Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

Today, I have authors Angel Martinez and Bellora Quinn in the interview chair.  We’re discussing their latest release Ryld’s Shadows, book four in the Aura series, a m/m urban fantasy romance.  Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

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1. First off, readers have an idea about the writer you, but what about the everyday you? Can you share about your personal life?

Angel: Oh, everyday me is so boring. I’m retired from a life of corporate drone-dom mostly, and I live in my unexceptional suburban house within my garden run amok. There’s one grown son who lives nearby and the spouse who lives with me. I write, I garden, I read a ton, and sometimes I bake stuff. Whoo!

Bellora: I, on the other hand, live a life of excitement and adventure! My daily routine consists of herding dachshunds, avoiding alligators and hurricanes, and marvelling at the ability of people in their second century of life to navigate a 1985 Cadillac through a Publix parking lot without actually being able to see over the dashboard. When I’m not doing that stuff I paint, or write, or figure out how to install a kitchen floor.

2. Lately, I’ve been interviewing and reading books by co-authors. What drew you to co-authoring, and your writing partner?

Angel: Bellora and I met a couple of decades ago on a now-defunct PBEM (play by email) writing site for adult fiction. A lot of the writing on there was truly bad. But there were some standouts. I liked what she wrote. She liked what I wrote.

Bellora: That’s pretty much how it happened. The site was designed so that one person would write their characters part then the other person would respond, continuing the story. It was pretty much a training course on how to write collaboratively, although I don’t think we saw it t that way at the time. We were just having fun. When the site closed down we just kept going, creating new characters and new worlds and telling new stories.

3. Can you provide three pros to co-authoring and three cons?

Angel: I’ll be nice and do the cons so Bellora can do the pros. One, you’re reliant on someone else’s schedule. This can make it hard to grab time together some days. Months. Etc. Two, you’re reliant on someone else’s brain. The story stops dead when one of you gets stuck. Three, you really have to rein it in and make certain you’re not running roughshod over your writing partner. You can’t just go haring off in whatever direction you please—there’s someone else counting on you.

Bellora: Three pros would be, that old axiom that writing is lonely work goes out the window. You have someone along every step of the way that’s just as invested as you are with what’s being created on the page. Two, when you get stuck you have someone that really knows the characters and world to bounce ideas around with until you’re unstuck. Three, sharing the creative process with someone on such an intimate level can build a connection that becomes a deep and abiding friendship.

4. What about the writing process with a co-author. How does that work?

Angel: We use Google Docs. It’s been a lifesaver. Oh, so much easier than sending emails back and forth with bits of dialogue.

Bellora: I’ll second that. When you write alone there are any number of tools to use that come down to personal preference, but we haven’t found anything that gives the same experience as Google Docs for writing collaboratively. At first it was so strange, being able to see the other person putting the words on the page was even more intimate that looking over someone’s shoulder. It felt voyeuristic almost. Once we got used to it though, it became this amazing thing, because as you watch what’s being written you can also be thinking about what comes next. Oh, and sometimes we even talk about what we’re going to do with a plot.

5. What drew you to writing urban fantasy m/m romance?

Angel: I loved fantasy and gothic fiction as a kid, so the idea of mythical creatures living among us is a natural fit for me. I started writing queer characters in the late 90’s and once queer romance got rolling in the early 2000’s, that fit was just as natural. Elves in the city? Yes, please.

Bellora: I’ve always loved urban fantasy and m/m romance so it seemed very natural to put them together. Like chocolate and peanut butter.

6. Your latest novel is Ryld’s Shadows, book four in the AURA series. Can you tell me what inspired you to write this book and develop the AURA series?

Angel: AURA was the result of a long process of tossing ideas at each other until one stuck. We knew we wanted to write something – novel, series – together, but for the longest time couldn’t settle on what. Ryld was us wanting to return to this universe and explore it from a completely different angle.

Bellora: For the most part Angel writes the voice of Kai, the other drow elf in the series. I thought it would be fun to write a character to mess with him. That’s really what inspires me to write anything, if I think it’s going to be fun, I’m in. Ryld is funny, and sweet, and powerful, and he’s also what humans might call neurodivergent. The world we live in a diverse place, and the world of AURA seemed the perfect place to embrace that diversity.

