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book cover showing water liliesI haven’t actually had time to read this one yet, but I have a copy and am looking forward to it enormously.

Constantinople, Byzantium or Istanbul, is one of the places I would love to visit but probably never will, so I’ve made a habit of seeking out stories set there – from Russia with Love and Pawn in Frankincense for instance. I’m very excited to add this one to the bookshelf.

Title: Scent of Lillies

Author: Sarah Ash

Publisher: Manifold Press.

Genre: M/M historical set in Byzantine Constantinople

Rating: Sweet.

Gabriel wants to be an artist. His father wants grandsons. His teacher wants refuge. And the ghost of a young woman who drowned for love of one of his ancestors wants revenge. When events spiral out of control Gabriel heads to Constantinople, but his past is not far behind.

Damien isn’t sure what he wants. He doesn’t want his father’s business, whatever his stepbrother thinks. He doesn’t want his betrothed even though she may still want him. But he does want beauty, and he may find that in the yet to be consecrated church of Saint Thekla, a personal project of the Emperors.  But is it in the painting he will find beauty, or the painter?

Author:

 Sarah Ash read music at New Hall, Cambridge for four years, studying with Robin Holloway and John Rutter for her finals. Her interests in music and drama led her into teaching where she has been lucky to work with many dynamic and talented young people.

 

Extract:

“Full moon.” Old Marta clicked her tongue disapprovingly and closed the shutters with a bang, crossing herself as she did so.

“Why shut out the moonlight? It’s so beautiful.” Gabriel had been dozing but his nurse’s voice brought him back from the edge of sleep.

“Has your mother never told you? But then she’s not from these parts, she knows nothing.” There was thinly disguised resentment in Marta’s voice as she came waddling back to tuck him in. The reek of ale on her breath mingled with the green scent of the parsley stalk she had been chewing to freshen her mouth.

“Told me what?”

“You’re eight, old enough to know these things. Old enough to be warned where not to go.” She plumped herself down on the bed beside him like a hen settling itself on its clutch of eggs. “Haven’t you ever heard tell of the Ninufarim?”

“Never.” He was fully awake now.

“Pretty child.” She leaned forward and smoothed down his wayward curls, murmuring. “Such pretty hair, even if it is the same colour as your mother’s.”

He shook his head free of her hand, hating to be touched.

“You must never leave your shutters open when it’s full moon.” She wagged a finger at him. “And you must never, never go walking by the lake. For that is when the ninufars rise to the surface and the Ninufarim are abroad.”

From Amazon USAmazon UK, Kobo and Books2Read from April 14th

 

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A notable day

Blue pink and white striped flag with the words "March 31, International Transgender Day of Visibility"

By clicking on the picture above you will be taken to the website of the Human Rights Campaign and a page of information, resources and interviews for and by and about transgender people worldwide. Some of it is very interesting and uplifting, some of it is heartbreaking, all of it is worth watching/reading. And it’s a really good reminder that, while today is THE day to look across at our transgender friends and say “I see you and you’re admirable”, we should be putting the suggestions for how to be a good ally into practice EVERY day. Of course there will be times when we fall short, through ignorance or thoughtlessness, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try again to do better.

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Saturday Book Recs

Ooh boy, this one is book 1 of a fantasy trilogy. It’s creepy, scary and not a book to get too fond of secondary characters because the author is ruthless! Oh yes. Great characters and a fascinating series of skin crawling worlds for them to inhabit. Enjoy!

Blurb:

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

A Darker Shade of Magic

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My latest guest in the series of interviews celebrating the release of the latest anthology from Manifold Press, is Mel Logue, author of Firebrand. Rainbow Bouquet is available now from the usual vendors [links below]

Welcome, Mel.

For how long have you been writing?

Hm. About forty years, this year! I started writing “stories” – possibly because my own childhood was rather dull and grim, being the daughter of two alcoholics – back in the days when primary school children were expected to present a narrative of the things they did in their happy normal homes. Mine almost invariably revolved around going to the pub (which was true) with two fictional horses called Napoleon and Josephine, who did much more amazing things than I did.

And I haven’t really stopped making stuff up since!

What attracted you to the brief for Rainbow Bouquet?

