Category Archives: Behind the Iron Cross
Yesterday my MMF historical romance Behind the Iron Cross released on Amazon and Smashwords, with Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes to follow soon. While it’s my tenth full-length novel to be released, it’s also the first romance novel I ever started, back in April 2012. I quickly realized that 1) I would have to do a buttload of research on the period, and 2) I really didn’t have the novel writing chops necessary to do the story justice. While working on my assorted series over the next six years I wound up picking at Iron Cross on and off, doing research when I could and picking up information that would add to the background and worldbuilding of the story.
And then this September something clicked and I decided, “Okay, time to finish it.” Which threw my schedule completely out of whack, forcing me to drop Uncertainty Principle until next year, but I felt like it was time to get Iron Cross done and out. The weird thing is, I wasn’t consciously aware that this year was the centenary of the end of World War I, which plays a big role in the story. All I can say is, the subconscious is an amazing thing.
This is also my longest and darkest romance to date. I don’t know if that’s because it’s a historical romance set in between-the-wars Berlin or what, but 105,000 words still amazes me when I think about it. As for the dark themes, well, 1923 Berlin was not exactly Disneyworld, although God knows there was a buttload of partying going on at the various clubs and restaurants if you had money. As for the concept of a German army officer turning to prostitution to support his family, that was actually pulled from real life reports. The economy was absolute crap, hyperinflation was rampant, lots of soldiers were decommissioned and unable to find even menial jobs, prostitution had been normalized in Berlin, and if you didn’t want to join the criminal gangs and the right-wing militias called Freikorps wouldn’t take you, you didn’t have much of a choice.
Like I said, not the happiest of places. That being said, I very deliberately toned down the harsher historical aspects because this is a romance, after all, and I needed these three very different people to fall in love with each other. According to my editor and betas I succeeded, but time will tell with reviews.
Next up on the writing table are King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) and Windrider and the Deuce, which I’m writing concurrently. Windrider should be finished in two weeks and will be released as my holiday novella following the adventures of Bardahlson son #2 Ewan and a lovely and dangerous messenger from Ghobos who find themselves joining forces to stop a blackmailer from ruining a priestess’s life during Frostfair. That should be out by mid-December and King of Blades should be out by late December, so you’ll have lots of stuff to read between Christmas and New Year.
As for 2019, my current schedule includes the to-be-named romcom about two actors who find out they were accidentally married for real during a movie and have to get a divorce, Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2), Shifter Woods: Scream, the yet-untitled Two Thrones 5, another romcom about Lily’s best friend Theresa, plus the re-release of Breaker Zone (Olympic Cove 2) and Two to Tango, which will be expanded and retitled Stealing Dmitri. So, yeah, busy year next year. But hey, it keeps me off the streets.
After pretty much a solid week of glueing my butt to my chair (which is apparently the secret to literary success according to Stephen King, and he would know) I finished the first draft of Behind the Iron Cross today. It topped out at slightly over 107K, making it my longest book to date (and seeing as I thought it was going to finish at 90K, there may have been some tormented screams in Casa Cameron). Then again, it’s also a historical MMF moderately kinky romance set in Weimar Republic-era Berlin (think Cabaret period and you’ve got the right idea), so there was a LOT of territory to cover with my decommissioned Germany army colonel, my kinky American heiress, and her gay best friend/fiancé who’s marrying her to stay in his father’s will and help her get ahead in her uncle’s company.
Yeah, it’s complicated.
But the funny thing is, I went back on a whim today and checked creation dates. According to the original Word file I first started Iron Cross in April 2012, which was a good five months before I sold my short story “Tied With a Bow” to Evernight for their Vanilla-Free Christmas: Manlove Edition antho and got my romance writing career underway. Which means that Iron Cross is actually my first romance novel, but will be the tenth one I’ve published.
