Meet the Contributors #3: Ellie Thomas

And now a fun little Q&A from Ellie, who plots both books and how to get more bookcases! Ellie writes mostly historical m/m romance, with occasional forays into contemporary, and you can find her, and her books (and presumably her bookcases) at her website. Take it away, Ellie…

***

How many bookshelves are in your house?

Currently, five, although I’m mentally calculating how to squeeze in a sixth or even a seventh…

How do you research for your book?

See Question 1! Like all authors, I find the internet invaluable for fact-checking, and there are some sites that I regularly haunt for research, but there’s nothing as satisfying as gleaning knowledge from a book. That’s what I convince myself while I’m plotting to buy bookshelf no. 6.

Which of your books were the most enjoyable?

Twelve Letters, a Regency romp, released in July, was a real joy to write as the words and ideas simply flowed. I wish writing was always like that! When the submission call was announced to celebrate JMS Books’ Twelfth Anniversary in July, I was initially intrigued by the idea of writing a story based on the number 12. But then, as I had more than one WIP already lined up, I decided to be sensible and give it a miss. Naturally, I woke up the next morning with a fully formed story idea in my head.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

It’s chicken and egg for me. With Twelve Letters, I could clearly picture Jolyon Everett, my MC, standing on the steps outside his London lodgings in the early morning, clutching two letters and rushing off to prevent his best friend Ben Harding from engaging in an ill-advised duel. So the characters informed the plot, and the plot dictated the characters!

What is the significance of the title?

Twelve Letters is pretty self-explanatory, especially in the context of the submission call theme. But the follow-up story, Queer Relations, seemed so obvious for a historical story, that I was genuinely surprised that there weren’t already a whole heap of books with that title! Like Twelve Letters, the story is an ensemble piece about a small group of gay men in Regency London. So the title not only refers to their romantic relationships but also the main storyline revolves around my main character, spoiled brat Percy Havilland and his reaction to a massive scandal that involves his (mainly appalling) family.

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

Since these characters have taken roost in my head (I blame Percy!) Book 3 in the series, Coming of Age, will be out in November and continues along similar themes of family issues and developing relationships for my crew. I’m already starting on the fourth (and possibly final) story, where there might be a subplot involving a Napoleonic spy…

Rebecca Cohen: Saving Crofton Hall epilogue

For this week’s fictional offering, how about a cute little flash-fic epilogue to Rebecca Cohen’s feelgood romance Saving Crofton Hall, which features an earl trying to save his ancestral home after his mother gets into massive gambling debt. You can find the original, and details of all Rebecca’s other books including her latest release, on her website here. In the meantime, it’s over to Ben and Ash… 😉

***

From the window of his office, Ben watched Mandy, from the events team, show a prospective couple one of the areas of the grounds that had become a popular backdrop for wedding photographs. A knock quickly followed by the soft snick of the door handle made him turn to see Ashley enter.

“And to what do I owe the pleasure? I thought you had a meeting with a new wine merchant.”

“That’s tomorrow. I told you this morning before we got up.”

Ben crossed the room and stole a kiss. “How am I supposed to concentrate on what I’m being told when I’ve a naked Ashley Niven by my side?”

“Your excuses are getting worse, Ben. Like the time you said you didn’t remember you had to meet the mayor because I’d given you a blow job and sucked your brains out through your cock.”

“I maintain that was a perfectly valid excuse.”

“You would.” Ashley snorted.  “Anyway, I’m not here to distract you with memories of bedroom antics.”

“That was a desk antic,” interrupted Ben with a waggle of his eyebrows.

“Ben!”

“I would apologise, but it would be empty and meaningless.”

Ashley ignored him. “Did you see Sir Gruesolot was back his rightful place?”

“Yes, marvellous, isn’t it? I spoke to the restorer this morning when he dropped him off. I daresay that suit of armour hasn’t looked that good since it was made.”

“I was amazed he was able to get the dent out of the visor.”

“I don’t know who your father found him with, and I don’t want to,” Ben added quickly, the less he knew about the shady dealings of Ashley’s father the better. “But they made a right mess of Sir Gruesolot.”

“I don’t know who had him, but Dad said something about him being using for batting practice.”

