Saturday, November 24, 2012

Almost time for Fire and Lightning!


On Wednesday, Fire and Lightning is coming out at long last. This story is near and dear to my heart, if for no other reason than because it and I fought so much to wrangle it into shape. 
Originally, this story was supposed to be a cute little bit of fluff about a linguist studying Herodotus in the shade of a tree, researching ancient texts about the phoenix. I hadn't quite decided whether he was the phoenix, or whether he was going to meet the phoenix. Instead, I ended up with an epic about a female tree spirit tied to her oak and a free-spirited phoenix who spends her life traveling the globe. Not quite what I envisioned. 
Then I had a grand plan for how everything was going to be structured. It worked great on paper, but it made a terrible story. It just dragged on and on, painfully repetitive, and full of things I thought were interesting but weren't related to the real story I wanted to tell. Much hacking and chopping later, I came up with something better. And then I got it back from the editor and hacked and chopped and rewrote some more. Now I think it tells the story I wanted to tell.
One of my favorite things about writing Fire and Lightning was getting to play around with all of the old Homeric epithets and mythological references, sneaking in little bits of history here and there (and taking a few--fairly minor--historical liberties). One of my favorite bits is this scene involving two incredibly minor characters:

One night after Helios had gone to bed, while the Tri-Formed Goddess wore her darkest form, two unfamiliar men slipped into the grove.  
"Did we have to come when Hecate rules the sky?" one of them grumbled. "I can't see a thing. I'm starting to lose track of how many twigs have poked me in the face."
"Hush!" the other commanded in a harsh whisper. "The only thing worse than the darkness of Hecate's witchcraft is becoming the focus of it. Hold your tongue and help me find a way into this enclosure."
A soft scuffling sound was followed by a thump as the first man came hurtling over the wall and tumbled into the dirt on the other side. "Ow. You needn't have pushed quite so hard, Argus," he complained, rubbing his hip with a grimace. "My ass is going to be the color of a Samian grape by dawn."
"Good. You'll give Aurora something to smile about when she passes over," Argus retorted. "Now how am I supposed to get in there?"
"I should give you a good hard yank for the sake of fairness, but there must be a door somewhere around here. Doesn't the priest have to get close to the tree to ask the questions? I can't imagine he vaults in every time like … Oh, here it is." The gate swung open with a slight creak, admitting a man slightly older and stockier than the first.  
Argus closed the gate after he entered. For a long, tense moment, he silently stared up at Drys' oak. "How in all Hades are we going to cut a plank from this tree, Tiphys?" he murmured. "It's got to be at least ten times as tall as you, and I'm not sure my arms can reach all the way around."
They were going to cut a piece out of her? With a muffled shriek, Drys fled from her bark and cowered in the farthest corner of the enclosure. It wouldn't make any difference if the men cut the oak, but her instincts were pushing her to run. She knew the men could not see her or hear her, so there was no use begging them not to touch her tree. Trembling and afraid, she wrapped her arms around her legs and dug her toes into the earth, seeking comfort from her mother.
Tiphys snorted. "Did you think we were just going to march in, chop down Zeus' sacred oak, and saw it into pieces? I'd prefer not to die by lightning strike, thank you very much."
"But Athena says the Argo needs to have a plank in the prow cut from the sacred oak of Dodona. That's this tree. Apparently it's going to prophesy to the sailors and protect them from danger."
Tiphys barked out a laugh. "That has got to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. A bunch of sailors are going to kneel down with one ear to the deck and wait for the prophetic floorboard to tell them what to do whenever danger arises?"
"It's what Athena says, and I know better than to argue with a goddess." Argus shrugged.
Regarding the oak with narrowed eyes, Tiphys asked contemplatively, "Does she say how big this plank needs to be?"
Argus shook his head. "What are you thinking?"
"This branch here might do." He ran his hand up the trunk to one of the lowest boughs. Drys shivered as an echo of his touch ran along her side. She began to shake when Argus slowly nodded his head and they raised the saw.  

I really love this story. I hope those who read it do, too. <3

Fire and Lightning will be released by Less Than Three Press on November 28, 2012. Until then, it will be available for preorder at 15% off here

Friday, November 9, 2012

All my shinies!

So many shinies this week! I'm just going to make a list. :)

1) The Sandy Relief Auction is almost over! The stories are going for fantastic amounts, and all for a good cause. I'm proud to be part of it. As for my story, well... Thanks to all who have bid on me. I'm very curious to see what I'll be writing about. :-D

2) Previous to last week, I had never spent more than $10 on any piece of jewelry in my life, aside from my husband's wedding ring. Then Freia Inguz (aka Amara Devonte) posted a picture of this necklace, and I had a serious case of insta!Love. As soon as I saw it, I thought, "Look! That's my tree! I wrote that tree!" so I splurged and bought it for myself as a reward (for a variety of things). Last night at parent-teacher conferences, one of the first parents came in, introduced herself, and immediately started gushing over my beautiful, handmade necklace. I fondly think of it as my Fire and Lightning necklace, and I am reminded of Drys every time I see it. I love it very much. <3

3) Dreamer's cover has made it to round 6 of the Rainbow Awards Cover Contest! The competition has been incredibly stiff--there are a stunning number of really beautiful covers out there this year--which makes me even more proud. Of course, London Burden did the cover, so I can't really take any credit for how lovely it is, but it's still got my (pen) name on it. If you feel so inclined, go cast your vote in its favor. Honestly, I'm just pleasantly amazed it's gotten this far. I mean, I knew I thought it was gorgeous and perfect, but I figured I might have been slightly biased...



4) Speaking of covers, look what went up on Goodreads this week! This is coming out on my birthday, it's set around my MC's birthday, and there will definitely be a giveaway of some sort come January. Keep your eyes peeled if you're interested.

Official blurb:

Will is panicking. In ten days he'll be thirty, and his life isn't anything like he imagined it would be at that age. As he considers his future, he sees the possibility for failure. When he thinks of the past, Will sees all the opportunities and loves he's lost. The only thing he can't see is what's right in front of him.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Relief Story Auction

The lovely Piper Vaughn is hosting a story auction to raise funds for disaster relief. Bid on a story, get one written just for you by the author whose auction you win! I think it's a fabulous idea, and I'm excited to be both bidding and bidden upon.

