New Release! FOLLOWING HIS HEART
“Beautiful Story.” ~Beatriz, Cover To Cover Book Blog
New Release! FOLLOWING HIS HEART
“Beautiful Story.” ~Beatriz, Cover To Cover Book Blog
Untangle My Heart
by Melissa A. Smith
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 14, 2014
For this round of 20 Questions, we have a bit of a game to play with it! You heard me right! A game within m lil’ game 🙂 One lucky commenter will win one of Liz’s books! Yea! Now just how awesome is that? Make sure you comment and you’ll have a chance to win! Spread the word and come back often 🙂 One winner will be selected Sunday morning.
1.) Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Two days in a row at Starbucks I had conversations with strangers and both said “You aren’t like other people.” After I said, “Duh,” in my head, I smiled and said, “Thank you.” I am different and proud of it. I love Very Berry Hibiscus drinks at Starbucks, music, writing, my friends, family and my parents’ new dog, Sweetah.
2.) How long have you been writing?
I’ve been telling stories all my life, writing them down since I was 11.
3.) Do you have a preferred genre that you read? Is it the same as what you write?
I try to read in the M/M BDSM genre because I’m trying to learn something. Don’t worry as I’m not in the lifestyle, I’m doing other research, too.
4.) What is the title of your book and where can it be found?
The latest is Action. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble.com, and AllRomance.com.
5.) Describe your novel in 15 words or less.
Action shows the tests of love and life through Zack and Steve’s Dom/sub relationship.
6.) Where did the inspiration for your story come from?
I didn’t like the way other books in the genre portrayed the lifestyle. I was convinced it could be loving and consensual…which is what I believe is portrayed through these characters.
7.) How long did it take you to complete this novel from concept to published?
8.) When you sit down to write, how does that process go? Do you outline or just let it evolve?
It used to be that I just let it evolve, but now I submit a synopsis to my publisher first, so it has to be a little thought out.
10.) Are there any aspects that you simply glide through?
Characterization. See, the boys live in my head constantly so I know them very well.
11.) What sets your book apart from others in the same genre?
I’m hoping it’s my characters. I set out to make them as human as possible.
12.) What is the location of your story setting and why did you choose that place/time?
Contemporary Los Angeles seems pretty fitting for an actor/director couple, don’t you think?
13.) Your main characters, tell me about them. What is their back story? How did they find themselves where they are now?
Steve lost his father at 12, at which point his became a hippy, drugs, alcohol, and various men. So, he learned to take care of himself and her too early. It wasn’t a stretch, then, for him to become a Dominant in the BDSM scene. He makes rules out of love, and enforces them for the same reason. Zack, Steve’s partner and sub, grew up in a Mormon household. He thrives on the structure and love Steve provides.
14.) I’d like to know more about your book. Tell me all about it.
Steve is the director of Ben’s Life, a hit television show in which Zack stars. For the first three years of production, they’re able to keep their relationship an open secret on set, but when a producer threatens to expose them, by demonstrating the proper way to handle Zack, their personal and professional lives are in jeopardy.
15.) What do you want readers to take from your writings?
I have a list of platitudes: love is love, you should accept everyone regardless of lifestyle, those such things. But I really want readers to fall in love with my boys the way I have, and come back for more.
16.) Are more books to follow or is this a stand alone?
Cutaway, Action’s sequel will be released in late September, That’s a Wrap, the third in the series in early December, and then comes Volume II of the series (another three books), to be released next year.
18.) What are 3 random things about yourself that readers might like to know?
I’m a morning person, I love the city, and—if there are any straight male readers—I’m single.
19.) What do you do in your down time? For fun.
I love exploring cities and going to the theater.
20.) How about letting me have a sneak peak at chapter one?
“Places, everyone!” Steve Michaels climbed into his director’s chair and waited while the cast and crew of the hit television show, Ben’s Life, got in their places either in front of the camera or behind it. “Quiet on the set.” Silence filled Studio B. “Lights, camera, and rolling in ten, nine, eight, seven, six,” he raised his hand and finished the countdown on his fingers. At the end of the descent to one, Steve pointed at the cameramen and then the actors, “Action,” he whispered.
