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My guest today is Ally Lester – writing as A L Lester – author of the Lost in Time series and currently celebrating the release of her latest novella, Inheritance of Shadows.

Thank you for joining us today, Ally and answering my questions.

~~~

Elin: Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?

Mr AL and I  are full-time carers for Littlest, who is eleven and severely disabled. I used to be an IT geek. Then I taught people office skills for a bit. Oh, and did spiritual healing.  And then I worked in the audio-visual industry with Mr AL  for a while, doing lights and powerpoint and stuff for conferences. I quit that when I had babies because people got cross when I climbed ladders whilst pregnant. And then I started a chicken breeding business and had a market stall selling eggs. I gave that up when Littlest began to  need more care. Plus I started having stress-related seizures and couldn’t drive any longer.

Elin: When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

I do fibre-craft stuff when I have the time and head-space. I knit (quite well) and I spin (very badly). I also needle-felt and sew, but it’s a bit hit and miss. And, erm, I brew beer? And I like to bake. All of this is very dependent on where I am in my head, though. I try and only start small projects these days because I run out of puff and they get abandoned. Oh, and I have a permaculture garden, that’s creative, too – it’s a slow process, but I’m gradually trying to make our garden self-maintaining and also food-producing. It’s a constant battle with the nettles at the moment, so it doesn’t feel very creative or nurturing, just a daily slash-and-burn battle.

Elin: Can you name any author/authors, past or present, who have been a great influence on your work?

Dorothy Dunnett, for the meticulous historical research in her Lymond series – I’m listening to them on audiobook at the moment!  Ursula Le Guin, for her wonderful world-building. And Josh Lanyon was the first gay romance author I read. I love her style.

Elin: What are you reading? Something to be clutched to the bosom or tossed aside with force? Fiction or non-fiction? Recommendations please.

Ooooh! Well. I’ve actually just read Kaje Harper’s new release, Changes Going On! I loved the first in the series – Changes Coming Down – and have been waiting for this to drop on to my ereader. It’s a gay menage, which with some authors is all about the sex and not about the story, but this is NOT that. It’s about a cop, a rancher and an ice-hockey player (again, ice-hockey romances not my thing usually) and how they all fit together. There are murders, too, which I like a lot in my reading. Once I’d finished that, it prompted me to go for a massive Kaje re-read, so I have also read her Life-Lessons duology (closeted cop, teacher) and am now reading Nor Iron Bars a Cage, which is set in a fantasy world with a mage as the hero. They all happen to have gay MCs, but I read all sorts of books with queer protaganists – Ada Harper, C. L. Polk and Allie Therin are all hard recommends. Also Melissa Olsen’s books – the relationships are straight, but it’s so plot-driven that they sucked me right in.

Elin: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser. I’ve been trying to be more of a plotter, but honestly, everything just falls apart. I need to write about 30k words, just splurged on the page, and by the time I’m done with that, it’s become apparent to me what’s actually happening in the book and I have a plot to work with. I write using Scrivener, which lends itself to small scenes I can pull around to where they fit.

Elin: Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?

Definitely develop as I work on them. I suppose I feel that I’m discovering more about them as I go – it’s not that I have to make them up. I just discover what they would do as I’m writing each scene I throw at them.

Elin: Do you have a crisp mental picture of your characters or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

Definitely more a thought and feeling. And a smell, sometimes, which is weird, because I don’t actually have that much of a sense of smell in my real life.

Elin: Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one with masses of action?

I find it very hard to write purely relationship driven stories, so I don’t! I find them a bit boring to read, too, so I think they’re just not my thing. Several people have said to me that I don’t actually write romance, per se, because there’s such a lot of plot going on in my stories. I think with relationship-driven stories so much of the conflict is internal that it’s hard to do them well. It’s possible to have a lot of ‘telling’ going on rather than ‘showing’, which I think makes the story slow – unless you have a lot of misunderstandings and people being horrible to each other etc, which is difficult to make realistic. I am the person who spent all of the school production of Othello muttering ‘just ask her about the handkerchief, just ask her about the handkerchief’. I find a lack of communication between characters annoying rather than a sympathy point for them!

Elin: Villains – incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. What sort of villains do you prize? A moustache-twirling nightmare or … ?

