Monday, April 12, 2021

I can't wait any longer -- #MFRWsteam #MFRWAuthor #SteamPunk #Erotic

The Pornographer's Apprentice cover

Welcome to the MFRW Steam Hop! Today’s the day when those of us who write erotica and erotic romance come out to play. So grab a cold drink (or maybe have a cold shower close by) and get ready to sizzle.

My excerpt today comes from my pseudo-Victorian steam punk novel The Pornographer’s Apprentice. This is the first book in my series The Toymakers Guild. I’m currently working on the second.

Enjoy! Oh, and I’m giving away a free copy, to one person who leaves a comment. Don’t forget to include an email address (obfuscated is fine) so I can find you if you win!


She wants to build sex toys... if they'll let her.

In prudish, patriarchal Victorian England, nineteen year old prodigy Gillian Smith finds a secret society dedicated to the erotic arts. She’ll need both her intellect and her physical charms to earn the permanent position she craves.

Inspired by a salacious catalogue found in her deceased uncle’s library, she applies for an apprenticeship with the Toymakers Guild. The Guild fabricates bespoke sexual artifacts for the private pleasure of select clients – an occupation for which Gillian, with her technical abilities and her lascivious temperament, is eminently suited.

The other apprentices, initially skeptical about a female engineer, become enthusiastic supporters once they’ve tested her erotic aptitude. The voluptuous Governing Director, and the dashing French journeyman likewise help expand her carnal repertoire. The final decision, however, rests with the reclusive Master Toymaker, who has been missing for nearly two years.

When an unscrupulous nobleman sets up a competing enterprise, he threatens not only the livelihood of the Guild’s members but their lives as well. Gillian hatches an audacious plan to entrap the villain, save the Guild, and leave the absent Master no choice but to grant her heart’s desire.

If you like steam punk erotica with a kinky feminist bent, you'll love The Pornographer's Apprentice



The cottage was built of the same stone as the manor but seemed older, with thick walls and a thatched roof. The sill of the one window was nearly a foot deep. Axe-marked beams outlined a low doorway. There was no bell or knocker on the plank door, just a wrought iron latch. She was about to rap her knuckles against the splintery wood when the door swung open.

Rawlings loomed in the entry way, a burly silhouette against the light from the grate behind him. Ducking his head to get through the door, he stepped into the night, reached for Gillian, and crushed her trembling form against his bare chest. With her nose buried in the curly hair that furred his skin, she breathed him in – grass and earth, smoke and sweat. Lust ripped through her like a forest fire, consuming every thought, every scruple. She would have crumpled to her knees if he had not held her up with one powerful arm. His other hand roamed over her breasts, her hips, her buttocks, exploring her body with possessive confidence that made her pant and moan.

Jill,” he murmured, his breath hot against her ear. “Ye’re here at last.”

He swung her off her feet and carried her into the stone hut, kicking the door shut behind him. His strength dizzied her. She barely had time to glance around the sparsely furnished interior before he’d deposited her on the thin mattress of an iron bedstead in one corner. Then he stood back, hands on his hips, and gazed at her as though he could hardly believe she was real.

His ragged hair half covered his eyes. The stubble she’d noticed earlier was thicker now, darkening his cheeks and chin and giving him a feral, dangerous look. Naked to the waist, with his swarthy complexion and abundant body hair, he seemed like some mythological creature, half man, half beast.

His lips curled into a smile, revealing surprisingly white, even teeth. “Off with those duds, lass.”

Clumsy with eagerness, she tried to comply. Her buttons resisted the efforts of her shaking fingers. The laces of her overskirt tangled into an intractable knot. The long sleeves of her bodice clung to her arms, refusing to release them. Finally, clawing and tearing at the fabric, she managed to free herself.

His grin stretched wider when he saw she’d left her drawers at home. Exposed and aroused, both proud and ashamed, she huddled on the bed and awaited his next order.

