What Happens in Vegas Part 1

I’m not a Vegas sort of person. I went for the Erotic Authors Association Conference, not for the gambling, not for the bright lights. I wasn’t there to be impressed. And yet…

We flew over the Sierra Nevada Mountains just before we landed in Las Vegas.  We all crane our necks for a look at impossibly jagged peaks already covered with snow, even as we were about to land in 97 degree temperatures. But on the ground, it was desert heat and more shades of brown and tan and olive than I would have thought possible, all set off in stunning relief against a baby blue sky puffed with clouds that were clearly only there for looks rather than business. Very appropriate for Vegas.

The woman behind me on the shuttle talked loudly on her cell phone in a Midwestern accent to whoever was taking care of her geriatric dog back home. When the conversation finally ended with her satisfied that the pooch was in good hands, we all turned our attention to the shuttle driver, a man who was a driving history book of Las Vegas. While he delivered us to our respective hotels, he regaled us with stories of Bugsy Segal and the mob history of Las Vegas. The Flamingo is the original resort hotel that Bugsy Segal built in the middle of the desert.

My room was on the 14th floor, with views of the mountains in between the towers of Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas. Once I got settled, I explored the hotel grounds, lingering in the gardens to see the habitat for flamingos, sacred ibis, and black swans. I was planning to meet Sharazade for dinner, but I’d gotten a message from her saying she’s coming in on a later flight, so I decided to check out The Strip on my own.

Las Vegas is in your face, like an arid version of New Orleans on steroids and all tarted up with neon and fountains. It’s like Disneyland for adults, Sharazade observed, when we finally connect the next day. Just as it was getting dark I wandered about with my mouth open and my eyes bugging because there was so much to see. I’ve been to Paris, so Paris Las Vegas shouldn’t impress me, but when it rises up all truncated and neon in the middle of the desert it does. I realized as I walked amid the tourists who are as bug-eyed as I am that though I’m hearing lots of different languages, a lot of the people who are here will never get any closer to Paris or Venice or the Forum in Rome than Las Vegas, and the tarted-up versions can’t fail to impress.

As I stopped to watch the volcano erupt in front of Treasure Island, along with the rest of the enthralled crowd, I realize that as much as I’d like to stick my nose in the air and be unimpressed, the spirit of the place is contagious, and it would be really hard to walk among the holiday makers and the lovers there to elope and the neon and the noise and the resorts that are several city blocks in size and not get caught up in the atmosphere.

I ended up shivering in an overly air conditioned food court having Mexican food, my first since arriving in the US. I ate and people-watched. The city was awash in spandex and suicide stilettos, and I find that, in spite of myself, I was loving every minute of it.

Outside again, I was happy to leave the air conditioning and get warm. It was a dry delicious 87 degrees, and that alone, after leaving the rainy damp of south England, was enough to make me feel festive. I walked along stopping here and there to watch people and take in the giddy gaudiness of it all. In some places Hispanic men and women lined the streets handing out cards for peep shows and escort services, and I squirmed at the contrast of people working a hard, uncomfortable job in order to put food on the table while they watch a party going on all around them in which they never get to participate.

I watched the incredible dancing fountains in front of the Bologgio amid the crowd and press of others doing the same, and I wandered along the street where tourists were having their pictures taken with Elvis impersonators and show girls decked out in brightly coloured feathers. A man who had too much to drink was propositioning every woman who walked by. I found myself lost and turned around in the maze of stylized bridges that crisscross the heavily trafficked street that runs through the strip. The bridges cross into resorts and come down alongside towers of glass and flashing lights opening onto the streets like gaping mouths exhaling the overly air conditioned breath of the casinos into the warm the night.

 I was caught up and carried along on a wave of sensory overload that smelled of restaurants and cigarette smoke and perfume and sweaty bodies and excitement; and looked like a city all dressed up for a costume ball. I let it all settle around me and flow through me until the heat and the noise and the jet lag of too many time zones passed through too quickly began to take a toll. Sharazade still hadn’t arrived, and I was fading fast. I made my way back to the Flamingo through the sparkle and the kaching of the slots to the elevator banks. I managed to make it back to the room and whip of an email to Sharazade that I’d see her in the morning. Then I slept.

I woke in the night and looked out at the dazzle of the lights from the 14th floor and I drift back to sleep with after images of the rich blue lights of the towers of the Cosmopolitan fading behind my eyelids. The next time I woke up, the mountains between the towers of the casinos were just blushing pink, and I was struck by the contrast of the rugged wilderness, jagged and overwhelming held at bay by towers of glass and steel and lights. Even Las Vegas seems small and demure next to such vastness.

