Guest Blog: Meet the Men of “Town Man, Country Man” by Jessica Sky Davies

TownManCountryManFSFirst off, thanks to Jamie for hosting today, it’s an honor!

Now, about these boys….  Characters tend to be the thing that pulls me into a story more than anything.  I blame my Anglo-Celt background for this.  As one fellow literati friend has put it, “Brits are the best when it comes to character studies.”  While the initial “seed” of Town Man, Country Man was the settings (as mentioned in my July 29 posting on Jana Denardo’s blog http://www.janadenardo.com/2016/07/29/guest-blogger-writing-your-own-backyard-jessica-skye-davies/ here), it was the characters which made the seed germinate and grow into a full story.

TMCM has been described as “opposites-attract”, and it is, but Josh and Ben have a lot in common, too.  It’s just that the things that are different between them are things which are deeply ingrained parts of them, things which are not always easy to examine in oneself, let alone change.

Josh, the town man, is immediately attracted to Ben, our country man, when he spots him in the crowd at a wedding.  Apparently, Ben is just as interested, as it’s Ben who strikes up a conversation then asks Josh to dance.  For either of them, it could have been just like any Saturday night at a bar or club.  Maybe it was the inherently romantic setting, but Josh and Ben both saw something more than a one-nighter in one another.

Josh finds himself surprised by wanting to date Ben, primarily because Josh hasn’t seen any of his lovers twice ever since getting out of a relationship that got steadily more emotionally abusive as it went.  Until meeting Ben, Josh felt no need to change what was working just fine for him.

TownManCountryManFSBen, on the other hand, has spent a long time looking for love in all the wrong places.  His home is much more rural (though still not far from the city), and he’s not out in his community the way Josh is.  Most of the guys Ben has met aren’t looking for any kind of commitment or strings-attached, some are even married and don’t consider themselves anything but straight.  So when Ben meets Josh, and Josh accepts his offer of a dinner-date, Ben begins to let his guard down more than he has in a while.

The passion burns fast and bright between them and it kindles a giddy, I-thought-I-was-too-old-for-this-feeling romance in both of them in very short order.  Both a bit love-drunk, neither of them pause to consider that wanting a relationship to become long-term and making that happen are two different things.  Lasting relationships necessitate sacrifice, which is a bit difficult to think through when you’re all loved up on romantic weekends together.

For Josh, the biggest problem is having to wait till the weekends to get together with Ben because of the distance between their homes (50 miles might as well be 500 to most Pittsburghers!)  When Josh finds out that his best friend, Dante, has been dealing with a personal crisis all alone, Josh realizes that the time he’s been spending with Ben has come at the sacrifice of making time for a lifelong friendship.  It knocks him for a loop and causes him to do some real soul-searching.

With Josh suddenly putting off Ben’s invitations but not opening up about what’s going on, Ben gets the feeling something is wrong and finally decides to stop by Josh’s place on a Sunday morning and talk about things.  Well, that lasts only until Ben finds out that Josh had a friend staying with him overnight.  Having been down that road before, Ben assumes the worst and doesn’t want to hear Josh’s ‘it’s not what it looks like!’  And yet… Ben has never had anything like what he’s had with Josh, and now it’s Ben’s turn to do the serious introspection and decide what’s important in his life.

Both of them are going to have to decide if what they have in common outweighs the differences in their personalities, and if finding a way to go forward is likely to be worth it.

TownManCountryMan_headerbanner

Town Man, Country Man

“Town man” Josh Douglass meets “country man” Ben Bauer at a mutual friend’s wedding, and passion kindles immediately. As urbanite wedding planner Josh and closeted contractor Ben spend more time together, they develop a deep, comfortable romance despite the fifty miles between their homes—and despite the drastic differences in their lifestyles. But as they grow closer, it becomes apparent that Josh and Ben have been enjoying the first flush of love without giving much thought to longer-term logistics.

A crisis leads Josh to ask himself serious questions about how his relationship with Ben can realistically work. But just as Josh is feeling ready to talk about the next step with Ben, a misunderstanding threatens to put an end to their love affair. Compromise is the key to any relationship, but it isn’t always easy to balance careers, friendships, and family expectations. Josh and Ben just need to see that bringing together the best of both their worlds is well worth the sacrifices they’ll have to make to remain in each other’s lives.

