“Okay, what’s up?” I sat on the bench with my back against the bricks at the Old Time Pub. “You’ve been pissed since last week.”
My best friend and secret love of my life Jimmy glared but didn’t answer. We’d known each other for so long that I waited him out like usual. I crossed my pumped arms and sat back, smelling my sweat-soaked T-shirt in the AC blowing around us.
The past summer in Seven Winds, once a Gold Rush town in California’s northern Sierra Nevada mountains and now a tourist trap, had been brutal. A record number of days over one hundred degrees had turned a lot of the shop owners into snarling dogs.
As the resident blacksmith, I took the heat as business as usual. So I was hot and sweaty? I was always hot and sweaty. The day I ain’t I was either sick or dead.
I figured Jimmy’s problem was more than the heat though. He’d been acting funny lately. Like he had something caught in his craw but he couldn’t spit it out.
Jimmy wasn’t looking at me, but down at his hands. They was long and thin, completely different from mine. I had a collection of burns and scratches, scars from the forge and the tools and all.
His hands was pale white with a bunch of freckles that went with the freckles all over the rest of his body. When we was kids, the tiny red hairs on his arms stood out almost more than his carroty hair. The bright red had changed as he got older and was now more muted. Me? I’d stayed hairy brown all over.
I tapped his hand with my blunt fingers.
“Whatever it is, you know you can just spit it out.”
He stared at me, and I swear his green eyes got darker. He was making me uneasy. What the hell was wrong?
“You ever look at your life, Butch, and ask yourself, ‘Is this all there is?’” He sighed. What the fuck? What had gotten into him? “Don’t give me that look. You’ve got to know what I’m talking about.”
“Sure. But you know me. Something’s wrong, I make it right.” Takes me time but I figure it out eventually. “So, uh, what’s wrong with your life?” I wanted to make a joke and laugh, but he was too damned serious. And Jimmy’s never this serious.
“I mean, look at us. We work all day in our shops. We make good money. We got nothing to spend it on but ourselves. We go out drinking with the guys on the weekends. Or we go into the city to a game. Or we go fishing, camping, riding around.” He shook his head. “But in the end, what have we got?”
“Fun. Friendship. I don’t know. Life?” It wasn’t much of an answer. I knew where he was coming from. I figured it was because we was about to turn thirty after Christmas and it was time for us to grow up. I’d been thinking on it a lot lately.
“Don’t you want something else, Butch? Something more? Something better?” He sounded desperate, like he was drowning and I wasn’t saving him.
“Yeah, sure. I guess. I mean, I want a husband, a house, a dog, you know, stuff like we talked about when we was kids.” I’d had it mostly planned out. I’d been saving my money.
I was surprised Jimmy hadn’t already figured it out. He was usually two steps ahead of me in everything. “Okay, I gotta ask. What brought all of this on? What happened?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been sitting around thinking lately. And mom’s been on me to move out.”
His mother Hazel’s a character. She’s an old hippie with graying auburn hair and grass green eyes. Her face is a roadmap of lines cuz she spends so much time outdoors. And she worries. She thinks we need her to run our lives. We mostly let her think that even though it’s not true.
“She says she wants me to move out of the farmhouse.” Jimmy said it like it was a death sentence.
“So? Isn’t that what you always wanted to do?”
He shrugged, then nodded, reluctant like. “I guess.”
“Jimmy, you’ve always talked about living in your own place.”
Once I thought me and him would get together, and, you know, live happily ever after. But then he became a doctor of chemistry and natural medicine. I never finished high school.
“Yes, I know. You’re right. I’ve wanted to move out for a while now.” Jimmy sighed. “But this feels like her trying to push me out. I don’t like to be pushed.”
“I don’t get the problem. You know what you want already.”
He laughed. “I don’t like to be pushed by my mother.”
“So the Apple Festival is coming up, and I’m making some changes,” I said, moving on to another subject.
“Yeah? What’s up? Whare are you doing?”
“I wanna make the shop more family friendly.”
He looked at me weird.
“I don’t get it, Butch. This isn’t like you.” He ran a hand through his shaggy hair. “You’re making me nervous. First my mother, now you. Why is everybody so hot to change suddenly?”
“It’s like you said.” I hunkered down, putting my elbows on the table and spreading out my hands. “I took a look at my life. I figure if I don’t do something to get settled, it ain’t gonna just fall in my lap. The Big Three Oh is the first step to the rest of my life. If I don’t get my shit together, nobody’s gonna hand my life to me. I may not know everything, but I know it’s up to me to do it myself.” I shot him a frown. “And you know it too.”
He nodded and looked like dog meat.
I may not have solved his problem of moving out or nothing like that, but maybe we was finally on the same page. Maybe.
I was making changes. He had to decide on his own life.
Pat Henshaw Answers Some of the Most-asked Author Questions
When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
As a child, I wanted to be either a painter or a writer. I would lie in bed at night and paint fabulous pictures in my mind or write a wonderful story. I still tell myself stories in my head at night. When I was in junior high school, I wrote an essay that won a prize. I knew at that point that I would some day be the writer I dreamed of as a younger kid.
If you could sit down with other writers, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
My life has been pretty amazing, actually. I’ve met quite a few writers and authors since I started in this business, but even with that background there are still authors living and dead I’d want to meet. I’d love to give a tea party for Jane Austen, the Brontes, Emily Dickinson, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, even though I know they probably wouldn’t get along and it might turn into either a very quiet affair or a shouting match. A night at a bar with J. M. M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Dylan Thomas, and Arthur Conan Doyle would be a night to remember—probably raucous and profane. At any rate, instead of sitting down with one author, I’d rather put together a social event with a variety of writers and sit back and watch and listen.
Other than home, where do you like to write? Why?
I love funky coffee and tea shops, ones with local art on the walls where students and writers and readers hang out. Some of my favorite of those used to be Dantorels, New Helvetia, and Gretas here in Sacramento. But all have either changed hands or closed over the years, and the new crop of places seem to be more upscale and desperately trying to be sophisticated. The closest I can find these days is the coffee shop in downtown Pacific Grove, but even that has a more polished edge than I would like. Being in a visually stimulating and art enriched room with people engaged in creating is my ideal.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t give up. I know this is a cliché, but as they say, a cliché is a cliché for a reason: It’s usually true. I’ve written for publication most of my adult life. Even when I was teaching, I was writing book reviews for Publishers Weekly and other magazines and newspapers. When print venues dried up, I switched to online ones like All About Romance. I’ve been apprenticing to become a novelist my whole life. But at some point after getting decades of rejection and a horrific agent experience, I lost the excitement of sending out work and took a hiatus of a few years. I finally broke out of the doldrums and slowly wrote and self-published a novel. Now I have a solid backlist and am writing again. So I would give myself two pieces of advice: Don’t give up. Don’t get so discouraged.
That brings me to the last question. What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on a paranormal gay romance novel: Into the Dark Night is the story of how accountant Gregory dies and finds happiness as a ghost guide who leads lost souls into the afterlife. Even his love life is better in death than it was in life when he meets his ghostly boss Ford, who died as a medieval crusader. Together they must find a way to defeat a ghostly menace that targets children while getting used to new additions to Ford’s ghostly staff.
Do you have any questions for me? If so, leave them here, and I’ll answer them. Thanks for reading this!
Is a she, not a he.
Writes MM romances.
Has interviewed Arlo Guthrie, Big Bird, Fred Rogers, Liberace, and Vincent Price.
Has lived and worked on all three US coasts and in the middle of the country, too.
Has been a reviewer, costumer, librarian, and teacher.
Has ridden an elephant, touched the pyramids, and stood at the edge of a volcano.
Believes love is essential to everyone’s happiness.
She wants you to remember: Every day is a good day for romance!
It’s here, and it’s new! Released on the Changeling Press catalog a week ago, on 11/1 A Shot of J&B is let out into the wild—available for purchase and immediate download from Amazon and the other major retailers.
Reviewer Kitty Munday, who also read the 2015 edition of this title, said:“For those who, like me HAVE read the original:OMG I absolutely LOVE how Lou fleshed out the story here!” Noting that a lot of the exciting suspense action story will be told in book 2, as serialized by Changeling Press, she also asks, “And dang it Lou, how long will we have to wait?!”
The answer is: Not long! Vasquez Inc series book 2, A Shot of Fear is coming November 21! Watch for preorder news and a cover over the next week or so!
About A Shot of J&B
When Brian Harrison first met Jackie Vasquez at a Hawaiian wedding, Jackie was sixteen and troubled. Six years later they meet again; Brian’s career at Scotland Yard is budding with promise, while Jackie’s student days at the University of Nebraska are rolling toward a strong finish. Magnetic mutual attraction pulls them insistently toward one another, but the ocean separating their lives makes for a simmering romance.
When the waiting ends and they get together for a weekend in Denver, Dom Brian and sub Jackie both know they’ve tapped into something scalding hot, and much deeper than sharing an artful session. Shibari, lust, and love are all on the agenda — but for Brian, so is his police career, and a strange series of crimes seems poised to threaten their romance—and maybe their lives.
