Fridays at Ofelia’s | The Fog of War: Rob & Matty

Guest-Post

Thank you so much to Ofelia for having me here today to talk about my new release, The Fog of War! The book is the first of a new trilogy in my Border Magic Universe. It’s a sapphic, historical, paranormal, romantic mystery set in rural England in 1920. I’m doing a bit of a blog-tour talking about the characters, settings and the history behind it and Ofelia is one of the stops. You’ll be able to find the other posts listed on my website as they come out this week.

Rob and Matty

Rob Curland and Matthew Webber

Rob and Matty first appear in my novella Inheritance of Shadows. Matty owns Webber’s Farm. The farm is loosely based on one of the farms I remember on the Quantock Hills in Somerset as a child, worked by two elderly brothers and their cousin.

Matty Webber is the owner of Webber’s Farm. He was born in 1886 and he took over the running of the farm when his father died before the war. He’s not a big man, but he’s wiry and strong from all the physical work he does; and like everyone nowadays, he knows how to kill a person with his bare hands and use a gun.

He likes reading and he likes learning. He was educated until he was sixteen and then he left school and helped his father with the farm. He’s kept reading, though, anything he can get his hands on, so picking up the books and continuing his brother Arthur’s research into the esoteric isn’t too much of a stretch for him.

Rob Curland is a farm worker on Matty‘s farm. He was born in 1884 and started working there when he was about thirteen. He’s now about thirty-five. He’s gentle and good with animals. He’s clever, thoughtful and quiet, a steady sort of person who likes to think things through before acting. If I had to use one verb to describe him, it would be stabilize.

He joined the army in 1914 when Britain first went to war with Germany and was promoted to Sergeant in the Signals by the time he was discharged in 1919. He’s largely self-educated, very eclectically. He’s a regular library user.

His wartime experience involved a lot of communications tech and he happens to find ciphers and codes fascinating and breaks them for fun. (This is extremely handy for my story in Inheritance of Shadows, I have no idea how it happened, honest!).

Rob has been in love with Matty for years, but Matty was oblivious. Neither of them said anything to each other before they went off to the war, but afterwards, Rob decided that life was too short and fragile not to take a chance at happiness and made his feelings for Matty clear.

There’s a bit of crossover between Inheritance of Shadows and The Fog of War, because Sylvia swoops in at the end of Inheritance and sews everybody up. They both stand alone, but they complement each other, I think? Sylvia is very helpful to Rob and Matty in their book. And they are very helpful to her in The Fog of War.

The Fog of War

Fog of War coverPublisher: JMS Books LLC
Editor: Lourenza Adlem
Release date: 14 Aug 2014
Word Count: 50,000 words
Genre: Sapphic, found-family, historical, paranormal romantic mystery set in 1920s England.
Content Warning: Mention of domestic violence.

The quiet village of Bradfield should offer Dr Sylvia Marks the refuge she seeks when she returns home from her time in a field hospital in France in 1918. However, she is still haunted by the disappearance of her ambulance-driver lover two years previously ,and settling down as a village doctor is more difficult than she realised it would be after the excitement of front-line medicine. Then curious events at a local farm, mysterious lights and a hallucinating patient’s strange illness make her revisit her assessment of Anna’s death on the battlefield.

Lucille Hall-Bridges is at a loose end now her nursing work is finished. She felt useful as a nurse and now she really doesn’t know what to do with her life. She hopes going to stay with her friend Sylvia for a while will help her find a way forward. And if that involves staying at Bradfield with Sylvia…then that’s fine with her.

Will the arrival of Lucy at Bradfield be the catalyst that allows both women to lay their wartime stresses to rest? Can Sylvia move on from her love affair with Anna and find happiness with Lucy, or is she still too entwined in the unresolved endings of the past?

The first in the Bradfield trilogy, set in the Border Magic universe.

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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 badly behaved dachshund, 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.

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Excerpt

It was a beautiful late August day when Sylvia motored down to Taunton to collect Lucy from the railway station. The sun shone through the trees as she followed the lane down the hill from the village and the sky above was a beautiful summer blue. She had left the all-weather hood of the Austin down and wore a scarf and gloves against the wind, topping her trouser outfit off with her new hat, which she pinned firmly to the neat coil of her long hair.

Walter had watched her fussing with her appearance in the hall mirror, stuffing his pipe. “Are you sweet on her?” he asked, somewhat acerbically.

It’ll be cold with the hood down,” she said, crushingly.

Yes, yes, so it will be.” He turned his attention back to his tobacco, face straight. “Be careful on the bends.”

I will,” she said. “She’s a beast to drive, smooth on the straights and handles well on the corners, but I’ve no desire to end up in the ditch.”

She’d bought the big Austin coupe late last winter when she’d got fed up riding her motorcycle out to some of the more remote houses she was called to in the dreadful weather. It was huge, far bigger than she needed really, although the back seat was useful to transport a patient if she had to. She still preferred her ‘cycle, but it wasn’t exactly suitable as a doctor’s vehicle. Not very staid at all. The Austin wasn’t very staid either, in that it was huge and expensive; but one of the benefits of a private income was that she could afford it; and so why not be comfortable?

She pondered all this and more on the drive down to Taunton, mind floating along with no real purpose. She loved to drive and for some reason it calmed her thoughts and allowed them to drift.

It would be lovely to see Lucy again. As Walt had said, she was a sweet little thing. Although Sylvia didn’t want to revisit the grim minutiae of some of the worst times at Royaumont, it would be lovely to reminisce about some of their happier moments of camaraderie. It had been four years of extreme stress and grim terror lightened with moments of laughter and fun. Working with a team of competent women all pulling together for one purpose had been extraordinary. She’d never experienced anything like it before and she doubted she would again. She was delighted some of the staff had set up a regular newsletter so they could all stay connected.

