My first interview on Ariella’s Escape was done by a plumber? I had so much fun as poet and blogger Mike Steeden hosted me on his blog. Click the link to check it out:
Ariella, a noble warrior maiden is given a slave for her pleasure. She wonders whether she has any need for a slave… until she is betrayed and surrounded by foes in a strange land. She can escape the royal palace, but she can’t run away from her feelings for her mysterious companion.
An excerpt from Chapter 1
Ariella had to admit, being an ambassador had its benefits. When she was shown into the chamber where she would be staying for the next three days, she had expected nothing but a restless night of practicing her arguments, only to find a gorgeous man lounging in her bed. She had heard rumours that the Chaldeans extended this sort of hospitality to their guests, and now here was definite proof of it, exemplified in the handsomest face she had ever seen – the body was draped with a light silken bedspreads so not much of it was visible, but she could make out a broad set of shoulders. Blue eyes set beneath exquisite black brows examined her with curiosity. But then, evidently remembering his duty, the slave lowered his eyes in a gesture of humility.
“Greetings, Baroness of Leduryon” he pronounced, “I am here to entertain you this evening.”
He spoke softly, and it was obvious he was someone who knew how to use his voice to persuade or seduce.
Ariella stood warily not far from the door while he reclined very much at ease in this chamber, surrounded by silken coverlets and pillows, on a bed raised on a platform and framed by two white marble columns. The slave threw the covers off, revealing a beautiful muscular body clothed only in something that looked like a silver loincloth. Ariella tried not to laugh at this attire but still a smile twitched at the corners of her lips.
She came forward, past the two columns and closer to the bed.
“Entertain me in what way?” she asked.
The man laughed, a remarkably free and unbridled sound that seemed surprising from a slave, if he was one.
“I’m sure being an ambassador is not easy,” he said by way of an answer. “I would like to help you relax and feel at home.”
“If there were handsome lads like you at home, I would have never left,” she blurted out. This provoked another burst of his charming laugh.
She had to be careful, but something about him made her flirtatious.
“I can see why they made you a diplomat,” he remarked.
Ariella sighed. She had never thought of herself as a diplomat, but Queen Esclairmonde was not to be refused, at least not if one didn’t wish to see one’s head on a pike. And the queen had decided that this mission required both subtlety and patience, combined with the visual display of a big sword.
At least when it came to the sword, Ariella knew she was perfect for the job.
Earlier that day, she had walked into the palace with her two-handed sword hung crosswise on her back and ten male guards walking in two perfect columns behind her. The courtiers seated on the marble steps all around the hall gaped, probably at her lack of grace. She knew she could compete with any rider and look the most poised on horseback, but walking, she felt too rough and ungainly for this sophisticated court.
The kingdom of Dezearre had long since kept the barbarians from overrunning the Northern Coast, and Ariella herself had taken part in a few skirmishes to repel them. However, to the Chaldeans, she may as well have been a barbarian herself.
The nobles strove to outshine each other with shimmering silks. Even the slaves who waited to attend upon their needs wore shiny garments in shades of gold and silver while Ariella sported a simple forest green tunic made of grey-eared rabbit wool, a light and comfortable fabric, cinched with a leather belt over brown hose. Although the tunic was not nearly as low-cut as the Chaldean ladies’ dresses, she felt she could not be accused of appearing prudish because it was quite tight-fitting.
She noted the looks of many curious courtiers upon her, some examining her furtively from head to toe, but the only gaze that truly disturbed her was that of a young man who stepped forward to greet her in the throne room when she first arrived.
“Greetings, envoy of Queen Esclaimonde,” he said aloud. “I am Prince Theodos, and it is my pleasure to welcome you.”
When he approached even closer, so close that his honey-scented breath wafted in her face, he said softly, so only she could hear, “You come here armed for warfare, trying to show Dezearre’s strength. The ambitious young mountain wolf tests the leader’s mettle by nipping at him. Well, you shall soon see, this old wolf is far from weak… Our empire was great once, and it shall be once again.”
For a brief moment, she was lost for words. The prince, perhaps about the same age as her if she judged correctly, older than twenty but not yet thirty, with his beautiful ringlets of blonde hair had looked so sweet and innocent that this jab left her stunned.
“It is an honor to meet you, Your Highness,” Ariella replied out loud, speaking to everyone assembled. “In Dezearre, every man, woman, and child knows how to use at least one weapon should the Koroi threaten our lands again. My sword is with me everywhere I go, and it is not meant to show enmity.”
