Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Naked French Men or Where DO you get your Ideas?

Okay, I am aware that I write about naked men a lot. I also think about them a lot. I think it's part of the change of life or something. Yeah, that's a good excuse. I am reluctant to talk about my inspiration for the intimate scenes in my novels. My mother-in-law reads these. Ah, what the heck.

Despite my reputation, I actually don't have these scenes running in my head all the time. I do need some form of inspiration to get the juices flowing -- so to speak. As I've said, the initial inspiration for Nikulainen was Legolas from the Lord of the Rings films. Armas and Julin are facets of Prince Hector from Troy. These guys are really inspiring, but I can't watch the films all the while I'm writing. I would never get anything done.

Thus, I draw my amorous inspiration from a very thoughtful Christmas gift given by my room mate Ben. It is the 2006 Dieux de Stade calendar. It is a beautiful collection of nearly naked rugby players primarily from France. The above right images are from January. I do love the French. They kindly divide the month into two week intervals, so there are two men per month. And with each quarter, they throw one in for good measure. All I have to do is look to my left and all manner of positions and actions just pop into my head. Much of those involve honey and spreading...oh, wait...mother-in-law.

Anyway, check out the fan site for the calendar at: http://paris.typepad.com/ohlalaparis/dieux_du_stade/ and you'll understand why they are a source of endless fascination and inspiration. The site even has pics of the guys practicing for games. They look good doing that as well. We saw them paly on TV while we were in France last year. They're a brutal lot to be so beautiful. Which is how I think of the men in my novel. So I have very constructive reasons for staring at them. Yes, I do!

And now for a very fun contest indeed! For an advanced pdf copy of The Price of Surrender, find me additional sources of inspiration for my next novel. They must be strong and beautiful and competely inspiring!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cleanliness Means Nakedness -- The Bath and Romance Novels

I've been remiss in my posts of late. I hope this delightful excerpt and my musings thereupon make up for the lapse.

The bath is prevelant in romance novels, especially historical romances. That's ironic because, save for ancient times, baths weren't as prevelant as they tend to be in these stories. We've all heard the stories of heavy perfumes being used to mask the musk under all those folds of clothing. And we've all heard about how wild west hookers were popular because they were generally cleaner than their clients (I saw this on the History Channel). But who reads romances for tales of body odor? This is supposed to be an escape!

But drifting from bathing reality has another purpose. It gets characters naked. Skin gets caressed. Hair gets played with. If one character is bathing the other, there just isn't any better foreplay. It's a natural by-product of the bathing, and it's a very loving and intimate act for the couple.

In The Price of Surrender, Sarianna uses a very intimate bath to reward Nikulainen for tackling a very delicate subject. It is also a private time for them to re-connect after a long day. The following is still unedited, so be kind.

They looked at their beautiful daughter for a moment before Nikulainen gently pulled his wife along to their bedroom. He was surprised that neither Hanna nor Jorgen were present. However, the bath had been drawn, the fire stoked and their clothes for the nest day were laid out.

“I told them to go as soon as the bath was drawn,” Sarianna said. “I was unsure how long you would be with Alkarin. Am I forgiven?”

“Yes. He is very pleased that you sent wood to his new friend,” Nikulainen replied. “Have I fulfilled your requirements?”

“Quite well,” Sarianna admitted. “All could sense a change in Laurila’s demeanor. Yet she did not seem upset. What did you say?”

“It does not matter, my love,” he replied pulling her close. “You are pleased and our guest is happy.”

“And I have a boon to bestow. It seems my duties never end,” Sarianna murmured against his throat as they embraced. “But I do not mind.”

“For that I am grateful,” Nikulainen said.

“What is your wish from me?” She asked softly.

“Have me, Sarianna,” Nikulainen sighed. “Just have me, please.”

His beautiful Queen pulled away from him. She stroked his cheek then run a thumb over his lower lip. “Remove your garments and wait for me in the water.”

Nikulainen smiled as he leaned into her touch. Even after six years, her touch still had the power to move him to his core. He still trembled at the thought of her using him for her pleasure.

“Yes, Milady.”

As always, Nikulainen undressed in a flurry of hurried movement. Garments, bracers and boots dropped to the floor in a neat pile. Sarianna laughed undoubtedly because she was thinking of their son’s same bad habit. Her laugher turned to a sigh of appreciation when the leggings dropped to the floor.

