Please Welcome fellow Totally Bound author Ashe Barker...
Hi H K, and thanks for inviting me over today. Pick a Genre Already – what a wonderful title for a blog.
Today I want to chat a bit about Surefire, book 3 in my Sure Mastery series which went on general release last week. This book rounds off the story of Ashley and Tom, as well as re-visiting some old friends from The Dark Side.
I know readers have mixed feelings about books which come out as a series as opposed to stand alone stories, and I share that view probably. I tend to prefer to wait until the whole series is out before I start reading. Once I start, if it’s a good story, I like to be able to finish. Well, if that’s your preference too, now you can get your hands on the whole of Sure Mastery at one go.
I should say I have a soft spot for this cover. I love simple images for my cover art, pictures that are sensual but not necessarily overtly sexual. Emmy at Totally Bound always does a brilliant job capturing my mood, but the chess piece on the front of Surefire is exceptional. I love it. And the scenes in Sure Mastery featuring games of chess between Ashley and Tom are among the hottest in there, so make sure you have a fire extinguisher to hand.
Someone recently asked me why I chose chess as the vehicle for such sensual parts of the story, an unlikely candidate, surely. I don’t agree. The inspiration came from someone I knew many years ago. He played chess professionally, went on to become a Grand Master and I still occasionally spot his name in international coverage. He was a really nice guy, very interesting to talk to, quirky but lots of fun. Above all, he approached everything he did with single-minded focus and with such intensity it was startling. Tom behaves a little like that around Ashley. It seemed fitting to me.
Tom’s a brilliant chess player, Ashley more mediocre. Their games are an unequal struggle but it’s Ashley who comes out the winner in my view. Check out the excerpt and let me know what you think.
Sure Mastery is perhaps a more intense and emotional story than The Dark Side was. Ashley does find her happy ever after, but not before she encounters crushing loss and intense grief. A few readers have contacted me to say it actually moved them to tears in places. I certainly wept a bit writing it. Cat lovers will understand.
But it’s also a story about courage and hope and moving on. Ashley may encounter some real hardships but she never sees herself as a victim, and she’s as determined and resourceful as they come. She knows it’s up to her to reinvent her own future so she does just that.
At the heart of the Sure Mastery story is a theme comparing a BDSM relationship to one of domestic abuse, a difference which is completely obvious to those in the lifestyle but often lost on those viewing it from outside. I hope the core messages of consent, trust and choice come across in the story. I think they do.
You can get your hands on Surefire, and the rest of the Sure Mastery series from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Totally Bound, Kobo, All Romance.
Until 2010 I was a director of a regeneration company in Leeds, in the UK, before becoming convinced there must be more to life. I left to work as an independent consultant, and still do some of that though most of my time is now spent writing. At last I’ve been able to realise my dream of writing erotic romance myself. I’ve been an avid reader of fiction for many years, erotic and other genres, and I still love reading historical and contemporary romances – the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse for my guilty pleasure – research.
In my own writing I usually draw on settings and anecdotes from my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters. An incident here, a chance remark there, a bizarre event or quirky character, any of these can spark a story idea. But ultimately my tales of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of my own lurid and smutty imagination.
When not writing – which is not very often these days - my time is divided between my role as resident taxi driver for my teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, tortoises. And most recently a very grumpy cockatiel. I’m a rural parish councillor, and I’m passionate about evolving rural traditions and values to suit twenty first century lifestyles.
I’ve completed my third trilogy in the Black Combe ‘family’ which is due for release later this year and I’m well on with writing the fourth. I also have a novella coming out soon, and have written a stand-alone novel for Totally Bound’s ‘What’s Her secret?’ imprint. I have a short story in Totally Bounds Paramour collection, and another in the Jolly Rogered anthology which is due for publication in July 2014. I have a pile of story ideas still to work through, and keep thinking of new ones at the most unlikely moments, so you can expect to see a lot more from me.
Here’s the blurb:
Surefire is the third book in the Sure Mastery trilogy, charting the sensual and emotional journey of petty thief turned photographer Ashley McAllister as she struggles to overcome personal tragedy, loss and grief to rebuild her life in the wild beauty of the West Yorkshire moorland.
Resilient and determined, independent and courageous, Ashley has no qualms about cutting her old ties and starting again. Intent on establishing her landscape photography business, she is horrified when her turbulent past comes crashing back to haunt her, threatening to overwhelm and destroy her fragile new beginning.
