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My 2014 Photo Album

P1030147Happy 2015 Everyone! 2014 has been a year busy enough and full enough to feel like three, and looking back makes me a little bit dizzy. I think a lot of writers live in the moment — especially when we’re in the middle of writing a story.  I find that I often forget all about what happened three days ago and am totally unmindful of what will happen three days in the future. Makes planning a bit of a challenge from time to time, but it does mean that I’m great at being totally tunnel-visioned.

This year, I thought I’d review the year in pictures rather than do quite so much navel gazing, and I’ve always been a sucker for photo albums. So grab a cuppa, sit back in the recliner and let me show you my 2014.

The year began with two major launches, both very different. The first was my novel, Fulfilling the Contract, which is book 2 in The Mount Series.

Fulfilling the ContractBook two of The Mount trilogy (Click here for Book One | Book Three)

Limo driver, NICK CHASE’s bad night gets worse when he picks up TANYA POVIC at a bar only to discover the explosive sex they share lands her in breach of her very strange contract. Blaming himself that Tanya will lose the large completion bonus earmarked for her mother’s surgery, Nick negotiates with her boss, the tough and mysterious ELSA CRANE, to allow him to fulfill Tanya’s contract and secure her bonus.

Elsa runs Mount Vegas, which offers voyeuristic pleasures for a price. Nick’s job, with Elsa and her quirky team, is to give clients something worth watching through the plate glass windows of Vegas’s luxury hotels and beyond. The learning curve is steep and kinky. As Nick and Elsa’s relationship sizzles and ignites more than hotel room rendezvouses are exposed. In this sequel to The Initiation of Ms Holly things get positively dangerous as Rita Holly and her team are called in from London to lend a helping hand. Bets are being placed. Will Nick fulfil the contract? Will he and Elsa take the gamble? And will they find a way to win at the high stakes, double or nothing, game of hearts?

The second launch was my first ever attempt at a serial, Demon Interrupted, DI is a Lakeland Witches story, which began on the 2nd of February and finished on Halloween. I reran it over Christmas so people could read it all together. It was a very exciting way to write a story, and I found myself feeling quite bereft when I finished it. I’m hoping to do another series on my blog this year.

Demon Interrupted CoverBlurb:

What secrets does a man have that would cause him to chooses to live under a spell that magically erased his past? When that spell is broken Ferris Ryder must choose to remember all that he was, all that he has done and all that drove him to willingly forget. If he chooses not to remember, the consequences will be dire for himself and the Elemental Coven, who are now his family.

Is the mysterious Elaine, who both fears and desires Ferris, a ghost with a past all her own, or merely a figment of his fevered dreams as he struggles against time to remember the past he fears or destroy the very people for whom he chose to forget.

If you want to know more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy: Body Temperature and RisingRiding the Ether and Elemental Fire.

 

BB table

In March it was time for Eroticon 2014! An event I always look forward to, and one that always gives me a chance to get together with, if not all, at least most of the fabulous Brit Babes. That always results in scheming and planning something totally naughty. This year, I had the absolute pleasure of leading a panel discussion on Sex and Spirituality with my dear friend and fabulous writer, Victoria Blisse. The panel was well attended, and the ideas bounced around in the room about that fabulous connection between sex and spirituality were exciting and inspiring. On top of that it was just a wonderful chance to reconnect with old friends and make new.

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In April, I made my usual pilgrimage to Oregon to visit my sister. We make it a point to do lots of road trips, lots IMG00627-20140409-1228of movie and popcorn sessions in her TV room, lots of long chats over coffee and lots of walks in the High Desert sunshine. This year for her birthday, we threw caution to the wind and drove the two and a half hours to Crater Lake National Park, even though we knew it would be buried under snow. With 12-foot snow-banks along either side of the road and the car park at the crater rim, we followed the snowy path to views that were totally stunning, lunched in the lodge, and enjoyed the cool early spring around this stunning lake. The trip was meant for a birthday pressie for my sister, but I felt like it was as much a gift for me as it was for her. A definite return-trip will be necessary, and possibly a story???

