Blunts Tales – A Party Tail

What happens when Master Shedo buys Tamsin at the Blunts annual auction?

Have you met the mysterious Master Shedo?

I’m scared.

Scared breathless. Scared stupid. 

I tuck my arms behind my back and twist my hands together so the Masters and Mistresses watching me can’t see how badly my hands are shaking. I will my knees to stop knocking. Try to force air into my lungs by breathing in through my nose, out through my mouth to a count of five the way I’ve been taught.

I don’t even make it to three before I’m gasping in another breath.

“Sweet pea, do you need a minute?” 

That’s Master Franco’s cool, deep voice. I can’t see him, because I’m blindfolded for the auction, like all the other house submissives when we’re put up on the block for sale. But I know most of the Masters and Mistresses voices so well I can pick them out, one from the other, without needing to see their faces. 

There are only a few I’ve done so few scenes with that I don’t know their voices. The exclusively gay masters like Charles, Felix, and Pence’s new master, Harry. The heavy sadists like Javier, Karl, and Nico, who say I’m too fluffy to handle their dominance. And then there are the mysterious masters who almost never play with anyone, like Chairman Chess since he lost his wife, or Master Shedo who barely speaks.

I’m so afraid of one of them buying me.

What happens when Master Shedo buys Tamsin at the Blunts annual auction?

Find out in Blunts Tales, now free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Book Review – The Bonds That Tie series

I’ve been a big fan of J Bree’s writing since reading the Hannaford Prep series, which introduces Eclipse (Lips) Anderson, one of the more memorable female protagonists to come out of the current trend of kick-ass heroines. However, the follow up series (Queen Crow) really didn’t do it for me and I put off reading this series for a while as a result. Big mistake.

The Bonds That Tie series is right back on Hannaford Prep form. There are all the tropes I love: fated mates, rejected mate, age-gap, enemies-to-lovers, found family, self-saving princess, wounded heroes, journey to power, and ultimately, saving the world from a big bad. The series starts in a college, so there’s a touch of New Adult bully romance (with a dash of taboo hot professor), but it moves beyond that setting by the second book for readers who aren’t fans. The characters in The Bonds That Tie series are a little older than Hannaford Prep, which made me as a reader more comfortable with the romantic relationships that the heroine develops with her five heroes, particularly when those relationships have an element of power exchange.

The world building in The Bonds That Tie series is unusual. It’s an alternative, contemporary world that could be Australia or could be America, the author isn’t specific (which I like – it makes the series feel like a parable). People are split into “Gifted” and “non-gifted.” Gifted people have magical powers (via a spirit they call a “bond”). Their magical powers manifest early in life (around puberty), but only fully develop after they find their fated mates and consummate the mating (“bonding”), at which point they get a big kick in power and develop secondary abilities.

For the heroine, Oleander (Oli), her bond is a terrifying thing. I won’t say what Oli’s bond is, but she’s even more of a ninja than Lips. (Think Kali.) Oli’s resistant to bonding because of the potential power kick it will give her inner Kali, which creates plenty of tension between Oli and her heroes, who believe she’s rejecting them. The miscommunication trope is super-strong in the first two books; it is not my favorite trope and I was happy to see it fade out by book three.

The highlights of the books for me were when Oli’s bond was out and doing her thing. I also loved the sections where one of Oli’s mates got a psychic connection with Oli and could hear what Oli’s bond was thinking. Typical J Bree bone-dry hilarity and I am always there for that.

The later books are dedicated to the war between the Gifted who want to crush the non-Gifted to rule the world and our heroine and her five heroes. It’s a war of ever-increasing stakes and there were some impossible moments when it really looked like Oli would lose one or more of her guys. J Bree writes amazing action/battle sequences and her talent was on full display here. The romance took a bit of a back seat in the last two books and I felt that one of the heroes almost disappeared in all the action (that could just have been my own pet peeve because he was my favorite in the early books and he got very little screen time after book 3). But the climax was very satisfying; I’m always happiest when the characters earn their happy ending and these characters certainly did.

There are some big triggers in this series, including incest, so readers should check those before they dive in.

This is a chunky series. Six thick books. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a half-million words or more. But the unrelenting pace makes those words go fast. This isn’t a series to fear because of how much of a commitment six books is.

Read The Bonds That Tie series here, free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

2022 Year In Review

So many words, so little time … here’s what’s coming in 2023.

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. But I do like to look back on where I’ve been as a way to frame where I’m going.

