket. “I’d like that very much.”


ANNOUNCEMENT: Would "H" who commented on my post on 25 December (Interview with Rob Murphy) and "She" who commented on Erastes' post yesterday, please email me with your names and postal addresses? You're my winners for those days!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Location, Location

By Erastes (Guest Author)

Thank you, Lisabet for giving me a space to blog today. I hope you all had a good day yesterday, whatever you celebrate or believe and my best wishes for 2010!

I'd like to talk about locations today, and why, to me, they are every bit as important in my books as the characters. Ruth Sims once said, about my first novel, "Standish":

One of the characters in Standish does nothing--doesn't move, doesn't speak, doesn't think. And yet this character controls emotions and actions and passions just by existing. It is a house called Standish. Like the Rochester mansion in "Jane Eyre" or the cliffs in "Wuthering Heights" Standish is a place so important to the story that it almost takes on life.
I'm very happy that Ruth saw this in the book, because really, the book was just as much about the house as it was a love story between two men.

Standish as depicted on the cover of the book is an actual place -- a ruin as you can see, by the tree growing on the roof! It burned down in the 1930's -- but still an imposing and beautiful house. Witley Court in Worcestershire is no more than a shell, but the façade was so gorgeous that I fell in love with it and wanted it to be "Standish."

Unless I can find a place that I can really associate with, I find it difficult to write. The novel I've just finished, Mere Mortals, a Victorian Gothic set on the Norfolk Broads, is actually set in a fictional location--an island that does not exist called "Bittern's Reach"--but the Broad that the island is located in does exist, and that's Horsey Mere. I was originally going to set the story on Dartmoor, but I felt that Dartmoor had been done to death with mystery stories and if I wanted a mysterious and isolated location, one where it was going to be difficult for my poor protagonists to leave, I couldn't do better than using the landscape of the Norfolk Broads, which is on my doorstep--and much easier to research!

The house on the island, while important, doesn't hold the same iconic status as Standish - it's based on this house--Oxburgh Hall. But I needed something imposing with priests holes, and something inaccessible. Oxburgh Hall is entirely moated, so it was easy to bung it on an island and make it impossible for my protagonists to escape from.


I know that many writing pundits say that one shouldn't start a book with description, or weather, but I disagree. It's often the location, or the weather that creates a built-in conflict in my books. In Standish it was the fact of the house's existence that created the core conflict, Rafe owned it, and Ambrose coveted it because his family used to own it and felt wronged. In Frost Fair, it's the weather--the mini-ice age of 1814--that pits itself against the protagonists. Without the weather I don't think the book would have worked as well, it made things vastly uncomfortable for Gideon, as he struggled to keep his business afloat, and yet it also created a great business opportunity when the Frost Fair started on the frozen Thames and hundreds of stalls were opened up on the ice.

I just can't see the story having as much conflict if it had been a summer's tale.

Finally, there's no easier conflict than setting your story in a war. I'd always wanted to do a book about the English Civil War, as there are woefully few novels set in this period, and only one other gay novel that I know of, As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McAnn. I chose the setting for the beginning of Transgressions to be the village where the first major battle of the war was held. The village: Kineton. The battle. Edgehill.

What I found fascinating was that contemporary reports of the day tell of the local people coming from miles around to watch the battle, and this is at the same time unbelievable, and yet totally understandable. These were people who had not known of a conflict on English soil for hundreds of years. The battle took a good while to stage--the armies had to be marched into position, passing through towns and villages before choosing a location to fight--and so like a circus passing through town--it created a lot of interest. Everyone would have known about it and human nature being what it is it was natural there would be curiosity. Families made a day trip of it, packing picnics and spending the day on the view points around the valley. I doubt very much they knew what they were about to see. I can only imagine how horrific the sight of men and horses being blown apart by cannon could be, and I tried to instil this into the chapter where David and Jonathan sneak off after church on 23rd October 1642 and watch the bloody scene.

I visited both Edgehill and Kineton while researching for Transgressions and found both places almost untouched by time. There's an ugly and unprepossessing monument at the battle site but other than that, when you look down onto the river plain, it's hard to believe that anything happened here.

And that's what I love about historical fiction, is that you can touch these places and bring their hidden pasts, back to life. So many things have been lost and forgotten. When I visited Mistley to research the Witchfinder section of Transgressions, I visited The Thorn, the pub where the infamous Matthew Hopkins, self proclaimed Witchfinder General, had his base of operations and was desperately disappointed.

Any mention of Mistley's infamous resident has been expunged from The Thorn, and now it's just another gastro-pub/restaurant. Diners who sit down to their char-grilled rosemary brochette of chicken liver & smoked streaky bacon on homemade sourdough toast have no idea of the murky history of the area.

Which is a shame, I think!

What am I working on now? Another book where location is part of the story. It's a novella set in Lombardy, northern Italy, in the latter years of the peace between the two world wars. Set high up in the idyllic Italian hills is a remote and glamorous hotel--filled with ex-pat English, the retired colonels, the ladies with their companions. And it's here where my protagonist, Guy, finds himself after drifting across Europe, still mourning the loss of his lover in England several years before. And it's here, in the rarified air and the beautiful peace, that he meets a scientist and his "assistant" - the beautiful Louis - and all three lives are changed forever.

So that's me--hope you enjoyed a mini-tour through my mind and why I have to feel "grounded" with a sense of place, just as much as I must know who my protagonists are.

What's your favourite location for a novel? Does place matter to you?

Friday, December 25, 2009

An Interview with Rob Murphy

Interviewer: Today we're pleased to welcome Rob Murphy from Lisabet's Sarai's upcoming release Necessary Madness. Thank you for joining us, Rob.

Rob: Happy to oblige.

Interviewer: So tell us a bit about yourself and your personal history.

