Oh! The Views!

I was neither born in Britain nor raised here, but I’m lucky enough to call it my home now, a home that I love. The fact that I’m a late comer means that the stories I set in the UK choose me rather than the other way around. That being the case, it’s no wonder that I set so many stories in the Lake District, and it’s no wonder that the Lake District chose me the very first time I set foot on the fells. Being born and raised in the mountains, it’s the place in Britain where I feel most at home, the place I know the best and love the most. That being the case, it’s not any real surprise that my boys, Will and Doc’s story, Toys for Boys, is a delicious walk across England – the first five days of that walk spent in the Lake District. Love of a place is one of the sexiest, most romantic ways I know of to connect, and how could it be any better than al fresco on the Lakeland Fells?

 

The photo below was tweeted several years ago by Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield from on board the International Space Station,. Commander Hadfield was a flight engineer on Expedition 34 on the station and gained popularity on Twitter by sharing stunning photos of space and his views of Earth as the International Space Station orbited roughly 200 miles above the planet, moving at over 17,000 miles per hour. I’ve shared it before, and I’ll no doubt share it again. It’s too good not to. It’s one of those images I can’t get enough of. With Toys for Boys newly re-released, now seemed like the perfect time to share it again.

 

 

I can’t help wondering what Alfred Wainwright would have thought if he could see his beloved Lakeland in such a view from above? His incredibly detailed drawings and descriptions of the Lakeland Fells are among the most accurate, most lovely, most poetic ever recorded. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in the Twa Dogs Inn in Keswick, the night before climbing a fell I’d never walked before, drinking Cumberland Ale while reading through Wainwright’s notes and studying the maps and drawings from his Pictorial Guides of the Lakeland Fells. The beauty in the minute detail of his work is now reflected in a stunning overview from space. How could anyone not be moved by that? And how can I not keep coming back to such a place over and over again to set my stories?

I’m so glad it was clear the day Commander Hadfield took this picture. I can’t stop looking at it. I love the fact that I’m somehow connected to that place and all the stories it evokes – not just mine, but everyone else’s – all those poets and walkers and writers and photographers and artists – past, present and yet to come — who have found Lakeland as powerful and as moving as I have. I’m connected to all of them, and by that connection, to all of those who read the writings and look at the works of art inspired by that tiny, rugged piece of land that’s just as exquisite when seen from 200 miles above as it is when explored slowly, painstakingly, one footstep at a time, Like Will and Doc do.

 

 

Surely there is no other place in this whole world quite like Lakeland … no other so exquisitely lovely, no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of distance. All who truly love Lakeland are exiles when they are away from it.

Alfred Wainwright

 

Toys for Boys Blurb:

 

Alpha nerd Will Charles teams up with Caridoc ‘Doc’ Jones in a coast to coast walk across England reviewing outdoor gift suggestions for the Christmas edition of Toys for Boys—an online magazine dedicated to the latest gadgets to tickle a man’s fancy. Will is recording their adventures with the latest smart phone technology. Doc is reviewing the latest outdoor gear. The two quickly discover the great outdoors provides even better toys for boys, toys best shared al fresco, toys that, in spite of Will’s great camera work, will never be reviewed in Toys for Boys.

 

Note: Toys for Boys has been previously published as part of the Brit Boys: With Toys boxed set.

 

Toys for Boys Excerpt:

 

“I really am sorry, lads,” the proprietress at the Keld Lodge said, “but I’ve only a tiny single room available which, due to health and safety, I can’t rent as a double.”

 

“God, I really don’t want to spend another night in that leaky tent,” the dark-haired bloke was barely understandable between chattering teeth. “There must be something else close by.”

 

“Not within easy walking distance,” the proprietress said. “I can let you put up the tent around the back,” she offered. “You can even use the showers and the drying room for your wet gear. Of course stay inside by the fire as long as you like.”