To set the scene, this is an email, one message in a string of them sent back and forth before they’ve had a chance to spend any real time on the same side of the Atlantic. They’re getting to know each other, and here you’ll get to know Brian—at least a little. A little extra? He works at Scotland Yard, a cyber-investigation expert who’s moving up to working in the field. He has a cat, a rescue fuzzball named Marley who’s not overly grateful, but loves Brian in his own way. (When Marley meets Jackie, it might be true that he loves Jackie even more.) So now… Brian answering some… personal questions. 🙂
Your e-mail has me smiling for a number of reasons. First, thank you for answering my questions so clearly and honestly. To be honest, I think for D/s we’re a pretty good match. I’m kind of unusual as a Dom. True story, some people think I shouldn’t call myself a Dom at all, because although I do want obedience during a session — I need it to keep my head focused right and even for safety — I don’t need or particularly want to test it, nor do I crave inflicting pain. I can use a flogger, paddle, riding crop, and I have, but I generally steer clear of the sub that desires pain for its own sake, because I’m not the right Dom for them.
I have a mentor, Tommy Fujimoto, an older man who has taught me a lot about Domination, and especially rope and knots. (Someday, I hope you can see his beautiful Shibari. I’ll go so far as to say, someday, I hope you can experience my Shibari. *grin*) But Tom has been a great role model in other ways, too, and he made me see that being gentler than a lot of Doms doesn’t make me less of one. He said, “The thing that makes a Dom is wanting submission and being able to take a like-minded sub where they need or want to go, head-wise.”
Are you familiar with rope bondage, Jackie? Shibari in particular is meant to be beautiful to the eye and the sense of balance and completion. For me, the most satisfying part is when a sub, deep in subspace, has a sort of forced epiphany that they are beautiful in my binding. Good Lord, Jackie. I hope it’s not forward for me to say I so much want a chance to do that for you.
You said you are a little embarrassed because you told me about imagining I was with you while you had that overwhelming orgasm, and you almost erased it. I’m so very glad you bit the bullet and hit send anyway.
Unable to resist, he ended the email with a mild caution.
Jackie, I hope you enjoy your weekend. On that geocaching outing, please be careful and don’t go alone.
And here’s a tiny snippet from the action packed book two, A Shot of Fear coming November 21:
“Fear,” Professor Hermans said. “Tell me why you have an interest in the subject.”
“Because…” the student said, but then she hesitated, seeming to choose the next words carefully. “Because it’s undeniably real. The only human emotion that is always genuine. Truthfully, I’ve wondered if it isn’t the $only human emotion, period.”
The professor sipped her tea and continued to watch the young person, who sat with apparent confidence, unflinching, across the low table from her. There was more to the student’s answer—she felt certain. “And?”
The student smiled, nodded, as if conceding a point. “And it’s beautiful.”
And book 3, A Shot at Living,” won’t be far behind—probably December-ish. Here’s a bit from that book:
Jackie’s red-gold lashes fluttered again and he opened his eyes. Brian could see them moving around, searching. After a second or so, Jackie’s gaze steadied, locking on his own. Brian had never seen a color as beautiful as the gray of Jackie’s irises at just that moment, just that angle, shining like life’s own magic in the dim light of that room in the ICU.
“Damn, Jackie,” he said. “Damn I love you.” He no longer cared that the tears he’d been fighting broke free with the words.
(Don’t forget you can get the whole story leading up to this kinky, sexy, suspenseful romance in the Vasquez and James series, available in Volumes 1 and 2 from Changeling Press, and at all major online book retailers. The stars of that series, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James, are reader favorites. And yes indeed, they do pop up in the new Vasquez Inc series from time to time… :))
Thanks for visiting the Book Blog! Comments are welcome and appreciated.
About Lou Sylvre
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The sweethearts on her pages are men who end up loving each other — and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. As if you’d want to know more, she’ll happily tell you that she is a proudly bisexual woman — a mother, grandmother, lover of languages, and cat-herder — of mixed cultural heritage. She works closely with lead cat and writing assistant, the (male) Queen of Budapest, Boudreau St. Clair. She lives in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, and hearing from a reader infallibly brightens the dreary weather. Find her through her links listed here, or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.sylvre.rainbow-gate.com https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLouSylvre/ https://twitter.com/Sylvre https://mewe.com/i/lousylvre https://www.instagram.com/sylvre/
Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to be a stop on the Rocking Thin Ice blog tour. Welcome, Z. Allora!
Can a sexy rock star show a relationship-phobic ice skater that there’s more to life than gold medals?
When ice-skating’s bad boy Blaze first glimpses Drake, every fantasy he’s ever had flares to life. Not only is rock star Drake sexy as sin, his songs awaken a longing in Blaze that he’s denied for years. But Blaze Parker doesn’t believe in relationships—at least not those that last more than twenty minutes.
Drake Keys has dreamed about the sensual ice skater for years. When Drake is kicked out of his band because of his bisexuality, he drives across the country to finally see the man he’s had a crush on skate live.
Though the attraction is instant and intense, both Blaze and Drake have baggage that puts any relationship on thin ice. Blaze is driven by a long-ago betrayal to prove himself a champion, and Drake, uncertain about the future, hopes to resurrect his music career. As they take a road trip together, Drake romances Blaze, hoping to melt his heart and show him that love is possible… but not without some tough decisions.
I love rock stars. It’s no secret. I have two different series (The Dark Angels & Made in China) and now Rocking Thin Ice. There’s just something about a person who has the courage to stand in front of a crowd and sing out my feelings. Of course, add the cool/bad guy appeal and well, you’re in my happy place.
One of my gateways into M/M romance was a rock star story. It was perfectly imperfect and threw me down the path of lustful adoration. When I was in China, I spent hours (days… okay weeks… months) watching the Adam Lambert tour cross the USA.
I was fascinated by I could tell how homophobic the state they were performing in was by how they handled the song Fever. Did Adam Lambert and Tommy Ratcliff kiss? Did they makeout? How much did they play with each other? The tour embarked on their overseas tour and I followed it again. That song was still a good predictor of homophobia but when they headed to Malaysia and people protested because they were afraid he’d make their kids gay. I decided I had to start sharing my work.
The music industry is far from tolerant when it comes LGBTQIA people. Though as we’ve seen in the last few years more out rainbow people. Lil Nas X, who is openly gay is the rap star who went country and just won Song of the Year at the MTV Video Music.
I believe music can help people bridge gaps… therefore books about musicians can really get the job done!
Rocking Thin Ice came to be because I was enthralled with a Johnny Weir video where he skates to Lady Gaga in an exhibition. He’s all defiant and sexy… just by showing the world exactly who he is he fights and wins a war.
Blaze Parker from Rocking Thin Ice skates to music that sends messages to the judges, audiences, and the world. I struggled with who could balance and appreciate all that my skater is and wants to become… A rock star stood up for the challenge.
Drake Keys is super laid back. He likes girls, guys, and guitars. No biggie as long as everyone is happy… until the band’s homophobic manager dismisses him. He finally decides to see Blaze Parker skate live. He decides attending a skating event wasn’t stalking even if you had been crushing on the guy since you were a teenager.
Blaze doesn’t do relationships longer than twenty minutes so his decision to take a very high guitar player home was more about responsibility than spending time with a hot guy. His brother is joking about Blaze and Drake’s wedding on their first official date could easily be ignored, but even his dog (who takes the world on teeth first) loves Drake. It’s a conspiracy! But not a bad one.
About the Author
Z. Allora believes in happily-ever-afters for everyone. Z. met her own true love through the personals and has traveled to over thirty-four countries with him. Z.’s lived in Singapore, Israel, and China. Now back home in the USA, Z.’s a strong supporter of those on the rainbow in her community. Z. wants to promote understanding and acceptance through her actions and words. Writing rainbow romance that explores the spectrum within each letter of the LGBTQIA+ community allows Z. to validate and open hearts as well as bring a greater understanding of orientation and gender.
Facebook: Z Allora Allora and join Z.’s Yaoified Love group (for fun, character chatters, giveaways, and silliness)
The Rainbow Gate Books is happy to welcome Jeanne G. Fellers back to the blog with her new release, Keenping House.
Jeanne G’Fellers has a new queer non-binary/gender fluid paranormal fantasy out in the Appalachian Elementals series: “Keeping House.”
Centenary Rhodes is caught in a deal she didn’t make. Thanks to her eternal lover, Stowne’s, quick thinking, she’ll live forever, but there’s a hitch. Cent’s now fey, and three months out of the year she’ll live on the other side of Embreeville Mountain among the Hunter Fey, serving their king, Dane Gow.
As Cent begins wading through the anachronisms that come with being a Hunter, she learns that nothing is what it initially seems. Cent shares several past lives with Dane, who wants her back, and Stowne’s lied to Cent so many times that she’s having doubts about their marriage. To make matters worse, the past Hunter Kings are influencing Dane’s behavior, and the youngest Hunter, Brinn, might well be the most dangerous of them all.
