Tag Archives: story behind the story

The Story behind Helen Callaghan’s Deliciously Chilling Story, Sex & the Single Hive Mind


It’s a total pleasure to welcome my dear friend and fabulous writer, Helen Callaghan to A Hopeful Romantic to share a bit of the story behind one of my favourite short stories of all time, Sex and the Single Hive Mind. Even better still, the story is now available in the vibrant new Science Fiction anthology, Mind Seed and as a podcast with CrimeCity. Enjoy! –K D


Sex and the Single Hive Mind is set in the near future. It’s a very dark story about Susannah Watson, a woman who is kidnapped and then made into an immobile living host for carnivorous algae that devours her. The result is then to be sold on as an illegal drug. All of which is terrible news for Susannah, of course, but has unforeseen side effects.

Believe it or not, it’s a comedy.

I wanted to write something about body theft – not Burke and Hare cadaver thieves, but something more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers – things that come from outside, and steal your body for their own wicked purposes.

Helen Callaghan Sex Hive mindproduct_thumbnailPersonally, I find that kind of thing terrifying. When Donald Sutherland starts that unearthly shrieking at the end of the movie, I freaked out as a kid.

It’s the exact same wellspring of horror that The Exorcist draws from – something that doesn’t mean you well now has control of you, while you look on, horrified. Whether you are locked in there still, or your own personal will simply evaporates, the terror lies in the loss of your agency, your control over your own flesh, the very thing that is dearest to you, and is indivisible from your sense of self.

In all of these cases, the reader’s sympathy lies absolutely with the possessee, if you like – the possessing entity barely has a motive, never mind a personality (spewing out pea soup and rude words hardly counts as character).

So I thought it might be kind of cool to explore the idea of body-snatching from the body snatcher’s point of view – in this case the point of view of a divorced middle-aged cat lady who suddenly finds herself with access to the bodies of the spoiled young things that have effectively murdered her.

And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t turn out that doing this was tons of fun, but nevertheless, there is, I think, a core of sadness – Susannah has access to their flesh and its pleasures, but can’t enjoy it because ultimately her victims all reflect only herself, and her attempt to use her newfound powers to reach out to her object of desire does not go as planned.

Her absurdity and loneliness, is, in a way, also similar to the loneliness of the writer and her characters. Characters, however fascinating, are still just creations, manifestations of a single will.

Anyway, the story appears in the anthology Mind Seed (http://www.lulu.com/gb/en/shop/edited-by-david-gullen-gary-couzens/mind-seed/paperback/product-21702685.html) edited by David Gullen and Gary Couzens. The book has been put together to remember Denni Schnapp, biologist, traveller, science fiction writer, and alongside me (www.helencallaghan.co.uk) a member of the T Party Writers group (http://tpartywriters.wordpress.com) based in London, which also included KD.


Excerpt from Sex and the Single Hive Mind:

It’s not Conor this time, but Imogen. Raoul and Conor and Imogen, named for the pretensions of their parents, carriers of their bougeousie. Colonised by them.

But for now, I’m dreaming Imogen. I know this because she’s in a tiny neat kitchen, looking at our mutual reflection in the darkened window. She still looks supercilious even with no-one on hand to disapprove of. I suspect that it might just be a cast of her features, something she can’t control but which her character does little to mitigate.

She’s washing dishes. She’s doing this very slowly, as she’s obviously drugged out of her tiny mind. I can taste the sharpness of cut grass in her mouth.

She’s eaten half a piece of steamed fish and boiled vegetables, without salt or pepper. I know this and am not sure how. My/her hands stir through warm soapy water.

Time to try it, then.

Her head raises, she looks into the window.

“My name is Susannah Watson.”

The words emerge without ceremony. I don’t know what I was expecting, to be honest. I thought perhaps there might be some sort of intense psychic battle, where I warred for dominance against her innate personality, but she doesn’t appear to have one. Her body is an empty house and I control it utterly, without let or hindrance.  The drug has reduced to her to a series of mannerisms, which fill her head like ugly furniture left behind by the previous tenants.

“My name is Susannah Watson,” I say again. My voice is a stranger’s, filled with unfamiliar music. “I am fifty-two years old. I am a detective in the Metropolitan Police, Smithfield division. I have two cats and one ex-husband. I have been… I am…”

My voice fades away.

Imogen stares back blankly at me from her reflection.  From my reflection.

It’s too much, too much, and I fly, back to my concrete room. I linger there, my consciousness circling above my green body, buzzing. I see what is happening. I have colonised the flies. They ate me, and I fill them. Spider-Girl ate the flies, and I filled her.

