Chocolate is a Girl’s Best Friend

I know lately I’ve been offering free books like they’re going out of style, but I couldn’t resist getting my new release out there into the world with a great big giveaway! The Chocolatier, free on Amazon today through 3/2/17. This one is a super shorty, 4,000-ish words of sweet, succulent, drippy, melty chocolate. And sex, of course.

I’m fortunate to be married to a Frenchman, so we go to Paris a lot. It truly is a city like no other. One of my favorite things is going into little shops so specialized, only artisans could staff them. The Fromagier – cheese shop, stocked wth hundreds of varieties, each more pungent than te last; the Boulanger/Patissier, where your mouth will water at the sight of delectable sweets and crusty, hearty breads; the Bucher, with all kinds of fresh meats, cured sausages, and all sorts of fatty things; and the Chocolatier, a specialist of my most favorite culinary indulgence: chocolates, truffles, and candies.

Who wouldn’t want to visit the back room of a chocolate shop? Especially if the artist in question is a maestro of cocoa, cream, and erotic touches…

Please grab your free copy today! It’ll only be $0 until March 2nd, at which point you’ll have to pay up if you want a literary trip to Paris. Enjoy!chocolatier-cover-final

Celebrate Romance!

Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and to celebrate I’m offering a lovely selection of erotic-romantic stories for your FREE reading enjoyment! These giveaways only last for a couple of days, so get in there now before they’re done. Because everyone knows, the best way to celebrate romance is with lots of steamy hot erotica. To be enjoyed alone or en couple. 😉

Here’s what you can get:

An Amazon’s Equal – free on February 13th!

amazonequal3DcoerPyrena, an Amazonian warrior, lives in an idyllic society. All sisters, the Amazons share everything: work, meals, homes… and captive men. The men they keep are for pleasure; love is unknown among these fierce women. For Pyrena, things become more complicated after she captures a handsome Greek warrior, Astrastos. As she comes to know him, she begins to realize that her world is not so perfect, after all.

Flowers for the Ancients – free through Feb. 14th!

flowers-working-coverThis collection of erotic stories features women across the ancient world, from Africa, through the Middle East, to Asia. Their stories are as diverse as the heroines. They are queens and peasants; virgins and mothers; loveless and adored. Some of their names are familiar. Others are unknown. All of them lived, and lusted, and loved. Just like us.

 

lemonscoverLemons In Their Slippers: an erotic romance retelling of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’– free through the 14th!

If you’re in the mood for some erotically imagined fairy tales, this one written just for you! Why did those princesses really wear out their dancing shoes? (It should come as no surprise that more than the shoes got some action every night!) Romantic and sexy, this remains one of my fuzzy-good-feelings favorites.

And finally, ALL the ‘Ancients’ stories are FREE on the 14th only! The stories (also to be found all together, in Flowers for the Ancients) are: Sheba’s Lovely Maidens,   Queen of Beauty,   Buktu’s Well,   The Girl With The Golden Eye,   A Bride for Seven Brothers, and   How The Lotus Blossoms.

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

Lotus cover SMASH.jpg

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!

I’ve got the cow – so have some milk for free!

amazonequal3Dcoer
Missed the giveaway? Never fear! You can still buy it here! (Wow, I must be in a rhyming mood…)

First of all, congratulations to the eight lucky winners of my Goodreads giveaway! I’ll be mailing out free signed copies of An Amazon’s Equal later this week, along with my usual plea to kindly read and leave a review. You know how much those mean to us indie authors!

Now, a lot of people are totally against giving anything away. In a way, they’re right: all work has value, and people should be paid a fair wage for whatever work they do. When it comes to creative arts, though, there is a sticky question: What is the value of art?

Art vendors put price tags on it all the time, but does that truly make one work more or less intrinsically valuable than another? If I happen to LOVE the $10 painting, and think the $1000 painting is only ho-hum, then it’s clear which one has more value to ME. (Whether or not the art experts agree is neither here nor there.)

I do consider myself an artist. Like most artists, I have a day job – which everybody else calls a “career” – and I invest most of my time and energy into it. However, writing and imagination is an essential part of who I am. What I produce is, therefore, art, for art’s sake, not for any hope of material gain. (Of course, I do love it when people purchase my work! And yes, it IS work, and I feel I should be paid for it, just like all other types of creators.) But…

Sometimes I just want to milk that creativity cow and give away glasses of that warm, frothy, creamy fresh drink for free!