Ben tutted. “Some people have no sense of history.”

“Well, no one can accuse you of that.”

Ben pulled Ashley close. “Fancy sneaking away to make some more special memories for our own personal history?”

“I’m sure there must be one or two rooms we’ve not … explored in our unique manner.” Ben grinned and headed for the door leading a willing Ashley. He was pretty sure the fourth guest room was in desperate need of exploration.

Jeff Baker: Five TV Shows that could have gone M/M

UNITED STATES – JULY 09: THE ODD COUPLE – “Generic” 1970-1975 Tony Randall, Jack Klugman (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

An earlier article on this site speculated about movies that could have gone M/M. So here’s my speculation about five TV series which could have gone M/M (or come close!) I’ve stuck with shows I saw first-run as well as shows that aren’t in production anymore.

The Odd Couple (1970)

Tony Randall and Jack Klugman used to play up the notion that Felix and Oscar were Gay during rehearsals to freak out the network censors and so they would be able to get away with other stuff in the scripts. Tony Randall claimed there was an episode they were going to do where Oscar is writing a story on a closeted athlete and Felix reads some of it and misunderstands (imagine that! A misunderstanding on a sitcom!) and thinks Oscar is Gay. (“Oscar Gay? He can’t be gay! I’m the one they should think is gay!” was supposedly one of Felix’s lines in a script Tony Randall called one of the funniest he had ever read.)

Felix and Oscar as a Gay couple? No, they really would have driven each other crazy…

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)

No real speculation here except that the pilot script broadly hinted that Murray might be Gay. Watch the first episode; see how Gavin MacLeod plays Murray with maybe a hint or two that he’s not all that straight. In later scripts, that would be replaced with his unrequited crush on Mary Richards, and who can blame him?

Murray and Ted? Yuuuuuuuk!

Batman (1966)

Holy Heterosexuality! I’ve mentioned before that Burt Ward in that skimpy Robin outfit made me sit up and take notice when I was about six years old! I wouldn’t be the first to speculate about the possibilities of a not-that-platonic relationship between Batman and Robin (remember, Ward was 25 when he did the show!) But the 60s Batman was too square to act on any such desire if he had desires for anything but crime fighting. Others have noted how the various incarnations of B&R feature a lot of bondage with our heroes squirming and sweating. And they have gone into how single-mindedly Batman obsesses with his mission above all else.

Happy Days (1974)

Yeah, yeah, guy in a leather jacket who’s reeeeealllly close to his best friend! Ayyyyyyy! Seriously, while Richie and Fonzie had a serious bromance going there was no hint of anything other than heterosexuality on this nostalgia piece about life in an idealized 1950s America. While homosexuality was one issue the series never addressed, the show had one big Gay template LGBT viewers can identify with; Fonzie, the Cunninghams and their friends were what we would today call “Chosen Family.” And they had a serious emotional bond. Yeah, love was all around on that show too. Anyway, I can’t be the only guy who noticed how cute Anson Williams was.

Dawson’s Creek (1998)

Yeah, this teen drama actually did have a Gay character (Jack McPhee, played by Kerr Smith) but the show toyed with the fans hinting at something more than friendship between Dawson and best buddy Pacey. Maybe they just needed a push?

And one that almost did:

That 70s Show (1998)

The first-season episode “Eric’s Buddy” introduced us to Buddy Morgan, a not spoiled rich kid who hits on (and kisses) Eric Foreman. Series creators said at the time that Buddy was intended to be a possible “love interest” for Eric, but conservative reaction torpedoed that idea, as did Gay viewer’s reaction to Eric’s panic at being kissed by a guy. (Maybe he panicked at the sudden realization that he wasn’t as straight as he thought?) Buddy Morgan was never seen again, but the actor, one Joseph Gordon-Levitt has done all right for himself. He has said that he was proud of having been involved in the first M/M kiss on a scripted show on network television. 

So, those are my picks! How about yours?

I’d love to know!

Happy viewing!