 

The weather had been abysmal when I arrived the night before on a short writing and walking retreat. It was worse today, so I’d spent my time ensconced in the pub’s restaurant at a table by the window looking out onto the misty Yorkshire Dales. It was mid afternoon when the two drenched, bedraggled lads slogged through the door, bringing with them a gust of icy, wet wind. I had just come to the bar to order a pot of tea and, as I stood quietly in the queue behind them, I noticed the blond casting worried glances at his shivering companion.

 

“Walking the Coast to Coast?” I asked.

 

“We are,” the dark-haired bloke replied. “Though I’m pretty sure we swam most of it today.”

 

“You taking the high level route through the mining ruins tomorrow?” I asked.

 

They both nodded. “Supposed to be sunny,” the blond replied. “Three days of bad weather and last night the tent sprung a leak. We were hoping for a hot meal and a real bed tonight.”

 

“I’m truly sorry, lads,” the proprietress said. “I wish I could help.”

 

I’m not sure what inspired me to make the offer, perhaps memories of the times I’d walked cold and wet, but more than likely it was simply because I’m a hopeless romantic and I recognised that the two men were more than just mates out for an adventure.

 

“Look, why don’t you take my room for the night? I’m on my own and I have a nice double until the end of the week. I can take the single, and then we can switch back tomorrow. Wouldn’t that work?” I asked the proprietress.

 

“I don’t see why not,” came the reply. “I’ll sort it with housekeeping, and you can work out the details among yourselves.”

 

“It has a bath and lots of hot water,” I said, recalling what a pleasure an actual bathtub was after a long, cold walk.

 

“Oh God, you’re a saint,” the dark-haired one said, offering me a blinding smile between chattering teeth.

 

Still thanking me profusely, they introduced themselves as Will Charles—the dark-haired lad with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, and Doc Jones—the blond with a lovely Welsh lilt in his rich, baritone voice. They helped me switch my meager belongings to the smaller room. Then I returned to my table and my tea. I couldn’t help wondering what their story was and just what they might get up to in that deep tub and on that nice bouncy bed. Quite the coincidence that I was here because I had agreed to write a story for the Brit Boys: With Toys anthology and, with the deadline bearing down on me, I was still drawing a blank, but with Doc and Will’s arrival, I suddenly felt inspired.

 

 

Sex and Ritual

As I work on the final draft of Blind-Sided — the second of the Mesusa’s Consortium novels, I’ve been thinking a
lot about sex and ritual. Here are a few thoughts on the topic in this post from the archives. 

 

Carl Jung saw symbols and rituals as containers for numinous power. It’s a small step from our need for ritual to the idea of sex as ritual. It infiltrates our myths, it permeates our literature and it fills our fantasies. Many of the earliest religious rites were fertility rites involving either the sacred prostitute or the sacred couple whose sexual union insured abundant crops, cattle and children for another season. Certainly it’s not hard to see the ritualistic aspect of sex in the natural world. We’ve all watched birds or badgers or elephants going at it on nature programs. There are often complex courtship rituals before actual copulation.

 

Jung’s definition of ritual as a container for power intrigues me. The power contained in sex is astounding. It’s the power to pass on life. It gives us the ‘little death’ and the out of body experience. It elevates us to the level of heaven while bringing us back to our most primitive animal nature.

 

Sex is the ultimate mystical experience. The closest we can get to a power beyond ourselves is the power within ourselves. There’s a reason I chose to write my very first novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly as a modern day retelling of the Psyche and Eros story. In the Greek myth, Psyche must undergo ritualistic tasks before she is allowed to be with her lover Eros. In achieving these impossible tasks, Psyche so impresses the gods that they not only allow her to be with her lover, but grant her divinity as well.

 

In Greek mythology sex usually involves one of the gods, most often Zeus, coming down to earth and ‘seducing’ a mortal female, who then gives birth to a child destined to do great things. Sex as the representation of the creative force permeates the Greek myths. It permeates the paranormal world as well, but what else are vampires and shifters but the modern representation of the mythical gods? It’s there in the Christian myth as well, the child of divinity and humanity destined to save the world. Tragically the power of sex is most of the time omitted from the Christian myth. Oh it’s there all right, but you just have to look a little harder to find it. When I wrote In The Flesh, one of my favorite scenes is Susan’s research into the sexual relationships between gods and humans. Here’s a snippet to illustrate what I mean:

I had little enthusiasm for the handbag sale, nor for lingering at the make-up counter. Instead I found myself back at the Starbucks, Mac open, researching God’s love life, which turned out to be a long history of seducing humans.

