Now, it's time to create a little mayhem and get to the good stuff by revealing all of Kari’s deepest darkest secrets in the moonlight. LOL Yeah, you wish! ;-D Grab your favorite wicked drink, sink your teeth into something decadent, sit back, relax and enjoy getting to know Kari.
MLM: The holidays are fast approaching and things always seem to get busier during this time of year. Do you have a relaxing technique that helps you de-stress? If so, please share, because this is advice we all need!
KARI: When I’m fed up and need a break, I turn off the phones, the TV, the laptop -- everything. As far as the world is concerned, I’m Out Of Order. The silence, even if it’s only for a few minutes? WONDERFUL!
MLM: Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but most of us still have traditions we participate in, such as attending holiday parties, decorating your house, baking cookies, etc. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
KARI: We, as a family, attend a candlelight service every Christmas Eve and then go home to take turns reading from Twas the Night Before Christmas and the biblical narratives of Jesus’ birth. Even my grown daughter (who is an atheist) goes to church and takes her turn reading. (When she first professed to not believe in the existence of a god, forget my Judeo-Christian God, my husband and I told her she was off the hook, but she insisted, LOL.) It’s a nice, soothing evening for us to pause and reflect before the gluttony of commercialist greed the next morning. :D
MLM: In the south, holidays are centered around food, with huge meals and lots of baked sweets. Do you have a favorite holiday recipe you'd like to share with us? If not, how about an all-year-round favorite recipe?
KARI: Nothing says “holidays” to me like my cranberry pumpkin bread! Probably because I only make it during the holidays.
3 ½ c all-purpose flour
2 c brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 (16 oz) can of whole cranberry sauce
1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree
1/3 c vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350 and spray 2 loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine: flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves.
Mix eggs, pumpkin and vegetable oil. Gently fold in cranberry sauce.
Add cranberry-pumpkin mixture to flour mixture & mix until just moistened. Pour batter in prepared loaf pans.
Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
MLM: Mmmm…that sounds delicious! Have you ever made your own holiday presents and/or decorations? If so, what were they? Were they successes or failures? Did you have fun while making them?
KARI: Oh my. When we first married, my husband and I were economic vegetarians -- we couldn’t afford to buy meat, LOL, so every holiday/birthday gift was handmade. I quilted and sewed. I crotcheted (yarn and thread). I painted ceramics and learned to make temari balls (Japanese thread balls -- Google it, I guarantee you will lose your minds at how exquisite they are). I cross-stitched and embroidered…I adored it all, really. Some projects turned out better than others, of course, but I think the holiday-themed appliqué quilted wall hangings I did one year was everyone’s favorite, a keepsake both sides of our respective families drag out year after year after year. That, or an Irish lace table runner I made for my mother from a very thin thread…That one’s still going strong and it’s out year-round.
MLM: If "Santa Claus" could bring you any gift you wanted, what would be your ultimate gift? (Please refrain from saying "money" because who doesn't want more of that!)
KARI: My twelve year-old second cousin is dying of a rare but aggressive cancer. Barring a cure and full recovery (which is #1 on my list), I’d want him to make it through the holidays. My cousin and older son were born within weeks of each other so watching him going through this and how the whole family has pulled together even in their suffering…It really hits hard and reminds me what’s truly important.
MLM: I'll pray he makes he through the holidays as well! Odd question, but my 9 year old thinks Rudolph and the reindeers "guiding Santa's sleigh" have GPS navigation. So, if you could give Santa and his sleigh any one modern technology, what would it be and why?
KARI: An iPhone. Because the idea of Santa using the Farmville app just cracks me up.
MLM: LOL I can just picture him now playing Farmville in-between house stops!! Now, let’s get to your writing, Kari...what genre do you write and what is the draw for you?
KARI: I write m/f, m/m & ménage contemporaries, fantasies and paranormals. The draw? Building the storyworlds. As I flesh out the worlds these characters move in (and even in the contemporaries, I’m world-building), the characters come to life, but for me, it almost always starts with the world my characters will move inside first. How each of these worlds work (and don’t work) fascinates me endlessly.
