The Wonderful World of Mpreg with EAB

November 10, 2016

The Wonderful World of MPreg with EAB

 

Hi everyone!!! EAB here! I’d like to thank Dreamspinner Press for publishing Black Snow and for the opportunity to share this story with you! Thank you!

I’m super excited that my new novel Black Snow is finally debuting. I remember freaking out 8 months ago wondering whether Dreamspinner would accept the novel, and now I get to share it with eager readers! Gratitude doesn’t quite do this feeling justice!

Anyway, on to Black Snow! You know what it’s about since you’ve read the blurb, but I’d like to tell you why I decided to write it. I’ve been a fan of male pregnancy  (m-preg) for a LONG time. I’m not into the werewolf/shifter scene, but I’ve even read a few of those from time to time. For me, the genre tends to lack romance, and developed plots. I always finish the story feeling like I want something more. I wasn’t getting it from the novels I’d read, so I decided to write it myself.

This wasn’t an easy decision. Both my previous novels are contemporary fiction, with not even an allusion to fantasy, but I had my mind set, and I decided I wasn’t going to put myself in a box. (My muse does what it wants anyway. I’m the one who signs the contracts.)  This novel is dedicated to Gabriel, my wonderful partner, and to all m-preg fans who inspired me to write what I wanted to read! And to all those just dipping your feet into the genre, I hope that you’ll read Black Snow with an open heart, and an open mind.

Thank you,
EAB

For veterans, what is your favorite m-preg story? For the newbies, what is it that intrigues you, or scares you most about the genre?

 

Check out Black Snow today!

 

Black Snow by EAB

 
Blurb:

Prince Brier Snow has lived in the shadow of King Snow’s exalted memory. However, his fate changes when he nears his majority and Lirend’s steward queen attempts to dethrone him by exploiting an obscure requirement in the late king’s will: a yearlong sabbatical.

Brier travels to the desolate land of Aire to train under the Ceve guild, scorned refugees of war, including their guarded leader, Roland. Brier’s skillful master unlocks hidden potential, and what begins as a dutiful bond turns into ill-fated affection. When Brier returns to the capital, he’s carrying proof of his indiscretions with Roland—and his condition grows more apparent with each passing day. An affair with the huntsman is a scandal Brier’s enemies can use against him, but the birth of an heir is a burden even Brier is not sure he can bear.

Roland Archer, a man with a murky past, is skeptical of the contract to train the prince but willing to do anything for the guild’s freedom. Despite his best intentions, he is smitten by Lirend’s future king. Roland has resigned himself to solitude, but fate has other plans—for him, for Brier, and for Lirend’s oppressed subjects. Can Roland help Brier face a power-hungry queen and a country torn asunder? Either they will bring equality to a land that desperately needs it, or they’ll be thwarted by cunning enemies and an illusory curse.

EAB:

Building Thalazar: the norrgel by E E Montgomery + Giveaway

October 3, 2016

Building Thalazar

Welcome to release day for Warrior Pledge. It’s a fantasy story set on a world I created piece by piece when I needed a place for my Mafdeti to live.

When I was first planning the world for Warrior Pledge, I made a list of the types of things a world would contain. There would be land and oceans, mountains and valleys, rivers, swamps and plains, jungles and deserts. The climate would change depending on where on the world you were. I decided that, like Earth, Thalazar would have cold poles and a hot equator. That made a lot of things quite easy. I had native peoples and invaders, although only one of each. Then I thought about the animals, insects and birds and tried to decide how many of each I would need to make the world at once recognisable yet different to Earth.

I made pages and pages of notes of different animals that a farming community would need to have, like cows and sheep, possibly dogs, cats, hens, bees, flies, wasps, worms. Then I got stuck on what to call them. Everything I came up with sounded made up and ridiculous, so I backtracked. I started asking myself different questions.

How important were these creatures were to the story? Yes, Rim came from a farming valley, but he wasn’t a farmer. He was the leader so his interactions with animals would be different. Then I took it a step further and decided that Rim wasn’t the main character anyway, so it didn’t matter how he interacted with farm animals.

So what animal/bird/insect on Thalazar was unique to the planet and was also important to the story? It had to be a native to the planet and had to impact on every living thing. The original inhabitants of the planet would be wary of it but also comfortable in its existence. It would be wide ranging and a threat to everything it came across. I decided it was a bird.

Have you looked closely at straw-necked ibis? They’re freaky. They have hard beady eyes and thready feathers around their necks like they’ve been dragged backwards through a wormhole. They could easily be descendents of some alien invader from the past. That’s where my thoughts for the norrgel originally began. The norrgel look a little like an ibis and a cormorant have mated with a penny whistle and a gothic haberdashery shop. These are my original sketches of the norrgel with behavioural annotations. They changed a little during the course of writing the book, but not a lot.

You might notice on my notes that the trailing threads have fine hairs that secrete a poison. That was my next inquiry.

When I was a child my mother told me a story about a young man she nursed. He had tetanus and the slightest sound set off the most violent spasms in his body. The muscular spasms were so strong they broke bones. He used to scream with the pain but the noise of the screaming only made the spasms worse. It was vicious. It was also perfect for my norrgel.

The norrgel hunt in flocks. When they sight prey they dive, one after the other, and whip the threads trailing from their wings and tails against their target. The whipping raises welts where the skin thins and allows the tiny hairs left behind to penetrate. The skin splits and the poison rushes in. The effect of the poison is immediate, the muscles go into spasm. The pain is excruciating, not just because of the spasming muscles but because the combination of the spasms and the poison liquefies the muscles, bones, sinews and tendons.

Everything dissolves.

While they’re still alive.

The poison works its way inwards so things like the brain, heart and lungs are impacted last. The victim is aware of what’s happening every step of the way. It’s brutal and horrifying. Anyone who experiences the thrash of norrgel threads is dead within two hours. Anyone who sees a death by norrgel is changed forever.

The Mafdeti and the Imperials live under a norrgel sky. Their lives are lived around norrgel breeding season, when the birds are more active, and sunlight—norrgel hunt during daylight hours. They have norrgel watch set every day and hides to retreat to when the cry of ‘wings up’ is heard. The hides are large enough to shelter small flocks of farm animals. Once the hunting flock passes over, they emerge to continue their work.

The norrgel have one natural predator but they haven’t been seen for a thousand years. The people of Thalazar have stopped wishing for their return. Their lives now include daily watchfulness and regular deaths by norrgel.

Now we get to the fun part. Think back to my description of the straw-necked ibis. I’d love to hear about an animal/bird/insect you look at and think ‘that’s an alien’. I’ll pick two as winners who will have a choice of any ebook from my backlist.

 

Check out Warrior Pledge today!

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Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon
ARe

Blurb

When the two moons of Thalazar cross orbits, the Warrior Pledge must be completed or the cat-shifting Mafdeti nation will face annihilation. There are four who can save the people and their land: the Silver Shining from Rock, the Great Heart Farseeing, the Changeling, and the Pure. They must find each other before time runs out.