Rob: Well, I guess I'm just an ordinary guy. Born and grew up in Worcester. My dad was in the force—he was cited for bravery three times—and everyone always assumed that I'd be a cop too. Don't get me wrong, I love the work. It's frustrating some times, when City Hall won't give you what you need. But I wouldn't trade my job for anything else. I like the sense that I can make a difference in people's lives. Most people are pretty decent, but life can be touch. I try to make things easier when I can.

Interviewer: Is your father proud of you?

Rob: I assume he was, though he wasn't the type to express his emotions. He was killed in the line of duty about fifteen years ago. Now, somehow, I feel like I have to make it up to him by being the best damn policeman in the city.

Interviewer: Given how long you've been on the force, I'm a bit surprised you're still only a sergeant.

Rob: Yeah, well... I've always assumed that my, um, sexual preferences have something to do with that. Discrimination is illegal and all, but Worcester's pretty conservative. A lot of people are still uncomfortable with the notion of a gay cop.

Interviewer:And have you always been attracted to men?

Rob: Looking back now, I'd answer yes. I always had those feelings, I just never admitted them. I dated girls in high school and I married Gina not long after I graduated from U.Mass. I loved Gina—hell, I still love her. She gave me two great kids. The older I got, though, the more I craved the touch of another man. I started sneaking around, trying to satisfy that hunger without her knowing. Then one day she found me in our bed with the pizza delivery guy and threw me out.

Interviewer: Wasn't that a bit harsh? c

Rob: I probably deserved it. She wasn't upset that I was gay. It was the fact that I'd lied to her, and also the very real possibility that Will or Jenny might have popped in and found me with a man's cock in my mouth. Gina's a woman of principle.

Interviewer: So, have you had a lot of male/male relationships since then?

Rob: Not really. I've always been worried about my job, about getting caught in some compromising situation...

Interviewer: But that didn't stop you from getting close to Kyle.

Rob: Oh, but it did, especially at first. The instant I saw him, I wanted him, but I told myself that he was all wrong for me. He was too young. Getting involved with him might well be a risk to my job. Then there were those visions of his. They really freaked me out. Especially after Mary...

Interviewer: Tell us about her.

Rob: My kid sister. Sweet and smart and beautiful, too, but cursed with the power of telepathy which she didn't understand and couldn't control. She had to drop out of school because the chaos of other people's thoughts in her head nearly drove her crazy.

Interviewer: Kyle was like her.

Rob: In some ways. His power landed him in the psychiatric hospital over and over again. But Mary began studying, learning how to focus her ability and suppress it when it was inconvenient. She might have led a happy life...

Interviewer: Might have?

Rob: She – she was murdered. Horribly. I can't talk about it, even now. And Kyle—well, I knew deep down that he wasn't really schizophrenic, that he was cursed in the same way. I didn't want anything to do with him. Except that I got a raging hard-on every time I looked at him.

Interviewer: Still, you tried to resist him, I gather?

Rob: I tried (chuckle). But it was no use. Kyle is extremely—persuasive. Anyway, now I know that we were meant to be together. I'm proud to be his man and I don't care who knows it.

Interviewer: So do you believe in soul mates, and true love?

Rob: Hell yes. When Kyle and I are together, I don't have any doubt that he's my other half, despite all the differences between us.

Interviewer: And Kyle feels the same way?

Rob: I think so. I hope so. No, scratch that. I'm sure, completely sure. I can feel it when I touch him or he touches me. I know it sounds like some hokey romance novel, but hey, that's what love is like.

Interviewer: Well, thank you very much for sharing a bit of your story with us. And Merry Christmas!

Rob: The same to you. It's the best Christmas of my life.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stupendously Christmas

By Tonya Ramagos (Guest Author)

I've been on a stupendous kick this holiday season. It all began with the release of my first Christmas story at Total-E-Bound titled Stupendously Yours. I got in such a festive mood writing this story that it kept on going. My kids and I have started a new little tradition each night. We settle down with a cup of hot chocolate in a living room lit by candles and Christmas lights and watch Christmas movies every night. We've watched everything from the classic cartoons to the modern Hallmark and ABC originals and it's been great fun! In a time when the economy is rough and spirits are low its great to take an hour or two to push all worries aside and simply enjoy the holidays. I hope everyone has at least one opportunity to do just that this holiday season. May you and yours have a stupendous Christmas!

Zoie and Nash have a stupendous Christmas of their own in Stupendously Yours.

Tired of mediocre sex, Zoie is hot for adventure. When she can't find the excitement she craves in the men around town, she reaches across the world to the one man who's ready and capable if not willing to take her hormones on a fanciful journey to Multiple Orgasmville. Zoie Qwin never managed to snag Lieutenant Commander Nash Beagan's sexually daring heart, but Lady Zest in all her erotically written letters has.

Living out her escapades in a pen and paper relationship with her fantasy man proves to be enough, until Nash, home on a short leave, takes the stage at a male Christmas auction. Lady Zest is ready to break the bank for the Christmas present of the millennium, but Zoie wants the wicked desire in Nash's bedroom-blues all for herself. A snack in the parking lot, a drink at the theatre, and a window feast next to the Christmas tree delivers exactly that, until Zoie realises her cover's been blown and Nash is out to make her and Lady Zest stupendously his forever.

Here's an excerpt.


Zoie froze with her glass halfway to her lips. Dear God, could it be?

“Let’s get those crisp bills crackling and those credit cards humming for the soldier of our town we all know and love.” The announcer drew it out, building the suspense and nearly causing Zoie to go into cardiac arrest. She felt faint with the possibility. Was the room really beginning to spin?

“Lieutenant Commander Nash Beagan.”

“Ohmigod.” Zoie put down her wine glass, certain she’d had enough alcohol. She’d kidded herself into three shots and was working on her second glass of wine, all with the stupid notion she’d drink enough to fool herself into thinking Mr. Surprise was Nash Beagan. Except, the combat boots, BDUs, shirtless torso, and smug smile walking onto the dance floor was Nash Beagan.