“Unbraid your hair, fair King,” Sarianna murmured.

“As you wish, Milady.”

Nikulainen’s hair tumbled over his shoulders. As always, some of the veil fell over his eyes allowing him to covertly watch his wife undress. The water was quite warm and fragrant. He was in up to his shoulders watching her. After six years and two children, Sarianna had grown more beautiful and desirable. Her curves had become fuller though no less firm. The sparkle of youth in her deep blue eyes had turned to a smoldering warmth. The songs heralding the Queen were as impassioned as ever. Nikulainen swore that persons outside of Arinpera sought audiences merely to get a glimpse at her. But she was his.

“What thoughts are behind such a curious look, beloved?” Sarianna asked as she slid into the tub in front of him.

“I think I shall limit the number of foreigners seeking an audience,” he replied.

The Queen laughed. “That again. I would agree. That would keep the number of panting maidens and widows from my eyes, beautiful Nikulainen.”

Many still called him beautiful. As a male, that still dismayed him. Sarianna was the only one who made him believe such sentiments were true. She made him feel that truth with words, and glance and touch. She was doing it then in that tub as she stroked his hair away from his face. Her kisses covered his brow then graced his eyelids and his cheeks.

“I bestow upon you this gift for your gallant service, brave and fair King Nikulainen,” she said softly. “Are you ready?”

“Yes, I am ready.”

Sarianna straddled him impaling herself on his arousal in one move as her mouth possessed his in a hungry kiss. Nikulainen gloried in the feel of her tight heat surrounding him while her tongue cleverly used his mouth. She held his head firmly by the hair while she moved against him. Sarianna had him in such a way that he couldn’t move as she used him for her pleasure. And from the lovely gasps and moans she made between the deep, needy kisses coming from her, Sarianna was getting a great deal of pleasure. However, it seemed to Nikulainen that he was the one getting the better part of their joining. It always seemed that way to him. Even while his beloved was shouting out her pleasure against his mouth, it was Nikulainen who was moved to incredible release as her body tightened around him.

Afterward, Nikulainen had to move his wife with gentle hands to sit across from him. It took some long moments to recover themselves before they could actually bathe. Private baths between the King and Queen took some time to achieve, but Nikulainen’s patience prevailed. Even after the birth of their children, Nikulainen managed to be the one who cared for his wife. Lord Valtias taught him how to heal and that gave him the authority to take over the cherished task. And how he adored caring for her. He loved to wash the heavy silken hair. He loved the way her skin felt under the creamy soap. And he loved her hands on his skin and in his hair. Bathing with Sarianna was almost as powerful as making love to her. That night was no different. As they settled under the blankets that night, he felt their bond had been renewed.

“Hearing the news about your brother has made you very happy,” Sarianna said softly as she rested her head against his chest.

Once again, Nikulainen basked in the singular joy he had seldom been without since first laying eyes upon her. He was pressed against her lovely body under the warmth of the blankets with her scent enveloping him and her heart beating against his. There was naught but the gravest of emergencies that could wrest her from his side. The King was loathe to travel anywhere that meant sleeping apart from his Queen.

“Yes. At the very least, he has come out of a cycle of self pleasuring and re-joined the world,” Nikulainen replied quietly. “His actions have set him on a path toward a reunion. That has made me very happy.”

Sarianna hugged him close. “I hope so, beloved. I know how much you want your family whole.”

“I want everyone to be as happy as we are,” Nikulainen murmured sleepily.

“A fine reason. May that soon be so.”

Thus the bath works for an erotic moment and an intimate and romantic one. So, fair readers, where have you seen the bath used in this way? I'll take novels, films or TV shows as answers. Name a good one and win an advanced reader copy of The Price of Surrender once it's edited (June 1st).

Though this novel can be read on its own, readers should really read The Gift of Surrender first!

Buy it at: http://sybpress.com/titles.htm#Surrender

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Brotherly Love -- Not the Philly Kind

I mentioned Rosemary Rogers and Katherine Woodiwiss in my first blog. They were major influences in my development as a romance writer. There was another Romance writer heavyweight who influence me over the years and certainly influence 'The Gift of Surrender.' Johanna Lindsey is the author whose covers introduced Fabio to the world. She is a prolific author who had many a fine title. Her romances often had a splash of humor, a bit of mystery and lots of heat. One of the things she liked to do in her novels that I enjoyed was to have big families in the stories. A cynic could view that as a way of having built in sequels. That may be true, but what's not to like about having more than one hot looking guy about. My favorite were the Malory brothers whose tale began in Captive Desires.

