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Christmas music in Iceland!

I have yet to actually visit Iceland. So when I was writing my novel A Viking for Yule, I had to rely upon a friend (Sigríður Valdimarsdóttir) who lives there, a lot of research, and Google Maps. But I wanted to experience as much as I could, so I ordered food from Iceland (the shipping cost was more than the order, not surprisingly) and tried the rye bread, licorice, and chocolate Sam eats in the novel. I also ordered Appelsin and Malt Extract, so I could make Jólabland. (It was all absolutely delicious, and I want more!)

Another thing I wanted to do was experience Icelandic Christmas music. What’s Christmas without music?

So I dug around on the Internet and talked to my Icelandic friend to learn what might be on the radio during the yule season this year. I ended up putting together a CD that I listened to pretty much constantly, as I worked on the novel.

It drove my husband insane, but I picked a couple of songs to use in the story.

The first time Arnar turns on the radio, this song comes on, which I thought was a wonderful upbeat pop song. It’s called Jólin eru að koma (Christmas is Coming) by the group Í svörtum fötum (In Black Clothes).
Here’s the scene where they come across it:

Arnar fiddled with the radio and a contemporary rock song came on. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics were in Icelandic.

“What is that?” Sam asked.

“Christmas music.”

Sam grinned at him. “It doesn’t sound very Christmassy. It’s more like the J-pop I heard in Japan.”

“Stop being so provincial.” Arnar looked scandalized. “That’s ‘Christmas is Coming’ by In Black Clothes.”

“In Black Clothes?”

“That’s the name of the group. It’s actually a pretty old song, from when I was at university.”

“Oh.” Sam wasn’t sure if he liked it or not. For that matter, he wasn’t sure if Arnar liked it or just didn’t like Icelandic music being mistaken for J-pop. He closed his eyes for a bit to listen.

After a moment, he heard Arnar softly singing along with it.

 

Later, when they are sitting in the car, waiting to see if the Northern Lights will put in an appearance, a song called Ef ég nenni by Helgi Björnsson comes on. It was Sigríður’s favorite Christmas song, and I fell in love with it too. The line Arnar “sings” to Sam was translated by Sigríður from the original Icelandic.

Arnar turned the radio on, tuned to the same station they’d been listening to wherever they drove, and Wham’s “Last Christmas” washed over Sam, comforting in its familiarity, though it wasn’t normally one of his favorites. He settled back in his seat, relishing the warmth of his new sweater and the smell of clean wool. The song ended, and another song came on that he didn’t know.

“This is my favorite Christmas song,” Arnar said softly.

It was in Icelandic, so Sam had no idea what it was about, but it was slow and pretty, with sort of an ’80s pop ballad feel. Arnar sang along in a smooth baritone, which made it sound beautiful. After a few lines, Arnar said, “He’s singing about how he wants to give his love all these wonderful presents for Christmas, if only she’ll have him—gems and pearls and a golden crown for her forehead, all the kingdoms of the world, the most beautiful roses from the bushes of the past, the Water of Life….” He sang a little more, then translated, his pupils glinting in the faint light of the GPS, “‘Never again will you have to endure any evil in this world, my angel, because I’m here and watching over you.’”

That sent a shiver down Sam’s spine. He smiled sadly and glanced away. “For a couple more days at least.”

“Já,” Arnar said gently, lifting Sam’s hand to brush his lips against it. “For a couple more days.”

But of all the songs I listened to while I was writing A Viking for Yule, this Icelandic version of A Spaceman Came Traveling by Frostrósir struck me as the most beautiful. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a live version I liked as much as this one, so this video just has the album cover.

For that matter, Frostrósir has become my favorite Icelandic “group.” Actually, they’re not really a group, so much as an annual concert with different performers each year. The music director is Karl Olgeirsson, who writes a lot of the music and lyrics for the songs each year. Another of my favorite Icelandic Christmas songs springs out of it. This one features an appearance by one of Iceland’s openly gay male singers, Friðrik Omar, along with Margret Eir, and it was released for the 10th anniversary of the Frostrósir concerts. It’s just so… cheerful!

Next, we have two quieter songs. The first is Dansadu Vindur (Danse Wind) by a singer known as Eivør:

Then, a beautiful ballad called Hin fyrstu jól (The First Christmas) by another openly gay Icelandic singer, Páll Óskar.

Sigríður pointed me at another favorite of hers: Það á að gefa börnum brauð (We Should Give Children Bread) performed by Reykjavíkurdætur.

The next two are just songs I enjoy listening to: Heima um jólin (Home for Christmas) by Helga Möller and Þú komst með jólin til mín (You Brought Me Christmas) by Bo Halldorsson and Ruth Reginalds.

