By Janine Ashbless (Guest Blogger)
“The Scapegoat Azazel himself has taken you for his paramour. And exposure to his essence changes you.”
- In Bonds of the Earth
When I started writing for publication, I had no idea how it would change me. I thought “I’ll make stuff up, and I’ll write it down, and then people might read it – basically it all depends what I can come with in my imagination,” and that was about the extent of what I pictured the writing life as.
Bear in mind that my chosen genre was erotica. I didn’t have a wild past of swinging or partying to draw upon — in fact I’m not sure that I’d even been to bed with another woman at that stage. I was an ordinary, dullish geekish female, writing fantasy erotica about bronze-age warriors and werewolves and undead and gigantic dragon cocks, so if it was all in my head then that didn’t matter, did it? It didn’t matter that I was socially shy and awkward, that I couldn’t bear to hear the sound of my own voice on tape, and greatly disliked my own body.
Fast forward eighteen years, and I’m still an erotica author, currently writing a trilogy about fallen angels: The Book of the Watchers. I still make stuff up. All sorts of stuff. But writing has changed me beyond recognition.
Writing got me into blogging – first all a group blog for Black Lace authors, Lust Bites, and then my own. I post three or four times a week and my entire routine revolves around it. I took tea in the House of Lords as part of an author’s campaign group just because I thought it would make a good blog post.
Writing got me onto Facebook, and opened up the whole community of amazing erotica writers out there, most of whom are women, most of whom are progressive and gutsy and politically active, and some of whom I’ve met in person now. I used to be a flaming leftie PC hippy by the standards of people I worked with, but OH BOY have I had to confront my prejudices and my conformity and my unthinking entitlement over the last decade.
Writing got me into a BDSM/fetish nightclub and whipped in public. It got me to Erotica conventions and expos where I’ve hung out with sex-workers and techies and political activists. It got my picture into a couple of national newspapers. It got me standing up on stages reading absolute filth to strangers, and recording podcasts and video that anyone online could see. It got me editing an anthologies. It got me writing HTML and making Powerpoint presentations, and sitting on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention.
Writing got me posing naked for photographs that appeared in a book.
Writing got me to Montenegro, in the south of Europe, because the heroine of The Book of the Watchers, Milja Petak, was born there and large parts of Vol.1: Cover Him With Darkness, are set in Montenegro. I believe in the importance of getting details right in a novel, especially if you’re going to be writing about someone else’s country or culture. So it was my responsibility as an author to get my ass out there and see the place with my own eyes — the remote and barren limestone mountains, the beautiful Mediterranean coastline, the ancient monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox faith.
For the same reason, I went to Ethiopia for twenty days when I was writing Vol.2: In Bonds of the Earth, because it’s a cradle of ancient Christianity that very few in the West know about, and absolutely essential to the whole plot of the trilogy — Ethiopia is the nation that preserved the apocryphal Book of Enoch when it was wiped from the Biblical canon. I’ve sat with Gelada baboons because I’m a writer. I’ve walked through subterranean passages into ancient rock-cut churches. I’ve stood fifty yards from the original Ark of the Covenant (well, maybe…).
Writing has transformed me. Writing has — literally — put me on the map of literature. Here I am, middle island, in tiny tiny lettering, lol:
I have so many reasons to love the writer’s life. And I’d never have believed it if you’d told me at the start. xxx Janine
“I will free them all.”
When Milja Petak released the fallen angel Azazel from five thousand years of imprisonment, she did it out of love and pity. She found herself in a passionate sexual relationship beyond her imagining and control – the beloved plaything of a dark and furious demon who takes what he wants, when he wants, and submits to no restraint. But what she hasn’t bargained on is being drawn into his plan to free all his incarcerated brothers and wage a war against the Powers of Heaven.
As Azazel drags Milja across the globe in search of his fellow rebel angels, Milja fights to hold her own in a situation where every decision has dire consequences. Pursued by the loyal Archangels, she is forced to make alliances with those she cannot trust: the mysterious Roshana Veisi, who has designs of her own upon Azazel; and Egan Kansky, special forces agent of the Vatican – the man who once saved then betrayed her, who loves her, and who will do anything he can to imprison Azazel for all eternity.
Torn every way by love, by conflicting loyalties and by her own passions, Milja finds that she too is changing – and that she must do things she could not previously have dreamt of in order to save those who matter to her.
In Bonds of the Earth is the second in the Book of the Watchers trilogy and the sequel to Cover Him With Darkness.
Excerpt from In Bonds of the Earth
Wrapping the cheap cotton throw from the foot of the bed around my bare body, I padded through to the doorway. The Archangel Michael stood in the middle of my small apartment, looking about him at the book shelves and the pictures. A paperback copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo slipped from his hand back onto the low table.
“Hello, Milja. Nice place. Has he moved his toothbrush in yet?”
It was like waking to find a giant bird of prey in my tiny living room; he looked wildly unsuited to a domestic setting and way too big for it, even with wings furled. In fact, with that Roman nose and those unblinking amber eyes, there was something distinctly golden eagle-like about him. If he stretched out he could knock over walls, I thought.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked. “This is my home. You can’t just come barging in!”