All told, there are twenty authors participating, a few of whom are unfamiliar to me and several whose work I've read in abundance. To find a list of participating authors, rules for bidding, and to hop in the fray or just make a donation to a good cause, see the official post here.

To all those out there three days into NaNoWriMo, good luck! Persevere! Have fun!

To all those those opting for sanity instead... well, so am I. Good luck to us, too. :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ghost Rentboy Release Almost Here! *\o/*

On Wednesday, my short story Halloween Trick is being released. It is the direct result of some Twitter shenanigans involving a suggestion that rentboys + Halloween would be pretty great, thereby unwittingly volunteering myself to write such a thing, and then Megan Derr proposing, when I asked for ideas, that I make my rentboy a ghost. Since I thought that sounded fun and totally out of the ordinary for me, I set to work. Five to ten thousand words of fun Halloween fluff? Piece of cake.

Really, I should know better.

I forgot that there is a reason I avoid paranormals unless I really love the author writing them. I am the sort of woefully literal person who reads vampire sex and gets distracted by thoughts like, "Wait, if you don't have a beating heart and blood flowing through your body, how did you get an erection?" (A shameful waste of perfectly hot vampire sex, I know. No one regrets this more than I.) When reading, I can mostly set these things aside for the sake of the story. Trying to write a paranormal, on the other hand, was a whole other ballgame. By the time I finished the rough draft, I was practically twitching from all of the self-correcting thoughts of "delete this--a ghost can't sigh, because he doesn't have breath; oh, erase that too--he can't blush if he doesn't have blood."

Over-think much? -_~

But now that the hard part is over, revisions are done, and I get to just enjoy the finished product, I must admit to a definite fondness for my poor dead rentboy, trapped forever in his work clothes from 1987, tethered to a teddy bear named Mr. Snuffles, and totally dependent on the man he's in love with to set up his tricks.

  In place of a blurb, which you can find if you follow the link to the book, I offer you the opening of the story:



Three hundred sixty-four days a year, the average john is just looking for a hot little ass to stick his horny dick in. That's why I usually wind up with the criers, the ones desperate enough to pay somebody to nod along as they pour out the woes of their conflicted, closeted souls, but who aren't quite sure they're up for the physical deed. I swear death has turned me into more of a shrink than an escort.
That three hundred sixty-fifth day, though, I suddenly get all the business... 









Halloween Trick is currently available for preorder at 15% off, along with nine other Halloween Rentboy stories.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy October!

My favorite month of the year has arrived! I have absolutely no good reason to love it above all others other than the beautiful blue skies, crisp, cold weather, and gorgeous fall leaves. I love my home state for the trees above all, and I have the most magnificent maple tree in my front yard--right up until I have to rake all the leaves off the grass in the two seconds between the time they fall and the time the snow starts to fly. ^__^

School is also in full swing. The two schools where I teach at about a 30 minute drive apart from one another (and then a 30 minute drive from home), so I spend a lot of time in my car with a travel mug of tea, my iPod playing, and my brain full of thoughts about classes, errands to run, and things to write/revise. I finally finished my Fire and Lightning revisions, so those are (mostly) out of my head. It's definitely not a story for everyone (it's f/f, for starters, involves no sex at all, and isn't exactly a whirlwind of action), but I'm really pleased with how it came out. Of course I would love for everyone to read it and love it, and I think people interested in history, mythology, and the development of a friendship with a side of forbidden love will enjoy it, but I've reached the point where I'm proud of it regardless of what other people think. That leaves me doing the last fixes to Halloween Trick, which is completely different and a pleasant change of pace. I'm excited for the rentboy collection to come out at the end of the month--I think it'll be tons of fun. 

All of this listening to music I've been doing always gets my muse whirling with new ideas. For me, certain phrases and words trigger entire stories. For instance, I've always wanted to write something based on the Cake lyric (from It's Coming Down) "she's gone/ and she's wearing your red sweater." I promise myself that someday the story that evokes in my mind will make it to paper. And my characters in Can Anybody Find Me got their personalities, relationship, and physical characteristics (and an entire scene) from my favorite Patrick Wolf verse: "Oh I love the curling of your hair/ gives me the greatest peace I've ever known/ I see Dylan Thomas in your face/ reciting Butler Yeats within your grace." (Speaking of Patrick Wolf, his new album Sundark and Riverlight is absolutely stunning if you like well-crafted acoustic arrangements.)

The flip side of this is that sometimes when I'm reading, certain phrases cause me to burst into song. Any time I read "right here, right now", I start humming Jesus Jones. "Shot through the heart" gets me singing Bon Jovi without fail. Even just "call me" is enough to get Blondie playing on cognitive repeat. 

What about you? Are there phrases that make you break out in song? Or are there songs that make you want to sit down and write a story about them?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Performing Literary Surgery

I've begun to make revisions to Fire and Lightning. Normally I look forward to the first round of edits. As soon as they hit my inbox, I snatch up my scalpels (aka "delete" and "backspace") with a maniacal cackle and set to work eviscerating my baby, or at least performing some sort of linguistic plastic surgery. There's something deeply satisfying--a sort of adrenaline rush for me--in devising ways to reword a phrase, smooth out an awkward passage, or hack out something that simply doesn't need to be there.

This present job, however, is not just a nose job or a kidney transplant. Oh, those still need to be done. This is also, however, going to require something closer to a full body skin graft. The meat of the story? Still love it. The writing style? Well... it has its moments, but let's just say I whipped this manuscript out in a hot hurry to meet a deadline, so it lacks a little in eloquence in a few places. That works out in my favor, really (or so I'm telling myself), because sometimes I can get so caught up in what I want to say that I forget to pay attention to how I say it. Now I'm going to be thinking about every single word.

All of this to say I've got work to do on a story I'm really excited about. (Good thing the husband is going off to his friend's house to shoot lots of guns and work on his truck's brakes all day tomorrow, because I'm going to be busy this weekend.) Since I'm a helpless perfectionist who can't leave well enough alone, by the time I finish, I will undoubtedly go back and change half of the revisions I made, and then make several more adjustments once I next see the manuscript again. But there's nothing better than the read-through after the revisions are done when I can finally think, "That's the story I wanted to tell."

