Monday, December 29, 2008

Timely movie review-"Seven Pounds" by Genella deGrey

Word from the LIT Ladies:
We are pleased to welcome Genella deGrey's special review of this thought-provoking new movie, staring Will Smith. With the New Year upon us, perhaps the release of this movie is not as happen chance as it seems...enjoy.

Working at a major motion picture studio has its benefits. As such, I feel privileged to have attended an advanced screening of "Seven Pounds" staring Will Smith, written by Grant Nieporte and directed by Gabriele Muccino.

"Seven Pounds" was very well acted (but I wouldn't expect less of Mr. Smith, whom I admire both as a person and as an actor.) The direction was wonderful and the writing (plot, dialog) just tore me up in places. Thank you, Mr. Nieporte for delivering a heart-wrenching original screenplay - May there be many, many more in your future and ours!

I was very impressed with the makeup - and you know I'm not easily impressed with that. ;) It was believable so much so that I didn’t even blink at faces or the SFX makeup. (SFX means Special Effects.) While I'd love to give you the name of the designer of the makeup for "Seven Pounds," the Internet Movie Data Base didn't provide a makeup Department Head name. And, OK, I was too occupied with tissuing away my tears during the credits to remember the name.

There was one small detail that had me turning away from the screen every so often, bringing me out of the movie and back to reality: The use of the not-so-Steady Cam .

Seriously, I implore cinematographers everywhere: USE A TRIPOD! I was getting motion sickness while trying to enjoy a very good movie. Is this the result Hollywood is looking for? Making the audience seasick? Come on now. This floating, shaky camera, armaturistic trend is over. Let's get back to professional movie making, M’kay?

End trendy lack of tripod use rant

“Seven Pounds” is not a movie I would normally go see, but I have to tell you, I really loved it. And I wish every person wishing to improve the way in which they live their lives and the way they treat others would go see this film.

The subject matter was heavy (as in human terminal issues) – bring lots of tissue – bitter-sweet ending.

In the sea of not a-heck-of-a lot out there as far as movies go, I hope you all go see “Seven Pounds.” It will really make you think about the way in which you interact with other humans.

Genella deGrey
Heating-up History

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Did you know that it was not until 1752...

that the British and American colonies adopted the newly reformed Gregorian calendar that made January 1, offically the start of the new year?

With the New year upon us, I thought I would check out the history of traditions around the world on this day of starting afresh a brand new year.

In 1796, Robert Burns poem, "Auld Lang Syne" was first published (Scots Musical Museum) based on lyrics he had heard an old man singing. But it was not until an historic night in 1929 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Your City on New Years Eve, that the song was destined to become a New Years traditon. Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians from that night on, played the tune on New Years Eve until 1976 at the famous Waldorf Astoria. It was said once that no one would believe it was the New Year unless Lombardo's rendition of the song was played.

In Spain: tradtion is to eat twelve grapes at midnight, symbolizing good fortune for the next twelve months.

In the Netherlands: they use their Christmas trees to light bonfires and launch fireworks to drive the out the old and bring in the new.

In Greece; the tradtion of baking a St Basil's Cake and hiding a gold or silver coin inside assures the finder of having a "lucky" new year!

In Scotland: a celebration called "Hogmanay" or "first-footing" is practised still. Just after midnight, it is tradtion to visit your neighbor and offer good wishes for the new year, bringing along a piece of coal for the fire or shortbread as a gift.

Even better it is if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year!

How about this guy? My inspiration for DESIRE made flesh, in an upcoming anthology based on the festival of Samhain.)

What are YOUR New Year's Eve traditions? Do you head down to Times Square? Love to get glammed up and go out on the town? Maybe you prefer a night with an intimate dinner and dancing afterwards?
Give us the scoop!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas....

I know, I know, you lot say Merry Christmas, but I'm British after all, and have to stay true to my nature! Of course, that nature prevailed in this post and the picture! Made a ghastly faux pas with my brandy when I saw it.

Do enjoy a laugh, and a drink, and if you feel moved to, I would not be at all opposed to all of our LIT readers and visitors to hoist one's glass in the air and give a resounding HUZZAH to little old me, who will be sitting at the kiddie table today wearing my paper hat and pretending that the junk in the Christmas crackers are worth while toys.....

However, I do have a rather sordid plan later tonight to use the syllabub sauce in a most wicked and indecent way...

Holidays hugs and kisses, beneath the mistletoe, of course!!!

Lord Craven-Moore.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Perspective with a View

Happy Solstice to all!

I would like to be able to say that these past few days have been relaxing and happy for me, but that would be what I do best--fiction

Lets talk a moment about stress-one of my least favorite things and yet despite my efforts comes knocking on my door about this time of year...
Stress, I've come to realize in the past few weeks, is a matter of perspective.

For example, I have revisions (major) to contend with. On the other other hand, given this shaky economy, I am grateful that I have them as well as future contracts.

My bathrooms are yet uncleaned for guests and the baking is not yet done. But I am grateful to have a warm & comfortable home where family and friends-old and new- can gather together.

One of my teenage twins and I were at odds most of the day yesterday which just put me in a blue funk and last night before bed, he came to me without prodding and apologized, giving me a big hug. I still don't know what was bugging him, but whatever it is/was I am grateful he knows that he, too, can have his "moments" and still be loved unconditionally.


One of my favorite holiday flicks of all time is a Disney movie called "One Magic Christmas" w/ Maryann Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton. Here is a movie that puts things into perspective. The woman has no spirit. Financial woes plague them, her husband has lost his job, but thinks the kids deserve a happy Christmas and has dreams of starting up his own bicycle repair shop, she works at a grocery store 24/7,her boss is a tyrant, they have to move from their house by January 1. Ginnie doesn't believe in miracles anymore, nor in the good of mankind. She can't see what she has right in front of her.

As you might imagine, an angel(Gideon, played by a dusty old cowboy, Harry Dean Stanton) is sent to teach her about miracles and gratitude. Where there is gratitude, there is hope, where there is hope, miracles can happen.


I have much yet to do before the first of the year, but last night, wrapped in a warm blanket, in front of a fire, with my hubby and 3 out of 4 of my kids, I was reminded again that a grateful heart is energizing. A grateful heart is content and contentment is a powerful tool in gaining perspective to just about any challenge one faces.

How do you find your perspective during this busy time? Do you do yoga? Is there that favorite movie you have to watch every year? Is there a tradition that, for you and your family, is special to you? Share those with us and from the entries, we will choose one as a winner of a special gift from the Lusty Ladies.

Contest will run from 12/23- 12/31. Winners chosen on 12/31 and announced that day.

From all of us here at the manor, May you have a heart filled with gratutude and a year of contentment and possibility!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Mastering Craven-Moore and Wulfson..contest results

Bloody hell this is a difficult task! Wulfson and I have been at this for hours; the man has downed my entire decanter of brandy~the fiend! He’s three sheets now, and he’s wanting to give everyone a prize. I told him it wasn’t the way things work, and the bugger drew his sword at me and demanded I give out a few ‘honorable mentions’….

I laughed in his face. I’m the furthest thing from honorable. I’m rather like Lucifer sitting on his throne…however, I do see the merits in a few extra goodies. The suggestions were remarkably clever. A few, I have even penned onto a piece of scented stationary for the LIT ladies to memorize…Master of Menage comes to mind….

Well, then without further ado, Wulfson (the sodding reprobate) and myself, Lord Craven-Moore have decided the winners. They are…..

The Sexiest…(this was not easy. Wulfson and I nearly came to blows over this, and have decided to do the gentlemanly thing and award a tie!)

Master of Rapture…Jane
Master of My Body…Amy S

The Wittiest, that belongs entirely to Genella whose Master of My Knobs made even Wulfson do more than smirk!

We have decided to add another category, as Lady Tarian wishes. (Who am I to disappoint a lady??)

The Most Romantic…
Master of My Soul to Pam P

Winners, please email your address to If you have not heard back from Charlotte within 24hrs of emailing her, please use the email address
And that is it, readers, the conclusion to our week with the utterly beautiful Karin Tabke (have you seen her picture…ouch, Charlotte just swatted me!) and her moody Wulfson..(ouch, bloody hell, Tarian has just pinched me!)

We thank Karin for her time, excerpts, and the fun we had. We would also like to invite her back, when Stefan comes out. I’ve given leave for Wulfson to warn the poor man about Charlotte and her obsession. The poor bloke will be in for a time of it! And I…I will not make his interview easy!

Peace, Mon Anges!

Man on Man..Lord Craven-Moore and Wulfson!

An interview, taken from the notebook of Lord Craven-Moore...