                                                               —-jeff

Fiona Glass: Slippery Slope

This is a cute little story I wrote a few years ago, which I’d actually completely forgotten about until I found it while going through some old files! If you like this, you might like some of my other m/m romance, which often features contemporary relationships interwoven with history and the paranormal. You can find all my books on my website. And mind the slugs…

***

Pic credit: uk-toluna.com

The washing machine broke down just as Eric switched on for his first weekly load. There was a blue fizz and a sharp smell of burning and the door seal failed. He tried, desperately, to hold back the Niagara Falls of water, suds, socks and his only spare pair of jeans with his bare hands, but the force of gravity prevailed. Water sloshed round his feet, then spread in an unstoppable soapy sea across the kitchen floor.

            It was the last shitty straw in the shittiest week of his life. The break-up, and Jed being so weird. Packing up and moving out. Finding his own place at a time when property was in short supply and rents were sky-high. Taking the first place he saw, even though it was across town in an area he barely knew. New and snotty neighbours who’d moaned at him about the removals van. No pets. Above all, no–.

            His gaze slipped instinctively to the kitchen window, seeking the solace of his beloved garden to lose himself in. Of course, it wasn’t there. Just a stark paved yard, fences, dustbins, a lop-sided shed and a washing line. Which he’d planned on using to dry this lot. But couldn’t, because he had to wash them first. ‛Sod it,’ he muttered, and tried to remember where he’d stowed the mop.

            He was heading back in from the shed when the doorbell rang. His heart skipped a beat. Jed? Surely not. His ex had been abundantly clear about never wanting to see him again. Probably just the postman with another sheaf of bills. Or the snotty neighbours again, moaning about something else. He wrenched open the door, wishing he looked less of a state. Hair all anyhow, his pony-tail coming loose. Wet rings around the bottom of his jeans. But all thoughts of his appearance vanished when he saw who was standing on the step. No postie, no snotty neighbour, just a stunning dark-haired hunk. He must be asleep and dreaming after all. Although none of his dreams lately had been as pleasant as this. ‛Er, hi.’

            The stranger stared back, then grinned. ‛I take it now’s not a good time.’

            ‛Sorry. Washing machine’s fritzed and I’m no good with tech. I don’t suppose you could–’ Recommend someone to repair it, he’d been going to say, but the stranger had already pushed past.

            ‛No problem. This way?’

            ‛Er, yeah. In the kitchen. Just follow the flood.’

            But the stranger had already disappeared, and he could hear faint sounds of grunting and tinkering coming from the other room. He dashed back in to find a scene from one of Dante’s lower circles of hell. The stranger, arse uppermost, poking around in the machine. Puddles and wet socks all over the floor. And something else. He’d left the back door open and a slug had got in, aquaplaning on the wet linoleum. He shuddered. The sight triggered vague memories of some childhood trauma. He raised the mop.

            ‛Oh, poor thing. Don’t hurt it. Get a glass.’ The stranger grabbed one of the good glasses from the draining rack and upended it on the floor, then scooped up the slug and carried it carefully outdoors.

            Eric would probably have whacked it with the mop, but he supposed this way left less of a mess to deal with afterwards. ‛Thanks.’

            ‛No problem. It’s why I’m here, really.’

            ‛Huh?’ Was his visitor going to shape-shift into a giant slug? No, that was just too many late-night movies because he hadn’t been sleeping well.

            The stranger fished around in jeans that were tight enough to do odd things to Eric’s breathing rate. Then he held out a crumpled piece of paper and a pen. ‛I’m doing a sponsored swim next week. In aid of garden invertebrates. Wondered if you fancied sponsoring me?’

            Eric could think of plenty of other things he’d rather do to the guy. ‛What, slugs, you mean?’

            He must have betrayed the horror he felt, because the grin flashed again. ‛Well, yeah, but not just slugs. Snails, lizards, slow worms, newts. They’re fascinating creatures, you know. Anyway, I’ve found what’s wrong with your washer. It was just the fuse in the plug. I can fit a new plug for you if you want.’

            ‛Cheers, that would be great.’ Eric gazed round what was left of his kitchen. The slug had left a silvery, oozing trail and there was a greasy hand print on one wall. ‛Er, what do I owe you?’

            The stranger waved a hand. ‛Nothing, glad to help. Although you could, you know, sponsor me.’ The grin turned pleading, to go with the puppy eyes.

