Please welcome Jessica Aspen back to my place. She’s dropped by to answer a few questions about herself and to give us another sneak peak of The Dark Huntsman. Last time, we met Trina and her Gift. This time we get acquainted Logan and his puca. Yes, we’re entering a magical realm, folks. 😉
By the way, there’s still time to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for The Dark Huntsman. Ten print copies are up for grabs! Contest closes October 22, so hurry up and enter today.
Jessica: Hi Joan! Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, and for hosting The Dark Huntsman cover reveal a few weeks ago in September. I’m super excited for this book to come out as it is my first full length fairy tale twist to be published and not only is it available in e-book format, but it’s also my first available in print!
Joan: You’re welcome. It’s lovely to have you. Where a writer creates is almost as interesting as what she creates. Where’s your preferred location?
Jessica: I’ve tried all kinds of ways to write. At first I sat at our big computer at the big desk in our office, but I found that I felt cut off from the rest of the house. While I do like to work without interruptions I also like to be on the main floor where I have easy access to the kitchen and a fabulous view of our tiny back yard, so when I my husband gave me my laptop for Christmas a few years ago I was able to try out different areas of the house. I tried the dining room table-too tall. The couch-too soft. And working outside-too bright. I’ve ended up at a tiny folding TV table with an old farmers chair. The height is perfect for my typing and I can move it wherever I want. It’s easy to get coffee, and let the dog in and out, and there is a lot of indirect sunlight. And the best thing is that when it’s time to have guests over I close the laptop, fold up the table, and stuff everything in the closet. It’s my secret office.
Joan: I see fairy tales hold a fascination for you. 🙂 All good fairy tales have a message. Is there a theme or message in your work?
Jessica: Now this may sound funny coming from a paranormal author, but now, after writing so many different stories I know what my theme is: finding home. It sounds like a contemporary romance or women’s fiction theme, but in every one of my books the hero and heroine’s home-lives have not been supportive of them. Even in my first novella, Little Red Riding Wolf, Red wants to go to college, but her mom doesn’t think she can hack it as a werewolf in the mundane population. But, Evan supports her, and she finds that even someone who is a different type of person than you can be your person and that’s where she makes her home. In The Dark Huntsman, Trina’s family was killed early and she’s lived with her aunt and cousins on the run from the faery queen. Not a stable home life at all. And Logan grew up in an faery custody battle, shuffled between his uncles and the Black Court, where he had to fight to survive. Both of them are looking for something that they never think to find in someone else’s world. But they do find it when they discover true love.
Joan: What a great theme; firmly rooted in reality but executed in fantasy. What’s the next step in your creative process: title, characters, plot, setting, conflict, or something else?
Jessica: The big thing in teaching writing currently is working out your characters first. Finding the motivation and creating character sheets should drive your plot. I don’t work like that. I can’t figure out my characters motivations until I see them reacting to situations. So I start with the plot first. I use something called the Snowflake method, and in that you start with one key sentence that tells your entire plot: An evil queen, a dangerous man, and a witch tangled together in their own twist of Snow White. Then I expand the plot from there into a paragraph, then into five-seven paragraphs. At this point I have a good idea of what kind of characters I need, but I don’t have a lot of details, so I’ll start creating character sheets that I will add to the entire time I write the book. Anything important that I don’t know at the beginning will get added into those sheets. Some things, like scent, I don’t know when I’m creating the plot-line, but as I’m writing an scenes I discover that this character wears rose perfume, or this one stinks of garlic. All that will get added into the character sheets. After I have basic character outlines and a basic story outline, I then outline all the chapters and major events, including scenes. Just one line per scene. Then I write. And it is all subject to change at any moment I come up with something better!
Joan: Well, if that was your process for The Dark Huntsman, Don’t change it; it works perfectly! And now, let’s Logan speak for himself.
The Sneak Peek
Sudden light burned into Logan’s face and his eyes flinched shut. He forced his shaking arm up and hid behind it as he tried to remember where he was. Cold seeped into his aching body from the uneven stone floor as he stayed under his arm and hid from the torchlight, staggered at the realization that he was alive. Weak, wobbly, and defenseless. But alive.
A heavy hobnailed boot kicked him in the side. “Here ‘e is sir.”
He groaned and curled into a ball, peering up through long matted and tangled hair at a heavyset chuckling troll with only one working eye. “I got ‘im out of the hole yesterday, but ‘e’s still not in good shape.” Another rusty laugh came from the troll. “But I guess that’s to be expected after fifteen year’n the hole.”
Fifteen years. Had it been so long?
