Goblins: The Beginning
From the mind of the girl who wanted to abandon the real world, and run away with the goblin king…
Hello, readers! Melanie here on The Armchair Reader. I’m going to talk a little about the inspiration that kick-started my Goblins series.
I’ve always loved fantasy, and history. Unfortunately my dry and British self-deprecating humour never led me to take my own work seriously. I thought high fantasy should contain a level of seriousness, but I couldn’t actually write that way.
After writing in contemporary for a while, and using a lot of humour, I decided to take another stab at fantasy, but this time I’d make it different. What if I brought modern humour and concepts into a historical, fantasy setting? And thank goodness, that style works for me.
I’d say that Goblins has one foot in contemporary, another in fantasy, and a third foot in historical. (I’ll stop talking about appendages now, before I get carried away!)
The concept behind the first story, Wulfren and the Warlock, which spawned the Goblins series, can be boiled down to three main inspiration elements.
I love big, knobbly, spooky-looking trees. I spent a lot of time in the woods (still do) and was always hoping that magical creatures would reveal themselves–pah ha ha!–to me, and invite me to live in their secret forest realm. (Still hope for that, too!)
So, a forest, and a magical one at that. When I opened my ye olde book of English folklore, I kept reading about Epping forest, which was absolutely humungous back in the day. Epping forest once stretched from Bow in London up to Cambridge and Colchester. Within the forest, dark glades of oak, elm and beech trees sheltered who knew what; hermits, vagrants, gypsies, outlaws, highwaymen, and…
Magical creatures? Why not?
The film A Company of Wolves is a classic, a romantic horror, a coming of age Red Riding Hood tale. As anyone who’s read my other works knows, I’m a huge fan of androgyny, especially fey men with long hair. When I first saw the little wolf girl (pictured above, played by 80s popstar, Danielle Dax) I knew that was exactly how my Goblins would look.
Lithe, pale figures in the forest, with long, dark 80s hair. So, a bunch of goths dressed in leaves, basically. My Goblins are the rockstars of their forest.
And why not? Don’t rockstars work well as goblins?
Since gazing wide eyed at Jareth the goblin king as a child, I’ve always been baffled by the silly girl’s choice to reject him and live in the real world instead. Is she mad? I adore Labyrinth, and have always been drawn to baddies with big hair. (What? Sue me.)
Faery courts and royalty are another weakness of mine. I love everything, all the folklore, all the legends. Usually I’d be swooning over the baddies most. I decided, in my stories, I’d focus on the ‘baddies’, on the dark and dangerous creatures. They’re the ones I’d want to know more about.
And I could have my own goblin king!
Then I thought, what if my goblin king had sons? What if one of those sons got into mischief, and unwittingly fell in love with a human? It’d be taboo. Severely frowned upon. What would happen if he disobeyed the goblin king?
And thus began my first story! Except I had so much fun creating and writing the characters that suddenly I wanted to tell their stories, too. Before I knew it, the whole set of tales had evolved into a series. (I can’t help myself!)
There was just too much goodness from the era that I couldn’t fit into one story; witches and witchcraft, princes and royalty, cavaliers, the new model army (no, not the goth band!) not to mention elves and highwaymen.
The stories are relatively light-hearted and fun, despite having a themes of mild horror (noose and gibbet, anyone?) throughout, as the goblins discover more about humans than they’d been prepared for.
Catch up with me on my Goblins blog tour for more about the series and its history, and a special giveaway.
In the 17th Century, the ancient sprawl of Epping forest is bursting with magic and those who go unseen by human eyes: the elves who rule the summer court, and the goblins who rule the winter court. It is said that if a human catches the eye of one of the fey, they are either doomed or blessed.
Wulfren & the Warlock
When Wulfren wakes from a strange dream of a human captor with long silver hair, and grey eyes, his brothers tell him they rescued him from a warlock, and take Wulfren back home to the goblin king’s palace. But Wulfren isn’t so sure the matter is that simple. Why was he missing so long? What are the strange dreams of the beautiful man with the silver hair? Dalliances with humans are severely frowned upon, especially by Wulfren’s father, but Wulfren is willing to risk the scorn of his family to find the human who haunts his dreams.
