Fridays at Ofelia’s | After Vertigo

Guest-Post

Today, Amanda Meuwissen is here on a visit. Welcome, Amanda!

How Tabletop Character Sheets Can Help You Create Compelling Book Characters

A slightly older title of mine is part of the $1.99 Amazon Monthly Deal for May – After Vertigo.

This title is my second foray into superhero urban fantasy (the first being my two-book series, Lovesick) and tackles issues of acceptance, social anxiety, and enemies-to-friends-to-lovers with a slow burn that is, hopefully, a worthwhile payoff.

It also has a cat. ^_^

In a flash, the world changed. A solar flare—later dubbed Vertigo—activated the DNA of more than half the world’s people, granting them special abilities. Brilliant scientist Benjamin Krane might be Powerless, but his inventions are the only thing giving the police a fighting chance against super-powered evil. Ben doesn’t have much of a life beyond work, and when he gets wind of a robbery one evening, he decides to test his newest invention personally….

A thief, rogue, and shameless flirt, Grey Miller—aka the Streak—likes shiny things, but he doesn’t hurt people. When Ben catches him—and proposes they team up against the real bad guys—Grey doesn’t know whether it’s the offer or the man he can’t resist. But one thing’s for sure—they’re an ideal match in more ways than one.

With a psychotic supervillain’s catastrophic plan moving forward and everyone he cares about in danger, now might not be the best time for Ben to give in to Grey’s seduction, no matter how tempting. Grey is a man of secrets, and if Ben wants a future with him, he’ll have to learn to trust Grey—and himself.

I’m a huge superhero fan because I’m also a lifelong geek. I like everything from comics to cosplay to anime to tabletop gaming—which is the subject I’d like to discuss today: how tabletop character sheets can help you create compelling book characters.

For all my aspiring fellow authors out there, if you’re working to perfect how you create characters, a trick I used in my early years was picking up a player’s handbook from my favorite tabletop game and using a character sheet and the process within the handbook as a starting point.

Dungeons & Dragons, for example, allows you to add character ideals as well as flaws to help you roleplay that much more engagingly, further flushing out what could be a cookie cutter archetype into a character who truly pops off the table—or in this case, off the page. I’ve even saved many of my old character sheets as treasured keepsakes.

Usually, I start with an idea for a character and learn new things about them as I decide on specific aspects like their Intellect, class/profession, and how they look.

And don’t think you need to be writing fantasy to use a D&D character sheet. The general principles of a character’s Strength versus Charisma, their backstory, the items they normally have on them, etc., all still apply, even if you don’t put anything into a magic slot or equip them with a sword. There are plenty of contemporary settings for tabletop games, too, if you want a starting point that’s closer to what you’re writing.

Player handbooks can sometimes be expensive, but you can usually find a lot of what you’ll need online, though frankly, the books themselves can be beautiful and awesome to own, and the process is so much fun!

I also highly recommend Hero Forge as an asset for customizing the look of characters – and they’re not purely fantasy either. It can be a fun exercise to get you out of your own head and enjoy the creation of a new character in a different way. And hey, if you love what you create, you can order a miniature.

What it really comes down to is creating characters who feel real, whether ones you’re roleplaying or writing into a story. To sign off, here are a few fun and unique things about the MCs from my book, After Vertigo. I hope you check it out during this month’s Amazon sale.

Ben Krane (Cold)

  • Talks to his cat
  • Obsessed with romance novels
  • Socially awkward introvert
  • Secretly wants to be swept off his feet – and make friends

Grey Miller (The Streak)

  • Kleptomaniac
  • Speedster
  • Shameless flirt
  • Hides behind more than just the mask from his costume

CoverAfterVertigo

Excerpt:

The Streak sat back on Ben’s thighs, not truly holding him down anymore, but not moving from his lap either. “If I’m so little a threat, why waste time with me?”

Because I need your help,” Ben said. “I built the gun and others like it to temporarily depower Supers, and it works on others, but not you.”

That’s what you were trying to do?” He looked at the gun with interest now. “I thought they just stunned people. The cops caught Talon because this thing can remove powers?”