Zack Greene strode into the spotlight, the ill-fitting clothes and thick glasses his character, Ben Miller, wore didn’t diminish his good looks or confidence. Before Zack even opened his mouth to say his lines, Steve was ready to call cut. Ben had none of Zack’s self-assurance, and while the differences made Ben fun for Zack to play, if he slipped too far into his real-life persona, the scenes were ruined.
Zack started the scene by sitting across a table from the woman his character, Ben, spent the better part of three seasons trying to seduce. “Sorry I’m late.”
“You don’t look sorry, which is interesting considering you’ve been asking me out for months.” Amy, the actress playing Melody, Ben’s love interest, squinted at him.
“I am very sorry. Let’s just order. Wine? I hear they have a great—”
“Cut! Zack, what the hell are you doing?” Steve screamed. Everyone gasped and then silenced.
“Did I get my lines wrong?”
“No, you got everything else possible wrong. Why is Ben late? What scene did we just finish shooting?” He took a deep breath to regain his composure. He knew Zack would mess it up as soon as he walked on the set, but this was worse than anticipated.
“He got startled by what he thought was a skunk, but turned out to be a black cat, slipped on mud, which caused his car door to shut with his keys inside. So, he had to wait for AAA to unlock the car. By the time they came and he changed his muddy clothes, the flower shop was closed so he couldn’t pick up her lilies,” he explained, as though it was Steve who forgot.
Steve gave a warning look, which Zack didn’t heed. His tone needed amending and fast, or there would be consequences. For now, he’d have to keep up appearances. “Great memory.” Snickering in the background. “What makes you think he’d come in with his head held high after his grand impressive plans got ruined over mistaken fear?”
A cocky smile appeared on Zack’s face. “He knows she’s going home with him. Why should he worry?” He pointed to the ever-present silver collar, which locked in the back and in the show gave him psychic power.
Finally, Steve found a way to break his mood. He met Zack’s eyes and reached into his pocket, where they both knew he kept the leash, giving the collar significance in private. “That prediction can always change based on actions. Don’t forget when Ben’s guaranteed promotion was foiled by his reaction during the fire drill.” Zack didn’t hear the words, as his eyes stayed on Steve’s hand in his pocket, which was fine. The words were for everyone else. “Can we try it again? From the beginning.” The assurance was gone from Zack’s demeanor, bringing out the depths of his talent. Sometimes, it was difficult to work with his long-time boyfriend, but Steve could control him like no one else. However, Zack had his days and Steve couldn’t let this one slide. After two more takes, both stemming from honest mistakes on peripheral characters’ parts, he called, “Good job, everyone. See you tomorrow, bright and early. Carlos, please try to get some rest. Make-up isn’t going to cover another night of bags under your eyes.”
Carlos Gonzalez, who played Ben’s best friend, Emilio, laughed. “When you can find someone to cover middle of the night feedings for Clarissa while Angie works nightshift, I’ll sleep through the night.”
“Are you done, yet, dude? This is what, number seven?” Zack asked as the rest of the cast and crew dissipated to their trailers to change.
“Not until we get a boy, esse.” He shrugged and grinned in their directions. “See you tomorrow.”
Zack watched him leave and shook his head. “What if they become the Puerto Rican Duggers? They could have fifteen or twenty kids running around and still not get a boy, or worse, they have one and he sucks. Some kids are brats, or die in childhood, or…”
The rambling and distracting conversation betrayed his nervousness. Steve found the longer he kept Zack wondering about his punishment, the more effective it would be. “Kids aren’t the only brats around.” Zack winced and Steve continued, “I’m sure they’ll figure it out. Why don’t you change, and I’ll meet you at home? I have some things to finish up here. Might stop off at the store. Need anything?”
