Category Archives: Writing stuff

Club Storyville is a Finalist in the Rainbow Awards

Club Storyville

Just wanted to share the news that Club Storyville has been named a finalist in the Rainbow Awards.

The book also received a couple of lovely honorable mentions that I took the liberty of copying below. If you prefer to see them amongst their honorable mention cohorts, you can find the original posting here – http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/4448412.html.

“This is an absolutely stunning historical piece set mostly in the shadow of World War II in which every action, every turn of phrase is believable for the time. The portrayal of both visible and invisible lines of segregation are depicted with anguished realism and the parallel, invisible struggles of LGBT people handled with painful accuracy. And while it’s a well-told story about these artificial social and legal lines between people, it’s also a very touching story about a young woman’s self-discovery and her slow realization that she’s much stronger than she’s been lead to believe.”

Club Storyille is a very well written book. This author is very good at character development and I loved how she fleshed out the supporting characters. Wonderful job. The book started out a bit slow but when I got into it, I loved it and couldn’t put it down till I knew how it would end. I think that’s a great recommendation, don’t you? “

Now, if anyone’s in the mood for a little blog participation, tell me something cool that has happened to you lately. I think we’re all reading enough awful news these days. Let’s talk some happy stuff.

I am officially on sale.

I told you I would be on sale today. Now I am.

All my books are $3.50 (USD), or the rough equivalent in other currencies, on Amazon and direct through Smashwords. Sorry, quick price changes don’t go into effect fast enough on affiliates like B&N and Apple, so if you need a format other than Kindle, you’ll have to buy through Smashwords.

I will stop the sale whenever I get up on July 27th, but you can count on these prices until at least 11:59 pm Pacific Time.

Here are the links with all my books listed:

Amazon

Smashwords

Also, don’t forget you can find me on Goodreads —> right here <— where you can read some reviews and stuff.

Godspeed.

Black Forest: Magicks Rise – Excerpt

Black Forest: Magicks Rise comes out on July 22nd. It begins like this.

Be warned, if you have not read Black Forest: Kingdoms Fall, much will be spoiled by this excerpt.

Chapter One
The World Left Behind

Once upon a time, a brother and sister were rushing through the forest. Thoroughly engaged in the children’s trade of play, they had lost track of the sun’s path over the treetops. It was only as the brother fell in surrender to his sister’s imitation bow and arrow that he noticed the bright blues of day fading to the purple hues of evening, and realized they must make haste for home.

Desperate to flee the night forest, and the dangers that live within, their anxious feet slapped the earth, and, joined at their fearfully perspiring hands, the brother and sister darted straight into the web of a hunter. Like the petals of a pimpernel, the net closed up around them, leaving them dangling two times their height from the forest floor. Though the children tried with all their might to break free, the netting, meant for much larger beasts than them, held fast.

Sun abandoning the sky, night fell fully upon them. Huddling close, the brother and sister listened to the cries of what they imagined to be very large and carnivorous beasts echo through the trees. When a thump came very nearby, they gave a synchronized jolt of panic, and, at the sound of soft footfalls just beneath them, the boy whirled his head, keen to protect his sister whatever he had to face. On her side of the net, the sister did the same, for she was secretly the braver of the two.

What both children discovered was no more than a raccoon, sat back on its haunches, looking up at them with mild dark eyes. In the time it took for the brother and sister to let out a joint breath of relief, the raccoon recognized the children’s need, for it had been trapped in the nets of hunters before. Clambering swiftly up the nearest tree, the raccoon leapt to the netting above their heads, digging determined teeth into the sturdy material. In no time at all, the net fell free, crashing to the forest floor, releasing the brother and sister from their captivity.

Standing on their own feet a moment later, dazed, but liberated, the brother and sister looked to the raccoon and saw the most beautiful creature they had ever laid eyes on. His soft fur shining like silk in the moonlight, his black eyes put on a clever masquerade as they regarded the children with utmost kindness. All their lives, the brother and sister had longed and begged for a pet, but their mother and father were unwaveringly against another mouth to feed on their already meager means. The children were certain, though, when their parents learned of the raccoon’s heroic feat, they would care for and love him as much as the brother and sister already did.

The raccoon’s night-eyes leading the way, the journey homeward was not nearly as treacherous, and the brother and sister followed behind, far less afraid of the howls and shadows that lived in the night.