7. Ryld’s Shadows is the fourth book in the AURA series. What can we expect from you in the future? Care to share about your current WIP?

Angel: We do have an AURA 5 started, though there’s a lot of work left to be done. We’ll be revisiting a bunch of old friends and introducing a couple of new characters. Looks like most of the action will be on the West Coast again.

Bellora: Book 5 is going to have park rangers, and old forests, and sirens, and danger and omg, it’s going to be so much fun.

8. When first developing the AURA series, did the series plot come first or the characters?

Angel: We do a little of each before we get started. I need to know where we’re going and Bellora needs to know who we’re going with, lol. I’ll be all set to get started and she’ll ask me, “Tell me about your character?”, and then I have to think very hard, darn it.

Bellora: I won’t say I always have the idea for a character first, but it’s probably 95% of the time. When we first started talking about this series, I definitely knew who Quinn was before we had really figured out what kind of world he lived in, but I’d say they go hand in hand. There’s the spark of an idea for the character, and as I get to know the world they live in it helps shape them.

9. Let’s talk about the main character for Ryld’s Shadows. What do you love most about Ryld and what makes you want to shake him?

Angel: Ryld is a sweetie, a real cinnamon roll since he’s so kind and curious. It’s hard to want to shake him, but he is in denial about certain things. Makes you want to yell sometimes.

Bellora: Ryld comes from a culture of constant machinations and often brutal violence. Most of his kind are cunning, ruthless, and feared by those they go to war with. And even they are leery of Ryld. It’s the idea that if he were anything at all like most of his drow brethren he’d probably have the world at his feet, and yet he’s so diametrically opposite of that that he wishes every minute of everyday not to have the power he was born with that makes me love him. His stubbornness makes me grind my teeth though.

10. The same for Hank. What do you love most about him and what makes you want to shake him?

Angel: Hank is steadfast, loyal, and would rather not have to hurt anyone, ever. Sometimes people don’t give him a choice. I want to shake him until his teeth rattle because he’s been trying to hide his light for so long, doesn’t think he’s anything special.

Bellora: It’s really, really hard not to like Hank. He puts up with a lot and has more patience than a stone. I don’t think there’s anything I’d want to shake him for.

11. Without giving away any spoilers, what was your favourite scene to write and why?

Angel: This might sound odd, but one of my favorite scenes is Ryld and Hank at the thrift store. Thrifting really shows someone’s priorities—where they head to in the store, what they’re looking at—and both characters react to the situation in ways that are so very them.

Bellora: The thrift store was a great scene, yeah. I think one of my favorite moments is when Ryld see’s Hank’s apartment and give his very blunt assessment of what he thinks of the place, and instead of being insulted Hank just rolls with it. It’s a funny and endearing moment.

12. If a reader asked you why they should read Ryld’s Shadows, what would you tell them?

Angel: Because we’re really nice people and they should read it. I’d recommend that they start with the first book in the series, Quinn’s Gambit, just so they don’t miss getting to know the world and all the returning characters. There’s drama, action, romance, and plenty of humor thrown in.

Bellora: Ryld is not your typical MC, and Hank is just about the sweetest goblin you’ll ever meet. I mean, where else are you going to read about a half-goblin accountant and a neurodivergent drow going on an adventure of self discovery and uncovering seedy plots along the way? It’s even got pixies!

13. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Angel: I get to make stuff up! New people, new worlds, new situations (and often, new words.) It’s creating something out of spun wisps of air that makes me absurdly happy.

Bellora: You ever read something and think, “That was good but I just wish this one thing was different/had happened/hadn’t happened…” Well, writing is putting that power at your fingertips. Muuuwaaahhhaaaha.

14. What do you enjoy least about writing?

Angel: Fixing stuff. Finding plot holes—or your co-writer or one of your betas does—and now you have to fix it without a) breaking the plot and b) making more plot holes and c) without painting yourself into a corner.

