Tin Box release party post 2

September 20, 2013

Has an accidental discovery ever changed your life?

In my new novel, The Tin Box, William Lyon makes two accidental discoveries. A grad student working on his dissertation and going through a divorce, he takes a job as caretaker of a former mental hospital. The hospital is located near the tiny California town of Jelley’s Valley.

William’s first accidental discovery is Colby Anderson, the town postal/general store clerk. Colby is upbeat, bouncy, and compared to William, very uninhibited. And he’s adorable. He looks quite a bit like Andrew Christian model Cory Lee (a discovery that required hours and hours of arduous research on my part):

Yep. Lots of that tough research.

When Colby learns that William has spent most of his life in denial about his sexuality, Cory promises to help William learn more about being gay. Cory will be William’s fairy godfather.

William’s other discovery is the tin box that gives the novel its name. The box has been hidden in the asylum for decades. Inside are letters written in the late 1930s by Bill—a man committed to the mental hospital for being gay—to his lover, Johnny. The letters teach William about the heartbreak and horrors experienced by gay people in the not-so-distant past. But maybe the letters can also give William the courage to become his true self.

So, two accidental discoveries change William’s life. Have you ever happened upon something—an idea, an object, a place, a person—that changed your life?

The Tin Box release party post 1

September 20, 2013

My name is Kim Fielding and I am so pleased to be celebrating the release of my newest novel, The Tin Box! This book means a lot to me, and I really hope you’ll come to care about the characters as much as I do.

Let me introduce them to you. William Lyon is 32, a grad student working on his doctorate in psychology. After a lifetime of denial over his sexuality, he’s divorcing his wife and trying to find himself. He takes a job as caretaker at a former mental hospital. As the story begins, William is a pretty uptight kind of guy. So he’s a little shocked when he meets the local postal clerk/general store clerk, Colby Anderson. Colby is bouncy. He’s a little flamboyant. And he’s definitely very out.

We can get a sense of who these guys are by what they wear. With William it’s khakis, button-downs, sport coats, and even ties. Colby? Well, when William first meets him, Colby is wearing red flip-flops, skinny jeans, and a tight black tank top with the words TOTAL DANCE WHORE written in sparkly letters.

I actually saw that shirt on a guy in San Francisco not long ago. He wore it well. The setting for this book, the little town of Jelley’s Valley, was also inspired by a real place not far from Yosemite. There’s a general store/post office there, which got me to wondering about who might work there.

Later today I’ll be giving away a Dreamspinner gift certificate, a charity donation, and a copy of The Tin Box. I’m also doing a giveaway on my blog, so be sure to visit there.

I guess my clothes say something about me too. Like maybe I never quite outgrew that punk phase I was going through.

Like those of William and Colby, do your clothes say something about you?

“The Satyr’s Song” Release Party, final cannon

September 19, 2013

Well it looks like the time for “The Satyr’s Song” release party is winding down. The last joust is over and we’re watching the crowds straggle toward the gate before the final cannon. I hope everyone has enjoyed the day at the faire with pictures and commentary. I could go on for several more hours, but this is it. Midnight fast approaches the east coast so let’s part ways with another post of the sexy men of faire.

Hot and Hunky

Just plain cute.

Handsome

Graceful

Fierce

Huzah! So, that’s it for hot men of the ren faire part 2 and I think the final cannon just sounded in the distance signaling that the day has come to an end. I hope everyone has enjoyed it as much as I did. Don’t forget about our contest. Hidden in amongst the many pictures I posted today are two images, one of me and one of my handsome husband. Leave me a comment with which post and which image. The first one with the correct answer wins an autographed copy of “The Satyr’s Song” as soon as I get my copies. Your deadline is Midnight September 20 2013 (MST)!

Don’t forget to stop by my website and facebook page to stay abreast of things going on and the solution to the contest are on facebook. Well, you’ll still have to tell me which post and pictures, but the rest is pretty easy.  Good night fair gentles. Andy, aka A.J. Marcus.

