4 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Holiday Romance, JMS Books LLC, Paranormal, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Desmond and Garrick (Book One) by Hayden Thorne

Title: Desmond and Garrick (Book One)

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 226 Pages

At a Glance: Another fantastic historical YA fantasy from Hayden Thorne.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: It’s 1815. Garrick Mortimer is a scholar extraordinaire, an underemployed and starving genius, who agrees to sign on as tutor to Desmond Hathaway, the youngest son of a vampire family living in Yorkshire. Desmond, heartbroken by another boy’s callous treatment of him in school, rebels against Garrick’s attempts at educating him and does everything he could to chase Garrick away, which proves to be a greater challenge than he first thought.

When Desmond’s older brother returns from Italy for a visit and brings with him a small group of talentless and self-absorbed poets, life in Dryden Abbey turns upside-down, mainly when Desmond meets Leigh Blaise Sherbourne, a sullen vampire poet.

Throw into the mix a desperate mother’s plea for grandchildren, a family-owned torture chamber, a cottage-abbey-and-quarter-castle, and a grumpy family magician, and Garrick finds life in the Hathaway household to be a great deal more than he bargained for.

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Review: Hayden Thorne knows how to write historical YA, and historical fantasy YA, so when I had the opportunity to read Desmond and Garrick I was thrilled. First of all, it has a similarly haunting cover of some old building. Without even reading the blurb, I knew the house would play some interesting part in the story, and it did.

The first of a series (at least one other book is out, or soon to be out), Desmond and Garrick focuses on a vampire family and their young son, Desmond, who has been sent out of human schools for “provoking” human boys, like pretty much every young vampire has done. Desperate to change him and get him to settle down, his parents send for a human tutor and find Garrick, a brilliant scholar who detests teaching. But, the idea of working with vampires and learning about their species intrigues him.

What follows is a story as both teacher and pupil grow. Their growth may not necessarily be because of each other, but changes take place. Garrick is drawn more towards tutoring Desmond’s talented younger sister, who shows more promise than Desmond. And Desmond, attempting to get over the human boy he loved and lost, finds himself face to face with his older brother’s friend, Leigh Sherbourne, a vampire poet who both intrigues and repulses Desmond.

Like the author’s other YA books, there is very little romance, and what is there is incredibly slow to start, but also, like the other books, that’s okay. There’s more to this than the romance. Instead, you’ll be drawn to watching the vampire children (who act much younger than fifteen and sixteen) throwing themselves off the top of their home, locking themselves in the torture chamber’s various devices, watching vampire parents adding graveyards and collapsed walls to their cottage-abbey-and-quarter-castle home.

I look forward to the next book, because this one leaves off in spot that suggests this would work well as one long book rather than two (or more) parts of one story.

TNA_Signature_Jennifer

 

 

 

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Giveaways, KJ Charles, Samhain Publishing

Excerpt and Giveaway: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles

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The Novel Approach is please to welcome author KJ Charles today, along with an exclusive excerpt from her latest novel The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. Enjoy the tease and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win one of three e-copies of the book being offered in the giveaway.

Good luck!

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Hi, and thanks to The Novel Approach for having me!

My new book, The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, comes out on 16 June, and I have an extract for you here, as well as a Rafflecopter giveaway of three copies, running across the blog tour.

Background: London, 1894, and there are ghostly goings-on at a young duke’s home. Journalist Robert Caldwell has been sent to get the story, on the grounds of his personal acquaintance with ghost-hunter Simon Feximal (which is quite a lot more personal than his editor suspects, since they’ve ended up in bed on both their previous meetings). But there’s no sign of Simon outside and no journalists are being allowed in…

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SecretCasebookOfSimonFeximal-The300Blurb: A story too secret, too terrifying—and too shockingly intimate—for Victorian eyes.

A note to the Editor

Dear Henry,

I have been Simon Feximal’s companion, assistant and chronicler for twenty years now, and during that time my Casebooks of Feximal the Ghost-Hunter have spread the reputation of this most accomplished of ghost-hunters far and wide.

You have asked me often for the tale of our first meeting, and how my association with Feximal came about. I have always declined, because it is a story too private to be truthfully recounted, and a memory too precious to be falsified. But none knows better than I that stories must be told.

So here is it, Henry, a full and accurate account of how I met Simon Feximal, which I shall leave with my solicitor to pass to you after my death.

I dare say it may not be quite what you expect.

Robert Caldwell

September 1914

Warning: Contains a foul-tempered Victorian ghost-hunter, a journalist who’s too curious for his own good, villainy, horror, butterflies, unusual body modifications, and a lot of tampering with the occult.

Buy Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | ARe

Add It To Your Bookshelf At GOODREADS

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Excerpt:  Rodericks of the Gazette gave me a knowing look. “You are acquainted with the man Feximal, are you not?”

“I am.”

“I saw your copy from Winchester. Good stuff.” Rodericks narrowed his eyes. “You wouldn’t be planning to steal a march on us with personal association, would you, dear boy?”

I denied it utterly and insincerely. Murchison and Rodericks closed in on me.

