Fridays @ Ofelia’s | Magician by K.L. Noone

Guest-Post

Today, I’m glad to say that K.L. Noone is back for a visit. Welcome!

Hi, I’m K.L. Noone, and I write LGBTQ romance—everything from contemporary to historical to paranormal, often m/m but sometimes f/f, or m/f with bisexual characters, or even m/m/m superheroes! Ofelia has been kind enough to let me drop by to introduce my upcoming novel, Magician, available from JMS Books July 24!

Magician is high fantasy, in a sort of early modern world—there’re printed novels and merchant ships alongside magicians and princes, but we haven’t quite got up to steam-power yet. It’s m/m, with bisexual main characters—or at least Gareth is cheerfully bi, and Lorre is, well, whatever he wants to be, being both an ancient magician and a shapeshifter, on occasion. (He’s historically been and done quite a lot…) It’s very much about guilt, and redemption, and trying to hide from the world on a deserted tropical island (because one might as well hide and feel guilty for one’s past mistakes in comfort!), and then it’s about what happens when an optimistic young prince shows up on one’s island and believes with all his heart that the world’s last legendary magician has to help with his quest, because that’s how quests go, isn’t it…

It’s also got cinnamon-blackberry scones, and an older-brother king who bakes as stress relief, and a bard singing a terrible ballad in a tavern. Plus a few bandits. And some hurt/comfort, because I do love a good hurt/comfort scene. And also a good amount of tea.

I’m so excited to share this one with the world, because Magician is a novel that’s very close to my heart—in some ways I’ve been working on it, or not-working on it, for over ten years! It began, in fact, as a spin-off story from my first-ever published (m/f, bi main characters) romance short story! (You don’t need to have read it first, I promise!) That short story, “Sorceress,” had a villain, or at least a Reckless and Problematic Magician, that required our sorceress to deal with—I always knew the sequel would be his story, and I even wrote two scenes of it back then, both of which are still in the final version, almost word for word. (One’s about halfway through, about true faces and magic. One’s the conversation near the end, about their future.) And then things got busy, and other stories wanted to be written…but then it woke back up, this past year. Loudly, too, shouting about optimism and hope and second chances.

So, a decade later, here it is. I hope you enjoy it—I loved writing it, and seeing Gareth and Lorre find what they want, and each other, and a happy ending, at last.

Here are some purchase links, and an opening excerpt!

Buy links:

JMS Books :: Amazon

Opening Excerpt:

The world’s greatest living magician, lying on his back on a rocky ledge halfway up a cliff and bathed in sunshine, felt the boat’s arrival on the island shore below like an uninvited knock at a private door. He did not enjoy it.

He didn’t move for a moment. He did not feel like it, and there’d be no rush. Nobody’d get past his wards.

He kept both eyes closed. Sun streaked red behind his eyelids; gold warmed his skin, his hair. His body soaked in the sensations of strong heated stone, sank into stone, became stone: learning how the rock felt when bathed in lush late-morning light. His edges blurred, softened: time slowed, thrummed, grew earthen and deep, salt-lapped and wind-etched. He might’ve been here for centuries, unhurried. Equilibrium and erosion, solidity and reshaping: a balance.

He had needed balance. Something he’d thought he’d known, once. Something he no longer understood.

He’d thought the island might help. Being rock for a while, or the wind, or the seaspray: being suspended amid them all. Being alone, because he was not sure he recalled how to be human, not well enough.

The island was warm—Lorre had always shamelessly adored being warm—and far enough from the mainland that he’d been mostly undisturbed, and close enough to trade routes that he could occasionally walk on water out to a boat and barter some repairs or some healing for some news of the Middle Lands and King Henry’s court at Averene and the Grand Sorceress Liliana. Lorre had promised not to magically check in on Lily or their daughter; he was attempting to keep that promise.

Equilibrium. Difficult. Sunlight was easier. Sunbeams were weightless. Stones did not have to think about human promises. Human perceptions.

