Saturday, November 22, 2008
One of the things I love about writing is that it’s something completely separate from my family life. Mine alone, it’s a world where I can escape and create characters and plots, explore passions and adventures utterly separate from my own experiences.
On the rare occasions the separation between the two worlds--real life and fiction--intersects, I’ve shared a few details from my personal life. I’ve blogged about being bi, since my books have many bi characters--a necessary ingredient for the steamy manlove in many of my ménage stories.
This fall, both of my daughters came out of the closet at school, after coming out to us this past summer. My younger daughter received universal support when she told her friends she’s bi. My older daughter lost a couple close friends when she told them she’s lesbian. Supporting them both through the coming out process has been an intense journey, and my focus on family this fall has pulled me away from some of my writing-related activities, like blogging.
All of that has at least tangential relevance to my writing, since I’m immersed in the LGBT world on a daily basis, so it’s natural to me that the characters in my erotic romances represent a range of sexual orientations. But today I’m going to break one of my own rules and talk about a part of my life with no relevance at all to being an author--other than it’s brought all promotional and writing activities to a screeching halt for awhile.
My younger daughter has Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic lung disease. At home, she uses a variety of treatments on a daily basis, and though treatment is time consuming (with lung clearance techniques to shake the extra mucus loose, and several daily aerosolized breathing treatments taken with a nebulizer), she’s been wonderfully healthy for a child with Cystic Fibrosis. Most people who know her don’t even realize she has CF. She’s a spunky kid, and doesn’t let anything slow her down.
Just over a week ago, she got a high fever in the middle of the night and was having a tough time breathing. A trip to her pediatrician the next morning revealed pneumonia on the X-rays, and got us a one way ticket to the hospital. She hadn’t been hospitalized since a two week stay when she was six weeks old, so in that sense we’ve been very fortunate. This past week we got a crash course in things like bronchoscopies and PICC lines for IV antibiotics. I stayed at the hospital with her, and my husband stayed with my older daughter. Now that we’re home, we’re continuing all of the treatments she was doing at the hospital, including learning how to give her IV antibiotics at home.
As we head toward Thanksgiving, I’m profoundly grateful that my family is home together again. Some of the kids who were in the hospital at the same time as my daughter will be there over the holidays. After the scary fever in the middle of the night last week, and the first few days at the hospital when we didn’t know what bacteria was causing the infection, or if the IV antibiotics would work, I’m more aware than ever that family is what it’s all about. I have a first draft for Pentacle of Storms waiting for revision, and a heap of promotion to catch up on for my November release, Fighting the Undertow. But for the moment, it’s all about helping a sick kiddo get through her treatments and keeping her spirits up until she’s feeling better.
And while I’m counting my blessings this week--with my two beautiful daughters right at the top of the list--I’ll take a moment to put in a word for the kindness of strangers. The doctors, respiratory therapists, and nurses who cared for my daughter at the hospital were wonderful with her--always kind, always patient.
I tend to be a tough cookie under stress, doing what needs to be done and keeping a positive attitude. But what choked me up this past week were the people who went out of their way to volunteer and make the hospital experience as positive as possible. Child Life volunteers checked in daily to let us know about activities in the playroom, bring my daughter games and DVDs, and see if we needed anything. The Sewing Ladies came to engage sick kids in a sewing project. Pet Pals volunteers brought their therapy dogs to visit--a wonderful experience for a young teen fiercely missing her poodle. And several community organizations and businesses catered “Family Meals” so that families of hospitalized children could sit down and enjoy a hot meal together.
As you head into the holidays, keep in mind that the volunteer work you do over the course of the year is appreciated by so many individuals who may never get the chance to thank you personally. Also keep in mind that children in many countries--as well as too many children close to home--don’t have the advantage of the excellent health care my daughter received. It’s a tight year, economically, but any amount you donate to your favorite charities will go a long way toward aiding those who need a helping hand.