They had not been going on long when the brother noticed the raccoon’s unusual walk. The raccoon would take two steps and limp, take two steps and limp. Pulling the creature to a stop, the brother dropped down to inspect him, finding one of the raccoon’s legs terribly mangled from a run-in with some forest foe. With a small frown toward his sister, he put the raccoon back on the ground, and again they walked behind.

It was a ways on in the wood, for the brother and sister had truly wandered far, that the raccoon led the children to a stream to drink away their thirst. Each time the raccoon put his lips to the water, to take in even the smallest of sips, he would choke and sputter, and the sister looked to her brother, certain a parasite must live in the raccoon’s throat or belly to make him drink so poorly.

Thirst satisfied, they started for home once more, and the children looked on the raccoon with more honest eyes. Each time moonlight would cut through thin branches, they would see something new. A balding patch. A missing chunk of paw. A mite carving a path through the raccoon’s fur, as it feasted upon the animal’s unclean flesh.

Sharing their findings in secretive whispers, by the time their cottage came into view, with its light and warmth glowing from the windows and their parents worrying inside, the brother and sister did not see the raccoon as beautiful. His fur did not appear at all soft or shiny in true moonlight, and he did not seem the least bit strong when he was not freeing them of their binds.

In fact, the creature had a distinct air of contamination about him, and was downright unlovable, so the brother and sister bid their rescuer goodbye at the forest’s edge, rushing across the yard to the cottage and its protection, leaving the raccoon out in the cold.

*****

At the moment, Cinderella was feeling an incredible kinship with the raccoon protagonist.

The moral of the story, the only one of her mother’s she could fully remember, was No one is perfect, and expecting perfection will leave you isolated and without aid when you need it. For, at story’s end, when the brother and sister find themselves caught in the same net again, the raccoon, weakened with illness and infestation, can offer no assistance, and the children end up being served to the hunter’s family as any other captured game.

Had she grown up under her mother’s tender influence, perhaps Cinderella would have been able to embrace the story’s true moral. Growing up as she had, with her stepmother’s and stepsisters’ hatred and her father’s utter indifference, she had developed a far different take on the narrative. She now saw it as a cautionary tale, the moral being If you let anyone see who you truly are, with all your flaws and weaknesses, it will be impossible for them to love you.

Ten cycles of the moon had passed since last she slept on the fractured bricks by the hearth in her father’s home, and she left her life in Troyale as sparkling as a princess. When too many eyes were upon her, though, Cinderella could still feel the soot and grime like a fine sheen upon her skin. The more attention given her, the less worthy she felt to receive it, and the more everyone looked at her, she knew, the sooner they would discover all her imperfections and determine her unlovable.

“Will they have to call you Sir?” The amused and muffled question drew Cinderella’s attention from the new knots in the wood ceiling, put there by the harsh winter the forest had just endured. Weather, it seemed, was its own event, requiring no man with a quill to inflict.

Glancing down at Rapunzel’s piercing blue eyes radiating amusement, the hair that hung low on her back once more shimmering gold in the light of the moon that came through the window to contrast against midnight blue sheets, Cinderella realized her gloomy thoughts had no place in the current moment.

“Sir Cinderella,” Rapunzel announced mock earnestly, before laughter poured across Cinderella’s bare chest.

Cocking her head to the side, Cinderella wondered if Rapunzel would continue to grow more beautiful each time she looked at her, or if there was a limit as to how much of her breath Rapunzel could steal. For at times, when she gazed at Rapunzel in such state of undress, Cinderella did worry about the lack of air she could take in.

“What would you propose they call me?” Her hand slid through silken hair to Rapunzel’s shoulder. She had given as little thought as possible to the coming ceremony, and none at all to the title.

A kiss dropped to her wrist where it hovered next to Rapunzel’s chin, waves of new longing rushed through Cinderella as Rapunzel considered the question, before at last Rapunzel lifted her head with a look of purest mischief.

“Redeemer… Savior… Goddess.” The term purred from full, bruised lips, Rapunzel’s long eyelashes cloaked eyes that darkened from sky to near navy, and Cinderella considered the title may be of little consequence, because she may never make it to the honor.

“Just what kind of remarkable being do you take me for?” she tried to find her breath.

“The most.” The response instantaneous and sincere, Cinderella tried not to blanch beneath Rapunzel’s unflinching gaze. If the raccoon had possessed a voice to pose such a question, she wondered if the brother and sister would have answered the same way once. It was easy to be impressed by a feat, much harder to stay amazed with its doer.