The knock came again. It was not physical, or not entirely. It was a presence, an unexpected intruder standing below, shuffling feet in the sand and no doubt wondering where precisely a magician could be found, being faced with a towering blank cliff and no visible habitation.

Lorre sighed, pulled himself back from frayed edges and heavy sleepy light, and sat up, pulling a robe on in an unfussy tumble of blue and gold, mostly just because he liked the caress of silky fabric on bare skin. His senses shifted, dwindled: more human, though not entirely. He’d been a magician too long to not feel the threads of brilliance—cliff, vines, fish, grains of sand, sea-glass polished by waves—all around.

He peeked over the side of the ledge. Behind him the cave yawned lazily, reminding him of sanctuary: he could simply walk back inside, the way he had for several years now, and ignore the new arrival. That generally worked.

He was rather surprised someone’d found him at all. He wasn’t exactly hiding—oh yes you are, said a tart little voice in his head, one that sounded like Lily’s—but the island, after a bit of work on his part, nearly always concealed itself from maps and navigation charts. At the beginning a few enterprising adventurers had managed to track it down, young heroes on quests or proving their worth by daring an enchanter’s lair or begging for Lorre’s assistance in some revenge or inheritance or magical artifact retrieval scheme.

He’d ignored all but two of them. The illusion-wall kept everyone out, simple and baffling; the island had fresh water but little in the way of food. Mostly the adventurers’d given up and gone home, years ago; he couldn’t in fact recall the face of the last one. Two had become nuisances, loud and shouting; one of those had actually threatened to drink poison, melodramatically demanding Lorre’s assistance in collecting a promised bride from a glass mountain, claiming he’d die without her.

The young man currently standing on the beach was neither loud nor melodramatic. In fact, he was calmly considering the sheer cliff-face, which revealed nothing; he stepped back across the small curve of beach, shaded his eyes, seemed to be measuring. After a second he put a hand up, obviously checking the edge of the cliff: having noticed the very slight discrepancy where sea-birds dropped behind the illusion-wall a fraction sooner than they should vanish in reality.

Intelligent, this one. Lorre dangled himself over the ledge at an angle which would’ve been dangerous for anyone else, and watched.

The young man had dark reddish-brown hair, the color of autumn; he wore it tied back, though a few wisps were escaping. He’d dressed for travel, not in shiny armor the way some knights and princes had: sturdy boots and comfortable trousers, a shirt in nicely woven but also practical fabric, a well-worn pack which he’d swung down to the sand. He wasn’t particularly tall, but not short: average, with nicely shaped shoulders and an air of straightforward competence, not trying for impressive or intimidating.

Lorre, despite annoyance at the interruption, couldn’t help but approve. At least this one had some sense, and didn’t walk around clanking in metal under the shimmering sun.

The young man called up, “Hello?” His voice was quite nice as well, not demanding, lightly accented with the burr of the Mountain Marches but in the way of someone who’d been carefully sent to the best schools down South. “Grand Sorcerer?”

Lorre mentally snorted. He didn’t have a proper title, not any longer; if anyone did, it’d be Lily. His former lover, now wife of the brother of the King of Averene, was by default the last Grand Sorceress of the Middle Lands; she’d started up the old magician’s school again, welcoming and training apprentices. Lily always had been better with people. Lorre was not precisely welcome in Averene.

The young man said mildly, “I expect this is a test; I thought you would do that, you know,” as if he thought that Lorre might answer, as if they were having a conversation; and looked around. “I’m meant to find you, is that it?”

That was the opposite of it. Lorre on a good day barely recalled how to be human, and certainly wasn’t fit to interact with them. He’d lost his temper with the melodramatic poison-carrying prince, strolled invisibly onto the shore, asked the poison to turn itself into a sleeping draught, and then poured it into the idiot’s water flask. Then he’d found a passing ship and dumped the snoring body onto its deck. He hadn’t known the destination, and hadn’t bothered to find out.

His current young man was looking at driftwood. Lorre wondered why. He was getting a bit dizzy from leaning nearly upside down; he considered the sensation with some surprise. A swoop of gold swung into his eyes, distracting and momentarily baffling; he pushed the strands of his hair back with magic.

