Fridays at Ofelia’s | The Snails of Dun Nas by K.L. Noone

Guest-Post

Today, we have K.L. Noone visiting! I get up early in the mornings, and I’m not really awake when I stumble downstairs, but while I wait for enough coffee to drip down for me to grab a cup, I most often open the email app on my phone. One morning when I did, there was an email with Snails! written in the subject line. It made me laugh 😄 So, thank you for brightening my morning, Kristin.


Hi, everyone – and thank you to the lovely Ofelia for letting me drop by! It’s always a pleasure.

Today I wanted to talk a little about my newest short story release, “The Snails of Dun Nas,” out now from JMS Books! It’s at once both something different for me and also something familiar, and also old and new—which makes it exciting!

Snails” takes place in a sword-and-sorcery fantasy version of early Britain, and it features Aric, a large kindhearted swordsman-for-hire, and Emrys, his genderfluid half-fairy magical partner with a mysterious past. When this short story opens, they’ve been together for a while—taking jobs together, sleeping together, rescuing each other—but the first problem is, Aric’s very sure that that’s turned into actual falling in love, at least on his side…and he’s not sure Em feels the same. (To be fair, Em’s hard to predict on the best days, being not entirely human and having that Mysterious Past. But they’ve saved Aric’s life multiple times, and that has to mean something, right?)

The second problem is, of course, the giant snails.

More specifically, it’s the job they’ve been hired to do. Which involves saving the village of Dun Nas from a magical giant snail invasion. Which is probably heroic, but also probably not the sort of quest the bards write songs about. And then there’s the secret of the lake, on top of that…

I mentioned this story was both familiar and different, and old and new—one of my specialties in the day job is medieval literature, and giant snails are a surprisingly common theme in medieval manuscripts! And I’d read this particular story, at least the short “and then this happened in a village somewhere” version, in a book of folklore quite a few years ago. I wrote a very early draft of “Snails” back then and never felt entirely happy with it, so I put it away for a while and worked on other stories. And then I took it back out, recently, and I thought, “you know…there’s still a story here…” And I rewrote it from the beginning, into the new version.

Snails” is also very much—deliberately—a homage to classic pulp sword-and-sorcery and later inheritors: Fritz Leiber, Robert Howard, C.L. Moore, early Barbara Hambly, some Mercedes Lackey, and so on. I’d always meant it to have that sort of episodic feel: short stories, new adventures, roaming the fantastic landscape. Except, in my version, there’s a queer romance core: Aric and Em might fight lake monsters and sorcerers (and, later, perhaps, Em’s father…) but the heart of the story is really them figuring out their relationship and what they mean to each other.

And sometimes that figuring-things-out happens after fighting a lot of giant snails together. So it goes, at least for them.

So I hope you enjoy the adventure along with them! And thanks again to Ofelia for letting me share it with you here!

Buy links:

JMS Books :: Amazon

Author Bio:

K.L. Noone teaches college students about superheroes and Shakespeare by day, and writes romance – frequently paranormal or with fantasy elements, usually LGBTQ, and always with happy endings – when not grading papers or researching medieval outlaw life. She is currently the servant of a large black cat named Merlyn, who demands treats on a regular basis.

Blurb:

the snails of dun nasGiant magical snails aren’t exactly at the top of the list of heroic quests. But the village of Dun Nas needs help, and Aric needs money: being a legendary swordsman might be nice, but so is getting paid. Anyway, snails — even giant ones — aren’t anything he can’t handle, especially with his half-fairy partner Emrys. Together, the Storm-Wielder and the Shadow can fight anything, or so the stories say.

But this job’s more complicated than it seems. The lake holds a dangerous magical mystery. Aric trusts Emrys with his life — but he’d also love to offer his heart, and he doesn’t know whether Em feels the same. Em isn’t human, after all … and has a few secrets of their own.

Excerpt:

Awash in pale grey twilight, the fields of Dun Nas were utterly desolate: wilted, depressed patches that had once been productive, now limp and brown and pathetic. The crops were clearly dead; Aric was in no respect a farmer, but he could tell devastation when he saw it.