Everything inside Zoie ignited in sensory overload of desire. Her nipples beaded as her gaze moved over the deeply tanned ridges of Nash’s chest. Her hands tingled to glide over the wide expanse of his shoulders. Her teeth ached to nibble on his strong jaw. Her tongue pulsed to lick his full, arrogantly tilted lips. But when her gaze reached his danceable bedroom-blues beneath the fuzzy white rim of the Santa hat, her pussy released a surf of moisture that drenched her panties.

“You’re looking for a change from the ordinary, sister, there you go.” Dalia had to yell for Zoie to hear her over the cacophony of ruckus Nash’s presence exuded from the club of women.

Dalia didn’t know about the letters Zoie had written to Nash. Rather than share that piece of personal information with her best friend, Zoie decided to embrace it as her own pleasure-filled, erotic secret. Dalia was right about one thing, Nash Beagan was definitely a change from the ordinary. Precisely the change Zoie had been craving, and sanity had abandoned her just enough the minute he’d stepped onto that dance floor for her to feed.

“Time to boogie,” she muttered and held her sixty-nine bidding paddle high in the air. Perhaps the number had been an omen after all. Her rapidly aching channel convulsed at the thought.

The auctioneer bellowed an amount she didn’t hear and Nash’s bedroom-blues collided with hers. Zoie drew her bottom lip between her teeth to hold back the whimpering purr that rose in her throat. Not that the sound would’ve been heard over the outrageous noise Nash’s presence on the dance floor had elicited from the crowd of horny women.

They can stay horny too because he’s mine, Zoie thought determinedly and held the paddle higher still. Nash’s brow did an erogenous-inspiring climb. Did his lips twitch too? She couldn’t quite tell. Something flashed through his expression, a quick race of emotion she couldn’t define. Was it hope that she’d be out bid? Surprise that she’d be a part of this goggling, randy, club crowd? Intrigue that she’d have the nerve to try for him after all these years? She couldn’t be sure. Maybe he wondered if she knew what she might be getting herself into.

Whatever the flicker of reaction, all sound, thought and breath left her as their gazes locked and held. Dimly she noted the rising of the bid and the screaming of her bank account. Only when the auctioneer shouted his, “Sold,” and pointed at her did she blink and the slow, seemingly satisfied smile that curved Nash’s lips nearly made her orgasm on the spot.

“I can’t believe you bought him!” Dalia bubbled more than the glasses of champagne being served a half an hour later as they stood once again in line, this time working their way to the payment table to settle their ‘purchases’. “Question is, now that you’ve got him, what are you going to do with him?”

Zoie ran her tongue over her teeth and let the grin spread her lips. “Enjoy him.”

“Great answer!” Dalia hooted with laughter. “For the price you’re paying, he better give you a hell of a ride.”

Zoie slid her Visa card through the fingers of one hand and drank from the champagne she held in the other. She had to force herself to sip the cool bubbly rather than gulp because, despite her show of confidence, her insides were reaching a quivering boil. Had she lost her mind? She’d maxed out her credit card on Nash Beagan!

For a good cause, she reminded herself as she stepped up to the table and handed Santa’s helper her Visa. She winced at the total on the printed slip as she signed on the dotted line. She’d definitely broken the bank tonight.

Lady Zest broke the bank.

Zoie handed over the slip, took her copy and card and shoved both in her tiny handbag. She saw Dalia and Travis first as she moved away from the table and took a step in their direction. Her steps faltered when her gaze slammed into Nash’s as he walked up behind Travis.

What have I done?

The first slivers of panic leaked from her shuddering stomach to poison her veins. I can’t do this. I can’t be alone with this man in the flesh. What in the name of Christmas was I thinking?

Exchanging months of provocative letters with this man she hungered for more than chocolate was one thing. He didn’t know she’d written all those heated fantasies. But she couldn’t hide her identity when she was face-to-face with him. Well, not quite face-to-face given their height difference. Eye-to-collarbone would be more like it, breasts-to-rigid abdomen, belly-to-groin…

I’m so screwed.

She forced herself to take another step and wondered that she didn’t teeter on her heels. Or run, she thought frantically. Running would be smart right about now, safe. It would preserve both her dignity and her secret.

That same slow smile that melted her panties from the dance floor unfolded on Nash’s lips as he neared and a trickle of wetness slid down her inner thigh. Dignity was entirely way over rated. As for her secret, perhaps she should reveal all about Lady Zest. What was the worst Nash could do, laugh at her? He’d always been too much of a boy scout for that. It was one of the many things about this amazing man now less than two feet from her that had stolen her heart. He could be almost unbearably kind.

But even kindness skirts on the edge of adventure sometimes.

Yes, and it was that adventure she’d just paid a pretty penny for tonight. She wouldn’t acknowledge the tightness behind her breastbone telling her she’d paid for more than a little fun. She’d paid for hope, for more. What she got was this moment and any memories she could manage to store before morning.

She had to get a handle on this nervousness because she didn’t have a moment to waste.


Tonya Ramagos is a bestselling author of contemporary, fantasy, paranormal and cowboy novels. She spends most of her time in a fictional world dreaming up hot hunks and head-strong heroines. When she's not writing she's reading. Anything from legal and military non-fiction to any genre of romance can be found on her bookshelves and flash drives. Her music tastes are just as varied with artists ranging from country to rock to heavy metal loading her MP3 player. A wife and mother of two fantastic boys, she enjoys playing games, dancing, and walking the nature trails around her home in Harrison, TN.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Valley of Stories

(A version of this post originally appeared on the Total-E-Bound blog, Hitting the Hot Spot. I've reposted it here because it fits so well with my Monday post.)

