My walls are green
My bed is soft
My mind fractures
Your walls are blue
Your skin is warm
My mind is yours
The walls are gone
Our touches hurt
Our thoughts bleed out
You know, I’m nothing without my ghosts.
I have become a ghost myself, stealing into your dreams.
We play without touching;
I can see you as you are
And you forgive me for who I am.
This is loathing and love;
This is bloodless torture.
“I love you.” A whispered confession.
“What? You don’t know me.” I looked over at him, just a dark shape walking down the wooded path next to me. Tonight, the moon’s face peeped out only long enough to dapple the most obtrusive of leaves before demurely retreating behind her tattered veils.
“I think I fell in love with you just now,” he replied. “I’m in love with the spaces between your words, the sound of your shoes on gravel, the hesitation in your voice… and I love the way our strides match, the way you push aside the branches for me, the smell of the night air on your skin.”
“Hm.” I smiled, shaking my head, and I found I wasn’t put off by his proclamations, odd as they were. “What about here?”
As he stared off to the side, his silhouette was limned in passing by the bashful moon. “Are we far enough from the road?”
“I believe so.”
We left the path, finding a space between the trees, and for a few breaths neither of us moved. Then, he stepped closer, dropping to his knees in the cushion of fallen leaves. With nimble fingers he unbuttoned my trousers and I reached out to cup the back of his neck. This would be delicious—I could already feel it.
After placing a lingering kiss on my swollen crown, hand clasped tight around my root, he looked up at me. At that moment, the moon decided to shed her modesty and stepped out naked into the night, bathing the young man’s face in silver. There were tears in his eyes.
“Tell me you love me,” he whispered, breath feathering my sensitive skin.
Such foolishness… This is not what I was paying for. However, as a tear broke free and slid down his face, I felt something give inside of me.
“I love you,” I murmured, thumbing the wetness from his cheek with a gentle smile. And, at that moment, for just an instant, I believed my words with all my heart.
One of my favourite parts about writing is naming my characters.
Baltsaros is the Greek version of Balthazar but has its roots in Assyrian—the name means “Baal protect the king”. Baal is associated with the god Hadad (god of storm and fertility) who was decreed a false god and where the Christians picked up the name “Beelzebub”. So… it’s a reference to the captain’s inner devil, his primal sexuality, as well as his obsessive self-interest (Baltsaros protects Baltsaros… at least at the start )
(Side note: His close friends and relatives call him “Saros”, which is a nod to one of my favourite movie villains, Sarris from Galaxy Quest.)
Ah’Puch for a false Mayan “death god”. Katherine… or Kat because I wanted Jon, the wolf pup, to be surrounded by cats (Baltsaros’s black lion; Tom, the captain’s tomcat).
Doug the blacksmith was because fantasy names get tedious.
Byron Anders Danielsen and Michael Ashur Nassar… when you put their names together, it really underlines what Better the Devil You Know is about.
Kestrel and Talon made for a good pair and a title of a book, and Grim who wasn’t so Grim at all.
Gregory Faraday (a nod to my own Irish roots); Emyr Morgan Hughes because it’s a good Welsh name. Stuart Leandro, inspired by the cover model; Timothy Leblanc for the Montreal prevalence of English/French name pairs; James Talbot sounds stuffy and upper-class paired with Rudie Brauer, a lower-class, rural name for his humble beginnings.
Reginald Wilkes and Andrew Murphy… Sarge and Murphy. Just good, solid names.
Then there’s alllll the side characters that I get to name after friends, family, or just names I’ve made up that sound good. Baal’s Heart IV is still a ways out, but I think you’ll like the names of the new folks the pirates will team up with. :D
And, hopefully soon, in Midnight in Montreal you’ll meet Royal, Damascène, Adélard, and Ozéas and in Charlie, you’ll meet Charles Egerton, Alexander Montgomery, and Cutty Turner.
It’s funny, when I set out to write Exposed I was worried about a few things. One, that I would weird people out by using a great Welsh word as a safeword. Two, that my usual readers would find it too lighthearted, compared to my usual stuff. Three, that Emyr calling Greg “Daddy” would bother people. That’s what I expected…. and then the unexpected happened: it never once occurred to me that I’d be reading reviews with the words “BDSM”, “Dom”, or “sub” in them. What’s up with that? Did I market the book wrong? I never tagged it as BDSM, never mentioned any kind of D/s relationship, said that it was a little kinky, and told folks it was just a cute love story. What happened?