I admit, I have been rather intrigued by the response from Charlotte and LIT readers alike in regards to these knights. What is all the fuss about, I wonder. Naturally, I had to know the man who has stolen a measure of Charlotte’s affection. So, me being a gentleman, I did the only thing I could, I offered to interview Wulfson and get inside his head.

I have never had the pleasure of knowing a knight, well, a knight in the true sense, one who actually fights on horseback, wears armor and the like. The knights I know have been knighted for keeping a nice shop, or being a good squire, not at all the same as a warrior knight. So, when I opened the door to Wulfson, I was rather agog, and a rarity for me, speechless. Bloody hell, he’s the size of an oak. He looks positively immovable and for a second, I’m feeling a touch…inferior. But then I remind myself that I am a LORD, and I do outrank him. However, I keep my thoughts to myself. I have no wish to have my head severed from my shoulders. Suddenly, I have the sinking feeling that he would do so, with a smile on his face.

As I peruse my guest (who has had the audacity to arrive at the unfashionable hour of nine when I was just rolling over and discovering a smooth expanse of warm, female flesh) I take in his tall form, his big shoulders, arms, thighs, and suddenly understand just what these ladies of mine see. If I were to ‘swing that way’ (forgive the modern vernacular) I would indeed find Wulfson a most impressive specimen of virility. However, I have the sense that we are going to butt heads somewhat, what with the size of his sword that is so evidently displayed. In a churlish, and most childish mood, I have the compulsion to tell the bloke that I own an impressive sword as well, and it’s just as big, and I can maneuver it as well, or better than he. (As an aside, Wulfson’s sword is shiny, mine is dulled—from excessive use, of course) But again, I look up into his narrowed green gaze and decide that self-preservation is the name of the game this morning. After all, I would not want to scrape and bloody my knuckles. Charlotte hates rough hands.

As I lead him into my rooms (not the damn parlor where the ladies are; Wulfson is a wolf, and I have no wish to have him eyeing up the LIT ladies) I am wondering what is going on in his head, but the man is difficult to read, no doubt a trait used in battle. I have no use for battles; unless of course it’s taking place on a feather mattress.

Once we enter the room, I wait for him to enter, but he’s looking at me in the most disconcerting way, that I stop and square off with him. It seems we are going through some sort of male ritual. Must be medieval, I think, for he is sizing me up, and I’m beginning to think that he’s wondering if I’m worthy or not. Arrogant beast! And that’s just me! I couldn’t possibly begin to write what I truly think of him!
~ ~ ~

Wulfson strode arrogantly into the appointed chamber, his sharp eyes taking in every aspect of it. The opulent draperies, the huge bed, the roaring fire, the richly dressed man who stood at his entrance. Immediately Wulf sized him up. Lord Craven-More. He was tall, muscular, handsome if he had to guess. Wulf’s eyes dropped to his host’s hands. Though big, he doubted they wielded anything more than a table knife. Nay, this man was all about the pleasures of the flesh. He could see it in the way he stood, the way he dressed, the way he surrounded himself with sumptuousness. Wulfson shrugged not caring either way. So long as Lord Craven-More stayed away from his lady, he had no quarrel with the man. Wulfson nodded his head and strode further into to the chamber. Now, to find out what he wanted.

“Take a seat,” I suggested, motioning to the leather wingback by the hearth. Brandy? Ale?” Wulfson shook his head, and I feel my lips curl sardonically, perhaps I should offer him a cup of my blood…

“Shall we begin, then?” I have a great desire to get this blasted interview over and done with and return to Charlotte’s bed where I shall make her pay dearly for this sacrifice I have made. I am already thinking of things, and when I smile, Wulfson narrows his gaze and stiffens his body.

“Why do you laugh?”

“I am thinking of a delightful interlude, one that I plan on indulging in once you have departed. Now, why are you smiling,” I asked, taken aback by the change in his demeanor.

“I think perhaps, we are thinking of the same interlude, but with different players.”

I raise my brandy snifter in salute to him. He is a worthy opponent, and if he would only find a decent tailor and cut his hair, I’d find him very enjoyable company on my escapades.

Settling into chairs, we face each other, each sizing up the other. At length, we study each other, then I begin, reaching for my notes….

“In Rohan’s book, it opened with the prison scene, your book didn’t discuss that part of your life in any detail. Do you discuss it?”


Oh, this is going brilliantly. What a scintillating conversationalist he is. I warm my brandy in my hands, holding the snifter as I look into the amber depths. I try again.

“What of your parents? Who were they?”

Laughs caustically. Eyes narrow, hand fists around the hilt of his sword. “My parents? Two people who should never have come together. But since you seem as nosey as a milk maid, I’ll tell you this: my sire, a Norman nobleman if he can be called noble, seduced a very young, very naïve Saxon maid. Rather than live with the shame of bearing a bastard, my dam took her life shortly after my birth. My sire can rot in hell.”

I have had my nose in a milk maid, but never have I been accused of resembling one. I’d call the bloke out, if he wasn’t fingering the hilt of his sword. I have no energy in the morning for sword fights…well, metal sword fights.

I do soften however; his life could not have been easy. Bastardy is a curse no matter the century. Grudgingly, I admire him and all he as attained. But I would never tell him so. We are, after all, having that most masculine of rituals—a pissing contest.

“Did you fight with the others while in the East, or did you meet in prison?”

A slow smile erupts twisting the crescent scar on his chin. “My brothers, the Blood Swords? No finer men can be found in all of Christendom. We met in Iberia fighting those devils from the Holy Land. Our fate was sealed in that hellhole of prison Jubb.”

I would like to ask about the Jubb, but I have the feeling Wulfson would vacate the premises. So, my crafty mind takes a different turn.

“Never one to let others take the lead; I would have balked at having someone arbitrarily picked as leader. How did you feel when Rohan was chosen? How was it decided amongst you?

Wulfson sneers and sits back in his chair fiddling with his leather vambrance. “You would balk, you lazy lout. Mayhap if you understood the brotherhood of the Blood Sword you would understand we are all equal, and share the power. Rohan lead us from the battlefields of Hastings. I lead from Rouen to Draceadon. Who knows who will ride point in the next chapter of our lives. But whomever it will be, we will all respect his authority and know he leads with a clear head and clear heart. We are one. Never forget that.”

Hmmm. He could use a bit of social polish, but who am I to suggest such a thing. And I take back anything nice I’ve said about him. The man is positively primeval. No wonder the ladies swoon over him!

“Who are you closest to in the Blood Swords?”

Slowly shakes head. “Do you intentionally mean to cause dissention amongst my brothers?” He leans forward and slowly says, “We are equal. For myself, I have no favorites. Each brother I love equally and trust with my life.”

Who do you get along with the least? Why?

Sits back in the chair. “Aye, you do try my patience. Leave this subject, you will get nothing from me on the matter.”

“And what a pity it would be see the back of you,” I say testily. “Have a brandy, it’ll do wonders for your humors.”

He gets up out of his chair, and I sigh. The things I do for women…

“All right. I’ll leave the topic. But do not go yet. My ladies…well, they won’t be pleased. I haven’t gotten enough out of you yet., you see, and I do like to please them. Something I feel you can relate to. You like to please your lady, do you not?”

I’ve hit a chord with him. I could not miss the flash in his eyes at the mention of his lady. For all his arrogance, he has a chink in his armor. I turn my attention there as he slowly but guardedly lowers himself back into the chair.

“Once you had decided to have Tarian for your own, did you fear William’s decision that her death might still stand?”

“My king is no fool.”

“But that being said, what would you have done if your king still wanted her dead?

“Exactly what I did.” Shakes head and curses. “Did you not read the book?”

“Oh, I did. But frankly, I could not imagine the ballocks required to snuff the lady out.” I see he’s going to make a rebuff, and I quickly head him off.

“After you saw that first tear trickle down Tarian’s cheek while she was in that dungeon can you honestly say you could have acted out your orders?” He takes a deep breath and slowly looks past my head.

“Had I acted upon my king’s orders at that moment in time, her tormented sea-colored eyes would haunt me to my grave. The fates were looking out for her that day, and I thank god for them.”

“When she came to you in the night, did you ever think that it wasn’t a dream?”

His face softens and a small smile twitches his lips. “That night she was what every man dreams of.” His hand grips the hilt of his sword and he readjusts himself in his chair. “As to my thoughts that eve?” Wulfson’s smile deepens. “I don’t know what I thought. I was, ah, I had my hands full.” Softly chuckles.

Hands full? I have the sudden desire to view the Lady Tarian. A most intriguing puzzle. As I flip through the notes, I notice the questions that the ladies have written down. Charlotte’s brain must be on permanent shut down if she believes for one second that I am going to ask this man what his favorite color is and what he wants for supper! Bloody hell, the man already thinks me a fop!

