QSFer Eric Alan Westfall has a new MM historical fantasy romance coming out on September 14th – preorder now: The Cooking Mage & The Parchment Prankster Part Two.
Despite the fogged future, the Seers have finally Seen that if the foreseen four get together, it’ll be in Berlin, on 19 July 1890, at the Crown Prince’s birthday ball.
The conspirators’ 15 July to-do list is simple. On or before the 19th: (1) kill the Prince, (2) kill Lord Mouse, and (4) stop the dancing. Or at least succeed with one. Oh, and ignore (3) since they haven’t figured out which saint.
Revisit a marvelous alternate world of magick and technology, where the every-twenty-years Gunpowder Treaty Renewal Conference is imminent. There are ongoing plots, both big and not-as-big, agents working under the sheets, Saint Brunhilde of the Blade, Saint Sibast (no, not the pretty one with bondage and arrows), a well-hidden collection of literature (?) for one-hand reading, including drawbooks with anatomically accurate artistry inside, a challenge to make “open, says me” work, the vigorous violation of several Official Secrets Acts, a snarky romance between an Earl and a Prince, a surprise engagement, Mozart and the Guards, the Blue Danube is hummed with perfect pitch following a brief discussion about who leads, a flurry of letters to a duke, a prat, an ambassador, an Inquisitor, and a prisoner in a London cell, plus a very private competition to determine the best at point penetrating and driving it home…
And the Grand Ballroom Battle, as the newspapers called it.
There’s a HEA, of course, and although it doesn’t fully happen until Part Three, there’s lots of Georg-ian and Mousical fun along the way.
Part One: September 7, 2022 (99,054 words of story)
Part Two: September 14, 2022 (117,343 words of story)
Part Three: September 21, 2022 (149,682 words of story)
Special Preorder Price.
Up a dollar after the last book releases
16 July 1890. Berlin.
Half-Midnight. The Great Palace.
A Mouse and Mountain Hallway Meeting, And A Royal Bedroom.
If he’d known last night he was going to meet Georg at the same location less than twenty-four hours later, and if he’d had pen and paper in his dressing gown—he was never again going anywhere out of his bed and out of his rooms without both in his possession, no matter where he was—he could have used the light of the mage globe to make a just-in-case trail of parchment bread crumbs to stick on the walls.
Georg had a reason for suggesting they meet so late, a reason Mouse thought—hoped—he knew. He didn’t know why he felt he’d be cheating if he used a light to get here, but to his surprise, his Mousical bragging turned out to be a true brag instead of a false brag. He found his way to what he was sure the precise spot, with no difficulty.
Which wasn’t anything magickal. At all.
And it was, of course, no more than the way things usually went, for Georg to arrive with a stealth used only by talented battle mages, or excellent thieves. An arrival coinciding with Mouse confiding to himself, “I’m glad it wasn’t the Crown Prince of the Netherlands who was having a birthday, after all.”
There was a fortunately soft “urk!” of surprise at the whispered “Why?” which followed the “all.” The urk!-accompanying half-jump away might have led to a full fall on a Mousical arse, but large hands unerringly grabbed him, held him until he got his balance back, and to Mouse’s regret, let him go.
Mouse turned so they were facing each other, and if he moved a little, only a little, they’d be touching. But he might have misunderstood earlier words and tones, and touching wasn’t on the menu for this late-night meal, or snack, or whatever it was. He stayed still while answering.
His voice was like Georg’s, soft so only they could hear, unless another night-time prowler of Palace halls crept up on them with Georg-style efficiency and noiselessness.
“Well, I’ve always thought, even though I’m a third son and second spare, I should at least have had a ‘Little Tour’ when I turned twenty-one. Perhaps Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, home. My oldest brother—”
“Harry the prat?”
Georg’s knowledge both surprised and delighted Mouse. “Yes. Harry had the Grand Tour. All the capitals and major cities in Europe, including Amsterdam. I doubt, though, he quite understood what the red-light district in Amsterdam was for. He probably still doesn’t.”