Lastly, Sigríður tells me the song “Morning Has Broken,” popularized by Cat Stevens in the 1970s (it actually originated as a Scottish hymn in 1900, with English lyrics written in 1931 by Eleanor Farjeon), has become a very popular Christmas song in Iceland. This is the version I stumbled across while writing A Viking for Yule, called Líður að Jólum (Christmas Is Coming) performed by Stebbi Hilmars.

This is a really long post, so I’ll stop there. But I hope you enjoy the sound of Christmas in Iceland!

AFTER SAM’S GRANDFATHER nearly died in a blizzard one year ago, Sam has panic attacks in snow storms. So where does his friend Jackie propose they spend the holidays, as the last stop on their trip around the world?

Iceland. Of course.

But there’s more in Iceland than snow. When Arnar, a handsome Icelandic man, offers to escort Sam on a several-day tour of the beautiful countryside, they soon find themselves drawn to each other. But Arnar is firmly rooted in his native soil, and Sam has to return to the US in a week to care for his ailing grandfather.

Suddenly, yule can’t last nearly long enough.

NOTE: Though this novel includes characters from “A Cop for Christmas,” it is a standalone adventure. It isn’t necessary to read “A Cop for Christmas” first.

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Filed under Christmas, Contemporary, Excerpt, Jamie Fessenden, LGBT, New Release, Romance, Viking

This Christmas, let’s go to Iceland!

This Christmas, I wanted to write about a couple of secondary characters in last year’s A Cop for Christmas: Sam and Jackie.

Sam Wilson was the ex-boyfriend of Steve Coleman, and he was kind of a sad, lonely person, whose life nearly fell apart when his grandfather had a heart attack in a blizzard, and help couldn’t get there in time. Fortunately, Steve was able to drive them to the highway through the storm, and they made it to the hospital.

They spent the night at Jackie Montgomery’s house. Jackie is an older woman who knew Steve’s mother in college, and she’s been a close friend of the family since Steve was born. She’s a bit like Patrick Dennis’s Auntie Mame—a woman who believes in living life to the fullest, who travels the world in search of adventure and has the financial means to do so. In A Cop for Christmas, she immediately took Sam under her wing, drawn to his insecurity.

As A Viking for Yule begins, Sam and Jackie have been traveling through eight different countries in as many months, and Sam is a bit more self-confident. He’s been to baths in Japan and Russia, experienced an earthquake in Indonesia, and had monkeys steal food from his pockets in Bali. But nothing has prepared him for a week in Iceland with Arnar Thorsteinsson as a guide….

The Christmas season in Iceland is still called Jól—Yule—as it was before the country was Christianized, and many of the popular traditions still have a very pagan feel to them. At this time of year, the sun doesn’t rise until nearly 11:30 a.m. and sets around 3:00 p.m. The shortest day (the winter solstice, December 21st) is just four hours long. So most of the day is dark. But the largest city in Iceland, Reykjavik, is lit up like a Christmas tree!

Like other cities in Europe, Reykjavik and the neighboring Hafnarfjördur  have Christmas markets where you can go from booth to booth, buying Christmas ornaments and decorations—many locally made—and the hot chocolate Sam and Arnar are so fond of. Akureyri in the north also has year-round Christmas shops.

But my favorite thing is (are?) the Yule Lads. Since about the twelfth century, and possibly dating back before then, Icelanders have warned their children that, if they’re not good, the troll, Gryla, will scoop them up in her sack and take them to her cave to devour them. She is aided in this by the Christmas Cat. Less sinister, however, are her thirteen children—the Yule Lads.

The Yule Lads are trolls, but they’re more mischievous than evil. Each one has a particular vice. Window Peeper looks into windows to spy on people and steal what he sees. Door Slammer stomps around your house in the night and slams doors, to prevent you from getting any sleep. If you can’t find your… *ahem*… sausage, it’s probably because Sausage Swiper absconded with it, when you weren’t looking.

If children are particularly good, however, the Yule Lads just might leave some candy behind for them.

Each lad comes to town on a different day of the yule season and remains thirteen days before departing. So, for example, Sheep-Cote Clod (who steals the milk from sheep) shows up on the 12th and remains until the 25th. His brother, Gully Gawk (who hides in gullies and watches people), arrives the next night, and stays until December 26th. The last to arrive is Candle-Stealer on the 24th, which is the night Icelanders typically open all of their gifts. He remains until January 6th (Epiphany).

The Reykjavik Art Museum-Hafnarhús put out a booklet called Christmas Creatures in Reykjavik, which gives brief descriptions of the Yule Lads and Gryla, and shows the locations of them on a map. If you go to these spots during the yule season, you can see animated projections of them on the sides of buildings.

