Today, I’m welcoming J.J. Rose to my blog. I’ve known J.J. for a few years – we met in the Harry Potter fandom and J.J. also did some beta reading for me at the time. J.J.’s first full-length novel is Learning the Ropes (Shell Game Vol. 1), released last week by Sizzler Editions. I was lucky enough to read this story in its first incarnation a few years back, and I can tell you it is one super hot book. Anyway, I’m opening with some questions for J.J., and there’s also a yummy excerpt. So, without any further ado, J.J. Rose!
1. When did the writing bug first hit?
Probably when I was in kindergarten, writing one-page stories in my “Daybook” — what my daughter’s class calls a “Journal”. I started (and abandoned) my first novel, a Star Trek: TNG tie-in, in fourth grade. I think I started writing erotica when I was 16 or 17, but Learning the Ropes is my first sale in that genre.
2. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Can I answer “yes”? I tend to start by writing one to five chapters, as happened with the Shell Game series, and then go back and write an outline for the entire book. I prefer pantsing, though, because once I know what’s going to happen, I hit slumps where I don’t care to write — because I already know how the story ends.
3. What was the most valuable piece of advice you received when you first started your pursuit of publication?
I don’t remember who told me, but in short it was along the lines of “you will get a lot of rejections.” And it’s true. I have a spreadsheet somewhere that shows how many stories and books I’ve had rejected vs those I’ve had published. But writers can’t let rejection get them down, because it’s a fact of life. Just keep submitting.
Which, if you think about it, applies to a lot of other things too.
4. Where’s your ideal writing space?
For me it’s not so much about space as it is about time. I need to have something else that I should be doing, so that I can be writing instead. It’s weird. But I don’t like to have the television on; that I know for sure.
5. What other creative talents do you have?
I’m a pretty good cook. I don’t have to measure most ingredients to get it right. If you’ve ever heard the term “vocal percussion”, I can do that decently. And I’m a veritable font of useless information on certain genre shows — Buffy, Star Trek, and others.
6. What was the first book you loved so much that to this day, you can still pick it up and read it and savor every word again?
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I read this to my daughter last year and she loved it. A close second would be Judge Benjamin: Superdog by Judith Whitleock McInerney.
7. A giant asteroid is about to hit the planet. What do you want to be doing at the moment of impact?
Sleeping. I actually heard a really good Benjamin Rosenbaum short-story about this very topic.
8. What was your favorite childhood game/toy? What happened to it?
I love board games, and I really wish I still had my copy of Mystery Mansion. It was a combination of Clue and the more-recent game Betrayal at the House on the Hill — or any game where you build the board as you go. No one would ever play it with me, but I loved it.
9. Who was your favorite teacher: in elementary school, middle/junior high school, high school, college? (all or any) What did they teach you that you still apply today?
Ms Evans, my high school journalism teacher, taught me how to take criticism. She was harsh, tough, and took no BS from anybody. But she was still one of my favorite teachers.
I also remember Ms Barnett, my sixth-grade Social Studies teacher. She was fun.
10. When and with whom was your first kiss?
I was fifteen. It was the fall, I believe. I went to a youth group event, made some friends, and that night it happened. We bumped foreheads several times in a game of Alphonse and Gaston before I finally took control. It was nice.
11. Do you believe in ghosts and other supernatural creatures (vampires, witches, werewolves)? Have you ever encountered any?
I’ve never encountered any, but I can’t say for sure they don’t exist because there’s no definitive proof in either direction.
12. What is your biggest fear? Have you ever faced/encountered it?
Failing as a parent. I haven’t had to deal with it yet, thank goodness.
13. Which childhood memory is your favorite? Why?
I thought about this for a while, and I think I’m going to pick the time my best friend’s parents said “why don’t you come with all of us up to Epcot for the weekend?” They paid for my admission, hotel room, and most of the meals. My friend and I were free to explore Epcot on our own. I’ve always enjoyed Epcot.
One really cool thing that happened was that the two of us — I think we were thirteen or fourteen — were chosen to playtest Disney’s new virtual reality helmet, which later became the primary technology of the Aladdin’s magic carpet ride attraction at Downtown Disney.
I also rather enjoyed finding my grandmother’s old typewriter when we went to her house in New York. She gave it to me. I think it’s still in my closet, back in my parents’ house.