It’s going to be a cold, dark spring, and Cent needs to unite both sides of Embreeville mountain before her eternal life, her relationship with Dane, and her marriage to Stowne come permanently undone.
Another rich Contemporary Appalachian tale about fantastic people and the magic they possess, including LGBTQIA+ characters Human and otherwise.
Come dance with the Appalachian fey and drink a little moonshine under the full moon while you hear Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Death share tales about families of our blood, families of our making, and magic both long ago and flowing through us now.
Warnings: depiction of mental illness including on page psychosis; discussion of gender dysphoria, cutting, and self-harm; discussion of rape and murder; on and off page violence
I can do this. Cent unzipped the top of her coveralls and lowered her long johns to reveal the halter top beneath them. “Sorry, not sorry to disappoint you, King Dane.” She unfurled her wings and rolled her shoulders to shake them open.
“Just look at all them sigils.” Dane stomped her boots on the circle sands as she laughed, and her men laughed with her. “You look like a doodled-out scratch pad.” She removed her arm from her coat and rolled her sleeve above her bracer to show the sigils tattooed across her plaster-pale bicep. “All us Hunters got them, but ours won’t warsh off with a good scrubbin’, and neither will yours by the time you get back to Stowne.”
“Sigils remain intact even if they cannot be seen by the eye.” Cent’s spouse’s mouth thinned with the stress she knew they were feeling. “If the sigils are applied in perfect love and trust, that is. Rest assured, Centenary’s were.”
“Like I care.” Dane shoved her arm back into her coat. “It’s my turn, you worn-out gravel heap. That was our deal.” She lunged forward to grab Cent by the arm.
“Let go!” Cent wrenched away and moved to stand between Pyre and Exan, her elemental escorts. “I’ll fly with them.” She blew Stowne a kiss and stretched her wings, shivering. “Hold on.” She pulled a pair of striped leg warmers from her pocket and slid them over her arms. They were horribly outdated, but they’d been a cheap thrift shop solution, and she was glad she’d remembered them. Still, they weren’t enough for the current weather.
“Betcha she can’t keep up.” Dane’s guard, Conall, snorted and extended his hand to the guard with the dreadlocks. “Deal, Weeds?”
Weeds knocked his hand away. “Nothing to be gained there because you’re right.” He pulled a red wool chullo hat from his pocket and drew it over his head, topping that with a pair of ski goggles he lowered over his eyes. “She’s not going to get there without help.”
“Manners, boys.” Dane pulled a pair of leather Steampunk-style goggles over her eyes. “Best not judge until we see what she’s got under the hood. Come on. We’re late for a helluva shindig.” She laughed as she took to the air, hovering above the circle until Cent, Pyre, and Exan joined her. Her men took to the air behind them, Weeds pressing ahead while Conall brought up the rear.
We’re sandwiched in.Cent flew as hard as she could, hoping to lessen the distance between her and Dane, but it kept growing.
“Problem?” Conall flew up behind Cent as she struggled to keep speed. “Get movin’.”
“I’m trying!” Cent almost stopped mid-air to confront him, but Pyre grabbed her by the shoulder, pulling her to the right so he flew past.
“Not a good idea.” Pyre hooked their smoky arm through hers, urging her along. “You’re cold.” They sent warmth into her, but she still shivered.
“Let us give you the energy to do this.” A thread of Exan’s black mass wrapped her left arm. “Come along.”
“What’s the holdup?” Dane flew back to face them. “Havin’ trouble keepin’ up, girlie?” She moved closer. “Guess Conall’s right after all. You need him to carry you the rest of the way?” Dane snickered when Conall returned to hover, scowling, behind her. Their beating wings stirred the air more than Cent’s, and her teeth chattered to the point she couldn’t hide it.
“I’ll get there.” But she knew she’d be struggling even with Pyre and Exan’s help, and she was so cold their warming energy wasn’t enough.
“You can’t, admit it.” Dane surged forward to grab Cent around the waist, forcing her wings to roll then tuck as Exan and Pyre’s grips fell away. “Your spirit form can fly, but your real wings are puny. Best hold on, or I’ll let you fall.” She turned Cent outward, holding her with one stout arm as they began to move. “Your eyes ain’t used to this cold and movement combined, so keep them closed until we’re— no. Hey, Weeds.” Dane slowed until he caught up along with Pyre and Exan, who both moved to see Cent’s face.
“I’m fine.” She blinked away the frost that’d collected on her eyelashes. “Let her do the work if she wants.”
“I got stuff to get done, or you’d be suckin’ up the rear, that’s all.” Dane motioned to Weeds. “Give her your goggles.”
“But— yes ma’am.” His dismay spread across his face as he pulled a scarf from his pocket, wrapping it around his head until only his eyes showed.
I’m making a great impression on him.
“Put them on, and let’s get movin’. Much longer up here and our wings’ll start freezin’.” Dane pulled Cent’s coveralls and long johns to her chest and opened her own coat to wrap her in it. “Damn rookie-ass flyer. Next time, wear a hat too.” Dane jerked her welding cap from her pocket, pulling it over Cent’s head as they gained speed.
Air whipped around them as they moved, and it began to sleet, pelting Cent with ice shards and freezing over her goggles by the time they touched down. “Someone get her a blanket!” Dane tore the goggles from Cent’s face and blew warm, tobacco-tainted breath in her face. “And somethin’ hot to drink!” Her voice softened. “You all right, sugar?”
“Let go!” Cent broke away and rushed to Pyre and Exan’s sides before they could fully manifest. “Dane’s being nice,” she whispered as she pulled off the leg warmers then raised her long johns and coveralls. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Take a deep breath and look around.” Pyre kept their voice soft and calm, which frightened Cent all the more.
“She means you no harm this night.” Exan wrapped their arm around her shoulders. “This is Dane’s kingdom, and she is in control of all you see.” They spun her around to view the nearly three-dozen pale Hunter faces, some clearly pissed by her presence, others amused, and a few too clouded in their expression to read, clustered around the bonfire she stood near.
“Welcome back to my world, Centenary Rhodes.” Dane bowed before her then rose wearing a mischievous smile. “Let’s get this party started!”
In Keeping House, the protagonist, Cent Rhodes, is forced to live among the Hunters, a small band of Appalachian fey of Scottish descent. Time has changed the Hunters, but some traditions have remained, like court. So what’s it like within the Hunter Fey court? Here’s an exclusive excerpt from Chapter Seven: “A Lil’ Drama to go with that Second-Hand Buzz.”
“Her accessin’ the finances ain’t needed for Gow Weldin’ to keep profitin’. I’ve been doin’ the books for the last decade, and they’re balancin’ just fine.” Eudard Gow, one of the Hunter men Cent had been introduced to before the evening gorge of deer steak, fried potatoes, home-canned apple butter, and biscuits, paced the Great Hall’s white marble floor in front of Dane’s throne. “She’s a jasper at best, and Stowne’s girl, their wife, and while she might be—”
“The word you’re lookin’ for is spouse, not wife. And that’s enough.” King Dane waved Eudard toward his seat. “What Cent learnt me before Samhain has already proved good for business.”
“But she’s a jasper.” Eudard flexed his shoulders so his wings dropped into view, but he kept them rolled against his back.
“Watch it, Eddie.” Conall crossed his arms over his chest. He stood beside Dane, his wings fully unfurled, black and glistening, his beard exposed to show three leather-wrapped braids hanging to his belt. Large and in charge. Cent could admire that, but she more admired the way she’d seen him treating Bea the night before. Those two were deeply in love, and Cent missed Stowne more each time she thought about it. But this current argument, Conall’s warning, and Dane’s violent response had been repeating since dinner, Eddie being the third man to broach the topic of Cent’s taking over the bookkeeping.
“How many years have you been with us?” Dane folded her hands in her lap and moved forward on her throne, something she’d done time-and-time again.
Here it comes.
“Why’s it important?”
“Humor me.” Dane pressed her mouth into a thin slash.
“Yes’m.” Eddie took a half-step back. “Near six score, I reckon, but it ain’t got nothin’ to do with this, and—”
“How long has your blood-kin been in this part of Tennessee?”
“A generation longer.” He rolled his shoulders so his wings spread behind him, a bold move, but Dane turned her mouth up into a smile when he did.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Conall shook his head. A shadow passed behind him, followed by another, but he paid them no mind.
“So, Eddie, how many of your kin are still livin’ in Washington and Unicoi counties?” Dane’s smile now spanned her face.
That’s a look to be wary of. The smile Dane had offered Cent earlier had been genuine.
“Besides me?” Eddie gulped. “None. They’ve all died out or moved off.”
“That’d be mighty interestin’ if I didn’t already know it.” Dane drummed her fingers along the metal edge of her throne, her nail clicks echoing among the sighs and generally bored murmurs. “Now, Cent’s been in the area for over three thousand years, and she remembers more of them hundred-plus lives than you’ve ever had family.” She stood and spread her wings, spanning the gap between her and Eddie in a single flex of her back muscles. “I’m gettin’ mighty tired of this stupid outsider argument y’all keep tryin’ to make. Centenary Rhodes has been here longer than any of us, and now she’s Hunter too.”
