Tag Archives: fantasy/sci-fi

Lou Hoffmann’s *Key of Behliseth*, dragons and wizards and swords, oh my!

KeyofBehliseth_postcard_front_Harmony Happy to announce that Harmony Ink (Dreamspinner Press Imprint) will release Key of Behliseth (the first book in The Sun Child Chronicles), on 9/11/14. Visit Pride Promotions to enter the ebook giveaway raffle! There’s also a 20% discount on pre-orders at the Dreamspinner Press Store! At checkout, Use code SUNCHILD. It’s good on e-book and paperback, and if you can get there today, you get another 25% off!

On his way to meet a fate he’d rather avoid, homeless gay teen Lucky steps through a wizard’s door and is caught up in a whirlwind quest and an ancient war. He tries to convince himself that his involvement with sword fights, magic, and interworld travelMan on spiritual journey is a fluke, and that ice-breathing dragons and fire-breathing eagles don’t really exist. But with each passing hour, he remembers more about who he is and where he’s from, and with help, he begins to claim his power.

Lucky might someday rule a nation, but before he can do that, he must remember his true name, accept his destiny, and master his extraordinary abilities. Only then can he help to banish the evil that has invaded earth and find his way home—through a gateway to another world.

Lou Hoffmann, a mother and grandmother now, has carried on her love affair with books for more than half a century, and she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—partly because the list keeps growing as more and more fascinating tales are told in written form. She reads factual things—books about physics and stars and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. Through all that time she’s written stories of her own, but she’s come to be a published author only as a johnnie-come-lately. Lou loves other kinds of beauty as well, including music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, rivers and seas. Proud to be a bisexual woman, she’s seen the world change and change back and change more in dozens of ways, and she has great hope for the freedom to love in the world the youth of today will create in the future.

You can find Lou:

On Lucky’s fifteenth birthday, heading home after a long and trying day…

When he emerged from the trees and caught sight of the shack he called home, he stopped and stared while a chill prickled over his scalp like a tattoo needle made of ice.shack on edge

Something wasn’t right.

Could he have somehow come to the wrong place?

For the comfort the sound of his voice might offer, he spoke aloud again. “Don’t be stupid, Lucky. You know your way home by now.”

He’d been living there for nearly a year. After about that same length of time sleeping in alleys and doorways—only occasionally sleeping in a bed, which was even worse—he’d been raveled to within a hair’s breadth of wanting to give up. Even now he didn’t want to think of what that might have meant. But he’d been truly lucky, for once, and happened on this old shed while he was looking for a place to hide from truant officers who’d spotted him trying to panhandle. He’d slept better that night than he had in a long time, and the next morning he decided to make the place his own. He’d swept away bugs and spiders, pounded loose nails, and even mended split planks, and within a few weeks he’d patched it up. Ever since, he’d shared the ten-by-twelve space with Maizie and a family of finches in the eaves, and he’d come to think of it as the one secure place on Earth.

The shack might once have been in the center of a pasture or field, but the walls of Black Creek’s infamous gorge had since crumbled, and now the structure squatted at the cliff’s edge, at the end of the flats. Ordinarily, that precarious location didn’t trouble Lucky. But tonight… tonight a mist rose from the ravine and pearled silver in the moonlight, twisting and twining like ghost flesh. The strange, swarming fog cut the cabin’s hulk off from everything beyond, as if the place he counted on as refuge now hunkered at the edge of oblivion, the brink of the world.

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Filed under GLBT YA fiction, Lou Hoffmann, Upcoming release

Sci-fi/Fantasy: Anne Barwell talks about “What-ifs” and “whumping” (and shares a excerpt from *Slow Dreaming*!)

I’ve loved exploring ‘what ifs’ for as long as I remember. I blame my father, in a good way, for my fascination for science fiction, as he introduced it to me, being a fan of the genre himself. My own interest has since expanded to include fantasy, there being a fine line between the two, and often what I read, and write, has an interesting mix of both.

All fiction has an element of ‘what if’ to it, but science fiction and fantasy allows me, as a writer, to push the boundaries further, and to explore new worlds. One aspect I enjoy about doing this is discovering how my characters will react when thrown into a situation complicated by elements that are not the norm. It gives me an opportunity to explore this in ways I couldn’t if writing something set in another genre. I’m also a great fan of the ‘fish out of water’ scenario, and people finding themselves out of their depth, often needing to search within themselves for strength and abilities they didn’t know they possessed.