Thanks for coming by J.J. And congratulations on the release of Learning the Ropes. Here’s where you can find J.J. online, as well as Learning the Ropes:
Below is an excerpt and the smoking hot cover:
PROLOGUE: FOR QUESTIONING MY JUDGMENT
Now: May 15, 2008
It had happened last night, when Sarah and Michael had thought Jaime was out at a party. “It” was Sarah, restrained on her back on the bed, tormented with silk and satin and a leather flogger until her breasts and shoulders and and arms were pink, nipples hard and tight. When Michael had finally thrust into her, she’d screamed nearly loud enough to rattle the windows, begging him for permission to come. Her orgasm had ripped through her body, throat and chest and cunt, spasming and pulsing around his cock.
But in the morning, when Sarah had stumbled downstairs wearing nothing but one of the long white cotton t-shirts Michael so loved to see her in, she’d seen Michael and Jaime sitting at the kitchen table, laughing about something or other, damp with sweat from the Saturday morning jog they tried to take together every week. Sarah’s face had flushed hotly, and one look at Jaime’s expression told her everything she needed to know: her lover’s daughter had heard everything.
The only thing Sarah could do after that was take her walk of shame through the kitchen, make a cup of tea, and take a seat at the table, as physically far as possible from the two of them.
* * * *
“We talked about this, Sarah.” Michael sounded distressingly reasonable, his voice level and even. Jaime had gone to meet some friends for a study group, and the two of them were definitely alone now.
“I know, I know.” Sarah tried to control her tone, but a bit of panic was seeping in and she couldn’t hide it. “It’s just… she’s your daughter, Michael! I don’t care that she’s twenty; it’s weird!”
“Weirdness is irrelevant.” He put down the story he was reading, but kept the green ballpoint in his hand, flipping it between two fingers, back and forth. He preferred to avoid red ink when critiquing his students’ work — no need to hand them a sea of blood. “When Jaime came to live with us, you said you didn’t want to do anything in front of her that might put her off.”
“You don’t think it was a good idea?”
“I never said that.”
“Because I know it was a good idea!” She very nearly steamrolled over him, blushing as she remembered the last time that had happened, (For interrupting you while you were speaking, 100 strokes of the hairbrush on my bare bottom) and hoping he’d let it go this time. She went on, “Jaime was eighteen when she moved here, and I was only twenty-three! I was just out of college! How would it look if she couldn’t even meet my eyes?”
“You made all these arguments already.” Michael clicked the pen to close it, then continued flipping it, an idle motion he probably wasn’t even aware of making. “We discussed it after six months, then twelve, then eighteen, and each time you said you weren’t comfortable. So I let it go.”
Sarah opened her mouth, then closed it.
“And then, after two years with her here, you said you were tired of me restraining myself on your behalf.” He put his hand over hers. “We discussed it. You should remember. You were there.”
“Yeah, I was, but it’s very different when it’s actually happened!”
Michael held Sarah’s hand for a long moment. “Jaime told me she already knew.”
“She what?” Sarah felt her eyebrows climb up her forehead.
“While we were running,” he said. “She’s known for a while, and asked if we always got that loud when she wasn’t around.”
“Wh… what did you say?”
Michael’s thumb stroked the back of Sarah’s hand; she felt herself start to relax, at least a little. “I told her that yes, sometimes we get a little loud, and if it bothers her, she can tell me. We’ll keep it down if she asks.”
“Was that… wise?”
The instant Sarah said it she knew it was a mistake. Michael’s face went hard, and he took his hand away from hers.
“I… I mean,” she said, backpedaling as fast as she could, “if my parents ever knew I heard them fucking– I-I-I mean, having sex–” he didn’t like when she cursed, and judging by his face, the punishment for it would pale in comparison to what he had in mind now, “–they’d be so embarrassed. They wouldn’t talk to me for weeks!”
“Jaime’s an adult.” He clicked open the green pen; Sarah thought it was just to have something to do with his hand. “I’m not going to delude myself into thinking she’s not at least interested in sex. She was adult enough to bring it up — no blushing, no laughing — and I judged that she could handle the discussion.”
Sarah grabbed her initial response to that, stuck it in the back of her mind, and put it under lock and key. She was good and fucked now; the only option was to see how much she could mitigate it. “I…” Her mouth was dry; her tongue felt too thick. “Michael…”
“Jaime’s an adult,” Michael said again. “If I didn’t think she could handle it, I wouldn’t have even brought it up, wouldn’t have even thought about having all those talks with you. Apparently she’s more mature about it than you are, even though you’re five years older than she is.”
Sarah couldn’t keep the hurt look from flickering across her face. She swallowed. “I’m sorry, Michael. I… should have thought it through.”
