Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sweet Tooth

Just a few days ago, I returned from a two week vacation in Japan. This was actually my third long visit to that complicated and beautiful country. This time we focused on northern regions, starting in Sapporo on the remote island of Hokkaido and then working our way south to Tokyo.

Japan, of course, has many claims to fame. Sushi. Samurai. Sumo. Geishas. Cherry blossoms. Austere and elegant temples, feudal castles and superfast railways. We've experienced all those things - well, all except the geishas, though we did see a number of women wearing traditional kimonos. Even after three visits, however, I found things to surprise me.

One thing I had not previously realized was how much the Japanese love sweets. When one thinks about Japanese food, the images that arise typically involve raw fish, grilled steak, tofu, rice, vegetables - lean, healthy cuisine. You wouldn't expect to see an ad for a giant cream puff:

In fact, everywhere we went we noticed bakeries, ice cream stores, and dessert cafes.

We arrived in Sapporo too early to check in to our hotel, so we decided to look for some lunch. Down the street from where we were staying, we found a pleasant coffee shop. We ordered pizza and beer. (We wanted to be able to get some sleep after our exhausting overnight flight.) It was clear, though, that the specialty of this joint was ice cream sundaes. On either side of us, diminutive Japanese young women were devouring gooey confections topped with whipped cream and syrup.

(I didn't actually take any photos, but the masterpieces our neighbors were consuming were quite a bit more elaborate than the examples below.)

Meanwhile, on the video screen on the wall, the cafe broadcast lurid videos of someone assembling the most enormous sundae I'd ever seen: a huge bowl holding perhaps twenty scoops of different sorts of ice cream, with three types of sauce, nuts, sprinkles, cookies, even those paper parasols you get with tropical drinks. The price for this super sundae? About fifty dollars! Who would shell out that much cash just for sweets? Apparently some people must have. Even the more modest desserts were in the fifteen to twenty dollar range.

Now, I have the opposite of a sweet tooth. I'm probably the only woman you'll ever encounter who could live her life without ever tasting chocolate again. My parents never gave me sweets as a kid. When I was two years old, a well-meaning friend of the family handed me a lollipop and I was totally mystified.

My husband likes sweets a bit more than I do, but still, we hardly ever have dessert of any kind. (I'd rather use my calories on another glass of wine!)

However, indulgence in sugary pastimes seems to have been somewhat contagious. We'd heard that Hokkaido was famous for its ice cream. We had to try it. Twice. Then there was the caramel custard we found in the convenience store - just the right thing after a teriyaki dinner. And cookies - well, I was sampling them in order to decide what to buy for friends back home... Oh, and the cheesecake...

Fortunately, I seem to have recovered from my temporary hankering for sugary foods. I haven't had anything sweeter than fruit since returning.

Normally, when someone mentions pastries or desserts in the same paragraph as travel, one thinks of France, or maybe Vienna. But Sapporo may be in competition as ice cream capital of the world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Victorian Vices: An Interview with Jess Faraday

[Today I'm interviewing author Jess Faraday about her Victorian era LGBTQ mystery Turnbull House, as part of her tour celebrating the novel's release.  Read on for some fascinating insights into the period and the book. And leave a comment to win your own copy! ~Lisabet ]

Lisabet Sarai: Greetings, Jess, and welcome to Beyond Romance. I was eager to host your tour because I have a long-standing fascination with the Victorian era. But what led you to set your series in the eighteen nineties? And what was the source of inspiration for your unusual characters?
Jess Faraday: Hi, and thanks for having me! I, too, have always been fascinated with the era. It was such a time of contrasts—an explosion of science and culture, of exploration and expanding fortunes. At the same time, it was a time of shocking inequality, exploitation, and violence.

The first book in the Ira Adler mysteries, The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, started out as an exercise for one of my writers groups. We had to take a character from one of our works in progress, and put them in a completely different time and place. I took a sorcerer’s apprentice from a swords and sorcery story, and put him in a Sherlock Holmes tale. The original story was 700 words long and not very good, but it spawned two excellent characters—Ira Adler and Cain Goddard.

The choice to make them lovers came in part because of research (for a different project—somehow research for one project always leads me to the next one) which turned up the Labouchere amendment of 1885. This law criminalized male homosexual acts (and “attempted” acts, based on the word of a single witness), ostensibly to protect women and children—which made as much sense then as it does now. The similarity of the argument to arguments for oppression of LGBTQ people today—and the success it had—caught my attention. Making the law personal to my main character, I thought, would serve not only to make the reader think about it, but would also heighten the tension and peril for my characters.