As I looked over the schedule for the first day of the Erotic Authors Association conference, the butterflies woke up in my stomach. When I thought about the day ahead, the introvert in my cowered for a second, wanting to run away to the mountains beyond. But this would be the day I got to be on my first panel ever, and this would be the day I got to read from Holly in front of a new audience, and this would be the day I got to meet the people who I already knew would be my friends, the fabulous smutters on the US side of the pond. It would be good. I knew it would.

Stay tuned for the next installment of What Happens in Vegas.

 

Lisa Beth Darling Shares the Story Behind The Heart of War

I’ve always been a huge fan of mythology, so I’m very excited to welcome Lisa Beth Darling to tell us about her very long and productive relationship with Ares, the God of War.

Ares and I have been together for almost twenty-years. In a lot respects we’re like an old married couple; we needle each other, poke fun at each other, spur each other forward, lean on each other, and generally just share this whole experience we call Life. It’s a very symbiotic relationship and, I think, it works well on all counts.

I say twenty-years because that’s the first time Ares made an appearance in a story I was writing but I was actually introduced to him ten years before that in a high school English class. I thought he was the most interesting God in the Greek Pantheon and I still do. Anyway, back to that story.

I was writing a fanfiction novel (when I didn’t even know ‘fanfiction’ existed because I hadn’t yet gotten on this new thing everyone was talking about The Information Superhighway, ie, Internet) it was titled “Highlander: Forever”. At the very end of the long, sweeping, romantic tale, Ares came in as the heroine’s Father and surprised the hell out of me. But it was what the story wanted and it was total fiction so, why not? We went with it. He ended up a brief appearance that consisted of, maybe, five lines but they happened to pull the whole story together. When I got on the Internet and re-typed the story because my word processor discs weren’t compatible with the new computer, I put it up on the Internet. People liked it. It was different. Most of my stuff is…’different’. People complimented on Ares and on how much they liked the way I’d written the character.

I didn’t write him. He just sort of wrote himself in.

Time went on, two television shows named “Hercules the Legendary Journeys” and “Xena Warrior” princess took over the TV on the weekends in my house. “Herc” was handsome and all a hero should be but what’s a hero without a villain? “Ares” was handsome to the point of drooling and wicked as the night was long. He made my blood pump. Two years after that another show came on the TV and started taking over my house along with “Herc” and “Xena”, “Stargate SG-1”. I loved “Stargate” the movie. It was great! I still remember going to see it in the movie house with my husband. I fell in love with ‘Daniel Jackson’ before we left the movies that night. I was never even a big fan of James Spader.

These three shows and their storylines merged in my head. I was a stay-at-home mom with two young daughters. I needed a distraction. Something to fill my time…when there was downtime. I began writing a fanfiction series entitled “Daughter of the Gods” based on the “Stargate SG-1” backdrop, using ‘Daniel Jackson’ as the hero and an original female character ‘Calla’ as the heroine. Ares once again came in to play the heroine’s Father. It fit in so naturally that I didn’t fight it but I tried to make it known that the series wasn’t a ‘crossover’ piece. From the start I considered ‘Ares’ MINE, he was MY character and mine alone. As the series progressed into six novels and thirty short stories, ‘Ares’ took over! Readers either outright loathed him or they loved-to-hate him. He did some pretty rotten shit! Oh, yes, yes, he did.

As with most things, that series ended. My children were older by then, I had a part-time job. I decided to go back to writing all-original novels and stories. I started with “Dream Weaver” which is really a thinly disguised autobiographical account of my time in the “Stargate SG-1” fandom. I didn’t know anything about promotion or ebook conversions or…well…anything really. I was a total newbie, a babe lost in the woods with no mentor. “Dream Weaver” sold a few copies but I was never able to do what I should have for it.

Disheartened, I went back to fanfiction and did two series for “House, MD”. They were quite different from each other. One was a completely erotic adult series and the other was this wonderfully sweet and dramatic story about ‘Greg House’ and his mentally and physically challenged sister ‘Hannah Rice’ an original character of mine. I love that series. To this day I think its some of my best work and I was sad to have it end. Right at the end of the tale, a character from the “Daughter of the Gods” series popped up and became ‘Hannah’s’ love interest. It was wonderful. Not just because ‘Nick Jackson’ fit in so well and so graciously and gently reminded me of a few things I may have forgotten but because he signified ‘Ares’ was just around the corner once more.

The ‘House’ series ended. It was time to write an original novel again. There was ‘Ares’. Through all of the fanfiction stuff, he was the only one still standing tall and strong. He was the only thing about any of that I didn’t just want to hold on to, I needed to hold on to. I needed it because there were so many things left undone with him. Because of the way the previous stories were written, ‘Ares’ could never be the hero. He was always the antagonist if not the outright villain of the stories.

