Vive la difference?

Everyone knows that opposites attract. Right? That’s like, the oldest rule of coupling up, or creating fictional couples that belong together. Every romance writer knows, the heroine invariably detests the hero right off the bat — usually for his aggravating confidence and disarming seduction skills — but as the story wears on, she discovers he’s actually a total catch, does a 180, and bam! Opposites come together in a burst of fireworks. (Personally, I blame Jane Austen for all this.)

Of course, in real life things don’t usually happen that way. If you can’t stand a guy when you meet him, chances are you’ll never like him that much. Probably you’re right, and he really IS a jerk. Moreover, when you are attracted to someone in the first place, it’s usually for an entirely different reason: because you have things in common.

I still remember a college Biology class teaching us that some animals actually are attracted to difference. The more different the better! Orange bird gets the hots for blue bird of same species, for example. Then the professor asked us, “And what about humans? Are we attracted to differences, or to similarities?” Of course, we all parroted ‘opposites attract!’ And then she showed us a bunch of engagement photos. Like these:

(All courtesy of Google image search; click to go to source site)
View More: http://angelicacriscuolophotography.pass.us/marlonleslywashington-dc-lesbian-engagement-session-lgbt-37

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First of all, I’d like to say that I wish all of these lovely couples the very best! Long life, happy marriage, and all the good things that go with both. Anyway, as you can see — and as I saw all those years ago in Biology class — most couples are together because, well, they look alike. Because they ARE alike. They have a lot in common. That’s why they’re getting married!

And before you say anything like ‘But what about multiracial couples?’ I will counter by saying that, at least to me, ‘looking alike’ has less to do with the shape of your face, your height, size or shape, or color of your skin, than it does with your expression, the way you carry yourself, and how your personality shows. Kind of like how people grow to look like their dogs, right? And vice versa? Same thing for couples. (My mother-in-law took a look at our wedding photos and proclaimed that my husband and I both had the same smile; they could cut and paste them on our mouths and you wouldn’t know the difference! Doesn’t say much for my shade of lipstick… too discreet, maybe.) So whatever combination you happen to have made, I would bet you and your honey, set side by side, would ‘look like a couple.’ Am I right? Right. Let’s move on.

The reason I’m blogging about this today is because I’m thinking about what it all means for romance writers. Opposites attract, yes, but similarities are what bring staying power to a relationship. Therefore, when developing your characters, keep in mind that they must have more in common than not, if they are to be believable.  Maybe they are the same height, either much taller or shorter than ‘average.’ Perhaps they have a similar interest that ties them together, and affects the way they dress or behave. In lots of couples, both partners wear glasses. Something as simple as that, and yet it can make all the difference.

So let those hot opposites sparkle, crash, and burn, and vive les similaires!

An Evening in Pearls

Those of you who are my avid blog readers know that my husband and I did something fun for Christmas: a sexy advent calendar. Needless to say, it made the December countdown much hotter! Among the goodies to be found in those little numbered boxes was a pearl thong.

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Mine is very much like this little number, only en noir!

There are many variations of this sexy little item. Mine happens to be black stretch lace, with small, faceted jet beads going all the way up and down, front to back. Naturally, I was curious to try it! So I arranged a night out with my husband, slipped into my beaded lingerie, and took copious mental notes. Here’s my hour-by-minute review:

 

6:00 – I put it on. It’s comfortable; the beads are snug, but not too tight. The string rubs pleasantly against my clitoris. I’m thinking this should be a fun night out…

6:20 – In the car. It feels fantastic to walk in the thong — the beads roll and glide, turning me on with every step. My underwear is pretty much taking care of the foreplay element.

6:30 – Getting out of the car, I realize that things have gotten stuck up in my undercarriage. Uncomfortable stuck. It takes a discreet pull and wriggle to pull the beaded string out of where it shouldn’t have been!

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Perhaps larger pearls are the way to go?

6:50 – We sit down in the restaurant booth, and I can feel those beads wedged up in there again. I readjust when the waiter turns around after taking drink orders. Damn, those beads can pinch! (Luckily my husband is a typical man, and is completely oblivious to my underwear interventions.)