LS: How did you research this book? In particular, where did you find reliable information about the criminal underground in the late nineteenth century London?

JF: I consulted a variety of primary sources—interviews with people at different levels of society, photographs, articles from newspapers during that era, and so on. There’s a wonderful book called Lost London, which was written by former detective sergeant B. Leeson, who served in Scotland Yard during the time of Jack the Ripper. It was particularly interesting to research the history of the opium trade and the development of heroin, as both were legal in Britain for quite a while. I got a chuckle out of painting the drug trade as the “respectable” front for Cain Goddard’s truly illegal activities.
LS: Homosexuality was strictly illegal in England during the period of your novel. How do you handle that? What do your characters have to do to hide their homoerotic inclinations? Are they continually aware of the potential consequences of their actions, or do they view this as just another flaunting of the law?

JF: Under the 1885 law, a man could be sent down for two years of hard labor on the word of a single witness who claimed that man had “attempted” an indecent act. This law hangs over my characters’ heads like the Damoclean sword. But everyone has obstacles in their lives, and part of life is learning how to live despite your obstacles.

Ira accepts that he has to be discreet in his liaisons, but also accepts his sexuality as part of himself. He’s not afraid of it, or ashamed. So, while he doesn’t make a spectacle of himself, he surrounds himself with people who accept him, and from whom he doesn’t have to pretend otherwise to keep up appearances. Because people guarded their privacy a lot more closely then than they do today, he wouldn’t feel the need to shout his private activities from the rooftops, and strangers would never think to ask. 
LS: One of the challenges in writing a convincing historical novel is to understand the social and cultural differences between your target period and the present. How does Ira's view of the world differ from that of a contemporary gay man in similar circumstances? What is the single biggest area where his world diverges from the twenty first century?

Wow, that’s an interesting question. I can’t give the view of a contemporary gay man (not being one myself), but I can describe some of the differences between my own 21st century perspective and the perspectives I encountered while researching the book.

The idea of sexuality as an orientation rather than as a behavior. In England, the idea of “the homosexual” came about during the Oscar Wilde trials. So, though Ira certainly knew that he only had desire for men, he probably wouldn’t have described that desire as an immutable characteristic of himself, like having brown eyes. A 21st century person would describe Tim Lazarus, Ira’s best friend, as bisexual—a concept that a lot of people still debate. Lazarus would have seen himself as having desire for both men and women, and, being a worrier in addition to a conscientious stickler for the straight-and-narrow path, likely found it quite a relief to fall in love with his wife!

The concept of privacy. People didn’t discuss their private lives as casually, as openly, or as often as they do today. Merely exchanging first names signaled a distinct and significant increase in intimacy. The idea of broadcasting one’s most private behaviors to all and sundry would have been unthinkable—not only because of possible legal ramifications, but because it would have violated strict cultural norms regarding intimacy and disclosure. While many 21st century people think nothing of publicly announcing what and whom they enjoy behind closed doors—or might even consider doing so to be a political duty—Ira would say it wasn’t anyone’s damn business, thank you very much!

Turnbull House by Jess Faraday 

London 1891. Former criminal Ira Adler has built a respectable, if dull, life for himself as a confidential secretary. He even sits on the board of a youth shelter. When the shelter’s landlord threatens to sell the building out from under them, Ira turns to his ex-lover, crime lord Cain Goddard, for a loan. But the loan comes with strings, and before he knows it, Ira is tangled up in them and tumbling back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape. Two old flames come back into Ira’s life, along with a new young man who reminds Ira of his former self. Will Ira hold fast to his principles, or will he succumb to the temptations of easy riches and lost pleasures?


So,” Goddard said, taking a long sip from his glass. “You never told me why you decided to contact me after all this time.”

Well…” As I searched for the right words, he quietly set his drink on the polished wood floor. “It’s funny you should—”

The kiss came as such a surprise that I scrambled backward across the divan and almost tumbled over its rounded arm. Whiskey sloshed over the rim of my glass, splashing silently onto the Chinese rug. What remained I belted back in one go before setting the glass on the floor and wiping my shaking fingers on my trousers.