Just reader expectations, I believe, and ones that I couldn’t predict because I don’t know what they are. I was just saying to a friend that I have a distinct disadvantage when it comes to writing books that readers include in a genre I didn’t even know existed until after I published my first book.
The B/l (or Daddy/lg or Daddy/lb) relationships I’ve witnessed in my life were just sweet, loving, and devoted… really nurturing things (with some really silly play …and, yes, occasional spanking thrown in for good measure) and I set out to capture that lovely fondness I’ve admired so much. (And I often mentally hug Greg and Emyr for really getting there!)
But, there were reader expectations with the words “Daddy kink”, (something I tagged it for just as a warning) that I did not know about. And… now I know (and knowing is half the battle! GI Joe... ahem sorry, I’m on cold meds)
So, anyway, next book I write, I’ll see if I can word the blurb a little more clearly to reflect what the book is actually about (or maybe not about?)
Which brings me to Romance in general…
Folks reading Caged keep saying “this isn’t really a Romance” to which I sit there, scratching my head, wondering where they got the idea that it was a Romance. It has romantic elements, for sure. Life does in general, doesn’t it? But Caged? A Romance? Max? A Romance? I don’t even know if Exposed is a Romance. I keep squinting at definitions and wondering what this whole Romance thing is about (disclaimer: I’m aromantic1). It feels far more nebulous a genre than what I read: Has robots? Sci-fi. Has dragons? Fantasy. Has robot dragons? Sci-fi/fantasy. thumbs up
With Romance, well… the requirements seem to depend on who you talk to.
I did read two books that are considered Romance when I was younger. One was called Sea Star: Private Life of Anne Bonny which was pretty rapey if I recall, and the other one was about um… the wild west? I think? Maybe about a doomed love triangle? Also rapey. So, my young adolescent self drew the conclusion that “Romance Novels” equated “rapey”. However, another thing they both had in common was a lot more plot circling around love and sex than I had ever previously read before.
Hey, all my books have plots that focus primarily on the relationship between the protagonists. So… Romance?
And… Novelist Walter Scott defined the literary fiction form of romance as “a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents.” 2
My characters certainly encounter uncommon incidents. So… Romance?
Also from Wikipedia:
According to the Romance Writers of America, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve about the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship, although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters’ romantic love.
Furthermore, a romance novel must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Some romance novel authors and readers believe the genre has additional restrictions, from plot considerations (such as the protagonists’ meeting early on in the story), to avoiding themes (such as adultery). Other disagreements have centered on the firm requirement for a happy ending; some readers admit stories without a happy ending, if the focus of the story is on the romantic love between the two main characters (e.g., Romeo and Juliet). While the majority of romance novels meet the stricter criteria, there are also many books widely considered to be romance novels that deviate from these rules. Therefore, the general definition, as embraced by the RWA and publishers, includes only the focus on a developing romantic relationship and an optimistic ending.
All of my books, including Devil (if you look at it the way I do), focus on the relationships of the MCs and have HFN/HEAs…. So… Romance?
I think, maybe, in the end, that my books are Romance books, but only to folks who don’t have too rigid expectations. When it comes to meeting more stringent do’s/don’ts and customary story development… I will definitely fall short, because I just don’t know what those expectations are. But that’s a-ok! Despite the fact that I write and will continue to write entirely for myself, plenty of other people do enjoy my books, and that is absolutely amazing.
And… for those of you who have actually made it this far in my ramblings, you get a special something because I’m in a great mood today :)
1I’m the kind of aromantic who’d actually like to feel deeply about someone, hence my exploration of love in my books. Heh, it’s like I’m finding love through writing :)
Exposed is out and doing better than I thought. :D I was stupidly nervous for this one because I wasn’t sure anyone would like it, but I was wrong, like usual. What is it about writing that makes me so nervous? It’s probably the reason I do it.
There are the usual complaints about my stories but I managed to introduce a new one with Exposed. So, it goes: not enough plot, too much plot, not realistic enough, too realistic, creepy, too boring, too much sex, too kinky, not kinky enough, and now… too fluffy. I never thought I’d live to see the day. grin I wrote fluffy!
