The Amazon Iowan

Blog of Author Heidi Cullinan


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Beat Your Winter Blues Blog Tour: Congrats to WINNER Ann Roberts!

Ann Roberts, leaving a comment on Stumbling Over Chaos, has won the grand prize of $200 to a bookstore of her choice. I think Chris has access to your email, Ann, but in case you see this first, give me a shout. (heidi.cullinan@mac.com) Congrats!

For the rest of you, who are perhaps sad you have not won, may I remind you that our blog tour went well into spring, actually, and that summer is just around the corner.


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Links and Recs and Things

Moar links!

Final post for the blog hop—last one before the giveaway on SATURDAY!

Take the RRW reader survey!

***

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen me carrying on about books lately. Here are a few that I particularly enjoyed:

Handle With Care by Josephine Myles

Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino (the title is dumb, I know. But the book is great.)

Cage Match by Bonnie Dee

***

A special nod goes to Chalice by Amber Kell. Now, if you don’t read Kell, you need to know she is the height of cheese and camp and high trope, especially the whole Alpha/sub thing. Also the books are never long. BUT. This last one has given me the very mother of bunnies and after the angst and sweating and serious fucking work of the official WIP (which is almost done!), it’s a wonderful relief. So thank you Ms. Kell.

***

Okay, speaking of the official WIP. I still have everything I’ve ever mentioned here in the hopper, but a few months ago I called Saritza nearly crying and said, “Please just tell me what to finish because I’m losing my mind.” I gave her the list, and she didn’t hesitate to pick. Now, I have kept this one under my hat pretty hard because I have been highly superstitious about it, but I’m starting to feel like I can share, mostly because it’s nearly done. Less than 10k to go, and most of it is adding a second POV (which now I have no idea how I ever didn’t have it) (and in first person too, damn it all to hell). That one is called Cowboy Eagle and it’s not a sequel per se to Nowhere Ranch but it’s set in the same setting with a new pair of main characters (ex con rodeo rider and a half Lakota troubled man) and includes Roe and Travis and Haley and Tory and a now seven-year-old Grace. Who steals every damn scene she’s in, naturally, just like Mama taught her.

The collage, which, yes, I was a geek and bought stock images for:

And here’s the other one. It’s called Slave Prince because sometimes we like to keep it simple, and the theme is there was this scene where I was ACHING for Kell to go to the slutty raunchy place and because she has class, she didn’t go there. Well, you know I have no class. So I totally went there. Humiliation/exposure kink, we has it.

Some of my favorite lines, since I’m in here babbling away:

***

Cowboy Eagle: 

This seemed to please her, and she nodded as if our future meeting were all settled. “You can explain them after I get back from school. I don’t want to go, because they’re all stuck up sonsabitches who think they’re better than everyone, but I have to go because it’s the law.”

This time I had to hide my grin behind my hand, and Roe didn’t even try to correct Grace, just rolled his eyes. “Get your backpack, baby, and I’ll take you to the bus as soon as I whip Daddy Travis’s ass for talking bad in front of you.”

“Okay. You whip his ass and I’ll wait in the truck.” Grace skip-hopped down the hall.

*

Grace didn’t join in right away, watching me outline my pony instead. “Daddy Travis says you have a bee in your butt. Does that hurt?”

I blinked at her for a confused second, took in her utter seriousness, and then I laughed, the sound pealing like a bell inside me. “A little.”

Grace looked very grave. “Did you have to go to a doctor?”

I nodded and continued to color. “Yes, except I think she’s a licensed social worker, not a doctor.”

“But she can get the bee out?”

“She seems to be doing a good job so far.”

Gracie looked almost tearful, but before I could find the way to explain there was no actual bee, she glommed onto my arm and hugged me tightly. “I’m so glad. I missed you, Coby. I wanted to come help you with the bee, but I’m not allowed to see naked men.”

*

“Coby.” I touched his face. “Coby, you’ve been badly hurt. I think you were beaten. Were you?” When he nodded, I felt hot rage rising inside me, the neat to beat back abruptly acute. “Do you know who did it?”

“Fuckers,” Coby slurred.

*

(This one isn’t witty/funny so much as kind of gives you the theme of the story)

He nodded at this in approval. “You don’t need to be scared of me. Not ever, Coby.”

I wasn’t scared of him. I was scared of nameless things. Of emptiness. Of being alone. Of a world I had never fit into and couldn’t understand. Of myself.

Drew reached for my face, his palm cupping for my cheek, and I shut my eyes and leaned into his touch.