I understand, I think.

I gather myself. I tell myself, “I want to be Imogen now.”

Nothing happens.

“Take me to Imogen.”

I summon up the memory of being her, of hot soapy water over my hands, of the taste of cut grass.

I’m standing in the kitchen again, as if I had never left. She has not moved in the meantime, as far as I can tell, and a little trail of saliva drips down from the corner of her semi-open mouth.

I wipe it away with one of her wet, soapy hands, fascinated by her soft, unmarked skin against my face. She must be thirty years younger than me, at the very least.

“I am Susannah,” I say, and my voice rolls with confidence. I laugh then, and the girl in the window’s reflection laughs with me. In a bare instant, her superior squint vanishes and I shine out of her, like the sun breaking through fast passing clouds.

Enjoy a podcast of the complete Sex and the Single Hive Mind here:





The anthology, Mind Seed,  celebrates Denni’s interests and all of the proceeds go to Next Generation Nepal (http://www.nextgenerationnepal.org), who are an anti-child trafficking organization. We had the launch at LonCon 3 in the ExCel centre in London, and we’re all very proud of the book and hope it will do well.


Buy Mind Seed Here: 

Amazon UK



Helen CallaghanAbout Helen Callaghan: 

Helen Callaghan writes genre fic­tion inspired by her love of intel­li­gent books and brain­less movies. Her first novel, Mephistophela, is set in a near-future Lon­don and inspired by ele­ments of Marlowe’s Doc­tor Faus­tus. She is cur­rently work­ing on Bethan Avery, a psychological thriller about a teacher who receives letters from a (presumed) murder victim.

She lives in Cambridge with a hamster called Zenobia, a beloved car, some muti­nous house­plants and too many books. Her per­sonal web­page and erratically updated blog describing the writing of Sleepwalker and Mephistophela is here. She is rep­re­sented by Judith Mur­ray atGreene and Heaton.

Primula Bond Shares the Story Behind the Story of The Silver Chain

The Story Behind The Story

Just over a year ago I was on the point of giving up writing erotica. I loved doing it, I enjoyed my forays into the fantasy world, especially short stories, even relished the look of shock/surprise/arousal on people’s faces at dinner parties/the school gate when I told them what I did, but it was becoming disheartening.

Firstly, in the twenty years since my first short story was published, the fees for a story had shrunk from around £200 to about £75 so that it was barely worth the time spent writing. You could just about call it a hobby that paid pocket money.  Secondly, the advances on novels remained fixed as the years rolled by, the royalties seemed to dwindle, apart from foreign sales, and it was very rare to see any of your books for sale on a shelf for more than a month or so, if that. Thirdly, from the creative angle, I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with the more hardcore content I was being asked to write, which didn’t sit with my natural, more romantic bent. And finally, magazines and imprints such as Black Lace started to go out of business.  Although our faithful editor kept us close as he moved on, it looked as if the genre was about to die a death.

In other words while romantic publishers such as Mills and Boon ventured successfully further down the raunchy route, erotica, always the poor relation, was being marginalised to the point of extinction, certainly in the traditional format.

And then came 50 Shades.  At first I resented the left field approach of a novel and novelist who had come out of nowhere with a ready-made trilogy and hit the kind of sales figures the rest of us could only slaver over while we had been toiling at our craft for more than 20 years. A lot of cynics predicted that the series was a one-hit wonder, and that the call for erotica would evaporate as quickly as it had materialised. I certainly didn’t hold my breath, even when I read that publishers were beginning to seriously consider erotica as a genre to include on their lists. Some authors were asked to re-write the classics as erotica and some bone fide erotica writers were able to leap into the breach with a catalogue of novels and trilogies ready for re-issue.

But I was engrossed in self publishing a collection of short stories under my own name, and was halfway through a ‘literary’ novel when I got an email from my previous editor, who was now ensconced with Avon at Harper Collins.

Basically, he asked a question I couldn’t refuse. Would I try my hand at writing an erotic romance trilogy, focussing, as 50 Shades had, on a central romantic relationship, and reining in the more extreme elements of erotica we had been asked to produce before (although kinkiness in various forms was still allowed!). Well, this was the kind of email aspiring writers can only dream of receiving. How could I say no to a respected editor at a heavyweight publishing house?

The guidelines were different from the previous model of erotica. While the romance and intensity, as well as the quality of expression, was to be ramped up, the explicit tone and graphic use of expletive language was to be reduced. So I felt that I would be able to fly with my more natural style of writing, while challenging myself to write an entire novel, yea trilogy, with nary the use of an ‘f’ or ‘c’ word.

Some challenge, and who could resist?

