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Posts Tagged ‘writing’


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A Cast From the Past with Bianca Sommerland

I’m very excited to welcome the amazing Bianca Sommerland, who will be telling us about her ‘cast from the past’ in the Story Behind the Story of  Deadly Captive. Welcome, Bianca!

KD Grace is one of the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my journey as a published author, but she’s the first to ask me a question that really stopped me short. She asked me whether there were personal experiences that inspired part, if not all of my novels. My automatic thought was no, of course not. I’ve been inspired by dreams, by pictures, by music…but my own life? Which of my novels could I actually say was inspired by my own life? Rosemary Entwined, about the descendant of a succubus and her nest of seven men? Deadly Captive, with the woman who’s lost her past and has no one but her fellow prisoner, Joe, to count on while she tries to survive degradation and torture?

Yeah, my life’s just not that interesting.

But when I thought about the question, I took another look at my stories and found certain personalities sticking out, certain qualities that reminded me of people I’ve known. Family, friends, lovers. The characters are all familiar to me because they are the best and worst of real people. Joe, for example, is the grown up version of a boy I had a crush on in high school. He could be so mean, but then he’d suddenly show a bit of kindness and that’s all I would see. My imagination painted him as a tough hero who would be tender with the woman he loved. Of course, in reality he was a player and a jerk and I’m kinda happy he saw me as one of the guys (even though I wished otherwise at the time). Years later, my muse took all I dreamed the boy could be and paired him up with one of my strongest heroines.

I believe many authors find the casts for their stories from their pasts. Only, some of the best memories aren’t Polaroids, or even portraits. They’re like abstract paintings, evoking only emotions. Kinda cool, because you can interpret them however you’d like 😉

And yes, my interpretations are a little twisted.

Deadly Captive Blurb:
Lydia awakes, bound and blind, to the whispered urgings of a man who has his hands on her. His words confuse her at first, but she soon understands they are both in the middle of a performance that will determine whether she remains in captivity or dies. The crowd must be entertained, and her cellmate makes sure it is.

Forced submission is not the only horror Lydia endures. She has no memories of life before her imprisonment, and Joe, her cellmate, is her only comfort as the powerful creatures that hold them captive torture and debase her. Together, she and Joe cling to the will to survive long enough to break free and seek revenge. Their desire to sustain one another triumphs over their wardens’ efforts to destroy them. There is no pain, no suffering, that can tear them apart.

Beyond their cell, their love is tested. Can they hold strong in the face of the challenge of the new powers they have gained along with their freedom?

Excerpt from Deadly Captive:

My eyes teared, but my gaze never wavered. “Right back at you. I didn’t sign up for your games.”

He eased his grip on my hair. “Neither of us signed up for any of this, Lydia. I wanted to make sure I could trust my cell mate.”

“Of all the . . . .” I shook my head. “Please, I need to know. Some kind of morbid curiosity, I guess. Why in the world would I fake memory loss? What purpose would it serve?”

With a shrug, he rested his arm on my shoulder, still loosely holding my hair. “It would be a clever sympathy card.”

Damn it, he’s right. I felt the tension ease from my body, no longer feeling very combative. “How do you know I’m not faking it? If I was, it would be pretty stupid to acknowledge my name.”

“No. Actually, it wouldn’t have proven much. It might have made me suspicious, more than I already was. It would be strange that you’d remember your name, but not your own face. I was hoping your reaction would be revealing.” He closed his eyes and dropped his head. “It was, but not in the way I’d hoped. The loss is worse than I thought. There wasn’t even a glimmer of recognition.”

Grazing my teeth back and forth along my bottom lip, I glared at his chest. “It could be an act.”

Fingers under my chin, he tilted my head up. “No, Lydia. You couldn’t have faked the fear I saw. You thought it was one of them.”

I jerked away from him and clenched my fists at my sides. “I’m not afraid of them.”

“Yes, you are. You’re not a stupid woman, Lydia.”

The way he said my name sent a chill down my spine. I dug my nails into my palms.

“Stop.”

He frowned. “Stop what?”

“Saying my name like that.”

With a wicked smile, he hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans and rocked on his heels. “Lydia.” I swung my fist at his face. He knocked it aside and caught my wrist when I tried again.