Hence the Goodreads giveaway. 🙂 Also, did you know that two of my earliest works – One Night to Tango and Taking The Reins – are always, absolutely, 100% free to read? Grab ’em here if you’d like to have a taste before you actually buy the rest of the creamery’s fine dairy products. 😉

Okay, that’s enough milk metaphors for today. Anyway, enjoy!

tango cover (804x1024)One Night To Tango  :  Meet Esme, a shy wallflower who releases her inner seductress with a dark and handsome masked stranger. He quickly sweeps her off the dance floor, through the parking lot, and up against a chain-link fence… where a whole new kind of dancing ensues. Sensual and satisfying!

cowboy cover NEWTaking The Reins  :  The local horse show seriously steams up with the arrival of a sexy cowboy. Sparks fly. Hands touch. Pants start feeling way too tight. Belt buckles are strained. Perfect for the horse-loving girl and the cowboy-loving woman; it’s all the butterflies of a first date, with the rough-and-ready action of a truck fuck!

Sexing up some Little Free Libraries

Among its many charms, Seattle boasts a proud literary distinction: the city with perhaps the most Little Free Libraries in the country. And as an erotica writer, I have taken the liberty of sexing them up.

Little Free Libraries are a delightful version of the take-a-book, leave-a-book idea. (It’s a full-on nonprofit organisation – take a look at their website here!) Homeowners build their own small book boxes, usually with a glass door to protect from the elements while allowing passersby to glance in at the offerings. Most Little Free Libraries are on the corner of a yard, or sometimes hanging from a retaining wall, faced invitingly towards the sidewalk. And according to this article by MyNorthwest.com, other cities just can’t keep up with Seattle.

SeattleLFL
A Little Free Library in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Kipp Robertson/MyNorthwest)

There are several in my neighborhood alone, and Little Free Libraries are a common sight when strolling through the neighborhoods. (I asked my husband for one for my birthday, but that all depends on how handy he’s feeling, so I’ll not hold my breath!) It’s so charming to see them there, full of books, just free for anyone to take. I also use them to pass along books I enjoyed, but don’t necessarily wish to keep forever – all my three-and-four-star reads find their way into a library box, ready to be discovered by another lucky reader.

So what am I doing? Well, quite simply, I’m leaving print versions of my work all around Seattle. Print copies are inexpensive and lovely to have, so I order them in bulk whenever I do a giveaway or print promotion. Whatever I don’t list, I send off into the world via Little Free Libraries. And, being the person I am, I do admit to peeking inside later, just to see if my work has gone… as of now, all of them have found a home. Temporary or permanent, no matter; so long as they bring enjoyment to someone in need of a scintillating erotic read. What fun!

If you’re a fellow Seattleite, keep your eyes peeled when passing by. I just set loose a fresh print copy of An Amazon’s Equal in a Little Free Library nearby. If you find it, please leave a review! (And, you know, leave a book. That’s what makes the whole wonderful process work! I love it.)

Speaking of which… have you entered the Goodreads giveaway for a free print copy of An Amazon’s Equal? No? Then head on over here and enter now! Who knows – you might get lucky… 🙂

A well-needed makeover… Ancient Greece style! (+giveaways!)

So as most of you fair readers know, my first – and, up till now, only – full-length erotic romance is An Amazon’s Equal. It’s been published, for sale, out there in the world for a while now, with my original cover art at the helm. As you also know, my first visionamazon cover jpg 2 for the cover was, alas, censored, due to artistic nudity. (Here’s a little reminder of how fabulous it was! Sigh… I did love that vision. But, art must bow to business sometimes, I suppose…)

Anyway, it became clear to me that An Amazon’s Equal needed a makeover. I still take pride in my art, both written and visual, so I knew I wanted to do the cover image by hand as usual. But it needed something more; it needed flair. (Also, clothes…)

That’s when I called on my friend The Book Khaleesi. She took my artwork and my vision, and put it all together into a fabulous new cover. Are you ready? Here it comes:

Amazons Equal ebook Cover

It looks amazing, right? Exactly as I’d hoped – but way better than my meager cover design skills could produce alone. So grateful for the fast, professional service! Now I can feel proud of my work, from the inside out.