The Silver ChainAnd so The Silver Chain was born, unlocking my imagination, creating a love story complete with hurdles, obstacles, sinister secondary characters and cliff hangers, and lavishly describing travel locations (London, New York, Venice) and experiences (photography, cooking, seduction) that I had enjoyed in my own life. Add to the pot a sexy hero culled from various personal heart-throbs and a gorgeous heroine called Serena Folkes and you’ve got me, but on a really good day.


The Silver Chain is the first in Primula Bond’s new Unbreakable Trilogy published by Avon Books at Harper Collins. It is available on ebook now and in paperback and is a must read for anyone who likes their erotica intelligent, romantic, intense, sumptuous, sexy, daring yet real, and set in glittering locations.


Blurb of The Silver Chain:

‘Being needed by someone is different from having power over them, and far more alluring, and I’m a fool for not recognising that. I’m a fool for not recognising you.

Twin souls colliding? Or was Gustav waiting for her?

Young photographer Serena Folkes believes she’s struck gold when the tycoon Gustav Levi offers to showcase her debut exhibition. But there are strings attached. Serena must move into Gustav’s London town house and agree to pleasure him in any way he chooses. Patron and protegee, they are bound by the silver chain that symbolises this contract until the last photograph is sold.

As her work sells and Gustav’s demands increase, Serena surprises them both with her feisty character and eager participation. It’s not such a tough ask. Gustav is exotic and intriguing. She is hungry and willing to learn. Gradually she learns what demons have driven him to strike bargains rather than to trust.  And when Gustav discovers that Serena’s abusive past has almost destroyed her ability to love, he realises they are not so different after all.

Can they plan a future together, or will a single act of betrayal return to haunt them?


Author Bio:

Primula Bond is an Oxford educated mother of three boys, part time clerk for defence solicitors and part time features writer. She has written numerous erotic novels, solo collections and short stories for Virgin Books, Mischief Books, and Xcite Books. Her recent novel The Silver Chain is the first in her Unbreakable Trilogy and published by Avon Books UK at Harper Collins.  Primula also writes critiques for Writers Workshop. She may look respectable, but she harbours a secret desire to be a cougar MILF.

You can find her blog  at www.primulabond.blogspot.com , on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @primulabond.


‘I really loved the book – it was different – but good different.. I can’t wait for book 2 – the cliffhanger really left me hanging! I want to know what happens with Serena and Gustav!’  B J’s Book Blog

‘I really loved it. Primula Bond knows how to write interesting, engaging and fascinating relationships.’ Northern Lass

‘I felt the story was quite well written and it took me a day to read as I romped through it and didn’t want to put it down.’  Goodreads.


You can buy The Silver Chain at Tesco, Smiths and Morrisons, or on amzn.to/10iqbmC

Sharazade Breaks the Language Barrier with A Skiff of Snow

I’m chuffed to bits to have my dear friend and fab writer, Sharazade on Hopeful Romantic today. I would love to offer her a proper British welcome, but since I’m not totally British and definitely not proper, I’ll just say what a pleasure it is to have her sharing the story behind her fun and sexy new story, A Skiff of Snow. A story that has a very special meaning to me. Take it away, Sharazade!

Quite some time ago I blogged about the importance of Facebook for writers as a place to make friends (post is here: http://sharazade.com/?cat=31). One of the erotica writer friends I made there was none other than KD Grace, whom I later had the pleasure of actually meeting at a writer’s conference. But even before that, we posted and chatted happily to each other on Facebook about this and that.

One day, she made a remark about expecting “a skiff of snow.” Now, to an American—or at least, to this American—a “skiff” is a sort of boat. I therefore expected that a “skiff of snow” would be a boatload of the white stuff. However, apparently to people living in the area of England that KD now calls home, a “skiff of snow” is a light dusting. So we talked about that, and then about other American/British terms that are different. KD also mentioned getting a delivery from her local milkman—a service that has all but died out in the US, as private dairies are forced out of business by regulations and rising costs. So that too fed into our discussion of cultural differences, and in a rash move, I said that if I were to write an erotica story about cultural differences, I’d put in a hot delivery man in it and call it A Skiff of Snow, and dedicate it to KD Grace.

Well. I think that was two years ago? Something like that. I am not the world’s fastest writer of fiction. But I really did write the story of the American girl Miranda, who travels to England, battles with vocabulary differences, and—of course—meets a hot delivery guy.

I find travel both intimidating and liberating. Even in a country that almost shares a common language with your own, it’s not that hard to make a fool of yourself. And yet, there’s a freedom in your relative anonymity too. No one knows you; you have no history. You’re freer to take chances. And so my Miranda, even while tripping over herself, has the guts to keep trying until she finally gets her man.