The young man found a stick, one that evidently met his standards for length and strength. He kept it in front of himself; he walked deliberately toward the cliff, and the illusion.

Oh. Clever. Avoiding traps. Testing a theory. Lorre found himself impressed, particularly when the young man watched the tip of the driftwood vanish and nodded to himself and then set rocks down to neatly mark the spot.

The island was not large, and the beach even smaller: a jut of cliff, a tangle of vines, a small lagoon and a trickle of water down to the shore. The illusion hid the cave-opening, but there wasn’t really anywhere else for someone to be; the young man figured that out within an hour or so of methodical exploration, and returned to the shore, and looked thoughtfully at the cliffs. He’d rolled up his sleeves and undone the ties of his shirt, given the heat; he had a vine-leaf in his hair, along with a hint of sweat.

Lorre, in some ways still very much human, couldn’t not stare. Something about those forearms under rolled-up sleeves. That hint of well-muscled chest. The casual ripple of motion, broad shoulders, heroic thighs.

I suppose,” the young man said, very wry, still looking at the cliff as if perfectly aware Lorre was watching, “I should introduce myself. I think I forgot to, earlier.”

I suppose you should, Lorre agreed silently. Since you’re here. Disrupting my life.

He ignored the fact that he’d had no real plans. Meditation. Quiet. A hope for calm.

A hint of dragon-fire slid through his veins, under his skin. A memory. Restless. Beckoning. Dangerous.

Blurb:

magician

A magician in need of redemption. A loyal hero on a quest. And only one bed at the inn.

Once the world’s most legendary sorcerer, Lorre fled the Middle Lands after his own curiosity — and a misguided transformation spell—turned him into a dragon and nearly killed a king. He isn’t a dragon anymore, but he is hiding alone on a tropical island, avoiding people, politics, and his own reputation.

But now a hero has found him. And not just any hero. Prince Gareth’s full of patience, intelligence, a kind heart…and unfairly attractive muscles. And he needs Lorre’s help: his tiny mountain kingdom is under attack from ice magic, and Gareth hopes the world’s last great magician will save his people.

Lorre’s very much done with quests and princes and trying to change the world. But Gareth might tempt him to believe again…in heroes, in himself, and in magic.

Author Bio:

K.L. Noone employs her academic research for writing romance, usually LGBTQ+ and often paranormal, fantasy, or historical! Her full-length romance novels include the Character Bleed trilogy (Seaworthy, Stalwart, and Steadfast), Cadence and the Pearl, and A Demon for Midwinter, available from JMS Books, and A Prophecy for Two, available from Inkshares. She’s also the author of multiple romance novellas and short stories with JMS Books, and previously with Less Than Three Press, Circlet Press, and Ellora’s Cave. Her non-romance fantasy fiction has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress and the magazine Aoife’s Kiss.

With the Professor Hat on, she’s published scholarly work on romance, fantasy, and folklore, including a book on Welsh mythology in popular culture and a book on ethics in Terry Pratchett’s fantasy. She is happily bisexual, married to the marvelous Awesome Husband, and currently owned by a long-legged black cat named Merlyn.

Twitter :: Instagram :: WordPress :: Amazon

Fridays at Ofelia’s | Taking Flight

Guest-Post

Taking Flight, a Reworked Celtic Myth

Firstly a big thank you to Ofelia, for inviting me to visit today! I’m here to blatantly pimp my new release, Taking Flight, which came out a couple of days ago on Tuesday 13th July. I was also here a few weeks ago, talking about the collection generally and how I started writing them. (I don’t want to call it a series, because that implies they’re connected, and they’re not really, only by the fact they’re all based on the myths). You can find that post here!

It’s a story I’ve had in my mind for a while, chewing over and over, wondering how I could make it into a contemporary queer tale. I had problems to begin with because the story of Brânwen from The Mabinogion is quite complicated and I didn’t want this to be a full length novel. I was aiming for about ten thousand words and it’s come in at fourteen, which is more than I wanted really. To get it down to that I’ve had to radically chop the original tale up and focus on Brânwen/Gwyn’s escape from their imprisonment in the kitchens.

