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Sleazy Bars — A Touch of Grace … Grace Marshall that is

(From the Archives)

I have a soft spot in my heart for bars, and western bars in particular. No doubt it’s out of that soft spot and the exec-box-setfantasies it spawned that The Boiling Point, the bar in the Executive Decisions Trilogy, grew (Available in a Box Set Now!). The coolest bar I’ve ever been in is Moose’s in Kalispell, Montana, with its swinging wooden doors and peanut shells and sawdust on the floor. The rough wooden booths are carved with the graffiti of who knows how many pocket knives, and there’s always Canadians, Cribbage, and red beer in abundance. For the uninitiated, red beer is beer and tomato juice.

In my childhood, bars always intrigued me because they were forbidden. The bars of my youth, which I was only ever allowed to peek into before my mother would grab me by the arm and drag me away, had wooden dance floors, high stools at the bar and lamps that were adverts for the local beers. There was always a pool table and often several monuments to bad taxidermy. In their early years of marriage my brother and his wife rented an apartment that was attached to a derelict bar in the middle of nowhere on the Colorado and Wyoming boarder. I loved going there because my sister-in-law would let me into the bar to have a spin round and round on the bar stools and do cartwheels and slide in my stocking feet across the hard wood floor. Oh, in case you’re wondering, there’s a fourteen year age difference between my brother and me. I was just a little girl then. Though it still sounds like something I’d enjoy. Looking back, that might actually be the most fun I ever really had in a bar. I suppose Harris Walker is my alter-ego in that.

In Kirksville Missouri, where I went to university there was the Zodiac, which was not much more than a glorified warehouse with concrete floors and a raised concrete platform for dancing. The music was loud, and the crowd mixed, with a good few under-ager sneak-ins with fake IDs.

The Blue Moon, on the other side of the tracks, had pool tables, an abundance of ripped naugahide booths and the best hamburgers in town.

Ask any of the good Christian folks in Mooringsport, Louisiana, where my husband grew up, and they’ll tell you that the Highway 1 Bar is the brimstone belching den of Satan. When my husband was a child, his family drove by it several times a week on their way to and from church, looking upon it with disdain. After we were married, in an act of breath-taking rebellion, Raymond took me there for a drink. We weren’t taken to the back room and sacrificed to Satan, nor were we corrupted into a life of debauched drunkenness and godless filth. (though we might have already been a bit debauched) We were, however, served cold beer at a quiet table in the corner while country music whined on the jukebox.

As you can probably tell from my sordid and sleazy account … em … my experiences never quite lived up to the ones in my imagination. Maybe that’s why The Boiling Point appears larger than life in all three of Grace Marshall’s Executive
Decisions novels. The Exhibition is no exception. The Boiling Point is an amalgamation of the bars I’ve been in and the experiences I’ve fantasised in those bars. I reckon Harris Walker’s experiences of bars is rather similar to mine. They never quite live up to his expectations, and yet he wants them to.

After a less than satisfying experience in An Executive Decision, the first novel of the trilogy, the Boiling Point is not on Harris Walker’s list of favourite hang-outs. The Boiling Point is a squat cinderblock den of iniquity that has been through multiple incarnations since it was a speak-easy during prohibition. It’s the hang-out for all sorts – bikers, goths, red necks and even slumming banker boys. It has a reputation for watered down drinks, surly waitresses, loud music and being periodically raided – which is exactly what happens the night Stacie Emerson convinces Harris to meet her there in an effort to get him to exhibit his photography in her gallery.

The Exhibition Blurb:

Successful NYC gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, is ex-fiancée to one Thorne brother and ex-wife to the other. Though the three have made peace, Ellison Thorne’s friend, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, still doesn’t like her. When Stacie convinces Harris to exhibit his work for the opening of her new gallery she never intended to include him in her other more hazardous plans. But when those plans draw the attention of dangerous business tycoon, Terrance Jamison, Harris comes to her aid. In the shadow of a threat only Stacie understands, can she dare let Harris into her life and make room for love?

As successful gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, finds herself in the clutches of a powerful enemy from her dark past, her growing feelings for her latest exhibitor, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, could get them both killed. Sharing her secret could destroy their relationship, but keeping it could be fatal.

The Exhibition Excerpt:

The fact that cops were pouring through the door only half registered in Harris’s Stacie-addled brain. Then some te-new-coverwoman screamed raid, and people were running and shoving in all directions. Someone was shouting something in an authoritative voice into a blow horn. It all felt like a scene right out of a gangster movie.

