Teaser Thursday- Lost Soul

As promised in Monday’s post about safer sex practices in fiction. Warning: Explicit adult content.

Joel gasped and let go of Lanny’s hair as Lanny slid his mouth up and down the shaft. Joel’s cock pulsed against his lips and tongue, and Lanny knew he was close. He stroked himself with one hand, holding back from coming but needing some kind of touch. His arousal was so heightened he knew he would go insane if he didn’t touch himself.

Of course, his own touch wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted, needed, Joel’s touch, but that would wait.

“Stop!” Joel gasped.

Lanny considered ignoring the instruction, but he knew damn well that if Joel came now, the fun would be over. Joel would never allow Lanny to fuck him if he soul-ripped him first. Reluctantly, he pulled back and stood, smiling smugly at the man who stood in front of him breathing like a marathon runner.

Joel touched his lips to Lanny’s and pulled him toward the bed. “I need you.”

“I know.” Lanny smiled and pushed the other man forward onto the mattress. Joel growled low in his throat and positioned himself on his hands and knees, proving Lanny’s assumption that the guy would be a bottom. “The soul rip—”

“When one of us comes, it starts. I’m careful. It will be just like before.” Joel took a couple deep breaths. “Please, no more talking. I want you to come first, but I’m too fucking close to hold back for long.”

“Well, you’re going to have to, because I’m not going to just slam into your ass.” Lanny glanced around. Even with a bonfire raging inside him, he was too smart to be stupid. “Lube? Condoms?”

“Magic. No diseases, and magic works better than lube. Trust me.”

“How do you convince other people to do without condoms?”

“I use them if I’m asked.” He looked over his shoulder at Lanny. “Don’t ask. I promise you, we don’t need either. I want to feel you inside me.”

Lanny caressed Joel’s ass. He wasn’t about to argue. He had no reason to doubt what Joel said, and he wasn’t exactly against the idea of fucking him bareback, even though he’d never done it with any other guy. Then again, none of the other guys he’d fucked had been sorcerers.

He was too turned on to think about it anymore. “I’ll take your word for it. Back up.”

Safer Sex in Fiction

Since I started writing erotica and erotic romance nearly a decade ago, I’ve repeatedly seen debates about safer sex practices in that type of fiction. Some say that the stories are fiction, or fantasies, and including condoms or dental dams or any other type of barrier or birth control takes the reader out of the moment. Others say that as authors, it’s part of our responsibility to educate our readers, and that includes making sure readers know safer sex practices are important, sometimes literally a matter of life and death.

My personal opinion is somewhere in the middle. I disagree that including safer sex practices in fiction pulls the reader out of the story. When I read fiction, especially contemporary erotica or erotic romance, I’m pulled out of the story if the author *doesn’t* include safer sex practices, or at least have the characters mention them. At the same time, as an author, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to “educate”; it’s my responsibility to entertain by portraying realistic situations (inasmuch as things like werewolves and vengeance demons can be realistic…)

In all of my fiction that includes sex, whether explicit or off the page (which is more my young adult stuff than my romances), I at least mention safer sex. Sometimes the characters decide not to use it. In my male/male novel Lost Soul, the main character, Joel, is a sorcerer who uses magic to prevent diseases, so he doesn’t have a need for condoms or other barriers. But the first time Joel has sex with Lanny, they talk about *why* condoms aren’t necessary. It’s a brief conversation (I’ll share the excerpt that includes it on Thursday, so stay tuned), but it’s still there.

Likewise in my heterosexual urban fantasy novel Beta Test, where werewolf Justin tells his human mate Tara that werewolves can’t get pregnant so they don’t need birth control, and werewolves (in that universe, at least) don’t carry any type of human illness or disease. However, Justin has failed to take into account the fact that Tara isn’t a werewolf, so while no STIs occur, Tara does get pregnant.

In most of my contemporary fiction, the characters use condoms. Those are brief exchanges as well; most of them are not much longer than, “Do you have a condom?” “Yes” followed by the guy putting on a condom.