“The Satyr’s Song” Release Party part 7

September 19, 2013

We’re getting down to the nitty gritty here. A couple more hours and “The Satyr’s Song” will be released to the world. Now where were we? Oh yeah, let’s take a look as some of the various entertainers that make our stay and the faire a little more fun and enjoyable. I think just about anyone can find something to their liking. There is any number of traveling entertainers at a renaissance faire. Singers and comedians abound. There are jugglers, escape artist, fools, fire breathers and belly dancers, just to name a few. And let’s not forget those awesome jousters, the basis for the first book in the series “The Jouster’s Lance” These fine men on their magnificent steeds are the central part of fair entertainment.

Cast in Bronze. His hauntingly beautiful music can be heard across the faire grounds at time. If you have the opportunity he’s not to be missed.

If I leave out a belly dancer or two, Mel and Jade won’t let me hear the end of it. I hope everyone enjoys them in “The Satyr’s Song” as much as Lady Catherine in “The Jouster’s Lance.” But Lady Catherine fans, don’t worry, she’ll be back in “The Archer’s Arrow” (I think that’s only a minor spoiler.)

A wandering trope of songstresses.

Iris and Rose preforming on the Pirate’s Pub stage.

Charming and Dashing working their princely skills on an unsuspecting princess.

Rocking Celtic Music.

And the Joust!

So with so much to do, it’s easy to see why it takes folks all day to see everything the faire has to offer. What is your favorite entertainment to see at the faire?

Only one more post to go. The final cannon is about to sound.

“The Satyr’s Song” Release Party part 4

September 19, 2013

A.J. Marcus back again. So I just got reminded that it’s annual talk like a pirate day…yeah, I’m not very good at it so I’ll give it a hearty ARRRR there maties and be done with it. But since it is a very special day, and the faires are known places for pirates, and one of the main characters, Austin, in “The Jouster’s Lance” had a pirate persona at faire, we might as well throw in some more pirate pictures. You can never have too many pirates. By the way, even though Austin appears in “The Satyr’s Song” pirates aren’t as big an item in this book, just to let folks know.

Sometimes, some pirates are a little more confident in who they are inside. Actually, this guy lost a bet with some friends and had to spend all weekend in this get up. But it’s a fun picture.

Sure, why not toss in a picture of the littlest pirate too. You know he’s got to be the scourge of something.

Might as well wrap up this post with a scurvy old sea dog if ever there was one.

So how do you like your pirates? With a bit of salt encrusting their beards, a bit of rum on their breath, or a little cleaner, but with dirty thoughts?

Next post I’ll be tossing out a contest that will run through the end of the Release Party. See you back here in a little while.

“The Satyr’s Song” Release Party, post 3

September 19, 2013

A.J. Marcus back on the Dreamspinner Press blog. Now, onto the third part of our “The Satyr’s Song” release party. I hope everyone is enjoying themselves so far.

So in addition to the guys, one of the reasons I love going to the ren faire is the animals. Staying with the picture theme, here’s a few of the interesting sights I like to take in when I visit the faires.

I always love the free flight bird shows. Even vultures are a lot of fun, they have a lot of personality, once you get to know them.

The great horned owl isn’t part of a free flight show, but is an ambassador bird in a static display. Still awesome to look at.

Even as an ambassador bird, this golden eagle always looks so regal and amazing. Okay, I’ll stop with the birds now. I can go on and on about birds, but that’s part of who I am. If you folks want to see more bird pictures, let me know, I’ve got the blog page all day and can post more.

Big cats are great to see. Although, like with all the critters, I would much prefer to see them in their natural habitat, I know that most people never will and seeing them in places like the ren faire is a unique and interesting thing and if it helps inspire people to go out and help save these endangered animals, then it’s a good thing.