Silver-eyed Checa is Captain of the Guard for the Mafdeti. Thanks to the friendship and loyalty of Heath, son of the Mafdeti Matriarch, Checa has survived and thrived after a childhood of horrific abuse. He knows Heath is his Bond-Mate but refuses to bond with the younger man because he feels he isn’t worthy. Nor does Heath’s mother approve of her son bonding with a lowborn warrior.

Together they face deadly wing-strikes from carnivorous birds, earthquake, betrayal, ambush, and an enemy invasion, only to be confronted with the possibility that the Warrior Pledge will bond Checa and Heath to others. If Checa is to complete the Warrior Pledge, he must overcome the belief that he doesn’t deserve Heath’s love, and fight for the one man who can make him whole.

Author Bio

E E Montgomery wants the world to be a better place, with equality and acceptance for all. Her philosophy is: We can’t change the world but we can change our small part of it and, in that way, influence the whole. Writing stories that show people finding their own ‘better place’ is part of E E Montgomery’s own small contribution.

Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of inspiration for stories that show people growing in their acceptance and love of themselves and others. A dedicated people-watcher, E E finds stories everywhere. In a cafe, a cemetery, a book on space exploration or on the news, there’ll be a story of personal growth, love, and unconditional acceptance there somewhere.

You can contact E E Montgomery at eemontgomery11@gmail.com; on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ewynelaine.montgomery; on Twitter: @EEMontgomery1; or at her web site: http://www.eemontgomery.com/ and blog: http://www.eemontgomery.com/blog.

Obsidian Moons: The Triad with Jon Keys – Post + Giveaway

September 15, 2016

Obsidian Moons- The Triad

Hello, folks! Thanks so much for inviting me on the release of my newest novel, Obsidian Moons, book two of the Obsidian series. In Obsidian Sun, the first novel of this series, readers were introduced to the Talac and Varas, and the unique elements of their culture. In Obsidian Moons we are introduced to the Ubica who have an exclusive society of their own. Each Triad is comprised of three members: the forge, hammer and anvil. Each member of the Triad has specific characteristics, but I thought it might interest everyone to look at the weapon specialization of each member.

Oka is the forge for this Triad. The forge of each Triad is a master of thrown weapons. Legend says each forge carries a hundred blades. You can also see the throwing spikes in Oka’s topknot on the cover image. But Oka’s skills are focused on thrown knives and spikes.

Daya is the hammer of our Triad. Not too surprising his weapon of choice is the war hammer. These weapons look more like an ice ax than a traditional hammer. Daya sees himself as the protector of the other Triad members.

The final member of our Triad is Gurvan, the anvil of the Triad. As the anvil Gurvan is the spokesman for the Triad and carries a sword as his weapon on the battlefield. Gurvan’s sword is similar to the katana of medieval Japan. He’s skilled to where he can deflect arrows.

So there is a little more background on our newest culture in the Obsidian Series. I hope you enjoy reading more about the Ubica in Obsidian Moons.

Check out Obsidian Moons today!

Obsidian Moons by Jon Keys

Blurb:

After achieving the impossible and releasing their people from the Varas slavers, Anan and Terja, a spellweaver and spellspinner, start the arduous journey back to their homeland. A winter trek across the grasslands is dangerous enough, but the traitor, Xain, is tasked with recapturing the slaves, and failure will mean his death. As added insurance, the Varas High Regent hires a Triad of legendary Ubica assassins and assigns a full regiment of his personal guards, along with their captain, to the task. Their mission is clear: recapture the escaped Talac slaves destined for the Varas pleasure houses—and the bed of the High Regent—at any cost.

The newly freed Talac travel toward their homelands with the full knowledge they are likely being pursued. The flight westward is fraught with new and unexpected dangers as Anan and Terja struggle to save their tribe. The battle for shelter, food, and a way to defend themselves becomes an all-consuming task, but they are reminded by the avatars of their gods that all is not as it appears.

Author Bio:

Jon Keys’ earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones he can recall reading himself being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in he started sneaking his mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to his mix of science fiction, fantasy, Native American, westerns and comic books.

A voracious reader for almost half a century, Jon has only recently begun creating his own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, he draws from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.

Social Media:

email: Jon.Keys@ymail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jon.keys.773
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jon4Keys
Website: http://jonkeys.com

 

Excerpt:

As the lamps were extinguished and the room darkened, Oka curled up facing the wall and tried to sleep. He listened to the night sounds around him, but they brought no comfort. They served only to emphasize the foreign setting. He’d surprised himself by sharing a secret of the Forge sect. It wasn’t forbidden, but as Gurvan pointed out, it wasn’t common unless the Triad was forged. For Oka, it seemed the right thing to do.

He felt the wounds of loss reopen as he thought about Ata and Lanvi. His Triad had been on their final contract and planned to forge the mating bond afterward. But things went terribly wrong. Oka missed an impossibly easy knife throw, and the target’s personal guards had burst through the door with crossbows loaded. The chaos had been short and lethal. His Triad had practically thrown him out the window to save him.

“Questioning their choice is not helping, Oka. They wanted you to live or they wouldn’t have protected you so you could escape,” said Gurvan when the silence stretched longer.

“And I let them. I fled faster than a rockdiver.” Oka cringed at the memory of scurrying away in fear. Retracing the event brought the same feeling of hollowness and pain it always did.

“The time will come when you must forgive yourself, or when you go to the Master Smith for reforging you will be found faulty.”

He searched for a response when a knock came from the thick wooden door. Gurvan motioned Oka to light a lamp.

He quickly struck the back of a blade against a piece of firestone he kept. The spark hit the lamp’s wick and a flame formed quickly. Gurvan moved beside him, and Oka handed him the flame. Oka saw he had a blade palmed as he moved to open the door.

Holding the light low, Gurvan cracked open the entrance. During the heartbeat that followed, Oka readied himself for a throw. He could only guess Daya was arming himself too. Only a fool disturbed a Triad under contract. But these Varas didn’t seem to understand the nuances of working with the Ubica.

“Let me in, fools!” hissed the voice from the other side of the door.

Gurvan’s eyes narrowed, causing Oka to tense, but then he opened the door wide enough to allow the nocturnal visitor admittance. The shadows moved but more lamps were not lit. Oka wondered why, but knew Gurvan would have his reason.

Oka’s vision adjusted to the flickering light and he recognized the furry Talac. Why would he come here? I can see Gurvan’s hand twitch with the need to feed his iron with this one’s blood. The Talac should state his business quickly.

“Why are you disturbing our sleep, slave?” Gurvan asked.

Oka was a little surprised Gurvan spoke so abruptly. Ubica tradition dictated a more hospitable approach, but he was the Anvil of their Triad. He waited to see what the Talac’s response to the offense would be. He was surprised to see the tall man fold into a bow of subservience.

“My apologies for disturbing you, Anvil. But I hoped for a moment of the Triad’s time.”

Gurvan’s only response was a low grunt.

The slave slipped into the room, his movement echoing those of a hunting longtooth. This was no helpless slave. Gurvan held the lamp higher and the two locked eyes.

This time with a short, less formal bow, the slave began. “My name is Xain. This mission is important to me. I know your contract is with the High Regent, but we will be working together and you will need my help, or you will be unable to complete your agreement.”

