'I love you' is just the beginning of the story.

Excerpt from “The Dream of a Thousand Nights”

August 26, 2011 – One month to release day of my long novella, “The Dream of a Thousand Nights” on Dreamspinner Press!  As a countdown to release day, I thought I’d share with you the first chapter of the story, which takes place ten years before the rest of the action.  This is a pre-publication excerpt, so the final version may differ.  Enjoy! -Shira

WARNING:  CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT, 18+ ONLY, PLEASE!

Chapter One: Forgotten

Neriah ran down the narrow passageway between the hedgerows, stumbling over roots and rocks. His bare feet were now bloody, but he knew that he could not stop. The guards who pursued him had but one goal in mind: his death. His eyes burned with unshed tears at the memory of what he had seen as he fled his room in the palace. He swore under his breath that he hadn’t had the presence of mind to grab his sword. He was unarmed. Vulnerable.

Why are they trying to kill me? What have I done to warrant this? Why would Father—?

“Over here!” shouted one of the men.

He could hear footsteps close behind—the guards would soon overtake him. He brushed his long dark hair from his eyes and threw off the silk jacket he wore, tossing it under one of the large bushes. He followed this by removing his shirt and the silk scarf around his head—the bright fabrics were too visible. He pulled the gold earring from his ear and struggled to remove the rings from his fingers, shoving them into his pockets as he continued to run, panting, toward the high wall that surrounded the palace.

I have to get over the wall, he thought as his lungs began to ache from the strain of running for so long. At least on the outside, I have a chance.

The wall loomed above him now with its smooth, white stone, and he looked around in desperation, trying to spot something upon which to gain a foothold. And then he saw it—a climbing rose, ancient and knotty, unyielding. It stretched up against the wall, attaching itself tenaciously to the grooves between the stones. Beneath it on the ground were yellowing rose petals, the remnants of early summer now left to decay. He ran toward the vine just as the palace guards had spotted him.

“There he is!” one called to the others, pointing toward the garden wall.

Neriah grabbed the gnarled stem of the ancient rose, ignoring the pain of its thorns as they dug into his soft hands. He clambered up, clutching one of the smaller branches that climbed high above the garden. The branch bent with his weight, and he began to fall backward, managing at the last moment to get hold of another branch and steady himself. He felt his knees burn against the smooth stone as he struggled upward, reaching the top of the wall. Winded, bloodied, his face covered in dirt, he stood at the top and looked back at the palace, its deep blue and gold turrets silhouetted against the sky.

Mother, he thought as he fought back tears, I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. I promise I’ll avenge your death.

One of the pursuing guards began to climb the rose after him, causing the old vine to shudder and shake beneath the man’s weight. Neriah looked down at the street below. Several vendors had set up their stalls beneath where he stood, their booths covered with bright fabrics attached to simple wooden poles. There were more shouts from behind him in the garden as he teetered on the edge, trying to find a spot to land.

They’ll kill you if you stay, he reminded himself as he looked at the tops of the stalls and wished that they weren’t so far down.

He saw his mother’s face in his mind’s eye, recalling her battered body on the marble floor and the lifeless glaze of her eyes. They had been looking for him—he was sure of it—and she had refused to tell them where he was. Her sacrifice had saved his life. She wanted you to live, he told himself. He frowned and, gathering his courage, jumped.

“Is he dead?” came a voice at the periphery of his consciousness.

“No. I fixed his body. He’s just asleep, Kuri,” replied a second voice, deeper than the first. “Bring me the blanket.”

“You’ll be banished for saving him, you know,” said the first voice. “We can’t help humans. Not unless we’re commanded.”

“I won’t let him die here,” answered the second voice. “Just bring me the blanket. Now.”

He heard the sound of footsteps, then felt strong hands tucking something warm around his aching body. He struggled back to consciousness and looked up into a pair of amber eyes that sparkled like sunlight and reminded him of the finest jewels his mother wore. The thought of his mother made his heart ache, but something in the compassionate gaze of those almond-shaped eyes put him at ease, and he felt the pain begin to recede.