And then we have the cool little (depending on your perception) cat the ocelot.

And let’s not forget the elephants. I don’t think Cara, Ciro and Gwen would like that very much. Yes, like it shows on the cover, I do have elephants in “The Satyr’s Song” they were the inspiration for it. I am lucky to have a couple of friends who have worked with elephants, one in a refuge for retired elephants and one in a zoo who helped me keep my facts in order for the book. I don’t think the elephants would have been as fully realized as characters without their help. Elephants are one critter that I haven’t had personal contact with over the years, so a lot of research and help went into this book. Research can be one of the fun parts of writing.

Do any of you have stories to share of encounters with animals at a ren faire?


“The Satyr’s Song” Release Party post 2

September 19, 2013

Welcome back for part two of the release party for “The Satyr’s Song,” book two of the Ren Faire Romances. I’m going to kick it up a notch this hour and discuss something that I’m sure is on everyone’s mind when they go to the faire, the hot guys.

Over the years, the different fairs have taken on different flairs and we find different themes tend to permeate at different times. Thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies we had a good number of pirates show up and in some cases take over the fairs. But as we found out in “The Jouster’s Lance,” some pirates like to be plundered as much as they like plundering. At the Colorado Renaissance Festival, we actually have a pirate’s pub when many of them hang out.

Here one heading to the pub, or maybe coming back from it. Not sure which. If it were a video, we could tell by his swagger.

Some of the performers are also rather sexy.

There are the Fairy Tale Princes. You’ll get to meet one of them in “The Archer’s Arrow” coming out first of the year.

There are jugglers. (I’m threatening to writer “The Juggler’s Balls” one of these days.)

And I’m not sure Dale O’Toole, one of the main characters of “The Jouster’s Lance” would appreciate it if I forgot the jousters.

But we also have hot guys just wandering around the faire grounds.

Satyrs. I personally think Adrian in “The Satyr’s Song” is hotter.

And a pretzel guy.

And to leave off this post I’ll leave you with this…to get your heart racing.

So what sort of guy do you like to see at the faire?

Release Party for Like Fire Through Bone: Writing an Angel and Demon story (and a coupon)

September 13, 2013

I never set out to write a story with angel in it.

I knew that I was going to write about a demon and have Like Fire Through Bone otherwise situated in a Christian folklore inspired world but I never planned on there being angels in it.

I have a love hate relationship with angels in fiction. I am fairly religious and was raised in a very religious household so for me it’s almost impossible to divorce angels from their theological and often Biblical roots. So seeing them portrayed as just another mythical creature can be jarring and off putting. Asides from that I have very conflicted feelings about the role of angels in modern day faith traditions and theology.


So all and all I had promised myself I just wasn’t going to go there. Too much baggage for me personally.

I don’t remember the exact moment I realized there was going to be angels in Like Fire Through Bone. Not as main characters or even secondary characters per-say but definite presences with speaking roles.

I wrote a scene were Aritê talks about conversing with angels and that “that’s the closest I’m going to get.”

Then I wrote a pivotal scene in Vasilios’ story arch. The scene was difficult to write, emotional, intense and heartbreaking in a lot of ways. I had been planning it from the beginning but wasn’t sure how to transition from such an intense scene to the next. It came to me that Vasilios would have a dream of standing in the desert and an angel would come to him. As soon as I thought of it I know that was what I had to do and the scene pretty much wrote itself.
In my mind angels do not represent innocence instead they are the embodiment of God’s power and mystery. In the Bible angels are described as terrifying and awe-full to the point where people’s first reaction would be to physically fall down with awe and fear. Angels were described as having multiple faces, many eyes and wings made out of hands.


the angel in my story takes on the form of a human eunuch in their role as divine messenger.  I chose to make mine appear as a eunuch because angels are traditionally genderless, and because in that form they could meet Vasilios on equal footing.