He was more than that. It was time to show it. I always wanted to let him take the lead in a story, a novel, and really let him off the chain, and show him for all that he is and all that he can be. I always wanted to let him be the hero he always wanted to be but never made it. No, he was always the Black Knight in very tarnished armor, even when his heart was in the right place he always managed to do the wrong thing.

As we (the Muse/Ares/The Big Guy) and I hemmed and hawed over the pros and cons of doing all original material again and trying to get it out there and, OMG! What a tough SELL he was going to be as the hero! A picture came across my eye as I was Googling around.

I KNEW with the right woman, he could be the hero. Five minutes after my eye met that picture “The Heart of War”, a 500 page novel, was rolling around in my head and screaming to get out. We sat down, we wrote without care for publication or audience or word count or specific genre or anything. We just wrote. We wrote and wrote.

When we got to ‘The End’ I knew there were going to be more stories. I knew, just as we finished it, there were four stories to the “OF WAR” series and we were going to be in this for the long haul. We were going to follow Ares and Alena throughout the entire course of their relationship where they would face many dangers and challenges. The biggest of all being whether or not they could stay together and stay in love.

Been fun so far!

Inside the Heart of every Warrior breathes the Soul of a Hero–even within The Heart of War.

Meet Ares God of War, the greatest Warrior the world has ever known. He’s moody, grumpy, dominant, ravenously sexual, and above all, built like a Greek God.

Suspected of killing his Daughter in-Law, Psyche, and long in exile from Olympus, the solitude of Ares’ secluded Greek Isle is interrupted when Magdalena MacLeod a plucky little Fey washes up on his shore after believing she’s been shipwrecked. It’s not mere fate that has brought the unlikely couple together yet it may be what tears them apart.

Branded with a golden chastity belt bearing the mark of Cernunnos, Celtic God of the Forest and Death, Alena has been on the run from her husband the Great Horned God for 200 years.

When the Olympians discover her presence on Ares’ island, they send Apollo to the island while Ares is away with orders to bring her to Olympus. With nowhere to run and strikes a bargain with the God of War–her virginity for his protection.

Ares sees a sweeter deal; her in his bed and himself back in his rightful place on Olympus among the Gods. If it means turning Alena over to Zeus afterward, well that’s of no consequence to him…is it?

After Alena proves herself to the God of War in battle and in his bed, Ares must choose between his Divinely Dysfunctional Family, his pride, and Alena.

Get lost in this sweeping dark saga of lust, rage, revenge, and redemption. Battle Ancient Gods while falling in love with Ares God of War and Alena MacLeod. They share a love that will rock the world from the heights of Olympus to the Celtic moors.

The Heart of War contains scenes of graphic sex and violence. As such, this novel is intended for ADULTS ONLY it is NOT recommended for the Faint of Heart.

EXCERPT:                                           

“There must be some way to get this thing off of you.”  He huffed as he reached out to touch and examine it.

“Only Cernunnos, only a Go—“

Ares’ hand landed on the gold at her waist, it covered the entire space between her legs, the willow tree, the love knot, and the words I Await Thee.

Clink.

Both of them looked down to see the band had opened at his touch.

Staring at each other with their mouths hanging open for a moment, each of them not sure what had happened had truly happened, Maggie began to tremble and then to shake.

It opened!  It was OPEN!

“I didn’t mean to do that,” Ares stuttered almost apologetically.

“Get it off me!”  Maggie yelled and began to try to push her fingers through the space between her waist and the band.  “Get it off!”  She cried again and began jumping up and down where she stood as she wriggled and struggled with the belt.

“Women,” Ares huffed.  “No, don’t touch me!  Get it off of me!”  He mocked in a high voice.  “Make up your mind.”

“What are you?  Stupid?”  With her modesty having flown straight out the window, Maggie railed at him, “GET IT OFF!”  It would not budge, her skin seemed to have grown around the edges of the belt, and it would not give no matter how hard she struggled to push it down.

“Stop it!”  Ares demanded.  “You’re going to rip the flesh from your bones!”  She did not heed his words, she just kept trying to pull it off and he could understand her haste but, “You’re not helping!”  He grabbed both of her wrists between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand and held them up over her head.  The woman struggled in his grasp, her brow furrowed and her upper lip curled as she pulled and pulled trying to escape.  “Do you want me to break your arms?  Will that settle you?”  Still she struggled and yanked until Ares had to add a second finger around her wrist to keep her from slipping out of his grasp.  “You can’t get free of me; I am much stronger than you.”  In his free hand a small vessel appeared, her eyes grew wide when she took it in. “It’s olive oil, that’s all.  Just stand still.”  He let go of her hands and when she stood still, he drizzled the oil over and around the band at her waist using one finger to push away her skin allowing the oil to drip past the gold.  The top rim soaked, Ares poured a handful of the oil into his palm.  “Open your legs.”