And then there’s the politics… authors shouldn’t mix politics and romance ;)
The rest of the stuff I always just chalk up to different personal experiences. Like, for this one, I’ve only got working knowledge of touring in Canada and talked logistics with folks who are responsible for a band out of the UK. I’m not really familiar with how tours work for US bands (though, actually I am better versed now than I was when I started writing Exposed… thanks, Mötley Crüe).
I’m also used to my familial connections with fame and what sort of stuff they encounter in Canada and the UK versus the US… and there’s also a sort of easy, non-pestering, polite attitude Montrealers have towards actors/musicians. Like, you run into famous people all the time here, and no one makes a big deal. Folks like touring/filming here because of that.
What’s fun about writing contemporary stories is I get to use stuff I know rather than just making up shit in Fantasy/Paranormal/Science Fiction (not that I don’t like making fantasy shit up). So, Exposed is a hodgepodge of different things. Some of the places in the book are places I’ve been that have good memories attached to them… like that particular chiringuito in Torremolinos (and the boxes of wine!), the hotel with the crazy carpets and the barely functional ice machine I nearly sliced myself open on in Munich, the scene kids outside the hotel in Nice, and of course everything about Montreal. I modelled Greg’s workplace after the software place I worked at forever.
Little details came from winters spent lying on the beach listening to my parents’ Brit paparazzi friend tell his sleazy stories, from friends who’ve made the hard decision to cancel shows due to political climate, from the very real concerns about personal safety while travelling to the States right now, from my own practical knowledge (Greg owns the same camera as me) and, you know, personal kinks.
The thing from Greg’s past is an exaggerated version of something from my own past mixed with an interesting case study I read last summer. Tam is modelled after an old coworker, Rose is modelled after an ex-tour-manager-turned-travel-agent I know (though he regrets the career change heh), Barrie looks like this old lush I know who hangs out in an expat bar and talks to anyone who’ll listen about his days in the theatre. And Emyr? Well heh, Emyr is a bunch of different people. Physically, he’s sort of based on an actor, mixed in with an ex of mine, a singer in a band my best friend was crazy about twenty years ago (oh god has it been that long?), and this beautiful guy I knew long ago who loved wearing heels. But… in the course of writing this, Emyr really became his own person, and I love him for that. He’s just so full of life and I needed someone like that to write about.
All in all, I’m happy.
Post publishing is always such a relief for me. It means that the story no longer lives in its entirety in my head and I can let it go and move on to the next book…
…which is a vampire story! So far I’m having a great time with these guys. It’s definitely not romantic. It’s on the dark end of the scale… horror-ish. I’ve already done the cover for it and it’s freaky heh. I’ll probably show it to my newsletter subscribers later this month when I post about the Exposed paperback giveaway happening soon.
And finally: today is the day that everyone out there with a drop of Irish blood (hey I’m, like, quarter Irish) goes around making sure that everyone knows it.
So, Happy St. Patty’s! I’ll be celebrating with some Guinness later but for now it’s back to work… Here, I’ll leave you with a little St. Patty’s day history here in Montreal:
St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Montreal as far back as 1759, after the Conquest, by Irish soldiers of the Montreal Garrison. In 1817, the beginning of the Irish community here, the observance of St. Patrick’s day was marked by special dinners and the celebration of religious services. Read More
No one can see the gun to my head,
Pushed hard against my temple.
And I can’t see who holds it,
Though we walk through life in step,
But I can sometimes hear them crying
In the spaces between my breaths.
And when the gun begins to quake,
It’s fear that makes me pray
That my steadfast, spectral assassin
Can wait just one more day.
The worst nights are the best nights.
Nights where you’re at my side, where we are wicked and roguish, smiles sharing secrets, arm in arm, where it’s you and me against the world.
Nights where the heat of your skin warms me, where we move slow and sweet, your eyes on mine, battered hearts to bruised souls, where the universe dims and fades away.
The best nights are the worst nights.
When I wake, the connection is lost. The lifeline severed. I want to hang my head in my hands and weep until I drown. Without you, the world, in all its savagery, assaults me and the universe laughs because I exist, and you do not.
I was invited to take part again this year in the anniversary shenanigans over at Boy Meets Boy Reviews and wrote a flash fic for this image prompt:
Curious? Go check it out and enter the giveaway while you’re there!
