Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday Threads: Fallen Redemption by R.B. Austin

Fallen Redemption 
by R B Austin

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Heat Level: Sizzling


Killing Fallen to save mankind is Cade’s redemption for murder and only one human—mouthwatering and absolutely forbidden—stands in his way.

Cade committed himself to saving lives before he learned the full consequences of his life-altering decision. It wasn’t until he was tending his sick wife that he learned the enormity of what he’d done and he was unable to save her from the monster he had become. Consumed with guilt and praying for absolution, he threw himself into killing every Fallen he could find to save the humans he’d sworn to protect. But then Emma, deliciously mortal and completely forbidden, swept into his world, stirring an overpowering desire. Now he’s not only fighting soulless creatures, but also his inner cravings, trying to maintain his distance and continue on his path to forgiveness. He won’t lose control again and lose another love.


The cut was small and not deep; it would stop bleeding in a matter of minutes.
Blood seeped from the wound. It trickled down Sarah’s wrist and pooled in her upturned hand.
He froze.
Changes overcame his body. Uncontrollable. Unknown.
Breath quickened. Heart pounded as loud as a horse’s gallop. Sarah hadn’t awakened. The pain from her cut was insubstantial compared to the pain of her sickness.
The thick, crimson liquid flowing from the wound was anything but insubstantial to Caderyn. Still unable to move, his eyes hadn’t wavered from the blood. The tray left his hands and clattered to the ground. His knees buckled and he sank to the floor, bringing himself an inch from the cut. The scent of blood filled his nostrils. Consumed all thought. Sight. He wanted to close his eyes and savor the reverent aroma filling his senses. Something awakened inside of him.
He was hungry, yet didn’t want food. Thirsty, but didn’t want to reach for a cup of water. Another drop of blood welled from the cut. A growl tore from his throat.
It was the switch and it had been thrown.
One moment he was himself. The monster inside separate. Next the wall between the two vanished. He was the Behnshma. His humanity gone. Another growl. It echoed around the house. Filled his ears.
He was ravenous. The fact he hadn’t eaten in a little over a week ached his empty belly and burned his dry, parched throat. There were two pricks of pain in his top gum. Finger in his mouth, he found two long, sharp as knives, teeth. Like Elias. Like the wolves in the forest when they tore into a deer carcass. Their muzzles bloody, meat dangling from their mouths. Blood.
He knew what he wanted to do, what his body demanded he do. Caderyn licked his lips and his tongue nicked an elongated tooth. His own blood melted decadently over his tongue. A flood of senses erupted. Never had he tasted anything this wonderful. His mouth zinged with flavor. The blood coated his throat. He’d been dying of thirst his whole life but hadn’t known it. Warmth spread through his body.
His hands shook as he brought them to Sarah’s arm. Grasping her wrist and forearm he leaned toward the blood. Inch by inch. He was a magnet and her arm was the polar opposite.
Her inaudible yelp of fright permeated through the rushing noise in his ears. He tore his eyes away and met her wide-eyed startled ones.
Fear was an acrid, burning stench in his nostrils. Her thoughts a chaotic jumble weaving through his mind. She tried to move her lethargic limbs. Tried to escape. To break free.
He flexed his hands, squeezing her arm as his gaze trailed from the vein in her neck to the one in her wrist right below the cut. The blood slowed and the edges of the wound begun to dry. The tangy, copper scent of the fresh liquid underneath her skin reached his nose. Caderyn listened to it pass through her veins. Faster and faster.
Ignoring his wife’s futile attempts to escape, he leaned closer and inhaled. A growl erupted from his throat. He bent. Licked the wound. Groaned. His cock hardened.
Sarah, panicked now, tried to yank her arm free. It was the most she’d moved in days. Growling, like a dog with his bone, he held down her upper arm and her squirming hand. Pushed it back until her forearm bowed, and the cut extended to him like a present.
Caderyn. Please. I beg you.
He was hurting her arm. Scaring her. She was begging.
Flicking his tongue over her wrist, he caught another drop of the thick liquid gold. Then another and another. It wasn’t enough. He bared his teeth, striking fast to sink them deep into her wrist. She gave a weak jerk. Caderyn drew her blood into his mouth with long pulls. His cock jerked and warmth spread inside his breeches. There was no stopping. Her struggles to escape were an annoying insect buzzing around the room. The pleas to stop were shouts in his head. Both were easy to ignore. Sarah ceased to struggle.
He was killing her.
He couldn’t stop.
And didn’t stop until she was dead