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/town-man-country-man-by-jessica-skye-davies-7273-b

Jessica Skye Davies

Author page: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/authors/jessica-skye-davies-264

Blog: http://jessicaskyedavies.blogspot.com/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaSkyeAuthor

 

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Filed under Contemporary, gay, New Release, Romance

Does it matter if Lincoln was gay? Yes, it does.

UmbrellaNo Year

May 17th is the  International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, and from May 17-24, we will be celebrating with the:

Hop for Visibility Awareness and Equality

At the bottom of this post, you can check out the other authors, reviewers, and allies who have blogs in the hop, and if you leave a comment with an email address, or send me a private email at jamesfessenden@hotmail.com, you’ll be entered into a giveaway for any eBook in my back catalog, or the audiobook for my latest novel, Violated.

~ * ~

I’d like to talk a few minutes about one of our US presidents….

Recently, I saw another article about the sexuality of Abraham Lincoln making the rounds on social media. Abraham Lincoln: A life in the closet? made a good case for Lincoln being gay or bisexual, though as is often the case on Facebook, the article turns out to be several years old.

The evidence that Lincoln had very strong, even passionate, attachments to men throughout his life is fairly strong. He wrote several letters to these men, using language that seems oddly intense for just friendship, and insisted upon sharing a bed with more than one man. Times were, of course, different back then. Our culture wasn’t as quick to see sexual interest in an emotionally close friendship between two men, and the practice of sharing a bed was common when there weren’t enough beds to go around.

Several things seem… off… with this interpretation, however. One is that Lincoln continued to share a bed with men well into his later years, when he was no longer poor and living in mean circumstances. In fact, he was rumored to share his bed—and a nightshirt—with his bodyguard while president, whenever his wife was away. He certainly didn’t need to do so.

But, to me, the largest hole in the “it was perfectly ordinary for a man to behave this way in those times” argument is the fact that several of Lincoln’s contemporaries commented upon the fact that it was not ordinary. To quote wikipedia (which in turn, is paraphrasing Michael B. Chesson in an afterward of CA Tripp‘s book The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln):

Elizabeth Woodbury Fox, the wife of Lincoln’s naval aide, wrote in her diary for November 16, 1862, “Tish says, ‘Oh, there is a Bucktail soldier here devoted to the president, drives with him, and when Mrs. L. is not home, sleeps with him.’ What stuff!”

Of course, there are plenty of detractors of the book (one might even say “haters”), and the quote is equally picked apart, with people debating whether “What stuff!” meant “What juicy gossip!” or “What nonsense!” I personally sense a little of both, as in, “Nobody would take that seriously… would they?” Regardless, this salacious bit of gossip clearly was not describing something a lot of men might do. It was scandalous.

My big question is, “Why is it so important that Lincoln be 100 percent heterosexual?”

Not, “Why is it important for Lincoln—or any other well-respected historical figure—to be seen as LGBTQ?” I already know the answer to that. It’s important, because we have largely been eradicated from the history books.

Lincoln-Up-CloseLincoln lived in a time period where it would not have been acceptable for him to come right out and say, “I’m in love with a man, and I’m going to marry him.” Likewise, nobody could have asked him, “Were you in love with Joshua Speed?” It simply wasn’t talked about. So if we’re forced to glean the truth from insufficient evidence and hearsay, don’t blame the LGBTQ community. (On a side note, I often hear the assertion that since “gay” didn’t mean the same thing back then, people couldn’t really be “gay.” I’m sure that would have been good news to the men and women who were imprisoned and killed throughout history for same-sex relationships. Look, there have always been people who preferred sex with others of their gender—or both genders. Always. What changed over time was the idea that this could form the core of a person’s life and identity.)

But we live in different times, don’t we? Today it’s perfectly acceptable for a man to be gay, and even to marry another man. Isn’t that right? If that were really the case, I doubt the suggestion that one of our revered former presidents might have had sex with men would send people into such fits.

Consider this:

Another contemporary of the young Lincoln was a woman named Ann Rutledge. She was engaged to marry a man named  John MacNamar, but she knew Lincoln, and many speculate that he was in love with her. She died at the age of 22, when their town was hit by typhoid fever. Supposedly, Lincoln was asked by a friend if he’d been in love with her, and he replied, “It is true—true indeed I did. I loved the woman dearly and soundly: She was a handsome girl—would have made a good, loving wife… I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often, often of her now.”