His gaze travelled over her body, lingering on her swollen nipples and her damp cunt fur. Though her cheeks burned with embarrassment, she nevertheless parted her legs to show him the wet folds of her hungry quim. Without comment, he unfastened his trousers and let them fall to the floor. His massive cock sprang free, bouncing merrily. He captured it in his big hand, stroking up and down as his eyes continued to devour her.

Gillian was so aroused it was almost painful. Her clit throbbed. Her breasts ached. Juices dripped from her spread-open sex onto Rawlings’ mattress. “Please,” she whimpered. “I can’t wait any longer.”

Nor I,” replied the giant. In two strides he was by the bed. He reached out to fondle her breasts, squeezing and pinching, then pushed her back onto the mattress. Hovering over her prone form, he grasped her thighs in his huge paws, pulled them wide, and without any further preliminaries, sank his enormous prick into her drenched cleft.

To finally have him inside her was nothing short of glorious. His engorged cock woke exquisite sensations as it slid back and forth across her slick inner walls. Despite his massive size, she felt no pain, only a million shades of delight at being filled and stretched to her utter limit. He began to thrust, pushing deeper than she would have believed possible. She wrapped her legs around his waist so she could ride his incredible hardness, rocking into each stroke, mashing her clit against his rigid shaft. Already she felt the sweet heaviness of a climax gathering in her pelvis.

Reckon ye missed me, wench,” he grunted. “Ye’re wetter than Aune Head Mire.” Prying her thighs away from his body, he flipped them onto his shoulders and leaned in so that she was nearly bent double. Now Rawlings was totally in control. He seized her ankles and jerked his hips, nailing her with his massive rod. The power of his thrusts drove the breath from her lungs. Gasping for air, moaning with need, she let go completely.

Gillian Smith, engineer, disappeared. There was only Jill, wanton, hungry, shameless, aching and eager to take whatever he gave her. Rawlings’ cock battering her sex, his fingernails digging into her flesh, his harsh breathing and the musky, earth-tinged smell of his body – these were her only realities.

Buy Links

Kinky Literature

Amazon US

Amazon UK


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Don't forget to leave a comment and enter my drawing!

And I do hope you'll sample some of the other spicy excerpts on offer today!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Running out of options - #Memoir #SubstanceAbuse #Giveaway @ByHannahRenae

Tiger Stripes cover


Four psychiatric wards

Three rehabs

Two jail cells

And a suicide attempt...

Hannah was told she would not make it to 25 with the way she was living. She had struggled with mental illness her entire life, but at 22 her demons came to a head at the grips of severe substance abuse, life-changing trauma, and two major deaths in her life.

Hannah's struggles land her places no one ever hopes to grace; jail and psych wards lead her to the brink of death. Running out of options she's left with two choices: live or die. This heart-wrenching memoir combines recovery with bittersweet romance told in a raw presentation that immerses the reader into the author's dark state-of-mind in every page.

Tiger Stripes is going to add a valuable voice to the conversation about women's mental health issues.



October 7, 2019


I am screaming at the top of my lungs and can feel my throat tearing, becoming raw. I don’t know how many times I have said his name now, but it is all I know how to do because nothing is making any sense.

I am in a locked room and flashes of images are going through my head, but there is only one thing, one thought that I can focus on, that is pounding through my brain throughout this confusion and that is pouring out of my lungs to the point that my chest feels like it is going to rip.

HENRY!” I choke on his name and a sob.

He cannot hear me, and he is not coming. He doesn’t know where I am and I don’t know where I am, but I know I am not supposed to be here—and I have to get out.

I beat at the metal door that barricades me from something unknown and choke on words that begin with H.





I repeat these words for what feels like a lifetime, until I forget how to speak and my begging turns to carnal screaming—shrieking.

No one comes. No one answers. I wait for footsteps, for the sound of the door unlocking, but all I can hear is the sound of my frantic breaths and the echoes of a lamentation that is anything but human.