Besides, there’s more scope for hurt/comfort AKA whumping in these kinds of scenarios. My imagination is the limit, although I do sit down and work out the parameters of the world in which the science or magic operates. People and places need to be governed by rules, whether it be nature or something else, or there’s no challenge in the story. Where’s the fun of building up a cliffhanger if all the character has to do is snap their fingers and the threat is gone?

Obviously it’s not going to be as simple as that, but for every decision made, there’s a consequence. This theme is one which repeats often in both science fiction and fantasy. There are checks and balances in place, there has to be or everything would fall apart. In the same way if I give a character an ability, there has to be a limit to what he can do or there’s no ‘fun’ in it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and I prefer to write characters with flaws, who aren’t always sure of themselves, rather than someone for whom everything comes easily.

Throwing my ‘hero’ into a world which isn’t his own works well in keeping him just a little off balance. What if there are worlds out there where its inhabitants follow different rules than we do? Where the scientific advancements in our world did not happen, but instead, magic is a valuable commodity, and those who possess the abilities to wield different aspects of it are the ones in power.

There are two aspects to the genre I enjoy reading and writing in particular. The first is psi powers, or a variation on that theme. It not only ups the ante, but allows the characters to explore a part of themselves they might not otherwise. It also complicates a plot somewhat if the bad ‘guy’ finds out that if they hurt one character, his partner is going to feel that pain, literally. Or if someone is keeping a secret, and he falls for someone who is a touch telepath, but his perspective partner is someone who cannot learn the truth. Makes things more than a little complicated, doesn’t it?

As does a character who can move objects with the power of his mind, but hasn’t got the control over his powers he’d like, so he spends a lot of time trying to hide his ability rather use it because subtle really isn’t an option.

And then of course, there’s the shadowy organisation just out of sight, watching him, who has other ideas of what that ability could be used for.

But I digress with spoilers for upcoming stories…and yes I have written/am working on stories containing the elements I’ve just mentioned.

The other aspect I love exploring is that of time travel. Occasionally I like to combine the two. Time travel combines the fish out of water scenario, and the idea of checks and balances. History has already happened so it can’t be changed, right? All the research in the world cannot prepare someone for the reality of the up close and personal. It’s the little things that are going to trap a time traveller, the details that don’t always make the history books, like having no clue about common pop culture references. Or when a file with a faded photograph in the future becomes a real person in the past, someone the time traveller realises he has to save, no matter what, because that assignment is now all about the person he’s fallen in love with and who he wants to be his future.

The story possibilities and potential for exploring relationships within these scenarios are endless. People still fall in love and have to work together to triumph above adversity – with plenty of angst, romance, and whumping along the way – wherever or whenever they find themselves. These stories are still about people, and to me that’s what makes the decision as to whether I want to read or write: characters I care about and want to spend time with.

This way I get to meet new and old friends, and explore new and interesting worlds and ideas with them. After all, it’s not every day that a guy finds out that his partner is a dragon, is it?

To finish I’d like to share the blurb and an excerpt from Slow Dreaming a short novella which will be available from Dreamspinner Press from 1st June as part of their time travel theme daily doses ‘Time is Eternity’ and also as a separate release.
Anne Barwell Slow Dreaming Dreamspinner Press The Blurb: As an agent for the Tempus Institute, Jason Adams’s task is to observe the past, not change it. But when he’s sent to 21st-century Wellington, New Zealand, during the last week of aspiring songwriter Sean Henderson’s life, Jason finds he can’t just watch from a distance. He and Sean quickly become friends and then lovers, and when the song that’s haunted Jason for years connects them in a way he never anticipated, he’ll risk changing history for the chance of sharing a future with Sean.

Jason smiled, trying to put Sean at ease. “Thanks for the compliment, by the way. It’s been a while since anyone’s made the effort or shown any interest.” No one since Rex, but that was history in every sense of the word. They hadn’t spoken to each other since they’d broken up three years ago, and the last he’d heard Rex was on assignment in the mid-1940s. Very hush hush.

“I’m usually a little more subtle.” Sean sighed. “For all the good it does me.”

“I’m surprised.” Jason leaned over and placed a hand on Sean’s arm. It was warm, fine dark hairs smooth under his fingers. He thanked the powers that be that it was warmer today so that Sean’s shirtsleeves were rolled up above his elbows. “You’re a good-looking guy.” More than good-looking. Jason made a point of looking Sean up and down. “I’d even go as far as to say hot.”

