Tag Archives: Kiersten Hallie Krum

Springing Forward: EXCERPT From Sealed With A Twist

30 Apr

It’s hard to think “Spring” with blizzards in April. But tomorrow is May Day and, here at Lady Smut, the upcoming RT Booklovers Convention puts more than a spring in our step. Occasionally, we skip. Once we even skedaddled, but I’m pretty sure wine was involved. But we’re sure ready to leap over the next three weeks and get going to the mad cap, crazy, bookapolooza hootenanny that is the RT Booklovers Convention, that yearly gluttony of authors and the readers who love them.

Lady Smut’s own Elizabeth SaFleur and Isabelle Drake will be represent in Reno at RT, once again headlining last year’s wildly popular “Never Have I Ever Ever” game, that sexy tell all of all the naughty things we’ve never done…and the naughtier ones we have.

You know you wanna know…

Meanwhile, back here on the home front, since I’ve been out of the loop for a few weeks, I wanted to re-introduce myself to the many lovely new readers who’ve joined us here at Lady Smut. My January post, Dating Apps and Ghost Dicks, vented my frustration with the incomprehensible juvenile behavior of said ghost dicks, but one thing dating apps have taught me is the succinct introduction–which, for a motormouth like me is saying something.

Available exclusively from Kindle. Click on image to buy!

Hi there. Welcome to Lady Smut where we know what we like! I’m Kiersten Hallie Krum and I like to write award-winning, very sexy, romantic suspense novels. I like dive bars and live music and guys who…whoops, sorry. Went into autopilot there for a sec.

Right. Fictional meet cutes. Not real ones. Gotcha.

My heroines are sexy, self-rescuing smart asses and my heroes are smokin’ bad asses who often carry guns and do things that make their ladies (and readers) go “ohhhhh”. I love reunion romances and second-chance romances, which means both of my books, Wild on the Rocks and SEALed With a Twist fit one of those categories.

My debut novel, Wild on the Rocks, won the 2016 Reward of Novel Excellence (RONE) award from InD’Tale Magazine for Best Romantic Suspense Novel:Short. Reviewer Between My Bookendz called the follow-up novel, SEALed With a Twist, “well-written, engaging and plotted to perfection…but what really makes it stand out to me is that this author tackles a serious topic such as PTSD with candor without losing the romance and suspense that centers this book. Plenty of humor and witty banter.”

But hey, books are subjective: one reviewer may like a book, while another reader thinks “are you high? that book sucked!” You’re a Lady Smut reader. Clearly you have discerning tastes in your reading choices–tastes you prefer to determine for yourself.

 

I hear ya, sisters (and bros), and I want to give you what you like. That’s what we do here at Lady Smut. So keep reading for a steamy excerpt from my latest release SEALed With a Twist. Remember, if you’re in or near the Reno area, don’t miss Lady Smut at the RT Booklovers Convention for some naughty “Never Have I Ever” fun.

And follow Lady Smut. We know what you like too.

Look! A blurb!

Available exclusively from Kindle. Click on image to buy!

Debutante. Heiress. Lady. 
Skylar Thornquist has been called them all. But when her family insisted she stand as bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding to Skye’s ex-fiancé, she rebelled, drowning her public humiliation in tequila and a one-night stand of carnal debauchery with Grant Sisti. To escape her family’s iron grip, Skye now hides out cleaning toilets at the Casa Blanca Resort & Spa, masking her breeding and identity under a dye job, heavy makeup, and a smattering of fake tattoos while she tries to discover which label sticks to her best.

Doctor. Joker. Warrior.
Navy SEAL Grant “Twisted” Sisti has been them all. But since he failed to prevent the violent death of his teammate six months ago, Grant isn’t sure he can be any of those men anymore. He’s back at the Casa Blanca Resort & Spa for his best friend’s wedding, but Grant knows he’s reaching the end of his rope. A state that isn’t improved by finding the help swimming naked in his private villa’s pool.

Skye never thought she’d get caught skinny dipping by the man who got her through her worst night. But this Grant is a different man than the one who lit up her world back then. And though it takes him too long to remember her, Skye is drawn even more to the wounded warrior than she was to the charming lover.

Grant is fascinated by the puzzle Skye presents, the debutante who cleans toilets and speaks like a queen. She’s the first thing he’s had any interest in since his friend’s death, the first woman in a long time to see the man before the SEAL.

They never expected to find each other again on Barefoot Bay, both hiding from who there were, both wondering who they should be. Until Skye’s identity is compromised and the Thornquist iron grip gets a stranglehold on her new life…only this time there’s a Navy SEAL by her side.

SEALed With a Twist EXCERPT:

The sunset-timed wedding meant full dark had fallen by the time Grant made his way down the path that would take him around to his rented private villa. A private villa called Artemisia of all things had been reserved for Quinn and Jasper on his dime—his wedding gift to them—along with a sleek pleasure cruiser down at Mimosa Harbor, should the couple ever make their way out of the bridal chamber. What the hell was Grant sitting on obscene amounts of wealth for if not to spoil his friends on special occasions?