 

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I got back from Oregon just in time to prepare for Smut by the Sea in Scarborough, which is another one of my favourite naughty events each year. I was very privileged to be asked to teach a workshop on finessing sex in fiction. As usual the workshops, the reading slam, the tombola and  just the opportunity to spend time with other writers and readers of erotica was a real treat.

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If that wasn’t enough, my fabulous husband and I took a little detour on our way home from Scarborough into Dracula country with a very brief, but very rewarding visit up the rocky coast to Whitby It was little more than a tasty tease of gothic deliciousness, and definitely requires a return visit, but I was inspired nonetheless. On the way home, we drove through the North York Moors, a drive that took us only hour. The last time we crossed these moors, it was on foot, and it took us four days!

 

P1020094One of the highlights of 2014, for me, had to be winning the  ETO Best Erotic Author award for 2014! It was a privilege to be nominated along with amazing writers, Brit Babes, and dear friends, Kay Jaybee and Lucy Felthouse but to win was totally unexpected! At first it didn’t register. How could be my name being called? I sort of remember walking to the stage. After kissing my husband. Shell shocked. Hoping I wouldn’t trip over my own feet, wondering if I could remember how to speak. Me, speechless! Can you imagine such a thing? What made the whole evening even better still was that not only were three Brit Babes nominated for the award, but I got to celebrate the win with four Brit Babes, Victoria Blisse,  Kay Jaybee & Lexie Bay and Tabitha Rayne. There was much dancing and carousing, and I’m still stunned every time I look at the beautiful shiny award with my name on it.

ETO winner button

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This year has seen a lot of travel, more than I realised, beginning with my trip to Oregon and thenScarborough, then in July, there was a wonderful walking holiday in the Lake District to research a new series I’m planning to set there, and mostly to get my feet back on the fells and reconnect with one of my very favourite places on the planet. Staying with our fabulous friends, Vron and Brian Spencer, gave me an opportunity to pick their brains for the new series. I was once again reminded why I find the place so incredibly inspiring. In fact, it is also the setting for my m/m novella, Landscapes from the exciting new Brit Boys:On Boys Book Bundle just now released.

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10419527_609693305824649_2407916111421693460_nLandscapes Blurb:

Alonso Darlington has a disturbing method of keeping landscaper, Reese Chambers, both safe from and oblivious to his dangerous lust for the man. But Reese isn’t easy to keep secrets from, and Alonso wants way more than to admire the man from afar. Can he risk a real relationship without risking Reese’s life?

 

In September we made our first ever trip to New York City — my lovely husband to train for his 3rd degree black belt in Karate and me to write, play tourist and be inspired. I didn’t expect to fall in love, but I did! I totally adore New York City. I can honestly say it has joined my list of favourite cities, and I can’t wait to go back. Raymond got his 3rd degree, I got to explore, spend some quality time with Maxim Jakubowski and his lovely wife Delores, and I got the inspiration for my first seasonal novella ever, A Valentine For Christmas, which is now available in the Cariad collection, Love Under the Mistletoe

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Cariad Christmas 2014 Collection

‘A Valentine for Christmas

All work and no play, bah humbugging CEO, Gerard Jasper’s, anonymous Christmas gift is actually a Valentine — Moira ‘R.M.’ Valentine, the mysterious CEO of the Valentine Corporation. Moira’s walk on the wild side has accidentally landed her naked and bound with red ribbon under Gerard’s tree – not good when their companies are negotiating the deal of a lifetime. When two lonely people with enough baggage to fill a 747 come together for Christmas, the fireworks rivals New Years at Times Square, but can they overcome their pasts to give each other the true gift — a merger of hearts?

