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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Guest Post and Giveaway: Curse of Arachnaman by Hayden Thorne

Curse of Arachnaman

We welcome Hayden Thorne today to chat a bit about the re-release of Curse of Arachnaman, the continuing adventures of Eric, Peter, and the rest of the superheroes and villains who populate Vintage City. Enjoy the excerpt Hayden is sharing, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-copy of Curse of Arachnaman.

Good luck!

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: My original intention for Mr. Eric Steven Plath was to finish his adventures at the end of Masks: Ordinary Champions, the third installment of the original trilogy. As I wrote it, though, wee little ideas kept popping up like mutant undead gophers here and there. And dark forces swayed me into turning that spider robot attack at the mall into something more than what was originally intended. I was at first hoping to show that the superheroes’ work is never done. Get rid of one supervillain, and another will rise up the ranks and annoy the living hell out of everyone. But, noooooo.

And so, Curse of Arachnaman’s basic plot slowly formed in my head. I thought at first it was going to be nothing more than an odd one-off after the trilogy, but at that point, the genie had been let out, and more books popped out. I’m currently working on the seventh and last installment of the entire series, and I hope to have it available fairly soon.

Curse of Arachnaman, Mimi Attacks!, and Dr. Morbid’s Castle of Blood are all episodic in nature. They don’t follow an arc, but they’re clearly sequels of each other, with all of them following the events in the original trilogy.

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91lG0nKT5EL._SL1500_Blurb: Curse of Arachnaman follows the events in the first three books in the Masks series. Eric is settling down into a near-normal existence. He’s learning to cope with a different kind of closet — being kept from talking freely about his relationship with Calais and the other superheroes — as well as an increasingly protective mother, his sister’s new squeaky-clean boyfriend, and a bingo-obsessed best friend.

Eric also learns that, sometimes, being an asset to the forces of good means simply being himself. In the meantime, Vintage City is under siege from a new threat, one which is proving to be much more dangerous than all of the other supervillains the heroes have faced combined. Good people find themselves at the mercy of an angry lunatic who will stop at nothing to purge the city of what he sees to be undesirable elements.

Buy Links: Queerteen Press/JMS Books | Amazon | Smashwords

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Excerpt: From Chapter 17

The girl who’d fallen apart earlier dangled nearby, but she’d calmed down by now. All I could hear from her were a little bit of sniffling and coughing as she waited her turn to be released.

“Glad to see you’re okay,” I said, offering her a smile, for what it was worth.

“I wanna go home,” she croaked. “That’s saying something, you know, ‘cause I hate my parents. This sucks.”

“Well – you kind of get used to this sort of thing after a while. Trust me.”

She blinked. “You’ve been screwed up like this before?”

“More times than you can imagine. I look at this as character-building, sort of.”

Fun Superheroes are fun to write.

Fun Superheroes are fun to write.

Calais had walked up to her by then. “Okay, don’t move,” he said as he grabbed hold of the white stuff that wrapped around her and tore it open with one powerful tug of his hands. The sound of ripping cloth followed, and with a little yelp, the girl fell straight into his arms.

The next few moments were like the longest ever in my short-yet-screwed-up life. Think of a really awful, sappy video of some really awful, sappy love song. Okay, imagine everything happening in super slow-motion, with the girl falling in Calais’ arms. Then their eyes meet. He looks sympathetic yet stays professionally distant. She stares at him, stunned, her arms wrapped around his neck, her body easily held up because he’s just oh-so-strong.

Oh, fucking hell, just think of the scene in Sense and Sensibility where Kate Winslet fell down and got swept up in Greg Wise’s arms in the rain – thank you, Liz, for making me suffer through that sappy-ass movie – are you with me yet? Yeah, that was it. That was bloody it, as the British would say.

“Easy, easy, I got you,” he said, setting her back on the ground. It took her several more very annoying seconds before she let go because she clung like a leech to him even after he set her down. “You’re safe now,” he reassured her, prying her arms from his neck. “Okay, let me go, so I can take this guy down.”

“Oh,” she breathed, staring at him, wide-eyed. “Thank you.”

Dat awkward moment...

Dat awkward moment…

God. I recognized that look.

“Wow, you’re even better-looking in person,” she added, tucking hair behind her ears. Did she just giggle and blush? Calais smiled back and gave her a reassuring pat on the arm, and, encouraged, she stood on tiptoes and gave him a grateful peck on the cheek.

I sighed. “Hello, helpless victim over here. Very uncomfortable position. Probably damaged innards and ability to produce children.”

“Thank you,” she said, her voice taking on a little-girl-like tone. It took the appearance of a police officer to pull her away from Calais, and she trotted off, glancing over her shoulder for one final adoring look before vanishing in the confusion of activity.

“Well, will you look at that?” I said dully. “I’m the last one to be saved. Yay me.”

Calais stood before me, hands on his nicely narrow hips. “I leave you alone for three minutes, and all hell breaks loose.”

“Hey, I didn’t ask to be attacked! Are you blaming me?”

“I told you to wait by the car, didn’t I?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“Uh-huh…”

Random, gratuitous image post of my current imaginary boyfriend.

Random, gratuitous image post of my current imaginary boyfriend.

I sighed again, drooping. “I just wanted to check out the arcade,” I said. “What’s the harm in that?”

“Um…” Calais pointed at my web cocoon. “In case you haven’t noticed.”

“Look, I was born under a black sign. Can I come down now? This sucks. Oh, by the way, thanks for the Jane Austen moment back there.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.” I frankly didn’t know what was worse – seeing Peter/Calais with a girl or with another guy. Either way made me want to puke out all my innards.

Shaking his head, Calais tore at the stuff, and I fell into his arms, which was always a good thing, though it was too bad he couldn’t take me home like this. And there were way too many people around, so no huggy-kissy stuff and all the comfort-me-please things that happened when the hero saved the day.

“Thanks,” I grumbled. Then I gave a start, stiffening. I looked behind mme and then gaped at him. “What the…did you just goose me?”

He grinned. “The best thing about hyper speed. I can get away with so much crap with you in public.”