I look down at my body. My feet are bare against the concrete floor; I cannot feel them. The jean shorts I am wearing show off my slender, scratched legs and remind me that I am small and feeble at this moment, but in an act of desperation, I put all of my faith in the power of momentum and I run. I fucking run as fast as I can from the three paces it takes to get from the wall to the ominous looming, locked door and attack it with my entire being, letting out my most vicious battle cry as I fumble towards it.

The door wins.

I try again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

I am degraded to a crumbling, bruised ball of flesh.

I can barely speak, my throat reduced to sandpaper.

Everything hurts and I can taste the bitterness of blood in my mouth. The floor is like ice against my bare legs. Through the tears in my eyes I see the moon shining through a window at the top of the room. It is full and brilliant and illuminates the white of the brick walls that surround me. I realize that there is writing on them. People have been here before me. People will be here after me. Why am I here though? I should not be.

I should be home, where I belong. In bed, with him. Safe. I feel anything but that word in this moment, as terror sweeps through every single one of my nerves.

I whisper in one last futile attempt:


But there is silence. Horrible, deafening, fatal silence.

And it seems to last forever, until I hear it, or think I do. A click, the door unlocking, and the small room is suddenly filled with light. Fluorescence suffocates me.

When I dare to open my eyes, they do not find Henry. Instead I find a police officer looking back at me. He wears broad, black framed glasses that are too big for his face and he looks eerily familiar. A sudden memory of lying in a hospital bed comes to me but does not fully resonate. His face is forlorn and almost disappointed, as if he expected more out of me.

I thought you were going to hurt yourself,” he tells me. “Promise you’ll stay calm and you can come out for a bit. We’ve got to get you fingerprinted.”

It’s then that I have the shattering realization that I am drunk and in a holding cell at a police station. The reason why escapes me though, as I try to grab onto flashes of sober memories but drown in my current state-of-mind.

I try to breathe with intent as I remember every single arrest-cliché in the book, and I cling to the fact that I am going to get my phone call. They will probably let me go—they have to. If anything, they will make me stay the night at the most.

I remember the silent promise I had once made myself—that the moment I got a DUI that I would put down the bottle for good. Jail was the worst it could get. It had been my crowning achievement at my last three rehabs that I had never graced the inside of a jail cell and I never planned to.

Continue down the path you have been,” one of the staff members at my second treatment center had told me after sharing her own story about prison, “and jail is a guarantee.”

And here I am. Her words have come to pass, as promised.

I then remember what else she told me as we talked over a pack of Marlboro Reds on a warm Orange County night.

Finish the 90 days,” she had said, “Or you will not make it and there will come a day where you will no longer be able to cry out ‘I’m a good person!’. You will lie. You will steal. You will become someone and something else. You will hurt everyone you love. You will lose everything, and just when you think you have lost it all, you will lose something else.”

About the Author

If there is anything Hannah believes in, it’s hope, but that wasn’t always the case. For a long time, chaos was comfortable for Hannah, but at just 22 she would have to make her hardest decision yet: was life really worth living? Since picking up a pen Hannah has had a love for writing, and as an adult it would become her greatest tool in healing from an almost decade-long battle with severe mental illness and substance abuse. Her first book, Tiger Stripes, is a harrowing, raw telling of her year in and out of hospitals, treatment centers, and jail that finally led her on the road to recovery and freedom.

Hannah was born in Orange County, CA but has lived in the Los Angeles area for several years. She now lives in West L.A. with her boyfriend. When she is not writing she can be found reading, running, cooking, or finding the best vegan eats in L.A.!

Author Links

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Buy Links

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Hannah Renae will be awarding a $100 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


a Rafflecopter giveaway   

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Poets Make the Worst Lovers - #FlashFiction #EroticRomance #Poetry

Writing by Candlelight

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

(200 words)

By candlelight he sits scribbling, trying to capture us in a net of words.