Monday, June 22, 2015

Writing in the Key of HEA

key_heaLet’s get real for a moment, friends: Happily ever afters are not optional.
I’ve pondered in the past the essential components of a romance novel. Chief among those criteria is, of course, the HEA. Unlike the unbridled evil of such books as Love Story or The Notebook, real romance novels shouldn't leave readers sobbing into their pillows. (Love may mean not having to say “sorry,” but these novelists should apologize -- heck, send chocolate and flowers to! -- to their traumatized readers.) Does real-life romance always end happily? No. Do I care? Desperately, which is why I demand my fiction provide the HEA real life doesn’t always deliver. In the tug-of-war between reality and romance, I will always add my muscle to Team Cupid’s.
Recently, I gobbled up two YA paranormal romance series. It amazes me sometimes how the young adult genre can be so gritty and riveting, probably because their target audience is young enough not to crave the beautiful simplicity of HEAs. But anyway, after gleefully reading through these two stark, gripping series, you can imagine my reader rage when, at the very end, main characters died. They died. As in, like, stopped living. Moved into the Beyond. Was there a sequel where they found out, ala Star Trek 3, that the beloved main character could be resurrected? An epilogue that reassured us it was all a trick to fool the bad guys? No, my friends. They died. Forever. Heck, in the second series I read, the main character, the one narrating the book through the first-person voice, perished. You… you can’t do that, right? My eighth grade English teacher said so! But apparently, that series’ author didn’t have Miss Webber for eighth grade English, because she went right ahead and did it.
So, yeah. Thanks, YA novels, both for shattering my tender little heart and for reaffirming my undying (undying, because dying sucks!) devotion to the HEA. No more shall I stray from the clear, untroubled waters of traditional paranormal romance, in which the most tragic occurrence is the evil rule of Count Sparkleskull.
Back in the day, when I was a starry-eyed music major at college, one of my professors told the class about early (like, pre-Renaissance) European musicians. Back when most official music occurred in the church, songs in a minor key were considered sacrilegious, since their melancholy sounds seemingly questioned the glory of God. But crafty musicians found a way around it. They would create a musical piece in a minor key but, in the very final chord, the song would move into a major key, turning a dark and somber song into something bright and shining.
I have no problem with making our protagonists suffer a little, as long as, major-key like, the last bit of the novel brings those crazy kids together. Conditions may be rough, but by golly, our romantic pair can face anything together. Insert C-major chord.
Gritty rocks. Realism is awesome. Even tragedy in moderation is acceptable. Ending a romance novel with a tragic death or a failed love affair? Not. Cool. Death, taxes, and divorce may sing the song of reality, but I like my fiction a little less blues and a lot more national anthem.
HEA all the way, baby!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Earning My Fat Toaster

What do you get when you mix a fat person with a lack of shame about their body? Why, a
recipe for PROMOTING OBESITY, of course!

Unless your summer home is in a cave in Tibet, you're probably pretty aware that popular culture isn't kind to fat people. Every day, we hear we're in the middle of an Obesity Epidemic(c), that fat people cause our healthcare costs to skyrocket, that fatness is the greatest social ill facing us today. Fat people are everywhere. Yikes! But it's okay, as long as fat people are trying to be, you know, not fat. As long as they know to be ashamed of their bodies. 

Those who aren't ashamed? They're Promoting Obesity! 

This may come as a shock, but I'm a fat woman. I'm also pretty comfy with my body, at home with its aesthetics, functions, and abilities. I've even been known to publicly sing its praises, because hey, if no one else is gonna do it, someone should! I didn't know I was Promoting Obesity. I thought I was just carving out a space in this fat-hating culture to honor the appearance and utility of a perfectly legitimate body. 

I guess I should have asked other proud fat people about this. I mean, if there's some kind of Fat Agenda out there, where we normalize fatness in order to secretly brainwash people into gaining weight, I'd sure as heck like to know about it. And if I've been doing it for free all this time, can't I demand some kind of reward? A stipend? Paying my annual membership dues in the Fatty Recruiters Club? A toaster?

Little did I know that by trying to claim some legitimacy for my body, I was actually saying, "Hey, kids! I have body satisfaction! Want a sample? Come on -- everybody's doing it. Join the Fatty Gang; we have cupcakes. And body love." I should have known, I guess, since every time I see a picture of a happy, rockin' athlete who uses a wheelchair, I know I think, "You know, I could be an athlete, too, but only if I acquired a spinal injury or got MS." Or, you know, when I see an astronaut who's a male, and I ponder how I could maybe someday become a scientist who explores space... but only if I break off a section of that pesky second X chromosome!

Hmmm. I have a sneaking suspicion. Perhaps by saying happy fatties are Promoting Obesity, we're actually saying the notion of happy, fat people is somehow offensive. Because fat is bad, right? And we do a lot of things to ensure we stay thin or try to diet our way out of this terrible, awful physicality. A happy fatty kinda flies in the face of all those messages about death, dieting, and self-denial, right? Not to mention a $60 billion a year dieting industry. Kinda threatening to the whole kit and caboodle, if you ask me!