“Really?” Jason could almost see the steam coming out of Sean’s ears at the idea. Sean shook his head in disbelief. “Me?” He shook his head again. “Hell no. Now you….” His voice trailed off. “Um, can we change the subject onto something else? Are you from around here? I hadn’t seen you before the other day.”

“I’m from… overseas.” Jason nodded, running through what was left of his cover story in his mind. “I’m a journalist, travel, mostly. This looked like an interesting place, so I thought I’d look around for a few days, take notes, that kind of thing.”

“Where overseas?” Sean settled back into his chair, relaxing as the conversation moved onto a safer topic. “I’ve been to Aussie once, but apart from that I haven’t been out of New Zealand. It’s on my list of things I’d like to do one day.” He laughed, but there was a self-deprecating air to it. “Perhaps once I’m rich and famous. Can’t see it happening otherwise.”

Jason thought quickly, latching onto the first country that came to mind. “Canada.” He hoped Sean wouldn’t ask for anything more specific than that. Giving the truth wasn’t an option. He couldn’t very well explain that although he was a local, the Wellington he was used to was very different from how it was now. It was better this way; there was less chance of slipping up and referring to something that didn’t exist yet.

“It’s on the list.” Sean sipped his coffee, thoughtful. “I’m a mainlander myself. Christchurch. My parents are still down there, don’t want to leave. They reckon they’ve spent their whole life there, and it’s going to take more than a few earthquakes to make that change.” He shrugged. “They’re one of the lucky ones. Their house is still relatively intact.”

“Have you been to see them recently?” Jason hoped Sean had. Closure was important. He’d seen too many families who’d missed out on that. They couldn’t be there at the end, but at least having had some contact beforehand had helped.

“Yeah. I went down as soon as I could after the first big one and spent some time.” Sean wrapped his fingers around his cup, long fingers, slender. “I offered to move back, but they wouldn’t have anything of it. My life is here now, has been for a few years. I’ve got my music, and I work in the cafe part time. Never going to be rich, but it works for me.”

“You’re a musician?” A familiar not-quite tune whispered to him. He ignored it.

“Yeah, although more of a songwriter than a performer.” Sean shrugged. “I doubt you’ve heard of me, although a couple of local bands are willing to play my stuff. I play keyboards for them on the occasional gig, too, when the usual guy is off sick or whatever.” He glanced toward his pile of papers, his mouth twisting into a half grimace, half-shy smile. “I’m working on a new one but having trouble getting it quite right. That happens sometimes, then when it’s the right time, it all falls into place. It drives me crazy until it does, though. I swear I eat, drink, and sleep the thing.”

“I’d love to hear what you’ve got so far.” Jason could have kicked himself for not taking the time to listen to the sound files attached to Sean’s dossier. However, it was Sean’s role at the cafe that was the focus of the assignment, not his music.

“That settles it.” Sean grinned. “I knew you were crazy with all your talk of hotness. Now you want to hear music composed by a guy you’ve only just met.” He schooled his face into a solemn expression. “I think that’s about the fourth sign of madness isn’t it? After all, for all you know my music could be really bad. How do you know you won’t lose your hearing and good taste for the rest of eternity?”

“And here I was thinking the fourth sign was being a true believer of the sanctity and healing properties of coffee,” Jason deadpanned.

Contact Anne Barwell:

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Temptation of the Incubus (a PG excerpt about a sexy devil)

After I dressed, I hovered in the now deserted hallway, trying to act casual, not needy. This early in the new semester students rarely stayed late; there was no need to abuse their free time. Twenty-five tense minutes passed by in relentless boredom. Somewhere in the offices a clock chimed 6:00PM. Hmm, did the handsome handyman stand me up? Did he gain mental revenge against someone else by using me?

No. I refused to accept the damaged notion. Someone else might display such pettiness but not Mads. My senses told me the truth. I patiently leaned against a wall. I fidgeted. I nodded greetings at two professors who glanced at me in question but merely nodded in return. Rita bustled past and halted. “Amando? Is something wrong?”

“I’m waiting for someone who is running late.”

She winked. “I hope you’re going to enjoy the beautiful evening.”

“If he doesn’t arrive soon we’ll enjoy full night.” I pouted in high style.

“Naughty boy. See you next week.”

