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Newsletter

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Let’s face it, I’m scared to try to start a newsletter. Everyone tells me it’s something a writer needs. It’s *the* essential thing that a writer needs after books. I personally wouldn’t join an author’s newsletter, though I have been joined up by people without my permission to theirs and have – if they happened to be someone I knew – been too apathetic or embarrassed to unsubscribe.

I certainly don’t intend to do that with mine. No one’s going on that thing unless they sign up for it themselves.

Which brings me back to fear. My fear is two-fold:

1. Nobody will sign up because nobody is interested.

2. Several people will sign up and then I’ll disappoint them.

The rational thing to do in this instance would seem to be not to try to do it at all, but I’ve just been reading a book on social anxiety, and for getting over your fear they recommend doing the thing anyway and then trying to persuade yourself that it’s not that bad.

So, in the spirit of behavioural therapy, lets do the thing :)

You can sign yourself up for my newsletter over here:

http://lists.alexbeecroft.com/mailman/listinfo/newsletter

or you can do it by emailing here

mailto:newsletter-request@alexbeecroft.com

To make this prospect more appealing, I have an Advanced Review Copy of Trowchester Blues available to be given to one random new subscriber. There are only 5 of these ARCs – which are produced to go out to reviewers before the book is given its final proofing – in my hands. I’ve reserved two for giveaways elsewhere, one for me and one for a friend, so this is a fairly exclusive offer. I’ll draw that on New Year’s Day.

I don’t know whether it makes it more or less appealing to know that anyone who did sign on would have free rein to tell me what they wanted to see in a newsletter, because other than news of new releases I’m not sure what people would want to see in there and I’m more than willing to be told. I personally see it working a bit like an email group, with everyone talking to each other, but IDK. What do you think?


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Interview on Muse Hack

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I was delighted to be interviewed recently on Muse Hack, which with its concentration on the less trodden paths of the genre world felt like a good fit for me. Here I am trying to explain what the heck it is I write again

http://www.musehack.com/blog/2014/11/interview-writer-alex-beecroft.html

MH-Logo-Scaled

Did that make any sense to you?


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Book reading octopus

A giveaway and two posts in one week. Where will it end?

The Novel Approach were kind enough to interview me about The Reluctant Berserker, so I am over here today explaining why Viking helmets did not have horns and why I like the Saxons so much – hint, it involves elves :)

If you would like to read an excerpt and possibly win a copy, hie thee over there and say hello!


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Asexuality Awareness Week

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Ace-logo4

I’ve always been weird. I remember my parents being concerned because I dressed so much like a boy. “Don’t you want to look attractive?” they would say, and I would think “Why on Earth would I want to look attractive? I don’t want to attract anybody.”

At university, I was briefly locked in a rivalry with another girl over the affections of a boy with lovely, long, coal black wavy hair. Eventually, because he apparently didn’t really have a preference, he told us that he would go out with whoever would have sex with him that night. I could see no point in that and slept alone. He went out with my rival, and I was briefly angry about the shallow and unfair nature of his selection criteria. But a couple of months later he cut his hair and I realized he’d never been much of a catch anyway.

In my fourth year at university – when I was doing a Masters degree in the Cult of the Horse in Early Anglo Saxon England – I had a conversion experience and became a Christian. If I thought about sex after this, it was simply to assume that my total disinterest in sleeping with anyone was a case of natural virtue. But really, I didn’t think about it. I was busy and happily employed thinking about the Saxons, playing AD&D, listening to Prog Rock and writing my first novel, and I didn’t have any time for or interest in all that. It didn’t seem strange to me at all that I didn’t want to have sex with anyone. I didn’t feel I was missing out. My life was full and lacked nothing.

It wasn’t until I was out of university, settled in London and established in my first job that I began to feel that perhaps I was doomed to be alone for the rest of my life. They said that if you didn’t have a boyfriend in university, you never would. And although I still had no desire to sleep with anyone, I started to feel very much that I would like to have someone to love – someone I could settle down with and share the rest of my life with, in sickness and in health. I prayed that God would bring the right person into my life, resigned it to Him, on the understanding that if He chose for me to be single and celibate all my life, I would accept that with good grace, and about a month later I met the man who was to become my husband.