“Listen, my boy,” Murchison told me quietly, while Rodericks glared our fellows away. “Hopkin got inside this morning, but the spook-shyers wouldn’t talk to him. Your pal Feximal marched him out. Poor fellow looked scared half to death, couldn’t say a word. The fact is, we’re all stumped, because it’s no good to get in if you can’t stay in. Now, if we can finagle you inside, do you suppose you can persuade Feximal to talk to you?”

“I might,” I said cautiously. I did not think it likely, but one should never say no before hearing the offer.

“You’d want to be reasonably sure. He’s a bruiser of a fellow.” I knew that well; his finger marks had lingered on my hips for days. “Because I’ve greased a servant here, and not used her yet, and I believe I can get a man inside.”

“Put him in his shirtsleeves,” Rodericks said, with a rude nod in my direction. “He’ll look just like the baker’s boy.”

“But it’s halves on the story, Bobster,” Murchison insisted. “I’ll want something exclusive.”

“Thirds,” Rodericks said over his shoulder. “The maid was my lead in the first place.”

“Halves, and you two split what I give you,” I said firmly. “If Feximal doesn’t want me in there he’s liable to tear me limb from limb.” What a thought. Simon truly angry with me was not a sight I wished to see, but Simon venting his outrage with a stern and punishing hand… I reined in my thoughts before they wandered too far from decency.

Murchison and Rodericks exchanged looks. “Halves,” they agreed without further argument, and I knew then that the task ahead of me should not be taken lightly.

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KJ CharlesAbout the Author: KJ Charles is a Rainbow Award-winning romance writer and freelance editor. She blogs about writing and publishing, spends too much time on Twitter, and has a Facebook group for book chat and sneak peeks. The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, a Victorian occult m/m romance, is coming from Samhain on 16 June.

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THE GIVEAWAY:

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4 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Young Adult

Review: Banshee by Hayden Thorne

Title: Banshee

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 228 Pages

At a Glance: Fantastic narrator and a terrifying ghost that kept me awake at night.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Nathaniel Wakeman is the only child and son of a modest vicar, who lives in the quiet and idyllic confines of the Isle of Wight. When his maternal grandfather dies, Natty’s mother reconnects with her estranged and wealthy brother and his family in hopes of raising Natty up in the world, to urge him to go beyond the humble life he’s always known.

Though his cousins show no particular regard for him, one of them, at least, lures him away from his retired life and introduces him to the world—and to the son of a baron from Somerset, Miles Lovell. Natty gradually finds himself drawn toward the older and worldlier gentleman and returns to his father’s vicarage a changed young man. He also seems to have attracted the attention of a ghost, one that has followed him back to the island.

Haunted by a woman in white, who seems to appear when he’s at his weakest, Natty struggles with his own nature and with his family’s increasing difficulties. His mother is distant, hiding things from him as she never has, and his father is aging before his eyes. Quarrels between his parents grow more and more frequent, and Natty’s increasing terror of familiar and beloved footpaths add to the spiraling tension at home.

While Natty tries to find his place in the world, his childhood is crumbling around him, and he becomes more and more convinced that his persistent ghost is a harbinger of doom.

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Review: It’s incredibly rare for me to find a book that actually scares me. The traditional horror novels just don’t do it for me. Stephen King? Nope. Read the books that scared my coworkers, and I didn’t even bat an eye and slept just fine at night. In fact, before this book, there was only one other novel that scared me enough to make me want to sleep completely buried under covers with the lights on.

Banshee is not about the traditional Irish banshee most readers may be familiar with, but don’t let that put you off. Hayden Thorne has written a fantastic novel here, with a wonderful narrator, Nathaniel, and a plot that will leave you in suspense until the very last page.

Nathaniel, or Natty, as his family calls him, is a seventeen year old boy living in the nineteenth century. He is slowly awakening to his sexuality after meeting his cousin’s friend, Miles Lovell, a few years his senior. Given the time period, I didn’t have much hope for them to be honest, but the slow dawning of knowledge was a breath of fresh air in a genre that usually has teens falling in love quickly. It takes Natty most of the book to discover who he is and just what it is he wants. And I liked that.

The historical setting is breathtaking. I was there with Natty and his friends as he traversed the footpaths, and whenever the ghost made her appearance, I was breathless with him. My heart pounded, and I felt as if the two of us were running in fear together.

As for the ghost, the description of the spirit and its mannerisms, or lack thereof, was what terrified me so much. It just stands there, watching Natty. To me that’s more terrifying than if it actually moves. Kudos to the author for keeping me up so late at night. I honestly was afraid to look in the dark corners of my room for fear of seeing the spirit pulled from the pages. And I couldn’t sleep with any part of my body hanging off my bed, afraid that I, like Natty, would feel the icy tips of her fingers trailing across her skin.

I highly recommend this book. Even if you’re not a fan of young adult novels, you really should give this one a chance. It’s not your typical YA romance—in fact there’s very little romance to begin with—and it’s just so well written readers of all ages will love it.

Just make sure you read it during the day.