MLM: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
KARI: I’ll have to defer to my tag line: A World More Extraordinary--Intense, Erotic Romance. Why a world more extraordinary? Because even in my contemporaries, the worlds my characters move in or the way these characters relate to their story worlds are unique. Intense? Well, you’d have to read one of my books, but a reviewer called one of my books “emotionally wrenching in places.” I agree. If the book doesn’t make you squirm or stir your heart? As far as I’m concerned, I’ve failed to deliver the goods.
MLM: With the current movement to encourage people to give books as gifts, what, in your opinion, makes your story unique? What makes it stand out among all of the other books out there?
KARI: It’s not just a love story, although the romance is the focus of the story and the book’s key. But in telling the love story, Spoils of War also shows the endurance--and triumph--of the human spirit. Micah is so emotionally damaged at book’s start. He has to work his way through that to grow in his relationship with not only Eli, but also how he fits in his world. The reader will see more of that in the sequel, but in Spoils, we see Micah’s strength in surviving the horror of his childhood and watch him take his first steps (with Eli’s love and support) toward healing. It’s a love story, yes, but it’s a love story that shows us that love finds us where we are and helps us along to a better place.
MLM: Do you prefer throwing snowballs or serving hot cocoa? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
KARI: Oh, I’m a hot cocoa woman. Turn down chocolate? That’s an alternative that just does not exist in my universe, LOL.
Does it show in my writing? Hm. Perhaps. Really, it depends on my characters. When I’m writing, I more or less crawl into my character’s head and breathe in their skin for a while. If my character declares merciless war with snowballs? I become a heavily armed snow fiend, too. If my character rolls his/her eyes at impending snow-pocalypse? My eyes are rolling, too. Depends on who I’m writing and who that character is.
MLM: If you could give any of your characters a holiday gift, which character would it be and what would you give them? Why do they deserve this gift?
KARI: I’d give Micah his voice back. He has slowly, painfully begun to speak again at the close of Spoils, but he’s nowhere close to reclaiming it. Micah’s voice, his willingness & ability to speak, operates as a metaphor for Micah reclaiming who he is and who he wants to become so I really, really want him to feel comfortable speaking again. Unfortunately, at the start of the sequel, he’s regressed due to the stress and pressures of his new life in “freedom” and I’m working on that now so how badly I want him to speak is absurd. Micah is such a sweetheart. He’s suffered enough. He’s earned his happily ever after with Eli--and then some. ;-)
MLM: Who decides what your characters do, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one stuffing the stocking?
KARI: Muse? I kicked that bitch to the curb years ago, LOL. My characters decide what they do. I start every book with an outline of how I expect the story to progress, but the characters declare mutiny at some point. I’m more than happy to let them. I consider it a good sign that I’m on the right track. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a character totally derail a plot or the basic flow of a book, but how my characters move within that basic framework tends to be fluid.
MLM: Hmm…*taps chin*…I want the courage to kick mine to the curb too! =D What character did you have the most fun creating and why?
KARI: Oh my. It seems like my favorite is always the character whose story I’m working on at the time is the most fun. So much to explore, so many lovely possibilities. And when the book’s done? I adore them all, for their strengths and especially for their weaknesses. Impossible to pick only one. Very like picking a favorite among my children. There’s no such thing as favorite or most fun because I love them all, each of them, in different ways.
MLM: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why?
KARI: I’d want to meet Mitch from Lovely Wicked. He is so unabashed about what he likes and relentless in his pursuit of what he wants. And of all my characters, his sense of humor is the closest to mine. I think we’d laugh our fool heads off. :D
MLM: Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
KARI: Oooh, Zechariah, the Dark Master vampyr who is determined to win the hero, Garrick, back from the Rebels in Blood Oath: What Rough Beast. Zechariah is chillingly sociopathic.
MLM: If you were interviewing yourself, what is the one question you would ask yourself and please give us the answer to that question?
KARI: What one piece of advice would you give to pre-published writers?
KEEP WORKING. Keep writing. Keep submitting your books, novellas and short stories. Continue honing your craft and learning the business side of the industry. Your day is coming.
MLM: Excellent advice! Thanks so much for joining us, Kari! It's been a treat getting to know you better!