AFTER SAM’S GRANDFATHER nearly died in a blizzard one year ago, Sam has panic attacks in snow storms. So where does his friend Jackie propose they spend the holidays, as the last stop on their trip around the world? 

Iceland. Of course.

But there’s more in Iceland than snow. When Arnar, a handsome Icelandic man, offers to escort Sam on a several-day tour of the beautiful countryside, they soon find themselves drawn to each other. But Arnar is firmly rooted in his native soil, and Sam has to return to the US in a week to care for his ailing grandfather. 

Suddenly, yule can’t last nearly long enough.

NOTE: Though this novel includes characters from “A Cop for Christmas,” it is a standalone adventure. It isn’t necessary to read “A Cop for Christmas” first.

Buy Linkhttps://www.amazon.com/Viking-Yule-Jamie-Fessenden-ebook/dp/B077TLWLZ4/

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Filed under Christmas, Contemporary, Jamie Fessenden, New Release, Romance, Viking

Polyamory Is About Love

I’ve read a number of MMM books over the years, and many were excellent—Us Three by Mia Kerick (this one is YA), The Hot Floor by Josephine Myles, Polar Reaction by Claire Thompson, and Dark Horse by Kate Sherwood are all great—but I was surprised to discover how strong the connection appeared to be between MMM and BDSM. Don’t get me wrong. BDSM is fine. It’s just not something I’m into, and I wouldn’t classify the poly relationships I know of in real life as having much to do with BDSM—certainly not all of them. (None of this is meant to imply anything about the content of the novels I listed—some have BDSM, some don’t.)

As I was developing the blurb for my novel, The Rules, it was mentioned more than once that I should emphasize that the book was hot, hot, HOT! and kinky… except that it isn’t, by my definition. Oh, sure, there’s plenty of sex and those scenes are hot. But the novel isn’t specifically meant to be kinky or about a hot menage or threesome (both of which terms imply a temporary, sexual circumstance to me, rather than a permanent relationship).

It’s about three men with emotional holes in their lives coming together to form a loving, polyamorous family. (The search engine on Goodreads tells me “polyamory” is mostly used for nonfiction. Seriously?)

Hans feels alienated from his family. After his parents divorced, his father drifted away, and his mother and sister grew close, more or less excluding him. Thomas was thrown out of his family and cut off from his inheritance for being gay, and Boris… Boris is a mess. He survived bullying and worse at the hands of his country, Russia, and has a dark secret he’s afraid to reveal to anyone. But they come together to heal and love one another. The sex (and there is a lot of sex for a Jamie Fessenden novel) begins as kind of a kinky situation, but quickly becomes more than that.

My point is simply that a polyamorous relationship should be viewed as an alternate type of relationship. Polyamorous families are families. They involve more than two people, but they are still families. They aren’t about sex (exclusively)—they’re about love.

Family is how you define it.

BLURB

WHEN HANS BAUER, a college student in New Hampshire, accepts a job as a housekeeper for an older gay couple, he soon learns the reason they’ve hired someone with no experience is that professional agencies won’t work there. Thomas is a successful businessman whose biggest goal in life appears to be giving his husband anything he wants. Boris is a writer who immigrated to this country from Russia, and suffers from depression and PTSD because of the things he endured in his native country.

He also refuses to wear clothes—ever.

While Hans is working alone in the house with Naked Boris all day, things start getting a little weird. Boris gets flirtatious and Hans backs away, not wanting to come between him and his husband. So Boris calls Thomas at work and asks permission.

At that moment, The Rules are born—rules about touching and kissing and pet names that the three men use to keep jealousies at bay, as they explore the possibilities in a new type of relationship….

WARNING: This story deals with themes of sexual assault and past abuse.

BUY LINK

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Rules-Jamie-Fessenden-ebook/dp/B075FPT1VF/

EXCERPT

[Hans comes to the house to ask Boris to pose nude for his art project.]

The house was wonderfully cool. They must have been running the air-conditioner, though Hans couldn’t hear anything. The place was absolutely silent, as if nobody was home. Hans closed the door and called Boris’s name, but there was no response. From the front hall, he could see the sofa, and it was bare. Hans did a quick check of the downstairs rooms. The study door was open, and the room was empty. It also smelled kind of like a men’s locker room. Hans wondered if Boris would let him in again to clean on Tuesday.

At the end of the hall, Hans looked out the French doors and spotted his quarry. Boris was lying on the lawn, sunbathing face down on a large blue-and-white beach towel. Hans opened one of the doors and stepped outside.

