First, congratulations to JMS Books on the 10th anniversary! JMS has been bringing us celebrations of love, inclusivity, hope, and happy endings for a decade now, and that’s so very wonderful — and so very important, making our world that much brighter, one story at a time. I’m proud to be one of the JMS authors and part of telling those stories!
I’ve been thinking a lot about history and storytelling lately (to be fair, I’ve just watched Hamilton … twice). In my non-author life, I teach students about Shakespeare and Robin Hood ballads, and we talk about stories and perspective: what versions of history do we learn, and remember, and pass on? Who gets to be visible or invisible in those histories? Where and when do we see ourselves?
Romance, like other popular genres (fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, young adult dystopian imaginings about powerful girl heroines), can help save the world. It’s a genre in which love stories matter, in which caring for someone can quite literally change minds and hearts, in which happy endings are not just a possibility but a promise, integral, held up like a banner. We believe that loving another person is important. We believe that LGBTQIA+ people can have joy and desire and happiness. (*waves my own bisexual flag with pride*) We believe in stories that are unabashedly about people finding their happy endings, in whatever form that takes. We can rewrite history and imagine new possibilities, in historical romance and sports romance and paranormal romance and futuristic science fiction romance and some really kinky stories about werewolves.
And that’s an act that’s full of optimism, and courage — and a lot of delicious fun. (And, again, sometimes werewolves.)
Many of my stories play with history and folklore in some way; Cadence and the Pearl is very much entwined with the sea and sea stories, and Bisclavret is based on a 12th-century werewolf-and-king tale, for instance. Coming up, the final story in the Demon for Midwinter universe (The Demon’s Choice, out today!) invokes fire magic (and features a cross-dressing half-demon who like punk rock), and my flash fiction short Honey Witch is about a witch who practices divination using, well, honey … and who falls in love with a princess.
And, starting in August, JMS will be publishing what just might be the biggest (certainly the longest!) story I’ve written, and one of my absolute favorites! It’ll be a trilogy, it’s called Character Bleed, and it’s about stories and queer histories and happy endings and how much they matter, and it’s full of terrible puns involving bread; it’s the story I keep describing to people as “they’re actors, filming a historical period piece that’s a gay Napoleonic War era love story, and of course they also fall in love, and it’s determinedly and loudly the opposite of the ‘bury your gays’ trope, and it’s sort of like Master and Commander but with a lot more very tender gay love scenes and also did I mention terrible puns?”
I wanted to give you a tiny piece of it here, an excerpt from their first screen test … which definitely establishes some chemistry …
EXCERPT FROM Character Bleed Book 1: Seaworthy
In the present, in a meeting room, under twenty-first century lights, Jason glanced at Colby Kent. Couldn’t help it.
Colby gave him that same bright welcoming grin again, the one he’d worn when Jason first arrived. That expression shook the whole world out of complacency. Invited it to jump up and join in and pretend along.
Jason forgot to inhale, shaken.
Colby ran a hand through his own hair, rumpling forest-dark waves, and offered Jason an encouraging head-tip, and then did —
Something. No good word for it. Suddenly he was William Crawford, Viscount Easterly: brittle and breakable and lonely and longing, good with maps and ciphers, never having been allowed further than the family estate on his own. Even his shoulders carried that weight, thin and distressed. One hand on a chair’s back for support, he did not look back at anyone in the conjured-up ballroom, beyond imagined balcony doors.
Jason, like Stephen on the page, caught sight of him and couldn’t look away.
He took a step forward. Colby turned. The camera might have existed, or might not.
He said, “My apologies, I wasn’t aware anyone was here.” A lie, and both of them, in character, knew it.
Colby gave him Will’s smile this time, polished and patrician. “Don’t tell me a Captain of the Royal Navy can possibly be so inattentive to his surroundings. I’d be frightened on behalf of the war effort.”
“Very well, I saw you. Would you like me to leave?” He shifted weight closer, saying it. Colby’s eyes got a bit wider; Jason knew about the effect of his own muscles, that height and strength and breadth, and he knew it’d work on Will, who liked the thrill of danger and power and tantalizing adventure. That much was in the script. He did not know whether that visible lip-lick, that catch in Colby’s breath, was deliberate or unplanned.
“You may as well stay.” Colby waved a hand, purposefully elegant and slightly arrogant, reclaiming ground and not backing away. “You can’t precisely uninterrupt my solitude.”
“They’re your festivities.”
“They’re my father’s festivities.” Cool and collected, armor up. “Hardly my preference.”
Jason took one more step. Directly into Colby’s space. Catching luscious blue eyes with his; letting the moment extend, letting the words linger and then emerge. “What is your preference, in that case, Viscount Easterly?”
He’d meant it to be a challenge. It was. But it came out unexpectedly gentle, as something changed in Colby’s face: parted lips, a shiver, an unanticipated vulnerability. Those famous blue eyes were very large.
Jason said it again, softly, and put a hand out. Traced fingers through a loose wave of Colby’s hair. Tucked it back into place. “What would be your preference, if you could choose? What would you like, from me?”
That last bit wasn’t in the script. It’d just tumbled out. Unplanned.
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