Guest Post | A Midwinter Night’s Magic by Ellie Thomas

Guest-Post

Ellie Thomas is back on the blog, this time to talk about her story, A Midwinter Night’s Magic. Welcome, Ellie!

Thank you so much, lovely Ofelia, for having me as your guest today! I’m Ellie Thomas, and I write Historical Gay Romance. In this blog, I’ll be chatting about A Midwinter Night’s Magic, my story for JMS Books’ Christmas submissions call.

While I was deciding whether to pick either the Naughty or Nice option for my seasonal story, for some reason, the impishly naughty Puck, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, popped into my head. At first, I dismissed this as too outlandish even for me, but in the end, I couldn’t resist the storyline of mischievous Puck meets sedate Regency country house party. So the theme is decidedly Naughty!

In parallel to a typical Shakespearean comedy, my main character, Matthew Lewis, is an exasperated victim of circumstances. He mistakenly agrees to attend a Christmas country house party, only to be trapped there by heavy snow and with the former love of his life, Crispin Marley, whom he now loathes. If that isn’t enough, he is obliged to engage in a play reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be performed on Christmas Day. As you can imagine, he’s not a happy bunny!

It was a delight and indulgence to revisit the play as the research for my story. As I’ve been fortunate enough to teach it many times over the years, I could recall the key events sufficiently to rough out my plot based on my amateur actors’ rehearsals.

I had such fun casting my characters in the roles to reflect their romantic circumstances. Matthew, who has a heck of a temper where Crispin is concerned, is an obvious Oberon, King of the Fairies, as he rages at his Queen, Titania. In some modern productions, Oberon and Theseus, Duke of Athens, are played by the same actor to reflect the two contrasting sides of one person. Oberon embodies passion and drama, whereas Theseus is all chilly diplomacy. It seemed ideal for the seemingly controlled Crispin to be the detached Theseus to Matthew’s fiery Oberon, emphasising the couple’s former bond and their current emotional chasm.

Abigail, the bossy young lady of the house whose idea it is to perform the play, has a mild attraction for Crispin and plays Hippolyta, Theseus’ future wife, unaware of Matthew and Crispin’s past attachment. Ironically, she casts a woebegone neighbours’ son (who is secretly in love with her) as Lysander, one of the four Athenian lovers, with his sister to make up the pair as Hermia. The Boltons, a young disaffected married couple, are Helena and Demetrius. To echo the script, Mr. Bolton shows far more interest in Hermia than in his languishing spouse. Then we have the daftly comedic enchanted pairing of Titania and Bottom the Weaver, played by Mrs. Robinson, a neglected wife with an errant husband and Mr. Grace, the jovial local vicar.

How could Puck resist magically interfering with all these possibilities for romantic confusion?

However, any meddling proves to be benign, and as in the play, the silliest liaison lasts only as long as the effects of the love potion. But for the truly-matched couples, especially my star crossed lovers, Matthew and Crispin, magic can only trigger the spark for reconciliation. After the stardust has settled, the rest is up to them.

I hope readers find this a twinkly feel-good Christmas tale that reflects the happy ending of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And so to finish, I can’t resist quoting Oberon’s blessing,

“So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be.”

Blurb:

amidwinternightsmagic

In late 18th-century England, when Matthew Lewis accidentally accepts an invitation to a festive country house party, he vows to stay only for as long as is polite. However, not only is there a heavy snowfall to detain him but also, the guests are expected to take part in a recital of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Christmas Day.

If amateur theatricals are not enough to contend with, the unexpected presence of former lover Crispin Marley is sent to try his frayed patience. The pair has had no contact since Crispin abandoned him with no explanation four years previously. Matthew is determined to feel nothing but enmity towards his lost love. But the influence of the play can change everything. Can Puck sprinkle a little fairy magic to bring this warring couple back together?

Extract:

Before going upstairs to prepare for the evening, Matthew made an excursion into the dining room on the far side of the main hallway to fortify himself with a glass of port. He approached the substantial sideboard where trays of glasses and an array of decanters were placed for guests to help themselves. So he was not surprised to hear the door open and close behind him, assuming it was another gentleman with a similar intention.

But the voice that spoke his name had him whirling around so fast that the port nearly spilled over the rim of the glass onto the expensive carpet. Crispin stood before him, tall, dark, and slightly forbidding, his expression neutral.