            ‛Sounds fair.’ Slugs, he thought. I must have got it bad. He scribbled his name on the list and offered five pounds, which made the new plug seem dear. But needs must, and his jeans wouldn’t wash themselves.

            ‛Cheers,’ said the stranger. ‛Gotta dash but I’ll bring that plug round this evening if you’re in?’

            ‛Sure. Yeah. Thanks.’ Sooner would have been better but at least it gave him a few hours to clear up the mess.

            ‛See you later then. Thanks for the sponsorship. The slugs will be grateful. Oh—I’m Charlie, by the way. From number four, across the road.’

            ‛Nice to meet you.’ But he was talking to an empty room; Charlie had already taken off, leaving only muddy footprints, bits of plug and—oh God, was that the screwed-up form of his posing pouch? He bent and started picking bits of laundry up, then stopped. This could wait. Grabbing a coffee and a cigarette, he headed outside, perched on an upturned packing crate and took a long deep breath. It wasn’t his beautiful garden, with the weeping willow and the lawn sweeping down to the pond. But he could put pots on the paving slabs. Bamboo, perhaps, and scarlet geraniums. At least some greenery would keep the slugs out here where they belonged.

            Although… Memories surfaced, of broad shoulders and capable hands, and a grin that would melt the sun. His own lips twitched in sympathy. If the slugs did get into the house again, he could always call Charlie for help…

Meet the Contributors #2: Addison Albright

This week it’s the turn of Addison Albright, with some really fun answers to our tricksy questions (I am so there on the plot bunny!). Addison had this lovely story featured in the zine a few weeks ago. Here’s what makes her tick in real life.

***

When did you start writing?

Way back in 2008 with my earliest works published by the now-defunct Torquere Press. Then I had a book published at the (also) now-defunct Loose ID in 2009. I took a break after that until 2016 when I started writing again with JMS Books, where I’ve published both new stories and rewrites of those earlier books.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

You’d think this would be an easy question to answer, but it gets kind of complicated. Often both evolve together as the idea germinates to such a degree it’s hard to remember which came first for a particular story. That said, I think the spark of the plot idea probably comes first for most of mine, but since I’m a pantser turned plantser, the characters end up driving at least the details of much of the story. For a spinoff like To Love and To Cherish, one MC existed as a side character in a previous story long before I thought up a fresh story for him.

Which of your books were the most enjoyable?

I’m interpreting this as enjoyable to write as opposed to my favorite among my own books (although this is in the running for that, too). I’m going to go with To Love and To Cherish because at the time I was more full-on “pantser” (rather than “plantser” which is how I would label myself these days), and I had no idea what I was going to do to poor Nash when I started writing what I thought was going to simply be a marriage of convenience story. I hadn’t come up with a plan for the “drama” yet when it hit me…how much fun would it be, in a story where two men jaded by love have decided on a marriage of convenience, to toss in a case of amnesia, rebooting the memory of one of them back to before the incident that had soured him on the idea of love, so of course he assumes his current engagement must be a love match, right? What else would it be? So yeah, I had so much fun coming up with the rest of that book!

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

I wish I could say I was overwhelmed with ideas, but they don’t come that easy to me. I’m in thinking mode batting around possibilities in my head now, but I keep getting sidetracked by thinking up “what if” scenarios for characters in some of my favorite books. But, what I’m trying to work out is a possible spinoff for a couple side characters in my Plans Trilogy. Same world, different MCs. (Heh, so in this case, the answer to which came first, the plot or the characters would definitely be the characters).

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading The Cooking Mage and the Parchment Prankster, Part 1, a wonderfully creative and humorous fantasy by Eric Alan Westfall, who’s both an amazing author and a wonderful person I’ve been fortunate enough to have met several times. I’m also listening to 2001: A Space Odyssey in audiobook format.

How many bookshelves are in your house?

Two. Years back I had…I forget if it was six or seven of them, all jam packed full, plus an additional two packed full of children’s books. When it came time to downsize, I faced some difficult choices, but in the end kept a variety of favorites I would want to reread, and books I swear I plan to read…someday. I’ve since weeded out a few more and occasionally add to it. These days, my first reads tend to be in ebook format, but if something becomes a solid favorite, I’ll buy the physical book, too.