Nobody knows if Lincoln really said this. According to JG Randall in an essay entitled “Sifting the Ann Rutledge Evidence”:

“The most obvious thing about this effusive statement is its unLincolnian quality.” Noting how disinclined Lincoln always was to express private feelings, Randall added, “In the face of such reticence, the Cogdal record seems artificial and made to order. It was given out after Lincoln’s death; it presents him in an unlikely role; it puts in his mouth uncharacteristic sayings.”

The Strange Case of Isaac Cogdal )

Yet there have been popular films and books about the relationship between Lincoln and Rutledge since 1919, and this incident is frequently used to “disprove” the assertion that Lincoln fell in love with men (as if he couldn’t possibly be bisexual). Rejecting the tenuous evidence for Lincoln’s same-sex relationships, while accepting the equally tenuous evidence for a relationship with Rutledge says “heterosexual bias” to me more than it says “desire for historical accuracy.”

abraham-lincoln-quotes-hd-wallpaper-4Ultimately, this isn’t really about Abraham Lincoln. It’s about all the historical figures where we have evidence indicating they may have been LGBTQ. Lincoln may or may not have had same-sex relationships. We’ll probably never know. But why on earth would we look at his history of close relationships with men, his fond letters to them, and the rumors surrounding his relationships, yet ignore all of that in favor of the assumption he couldn’t possibly have been gay or bisexual? Does that really make sense?

Only from the perspective of someone who assumes heterosexual and cisgender is “normal.” And that attitude needs to change.

Even if we’re wrong about some of those historical figures, we’re not wrong about all of them. Some were gay or lesbian or bisexual or trans. Their voices were silenced by the societies they lived in, so they were frequently unable to safely be honest about their sexuality. Either they pretended to be heterosexual and cisgendered, or they remained quiet and allowed everyone to assume they were. But LGBTQ people living today deserve to know that in the past many of us did great things.  We need to hear more about LGBTQ people in history than how the world treated us whenever we were discovered.

Yes, it’s possible we’re making false assumptions about some historical figures. But if we really do believe it’s okay to be LGBTQ, and we’re not just paying it lip-service, we shouldn’t look upon the suggestion that a particular person might have been LGBTQ as diminishing their memory. I grew up thinking Abraham Lincoln was heterosexual. It didn’t make me think any less of him. If somebody can’t respect the man after learning he might have been gay or bisexual, then that’s their failing—not his.

~ * ~

Remember to leave a comment with an email address, or send me a private email at jamesfessenden@hotmail.com, to be entered into a giveaway for any eBook in my back catalog, or the audiobook for my latest novel, Violated!

 

Blog Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality.

1. Tyler Robbins (M/M, M/M/M) 24. Heloise West (M/M) 47. Sean Michael
2. N.S. Beranek(Gay) 25. Angel Martinez (M/M GAY BI TR) 48. Remmy Duchene (MM)
3. The Novel Approach/Lisa Horan 26. Amelia Bishop (MULTI) 49. Sharita Lira writing as BLMorticia M/M
4. B. A. Brock (BI TR GAY LES) 27. Moonbeams over Atlanta – Eloreen Moon (MM, REV, MULTI) 50. Barbara Winkes (LES)
5. Jamie Fessenden 28. Helena Stone (M/M ) 51. Bronwyn Heeley (m/m)
6. Rory Ni Coileain 29. AM Leibowitz (M/M, F/F, BI, TR, NB, REV) 52. L. J. LaBarthe
7. Erica Pike (M/M) 30. L.D. Blakeley (M/M, BI) 53. VJ Summers (m/m, m/m/f)
8. Andrew Jericho (GAY) 31. Lila Leigh Hunter [M/M, BI] 54. Nikka Michaels (M/M)
9. Tempeste O’Riley (M/M (Bi) (NB) 32. Sharon Bidwell 55. Caraway Carter (LGBT)
10. The Macaronis [various] 33. Nicole Dennis (M/M, ACE, M/M/F) 56. L M Somerton (M/M)
11. Elin Gregory [mm] 34. Lexi Ander 57. Taylor Law (GAY)
12. Alexa MIlne 35. Barbara G.Tarn (M/M, ACE) 58. Anastasia Vitsky (F/F, TR, BI)
13. Nic Starr (M/M) 36. Kaje Harper M/M, TR, BI 59. Draven St. James (M/M)
14. Evelise Archer (MM) 37. JMS Books LLC 60. A.V. Sanders (GAY, ACE, NB)
15. Sue Brown 38. JM Snyder 61. Lynley Wayne
16. Elizabeth Varlet (M/M, BI, NB) 39. Dean Pace-Frech 62. DP Denman (GAY)
17. Raven J. Spencer 40. Kimber Vale 63. M.A. Church M/M
18. Sharing Links and Wisdom (REV) 41. Jacintha Topaz (BI, F/F, M/M, TR) 64. Andrew J. Peters GAY
19. Lisa Horan (REV/Multi) 42. Prism Book Alliance® (MULTI) 65. Dianne Hartsock MM
20. Archer Kay Leah (M/M, F/F, TR, NB, BI, ACE) 43. Eva Lefoy (M/M, F/F, F/M/F, BI, MULTI) 66. M. LeAnne Phoenix M/M F/F
21. Alexis Duran (M/M) 44. Lou Sylvre (M/M) 67. Cherie Noel (M/M)
22. Jules Dixon 45. Anne Barwell 68. Chris McHart (M/M, Trans*)
23. R.M. Olivia 46. Viki Lyn (M/M)

