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!

Fridays at Ofelia’s | The Four Legs of Fate by D.J. Fronimos and Elke Lakey

Guest-Post

Today, we have fellow JMS authors D.J. Fronimos and Elke Lakey on the blog. They’re talking about their story, The Four Legs of Fate, that will be out tomorrow. Welcome!

Thank you so much, Ofelia, for having me here on your blog today! I’m excited to share our new release with you, ‘The Four Legs of Fate’, a novella about two women and two dogs and the first novella D.J. and I have co-authored together. As some of you may know already, D.J. and I are partners in life as well as in writing. We met in 2015, and until we started working on our first novel (Watching Cars Go By, released in November 2020), I had only ever written in German. Needless to say, it was a huge adjustment. Having lived in the US since 2000, I was fluent in English, of course, but as I’m sure you will agree, the written and the spoken word are two totally different sides of the same coin, and being comfortable in one doesn’t mean you’ll easily master the other. But there we were, D.J. and I, attempting what neither one of us had done before: writing lesbian fiction worth publishing. Yet, with two full-length novels and one novella published, and two more books in the works, I feel I can proudly say D.J. and I have accomplished our mission.

Like all our stories, ‘The Four Legs of Fate’ was written from two separate points of view. And, also like all our books, it encompasses bits of truth about us and our own lives. Devoted dog-mom D.J. came up with the plot, and she ‘is’ Lisa Fitzgerald, who in the story ends up with adorable Terra, who she believes to be a puppy. Lisa originally doesn’t want a dog, but soon is won over by Terra’s cuteness, and she spoils her no end, just as D.J. has always done with her dogs. A horse-lover and owner in real life, I like dogs as well, and have had at least one for most of my life. But, as I’ve learned from owning horses, spoiling your animals doesn’t necessarily serve you well. In comes Erin, whose German shepherd, Max, is her best friend and trusted companion, but is so well-trained he listens to her every word. I don’t own a German shepherd and never have owned a dog as obedient as that, but if Max were real, I’d take him in a heartbeat. So, while the two women connect over Terra and Max, there’s plenty of room for disagreement. D.J. and I learned to compromise when we moved in together, as did our dogs, but then neither our dogs nor our views on how to treat them were as different as Lisa’s and Erin’s are. Our dogs were pretty easy, too. Shadow, my big, bulky black Labrador retriever who has since crossed the rainbow bridge, was the perfect gentleman to D.J.’s Aria, a blue-heeler mix. With any other dog, Aria’s bossy attitude may not have gone over as well, but Shadow not only let her eat his food, he also gave up his favorite spot to her whenever she wanted it. Terra and Max, on the other hand…Well, you’ll just have to read their story.

First meeting

Terra picked up speed and suddenly she was pulling Lisa forward. Oh no! A bicyclist was coming straight at them. Terra darted into the street at the same time that Lisa took a step back. Terra’s leash went taut and suddenly there was an ugly crunching sound as the bike’s handlebars met the pavement. Lisa watched in horror as the bicycle’s rider, a woman, toppled forward and slid across the pavement, stopping in a crumpled heap a few feet ahead. Lisa made as if to bend down to the woman and was stopped by the angry snarl of one of the biggest dogs she’d ever seen. Teeth bared, the German shepherd planted himself between the woman on the ground and Lisa with what she could have sworn was an accusing stare. She must’ve let go of Terra’s leash when the bicycle hit it because suddenly Terra showed up on Lisa’s left. Before Lisa could grab her, Terra flung herself at the German shepherd, yipping and growling and biting at the huge beast that could kill her at any moment.

“Stop! You’re going to get bit!”

Lisa, who’d been about to reach for Terra, pulled her hand back. The woman on the ground had pushed up into a sitting position. “Max! Voraus! And then sitz!” The German shepherd lunged forward and Lisa thought she was about to die as it came straight toward her, but went past an inch or so to her right where it stopped and sat. Terra tried to go after him, but the woman had managed to grab her leash and Terra was yanked back mid-lunge.

“How about giving me a hand up?”

“Of course.” Lisa felt her face grow hot. She had stood there helplessly while the catastrophe unfolded and the woman took charge, despite being the injured party. The huge dog remained still as a statue despite Terra continuing to make threatening noises in his direction. Stupid dog. Nothing but trouble.

Lisa pulled herself together and extended her hand to the woman on the ground.

“I’m so sorry. Are you all right?”