It wasn’t that I was averse to the idea of kissing him, but I really hadn’t expected it. In fact, if I’d seen him start toward me in the first place—he was remarkably quick for a man in his mid-forties—I’d have assumed he was going for my throat.

Goddard chuckled under his breath. “Sorry. Did I startle you?”

You might say that.”

I was also taken aback by the presumption. I had always liked it when he took control, and the hard, whiskey-flavored slickness of his mouth had left me aroused. All the same, I was no longer his plaything. Part of me felt as if he should have at least asked permission.

I forgot my objections when he leaned in a second time, slowly, and cupped my face in his smooth, muscular hands. Now that I was expecting it, the kiss felt like coming home after a long, unpleasant journey. For just a moment, all of my troubles dissolved, and nothing existed except his fingers in my hair, the traces of his jasmine and bergamot cologne, and the smooth, familiar contours of his mouth.

And then as suddenly as he had moved in, Goddard pulled back, leaving me confused, disappointed, and blinking in the gaslight and shadow.

Why did you come, Ira?”

To ask you for money,” I said.

I know. I know. But every drop of blood in my head had surged to my cock, and I found myself incapable of the higher functioning required for either diplomacy or deceit.

Perhaps that had been the idea.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jess Faraday is the author of the Ira Adler mysteries and the standalone steampunk thriller The Left Hand of Justice. She also moonlights as the mystery editor for Elm Books.

Twitter: @jessfaraday

Jess will be awarding a two-book set (paperback) of Turnbull House and its predecessor, The Affair of the Porcelain Dog to a randomly drawn commenter on her blog tour. Please visit for a list of all the stops on the tour.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sneak Peek:Letters to a War Zone (M/M)


When lonely insurance broker, Bailey, gets himself a new hobby, he ends up exchanging letters with a war zone. But he’s not expecting what happens next…

Bailey Hodgkiss is lonely and dissatisfied with his boring life as an insurance broker. In an attempt to insert some variety, he signs up to a website to write to serving soldiers. He’s put in touch with Corporal Nick Rock, and over the course of a couple of letters, the two of them strike up a friendship. They begin to divulge their secrets, including their preference for men.

Nick encourages Bailey to add more interests to his life. As a result, Bailey picks up his forgotten hobby, photography, and quickly decides to team it up with his other preferred interest, travel.

Booking a holiday to Rome is his biggest gesture towards a more exciting existence, and he eagerly looks forward to the trip. That is, until Nick says he’s coming home on leave, and it looks as though their respective trips will prevent them from meeting in person. Is there enough of a spark between them to push them to meet, or will their relationship remain on paper only?


After clicking all the available links on the website to find out more about it, Bailey decided to go ahead and sign up. He’d never know what it was really like unless he gave it a go.

He’d read about the site in an article somewhere, about how it linked people with serving soldiers, pilots, marines and sailors in order to write to them. It had been proven that receiving mail—even from someone they didn’t know—improved military morale. It sounded like a damn good use of time to Bailey, and it would be interesting, too.

He began typing his details into the online form. Of course, the chances were that he’d be paired up with a man, given the ratio of males to females in the forces. It didn’t matter, though. He could still exchange letters with a guy, become friends. It seemed like such an old-school way to communicate with someone, given how technology had come on over the years, but at least it was different. Perhaps it would give him something in his life to look forward to, something other than getting up, showering, going to work, coming home, eating, watching television and going to bed. The watching television—and even the eating—were occasionally replaced by nights out with friends or seeing family. Weekends were spent cleaning, washing clothes, gardening and odd jobs. Dull stuff, in other words.

He had an utterly mundane life, and Bailey knew it. It wasn’t even as if his job was exciting. Insurance broking was hardly thrilling, game-changing, or going to save the world. He didn’t expect having a pen pal to change his entire life, but it would certainly break the monotony. Hopefully.

He went through the various steps to fill in his details and create a profile, then continued right through to the information on actually writing and sending the letters. It looked straightforward enough.

His mind made up, Bailey immediately went in search of a pen, some nice paper and an envelope. Armed with a print out of exactly what to do when the letter was finished, he settled down at the kitchen table. Instantly, his mind went blank. What the fuck was he meant to say? He didn’t know any soldiers or other military personnel, didn’t know anything about their lives, other than there was a great deal more to it than shooting people and being shot at. His own existence was so fucking boring that he didn’t want to write about it. Unless there were any insomniacs in Afghanistan—telling them about his day would solve that particular condition right away.