Disrupt powers,” Ben corrected. “It lasts about ten minutes. No one’s been able to figure out how to override the Vertigo gene completely.”

But with your guns, you’re close?”

You hardly need to worry since the output doesn’t affect you. Do you know why it doesn’t affect you? Any idea at all why you might be different from the others?”

The Streak kept his eyes turned away as he answered, “No clue.”

Ben wished he could tell if he was lying. “Regardless, your powers are unique. Extraordinary.”

Thanks for noticing, but I don’t do handouts.”

Please, I’m only asking—”

I look out for me.”

Then I’ll turn you in,” Ben said boldly—amazed at how bold he felt. “I’ll give the police your name and address. Even if you run, you won’t have an easy time living your life.”

He gaped at Ben but also seemed impressed. “You’re blackmailing me now? How heroic.”

The desperate get creative.”

Desperate why?”

Because….”

Ben hadn’t fully admitted it to himself, why this mattered so much outside the thrill, but he had so few people in his life that meant something to him—Tony, Beverly, his mother. They were it. Tony was easier to protect. As a captain at the FCPD, he didn’t hit the field as often, and he had all the equipment Ben could provide him.

But Beverly was a civilian. Worse, a politician, someone people could target. She was in danger just walking the street, and so was their mother. If anything ever happened to any of them….

My family lives in this city. Sister, best friend, mother. I don’t want to lose any of them because I was too weak to do something. Don’t you understand that even a little? Friends? Family you want to protect?”

The smugness drained from Streak’s face, but he didn’t say anything.

Please. I just want the innocent to have a chance against impossible odds. If there are any Supers out there wanting to be heroes, we haven’t seen them. You’re the only option left.”

He was quiet for a while, but when he spoke up, it was with a twist at his lips again and a resettling of his body on Ben’s thighs. “I’m no hero, so… got any other perks to offer?”

I-I’ll… cover your grocery bills?”

He laughed. “It’s cute you think I pay for my groceries.”

Then I’ll… keep the police off your back! My friend’s a captain.”

Not really endearing yourself to me right now.” He grimaced. “But you got me at a disadvantage and you’re not exactly wrong. I don’t want to move, and your resources might be enough to keep me safe while bringing in these psychos out doing more than property damage. So, if I say yes”—he leaned closer, almost nose to nose with Ben—“what else is in it for me? Do I get a kiss to seal the deal?”

I-I-I beg your pardon?” Ben felt his face heat up hotter, certain he had to be as red as the Streak’s T-shirt. He could feel so much of the man in this position with his knees parted around Ben’s waist. The Streak was handsome and strong and lean while also just the right amount of muscled. The dimples hiding beneath his beard and the occasional sunspots were nice too.

But he couldn’t be serious! He was mocking Ben again. And even if that wasn’t the case, Ben would hardly want an impudent thief to ravage him like Ryder from his eBook. His dream man was supposed to be charming and sweet, not unlawful and crude.

Not that the Streak was Ben’s dream man!

I don’t kiss men I hardly know,” Ben said, which was true since he’d barely kissed anyone.

But you do kiss men. Glad to know I guessed right. And you know more than most, handsome.” His eyes darted down Ben’s body. “You’re here. How’d you find me, anyway?”

With hard work and ingenuity. And my name is Ben. Benjamin Krane.”

Nice to meet you, Benji. You can call me Grey.”

And you can call me Ben,” Ben corrected, since Benji was intimate and something to be earned.

Oh, I like you.” Grey chuckled, resting his hands on Ben’s chest and causing a shiver to course through him. “I’ll play along for now, but just you wait, I’m gonna get that kiss out of you someday.”

Finally, he extricated himself from Ben’s lap, and Ben stood slowly after him, unable to tamp down his blush.

Why on earth would you want to kiss me?” He glanced away when Grey’s eyes bore into him like he’d said something scandalous.

You have no idea how hot you are, do you?”