Emrys looked at it all, made a face, and wandered in what seemed like a distracted fashion across ruined ground. Aric watched for a moment, partly to see if Em would beckon him and partly because Emrys from the back, in whatever the shape of the day might be — at the moment male, sometimes female, sometimes someplace in between, enchantment in motion and glitteringly luscious — was worth watching, focused and capable and graceful as fairy-mounds at dusk.

Em didn’t wave him over, though, so whatever’d captured that intent attention, it hadn’t been urgent. That being the case, Aric went back to gloomily contemplating smudges and smears and gastropod grease. Glistening trails stretched back behind the village, toward the lake, which also happened to be the direction Em had gone.

Aric scuffed one of the shining patches experimentally with a boot. They were indeed large. And sticky. “They come out at night?”

“In the early morning.” The young councilor eyed Aric’s boot, and then eyed Aric’s sword, and then blurted out, “Is that the Stormblade?” in the manner of someone who’d been trying very hard not to ask ever since first setting eyes on the hilt.

Aric lifted both eyebrows at him. “What do you think?” The answer was, like most things, complicated. And probably not what the young man wanted.

“Er …”

“You’ve been listening to bards, haven’t you?”

“Reading chronicles?” The boy — he wasn’t, but his voice sounded like one, just then — had evidently decided that asking questions outweighed any trepidation about actually speaking to two legendary mercenaries. “And all the stories talk about you and the Stormblade and how you defeated the ogre of Sant-Micheline and the way the lightning came down and how your witch took it and –”

Witch?

“Sorry!” The young man bit his lip. “Was that wrong? I know in some places it’s –”

“Not as polite? It’s not. But Em’s not a witch.”

“Oh. Then what … a mage, or an alchemist, or … something else?”

“Let’s go with … something else.” Aric glanced at Emrys, and the lake, again. He had learned long ago that it was best not to try to explain. “Have you seen where your snails come from? Or where they go? By the way, what was your name?”

“Er … Gildas? And … er … we don’t entirely know? But we’ve had guards posted.” Gildas looked over at the lake, too. “They come up out of the water. And go back into it, when they’re done. But if anyone tries to follow, they’re just gone.”

“So you haven’t been able to find a source.”

“No. And that land is treacherous, on the far side. Bogs. Sinkholes.” Gildas paused. “Places where both my younger brothers managed to break their ankles, daring each other to explore.”

Aric, whose own younger brother had gone down to Ambrosium to work — profitably, given Berd’s artist’s hands and painter’s eye for color, and a bit of starting-out money from Aric’s own earnings — as one of the new capital’s architects and mappers-out of city streets, said, “Mine once tried to pierce his own ears with a sewing needle, because he’d seen a bard with earrings and liked them.”

Gildas laughed, a bit wistfully. “Family. But that’s why we need you, you see. It’s all our families, here. Oh — should we warn your … your partner? … that that ground’s unstable?”

“Emrys will be fine.” Aric poked a clump of slime again, with caution. “I take it you’ve tried salt and sage?”

And Gildas now looked very surprised. But he chose to answer as if he’d expected a mercenary fresh from the Highland feuds to know something about little country magics and herb-lore. “Yes. Some of the snails died, but more just kept coming. As if they didn’t even notice.”

“Or like something’s driving them.”

Gildas’s face became a portrait of utter tragic despair. “There’s something else?”

“It’s a theory.” In the distance, Emrys turned and began heading back, steps as soundless and precise as ever. He’d found something, Aric guessed, from the angle of his head, the light tension in thin shoulders. Wind tugged his hair upward briefly, a few short black strands standing up in spikes.

Aric appreciated that for a moment. His own hands knew the way that shining halo of hair felt, gathered up; his skin knew the brush of it against his shoulder, stomach, thighs.

He made himself stop thinking about that. Not the time. Or the place.

Even if it would fit in well with the whole virile mercenary reputation. Or at least the stories about devotion between the Storm-Wielder and the Shadow, which’d been the names bestowed on them by a grateful bard the year before. They’d heard that ballad for the first time in a tavern in Caer Moranth, a few weeks after that rescue.

Em had, with complete delight, paid the minstrel to sing it three more times that night, and then had asked gleefully, up in their room, whether Aric could in fact shake their world with thunder.