Once I’d decided to focus on a much smaller part of the legend, it all seemed to fall into place and the story more or less wrote itself. Okay, that’s not quite true, I did get stuck for a week, which involved lots of sulking and eating of carbohydrates, but generally, it suddenly clicked. I really hope it’s as easy to read as it was to write!

I’ve got an excerpt for you here today, set just as Gwyn and Darren have left and are waiting for the bus!

Taking Flight

Excerpt of Taking Flight

All right?” Darren asked, sitting down next to him.

Hurts,” he said, briefly.

He felt rather than saw Darren nod, shoulder pressed against his on the narrow seats. It was warm and comforting and nice to have someone to lean on, just a little bit.

There should be a bus in about fifteen minutes,” Darren said, “but I’m never quite sure whether they’re reliable. If we miss this one it’s four hours until the afternoon ones start again, so cross your fingers. Although we could hitch I suppose.”

Gwyn pulled a face without opening his eyes. “I’d rather not,” he said. “But better than hanging around here for four hours. I don’t think he’ll come after me. But he might.”

Darren was silent for a few minutes beside him. Then he said very gently, “You know I’ll listen if you want to talk, don’t you? I know we’re not close friends, we haven’t known each other long. But I’m here.”

Gwyn bit his lip. He couldn’t answer. He’d cry if he did. He drew in a sharp little breath and Darren nudged him gently with his shoulder.

It’s all right. Don’t worry about it. Let’s get on the bus and get down to Dublin. We can find somewhere to stay overnight and get the ferry in the morning. It’ll all look better when we’re further away from here.”

Gwyn nodded carefully, eyes still shut and head tilted back. Projecting everything is fine, honestly, vibes as hard as he possibly could.

Thanks, Darren,” he finally managed to find voice to say. “Thank you.” He swallowed. “I wouldn’t have found it as easy to leave without you backing me up. I could have phoned my brother…,” he trailed off, “…but it’s complicated.” He swallowed again. “I just want to go home. I should probably have gone before, but…like I say.”

Darren patted him on the knee. “Don’t worry about it now. Just rest. Have you taken any painkillers? I’ve got some, I think.”

Gwyn shook his head and then regretted the movement. “No, I haven’t. I didn’t think.”

Here.” Darren began to root through the front pocket of his enormous rucksack. “I’ve got paracetamol and ibuprofen. Take two of each. That’ll help.”

Gwyn heard him rustling about and the sound of the pills popping out of their little foil nests. And then a water bottle being opened.

He had to open his eyes, he knew. He didn’t want to.. It was nice sitting here in the darkness, pretending the rest of the world didn’t exist for a bit.

It wasn’t too terrible though, opening them and seeing Darren looking at him cautiously. He was a nice-looking man. Smaller than Gwyn’s 5’11, with brown eyes and heavy brows that were currently creased with concern. His black hair was buzzed down to half an inch all over—Gwyn had noticed he’d cut it twice in the six weeks Gwyn had been at the hotel. Too hot in the kitchen otherwise, he’d told him.

Gwyn took the proffered pills and the water bottle and swigged them down.

Drink the water,” Darren advised. “I’ve got another bottle.”

Gwyn nodded, and then regretted the movement.

Shitfire,” he said. “It hurts quite a bit actually.”

I bet. Let’s get down to Dublin and then go and get it looked at. I’d feel better knowing you’re not going to die in the night. And we’ll have time.. We’re going to miss the ferry by the time we’ve dicked about getting tickets and such. e’ll have to find somewhere to stay overnight.. We can go to A&E.”

Okay,” Gwyn conceded. “If it’s still as bad when we get down there.”

Darren nodded and poked at the water bottle. “Finish it up, then. The bus’ll be along in a minute.”

True enough, as Gwyn was putting the cap back on the empty bottle the red and white bus came into view around the long bend to the north.