The muscles in Gurvan’s jaw tensed at Xain’s words. Oka could imagine only the forging with the Master Smiths kept the Talac alive. Then he noticed something else about the visitor. The Talac was wearing a spiritknife at his waist. How did he get the short sword? Only certain Triad Anvils carry that weapon. It was an incredible blade in the right hands. But even for someone of the Iron People, it was not to be treated lightly. Gurvan hadn’t been awarded one because their Triad wasn’t life forged. How the Talac had gotten one was beyond Oka.

“We will finish our mission, furry one. There is nothing you can tell us that we do not already know,” Gurvan said.

“You know the Talac magic? You know, the two you are assigned to kill have more skills than any Talac I’ve ever seen. I think they are blessed of the Twined Ones. I believe the spellspinner somehow survived akhir. No one since the clans were joined has survived akhir.”

Oka caught the twitch traveling along the dark skin on Gurvan’s face. A wash of surprise came over Oka. Gurvan doesn’t know. Or he hadn’t known. Interesting.

“What of it? And what do you ask of us? I’m sure even you are aware we will not go against the forging we have already created with the High Regent.”

The Talac’s expression changed even further. This was not a man Oka wanted at his back. “I want those two. The spellspinner and his mate. They destroyed my plans. Now I am living only at the grace of the High Regent. Do you have any idea what that means?”

Oka shook his head in a negative but Gurvan nodded, and his expression seemed to soften. After a moment of silence, he spoke to Xain. “We cannot help you directly. But our goals are similar. I understand you are marked, but our current forging is with him.”

Xain glared at Gurvan until the tension became palpable in the room. “You want to be my ally, Ubica. I am not a person you want to be pitted against. I am not the helpless slave you think I am.” Xain rested his hand against the spiritknife’s hilt.

Oka stepped from the shadows at the same instant Daya moved to Gurvan’s other side. Oka could see the eyes of the other two were echoes of their roles. Gurvan’s became the coal black of the anvil and Daya’s the shining silver of a working hammer. He knew from past experience his own eyes were the deep red and yellow from the forge.

Oka was pleased the combined energies of his Triad drove the Talac back until he was pinned against the door. Oka’s fire built as he watched the man who was rapidly becoming his prey. The feeding hunger sensed the fear from Xain until Oka twitched his arm and held three throwing spikes in his palm. Three, the sacred number, it’s a sign from the Great Smith. Oka tensed to launch the lethal missiles, but a heavy hand closed on his shoulder.

The fire he was about to unleash drained from him. He tensed as his desire faded faster than a drop of water against red hot metal. I will have words with Gurvan later. But I will play my role for now.

Gurvan spoke and this time it had the true ring of the Anvil. The almost crystalline chime in his voice traveled through Oka, soothing some of his fire. He glanced at Daya and got a small nod. Daya agreed with Gurvan. Tonight his fire would not be fed.

“Leave now and we will forget this ever happened. Don’t interfere with our forging again. Know that whatever you feared from the pair of weavers would be nothing compared to the wrath of a Triad of the Iron People,” Gurvan said.

The conflict in the room built until Oka thought he felt the waves traveling through him. Xain reached behind him, slipping across the face of the heavy wooden door until he reached the latch. Oka enjoyed the moments of fumbling as the Talac tried to open the lock. With the bolt’s click, the door pivoted open, and Xain slipped through.

Oka glared at the door as he calmed his racing heart. Once he thought he could speak to Gurvan with the respect due his station, he turned to catch his gaze. “Why would you—”

Gurvan silenced him with a flick of his hand. “You were unleashing the hunger of the Forge. I know the outlander carries a spiritblade, which will make our forging more difficult. I couldn’t allow you to send him to the Ancients for reforging. We have many obstacles ahead of us. There is no need to make it more difficult.”

The heat inside Oka built for a moment, and then he allowed Gurvan and Daya to calm him. Without looking at either of them, he returned the throwing spikes to their sheaths and moved to the corner and his sleeping mat.

“Oka, come. Sleep with us,” Daya said.

Oka stared at the two men for several moments. Do I want to become close to these two? They are different from Ata and Lanvi. Ata would never have quenched my fire. He enjoyed seeing me use it. But Ata is dead, and I have a second chance with Gurvan and Daya.

“Come. You can give us some of the heat you are filled with. These Smith-cursed northlands are cold,” Gurvan said with a throaty tone to his words.

Oka chuckled at the idea of Gurvan being affected by the cool temperature. It served its purpose too.

“All right. But don’t complain to me in the morning about feeling as if you’d slept with a live ember.”

 

Giveaway:

Answer a simple question in the comments and make yourself eligible for a free eBook from my backlist. The question? What was the Talac term for the youngsters who cared for their kuri herds. I’ll go through the comments on Sept 20th and select a winner.

If you have any other questions for me be sure and leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

 

The College Experience with Aishlar Snow

May 10, 2016

The College Experience

Hi! I’m Aishlar Snow, author of I Experimented Once in College, and I’m excited to be sharing my first published work with you. I’d like to thank Dreamspinner Press for the opportunity to share.

My inspiration for the book came during a bout of nostalgia for my college days. I had a pretty rocky college experience where I faced down a number of serious situations, but I still look back on it and remember how I met my fiance – and my best friend – there. My main character, William, faces similarly daunting challenges during the semester, and he also ends up finding love and friendship along the way.

While I was writing, one of the things I enjoyed most was painting a picture of a magical university with all the same quirks and routines of a modern one. The freshmen are fresh-faced and often lost, those about to graduate don’t have their books half the time, and throughout the crazy rollercoaster semester the RA plays mediator to such a variety of student concerns you can only find in a soap opera. It’s a confusing place, college, no matter what year you’re in. Maybe your friend is still undecided in his third year, you’re sitting on boxes because none of your roommates remembered to buy chairs, and you can never figure why that one campus building is out in the middle of nowhere. There is a universal quality to college, ineffable, no matter if it’s planted in the real world or fantasy.

Even the music I listened to while writing had ties to my college days, although not in the way you might expect. When I started college in 2009 I listened to a lot of older classics because they were comforting and energetic. My working title for the book was actually “Do You Believe in Magic?” from the 1965 song by The Lovin’ Spoonful. My playlist also included “Magic” by Pilot (1974), “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club (1985), and “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics (1983) among others. These familiar songs brought me back to memories of college as well as setting the stage – with lyrics I could relate to the story – for a few of my favorite scenes.

Weirdly, I threw a handful of 2000′s club mixes into the playlist at one point while writing a scene that never made it into the book. When I was a freshman, my friends dragged me to my first club, and that experience was so profound that I knew I had to write William reluctantly stuck in a magical nightclub. For me, that first glimpse into the world of nightlife and dancefloors and shady under-the-stairwell hookups was as shocking as it was fascinating. Writing William, a reserved and tightly buttoned-up PhD student, in a club setting where he was forced to unwind required club mixes that were pretty jarring after the 80′s hits. In the end, I had a better version of the scene with the setting changed to a professor’s office, but maybe the next book can incorporate a magical nightclub?