Have a little sneak preview of the opening:


Instinctively she fought up, up, up through the darkness. Warm earth yielded to heat and light just as the last of her acorn crumbled away, and she stretched taller, her radicle rooting deeper into the soil to steady her tender young body. The light made something in her soul sing, made her spread her cotyledons wide and raise her face to the sun. When she was still deep within the dirt, buried inside her seed, this brightness had called to her more powerfully than a siren's song and filled her with the joy of life.  

Drys, a voice not her own whispered deep within her consciousness.  

That is my name, she thought. Pleased, Drys whispered back to the earth her recognition:  Mother.  

*~*~*

The first drops of rain terrified her. Each giant sphere of water, fully the length of one cotyledon and with much larger mass, fell with nearly enough force to break her in half. Yet when the storm raged, she remained firmly rooted in the earth, as straight and tall as she was able only three days out of the acorn, and her fear abated. Although she was merely a seedling, she was strong.  

Drink, her mother's voice commanded, gentle with the love she bore for all her children, yet stern enough to be heard over the crashing fall of rain and the wild whistle of wind through branches and leaves far above. Drys stretched forth each tiny filament of root she had grown and drank deeply.  

No fear greeted the first flash of lightning. The sharp, metallic scent preceding it, the dazzling streak through the sky, the shaking of the air that followed all left her trembling. A shiver of excitement rippled down her stem, and a throbbing filled the buds that had begun to swell with her first leaves. 

Masculine laughter rolled through her mind. You enjoy the bolts of Zeus, do you? The voice was deep and dangerous, rumbling like the thunder that cracked the night open in the wake of his lightning. I knew you would, my child. You do not fear the storm. That is why you will be my mouthpiece.

Mouthpiece? she asked, quivering no longer because of the lightning.

Listen carefully for my voice while you grow, he commanded. I shall speak through you.  

Breathing deeply, she stilled her trembling cotyledons. Yes, Father.


Okay, back to work I go. ^__^  (Fire and Lightning is due for publication November 28.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Welcome, September!

September has come, and I have waved my summer vacation a fond farewell. School #1 started August 20, so I've had a few weeks to get acclimated to teaching there again, but School #2 just started. Since that's the school where I'm teaching three out of my four classes this year, and it's over half an hour from my house, I didn't really feel the end of summer until now.

A recap of the summer:


  • Releases:
    • Learning to See in Fairytales Slashed, Volume 4 (July 4)
    • Dreamer (August 1)
  • Submissions Accepted for Publication
    • Can Anybody Find Me? (Dec 2012)
    • Fire and Lightning (Nov 2012)
    • Halloween Trick (Oct 2012)
  • Recreation
    • Read more books than I can count or remember. When a friend asked for recently read recommendations, my "short list" had over twenty books on it. :)
    • Vacation with my in-laws in the lovely wilds of northern Minnesota
    • a week at a music festival in the middle of Lake Michigan
    • a great seminar on teaching AP English Lit and a boring seminar on the new writing curriculum school #2 is implementing
I also copy edited five manuscripts, made revisions to Can Anybody Find Me?, abraded a cornea, finally gave in and bought some new shorts for the first time since college, wrote some little fairy tales and other short things for fun, and many other even less interesting things. 

Evaluation: Although it was beastly hot and far too short, this summer was a very good one.

Happy September!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I finished my ghost rent boy story, though not without much moaning and gnashing of teeth. The poor ghost, a rent boy who died on the job Halloween night, 1987, has a thing for the guy he lives with... who happens to have gotten stuck with him by merit of owning the teddy bear to which our ghost is tethered... and who has consequently been roped into being Robbie's reluctant "procurer" for the last few years. But what would a nice guy like Josh want with a dead prostitute like Robbie?

Obviously there is much editing to be done, but the official blurb and links will be posted soon with a release date. In the meantime, here's my shiny new cover:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fire and Lightning

Fire and Lightning has official artwork! Look at how gorgeous it is:

The official blurb reads:

Drys is the hamadryad of Zeus' sacred oak tree, tied to the grove by her tree and by her responsibilities to speak for Zeus to the temple supplicants. She knows nothing about the world outside until the beautiful Bennu bird flies into her life and teaches Drys not only about the world, but also of things that Zeus has expressly forbidden ...


Release date: November 28.
Posted on Goodreads here.


I will write more another time about the ridiculous amounts of research I probably didn't need to do for this story but did anyway, about how drastically different it turned out than my initial imaginings, and why I have come to love it more than perhaps anything else I've ever written. But for now, I'm just going to stare at the pretty artwork and grin like an idiot.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Origins

I have decided to create an author blog where I can wax narcissistic about my work. It's a chance for me to put up all the links to my official things, yammer on about my upcoming projects, and maybe sort out a few of my favorite free reads from the jumbled mass of them available on my livejournal (magistra17sum). This will also provide a place for me to say a few things about the inspiration for my stories and maybe show off a few of the bits I particularly like.

Since Dreamer is my newest release, the longest thing I've ever written that didn't totally suck, and the only thing I've submitted for publication not in response to a specific submission call, I'm going to ramble on about that one first. :)

I write really well in response to prompts. I write really poorly when I have to devise everything myself. I hadn't written anything in ages that I liked when, thanks to a circuitous route that involved lots of clicking on other people's links, I suddenly stumbled upon the 100wordwars community on livejournal just over a year ago. The premise of the community is simple: pick a prompt (usually three or four words, sometimes a picture) and write exactly one hundred words in response. It was perfect for me. When I look at a set of words, they sort of bring themselves together in my head with very little effort. My only real task was in choosing which one hundred words were most important. When I got to prompt #9 ("oil, unseen, touch"), I immediately thought of a dream and wrote:

The images in his mind shifted and shimmered like oil on water, swirling with every turn of his eyes.  Unseen fingers ghosted over the side of his neck, the inside of his elbow, the arch of one foot.  Suddenly his vision went dark as though his eyes had involuntarily closed and were now locked shut without a key.  Warm breath touched the shell of his ear, stirred the hair at the back of his neck.  Goosebumps shivered down the length of his spine.  He arched back against solid warmth.  A chuckle rippled through the darkness.  “Goodnight, lovely dreamer.  Welcome back.”