In this excerpt, from her attempt to buy a ticket at Waterloo station, you can tell she’s not quite there yet:

* * *
The line wasn’t long, actually, but it moved very slowly. People seemed to spend a long time at the window. Well, that would suit me just fine. If I got the right window. I looked around a bit at the other people in line. How unfair—there were attractive men all around me, actually. As there had been all over London. But how to meet one? I mean, how to really meet one? How did you start? I could strike up conversations about the weather or the time and ask directions, and I’d done all those things, but there never came a point when I could say, “Excuse me, but I’d like to have a fling.” I suppose I could have tried—but I wouldn’t want them to think I was that kind of girl. (Even if I kind of was.)

I turned a corner in the queue-line and could see the male agent again. Maybe about 30 or 35, brown mussed hair, and blue eyes. And … a blue uniform. What is it about men in uniforms? OK, I know selling train tickets isn’t quite the same as being in the RAF, but … it still looked hot. Trust me. I imagined his arms around me as I played with his gold buttons, teasing him a little.

Back up. I’d have to get there first. But at least here I’d have an excuse to make some conversation. I’d ask for my ticket, see, and he’d note the destination, and mention that he was going there anyway, to … to stay with his aunt, or something … and … he’d sort of hint around to make sure I was single, and then we’d arrange to meet up, and …

Another male agent walked behind him. Yes! Two agents! Both of whom had the night off! And would want to show an American around. And we’d wind up back at their apartment – I mean their flat – and one would stand behind me, holding my arms at my side, kissing my neck at just that spot. Then the other one would step up to me, and say

“Cashier number five, please. Cashier number five,” came the announcement for me. I was almost afraid to check—but it was! It was his window!

I was probably more flustered now by the station agent than I would have been by the damn ticket machine. OK, Randie, calm down. You can do this. Talk to the nice man without drooling.

I sort of gawped at him. I couldn’t remember what to ask for. “Um, I need a ticket…”


What the hell? That was pretty forward! I blushed. He’d skipped about six steps of my planned dialogue, but … I could roll with it.
“Yes, I am. Just out of a relationship, actually … ” (Well, so he wouldn’t think I was some sort of loser nobody wanted to date.)

“I mean for the ticket. A single or a return?”

Oh god. Right. The ticket. I didn’t know how to answer the question, though. I had to settle for staring blankly. Return? Did that mean refundable?

“One-way, or round-trip?”

Right – duh. I should have been able to figure that one out, but I’d been too distracted by his uniform. Good thing he also spoke American. But now I was not only not getting a date – probably – I was totally embarrassed.

“Round trip, please.”

“Certainly. Where to?”

What? Oh … was he hoping to meet me after all? “Well … to here, of course.” I sort of half-winked at him and gave him my most enticing smile.
“Yes, but … ” Was that a small sigh? “But what city did you want to go to, so that you could come back here from it?”
Oh god. Oh god. I’m such a dope. I will never, ever buy a ticket from a man in a uniform again.


A definite sigh this time. “Not walking, love. Where do you want to ride to, on the train?” Like he was talking to a three-year-old.
Oh god oh god oh god. Even the “love” didn’t help. How the hell did you pronounce that name? I tried again.
“Woaking? Wooking?” Why wouldn’t it be wok, like the Chinese dish?

I showed it to him on my little map.

“Oh… Woking,” he said – exactly the same way I’d said it. At least I think. My face was flame red. I considered changing my ticket to a one-way – dammit, a single – so I would never have to face him again, broad-shoulders-in-a-uniform or not. Thank goodness I didn’t have to give him my name in order to get the ticket. (And he didn’t say anything about going there himself, or having the night off. He probably didn’t even have an aunt.)

* * *

When Miranda meets the right man in the right way, though, they find that they share a common language after all. This one’s for you, KD!

Thank you for this, Sharazade! It’s the first time I’ve ever had a story written for me! It’s a fab tale, and what fun it was being a part of the discussion leading to it! KDx

A Skiff of Snow is available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other fine purveyors of cross-culturally informed erotica.

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Skiff-of-Snow-ebook/dp/B00AADCGUE

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/A-Skiff-of-Snow-ebook/dp/B00AADCGUE

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/256904

Sharazade is professional writer, editor, and consultant, with more than 20 books published under another name. She divides her time among Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the U.S. Not surprisingly, her stories tend to feature some aspect of travel–modes of transportation or exotic locales. She enjoys stories that are realistic enough that they might have happened and fanciful enough that they might not have. She values communication, adventure, exploration, passion, and love. Find her on her blog at http://sharazade.com.