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5 Stars, Alexis Hall, Reviewed by Rena, Riptide Publishing, Steampunk

Review: Liberty & Other Stories by Alexis Hall

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Title: Liberty & Other Stories

Author: Alexis Hall

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 308 Pages

At a Glance: A pastiche that’s done not just amazingly well but with unexpected touches of hilarity in deeply serious moments.

Reviewed By: Rena

Blurb: For the delight and edification of discerning readers, we present diverse stories concerning the lives, histories, and adventures of the crew of the aethership Shadowless.

Lament! as an upstanding clergyman falls into the villainous clutches of a notorious criminal mastermind.

Question your sanity! as a dissolute governess confronts blasphemies from beyond creation.

Wonder! at the journey of the dashing skycaptain Byron Kae across sapphire oceans, through smog-choked streets, and to the depths of the sky itself.

Gasp! at an entirely true and accurately rendered tale of pirates, cavalrymen, aethermancers, scientists, and a power to unmake the world.

Plus, hitherto unseen extracts from the meticulous and illuminating journals of Mrs. Miranda Lovelace, rogue scientist and first of the aethermancers.

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Review: As a big fan of Alexis Hall’s Prosperity, I was thrilled to learn about the upcoming stand-alone titles that serve as prequels and sequels to the novel (upcoming back then, anyway, when I first read Prosperity; I’ve been, alas, rather late to the party since). Liberty and Other Stories is a collection of novelettes and novellas focusing on Picaddilly, Byron Kae, Jane Grey, Milord, and Ruben Crowe – recounting, through wonderfully diverse narrative approaches, their stories leading up to the events in Prosperity as well as those following.

The collection begins with “Shackles”, which is a prequel that goes over Milord and Ruben Crowe’s relationship before they cross paths again in Prosperity. Now, I was really looking forward to this installment as I was hoping to warm up to Ruben Crowe after his rather dull presence in the novel. With only him and Milord taking center stage in this novelette, we get to enjoy the sizzling chemistry these two men have as they desperately and doggedly resist their attraction to each other. Unfortunately, I finished the story still not a fan of Ruben Crowe.

Firstly, of the four titles in this collection, “Shackles” seems to be the weakest. Against the zany steampunk adventures of everyone else in this collection, this story comes across as too standard and by-the-numbers in terms of the exploration of the two heroes, and I’m afraid it was rather easy for me to forget the plot once I started reading “Squamous With a Chance of Rain”, the second novelette in the anthology. And secondly, Ruben is – Ruben. Yes, he’s a preacher (or former preacher) who finds himself torn against his beliefs and his nature, but I still find his characterization rather more like wallpaper against which Milord distinguishes himself. Had the story been told from Milord’s POV, maybe my perceptions of Ruben would be altered in some way or another since Milord’s colorful personality and quirks would influence my views. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t, and I was glad to move on from it.

The rest of the anthology – “Squamous With a Chance of Rain”, Cloudy Climes and Starless Skies, and Liberty – more than make up for “Shackles”. And that’s because we’re once again blessed to see all kinds of adventures unfold through the eyes of the more electric members of the Prosperity cast. I also would like to emphasize the fact that in these three stories, Alexis Hall goes all out and approaches them through a variety of narrative styles and devices: the epistolary novel, the dialogue, journal entries, and even court records. Each is a pastiche that’s done not just amazingly well but with unexpected touches of hilarity in deeply serious moments, particularly in the last two books.

Jane Grey’s story is told in epistolary fiction style – a style I’ve always loved, having been introduced to it in my college English Lit classes. It’s a narrative approach that can provide the reader with a fantastic view of the letter writer’s personality, especially when the same character writes to different people (in this case, Jane writes exclusively to her friend). Tone changes, language shifts, details are either held back or expanded on, depending on the recipient and the writer’s relationship with him/her. And in Jane’s case, we get to enjoy a pretty hysterical account of her “origin story”, as it were, and how she got her bizarre abilities and her drug addiction. It’s also a pastiche on a number of levels, which was fun to pick at as I read through it. Jane Grey, i.e., Jane Eyre (gothic governess story by Charlotte Brontë) and Agnes Grey (Victorian governess story about the horribleness of teaching someone’s brats by Anne Brontë) – as I read both books before, I couldn’t help but pounce on those. Add to that a generous dose of The Sound of Music, and you’ve got Jane’s pre-Prosperity life in all its gothic, close-harmony singing and laudanum-spiced glory.

Cloudy Climes and Starless Skies is an account of Byron Kae’s history – really the saddest and most bittersweet installment in this collection. It’s told from Byron’s POV as a dialogue with Dil, and that dialogue takes place some time after the events in Prosperity. Dil here is now a young man, not a scrappy boy – wiser than ever, more adventurous than ever, and certainly proving himself Byron’s perfect partner in more ways than one. Throughout the story, Dil interrupts the narrative with questions, observations, and other things in typical Dil style – generously peppered with expletives, coarseness, and keen insight spelled out with the kind of openness and earnestness that’d make you laugh and break your heart at the same time. And it’s through Dil’s (most welcome) interruptions that Byron’s story doesn’t get weighed down too much with sadness. The closing paragraphs prior to the epilogue, especially, would’ve brought me to tears had I not been laughing at something Dil was saying leading up to that part. On the whole, this novella was perhaps the most beautifully written of the stories in the collection.