“Lydia.” He backed me into the table. My hip knocked the empty plate and it clattered on the floor. Sitting me on the edge of the table, he trapped my face between his hands. My breath caught, and I pressed my eyes shut, expecting him to slam his mouth on mine. It could hurt; my lips were still sore.

His tongue gently traced the crease of my lips. He combed his fingers into my hair and tugged until I tipped my head back. Then, he kissed me so tenderly I opened my eyes and stared at him.

He kissed the tip of my nose. “Why do you look so surprised?”

Why? I licked my bottom lip and tasted the saltiness of his sweat. Delicious. My eyes dropped to the moisture beaded on his chest. I leaned forward. He tightened his grip.

“Well?”

I groaned. “I thought you’d be rough.”

“You keep looking at me like that, and I will be.”

Deadly Captive Buy Link: https://www.nobleromance.com/Books/269
Blog: http://imnoangelauthorsblog.wordpress.com/

Thanks for being my guest on The Story Behind the Story, Bianca, and thanks for the hot excerpt from Deadly Captive. Sounds like a must read to me.

 

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Mitzi Szereto Uncovers Hidden Lust

I’m very excited to have the fabulous Mitzi Szereto as my guest on A Hopeful Romantic.  I met Mitzi five years ago at one of her erotic writing courses on the Isle of Wight. That course and Mitzi’s enthusiasm for good erotica inspired me to put my work out there, so I feel especially honoured to talk with her about all things erotic, and especially her new novel, Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts.

KD: Even when I first met you, five years ago, you were all about improving the quality and respectability of erotica, bringing it down from the top shelf, as it were. Do you think quality has improved? In what ways? And if so, why do you think that is?

Mitzi: A lot of publishers have been jumping on the bandwagon, starting up erotic imprints, particularly in the area of romance, so this has definitely pushed the genre more into the mainstream. Having said that, although erotica per se has mostly come off the top shelf, a lot of it is still rather top shelf in spirit and still being geared toward the one-handed reader. It’s always been my view that this is very limiting to writers as well as to readers. When you are writing only in this way, you aren’t going to have a lot of substance in the work. The writing should engage a reader on many levels, not just one. You can write something erotic, yet still offer a satisfying and fully developed reading experience. The way I see it, if you’re going to the trouble to write, then write something that has some value to it, not some fluffy piece of nonsense that the reader won’t remember five seconds after they’ve finished reading it.

KD: You say that you don’t write ero­tica just for women, but that you write for both sexes. Is erotica becoming less gender-specific? Would you consciously write differently if you were writing erotica just for women, or just for men?

Mitzi: I don’t ever want to be labelled as writing for a single gender. I hate labels of any sort, as most people know. To answer your question, erotica is becoming more gender specific, not less. The women’s erotica market is and has been getting a big push from publishers, especially with the whole romance thing happening now. I guess they figure men aren’t interested in romance. As for my changing how I write, be it consciously or unconsciously, I very much doubt it would be any different. Besides, I don’t write in the same way all the time anyway. If I did, I’d bore myself, and probably my readers!

KD:  As erotica becomes more mainstream, have you noticed any major changes?

Mitzi: It’s sort of twofold really. At one point I thought we were finally moving toward a more literary direction, but that seems to have reversed itself. Having said that, the genre itself is, as you say, definitely going more mainstream. This is being helped by the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of romance publishers have started up erotic romance imprints. But the literary element seems to have become lost in the fray. The trend in a lot of erotica seems to be fluff rather than substance. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with light reading, but if it gets any lighter these books will float away on the slightest breeze.

KD: In our correspondence leading to this interview you said what you really wanted to emphasise is that your new novel Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is not just some “sexed-up Austen.” That’s been done. You said the book is really a historical parody with lots of sex, and probably has more in common with the Zombies book. How could I not be totally intrigued by that statement? Tell us more.