I’d like a tortured villain, if you’re going to make me choose, please, thank you. Someone who is a baddie because of their circumstances or their inner turmoil or because… just a random example… they have been connected to someone else by a magical accident and cannot get free.

Elin: What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

I can discuss it! I’m working on a story between a disabled farmer and a disgraced stockbroker, set in the same place as Inheritance of Shadows, but in the 1970s rather than the 1920s. It’s sort of a sequel. But it’s not, really. I loved the farm-setting so much that I wanted to re-visit it. I’m not sure if it’s got magic in it yet though. I’m still in the frantic-pantsing stage.

Elin: Could we please have an excerpt of something?

You may! Here is an excerpt from Inheritance of Shadows. This is my new release – it’s a 35k stand-alone novella set in the Lost in Time universe, although readers who have come across other books will recognize little things that carry across from different books. The first 7.5k words is a tidied up version of The Gate, which is the first thing I wrote set in the universe and which is available free. I then wanted to find out what happened to Matty and Rob after the end of the story- and this is the result.

It’s 1919. Rob and Matty both return from the trenches only to find Matty’s brother dying of an unknown illness. And Matty’s looking sicker and sicker. The answer seems to be in the esoteric books Arthur left strewn around the house.

It’s taken them more than a decade to admit they share feelings. They are determined that nothing will part them. What is Rob prepared to sacrifice to save Matty?

CHAPTER FOUR: Breaking the Cypher

“I think I’ve got it,” Rob murmured, one Saturday evening in November as they sat on either side of the fire in the parlour. He had a notepad on his knee and was transcribing from what Matty thought of as the Himalayas book, with the coded text and sketch-maps. It had been raining all day and they’d been hauling muck from the heap behind the byre to put on the fields of oat stubble. It had been a relief to come in and have a bath before they’d eaten, and they were now relaxed and tired.

Matty paused in his own reading to look over at Rob. He was still working on the green book himself, on the pages of what he thought of as spells. Some of them were in reasonably plain if old-fashioned English, some were in languages he could make a decent stab at with a dictionary, and a few were in a completely incomprehensible scrolling script that he couldn’t place, even after two months of searching. “Got what?” he asked, intelligently, pulled from his fugue.

“The cypher. There’s a bit later on, toward the back, that’s a translation, I think. It looks like I might be able to make the rest out from there.”

Matty rose and went over to sit on the arm of Rob’s chair. He often sat like this, reading over Rob’s shoulder as they puzzled out some piece of nearly indecipherable script. They were moving forward slowly with understanding what the books said. There were many others—piles of them all around the floor. Matty had ploughed his way through Arthur’s well-thumbed edition of The Golden Bough and agreed with Rob that it was the biggest load of cobblers he’d ever come across, neither of them having much use for either magic or religion. There were history books, psychology books—Mr Freud was another load of perfect bollocks, Matty thought, despite Rob’s interest—and books on different languages and people and places. As they had sifted through them all during the dry autumn, it had become clear that the focus of the collection was the pair of antique, handwritten books they had initially identified. Arthur had gathered the rest of his library in his quest to understand those. Now Matty and Rob had taken on his mantle.

Matty often wondered how long Arthur had been investigating this. Was it something he’d come across during his time in London? He’d gone from Oxford to work at the Evening Trumpeter when he’d gone down in 1897. He had travelled abroad to cover the war in the Sudan. He’d been to Afghanistan to write about the Pathans for the same paper. “Perhaps he picked up the brown book in India,” he mused, out loud. “That would make sense, wouldn’t it? A lot of the notes are about that area.”

“Perhaps,” Rob agreed. “I’m not sure it matters, though. Look at this.” He pointed to an untidy page of writing on the flyleaf at the back of the book, scratched in pencil. It contrasted sharply with the reasonably neat pages of the rest of the notebook. He recognised the hand as the one filling the second half of the book. “Here, look, it’s a translation of the cypher.”

“I thought you said it was Trench Code,” Matty asked.

“Sort of. It’s a cypher, really. Trench Code is impossible to crack without a code book—you can guess, but really, unless you know what the words are supposed to stand for, you’re stuck. A cypher, though. You can crack a cypher, if you’re lucky. Even if you don’t have the key.” He drew his finger down the pencil-covered, discoloured page and Matty became a little distracted, following its path. “It’s not a direct key, this here. But I think that it’s a translation of an earlier bit of cypher. This one, here.” He flipped back to a page much earlier in the book, a left-hand page, facing the map of the cave system on the right.