That’s actually good because I had a lot to learn about plot, pacing, and characterization when it came to writing romance in long form. I’m honest enough to admit that I simply didn’t have the required skills in 2012 to do this story justice. As it is, there’s going to be a metric buttload of editing required to get this puppy into shape, mainly because I’ve spent the last six years picking at it before deciding to nail my butt to a chair and get it done. I’m kinda excited about editing it into readable shape (and lord, my editor has been chomping at the bit to read this for years so she’s one happy gal), but I also need to take a couple of days off and let my brain cool down from a week of 4-6K days straight. Yow.
The other nice thing about finishing Iron Cross is that I can now get started on King of Blades, Book Four in the Two Thrones series. As much fun as it was to be mentally living in 1925 Berlin, I’m also kinda looking forward to getting out of there and back to Ypres and Hellas. After that, I really want to do another romcom–yes, somehow To My Muse has turned itself into my fifth series and I have three books planned for it, all set around Lily and Tom’s friends in LA.
And yes, Theresa gets her own romance. With a Swiss Guard, no less. That’s gonna be fun.
I’m currently on the home stretch with about 10K ahead of me for Behind the Iron Cross, my MMF historical romance set in between-the-wars Berlin. Which is good, because I have three betas who are threatening to camp out on my doorstep until I turn over the manuscript. It’s nice to be wanted.
That being said, this puppy is going to need a LOT of editing, partially because it’s been in progress since 2012 and partially because I need to doublecheck a lot of the historical bits. Also, I may be watching Babylon Berlin on Netflix for setting and costume inspiration (Babylon Berlin, by the way, is a FANTASTIC show and I highly recommend it if you like historically set police procedurals). With this in mind, I am formally setting the release date for BtIC as October 23, 2018. I know this may disappoint some people who were hoping to get it next week, but I’ve got to give the story the editing time it needs. Besides, you’ll be happier with the end result if I make sure it’s spandy clean and tight as a drum.
And after that, I immediately launch into King of Blades (Two Thrones 4). Because that is definitely my most popular series at the moment, and right now I really, really, REALLY want to get back to writing some fantasy. Soon, Hellas — soon.
It’s Wednesday? Well, guess what? I’m sharing a teaser from Behind the Iron Cross, my delightfully kinky historical MMF romance set in 1925 Berlin that is FINALLY almost finished! Just have to polish off the end of Act Three and this puppy is baked!
Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
In the aftermath of World War I, Berlin has become a hotspot of decadent pleasures, and American millionairess Kat Tracy is determined to enjoy each and every one of them with Sam Harrison, her late brother’s lover and her convenient “fiancé.” But when the two of them meet Friedrich von Bader, a former German Army officer turned reluctant prostitute, their wicked games take on a new meaning.
Sam found out what Kat’s obscure words about “adventure” meant once the lights of the lavish film theater had gone down and the first images flickered onto the silver screen. The theater, aping its brethren that catered to live performances, offered private boxes upholstered in red velvet and decorated with gilt curlicues. Kat had paid for one of these boxes, placing Friedrich between herself and Sam.
Ten minutes into the film he felt Friedrich stiffen beside him. Looking down, he spotted Kat’s hand resting on the German’s thigh. Her attention seemed to be focused on the movie, but her fingers slid over the other man’s fly with subtle deliberation, tracing the outline of Friedrich’s cock and balls through the wool of his trousers.
Sam found that he enjoyed playing the voyeur, deriving a deliciously wicked delight as Friedrich began to swell under Kat’s ministrations, squirming a bit as she stroked and teased him. She leaned forward a bit and caught Sam’s eye, glancing down at her busy hand then winking.
As casually as he could, he rested his hand on Friedrich’s other thigh. The muscle tensed under his palm and Friedrich muffled a tiny moan. The balcony of the box would prevent anyone on the main floor or mezzanine from seeing what was going on as long as it was kept at waist level. As Kat’s clever fingers continued to work Friedrich’s erection, he eased Friedrich’s belt open and unbuttoned his fly.
Kat murmured just loud enough for Sam to hear, “We’re going to make you come in public, Colonel. It’s up to you whether or not anyone notices. Do you understand?”
Friedrich swallowed hard and nodded, a bead of sweat trickling down from his temple at the movement. Sam wanted to kiss it away, taste the salt of the German’s arousal on his tongue.