What superpower would you have and why?

Teleportation. Think of how this would open the world to wanna-be travelers who otherwise couldn’t afford to be globe trotters. Spend a day abroad without travel or lodging costs! Plus, seems like a convenient way to get out of a tight spot. Here in the real world, though, I can see potential drawbacks in the form of governments wanting to eliminate me and the spy risk I represent (hmm…plot bunny?) and/or being accused of insider trading if I do better than one might expect in the stock market (gotta admit, teleporting into boardroom closets to do that might be tempting) and/or becoming a suspect in unsolved crimes. Clearly great care would have to be taken to keep my superpower secret, which sadly, would have an undesirable effect on its recreational benefits. On second though, maybe I should go with something like being able to read minds (but only if I can turn it off and on at will and direct it with precision).

Where can readers purchase your books?

Readers can purchase my books at JMS Books (https://www.jms-books.com/addison-albright-c-224_227/) and at distributors everywhere (https://books2read.com/rl/AddisonAlbright)! Note, all of my stories (though not necessarily all of the books…some of the collections are excluded) are in Kindle Unlimited. They’re not in via KDP so they’re not tied to that pesky exclusivity deal and are also available at all the usual retailers.

Jackie Keswick: Make It Perfect

This week’s offering is a heart-warming, or heart-breaking (depending on your viewpoint) little drabble by Jackie Keswick which brought a lump to my throat when I read it. Jackie writes a heady mix of suspense, action adventure, fantasy and history, so if you liked this, you’re sure to find more books and stories to love on her website. And in the meantime, here are Renish and Frank, making it perfect.

***

Pic credit: Jason Blackeye on Unsplash.com

The sky was green, but not the comforting, soft, yellowish-green of an approaching sunset. The cloud rising from the crash site was the acid green of poisonous smoke, and it grew and drifted ever closer. In a few hours it would reach the storm border, where the prevailing winds would collect it and spread it far and wide.

The end would come soon after that.

Renish had stared at the billowing cloud for most of the day, finding the approaching death oddly hypnotic. Now, though, he turned his back on the spectacle and faced the opposite way.

Earlier that morning, when it became apparent that nothing could be done to prevent the disaster, he’d sent a message. And just as he’d known it would, Frank’s big pickup truck appeared in the distance.

Renish walked out to meet him, eyes fixed on the compact, grizzled man emerging from the cab. Solid, dependable, and with a gentle sense of humour that warmed rather than hurt, Frank had always been “it” for Renish.

Frank’s gaze ran over Renish’s body, checking for damage. Then his focus widened to take in the devastation on the plain and the approaching death before it returned to Renish. “So that whole being hurt thing was a ruse to get me to come out here?” he asked in a deep rumble that sent electric shivers up Renish’s spine.

Renish met his eyes. “Well, sure. If the world is going to end, or whatever is going to happen once that cloud hits the storm border, I wanted to be with you.”

“You could have been with me all those years, you know?” Frank pointed out. “You knew how I felt.”

“You’re right. And yes, I’ve always known, but… I’ve been a coward.”

“Renish Farleigh, a coward is the last thing you’ve ever been.” Frank waved at the green cloud, which no doubt had climbed even higher while they spoke. “You’ve had the courage to put MY career before our happiness. If it had been my choice—” His voice broke. Then he took two small steps forward and did what neither one of them had dared before. He put his arms around Renish. Right there on the devastated plain, not caring that the rescue crews could see them.

And Renish hugged back, losing himself in the scents of man, cologne, and dust, and taking comfort from the solid strength surrounding him. This was so much better than anything he’d imagined over the years.

“I didn’t want to die regretting I’d never held you,” he whispered. “Or that I’d never told you I loved you. Maybe that’s selfish of—”

“No.” Frank laid his head on Renish’s shoulder and kept their fingers twined. “I’ve always known how you felt, too. And I’m glad you called me. This,” he tightened his fingers around Renish’s, “is right. Now make it perfect and kiss me.”