Depending on the story and characters, this discussion can even give readers a glimpse into the personality of the characters. Does one of them hesitate about using a condom, or try to refuse? In a heterosexual interaction, is the woman terrified of pregnancy? Has one of them already experienced an STI, or lost someone to AIDS?

Safer sex practices, or the discussion thereof, don’t have to be long interruptions in the flow of a story, any more than they have to be long interruptions in the flow of a sexual interaction in real life. And an author doesn’t necessarily have to include it every time the characters have sex; I generally include the discussion and use of a condom with the characters’ first sexual interaction, and figure readers will assume (correctly) that the characters use condoms for all future interactions. But I do think it’s important to establish that the characters are playing safe.

Teaser Thursday- Vengeance Is Sweet

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The entire Ruiz house was dark. I doubted Alex had gone to bed so early, and my instincts told me he and Keeley hadn’t left the building. There should have been light. I opened my mouth to call their names.

Ghast put his hand over my face. “Silence,” he whispered.

Frantic to find Alejandro and Keeley, I struggled against his grasp and then realized he was right. Whoever had caused this might still be there.

When I relaxed enough to focus, I sensed at least two demons and an unfamiliar presence which might have been an angel, though without the usual angelic aura of good. If we detected them, they likely had detected us. Still, if we didn’t speak, they might have more difficulty finding us.

Down the hall, I heard a faint whimper. Keeley. Screw any bad guys who might have been nearby. I had to protect the child. Without waiting for Ghast, I hurried toward the sound. He followed.

The pitch blackness of Keeley’s room came from more than a mere lack of electric light. It was the total absence of light of any kind, other than a small spark in one corner of the room, which I realized came from Keeley.

My heart would have stopped if I’d had one. That spark was no match for the darkness. And in this room, I sensed more than three presences, none of which had Keeley’s best interests in mind.

Angels visited the child. So where the Heaven are they? Jochiel and his pals had sworn to protect her, and the fuckers, excuse me, the idiots had evidently fallen down on the job. Although at least one of the presences had an angelic nature, I doubted it was one of the ones Keeley had mentioned. She hadn’t been afraid of those angels. Her fear of this one permeated the entire room.

A piece of darkness turned toward me and snarled, “Leave.”

“Not a chance.” I sounded pretty darn brave for someone who didn’t even have the power to defend herself. “She hasn’t done anything to you. She’s only a child. You tried to take her once and failed. Leave her alone.”

“Omara?” Keeley whimpered.

“I’m here.” I waved even though I knew she couldn’t see me and took a step toward the bed, hoping I wouldn’t trip. All I could see was her tiny spark.

“Not for long,” the darkness said. A bolt of deeper blackness shot toward me. I ducked and it missed, hitting the wall. The force of it shook the entire house.

Good thing I’d ducked.

“Omara!” Keeley cried.

From another room came the sound of Alex’s voice. “Keeley!”

“I’m okay,” I said.

I refused to leave Keeley, but I desperately wanted to make sure Alex hadn’t been hurt. Thinking Ghast might find out for me, I opened my mouth to call out to him.

I stopped myself. While the others had sensed me, I wasn’t sure they realized Ghast had accompanied me. I didn’t want to clue them in.

I took another step toward the small light. Greater darkness obscured it.

“The child is ours,” another piece of darkness hissed. “You cannot help her.”

“Want to bet?” I needed to shift to my true form. Scaring Keeley didn’t worry me. She wouldn’t be able to see me anyway, and even if she did, saving her mattered too much. I doubted I would frighten her more than what had already occurred.

Concentrating as hard as possible, I tried to shift. Maybe I had some last residue of power.

It didn’t work.

Loving Someone with Chronic Illness

Having a partner or family member who is dealing with any type of chronic illness is difficult. Sometimes you wish you could make them better, so they wouldn’t have to struggle anymore. Sometimes you resent that they need so much care and time—and it’s okay to feel that way, by the way, as long as you aren’t taking it out on them or others.

