Guest Post | The Quid Pro Quo: Simon Frost

Guest-Post

Hello there everyone! Thank you so much to Ofelia for letting me drop in today to tell you all about my latest release.

The Quid Pro Quo is the second in the Bradfield trilogy, although it will stand alone. It’s set a few months after the end of The Fog of War and stars Walter Kennett, Sylvia’s friend, and Simon Frost, a detective who comes to Bradfield to investigate a murder. It’s a gay, historical, paranormal, romantic murder-mystery with a m/transm couple set in rural England in 1920.

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of the main characters, Simon Frost!

Simon Frost

Simon Frost

Born: 1885, Taunton, Somerset.

Profession: Police Detective.

Smokes: Does not smoke.

Drives: Has the use of a police Crossley 20/25.

Lives: Rooms in a boarding house in Taunton where he’s lived for years. His sister keeps nagging him to move back into the family house, but he likes his independence.

Appearance: 5’11”, thin, brown hair, light brown eyes, aesetic face, has a limp from being hit by shrapnel in the war.

Personality: Quiet, perceptive, thoroughly decent sort of person. Has come back from the war to his work as a detective with a gammy leg and a deep desire not to have anything exciting happen to him ever again. Likes to read. Used to play football, but his leg means he can’t any more.

Simon took a long time to come together as a character. To begin with he was simply a foil for Walter (who I wrote about at Nell’s blog yesterday). And then he began speaking with his own voice and wouldn’t shut up. For a quiet man, he had an awful lot to say.

At the end of the day, he’s thoroughly ordinary. He does his job because he believes in it. He’s not exclusively a murder detective, Taunton doesn’t get enough of that sort of crime to need one. But he handles what murders they do get; and he is painfully aware that it’s his job to give these people a final chance to speak and the dignity and justice of the truth. He doesn’t have much time or patience with people who have an agenda that runs antithetical to that.

As far as he’s concerned, everyone has secrets; but some secrets are more deadly than others. Some secrets you can leave alone because they’re not hurting anyone. Others need to be exposed to the light so that justice can be done. Some of the conflict between him and Walter in the story come from their disagreement about what secrets are necessary to expose and which can be safely left to lay quiet.

He has a good relationship with his family. His sister and his brother-in-law run the family ironmonger’s shop and look after his dad—his mother died a few years previously—and he sees them regularly. He’s got a nephew he regularly goes to watch playing football now he can’t play any more himself.

He’s in constant pain from the healing wound in his leg. Some days it’s really bad and he thinks there might be shrapnel stuck in it. Walter is always on at him to get Sylvia to look at it…she’s good with wounds, he says…but Simon hasn’t quite got there in his own mind yet. His wartime experience was banal in the sense that nothing happened to him that didn’t happen to millions of other men. He just wants to put it behind him and move on.

He doesn’t have any hopes of finding a bloke to have any sort of permanent relationship with, he just wants to do his job well, spend a bit of time with his family, occasionally go to the pub with his friends and sleep well at night.

Some of the things he finds out when he visits Bradfield in the wake of a peculiar murder mean the sleeping well at night is off the cards for a while! I really like him as a person. He’s just…straightforward. I spend a great deal of time creating complex characters with enormous hang-ups and it was lovely to be able to write someone who was essentially very boring (IN A GOOD WAY, PLEASE BUY MY BOOK! 😊) and normal!

The Quid Pro Quo

The Quid pro QuoVillage nurse Walter Kennett is content with his makeshift found-family in tiny Bradfield. However one midsummer morning a body is found floating in the village duck pond, dead by magical means.

Detective Simon Frost arrives in Bradfield to investigate a inexplicable murder. The evidence seems to point to Lucille Hall-Bridges, who lives with doctor Sylvia Marks and nurse Walter Kennett at Courtfield House. Simon isn’t happy—he doesn’t believe Lucy is a murderer but he’s sure the three of them are hiding something. In the meantime, the draw he feels toward Walter takes him by surprise.

Walter is in a dilemma, concealing Sylvia and Lucy’s relationship and not knowing how much to tell Frost about the paranormal possibilities of the murder. He isn’t interested in going to bed with anyone—he’s got a complicated life and has to know someone really well before he falls between the sheets. He’s taken aback by his own attraction to Detective Frost and angry when Frost appears to twist the spark between them to something transactional in nature.

Will Walter be satisfied to stay on the periphery of Lucy and Sylvia’s love affair, a welcome friend but never quite included? Or is it time for him to strike out and embark on a relationship of his own?