Ben was not hot. He was a science geek, like Grey had pointed out. But since he didn’t know if he was being teased, he simply said, “I thought, because of my gun, you called me Cold.”

Cold it is.” Grey snickered. “When I’m not calling you Benji. So, Benji, where do we go from here? Dinner? A movie? Or straight to the extortion?”

Ben hadn’t thought that far ahead, but it seemed he had a super-speedy thief at his disposal to finally make progress against the city’s villains.

It was definitely the best and worst decision he had ever made.

Amanda Meuwissen

Amanda Meuwissen is a bisexual author with a primary focus on M/M romance. As the author of LGBT Fantasy #1 Best Seller, Coming Up for Air, paranormal romance trilogy, The Incubus Saga, and several other titles through various publishers, Amanda regularly attends local comic conventions for fun and to meet with fans, where she will often be seen in costume as one of her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, John, and their cat, Helga.

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Guest Post | So Far Away

Guest-Post

Hi everyone, have you missed me since I was here last? It’s always a pleasure to be here, talking to you people and visiting the lovely Ofelia. I’m very grateful for your hospitality and kindness ️ Today, I’m here to talk about my newest release, So Far Away.

What’s the first thing you’d do if you’d been separated from your significant other (others) for a long time—weeks or even months—and finally got to see them again?

Zakarias and Julian in So Far Away are separated because of a global pandemic; Zakarias has caught the virus and Julian is an ICU nurse and to keep him safe, Zakarias moved out of their house and into the guest house on their property. They’re only separated by a few meters, but it might as well be the moon. Before this happened, they hadn’t been apart a single night for years, so neither of them is coping well. Julian is swamped at work and worried sick about his fiancé. Zakarias only has mild symptoms, but he worries about Julian working himself to the bone and is frustrated about the situation.

They talk every day, even see each other from a safe distance, and try their best to keep their spirits up, but it’s not the same when they can’t touch each other. Can’t offer physical comfort.

So when Julian asks What’s the first thing you’re gonna do when you get out of there? Zakarias’ answer is immediate. Kiss you.

Me, I’d cuddle up next to my husband, bury my nose in his warm skin, and sleep. I sleep like crap without him, so I’d be exhausted if we’d been in this situation. What would you do?

Caveat: While this story is definitely inspired by the covid-19 pandemic, the virus in my story is a figment of my imagination and not covid-19.

So close

Excerpt:

When the rumble of his SUV approaches, I flip open my laptop and log onto Skype. It doesn’t take him long to call, and I answer with a grin. “Hey, babe. I’ll just check the soup.”

I’ve already made sure my laptop camera is facing the kitchen so he’ll see me move around. And who’s to know if I stretch and bend a little more than necessary?

Julian groans. “I see you’re in a better mood.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, grin widening.

“Yeah, drop that innocent routine. It doesn’t work with me.”

“It doesn’t?” I wink and saunter to the cupboard, stretching and reaching for a glass on the top shelf. “I think I’m gonna drink water from a wineglass today. Makes it feel more special, you know,” I say over my shoulder, catching a quick glimpse of him on the monitor, eyes glued exactly where I want them. Score!

His microwave dings, but when I turn around a few seconds later, he’s still eating me up with his gaze.

“Your food’s ready,” I say.

“Mhm.” He nods slowly but makes no move to go get it. So I let him be for a while. Saunter around the small kitchen area, grabbing things I don’t need from high shelves to make sure my T-shirt rides up more. Stick out my ass whenever I can, swing my hips more than necessary, smile, and flirt while I chat about nothing in particular. When I can’t drag it out any longer, I ladle soup into a bowl and sit by the computer.

He meets my gaze. His mouth is upturned, his eyes shiny, and he shifts in his seat. “I guess I’ll go get dinner then,” he says, and when he stands there’s a noticeable tent in his pants.

I make a mental fist pump.

He quickly returns with his heated lasagna. We’re both hungry and devour our dinners without talking much. We put away the dirty dishes in companionable silence; doing everyday household chores together makes it seem a little more normal, even through a laptop screen.

When we’re done, he wanders to the couch, but I lie down on the bed, resting the laptop on my stomach.

