The Boundaries We (Don’t) Set

Do you know why I love books? For a few reading hours, they allow me to be brave through the psyche of another person and not care about consequences.

Books have taught me that I have a massive character flaw: I am a coward. In a million tiny ways, most of them insignificant and shrug-worthy to others, I am a coward. I don’t always say no when I should. Resulting from a desire to solve problems and be helpful, I do that first, and think about whether I should have done it later, after it’s come back to bite me on the ass. It’s partly my own nature, and partly the nature of my day job, which dictates, “You do what is asked, you do it with a smile. You go the extra mile, do more with less, lead by example, and smile.”

As I read that back to myself, all I can think  of is the creepy guy on the street corner, always saying, “Gimme a smile, baby.” It’s the same thing, really. Except the former pays you to do it and the latter calls you a bitch if you don’t.

What would you do if you had the freedom to do or say anything? Would you tell that coworker who called 5 minutes before end of day to request 2-hours’ worth of work to take it somewhere else? Would you wear that outfit people call “inappropriate” with pride? Would you go to that club or bar people whisper about, but never admit to visiting?

What would you do if you no longer cared about what people thought of you?

I think about this a lot–about the boundaries we set, or don’t set in different ways and situations. I think most of us have pretty solid boundaries when it comes to the big stuff, and we’re more than willing to enforce those boundaries by any means necessary. Some people draw the line at having sex on a first date–some people draw it at having sex, period. Some people won’t lend money (or books). Some people refuse to step foot on a suspension bridge. Maybe you don’t want to give up your child’s recital to help a neighbor move. Maybe you refuse to go to that crazy rave party your friends are pushing you to go to. Maybe you don’t want to emigrate to a foreign country and leave your entire life behind so your spouse can take that great job offer. We draw lines in the sand, and we refuse to let them be crossed.

But what about the million and one little things we have to do every day and not even notice? You ask that the toilet seat be put down, yet every time you go to the bathroom, it’s always up. You say you don’t want to watch that horror flick late at night but, “Come on, babe, it’s only an hour and a half. It’s no big deal.” You tell your weekly lunch crowd you don’t want a certain type of food, but, “Oh, come on, just try it! What’s wrong with you? You never want to try new things.”

I am at an age where every unpleasant choice comes down to one question: Is the outcome so important to me that I am willing to risk temporarily or permanently damaging my relationship with this person? Most of the time, the answer is no, so I go along the path of least resistance. I won’t stubbornly argue a point of view that won’t make a difference in the long run. I will give in and do that thing, or go to that place, and grin and bear it for a few hours.

The problem is, after a while, people start taking advantage of that, and I get resentful, and it’s as much my fault as it is theirs, because I don’t say anything to let them know this is not okay with me. Until the proverbial straw breaks the camel’s back and causes an epic meltdown.

A big (and controversial) part of The Beast Series is that very concept of freedom from consequence. What would you do if you didn’t have to care about what people thought of you? That kind of freedom comes from one of two places: money and privilege, or apathy and the recklessness of having nothing to lose. My (anti)hero, Prince Bastien, lives in the former. He is untouchable, and he knows it. He does the things he does because there is no one to make him stop. There is no one to tell him, “No, this is wrong.” He is surrounded by people whose purpose in life is to do his bidding, and friends who revel in the immunity he bestows upon them through association. He doesn’t care, so why should they?

Bastien is what happens to a person when they stop giving a shit–about anything or anyone. And his friends are what happens when people gravitate toward that kind of assholery because it excuses their own bad behavior. People don’t like “bad” people, I don’t think. What they like is being able to be a little bit bad themselves, because whatever they say or do, they can always console themselves by remembering they’re still not as bad as the other guy. It’s the allowance of freedom from conventional rules of etiquette we crave; the “permission” to be mean under the guise of standing up for ourselves; to indulge those aspects of ourselves polite society deems unacceptable. Or maybe just to forcefully rebuild the boundaries we have allowed others to breach far too many times.

Boundaries are a funny thing. The word itself feels so firm and absolute. “Pushing the boundaries” is a phrase always associated with something nearly impossible–great feats of effort to overcome that ethereal border between what is possible and what is not. In contrast, our personal boundaries are sometimes so flimsy they feel more like a wish. They move and evolve constantly over the span of a lifetime, or even the span of a day. What felt like such an important principle yesterday becomes irrelevant today. The things we could demand last week are no longer an option come Monday morning.