Because I had no notion that anything like asexuality existed, I naturally assumed that when I got married my sex drive would kick in and of course I would want my husband. I loved him very much, and I was delighted and disbelieving and overwhelmed by the fact that he loved me back. It stood to reason that if sex was a basic drive for every human, I would have it too.

But I didn’t. And now that I was married I went from being ‘virtuous’ to being ‘frigid’. That wasn’t a nice thing. I had to face the fact that if sex was a basic drive for every human, then I must not be human.

I had also struggled with my gender when I was growing up. For a long time I thought I was transgender. I wanted to be a boy. I had always found m/m stories hot, and m/f stories skeevy. So I thought “Perhaps I don’t want sex because I’m not the right sex myself? Perhaps what I want is to be male so I can have the kind of sex I find it hot thinking about?

When I found the slash and m/m writing community, I discovered that there’s a name for that, and it is ‘girlfag’. So for a while I thought ‘maybe that’s what I am.’

But it seemed out of true to ascribe myself an identity where sex was central, when the truth was that for me sex has always been so peripheral that most of the time I forget it’s a factor at all. I am always, continually surprised and put off by the number of ways people will find to make a conversation about sex when it wasn’t, and that just derails from the genuinely interesting thing you were trying to talk about instead.

So the more I thought about that, the less right it seemed.

It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I came across a mention of asexuality. I no longer remember where, but I followed it to AVEN and I found out that there was a community of other people who would also genuinely rather have chocolate than sex. When I read their discussion boards, I discovered that these were people who thought the same way I did – people who also forgot sex, who didn’t find it particularly interesting. People who looked at human interaction and zeroed in on all the other things that make us human.

At first I wondered if this too was a label that would fit less well the more I thought about it, but it hasn’t been that way. The more I’ve reflected on myself and my childhood, on the way I interact with the world now, on the basic thought processes of my mind, the more I’ve found that the label fits. It explains things. Finally, after 49 years of feeling that there was not a box for me – that I was inhuman, incomplete, badly made, wrong, frigid and useless – I’ve found that no. I’m actually just queer.

I find it typical of myself that I should be queer in a way that isn’t universally considered ‘properly’ queer – that I should be queer in an invisible way. After a lifetime of being weird, after searching for a label that was so carefully hidden that it took me half a century to find it, it’s fitting that the label I found is still relatively unknown. I’m not getting into whether we should be considered part of the queer community or not. After having lived so many years thinking I was uniquely broken, it’s revelation enough for me to know that an Ace community exists and that I’m actually not the only one in the world after all.

This week is asexual awareness week, so I am making this post to say that I am aware I am asexual, and I’m very glad about that.

We are apparently 1% of the population, which means there are as many of us as there are redheads in the world. That’s… actually quite a few. If any of this sounds at all familiar to you, I can do no better for you than to pass you over to AVEN where you too can find out you’re not alone. If you’ve felt peculiar all this time and you’ve tried to find out whether you were some desultory version of gay or trans or one of those better known labels, but they’ve never quite fitted either, you may be looking for this very label yourself. (Or one of the others on the asexual spectrum, such as grey-a, demisexual or aromantic.) Go and find out! You may actually, finally have come home.

 

Asexual_flag

Look! We even have a flag :)


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Three Essentials for Fantasy Worldbuilding

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I know, you want to write the next Lord of the Rings, or possibly the next Game of Thrones. So do I, to be honest. But I also want to read as many more epic fantasies as can be brought to the bookshop table, and sometimes I go looking for them in the Kindle shop. Frequently, you can download the first episode of an epic fantasy series for no cost at all, and decide from what you read whether you want to buy the rest of it for real money.


So far, I have to say, I’ve not yet found one I felt moved to spend money on. I’ve seen lots of books where the hero(ine) discovers they’re special, finds a magic weapon and goes off to rid the world of the evil overlord, and in lots of them I’ve felt completely unable to suspend my disbelief. Not because the magic was too outre, or the hero(ine)’s superpowers were too odd, or the secondary non-human race was too strange – sadly. I would have been delighted if they were, tbh. But because the author displayed a complete ignorance about the mundane things of their pseudo-medieval world that I actually know something about.