“Excellent.” She licked her hand, then reached into his fly and tugged his erection out of his trousers. It looked dark in the silvery light from the scene, the plummy head swollen and glistening just a bit, and the thick veins that ribboned it already standing out along the shaft. Sam’s mouth watered at the thought of leaning over and engulfing it, using his lips and tongue to drive Friedrich wild. He loved the idea of their colonel desperately struggling to stay silent before giving in to pleasure and spurting helplessly across his tongue.
Kat leaned over again, looking like a considerate theatergoer passing along sotto voce comments on the film. “There are clubs here with stages, you know,” she whispered. “Sam and I could take you to one right now, strip you naked, and truss you to a wooden X on stage. You’re a handsome man with an attractive body. I can guarantee everyone in the club would be watching you as we played with your cock and balls.”
Another muffled groan came out of Friedrich, and he thrust lightly into Kat’s hand.
Sam decided to play along. He leaned close to Friedrich’s ear and whispered, “We’d take you to the brink, over and over again, until you begged us to let you come. Then I’d kneel down and suck you in front of everyone. Can you imagine how my mouth would feel, all warm and wet around you? I’d lick your balls, then a slow, wide lick up your shaft before I started teasing that little sensitive area right under the head. I know how much you like that.”
He widened the gap in Friedrich’s trousers and slid his hand in, avoiding Kat’s shuttling hand as he cupped the warm, furry sac. Friedrich’s balls flexed at his touch and he rolled them gently in their enclosure, stroking his thumb across crisp hair and soft, wrinkled skin.
“Maybe I should kneel down now,” he whispered. “Everyone’s watching the movie, after all. As long as you stay quiet, I don’t think anyone would notice. Would you like that? You could watch my head bobbing between your thighs as I sucked you off. My lips would be tight around your cock, and my tongue would feel so good against the underside.”
Friedrich made the tiniest noise, face twisted in pleasurable agony. “Bitte, bitte.”
“What, Colonel,” Kat murmured, her wicked little hand stroking faster now and adding a twist on the upstroke. “What do you want?”
“Bitte, I’m, I’m close. Please, Fräulein, please.”
Kat leaned forward again, giving Sam a feline smile. “Should we let him come, darling?”
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Sorry I’ve been quiet for so long (I keep saying that, don’t I?). I got somewhat stuck on Shifter Woods: Snarl due to what I can only describe as an insanely inopportune realization, and by the time I finally got unstuck I was way past my self-imposed publishing deadline and had to shift into fifth gear to get it edited, polished, and out the door. Oh, and Ramón and I went to New Orleans in the middle of that because the trip had been scheduled and paid for months ago and frankly he needed the break.
So now that it’s out (and for everyone who’s purchased a copy, thank you so much), I’m back to work on the long-stalled and much awaited Behind the Iron Cross. Today I finish reassembling the chapters (I’d separated them into scenes in Scrivener, but as it turns out that level of granulation just confuses the heck out of me) and started filling in spots in the first five chapters that need to be fleshed out before I can finish the pending third act. The damn thing is 75,000 so far, and my goal is 90K. At this rate, I should have the first draft done by Tuesday, and since I’ve been away from it for so long I won’t need a long down period before I can start editing it.
The only problem is, I’m feeling a certain lack of enthusiasm. Not about the book — about everything. Maybe it’s the dumpster fire that is the current US administration, maybe it’s the fact that the GOP is trying to ram through a woefully inappropriate candidate for the US Supreme Court because they gotta protect their corporate masters and make sure that white women keep pumping out those babies to stop brown and black people from demographic supremacy, blah blah blah, but I’m having a hard time coming up with reasons to get out of bed in the morning. I have a shitload of faith in people like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Mazie Hirono, Tammy Duckworth, and other rising Democratic stars who may be our last hope against Old White Men Ruining Everything, but it’s still a long fucking way to November and I wish something good would happen to remind me that we never know what can happen tomorrow.