I turn the conversation to my domain…

Throwing the notepad onto the table, I meet Wulfson’s green, penetrating gaze. This is where I excel….

“Bosom or bottom?”

Narrows his eyes, then smiles. ‘Tis a most difficult choice. Ask me if I prefer a sweet ride as opposed to a wild ride. They both have their appeal.

“On top or on the bottom?”

Smile widens. Both.

I laugh. I would have answered the same way. Although, I do believe that a well endowed bosom might inch out over a bottom. There is just so much that can be done with a bosom….

“Favorite place on a woman’s body to kiss?”

Lady Tarian saunters into the chamber, and we both look up. Wulfson stands and bows, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips.

“My lady.”

She looks past her husband to me, the rake lounging in his chair and cocks a lovely dark brow.

“What is this, milord? Do you share the secrets of our chamber with this stranger?”

Wulfson grins and sits, bringing her down onto his lap. He nuzzles his nose at the corner where her throat meets her shoulder. Gently he nibbles her there. She squirms and her cheeks flush pink.

“There,” Wulfson softly says, as his lips trail further down her throat to the high swell of her breasts. “And there.”

Bloody hell, I am reminded of what awaits me in the boudoir. I am most anxious to get this over with.

“Sexy love words or quiet?”

Lady Tarian gasps. Wulfson softly says against her sultry skin, “No words of love are required when the body speaks so eloquently.” His lips press to the lady’s in a wild passionate kiss.

Clearly, he has never seen the results of a well timed dirty innuendo. I must teach him. Or perhaps I shall teach the Lady Tarian, who may in turn, instruct her husband…

“Ultimate fantasy?”

“I live it,” he murmurs against his wife’s lips.

How quaint. This is when I bellow for the ladies, who run into the room and surround me with a gluttony of lavish attention. Best that, Wulfson!

But then he reaches forward and shakes my hand, and I realize, he’s a good sort and all that. I just hope the next knight I’m forced to endure interviewing is slightly less intense. Intensity if never good first thing in the morning before breakfast, a bath, and a hearty tup.

“Who is the next Blood Sword to be written?” I ask.

“Ooh,” Charlotte purrs as she rakes her fingers through my hair, “Stefan.”

I groan. Perhaps Wulfson has that helmet contraption still about, for I will need it for Charlotte. She will be all over Stefan like lint on a black velvet smoking jacket.

“I’m going to interview him with you,” she proudly states.

“Like hell,” I grunt. “You will be exactly where you belong, up in my bedroom, tied to the bed with silk ribbons awaiting my return to you.”

I see Wulfson’s eyes flash. Grudging appreciation is in them. I believe we, what you modern people say, ‘are sharing a moment’.

“My lord,” Wulfson says with dry humor. “I believe I might know exactly where that helmet is.”

Ah…a friend and ally at last.

So there you have it. My interview with Wulfson. You may feel inclined to ask Wulfson some questions, however I cannot vouch for his answers, his humor, or his ability to type! Now I am off to find my ladies. I have a most impressive sword to show them.

Do not forget to return tonight at 8:00pm ET to discover the winners of the Masters contest. I do hope that Wulfson and I can agree. I believe I should pick the sexiest title, and Wulfson should do the funniest. Although, I don't believe the man would see humor if it hit him on the head! Ah well...we shall see. I'll ply him with brandy. Everyone is more agreeable when drinking brandy!

Adieu, Mon Anges,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gotta Craving....

Well, our most persuasive Lord Craven-Moore somehow prevailed upon Karin to give us a first glimpse of sexy Stefan's book (book 3 of the Blood Swords) entitled Master of Craving. I wonder what the uber talented and highly skilled Lord did to make her cough up the goods? lol!

Without further ado, an un-copy-edited excerpt. It's fabuuuuuulous! When you're done reading, let Karin know what you think. I think she's got another winner on her hands! And I for one, would like to say for the record, that Stefan is allll mine! lol!

Having survived the great battle of Hereford, Stefan lies naked in the wood at a pond’s edge where he has bathed away the battle stench, tended his grave wounds and ponders his next move. For the Normans were slaughtered by the combined forces of the mad Saxon Earl Edric and his Welsh allies King Rhiwallon and Bleddyn. His brother Blood Swords have been captured by the Welsh kings and, Stefan will do anything to see to their safe release. Anything.

Stefan grabbed his sword and rolled over prepared to do battle but instead found nothing. Had he dreamt the low sensual laugh?
He heard it again, closer now. His blood warmed as he conjured up a face and body to go with such an exotic sound. He hurried as fast as his damaged leg would allow to Apollo and pushed the huge horse back further into the thick wood. He warned him to silence. Knowing the horse would stand still until given the command to move, Stefan turned and moved to the edge of the thick copse of foliage he hid behind. For long moments he stood, wondering for the second time if he had dreamt the voice. The light sound of footsteps crunching along the rocky path to the secluded pond announced a visitor. He crouched wincing at the pull of skin and muscle on his damaged thigh and rethought his position. As he made to adjust, he stopped all movement.
“Jane, hurry, I must get out of these mud caked rags!” A melodic female voice called in Welsh.
Stefan crouched lower. Not moving a single muscle, he watched as a wood nymph pranced into view. His eyes widened. She was tall, slender, and as his gaze raked her body, buxom. He smiled. She was undressing in a most uninhibited manner as she hurried toward the inviting pool. And, he could see why. Her emerald colored gown was covered in mud on one side as was her long sunburst colored hair.
When she yanked the kirtle from her body, he held his breath. The soft linen of her chemise beneath, molded against her full curves in the soft breeze. “I cannot believe I fell from my horse!”
“You have become too arrogant, milady,” an old woman said hobbling into the clearing holding a cloth bundle. “‘Tis time someone brought you down a peg.”
A noblewoman? A Welsh noblewoman? He grinned wider, and silently thanked Rhys and Wulfson for their tutelage of the language. He would repay them handsomely when next they met.
The eager lady did not wait for her maid to help her undress further. She sat upon the stone he had just himself laid upon and unlaced her soft leather boots, untied her garters, then rolled down short white chauses. His body tightened when she stood and pulled the chemise from her body. Heat filled him as he slowly stood, unable to turn away, indeed, could he have. Transfixed, he took in every sensual inch of her body. She was tall for a woman and majestically golden. Golden hair, golden skin. Her breasts were full and rose high upon her chest. His hands opened and closed, wanting to feel the soft firmness of them beneath his fingertips.
He envisioned his large calloused fingers gently brushing across a pink nipple, feeling it come alive beneath his touch. His cock filled as his eyes traveled down her flat belly to her rounded hips and to the blush colored triangle between her thighs. He hissed out a low breath. She was breathtaking, and at that moment, Stefan knew what it meant to want something so badly he would give his right arm to possess it. His cock lengthened at the spectacular sight and had she been alone, he would have been so bold as to show himself. Like Adam to her Eve. He wanted to join with her, and mate.
“You are shameful!” Jane scolded. “What if there are bandits in the wood?”
“Keep watch, Jane, I will be but a few minutes. We have been riding hard for days, the dirt of the road clings to me and you know I have not bathed since we departed Dinefrw.”
Dinefrw? ‘Twas where Prince Hyclon resided. This he knew, for the Dinefwr-Castile blood line was amongst the finest not only in all of Christendom, but even the Saracens in the Holy Land traveled to Dinefrw to bred their mares to Hyclon’s stallions.
Intrigued, he watched the lady gingerly stick a toe into the cool water. She gasped in a breath at the coolness, when she did her breasts rose higher, as did he. He smiled despite the pain it caused him as she slowly glided into the pool. Her golden skin puckered and her blush colored nipples tightened.
“Go, Jane and leave me. Go down the path and make sure that letch Dag keeps his distance.”
The errant lady slid the rest of her long body into the cool, clear water, gasping at the coolness. Stefan squirmed where he stood, the tension between his thighs overriding the tension of his wounds.
The servant set her bundle down on the rock and untied it, then spread out clothes and a long linen towel. “Here are your clothes, you will have to dry yourself. I cannot guard the path and dress you at the same time. Do not dally, milady, we must be back on the road.”
The lady splashed water at her maid and scoffed, “Dag has lost his way and because of it we have lost time. I fear we will never get to Yorkshire.”
“He is not the most intelligent of men,” Jane confessed, then reluctantly, the old woman moved back down the path they had come.
Stefan knelt on the soft loamy ground and watched as Arian swam in the small pool, and as he had done, she grabbed a hunk of springy moss from beneath a fern. When she stood and the clear water sluiced down her breasts to her belly, glistening like pearls under the sunlight Stefan stifled a groan.
She reached over to the bundle and grabbed a bar of soap and when she lathered it, he held his breath. Her slender hands smeared it across her breasts and down her belly to her thighs. She tilted her head back, her back arched, and those luscious breasts pointed to the sun. Her hands slid across her body with brazen familiarity. He wanted to touch her so. She had no modesty and he could tell just from the way she touched herself she would be an adventurous lover.
She sunk deeper into the pool allowing the water to carry the lather away. When she completely submerged and shot up, her body glistening in the sun Stefan slowly stood and took a step closer. She put the soap to her hair and vigorously washed it. She went under again and this time when she erupted from the water like Venus herself, the erotic image was too much for Stefan. He groaned. She gasped and turned crossing her arms over her chest. “Who goes there?”
Stefan grinned ignoring the pain it cost him. How badly he wanted to show himself and how badly he wanted to lose himself in all of that gold and honey, he could not measure, but even had he the time for a dalliance, he doubted he possessed the strength. ‘Twas a shame, for it had been months since his last woman, and none could he recall as comely as this one frolicking in the water before him. He was just about to move deeper into the wood when he heard another voice. A man’s voice.
“Would you like some company, Princess?”
Princess? Stefan’s interest suddenly went from his cock to his head. A Welsh princess? Mayhap Hyclon’s daughter?
“Dag! How dare you trespass! Turn your back and return to the others!” she commanded.
Stefan eyed the intruder as he emerged from the path into the clearing. Nearly as tall as Thorin, bald, but sporting a full blond beard, hard narrowed eyes, and dressed in the manner of a Norsemen complete with battle ax. A Viking. What was a Viking doing with a Welsh princess in the middle of battle-fatigued Mercia? She had mentioned Yorkshire. An area, despite Hardrada’s defeat last year, still heavily populated with Norse.
“I cannot do as you command, Princess Arianrhod. As you have so thoroughly done to my uncle, so too you haunt my every waking thought.” He continued stalking her as a fox would a plump hen.
“Stop now, Dag! Stop before you do something we will both regret,” she warned and, though she tried to keep her voice strong and sure, Stefan heard the fear in it.
Dag laughed as if everyday he plucked an unwilling maid from the water, and continued his slow deliberate pursuit. “I will have no regrets. I want you as I have never wanted anything in my life. I will have you.”
The princess backed up to the rock she had undressed on and grabbed the linen from where the maid had set it. She started to stand, to wrap it around her but thought better of exposing herself to the unwanted intruder. Instead, she drug it into the water soaking it, then wrapped it around her body. Stefan shook his head, ‘twould only weigh her down and show off every curve.
She drug herself from the water on the side of the pond closest to where he hid. He swallowed hard at the display. As forethought, she was a vision to be sure in the thin wet cloth. It clung to her full curves and despite the position she found herself in, the princess’s royal nipples were hard and strained mightily against the cloth. Slowly, Stefan moved closer to the edge of foliage that shielded him. And, as was his instinct when trouble brewed, he reached for his sword where it lay on the ground beside him.
The Viking nimbly hopped from the shore to one rock, then another, then to the one the princess stood upon. She opened her mouth to scream but the Viking was quick. He grasped her, slapping his hand across her mouth. The little hellion bit him and punched him with her fists. The damp linen clung to her between them but now it covered less then it had a moment ago.
Stefan’s impulse was to defend the lady’s honor, but too much was at stake for him to show himself.