“Don’t try to speak,” said the young man who leaned over him. “You must rest for now. Don’t worry. You’ll be safe here.”

He awoke again to absolute darkness. He struggled to sit up, panicked that the guards had found him. He imagined himself in the dungeons below the palace, his arms bound to his sides. But as the haze of sleep and exhaustion began to clear, he realized that his arms were held at his sides by the blanket that was wrapped around him.

“Please,” he whispered into the blackness. His voice was hoarse, his mouth parched. He felt himself pulled upward, and gentle fingers brushed his matted hair from his face.

“It’s all right,” came the reply. It was the same warm, high baritone he had heard before—the voice, Neriah guessed, of a young man. “Your body has been mended. But you haven’t had anything to eat or drink since I found you two days ago.” He felt the coldness of metal pressed to his mouth, the cool liquid soothing to his dry lips. “Don’t drink it too fast. Your body won’t tolerate it.” He slowed his gulps and relaxed, allowing his weak body to be supported.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice sounding less rough.

“Can you sit on your own?” the young man asked.

“I think so,” he answered as he found the wall behind him and rested his weight against it.

He heard footsteps, then the sound of a small oil lamp being lit. He blinked to focus on his companion, who looked to be about sixteen or seventeen—his own age. “I am Tamir,” replied the young man, whose hair was a deep red in the lamplight. He wore simple cotton clothing—the shalvar kameez of a peasant—and his long hair was tied in a high ponytail with a piece of green fabric. Neriah found himself captivated by the exotic beauty of the boy.

“Tamir,” Neriah repeated, “you’ve been very kind to me.”

The edges of Tamir’s mouth turned upward in a tender smile. “When I found you at the edge of the market, I feared you were dead,” he said.

“I am called…,” Neriah hesitated, afraid to reveal his true name, “Sheva.” He hated to lie to his savior, but his fear was great, both for his own safety as well as Tamir’s.

“I’m pleased to have met you, Sheva,” Tamir replied, sitting cross-legged in front of Neriah. “Do you think you can eat?”

Neriah nodded, feeling his belly complain. Tamir handed him a small flatbread. Neriah tore a piece of the bread and began to eat it with relish. “I’m sorry I cannot offer you more,” Tamir said, pleased to see his companion’s fine appetite. “Perhaps tomorrow—”

“You needn’t apologize,” Neriah interrupted, gazing at his rescuer. “I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done for me.”

“Were you being chased?” Tamir asked as Neriah continued to eat the bread. “I heard that you were atop the palace wall—that you fell.”

“I…,” Neriah began, unsure of what to say. He wanted to tell the other boy the truth—that he was a prince, that he had done nothing wrong, and that his mother had died to save his life—but he found himself oddly tongue-tied. Despite his unease, he felt a strange sense of peacefulness radiate from his companion.

“It’s all right,” Tamir said, “you needn’t tell me anything. I’ve been in a fair number of fights myself. Kuri said the Royal Guards were searching the marketplace.”

Neriah coughed on the bread, having inhaled a bit of it in his alarm at the news. Tamir put his hand on Neriah’s back and, with a deft flick of his wrist, hit Neriah between the shoulder blades. The piece of bread on which Neriah had choked flew out of his mouth.

“I’m sorry, Sheva,” said Tamir, looking wretched, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“I’m fine, Tamir,” Neriah replied as he tried to calm his racing heart. “I guess I just ate a bit too fast for my own good.” Their eyes met, and Neriah took in the strong lines of Tamir’s jaw, noting the soft indentation of his cheek and the dimples at the edges of his mouth. He is beautiful, he thought, admiring the ethereal quality of Tamir’s eyes. His next thought was one of grief and self-reproach. How could you even think such a thing at a time like this? He felt tears threaten and clenched his jaw. He would not show weakness to anyone, let alone a stranger. He was, he reminded himself, still a prince.