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Hayden ThorneAbout the Author: I’ve lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area though I wasn’t born there (or, indeed, the USA). I’m married with no kids and three cats, am a cycling nut (go Garmin!), and my day job involves artwork, great coworkers who specialize in all kinds of media, and the occasional strange customer requests involving papier mache fish with sparkly scales.

I’m a writer of young adult fiction, specializing in contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, and historical genres. My books range from a superhero fantasy series to reworked folktales to Victorian ghost fiction. My themes are coming-of-age with very little focus on romance (most of the time) and more on individual growth with some adventure thrown in.

Follow Hayden on her Blog or on Twitter

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THE GIVEAWAY:

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

Review: The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne

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Title: The Twilight Gods

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: A beautiful story that absolutely must be read.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: 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.

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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Review: I love Victorian literature, and right now I’m actually studying it for a graduate course I am in, so reading this novel by Hayden Thorne featuring that period and including the Great Exhibition was timely. And, I must say this novel is incredibly well researched.

That said I’m not sure how to review this book. I absolutely loved it, and that’s the problem. The book was so good I want to gush and gush for days about it, but at the same time I want other readers to discover how wonderful it is for themselves, because there’s so much wonder and beauty in this young adult novel.

Norris is a sympathetic character. The youngest of four, his family struggles financially. Between his older brother trying to save enough to propose to the girl he loves, to his older sisters squabbling every chance they can get and trying to outdo each other on the marriage market, Norris is often forgotten. In fact, he’s so forgotten he doesn’t even go to school; instead, the family has one of their tenants tutoring Norris with old books that are falling apart. And Norris just wants an education. He wants to learn science so he can properly tinker with things and make them work.

One day he starts to see the shadow-people. I’ll admit I had an idea of what they were at first, and I thought it was brilliant. I become so engaged with the story and with Norris attempting to discover who they were that I stayed up until 4AM to finish. I’m so glad I didn’t have to work the next day. I just couldn’t put the book down.

Mrs. Cavendish is a mysterious character, and I loved her for everything she did for Norris. She takes him under her wing and helps him learn about himself. And then there’s Tom. I loved Tom. The rectory is such a wonderful place; I wish it existed because even today, in the twenty-first century, there are people who need it.

While beautiful, I thought the ending was heartbreaking. The choices Norris must make are difficult, and while perfect for the nineteenth century, sadly they are choices people still feel they must make today. It broke my heart and I sobbed through the last few pages. It was perfectly bittersweet.

I don’t want to say any more, for fear of giving away too much. But I will say this. I will be buying a paperback copy of The Twilight Gods for my classroom and for my personal shelves. I adored it and want my students to read it, too.

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4 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Wollstone by Hayden Thorne

Title: Wollstone

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press (JMS Books)

Pages/Word Count: 236 Pages

At a Glance: Beautiful descriptions in what feels like a timeless setting, but a little slow paced for me.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: The moment Emil Gogean sets foot inside Wollstone Academy’s fairy tale-like campus, he realizes his freshman year in high school is bound to be a very strange one. The school itself, a uniquely romanticized boarding school for boys, boasts remarkable elements that appear to be deliberate — as though a hidden power has chosen woodland details, a chapel ruin, and school masters who seem to hearken back to a long-gone age, with a clear purpose in mind.

When strange things begin to happen to Emil, an unnerving warning from his late grandmother returns to haunt him. A warning about Emil attracting the attention of the king of the dead.

Strange faces in wood patterns and mullioned windows. The apparition of a boy among the trees. The unfathomable feeling of sadness permeating the idyllic environment. Emil gradually learns that Wollstone is more than just a school, that the answers to a three-hundred-year-old mystery surrounding a tragic romance lie in the ruined stones of a small chapel and in Nature itself. And that Emil, whose appearance in school has set certain wheels in motion, will have to place himself at the mercy of three mysterious students if he wishes to learn the truth about Wollstone, the boy lost in the woods, and himself.

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Review: If there is an author who writes more beautiful descriptions of a setting, I would be hard-pressed to find them. I had known of Hayden Thorne for several years before finally having the opportunity to sit down and read one of the author’s novels. Wollstone is a beautifully descriptive novel of an all boys school in the middle of a woodland.

It’s clear that this author excels at setting. Everything is so vivid I felt as if I were there with Emil on campus, following him as he wandered the paths, found the chapel, and explored the woods. I often found myself sighing, wishing a place like that existed for me to explore. Especially the ruined chapel on the school grounds. How amazing would it be to have something like that to explore?

That said, I did have difficulty with some of the novel. It is slower paced, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not what I’m used to. I’m used to teen novels that have a faster pace to the plot. Thorne does not rush and lets the story unfold slowly. Sometimes a little too slowly, though it also invokes a timeless quality. There were several times when I forgot exactly when the story took place. It’s supposed to be the present, I think, but at the same time I felt as if I were in the fifties, or sometime else entirely. It could have been the descriptions of the uniforms and the attitude of the teachers, but that’s the effect it gave. And given the surroundings of the school, I think that was the author’s intent.

While I liked the characters, at times I struggled with the dialogue, which there isn’t much of. Emil is often alone—which is fine, I like characters who are introspective or loners—but he talks to himself a lot. There were times when he was muttering or saying things in situations where I felt that it just seemed strange for a fifteen-year-old boy to be saying or doing. That said, things also aren’t always what they appear. As the story progressed it did start to make sense to me, but it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I caught on to things. I won’t give away more than that, because I don’t want to ruin anything, but the details are slowly revealed if you pay attention to everything, from Emil’s thoughts of his grandmother to the books he reads. However, some of the other characters also had similar dialogue that to me felt dated. As a teacher, I raised my eyebrow at some of their choice phrases, as I’ve never heard any of my boys say anything like Emil, Jamie, Victor, or the other boys. But, that could have also been the author’s choice to keep teenage vulgarities out of the writing.

That said, I did enjoy the novel. It was slow moving, but it brought me to a different time and place. I was transported onto a beautiful campus I wish I was a part of. Also, the cover? Absolutely gorgeous. Not that it influenced me or anything, but it’s exactly how I pictured the chapel to be. Whoever did the cover got it perfect.