His big, rough fingers stroked my skin as he spoke. “I’ll admit you scare me. Not you so much yourself, but that darkness haunting you, the sorrow that tries to drag you down, the despair? That does. Because I know damn well I don’t have what it takes to fix that for you, and I never will. You scare me because you carry so much, such serious, nasty stuff. I can’t make it go away. I can’t give you a way out. I wish I could, but I’ve learned enough about my limitations to know there’s no way I’m promising that. Not now and not ever.” His thumb brushed my lip. “But I can hold it awhile. I can give you a space to get away from it. I want to give you that, Coby. More than I want anything in the world. Except it only works if you give it up to me. If you trust me enough to have your back. If you don’t imagine I’m fucking every gay idiot that walks in front of me and issues and invitation.”

***
That’s the serious one. Now for the raunchy fun of  Slave Prince: (Mom and relatives who don’t want to see this side of your Heidi, stop reading NOW)

*

Really, he should have known better than to give Loki such a wide opening.

He’d known some alarm when he realized Adric had set himself up to go last, but when he’d seen the tall, cloaked figure shuffling beside the lendman, he’d let himself relax, assuming Adric meant to give him some ugly woman or brain-addled half-wit dressed as a soldier. When Adric drew the figure forward, Damen met his enemy’s triumphant glare with a cool nod, thinking himself ready for whatever insult about to come his way.

Adric pulled the ties, the cloak fluttered to the ground, and the banquet hall issued a collective gasp that would have been comical if Damen would’ve had air left in his lungs to laugh.

Where the ugly woman or half-wit should have been stood a young man so beautiful he made Damen’s teeth ache—wearing a crude replica crown of the empire that had driven out the Norsa Quadrant, their royal tattoos, and the intricate chain-harness of an imperial whore.

And nothing else.

*

He tried to tell himself there was no way any of them could know the crown—wrong century—and the tattoo—backwards, wrong arm—were actually adorning an imperial prince. He’d figured out what they were going for, though why they’d dyed his hair black he couldn’t place, and he didn’t even want to know what the harness was about, but the notion that they’d be presenting him as a crude imitation of an imperial prince to an actual Neo-Viking hadn’t even occurred to him. Once again too this entire ordeal seemed carved as a penance from his most secret and darkest sexual fantasies. The Viking king wore furs and a nose ring that looked far too much like bone, and the sawed-off skull he’d dropped on the floor was leaking ale—yes, he’d been drinking from it.

Something told Carin the next skull-goblet would carbon ID to the Allyious Dynasty. Because King Nose Ring the Angry was not pleased with his gift.

*

The king leaned in to Carin’s ear, tugging on the lobe with his teeth in-between whispers.

“Hear me well, slave. I have no notion of how complicit you are in this plot, but my suspicion is you’re as much the victim as me. Play along with my game and I give my word I’ll settle fairly with you once we’re in private, which unfortunately won’t be for several painfully public hours. The greater you perform your part, the greater shall be your reward. Do we have an accord?”

Carin almost nodded and stopped himself just in time. “Yes,” he whispered back instead.

“Excellent. I apologize for this next part in advance.” He stood back, pulled his cock out of his trousers, and pushed Carin down to his knees. “You look too thin, princeling. Let me feed you some meat.”

*

Oh, time for another drink. Damen poured liberally and downed it in one gulp. “Only about four people alive know that, by the way, so keep it under your hat. Everyone else has totally swallowed the line that we invade star systems and outer rim imperial ships because that’s what good Vikings do.”

When the silence went on too long, Damen turned around, enjoying the way the vodka made Carin soft and floaty. Even his shocked frown was nicely fuzzy.

“Why are you telling me all this?” Carin said at last.

Damned if Damen knew. “You begged me to twist your nipples until they almost snapped and ate my come from your own ass after I fucked you raw across a banquet table. I figured state secrets were an even trade.”

 ***
AND WITH THAT, I’ll go back to work.


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More Blog Hop and Stuff

This week’s blog hop was at Tales From the Writing Cave. Do go check it out. Remember, $200 worth of books!

In the meantime, I am losing my mind.

I vacillate between freaking out about food to freaking about about being at Romantic Times. Usually the two are intertwined, wondering how I will eat while I’m at the conference. Occasionally I shake this up by worrying about the fact that I have a release out in a few weeks and then nothing officially in the hopper. I can’t really bring myself to worry about the panel I’m doing at RT because that’s like teaching, and pfft. But food? Being at RT in general? Writing? Oh yeah. Panic, we has it.