Book cover showing a sprig of rosemary, 17th century embroidery and the hilt of a cavalry sabre

Red Horse: Book 1 of the Uncivil War series

So basically, my first series of novels (hark at me, my first series!) is set in the 1640s and it’s the continuing adventures of a troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the British Civil Wars. Now as it falls out one of the main characters throughout the middle of the series is genderqueer; she’s a soldier, and a brutal and efficient one – she just happens to pee sitting down and, occasionally, have sex with either men or women depending how she feels at the time. So that’s always a clear and present dynamic in those books. The idea of women who dressed and fought as men was enough of a thing that Charles I got quite cross about it and denounced it publicly, but it wasn’t really right to explore that character any more fully in what are essentially adventure stories. On the other hand, it resonated with me, and when I saw the brief I thought it was an opportunity for me to think more about gender fluidity and independence and sexuality in the period, and how entwined they were.

What inspired your story?

Aphra Behn, pretty much! A year or so ago I’d started writing about an actress called Galatea Farrinor, who’s a Restoration actress existing in the same sort of physical and moral limbo inhabited by Affie Behn: a strong, independent woman making her own way in what’s essentially a male-dominated world.

Aphra Behn, 17th century lady in a low cut russet colour gown.

Aphra Behn by Peter Lely, c 1670

Initially Gally just had a short story, but I can’t help thinking that it didn’t stop there, with those two. I’m not sure how it goes on – it isn’t, I don’t think, an ongoing will-they won’t-they romance, I think they’re both far too sensible for that – but having burnt their bridges with convention, the world is pretty much their oyster. Possibly a mystery. Definitely an adventure,

Please tell me about your current work in progress.

I have three ongoing currently – plus a number of short stories, I like to dip in and out!

The third book in the Thomazine & Major Russell series published by Sapere Books, which is the sort of Happy Ever After of one of the characters from the 1640s series. If your idea of a HEA involves being shot at, intrigued at, half-drowned and knocked on the head by ne’er-do-wells, then the Russells’ marriage is a veritable fairytale. On the other hand, it’s enormously fun to write – someone grumpily said “but if the series is named after the two of them, you know they both survive, and where’s the tension in that?” To which I can only say, chum, you’ve never been married, have you…. The first is out now and is called An Abiding Fire. The second will be out soon – I’ve seen the cover and it’s lovely – but I don’t know when, and it’s called A Deceitful Subtlety, and that’s the one where the Russells tangle with Aphra. In more than one sense. You’ll have to read it….

The seventh (!!!!!) Uncivil Wars book, the bald outline of which is – the aftermath of the battle of Marston Moor, the siege of Helmsley Castle in Yorkshire, and the creation of the New Model Army.

And a timeslip romantic comedy involving a widowed archivist, a stately home in Cornwall hat needs to be saved from developers, and a troop of temporally-displaced cavalry. This started as an in-joke between friends, a sort of 1640s Outlander spoof, and took on a life of its own….

Could we see an excerpt?

This is from the timeslip romance, which is provisionally entitled The White Devil – it’s an Elizabethan proverb the white devil is worse than the black, meaning self-righteousness is worse than just plain badness. And believe you me, there is no one more self-righteous than Penitence Corder at the beginning of the book… So this is Pen, trying to play the forbidding officer in charge, having just walked into 2019 by accident.

He stalked from her presence with what he hoped was a suitably commanding demeanour, back out into the hall, and into his own quarters.

And then sat down on his own, rackety, held-together-with-rag-and-a-prayer stool, which gave its customary warning of impending collapse, and even that was reassuring – bending down and thumping the loose leg back into place with the heel of your hand, because at least it was real and solid and you knew where you were with a stool that was not intended for someone of your height –

Pen gulped, and tasted acid. And was not going to puke on his own correspondence in fear of a woman. Was not.

(Was going to lean out of the window and do it in the bushes outside instead, and then lie shivering over the sill with his hair tangled up in the lavender until he felt something like ordinary. Listening to his own company squabbling and thumping in the house, and his own remounts cropping the grass, the swish and thump of horses at peace picketed together -)

He had heard none of that in her now. Her now had smelt different, sounded different – it had felt different –

He slid off the windowsill and sat on the floor with a thump, head on his knees.

What if she had been telling the truth?