He’d done his best, naturally.

He said, “Do you have someplace we can stay, for the night? Your inn, maybe, preferably with food?” He also hoped no one in Dun Nas took enough exception to uncouth hired mercenaries to declare that there’d be no rooms available.

He and Em could sleep on the ground; they’d done it before, and would again, most likely. He’d been looking forward to a bed, though.

Gildas’s whole face lit up, a beacon. “Of course you can stay! And thank you!”

“We haven’t done anything yet.”

“But you’re willing to try!”

“No promises.”

“It’s more than we had before you arrived.”

“We might still decide to leave.”

“We won’t,” Emrys said, arriving. He — and it was he, at the moment; that was generally the case when venturing into a new town — ran a hand through his hair, making it stand up more; he’d rolled up both sleeves, and mud splashed his boots. Just now he looked more human than not, and entirely adorable, if the word could be said to apply to someone carrying that many knives.

Gildas looked at Aric, with much the same expression as a puppy begging for a scratch behind the ears.

“Oh, well, in that case,” Aric said. “Fine, yes, we’ll see what we can do.”

#WhatToReadWednesday | Gay Romance with Bear Shifters 

The monthly #WhatToReadWednesday was coming up on my to-do, and I thought: Damn, what the heck am I gonna write about. Then I remembered that Holly made a post yesterday about it being Have a Party with Your Bear Day and thought: Great! I’ll do bear shifters.  

I have Elevator Pitch, and Holly has Blown Away, and then there is… erm… that one with the pumpkin patch, and then… erm…  

Thing is, I’ve read quite a few MF bear shifter stories, but when I try to remember MM, not many come to mind. And now that I mentioned MF, I think I have to go reread Shelly Laurenston’s Hot and Badgered. It’s awesome! LOL 

But, okay, let’s give this a try:  

Bag the Beast 

Bag the Beast (Hardwood Pack 0.5) by Jane Perky – I don’t remember a whole lot of this story other than that it’s short and that, while I liked the characters, was a bit confused. One minute it was Halloween, the other Thanksgiving. But if I remember correctly, it’s a free read – went to check, and it’s free and now in a five-story bundle, but I don’t know if all are bear stories. 

Bag the Beast5 Short stories….

BAG THE BEAST
Stealing from the big bad werebear’s pumpkin patch may not be such a hot idea…

Clement is a submissive wolf with less sense than most. To win the town’s Thanksgiving pie-baking contest, Clement needs the best pumpkins, and only farmer Dall grows those. Dall, the reclusive werebear, is called The Beast for a reason. He’s crazy mean. Some say not right in the head, but…what are the chances Dall is Clement’s fated one? Clement got more than he bargained for, but what’s life without a little heat? Can Clement make the best pie, bag the Beast and win his happily-ever-after?

HIS ERRANT RUNT
Submissive Omega Brian Weller is the runt of the litter. The blind pup no one wanted. Brian knows he’s not mate-worthy material. He left home ten years ago and didn’t expect to come back scarred and heartbroken. Brian certainly didn’t expect to see his crush Tyler, but gone is his childhood friend.

Domineering and possessive, Tyler Jones is now Alpha of the Hardwood Pack. He’s waited ten long years for Brian and he’s done waiting. Now that the runt’s home, Tyler intends to claim Brian, make him his and never let him go.

BEST OF THE LITTER
I never expected things to turn out like this.
To be summoned by a group of powerful wolves.
Presented like a sacrificial offering, a gift, to a powerful Beta capable of setting my body on fire.
To be wanted so badly. Be good enough to be a worthy mate.
If Ray Torres wants me to howl for him, all I can do is ask: how loud?

PET MINE
Randy: I shouldn’t want him this much, but I do. Chad’s my boss and the enforcer for the Hardwood Pack. Me? I’m an unwanted Omega with no mate. We come from different worlds, but our paths keep colliding. My human half warns me to stay away. My wolf wants the opposite. All I want is to be his mate. His pet, but will he end up breaking my heart?

Chad: I’m not a man who takes rejection easily. I get what I want, who I want. Each time Randy Donalds walks into my office, I want him twice as bad. Not want. Possess. Cherish. Love. Randy’s going to be mine, no matter the cost.