Boris heard him and raised his head. “Hans! I did not expect you today.”

“No.” Hans crossed the patio to where he was stretched out. “I’m not normally… Boris Ivanich, do you have sunblock on?” The Russian’s back was getting a little red.

“It did not occur to me.”

Hans set his backpack on the grass. “Do you have some in the house?”

“Thomas might. I do not know.”

Hans frowned at him. “Hold on.” He went back inside. I swear, it’s like looking after a kid. He wasn’t sure where to search for sunblock, but the bathroom seemed a good possibility. He checked the downstairs half-bath first. There was nothing in the medicine cabinet, but he found an old plastic tube of sunscreen under the sink. It was nearly empty, but there was a little left.

He went back outside and knelt in the grass beside Boris. “You really should put some on. You’re getting burned.”

Boris took the tube and opened it. He scrunched up his nose. “It smells like coconut.”

“I got this out of your bathroom. You must have used it at some point.”

Boris waved dismissively. “Not me. Maybe Thomas.”

“Well, it’s the only one I could find, so stop being difficult.”

Boris grinned, and Hans’s heart did a little flutter. That wasn’t good.

“Okay,” Boris said, handing the tube back to him. He put his head down and wiggled his butt like an excited puppy. “You may put some on me.”

“Oh, may I, your majesty?” Hans was using sarcasm to disguise his sudden discomfort. It really didn’t seem like a good idea for him to rub lotion on Boris’s… anything.

Boris snickered. “Please put some on me?”

“I’m not sure I should do that, Boris Ivanich.”

“Why not?”

“Well, because you’re naked.”

“I am always naked.”

“Yes,” Hans explained patiently, “but I’m not always touching you.”

Boris lifted his head again and cocked an eyebrow at him. Then he grunted and nodded. “You are worried about Thomas.”

“I don’t want to do anything that would upset him,” Hans said. Then he quickly added, “Or that we’d have to hide from him.”

Boris held out his hand. “Do you have your phone?”

Hans hesitated, but Boris made an impatient gesture with his fingers, so he dug his cell out of his pocket and handed it over. He watched nervously while Boris dialed. Boris put it on speaker while it rang, placing it on the towel between them.

“Hans?” Thomas asked. “You still can’t find him?”

“I am here,” Boris said.

“Oh. Why do you have Hans’s phone?”

“He gave it to me in exchange for a blow job.”

Hans gasped. “I did not!”

Thomas laughed. “What’s going on?”

“Hans tells me I will get sunburned,” Boris said, “so I should put on this nasty-smelling coconut shit. But I cannot reach my back—I am not a comic book character—and he will not put it on me.”

“You’re sunbathing? Since when do you sunbathe?”

Boris made a rude noise. “That is beside the point. I need you to tell Hans you won’t divorce me and come after him with a butcher knife if he rubs coconut shit on my back.”

“You two will be the death of me,” Thomas muttered, but there was a note of affection in his voice. Hans assumed that was for Boris, but the way Thomas had said “you two” sounded as if they were all somehow together. Hans was surprised by how much he liked that. “Hans, I won’t divorce Boris and come after you with a butcher knife if you rub coconut shit on his back.”

“Thank you,” Boris told him.

“But Boris? You behave.”

“Me?” Boris sounded scandalized.

“Don’t think I can’t see what’s happening.”

“What is happening?”

“You’re attracted to Hans,” Thomas said calmly.

Hans was suddenly dizzy. This is not normal. People don’t have conversations like this! He wanted to run away, but he was riveted.

Boris looked at Hans for a moment, as if he were evaluating the truth of Thomas’s statement. At last he said, “That is true.”

“And I think Hans is attracted to you.”

Hans tried to answer but couldn’t speak. Boris smirked and said, “He might answer that, after he stops pissing himself.”

“Shut up,” Hans said, finally finding his voice. Boris grinned.

“I’m not going to flip out over it,” Thomas went on, “but I think we should all sit down and talk about this, especially if Hans decides to move in for the summer. For today, I need you both to understand what my boundaries are. I’m fine with you rubbing lotion on each other’s backs, chests, arms, and legs. I guess butts are reasonable. But don’t be rubbing lotion on each other’s dicks—your crotch is not a hard-to-reach spot.” Then he dropped the bombshell. “If you get so turned on you absolutely can’t stand it, jerk off in front of each other, but don’t jerk each other off. Are we clear?”

“Yes, yes,” Boris said, clearly enjoying this. “We’ll fondle each other’s asses and jerk off, but no touching of dicks.” He glanced at Hans, who was sure his face had turned bone white. “Or maybe Hans will run screaming in terror and never come to our house again. I will keep you informed.”