For my part, I thought having brothers compete for Sarianna's hand would create tension between the characters. The brothers' pursuit would also sum up the complexities of the politics Sarianna faced without having to go through a vast array of suitors. As I've said before, it was in my head to end the book with the brothers split apart as a result of Armas' betrayal. He would leave for another kingdom and the heir to their father's throne would go to Julin, the middle brother. Perhaps it was Lindsey's influence, but I couldn't leave those brothers estranged like that. And there were a lot of readers who wanted to see the older brothers wed. Thus, Armas' journey began.

It was in his head to earn his way back to his family by becoming a better man and a better prince. But those noble efforts put him at odds with his ambitious and paranoid queen. He has to flee from her wrath and barely makes it the shelter of Nikulainen and Sarianna's kingdom. Thus, Armas feels guilty and vulnerable in the presence of his brother. Here's an excerpt and remember, these are still unedited:

Armas awoke just as dawn was breaking. He woke less out of habit than from the pain that finally seeped into the forefront of his mind. The intensity of the painful surge made him gasp. Upon opening his eyes, Armas found that Laurila had fallen asleep curled up in the chair. A blanket covered her to the shoulders.

“Be at ease, Brother,” Nikulainen said softly as gently lifted his head then pressed a cup to his lips. “Just drink deeply.”

“I do not wish to sleep right away,” Armas rasped. “We must speak.”

“We shall. The water will not make you sleep as quickly. You are gaining your strength,” Nikulainen replied. “Please, Armas.”

Armas obeyed drinking all that was in the cup before his head was placed back on the pillow. Nikulainen sat beside him and looked at him quietly for a little while.

“Is the pain easing?”

“Yes,” Armas replied with a sigh. “Thank you, Niku.”

Nikulainen smiled a small smile at the tender use of his name. “Do not be afraid. I will not harm you.”

“I know,” Armas said though he was wary. He wondered if there was more to the healing.

Nikulainen then gently placed his hands at either side of Armas’ head to cradle him gently. Their eyes locked in a deep gaze. Suddenly, Armas felt a warmth and happiness flow through him. Nikulainen seemed to be in his mind for a moment.

“What manner of sorcery is this?” Armas breathed. “I can feel you in my mind.”

“’Tis no sorcery, Armas. It is merely who I am,” Nikulainen replied quietly. “Look into me as I do you.”

The warmth shimmered between them for a long moment. And then Nikulainen withdrew and sat back. His gaze was even more kind. It was almost too much to be viewed with such gentle regard after all that had passed between them.

“I am sorry,” Armas began. “About so much that has passed between us. But especially for putting your family in peril.”

Nikulainen gently caressed his brow. “That was not your doing. Your warning saved those I live for and you nearly died saving Laurila. None could ask more.”

“You do not question my heart, brother?”

“I know it,” Nikulainen said warmly. His smile widened “And it brings me great joy to have you here. I have sent word to Magnus and Julin.”

Armas smiled a little at that. “I wish to see them. I pray they feel the same.”

“They do, brother,” he replied. “We have been trying to know your state of being since you left us. Our tables were always a little empty with your absence.”

The Prince felt a lump in his throat at that sentiment. He took Nikulainen’s hand and clutched it to his heart. “I always thought you weak for your kind heart. But you are most courageous for giving your heart as you do.”

“Armas has great courage, too,” Nikulainen said. “Though I sense that something dire caused you to come to the Citadel at this time, I also know that your feet were already set upon a path back home.”

“Aye,” Armas replied softly. “I cannot speak all of it now. I feel my fatigue returning. In my pack you will find a chronicle of all that has occurred to bring me here. You and Sarianna may read it.”

“My thanks.”

Armas looked confused at something beside his head. Nikulainen picked something out of the hair spread out on the pillow. It was a small wooden soldier.

“My son has left you a guardian,” Nikulainen said placing it on the headboard.

“He is very much like you were,” Armas observed wryly.

“So I am told.”