Liberty goes beyond the private worlds of the characters we love and raises issues regarding power and its abuse. It’s also the most complex of the stories in the anthology, told in a series of a few random journal entries and letters, but mostly court documents. Other characters are introduced, their purposes mostly nefarious save for one man who risks execution as a traitor to England by listening to his conscience at the very last minute. It’s a fun adventure in which different characters tell their stories (to the court, of course), their voices so wonderfully distinct from each other that you end up not wanting to have the chaotic incident in Liberty recounted in any other way. Expletives are, of course, redacted, to hysterical effect. And, as icing on the cake, we’re given pretty serious warnings or instructions from transcribers regarding recordings on wax cylinders and what one can hear when said cylinders are played back or played backwards.

This anthology really serves its purpose in further fleshing out the world created in Prosperity. My indifference toward “Shackles” didn’t really hurt my enjoyment of the rest of the stories, and I highly recommend the entire series to anyone who loves both steampunk and some really colorful pastiche.






You can buy Liberty & Other Stories here:

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Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk, Yeyu

Guest Post: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and DSPP Author Yeyu

DSP Publications

Hello and happy Humpday, everyone! I’m here today with DSP Publications author Yeyu to talk about her new release The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) and something I bet you haven’t thought about before—Chinese Historical Fantasy.

I know, right? You’re all in for a pretty awesome glimpse into Chinese history and literature. So buckle up, because I think you’re going to be as fascinated as I was.

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o-the-relics-of-godBlurb: What is worse: Being so broke you can barely afford food, getting hired for dangerous missions way out of your league, suffocating under mountains of unanswered questions—or wanting to sexually dominate someone who can kill you without lifting a finger?

Lu Delong is a mercenary who evaluates antiques most of the time and deals with the paranormal on rare occasions—even though it’s supposed to be the other way around. When he joins a dangerous quest for an ancient artifact, he meets and becomes strongly attracted to a mysterious and powerful immortal named Cangji. Despite his friends’ warnings and Cangji’s icy, unsociable demeanor, Delong is unable to resist befriending him. However, Cangji is deeply involved in a matter beyond mortals, and Delong is drawn into a chaotic struggle by both visible and invisible forces.

Always the pacifist who wanted to live a simple human life, Delong never imagined he’d end up involved in a conflict that will affect everything from the lowest insects on earth to the highest gods in heaven.

Buy links etc. can be found at the end of the post, so let’s get right to it.

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Carole: Thanks for being with us today, Yeyu. I’m a huge Fantasy geek, so I was excited to see your novel The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) released. For those who don’t have much experience with the Fantasy side of literature, explain to us what your genre is all about.

Yeyu: The genre I’m writing in is fantasy, but rather than being a Western fantasy, what I’m writing is more akin to (modern) Chinese historical fantasy.

Granted, the amount of research I’d have to spend on Western historical fantasy would probably be about the same as what I’d spend on a Chinese historical fantasy, and I may even have a less painful time for a Western historical, since most of the materials I used for my research are in classical Chinese and trying to read those gives me massive headaches. However, I’ve always been quite fascinated by the Chinese fantasy genre.

Being raised under Chinese values and culture, I grew up watching cartoons and reading comics of the classic Journey to the West alongside Disney. While I can’t claim to know/remember every detail of how the story went in Journey to the West, it nevertheless left a deep impression on me.I remember that I used to watch the cartoon about the Baigujing (white bone spirit) over and over again, and even though it has been a long time already, I still vividly remember how the story went. Several famous scenes such as the one involving the white bone spirit are pretty much as familiar to the average native Chinese-speaker as the classic Disney cartoons are to the current generation. Everyone remembers there are powerful magical tools, immortals/gods, Chinese alchemy, monsters, mythology, etc. As such, Journey to the West has a sizable influence on Chinese culture. It has been played time after time for entertainment purposes ever since it was writtenin the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), and it is also the shining example of the Chinese fantasy genre better known as shenmo(神魔)fiction, or literally, gods & demons fiction.

Of course,Journey to the Westdrew on earlier classics such asIn Search of the Supernatural (compiled 350 CE), which traces its influences all the way back to a book that pretty much shaped all East Asian folklore, The Classic of Mountains and Seas (written 4th century BCE, the Nine-Tailed Fox being the most famous folklore). Needless to say, I have not read those classics because I lack the Chinese proficiency to understand the cryptic words without banging my head against the wall in frustration. However, much of my research is based on the accumulated folklore/mythology recorded in those ancient texts.