My friends in the community immediately commented with curious inquiries, mainly along the lines of "What next? Who is it? What's happening?" So I wrote prompt #10 ("laughter, bubbles, slipping"):

He was racing naked across an endless Slip ‘n Slide, his laughter mixing with the chuckles of the man chasing him.  Bubbles squelched under his slipping feet, lifted into the air by the quickness of his pace, bursting wet and sticky against his damp skin.  The fragrance of sandalwood hung heavy in the air, almost cloying despite the openness of the grassy field and the gentle breeze playing across it.  He ached to stop running, turn, and finally see his lover’s face, but his legs would not stop.  A tear washed soap from an eye; he could not tire here. 

And then prompt #11 ("horror, dark, soft") followed in the same sitting: 
  
Falling asleep had become a mixture of horror and relief.  He could not decide if he wanted to stay awake forever or sleep endlessly, never to regain consciousness.  All night long, every night, Morpheus held him teetering on the brink of something vast and terrifyingly beautiful, like a fierce samurai softly caressing his katana.  He was trapped in a world of shifting beauty and delight, yet never his to control, never his to choose.  He did not know if Morpheus would ever let him tumble over the edge, nor if falling would lead him to endless light or fathomless dark.

The second source of inspiration came from a quote at the end of a chapter in JL Merrow's Pricks and Pragmatism. The main character has just given a copy of the movie A Bout de Souffle, and he mentions the line, "It's sad to fall asleep. It separates people. Even when you're sleeping together, you're all alone." I read it, pondered it, and wondered to myself, "Well, what if that weren't true?"  

Suddenly I had a story. I wrote something like 35 more hundred word prompts and then strung them together one night when I got bored; I decided I might as well write the whole thing out. So I did. And then, somewhat to my surprise, I liked it where it went. I liked who Jonah turned out to be. I even liked inventing a dreamworld, which was a real shock--I don't normally like fantasy much, so it was certainly not anything I'd imagined myself writing. Then I had a ton of fun playing around with dreams. 

Personally, I have incredibly boring dreams (much like Jonah at the beginning of the book) in which absolutely nothing out of the ordinary occurs: I make dinner, I grocery shop, I eat, I take showers, go to work. That's pretty much it. In her introductory philosophy classes, sister often uses me as a counterexample to the argument in Descartes' Fourth Meditation that if the Meditator were just dreaming, he would know it because dreams are unlike real life. Mine are like carbon copies of one another. My husband, on the other hand, dreams as though he's on hallucinogenic drugs. For instance, Jonah's best friend Mike opens the book by describing a dream to Jonah in which a giant Rob Lowe starts jump roping with the road Mike's driving along. That one was actually one of my husband's real dreams. When he describes them to me, I often just sit blinking at him, wondering why he dreams of such wildly bizarre things while I lie two feet away dreaming of making oatmeal. For me, imagining a dream without the usual spatial-temporal-physical boundaries was fascinating. 

The other fun part for me was imagining how someone who has only ever seen the world through dreams might imagine it to be. What things might he misinterpret? What things might he have difficulty understanding? There were so many things I didn't even get to address because they didn't fall within the scope of the story, but it was a great mental exercise. I'm sure I got things wrong, probably missed a few things as well, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

It was also one of those rare pieces of writing where I got to the end and had no more I wanted to write. I didn't want to write any spin-offs, I didn't want to write any drabbles about the characters in the future... I was content to let them be, sailing off to their HEA on their own, unobserved. To paraphrase Robert Penn Warren, I know they are beautiful forever, and live in a beautiful house, far away. I'm glad they called my name once.


Official blurb: 

Jonah considers himself the most boring person in existence. Even his dreams are boring; the most exciting dream he's ever had involved folding laundry. But then, in the middle of a dream about eating cereal, everything changes. Faint memories of an unseen visitor, impressions that vanish upon waking, become dreams that leave Jonah exhausted, afraid, and determined to figure out who is turning his boring dreams into a terrifying game of cat and mouse...

Available from Less Than Three Press.
Print coming soon.

Two post-Learning to See snippets



A FAMILY VISIT
“Erion, stop it!” Brennin protested half-heartedly, batting away his hands before they could start undoing any buttons.  “My family is coming for dinner in an hour.”
“And we could be coming in ten minutes, Beauty,” Erion coaxed, ignoring Brennin’s attempts to push him away.  “We’ll be done well before they get here.”  His mouth dropped to the side of Brennin’s neck as his hands fought to find some bare skin.