“Firstly, I wanted to say how sorry I was to hear about your father’s passing last year,” he began. As Matthew stared at him in shock, Crispin took a deep breath before carrying on. “And I thought since we are obliged to be guests here together, to avoid an unpleasant atmosphere, that we should have a talk.”

“I have nothing to say to you,” Matthew spat out, finding his voice, incensed by Crispin’s presumption.

“We have not seen each other for a long while and I thought…” Crispin began.

Matthew’s temper began to build. “What? You thought that I would oblige you by making amends? You thought that enough time had passed so I was sure to have absolved you for walking out on me without a word?”

The expression on Crispin’s face froze. “I wanted to explain…”

“Now?” Matthew’s voice almost rose to a shout. He controlled his tone with effort, continuing in a fierce whisper, “You want to apologise to me now! After four years of complete silence, you assume you can walk back into my life and all would be forgotten?”

“I beg your pardon. I have made a mistake,” Crispin said, backing away from Matthew, his voice glacial.

Matthew took a combative step forward, “Too damned right you have,” he hissed. “We were in love, we planned a future together and you left me without any reason. Oh, of course,” he said, his voice thickening with sarcasm, “I forget. You left a note. What were the words? Let me recall. I’m sorry but I can’t do this. After more than three years of being inseparable, that was all the explanation you gave me, you total bastard!”

Matthew was beside himself with rage, all those painful, long-buried memories stirred up by Crispin’s ill-timed intervention. He was almost ready to fling his drink into Crispin’s face, only held back by the reservation that it was a waste of good port.

His adversary did not rise to the raging words and searing emotion, his countenance remaining expressionless. Cold-blooded bastard, Matthew thought furiously.

“As I said,” Crispin began in that cool, contained tone that made Matthew want to punch him, “This was an error in judgement. If you’ll excuse me, I will leave you now.”

Undisturbed by Matthew’s ire, he had the presence of mind to perform a bow before making a swift exit, shutting the door quietly behind him.

Matthew was shaking with fury. He turned around to place the glass on the tray before his fierce grasp snapped the delicate crystal stem. He put both hands on the surface of the sideboard, leaning over, fixing the port decanter with a glare, muttering, “bastard, bastard, bastard,” under his breath. The fact that Crispin-bloody-Marley had the gall to approach him expecting clemency fuelled his agitation to boiling point.

Book link:

JMS Books

Bio:

Ellie Thomas lives by the sea. She comes from a teaching background and goes for long seaside walks where she daydreams about history. She is a voracious reader especially about anything historical. She mainly writes historical gay romance.

 Ellie also writes historical erotic romance as L. E. Thomas.

https://elliethomasromance.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/elliethomasauthor/

Guest Post | Trust with Glittering Eyes by K.S. Murphy

Guest-Post

Today, K.S. Murphy is on a visit to talk about their story, Trust with Glittering Eyes. Welcome!

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! And thank you, Ofelia, for having me! I’m here today to talk a little about my recent release, “Trust with Glittering Eyes”, the Yuletide follow-up to “Watch with Glittering Eyes”. 

When we last left Travis and Niko, the witch and cat-familiar had come face-to-face with the insidious shade haunting the White Stag Inn, miraculously survived the ordeal in one piece, and finally declared their love for one another. 

Today, they’re getting ready to celebrate the Yule together for the first time as a couple. Which is a little hard to do together when Niko’s been gone all day, leaving most of the preparations to Travis, not to mention having to play hospitable host to a most unexpected–and not exactly welcomed—guest. Some conversations with Niko may be in order later. That is, if Travis finds the courage to bring it up to him later. 

No better way to spend the Sabbat than with a few (cathartic) emotional breakdowns, reaffirmations of love, and comfort sex, right? 

So if you’re in the mood for something wintery and magical, I hope you’ll curl up with Travis and Niko to celebrate the Winter Solstice! And thanks again to the lovely Ofelia Grand for letting me ramble today! Happy Winter! 

Blurb:

trustwithglitteringeyesSequel to Watch with Glittering Eyes

Life has been going well for Travis Grayweaver recently. The Grand Council of High Magick hasn’t summoned him for anything. For a witch without a Guild, he’s still getting plenty of work. And best of all, he’s spent the last six months falling more and more in love with his best friend Niko, a rambunctious and playful cat familiar, who happens to love him back.

Tonight, they’ll be celebrating the Yule with lots of candlelight and a feast for two and a festival in town as they honor the start of winter and wait for the sun’s return. Only Niko’s been acting a bit off lately, obviously keeping something from Travis.

