QSFer Kim Fielding has a new MM fantasy book out: The Muffin Man.
Morli is a prince on a mission—but he’d rather be baking.
Baxter is a lonely production artist stuck in a pandemic lockdown.
They are literally universes apart. But with a little help from a magic shop, a raven, and a dead great-aunt who was possibly a witch, Morli and Baxter are joined together on a cross-worlds adventure. Battling killer brambles in order to rescue an enchanted princess seems simple compared to their real challenges: discovering their strengths and creating a future together.
The Muffin Man is part of the Magic Emporium Series. Each book stands alone, but each one features an appearance by Marden’s Magic Emporium, a shop that can appear anywhere, but only once and only when someone is in dire need. This book contains reluctant heroes, sentient sourdough starter, lots of carbs, and a guaranteed HEA.
“Do you mind if I eat your eyes?”
Morli was dead. He knew that immediately. Not just because he wasn’t breathing and had no heartbeat, but because he had no… substance. He was still high in the bramble, the pain gone, but there was no self to him. He had less substance than a wisp of cloud. He wasn’t scared anymore—what was left to be afraid of? The only thing keeping him from evaporating completely was a heavy portion of regret.
And the raven was talking to him, voice hoarse but completely understandable.
“My eyes?” Morli said. Well, not out loud because he had no lungs, no tongue, no mouth. But he thought it very clearly.
“You don’t need them anymore,” the raven said. “And they’re tasty.”
Morli appreciated that the raven had asked before digging in. “Help yourself.”
The raven cawed happily and hopped closer. It was a substantial bird with shining black feathers, a heavy beak, and an intelligent gaze. “You shouldn’t have tried to get through the bramble,” it said.
“Humans are remarkably stupid.”
“I know that too.”
The raven took a moment to preen one of its wings. “You’re stubborn too. I mean, you’re good and dead. I’ll be eating your eyes in a minute. But you’re still hanging around.” It cocked its head. “Why?”
Morli would have shrugged if he had a body. “I’m not sure.”
“I bet it’s failed hopes. That often seems to be the case. You’re disappointed you didn’t get to marry the princess.”
“Not especially. Is she even in there? Alive, I mean?”
The raven cawed something akin to a chuckle. “She’s in there. Snoring away. That’s part of the spell, you know. She sleeps until she’s rescued. Otherwise maybe she’d find a way to get herself out. All your shouting was useless.”
“Oh.” The tiny bit of Morli that could still feel was relieved that at least she wasn’t suffering. “You could have told me that when I was alive.”
“You wouldn’t have understood me when you were alive. So if it’s not failing with the rescue that’s got you haunting the place, what is it?”
Morli prodded at the chunk of regret to feel its shape. Oh. “Nobody loved me. And I never had a chance to love anyone else.”
“Ah,” said the raven. “That is rough. My mate and I were together for ten years. We fledged over thirty chicks together—he was an excellent father. Handsome too.” She made a sorrowful sound. “And then some fool of a human shot him with an arrow. Why would anyone do that? My mate never harmed a human.”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
She turned a bright eye on him. “Have you ever killed a raven?”
“I’ve never killed anything.” That was true. When he encountered spiders in the castle he ignored them or, if they seemed too intrusive, relocated them outside. He ignored the mice who lived in the pantry, even when they nibbled on his ingredients. Sometimes he even dropped them a crumb or two of bread.
The raven croaked. “I have. I’ve hunted to feed myself and my chicks. But I don’t kill for sport.”
“I’m sorry about your mate.”
“Well, at least I had one. You should have seen his talons! So long! You know what they say about a male with long talons.”
She cackled so hard she nearly fell off the branch, and then she had to ruffle her feathers back into place. “I like you. Most of the other corpses go on and on about themselves and lost glory. They complain when I eat them—as if they have any other use while they hang there and rot.”
“You can eat me,” said Morli, who figured he might as well serve some purpose.
“Thank you. Mind if I share? Some of my grown chicks are here.”
“I guess there’s plenty of me to go around.” Morli, who had enjoyed sampling his own baked creations, was a little soft around the stomach.
“Excellent.” She hunched her shoulders conspiratorially and lowered her voice to a hoarse whisper. “Your eyes are just for me, though. They’re the best part.”
“You know… I haven’t done this in a very long time. Not since before I met my mate. But I’m single now and my chicks are all fledged. Want to go on an adventure with me?”
“But… I’m dead.” Weren’t his adventures—minimal as they were—behind him?
She cackled again. “A minor obstacle. I can deal. Are you up for it?”
He figured he had nothing to lose. “Yeah. Sure.”
“Outstanding!” She flapped her wings with excitement. “I’m in the mood for some excitement. But first I’m going to eat your eyes.” With a contented little huff, she began to peck.
Kim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of over 60 novels and novellas. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, horror, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
Having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls California home. She lives there with her family, her cat, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.