Bellora: Editing is like the ninth level of hell. Only mildly less annoying is getting stuck.

15. I enjoy doing random questions, so humour me:

  • What’s your favourite movie?
    Angel: I’ll say different things one different days, for today it’s Princess Mononoke.
    Bellora: I usually answer Aliens, because I really did want that the badass woman and her cat to survive.
  • What book is currently in your e-reader?
    Angel: Just started The Missing Page by Cat Sebastian. Just finished Heaven’s Official Blessing (1) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu
    Bellora: Seasons by Jordan Castillo Price. I love her so much.
  • Who’s your favourite musical group?
    Angel: Again, that’s really changeable. Maybe Depeche Mode for today.
    Bellora: I don’t have a favorite group/artist. I can’t even say I have a favorite genre of music, it just depends on my mood or activity. Pop, rap, metal, R&B, oldies, EDM… How about I’ll just say the last thing I listened to was Jack White while doing the dishes.
  • What song puts a smile on your face?
    Angel: David Bowie’s “Wild is the Wind”—it was our first dance at spouse’s and my wedding.
    Bellora: Right now? ABCDEFU by Gayle. It cracks me up.

15. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Angel: Support your local AURA department!

Bellora: Join us next time where we find out if a Varg can eat its way though a NYC apartment wall.

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Book Title: Ryld’s Shadows: AURA 4
Author(s): Angel Martinez and Bellora Quinn
Genres: Urban Fantasy M/M Romance
Tropes: Fish out of water, friends to lovers, unlikely pair
Themes: Acceptance, growth, people aren’t always what they appear
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Release Date: March 8, 2022
Length: 74 000 words/ 276 pages

Ryld must learn to control his dangerous shadows before they kill someone he cares about or someone unscrupulous learns how to control him.

Blurb:  AURA’s offices have been quiet since the mage tower incident—as quiet as they can be for an agency dedicated to policing holes in reality—and the department heads have been free to turn their attention back to mundane matters. The return to quiet bureaucracy gives AURA’s Director of Research, Kai Hiltas, the time to turn his energy to a new issue—a young drow with unusual and dangerous powers named Ryld.

Though his shadows always lurk at the edges of his vision, Ryld does his best to live peacefully and not let them hurt anyone. He has his work, his apartment and a succession of minders assigned by AURA who are, ostensibly, there to keep him safe in his new world and to prevent him from causing any scenes with his shadows. Most of the time, the arrangement works. But one disastrous incident causes Ryld’s minder to leave him unattended and lost—the precise thing he was hired to prevent.

To replace the faithless minder, Kai suggests Hank, a half-goblin accountant recently in the middle of a string of terrible luck, while Kai works out how best to get Ryld the magical training he so desperately needs. For his part, Hank truly likes Ryld and insists he would be happier working as Ryld’s companion rather than as a controlling minder.

As Hank and Ryld slowly come to terms with sharing space—and eventually more—Kai’s search for a teacher for Ryld takes them out west on the invitation of the Elvenhome’s aelfe queen and right into the lap of inter-elven feuds, ancient prejudice, conspiracies and trafficking rings. What should have been a pleasant visit soon turns into more than even forever-scheming Kai can handle.

Note:  It is not a standalone story. It is book four in the AURA series.

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“Another one, Brady. I don’t have all night.”

The bartender sighed when Hank thumped his fist on the bar. That crack was already there. I know it was.

“One terabin per customer. You know the rules.”

“I’m not even close to drunk enough.”

Shaking his head, the bartender put a glass of water in front of Hank. The water swayed. Maybe the bar swayed. A single terabin would’ve taken down a human and sent them to the ER. A second one would even put a troll on the floor. Hank was pretty sure he could manage another.

Brady put his hands on the bar and leaned in. “What’s happened, Hank? This isn’t like you.”

Hank tried to answer, his short tusks getting in the way of his words. That hadn’t happened since he was a teenager.

“What was that?”

“They fired me today. Fired me.” Hank gave up trying to look menacing and put his head in his hands.