“Here, look. This grid here has pencil marks overwritten. Very faint.” He pointed. “And I’ve just realised…the first few letters on this page…” he flipped back to the flyleaf at the back of the book, “correspond to them. Which gives us somewhere to start.” He grimaced up at Matty. “I’m kicking myself. I’ve been thrashing through it for weeks and not getting anywhere, and it was here all the time. It looks like someone tried to rub them out on the first page, once they’d written it out in longhand.”

Matty looked. “Yes, I can see the marks. So, what does it say?”

 

All the links!

Buy links / https://books2read.com/inheritanceofshadows

Website / http://allester.co.uk

Facebook / http://facebook.com/ALLesterAuthor

Twitter / http://twitter.com/CogentHippo

Instagram / http://instagram.com/CogentHippo

Email / ally@allester.co.uk

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I’m very pleased to welcome my friend Liv Rancourt to my blog today in order to celebrate her new book Lost and Found, which has a fantastic cover, with an excerpt and a giveaway. But first, here’s a little message from Liv:

Hello! I just wanted to drop a quick note to thank Elin for having me on her blog. The very best part about this publishing community is how supportive everyone is. As an indie author, I don’t have a publisher’s marketing department to rely on. Instead, I have friends like Elin who will help me spread the word about my newest release.
So…yeah. Thanks Elin! And thank you to everyone who has shared my posts and tweets and what-have-you. I’m very proud of Lost & Found – and I LOVE the cover art – and am happy to have it out in readers’ hands!

Lost & Found
By Liv Rancourt>/h2>

Blurb

A dancer who cannot dance and a doctor who cannot heal must find in each other the strength to love.

History books will call it The Great War, but for Benjamin Holm, that is a misnomer. The war is a disaster, a calamity, and it leaves Benjamin profoundly wounded, his mind and memory shattered. A year after Armistice, still struggling to regain his mental faculties, he returns to Paris in search of his closest friend, Elias.

Benjamin meets Louis Donadieu, a striking and mysterious dance master. Though Louis is a difficult man to know, he offers to help Benjamin. Together they search the cabarets, salons, and art exhibits in the newly revitalized city on the brink of les années folles (the Crazy Years). Almost despite himself, Benjamin breaches Louis’s defenses, and the two men discover an unexpected passion.

As his memory slowly returns, Benjamin will need every ounce of courage he possesses to recover Elias’s story. He and Louis will need even more than that to lay claim to the love – and the future – they deserve.

About Liv Rancourt

Liv Rancourt writes romance of all kinds. Because love is love, even with fangs.

Liv is a huge fan of paranormal romance and urban fantasy and loves history just as much, so her stories often feature vampires or magic or they’re set in the past…or all of the above. When Liv isn’t writing she takes care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether she’s at work or at home. Her husband is a soul of patience, her kids are her pride and joy, and her dogs – Trash Panda and The Boy Genius – are endlessly entertaining.

Liv can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night at her website (www.livrancourt.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LivRancourt). She also blogs monthly over at Spellbound Scribes (https://spellboundscribes.wordpress.com/).

For sneak peeks and previews and other assorted freebies, go HERE to sign up for her mailing list or join the Facebook page she shares with her writing partner Irene Preston, After Hours with Liv & Irene. Fun stuff!

Giveaway
Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway to be in with a chance to win a $25 gift card. Giveaway ends 10/31/19.

Excerpt from Lost & Found by Liv Rancourt:

M. Richard was wise to have sent me straightaway. By the time I strolled down the Boulevard de Magenta to Le Marais, found the street and the shop, and had an extensive fitting, I barely made it home in time to meet Louis. I was putting the finishing touch on my tie—the Windsor knot gave me trouble—when he knocked on my door.
“Bonjour, I’ll be…” All I could do was stare. Never a shabby dresser, tonight the exquisite cut of his suit made the most of his broad, lean body, and his precise hairstyle brought out the dramatic lines in his face. “One, um, one moment.”
I backed away, gesturing for him to come in. Even his cane had been replaced by an elegant black walking stick with a gold handle.