He preferred to ignore the fact that he was heir to a robber baron fortune with a trust fund bulging at the seams from interest rates alone. The money wasn’t who he was, a lesson he’d learned early under his father’s strict hand. He used it for start-up funds for his practice and then again years later to buy his place on Coronado and a sports car, two rare outright indulgences. Otherwise he left it untouched, collecting percentages and adding zeroes to the bottom line without any direct effort from him. He set up some charities, enough to keep his soul from going completely black, and got quarterly reports from his money manager that he read religiously so he couldn’t get swindled. Otherwise, he liked to forget it was there. He led a life a Navy salary could afford and left only a chosen few the wiser as to his net worth. Even Jasper didn’t know how deep the Sistanovich pockets went.

And Grant liked it that way.

He strode down the paver-stone, tree-lined path to Blue Casbah villa. The resort owners had put together one hell of a resort, steeped in Moroccan ambiance while remaining Florida flavored, particularly in the foliage. He’d plundered more than a few luxury hotels around the world during the wastrel years before he broke away from the familial herd. Few could compare to the lush environs of Casa Blanca Resort & Spa.

Grant rolled his shoulders as the villa came in view. Each step away from the reception felt like a year off a dead man’s reprieve. He was a shit for bailing on his friend. He knew it. He’d make up some explanation for Jasper if he asked for it.

His mobile pinged with an incoming text alert. Speak of the devil.

Sit rep.

Even being the best man Grant ever had the privilege to know or fight beside, Jasper McQueen could be a serious pain in his ass.

Grant exhaled audibly through his nose and typed out a reply.

Fuck off.

Don’t talk dirty to me on my wedding day.

A wry smile twisted Grant’s mouth. You wish.

Quinn wants to start the dancing. needs you for the congo line.

Congo line? Christ, more staid tradition from edgy Quinn. Next, she’d want him to start the chicken dance, after which lay only madness and binge drinking.

Sorry man. got a better offer.

He had zero offers, but that wasn’t for Jasper to know on his wedding night. Grant had tried burying his emo fallout in the easy pleasure of the SEAL bunnies, but too many of those hookups started to ring empty and he needed no help there.

Now, it felt like too much effort to bother trying.

His phone pinged with Jasper’s reply. You bailing on my wedding?

I wasn’t there for the first. you won’t miss me at the second. Should know what you’re doing by now without me holding your dick. He reread the text, then backed it up to replace “dick” with “hand” and sent it before he could berate himself for wussing out.

There was a longer pause this time before Jasper’s reply arrived.

You need me, brother?

Grant’s throat got tight. He’d do it, Jasper would. He’d put a word in Quinn’s ear and slip out on his own wedding if Grant gave him the slightest signal. Jasper’s well of responsibility ran that deep, but more, he was that good of a man—and a friend. He had Grant’s back, no matter what, and for that very reason Grant couldn’t let him know how fucked up his head had become.

Nah. You’re relieved from wingman duties tonight.

I ask to be relieved?

Yeah, when he transferred to SOCOM. That was a little too on point for comfort. Been doing without you six months now. Think I can manage another night.

Another long pause, then, Don’t piss me off, Twist.

Don’t ask stupid questions. And stop dicking with my mojo. Dance with your wife.

He turned off the phone to avoid Jasper’s reply and unlocked the villa with a card and a faint regret for the lack of a hard key in his hand. Some asshole decided to shove inside the room behind him, be tough to mount a defense with this flimsy piece of plastic.

The default to combat readiness reassured Grant. Not that he expected to stumble upon violent crime here—recent Russian mob experiences notwithstanding. But with so many things getting past him—first that maid, then Quinn’s too-close-for-comfort téte-a-tête—it was good to see his edge might be wavering, but it could still cut a bitch.

Quinn’d been right; men like him and Jasper were always on, which is why Grant automatically scanned the villa’s interior like it was a tango’s lair. A light had been left on in the living area and another over the kitchen sink so that an ambient haze hovered over the main rooms. He noted the fruit set up on the island block before breaking off to clear the bedrooms and baths. Satisfied no one else had breached the perimeter, he re-booted his phone on route to the patio. Surely, by now Jasper had been distracted away from bugging Twist.

His phone immediately blew up with Jasper’s missed message.

Even through the flat, emotionless language of a text, Jasper’s words were resolute.

You will brief me on what this shit is about.

Grant snorted. Like that was gonna happen. He pulled back the wide glass doors that led out to the patio and pool before typing out, Whatever, man. Kiss quinn for me.

The reply came quick. Fuck off.

And now they were back on the easy ground where Grant was most comfortable. It was his job to dig into the emotions of his team, to make sure their heads were in a place where they could continue to complete their duty.

Damned if he’d have any of them, even Jasper, do the same to him.

He let Jasper keep the last word and tucked his phone in his back pocket as his foot tangled in a pair of shorts left in a pile on the pool deck.

The hell?

His gaze tracked along to land on a matching golf shirt. He could just make out the Merry Maids logo in the glow of the pool lights.

Gatecrasher. He kicked the shorts up with his toe and snatched them out of the air.