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

Review: Henning Book Two: Prince of Wintergrave by Hayden Thorne

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Title: Henning Book 2: Prince of Wintergrave

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 166 Pages

At a Glance: Suspense, plot twists, and even a few tears make this a great read

Blurb: Being a prince in a past life yields no benefits in the present, Henning has quickly learned. His concerned housemates have made themselves his official, overbearing chaperones, Ellery appears to despise him, and Henning’s limited movements slowly wear down his nerves. With his awakening process turning out to be more of a zombie-like stagger, the stakes rise inevitably as undead attacks not only increase in frequency, but also in danger levels.

Henning finds some relief in the company of Alan Scott — a handsome, smart young man he meets in a store, who displays an earnest interest in Henning. He gradually tears Henning’s heartbroken attention away from Ellery, offering him promises of happiness as can only be defined in a boy’s first love.

In the meantime, danger now spills over to threaten innocent civilians as they get dragged into monster attacks, making it difficult for Henning and his companions to fight back while raising troubling questions about the walls between worlds being torn down by dark magic. It also reveals the effect of a soul bond on Henning and Ellery’s awakening — that is, each boy’s awakening is affected by the other, and the mystery of how and why only get muddier.

As Henning and his companions scramble for answers, it’s a mad race against time when things happen that make them suspect Varian of crossing over to their world, searching for Henning.

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Review: One of the things that can be difficult about reading a Young Adult romance, as an adult, is keeping the world-weary cynicism we’ve accumulated over the years from casting a shadow over the memories of what it felt like to fall in love for the very first time, to get our very first kiss. One of the great things about an author who captures those things, not to mention the pangs of unrequited love, so well, is that in spite of the wisdom we’ve gained through those years, we can journey back to a time in our lives when everything seemed like it could be both amazing and the end of the world at the same time, and the only thing that mattered was being in the moment because the future was little more than a vague notion that didn’t exist much past tomorrow.

Henning Book Two: Prince of Wintergrave picks up with all the danger, action, and drama, not to mention teenage angst, that left us hanging when Book One ended. Henning Babkis, our hero prince, is every bit as engaging in the continuation of his story. An evil has crossed over from Wintergrave into this world, and has brought with him his undead minions to help capture young Henning for nefarious purposes. Hayden Thorne ups the tension in this storyline because we, the reader, know the danger Henning faces, and from whom, but we’re helpless to warn him to be careful, and it was so great getting emotionally invested and involved in the story in this way.

It’s refreshing to read a Young Adult novel that portrays positive adult role models along with its realistically portrayed teens. Henning may be orphaned but he has a family who has taken him in, and love and accept him unconditionally. He behaves like a teenager, too, which is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine—when young adult characters think, behave, and speak like adults rather than teens. Henning has concerns far greater than grades and guys, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t worry about those everyday things alongside the fact that his “Extreme Husband” doesn’t remember him. The fact there’s a villain who feasts on a human’s very essence, not to mention wanting to do bad things to Henning, adds an extra layer of intrigue to the story and keeps the page-turning at maximum eagerness to see what will happen next, which is why the book has earned the Page Turner designation.

Henning’s relationship with Ellery Thomas, the boy to whom Henning is soul bonded, unfolds slowly and in a believable way, with no quick fixes and, thankfully, no unrealistic promises of forever after at the end. These boys don’t fight every step of the way through this book for their relationship; they fight to save each other and those they love, the end result being, then, that they realize there is a “they” that might be worth working on too. It was the ideal resolution to their storyline.

In a surprise twist, one I didn’t expect until it happened during the climax of the book, is a poignant moment that didn’t merely bring tears to my eyes, they spilled and left be a bit of a weepy mess, something that doesn’t happen to me often enough to skip mentioning. When I’m that emotionally invested in a book, the author has done his or her job, and done it well.

With its strong characterizations, fantastical premise and brisk paced action, Henning, Books One and Two, are novels aimed at a teen audience that even a big kid at heart can love too. Henning was wrong about one thing, though—his life, what we got to see of it, didn’t make for a sucky memoir, and I’m so glad he shared it.

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You can buy Henning Book Two: The Prince of Wintergrave here:

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Excerpt and Giveaway: Henning Book 2: The Prince of Wintergrave by Hayden Thorne

Hayden Thorne

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5 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Lisa, Young Adult

Review: Henning: The Hunted Prince (Book One) by Hayden Thorne

Title: Henning: The Hunted Prince

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 143 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Young Henning Babkis has learned not to consider himself to be anything special. Ignored and taken for granted by his family, his education suffering as a result of their neglect, he nevertheless struggles to fit in and improve himself, though with unimpressive results. He’s also learned not to expect anything more for himself, convinced that he’s doomed to live his life in a deep closet, surrounded by people who don’t care and who’d have given him a lot of grief if they were to find out he’s gay. Continue reading

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

Review: Masks: Ordinary Champions by Hayden Thorne

Title: Masks: Ordinary Champions

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 189 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Book 3 of the Masks series follows Eric’s adventures as a newly-transformed supervillain sidekick. Taking advantage of Eric’s relationship with Peter, the Devil’s Trill uses him for a shield against the superheroes. In the meantime, new villains and a new, covert vigilante-like group appear, with a young hero with chameleon powers attempting to infiltrate the Trill’s hideout and help Eric. Continue reading

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Guest Post and Giveaway: “Masks: Ordinary Champions” by Hayden Thorne

“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” – Joss Whedon

 

Blurb:

Book 3 of the Masks series follows Eric’s adventures as a newly-transformed supervillain sidekick. Taking advantage of Eric’s relationship with Peter, the Devil’s Trill uses him for a shield against the superheroes. In the meantime, new villains and a new, covert vigilante-like group appear, with a young hero with chameleon powers attempting to infiltrate the Trill’s hideout and help Eric.