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Filed under Bisexual, Bloghop, gay, GLBT History, Historical, Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Hop for Visibility Awareness and Equality, Jamie Fessenden, Transgender

“Train to Sevmash” is now available! For FREE!

77When I was approached to contribute a story for 7&7: A DSP Publications Anthology of Virtue and Vice, I immediately chose “mercy” as the virtue I wanted to write about. My first idea had to do with a police officer chasing down a criminal, but ultimately choosing to let him go. Unfortunately, the more I thought about that idea, the less I liked it.

But I’d recently found a tutor to help me brush up on the Russian language, which I’d studied a very long time ago in college, and I’d also just read Ian Fleming’s original novel Casino Royale. Suddenly, it clicked! A secret agent! And he wasn’t trying to capture somebody—he intended to assassinate his target.

Since I’m not British, my secret agent wouldn’t be, either. He’d be American, a former member of the Special Forces. And less upper crust than Bond, with a bit of Mack Bolan and John Clark (from Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six) thrown in. Agent Jax Colby. I was setting this in the late 60s, during the Cold War, when the USSR was developing Victor Class nuclear submarines, so that would be the impetus of the agent’s mission.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time studying Soviet naval bases, and determined that the most likely place a submarine of that class would be docked for testing would be Sevmash. (I’d originally picked Murmansk, and I no longer remember why that wasn’t viable.) So how would I get an American spy into a high-security Soviet naval base?

Initially, the story was going to revolve around Colby’s adventures in Sevmash itself, once he’d infiltrated the base. He was there to assassinate an American defector. But a throwaway line I’d written in the first paragraph about how he’d killed an innocent man on the train to steal his identity intrigued me, and I found myself more interested in exploring how that had gone down, so I rewound the timeline to that night.

YuriColby needed a target who had a similar physical description to himself, and who was en route to the location on a fairly long journey, being transferred from another base—Murmansk. It was possible to travel by train between the two bases, but the trip took several days. This, of course, was in the days before information could be transferred easily over the Internet from one city to another, which would work to Colby’s advantage. He would have to have forged papers with his photo, but the Russian’s vital information—internal Soviet travel papers had a stamp across both the photo and the document, so simply replacing the photo would be an arduous task. As long as nobody in Sevmash had seen this man—Yuri Ivanovich Veselov—Colby should be able to get in and out. He just needed to kill Veselov on the train to Sevmash and step into his identity.

The only problem was, in order to kill Veselov, Colby had to get him alone. And that meant getting close to him. And the closer he got, the more Colby would be forced to realize Veselov was not only an innocent in this game, but in many ways a kindred spirit and downright likable.

In fact, he was kind of adorable….