Across the room, in his bed, I wait – naked, ripe and hungry.

Only a poet would ignore me.

He can’t fight our chemistry, but he can’t fit it into his poems either.

Words are truth, flesh is suspect, all the more so when we lose ourselves in each other’s bodies. When I open, when he enters, the words fall away. I know our connection is simple, pure, sublime and sacred, but he doesn’t trust animal desire.

In the beginning were the animals. Then came the names.

The candle gutters.

Come to bed,” I plead. I know I can make him forget his doubts, at least for a while. I’ve learned to be satisfied with moments of bliss that balance the pain.

Soon,” he mutters. “Just let me finish this poem.”


Friday, April 9, 2021

Is it real, or is it fantasy? #RomanticSuspense #Hucow #Fetish @SeelieKay

Bovine Tricks cover

By Seelie Kay (Guest Blogger)

Thanks to Lisabet for letting me come by to introduce you to my new release, Bovine Tricks. This is the first book in a new series, Royals Gone Rogue.

I have long wanted to write a series that features the MI6 agent who appears in some of the Feisty Lawyers books, Tillie Spencer. She is a misfit with good intentions. Tillie is a staunch Monarchist who has devoted much of her career to rescuing or retrieving minor royals in trouble. She literally works at the behest of The Firm.

I wanted to further explore that relationship, as well as examine her personal life. This story became the vehicle to do that. I began by brainstorming about situations that might be worthy of the Queen’s intervention and extrapolated from that. Strange sexual fetishes made the list, so I began to explore the ones that breached reality, ones that could be fact or fiction. I arrived at Hucows. Essentially, a Hucow is defined as a submissive woman who enjoys forced lactation at the hands of her dominant and/or behaving as or being cared for as a cow to escape reality. I’m not convinced Hucows actually exist, but ultimately, readers can decide. On the personal side, Abdul is most definitely Tillie’s weakness. However, he wants babies. Tillie wants a career. She isn’t convinced she can have both.


Lady Annabelle Trask is missing. Unfortunately, MI6 doesn’t know if they’re looking for a woman, a cow, or something in between!

Is it real or is it fantasy? That’s the question MI6 Agent Mathilda Honoria Spencer struggles with on her latest assignment. Tasked with discovering the whereabouts of Lady Annabelle Trask, Tillie is thrust into the world of Hucows and other human animals. It’s a world that raises serious questions about sexual fetishes, intentional physical enhancements, and even pornography, but in the end, Tillie has only one mission—to rescue and return Lady Annabelle to the Queen. However, as she and her partner, Agent Abdul Ali, attempt to find Lady Annabelle and keep her out of the clutches of terrorists bent on destroying the monarchy, they must also wrestle with their feelings for each other. Can they draw the line between their duty to the Crown and their relationship with one another? Or must they embark on separate paths to continue to serve the Queen?




Tillie’s face reddened. Suddenly, she felt quite queasy. She started to speak, but her superior held up his hand.

There’s more. This is a human-animal auction. It is not limited to Hucows. There will be Hupigs, Huhorses, and maybe even, Husheep. Fortunately, you are to focus on the cows. That is where we believe Lady Annabelle will be found.”

Tillie gazed at him. “What if she isn’t there? What if she has changed…er, species?”

I suggest you cross that bridge when you come to it.”

And what am I to do if I find Lady Annabelle? How do I extract her?”

You purchase her at the auction. You have been given sufficient funds to bid up to one million Euros.”

Tillie’s eyes grew wide. “Criminy. That much?”

Lord Ryder nodded. “These cows are well-trained and well-treated. The females are pampered—weekly manicures, hair treatments, and such. A happy cow is a happy milker, as they say.”

Tillie’s eyes widened. “Lady Annabelle could be there willingly? She is not necessarily a captive, forced be a Hucow?”