Food is easier and more immediate, so I freak about that the most. I still feel like I’m completely relearning everything I’ve ever known about eating, and the damnedest thing was I did this already this past year, twice. First I cut out meat and then dairy, and now I’m pretty much with both of those but adding refined flour and sugar, and I hate to say it, maybe gluten. LET ME EXPLAIN TO YOU HOW LITTLE FOOD IS LEFT WHEN YOU’RE FINISHED WITH THIS. Okay, actually there’s a lot, but you have to make it at home, because nobody will make it outside of your house. In fact, I even have trouble at my local vegan-friendly co-op. Sugar. Sugar the bastard of life.

What kills me now as I live without sugar is how much I’ve lived with sugar all my life. I have always put sugar on everything. I don’t think a day of my life went by until a month ago that I didn’t have both white flour and sugar both. I’ve been detoxing like crazy the past week, and I keep thinking I should have written Wes’s opium-fighting scenes now instead of last year, because holy hell. It’s like shedding all your blood. I’ll get a cold and then I’ll have a weird ten-year-old injury flare up, and then all of a sudden I feel like I’m fifteen, I have so much energy. I feel like I’ve been living my life on cocaine and my body is both happy and confused to be off of it thirty-eight years later.

Bringing my usual zeal to this food gig, I’ve been trying to encourage the detoxing, getting advice from the lady who haunts the vitamin aisle at Wheatsfield, and now I’m drinking holy basil tea and also raw apple cider vinegar. I love the tea, though it puts me on my ass when I have shit I need to work through. It gives me energy and focus, until it decides I need to nap, and then goodnight, it’s bedtime. The vinegar she advised me to take like a shot, but you know, I’m twisted, and I really dig it. I put it in eight ounces of water and drink it while I make dinner. I’m not kidding. There’s something in it that makes my body go nuts with excitement, because I look forward to that glass of vinegar. In fact I missed it yesterday and it’s upsetting me a bit.

I think part of what has me freaked about RT and eating there is that “making food” for me has now become this four ring circus and major Hollywood production. Dan is always duly amazed, both at the yumminess of dinner and at the phenomenal mess I made of the kitchen to create it. I’m not sure how doing this in a hotel room for a week with no kitchen is going to fly. All I can say is thank god Whole Foods is a few miles away and I have a car.

Anyway. This is me. Sorry the blog posts have been food and me carrying on about food with occasional tidbits about how I’m writing but don’t have any new contracts. Maybe light a candle or something or make a small animal sacrifice?

Not a cute one though, please.


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Blog Hop and Writing Updates for the Curious (Hint: I talk about The Special Delivery Thing)

This week’s blog hop is here at Blaine Arden’s place. We’re getting close to the end, and someone is about to win $200 worth of book shopping. It could be you if you go to all the stops and leave comments….

About once a month (sometimes more) someone finds me somewhere in social media and gives me a version of the following: Are you going to write more of the Special Delivery  series? The answer is yes. One more book for sure, two probably. The follow up question of “when?” however is a lot more complicated.

There are a lot of issues, the simplest of which is time. I frequently get compliments on the length of my novels and the complexities of my plots and characters: the downside of this is that those sorts of things take more time. Believe me, I’ve often longed to whip out some quick novellas, but as a reader, I don’t like them, and in my experience the shorter my work, the less it seems to satisfy anyone, starting with me. Unfortunately story ideas come way too fast and furious for me, and part of seeing what will work and what won’t is writing them down and seeing if they take off. If something gets to 30k, I’ll finish it eventually for sure. I have a huge folder of 10-20k starts that cannot all possibly see the light of day before I die, especially if others keep leaping in front of me as I go.

Part of my process is also that things have to sit and gel. I ran into real trouble this past year when I agreed to a contract where I’d write book three of a complex series within a year, and it killed my muse so hard I’m still trying to coax it back into play. Hurrying does not help me at all. Right now I’m working on a book that if I told you about it, you’d probably start squeezing, but I’m not because right now it’s hard enough to sit down and crank out a thousand words for the day. I can’t even promise they’re good words right now. The victory is that I’m writing at all.


The bigger issue is also that my books often want to cure like wickedly good cheese or wine. I’ll be rolling and then all of a sudden STOP, slam, and they won’t talk to me possibly for years. A Model Man is doing that to me now. It took me forward like a roller coaster, and now it’s so mum I just let it sit on the side. The one I’m working on right now is in the snarly middle part where I really have no idea what it’s doing anymore and am starting to suspect it might be utter crap. Except I also know that this is very much what the middle is like for me, so I’m less upset than I’ve been in the past. Plus, see the above about just trying to get words on the page.

But there is a particular problem with Special Delivery 3, and it’s that you all like those books way too much.

