QSFer AJ White has a new YA LGBTQ+ Fantasy book out (gay, trans): The Key of Ornoss.
Everyone knows fifteen year old Cal doesn’t fit in, especially Cal. When a mysterious encounter with the handsome, extraordinary Drue catapults Cal into a strange and different world, fitting in isn’t a problem but survival will be.
Now Cal must stay alive long enough on Sanquous to battle the evil Draguul Priesthood and rescue Drue.
For such a small cottage there’s a never ending list of chores to do. I’m halfway through peeling a pan of spuds. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long and there are still so many more. Behind me my great aunt sits crocheting something or other. When I eventually finish she gets up and hands me a plastic bowl and a pair of scissors.
‘Go into the field and pick some mushrooms.’
I look at the bowl. How many? I guess a bowl full.
‘Right.’ And I head out the door. I’ve picked mushrooms before and I know the golden rule about cutting them off, never pulling them out. Oh, and watching out for maggots. I wander gradually over the field towards the far side where it borders the neighbouring woodland. Let’s just say I’m in no rush to get back and be presented with yet another chore.
Suddenly I have that feeling you get when someone’s watching you. I look up and, over by the trees, a young guy is standing staring at me.
‘Hey,’ I call and carry on.
Without answering he starts to walk over. He has a definite alt rock vibe; leather trousers and silvery purple hair sticking out from under a loose leather cap, but his shirt is way too fancy for the rest of the look. He’s still walking towards me and I’m not sure if he’s going to stop to speak or what so I straighten up. I’ve got the bowl and scissors in my hands and I’m looking classy in my muddy jeans and wellies but part of me thinks, sod it, and I just stand my ground waiting to find out.
He’s so slim and walks with such feline grace that for one tiny second I think I’ve tagged him wrong but as he gets closer, yeah, definitely a guy. Jesus, he’s beautiful though. I’m standing up now and resist the urge to turn sideways into a more defensive stance. Is he going to walk right into me? Then he stops short well inside my personal space. I try to ignore my heart which is fighting to break out of my chest.
He does the usual thing most people do when they meet me, stares at my hair. It’s the kind of carrot red that shines like metal in the sun and is the main reason my parents never lost me as a child despite all my attempts to run away from them. I dyed it black last year and it’s still growing out at the tips in a style not unlike our neighbour’s tortoiseshell cat. Then he glances over my shoulder nodding at the cottage. ‘You live here?’ he asks, in an accent I can’t place.
‘No, it’s my great aunt’s, I’m just visiting.’
‘Me too. Not seen you round here before.’ Then he smiles at me wolfishly. ‘I’d have remembered.’
Oh Jesus. I manage to stammer out a sentence. ‘You staying with the McVeighs?’
‘No, I’m travelling by myself, camping in the woods here.’
‘Cool. I wish my parents would let me do stuff like that.’
I doubt I would cope with roughing it, even if they’d let me, but if you’re going to flirt you might as well go all in.
‘My parents aren’t around any more. My aunt’s supposed to take care of me but she’s really busy so I get a lot of time to do as I please. That’s as long as I can escape from my tutors.’ That smile again.
‘Oh, you’re home schooled? I wish I was, I hate the place I go to.’
He’s eying me closely.
‘It’s strange, we haven’t met but I feel like I know you.’
I don’t know much about flirting but he’s definitely lost points for style with that one.
‘So what’s this camp of yours like then?’
‘You want to come and see it?’
So ‘yes’! But… ‘I’d love to but I’ve got to get these back to my great aunt before she gets cranky.’ I shake the bowl of mushrooms.
‘Maybe later then?’
‘Yeah, sure, just come by and give me a knock.’
‘I’m Drue, by the way.’ He smiles, extending a hand.
I swap my scissors to the other hand. ‘Cal.’
‘Right. See you later, Cal.’
And with that he turns to go. I watch him walk off towards the trees before heading back to the cottage. This might not be such a dull trip after all.
I’ve done a whole range of different things over many years. I started off in teaching, which was great at the time but I had that feeling, you know the one that says, you’re in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. So I left and went into publishing, but again, it wasn’t quite the right fit. A chance meeting led to charity work and then finally I felt, yes, this is the right place, helping others. Taking a clue from that I went on to helping others through chaplaincy work, first in a university and then in prisons.
One day, having just finished reading a book and unable to find another that I fancied, I took up a notepad and pen and the strangest thing happened – a book poured out. Where it came from, who knows. It was the start of the long but very enjoyable process of getting the first part of this trilogy, The Key of Ornoss, into printable and downloadable (is that a word? is now, I guess) format. I hope you enjoy it and watch out for part two, The Rod of Xerus, coming out in 2022.