Maggie hesitated, she wanted the belt off more than anything but feared what would happen the second it hit the floor.

“You want to be rid of it or not?”

 

BUY LINKS for THE HEART OF WAR:

Paperbacks

Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Heart-War-Lisa-Beth-Darling/dp/0615424686/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1306886813&sr=8-4

Books-A-Million

http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Heart-War/MS-Lisa-Beth-Darling/9780615424682?id=5151671048911

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heart-of-war-lisa-darling/1101008245?ean=9780615424682&itm=3&usri=lisa%2bbeth%2bdarling

E-Books

Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Beth-Darling/e/B002BMDA9I/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Nook

http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&ATH=Lisa+Beth+Darling

iBooks

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-heart-of-war/id439988502?mt=11&uo=4

All Romance e-books

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-theheartofwar-526917-143.html

Smashwords

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lisadarling

The Heart of War is Book #1 in the Of War series by Lisa Beth Darling

 

Other Books in this series

http://www.moonsmusings.com/lbdarling/childofwar

Child of War-A God is Born–Now available in
SIGNED LIMITED EDITION HARD COVER
http://www.moonsmusings.com/lbdarling/childofwar/hardcover.html

Mass PAPERBACK Release 10/31/2011

Mass E-BOOK Release 11/25/2011

 

PERSONAL LINKS:
Blog http://lbdarling.wordpress.com

Site http://www.moonsmusings.com/lbdarling

Facebook http://facebook.com/lbdarling (new ‘fan page’)

Twitterhttp://www.twitter.com/lb_darling

 

Previews of Autumn Heat

Inspiration in Blog-sized Doses

My feet have nearly recovered from the 192 mile walk across England, and I’ve blogged my way through the whole fabulous Coast to Coast. I can’t begin to say how inspiring the experience was for me, nor how much it stretched me and forced me to move beyond my comfort zone – always something I struggle with. The walk has convinced me to add a new Inspiration page to my website. It’s been in the back of my mind for awhile, and will now be a regular part of my blogging. In it you will find my Coast to Coast blog posts all together for easy reading for those of you who may have missed out on it.

I plan to use this new section of my blog to share those experiences that stir my imagination and inspire me to write. My hope is that whether you’re a writer, a reader or a house painter, you’ll maybe find inspiration in those experiences as well. And let’s face it, we all love to share the things that inspire us.

What Happens in Vegas

While what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas most of the time, I plan to tell you every yummy detail when I head to Sin City for the Erotic Authors Association Conference at the fabulous Flamingo Hotel on September 9th and 10th. I’ll be doing some readings, visiting the Erotic Heritage museum and participating in an erotic romance panel. Plus I’ll be taking advantage of all the other great talks and events that are happening throughout the weekend. And best of all, I’ll get the chance to meet some of my fabulous American erotica writing friends who, until now, I’ve only known through social media.

Vincent’s Oregon

From Las Vegas, I’ll fly back to Portland, Oregon to meet my sister, with whom I’ll spend the next ten days tromping around the exquisite Oregon countryside visiting some of Vincent’s favourite haunts from The Pet Shop.  I’m very excited to be photographing and blogging about the Oregon Vincent loves so much because I’ll be getting in the spirit of things for the party to end all parties, The Pet Shop launch in London!

The Pet Shop Launch

Between the walking and the polishing of the first book of the Lakeland Heatwave trilogy, I’ve had plenty to keep me focused as I’ve waited impatiently for the print release of The Pet Shop. Most of you know, The Pet Shop is already out in eBook formats and has been getting fab reviews, but October 14th is the date I’ve been waiting for with bated breath.

And, as you may have guessed, the big launch bash for the print premier of Pets will be at one of my favourite places on the planet, Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium  Hoxton!  There’ll be pink fizz, yummy delectables, readings, book signings and the whole titillating two floors of the Sh! store to explore and shop through. If that’s not enough to make for a hot party, some of the hottest names in erotica are going to be there to help me celebrate. And the celebration will be two-fold because the 14th is also the delicious Mr Grace’s birthday, so we’ll slap a candle in his cupcake and all party together. If you’ll be in the neighbourhood 14th of October, be sure to put it on your calendar and stop in for the fun. I’ll be giving more details as time gets closer. Needless to say, I’m very excited, and looking forward to turning my misbehaving Pets loose on London and the rest of the UK — in print. Once they’ve done their misbehaving best in the UK, they’ll arrive in the States in print in January just in time to celebrate the New Year.

Lakeland Heatwave on the Way

Most of you know I came home from the Coast to Coast walk and went right to work on the final polishing of Lakeland Heatwave: Body Temperature and Rising. I had the chance to pick Brian and Von Spencer’s wonderful brains for more Lakeland and Mountain Rescue information while I was on the Lake District leg of the Coast to Coast walk. As always, their help has been invaluable in making sure I get the details right. Once back home, getting the final draft ready to go out the door was priority one, and inspiration from the walk and from Brian and Vron’s helpful observations made it a pleasure rather than a chore.