“Fucking brilliant.” He was in no mood to deal with this shit. Feelin’ too much today already, watching Jasper and Quinn get their happy ending, dealing with Putter, working to keep that devil-may-care attitude at the forefront so his friends didn’t zero in on the shit messin’ with his head.

Failing at that if his conversation with Quinn and Jasper’s text messages were anything to go by.

Was it too much to ask for a quiet night swim followed by more tequila and a morning filled with the headache of regrets and good booze? Instead, he had to deal with some reckless townie looking to take advantage of the abandoned villa.

He looked beyond the shirt and the muscle in his jaw clenched when he saw the bra and panties discarded at the edge of the deep end.

A girl townie.

Fantastic.

Time was, he’d view this as a chance to end his night with his favorite kind of happy ending. Now, he was only annoyed at having to rustle some kid out of the pool before he could get back to drinking.

The sound of steady splashing caught his attention. He lifted his head in time to catch a glimpse of arms cutting through the water with smooth, sharp strokes.

Her body had length, most of it in the legs that kicked rhythmically in time with her arms, calf muscles cut in relief. Her head tilted for her to take a breath, eyes shut, the oval shape of her face perfectly bisected by the water like a Carnival half mask. Grant’s eyes tracked down to the equally round and, it had to be said, pert shape of her bare ass with tight cheeks he guessed would comfortably fit in each of his hands.

She reached the end of the pool and executed a perfect underwater flip that set her feet in precise location to launch into another lap. The floor lights in the pool illuminated the gleam of her body as she undulated for near half the pool’s length before breeching the surface with the sharp bob of a breast stroke.

Emphasis on breasts, plural, as both globes were revealed to Grant’s growing admiration. The SEAL in him admired her skill. She was an amateur but a damn good one who knew to move with the water rather than against it. Not many amateurs figured that trick out, instead thought swimming was a battle to tame the water to their form. Most never learned the truth.

There was no taming the water. Not in any form.

The man in him was far more intrigued by her other captivating assets. Grant felt a ripple of interest he hadn’t felt in months. He crossed his arms and settled in at rest to enjoy the show.

She was halfway through the return lap when she finally tagged him. Immediately, she floundered, getting a good swallow of pool water as she did, which led to an epic bout of choking while she got her feet under her.

Fixed on him, her eyes bugged out wide, but the pool light now put her face in shadow, hiding their color. Her once fluid limbs locked tight on the water’s surface, with an air of shocked embarrassment that told him she wasn’t accustomed to being naked before strangers.

He liked all that said to him.

’Cept he wasn’t in the mood to tangle with a moonlit mermaid. “You’ve got some nerve, sweetheart.”

“Holy cats,” she managed between coughs. “You’re not supposed to be here.”

“Sorry to disappoint, but pretty sure I paid for the privilege.” His gaze swept over her, clinical and without any admiration. “Don’t remember checking off the ‘naked water nymph’ perk on the reservation.”

“It’s –it’s only—” A final harsh gurgle cleared her throat. “It’s only offered to Gold Star members.”

Her cheek made him fight a grin, which only made him more aggravated. “Hafta remember to thank management for the upgrade when I report you.”

That took care of her cheek. “You can’t do that,” she whispered.

“Think you’re wrong there, nymph.”

Something odd flashed through the shocked embarrassment in her face. Odd and…familiar.

His vision narrowed to pinpoint on her features. Her wet hair left her face stark and that whisper of warning teased the back of his neck again. The one that’d saved his life countless times in the field. The one that told him he’d missed something important.

He felt it, but didn’t get it, so he got pissed. “Tell me your name”

She started at his bark. “N-no.”

Her refusal surprised him. He wasn’t used to being disobeyed, and the only thing that kept his temper in check now was that she looked as surprised by it as him.

Her eyes tracked past him to where she’d left her clothes. It was the new angle of her head that finally clicked an image in his head.

“You’re the maid who snuck behind me while I was on the phone.”

Her shoulders rolled back, chin tilting with an arrogance he’d expect from his Yankee, blue-blooded mother, not a housemaid at a Florida beach resort. “I hardly ‘snuck’. Now if you please, kindly turn your back so I can get out and leave you to your evening,” she ordered, all traces of embarrassed guilt gone.

Grant found himself fighting a grin. “You’re not exactly in the position to make demands, nymph.”

She turned that rigid shoulder to him, exposing plump side boob and a very nice back whose spine was ramrod straight. She swished her way to the edge of the pool where she’d left her clothes—which were now at his feet.

Despite her demand to turn his back, her nudity seemed not to bother her at all. Once at the side of the pool, she looked up, fingers curling around the rim, and, fuck him, his dick finally dialed in to take acute notice, rousing despite her breasts being out-of-sight crushed to the wall.

Her legs kicked idly in the water, muddying his view, but he’d seen enough to know she’d be worth the time and effort—if he was in the mood to make either. Well, parts of him were in the mood, but it’d been a long time since he’d been led around by his dick. One tempting water nymph wasn’t going to make him revert.

“You going to stand there staring all night or are you going to report me?”

