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In my occult mystery, Murderous Requiem, the main character, Jeremy Spencer, is attempting to transcribe the cryptic musical notation of a 500-year-old manuscript from the Italian Renaissance into modern notation. Despite his expertise, however, certain symbols continue to elude him. He knows that some of the libretto (the text accompanying the music) is written in ancient Greek, and these symbols do resemble the Greek alphabet. But they aren’t quite the alphabet he knows.
What they are, he discovers, after Rafe—the sultry European “boy-toy” of his friend Seth—takes him out to the Victorian chapel in the middle of the night, are letter-like symbols that the ancient Greeks used to represent musical notes. Furthermore, they used different symbols for notes played by instruments and notes that were sung.I’ve included a small sampling (from a somewhat blocky Unicode font) of the notation.
I was relieved to finally reach the chapel, but my relief was short-lived. After pushing the creaking metal door open—of course the hinges had to creak!—I was confronted by utter darkness. Or maybe not entirely “utter.” Just below the domed ceiling were seven stained glass windows, containing the alchemical symbols of the seven planets of astrology—the Sun, the Moon, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn. The anemic gray moonlight faintly illuminated these from outside.
I reached to my right, where the light switch had been years ago, but found nothing but smooth wall.
“Seth had the switch removed,” Rafe’s voice said out of the darkness, startling me.
He switched on a flashlight, sweeping the beam across me for a second, before diverting it away from my eyes. It was still annoying, because I couldn’t really see him at all. Just a spot of light in the center of the chamber.
“Why the hell would he do that?” I said, willing my voice not to sound nervous. I failed.
“There are fake gaslights, controlled by a switch hidden behind the altar. You know how he likes to give the illusion that we’re contemporaries of Crowley and the Golden Dawn.”
I did, but that didn’t explain why Rafe was toying with me. “Fine. Could you turn the lights on, please?”
The flashlight beam swept up to the ceiling while I debated whether I trusted Rafe enough to step inside. I was still standing in the doorway, so my exit wasn’t blocked. I could probably escape if I had to. That is, unless he had a gun. The idea was ludicrous, of course. Why would he have a gun? I was just letting the creepy setting get to me.
Still, I backed up a step, reaching out to hold onto the doorframe. Rafe remained oddly quiet for a long time, sweeping the light around, illuminating all the stained glass windows, one after another.
This was getting me nowhere fast, and my ass still had ice-cold wind blowing up it. “Look, Rafe, if you don’t have anything to tell me about the symbols in the manuscript, I’d just as soon get back inside where it’s warm.”
“I told you I would help you and I will.” The flashlight swung down to illuminate the floor between us, forming a path of light to where he was standing. “Come here.”
I was still nervous about being alone with him as long as he was playing this silly game. But I took a breath to calm my nerves and walked across the tile floor. When I reached him in the center, I felt his hand grip my shoulder. It was all I could do to keep from screaming as he pulled me close and slid his arm around both my shoulders. Our faces were suddenly so close that I could smell the faint scent of his cologne and feel the heat coming off his skin. When he spoke, his breath brushed my ear.
“What did the symbols look like?”
This annoyed me. If he was claiming to know what they were, he should know what they looked like. But I played along. “Like letters from the Greek alphabet. But I know the Greek alphabet—a little, anyway—and those symbols are different.”
“Different,” he said, softly, in affirmation. “But still Greek.”
He swung the light of the flashlight upward and I watched it climb one of the marble columns to the level of the ceiling, where the column joined a circular cornice. Above the cornice, smaller columns continued up to a second cornice, with the stained glass windows set in between the columns, and above that was the dome. The dome itself was beautiful, with a Renaissance-style painting of the fall of Prometheus. I’d been at the Temple when Seth commissioned it from an artist he knew in Boston, though I could no longer remember the woman’s name.
But what drew my attention, at this moment, were the symbols carved into the small column the flashlight was illuminating. Seven symbols in a vertical line. They were about forty feet above me, but there was no doubt in my mind. “That’s it!” I practically shouted while Rafe laughed gently in my ear. “Or some of it, anyway.”
Not all the symbols I remembered from the manuscript were on that column, but Rafe swung the light around to another column and said, “Is that it? Or is this it?”
The symbols on this column were different from those on the first—at least, some of them were.