When you’re trying to sell your readers on the possibility of a world with fantastical elements, the reader needs to know that you are a reliable source of information and have thought about how this works. That is instantly undercut if you get your real-world details wrong. So, here are three very vital things you need to do to prevent your reader from throwing the book at the wall before you’ve even got the story going.


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  1. Understand how your technology works.


And I don’t just mean your gravity defying steam dirigibles. If you’re writing a pseudo-medieval fantasy and your characters are lighting a camp fire, Google “how to light a fire without matches.” Never just make it up, because it is a thing that somebody out there knows how to do, and they will know if you get it wrong. And they will go “Oh, bloody hell, Author! Those are ashes. Ashes don’t burn! If I can’t trust you to get that right, what can I trust you with?”


In the same way, decide on the technical underpinnings of your habitations. Things like plumbing. (Is water brought in to your houses by wooden pipes? Are there fountains or wells in the centre of the village? Does everyone have to walk to the stream every morning? Engineering – how were the heavy blocks that form the temple of doom transported onto site/raised onto the sacrificial platform? (By treadwheel crane? By teams of oxen? By teams of neutered trolls?) Exactly how far is the range of that arbalest? Can I really gallop from Dover to Sherwood Forest in a day? Etc etc.


The more you get right, the more convinced your reader will be that you know what you’re talking about, and the more solid, the more reliably real your world will seem.


Peasants



  1. Understand how your economy works.


Doesn’t that sound dull?! This is something you can paint in broad brush strokes, so it doesn’t have to be as tedious as it sounds. However, I have thrown a book at the wall because it was set in a small community where every single person went to their shop at the beginning of the day, sold unspecified goods, and then went home. The community was surrounded by a wall and isolated from the rest of the world. This made me wonder several things, specifically – if no one is making things, and no one is bringing things in from outside, what on earth have they got to sell in their shops? If no one is farming and growing food, why don’t they starve? Does the author even know the basic facts of existence, such as ‘food has to come from somewhere’, and ‘clothes don’t weave themselves’?


This economy did not work, because nobody was producing anything. You need to ask yourself “What do they eat?” “Where do they get the food from?” “Who produces it?” “Where do they get clothes?” “Who produces those?” “How long does it take them, and who feeds them while they’re doing it?” “Where do they live?” “Who builds those places?” Etc.


In order for your character to have leisure time to go off and become a warrior/magician/assassin/whatever there needs to be a large social infrastructure in place to create enough surplus so that not everybody is occupied at simply trying to survive. As the author, you need an understanding of how that infrastructure hangs together. Even if you lift it wholesale out of medieval Europe, like 99% of other Fantasy writers, you really need to know how it works, or people will ask themselves why your populations are not too busy starving to worry about the return of the Old Ones.


Plus, once you have a basic idea of how your economy functions, it may turn out to be a surprising source of story ideas. If all your country’s food has to travel up river through that bottle-neck between the Fangs of Fear, that’s a prime site for a bandit queen to capture so she can starve the city into compliance.


kazanlik



  1. Understand how your society works.


This will tie in with how your economy works, because everyone needs to eat. Once you’ve established who’s producing the food and necessities, ask yourself who’s profiting from the surplus, and how.


Is your society a traditional medieval one in which the food producers were barely free, the merchants had a little money and therefore influence, and the top of the food chain were the heavily armoured blokes running a protection racket on top (aka knights and kings)? It’s reliable and so ubiquitous that it’s almost invisible, and you can get right on to your story about the Chosen One confident that the readers are thinking ‘oh, it’s another one of those things.’


But perhaps you want to do something different? Maybe the arable land is scarce and everyone relies on a small powerful clique of farmers to provide food to a starving manufacturing class? How would that affect the things that were respected and valued in your world? Would you have people rebelling by raising their own crops in window boxes? Would seed-peddlers be daring heroes of the proletariat? If you developed that, all kinds of weird things could happen. Your heroes would probably not be warriors, they might be gardeners, but I can’t help but feel that we’ve already had too many warrior heroes. Time for something else, maybe.