That should teach him, and also remind everyone here that Dezearre had held its ground for many years without the empire’s help. Not the most fortuitous beginning, but this was just the prince, she reminded herself. She would only have dealings with King Acheron.
The negotiations had not yet begun, would not until the next day, but Ariella was ready to assess her adversary. The king himself had no threatening words for her, thank the gods, and he smiled warmly when she approached and waved for her to stand when she touched down on one knee before the throne.
“Please forgive the ladies for staring,” he said “Due to the nature of women’s power here, which is concentrated on owning land rather than performing feats of arms, you appear exotic to them.”
“I have heard women’s power here is more subtle, but no less influential for it,” Ariella replied.
“I’m afraid you’re right,” the king said, “for I do not recall one instance of making a decision on my own when my late wife was alive.”
Ariella couldn’t help but smile at his easy humour. King Acheron displayed none of the enmity that his son had shown. He spoke to her with the deepest respect, asked about her family and her estate, and according to the age-old custom, did not even remotely approach the subject of the coming negotiations. Maybe it was all an act, designed to lower her guard. The royal dinner that followed certainly did as much. The food was splendid, and Ariella barely restrained herself from gorging on the delicious pickor meat and quaffing the wines and cordials, knowing full well that tomorrow she would need all her mental faculties intact.
Wine was her weakness, and though she managed to control herself, even the one large goblet she drank was such heady stuff that its warmth snaked swiftly through her limbs, dangerous and sweet.
Now, seeing this handsome slave in her chamber she could not help but be wary. Was he sent here to learn her secretes, perhaps even to harm her? Poison had been used before as the means to eliminate several members of the royal family in Chaldea.
The young man seemed to have read her expression correctly. He sprung from the bed and made a deep and reverent bow.
“Fear not,” he declared, “For you are safe with me. My name is Demetrius, and I would never harm a lady I take to bed.”
Now it was her turn to laugh. The combination of that loincloth with his lofty declaration was too much.
“You assume that is what will happen,” she said coyly.
“If my lady wishes.”
“And what do you wish?” she asked.
“I wish to please you,” he replied, and his suggestive gaze seemed to confirm this desire.
Ariella walked past him and sat down on the bed, more out of weariness than anything else. The remarkably soft mattress invited her to sink into its embrace, but she was still somewhat guarded.
The slave Demetrius turned to her, a crooked smile on his lips. He was still studying her, probably trying to discern her mood.
“Do my looks not please you?” he asked, approaching the bed.
“On the contrary,” Ariella admitted.
She wondered who had the honour of selecting the slave and how in the world beneath Epheor they had known he was just her type. He was a head taller than her, strongly built but not brutish looking. There was elegance in his muscular torso and his powerful arms. His face too had just enough masculine ruggedness balanced with a subtle refinement of features that made it heart-stoppingly beautiful.
It was strangely reassuring to know that he was not Chaldean, judging from his sun-bronzed skin, fine eyebrows and long brown hair, a shade so dark it was nearly black. And his eyes… like two pieces of a summer sky. She had always been a fool for a blue-eyed man. Judging by his elegant speech, very likely, he came from a noble lineage but was held here as a hostage to ensure peace with another kingdom.
“Then what is it, my lady?”
He sat down beside her on the bed, the scent of some innocent field flower with something more heady and musk-like tempting her to get closer to his bronzed body. She tried to discern his age… late twenties perhaps. His forehead was unlined, but there was something about him that made him appear older, a world-weariness perhaps behind his charming and carefree disposition.
There had been one or two times when she had bedded a man after less conversation than this, but this was strange territory with too many possible complications, and she could not afford to indulge herself on a whim. There was also his status to consider. As a slave, he was obviously not free in his choices, and she could sympathise with that. Ariella knew she would loathe being ordered to “entertain” guests in this manner were she in his place.
“Do my looks please you?” she asked tentatively.
“Yes,” he replied, a slight hoarseness in his voice.
His eyes scorched her, and she had to look away.
“It’s just that… I do not wish you to do this merely out of a sense of duty…” she said softly, “that is… if you did not want to…”
“My lady, I want to,” he said. The certainty of his voice set a sudden flurry of fairy wings deep in her belly.
“I am flattered,” she murmured. “But tell me, where are you from?”
He made himself more comfortable, half-facing her as they sat side by side on the bed.