“You’re right,” he said, looking startled. “I have to have your permission. No, hold on, wait…that’s vampires. Shame.”
I pursed my lips. “Well, God certainly did not hold back on the sarcasm when he made you guys.”
He smirked. If you’re that good-looking, even a less-than-warm smile can be a weapon of devastating charm. Turning to the couch, he sat down with arms draped over the back and knees spread. It was not so much an invitation as a claiming of territory.
“What do you want?” I kept my voice hard, even as I thought of the icon of Saint Michael that had stood guard over the key in my father’s church. That holy painting had always made me feel nervous as a child, and he was no less intimidating in the flesh. His piercing gaze rested lightly upon me, with all the gentleness of a sword-point.
His rigger boots were caked in dried mud, I noticed, and flaking on my rug. I wished he would blink. It still creeped me out, even though Azazel should have inured me to it. “Angels aren’t supposed to lie. What are you doing here?”
“So, what…you’re sitting guard over me until Azazel comes back? Is that your plan?”
“He’s too much of a coward to face me. Runs every time.”
“If that’s the way you want to call it.”
He looked at the kitchen door. “I see you have a kettle. You got any tea? I like that Earl Grey stuff. Tastes like flowers.”
“I know the rules, you know. You can’t actually do anything to me.”
“True enough. And I’m not stopping you leaving, if that’s worrying you.”
“I can move out. Get a new place.”
“That’s fine, I’ll find you. This apartment’s a bit small for the two of us, to be honest.”
I clenched my jaw, weighing my options. “Okay,” I said, and dropped my wrap to reveal my naked body, in all its post-coital salty glow.
That wiped the smile off his lips. “Don’t play those games,” he growled, sitting up and looking away from me.
Love is Azazel’s weak spot. Shame is theirs. They’re terrified of their own human flesh.
“What? Does this make you uncomfortable? That’s a pity, seeing as how it’s my house and I like to walk around it naked.”
“You are shameless.” His gaze was sliding all over the place, not daring to settle on me.
“I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.” I hefted my breasts and jiggled them. “They’re my tits. In my apartment. If you don’t want to see, clear out.”
“Put your robe back on,” he rasped.
“Oops,” I said. “Did I drop it?” Turning my back to him, I spread my feet and, straight-legged, bent over to pick the fabric up again. Nice and slow…
He moved so fast he’d launched me across the room and onto my bed before I even realized he was out of his seat. The abused mattress twanged in alarm. It knocked the wind out of me—and more than that, shocked me half to death. I wasn’t in the least bit hurt, not even bruised, but I hadn’t expected him to touch me at all, under the rules. Maybe the Boatman sailed closer to the wind than I’d bargained for.
“Don’t do that, whore!” he barked, leaning into my face. He looked furious. I knew why. It takes a human decades to learn how to deal with all the things that come with an adult body—all those hormones and instincts—without losing control. Angels never had the advantage of a gradual introduction.
I had two choices: surrender or fight. I bared my teeth and snarled right back at him, matching his rage and contempt. “Or what? You’re going to rape me? ’Cause I think that might just count as a fall from Grace, don’t you? And then you’d be royally fucked, Mister Michael.”
He recoiled, drawing himself up in undisguised horror. I took advantage of the gap between us to roll over and pull the drawer of my bedside cabinet open, pulling out the silicon rabbit sex toy I’d been given at my graduation party. I hadn’t used it in months, I couldn’t even remember if there were any batteries in it, and I certainly wasn’t feeling horny, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
“Wanna watch?” I asked, spreading my legs wide. “Because that’s what us girls do when we’re home alone these modern days. You can go into the other room if it squicks you out to see. Then you’ll only have to listen to the noises I make.”
He turned on his heel and stomped away, slamming his hands into the doorframe hard enough to crack the wood. But he didn’t leave altogether. He was just that bit too stubborn.
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About the Author
Janine Ashbless is a writer of fantasy erotica and steamy romantic adventure. She likes to write about magic and myth and mystery, dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human.
Buyer beware! If you like dark romance and a hard-won Happily Ever After, try "Cover Him with Darkness," "Heart of Flame," or "The King's Viper." If you prefer challenging erotica, go for "Red Grow the Roses" or "Named and Shamed" instead. All her other books lie somewhere on the spectrum between.
Janine has been seeing her books in print ever since 2000. She's also had numerous short stories published by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Storm Moon, Xcite, Mischief Books, and Ellora's Cave among others. She is co-editor of the nerd erotica anthology 'Geek Love'.
Born in Wales, Janine now lives in the North of England with her husband and two rescued greyhounds. She has worked as a cleaner, library assistant, computer programmer, local government tree officer, and - for five years of muddy feet and shouting - as a full-time costumed Viking. Janine loves goatee beards, ancient ruins, minotaurs, trees, mummies, having her cake and eating it, and holidaying in countries with really bad public sewerage.
Her work has been described as:
"Hardcore and literate" (Madeline Moore) and "Vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love." (Portia Da Costa).
Author picture credit to David Woolfall.
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