“Alright, ahuvi. I will tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was heroic prince who met a troublesome bard, and the two fell in love.”
I don’t know how much time is lost after I begin spinning exaggerated tales of our time together. I start with the first day we met, when I knocked him on his ass.
I detail our visit to Farhaven and how we defeated Loyska together, the beginnings of a friendship which quickly turned to more. The prince made new friends and explored unfamiliar lands beyond the prison walls he grew up in, he and his brother were part of a family now.
The prince confessed his love to the bard by a frozen pond, a sacred place illuminated by fireflies that thrived in the cold. That night while making love in the airship, the bard admitted his own growing love, and the two were happy.
I skip over the fact their romantic relationship only lasted a year, skimming over the hurtful parts and onto our adventures with Captain after I had left. I swallow guilt and disappointment thinking about leaving him for Sage, and focus on how we saved hundreds of people together.
It’s always been him and I.
I describe how the bard and prince brought peace to everywhere they visited. How the prince managed to feed entire villages, and how the bard revived the voices of those who were the most broken.
How everyone knew them both by name, both their terrible deeds and the good.
How they wreaked havoc on the corrupt, and saved the unfortunate, together.
The heartbreakingly beautiful special edition cover of Realm of Giants, illustrated by Fantasy Sprite Studios who has outdone herself again.
You can pre-order signed copies of this on my author page, its the second novel in my steampunk series and full of angst, queer love, and exploring new worlds.
“By chance, do you know where Gleason went? Or, when Thatch will be back? I suppose he’d be the one to talk to about the apartments.”
“Oh? Gleason’s just outside, but Thatch is,” Helena’s iridescent eyes flash to Rhea snorting, then down to the dishwasher digging around in the pastry case, hood pulled down around their face as they struggle to pull out the empty trays, “boss, really?”
The person stands and my heart palpitates in response to my magick’s upcoming symphony. Waves of tightly coiled copper flow from beneath his hood, covering one of his striking oceanic eyes. His mouth’s stuffed full of scone, and mocha icing dots his nose. I bite my cheek in attempts to reel in my magick, a few heads turn in response to the mark on my face glowing brighter than a fucking neon sign.
And no, it’s not him. He’s not my person, so stop looking between us with those smug grins.
“Oh, hello again.” He says over attempts to choke down his food. “You guys missed one.” He points to his reddened cheeks full of scone.
“Oh! You already know each other? Why were you hiding then, boss?” Helena asks and the questions in Quentin’s eyes multiply. I rub the back of my neck in anticipation.
“No, he just, I just, we ran each other last night.” Thatch gestures between us hastily with icing covered fingers, curls bouncing. His eyes linger on mine for a second, but he otherwise avoids looking directly at me. “I did not feel the need to bother you again.”
His gaze hardly falls on Quentin, but Quen can’t stop staring at the man with a smile brighter than the sun. Wait.
And so their shenanigans begin.
Where would you hang out, with the books or in the cafe?
The ARCs for Phantom and Rook have been sent out and now I’m just twiddling my thumbs, wondering what to do with myself. In the meantime, enjoy some art and an excerpt about the magickal bookstore in this urban fantasy that’s releasing on November 2nd. The cover reveal will be mid-October and I’ve secured an audiobook narrator.
“I won’t forget you, I promise.”
“As you can see, everythin’s in working order, buildin’ has been standing longer than I have, but you’ll have that in Old Town. Contracts were just renewed with the kingdom, shipments come once a month and the staff are great, though the mural out front will have to be fixed up. Oh, the latest one I hired, he’ll need some trainin’, but he’s a good one, I promise.”
I follow behind the shopkeeper that doesn’t remember me, but that bothers me not. I’ll visit his mother’s grave tomorrow, not that she would remember me either. Guilt eats away at my insides, I wish I could’ve saw Mrs. Thitwhistle off to the next world. She was the epitome of hospitality, and her son takes after her gentle side. The old man was a down right bastard, but he left when Gleason was just a babe, and it seems the boy turned out more than alright.
I trace along bookshelves, caressing the engraved detailing hidden in the wood. I find no tacky dust there, same as the last time I visited. The town, no, city, has changed infinitely in the last eighty years, but Thitwhistle’s hasn’t changed a bit. Most of Old Town is the same as it’s ever been, but especially here.
“It’s perfect,” I say, smiling down at the katan.
Pride lifts Gleason’s chin high, he re-ties his mousy hair back and we leave the expansive back end of the shop behind, where aisles upon aisles of books sleep, and enter the cafe section.
The barista counters and refrigerated display cases are centered on a raised, half moon plaza that dominates the head of the cafe. The once white tiles of the dias are painted cobalt and spattered with star dust clouded constellations. Vibrant colors of the night flow beneath our feet, extending into a river that swirls around the raised area and spreads out to blanket the rest of the wood floor in starry clouds.
