Monday, 14 April 2014

Eyecandy Monday - towels

I have a bit of thing about towels.

Cocks hidden under white towels, to be precise. It's not strong enough to be a kink, but it's definitely a fondness ...

I mean - look what fun guys can have!

So here's an excerpt from my vampire novel Red Grow the Roses, on the very subject:


Reynauld’s voice, in my head. My heart thumped.

The bathroom.

Moving quickly, I walked through the house. The marble-clad master bathroom was warm with steam as I entered, and the lights low. He stood with his back to me behind the layered arms of the glass screens, his head bowed and shoulders set angrily, outstretched fingertips on the polished black marble and the water running full-blast at the back of his neck. I watched the water swirl around his dark feet, running into the drain between them and carrying away the grime and the tension and the lust. I saw the way he rolled his shoulders under the flow, working each stubborn muscle. Inside me something clenched with an exquisite, tender pain.

How could my heart not melt for a man who craved a long hot shower?

I didn’t say anything. He knew I was there, and he would instruct me if he wished to. Instead I retrieved a fresh white towel from the cupboard and waited, watching him. I could follow the ebb of his anger by the way his shoulders slowly sagged, the way he finally moved to rub his neck and scalp, playing the water through his dark hair and then across his chest and down his torso. He soaped himself and I wished it were my hands massaging that body, my fingers chasing the suds cascading down his skin.
At last he turned off the water and stood there dripping, still facing the wall. I kicked off my heels and stepped between the arms of glass to hand him the towel, my eyes lingering on the water drops clinging to his skin, on the wet curls at the back of his head, on the runnels licking their way down his back and thighs. Reynauld wrapped the towel about his hips and tucked it in, then turned and set his back to the corner of the shower, leaning against the angled marble. His expression was haunted; he looked so weary and despairing that my heart felt like it would crack.
‘I handled that badly, didn’t I?’
What? I wanted to ask - You mean humiliating Naylor in front of everyone like that? Yes, I’d call that badly handled.
I shrugged one shoulder and did not answer.
‘I shouldn’t have lost my temper. He just makes me so angry. Why won’t he listen? - Is it so difficult to understand, what I’m trying to say?’
‘I think you should have killed him, to be honest. He’s a psychopath.’
‘We’re all killers.’ His voice was ragged.
That wasn’t what I’d meant, but I couldn’t argue with him. How can you possibly make a man twelve centuries older than you listen to a word you say? It’s bad enough with ordinary men – can you imagine a forty year old taking advice from a teenager of sixteen? Now try and grasp the gap between Reynauld and me. If I were like him, if I were knit of strength and night and savage need, then he might hear me. But I wasn’t, and never would be. I just looked at the water beaded on his bare chest and wanted in my frustration to strike him, to bruise him, to pin him to the wall and kiss him until he realised how much I loved him.
I think he saw the pain in my eyes, mirroring his own. With a curl of his fingers he gestured me closer and I dared to lay a hand on his bare chest. The feet of my stockings were soaked from the shower tray.
‘Oh Amanda,’ he whispered. He took my face tenderly in both hands, brushing his knuckles across my cheek, using his thumbs to stroke the paths of my bones. His eyes narrowed, his lips parting. I trembled, knowing that he could sense my desire: he’d be able to feel the race of my blood beneath his fingertips, hear my painfully pounding heart – and to smell the heat of my sex.
I was almost dancing against him now, making dark damp patches on my top as I pressed my breasts against his wet chest. Abandoning caution I reached to his crotch, to the layers of thick soft towelling and the unmistakable bulge of his hardening cock beneath. As I grabbed it he vented a groan. The towel began to slip from about his hips.
‘Oh God,’ I mumbled into his skin. ‘Oh God.’
When I lifted my burning face from his chest, the towel was no longer wrapped around his bare hips but hung from the erect baton of his cock, held there by my tight right hand. We both looked down at it, and I gave it a slow hard squeeze through the heavy towelling before letting the fabric slip to the floor. That turgid flesh didn’t yield at all. His cock was stiff once more, his balls riding high in a scrotum no longer soft and velvety but now tight and bulging. I brushed cock and balls with unsteady fingertips: he would take me now. He would take me and fuck me and bite me and that was exactly what I wanted.
‘Amanda...’ His voice was a whisper. He bit his own lip. The ache in his voice persuaded me to meet his gaze. ‘Would you...?’
No completion to that question. No words for what he wanted. Just his glance tentatively indicating his cock. My eyes widened as I understood, my heart kicking against my breastbone. In twenty-seven years he’d never asked this of me, and I’d never seen him ask or permit it of any woman. It wasn’t even thinkable. Vampires did not do that.
 He swallowed. ‘Please.’