“Did you screw something up? Lose a decimal place or something?” What Brady knew about accounting probably wouldn’t have filled half a jigger.

“No.” Hank gulped a breath. “I did my job. I worked hard. But the new manager… She said I wasn’t commensurate with the company image.”

“Wait. Just ’cause of how you look? You could file a complaint?”

“Sure. Right. The pretty sylphs in the non-human rights office are gonna get right on that. Far as they’re concerned, the only place I should be is locked up.”

The bartender winced in an uncomfortable way and patted Hank’s arm awkwardly. “Not like you’re riding a varg down the street swinging a battle-axe. You’re, you know, civilized. Still can’t serve you another one.”

A bitter smile curled Hank’s mouth as he took the water and chugged half of it down. “Thanks, Brady. I feel so much better now. I’ll… I guess I’ll find something. Somewhere.”

Out on the sidewalk, Hank breathed in the relatively fresh air. Poisoned with exhaust fumes and all the reek of too many humans in too small a space—still it was cooler and not the close, claustrophobic smell of the bar. He probably shouldn’t have let Brady’s racist comments go, but tonight he was too damn tired to deal with it, and Brady needed to count his lucky pebbles that Hank wasn’t some thin-skinned goblin kid with a chip bigger than his head. You’re okay, Hank. You’re one of the few good goblins. Not like those other filthy barbarians. Pat the half-gobbo on the head and smile.

He wanted chilies, huge bags of them, wanted to drown in the capsaicin high they’d bring. But he had enough sense, even this drunk, to know he’d overdo it in his current state of mind and probably end up in the ER from a ghost pepper OD again.

Once was enough.

No. Go home. Get some sleep. Figure it out in the morning.

He’d manage. He always did.

It was just that this time he thought he had managed. Found a place for himself. Reached the spot where things could be routine, and he could be normal. Just another worker bee in the crowd.

The screech of tires on pavement yanked him out of his reverie and just about made him jump out of his skin. His reactions were muddled and slow, but the shot of adrenaline racing through him as he stared at the truck only inches away was almost enough to knock him sober.

The driver’s door opened, and a tall elf got out. His face was full of haughty arrogance and disdain, as was usual for aelfe, but his words were even and neutral as he asked, “Are you all right?”

Before Hank could answer the passenger door opened, and another elf got out, this one a drow. “You are walking where vehicles are supposed to be driven.”

“Get back in the truck, Ryld,” the first elf said sternly.

“But, he’s walking where vehicles are driven. That’s against the rules.”

“Get. In. The. Truck. Ryld.”

“But…”

“Now!”

The drow cut his eyes away. He made some odd gestures but sat back down and closed his door. Even from behind the windshield Hank could pick out how unnaturally blue his eyes were. He’d only ever seen drow with red eyes or white.

“Are you all right?” the blond elf asked again.

Hank pulled in a slow breath, then two more. The rising nausea settled, and he leaned a hand against the lamppost on the corner. “Fine. I’m fine. You stopped in time.”

The elf stared at him, maybe thinking Hank owed him a thank you for not ploughing over him. Finally, he gave a sharp nod. “Okay. Good.”

That was it. He climbed back into the truck, shut the door, said something sharp to the drow and drove off.

Weird. That was…weird. Though maybe the terabin had made the whole interaction so strange. Maybe there hadn’t been any blue-eyed drow insisting on road rules. Hank shook himself, hurried across the street and reached his apartment building without any further bizarre incidents.

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Angel Martinez:  The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.

Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.

She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.

Find Angel:  Blog/Website | Facebook | Facebook Group | Twitter | Newsletter Sign-up

Bellora Quinn:  Originally hailing from Detroit Michigan, Bellora now resides on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida where a herd of Dachshunds keeps her entertained. She got her start in writing at the dawn of the internet when she discovered PbEMs (Play by email) and found a passion for collaborative writing and steamy hot erotica. Soap Opera like blogs soon followed and eventually full novels.

The majority of her stories are in the M/M genre with urban fantasy or paranormal settings and many with a strong BDSM flavour.

Find Bellora:  Facebook | Twitter

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