 

7:00-7:50 – So long as I don’t move, everything feels okay. No longer exciting, but not painful either, except for the occasional poke when I shift in my seat. (The food was delicious, by the way.)

8:00 – Walking back to the car, I can hardly stand it. The string is driving me nuts! Beads are all up in my business, and it hurts! (Yeah, not in a good way.) I have to stop and pull the lace down, in an attempt to get the string loose. My husband finally notices. He thinks it’s hilarious.

8:20 – We get home and the first thing I do is run upstairs and get out of that damn thong. It pinches my skin in several places, where the beads rolled close to one another and trapped my between. It looks so innocent, now that it’s off! I toss it aside, disgusted.

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I wonder if a double strand of pearls would be better, or worse…

9:00 – Having recovered, I wonder if perhaps I wasn’t too harsh in my assessment. It did feel good at the beginning, right? And the package suggested it could be worn during sex…

 

9:10 – I slip it back on. Once again, my clit ignites upon contact with the beads. Foreplay re-initiated! Feeling sexy again, I saunter down to get my husband.

9:20 – The pearl thong feels great when he has his hand over it, stroking and rubbing. At this point, I’m a believer again. The hard, smooth texture of the beads is a delicious contrast to my husband’s warm skin. However, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to keep it on the whole time…

So we don’t. Once we get down to business, that thong is back on the floor where it belongs!

 

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Next time, I might go for the best of both worlds: a sexy thong, with just enough beading to excite, but not enough to agonize! 

In summary: For me, the pearl thong was great for foreplay and adding a little excitement, but NOT for wearing out on the town! I’ve rarely been to wretchedly uncomfortable. In retrospect, I should have ditched it in the ladies’ room before the appetizer course. However, was it fun to wear? Sure! And it looked great. I say add one to your lingerie collection, but don’t plan to wear it for more than half an hour at a time! (And if your man is anything like mine, most items of clothing don’t stay on that long, anyway.)

 

 

 

My Secret Favorite…

I know authors aren’t supposed to have favorite stories. Each new book should be better than the last, and therefore should surpass earlier works, in both quality and the writer’s fondness.

However, I’ve always had trouble living by the rules, and I’m breaking one today by saying that, of all the Ancients stories, The Girl With The Golden Eye (free on Amazon Jan.29-Feb.1) remains my favorite. Why, I cannot say exactly. Something about Khorshid’s character, her loneliness, her resilience, the inner hidden workings of her heart, draw me in. Of all of them, she resonates most in my soul — as does Ardeshir, the man who, finally, comes to find her.

Perhaps it has to do with where I was in life when I began writing it. I read the article about an ancient woman with a golden eye way back in college. I was probably 19 or so. The story bloomed in my mind — still as a budding writer, of course, not yet confident enough to put my work out into the world — and I just sat down, and wrote it. Naturally, it was crap. Which is why, ten years later, I took the time to revise it and bring it into its own. The time and care that demanded made me intimate with the setting and characters. They came from within me, perhaps more than the others. When I read it again, I am reminded of all I’ve done so far in my life, and the many possibilities that remain.

So please enjoy the last of the free “Ancients” stories: The Girl With The Golden Eye.

Read all about my inspiration here: A mystery from the grave

History as Fantasy

Historical fiction is always an exercise in fantastical thinking. However much research is done, artifacts unearthed, or primary sources studied, the past remains ever mysterious. When reading about people in the distant past — or present, if their culture is vastly different from your own — it’s important to let yourself be carried away by their reality, instead of attempting to compare it with yours.

This was the challenge I put to myself when writing my short story about the origins of foot binding in ancient China. (How The Lotus Blossoms — free on Amazon Jan. 26 – 29!) Sure, I can imagine how life might have been for a young woman with deformed feet, in the time before medical care. I can ponder how it might have felt to be torn from her family, sold away in the face of famine. I can channel her triumph and desperation, as she pours herself into one night of passionate seduction.

But can I ever truly understand her? No. At some level, Yao Niang’s character remains a mystery. Even though I created her, there are some things she never shared with me. And maybe that’s appropriate; like the past, we can only ever know so much. The rest is mere wonder, and imagination.