Zeus visited Danae in a shower of gold. He seduced Leda in the form of a swan. Eros came to Psyche in the dead of night forbidding her to look upon his face. Hades dragged Persephone down to the Underworld. The Virgin Mary was impregnated by the god of the Bible. In the New Testament, Christ is the bridegroom, and the church his bride. And the list went on and on. Perhaps even the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was just another way for divinity to experience flesh.

 

More than a procreative force, sex is a creative force. Its ritual act allows us contact with the power, contact we can have no other way. But who controls the ritual? We’ve all seen lories transporting heavily reinforced tankers bearing CAUTION: HAZARDOUS MATERIALS signs in big red letters. We know a breech of containment would be disastrous. The purpose of ritual is to keep the power contained so we mortals can interact with it safely. Religions have always tried to control the rituals involving sex, to dictate with whom the act may occur, how, and even when it may take place. Property and inheritance rights depended on controlling women’s sexuality.

 

These days the ritual containers set in place by religious superstition and prejudice are being breeched. Those vessels can no longer contain and control sexuality in all its vibrant varied guises. The ritual is being taken out of the hands of institutions and reclaimed on a more individual, more personal level. That means the creative force of our sexuality is being freed in ways we could have hardly imagined a few years ago.

 

The container for the ritual has changed drastically in recent years. In some cases it no longer exists at all, and we’re struggling to find safe containers, safe places to learn about, understand and explore all aspects of our sexuality. The ritual of sex is being reinvented to something vibrant and alive and open, and translating that into story a part of what makes our job a pleasure, whether we write contemporary erotic romance, historic, sex in space, paranormal romance, the container is new with each story we tell. How can that not be exciting?

 

Side Effects of a Good Read

I’ve spent the last week dragging around with a brutal cold. I’m very seldom ill, and almost never ill enough to take to bed. But this time, without full brain function, it seemed the expedient thing to do — lousy timing or not. While I groused and grumbled between sniffles and sneezes, aches and pains, I also made a discovery. I did have enough brainpower to lose myself in a good read. Since I wasn’t sleeping well for the first couple of nights, I took full advantage, binge reading Pippa DaCosta’s wonderful Veil series while snuffling and coughing and feeling sorry for myself.

 

I’m on the mend now. Though I’m still dragging, still dealing with the after effects. But here’s the thing. Being forced to take some down time and fully indulge in the pleasure of a good read was worth every sniffle and ache. It’s not that I don’t do my best to make sure there’s reading time in my schedule. It’s just that it’s often the first thing to go when that schedule gets tight. It’s sad that it takes a nasty bug to remind me that reading is far more than just my duty as a writer. It’s far more than just a frivolous pleasure; it’s a priming of the pump, a feeding of the creativity, a grounding for the storyteller in me.

 

Creativity cultivates creativity, and being inspired by the works of other people’s imaginations is one of the best ways I know of to be more productive and more creative myself. Sadly that fact is one of the easiest things for a busy writer to forget. I’m willing to bet it’s one of the easiest things for most of us to forget, whether we write or not.

 

I used to read every novel with the idea of learning how to be a better writer – whether the novel was a good one or not. Now I’m way less likely to even finish a poorly written novel. Time is too valuable. More often now I hold out for the really good novels, and I read them for the sheer pleasure of being drawn outside myself into another world, into another person, into an experience far different from my own. Coming off a good read, I’m reminded just exactly why the ancient storytellers in some cultures sat with kings and queens as their equals.

 

It’s far too easy to pick up all of our information in bits and pieces off social media and the Internet. We’re connected in ways we could have never imagined even twenty years ago. But while all the information we could ever want and, in some cases WAY too much,is available at our fingertips, the magic, the real magic, only happens when we slow down, back away and let the storytellers enthrall us.