“Enough!” Dane flicked her hand, and Eddie flew backward, sailing over the long banquet table to slam against the Great Hall’s doors. “That’s three. Anyone else got somethin’ to say ’bout my choice of bookkeepers?”
The Great Hall remained silent except for Queen Sissy, who hiccupped into her can of Bud Light.
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with their father and reading the books their librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennessee with their spouse and five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
It’s a very good feeling for an author when a new book releases and some positive reviews roll in right away. Because Vasquez and James Volume 1 from Changeling Press re-releases a second edition of three books, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of reader response. It’s early yet, but there’s some good news! Check out these reviews from new readers. You can find the full reviews on the book’s listing page on Amazon.
Her characters are very well written, very believable for the most part. The stories will run you through a gamut of emotional ups and downs. In 1 minute you’ll be crying over a sad thing, then just have to laugh along with Luki or Sonny, as they try to find humor to help each other through the pain, or sigh over the sweetness of their love for each other. It can take them time to spot the vulnerabilities in their partner, but they eventually do.
The action/suspense in these stories is very well written. Lou has obviously done her homework here. Everything from kidnapping to small homemade bomb building. AND all the emotions evoked in the characters suffering these things are very believable as well.
This is a fantastic pairing of two MCs who seem like opposites on the surface. and yet they have so much in common. Number one of which is that neither is looking for a relationship! They have trials and tribulations galore as they make their way into each others’ hearts. This is a fantastic set, and the books should be read in order. There is danger, drama, trauma, grief, and love. I was unfamiliar with this author before I picked up this set, and I am so glad I did.
(I rarely note “warnings,” but there are potential triggers here. Beware if you’re vulnerable. – Lou Sylvre.)
Madeira Desouza has a new gay erotic sci fi tale out: Baja Clavius.
This controversial science fiction adventure depicts gay male time travel agents with very bad behaviors. They are violent and immoral men.
A few hundred years from now, these time travel agents work within a top-secret agency located beneath the crater Clavius on the moon. Their time-travel missions take them to Earth in the past where they ruthlessly manipulate man who are targeted for their roles in the outcomes of historical events such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Yesterday I was lost and I died. Today I am alive again. I accept the truth about foregone tomorrows and my resurrections from the dead.
I do not claim to be a believer in a deity or a religion. Yet, I have personally experienced being repeatedly brought back to life after death. Something far more powerful than us human beings resurrected me. And now, everything I have learned about living, dying, and then coming back for more is presented here.
I have been coerced into creating this journal of my experiences. I will suffer if I am less than completely truthful. I will be held prisoner until I have completed this in full.
I work for a top-secret international agency that is so deeply concealed nobody could possibly find it. Baja Clavius is the name of the international base of operations where I live. It is from that base that I travel in time to work assignments on Earth.
Desperate efforts by others to censor this work all have ended in failure. Just to confuse you, others have circulated conflicting versions of this. But I defeated all my enemies who wanted to prevent you for seeing this.
I begin by sharing my memories of being back in my home state of Arizona—on foot trudging through the desert under dark, threatening thunderclouds that do not diminish the hottest day I have ever felt in my entire life. Through an unexpected break in the storm clouds, I see bright white sunlight and the most magnificent color of blue sky. Up there above me a haunting full moon commands my attention.
Sticking out of the landscape under the ominous skies is a mechanical structure apparently made mostly of wood. As I walk closer to the device, it looks to me as though it was created specifically to slow down the process of hanging a man by the neck so that he will experience extended agony before his death.
Hung from a thick brown rope wrapped around a wheel wench is a muscular, shirtless, and barefoot man with his arms unbound struggling desperately to stay conscious as his neck is crushed in the noose. I see his high cheekbones and long dark brown hair that is tied behind his neck into a queue. I watch his bare feet kick the sky.
I notice a pair of unattended video cameras on tripods positioned nearby on the desert floor pointing toward the hanging machine. Why would anyone go to the trouble of videotaping this man’s death by ritual hanging?
I know that I have met him previously. But this man whose name I cannot remember somehow seems to hold a distinct place at the very center of faulty recollections in my brain.
Off in the distance fifty meters or so to the west of my location, I can see four men wearing cowboy attire running away. I must have scared them away when I approached. But they left that helpless man to die on their hanging machine.
He is someone who seems obviously capable of having put up very considerable resistance against this merciless fate. His powerful body attracts my full attention. He looks like he is about thirty years old—the same age as me. His legs wildly swing in all possible directions as I reach the hanging machine. He desperately tries to reach his hands up to his neck as if it somehow were possible to free himself from the noose. But that is impossible! He groans when he sees me as if to try and tell me something.
His faded blue jeans are too tight for him. I stare at his bulging crotch as he dances in the air at the end of a rope. I marvel at his incredible masculinity contrasted with utter vulnerability. This man looks strong and tough. He must certainly be capable of protecting himself against anyone with success. But, not now.
He cannot save himself. He is simultaneously very manly and totally defenseless. This precise opposing combination of traits is, I’m sure, why men watch executions of other men.
His deep, dark eyes remain open, defiantly staring outward into the eerie sky. He resumes his kicking, but much more forcefully now.
His tight blue jeans emphasize his growing bulge. He has attained a full erection ahead of what will be his final ejaculation into his jeans. There is intense humiliation on his face. His body jerks wildly. As he shoots his last load in his pants, his neck cannot withstand the crushing force of the noose. I am stunned because I did not expect to see his body spasms, kicking, and curling of his toes.
Very suddenly, he just stops struggling. His body no longer can fight back against the effects of gravity and the noose that has applied fatal pressure to his vulnerable neck. I watch him desperately try to open his mouth to breathe, but he has no life remaining in him. I am overwhelmed with intense anger and shock as I slump to the ground. I cry without any shame for this stranger. I feel stunned by my sexual attraction to him. It is as if I have lost someone who has been very significant to me and to my life.
Even though I feel instinctively that I have suffered memory loss, I can remember where I work. I especially remember being inside some kind of cylindrical blue machine.
The inside of the circular blue glass machine was filled with a milky white liquid. It was translucent and unpleasant. It smelled like chemicals. I was naked. I felt like I was drowning. But I knew I was not going to drown. Something has taught me that I cannot die. I know with absolute certainty that I do not know death. I live on and on. But, I have so many questions that I cannot answer. Why am I repeatedly resurrected? Will I live forever?
Notes from the Author on Diverse Characters
What motivated you to choose a wide diversity for your science fiction characters?
Both of my grandfathers came from Portugal’s Azores Islands situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 850 miles off the western coast of Europe. I grew up as a cultural minority within the Portuguese community situated midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. So, I definitely come from “old country” roots.
When I first started creating the characters in “Baja Clavius” I imagined that 200 or 300 years from today, people probably would not feel ethnic or cultural prejudice like we have nowadays.
My all-male time travel agents working inside the crater Clavius on the moon are from many well-known peoples of planet Earth. I prominently feature a Mexican or Latino hero named Ted Avila. He’s the narrator. The exact heritage of time travel agent Avila in the book is left open to individual interpretation. But although the character’s surname can readily be found in both Portuguese and Hispanic populations today, it is pronounced differently in various places. For example, the “A” in Avila Beach, California is pronounced like in the word apple.
I suppose I may have crossed the line when I created “new prejudices” such as the future society believing gay men are more successful in life compared to straight men, and, a very clear hero-worship of gay men who are celebrities for their sexual prowess. But unlike in the 21st century, nobody in the future society I created is prejudiced based on the color of a person’s skin or ethnic characteristics. Several prominent characters in “Baja Clavius” stand out in this regard. Time travel agent Vincent Wauneka is a Native American Indian born in the Navajo Nation. Markus Tagawa, director of time travel operations, is Japanese American. A second director of time travel operations, Marvin Mainer, is African American.
Madeira Desouza is a gay male author. He focuses upon telling stories about mature, masculine men who are sexually attracted to other mature, masculine men. He steers clear of several deeply embedded traits of American gay culture that can be found in film and in print–eccentric or flamboyant behaviors, alkyl nitrites, dance music, trendy clothing, trendy hair, gay men who think age 30 is old, and so forth.
Desouza’s creative works belong within the bara genre. This little word is shortened from barazuko. Translated from Japanese, it means rose-tribe, which is a code phrase for gay men. Originated in Japan decades ago as gay men created works for other gay men, this genre has not yet been widely embraced internationally. Perhaps this is because bara bara depicts same-sex feelings and sexual attraction to masculine, muscular men who sometimes behave in aggressive, violent, or exploitative ways towards one another.
As both a storyteller and digital artist Desouza explores conflicting and opposing compulsions that all men have. On one side there are impulses men have towards sustaining life, engaging in love, and being attracted to others. In the opposing direction are impulses men have towards being aggressive, engaging in violence, and, causing pain and death. For centuries, artists and storytellers around the world have found inspiration in these two opposing human compulsions that no man is able to resist or impede merely by his conscious will alone.