Lakeland Heatwave: Body Temperature and Rising is the first novel of my paranormal erotic romance trilogy set in the Lake District, and will be published in February 2012. It’s intense, dark and hotter than hot. I’ll be working on the second novel by the New Year, if not before.

A Hopeful Romantic in Autumn

Besides the new Inspiration page on A Hopeful Romantic, there will be intriguing new additions of The Story Behind the Story and there will be some fabulous guests and interviews and field trips coming up as 2011winds down, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, what happens in Vegas will NOT be staying in Vegas, as my next update on all the latest will be coming to you straight from The Erotica Authors Association Conference in Sin City.

 

Justine Elyot tells us what Robin Hood and Erotic Amusements have in Common

I’m very pleased to have one of my very favourite writers, the incredible Justine Elyot, as my guest today for The Story Behind the Story. Welcome Justine!

Erotic Amusements was originally conceived as a kind of Alternate Universe fanfiction story about the recent BBC version of the Robin Hood story – specifically the relationship between the Sheriff of Nottingham and his increasingly reluctant henchman, the gloriously brooding and leatherclad Guy of Gisborne.

So far, so whimsical. I contemplated writing it, then realised that, nah, I don’t have time for fanfic any more, much as I love it, so I abandoned the idea.

Some time later, I happened to be preparing some novel proposals for Xcite books, and this problematic relationship came back to mind. Only somehow, the Sheriff and Guy had whizzed themselves through time and space to a contemporary seaside town and had metamorphosed from their medieval counterparts into modern people with different traits and preoccupations. Their problematic relationship – the unscrupulous overlord and the trapped enforcer – remained intact, however (as did Guy – now Rocky’s – black leather outfit). I threw in a clutch of lovers and colleagues et voilà – I had something a bit moody and a bit noir to satisfy my increasing need to write a story with a plot.

In the event, Xcite took one of my other proposals (The Business of Pleasure), so my cast of characters were shoved into a drawer for a while. But I still thought about them, and added bits of their stories in my head until I had a fully formed story just waiting to be written as soon as the opportunity arose.

I couldn’t stay away from it for long, though, and the book almost wrote itself. I had not worked on something so plotty and character-driven since my fanfiction days, and the chance to do it again was a rare pleasure. The seaside setting was another big bonus for me – the town of Goldsands became an extra character, driving a lot of the action.

I sent it to Carina Press on a whim because they were new and fresh but had a wealth of expertise and reputation too. I never, even for a moment, expected them to take it. But they did, and here it is! One for my fellow Guy-fans everywhere.

Links:

Website: http://justineelyot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/JustineElyot

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000057776729

Buy Links:

Carina: http://ebooks.carinapress.com/C8BFB051-40D5-45EF-A043-42E9907C7E61/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID={D3B28EE9-D3C3-49BE-8D35-1B39B9A50858}

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Erotic-Amusements-ebook/dp/B005CRQ4IS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1314041611&sr=1-1

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Erotic-Amusements-ebook/dp/B005CRQ4IS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1314041797&sr=1-1

Blurb:

In Goldsands, there are many amusements to be had for those willing to give in to their deepest desires…

The seaside resort town of Goldsands is a place of dreamers and transients who wash in and out like the tide. But its picture-postcard prettiness conceals some sinister realities. Coldhearted mogul Charles Cordwainer owns most of the local businesses, both legitimate and illicit, and more than a few of its residents.

Michelle, Cordwainer’s submissive: despite her loyalty, he plans to turn her over to another man. Flipp, the new girl in town: she has a dark past and a penchant for bondage. Rocky, Cordwainer’s right-hand man: a sexy biker with eyes for Flipp. Laura, Goldsands’s carnival queen: an über-bitch with her sights fixed on Rocky.

Secrets, betrayals, lovers all become intertwined—and when someone starts digging up the dirt on Cordwainer’s empire, nothing will ever be the same…

Excerpt:

Flipp knew from the moment she stepped off the train and smelled the salt-and-chip fat that Goldsands was going to suit her.

It was a place where a new girl in town drew little in the way of notice or comment. A place of comers and goers, dreamers and transients, addicts and bohemians. They washed in and out like the tide on the broad curving beach that gave the place its name. Some of them sank, some of them trod water, and some of them found exactly what they were looking for here. Of course, Flipp didn’t know at the time which of those she would turn out to be, but she was hoping to find out, one way or another.

So, by the time she was established in her little change booth at Caesar’s Palace on the Pier, Flipp knew that she wanted to be in Goldsands. Her resolve was certainly bolstered, though, when Rocky rocked up, interrupting her nail-filing mission and hurling himself slap-bang into the middle of her dirtiest dreams.