Quiller & the Runaway Prince
After a hard winter, Quiller is sent deep into the forest on a family errand, and is surprised when a human stumbles into his path. Quiller swoops in to pester him, perhaps even eat him, but there is something special about the human: his scent is royal, though he protests that he is not, and soon Quiller finds himself agreeing to help the human with his troubles—in exchange for a kiss.
To celebrate the upcoming release of Strange Angels, I decided to talk to a couple of characters in the book. Today’s it Bob, bar owner and supposed fallen god, although he is a slippery one.
Andrea: Thanks for talking to me, Bob.
Bob: No problem, mate. Love the sound of my own voice.
Andrea: Now you supposedly own a bar called The Way Station. But I can’t find any proof that it exists.
Bob: It exists, but only for people who need it.
Bob: Can’t explain it.
Andrea: So only people who need your bar can find it? Doesn’t nearly everyone need a bar at one time or another?
Bob: You don’t come to my place for drinks.
Andrea: What do you come for then?
Bob: Ah, but that would be telling.
Andrea: So I will find your bar if I need it, but I can’t know what I’d need it for?
Bob: Now you got it.
Andrea: Rumors have it you’re a fallen god. Which one?
Andrea: What kind of answer is that?
Bob: I’m a fan of the game, mate. If I tell you right out, where’s the fun for me?
Andrea: I didn’t realize conversations were games.
Bob: Sure they are. There’s give and take, right? That’s sort of game. There’s also rules to conversations, and rules to games.
Andrea: What’s the rules of this conversation?
Bob: No idea. I’m making it up as I go along.
Andrea: Fine. Can you tell us anything about the rumor?
Bob: Fallen god’s a funny phrase, isn’t it? It’s like, what, Thor tripped and fell over an ottoman? Seems weird. I mean, he’s Thor. How’s a pratfall gonna hurt him?
Andrea: You’re not Thor, are you?
Bob: (Laughs) Do I look like a big Norseman with daddy issues and a constant case of the frizzies? Nope.
Andrea: The frizzies?
Bob: Yeah. He’s just one big magnet of static electricity. Never shake his hand unless you like getting fifty thousand volts through you. Although it wakes you up a lot faster than coffee.
Andrea: You’re never going to answer a single question seriously, are you?
Bob: Nope. Where’s the fun in that?
So ends the interview with Bob, one of the many weird gods (?) featured in Strange Angels. Good luck on finding his bar, although if you do, good luck on ever getting a straight answer out of him.
Death is the family business, and Brendan Connolly is about to come into his legacy. Nobody warned Bren that Dad was a death god, or that someday he’d inherit his powers. So far, falling in love with the angel sent to protect him has been the only good thing to come out of this whole mess.
Bren’s guardian angel, Lorygdarain, knows the aura of a ticking supernatural time bomb when he sees one. Add to that the angel’s first taste of the human emotion called love, and protecting Bren from the god who killed his father could be Dar’s hardest job in an eon.
Snakes, amnesia, and a mysterious god named Bob might not be much of a rescue plan, but one guardian angel can only do so much. With a veritable pantheon on his heels, and the universe hanging in the balance, Bren must learn to lock and load the most dangerous weapon of all: himself.
Title: The Adorned
Author: John Tristan
Length: 101k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Indentured Slavery, Sexual Slavery, Tattoos, Art/Artists, Magic, Major Class Distinctions, Alternate World Historical, Slow Burn, Revolution, Netgalley
Rating: LOVED it!!!!
My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.
A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.
But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.
Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered–and Roberd and myself along with it…
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn’t put it down — I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF’ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn’t get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn’t. So I couldn’t believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I’ll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he’s unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He’s pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn’t recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan’s slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They’re those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren’t Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan’s new life seems wonderful and exciting. He’s protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan’s life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he’s young, still living at home with his father and before he’s had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he’s also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He’s buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can’t see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he’s also very internal and cautious. I didn’t see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can’t tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan’s journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he’s a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there’s nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don’t think that’s really possible. But I know now that I’ll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn’t too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors S-U, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alternate World Historical, Art, Artists, Carina, Class Distinctions, Indentured Slavery, John Tristan, Magic, Netgalley, Revolution, Sexual Slavery, Slow Burn, Tattoos
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 76,977 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Homophobia, Coming of Age, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Awesome Moms!, Bullying, HEA, Alternate Reality/Otherworlds, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Zombies, Vampires, First Times (Kisses Only), Magic, Mystery, Magical Realism, Nerds/Geeks
Rating: Pretty Good
All fifteen-year-old Noah Hipwell wants is to go through high school in peace. Yet he finds himself suspended after a bully pushes him too far, and Noah’s forced to defend himself. His mother, fed up with the school’s indifference to his plight, pulls him out completely and leaves Noah uncertain of his future while they look for a good and safe school for him.