Zack sucked in a breath and looked around to ensure no one was in ear shot. “No, thank you, I’ll wait in position for you to return.” Resignation painted his features as he turned away.
Steve went to his office to look over the schedule for the next few days, and come down a little. Since he was young, Steve required quiet time after being around a lot of other people all day. He relished the quiet. So, why choose a profession in which he had to put himself out there constantly? Because from the moment he could hold a camera, Steve captured the stories in everything, at first through still photos and later video. It ignited the fire of life in his veins, but that didn’t mean it was easy all the time.
He and Zack met during auditions. At first, Steve regarded him as a spoiled brat who got everything from his looks. While they certainly didn’t hurt, underneath the bravado was a man in desperate need of love and guidance. On his best days, Zack was funny, hard-working, and charismatic. However, the worst brought out the need for discipline. At the beginning of their relationship, Zack not only agreed to let Steve take the lead, but asked for it. He wanted limits set and to be punished when they weren’t met. They both hated the terms Dom and sub, but, in reality, played the roles. No one outside their relationship knew, an intentional move on their part. A knock on his open door jolted Steve out of his thoughts.
Richard Glenn opened it further when Steve called him in. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
“No, Rich, I’m just looking over the schedule for the next few days. I think we might need some extra hours.” He set the script down and gestured for Rich to take a seat across from him.
“You’re not talking about overtime, are you, Stevie?”
How he hated that name. Stevie. Rich had been using it since they attended UCLA together more than a decade ago. It did no good to correct him. “Well, it’s important to get this episode right. It’s kind of a big one, with Ben and Melody finally becoming an item. Fans have been waiting three years for this.”
“And what do you think will happen if we give it to them?”
“I’m not following.”
“A lot of times it’s the tension between characters that keep people watching. Think about those sparkly vampire movies. Do you think anyone wanted the awkward girl to marry him and become one of them? All I ever heard was people complaining because they liked the werewolf better. The triangle, or tension, kept viewers interested.”
Steve glanced at the clock and tried to guess how much longer he’d have to sit here.. Zack was probably torturing himself wondering what was coming. “Those were books before they were movies. That plot point really couldn’t be altered. Besides, I think at least half of the fans wanted it to happen. In terms of this series, to stop Ben and Melody from getting together would throw off the rest of the season.” He bit his lip and continued, “What does that have to do with overtime, anyway?”
“Well, I just think we need to watch our spending. Certain people are very expensive to employ, you know. Perhaps the same people who require late nights?”
“With all due respect, we both know who carries this show. The ‘expensive’ people you refer to are the same ones who keep our ratings up and attract advertisers.” Steve wiped his hands on his jeans, determined not to let Rich see he rattled him.
“Yes, I’m well aware of the way the business works. I’ve been in it as long as you have.”
And I’m your boss, thought, but not spoken. “Then, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Why don’t you come in early tomorrow morning? We’ll discuss some new rules for the set. Say, 8:30?” Rich stood and offered his hand.
Since Rich presented no real choice, Steve shook his hand and said, “Sure, have a good night.”
“You, too, Stevie.”
“Dick,” Steve muttered, walking in the opposite direction.
* * *
Zack’s nipples puckered as the fan blew over his naked body. He stood with his hands planted against the corner and lost track of how long he waited for Steve to return. He gave the power over in the beginning of their relationship because, well, he needed the discipline. Truth be told, he enjoyed it, as well. Zack was an out-of-control actor on the brink of losing his career for allowing his ego to affect his work when his agent sent him on a last ditch audition, Ben’s Life. He managed to get the role along with someone to love and take care of him. He trusted Steve to make decisions and rules for their lives, but he wasn’t looking forward to this punishment. Downstairs, the door opened. His partner greeted their cat, Timmy, and his footsteps ascended the stairs. Zack’s heart raced and his body shook as the bedroom door shut.