 

In October I made another trip to Lyme Regis for my annual writers retreat and spent the time working on Grace Marshall’s latest novel, Interviewing Wade, which has been SO much fun to write. I’ve had requests from readers for Wade’s story ever since the first of The Executive Decisions novels came out, so it was very exciting to finally let Wade whisper his story in my ear. Interviewing Wade will be released in February 2015. Very much looking forward to that release. Here’s a little teaser for Interviewing Wade :

The Executive Decisions Trilogy may be over, but the story continues. Intrepid reporter, Carla Flannery, wants to interview Wade Crittenden, the secretive creative genius behind Pheuma, Inc, But when, against all odds, Wade actually agrees to the interview, Carla suspects ulterior motives…

Carla has made a lot of enemies in her work and when Wade discovers she’s being stalked, he agrees to the interview to keep her close and safe. As the situation turns deadly, lives and hearts are on the line, and the interview reveals far more about both than either ever expected.

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October was a busy month with the month-long Things That Go Hump in the Night event on my blog — a full month of fantastic guest authors celebrating paranormal erotica with me as I re-launched the Lakeland Witches trilogy with new titles and covers.

 

Things that go Hump in the Night 2

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It was also an opportunity for Raymond and me to head up to Wales for a fantastic weekend with Brit Babe, fab writer and good friend Lily Harlem and Mr. Harlem, in which the writerly among us schemed and planned and talked writing into the night.

 

I don’t get a lot of time to write shorter fiction anymore, but this year I wrote two short stories for very special editors, whom I love working with, Maxim Jakubowski and Rose Caraway.

My story, The Trespass: When a sudden summer rain causes an unexpected trespass, a reclusive sculptor, who can’t bear to be touched and a walker suffering from depression forge an intimate connection.

My story, The Trespass: When a sudden summer rain causes an unexpected trespass, a reclusive sculptor, who can’t bear to be touched and a walker suffering from depression forge an intimate connection.

 

Contains my story, Cherries in Season: A veg and fruit connoisseur has a real taste for cherries in season and the sexy green grocer who sells them.

Contains my story, Cherries in Season: A veg and fruit connoisseur has a real taste for cherries in season and the sexy green grocer who sells them.

In November, I headed off to Manchester for Smut Manchester, another opportunity to be with other naughty writers and readers, all thanks to the efforts of Victoria and Kev Blisse. This time I had little to do but one reading from To Rome with Lust and the rest of the time I got to enjoy the wonderful workshops offered, the great readings and just the chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Writers tend to live isolated lives, so it’s especially good when we get the chance to be together and talk craft.

prelim for SourceBooks Holly cover

As I mentioned above, I also released the third novel in The mount Series, To Rome with Lust, in early December, which I’m very excited about, and very pleased to see it doing so well and following in Holly’s footsteps, since it was also four years ago in October when  The Initiation of Ms Holly , the first book in the Mount Series, was launched.

 

We ended 2013 in Rome. Liking that tradition of going away on holiday at the end of the year, we ended 2014 with a much-needed holiday, in which Raymond whisked me off for Christmas in Dubrovnik. It was my first trip back to Croatia in a very long time, and it was fantastic to be back. The weather was sunny and warm and the hotel had a lovely view of the Adriatic. I’ve shared masses of photos on FaceBook. While we were there, we were also able to make trips into Montenegro P1030161and Bosnia Hercegovina. For more photos of all three places, follow the links.

And that’s the year in a nutshell. Funny how I didn’t realise just how much had happened until I reflected back on it. I’m stunned and amazed at all the good things that have filled my year, that fill my life, and I’m very, very happy that all of you have been a part of my life through the year. Thank you for reading, commenting, and visiting A Hopeful Romantic. You all are amazing!

Happy New Year! I wish you love and happiness and all things good in 2015!

 

 

 

Sex and Creativity

Sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities.

Erica Jong

(Archived post)

Sex toy incentiveMG00625-20140322-1049My husband knows I’m always looking for interesting articles about sex. He sent me one the other day about masturbation as a treatment for restless leg syndrome (It’s orgasm that actually seems to help. The means is optional.) This led us to an impromptu discussion of all of the other benefits of sex. Sex is a good sleep aid, sex can help with weight loss, sex can improve skin, hair and nails, just to name a few. The jury, however, is still out on whether sex is an aid or a deterrent to creativity.