Exactly. And that is our dilemma. While the Queen hopes that she is there willingly, several factors are at play. Lady Annabelle may have freely joined a farm to become a Hucow, or she may just have danced on the wild side and somehow wound up at auction. In the alternative, she may have been kidnapped and forced to become a Hucow, or she may have been forced and now enjoys the lifestyle. There are all sorts of reasons she could be there and all sorts of reasons she prefers to stay. Our only mission is to get her out.”

Tillie frowned. “Why would they put her up for auction? Isn’t that a way to get rid of unproductive or uncooperative cows?”

Not necessarily. Some farms simply raise and train Hucows, then sell them. Given their going rate, it is a lucrative business. A great way to supplement the income from a regular farm. Human cows bring much more lucre than actual farm-raised cows.”

Tillie sighed. “For just one day, I would like to forget that there is a whole lot of people engaged in activities that far surpass my imagination.”

Lord Ryder’s mouth curved up into a wry smile. “Then we would be out of a job.”

Tillie tapped her jaw, considering. “You know, this might be a better job for the Yanks. They are a kinky bunch. I believe there was a recent study that found them to be the kinkiest country in the world.”

Lord Ryder snorted. “If you were the Queen, would you want that bunch of kinksters to know your relatives are participating in like behavior? Why their intelligence services would find a way to use it against us for decades.” He shook his head. “No. This we do alone.”

Buy links

Extasy Books:

Amazon: (coming 4/16)

Barnes and Noble: (coming 4/16)

About the Author

Award-winning author Seelie Kay writes about lawyers in love, sometimes with a dash of kink.

Writing under a nom de plume, the former lawyer and journalist draws her stories from more than 30 years in the legal world. Seelie’s wicked pen has resulted in nineteen works of fiction, including the new paranormal romance series Donovan Trait, as well the erotic romance Kinky Briefs series and The Feisty Lawyers romantic suspense series. She also authored The Last Christmas, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, The President’s Wife, The President’s Daughter, Seizing Hope, The White House Wedding, and participated in the romance anthology Pieces of Us.

When not spinning romantic tales, Seelie ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. Currently, she resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, WI, where she enjoys opera, the Green Bay Packers, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine.

Seelie is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS: Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you!

Seelie can be reached at,, or on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Author links



Twitter: @SeelieKay



Amazon author page:

Prior Books

Kinky Briefs,

Kinky Briefs, Too,

Kinky Briefs, Thrice,

Kinky Briefs, Quatro,

Kinky Briefs, Cinque,

The Garage Dweller,

A Touchdown to Remember,

The President’s Wife,

Snatching Dianna,

The President’s Daughter,


Seizing Hope,



The White House Wedding,


First, We Kill All the Lawyers,

The Last Christmas,

Thursday, April 8, 2021

You’re Bound to Piss Somebody Off -- #CulturalAppropriation #PoliticalCorrectness #PlannedParenthood

Graffiti in the ghetto

Image by Rich DuBose from Pixabay

Do you know the term “appropriation”? In the context of art or literature, appropriation “refers to the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that doesn't respect their original meaning, give credit to their source, or reinforces stereotypes or contributes to oppression.” (

A hackneyed but valid example of cultural appropriation would be to create a Jewish character who’s miserly and obsessed with money. It would be appropriation if every black person in your story spoke in ghetto dialect, regardless of his or her history. I imagine you get the idea.

Real cultural appropriation deserves to be criticized. It’s hurtful, unjust, and tends to perpetuate the social power imbalance. As minority groups claim a voice for themselves, though, they sometimes label any use of their cultural identity by outsiders as “appropriation”. Only a Native American, they claim, is qualified to write about First Nations society. Only a dyke can write about the lesbian experience. And so on.

If you’re an author, appropriation tends to be something other people accuse you of doing. And frankly, most of the time those accusations ring hollow, at least to me.