“The boss in?” he asked curtly, raising an eyebrow towards the door marked Private: Staff Only.

Flipp didn’t look up at first, registering only a low, grumpy-sounding voice. She pinched her lips together and wondered if Maroon Moon was really the right shade for her.

“Who wants to know?” The mockney accent was getting difficult to sustain, so she only spoke when absolutely necessary.

“Rocky wants to know.”

She looked up at that, taking him in for the first time and liking what she saw. And who would not like a piece of Rocky? Six-feet-two of Herculean man in black bike leathers with accessorising hair and stubble, he was enough to stop most female traffic in its tracks.

“Oh,” she said, laying down her nail file and running fingers through her hair. “So you’re Rocky. The boss said I should watch out for you.”

“Watch out, eh?” Rocky leaned an elbow on the shelf of the booth, peering through the scratched Plexiglas screen, leading the new girl to hope she was casting a spell of intrigue on him. “Did he tell you I was dangerous, then?”

Flipp leaned forward, meeting his devilish gaze, the tips of their noses only prevented from touching by the barrier. “Something like that.” She grinned, wishing she had some gum to chew on. It was so much easier to look cool and indifferent to a guy when you were chewing, for some reason.

“He was right. I’m the big bad wolf. What’s your name? Don’t tell me it’s Little Red Riding Hood.”

She giggled and looked away briefly before turning back to him.

“It’s Flipp.”

“What kind of a name’s that?”

“No worse than Rocky.”

“Cheeky. I’ll see you later.” Emphasising the “you,” he backed away, pointing one gloved finger in her direction before disappearing through the staff door in a jink-clink of buckles and belts.

Thanks for stopping by and giving us a peek at Erotic Amusements, Justine! I’m a sucker for bad-assed biker boys in leather. Can’t wait to read this one!

 

Coast to Coast: The North York Moors on to Robin Hood’s Bay

Day 12 Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top 12 miles

At last, we left the flat miles of farmland and began the climb into the Cleveland Hills. Our first views of the North York Moors came as we climbed the path through the Arncliffe Wood along the Cleveland Way, which we followed all through today and will follow partly through tomorrow as well. Miles of blooming heather and red sandstone stretched out before us on either side of a very solid rock path. But every once in a while a view of the black peat bogs served as a reminder of what lies beyond the stones. And after our experience on the decent off Nine Standards Rigg, we were more than happy to stick to the path.

As we broke through the trees to open moorland for the first time, getting into the North York Moors proper, the views were astonishing. We could look back to the west over the Vail of Mowbray and the miles of farmland we’d walked across the day before, and to the east we could see the rise and fall of an undulating ocean of mauve heathered moors patch-worked with swaths of rich green pasturelands and the odd fringe of woodland. There was altogether a wilder feel to the place than anything we experienced yesterday. It was as we sat by the cairn on Live Moor having our lunch that we realized we were actually seeing our first glimpses of the North Sea on the horizon. Strange how we looked right at it for the longest time before we realized that we were seeing what we’d been walking toward for the last eleven days.

During the course of the day, we walked a series of plunging rocky descents and oxygen sapping climbs into even more exquisite views, culminating in a delicious scrambley ascent over the Wainstones before our final descent of the day. Since our B&B for the night was off rout, our landlady and her enormous black Airedale, Bonnie, met us in her Land Rover at the end of our last descent at Clay Bank Top. We were glad for the lift, as walking there would have meant an extra three mile descent to get to dinner and bed, and then another three mile ascent the next day to get back on rout. At the end of a hard day’s walk, neither of us were particularly anxious to add any extra mileage to our long-suffering feet.

The Buck Inn at Chop Gate was our final stop for the night. All in one, bed, breakfast, room on the ground floor, and dinner at the really lovely pub, along with a good WiFi connection, which we took advantage of in the pub until bedtime. And bedtime was not very late.

In spite of a path much to our liking with lots of rocky ascents and descents, it was a hard day. After twelve days of walking, the wear and tear of the miles is beginning to take its toll on both of us. Raymond had a new blister and I had a knot on the back of one knee. As we approach the end of our journey, three things have become massively important; getting enough rest, which we never can quite manage as time goes on, getting enough food and drink – doesn’t really matter what at this point, it just matters that it fills the void. And the void feels huge at the end of a long day. And finally, there’s the all-consuming care of the feet. Nothing has taken more of a beating in the past twelve days than our feet. Each morning we spend a half an hour treating blisters, taping up wounds and making sure no toe is rubbing where it shouldn’t and no hot spots are left untended. We’ve become fanatical as we get closer to the final day. We’ve heard horror stories of people who have almost made it to the last day, then gotten infected feet injuries, and that’s the end of their Coast to Coast. And few things are more miserable than walking on sore feet. So yes, I’d say we’re fanatical. We’re too close to the goal not to be careful. With the last two days ahead of us, we can’t afford not to take good care of our feet.