 

A New Haunted Voices novel @gemwriter #CR4U #romantic #suspense #supernatural Spirits of the Heart

Spirits of the HeartA Haunted Voices Novel

An addiction counselor and a security guard struggle to free a little girl and her father, two lost spirits trapped inside an abandoned mental asylum.

Addiction counselor Laura Horton returns from college to move in with an old friend and start her career. But her homecoming is jarring. Her friend moves out, leaving Laura alone with the gorgeous but intimidating ex-boyfriend—in a house that snugs up to an ancient graveyard.

Officer Miller Stanford is a man with a shattered past. His alcoholic dad destroyed their family, a weakness Miller is terrified will consume him too. The last thing he needs is a sexy, blonde addiction counselor watching his every move. When he begins to see specters in the dark, he starts questioning his own stability.

But Laura sees her too—a pathetic child-spirit searching for her father. Then Laura starts digging into old asylum records . . . Can Miller and Laura uncover the secrets of Talcott Hall without jeopardizing their love—and lives—in the process?

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/YUa2RALSE

Buy Link: http://mybook.to/spiritsOTH

*****

Excerpt:

Laura Horton’s bad feeling began the minute she pulled up in front of Angie’s puke green, two-story house and parked at the curb.

Not Angie’s house, she reminded herself. Angie’s boyfriend’s house. Although they’d been pretty tight in high school, she and Ang had kept in touch mostly via telephone and email these past few years that Laura had been in grad school. Once, a few years ago, they’d gotten together for their five-year reunion, when Laura had come home to visit her ailing dad.

That was the first time she’d seen the compact craftsman bungalow—after dark—and she hadn’t realized it was such an ugly color. She hadn’t met the boyfriend, Miller Stanford, whom Angie either claimed to love with all her heart, or wanted to eviscerate with a Phillips head screwdriver, depending on the day. Nor had Laura noticed then that the house snugged up tight on one side to an ancient-looking graveyard. The only thing separating the two properties was a narrow strip of grass and a dilapidated, iron fence.

A shiver ran across her shoulder blades as she sat in her car, studying her new surroundings. Her new home.

Holy crap.

Chillier up here. Where’d I pack that hoodie?

She turned to dig around in one of the boxes squashed into the back of her tiny car, quickly realizing it was pointless. Nearly everything she owned in the world—besides a few pieces of battered, old furniture—filled the back seat, and passenger side, of her thrifty Kia. When she’d run out of room for boxes, she’d resorted to folding softer items, like her sweaters and sweats, into new plastic trash bags. Stuff crammed every nook and crevice in the car, leaving just enough space beneath the headliner for her to see out through the rearview mirror.

There was no way in hell she was locating her hoodie in Mt. Clothesmore.

Rubbing her hands up and down her arms, she climbed out and sprinted up the steps to the front door. She hadn’t been able to reach Angie by phone since she’d left Boone, North Carolina the day before, but that wasn’t too unusual. Her friend was a bit flighty, and prone to misplace her phone, her charger, or both. Angie had been juggling courses at the community college with a full-time night job, tending bar at the pub just down the street, for the past two years. Laura couldn’t blame her for acting a bit squirrelly at times.

She reminded herself how nice it was of Ang and Miller to rent her their spare room. When Laura landed the job in Middletown, her initial exhilaration had been tempered by a glaring question: where the hell was she going to live? There was no way she could move into her father’s tiny condo with his new wife, Deirdre. And securing an apartment on her own was out of the question, at least not until after her first few paychecks hit the bank.

Laura squared her shoulders, which were quaking slightly in the cool spring breeze, tipped up her chin, and rang the doorbell.

Twice. She shifted her sneakered feet against the creaky porch boards, folding her arms against the chill. After another long moment with no answer, she rang the bell a third time, holding down the ancient button a full ten seconds this time. She could hear the electronic buzz through the peeling front door, but no other sounds at all.