When I wrote Special Delivery, I was unpublished. It took me three years, and in the end I basically wrote it because my husband wouldn’t stop bothering me. I tossed in our California trip because I didn’t know what else to do. The more I wrote the more confused and tangled I felt, but I just kept writing because Dan was unmoved by my wailing that it was a horrible hot mess and please just let me quit. Once I got done I felt somewhat better about it, and I was in love with Randy and in that nervous stage before my first book was out (Hero) so I wrote Double Blind for NaNoWriMo. I was doing the edits for it while Special Delivery was just beginning to get attention.

This is to say, I wrote them both happy and ignorant in the dark. I of course had the usual dreams that they’d do well, but no real plans that they would and no practical experience of what that would do to my muses.

Add to this that it’s during that summer that my health took a hard slide into Not Good, and the idea of writing more of Everyone’s Favorite became so heavy I could barely lift it. I tried to do recreate the NaNo magic, but all I got was a snarly hot mess.I have something like 100k of material, but it’s disjointed and plotless and more importantly endless, and every time I’ve tried to fix it I’ve been dragged away by other things. Part of the problem is that.

But the largest issue is that everyone is watching, or at least it feels like it, and it’s very distracting. It’s hard to get Zen enough to not care, to push that out and just work, especially as I’m schlocking other books, taking myself back into sales and marketing mindset. Add to this all the other stuff plus my insane insistence that I keep developing already paired characters, that it’s not just a new romance with recurring roles, and the urge to smoke and drink my way into a coma becomes acute. This book has taken three years because it’s hard.

Every time a psychic gets a hold of me they fell compelled to tell me how vital it is that I meditate, that allegedly there is some great message from beyond waiting for me if I do so. Usually I am only annoyed by this, but lately I’ve been thinking more pragmatically. I’m thinking of meditating but coming with a clipboard. I’ll hear the great cosmic message, but only if part of it is or along with it comes mental clarity so I can get all the writing done I want to do, plus still hang with my husband and kid. I’m not sure it’s kosher to negotiate with one’s Spiritual Guides, but I plan on doing it anyway. I don’t really care what the universe has in store for me. I want to write a lot of stories, as many as possible. Since I’m the one ambulating and putting up with the sugar nonsense, I think this earns me enough voting shares to control the meeting.

I’ll let you know how this goes. Or, you know, if I just crank up the iTunes and muddle on.


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Blog Tour and Sugar Shock

The Beat-Your-Winter-Blues Blog Tour Keeps on rolling, and this week it’s at Kate McMurray’s place. Stop on over there for your chance to enter and win our grand prize, and see what we’d do on a winter night by the fireside. Here in Iowa, we might actually get our snow today, but I refuse to let myself hope too much because they keep teasing me with promises of it only to have it not actually happen. So We’ll see.

In the meantime, Heidi’s Fun Shit of the Moment is to try and cut out all or as much refined sugar and flour as possible.

LET ME TELL YOU WHAT KIND OF HELL THIS IS.

Okay, actually I won’t, because it’s depressing and long and annoying. Worse, I think it might actually work. Why that’s worse I don’t know. I guess because I’m already vegetarian, non-dairy, and now no sugar and white flour. I have no idea how I’m ever supposed to eat out of the house again, and god help me with all the traveling I’m supposed to be doing this year. It all started with a very bad weekend where I ended up with steroids, and the great news is that they really, really helped. The bad news is that you can’t stay on steroids long term unless you’d like to have your bones and tendons and eyeballs melted, or something equally dramatic and yuck. But the one high point of that is finding out that yes, it’s inflammation, so now my battle is trying to decrease inflammatory foods and increase ones that fight inflammation.

Mostly what I can tell you is that if I ever go postal, it will probably be in some public food place where they have a sea of food I can’t eat. Hunger is so primal, and holy cow, but sugar is worse than crack, and we put it in EVERYTHING. And yeah, it’s hell to be standing at a counter looking at the one or two things you could maybe eat while everyone else gets to chose whatever they want. Part of me wants to turn into some kind of raving food maniac that runs around with a bullhorn demanding better public food options, but then I think about how much work that would be and I just get depressed again.

The good news is that while the whole inflammatory thing isn’t taking off instantly, I do feel a lot clearer and do have a sense that it will work. Or maybe it’s just hope. That’s kind of the worst thing, worrying that it won’t work at all and I will once again be doing a bunch of stuff that won’t help at all or just aggravate me. I suppose the one side effect would be that I surely have to lose weight, cutting out sugar. I mean, there’s just about nothing left. Vegetables and unsweetened almond milk. Really, how can you get fat on that?

Though I confess. I’ve been having roast chicken fantasies. Too scared to try, though, because every time there is meat, there is upset stomach.