The Story Behind the Story from Avis Exley

The Story Behind The Story

It’s my pleasure to welcome Avis Exley to Hopeful Romantic to talk about her novels, Love Notes and Lovers In Law.

When Kd Grace asked whether I’d like to talk about Love Notes on her Story Behind The Story guest spot, I didn’t hesitate.   I love talking about romance almost as much as I enjoy writing romantic stories, so this was too good a chance to pass up.   Thanks so much, Kd x

I began writing romances in my teens, not long after I started reading them.   For me, they created a magical world of international locations, spellbinding stories and, of course, happy ever after.

Love NotesLove Notes, was one of my first books and tells the story of Erika Fenn, a world famous singer-songwriter returning to England for the first time in five years.   She’d run away to America to escape a disastrous relationship, pouring her broken heart and soul into her music, and creating songs that turned her into a global superstar.   The last person she needs to see upon her return is Aiden Thirstan, the man who’d broken her heart in the first place, and who’s now saying her future’s under threat too.   Can she trust him to help her and, more importantly, can she trust herself not to fall in love with him all over again?

The story had everything I thought the publishers wanted – an alpha hero, a beautiful heroine and a romance set inside the glamorous music industry.   Full of excitement, I submitted it to a major romance publisher, only to be told that the characters weren’t deep enough and that the background story intruded on the romantic relationship.   Undeterred, I started work on a second novel, Lovers In Law, only to be met with the same rejection, even though I rewrote and resubmitted both novels a couple of times more.

Completely disheartened, I abandoned all hope of becoming a published romance author but it didn’t stop me writing.   By this time I had a young family and wrote whenever they were asleep, stockpiling over a dozen manuscripts in a drawer where they gathered dust and never made it as far as a publisher’s desk.   Then stories began appearing about Print On Demand publishers and self-publishing but the high set up costs in the early days meant this wasn’t an option either.

Still I wrote, adding to the huge pile of paper, until along came Amazon with their Kindle and the easy upload of manuscripts to their e-book store.   Taking my courage in both hands, I decided to give readers the chance to decide whether my work was good enough.   First, I did lots of fun research, reading books from Siren and Ellora’s Cave, and realising that there was no magic formula any more.   I could write exactly what I pleased in a style to suit myself, and even make up a brand new genre if I wanted to!

So, in early 2010, I dug out Love Notes and began rewriting.   The manuscript was so old it had been written on a manual typewriter and before the invention of mobile phones, so it definitely needed bringing into the modern world!   Inspired by the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and erotic romance publishers, I also updated the main love affair, making it far steamier than I’d originally intended.   However, once I started writing, it felt exactly the right way to go.   My characters are hot so why shouldn’t they have hot sex too?

Having done my market research, I knew I needed a unique selling point – a niche of my own.   I began rewriting around the time of the Royal Wedding, with the whole world was going mad for Will and Kate, so I decided to make my books distinctly British.   As I live in London, inspiration was all around me so it made perfect sense to use the city’s iconic locations as a backdrop and to write everything in a British accent.

Lovers in LawI wanted to release two books together so rewrote Lovers In Law alongside Love Notes and uploaded them both to Kindle on the 1st August.   Then I played the waiting game.   A couple of my Facebook friends read them in the first week and posted five star reviews and, after that, the word began to spread.   More five star reviews appeared on Amazon, followed by several on Goodreads and lots of positive comments on Facebook.   Readers didn’t just like my books, they loved them, and couldn’t write a review without using the word “steamy”.   They even made it into the Top 100 of Goodreads’ Best Dirty Talk booklist.   http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/14805.Best_Dirty_Talk?format=html&page=1

But the best reviews of all were the ones that praised the quality of my writing.   I didn’t want my books to be a succession of sex scenes strung together in a weak storyline.   I also wanted a really strong plot, lots of sparky dialogue and believable characters that didn’t race inevitably to a happy ever after.   One Goodreads reviewer even said the writing was so strong, I’d easily sit alongside the mainstream, bestselling writers and she saw no reason why I wouldn’t become one of the great romance writers of al time.  My writing style hasn’t changed much since those very early rejections but now it’s the readers, not the publishers, making the decisions!

I’m currently working on my third novel, a brand new story set in an English stately home, that can only be summed up as Downton Abbey with a huge twist and lots of sexy scenes.   After that, there are still another fifteen dusty stories in the drawer so I might be around for a little while longer!   To whet your appetite, here’s a little snippet from Love Notes.  Enjoy!