Perhaps your society is run by nuns who genuinely do collect from all what they can give and give to all what they need? In our world, Communism has slipped rapidly into corruption, but what would it be like living in a society where everyone genuinely was treated as equal to everyone else? Owned no more than anyone else, and had no more power than anyone else? What would that be like, really? I’d be interested to find out.


Or perhaps your civilisation is an actual democracy and there are branches of magic dedicated to getting the votes of every person in a society that doesn’t have the tech level to do long distance communication otherwise? It’s up to you to say, and so it’s also up to you to know.


These three things may not be as glamorous to think about as that spectacular battle scene you have in your head, but they are the foundations on which your world rests. If your readers catch you making elementary mistakes in these things, you’ll be very very lucky if they (a) ever get to your spectacular battle scene at all and (b) ever read something of yours again. So pay at least enough attention to these so that your foundations won’t crumble and let the whole edifice down. You might even find out you’re writing something much more unique and interesting if you do.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Blog post tombola

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The summer holidays have thankfully come to an end, edits on the Trowchester books can only last so long, and that leaves me with the rest of the year to write something new. So, what should it be?

I’m currently writing a fantasy about three sets of people from diverse cultures who get stranded together on a floating island due to shipwreck/the death of the gods. That’s slow going as I gradually work out the world building, but very entertaining. But after that, I have a choice of:

1. Another 3 Trowchester books – small British city contemporaries featuring the occasional murder and a bit of morris dancing.

2. A follow up of The Reluctant Berserker where Brid the slave gets a story of his own. (For which I need to do some research on Celtic Britain in the 6th Century.)

3. Kind of tempted to do a sort of action/adventury jewel thief m/f romance with an option of turning it m/m/f later on.

4. A follow up to The Wages of Sin.

5. A follow up to The Crimson Outlaw.

6. Something else of your suggestion?

I’d welcome anyone’s advice, as I really don’t have a preference at all.

~

I keep thinking I ought to leave Tumblr because it’s such a time sink, but I find so many interesting things there. For example, this post about a multi-racial casting for founders of the Hogwarts houses

http://themarysue.tumblr.com/post/97309699977/supernatasha-part-ofthecult-hogwarts

particularly the erudite response of supernatasha to the claim that everyone was white in Europe during the middle-ages. I feel sure this is going to be of particular relevance to me once Blue Eyed Stranger comes out and people discover that one of my main characters is a black Viking reenactor. As a matter of fact, the knowledge that people of colour have probably always been in Britain is a fact that Martin himself is passionate about passing on to his own pupils. It’s nice for me not to have had to assemble the research on that myself. I can just refer anyone who objects to go to the excellent Medieval POC.

~

And since I appear to be doing a bit of a tombola – pick three tickets at random and see what you get – kind of blog post, I’m going to end with something that made me happy this week:

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I just wish I could buy it somewhere!


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Men are human too.

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As a writer of m/m romance I’m always a bit taken aback and amused when I see blog posts about “how to write male characters,” as though it was something you had to approach in the same way as you’d approach “how to write Regency street-urchins” or “how to write convincing aliens.”

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I always read the blog posts with enormous interest, but in my limited experience, they’ve mostly consisted of a rundown of cliches about what men are like (apparently they all watch sports, prefer beer to wine and don’t wash their socks,) that vaguely offend me in the same way that stereotypes about women offend me.

In my lifetime’s experience of men, no two of them have been alike. Most of them have liked beer, but that could be because I like beer and it tends to be something all my friends have in common, the women too. Even so, I know some male wine snobs, and some men who are sports-hating domestic gods, and can whip up a fine meal in the time it takes them to wash and iron their socks.

So what do I do, to create convincing male characters? Well, I look at the one human being about whom I have inside information – the one person who, to a certain extent at least, I understand in depth. That is, of course, me. Then I gift my character with a selection of traits that I either have, or can imagine having. I put the character in situations that I have never had to face, under pressures that I have never had to face, and I imagine how I would react, if I was them in their circumstances.