After I finished the short story Train to Sevmash, it was clear to me that I’d just begun to explore these characters and the world they inhabited, so I got permission from DSP Publications to expand the story into a full-length novel (tentatively called Chimera). That’s about half completed now, with the Train to Sevmash story taking up chapters five through seven, and I’m hoping to finish it this summer. Then, perhaps, it will be released next year.

Train in St PetersburgTrain To Sevmash—Jamie Fessenden 

Jax Colby is an American secret agent operating within the Soviet Union in 1967. His assignment is to infiltrate the Sevmash naval shipyard in Severodvinsk in pursuit of an American scientist turned traitor to his country. But in order to do this, he must first kill a naval lieutenant traveling to the base and steal his transfer orders. He homes in on his target on the two-day train ride from Leningrad to Belomorsk.

But there’s one problem. Lt. Yuri Veselov is handsome and friendly. As Colby spends time with him, he begins to like him—and it might be more than friendship. The train draws nearer to Severodvinsk, and Colby grows increasingly reluctant to do what he knows he must—kill Yuri Veselov.

(This story is included in the free anthology 7&7: A DSP Publications Anthology of Virtue and Vice )

Buy Links:

DSP Publications: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/77-by-andrea-speed-271-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/7-Andrea-Speed-ebook/dp/B01DRIXN8M

Leave a comment

Filed under 7&7, Drama, gay, Historical, Jamie Fessenden, New Release, Romance, Russian, Writing

Release Day! Thárros by C. Kennedy is out!

Tharros-Banner
Θάρρος
Thárros. Greek. Meaning courage
Courage. n. /ˈkərij/
1. The ability to do something that frightens one.
2. Strength in the face of fear, pain, or grief.
~*~
Courage is resistance to fear,
mastery of fear,
not the absence of fear. ~Mark Twain
High school senior Michael Sattler leads a charmed life. Almost. He has great friends, parents who love him just the way he is, and he was a champion hurdler until someone took out his knee when they kidnapped his boyfriend. Yet, Michael is determined to make the USATF tryouts in spite of his injuries.
~*~
Tharros - Hope is an anchor to the soul

Christy Castle is Michael’s entire world. Healing from years of abuse, his abduction by a predator has left him hiding a new secret as he tries to start his life again. Together, Michael and Christy work to recover from their wounds in time to make prom and graduate high school. To complicate matters, Christy is astonished to learn a fellow victim from his native Greece has survived. Christy will stop at nothing to bring him to the US to keep him safe.

Tharros - Quote - I have your heartbeat in my ear again2But the prosecution of Christy’s kidnapper looms large in their futures and the struggle to return to normal only worsens. Christy’s past continues to haunt them and, when the prosecution turns ugly and Christy’s new life is torn apart, only their unrelenting courage and determination can save them from the nightmare that threatens to destroy their future together.

Add Thárros to your Goodreads and BookLikes Lists!

Read Chapter One or Read en français

About Cody

Cody is an award-winning author who lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Cody doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Cody contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Cody can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary. Among many other awards, Omorphi was a runner up in the 2014 Rainbow Awards, and Slaying Isidore’s Dragons was a finalist in the 2015 Rainbow Awards. Cody does respond to blog comments and emails because, after all, it is all about you, the reader.
Find Cody on Facebook, Twitter @CodyKAuthor, Pinterest,
Booklikes, and read a free serial story, Fairy

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Filed under Blog Tour, Contemporary, Drama, gay, Guest Blogger, Romance, Young Adult

Trying my hand at category romance

Main Street in Gorham, NH.

My publisher, Dreamspinner Press, recently came up with the idea of putting out category romance novels — light, quick reads between fifty and sixty thousand words without much angst or too much sex. Think some of the old (and probably current) Harlequin and Silhouette romance lines. I actually like this idea a lot. It may come as a surprise to many people, but I used to love category romances. Not all the time, certainly. But as a pleasant distraction now and then.

The new Dreamspun Desires line seems to be doing quite well with readers. And now a lot of writers I know are working on books for it.

I’m not normally one to jump on bandwagons, but this particular bandwagon appeals to me. So with that in mind, and knowing full well that my submission will be at the tail end of a lot of other author submissions, I’m going to try my hand at it. No rape, no child abuse, no murder. Just a nice, happy little romance.

I can do this!