Eric struggles with his conscience and schemes to turn the tables on the Trill, but his powers deteriorate. He grows more and more unstable and unsafe while the Trill’s henchmen appear to grow stronger and stronger, as though they were also subjected to the same manipulation that’s been used on Eric. As the Trill fights both the heroes and tries to assert his dominance over the new villains, Eric realizes that he doesn’t have much time left to set things right on his own, even if it costs him his life. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Historical Romance, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Lisa, Young Adult

Love and Loss and Redemption Weave Their Way Through Hayden Thorne’s “The Glass Minstrel”

“And there the craftsman sat in the deepening shadows of his workshop, ignoring the candles that burned themselves out till he was finally enveloped by the night, his thin figure bent over his worktable and the little minstrel.” — Hayden Thorne


Title: The Glass Minstrel

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 216 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: It is the Christmas season in mid-19th century Bavaria. Two fathers, Abelard Bauer and Andreas Schiffer, are brought together through the tragic deaths of their sons. Bauer, a brilliant toymaker, fashions glass Christmas ornaments, and his latest creation is a minstrel with a secret molded into its features. 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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5 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Hayden Thorne’s “Masks: Evolution” Delivers More Action And Adventure To Vintage City

“Sometimes giving up control could very well be the cure to one’s spiritual sickness. Or whatever.” – Hayden Thorne


Title: Masks: Evolution

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count:

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: While his friends continue to develop their newfound powers, Eric begins to feel the effects of being the odd man out. Around him, things go from bad to worse for Vintage City as the Shadow Puppet, a new supervillain, steps into the Devil’s Trill’s shoes and wreaks havoc with his army of killer mannequins. Continue reading

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Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC, Queerteen Press

Excerpt And Giveaway – Masks: Evolution by Hayden Thorne

22457655Today we welcome Hayden Thorne on the Masks: Evolution Blog Tour. Evolution is the sequel to Rise of Heroes, and carries on the story of teenage Eric, his boyfriend Peter, their friend Althea, and all the superhero and supervillain action Vintage City can handle.

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Hayden Thorne Drops By Today With A Giveaway On The “Grave’s End” Blog Tour


The Novel Approach is pleased to have Hayden back with us today. She’s offering a little excerpt from her latest novella Grave’s End, from Queerteen Press, and she’s offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an e-copy of the book.

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Hayden Thorne Stops By Today To Talk “Wollstone” And A Giveaway


"The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde gave me the idea for 'Wollstone's' main love story

“The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde gave me the idea for ‘Wollstone’s’ main love story

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and the thorn touched her heart, and a fierce pang of pain shot through her. Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.

– Oscar Wilde, “The Nightingale and the Rose”

Wollstone is the most fairy tale-y of my contemporary fantasy books, and I needed it to be that way. I’ve always wanted to write a gay YA boarding school story, considering my sources of inspiration and writing background, and I decided I didn’t want it to be a realistic one. Just the concept of an exclusive school for boys makes me instantly look at fantastical elements and not the issues that can be raised involving boarding schools and gay kids.
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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Hayden Thorne’s “Banshee” Is Here, And She’s Offering A Giveaway


My favorite collection of Victorian ghost fiction

I believe in ghosts. It’s an odd thing coming from someone who’s pretty much an atheist and who’d sooner worship science than a god. But I readily admit it without an ounce of self-consciousness or embarrassment. I do believe in ghosts because I’ve been in a situation that counted as a haunting. And as I’ve noted at my blog in the past, I wasn’t alone when the incident occurred, and I’ve got my younger sister to corroborate my story. We still talk about it from time to time, and I’m sure neither of us will forget it till the end of our days.

The incident’s rather too long to recount here in full detail, but let me just say this: we continue to be convinced it was our dad, who’d recently passed away, whom we heard walking slowly up the stairs and across the hallway, only to stop at our bedroom door to turn the knob. Thank heaven our door was locked. If it were a live person, we’d have heard him/her walk away from our door, but we heard nothing after the doorknob turned a couple of times. This rough summary doesn’t do my experience any justice, but for the sake of brevity for this guest blog, that’s it.

I’ve also been deeply fascinated with the supernatural when it comes to my entertainment. Ghost stories in the traditional sense are my love, and when I say “traditional sense”, I’m talking about ghosts treated as – ghosts. Not things that kill people in an orgy of blood lust, which tends to be the modern interpretation of ghosts, particularly in film. I’ve read recently published ghost stories that ended up being nothing more than chapter after chapter of increasingly over-the-top hauntings, so that there’s nothing subtle about ghostly activities in those books.

Classic Victorian ghost fiction done right by a contemporary author

I had high hopes for the more recent adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, but while the movie does a spectacular job visually, the writers have completely ignored the gradual, creeping nature of Jennet Humfrye’s hauntings in favor of jump-scares and piled-on moments of ghostly occurrences, which aren’t reflective of Hill’s novella at all. The movie’s release, though, re-ignited my love for Victorian ghost fiction, and I re-read Hill’s novella prior to seeing it, and I dug out my old anthologies of Victorian ghost fiction to enjoy.

I wish I could explain why ghosts and ghost fiction have such a stranglehold on me (not that I’m complaining, mind). I think it’s got a lot to do with the unknown, with what goes on after death and how ghosts seem to upend everything we’ve always been taught about the afterlife. There’s also that chance, however slight, of a deeply psychological element involved in hauntings – not just in the part of the deceased, but the witness as well.



Enter young Nathaniel Wakeman, circa 2007, when I wrote Banshee.

Before I received the call for material for Prizm’s opening, I’d already read several Victorian ghost fiction anthologies. I’d also latched on like a barnacle to M.R. James’ ghost stories, which are considered to be the best in the genre. Through James’ stories, I developed an appreciation for the actual art of writing ghost fiction, which (to me) involves a skilled use of suggestion and sustained atmosphere – a lot of control going into each haunting scene. So I jumped at the chance of trying my hand at writing my own Victorian ghost story – one that involved a gay teen, at that.

My ghost story hero

Nathaniel Wakeman lives in the Isle of Wight – a setting that I wanted right off the bat because the one effect I was hoping to achieve in this story is the pervading feeling of claustrophobia. So Natty grows up in an island, and he’s the son and only child of a modest vicar. His world view is extremely limited in every sense of the word – he’s physically isolated, mentally limited to whatever books his parents allow him to read because he doesn’t go to a regular school and is taught at home by his father, and emotionally, he’s very much focused on his day-to-day cares.