Logan barely heard the troll’s dissertation on oubliettes, prisoners, and rates of death. Had he been in hibernieth, the Elvetian form of stasis, for fifteen years? What had happened to his friends and family? What had happened to the prince between now and the day their world had collapsed? The day he’d been stuffed into his tiny damp prison?
He pushed up on burning arms, collapsing in a panting heap. The troll laughed and kicked him again. Logan lay on the hard stone mentally apologizing to his clan and liege for his weaknesses. He had no strength to face whatever death was to come. His fate was sealed.
“Is this the best you could do?” A sharp male voice cut into Logan’s ears, too used to the sound of silence. “He doesn’t even look like a lord, let an alone the murderous Huntsman. The queen thinks he’s a fricking miracle worker.”
“Nope. No way.” Another chuckle wheezed out. “If you send me down a healer, might be we could get ‘im fixed up by afternoon, good as new. Then the queen can do with ‘im as she likes.”
“Hmph” came from beyond the glare of the torches. Then a sigh. “All right. I’ll send someone. Fix him up.” The voice curled in disgust. “And be sure to wash him. He reeks.”
“Yes sir.” The troll dragged Logan across the floor by one arm. He hummed a tuneless something that screeched into Logan’s ears but couldn’t cover the sound of Logan’s shoulder joint popping out of place.
Pain ripped through him. He struggled to stay conscious and ignore the excruciating messages shrieking in his arm from being hauled like a sack of grain along the rough floor. The troll dropped him on the stones, paused and opened an iron bound door. Logan tried to make his stiff muscles work, managing only to scrape and bang his limbs on the doorframe as the troll seized him and shoved him into the cell. He landed hard, his face grinding into the slimy stones. Curling instinctively into a ball, he managed to protect his gut from the last hard kick of the troll’s boot landing on his dislocated shoulder. His lungs seized up, his vision went black, and his head exploded into bright white stars.
The cell door clanged shut.
He sucked in slow aching breaths as the heavy footsteps receded down the corridor and reminded himself that he’d be out soon. And then he’d face the queen.
Fifteen years in this hell hole and the bitch thought he’d bow to her wishes.
He worked at unclenching his muscles. First his fists, then his jaw. Then each sore and aching muscle until he could sit up, his left arm hanging at an awkward angle. He guessed he wasn’t as ready to die as he’d thought. His body might be in terrible shape, but his mind was still sharp. He’d do what he had to do. Kill, cheat, steal. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t crossed lines before. But this time…
This time he would take down the Faerie Queen of the Black Court. No matter the price he paid. He reached up with his right arm, got a good grip on his left triceps and pulled.
The shoulder ground and popped back into place, and Logan passed out from the pain.
Clean, mostly healed, and doing his best to hide his exhausted body’s shaking from the one-eyed troll, Logan exited the dungeons. He strolled as casually as possible to the first solid patch of sun and lifted his face to the warmth. Closing his eyes in ecstasy, he breathed a prayer of thanks to the Goddess. She must still favor him and his cause, despite his misbehavior, or he would never have gotten out of the queen’s oubliette.
His skin soaked up the heat of the sun like a sponge soaking up a fine wine, but the heady pleasure of it stopped short of reaching the icy cold that lay inside his bones and threatened to never leave. He was out. But not free.
“So, she released you,” a low vibrant voice said behind him and his knees went weak in a surprising rush of relief. He turned, squinting his still sensitive eyes at the shadow that detached itself from the tower’s stone walls and became the form of a beautiful young man with ebony hair and soulful dark eyes.
“Solanum,” Logan said. “You’re here.”
Solanum swept low into a bow, and when he rose, his eyes glowed deep red before flashing back to black, so fast anyone else would have thought it their imagination. But not Logan.
“And where else would I be, master?” The familiar mocking edge of the puca’s voice was razor sharp. “I am your family’s faithful servant, you know.”
“Good. I’ll need you.” Logan threaded his way through the crowded courtyard filled with fae who worked at the prison. Busy Tuathan’s dressed in everything from fine seventeenth-century brocade vests to expensive suits and ties raced back and forth on the business of the Black Court. Large lumbering trolls, the queen’s favored jailers, smacked smaller winged faeries and gnomes of all sizes out of their way. Logan avoided them all and headed for the exit into the town. He didn’t look back. He knew the puca would be right behind him.
“I thought you might need me.” Solanum shadowed close behind, sliding through the crowd with ease and working it like a professional. Winking at those who gave the pair admiring looks and likely evaluating which ones would taste the best.
Logan shook his head. Pucas were rare, hunted nearly to extinction eons ago. He’d never seen another besides Solanum. If the crowd of fae only knew that the docile sexy human servant at his heels was really a creature with the ability to destroy all of them with a single breath, they’d be running for their lives.