And so what if Lucy was sweet on her. Sylvia wasn’t interested in that kind of complication anymore. She didn’t want to cause gossip in the village for a start…although she supposed people wouldn’t make any assumptions about two women living together these days after so many men hadn’t come home from France. But anyway, even if it wouldn’t cause gossip, she didn’t think about Lucy like that. And she doubted Lucy thought about Sylvia like that, despite Walter’s teasing. He was stirring the pot a little to see what bubbled up, that was all.

Those musings took her to the station.

The train was on time and was just pulling in as she got out of the car. She walked out onto the platform as the smoke was clearing and through the clouds, she made out Lucy.

She was beside the guard’s van, directing the guard and porters to what seemed like an unnecessarily large pile of luggage. Despite the clement August weather, she was wearing an extremely smart velvet coat with a fur collar over a beautiful travelling suit that hung to mid calf, topped with an extraordinary confection of a hat.

She looked competent and sophisticated and exceptionally beautiful. Not at all the slightly scapegrace young person of 1916 who had persuaded the hospital powers-that-be she was a suitable candidate for France, although she’d been only twenty-one and inexperienced as a nurse.

Well. Gosh.

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The Fog of War

Wrap-Up Wednesday | July

It’s time for the monthly Wrap-Up Wednesday post, and I have to admit the list of read books is embarrassingly short. I’ve had a lot to do, and when I’ve had some time on my hands, I’ve spent them on the sofa watching Netflix with my darling husband.  

So here is what I’ve read this month: 

Okay, Then

Okay, Then by Addison Albright – a story about Henry and Sam from Til Death Do Us Part (which I haven’t read) got together. This is just a short little thing – hot flashes always are – where we get to know Sam and Henry who are working together. They’re going on a smoothy-accompanied date. 

42934232._sy475_Prequel to ’Til Death Do Us Part

Okay, then…that’s what Sam said after Henry convinced him he was interested in dating, not merely a fling while together on a research trip to the Solomon Islands. And so they embark on their first date, but the conditions are not ideal.

Henry is desperate to convince his crush of his sincerity but second guesses his every move. He’s thrilled to discover Sam is just as anxious to impress him. Can these two work through their first-date jitters or are they destined to drift apart?

https://books2read.com/OkayThen

Iron & Velvet

Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator 1) by Alexis Hall – This is F/F, and I normally don’t include the F/Fs I read in my wrap-up, just like I don’t include the M/F stories I read. Today I do since I’m so low on books LOL. I love the cover – LOVE! Did I love the story? It felt like I’ve read it before. I wasn’t a big fan of Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, and it was as if I was reading it again. Maybe I should’ve read some reviews before starting it, but I was blinded by the cover LOL. 

And I only now realised, there’s a new cover 🙄

 

I like my women like I like my whiskey: more than is good for me.

Name’s Kane, Kate Kane. I’m a paranormal private investigator, which is like a normal private investigator except—and stop me if you’re having trouble following this—more paranormal. This business comes with a few basic rules: don’t start drinking before noon, don’t get your partner killed, don’t sleep with the woman who killed him.

Last year I broke all of them.

The only rule I didn’t break was the one that said don’t work for vampires. But then a dead werewolf showed up outside the Soho shag palace of Julian Saint-Germain—a bloodsucking flibbertigibbet who’s spent the last eight centuries presiding over an ever-growing empire of booze, sex and hemoglobin.

I shouldn’t have taken the job. The last thing I needed was to get caught in a supernatural smackdown between a werewolf pack and a vampire prince. Even if the vampire prince was dangerously my type. But what can I say? I was broke, I’m a sucker for a pretty face and I gave up on making good decisions a long time ago.

This book is approximately 77,500 words

https://books2read.com/VelvetIron

Brand New Patch of Sky

Brand New Patch of Sky By Yolande Kleinn – a short story about a pilot and his captain looking for a ship. A good distraction if you have a cup of coffee and a slice of time on your hands. 

51op8xk-36lStarship pilot Mitch Kato doesn’t make a habit of pining for the impossible. He’s always kept tight hold on the inconvenient feelings he harbors for his captain, Solomon Finn. But when a close scrape grounds Sol’s ship and threatens to scatter the crew, Mitch finds himself making an unexpected promise. As he and Sol consider a different trajectory, Mitch wonders if their longstanding friendship might be the beginning of something more.

https://books2read.com/ABrandNewPatchOfSky

Taking Flight

Taking Flight (Contemporary Celtic Myths) by A.L. Lester – A short contemporary story based on the tale of Brânwen in the Mabinogion, which I do not know, but you don’t need to know it to enjoy the story. Gwyn is trans, and it causes a bit of a problem for him when his bigoted co-worker finds out. I think the original tale is about a woman being trapped, and Gwyn is too since he doesn’t have any means to leave the Kings of Ireland Hotel where he is. Sweet story! 

Cover Taking FlightGwyn’s an idiot. Mal made it clear from the start he’d like to get Gwyn in his bed at the Kings of Ireland Hotel 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 ‘work-shadowing’ Chef in the deeply unhappy kitchen. He doesn’t want to go home and make a fuss that might cause the sale of the hotel to his family company to 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 one of the line-cooks with whom he’s formed a tentative friendship, he leaves.

During the two-day journey home from the middle of Ireland to Wales, Gwyn and Darren 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 14,000 word short story in the Contemporary Celtic Myths collection.

https://books2read.com/TakingFlightALLester

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.

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