Rafe swung the light again. “Or is this it?”
He laughed when I grabbed his arm in my excitement and began guiding the hand that held the flashlight from one column to the next, examining the entire circle above us. Each column had seven symbols, and as I moved around the circle, I could see that they were in a pattern. The first symbol of one column became the second of the one next to it, and the third of the one next to that. The order of symbols remained constant, so that, as I moved clockwise around the circle, I got the impression of a steady stream of symbols flowing upward.
One thing I was absolutely certain of—those carvings hadn’t been there eight years ago. Seth must have had them added. “What are they?”
“What do you think?” Rafe asked, infuriatingly. “Seven lines of seven symbols? Seven ancient Greek symbols?”
“Well, fourteen symbols,” I corrected. That was why no one column had all the symbols on it.
By this point, Rafe wasn’t even trying to be subtle about nuzzling my ear. As he nibbled my earlobe, I could feel my cock stiffening, but I ignored it. A nagging feeling in the back of my mind was telling me I should know exactly what the symbols were.
Then suddenly it hit me. Of course.
“Notes,” I said. “The symbols are notes. These,” I added, indicating the carvings on the columns, “are Greek musical scales—Lydian, Phrygian, Dorian, Hypolydian, Hypophrygian, Locrian, and Mixolydian.” Each scale consisted of seven notes, separated by a whole step or half step in the scale. Fourteen of them simply meant the scales were traversing two octaves, an average range for the human voice.
Rafe’s hand found my cock and began kneading it through my robe. “Good boy. Now let me give you a reward.”
Jeremy Spencer never imagined the occult order he and his boyfriend, Bowyn, started as a joke in college would become an international organization with hundreds of followers. Now a professor with expertise in Renaissance music, Jeremy finds himself drawn back into the world of free love and ceremonial magick he’d left behind, and the old jealousies and hurt that separated him from Bowyn eight years ago seem almost insignificant.
Then Jeremy begins to wonder if the centuries-old score he’s been asked to transcribe hides something sinister. With each stanza, local birds flock to the old mansion, a mysterious fog descends upon the grounds, and bats swarm the temple dome. During a séance, the group receives a cryptic warning from the spirit realm. And as the music’s performance draws nearer, Jeremy realizes it may hold the key to incredible power—power somebody is willing to kill for.
A.J. Marcus is here and is answering a few questions on The Jouster’s Lance
1. If your MC came to dinner, what would his favorite meal be? What makes him happy? What makes him annoyed?
Dale O’Toole is a steak and potatoes man, a Texas farm boy turned jouster. Chase a steak across a grill a couple of times, just enough to give it some flavor without over doing it and he’s a happy man. Now if it’s over done, that’s not good. He’s not into shoe leather on his plate. He doesn’t need a whole of lot veggies either. Keep it simple.
2. What was the most difficult part of writing this novel?
Trying to remember the little details of the Colorado Renaissance Festival site, I’ve worked there five years and still have to stop and remember where things are. Honestly I don’t get out of the booth much during fair season and I wanted to get things as close to reality as possible and give folks a good feeling for the setting. I’ve already gotten good reviews on the details of the setting.
3. Did you do a great deal of research? Planning? Or not?
I did a bit of research. I asked a few of the folks who work the fair in the different jobs little details, like how much a full pretzel pole weighs, and how it feels after carrying it around for the whole day. I think the little things help add spice to a story. I did a lot more research for the second book in the series, “The Satyr’s Song.” I put elephants in that one, and I don’t know a whole lot about elephants, or musicians for that matter, so I spent a lot of time checking with friends, old and new about details there. I like getting things right.
4. Describe your MC in one word. Why?
Dale O’Toole has a very strong moral compass. He’s nearly the embodiment of the classic knights of old. Even when it means putting himself at risk, he’s going to do everything he can to be gallant and brave. When he gives his word, he stands by it.
5. Without giving away spoilers for the novel, can you share a secret wish of your MC?
Dale wants someone to share his life with.
6. What is your next novel about?
“The Satyr’s Song” which is currently in editing with Dreamspinner Press and due out this fall, is the second novel in Ren Fair Romances. It’s the story of a concert musician who loses his position in an orchestra and goes to work as a Satyr at Scarborough Renaissance Festival. There, he falls for a guy working with elephants. We see Dale and Austin again, but they are in the supporting cast for this one.