Or maybe I just need to get drunk. That didn’t happen in NOLA, can you believe it? I even had a couple of hurricanes while I was out with Ramón, my sister, her friends, and my friend Epi, but I was so hot from walking around the French Quarter in August that the alcohol pretty much evaporated from my system the moment I finished swallowing. I dunno, Marty. I need a goal. Or something to look forward to. Or a fucking quest, maybe.
Man, this weekend has flown by, and unfortunately I don’t have half the things I’d hoped to have done (didn’t finish Snarl, botched two bezels for my new ring, and didn’t get to the bills yet). So tomorrow is going to be a busy, busy day by my lights.
But hey, at least I can get everything done. In the meantime, enjoy my Day 6 entry for Romance Writer August.
And while I’m running around like a headless chicken trying to get Shifter Woods: Snarl and Behind the Iron Cross done and out, I’m also participating in a rather cool Instagram event called Romance Writers August hosed by Jen Ellis where we post something about a specific topic each day in August. You already know who I am so I’m not going to bother recreating Day 1’s post, but here are all the other posts and I’ll make a point of posting each new day’s pic here as well for the rest of August. And now, back to work, whee…
Hoo boy, this has been an insane month so far, and it’s only the 10th. In between A/C failures in both our upstairs and downstairs units (the downstairs unit was a grand to repair, so luckily the upstairs unit was still under warranty and could be fixed for free), trying to get Shifter Woods: Snarl (I typed Snark there which is appropriate — this story has been fighting me like you would not believe) finished and out the door, getting back to work on Behind the Iron Cross, and finishing up a BUTTLOAD of jewelry in a very hot garage, it’s been interesting.
Did I mention that I’m also retaining about ten pounds (seriously) of water weight due to the oncoming Shark Week and look (and feel) like I’m seven months’ pregnant? I am clearly allergic to being female. It’s supposed to start tomorrow and I can already feel the blessed hormonal shift because suddenly I have energy again and want to eat vegetables. I just vacuumed the downstairs and as soon as this rain stops and the rush hour traffic dies down I’m getting the makings for stir fry, as well as egg salad and chicken salad for the rest of the week’s lunches.
And Midol, because damn. Ten pounds, people. I’m astounded my heart is still working.
But back to writing things. I think I worked out the problem with Snarl — basically, I have a packless wolf Alpha shifter/SEAL who’s been hired by his former commanding officer to work at the family ski lodge in Esposito County. He’s also been told to stay away from the officer’s daughter. Problem is, the daughter is Wolfie’s mate, AND she lost her sense of smell so she can’t tell she’s his mate. So Wolfie is dealing with a slew of emotions — honor, duty, a sense of being unworthy due to losing his pack, AND confusion as to how to convince her that they’re meant to be together since she can’t smell it — that’s stopping him from claiming her. Then I realized I had a chance to show how shifters learn to love when they’re not being driven by the mating instinct. In Kate’s case, she’s going to think, “I don’t care what my father says, I’m an adult and I want you, PLUS I’m heir to the pack’s Alpha so Dad can learn to deal” and go after Wolfie, re-igniting his sense of self-worth and leading her to realize that they’re mates. Boom, the block evaporated.
So, yeah, Snarl should be finished this week, God willing and the crick don’t rise. Iron Cross is 75% finished so I’m going to get that done as soon as Snarl is out, with an aim to releasing it in mid August, and then it’s on to Shifter Woods: Scream (Deputy Jane’s story, where she finds out she’s mated to a hot tiger shifter/FBI agent AND a half-elf zookeeper. Because I like complicating things).
Or as I like to put it, SQUEE!
USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog has me on today with an interview talking about To My Muse, where I get my ideas from (everywhere), what distracts me (five cats), and what I looked like back in the 1980s (there’s a picture. I warn you). So if you want to know what makes me, me, go on over and check it out!
In other writing news, the rights to Storm Season have reverted to me and I’m bringing out a re-edited edition of it next Tuesday, including a spandy new cover! I’m also distributing ARCs for reviews tomorrow, so if you’re a blogger/reviewer and you’re interested, DM me with your preferred ebook format/email or fill out the form here.