Aiden laced his fingers through Erika’s and pulled her hand close to his chest where she felt his heartbeat through his shirt.   Her pulse picked up the rhythm of his heart and slowed, losing its turbulence.

“I’m not talking about going back to where we left off,” he said.   “We can take it as slowly as you like.   Start fresh and see where it goes.”

“Right back to heartbreak,” she thought out loud, indecision writ large across her face.

“Why?   You can’t deny there’s still a connection between us.   We can’t keep our hands off one another.   Why else would you have kissed me?”

“That’s different.   Of course there’s physical attraction, but you’re talking about a relationship.   Love, commitment, trust and everything in between.”

“Then let’s start with the sex and work up from there.”

“What!”   The suggestion came so unexpectedly Erika could barely gasp out a reply.

“You heard.   And don’t pretend you’re shocked.   You have a body made for sin and the other morning proved you’re still no angel.   If this weekend is about sex and memories, why don’t we play to our strengths?”

Devilment sparked in his eyes as he waited to see whether she’d take the bait.   The hook snagged somewhere close to Erika’s libido and embedded itself, releasing the dam burst of desire she’d held back since first seeing him that evening.

Where would be the harm, she asked herself?   After all, Aiden took sexy to a whole new level and it would be a shame to waste it.   Erika wasn’t the only one with a body made for sin and Aiden’s remembered wickedness had inspired every raunchy lyric she’d ever written, including a few too x-rated to record.   Not to mention the delicious dreams that visited her most nights as she drifted off to sleep.

“I can see you’re thinking about it,” Aiden said after Erika’s silence had gone on too long.   “We could have a lot of fun before you head up to London.”

Erika pretended he had nothing of interest to offer her.   “You forget, I’ve already sampled the merchandise.   Maybe that option won’t appeal to me either.”

“And perhaps you just need a little more convincing.”   His eyes widened suggestively.   “The other morning, you took what you wanted and left.   I wasn’t allowed to join in.”

“Would it have made any difference?”

In reply, Aiden reached up and placed his fingertips on the side of her neck, just below her ear, allowing them to flutter against her skin like butterflies’ wings.   “If I kissed you here right now I’d give you goosebumps along your arms.”

Erika half closed her eyes as a thrill of arousal trickled through her skin, just as Aiden had predicted.

His fingers then moved around under her hair and circled each one of her neck bones before caressing the sensitive nape.   ”When I gave you a massage, I started here and, by the time I was half way down your spine, you’d be begging me to make love to you.”

He whispered the last, leaning so close his cheek brushed hers and the powerful, masculine scent of him engulfed her, goading her into touching him.   Without warning, he dropped his hand and pinched the tender skin on the back of her knee, making Erika gasp.   “After we’d showered, I’d dry you off and kiss you from ankle to thigh before letting my tongue…”

“Okay.   Okay.   You’ve made your point.”   Erika jumped in before he could go any further, her skin temperature having leapt by ten degrees.   “Leave something for the imagination.”

“Are you sure you don’t need reminding how I could make you come simply by touching your nipples?   Or how I’d start at your navel and…”

“Enough!”   Erika glared at him but found it impossible to cancel the image of his tongue travelling down across her belly, and her cheeks flushed.   “People are staring.”

Aiden laughed at her embarrassment, the deep, rich sound setting off sensual vibrations in Erika’s bones.   “So why don’t we escape to your room?”


Lovers in Law US  http://www.amazon.com/Lovers-In-Law-ebook/dp/B008S0LII2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345992300&sr=8-1&keywords=Avis+Exley
Love Notes US  http://www.amazon.com/Love-Notes-ebook/dp/B008RXVZXS/ref=pd_sim_sbs_kstore_1
Blog  http://avisexley.blogspot.co.uk/
Tumblr http://avisexley.tumblr.com/
Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/AvisExley
Twitter               @avisexley

Zombies, Threesomes, and Charlotte Stein’s New Novel, Reawakening

I’m elated to have one of my very favourite erotic novelists as my guest this week. The Mighty Charlotte Stein is here to tell us the story behind the story of her sexy, scary, exciting new novel, Reawakening. Welcome, Charlotte!


Reawakening started with 28 Days Later. In fact, every zombie based thing I write, dream or think about started with 28 Days Later.

Yep, I’m that sort of zombie fan. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love the original George Romero movies. I really do. I think there’s room in this world for fast moving zombies and slow moving zombies – though hopefully not literally.

But there’s just something about the speedy, furious, ravenous zombies in 28 Days Later that gets to me. It had a visceral impact on me, that movie, and ever since watching it I’ve spent serious time imagining what the world would be like after a disease of that nature took hold.