I’ve asked my fiance what it was like living with me while I wrote I Experimented Once in College over the course of a month, and his contribution was, “You were kind of a brat.” When asked to elaborate, he shrugged, but then he started laughing at the look on my face, so I think we’re good.

In reality, writing a book in a month, while doable, can be a real whirlwind. I was working at a public library at the time, and I had just finished my Masters in Library Science. Much like William, I was overqualified for my clerical position and growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of high-level positions. I used that frustration to illustrate William’s situation at Efeldon University, especially at the beginning of the book. William knows his worth, and he isn’t afraid to say when he’s being underutilized. It is that frustration in part that contributes to his antagonistic relationship to Taliesin, someone who should be a mentor figure but is more often an additional source of irritation for him. During the month when I wrote I Experimented Once in College, I led a very busy, work-filled life; I wouldn’t recommend it every month, but it was a blast!

Readers, do you have certain songs that remind you of high school or college? Were they popular songs at the time, or were they favorites from another decade? You can reach me at aishlarsnow@gmail.com, @Aishlar, and aishlarsnow.blogspot.com, or by commenting on this post. I would love to hear what’s on your mind!

Check out I Experimented Once in College today!

I-Experimented-Once_postcard_front_DSP

Blurb:

PhD candidate William Yderis comes to Efeldon University to teach and finish his degree in charmcrafting. For methodical, sedate, and scholarly William, the school defies his expectations—and not in a good way. The biggest surprise comes when William meets his boss, absent-minded Archmage Taliesin Karsus, a man as infuriating as he is sexy.

As William struggles to carve out his place at the university, he is drawn in to Tal’s chaotic experiments… and drawn to Tal despite his logical mind’s protests. And if Tal’s wavering affection isn’t enough to complicate William’s studies, he uncovers a plot involving an ambitious staff member, brainwashed students, sexual assault, and a threat to the lives of everyone on campus. When it comes time to face the danger, William is on his own. For the first time in his life, he’ll have to trust in his heart instead of his head.

 

Facing Your Fears with Sera Kane – Post + Giveaway

April 20, 2016

Facing Your Fears

When I was young, I was informed that writing wasn’t a career.  It was a hobby, a thing you did when you happened to have some time from doing your Real Life.  Going to college.  Getting a job.  Getting married, having kids.  Being “normal”.

It cannot be a surprise that ‘normal’ was never on my list of personal descriptors.  I thought I wanted to do the college thing, though it did not hold my attention too terribly well.  I knew I wanted a career—that was what I’d been told to do in order to be successful.  I was ambivalent about marriage, and terrified of children.

And here I sit in a coffeehouse with a Macbook—what in the world has happened to the old Computer Science major—trying to decide how to interact with strangers who think that my writing is valuable.  That this story I’ve painfully eked out despite my past, my thoughts, my fears, is something they find entertaining.  I just have to say, you, dear readers, are amazing.  Without you, so much of worth would be lost.  Thank you.

My name is Sera Kane, and today I am proud and honoured to introduce you to my novella Lord of Hearth, Lord of Hollow.

When I originally lurked around on DSP wondering if I dared to try, I was caught by an anthology call.  For cooking type things. Something of which I know essentially nothing about.  My spouse is the chef in our household.  I’ve failed at boiling water.

No.  Seriously.  He had to take over.  And, yes, the water did start boiling for him, almost immediately.

It would be a challenge, then.  A challenge to write a story that tied into cooking.  I could tap into my spouse’s knowledge, though, and, really, that’s where the recipe at the end came from.  A challenge to write under a deadline.  But I am lackadaisical at best when it comes to scheduling, so a deadline would force me to work at a steady pace.  A challenge to write for the sole purpose of trying to get it published.

It was the last that I most feared.

LoH is a story of two men hiding from their fears.  Aimes Cully is a full-blooded human, something unusual in a world where ‘fae’ blood has diluted the world.  When his brother—and only surviving family member—disappears after being accepted as a chef at the palace, Aimes sets out to be accepted, too.  But magic is possible through one’s fae heritage, so Aimes must find other ways to make up for his lack and that includes chancy raids into faerie rings.

Fae.  Faerie.  Elf.  So many misnomers for his kind, the Elfaegaard, and very little truth of his ancestry remains among the humans, mixed blood or not.  Keanewyeth Ordioral, however, is unaffected by any of these could-be slurs, for he is the lord of his own hollow.  A cursed hollow.  He is a prisoner within the home of his own lands.  For two centuries, Keane has been trapped here with no opportunity for escape.  He cannot leave and none come and so, he’s been alone.  Until a particular human is captured attempting to plunder one of his hollow’s rings, and, suddenly, Keanewyeth is reminded of the outside world and all that he has been locked away from, not the least of which is the love of another.

As their pasts cross, Aimes must come to terms with the truth of his family, and Keane must confront his so that they have a chance to overcome their fears and emerge into a brighter future, together.

Aimes and Keane are gentle reminders that we can reach beyond our current circumstances to find better things.  Not just running wildly in any direction, like Aimes, or hiding like Keane, but with focused purpose.  You are not defined by your circumstances, no matter how easy it is for others to try to do that to you.  You are valid and worthwhile, exactly as you are.

It’s so easy to let fear decide our reactions to things, but it doesn’t have to be a wall keeping us from our hopes and dreams!  When is a time that you’ve used fear to motivate you to accomplish your goals?  Is there a time you overcame your fear to do something anyway?  Or even a time when the fear kept you from doing it?

One thing you don’t need to fear, though, is boredom!  I’m pleased to announce an exclusive giveaway. One lucky traveler will be chosen to receive a copy of Lord of Hearth, Lord of Hollow.  Your entry fee is merely to comment here!  I need a chance to meet you, after all!  We can talk about fears, cooking, writing, anything you’d like.  I’m happy to answer questions or just shoot the breeze.  So, dear travelers, let’s meet!

Check out Lord of Hearth, Lord of Hollow today!

LordofHearthFS

Blurb:

Culinary school is hard enough for Aimes Cully without mixing in an utterly underwhelming physical appearance—too small, too delicate, too red-haired, too freckled, too human—added with the inability to magically improve the food—still too human—and facing the too beautiful, too fae-looking Aleksi’s teases and taunts. When rumors surface that Aimes’s older brother’s success is a lie, Aimes is determined to prove them wrong and show that pure-blooded humans are the equal of anyone with mixed blood.

But things get worse after Aimes is caught in a faerie ring and transported to the fae hollow of Lord Keanewyeth Ordorial. As the attraction heats up, it becomes obvious that there’s something wrong in the magical home. A cursed creature appears, and everything becomes jumbled as the secrets of their lives collide into a painful concoction of Aimes’s past and Keanewyeth’s present. But if they can meld their talents, they might be able to save each.

Author Bio:

Sera Kane has loved the written word for essentially forever, in this particular case, somewhere in the range of thirty years or so.  She writes to share the fantastical things that go on in her mind on a daily basis.  Her secret-but-not-so-secret desire is to write pieces that are impossible to put down.  And, also, to kill off a beloved character.  She has not succeeded at either of these things, but be warned that she wants to!