“Buck up, Hans. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Be nice to him, Boris.”

“I will be very nice to him.”

Thomas groaned, but he said goodbye and hung up.

Hans wasn’t sure what to make of the exchange, and he was pretty wigged out. “What just happened?”

“You were worried about how Thomas would feel,” Boris said matter-of-factly, “so I asked him.”

“Did he just tell us to jerk off together?”

“No,” Boris replied. “He explained what would bother him and what would not. Jerking off together would not bother him. That does not mean we have to do it.”

“All I wanted was for you to put on some suntan lotion!”

 

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Filed under College, Contemporary, Drama, Excerpt, gay, Gay Marriage, Jamie Fessenden, New Release, Nudity, Rape, Romance, Russian

I just finished my first MMM Romance!

I’ve just finished a novel that explores some themes I’ve been toying with for a while now. I’m doing a final polish before sending it off for editing, and I’ll be working with the cover artist soon. Despite what the title might suggest, there is no BDSM in this novel. It’s a MMM romance, and it should be released this fall.

“The Rules” is about Hans Bauer, a college student in New Hampshire who accepts a job as a housekeeper for an older gay couple, Thomas and Boris. He soon learns that the reason they’ve hired someone with no experience is that professional agencies won’t work there. Boris is a writer who immigrated to this country from Russia, and suffers from depression and PTSD because of some of the things he endured in his native country.

He also refuses to wear clothes — ever.

While Hans is working alone in the house with Naked Boris all day, things start getting a little weird. When Boris gets flirtatious, Hans backs away, not wanting to come between him and his husband. So Boris calls Thomas at work and asks permission.

And at that moment, The Rules are born — rules about touching and kissing and pet names that the three men use to keep jealousies at bay, as they explore the possibilities in a new type of relationship….

 

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Filed under Christmas, College, Contemporary, Drama, gay, Gay Marriage, Jamie Fessenden, Nudity, Rape, Romance, Russian, Writing

The Jomsvikings

jomsvikingsI’ve been working on a novel for a while now—an adaptation of The Saga of the Jomsvikings, which was written in Old Icelandic in the 13th century. It tells of an elite band of viking warriors residing in the fortress of Jomsborg on the island of Jom. They were theoretically real, though it’s hard to say how much truth there is to the story. They appear in other sagas, including the ones I based my first YA novel Seidman on. But by then, they were in decline. They appear briefly at the battle of Svoldr, when King Olaf Tryggvason was defeated, but they quickly decided to sit the battle out.

This novel will be an adult MM romance, because, frankly, the story begs to be a MM romance. It’s a fortress full of young men, and no women are allowed. The Norse were a very homophobic society, but I can’t imagine a context like this in which absolutely no sexual activity occurred. Conveniently, the saga has a gap of three years between the initial founding and selection of warriors and the death of their leader, which led to their decline. I’ve written up to that point, and now I’ve begun to fill in those three years. That’s where the romance will really take place.

I decided to tell the story from the POV of two characters not actually in the saga: Bragi and Asleif.

ragnarBragi is older than most of the men in the fortress, and he’s seen a lot of combat. He’s weary of the death he sees on the battlefield, but he’s a survivor and he takes pride in his skill with a blade. At Jomsborg, he’s given the opportunity to pass some of his knowledge of fighting techniques along to others and help keep them alive. The actor who most closely resembles him is Travis Fimmel from Vikings.

tumblr_mub3o5naae1qa2ovmo1_500Asleif is young, and he has endured a lot of teasing over the years because of his feminine features, even after he grew to stand over his comrades. He’s skilled and cocky, and sees Bragi as a challenge. But he also senses a strong sexual undercurrent between them. Bragi is hesitant to pursue it, but Asleif gleefully chases after him, despite the danger of discovery. I found this picture online, which I believe is of Alexander Skarsgard, and despite the modern clothes and background, it perfectly represents the image I have of Asleif in my head.

The novel has been coming along slowly, in part because the saga is very short and sparse. I’m having to flesh out a lot of scenes. It also requires a lot of research into Viking fighting styles, locations (Jomsborg was most likely on the island of Wolin in modern-day Poland), and what life would be like in that environment. But it’s coming along.

Here’s an excerpt from when Asleif is being tested in mock combat to see if he can be accepted into Jomsborg. He’s part of Vagn’s crew — Vagn being a 12-year-old boy with his own raiding fleet, and no I didn’t make that up — and the entire crew is fighting against the men already residing in Jomsborg.

Excerpt:

Asleif parried a thrust to his midsection, and then bashed his attacker in the face with his shield. The Jomsviking staggered back. He seemed to be readying himself for another charge, but Bragi came up behind him and forcefully shoved him aside. “Leave him! He’s mine!”

