QSFer Caleb James has a new MM Fantasy book out:
Liam Summer, with the face of an angel and the body of an underwear model, has done bad things. Raised as the whore and cat’s paw of a murderous fairy queen, he has ruined many with his beauty. When Queen May’s plot to unite and rule the fairy and human realms fails, Liam wakes naked and alone in a Manhattan building on fire. Unaware the blaze is arson, and he’s its intended victim, he prepares to die.
Enter ax-wielding FDNY firefighter Charlie Fitzgerald, who Liam mistakes for an ogre assassin. As Charlie rescues Liam, he realizes the handsome blond has nowhere to go. So he does what he and his family have always done—he helps.
As for Queen May, trapped in the body of a flame-throwing salamander, she may be down, but she’s not out. Yes, she failed the last time, but Liam—and others—will pay. She knows what must be done: possess a haffling, cross into the human world engorged with magic, and become queen and Goddess over all.
As Liam realizes the danger they all face, he discovers unexpected truths. That even the most wicked are not beyond redemption, and that love—true love—is a gift even he can receive.
Book Two of the Haffling
ETHERED BY a magic collar and trapped in the suffocating Mist, the great white salamander raged. Her thoughts, a jumble of midnight-blue taffeta gowns, an adoring audience, a black-haired boy with green eyes, and an enchanted frog, caused the serpent’s fury to spark… literally. In its prison of swirling blue and gray lay piles of charred bones and scorched remnants of winged creatures, unfortunate gnomes, trolls, and meaty ogres drawn by the fragrant lure of her fairy fire.
Words formed in the beast’s head, single syllables: eat, kill, mine, mine, mine. A spark turned to a flame in the worm’s gut. Her powerful jaws chomped through the femur of a fresh-killed troll and the blood-slick humerus of an ogre. Like cracking lobster tails, her tongue scooped out marrow and slurped down the tender morsels.
She growled and chewed. Bones shattered. Ogre and troll shards tumbled down throat and gullet and landed in her belly. She thrashed, mixing the fire in her gut with magic, both that which was hers and that which she stole. More, more, more. Satin, hunger, party dress, more, more, more.
As the troll’s and the ogre’s meager magic separated from bone and blood, an idea sparked in her tortured brain. An image, a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. Haffling. One of three.
She reared back, balancing on tail and hind limbs too small for her body. She sniffed the poisonous Mist, her mind fixed on the image. The girl, not so little anymore, nearly a woman, nearly ready. The vision cleared, a child of the human realm. Mine, mine, mine. She bounced up and down, feeling the bones, the meat, and the marrow meld with fire. Like pebbles in a tumbler, she mixed them well. Chants from her childhood, snippets of songs, skittered through her thoughts.
Grind them into paste,
Mix your magic well,
Come and taste, come and taste,
Fairy fire from my magic well.
She smelled fear, death, and cookies. She purred and settled back. Exhausted, she hummed and drifted into a dream. Come and taste my fairy fire, come and taste it soon.
LIAM SUMMER awoke naked in a strange room filled with smoke and heat. “No!” The smell, like poison cookies fresh from the oven, filled his mouth with saliva and his gut with fear. Fairy fire! He coughed as it burned his lungs. “No.” He cowered on the hot floor. She found me. She knows. She knows what I did…. I’m going to die. I am not sorry.
Smoke hissed up from the slatted wood floor as he scrambled on hands and bare knees in the dark. Through tearing eyes he caught pulsing red and white lights against the walls. They lit the strange space and revealed bare walls, stacked lumber, and tools scattered across a counter.
He crawled toward a blackened window. His hands brushed splintered wood and nails. Where am I? Why am I naked? I am going to die.
His head bumped against a wall. He braced against its solid surface and crawled toward the flashes of light. The smoke, so thick, made it hard to breathe. Not a dream. I don’t know this place, a dungeon… a place of death. The sweet reek of fairy fire was everywhere. It’s her. She’s come to kill me. He knew the uses of his queen’s double-edged poison.
Fairy fire and what came after—fairy dust—were both cheese for the mouse and the deathtrap. She’s here. She’ll kill me.
Caleb James is an author, member of the Yale volunteer faculty, practicing psychiatrist, and clinical trainer. He writes both fiction and nonfiction and has published books in multiple genres and under different names. Writing as Charles Atkins, he has been a Lambda Literary finalist. He lives in Connecticut with his partner and four cats.