Sunday Snippet, 11.27.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance, Oak King Holly King – available now wherever fine books are found!

~

Butcher rose from the bed with a shocking amount of grace for a man of his stature, his long limbs tangling and untangling themselves in a languid fluidity as he stretched. Wren found himself transfixed by the sight of him. Likewise transfixed by the tiny blue flame, which Butcher set down on the bed-post, where it neither fell nor burned through the wood, but continued to flicker and glow. A shuffling sound drew Wren’s attention from it, and he belatedly saw Butcher had begun to collect the scattered papers.

Wren rushed to intercept him. “That’s all right—I’ll handle it.”

Butcher paused, then handed his sheaves to Wren, who realized as he took them that Butcher had collected them in order.

“Your pardon,” Butcher said. Then, “I was curious.”

Curiosity killed the cat—but satisfaction brought it back. The childish rhyme rose unbidden to the forefront of Wren’s mind. He dropped his gaze from Butcher’s face to the top-most page in the stack, whereupon a slender and beautiful knight embraced a wild, bearded lord. The marginal illustration neatly summarized the entire manuscript. If Butcher had seen this and not been put off by it, then perhaps…? It seemed too much to hope for, and yet the existence of the fae realm had seemed just as impossible before Wren had visited it himself last night.

And wouldn’t it be nice, for once, not to have to keep secrets?

~

Oak King Holly King is a gay Victorian fae romance, available now wherever fine books are found!

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Sunday Snippet, 11.20.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance, Oak King Holly King – available now wherever fine books are found!

~

Wren stared in silent horror at Butcher. The fur-lined cloak lay flung over the foot-board. The highwayman boots sat on the floor amidst the snow drift secrets, one half-fallen over the other. The long-beaked Venetian leather mask and the peaked cap with its feather had tumbled onto the counterpane beside Butcher. Butcher himself, by the eerie blue light of his own fae lantern, appeared deep in concentration, his handsome brow furrowed, his full lips pursed, his dark eyes intent on the page he held up before him. He sat with his knees bent, one laid out on the bed and the other upraised, the hem of his tunic far too short to disguise what lay between them despite his woollen hose. A few strands of his black hair had come loose from the leather cord at the nape of his neck and now tumbled down over his high, sharp cheeks like ribbons of rain.

All this would have formed a composition of admirable beauty, had Butcher not held Wren’s doom in his calloused fingertips.

~

Oak King Holly King is a gay Victorian fae romance, available now wherever fine books are found!

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Sunday Snippet, 11.13.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance collection, Tales from Blackthorn Briar, a sequel to Oak King Holly King featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – available wherever fine books are found!

~

“They say,” Mr Hull continued in a lower tone, “that those who meet beneath the mistletoe must kiss to bring good fortune.”

Ephraim cleared his throat. “Yes—well—servants often indulge in such superstitions for their own merriment.”

“Only servants?” enquired Mr Hull. His dark gaze never broke from Ephraim’s own.

“And young persons,” Ephraim conceded.

“Might gentlemen take part in the tradition, as well?” asked Mr Hull.

Ephraim hesitated. Thoughts he didn’t wish to entertain clouded his mind. Impossible notions. Dangerous ideas. Mr Hull didn’t mean to imply anything of the sort. He merely meant to ascertain, as one newly arrived to English shores and unfamiliar with their custom, whether or not he might, as a gentleman, kiss a lady beneath the mistletoe. Ephraim told himself this even as Mr Hull’s gaze flitted to his lips again.

“They might,” Ephraim conceded. After all, Mr Hull was a handsome young gentleman, and young ladies liked to be kissed by handsome young gentlemen. Or so Ephraim had been told all his life.

Mr Hull bit his lip.

~

Tales from Blackthorn Briar is a collection of sequels to Oak King Holly King, featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – available now wherever fine books are found!

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Sunday Snippet, 11.6.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance collection, Tales from Blackthorn Briar, a sequel to Oak King Holly King featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters.