I’m sorry, but I don’t intend to apologize for writing stories that feature black characters, even though I’m white. Nor do I feel any sort of reticence in imagining and capturing the experiences of men, either gay or straight, despite the fact that I don’t have a penis. Or creating a character who’s a Catholic nun, when I was brought up Jewish.

Sure, it’s quite possible that I will not get everything “right” (although I’d argue that human beings are so diverse and multifaceted that the concept of accuracy might not make a lot of sense). If someone objects to the way I’ve portrayed a gay man, an Asian woman, a Native American, a Catholic, a transgender woman, or whatever, because I’ve made some factual errors, I welcome the correction. However, I categorically reject the suggestion that I’m not qualified to write about groups to which I don’t belong, or that my doing so somehow inflicts damage on the members of that group.

Remember Black Lace, the groundbreaking erotica imprint that would not accept submissions from male writers? Of course they were free to make their own rules, and I suppose that in some sense “erotica for women by women” was their marketing gimmick. Still, I found it annoying, and I know many male colleagues who felt the same way. I would be willing to bet there are quite a few male authors out there who could convince an editor they were female.

Part of the magic of writing is spinning truth out of the imagination. Experience may be important, but our stories transcend experience.

The concept of appropriation is closely tied, for me, to the notion of political correctness. Please believe me when I say that I try to respect every human being on the planet. Compassion, civility, human rights for all —these are among my most cherished values. Paradoxically, political correctness often erodes these values. Wars about the appropriate terminology for a marginalized group don’t help build trust and cooperation, they tear it down.

I’m an author. I’d never claim that words are not important. However, actions still speak much louder, for me at least.

Immediately after the 2016 presidential election in the U.S., I wrote a story (Divided We Fall) about a possible dystopia I saw arising from the outcomes. The two young protagonists, one black, one Vietnamese, live in adjoining ghettos in Los Angeles. They’ve been taught to hate and distrust one another, because the powers that be understand that a divided resistance will never be effective.

The story includes some harsh language, including racial slurs. When I asked my fellow authors to help share my blurb and excerpt, some of them objected because of the language. I found this deeply frustrating. The language was the whole point, after all. It’s a deliberate attempt on my part to show how they have dehumanized one another. If I were to remove the references to “nigger” and “gook”, the story would lose some of its impact.

Finally, I just have to shrug. You’ve got to have a thick skin and a philosophical attitude, because you’re always going to piss someone off.

Meanwhile, here’s a politically incorrect excerpt from Divided We Fall. If you want more—well, all sales benefit Planned Parenthood.  


Freeze, bitch.”

I’m expecting the challenge, but still, my stomach does a queasy flip. I remain motionless, as instructed, keeping both hands visible. A tall, lean figure steps out from behind some pollution-rusted shrubbery in front of a ruined apartment building. He carries his Kalashnikov like it’s another limb, one which he points directly at me. Funny how there’s never enough food, but no problem getting guns.

What you doin’ here? This ain’t your territory. You get your gook ass back ‘cross the street before I kick it back!”

Though the guard talks tough, I can see he’s young, maybe younger than I am. He fixes me with a belligerent glare and brandishes his weapon like he’d just as soon shoot me as not, but there’s a softness to his mouth that lets me imagine him smiling. Using his left hand to draw an ugly blade from his belt, he strides in my direction.

He wears threadbare jeans and a faded camouflage shirt, open to the waist. The inky skin on his bare chest gleams with sweat, despite the brisk wind. The paler flesh of a scar slashes across his chest, just above his left nipple. That must have been a dire wound, close to fatal. He might be young, but he’s no stranger to battle. None of us is, these days.

You hear me, bitch?” he growls and jabs at me with his knife.

Instinct taking over, I shrink backward, then recover. He mustn’t think I’m afraid. Straightening my spine, I raise my flag a bit higher.

I claim the right of truce.” I make my voice low, even, and respectful. But not subservient. “I’m looking for my three-year old brother. He wandered out of our territory earlier today. Someone said he might be in Niggertown.”

