Monday, October 10th, 2011 • No Comments
This is from Sylvia Day’s lovely story “Iron Hard” in Steamlust: Steampunk Erotic Romance. I decided to use Sylvia’s story to introduce the collection because this beautifully written erotic love story has all of the elements of a classic steampunk tale. This is what steampunk erotic romance is all about!
Squaring her shoulders, Annie caught the brass ring held in the jaws of a massive lion’s head doorknocker and rapped it sharply. She was initially surprised when a human butler opened the door, but that passed swiftly. The baron could afford the luxury of live servants and their wages. She, on the other hand, had created Alfred from scrap parts.
The butler took her hat, gloves, and pelisse before showing her into a shadowed study.
As he bowed and moved to turn away, she said, “I will require more light, please.”
The striking of a match preceded the flaring of illumination from one of the room’s corners. Her head turned swiftly, her breath catching as a man stepped forward. She scarcely paid any mind to the door clicking shut behind the retreating servant.
“Will this do?” he asked in a low, rumbling voice. He turned up the flame in the gas lamp he carried and joined her at the desk where she’d deposited the birds.
She stared, riveted by the savage beauty of his face and the intensity with which he regarded her. His dark hair was long, hanging to his shoulders in a thick, glossy mane. A wide band of pure white strands embellished his left temple, framing a silver eye. Even as she watched, the metallic iris turned, the lens adjusting to accommodate the brighter light. A scar ran diagonally from his temple, across the eyelid, and over his upper lip, explaining how he’d lost the eye he had been born with. The blemish did nothing to mitigate his comeliness. While it altered her perception of the symmetry of his features, it was in a manner she found highly appealing, as she did the air of danger surrounding him.
The provocation she felt was far from fear.
Breathing shallowly, her gaze raked over his face, admiring his dark winged brows, brilliant green iris, and the impossibly sensual shape of his mouth. His jaw was square and bold, his cheekbones high and expertly sculpted. He was far too masculine to be pretty, but he was certainly magnificent. And younger than the strip of white hair and his world-weary gaze would suggest. The drawings of him in the gazettes had never done him justice.
“Miss Waters,” he greeted, extending his gloved hand. “I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is to receive you.”
“My lord. The pleasure is mine.” She curtsied and placed her fingers within his palm, shivering as he clasped her. There was a sincerity in his commonplace greeting that startled her. Then something else unexpected—the unforgiving strength of metal curling around her fingers—stole her attention. “Your hand…?”
“My arm,” he corrected.
An entire arm. Mechanized. Excitement coursed through her.
He watched her with searing intensity. “Would you like to see it?”
Releasing her, he stepped back and shrugged out of his beautifully tailored velvet jacket. He tugged off his gloves; first the one on his mechanical hand, then its pair covering his physical one. She was amazed by the dexterity of his copper fingers as he freed the button at his cuff and rolled his sleeve up.
Her lungs seized at the wondrous sight. She took a step forward without her volition, her gaze riveted to the softly whirring copper and steel gears. They had been fashioned into the shape of an arm and so precisely meshed that she doubted even air could slip between the cogs. Encased in what appeared to be thin glass, it was worthy of museum exhibition.
“How extensive is the replacement?” she asked, fighting the urge to run her hands over it.
“To the shoulder.”
Her tongue darted out to lick suddenly dry lips.
His green eye flashed with heat and his mouth—that wicked, wonderful mouth—curved in a rakish smile. “I would gladly show you the whole, but I’d have to undress further. Do you object?”
“No.” She quivered with anticipation. “Please.”
The baron loosened his cravat. She was so mesmerized by the expert craftsmanship of his artificial appendage, she scarcely registered that he was disrobing. Until the tight lacing of his abdomen was bared. Followed by the rippling expanse of his powerful chest.
“Oh, my…” Her arousal spiked. Her blood was hot for him, her body softening to accommodate the hardness of his. Unseemly thoughts filled her mind. Naughty thoughts. Highly sexual.
He was scarred on his chest as well. As with his face, the puckered bullet hole and multiple knife slashes only made him more delicious. Annie’s lips parted on lightly panting breaths, her breasts swelling within her bodice.
She flushed and tore her gaze away from the seductive expanse of flame-lit muscle and golden skin. It shocked her to realize how much effort was required to focus on his finely wrought arm instead. In truth, it had been far too long since flesh and blood had held more appeal than steel and grease. She found herself at a loss over which arm was more skillfully cast—the one afforded him by the grace of God or the one crafted by an earthly engineer.
“Exquisite.” Annie referred to the entirety of him, not merely the manmade pieces.
From his sudden low growl, the baron knew it.
Sunday, October 9th, 2011 • 3 Comments
I know it’s been quiet around here. I feel like my blog has become obsolete as I share the pertinent information on Facebook and rarely have time to write thoughtfully on anything other than my Oh Get A Grip! themes. (And sometimes I don’t do a very good job there, either.) So the stretches get longer and longer between blog posts here and the list of things I want to write about continues to grow…
It’s autumn, which always feels like a new beginning. The school girl in me lingers… the urge to buy school supplies is often overpowering. What’s a new beginning without a new notebook, right? And with new beginnings, I feel like it’s time for change. Yeah, I know, I just had a baby and what a change that’s been. We’re adjusting, the four of us. For Patrick, it’s a matter of learning to share his parents (primarily dad) and get used to a new little being in the house. For Jay, it’s about learning this new son in a way he never got to learn about Patrick when he returned to Dubai. For me, it’s about trying to find the new balance between family life, work life, social life and still cram in some solitary time for myself. It is an impossible balance right now, but it will come.