We ourselves treat boundaries as if they were suggestions. We sacrifice the integrity of our own for the sake of other people and undermine other people’s for the sake of ourselves. If we put our foot down, someone is always on hand to accuse us of being selfish, having an attitude, not being a team player. So we pick it back up again, and play along–and smile. And then we take back our due from someone else, do to them what’d been done to us because, damn it, we deserve recompense! And so it goes…

I started this post this morning with the intention of making a new resolution: to be braver, stand up for myself more often, and set proper boundaries. It’s been hours since then, and in the time between me setting aside an unfinished post and coming back to complete it, I actually got the opportunity to do all of that. And I’m happy to report that I did. Maybe not as forcefully as I would have liked, but I took a step. I made progress, and I didn’t let myself get stomped into the ground by a temperamental hothead in a bad mood.

Today, I feel brave(r).

Tomorrow is Friday, so I’ll just focus on the positives. LOL

Until next time!

The Beast Series is available at your favorite online store as an eBook and paperback:

Smashwords
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Kobo
Books-a-Million

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Last but not least…

The Beast Series has a new cover (finally)! This one was really difficult to do, partly because the story is so close to my heart, and partly because it has been done so many times, it’s almost impossible to make it look original. I must have done at least 15 different versions of the cover before I got to this one, and all of them made me want to throw my brand new laptop against the wall. Hard.

So here’s what I finally came up with. It has elements of every Beauty and the Beast story on it, because that’s what it is, but I’m hoping I made one of those elements just unique enough to make it stand out. The tarot cards that play such a huge role in the story had to be included in some fashion, and three of the versions I attempted had them on the cover in different ways. I ultimately discarded them because, while they made amazingly stunning pictures, capturing particular scenes like a movie still, there was no way for me to add the book title and author name without completely ruining the effect.

This was my compromise: me going back to what feels natural to me, which is “less is more.” I didn’t want an overly elaborate scene, I wanted a visually striking representation of the story itself. I also wanted something stylistically similar to The Rebel Court series cover, since they both fall under similar genres, but not identical, because there are significant differences between the two series. Do you think I accomplished all that?

Continue reading “Last but not least…”

Author-y Stuff

Happy Friday to all!

WolfenI write to you today for a couple of reasons. The first is to give you an update on Wolfen. Which is that I am about ten chapters away from finishing my first self-edit. And that means after a final read-through to smooth rough edges (hopefully next week), the manuscript will be ready to be sent to my editor! I know it’s stretching long, but I take edits very seriously, as evidenced by a sea of red notes over my manuscript and the wide-eyed look of confused panic people give me when they see it. It’ll get there, I promise 🙂 And it’ll be worth the wait.

The second is to continue my quest to help indie and self-marketing authors out there make a proper splash with their new releases. I want to introduce you all to a new source of background music–with a caveat. Jamendo is a fabulous site, with tons of professional, beautiful tracks, but each artist sets their own type of license for each track they place on the site. Always, always, be it on Jamendo, or any other website, for music, images, animations, etc., check the license to make sure you have permission to use the resource.

And last but not least, in my most recent post about marketing resources I mentioned a little program called Corel Video Studio, which is not free. I know that makes a lot of people wince–it did me, too. But I promised you I would not give you a resource I have not used myself, and to prove to you this program is well worth the investment,  here is a small example, made by me, of what you can do with it:

The ingredients for this came from the following places:

  • Music source: Jamendo (free for some songs)
  • Music editing software: Audacity (free)
  • Images source: FreeImages.com (free), Fotolia (paid)
  • Image editing software: GIMP (free)
  • Video animation source: GiveMeFreeArt.com (free)
  • Video editing software: Corel Video Studio (paid)

And in case you were wondering, The Beast Series is now available in eBook (as individual novellas or complete series) and print format (complete series) at all your favorite online retailers.

Until next time! 🙂

A Valentine’s Day Treat

I’ve been a recluse today, busily plugging holes. Plot holes, that is. But I am given to understand today is a special day, and deserves a special celebration, and so I give you all this gift, a very naughty scene from Bastien. Warning in advance: This content is very, very adult.

Chapter 5

BastienCoverAReThe cards are instantly forgotten. The door through which we entered is gone, vanished into thin air and all around me is pandemonium, a cornucopia of creatures from myth and legend. Three girls dance around the gathering, holding hands. It is only when I look closer that I realize how my eyes have deceived me. They aren’t holding hands—they have no hands at all. Rather, their arms are joined together at the wrist so as to make one creature of three.