Near the center of Massachusetts, the huge, butterfly-shaped Quabbin Reservoir practically divides the state in two. Constructed in the nineteen thirties to satisfy the thirst of the Boston metropolitan area, Quabbin figuratively divided the state as well, pitting the rural inhabitants of the Swift River Valley against the city dwellers in the state capitol. Four towns--Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott--were drowned by Quabbin's advancing waters. The houses of their inhabitants were dismantled and relocated on higher ground. Bodies were exhumed from their graves and reburied elsewhere. Forests were leveled in order to reduce the amount of degrading biological material that would pollute the reservoir. The land that had belonged to Dana and its unfortunate fellows was allocated to neighboring towns. Communities which had prospered in the valley since the seventeen hundreds ceased to exist.

Needless to say, the Swift River Valley is haunted. Even if you don't know the history, you can't escape the sense of mystery as you drive the winding length of Route 202, which hugs the west end of the reservoir. The evergreens that were planted to protect the watershed have grown tall now, shadowing the road. The woods around the man-made lake are home to bears, bald eagles, wildcats and perhaps stranger, more secret beings. On the eastern shore, overgrown dirt lanes meander through the village of Petersham, sending tentative fingers toward the still water.

Ghosts of the dispossessed inhabitants from the flooded towns still seem to hover in the area. They're joined by older creatures from the earlier times when the Algonkian natives fished in the Swift River, grew their corn along the banks, and worshiped the spirits of the forest.

Necessary Madness is partially set in the Quabbin Valley. As I've commented previously on this blog, I almost always have a specific location in mind when I sit down to write a story. Necessary Madness is a M/M paranormal novel that revolves around various psychic powers--precognition, telepathy and the like. I used to live near Quabbin, and had friends in Petersham. It seemed like a natural place for the home of a consulting witch who helps individuals with psi talents to understand and control their abilities.

I'm not the only individual to feel that the Swift River Valley is full of supernatural stories. The movie version of Stephen King's Dreamcatcher features the reservoir as a prominent plot element. The cult horror author H.P. Lovecraft explicitly set his now-classic tale "The Color Out of Space" in the valley before its flooding. A variety of other authors and singers have been touched by the mystery that seems to permeate the place.

Years ago, during a serious summer drought, my husband and I went hiking in the woods around Quabbin. The level of the reservoir was at a historic low. As we followed our way down the hill from the Prescott Peninsula, we found ourselves on what had clearly been a road. Tumbled stone walls marked its boundaries. The tracks worn by cart wheels were still visible. In a normal summer, the road would have been submerged, but now it wound for a quarter of a mile, down to the reservoir's edge. Then it disappeared into the gray water.

We stopped to contemplate this fragment of history, revealed by the vagaries of climate. The air had the sultry weight of a New England August. The silence was complete--no birds, no cicadas, not a breath of wind. We both felt their presence--the souls of the folk who had last used this road almost a century ago.

I wasn't writing then, at least not for publication. Even so, I knew there were stories here to be told. Now that I've ventured into the valley with Necessary Madness, I expect that I'll be returning to explore more of these tales. I hope that the inhabitants won't mind sharing them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gimme the Good Ol' Days

By Ginger Simpson (Guest Author)

I've always been very open to suggestion and even had to stop watching Marcus Welby M.D. in my youth because I manifested the same symptoms the morning after I viewed an episode. Now don't class me as a hypochondriac... there's a vast difference between inventing illness and mimicking one.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on that problem, but now I have to worry about the side affects of the medicines I take. You know all those things they babble at sound faster than the speed of light at the end of the recommending ad. Would you rather have RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) or a severe gambling problem? I'm not sure. Depends on my luck, I guess. Ohhh, let’s not mention “Depends.” I’m not there yet, thankfully.

Although I don't suffer from genital warts, I'm thrilled that those with the condition are trying to protect their partner by taking a little pill a day, but how happy will they be when their mates suffer a stroke? How about that commercial that shows someone slumbering restfully after ingesting just one little tablet? How peaceful can you sleep when complex behaviors such as “sleep-driving” have been reported by people taking the drug. I kid you not! And what about this epidemic of penile flacidity? Is that even a word? Has this always been a problem and if so, why are we forced to hear about it now? I’m still trying to figure out the connection between an enhancing drug and two people in separate bathtubs.

I take medication for atrial fibrillation that comes with a warning list a mile long. I can't take over-the-counter cold medicines because I might have a stroke, and if I combine it with a certain anti-depressant, I might become suicidal. Next thing I know, I won't be able to have sex on a night with a full moon in any month beginning with J. Now I’m taking blood thinners too, so I can’t eat leafy greens. It has something to do with the vitamin in them that interferes with the thinning process. Not eating leafy greens is also causing a problem with another thinning process…my butt!

What happened to the days when we didn't have to hear about feminine itching, hemorrhoids and especially sexual dysfunction. Do we really want to see a couple who has that problem, see the twinkle in their eye and know their business? I don't. I'm an author and I believe in a good romance, but I like something left to the imagination. Don't you?

I don’t even like buying Preparation H or laxatives, so I certainly don’t want to watch a commercial that fully explains why they’re needed. I like the old days when some things were still sacred.


For more humor and wisdom from Miz Ginger, visit her blog Dishin' It Out and her website

Also, Ginger explicitly asked me to wish everyone of you Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Welcome to Worcester

Necessary Madness is mostly set in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. If you're not from New England, you may never have heard of the place, but it's the second largest city in the state, a grimy, hilly place that came into its own in the Industrial Revolution--a place with a sense of history and perhaps a bit of an air of the paranormal as well.

Why did I decide to use Worcester as a background for this tale? Initially, because it was the location of the state hospital where I had my personal introduction to the varieties of madness. The photo above shows the ominous clock tower of the Old Building. They still housed some patients there when I was an inmate, though my ward was in a sterile, modern brick edifice next to this Victorian-era hulk.

Once I got the notion, the setting seemed to fit. Worcester is a gritty working-class town, the sort of place that has its share of tenements and homeless bums huddled under the bridges. It's also a melting pot for various ethnic groups, with big Irish and Hispanic populations. My tough, hard-working police sergeant Rob Murphy would fit right in.