And finally, I’m putting the finishing touches on Shifter Woods: Snarl. The plan was to have it out by 6/12 but it got bumped by Storm Season, so you can expect to see it on 7/4. I’m experimenting with the common wisdom that Amazon promotes you more widely if you bring out a title every 30 days, so that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of the year. Right now, the schedule is:
- June: Storm Season (Olympic Cove 1)
- July: Shifter Woods: Snarl (Esposito County Shifters 3)
- August: Behind the Iron Cross (historical MMF)
- September: Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2)
- October: Shifter Woods: Scream (Esposito County Shifters 4)
- November: King of Blades (Two Thrones 4)
- December: Two Thrones holiday novella
It’s not as insane as it sounds — Storm Season is already done, SW:S is a novella and almost done, Behind the Iron Cross is 80% done, and I have the plots for all the other books and novellas already worked out. Let’s see if I can pull this off!
Welcome to another edition of Marvelous Monday Reads, angels! You know how much I love SF romance, so today I’m featuring Jessica Coulter Smith and her new SF romance Heidi and the Alien Cop (Intergalactic Brides #12), now available from Changeling Press. Take it away, Jessica!
Heidi’s life hasn’t been easy since she dropped out of school at sixteen to have a baby. The worst mistake she ever made was moving in with her boyfriend Brent, who turned out to be an abusive bastard, but with no education and no job, there’s nowhere for her to go. Her life for the last five years has disillusioned her that happily-ever-after could possibly exist… Then he comes into her life.
When Raylic rushes to Heidi’s aid, the last thing he expects is to end up with house guests, but she and her small son, Shane, are just what he needs. They bring life to his monstrous home and make him want things better left alone. But the more time he spends with the little family, the more he wants to keep them with him forever. Even knowing Heidi is pregnant with another man’s child doesn’t stop him from wanting to claim her.
Heidi knows Raylic is one of the good guys, but can she dare trust her heart to someone again? He’s everything she’s ever wanted, but she knows wanting and having aren’t the same thing.
Heidi hoped like hell that Shane had gotten out of the house. She hadn’t heard the door open or shut but prayed her little boy had run to safety and not stayed to help her. Despite his young age, he acted like her protector when his dad got mad, which was far too often.
She placed a protective hand over her stomach as she cowered in the corner of the room. Brent towered over her, his face flush from too much alcohol and the rage that was burning in his veins. It wasn’t the first time he’d struck her, and she knew it wouldn’t be the last, unless she finally managed to escape. But where would she go? Without a job, or friends, or family, only the streets waited for her and their small son.
“Everyone was talking tonight about how you’ve been whoring around behind my back,” Brent said, spit flying from his lips.
“Brent, please. You know how rumors are around here.” She swallowed the knot of fear in her throat. She’d learned the hard way that fighting back only made it worse. When she fought back, it pushed him to the point of nearly killing her, and she had to keep living to take care of their son. She couldn’t leave him in Brent’s hands. Either her boyfriend would kill him, or he’d turn her sweet boy into a monster.
“Stupid, lying bitch. Did you think I wouldn’t hear about it? I bet that brat in your belly isn’t even mine. Who’s to say the other little snot is mine either? You just saw a meal ticket and latched on.”
“Of course, it’s yours, Brent. They both are. You know I haven’t been with anyone else.”
He backhanded her across the face again, an explosion of pain ricocheting through her cheek and rattling her brain. Another blow landing in almost the same spot nearly knocked her off her feet. She had just braced herself on the wall when another fist pummeled her stomach. Heidi cried out, her hands clutching her belly, hoping he hadn’t harmed their child. She’d tried damn hard not to get pregnant a second time by him, but the condom had broken two months ago.
She saw his hand wind back for another blow and cowered down, but it never came.
“I know humans play by different rules, but where I come from, we don’t beat females,” a deep voice said with a hint of a growl.