It’s been a surreal kind of week from start to finish. I feel like I’m in a bit of a fog lately, between postpartum recovery and lack of sleep. So it’s mind boggling how much was going on this week while I kept hearing the same refrain, “Get some rest!”
My in-laws were in town for a few days, which was good because they hadn’t yet met almost 2 year old Patrick, but was also a little stressful as it felt like we’d just gotten into a new routine when they showed up. I don’t have any family to speak of, so it’s good for the boys (well, mostly Patrick right now) to meet their grandparents and know their extended family. But it’s not likely we’re going to get to Tennessee anytime soon, so this visit was a long time coming. Of course, for an introvert/loner like myself, being in the house with three other adults and two little kids felt kind of claustrophobic. You have to remember I’m used to going six month stretches being the only person in the house when Jay was away on deployments. Just the four of us feels like a full house now—and the kids are little. Add a couple of house guests and I’m overwhelmed. The days of being alone in the house are over and, on one hand, that’s a good thing—I have a family! On the other hand, I do miss the solitude and peace sometimes.
The day after my in-laws left, the incomparable Tristan Taormino was in town to speak at my alma mater, Old Dominion University. For whatever reason, ODU didn’t provide anyone to pick her up from the airport, so I volunteered to play driver/assistant while she was here. It was lovely to finally meet her (Tristan has bought several stories from me since 2002) and see sex education done right. It was a bit odd how her event was promoted—or not promoted. The information on the ODU website was little more than “Pucker Up” (Tristan’s website) and a phone number to call for more information—in an entirely different building than where she was actually speaking. I surmised this cloak and dagger approach was to avoid controversy and protest. Which is… ridiculous. Her presentation, despite her straightforward language, was hardly controversial. I was afraid the lack of university promotion would make for a poor turnout, but the space was packed with well over 200 students who were wildly excited to see Tristan in person.
Friday, we celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary, which involved an hour drive to Williamsburg to have lunch at our favorite restaurant, the Blue Talon Bistro. In previous years, it’s been a leisurely lunch in the middle of a peaceful day of walking and shopping. With two children under two, we barely had time to eat and there was hardly any conversation as we took turns walking a wailing Lucas outside to spare the other diners the noise. Oh well, at least we can say we went, even if all we did was drive up, eat in a rush and drive back. If nothing else, the weather was beautiful! It will get easier… I keep telling myself that about so many things these days. It will get easier.
The rest of the week included yet another postpartum doctor’s appointment. I’ve been having issues with high blood pressure (not to mention the allergic reaction I had to the Percocet), but things seem to be improving on all fronts. I’m almost out of the postpartum period, with one more doctor’s appointment next week. Now, if only the hormones would level out and stop ricocheting around like pinballs. Whew. What a ride!
On the writing/editing front, Steamlust: Steampunk Erotic Romance is officially out and the numbers on Amazon are encouraging. I hope so much that this book does well. I pitched steampunk to Cleis twice in an almost one-year period—it wasn’t an easy sell. But I think the genre is really hot right now (like fairy tales!) and I hope the book finds an audience. If you haven’t seen the book trailer Nikki Magennis did for Steamlust, do check it out. It’s beautiful!
I also got the final word on Lustfully Ever After: Fairy Tale Erotic Romance this week and will be announcing the table of contents very soon. It’s going to be such a fun collection of fairy tale erotic romance! Copyedits are due in a couple of weeks, so I need to get on that asap. Thankfully, the accompanying note said the book was well edited (by me!) and had only minor corrections and questions. It really does pay to put in the time on the front end, even when it feels like I have no time.
Now that Steamlust is officially out I’ll be thinking about my December anthology. New York Times bestselling author Shayla Black gave me her foreword for Best Erotic Romance this week—yay! This first edition of what will hopefully be an annual collection is filled with some wonderful stories. I’m very proud of the books I’ve done for Cleis Press this year. I haven’t written nearly as much as I would have liked, but I’ve put my heart into the books I’ve edited.
I have commented more than once in the past week that the universe works in mysterious ways as I’ve noticed connections (and disconnections) in the world around me. It’s been a week of ups and downs and side to sides and two steps forward and one step back. This week I’ve had conversations about life, love, sex, lust, relationships, publishing, writing, academia, the military, motherhood, children, plastic surgery, success, failure, money, family, hopes and regrets. I’ve gotten phone calls and text messages out of the blue that have reminded me I may feel like I’m struggling, but I don’t have to struggle alone. There have been surprise baby packages in the mail and moments of unbidden tears. I’ve laughed with my toddler and comforted my newborn. I’ve felt more like myself than I have in months—and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel feels like it’s miles long.