It also spoke to me in kind of a theological sense. Eunuchs are a slave class in the world of Like Fire Through Bone, while eunuchs are also seen as lesser in our society as well. The Christian God is the God of the lesser people though, the lower classes and disempowered. So I felt it was right to me for God’s messenger to take this form.

Even with the main plot revolving around a demon though and having an on-screen angel it still takes me a little by surprise when people describe Like Fire Through Bone as an “angel and demon” story.
In honor of it actually being a angel and demon story though have an awesome
coupon code for 25% off all Dreamspinner Press’ angel and demon books for the next 48 hours: Ottoman0913

So what do you all think? Do you like angels in fiction? If so what kind of angels do you prefer reading about? What forms do you imagine angels taking?

Last Post of the Night–with kitties.

September 11, 2013

Yarrow Duncan Sasha KittiesGus again with my last post of the night for the Iron and Ether pre-release party. Well, it has been a great party, but I think it’s time for me to get back to work. A HUGE thank you to everyone who came out and chatted with me today. You guys have been great, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do this again soon.

In the meantime, don’t forget you can use the discount code ETHER and the checkout for a 15% discount on all my Dreamspinner Press titles.

If you want to talk some more you can find me on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, or my blog.

I will be around until about midnight my time, so if anyone wants to ask me anything, I’ll answer.

Thanks again for spending the day with me. You guys have been brilliant. Lots of love,

Gus.

(artwork by me)

Ready for an excerpt and that discount code?

September 11, 2013

Gus again. The Iron and Ether pre-release party continues, and this time I have a discount code for you guys! It’s at the end of the post! I also have the prologue to the book, which is the third in my Blessed Epoch series. It is mostly work-safe, with just a small amount of naughty fun. Please let me know what you think of it! Which of the events alluded to in the prologue are you most excited to read about?

Blurb:
Sasha was born to, and has always defined himself by, the secret assassins’ Order of the Crimson Scythe. He chose the love of Yarrow L’Estrella and Duncan Purefroy over his duty to his clan, forfeiting his last mission and allowing Prince Garith to live. Now, the order—previously Sasha’s family—has branded him a traitor. He’s marked, and that means the brethren of the Crimson Scythe won’t stop until Sasha is dead.

Garith’s twin kingdoms balance on the brink of war and all three men have reasons to help the King, whether loyalty, duty, or the interests of their own lands. Still, Yarrow and Duncan are willing to seek out and destroy the assassins’ order to keep Sasha safe. But Sasha isn’t sure that’s what he wants. None want to admit their energy would be better spent helping Garith keep the kingdom united, or in his war against foreign invaders. All plans and assumptions shatter when it becomes clear that the real warmonger isn’t a foreigner, but someone who lives in their midst. Their world teeters on the precipice of change, and Sasha, Duncan, and Yarrow can only hope the links they’ve forged will hold if Garith’s kingdom is torn apart.

Excerpt:

Prologue
The Dark and Beautiful One rose slowly from his expansive, scarlet, velvet nest, slowly disentangling himself from the languid limbs and strands of silken hair covering his body until he could push himself to his hands and knees and crawl slowly across the field of sumptuous cushions and interlocked flesh. Reverent hands caressed and clung to Thalil as he wove through the maze of arms, legs, adoring faces, and eager mouths, but he brushed them off like cobwebs until he reached the edge of his bed and swung his legs over the side. Moans and laments followed him as he crossed the warm, smooth floor made of eons of bones crushed, compacted, and worn smooth as ivory beneath his bare soles and those of his thousands of lovers and thralls.

Innumerable flames burned within crimson glass lanterns as Thalil made his way slowly across his hall. The lanterns hung from the vaulted ceilings and lined the shining black walls, outnumbering the stars. Images of him in marble, ebony, silver, and gold stared back as he sauntered toward the central fountain, but none, he knew, were as beautiful as the original. He had yet to find an artist with the skill to capture him, and still enjoyed looking at his reflection in his pool best of all.

