Monthly Archives: July 2011

Featured Author Cornelia Grey…………….. “Apples and Regret and Wasted Time”

Scroll down for author interview and and excerpts—one mild, one hot hot hot.

Apples and Regrets and Wasted Time by Cornelia Grey cover by Nathie

He lives in the shadows of the law. Now, wounded and stranded in the city after a job only he could do, he has no qualms about climbing through the window his old lover left open—or stealing his shampoo, at that. He has, however, not taken into account the possibility of being surprised in the shower.

Three years is a long time to go between visits, especially if you’ve left so much anger and hurt and desire unresolved. They try to negotiate a truce for one night—over Chinese takeaway leftovers and apples, and between the sheets.

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Cornelia Grey is a student halfway through her creative writing degree with a penchant for fine arts and the blues. Born and raised in the hills of Northern Italy, where she collected her share of poetry and narrative prizes, she is now based in London.

Her days are full and hectic: she reads, goes to flea markets, galleries, and the theater, and of course spends most of her time writing. When she’s at home, she likes to curl up with a book and the classic cup of tea and leaves chestnuts in the garden for the squirrel that comes around from time to time.

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The busy mind of Cornelia Grey (the author interview)

First, Cornelia, welcome! Thanks for allowing me to feature you as an author and discuss your work. In a bit I’d like to talk about Apples and Regret and Wasted Time, and maybe a bit about some of your other stories. But first, perhaps you can give readers a bit more information about you as a writer:

Q: I know of several short stories (in addition to Apples and Regret) that you’ve had published. If readers look at several of your stories, will they find a common thread, or theme? How do your stories come in to being—do you create characters and the story grows up around them, or do you start with a plot and invent characters as they’re needed? (Or some other mixture?)
A: I noticed there’s definitely a common theme. My stories are mostly set in alternative realities, worlds that are either urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic, steampunk… or just plain weird . And often these worlds’ societies are flawed, deeply unfair, crushed under some oppressive power. The stories revolve around the underdogs, random and unconventional, who strive to fight against this oppression, even if in small ways. Another common element in my stories is that the protagonist is originally on the side of the oppressors, or at the very least completely uninvolved in the events, and his perspective changes completely when he gets to know the underdogs. This is a storyline that comes to me naturally, and even though I’ve used it more than a few times, it’s still my favorite.

I’m also usually a plot person. I tend to think up an ending, the more climatic and explosive the better, then a beginning (in this order!) and then I plan out the intricacies that come in between. By the time I start actually writing, the skeleton of the story is ready, complete with a fairly accurate bullet point list of the scenes. I like to have the full movie, complete with sound and fancy special effects!, all flowing in my head before I start putting it down on paper.

The characters sort of come naturally as the plot flows. Often I don’t know much about their back-story – heck, sometimes I don’t even know their names! – as if I was stumbling across two strangers at the beginning of the story and just stalked them around to see what they’ll do. I think that sums up rather nicely how the whole process works for me, actually – the story’s unfolding almost by itself and all I have to do is keep lurking and be quick to take notes.

Q: In the excerpt from Apples and Regret and Wasted Time, the language is in some places (particularly the line that contains the title phrase), gorgeously sensual. Is that something readers will find throughout your work? If so, perhaps you can talk a bit about what influenced you in that direction. Does it affect the way you see or “feel” your characters? (Their emotions, their actions, their sex?)
A: Thank you for your kind words! To be honest, the issue of language is a little complicated for me. My mother tongue is Italian and I’ve only been writing in English for a couple of years, so my control of the language is still a bit limited. I can never tell if a sentence sounds English or if it sounds like Italian translated into English, for example, so especially in my first stories I had some funny sentence structures floating around. Italian has long, convoluted sentences, and that doesn’t quite make sense in English. Plus I tend to use lots of Latin-derived words, because they remind me of Italian and therefore come easy, while in English they tend to sound obscure and overblown.

I think I keep improving, though – if I read stories I published last year, I can now catch some sentences that sound odd and that I would phrase differently today. I notice my latest stories have a much cleaner use of language, without all the twists and twirls of my Italian writing. I manage to keep things simpler and more effective, and I think it results in a sharper, more incisive writing style.

However, I think the poetic undertones that Apples has are a little unique among my stories . I was caught up in the atmosphere of the story as I was writing it, suspended in its dream-like, foggy scenario: I think that bled into the use of language, shaping it to enhance that particular mood. I notice it with every story, really—the language changes subtly to suit that particular piece’s atmosphere. I don’t plan it rationally, it just comes out that way. A story I just finished, for example, set in the Wild West, has a dry and dusty feel to it, and the language is accordingly grating and sparse. It seems like it all comes instinctively together to bring out the atmosphere I have in my head—use of language, dialogues, setting, the character’s attitude, their approach to sex…