One on One with Lord Craven-Moore

Hi guys!
I'm probably going to disappoint you this morning by telling you that Lord Craven-Moore won't be posting his interview with his mystery guest today. Unfortunately, we had a snowstorm to rival that blazing blizzard in Rudolf on Tuesday night and we lost power and heat for more than 24hrs. So, no interent for correspondence.

We're expecting yet another snow storm to come tonight. They're forcasting at least as bad as Tuesday but maybe worse because of snow squalls.....blech.

BUT, I'm sending Craven-Moore over to Karin's to see if he can seduce an excerpt out of her from Master of Craving (book 3 of the Blood Swords) and he'll be working on his interview....I'm very good at cracking the whip, although he does much better when I'm wearing black patent leather! lol!

Check back tomorrow (Friday the 19th,) for Craven-Moore's interview, and also, we'll extend the contest by one more day, because CM and his guest are announcing the winners. Sorry for the extension, but not even Lord Craven-Moore has found a way best Mother Nature!

In the meantime, keep the titles, coming, and check back later today to see just how persuasive our rakish Lord can be!!!!
And here's a little recipe if you're in the mood for something sweet and easy. No-bake Coconut Drops!!!

Coconut Drops

1/4 cup of butter melted and stirred.
2 cups icing sugar
3 cups coconut
1/4c light cream

Mix all ingrediants together and drop onto cookie sheet.
Melt 1 cup chocolate chips with 2 tsp of shortening. Make a thumbprint in the top of each cookie and pour melted chocolate over the cookie drops. Refridgerate for 1-2 hrs. Keep cool in containers.

These babies taste a bit like Bounty chocolate bars, so if you feel like it, put an almond beneath the chocolate for a real treat.

I'll be eating these when I read Lord Craven-Moore's interview tomorrow..mmm

Monday, December 15, 2008

In the Manor with Karin Tabke

Okay, I'm SO excited to announce that we have Karin Tabke with us today, talking about book two in the Blood Swords series about a brotherhood of medieval Norman knights and the ladies who fall for them. Karin has graciously answered some of my questions, and she's excited to field more questions from you guys. So feel free to comment and leave her a question,or glowing praise for the Blood Swords! There's nothing an author loves more than to chat about ther characters, especially hunky alpha knights!

And, make sure you check out the contest at the end of the post!

Charlotte: What made you want to write a medieval series?

I’ve always loved the drama and turbulence of the era. Men were men women were women and nothing was PC. William the Conqueror has always intrigued me and well, what’s better then having a bunch of guys just like him vie for love and acceptance in a world where bastards were looked upon as less than whole and had to work three times harder to carve a place out for themselves and their lady loves?

Charlotte: What was the inspiration for the Bloodswords (how did they come to you)?

I knew I wanted to write a series, and I knew my boys were all dark tortured souls, and I knew they were all going to begin their professional careers as mercenary knights earning their livelihood by selling their swords to the highest bidder. What I didn’t know was who they were as brothers. On my blog I put the call out for help with a title for book one of the series, which at that point had not been fully developed. Anyway, one of the commenters mentioned the term blood sword in her suggestions for a title and it was like a light bulb exploded in my brain! The series came to life and in minutes I hammered out my thoughts, sent them to my agent and editor and they both loved it. Voila! The Blood Sword legacy was born.

Charlotte: It's amazing how the smallest thing can be a ground breaking moment for a writer.Ideas can be inspired by the most innocent of things. I love how your readers helped you reach your 'aha' moment! See, readers, NEVER discount your importance in an authors life!

Charlotte: The men in this series are very strong and sexy, and I think, a product of their era as well as their pasts. Was this consciously done when you began the series?

No, I naturally write alpha heroes. That they didn’t have to apologize for it back then made it so exciting to write I could hardly stand it. Today there are so many tightropes to walk but back then? Hell, no! Boys were boys and they did boy things and it was what it was. Love that!

As an aside, this is one of the things that made me fall in love with the series. There are no 'fake' rakes/or mercenary knights here. Karin has made them what they are, but most importantly, the reader can understand their motives. By weaving in their pasts, and keeping them true to themselves and the other knights, their ways are understandable and sympathetic, and that to me works so well. As a reader, I do not like hearing how rakish, or mercenary, or tough, or sexual a character is, but then never seeing or hearing it through the work. It always seems to me that the author is 'afraid' to walk that line between PC behavior, and the way it acually was. Kudos on taking that path!

Charlotte:How challenging is it to balance the strong females you write about, yet still keep them historically accurate for the period?

What many people don’t realize is, women had power back then. Lot’s of power. They could own land, they could inherit land. Of course once William installed the feudal system in England a lot of that changed, but woman had to be smarter than the men, and manipulate and rule behind the scenes. To me there is nothing weak in a woman of that era understanding what was expected of her, i.e. an arranged marriage, then using a powerful husband to her advantage. No hissy fits over having to marry the old lord next door, not when it brought you status and security, and he could give you children. I get bugged when I read historicals and the lady has a fit when she has to marry the man her parents have chosen, as opposed to wanting to marry for love. Um, from the day they were born both men and women of noble blood knew what was expected of them, and generally they went along with it.

Charlotte: I understand that your heroine in Torment, Lady Tarian, is based on someone in history. Can you tell us how you came by the information and a little about the person?