More cheek. He really didn’t want to like this woman.

“Probably. If you were a little nicer, maybe you could talk me out of it.”

He waited for the sharp reply, eager to hear what snooty rejoinder she’d aim his way. Any other woman would’ve cut and run by now, especially when he was deliberately being this much of an outright asshole. But something about this woman made him brace.

Good plan, too, since his water nymph contemplated him from below and then shocked the shit outta him by flattening her hands on the cement edge and hoisting herself out of the pool. A whoosh of water and there she stood, naked and without a hint of shame.

Water dripped down her chest and over her high, pert breasts with nipples raised to points by the cooler air. Down the concave slope of her belly and over the natural flare of her hips and the vee of her exposed sex to pool around her feet on the asphalt. She was almost a foot shorter than him, but her height was mostly in her long thighs and curved calves.

He wanted his hands on those hips, his mouth on those breasts, and those lithe legs wrapped tight and high on his back as he sank inside her. He felt the pull of her expectation and somehow wrenched his eyes from the feast to the no less bounty of her face. When she caught his gaze with what had to be the bluest eyes he’d ever seen, the perfect bow of her mouth curved into a smug, Cheshire smile.

“How much nicer do you want me to be?”

 

Kiersten Hallie Krum writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. She is the award-winning author of Wild on the Rocks, and its follow-up, SEALed With a Twist. She is also a past winner of the Emily Award for unpublished novels.

A member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Long Island Romance Writers, Kiersten has been working in book publishing for more than twenty years in marketing and promotion. At other times in her career, she’s worked back stage for a regional theater, managed advertorials for a commerce newspaper in the World Trade Center, and served as senior editor for a pharmaceutical advertising agency.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. Born and bred in New Jersey (and accent free), Kiersten sings as easily, and as frequently, as she breathes, drives fast with the windows down and the music up, likes to randomly switch accents for kicks and giggles, and would be happy to spend all her money traveling for the rest of her life. Find out more about Kiersten and her books on her website www.kierstenkrum.com

Altered States With Altered Carbon

19 Feb

With Altered Carbon, that great god of television glory—aka Netflix—has once again launched a binge-watching worthy series that’s smart, sexy, mind-boggling, bloody, engrossing, and, honestly, a total mind fuck. It crosses genres, subverts expectations, and sucks you in like damn and wow. It’s science fiction and romance and film noir and cyberpunk and futuristic and murder mystery and cop show and conspiracy action thriller all at the same time. It’s Max Headroom’s violent, sexual, mind-bendy grandchild. (Appropriately so then, Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer, shows up for two episodes as Carnage, who runs a real death cage fight.)

Carnage

Welcome to Altered Carbon.

The world of Altered Carbon

WARNING: there will be mild spoilers ahead. I’ll do my best not to ruin the Big Reveals, because they should be experienced organically to properly appreciate the storytelling. But no promises.

THE STORY: In a cyberpunk future, the consciousness of every human being is now downloaded into a hard drive, called a “stack”, that is stored at the base of the skull on the brain stem. The body, now called a “sleeve”, has become merely the shell that encases the “soul stack” of a person. This means a person only truly dies, known as “real death” or “RD”, when the stack is destroyed, like a gunshot directly to the stack. It also means people can live for hundreds of years, changing sleeves along the way.

It’s all in the bag

If the sleeve dies, a stack can be dialed up into a new sleeve, the person therefore inhabiting a new body. A person’s original body can be kept in cold storage while his or her stack is stored elsewhere, for example, when a man is imprisoned, he essentially “goes to sleep” for hundreds of years while his sleeve goes on ice. However, there’s no guarantee that sleeve won’t be used by someone else in the interim and possibly killed while being used, so that when you’re dialed up, it may not be into the sleeve in which you were born. Race, gender, height, weight, health—it’s all a lottery now. You get what you can afford. This is the same for damaged sleeves if you’re attached to your existing reflection. If your arm is injured and can’t be saved, you can get it replaced with an upgrade, bionic arm in moments—if you have the credits. People can also dial up “dead” loved ones, especially if those loved ones are “coded” not to be re-sleeve after sleeve death for religious reasons, and have them live again if, perhaps, not in the same sleeve in which they’d led their lives. (This makes for a hilarious re-use of a biker gangster as a Spanish grandmother and a Russian mobster.)

People can also “double sleeve”, essentially copying their stack and downloading into two different sleeves at the same time. While technically illegal, when you live forever and have unlimited wealth, the sky’s the limit. Literally so, if you’re one of the super rich.

Hundreds of years old, these “Meths” (aka Methuselahs), live far above the common man in sky palaces. Their wealth enables them to grown clones of their sleeves and constantly download themselves over the years into new sleeves that match their birth sleeves. They have a system that regularly uploads their consciousness into back-up drives that protect them against real death. They’re untouchable demi gods to which the lower classes only dream to rub shoulders against.

And one of them has just been murdered.