Q: About the characters in Apples and Regret and Wasted Time—in the blurb and in the excerpt, the characters are not named. Are readers given their names in the story? If so, can we have them here? If not, why not? How do you think that changes the way we see them? These characters both seem the type that I, rather crudely, would describe as badass. In the excerpt, it’s apparent that history, as well as strong physical attraction, draws them together. Without giving away the story, can you tell us anything about that history, and the roots of that almost irresistible attraction? How much of that need for one another is emotion deeper than sex?
A: No, we never learn their names. Truth to be told, I never picked any. I just never felt they were necessary. The story was much shorter in its original version, and when I decided to expand it I wondered whether the absence of names would work in a longer piece or whether it would become heavy for the readers: but I just couldn’t imagine forcing names into it. It would change the whole tone of the story, I believe, and make it weaker. It was also an interesting experiment for me: I wondered if readers would relate to the characters even without knowing their names. I know I certainly do. I always wonder exactly how much we have to know of someone in order to care for them, how much is necessary to reveal about a character in a story to make him or her a ‘real’ person, someone the reader can relate to, can grow attached to.

I’ll hide behind a no comment regarding the characters’ history—there are hints scattered around the piece, and I’d rather let the readers dig them out and piece them together as they please.

Q: “Wasted time” implies that the character turns back to a forgotten goal, or perhaps a new goal that he now realizes is where he should have been heading all along. Is that accurate? Are they both headed in the same direction? Don’t answer this if it gives away too much, but I really want to know if there’s a HEA… ?
A: Well, together with the publisher, we decided to list clearly as a warning that this story doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. A HEA is sort of taken for granted in the romance genre, so we wanted to avoid disappointing readers who might expect it. Personally, I’m a big fan of unresolved endings – I don’t really believe in happy endings, but not in unhappy endings either. My favorite endings are always a little open, more of a ‘to be continued’: maybe the couple is happy for now, but – for example – they have just gotten together and we have no clue whether they’ll be together forever or if they’ll amicably part ways in a few weeks or if they’ll end up slaughtering each other with a machete… you get the idea.
Apples and Regret is the one story where I got to indulge this predilection of mine to the fullest.

I also like to explore romances in which life, for one reason or the other, takes precedence on the love story, and the lovers are forced to adjust their priorities… and the relationship doesn’t make it to the top of the list. In my opinion, it doesn’t make the romance – the love – any less important, any less true. I’m in a similar situation in my life – I’m still building my future and looking for my place in the world, and life is tugging me and my partner of six years in opposite directions. Romantic comedies make it look like dropping everything to just bask into each other’s undying love is the simplest thing in the world, but I believe life is more complicated than that. So I guess I’m trying to explore that kind of situation, and maybe learn from my characters how to find solutions: I tug them in opposites directions, heck, I tie them to two freight trains heading to opposite hemispheres, and see how they sort things out…

Q: The cover to Apples and Regret ranks, in my mind, high as one of the best I’ve ever seen. Enticing and beautiful almost to the point of being hypnotic. Who did the art and design? How involved were you in the design—choosing elements or style, for instance?
A: I have to say, I was astonished when I saw how gorgeous the cover was—and for a short story, no less! I couldn’t have asked, or hoped!, for anything better. The artist is the incredibly talented Nathie—I highly recommend you go check her Deviantart gallery. (http://nathie.deviantart.com) She’s an amazing artist, and I’m especially in love with the anatomy of her gorgeous characters.
The process was really straightforward – my editor had the idea for the composition, which I immediately fell in love with, and the rest is all thanks to Nathie’s talent. I gave my input on the character’s face, but that was all – Nathie just seemed to automatically tune in with the atmosphere I wanted to create in the story. It was amazing to work with an artist who seemed to simply read my mind and draw exactly what I wanted, even though I hadn’t quite figured it out myself. I’m really looking forward to working with her again in the future!

Q: You have stories in a couple of Dreamspinner Press anthologies, A Brush of Wings (“Angel Blues”), and Making Contact (“Making Contact”), both released in 2010. Also, in March of this year, Samhain Publishing released “The Mercenary” as a stand-alone. Do you have other published work? Anything new coming up? Are you working on (or do you have plans for) any novella or novel length fiction? Is there anything you’d like to add, now—something I’ve missed that readers really should know about Cornelia Grey, Author?
A: I do have a few things coming up, actually . Storm Moon Press recently released the Wild Passions anthology, which includes my story “City of Foxes”, a gritty urban fantasy involving fox people. This August, Dreamspinner Press will release a pirate anthology, Cross Bones, with my short story “Worth the Price”, and I have another pirate story scheduled for release with them as a stand-alone. The title is “The Tea Demon”, and it’s an odd mix of steampunk, humor and, well… really random randomness! I definitely had fun writing that one 😉

While I have a few novella-length plots sketched down, waiting to be written, I tend to do better with short stories—mainly because they come with a deadline, and I work better under pressure. Also, I have the attention span of a drunken squirrel, so I tend to get sidetracked while working on longer stories – newer, shiny ideas keep fizzing up all over my brain and I end up dropping my current project.