“I have stuff I need to do,” he mutters. “Laundry. Or neither of us will have anything to wear soon.”

“That would be worse for you than me. I can always claim a bad Wi-Fi connection and leave my camera off for meetings. Work in the nude.”

That makes him chuckle. “You’re too proper for that. You’d be embarrassed and you’d worry your camera wasn’t properly turned off.”

“I could put duct tape over the camera.”

“We don’t have duct tape in the guesthouse.”

I scowl. “Why not? Duct tape is a necessity of life.”

“I know you think so,” Julian laughs, “and I know you keep some in your drawer at work for emergencies. But you do realize you’ve lived in the guesthouse for weeks now without noticing there isn’t any, not to mention needing it?”

We banter back and forth for a long time, and it does us both good. Julian relaxes more and more every minute and my anxiety level hasn’t been this low since I moved out here, maybe even since the pandemic started.

When we can’t put off real-life any longer—he needs to do the laundry and I need to clean this place, it’s getting filthy—we say goodbye and hang up. But instead, we text each other between chores.

Julian: What’s the first thing you’re gonna do when you get out of there.

Zakarias: Kiss you.

Julian: Yeah?

Zakarias: Definitely. Kiss you, get you naked, cuddle, and smell you. I miss your scent.

Julian: What if I’m at work? What will you do then?

Zakarias: Lie in our bed? Use the coffee grinder and make some of the really good stuff? Use every appliance we have in our kitchen? Break open a fancy bottle of the best wine? Abduct you from work so I can kiss you?

Julian: Yes, please. Abduct me from work.

Blurb:

sofaraway

Engaged couple Zakarias and Julian are convinced nothing can separate them…until a global pandemic hits. Zakarias catches the virus with mild symptoms and isolates in the couple’s guest house. The few meters dividing them might as well be the moon as he watches Julian, an ICU nurse, work himself to the bone, unable to support him the way he needs. Frustration and worry build as the weeks pass. Will Zakarias be declared healthy before Julian burns out?

M/M Contemporary / 14 567 words

Buy link:

JMS Books :: Amazon :: Books2Read

About Nell

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bonafide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.

Find Nell on social media:

Newsletter :: Webpage/blog :: Twitter :: Instagram :: Facebook Page :: Facebook Profile :: Goodreads :: Bookbub :: Pinterest :: Ko-Fi

Fridays at Ofelia’s | Death Gods, Hunters, and Soul Gardens

Guest-Post

Hello everyone, this is Jackie Keswick waving from England. Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on the blog today.

For those of you who don’t know me, I write across genres from romantic suspense to fantasy and sci-fi. And while I like to set many of my stories in England, which I love to bits, I also allow myself to make up my very own worlds when I’m writing fantasy and sci-fi.

I’ve made 2021 the year of trying new things. I’m shifting the focus of my business to make more time for writing. I’m trying my hand at writing a paranormal romance, which is a first for me. And I’ve decided to write that paranormal romance as a newsletter serial, which is a scary prospect for a pantser who can’t write in a straight line.

My new paranormal romance, Caught, is the story of Tenzen, a death god who’s as old as the worlds and spends his years alone, caring for souls, and Yamakage Rakurai, a Yuvine Hunter, who makes himself a target by sticking to the rules and believing in doing the right thing.

Tenzen and Rakurai don’t just live in different worlds, they’re very different men with different values. Tenzen is an introverted loner. He cares for the souls in his garden, kills when he must, keeps to himself and has convinced himself he isn’t lonely. He’s never needed anyone, until he meets Rakurai and finds that he’s not against raising hell to keep the Hunter safe.

Rakurai, on the other hand, is used to standing up for what he thinks is right. When he finds Tenzen in trouble, he steps up to help without a second thought. He offers his life to save Tenzen’s, fights with his own clan elders when he believes they’re wrong and accepts that his choices have consequences. None of that stops him from feeling that he could do better, though. Or from feeling guilty that he hasn’t done so.

Together, those two very different men will save two worlds.