Stacie grabbed him by the hand and dragged him back toward their table. She shoved her iPad in her bag, and shouted at Waters, who had rushed back to the booth with his dance partner hanging on for dear life and was now shooting pictures like crazy.

Every time the man had a camera in his hand, he looked like he was about to get well laid. Did his work really do that for him? The adrenaline rush that came from fear of losing life and limb was the best Harris ever managed.

‘You alright,’ Stacie yelled to Waters.

He nodded breathlessly and handed Stacie something that Harris couldn’t see. ‘Need you to do me a favour.’ His words were clipped, excited. ‘Can you take care of this for me?’ He nodded toward the ladies room.

‘Seriously? You brought that here?’ For a second, Harris thought Stacie was going to belt the man.

But Waters only shrugged, gave her a sheepish grin, and kept shooting. ‘I didn’t think.’

She said something that Harris couldn’t hear over the chaos, something he figured wasn’t very nice.

She grabbed Harris by the hand and headed toward the bathrooms, dragging him right on into the women’s room. ‘What the –’

She shoved her way into the first stall, dropped a tiny plastic bag with what looked like a couple of roll-your-owns into the commode and flushed with her booted foot.

‘Jesus! Are you kidding me?’ Harris felt the tension ratchet up a notch in his shoulders as she watched the swirl of water in the toilet to make sure her efforts were effective. ‘He brought pot here? Idiot.’

She placed a finger to her lips, then slammed the cubicle door shut once she was satisfied with the results. ‘I’m sure that’s not what they’re looking for, but it’s enough to land him at the police station.’

Outside someone shouted, ‘Hastings, check the crappers.’

Before Harris knew what hit him, she pulled him into the cubicle at the other end of the row and locked the door behind him talking in a fast whisper. ‘Sorry about this. Not very professional, I know, but I promised to do my best to keep us out of jail, and I’m thinking groping in the ladies’ room’s not what this raid’s all about.’ The words were barely out of her mouth before she launched herself at him lips first. Damn it; he wanted to be mad at her. They were about to go to jail, for fuck sake! But instead of giving her a piece of his mind, he kissed her right back, hard, and felt her yield and open, and his tongue was in heaven sparing with hers, tasting, testing, thrusting. He found himself hoping that the inevitable arrest would wait until after he got his fill of Stacie Emerson, and that could take a while. She felt way better than she had even in his fantasies, and when his badly-behaving hands moved down to cup her magnificent bottom and pull her closer, she returned the favour and gave his ass a good grope. As though that gave him permission to explore, he slid anxious fingers inside her trousers wriggling down past a miniscule thong to cup an impossibly soft, impossibly firm buttock that gave a muscular clench in his hand, forcing her hips forward until she couldn’t possibly miss the press of his appreciative hard-on straining his jeans to get closer to her.

In the hall the noise got louder and the door burst open.

She had just managed a good firm stroke to the front of his trousers that had his full attention and then some, when a heavy-handed knock on the door caused her to yelp, and he nearly fell back onto the commode.

‘All right, you two, tuck it in, and come on out.’

 

Billionaires and Why We Love Them

 

money-hands-thumb15490930With the plethora of billionaire stories that have burst on to the scene since the 50SoG phenomena and the second film fast approaching, I found myself wondering the other day while I was doing the ironing just what it is about billionaires that we find so appealing.

OK, I suppose that sounds like a stupid question. People are always curious about how the other half (or in this case less than 1%) live. That’s only natural. And who hasn’t fantasized about how their lives would be different if they won the lottery or a long lost relative died and left them with a fortune? So here are just a few of the reasons I think billionaire romances appeal to readers so much.

 

THE FREEDOM

It they can buy it, they can have it. Billionaires don’t have the financial constraints the rest of us constantly live with. Helicopters, jets, palatial mansions in south France, yachts the size of the QE2 are all just an afternoon’s shopping spree. There’s something very appealing about the freedom that buys, which leads me to my next reason.

 

THE RULES DON’T APPLY

If money is no issue, then many of the rules that apply to most of us are no longer relevant. While money may not be able to buy love, it can certainly buy sexual satisfaction in more than fifty shades and way more colours than gray. There’s something very edgy and exciting about the idea of buying sexual control over another person. It’s a Dom/sub relationship based on wealth, and we live in an age when money is power and money is control. It’s not surprising that money is also very sexy. Neither is it surprising that many of our fantasies involve ‘being bought’ in some way.

 

LIVING THE LIFE

The typical billionaire story involves a billionaire loving or at least lusting for someone who is very average. And while we read that story, we fantasise ourselves right into that role. We become the character who is wined and dined, whisked away in the private jet and shopped for by a very exclusive personal shopper. In essence, we get one helluva makeover, readying us to walk in the rarified air of the billionaire’s world. It’s the luxury and adventure of our fantasies along with the hot nasty steamy sex of … er … well … our fantasies.