Red Grow the Roses is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US
The e-book is currently only 49p!!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Naughty flowers!

Well, it's spring, so here are some gorgeous blooming plant genitalia for you...

I must logically assume that the Naked Man Orchid evolved that way in order to be fertilized by tiny fairy maidens...

Friday, 11 April 2014

Cathar castles

The donjon of Arques castle.
Today - more photos from my long weekend in the South of France. We hired a car one day and went off looking for castles, and I've never seen anything quite like it! There are so many castles in the Languedoc region that they don't bother putting them all on maps - you drive past a cliff-face or a village and there'll be some ruined stronghold up there, ignored by everyone.

As you can see, they dearly loved to put castles on cliffs. The more ridiculously precipitous the better.


The area around Carcassonne is "Cathar country", and many of the castles (or earlier versions of them) were used as Cathar boltholes during the Albigensian Crusades (1209-1229)*

the "Cathar Castles"
This is Quéribus - it is so bijou and cute you could imagine it as a holiday home.

And you can see your enemies coming for miiiiiiles!

But even that pales into insignificance compared to the location of Peyrepertuse, which sits on a knife-edge limestone ridge:

Looking east along the ridge

Looking west along the ridge
It was the quietest eyrie ever. No traffic noises, no birdsong, no aircraft - and in March, only one other set of tourists. I fell in love with the place.

We only managed to get a close look at three castles in that day. I would certainly go back in order to do more! It's an extraordinary landscape, even discounting all the crummy New-Age / Holy Blood and the Holy Grail / Dan Brown / Kate Mosse fantasy that's built up around it. lots of history, lots of atmosphere, lots of wide open space.

 * A quick 'n' dirty guide to Catharism: It was a quasi-Christian cult (or a different religion altogether, depending on where you draw the line) that sprang up in southern Europe in the Middle Ages. It was dualist (they believed in both a good Creator and a bad/lesser one, and saw the material world as inherently evil while goodness resided only in Spirit). Adherents rejected the hierarchy and the Sacraments of the established Church, as well as the Old Testament - although they identified with the Gospels. Instead they embraced poverty, good works, celibacy, gender-equality, vegetarianism and reincarnation. By medieval standards they were just HERETICS, and a crusade against them was declared in 1209 by the Pope.

This was an episode that really cannot count as Christianity's finest hour, even given the particularly low bar set by the Catholic Church. Only about 10% of the population in the Languedoc region were Cathars, but they had a lot of support from local people including many local nobles, who attempted to protect them. One of the most notorious incidents was when the town of Béziers was besieged by Catholic forces. When they breached the walls the papal legate in charge ordered all the heretics put to death.
"How do we know which ones are heretics?" he was asked.
"Kill them all," he said; "God will sort them out," and 20,000 men, women and children were slaughtered.

The last Cathar parfait was burned alive in the courtyard of  Villerouge-Termines castle. They now have a groovy medieval restaurant there.
Total death toll ...  hard to guess, but possibly around half a million. Catharism was successfully exterminated.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


Sehnsucht by Oskar Zwintscher (1870-1916)

German has some awesome words that we just don't have an equivalent for in English. Like schadenfruede ("the pleasure you get from another's pain or misfortune") and gemütlichkeit ("the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you are cozy, a little drunk, and surrounded by friends,") and weltschmerz ("the misery you feel after too much surfing the Net or watching the news, when you become convinced that the whole world has gone irredeemably to ratshit").

Here's one I found out about recently, and I just love it. Because it describes a feeling I've known since childhood, and never had a way of expressing. In fact because its an unlabelled feeling in English, I didn't actually know anybody else ever experienced it. I thought it was just me.

It's sehnsucht:"a deep yearning for something unknown" or, perhaps, "an ecstatic sense of homesickness for a place never actually visited or known to exist." It's not an actual physical place or object that you pine for so intensely. In fact, it can be hard to know what it is you are craving - just that it is out of reach.