The lapis astronomy theme accented by gold continues throughout the shop, much different from the earthy tones Mrs. Thitwhistle used, but I think it’s a rather nice touch. The lofty ceiling of the entire place is filled with golden galaxies and meteors, milky ways and dying planets. More paint detailing shows up in random places, the artist’s touch reaches every subtle inch of the room.
Lines of planets along the edge of a table, shooting stars over top of a curving window frame, explosive golden bursts of light that make my heart ache.
Curtains drape along each of the unique round windows facing the street, which are quite a few. The heavy, royal blue fabrics are embroidered in simple gold along the edges and match the upholstered lounge chairs and couches nestled by the fireplaces. Dual hearths rest on the east and west sides of the room, accompanied by chess boards, small tables to eat, and the furniture which the college kids are currently taking advantage of. Enormous groups congregate around both roaring fires, laughter rolls through the gossip and small talk thickens the warm atmosphere.
Thitwhistle’s feels like someone’s grand study open to the public rather than a bookstore, complete with coffee beans and scones, and I’ve never felt more at home. The crowd is equal parts magickal beings and humans, young, old and everything in between. There are a few older folks tucked into a corner, eyes crinkling and steam curling around mugs which hide their smiles.
A set of half shifted werewolf pups tug on their mother’s sleeve, begging for the ‘Monster Hot Cocoa’, complete with candy and whip cream on top. She rolls her eyes good naturedly, in humanoid form, then orders three of the drinks and half a dozen donuts for the bus ride to Full Moons Field.
“Scone?” Gleason asks from my side, patiently watching me take in the scene with a sly smile on his slightly creased face. Half-Katan don’t live as long as their magickal parents usually do, but a couple hundred years all the same.
I reach down and take it from him, then bring the pastry to my nose and inhale deeply. Mocha and walnut. I glance down at Gleason with a wicked smile, despite myself. “You do remember me.”
Gleason flushes, then tucks a strand of escaped hair behind his softly pointed ear. “Indeed, but I must admit, I thought ya’ were just a childhood fever dream at first, but seeing you here now, that’s not true, is it?”
That’s how most people describe their memories of me, the blurred edges of a dream that fades the harder they try to remember. It doesn’t hurt when old friends, acquaintances at best really, forget me. I’ve long gotten used to the feeling of perpetually being alone, but my heart aches in an unfamiliar way.
Bells ring when the door paned with colored, patchwork glass opens. The nightlife of the Old Town meets my ears the moment he opens it, but Gleason abruptly stops in the doorway. I halt in time so I don’t step on his heel and his wide eyes catch my attention.
Gleason presses a hand to his chest and takes one small step at a time, staring reverenterly at the front of the store. “That kid,” he whispers breathily, and it’s not until I’ve joined his side again that I find what he’s looking at.
The once crumbling storefront has been restored to beyond its former glory. The faded mural which held a portrait of Mrs. Thitwhistle hauling two armfuls of books over her broad shoulders has been painted over. A mural of the solar system, with the unique bookstore itself as the center of the universe, stretches from one end of the storefront to the other. The family sigil of the Thitwhistle’s hides in the stardust of a galaxy, along with the words, ‘Knowledge is Life.’
Standing tall in the center of the tremendous round, two storey building is the paned door we came through, flanked by the mishmash of round windows on either side. The same gold and blue color palette from inside the bookstore inspires the mural and trim. The paint shimmers underneath the lamplights lining the street, smooth against the cobbed surface. Underneath a window, I notice a decent sized canvas that matches the mural.
I kneel before it and brush a thumb over the artist’s signature done in white, indecipherable, but my heart skips all the same. I take the canvas and offer it to Gleason, but he’s caressing the miniature bookstore floating on a cloud of stardust. His fingers settle on the family sigil, then he clears his throat, glancing sideways at me.
“Shit like this makes me want to stay.” Gleason huffs out a laugh, then gently takes the canvas from me and studies it. “Kid down the street, he’s the one who did all the artwork on the inside over the past few years, and now this. Always when I’m not looking, won’t take any money for it. ‘He’s bored’, he says. Agh, fuck, sorry.” Gleason wipes his wide nose with his flannel sleeve, sniffling.
“Don’t fret, tears bother me none. Good for the soul, I say.” I pat his shoulder and he nods. The streets have begun to thicken, patrons move past us to enter the bookstore, waving to Gleason as they do.
He nods to them, rallying himself once we’re alone again. “I want to see the world. Took me so fuckin’ long to even think about it. ‘What would mama say?’, you know? She always said this place was enough, and it is, but … I want more. I want to go on adventures, Mr. Phantom, that’s why I want to sell. Silly, isn’t it? Leave this behind for some fantasy, at my age.”