 

THE LOOK

In billionaire novels the polished, airbrushed look of wealth is associated with the look or our dream guy or girl. We want our billionaires to conform to our personal fantasies of what sexy and rich look like, and it’s amazing, though not surprising, how often the two go hand in hand. If we’re going to have a fantasy man, he might as well look good AND be rich. And of course, he will lust obsessively after US!

 

SUFFERING BILLIONAIRES

Our billionaire must suffer or have suffered. No silver spoons in these stories. Our billionaires must have suffered tragedy, been raised by crack whores, lost a loved one, had an abusive childhood, secretly suffer from self-doubt, self-loathing, horrible nightmares, think themselves unworthy of love. In the eyes of readers, there has to be a cost for wealth. Most of us can’t really imagine what it’s like to have that much money and power. If we’re being honest, we resent the hell out of people we feel have it but don’t deserve it. We find it gratifying to know that, yes, the wealthy really do put their pants on the same way the rest of us do, and they don’t get off without suffering. We need to see that suffering to make that love connection.

 

SALVATION IS AT HAND

Enter the love interest, just your ordinary girl/guy (insert your own name here) whose soul purpose in the story, as in all love stories, is to rescue the hero from himself, lift him above his self-doubts and heal him. The heroine’s job is to bring the wounded hero, even if he’s a surly billionaire, to a shared HEA. There’s something very satisfying about a billionaire who has everything, but is totally lost and impoverished until the love of his life saves him and brings him true love.

 

BALANCE OF POWER

It’s essential to the story that the love interest has something to offer to the billionaire that he needs, craves, can’t buy with his money. No one really wants to read a story about two perfect billionaires falling in love with each other in their perfect billionaire world. I’m convinced the billionaire story works because if offers the non-billionaire reader a balance of power. There’s something outrageously satisfying about an ordinary person having exactly what a billionaire needs, but can’t buy, what a billionaire is willing to give up all his/her wealth to have. The HEA in a billionaire story is that balance of power, when the billionaire and the ordinary heroine come to a state of equilibrium that allows love. Because the contrast in the beginning is so great, the achievement of this balance of power can be spectacular to watch. And the HEA can be very satisfying because of that contrast.

There! That’s K D’s analysis of the billionaire romance in a nutshell. What do you think?

 

sexyjustgotrich coverSexy Just Got Rich Anthology blurb:

Billionaires have it all but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to work hard to get what their hearts desire. In this anthology of erotic BDSM stories the Brit Babes offer heroes and heroines who aren’t shy about taking what they want. From farmyards to luxury penthouses, wealth is all about sating needs, connecting souls and taking pleasure to new highs. Whether you’re looking for a coffee break read or something longer to curl up in bed with, you’ll find something to suit your needs in Sexy Just Got Rich.

‘Buying the Farm’ blurb:

Cassie Fielding is at her wits end trying to save the family farm from bankruptcy after her father’s illness. But when Cassie returns from university, she finds that, in spite of their financial situation, her father has hired the mysterious Simon Dennis to help run the place. As Cassie and the new hired hand experience an unprecedented heat wave of lust, Cassie comes to suspect that her father and Simon may be in cahoots with their own plan to save the farm, and the whole scheme depends on her.

Excerpt

When Simon came to her, she was standing with her back to the open sliding door, arms braced against the stalls they had renovated. He wanted to breed horses – not on a grand scale, but mostly as an experiment in the beginning, a part of their plan to diversify. The planning was still in the early stages, but it was filled, like most of their plans for Fielding Farm, with exciting possibilities.           

‘I’m sorry, Cassie.’ For a long time he stood silhouetted in the door, his shadow stretching out before him, merging with the gloom of the barn. Then he moved to stand behind her, slipping his arms carefully around her waist, as though he feared she might turn on him. In truth, she wasn’t sure his fears weren’t justified.

At last, she relaxed and leaned her head back against his shoulders, feeling his sigh of relief, warm and humid on the soft flesh of her neck. ‘Is any of what he said true?’

‘Some of it, yes. I wanted to buy Fielding Farm. I made your father a very generous offer, one I didn’t think he could refuse.’

‘But he did.’ Her voice was little more than a whisper.

‘Well, not exactly.’ He kissed her ear and tightened his hold just slightly, not sure what her response would be. ‘He told me he wouldn’t consider any offer until I’d worked as his hired hand for six months.’