All Dorothy “Dot” Hipwell wants is to go through single motherhood in peace. Yet she and her son are harassed by weekly phone calls from her evangelical family hell-bent on guilt-tripping them both back into the fold. Then Noah’s grandparents ask strange questions about their old van after dropping cryptic references to a group called The Soul Warriors. Fed up, Dot takes Noah away for a much-needed getaway, only to find themselves suddenly transported to an alternate world, where a town called Helleville awaits them and all other condemned souls.
Along with warm-blooded, living human beings, the Hipwells rub shoulders with zombies, vampires, house ghosts, and occasional “green vomit piles” while picking up the pieces and sorting out what could very well be an eternity in a bizarre, fanciful, and humorous world of ghouls and banned books.
When residents suddenly disappear one by one with no trace and for no logical reason, however, doubts being “housed” in an alternate world for their sins are raised, and time suddenly becomes of the essence as Noah and the rest of Helleville’s condemned race to find answers to what’s quickly turning into a dangerous puzzle.
It’s been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn’t my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.
Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he’s been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they’re their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot’s parents), but they really aren’t considered family — more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X’s mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn’t until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.
When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell — a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they’re there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn’t the classic representation of hell that you’d expect. They’re well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don’t have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they’re surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn’t have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.
They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn’t until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he’s not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn’t intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.
Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah’s coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they’ve been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he’s really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.
The pace and plot mimic Noah’s journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah’s, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader’s review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn’t say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don’t go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah’s romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you’ll enjoy it. Also, if you haven’t read much of Hayden Thorne’s work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah’s life, in almost an allegorical way. If you’d rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.
So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden’s work and I’ll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it’s so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go — What the FUCK?
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 76-100k, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Alternate Worlds, Awesome Moms!, Bullies/Bullying, Coming of Age, First Times, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Hayden Thorne, HEA, Homophobia, JMS Books, Magic, magical realism, Mystery, Nerds/Geeks, Otherworlds, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Vampire, Zombies!
for winning the copy of the Taboo for You by Anyta Sunday. I’ve already emailed Angelia, so she should already have received my email, but if not, please email me at armchairreader[dot]coleriann[at]gmail[dot]com so you can get your book. Thanks for playing everyone and thank you all for stopping by and commenting on Anyta’s really wonderful post “On (Not) Coming Out as a Gay Romance Writer”.
Congrats to these winners!
Sonata by AF Henley: Karl
Freeman by Clare London: Andrea M
King Mai by Edmond Manning: parisfanca
I’ve written both Andrea M and parisfanca, but if you didn’t get my email, please email me at armchairreader[dot]coleriann[at]gmail[dot]com to get a copy of your book. I’ll have to draw another name if I don’t hear from you in 48 hours.
Thank you to everyone who commented and read all three of these really wonderful posts! AF Henley’s guest post (“Kids in Fics”), Clare’s guest post (“The Unreliable Narrator”) and Edmond’s guest post (“Opening a Man’s Heart”).
Sonata – http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=90&products_id=487
Freeman – http://coleriann.com/2013/07/19/opening-a-mans-heart-a-guest-post-by-edmond-manning-giveaway/
King Mai – http://www.amazon.com/King-Mai-Lost-Founds-ebook/dp/B00DXMVCO0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374860796&sr=8-1&keywords=king+mai+manning
Click the links to enter these still open giveaways!
- Painting in the Rain by Dev Bentham
- Blinded by Our Eyes by Clare London
- Sympathy by Jordan Castillo Price
Posted by Cole in Authors A-C, Authors G-I, Authors J-L, Authors M-O, Authors S-U, Giveaways Tags: AF Henley, Amber Allure, Anne Brooke, Anyta Sunday, Barry Lowe, Carina, Clare London, Dev Bentham, Edmond Manning, Jordan Castillo Price, Less Than Three Press, Self Published, Talya Andor, Wilde City Press, Wilde City Press Erotica Week