Brennin groaned, bracing his hands to push against Erion’s chest but putting no real force behind them.  “Ten minutes, but then you’ll want to cuddle because you never let me out of bed right after, and then we’ll need to bathe, and you know you can’t get out of the tub in less than half an hour, and then you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time picking out your clothes and tying your cravat or some such nonsense, not to mention deciding what to do with your hair, and when they do finally arrive, we’ll both be damp and barely dressed and nobody will be wondering why.”
Erion pouted.  “So what?  I think they realize we are sleeping together.”  His pout grew a little sulky as he added, “And I am not as bad as all that.”
Brennin leveled a look of utter disbelief at him.  “For a man who spent two hundred years stuck in the form of a hideous beast, you are still remarkably vain about your appearance.  Do you think Alamon is still alive?  Perhaps he could recast that curse, and this time set it to go off when you finally learn that it is all right to look normal instead of impossibly gorgeous all the time.”
Erion scowled.  “I know you liked me better as a beast, but I rather enjoy being able to kiss you,” he replied tartly.  “And the sex isn’t bad either.”  Still, he stopped trying to get into Brennin’s clothes and stepped away, smoothing down the front of his own shirt.  Brennin sighed, recognizing the haughty airs signaling Erion’s attempt to hide that he was hurt.
“I did not like you better as a beast.  We have been over this, we have had the big fight, we have had the momentous reconciliation.  Can we please let it go now?”  Erion sniffed, arms folded across his chest, but Brennin saw the mask of pride on his face ease slightly.  “I just don’t understand why you care so much.  I could spend now until next Christmas getting ready and still not look half as good as you did when you rolled out of bed this morning.  Why do you need to worry about whether your hair looks better braided or undone, or whether you look better in green or blue?  Either way, you are so beautiful you practically hurt my eyes.”
Erion scuffed his shoe against the marble flooring.  “I always want to look my best for you.  And this is your family coming for dinner,” he mumbled.  “They are the only people in the world who matter to you, and since you are the only person in the world who matters to me, I want them to think that I’m…”  He trailed off with a shrug. 
Brennin’s chest tightened with understanding.  “You don’t need to worry about winning their approval, Er.  You already have all of it you could ever hope for.  Even if you did not, it would not matter because I love you and I want you and I don’t care what they think.”  He reached up with his good hand to lightly touch his prince’s cheek and smiled slightly.  “You know I just wish you would leave me something imperfect to look at so I can feel better about myself.  It’s the sort of petty thing we average-looking commoners do to raise our self-esteems.”
Erion lifted his lovely green eyes and returned the smile with a small twist of his own mouth.  “I know I was cursed for a long time and so it seems like I had plenty of opportunity to learn my lesson, but there was no one around to teach me to value the correct things until you appeared.  Two centuries of living almost entirely alone were not enough to erase the seventeen years of indoctrination that appearances are all that matter, nor did they root out the old habit of thinking my face the best thing I have to offer anyone.”
“And it is certainly a lovely face,” Brennin agreed, kissing him lightly, “but hardly your best or only worthwhile trait.  Besides, you are not allowed to seduce your way into my family’s good graces, you know.  I am not going to share you, so you had better find another way to win them over.”
Erion stepped back into Brennin’s embrace.  “Orin and I seemed to get on decently the last time.  We can always bond over seeing how red we can make you if all else fails.”
Brennin’s eyes narrowed.  “Would you also like to see how long I can go without touching you?  I assure it can be quite a long time, as I have had plenty of practice going without.”
“Not nearly as much as I have,” Erion replied with a lifted brow.  Brennin rolled his eyes, eliciting a fond smile from Erion.  “You know I don’t mean any harm, Bren.  Don’t get into a snit.  It’s just cute to see how easily embarrassed you are.” 
Brennin half-heartedly protested the press of lips against his for a moment before melting into the kiss.  “What about a compromise?” he suggested when they parted.  “If you promise not to change your outfit once you’ve dressed and to braid your hair once and then leave it alone, you can have fifteen minutes with me in the bath.”
“Under those conditions, you could surely give me thirty.”
“Twenty.”  Brennin grinned.
“Done,” Erion proclaimed, and he proceeded to take the grin off his lover’s face, along with all of his clothes.  Fortunately, they made it back on before the invisible servants opened the front door an hour later.