The warriors swarming Asleif suddenly drew back, forming a circle around him and Bragi. Asleif was so startled, he almost failed to parry Bragi’s attack—almost. He deflected Bragi’s sword with the head of his axe in a quick upward and outward motion.

“Good!” Bragi shouted delightedly.

Asleif knew then that Bragi wanted him to test him, rather than kill him. Not that it was going to be easy. Bragi’s next cut was swift and powerful, looping around Asleif’s arm and coming up inside. Asleif barely managed to jump back in time to prevent a nasty cut to his abdomen. As it was, the tip of Bragi’s sword cut through his tunic, before he slammed down upon it with the edge of his shield.

It was a hasty move, and it opened his upper body up for an attack. Bragi lost no time in crashing down upon Asleif’s head with his own shield. Asleif had a thick head—he’d be the first to admit it. And he was wearing a helmet. So the blow didn’t knock him unconscious, but it rattled him. He staggered back.

“You went easy on me,” he grumbled. “You could have easily hit my eyes or my throat.”

Bragi grinned. “Now, what would be the fun in that?”

It pissed Asleif off to be treated like a child. But he’d also seen in just the few blows they’d exchanged that Bragi’s skill was equal to his own. Possibly—though he was loathe to admit it—greater. He’d never defeat the man, as long as he stayed on the defensive. Bragi could keep coming at him until he collapsed or opened himself up again. Asleif would have to go on the attack. But a charge could prove foolhardy. If Bragi managed to sidestep, Asleif’s momentum might carry him past and open him up to an attack from the rear.

Instead, he began walking slowly forward, whipping his axe around in a swirling motion and striking against Bragi’s shield so fast it was impossible to count the blows. Bragi was forced to duck behind the shield and edge backward. Any attempt to thrust his sword at Asleif would merely damage the blade against the axe.

At last, the shield cracked loudly and split in two. Asleif immediately drew back, surrendering his advantage, rather than bringing his axe down upon Bragi’s arms or head.

Bragi tossed his broken shield aside, but he was laughing. “Excellent!”

In the distance, someone blew a horn.

“Give him a shield!” Asleif shouted, panting.

A man tossed one into the air, and Bragi caught it. But then he stepped forward with the pommel of his sword held outward. “Let’s see how you do with a sword.”

The men around them laughed, and someone shouted, “This isn’t a fight! It’s a lesson!”

That evoked more laughter. But Asleif was up to the challenge, so he reached for Bragi’s weapon. But as he clasped it, a second horn called out over the strand.

Bragi glanced up. “It seems the fight is over.”

It was true. Straightening, Asleif looked over the heads of those nearby and saw that everywhere men were sheathing swords and catching their breath. Some had cuts on their bodies and their clothes were blood-spattered, but if anyone was severely injured, Asleif saw no sign of it. All appeared to be standing.

“Get out of my way!”

The men near him parted to let Vagn through. The boy looked healthy enough, despite a bloody gash on his shield arm. “Asleif!” he shouted in exasperation, “Did you miss the entire battle? We won!”

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Filed under Excerpt, gay, Historical, Jamie Fessenden, Romance, Viking, Work in Progress, Writing

“The Christmas Wager” is being re-released as a second edition!

the-christmas-wager
My  very first sale as a writer occurred in the summer of 2010. I’d written a Christmas Victorian, and I chose Dreamspinner Press to submit it to. Luckily for me, they bought it, and it was published that December.

It did moderately well, and has continued to sell a few copies every year around Christmas time, but there was a problem: my knowledge of the Victorian Era—and particularly British culture—was severely lacking. I’d written it as a sweet romance, before I began defining myself as an author who loves to really dig into my research and wallow around in it.

This put my first novel in a unique position—it was the only one of my published stories I couldn’t stand to re-read. The prose wasn’t utterly terrible, in my opinion, and I liked the story, but six years later, I’d come to know a few people from England, and I’d learned a bit more about the Victorian Era, so the mistakes I’d made now jumped out at me on every page.

The solution presented itself to me this past March, when a friend from Britain and I were having coffee and I mentioned how much I would love to go back and fix all of the problems in it, assuming that was even possible. She agreed to help.

Now, with her assistance, and the assistance of a wonderful editor, I now present the 2nd Edition of The Christmas Wager! It is currently available for pre-order, and will be released on December 14th.

The story is basically the same. I didn’t want to change that. It still follows Thomas and Andrew as they spend the Christmas holiday at the home of Thomas’s estranged father, Andrew still secretly in love with his close friend, and Thomas gradually coming to realize his feelings for Andrew.