“Magnus and Reija must enjoy that,” Armas chuckled.

“Indeed they do. Far too much, in my opinion.”

“Before I slumber once more, tell me of Magnus and Julin and Reija,” Armas said.

The smile lit Nikulainen’s large eyes from within. He then spoke in soft tones about how their family was faring. Sleep claimed Armas while he basked in the happiness of hearing Nikulainen’s news.

Though his family is welcoming, Armas has a lot of guilt to get past before accepting forgiveness. One of the most important questions posited in the story is will Armas forgive himself and take the happiness being offered by Laurila and his family or will he be doomed with his former lover? In this excerpt it is clear that the guilt is always near the surface with him.

Armas had just finished his mid-day dose of healing tea when he heard a commotion in the corridor. Laurila looked up from her reading at the sound of laughter approaching the door. It was most certainly Alkarin and Kirsi, but there was another voice. The sound of that voice made Armas sit up attentively. Laurila put down her book with curiosity. Then Julin was in the room smiling at him while covered in laughing children.

“I am in this Citadel only an hour when I am accosted by ruffians,” he rumbled trying to shake his nephew from his leg while squeezing the baby. “Greetings brother. You look terrible.”

“I was worse,” Armas smiled. “Greetings, brother.”

The two men stared at each other. Laurila rose after a long moment.

“Allow me to take the children, highness,” she said softly. “Alkarin, let your uncles visit a moment. They have not seen each other and it is Julin’s turn.”

“Okay,” the boy said glumly releasing his uncle’s limb. “Can I show you my alarm horn later, uncle?”

“You have an alarm horn?” Julin repeated incredulously.

“Aye,” he replied proudly. “I am very loud.”

“Of that I am certain,” Julin replied with barely contained chagrin. “I cannot wait.”

Alkarin look Laurila’s hand. Kirsi was placed in her free arm.

“Thank you, Princess,” Julin said.

“My pleasure,” she replied with a short curtsy. After a long glance at Armas, she left.

Julin noticed the exchange. He raised a curious brow for an instant, but he seemed to decided that greeting his brother was more important than teasing him. Armas welcomed the strong, heartfelt embrace though it pained his taxed limbs and healing wounds.

“You cannot know how happy you have made Magnus and Reija,” Julin murmured before releasing him. “How happy you have made me. I was not sure I would lay eyes upon you again. I never knew I could miss such a face.”

“I am glad to see a face such as yours as well,” Armas said softly. “I have sorely felt the absence of your odd humor.”

Armas laughed. His heart felt so much lighter and somehow full at the same time. He bid his brother sit beside him.

“Forgive my foolishness, brother,” Armas said quietly. It was hard to meet the warmth in Julin’s eyes. “I deeply regret the grief I have caused.”

“My ire abated upon the message of your return,” Julin said sincerely. “Our father’s joy righted everything between us.”

“There is so much I wish to say and much I wish to hear,” Armas said with mild distress. “But I shall not be able to fight sleep for much longer.”

“Nor should you,” Julin assured him. “I saw Niku when he was wounded thus. Even the strength of the Forest Realm did not spare him great pain and fatigue. It took time and great care to heal.”

Armas was stricken by the memory. The pain once again battered his body. Taraasta had been so pleased with herself at the thought of avenging Rowsdower’s death. For reasons that still escaped him, she had believed that he would be pleased as well.

“I did not know she had sent the assassins until well after they left. There had been no way to stop them,” Armas said in despair.

“You did not have to tell me that. None of us thought you would willingly allow harm to Niku,” Julin replied.

“My mind is not my own,” Armas sighed in frustration.

“You are weary of being weary?”

Armas found himself smiling at the very familiar teasing. “Perhaps I am. My eyes will not stay open.”

“We will talk later,” Julin said. “I must wash the trail away and seek my own rest. Until later.”

“Yes,” Armas said vaguely. He heard Laurila return just after Julin departed. It was only after he felt her kiss on his brow that he released himself to sleep.

Throughout the novel is the relationship of the brothers. Once they are re-united, there is a lot of laughter and comradery. They even get to fight together once more. They also get to fight with each other. Hopefully, readers will enjoy this as much as I enjoyed reading about the Malorys in Johanna Lindsey's books.

I'm not doing a contest this week. Next week, I hope to start offering preview pdfs of The Price of Surrender.