What a cheerful soul. Three kids and a lawyer husband, eh? I wished Rita well.

Silence. 6:30 chimed at me.

Quickly moving footsteps approached me. Mads rounded the far corner and walked toward me, he now dressed in a snug aquamarine T-shirt which truly matched his eyes and well-worn tight jeans that left little to my happy imagination. I sighed in relief. It took considerable will not to drop and worship his thigh muscles.

His capable hands fluttered toward his shoulders in quick apology. “Amando, sorry for arriving late; the kiln turned into quite a stubborn old cranker. At least I managed to cram in lunch.” He cocked his head in query. “Do we stroll right to your place? No wooing each other over fancy drinks and dinner in some clever little café I can’t afford? I admit since I ate late I’m not hungry.”

More subtle sarcasm. Instead of reacting to his arch words I shrugged, smiled and artfully shook my hair. “There’s no need for such nonsense. If you wish, woo me as we walk.”

Mads’s piercing sea-soaked gaze drilled into me. He slowly shook his head and smiled in true confusion. “What is it about you, Mr. Amando Renato? I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone like you before and that confuses me. Hey, since we’re alone, may I kiss you right now? I always like to check if a beautiful guy appreciates the fine art of kissing. I am damned fond of the act.”

Kissing thrilled me. During the past centuries I leaned numerous special lip tricks designed to conquer a man. I smiled and pursed my lips. “Come here, big boy, and pucker up.” As he leaned close, Mads pressed his lips to mine. I opened in slight need, opened to capture his true spirit. Curiosity washed over me. Mint and maturity spiced his tongue. Sweet of him to eat a breath mint before we met. My lips parted further, there, glorious. My sparked allure refused to stand down, the force wiggling up like a curious puppy. No. Careful, don’t…

My body convulsed in abject confusion.

Angels on High! I jerked back and slammed into the beige wall. Alarmed gasps ripped from my lips. My watery knees barely held me upright. A startled Mads stepped back, sucked in his breath and dazedly shook his head in slow disbelief. His silky hair haloed in slow-motion.

Fear rattled through my flesh.

I gave.

I GAVE my life energy to a human without even trying.

Why? Heaven Above, why? Who authorized that unhappy event? What the fuck happened to me here?

A chorus of startled male gasps flooded the moment. Mads blinked at me in further confusion until words stammered free. “A-A-Amando, wow… did you experience that weird zap? I-I felt like something… wow. Did we step on a faulty wire? No, that’s completely impossible. There’s nothing on the floor that would cause such a stupid short. But… shit… I don’t understand what happened to us.” Of course thinking he consumed my life force floated beyond Mads’s comprehension; hey, anyone order a slice of my life force with a side of fries?
Seconds roared past. Poor practical Mads anxiously peered down at the floor as if seeking a dangerous, spark-spitting wire waiting to strike at us again. His thick blonde hair almost swayed in fresh vitality.

My shaking fingers drifted and touched my slack lips. Nothing abnormal happened. Crazy shock invaded every last cell. I gave my life force to Mads!

Why? How? Click tape loop: why, how, why, how…

Mads looked up from frantically examining the floor and shrugged in fresh confusion. He stared at me. His high forehead displayed worried webbing. “I don’t know what… my God, Amando, are you sick? Do you need to sit down? You look real shaky and pale.” His hands reached toward me.

No. I defensively held up my hands. My back pressed against the wall. Touching me was not a wise option, no, not until I learned what the fuck mondo weirdness happened to me. An instinctive lie tripped free. “Mads, I am fine, it’s…you also suffered that strange, erm… surge.”

Mads smiled in sincere wonderment. “I sure as hell experienced the surge. Damn, I kissed you and I swear a little zap entered me. Kissing your lips makes me tingly inside. I gotta say if that’s what kissing you feels like, let’s run to your place right now and resume the fun.”

My normal kissing style did not involve passing out life force in gay mad abandon. Glad Mads enjoyed the unique sensation. I enjoyed our sincere kiss until I released life to this unknown human without logical reason. What in Belail’s Flaming Chariot happened to me? Why? As my frantic thoughts tripped over each other, I offered Mads a tight smile. My right hand stiffly gestured toward the empty hall. “We can walk there now. It’s not far, over at A and 11th.”