Mitzi:  Well, it’s pretty self-explanatory really. I took the characters in all sorts of random and crazy directions, and created all manner of scenarios for them. There’s a lot of humour in the book, much as there is in the Zombies versions. I doubt you’ll find much humour in a straightforward sexed-up version of P&P or one of the romance versions. What I loved about the Zombies books is that they really take the Mick and have fun with the story, and that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to go way over the top. But rather than do so with zombies, I’ve done it with sex. Jane Austen was a satirist, and I wanted to take her sense of satire and run with it. My naysayers (none of whom appear to have actually read my book) want to dismiss Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts as just some porn version of the Austen classic. Well, I dispute this criticism and find it laughable. For one thing, these people have never read any real porn, because if they had, they’d know my book is definitely not porn. Secondly, there are just so many other things going on that you get a far broader reading experience. Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is pure entertainment: it’s outrageous. it’s funny, it’s quirky, and it’s got a lot of sex in it. What more can I say? I had a blast writing it, and I hope readers will have a blast reading it!

KD: Why Pride and Prejudice? What inspired you to choose that story over others?

Mitzi: It’s Jane Austen’s most popular novel, and the one that just about everyone is familiar with, even if they’ve never read it. There have been many film adaptations made of it, and the recent mashups featuring zombies have really put the book back on the map. It seemed like the most obvious way to go. Taking the familiar and reworking it into something new is good fun for a writer.

KD: Archetypal stories, fairy tales and myths lend themselves to sexy retellings, and you’ve definitely proved that in your book, In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales. Why do you think that is? Why do we want to sex up fairy tales and myths, and indeed, Jane Austen?

Mitzi: Well, as I just said, it’s great fun for a writer to take a work that everyone knows and create something new with it. That’s what I did with the fairy tales. And Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is a continuation of this. Whether it’s adding a sexual element or any other kind of element – I don’t think it really matters. Many authors have taken pre-existing works and made something new out of them. However, if you want to focus specifically on the sexual element, then we should bear in mind that many fairy tales were morality tales used as a means to warn young girls away from sex. “Little Red Riding Hood” is the most obvious example. Sex was often a back story, albeit discreetly hidden. Same too, for myths (although the sexual element was less hidden). So writers who retell these pre-existing tales by incorporating sex into them are not necessarily corrupting them at all. I found that out when I researched and wrote the introductions for the tales I selected for In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed. You’d be surprised what was in the originals, not to mention just how far back these “originals” go. As for Jane Austen, hey, why not?

KD:  You discussed in an interview the fact that erotica is much more highly regulated than other genres. You went on to say that while there are warnings at the beginnings of erotic novels that readers should practice safe sex, no one would think of putting warnings inside an Ed McBain novel telling readers they shouldn’t murder anyone. Could you discuss how you see the relationship between the stringent regulation of erotica and its ‘dumbing down?’

Mitzi: I’ve only seen this kind of dumbing down from UK publishers. Not sure if any US ones do it as well (not to my knowledge anyway). The now-defunct Black Lace had a “practice safe sex” disclaimer in all their books, as have other UK imprints. It’s insulting to the reader, not to mention ridiculous and unnecessary. The problem lies in this whole ghetto-isation of “erotica,” in that it’s made to seem as if it somehow lies outside of literature, the genre from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. I suppose the problem also lies in the assumption that anything labelled “erotica” or “erotic fiction” is nothing but a sex aid and/or a masturbatory tool. (Okay, so perhaps some of it is, but some of it actually has some substance and intelligence to it, and is not aimed at one-handed readers.) Considering the explicitness of the sex scenes in a lot of so-called mainstream fiction, this is literary hypocrisy, indeed. You can get away with a slew of things in mainstream fiction, but any kind of suspect content is unlikely to see the light of day in anything labelled “erotica.” I guess readers of erotica are considered so brainless that they’re going to go out and commit all sorts of terrible sexual deeds or spread terrible sexual diseases because they read an “erotica” book. If that’s the case, then we need to label every book being published with a disclaimer, ie violence, crime, humour, romance, etc. I mean, too much romance reading might not be good for you and could cause you to go out and fall in love. And who knows where that might lead? Perhaps stalking, and then murder.

KD: From a literary point of view, and as a teacher of writing courses, in your opinion, how much does a well-written sex scene enhance a story? Does it enhance a story? If so, in what ways?