Of course, those circumstances involve being male, and that means that society shapes the way their traits manifest in a different way from the way I experience things. John Cavendish from False Colors has my temper, for example, and in writing him I do need to take into account the fact that society treats men’s anger and women’s anger differently. In men it’s expected, even respected, in women it’s unexpected, and is treated with suspicion, as irrational and hysterical. So, (in general) a male character can afford to express his anger outwardly, whereas a female one can’t, if she hopes to be taken seriously. Conversely, (in general) no matter how upset he is, a modern male character can’t break down in tears and expect not to be mocked, whereas a female character can.

It’s much easier to figure out what society expects from each gender and how that determines the way a common human trait plays out, than it is to write male characters as though they were not quite as fully human as the writer.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Happy New Year!

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I should make some resolutions, shouldn’t I? How about these -

Get back to my target weight.

(While I was ill, my digestive system went freaky, so I could gain or lose half a stone in a week without any changes of diet. I had absolutely no control over it, and after a couple of months of angsting about it I abandoned attempts to establish control as futile. Now that I am no longer anemic, due to the wonders of intravenously administered iron, it’s time to get back into the driving seat there.)

Walk or dance every week day

(I haven’t been able to get off the sofa for 6 months. I badly need to get reasonably fit again.)

Practice my whistle playing every week day

It’s amazing how fast you can lose all the tunes you know if you don’t practice them, and I have a massive book of morris tunes to learn and memorise. That’s not going to happen without some dedication.

Write at least 250,000 words of new fiction this year. Preferably 300,000.

(I wrote 260,000 words last year. Now that I’m no longer ill, I can surely add another 40,000.)

This one has sub-goals and a certain amount of vagueness attached, because you never know exactly how the muse will strike:

Finish editing Blue Eyed Stranger and Trowchester Blues before April.

Write third book in Trowchester series.

Find a publisher for The Glass Floor or publish it myself.

Write a new Fantasy.

Write that murder-mystery I’ve always wanted to try.

Edit and polish all these new things!

Try some short stories?

That’s it for new year’s resolutions. They’re more a case of setting goals which I know I can achieve. I will also not be too upset if I only walk or whistle 3 times a week – as long as I don’t end up not doing it at all.

People say that you don’t achieve your resolutions, but my feeling is that in that case you just set them too high. It’s useful to give yourself something to do that you know you can do. But even if you don’t fully achieve them, if you’ve tried to, you’ve probably achieved a lot more than you would have done had you not decided to aim for anything at all.

“Do or do not, there is no try,” is – excuse me George Lucas – bollocks. Everything that you achieve is achieved by trying and almost doing it, and then trying again and getting a little closer, and then trying again and doing it – fairly badly, and then trying again and doing it slightly less badly. Etc.

Edge up to your successes gently so that neither you nor they get startled and scared away.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Too Many Fairy Princes – release day

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Too Many Fairy Princes is out today! I would be more enthusiastic about this if I was not (a) anaemic and (b) still sedated after yesterday (literally, I’m not yet legal to drive a car as it hasn’t worked its way out of my system yet.) So I’m afraid I cannot manage anything terribly upbeat. I’ll have to content myself by saying that I will give away a free copy to the first five people who comment, if you will promise to review it on Amazon. Like it, hate it, I don’t mind, but I’d really be grateful if you would tell people  about it, because I am just … I just can’t, at the moment. Sorry.

Too Many Fairy Princes

 

Happily ever after doesn’t always come quietly. Sometimes it puts up a fight.

Kjartan’s family is royally dysfunctional. He’d prefer to ignore the lot of them, but can’t since his father has set him and his brothers on a quest to win a throne Kjartan doesn’t even want. Worse, his younger brother resorts to murder and forces Kjartan to teleport—without looking where he’s going.

Art gallery worker Joel Wilson’s day has gone from hopeless, to hopeful, then straight to hell. One minute he’s sure his boss has found a way to save the floundering business, the next he’s scrambling to sell everything to pay off a loan shark. If anyone needs a fairy godmother right now, it’s Joel. What he gets is a fugitive elven prince in a trash bin.