Angie had to be here—she knew Laura was coming. It was Friday, but Angie’s last term of college ended last week, and it was nearly two o’clock in the afternoon. There was only one vehicle parked in the short driveway, a late-model Ford pickup. But Laura wasn’t sure what it was Angie was driving these days.

Then, she heard the booming, thumping sound. Footsteps? Deliberate, heavy, booming steps. Did Bigfoot live here too?

A dull click, then the tinkle of chain skittering on the inside of the wood. The door burst open. But it wasn’t Angie standing on the threshold.

Laura didn’t have time to suppress the involuntary gasp that escaped from her open mouth.

The man was huge, not only tall but massive, with a broad, muscular chest, one lightly furred with golden hair.  His bulbous biceps were cut, sculpted like a Greek statue. And he wasn’t wearing much more than Michelango’s David, with only a steel grey towel snugged around narrow hips to match the steely glint in his blue-grey eyes.

She blinked and swallowed, stumbling back a step. “Is Angie here?” she asked in a small voice.

The giant snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. “Who’s askin’?”

*****

Author Bio: Claire Gem

Strong Women, Starting Over

   ~Redefining Romance~

Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of emotional romance—contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. She writes about strong, resilient women who won’t give up their quest for a happy-ever-after—and the men lucky enough to earn their love. No helpless, hapless heroines here. These spunky ladies redefine romance, on their terms.

Whether it’s a sexy contemporary read you’re seeking, or a thrill ride into the supernatural world of hauntings and ghosts, Claire will take you on a memorable journey.

Her paranormal/romantic suspense, Hearts Unloched, won the 2016 New York Book Festival. Her contemporary romance, The Phoenix Syndrome, won the women’s fiction division in FCRWA’s The Beacon Contest.

A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 38 years, now live in central Massachusetts.

Media Links:

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Release blitz organized by Writer Marketing Services.

 

Toys for Boys Launches Today!

 

I’m very excited to announce the launch of my M/M novella, Toys for Boys, just in time for Valentine’s Day. If you like some serious hot male bonding fun al fresco, then you’ll enjoy T4B.

Toys for Boys was a fantastic opportunity to revisit one of my very favourite holidays of all times — our Coast to Coast walk across England. One of the best parts of doing the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path was that it was mostly low tech – good walking gear and navigation skills and putting one foot in front of the other. That meant a feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day and it meant that my husband and I didn’t miss the finer moments because our noses were buried in our iPhones.

Will and Doc’s story is one of adventures with high tech while being very creative with low tech at the same time. That combo made for fun and sexy writing.

Here’s a sizzler of an excerpt for your reading pleasure.

 

 

High tech meets low tech in a wilderness adventure that sizzles

 


Toys for Boys Blurb:

Alpha nerd Will Charles teams up with Caridoc ‘Doc’ Jones in a coast to coast walk across England reviewing outdoor gift suggestions for the Christmas edition of Toys for Boys—an online magazine dedicated to the latest gadgets to tickle a man’s fancy. Will is recording their adventures with the latest smart phone technology. Doc is reviewing the latest outdoor gear. The two quickly discover the great outdoors provides even better toys for boys, toys best shared al fresco, toys that, in spite of Will’s great camera work, will never be reviewed in Toys for Boys.

Note: Toys for Boys has been previously published as part of the Brit Boys: With Toys boxed set.

 

 

 

Toys for Boys Excerpt:

“We’re not going to make Ennerdale tonight,” Doc yelled into the wind.

Will’s answer was incoherent, an incoherence that wasn’t entirely because the wind was interfering with Doc’s hearing. They’d already got lost once and had fought their way back to the trail. Doc was fucking freezing, but he had spent enough time outdoors in bad weather to push his body way further than most people could. No matter how fit Will was, Doc recognised the signs of hypothermia when he saw them. They had to get out of the weather and get warm.