He paused a moment before responding to my request. “Double breasted? Where have you been hiding this? You look superb.”
I busied myself collecting my wallet, murmuring the name of the shop.
“In the Marais Quarter?” He spoke with a hint of amusement. “You traveled far.”
Collecting myself, I moved toward the door. “M. Richard sent me.”
He smirked. “Good thinking on his part.”
The evening was warm and clear, the memory of sunset only an aqua light in the western sky. In the half-light, I brought myself to broach the possible awkwardness between us. “I was surprised to hear from you.”
“I find myself drawn to your plight.”
“You do?”
“Absolument.”
I couldn’t tell if he was laughing or not. “Regardless, I do appreciate the invitation.” We smiled at each other through the twilight. “Now, should I rely on you to speak for me?”
That earned me a raised eyebrow.
“My accent.”
Louis laughed. “My friend tells me that most of the other guests share your particular malady, so you’ll feel at home.”
At home? “Perhaps.”
His chuckle dispelled what was left of my distress, and we walked on in comfortable silence. Navigating the narrow stairs to the Métro proved a challenge for Louis, so once we were on the platform, I took the initiative. “Someday, you should let me look at that.” I waved in the direction of his leg.
“Someday, I would like you to do more than just look.”
Louis met my surprise with bland amusement, though when it became apparent I was too flustered to respond, he changed the subject. “The train won’t come for a while. Tell me more about your friend Elias. I need to know the kind of man he is, to know whom I should talk to tonight.”
“What kind of man?” Looking to the past was safer than dealing with the gentleman standing next to me, so in the concrete cave, under the harsh fluorescent lights, I told him a story. “Elias is always up to something, you know? Like…” A particular memory made me smile. “Do you ski?”
“Un peu.” He indicated a small distance with thumb and forefinger.
“Okay, so one night, he knocked on my window after I’d gone to bed. There was about three feet of snow on the ground, but the moon was out, and he wanted to ski.”
I’d dressed as quickly as possible. Outside, the air was so cold, ice crystals formed with every breath. “He followed me to the barn, where I saddled up our old gelding Rocky. Elias didn’t have skis of his own, so he grabbed mine and climbed up behind me on the horse. The moon was huge that night, and so bright we could see just fine.”
“We rode up along the ridge behind our house, four, maybe five miles until we got to the crest. Our plan was he should ski, and I’d ride down to meet him, and then we’d switch. Rocky was stable enough even for Elias to ride.”
His expression neutral, Louis nodded at me to continue. A rumble started from far off. The train must be coming.
“Well, what we didn’t figure was there was ice underneath the snow. Things had warmed up just enough to melt a little, then we’d had a hard freeze, followed by another dump of snow. Elias got himself buckled into the skis, and right as he’s about to take off, he hollers to the heavens.” And with the moon behind him, he’d looked like some forest spirit come to life. “That yell stirred things up, and the snow started sliding.”
The rumble grew, and a pinpoint of light appeared in the tunnel ahead of us. “He’d set off an avalanche.” Though miles and years away from that moment, my heart still skipped a beat. The noise of the train echoed the roar of the snow in my mind. “I thought, God, he’s done. He’ll be buried in snow, and I’ll never find him.
“I brought Rocky as close to the edge as I dared, but all I saw was snow and ice and torn-up trees. We raced down the ridge, faster than I’d ever seen that horse move, through the valley to the place where we usually met up. I figured Rocky and I would do better climbing up to find Elias rather than trying to get down from the top. And you know what?” Full of the one moment I’d never forget, I barely looked at Louis. “He skied up like nobody’s business. He’d stayed just ahead of the snow, said he’d never skied so fast in his life.” I looked toward the ceiling, blinking fast. Elias had made it, his face burned from the cold. His eyes, though. His eyes had been full of stars.
“Come.” Louis took my arm, leading me back to the present as much as onto the train. We fell silent, settling side by side on one of the wooden bench seats. When Louis spoke, the sound of his voice startled me.
“I think your friend has a very big soul.”
I kept my gaze fixed on the window, though all I could see was the gray cement wall of the tunnel. “Big soul? Yes.” And a bigger heart.

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Today I’m really pleased to feature a new book from an old friend. Welcome JB. Wishing you and your new books all the best wishes in the world.