In more ways than one—lost in time, lost to myself—but right now I’m literally lost in the centre of the badlands at the ass-end of the galaxy. The last human colony before the empty disappointment of space… cannibals and rapists all but forgotten on their shitty, desolate moon. It took most of my credits to convince the scrappers to dump me here.
The dust is thick. It coats my tongue and makes it even harder to see in the weird piss-yellow light, but soon enough I spot a squat dark shape in the distance, too regular to be natural, and I trudge towards it.
Inside it’s dark and crowded with the scum of humanity, reeking of sweat and desperation. It’s a bar and I’m glad for it. I need a drink so bad I’m starting to shake.
The grain alcohol goes down like water and I ask the hunchback behind the bar for another. He looks at me right in the eye as he pours and I’m made to understand that he’s the man around here who can get me anything I want.
What do I want? I want nothing. I want oblivion.
Lights go up next to the bar and I see a glossy white platform on the other side of a metal railing. I step closer as the platform begins to glow—it’s cleanest thing in the place. The crowd jostles and chatters around me, but I’m a rock, no one can move me.
Two men step out into the light, naked and completely shaved and powdered in white. The bigger one starts stroking his cock, expressionless as the other man goes down on his knees and reaches back to jab something at his asshole. It’s a knife. The second time it goes in there’s a spray of blood and the glowing white platform is clean no longer. I’m intrigued. Repulsed. The wounded man doesn’t even let out a sound, not when he cuts himself again, not when the other man kneels and thrusts himself into the wreckage. The gore pools beneath them, thick and dark and clotted. My hands tighten on the railing. I hear the words “necro blood fuckers.”
Finally the man being fucked seems to shake out of his stupor as his life runs out of him and he begins to struggle. There’s a red handprint on the back of the other man’s bald white head.
I can see that the dying man’s pissed himself—urine cuts a clear streak in the blood. An estuary of body fluids. Semen is the next to mingle when the man pulls out and sprays the collapsed man’s back. A third man steps onto the platform, powdered white and naked, and I watch him and the other wrestle for dominance in the human soup for a moment before I turn away. I figure I know how it’s going to go. I’m already jaded to it..
It’s just a performance, nothing else. It’s not real. No one’s died. I know what that much blood smells like—that’s something I can never forget. I carry it in my soul. I need another drink.
At the bar a dwarf grabs my dick through my pants and offers me a blowjob, but his price is too steep so I turn him down.
I’ve got enough credits for four more drinks. Not enough to get me to oblivion, but it’ll take the edge off.
Maybe the bartender can see how hollow I am inside, or maybe he just wants a break from my carcass haunting his bar, but he sends a boy over to me with a wave of his hand. It’s on the house—I’m never one to turn down charity.
In a cramped back room, the boy bounces up and down on my cock. His hole is so loose and sloppy that I could easily put both my nuts into him. But it doesn’t matter, I’m getting close anyway and when he bounces a few more times, I cream his insides with a grunt. When he stands, some cum splats down on my belly and I wonder how much of it is mine. I watch him walk away and all I feel empty.
I’ve got to get going again. I’m out of money and I’ll need a place to sleep out of the dust when I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. So many years I’ve been floating, hounded by my ghosts, always on the move, sucking dick for credits when it’s bad, getting my dick sucked when it’s good. I don’t know how long I can keep this up, but so far my will to live is still placing bets and cashing in on my luck. What I do know is I’ll keep wandering until something makes sense again. Until I’m no longer lost.
I’m back at the bar, my last credit burning down my throat to sit in my bloodstream and keep the ghosts at bay.
There’s a man mopping the platform. You know, maybe it was real blood after all. It feels like I’m trapped in someone else’s dream.
The stink of the crowd is too much and there’s nothing for me here. I turn to leave but the hunchback grabs my arm. The paper he places in my hand is creased and fuzzy with age, the ink faded. The picture of me is over ten years old. Now I understand the charity.
I shake my head. I’m not that man anymore—he was slaughtered as surely as all the people he didn’t save.
No, heroes don’t get lost. They don’t chase oblivion. That’s just for the damned.
But I don’t argue when I puts a few credits back in my account, credits in a dead man’s name. I nod in thanks but leave the old news article on the bar. I can’t bear to look at it.
Without a backwards glance, I step out into the swirling dust to lose myself again.