Actually Tarian is not based on any historical figure but her parents were actual people. Her father Swein Godwinson, eldest son of Godwine, father of Harold who William defeated at Hastings for the throne of England, was a naughty man. He was impetuous, greedy, gave no care to protocol or decorum, he was the bad boy of the family. So bad was Swein he kidnapped Edith Abbess of Leominster and held her captive for almost a year and well, had his way with her. He was, he proclaimed, in love and would have her to wife. Both Kind Edward and Swien’s family renounced him, calling him nithing, which was the lowest of all insults. Finally, after almost a year he relented and let Edith go. So, I asked myself, what if there had been a child born of this most unholy union? What if it were a girl, and what would her life be like? What would she be like? And Tarian was born. She continues to fascinate me. I want to be Tarian Godwinson when I grow up.

Charlotte: The series takes place after William of Normandy conquers England, and the land is still not completely ‘settled’. I’ve been highly impressed, and frankly, in awe of the effortless weaving of history through the first two books of the series. How daunting is your research and what is your ‘formula’ for balancing accurate history with an engrossing plot that moves along?

I have always been fascinated by this time in history, and while I have a decent working knowledge of the era and the players I have soooo much to learn. But it’s a labor of love. One of these days, I’m going to England and never coming back. As far as the plots go, they are all based on what was going on at that time. The series is chronological as to events. And since it was such a tumultuous time, I’m having a field day!

Charlotte: The freaky helmet device that Tarian is forced to wear in the dungeon, (described in the excerpt from yesterday) was it real, or just a figment of incredibly brilliant fiction? (totally creeped me out, and the visual of it was outstanding!)

lol, honestly, both. When I wrote that scene, I saw her in this contraption. But I asked myself, why did she have it on? She was in a dungeon; no one could hear her screams, what was the point? As you know by reading the story Tarian used her words to keep her rapist at bay, humiliating him to the point he had difficulty rising to the occasion so what could he do to shut her up and at the same time humiliate her? Hence, the helmet and bridle. But I had a feeling these things had been used before, and sure enough there is a device called a scold’s bridle. The Scot’s called it a brank. Its sole purpose was to shut up an annoying woman. Of course, I had to make mine more demonic. ;)

Charlotte: I know this is like picking favorite child, but you had to know it was coming….do you have a fav knight? Or one who makes you want to know him more?

I do have a favorite knight. When I was writing MASTER OF SURRENDER, it was Rohan du Luc. I fell harder for Wulfson de Trevelyn in MASTER OF TORMENT. Stefan de Valrey in MASTER OF CRAVING made me want to jump into a time machine. 

Can I jump aboard that machine, because ya know, Stefan is my faaaaav!!!

Charlotte: Who was, or is, going to give you the most difficult time writing his story?

Thorin. And that’s all I’m going to say.

ya know, this totally surprised me. I would have never thought that Thorin would give you a hard time, but noW I have to admit I'm intrigued...

Charlotte: What is your favorite scene in Master of Torment, and why did you enjoy writing it?

I had so many. Too many! Sheesh that’s a real hard one to answer. Ok, I loved the meet scene, the first and second one, then the first seduction scene ;), then the scene in the ruin when Wulf and Tarian take out the Welsh, then the sword fight with her uncle, then the scene later when she sews up his thigh, then the scene when Wulfson goes after Tarian and they end up at the monastery, when Tarian goes with all the Blood Swords to Dunloc. The one where Wulf is captured broke my heart, but the scene that got to me the most was the last battle scene in the river.

Charlotte: Master of Craving is next (and GAWD! I LOVE that title) That’s Stefan’s book. Can you tell us a little about him, and his heroine?

Stefan is the quiet-still-waters-run-very-deep guy. He is more of an observer than a playa, but once he’s bitten the still waters rise and he finds himself in a place he never thought he’d be. He has a hard time understanding his feelings and coming to terms with his inability to treat Princess Arianrhod as a conquest. That she is a Welsh princess betrothed to a great Viking jarl creates a problem. This story is based on the David and Bathsheba story. Talk about unrequited love!

You are such a tease!! I swear, before this week is over, I'm wringing an excerpt, no matter how small, out of you for Master of Craving. After this little tidbit, I'm even more eager to read his book. I think I'll send Lord Craven Moore over to you, he's very good at persuasion! lol!

Charlotte: Gotta ask, is he going to be as darn sexy in his book as he appears in the others?

Of course! My boys don’t come any other way!!!

Charlotte: You gave us a tantalizing taste of Rhys with Brighid (Tarian’s step-sister). Are they going to get their HEA’s and when can we expect it?

Let’s just say Rhys and Brighid will have their story but it will be one wrought with seemingly insurmountable hurdles. And frankly, I’m not sure if she is the one for him. Especially with what I have in store for them. I’m not so sure Brighid will be able to forgive Rhys for an act he commits in the name of duty to his king.

Ooh, I like this, and hope you're writing fast! I'll be needing Rhys' book soon!

Charlotte: Who’s up next after Stefan in Master of Craving?

I think Rorick, but Ioan might be going back to Ireland. King Murchad of Dublin harbors Harold’s two sons, and we all know after MASTER OF TORMENT, how William feels about any surviving Godwinsons…

Great answers, Karin, although I'll admit that you're the Master of Tantalize and Titillate! lol! Which, is a pretty good intro into our Masters contest. So here goes...

Simply tell us what you'd like one of these Knights to be Master of (to make you happy) and you'll get a copy of Master of Surrender or Master of Torment. The sexiest, and the funniest will win a book each. So, put on those thinking caps and get creative! Lord Craven Moore and his special guest will announce the winner Thursday at 8:00pm ET. When you post a comment, if you're posting for the contest, just type in 'Masters Contest' so we can keep tabs of contest entries between comments!)

Good luck everyone. And now the salon is open to Karin!

Mastering the Medieval....

Hi LIT readers! Boy is this gonna be a fun week for you, and for us here at the LIT blog! The very lovely and gracious Karin Tabke is joining us in the manor this week, to celebrate book 2 in her Blood Swords series about a brotherhood of hunky, Norman Knights! I'm a big fangirl of Ms. Tabke, and I couldn't wait to get her on the blog.

Here's the blurb on Master of Torment (and have you seen the cover....I mean c'mon, who isn't going to pick up this book by the cover alone!!)

Wulfson of Trevelyn, trusted knight of William the Conqueror, has never met a man he could not master. But in the tempestuous young widow Tarian of Trent, known as the Lady Warrior, Wulf may finally have met his match. Ordered by the king to curb an armed dispute between Tarian and her dead husband's uncle, Wulf captures the lady but falls captive himself to her seductive dark beauty.

To Lady Tarian's dismay, however, neither her fighting spirit nor her wiles are sufficient to bend Wulfson to her will. She vows she will not be the loser in their passionate battle, but her own desire for this overpowering stranger threatens her body, her life, and her very heart.

This book totally lived up to my expectations as a second in a series. In book one, I loved Rohan, in book 2, I love Wulfson, and that's the way it should be. Wulfson is a totally different type of hero than Rohan was, and I really like that. There are similarities to both books, yet each is different, and stands alone. Torment is perhaps a bit darker, owing to the task that has brought the hero to the heroine, and as a result, its a very emotional book, oh yeah, and sexy as hell, too!!! I'm not going to give too much away, other than I loved it, and I'm DYING for Stefan's book! Stefan caught my eye from book one, and I'd do anything (hint, hint, Karin...) for a little teaser of his book.

I truly can't say enough good things about this series, and my only thoughts (through my sleep deprived brain) is go and get them, or stick around this week for a chance to win a copy of Master of Surrender AND Master of Torment!!! You seriously are not going to be disappointed!

So, Tuesday, Dec 16th Karin is at the blog doing some Q&A, and on Thursday, Lord Craven Moore has a BIG surprise for you, he's dragging someone to the blog for a little man on man!!! And, no, I'm not going to elaborate, you'll just have to pop over and see what that sexy rake has in store for you. There will be contests and fun, and maybe we can tempt Karin into sharing a wicked pic she uses for inspiration with us!

But to whet your appetite for Wulfson, here's an excerpt to keep you warm!! Until tomorrow.....

Scene set up: Wulfson of Trevelyn, captain of William’s elite guard les morts, is sent to Draceadon to eliminate Tarian Godwinson. Murdering her Saxon husband, Earl Malcor of Dunloc, is not her worse crime, being blood niece to the slain Saxon king Harold is.