 Day 13 Clay Bank Top to Glaisdale 18 miles

We were walking by 8:15 this morning. Knowing just how far we had to walk today, getting an early start was just that little extra assurance. It was one of those days when the path before us was straight and easy after our first steep ascent back onto the moors. In fact we spent the first fast eight miles on an abandon railway bed with miles of bog and heather on both sides of us as we walked along pleasantly on terra firma. After walking in the bog, we can only imagine the engineering feat it took to build such a railroad. It was built to carry iron stone to the coast. It seems sad, in a way, that there should now be no real trace of such gargantuan efforts other than a long, straight path. Having said that, we were certainly thankful for those efforts.

A little before noon, we arrived at Blakey and the Lion Inn. The Lion Inn sets up on a rise above the rest of the countryside, and is the first and last outpost of civilization until the end of our day’s journey at Glaisedale. Lots of Coast-to-Coasters overnight at the Lion Inn, but we had ten more miles to go before we could overnight, so after a cuppa and a venison baguette, we walked on.

The weather was perfect for walking – Blessedly dry and cool with mixed sun and cloud. We found our rhythm early and it was a golden sort of day. We made good time walking along the great paths across the North York Moors and seeing very few people until we got on toward Glaisdale. At this point in our journey, we were meeting people who had started their Coast to Coast walk at Robin Hood’s Bay and will finish up at St Bee’s Head in Cumbria. My feet hurt for them.

It’s funny how our world has narrowed to the walking rhythm. Life is so simple walking every day. Our routine is easy and good. We get up, we eat breakfast, we walk all day, eating and drinking as needed, we get to the B&B in the evening, have our shower, wash out a few things, eat our dinner, look at the route for the next day and fall into bed. The next day we do the whole thing over again. I love the simplicity of it all. It fits so well, and it’s so much closer to what matters than what often passes for what matters in every-day life. I’m tired now, and looking forward to dipping the toe of my boot in the waters of Robin Hood’s Bay, but as sure as I’m sitting here, I know I’ll feel bereft when I wake up Monday morning with no more miles to walk, and there’ll be culture shock as surely as if I had been in another country. And is so many ways, I am in another country, a wonderful country. I suppose I’ll deal with the bereavement the same way I deal with it when I finish writing a novel. I’ll start planning the next walk. In fact, I already have a great walk in mind for next summer.

We’re now sitting at the only pub in Glaisdale, chatting with other Coast-to-Coasters who, like us, are excitedly anticipating their final day of walking, anticipating completion of something that seemed bigger that anything we could imagine when we all started it, something that, at times, was a lot more than we had bargained for, but something we would not have missed for the world. Tomorrow, we walk twenty miles to Robin Hood’s Bay. Tomorrow, I’ll write about how it feels to walk all the way across England. It’s almost a reality and yet at the same time, it seems like a dream.

Day 14 August 21 Glaisdale to Robin Hood’s Bay 20 miles

 I very naively thought because we did yesterday’s eighteen miles at speed and got in so much earlier than we thought we would that today would be the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yesterday we walked a good bit of the walk on abandon railway beds, and other than the ascent to get back up on top of the moors at Clay Bank Top, most of the walk was flat, even slightly downhill. Also there was only the Lion Inn in the middle of nowhere at Blakey Moor to slow us down. For the most part we walked at speed without interruptions.

Today was completely different. Today the first thing on our agenda was to get back on route from our B & B and work our way out of the convoluted maze of Glaisdale, which is only a small village, but sprawled out higgledy piggledy up the flanks of the moors. We were barely out of Glaisdale before we had several other small villages to negotiate culminating in the walk through heaving Grosmont with its myriad holiday makers there for the steam trains and the views. The crush of humanity was followed hard on by a hellish five hundred foot ascent out of the village on a busy road. It was this ascent in untried socks that was responsible for my worst blister of the journey, driving me to shed boots and socks as soon as we were out on open moorland again and reach for the Compeed and sports tape and a different pair of socks. (I always carry a spare)

LESSON LEARNED: Socks DO matter. And what I can walk in at home on the Downs in the Soft South are not necessarily good for walking 2o miles at pace across massively varied terrains.

After the Ascent from Hell, for awhile we walked along open moorland, though we were still on the road for quite a bit longer. Road-walking does not make for happy feet. We descended steeply into Little Beck then walked through the Little Beck Wood for ages. It truly was a lovely place to walk, especially since the day had turned hot and sunny and the shade was very welcome. But I think the experience of busy Grosmont and the walk through the woodland full of holiday makers complete with kids, dogs, and picnics was the beginning of culture shock. Our Coast to Coast journey was coming to an end, and in a few hours we’d be thrust back into the rest of the world again, and back to our normal routine. We both found the experience of such a sudden deluge of people to be strangely jarring.