book cover shows title and two young men kissing

Book title: The Boyfriend Trap
Author: JB Buell
Genre: Gay Contemporary Romance
Length: 23,965 words
Heat rating: Moderate

Summary:
Male stripper Jamie has been seeing his boss, club owner Luke, for a while now. Jamie wants a more committed relationship, but Luke is dragging his heels about getting more serious with Jamie or introducing Jamie to his daughter, Sofia.

But Sofia has had enough waiting around to meet her dad’s not-so-secret boyfriend, and devises a plan to get them together.

In this sweet rom-com, two grown men find themselves outwitted by a precocious eight-year-old.

Author Interview

Question 1:
So JB, can you tell me what your new book is about?

Answer 1:
‘The Boyfriend Trap’ is a story about Jamie, his boyfriend Luke, and Luke’s young daughter Sofia, whom Jamie meets for the first time on a day out.

Jamie is a male stripper slash mud wrestler, and he’s perfectly fine with that. He’s also been seeing his boss, Luke, the club’s manager. Jamie thinks they have a future together, but Luke is hesistant to introduce Jamie to his young daughter, Sofia, and include Jamie in on family time.

This has left Jamie feeling shut out from Luke’s life, and he can’t help but wonder if it’s because his lifestyle isn’t what Luke wants after all. So Jamie gives Luke an ultimatum: either they’re serious about each other and spend more time together, including meeting Luke’s family, or Jamie walks.

Then Sofia, Luke’s eight year old, surprises Jamie with a phonecall out of the blue, and invites him to their family picnic.

Jamie suspects that Luke may be unaware of this invitation, but he goes along anyway because he loves Luke and wants to be part of his life.

It turns out that Sofia has arranged a surprise picnic date for them (Luke is certainly surprised), but Sofia seems so thrilled about meeting Jamie that they can’t be mad, so they go along with her scheme and end up having a fun day together.

Maybe a little family day out is just what they all needed!

Question 2: Stripper/mud wrestler is a wonderful profession. I have to ask, what kind of research did you do?

Answer 2: My interest and love for clubs, nightlife, and what could be viewed as unconventional professions started from a young age watching movies, TV procedurals (like Law & Order), and American wrestling. What I like showing about characters who may have unusual jobs or careers is that they’re also regular people too, and this story in particular is mostly focused on the home, domestic and family side of things.

Jamie is concerned that his job and his background are what’s stopping him from having a committed relationship with Luke, so showing Jamie in a very normal setting like a picnic in the park on a family outing, and then baby-sitting for the first time on his own, was kind of throwing him in the deep end of family life. But it all turns out okay!

Question 3: One of the most important characters in the book is Luke’s daughter, Sofia. How did you tackle writing someone with that young point of view?

Answer 3: My inner child is louder than my inner adult, so it was no problem for me.
Lol, joking. (But not really.)
I don’t often write young characters, but it was fun writing Sofia who is bright and bubbly, in contrast to her dad, Luke, who has a very dry sense of humor and could even be described as grumpy at times. That was a fun dynamic, and then bringing Jamie in seeing Luke and Sofia interact for the first time, he gets to see a softer side of Luke in dad-mode.

EXCERPT:

“Who’s Jamie?” Sofia asked.

Luke coughed into his glass, trying not to choke on the orange juice he’d been drinking. He looked around to where Sofia was sitting at the table, homework all spread out. His cell phone was there too, screen up on the table, and Luke cursed his own stupidity.

“What?” he said, acting nonchalant as he wiped OJ off his chin.

Sofia gestured at the phone with her pencil. “It’s lit up three times with the name Jamie. Who’s Jamie?”

“He’s someone daddy works with.” Luke swooped in and grabbed his phone. “You finish your homework and I’ll get started on dinner in a minute.”

Sofia was quiet, watching him closely. Luke felt his flush intensify under her gaze, then thankfully she changed the subject.

“Can we have pasta?” she asked.

“Sure,” he agreed with relief.

When Sofia turned back to her homework, wriggling excitedly at the prospect of food, Luke opened his phone’s lock screen to read his messages.

4:13 Jamie: Hey

4:25 Jamie: I miss you. Can we talk?

Luke sighed inwardly. He’d better try get this straightened out.