So how does modern Chinese fantasy differ from classical fantasy? Well,in the 1930s, Chinese fantasy eventually transformed into what is commonly called “xianxia”(仙俠) fiction, which literally translates to “immortals & heroes” fiction, which somewhat combines the shenmogenre with the somewhat better-known wuxia genre (think “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” for wuxia). Immortals & heroes fiction, despite having elements of magic and the supernatural, usually focuses on the process of understanding “Dao”as characters journey and experience the secular society. Gods are referenced, and the outcome of events are already predetermined by fate so some immortal/highly trained people can see the predestined future. However, gods or even the notion of becoming immortal bear little importance to the general plot. Instead, much of the story’s focus is “heroism”, so it is more similar to its less fantastical counterpart.

With the rise of online serial fiction in recent years, however, a new genre emerged from the immortals & heroes genre—xiuzhenfiction (修真), which literally translates to “training to become immortal” fiction. Unlike traditional immortals & heroes fiction, xiuzhenfiction approaches fantasy in a manner that is more similar to the gods & demons fiction mentioned before, where gods are frequently mentioned and also play an integral role to the plot.The main focus of the story, as the genre name implies, is to become so powerful the main character eventually attains immortality (as opposed to performing acts of heroism). As such, there is almost always a systematic “level-up” system which has its roots in Daoist internal alchemy. As the setting is not limited to historical China,xiuzhen fiction is pretty much the biggest and most popular fantasy genre in the Chinese community, with several subgenres of its own (note that the highly popular wuxia genre is not thought of as “fantasy” in the community. Instead, it is considered supernatural fiction, and it is an independent genre by itself”).

The story I’m writing is in the mythological subgenre of xiuzhenfiction, which, in my opinion, is a pretty good representation of Chinese culture. I enjoy reading stories and playing games with that setting, and as mentioned several times elsewhere before, I also happen to have a grand vision to share my culture with anyone who is interested in seeing what it’s about. So, when I was almost finished writing my Chinese historical Erasing Shame, I thought: why not write a Chinese (Daoist)fantasy after this? At the moment it didn’t seem there were many English ones available. And thus, I ended up writing this genre, not only to share my culture with non-Chinese readers, but also provide a story that is familiar to ethnic Chinese who can’t read Chinese.

Carole: Wow. So with all that going on, why M/M?

Yeyu: I’ve been a fan of BL since I was 10 years old or something. I am now 24 years old and still an avid fan. I don’t know why either, haha. I just don’t feel that same kind of excitement with M/F fics.

Carole: Many would agree, Yeyu. That’s why we’re all here! ;) Okay, so, let’s move on to The Relics of the Gods. How is this book different from a lot of Western fantasies?

Yeyu: The Relics of Gods is about an average-ish half-human and half-deer mercenary’s quest to woo a powerful immortal. Unlike most fantasy stories, the story’s main character is not really on a quest to save the world. He’s not anangsty or angry anti-hero, per se, but I think readers who finish the book will know what I mean.

Also, as the synopsis implies, the main character prefers being dominant in bed and the love interest is the “bottom”—there will be no switching. This is not a BDSM book and the sex they have probably doesn’t even count as D/s, and there is no D/s dynamic outside of bed (in my opinion, anyway). So, despite writing BL, which means my story does adhere to some “yaoi” tropes, I have a feeling traditional yaoi lovers who embrace the fragile but beautiful uke & tough and alpha seme trope will not really enjoy my story, just as I don’t enjoy reading mainstream dynamics. The main character is also nowhere near being an alpha dude, so I suppose a lot of mainstream M/M readers will not enjoy the story as much.

Carole: The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for non-romance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in The Relics of the Gods and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

Yeyu: Although romance drives my story, there isn’t a lot of “romance” in the book. In fact, the love interest spends a lot of time off-page because I wrote the story entirely from the main character’s point of view. One of my readers even told me she would enjoy the story even without the romantic element, so I’m assuming she didn’t see a whole lot of romance in the story. While that perplexed me, since personally I think the story is by far the mushiest and fluffiest tale I’ve written, I suppose other romance readers probably also won’t find my book a “romance” book. I can easily imagine them criticizing the story for containing few scenes of emotional connection or interaction between the MC and LI. They are right, but that means they probably aren’t my target audience.

If I had to put my finger down on it, my book is kind of like those chivalric romances—it is“romance”. Just not quite a book of the romance genre, in a modern sense. Instead, it is more of a genre fiction with action & adventure. As such, I think DSP Publications is a perfect imprint for my story. People will want to pick my book up because they know romance is secondary to the plot, and they would hopefully have a more pleasant reading experience now that their expectations are in the correct place. I’d hate to let any reader waste their time and money on a novel they don’t enjoy.

Carole: So, what do you think, say Amazon would recommend alongside your book? “If you liked ________, you love The Relics of the Gods.”

Yeyu: I don’t have any examples of books in the genre I write, since I don’t think there are any English fictions specifically in my genre (I haven’t looked hard, though.) I suppose the closest story that is also available in English is The Journey to the West, but as I’ve said earlier, xiuzhen fiction is quite different.

Carole: Good point. It’s tough to be original! :) All right, so tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept, and when did it begin to take the form of The Relics of the Gods?