My story is tentatively called Small Town Sonata, though I’m not utterly thrilled with that name. It was going to take place in a fictional community called Springhaven, NH. Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered there is a Spring Haven campground or something in NH, so I’ll have to come up with a different name. It’s based upon the town I grew up in, which was a pleasant little community of less than 2,000 people in northern New Hampshire, which goes by the rather unpleasant-sounding name Gorham. The picture at the top of the post is of main street in Gorham, and it looks pretty much like it did when I was a kid there in the 1970s. Parts of it have changed, of course. But that’s why I’m setting my story in a fictional, idealized version of the town, rather than the real one.

The story follows two characters: Dean Cooper and Aiden Clark. (Uh-oh. I just noticed both last names begin with “C.” I might change that….)

Dean is a local handyman. Everyone in town knows him, and most like him. He’s openly gay, but the prospects for a gay man in a town that size are somewhat small. In place of a love life, Dean has the dubious honor of being mothered by a host of elderly women in town. The ladies have taken it upon themselves to organize the annual town fair. Mr. Robinson, who used to conduct the band, passed away two years ago, so the ladies decide it’s up to Dean to continue the tradition this year. Aside from playing clarinet in the band, when it existed, Dean has no idea how he’s going to get everyone back together, especially when confronted by band members moving away and broken instruments that can’t be replaced.

In the meantime, Aiden Clark, who moved away from town when he was a teenager to pursue a career as a concert pianist, is back in town. He’s pleasantly surprised to discover his best friend from high school, Dean, has grown up to be sexy as hell. But the last thing Aiden wants is to get involved with someone. He hasn’t told anyone the reason for his return — that his career as a pianist was ended by an injury to his hands, and he just wants to withdraw from the world for a while. Possibly forever.

As a blurb, this is awfully wordy and somewhat awkward, but you get the idea. I’m having fun with it. It’s up close to 8,000 words now, and if I can keep up the past I’ve set, I should have it done in four to six weeks.

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Filed under Contemporary, Drama, gay, Jamie Fessenden, Romance, Writing

Get my entire Dreams trilogy in one cheap bundle!

Dreams of Fire and Gods BundleAs some of you know, I occasionally publish Young Adult titles under the pseudonym James Erich. The best of these, in my opinion, is a trilogy of high fantasy novels set in the kingdom of Dasak, which is on the brink of civil war. At the same time the emperor and his regent in the east prepare for battle, another war is brewing—a war between the gods that threatens to completely destroy the kingdom and leave no survivors.

When these novels were first published, there was a long gap between books two and three, leaving readers hanging. But now Harmony Ink has now released the entire trilogy as one low-cost bundle! Get the entire saga for just $9.99!

A thousand years ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak by warring for the land and the frightened humans who lived there. Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

In the present day, tensions escalate between the emperor and his regent to the point of war, which will be nothing compared to the war that comes with the Taaweh’s return. Join the regent’s son and apprentice mage Sael and his vagabond lover Koreh as they dodge assassins, rescue the Taaweh queen, and take journeys through the underworld in their quest to save their world from being destroyed in another confrontation between the gods.

Buy Links: 

Harmony Ink/Dreamspinnerhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7517

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Dreams-Fire-Bundle-James-Erich-ebook/dp/B01BLKYT9A/

Excerpt:

“I SAID I was sorry,” Koreh repeated, exasperated.

“And I said I don’t care.”

Sael stood facing the fire with his undertunic held out to catch the heat. It wasn’t very modest, but he didn’t think Koreh could see anything from where he was standing. Geilin had grown tired of the argument and lay down to sleep after drinking his tea. The old man lay wrapped up in his cloak, facing away from the fire.

“I don’t really think you’re slow.”

“Now that Master Geilin’s told you I’m not.”

Koreh groaned in frustration. “Look. I don’t know how much training it takes to become a vönan—”

“A lot!”

“All right,” Koreh continued, “fine. But it just seemed to me that, after ten years of training, you’d be a little further along.”

Sael glared at him. Was this Koreh’s idea of an apology?

“As Master Geilin already told you,” he responded coolly, “I’m doing as well in my studies as any other tenth-year student. Better than most. I just can’t cast when I’m rushed. I have to concentrate.”

“So, you’re not rushed now. Let’s see you throw a fireball. Just a little one.”

“We’re supposed to be hiding, remember?” Sael snapped. “It’s bad enough we had to light a fire to dry off. If I start throwing fireballs around, they’ll be seen for leagues in all directions.”