Behind him, Steve removed his belt, the metal clinking together as each hole passed. It landed on the bed with a thud. Zack swallowed when Steve attached the leash to his collar and led him to the bed. Steve took a full minute to inspect every crevice of his body. A smile formed on his lips, indicating to Zack that he was no longer angry. He’d never get spanked while his boyfriend was still upset.
“You may assume second position.” Steve sat and spread his legs slightly as Zack lowered his hips across his lap and fitted his penis between his parted knees, in case it hardened, as it usually did during punishments. Zack placed his hands and feet on opposite sides of Steve’s legs. When he was situated, Steve ran his hand over Zack’s ass and the other secured him at the waist. “Don’t move your hands from the floor and no speaking until I ask you a question.” He said the same thing every time. The routine and predictability helped reassure them both. All rules would be off in an instant if Zack said his safe word, but they stayed within their limits. Steve hit each cheek five times, rather lightly, to warm up his ass. Then, he stopped. “Zack, what are you being punished for?”
“Disrupting the final scene.”
“And…talking back to you.”
A light crack between his two cheeks made Zack’s balls bounce between Steve’s thigh and his cock. “You let your ego get in the way of your performance, which as you know, hurts everyone. Now, how do you think you should be punished?” He rubbed circles over his warm, pinking skin, soon to be very red.
“Ten swats with your hand?” His voice trembled with fear and a little bit of hope.
“Ten is for first time offenses. Is this the first time your ego has taken over?”
“What was that?”
Zack sighed and swallowed again. “No, it’s not the first time.”
“Then, you have a choice. Twenty swats with my hand and five with the belt or forty without the belt?” This was nowhere close to the first time they ran into problems with his ego. Steve continued rubbing and tapping. “Hurry up, or I’ll choose for you.”
“Forty,” he whispered to the carpet.
“I didn’t hear you, again. Speak to me, not the floor.” Steve swatted a bit harder.
“Forty,” Zack raised his voice. He’d choose almost any number of swats to using a belt or paddle, but Steve always offered the choice. It wasn’t the pain Zack avoided with foreign implements, because Steve wasn’t gentle with his hand. He craved the intimacy and love mixed with the pain of punishment.
“I want you to count out loud. Every time you ask me to stop for a break, five more are added.” With the back of his hand, Steve spread his legs further apart. His cock grew, making contact through the fabric of his jeans with Zack’s closest leg. Steve raised his hand and slapped one cheek, waited for the count and slapped the other, alternating between the two for the first twenty. Halfway done, he took a few seconds to rub the area as Zack trembled. The man over his lap tried hard not to whimper, but didn’t always succeed. Without warning, he raised his hand and began again, this time focusing on the sides and crack.
A fire built as Steve spanked Zack. The last ten were always the worst, not as if he’d ask him to stop. He deserved it and accepted the longer punishment. Tears welled in his eyes as Steve’s pace and strength increased. The initial sting flared to a burn, which singed any remnants of his overpowering ego. In its place, a mixture of serenity and arousal grew. He moved from the round mounds Zack worked so hard to keep firm to where his legs opened. The last ten were rained on his inner thighs and the crease between the top of his legs and ass. Steve’s hand smacked him across the sit spot on the last swat.
Zack bowed his head to catch his breath and came up on his knees to unfasten Steve’s jeans, having felt his hardness while lying on his lap. The arousal now quenched any other emotions. He licked his lips in anticipation of tasting his juices as he pulled Steve’s pants and briefs down and off. Zack met his eyes as he lowered his mouth until he breathed in pubic hair, gently squeezing the sac behind his manhood. His fingers bit into Steve’s hip and swirled his lips and tongue in different directions.
“Fuck, Zack…” He ran his hands over his blonde hair, fingers resting on his neck as his head bobbed.
Zack desperately wanted to stroke himself, but had to wait for permission. He withdrew his mouth as his lover’s body began to quake. A questioning heat simmered in his eyes as Zack turned around, his hands and knees on the bed. “I believe you gave me a directive. Go ahead.” He waited while Steve applied the lube.