She currently lives in southern California, but she’s been quite a few places in her day!  Her favourites include Washington– the state, not DC– Texas, and Japan.  Her house is filled by an exceedingly tall husband, a very swift son, a derpy German Shepherd, and a grumpy yet loving Shih-Tzu.  If she ever won the lottery, she’d have houses in all three of those places and breed Shepherds in at least one of them.

Social Media:

Website: http://serakane.com
Blog: http://serakane.com/writes
Facebook: http://facebook.com/worldsofserakane
Twitter: @serakaneworlds

O, Research, What Art Thou? With Tinnean

April 8, 2016

O, Research, What Art Thou-

Greetings, everyone! I’m Tinnean, and I’ve been published by Dreamspinner since February 28, 2011. (I remember the exact date, since that was also the day I retired as head photo tech at my local Walgreens, thereby missing all the release day activities.)

The book that’s being released today is Whither Thou Goest, the second book in the Finding Home series, and the sequel to Call Me Church. Both take place during the Great Depression, and more specifically in 1933-34. While these stories are historical, they actually occur in an alternate reality. (Let’s face it—you’re not going to find saber-toothed tigers or wooly mammoths in this day and age!)

Whether I’m writing a contemporary or a historical, or even if either is set in an alternate universe where there are paranormal inhabitants or prehistoric beasts, I make a point of researching my story to within an inch of its life. It was interesting scouring the History Channel for Prehistoric Predators, which enabled me to include short-faced bears, mammoths, and saber-toothed tigers. The flying creatures were based on Haast’s eagle, which has its own Wiki page. Haast’s eagle was originally much smaller than depicted in the book—I took some liberties. *whistles innocently* I also relied on Roy Chapman Andrews’s book, All About Strange Beasts of the Past, something I’ve owned since I was a mere tot.

Research is enormously satisfying. As writers know, you can start looking into one thing and suddenly find yourself somewhere else entirely. Since this story wandered into the territory of ancient Rome, I ended up finding sites that have Roman and Greek names from approximately the first century A.D. Watching I, Claudius was a fun way to refresh myself on Robert Graves’s take on Roman history and was no hardship at all. Messallina, (alternate spelling) wife of the emperor Claudius, made a perfect villainess for my story. Marcellus, who led the Romans to the relative safety of Calvariam Insula—the island the occupants on the other side of the mountain range called Iwi Po’o—had a post in Pompeii, which was still thriving in 43 A.D. At that time, the eruption of Vesuvius was still thirty-six years in the future.

I remember my mother taking me to an automat similar to the one Church took Johnny to, (I refused to finish my cheese sandwich because someone was looking at me) and reading up about it was fascinating.

Horn_&_Hardart_automat
From: Wikipedia

It also helps for me to have a visual. Every once in a while, family or friends will send me emails that contain pictures, and I’ll say, “This is perfect as Iwi Po’o.” Although, of course, the island would have to be a good deal larger.

Aogasima

Credit: Wikipedia

Iwi Po’o is beautiful, but it’s also deadly. Would you be willing to travel with Johnny and Church and visit this island?

Or, “This is what Johnny’s Island of Many Waterfalls looks like!”

Elakala_Waterfalls_Swirling_Pool_Mossy_Rocks

Credit: By Forest Wander from Cross Lanes, USA – Elakala Waterfalls Swirling Pool Mossy Rocks, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8025248

In Call Me Church, the first book of Finding Home, people had taken shelter in Central Park’s “Hooverville” so named after the president who’d been in office when the stock market crash signaled the start of the Great Depression. These people also suffered the attack by Chetwood’s Kitty, the sabertooth he brought back from Iwi Po’o. This is what Central Park looked like in 1930, when a shanty town was set up there.
(enter picture labeled Central Park 1930)

Right now I’m working on Book 3 of Mann of My Dreams. My characters pay a visit to Savannah, where they meet the family introduced in Best Laid Plans. And let me tell you: just because the action is set in 2003, that doesn’t mean there’s any less research. ;-)
Louis L’Amour once said something that has always stayed with me: When I write about a spring, that spring is there, and the water is good to drink. I’d like my readers to be able to trust that have my facts straight. (no pun)

Check out Whither Thou Goest today!

WhitherThouGoestFS

Blurb:

Johnny Smith meets Church Chetwood during the dark days of the Great Depression. He knows Mr. Chetwood can’t be his forever. Why would the handsome and charming director want to stay with a young man who has nothing but his body and skills in bed to offer? His Mr. Chetwood can have any women—or man—he wants, but Johnny is going to keep him as long as he can.
When they have to leave suddenly on the SS August Moon to evade the process servers trying to find Church, Johnny is glad they’ll have more time together. But the crew rises up against the good Captain Johansen, urged on by a stowaway who wants the August Moon for himself. Johnny and Church, together with the captain, the cook, a wireless operator, and the little girl Johnny saved from prostitution, are cast off into a small lifeboat—and doomed to the open sea. Their other option is to try to land on the island where Church once discovered a saber-toothed tiger. The problem is, the last time Church was on this island, twelve men paid the price with their lives. Will Johnny, Church, and their friends make it out alive this time?

Bio:

Tinnean has been writing since the 3rd grade, where she was inspired to try her hand at epic poetry. Fortunately, that epic poem didn’t survive the passage of time; however, her love of writing not only survived but thrived, and in high school she became a member of the magazine staff, where she contributed a number of stories.

It was with the advent of the family’s second computer – the first intimidated everyone – that her writing took off, enhanced in part by fanfiction, but mostly by the wonder that is copy and paste.

While involved in fandom, she was nominated for both Rerun and Light My Fire Awards. Now she concentrates on her original characters. Recent novels have received honorable mention in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Rainbow Awards, and two of the 2014 submissions were finalists.

A New Yorker at heart, she resides in SW Florida with her husband and two computers.

Ernest Hemingway’s words reflect Tinnean’s devotion to her craft: Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.

She can be contacted at:
Email: tinneantoo@gmail.com
Live Journal: http://tinnean.livejournal.com/
Twitter: @tinneantoo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tinnean
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Tinnean/e/B004QS65KQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1391469662&sr=1-2-ent

August Li’s The Kitchen Boy

April 7, 2016

August Li's The Kitchen Boy

Hi everybody. I’m August (Gus) Li, here at the blog today to talk about my novella The Kitchen Boy.

If you’ve read much of my work, you probably know I like to put a lot of pressure on my characters to see how dealing with conflict will force them to adapt and hopefully grow. In a lot of my books, characters face large-scale battles, conspiracies, assassinations, and powerful magic. I took a little bit of a different approach to this book. There’s still magic, and there’s political intrigue, some fights, and a body count. There are characters with selfish motivations, and there are betrayals. But the main conflict for my main character, Yoli, is internal, which leads to the topic I’m interested in exploring.

Does personal interest have a place in romance?