* * * *

Sofia was feeling nosey.

Her dad was great, but he could be so secretive and squirrely about things.

She quietly left the table and tip-toed through the apartment, right up to her dad’s bedroom door. She put her ear close, and listened.

“Yeah, of course I want to see you,” her dad was in the middle of saying. “Well, no… You gotta give me a chance here, Jamie …”

It sounded like he was placating the other person, using his patient and quiet tone of voice.

Sofia frowned, trying to place the tone. It almost reminded her of a mommy and daddy talk, when they’d tried to keep quiet and talk about something in another room so Sofia wouldn’t overhear.

But her parents were divorced now, and her mom had a boyfriend who was very nice.

It was kind of sad that her dad always seemed to be on his own. He needed someone nice too.

Sofia listened, heard him say, “I promise I’ll talk to her. Of course I want you to be involved, Jamie, but you gotta give me a chance to tell her. There hasn’t been anyone since her mom, okay? This is a big deal…”

Sofia’s breath caught as her eyes widened. Was he talking about her? He had to be. So, did that mean…?

Sofia grinned to herself.

Her dad had found someone. Finally.

* * * *

Available from Saturday 28 September with JMS Books

Buy link: http://www.jms-books.com/jb-buell-c-224_405/the-boyfriend-trap-p-2905.html

Author bio: JB Buell is a non binary writer (they/them, or he/him) of m/m romance and gay rom com stories. They are a cat person, and can’t decide if they’re more of a coffee or tea person but is quite happy to drink both.

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I’ve always felt very privileged to host authors on my site, especially when it gives me a chance to meet new people. Sarah Ash has just had her first historical novel published with Manifold Press, though she is no stranger to the book world having many very enticing fantasy series listed on her website, and I hope we will soon see more from her.

Thank you Sarah, for answering my questions so kindly.

1/Have you been writing for long? Do you still remember your first story?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I started off with little poems and plays that I persuaded my (long-suffering) school friends to act in but I finished my first novel when I was thirteen, a fantasy called The Miglas set in and around Wookey Hole (heavily influenced by Alan Garner). After that I just carried on but – although I was invited to talk to an editor and was very nearly published as a teenager – it didn’t happen and I went off to train as a musician instead.

2/Was there anything in particular that triggered the idea for Scent of Lilies? Have you ever been to Istanbul?

Scent of Lilies grew from my first ever published short story Ninufar’s Kiss which was all about Tekla. I’d been listening to Bulgarian folk songs (the amazing voices of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares which still gives me goosebumps) and the characters just turned up (as they do). I’ve never been to Istanbul (Crete is the closest I’ve come) but a visit some years ago to the Chapelle des Moines in Burgundy with its wonderful 11th-12th century Byzantine frescoes by an unknown team of artists inspired me to do research as to how the artists worked. The main protagonist of my fantasy trilogy The Tears of Artamon, Gavril, is a portraitist (his mother Elysia is also a painter) so I seem to be fascinated by artists and the magic they wield.

3/What is your favourite genre to write/read? Is there one you would love to have a bash at/one that you’d avoid like rattlesnakes?

I like to read and write genre mash-ups. So although fantasy is my main genre as a writer, I’m thrilled to have a story coming out in The Alchemy Book of Horror #2 later this year.

4/What are you working on now?

I’m currently doing edits on The Arkhel Conundrum, Book 4 of The Tears of Artamon. It’s been a while since I returned to these characters but readers kept asking me ‘What happened to Gavril and Kiukiu?’ so I hope they won’t be disappointed with the new developments!

5/ Can we please have an excerpt?

With pleasure… here’s an extract from Scent of Lilies

book cover showing water liliesIt was late afternoon and the sun was already dipping westwards, flooding the isthmus with a dazzle of golden light. Damian turned to gaze upwards at Saint Thekla: a large tiled dome, the intricate masonry beneath sun-gilded from grey to rich ochre.

He took in a deep breath. This was the moment. His career depended on it. He reached for the iron handle on the great wooden door, turned it, pushed, heard the slow creak of the hinges go echoing into the high-vaulted recesses beyond, and went in.

Acrid smell of new lime plaster, white dust like fine sand coating the new floor tiles and somewhere further in, the hollow tap and drag of a builder’s trowel smoothing mortar against brick.