Steve held onto Zack’s tender side with one hand and grasped his cock, stroking as he entered. They let out a moan as their bodies joined. He stopped Zack from rocking back. “You’ll hurt yourself.”
“Then, move, ow!” His ass received a slap for the command, but he couldn’t help himself. “Please?” The plea must have done it because Steve thrust into him. No, the continued contact on his soreness didn’t make it any easier to deal with. But with the eight inches inside him, tantalizing his core, and Steve jerking him off, he wasn’t going to complain. A few more minutes and Zack couldn’t catch his breath, the need too great. “Steve, please, can I come?”
“Yes, love, now you may.” He hardly finished the pump he was on when Zack released all over his hand and the sheets. Then, he collapsed on the wet spot as Steve shot his own load deep within him. Their orgasms were punctured with a gentle kiss that lasted until their hearts settled.
* * *
Steve rose from the bed after smoothing Zack’s hair. The loss of contact elicited a low groan, which Steve answered with another kiss. “I’ll be right back. Going to get us cleaned up. Don’t get up until I come back. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Zack complied, only moving enough to shift away from the wet spot. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, love. It’s over now. Let me take care of you.” Steve used the bathroom and wiped the last the lube off of himself with a wet washcloth. As he prepared one for Zack, he swallowed hard at the memory of the punishment. Steve was always fine with administering discipline—until his love started crying. Whenever it got to that point he wished Zack used his safe word to force him to stop because unless he did, Steve had to deliver what he promised. Those were the rules. He wrung the cloth out and left the bathroom.
As he passed the dresser, he considered throwing on pajama pants, or at least boxers, but decided against it. Zack needed as much skin to skin contact as possible for comfort. Steve took the damp cloth to the bed, and after grabbing the cooling massage gel, spread Zack’s legs apart. “You did so well. I’m very proud of you.” Steve separated the two cheeks and ran the cloth between them. Zack sucked in his breath through his teeth, the material agitating his raw skin. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“I’m okay,” he responded quietly.
Steve pressed his lips to Zack’s bottom, but pulled back quickly, mouth stinging as though he drank his coffee too soon. He squirted the cooling gel on his hands and rubbed it everywhere his hands touched during the discipline. Three layers on the redness later, Steve moved upwards and massaged his shoulders and back while kissing his hair and murmuring in his ear until Zack relaxed. “Can you lay facing me, love?”
Zack rolled on his side and turned his mouth up when Steve stretched out next to him. “I’ll change. Be better.”
Steve stroked his jaw and feathered a kiss to his lips. “I don’t ever want you to be anyone except the sweet, passionate and hardworking man you are. Your ego prevents other people from knowing him, which is criminal.” He hugged Zack close, smiling as the embrace was returned.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
Downstairs twenty minutes later, after a cool shared shower, Steve watched as Zack emptied the contents of the crock pot onto two plates. Zack placed one in front of him, his red bottom on display because he wore only a tee shirt. “Thanks, not sitting?”
Zack snorted a laugh. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to sit for makeup tomorrow.” He made Steve’s drink first, a Bloody Mary, with a little bit of lime mixed in. Then he sipped his Sprite.
“Tomorrow, right. I have a meeting with Rich at 8:30.” He rolled his eyes and absently stirred his drink.
“Yeah? What does old Dick want?” Zack took a bite of his carrot.
“Zack, watch yourself.” Steve narrowed his eyes, and his tone changed to one of warning.
“Why can’t I talk crap about him here?” He held his plate in his hands and leaned against the counter, eating faster than normal.
“Because you lack self-control. I don’t want you ranting on set tomorrow.”
“I’ve gotten better.” He swallowed his meat and took another bite.
“You’re right, you have. I don’t know what’s up with him, honestly. Other than his usual position of just being an asshole.” The alcohol infused tomato juice mixed with the softened meat and vegetables in his mouth. He relished the taste after his long day.
“Look, I’m not going to say anything to anyone. I just want to know what’s going on.”