– oh, that scared him –

What if there were two nows going on at the same time,and he had walked into hers all unknowing?

Pen, Esther said in his head, I might have known thee could do nothing so ordinary as court a nice girl from Bristol.

That’s not funny. And anyway, she’s not – I’m not courting her, not like –

Surely. Thee was always sick when we were courting, too. It was the excitement. I marked it a hundred times. I only married thee in pity, for fear thee would waste away to a nothing an I did not.Thee is courting, Penitence Corder, even if thee will not own it. And about time too, I should say, for thee needs a woman like –

“A hole in the head,” he said aloud, and the door jerked open a crack.

“You all right, sir?”

All he needed. His dead wife, on the one side, offering helpful hints on a nonexistent courtship, and bloody Mayhem eavesdropping on the other. “I. Am. Fine,” he snarled, and Mayhem sniffed.

“Sitting in the dark banging about and talking to yourself is not your normal presentation, sir. If you don’t mind me saying.”

It was not so much the idea of another now, or her in it, or even him in it. “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” Pen said, and Mayhem shoved the door right open and said, “Who are you talking to in here, then?”

“I was – contemplating,” he said with dignity.

“You’re sitting on the floor.”

“The stool finally surrendered.”

“Looks all right to me… sir. You’ve not finally… you know?”

“Lost my wits altogether? Probably, lieutenant. I spend too much time with you.”

“I have never sat on the floor talking to myself, sir.”

“No, Mayhem, indeed you have not. This is possibly because if you were left alone in a darkened room you would dig your way through the floorboards to feminine company, if necessary. You have never been required to talk to yourself. You can’t be on your own for long enough.”

Where may we follow you online?

Twitter I am – predictably – @hollie_babbitt

My website is http://www.asweetdisorder.com – as is my Instagram!