Enter Envoy detective Takeshi Kovacs who has been in stasis for 250 years and was just woken up by industrial magnate Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to solve the man’s murder. From the moment he awakens, Takeshi is plague by the attentions of Detective Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda), a bad ass cop with a jones for catching Bancroft in what she is sure are corrupt and nefarious dealings—if only she can prove it. She also has a deeper connection to the sleeve Takeshi now inhabits, one that deepens the stakes for them all.

Tak was once a super soldier for the police force that menaces the outer worlds. When he’s betrayed by the unit to which he’d dedicated his life, he becomes an Envoy, a revolutionary operator with scary potent observational and investigational skills. Envoys were renown for being able to be dropped in on any world, into any situation, and quickly adapt and manipulate the environment and the people to their own ends—until they were betrayed and wiped out. Tak then became a mercenary, one who eventually was apprehended by his former commander, earning him a sentence of hundreds of years for his crimes.

Until Bancroft wakes him up.

Once an idealist under his battle scars, Takeshi has awoken to a world he doesn’t recognize, on a different planet than the one he was on when he went to sleep, and with the people he loved long lost to real death. He is now a grumpy tool only in the job for himself and the promise of a fortune and his birth sleeve as a reward for solving Bancroft’s murder. Except Tak can’t fight his true nature, the core of him that still cares no matter how much he protests to the contrary. And the list of people worming their way into his circle of protection keeps growing…whether he likes it or not.

Clearly, there’s a LOT going on in the ten episodes of Altered Carbon. And fan as I am of the series, it I have to admit, it ain’t all good.

THE BAD STUFF:

While the show runner on this one is a woman, that doesn’t mean, in a Game of Thrones world where rape is an acceptable plot device, there isn’t a lot of violence and nudity in Altered Carbon. There’s a whole hopping lot of both, though violence prevails most of all. This includes a naked fight scene a la Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises, where Ortega engages in a bloody knife brawl with a number of cloned sleeves. This is one case of nudity in Altered Carbon, though, where the nudity is designed to be empowering and deliberately used as a manifestation of the character’s head self-perspective and how she sees her body as a tool, rather than objectifying her for the male gaze. For more on this, check out this interview with actress Dichen Lachman about that scene and her character, Rei, who is the naked combantant. Be warned, it includes series spoilers galore.

There’s an argument to be made that the prevalence of nudity stems not from producers’ desire to curry favor with permanently adolescent fans boys, but rather an outgrowth from a society that has made the human form an interchangeable commodity. How can modesty persist when your body may be interchanged with another’s at any time?

Sexy times for the sake of sex.

And yes, the violence is such that it may as well be another character in the cast. This is a world that uses virtual reality, where time has no constant, as a means of torture. Here, one can kill a victim over and over again in the most brutal and bloody of ways including chopping off limbs and removing innards, all virtually but while being connected to the physical body’s pain receptors, only to start a new VR session and begin again for a seemingly endless amount of time. A sleeve holds no inherent value; there are instances in Altered Carbon where people fight to the sleeve death for the promise of a sleeve upgrade as a reward. Naturally, that makes for an inherently violent world.

For a show with so much female bad ass representation, it’s still driven by a moody, growly, maladjusted white man, one who all the women he comes into contact with want to bone, no matter how badly he treats them. It’s a film noir construct, the Bogey hyper masculine hardliner disdaining all the Bacall femme fatales that rotate into his sphere but banging them nonetheless. Even in a futuristic society where the consciousness can be transported from form to form, women are still portrayed stuck in the past.

THE GOOD:

THE MAIN CAST:

Joel Kinnaman, late of The Killing and the forgettable Suicide Squad, anchors Altered Carbon with his big presence. Seriously, the guy is huge and his normally beanpole form is ripped and cut and beautifully bulked out for this role. Hoo. Shah. He broods and grumbles and bad asses through the entire series, but he also brings out Tak’s tortured sweetness, an idealism that even 200 years of cold storage hasn’t fully frozen out of him. It keeps popping up to conflict him when he wants to be a cold, ruthless operator, but he can’t quite keep his heart from getting in the way.

As Ortega, Martha Higareda plays the perhaps typical cop with a mission, but she does it by distaining a typical approach and instilling Ortega with a man’s attitude and vocabulary. She doesn’t play a lady cop; she plays a cop and has an attitude that would do John McLain proud. Ortega takes on the unlikeable heroine mantle with pride and spews ferocity and anger and complexity all over it.

James Purefoy, a personal favorite in everything he does, oozes through his scenes with smarmy confidence, exuding the charm and power of the wealthiest man on several planets, sprinkled with the comfortable arrogance of someone who genuinely believes himself to be a god. As in the TV series Rome, his…erm…talent is on display here, including The Purefoy, as I like to call it, once again making a casual on-screen, full-frontal appearance. No, I did not hit the pause button, nor did I screen cap it, and I’m sticking to that.

But truly, the one who steals the show is Chris Conner as Poe.

Once Tak accepts Bancroft’s case, he embeds himself at The Raven, a hotel run by an AI (artificial intelligence) named Poe, as in Edgar Allen. Poe hasn’t had any guests for hundreds of years, due to the AIs reputation of getting obsessively attached to their guests. Tak genuinely couldn’t give a shit about this and sets up shop at The Raven. Good thing too as Poe almost immediately proves his worth when Tak is attacked before he can even register as a guest.