“Something is wrong,” Tamir ventured, noticing Neriah’s hard expression. “Those men. Why were they after you, Sheva?”

Neriah wiped his eyes and frowned. “I… I stole something from them,” he lied as he forced the image of his dead mother from the forefront of his mind. “They chased after me. I thought they would kill me.” He looked at his hands and said nothing more. A lie and the truth. He hoped it would suffice as an explanation of how he had come to be injured.

Neriah needn’t have worried, for Tamir replied, “You don’t have to tell me more. You should rest. Tomorrow, when you are stronger, you can make your way out of the city, if you wish.”

Neriah studied the other boy’s face for a moment. If he’d wanted to turn me in, he would have done so by now, he thought. Still, he hesitated. Why would this boy—this commoner—wish to help him?

“I promise no harm will come to you while you sleep,” Tamir added, as if he had read Neriah’s mind. The effect of these words upon Neriah was almost magical. Neriah knew, in that instant, that Tamir spoke the truth. Too tired to argue with himself over the wisdom of this blind trust, Neriah just said, “Thank you,” and lay down upon the makeshift pillow once more.

Neriah awoke sometime later, Tamir’s body pressed against his own, warm and comforting. Without thinking, he wrapped his hands around the young man’s chest, burying his head against Tamir’s back, desperate to think of something other than the dangerous future that awaited him outside these walls. He heard Tamir sigh, and he released Tamir from the embrace, afraid that he had overstepped the boundaries of their newfound friendship.

It was then that Tamir rolled over and reached for Neriah. Neriah could smell the other boy’s sweet fragrance, which called to mind jasmine and spices. They lay that way for the longest time, neither of them speaking. “I haven’t been truthful with you,” Neriah admitted, “I—”

“Shhh,” Tamir replied, pressing his fingertips to Neriah’s soft lips. “I do not need to know. I just wish I could ease your pain.”

The lamp, which had been burning since Tamir had lit it hours before, now guttered and died. Neriah reached for Tamir and ran lithe fingers through his crimson hair. It felt like silk in Neriah’s hands. “I am sorry to have put you through this,” he said. “I don’t deserve such—” But his words were cut short this time, not by Tamir’s fingers but by his lips, pressed against Neriah’s.

Neriah felt his pulse quicken. The kiss broke and Neriah began, “Tamir, I…”

“I’m sorry,” Tamir replied. “I should not have touched you. I beg your forgiveness.”

Neriah opened his mouth to speak, to tell Tamir that he had done nothing wrong, that he wanted this too. Instead, he kissed the redhead. He had never lain with another man before, but his need to possess those full lips was so great that he found he could not help himself.

Their kiss deepened, and Neriah’s desire for the young man beside him grew. His hands sought the smooth skin of Tamir’s chest of their own accord. He felt the hard muscle beneath the warm skin and, in the darkness, he kissed Tamir’s shoulder. He heard Tamir gasp in pleasure as Neriah’s hands probed beneath the boy’s cotton shalvar, and he felt Tamir’s hardness grow beneath his fingers.

“Sheva,” whispered Tamir, pulling Neriah’s hands away, “Please… let me pleasure you.”

Neriah tried to protest, but Tamir’s gentle lips met his own, and Neriah found that he had no will to resist him. Tamir pulled Neriah’s pantaloons away, tracing Neriah’s body with his fingers. Neriah felt dizzy, overwhelmed by the other boy’s touch. None of the women he had lain with had ever touched him in this way, nor had he responded to them so powerfully, despite their beauty. “Please,” he moaned, as Tamir began to cover his body with feathery kisses. He could not think—he didn’t want to think—he just wanted to forget the ache in his heart.