Mitzi: It enhances a story if it’s a necessary part of the story or an integral scene; it’s a way of bringing the human experience home to the reader. However, if there’s no rhyme or reason to have a sex scene, then there probably shouldn’t be one. The scene should be seamless with the other writing; it should not stick out or be out of place. And yes, it should be well written and written in the same style as the rest of the work. I mean, if you’re writing something highly literary, then for god’s sake, don’t write a sex scene that reads like cheap porn. Unfortunately, a lot of writers just can’t seem to manage this, which is why the Guardian has the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

KD: Marketing and PR now play as much a part in my writing career as writing. I’m sure most of us struggling to get as much attention for our babies as possible would probably say that. As one of the goddesses of social media with Mitzi TV and with a huge online presence I’m sure we’d all love to hear any advice you have.

Mitzi: Well, be prepared to give up your life and put in a lot of hours. There are no shortcuts. Oh, you can always hire some publicity person to do the job (if you can afford it), but I bet you anything they aren’t going to put in all the effort and hard work that you would put in. After all, who cares more about your work than you do? Paying someone good money doesn’t mean you’ll get great results. You need to really work at this. And it’s not an overnight thing. You have to develop your following as well as develop your contacts – and keep at it every day. You need to live on the Internet 24/7. If you’re the sort of person who always needs to have others around or has to be out and about a lot, then you’d probably better forget it. And if you have a “day job,” your time will be even more limited. So you have to decide to spend those hours you’re not spending working for someone else working for you.

KD: With marketing and PR playing such a major role in your life, along with teaching, lecturing and doing readings, the obvious question becomes, when do you find time to write? Any suggestions for the rest of us on making the best of our writing time?

Mitzi: That’s the hard part, you got that right. It is quite difficult, but if I’m working to a deadline, I somehow manage to find the time. Unfortunately, when you’ve got several viable ideas that you’re trying to develop, it becomes quite difficult. I doubt I can offer much advice to others who are being pulled in a dozen different directions. I keep saying I need to clone myself. I think that’s the only option, at this point.

KD: What inspires you?

Mitzi: That’s hard to say. If you’re talking about my writing, there is no single thing that inspires me. My inspiration comes randomly and there’s no pattern to it.

KD:  What has been your most exciting moment in the history of Mitzi Szereto?

Mitzi: I honestly don’t know. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet.

KD: As one transplant from the US to another, do you think the general view of erotica is different in the UK than the US? If so how?

Mitzi: I think it is, yes. There still seems to be this wink wink, nudge nudge thing going on in the UK. I guess it’s because the majority of erotica published in the UK has traditionally been of the top-shelf mass-market variety, with those really over the top rude covers. They aren’t even trying to attract a more mainstream audience, ergo there’s more of a perception that anything labelled “erotica” is pretty much going to be porn. The US mentality is slightly different, which is probably due to the fact that many US publishers package their books with more mainstream appeal. And now with all the romance imprints jumping into the market (again, mostly US publishers), it’s moving more so away from that top-shelf mentality.

KD:After Pride and Prejudice, Hidden Lusts, What next?

Mitzi: I have another book coming out practically on the heels of PPHL — Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance. It’s an anthology inspired by the Gothic literary tradition. It features short stories from a number of authors, myself included. Think paranormal with a ton of atmosphere, sensuality and a bit of romance to add additional flavour. I also have several other projects in various stages of development. Other than that, I keep my blog going (Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog), along with my Web TV channel Mitzi TV, which covers the quirky side of London. I still do appearances at literature festivals, with the next one being at Warwick Words in October, where I’ll be teaching one of my erotic writing workshops.

Links:

Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts website: http://mitziszereto.com/prideandprejudicehiddenlusts/

Excerpt:http://mitziszereto.com/prideandprejudicehiddenlusts/excerpt/

Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog: http://mitziszereto.com/blog

Mitzi TV: http://mitziszereto.com/tv

Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mitzi-Szereto/24537936152

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/mitziszereto

Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance: http://mitziszereto.com/redvelvetandabsinthe/

 

Thank you, Mitzi! It was fantastic to have you as my guest on A Hopeful Romantic. Best of luck with Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts and with Red Velvet and Absinthe.