Grab your copy of How The Lotus Blossoms free today!

And Read the original article: Three-inch Golden Lotus: the erotic history and legend of bound feet in ancient China

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Somewhere in the Sahel…

The two years I spent in West Africa remain forever imprinted on my mind. Nothing in my life to date can compare to the intensity of my experience there. Though I’ve had many adventures since then (and no doubt will continue to!), nothing, perhaps, will ever equal it.

Whether that had to do with my age (a tender 22), my naivete, my cultural isolation, or any combination thereof, the Sahel has marked me. That strip of arid land, tenuously holding back the Sahara desert, is a place where people understand the value of water. More than anywhere else, perhaps, they rely on the vagaries of Nature to provide. This is especially true in the small, rural village where I lived. No road; no electricity; no plumbing. Most people there are subsistence farmers, and farming is only possible during the rainy season, a mere three months of the year. The rest of the time, water comes from one place only: the village well.

And who’s in charge of getting water? The women.

How many times I went to the well with them, worked the pulleys, filled our buckets? How many times did I carry home the full bucket on my head, cushioned by a roll of old scrap fabric? How many hours were spent collecting water, storing water, using water, conserving it? (And I was only one person – most women were in charge of getting water for their whole family.) In short, village life revolved around the well. Water is life.

Which led me to think about Timbuktu. Legend has it, that great city began as merely a well in the desert. A place of refreshment; a woman’s place. How could I resist a story about that? Get it for free on Amazon (January 16-19): Buktu’s Well.

And read more about this fascinating city: The Legendary Origins of Timbuktu

Beauty Never Dies

For my second “Ancients” collection giveaway, I’m going to go ahead and offer what is perhaps the best story in the entire collection: Queen of Beauty. It’s the best, I think, because of the situation and Nefertiti’s character – an older woman, uncertain in her role, battling midlife worries everyone faces. At the same time, her husband is dying, the kingdom is being torn apart from within, and if that weren’t enough, she’s falling in love!

Falling in love is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. Also, potentially, the best. What I tried to explore with Nefertiti’s story is the many ways love can manifest, especially as we mature and grow into ourselves. (Which begs the questions: is teenage love the “real thing?” Is love ageless, or does it deepen with time? Is romantic love possible without physical attraction? At what point does friendship give way to love?)

Sink deep into love’s many incarnations (and the meaning of beauty, too) with this free story. It’s a visit to a fascinating moment in Egypt’s history, too, during the reign of the first known monotheist king.

History fans: read the original post here: Nefertiti On My Mind

And every kind of fan, be sure you grab your free copy of Queen of Beauty!

Seven times the fun!

In honor of Flowers for the Ancients’ “book birthday,” I’m doing another round of free giveaways! This time, through Amazon, admittedly the most convenient retailer around. (Ah, I remember when they were still the underdogs, a little online bookshop tapping on the behemoth of Barnes & Noble and company… how the mighty fall! How the hungry rise!)

Anyway, this time I thought I’d start off with the biggest of the bangs, if you will: A Bride for Seven Brothers. My imaginary adventure into ancient Tibet, and subsequent exploration of a polyandrous family, resulted (somewhat by accident) in a seriously kickass female character. I love this lady — she is the kind of woman on which dynasties are built, communities are founded, and empires rise.

By which I mean, she’s a housewife.

The most underestimated of all careers, and the most important. Who holds the family together? The wife. Who manages the household? The wife. Who keeps the kids and husbands happy? Yeah, you get it. While writing this story, I began to get a feeling for how much responsibility was involved in home-keeping. First of all due to the rugged, isolated, and rural nature of a Tibetan highland farm, but especially if multiple husbands are involved. A housewife who could do all that — and do it well — is pretty much a superwoman.

Want more sexy Tibetan history? Read the original blog post: Ever heard of polyandry? Didn’t think so.

And don’t forget to grab your copy of A Bride for Seven Brothers — free on Amazon January 8-11!

Sex for Christmas!

Being married is pretty great. Now, if I cook dinner, somebody else gets to do the dishes! Not to mention the inarguable benefit of having two paychecks as opposed to one. And a partner for walking the dog. Someone to shower with; saves water.