Koreh’s derisive snort was the last straw. Sael turned and stalked over to the edge of the clearing. After searching the underbrush for a moment, he found what he was looking for—a sturdy branch about the length of a walking staff.

Koreh was watching him with a smirk on his face when he returned to the fire.

Trying to ignore him, Sael lifted the branch up over his head so it lay horizontally. Then with both hands gripping it firmly, he said, “Grab hold.”

“Huh?”

“I’ll show you something not even your Taaweh could do. Now grab on!”

Koreh hesitated only a moment before accepting whatever challenge Sael was offering him. He approached the boy, looking him dead in the eye before reaching up with one hand to grab the staff.

“Both hands,” Sael insisted, “and hold on tight.”

“Yes, little lord.” Koreh’s voice was mocking.

Sael frowned. “Hold on tight, or you’ll die. I mean it.”

“Fine. I’m holding on.”

The apprentice vönan closed his eyes and began chanting under his breath. It wasn’t easy, because in order for Koreh to grasp the staff, he had to press his body against Sael’s. And he was still naked. That was incredibly distracting, even with the linen undertunic separating their bodies. But the thought of further humiliation if he failed forced Sael to focus.

In the dark, with Druma obscured by clouds, Sael knew his power would be very limited. He could feel the magical energy he’d stored up during the day like a fire burning in his chest and head, but not nearly as hot as he often felt it—the pervasive fog had prevented him from drawing much power, even at midday. Still, it should be enough.

Sael chanted under his breath, ancient words given to men by the gods that simultaneously unlocked channels in the body for the energy to flow through and protected the body from the energy it channeled. This was one of the reasons the training of a vönan was such a slow, painstaking process—it took years to learn how to channel the energy safely before a master would dare allow his pupil to experiment with powerful spells. Every apprentice at the academy had heard horror stories of overzealous pupils bursting into flames. The stories may not all have been true, but the masters never bothered to contradict them.

When the chant ended, Sael opened his eyes to find Koreh watching him with apprehension. Clearly the magic of the Stronni still made him very uncomfortable. He looked as though he were about to say something when the staff suddenly jerked upward, lifting both young men off the ground.

Sael had been prepared for it, but Koreh panicked for a second, scrambling for a tighter grip.

Sael couldn’t help laughing as the staff came to a stop about ten feet above where they’d been standing. “Don’t fall.”

“I’m fine.” Koreh’s startled expression turned to one of defiance. “Is this all you had to show me? We’re barely off the ground.”
Suddenly he gasped as the staff flew upward again, this time coming to a stop just a short distance above the treetops. Koreh hooted in delight.

“Quiet!” Sael said under his breath, though he was secretly pleased. “You’ll wake Master Geilin.”

Koreh ignored him, laughing and twisting his head this way and that to take in the unusual vantage point. “Take us higher!”

“Hang on, then—tight!”

Now that the spell had been cast, it took little effort for Sael to control it, like turning the wick up on a lantern. He felt the energy flowing from his core increase and the two of them began to soar upwards. Higher and higher they climbed, until the light from the campfire seemed far, far below. Despite the night being overcast, the Eye cast a soft blue-gray light over everything, diffused through the clouds, and the gently waving treetops stretching off into the distance all around them seemed ethereal and beautiful.

He feared for a moment he’d overdone it. If Koreh lost his grip, Sael wasn’t sure he’d be able to save him from falling. But Koreh was laughing now like a young child being spun around in his father’s arms.

He was loving this and had dropped all pretense of superiority. When his eyes met Sael’s, Sael saw admiration in them for the first time. And he knew that he would do anything for that look.

But then he glanced past Koreh, and what he saw made his blood run cold. A vast number of tiny spots of light dotted the ground in the distance, hazy in the mist but still visible. They weren’t the lights of Mat’zovya—he could see those on the far side of the lake. These were just beyond, in the fields between the old city and the new. They had to be campfires.

Hundreds of them.

“We’re being followed!” he exclaimed.

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Filed under Fantasy, gay, James Erich, Romance, Young Adult

What I’ve been up to lately

008Things have been pretty quiet on both my adult blog (https://jamiefessenden.com/) and my YA blog (http://jameserich.com/) over the past few months, so perhaps it’s time to let people know what I’ve got going on.