FB page is http://www.facebook.com/MJLogue-1653750564845159/

~~~

Stories of love in the past, present and future…

book title



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I’m going to be honest with you, my lovelies, and get a bit wordy so the tl:dr version is “2018 hasn’t been a good year for me” and you can skip the next couple of paragraphs if you’re just here for the book recs. There’s a sentence in bold where you can pick them up.

So, yeah, 2018 has sucked in so many ways.

Living with long term clinical depression with a stonking side-order of anxiety and good medical reasons why the usual drugs are a Really Bad Idea isn’t fun however you look at it, and it’s exacerbated when you’re having to do all the emotional heavy lifting for family members who are in a state that’s as bad or even worse. The other half is still trying to adapt to not being invulnerable – a very hard thing to do when one is used to being the strongest, fittest, toughest, most independent person in ones friendship group and then suddenly isn’t. It hasn’t gone well. Then there’s Mum, who’s dementia diagnosis surprised nobody in the family but her and whose lack of inhibition is letting out secrets that she’s kept for years and might have been better unvoiced. And at work – ooh boy, everyone’s miserable there too – budget cuts, reduced hours to do the same amount of work, redefinition of roles, expectations for the same level of service. Yeah, it wears you down. Any one thing is doable on it’s own but stacking them up makes it more difficult. I am sure there are people who thrive on challenges who might read that and think “How incredibly feeble and whining. I wrote 50 best selling novels while battling cancer and bringing up quads” but, let’s face it, we aren’t all resilient. We aren’t all robust. Some of us are a bit wobbly even when nothing particularly bad is happening. Some of us are Eeyore even when the sun is shining. Depression lies. Depression tells you that it’s not worth getting out of bed, or washing, or looking after your health or keeping up with friends. It suggests that a jump off a high bridge would be a good solution to all your problems and sometimes it’s all too easy to believe it. All you can do is keep on carrying on and hope that snide and sneering little voice becomes less compelling with time.

Normally writing is my refuge and comfort but the potential closure of Manifold Press – meaning I might have to self publish – made the idea of packing the writing game in very attractive. So I lost faith in all my potential works in progress and my muse fucked off to sit on a beach somewhere working on his tan. With zero mental energy I read: vast amounts of old favourites both e and paper, and works of reference just for the heck of it. I rediscovered the joys of fanfic, reading in fandoms where I had no idea who the characters were or who I should be cheering/booing. I’ve been hugely grateful to the people who have allowed me to beta read – it’s nice to feel useful – and to UK Meet as something to look forward to and companionship from the committee.

I’m also very grateful to the authors whose books I have enjoyed so much this year. I’m just picking 8 for special mentions because each of them came along at a time when I really NEEDED to be out of my head for a while. Plus they are all 5 star reads in their own way.

The Holly Groweth Green by Amy Rae Durresson is a short but delicious paranormal historical filled with delightful descriptions of winter in the countryside and the type of christmases I remember from when I was small. Lit by a warm low sun, embellished with frost flowers and scented with pine and cinnamon, it has a haunting and beautiful love story to enjoy.

Bitter Legacy was the first book by Dal Maclean that I’d read, so I have laid seige to her demanding more fiction. Poor Dal must be sick of me by now but has obliged with Object of Desire, equally good, equally unusual. Exciting, harrowing, and incredibly satisfying, both have romances as part of the plot but are approached more as murder mysteries.

Hunger Makes the Wolf and Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells are one long story and I devoured them like a ravening beast over about 72 hours when I only put my Kindle down to go to work, and that with very poor grace. These are science fiction, and fantasy and adventure and refer to real life historical events so that I was biting my nails, knowing and fearing what was coming. Also there are fabulous female characters and – oh i want these to be made into films SO DAMN MUCH!!

Where Death Meets the Devil by LJ Hayward and Bad Judgement by Sidney Bell were recommended to me on the same day by different people and I read both over the course of a week. Very different in execution and mood they both made me very happy indeed.

KJ Charles features very heavily in my folder of ‘comfort reads’ for when things are getting to be too much to handle. Also I’m a fan of the pulpier Victorian and early 20th century classics so you will understand how much I was looking forward to The Henchmen of Zenda, her rewrite of The Prisoner of Zenda with all the bits in that the original narrator left out to make himself look good. I love it to bits, even [or possibly because] it’s not the usual HEA type of romance. I wanted to BE Jasper Detchard throughout the book.

The Last Sun by KD Edwards is honestly the only book I’ve ever bought due to a bit of fan art. Book one of a series, with fantasy and magic in a modern setting. Such good stuff, exciting, weird – oh so weird sometimes – and scary. Book one wraps up in a satisfying manner but there are loose threads still to be tucked into the weave of it. I found it absolutely absorbing and am looking forward to reading book 2, The Hanged Man, due out early this year.

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As I said earlier, my own writing took a seat at the back of the bus until Manifold seemed likely to continue. I fooled around with a rewrite of The Lunar Imperative – my werewolves in spaaaace novelette – and thought it was finished until a beta pointed out that I had been writing as though I planned to submit it to the Warhammer 40K blokes and had put in no female characters at all, just a couple of cardboard cut out stereotypes. So, because that’s the way my mind worked, I settled down to a vast world building project, with proper female characters with strength and weaknesses and agency of their own, until I realised I’d need to write at least one, possibly 2 full length novels, scared myself and put it away. I might go back to it at some time.