Yeyu: Other than wanting to share Chinese culture, I wanted to write a dynamic I wanted to read. This is because my tastes in M/M dynamics are very, very niche. Like almost impossible to find niche. Where most people expect BL (and its more notorious counterpart “yaoi”) to have that emotional, lovesick and often dude-in-distress uke and cool, powerful seme, my tastes are what you would call “reverse mainstream”. Thus, while mainstream fiction often has a powerful and gorgeous top sexually dominating a weaker, normal-ish guy, I wanted to imagine a normal-ish guy dominating a super powerful and gorgeous bottom. I wanted D/s-y dynamics in bed, but with non-traditional tops and bottoms.

I also wanted to strictly read from the top’s POV.

As you can predict, I had difficulty finding such stories. I can sometimes find similar tropes in Chinese BL, but those are few and far between, not to mention the plot or writing won’t necessarily be to my taste.So, I ended up writing such a dynamic myself.

Moreover, before I wrote the book, I was pretty influenced by Nanpai Shanshu’s The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles as well, so I started off wanting to write something semi-similar as it is another genre in Chinese fiction I really enjoyed. (For those who know what that fic is about, yes there is a strong similarity between two important characters that spawned many fanfictions, but I always liked those character tropes in pairings and always ship pairings like that in fandom—it was the reason I picked that book up in the first place, to read it as a BL story….)

Carole: Ah, “I write what I like to read”, the anthem of so many authors. Is this why you felt this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

Yeyu: There is no particular reason. My story is M/M for the same reason most genre fiction is M/F…which is no reason at all, except I felt like it because that’s what I like to read. I write what I want to read.

Homosexuality is not an issue in my fiction because it was actually pretty common in the Ming Dynasty, which is the time period my story is set in. So many government officials and rich nobles played with men and even some emperors did, too—no one in their right mind during that era would truly outlaw homosexuality. If there was any law trying to curb gay sex during that time, it did not work. Gay sex was apparently so rampant during the Ming Dynasty it disgusted Western visitors.

Of course, gay relationships were usually in a heteronormative sense where one guy had to be the “woman” and would be somewhat looked down on by the society thanks to widespread misogyny, but in general, same sex relationships were not taboo as long as it did not interfere with marrying and having children. Furthermore, the Confucian value of filial piety to the parents is usually ignored in Chinese fantasy fiction, as many fantasy main characters are orphans and all will leave their family behind to train, so there are no filial piety issues. Not to mention, Chinese fantasies are often Daoist/Buddhist and not necessarily Confucian-influenced. Altogether, there is no real obstacle to M/M in Chinese fantasy.

In fact, there would actually be slightly more obstacle in writing a M/F romance if I wanted to be strict in terms of how the historical society functioned (which few modern Chinese authors take into consideration), since most “cultured” Han Chinese women during the Ming Dynasty stayed home with those horrid bound feet and all. As such,the woman in a straight couple would likely face more criticism than a gay couple would, since no one would know the two dudes are gay. Even if they knew, as I’ve mentioned, it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, some scholars may be disgusted or some idiots would mock feminine men, but that’s about it.

Carole: Okay, we’re wrapping up here, but before we go—give us the answer to a IAQ (Infrequently Asked Question™) about this book that no one will probably ever ask you about, but you think is pretty cool.

Yeyu: I mentioned Duanwu/Dragon Boat festival in the story and it was really minor. However, I’d like to mention that there are actually two versions of the historical origin of the festival and how the dragon boat racing came to be (both related to a deceased official—the more widely known official to be Qu Yuan, and the other to be Wu Zixu). What’s more, some modern scholars suspect that the original reason people engaged in dragon boat racing was actually not related to any deceased official, but rather it was a practice from prehistoric times when people still worshipped dragons. The theory was the Han Chinese government wanted to exert Confucian values and came up with origin stories to link the dragon boat racing to actual history as opposed to mythology.

Carole: Wow, Yeyu, that was as fascinating as I thought it would be. Thank you for taking time with us today, and thank you to Lisa and the TNA gang for having us. A preview of The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) is available on Amazon.

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Author BioAbout the Author: Yeyu wrote her first story when she was 7, and she has been creating stories on-and-off ever since, be it writing fanfiction or drawing original manga. She finally ventured into writing original fiction in high school, and stuck with the form.

Most of Yeyu’s childhood was spent overseas, but she is currently living in a small East Asian island most commonly known as Taiwan, where she was born.

When Yeyu isn’t writing in her spare time, she is probably reading, gaming, or sleeping. No cats, sadly.

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Order The Relics of the Gods (Between Heaven and Earth Book 1) now in ebook and paperback HERE and HERE.

Follow Yeyu on her website and on Twitter.

Next time on Genre Talk, Andrea Speed talks Paranormal!

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Giveaways, Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC

Excerpt and Giveaway: The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne

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The Twilight Gods is a retelling of the Native American folktale, “The Girl Who Married a Ghost.” Set in Victorian England, it’s an alternative perspective on a gay teen’s coming-out process, with Norris’ journey of self-discovery couched in magical and supernatural terms and imagery.