“I’m the son of a poor baron of Sylcadia,” he said with a careless shrug.
“How did you come to be here?”
“I was captured in battle… I was but fifteen at the time. An enemy lance unhorsed me, and by the time I managed to stand up in my considerable armor, I was surrounded on all sides by Chaldean blades placed at every single vital part of me. And I truly mean every single part. I thought it wise to surrender.”
He smiled, and Ariella found herself smiling back. She could not help but like a man who viewed his own misfortunes with humor.
“And you have been here all this time, serving in the palace?” she inquired.
“Yes. Now, don’t move.”
He kneeled on the bed behind her. His hand reached for her shoulder, and she did not move away.
Why was she obeying him? She was a baroness of her own estate and obeyed no one. But his touch was so beguiling in its warmth, and she didn’t want to move away from it, and now both his hands began to gently massage her upper back, her shoulders and neck. It felt divine. Taut and tangled muscles were quickly unwound and relaxed. She breathed deeper.
“Yes, thirteen years,” the slave said, “But as you can see, I live in luxury. None of my duties are much more strenuous than this,” he continued, caressing her arms with long strokes that revived her tired muscles. “And besides, being a stranger here, I am free of any truly demanding obligations such as those of kin and country.”
That is very strange indeed, she thought, sooner to serve in a strange land than in your own… But she did not comment, for another thought suddenly struck her, that this was his way of coping with his enslavement, imagining that an even worse fate awaited him in his homeland. Perhaps, in a way he was right, for the duties of family were sometimes more binding than slavery.
Without another word, he reached underneath her knees and slid her fully onto the bed, lounging easily beside her. Again, she didn’t object, didn’t really have time to object, and his touch was so magnetic, this was even harder than denying herself the free-flowing royal wines. The pile of pillows at the head of the bed was so high that Ariella and her companion half-sat, reclining on the soft mound of silk.
“You must miss your home, I imagine,” Demetrius said.
“Not at this exact moment,” she admitted, darting a quick look at him. There was still so much fire in his expression, so she turned her gaze the shiny swirling pattern of the bedcover. “But you know, I’ve been missing Jaquelle, my nursemaid. She’s like a mother to me. And my hounds… they are such funny creatures.”
“Funny? Not ferocious?” he queried.
“I rarely take them hunting,” she admitted, adjusting her position among the pillows, “My late mother and father did, may the stars light them to their rest. The dogs are like companions and friends… especially Ric, the swifthound. He will steal food right off the table when he thinks I’m not paying attention and then looks very pleased with himself, his snout splattered with springberry sauce. Jaquelle thinks I spoil the dogs.”
But Ariella had needed the laughter, the companionship of the dogs after the deaths of her parents. People talked too much and gave little comfort, while animals seemed to be able to bring comfort without saying anything.
“I am sorry to hear about your parents,” he said softly.
“It was hard at first, but I am used to it,” she smiled, reliving an old memory of when her parents were still alive, “My parents had tried to take me hunting, but my heart was never in it. It just doesn’t seem sporting.”
“I’ve always thought so too,” he said, looking at her now with something more than just lustful interest, “I used to like simply riding through the forest in silence. My family thought I was mad…”
Ariella chuckled. She could not believe she was talking to him so easily, and yet she felt he was worth confiding in, that he was truly listening.
“Now tell me the truth, Demetrius,” she asked, a smile playing at the edges of her lips, “Did the king send you here to find out my secrets?”
“The truth…” he lay back, cradling his head in his hands, a pose that the huge muscles of his chest stand out even more. “The truth is, this is a gesture of hospitality. But yes, he did want me to report anything you might say in regards to the negotiations. However, I don’t believe that he was interested in any information regarding your swifthounds, so that secret is safe with me.”
Ariella burst out laughing. She wanted to playfully slap his shoulder, but she was afraid of where it may lead.
“I knew it!” she exclaimed, “But does he really expect me to spill the muckpitts to you, especially when you’ve just told me of his plan?”
“I admit, I find it rather far-fetched myself,” he replied, “but then again, when I’m embracing you in the heat of passion…” he scooped an arm under her and rolled her over to face him, “who knows what political secrets you might reveal.”
When he had first seized her in mock abandon, she laughed, but then feeling the embrace of his strong arms around her, seeing his face just inches from her own, she suddenly froze, not wanting him to let go.
“It’s doubtful I will reveal anything,” she said slowly, “but we won’t know until we try, will we?”