Not far away, a stunningly beautiful woman covered only with vines and leaves cuddles three ghostlike lizards. They notice my regard and unfurl massive wings, baring rows of sharp teeth in warning. The woman hisses and disappears.

I spin in baffled circles as my mind struggles to make sense of this. Over there, a tall, handsome pair. Their skin is gray, their hair white as snow, and everywhere their bare feet touch, frost blooms across the ground. On the other side, a woman with hair literally made of gold. Behind her, a behemoth of a man; a monster with horns flowing from his temples, back along his head. His legs are like that of an animal, and giant bat wings are folded against his bare back. Right before me, a red haired woman laughs and twirls, faster and faster until she bursts into flames and burns away. As her ashes rain down, they swirl closer and tighter, growing thick with smoke until it solidifies and pales, and the woman is back again, dancing off somewhere else.

My companions have left me. They are scattered everywhere, as awestruck as I, approaching creatures with caution. Only Louis remains, a smug smirk on his face. “Well?”

“What is this? Where have you brought us?”

Louis grabs my shoulders and gives me a shake. “To Eden, my boy. Now stop gaping like an imbecile and enjoy! I want to introduce you to our hostess. She is… perfect.” He sounds like a green lad talking about a sweetheart.

I look for Adrien to reason me out of this madness. He is reclined on a bed of moss with a pale haired temptress feeding him grapes. Adeline is in the arms of the bat winged monster, dancing. The twins are watching the gray couple create ice sculptures out of thin air. I’ve lost sight of the others.

Somehow a flower shaped cup appears in my hand. “Go on,” Louis says. “Have a sip. I guarantee you’ve never tasted anything like it.” He toasts me with a drink of his own.

The chalice in my hands is alive, a real flower with petals soft as silk and glowing amber liquid inside. I am mesmerized by the sight of it. I take a sip, taste the sweet, thick nectar and sway on my feet. Head spinning, I look around again with dream hazed eyes. Suddenly everything makes sense as though I’ve known this place all my life. I am in the Faery court. I laugh. “Well done, Louis!”

A figure slams into me, turning me sideways. The woman spins around so fast she becomes invisible, and before I know up from down again, my back is against the wall and a shining silver blade is pressed against my throat. The attacker has hair as black as a crow’s feather and eyes red as fire. She is dressed in what looks like black ribbons wound around her body. She is furious, much stronger than she appears, and I have nothing to defend myself with. Even if I did, I suspect it would do no good against this creature so I hold still and try to appear harmless. The female bares her teeth at me and releases me with a huff. The ends of her ribbons trail after her as she walks away. She leaves bloody footprints behind.

“I see you’ve met Discord.”

Louis straightens and his eyes grow wide. He smiles like a child presented with a new toy and bows deeply to the newcomer. “My Lady.”

The woman is perhaps the only creature dressed as a human. Her gown is a simple sheath of silk, her hair is half braided around her head and flows down her back. She is beyond beautiful. When she smiles I feel as though the sun has risen and I am blinded. No wonder Louis is so smitten with her.

Louis shoves at me. I remember myself and take a bow. “My Lady,” Louis says, “allow me to introduce my best friend, Lord Bastien Sauvage.”

“I am Lilith. And Louis didn’t tell me he was bringing such lively company with him.” The reprimand is delivered so gracefully I almost miss it.

Louis seems dumbfounded and a little pale. If I know my friend, and I do, it never even occurred to him that we might not be welcome here. “You must forgive him,” I say. “He was utterly smitten at first sight of you and since then completely forgot himself. Now, having seen you for myself, I understand just how he feels.”

Lilith is lithe in form, nearly of a height with me. Her hair is the color of sun and her eyes shine pale like stars. Inhuman. Inhumanly beautiful. God could not have created this creature; she is too perfect a temptation. I find I am not interested in resisting her.

Louis clears his throat. “Right you are, Bastien.”

Lilith ignores him. “Charming,” she says to me. “Bastien, was it? Well, Bastien, you may come with me. This is a tea party compared to what I have planned for tonight. Perhaps we can see if you live up to your name, Savage.”

She offers her hand and I take it.

“But my Lady… Lilith!”

“You can entertain yourself for a while, can’t you, Louis?” she says without even bothering to look his way. “Corral that pack of animals you brought with you. This one I wish to keep an eye on myself.”

I put on my most charming smile. “I am at your service, Lilith.”

“Indeed you are.” Her tone makes me smile. I know what to expect from this one. And I cannot wait.