“What’s it to be?” Solanum asked. “Are we finally searching for the prince? Are we rousing your mother’s family to war? Are we sabotaging the Black Court with fire and brimstone explosives?”
“No.” Logan turned down an alley heading through the cobbled streets and aimed straight for the town gate that led into the open lands of Faerie. He kept silent until they were far from the prison town, out in the wild fields close to the creeping mist of the outlands where the reality of the queen’s domain was weak, and no one would overhear. “She merely wishes me to kill a few witches.”
“And that’s it?” Solanum’s eyes glowed. “After she took your position, destroyed your life, and imprisoned you in that rat infested hole, you’re going to lick her boots and kill for her?”
“If I don’t, she’ll have me back in the hole before another night.”
“And if you do?”
“She’ll release me forever.” He turned away, a vain attempt to conceal his shaking from the puca. He sure as hell didn’t believe the queen, but it didn’t matter. He had to play her game, for now, or go back into the oubliette. And he was never going back into the oubliette.
“Well, then.” Solanum danced a little jig at Logan’s side, sending tendrils of mist flying. The mist rose, morphing into a vague humanoid shape that wove and danced with the puca for a few steps before dissolving back into the ground. Solanum shimmered, his body dissolved into black mist that reformed around his red eyes into the shape of a tall black stallion. He pulled back his lips revealing sharp teeth in a wicked horsey grin.
“I’m all for death and destruction, even something as weak as witches,” the puca said. “Where do we go?”
Logan whistled out into the potential of Underhill. Nothing happened. A fierce anxiety clenched his muscles, then he relaxed, as out of the coiling mist his pack of giant red hunting hounds swarmed. Emotions back under control, he turned to the puca and said, “Wyoming.”
An evil queen, a dangerous man, and a witch, tangled together in a tale of Snow White…
Desperate to save the last of her family from the murderous Faery Queen, Trina Mac Elvy weaves a spell of entrapment. But instead of a common soldier, the queen has released the Dark Huntsman, a full blooded fae with lethal powers.
Caged for treason, Logan Ni Brennan, is ready to do anything to win free of the manipulative queen, even if it includes running a last errand for her…murdering a witch. The sight of Trina, ready to fight despite the odds, gives him another option: use the witch as a chess piece, put the queen’s son on the throne, and bring down the queen forever.
As the queen slides into insanity and her closest advisor makes plans to succeed to the throne, Logan secrets Trina away in the enchanted forest and makes a decisive move in his dangerous game of manipulation. But, the gaming tables of fate turn on him, and when Trina’s life is threatened he discovers he risks more than his freedom…he risks his heart.
Dare to enter Jessica Aspen’s world of steamy, fantasy romance in her new twisted fairy tale trilogy: Tales of the Black Court…
Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves, and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies.
And here are Jessica’s linky bits:
Newsletter Website Goodreads Twitter Facebook Pinterest
And the all-important buy links:
eBook on Amazon Print Book on Createspace
Plus, there’s still time to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for The Dark Huntsman. Ten print copies are up for grabs! Contest closes October 22, so hurry up and enter today.
Great interview, Jessica and Joan. I’ve read The Dark Huntsman and it is a thrill ride. Go get this book as soon as you can!
Thank you for dropping by, Carole. We’re talking themes today. Do you favour a particular theme in your writing?
Thanks, Carole. I’m so glad you liked the book. And thanks for dropping by!
Themes can surprise us, Jessica, and I love that your theme has become clear to you. I don’t think it’s so strange, just because you write paranormal. Tales teach, the story makes the lesson relatable and real. Dean Koontz writes about hope.
My theme, so far, is reconciliation. I wonder if themes changes to reflect what’s happening in our lives, or are they fairly constant? Hmm…
I think theme is insight into the writer’s soul. Perhaps for the moment, perhaps for their lives.
I don’t think, for me, that it has much to do with my current situation, so maybe it could be more over our lives. Maybe past lives?
That’s interesting about Dean Koontz. I didn’t know that, but it kind of makes sense. I’m not sure you can find your theme until you’ve written a few stories, and he certainly has. 🙂
It wasn’t until after I’d written about 12 stories that I realized my theme. Letting go.
Hi Joan, thanks for having me on as your guest again. Your contemporary fans will be in shock. Two posts about a fantasy romance! 😉
I know as a romance reader that as long as it’s a good book, I’ll cross genres. In fact, I know a woman had never read a paranormal romance before and now she beta reads for me. Gotta love that!
Hey Jessica, I have a beta reader who writes urban fantasy. Her feedback is some of the best. 😉
Very cool! I love urban fantasy, it has a lot of emotional punch. I could see the connection. 🙂