After chewing on his biro until it broke, covering his lips and chin with ink, Bailey replaced it, resolving to try harder. He’d tell his pen pal the bare essentials about himself, then ask lots of questions about them and their work. That was bound to rustle up some conversation.

That decided, he began to write, absentmindedly swiping at his inky skin with a tissue. He’d have to scrub it off when he was done with the note. His wrist and hand had begun to ache before he was halfway down the page. He rolled his eyes. He sat on his arse at a desk all day, using a computer. As a result, even writing something short by hand was hard work! There was no way he was going to divulge that particular piece of information to someone that was willing to lay down their life to protect their country.

He just about managed to fill a single side of the A5-sized paper. And that was only because he’d formed large letters and spaced his words and lines out plenty. But he tried not to worry—at least he’d finished it, his first letter to a war zone.

He read through it carefully, relieved to find no mistakes. He’d forgotten how much more difficult—and messy—errors were on the written page. Computers let you edit and rewrite to your heart’s content. No correction fluid or crossings-out necessary.

Finally, he addressed the envelope. It felt like the longest address ever. The area and country was bad enough, even without including the soldier’s name and BFPO address. But it was done—Bailey Hodgkiss had penned a missive to Corporal Nick Rock, currently stationed at Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Now he’d just have to post it and wait for a reply. The website had said his missive would take between one and three weeks to reach Corporal Rock. Then he had to allow for time for him to read it and send a reply. It could be around six weeks before he heard anything. If he heard anything at all.

Author Bio:

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women's Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house. She owns Erotica For All, and is book editor for Cliterati. Find out more at Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Snog #122: Incognito

For today's snog, I'm sharing a bit of oral ecstasy from my taboo erotica novel  Incognito.

Meanwhile, you will find lots more luscious kisses over at Victoria's Sunday Snog page.


He did not touch her, but Miranda felt enfolded by his warmth, his scent, his brash, boyish sexiness. His shorts bloomed with an incipient erection. She was suddenly acutely aware of the polished wood beneath her bare buttocks. Her cross-legged position provided an excellent view of her naked sex, she realised, were it not for the table between them. In any case, Mark was not looking at that shadowy space between her legs. His eyes searched her face, trying to read her response. Emotion flooded in her, admiration, affection, gratitude, spiced with a good measure of lust.

She rose, circled the table, and sat down beside him, taking his hand. “I’m more than ready,” she told him. “But since we are playing Truth or Dare here, I have to be honest about what I have been doing the past few weeks.”
Putting aside her embarrassment, she recounted her amorous adventures since their meeting. He knew, of course, of the ménage à trois, and tonight’s kinks. She told him about coupling in the alley with the Japanese businessman from the subway. She described her experiences with Big Daddy’s discipline, her frightening delight at being spanked and sodomized. Wincing internally, watching his reaction, she confessed her risky debauchery on the billiard table. Mark’s eyes widened, but he said nothing.

Finally,” said Miranda, “this sexual frenzy is intruding into my work life. You remember that day you found me in the library? If you had arrived only a few moments sooner, you would have found me with my fingers in my pussy, grinding away in orgasm.”

Yes,” said Mark, amusement in his voice. “I knew about that. But these other tales—Miranda, you amaze me!”

You’re not angry? Or shocked?”

Of course not.” He pulled her close to him and whispered in her ear. “I’m delighted that I’ve finally found a partner as adventurous and horny as I am.” He nipped at her earlobe. Sparks leapt up between her legs. Miranda’s whole body sprang to attention, nipples alert, straining to be touched, clitoris equally insistent. His mouth captured hers in one of his fierce, all-consuming kisses, while his hands wandered over her silk-clad torso.

Let’s go into the bedroom,” gasped Miranda, when she could breathe again. She ached to lay down with this man, to open herself to him.

I have a better idea,” said Mark. He stood and stripped off his shorts. His erection stood proudly, bobbing in the candlelight. Miranda pulled her dress over her head and tossed it in a corner. The remains of her hairdo disintegrated, ebony locks tumbling over her shoulders.

Moving to one of the windows, he threw it open. Before Miranda grasped what was happening, he stepped through, and held out his hand to her. “Fire escape,” he said with a hint of his usual grin. A thrill passed through her as she understood what he had in mind.