This is me, anyway. I should be updating a bunch of things and have huge folders full of “to do” items for RRW and personal and business, and mostly I just keep filling them. I’m working on something but I won’t talk about what it is yet because I’m feeling like a mule about keeping mum. Mostly right now I’m thinking about lunch. And so with that, I am off to not eat sugar or dairy or meat or anything but grass and twigs.

Happy Thursday!


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BYWB Blog Tour Post and Reluctant Zen

First things first. Go here to read about authors’ Valentines Day stories, including how my husband and I gave each other the same card on our first V-Day together. Also enter the contest again.

Meanwhile, back in my brain…

I don’t know what switch I flipped, but I done flipped it, and I cannot stand to be on the Internet at the moment. I’m way behind on email and things I need to do and have to force myself to do the bare minimum of all social networking/etc contact every day. Writing is actually coming okay. About 11k into a project I am not discussing because lately when I discuss things I can’t finish them, so here’s hoping keeping mum works some magic. God knows I need something.

What I am pretty sure I need, actually, is to meditate in some kind of fashion. I’ve been getting all kinds of messages from the universe lately, everything but a neon sign telling me to OHM NOW OR ELSE, and yet it’s amazing the lengths I will go to in order to not sit still and be one with the universe for even ten minutes. I either wander off in mental noodles or pass out asleep. It’s weird, because a part of me truly, truly wants to relax and unplug, and I can almost taste the good things it would give me, like, you know, sanity. And yet how I run.

I mentioned this to my therapist yesterday, who is a Buddhist and as you might assume does more than a fair amount of meditation, and she had an interesting tidbit that really helped me feel less frustrated with the whole meditation thing: apparently we all suck at it because we’re wired to hate it. The reason we feel allergic to it is that it goes against all the ways we’re programmed to be, and the very act of sitting still and observing, pulling back, makes our brain work actively to get the fuck out. I had no idea, but now that I know that, I don’t feel quite so bad. Weirdly, it makes me want to go sit and meditate.

Of course, I don’t actually do it. I just think I might actually want to try. I’m not sure if that’s progress or moving the dust around.

And at this point my brain is screaming from too much internet once again. I feel another episode of Medium calling. Catch you all later.


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More tour, plus win a copy of A Private Gentleman

 

This week Ellis Carrington hosts, and I confess how I don’t have enough snow and wish I were in Yellowknife. You can as always enter a comment for your chance at the grand prize of a $200 gift card. (Woo-hoo!)

In the meantime, you can enter HERE to win a copy of my next book, A Private Gentelman. I’ll pick a winner on the 13th and get it to the lucky winner that night. (The book is out on the 14th.) If you’ve already pre-ordered, you can still enter and give one of the copies to a friend.

Now you will have the usual cover, blurb, trailer, teaser, excerpt and buy links. Enjoy.

A Private Gentleman

 

Available February 14 from Samhain Publishing

Painfully introverted and rendered nearly mute by a heavy stammer, Lord George Albert Westin rarely ventures any farther than the club or his beloved gardens. When he hears rumors of an exotic new orchid sighted at a local hobbyist’s house, though, he girds himself with opiates and determination to attend a house party, hoping to sneak a peek.

He finds the orchid, yes…but he finds something else even more rare and exquisite: Michael Vallant. Professional sodomite.

Michael climbed out of an adolescent hell as a courtesan’s bastard to become successful and independent-minded, seeing men on his own terms, protected by a powerful friend. He is master of his own world—until Wes. Not only because, for once, the sex is for pleasure and not for profit. They are joined by tendrils of a shameful, unspoken history. The closer his shy, poppy-addicted lover lures him to the light of love, the harder his past works to drag him back into the dark.

“That is the tale, my lord. I am a whore who can no longer fuck, and I don’t know why. I’ve had no one in well over a month. Since you, dear Albert. No one since you.”

Wes wanted to press the issue, but he knew a brick wall when he saw one. And notes could only be so persuasive. He turned over the first piece of paper and wrote again. I want to help you.

 

 Read an Excerpt

Preorder now

 

See more book trailers at my YouTube channel

 

 

 


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BYWBBT: Intro post & how to beat the blues

Be sure to head over to Coffee & Porn in the Morning today to see the Beat Your Winter Blues Blog Tour kick off. This is your first chance to enter to win the grand prize of a $200 gift certificate to the e-retailer of your choice. Go here to read the horrible truth of how I actually love winter (and find out who else does too).

Here’s one way to beat the blues. (After the cut because the boys are being a bit naughty and not wearing clothes. That’s a warning for you too, Mom.)

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