You better hope he’s not.” The guard gives me an evil grin. “Me and my boys just love a bit of barbecue.”

I ignore his jibe. He’s just trying to pull my chain. I hope. “Can I have a look around? Please?”

Any gooks enterin’ Niggertown got to pay the toll.” His leer widens, his white teeth a shocking contrast to his soot-dark complexion.

Of course.” I’d expected something like this. I jerk my thumb toward my backpack. “May I...? I’ve got veggies, from my mother’s garden. Cucumbers, green beans and kale. Chilies, too.”

Money wasn’t much use in the barrios. Fresh vegetables, though—they were hard to come by, and I’d heard the soil in Niggertown was even more contaminated than ours.

He steps closer, until he’s looming over me. The point of his knife grazes my throat. Unflinching, I meet his eyes, brown as the muddy water of the Mekong in Mother’s old photos. His blade travels down my chest, pausing between my breasts. “I want something hot,” he murmurs. “But it ain’t chilies.”

You think you’ll rape me?” Amazed at my own daring, I grasp his wrist and drag it to one side, until the blade’s a safe distance from my flesh. He doesn’t resist. Dropping his hand, I give the little kick I’ve practiced so many times and flip the switchblade into my hand, already open. “I’ll kill you first, boy.”

Don’t you call me that, bitch!” I’m ready for him to hit me—I expect the toll to include some blood—but he holds back. “Anyway, I wouldn’t rape your skinny yellow ass. Nah, I’m gonna wait till you beg for it!”

I burst into laughter. I just can’t help it. “Right. That’ll happen the same day the pigs lay off the barrios and the Tower collapses.”

He tries to look fierce, but he can’t quite pull it off. “Just you wait,” he warns. “You gonna be on your knees. Beggin’ for me to put my big thing between your legs. An’ me, I’m just gonna leave you there!”

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Grounded in faith and love -- #Paranormal #MFRWHooks #Giveaway

Fourth World cover

I was feeling in a paranormal mood, so I thought I’d share a bit from my collection Fourth World: Erotic tales of monsters, myths and magic. This excerpt comes from the story “Higher Power”, one of the earliest pieces I ever published. This story, about a magician and his devoted assistant, captures some of my thoughts about love, magic, spirit and surrender.

Oh, and I’m giving away a copy of the whole collection to one lucky person who leaves me a comment. Don’t forget!

The Hook

I swallowed my regrets and turned my attention back to the magician. He still watched me as if he would strip away my masks and lay me bare. Suddenly, he reached out and with one blunt finger touched the little gold cross hanging around my neck.

"Are you a believer?" he asked. Memories shot through me—my childhood awe as I knelt under the cathedral arches; my first communion, colored light through the windows staining my bride-like finery; my mother dying of cancer, asking for my prayers.

"I'm not sure," I replied. "I used to be, but now..."

"And what about magic?" he asked with that ironic half-smile on his full lips. "Do you believe in magic?"

My heartbeat inexplicably quickened. "I don't know about that, either."

"There is much in common between religion and magic. Both are grounded in faith and love. The essence is a trust in things unseen." I thought this a peculiar observation from a practicing conjuror. Surely the essence of magic was manipulating expectations and perceptions. Show business. "I have something to show you," he continued.

He removed the dusty velvet cloth shrouding what turned out to be a combination television and VCR, a pre-DVD relic. It must have already had a tape loaded. As soon as he hit the button, it began to play. "Watch closely," he said.

It was a recording of one of his performances. At first, I did not recognize him. He was clad all in black, with glittering rhinestones at his collar and cuffs. He moved with a grace and economy that negated his bulk. There was no sound.

He offered a few deft sleight of hand tricks as warm up. Then he was joined by his assistant, a slender, raven-haired Latin beauty wearing a scarlet evening gown. How could I compare? I wondered. As if he heard my thoughts, he commented. "Roxanne. Exquisite, isn't she?"