They lay there facing each other, and he still did not let go. This seemed so wrong, Ariella thought. She knew she was in danger here, and that this man could very well be posing as a friend to gain her trust, though she knew not for what purpose. The ease with which he confessed to being sent to her bedchamber as a spy was suspicious, or on the other hand it could mean that he was no spy at all, that he was only teasing her.
She couldn’t read much in the clear blue fount of his eyes, more liquid than fire now, except a strong yearning for closeness.
His lips were slightly open, just inches away from hers. She realized she was now beyond any reasoning. She leaned into him, inhaling that ravishingly innocent smell, and her lips just lightly touched his.
Ariella suddenly wondered if she had had too much to drink after all, for in that moment when their lips had barely touched, she felt as if his lips were the most sensuous, delicious lips she had ever kissed.
As if disbelieving her own senses, she pulled back for a moment – though a moment long enough to see he looked as overwhelmed as she was – and then her lips encountered his once more, with a more determined pressure… Ariella was completely lost in the kiss, which sent the whole room spinning and the blood rushing through her body in a furious tempest.
His hands, which had been so calming just moments before, now aroused her as they roved over her back, her buttocks, her thighs. Those hands made her feel beautiful, flowing over all her curves and hollows, setting aflame everything they touched.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this excerpt as much as I did writing it.
Ariella’s Escape is available on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Amazon Australia, Nook, Kobo, iTunes
In a glittering underwater world, where danger lurks behind beauty and power…
For the past twelve months since her parents’ death, seventeen-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.
Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young king named Marko.
Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people have secrets too, dangerous secrets…
If you’re looking for a fun, fluffy fantasy read, Captivate is perfect. The writing didn’t have any annoying tics, which was wonderful as the writer simply focused on telling the story. It had everything I like about YA books, being a romantic, fast-paced, plot-driven tale, not delving too deeply into characters, but that’s fine by me as I was looking for a light read.
It begins with Miranda getting kidnapped while swimming in the ocean. She’s just an average teen, except for her tragic past where both her parents died in a car accident for which she blames herself. There’s also her rivalry with her older sister Lauren who is considered “the good-looking one” while Miranda is curvy and not as pretty.
Well, it seems her looks are not that important anymore as Miranda finds herself in a world where she is the queen bee. The underwater civilization of Marin is desperate for a young woman to marry their king and produce some royal heirs.
At first I thought Marin would be a world of magical mermaids or some kind of undersea people, but they’re actually just people who had discovered a place to live under water. It was a bit disappointing at first that this world wasn’t magical, but in the end I liked the concept because it was brought to life in such detail.
The coolest thing about Marin is they wear daggers in their boots. It sounds a bit uncomfortable, but I’m sure it would look cool.
Maybe because of lack of real sunlight, the women of Marin have become barren, and that’s where Miranda comes in. She’s supposed to make a royal baby, otherwise Marko’s evil brother could legally claim the throne.
Of course, Miranda is completely disgusted with the idea of being used as basically a royal womb, but she befriends Robbie, the guy who had kidnapped her. Gradually, she becomes more and more attracted to Marko, and then Robbie begins to feel like the third wheel.
At this point I was confused, because there was so much attraction between her and Robbie at first that I seriously thought Robbie was the hero. Usually, you can spot the hero a mile away, but both Marco and Robbie are very handsome and heroic, which makes for a more unpredictable than usual love triangle.
With his history of family abuse and his sad piano solos, Marko reminded me of Christian from Fifty Shades of Grey. What is it about bad-tempered dudes?
I liked him, though I was still put off by the fact that he nearly went through with the plan of kidnapping a random girl and forcing her to marry him so she could father his babies. I mean that registers pretty high on the creepiness scale.
After a while Miranda comes to agree that “it was their only option,” but seriously? They couldn’t have at least tried to first talk to some women and see if they possibly wanted to visit an underwater world? Maybe some mail order brides could have been sent for? Of course, that would have been a totally different book, but still, I’m not letting them off the hook (haha) that easily. That scheme was definitely fishy. Okay I’ll stop now. 🙂
The person behind this plan is actually Sylvia, Marco’s sister. She makes for an interesting vilainess because we are still not totally sure what her motives are in this first book in the series. Sylvia is Damir’s twin, and Miranda strongly suspects that Sylvia is secretly trying to help Damir gain the throne. However, she is also very attached to Marko, so I can’t wait to find out what her plans are. And what the heck is going to happen with Robbie?