On the other hand, Worcester has its upscale neighborhoods, full of venerable mansions. At its heart nestles elegant Elm Park, designed by the legendary Frederick Law Olmsted. The crystal waters of Lake Quinsigamond separate the city from neighboring Shrewsbury. Historic Union Station ties the city back to its days as a major transportation hub for central New England.

Of course you might wonder why I felt the need to set the story in any particular place at all. For me, setting is a critical aspect of story-telling. It's rare that I write even a short piece where I don't have some sense of where the action is unfolding. The atmosphere and the history of a place influence my characters. A love affair in New York City is very different from one in Nebraska, and different again from one in the Netherlands. Each of the six novels that I've penned so far takes place in a different locale: Thailand (Raw Silk); Beacon Hill, Boston (Incognito); London and Los Angeles (Ruby's Rules); Pittsburgh (Exposure); Guatemala (Serpent's Kiss); and now, Worcester.

I do seem to have an attraction to urban environments. Some of Necessary Madness, though, is set in the country, in an equally distinctive place. I'll tell you more about that on Wednesday.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Interview with Kyle McLaughlin

Interviewer: Today we're interviewing Kyle McLaughlin, one of the heroes in Lisabet Sarai's new erotic romance, Necessary Madness. Thank you for agreeing to talk with us.

Kyle: No problem. I used to be kind of shy, but now that Rob and I are together, I'm becoming more comfortable around other people.

Interviewer: I understand that you are a gifted individual, with special powers. Can you tell us more about this?

Kyle: I have the power to see the future. Visions come to me, usually of some terrible disaster. It's like I'm there, living through the horror with the victims. This ability is more like a curse, actually. However, I've been learning to control it, with help from my teacher Elspeth and my lover Rob. Now I can sometimes navigate through time deliberately, change my point of view and discover the details of the future crisis so that it can be prevented.

Interviewer: How long have you had this power?

Kyle: I was probably born with precognitive talent. Elspeth tells me that psychic abilities are usually hereditary. I don't know for sure, though. My parents died in a car crash when I was only six, so I never really had the chance to find out whether they were special, too. I began seeing the visions when I was thirteen, just about the same time I started getting hard-ons. I gather that Mary, Rob's sister, first experienced her telepathic powers at puberty also. And it turns out that Rob has his own psychic talent. But I don't want to spoil the story for the readers by saying more.

Interviewer: You've mentioned Rob in the answer to every question. Tell us more about him.

Kyle: Rob saved my life. I was homeless, on the street, trying to drink myself into oblivion to escape the awful pictures in my mind. Then Rob showed up. He's a cop. He picked me up, brought me to the hospital and then home. I was attracted to him from the first time I saw him, but he resisted me for a long time. He thought that I was too young for him, that I needed an authority figure more than a lover. (Chuckle) I managed to convince him that he was wrong...

Anyway, he's strong and smart. He can be tough, but deep down he's so sweet and loving, sometimes I can't believe he's mine. Oh, and did I mention that he's really buff? He's older than me but he's in great shape. He's always joking that he can't keep up with a kid like me. Don't believe it. He gets as horny as I do, and just as often.

The sex is fabulous. He can do anything to me and I'll adore it. But that's not the heart of our relationship. Rob and I have some kind of spiritual connection. I felt it the first time he touched me, and he did, too.

Before Rob came along, I was nothing. People thought that I was just a crazy bum. My visions really scared people. I even upset the other guys in the homeless shelter. Rob changed all that. He gave me love and support. He gave me a home. You can't imagine what a difference that's made.

Interviewer: You seem to have a lot to say about Rob...

Kyle: He's my favorite topic!

Interviewer: Can you give us more information about the book?

Kyle: Well, I don't want to give away too much of the plot. But it has some aspects of a murder mystery, and even a bit of horror. Of course it has a happy ending, but it very nearly didn't.

Interviewer: And I gather that it's a holiday tale as well?

Kyle: Yes, the book begins in November and ends on Christmas Eve--with a traditional white Christmas. The story takes place in Massachusetts, in the city of Worcester and the rural village of Petersham. So it includes a certain amount of New England winter weather. In fact, if you want to read an X-rated excerpt involving snow, you can just click here.

Interviewer: In all fairness, I should warn readers that the book is quite explicit. The publisher rates it as "total-e-burning", which is the second highest heat rating available.

Kyle: Yeah, well...what can I say? Rob and I can't keep our hands off each other. And you know, I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

Interviewer: Well, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We'll be looking forward to the release.

Kyle: Me too!


ANNOUNCEMENT: Sherry, you're my winner for the 18th of December, and Lindseye, you are the winner for the 19th. Please email me your postal addresses! And congratulations!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Good Fight

By M. Christian (Guest Author)

Before I get started with this post I have to throw out not one but two very sincere 'thanks' -- to the same person.

Lisabet gets the first because she was so nice to ask me to writes something for this blog, and she gets the second because she's been fantastic to work with on a very special project -- which brings me to the subject of this post.

Alessia Brio and Lisabet have been working on Coming Together, a series of books by a wide range of writers, where the profits are going to be donated to charity. Alessia and Lisabet asked me to join in -- always a way to get me to do anything -- so I, with Lisabet's invaluable help, have put together a collection of brand new and never-before-seen as well as some of my (I say this with tongue firmly in cheek) "classic" short stories.

For my charity -- well, my charity is the reason for this post.

The subject has become "the" issue these days. Even bringing up the idea can make otherwise brave men and women tighten up with fear and stress.

Don't believe me? Then pay attention to your own reaction when I say (or write) this single word:


See what I mean? I know, I know, Planned Parenthood is more than just that one tension-inducing word, and that's another reason why I chose them to receive the profits from my Coming Together collection. For decades, the folks at Planned Parenthood have been on the front lines, fighting for child health services, affordable health care, sex education, and reproductive health. Those issues, alone, make PP worthy of not only financial support but also tremendous respect.