7. If you could have only 1 superpower, what would it be?
Shape shifting, then I could be anything I wanted to be.
8. What would you tell an aspiring writer to do?
Write. Write a lot. Also, join a critique group. There are a lot of critique groups out there, both online and in person. Find one that suits your style and personality and don’t be afraid of the criticism, it will help make your writing stronger. It also helps prepare you for working with an editor, which is a very good thing.
9. How did you determine the setting of your novel?
I’ve worked the ren fair for years. I got to thinking that it would be a great place to set a romance. Many people romanticize it. Each fair is full of its own characters and flair. Each one of those characters has a story or four to tell. It gives me a very broad pallet to draw from. The only problem I’ve had so far, and I’m working on book four right now, is not falling into a pattern where it feels like I’ve got a formula for this series. I’m gathering as many details from different fairs as I can to take future books out to different parts of the country and hopefully give each book its own unique feel.
Dale O’Toole, aka Diederik, the Demon Duke of Denmark, takes his Renaissance festivals seriously. He has been on the jousting circuit for five years and enjoys his gypsy lifestyle, traveling to faires around the country. It’s fun and he has good friends.
Austin Renfro has worked in a pirate gift shop at the Colorado Renaissance Festival for several years but has a life outside the medieval fantasy world. When Austin spies Dale during the first joust of the season, he knows he must find a way to meet him, even if the jousters and royal cast don’t normally associate with the working class.
Their first chance meeting causes more than a little embarrassment for both men, but they don’t let that stop them. They try to let their budding love find its place while keeping it from becoming common knowledge. But when a particularly conservative knight catches them in flagrante, it’s bound to cause problems. After all, jousts are dangerous….
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I want to thank Skylar for allowing me this time on her blog today. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Vona Logan and I have an up and coming release with Dreamspinner Press next week, the 15th of May.
The name of my book is Tats of Honor and just like the title says it involves some sexy tattoos. I’m a fan. So where did my idea for this story come from? Well, it’s mostly because of the beautiful country I live in, New Zealand, where thousands of tourists come every year to have an amazing overseas experience (an OE as we call it.)
Many of these tourists are under the age of thirty and usually unattached and they bring just a backpack and a few necessities. They usually stay in budget accommodation, backpackers, as it is known here and they use their spending money on enjoying everything New Zealand has to offer.
Then one day a plot bunny took hold in my head – what if one of the British young guys came here and fell in love? With a Kiwi. And there the story started unfurling in my head. One a broken-hearted man, the other a cocky, strong Brit. A match made in heaven.
Once Kegan and Dominic’s story was written I knew one book wouldn’t do it, and the series, Inked, was born. In Tats of Honor I introduce Carl, the hunky tattoo artist and close friend of Kegan. I simply knew Carl had a story to tell, so stay tuned for the next instalment.
Thanks, Vona! That is a beautiful cover!
I’m very happy to have Ken Murphy here!
Stubborn Heart by Ken Murphy
Q: What was the biggest challenge in the book’s development for you?
A: Actually putting my thoughts into words. I have been an avid reader all my life and once I decided to create a story of my own; I realized how difficult it can be to move an image from my head to the written page.
Q: Do you plan out your novels or not?
A: I start with an idea and then develop a tentative outline. The funny thing is, once you let your characters start talking, they will tell you where to go with the story. So far none of my stories have stayed on the outline I drafted. That makes it more fun for me.
Q: What motivates you to write?
A: As I mentioned earlier, I love to read. I want to write stories that appeal to readers with similar interests as me. A great story to me has memorable characters, plenty of action and drama, and a happy ending.
Q: Describe each of your MCs in 1 word. Why?
A: Mark: Conflicted. Mark has been burned. Nothing in his life has ever been forever. He has no family. He really only has work and his work friends. Trevor is not a welcome interruption in his life. Mark doesn’t want to fall for Trevor. His heart has other ideas.
A: Trevor: Teddybear. – Yeah, I know it’s really two words. Trevor had a perfect life. He is big, confident, and very affectionate. He grew up in a loving home as the youngest child, and only son, of a surgeon and a nurse. He follows in his father’s footsteps. He’s never been hurt, mainly because he never found someone he wanted to give his heart to – until Mark.