If you have children, give them a great big hug this Thanksgiving. They’re so very precious. Same for your significant other, friends, and family. The economic news may be gloomy, but bottom line, when we’re counting our blessings, it’s all about the people we can throw our arms around. That’s something worth celebrating.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I’m so excited it’s finally release day for Fighting the Undertow, now available from Loose Id! This book is an absolute favorite of mine. I loved every second of writing it! All through the writing process, I could hear Val and Ian’s voices in my head, and their sassy dialogue simply flowed onto the page.
I love the way their cheeky banter helps them face the darker elements of the story. I have a special spot in my heart for Ian’s brother’s ghost, and the way his story unfolds and affects those still living. And the ménages in this story--mmm yum. Like the dialogue between Val and Ian, those scenes poured out so fast they seemed to write themselves. I hope you enjoy reading Fighting the Undertow as much as I enjoyed writing it!
For Ian and Val, falling for each other is all too easy. But his sexy friends, her career goals, his writer's block, and a troubled spirit redefine the meaning of the words "complicated relationship." Val presses for information about Ian's brother’s ghost, but meets a wall of silence. When she discovers that Ian’s highly emotional, sexual connection with his friends was what held him together after his brother died, she's intrigued and frightened by the eroticism of their bond. Truly entering into his world will involve expanding her sexual experiences in ways she's never imagined.
For Ian, Val's willing to take that erotic journey. But when she uncovers secrets about his family, his brother's death, and the group's sexual history, she suspects she’s in way over her head. Confused by her new hungers, she’s overwhelmed by the searing passion of two emotionally charged ménages. Although the friends have become the family she always wanted, she's not sure whether she's ready to accept Ian's world of complex relationships and dark passions, or whether she and Ian have even a ghost of a chance at happiness.
For Christ’s sake, he hadn’t been this nervous since his junior prom. As he lit the candles, Ian ran through a list of things that could go wrong. Maybe she’d ask what the hell was up with him and his friends, and since he was an honest guy, she’d run screaming from the house when he answered. There was always the chance for ordinary disasters, like dumping eggplant parmigiana in her lap while he served dinner. Or Abby and Tyler could get back early from their evening out and scare her off.
At least Jeremy and Nathan lived close enough to visit without sleeping over. Better yet, Abby and Tyler would be heading back to Boston when their vacation ended in a few days. After that, they’d just be around on weekends. Hell, he’d known Val one day, and already his loyalty to his friends was evaporating. These were the people who’d kept him sane when Lisa walked out, who’d been there for him when Kevin… He stopped that line of thought before it ended up somewhere dark and painful.
Before he could subject his attraction to Val to further scrutiny, he heard a confident rap on the door. “Come in.” He slipped a bottle of wine into the ice bucket, wiped his hands on a dish towel, and went to meet her.
“Hey. Something smells good.” Val gave him a quick hug.
“I hope you don’t mind eating here.” At her inquisitive glance toward the kitchen, he rushed to reassure her. “Tyler helped me with dinner, so it will be edible.”
He continued talking as he busied himself in the kitchen. “Tyler and Abby are out for the evening, and Nathan and Jeremy drove home a while ago.” Her shoulders relaxed. A good sign, she wanted to be alone with him. Or maybe a bad sign, she was wary of his friends.
Somehow, he managed to get dinner on the table without any disasters. Though entertaining a sexy woman felt sort of strange. He hadn’t cooked for anyone other than his friends since Lisa left. As they talked, he reminded himself of his priorities. Write the damn book. No new attachments until I can think about Lisa without my gut twisting into a knot.
As for his attraction to Val, that could be a pleasant distraction. Just because he wanted to reach out and touch her face when her cheek dimpled with laughter didn’t mean he had to get involved. She didn’t want that any more than he did.
All of that seemed rational, until they finished dessert. The next thing he knew, his arms were wrapped around her waist, though he wasn’t sure who’d initiated the embrace. As he explored her mouth with his tongue, sweet with dessert and tart with a hint of wine, the pounding of the ocean clouded his thoughts. He broke away long enough to close the windows. Then, before he could think of a good reason not to, he invited her upstairs.
“Ian, I…” If she’d been about to voice second thoughts, he drowned her words with another kiss. When they reached his room, she threw open the window, inviting in the crash of the waves.