I stare directly into his eyes. “Doing what you love isn’t silly. I admire you, Gleason, and I think you should do it. And I’m not just saying that because I want your bookstore, but because I think your mama would want you to. As long as you don’t forget to visit, of course. I can hear her saying it now.”
I gesture dramatically before us and he chuckles, eyes brightening. “You’re a devil, Mr. Phantom. Alright, let’s sign some paperwork.”
After spending all day on maps and poring over everything once more, I finally put together the first bit of Phantom and Rook for my newsletter peeps to check out.
We’ve got three maps, a language and magical race section, a prologue and three chapters. If you’ve been on the fence about joining the Advanced Reader team for my latest queer urban fantasy, then this is the perfect chance to see if it’s for you.
In these chapters you’ll meet the main characters and a friend group with no boundaries, not to mention the meet cute that’s second hand embarrassing for all of us. If you need a laugh and something to warm your cold heart, then this will definitely do the trick.
I’ll be sending the email with this short bit out first thing tomorrow along with the full version of this beautiful art done by @gagakumadraws on TT and IG, one of many pieces I’ve comissoned from them for this book.
“Oh I’ll just write a cozy gay fantasy with found family, something quick and easy.”
100,000 + words later.
This End is near and I can’t believe what this story has become and how many people love these two already. I literally wrote down ‘festival thief’ on a napkin, an idea to one day pursue in between my steampunk books.
The ARC forms are up and more art is in the works, not to mention possibly an audiobook. If you want to sign up for an eARC you can do that here.
His eyes slowly open and he looks into my soul. “Who are we to turn away from what we’re made for? No matter how much it hurts.”
I answer him the only way I know how, because words are not enough.
I wrap myself around him and dive into his parted lips, he closes the distance and hoists me into his arms. My nails drive into his back and he moans into me, exhaling magick and lust. “Sorry,” I murmur, but he shakes his head.
“You can’t hurt me, but you can try.”
Something is different about the way we touch each other now. Last night was reverence and memorization and love. But this, this is different.
Arlo Rook has decided it’s time to move out of Garren Castle, home for orphans of all races, magical or not, at 100 years old.
It’s not the first time he’s left home, but after a setback that landed the Hedge Witch in the hospital a year ago, he ended up right back at square one. But now he’s ready to strike out on his own, despite his friend’s worries that he’s not ready for the ‘real world.’
Then, he crashes into a mess of copper curls and bright eyes, sending apothecary goods and his life into a chaotic mess. Thatch is a mysterious and incredibly wealthy benefactor of Levena, only spoken of but never seen. He requests a night of Arlo’s company and a tour of the city, which Arlo immediately declines.
But that’s not the last time they see each other, and it certainly wasn’t the first. Arlo doesn’t remember him, no one remembers Thatch after he visits, but Thatch never forgot the Witch with a familiar mark on his face.
Thatch Phantom is an immortal, the last of his kind and perpetually bored. When he’s not closing inter-dimensional rifts and corralling demons, he’s visiting his favorite city of all, Levena. Centuries ago, when life was particularly dull, he set up a scavenger hunt for a starving village, providing them with a year’s worth of supplies.
He anonymously returned year after year, upping the ante and providing less practical things, as the village had become a city and was wealthy beyond belief. Festivals were thrown in his honor, and have continued every year since. Hundreds of years later, The Game is still put on by the fabled ‘Scarlet Illusionist’, but no one has figured out who blesses them with the puzzles.
Once again, Thatch is listless and has decided to throw a wild card into this year’s Game. Whoever discovers him will win one wish of their choice, no restrictions. Aside from the obvious, such as no falling in love, murder or resurrection.
What he didn’t anticipate was crashing into the one person whose soul mark flares like a beacon when Thatch is around, teasing the immortal with the one thing he wants most.
Someone to call home.
What follows is a wild chain of events filled with magical coffee shops, villains with vendettas against cheese makers, moving tattoos, grand puzzles, and second chances at love, and life.
Thank you to my artist and friend, Henni Eklund, for bringing to life these two chaotic disasters, along with everything else you do for me. Arlo and Thatch are just as I imagined them and I cannot wait for you to all to experience the joy that is grumpy witches and sunshine immortals.
If you’re interested, I currently have ARC signups up until September. You can find it at the top of my linktree.
I should be thinking about my new job, not Thatch.
I can’t help it, every time I pass by a bustling storefront I want to point out cool shit to someone who’s not there. Someone I really don’t know, no matter how much it feels like I do.
How much it feels like he’s … everything that was ripped out of me a long time ago.