However, I’m currently working on my final project for university, which is a novel-length manuscript. It’s a steampunk mystery, with a good sprinkling of irony and not taking things too seriously. As expected, after working on it for months, now I keep thinking of new exciting projects I’d like to get started with. But the project is due in January, so I do have a deadline to rein myself in—even though I’ve already managed to drop the project for a week and sneak-write the Wild West story I mentioned earlier. I have just no self-control. I foresee interesting months ahead….

As a last random bit of information, I thought I’d mention that I find it essential to have a writing soundtrack as I write. Headphones and music play an essential role in helping me disconnect from my everyday routine and delve in the story’s atmosphere. While each scene tends to have its own specific song, that remains on a loop until that one scene is over, the general soundtrack is made up mostly of classic rock and blues songs—Robert Johnson, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimi Hendrix… And with that, I’ll leave you all with a very heartfelt: rock on!

Thanks, Cornelia, for agreeing to be featured on the blog, for taking the time to answer our questions, and letting us get a peak at your work and your author’s mind. Best of wishes with your work.

(Readers: if you’d like to ask Cornelia a question of your own, or comment, please feel free. The link to comment is (unfortunately) in rather small print, below the title. Welcome!)

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“Apples and Regret and Wasted Time”………… An excerpt (PG-13 + a bit)

“Three years and the only reason you came to see me was because you needed a shower, idiot?”

I shrug. I close my eyes, letting the water wash over my face.

“You left the window open,” I say. He doesn’t reply.

When I turn around to face him, his hands are tucked in his pockets, his face tilted down, half-hidden in the shadow. He looks at me with quiet, dark eyes. I can feel my body tingle under his intense gaze, a shiver running down my abdomen and to my cock.

His eyes flicker down for the briefest of moments.

“You left the window open,” I repeat. It sounds almost like an accusation.

“That didn’t mean you had to come in. I didn’t put any sign saying Idiots welcome, let yourself in,” he retorts. I can glimpse the flash of a smile on his lips, but it disappears too quickly.

I can feel the memories stir in the back of my mind. His smile always made my blood pump faster. I can feel my face heating, and I hope the shadow is enough to hide it. “Maybe I was feeling nostalgic.”

“Right.” He unclips the holster and pulls out his gun, checking the safety before reaching to lay it on the sink. My knife is just out of sight, on the rim of the tub. It’s never out of my reach. I don’t move my hand toward it, don’t even look in its direction. I know I won’t need to use it.

His voice is tight when he says, “What are you doing here, really?”

It’s the city, that’s what it is, messing with my head. My nerves are rubbed raw.

“I don’t know,” I snap, harsh. “I’m just having a damn shower. Leave me alone. What do you even want?”

His arm shoots out, and he grabs me by the nape, hand clenching in my hair a fraction too hard. The water is quickly soaking his sleeve, staining it dark, spraying on his chest, his face. He doesn’t seem to notice.

“I want you to get out of here,” he says, voice dangerously low. “I want you to leave. I want to never see your face again.”

I wonder if he’s aware of how tightly he’s holding onto me. I wonder if he realizes that, while he’s telling me to go, his body is screaming don’t you dare move. I wonder if he even knows he wants me to stay.

His eyes are a sharp blue, mere inches from mine. Too close. They give away things I suspect he’d rather keep hidden.

Slowly, I reach to wrap my fingers around his tie. I pull him forward, pull him in. He has to brace his hand against the tiles in order not to fall, leaning awkwardly over the tub, the water now streaming down his face, soaking his shoulders.

I can see the anger fade from his eyes, washed away, leaving only a too-heavy weariness.

He doesn’t pull back when I lean forward and press my mouth to his. I trace his lips with my tongue, let it slip inside. I feel damn near intoxicated when he gives in to the kiss, tilting his head to the side to gain better access to my mouth as his tongue tangles with mine, sliding hot and wet between my lips. He tastes like apples and regret and wasted time.

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More Cornelia Grey…

Dreamspinner Press Anthology
A Brush of Wings 2010

“Angel Blues”
Short Story by Cornelia Grey

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Dreamspinner Press Anthology
Making Contact 2010

“Making Contact”
Short Story by Cornelia Grey

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Storm Moon Press Anthology
Wild Passions 2011

City of Foxes
Short Story by Cornelia Grey

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The Mercenary
A Novella by Cornelia Grey

Samhain Press 2011

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Excerpt from The Mercenary—a sizzler! (Rated 18+)

“Asher,” Gabriel repeated, breathless still. Asher could not suppress the shiver that raked his body, ensnared by the way his name sounded on those full lips. Gabriel looked at him with near-scorching intensity, distant thunderbolts rumbling deep behind his irises. His eyes had darkened to a deep shade of auburn. And then—then he said:
“Fuck me.”

Asher’s mouth went dry. He hesitated, suddenly all too aware of his own body—the heightened awareness that came only from the thrill of a fight, the rush of a kill—blistering energy thrumming in his veins, the heady rush of adrenaline-like stoked embers at the core of his brain. “More could come,” he rasped, his voice suddenly rough. His throat felt tight.