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thetwilightgodsBLURB: London during the Great Exhibition of 1851 is a new world of technological advances, eye-popping inventions, and glimpses of exotic treasures from the East. For fifteen-year-old Norris Woodhead, it’s a time of spectral figures mingling with London’s daily crowds and an old rectory in a far corner of the English countryside — a great house literally caught in time, where answers to curious little mysteries await him.

Confined by his family’s financial woes, Norris suffers a lonely and unsatisfying time till the day he (and only he) notices “shadow-people” in the streets. Then a strange widow appears, rents a vacant room in the house, and takes him under her wing. She becomes his guardian, slowly revealing those shadows’ secrets, Norris’ connection with them, and the life-altering choices he has to face in the end.

Buy Links: JMS Books | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

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Excerpt: “My dear Master Norris,” Mrs. Cavendish said, momentarily pausing in her work and regarding him with those pale, mysterious eyes, “if your mother is behaving in ways that don’t seem like her, it’s because she’s undergoing changes as well.”

“Changes!” Norris echoed, his eyes widening. “Do you mean to say that she’s also one of the shadow-people?”

Mrs. Cavendish laughed heartily, reaching out and tousling Norris’ hair with a certain motherly affection. “Oh, heavens, no!” she said once she’d regained mastery of herself. “Your mother is just like most of the world, my dear boy. Whatever changes she undergoes are in some way or another affected by your own changes and the decisions you make. Remember that she’ll always be touched by the path you take in the end. Mothers are like that, you know. They can’t bear to let go of their children, even when it’s warranted.”

“Changes,” Norris echoed again, shaking his head and frowning. “I suppose I am going through changes right now. I can’t say what they are, but I feel them – or at the very least, I’m growing more and more aware of certain things that I’ve never even considered before.”

Mrs. Cavendish’s smile remained as she listened to her young charge. Yes, Norris couldn’t help but think, he was her charge now, the way he was never Mr. Garland’s.

Penelope from 'The Odyssey' was my inspiration for Mrs. Cavendish, who's forever sewing her tapestry.

Penelope from ‘The Odyssey’ was my inspiration for Mrs. Cavendish, who’s forever sewing her tapestry. In the original fairy tale, Mrs. Cavendish’s character is Screech Owl, who guides a terrified bride through the island of the dead.

“It’s most certainly the latter point,” she said. “If you’re growing more and more aware of things, unusual ones, about yourself, don’t be afraid of them. Don’t be afraid of knowledge. Learn what you can, my dear. Take advantage of the opportunities that are opening before you. Believe me when I say that there are others out there like you who aren’t as fortunate in the way they perceive their hearts and their souls.”

“What do you mean?”

“They fear change, you see. They fear being different. They were simply not taught to open their minds to things that challenge what we’ve all long held to be true, but I really don’t think we should blame them or their families. It simply is the nature of our time. Things will get better, I assure you. They will.”

Norris stared at her. “You speak as though you’ve seen the future,” he stammered.

“Time, my dear. I see both directions of Time’s road. If I make strange references to what’s yet to come, it’s because I see the need to reassure you, if not enlighten you to a point.”

Mrs. Cavendish spoke with such calm and clarity, her manner a mixture of lightness and gravity. As she talked, the shadows cast by the parlor’s interior shifted on her face, lending her complexion an otherworldly translucence in brief periods. Her pale, pale eyes alternated shades as well, from the usual spectral blue to a deeper and stormier gray. Through all this, she kept her gaze on him, watching him watch her. Norris tried not to pull away in a reflexive effort at hiding his warring thoughts and senses. Instead, he readily opened himself up to her, as though sensing this was the next step that was expected of him in their relationship.

I couldn't find any good representations of the twilight rectory, but Tintern Abbey comes fairly close to the physical embodiment of infinity.

I couldn’t find any good representations of the twilight rectory, but Tintern Abbey comes fairly close to the physical embodiment of infinity.

Prove to me that you aren’t afraid, she challenged with her fixed gaze and shifting colors.

I’m not afraid. Not yet.

You’ll soon find your choices stretching out before you, Norris Woodhead. Will you be strong enough to take one path over the other?

I will. I know I will.

Don’t be so sure. Stronger men have decided self-denial and sacrifice, and while many of them prove their choices to be good ones, there are some who suffer so many regrets for the rest of their lives.

Either way, I’m bound to lose something, aren’t I? Choices always come with sacrifices.

Either way, you’ll have to bear the burden of some loss. It’s your fortune to be born into this age, young man. You’ll have to make do with what human laws in this century define to be the limits of your lot.

Norris felt a faint chill sweep up his spine as he listened. There was something ominous in what Mrs. Cavendish just said.

“Then I’m destined to be an outlaw, aren’t I?” he asked. “I must confess that I don’t even know what it is I’m supposed to do wrong for me to be thought of as different from almost everyone else, but I’m guessing that what I am, I can’t help.”

The Great Exhibition, where modern inventions are highlighted. I wanted to use this as a backdrop against Norris' coming-of-age as I thought it a great contrast of advancement and backward laws regarding homosexuality.

The Great Exhibition, where modern inventions are highlighted. I wanted to use this as a backdrop against Norris’ coming-of-age as I thought it a great contrast of advancement and backward laws regarding homosexuality.