She leads me through a curtain of willow branches and the world changes again. Here, the lights are dim and everything is in shades of red and black. Fires burn in pits and around them piles of pillows are strewn about. There are creatures here, too. Most of them are writhing together in a tangle of limbs and appendages to a chorus of sighs and moans. The aura of sex and otherworldly magic brushes against my skin, inside my clothes, and makes me unsteady on my feet.

I drink deeply of the nectar I still have and with each swallow I feel more at ease. When my cup is empty, another replaces it. Hands reach out to me and pull back again. Covetous gazes follow me as Lilith leads the way through the throng to a bower in the center. The pillars are reedy trees and the roof is made of spider webs.

Once past the circle of pillars, the empty spaces between them fill with a reflective watery film. I am encased in a mirror box and all around me my doubles stare seemingly everywhere at once. I turn to the closest one. It doesn’t turn with me. I touch the surface, tracing my profile as my rippling reflection reaches out to something else.

Lilith appears next to me. Her dress is gone and she is naked, her loose hair creating a curtain to hide her nudity. She touches my shoulder and my clothing, too, disappears. She hands me another cup, this one black. “Beautiful, is it not?” She tunnels a hand beneath the fall of her hair and moves it over her shoulder, baring her rounded breast. “We are completely alone. No one will dare disturb us here.” She raises the cup in my hand to my mouth and tips it.

I drink and nearly choke on the first swallow. This is no nectar. It tastes sharp as lightning caught in a cup. My insides turn hot with it. Lilith takes the delicate chalice from me and tugs me to the pillows. I am on my back and my head is spinning, but my cock is hard and straining toward the welcoming heat of Lilith where she hovers so close above me. She kisses me, her hand strokes me and I groan into her mouth.

Lust is too tame a word for what I feel. I am on fire, desperate for release, suffocating. Air does not exist unless I’m kissing her. She laughs when I fist my hands in her hair and roll until she is pinned beneath me. Her laugh turns into a moan when I thrust into her to the hilt. My back bows with the pleasure of it and I turn into a rutting animal, the savage she named me.

Her limbs loop around me and she arches closer as I piston in and out of her. Her skin is like the silk she wore to hide it, cool to the touch but searing like a brand. Her nails are claws that leave bloody scratches in my back, but with a caress of her palm she takes the sting away. In the mirrors I can see the skin heal without a mark left behind. I see us together, my own arse and back, her legs shifting restlessly, hungry for more, just as I am.

My muscles strain and I give her all I have, and when her climax lifts both of us into the air, she drags me right after her into the most intense ecstasy I have ever felt. I am weightless, formless. I am nothing but euphoria and starlight. When I return to myself, I ache everywhere.

Another black cup presses to my lips. “Drink, lover,” Lilith purrs. “We are nowhere near finished.” As the liquid pours down my raw throat, her mouth travels over me. She tastes herself on my cock, still hard and ready, takes it into her mouth deep … so deep. I roar while she sucks me into another climax and am more than happy to return the favor before I mount her again. And again. And again.

Time means nothing. Another black cup, another whisper of praise, a demand for more, harder, now. I am helpless not to give. She robs me of everything and when I am exhausted, too weak to continue, presses another cup to my lips. It is an elixir of everlasting fuck. I don’t care where it keeps coming from or even what it is. All that matters is that while I am drinking it I can keep going as long as I want. And I want more.

Lilith laughs and lets me indulge, luxuriate in her body or fuck it any way I want. Her pleasure becomes mine and everything I am is hers. “More,” I snarl against her neck. “More, more…” the words punctuate each of my thrusts. Her limbs quiver as she clutches me. So do mine. She doesn’t scream her pleasure, she sighs it, and with that one breath steals my soul.

I fall back onto the pillows, gasping for air, reaching for that black cup which is sure to appear. Instead I see Lilith’s face hovering over me. Her eyes shine brighter than ever, her lips red as blood—red with blood. “Humans break so easily,” she murmurs with regret and leans down to press a soft kiss to my lips. I reach for her to deepen it, but she holds me back. Instead of a black cup, a white one appears in her hand and she eases an arm beneath my shoulders to help me drink from it.

An unbearable heaviness permeates me from head to toe. With her soft whispers in my ear telling me to rest now, I let my eyes close and embrace the waiting darkness.

Purchase Bastien at these fine retailers:

CreateSpace (print) | Smashwords | Amazon | Barned & Noble | Kobo | All Romance eBooks | iTunes | Diesel eBook Store | Sony eBook Store

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