Which is how Reawakening came to be.

Of course, there are other contributing factors. Like with most books, I usually start with a scenario and a hero (or heroes), and this book was no exception. At the time of writing I was pretty much obsessed with the new A-Team movie – not because it’s any good, but because Sharlto Copley and Bradley Cooper are so gorgeous and charismatic as Face and Murdock that they kind of warped my brain.

Which is probably a terrible way to describe the writing process, but it’s true. My brain was warped by the A-Team and zombie movies, and then I just had to write Reawakening. Of course, I’m sure there were other contributing factors, here. Important, writerly stuff like:

My muse spoke to me in honeyed tones and I couldn’t not eat nor sleep until I had committed the words to paper.

Or perhaps:

My tortured artist’s soul forced me to eke out each word in a pen filled with my own blood.

But really, if I’m being honest, my urge to write has and always will stem from my love of men, of relationships, of crazy scenarios I can never experience myself. I want to smell and taste and touch the zombie apocalypse. Even though it’s gross and probably flavoured with rotted limb.

And more importantly I want to smell and taste and touch Jamie and Blake, who are not flavoured with rotted limb. They are gorgeous and sexy and they bring my heroine back to life, through the magical wonder of threesomes.

What more could a girl ask, from the men in her life?


June has spent the last two years of her life trying to avoid death at the hands of murderous psychopaths and ravening zombies. So when Jamie turns up on the scene, careless, still whole and promising her safety on a little paradise island, she isn’t quite sure she can trust him. Especially when he tells her that it’s just him, and his equally big, burly, handsome friend Blake.

But Jamie and Blake are even better than her wildest dreams—sweet and funny and charming. And worst of all: sexy as hell. Though they’re trying to be gentlemanly with her, all she can think about is how much she wants to get tangled up in them, and forget the nightmare the world has become. She’s waiting for her reawakening—back to life and happiness and love.

And they seem like just the right sort of men to wake her—body and soul.


All June could think was—Kelsey is dead, Kelsey is dead, Kelsey is dead—while the image of the ravening hordes feasting on Kelsey’s body played behind her eyes. She tried to shut it off, keep it down, keep running before they got to her, but Kelsey’s blood was still wet and all over her right arm.

And if Jamie hadn’t shot Kelsey—right as she was still screaming, and begging for help—she’d be one of them, now. That’s what happened. Once they bit you or bled on you or hell, spat on you, you had maybe thirty seconds.

Before you turned.

She needed to stop, just stop for a second. Lean against something and catch her breath. But Jamie had somehow led them into this building and he just kept running and running—only up instead of out.

June didn’t even know if Jamie was really his name, or if he was leading them right into a dead end. But he kept going, none-the-less.
She could hear the hordes, busting through the door below. He’d barred it, but they were coming in anyway, to this place that was an almost total deathtrap. The staircase was narrow and blanketed in darkness, one winding section after the next. Even if she dared to pause and look over the railing, she wouldn’t be able to see them until they were almost on her.

“Jamie, wait!” she shouted, but not because things would be easier if he had hold of her hand or was there to comfort her in this dire hour of need. She’d made it this far, on her own.

Or at least, she’d made it this far, with Kelsey.

No, it was just that—if he kept going, eventually they’d be trapped, on the roof. And she couldn’t have that. That was one of her and Kelsey’s rules—don’t run to someplace with only one exit.

Only it was just her rule, now. This guy, this Jamie…he didn’t seem to have any rules. He’d decided to run to the roof of a twenty story building then potentially wait outside until the hordes pushed through a probably very flimsy fire door.

Kelsey had said to her. She had said—wait. He’s as crazy as they are. A safe island? He’s nuts. We can’t go with him. He’s probably an insane apocalypse rapist.

And she’d been right, God help her. Maybe not about the insane apocalypse rapist part, but even so and besides—there was still time for that. He could be anyone, be into anything. He could have planned this all along…Kelsey’s death, the run to the roof…hell, maybe he had a whole party of insane assholes up there, just waiting to do horrible things to her.

Even if that was as nuts as he now seemed. Why would he trap himself on the roof, just to have a little fun with her? Nothing in her head was functioning in quite the way it should. Connections had been lost. Wiring had come loose.

She still called out to him again, when they got to the level before the last one. Her voice came out hoarse and breathless, burning lungs making everything difficult, Kelsey in her mind making everything worse. But somehow the words emerged.

“Jamie, stop. Take the nineteenth floor exit, okay—we can go back down on the other side of the building—answer me, fuck!”
He did, then. She heard him call out over her own shrieking breaths, the pounding of her sneakers on stone, and the sounds of the once-were-people below, slathering and barking like animals.