When you have a loved one who deals with one of the so-called “invisible illnesses,” it can be even more difficult. How can they say they don’t have strength to help clean the house? They look perfectly fine, and they didn’t have any trouble going to the kitchen for a glass of water. How can they say being at a family gathering on a holiday is triggering? My family’s perfectly nice, nothing at all like the one that abused them. How can they spend the entire day in bed and not do anything? There’s so much that has to get done!

People with those illnesses, which include mental illnesses, chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, and others, don’t “look sick.” And because of the nature of those illnesses, sometimes people who have them don’t *feel* sick either. Personally, I have a few “invisible illnesses.” Some days I get up, shower, get dressed, and I’m off to tackle the day, getting more done before bed than my husband says he would be able to do in a week. I walk fairly easily, and I appear, and sometimes even feel, happy.

But other days, the “demons” attack. I feel like the world’s going to end, and I can’t stop crying. I’m in so much pain and having so much trouble with coordination that walking from the bedroom to the bathroom—which is right beside the bedroom—is almost more than I can manage. I can’t leave the house. I force myself to at least be in the living room instead of the bedroom, but that takes so much out of me that I end up dozing on the couch most of the day.

My husband is wonderful on those days. He knows I’m not “faking it” or “lazy” when I ask him to go to the store because I can’t manage leaving the house, or when I ask him to finish mopping the kitchen because I’m too exhausted after only doing a third of it. But it took a while to get on the same page about him helping me with tasks. If I said, “I can’t handle going to the store, but we need things,” he sometimes said, “Then I guess you have to go to the store.” I had to learn to actually ask him to go instead of hinting.

It also took him a while to understand that if I say “I’m in so much pain right now, I hate this,” I’m not asking him to fix it. There isn’t anything he can do about the pain. I’m asking for comfort and for reassurance that I’m not burdening him by asking him to take over doing some of my usual tasks, and now that he realizes that, he’s great about giving me a hug, or walking me to the bedroom and bringing me a glass of water while I settle down to read or sleep.

It isn’t easy having an “invisible illness” (or more than one). It definitely isn’t easy being a loved one of someone who has “invisible illnesses,” something I also know from personal experience since I’m not the only one in my family who has them. But if you work together to figure out what the person with the illnesses needs, and how to meet those needs without sacrificing others’ needs, and if you recognize that at the base, the person with the illnesses most needs love and compassion, it can be managed.

Teaser Thursday- Dawn Over Dayfield

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Blinking against a too-bright light, Weston tried to inhale. The air stabbed his lungs like knives, and when he coughed, the pain worsened exponentially. He was covered with a thin sheet, and the smell of soot surrounded him.

“Easy.” An unfamiliar female face appeared above him. “You inhaled a lot of smoke. We’re getting oxygen set up for you. Take it easy.”

Reassured by her soothing voice, Weston closed his eyes again.

The next time he opened them, a mask covered his mouth and nose. The light wasn’t as bright now. He tried to sit up, and a hand pressed his shoulder.

“You need to be still.” The voice sounded like the same woman as earlier.

“Andy.” Weston couldn’t even understand himself through the mask.

Apparently the woman—a nurse, he guessed—had some practice at translating oxygen-mask speak. “Your friend is in the next room. He’s unconscious. Try to breathe normally. I’ll find out what’s happening with him.”

Weston nodded his thanks and stared up at the white ceiling, listening to the nurse’s footsteps fade and trying to sort out his memories of what had happened.

A fire. Someone had set fire to the library as soon as Mildred was out of the building.

The crash in the main room must have been the arsonist breaking out through one of the windows so Andy and Weston wouldn’t see him.

Someone had chained the back door shut.

Someone had wanted Andy and Weston dead badly enough to make sure they couldn’t escape. Badly enough to destroy the entire library.