DIRTY NAUGHTY MUTT
I am a lone Alpha without a mate, a man missing half his soul, but I’m done wandering from one place to the next. Seeing Jonas, the young bartender and Omega, I knew he was the one. Jonas is young and eager to please, reluctant because he’s been hurt before, but I can change that. Jonas is desperate for some action. Deep down, he wants to be my dirty, naughty mutt. He’ll submit beautifully. It’s only a matter of time before I own him, body, heart, and soul.

https://books2read.com/BagTheBeast

Bearly Dating 

Bearly Dating by Calandra HunterA short little tale about a guy whose parents constantly are asking him when he’s gonna find a mate. In a weak moment, he lies and tells them he’s bringing a date with him home, so he has to find a guy who can play his boyfriend for a weekend. It’s cute if a bit repetitive.   

Bearly DatingJonathan Goddard is a bear shifter with three problems: 1, he doesn’t like shifting and has ignored his bear for years. 2, his family is pushing him to find a partner and settle down. 3, he’s just lied to his overbearing mother that he’s bringing a boyfriend to his grandparents’ wedding anniversary to stop her from setting him up with random guys. The solution? Bring a fake boyfriend and pretend to be in relationship for one weekend, then go back to his happy, single, bear-free life.

Eric Warden has recently broken up with his cheating ex-boyfriend, and a weekend of pretending to be someone else sounds like the perfect distraction from his heartbreak. Pretending to be the boyfriend of a fun, attractive guy like Jonathan will be easy — so long as Eric can ignore his growing, genuine attraction to the other man.

From the moment Jonathan meets Eric, he starts to wonder if maybe they could have more together than just one weekend. But first, he’ll have to deal with his bear who doesn’t want to be ignored any longer and a family that’s already planning their wedding.

Surrounded by dozens of nosy family members, a terrible thunderstorm and an aggressive inner bear, can Jonathan and Eric find a future together, or will they only be bear-ly dating?

https://books2read.com/BearlyDating

New Addiction

New Addiction (Wingspan 1) by April Kelley – Growly bears are the best bears LOL It’s a fated mates story, but Rory, our grumpy bear, rejects Caerwyn the moment he sees him. It’s a problem, but Caerwyn has bigger problems. The attraction is hard to fight, though. I liked this more than I believed I would. 

New AddictionThe first time Caerwyn meets his mate, it ends with rejection, growling, and bear shifters…oh, my!

After his parents die in a tragic car accident, dragon shifter Caerwyn Lewis doesn’t know how to grieve properly, not that he really has time. He has siblings that are relying on him to pay off the debt their parents incurred on the farm. Also, he has a brother who isn’t taking their parents’ death well. The last thing he needs is a distraction, but that’s what he gets when his Alpha calls him in to help another neighboring shifter town. The distraction comes in the form of a handsome but grumpy bear shifter named Rory.

https://books2read.com/NewAddiction

Mate Wanted for Christmas

Mate Wanted for Christmas by Angelique Voisen – We’re getting closer to Christmas, so why not read this one. It’s short, it’s cute, and I felt so bad for poor Pat (and Pat’s alarm clock LOL).

Mate Wanted for ChristmasFor the last decade, bear shifter Pat Singer posted a specific want ad in the December newspaper. Each year, Pat gets the same response—zero. Except this year’s different. Finally, someone agrees to role-play Pat’s dead mate.

Spending Christmas Eve with a rich psycho shifter might seem unreasonable to some. To survive the harsh winter, former soldier Jacob Reynolds has no choice but to turn to desperate measures…except Pat Singer isn’t the crazy bastard Jacob imagines him to be.

The sexy, but reluctant werebear pushes all of Jacob’s right buttons, and if Jacob doesn’t guard his heart, he might end up getting burned.
 

https://books2read.com/MateWanted

I don’t have much more to offer, I’m afraid. Making this short list made me realise that 1. I need to read more bear stories. 2. I need to write more bear stories. I’m throwing in The Bear Claw in the mix – none of the main characters is a bear shifter, but most of the people surrounding them are.

elevator pitch

Bjorn Ritter only wants one thing—to live his life away from nosey, demanding bears. That’s easier said than done when you’re the son of the female running the Bayside Bear Community. Cecil Baxter might be a bat, but he grew up away from shifter communities and he’s doing his best to continue to keep his distance. Shifters aren’t an accepting bunch and Cecil has never fit the norm.