Heidi’s eyes went wide as she looked around Brent at the purple alien with the badge clipped to his belt. Was he a real cop or one of those Terran guards? He knocked Brent’s legs out from under him, then pressed him face first onto the floor, wrenching Brent’s hands behind his back. Her drunken boyfriend was no match for the rather brawny guy manhandling him. The alien slapped cuffs on Brent, then pulled out a cell phone.
“Dispatch, this is Officer Raylic. Can you send a car around to pick up some trash I found beating a female?”
She didn’t hear what else was said as the room spun around her. Heidi sank to her knees and tried to process what was happening. Had someone really come to her rescue? How had he known where to find her? A small hand slipped into hers, and she looked into the terrified eyes of her son.
“I found a police officer, Mama. He’ll take care of us, won’t he?” Shane asked, looking more troubled than a five-year-old had any right to.
“Are you all right?” the officer asked her.
“I don’t know. He hit me in the stomach and the face.”
Shane’s face scrunched up. “What about the baby?”
“You have a baby?” the officer asked.
“In her tummy,” Shane told him.
The officer cursed. Brent took his moment of distraction to rear up and lunge at Heidi, a murderous glint in his eyes. She jumped to her feet and lashed out at him, kicking him in the shin and hitting him in the eye. The officer made a grab for him and shoved him back down. Brent fell face first onto the floor, getting a mouthful of nasty carpet. Heidi had to admit that it had felt damn good to fight back for once.
Heidi approached her boyfriend. With a well-placed kick between his splayed legs, she had him howling and cursing her all at the same time. She felt a bit of satisfaction, knowing she’d caused him pain, but it wasn’t enough. She looked at the officer who regarded her with a bit of mirth for attacking her abuser.
“Want to have another go at him?” the officer asked.
“What I’d like to do is beat him over the head, with a cast-iron skillet, until he can’t ever hurt anyone again.”
He nodded. “I probably would get into a bit of trouble if I let you do that. But feel free to kick him again. It’s just his word against mine.”
She looked at her bare feet. “It might contaminate my foot if I kick him there again. I’ve always heard if someone accuses you of cheating, they’re probably the one with the guilty conscience. No telling where he’s put that thing.”
The officer chuckled a bit. “As soon as backup arrives to take care of him, I’m going to take you somewhere safe. We’ll stop by the Terran Station first though. I want our healer to look at you. As small as you are, he could have easily broken bones or caused internal damage.”
“Thank you for helping us,” she said. “No one’s ever helped us before.”
He frowned. “Have you called the police before now?”
She nodded. “The officer who answered the call said I was overly emotional and it was just a domestic dispute. He said if he got another call, he would haul both of us to jail. It was the first and last time I asked for help.”
“Asshole,” the officer muttered. “Do you remember who it was? I’ll make sure he’s written up.”
He nodded. “I can see him saying something like that. Don’t worry. Your husband is getting locked up this time.”
“We’re not married,” she said.
“Good. Then you can make a clean break when he’s taken out of here today. Do you plan to stay in this apartment?” he asked, looking around.
She knew what he’d see. Cracked walls, stained carpets, and the ugliest furniture imaginable. The place reeked of mildew and piss, and unfortunately for her, the rent was past due. It might not have been much, but it had been home for the last year. As often as they’d been late, no way the landlord would renew the lease. Not that she could pay it anyway.
“Where are we gonna go, Mama?” Shane asked.
“I don’t know, baby.”
The officer tilted his head. “Go pack your things. I was going to take you to a hotel for the night to give you some time to think things through, but it sounds like you need a more permanent solution.”
“The rent is past due here,” she said. “I don’t have a job to pay for a hotel room. Could you take us to a shelter?”
“Don’t worry about the cost,” he said in a soothing tone. “Just pack your things and be ready to go as soon as possible. Don’t leave anything behind that you want to keep.”
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About the Author
Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child. Her first stories may have been written in crayon, but now she’s a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and spills over from her professional life into her personal one. When she went on that first date with her husband, she never expected to hear the words “marry me” pop out of his mouth–and judging by the shocked look on his face, he hadn’t meant to say them either. But, being the hopeless romantic that she is, Jessica said yes and they’ve been married since 2000.