Alone, vulnerable, Ashley needs Tom to guard her secrets and allow her to stay. And he just wants her. He wants her submission, her surrender, but he’s already destroyed her trust in him. Will his seductive charm and sure mastery be enough to rebuild her fragile faith? Can he teach her the difference between the violent abuse she’s experienced in the past and his much more exquisite approach to pain? And where does pain end and pleasure begin?
Intrigued and delighted by Ashley, Tom finds her passionate response to his touch totally enthralling. And she delights in his gentle but sure mastery as he allows her to explore her nature fully, guiding her into his world of pleasure, desire, trust and reward. His gifts to her are beyond price, the rewards of submission.
But will it be enough, and can the shadows of her dangerous and violent past be left behind them? Or will Ashley’s ghosts come back to destroy their fragile new life together? As violence once more explodes around Ashley she learns to true meaning of surrender, and of the precious gifts that life can offer.
Ashley and Tom’s sensual journey continues as an old friend returns to Black Combe. As her business flourishes and her relationship with Tom deepens Ashley is happy, truly happy, and looking forward to the future. Then, without warning, her world is shattered once more as her past comes crashing back, violence and malevolence crushing her new-found happiness and threatening all she now holds dear.
Shocked and horrified as she learns the terrifying truth, Ashley has to battle for her own survival and that of the tiny life just starting inside her. Can her Master protect her? Is there a future for them after all?
Sure mastery can only be met with absolute submission. As Ashley surrenders to the inevitable, as she relies on her Master to keep her safe, will it be enough?
Excerpt from Surefire
I know that look, make the correct response. “I mean, yes, please, Sir.” And I drop my eyes.
He nods at me politely, crisp and business like. “Right, the rules. You’ll never manage to beat me, and definitely not feeling as nervous as you apparently do just now. You’re trembling, Ashley. Are you cold already? Even before I slide those beads into you?”
I shake my head quickly. “No, I’m fine, thank you, Sir. Please, go on.”
“The first time you manage to get me in check, I’ll allow you to get undressed. And yes, I mean totally naked. I’ll enjoy the view, I always do.” He breaks off his explanation to rake me with his eyes, the gleam of lust clear.
And I know he intends to take his time over this—those beads are not coming out of the freezer any time soon.
With a smile, he continues, “The next time you get me in check I’ll allow you to fetch the lube from the bathroom, and the next time I find myself in check, I’ll allow you to apply it.”
I stare at him, startled. This was unexpected. “Me? I have to do it?”
“Yes, you do. You’ll manage very well I expect—lots of incentive. I’ll watch, and when you’ve finished I’ll be examining you carefully to make sure you’re nice and—slick. And then, the next time you manage to get me in check, then you get to take the beads out of the freezer. You’ll bring them here, to me, and then you’ll lie across my knees and allow me to slip them inside you. You’ll be quiet, the perfect submissive. You won’t struggle or wriggle or offer any protest. You’ll keep perfectly still and let me put them in, because if you move, or make a sound, you’ll have to put the beads back in the freezer, and try to get me in check again. Then we try again. And we’ll carry on trying until you finally submit, properly submit, or you safe word. Is that clear, Ashley?”
“I— Yes, Sir.”
“Any questions?” His tone softens slightly as he says, “Any objections?”
I don’t raise my eyes as I answer, just murmur my response, “No, Sir, no objections.”
“Good. You start then.”
I take a breath, and move my king’s pawn forward two spaces. Tom nods his approval, and moves his knight first. We exchange moves, nothing spectacular, common enough opening gambits from both of us. Suddenly Tom makes an uncharacteristically unwise move, his castle shooting across the board to leave his king unguarded, offering me an opportunity to place him in check. He’s done it on purpose, must have.
I glance sharply up at him as I slide my queen onto his back row. “Check.”
He nods, smiles and leans back to watch me. “Stand here, in front of me.” He indicates the spot directly between his legs. “Strip to the waist facing me, then turn around and remove the rest of your clothes. You can take your time, obviously. I’m in no hurry, although I realise you might be. Those beads have been in there a good ten minutes already, and you’ve still got a lot to do.”
I stand, walk around the coffee table to stand on the spot he indicated. “You did that on purpose, you let me win.”“You haven’t won, nowhere near. And you won’t. But it’s true I want you naked and I was fed up of waiting for you to achieve it on your own. The next bit won’t be so easy. So, your clothes please, Ashley. In your own time.”