Travis is trying to be patient with him, but this thing from Niko’s past might be more than he can handle. Old demons and long-kept secrets will be revealed, but can the love they have for one another endure these revelations during the longest night of the year?

Excerpt:

Travis snorted and slid his hands down Niko’s back, cupping his backside and hoisting him up to plop him down on the counter. Landing with a kitten whine in the back of this throat, Niko dissolved into giggles and nuzzled the top of his head to Travis’s chest. Travis took a moment to pet behind those soft ears and then went back to cooking.

Still on the counter, Niko dipped his finger in the jar of cream for their sauce and sucked it off with an exaggerated popping noise. When he went to do it again, Travis slapped his hand away. This earned him a soft hiss and then a wrinkle of Niko’s nose and whiskers when Travis turned with lifted eyebrows.

“Okay, okay, no more cream.” Niko looked at everything set up in the kitchen. All the spices out of the cabinets and pots and pans and cauldrons. “Then what can I do?”

“You can sit there and look pretty.”

“Obviously,” Niko concurred. Travis snickered. “But I’ll be pretty no matter what, so tell me what to do.”

Whether or not Niko phrased it that way intentionally, Travis didn’t know. He did know that it shot through his entire body. Buzzed through him. Tingled in the air. He needed to take a deep breath to keep from pouncing on Niko.

“You can start on the baked apples,” Travis said. “I cored them earlier, so all you have to do is add the filling.”

Niko hopped down from the counter. Said, cheerfully, “I can do that,” and pulled the bowl of apples closer.

“You remember what the filling’s made from?”

Niko, clicking his tongue against the back of his teeth, rolled his eyes.

“Yes, Travis,” he answered with an indignant lift of his chin. “Three ingredients aren’t all that difficult to remember.”

“Yeah? What are they?”

“Sugar, cinnamon, and oats, thank you very much. And then we put them in the baking pan and … and … um …”

“Top with –“

“Butter! Top with butter, add water to the pan, bake for thirty minutes. Do you have any other questions for me?”

Smiling to himself, Travis shook his head as he stirred the cream into the pan.

“Not at the moment, no.”

“I thought not.”

Despite the disgruntled tone in his voice, Niko slid a little closer to where Travis stood. They worked in silence for a while. Travis was rather content with this. With sharing the silence with Niko when they needed no words. Even better than that, Niko’s tail lifted and brushed gently along Travis’s arm. Travis turned his gaze to him, but Niko, still paying attention to what he was doing, simply smiled. Heart skipping a beat as it tended to do whenever Niko smiled like that, like he was the luckiest person in the world, Travis had the urge to drop to his knees, wrap his arms around him, and thank him over and over for loving him.

“So,” Travis said while he worked on their side dishes. Mashed potatoes. Roasted vegetables and pecans. “What’d you do today?”

“Ah …” Niko hesitated. Then chuckled, awkwardly. Nervous, even. “I told you this morning. Cat stuff. Local gossip. Chatting with other familiars.”

Other familiars?

As far as Travis knew, the only other familiar in the area was Penelope, a vixen who lived on the other end of Kings County in the Eastern Woods with a witch named Keiko. Keiko was a renowned alchemist who made potions that people traveled from all over the country to buy.

She and Penelope would be at the festival later but Travis couldn’t really imagine Niko seeking Penelope out. Maybe for a quick meet-up of some kind, but not for an entire day. They didn’t not get along, really. It was more a clash of personalities. A cat and a fox didn’t always make for good company.

Before Travis could ask for any further details, Niko said, “Oh, wait until you see the marketplace. It’s really quite brilliant this year. Lanterns floating in the fountain and the street lamps filled with faery lights and sun sigils in the — what?” he asked when he noticed Travis staring at him. “Why’re you looking at me like that?”

“You…you saw the marketplace already?” Travis questioned, unable to keep the silly hurt out of his throat. “We always see it together.”

“O-oh. I … right.” Niko bit his lip like someone who hadn’t meant to say something. “I’m sorry, I was just … passing through it, that’s all. And, anyway, I didn’t see it all lit up or anything. So … but, what did you do all day?”

A question sat heavy on Travis’s tongue, coiling around it tight and painful. He badly wanted to ask it — to ask Niko what he’d really been up to today or what had been bothering him recently or which other familiars, if any, he spoke with earlier — but it remained there. Stuck. Locked. Afraid to come out into the open. Scared of what the answer might be.