For the nay-sayers, abstinence has long been touted as a way to focus sexual energy for creative purposes. On the other hand, a study at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne and the Open University showed that professional poets and artists had almost twice as many sex partners as other people. The study also showed that the number of sex partners increased as creative output went up. The conclusion drawn was that the more creative you are, the more sex partners you were likely to have.

I’m sure that’s a simplification, but I wonder which came first the sex or the creativity? Is it the creative force that makes us horny, or is it being horny that makes us creative? My guess is that every writer, poet or artist would answer that question differently. However, I don’t think there’s any denying the close connection between the creative force and sexuality. Nor do I think that’s particularly surprising. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Freud was right. It IS all about sex. But what I’m not sure of is that we really understand just what sex is all about.

Yes, the basic biology of it’s obvious, but we humans haven’t had sex simply to procreate in a very long time now. We’ve evolved to want, to expect, even to need more from the sex act than just the next generation. Perhaps that goes hand in hand with the evolution of what civilizes us, what sets us apart from our animal cousins — at least in our own eyes. For humans, many of our basic needs have evolved two meanings. First there is the concrete realm in which we’re born, nurtured, thrive, pass on our genes and die. But we develop another level of meaning when we no longer have to use all of our energy just to survive. When starvation is no longer an issue, food and its preparation and presentation becomes art. When keeping out the cold is no longer an issue, clothing becomes fashion, and magazines tell us how we can be walking galleries for the art of clothing. When finding shelter from the elements is no longer an issue, the very homes we live in become an artistic expression of ourselves. Artistic expression, for us, has become as important as function.

But all of these necessities are concrete. Sex is not. In the days of our ancestor, sex was the magic by which two people become three. Today sex is the magic by which two people become one, or by which one person becomes more herself or himself. Procreation has given way to re-creation, on the one hand, but on the other hand, how can an act that has evolved from the very need to create the next generation be rooted in anything but creativity?

How can the process of creating not be sexual in nature? Writing a story is a penetrative act resulting in something larger, something much more alive than the words on the page, than the idea conceived. That’s heady stuff. That’s the writer in full rut. It’s intimate, it’s messy, it’s rough and tumble, it’s voyeurism and exhibitionism and full-on heat. If it isn’t, then there hardly seems to be a point.

That being said, anyone who has had good sex, lingering sex, or even remembers a good teenage feel-up when time wasn’t an issue, and suddenly seemed no longer to exist, will recall that the end was subsumed in the means, the wonder of the act itself, the amazing intimacy with the other. Any writer or artist knows that experience up close and personal. At some point the creative act itself becomes the sum total of existence. The writer’s world shrinks to and expands out from that act, and the end no longer matters.

So how did I get from masturbation for restless leg syndrome to once more worshiping at the altar of the Divine Creative Sexual Force? Well I suppose it’s all just a part of the journey isn’t it? And besides, where else would I be expected to go with it?

 

The Alternate Universe of Tight Deadlines

the screamIt’s hard to think in the midst of writing for a tight deadline. Some days it’s even hard to breathe. Having my head down means I often forget which day it is and what time it is. These days my mind works way faster than my body does, and I run out of stamina and need to sleep long before I run out of words to write or ideas for more words to write.

Tight deadlines have a way of stripping me bare and, believe me, I don’t mean in a sexy way, urgh! What I mean is that my world gets stripped down to write … eat and sleep when I must, force myself into a couple of workouts – as much as anything because that keeps my brain sharp. Then I do it all over again. My head’s always buzzing from lack of sleep, and each day the deadline closes in, I become less and less social, more and more reclusive and less and less aware of everything else around me. Every time I’m faced with a tight deadline I swear I won’t do it again. Every time I wonder how the hell I’m going to get through it this time, and every time I promise myself I’ll go easier on me next time. But I never do.