Meet the Contributors #1: Jeff Baker

This is the start of a new feature on the zine, where each member of the team will be answering a few fun questions about themselves, their writing and their books. First up it’s Jeff Baker, who had a lovely story featured just last week. So if you read that, enjoyed it and were wondering who the hell was behind it, read on…!

***

What inspired you to start writing?

Reading a whole bunch of comic books when I was a kid and watching TV shows like Night Gallery and Bewitched and realizing I wanted to do something creative.

When did you start writing?

If you mean taking it seriously, maybe in College when I wrote for the school paper and planned on becoming a journalist. (Didn’t happen.) But I’d been writing parody comics in my notebooks for years before that. (In class, one reason I was never an honor student.)

What comes first, the plot or characters?

With me they both come at the same time.

Describe a typical writing day.

I waste a lot of time on Facebook. When I feel guilty enough I start writing.

How do you research for your book?

I have a ton or research books, some of them pretty esoteric. And I take a lot of notes.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

Actually I’ve mainly written short-stories. I do have a favorite couple of series; the ones set in the Mall Food Court with magic, and the ones about 1970s teenage Gay runaway Bryce Going. (Not his real name! 🙂 )

Where do you get your inspiration?

I’ll quote O. Henry: “Everywhere. There are stories in everything.”

Where can readers purchase your books?

My bibliography on my blog www.authorjeffbaker.com has links.

What are you reading now?

LOL! Too much! Bumming through Annie Barwell’s “Double Exposure” as well as one of the original Hardy Boys books and “The Norths Meet Murder,” the first Mr. and Mrs. North mystery.

Favourite book when you were a kid.

For real, it was “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens.

How many bookshelves are in your house?

Not enough.

What is your favourite dinosaur?

Whichever one is in my gas tank right now…

Jeff Baker: Toward The Marogas Hills

This week’s offering is a short story by fantasy author Jeff Baker. Toward the Marogas Hills is one of a number of stories he’s written set on an unnamed World of Three Moons, populated by descendants of Middle Eastern mystics who traveled there by magical means around our Middle Ages and Earth space travelers from our near future. It’s an intriguing mix, as I’m sure you’ll agree! And if you want to see more from Jeff, head for his website here.

Pic credit: Ebenezer42 on Pixabay.com

“Keep running!” Zayas said, gasping.

“Can’t!” Zinack managed between breaths. “Gotta slow down, can’t keep this up.”

“Hang on,” Zayas said, slowing and listening in the warm night air. “I don’t hear anybody behind us.”

“They usually don’t check the barracks until dawn,” Zinack said. He rubbed his bicep where it was sore. “How far have we gone, anyway?”

“Probably not far enough,” Zayas said, crouching down and breathing hard.

Zinack had been sold to Master Torras’ farm three years earlier. Zayas had noticed Zinack the first day; tall, tan, muscular, rounded shoulders, dark hair down to his shoulders. Zayas was shorter, blonde hair he kept close cut and muscles toned from a lifetime of forced labor.

Both young men wore the bands of servitude tattooed around their right biceps, identifying them as property. Within two weeks the young men were laying together while holding each other in the straw of the slave quarters at night. Zinack had been sold into servitude eight years earlier. Zayas had been born on Master Torras’ farm and never known any family.

Zinack had been sold by his family.

The two of them were both barely twenty-six summers apiece in age.

They dreamed of freedom. Of being free together. The dreams filled their days as they labored on the farm, hauling wood for the kitchen, clearing the quick-growing bramble bush and removing rocks from the fields of their Master’s expansive farmlands.

The bands of servitude kept them there. If they disobeyed, defied their Master or tried to run the ensorcellment in the bands would convulse them in agony. There was no way out until Zinack found one.

The salve had smelled very bad and the jar it came in had looked very old, the writing engraved on the front in characters which were written at odd angles. They had rubbed it on the bands on their biceps and within an hour, their bands of servitude had vanished from their arms, and with it, any way their Master had of summoning them if they ran.

They had crept out of the barracks and off the property as soon as they could. It felt like they had been running for hours before they took this long break, catching their breath on the flat plain a ways away from the property where they had been property.