Or that’s the plan.

So far, I’m having a lot of fun with Tenzen and Rakurai, and especially with building the world they inhabit, which combines bits of Japan, Italy, Latvia, and England.

Lindisfarne walled garden

My favourite location is the garden where death god Tenzen watches over his souls. It’s based on the walled garden at Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland, and I love it because the garden next to impossible to spot from the ground. Huddled in the rolling dunes, you come up upon it suddenly, and the dry, swaying grasses turn into a riot of flowers as soon as you pass through the wall.

When I started Caught, I knew without really thinking about it that I wanted my death god to have a garden like this. And I made myself wait to write the garden scene until I’d written all the chapters that came before it.

Caught sub form header

Have a sneak. I hope it tells you as much about Tenzen and Rakurai as it told me.

Summer-warm air brushed Rakurai’s face as he set foot into Tenzen’s garden. The sky stretched deep blue overhead, and a soft breeze blew a myriad of scents towards him. After the red and gold autumn hues around the Rafeet’s manor, his eyes struggled to adapt to the mass of colour in this cheerful jungle, where trees, shrubs, and flowers grew as they pleased. And where butterflies tumbled from flower to flower without a care. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them, in colours and sizes Rakurai had never seen before.

Enchanted by the spectacle, Rakurai hadn’t noticed Tenzen leaving his side. Not until the Shinigami returned, an indulgent smile on his face. “It’s a joy to see them like this after all this time.”

These are the souls you’ve guarded?”

Yes. Plus the ones who were already in my care.” He laced his fingers with Rakurai’s and tugged him along a narrow path. “Let them recover and find their way around the garden.”

Tenzen moved deftly between bushes and giant ferns, not minding that fronds and branches tugged on his clothes and hair. Between the wonders of the garden and the enchanting view of a quietly relaxed Tenzen, Rakurai didn’t know where to look first. He pulled Tenzen to a stop as the path opened into a small meadow.

Who looks after all this when you’re not here?”

Soul gardens look after themselves. They adapt to the needs of the souls residing here. It’s… difficult to explain. The garden doesn’t exist in either of the worlds. It’s remade whenever a soul needs shelter.”

If there were no souls here, there would be no garden?”

Correct. Though it’s not a fate I’d like to think about. That’d be…”

The end of the world?”

Yes. It will come to pass, I know that. But I’ve tended my garden since the beginning of time. And I’d like to think that the end is a long time away.”

They stood in silence while Rakurai digested that. His own lifespan measured ten times that of a human, and he knew—intellectually—that the Shinigami were immortal. But he’d never tried to imagine all the years Tenzen had existed. What he’d seen. The people he’d met.

The kiss they’d shared seemed insignificant by comparison.

Is it always summer in your garden?” he asked to distract himself.

No. I told you the garden adapts to the souls sheltering here. What kind of garden it becomes is as much a surprise to me as it is to you.”

You don’t know what garden it will be?”

No. Walk with me, and you’ll see. It could be a zen garden, austere and serene with its shapes representing other concepts. It could be a forest covered in snow. Or it could be a riot of colour as it is now.” He smiled a little. “It was a pure rose garden, once. I spent days in it, just to enjoy the fragrance.”

Rakurai followed Tenzen across the meadow. He trailed the fingers of his free hand through the tops of the tall grass and breathed the scents of wildflowers until the meadow became an orchard and they stopped again to gaze. “This isn’t the garden I would build, but I’m enjoying this.”

The fact that you would build a garden tells me a lot about you.” Tenzen slipped his arms around Rakurai’s middle and pulled them flush together, leaving Rakurai with no doubt of his interest. “I’m thinking austere and serene would describe it well, no?”

If you’d like to find out more about Tenzen and Rakurai, then why not join me on my newsletter serial writing adventure? I send out new chapters every Friday morning, and the completed story will be published in the autumn.

We’re currently eight chapters in, and you can catch up on my website.

Sign up to my newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/b4v8p2

And if you’d like to keep in touch and find out what else I’m writing, then why not look me up:

caught blurb