In some ways it’s like being in an alternate universe in which everything revolves around writing and story … er … wait a minute. I always live in that universe. In some ways it’s like living in an alternate alternate universe – one that fits a little tighter, with edges that are a little rougher and a whole lot more intense.

Tight deadline as the year closes in around me seem to be a place in which I find myself every year. I suppose it’s the shape of my life, the unconscious ebb and flow of who I am as a person and the desperate race to crowd just one more thing in before the year runs out and becomes history, one more thing that will broaden the definition of me just a little bit more.

The thing that truly drives me crazy about tight deadlines at the end of the year is that there’s so much more I wanted to get done before the year runs out on me. I know all writers suffer from having way more ideas that they ever have time to write, but the suffering seems worse as the year draws to a close.

Nothing feels quite right, the world around me is completely out of focus, and I only feel truly myself when I’m working on the story. I do whatever else I have to do in a fog of self-doubt, while thoughts linger on the WIP and what I wish I still had time to write.

I’m excited that it’s Wade’s story that will close out 2014. And as is always the case, the unfolding of the story is an adventure and an experience
that leaves me wanting to see what happens next. I don’t think any character has surprised me quite as much as Wade has, and as I press on to finish before the end of the year, I find myself once again tunnel-visioned and oblivious to almost everything else around me.

Writing imageI apologise for the abundance of posts from the archives at the moment, though I’ve done my best to pick out some of the best. I apologise for being somewhere else, even when I’m here. I’m happily writing away in Wade’s Dungeon, and if you were there with me, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else either. I promise to invite you all in early next year, and you can hang out there as long as you want. But for now, it’s just me and Wade and Carla ordering pizza and drinking way more coffee than we probably should.

 

Sex and the Big Brain

(Archive)

Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500I had a sex blogger ask me once how I could possibly write about things I hadn’t experienced. My answer at the time, though accurate, was a bit flippant I suppose. I said that it’s fiction. It’s no more difficult for me to write about sex that I’ve not experienced than it is for Thomas Harris to write about serial killers when he certainly isn’t one.

I think I can write about sex I’ve never experienced, would never even want to experience in the real world because I have a big brain. Oh, not my brain in particular. All humans have ‘em, and we use them in sex even when we’re not having sex. The thing about having a big brain is that it adds a new dimension to a biological act. In the hormonal, pheromonal soup that drives us to fuck, we get the added pleasure of making it up as we go along. In our heads — anyway we like it. And this, we can do completely and totally without the help of anyone else.

Which leads me to wonder how much of fiction writing – any genre of fiction writing – is really our big brain masturbating – first for our own pleasure, and if we get lucky and our work gets published, then we get to be exhibitionists and do it for an audience. Is that yet another layer of our sexuality? There’ve been countless of books and essays written on the connection between sexuality and creativity, and I’ve experienced it myself. When it’s right, when I’m in the zone, the rush, the high, the incredible buzz of getting characters and plot to move together in just the right tango of conflict and passion and drive, the experience from a writer’s point of view is extremely sexual, and yet somehow better than sex. It’s sex on steroids, it’s free-falling, it’s roller coaster riding, it’s fast cars, mountain tops and touching the tiger all rolled into one. And it all happens in some nebulous part of our brains that only a neurosurgeon might be able to pin-point for us. And who cares? Who cares as long as it gets us there!

Those moments don’t happen often, but it doesn’t matter. They happen often enough to push us forward, to keep us going and writing and longing and digging deep for the next wild brain-gasm. I just came off of one of those experiences while racing to finish the draft of The Exhibition. It was a
late-night write, a dark, dangerous sex scene in which the characters staged a coup and completely took control of the action. I came away staggering, looking down at my hands, wondering how the hell I wrote that. I was too hyped to sleep, too creeped out to think about who might be america-artist-art-paintings-prints-note-cards-by-howard-chandler-christy-nude-women-reading-approximate-original-size-18x16waiting for me in my dreams after what I’d just written. And yet … And yet I felt stretched, expanded, like for a second I’d seen sex at the core where the dark and light meet and swallow each other up. And what’s left is a wild, crazy pull to translate what just happened into some kind of written account that will convey that feeling, that sense of being beyond myself, yet deeper into the dark recess of myself than I felt really comfortable going. And as any writer would, longing to drag my reader right in there with me, into the dark, into the fire.