But, for most folks at least, their support for education and sex health isn't what's made them a kind of outlaw in the world of non-profits. That tightening-word is.

Planned Parenthood's founder and guiding light, Margaret Sanger said it perfectly: "No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother."

Freedom is always worth fighting for, especially when it's for a fundamental right. It's never been easy for Sanger or her organization, which is why it needs as much support as it can get. I am fortunate to have a way, through this collection of stories, to give them a most-likely pathetically small amount of financial help.

Beyond this, though, the issue is a personal one. Yes, I support a woman's right to chose but I also support a total access to abortion -- even if unbiased and comprehensive sex education and access to birth control becomes universal. I have known far too many women -- as well the men involved -- who have faced the fact that they would either have made poor or even disastrous parents.

Pain, abuse, brutality -- and other nightmares -- for anyone, let alone a child, should never be the punishment for either a reckless or accidental pregnancy. Don't worry, I know the arguments, the adoption success stories, the "I thought about abortion but I'm glad I didn't go through with it" quotes, but the fact is that there are far too many children being born into horror because their parents did not have either the physical access or emotional resources for any other option.

Yes, Planned Parenthood has become a kind of pariah, a pretend-it-doesn't exist organization, but this is why it needs as much financial and emotional support as it can get: they are fighting for everyone to have access to sexual information and reproductive health but also for women to be in control of their own bodies.

But more importantly they are the resource for those who need them most, those who must face the truth of who they are, and if they truly can either have, or give someone else, a worthwhile life.

I just wish I could do more.

M. Christian

M.Christian is an acknowledged master of erotica with more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites. He is the editor of 20 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, and others. He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, Licks & Promises, Filthy, Love Without Gun Control, and Rude Mechanicals; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll.

ANNOUNCEMENT (from Lisabet): Jennifer who commented on my post on 18 December, you are my winner. Please email me at the address shown in my post of 14 December.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Lure of Madness

I've always been fascinated by insanity. My father was a clinical psychologist, so I probably knew more about Freud, Jung and the varieties of psychiatric deviance than the average kid. In my naivete, I romanticized the notion of mental illness.

My favorite characters were people driven mad by love or grief. Hamlet's Ophelia. Emily Bronte's Heathcliff. Margaret in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Ruddigore". In my mid-teens, I read J.R. Salamanca's amazing novel Lilith (which is still in print though it was originally published in 1960). Lilith is a deeply schizophrenic patient in a private psychiatric clinic. She lives in a lovely but terrifying alternative world of her own creation, with its own laws, rituals, art and culture. The novel is narrated by Lilith's doctor, who gradually becomes obsessed by her beauty, intelligence and apparent lucidity. Her delusions are so compelling and have such coherence that he finds himself wondering whether the woman is truly mad or is in fact some sort of exile as she claims. And is the doctor himself going crazy, as he gets pulled ever deeper into Lilith's universe? I have never, before or since, seen the lure of madness so vividly conveyed.

When I was in my late teens, I became anorexic. I spent several months in the acute ward of a state psychiatric hospital. I was suffering from a sort of limited insanity when it came to food, but was still sufficiently alert to observe and interact with my fellow inmates. I came to realize that the dividing line between sanity and madness is perhaps an illusion. After all, I acted sane, rational, highly intelligent. People thought that I was a member of the staff. That is, they did until someone tried to get me to eat, and I became a weeping, screaming, totally irrational and clearly disturbed patient.

It wasn't just me. I met other brilliant and intriguing people on that ward. There was Spyder, the guy with the lanky hair and tattoos, who created such amazing drawings in art therapy even though he never said a word. There was Lucy with her guitar, mother of two and veteran of four suicide attempts, who taught me songs of love and longing that I still sing today. Who was I to label them crazy?

The germ of Necessary Madness comes from those experiences of mine, those months locked away in an institution. Kyle, one of the heroes of the book, is about the same age as I was back then. He has the power to see the future, but he can't control it. Horrible visions of disasters yet to occur haunt him day and night.

Everyone assumes that Kyle is schizophrenic. He has done his time in the psych ward, his visions blunted but not obliterated by medication. If he's not yet mad, his power is slowly driving him in that direction. He is so desperate that killing himself seems like the only way out.

Rob, the cop who picks Kyle up off the street, knows that Kyle is not psychotic. Rob's own experience has taught him that psychic powers are real, and potentially devastating. Since his telepathic sister's brutal murder, Rob wants nothing to do with "gifted" individuals like Kyle.

Despite Rob's fears, he's irresistibly attracted to the beautiful, tortured young man -- an attraction that is mutual. When a brilliant, sadistic practitioner of the black arts lures Kyle into his clutches, Rob faces the possibility that once again he may lose the person he loves most to the forces of darkness.

Here's an excerpt from the book. Fearful of the consequences of loving Kyle, Rob pretends he doesn't want the younger man. Destroyed by Rob's rejection, Kyle flees into literal madness. He's discovered wandering naked down the middle of an interstate highway, wild and incoherent. Rob rushes to the state hospital (the same one, in fact, where I spent my crazy months) when he gets the news.

Rob took the elevator to the sixth floor of the main building where the acute ward was located. The locked door was solid steel, painted a dull green, with a small window of reinforced glass set in upper half. Through the narrow aperture he would see a long, empty corridor, pierced by open doorways. He rang the buzzer and waited. After a few minutes, a dark-complexioned face peered at him through the window. There was a click and the door swung open.

“Sergeant Murphy?” The woman was sturdy, middle-aged, wearing a beige smock and jeans.

“Yes, ma’am.” Rob flipped open his wallet to display his badge.

“Thanks for coming. I’m Louella Howard, the senior attendant on this shift. I’m the one who called you.”

“I’m really glad that you did. How is Kyle?”