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More from Andrea Speed: *Infected*

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

But when your heart is gone, it’s easy to fall into a black hole and never crawl out. Roan has been lost and alone for more than a year, and his best friends think a new case might be just the motivation he needs. Roan forces himself back into the game and discovers a dead man who might not be all that dead, a street hustler that wants to hustle him, and a dominatrix who is well prepared to take Roan’s orders. As Roan claws his way out of the darkness by diving back into his work, he finds himself in a race against time in the adrenaline-pumping realization that nothing helps a person want to live like helping someone else survive.
*

The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.

Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.
*

The newly married Roan is struggling to balance his work with his home life as he grows increasingly distracted by his husband Paris’s declining health. One case with strong emotions attached takes up most of his time: finding the murderer of a missing little rich girl. It’s a family with secrets so toxic they’d rather no one investigate, and there’s no shortage of suspects. But despite the dangers and obstructions involved, Roan won’t stop… until he loses something infinitely precious as well.

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, just a category, M/M romance

Excerpt: Hot Cargo (Rated R+, Adult)

“Report to the zero-g chamber in ninety minutes,” Peter ordered, walking away without a backward glance. He knew Blaise wouldn’t dare disobey him. The ex-smuggler might push his limits every chance he got, but the Admiral knew they both enjoyed the consequences of those actions. In the meantime, he’d ensure he learned everything Petrov had to disclose about the most recent attack.

“Yes, sir,” Blaise replied to Keller’s retreating back. He finished changing out the last light bulb quickly and returned his cart of supplies to the maintenance closet. Deciding he had enough time for a shower, Blaise returned to his quarters and turned the ’fresher on high, letting the hot water wash away the grease and grime of the day. Relaxed afterward, body humming in anticipation, he grabbed a quick bite to eat before reporting as ordered to the zero-g training room, figuring he might not be free again for quite some time.

It hadn’t taken Peter as long as he’d thought to grill Petrov. Unfortunately, the Pleides’s captain didn’t have as much information as he’d hoped, the attackers once again leaving frustratingly little evidence in the wake of their destruction. He’d pumped Arkady for everything he could remember, but other than the now-familiar energy signature, there’d been nothing but smoking ruins left behind. Peter had cursed as he looked over the vid-scans after Petrov left. The small mining facility hadn’t had much of value to attract pirates, and it didn’t appear the attackers had made any attempt to claim any of the ore from the storage silos before blasting them – and the planetoid’s dozen miners – into ions. Scowling at the images of senseless devastation, he keyed off the display and stalked toward the zero-g chamber, determined to work off some of his aggression.

He was finishing up his preparations when the door swished open and Blaise entered, his attitude as unconsciously arrogant as ever. The Admiral was sure that Blaise’s rebellious attitude was one reason he had yet to tire of the younger man as he had all his earlier subs – that, and the fact that the smuggler made him hotter than the surface of a supernova. As soon as the door closed behind Blaise’s tight ass, Keller tapped the controls to lock the door and kill the chamber’s gravity. “Show me how well you can maneuver in freefall,” Peter ordered. “Strip.”

Blaise was no rank beginner. He had worked more ships than probably most of the sailors under the Admiral’s command, and many of them had been little more than junkyard scrap. He’d had plenty of experience with freefall, mostly when the gravity generators failed. With confident ease, he moved slowly to keep himself from spinning out of control, unbuttoning the fastenings on his ship suit and sliding it off his shoulders and down over his hips.

Peter watched the smuggler appreciatively as Blaise gracefully wriggled his way out of his work uniform, revealing his bare skin and the fact that his cock didn’t require gravity to get hard. “Very good,” he acknowledged, completely comfortable after decades of zero-g experience. “But in your former line of work, you were alone on your ship most of the time. What would you do if you had a shipmate who needed your … assistance?”

“Do you need my assistance, Admiral?” Blaise asked teasingly, though he was also following protocol. He would never approach a shipmate in zero-g conditions without alerting the other person to his intentions.

“One of these days, Blaise, that mouth of yours is going to get you into real trouble,” Peter warned. “Let’s see if you can make it over here without knocking me into orbit, for a start.”

Blaise pushed off gently, floating smoothly across the room, aiming for a spot a little to Keller’s left. “Would you have preferred I come sailing over here with no warning whatsoever?” he countered as he caught himself smoothly on the railing next to the Admiral’s elbow. “I would have thought that against shipboard procedure. It certainly was against mine.”