It was a long time before I could sleep. It was a long time before I felt quite like myself again. And that’s what got me thinking about my big brain,
which at times, seems so much bigger than just the space in my head. And I guess maybe I do have to experience something in order to write about it. But the big brain creates that experience in the privacy of my own head. That being the case, how could I not keep going back for more? How could I not want desperately to write what my big brain allows me to experience? How could I not want to bring it out and flaunt it for the reader’s full participation?

 

Voyeur or Body Thief

(From the Archives)
One of the most intriguing parts of story for me has always been the way in which the reader interacts with it, more specifically the way in which http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-abstract-black-white-writing-pen-image20156020the reader interacts with the characters in a story. I find that interaction especially intriguing in erotica and erotic romance.

To me, the power of story is that it’s many faceted and it’s never static. And, no matter how old the story is, it’s never finished as long as there’s someone new to read it and to bring their experience into it. Like most writers of fiction, I’m forever trying to analyse how a powerful story is internalised, and why what moves one reader deeply, what can be a life-changing experience for one may be nothing more exciting than window shopping for another.

In my own experience as a reader, there are two extremes. I can approach a story as a voyeur, on the outside looking in from a safe distance, or I can be a body thief at the other end of the spectrum and replace the main character in the story with myself.

One extreme allows the reader to watch without engaging and the other allows the reader to create sort of a sing-along-Sound of Music- ish experience for themselves. As a reader, I’ve done both and had decent experiences of novels doing both. As a writer, however, I don’t wish to create a story that allows my reader to be a voyeur of a body thief.

As a writer I want to create a story that’s a full-on, in-the-body, stay-present experience from beginning to end. I want characters that readers can identify with and are drawn to but don’t necessarily want to be. I want a plot that feels more like abseiling with a questionable rope than watching the world go by from the window of a car. I want to create that tight-rope walk in the middle. I want to create that place in story where the imagination of the reader is fully engaged with the story the writer created. That place is the place where the story is a different experience for each reader. That’s the place where the story is a living thing that matters more than the words of which it’s made up. It matters more because the reader has connected with it, engaged with it, been changed by it. In that place, the story and the reader are in relationship. Neither can embody the other, neither can watch from a distance. The end result may be a HEA, the end result may be disturbing and unsettling, but at the end of a really good read, the journey to get there is at least as important as the end result.

Erotica and erotic romance are by their nature a visceral experience. Though I think that’s probably true of any good story. I don’t think good
erotica can be watched from a distance any more than it can be the tale of the body thief. While either will get you there, there’s no guarantee that the journey will be a quality one. And I want a quality journey. I want to come to the end wishing I hadn’t gotten there so quickly, wishing I’d had the will power to slow down and savour the experience just a little longer. I want to come to the end wondering just what layers, what subtleties, what nuances I missed because I got caught up in the runaway train ride and couldn’t quite take it all in.

A good read is the gift that keeps on giving. Long after I’ve finished the story, the experience lingers, and little tidbits that I raced through during Sleeping woman reading181340322466666994_IswNAb85_bthe read bubble up from my unconscious to surprise me, intrigue me, make me think about the story on still other levels, from still other angles. When I can’t get it out of my head, when I find myself, long after I’ve come to the end, thinking about the journey, thinking about the characters, thinking about the plot twists and turns, then I know the story has gotten inside me and burrowed deep. There was no pane of glass in between; there was no body for me to inhabit because all bodies were fully occupied by characters with their own minds and their own agendas. The experience extends itself to something that stays with me long after the read is finished and makes me try all the harder to create that multi-layered experience in my own writing.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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