This was a very satisfying novel, and I’m definitely going to read rest of the series.
Today’s special guest is poet and blogger Mike Steeden, and we’re going to talk about his book The Shop that Sells Kisses, which leads us to touch on epic love affairs in Mike’s poetry, the Summer of Love in San Francisco, and depictions of absolute defeat, not to mention the avant garde 1920s in Paris.
I’ve been following Mike’s blog for over a year now, and I’ve got a copy of his book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Mike’s poetry is filled with devious temptresses, femme fatales, mysterious magical mavens and just all kinds of cool and wonderful ladies. After all, his motto is “the gals must always win.” But just when you think you’ve plumbed the depths of their depravities or fathomed their raison d’etre there’s always more to learn about these heroines.
I was curious about Mike’s inspirations, so I’ve invited him here to answer some questions for us:
How long have you been writing poetry?
It is true that I write poetry, yet before getting stuck in I feel the need to say that I lay no claim to being a poet. To warrant the tag, ‘poet’ I believe the author of such work must possess a certain greatness few are blessed with. Sadly, I am not one of those. They are the rarest breed.
However, and in essence, I write about whatever idea, scenario or emotion drops anchor in this tangled subconscious of mine and do my level best to choose words that might do justice to the images I perceive.
It was, from years back and to stave off the potential tedium of having too much free time I commenced ‘writing’. Initially, it was ‘silly verse’ aimed at small children, then even sillier stabs at humour for grown-up’s’, following which I started writing down whatever came to me. Over the last few years, I have discovered within an enticing, free-thinking land of possibilities than previous. I think I finally learnt how to take into custody anything that turned up within the bleak warehouse that is my skull, and mustered the bravery to write it down uncensored. As to the worth of my work? A subjective matter for readers to ponder upon and decide.
A time and place that you revisit often are the 1920s and 30s, or Europe between the two World Wars. What inspired you to write about this period?
There were two standout cultural events in the 20th Century. The latter of the two, I lived through. 1967 saw the Summer of Love evolve in San Francisco. This was a time when the young, fed up with following in parental footsteps, fed up with an unnecessary Vietnamese war abandoned all that had gone before, chose peace and love instead. Young women, buoyed in confidence through the new-found freedom the contraceptive pill afforded them rejected the concept of life as subservient housewives. The electric guitar finally came of age and would leave its artistic mark henceforth. Self-styled hippies were at the forefront of this peaceful revolution. That the dream was a short-lived naivety and became a Mansonesque nightmare perhaps the saddest thing. That summer of love left its mark as a cherished memory for those who could still remember! That’s all.
The other key event, well before my time on earth, namely The Crazy Years in Paris endured despite itself. It was the period twixt the two World Wars. The Montparnasse district of the city, a place of café culture, boozy tobacs and artists’ studios a magnet for budding intellectuals, philosophers, painters, photographers, writers from not just France, but from all over the planet. In short, The Crazy Years spawned an anarchic avant-garde; became a place where free-thinkers lived out the Bohemian ambition to the full as a matter of course. Within the currency of that twenty-year timespan the place was a nonconformist domicile for the likes of Hemingway, Man Ray, Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, even political exiles such as Leon Trotsky, and that is merely scratching at the surface. Art movements, from Art Deco, Cubism, Surrealism, indeed more ‘ism’s than one could shake a stick at flourished. From my perspective, who in their right mind would not want to be part of that scene. I have said many times that even in the knowledge of the ever-growing cancer that was Nazism would all too soon herald the demise of such outlandish, often provocative self-indulgence, I would, be it in the gambit of Godly gift travel back in time and stay for as long as the place would have me.
There you have it…my inspiration born of that most fascinating period in modern times.
Much of your poetry is about lost or tragic love. Do you think such epic love affairs were only possible in the past when people didn’t have social media, or could they exist nowadays?
What an ingenious question. On the one hand, I believe social media has devalued relationships simply because avid users have grasped lowest common denominator habits of both banal and/or overtly explicit inter-action leaving little room for the art of romance to hold sway. Certainly, news of ‘love lost’ breaking on, say, Facebook can be the most irksome, tiresome, repugnant sometimes, thing to have paraded hither and yon within the ether of the public domain. Yet, tethered in any particle of time such souls would, by hook or crook always find a means of shouting there supposed grief and anger from the metaphorical rooftops; they know not, a thing called ‘epic love’.