The Thirteen who called themselves goddesses had prepared a spare and cold realm for those they felt unworthy or wicked—the Cast-Down—an Abode of Shades devoid of pleasure and sensation. Thalil did not reside within it; no, this demesne was of his own making, and his power guaranteed the sisters could neither enter it nor take it from him.

He reached the central chamber of his Crimson Palace and perched delicately on the edge of the great pool at the center, smiling at his image, mirrored back in the thick, rubicund liquid. Because of his mortal children, the blood flowed in an endless supply, always fresh, its ferrous scent robust in the sultry air, and the number of souls wailing outside his fortress walls increased almost by the minute, giving him the power to thumb his nose at the thirteen so-called deities. Thalil rippled the surface of the tarn with his fingertips as he sank down on one elbow to peer into its depths.

Thalil took a moment to watch his children, the brethren of the Crimson Scythe, at work destroying life from the shadows, from the periphery of everything good and wholesome. He smiled as they brought him longer life and greater strength with every throat they slit, and he spent a tiny spark of his might to protect them and increase the fear they inspired as they killed. Then, to entertain himself, he turned his attention to other events occurring in the mortal realm.

On the eastern edge of what the mortals now called Gaeltheon, at the feet of the Lapir Mountains, a small expedition of people chipped into the ancient stone and ice with picks and hand-powered drills. Thalil leaned forward to watch them work, his perfect lips twitching with interest.
The small party had been laboring for nearly a year: their wind-battered tents barely stood beneath the thick layers of rime on the canvas. Their leader, a stooped, elderly fellow called Torkan Mellinger, continued digging and scraping long after his disciples had retired for the night. Though frail of body, passion burned and bloomed around Mellinger like a bonfire, the bright light clear even from afar. Thalil leaned closer, thinking he might like the old explorer’s soul to add to his menagerie, but not yet, not before he discovered what made Mellinger laugh aloud and scrub tears from his wrinkled eyes.

Mellinger lifted a slab of rock with his gloved hands, revealing a small alcove preserved through the centuries. Slowly, with appropriate veneration, he began to lift the objects he found inside the cupboard-sized space, exposing them to the wind and stars for the first time in thousands of years. Thalil recognized things from his father’s reign, though most of them held little value: a dented golden goblet, a few clouded gems, a dinner fork adorned with jewels, and the brass pegs from a wooden instrument long ago disintegrated. The elderly scholar seemed most intrigued by the few inches of a carved column supporting the forgotten niche, and abandoned his tools to scrape the dust from around it with his hands. As he scooped, Mellinger uncovered a small tablet and brushed it off on his worn sleeve. He blew across it to clear the fine debris from the carved words and brought it near his lantern to read.

Thalil listened with interest to the scholar’s whispered words. He doubted many mortals would have been able to decipher the ancient language.

“Long before the arrogance of Fane destroyed the world, the Thirteen Sisters faced an even greater threat on behalf of all humanity….” A deep gouge marred the smooth stone, stealing the words that had been written there. Mellinger skipped over that section and continued. “Fane taught his thirteen disciples the most powerful spell ever wielded by a mortal creature. He taught them the enchantment and sent them forth to purge our world of sin. And the goddesses hunted and destroyed a vile race of demons, older even than the bones of the world. The Thirteen Holy Sisters stripped these creatures of their power, though their essences remain in the shadows, in the most hidden places. Praise to the goddesses. Praise to they who risked themselves to shield mankind from such a vile threat.” The old man squinted to examine the illustrations of the vanquished creatures, winged, horned beings larger and more perfect than mortal men, and then continued to read of the so-called goddesses’ triumphs against them.

Finally, Mellinger whispered, “The power and black evil of these ancient threats remains. Be steadfast in faith to the Thirteen. Without them, the evil will overtake us. Only the goddesses hold these abominations at bay. Be always steadfast in faith.”
The old man wrapped his precious find in a few strips of old cloth and stumbled to his tent, where he slept with the tablet close to his heart.