~

Mr Ephraim Grigsby, Esq., had attained an age which few mortals survived to see. One which Hullvardr himself had not oft witnessed close-hand. Time leant a fragility to his frame, with nevertheless an undercurrent of queer confidence borne of inner wisdom. He moved like one with bones of spun glass. Blue veins stood out beneath his diaphanous skin like streams of molten silver. Lines of lacework beset his noble brow, and the proud chin jutted forth to hint at the strong jawline now half-hidden by jowls, as if too demure to peer out from behind a curtain. His keen and clever eyes gleamed the bright blue of rivers fed by glacial ice. The whole of him appeared as delicate and ethereal as a spider’s web, or the pale wax of the honeycomb brimming with molten gold, and, to Hullvardr’s eye, as precious as enchanted filigree. Most fae never acquired marks of age like these, no matter how many centuries they endured. What a rare joy it would prove to hold this gossamer grace in his arms.

~

Tales from Blackthorn Briar is a collection of sequels to Oak King Holly King, featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – available now wherever fine books are found!

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The Ballad of Daniel Durst, or; What’s in a Name?

Some character names come unbidden. Others are agonized over.

For Aubrey and Lindsey of Mr Warren’s Profession, it was very simple. I have a lifelong fascination with the arbitrary gendering of names and how a name’s gender can change throughout history. Many names we consider “feminine” today were often “masculine” in earlier centuries. The name Aubrey, for example, was used almost exclusively for boys until the song “Aubrey” by Bread hit the radio in 1973. The lyrics even remark upon the name being unusual for a girl.

And Aubrey was her name
A not so very ordinary girl or name
But who’s to blame?

Cue millions of girls born throughout the 70s and 80s getting the name Aubrey.

But before Bread, there was Beardsley. Specifically Aubrey Beardsley, a late Victorian artist who leant his pen-and-ink talents to illustrating, among other things, Oscar Wilde’s Salome. It is in his honour that Aubrey Warren is named Aubrey.

With Aubrey settled, his soulmate still required a name. I ran down my list of Victorian masculine names that had since leapt over to femininity and settled on Lindsey. Simple and satisfying.

For Hold Fast, I wanted to continue my habit of granting my masculine heroes names which had shifted from 19th century masculinity to 20th and 21st century femininity. Evelyn, absolutely unapologetic about who and what he is, received a name now considered unambigiously feminine. Morgan, however, keeping his true desires hidden not just from the world around him but also arguably from himself, received a name that still retains its gender ambiguity.

The protagonists of The Haunting of Heatherhurst Hall received the same treatment in reverse. The name Catherine has (to the best of my knowledge) always been considered feminine. Kit, however, is a nickname fit for anyone regardless of gender. And the genderless ambiguity of Alex as a nickname for Alexandra, Alexander, and any variation thereof, is almost a cultural meme.

And now we come to Oak King Holly King.

I struggled for ages with what to call the heroes of Oak King Holly King. One was a mortal clerk, the other a fae warrior. I knew I wanted the fae to have a name from the natural world. Beyond that I was stumped.

After hours of deliberation I finally decided I would give one character the name Wren, it being both a delightful bird and also a common enough given name for humans.

Unfortunately I originally assigned it to the fae.

It felt wrong from the start. Yes, the fae was fierce like a wren. But beyond that it didn’t sit right. And I still had no name for his mortal counterpart.

One morning, tearing my hair out over my laptop, I realised that if Wren was a good name for a human in my world, then it would probably suit a Victorian mortal. So I slapped the name Wren onto my mortal clerk and it stuck. Suddenly his character clarified; a wee speckled figure who appeared docile at first glance but would loudly and fiercely defend itself and its territory at the slightest provocation.

And since I already had a bird theme going, it seemed only natural to continue it and call the fae Shrike. This likewise gave both character and story the vital direction they’d lacked. An established method of attack (skewering), a particular appearance (masked), and a preferred habitat (thorns).

Naming the characters unstuck the story’s wheels and allowed it to roll out into the book you know now. Secondary characters came still easier. Daniel’s name is a reference to the BBC’s 2012 miniseries adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where the camera pans over the sign beside Mr Grewgious’s door, it reveals his clerk’s name as Daniel Bazzard. (Dickens himself never bothered to grant Bazzard a given name). Sukie is even more straightforward; I named her after my favorite character from Gilmore Girls.