On the other hand, whether or not a person is an advocate of social media, I truly believe it is likely little has changed; a romantic soul will always be romantic; that it is in the DNA of the chivalrous male to be chivalrous; that epic love affairs will, for eternity, be epic. It is the way of things, the natural order.
Twixt lovers, an unambiguous awareness that the potential for tragedy has always, and always will lurk in the shadows makes for the ‘epic’ insofar as such great love affairs are concerned. Knowing, that even the tightest knot can be unravelled in an instant, focuses the mind and perhaps is the very thing that makes them ‘epic’ whether they subsist or fall apart.
Do you have a favourite author or two?
I certainly do. At the very top of my list is Michael Ondaatje. Any and all of his books are literary gems, he is a master of the art of writing, his book ‘The English Patient’ an eternal favourite. He never wastes a single word. Beyond that ‘The Glass Room’ by Simon Mawer, a book set in the run up to WW2 (inevitably, with me) is one that conveys, often in a heart-breaking way, the trials and tribulations of those stuck in a German society that is rapidly turning into a living hell. Certainly, Mr Mawer is right up there with Mr Ondaatje.
I tend to remember authors from the books they wrote rather than their names! Danny Scheinmann’s ‘Random Acts of Heroic Love’ struck a chord with me some years back. It is a pity Mr Scheinmann has not been more prolific for he writes ever so well.
I want to ask you in particular about a story that I really liked called Smashed Ceramics. It was so weird and mysterious. What was the inspiration behind it?
You really are rather good at posing questions, Carolee.
At first, aside from the title, ‘Smashed Ceramics’ I had no recollection of this one. After a swift search, I discovered I had posted this back in December 2015. I remember it clearly now as in hindsight it may have subliminally sowed the seed of thought process in respect of an extensive piece I am presently working on.
‘Smashed Ceramics’ is a brief muse upon the subject of absolute defeat. To be conscious of a comprehensive defeat, the vanquished one must be awake to the fact that he or she are empty of all things they once held dear. Additionally, the defeated one must also understand that to the perpetrator of such a conquest sees their victory as nothing less than a magnificent art form. Salt in the wound, so to speak. In the case of this tale, its finale where his female gaoler simply drops the cell door key out of the window and into the moat below, seals such absolute defeat.
Personally, when writing…and I suspect you know this better than I do…it is important to put yourself in the same place; become even the character you are writing about. This piece was but a cameo of absolute defeat, a thing known to many who have suffered at the hands of unadulterated evil.
What’s your favourite poem from this collection?
Mostly, I write for myself. It is an added bonus if others like what I have written. There was one piece, from long ago that I wrote for another. A refreshing change of tack insofar as I am concerned. I did manage to post said piece a while back. They are words my dear Shirley has kept tucked away in her purse for many a long year. The piece of paper they are written on is now tatty, almost falling apart. The note reads;
She talks of family planning with spiders; gives advice to dogs on the subject of manners; compliments flowers on their beauty; discusses pesticides with bumblebees; speaks of romance with butterflies; lectures cats on their toilet habits, and, mostly, she just tells off the wasps. Wasps are the Hell’s Angels of her garden. When hot, she undresses, when cold she wears layer upon layer. Rarely is she colour co-ordinated. She looks best naked. This one is of the earth.
Whilst idling in the open air she has shown me many things from nature that being held a hostage of concrete and tarmac had denied me.
She takes in waifs and strays and gives a ray of hope to the unfortunate with kind words. We are lovers, parents, husband and wife. Confidants over thirty years woven together in love this past twenty or so. As just friends there were never secrets. We have no secrets even now. I call her my ‘child bride’ as I am nearly eight years her senior. We are over one hundred years between us – and counting. When the mood takes her, she may prey upon the weaknesses of pretentious humanity. In days of yore, in drink, she sometimes destroyed such beings. She is blessed with great, cutting wit and cries giant tears, like crystal balls made of morning dew when laughing. She laughs a lot. She does not ride that savage downhill slalom of melancholy that is my want, although if left alone too long she climbs the walls of tedium. Her smile can illuminate a cathedral, her frown may slam shut its Gothic doors and herald the crepuscular certainty of nightfall. She is blond, her hair fine and long, her body nectareous. A brave one, she has the small scars of childhood recklessness about her limbs. Accident prone, she bruises her body with regularity, yet never her heart. To her there is no calamity in her clumsiness. The regular breakage of man-made objects matters not a jot. She says such things are replaceable anyway. Those mortals who cause the pain born of malice she would lock away forever. She calls small children and the very old, ‘My angel’. Infants would follow her to the ends of the earth. Sometimes she has the mouth of a navvy, sometimes the eloquence of a bard.