The two shared a chuckle, before Mouse reluctantly acknowledged a reasonable number of Harry’s brags about his exploits with women were probably true, even if most weren’t.
Mouse sighed. “So when I knew instead of going somewhere fun to celebrate a prince’s birthday—although I don’t know whether the Netherlands has a prince—”
“They do. He’s six. His sister, all of twelve, is the queen, so technically he’s the Crown Prince, until she marries and has a child.”
“Ah. Well, not knowing these important facts I might, only might, you understand, have lamented the birthday ball wasn’t in Amsterdam, where red lights cluster together and cast a glow over several city blocks. Instead, I was being sent to Berlin…”
Mouse paused, wishing Georg could see his Mousical, mischievous grin. “Although I have heard Berlin is a red-light district. Ah…other than inside the Great Palace.”
Georg laughed and Mouse joined, their laughter quiet, limited to the tight space around where they were standing. Though they were still not as close as they had been last night.
Both would have been surprised to learn they were simultaneously thinking “Deities-damn it” about the lack of closeness.
Georg spoke after a considering pause. Like recognizing like once again. “Do you know, my dear Lord Mouse, I think I suspect you might prefer a Berlin district without red lights…but far more interesting.”
“Um, you aren’t sure?”
“Well, you said you ‘thought’ you suspected I might like this Berlin district, which means you don’t know for sure whether you do or don’t ‘suspect’ I might like it, thus my question. Which obviously leads me to wonder what you need to know, in order to be sure you suspect I’ll like it. Plus, what more do you need to know to make a final decision on whether the suspicion is correct? Or not. If you see what I mean, well, in this dark you can’t ‘see,’ but you do follow, don’t you?”
David wasn’t sure whether he’d made a mistake in letting Mouse out for that speech.
Apparently it wasn’t a mistake. “Ah. Well, Lord Mouse, on further thought, while I do acknowledge there hasn’t been a great deal of time between your question and this response, I’m a very fast thinker, so I not only think I have such suspicions, I in fact have them. Or rather, I had such suspicions, because I’ve now concluded you would enjoy the district I’m talking about.”
A response worthy of a Mouse! “Why, whatever do you mean, Your Highness?”
Georg grinned. “Well, first, I suspect you’re batting your eyelashes in a way which, if I could see said batting, would lead me to decide it isn’t a truly good look for you. And second, there is a certain area of Berlin where the bars and taverns have a…certain clientele. It’s not one of the capital’s finest areas in the view of many, ah, snobs and conservatives, which is say, most of the nobility, the wealthy, and other persons of prominence, including those for whom expressing such a view is impure hypocrisy.
“In this area, only men are allowed in the bars and taverns. Men of a particular persuasion. And some of those establishments—many of them, or so I have heard, having no personal knowledge, naturally—have darkrooms.”
There was a Mousical gulp, followed by, “Now, now, Your Highness, if you are going to express your disbelief in the effectiveness of my eyelash-batting, despite the present invisibility of my eyes, you must—I insist—allow me to express my disbelief in what you just said. About personal knowledge.”
“You’d disbelieve the word, the very word of the Crown Prince of Prussia and Saxony, however informally given?”
Eric is an American Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “He’s old enough to have sailed with Noah.” In the real world he writes for a living, with those who would claim what he writes is fiction. His partner of thirty years—who died unexpectedly in 1995—enthusiastically encouraged him to try to get his writing published (mostly poetry back then, plus some short stories), but he didn’t have the guts to do so until 2013. At this point he’s not sure which was officially first, The Song, or Like a Mountain, Waiting.
Up to now, he’s published 17 novels and novellas, 1 poetry collection, 2 short story collections, and 3 short stories. God willin’ and the crick don’t rise, 2022 will also see The Tinderbox out and about. But since real life is, as we all know, a pain in the (anatomical site of your choice)…no guarantees.