She followed him through the window. A cool breeze off the harbour caressed her bare skin. The wrought iron platform was rough under her feet. She smelled fried batter, rotting fish, incense, anise. A neon sign on a neighbouring roof painted her body in lurid reds and greens.

The apartment looked out on an alley. It was nearly three in the morning. Still, if anyone were to pass by, she and Mark would be completely exposed.

Miranda realised that she loved that thought.

Mark positioned her with her back to the iron railing. “Spread your legs, and hold on.” He crouched before her, gazing at her moist folds arrayed before him. He blew lightly on the delicate flesh. She twitched and trembled in response. “Oh, Miranda,” he sighed, and buried his hungry mouth between her thighs.

There was no tentativeness here, no teasing touches designed to arouse her. In one swift movement he sucked her throbbing clitoris into his mouth and swirled his tongue around it. Miranda’s knees buckled. She forced a fist into her mouth to stifle her moans. Mark ate her pussy the same way that he kissed, forcefully, ferociously, with a single-minded intensity that left her dizzy and weak.

Now he used his hands to open her labia wide. He fastened his mouth on her inner lips, applying a delicious suction as if he were devouring the sweet pulp of some juicy fruit. Meanwhile, his tongue probed her deeply, setting up echoes of his studded cock earlier in the evening. Mark’s saliva felt scalding hot on her sensitised tissues, still inflamed from their earlier battering.

The memory of his leather-clad erection superimposed itself upon the current scene. She felt his tongue grow longer and thicker, until it seemed to fill her completely. She pushed her sex at his mouth, her hips tensing as she tried to drive him deeper. She smelled his sweat, and hers. Faintly, as if in the distance, she heard again the snap of the lash and the ribald encouragement of the audience.

The iron railing bit into her back, awakening the sting of her welts, but Miranda hardly noticed. All thought, all attention, was focused on the glorious play of sensations between her legs. She sank her fingers into her partner’s hair and pulled his face into her crotch. He changed his technique in response, sweeping his tongue along the length of her crevice, from her clit to the tender edge of her rear hole and back. Faster and faster he stroked, while Miranda felt orgasm coiling within her, wound tight, waiting.

The aching need suffused her flesh. Her body was strung like a harp, every nerve stretched toward elusive release. She was so close. It seemed that the merest touch would topple her over the edge, and yet she hovered there, seemingly forever, while Mark plied her sex with fingers, lips, tongue and teeth. Her pleasure was tinged, however slightly, with frustration.

Suddenly, Mark rose from his haunches and stood before her. He brushed her lips with his. Miranda felt stickiness, knew the salty seaweed taste of her own arousal. “Relax,” Mark murmured, cupping a breast while he nuzzled just above her collarbone. “Just relax, and trust me.” Miranda felt something shift at the warm sound of his voice. A clenching in her chest, of which she had not been consciously aware, loosened and then seemed to evaporate. “Give yourself to me, Miranda, all of yourself. Don’t hold back.”

Saturday, April 26, 2014

(Last) Chance of a Lifetime

By Martha O'Sullivan (Guest Blogger)

My love affair with California began at the tender age of fifteen and continues today, three decades later. So it should come as no surprise that the book of my heart, which somehow turned into a trilogy, is set there.

Maybe it was the indescribable thrill of a Midwestern girl seeing the ocean for the first time. Or the unapologetically bronzed coeds with movie-star teeth driving silver metallic convertibles and playing volleyball in the sand. Perhaps the towering palm trees swaying against the impossibly blue sky? But that was in Southern Cal; my Chances trilogy takes place in Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, hundreds of miles north.

I was an inadvertently lonely, only child of the 1970s, growing up in a place where a short, precious summer turned into a long, cold winter seemingly overnight. In high school, I often opted for the city bus because it stopped in front of the library. Just a branch, but they had loads of paperback books. And I always found myself drawn to the wire rack of slightly musty and lovingly tattered romance novels. The books took me to places all over the world where effortlessly beautiful, wonderfully flawed heroines were swept off their feet by dynamic, irresistible heroes. I preferred the books to the afternoon soaps because I could use my overzealous imagination to fashion the characters to my liking. And if I found the ending disappointing or abrupt, I would simply continue the story in my head.

Writing such ideas down, however, took another thirty years.

In the interim, I went to college and met my own alpha hero. And he took me to San Francisco on our honeymoon.

And, as cliché as it sounds, that’s where I left my heart. Well, part of it anyway. Because eight years and two babies later, he took me to Lake Tahoe for the very first time.