I did have one new release in 2018, or was it late 2017? – Calon Lan, a Great War set novelette, with a female POV of a sister observing the romance between her brother and his friend – and re-releases of A Taste of Copper [medieval fantasy mm] and Sheep’s Clothing [contemporary comedy paranormal]. The rest of the year I spent poking my sequel to Eleventh Hour – Midnight Flit – until October when I was asked, very nicely, if I might possibly finish it. I did and submitted it and am waiting to hear whether it’s good enough. I already know there are some bits I left out, but there wasn’t time for my usual multiple draft, angsty second guessing approach. I suppose we’ll see!

2019 is a new year and I hope it will be a better one, both in terms of mental health and in productivity – since they are inextricably linked. I’ve been warned that I can’t carry on the way I have been so must set aside time to do other things that I have abandoned – artwork, calligraphy, letter writing by hand, walking in the open air to get those endorphins moving, and maybe shed a pound or two from me and the dog.

I suppose we’ll see about that too.

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Joseph Barnaby, released on 5th October, published by Crooked Cat Books.

Blurb:

Stand by your beliefs – even if it means going to the end of the Earth.

By standing up for his principles, horse farrier Joseph Barnaby lost everything. Now, when a personal vendetta goes too deep to fight, he escapes to the Portuguese island of Madeira where he finds work on a small farm only accessible by boat.

The balmy climate and never-ending supply of exotic fruit, vegetables, and honey make it sound like paradise. But, for Joseph, it’s the ideal place to hide from the world.

Not everyone is prepared to give up on life’s misfortunes. The local fishing village has its own surprises and the inhabitants of Quinta da Esperança have more grit in them than the pebbled beach that borders the property.

 

Contact details: Amazon: mybook/JosephBarnaby1

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanRoebuckauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/SuRoebuck

Twitter handle: @sueroebuck

Blog, website: http//www.susanroebuck.com

A recent review from Readers Favorite tells the story pretty well:

https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/joseph-barnaby

Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers’ Favorite

Joe is a handsome young farrier who has fled England to hide from the world in a small town in Madeira. He works first in a bar and then on a farm accessible only by boat. The farmer, his wife, and their lovely but deaf niece quickly take to Joe, and he to them. So do the burro and the goats, who seem to follow Joe about as if he’s a pied piper to anything with hooves. The niece, Sophia, is strong-minded yet gentle and hardworking. She’s also a successful beekeeper and stays at the remote farm much of the time for her own reasons, avoiding the social life that other young women might normally seek. But fate or providence in the form of a very odd “fairy godmother” named Lua, and the shenanigans of a couple of evil characters who intend no good for Joe or Sophia, will entice them both to rejoin the world in a way that neither could ever have anticipated.

Joseph Barnaby is an engaging and entertaining romance novel by Susan Roebuck. While full of mystery and suspense, it read to me like a modern-day fairy tale. I enjoyed reading Joseph Barnaby. Roebuck builds the scenery and characters with wonderful, descriptive, and flowing narrative. Joe and Sophia are good-hearted people who become real and believable. You want them to triumph over the adversities and evil intentions with which they’re each faced. This story is full of plot twists and unexpected heroes, and you won’t want to put the book down until the last page. This a story for anyone who is a true romantic at heart.

Buy link: mybook/josephbarnaby1

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Super for You, Bad for Me
Asta Idonea
Dreamspinner Press
14 August 2018
60k/200 pages
MM/Fantasy/Superheroes

Struggling actor Oswell Outterridge thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he’s chosen to play a scene opposite his idol, Kane Teague, in a superhero movie. However, things take an unexpected turn when the slime he accidentally ingests gives him telekinetic powers. Then Kane asks him out, against all expectation, and it seems that life couldn’t get any better—aside from the little matter of keeping his identity secret from his celebrity boyfriend. Oswell goes from a nobody with little social life and few prospects for the future to dating the man of his dreams and using his superhuman abilities to defend innocents. Everything is perfect, and it seems he’s finally achieved a happily ever after worthy of the silver screen. But when a supervillain arrives, determined to defeat Oswell and win Kane’s affections, everything falls apart. In the ensuing conflict, Kane gets caught in the crossfire, and Oswell faces his toughest fight yet. Can he remain the hero he’s always imagined himself, or will a dark desire for vengeance change him forever?

SoundCloud Excerpt: https://soundcloud.com/nickijmarkus/super-for-you-bad-for-me-by-asta-idonea-excerpt

YouTube Excerpt: https://youtu.be/RmbDY_g0kNc

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G53GVFY

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07G53GVFY

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/super-for-you-bad-for-me-asta-idonea/1127915418?ean=2940161934173

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/super-for-you-bad-for-me

Author Bio & Links

Asta Idonea (aka Nicki J. Markus) was born in England but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages.
Asta launched her writing career in 2011 and divides her efforts not only between MM and mainstream works but also between traditional and indie publishing. Her works span the genres, from paranormal to historical and from contemporary to fantasy. It just depends what story and which characters spring into her mind!
As a day job, Asta works as a freelance editor and proofreader, and in her spare time she enjoys music, theatre, cinema, photography, and sketching. She also loves history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling, and travel, all of which have provided plenty of inspiration for her writing.

Blog: http://www.nickijmarkus.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NickiJMarkus
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NickiJMarkus
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aleera21
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nickijmarkus/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4567057.Nicki_J_Markus
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Asta-Idonea/e/B00RMGGVYO

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