 

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Regulating Our Fantasies

The topic of safe sex in erotic fiction comes up all the time amongst writers and readers. I recently had a run-in with someone who was disturbed by the fact that the characters in my novels, and most of my short stories, don’t wear condoms. It’s true. They don’t. They don’t because they live in the fictional world I’ve created, an erotic world designed to play out my fantasies and, I hope, those of other people as well. The truth is that never once have I had an erotic fantasy that involved the use of a condom. I have written a couple of stories in which condoms are used, but in those stories, I didn’t use condoms to make a statement nor to assume that my readers needed reminding that in the real world, safe sex is a must. Rather, condoms played a role in the development of the story.

My stories are my fantasies, entirely and completely the product of my imagination. I’m a firm believer that my readers are intelligent and savvy and very aware of the world around them. I also understand that some people prefer their fiction and their fantasies more realistic. Fair enough. Fortunately for them, there are writers who prefer to write that way. I don’t happen to be one of them.

It’s ironic that the stringent rules and regulations that apply to erotic fiction do not apply to other kinds of fiction. I understand that some of those guidelines in erotica have to do with the publisher knowing the target audience. But In other types of fiction, subjects are covered all the time that are completely forbidden in most standard erotic guidelines for submission, and yet no one expects that readers of non-erotic fiction should need to be reminded that guns are dangerous and murder and rape are wrong.

I have written stories for which the submission guidelines demanded the use of condoms in all scenes involving penetrative sex. I gritted my teeth and wrote what the guidelines dictated. But it seems to me that the message such guidelines send is two-fold. First of all that because erotica is about sex, it’s automatically more dangerous than other types of fiction, and secondly that readers of erotica are just not as smart as readers of other types of fiction and they must have extra instruction and guidance to equip them for the reading of such dangerous material.

Do we really believe that people are more ignorant where erotic literature is concerned, and more likely to cause themselves and others harm than they are if they read any other kind of literature? Do we really believe that if the character in a story has a gang bang without the use of condoms that the reader will automatically think this must be what sex is all about, and go out and try it for her or himself?

Erotica is, by its very nature, the place where the reader can experience for him or herself what would never be considered safe in the real world, what, given the opportunity to do in the real world, given the opportunity to participate in, her or his response would be an unequivocal ‘No thanks.’ Is it any different than a thriller or a horror story, or an adventure novel?

The whole point of a novel is to live vicariously a life that one wouldn’t have the opportunity, and more than likely wouldn’t even want to live, if one did have the opportunity. Commercial fiction is all about vicarious thrills and vicarious experiences from the safety of our own home. That’s why reading is so much fun.

I believe readers should be given credit for discernment, credit for being as savvy about the differences between erotic fiction and reality as they are about the differences between other kinds of fiction and reality. I’m not saying that fiction can’t be didactic. And indeed part of the beauty of fiction is that it offers the inadvertent opportunity to learn something new. What I am saying is that I tell stories. I tell stories for fun in a world that, I think, could use more fun. If there are lessons taught, they come about inadvertently while I’m having fun telling a story. But I don’t feel a deep burning need to tell my readers to do what they already know to do, what they’ve been aware of every moment of their lives from the time their old enough to understand that the world is a dangerous place. And sometimes the world adults must live and function in can be a boring place as well. If they’re like me, and I assume at least some of them are, that dangerous world, that boring world, is a very large part of the reason they enjoy fiction so much.

And they enjoy it while they continue to stop for red lights and level crossings, while they continue to treat their fellow person with respect, and while they continue to practice safe sex, all without having to be reminded that these things are for their own good.

 

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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?

Blurb:

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.

Excerpt:

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.

Links:

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-reawakening-550153-140.html

http://www.resplendencepublishing.com/m8/318-201-107-490-1–reawakening-forever-dead-series-book-one-by-charlotte-stein.html

My Blog:

http://www.themightycharlottestein.blogspot.com/

 

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

 

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Phantom of the Opera: Sex and the Trading of Innocence for Knowledge

I saw Phantom of the Opera in London with my sister-in-law and her husband Tuesday. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the musical, but I was enraptured all over again, just like always. I read Gaston Leroux’s novel long before I knew anything about the musical, and I thought it was one of the most romantic, sexy, totally terrifying, psychologically complex books I’d ever read. I still think that. It’s the penultimate romance in which all of our worst nightmares are interwoven so tightly with all of our deepest hopes and wildest dreams that it’s impossible to pick the threads apart. So we can do nothing but bask in it and be haunted by it.