The novel’s also written in the first person POV, which was a bit of a challenge because the story takes place in the mid-19th century, and there’s always that tricky juggling act of making the story readable without sacrificing too much of its historical angle. But I decided it was necessary to stay inside Natty’s head the whole way as a means of capitalizing on that feeling of claustrophobia I wanted. Once the hauntings begin, we get to see the ghost through his eyes, and we experience his struggle for understanding using nothing more than his limited perceptions of the world.

Poe shows us how to write psychological gothic fiction with a capital ‘P’. When I grow up, I want to write like him

I wrote the ghost as both a haunting as well as something that’s deeply psychological. And I based it on an actual experience my sister had involving my mother when we were little kids. In short, my mom appeared to my younger sister – looking normal and talking naturally and all that – when she was supposed to be at work. Of course, she told my sister she needed to see our grandmother next door, and almost immediately after she left us, we got a call from her, checking up on us. “I was just thinking about you kids while I was working,” she’d said (summarized), “and I thought I’d call to see if you’re all okay.” Well – we sure as hell weren’t okay after we got the call.

As an addendum, I was in another room when my mom appeared, so I didn’t see her, but I heard her voice as she talked to my sister. My oldest brother was infuriated and tried to catch her at a lie, but my sister stuck to her story. She was, what, six years old or something? Would a child that age lie about things like that? Count this as another incident that can be corroborated, even if it didn’t involve an entity.

If you want visual inspiration for a ghost story, use Caspar David Friedrich’s moody landscapes

But that was what I wanted to achieve in writing the ghost. It isn’t a sentient being, out to kill for revenge or for sport. It haunts Natty for a reason he won’t uncover till the end, and even then, the psychological aspects of the hauntings throw a few shadows in there, clouding his attempts at full understanding. That, though, is the nature of ghost stories as I’ve always seen them. No matter how many times we turn things over in our heads, no matter how hard we try to work logic into them, there really isn’t any way for us to come to a complete understanding of incidents that defy the natural order of things.

I’ve always said that Banshee was my baby of the three books I debuted as a gay YA writer because it’s in a genre I’ve always loved and will always love. I continue to feel a special kind of fondness for it. It remains my only attempt at Victorian ghost fiction so far, and I’ll have to remedy that situation soon. Having gone through another couple of rounds of edits to prepare this book for its 2nd edition release, I’m again bitten by the bug. And I’ll have to go back and re-read my favorite ghost fiction anthologies and re-watch my favorite haunted house movies to whip myself up to another haunted house frenzy. Not that I mind, of course.

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.

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Backlist Book Bump, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

It’s A Backlist Book Bump Day For Hayden Thorne’s “Renfred’s Masquerade”, And Of Course, There’s A Giveaway


The Novel Approach is thrilled to have Hayden Thorne back with us today to celebrate her Young Adult masterpiece, Renfred’s Masquerade, a book that made my choice for best young adult book of 2011. It’s a gorgeous bit of storytelling, and Hayden has decided it’s time to introduce you to Nicola, the hero of this tale, by offering the chance for TWO lucky readers to win an e-copy of the book.

Enjoy the excerpt and see entry details below!

BLURB: Young Nicola Gregori has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a brilliant clock-maker who’s famous for his wild, fantastical designs. But his father instead sends him to school to learn more practical matters. Nicola, stricken with infantile paralysis that left him with a deformed right leg, becomes an object of mockery and cruel jokes in school. He learns that in order to survive his daily ordeals, he needs to vanish in the crowd, to stop aspiring, to stop dreaming, and above all, to believe himself unworthy of respect and love.

Tragedy strikes when Nicola turns sixteen. Gustav Renfred, an old friend of his father, takes on Nicola as his charge and whisks him away to an isolated islet filled with empty mansions and bordered by a bluebell forest. There Nicola slowly learns about the tragic history that tightly weaves together the fates of Jacopo Gregori, Gustav Renfred, and Gustav’s twin sister, Constanza.

Magic, impossible dreams, and unrequited love come together in Ambrosi, the Renfreds’ mansion, where Nicola is caught up in a world of haunting portraits, a ghostly housekeeper, and the mysterious disappearance of Davide, Constanza’s adopted son. When Nicola’s invited to one of Renfred’s magical masquerades, he discovers the answers to riddles as well as the mounting danger that the Renfred family faces with every passing hour. With the masquerades’ existence depending on the physical and mental strength of an ailing Renfred, the task of solving the mystery of Davide’s disappearance before time runs out falls on Nicola’s shoulders, and he has no choice but to depend on things he’s long learned to suppress: courage, self-respect, and the desire to aim for impossible goals.

EXCERPT:

Nicola frowned as he looked around him. The spell had broken somehow, but while it didn’t ruin the charming, colorful, and festive atmosphere of the masquerade, a keen awareness of the magical nature of the assembly now took over. He felt as though he were back in his usual logical self, baffled all over again by the fantastical nature of his surroundings and slowly finding himself being lured away from reality with promises of possibilities that went beyond his limited perceptions.

With that came a very unwelcome question: how would he be able to dance with someone who was, Nicola was now convinced, nothing more than a phantasm created by Renfred? He was the only flesh and blood being in that ballroom, and while the revelers appeared to be real, Nicola attributed that to the remarkable quality of Renfred’s skills.

The music ended, and the dancers whirled to a halt, their laughter replaced by the buzz of conversations. Some dancers left the floor and either took their places in the room’s periphery
or left the ballroom to rest elsewhere. The majority stood and chatted, waiting for the orchestra to rest before moving on to the next piece. No one seemed to notice him, but Nicola didn’t mind
at all. If he were invited to a magical masquerade for entertainment and not interaction, he was pleased for the most part, though he hoped that there would be real food available in another room, for he was sure that he’d be famished soon.

“Then again,” he muttered, sighing and clucking, as he looked around to admire the elaborate costumes of fellow guests, “why should I stay till three in the morning if all I’ll do is stand and watch, uh, ghosts dance and enjoy themselves?”

A surge of restlessness coursed through him, and Nicola abandoned his spot to walk along the room’s perimeter in order to observe the goings on more closely from different places. He deliberately walked close to some of those who stood near the walls, sometimes brushing against guests, but while none of them felt unreal or incorporeal, he remained ignored. Masked men and women pushed past him or didn’t meet his gaze, no matter how long he stood before someone and stared. He felt invisible, almost, the fact that he also wore a mask and a costume to hide his identity adding a degree of irony to the realization.