The "Blaue Blume" is used as a literary symbol of transcendent longing.
It's a joyous feeling despite the lack of fulfilment. Often it's expressed in terms of a need to "come home" - particularly where that is equated with death. Like this song:

Or this one:

In fact, Tolkien might be the sehnsucht author. His elves are consumed by a bone-deep aching to go West over the sea, to the Undying Lands where they belong.

Tolkien's friend CS Lewis wrote about sehnsucht very consciously. He thought it the strongest and most important drive in his psyche - and eventually equated it with the soul's yearning for God. He described it like this:
"That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World's End, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan", the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves."
For me personally, the sensation (which was ferocious enough during adolescence that it has to have had a hormonal component) is most strongly associated with landscape. When I first visited the wet Atlantic seaboard woodlands of the Lake District I went into emotional meltdown. But I also remember a dell in my primary school playground - just some trees and daffodils and grass - that had the same resonance. Quality of light is also effective: a clear blue evening, especially when the pink cherry blossom has fallen on the spring grass, makes me dizzy. Autumn as a whole does it for me. Paths that lead into woodland do it - in fact there's one a mile from my house that gets me every bloody time.

It's not this path. But it's a bit like it. And that is sehnsucht in a nutshell...
Some poetry does it too - individual lines from T.S Eliot in particular, though god knows I'm not bright enough to find his actual poems anything but opaque.

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces,

What started me blogging this? Well, my WiP novella series The Wheel of the Year is inspired in part by my experience of reading Lewis, and I'm going to be exploring emotional themes like sehnsucht, I think. My heroine is going back to a place she knew and loved in childhood, so all the feelings associated with the place and with her growing self are welling up again. Only this time, she has an adult perspective ...
I'm interested to see where this'll go.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Eyecandy Monday

In honour of my new lawn :-)
Not that I'm saying any bits of this woman are plastic, obviously...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Gotta get G.o.T.

Oh Jaime, you one-handed incestuous infanticidal cutie you...

Game of Thrones is back this week. Oh Sky Fairy, once more I must beg your aid!

Friday, 4 April 2014

I AM the Lawn!

Well, since I was talking about things that shamed me, last time ... Here's a confession.

My back lawn in February:

My back lawn now:

The reason for the startling difference? I had it all dug up and replaced with goddamn plastic.
And I love it.

Yes, it's shameful. I like to think of myself as green, at one with the awe-inspiring cycles of nature etc etc. I've worked in forestry and conservation. I'm even writing a novella series about seasonal cycles right now.
But I just got fed up with the mud.
Two - sometimes three - dogs in one little garden means that half the mud ends up being tracked back into the house. It means sheets spread out over the carpets all winter. It means wiping 8+ doggy feet every single time they go out for a pee.
This is the year I broke.

And I am ashamed, but I can live with that.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Aren't you embarrassed?

A long long time ago, when my first book came out, a friend said to me, "Doesn't it embarrass you to let everyone know you think this stuff? I wouldn't dare!"

I was bemused for two reasons. First, because she was a pierced-and-tattooed Alt Grrl whom I'd thought epitomised the kind of confident person who is not ashamed of standing out. And secondly, because I could imagine dozens of things I would be mortified to reveal about my thoughts and attitudes and feelings - but very very few of them had to do with sexual fantasies. There are things I am ashamed of about myself. There are things I know that I should not say, or think, or do.

But sex fantasy? That's just fantasy. It's on another plane of impossibility. It's just stories. and you can write stories about anything without it saying a jot about you except that you have a wild imagination.

Of course, that's not the entire truth. The big picture is, as always, complicated. But on the whole I think erotica is not a genre that lends itself to searching questions about human nature or to soul-baring. We write primarily to turn people on. Erotic-romance authors (who exist in a genre with even more restrictive rules and expectations) write to turn people on ... and simultaneously give them a pat on the head and a big hug.

Maybe we should stretch ourselves a bit further though. Maybe we should try not to be so cosy. Remittance Girl is one author I admire intensely because she fights so hard against the honey-trap of giving the reader an easy predictable production-line product that will sell well.

All this is on my mind because I've read a couple of things recently that made me quake at their raw honesty.