A shiver runs down my spine and I casually look around. A selth follows behind me from a distance, his overcoat’s collar turned up and doing nothing to hide what he is. His pure onyx eyes dart away when he catches me looking and the tentacles dangling from his star snout dance with agitation.
“Fuck off, Bob.” I snarl, quickening my step.
Bob doesn’t fuck off.
I’m not exactly sure where I came up with the idea for Bob and the cheesemaker who’s done him wrong, but it’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever written.
Arlo is trying to murder me. We sit together on a bench, Kitt sits beside me and Quentin is on the other side of Arlo. The massive picnic table is blanketed in red and white plaid, fully crowded as Caspian and Tobias bring over the last of the food from the grill. Our thighs are touching. He’s one of those people who tells stories with their hands, which frequently brush against my back as he waves in the chilled air behind me, or alongside my forearm when his fingers settle on the miniscule bit of plaid between us. He’s smiling, and his eyes shine in this light like I’ve never seen before, gold and emerald specks quite literally dance in irises and he catches me staring for a few seconds too long multiple times. To be fair, I’ve caught him staring at me, too. His leather jacket is gone, resting on the bench between his hip and mine, revealing thick arms adorned with ink here and there. I’ve noticed when someone asks him a question, his fingers tend to find the dragon along his forearm. He’ll briefly sweep over it in one direction, then the other, and that’s all, but he doesn’t ever look at it as he does. Maybe he doesn’t realize he’s doing it at all. The stars are a gorgeous backdrop for the strands of warm lights criss-crossing through Caspian and Tobias’ yard, the night perfectly illuminated for the group of friends I’ve come to know as the ‘Misfits.’ Caspian’s scowl has lessened, but he doesn’t make it a point to talk to me. Quentin is quiet as well, but he doesn’t seem to outright dislike me. Although, his face brightens like the first spring day after a treacherous winter when Arlo asks him how his day was. I listen to those around me chat with content, answering when I’m spoken to but otherwise watch the dynamics unfold with curiosity. Arlo makes sure to give each of his friends attention, but Kitt, Caspian and Quentin especially thrive under it. Lindsey and Kitt have no problem flaunting their relationship, while Caspian and Tobias keep close to each other and hold hands, but not much else. Their children often find their way into Arlo’s lap, and Caspian looks upon Arlo with such fondness I find myself more … jealous, (yes alright I’ll admit it) of him than Quentin. Those looks from Caspian cause Arlo to flush or distract himself with conversation, whereas the plain adoration from Quentin is lost upon Arlo, or it seems that way. He talks to Quentin like he does to every one of his friends. “So, Thatch, have you ever visited during the festival before?” Kitt asks, distracting me from watching Arlo wrestle Marlena off his shoulders. I turn, facing her and Lindsey. “Regrettably, no. But from what I’ve seen thus far, it seems like a grand time, although I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.” Gowan giggles from her seat across from us, as does the gladiola fae she brought with her tonight. Both fae are in full bloom, which I find fascinating. Deep yellow dandelions decorate Gowan’s grassy skin, while soft white gladiolas drift past Iris’ mossy shoulders, her long blue hair curling between the flower heads, leaves and stems with hidden roots. “All the fuss?” Arlo starts, to which Caspian and Kitt simultaneously groan. “Now you’ve done it.” Lindsey agrees, leaning on Kitt’s shoulder and watching me with a conspiratol grin that matches Gowan’s. “Alright, alright. Let’s eat before Lolo pitches a fit.” Caspian says, passing around the platter closest to him. I raise a brow at Arlo. “Lolo?” Arlo glares at me after he passes Marlena off to Tobias. “Don’t even. I’m mad at you.” “What!” He nods solemnly. “This is unacceptable.” I look to Kitt and she puts up her hands. “Arlo is very passionate about the Scarlet Illusionist.” “You’re the one who runs a museum with not one, but two exhibits dedicated to them.” She rolls her eyes. “Whatever.” I chuckle. “Is that the fellow I saw on the banners last night? I must say, whoever designed their outfit is quite … decadent.” “See!” Quentin cries, pointing a potato covered serving spoon at Lindsey, much to Arlo’s approval. The elf scoffs, flipping blonde over her shoulder. “Well I think it’s just right.” I put my hands up. “I didn’t mean any offense! I mean, it’s just–” Lindsey laughs. “It’s alright, we live to pick on each other. If you’re going to be around that one, you better get used to it.” She gestures to Arlo and the autumn breeze nips at my overheated neck. “Yes, well, thank you for the advice.”
While I’m more active on Tumblr with my excerpts, I’m going to start posting some work in progress shorts over here. For today, we have pining, and lots of it.A
Also, sneek peek of a piece I commissioned from the lovely Henni Eklund, one of the artists who worked on the Iverbourne tarot cards.