He had nearly reached the orchestra by now, noting that the musicians were already getting ready for the next dance as they took up their instruments again while turning the pages of their musical scores.

“Will you dance with me?”

Nicola nearly tripped on his own feet at the question as well as the sudden feel of warmth enveloping his left hand. He froze in his tracks and spun around, shocked. The young man in the odd white costume stood before him, holding his hand.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Nicola blinked as he stared at the fellow and then dropped his gaze to their joined hands.

“Pierrot.”

“What?”

The young man in white smiled, releasing his hand. “That’s my costume. I hope it’s acceptable.”

“Oh.” Nicola looked to his left and then his right, not sure what was going on and wondering if now was a good time to leave despite the fact that he’d just arrived. “It’s an interesting costume, I’m sure.”

“So—will you dance with me?”

Nicola frowned, felt the urge to scratch his head in confusion but remembered that he was wearing a hat. Within seconds he went from feeling confused to feeling stupid, then suspicious, then shy. Swallowing, he feigned indifference and nodded. “I suppose.”

Pierrot grinned, perhaps reading Nicola’s bewilderment and the sudden threat of nausea that gripped him, and offered a hand. “We should take our place on the floor, or we’ll get squeezed out of it before we even start.”

“But where’s your partner?”

“He’s dancing with someone else now. It’s all right.”

Pierrot’s eyes sparkled with mischief, a brilliant light that his mask didn’t mute at all. “I swear I won’t hurt you.” When Nicola hesitated some more, he added in a softer voice, “Please.”

“I’m sorry. This is my first masquerade.” Nicola felt sheepish beside his new partner as he was led to the floor, his nervousness taking on a completely different dimension. He’d never danced the waltz before; he’d never danced at all before. He was sure that he’d end up injuring his partner within the first few bars of the next piece. That is, if make-believe people could be injured. The urge to vomit continued to threaten, but he forced it away, reminding himself that this was supposed to be nothing more than good fun. Renfred had taken the trouble to conjure up a themed masked ball for Nicola’s sake and even acquiesced to Nicola’s plea for a normal right leg. Whether or not this Pierrot fellow was a specter that was meant to be his partner Nicola couldn’t tell, but he wasn’t about to be an ungrateful brat, and he chided himself for his nerves and awkwardness.

“Don’t ask questions,” he murmured. “Play along and enjoy what you can.”

He’d just finished his self-directed lecture when Pierrot stopped and turned around. “This is a good spot for us,” he said.

When Nicola stared, his confidence slipping again, Pierrot chuckled. “If it’s your first time, I’ll guide you. It’s really very simple.”

Stepping forward, he gave Nicola brief and clear instructions on how to hold one’s partner, and before long, Nicola found himself in a very intimate and nerve-wracking partial embrace, with his partner smiling down at him, while he could only swallow a dozen times, his eyes unblinking and ready to pop out of their sockets.

“Relax and let yourself move with the music,” Pierrot said. Nicola nodded, his body still rigid. It didn’t help that his partner suddenly leaned close and spoke into his ear next. “I’ll take care of you. Just enjoy yourself.”

The noise of dozens of conversations broke to the beginning strains of the next waltz—one that was as heavy and insistent as it was rhythmic, melodic beauty shedding any pretenses to poetry and speaking of a people’s hardship and enduring pride. The strains haunted with melancholy but romantic images that clung to Nicola’s mind as he danced around the room, awed, mortified, and exhilarated by the strangeness of this new experience.

“Don’t look at your feet. Look at me.”

Simple enough directions, but difficult to follow. Nicola found that he couldn’t look straight into his partner’s eyes, the self-consciousness and embarrassment weaving an uncomfortable thread in the mix of emotions that defined his first dance. But he also felt compelled to, largely because his partner’s eyes exuded intelligence and sadness that affected Nicola in a way that was foreign to him. Suddenly he wanted to know this young man’s story, and suddenly, he wanted to be with his partner all night, though he was still quite fuzzy as to what was going on regarding Pierrot’s acknowledgment of his presence, given his observations on the rest of the assembly’s indifference.

I dithered over whether or not to add a video to this post, and I decided to go ahead with it. It’s a piece that inspired the scene, actually, and I listened to it repeatedly while writing it. Ignore the fact that it’s totally anachronistic to the time period of the story. :)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I’ve lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area though I wasn’t born there (or, indeed, the USA). I’m married with no kids and three cats, am a cycling nut (go Garmin!), and my day job involves artwork, great coworkers who specialize in all kinds of media, and the occasional strange customer requests involving papier mache fish with sparkly scales.

I’m a writer of young adult fiction, specializing in contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, and historical genres. My books range from a superhero fantasy series to reworked folktales to Victorian ghost fiction. My themes are coming-of-age with very little focus on romance (most of the time) and more on individual growth with some adventure thrown in.

ON GENRE FICTION FOR LGBT TEENS:

LGBT teens have all sorts of stories to tell. They’re heroes not only of contemporary adventures or of fantasy and magic, but also of history. The rules might be different – stricter, a bit more frightening given 19th century laws, for instance – but there are still dreams to be shaped, character to be developed, and all of these done within the parameters set by the genre. It’s going to be a challenge, sure, but if it means allowing LGBT kids their own time in the “limelight” of, say, the Victorian stage, I’m game.