Where I’ve Been

2022 was a funny old year. I had some expectations for it: that I’d publish another Daddy P.I. book, that I’d finish the Teddy’s Boys series, that I’d have more face-to-face social interaction as the country emerged from COVID lockdowns. Some of those expectations flopped: my first big face-to-face social interaction of 2022 ended with me getting COVID and spending six weeks recovering. Some of them were fulfilled (I published Max’s Bumble and Quaternion, two books of which I’m tremendously proud). Some of them took a zig and a zag but ended up being more satisfying than I could have imagined (my second big face-to-face social interaction, the Books on the Beach signing, was fabulous and convinced me to join signing events in 2023 and 2024).

Because I love numbers, here are some numbers for 2022:

Words written: 415, 447

Novels published: 4

Gabe’s Girl: 105,418

Max’s Bumble: 134,442

Quaternion: 132,830

Capricorn: 51,837

Novellas/shorts published: 3

Curvy Space Girls Need Love, Too: 19,377

Warrin With An I: 5,180

Under the Golden Moon: 16,955

These numbers do not add up, EJ! I hear you saying. True. That’s because some of the words I published in 2022 were written in 2021 (a good chunk of Gabe’s Girl and most of Max’s Bumble, which took me almost a year to write), and because I started a Patreon in 2022 where I’ve been posting short stories that now exceed 50k, which will be collected and released in 2023.

Where I’m Going

I don’t have any plans to slack off in 2023, so this is what’s on the planner:

Blunts Tales Vol. 1: this is the first collection of the steamy short stories I’ve been posting on my Patreon. They feature the house submissives of Blunts, the kinky club in the Daddy P.I. series.

Daddy P.I. 3.0: after the two spin-off books (Max’s Bumble and Missing Ink), it’s time to finish the trilogy. This is the last planned book featuring Logan and Emily, although they will certainly appear in future stories set in and around Blunts. Yes, there will be a baby. At least one …

Seismic Daddy: this is a short that will appear in the spring Dirty Daddies anthology. I’m already ridiculously invested in the characters, though, so they may have to join the Daddy P.I. world at some point.

A Little Summer Sizzle: a character from Daddy P.I. 3.0 will head off to the fabulous Rawhide Ranch to help rehabilitate a daddy who is in serious need of TLC.

Blunts Tales Vol. 2: the second collection of the steamy short stories I’ve been posting on my Patreon, this collection is focused on mischief and mayhem at the club and will feature appearances from a new character in Daddy P.I. 3.0. The clues in the stories will lead readers to a hidden story from the Daddy P.I. world. I really love the idea of sprinkling clues over time for readers to find, so I’m planning to work a related mystery into the physical newsletters I send out (the Emily’s Desk tier+ on my Patreon).

Daddy P.I.: The Second Collection: a box set of Max’s Bumble, Missing Ink, Daddy P.I. 3.0, and two short stories, Something Little This Way Comes, and Have Yourself A Primal Little Christmas, which are only available through my Patreon currently.

The Bad Boys of Bevington College: Arcana Primus: a box set of Teddy’s Boys, Gabe’s Girl, and Quaternion for readers who like to have all the books in one place. I’m planning for the box set to be my first adventure into hardback books; there will be special covers. And, of course, what would one of my box sets be without a bonus novella? There’s several years between Quaternion and Capricorn where Teddy and her boys might have had a few adventures …

Ulune’s Daughter: the next book in the Bad Boys of Bevington College series. It’s set after Capricorn (that is, seven years after Quaternion) and features Kellan, an Air-mage and magickal archeologist, and the three boys who claim their naughty professor and won’t let her go . . . no matter what. Ulune’s Daughter is inspired by my obsession with treasure-hunting shows like The Curse of Oak Island. As with the other Bevington College books, Ulune’s Daughter promises to be a little darker than my other books in both the situations the characters face and the kinks explored. I’ll be emphasising the content warnings on this one. As there’s a lot to this adventure (my plot outline is already over 5k), it may end up becoming a duet.