Lou’s Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to welcome Michael G. Williams.
Michael G. Williams has a new queer sci fi book out: A Fall in Autumn.
WELCOME TO THE LAST OF THE GREAT FLYING CITIES
It’s 9172, YE (Year of the Empire), and the future has forgotten its past.
Soaring miles over the Earth, Autumn, the sole surviving flying city, is filled to the brim with the manifold forms of humankind: from Human Plus “floor models” to the oppressed and disfranchised underclasses doing their dirty work and every imaginable variation between.
Valerius Bakhoum is a washed-up private eye and street hustler scraping by in Autumn. Late on his rent, fetishized and reviled for his imperfect genetics, stuck in the quicksand of his own heritage, Valerius is trying desperately to wrap up his too-short life when a mythical relic of humanity’s fog-shrouded past walks in and hires him to do one last job. What starts out as Valerius just taking a stranger’s money quickly turns into the biggest and most dangerous mystery he’s ever tried to crack – and Valerius is running out of time to solve it.
Now Autumn’s abandoned history – and the monsters and heroes that adorn it – are emerging from the shadows to threaten the few remaining things Valerius holds dear. Can the burned-out detective navigate the labyrinth of lies and maze of blind faith around him to save the City of Autumn from its greatest myth and deadliest threat?
The sun was over the trees at the southeastern edge of the sloped opening in the forest when I awoke. The sun woke me, actually: its rays on my face, the flicker of shadow and light as it played across my closed eyes. I was half dressed: my shoes off, my feet bare, and my coat spread over me in lieu of a blanket. My shirt was somewhere, probably. I wasn’t wearing it, anyway, and my eyes hadn’t opened yet, but I could feel it nearby the way you can sense an old dog by your chair or a former lover on the opposite side of an otherwise perfectly nice party.
My back curled against something firm and supporting and I felt gentle fingers stroke the tufts of silvery black at my temples. Hematite, a man told me once. I would always love him a little for saying that. My hair there wasn’t yet gray but no longer black and when wet it looked like hematite, and he said it like that meant something deep and significant and mystical I didn’t understand. Having someone’s fingers run through it felt good, though. It felt like a happy memory, like something I didn’t expect would happen much anymore if it ever really happened in the first place.
That simple touch was a comfort to me. It’s the most minor thing and, for that reason, the most missed when it’s gone. I don’t go long stretches without being touched, but it had been a while between caresses. This was that: a caress, and more; not exactly sexual but not exactly platonic. It was that happy in-between we call intimate. I made myself vulnerable to other men, and they themselves to me, more times than I can count in my too-short life. It didn’t always work out, though, that my usual flavor of street trade would show basic human kindness in return for mine.
None of that mattered, though. Those guys were long gone. Right that second, someone ran his fingers through my half-asleep hair, intimate and kind and caressing. I felt vulnerable and that was okay. For a few moments I wasn’t dying and I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t lonely and I wasn’t alone. The sun felt good, and the breeze through the branches sounded like Gaia herself telling me to go back to sleep. I thought for a moment I might be okay with dying fairly soon if I got to wake up like this every morning for the rest of my life.
“Okay,” I groaned. I didn’t move and I didn’t open my eyes because I wasn’t quite ready for the moment to go away even as I lifted the pin to pop its balloon. “You want something. So tell me what it is. Because if I say yes – if– I may not have much time to hold up my end of the bargain.” My voice dispelled all the magic of the moment, but his fingers were still at my temple, resting there, ready to go back to what we shared moments before. I rolled over and looked up at Alejandro, his purple hair down over half his face as he leaned on one elbow. I didn’t kiss him, but I did put one hand to his jaw and brush his cheek with my thumb. I wondered if he could feel that – really feel it, like skin feels it. “Let’s not pussyfoot around this. You want me to do something. The whole story about the angel and thinking someone was trying to kill you was bullshit, but there was something there, something worth chasing, so let’s have the truth now and get on with things.” I tried to smile at him. His expression was completely blank.
With the hand he used to brush my temples, he laid a fingertip behind my ear, cupping my face with barely a single point of contact. He still didn’t smile, but his eyes searched my face, my own eyes, for something. It occurred to me the correct phrasing might be to say he searched my eyes for someone. I assumed he’d been alive long enough to know a hell of a lot of people, and I would bet a nickel he looked for one of them in me. There are a hundred romantic stories about golems: meat sacks like me throwing ourselves at a golem out of infatuation with their embodiment of agelessness.
If he’d been there before, heard a hundred thousand of us wail about mortality and still willing to hear number one hundred thousand one, he must have a lot of love for humankind. No, I thought, more than that: he must have loved the hell out of oneof us at some point. Maybe he was waiting for that guy to walk back into his life, reemerging from the vast but finite pool of genetic factors we possess as a species. I wondered if I simply seemed close enough to that long-lost lover to pass muster for a night.
I also wondered what made a golem want to get laid in the first place: ever the detective, after all.
“I really did see an angel in Splendor,” Alejandro said. He still wasn’t smiling. If anything, he had the muted seriousness, the understated gravitas, I’d long since come to recognize as the posture of someone telling the truth at long last. I wondered how long it had been. “I swear it to you. I swear it.” He surprised me, then, because he didn’t cry, golems don’t have tear ducts, but his eyelids quivered with the autonomic response to strong emotion. He still hadn’t moved at all, and we were shielded from the breeze so that his hair hung straight down like a perfectly still and settled curtain across half the stage of his face. “And I believe it would try to kill me if it knew I were here.”
Michael G. Williams writes wry horror, urban fantasy, and science fiction: stories of monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He is the author of three series for Falstaff Books: The Withrow Chronicles, including Perishables (2012 Laine Cunningham Award), Tooth & Nail, Deal with the Devil, Attempted Immortality, and Nobody Gets Out Alive; a new series in The Shadow Council Archives featuring one of San Francisco’s most beloved figures, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN; and the science fiction noir A Fall in Autumn. Michael also writes short stories and contributes to tabletop RPG development. Michael strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and mystery with stories of outcasts and loners finding their people.
Michael is also an avid podcaster, activist, reader, runner, and gaymer, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall and Mu Beta Psi. He lives in Durham, NC, with his husband, two cats, two dogs, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.
To set up this exclusive excerpt for a moment, let me explain that at this point in the story Valerius needs to navigate a huge open-air market in the worst part of the city. It’s called the Lower Market Market because it’s a market on Market Street. Most people refer to it as just the Market, or the LM, or the LMM.
Valerius knows he’s going to have to contend with multiple gangs of thieves and enforcers to get from one end to the other, and he’s bribed his way through the first section by performing, uh, favors for a young knife-fighter named Fiono. Fiono has a big mane of hair that reminds Valerius of a lion, and he very quickly starts thinking of him that way.
Fiono is clearly talented as a fighter, but he’s somehow gotten in trouble with his very businesslike criminal outfit, the Hendricks Gang, and been busted down to guarding the boundaries of their turf. Valerius has bribed Fiono to accompany him to their contested border with the next gang, the Busters, who are decidedly less formal in their presentation and conduct. Valerius used to be a criminal himself – he spent years as a sex worker in this same market – but it’s been long enough that none of his old contacts are around and none of his old street cred matters. He’s become an outsider to this system he once called home, and now he needs that system’s worst elements to protect him from the rest of it long enough to follow a lead.
We walked for maybe twenty minutes. Different people here and there greeted my Hendricks protector in various ways. Some of them were rent boys, some were rent girls, some were hawkers whose tone was the forced joviality I recognized as fear on seeing him. I wondered if he were especially cruel. Perhaps he had a reputation as a gifted slicer. From what his partner said, he was bumped back down to working the door because he fucked the wrong person, which meant he’d been high enough up to get knocked down. And, of course, maybe these people reacted less to him and more to the organization he represented.
I tried engaging him in conversation—I told him my name, offered a hand to shake—but he kept walking without even looking at me. Maybe he pissed off a trick who then made trouble to get back at him. Maybe he was mute. I found myself manufacturing a hundred different reasons why a street tough like Fiono would get blown in the shadows by a wrung-out stranger like me, then walk a mile without saying a word. In most of my manufactured scenarios, he did it by choice. I imagined Fiono aloof in that way a teenager might find romantic but I found a little sad. In some of them, it was tragic circumstance: Fiono cast in the role of my One True Love, found too late to save him from the gyro accident that stole his speaking voice; or the damage to his larynx from a case of Child’s Malady had been too severe; or he was born silent and would, like a swan, only speak on the day of his death at which time his voice would be shockingly beautiful.
After a sensory-numbing slideshow of spice merchants, back-alley pinpricks selling unfiltered shit in dirty needles, an arcade of manual games operated by the few kids not out trying to steal dinner, furniture huts, games of dice huddling in gaps, accusations of counterfeiting, and who knows what else, we walked down some rickety steps one at a time.
Fiono, The Boy Lion, nodded in the direction of one of the warrens and turned to go.
“Wait.” My voice was quiet, but I didn’t push my luck trying to sound intimate. He paused. “I may need them to see a little muscle to let me get through. I mean, these are Busters we’re talking about.”
