Yes! It’s summer at last! I always go on a relaxing vacation (yes, I am aware of my good fortune), where I eat, drink, and be merry until it’s time to slog back to work.
This summer, I propose a free armchair vacation for my readers. How about a trip to King Solomon’s Court? Perhaps a journey to a magical kingdom where princesses disappear each night, only to return with their dancing shoes worn through? Or maybe you’re in the mood for Tokyo, Japan? And in honor of the new Wonder Woman movie (and Amazons in general), why not spend some time in a world where women rule and men are kept only as tools for pleasure?
It doesn’t matter which destinations you choose, because I‘m making them ALL FREE this summer! Yes, every day you visit my Amazon author page, there will be something offered for free. (Besides One Night to Tango, and Taking the Reins, which as you know are always yours for the fantastic low price of 0.00!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m usually a person who values the traditional writing process (as described here – it’s an invaluable tool!), but these days I’m trying something different. Instead of outlining my story from beginning to end – leaving space for plenty of fun in the middle, of course – I’m letting myself be guided by the cards. Tarot cards, to be exact. Specifically the 22 cards of the Major Arcana.
Tarot has fascinated me for years. The deck I use is one I made myself, back in the days when I had way more free time. It’s not fine art, but each card is meaningful, and speaks to me on a deeply personal level. I don’t consider myself an expert, or even a regular reader, but from time to time I find peace and guidance in doing a quick Celtic Cross for myself. It’s soothing to let the subconscious take control for a while, remove all thought and decision from the process, and just allow the Universe to speak. Some people (like my husband, no doubt), concrete thinkers and evidence-based decision-makers, might scoff at the idea, but I can say that there is energy in the cards. A kind of a tingling, a sense of being drawn towards one card over another. You can feel it, and be guided by it. It’s your subconscious speaking. The hard part is forcing you rational mind, bogged down by over-analysis, to listen.
Inspired by this, I had the idea many years ago to write a romance based on the Major Arcana. These 22 cards are a journey – some people call it The Fool’s Journey. Essentially, the cards are stepping stones through a person’s development from ignorance (childishness, innocence) into maturity (awareness, empathy, understanding). At first I thought I would write the story in order – this website does a good job summarizing it. Then I thought “Wait a minute… if I just write the story in the traditional order, I’m really just doing the classic writer’s process! That’s not much of a challenge. And anyway, you’re supposed to let the Tarot guide…” That’s when I began to change my thinking. At that point I decided to start and end with the same cards – The Fool to The World – but let the middle be totally random, depending on which card I pick at the beginning of each chapter. My experimental erotic romance, currently published on WattPad, is the result.
Major Arcana: sex, love, and Tarot , is just that. (Hey, you can’t say I don’t deliver on a title!) The challenge for me has been to keep the idea of the story in my head – yes, I already know some of what will happen before I draw a card – yet allow the Tarot to guide each chapter. So far, I’ve been pleased with how it has worked out. Sometimes there were surprises (for example, I didn’t expect The Devil to pop up so soon!), and some of the cards have stymied me briefly (Judgment, for example, was really sticky for a bit), but it’s amazing to see how it is all coming together.
Who knows? Maybe my subconscious had it right all along! Wouldn’t be the first time. 🙂
School’s out for the summer! And so am I. Ahead of me are five wonderful weeks of relaxation and freedom, as I enjoy time with family overseas we only get to visit once a year, catch up on my pleasure reading (and pleasure of all kinds, for that matter), and indulge myself in excessive quantities of food, wine, and sex. In other words, I’m going on vacation.
And so are my books! From June 25th – August 5th (yes, I know, I have an awesome vacation schedule), a large selection of my work will be available for FREE on Smashwords and AllRomance eBooks.
So what does that mean for you? Well, quite simply, it means click on all the links and read erotica to your heart’s content, for the beach bum vacation price of nothing. Now that’s summertime freedom! (As usual, I only request that if you read it, you leave a review. Reviews make indie authors smile!)
Here’s what’s free for you this summer:
One Night To Tango : a hot-blooded one night stand… with ball gowns. (Permanently free on Amazon, Smashwords, and ARe)
Taking the Reins : sweet & sexy cowboy romance at the horse show! (Permanently free on Amazon, Smashwords, and ARe)
Lemons in their Slippers: an erotic romance retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (with all the good bits…) Smashwords or ARe
Football Her Way : lots of halftime fun in the marital bed of this adventurous couple! Smashwords or ARe
Her Birthday Breeding : purely for fun (and, you know, to channel that primal reproductive beast within each of us), join a vibrant married couple and their sexy stud-for-hire in a birthday party to remember. Smashwords or ARe
Not So Square : this accountant isn’t as square as he originally seems… and what he does with clothespins might change the way you look at laundry forever. Smashwords or ARe
Sheba’s Lovely Maidens : a sensual visit to King Solomon’s Court in the encourage of our magnificent Queen of Sheba. Smashwords or ARe
Queen of Beauty : Nefertiti lives again! A story of the love, sacrifice, and passion that grows with maturity. Smashwords or ARe
An Amazon’s Equal : this is the big freebie, so grab it now! Novel-length erotic romance, featuring an Amazonian feminist fantasy, sexy Greek warriors, and true love. Smashwords or ARe
Also, stay connected on Wattpad to follow the story of my current work in progress, Major Arcana: sex, love, and Tarot. It’s more than halfway done now, so you can use your summer reading time to catch up! (Plus, always free to read on Wattpad, at least until it’s done. Be sure to check it out!)
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!
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!
Taking 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!
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 vision 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.