I delved back into the world of Oak King Holly King to write its sequels in Tales from Blackthorn Briar. Daniel would finally be the protagonist of his own story. As I began writing The Ballad of Daniel Durst, I realised I knew Sukie was a nickname for something, but had no idea which name it came from.

Enter Behind the Name, one of my favorite websites for researching and collecting names for characters.

Looking up Sukie on Behind the Name revealed it was a nickname for Susan, derived from the Biblical name Susanna. In the story of Susanna and the Elders, the innocent Susanna is accosted by two lecherous old men. When she refuses them, they accuse her of adultery in revenge. She is arrested and about to be executed when a young man speaks up and demands her accusers be questioned. The elders are interrogated separately, which reveals a massive hole in their false story; one claims Susanna met her fictional lover beneath a mastic tree, and the other claims to have seen her with her fictional lover beneath an oak. As Wikipedia puts it:

“The great difference in size between a mastic and an oak makes the elders’ lie plain to all the observers. The false accusers are put to death, and virtue triumphs.”

Why repeat all this? Because the young man who spoke up in Susanna’s defense was named Daniel.

I had no idea of this connection when I originally named and wrote these characters. In retrospect it feels like fate. Their roles in Oak King Holly King and The Ballad of Daniel Durst are reversed; it is Sukie who helps rescue Daniel from the unwelcome advances of a lecherous elder. And through that rescue both Sukie and Daniel are able to find their happily-ever-after with each other.

~

Tales from Blackthorn Briar is the sequel to Oak King Holly King, featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – available now wherever fine books are found!

Shrike, the fae Butcher of Blackthorn, and Wren Lofthouse, a mortal Victorian clerk, are bound together by love and fate. Their continued adventures (and those of their friends) are told in this collection of fantastical tales following the story of Oak King Holly King, including…

Mabon
• Wherein Shrike and Wren repay their debt to the Court of Hidden Folk.

Mr Grigsby’s Clerk
• Wherein Mr Grigsby finds a replacement for Wren – and perhaps more than he bargained for.

Jack in the Green
• Wherein a certain Horse Guard wanders into Blackthorn Briar.

Winter Solstice
• Wherein the Holly King surrenders to the Oak King.

The Holly King’s Peril
• Wherein Wren and Shrike discover danger in the wilds of the Fae Realms.

The Ballad of Daniel Durst
• Wherein Daniel embarks on his authentic life in a bold new land.

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Sunday Snippet, 9.25.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance collection, Tales from Blackthorn Briar, a sequel to Oak King Holly King featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – available wherever fine books are found!

~

A gentleman stood at the bottom of the stair.

Not, Ephraim realised with a sinking heart, Lofthouse or Felix. The gentleman stood far too tall to pass for either—more in line with Tolhurst or Butcher. As he turned his face upward to meet Ephraim’s stare, he revealed a face which couldn’t have seen many days beyond thirty years. And a handsome face, at that. One that bore a sun-kissed brow, dark yet twinkling eyes, a long nose with a noble arch, a jaw strong enough to attract notice even beneath the close-trimmed black beard, and full lips beneath the moustache that wore a smile like sunshine breaking through storm-clouds.

Ephraim’s pulse gave an uncomfortable flutter, as it sometimes did when he arose too quickly from his desk.

“Good morrow, sir!” said the gentleman in a hearty tone. Ephraim couldn’t quite place his accent—a very slight one, with a touch of a burr and a hint of a lilt which defied all efforts to pin it down. The deep bass of his voice thrummed through Ephraim’s own ribs in a manner which made his knees feel weak for reasons beyond rheumatism.

Ephraim put these feelings away into a little locked drawer in his mind, as he always did, and cleared his throat.

~

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Tales from Blackthorn Briar – OUT NOW!

Tales from Blackthorn Briar comes out today – which means you can celebrate Mabon with Shrike and Wren!

Shrike, the fae Butcher of Blackthorn, and Wren Lofthouse, a mortal Victorian clerk, are bound together by love and fate. Their continued adventures (and those of their friends) are told in this collection of fantastical tales following the story of Oak King Holly King, including…

Mabon
• Wherein Shrike and Wren repay their debt to the Court of Hidden Folk.