Now I like celebrating milestones – like my first professionally-designed cover – and I decided to do it with a couple giveaways.

First: a fabulous Goodreads giveaway for six print editions of An Amazon’s Equal.  Now you know my feelings about paper; I love it. (Read more about my transition to eBook reading here! I still prefer to hold a real paperback in my hands, caress its pages, heft its weight, give it all my attention in a way Kindle will never replace… but I do like my eReader for the bus.)

Second: for the next three days – Yes! Count ’em! THREE! – you can grab a Kindle edition of An Amazon’s Equal for FREE on Amazon. That’s right, free April 10, 11, 12, for your immediate reading pleasure.

Please share the news with your friends, erotica-loving acquaintances, dirty-minded bosses, kinky grandmas, or whoever else needs a good dose of New Adult erotic romance in their life.

Enjoy!

Nefertiti On My Mind

nefertiti front
The inimitable Queen Nefertiti.

Ah, Nefertiti. Her very name means beauty; “the beautiful one has come.” Thoughts of her conjure up visions of an opulent ancient civilization; a land of pharaohs, pyramids, gods and gold. Her mystery endures, as well as her famous bust – an unequivocal masterpiece of ancient art. However, Nefertiti was much more than just a pretty face… Here I will explore the extraordinary time in which she lived, and her role in it.

(Sources are listed at the end. Click on any image to link to its source page.)

 

***

Before I can introduce you to Nefertiti, I have to share some essential information about the time and place in which she lived. This famous queen can only be understood in context, and in her case the most influential element of that context was her husband: the controversial pharaoh Akhenaten.

worshipping the sun
Akhenaten, his queen, and children worshiping Aten, the sun god.

He is, by far, one of the most fascinating characters in ancient Egyptian history. Although raised, like all Egyptians, with an astonishing pantheon of gods, Akhenaten soon broke the mould. Unsatisfied with the idea of multiple gods – powerful Amun, the loving couple Isis and Osiris, royal Horus, kind-hearted Hathor, vicious Sekmet, playful Bes, and innumerable others – the pharaoh cast them all aside in favor of a single god: the sun disk, Aten. Akhenaten’s devotion to the sun god was all-encompassing, spurring him to leave tradition behind and institute a single God. He is often considered the first monotheist.

pharaoh
Akhenaten was portrayed as an odd-looking fellow. Many believe he had some physical deformities, hence the images of him with wide hips, belly pooch, narrow shoulders, long skull, and extremely thin face.

Akhenaten was also a religious zealot. He built a brand new capital city, which he christened Akhetaten, meaning “Horizon of Aten” (now known as Amhara), and moved the entire court there. Upon his death this city was all but abandoned.

His spiritual conviction stretched to names, as well. Nefertiti became known as Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, a mouthful that means “beautiful are the beauties of Aten, for the beautiful one has come.” Akhenaten’s son Tutankhamen (yes, THAT King Tut!), was originally named Tutankhaten; the child-pharaoh’s name was forcibly changed to reflect reinstitution of the old gods after Akhenaten’s tumultuous reign. (Incidentally, Tuankhamon’s young wife, Ankhesenamun, was Nefertiti’s daughter…)

Which is enough context to launch into Nefertiti’s own story:

For all of the queen’s fame, her origins remain unknown. Egyptian pharaohs traditionally married their siblings – in order to keep the godly bloodline pure – but kings did have multiple wives, including foreign princesses sent to keep the peace. From what I have read, no evidence suggests that Nefertiti was her husband’s sister. This makes her even more remarkable, for it meant that somehow she rose to supreme power, even as a woman of unknown birth.