Already facing a dreaded meeting with his mother, the last thing Bjorn needs is a stranger using his elevator to escape a pack of werewolves. And Cecil, whose day just seems to be getting worse and worse, could really do without the added stress of finding himself trapped in an elevator with a huge bear shifter.

Still, what could go wrong in three minutes?

https://books2read.com/ElevatorPitch

blownaway

Espen Urso would rather stay inside and enjoy a nice, sweet cake than be out in the worst storm of the year. But there’s a group of alpha shifters trespassing, and he needs to defend his territory and keep the people in his village safe. A group of wolf shifters he can scare off, but when he realizes they’ve hurt a defenseless little bird, he loses his patience.

Arvid Rai is having a bad day. He’s an omega on the run, with a group of alphas on his tail. If there hadn’t been a storm, he could have easily flown away before the stupid wolves got their hands on him, or the angry bear noticed he was in his territory. But there is a storm, and the idiot who grabbed him broke his wing, so now he can’t fly anywhere. Still, he deems it best to stay with the growly bear rather than having the other alphas fight over him.

Espen has never believed in the myth of omegas, and it isn’t until he takes Arvid in he realizes how much trouble he’ll be in when shifters from near and far learn he has one in his home. Will he be able to keep Arvid safe from other shifters? Is it even possible to defend his territory with an omega in it?

https://books2read.com/BlownAway

thebearclaw

In a world where all supernatural beings are either dominant or submissive, Shiro Amano doesn’t have many choices. As a submissive, any dominant walking into his bakery can order him around. He hates it. All he wants is to live his life in peace and bake pastries he can spike with emotions far away from obnoxious alphas.

Pitch Rhys wants a mate, but he won’t settle for anything but a true mate. As a powerful wolf shifter, he has subs flocking around him, but his true mate is hiding in the kitchen of a bakery and refuses to see him. He can order him to, of course, but since he threatened Pitch with a knife when he allowed his power to leak, he doesn’t think it’s the way to go. Instead, he’s settling to see how many pastries and cups of coffee he can consume in a day.

Two years ago, Shiro escaped an abusive relationship, and he’s not looking for a new one, but when word gets out Shiro is an unmated sub, dominants are invading the bakery. Pitch does his best to scare them off so he can woo Shiro at his own pace, but things escalate too fast. Will Pitch be able to get Shiro to trust him before it’s too late? Can he convince him he wants nothing more than to make him happy and keep him safe?
 

https://books2read.com/TheBearClaw

Guest Post | How to Soothe a Dragon by Holly Day

Guest-Post
Hello everyone! Holly here stealing a spot on the blog again 😊 Did you know that it’s National Button Day today? It is, and I happened to write a story to celebrate it. It might be hard to tell from the title, How to Soothe a Dragon, but it’s about a button.

I didn’t think about this story as a dystopian until I hopped onto Goodreads to grab the link, and the first line I saw was:

There’s a remarkably sweet love story set amidst a deeply dystopian world in this novella

I stared at it for a few seconds and thought: Yeah… They’re right. LOL

So we have a dystopian world where aliens have invaded Earth and rule through mind control – you’d think as the creator of this world, the word dystopian would’ve popped up in my mind, right? But nope, I’ve only been thinking about dragons, aliens, lemons, and buttons.

Derek is human, but where everyone else follows the Pacurians (the alien race) blindly, he is not affected by their mind control. He can sense when someone is trying to control him, but he doesn’t have to obey if he doesn’t want to.

His neighbour, Ocren, is Pacurian, and he’s always chasing Derek, which Derek finds terrifying. The problem is that Ocren is a cop, so Derek doesn’t think there is any point in reporting him.

Then one day when he comes home from work, there is a button on his living room floor. A black button. The same kind of buttons Ocren has on his uniform.

Excerpt:

Derek unlocked the door to his apartment and stilled. Nothing was out of place, but the air was wrong. He didn’t know how he could tell, but something had the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end.