Gabriel’s eyes gleamed dangerously in his blood-spattered face. “Shut up,” he all but growled, an untamed grin curling his lips upward in the most infuriating, enticing of ways. He fixed his eyes on Asher’s as he discarded his cloak and shrugged out of his harness. Slowly, deliberately, he unbuttoned his tattered waistcoat and crumpled it in his hand, throwing it to the floor. He was left in a thin button shirt—its sleeves rolled up to reveal the soft crook of his elbows, the hint of strong biceps.

“Fuck me,” he repeated, his mouth a slow sin. His face was sharp and beautiful, pale skin a stark contrast with the dark bloodstains, his eyes smoldering embers staring at Asher from under his tousled locks, provocative, near damn intoxicating—
And Asher was yanking off his own coat, unfastening the thick leather protections that covered his chest. He stripped to a rough cotton shirt that stretched over his muscles, a sleeve ripped to reveal the brass gleam of his arm, a threatening confession in the half-darkness of the room. He grabbed Gabriel’s wrist, gracelessly dragging him close—their mouths clashed together, tongues exploring each other, teeth bared to sink in chapped lips, hot and messy and filthy of all the promises Gabriel’s half-lidded eyes seemed to bear. Asher’s fingers caught in thin fabric as they searched for warm skin—he ripped his hand free and impatiently slid it down the small of Gabriel’s back, past the loose edge of his trousers. His middle and index fingers tucked with ease in the warm crevice between Gabriel’s buttocks, thumb pressing a dimple in the soft flesh of a cheek. Gabriel licked Asher’s lips open and moaned in his mouth, wet and demanding, his taste a cinnamon wildfire seeping into Asher’s bloodstream, sizzling up his nerves to claim his brain, reaching down to his groin—

Gabriel groaned, half in pain, half in fervent lust—a hint of manic laughter twinkling in his eyes as he landed heavily on the crate, his arms not quite fast enough to prevent his chest from smacking against the hard wood. He braced himself with one arm and fumbled one handed with the fastening of his trousers as Asher held him down. The cold weight of the brass arm anchored him firmly as Asher all but wrenched his own garments open. Gabriel’s flesh was firm under his hand, sharp hipbone pressing against his palm as he traced his side, pushing obstructive fabric out of the way before finding a hold—his tanned knuckles a stark contrast where he grasped Gabriel’s fair skin.

Spit was all he had, hard to gather through the sudden dryness of his throat, and it wasn’t quite enough—Gabriel was tight, far too tight where he clenched around his fingers. Yet he moaned, using the leverage of his arms to push himself back, inciting Asher’s movements with small, ragged sounds that told him don’t you dare stop, laced in wordless threats. Asher wasn’t sure he’d manage to in any case, the warm body spread beneath him a much greater temptation than he could resist. He guided himself, slow burning hunger mounting with each of Gabriel’s pleas—it was three attempts before he felt Gabriel’s tight muscles yield to his flesh, allowing him inside. He stroked the soft skin of Gabriel’s hip with his thumb as he heard his ragged moan, the only comforting gesture he could muster, his brain burnt to near ashes by a breathtaking wave of need.

And it was the hot, heady clasp of flesh, muscles rippling and releasing in a stuttering rhythm that grew stronger at each beat, Gabriel’s pale skin vulnerable under his touch, Gabriel’s gasps and moans and strained murmurs. Asher could see the tension build in Gabriel’s shoulders, the taut muscles in his back, the ring of muscle obscenely stretched around his cock, and God—he leaned forward, hand braced on Gabriel’s nape, holding him down, his cold brass hand clutching Gabriel’s hip. It was too hard, he reckoned somewhere in the turmoil of his deep-sea thoughts, bound to leave bruises in its wake. And Gabriel, Gabriel, strong and demanding under his hands, writhing and pressing back against him, his muscles tense and vibrant with unrequited energy, sharp and breathless as he commanded, “Harder,” and “There,” and “Don’t stop, God—don’t stop.”

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Contact Cornelia Frey:

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Of Dirty Kisses and Things by Rhys Ford

I am not an activist.

I don’t march in parades. I don’t wave signs in protest. I don’t stand on a street corner and shout from a soap box.

What I do do is write.

I really didn’t start writing to make a point. Mostly I wrote because I had stories piling up on the rocks in my head and figured if I didn’t scrape them out, I’d soon go crazy. It’s not a calling. It was never meant to be a higher purpose. They were just stories.

Then something happened on the way to the pixels.

I found I wanted to write about things I felt and knew. Of feeling like an outsider. Of straddling the line of different cultures and having to not talk about how I act in some instances because I know the people I’m speaking to wouldn’t understand. Of the process of exploring who I was and where I needed to be. Of not liking who I’d become and changing it — one behaviour, one word at a time.

I never meant to do anything other than write about the world as I saw it and how it affected the people around me.

I am not an activist.

But at the same time, I wish I had a larger voice. Continue reading

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Elizabeth Noble’s *Marked Yours* (Dreamspinner Press)

Scroll down the page for an interview with the author and excerpts from Marked Yours and other stories.