It’s easy to say no, that of course a character should put aside personal pursuits to chase love, to sacrifice selfish goals for the greater prize of a lasting connection with another person. But I like to poke around in the gray areas where things aren’t so simple. Love and partnership is a wonderful thing to have, but is there a point when its price is too high? What if a character must give up a lucrative career to be with another, or leave his homeland? Do we as readers cheer, or do we have to wonder if he made the right decision? What makes it a fair trade for the character who is giving something up? What does the love interest have to provide to balance the scales?

Or, as is the case in my book, what if the character is given a choice between loyalty to the man he loves and safety, freedom from being hurt, having his basic needs met, and the opportunity to realize his dream? It sounds too good to be true, and, in a way, it is, but walking away will make his life much easier and more comfortable. It might even mean the difference between life and death. It’s an interesting conflict to explore, because the desire to find love is such a basic and compelling one. But self-preservation is also a strong need. And not every character is a tragic hero who would rather die than lose they person he loves. Some characters are more practical. Some characters have also learned from experience that they have to look out for themselves.

As my character finds out, loyalty is lovely as a concept, but can become messy in practice. He wants to be an idealist, to stick to his beliefs no matter the opposition, but he also wants a future, and he wants that future to include enough to eat and the chance to do something he finds fulfilling. He’s put in a position where he must make an impossible choice. You’ll have to read the book to see how he reconciles everything, but does a certain amount of self-interest make for a bad romance protagonist?

Nobody likes a self-absorbed jerk who only cares about himself, but personally, I also don’t like a character without his own interests, without an investment in his own success, or who doesn’t use his agency to ensure a satisfying outcome for himself. I don’t like a character who only cares about what his love interest wants, at the expense of his own wishes and goals.  Most characters are never forced into a situation where they must, in absolute terms, choose between one and the other, but putting them there makes their most basic personality rise to the surface. As a writer, moving that dial between selfish jerk and doormat is a delicate balancing act. Push it too far, and the result is an unlikable character—no one cares about his success because he really doesn’t deserve it. Wiggle it in the other direction, and you end up with a character who lacks believability at best, comes across kind of deluded and pathetic at worst. Most people have a strong survival instinct, but most people also want to be loved—and to see those they love thrive. If they cannot have it both ways, what do they do?

So how do you like your protagonists? Self-sacrificing idealists or practical people who look out for themselves? It’s somewhere in between for me. Do you prefer characters that lean more one way or the other? What lines can a character not cross without losing your affection?

Check out The Kitchen Boy today!

KitchenBoyFS

Blurb:

Kitchen servant Yoli is one of only three men who know a carefully guarded secret about High Commander Koehen, the brilliant general who united their lands against a common invader. The enemy wants that secret, and they are willing to use either kindness or cruelty to obtain it.

Yoli must decide if his loyalties lie with the commander, who has shown him more affection than anyone in Yoli’s life, or with his own best interests. High Commander Koehen’s attention is capricious at best—he summons Yoli only when it is convenient for him, and Yoli knows there’s little hope of a future together. Is a glimmer of a hope for love worth sacrificing a chance for prosperity beyond his wildest dreams?

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ninja.Gus
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ninja_Gus
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Once Upon a Time… with Rowan Speedwell

March 10, 2016

ONCE UPON A TIME...

Hi, I’m Rowan Speedwell, and I’m delighted to announce that my novella Night and Day is being re-released by Dreamspinner. I hope that y’all are as happy as me, because I love yez and want you to be happy! So sit back and I’ll tell you a little story….

 

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who looooved fairy tales, and started studying history so she could find out where and when those beautiful castles were… only to find out that the only fairy castles in the world were built by a crazy man named Ludwig of Bavaria barely more than two hundred years ago. But that was okay, because by then the little girl had discovered that the stories history told were much more interesting than fairy tales.

In her pursuit – she was literally the only person who received a Master’s degree in the Department of Humanities, Division of History from the University of Chicago in 1981 (everyone else was in the Social Studies department, blech) – she learned about culture and art and science and philosophy and music and literature and all the good stuff, not just dates and places and names. And she learned about mythology, and how the true stories of mythology – particularly Greek mythology – told you more about the people and places and times as any dull ol’ Social Studies book (blech).

Particularly when she graduated from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology to Bulfinch’s Mythology, and then stuff got really good. The things those gods got up to!

Night and Day plays with the gods, although the names have been changed to protect the innocent – assuming we can find any. It’s based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I don’t know if you know that story, but basically it’s this: Orpheus was a brilliant musician, who Apollo and Dionysus, both gods of music, fought over because each wanted him to be their worshipper. Apollo won out, but Dionysus (or Bacchus, if you know that one better) wasn’t going to let the insult go. Ain’t that just like a god? Sheesh. Anyway, the only thing Orpheus loved more than music was his wife Eurydice. Sadly, she died, and was taken away to Hades. Orpheus went after her, because you apparently can do that sort of thing in mythology, and was brought before Hades himself and his own wife Persephone. He played for them and the music was so beautiful the two promised him anything he wanted, so of course he asked for Eurydice back.

But there was a catch. (Usually is with these god guys.) He had to lead her out of Hades (Hades being both the place and the god, as anyone who’s seen Disney’s Hercules would know) but couldn’t look at her. So he did, and just as he stepped out of the tunnel from Hades, she stumbled and cried out, and he looked at her instinctively – but she was still in the tunnel, still in Hades, and so she faded back into the darkness.

Poor Orpheus went mad with grief, wandering the wild places. And Dionysus’s groupies, a bunch of crazy women called Maenads, who ran around drunk on Dionysus’s grapes (he was also the god of wine) wearing animal skins and eating raw bunnies, came upon him and tore him apart. There may have been cannibalism involved. So Dionysus got his revenge.

Of course Nate Pederowski is a tougher character. He’s survived the First World War and the loss of his lover, and the loss of his career and family and pretty much all illusions he might have still had. But unlike Orpheus, the music keeps him going. And just because there’s some strange stuff going on in the Starlight Lounge, it doesn’t mean he’s going to give up. Even if his new lover has a tendency to catch fire in sunlight, and a local gangster is trying to lure him away, and the clubfooted chef has a volcanic temper, and people around Nate are just a little bit weird. But he gets by and even starts to see a future…

Until he meets the Maenads…

(Insert evil laugh here.)

And maybe, maybe, we might find ourselves at the Starlight again someday. Because I love me some myths and magic.

What’s your favorite myth? And why?

Email: rowan.speedwell@gmail.com
Twitter: @rowanspeedwell
Facebook: Rowan Speedwell
Website: www.rowanspeedwell.com

Check out Night and Day here!

NightandDayFS

Blurb: 

Nate Pederowski is about as far down as he can go when he’s tipped to a job as a singer in a speakeasy. Dishonorably discharged for being queer, broke and homeless during the Great Depression, Nate is embittered and lonely. The club’s handsome owner, Rick Bellevue, and his sister Corinna are wowed by Nate’s voice and offer him the job.

But the Starlight Lounge is much more than an ordinary supper club, and Rick and his sister much more than just the owners. It’s not ’til Nate gets caught up in a gangster’s plot that he discovers just what secrets they’re hiding. Nate’s life is going to change in ways he can scarcely imagine, let alone believe.