Wulfson’s heart seemed to stop for one inexorable beat. From behind some type of metal device, a helmet with cross bars and what appeared to be a bridle of sorts, glittering eyes the color of the ocean stared at him. From what he could see of her face, it was a muted mass of bruises. His hands reached out to her, and she hissed and spat like a cat being dunked in water.
“My lady…” Gareth whispered from behind him. Wulfson moved closer to her, his gaze catching every detail: a bloody chemise twisted around her waist, the sharp rise and fall of her breasts was hardly discernable beneath the combined caked blood and dirt of the floor. Deep purple bruises, along with the criss-crossed markings of the lash, etched her arms and thighs. His gaze moved back to hers. In quiet amazement and a grudging respect for the woman who had not only survived such torture but still had fight left in her, he could not look away. He raised his right hand to touch her, to see if she were indeed human. The movement elicited another hiss, followed by a clawed hand digging into his gauntlet, halting his movement. He nodded, and withdrew, but not to ease her comfort. His hand slid to the leather-wrapped hilt of his short sword. As his fingers wrapped around the well-worn grip, he could not tear his eyes from her defiant glare. What kind of woman was this?
Slowly he pulled the weapon from the leather sheath, intending to ease her suffering for all time. As the blade slid from the sheath, his eyes dipped, unable to meet hers when he plunged the dagger deep into her heart. The fullness of her breasts trembled beneath the dirt and blood that covered her. A fleeting stab of regret pricked at his belly. He ignored it and pressed the tip of the blade to what he knew would be a silky-smooth spot between the full globes. As he moved to press the metal into her heart, he made the mistake of looking up into her eyes.
Time halted for the briefest of moments. Transfixed, as if drugged by some potion, Wulfson watched a lone tear track slowly down her cheek, leaving a bloody stream in its wake. And at that precise moment, something deep inside of him shifted.
It was also the same instant Gareth came undone. “She belongs with me!” he called hoarsely, lunging forward. Wulfson flung his hand back, staying the Dane. From the commotion and scuffle behind him, Wulfson knew the man was contained.
Never breaking eye contact with the specter crouched before him, Wulfson said, “Her fate is not in your hands.” Her eyes narrowed at his words, and her back stiffened. In silent defiance, she dared him to harm her.
“Whatever lies Rangor has spilled to your king I can disprove them!” cried Gareth. She is not a witch. She is not a murderess, nor is she an enemy to the crown! I will stake my life on it!”
“She is what she is, sir captain. I cannot change the facts,” Wulfson answered.
“She is with child! Wouldst you murder a babe as well?” Gareth pleaded.
“I doubt even had she been with child it would have survived the torture.”
“Be not so sure of that, Sir Wulfson,” Rangor said from behind him. At Wulfson’s notice, the noble moved to the doorway, filling the space. “The wench has a penchant for survival. With her herbs and spells, she no doubt extracted Malcor’s seed from his unholy body and nurtures not one heir of Dunloc but a spare as well.”
Grabbing the lady’s hands, Wulfson drew her from the dark hole, hoisting her up to her feet. She cried out, collapsing against him. Not wanting to but having no other choice, Wulfson lifted her up into his arms. She weighed not more than a mite. He turned with her in his arms and faced Rangor, Gareth and his men.
“It matters not.” The small body in his arms tightened at his words.
“You are wrong, my stubborn Norman,” said Rangor. “Princess Gwladus of Powys is not only my goddaughter, but first cousin of Malcor, and should her cousin’s heir be murdered in cold blood, her father, the mighty warmonger King Rhiwallon, will be most unhappy. William will lose more than he can calculate. Add to that the lady’s mother is a Welsh abbess and very much alive and in the care of Powys. You would tempt the devils for a fight. Should I school you with regard to her royal blood of the North?”
Wulfson scowled. It seemed the lady’s pedigree extended well beyond Godwinson. Which made her all the more dangerous.
Rangor continued. “Aye, you are wise to listen to reason. The Lady is great-granddaughter of Canute, which makes her kin to most kings of Scandinavian decent. Like the Vikings, the Welsh are not weak, as are the Saxons. The Marches are thick with fortresses and warriors who will stoop to any measure, including witchcraft, to see their homes and their blood kin protected. With the lady’s death by a Norman hand, and even the suspicion she died carrying the heir of Dunloc, there will be more than the wrath of hell to pay. Does William court more loss so soon?”
“Should the lady spill Malcor’s brat, where does that leave you?” Wulfson demanded.
Rangor smiled. “I intend to have the lady as my wife.”
Tarian struggled in his arms, her strength pitiful. He tightened his hold, and she grunted in anger, but settled.
“You would wed with the woman who slew your nephew and raise another’s issue?” Wulfson shook his head and sneered. “I think not.”
“You underestimate my affection for the lady.”
Wulfson made the mistake again of looking down at the bloody, and dirt-encrusted creature in his arms, and she turned her head to look up at him once again. He found himself speechless. Her eyes sparked in furious rage. She turned her head back toward Rangor, the metal of the head device grinding against Wulfson’s vambraces. “Indeed, is this how a Saxon lord courts his lady love?”
Rangor shook his head. He took a step closer. “She is insolent and thinks herself a man’s equal. She has her own army! No wife of mine will dress in mail and sit like a man astride a warhorse. Her---punishment, though a bit harsh, is but a way to show her who is lord here. She would have come around, if not to save herself, then the child she may carry. Marriage to me would be the justice I exact for her murder she committed.”
Wulfson contemplated the dilemma. If the loss of life was forgiven by the family, and if the lady carried the heir to Dunloc, blood kin to the Welsh kings, and word got out William slew her in cold blood—things would not settle well for his liege, to be sure. For the Welsh had aligned with Harold, and now aligned with Edric, the wild and unpredictable Saxon Earl of Mercia.
But, he thought, should her womb prove empty, then there would be less cause for alarm. Rangor may think he would wed with her, but William would choose a Norman bride for the new earl and be done with the Lady Tarian. Wulfson nodded. Prudence over haste ruled this day. By an unforeseen twist of fate, the Lady Tarian had managed to buy a few more days on this earth.
He would immediately send word to William, of course. In the mean time? He handed her off to Gareth, who gladly claimed her. “See that the lady is returned to her chamber. “Time will tell us if her womb bears fruit.” And as he said those words, Wulfson had the most uneasy feeling that, despite the outcome, his orders would remain the same, for the child, whilst it may be kin to the Welsh kings, would also be kin to a dead king, and that bloodline could not be resurrected under any circumstance.
“Captain, see the lady to her chamber, and her maid secured,” Wulfson directed, then turned to Rangor. “You, milord, are forbidden to see the lady under any circumstance. Should you do so and be found out, you may consider yourself a prisoner of the realm.”
Not giving the ignoble a chance to argue the point, Wulfson swept past him, shoving the slighter man aside with a well-placed shoulder. His anger tangled with his frustration over the sudden change of events. He was a knight of William, a warrior, a killer, and here he was to languish, waiting for proof positive that an enemy of the Crown show signs of a pregnancy!
“Sir Wulfson!” Gareth called. “The key for the helmet and bridle, please.”
Wulfson growled low, and though wanting no further dalliance with the lady, he would not release the keys to the captain. Wulfson jammed one of the smaller keys on the leather ring he had taken from Rangor into the device, and turned it. The metal scraped, but the lock turned and the split face of the mask popped open. The lady gasped, as if a huge pressure on her skull had been relieved. Deep indentations near her temples and forehead looked angry and red. Wulfson swore under his breath, then took the same key to the wide metal bit strapped around the bottom portion of her head.
As the metal piece clanked against her teeth then rolled from her mouth, her small her small sigh of relief tested his resolve. Her lips were swollen, but when she licked them he saw straight white teeth behind them. His gaze met hers, and for the third time since he had laid eyes on her, something deep inside him twisted. Her eyes did not spark fire, now they had warmed and glittered unnaturally.
“Merci,” she said, her voice nothing but a husky rasp. Wulfson clicked his spurs together and nodded, then turned on his heel and nearly ran from the chamber.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Contest Questions!!

You can find the answers to these questions in Victoria's posts throughout her week with us!! Post your answers 1-5 in the comments section of this post! Good luck and here we go~~~

1) What was the original title of The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover?

2)What was Henri's original name?

3)What was the title of my first professional sale?

4) What's my favorite research tool?

5) What was the original title of The Moonlight Mistress?

***Edited to add: we've already got a winner!***


Amanda: It has been a delight to have you here this week, Victoria! We hope you come back for a visit soon! The doors to the manor are always open. (We can't seem to teach Lord Craven to shut them. It, of course, shocks the old widow across the street when he passes by the front door on his way to breakfast, since, well,Lord CM prefers to sleep au' naturale...but I digress...)

It HAS been a delight and we here at LIT, wish you all the best of the holiday season and good wishes for the New Year!!<><> clapping wildly!<><>

Without further adieu~here is a sneak peek excerpt from Victoria's upcoming book at Spice! We will post a set of questions shortly. The first to respond in the comments section with all the correct answers will win a wonderful prize from our guest!

