Category Archives: Behind the Iron Cross
As part of “Let’s Make 2021 More Profitable,” I’ve been taking a good look at the books that don’t fit my usual subgenres of SF, fantasy, and paranormal romance. I’ve already split off the contemporary romance and romcoms to the Natasha M. Stark name, but that still leaves my *takes in a deep breath* poor redheaded stepchild of a historical BDSM menage romance Behind the Iron Cross out there twisting in the wind.
Unfortunately, Amazon listed it as erotica and I haven’t been able to convince them that yes, it really IS a romance with an HEA and everything. And despite being released during the centenary celebrations of the end of WWI it’s gone absolutely nowhere. A copy hasn’t been purchased on Smashwords or their assorted partners in over a year, and I’ve sold a grand total of 13 copies on Amazon in 2020.
The irony is, that book took me six years to write. I had to go to the British Library and study pre-WWII maps of Berlin. I bought books on the Weimar Republic and the economic and cultural effects it had on Germany. It’s still my longest book to date at 105,409 words (SHADOW OF THE SWAN is literally six words shorter at 105,403). And next to no one has read it, which gives me a sad because it’s a really, really cool story.
So I’ve decided to be proactive about it. I’ve pulled it from wide distribution and added it to Kindle Unlimited, in the hopes that fans of menage, BDSM, and historical romances will see the word count and say GIMME.
No, I’m not going to pass along any tips for making your life better in 2019. You’re perfect the way you are, and besides, those tend to be somewhat condescending. Nope, I am just kinda croggled at the way I’m starting off 2019.
For one thing, there’s a reason why I went dark in December. I was frigging exhausted from finishing Iron Cross and getting it out to Romancelandia, and after taking a crack at a holiday romance (which I will finish for next year) I decided, “Screw it. I’m tired, my brain hurts, and I need a break. I’m taking the rest of the year off.” So I did, and man, that was a good choice. Not only did I recharge my creative side by diving into various non-writing projects that have been hanging around for years waiting for me to get to them, but I also drank the Kool-aid and joined the Great British Baking Show cult. I absently stumbled across S2E1 on Netflix, and by the end of it I was frantically scoping out the rest of them and launching into a bingewatch of epic proportions.
By the time I watched all five seasons, the Beginnings eps, the holiday shows and all the masterclass eps, I had made jam tarts, mince pies, fruitcakes, Italian Christmas cookies (at right), spinach puffs, Cherry Blossom Kisses, Winter Kisses, Paul Hollywood’s Christmas Leftover Chelsea buns (upper left), and had bought a dizzying array of bakeware. I now own pie weights, I’ll have you know. Plus I have my eye on a rolling pin with attachments that lets you control the height of the dough you’re rolling out, and I’m probably going to make runzas/bierocks this weekend by special request of Ramón, who has pointed out that having little savory things that he can grab between meals would be a very nice change from having to grab chocolate or cookies.
Other shows I binged were The Expanse (holy God, that was good), Altered Carbon, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Forever, and various comedy shows that had been recommended to me over 2018, and while I watched them I worked on this absolutely gorgeous hue shift knitted afghan. It’s extremely cool, using mitered corner squares with alternating stripes, and seeing as I bought the kit two years ago it’s nice that I’m finally putting it together. When I wasn’t baking, watching Netflix, or working on the afghan, I read, caught up on bills, played with the kitties (Jessie and Jeremy are losing some much-needed weight thanks to the new food regime the vet suggested at their checkup in early December and Jessie’s back to being able to jump up on counters and tables), cleaned (I actually cleaned my oven and my freezer fold-out bins. Somewhere, my mother is astounded), and decorated the house for Christmas.
But what was most notable was that I pretty much stayed off social media because I wasn’t on the laptop for hours at a time. I’d check FB and Twitter a few times a day, but I didn’t spend nearly as much time as I usually did on it. And that was a good thing because I soon realized I felt much more relaxed and centered without constantly being thrown into rage cycles by the endless political idiocy making the rounds on SM. So one thing I’m going to do in 2019 is continue that habit — I’ll check in on Twitter and Instagram for business purposes, but I’m seriously going to curtail my FB time. Not only do I not like their business practices of scraping every piece of data they can get about me and selling it to companies, but I’m just happier when I’m not on FB.
One final and very major change in 2018 was me starting on CBD oil. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and PCOS, which not only screw with my metabolism and make it hard to lose weight but also encourage inflammation. At this point in my life I inflame at a harsh word, and for the last couple of years it’s been affecting my ability to walk because both of my Achilles bursae swelled up to painful proportions, making it difficult to flex my feet and balance. The tipping point was December 20 — my good knee had gotten strained while I was in bed, of all places, and hurt like hell, my bad knee was, well, my bad knee, and I was literally hobbling around like an arthritic 90-year-old. Worse, NSAIDs weren’t really working anymore and I was getting very little sleep because I was hurting all the time.
I’ve had CBD oil recommended to me by friends with similar issues who had incredibly good results with it, so I did some research and found the Cherry Apothecary in Oak Cliff. I hobbled in, had a consult with a very nice young man who listened to my pain issues and suggested that I try sublingual tinctures. After some more discussion I settled on a bottle of 250 mg CBD oil with orange flavor, headed home, took the recommended half dose (he said to start low and slow — apparently the endocannabinoid system in our bodies that is affected by CBD needs time to load the chemical to a level where it will help. You can take more, the man said, but you’ll just pee it out, which is a waste of money and oil), and prayed.
Twenty minutes later, I was able to walk without hobbling. My ankles were flexing, and the pain in both knees was reduced — still there, mind you, but manageable with an NSAID. It felt like a frigging miracle. I now take a half dose of CBD oil in the morning and a half dose at night, and not only do my legs feel better but I also feel calmer, more focused, and I’m sleeping like a top. Best of all, I can see the swelling in both Achilles bursae going down — my left heel is almost back to normal and my right heel (which was horrible) now looks like my left heel at its worst, which is a significant improvement. With walking so much easier, I’ve been able to clean, shop, and move around a lot more than I have been in the last couple of years, and man, that is fantastic. I’m now getting on the treadmill every day, and once I’m over the mild cold I caught from Ramón I’m going back to the gym and starting weightlifting again.
So, yeah, that was a decent personal end to 2018. Right now my goals in 2019 are more walking and weightlifting, completing four novels (King of Blades, Uncertainty Principle, and two romcoms) and three novellas, doing smart promo for myself, continuing to cook and bake more stuff from scratch, working on meditation techniques and yoga, reducing our debt as much as possible, and generally trying to help more people out and enjoy life. Oh, and play with the kitties, because that’s an important part of Casa Cameron.
So, yeah, let’s get started!
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.
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!