Told you,” Darren grinned as he jumped to his feet, disturbing the big flock of starlings that had come down in the field behind the bus-stop so they flew up in a huge, chattering cloud . “Come on then. Do you want a hand with your bag?”

Buy Taking Flight: AmazonEverywhere Else!

Taking Flight

Cover Taking Flight

Gwyn Mabler is on secondment at the Kings of Ireland Hotel at Tara. He and his brother Brân are in the process of buying the place and Gwyn is getting to grips with the everyday running by shadowing the current owner, Mal Reagan.

Gwyn’s an idiot, though. Mal made it clear from the start he’d like to get Gwyn in his bed and after a couple of weeks of pursuit, Gwyn gave in. Mal was hot and pushy and just the kind of dangerous to pique Gwyn’s interest. He honestly thought Mal knew he was trans.

Since that horrible night, Mal has had Gwyn ‘workshadowing’ Chef in the deeply unhappy kitchen. He doesn’t want to go home and cause a fuss that might make the sale fall through, but when a huge row breaks out over a flour delivery and Mal backhands Gwyn across the face, he finally decides enough is enough. With the help of Darren Starling, one of the line-cooks with whom he’s formed a tentative friendship, he leaves.

During the two-day journey from the middle of Ireland home to Wales they have plenty of time to exchange confidences. Could the delicate pull of attraction between them grow into something stronger? Is it safe for Gwyn to out himself to Darren? Will Darren want to go out with a trans guy? And how will his brother Brân take Gwyn’s arrival home with a stranger?

A 14,500-word short story in the Reworked Celtic Myths series.

Buy Taking Flight: AmazonEverywhere Else!

Taking Flight Banner

About A. L. Lester

Ally Lester writes queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense and lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, Morris the badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat, three guineapigs, some hens and the duckettes.

She likes permaculture gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy these days. Not musical, doesn’t much like telly, likes to read. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has fibromyalgia and tedious fits.

Join my newsletter, for a free copy of the novella An Irregular Arrangement or find me on social media via my link-tree.

Ally

Fridays at Ofelia’s | Bring Him Back, Jack

Guest-Post

Hi, Holly here, stealing a spot again! I wanted to tell you about a story I’ve written for (National) Different Coloured Eyes Day. It’s called Bring Him Back, Jack and it’s about Ivan and Malik. 

Ivan is a shadow walker, which means he can melt into walls and stuff. That’s the cool part. The not so cool part is that there are a lot of evil wizards who believe he’s a bridge between the living and the dead and that by using his blood in a special kind of rite they can gain immortality. 

Ivan has different colours on his eyes, something all shadow walkers have, so he’s hiding it by always wearing coloured lenses.  

Malik is a vampire, and in this alternative universe, vampires are treated like slaves. They have a stake attached to their chests ready to shoot through their hearts at any given moment, and Malik’s master insists on them wearing chains as soon as they leave the cage they live in. 

When Ivan has to do a job for Malik’s master to pay off a debt, he insists on Ivan bringing Malik along – as a guard. The problem is that Ivan is to steal a diamond, and being stealthy is not easy when you have a massive vampire in rattling chains shadowing your every step.  

Chopstick

Excerpt:

Ivan left the bathroom without cursing. Malik had never been in a shower. It was hard to tell how old a vampire was, but Ivan would guess Malik was close to forty, maybe a couple of years past forty, and he’d never been in a shower. Ivan would turn thirty-four in October if they survived this mission, and he’d always assumed Malik was a few years older than him.

How did they wash in the basement? He wanted to strangle Remington Redwood.

He hadn’t seen many vamps living happy lives, but few were as miserable as those Remi kept.

The chain rattled against the shower stall wall, and Ivan winced. Perhaps he should have stayed in there. “Everything all right?” He stood right outside the door, not wanting to barge in unless Malik wanted him there.

Hot.”

Ivan grinned. “Turn the temperature down.”

I have.”

Well, there you go. Enjoy!” He went to inspect Raina’s cleaning cabinet. Last he’d checked, she kept a hammer and some nails there. He didn’t hold much hope to her having something able to cut metal, but you never knew. Raina had a tendency to surprise him.