Zinack reached over and felt Zayas’ sweaty tunic, then his shoulder. Zayas rubbed the arm and moved close, kissing Zinack and rubbing his body with his hands. They stood there like that for a few moments in the quiet night. Zayas sniffed the air, he could still smell the salve.

“Zinack,” Zayas said when they pulled apart. “Where did you get that stuff? The stuff that worked on our tattoos?”

“The Master had me go to the BuanHaeii Farm for something a few days ago. There was a water cave on the way, and an old monk living by it. He offered me the salve, and our freedom…” He looked down at the ground. “But I’ll pay a price. Later.”

“Price?” Zayas said. “What do you mean?”

“Dal Lords.” Zinack said flatly. “The monk said the salve came from the Dal Lords.”

“You traded one slavery for another!” Zayas said.

“Not yet,” Zinack said. “And we have to worry about getting away from the Master’s tracking dogs. The caves should do it.”

“Look!” Zinack said, pointing at the horizon.  There was an oblong golden moon rising in the dark sky. The other two moons were in their new phase. The young slaves had picked as dark a night as they could for their escape.

“It’s beautiful,” Zayas breathed.

“We could use a little more light,” Zinack said. “There!”

He pointed to one side of the moonrise. There was a dark bulk in the golden glow.

“The Marogas Hills,” Zinack said. “Caves, wind-holes. Too dangerous for anybody who doesn’t know where they’re going.”

“And you do?” Zayas asked.

He nodded in the near dark. “Part of what I paid for. Directions through the hills. Supposedly to a lost city, but really just the caves.”

Zinack shifted on his feet. The ancient Hoochoo Plain was firm and they would not leave footprints.

“Are you ready?” Zayas asked.

Zinack grinned and nodded.            

The two men ran towards the hills, briefly holding hands.

Chris Quinton: Equus Sapiens

For a complete change, here’s a clever little poem from Chris Quinton. It may be short, but it packs quite a punch! Chris also drew the amazing artwork that accompanies the poem. I hope you like both. If you do, you might want to check out Chris’s books, in a range of genres including fantasy and mystery, which you can find more details about on her Facebook author page.

***

“Thou hast the mind of a malicious child,”

a sorcerer once said to me.

I did not kill him out of malice,

but of curiosity.

To learn how he tasted.

Jay Mountney: Travelling Together

A really sweet little ‘what if’ story featuring a wedding, a castle, maps, and an unexpected meeting in a bookshop! Jay Mountney writes fantasy m/m romance and you can find all her books and more on her website.

Ken had only come to Waterstones to get a map. The trip up to Scotland would take him off the beaten track and he had no desire to get lost before he found the castle where his cousin’s wedding was to be held. He had neither the money nor the inclination to install any kind of GPS in his car and those print-outs from the AA usually led via diversions into delays.

So he headed for the map section but couldn’t resist a glance at the sci-fi shelves on his way past. Maybe there would be time to read and relax over the weekend.

A mass of red curls over a slim but muscled body was evidently studying the section in depth. Luscious. And with a shared taste in reading matter.

Ken sighed and continued to ‘Maps’. No time for dalliance if he was to set out today. But how he wished… Then again, he consoled himself, the other man might be a raging homophobe or perhaps just choosing a book for a sci-fi loving sister.

Comparing maps of the glens and realising he hadn’t brought his reading glasses, Ken sighed again, then noticed a slender hand with a dusting of freckles picking up the map he’d just discarded. A polite voice murmured,

“I don’t suppose you’d know which of these would be the best to get me somewhere near Gairloch?”

Ken looked up slowly. Red curls framed enquiring green eyes. The hand that wasn’t holding the map was clutching a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal.

“I don’t,” he told the green eyes, quietly drowning in them as he spoke, “but I’m going there myself. Perhaps we can figure it out together?” He gestured with the map he’d almost decided to buy and indicated the coffee bar across the shopping precinct. It was too much to hope they were both going to the wedding, but at least the detour to Waterstones seemed to have led to a meeting of minds.

It turned out they were indeed both going to the wedding. Alasdair was a distant relative of the bride and despite his Scottish name had never ventured across the border. They agreed to travel together and Ken walked out of the shop with his map purchased but no more longing glances at the fiction books. He rather thought his time in the Highlands would be adequately filled.