THE GIVEAWAY: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Magic And Illusion Weave A Spell In Hayden Thorne’s “Renfred’s Masquerade”


“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ― Stephen King


Title: Renfred’s Masquerade

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 238 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Young Nicola Gregori has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a brilliant clock-maker who’s famous for his wild, fantastical designs. But his father instead sends him to school to learn more practical matters. Nicola, stricken with infantile paralysis that left him with a deformed right leg, becomes an object of mockery and cruel jokes in school. He learns that in order to survive his daily ordeals, he needs to vanish in the crowd, to stop aspiring, to stop dreaming, and above all, to believe himself unworthy of respect and love.
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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

“Masks: Rise of Heroes” – In Which There Are Strange Things Afoot In Vintage City


“With great power there must also come—great responsibility.” – Stan Lee


Title: Masks: Rise of Heroes

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 238

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Strange things are happening in Vintage City, and sixteen-year-old Eric seems to be right in the middle of them. There’s a new villain in town, one with super powers, and he’s wreaking havoc everywhere and on Eric’s life. The new superhero who springs up to defend Vintage City is almost as bad, making Eric all hot and bothered, enough so that he almost misses the love that’s right under his nose.
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Louis Stevens, Queerteen Press

The Truth Is “What We’ve Been Waiting For”


“In the lie of truth lies the truth.” ― Dejan Stojanovic



Title: What We’ve Been Waiting For

Author: Louis Stevens

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 118

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Blurb: From the age of three, Tim Bailey wanted to marry Tom Watkins. Many changes occurred during their formative years, but Tim’s love for Tom remained rock solid. Even when Tom temporarily broke up with him to date girls, Tim never stopped loving Tom.
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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

An Unlikely Friendship Transforms “The Weeping Willow”



“Fairy tales and folk tales are for children and childlike people, not because they are little and inconsequential, but because they are as enormous as life itself.” ― Anthony Esolen


Crispian Butcher is a throw-away child who, at fifteen, has learned what it means to be homeless, friendless, hungry, tired with nowhere to rest. He finds work where he can, lucking into a job that provides just enough for survival, making his home within the sheltering branches of a weeping willow tree, a very special tree that is so much more than what it seems, a tree that is bound by magic to absorb a wealth of human grief.
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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Hayden Thorne Is With Us Today On “The Weeping Willow” Blog Tour, And She’s Offering A Giveaway!


Several years ago, when one of my older sisters was still a freshman in college studying art, she decided – for what heinous reason it was, I can’t remember – to draw a pretty eerie image which she’d titled “Madonna and Child”. It was an illustration of a woman in black carrying a baby, and she stood in the middle of an abandoned road in the dead of night, staring at the viewer with an icy kind of malevolence.

Let’s just say that image was seared in my brain forever.

About a year or so ago, it came back to me during an idle moment, and I decided to do something about it (i.e., distract myself from being so creeped out in the middle of the day). So I wrote what I believed then to be the first chapter of a new gothic novel, but I ended up setting it aside when things didn’t quite pan out beyond the first chapter.

Madonna and Child by Fra Filippo Lippi. Nowhere near my sister's twisted version.

Madonna and Child by Fra Filippo Lippi. Nowhere near my sister’s twisted version.

When I wrote the first version of The Weeping Willow, the story simply focused on Crispian and the weeping willow, it was shorter, and I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out. After quite a bit of back-and-forthing with my publisher, I was given the green light to withdraw my story, rework it, and then resubmit it.

The weeping willow’s story, I felt, was incomplete. He, as well as Crispian, needed some kind of foundation on which their fairy tale could stand, and after going through my folder of unfinished stuff, I came across that abandoned first chapter and decided to weave it into the current story. That first chapter became Chapter Two in The Weeping Willow, and from there I needed to backtrack some more in order to give the ghost her own story and so wrote Chapter One.

weeping willow

The novella’s original incarnation was whimsical and light, and with the addition of Aeldra and Helena’s stories, the tone changed dramatically into something much more atmospheric and gothic. Suddenly the significance of a boy’s name turned into a matter of life and death for Aeldra and her servant, Halfrith, and the rest of the story branched out from that idea.

What started out as a light fairy tale inspired by superstitions surrounding weeping willows was now a lot more complex. I really fancied the idea of names somehow harboring people’s essences so that the unnamed would live in some kind of limbo, and otherworldly entities would need a name in order to lay claim on a person’s soul. For mortals, who’ll always be at a disadvantage against forces beyond their comprehension, a name becomes their only protection against the danger of being whisked away to the supernatural realm.

The Wind's Tale illustrated by Edmund Dulac

The Wind’s Tale illustrated by Edmund Dulac

[Writerly digression] Never let it be said that writing’s a linear process. In my experience, ever since I started writing gay YA novels in 2007 for publishing in 2008, it’s always been five steps forward and three steps back, but in the end, the headache and at times confusing bungee jumps from a future chapter to an earlier one prove to be well worth the creative whiplash. [End writerly digression]

As with my previous attempts at short stories, I prefer writing fairy tales that are more like “peasant tales” for lack of a better term. Princes and kings and so on are fun to read and write about, but fairy tales centering on the poor and the everyman are much more liberating insofar as inspiration goes. The main reason is the fact that, unlike nobility, the working-class and the poor are far easier to relate to, their daily struggles transcending time even if specific social/political issues change. It’s more fulfilling transposing current issues to a setting that’s clearly in another time and place altogether. And fairy tales fall under the more generalized heading of folklore, whose roots are in the traditions and/or relgion(s) of a culture. So there’s a great deal of material there to mine, and if I could work modern issues, value systems, etc., into a more traditional narrative form, the better it is for me to convey specific lessons aimed at contemporary gay kids. My bias in genre fiction is that giving distinctively modern concerns the veneer of history works in creating a sense of timelessness in the story.

The Little Match Girl

The Little Match Girl

My main love is historical fantasy, which is my fancy-schmancy way of saying fairy tales. With every new story in this genre that I attempt, my hope is to create an original folktale echoing the narrative form of the more familiar ones from, say, the Brothers Grimm and shape it into one gay kids can claim for their own. The Weeping Willow is a story celebrating individuality and autonomy, a common theme in my fairy tales and an issue that’s always been very important to me. It’s a theme that I strongly feel is significant to gay kids as they struggle through the murkier waters of adolescence and the immense pressure for conformity they must feel from all sides, day in and day out.

It’s my hope, anyway, that any young person who stumbles across my work would draw something from it. The Weeping Willow is just one of several, and there’s certainly a lot more where that came from.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Hayden Thorne’s “Benedict” Is A Coming-Of-Age Story Told In A Unique Way – And She’s Offering A Giveaway!