Though, for her part, Cinderella still did not know what they all thought she had done.

*****

When the courier arrived some weeks before, it had been an event in its own right.

Lounging in utter idleness before the fire with Rapunzel when Caratasa led him in, Cinderella glanced up as the courier fell instantly to one knee, head bowed, his hand steady as he held the letter out before him. Fearing a lingering proposal from somewhere in Grimm’s grand design, Cinderella looked to the courier and letter with trepidation, refusing to accept it.

“For the one who led us,” the courier stated, pausing just long enough that Cinderella thought to tell him he had come to the wrong place, before his next words quashed the hopeful notion. “Cinderella of Troyale.”

Standing with a soft smile at the courier’s back, Caratasa appeared frustratingly serene about the entire event as Cinderella and Rapunzel rose to meet the boy. For he could not have been more than twelve years.

Not knowing the customary response to being called upon by a royal courier, Cinderella thanked him as she slid the letter from his hand, and, had she started her life an arrogant individual, the look of gratitude in the boy’s eyes as he looked up would have humbled Cinderella for the years that remained in it.

“It is my honor, My Lady,” he declared, and Cinderella’s hands trembled on the scroll as they broke the wax seal.

It was one she had seen many times before when King Kardon sent news of Snow White, but never in circumstances so formal. The letter inside brief and to the point, it informed her of the joint decision of three kings – Snow White’s father King Kardon, Ruth’s husband King Balten and King Drest of Ceres, husband of Rhian, brother-in-law of Sawyer – to bestow upon Cinderella the honor of a knighthood, and requested a date of preference for the ceremony, as if she was so important she should not be expected to work around the schedules of three kings.

Even with Rapunzel quietly reciting the contents of the letter over her shoulder, knowing how she would struggle with many of the words, Cinderella was certain she misunderstood its message. She stared at the scroll in her hands for uncounted minutes until the courier hesitantly broke the silence to ask for a date he could take back with him. The simple question unleashing a torrent of words from her, they commenced with an appeal for the courier to get up off his knee and ended with Cinderella suggesting, in vain, that her contribution, and the fact that all turned out well, was reward in itself.

The courier had smiled then, even as he rose to his feet as requested. “That is one decision that is not yours to make, My Lady,” he declared. “Courageous actions, such as yours, they are not commonplace. They will not let it go without a fete.”

Staring into the boy’s pleased expression, Cinderella wished she could share in the sentiment. “Well, I suppose, should a fete be at hand,” her words weighted with worry instead, “I will be in attendance. I do not desire to disappoint them.” Nor did she desire to offend them. For, though she had built something of a relationship with all three, as a tributary of her relationships with those close to them, they were still kings, and, as she was reminded each time Rapunzel looked at her or she laid her head down in their soft bed in Caratasa’s home at night, she was nothing but an extraordinarily blessed peasant.

“If you were to decline the honor, they would not be the only ones disappointed, My Lady,” the courier said with a gentle smile. “What date can I tell them?”

Trying to think of a date somewhere between getting it over with as quickly as possible and putting it off indefinitely, Cinderella sent the boy back with her answer. At the time, it seemed distant enough. Two full turns of the moon later, that date was imminent.

Soon the eyes of every kingdom would be upon on her. Someone was bound to find a flaw.

*****

Tracing the line of freckles down Rapunzel’s right shoulder, Cinderella marveled at how things could change. In the confines of her tower, Rapunzel never saw sun enough to develop marks on her skin, and, as they came in greater and greater supply, each individual spot was of more infinite interest to Cinderella.

“I do not know the title for a female knight,” Cinderella responded to Rapunzel’s question thoughtfully. “You did not find such a word in those many stories you have read?” When Rapunzel shook her head, Cinderella wondered if there had ever been need for such a title. “Lady, perhaps?” She considered the most natural equivalent to the male title of ‘Sir.’ “Madam?”

“Madam?” The way Rapunzel’s nose turned in response, Cinderella wondered if her words had an actual odor to them. “Certainly not! It sounds so old, like a mother or a midwife or a queen.”

Smile faltering before she made it through the word, Rapunzel swallowed an audible obstruction in her throat and looked to the window, her gaze locking on the ghastly darkness beyond. For, though Grimm had gone, his world remained, with all its ghouls and demons.