They’ll both have to make the best of it, because fairy tales run roughshod over reluctant heroes. Particularly when there aren’t enough happy endings to go around.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

Saturday Snippet

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Here’s a quick snippet from The Crimson Outlaw in which Vali’s reaction to being captured by bandits is not 100% appropriate:

Potentially triggery sexual threat situation, for those who are not quite as thoughtlessly invulnerable as Vali.

~*~*~*~

18th Century Romania

His hand went to his sword just as a man’s long arm snaked out of the darkness behind him, pinned his forearm in place and drew him back against a hard, unyielding chest. The man’s other hand gently touched the long glint of a hunting knife against his throat. And though it pressed in hardly at all, the edge was so sharp a warm trickle made its way down Vali’s neck and pooled in his collar. He froze.

He couldn’t see his attacker, but he could feel the man was much bigger, much stronger than him. Broad chest, big arms, the smell of woodsmoke and sheepskin. If he struggled, he might open his own throat on that razor of a weapon. And what a stupid way to die, at the hands of some common bandit not ten miles away from home.

“That’s it.” The deep voice, more than a handspan above his head, coaxed him as gently as he would have coaxed his horse. “Don’t you struggle or start, and this will go easier for you. I’ve no mind to kill you, unless you make it needful for me.”

“I have no money.” Vali’s chest was heaving, his body still readying itself to fight, his mind trying to clear away the haze of shock and panic, looking out for its opportunity. He allowed himself to be dragged backwards, away from the path, into the utter dark of the moonless wood.

A chuckle, hoarse but good-humoured. “Well, so they often say.” The voice sounded conversational. The body belied it, moving in a rush like the charge of a bear, seizing him by the belt, spinning them both and slamming Vali’s back into the trunk of a tree. “I’m sure you won’t mind if I check for myself.”

The bandit was now directly in front of Vali, flush with Vali from knees to chest, holding him in place with the weight of his great body. The knife remained at Vali’s throat. The man’s coat swung forwards and enfolded Vali on both sides as the bandit’s free hand moved methodically over him, cataloguing what he found.

“Silk waistcoat lined with fur. Stiff embroidery—must be silver or gold thread—and little stones in it. Metal plaques on your belt and, oh, there’s a nice sword. Get your hand off that, there’s my good boy.”

The voice had slipped into a kind of bedroom murmur—pleased, confidential, intimate—and the experience of being groped all over should not perhaps have been so . . . But it was. The knife at his throat and the pressure from balls to lungs of a powerful, demanding warm body thoroughly dominating him stirred something deep in his bowels. Lust added itself to terror in his panting breaths, and he despised himself and the bandit indiscriminately.

But he still didn’t dare buck up against that blade.

“You’re a little lordling of some kind, but where’s your retinue, eh?” Wind moved the branches, and for a moment, a shaft of light reflected gold from the backs of the eyes that looked down on him. All he could see—two round spots of gold in a dark mass that smelled of hot, vivid, animal sweat. “Run off to find your fortune? Daddy won’t increase your allowance? Nobody loves you enough?

“Let’s see. I could strip these clothes off you and take your horse and leave you wandering these haunted woods alone. Something’d eat you, cover your tracks, no one’d ever know where you’d gone.” That exploratory hand returned, less brusque and businesslike than before. It pushed up the long skirts of Vali’s waistcoat and stroked possessively up his inner thigh. “But what a waste.”

“Ah!” said Vali, gritting his teeth. It didn’t sound as much like a protest as he wanted it to. The mockery stung. He barely stopped himself from writhing—away, towards, he wasn’t sure—and slicing his own neck on the still steady knife. That deadly edge filled his thoughts, commanded his movements. Not entirely unpleasantly, for all he wanted to shove the man’s words down his throat and make him choke on them.

The bandit laughed again and drew a length of cord from the inner pocket of his coat. Vali felt the end of it slither over his fingers. “So let’s suit both of our needs and test how much your family values you, shall we? You’ll make a lovely hostage.”

 


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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