He stood a while, blinking, until his eyes became accustomed to the shadows, the flagstones chill beneath his feet.

A faint, dusty light was filtering into the church from many-paned windows high above the nave. Tentatively, he moved toward it. Tall columns of somber marble loomed out of the darkness. He put out a hand and touched their smooth chill, shivering as he did so.

His footfall echoed and re-echoed around the silent church. Perhaps Alastor had finished work for the day. It would be hard to work in this gloom for too long without risking eyestrain.

And suddenly he found himself beneath the central dome with shafts of light swimming with golden motes glinting in from a circle of high-arched windows set high above, catching flame in his dark hair. Beyond in the dimness he could just make out the planks and ladders of a ramshackle construction of half-completed scaffolding.

“Cosmas?”

The choked whisper came from high above, echoing round and round the dome. Startled, Damian peered uncertainly up into the shadows, the dusty light falling full on his face.

“M-M-M-Maestros Alastor?”

“Who the devil are you and what do you want?”

 

Author bio

Sarah Ash trained as a musician but writing fantasy novels has allowed her to explore her fascination with the way mythology and history overlap and interact (her second published novel Songspinners is set in an ‘alternate’ eighteenth century Bath, her home city).The five novels in the epic fantasy Artamon sequence (Random House) are also set in an alternate eighteenth century world – with daemons and dragons. The recent Tide Dragons series grew from Sarah’s love of all things Japanese (especially manga and anime which she regularly reviews). It draws on the ancient legend of the Tide Jewels and the lifestyle of the Heian imperial court. Book 1 The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice is available in ebook and paperback formats; Book 2 Emperor of the Fireflies is now available in ebook format!  http://www.sarah-ash.com   @sarah_ash7

 

 

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As I imagine everyone in the genre knows by now, April is Autism awareness month, and therefore time again for R J Scott’s amazing Blog Hop event. Click on the image to the left to go to her masterpost.

We start with a fact:

34% of children on the autism spectrum say that the worst thing about being at school is being picked on.

Children can be very unforgiving of other children who don’t conform to the world view that they are just beginning to formulate for themselves with the help of parents siblings and relatives. The trick is to catch that early one and stop it before it can turn into picking on, or even bullying. And for that adults need to be educated as well. We’re never too old to learn.

The subject we have been given for our posts is “Childhood Toys”.

Obviously my mind went straight to history – in fact prehistory – and I wondered what is the oldest child’s toy to be found.

This is quite hard to establish. Children’s toys need to be small, portable and, usually, organic – soft and cuddly with no sharp edges. Sadly organic things tend not to survive for very long so we are left with more robust materials, ie harder to work, more valuable, more highly prized. Such valuable items in metal, stone or wood have usually been attributed either to use or ritual.  If one digs up a human figurine painstakingly carved from stone or bone can one say for certain that it’s a votive offering to the gods – or a dolly?

Tiny depictions of kitchenware found in tombs – an expression of what one will need in the afterlife or dolls tea party?

Sometimes we’re lucky and not only find objects, but also find illustrative material. It seems that grooved clay discs that were initially assumed to be parts of a loom are actually yoyos.

Wheeled objects are very popular – chariots of course, and Scythian children appear to have played with little facsimiles of the wagons they lived in.

But you can put wheels on anything – horses, lions, even hedgehogs!

 

This stone hedgehog was made in Iran some 3000 years ago. But older toys have been found including the item below. This bone disc has a hole in the middle and on each side is an incised image of an antelope. It is 30,000 years old.

This may have been a thaumatrope – the toy made by spinning two images on a string so they appear to be one.

In the image on the reverse the antelopes legs are drawn up. Twist the string and it appears to twitch its ears and jump.

Was this a toy to amuse a child, or a religious ritual? We don’t know for sure but I can’t see any reason why it can’t have been both.

Time for a giveaway – I will pick a commenter to win a novel from my books page. 

If you would like to donate to a charity that does sterling work in providing for the needs of autistic young people, I don’t think that you could do any better than RJ’s charity of choice – Lindengate.

