Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Red Velvet and Absinthe - Out now!

Today is the official release date for Red Velvet and Absinthe: paranormal erotic romance, edited by Mitzi Szereto. I haven't received my contributor copy yet, which is immensely frustrating because this is an anthology I SO want to read!

"Red Velvet and Absinthe offers readers a collection of unique and original stories that conjure up the atmospheric and romantic spirit of the Gothic masters (and mistresses) but take things a bit further by adding to the brew a generous dosage of eroticism. Lie back and listen to the wind howling outside your window as you read these stories in the flickering light of a candle. . ."

So if you buy it today you'll be able to read my story before me - how about that? ;-)

My story? It's called Cover Him With Darkness and I just love it; I'm so pleased it was chosen for this anthology! It's pretty creepy, and the ending is a real knife-edge. It's set in Albania, where Milja - daughter of an Orthodox priest - grows up with the family secret: a prisoner whom she must guard, as all her family have done for centuries. Is he Prometheus? Or perhaps Loki? Or something worse? Nobody knows. But he must never be released ... not even by a young woman who falls in love.

I'm going to break with my usual practice and give you an excerpt from the start of the story, because I don't want to give away what happens:

Cover Him With Darkness

The first time I saw him fettered there in the dark, I wept.

I was seven years old. My father led me by the hand down the steps behind the church altar, through a passage hewn into the mountainside. I’d never been permitted through that door before. Inside, there were niches cut into the rock walls, and near the church they were filled with painted and gilded icons of the saints and of Our Lord, but further back those gave way to statuettes of blank-eyed pagan gods, growing cruder in execution and less human in appearance as we walked on. I clung to Father’s hand and cringed from the darkness. Finally we came out into a roofless chamber, where the walls leaned inward a hundred feet over our heads and the floor was nothing but a mass of loosely tumbled boulders. I looked up, blinking at the light that seemed blinding, though in fact this was a dim and shadowed place. I could see a wisp of cloud against the seam of blue, and the black speck of a mountain eagle soaring across the gap. 

There he lay upon a great tilted slab of limestone, his wrists and ankles bound by twisted leather ropes whose further ends seemed to be set into the rock itself. It was hard to say whether the slab had been always been underground or had fallen long ago from the mountain above; our country is, after all, much prone to earthquakes. Dirt washed down with the rain had stained him grey, but I could make out the muscled lines of his bare arms and legs and the bars of his ribs. There was an old altar cloth draped across his lower torso; only much later did I realize that Father had done that, to spare his small daughter the man’s nakedness.

"Here, Milja,” said my father, pushing me forward. “It is time you knew. This is the charge of our family. This is what we guard day and night. It is our holy duty never to let him be found, or to escape.”

I was only little: he looked huge to me. Huge and filthy and all but naked. I stared at the thongs, as thick as my skinny wrist, knotted cruelly tight about his broader ones. They stretched his arms above his head so that one hand could not touch the other, and others held his ankles apart. I felt a terrible ache gather in my chest. I pressed backward, into Father’s black robes.

“Who is he?” I whispered.

“He is a very bad man.”

That was when the prisoner moved for the first time. He rolled his head and turned his face toward us. I saw the whites of his eyes gleam in his grey face. Even at seven, I could read the suffering and the despair burning there. I squirmed in Father’s grip.

“I think he is hurt,” I whimpered. “The ropes are hurting him.”

“Milja,” said Father, dropping to his knees and putting his arm around me. “Don’t be fooled - this is not a human being. It just looks like one. Our family have guarded him here since the first people came to these mountains. Before the Communists. Before the Turks. Before the Romans, even. He has always been here. He is a prisoner of God.”

“What did he do?”

“I don’t know, little chick.”

That was when I began to cry.

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Red Velvet and Absinthe Blog


Jo said...

Oo, great start.

Janine Ashbless said...

I did some great research for this story - you know how it is when you come across something that fits in JUST RIGHT and you can't believe how serendipitous it all is ...

Mitzi Szereto said...

An excellent story!

Janine Ashbless said...

Ta, Mitzi - now I want to see how it fits in with the rest of the book :-)

Mitzi Szereto said...

I think you'll really be pleased with the book and enjoy reading the other contributions!

Jo said...

Re the research serendipity: I LOVE when that happens.

Janine Ashbless said...

It's one of the best bits about writing, I think.

Kat Black said...

hurrah! This has been haunting me since you first gave us a taste. Congratulations to you, Mitzi and all the other contributors. Off to Amazon right now.

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh Kat, you know how to make a smutwriter very happy!

Tahira Iqbal said...

I can't wait to read your story :) Got shivers when I read the extract! Very atmospheric :) xx

Janine Ashbless said...

Tahira, that's lovely of you to say.
I used to write a lot of cosmic-horror stuff, and with this story I've certainly strayed back to that sort of atmosphere of creepy uncertainty and the sense that There Are Greater Powers At Work Out There, In The Face Of Which Man Is A Mere Insect.

Kat Black said...

Received. Read. Rated (see Goodreads). Replete. It was good for me, Janine - but then I never had any doubt that it would be.

Z. Vyne said...

I finally received my contributor's copy, and your story was one of the highlights - literary, dark and so well-written.

It's a real honor being between the pages with you, in a book edited by someone as talented as Mitzi Szereto.

Rose de Fer said...

My author copies finally arrived and I thought your story was gorgeous. Haunting and poignant and romantic.

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with stranger aeons, even Death may die.”

Janine Ashbless said...

Hi Zander and Rose!

I've only just got home, but my copies were there waiting for me, smouldering on the doormat. I can't wait to settle down by candlelight and read your stories, and all the stories in this collection. It's just so my sort of thing!