By far, though, the greatest benefit of marriage is the sex. It should come as no surprise to anyone that sex is one of my favorite things. Although I was no slouch in my wild-and-single days, it’s the simple truth that sex while married is a) more frequent and b) better. Especially if you marry a Frenchman, as I did. I highly recommend it!

Having a French husband comes with its own set of rewards and challenges; like any relationship, except we can mostly chalk down our disagreements to cultural habits and translation errors. He still stays connected to what’s happening across the pond. And this year he found an absolute treasure: the erotic advent calendar!

This little gem works just like a traditional advent calendar. You know; the little windows numbered for each day of December, from the 1st to the 24th. In my childhood, we knew a delicious candy waited behind each of those windows, and the best was always Christmas Eve. Later, it was cute little pictures of candles, or carolers, or wreathes, or bells, and a Nativity scene for the last day. The erotic advent calendar is SO much better! Instead of candy, you get a sexy surprise every day.

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Hohoho indeed!

Sweet little sex toys, lubricants, and all kinds of naughty suggestions — in French, English, and German, no less — await the adventurous couple! Needless to say, our advent season is going to be way more fun. I haven’t looked forward to Christmas this much since I was a kid.

Interested? The good news is you can get on the Amorelie mailing list, so you can be sure to order your sexy calendar for next year. The bad news? It’s currently only available to ship in Europe. (We had my brother-in-law mail it to us; it’s good to have French connections!)

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Thank God the Europeans keep coming up with the best sexy ideas. All that paid vacation time must be good for something!

That means — HELLO American purveyors of sex toys and other goodies! — there’s a serious marketable opportunity here! My husband did his best to find a comparable product in the States, and no luck.  smell a business op! Who’s feeling entrepreneurial? I’m telling you, best countdown to Christmas ever.

A Peek Between the Sheets (of my new WIP!)

As I come down from completing my latest project, Major Arcana (free to read on Wattpad!) it’s time to get to work on something new! An idea popped into my head… the vision of a little French chocolate shop, all those mouthwatering truffles on display, and an equally delicious chocolatier behind the counter. What’s better than sex and chocolate? (The answer, of course, is nothing.) And so, I thought I’d share a few paragraphs of my work in progress.

What do you think? Does it whet your palate?

***

Without a word, he walked to the door, took hold of the welcome sign, and turned it to the side that read “Fermé.” The key made a grinding noise as he turned it in the lock. Then, slowly rotating until they were face to face, he reached out his hand.

“Venez,” he said.

His hand was warm, the skin slightly rough, firm beneath her grasp as his fingers closed over hers. In an instant they were moving together, she following as he led her behind the counter, past the tempting assortment of chocolates, and through the service door. There, she found herself in a fragrant world of cocoa and milk; sugar, flour, nuts and syrups; a paradise of the senses.

With a strong motion, he swung her around until she faced him. Her hip connected with the wooden countertop, and she jumped in surprise. His hands came around her waist, steadying her, gently guiding her back until she was comfortably perched on the edge of the counter. Their eyes met again, shocking her with their sudden connection. His were dark, the color of rich coffee; no cream. She wanted to drink deep from that cup.

Reaching behind her, he grabbed something from the countertop and raised it to her lips, like an offering. Holding his eyes with her gaze, she parted her lips in an act of blind trust, and was rewarded by the smooth taste of melting chocolate. A sliver of it coated her tongue with flavor, and she moaned. Until the sound of her delight was cut off by his kiss.

His lips were hard on hers, insistent and wanting. At first his tongue stole away the chocolate, soon replacing it with his own manly flavor. She closed her eyes, letting herself swim in the heady sensations. Her taste buds scraped against his, coaxing the sweetness from his tongue as their mouths fused together in a chocolaty realm of give and take. She felt the rough texture of his beard on her cheek. Unwittingly, she brought her hands up to his chin, stroking her fingers through the short, sharp hairs. The feel of his beard beneath her fingers was piercingly erotic, sending a jolt of arousal straight to her clit.

He pulled away, his eyes molten, questioning. The answer was in her gaze, sharp with lust. No words were needed; only touch.