“Let me take away your pain, Sheva,” Tamir said, finding Neriah’s hard length and kissing it. Neriah inhaled sharply and closed his eyes. It was at once the sweetest and most stunning revelation of Neriah’s young life—not the fact that it was a man pleasuring him thus, but that he could feel anything so overwhelming, so wonderful, even as his heart grieved.

How does he know? Neriah wondered. And yet the truth was plain—Tamir understood the depth of his pain and his need.

When he thought he could stand it no longer, that his release would come at Tamir’s warm lips, Tamir freed him from his mouth and clasped his arms around him. Neriah, overcome, claimed Tamir’s lips once more and they held each other. And in that brief moment, Neriah knew he would never know anything as warm and reassuring as Tamir’s arms.

“Let me guide you,” Tamir whispered, licking his hand and taking Neriah’s erection in it. Neriah, understanding what was to come, did not protest, but moved to press against the tight place between Tamir’s buttocks. What followed was pure bliss, and Neriah’s sorrow evaporated as he lost himself in the warmth of his companion. Tamir’s soft skin was more beautiful than any woman’s, the way his body molded to Neriah’s like the most sensual of kisses. Neriah knew that Tamir, too, shared the same joy as he, for Tamir’s cries of pleasure mingled with Neriah’s own in the dark stillness of the night.

“Why would you do this for me?” Neriah heard himself say afterward, his breath ragged with release.

“Because I could,” came the answer, along with the arms that encircled him in blissful warmth.

“But you know nothing about me; you owe me nothing,” Neriah persisted, uncomprehending.

“But I do know you, beloved,” Tamir replied, his voice like the sigh of the wind through an orange grove in Neriah’s ear. “You are kind and brave and strong. It is the least I could do for you.”

Still entwined, the two boys fell asleep, Neriah’s head against Tamir’s chest.

Tamir awoke at daybreak and, for the longest time, just watched Neriah sleep. His eyes traveled along the prince’s well-defined jaw to his high cheekbones, following the hollow of his cheeks to the slender nose and dark eyebrows. Unable to contain himself, Tamir traced his fingers over Neriah’s graceful lips for a moment, then reached to pull a narrow gold chain from around his own neck. Dangling from the chain was a jade pendant, etched with a depiction of the moon and two stars. He fingered the pendant for a moment, and his eyes filled with tears.

“I cannot come with you, my Prince,” he said with great tenderness as he kneeled over the sleeping Neriah and placed the chain around his neck. “But perhaps, when you sleep, you will dream of me.”

He touched his hand to Neriah’s forehead and whispered, “Now, forget me.”

On August 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

“Blue Notes” to be published in December 2011/January 2012

Wow!  Birthday week.  I was so completely ready for a terrible week, and dreading officially facing another year to add to my growing collection…  But it was a fabulous week, in so many ways!

It started out with my first look at the cover of my upcoming novella, “The Dream of a Thousand Nights,” which completely floored me.  So gorgeous, and a perfect representation of the characters, Neriah (the Prince) and Tamir (the Jinn).  Anne Cain’s artwork is so beautifully evocative of the sand fic vibe of the piece, and I couldn’t have imagined a sexier Neriah.  Are there truly men THAT beautiful out there in the “real” world?

And then, two days later, I got word from Dreamspinner Press that they will be publishing my first, full-length novel, “Blue Notes!”  At this point, I was bouncing off the walls (like a big kid – so much for acting my age!).  Tentative release date is December 2011/January 2012.  To say that I’m thrilled is an understatement!  So, for those of you who may not have seen the “blurb” for this new story, here goes:

Blame it on jet-lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiance, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. But when he finds his future wife in bed with another man, he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life. But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own pain to shoulder. And when Jason wakes up in the young Frenchman’s arms, will he take a chance and follow his heart?

The novel will be available both in ebook format, as well as paperback! I love ebooks (and my Kindle!), of course, but the thought that the story will be available as a paperback book is particularly exciting to me.

Add to all this, my wayward husband has returned from 4 weeks of travels in the Third World, a wonderful Peruvian dinner out last night, and I am a happy camper.