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve always felt the stories in mythology that are about seduction of mortal women by the gods and the stories of the magical children born of those unions are really the stories of inspiration. What better description of inspiration than divine seduction. I get goose bumps just thinking about it!

As I always do, when I experience Gaton Leroux’s gripping tale again, especially when accompanied by music that so beautifully illustrates the soaring and plummeting of the human heart when touched by love and loss and desire and suffering, I find myself analyzing what it is in the story that moves me so, what it is that moves thousands of people every year.

The elements are all there, a bad boy, a beautiful girl, a hero, a gift offered with a price, and yet Leroux has managed to turn it all on its ear, with perfect story-telling precision. The hero is not the dashing young viscount from Christine’s past. The ‘god’ in the story is not irresistibly beautiful, but disfigured and wounded. His seduction is not physical, but he knows the soul of an artist well enough to know that the real seduction is in offering a deeper understanding, a deeper mastery of her gift. In the lovely Christine, the gift is already there, she just lacks the training, which her ‘Angel of Music’ is only too happy to provide. The Phantom’s dark is the balance to Christine’s light, and his music of the night allows her true gift to shine. Through it all, Raul, the viscount, is clueless. But Christine knows the dark. She’s seen it, embraced it, and a part of her loves it and longs for it. Her ‘loss of innocence’ has a chilling side to it that the whole story revolves around.

Even when I read the book without the enhancement of the amazing music, my heart raced, and the fear I felt at the descriptions of the Phantom’s lair and the dark lake under the opera house and the terrifying scene in the graveyard, still makes me shiver years later. Yet throughout the whole of the book there is an ache for the Phantom that is so much more than pity. It’s a compelling, beautifully woven mix of fear and awe and raw desire for a man who is so much more than human that human rules can barely apply and yet so wounded that the imagination can barely take in the suffering he has born. His actions tell us he is a monster, and yet we want him, we long for a way for him and Christine to be together, for all wounds to be healed and there to be a happy ever after.

But there can’t be. There can never be. And then we realize that happy-ever-after is Raul’s job. He is to have vicariously what the Phantom may never have, but it is Christine who earns him that right. She is the hero of this story. She is the goddess hidden, then revealed only at the end when a choice must be made between the death of Raul and life with the Phantom. She not only chooses, but she chooses unconditionally, unreservedly to love the Phantom, to understand him, in as much as it’s possible to understand such tortured genius. She is the true giver of the gift in this story. She restores the balance. Just as the Phantom’s darkness has infused her gift with the music of the night, her light has healed him, enabling him to let go of that which he knows does not now, nor has it ever belonged to him, the gift and the possessor of that gift.

And what does that have to do with inspiration? In the Greek stories and myths, it takes time for the magical child to be born and trained up to fulfill the task for which he was conceived, and it is usually a he. In Leroux’s story, we aren’t told how long Christine has been studying with her ‘Angel of Music,’ but it is clearly enough to make her singing totally astounding to anyone who listens.

Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninty-nine percent perspiration. One good tumble with a god is of no more value than having raw talent. What happens next is what really matters, the hard work of training up the magical child, of training up the exquisite voice, of writing and writing and writing some more until what we’ve written works, until every word sings, until we learn what makes words sing, and what makes the chorus of words that sing our story just like we envision it in our moments of deepest inspiration.

I think Phantom of the Opera is the story of the natural process of the creative force. It inspiration and hard work moving through the fear to restore balance, and coming out on the other side to places we never could have imagined in our wildest dreams. Then starting over again.

Is this what Leroux’s story is about? I don’t know, but I do know that the sensuality, the deep hunger and the fear of moving past the point of no return is something every writer encounters every time we write, and I think every artist experiences that as well.

And what does that have to do with sex? Well, everything, actually. What we create, what we bring forth is the result of passion leading us down into the depths of ourselves and seducing ourselves in ways we can scarcely imagine. We are changed by that passion, by that deep connection with what inspires us. Innocence is lost and something totally new is created even out of our fears, and we are inspired to move forward and to face unconditionally what comes next.

 

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