“He’s quiet now, but it took three big guys to get him settled.” Louella Howard walked him down the endless hall. Everything was covered with ceramic tile; green on the walls, grey on the floor. As they passed the doorways, Rob heard voices.

“It wasn’t me!” called a woman from one room. “Tell the judge it wasn’t me. No, no, it wasn’t me. Tell the judge…”

“Aye, aye, aye,” whimpered another female voice. “Ayee! Please. Oh please.”

“Fuck you, shit head,” came from a third voice, this one male. Rob glanced into the room. A balding guy in a stretched T-shirt stared out the barred window. “Fuck you, I said. Did you hear me, shit head?”

Other rooms were ominously silent. A smell of disinfectant hung in the air, mingled with a hint of stale potato chips. Rob shuddered. He hated to think of Kyle, locked in here with these…people.

“I’ve got to sign you in first,” said Louella as they rounded a corner and came to the nurse’s station, a brightly-lit glass box that looked out over a larger room filled with chairs, tables and an enormous television. Two older women sat in front of the screen, one rocking back and forth, muttering to herself, the other occupied picking lint from her skirt. The attendant handed him a clipboard. Rob signed his name and wrote the date.

“That’s Jem,” said Louella, pointing to a hefty black man sitting and reading at a desk on the other side of the glass. “He brought Mr. McLaughlin upstairs. And got a bloody nose to show for it!”

“I’m sorry,” Rob murmured, feeling that somehow this was his fault.

“Ah, don’t worry, happens all the time. But that kid is a lot stronger than he looks.”

“Yes,” Rob replied, remembering his legs tangling with Kyle’s the night before. “He is.”

“Ellen’s on break, but she’ll be back in a few minutes. She’s the shift nurse. Dispenses the meds and so on. Decides when to call the doctor.”

Louella led him farther down the hall to the end. Unlike the other rooms, Kyle’s had a door, which was closed. It swung open when Louella pushed it.

Kyle lay in the centre of the windowless tiled, room, on a hospital bed with the sides raised. He wore loose cotton pants and a johnny, both originally white but washed until they had turned grey. His wrists and his ankles were tied to the rails with woven cloth straps. His bare feet hung off the end of the mattress. Rust-red gashes covered his soles.

Rob rushed to the bedside, the knife of remorse twisting in his gut. Kyle’s face was even paler than usual, his eyelashes sooty black against his cheeks. His brow was furrowed and his full lips twisted into a frown. He did not look peaceful.

“Poor boy’s been in and out of here at least a dozen times in the last two or three years,” commented Louella. “But I’ve never seen him this bad.”

“Can you untie him, at least? I know he’d hate being restrained.”

“I suppose so. He hasn’t moved in a couple of hours.”

The aching in Rob’s chest made it hard for him to breathe. He blinked away the tears pricking at the corners of his eyes and put his hand on Kyle’s bound one. “Kyle,” he murmured. “Kyle, it’s me. Rob. I’m here. I’m sorry for what I said, Kyle. I really didn’t mean it. I was just afraid.”

Kyle’s lips twitched, but he did not wake.

Rob stroked Kyle’s arm, marvelling at the smoothness of his skin. When he looked at the boy, he was overwhelmed—with pity, sorrow, regret, affection, and yes, desire. Under his own confused emotions, he sensed a current of feeling that seemed to flow from Kyle—the darkest loneliness, the deepest fear, such utter hopelessness that he could hardly bear it. “Kyle, baby,” he whispered. “Don’t worry. I’m here.”

“He can’t hear you, sergeant. He’s gone. He’ll be out for five, six hours at least.”

Rob seated himself in the chair beside the bed, never letting go of Kyle’s hand. “That’s okay,” he told the attendant. “I’ll wait.”

As for me, I can hardly wait for December 28th, when the book will finally be available. In writing it, I finally had the chance to exorcise some of my personal demons and explore the true meaning of madness.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Judy from Louisiana, you are my winner for the 17th of December. Please email me your postal address (my email address is available in my post from the 14th of December).

Thursday, December 17, 2009


By Devon Rhodes (Guest Author)

I’ll be celebrating my first anniversary next month. (Thank you, thank you.) No, not my wedding anniversary, I’ve had eleven of those. And it isn’t anything to do with writing or publishing milestones yet either; my first look back at those dates are still to come next year.

Believe it or not, what I’m fondly recalling is my first e-book purchase.

I’ve always been a bit behind the curve. The last of my friends and family to get a CD player, a cell phone, a DVD player. Still don’t have an iPod or any kind of games, and certainly no digital reader yet, although that might change soon.

So last year when I discovered the world of erotic romance, imagine my shock when I discovered that the e-book option on book purchases, which I had previously unilaterally ignored, was the only option for some titles I was interested in!

It was a rather nervewracking experience going through the purchase process that first time. What if they don’t send it? How am I going to feel not being able to hold it in my hand? Why on earth don’t they just print copies? I most likely would still be in the e-book dark ages if it weren’t for the fact I had a healthy Paypal balance from my E-Bay business (another nervewracking learning curve I went through a couple years ago).

I bit the bullet and hit purchase, then went through the payment process on Paypal. Then I was sent back to the publisher, who kindly thanked me for my purchase. For the life of me, I couldn’t see where to get the darn book from. Finally figured out that with that particular site, the link is e-mailed. Had that sinking ‘I knew it!’ feeling until I figured it out though.

Once I’d downloaded it and figured out where to save it to, I whizzed through it. The book itself was mediocre. What hooked me was the instant gratification: No waiting for snail mail shipping, no trips to the store. I could look for a book, find one that appealed to me, and be into the first chapter within minutes.

An almost addictive rush.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve spent on e-books in the past year, especially once I decided (last spring) to try to write. Hit my Goodreads page for an idea. I did a LOT of reading to try to get a feel for what I needed to accomplish in order to write something which had a chance of being accepted for publication…by an e-pub.