So here’s to another year in the life!

Peace,

Shira

On August 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

Got my beautiful cover!

Cover: “The Dream of a Thousand Nights”

Just got the cover from Dreamspinner Press for my upcoming release, “The Dream of a Thousand Nights.”  Anne Cain did a fabulous job evoking the Arabian Nights/fairy tale vibe of the story!  I just love all the details and the warm, sunny (desert, anyone?) feeling it brings to mind.  Absolutely perfect!

Release date for the long novella (approximately 50K words) is September 26, 2011!

Just a reminder of the general plot:  In ancient times, the immortal Jinn lived only to satisfy the desires of humans, granting wishes and fulfilling their sexual needs.

Tamir, a Jinn, had long loved Prince Neriah from afar. Tamir had once saved the prince’s life when he and Neriah were just boys, but was stripped of his powers by the other Jinn as punishment for falling in love with a human. Ten years later, Neriah has no memory of Tamir and lives as an outlaw, on the run from the King’s assassins. Still, Neriah dreams each night of a lover whose face he cannot see and whose name he does not know, but who fills his empty heart with peace and happiness.

Freed at last from his incarceration, Tamir seeks to help Neriah re-take the Kingdom of Tazier from Neriah’s ruthless father, but finds that the once-gentle prince’s heart now beats only for revenge. How can Tamir help Neriah without his magic? And how can a powerless Jinn hope to save the embittered prince’s heart?

More to come as the release date draws closer!  But for now, I’m just going to sit back and drool over my gorgeous prince and his jinn!

Peace!

-Shira

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4641776.Shira_Anthony

www.shiraanthony.com

On August 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

Home for the holiday – thoughts about change

I flew to my childhood home in the Midwest over the holidays to spend the long weekend with a close friend from college.  We’ve kept in touch over the years, but it’s been nearly ten since I last visited.  He and I both are, of course, now ten years older, as are the rest of the family and friends I have seen on this trip.  So perhaps it’s this realization that’s put me in a reflective mood and that has me thinking about change.

My gracious host for the weekend moonlights as the music director of Franklin Circle Christian Church, located in an historical area of downtown Cleveland.  Jim never passes up an opportunity to get me singing again (he was, after all, my accompanist and fellow opera singer in my conservatory years).  So on a humid Sunday morning, I found myself standing at the lectern of the lovely old church, singing Gounod’s “O Divine Redeemer” to the sounds of a gorgeous and newly-rebuilt pipe organ.  Looking out at the congregation, I saw faces I recognized from years before, when I used to sing there regularly.  Older, but still full of life.  And amongst those aging faces, new faces. The faces of openness and acceptance.

The church, it seems, saw its numbers flagging over the years.  And where other churches might have given up and closed their doors, this church reached out to the growing gay, African American and Latino communities of the surrounding area.  To be clear, the church has always been “open” in the sense that it never turned people away because of sexual preference or ethnic background.  But under its current leadership, it has gone a step further and reached out to those communities.  The end result is a vibrant, loving community of people who worship together and work to make the community a better place for all those who live there.

So as I sit here on July 4th in my old home town, I am struck by how change can be a renewing and positive force in our lives.  Change may happen in small ways (as in this relatively small church) or in larger ways (as in New York’s new gay marriage law), but it is not necessarily a thing to be feared.

Happy Fourth of July to all! -Shira

On July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

Finished my first draft of “Blue Notes”

The first draft of my full-length novel, “Blue Notes,” is now complete.  It’s funny how it always seems to be a mixed blessing, completing a story.  Especially so, when you fall in love with your own characters.  I’m both elated and sad to be letting go of the story.  Not that the creative process ends with a first draft, of course, but from here on out, it’s more about tweaking the language and polishing than stepping into the characters’ shoes and being part of the plot.

