Out Now: Take a Chance (Anthology)

Take a Chance

My last project for the year! I’m excited to share with you the Take a Chance anthology edited by Jamie Deacon. The theme of the anthology is young people taking risks on love, so, being in a historical fiction place in my life right now, I wrote a post-WWI romance about a wounded soldier encountering an old flame as part of his recovery.

Spring, 1919: the Great War is over, but the wounds are still fresh. Christopher “Kit” Garraway, unable to fight and orphaned by the war, has turned his family estate into a convalescent hospital. He is resigned to the duty and solitude his situation imposes on him, until Lieutenant Tom Ackroyd, Kit’s former schoolmate, old friend, and first love, is among the latest influx of patients.

Tom, once so verbose, has suffered a head injury at the front that makes it almost impossible for him to speak, even though his mind is otherwise sound. Tom can see the boy Kit was and the man he has become, but he can’t find the words to tell Kit that he still has feelings for him. Besides, if someone were to find out about them, it could very well lead to a court martial, public disgrace, and two years hard labour.

Actions, Tom decides, speak louder than words.

Get more details and links to buy here.

Coming Soon: A Murmuring of Bees

A Murmuring of Bees

Think of Sherlock Holmes and you think of mysteries, John Watson…and bees. While Arthur Conan Doyle sent the great detective to tend hives in retirement, here bees are front and centre in stories of love and romance, war and hope, of honey on the tongue and a sting in the tail. In tales of rare nectars, secret diaries, and the private language of lovers, bees may be the buzzing heart of the story…or as ephemeral as a murmur. What you’ll find in every tale are John Watson and Sherlock Holmes helping one another, wanting one another, loving one another. To encourage a world where such love is seen for the precious thing it is, profits from “A Murmuring of Bees” will be donated to the It Gets Better Project.

Buy Links:

I’m very excited to be included in this anthology of bee-themed Sherlock Holmes stories from Improbable Press, edited by Atlin Merrick. The list of authors is really exciting: some old hands, some fresh faces; some old friends, some new names! The stories herein I understand are romantic and erotic in degrees, although I haven’t read any of them but my own. I’m really looking forward to cracking this anthology open.

I wrote a bit of retirement-era erotica called “Among the Wildflowers,” where two old men have sex in a field in the middle of the day. It’s very romantic, trust me. Here’s a little sample:

We walked out into the bright mid-morning sun, Holmes with the basket over his arm, I with the blanket that usually lay across the back of the settee rolled up and tied into a bundle. The breeze was fresh, and as we reached the top of the hill beyond the garden it had strengthened into a strong blow that threatened to snatch our hats. The grass rippled with the force of it and it pushed at us as we walked, seeming to guide us across the rolling downs.

Holmes did, in fact, seem to have a destination in mind, and he pressed on, despite the wind. We went away from the nearby school— nearby in a Sussex sense, rather than a London sense— and walked along the cliff edge. The sea, hundreds of yards below us, crashed and rumbled unceasingly. I tempted fate a few times, walking closer to the crumbling chalk, but Holmes’s reproachful shout over the wind brought me back. He reached out and took my hand, and said, “If you fall to your death, Doctor, I’ll be very put out.”

“I should hope so,” I said, lacing our fingers together.

At some point, though what it was that suggested to Holmes it was the right point I wasn’t certain, we turned our backs on the sea and walked inland for a while. The wind gentled, the sun beat down on us, and we stomped through a few empty livestock fields for good measure.

It had been almost an hour since we left the house by the time Holmes finally said, “Ah,” with satisfaction, and pointed out our destination. Ahead of us was an uncut wood, thick and dense, and for perhaps half a mile before it lay a carpet of wildflowers. We reached the edge of that carpet, and I could see dozens of different kinds of little flowers: a kaleidoscope of natural beauty. Holmes waded into the flowers a few hundred yards, stopped, looked around, and nodded.

“Put the blanket here, John.”

I unfurled the blanket and laid it down carefully. The low hum of bees could be heard all around us, and the last thing I wanted was to try and have lunch on top of a few dozen of them.

Holmes sat down, took off his boots, and began to unpack the lunch. He had also managed to stow away a few notebooks and two pens, which he laid aside. I stood for another few moments, letting myself cool down before I joined him. I was short of breath and had broken a sweat, while Holmes looked entirely unconcerned by anything, as usual.