The second in the Bradfield trilogy, set in the Border Magic universe. Stands alone. Transm/m couple.

books2read.com/TheQuidProQuo : Buy from JMS Books : Add on Goodreads : Find on author-website

Excerpt

As Simon was replacing the device on the telephone table a pretty young woman put her head out of a door at toward the end of the hall. “Sylv!” she said, “Do you want tea? I’ve boiled the kettle.” and then when she realised he wasn’t who she thought he was, “Oh, I do beg your pardon! I thought you were Dr Marks!”.

“She’s still in the surgery,” Simon nodded across the hall.

The woman emerged into the hall. “Lucille Hall-Bridges,” she said, extending a hand. “I’m a friend of Sylvia’s. I help with the house.”

Simon took her hand in his. Her grip was sure and warm. “Detective Frost,” he replied. “Nice to meet you, Miss Hall-Bridges. She had a recent bruise running from her jaw to just below her eye, entering the black-and-purple stage.

“I’ve made a pot of tea,” she was saying. “I don’t know whether anyone will want any, but I do like to feel useful and tea is so…normal-making, isn’t it?”

He nodded, slightly bemused at her chatter. “Yes, indeed,” he said. “Very normal.”

She gave a perfunctory tap on the surgery door, opened it and disappeared inside without waiting for a response. “Sylv, Walter, I’ve made tea. Would you and your detective like to come into the drawing room?” Her voice faded, presumably as she joined them in the examination room.

There was a pause. Then, “Oh!” he heard her say. “Oh.” She sounded a little shocked. “What’s happened to her hands?” she asked.

“Scraped on the bottom on the pond I think,” Simon heard Dr Marks say. “She was face-down in the water.”

“Oh.” Miss Hall-Bridges’ voice was small. “Sylvia…there’s…she’s…I can feel…do you think…?” Her voice trailed off and Dr Marks spoke over her, clearly away they might be overhead.

“Let’s not worry about that now, shall we? The policeman is sending her down to Taunton to a postmortem. You go and take the tea-things into the drawing room. We’ll just cover her up.”

books2read.com/TheQuidProQuo : Buy from JMS Books : Add on Goodreads : Find on author-website

About A. L. Lester

AllyWriter of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some hens and the duckettes. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

Facebook Group : Twitter : Newsletter (free story) : Website : Link-tree for everywhere else

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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.”

Guest Post | Drown The Man by Jaymie Wagner

Trick or Treat

Today, Jaymie Wagner is on a visit to talk about Drown The Man. Welcome Jaymie!

“Who Are You?” is a really powerful question.  

For me, as a trans woman, it’s a question that I was asking on one level or another for more than thirty years. Each time I found an answer that I thought was “THE Answer”, I would eventually find another layer, until I finally accepted who I really was inside.  

It’s hard to look at yourself and try to pull away the different identities we wrap ourselves in to find the core person underneath. Sometimes it’s much easier to lean into some of those layers than take them off. We identify with where we came from, or what we do. We buy clothes to project a certain image, listen to certain kinds of music, and the list goes on and on.  

Drown The Man is a story about someone who is asked “Who Are You?”, and their introspection gets a serious jumpstart from a woman who is more than she seems. 

Alyona’s head tilted slightly. “You don’t want to have dinner with me?” 

“I didn’t say that,” Kolya objected, trying to keep his voice from giving away the sudden butterflies in his stomach. “I would love to have dinner with you if that is what you want, but I don’t like being caught in old men’s schemes either. If you just want to go home, I’ll take you. If you want to leave, I’ll tell them you refused. Father keeps telling me to be a gentleman, after all.” 

Alyona’s eyebrow rose. “Are you not gentle? Or are you not a man?” 

Koyla shrugged. “I’m from Jersey.” 

She unfolded her arms and shrugged. “Then I suppose I could eat something.” 

It’s a story about two people falling in love. It’s a story about deciding what matters to you. It’s a story about identity. It’s a story about gender, and about how far you are willing to go once you understand who you are, deep down.  

I had a lot of fun writing it, and I am hoping you’ll enjoy reading it just as much! 

Drown The Man

Kolya Agapov has been trapped in a life he never wanted to live, but an encounter with the beautiful Alyona might just change his life…or end it.  

Drown The Man will be available starting October 27th as an ebook from JMS Books, and if you enjoy it, I’d suggest checking out my queer and supernatural erotica stories in the He Will Obey and The Femdom Coven anthologies. I’m also going to have a story published in Heckin’ Lewd: A Trans and Nonbinary Erotica Anthology this summer from Bold Strokes Books! 

Last but not least, I have a twitter account called Fantasies Fractured where I share microfiction and other fun ideas, and I will have a queer romance story, Holiday Garage, published by JMS Books for the holidays!