And my frisson with California moved even farther north.

I hope my Chances trilogy will take you there. And you’ll leave a little piece of your heart behind too.

Martha O’Sullivan’s Chances trilogy is available now from Red Sage Publishing. Second Chance, the trilogy opener, is a reunion/love triangle romance that keeps the shores of Lake Tahoe blazing hot long after the sultry summer sun has set. Chance Encounter, the trilogy's second installment, heats up San Francisco’s chilly days and blustery nights with white-hot passion and pulse-pounding suspense. And in Last Chance, the conclusion of the trilogy, lifelong friends-turned-lovers melt the snow-packed Sierras into lust-fueled puddles despite the single-digit temperatures of the Lake Tahoe winter. Here’s a blurb and excerpt from Last Chance.

Leave me a comment with your email address below and you might win one of these three books - your choice!


Moira Brody knows Paul Webster better than he knows himself. But neither one of them know that he as in love with her as she is with him. These friends-turned-lovers will have to look at each other with fresh eyes and brave hearts. And even the single-digit temperatures and snowcapped peaks of the Lake Tahoe winter are no match for their long-bridled desire.

Paul laid Moira down on the rumpled bed, and standing above her, got out of his shirt and pants. She’d seen him shirtless countless times before. But it was as if she was seeing him through different eyes. His pecs were firm but not overbearing; his abs ripped but not enough to make him barrel-chested; his arms defined but not herculean.

And every bit of that thoroughbred-like body was lowering itself on top of her.

Along with something else.

And it was throbbing against her thigh through form-fitting briefs.

Arrows of fear and excitement shot through her and she wondered if he could hear her heart beating outside her chest. He framed her head with his arms. “I’ve wanted you for so long,” he effused, “without even knowing it.”

Moira gulped. “Then take me.”

Her newfound initiative seemed to surprise, then intrigue him and he began to indulge her.

She welcomed his mouth, his tongue, his bite. She loved the way he brushed his fingers across her cheeks, combed his hands through her hair and down the nape of her neck before cocooning her in his arms. He kissed her with his whole body, feasting on her throat and shoulders before scooting back and finding his way to the hem of her dress.

“I’ll go easy. I promise.”

“I’m not going to break.”

His sultry eyes fired with desire. “Be careful what you wish for.”

Lifting her arms above her head, she silently yielded to him.

Paul slipped his hands under the silk and began shimmying the dress up her thighs. He stopped appraisingly at her hips, then continued up her torso to the swell of her breasts. He tasted them impalpably, then slipped the dress over her shoulders.

He extended his arms in invitation and she raised herself on her knees to meet him. Cupping the back of her neck, he brought her to him. She surrendered to his mouth, his hands, and soon she knew, as a chord struck deep inside her, to his burgeoning erection.

Not a word passed between them, but her eyes granted him the permission he so desperately sought. His impatient hands unhooked the strapless bra with disturbing deftness. He’d done this before, she reminded herself.

A lot.

His fingertips grazed her chest and throat as if looking for a place to start. He settled on her breasts, making concentric circles on her nipples with his thumbs before easing her back against the upholstered headboard.

His shaft was nudging at her as he began where he’d left off.

But with his teeth this time.

Nibble by tortuous nibble, he tugged, snagged, bit until her nipples stood on point. A lightning bolt of lust flashed in her bundle of nerves below as he licked his way down to her bellybutton. He paused to circle it with his tongue, then returned to her mouth, sampling her all the while.

His hands continued south to the strings resting below her hipbones. He waggled the panties down, then jettisoned them with a nimble kick.

“You are so beautiful,” he venerated, finding her. “Everywhere. I want to touch every inch of you.”

She reached for him more clumsily than she liked. He was as stiff as a board and globules of need were oozing through the black cotton. “I want to touch you first,” she ventured. “Show me what to do.”

He made quick work of all that separated them and lying next to her, placed her hand on his pulsating cock.

“You’ll know.”

Get your own copy of Last Chance

Barnes and Noble

About Martha

Martha O'Sullivan has loved reading romance novels for as long as she can remember. Writing her own novels is the realization of a lifelong dream for this stay-at-home mom. Martha writes spicy, contemporary romances with traditional couples and happy endings. She is the author of the Chances trilogy from Red Sage Publishing. Her current work-in-progress in a sweet and steamy Christmas novel set in Costa Careyes, Mexico. A native Chicagoan, she lives her own happy ending in Tampa with her husband and two daughters.

