By M.S. Spencer (Guest Blogger)
When I post my biography or tell stories about my life, I’m often met with gasps of astonishment…well, at least an open mouth or two. It’s true: from my first flight halfway around the world to Ankara, Turkey at the age of five, to living or traveling to countries on five continents over the past fifty-odd years, to working for the U.S. Congress, to raising perfect children, I have built up a store of experiences that some would find unusually diverse. There are those who find stimulation in the everyday romance of living. Miss Marple in her St. Mary Mead, or Edith Holden’s Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady come to mind. I don’t deny that human nature is the same, whether in a small Devon village or the jungles of the Amazon River basin. However, in any micro-climate you’re limited to the study of the uniformity of human nature—what traits humans have in common. It’s only when you come upon an unfamiliar architectural style, taste an exotic dish, or hear a foreign language that you can appreciate the extraordinary variety of solutions humans have invented for the same set of challenges.
Because that variety fascinated me, I studied anthropology in college and graduate school. Anthropology has a two-pronged mission: (1) to document the different approaches cultures use to deal with the world; and (2) to find the elements common to all cultures in order to ascertain that which differentiates Man from other animals. In other words, what makes Man Man? We can debate specifics—is it his tool-making ability? His belief in a spiritual world? Fire?—but deep in our bones we know that humans are different from animals, that something in their makeup not only brought them out of the forest to build houses, make clothes, and tame the land and the climate; it also led them to build castles and temples, establish law, and write poetry and symphonies.
But I digress (reader mutters, “Ya think?”). I’d better go back to the beginning, before the fascinating subject of human nature drew us off course. I had started to explain my life and how I ended up here, writing.
In my youth, I lived in Turkey, France, and Morocco and traveled with my family throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. During the course of a somewhat extended academic career, I studied the aforementioned anthropology, library science, several languages, and the Middle East at four of the top schools in the country (this is actually relevant—not just blowing the old horn). Post college I lived in Egypt, New York, Turkey, France, Boston, and Chicago, finally coming to rest back in my home town of Washington DC. I found a job by accident on a committee of the U.S. Senate, where I worked on energy and natural resources (national parks, oil, water, etc.) issues, before moving on to writing speeches for a Senator and then policy development in the Department of the Interior. Those positions gave me the opportunity to visit Alaska, fly the length of the Colorado River, tour a slew of great dams like Hoover, and take a helicopter ride over the sloughs of North Dakota, to mention a few highlights.
The greatest of my adventures began when I married and had two gorgeous children. Besides the sheer mystery of trying to figure out another human being (especially considering the dramatic changes they go through every year), I could take them on trips (Puerto Rico, Chincoteague, Arizona, the Everglades, Peru, Maine) and teach them (and me) to garden and kayak, play music, ride, bird watch and…well, you parents out there know the drill. I also learned just how hard it is to run a volunteer organization—diplomacy and appreciation are so much more important when a salary isn’t involved.
Like most writers, I’d been writing since I could hold a piece of chalk and bend my knees enough to reach the sidewalk. While I did a lot of academic writing and speech writing, I wrote very little fiction after high school. Sure, I thought about it—how I longed to see that slim volume gathering dust on the bookshelf—but life got in the way. So instead I turned to reminiscing. I went on and on—usually at the breakfast table (me and Oliver Wendell Holmes) about all the cool things I’d done in my life, dropping the names of all the elite institutions I’d attended wherever possible.
Then one day, my son (he was at that maddeningly skeptical age) looked at me and said, “So, Mom, what have you used any of it for?”
His question was met with a shocked look and no ready reply. “I…uh…um…” A quick look at my watch and a clearing of the throat and I escaped into parent mode. “Time for school; we’ll talk about this later, young man.”
After I’d seen him safely out the door, I pulled out a notebook and pen, sat down, and began to write. Five years later I have five books published, one on the way, and one in the works. Those twinkles in my eye are still more stories lined up waiting to go into labor. Thanks to my son, I got off my behind and got around to doing what I love most. Thanks to my son, my myriad memories have been neither wasted nor inflicted on bored cocktail party-goers, but woven into novels. Thanks to my son, I’ve done something useful with them.
I’m also much less annoying to be around.
This was my first published novel, and the one I sat down to write with my son’s goosing…er…blessing:
Lost in His Arms
Red Rose Publishing (2009)
eBook, 61,000 words, ISBN 978-1-60435-375-0
Romantic Suspense, Action/Adventure; M/F; 3 flames
In an era electric with possibility and peril Chloe Gray, political writer, and Michael Keller, CIA troubleshooter, meet under curiously conventional circumstances. Despite the instantaneous sparks, they both sense there is more between them than physical attraction. Chloe's professional detachment from the dramatic world events of the 1990s—a disintegrating USSR, Middle East peace talks, and Vietnam's reemergence on the world stage—dissolves as their love affair intensifies.