I’ve contemplated change a lot this week, breaking out of my writing comfort zone, going back to school, trying something new like a Pilates class or guitar lessons, taking a big trip to the UK in 2012, planning readings closer to home, letting go of the obligations that weigh me down and carrying only those that inspire and fulfill me.
I’ve also thought a lot about what I want to accomplish in the next five years, ten years, twenty years. The death of Steve Jobs at 56 is a reminder that I don’t have time to rest or be lazy. As tired as I am, as overwhelmed as I feel, there is still so much to do in this life—and there are no guarantees. I’m 44 and some days I feel 25 and somedays I feel 60. I hope to make it to 56 and beyond. But who knows? I see the missed opportunities and I want to kick myself for not pushing harder and doing more. I see the unlimited possibilities and even though I’m so eager to go for them I paralyze myself with questions and doubts. I need goals—and that’s a hard thing for me, because making a list of goals feels like limiting myself. I don’t do well with limitations. Or rules. Or being told no. But I need to focus on the things that are important to me—me!—and let go of the idea that I have to impress or please anyone else. You’d think I would have learned that lesson by now—and I have, I swear I have—but sometimes I need to remind myself.
What a week. What a month. What a year. 2012 isn’t so far away, but there’s still a chunk of 2011 left and I intend to make the best of it. You do the same, okay?
Saturday, October 1st, 2011 • No Comments
You are one month old, sweet baby boy! You came into this world weighing almost eleven pounds and with a full head of dark hair. Your hair looked for all the world like a faux hawk we had styled for you, but it was all you, sweetpea. You already have your own style—and such a sweet smile. They say babies don’t smile until they are a few months old, but you do! Your baby smiles come when you are sleepy and full and drifting off to sleep. And you make me smile, too.
I think the universe was sending a message with your birth, dear Lucas. In the week or so before you were born, we had an earthquake and a hurricane! The earthquake was a first for this part of Virginia and Hurricane Irene blew through a few days later. Plus, we’d been dealing with the ongoing smoke from wild fires in the Great Dismal Swamp. I think the universe was reminding me that Mother Nature is fierce and powerful and capable of anything—and here you are!
I’ll let you in on a secret, Lucas—your mama is rather old to be having babies. In fact, I honestly didn’t think I would ever have babies. And then your brother Patrick came along and I thought he was the only baby I would have. But the universe had other plans for our family and you arrived, big and healthy and another miracle in my life that I wasn’t expecting.
You can thank Patrick for being born first—he was my practice baby and everything I learned about taking care of babies was through the trial and error of taking care of him alone while your father was deployed. I am much more relaxed and at peace this time around, baby boy, and I think that’s a good thing for all of us! You make it easy, though. You’re only a few weeks old but you are already sleeping in fairly long stretches of three to five hours and you’re a very good eater, too!
You were born at the end of summer and I pushed for your birthday to be September 1 because I wanted you to usher in my favorite season. I love autumn and the promise of cooler weather and the brilliance of fall leaves and the warmth of comfort food. I look forward to the shorter days and longer nights because there is so much to look forward to in the fall, from starting school to Halloween to Thanksgiving. You are my autumn baby, warm and comforting and familiar and full of promise and magic.
My hope for you, dear Lucas, is the same hope that I have for your brother: that you will grow up to be fiercely independent and full of love and hope and imagination. You are still so new in the world that it’s hard to tell what your personality will be, but I have faith that between your father and me (and Patrick, too), we will help you discover who you are and what you love.
You look at me while I’m feeding you and I feel like you’re studying me. “Hello, baby!” I say, over and over, and you just stare at me with your serious expression. I wonder what you see when you look up at me, if you know how much you’re loved and how amazing it is that you’re my child. You’re probably just wondering why this woman looks so tired and sounds so silly. That’s what two babies does to your mama, sweetheart.
Two babies. I still can’t wrap my mind around that reality. Two babies under two! Two baby boys—though Patrick is nearly two years old and truly a toddler to your newborn status. But the days and weeks and months are already slipping by and you will both grow up before I know it. My hope is you will be the best of friends and always have each other’s back—brothers should be like that, I think. Friends and confidants, looking out for each other in all ways.
Patrick has the distinction of being my first baby, the one who changed my life the most profoundly, but you sweet Lucas have the distinction of being my last baby and the one who showed me that I am capable of more love than I ever thought possible. I knew the odds of having you were unlikely and now that you’re here and I see how beautiful and perfect you are, I am convinced I could not want anything more than what I have right now. Two babies, my first and my last. You are the two little miracles in my midlife—filling my world and my heart with so much joy and laughter and possibility.
It’s a great big world out there and I hope one day to show it to you. I don’t want to wish you older—being my last baby, I am determined to savor these early months despite the interrupted sleep and occasional crying jags (yours and mine)—yet I still look forward to all the adventures we are going to enjoy as a family, exploring what the world has to offer each of us. But for now, dear Lucas, your father, Patrick and you are all I need to make my world complete.
Thank you for coming into my world, Lucas. It was a pretty terrific place already, but you have made it bigger and brighter and wilder. Happy one month birthday, baby boy.
Mama loves you.