Thalil considered.

The mortals had no knowledge of the creatures Fane, his father, had feared so profoundly. They also had no idea Fane had instructed those they knew as goddesses in magic; without his tutelage, the thirteen regarded as divine would have been mediocre mages at best, left out of history, forgotten. Would the knowledge of the old race’s existence cast aspersions on his detested mother and her foul sisters, or would it increase the dependence the mortals felt? Should he send one of his children to put an end to Mellinger before his discovery reached the light?
It would be an easy task for a Crimson Scythe, barely worthy of one of Thalil’s assassins. Or should he let the discovery stir doubt, possibly weaken the foundations of faith the thirteen whores rested upon so comfortably? A new and unknown chapter in the mythology of the Thirteen would certainly be greeted with great interest by the mortals. How would they react to the idea of Fane instructing them? If Thalil knew anything of their nature, and after so many thousand years he felt sure he did, the mortals would fight over the implications of Mellinger’s discovery. It could lead to chaos, to rifts, or it could bind the faithful even tighter to their foolish and misguided beliefs. For all his power, Thalil could not divine the future, so he chose to let Mellinger live and bring his revelation to others. He swiped his palm over the roiling pool until another vision emerged.

Thalil saw a sailor, a good-looking, tall, and muscular man called Bartoum Astir. The Dark and Beautiful One easily discerned this man held no exemplary cleverness or skill, but Thalil saw threads of destiny wrapped loosely around the seaman’s thick limbs, and he couldn’t help but wonder why. He watched as the sailor set foot on the parched shores beyond the mountains. Captain Bartoum Astir had been here before, many times, after discovering the riches these lands held in the form of brightly dyed cloth and gems, as well as powders that enhanced the blandest of foods and kept them from spoiling, but today he’d come for something he felt infinitely more precious.

Bartoum made his way from the quayside to the center of the coastal city, to the brothel he’d visited on his first foray to these distant shores.

Thalil rolled his eyes as he watched; the dank creases of woman-flesh held so much influence over the men who craved it. He had never understood that, though he understood about lust.

Looking over his shoulder, Thalil surveyed the young men either resting or making love on his large bed and chose one to keep him company: a lithe, bronzed, young creature with wheat-gold waves of hair. He met the gaze of his former assassin, and the young man left the others and crouched behind the Dark and Beautiful One, kissing the soles of Thalil’s feet and caressing the backs of his calves. As the young man’s warm, damp lips moved up the back of Thalil’s thigh, Thalil returned his attention to the pool.

Bartoum, smiling, went to the brothel’s madam and offered her a pouch of gold. After trading heavily between Selindria, Gaeltheon, and this newly discovered kingdom, he’d finally managed to save enough. The bent and withered madam took the sea captain’s coin and returned with a small, dark-skinned woman. Like all of her countrymen and kin, she kept her head shaved to the skin, and a bright-red beaded scarf covered her head. She wore a matching gown, sleeveless, to expose slim arms covered in swirling scars. Similar, deep marking adorned her face and chest, and several gold rings dangled from her ears. A wide line of kohl extended across her eyes like a mask.

With a giggle, the whore threw her arms around Captain Bartoum Astir’s neck, and he lifted her off her feet and twirled her around. With a few broken words, Bartoum explained that as soon as they returned to Selindria, they would find a priestess and be properly married.

Thalil couldn’t tell how much, if any, the girl understood. She seemed happy enough to be leaving the brothel, though. He continued to watch as Bartoum returned to the quayside and put his fiancée aboard his ship. Then he went to trade for the richly dyed thin cloth the noble ladies of Selindria and Gaeltheon so adored and would pay so much to have for their gowns. He bartered common Selindrian things like harrow-wolf furs and twirlhorn bone for sacks of gems and tiny, perfectly made glass beads. Spice, so common to the foreign savages, brought huge sums in Bartoum’s home ports, and he and his crew loaded crate after crate of the various roots, dried flowers, and ground minerals onto their ship. Unbeknownst to the sailors, some of the small red lizards common to the area also found their way aboard and curled in the cool shadows below deck. Back home, Captain Bartoum Astir eagerly told a man from his crew, they would make such a profit they’d soon all have fine homes and wives.