KARI: Thanks for having me! It’s been fun. :D
Noble Romance: https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=192
Lovely Wicked at…
Noble Romance: https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=181
Enslaved during the invasion of the rival King of Herra, Micah cut off his emotions and adapted to his new life in servitude. Xerxes, the Herran King, abuses his captive to keep the neighboring kingdom of Alekia under his yoke, but after Micah nearly dies when plague sweeps Herra, the Alekian King sends Eli to bring his beloved son home.
Institutionalized by his slavery, unable to cope with his freedom, Micah seeks to please the new master he's found in Eli throughout their harrowing journey to a homeland he no longer remembers. Eli protects the young man and introduces Micah to the pleasures denied him as a prisoner.
Will Micah accept his noble birthright when they reach Alekia, and more importantly, can he accept Eli as the devoted slave his father has given him rather than the master he's come to love?
Eventually, my abductor shifted me behind him, stringing my thin arms around his neck and clasping my thighs about his thickly muscled waist. My body felt frozen, like the blocks of muddy ice stored in the kitchen cellars, but I could not swim so I hung on as best I could. He pushed away from the protective cover of our tree, striking toward the dark riverbank with supple and efficient strokes. When we'd almost reached it, he rose up out of the water. I clung to his back as he strode onto dry land and into the veil of trees skirting the shoreline.
"Can you walk?"
I shook my head against the blade of his shoulder, shivering again as a night breeze skimmed over my wet skin, spiking into my bones through the wet layer of clothing he'd provided me.
He marched through the trees, his steps sure. Certain. I both envied his self-assurance and feared it. Envy, because I'd never been confident of anything except my servitude. Fear, because . . . I knew not how to please my new master, and I desperately needed to please him. I could accept this change and my new lot with the hulking stranger. I could wrap my mind around it, but only if I satisfied what he required of me. He'd demanded so little, and the lack of instruction balled my stomach.
He abruptly halted and stooped to a crouch, untangling my arms from his neck. My thighs sprang open. My backside settled to the hard ground. I lolled, the sparse reserves of my body depleted by the harrowing journey.
"Xerxes will not expect his own people to hide you, so we travel with a band of merchants to the border." He pivoted and yanked at my sodden clothing. "But we dare not enter camp wet."
I could not force my leaden arms and legs to cooperate, but he made short work of stripping me until I sprawled under him shivering and naked. Gooseflesh pebbled my fair skin, which glowed in the miserly light cast by the fingernail moon. He stretched to the side and unfolded a blanket, tucking it over my nudity before his hands rose to remove his own drenched clothes.
He'd plow me.
My curious eyes watched him peel his shirt over his head and kick off his boots. I admired the bunch of muscle, his broad shoulders, the sculpted expanse of his absurdly large chest. My glance darted from him, heat creeping into my cheeks, when his fingers plucked at the laces of his breeches. Even I, practiced whore that I was, would never be so bold as to examine his prick until bidden to do so.
When his hands fell to the wool blanket covering my thin chest, I startled nonetheless, my stare returning to him. Rather than groping for me, those hands set to a brisk rub. He scoured the blanket over my chilled skin, throat to groin, then back again. The touch wasn't unpleasant. The impersonal caress was actually rather . . . enjoyable. My wicked heart skipped a beat at the forbidden delight of his big hands warming me, but I resisted the urge to squirm.
I must forebear.
I must do as my new master willed of me.
His attention focused to the left, his fingers yet working the blanket over my flesh. "Miriam comes. She will tend to you."
Blood roared in my ears.
I was to be given to a woman?
Shrieking anguish lanced through me, locking the air in my chest. I had never been bedded by a woman, never been touched by one. I'd seen them in the kitchen, of course, but I'd been commanded well away from them and they from me, which I'd been secretly glad of. Females perplexed me. I knew men shoved their pricks inside them, that they were plowed as I was, but I'd never wanted to do the plowing and the idea of placing my mouth to them made me shudder in revulsion.
Surely, my new master didn't expect me to—
The stranger's eyes softened at my quick sound of distress. He smiled and playfully tugged the fat, yellow braid that slid and dripped down my shoulder. "To tend to your hair, little prince. Only that."
Fresh worry curled in my gut.
What of my hair?