What has changed are some surface details, such as names—since we discovered there is a real Duke of Barrington, Thomas is now Lord Thomas Pendleton, second son of the Duke of Branmoor. The way the family and servants addressed one another was driving British readers to distraction, so that has (I sincerely hope) been corrected. And much of the detail of the period has been corrected, as well as anachronisms and Americanisms (one of the biggest challenges for me) removed.

It was a much larger undertaking than I realized back in March. Just when I thought I had a handle on things, a new set of eyes would uncover more problems. But I am extremely happy with the end result.

The wonderful cover by Paul Richmond wasn’t changed at all. I still think it perfectly suits the story.

Blurb:

2nd Edition

Lord Thomas Pendleton, second son of the Duke of Branmoor, needs to discharge a debt to his friend Andrew Nash. In doing so, he must return to the family estate he fled six years earlier after refusing to marry the woman his father had chosen. To Thomas’s dismay, Branmoor Hall is no longer the joyful home he remembers from his childhood, and his four-year-old niece has no idea what Christmas is.

Determined to bring some seasonal cheer back to the gloomy estate, Thomas must confront his tyrannical father, salvage a brother lost in his own misery, and attempt to fight off his father’s machinations.

As Christmas Day draws near, Thomas and his friend Andrew begin to realize they are more than merely close friends… and those feelings are not only a threat to their social positions, but, in Victorian England, to their lives as well.

First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2010.

Excerpt:

“Your father seems to have mellowed a bit,” Andrew commented as they stood in the hallway outside his door.

“Don’t believe it for a second,” Thomas replied. “He never gives in. The old bugger is up to something.”

Andrew smiled at that. “Well, are you coming in, then?”

“I think I’ll have hot water brought up for a bath.” Thomas leaned his head wearily against the doorframe. “Would you care to join me for a brandy?”

Andrew laughed. “In the bath?”

“No,” Thomas replied with a tired smile, “that isn’t precisely what I meant.”

A short time later, Andrew was sitting in his dressing gown, sipping a brandy near the tub in Thomas’s room. This, too, had become a ritual with them, back at the University Club—one of them bathing while the other sat nearby, both of them enjoying one of their lengthy philosophical conversations.

Thomas didn’t appear to be feeling philosophical tonight. He sat in the water, steam billowing about him, sipping his own brandy and brooding. After his third glass, he was rather tipsy. “I really don’t see that we’ll have any attendance at the dance at all. It’s going to be an unqualified disaster.”

“We shall see,” Andrew replied. He was used to Thomas’s dark moods and knew not to take them overly seriously. “Have the invitations gone out yet?”

“No!” Thomas gestured dramatically with his snifter, splashing some brandy into the tub. “That’s part of the problem. Henrietta is still preparing them.”

“Who is Henrietta?” Andrew looked at him quizzically. “I thought your mother said she would take care of it.”

“She did take care of it, by ordering Henrietta to do it. She’s my mother’s personal secretary.”

“I see where your streak of industriousness comes from.”

Thomas smirked at him. “Are you disparaging my mother, you blackguard?”

“Of course not. I would never—”

Thomas staggered to his feet, dripping with water. He brandished his snifter at his friend like a weapon. “If I weren’t a bit drunk, and naked, I would call you out, you scoundrel.”

Andrew laughed, but he found the sight of Thomas’s naked crotch so near, and at eye level, extremely disconcerting. He set his glass down on the floor, then stood to take Thomas’s snifter out of his hand.

Thomas offered no resistance.

“Sit down, you fool,” Andrew said, “before you slip and break your neck.”

“The water is getting cold, at any rate.”

“Then let me help you out.” Andrew slipped his arms underneath Thomas’s armpits. Thomas wrapped his own arms around Andrew’s shoulders in a soaking-wet embrace, allowing his friend to half lift him out of the metal tub.

Andrew found Thomas’s towel and wrapped it around him before settling him on the chair he’d been using himself. Then he held out his arms, surveying the sodden arms of his dressing gown. “Well, that ends my evening. I think I shall retire to my room and crawl into a nice dry bed.”

Andrew wasn’t certain whether Thomas would find his way to bed, if he left, or simply fall asleep in the chair. So he helped his friend up again, made certain he was reasonably dry—at least so far as his sense of honor would allow—and then helped Thomas climb into his own bed. “There you go.”

“Andrew, you are the best friend a man could ever ask for.”

Andrew smiled, feeling self-conscious. “Everybody’s a bosom friend when you’re drunk.”

“I’m not that drunk,” Thomas protested. “And I mean it. You’re wonderful, and I adore you.”