"What happened to her, that you need a new assistant?"

His face darkened. "She suffered an unfortunate—accident."

Roxanne lay down on her back on a trestle table. The magician draped her with purple satin. He passed his hands over her, clearly speaking some incantation. The draped figure began to rise, until it hovered level with his chest. The mage then removed the table.

The illusion of levitation, I thought with some degree of smugness. Cleverly concealed wires.

But then the scenario began to veer from the standard. Magister Aleister whisked the drapery off Roxanne's prone body. He picked up a full-length oval mirror and held it above the immobile figure, moving it up and down her body in a manner that would have effectively interrupted any possible attachment of cables from above. I could see her reflection in the glass, and faintly, a misting from her breath. Her eyes were closed. Then he crouched and moved the mirror underneath her, as if to prove that she was not supported from below. He released the mirror, and it hovered below her form, halfway between her body and the stage.

The mage now made some passes over his assistant, his hands elegant and evocative. Her body began to rotate. First, she floated in a lazy circle around the vertical axis, her head and feet changing places. Then, very slowly, she rolled over, so that she was facing downward, once more face to face with the mirror. The video was surprisingly clear. Again, I could see the signs of her breathing.

I was impressed. I could not understand how such a trick could be accomplished. What arrangement of wires or hidden frames could provide so many degrees of freedom? The next trick, however, amazed and horrified me.

The magician gestured and Roxanne floated to a standing position, her crystal slippers barely touching the ground. Her eyes were still closed. He did not wake her from her trance. Instead, he pulled from the wings a framework of wrought iron, rather like an oversized bird cage. It was hinged along one side. He opened it, pulled it around Roxanne's body, and snapped it shut, then applied a padlock to the latch. I could almost hear the clang of metal on metal.

A heavy cable slithered down toward the stage from above. He fastened it to a loop on top of the cage, and gave an almost imperceptible signal. The cage, with Roxanne within, rose about a foot off the floor.

Now what? I wondered, as he disappeared offstage again. He returned with a rack of swords.

He was talking during the entire performance, though I could not read his lips well enough to determine what he was saying. He chose one of the blades and swished it through the air in a swashbuckling manner. Then he appeared to plunge it between the bars of the cage and through Roxanne's body.

She did not flinch. She did not move. Aleister seized another sword, circled behind her, and impaled her from back to front. I could see the tip of the blade emerging from her body, just below her breasts. There was no blood.

I did not want to watch the rest of this performance. The illusion was too perfect, too disturbing. But I could not look away. The magician skewered her with a half a dozen more blades. He spun the cage in a circle so that the audience could see Roxanne from every angle. Unlike the usual sword gambit, there was no opaque box within which the assistant could hide or contort her body to avoid the sharp instruments. Everything was clearly, awfully visible.

Finally, Aleister removed the blades, with great care, in the opposite of the order in which he had inserted them. He lowered the cage to the ground, and clapped his hands once. Roxanne's eyes flew open, and her lips curved in an enigmatic smile. Aleister unlocked the cage and handed her out of it as if it were a royal coach. They bowed deeply, in synchrony. Then the tape went blank.

My heart was pounding uncomfortably hard. The magician re-covered the television, then turned to me. "Well?" he asked, fixing me again with those unnerving eyes.

I took a deep breath and tried to meet his gaze. "That's—unbelievable. Remarkable. Not to mention very creepy."

"Convincing, isn't it? Makes you wonder what kind of power I really have." There was an edge to his politeness, the slightest hint of arrogance in his well-tempered voice. He smiled in a way that I suddenly saw as seductive. "Do you still want to audition?"

Curiosity and fear, wonder and terror, warred in me. I stared at my hands, distinctly uncomfortable. Then I had a vision of myself in that red dress, smiling at the audience, basking in thunderous applause. I almost felt the heat of his hand in mine. I looked up at him and tried to sound brave. "Of course."

~ ~ ~ ~ 

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