Poe is an absolute delight. Snarky, smart, sweet, ruthless, loyal, dedicated, and oh so funny, he’s the land-locked sidekick/valet/butler Tak’s been missing in his life. Alfred to Tak’s Great Detective. As an AI, he’s tied to The Raven, but he can move about in VR (and does) and adds a rich depth and complexity to what’s nominally a bunch of ones and zeros. For a programable entity, he’s the most human and most humane one of the bunch.

THE ROMANCE:

Yes, there is romance. As mentioned earlier, Ortega has a prior connection to the sleeve that Tak is put into, which takes the idea of a love-triangle and really fucks with it. But Tak is also nursing a broken heart from this lost love, and his hallucinations, a side effect of being re-sleeved, keep her front and center in his journey. As Tak and Ortega get closer and the complexity of their connection deepens, the emotional risks of their relationship add texture and stakes to the on-going mystery and the threat of the enemies stacking up against them. It’s no surprise that in the end, Tak’s big heart, and not only for Ortega, is nearly both their undoing.

Sticking close together.

THE MULTICULTURALISM:

Altered Carbon, like Max Headroom and Firefly and Blade Runner before it, builds its world on an Asian heavy multiculturalism. Set in a re-envisioned San Francisco, called The Bay, there are flying cars and neon signs and prevalent blinking screens that never turn off, pummeling the eyes with images and adverts that recall pretty much every science fiction show of the last 20 years. People speak all kinds of languages and understand one another. There’s no Farscape-esque universal translator either. Ortega speaks to her partner in Spanish and he replies in Arabic. There are subtitles; we can read them. There is no spoon feeding required. Tak’s Japanese/Croatian lineage speaks to the show’s inherent multicultural nature too, even if the tone-deaf move of folding an Asian character into a white man’s sleeve stomps all over that same multiculturalism with a pair of Kovacs’ combat boots.

THE STORYTELLING:

The storytelling is complex and deep, but so well paced. Nothing is revealed too soon, but once the revelation is made, one can look back and see the layers being laid in past episodes. That’s bloody hard to do and especially in a visual platform as rich as this show where there’s always something to see on the screen, nothing is wasted, no image thrown away in building the rich texture of this show. One of the appeals of the Harry Potter franchise from a craft perspective is how deftly Rowling plots the series over the length of the seven books; events happen in book five for which Rowling lays the groundwork in book two. Altered Carbon does that too, enough so that when I finished the series, I wanted to immediately watch it again so as to see those touchpoints again, this time with the benefit of foreknowledge of what was to come.

Accompanying this deep plotting and detailed planning is a respect for its audience that is rare to find in entertainment today. In Romancelandia, writers often debate the idea of dumbing down our storytelling, our writing, in order to reach a wider audience, a significant percentage of whom may not have a large vocabulary or an extensive reading and comprehension ability. I deal with this a lot in my day job where much of which we’re producing needs to reach an incredibly large audience, as in millions of people, whose lives may depend on being able to read and comprehend our message. As a writer, I think it’s my job to enhance my stories with complex writing, words that enrich as much as the story they form. If my readers have to look up a few words, then I’ve done my job right. (This is much less an issue in historical romance where a certain complexity of phrase and flowery language is expected.)

Altered Carbon doesn’t dumb down to its audience. The show presents complex word-building from the outset and it doesn’t waste time spoon-feeding the audience as to the nuts and bolts of things. We are plunged right into the muck of things and as the show presses on, it expects its viewers to keep up or catch up. That’s not to say it doesn’t give us a map; the trope of dropping someone new into the situation as a proxy for the audience is used in episode one to bring us all up to speed, but the information we need is parceled out as part of the storytelling without any recapping or “As you know, Bob,” retreads along the way.

THE IMPLICATIONS:

Nearly a week after viewing, my mind is still buzzing with all the implications and raised by Altered Carbon. The show raises questions of the nature of the soul and the value of a bodily form. When a soul can be kept in a hard drive and uploaded at random, what then makes it a soul rather than simply more data? Morality reforms in a world where sleeves can be killed and then the victim dialed back up to testify against his or her murderer. Where a person can voluntarily agree to have his or her sleeve killed for sport with the promise of an upgrade for the trouble. Where death suddenly has several degrees.

It’s a referendum on torture and an examination of whether love can last over hundreds of years. It’s a dissertation of gender identity: when your spouse can be dialed up into a sleeve of the opposing gender, are you still attracted to each other. Do you still love that woman who is absolutely unchanged except for the fact that she now wears a man’s shell? Do you recognize her soul inside that sleeve?

What makes memory when that memory can be obliterated by dying before the next upload. Is any event truly real if the memory of it is destroyed before the backup kicks in?

Overall, I found Altered Carbon to be compelling television. Underneath its science fiction, film noir trappings is an exploration of identity and morality and the nature of self and the soul that still has my mind spinning right round, baby. Right round.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll mind-fuck you in the very best of ways–but only if you ask really, really nice.