Andy should never have come to Dayfield. The town had never been a good place, but Weston hadn’t realized exactly how deep the darkness ran until Andy showed up.

“Your friend’s doing better.” The nurse walked over to stand beside Weston. “Still unconscious, but the doctor says he’s going to be fine.”

Weston started to speak, but his throat was too raw and sore to make another sound. Instead, he simply nodded again.

For a little while, he dozed off and on, waking each time someone entered the room. He expected his mother to show up, but she didn’t appear.

Finally, a male doctor carrying a clipboard entered with the nurse Weston had seen first. Without a word, she removed Weston’s mask.

“Try taking a breath,” the doctor said. “Slowly.”

Weston obeyed. His chest ached, but the sharp pain had faded enough for him to draw in some air.

He put his hand on his throat. “Water?”

The doctor nodded. “We’ll get you some. How are you feeling?”

Like I almost died in a fire, idiot. “Hurts.”

Brushing Off the Dust

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I’ve been on indefinite hiatus from writing romance while I dealt with some personal stuff, including both my kids moving out of the house, one to college and the other to be a partner and stepparent.

It’s been a stressful few months, with occasional breaks of fun and entertainment.

Many of my books are now out of print. Those include the entire Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series and all associated books with MLR Press and Passion in Print Press, as well as all of my other titles with those two imprints. They also include all but three of my Ellora’s Cave titles, though I’ve heard rumblings around the internet that all Ellora’s Cave authors are having their rights returned in December. All of my Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens books are off the market, since the publisher closed.

On the plus side, my Loose Id titles are still available, as are Love Like Vampires from Dreamspinner Press, and Dawn Over Dayfield from DSP Publications. Dawn Over Dayfield is now an award-winning book! In August, it took first place in the Mystery category of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards! That was hugely exciting. Now I’m waiting with bated breath to see what happens with the Edgar Awards, since Dawn Over Dayfield is also nominated for that.

My self-published novel Vengeance Is Sweet is also still available as an Amazon exclusive, e-book only.

I haven’t written any new romances. I don’t know whether I’m going to. I used to love writing them, but once I started writing for publication, and trying to get more and more books out there in the world, it became stressful and painful. Personal life circumstances didn’t help. I haven’t even been able to think of a romance *plot* in over a year, and I’m not sure whether that’s going to change.

But I still have books out there in the world, and I want to make sure people find them. I want to make sure people know *I* still exist. And someday in the future, I might self-publish some of my previously-published books even if I don’t write anything new. It remains to be seen.

I’m still writing young adult fiction under my Jo Ramsey pen name, though. I’m working on some nonfiction projects about healing, trauma recovery, and magic. (The witchcraft/spiritual version, not the up on stage with a top hat kind.) I’m starting a business related to those topics as well. I’m getting used to being an “empty nester,” and spending time with my partners and friends.

I’ll be blogging here twice a week. Mondays will be posts on a variety of topics; Thursdays will be short excerpts from my books, including some of the off-the-market ones. So I hope you’ll tune in, same Karenna time, same Karenna channel. (Wow… I hope I’m not the only one old enough to know that reference…)

The End

I’ve blogged more than once in the past about changes for my writing career, plans for this pen name, and so on. I’ve tried many things. Arguably too many. Different types of promo. Heterosexual romance. Male/male romance. Contemporary romance. Paranormal romance. Most recently, suspense with romantic elements.

That last one, Dawn Over Dayfield, is my most recent release. As of now, and keeping in mind that things often change with me, it is likely to be my last, at least under the Karenna Colcroft name. (Other than, possibly, a short story I have under consideration; if that’s accepted, it would be a Karenna and *that* would be my last release under the name.) Some unwise choices in publishers, some publishers that no longer exist, and spreading myself too thin in general have taken their toll on my romance author career and the joy I once had in it. I tried to keep it going well past the point where I first realized it had become a problem, but I can’t keep pushing something that isn’t working for me.