“Yes. You should have.” He switched the pen to his left hand, used his right to cup her cheek. She leaned into his touch. “Go get your book.”
* * * *
Michael’s office wasn’t a big room — actually, it was small, as offices went, and especially so given the size of the rooms in the rest of the house. It was also narrow, made more claustrophobic than Sarah really felt comfortable with, owing to the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining three of the four walls.
It was one bookshelf in particular she was looking for, though. It was behind Michael’s desk, right at eye level — hers, not his — and held nothing but two plain bronze bookends, nice enough to match the décor but nothing special, and between them a series of composition books. Each one had a label on the spine, ordered by date.
April 28, 2003 — May 28, 2003
June 3, 2003 — September 7, 2003
September 9, 2003 — November 15, 2003
And so on.
The last one, a couple dozen books over, was only labeled with Sarah’s twenty-sixth birthday: March 23, 2008. It was about two-thirds used. Sarah took it out, gathered up the pens — one black, one red — and trudged back to the kitchen. She put all three items on the table next to him.
“Clear the table, please.”
“Yes, sir.” When he had the book in front of him, it was time to start behaving. He had a story in his hand and was writing a note in the margin. Sarah, moving woodenly, removed the breakfast dishes and put them in the sink, then ran water over them so the remains of pancakes and syrup — Jaime made amazing pancakes — wouldn’t set.
Michael stood, pushed his chair over. “Bring the stepstool, please.”
“Yes, sir.” Sarah took it out of the pantry and carried it to the table, then set it where Michael’s chair had been.
He didn’t make her kneel, but she certainly felt like kneeling at his feet. Since he hadn’t told her to do it, she simply stood beside him, watching him flip open the composition book, click open the black pen, and write something at the top of the next blank page. He set it down on the table when he was done. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
Michael left the room. Sarah picked up the book.
May 15, 2008.
For questioning my judgment, 12 strokes of the cane on your bare bottom.
* * * *
Sarah stared at the book for several seconds, vision tunneling down until all she could see was what he’d written there, in his tall, narrow script.
12 strokes of the cane
She took a deep breath. Then another.
Michael was her master. If she disobeyed him, it was his job to bring her in line.
12 strokes …
She picked up the red pen.
… of the cane
By the time she heard Michael coming down the stairs, Sarah’s heavy, block-printed letters — her cursive was so poor that even she couldn’t read it — had joined Michael’s:
For questioning your judgment, 12 strokes of the cane on my bare bottom.
* * * *
Sarah successfully suppressed a whimper when she saw Michael’s hand close around the handle of the cane tucked under his arm. But she couldn’t hold back when he whipped it through the air a couple of times. Soon, he would be whipping it against her bare ass.
At least he’d let her use the stepstool; the table had a sharpish edge that was no fun when it dug into her stomach or her thighs.
Michael walked around the table and picked up the composition book. “For questioning my judgment,” he said, almost without inflection, “twelve strokes of the cane on your bare bottom, Sarah.”
She didn’t sniff; she wasn’t crying. Not yet. She’d been caned before, and it wasn’t worth wasting the tears. For now, they were a cold ball in the pit of her stomach and a smaller one at the base of her throat, waiting for Michael to force them out of her.
“For q–” She took a breath, tried again, nerves tingling — to be this ritualistic meant that the offense, and therefore the punishment, was very, very serious. “For questioning your judgment… t-t-twelve strokes of the cane. On my bare bottom. Sir.”
Michael put the book back onto the table, almost exactly where it had been before. Oh, how she hated the table — impromptu punishments hurt just as much from where it dug into her, and she couldn’t reach the far end to hold on. She had to plant her hands on the smooth, cool surface and hope she could keep from moving them — the last time that had happened, she’d written:
For attempting to avoid a punishment by covering myself, five strokes of the leather strap on the palm of each hand.
…in the book. She did not want to experience that again.
As he came around the table, Sarah bent over it, lifting the tail of the cotton shirt and exposing herself to her master. He stretched out his arm until the cane was touching the under-curve of her ass, and then shifted until he was in the right position. “Is there anything you’d like to say before we start, Sarah?”
Sarah bit her lower lip so hard it hurt. This was the moment, her only chance to stop it before it began. If she didn’t think it was fair, she could say the safeword and they would stop, would discuss it. Or so Michael had promised. Sarah had never felt the need to dispute a punishment, and she wouldn’t be disputing this one.
She picked up the red pen, clicked it open, and scrawled her signature across the page.
Michael tapped the cane gently against Sarah’s ass; she put the pen in the gutter between the pages of the book and pushed the book across the table.