It always amazes me,  how much the germ of an idea develops when you begin to write.  The vague notion that I wanted to write about Paris and my own experiences growing up in Grenoble morphed into a love story between two very different men, with different issues to face.  It was also a cathartic experience , writing about Jason facing his demons and performing in spite of his fears.  I could picture myself on that very same stage at the Conservatoire de Grenoble when I was a teenager, playing violin and hoping I wouldn’t fall flat on my face!  How many times I faced those very same demons…  That particular chapter was the hardest of them all to write – Jason on stage, Jules in the audience, quietly supporting him.

In the end, I hope I’ve struck a chord with my readers – that you will taste a bit of what it’s like to put yourself out there, to face the praise or criticism, and to fear rejection.  I’m fortunate to have found someone to support me the way Jules does Jason.  We should all be so lucky.  We all deserve it!

Peace! -Shira

 

On June 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

“The Dream of a Thousand Nights” to be published by Dreamspinner Press

I’m so thrilled to announce that Dreamspinner Press, my favorite male/male slash publisher, will be publishing “The Dream of a Thousand Nights.”  No set publication date yet, but I will keep you all posted!  I’m honored and very flattered to become part of the Dreamspinner team.

Special thanks to my wonderful friend and fellow author, Thea Nishimori, for all of her beta work on “Dream” and for encouraging me to submit it for publication.

On another note, “Blue Notes” is now nearly complete.  If you haven’t already read the work-in-progress, please give it a read:  http://www.writing.com/main/books/item_id/1751285-Blue-Notes-A-Modern-Gay-Romance  I’ll be reworking it for publication, and as always, would love your feedback (positive or negative).  -Shira

On May 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

“Blue Notes”

My trip to Paris seems to have inspired my muse to take off in another direction – this time, a modern romance set (where else) in Paris.  This work in progress can be read here:  http://www.writing.com/main/books/item_id/1751285-Blue-Notes-A-Modern-Gay-Romance  As always, I’m happy to hear your comments or suggestions.

A brief synopsis:

Blame it on jet-lag.

Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiance, and more money than he could ever hope to spend.  But when he finds his future wife in bed with another man, he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices.  On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.  But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own pain to shoulder.  And when Jason wakes up in the young Frenchman’s arms, will he take a chance and follow his heart?  Slow burn erotica until Chapter 3.

I hope you’ll join me as I get to to know Jason and Jules, and as their relationship develops.

Until next time! -Shira

On March 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

“The Dream of a Thousand Nights” Debuts on Amazon Kindle!

I never thought I’d find myself editing a book while sitting in a Paris cafe drinking a “chocolat chaud!”  But something about the metrosexual, vibrant nature of Paris in winter called to the writer in me (or perhaps it was the lack of ready access to the internet!).  Even as I worked on this story set in the Middle East, with sand and sun, my mind was already straying to an as yet unwritten story set in Europe in modern times…

“Dream of a Thousand Nights” started as a one-shot story about a lonely prince and a Jinn, who saved the prince from himself when the prince was disconsolate over the death of his young and beautiful wife.  The Jinn’s revelation, that he himself had held back the young prince’s hand when the prince had tried to kill himself with his dagger, was the ultimate revelation.  The Jinn had always been the prince’s side; the prince had never been truly alone.

Of course, if you’ve read “Dream,” you’ll see the story has changed somewhat from this first kernel of an idea.  There is no princess, but a young man, whom the prince has forgotten, but whose presence haunts his dreams.  The prince of “Dreams,” Neriah, is hardly suicidal, but his heart has grown cold with time and the memory of his mother’s murder and self-sacrifice.  Tamir, the kind Jinn who has sacrificed so much for the love of his prince, returns to find an embittered prince and struggles to reawaken the prince’s cold heart.

So there you have it — the genesis of Neriah and Tamir, and of “Dream of a Thousand Nights.”  I hope you will grow to love these two men as I did while writing them!

Much love,

Shira

On February 7, 2011 in Uncategorized
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