Find Martha on the web at:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Downside of the Upside

By Karen McCullough (Guest Blogger)

I hunt for treasure in the stacks of self-published books at places like Amazon and Smashwords.

Authors are in an enviable position these days. There are so many options for getting published – presses big and small, or doing it yourself. The stigma on self-publishing has mostly disappeared, although it’s not entirely clear to me that the average quality level of self-published works has improved. And, yes, I’m one of those authors, published with a New York house, with several small presses, and self-published. More about that at the end.

Right now, though, I want to put on my reader’s hat. I was a reader long before my first actual attempt at writing a story. When I list my hobbies, reading has always been at the top of the list. It still is, though I don’t have anywhere near as much time as I’d like for it. That means that when I do have a bit of precious reading time, I want to use it reading something good--something I really like or something that moves me. And, dang it, it’s harder than ever to find those!

The fact that authors have so many more options should mean that readers have lots more options, too. And it’s true. They do. There are many more books available in a wide variety of genres due to the influx of self-published books. In fact, you can narrow your interests down by special subject areas and likely still find something that fits your bill. Genres that are out of fashion these days, like the traditional Gothic romance, or books that contain subject matter others might find offensive have seen a surge of new offerings in the last few years.

It’s a mixed blessing. Yes, there is a much wider range of choices. Yes, you can get the kind of book you like even if the big gatekeeper publishers aren’t publishing it any more—or ever have, for that matter. But you have to sort through so much poorly written, badly edited mush to find the things worth reading.

Now, that’s not to say that the big publishers don’t put out bad books. They definitely do, especially when chasing after the latest hot trend. I judged several writing contests last year and got saddled with an enormous pile of published novels all featuring vampires. Every single, darned one of them. Don’t get me wrong. I like the paranormal/urban fantasy genre. It’s why I agreed to judge that category. I’ve even read some really damned good vampire stories. One of that stack was just that—really good. The others ranged from mediocre to unbearable.

But at least they all showed signs of decent editing. They weren’t all mistake-free, but they weren’t riddled with errors in grammar, sentence structure and word usage.

Too many of the self-published books I’ve read have been. Not all, by any means. There are many authors out there who care enough about their product to learn how to use the tools of their trade—language mechanics and storytelling techniques—well and who understand the worth of a professional editing job. I’ve read some self-published books recently that were better than many of the small and large press books of the last few years.

Of course, not all readers are as picky about those things as I am, but I do think that a lot are. Poor punctuation makes a story harder to read and also tends to signal that the writer is deficient in other areas of storytelling technique as well.

I’ve learned from hard experience. If I’m not familiar with an author and their work, I download the sample chapters Amazon offers. And if the author doesn’t allow samples, I move on to the next book. I’ve wasted too much time already trying to decipher books from “authors” who have no idea where commas go in sentences, who don’t seem to know the difference between “loose” and “lose,” and have no clue how to handle point of view.

I also read through the reviews but when I see nothing but five-star reviews that all say “Gee, this book was grate!” I shy away. I actually tend to look for more of a mix of reviews and read both the highest and lowest ones. That gives me a clearer picture of the book’s strengths and weaknesses. And a few one or two-star reviews won’t necessarily drive me away. Not everyone likes the same things I do, and I allow for that. I’ve seen low reviews for books I thought were fabulous. I allow for those.

Still, that’s a lot of work to go through for every book. I do it because I’m hungry for new works in certain genres that don’t get a lot of respect from publishers these days. But I know a lot of readers who will only buy new books from authors they know they like or ones that are recommended by friends, relatives or review sites they trust.

And that’s rather a shame. There are a lot of really good books by authors you’ve never heard of waiting to be discovered. If only one didn’t have to search a lot of haystacks full of fluff and dreck to find those wonderful shiny needles.

Speaking of finding buried treasure—at least I hope so—I’m giving away an ebook copy of either A Gift for Murder or The Wizard’s Shield to one lucky commenter. Be sure to include your email address in the comment!

A Question of Fire by Karen McCullough

Not the book I’m giving away, but it is ON SALE at all fine ebook retail establishments this month for the very reasonable price of $1.99 [for a book that’s 90,000 words long]! Come on, that’s a huge bargain!