She was in position. She was ready.
Without any further warning, the first stroke blazed a line of fire across the top of Sarah’s ass, perfectly parallel with the floor. She screamed, tears welling in her eyes and tricking down her cheeks to drip onto the table. She pressed her nose into the wood, tried to dig her nails into the finish, but that had never worked before.
The first stroke was always the worst.
“Sarah?” He was so very level, so very quiet.
“M… M… Master?”
He ran his thumb over the mark. She yelped. “I’m waiting.”
“Y… yes… yes, master…” She sniffed, scrubbed her face on the shoulder of the white t-shirt. “One. Th… Thank you, m-m-master…”
He tapped the cane gently, just below the first mark, and she winced but forced herself to stay still. She couldn’t stop the fresh tears, though, knowing she had eleven more to go.
* * * *
Half over. The table was slick with tears, the shoulders of her shirt wet and clinging from wiping her face, and her ass… oh God, her ass was on fire, six parallel lines — each less than an inch apart — forming a block of agony pulsing upward into her stomach.
“Si-s-s-six… six… thank… thank you, master.”
He tapped the cane to indicate where the next stroke would come.
The first stroke was the worst. So was the waiting. So was the last stroke. And every one in between. Being caned was the worst pain she’d ever felt, made her cry more than she ever thought she could. Michael saved it for special occasions, those where her behavior had been so out-of-place that he’d had no choice but to punish her in that way.
One caning each year. Maybe two. But she’d earned every one of them.
Michael drew the cane back. Sarah clenched her teeth.
This was her punishment. She’d earned it. She would take it.
The cane whipped home.
* * * *
“Last one, Sarah.”
“Y…” She broke down into a fresh wave of tears, indulged in it for a good thirty seconds, then caught her breath. “Yes, master.”
Through the whole caning, he had only touched her ass — and only occasionally — just to make sure he hadn’t hit her too hard, hadn’t broken the skin. Oh God what she wouldn’t give for him to rub her shoulders or put his hand on her back, just for an instant. But it was a punishment, and she didn’t deserve the comfort. She had to endure it — and a caning was definitely a trial of endurance.
Michael tapped the cane gently against Sarah’s bottom. She wasn’t a tall woman, and while she generally liked her body, there wasn’t a whole lot of it. Her ass, frankly, was smaller than she’d like. Especially when it came to punishments.
Because now Michael was out of unmarked skin. The cane was tapping her thighs, just below where her ass met them.
The cane whipped back.
The cane whipped forward.
* * * *
Michael slowly, gently removed the wet towel from where it had been covering Sarah’s ass and thighs. She shivered and sniffed, though after fifteen minutes, the tears were pretty much gone.
The pain, though, was absolutely not. Her entire lower half was so hot it was cold, knees locked, thighs shaking and tingling, the soles of her feet nearly asleep from staying in this position so long.
Michael stroked each cane mark with his lips. She felt herself grow wet in seconds, despite how badly it hurt as he drew his mouth over the burning lines. After each welt had been kissed, he sat in one of the kitchen chairs and held out his hand. “Come here.”
After as many punishments as she’d received from Michael, Sarah knew how to be near him comfortably after them. She straddled his thigh, arms around his shoulders; he pulled her close, rubbed her back, held the t-shirt up over her waist so it wouldn’t touch her ass. The muscle of his leg nestled against her cunt, and she felt her wetness seep into the cotton of his pants.
“I’m sorry, Michael,” she said into his neck. He smelled like sweat, like soap, like her master. “She’s your daughter. I’m not her mother.”
“No, you’re not.” He kissed her hair. “If you were, you wouldn’t be here. For starters.”
Sarah chuckled. “I love you, Michael.” She kissed his neck. “Master, I love you.”
“I love you, Sarah.”
Her head was light, full of cotton balls. She dug short, well-kept nails into the back of his neck. “Master?”
His fingers rubbed over the black-and-silver choker around her neck, the one she wore every day, except on special occasions. “Sarah?”
She kissed his neck again, then his shoulder. “Please make love to me.”
Michael lifted her face, kissed the tear tracks, kissed the puffiness under her eyes and the tip of her red nose, then took her lips, swollen from crying, and kissed them too. She heard him messing with his pants, then yelped, half in joy and half in pain, when he turned her around and took her hips in his hands.
Bent back over the table, the pain of her ass slapping his stomach and thighs was overwhelmed in an instant by the joy of her master’s cock in her cunt, and she nearly forgot to ask permission to come for him.
But she remembered. The last thing she needed was another entry in her book.