Aside from the slow schlog from village to village, making our way through crowds of holiday makers (read this to mean way more than the three or four people we had been encountering every day en route) and the long stretches along asphalt roads, there was that realization that tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow we would wake up and NOT walk. We both agreed that somewhere between the breathtaking views and the blisters and the putting one foot in front of the other, we had almost forgotten what it was like not to be walking. It felt like we’d always been walking, like walking was the natural order of the universe, like walking was just what was supposed to happen every morning. As we got closer to Robin Hood’s Bay, as we found our way through the caravan park to the coastal path that would eventually lead us to the end of our journey, we were both moving on autopilot, tired and a bit numb, our minds still trying to take in the experiences of the past two weeks.

As we rounded the corner and got our first view of Robin Hood’s Bay shining like a jewel in the low sun, the adrenaline boost of that first view drove us on. Descending toward the beach, we met a couple of our compadres with whom we’d had dinner the night before. They were coming back up the hill smiling with the elation at the feat they’d just completed. There were happy congratulations all around before they limped off up the hill and we found our way to the beach to finish the ritual we had begun fourteen days before at St Bee’s Head in Cumbria. At 7:00 pm on Sunday the 21st of August 2011, we dipped our booted toes in the North Sea and tossed the pebbles we’d carried throughout the journey from the Irish Sea, including the one I’d carried for Holly, into the water. Then we promptly commandeered a gentleman to take photos of the great event, and it truly did feel great.

We had been very lucky to get a B&B just at the bottom by the bay so we didn’t have to walk back up the long hill. We dropped our bags and went immediately for fish and chips, in proper Wainwright fashion. Apparently the great man always finished off a good walk with a meal of fish and chips. And since the weather was so lovely, at our landlord’s recommendations, we went to the local chippy for haddock and chips to eat on the dock as the tide came in around us. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better meal.

When we’d polished off the fish and chips, we went across the road to the Wainwright pub and had a pint to toast our success. Traditionally the pub is the first stop for Coast-to-Coasters after the boot dipping and stone tossing. The walls are decorated in Coast-to-Coast maps and memorabilia. It’s a great place to toast the journey’s end. Then we went upstairs, had another pint and talked walking with other Coast-to-Coasters until we found ourselves struggling to stay awake. But on our way back to our B&B we discovered that the sweet shop was still open, so we ended the day with ice cream.

Our room above the Boat Inn was small and close, and it didn’t matter. We showered and fell into bed. I’m not sure it was yet ten o’clock. Such party animals, we Coast-to-Coasters!

Afterward

It was strange to wake up with no walking to do. Breakfast was leisurely We had to restrain ourselves from hoarding some of the luscious fruit offered, which would have been the walkerly thing to do. We had a short wander around the town. I managed a bit of writing while Raymond did a bit of prep work for his course and we waited for our friends to arrive from Keswick.

Shortly after noon, Brian and Vron arrived. After hugs and congratulations, they loaded us in the car and drove us back to Keswick, where they fed us homemade lasagne, showed us pictures of some of their many long distance walks and listened while we shared our experiences and our photos. It was such a great way to end a great walk. Brian and Vron Spencer have been so instrumental in teaching us navigation and encouraging us to strike out on our own and walk the long, hard walks, that it was very moving to us that they would come all the way from Keswick get us. They pampered us and took care of us and sent us happily on our way this morning.

I’m now on the train back to Guildford still trying to get my head around the experiences of the past two weeks. In a few hours normal life will resume in earnest, and I will have to catch up with all that has been on the periphery of my life for the past two weeks and get back to work. But one thing I’m certain of, my life is much richer because I walked the Coast-to-Coast. I’m inspired in ways I don’t think I’ve even begun to unravel yet. It was good. It was so very good.

A Week Later

The feet and joints are recovering. I’m back working hard on the final polish-up of Lakeland Heatwave. When it rains now, I look out the window and stay dry. I wonder at times if I only dreamed the experience, but then I look at the healing blisters and even better, the mountain of photos and know that yes, we really did it. We really walked across England from Coast to Coast, and it was quite possibly the best holiday ever!

Reminder

My copy of The Initiation of Ms Holly has now been all the way across England, from the Irish Sea, through the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, Bog schlogging across the Pennines, across the farmland of the Vale of Mowbray and over the North York Moors all the way to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. Now I want to know where you read your Holly? There’s still time to enter the Where’s Holly contest to win an Amazon shopping spree and a signed copy of The Pet Shop — as soon as it’s available in October.  Contest runs until the end of August! Here’s the link

 

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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