Watching worry shadow Rapunzel’s features, Cinderella pushed to her elbows, the simple proximity to the softest of skin and cascade of blonde tresses offering a measure of comfort to her own anxieties. “Are you all right?” she questioned softly.

“I am not the one you need worry about,” Rapunzel responded, melancholy strangling each word. “Do you think Snow White is truly ready for this?”

“I do not know,” Cinderella answered honestly.

Snow White’s stepmother, Queen Ino, former queen of Aulis, would not only be overlooked at the coming ceremony, she was not even to be mentioned. If honors for the overthrow of Grimm were to be properly bestowed, no one was more deserving. After learning of the queen’s part in Snow White’s disappearance, though, of how she had ordered Snow White slain, even with the knowledge it was part of a grander plan not of the queen’s own making, King Kardon could find no love left for his former wife.

As understandable as his anger was, the king neglected to see how his own feelings negated those of his daughter. For the king thought there was no cause to mourn someone who had proven herself so vile and cruel, but Snow White, like all those who had witnessed the change in Queen Ino firsthand, did mourn.

“She would want to see you knighted,” Rapunzel declared, and, with an uneasy nod, Cinderella accepted the truth in the statement.

“But there is still a question as to if it is too soon,” she returned. “Snow White’s emotional state is… precarious, at best.” With good reason, she thought to herself. The sorceress’ spell that Snow White alone saw strike the queen, the agonized howl of the queen’s death, the feel of the woman dying in her arms, those were things not easily gotten over.

Hand rising to her chest, it gave Cinderella a gentle push that returned her to the pillow, and she watched a feather float into the air as Rapunzel settled her head against one shoulder.
With no answers to any of the questions between them, silence settled over the room as Rapunzel’s breath blew its hypnotic rhythm against Cinderella’s throat and Rapunzel’s body pressed warm against her, a marked contrast to the agitation Cinderella felt within. This instant – the tranquil, genuine moment – was everything for which they had fought. It was why Grimm had to be met head on, why he could not be allowed to go on dictating their futures, using them at his will.

Like the moment the uprising began, when Cinderella threw her shoe at Prince Friedrich, the seemingly innocuous moment carried awesome significance. True happiness – pure, unpolluted truth – did not exist under Grimm’s dominion. It would be a long time before anyone would take such a moment for granted.

“How are you feeling?” Rapunzel’s question was scarcely more than a breath against Cinderella’s skin.

“Do you prefer the innocent or the lascivious answer?” Cinderella returned, a small smile tugging her lips as Rapunzel shifted against her.

“I mean about the ceremony,” Rapunzel specified, lifting her head, and, realizing Rapunzel knew her fears beyond her sharing of them, Cinderella tried not to hide from the knowing gaze that looked down upon her as she opened her eyes. “And I prefer the truth.”

“It is not a comfortable sensation,” Cinderella admitted, and Rapunzel’s eyes locking intently upon hers, they seemed to search for Cinderella’s very soul inside and locate it with ease.

“You are courageous, clever, and exceedingly beautiful,” Rapunzel quietly stated. “I will never understand why drawing attention to all of that makes you so uncomfortable.”

Laughing helplessly at the assessment, Cinderella glanced to the night, wishing the moon would dim and provide her more cover. “Character flaw,” she uttered, and could feel Rapunzel’s heavy sigh upon her cheek.

“You do not have all the flaws you see,” Rapunzel whispered, seeking Cinderella’s gaze once more. “They love you,” she uttered. “As you love them. No one is going to abandon you, Cin.”

She never should have told Rapunzel that story, Cinderella realized. Rapunzel needed no help seeing beyond her moods and fears and defenses.

It was not that she did not want to believe what Rapunzel was saying, or that, when surrounded by her friends, Cinderella did not feel it. All the years spent in the company of people who hated her, though, it was difficult, at times, to accept that she could have a family free of enemies.

“And I love you,” Rapunzel’s eyes softened upon her, and thoughts of all other allies dissipated from Cinderella’s mind.

“I love you too,” Cinderella felt the words through her entire being, before Rapunzel’s lips covered her own with gentle insistence, chasing the last plaguing worry to another day.

Writing Outside the Comfort Zone

We humans are a fickle sort, aren’t we? I, for instance, am a creature of utmost spontaneity, and also one of routine.