Cover Image, Marked Yours, by Elizabeth Noble (click to buy)

Three hundred years ago, natural disaster reformed the face of North America, and the people who lived in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains would never be the same.

Now, the master/slave bond in New Colorado has become a sacred rite of service, protection, and, sometimes, for the lucky, love. Nick and his intended Master, Todd Ruger, a sentry of the territories, have grown up knowing that they were pledged to this bond. They’re looking forward to the ritual with both excitement and trepidation—it’s something they’ve prepared for their entire lives. But New Colorado’s institution of slavery has made dangerous enemies on a frontier fraught with trouble, and they are unprepared for the trials their new relationship will face. Their bond needs to grow very strong, very fast if it’s going to survive the collision of old superstition, new beliefs, and the ever-present danger of the natural and supernatural frontier.

Elizabeth Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write, and her family was very happy when she learned to put words on a page. Those words turned into fan fiction that turned into a genuine love of M/M romance fiction. Being able to share her works with Dreamspinner is really a dream come true. She has a real love for all things sci-fi, futuristic, and supernatural and a bit of an unnatural interest in a super-volcano in Wyoming.

Elizabeth has three grown children and is now happily owned by three mutts, a foster mutt, and two cats. She lives in her native northeast Ohio. When she’s not writing she’s working as a veterinary nurse, so don’t be surprised to see her men with a pet or three. When at work she meets all sorts of interesting characters who often find their way into some story or another.

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Elizabeth Noble—the (surprising) author interview

Detail from Marked Yours cover by Paul Richmond
Q: Hello, Elizabeth, and welcome. First I’d like to ask a little about you as an author. Your bio mentions your love of sci-fi and fantasy, but also your love of M/M romance. How did your love of writing turn you toward romance in general, and M/M in particular? When you write futuristic romance, do you typically set your characters down in a world where same-sex love is considered within the norm?
A: Hi Lou, and most importantly, thank you for having me here today!

I really consider myself more of a sci-fi-action/adventure writer first and romance writer second. M/M appeals to me because of the emotional connection. It’s different between two men than a man and a woman, or two women. Men are, by nature, protectors and exploring how each one looks after the other is something I find fascinating and never ending. Sci-fi/action/adventure is a love of mine because there are so many aspects to explore in a world and situations to put the main characters in then add in how it affects each character personally and their relationship with one another. That is an intriguing mix.

I abhor bigotry in any form and I’d like to think sometime, hopefully in the not too distant future, it won’t matter what color someone is, who they sleep with or what religion they are. So, yes, I purposely put my men in a world where same-sex love and union is accepted and in the case of the Sentries series the norm, isn’t a big deal or the focus of the story.

Q: The two excerpts and blurbs you’ve shared with us are set in the far future. Though the apocalyptic event in one is natural disaster and the other disease, the characters in both live in “the world we know,” but dramatically and irreversibly changed. Is this the type of sci-fi you prefer writing? How do these worlds come into being? How extensive is your “world-building” process before you begin to set the story on paper? Does this type of setting make it easier for your gay couples be open about their love?
A: It’s a coincidence that the two stories are set in a post-apocalyptic world. While the future is my favorite place to write, not every world I’ve devised is a result of some disaster. No matter what sort of future I write in I try to create a world and society that evolved naturally from circumstances and events in its past.

My world building is pretty extensive, though I attempt to use those worlds as background. I don’t generally give out tons of information, but I know many details about how my worlds work. I have notebooks, maps and computer files of notes on what is in each world. I like sprinkling the details of future world throughout the story. Using alternate worlds is easier for me all around. I am working on one contemporary book and fitting things into the rules of our present world is hard. I like making my own worlds, in a way it’s because I’m lazy and making my own rules and settings are easier.

I purposely create worlds for my characters where the fact they’re in a same sex relationship isn’t an issue. That way I feel I can concentrate on the adventure part of the story and the relationship between the characters. I purposely want the emphasis off the fact the couples are gay and onto the emotions and interactions between the characters themselves.

Q: From the excerpts, your characters seem very human, and at least the main characters are likeable and easy to identify with. On the surface, though, the stories appear to be plot-driven—as though you had the world and the general story in mind first, and your characters were made (or born ☺) from that world, or to fit into it. Is that true? Perhaps you can share a little of your process for creating characters that the reader will become so strongly attached to.
A: The general idea for the situation comes first in most cases for me I think. Then I build a world and characters simultaneously around that initial ‘what if’ situation. Often times for me that situation is some small part of the story, or maybe one scene that I’d like to include and build the story around it. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a sentence.

In Marked Yours it was the idea of the two men having a distance relationship for most of their childhood before actually meeting. They grew up knowing they were promised to one another, but they still had a period of learning one another when they were finally together. For Strays I think the thing that stimulated the story was an image of a man hiding in an alley. Each book has a sort of theme. I might be the only one who knows what it is and I try not to ever come out and mention it, but I write around it and use it as a subtle guide for each story. I’m not even sure that makes sense.