And rise to power she did. Contemporary art depicts her standing at the pharaoh’s side as an equal, even smiting enemies. In addition, many scenes of domestic life show the queen and the pharaoh sitting affectionately together, playing with their daughters. (Altogether, they had six girls). Despite Akhenaten’s rather odd looks, Nefertiti’s care for him must have been real on some level, to have raised a large family together, shared the power and duty of royalty, and appeared as a loving couple in so many artistic renditions.

nef akh family scene
A charming family scene showing Nefertiti, Akhenaten, and three of their daughters. (Note Aten, the sun disk, shining down over them all)

The best-known artistic rendition of Nefertiti, though, shows her alone. In fact, the years of the capital at Akhetaten birthed a vibrant new style of ancient Egyptian art, known as the Amarna style. (Click here for an excellent Brittanica article on it; fascinating history.) The Amarna style was characterized by attention to detail, changes in representation of the human body, and casual depictions of people’s daily activities. Out of this same artistic movement came the exquisite bust of Nefertiti.

Having been a fan of ancient Egypt for many years, I’ve seen my share of its artwork. Much of it is stunning, but nothing compares to Nefertiti’s sculpted bust. The detail is so realistic, it appears as if she could turn her neck to look at you. Everything – from the facial features to the paint strokes – reveals the hand of mastery. The sculptor, Thutmose, truly created a work of art that was meant to endure the ages.

However, it remains unfinished: the left eye is inexplicably unpainted.

nefertiti no eye
A superbly beautiful woman, and a work of art…
nef profile
… yet the left eye remains unpainted.

In 2009 a CT scan revealed yet another layer of mystery. It turns out that, underneath the smooth and polished outer layer, Nefertiti’s bust hides an even more realistic face. It portrays her as an aging woman with wrinkles and a bump on her nose. Is this the true face of Queen Nefertiti? If so, it speaks even more to Thutmose’s artistic excellence… and also prompts the question of why it was covered up, then left incomplete.

The mystery of Nefertiti is compounded by the fact that she only exists in records for a short time, and then suddenly disappears from history. Some believe she changed her name, perhaps disguising herself as a man to co-rule as pharaoh. Others think she was murdered. Or exiled. Nefertiti’s star shone bright, but oh so briefly.

Until now her tomb has yet to be discovered, which I believe supports the exile theory. Still, archaeologists persist in claiming to have found her tomb. Thus far none have been confirmed; this recent National Geographic article has her lying in a hidden chamber in King Tut’s tomb. Personally I find that unlikely. Why would she be buried with her unremarkable son-in-law? The priests of Amun-Ra tried to erase her religious beliefs and story, but it seems like she would have turned up somewhere if she truly did stay in Egypt during that transitional time. That kind of thinking is for the experts, though. I am merely a curious reader, and author who likes to make it spicy! Just one of the many ways in which history obliges fiction writers, by providing a wealth of possibilities and no solid answers.

body of nefertiti
As seen in this torso from the Louvre Museum, Nefertiti was a mature woman, the mother of six daughters, a luscious queen. What sculptor wouldn’t be tempted?

In my story, Queen of Beauty, I have chosen to give Nefertiti a second chance at life – and love – in exile. If she was anything like how I imagine her, I sincerely hope the truth was something like my fiction.

Nefertiti cover SMASH

***

Sources:
http://www.biography.com/people/nefertiti-9421166
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/11/151126-nefertiti-tomb-tut-egypt-archaeology/
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/03/090331-nefertiti-bust-picture.html
http://www.britannica.com/art/Amarna-style
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nefertiti
http://www.egyptian-museum-berlin.com/c53.php

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

Welcome to my first “sexy history” post in the Ancients series! This week I will be exploring the tradition of foot binding in ancient China, particularly its erotic aspects for that culture.

(Sources are listed at the end. Click on any image to link to its source page.)

 

***

Foot binding endured in China for over a thousand years. China has always been a remarkably homogeneous country, with the Han being the majority ethnic-cultural group. Therefore, whatever the Han were doing became the norm. And for reasons not completely understood – though there are legends, of which I will speak later – for a millennium the Han Chinese decided that in order for a woman to be marriageable, she must have tiny bound feet. The ideal was a three-inch long, bulb-shaped foot that reflected the size and form of a lotus bud. Hence the rare and precious goal: the three-inch golden lotus foot.