Lindengate is a Buckinghamshire-based registered charity that offers specialised gardening activities to help those with mental health needs in their continuing recovery
Operating from a 5-acre site adjacent to the Wyevale Garden Centre in Wendover Lindengate offers a wide range of gardening/horticulture activities so that users can spend time in a managed and calm and safe environment, either singly or in small groups, working towards recovery.

You can donate here.

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I think we all have favourite books that stay with us for a long time. This is one of my top reads, and also one that made it a little hard for me to sleep at night because ooh boy some bits are viscerally upsetting. But there’s a happy ending too, and that’s important.

fingerprints

The Definitive Albert J. Sterne
by Julie Bozza

Tag line: An obnoxiously immovable object is partnered with an undeniably irresistible force – in pursuit of a cruelly imperturbable serial killer.

Review snippet: “a terrific novel, ambitious in both its scope and complexity”, LadyM for Reviews by Jessewave

Introduction: This well-respected novel was Runner Up (equal third) in the Best LGBT Mystery/Thriller category of the Rainbow Awards 2011. It is now being re-released, after first being published in two volumes by Manifold Press. The original novel and companion anthology have been stitched back together into one long tale.

Blurb: Albert Sterne, forensics expert with the FBI, is so obnoxious on the surface that no one bothers digging deeper. When he’s sent to Colorado to investigate the work of a serial killer, he encounters Special Agent Fletcher Ash and they end up reluctantly joining forces to unravel the case. It’s only a matter of duty, though; it can’t be more, because Albert doesn’t do friendship – and he certainly doesn’t do love!

Genre: gay fiction; contemporary; love story; serial killer thriller; not a romance!
Word count: 226,000 words
Publisher: LIBRAtiger
Release date: 16 April 2019
Formats: eBook, paperback

Buy links:
• Universal Buy Link: https://books2read.com/b/bpjyBJ
• Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QGM44WN/
• Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QGM44WN/
• Amazon AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07QGM44WN/
• Amazon DE: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B07QGM44WN/
• Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/932637
• Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1116840309?ean=2940156040803
• Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-definitive-albert-j-sterne-1
• Google Play: http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN9781925869125
• iTunes US: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-definitive-albert-j-sterne/id1459015054?mt=11

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Author bio:

Julie Bozza is an Aussie-English hybrid empowered by writing, fuelled by espresso, calmed by knitting, overexcited by photography, and madly in love with Amy Adams and John Keats.

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My visitor today is Sean R Robinson, author of More than Starlight, More than Rain in the Rainbow Bouquet anthology.

Welcome Sean and thank you for answering my questions.

For how long have you been writing?

I think I wrote my first book in elementary school, about four pages long and colored with crayons. Professionally, my first publication was in 2015.

What attracted you to the brief for Rainbow Bouquet?

When I was in graduate school at the University of Southern Maine, I read Farah’s Rhetorics of Fantasy and it really changed the way I thought about the genre — from something that was kind of “fluff” into something that mattered, and could be considered academic. The opportunity to share a story in an anthology she was editing made me really excited, and after looking through my work, I thought I had a piece that would be a good fit. So here we are.

What inspired your story?

My story is about a space marine, Gavin Rourke, who is at the end of his life looking back. These themes have always appealed to me: hyper masculinity juxtaposed against genuine emotion. Gavin has loved and lost, and that’s another place that I like to mine creatively. Beyond that, I want love stories that are about love rather than labels. Gavin is in love with a person who happens to be another man, and that’s the story, and it provides visibility without turning it into a story other than a love story…or a ghost story.

Please tell me about your current work in progress.

I’m working on a novel with a writing partner. After a few faltering stops, I think we’ve started building momentum. It’s high fantasy, and I’m just trying to enjoy it as I go, regardless of how silly it may sound.

Could we see an excerpt?

The coach was a grand thing, all gilt and gold, pulled by a pair of matched horses. Mathilde would have known what their color was called, and what breed they were. I almost asked her, but as we rolled down the drive, she had pulled the curtains open, looking at anything but the rest of us.
“Shut that window,” Housekeeper said. “do you want to be robbed?”
Mathilde blinked her eyes slowly. “Yes?”
I laughed, because there was no other answer. My sweet, violent sister.

Where may we follow you online?

On Twitter @Kesterian or my website http://www.seanryanrobinson.com

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Stories of love in the past, present and future…

book title



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