Mr Grigsby’s Clerk
• Wherein Mr Grigsby finds a replacement for Wren – and perhaps more than he bargained for.

Jack in the Green
• Wherein a certain Horse Guard wanders into Blackthorn Briar.

Winter Solstice
• Wherein the Holly King surrenders to the Oak King.

The Holly King’s Peril
• Wherein Wren and Shrike discover danger in the wilds of the Fae Realms.

The Ballad of Daniel Durst
• Wherein Daniel embarks on his authentic life in a bold new land.

Discover it now wherever fine books are found!

~

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Tales from Blackthorn Briar – Cover Reveal and Exclusive Excerpt!

Tales from Blackthorn Briar, the long-awaited sequel to Oak King Holly King, comes out Sept. 21st – which means you can celebrate Mabon with Shrike and Wren!

Shrike, the fae Butcher of Blackthorn, and Wren Lofthouse, a mortal Victorian clerk, are bound together by love and fate. Their continued adventures (and those of their friends) are told in this collection of fantastical tales following the story of Oak King Holly King, including…

Mabon
• Wherein Shrike and Wren repay their debt to the Court of Hidden Folk.

Mr Grigsby’s Clerk
• Wherein Mr Grigsby finds a replacement for Wren – and perhaps more than he bargained for.

Jack in the Green
• Wherein a certain Horse Guard wanders into Blackthorn Briar.

Winter Solstice
• Wherein the Holly King surrenders to the Oak King.

The Holly King’s Peril
• Wherein Wren and Shrike discover danger in the wilds of the Fae Realms.

The Ballad of Daniel Durst
• Wherein Daniel embarks on his authentic life in a bold new land.

Thistle Arts Studio and Sleepy Fox Studio have crafted another beautiful cover for this collection. Read on to see it for yourself and enjoy an exclusive excerpt from Mabon!

Continue reading “Tales from Blackthorn Briar – Cover Reveal and Exclusive Excerpt!”

Sunday Snippet, 9.18.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance collection, Tales from Blackthorn Briar, a sequel to Oak King Holly King featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – coming out Sept. 21st and available for preorder wherever fine books are found!

~


“Are you all right, sir?” asked Mr Hull.

Ephraim didn’t quite know how to answer him. In an abstracted sort of way, he quite liked to be held so gently in the brawny arms of his very handsome clerk. On the other hand, he was not quite so old yet as to feel totally bereft of dignity, and dignity demanded he put a stop to this sort of nonsense.

~

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Sunday Snippet, 9.4.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance, Oak King Holly King – available now wherever fine books are found!

~

Wren took advantage of their absence to collapse into his desk chair.

Shrike strode toward him, hand outstretched.

Wren stayed him with a glance—half warning, half desperation—and Shrike settled his hand on the back of Wren’s chair rather than on his shoulder, where his warmth might have suffused and soothed Wren’s aching muscles.

“You should go,” Wren forced himself to say. “While they’re distracted. Before they start asking questions.”

Shrike gazed down at him a moment longer with an expression no less handsome for its mournful cast. Still, he nodded his assent and turned to go.

“Wait,” Wren blurted, his exhausted mind belatedly recalling what he’d nearly forgotten.

Shrike halted, looking somewhere between confused and concerned.

But before he could enquire, Wren had already dived into his satchel and fished out the laudanum.

“It’s for easing pain,” Wren explained as Shrike studied the bottle. “Just a drop or two mixed into drink. Any more and it becomes deadly poison.”

“Such is the way of all medicine,” Shrike murmured.

Wren held it out to him. Shrike took it. His fingertips brushed Wren’s knuckles. The touch sent a shiver across Wren’s skin. He wanted nothing more than to reach for Shrike, to seize his cloak and drag him down into an embrace, throw his arms about his shoulders and collapse into him.

Instead, Wren dropped his hand to the arm of his chair and clenched it hard.

Shrike’s eyes followed the gesture. He tucked the laudanum into the folds of his cloak and said, “Whenever you can get away…”

“I will run to you,” Wren finished for him.

~

Oak King Holly King is a gay Victorian fae romance, available now wherever fine books are found!

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