That made Andrew even more uncomfortable. He smiled faintly and permitted himself a light brush of his fingers along Thomas’s forehead and cheek—to brush the hair out of his eyes, or so he told himself. “Sleep well.”

Then he went back to his room. He doubted he would sleep well. Not after that. Oh, why did Thomas have to be so prone to these bouts of melancholic affection? They made Andrew’s life agony.

 

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Filed under Christmas, Excerpt, gay, Historical, Jamie Fessenden, New Release, Romance, Victorian, Writing

New Release! A Cop for Christmas!

acopforchristmas-1000x1500I love Christmas! And these days, nothing makes me sadder than not having a story to offer for the season.

Last year, I was unable to finish the novella I was writing for the holidays, but I was saved by a request for short stories on the theme of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” My contribution, a sci-fi story on a space station called “Five Rings,” was released as one of a series of podcasts on WROTE Podcast.

This year, I was able to return to the novella from last year, which I’d only just begun, and finish it up. The result was one of the longer novellas I’ve written: A Cop for Christmas 

The cover art is by the fantastic Reese Dante.

I actually commissioned it last year, but was unable to use it then. I’m so excited to have this story come out now!

Blurb:

Mason Collier isn’t big on authority figures. When Office Steve Coleman pulls him over and gives him a speeding ticket, he doesn’t react well. He’s even less happy when he discovers the cop lives next door to his parents’ house.

No matter where they turn this holiday season, Steve and Mason keep running into each other, and whenever they talk for more than a minute, they piss each other off. But from wayward dogs to Christmas tree hunts to maple syrup festivals, it proves impossible to avoid each other in the small town.

If Mason can see the good man behind the badge, he might just get a cop for Christmas.

Buy Link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NB9811M/

Excerpt:

Steve decided to take Rufus out into the yard to pee. The dog had already marked most of the yard by this point, and probably didn’t have much left in him, but he assumed Mason had come to talk to Sam. Steve didn’t need to hover around for that.

To his annoyance, Mason followed him.

“What?” Steve asked testily when they were out of earshot from anyone listening in the barn.

Mason stopped walking, startled. “What do you mean, ‘What?’”

“Why are you following me?”

“Sorry. I just thought…. It’s pretty awkward between me and Sam right now.”

“I know. I heard all about your date last night.”

Mason grimaced. “Exactly. I tried to tell Mom it was a bad idea for me to come over here, but she twisted my arm.” Rufus was begging for his attention, so he petted the dog’s head absently. “She seems to think Sam and I are perfect for each other. We just don’t know it yet.”

“Sam’s a good guy,” Steve said, the old feelings of protectiveness welling up again. He glanced at the barn, certain Sam was watching them, but there was too much contrast between the bright sunlight in the yard and the shadows inside for him to make out anything.

“I don’t doubt that. But he’s really not my type.”

Steve snorted. He didn’t have much respect for the idea of people having a “type.” “My mother practically hated my father on sight. He was ex-military, clean-cut, a cop, and she was an anti-war activist who mostly went for scruffy-looking guys in Bajas and sandals.”

“It’s hard for me to imagine you with a hippie for a mom.”

“Activist,” Steve corrected. “She wasn’t what I’d call a hippie. I mean, she wasn’t particularly into mysticism, and she never did drugs. That would have been a deal-breaker for Dad. He loved her, but he was still sworn to uphold the law. My point is, he wasn’t her ‘type,’ and she wasn’t his. But they still fell in love.”

Mason smiled and came closer, his feet crunching on the packed snow. “That’s really sweet. How on earth did they even meet to begin with?”

“How do you think? Dad arrested her at an anti-nuclear protest. I hear things got a little rowdy.”

Mason laughed. “Yeah, I went to a couple of protests against the Iraq war when I was in college. Kade still does a lot of that.” He shook his head sadly. “But I’ve turned boring in my old age.”

“According to your driver’s license, you’re twenty-nine,” Steve said, then wanted to kick himself for bringing up the traffic stop while they were having a pleasant conversation.

Mason didn’t seem upset by the reminder. “I just mean I’m not a very interesting guy. I do freelance illustration for a living, if you can call it that. I read a lot of books, watch a lot of romantic comedies, and help out with UNH art classes for extra money.”

“And I’m a cop who watches a lot of action flicks and loves dogs more than people. I’m not your type, and you’re not mine.” The implication of that suddenly struck him, and he froze, his eyes going wide like a deer in headlights.

Mason stared at him, an expression of surprise on his handsome features. He said quietly, “Dogs are pretty awesome.”

“Mason!”

They jumped at the sound of Kade’s voice.

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Filed under Christmas, Contemporary, gay, Jamie Fessenden, New Release, Pets, Romance