He shrugged, leaned against a post, and a knife appeared between his fingers without his visibly removing it from anywhere on his person. Fiono started picking his nails with it. The knife was tiny, the weapon of a guy who enjoyed feeling a foe’s dying breath gutter out against his own face.
“What’s Hendy trash doing sitting on our curb?”
I looked in the direction of the new voice and saw two women with football bats and bandoliers of knives walk to within ten meters and no closer. The one speaking appeared the older of the two, but neither of them would have qualified as an adult in the Imperial census. Busters will take anybody desperate enough to volunteer, but these two looked like they had skills and intentions.
“He came with me. I need to get to a fruit dealer. Let us by.” I tried to sound proud but compliant: the default state of one who knows he’s been beaten by a larger foe. There was a middle finger in my voice, but my eyes didn’t meet theirs.
“Let you by, you mean. We’re not letting a Hendy onto our turf.”
Fiono turned to go at that, hands up in a gesture indicating very clearly he was done participating in this minor melodrama.
“Wait.” I didn’t try to hide that I was begging. “Please, wait. I need all three of you to go with me, and I’m willing to pay.”
Fiono turned back and stared at me. The Buster who’d done the talking burst out laughing. “You want Busters and Hendies to help you out at the same time? Buddy, you don’t need to work so hard to set up a fight. Usually throwing something will get it started.” She laughed again. “Now come with us, and we’ll figure out how to get you there and how much it’ll cost.”
That’s the thing about the Lower Em. I could have found the place on my own. I could have probably paid off the guards and kept walking, or bluffed my way through, but I needed some muscle for this trip to the fruit dealer. Yuri might have gotten bounced out because he didn’t know what he was getting into, but I did. I needed this guy to see I had friends and, even better, I wanted him to see I had friends in at least two of the big gangs.
“No.” I shook my head. “He comes with me, and we all go together. You and he make nice and it’ll be worth your time.”
They exchanged glances, and the younger one blinked at the older. Apparently, that was enough. The older went from pensive to sneering again. “Alright, buddy boy. I mean, it’ll be a hoot to tell the rest, right? For both of us.”
Fiono met my eyes and shook his head once to the left. No dice. He wasn’t sold.
I walked over and leaned in close enough to whisper. “You do this for me, and I’ll put a smile on your face twice a day for a week.”
Fiono considered for a long second, then stepped forward. This kid was going to get himself in real trouble one day.
The three of us drew stares as we walked. Most conversations stopped, but some others took on new vigor—and new subject matter—as we passed by. There were people who were too stunned to contain their reaction on seeing a kid in Hendy blue walk with two beat sticks in Buster yellow rags. (Busters identify themselves with tufts of yellow woven into complicated braids in their hair.) I heard something metallic clatter against the scaffolding as we rounded a corner. The Busters refused to tell me their names, but they made constant patter with one another. One was in front, the other in back, with Fiono, The Boy Lion, walking beside. They joked with one another, they joked about one another, they joked at my expense, and they openly mocked the surprise of the people around us.
“Wot,” the one in front said to a pottery merchant selling plastic painted with shellac. “You never seen blue before? Look up sometime, grandpa!” The other shot back, “He can’t, when he does, he gets shit in his eye!” and then they both laughed these high, keening, vulture laughs, like harpies from prehistoric times. They snorted and farted and pointed at people, stuck their tongues out, made rude gestures. Where the Hendricks Gang has turned their turf into an operating business environment with sustainability and stability highly prioritized, the Busters keep people afraid and have fun doing it.
I remembered what it was like to be afraid all the time—hell, I still felt afraid all the time—and so I hated them for the way they used fear as a tool, but at the same time, I loved their energy. There was a time when I was the kid on the corner shaking my ass at whatever ganger passed, cracking jokes, taunting the serious ones and encouraging the silly ones. That kind of bravery comes from a place of powerlessness, from having nothing to lose. Everything looked like up from where I was back then, and in its strange way that can be liberating.
A part of me whispered there’s never been anywhere but the bottom, for me, that it’s always been nowhere to go but up. So where did that feeling of liberation go?
I didn’t want to go back to those times. I’m not trying to glamorize living on the street, sucking crusty dick in return for barely enough calories not to starve. I’m not trying to say it’s a party. Having nothing is not the same as having nothing to worry about. A lot of my bravery was a lie I told myself to make it through the night. There was a part of me, though, on that walk, with those three, that missed being able to summon up the bravado, false or otherwise. Only the terrorized can achieve fearlessness.
Some street kids—real kids, not the Buster teens, and not Fiono, whose age I pegged at twenty—fell in behind us, singing the songs they make up down here about the gangs and life and dangers to avoid. Like kids everywhere, they make up stories about what scares them, what to stay away from, who’s in charge and why. The songs they sang sounded half-familiar to me because they were based on the songs I heard when I was working these streets. They’d been remixed and rewritten over time, the names changing with the shifting tides of gangs and turf, but the tunes and the themes were preserved from one half-life generation to the next. Very quickly our little foursome turned into an informal parade of Lower Market Market street kids singing and skipping and waving scraps of cloth. Fiono looked a little offended as the Busters joined in on the songs, loving the attention, the grand show we were putting on. Like the one said, it would make a great story for them to tell the others. Fiono took himself seriously, though, so all this abraded his sensibilities, his notion of himself as a slicer who was going places.
“Don’t look so sour.” I hit him with a small smile. “They’re making noise because they’re scared of you.” I nodded forward and back. “And of them. If you were nothing, they wouldn’t need to warn each other of your approach.”
Fiono blinked. He’d never thought about that before. He probably was, once upon a time, one of these kids, too, but he’d never let himself examine that experience. He was too young and too focused on gang captaincy or new knives or his own dick or whatever else he saw as the measure of success. Most slicers only wanted to get rich enough to eat when they felt like it and fuck whom they wished, and eventually to die in a close fight after grievously wounding their opponent. I would probably outlive Fiono, given his current career, but he was still a person. He still deserved a moment of kindness as much as the next living thing.
“Don’t try pillow talk with Fiono,” the one in front said with a sneer. “Better’n you ‘ave tried to put a smile on those pretty lips.”
I started to say something smart, I don’t remember what, when I realized we were there: the fruit seller’s stand. Time to get back to work.
More From the Author
I loved writing this scene so much. It really let me dig into the mishmash of cultures and shifting lines of power at work in this seamy underbelly of the city. The Lower Market Market gets to be the place in the city that most feels alive. It practically boils over with activity, with opportunity, and with people taking advantage of each other and watching out for each other and everything between. Seeing all those factions and forces simultaneously entertained and intimidated by an impromptu parade of singing, dancing street kids and a few members of rival gangs made the Market come to life for me in a way it hadn’t in the first draft. It inspired me to go back and rewrite some earlier sections to bring a little more verve into a dingy part of town.
I loved this scene also because it’s a chance for Valerius to realize how far he’s come from the life he had as a teenage runaway – and how far he hasn’t come. After all, he turned to his old methods when he needed a way across, and he didn’t hesitate to do so. He’s still desperate, still just barely making it in a big, bad world full of people eager to gain the upper hand on anyone and everyone who happens to be around. Valerius hasn’t for many years felt afraid in the way he did as a kid, but he’s also starting to wake up to the fact he still does feel afraid all the time. He’s just afraid of different things.
I think it’s important to feature characters who are weak, and who are looked down upon. It’s important because it gives them powerful motivations to succeed, and powerful motivations lead to daring choices and meaningful turns in the plot. But I also think it’s important because that helps us build empathy for the people we think are beneath us in the real world. It’s important to me to emphasize that all people are people, and all people deserve empathy and consideration and respect. Like Valerius, I think almost everyone deserves more kindness than they’re getting, with the exceptions being the very rich and the very powerful. The powerless among us are the ones who most deserve to be recognized as our comrades in the constant struggle to get by. Valerius feels that, and he hopes this moment right here will teach the others to feel it, too. He feels real affection for Fiono, real sympathy, and I think that’s a much more complex and vulnerable and brave reaction to this silent street tough who’s unquestionably killed, probably many times, than simple cynicism would be. I would much rather work to expose what we have in common with those we think are the least like us than just tell another story of someone exactly like me.
What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
I’ve just signed a deal for 4 more books in the world of A Fall in Autumn and will be writing the sequel over the summer. I can’t wait! I expect the second book, to be titled New Life in Autumn, will be out a year from now.
Later this year I have several other works, already finished and coming out from Falstaff Books:
Nobody Gets Out Alive will be coming out sometime soon, probably over the summer. It’s the fifth and final(-ish) book of The Withrow Chronicles, my suburban vampire series about a guy who became a vampire in the 1940’s and has declared himself the boss of all of North Carolina’s blood-drinkers. The series is a ridiculously fun sequence of genre mashups – vampires and zombies, vampires and superheroes, vampires and spy thrillers, vampires and war, vampires and their witch frienemies – telling a story that gets increasingly complex as Withrow slowly but surely learns the world of the supernatural is much bigger than he thought.