This excerpt from The Moonlight Mistress is from the opening chapter. Germany has just declared war on Russia and Lucilla, who is English, is unable to leave Germany and go back home because the trains are not running. She’s returned to the research facility where she’s been working for the last few months, to see if she can obtain help there.

Sneak Peek Excerpt:
The tall iron gates were closed and chained; the gas lanterns to either side flickered merrily, mocking her.

Lucilla ran forward and grabbed the bars with her free hand. Someone would be within. She shouted. No one answered; not a blade of grass stirred. The windows were all dark. She was sweating in her sober wool suit, but her belly clenched cold with unreasoning terror. She shook the gate and shouted again. "Let me in!"

"Mademoiselle Daglish?"

Lucilla whirled. A young man loomed behind her. She recalled seeing him at the Institute, marked by his height, his pronounced Gallic nose, and a truly spectacular air of untidiness, currently exacerbated by his dusty clothing; smears of dark grime marked his sleeve and his cheek, just to the left of his unostentatious brown moustache.

He was a visitor like herself, but she had never learned his specialty, or his name. He would know her name, because she was the only woman ever to study at the Institute. She took a steadying breath. "Where have they all gone?" she asked, in English.

"The entire faculty was summoned to a meeting at the gymnasium. My country being likely soon at war with their country, I fear I am not welcome there, nor are you," the young man said. He spoke English fluently, though with a French accent. From beneath the brim of his hat, he looked her up and down. She had an impression of grim displeasure, though nothing in his voice had revealed it. "You cannot stand here in the street, shouting."

"And I suppose you have a better idea?"
"I have retained an hotel room. I suppose you have not done the same?"
"Such deductive prowess," Lucilla muttered. Her hair was coming unpinned. She shoved curling strands away from her face, one-handed, and looked up and down the deserted street. She had to calm herself and think. "There must be another way out of the country."

"I do not wish to be shot in the dark as a spy because I am in the act of escaping," the Frenchman said. "You must accompany me. You will stay in my room tonight."
"I will do nothing of the sort. Mister--?"

"I am Fournier. Tomorrow we may consider our dilemma further. Come, we should go." He turned and began walking, not offering to carry her bag. She didn't want to release her bag anyway; it held her precious laboratory notebook as well as her glassware.

She should not go with him. It was quite improper. True, Fournier was younger than she by at least a decade and a half, so she did not fear he had designs upon her. Or not more than a basic level of caution would dictate. But it galled to be ordered about like a lab assistant.

Lucilla scurried to catch him up. "I will find my own room," she said. He could ruin her reputation, merely by his presence with her in a hotel.
Fournier snorted. "A woman alone, and a foreigner? Don't be foolish. No one will give you a room."

"A woman might," she pointed out.
"If she had a room to spare. Even early this morning, I had difficulty in procuring lodging for an additional period. You are not the only person who has just discovered there are no trains. Come, we should hurry."
He was correct. And after her long dusty walk to the train station, then her futile longer and dustier walk back to the Institute, Lucilla was in no mood to procure a newspaper, peruse its listings, and then perhaps circumnavigate the entire town, in the dark, alone and subject to male harassment, in search of a bed. "I wish you weren't right," she grumbled.

Fournier glanced over at her and smiled, a quick flash of white teeth beneath his moustache. For that moment, he looked no older than her baby brother, and twice as dangerous. Then he began walking even faster, and all her energy was consumed in keeping up. If she lost him, she would truly be in the soup.

Fournier ducked into a shop and she followed. He purchased cheese and biscuits, the only available choices. Lucilla realized she had forgotten all about food, but the need would soon become urgent. On the way out of the shop, she halted abruptly; a Polizist was demanding Fournier's papers.

She wasn't sure if approaching was the wisest idea, but Fournier was helping her, and she would not abandon him. She came up beside him just as the Polizist snarled something uncomplimentary and tried to seize her arm. Fournier swiftly intervened, but the Polizist wouldn't release her; she struggled in his gloved grip, dropped her bag, and heard the unmistakable shattering of glass.

Fournier shoved the Polizist, hard. "Run!" he said, so she grabbed her bag and ran, her heart pounding, hearing the scuffling behind her. She ran for perhaps a block, enough to soak her in sweat beneath her wool day suit, then flung herself around a corner and peered back. Fournier was fleeing down the street towards her, still clutching the wrapped package of cheese and tin of biscuits. His tie was jerked askew, his hat nearly falling off the back of his head. The Polizist lay curled on the sidewalk; she could hear him cursing.

"This way!" she said, grabbing Fournier's arm. He shook her off but followed her down several alleys. She had no idea where she was leading him, but quick action seemed called for. When she could run no more, she flung her back against a wall and gasped for breath. Fournier bent over his knees, panting.

"Are you hurt?" she asked. She felt lightheaded and exhilarated at the same time.
He didn't answer her. Eventually, he straightened and said, "This way."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December guest, Victoria Janssen; On writing The MOONLIGHT MISTRESS

Amanda: Victoria, can you give us an idea of your next book?

Victoria: When I sold The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover, the contract was for two books. I'd submitted several brief ideas for the second book, but didn't think about it too much until after I turned in the duchess manuscript. All I'd decided was that the story would be set during World War One (a research interest of mine, so I already had a library), and that it would have werewolves. I actually had the beginnings of a werewolf novel set during WWI, but after pondering for a few weeks, I realized that story would not work as an erotic novel. It was entirely too grim.

World War One is not the first setting one thinks of for an erotic romp; a dark, serious novel, yes, but I didn't want to write that kind of book; I wanted something fun, or at least mostly fun. So I came up with the idea of melding pulp adventure novels with the early days of World War One. In a pulp adventure novel, werewolves wouldn't be strange at all, and rather than make the war itself a villain, the force opposing the characters could be a classically cruel and amoral scientist. Overall, I wanted to work in two themes: differences between appearances and reality in relation to self, and technological warfare and a changing world affecting creatures of nature. My original title was Other Skins, to reflect those themes. Though I considered Sweet Savage Werewolves, too.

I would be writing something along the lines of Doc Savage, only set in an earlier period (interestingly, the characters in that series had the backstory that they'd fought in WWI). I began to think about the characters, initially, in terms of their roles. To help my thought process, I polled my friends on which types of characters I should include. All of the characters in what eventually was titled The Moonlight Mistress began as types, such as "a world-weary nurse who might shoot someone if they interfered with her patients" or "a cranky French soldier who is an expert in something useful." Once I'd narrowed down the most popular of the types I'd brainstormed, I then polled again, on possible pairings. The answers I received were different, in some cases, than the choices I'd made myself, but after some thought, I realized in those cases my friends were smarter than I was. Also, the whole process of polling was a lot of fun, for
both me and my friends, and got my tired brain started working on the new story. Once I had the types, I gave the characters names, and began to figure out who they were by writing scenes. I didn't complete a synopsis of the book, to turn in to my editor, until I had a significant amount of draft completed. Unlike the duchess novel, I never completed an outline, though I did make a list of scenes I wanted to write or felt I needed.

For a historical novel, the research is the best part, because mostly it involves reading. I searched out various bits of data online, but for the most part I read books, or read the parts of books that I needed. However, I didn't have time to do all the reading before I began writing. And no matter how much I knew before I began writing, I would definitely need to research more things as I went along and saw what the story needed.

The best research tool I had was a sheet of tiny stickies, which I used to mark pages in books that held useful information. This saved me from having to spend time making notes, and I could read whenever I was unable to write (for example, while riding the bus). The second best tool I discovered was keeping a list of research questions, as they came up. I wouldn't stop my writing session for research on these tiny items; I would make a note and go on, and later look up several answers at once. Examples of these questions are "list of period Anglican choral composers" and "car available with self-starter in 1914?" and "area of chemical study appropriate for time period."

The details go by in an instant when reading, but they contribute a lot to the historical feel. If a detail is needed, I always try to make sure that detail is one that points up the differences between now and then, just enough to snag the reader's attention and show them the book's world is different from her world, but not enough to make her feel I've been dumping information for the sake of showing off my research. I hope I was successful! I guess I'll find out in October 2009.

You can have a look at my personal research library at LibraryThing

You can find Amazon links for some of these sources compiled at my website:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ANZAC Cookie recipe from Victoria Janssen

Finally, for the holidays, here's a recipe for ANZAC cookies. These were meant to keep fresh for a long time, to be shipped by boat from Australia and New Zealand to the European front, but they are also very yummy cookies. I got this recipe from someone in my writers' workshop.

ANZAC Cookie/Biscuits
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup refined sugar
1 cup rolled oats (preferably not the quick-cook kind)
3/4 cup grated coconut
1/2 cup Butter
1 tablespoon "golden syrup" such as King's or corn syrup such as Karo
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Mix flour, sugar, oats and coconut. On low heat, melt butter with syrup. Mix boiling water and baking soda, and add to butter and syrup mixture. Add this to dry ingredients and mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned at the edges. Cool slightly, then remove to rack to cool completely.