But no, silly Elle! A happy fatty implies we should discard the cloak of health and indulge in unhealthy lifestyles! Because fat people all eat too much and don't exercise*! Because fatness is something that, like a cold, you can catch if you don't take precautions. Because, as research surely tells us, fat always equals unhealthy and thin peeps are always healthy

Oh, wait. I almost forgot -- weight and health aren't causally related

So, if science says body size isn't a perfect, or even good, indicator of health and logic tells us that seeing someone happy doesn't mean we're going to emulate every detail of their identity, Single White Female-style, then maybe by being a happy, body-positive fat woman, I'm not Promoting Obesity or anything else except, well, me. 

Dang it! I really needed a new toaster!

* Not true. This book discusses that.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Romantic Sociologist Strikes... Out

Yeah, not so much.
So, apparently I don’t quite meet the Shakespeare standard of a romantic. Or the Bronte. Or, well, the Disney. Heck, in the ranking of epic romantic tales and persons, I may even fall a hair below Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” When it comes to romance and passion, the most apt literary or media comparison for me just might be… Wikipedia.

You might not expect it of, you know, a romance writer, right? I mean, I didn’t even know I was romantically impaired until the other night, when my fiancé, a mutual friend of ours, and I sat digesting both our delicious dinner and our spicy dinnertime conversation.

Our friend, B: “So, Elle’s fiancé, what do you think of soul mates?”

Elle’s fiancé, J: “I feel as though Elle is mine.”

[Collective “awwww.”]

J: “If by ‘soul mate’ you mean divine providence put her in my life as a way to help mine make sense, then yes, I believe in soul mates. Elle is my life.”

B: “What about you, Elle?”

Me: “I think it’s a lovely notion. Not supported by science, but lovely, nonetheless.”

B: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well, I mean, I’ve read studies©, and they say one of the greatest predictors of romantic feelings is physical proximity. As you might expect, people tend to fall in love with people to whom they have a lot of access. And it often requires an interesting dance of attraction based on arbitrary, media-defined beauty ideals and our adherence to them; successfully performing culturally defined romantic rituals; and exchanging feelings and relationship risks in order to equalize relationship dynamics.

“The idea that there’s just one person out there for us? Well, okay, but what if we never meet them? There are seven billion people on the planet. What’s the likelihood we’d meet our other half? And what if you do and that person dies and you meet someone else? Are they destined to be not as good or healthy for you? Besides, what’s wrong with marrying or being in a relationship for the sake of mutual companionship and pleasure? Who says it needs to be your grand passion, your other half? And doesn’t the notion of soul mates imply there’s something wrong with remaining single? And that we’re only half a person without a romantic partner? Not everyone needs another person to feel whole.

For more such nerdy treasures, visit here.
“Most of all, the notion of romantic love as something celebration-worthy is pretty modern and Western. Before industrialization, most marriages were based on economic or familial benefit. Romantic love was considered the cherry on top but not necessary or even very useful. In the U.S., the idea of marrying for love is less than two hundred years old. Obviously, the idea of soul mates as we use it today is a culturally and historically situated idea used to bind relationships in the absence of economic need.”


Elle’s fiancé, J: “So says the romance writer.”

Oh, the conversation didn’t end there. As you can imagine, I was in trouble. Hot water. In fact, I’m pretty certain someone in that room immediately nominated me for the 2015 Romantic Jackass Award. After a few looks, I had to explain rather hastily to my fiancé that my academic outpouring didn’t mean I don’t feel blazing passion and tummy butterflies and other sugary stuff when we’re together.

“I would choose you every single day,” I said, sincerely (if maybe a bit desperately). “Not because of destiny but because we’re best friends and perfect partners. I couldn’t design someone better suited to me.”  

I’m a squishy person, peeps. I cry over TV shows. All of them. Even comedies. I can’t even watch the Olympics because I get misty when Olympians earn less than 9.5 and subsequently have to adopt Brave Face. Sniff. I’m one of the most emotional people I know. And yet, when it comes to explaining romance, Cushiony Elle gets stomped into a frothy goo under the sensible, academic heel of Sociologist Elle.

I don’t know, though. I don’t think that makes me such an awful person. (Except for maybe last Sunday night.) I’m sentiment mixed with realism. In my romances, there is no instant lust, no magical connection, no love at first sight. (Nope, not a believer in that, either.) My sheroes and heroes meet, get to know another, and fall in like. Then, as their relationship grows, they realize they’ve grown with this other person into someone new and kind of beautiful. Like, love, and companionship coexist in something that transcends the idea of destiny.

As I told my fiancé, “I love everyone. I love all my students. I love my acquaintances. I love my coworkers. But I don’t always like them, and I don’t want to spend all my time with them. You, I more than love. I like you. I like you as a full person, a person on your own, not as a reflection of who I am or who I’d like to be. You don’t complete me, nor I you. We help make one another better people.”

Maybe that makes up for the other night? At least a little bit? Anyone?