Q: You set your loving couple in a master-slave relationship, in Marked Yours. Is this in particular a part of the romance, or erotic element, or Nick and Todd’s attraction to one another? Does your work always or often explore this as a romantic theme?
A: Nick is an actual slave, bought and paid for. He didn’t have a choice in being a slave or in who owns him. He does have a choice in what his part in their relationship is. Nick is actually a driving force in their relationship. Just like any couple their relationship is layered and complex, has its ups and downs. It easily could have gone in another direction, but the romance between them developed because each one wanted a deeper connection and like all people they wanted to be loved. I compared it to the arranged marriages, some became true partnerships and unions with the couple loving and caring for one another. Some did not. The owner/slave relationships in Marked Yours are not all the same. As the series progresses we learn people have slaves for many reason and there are equally as many types of relationships between an owner and his or her slave or slaves. I’ve tried to put a lot of gray areas into the owner-slave aspect of the book and series.

I do enjoy exploring the give and take of a D/s relationship and this was one way to delve into that sort of relationship. There was a lot of thought put into their (Nick and Todd’s) relationship and how it works. Even though one is owner and one slave, they each work to court and woo the other. They’re attracted to one another because years before they met in person they exchanged letters and had a process of getting to know one another in a small way. Each one wants something out of their life together and part of the story is how each approaches that life and attains what they want. The love and relationship develop because they are master and slave and thrives within that structure.

The majority of my works in some way show a D/s relationship and I try to show it in a healthy, loving way. What I find fascinating and a sort of turn on personally is the truly symbiotic nature of this kind of relationship. Doms (or owners) do not exist without a sub (or slave) allowing them to and visa versa. You simply can not have one without the other. In Marked Yours I took elements of a D/s relationship and integrated them into the society Todd and Nick live in and into their lives. The biggest example is Nick’s collar. To Nick it’s not something that signifies he’s some sort of captive or merely a possession. For him it shows the world he belongs to Todd, something Nick is quite proud of. It’s like a wedding band. He tells others how long Todd saved to purchase that particular collar and that it was specially made for Nick.

Q:Okay, this is my favorite question to ask an author, and this time I get to have two answers: In Marked Yours, is it Nick or Todd that you see as the sexiest? Why? Same questions for Kyle and Daniel in Strays—who’s the hottest? No fair saying “both.” As a little add-on this time, how steamy are these stories?
A: I’ll answer the steamy question first. The Sentries series in general is far steamier. Nick and Todd are young, healthy guys in love. They can’t keep their hands off one another. Being a part of a longer series any issues between them come about more slowly and there is more room for hotter scenes as their relationship grows and develops. Their life dictates they depend on one another and mostly only one another. They’re more secluded from the rest of the world and therefore interact more with each other than outside characters.

Daniel and Kyle don’t live in their own cocoon world as Todd and Nick do, so while they have just as much sex drive they are more like many working couples, too tired, too busy, different work schedules. Their story is shorter and more focused on problems between them, the resolution and how their love evolves. They are complete strangers to each other when the story starts, so there is more of a build up to the point of having steamy, sexy scenes. In the start Kyle is very traumatized by an event in his life and Daniel is more concerned with getting him over his trauma than getting him into bed. Once Kyle has healed Daniel’s concern shifts in a big way.

Now the harder question of who is sexier. That’s a tough one. Each of the four characters have qualities that make them very sexy but in different ways.

Todd is really a very devoted family man—with a small armory, the has-guns-not-afraid-to-use-them sort of guy. He’s tough and smart and nothing threatens what’s his, the ultimate protector. I wouldn’t consider him a bad boy, but he projects rough and hard on the outside and is really ooey gooey on the inside. One of his accomplishments is nurturing in Nick the parts of his personality that will allow him to grow into a more confident man. I think he’d be my top pick.

Nick is sweet and innocent and completely trusting of Todd who becomes his hero. He maybe a slave, but he’s not a pushover and he’s actually very much a smartass. As a partner he sees no one other than Todd, and doesn’t expect to ever have anyone else. To the outside world he’s painfully shy and Todd’s quiet shadow. In private and alone with Todd he’s anything but shy and quiet.

Now for Daniel, he’s a loner and the guy who is afraid of being hurt so he doesn’t put himself in that position. A different partner every night and never for the whole night is what he’s comfortable with. Both men and women do it for him as long as there are no strings, getting attached he has learned and seen only gets your heart ripped out. He is completely taken by surprise when he develops feelings for Kyle beyond lusting after a cute new face. Attachment and love for Kyle scares him silly because it’s so deep and so powerful. He’s the challenge, what’s not sexy about that guy?

Finally, there is Kyle. He’s young like Nick, but not as innocent, however he is inexperienced and at the start very vulnerable. He wants to please and be a success in life. Kyle isn’t afraid to embrace the radical change in his life forced upon him. He is one that makes lemonade out of life’s lemons. Fitting in and being a part of something worthwhile is important to him. This boy is a true survivor. One of his finest qualities is his capacity to forgive. I think I’d pick Kyle.