They lost the trail twice more before Doc made the executive decision to set up a tent in the first spot halfway flat. To his surprise it had been the damn urBrain that had saved the day. Will had downloaded detailed, interactive OS maps, but in his condition, Doc doubted if he could read his own name in bold letters, let alone the contours of a map. He’d pried the device, safe from the weather in its own little waterproof sheath, from Will’s icy hands and, with the light from the screen, he was able to find a wooded area relatively flat and as shielded from the weather as they were likely to get. The rain turned to hail and the Arctic wind made it feel like bird shot against all bits of exposed skin as Doc struggled to set up the tent. He’d shoved another energy bar at Will, and when he’d only stood there looking at it, Doc had opened it and half crammed it down his throat before he went back to work on shelter, desperate to get Will out of the weather.

Once the tent was secure, he chucked the bags inside, then grabbed Will by the collar and dragged him into the tight little space.

The energy bar must have helped. Will seemed coherent enough. “I can’t feel my hands,” he said, battling to get his sleeping bag out of its waterproof sack.

“Give me that,” Doc said through chattering teeth. “Let me do it. My hands aren’t all delicate and dainty like yours.”

“Would you look at that?” Will said as Doc grabbed the bag. “Amazingly, my middle finger works just fine.” He flipped him off.

“So does your smart mouth.” Without thinking, Doc zipped the two bags together.

“What are you doing?” Will was suddenly serious.

“You’re hypothermic. Get your wet clothes off and get into the bag.”

“Oh. Right.” But Will could no more manage the buttons and zippers on his clothing than he could his sleeping bag.
This time when Doc shoved his hands away and pushed the waterproof jacket off his shoulders, Will only watched, eyes focussed on the process as though it were something totally new to him. Doc cursed the fiddly buttons on the man’s shirt, his own hands none too agile from the cold and wet and the fact that he was undressing Will fucking Charles, about whom he’d been having less than pristine thoughts since his first view of the man’s arse. Will fucking Charles with whom he was about to cuddle down into a sleeping bag butt naked, never mind that it was with good reason.

Will sucked in a harsh breath. “Your damned hands are like ice cubes, Woodsy.”

“Oh shut it, William, or I’ll kick your arse outside and make you sleep in the rain.”

“Fucking like to see you try.” Will’s teeth were chattering hard, and his whole body trembling from the cold as Doc worried the shorts down over his commando bum and found himself face to cock, which made the blighter burst into hysterical laughter. “Have we ulterior motives, Mr Jones? Where the hell’s urBrain? I have to get this on camera.”

“Want a selfie of your cock, do you, you shivering bastard?” Doc turned his attention to the walking boots, which had stopped all progress of getting the man naked. Focusing on something other than the naked, very vulnerable body of Will fucking Charles helped clear his mind. He was too cold, too tired to get hard over what was essentially a matter of life and death, he told himself. Surely!

Once the boots were dispensed with, he shoved the man into the sleeping bag and went about the awkward business of stripping himself.

“Where the hell is the urBrain when I need it?” Will chuckled between chattering teeth.

“You point that thing at me, and I’ll shove it up your arse.” Doc’s own teeth sounded like a couple of spastic tap dancers had been turned loose in his mouth.

“Now that’s a function I didn’t find in the instruction manual,” Will replied.

What started out as ribald comments on the shrivelling effect of the cold on male tender bits dwindled to nothing more than the sound of convulsive shivering. By the time Doc had shed the last of his clothes and shoved his way down next to Will, he was seriously worried. It took all his strength, which wasn’t a helluva lot at that moment, to pull the bloke into his arms and hold him close enough to share body heat, what little there was of it. The worry subsided a bit when Will threw his arms around his neck and gave a harsh chuckle against his throat. “This was seriously worth getting hypothermic for. Pity I’m too fucking tired to appreciate it.”

Though Doc agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment, his focus was on getting Will warm. Then he’d get out the backpacking stove and fix them something hot. That was the last thing he remembered, that and the feel of Will’s body shivering against him, in the tent redolent with the male scent of core heat and wet gear, all overlaid by the icy metal smell of the fells in a storm.

 

Buy Toys for Boys Here: 

Amazon UK

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© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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