The widow’s smile broadened, but it also took on a sad quality, and Mrs. Cavendish said nothing in return – merely reached out to him and stroked his cheek, a touch that was most definitely very comforting.

When she withdrew her hand, she indicated her embroidery with it. “This tapestry, Master Norris,” she said as she gently pulled at the fabric so as to spread it on her lap, and every embroidered detail could be observed. “This will never be done.”

Norris frowned as he looked at it. “It’s a strange piece,” he muttered, leaning closer. “The colors of your thread are different from what I’ve seen. Mama and my sisters use bright and colorful spools for their work.”

The piece itself seemed a fairly large one to Norris. Against a slightly discolored white cloth a pastoral landscape sprawled. He could see very faint outlines of graphite where he believed Mrs. Cavendish had sketched the details, but around half of the entire tapestry was already embroidered.

Norris took careful note of the sewn parts. He found them to be intricate in design and rich in hues though Mrs. Cavendish, it seemed, preferred to use a fairly limited palette of colors. He could make out various shades of brown, red, gold, and black mingling as stitches formed an autumn landscape of shepherds, nymphs, and gods. He wanted to see what was kept inside her sewing box, but he felt too embarrassed to ask.

“This is lovely,” he breathed, finally, reaching out a tentative hand and gently touching a few places. The thread Mrs. Cavendish used was of a strange quality, he found, with the textures varying distinctly even under a light brush of his fingers. Some were coarser than others, but none appeared to have its exact match. The same could be said of the colors, all of which varied very slightly in hue and tone. Every single thread used for the tapestry was unique in its own way, which amazed Norris
because he’d never seen or heard of such a thing before.

It's really difficult trying to imagine how gay teens from previous centuries dealt with their sexuality. There are romantic friendships formed in school, but not much else is available unless we're looking at adults.

It’s really difficult trying to imagine how gay teens from previous centuries dealt with their sexuality. There are romantic friendships formed in school, but not much else is available unless we’re looking at adults.

He glanced back up at Mrs. Cavendish and smiled. “This is a strange tapestry,” he said, “but I like it.”

“Thank you, dear. As you know, I’ve been hard at work on it since…” Mrs. Cavendish’s words faded, and she chose not to pursue the matter, allowing any thoughts that might arise from her cryptic response to be devoured by Norris’ hungry mind.

“I’d like to know, though, why won’t it be finished?”

“Infinity is its nature,” Mrs. Cavendish replied. “As long as people are born into this world, and the twilight gods emerge from their ranks, my work will remain unfinished.” Her manner was so light and dismissive that a second after she spoke, Norris wasn’t sure what it was he’d heard, but something assured him it wasn’t relevant, at least for that moment.

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presentThe Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

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Aleksandr Voinov, Riptide Publishing

Excerpt and Giveaway: A Taste for Poison by Aleksandr Voinov

Title: A Taste for Poison

Series: Memory of Scorpions: Book Three

Author: Aleksandr Voinov

Pages: 224

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Action/Adventure

Blurb: Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.

After barely surviving an assassination attempt, King Adrastes is a changed man—one who mistrusts even his allies and friends. He readies his empire for war against an enigmatic enemy, the Elder of Vededrin, but not everyone approves. While courtiers dare only to whisper dissent, an outrider called Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King. Continue reading

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Bey Deckard, Cover Reveal, Self-Published

Cover Reveal: “Sacrificed: Heart Beyond the Spires” By Bey Deckard

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Title: Sacrificed: Heart Beyond the Spires
Sequel to: Caged: Love and Treachery on the High Seas
Author: Bey Deckard
Publisher: Self-Published
Length: 127k Words
Genre: Historical Fantasy, M/M Romance, Erotica
Expected Release: October 2014
Available for Purchase Upon Release at the Following E-tailers: Amazon, Smashwords, Indigo/Chapters, Barnes & Noble, Apple (Paperback will be available in November) Continue reading

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5 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Historical Romance, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Small Gems, Young Adult

Small Gems Sunday: “Grave’s End” by Hayden Thorne

“He now knew what that ache was: empathy. And it wasn’t just any kind of empathy, but one involving loneliness.” – Hayden Thorne


Title: Grave’s End

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 66 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: It isn’t business as usual for Maelwine when a new family moves into Grave’s End House. With the old, great house standing untenanted for quite some time, being a house shade attached to it has turned the hours dull for Maelwine. He has no family to entertain him, no variations in his daily duty, which involves the rousing of shadows in every room when the sun goes down. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Reviewed by Lisa, Riptide Publishing

L.A. Witt’s “Noble Metals” Is Better The Second Time Around


“How far will you go to protect that thing?” He held my gaze for a long moment.

“This is my life’s work, Robert. I didn’t come all this way to fail.” – L.A. Witt


Title: Noble Metals

Author: L.A. Witt

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 204 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Ever since Robert Belton gambled away the money to stake his claim in the Klondike gold fields, he’s been stranded in Seattle working as a prostitute. When an attractive customer needs help hauling provisions to the frozen north, Robert eagerly volunteers.
Continue reading

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