Fate and the God of High Steel: this is a spin-off from the Bevington College series and part of the Defying the Gods shared world series, featuring Trippy, a Fate with a very little side, and Joe, the God of High Steel. Trippy and Joe have cameos in Gabe’s Girl (although Trippy’s sister, Klotho, has a big role in Teddy’s story). I really wanted to explore their characters more but just didn’t have the space in Teddy’s books, so I’m seizing this chance. I anticipate Trippy and Joe will have cameos in Ulune’s Daughter, but I’m keeping my schedule flexible to avoid painting myself into another spoiler corner the way I did with Quaternion and Capricorn, so this may be their origin story instead of a later adventure. How does a Fate find a mate? Sometimes, they have to make one …

Omega Reclaimed: realistically, this may lap over into 2024, but I really want to get Kieran and Morgan’s first book out in 2023. Their origin story is “Under the Golden Moon,” in the Ruled by the Alpha anthology. Writing just the origin story broke my heart. I know their full story is going to wreck me. A fitting end to 2023, maybe.

What about De Leon, Jou and Tsara, and where are all these scifi-romances I keep teasing readers with? They’re definitely coming. So many words, so little time …

Book Review – The Lone Wolf’s Rejected Mate

Book 3 in the Five Packs series by Cate C. Wells

I stayed up all night (literally – sun was rising when I closed my eyes) reading this, my first read of 2023.

I’ve loved this whole series and this book is no exception. The ripple effects of the horrors of the time when Declan Kelly controlled the pack continue to spread. If you thought Killian was twisted and stunted from his father’s monstrosity, just wait until Darragh’s secrets come out.

This book takes the overarching plot line of what’s happening to the Five Packs a big step forward. I don’t want to spoil it, but that part of the book was tremendously tense for me. Yes, it’s a romance. Yes, I know there’s going to be an HEA. But, boy, was I in doubt as to how Darragh and Mari were going to get out of that very sticky situation. I loved that it wasn’t just Darragh to the rescue. A self-saving princess is one of my favorite tropes and Mari came through without turning into Wonder Woman, which would not have been true to her character.

And then there’s the tree house. Sigh. So many happy tears.
Highly recommended.

The Bevington College series ends … or does it?

Eighteen months ago, when a brash young woman popped up in my dreams and announced herself as Teddy Nowak, I never imagined a year and a half later that I’d have a three-book series. But Teddy’s story was too big to contain. Her world is a rich, dangerous, wondrous place and it took me some time (and pages) to explore. Have you discovered Teddy and her boys yet? No?

Start here.

But even finishing Teddy’s story with Quaternion left a huge open question. I couldn’t resolve it without another book.

But that’s another post.

Quaternion is live …

There is no fate but what you make … but what if Fate is out to get you?

Teddy and her boys are back, Tuesdays and Thursdays on my Patreon.

They’ve faced Klotho once. They’ve barred her from her supply of unborn souls. But you can’t stop Fate … or can you?

First three episodes free! Start here.

Review – The Maid and the Orcs

I started crying at 16% and didn’t stop … in the best way!

I started crying at 16% and didn’t stop …

I love this series. It’s gone to the top of my TBR with each new release. And I think this is the best book yet. For a reader coming to the series fresh, I actually think this one could be read as a standalone. By tell the story from Alma’s point of view, the author has made everything fresh, the reader discovers things as Alma does. But reading the whole series gives SO much more depth to this story. Seeing the respect that the Skai scouts give Drafli. (Sniffle.) Finding out why Drafli stuck to the Skai ways for so long. (Sob.) Learning Drafli’s tragic history and the story behind his scar. (Waaaa!)

Nope, I never stopped crying. This story hit me in ALL the feels.

I’ve said in previous reviews how much I admire the worldbuilding in this series. Discovering who does the laundry in Orc Mountain gave this story so much depth. How they clean the floors? Brilliant. I’d never have thought of that. The author has always done a great job of making me feel that I was right in the story, smelling, hearing, seeing, tasting, and feeling this world right along with the characters. Never more so than this story. Given that the series is written in third person, which is not my preferred POV (but the author makes it work), that is a real feat and a testament to the author’s skill.

I’ve already re-read the book twice. I’m sure I will re-read it again MANY times. Highly recommended!

Worldbuilding and the Orc Sworn Series

It takes a huge amount of imagination to envision a setting utterly different from our own, and a huge amount of talent to convey this world in detail after detail. Finley Fenn has both in spades.

Following on my reblog of Louise Hallett’s post on the mind-expanding qualities of speculative fiction yesterday, I thought this would be a good time to talk about world building. This is also going to be a fan-girl post. I’ve been reading Finley Fenn’s “Orc Sworn” series for over a year. The series is going from strength to strength: increasingly complex characters and relationships, higher stakes in the battle between the venal humans and the Orcs. The series is extremely steamy and that’s what gets a lot of focus in reviews and reader discussions.

But I want to talk about Fenn’s amazing world building.

What is world building and why is it important in speculative fiction?