I also have the four-novella San Francisco urban fantasy series, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN. It starts with Through the Doors of Oblivion, and it’s about some of the most evocative moments in San Francisco’s history – such as the 1906 earthquake and fire – and witches and demons and time travel and real estate scams. I’m just exceptionally proud of it, and I get to really focus on the features of San Francisco I most adore, which are not necessarily the parts of the city they try to highlight for tourists. I don’t know exactly when that one is due out, either, but it’s made it through the content edits and the copyeditor and it’s now with the proofreader, so it’s getting close!
And, last but not least, I’ve reached the rights-reversion point on a bunch of short stories I sold years ago so I’m possibly going to reclaim those rights and produce an anthology of short stories and nonfiction essays I’ve written for various venues. That’s a maybe, though. We’ll see.
Thank you so much for having me – I really appreciate your and your readers’ time and attention. I hope you enjoy A Fall in Autumn and I would love to hear from you about it!
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Folks who sign up for my monthly newsletter get a free short story and can read the ongoing first draft of a story set in the world of A Fall in Autumn but in our time rather than 12,000 years from now. Give it a shot! I keep marketing to a minimum and try to focus on rewarding your interest with new content.
And thanks again!
Thanks to the author and OWI for including us in the tour! Michael, I hope you will visit again. Thanks, readers for comeing by. Comments are always welcome.
Lou’s Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to welcome Becca Seymour!
Becca Seymour has a new MM contemporary romance out: “Let Me Show You.”
When a veterinarian and a construction worker connect, it takes mishaps, mistakes, and a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Rex to show them they’re made for each other.
Dr. Carter Falon is content living a quiet life in a small town caring for his animal patients. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking for a distraction. After finding himself precariously wedged… naked and at the mercy of a drop-dead gorgeous construction worker, Carter hires his savior to renovate his home.
When Tanner Grady’s best friend and new niece needed him, he uprooted and relocated without a second thought. His life has since been centered on work and spending time with his family, but when he comes to the rescue of a cute vet, Tanner finds he’s a lot more interested in the homeowner than the house he’s renovating.
“Hey, baby boy.” I smiled. In my late twenties, I was far from a baby, but she’d once told me that even at fifty I’d still be her baby. “Good day?”
“Yep. Not too bad. Nothing too hectic or crazy. You?”
“A great one. Your dad’s booked a cruise for our anniversary.” Excitement lit her words. She’d been hinting at Dad for a while about a cruise. I was pleased he’d listened. It didn’t take a lot to make my mom happy; she found joy in the smallest of things,so that he’d organized it all was pretty impressive. Mom usually organized everything, so I knew him booking the vacation for them was a big deal.
“That’s terrific. Caribbean?”
She actually squealed down the line. I pulled the phone from my ear and laughed loudly. “Yes! Carter, I’m so excited.”
“Really? I’d never have guessed.”
“Oh, hush.” She spoke over me as I laughed again. “Don’t sass your mother.”
My laughter continued. “Never, Mom. You’d tan my hide. Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“I should think not. So anything new? Any dates?”
With a groan, I rubbed my face and then stepped further into the kitchen and pulled out a glass. “Mom…,” I sighed.
“What? I worry about you. You’re so far from home and are there all alone.”
I poured myself a glass of wine and took a sip. “I know you worry, but honestly, life’s good.” Admittedly it would have been nice to hook up, but one, I didn’t do casual and never had, and two, there was no way I’d tell my mom I was afraid my penis would drop off from lack of use. “There’s nothing new either, and that’s okay. I’m likingthe quiet life.”
“Hmm….” That was her tell for not being convinced. “You know, I was talking to Julie last week, and her nephew’s gay.”
“Mom,” I said with laughter, “honestly, no hookups. I do not need my mom fixing me up.”
She ignored me. “Well, he lives quite far away, but maybe a week of casual—” She cleared her throat. “—sex would do you good.”
“Jesus, Mom.” I spluttered on my mouthful of wine. Grabbing a towel, I wiped my face, catching the dribble of red wine on my chin, and wiped the countertop I’d sprayed. “Stop. I don’t need you arranging anything, okay? Please tell me you’re listening.” She was quiet. “Mom,” I said louder.
“Yes, yes, I hear you.” She sighed. “Grandbabies would be nice.”
Holy crap on toast! With wide eyes, I looked at the ceiling and counted to five. I then took a big gulp of wine before saying, “Mom.”
“Yes, baby boy?”
“I have to go. I need to grab a shower. I’m expecting someone.”
“Someone to fix the house up.” I’d heard the interest in her tone, the hope in that one syllable.
“Oh.” This time her voice dropped. I hated to kill her enthusiasm, but geez, I really needed to get off the phone.
“Love you, tell Dad I love him too. And I’ll speak to you guys later. Bye, Mom.”
“Will do.” Her tone was a bit brighter. “Love you too. Bye, honey.”
I disconnected quickly and placed my phone down. My mom, yeah, she was wonderful and drove me to absolute distraction. I knew how lucky I was. Every decision I’d ever made, my parents had always had my back. They supported me unconditionally. It was just that my mom could be a little extreme at times. I laughed into the empty room. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Quickly finishing my wine, I looked at the time. I had just fifteen minutes until the contractor was due. I’d left it late to organize myself, still a little in a tizzafter the conversation with my mom and the mention of babies. I glanced around the room at the disorderly mess. Every time I did so, I regretted it.
I detested chaos,and that was what the house felt like. The place was still strewn with my moving boxes, but I had yet to see the point in unpacking. Not necessarily because I planned to move, but rather, the whole house needed a lot of work, so I knew I’d have to pack my things up for any work on the house to start.
I really hoped this Tanner guy would be the person who could finally help me out. I’d had two other quotes, one local and one from out of town. Both were crazy high,and neither would be able to start for another five months or so. I was running out of options. This guy had come recommended to me by one of my clients, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
I sighed in defeat as I looked around. I’d have to continue ignoring it all until I finally had the place fixed up. I headed upstairs, careful to miss the coupleof steps that had loose boards, and headed to the main bathroom. I had an en suite, but the shower didn’t work, so it was the pearlescent green suite I headed toward. The sickly porcelain made me shudder every time I laid eyes on it. It was clean though, so there was that.
I hopped into the shower, latheredmyself up, and quickly rinsed off. That was when I heard the knock at the door. “Shoot.” I quickly turned off the taps, stepped out and grabbed a towel. In my haste to get myself together and then answer the door, the dodgy floorboard didn’t even register until my foot slammed throughit, snagging my ankle and bringing me to my knees.
I yelled as I fell, and cursed. Wincing, I looked at my predicament, trying to yank my foot out as I did so. A loud groan slipped past my lips. This was no good. I was wedged, and it appeared I’d lost my towel in my fall. Just great.
Becca Seymour lives and breathes all things book related. Usually with at least three books being read and two WiPs being written at the same time, life is merrily hectic. She tends to do nothing by halves so happily seeks the craziness and busyness life offers.
Living on her small property in Queensland with her human family as well as her animal family of cows, chooks, and dogs, Becca appreciates the beauty of the world around her and is a believer that love truly is love.
Let Me Show You started from an idea of a meet cute, one that immediately had me grinning. There’s nothing I love more as a reader and a writer than that first point of contact. I love the possibility it offers, adore how one pivotal moment can set the tone and the course for the romantic development between characters.
With this in mind, the meet cute in Let Me Show You, which we find in chapter 3, essentially does that. Not only does it set the tone for the lightness and low-angst nature of the book, but it also introduces almost a whimsical chemistry between the protagonists, Tanner and Carter.
While we have two characters who are opposites on many levels, their journey, as sparked by their meet cute, soon begins to highlight their similarities. Both protective and honest, Carter and Tanner, show their determination to be positive and make the best out of a sometimes crappy situation. Their attitudes about family and loyalty are the same, as is their desire for a forever.
It’s this connection that we see immediately in their first meeting that follows them through the novel. And hopefully, it’s enough to keep you wanting to read on and cheer for this amazing couple.
Thanks OWI and Becca Seymour, for including the Lou’s Book Blog on your tour! Please come back soon! Readers, thank you for stopping by! Comments always welcome.
Romance Across the Rainbow is happy to host Jackie Keswick today, touring with her new MM fantasy romance, Healing Glass. Welcome, Jackie!
A dying city. An ancient, forgotten accord. And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.
Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.
As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?
Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.
Hi everyone, I’m Jackie Keswick. And I’m very grateful to Lou for inviting me to the blog to chat about my new release, fantasy novel Healing Glass.
Healing Glass, the story of a glass master, a warrior, and a floating glass city, is set in a medieval-style world, which is a historical period I love. It’s also a historical period I like to bend and fiddle with.
Medieval society in Europe was very structured, with each person knowing their place in the world. Tradespeople in particular had organised themselves into a complex system of guilds as a means of keeping skills together, supporting one another, and training the next generation. Those medieval trade guilds were my starting point for the world I’ve built in Healing Glass.