“Come on,” Holmes said, patting the blanket beside him. “Plenty of room to lie down.” At my annoyed look he said, “After lunch, for heaven’s sake. You can have a nap while I count the bees.”

“I knew you were up to something,” I said, taking a seat and removing my boots as well. I wiggled my stockinged toes, feeling indulgent.

Holmes handed me a sandwich. “I want to see what wildflowers they prefer, so that I can plant them near to the house.”

“You know you don’t plant wildflowers.”

“You can encourage them,” Holmes said.

“Suit yourself,” I said, and bit into my sandwich.

Holmes expounded on the wildflowers and the bees as we ate, and his goals for hives of his own. We had only lived at the cottage a few years, and already the garden was taking form. Holmes was its architect, whilst I was the executor. I was getting quite good at digging in the dirt, and enjoyed the pattern of weeding, planting, watering, pruning, and fiddling. We had talked about a vegetable garden to go alongside the flowers, but Holmes’s hives came first.

Once we’d eaten our sandwiches, we shared the sponge cake and the lemonade between us. I kissed icing sugar off Holmes’s lower lip, which made him laugh, but he pushed me gently away before I could initiate anything more amorous.

“The bees,” he reminded me. “I am observing them.”

I lay back on the blanket, propped my hat over my eyes, and folded my hands beneath my head. “Observe away,” I said, perfectly content to nap in the sun. I listened to him pack up the basket again and felt him shifting around until he was sitting close beside me. I heard his pen scratching in his notebook. I reached out with one hand and found the plane of his back. He murmured something; I let my hand rest there, thumb moving slowly back and forth across the fabric of his shirt, feeling the bump of his spine beneath.

I didn’t quite nap, but I drifted for a while, soothed by the wind in the grass and the low hum of the bees. Holmes beside me was a warm, solid presence, making only the occasional observation aloud. I was warm from head to foot. It was perhaps the most relaxing hour I have ever spent.

I felt Holmes shift on the blanket, and then he was draping himself along my side, his head resting on my folded arm and one ankle crossing over mine. I blinked at the underside of my hat, oriented myself, and lifted it to look at him. “Do your bees not amuse you anymore?”

“They always amuse me,” he said, “but I find myself distracted.”

“Well,” said I, “do you propose an alternate form of amusement?”

I can’t wait to see what else this anthology has to offer. Preorder now, enjoy in December!

COMPOUND A FELONY is now in print!

This is so exciting. I’m vibrating. Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock HolmesHolmes is now available as a paperback! For $12.99, you can read this in public with the cover showing and everything. It’s 233 actual pages! It is on the FFF Digital store and at Amazon.

My own copy is in the post and I can’t wait to kiss its beautiful cover art. I owe thanks to Basil Chap, my consulting artist, who did beautiful work on the back cover, the title page, and the scene dividers, to bring the whole project together. Also to Kayla Overbey, the managing editor at Full Fathom Five, who let me do the layout so I could get it just right (and so I could boost my InDesign skills).

If you get a copy, please please let me know. I’d love to see it in your hands. Tweet me at @elinorgray, tag me on Instagram (@schmelinor), or just email me a photo! I’ll have one for you, soon. 😉

The Value of a Pen Name

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the value of pen names, and what it means to have one. This name is not quite as anonymous as perhaps I wish it was, as it is made up of my own given names, although it is not the name I put on my job applications. Sometimes I wish I’d picked a more androgynous name, or a more mysterious one, but I am glad for the authenticity of this one.

When I write a book more suitable for a wider audience (i.e. not exclusively 100% pornography, not that I dislike writing that), I think I will take my mother’s name. It’s a little more elegant, and she would be proud to have it attached to my books.

I am attempting this year to read only books by women, which I was very happy to confirm included Robin Hobb. I suspected on first peek that Robin Hobb was a woman, but it was still a pleasant feeling to have it confirmed in her bio on the back. And her name isn’t really Robin Hobb, but I respect very much that she picked a more neutral name since her first stories under that pen are narrated by a man’s voice.

I only wish for more anonymity when I think about how indiscriminately I have crossed my streams in the last few years. I have not shied away from my name as a Sherlockian, and have admitted to my pornography to real actual people I have met in person. I haven’t given up the goods on Facebook yet, because I’m friends with my grandmother on there, but ultimately she’d probably be cool with it. I also worry about the reactions of friends from high school. But why? Why do I care what those people, with whom I have had limited contact since graduation, think of this part of my career? I am working towards and achieving some of my dreams. People deserve to know that.