Barely.


THE ONLY ONE

“That feels so good, Beauty.”  Erion groaned and swore under his breath as his lover’s teeth scraped over the sensitive spot at the base of his neck.  “How do you know where all the places that make my toes curl are?  I thought I was your first.”
“Oh, you are.  I just pay close attention during our numerous… study sessions,” Brennin grinned, mouth moving to Erion’s chest.  “And I take extensive notes.”
“I think you must.  None of my other lovers ever made me feel half as good as you always do.”
Brennin looked up from where he was running his tongue around Erion’s nipple, taking time to bite down just the way Erion liked it before he said, “Please do not remind me about all of your other lovers, especially not while we’re having sex.”
“Not even when I am telling you how much better you are?”
“No, not even then.”
Erion lowered his voice to his most seductive purr.  “You don’t want me to tell you that you are the best I have ever had?  That no one else has ever made me come as hard, as fast, and as often as you do, or has made me enjoy the foreplay one-tenth as much as you do?  That no one else has even made me want him back in my bed a second time, but you make me want to keep you in it forever and keep everyone else out?”
“No, not really,” Brennin replied flatly.  “If you have to tell me I am the best because you cannot tell me I am the only, then I would rather not hear about it.  I have never dreamed of being the best in bed, just of having someone who wanted me.”  He turned his attention back to the bare chest before him, though with markedly less enthusiasm.
Erion tugged gently on his hair until he turned his face up again.  “You are the only one I have ever loved, Bren.  You know that, right?”
Some of the tension in his body eased.  “Yes,” he quietly admitted, “I know.  It helps.”
Erion kissed him softly.  “You are also the only one I have ever undressed.”  When Brennin’s eyes snapped back to his in surprise, he gave a wry smile and said in his haughtiest tone, “The crown prince does not do a servant’s job such as dressing or undressing someone.  He does not stoop to performing menial tasks for those beneath his station.  He does not even undress himself if he can help it.  It is a service he allows his lover or his servant to perform.”
“I am so glad I did not know you as a prince.”  Brennin shook his head.  “I think I might have killed you.”
Erion chuckled.  “I would have deserved it.”  He kissed Brennin again, this time with more heat.  “Speaking of undressing, do you mind if I finish the task you started?” 
Brennin smiled and shook his head, leaning in to press his lips to Erion’s once more.  This time it was Erion who sought out all of the places he knew would make the body in his arms shudder and shiver.  His favorite moments were the times Brennin’s control slipped enough to let a small noise of enjoyment escape.  As he sank to his knees, he let his eyes travel up to his Beauty’s scarred face.  He knew others were revolted by the sight of it, but he could no longer imagine why.  Eyes closed, jaw clenched with pleasure, biting his lips to keep a moan from escaping, Brennin was beautiful.
“Did you know,” Erion began, surprised by how husky his voice came out, “that you are also the only man I have ever allowed to come in my mouth?”  He nuzzled the hot cock before him, letting his tongue come out to flick across the tip.
Brennin’s dark eyes snapped open.  “Really?”  Erion read the fierce possessive pleasure beneath the surprise, and it made him ache to be claimed even further. 
“Another thing I was taught a crown prince should not demean himself to do,” he murmured.  Hesitantly, he continued, “There’s another first I’ve been meaning to try with you, if you’re amenable to it.” 
“Oh?” Brennin replied with impressive composure.  Erion would have been panting, begging, thrusting into the willing mouth inches away from his cock if their positions had been reversed.  Brennin just stood, a little more rigidly than normal, breathing a little more studiously measured.  Erion wrapped his lips around him and sucked once, hard.  Brennin swallowed.  “What’s that?”
Erion pushed himself to his feet so he could lean in and murmur in Brennin’s ear, “No one ever tops the crown prince.  But you could.”
He felt the surprise ripple up Brennin’s spine.  “Really?  You actually want me to…?”
He nodded.  “If you want.”  But he already knew the answer from the widening of his lover’s eyes, the hand that tightened around his hip and then carefully relaxed, the exceptional blankness of his face.  When Brennin remained silent, Erion ran his tongue around the shell of his ear and added, “No one’s ever taken me that way before, but I want you to.  Be my first, Beauty.”
Brennin let out a ragged breath.  Erion suppressed his smile of victory, waiting for him to accept the invitation.  “I don’t think I have the strength or balance, Er.”  He nodded to his withered limbs.  “Not that I don’t want to, but I am not sure I can.  They will not hold me up for long or with any level of coordination.”
“Hmm.”  Erion sucked Brennin’s earlobe into his mouth while he rethought his plans slightly.  He nibbled lightly on Brennin’s jaw as he suggested, “Just lay back and let me take care of things, then.”
“Okay.” 
The absolute trust in those brown eyes was always Erion’s undoing.  He bent his head to give a fierce kiss, walking Brennin backwards to the bed as he finished removing his own pants, pushing him down and helping him wriggle to the middle of the mattress, laughing a little as they got themselves into a tangle of limbs and sheets.  At last Brennin was splayed out across the bed, waiting for him.  Erion took a moment to appreciate the view, leaning in to press his mouth to a few favorite spots before reaching for the oil beside the bed. 
Once it was in his hands, he wasn’t quite sure what to do next.  “Umm, do you want to?”  He held out the vial a little.  “Or do you want me to?” 
Brennin’s breath puffed out in a laugh.  “It is kind of nice not to be the one who doesn’t have a clue what to do,” he confessed, grinning. 
Feeling his ears burn slightly, Erion groused, “I know exactly what to do from your side.  And in theory what to do from this end of things.  It is just that theory and practice are a little different.  And I do not know what you want.”
Brennin ran his good hand up Erion’s thigh.  “I want you to enjoy this.”  He grabbed the bottle from Erion’s hand.  “And I want to be the one to touch you.  Though maybe next time I’ll watch instead.”
Erion’s face broke into a smile.  “Whatever you want, Beauty.” 
“Come up a bit, then.  I can’t reach.”  He fumbled with the stopper for a moment, his scarred hand having difficulty grasping the bottle firmly.  Erion gently took it back and tipped a little onto Brennin’s fingers.  “Thanks.”  Brennin’s cheeks were a little red at the embarrassment of needing help, so Erion dipped down and kissed him. 
“The pleasure will be all mine.”  He winked. 
Brennin’s eyebrow lifted.  “Hardly all yours, I should think.”  Then a finger was sliding down and in, and Erion couldn’t quite hold back his gasp of surprise.  Brennin’s chest rose and fell rapidly between his knees.  “Definitely not all yours.  Gods and goddesses, you are hot.”
Erion tried not to jerk as Brennin swirled his finger experimentally.  He did have to take a deep breath when the finger slid in further, biting his lip.  He hadn’t known quite what to expect, but this was somewhat different than anything he had imagined.
“You have never looked sexier,” Brennin rasped. 
It was that hot gaze on his face, the huskiness in the voice, that prompted Erion to say, “Another?”
“As you wish, Highness.”  Brennin slid in a second finger and Erion’s mouth fell slightly open in a pant. 
They continued until Erion decided he’d had enough preparation and enough foreplay, and he hastily dumped some oil onto his own fingers.  He pulled himself off Brennin’s fingers, slid back, and slicked up the waiting cock.  Then he lined himself up, took a deep breath, and lowered himself.
“Oh!” he gasped. 
“Yeah,” Brennin panted, cursing a bit.  “Gods, that feels good.  You all right?”
Erion nodded, having to close his eyes against the unfamiliar sensations for a moment.  “Ready?”
“Damn,” Brennin gasped when it was all over, a very little while later.  “And I thought you looked good pounding me into the bed.”
Erion grinned.  “My performance was acceptable, then?”
Brennin rolled his eyes.  “No.  I will require a repeat performance before dinner.  Just as soon as I can pull my wits together.”
“Before dinner?” Erion let his head fall back to the pillow.  “You do realize I am not seventeen anymore, don’t you?”
Brennin laughed.  “Sorry, old man.  How could I forget?”  He turned his head for a kiss, sliding his good arm around Erion's waist, pulling him close, and closing his eyes.   