I had planned to self-publish and re-release some of the books I’ve had returned to me from publishers. At this point, I’m not planning to go through with that. After trying it with one book, I’ve realized that I don’t have the marketing skills–or, to be honest, the time–to make self-publishing viable right now.

You’ll still see me around on social media promoting the books I have available and chatting and hopefully not making a nuisance of myself. This website will remain up, and the books that are on the Bookshelf are still available for purchase if you’re so inclined. But I will probably not be blogging, at least not regularly, and unless that short story I mentioned is accepted, I am not planning any additional releases or re-releases at this time.

My YA alter ego, Jo Ramsey, will still be writing and publishing, so if you’ve enjoyed the books I’ve written as “Karenna Colcroft,” I hope you’ll check out “Jo.” Even if fiction for teens isn’t really your thing, some of the books are pretty good, if I say so myself. Jo Ramsey’s books and other projects are one of the things taking my time, along with a new business venture and some nonfiction projects I’m embarking on under my real name.

Like I said, things often change in my life, so I always try to keep doors open. And I greatly appreciate the publishers I’ve worked with, because I have learned from all of them. (When I say “unwise choices” above, other than one publisher that has gone under, the difficulties I had were solely mine, not overall problems with the publishers. Mostly just not good fits.) I also appreciate the reviewers who have reviewed my books over the years, and the blogs that have hosted me. More than anything else, I appreciate the readers who’ve read my books.

So that’s Karenna Colcroft, over and out…

Teaser Thursday- Love Like Vampires

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By the time they went back inside, Shane was breathing easily and the tightness in his chest had let up. None of the arguments among the band had become too serious, at least not with their current lineup, but he was always afraid they might, and then everything would fall apart. He and Thaniel had been through it with five different guys already, guys who wanted to write songs that didn’t match the band’s style, or who were pissy because Thaniel let Shane have too much say in how the band ran.

Thaniel had always had his back, even when their first drummer had called Shane a “fucking faggot” the day Shane came out. Shane had had to hold Thaniel back from beating the shit out of the guy.

Good times. Shane hadn’t exactly enjoyed being treated crappy merely because he’d finally had the guts to admit something most people had figured out years earlier. Having Thaniel not only accept it but defend him had helped.

Right now, the band had it pretty good. Their current lineup gelled, and everyone agreed on musical style and where they wanted the band to go. Bryan and Jace were too laid back, and Todd was too busy, to care who ran things, as long as they didn’t have to. They all had about the same level of skills, and none of them gave a damn about each other’s sexuality.

But something was broken. Shane couldn’t put his finger on it and didn’t really want to. He only knew the band wasn’t as connected as they had been, and that might mean Love Like Vampires would fall apart.

He took another breath as he and Todd followed Thaniel to the area they’d been assigned to hang out in during Jareth’s part of the show. The argument had ended. Everything was cool.

Bryan and Jace were already in the designated spot, sipping bottles of water and talking to one of Jareth’s musicians. Both of them stood mostly still, mellow expressions on their faces. At least Jace wouldn’t get on anyone’s nerves for a while.

“Ready for this?” Bryan asked as they took their seats. “This is where we’re heading in a year or two if we keep it up.”

“I sure as fuck hope so.” Thaniel slid down in his seat and grabbed a bottle from the cooler between his chair and Bryan’s. “Two albums and a ton of frigging shows, and we still aren’t hitting what we should be.”

“We’ll get there.” Shane took the seat on the other side of Thaniel and mentally prepared the usual pep talk. Every single time they played a show, Thaniel ended up griping about what they should have been doing. From the second the guy had said, “Hey, we should start a band,” he’d had plans. The plans hadn’t worked out yet, and it irked the hell out of Thaniel.

Compatibility

Sometimes when you meet a new person, you feel an instant “click.” This is someone you want to get to know better. Someone you can see being part of your life in one way or another. Someone you believe you’re compatible with.