More inspiration~

Reginald Arthur Brett, an American soldier

Amanda : I am curious Victoria, what resources did you use to find these photos? And what other forms of inspiration do you use to write? Do you consider yourself a "visual" writer? Also, you seem well versed in WWI history, is that era of particular interest to you? Should we expect to see more work from you in that era?

Victoria: World War One was truly a world war. Because of the colonial empires of England, France, and Germany, there were many soldiers from Africa serving on the Western Front, i.e., in the trenches, as well as in Africa itself, and Indian troops were deployed by the British very early on; they, too, served on all fronts.

Here are some Sikh soldiers in France

Amanda: These are phenomenal pictures and you are right, you have to wonder as you look at them, what they were thinking that day, what was happening in their lives. In particular the pictures that are more journalistic, do you know who the photographer was? Was he a famous WWI journalist?

December Guest, Victoria Janssen-On Inspiration

For Wicked Wednesday, I understand inspirational pictures are often posted. I, alas, rarely use photographs to give me character ideas, though occasionally after the story is in progress, or finished, I realize the character looks like a particular person. I do use photographs a lot, though, to both see details of clothing and weapons and to just get a feel for the period, and sometimes for inspiration. I like portraits best. I wonder what the people were thinking, and what their lives were like.

Here are some pictures of real participants in World War One, which I referred to while writing The Moonlight Mistress for Harlequin Spice.

Albert Ball, a British flying ace

An unnamed Gurkha (Nepalese) soldier, who served in the British Army

Sar Tinder from Senegal, serving with the French

More to come....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day II~ Guest, Victoria Janssen; On writing The Duchess...

The winter winds are blowing here this morning, with a delay in school and winter advisory’s o’plenty! It’s great to be here, snug and warm in front of the blazing fire at the manor. The aroma of fresh baked scones and a robust, hot cuppa coffee in my hand makes this morning tolerable! These winter morning’s are my favorite, when Lord CM awakens to make sure the fires are blazing when we venture downstairs! But I digress…
Our guest this week is Victoria Janssen. Are you a coffee or tea drinker in the morning, Victoria? Or perhaps that bottle of Cola is what gets you started?

Amanda: Authors gain inspiration from all kinds of things, where did yours come from for “The Duchess?”

Victoria: The inspiration for The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover was in a contest; I think it was in 2001. I am often inspired to write something by a call for submissions, even today. There was a five dollar fee, and you had to submit the story on a diskette, so it was rather a pain, but the prize was $1000. I believe the theme was "danger," though I might be remembering wrong; it doesn't matter now, because the story didn't make the final cut, and then the contest folded before final judging ever began, and I was left with a story on my hands, about an Empress and a stableboy named Jirin.

In 2004, I finally sold the story to Jim Brown at LL-Publications for an e-anthology titled Eternally Erotic. Jim worked with me on the story, and it's thanks to him that the setting became less fantastical and more like eighteenth-century France. The Empress became a duchess and the stableboy's name changed to Henri. Perhaps most importantly, I added the possibility of a happy ending, when the original story had ended on a cliffhanger.

Amanda: It’s always amazing to me how a story can be re-sculpted. You and I are presently in revisions , in fact , for our stories. At first, I looked at these and found them daunting, but after speaking to my editor, and letting things settle a day or two , I began to get excited about the revisions. How did you approach the changes you made in “The Duchess?”

Victoria: First, I named the duchess Camille, so she wouldn't have to spend an entire novel being addressed by her title. And though the original story was from Henri's point of view, for the novel I would need to get inside her head.

When writing an outline for the novel, I knew immediately that the two characters from the original story wouldn't be enough. I was working on the assumption that there should be a sex scene, or a partial one, in every chapter, and I knew I'd find that easier if I could vary the partners and the goals of the scenes. For example, the first chapter has a "first time" scenario with the duchess and Henri. If I had more characters, I could also have a "first time" scenario with Henri and someone else, which could serve a different purpose in both Henri's relationship to the duchess and in the plot.

The original short story referred to other characters who weren't seen: the duke, the duchess' maid, and her eunuch guards. The duke was of course the villain of the piece, the reason the story began. As soon as I tried to picture the maid, I realized she would need to be a much sharper, more sarcastic character to contrast with the seriousness of the duchess and her plight, and the innocence of the stableboy. As part of that idea, I decided the maid would dress as a boy while on the road, an homage to all those Georgette Heyer novels I've read. Because her personality was in many ways at odds with the other characters, she became a third point of view character as well.

I decided on a pair of eunuchs. It easily followed that they would be extremely loyal to the duchess, and could be involved with her sexually as well, in the classic fantasy of "woman pleasured by two men." I liked the idea very much, eventually giving them their own subplot: They're in love! But their love is forbidden! Which doesn't stop them from consummating it anyway!

Finally, I thought more on the stableboy. The duchess was clearly the leader in this relationship, tired and embittered from years of an unhappy relationship. Therefore, Henri was the ingénue. Almost everything about his character snapped into place with that realization. I particularly enjoyed playing with the tropes of the innocent as applied to a young male character, when in romance that role is usually assigned to a female.

Finally, there needed to be The Other Man. I never seriously considered Maxime as a rival to Henri, but for my own amusement I did feel an erotic novel needed a character who was, shall we say, well-endowed. The rest of Maxime's character and role developed later in the writing process.

Once I had the characters, the outline took shape. I already knew the plot. The duke is going to kill the duchess. She flees. Eventually, she defeats the duke. The tricky part was creating sex scenes that showed changes in the relationships between the characters, all while moving the plot towards the final goal of the duchess' victory. However, as I tend to figure things out as I write, my outline didn't necessarily show that movement. For instance, one chapter's summary read simply: "Camille ponders how to find out if Henri trusts her, and how to make him her lover." Or "The Duchess, while riding the next day, remembers an encounter with Maxime in her youth, before she married the Duke." Some of the chapter summaries were more detailed, but all of them left plenty of room for invention. In the process of writing, I changed not only minor plot details, but also some major ones, including changing an off-camera coup d'etat into the final action scene.

I'll sum up the various pairings in The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover. I had a lot of fun with choosing these scenes and playing with erotica tropes to see how far I could push the envelope of genre expectations.

There are, of course, several sex scenes between the Duchess Camille and her loyal stableboy, Henri; but Henri also has an unexpected encounter with a bathmaid and several encounters with Sylvie, the duchess' maid, including once as a performance for the duchess' benefit. Sylvie enjoys herself with the duchess and, later, with a brothel owner, Master Fouet, who also obtains a valuable service from Kaspar, one of the eunuch guards. Both of the eunuchs, Kaspar and Arno, pleasure the duchess, and later in the story have their own love scene. The duchess remembers her first affair, in her youth, and later consummates it with Maxime. Alas, I didn't have room for Maxime's projected scene with Sylvie, and his scene with Henri was cut for pacing reasons.

Amanda: Can you share an excerpt with us from ”The Duchess…?”

Victoria: Sure, here's a short excerpt, from late in the book, featuring Sylvie and Henri:
"It's time," Sylvie said to Henri. "You promised I could have my way with you. We have been in this castle for two days. I am tired of waiting." Also, if she once more saw him moping near the duchess' door, waiting for her to return from yet another meeting with Maxime, she would have to tie him up for purposes of murder, not fun.
"Oh," he said. "Yes." He did not sound the slightest bit apprehensive. That would never do.
Sylvie cracked her palms together. "You will kneel when you acknowledge me!"
Henri jumped at the noise. "Stop it, Sylvie! I'm not in the mood for your games!"
She planted her hands on her hips and advanced on him. "You will put yourself into the mood," she said. "You owe me. Or do you break your promises so easily?"
"What does it matter? It's all just sex, in the end. Why can't we skip all that--that--" He flapped his hand in the air.
…"On your knees. This is what I want. You will give me what I want. Yes?"
"Yes." Henri sighed and knelt on the floor at her feet.
"Show a little more enthusiasm," Sylvie directed. "Perhaps you could kiss my feet."
Henri leaned over and studied her boots. "Are you going to take your boots off?"
"May I take them off?"
He sat back on his heels. "Sylvie, this game might be fun for lords and ladies and--and you--but I've spent my whole life having people order me around. It isn't the same for me. If I wanted someone to hit me, I could go back to the Duke's stable."
Sylvie frowned. This wasn't going according to plan…his genuine reluctance was only frustrating her, and not in a way she enjoyed. "We will try something else."
"I could take my clothes off," Henri said, hopefully.