She conceived our child in the Polynesian suite of a French chateau in the Loire Valley. As is her way, a certain savoir-faire. When, all those years now past, giving birth to her George she sweltered in the body heat of her own endeavour. Nearly a day in labour, and oblivious to the comings and goings of others, she insisted the midwife undress her. Enthrallingly naked, she bore her son. Natural instinct is second nature to those of the earth, those impish daughters of Eve. Fate wed us; eternity binds us. My Celtic lady is out of step with the rest, captivatingly mad, yet with no comprehension that this is so. She has emboldened me. I think I am her rock.
Her name is Shirley. Shirley is ‘off the wall’ most times.
Additionally, I was a proud moment when my youngest, musician son, uniquely for him as he always pens his own lyrics, put my poem ‘Sunlight & the Dust’ to song for his new album, ‘Dream Rescuer’. I rather like the finished number.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your writing?
When discussing Smashed Ceramics, I alluded to the point that without realising it at the time, it was likely its subliminal effect may have played a part in my current endeavour. Some weeks past, I arguably finished a book of fiction. The spine of my story revolves around a male subject who has indeed suffered an absolute defeat like no other.
When I say, ‘arguably finished’ I mean that I am presently editing, the edit of the edited edit’s edit. In truth, I know not how to call a book ‘actually finished’. All I know is that when I am happy that it reads as I wish it to read, then, only then can I say, ‘job done’! My story is entitled, ‘Notoriously Naked Flames’ ©Mike Steeden, 2016.
The story is set in the period just prior to WW2 and up to the early 1950’s. It is a risqué tale of espionage, assassination and an epic love affair (sorry Carolee, I just stole your phrase). Whether it is any good I dare say I will find out in the fullness of time.
My thanks for the invite, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Thank you so much for being here, Mike. It was great to chat with you!
He can help her escape, but his secrets pose the biggest danger of all.
Ariella had always believed that the life of a warrior should include indulging in wine and men whenever they were on offer… And in Chaldea, the capital of the old empire, they certainly were.
… Especially the man she finds in her bedchamber, a slave provided by her hosts to entertain her in any way she wishes.
But when betrayed and surrounded by enemies in a strange land, there is only one man she can trust… the slave who was meant only for her pleasure but is much more than he seems.
The cover is finally here, and I’m so excited! Ariella’s Escape is available for pre-order…
Coming soon to other online bookstores.
I’ve contributed a romance story called An Officer and a Werewolf to this anthology, which is all about men in uniform from policemen to soldiers and sailors and everything in between.
It includes all heat levels from sweet romance to sultry and erotic tales.
I just saw the cover reveal, and I’m so excited. There is no release date yet, but it’s coming soooooon. I can’t wait!!!
I have a very special post today in collaboration with Shehanne Moore about her latest novel, Splendour. It includes a review and an interview with Ms. Moore and her hamster friends and even the Earl of Stillmore himself.
First, the review:
I just love Ms. Moore’s cheeky heroines, and Splenour is no exception. How can you not like a woman whose name is Dora and she therefore decides to name herself Lady Splendora? She’s an honorary member in the London jewel thieves’ guild known as the Starkadder Sisterhood, but not a thief herself. In fact, she wants to help the poor, marry her sweetheart Gabriel and buy him a ministry.
Gabriel, as it turns out, is no sweetheart at all. But then neither is the Earl of Stillmore, a man who calls his servant an “overstuffed seal”. He reserves even better names for Splendor. Mostly he calls her names in his head, but sometimes he does so to her face… usually when she’s being a brat, which is quite often.
While Gabe shows his cowardly and whiny nature, the earl drives Splendor up the wall by “training” her to win a chess tournament even though she is obviously better than him at the game.
With shades of Shakesperean cross-dressing comedy and scenes that reminded me of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Confessions of a Shopaholic as Splendor by turns participates in a men’s chess tournament and then tries to pose as an aristocrat at high society balls, this novel had me laughing out loud throughout. It was also extremely touching when I realized how much these two have suffered for love (and their own stubbornness).
I would highly recommend Splendor as a fast-paced, funny and romantic read!