“You had shipboard procedures?” Peter scoffed in disbelief. “Hard to believe, since you’re so obviously ignorant of proper discipline.” Using just enough motion to slam into Blaise forcefully, he spun the younger man around and pressed his chest firmly against the chamber wall. “You know what kind of assistance I’m looking for, Blaise,” he hissed, holding the pirate’s hip with one hand and rubbing the evidence of his arousal against the taut cheeks. His other hand caught Blaise’s thick hair, pulling the younger man’s head back into his kiss.

Blaise returned the kiss eagerly, far beyond caring that the Admiral knew of his willingness and desire. They had finished with those games for the most part after his birthday, the effects of the wine having broken down barriers they’d chosen not to restore. Instead, he reached behind him and used his grip on the commander’s hips to give him enough leverage to push back into the cock that pressed against him so invitingly. “I’m always happy to serve, Admiral,” he replied when his lips were released.

“You seemed eager enough to serve Petrov earlier, too, so that’s not saying much,” Peter retorted. He slid his lips down the strong curve of Blaise’s neck, biting down hard when he reached the junction of his shoulder, marking the skin with his teeth. The bruise wouldn’t show beneath Blaise’s work suit, but it would remind him of who he belonged to, for a day or so at least.

“A change is as good as a rest,” Blaise quipped, though he would never have submitted to the captain the way he submitted to the Admiral. Only Keller could elicit this response from him. The older man didn’t need to know that, though. Blaise knew the Admiral enjoyed his rebellion as much as the smuggler enjoyed the consequences.

At Blaise’s flippant answer, the Admiral felt a surge of jealousy that surprised him with its intensity. Wrenching the grinning smuggler around by his hair, he towed him across the room to the opposite wall, where he’d secured a pair of leather straps. Removing one, he ran it over his palm, nodding to the other. “Grab that and hold on,” he ordered the pirate. “And don’t let go. If I have to restrain you, it will only make things worse for you.”

Blaise obeyed the Admiral’s orders immediately. His innate sense of self-preservation told him he’d pushed the commander as far as he safely could. Now, it was just a matter of holding on for the ride. A thrill shot through him as he imagined all the possibilities presented by their current situation.

Peter hooked a foot under the rail that circled the training room walls, knowing he’d need some way to brace himself. Otherwise, the first time he brought the strap down against Blaise’s ass – like that! – would send him spinning across the room in reaction.

Even in zero-g, the strap moved with enough force to smart when it hit Blaise’s skin. His hips jerked forward, a motion that would have sent him spinning helplessly through the room if not for his grip on the leather cuffs. As it was, his body twisted around, leaving his vulnerable belly facing the Admiral.

Reaching out to the younger man, Peter spun Blaise back around to face the wall again. He wanted to teach his brash lover a lesson, not leave him incapacitated. Holding Blaise’s shoulder secure with his free hand, Peter brought the strap down a second time, raising a bright red welt on the honeyed skin.

“Ah, shit!” The second blow was enough to pull the muttered curse from Blaise’s lips. Rarely did their games cross over the line to true pain. The energy whip the first night he’d been on board was just about it. His usual punishments involved being denied release. While relatively minor compared to what he’d endured while aboard the Gavenelian ships, it was still enough to leave him tense against the next blow, and none to happy about the situation either.

Peter hardened himself against Blaise’s exclamation of pain. Six blows in all, he told himself. That should be enough to get the cocky bastard’s attention. “Maybe you won’t be quite so eager for a change after this,” he growled, laying a series of quick blows across the spacer’s backside.

Blaise bit his lip to stifle his cries as four more blows fell. He was panting by the time it was done, his body tense and braced for more. His relief when the Admiral released the strap and let it float away was palpable. Still trembling, he tried to steady his breathing, using meditation techniques he had perfected during his imprisonment to push aside the adrenaline coursing through him.

Peter dropped the strap and positioned himself behind his shaking partner. He ground his cloth-covered erection against Blaise’s reddened ass, letting the younger man feel his unabated arousal. “Now, I believe you were going to show me how eager you were to serve me,” he husked against the pirate’s ear. Letting go of Blaise’s hips, he pushed off gently, letting himself float freely.

Blaise took a deep breath and started to release the strap he held when he remembered the earlier order. “I can’t do much if you’re over there and I’m over here,” he said softly. He’d had his fill of punishment for the day.

Impressed that Blaise had remembered his order not to let go of the strap, Peter grinned. “Very good,” he acknowledged. “But I think you’re going to need both hands now. Get over here and take care of what you started.”