So I did have a novel (Violated) come out in the fall, and it did pretty well. It’s pretty dark, and the resolution — while happy — isn’t the big catharsis a lot of readers hoped for, simply because my goal was realism. A story like this isn’t resolved by an epic bout of sobbing in your lover’s arms. Ever. Derek and Russ find the best possible, realistic happily-ever-after for them.

At Christmas time, I was delighted to be offered the chance to do a Christmas story on the WROTE Podcast — one of twelve stories representing the twelve days of Christmas in the carol. I hadn’t had time to get out any of the Christmas stories I was working on (I have one contemporary novella in the works, a free holiday story that revolves around the characters in the Dreams of Fire and Gods series, and a re-write of a previously published novella), so this was a great opportunity. I’m delighted with how the story came out, and Brad Vance‘s wonderful narration! All of the stories are terrific, so if you’re still in the mood for Christmas….

Brad also conducted a great interview of me, aided by my friend, Scott Coatsworth, if you’re interested.

Moving forward, I’m currently working on a novella about alien abduction for the next Gothika anthology (see previous installments: Stitch, Bones, Claw, and Spirit). Eli Easton, who originated the series (I helped a little), won’t be joining us on this installment. The authors participating in this issue are Kim Fielding, BG Thomas, FE Feeley Jr., and myself.

As far as which novels I’m working on goes, I’m having a little trouble with that one. I have several in the works. My YA novel Martian Born, a novel about a spy in the Soviet Union during the cold war (currently called Chimera), and a novelization of the Jomsviking Saga, about a fortress full of Vikings in the tenth century. I’m also tentatively working on an untitled novel about “cavemen” (what we used to call Cro-Magnon Man, but is now referred to as “Early Modern Humans” or “Anatomically Modern Humans,” because they are physically no different from us).

This probably sounds like I need to focus, and that would be correct. Martian Born is closest to being finished, but it’s intended for the mainstream science fiction market. This means a long, tedious process of sending queries to agents — most likely over a year or two, if not longer — because mainstream publishers, by and large, no longer accept submissions directly from authors. So while I do want to get that process moving, I’m also looking at getting other novels out more quickly.

This probably means I’ll either finish up Chimera or The Vikings of Jomsborg. But both still have a lot of work to do on them.

In the meantime, I have two stories that will be coming out soon. One is actually the first part of Chimera, presented as a short story called Train to Sevmash. This will be part of an anthology published by DSP Publications. I wrote the story first, then got permission from the editor of the anthology to expand it into a novel.

The second story is in an anthology put together by BG Thomas called A More Perfect Union — a collection of stories about same-sex marriage written by gay men who are actually married. My story, Destined, is a fictionalized account of how I met my husband and how we created our life together. The characters aren’t exactly me and Erich, but the events are largely true.

This has gotten lengthy, and I haven’t even touched on other projects I’ve been working on, such as finishing the Dogs of Cyberwar trilogy (I’m nearly done the second novella (A Mote in the Eye), but my publisher wants the third, before we move ahead), the samurai tale I’ve been adapting (Shinosuke), and the sequel to Murder on the Mountain, which is in the plotting stages (murder mysteries take a lot of plotting).

Yes, I’m a bit over-extended. But it’s my fault — ideas keep popping into my head. I just need to focus and prioritize.

In the meantime, I have the re-release of my first novel, Murderous Requiem, available for pre-order on DSP Publications. It will be released on March 22nd. This edition isn’t enormously different from the first, but I did go through and tighten things a bit, as well as clarify some of the confusing sexual issues in the novel. The story centers around an occult order in what is basically a “free love” commune, so all of the characters are in open relationships. This upsets some readers, who regard it as “cheating.” I do not. I wrote it for my friends who are involved in open or polyamorous relationships where everything is up front and honest, and everyone’s feelings are taken into account.

But that isn’t actually what the novel is about, anyway. It’s about an ancient manuscript containing a requiem mass that, when performed, may cause death… or possibly may resurrect the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christmas, Contemporary, Drama, Fantasy, gay, Gay Marriage, Jamie Fessenden, Murderous Requiem, Mystery, occult, Occult/Paranormal, Rape, Romance, SciFi, Viking, Writing