Kiersten Hallie Krum writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. She is the award-winning author of Wild on the Rocks, and its follow-up, SEALed With a Twist. She is also a past winner of the Emily Award for unpublished novels.

A member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Long Island Romance Writers, Kiersten has been working in book publishing for more than twenty years in marketing and promotion. At other times in her career, she’s worked back stage for a regional theater, managed advertorials for a commerce newspaper in the World Trade Center, and served as senior editor for a pharmaceutical advertising agency.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. Born and bred in New Jersey (and accent free), Kiersten sings as easily, and as frequently, as she breathes, drives fast with the windows down and the music up, likes to randomly switch accents for kicks and giggles, and would be happy to spend all her money traveling for the rest of her life. Find out more about Kiersten and her books on her website www.kierstenkrum.com

Winner RONE Award for Best Suspense/Thriller: Short

23 Oct

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Remember, lovely Lady Smutters, when I shared the news that my debut romantic suspense novel, Wild on the Rocks, was a finalist for the prestigious RONE Award from InD’Tale Magazine for best Thriller/Suspense: Short of 2017? Weeeeeelllllll…

Last weekend, I spent five wonderful days in Southern California at the InD’Scribe Con and Book Festival put on by InD’Tale Magazine, the magazine or self-published authors and independent publishers. I met tons of new-to-me independent authors while attending several excellent workshops. But this wasn’t just about the meet and greet or writer self-improvement. We sure got our party on! The conference kicked off with a Medieval costume party followed by a “Knight’s vs Highlanders” themed, author-sponsored costume party the second night.

…flapping my way through the other one.

Wenching it up at one costume party…

 

Yes, that’s a *T-Rex* at the kick-off costume party! It was an “anything goes” kind of soiree!

I’ll admit, southern California in October? Ah, yeah, I hit the pool and got in some sun. But I also enjoyed a splendid, Reader’s Day that included the conference’s first Reader Rave Luncheon where readers were able to sit and have lunch with their favorite authors, including conference headliners Marie Force, Brenda Novak, and Catharine Bybee–and moi–along with a busy afternoon book fair!

Signing books at the book fair!

Of course, no California trip, however short, is complete without some delicious Mexican food, plenty of margaritas, and a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.

The weekend was topped off by the presentation of the magazine’s RONE Awards (Reward of Novel Excellence) at which I received the award for Best Suspense/Thriller: Short of 2017 for my romantic suspense novel, Wild on the Rocks!

No, that’s not Jon Snow. With cover model and gentleman, Brandon Katz.

A beautiful, engraved, crystal book for the award!

I was honored to dedicate this award to my mother, who I lost suddenly earlier this year. I know she would have been over the moon. She loved Wild on the Rocks, and I’m a fortunate woman to know how proud she was and how much she loved me because she told me, frequently.

I am fortunate, too, for all you lovely Lady Smutters who read and supported Wild on the Rocks. In thanks for that support and in celebration of my win, I’m going to give away two limited print copies of Wild on the Rocks. Just leave a comment and tell me what costume you would most want to dress up in for Halloween or a costume party.

The award-winning Wild on the Rocks and its follow-up, SEALed With a Twist, which has been named one of the Top 5 Romantic Suspense Picks for Fall by Heroes and Heartbreakers, are both available now exclusively from Kindle Worlds.

Follow Lady Smut. Costumes optional.

Kiersten Hallie Krum writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. She is the author of the prestigious RONE award winner, Wild on the Rocks, and its follow-up, SEALed With a Twist. She is also a past winner of the Emily Award for unpublished novels. 

A member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Long Island Romance Writers, Kiersten has been working in book publishing for more than twenty years in marketing and promotion. At other times in her career, she’s worked back stage for a regional theater, managed advertorials for a commerce newspaper in the World Trade Center, and served as senior editor for a pharmaceutical advertising agency.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. Born and bred in New Jersey (and accent free), Kiersten sings as easily, and as frequently, as she breathes, drives fast with the windows down and the music up, likes to randomly switch accents for kicks and giggles, and would be happy to spend all her money traveling for the rest of her life.

Sick, Sick, Sick: Men Who Take Care Of Others Are HOT

26 Sep

by Madeline Iva

We’re celebrating Kiersten Hallie Krum’s latest novel SEAL’d WITH A TWISTSEAL’d… features a hot doctor named Grant who was in the first book in the series.  He takes care of others–and when in Book 1 he can’t heal a buddy and that buddy dies–he becomes totally tormented.  So I wanna talk about THE BIG SICK and guys who care for those who hurt.

Which brings me to a new obsession of mine: the whole hurting/caring trope in fan fic.  Lurv it so hard.  I get the ovary spasms over it the way other other women almost die looking at a super hot guy holding a baby.  This is why women go so crazy for doctors, of course.  Nothing new here.  But I’ve always felt a leetle removed from the doctor thing.  After all, it’s usually the nurses who do the tending, isn’t it?

Matthew Fox’s hotness on LOST was 95% the doc/healer thing.