Tell me I’m going on a trip tomorrow, and I’ll pack a bag. Move me in the middle of a writing project, and I will stare hopelessly at the computer screen for hours at a time, wondering if I accidentally boxed up my muse and left it behind in a closet in Tennessee.

Upon our arrival in Spain, we found our 2 1/2-month accommodation less than stellar. To some extent, it was our fault, because when we planned this experience, we hoped to save money, so we opted for a basic, functional rental. A no-frills place where we could simply be immersed in the reality of Spanish living.

As it turned out, such functionality was a bit too suburban for our purposes, and the no-frills place was actually a place of other people’s smells getting in through the cracks in the doors, the worst mattress ever dropped onto a bed frame, a terrible Internet connection, and non-stop noise, where we were woken repeatedly the first few nights, then wore earplugs for two and still woke several times.

Don’t get me wrong, we have endured worse conditions. Having disrupted sleep and consistent noise while trying to finish a book, though, is a mentally disastrous combination. So, that first week in Seville was rough.

Solution? Book a luxury rental in a resort area for a week, away from the noise, but near enough to the amenities to be able to walk to them. And, voila, presto, goooooaaaaaallllll!, I discover I am not so much a creature of habit as one of comfort, and I just need reasonably decent space in which to work.

So, at week’s end we will be making a more permanent move out of Seville and into better accommodations. We have also already secured a rental just outside Edinburgh for August so we can ease the process of getting to Bergen to see the fjords and of soaking up Fringe and the book festival.

In my experience, I have found successful travel is highly dependent upon one’s ability to adapt to their environment, but, as soon as you realize you cannot adapt, that you are simply not happy in your surroundings, it is always worth the expense to keep moving.

For a second there, as I sat exhausted in Seville, I wasn’t sure if I would have a book coming out next month after all. After three days of good Internet, good soundproofing and some seriously soft bedding, though, things are looking considerably more promising.

Club Storyville, The Playlist

I realized I forgot to post my playlist for Club Storyville, and such an enjoyable playlist it is, ‘twould be a shame not to share it.

Lots of blending of new and old.

1 – Stormy Weather, Lena Horne
2 – You, Jennifer Love Hewitt
3 – Fever – Peggy Lee
4 – Someone Like You, Linda Eder
5 – Blues in the Night, Woody Herman
6 – Today I Sing the Blues, Aretha Franklin
7 – Body and Soul, Billie Holiday
8 – Insensitive, Jann Arden
9 – Crazy for You, Madonna
10 – You Always Hurt the One You Love, Connie Francis
11 – The Glory of Love, Bette Midler
12 – Say Something, A Great Big World w/ Christina Aguilera
13 – Thinking Over, Dana Glover
14 – Come Down to Me, Saving Jane
15 – La Vie En Rose, Cyndi Lauper
16 – You Are Not Alone, Mavis Staples
17 – Lullaby, Dixie Chicks

Club Storyville is Now Available

Five Things You Should Never Do

1 – Put your fingers in an electrical socket.

2 – Pee in the pool.

3 – Drink pool water, because chlorine and see #2.

4 – Cry over spilled milk.

5 – Release a book over a holiday weekend, because, apparently, it takes quite some time for it to appear for sale in the Kindle store when you do.

I cannot apologize enough for pushing back my release date, and then having the book appear a day later than promised. It has been a wild and crazy few weeks, but, still, I do not condone my tardiness and beg your forgiveness.

The book is out there now, for those who would like to check it out.

Club Storyville on Amazon

Club Storyville on Smashwords

Don’t forget, Smashwords offers a preview twice as long as the “Look inside” on Amazon, so it’s always worth a stop by that page even if you plan to buy on Kindle.

And, here’s the Author’s Note from Club Storyville, which gives a little insight into my very special bond with this story.

Author’s Note

Up until I was nine, I had my own brassy southern grandmother. After more than forty years in Southeastern Ohio, she still said “hoce” instead of “house,” “skoo” instead of “school.”

She was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1907, many years younger than her next youngest sibling. Her brother was a minor league baseball player, and she was a beauty, so that was a good time in her life and she enjoyed a long youth when most women didn’t. It was only when she moved to Richmond to “make her fortune,” as my dad put it, that she met my grandfather, and she didn’t give birth to my dad until 1947, not long after her forty-first birthday.