That someone might be the person you spend the rest of your life with, if you are actually as compatible as you believe the first time you meet. Or even if you don’t feel it at that first meeting. Compatibility doesn’t have to be instant. Sometimes it grows over time, and you end up with a person you might consider your soul mate.

But sometimes it decreases over time. Whether you feel that click the first time you meet or it develops more gradually, as more time passes, you might realize that you and that person aren’t as compatible as you believed. Maybe not at all, or maybe just not in some ways. Those can be some pretty big ways, though, like finding out one of you wants to get married and have kids, while the other is happy just living together.

When compatibility fades into incompatibility, it might mean the end of the relationship if there’s no way to compromise. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to compromise is for one person to completely change who they are or what they want, and that isn’t really fair. (In my opinion it also isn’t really a compromise; compromise means meeting partway, not one person doing all the work while the other stays where they are.)

When you find someone you’re compatible with, it might lead into a lifelong relationship…or it might not. But if you feel that click with someone, it’s worth taking the chance.

Teaser Thursday- With Every Touch

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Sheila nibbled at the bits of lobster in her sandwich and willed back her tears as lightning flashed outside the window beside her. She had left her hometown as soon as she had graduated university, twelve years earlier, and she hadn’t looked back since. She didn’t need to think about it now, and she definitely didn’t need to think about Jack, no matter how difficult it was to put him out of her mind.

After moving to the city, she’d gotten help to deal with the emotional scars Jack had left. She hadn’t been able to do anything about the physical ones.

It was in the past now, and she wanted to focus on her present. She wasn’t even sure why she had brought it up to Erich. Part of her was surprised he hadn’t walked away. Most guys didn’t want to deal with a woman who’d been damaged the way she had.

Most guys didn’t even earn enough of her trust to hear about her life before Portland, but Erich’s calm demeanor encouraged her to trust him.

“These lobster rolls are excellent,” Erich said.

“Yeah.” Sheila glanced at him. No judgment, no discomfort. He took a bite of his sandwich and smiled as he chewed.

He might be a guy worth knowing better. Maybe having around more.

She dismissed the thought immediately. Neither of them wanted a relationship, and she hoped to move to Boston soon. If she repeated that to herself enough times, it might get through. She couldn’t have Erich around her more than a friend would be. There was no point in even thinking about it.

She wouldn’t have wanted him to be with her constantly anyway. She didn’t have time or patience for it.

“I want to say something to make you smile,” Erich said. “I’m not having much luck thinking of anything.”

“It isn’t your job to entertain me.” She ate another fry. It tasted like cardboard around the lump that had risen through her throat.

“Something hit a nerve.” He held out his hand. Although Sheila wanted the physical contact, she didn’t take it. It would only have given her comfort, which would have been a bad thing when she was so close to losing her cool and bursting into tears.

Erich hesitated a moment before resting his hand on the table. “I don’t know if it was something I said or something you said. Either way, it happened while we were talking, and I want to help.”

“I don’t want to spill my sordid past.” She twisted her mouth in something that felt close enough to a smile and took a sip of her soda. “No issue. Memories are crap sometimes, but the good thing is they’re in the past. I want to think about now.”

“Well, right now there’s a hell of a thunderstorm going on outside.” A crash of thunder punctuated his words. “You’re not looking at the lightning. It’s pretty spectacular.”

Sheila turned to the window just as a bolt of forked lightning shot from the clouds to the surface of the water. It was beautiful and exciting, and she couldn’t help smiling. “God, I love that! I wish I was out there.”

“You might get struck,” Erich pointed out.

“Stop being reasonable.” She stuck out her tongue at him, and he laughed. So did she. Something about thunderstorms—the power, the electricity in the air, and the beauty of the lightning had always lifted her mood. Now she was able to dismiss the tears and memories. They couldn’t stand up to the crashing thunder and waves.

She wanted to be outside. It was pouring hard enough that the water looked like sheets running down the window, and judging from how closely thunder followed on the heels of each lightning bolt, the storm was close to overhead. It didn’t matter. She needed to be outside.