I will confess to two exceptions to this rule. (They’re weird–don’t judge.) One is the doctor who removed my wisdom teeth.  That guy was nothing super to write home about, but I’d delayed getting my wisdom teeth out because I didn’t have the money and then I got a massive infection.  My obnoxious roommate at the time pointed out that having a really bad infection near your brain isn’t good.  Ya think? My maxillofacial surgeon had this amazing bedside manner.  “There there, it’s gonna be okay,” was the gist of his reassurances, but something about how he conveyed that to me in my distress just had me crushing out on him for about a week.

I know it’s ridiculous–but Clemens would give this close attentive look at Ripley, and then give her a ‘tincture’ and my ovaries would implode.

The other doc was (wait for it) Charles Dance in Aliens 3.  Yes…Charles Dance is a fabulous (now somewhat elderly) British Actor.  in Aliens 3 he played Clemens a “medical officer” who treats Ripley. Basically he tends to her wonky health from all the deep space time and other issues she’s experienced.  He gave her these little tinctures, and was just kind of attentive to how she was feeling.  It’s really just a tiny break from all the alien biting mayhem, but he’s an amazing actor, and that bit of a role was very well written.  The whole Ripley thing–a woman trying to save humanity when the other humans around her are most often just not being very helpful — and then suddenly someone actually cares about HER — not in some overt soppy way, but just kind of peering at her and then “making it better” — well, it really got to me.

Which brings me to THE BIG SICK.  Omg, I was almost crying to death just hearing about the movie–just watching the previews.  Why was so deeply affected? I think it goes so deep with me that it goes back to the trauma of watching my mom when she was 34 and just really ill.  She needed someone to step in and just sure things were going to be okay.  No one did–and she died.  (I know, I know, it’s very sad.) The prospect of a romance hero stepping in to care for someone who’s sick and needs someone to ‘make it better’ just undoes me to the f*cking core.

So anyway–my sweetie and I go see THE BIG SICK and…while it was a good date night movie, for sure.  But ultimately I was let down.  I mean, there’s much to rejoice about in this based-on-a-true-story, and I enjoyed it as much as any other semi-rom com I’ve seen in a while.  There are critics out there as well for the movie.  All of their stuff has to do with race.  I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about my fav hurting/caring trope.  There was much hurting…In the movie, Emily gets really sick really fast and is in a coma in less than 24 hours. But we don’t see a whole lot of tending to from the “hero” Kumail Nanjiani.  He’s funny, he’s a good actor.  It’s great to see someone raising themselves up by their own bootstraps vis-a-vis creating a movie that others aren’t writing with East Asian leads.  Huzzah to all that. I think at one point before the coma, Emily’s ankle hurts and he’s solicitous.  At one point when she’s in a coma, he urges the family to make one decision and not another.  Like…that’s it.  Other than that, he’s sitting around and waiting with her family. Which is what you do when someone you love is in a coma…true.  But I guess I was expecting more after-care when she comes out of the coma…I mean, I can easily see there’s a kind of feminist “I can take care of myself” and “I don’t need a man to take care of me” kind of thing maybe going on.  But come on–this is just basic humanity we’re talking about here.  We’re not talking about opening a door. We’re talking about being on the cusp of death and it’s all hands on deck.

After the coma, Emily’s got PT, she’s not all together for a while.  And he…anyway, he tries showing her his devotion and commitment–but as she points out–that’s all fine and good.  “Only all that happened while I was asleep.”  And in the audience I’m saying the next line I would have written, “But what have you done for me lately?”

Again, in the movie, he basically is forced to choose at one point between his family and his true love– and he chooses her.  That’s romantic. That’s a big deal.  But in my heart, I also would have preferred him to help her with the groceries.  Because this is Chicago — groceries, a cane, and no car — these three things do not go well together.  You know what I’m saying?

A caring partner to help you out just when you need help the most.  The very idea makes my heart do intense crunches…We leave behind the realm of women who are afraid to take a big shit in a potential love interest’s apartment.  We enter the world where you look like sh*t–and he doesn’t care.  Because he loves you.  You are not great company because you don’t feel well–and he feels badly–not because you’re not funny and charming at the moment–but because you’re hurting, because he loves you.  For some reason we have accepted hand in hand the idea of not needing men and at the same time performing for them a lot — getting out of bed to put on make up before he wakes up.  I find this appalling.  Utterly appalling.  I think women fear they’re not somehow worthy of being so deeply loved that their humanity and flaws don’t really matter.  So maybe that’s why I’m all about this kind of a trope–because I think we need to march in the opposite direction.  I think that a lot of good men out there who would excel at nurturing and caring–if given the chance.

I may have a write a story or two about this in the future.  And because germs and feeling punky in general are not the hottest thing when it comes to sex–they may have to be on the sweeter side of the heat spectrum.  They may have to live in the more squishy comforting side of romance.

In the meantime,  Kiersten’s really got talent at portraying that heavy throb of hurting and the need for some deep romantic connection. In her book, I find that the scorching sex to make it all better–at least for me.  Please go check out SEAL’d WITH A TWIST! (Don’t you lurv the cover? I think it’s crazy hot.)

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