As a boy, my dad would go by train to visit my grandma’s family in Virginia. I inherited my love of trains from my dad, and my love of the South. We traveled southward a lot when I was growing up too – Virginia Beach, Charleston, Atlanta, Nashville. Forget the Mason-Dixon Line. I knew I was south enough when the kudzu started crawling over everything and every restaurant served sweet tea.

That said, this is not my story. It is the story of another time, of a different, more divided South. I believe the only way to write a story like this is to fully embrace it, both the good and the bad, so I have done my best to stay true to the attitudes of the time.

Club Storyville is only a story. Storyville, however, was a real place, a slice of American freedom open in New Orleans between 1897 and 1917. It has been my privilege to spend so much time there over the past few months.

Club Storyville – Coming April 18th, 2014

“There was a song in my grandmother’s head I never heard her sing.”

This is the first line of my upcoming novel, Club Storyville. For those of you who’ve read my other books, it may seem a bit of a departure.

I have a love-hate relationship with first-person. On one hand, many of my favorite books are written in first-person – Mirabilis, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Reader. The Bluest Eye is partly in first-person, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye. There is certainly nothing wrong with first-person perspective.

On the other hand, first-person done badly can often feel as if you’ve been sucked into someone’s personal fantasy.

Time shall tell, I guess, how my first-person is interpreted, because, with this particular novel, I could write it no other way. This is such a deeply personal story – not mine, Elizabeth’s – and this book is very close to my heart. It is chock-full of things toward which I am overly sentimental. Train travel. The south. Brassy southern grandmothers. Old cars.

And it’s peppered with things I spend a lot more time than I should thinking about. Like how the rules of society divide us. How the adopted morality of some impedes the happiness of others. How an open hand can change us for the better, and a closed hand can make us hard and hesitant.

Writing this novel has been extraordinarily difficult. It has been a long journey through our not-so-distant past, a journey during which I was repeatedly reminded dystopian worlds are not just the works of science fiction, that people have lived in them throughout history. Many still live in dystopian pockets today.

Writing this novel has also been extraordinarily blessed. Because when you immerse yourself in a time and circumstances that feel so bleak, you cannot help but find beauty.

A single red rose is positively striking against shades of gray.

Author’s Note: You might notice the slight change in the release date, from Tuesday, April 15th to Friday, April 18th. My partner had an unexpected ailment/appendectomy, and I’ve lost some days, so I’m giving myself a small extension to ensure a minimal amount of stress.

The Four Proposals Release

Well, I have been staring at a blank screen for some time, and I got nothin’. I am utterly tapped out on funny and clever – I do hope I left it all in the book – so, apologies, but this post will now proceed to be painfully lame.

The Four Proposals is out, though, for anyone who might be looking for it. I like to think it’s funny. I like to think it’s sexy. I like to think it’s not a sappy cheese-fest, but I know I lie to myself.

Such a war rages inside of me, you see, anti-romantic versus super-romantic. It’s a civil war that just ain’t that civil sometimes, and it plays out, to some extent, on the digital pages of this new book.

So, if you want to see love kick itself, cuddle itself, berate itself and then fall back in love with itself, this might be the book for you. Oh, and also if you like green beer, sentimental stories about old stuff, funny parental units and girls making out in saunas.

Buy on Amazon

Buy on Smashwords

The Four Proposals – The Playlist

I have been enjoying the hell out of this playlist. Super sexy AND ridiculously romantic. Ridiculously.

1 – Strut, Adam Lambert
2 – Red Blooded Woman, Kylie Minogue
3 – Let’s Get to the Love Part, Play
4 – Something Beautiful, Trombone Shorty
5 – Lay Your Hands On Me, Beth Hart
6 – Life is Better With You, Michael Franti & Spearhead
7 – Shiver, Jamie O’Neal
8 – Rules, Shakira
9 – Passionate Kisses, Mary Chapin Carpenter
10 – Perfect Soul, David Ford
11 – This is Love, PJ Harvey
12 – These Words, Natasha Bedingfield
13 – Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye (yes, I went there)
14 – I Want to Do Everything for You, Janiva Magness
15 – I’m In, The Kinleys
16 – I’ll Cover You, Wilson Jermaine Heredia & Jesse L. Martin
17 – Let Time Go Lightly, Harry Chapin

The Four Proposals – An Excerpt

The Four Proposals, sequel to The Wish List, comes out February 11th. Minor spoilers within for anyone who hasn’t read The Wish List.