I had no rights, no privileges. None knew that better than I, but I had never been able to squash vanity over my unique coloring. Everyone else's hair was as dark as their eyes, either brown or black, their skin tan and swarthy. Not me. I was a novelty, every hair on my body a rich yellow the same shade as honey, and my eyes shone with the sparkling luster of emeralds. I knew this to be so because my masters often told me. They unplaited my hair and fisted it in their hands as they rutted with me, fanned it over their chests and stroked it when they'd finished. They kissed my eyelids and praised my odd coloring. They enjoyed stroking my creamy skin, murmuring in wonder at the stark contrast of my small, pale body against theirs.
I was a slave and the lowliest among them, but I was also prized by my masters, my physical weakness forgiven by virtue of my exceptional coloring and my compliance to the demands of their pricks.
My stomach churned.
The threatened woman eased from the surrounding trees, short like me but very round. She carried a crude basket. She stared at me, and this time, I did wriggle under my blanket, though the stranger's hand patted my bony arm, as though to soothe me.
The woman's mouth thinned. She spoke to the man in a tongue I did not understand. My eyes narrowed as they conversed in low voices, the rolling cadence of the words familiar yet at the same time foreign. It seemed I should know this language, and indeed, a niggle in the back of my mind suggested a translation for a word or two. But when the female looked at me, spoke, I could only stare at her, mystified.
"She needs you to sit up, my lord," the stranger supplied.
I sat up.
She scurried to my rear, twitching my braid over my shoulder, and when my eyes focused with alarm on my abductor, he lifted a palm to cup my cheek. "Easy, little one. It will grow back."
Terror squeezed my belly. My hair had never been cut. But if my new master bid it then cut it would be. He could shave me bald, advertising my whore's body to the world if he chose, and I concentrated on my gratitude that he didn't require that much. Tears burned my eyes, though, when I felt the gentle tug on my braid and I whimpered at the lightening pressure on my scalp as the woman cleaved the thick hank of my hair through.
Wispy ends escaped the ravaged tail of my braid to brush my neck.
A single tear slid from one eye.
He threaded his fingers through the hair above my temple, helping the woman free what remained of my hair from the loosened plait. "It will grow back," he repeated when I opened my eyes.
My gaze lowered.
The woman spoke again and the stranger translated once more. "Lean back."
When I did, a horrible, rancid scent clogged my throat and a hoarse, pained moan worked from my chest because I knew that scent, too—dye.
"Only temporary." My abductor stroked the line of my jaw and smiled at my cringe as the female worked the foul mixture into my newly shorn hair. "After we've crossed the border, we'll wash it away. I swear to you."
"Keep him dry or the stain will run. Xerxes' soldiers will search for the yellow-haired boy-man first, but they'll arrest anyone small enough who's leeching dye onto their clothes."
I blinked in surprise, momentarily shocked from my misery.
She could speak Herran.
Oddly, that made me cry harder.
"He'll be fine." The man switched to the other, almost-familiar language, and the two of them talked while her fingers kneaded the stain into my shorter hair, bunching it in her fists to evenly distribute the color. My abductor's fingers stroked my tears from my face as soon as they fell, silently comforting me, though his resolution as to what the woman did to me did not falter.
I let the sounds of their conversation roll over me, a soft buzz in the back of my mind as I wept. I wanted to stop. Eventually, my new master's patience would wane, and he'd tolerate my sniveling far less now that I was ugly. But the horrible pressure in my chest didn't loosen. Every caress of the woman's hands in my hideous hair lashed another stripe into my heart. My exhaustion married with my grief and both overwhelmed me.
The woman disappeared into the trees when she finished. The stranger retrieved dry clothes from a neat pile nearby, and he dressed me like a child's doll, cinching me into thick robes. I wept, though the material brushed sinfully indulgent against my skin, and the sleeves draped to my wrists and ankles instead of dwarfing me as my wet tunic and breeches had. I wept while my captor shrugged into his own robes, belting the sash around his waist, and I wept when he bent to scoop me into his arms, cradling me against him.
He tucked my head into the crook of his shoulder and carried me through the trees into his camp. He dropped to one knee next to a crackling fire and laid me upon a pallet of blankets beside it. He stretched out behind me, pressing his front to my back. "Now you will be warm."
I squirmed when his breath tickled the sensitive skin at my exposed nape, but the heat of the fire felt so good. His warmth to my back sandwiched me in a delicious cocoon of security.
His heavy arm settled over my hip. "Sleep."
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