“Look there,” Bartoum said to his crewman, pointing out over the bay at the many Selindrian ships. “The window to become wealthy by trading with these barbarians is closing quickly. Many sailors know of this place and its riches now. They’ll flood the market and drive down the prices of these goods. We must make our gold before that happens, and if we’re smart, we’ll put away enough to sustain us for the rest of our lives.”

“The Emiri raiders have also learned of the riches carried back from this place,” a dark-haired sailor with a thick, knotted beard remarked. “Very few ships make it to market with their holds full anymore. Some of the Sea Folk even dare come here, I’ve heard.”

Bartoum nodded. Not far from where they stood, the native people of what the Selindrians referred to as Johmatra worked hard constructing ships of their own, based on Selindrian, Gaeltheonic, and even Emiri design. “These savages have been very keen to acquire maps and charts and have paid well for them. I wonder how long it will be before they build seaworthy vessels and make it to our shores. I wonder what will happen then.”

Thalil wondered as well. The people of Johmatra, which was actually a loosely allied collection of nearly a hundred city-states, didn’t worship the thirteen goddesses, kept the Emiri as slaves, and slaughtered all common-born mages, who they believed had no right to use up the magic that belonged exclusively to the nobility. All power fell to those who could supposedly trace their lineage to Fane, Thalil’s father. Centuries of inbreeding had left these potentates horribly deformed, though many possessed strong sorcery.

Thalil didn’t think the two cultures would find much in common and longed to see what would occur when they inevitably clashed. Surely his children could help to turn the tide in whichever direction he felt most advantageous. He toyed with the idea of murdering Bartoum Astir and his crew, to possibly slow the coming collision, but he dismissed it. Things had come too far already for him to intervene. He closed his eyes for a moment and enjoyed the light kisses his disciple peppered across his shoulders. Then he let his gaze wander father up the coast, to one of the Emiri ships Bartoum Astir had mentioned.

A beautiful creature with blood-red hair and brilliant orange eyes captained this particular Emiri crew. As he watched the lithe young man, Thalil realized he had never known an Emiri boy, and he decided he would like to remedy that. They were an appealing people, and this one, who the others called Sai-Mir, put the rest to shame. Over the centuries, Thalil had paid the children of Emir little mind, because he possessed nothing he could use to persuade them to spill blood in his name. While comely, the Emiri were indolent and undisciplined. They valued neither power nor permanent wealth, but remained content to lie on their beaches, drink their potent liquor, and steal treasure to squander when the mood struck them. They lost interest in anything as soon as it ceased to amuse them. Thalil doubted they would ever leave much of a mark on history.

But then again…

Thalil leaned a bit closer as the delectable Sai creature and his shipmates skirted the coast with a hold full of jewels, cloth, and spices they’d pilfered from ships who’d traded legitimately for the goods. Sai sat straddling the bowsprit, his graceful legs hanging down and a small smile stretching his lips as he canted his face into the wind. The salty breeze whipped his crimson ropes of hair off starboard, and one of the shells adorning it happened to tap him on his small, round chin. Tugged out of his contented reverie, Sai looked back toward the land, his gaze following a huge flock of seabirds, so many their cries drowned out the rush of the waves. Curious, another common Emiri trait and sometimes a fatal one, Sai pointed, and the woman at the helm steered them back toward the shore, toward a tongue of brown rock jutting out over the foamy surf.