Hhm hmm! Elizabeth. You basically said they are all equally sexy. That may be true, but that’s cheating. Jus’ sayin’… (Pardon the interruption, now back to the interview for our final question.)

Q: What’s next, Elizabeth? Marked Yours was released by Dreamspinner Press in May of this year. When can your readers expect to see Strays? Is there a date, yet? Will there be sequels to either of these stories? What awaits for your readers in the next year or so?
A: Strays has a release date of September 7, 2011 and will be in eBook and audio formats. If it has a sequel I don’t know about it yet…lol But, I’m sure if Daniel and Kyle have more story to tell they’ll let me know!

Dreamspinner has accepted for publication the next in the Sentries series, Together Bound. I do not have a release date as yet other than sometime in September or October. Together Bound is a very different story than Marked Yours. Todd and Nick have been together for eighteen months at the start of the second book so their relationship is more established and solidified. They’ve moved beyond that fumbling around learning one another phase and Nick has become a full-fledged Sentry. They accept a job that launches them into the world of politics and has them hunting a very dangerous adversary. Not only do they have a job to do, but in the course of doing it they have to face some very personal, and frightening, issues individually and as a couple. This book also gives a look into different aspects of slavery. Two important revelations are what happens to a slave if the owner dies and what becomes of children of an owner/slave union? Nick has a very special ability which really comes into play in this book. By the end of the book their lives are turned upside down.

For the Sentries series I have a total of six books planned, and am working on the third, Chained Hearts now. One of the big reveals in Chained Hearts is why was it so important that Todd and Nick be together and were bonded as children? Beyond those are stories involving a return to the village Nick grew up in (Collared Souls) and riverboat gambling (Tethered Pair). Then of course the sixth book is the series wrap up, I’m still deciding on the title.

There is also a peek into the lives of Todd and Nick on their tenth ‘anniversary’ which is part of the Hot July Days challenge on the M/M Romance group on Goodreads. If you squint and pay extremely close attention you might see a very vague spoiler for the end of the series. The story is titled Take What’s Yours. There are no real spoilers for Marked Yours. In a month or two the kind mods of that group will put out a free anthology with all the stories they’re posting this month. That’s a great group, go now and join! Here is the link: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/20149

I’m also working on a contemporary D/s monster hunting romance and I started a story for Dreamspinners pirate anthology—got the idea for that one from a scene in a movie with a plane almost crash landing and thought I must have a story for that! It got too big for the anthology, so I’ll eventually be submitting it for publication as a novel or novella.

It has been a delight to have you visit, Elizabeth. Thank you for coming.

Thank you for having me! I had such fun answering your questions, which were great by the way. I hope I didn’t “talk” too much.

(Elizabeth, you “talked” just enough! Thanks again.)

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An Excerpt from *Marked Yours*

It was close to midnight when they finally stopped to make camp. There were four wagons in all, the other three carrying two or three occupants each, and two men riding on horseback. Nick’s mind drifted back to childhood, watching Todd ride through his village a few times a year, watching him grow from a skinny boy of twelve to the powerful man he was now.

A fire was built in the center of the wagon circle, and a meal was prepared. The night air was chilled and damp and Nick’s clothes, more suited for the southern climate, weren’t keeping him very warm. Nick wouldn’t have minded sitting near the fire to eat, even if he had to listen to John Ruger and his friends tell whatever stories they told one another. Todd, however, took his food and headed back to their wagon, so Nick followed.

He tried hard not to shiver through dinner. Everyone else had thicker coats and heavier clothes, much more prepared for the climate they were heading into than Nick. Glancing wistfully at the fire and its warmth, Nick huddled over his plate. He’d never dare ask for another coat. He was a slave. Who cared if he was cold? Slaves didn’t count in this world.

“You have any heavier clothes?”

Shaking his head, Nick murmured, “No, Todd.”

Todd set his plate down hard on the ground and stood abruptly. Nick flinched and looked up. Reaching into the wagon, Todd pulled out a heavy dark green pullover shirt. In his other hand he carried a few bottles and two glasses.

“Here, put this on. It’ll keep you warm enough for now. When we get home you’re getting the right clothes. I’m not spending the rest of my life watching you shiver.” He set the bottles and glasses down and resettled onto the ground beside Nick. Dark, amber liquid was poured from one of the bottles. “You ever had whisky before?” He started to hold the small glass out to Nick, but when Nick shook his head no, Todd chuckled. “Okay then. Not having this right now.” Grinning, Todd downed the liquid himself. Crossing his eyes, he shook his head as he swallowed. “Here, try this instead. We’ll start you off slow and work you up to the really rotgut stuff later.”

Nick laughed and took the small bottle Todd offered. He took a whiff; it didn’t smell bad. Nick took a short sip of the bottle’s contents. He pulled the bottle away and looked at it. “What is this?”

Todd had been watching him the entire time, looking almost boyish and hopeful. “Eh, you didn’t spit it back at me, so that’s good. Beer. You never had beer before?”