Steve cracked his neck in a failed attempt to release the tension. “I don’t know. He was giving me shit for possibly staying late one night next week. Something about watching expenses? I have no idea what he’s talking about.”
“Is the show having budget problems?” Zack set his plate down and massaged Steve’s head, neck and shoulders.
Steve leaned into his touch and kissed his hands when he relaxed. “Not as of the last network meeting I attended.” He smiled to himself and tugged Zack down closer to him. Their lips pressed together. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Steve pushed his chair back and extended his arms. “Um, I’d rather not sit, if that’s okay.”
“Zack, I will never hurt you. Trust me.” All it took. Steve helped situate him so he sat sideways on the chair, his butt in the gap between Steve’s parted legs. They rested cheek to cheek, relishing the silence of the night. Steve held him tightly and they kissed slow and deep. “Listen to me, please. I don’t want you to worry about anything, especially Rich. I’m going to take care of it.”
“We’re a team. I need to be informed to do my part.”
“You will be. I promise.” He hoped the anxiety didn’t show. His boyfriend didn’t need the stress of knowing on whom Rich laid the blame. “Are you finished eating?”
“I kind of inhaled it. You?”
“Yeah. Why don’t we join Timmy upstairs?”
Zack eyed Steve’s plate and tilted his head to the side. “You finished your drink and barely ate. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine, not really hungry, I guess.” He kissed away the concern and helped him stand. “We’ll clean up here and go to bed.” Steve used the last of his energy to infuse authority into his voice. Zack offered no argument.
Taking a step away from my 20 questions, (Sarah has already answered them 😉 ) here is a guest post she’s written about where she got her inspiration from.
Writing Historical Fiction
Back in high school, I overheard two girls lamenting how awful their classes were and how they ‘hated’ history. Since I was hiding in a bathroom stall at the time, I didn’t give voice to my horror at their sentiment, but it has stuck with me in the thirty years since. How could they ‘hate’ history?
Unfortunately, all too easily if by ‘history’ they meant the memorization of facts and dates that had little or no bearing on their lives. Why did they care what year the Civil War began? Or who was the tenth president of the United States? Or what happened in the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia (though knowing might clarify our wars in the Middle East today, but that’s a different topic).
That’s not what history is about. History is about people. It’s the anthropology of the past. It’s about finding out why people did what they did; what they cared about; and the nitty gritty of how they lived and died.
I strongly believe with Donna Tartt that: “The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone.”
But along with entertaining, what I love about historical fiction is that it can bring history to life.
Because I have an academic background, research comes naturally to me. When I decide on a topic for a new novel, I first spend a few weeks exploring the history, culture, and geography of that time period. It is very important to me to know as much as I can about the history of the time, even if I end up changing aspects of it to suit my novel. At the same time, I try to keep events as historically accurate as possible.
When writing about dark age and medieval Wales, however, there is so much we don’t know that sifting through the data to find out what ‘really’ happened is often next to impossible. Many records were destroyed—deliberately for the most part—in the years after Edward I conquered Wales, but other records were lost to time, thrown away in ignorance, were never written down, or were lost when Henry VIII abolished the monasteries.
For the novelist, while knowing the birth date of the last Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, would be helpful, it does leave enormous scope for fiction.
And that’s what makes historical fiction or historical fantasy so fun to write. The impetus behind my After Cilmeri series is a dream I had in which I drove my mini-van through a time warp into medieval Wales. I was fascinated by the idea of what it would be like for a modern person to live there. Would life in the Middle Ages chew me up and spit me out? How would I survive without hot showers, antibiotics, and coffee?
In the end, the dream was only the initial kernel of the story, which evolved into a four book series, plus a novella and has occupied my creative life for much of the last five years.
A shelf (or Kindle)-full of good historical fiction can be entertaining, but also gives us a window to the past and allows us to lose ourselves in other times and lives. And ensures that we call can say: I love history!
My web page: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com
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