Blaise released the leather he was holding and pushed himself in Keller’s direction, letting their bodies bump and the momentum push them toward the far wall. Catching the railing with one hand, he used the other to keep the Admiral from crashing into the wall. As quickly as he dared in the zero-g conditions, he undid the uniform and bared the commander’s body to his gaze. Nudging the Admiral upward, he steadied them both when the thick arousal was at the height of his mouth. Lowering his head, he inhaled the swollen shaft, swallowing around the mushroomed head.

Peter didn’t bother to hold back his moan of pleasure as Blaise’s talented mouth closed around his cock. Holding the dark head in place with one hand, he pried Blaise’s hand away from the railing with the other, letting their bodies drift weightlessly.

Unattached now as they were to anything grounded, Blaise had no choice but to use his grip on the Admiral to provide the leverage he needed to bob his head up and down over the hard cock. One thing, though, didn’t require gravity to be effective. Grinning as best he could around his mouthful, he hummed in his throat, letting the vibrations tease Keller’s erection.

Blaise’s oral prowess never failed to arouse Peter’s admiration – among other things – and at first the Admiral simply enjoyed the delicious suction on his rigid shaft. He watched as a string of saliva escaped the privateer’s lips, breaking into tiny glittering globules that floated past Peter’s face. As he felt his control beginning to slip, he grasped Blaise’s bicep around the stylized horse tattoo, flipping gracefully end-over-end until he faced the younger man’s well-striped ass. Unable to lay hands on the mysterious attackers, he’d taken out his anger and frustration on his smuggler. He owed him something in recompense.

Blaise had let Keller’s cock slip from his mouth in surprise at the maneuver, and the Admiral grasped the spacer’s lean hips and twisted him around, thrusting the neglected organ back in his face. “Didn’t tell you to stop,” he ordered, lowering his head to lap at the droplets of fluid beginning to escaping from Blaise’s swollen erection.

The howl that tore from Blaise’s throat at the feeling of the Admiral’s tongue on his cock was muffled by the shaft in his mouth, but nothing short of the void of space could silence it, not when he was feeling Keller’s mouth on him for the first time.

Blaise’s uninhibited reaction made the Admiral wonder why he hadn’t given in to this particular temptation before. True, he’d never been tempted to taste another prisoner’s cock before Blaise’s, but the salty taste and silky texture of the pirate’s thick shaft felt damn good in his mouth. Not as good as his cock would feel buried in Blaise’s ass, though. With that thought in mind, Peter slid two fingers into his mouth alongside the slick column, coating them thoroughly with saliva and Blaise’s pre-come.

Blaise tried to focus his attention on his ministrations to the Admiral, not wanting to be rebuked for neglecting his duties, but he could feel Keller’s fingers sliding alongside his shaft in the other man’s mouth. He knew where those fingers were going, and the thought alone had him trembling with desire.

Peter tightened his thighs around Blaise’s shaggy head, forcing himself into the smuggler’s mouth until his balls pressed against the man’s sensuous lips. Keeping a firm grip on one hip, he pushed his wet fingers into Blaise’s hole with more urgency than care. He’d make sure the younger man was stretched enough to receive him, but he needed to be inside him the way he needed oxygen to breathe in the void of space.

Blaise’s back arched under the rough penetration, not to fight it, but to draw Keller’s fingers deeper. The sharp movement sent them spinning gently through the room, but he paid no attention to that. His mind was on the thick flesh in his mouth and the callused fingers stretching his ass. Everything else had lost all meaning for him.

Feeling Blaise arch and clench around him, the Admiral worked his fingers deeper, spreading them until he could feel the tight muscle start to relax. When their entwined bodies bumped gently against the chamber wall, he groped for the rail to steady them. Reluctantly abandoning his efforts to work his cock down Blaise’s throat, he pulled the dark-haired captive up to face him. Taken by a sudden impulse, he pulled the younger man’s mouth to his, savoring the taste of his own essence on Blaise’s tongue.

Blaise offered his mouth as willingly as he offered his body, though they still kept to the pretense that the Admiral was forcing his submission. He wondered fleetingly if they would ever move beyond these games, but there was no time for such considerations now. All that mattered was that Keller was fucking his mouth with his tongue like Blaise hoped he would soon be fucking his ass with his cock. He sucked hard on the invading muscle, welcoming it eagerly.

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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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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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