“No. Just water.”

“You like it?”

“Yeah, I do. It’s different. Sorta bitter at first.” He’d pulled the heavier shirt over his head; it was thick and made of a woven material that was warm and soft. Breathing in deeply, he was at once surrounded by the combined smells of gun oil, leather, and something he recognized from sitting beside Todd all day that was uniquely Todd. The beer made his throat warm, but it was the scent of Todd all around him that made warmth spread in delicate tendrils from his belly to his chest.

“Good, ’cause I don’t do bread and water. We do what we do and keep the good folks in the towns and villages safe at night, but they’re damn well feeding us good.”

Nick had no idea what it was Todd referred to. He’d thought since Todd and his father, and now Nick, were hunters, they’d simply track down and catch their own food if they needed to. Nodding, Nick drank his beer and finished his food. It was stew—tasty, hot, and filled with chunks of meat and vegetables in a heavy broth.

After mopping the remains of the stew from his plate with bread, Todd leaned back and grinned. “I want more. You want more?”

Looking up, surprised and knowing his face showed it, Nick blurted out, “I am allowed more?”

Todd snorted. “Yes, Nick, you are.” He held out a hand for Nick to pull up on. Once righted, Todd’s hand released his, moved to his neck, and patted gently a few times before he turned and went back to the fire.

The men there snidely asked why Nick was still wearing clothes and why they were wasting time eating. Todd ignored them. As he turned around, heading back to their wagon, Todd’s eyes caught Nick’s. He smirked and shook his head.

They resettled behind the wagon, out of sight of the others, and finished eating in silence. Then, leaning forward, elbows resting on his knees, Todd rubbed at the back of his neck for a few minutes.

“So, uh, you ever been with a woman?”

Nick stared at a point between his feet and shook his head no.

Todd shifted a bit. Nick thought he sounded nervous. “A man?”

“No.” His voice came out barely above a whisper.

“Got any preference?”

Nick drew in a deep breath and looked up at Todd, who wore that boyish, hopeful expression again. “I like watching girls sometimes, but they’re sort of skinny, no muscle. I think I look at men more.”

Todd nodded and seemed satisfied with those answers. It wasn’t as if Nick had a choice. He’d been bound to another male since he was five years old. Whether he preferred men or women as sexual partners was never a consideration. Maybe he’d always been that way, or maybe he’d just trained himself to like men more. He didn’t know. It didn’t really matter.

When Todd reached out and curled warm, strong fingers around his neck, Nick leaned into the touch. He decided it was something Todd liked to do, touch him that way, and it appeared to Nick the gesture pleased Todd and made him relax. Nick had decided back in the village, the first time Todd had touched him that way, that he liked it. Not even twenty-four hours later and Nick was craving those tiny touches and counting the minutes between them, hoping for another one.

This time Todd leaned closer and pulled Nick toward him. As Todd’s lips brushed the side of Nick’s hair, he moaned soft and low. Pushing his nose through Nick’s hair for a few seconds, Todd pulled him in even tighter, nuzzling his cheek against Nick’s, breathing in deep. “You smell good.” Todd’s hand moved from his neck up into Nick’s hair, turning his head toward Todd.

Todd pressed his lips to Nick’s, gently licking his tongue along Nick’s lower lip. It startled him at first when Todd’s tongue slipped between his lips and into his mouth. Todd’s other arm wound around Nick’s waist and gently, slowly pulled Nick completely against him. Todd’s tongue glided around his own and coaxed Nick’s tongue into his mouth. Todd sucked lightly on Nick’s tongue for a few seconds before pulling away. He looked at Nick, seemed to be memorizing every bit of Nick’s face before pulling him back in for another kiss. This time Nick mimicked Todd’s actions and sucked Todd’s tongue.

When Todd pulled away for the second time, they were both panting, and Nick was whimpering softly. Fingers raked tenderly through his hair and Todd kissed his nose and then his cheek, murmuring in his ear, “You taste so good. I’ve been waiting forever to do that.”

Nick felt a flush creep over him. When Todd’s arm tightened even more around his middle, Nick leaned his head down so his face was pressed to the crook of Todd’s neck. “I don’t… I’ve never….” This was so embarrassing.

“It’s okay, Nicky. You’ll learn. You’ll be just fine. Just us now.” Todd rested his chin on the top of Nick’s head and held him tightly. Nick had never in his life been held—not like this. He’d been held down and beaten a few times, but never had anyone simply held him. When he pressed closer and relaxed more against Todd, the other man drew in a deep breath and let it out slow. Nick liked this and he sensed Todd did too.

Laughter from the direction of the fire made them both start and pull back from each other. Laughing nervously, Todd ruffled Nick’s hair. “We’ll save the rest for when we can be alone.” He stood and stretched, throwing the cover back on the wagon’s opening. “Just us now,” he repeated. Nick nodded because he had the feeling he was supposed to respond somehow. “C’mon, Nicky. Get some sleep.”

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