Cassie laughed in spite of herself. ‘And then he threw in the farmer’s daughter to sweeten the deal?’

He nuzzled her neck and kissed her just below her ear, sending shivers down her spine, and she pressed back against him. ‘I think he knew all along what would happen. I think he knew that when I got to know the farmer’s daughter, I’d want it all, lock stock and barrel, and buying the farm was gonna cost me way more than I expected to pay.’ One hand moved up to cup her breast and for a long second, he seemed to have lost himself in the soft flesh of her nape and along the top of her shoulder. ‘But Christ,’ he breathed against her throat, ‘it’s worth the price.’

 Buy Sexy Just Got Rich Here:

Amazon UK
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Reading Like a Writer

(From the Archives)

When I read as a writer, what I read — no matter what it is — but especially if it’s fiction, becomes a whole different Book stacksanimal. I realized this after reading a particularly fabulous short story that completely enthralled me for the course of several thousand words. And when I came back to the real world, I found myself not only analyzing what made the story so amazing, but analyzing how I as a writer read it differently than I would if I weren’t a writer.

I don’t think any writer can approach a story without viewing it, at least to some degree, on the level of the writing. As I analyzed my story reading style, I realized two things. First of all, I always think back over the story after the fact and try to figure out what made it work for me or not. That process within itself can’t keep from changing the story. In a way it becomes a story of multiple plots and constructs the writer never intended, but my mind can’t keep from creating. If in my analysis there are lots of changes I would make, things I would have done differently as the author, at some point it becomes my story, the one I’m writing in my head, and no longer the story the author intended.

Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020For me, the big clue to how I esteem the story is the point at which I begin to analyze. If I’m analyzing the story as I read it, then it’s clearly not going to get five stars on the K D story critique scale. The sooner I begin my analysis while I’m reading, the fewer stars the story or novel rates from me, until at some point it becomes an exercise in editing and recreating it as my own story rather than reading for pleasure. When that happens, the whole process becomes a different experience than the one the writer intended.

If, however, I get totally lost in the story, then my whole internal landscape changes. The writer in me is temporarily replaced by the fascinated little girl who simply loves a good story. When I am pulled in, rough and tumble, to the world the writer has created for me, the story becomes multi-dimensional and experienced twice, sometimes thrice over, sometimes even more. When I’m in the queue at the supermarket, or in bed waiting to fall asleep, when I’m waiting for the bus, I can have the secret pleasure of reliving that story over and over.

Being pulled in is the first part of experiencing a great story. The second part, the analysis part, happens after the fact.books_xl_4571699 When the story moves me, excites me, changes me, then my analysis of it is a different process. Because I don’t feel I can improve on it, analysis then becomes taking the story into myself from a write’s point of view. In other words, what is it that makes this story so fantastic, and how can I incorporate some of that fantastic -ness into my own writing?

A perfect story, a story that pulls me in and devours me whole is a lingering experience. I’m a firm believer that a good story should somehow change the reader. But a good story should also change the writer. A good story should be like discovering a view from a mountaintop that we didn’t know was there before, a view that changes everything, the waterfall we didn’t see, the storm we never expected, the castle that dominates the landscape. A really great story has the potential to make me a better writer, a better weaver of story, a better seer of nuance, a better wielder of my craft.

But a good story should change more than just my views of my writing world. It should touch and stimulate in ways I would not have expected. It should open up the landscapes in my unconscious and my imagination. In some ways, a good story acts as a Muse, and that is the pinnacle of what a writer can glean from a story. I won’t say that doesn’t happen with badly written stories as well, after all the Muse chooses her own time and place. But with a good story, somehow the appearance of the Muse seems more numinous, more dressed for the occasion.Sleeping woman reading181340322466666994_IswNAb85_b

For me, the most powerful element of any story is the key relationship and how it expresses itself. That expression is
often sexual, and a well-written sex scene carries with it the weight of human emotion. It carries with it the drive to reach that magical point where two become one, where we are as close to being in the skin of ‘the other’ as it is possible to be. The power of sex and relationship in story can hardly be overstated. Even in mediocre stories, the power of love and relationship can still pull me outside of the editor-me and into the roil of the archetypal story of human need. To me, that means we erotica writers wield one of the most powerful tools in the writing craft; sex in story. Use it poorly and it just sounds stupid and crass. But use it well and it will be the moment in the story that the reader remembers while in the queue at the grocery store, while drifting off to sleep, while waiting for the bus. And it will be remembered with that ache of commonality of all humanity, the driving force within us all. Keeping that in mind, I don’t think it’s any wonder that so many writers fear writing sex.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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