But maybe not all people.

I don’t know.

But I am taking my mother’s name.

All Hail Beta Readers

My deadline for the end of this month is fast approaching, and, against many odds, I managed to get my draft finished in time to have a few beta readers look at it before I send it to the editor. I have four people working on this draft, all of whom I trust to the ends of the earth with my writing.

Why? Because they all have their pet peeves, and between them they can corral most, if not all, of my writing tics and general bullshit. I have a habit of using the word “gotten” in British narratives, which my British beta reader just highlights without needing to leave a comment. I can picture her head-shake of disapproval that, once again, I have let my lazy American speech patterns bleed into my England-set story. My best critic, my sister, isn’t afraid to tell me if a sentence wanders too much, or is boring, or needs deleted altogether.

The best part is that they’re all writers too, so they can follow my train of thought, and then pick out the things I already knew were weak but wasn’t ready to let go of yet. They’re essential.

I still have to go into my Google Doc and respond to the comments and suggestions. I have another bad habit of leaving this to marinate too long so… wish me luck on the editing part of our show.

“Compound a Felony” is 75% off!

Right now! Until the 13th! If you get it direct from the Full Fathom Five Digital store! Actually, all their books are 75% off with the coupon code bookshelf2016.

So, if you’ve been considering getting Felony and have been putting it off because who pays $4 for fanfiction? or just haven’t gotten around to it, get it while it’s dirt cheap.

I just mistyped that as “dirty cheap,” which is also true.

Enjoy! Remember the coupon code as you check out!

New Year, New Projects

I told myself I would only make small, non-judgmental New Year’s Resolutions for myself, so here they are:

  • blog more about writing
  • read at least one published book a month
  • try hard
  • be kind to myself

So! Here goes for number one.

I’ve just finished up a Holmes/Watson fic for a commission: it’s a 5,000ish word scene that continues in my alternate Holmes-is-an-actor universe. The buyer wanted disguises and Watson appreciating same, so I’ve written some case-related crossdressing that turns sultry. Watson doesn’t have his Three Continents nickname for nothing: he’s a bit of a skirt chaser, even if there’s a man under there. I need to get it edited, and then I can post it.

I have four more commissions to do after this one, and I’m looking forward to all of them: some as-yet-undecided romance, some trans Holmes, some Turkish Bath smut, and a short retirement era piece with a little old-relationship jealousy. Should be fun.

Furthermore, I have a deadline for the end of this month in the shape of an anthology being put together by Jamie Deacon of Boys on the Brink. The theme is “taking chances,” and I’ve started envisioning young men on bicycles in 1914, going on a ride and admitting their feelings before one of them goes off to war. The names Kit and Oliver are coming to mind. I need to get started. Probably should do that tonight, now that the commission above is technically finished.

Two other projects in the wings are a Holmes romance for a bee-themed anthology collected by Wendy C. Fries (probably an erotic romance, let’s be honest), and a more mainstream non-fiction (!!!) essay for a tongue-in-cheek book on which Holmes story is the best one. That’s edited by my nemesis, but I’m trying to play nice this year. It’s a short essay, anyway, and I like the topic, so it really won’t be a hardship.

That’s what’s coming up in the next few months! I’m telling myself I’ll blog weekly about my progress and projects, but I don’t think anyone will hold me to it just yet. We shall see.

Compound a Felony – Victorian Kink

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but the Victorians were sexier than we give them credit for. An English doctor invented the vibrator for the purpose of assuaging “hysteria” in women, primarily because he was tired of performing pelvic massages by hand. The smut market boomed with the advent of photography. Despite decency concerns, booklets were printed educating young women about what to expect in the marriage bed and how to make the most of it. Sexual desire was a part of life. Yes, women were expected to have less of it all around, spared from the trials and tribulations of wanting sex by their natural feminine graces, but Queen Victoria, for one, wrote in her diaries at length and repeatedly about the “heavenly lovemaking” that took place between herself and her husband, Prince Albert. These details were later expunged by family members concerned with her reputation, but the originals exist. The nineteenth century also saw the rise of the flagellation brothel, cross-dressing by both men and women, and the erotic novel.