World building is the creation of a cohesive setting for the story. I’ve talked about world building before and the importance of doing research, much of which never ends up anywhere near the page, to inform the narrative. But in this post, I want to talk about cohesiveness. Where an author is asking a reader to believe in things outside the normal frame–be it magic or faster-than-light travel or brutally hot but surprisingly caring Orcs–if the setting doesn’t hang together, the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief is ruptured and the pleasure of reading the story can be lost. All the pieces have to fit, or the whole structure falls apart.

Without wishing to ding masters like Herbert and Asimov, the old “trick” for creating a cohesive, but otherworldly, setting was a rather clunky framing method. Either with a long prologue to the story, or huge chunks of exposition in the first few chapters about what makes this setting different from our daily reality, the author dumps an alternative history on the reader. This alternate history can make enjoyable reading on its own (folks who love Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion,” I’m looking at you), but this framing method can also kill the pace of the story and make the first few chapters a long slog that the reader pushes through to get to the good stuff.

I’d argue that this framing method is one of the things that makes speculative fiction impenetrable to some readers. Not everyone wants to read (or write) chapters of backstory just to understand the rules of magic, or the three centuries of conflict between the Orcs and the elves, or the history of the galactic empire. When I engage with readers about my own speculative fiction, one of the things I hear over and over is that they read to escape and don’t want to have to think too hard about the story’s setting. They want to be immersed in it. They want to setting to be invisible while they enjoy the characters and conflict.

The rise of urban fantasy in the late 1990s and early naughties shook up traditional speculative fiction story structure by plunging readers right into the action. Urban fantasy writers “drip” in backstory to explain the rules of their world. There are few prologues and no “info dumps” of backstory. The world building is invisible to the reader because it’s parcelled out in a wealth of tiny, unnoticeable details. The husband/wife writing team of Illona Andrews in their Kate Daniels series are absolute masters of this form of storytelling. Over several chapters they drop in detail after detail of “the shift” and how waves of magic are now erupting over our once-familiar world. In this setting, there’s nothing unbelievable about lion shape-shifters and ancient Babylonian gods trying to take over the world.

Although the “drip” technique can be initially frustrating to readers trying to find their feet in the “new world” of the story, I’d argue it’s more rewarding in the long-run because the world built by the “drip” technique is more fully-fleshed, more completely realised. The “drip” method mirrors our experience of the real world. We don’t know everything about a new place when we arrive in it. We discover it, detail by detail, until we’re familiar with the place and immersed in a new reality.

The “drip” technique is not an easy path for a writer. It takes a huge amount of imagination to envision a setting utterly different from our own, and a huge amount of talent to convey this world in detail after detail. Finley Fenn has both in spades. When I read the Orc Sworn series, there’s never a moment where I don’t believe I’m inside Orc Mountain. From the emphasis on smells and textures in the descriptions–because it’s dark underground, so characters wouldn’t rely on sight–to the complex culture she’s built around the constant tensions of living together in small, enclosed spaces, Fenn’s world is richly, beautifully, masterfully realised. The setting permeates every part of her narrative. The Orcs are paranoid, isolationist, dominant (and sometimes domineering) exactly because they’ve been squirrelled away inside Orc Mountain, defending themselves against the hostilities of men. Where many stories spin outward from the characters to the setting, Finley Fenn’s stories spin inward from the setting to the characters. That gives Fenn’s stories a depth and realism that’s not always found in speculative fiction and why I’m an absolute devotee of the Orc Sworn series.

Book review – Feed

There’s fairy weirdness. There’s pronoun ambiguity. There’s moth parts (who knew?!). It’s wonderful.

I absolutely LOVED this story. It’s an enemies to lovers in a very untraditional way – a succubus and a Death’s Head Moth fae are paired by a kind of kinky fae Tindr, only they’ve been co-workers and fierce rivals for a long time. That adds a huge amount of tension to their amazing hook-up.

The story is one long s3x scene, but it’s perfect. There’s fairy weirdness. There’s pronoun ambiguity. There’s moth parts (who knew?!). It’s wonderful. And the best part? The domly affection and respect moth-boy has for the succubus. He expresses it in every touch, long before a few sentences where he tries to tell her how he feels. It broke me in the best way.

There’s a novel-length story coming (this one’s about 14k – an hour’s read) and the author has another story releasing this month, which I immediately pre-ordered after reading Feed.

Very special and highly recommended.

Feed is available here on Amazon and is in Kindle Unlimited.

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