Michael appears and disappears at unpredictable moments, leaving her limp and lovelorn. Is he using her or protecting her? In her quest for answers, she is yanked into the dangerous world of Michael's work—in Washington, DC, in France, and in Spain. Looking for safe harbor (for her emotions? or her body?), she submits to the advances of a dashing French diplomat. Will she embrace the luxury and comfort of Emile and his chateau or the romance of international intrigue with Michael?
EXCERPT (R)—First Mating
Chloe pulled his arm closer. "It is not just a cut. It's a gash. Look at all the blood you’ve dripped on my floor! Come here." She held his arm under the faucet and carefully washed the grit out of the wound. "Now just stay there. Press this paper towel against the cut. I'll go get some Neosporin and a bandage." She slipped up the stairs and through her bedroom to the bathroom. As she came out with the supplies she stopped short. He was sitting on her bed.
"I thought I would save you a trip." He spoke diffidently.
"Oh…that's…okay." Chloe willed herself not to touch his thigh as she sat down on the bed next to him (too close?). She applied the ointment and bandage, trying to keep her hands from trembling. He must have noticed anyway, because he put his larger one over hers and gently squeezed.
"Is the blood bothering you?"
She hesitated, breathless. He looked into her eyes, and before she knew it his arms went around her and she was kissing him. No, he was kissing her. She lost all sense of time and place and clung to his mouth as though she were drowning and it was a lifeboat. She felt herself falling, landing on his chest. He held her tightly, squeezing the life out of her. Or was it her soul he was drawing into his own? How could she tell him it was not his blood that bothered her but her own, boiling up in waves of desire? He let her go reluctantly, but she held onto his buttons, tearing them off. She opened his shirt and buried her face in the soft black hairs of his chest. His hands went to her arms and gently moved her off him to the side. Slowly he undid her blouse, unhooked the bra and brushed each breast with his lips. She lay back, her eyes unfocussed, waiting for the touch, living for the scent of his hair. He looked up through his bangs and blasted her heart out with a glance of those azure eyes.
She did not need elaboration. She nodded mutely. He kissed her neck, her shoulders, her breasts, and down her stomach. A thousand butterflies fought to escape from her belly. He pulled down her zipper and tugged at the skirt. She still lay quietly, lost in pleasure. It all seemed to pass in slow motion. Everything felt perfect. Then he stopped. She opened her eyes. "What?"
His expression had altered. He was glaring at her, his face only inches away from hers. "What the Hell am I doing? This is nuts!" He sat up, facing away from her. She saw that she had taken his shirt off and his belt and zipper were undone. For some inexplicable reason his shoes were neatly arranged at the foot of the bed. She put a hand on his back. He stood up abruptly.
A sudden flash of panic hit her. He couldn't leave. Not now.
“Please don’t go.” Her voice stayed almost steady. “It’s…not exactly something we planned. Unexpected, unexplainable, maybe. But it’s also right. Don’t you see?”
“No, I don’t.” His voice slurred with anger as he slapped the words down. “This is neither the time nor the place. I can’t afford to do this now.”
“To do what? Make love?”
He looked down at her, his face softening. “It’s more than that. I don’t know why. But you know it too.”
Chloe gazed at him. It was true. She knew that first day, when he stood on her front step in his white uniform, the sun glinting off his dark head and his eyes flashing blue in the heat. Her heart flip-flopped. She had never wanted a man so much before. She didn’t want to ask any questions; she didn‘t even want to ask about protection. Mentioning condoms could be so...well...deflating. She rose and put her arms around him. Standing on tiptoe, she kissed him softly. His arms went slowly, inevitably, around her and they drifted into their own world.
When she opened her eyes she found him calmly pulling off the rest of her clothes. She appeared to be doing the same for him. He stopped and took a condom out of his wallet. Good. Now she could relax.
His pants flew across the room and she fell on his naked, beautiful body. He pulled her under him and moved, hard and swift, up her body and then down. Everything moved, as though they rode on the sea, in a great harmony of tides. She felt him press inside her, so deep it almost touched her heart. She moved with him, accepting the throbbing energy and meeting it. Faster he went, closer she came to her climax, her hands clutching, drawing him toward her. She dimly heard herself crying and calling him all sorts of names. Relentless, entering and leaving, driving her to the brink, he murmured, “Love me. Oh God, love me.” Then the world stopped. They looked into each other’s eyes and collapsed.
You may be interested in my other novels:
Lost and Found, love and lust in the wilds of Maine~
Losers Keepers, rekindled romance and murder on Chincoteague (ebook & print) ~
Triptych, lost artworks, jealousy, sex, larceny and genius plays out above the mighty Potomac River (ebook & print) ~
Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders, a mystery that has love in stitches (ebook & print) ~http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=products_all&filter_author=56
My books are also available at B&N, all Romance eBooks, Bookstrand, and Fictionwise.
I’d love to hear from you!
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/M.S.SpencerAuthor