Thanks, Ken. You can get a copy of Stubborn Heart here:
After breaking up with his cheating boyfriend, Mark Smith keeps life simple: his nursing career and a place of his own, but no dating. He’s steering clear of romance and the heartbreak that goes with it. After losing both parents and having all his relationships fail, he figures happily ever after is a myth.
When Dr. Trevor Hayes crosses Mark’s path at the hospital, he falls hard for Mark. The attraction is clearly mutual, and Trevor is determined to parlay that attraction into a relationship. Mark is just as determined to avoid exactly that.
But Trevor chips away at Mark’s resistance, and facing hardship and sorrow together brings them closer. Still, Mark can’t shake his belief that their romance is temporary—until he’s unexpectedly faced with the danger that he might lose Trevor for good. Mark must choose between guarding his heart and giving it completely, the risk he swore never to take again.
Sarah taught me that expression. Did I get it right? I’m thrilled to have Sarah as my guest today. Welcome!
Thanks so much for having me here, Skylar. My new novel, The Unforgiving Minute, is set in the world of professional tennis. It was an absolute blast to write, because it gave me the perfect excuse to go back and watch some of my favourite tennis moments all over again.
1. If your MC came to dinner, what would his favorite meal be?
Ryan would have something reasonably healthy for the first course, but I can’t give you any more detail than that because I’m being deafened by the cries of “Cheesecake!” I guess dessert’s sorted.
2. What makes him happy?
Along with cheesecake, almost anything—Ryan is the most naturally happy and well-adjusted character I have ever written. He’s particularly happy when with friends or out on a tennis court.
3. What makes him annoyed?
When he hasn’t played as well as he’s capable of doing.
4. What was the most difficult part of writing this novel?
Trying not to allow the peripatetic nature of the Tour, with a different setting nearly every week, affect the flow of the story. I hope I succeeded.
5. Did you do a great deal of research? Planning? Or not?
If I tell you I still have spreadsheets charting Josh and Ryan’s opponents, results, points and prize money for every single tournament—even ones that didn’t make it into the book—would that answer the question? I did a lot of research and enjoyed every minute of it!
6. Describe your MC in one word. Why?
Enthusiastic. Ryan is like a big, trusting, gregarious puppy who is eager and excited to experience everything and meet everyone.
7. Without giving away spoilers for the novel, can you share a secret wish of your MC?
To win a Grand Slam and marry Josh Andrews. Not necessarily in that order.
8. What is your next novel about?
Napoleonic spies, gallant English officers and a MC who is adjusting to a life-changing injury. It’s set in London in the early months of 1813. My greatest challenge in writing it was that the MC isn’t overly interested in the intricacies of ladies’ clothing, while I am all about costume porn when it comes to Regency. It’s due to be released in January next year.
9. Do you have a favorite author? A favorite film?
There are so many authors whose writing I admire that picking one is difficult, but I think I have to go with Georgette Heyer (at least, her Regencies; I didn’t enjoy her mysteries or other historicals). I love the world she creates and the humour in her writing.
I don’t have one particular favourite film, but at the moment I’m unable to stop watching The Avengers.
10. What would you tell an aspiring writer to do?
To keep writing—which sounds obvious, but it’s not always easy to do—and also to find someone whose judgement you trust to give you honest feedback.
The Unforgiving Minute
Ryan Betancourt is twenty-four, likes people, loves tennis, and is thrilled to have finally made it to the top tier of the professional tennis world. He’s meeting players he has idolized for years, including his teenage crush, Josh Andrews. But Josh isn’t easy to get to know, and Ryan isn’t ready for the politics and manipulation that come with life at the top.
Sarah Granger is a sucker for a happy ending. She believes, however, that characters will only fully appreciate their happy ending if they’ve suffered along the way.
Sarah lives in the Cotswolds, an idyllic part of the English countryside with gently rolling hills, dry stone walls of golden stone, and fields dotted with sheep. She has shamefully broken with local tradition by not having a rose growing around her front door. When she isn’t writing, Sarah enjoys walking in the countryside with her elderly and affectionate black Labrador.
Sarah loves hearing from readers. Her blog is at http://sarahgrangerfiction.wordpress.com