Just as Sai held up his hand to halt his crew, Thalil put his hand on his disciple’s slender neck to stop the pleasant movement of his hands and lips. Thalil could not see the future, but he felt the importance of this moment, pregnant with possibility, and knew it would alter the course of the world. After conception, something had to issue forth, for good or ill, Thalil knew. And this moment weighed heavy with… something definitive, as irreversible as the fall of the axman’s blade. Thalil almost heard iron strike flesh as Sai pressed a distance glass to his eye.

The Dark and Beautiful One needed no such device to see what went on upon that bony finger of rock; the native people were punishing their slaves. Over a hundred Emiri, their glorious locks shorn to the skin, stood inside a corral. Most of their bodies bore signs of very hard use, but the true horror stood at the center, where half a dozen slaves hung from their wrists. Their captors used dull, serrated blades—clumsy weapons that made Thalil roll his eyes—to make shallow wounds on the prisoners’ bellies, inner thighs, backs, and faces. They did not cut enough to do much harm—just enough to lure the seabirds to the scent of blood. Just enough for the birds to wriggle their sharp yellow beaks below the skin and get at the tender muscles and organs—the soft meat of the cheeks or the winding cords of the innards.

Thalil admired the slavers’ creativity, but he detested waste. He did not believe in killing a man who still might lift a blade in his name, and if death had to occur, he advocated efficiency; do as you must and move on. The death of these pitiable slaves would take days, and that meant sparing men to guard them. Still, Thalil supposed the display might serve to dissuade the others from rebellion.

Then again, it might not.

Loyalty and obedience based on fear were paltry and fickle compared to devotion based on love. For love, a man would scrape a mountain down with his bare hands until he wore away the last of his bones. For love, genuine love, he would change the place of the stars in the sky, no matter the cost.

Fear could always be overcome, but in Thalil’s experience, it was not so with love.

The Emiri captain went white beneath his deep tan, and his small fist curled around the distance glass as he dropped it slowly into his lap. Sai loved his people and the freedom they celebrated.

“Do you love me?” Thalil asked, stroking his disciple’s warm red cheek.

“Have I not proven my love for you when I walked in the land of the living, offering you hundreds of lives? I yearned to do more, master, but you called me away. All I have ever desired is to please you.”

“Shh. You have and you do. But the world is about to change,” Thalil muttered softly, mostly to himself. “I wonder how best to take advantage of what will come to pass.”

“Master?” the young man asked, lifting his lips from Thalil’s skin and savoring Thalil’s sweat by mopping his mouth with his tongue.

Thalil pressed a finger to the center of his disciple’s slick, swollen lips and shook his head. “Never mind, beauty. Good times are ahead for me, I think. For all of us. Before long, the mortals will wade through blood to their knees. Doesn’t that sound lovely?”

“You are lovely, my master.”

Thalil chuckled and raked his fingers through the young man’s hair. “Yes, I know. Quiet, now. I have one more thing I wish to see. Would you like to watch with me? Yes? It should be interesting.” With his fingertips, Thalil traced circles in the steaming scarlet liquid, and a new image began to form.

“Who is the pretty young man with so much death in his eyes?” the assassin asked.

“He is called Yarroway L’Estrella,” Thalil answered as he played with his disciple’s nipple. “I have been watching him for quite some time. He has a profound destiny. I think, perhaps, he’ll be the one to deliver to me what I most desire. My fondest wish.”

“What is that, master?”

Thalil remained silent, reluctant to give voice to his profane aspiration, even safe here within the walls of his Crimson Palace. Instead, he guided his partner’s hand beneath his belly to his hardening cock, and the lovely young assassin saw to Thalil’s pleasure as Thalil continued to watch Yarroway L’Estrella.

And now for the good stuff! Starting now, and for the next seven days, you can get a 15% discount on ALL my titles! Just use the code ETHER at the checkout! All  my books with Dreamspinner can be found here.

And you can take advantage of that discount code to pre-order Iron and Ether!