Perfect Planning Extras



ANOTHER PLAN GONE AWRY
Sam had thought that his plan to ask Tristan on a date was the only one doomed to fail forever.  He was discovering, however, that it was in fact any plan at all involving Tristan that would crash and burn.  Since Tristan had a way of working his way into each and every plan Sam made these days, right before it inevitably derailed, Sam was starting to put a lot less effort into devising the perfect plan for each day.
Not that he was complaining, exactly.  The alternatives were rarely unpleasant, and Sam could admit that sometimes they turned out even better than his original ideas.  Take that night Sam had planned to take Tristan out for dinner and a movie—right up until Tristan had showed up with a take-out bag in his hand.  They’d spent the night on the couch instead.  Sam couldn’t really complain about sharing good food with his boyfriend in the privacy of his own home, where he could also indulge himself in all the talking and touching he wanted.  Which had been rather a lot, now that he thought about it.
Sometimes things went wrong because of factors out of their control.  A romantic dinner had a damper put on it by discovering that they were going to be waited on by one of Sam’s students.  An attempt to see a movie before it left the theater had been ruined by a suddenly adjusted deadline that kept Tristan at work until after the last showing had begun.  Then there had been Sam’s bout of the flu, Tristan’s strep throat, the blizzard…
But he and Tristan were going to go out tonight, come hell or high water.  They were going to celebrate Sam’s birthday with dinner at a nice restaurant, and nothing or nobody was going to ruin his plan.  Tristan had already confirmed he would be on time.  Dinner reservations had been made to allow them time for the movie and travel to and from the theater first, and he’d checked that none of his students would be working at the restaurant.  And if any of them somehow showed up, he would just ignore them.  Make out right in front of them, if he wanted to.  This plan was going to work. 
He checked his appearance in the mirror one last time, straightening his tie and flicking a tiny piece of lint from his shoulder.  Then he strode into the office to finish entering grades while he waited for Tristan to arrive. 
When the doorbell rang, he called, “Come on in!  I’m just putting in the last couple of assignments.”
“All right,” Tristan’s voice replied, followed by the sound of his footsteps drawing closer.  He was in the room by the time he said, “Happy birthday.”  A cold pair of lips landed on the back of Sam’s neck, accompanied by a hand squeezing his shoulder briefly. 
“Thanks,” Sam replied, typing in the last grade and clicking save.  “The movie starts in twenty minutes at the Quad North, so we should…” 
Every word he had meant to say after that melted out of his brain as he turned around and caught sight of Tristan.  His dark hair had been freshly trimmed.  His russet shirt brought out the warm, rosy hue of his skin, and his suit jacket fit him perfectly.  And it was Tristan Hoffman standing in his officethere just for him.  There because he wanted Sam as badly as Sam wanted him.  It was just like that day Sam had first glimpsed Tristan’s math assignment and been too instantly love-struck to speak—his mouth dried up, and his plan completely disappeared from his mind.  He just gaped dumbly for a moment.
“What?” Tristan asked uncomfortably, flushing slightly. "Does my haircut look weird or something?"
Sam could only gather enough coherence to stammer, “You—you look…”  And then he gave up on trying to speak and just grabbed, catching a handful of tie and yanking hard enough that Tristan let out an oof! as their lips collided.  Sam kissed hard and deep, wanting to devour him because he just looked so damn good, and he was Tristan Hoffman, and Sam had been dreaming about this for years. 
Tristan’s response was surprised but pleased, and when Sam pulled back to wrangle that gorgeous shirt off of him, Tristan was helping even while he asked, “Aren’t we supposed to be going now so we don’t miss the movie?”
“There’s got to be another showing later,” Sam replied distractedly, focused on undoing Tristan’s belt buckle.  There was a hazy sort of plan forming somewhere in his mind that involved shoving Tristan up against the office wall; most of his concentration was absorbed in enacting it. He had forgotten the other plan entirely.
“Oh,” Tristan breathed as his back hit the wall and Sam dropped to his knees.  “Oh, Sam.”  The fingers of one hand clutched convulsively in Sam’s hair.  Sam had been growing it out since he had discovered how much Tristan enjoyed having enough to run his fingers through and since he had subsequently discovered how much he enjoyed having Tristan’s hands twined in it.  He couldn’t bring himself to let it get shaggy, exactly, but as long as he kept it neatly trimmed, he kind of liked the extra length.
Not bothering with taking his time, Sam immediately put all of his attention into rendering Tristan an incoherent mess.  He was rewarded with a few needy whimpers, then a gasp followed by Tristan’s open palm loudly smacking into the wall twice, and then Tristan was coming hot in his mouth. 
Sam pushed himself back to his feet, feeling a little smug when he found Tristan’s eyes closed, head resting on the wall, still breathing hard.  He cracked an eye open just long enough to see Sam looking at him.  “Sorry,” he panted.  “I’m going to need a minute.” 
Sam chuckled, leaning in to kiss him languorously.  “Take all the time you want.”  He smiled against Tristan’s mouth, content to savor the effect he’d finally had upon the person on whom he had always most wanted to have that sort of effect.  “Do you know how many of my teenage fantasies I just fulfilled?” he remarked.  “How many times in college I imagined doing that to you?  How many desperate plans I concocted to follow you into the locker room after laps and just slam you up against a wall?”
Tristan opened his gorgeous brown eyes and grinned.  “Actually, I probably do.  Want me to return the favor?  I promise, I’d be fulfilling more than a few of my own favorite plots.”
Their lips met again, sliding against each other almost lazily.  “Later,” Sam decided.  “After we get back tonight, we’re going to spend a very long time getting into bed and an even longer time in it.”  He pulled back regretfully.  “But right now, I probably need to pull out my ironing board.  I’m all wrinkled.”
Despite Sam’s words, Tristan looped his arms around Sam’s waist and pulled him close for a minute.  “I bet your plan for the night’s all off-kilter now, isn’t it?” 
Sam nodded, remembering his earlier resolution to stick to the plan that he’d forgotten at the sight of Tristan in his office.  “You do seem to have that effect on them,” he sighed, dropping his head to Tristan’s shoulder.  “I was so determined to follow this one to the letter.”
Tristan laughed quietly, cheek coming to rest on Sam’s hair.  “And they say we don’t know how to be spontaneous.” 
Sam snickered, thinking of the look any of his ex-boyfriends would have given him if they’d found out he’d voluntarily blown off one of his own plans in favor of blowing Tristan. 
After few minutes, Tristan dropped his arms with a sigh.  “All right.  I should probably use your ironing board too once you get it set up.  I’m sure my clothes are a complete mess now, whatever you did with them.”
Sam’s eyes flicked sheepishly to the shirt lying on the floor next to the door and the jacket hanging from the knob.  When Tristan followed his gaze, he started to laugh.  “Only you, Sam.  But it figures that you would be able to fold them neatly, even with your eyes closed while sucking my brains out.”  He pressed a kiss to Sam’s cheek before reaching for his shirt and giving it a quick shake to make sure it was still in wearable condition.  “So when’s dinner?”
“We’ve still got a while,” Sam replied.  “We’re supposed to be at the movie right now.” 
Tristan’s eyes roved over Sam briefly, his plotting look slipping firmly in place.  “You’re going to need to take those clothes off to iron them, right?  Might as well take them off now and then leave them off until it’s time to go.  So they don’t get wrinkled again, I mean.”  He flashed Sam a naughty grin.  “And it would be a shame for me to ruin the careful job you did keeping my clothes neat.  I might as well not put them back on quite yet either.”
Sam yielded to Tristan’s impeccable logic, shaking his head as he reached up to loosen his tie.  He had a feeling his plans for dinner were about to go the way of his movie plans, but his plans never had worked out where Tristan was involved. Fortunately.