I’m afraid I’m going to be the odd person out on Lisa’s review blog as I’ve got nothing GRL-related to share with everyone; however, I enjoy geeking out in a way that dusty, book-hoarding, book-fondling English majors could appreciate. I thought long and hard for what I could say about Benedict, but I ultimately came up with nothing of much interest save for the fact that the story was a salvaged fantasy flash fiction that a fantasy magazine rejected. It was originally titled “Belinda”, and Belinda was a marionette who got so fed up with her strings controlling her that she freed herself from them and died as a result. Not a particularly happy story, but it had a point. The marionette angle stayed in the back of my mind, though, and years after I attempted “Belinda”, I recycled the general idea behind the story and expanded it into a gay YA fairy tale novella.

Marionette Theatre

Unfortunately, that’s it about Benedict and its history, but I can veer off a tad and go full English Lit nerd insofar as my sources of inspiration go when it comes to writing historical fantasy stories for and about gay kids. And those who’re familiar with my backlist will attest to the fact that I can’t write something without working metaphors in them or just plain go all out on the fantasy elements to make a point.

Some people might ask, “Why can’t you just tell a straightfoward story about coming out or bullying or family dynamics, etc.? Why go through all the trouble of writing something so roundabout to explore an issue that’s contemporary?”

My overly simplified response to that would be this: oh, heck, why not? :D

My less overly simplified response would be this: I want to give gay kids fairy tales they can call their own. They’ve grown up having all those classic, heterocentric stories fed to them, from Charles Perrault to the Brothers Grimm to Hans Christian Andersen to Oscar Wilde and all other writers in between. Wouldn’t it be great to offer them fairy tales that go beyond castles and noblemen or re-imagined popular tales in which the gender and sexual orientation of the protagonists are changed? Wouldn’t it be great to give them fairy tales that explore contemporary issues they’re familiar with while keeping to the conventions of the genre?

The Owl and the Nightingale

I’ve always known about metaphors as a figure of speech, but I never really understood allegory as a literary device until I was in college, and my Medieval Lit professor assigned “The Owl and the Nightingale” for us to read. Written sometime in the 12th – 13th centuries, it’s been interpreted a variety of ways, one being a religious allegory involving asceticism and celebration. I wrote a paper about it, using that angle, and enjoyed my time researching the Benedictines and the Friars Minor, the two most likely candidates represented by the owl and the nightingale (note: I ended up dating St. Francis’ timeline incorrectly and left my thesis standing on shaky ground, but my professor didn’t seem to know much about monks and friars, so I was spared the humiliation of being called out on it).

'Two Men Contemplating the Moon' by Caspar David Friedrich

And, as they say, I never looked back. It sure doesn’t help that I was required to do close readings in all of my literature classes – save for maybe the 18th century satirists, who didn’t care to mess around when they snarked about things – which spiraled to stratospheric levels when I studied Romanticism. That was a goldmine of metaphors and imagery and what have you, with Romantics rebelling against the cold reason of the Age of Enlightenment before them.

E.T.A. Hoffmann

I’ve read so many books since then, but those from my Medieval Lit and Early 19th Century Lit classes (and, ironically, the 18th century satirists), stayed with me the longest, and they’ve influenced pretty much everything I’ve written, no matter how contemporary. I found that I enjoy toying around with imagery and coming up with ways of conveying different ideas that readers might not expect. The thrill of writing these little “breadcrumbs” into the story is what helps fuel those long, agonizing, lonely hours either hammering away at the keyboard or giving my wrist a serious cramp when I write in longhand. I enjoy that element of surprise as a writer, and I always hope there’d be at least one person who’d pick up the book, read those “breadcrumbs”, connect the dots in his or her head, and go, “I get it!”. To me, that process of pulling something out of the text beyond what’s on the surface level adds something special to the reading experience.

Since I’m no longer in school, I do find inspiration for historical fantasy just about everywhere. Over at my blog, I tend to write about sources of inspiration, most of which is musical. There’s one film, though, of all the ones I’ve seen since the dawn of time, that I look up to as a fantasy writer, and it’s Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

It’s a film that masterfully, seamlessly weaves elements of reality with fantasy, leaving viewers wondering in the end whether or not Ofelia’s fairy tale adventures were real or a figment of her imagination all along, especially when those fairy tale scenes have real-life counterparts above ground. Beyond the possibility of a child’s tragic attempts at disassociating herself from the horrors of Civil War-wracked Spain, there are so many ways of interpreting the movie. I remember sitting stunned in my seat when the credits rolled, completely horrified, heartbroken, and yet just plain amazed at the way Del Toro wove his story (the visuals sure helped a lot, too). I’ve yet to come across another film that either rivals this one or one-ups it in showing just how inextricably connected reality is with fantasy.

Though my go-to genre for musical inspiration has always been classical music, there are some contemporary songs that have fueled some of my historical fantasies. Contemporary folk songs such as Seth Lakeman’s “Lady of the Sea (Hear Her Calling)” and Genticorum’s “Les Culottes De V’Lour” work like folktales in the way they tell stories of shipwrecks (Lakeman) or cuckolds (Genticorum).

Classical music tends to inspire me to come up with more grandiose elements (settings, plots, characters), but simple folk songs like these inspire me to look at the everyman (or, in the case of my chosen market, the everyboy) and tell his story. Fairy tales, after all, aren’t just about nobility; at this day and age, a shifting emphasis to the working-class is, I think, more appropriate for allegory, and I’ve been focusing more and more on the less privileged for my protagonists. Just like those archetypal princes and princesses, they deserve their time in the sun as heroes of their own special quests – even more so, in fact, given the odds stacked up against them.

Other forms of art inspire me in so many ways, but I’d like to stop here before I kill Lisa’s blog with too much text. :D Thanks for having me aboard!

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THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

“Benedict” Cuts The Ties That Bind And Awakens The Sleeping Prince



“Friendship is just love that has yet to sprout wings and take flight.” ― Kristen Reed



The Twilight Gods and Renfred’s Masquerade are to this day the benchmark by which I measure all Young Adult historical fantasy novels, not that there are so many to choose from, mind, but as far as niches go, Hayden Thorne has this corner of the market all tied up. Lush with imagery, rife with symbolism and ripe with a message of hope in a world where conformity to the rules of society meant hiding behind an illusion, these books take the reader on fantastical journeys of self-discovery for their young protagonists.

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