Neither of them bothered to turn on a light. In the moonlight, she looked even sexier than she did with the waves playing at her skin.
“You’re sure you want this?” Damn it, Winters, what if she says no?
“Mmm hmm. Just a formality, but my roommate would kill me if I didn’t ask…”
“Yes, I’ve engaged in risky behaviors. Yes, I’ve always used a condom. Yes, I’ve been tested, and I’m fine.” He held his breath, waiting to see if she’d ask for specifics. He’d tell her, but he didn’t know if she was up to hearing the details yet.
“Me too. Well, except for the risky behaviors part.” Val tugged at the clip that held her hair back from her face. As thick curls spread across her shoulders, she found his lips and nipped hard enough to elicit a grunt of surprise.
When she moved toward the bed, Ian was relieved not to have to navigate that particular transition. “Miss Vee?”
“Yes, Mr. Winters?” Laughing at the feigned formality, she tugged him down beside her, sinking into the down comforter.
“I was wondering something yesterday, and maybe you could help me come up with an answer.” Teasing his hands over her shoulders and neck, he brought them to rest in the silky curls that spread out around her head on the pillow.
“When we were walking on the beach, the wind blew your curls around your face and…” He paused to tug at a few tendrils of hair, shining reddish brown in the moonlight. “I wondered if you might be that wild, that free…”
“In bed?” Without embarrassment, she finished the question.
“With you, I think maybe I could be.”
That was all he needed to know. She wouldn’t run blushing if he forgot himself and took things too far. But she wasn’t Lisa, either. Lisa had used him for the sex, for his friends, for the excitement of the forbidden. But he’d been so in love, he’d been blind to her motives, expecting nothing less than the honesty he’d offered her.
As Val slipped her fingers under his shirt, he pushed aside the past and focused his attention on her. What frightened him wasn’t how much he wanted her -- though he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this hot and bothered for someone -- it was how much he wanted to be with her. To fall asleep with his head beside hers on the pillow, to see what those crazy, wonderful curls looked like in the morning…
“Ian?” She tugged his shirt over his head and paused with her fingers on the button above his fly.
Ian slid his hands under her shirt and unhooked her bra, and soon they sat naked in the moonlight. He leaned over and grabbed two silk scarves from a drawer in the bedside table. Val’s shoulders tensed under his hands, but as he trailed the silk over her skin, she relaxed.
“Yes.” As the silk brushed across her nipples, she made a soft sound of approval.
His balls were making a concerted effort to crawl up under his skin, and he hadn’t ached for anyone like this since high school, but he forced himself to go slow. Seeing as he wanted to avoid attachments, he shouldn’t be so afraid of scaring her away. But he’d reason that out later. For now, their bodies told him what he needed to know. The way she arched into his embrace. The shivers of fire that raced across his skin when she touched him.
“No.” He moved her hand away from his cock and eased her down onto the mattress. Not that he objected to the heat that followed the path of her fingertips along his dick. But he wanted this to last until morning. God help him, he wanted to pull her close and watch her sleep as the sun rose.
Val flinched as he draped a scarf across her eyes, but when he left it loose, she settled back onto the pillow and explored his body with her fingers. She stroked his hair while he sucked one nipple, then the next, and when he tried to sit up, she locked her hands behind his neck and guided his mouth to hers.
He could tell by the way she nipped at his neck and jaw, by the way she tried to shift to her side when he rested his weight on her, that she wanted to take control. And he had no doubt she could. In fact, he looked forward to the night it would happen. But he wanted something else tonight. She protested when he knotted the scarf at the back of her head, but didn’t try to tug it away from her face.
“Okay?” A few heartbeats of silence greeted the question, and he soothed his hands along her arms as he waited.
“I think so.”
Not wanting to spook her, he waited to see what she’d do next. Reaching out to find his face, she shifted onto her side and pressed her mouth to his. The heat of her kisses, the probing insistence of her tongue in his mouth, nearly pushed him beyond the thin shred of control he had left.
What is it about her?