All the traditional guilds exist in my world, but at the heart of Healing Glass are three very special guilds. The Craft Guild, the Warriors Guild and the Merchant Guild are collectively known as the Gifted Guilds, because each guild member has talents that reach beyond their craft.
Members of the Craft Guild create objects and enhance their creations to soothe, cheer, heal, protect or bring good fortune. Warriors shape minds and use their powers to protect and aid each other. And merchants shape circumstance, transform one reality into another one at will. You can hire them and pay them in coin, or in favours – and for countless generations this system has worked very well.
But what happens when you bend carefully wrought magic out of shape? When you change its purpose to suit yourself? Well… then you put a whole world and a floating glass city in danger.
Excerpt from Healing Glass
Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.
The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.
The City Council would believe Teak.
“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.
“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”
Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.
Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.
Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.
Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.
The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.
Then the sounds stopped.
The downward movement stopped.
And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.
Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.
“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”
“How many journeys do you make in a day?”
“Some days as many as fifty.”
“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”
“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”
“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”
“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”
Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.
He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.
“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.
“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”
“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”
“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”
Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew. Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.
“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”
“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”
“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”
“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.
“No. You can’t— What if—?”
“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”
Jackie Keswick Bio and Links
Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.
Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.
And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.
For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops, or recipes for traditional English food, join her in Jackie’s Kitchen on Facebook or find her in all the usual places:
I’m excited to welcome to the Rainbow Gate Book Blog author Angel Martinez, with her new release Mage on the Hill.
Angel Martinez has a new MM fantasy book out: The Mage on the Hill.
Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.
The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance.
For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.
I don’t understand. He should be finding a minor channel at least. Something. He shouldn’t be at this level of physical distress and still be able to throw so much.
We can’t condone pushing on. Dangerous for him and for everyone in a five-mile radius. We’ll have another Darius situation on our hands.
You’ll tell him?
As soon as he’s able to hear it, yes.
Toby drifted from gray misery to scarlet agony, the voices floating to him in fits and starts. His instructors, the director—they were talking about him and they sounded done with him, just like the previous six guilds that had tossed him to the curb. Wild magic. Unplaceable on the web of Arcana. Unsustainable and eventually deadly. The only remaining bets anyone could make now were how many people he took with him when he went out with a catastrophic bang.
Hands lifted him. The familiar sensations of stretcher and rolling followed him down into the dark.
“What’s this?” Toby peered at the papers on the rolling tray, not quite up to focusing through his pounding headache.
The director pulled a chair close and cleared his throat uncomfortably. “We discussed that this might be a possibility someday, Tobias.”
“We’ve talked about a bunch of stuff.”
Director Whittaker let out a sharp sigh.
“Not saying it to be a smartass, sir. I can’t get my eyes to read this just yet.” Toby shifted on the infirmary bed. His fifth stay in this wing of the guildhall and the mattresses hadn’t managed to grow any more comfortable. “Couple hours I should be able to.”
“Ah. My apologies.” The director returned to a concerned parental pose, hands clasped between his knees as he leaned forward. “These are your separation papers from the Montchanin Guildhall.”
Toby swallowed hard. “You’re giving up on me? Already?”
“I’m so sorry, Tobias.” Director Whittaker patted his arm. “The Kovar method is nearly infallible—”
“Nearly. You said nearly.” Despite his pounding head, Toby sat up, hanging on to the director’s hand as hard as he could. “Please don’t do this. You said you’d help me.”
“We said we would do the best we could. Wild magic…. It’s unusual, certainly, but cases of unplaceable wild magic like yours aren’t unheard of. We should have seen some sign of channeling by now. Some directed trickle that would have let us help you find your place in the web.”
Toby let go to fall back against the pillows, hurting, nauseated, and dizzy. His uncontrolled magical explosions, each one harder on him than the time before, had only been getting more volatile and unpredictable. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Can’t I stay here? Until, well, until….”
“It’s too dangerous for the other students. For the staff and other guild members.” Director Whittaker took his hand again. “Tobias, you blew a hole in the guidance room’s wall today.”
Ten feet of weapons-grade Kevlar and steel—that shouldn’t have been possible. Holy crap. “Did I hurt anyone?”
“Not today. But I can’t risk lives any further. It’s reached that point where we’ve tried everything we could. When you feel up to it, read the packet. There are several wonderful hospice options nearby. Beautiful places where you’ll be cared for and made comfortable. The guild will take care of you and cover any expenses.”
Drugged to the eyeballs so I won’t do any more damage. Allowed to starve to death in the nicest possible surroundings. Toby closed his eyes, his exhausted brain banging up against walls of possibility, trying to find him a way out. All this time he’d been sure one of the guilds would find a way. They were the experts. Now? Now he was terrified. The experts were telling him he needed to accept his impending death. No, no, no, fuck that. “Sir, who’s Darius?”
“Ah, you heard that, did you?” The director sat back and pulled out a microfiber cloth to give his glasses a meticulous cleaning before he went on. “Darius Valstad caused one of the greatest magical disasters in recent memory. He nearly destroyed Pittsburgh. He pulled magic too far from his channelings, the result much like a wild magic accident. The catastrophe was narrowly averted.”
“Oh. That sounds about as bad as it gets. What happened to him?”
“He nearly died. His guild status was revoked, his teaching of any more students forbidden.”
Toby turned that over a few times, his brain fumbling and dropping concepts along the way. “So, but he’s still alive?”
“As far as I know. He lives in isolation, oh, not far from here, with the promise that he will no longer attempt anything beyond personal magic.”
“But he was once like me? And he lived?” Toby knew it was conclusion jumping, but he was desperate enough to reach for anything.
The director’s sigh was slower this time, more melancholy. “Tobias, he found his channels long ago, both his major and minor Arcana. Yes, he lives because as long as he respects the web, his magic won’t tear him apart. He had some early success with teaching unplaceables, but Pittsburgh was the ultimate result of his unorthodox methods.”
“Yes, sir. Of course.”
Director Whittaker rose with one last pat to Toby’s shoulder. “Get some rest. We’ll talk again in the morning. Please keep in mind we’re not simply turning you out onto the street. We want to be certain you’re looked after properly.”
Toby nodded, no longer trusting his voice. He didn’t turn his head to watch the director leave, staring at the white ceiling tiles instead. Ugly ceiling tiles. Places where you have to lie in bed like hospitals and infirmaries should have nice ceilings with meadows and bunnies painted on them. I don’t want to die. Oh gods… I don’t want to die.
In the world of the Web of Arcana, mages live alongside normal humans, sharing most of their society. Groceries, real estate purchases, technology – for most things, a mage’s life isn’t any different from regular humans. But they have authorities and laws of their own in addition to regular human government and some parts of life are necessarily kept separate.
Birth, since magic can get loose during a mage delivery.
School, since mage children need to learn things not in a public school curriculum.
Death—since at the end of things, control can slip.
If you’re thinking that death has been on my mind a lot recently, as in the last couple of years, you would be correct. My mom, his dad, aunts, cousins, in-laws, the cat who had been my companion for twenty-four years, there’s been a bit of it to deal with. While some hit harder than others, when attending multiple funerals in a short space of time, you start observing how people react to death and dying.
That second part is a bigger piece of it than people are ready for. People talk about the stages of grief and funeral arrangements, executors and after-effects. I don’t think we talk enough about the process of dying.
My mom’s deterioration from Alzheimer’s took years, as it often does. For the most part, we kept her home except for a couple of hospital/rehab facility stays because of pneumonia and such. Eventually, she began to lose mobility and her doctor started making house visits and talking to us about hospice. Dad was very resistant to hearing about it. The old view of hospice is that you leave someone there to die. Of course, that’s not the case, and the doctor emphasized something that Dad and I both needed to have said. Alzheimer’s is a terminal diagnosis, even though it takes years sometimes.
There are a lot of hospice options and we opted for in-home. The hospice workers acted as support, physical help, equipment wranglers, and educators. They were wonderful. They helped us, all of us, through this process of dying every step of the way and cried with us when it was over. A few months later, the family opted for in-hospital hospice for my father-in-law, and again, the environment was one of quiet, gentle support and information.
Not everyone needs to or has the chance to go through this process, but it’s made a huge impression on me, as you can probably tell. So when I wrote The Mage on the Hill, I wanted to be sure there was a hospice option for mages at the end of their lives. While their hospice system is also used for another purpose, that’s not the fault of hospice. I wanted to have beautiful, well-run facilities available so that elderly mages and their families could have that choice, to be eased through the process.
Not the most lighthearted post – sorry about that. But when you encounter the hospice system in the story, I hope I’ve made it clear that the wonderful hospices themselves were not the problem.
The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, gave birth to one amazing son, and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.
Thank you OWI and Angel for including the Rainbow Gate Book Blog as a stop on your tour. Congrats on the release, and best of luck. Readers, I appreciate you stopping by to read, and as always, your comments are quite welcome.
Vasquez Inc #4—A Shot at Perfect (Click to preorder)
Vasquez and James Vol. 1—Click the cover to buy!
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Sunset at Pencarrow—New Zealand Romance by Sylvre and Barwell (Click to Buy)
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