And now, an excerpt from the opening scene.

*****

Pale yellow lace, tinted just past cream, was all Kelsie’s brain could process. Except, of course, for the skin, soft peach, that strained against the fabric like it wanted to come out and play.

Then, there were Laken’s eyes, glancing up in surprise, glowing near-feline to match the fabric that so exquisitely, but so spottily, concealed her.

Gaze taking the path of least resistance down Laken’s neck to her heaving chest, over the plane of Laken’s stomach to the matching panties that barely hid those places her eyes sought on instinct, Kelsie began to minutely quake and considered her last thought might very well be that she would never think again.

When she walked into the room, she did so with a purpose, she vaguely recollected that. The malfunction of her brain’s wiring, though, was instantaneous. Finally recognizing her mouth hung open and forcing it closed was difficult enough. She wasn’t about to pull up any data that wasn’t utterly essential to basic functioning.

“Hey,” Laken was slightly breathless as she turned away, giving Kelsie the new perspective of pale yellow clinging to the curves of her flexing backside as she reached, rather disappointingly, for the shirt waiting at the edge of Kelsie’s bed. “Sorry. I just decided it’s too cold to wear my skirt, and I found the clothes I’d left here.”

Watching Laken’s skin vanish as she whisked the button-up over her shoulders, Kelsie’s brain went to generator, wanting desperately to function, though it was still slow to make sense with the long expanse of leg jutting from beneath the hem of Laken’s shirt to impede its operation. “That’s too bad.” Her brain, thankfully, reminded her to breathe. “I thought maybe it was an impromptu striptease.”

“Oh,” Laken paused mid-button, eyes dipping blue to match the shirt, as a grin Kelsie recognized as dangerous appeared on her lips. “Why didn’t you just say so?” she slipped the button free, and Kelsie remembered why there was danger.

Laken needed no weapons, no training, no surprise kung fu to render Kelsie utterly defenseless. Her hands sliding up to undo the next to last button, and the button before that, so the blue shirt fell open around her, Kelsie’s heart stopped at Laken’s will, before giving her ribcage a rather aggressive punch.

With one crooked finger, Laken beckoned her forward, and Kelsie went, all thoughts and notions of the rest of the world, and the cause, floating from her mind as it focused intently on the one thing in her bedroom she wanted. Hoping her smile didn’t appear as ridiculously wide as it felt on her face, Kelsie let her hands find their way beneath the fabric of Laken’s shirt, sighing at the feel of Laken’s skin beneath her fingertips and Laken’s hands tangling in her hair to coax her forward until their lips melded in a kiss that stole what breath Kelsie had left and made her willing to sacrifice her last to whatever awaited them just on the other side of mutual surrender.

Hands leaving her hair and skimming her upper back to land upon her shoulders, they pressed Kelsie down against the edge of the bed, and the lava churned in Kelsie’s core as Laken slid the shirt down her arms and tossed it at the head of the bed to stand before her like an everyday goddess.

Her sides flexing as she stalked nearer, Laken dropped down before Kelsie, suddenly on the other side of worship, pressing in so close her ornately-concealed breasts dragged up Kelsie’s body from knee to chest as Laken rose in an impressively fluid motion.

Watching the top edge of Laken’s bra roll downward as the strap fell from her shoulder, it felt like considerably more than it was, and when Laken’s face came within a quarter-inch of her own, soft breath blowing against Kelsie’s lips, Kelsie tilted wantonly forward, but Laken shifted away in an instant, the heel of one hand pressing into Kelsie’s shoulder as the other held a firm finger against her lips.

“No kissing,” she scolded, urging Kelsie backward on the mattress until her feet left the floor and her legs dangled free, knees crooked over the edge of the bed.

Laken’s knee sliding up by her hip, her arms slipped over Kelsie’s shoulders as her other leg skimmed Kelsie’s outer thigh, until, lowering down an instant later, Laken straddled her lap. Eyes closing at the instant, overwhelming heat trapped between their bodies, Kelsie was sure she would be forever branded. When she reached for Laken, though, desperate to bring her closer, her hands were caught before they could find fulfillment.

“No touching,” Laken said, and Kelsie’s eyes blinked open in dissent.

“You are not serious.”