When he couldn’t find anything, he pulled out his phone.

Only one signal rang through. “What?” Her bark made him wince.

Erm… is this a bad time?”

Crawling with people.”

Ivan nodded; he’d assumed as much. “Do you own a hacksaw or something?”

No, if I need something I always go to Zev on the ground floor.”

Ivan had no idea who Zev was, and he wasn’t sure it was a good thing to involve someone else. “Who is he?”

A super-hot werewolf. I don’t think he’d like you, so better wait until I get there.”

Yeah, super-hot werewolves were normally bigoted assholes with an alpha male complex—Ivan didn’t do those. “He can’t know what it’s for.”

I’ll handle it. A hacksaw?”

Something to cut metal.”

You’re sawing through the chains? I don’t think that’ll work. Hang on, I’ll call Ibine and ask how she removed them the first time.”

Ivan nodded. Calling Ibine would be good, but she didn’t remove the chains, she removed the cuffs. “I’m not cutting the chains, it’s for the stake. We’ll need some nuts to screw on and then tape some shit over so he doesn’t catch on anything. It must hurt like hell.”

Aww, are you worried about your pet?”

Stop it.”

I think we should keep him. You’re cute together, and you know what they say about vamps.”

He didn’t, and he wouldn’t ask. Raina chuckled as if she knew what he was thinking.

The bathroom door opened, and Malik stepped out buck naked and dripping wet. “I have to go, Raina. Call Ibine and pick up a hacksaw and nuts in different sizes.”

I’ll be there soon.” She hung up, but Ivan kept on holding the phone to his ear as he studied Malik.

I left a towel out for you.”

Malik turned and looked into the bathroom, goosebumps covering his skin.

Come on.” Ivan put the phone away and walked past him into the steaming bathroom. He must have half-boiled himself. He grabbed the towel and shook it. When Malik raised a hand to grab it, drops fell from his chains and Ivan cursed. “I’ll…” He quickly dried off Malik’s shoulders and arms. When he reached the chain, he ran the towel over it, too. “You can… eh…” He gestured at his middle, not looking despite wanting to.

For the first time, he noted a spark of amusement in Malik’s eyes and rolled his in return. “Did you do it to embarrass me?”

No. But I like you touching me.”

Ivan froze. “You do?” Heat washed over him and Malik grinned, fangs peeking out from underneath his upper lip.

I do.”

Ivan huffed. “I believe you’re yanking my chain, Mr. Malik.” He changed his hold on the towel, ducked in under Malik’s arm, and reached around him to wrap the towel around his middle. Those strong arms wrapped around him, and for a moment an alarm went off in Ivan’s mind, then he became aware of the hard length pushing against his belly when Malik hugged him.

You don’t have any chains to yank.”

Blurb:

bringhimbackjackOnce every century, a shadow walker is born. Ivan Charna is that shadow walker, and he and his sister Raina are on the run from wizards who want to sacrifice their blood in some crazy rite. They never stay long in one place, and they do their best not to stand out. When Raina loses a bet, Ivan is forced to work off her debt, and they have to stay put. As long as no wizard figures out what they are, Ivan doesn’t mind all that much since he gets to work with his favorite vampire.

Malik lives in a cell in a basement. He’s never allowed to go anywhere without chains around his wrists and ankles, and there is a stake hovering over his heart at all times. Master can trigger the stake with a push of a button. He doesn’t even have to be in the same room to do it. Malik dreams of a different life, a life with Ivan, but he’s a vampire, and vampires have to do what their masters tell them.

Ivan only has to steal one last diamond, then the debt is paid, and he and Raina can leave town. It should be easy, but when Remington Redwood, the man Raina owes money, insists on having Malik shadow his every step, it complicates things. Malik might dream about making Ivan his, but getting him away from Master alive has to be enough. Ivan knows it’s a stupid risk to take, but if he’s stealing a diamond, what’s to say he can’t steal a giant vampire too?

Buy links:

Paranormal M/M Romance: 32,159 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/BringHimBackJack