WAITING FOR SAM

Tristan fiddled with his phone, checking the clock for the third time in five minutes, wondering whether he should call Sam.  He was nearly fifteen minutes late.  Sam was never behind schedule, and he never forgot anything in his plan for the day. 
Just as he was deciding that a text would be okay and less clingy than a phone call, the door to the café swung open, and in blew Sam along with a vast quantity of snow.  Tristan stifled the smile that threatened to take over his face as he watched Sam comb his fingers through his hair to rearrange the slightly windblown locks into their usual impeccable order.  Tristan raised a hand to get his attention, still feeling a little lurch in his stomach when Sam met his eyes and headed for his table.
“Sorry I’m late,” Sam sighed, draping his coat and scarf over the back of the chair opposite Tristan before sliding into the chair just to his left.  “I hate the DMV.  They’re so abominably inefficient.”
Ah.  That made sense.  It took a vast, immovable force to get in the way of Sam’s execution of a plan; the DMV definitely qualified as vast and immovable.  “What were you there for?” he asked, passing Sam the latte he’d already ordered for him. 
“Renewing my license,” Sam replied, too intently focused on brushing ineffectively at the little flecks of wetness that speckled his shirt cuffs to notice the drink steaming before him.  Tristan grinned.  Sam was just adorable when he was being fussy.  Tristan could have watched him straighten and smooth himself out all day.
Sam caught him staring and frowned.  “What?”
“You’re so cute when you’re all persnickety.”  He leaned over, kissing Sam lightly to take any insult out of the words, adding, “I love it.”
Sam’s shoulders relaxed for the first time since sitting down, and Tristan congratulated himself.  “What’s this?” Sam asked, eyes falling to the cup Tristan had pushed over.
“Caramel Marvel, extra shot.”  When Sam’s eyes widened in surprise, Tristan shrugged.  “It’s what you always get on Mondays.  When I beat you here, I figured I had better order for you so you wouldn’t have to wait.  I know you don’t have long, and I didn’t want you to get behind schedule.  You hate that.”
Sam just stared at him for a long moment.  Then a familiar look came into his eyes, making Tristan sigh indulgently.  “What are you planning now, Sam?”
The smirk that twisted his lips was far sexier than Tristan thought fair for a public setting.  “Just revising my plans for the evening.”  When Tristan’s eyebrows shot up, he laughed.  “You’ll like the revisions, I promise.” 
“Is that so?”  Tristan had been rather fond of their plans for the evening the way they had been, actually.  Making dinner together and snuggling on the couch while Sam graded papers and Tristan devised plots to distract him still sounded awfully nice to him.
Then Sam leaned in to murmur in his ear, “I had to add the part where I reward you adequately for being the best, most perfect, most understanding boyfriend in the world.  But if you want, we can plot that out together after dinner.”
“Oh.”  His voice came out rather faint, and he knew he must be bright red given the heat that had suddenly flooded his face. 
Sam grinned, looking satisfied with himself, and sat back in his chair.  He let out a sigh as he took a sip of his latte.  “Thank you so much.  You have no idea how awesome you are.”
An awkward smile fought its way to Tristan’s mouth as he shrugged.  “Not really,” he deflected.  “I’m kind of boring.”
Sam shook his head emphatically, reaching over to slide the fingers of one hand in between Tristan’s.  They were hot on one side from his coffee and still icy on the other from the snow.  “I can’t think of a single boring thing about you.”
Scoffing, Tristan suggested, “I can think of several.  How about the routine I follow? I do the exact same thing every day.”
“Just shows you’re smart enough to make a good plan and stick with it when it works.”  Sam’s lips curled up slightly in one corner.
Tristan almost laughed at that.  Of course Sam would like that about him.  “Well, what about the way I look?  I’m pretty boring and unexceptional: brown hair, brown eyes, boring work clothes…”
Sam’s eyebrows lifted skeptically.  “Gorgeous, shampoo commercial brown hair.  Eyes like fresh coffee, and just as hot.  Neat clothing in good repair that makes you look like a respectable gentleman and doesn’t do anything to hide the breadth of your shoulders while keeping anybody but me from seeing just how gorgeous they are underneath.”  His eyes swept over Tristan approvingly in a way no one else’s ever had, making Tristan’s breath catch a little.  Sam's dimples were showing when he met Tristan’s gaze again and added, “Not to mention that your ties give me more plans than I know what to do with.”
More plans than Sam could handle?  Brain suddenly failing, Tristan murmured inanely, “Do they?”
“Mmm hmm.”  Sam’s fingers wound around the end of the tie Tristan was presently wearing and tugged just hard enough to bring Tristan a little closer.  “Sadly, none of them are café appropriate.”  He let go with a little sigh. 
Tristan had to clear his throat before he could get out a response.  “Maybe you can explain some of them to me tonight after dinner.”
“If I can wait that long.”  Sam took another long sip from his coffee cup, eyes laughing at the expression on Tristan’s face.  He glanced at his watch, scowled, and leaned over to kiss Tristan on the cheek.  “I’ve got to get back to school.  I’ll see you tonight.”
“Let me walk you out,” Tristan offered, gathering his own coat from the back of his chair and sliding into it.  “I should get back to work too.” 
He looped his scarf around his neck, but he didn’t try too hard to arrange it properly since he knew Sam would prefer to do it himself.  And sure enough, as soon as Sam’s outerwear was donned to his satisfaction, he reached for Tristan’s scarf, fussing for a minute until it lay perfectly.  Judging by the sheepish expression in his eyes, Tristan thought Sam hadn’t really meant to do it but couldn’t quite help himself.  Tristan chuckled under his breath; even if Sam hadn’t meant to straighten him up, Tristan had still known he was going to.
As they stood on the snowy sidewalk outside the café, Sam asked, “What time do you think you’ll be over tonight?”
Tristan did a little mental calculation, tried to sort out what things were absolutely essential and which he could skip to make it to Sam’s apartment sooner, and decided, “6:30, I think.  Will that give you enough time to finish the things you need to?”
“I might not be done with dinner, but that’s all right.”  There was a sweet eagerness in his expression that compelled Tristan to lean over and kiss him despite the embarrassment of being on the edge of a public street where everyone outside and everyone inside the café could see.
“I like watching you cook.”  And it was true; Tristan absolutely loved watching Sam be fussy and anal while he planned every action he made, and cooking always brought out those tendencies to the nth degree.  He was a master of mise en place, everything set out in its place before he turned on a single burner, every vegetable diced to identical proportions, his spices in alphabetical containers across the back of the counter waiting to be used at their appointed moment.  One of these days, Tristan was going to completely ruin one of Sam’s dinner plans by lifting him up on the counter, pushing everything out of the way in a giant mess, and having his wicked way with his completely adorable boyfriend. 
“I’ll see you then,” Sam said, interrupting Tristan’s plot to ruin his own dinner before he could finish forming it.  Then he flashed a wicked grin and reminded him, “After I thank you for this coffee properly, we’ll talk about my plans for your tie.”