When Cathy Bennett agrees to attend an important party as a favor for her boss, she knows she won't enjoy it. But she doesn't expect to end up holding a dying man in her arms and becoming the recipient of his last message. Bobby Stark has evidence that will prove his younger brother has been framed for arson and murder. He wants that evidence to get to his brother's lawyer, and he tries to tell Cathy where he's hidden it. But he dies before he can give her more than a cryptic piece of the location.

The man who killed Bobby saw him talking to her and assumes she knows where the evidence is hidden. He wants it back and he'll do whatever it takes to get it, including following her and trying to kidnap her.

Cathy enlists the aid of attorney Peter Lowell and Danny Stark, Bobby's prickly, difficult younger brother, as well as a handsome private detective to help her find the evidence before the killers do.



The word slithered from the bushes behind her, startling Catherine Bennett out of the few wits she'd managed to recover in the peace of the dark, quiet garden. Thready strains of violin music and the buzz of voices drifted across the lawn from the open door to the house. In the light spilling out from it, she could distinguish a couple of people sitting at a table on the deck. Cathy measured the distance with her eye. A good, heavy-duty scream would be heard, even over the party noises.

"Please, miss!" Tense urgency drove the voice as it called again.

She didn't need this. The evening had been disastrous enough already and a man hiding in the garden spelled trouble with capital letters. She got up and backed away, while turning to face the source of the call.

"Don't run away, please," the voice begged. "I won't hurt you. I promise. I just want to ask you something."

A ring of sincerity in the pleading tone kept her from sprinting straight back to the house, an action the more cautious part of her brain urged. Cathy strained for a look at the person in the shrubbery. The voice was male and adult, though probably not very old. "Come out where I can see you," she demanded.

"Shhh!" he ordered in a fierce whisper. Leaves rustled, and a slender shape detached itself from the bushes. In the darkness she couldn't distinguish his features.

A light breeze in her face set her shivering. "What do you want?" She backed another step away. They both jumped when a particularly loud laugh rang across the yard.

He turned to face the house. "You been at the party?"

At it, not of it, Cathy thought. She didn't say so; the young man wouldn't understand the distinction. "Yes," she answered.

"You know a guy named Peter Lowell?"

"Yes," Cathy admitted, wondering where this was leading.

The young man's indrawn breath sounded almost like a sob. "He's in there, ain't he?"


"Could you ask him to come out here?"

"I don't know. We just met tonight and I. . . I don't think he liked me very much. He might not come."

"Please. It's real important. You gotta try." A quiver shook the young man's body and voice.

Tension or fear -- or both? Whichever it was, he sounded near the breaking point.

"All right. Who should I tell him is here?"

The clouds drifted apart and the moon emerged from their shadow. A sliver of light fell across the man's cheek and glinted off the sheen of perspiration there. "Tell him . . . Tell him it's Bobby. He'll come, I promise."

Cathy sighed. "All right, I'll try. Wait here." She turned toward the house when another noise sounded behind them -- the crackle of twigs or dried leaves underfoot.

Bobby's head jerked around toward the bushes, then he called again, "Wait!" There was no mistaking the sheer desperation in his voice now. "Please. Wait." He looked from her face to the shrubbery and back again. "I better give you the message. Tell this to Mr. Lowell, and no one else. Promise you won't tell anyone else?"

Cathy went back to him, found one of his arms, and pulled him back into the shadow of a large boxwood. The arm she held was trembling. "All right," she said. "What's the message?"
The young man looked around the yard and took a couple of quick, shallow breaths. "Tell him Danny was framed. I got the proof. Tell him--"

Another rustle shook the bushes, followed by a sudden, sharp crack which reverberated for a few seconds afterward. Bobby groaned and collapsed, sagging against Cathy. The abrupt burden of his weight drove her to the ground, where she found herself half crushed by the young man's bulk. She moved out from under him, a rush of adrenalin sharpening her senses so that she could hear, over Bobby's ragged breathing, the squish of a footstep in the shrubbery and the churning of leaves and branches fading rapidly as the gunman retreated.

Buy Links:




Order trade paperback from author:

About Karen

Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels and novellas, which range across the mystery, romantic suspense, paranormal, and fantasy genres. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Recently she’s been collecting rights to some of her back-list books and re-releasing them as ebooks. Among those are romantic suspense novels, A Question of Fire and Programmed for Danger, and the paranormal novellas, A Vampire’s Christmas Carol and Guardian of the Grimoire.