But Laken didn’t restate her conviction. She simply pushed Kelsie’s arms to her sides, where she clearly expected them to stay, and raised a seductively gentle hand to cradle the back of Kelsie’s head as her upper body arched until the yellow lace Kelsie had so blatantly admired upon her entrance into the room brushed her cheek and she huffed a breath of deliciously wicked frustration against Laken’s milli-close skin.

When Laken slid away again, Kelsie’s hands twitched up from the bed to draw her back, but Laken returned to her on her own, the warm curve of her backside pressing into Kelsie’s lap. Entire body pulsing with instant, acute need, Kelsie wondered where exactly Laken had been keeping this side of herself. While she knew there were plenty of things yet to discover about her recently officially-declared girlfriend, it had never even occurred to her the good doctor, normally so in control, might be harboring a secret vixen.

Of course, it could be fairly said that Laken was still in control, because Kelsie certainly wasn’t. Trying to remind herself she was an adult, capable of restraining her hormone-induced reactions, she made the effort to do just that, fingers going white where they buried themselves in the comforter to heed Laken’s directive.

“Okay, touch me,” Laken negated her struggle in an instant.

“I thought I wasn’t allowed to touch,” Kelsie tried to give as good as she was getting, but her hands were already in motion, more than ready to meet any invitation given them.

“Please, touch me,” Laken rasped as Kelsie’s fingertips made contact with the overheated skin at her waist, and a ragged exhalation escaped Laken’s lips as her hips circled in Kelsie’s overworked lap.

“Where did you learn this?” Kelsie’s lips brushed Laken’s ear, in immediate proximity where Laken leaned back against her, head on Kelsie’s shoulder, hand snaking up to wrap around the back of Kelsie’s neck to keep her close.

“I’ve been to my share of strip clubs,” Laken gasped as Kelsie’s nails scratched across her abdomen, raising goosebumps in their wake.

“Have you now?” Kelsie questioned, but the proof was in the technique, undeniably picked up from experts in a professional environment.

“Yeah…” Laken barely managed as Kelsie’s fingertips dragged upward over her ribcage,  and, for some reason, the knowledge surprised Kelsie to no end.

Testing their boundaries at the bottom of Laken’s bra, Kelsie slipped beyond them when she realized there was nothing stopping her but herself. At the weight of Laken’s breasts, new and satisfying in her hands, and the responding catch of Laken’s breath, she lost herself to utter carnality for a moment, wanting nothing more than to rip what little remained of Laken’s clothing from her body and make first contact with the skin beneath. Knowing Laken had been about to say more, though, and wanting to know all there was to know, Kelsie took a much-needed breath and let her hands fall back to Laken’s stomach.

“Forrest thought it was a good way to bond,” Laken informed her a moment later, words considerably less composed than those that came before them.

“Did he?” For her part, Kelsie barely knew what conversation they were having.

“That’s what he said,” Laken struggled helplessly to draw breath. “I think he just liked having a lez sister who could get him past velvet ropes and would buy him beer.”

“Can’t blame him for that,” Kelsie nearly growled, hands smoothing down Laken’s skin until her fingers brushed the waistband of pale yellow panties, tensing when they wanted so much to go further. “Do you always wear panties like this?”

“Only when I think I might get lucky,” Laken confessed, the hand on Kelsie’s neck threading into her hair as Laken glanced over her shoulder with eyes such deep midnight, they were almost black. “What do you think, Kels?” Her breath blew erratically across Kelsie’s needy lips. “Do you think I might get lucky?”

“I think…” Kelsie couldn’t think anything. “You, um… I, um… what?”

When the pleased smile appeared at Laken’s lips, followed by a breathy chuckle that would have weakened Kelsie’s knees had she been standing, Kelsie couldn’t care less what struck Laken so funny. She didn’t have the capacity to care about anything outside Laken’s body doing things to hers that should have been impossible while she was still fully clothed.

Whipping suddenly around, Laken’s hair smacked her lightly in the face, intentionally, Kelsie suspected, and then there were Laken’s breasts again, pushing against the fabric of her bra, and Kelsie pitched forward to press her lips to the skin, hands clutching Laken’s back to hold her in place when she was almost sent flailing from her lap.

Before Kelsie could further explore the uncharted terrain, Laken dragged her mouth from its desirable position, hands on Kelsie’s cheeks yanking her head sharply up, and Laken’s lips were against hers, stealing her ability to ever want anyone else again.