Buy links:

Amazon :: JMS

Where to reach meksmurphyswords.wordpress.comK.S. Murphy’s Books FB

Bio:

K.S. Murphy was born and raised in New York with their rather large Irish/Italian family always encouraging them to go for their dreams. Over the past decade+, they’ve been a cook, a professional cleaner, a teacher, a nurse, a chauffeur, a photographer, and a librarian for their two mini-humans. One of their favorite things about writing is creating a world that readers will want to see and touch and know more about. In their spare time, they enjoy superheroes, epic space adventures, magical worlds, happily ever afters, and thunderstorms.

Guest Post | Tonight and Every Night by Mere Rain

Guest-Post

Today fellow JMS Books writer, Mere Rain, is on a visit. Welcome, Mere!

My first attempt at writing romance was a gay holiday paranormal.

An author for whom I’d done some non-fiction editing said that she also wrote romance, and would I be willing to proof-read a holiday story anthology. The authors involved had a chat group, and they were all friendly and fun and encouraged me to try writing in the genre myself.

I didn’t finish that first Christmas story — romance is harder than it looks! — but I published two winter holiday stories the following year, 2018, and another in 2019 that was finally about Christmas and New Year’s. That was “Stealing Gifts,” a contemporary novella about a burglar who falls in love with a bibliophile whose book he stole. That’s currently 25% off, along with the rest of Mischief Corner’s holiday collection. 

https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/store/p160/Stealing_Gifts.html#/

This year I published my first full-length m/m romance, a college story about a neurodivergent scholarship winner who has never relationshipped before and jumps in feet first. Luckily, he picks someone solid enough to cushion his landing!

“Tonight and Every Night” is currently 50% off via Smashwords end of year sale. 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1105134

There are a lot of excerpts available from those (I consolidate them in goodreads reviews), so I’ll close instead with a snippet from a story that is releasing in February, as part of JMS Books’ “Sugar or Spice” series. Happy Holidays!

Blurb:

tonightandeverynightA funny, sexy, opposites-attract romance between two college students — one an anxious, autistic virgin who has never been away from home before, and the other an easy-going hockey player with some well-concealed self-doubts. As long as you don’t call it a relationship, you don’t have to talk about your feelings, right?

PJ is socially awkward to the degree that he never expects to have a relationship or “normal” life. Everything other than math makes him feel stupid, and trying to fit in with the party crowd only results in him getting embarrassingly drunk at Giant’s apartment. He doesn’t have the first idea how to ask someone out — especially not someone popular and hot.

Giant is having lots of fun but doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life. A working-class kid with an unexpected athletic scholarship, he feels stupid and low-class compared to most of his classmates. He’s had plenty of one-night-stands but none of them ever seem to see him as boyfriend material. When the cute nerd who somehow ends up in his bed asks to see him again, he can’t think of any reason to say no.

As they spend more time together, not all of it in bed, both men start to fall in love, but neither wants to risk ending what they have by asking questions about their relationship. Then they go home for Thanksgiving and familial opposition forces them to put their feelings about each other, and themselves, into words, and make choices about their future together.

But do they want the same things?

Excerpt:

Harlan led Apolo inside, grateful not to be seated on the dais with the newlyweds, their parents and grandparents, and the best man and maid of honor. Probably his mother hadn’t trusted Harlan to be sufficiently ingratiating to Elina’s family.

Or, he suspected when he was shown to his table, she had placed him near a suitable future wife or three. 

He smirked at the disappointed candidates as he pulled out Apolo’s chair and bent to kiss his cheek.

Apolo turned his face in time to make it passionate and sloppy instead of the ironically chaste peck Harlan had been intending. Harlan had no complaints, although someone doubtless would.

Apolo’s teeth tugged at Harlan’s lower lip for a moment as he pulled away, and he considered dragging him back to the men’s room, but the server was approaching with wine and a drink also sounded great. 

Although a drink in his hotel room sounded even better. Maybe he could talk Apolo into a sex marathon.

“Red or white, sir?”

“Both,” Harlan told the server. “He’ll have both, too.”

Apolo grinned at him. “Are you trying to get me drunk, sir?”

“Just being a good provider, darling. I don’t want you to suffer from unwanted sobriety.”

“I haven’t been sober since I met you.” 

Mere Rain is a native Californian who finds snow more horrifying than romantic.
Connect with Mere on Twitter or Facebook.