 

Dragon Appreciation with Susan Laine – Post + Giveaway

March 2, 2016

Dragon Appreciation

Hi, everyone. My name is Susan Laine. I’m a Finn but I write in English. Today is release day of my paranormal gay romance, Stealing Dragon’s Heart. This is the sixth in the Lifting the Veil series but it is completely a standalone, so you don’t need to have read the previous books. You can find the story from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and other retailers.

Here’s the blurb:

“A Lifting the Veil Story

Notorious master thief Finn Grayson is hired to break into a high-class skyscraper in New Shanghai and steal a priceless artifact known as the Shard. But someone’s gotten to the Shard first—and the penthouse suite turns out to be a dragon’s lair.

Cameron Feilong, Guardian of the Earth Shard, is ancient enough to realize that he and his unbidden guest are being used like puppets on a string. Forming a shaky alliance is the only way for them to survive and to stop their ruthless foes.

Unfortunately, Finn and Cam seem to be forever one step behind. To learn more about their clandestine enemy, they travel together from walled Asian cities, barren tundras, and underwater temples to secret paranormal clubs and legendary elvish cities. Finn and Cam must learn to trust each other before it’s too late, for bringing together the five Elemental Shards will spell the end of the world.”

**********

Today I’m here to talk a bit about the behind the scenes, and to do a giveaway of one (1) e-book.

My mother introduced me to ancient Chinese culture, art, and literature when I was a child. Ancient China felt like a mythical land, far removed from contemporary Finland. I’ve wanted to write a story based on what I’d learned for a long time. The setting is an alternate contemporary Earth, and about a decade after the mysterious Veil lifted, reshaping our reality. Our boring human world and the magical realm of myths, legends, and folklore ended on a collision course, irrevocably changing our planet.

What’s so special about Stealing Dragon’s Heart then? The answer: Dragons! Specifically Chinese dragons that are depicted as wise, good, and honorable. I may wish to be a werewolf myself if I could, but of all the mythical, paranormal, and supernatural creatures I most wanted to meet a Chinese dragon.

Their effect on Chinese mythology is substantial, and they appear far more complex than their monstrous counterparts in Western myths. The Chinese dragons are typically shown as snake-like creatures that move on four legs, and they have characteristics of turtles, fish, serpents, and the like. These beings represent positive powers, and they control rain, floods, typhoons, tsunami, and other water-related phenomena. Dragon was an imperial symbol of power, strength, and good fortune.

I mostly kept that image with my dragon. Cameron Feilong is an immortal dragon. But his powers connect with the element of Earth, not Water. His sacred duty is to guard the Earth Shard. He is wise and powerful, and he is a sign of good luck for his human and flawed anti-hero, Finn Grayson, a thief who ends up in the lair of the dragon but manages to get through unscathed. Mostly, anyway.

Picture taken from Wikipedia.

My dragon is many things. Among them an artist and a poet. For the art, I was influenced by Wǔ Xíng paintings depicting the five elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The natural themes of the art style were inspired monumentally by the landscapes of ancient China, most significantly by Huángshān, or the Yellow Mountains. Below are, a picture of Huángshān, and an ink Wǔ Xíng painting of Huángshān, both taken from Wikipedia:

As you can see, Huángshān, or the Yellow Mountains, and their scenery were common subjects of artwork and poetry an ancient China, and even today through photography and film. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), tens of thousands of poems were written about Huángshān alone, and a school of painting was named after the region.

The cover of Stealing Dragon’s Heart, which depicts the Wǔ Xíng painting style, was done by the extremely talented Anne Cain.

Cameron Feilong, my ancient dragon, shares my love of Wǔ Xíng artwork and poetry, and he even lives high in the Yellow Mountains. I adore ancient Chinese poetry, and the multitude of interpretations. In the story Cameron talks about his favorite poems and poets, among them Dù Fǔ and Li Bai, two essential poets of the Tang period. Below is an English translation of one of Li Bai’s poems, Long Yearning.

“Long yearning,

To be in Chang’an [capital city of the Tang Dynasty].

The grasshoppers weave their autumn song by the golden railing of the well;

Frost coalesces on my bamboo mat, changing its color with cold.

My lonely lamp is not bright, I’d like to end these thoughts;

I roll back the hanging, gaze at the moon, and long sigh in vain.

A beautiful person’s like a flower beyond the edge of the clouds.

Above is the black night of heaven’s height;

Below is the green water billowing on.

The sky is long, the road is far, bitter flies my spirit;

The spirit I dream can’t get through, the mountain pass is hard.

Long yearning,

Breaks my heart.”

(Poem: http://www.chinese-poems.com/lb.html)

As you can see, there’s a connection between literature, painting style, and nature. The aesthetics of these three always pleased me as a child, and now as an adult, ancient China inspired me to write a story about a wise dragon and his perilous adventure with a human thief.

So there you have it. My thoughts on Stealing Dragon’s Heart. I hope you liked reading my sort of intro into the story and the ancient Chinese culture.

I’m doing a giveaway of an e-book (Stealing Dragon’s Heart, or anything from my backlog), so if you’d like to enter, comment below with an answer to this question: “If you could be any mythical or paranormal being, which one would it be, and why?” Good luck, everyone!

Thank you, DSP Blog, for hosting my guest post, and thank you readers for stopping by!

Author Bio:

“Susan Laine is an award-winning, multi-published author of LGBTQ erotic romance. Her favorite pastimes include listening to music, watching action flicks, eating chocolate, and doing the dishes while pondering the meaning of life.”

Find Susan online:

Website – http://www.susan-laine-author.fi/
Blog – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5221828.Susan_Laine/blog
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/susan.laine.author
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Laine_Susan
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5221828.Susan_Laine

Find Stealing Dragon’s Heart online:

Dreamspinner Press – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7488
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Stealing-Dragons-Heart-Lifting-Veil-ebook/dp/B01BO6TYU0/
Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stealing-dragons-heart-susan-laine/1123402484?ean=2940157914202
All Romance eBooks – https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-stealingdragonrsquosheart-1983709-143.html

 

The Real World of Fairy Tales with R. Cooper

February 23, 2016

The Real World of Fairy Tales

Hello, I’m R. Cooper, mostly known for the Being(s) In Love series, although today I’m talking about a different version of fairy tales than my fairies and werewolves and trolls in the modern world. The Winter Prince is decidedly not modern. It’s the kind of story you’d expect when you hear the term ‘fairy tale’—if your ideal fairy tale includes gay romance, and why wouldn’t it? This is a prince under a curse, and the clever wizard determined to save him, and beasts and dragons and the magical interference of a powerful and mysterious creature.

I kind of have a thing for fairy tales, as you might have noticed if you’ve read the Beings stories. Even when I’m not trying to write fairy tales, I end up writing them. My novella, Dancing Lessons, which is entirely contemporary and non-magical, contains a fairy tale I made up to be the basis of a ballet. Well, to be honest, that entire novella has references to fairy tales in it, from magic mirrors to a red hoodie to big bad wolves. Why? Because the main character, Chico, doesn’t think he could have a fairy tale romance. But of course he can, and his prince is right in front of him. Silly Chico.