“I’ve definitely been better.” The woman grimaced as she examined her right forearm where the skin was scraped off. “And, apparently, so has my bike. My front wheel is definitely out of alignment.” She had taken Lisa’s hand and gotten up and now pulled her bike upright as well. “Guess, I’ll have to push it home. You know, you really shouldn’t allow your dog to get ahead of you like that.”

Lisa took Terra’s leash back and gave her an angry glare as she tried in vain to assert her authority over the recalcitrant dog. The shepherd remained seated but with a tightly coiled air as he gave Terra a look that clearly showed what he was capable of. And yet Terra still pulled in his direction, stupid dog. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am. I only got the dog yesterday and it seems she hasn’t had any kind of training. Do you live far? Are you able to walk?”

“Of course. I live just one street over. About two blocks down from here. You’ve probably seen the townhouses. There’s a whole row of them. Max and I are in the last one at the corner which gives us a little more backyard. I … Crap!” She had taken a step and now tentatively took another one, followed by a hissing intake of breath. “Looks like I’ve hurt my ankle.”

Max had risen to a standing position and Lisa resisted her inclination to step toward the woman to assist her. “What can I do to help? I’m not far from my own apartment. I can go back for my car and take you home. Your bike and — Max, was it? — should both fit. Don’t worry, I’ll drop Terra off.”

“Yes, please.” The woman flashed her a smile and Lisa was struck by how pretty she was now that she wasn’t frowning. “I would normally hate to put you out like that, but, I’m figuring since my spill was technically your dog’s fault …”

Her tone was more playful than accusatory, and Lisa relaxed. “Honestly, I’m surprised Superdog here didn’t lead you in a graceful leap over the leash, or take the bike in his massive jaws and carry you to safety.” Lisa wrapped Terra’s leash around her wrist several times. “It’s the least I can do.” Never mind that she’d have to take the shortest route home, which meant going past the house with the immaculate lawn Terra had fouled.

“Superdog, eh?” The woman gazed fondly at the shepherd, who at a subtle flick of the woman’s wrist trotted to her side where he stood as if glued to her. “Guess we’ll be waiting right here for you. By the way, I’m Erin.”

Blurb

The four legs of fate

Freshly out of a relationship with a woman who decided she likes guys better, Lisa Fitzgerald parties too much and wakes up the next morning with a puppy. Terra, as she names the dog, turns out to be a designer-breed full-grown Pomsky.

Erin visits her long-time partner Cici, who is teaching a guest semester in Paris. But Erin feels out of place in France and they break up when Cici asks her to move there. Max, a well-trained German shepherd, becomes Erin’s sole companion.

Cute little Terra wreaks havoc not only on Lisa’s home and life but also on Erin’s when she darts into Erin’s path as she is bicycling with Max. Lonely for human contact outside of work, Erin makes light of her spill and cons Lisa into spending time with her and Max.

Soon the four of them meet regularly. Their friendship blossoms when Lisa decides to keep Terra, but the women privately yearn for more while at the same time denying their mutual attraction. Having been burned recently, both Lisa and Erin are wary of crossing the line and promptly flounder when they ditch the dogs for an evening together. But their interest in one another persists and eventually they try a second time, only to fail miserably.

Can fate on four legs bring them back together?

Buy links

JMS :: Amazon

About the Authors

DJ Fronimos

Debra J. (D.J.) Fronimos shares a five-acre ranch in central Texas with her partner and co-author, Elke, two horses, and a spoiled blue heeler mix. When not writing, she works as an ultrasound technologist, and in her spare time sings in a women’s chorus that has won medals in annual regional competitions. She has a passion for traveling, especially road trips, and indulges it as often as possible, but hasn’t found a way to drive to Europe yet. Besides lesbian romance, D.J. has dabbled in lesbian erotica, travel essays, poetry, songwriting, and received an award for a professional medical paper.

Elke Lakey

Elke Lakey, born and raised in the Bavarian town of Augsburg, indulges her lifelong passion for horses by riding with the Tejas Rodeo Rough Riders, an award-winning precision drill team. Growing up her interests were horses, reading and making up stories, and medicine, not necessarily in that order, and she now works in the lab as a medical technologist. Elke has written play reviews and articles for two German fan magazines, and has published fan fiction in both magazines and anthologies. She now vastly enjoys creating lesbian fiction with her partner.

Between them, Elke and D.J. have raised five children (four boys and one girl), and have one grandson.

Where you can find us:

https://www.facebook.com/DJ-Fronimos-and-Elke-Lakey-104203748309889