All in all, it isn’t too far outside the realm of possibility to imagine Dr John H. Watson, M.D., late of the army medical department, might have had experience with safe bondage practices and alternative uses for riding crops. He’s seen a bit of the world, has experience of women “which extends over many nations and three separate continents,” and knows a thing or two about his own sexuality. Sherlock Holmes, on the other hand, prides himself on his logical mind and disdains the weaknesses of humanity (i.e. emotion, and the need to eat on a regular basis). That he might be inexperienced in the ways of love was no large leap. I give him the benefit of one encounter with his only named Univeristy friend, Victor Trevor, but Trevor could never get Holmes wrapped around his finger the way Watson does.

The power dynamic in Compound a Felony works because Holmes need the anchor that Watson provides. In the canon, Watson is the lens through which Holmes can be understood, and he acts as a “conductor of light” for the genius’s sometimes overwhelming brain processes. Holmes describes letting his mind work without clues is “like racing an engine. It racks itself to pieces.” In this universe, Watson relieves the self-destructive tendencies with the application of his dominance, and Holmes lets go of the brainwork in favor of submission and physical pleasure.

I just like the idea that a man like Sherlock Holmes, so forceful and domineering in his everyday life, barking orders at policemen, risking his clients’ lives in order to be right, might need an outlet. Might need to kneel once in a while. And what better person to take charge of him than his army-trained medical professional, his intimate friend and companion, his long-time live-in biographer, Dr John Watson?


 

Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock HolmesCompound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes

Consulting detective Sherlock Holmes is a veritable whirlwind of intellect and perception, tearing through the fog of intrigue and criminal activity with tremendous force. But behind the locked sitting room door at 221B Baker Street, his biographer and intimate companion, ex-army doctor John Watson, holds the reins.

Elinor Gray is re-imagining the best-loved, essential classics of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through an erotic lens of domination and submission. As longtime fans have often identified, Holmes and Watson share an undeniable chemistry. Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes sheds light on their potential relationship, from wild passion to absolute control.

Devoted fans of the Sherlock Holmes canon and newcomers alike will find unbound levels of secrecy, suspense, pain, and reward.

Get it today.

Compound a Felony – Domestic Baker Street

domesticWhen I start out writing a Sherlock Holmes fic (or a pastiche, as they’re called if you use a certain style and hope people pay for the privilege), I operate on a sliding scale of “how married are they?” and often include a little “how drunk are they?” I like to visit Baker Street between cases, explore the domestic side of things, listen to a conversation over a late-night pipe or a mid-morning breakfast. I can write a case a lá Conan Doyle when pressed, but I much prefer to leave the mysteries alone and focus on the mundane.

Often my stories come from a place of “what if.” What if Watson was first employed upon his return to London as a model for a smut photographer? What if Holmes was involved in a train wreck and needed his travel anxiety relieved through orgasms? What if they went to dinner and drank too much wine and wanted to kiss a lot in the hansom cab? Sometimes I think along shallow lines, I admit.

The domesticity of Holmes and Watson is an interesting subject, though, because it’s not always guaranteed even though the sitting room at 221B Baker Street is a key element of every Holmes story, every Holmes adaptation, every Holmes pastiche. They must begin and end their adventures in that sitting room, but Watson insists on being married to a woman for at least a third of the cases Conan Doyle published. Granted, he finds reasons to drop by Baker Street unannounced, but he doesn’t always live there.

Watson’s “experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents” can easily be explained by activating the “comfortably bisexual John Watson” characterization, but his marriage is a little harder to work with as a hardcore till-death-do-you-part Holmes/Watson shipper. Sometimes I bring Mary Morstan, Watson’s only named wife, into the fold and give our heroes a third romantic partner. Sometimes I wait until she vanishes mysteriously after Holmes’s return from the dead, her disappearance described only as a “sad bereavement.” Sometimes, as is in the case with Compound a Felony, I turn her into a complete fabrication.

I do sometimes feel guilty about erasing a female character from exsitance, but I needed the domestic sactuary intact for the power exchange in Compound a Felony to sustain itself. Holmes and Watson had to be safe behind their locked door from the beginning, and the addition of a wife didn’t make sense. Watson needed to invent her, ostensibly to protect their reputations, while remaining at Baker Street to take care of his detective. In this universe, Mary Morstan is a screen for the queer domesticity that is already present in the Holmes stories; I’ve just taken that domesticity in a different direction.


Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock HolmesCompound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes

Consulting detective Sherlock Holmes is a veritable whirlwind of intellect and perception, tearing through the fog of intrigue and criminal activity with tremendous force. But behind the locked sitting room door at 221B Baker Street, his biographer and intimate companion, ex-army doctor John Watson, holds the reins.

Elinor Gray is re-imagining the best-loved, essential classics of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through an erotic lens of domination and submission. As longtime fans have often identified, Holmes and Watson share an undeniable chemistry. Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes sheds light on their potential relationship, from wild passion to absolute control.

Devoted fans of the Sherlock Holmes canon and newcomers alike will find unbound levels of secrecy, suspense, pain, and reward.

Get it today.

Release Day: Compound a Felony is here!

Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock HolmesIt’s finally here! Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes hits e-book stores and (if you pre-ordered, aha) your e-readers today, and I’m so excited for you to finally read it (or read it again in its new form, whichever). You can get it from Full Fathom Five, or from your favourite e-book retailer.

I first read the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was a kid, before I could really appreciate them. The book my dad owned was a tome, with a brown cover and no dust-jacket, and it wasn’t until very recently that I discovered this single volume was a coveted 1930 Doubleday edition, one of the first “Complete” collections published after the last Holmes stories were written. Still, I hefted it around, thumbed the pages, and eventually forgot all about it.

A few years later, I watched Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century on television before school, and the stories stuck a little better. Watson is a robot, Moriarty is a clone, and some man turns into a snake. Also there are werewolves on the moon. But it wasn’t until 2009 and the release of the Guy Ritchie/Warner Brothers/Robert Downey Jr. movies that I was really hooked. I watched the first one in the theatres, clutching my face in joy at the action and the explosions and the Holmes & Watson banter and thought, This is it. This is the end. I wonder if there’s fanfiction about this. Spoilers: there was.

The first fic I read in my new fandom was One Week by Jane Turenne (it was still on LJ at that point), and I knew at once how slippery the slope was.

vallI’d been a fangirl for years by then, wandering through television show fandoms, movie fandoms, and and book fandoms, making friends, writing fic, and enjoying myself. I’d been around the block a few times. But something about the Sherlock Holmes fandom sucked me in: possibly because it was composed of all three. I went back and read the canon again, and fell in love. I watched Jeremy Brett and his two Watsons, David Burke and then Edward Hardwicke, and fell in love. The BBC turned up right on time with the modern adaptation Sherlock, and I was so in love. I started writing fic, some of it for the 21st century Sherlock and John, but it was the voice and atmosphere of the canonical Holmes and Watson that captivated me, and canon fic is where I’ve really made a home for myself.

Compound a Felony first materialised while I was living in Ireland in 2010, suffering through a snowy November with a lot of time on my hands and not much to do. I was reading and writing Sherlock Holmes fanfiction like it was my job, and I was beginning to notice a pattern: in my mind, Sherlock Holmes was a needy sub. I had a flash of Holmes and Watson in the middle of a row, Watson shouting, “You’re completely out of control!” and Holmes yelling back, “Well, control me then why don’t you?!” and there being this deafening silence as they both realised they’d gone too far.

The Felony universe developed from there over time, story upon story, until I had this whole BDSM reality for them where Watson’s dominance helped Holmes’s brain run smoothly and Holmes’s submission gave Watson balance. They push and pull one another, testing limits both physical and emotional, and run each other ragged, but in the end they are hopelessly devoted. That’s obvious in the books, it’s evident in every adaptation under the sun, and it is the foundation upon which I built my queer pastiche. I hope it shows, and I hope you enjoy it.


Compound A Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock HolmesCompound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes

Consulting detective Sherlock Holmes is a veritable whirlwind of intellect and perception, tearing through the fog of intrigue and criminal activity with tremendous force. But behind the locked sitting room door at 221B Baker Street, his biographer and intimate companion, ex-army doctor John Watson, holds the reins.

Elinor Gray is re-imagining the best-loved, essential classics of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through an erotic lens of domination and submission. As longtime fans have often identified, Holmes and Watson share an undeniable chemistry. Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes sheds light on their potential relationship, from wild passion to absolute control.

Devoted fans of the Sherlock Holmes canon and newcomers alike will find unbound levels of secrecy, suspense, pain, and reward.

Download it today(!).

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