A lot of the time, people, like Chico, use the term “fairy tale” as short hand for romance. Which always makes me think of the A Softer World comic, which sort of darkly comments on asking for a fairy tale romance without having read any actual fairy tales. Real fairy tales don’t always end happily, and some are rather grisly. But fairy tales, and fantastical stories from around the world, are so much more than that. And the heroes aren’t always handsome princes—although those are nice.

They aren’t especially rich in detail on their character’s personal struggles. They can range from somewhat risqué early versions of Red Riding Hood with Red stripteasing for the crossdressing wolf in her grandma’s bed (no, really), to dark and cannibalistic tales of starving peasants and murdering stepmothers, to folklore of girls who married lions (or beasts, or Bluebeards), to the melancholy stories of Hans Christian Anderson. Some are clearly allegorical, some are meant to impart a lesson, and some are just fun stories. They get reimagined all the time, and I bet there are countless grad students out there writing papers on them.

Like many people, I grew up with them. Disney gets everyone sooner or later, but it’s when you crack open a volume by the Brothers Grimm that things really start to get interesting. Then again, I devoured the bloodiest of Greek myths as a kid too. Any collection of fantastical stories was a book of fairy tales to me. Including this really, really, really censored version of the Arabian Nights for kids that I still own, and a book of Shakespeare plays with these fascinating illustrations of Titania and a fiercely frowning Oberon, and spooky European folklore full of tricky magical beings who live in shadowy places and may or may not intend to harm you, and poems about jealous, vengeful fairy queens intent on trapping beautiful humans in their courts. I read them all like the nerd that I am. Stories where peasants can marry princes, and kings can be heartless monsters. Where wolves talk and hunt humans, but are also sometimes kind princes in disguise.

Which raises the question, how do you tell a good wolf from a bad wolf? And does that matter in a world where your own parents might lead you into the woods to die, proving that humans can be as wonderful, or as vicious, as anything magical? The fairy tale world is as uncertain as our world, but with magic as a real, tangible thing.

I suspect that’s where the Beings came from. At first the Beings stories were just a fun, silly story written to amuse my friends. Then they became a little more, once I really thought about what it might mean to be a werewolf in a world that teaches us that werewolves lie in wait to mindlessly devour victims, or how it would feel to be a fairy when most depictions of fairies are hardly flattering. In fact, exploring how the stereotype about fairies is that they are beautiful but empty-headed and slutty is part of the next Beings story, involving Tulip the fairy. I love that. Fairy tales in the real world. Or is that, the real world in the fairy tales?

Maybe there was a foolish prince who met a firebird, but what did the firebird think about it? If there was a princess who sewed stinging nettles to save her brothers and kept silent for seven years, I bet she had some things to say when it was all over. Anyone could become a rich and powerful sultan if they stumbled into the right cave of treasures, or find themselves penniless and desperate for angering the wrong pari. The creatures themselves manage to operate under otherworldly rules and yet still have human foibles. Perhaps if the humans who told those stories weren’t so self-centered, those magical beings might even have been the heroes of their own tales.

Of course, The Winter Prince is not a story about the Beings. It’s a fairy tale. A handsome and noble prince falls under a curse—or so the world thinks—and must go on a quest. But it’s also not a fairy tale, because Kişin is more than just a prince in a storybook. He’s stubborn, and entirely too devoted to duty, and sort of blind to something that should be really obvious, but as the story goes on you begin to see why he is the way he is. And that was what was really interesting to me. How does it feel to be the person in the tale? What are the real reasons a fairy tale character would choose to do these incredible things? To be the prince who, if it was just a story, would be “handsome and noble” and nothing more, while literally having no heart in his chest?

The story was born a night on my Tumblr, when I decided I wanted to write a tale with all these fairy tale tropes and elements that I love. What if we had a prince without a heart, a prince who gave away his heart? Symbolic, yes, because it’s a fairy tale and that’s how they work. But then I wondered, what does that mean in the real world, if your real world has magic? A prince with no heart would be unable to feel anything, not love, but also not fear, or rage, or passion. Can he survive like that?

The answer is no, he can’t. Without a heart to warm him, he is slowly freezing to death and will not survive another winter. Without a heart to make him care, he is willing for that to happen. The only thing he does feel is terror at the idea of his heart being returned. To Kişin, a heart means pain. Fairy gifts—and curses—always have such specific meanings and I love it. He’s kind of… stupidly stubborn about not wanting his heart back, in fact, as well ridiculously self-sacrificing, which is what you’d expected from someone raised to be an ideal prince.

Thank goodness there is someone a little less noble around to give him the proverbial kick in the rear. Someone like a crafty and clever wizard. He’s not the sort you’d expect in a fairy tale, except maybe to give advice or cause trouble, and Razin is fully aware that he has no place in the story of a prince looking for his heart—but he isn’t going to let something like that stop him from saving Kişin’s life.

So the two of them go on a quest for Kişin’s missing heart. The best thing about quests is, the object you’re looking for is always with you the whole time. But of course, people on the quest don’t know that. Where would be the fun in that? So they argue and worry and fret and slowly reveal how they got to this place, as the days grow colder and the stakes get higher and the tension between them rises. They are characters in a fairy tale, acting decidedly un-fairytalelike.

I fully admit to loving that. Tension between two characters, and pining, and magic are some of my favorite things. Throw in an actual fairy—or a pari, as the case may be, and I am in nerdy romance heaven.

What’s your nerdy romance heaven? Let’s talk books of stories and fables and wondrous tales. Let’s pretend we are sitting in a dragon’s carefully curated library and all those amazing titles are on display. Any fairy tales you’ve always wondered about? Have you ever wanted to see, or found, a version of a beloved story that you adored beyond all reason?

Check out The Winter Prince!

WinterPrince[The]

 

Blurb:

His heart stolen by a powerful pari’s magic, a young prince’s veins slowly fill with ice. That is what the stories say. Three years have passed since, and all efforts to save Kisin have failed. He won’t survive another winter. To save the prince’s life, Razin, the court wizard and Kisin’s childhood friend, plans to seek out the pari. But unbeknownst to Razin, Kisin’s heart was never stolen; he gave it freely to escape the pain of impossible love—his love for Razin.

Razin won’t accept Kisin’s fate, for reasons obvious to anyone who knows anything of love. Kisin agrees to the desperate quest, out of duty and a need to protect Razin. But it isn’t long before Razin realizes saving his prince will require more than simply retrieving his heart. Razin will have to convince him to want it.

 

About R. Cooper:

R. Cooper lives among the redwoods of Northern California in a tiny house she refers to as her Writer’s Retreat. She has two cats, overthinks almost everything, and has more books than bookshelves. Someone once said her stories stick up for the damaged ones, and that is the greatest compliment she’s ever gotten. She loves mutual pining, fairy tales, and slightly broken everyday heroes with lonely hearts. If you want to contact her or to merely observe a shy nerd in her natural habitat, feel free to visit her Livejournal or Tumblr.
E-mail: RisCoops@gmail.com
Website: r-cooper.livejournal.com
Tumblr: sweetfirebird.tumblr.com