There were two cracks, like he’d fired her gun into the stairwell. Though she couldn’t see where he was shooting or at what. Then—
“Just keep following me, June-bug—come on!”

Only it sounded more like come own, because of the Texan twang Kelsey had sworn up and down was fake. And he’d called her June-bug again, because he was crazy, he was crazy, oh dear Lord he was probably leading them to their deaths.

This was all just some final mad hurrah. He was suicidal, and this was how he wanted to go out. Death by stairs or death by zombies—because they were zombies, no matter how much she tried to pretend otherwise—or even worse, death by roof.

Was that what he was going to do? Hurl himself off? Plummet to his untimely end? She didn’t know. All she could really think about was how close the first ravening cannibal was getting, and how unfit she really was. She’d started believing all the cardio was really beginning to pay off, but as it turned out, eighteen flights of stairs and she was out for the count. Her heart clawed at her ribcage. Her thigh muscles screamed and screamed.

While her zombie pals kept coming and coming, as though the stairs were nothing, really. Why, leaping up eighteen flights was like a morning stroll to them! They could have climbed these stairs forever and still had the wherewithal to eat her innards, once they got their claw-like hands on her.

She hit the fire door to the roof just as one of said claw-like hands brushed the back of her shirt.

It made everything inside her leap, including the heart she’d thought had escaped. Whenever they got really close—that was when you realized just how terrible they were. How awful the world had become. How much it wasn’t like a movie at all, but like a constant and unbearable pressure against your sanity, always threatening to make you go over.

She felt like going over, when the door wouldn’t close on them. For a second of pushing and heaving with their hands coming through and all over her, her mind tried to fly away. It told her to start screaming uncontrollably, while clawing at herself—that doing so would really be her best bet. No more running constantly. No more pain over Kelsey—and before Kelsey, Joanne and Pat and the old lady whose name she never learned.

Just peace, finally. One moment of agony, then peace.

Only it wouldn’t be, would it? No, it wouldn’t be. If she stopped pushing at the door and jamming it at them and just God, let the door snap their arms, let it crush them, let it kill them all forever, if she stopped…they’d turn her into one of them. And no matter how much she tried to let it hurt her that Jamie had pointed the gun and shot Kelsey between the eyes, it didn’t. It couldn’t.

Being one of them was worse. After all, it could have been that they’d caught a disease. It might have been that they were infected with something—like in 28 Days Later, rather than Night of the Living Dead. But part of her wondered whenever she stared into their hollow, ink-black eyes, if they’d simply lost their souls.

He looked like it. The one who’d managed to squeeze his mottled face into the crack she was struggling to close in the door. He had no pupils, no irises, no whites to his eyes. It was all just blackness, empty and weirdly unseeing, as though they operated on no more than a bloodlust now. Like upright land sharks roaming the land, blindly searching out prey.

She wrenched the door from him for just an instant then smashed it back into his face. It was a risky move, but oh so worth it. Worth it for the satisfaction, worth it for Kelsey, worth it for everything these things had taken from everyone. People’s souls hadn’t left. These things had stolen them.

And when it slithered away and the door quite abruptly shut, the idea didn’t go with it. It stayed, and festered—so much so that she wanted to open the door for one mad moment, just to smash it back in their faces again, and again, and again.

She wanted to, but Jamie was calling to her. And other sounds were starting to flood through her now, too, other big, big sounds that she should have noticed ages ago.

At first she thought it was some kind of weapon. That he’d found a chainsaw or a pneumatic drill or a wood chipper. Something he’d known was up here all along for them to use against the enemy.

But then the wind whipped up and she turned to see something far more incredible than a zombie eating wood chipper. It was so incredible that she forgot the zombies battering on the fire door, for a second. They’d bust through it soon enough because although they couldn’t figure out handles, the sheer pressure of them would figure out the release bar.

Though it didn’t seem to matter. For the first time in these two years of hell, it didn’t matter. She found herself laughing out loud, high and probably hysterical.

Jamie had only gone and gotten himself a helicopter. And not only that, but he apparently knew how to fly a helicopter. The rotors were going. They were kicking up the fine gravel that lined the roof of whatever building this was, and he was yelling to her—
“Come on, June-bug, get your ass in here!”

She thought of him talking about the island. About his buddy who was waiting for them. How they’d just wanted to find survivors, and populate their safe haven, and how crazy that had sounded when he first started yakking about it.

Then she ran to him.




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Thanks so much for stopping by, and sharing some of the good stuff, Charlotte! Zombies and threesomes really rock!