Madeline Moore has been writing about her bereavement across her social network. Her words fill me with terror and sorrow, and just incredible wonder at the human ability to shape words to articulate the worst and best of a life. Read Fallen.

Garrison Keillor wrote an essay called "No Place Like Home" for the National Geographic. It's about his personal geography of Minneapolis. Here's a passage that made me go "Shiiiiiiiit, yes!" and want to kiss the hands that wrote it:
"A boy named Frankie Renko drowned in the river one spring at the sandy bank where we boys hung out. I was eating supper when the fire truck went by, and I wanted to go see, but Mother said, "There's no point in a bunch of rubberneckers standing around gawking." She said it was unseemly to look upon the sufferings of others if you were powerless to help. Years later, a photographer at the St Paul Pioneer Press, where I worked on the copydesk, writing obits, showed me his collection of pictures of dead people, drowned or shot or crushed in cars, but I did not look at them long. (I wanted to, but I didn't want him to think I was the sort of person who did.)

For days after Frankie drowned, I visited the death scene, trying to imagine what happened. He was paddling a boat near the shore, and it capsized, and he drowned. I imagined this over and over, imagined myself saving him, imagined the vast gratitude of his family. I don't recall discussing this with other boys. We were more interested in what lay ahead in seventh grade, where (we had heard) you had to take showers after gym. Naked. With no clothes on. Which turned out to be true."
Those simple words made me squirm with recognition. This is not about technique - it is about speaking to human experience. It's about writing something that makes you utterly vulnerable. Baring your shameful soul to the world. Can we take this sort of thing and do it in erotica, I wonder? Even more important - can we do it without being miserablist and sex-negative and nihilistic?

Sometimes all I want to do is write dirty. But sometime I want to write something that makes me shiver inside, not out of disgust or shock, but because it says something true that no one else has said in that way. Something I shouldn't dare to say.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Eyecandy Monday

Yesterday evening (well, 3a.m to be precise) I subbed Sons of Summer.
Today's job is to revise, edit and sub a contracted short story on the theme of Drenched. Hence the eyecandy :-)
No pressure then.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Phenology: March

"March brings breezes loud and shrill
To stir the dancing daffodil."

Last year we had a really long winter, which didn't break until mid-April. This year, despite a series of torrential rainstorms in January, we've been seeing signs of spring since February. Although spring does seem to keep changing its mind...

Here are my phenology photos for March:

Did you know daffs are actually deadly poisonous?

Pussy willow - the grey catkins of goat willow, and others of the Salix family. Used as a symbol of the Chinese New Year.

Soon they burst into fuzzy yellow flowers.

Lesser celandine, or pilewort - a favourite of Wordsworth and Tolkien, amongst others. Maybe I should stop grumping that it absolutely infests my garden.

Blackthorn - which is one of my favourites. The flowers appear long before the leaves, on bare spiny branches. Later in the year these bushes will give us sloe berries to steep in gin :-)

Violets - and this is the first year I've ever noticed them growing wild.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Cover Him With Darkness - Pre-order!

I'm going to finish Sons of Summer today if it kills me.

In the meantime - here's the second cover reveal for Cover Him with Darkness -  and yes, I know I showed you a totally different cover a few months back, but this is the NEW new official version, and it's EVEN BETTER :-D
(although Blogger-upload seems to have created a whole lot of pink blur that really isn't there in the original jpg, sorry)

I'm really glad that they've put "a romance" on the front too, because it distinguishes it from my hardcore stuff that causes fainting and nosebleeds, and will hopefully keep fans happy.

And just to prove how official it is - Cover Him with Darkness is now available for pre-order in the US!! 
and the UK!!


Monday, 24 March 2014

Eyecandy Monday

This picture is the perfect metaphor for my week.
No, it hasn't gone totally pear-shaped yet - although the guy with the skip turned up this morning, said he couldn't put the skip down because the guys with the hardcore had already occupied the drive, and took the skip away again - but I'm feeling tied up by all the stuff that HAS TO HAPPEN ALL AT ONCE, today, this week.
And the house is occupied by bluff Geordie workmen, which is a lot more entertaining in fiction than in real life. This is totally Kay Jaybee territory!

Still, it's all going to be great when it's finished. And look - pretty ropes!

Sunday, 23 March 2014


I'm so sorry. This is not my fault.
A friend sent it to me.
I shall reprimand her immediately ...