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A young Chinese woman with bound feet. (www.cvltnation.com/lotus-feet-foot-binding-photos/)

My goal here is not to go into detail about how bound feet were achieved; there are many other excellent resources on that subject, and wonderful historical fiction with Chinese protagonists for those who wish to delve into it further. Suffice it to say that the process began in early childhood, usually when the girl was between three and six years old. Her feet were wrapped in silk, folded, bent, and broken, with subsequent bindings to form the desired shape. It took several years for the bones to set, and for her whole life the woman had to keep her feet tightly wrapped in order to maintain them.

bound feet woman
A beautiful girl with perfectly bound feet. (www.pintrest.com/pin/253538653993736848/)

Why put little girls through such agony? The answer is simple: a mother’s love. Mothers who loved their daughters wanted them to marry well – the only acceptable lifestyle for a woman of the time – and in order to get a good match, a girl must have tiny feet. So although this process sounds gruesome and cruel (it certainly seems that way to me!), it should not be looked at as simple torture. Rather, it was the expression of a family’s concern for their daughter’s future. A desperate act of love.

It is a myth that bound-footed women could not walk at all. They could; in fact, the binding produced a particular rolling gait that was considered to be highly erotic. People also thought this special walk tightened the muscles of the vagina, thus leading to heightened pleasure for men. Bound feet were an erotic body part in and of themselves, too. Entire books were written on the many ways a man could pleasure himself with a woman’s golden lotuses. A woman never willingly revealed her naked feet. They were always bound in silk and covered in beautiful embroidered slippers (Every good seductress knows that covering up – even just one small body part – heightens arousal to the boiling point. Try it sometime and you’ll see what I mean!) Even covered, people knew what bound feet looked like. The deep cleft between the heel and toes was thought to suggest the cleft between a woman’s legs…

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A pair of tiny slippers for lotus feet. (reneeriley.wordpress.com)

Of course there were societal benefits to binding women’s feet, too. Tiny-footed women were more or less home-bound, unable to run around or do hard work outside the house. Thus bound feet were a symbol of social status. Also, they insured that women would stay put, engaged only in appropriate feminine tasks (that is to say, those that took place only in the home). And bound feet made it very difficult for a woman to go anywhere, keeping her safely behind walls… and away from other men. Bound feet assured a woman’s chastity.

another erotic painting
There were manuals describing the ways a man might best enjoy a woman’s bound feet. (www.pagodared.com)
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Bound feet were considered highly erotic. As you can see, they are never uncovered – the woman still wears her red slippers. (www.redpagoda.com)

It was for these reasons: family & cultural pressure, societal expectations, and eroticism, that foot binding endured so long. When it ended, it was in sudden dramatic fashion – causing much pain and heartbreak in the process – and was finally crushed by the Cultural Revolution.

Of course, none of that answers the most interesting questions. Why did foot-binding start in the first place? How did it even come about? Who came up with this bizarre and painful tradition?

The short answer is, nobody really knows. I had real difficulty finding scholarly articles on the topic; academics tend to stay away from the baffling and explainable. However Wikipedia, everyone’s favorite quasi-reputable resource, lists several ideas. These include:

1. A favored empress (or concubine), possibly Daji, with naturally deformed feet, called clubfoot. She  jealously ordered all other girls to deform their feet similarly. Which is an unlovely thought indeed…

or:

2. A court dancer named Yao Niang who performed on tiptoe while standing on a golden lotus pavilion. The emperor was so transfixed, and Yao Niang’s dance so graceful, that others wanted to imitate her. Which eventually led to the binding of their feet.

We may never know the true origins of foot binding. But naturally, I chose the option that allows for some beauty and seduction, that of Yao Niang the court dancer. My story blends the possibilities by giving my character, Yao Niang, the club feet. The ancient world was not kind to those with physical disabilities. (Nor, for that matter, is the modern one.)

How would she have lived? What might she have done to survive? For that matter, what would she not have done? These are the questions I explore in How The Lotus Blossoms. (Of course, because it’s me, I took the liberty of sexing it up. Yao Niang’s disability may indeed become a source of triumph, or despair… either way, she’ll stop at nothing to enrapture the emperor, in bed and on the stage.)

taosex
The ancient Chinese kindly provided plenty of inspiration for erotic literature… (www.pintrest.com/pin/118289927688849278/)
LotusSources:
http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/nationality/
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-footbinding-persisted-china-millennium-180953971/
http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/09/the-peculiar-history-of-foot-binding-in-china/279718/
http://www.damninteresting.com/bound-by-tradition/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding#Origins