Imagine, a whole industry out there that publishes primarily in e-book format. Besides the obvious environmental plusses, the fact that non-traditional genres are now instantly and privately accessible was eye-opening. And thought-provoking.

My writing was coming along, but with nothing published yet, when I discovered manlove, m/m erotic romance. I was really taken with it, began writing it, and everything I’ve published to date is m/m. And I never would have even considered it if I hadn’t stumbled across the e-book world.

That little ‘trip’ helped me find my calling in life.


My latest release, Silver & Gold, came out this month at Dreamspinner Press.

Geoff Radcliffe is having a mid-life crisis just in time for the holidays. He goes into a tailspin after hearing from his first love, picks up a stranger who locks him out of the house in nothing but his pants, and then he gets up the courage to go get rid of his grey, and the colorist refuses to do Geoff's hair!

But Abe Golden, thrilled that the hunky silver-tipped guy has admitted he's gay, does 'do' him, taking him home for the hottest night of Geoff's life. After three heavenly days of smoking hot sex, Abe has done the unimaginable: he's fallen in love. And when he finds out that Geoff has been using him to practice for another man, Abe is at first heartbroken... and then he plots how to show Geoff the value of combining silver and gold.

Coming next month from Total E Bound, I’m sharing the Gaymes anthology with my lovely hostess, Lisabet Sarai, as well as Gwen Cease, Jenna Byrnes, Jude Mason, Kim Dare, and Carol Lynne, heady company indeed! Here is look at my story, Rough Riders:

Playing by different rules can lead to heartbreak, but changing the game plan can be the tiebreaker.

Luke Briscoe has a good reason to stay in the closet with his team, the Rough Riders. Bitter past experience has taught him to be cautious around athletic teams. But after Mario, his teammate and lover of ten years, leaves him, tired of the secrecy, Luke is forced to confront his fears, especially since the sexy and confident new member of the team, Derek Grimm, has no problem with being out and proud.

Derek has wanted Luke from the first moment he saw him. But he knows the timing is all wrong, and vows to let Luke have the time he needs to recover from his breakup. As time goes on, though, Derek becomes frustrated with Luke's determination to stay in the closet. Derek and Mario are out, and the team is fine with it. Why is Luke still holding back? Derek wonders if any amount of time will ever be enough. Maybe it's time to try a different game plan...


"It's not like I hide you from the world," Luke protested, arguing one of Mario's most repetitive complaints of late. "But the guys here are not going to be as accepting as the public in general." Mario rolled his dark eyes in his typical dramatic fashion. "Please. The whole point is that… Get dressed, you're going to be late." He grabbed the jock dangling from Luke's fingers and slapped it at his chest with hardly a pause in his speech. "…is that we are here all the time. All. The. Time." He punctuated this with pokes to Luke's arm. Luke didn't move and Mario sighed. "Fine. I shouldn't have started this here. But I thought it would give you a chance to rearrange the roster, or at least start thinking about it during practice. Plus you can tell the guys today that I'm off the team." "What?" Luke shot to his feet. "Why should I tell them? Why don't you tell them? It's as much your team as mine." The Rough Riders was their baby, formed nearly a decade before with a mish-mash of friends and acquaintances that had since become the most competitive three-sport team in the city. They entered tournaments city-wide and regionally in basketball and softball, and just last year had qualified for nationals in flag football. "Not any longer. And think, Luke." Mario stood as well and leaned in close. Luke closed his eyes briefly as the warm, familiar scent came to him, knotting his insides. "Do you really want me to tell them? Hmm? I have reached the end of my self-control. If they ask me why, I will not be able to lie. And you do not want me to tell the truth." He flipped his hand expressively. "That is the whole problem." "What if…" Luke stopped, swallowing hard. He fought down the rising panic. "What if I…did tell them? Would you stay?" Mario's handsome face slackened in shock and disbelief, then hardened. "Put your fucking workout clothes on. Meet me outside." Luke touched his elbow warily, and Mario knocked his hand away. "Outside, or I swear to God I will take this fucking roof off." He stormed away, muttering to himself, the stiffness in Mario's normally fluid stride bringing a touch of fear into Luke's heart.

Luke quickly dressed and hurried out the door to the practice area. He looked around with a frown. He should have asked Mario to specify where outside. The sports complex was huge. Maybe he meant by the parking lot? Luke started walking around the huge building in that direction, and stumbled when Mario grabbed his T-shirt and yanked him into a doorwell, shoving him up against the cinderblock wall and taking his mouth in a hard, demanding kiss. Luke found himself moaning into the rough contact, which drove all thoughts of their whereabouts straight out of his head. He let go of Mario's arms, which he had clutched initially to balance himself, and wrapped his arms around him, desperately returning his kiss. Coaxing the other man in to a softer mutual stroking of their mouths, he willed Mario to give up this crazy ultimatum. God, if he lost him… He groaned as he shifted, fitting himself more completely against the insistent press of Mario's lean, muscular form. Mario's hand snaked up under Luke's shirt, tweaking his nipple. The jolt brought Luke's eyes open, and they immediately snapped to movement over Mario's shoulder. His eyes widened and Luke stiffened as he saw a tall, superbly fit man running rapidly towards them, his eyes looking directly at the pair with surprise. "Shit," he muttered into Mario's mouth. "Babe.," He disengaged their mouths by turning his head, pushing at his chest. Mario kept him pinned. "Mario, let me go, man, someone's coming!" He pushed ineffectually against the well-positioned man. "I thought you wanted to tell everyone." Mario mocked, his tone derisive, but his eyes were filled with pain. He kept Luke in place as the man ran past, close enough that they could hear the swish of his running shorts as he blew by, apparently wrapping up his workout with a sprint. "He wasn't even someone we know and you froze up. And you think you can tell the Riders?" He snorted and finally released Luke, backing away, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. I just can't do this anymore."

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