Now I have some questions for Shehanne Moore (and hamsters):
How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
Shey. Okay dudes can we stop this and leave Hamster Dickens out of this.
Shey. What I meant to say. Now then Carolee, first of all let me thank you for asking me to your fabulous blog. I hope all your own writing is doing well. So looking forward to reading your next book. I have had the basic first scene of this novel a long time. Before I had anything published in fact. I don’t play chess myself but in Regency times it was so popular there were clubs in most of the cities and matches between them too. Obviously the period was very constraining for women. So I had this idea of a woman cross dressing to enter a competition but running into trouble straight off and being challenged to a duel by the best shot in London. That was it. At that time I was trying to break into romance writing and sticking to the ‘sort of’ formula. The characters were pretty limp wristed. The heroine was a lady who had fallen on hard times. Her fiancé was a clergyman. The hero was a very decent sort really. No wonder the first chapter yawned on the shelf for years.
What is it about Georgian England that appeals to you?
Shey. Right dudes, can we stop it. I suppose that it’s where a lot of books are set. I have to say thought there is nothing that appeals to me. It was a very different world from this one so I might say I set books there because I want to be bad to my heroines. Oh, ok, it is quite nice to set a book there and try and create characters who will flout convention in an acceptable way. I know that sounds sort of contrary but I mean I hope I make them tough enough to break the rules, to mould their world, as far as that is possible because of the kind of characters they are.
Do you have an actor in mind to play Earl Stillmore or Lady Splendor?
Shey. We always have muses don’t we? I do anyway even for the smallest character. So yes. Aidan Turner for Stillmore. He has the right glowering impatience. And Drew Barrymore for Splendor.
Good choice! He was great in Poldark.
The Starkadder Sisterhood series has many fine ladies in it, Ruby being one of my favorites just because I think of her as a very unlikely romance heroine. How many more novels are you planning in the series, and will Ruby get her own love story?
Shey. You know she is so unlikely and so is Pearl who was her sidekick, I quite fancy having a go and giving each their own story. I have ideas for Diamond, Jade and Amber. So that’s definitely another three. But I am playing with one for Pearl and it would be an awful shame to leave her out. In fact, an idea I have been keeping for Emerald might well work better with Ruby. As you say she is so unlikely…..
And for the hamsters… who was your favourite character in Splendor?
I also have some questions for the hero of this novel, the Earl of Stillmore:
Your first wife broke your heart. Why couldn’t you just get over it?
Splendor: Because he doesn’t like to lose. Not even a dud farthing.
Stillmore: I did get over it. I shot lots of people I challenged to duels. I drank. I went with women. What was that if not getting over it? Well?
Splendor : Being afraid of falling again, Your Grace.
Do you actually enjoy playing chess, or did you join the chess tournament just to foil your former mistress and her fiance?
Stillmore. Me? Do that? Me? That is the kind of thing someone else would do? It is the kind of thing you would never see me doing. If you were not a woman, I would call you out for that but I would never call out a woman.
Splendor: Dearest, aren’t you forgetting something?
Stillmore: Well, what I mean is… Oh very well, the answer is no. Obviously I am an excellent chess player. Indeed if Splendor had taken my advice, freely offered she would never have lost that ten thousand pounds. As for Babs Langley, had she not put me off my game, throwing that bracelet I bought her in my face before the chess tournament, I’d have won it. I can’t think what else she was expecting when I presented her with that trinket box.
You famously hate marriage,
Stillmore: Absolutely. It is a loathsome, hackneyed institution. Suitable only for those whose picnic is several sandwiches short. I just didn’t know I was famous about it.
But maybe with the right partner it wouldn’t be so bad. Do you think you would like to marry Carolee Croft? 😉
Splendor : Dearest, do be polite.
Stillmore : Well, I might. Yes. I wouldn’t like you to think that is why my cravat has just got tight and I am sweating beneath it. But the thing is I haven’t married Splendor. I mean officially and I don’t know she’d be pleased. She might rip this blog up if I said, ‘But of course.’ So really, truly, although I could, whether I should is another matter. Because of her you understand. Nothing else.
Thank you so much, Shey, for joining me with your hamsters and your characters, even if some of them refuse to get married (ahem).
Check out Splendor on Goodreads here.
Or you can purchase it here:
Also, check out Shehanne Moore’s blog if you haven’t already. It’s filled with addictive romance and hamster mayhem.