Slowly, he took a step away from the door and locked it. He hugged the bag of groceries to his chest. Lemons, he’d bought lemons with his last grocery money—and some beans and rice. He feared beans and rice would be what he’d live on for the coming week, and then he’d die. A bit dramatic perhaps, but he had no money, and he had no work. How the hell would he live?

Panic closed in on him. He’d have to leave, and with no income, he wouldn’t be able to find another place to live. Casey would let him sleep at her place for a few nights, but he couldn’t move in. Her apartment was tiny.

He put the bag on the kitchen table and pulled out one of the chairs. Right as he sat, the light from the living room window reflected on something on the floor. He stared. Had he dropped something? For a few seconds, he didn’t move, but then got up and stepped closer to whatever it was.

The air refused to move out of his lungs as he stared at the button. It was a few feet from the window, but it could’ve come from someone squeezing through and getting caught on the window frame.

A Pacurian had been in his apartment.

If he remembered correctly, their buttons were the same color as their uniforms. There were some golden details, but the primary color was the same as the uniform.

The button on his floor was black—a police uniform button.

A cop had broken into his apartment, and there was only one individual wearing black who knew where he lived. Since nothing was taken or out of place, he had no idea what Ocren had been doing there, but it had to end. He had to be able to come and go without fear of getting eaten by his neighbor—not that he’d be living here for much longer. And said neighbor had to respect his boundaries. Being a cop didn’t give him the right to break into Derek’s apartment.

He grabbed a lemon, cut it in half, and opened his window. If Casey was wrong about the lemons, Ocren would get a good laugh, and then he’d kill Derek, but this had to end.

His legs were unsteady as he walked down the grid stair to Ocren’s apartment. With a deep breath, he stopped at the landing outside his living room window and squeezed the lemon so the juice trickled through his fingers.

Ocren was there. His green eyes bore into Derek, his dark skin was duller than he’d ever seen it, and the little ridges the Pacurians had where humans had eyebrows stood out like horns. They were similar to humans—lips, nose, the shape of their eyes, everything was the same. But they were bigger, and they had those little horns almost as lizards did. Ocren had one on each cheekbone too—most of the others didn’t.

And the eye color was wrong. Pacurians had different eye colors, as humans had, but they were more intense. And at times they glowed.

Ocren’s glowed a vivid green.

Derek held up a lemon, waiting for Ocren to laugh at him—he didn’t.

Seconds went by and neither of them moved. Derek’s heart banged hard in his chest, but he had no idea what he’d do now.

With the glass between them, they continued to stare at each other. The November chill was creeping into Derek’s core.

An eternity went by, and Ocren continued to stare at him. Slowly, he reached for the sash lift and pushed the window up.

“Derek.”

The growly tone made him shiver more. “Stay out of my apartment, fucker.”

Ocren raised his lips like an aggressive dog, showing off piranha teeth identical to those he’d seen at the bar. What the hell was wrong with the world? Had they suddenly been invaded by crazed aliens? Not suddenly—they’d been invading since long before Derek was born, and he’d always known they were far more dangerous than they’d let on, hadn’t he?

Blurb:

howtosootheadragonDerek Herman is living a nightmare. Long before he was born, the planet was taken over by a mind-controlling alien race, and everyone is affected except for him. Derek does his best not to draw attention to himself, but it’s not going well.

Ocren Starburst is obsessed with his human neighbor. Every time he sees Derek, he wants nothing more than to grab him, hold him, and keep him forever. And four years of chasing him up the stairs in their apartment building has resulted in Derek refusing to even acknowledge his existence. That is, until Derek accuses Ocren of breaking into his apartment.

Derek found a button on his living room floor, the same kind of button Ocren wears on his police uniform. And while Ocren hasn’t broken in, he knows the button means someone has. Ocren’s race has kept their shape-shifting abilities secret for years, but now his other form wants out to slaughter everyone that dares to get too close to Derek. And staying in control proves hard when threats toward Derek increase.

Will they be able to keep Derek safe without Ocren losing control of his dragon self?

Buy links:

Gay Paranormal Romance: 28,195 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: www.books2read.com/HowToSootheADragon

How to Soothe a Dragon

About Holly

According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.

Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.

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