Book Title: In Pain and Blood (Spellster Series Book 1)
Author: Aldrea Alien
Publisher: Thardrandian Publications
Cover Artist: Aldrea Alien
Genre/s: Epic Fantasy M/M Romance
Length: 309000 words/740 pages
It’s a standalone story and first in a series of standalones.
Buy Links ~ Available on KU
It wasn’t meant to be like this. Dylan’s life in the spellster tower has everything he should want: magical knowledge, safety from the King’s Hounds and frequent clandestine affairs with women. All at the cost of his freedom. So when the chance to leave the tower?even as a leashed weapon for the King’s Army?arises, he seizes it. When his first scouting mission goes awry, Dylan is left alone in a hostile world with the tower a distant beacon of safety. Only the flirtatious Tracker, an elven man whose very presence awakens Dylan’s long-repressed desire, can help him return to his old life before the crown discovers his unleashed status. But the risk of being branded a deserter may be the least of his concerns as whispers of an armed presence in the North threatens his home. Dylan must rely on Tracker to protect him even as everything he thought he knew begins to unravel around them.
Excerpt The dagger was the first thing he saw. Curved and sharp. In the lantern-light peeking out from the street, the blade bore an insidious purple sheen. Barely daring to breathe, he followed the blade down to the bronze hand and onwards to the elven man glaring up at him. “If you’re after money. I have none.” The elf’s sharp eyes, in a shade that reminded Dylan of rich honey, narrowed. “Money?” The man sneered. “My dear spellster, do I look like I need your paltry coin?” He spoke with the vaguely similar smooth accent of his old roommate, Sulin. The words tumbled off his tongue much like rock down a hill, catching occasionally on a soft trill or hiss. Only those from Wintervale spoke in such a way. “I don’t?” The man knew he was a spellster? That could become problematic if he also knew of a hound in the area. Dylan lifted his hands, careful to ensure his palms remained facing away from the elf. As well as sharing a similarity in accents as his old roommate, the man was quite tall for an elf. Not quite as much as Sulin, but the top of the man’s head easily reached the base of Dylan’s neck. “Look, I really don’t want to hurt you.” The dagger flashed up with barely a twitch from the elf, the flat of the blade tapping Dylan on the lips. “No more talking. I have been looking all over this village for the spellster everyone says is here and now I have you.” The point returned to his throat. “Now lower your hands. I am sure it has occurred to you that attacking me will do you no good. You would be dead well before I.” His gaze dropped to take in the man’s armour. Hard to tell in the watery light, but it looked well-made and leather. Not a common thief, then. A mercenary, perhaps? Something about the style nagged at him. He’d seen it before, as far back as the tower. Not on the guardians, but? The hound. Fetcher might have been human and a woman, but she’d worn the exact same armour. “You’re a hound,” he breathed, amazed he could say a word when it felt like his heart had relocated to his throat. The man’s full lips twisted into a humourless smile. “How very astute of you. At least you are not entirely without your wits.” “You have to help me.” Was it not a hound’s job to bring spellsters to the tower? Just like they’d done with Sulin and Launtil and countless others who’d been born outside the walls. And this elf would know the quickest route. “I need to get back to the tower.” “So you admit you left.” “Well, yes, but I was?” The minute change in the blade’s pressure against his throat stilled his tongue. The hounds will hunt you. His guardian’s words echoed in his ears. Safe in the tower, safe with a neck banded in metal, but venture outside without being leashed? Practically a death sentence. Any spellster rumoured to have fled the tower weren’t heard from again. “The crown does not exactly take kindly to runaways.”
Hello Aldrea, please tell us a little about yourself?
Hi there! About myself? Righty-o. I?m a short, pasty New Zealander with teeth sharp enough for kids to ask if I?m a vampire (and I will tell them yes). On another level, I?m a mother with one sneaky-ass eleven-year-old daughter and a partner who?s my own personal Gimli in the beard department. We?re all a bunch of geeks, and that goes back to my father, who introduced me to Star Wars at a very early age. I?m also bisexual and genderfluid.
What other careers do/did you have apart from writing?
Is Mother considered a career? I feel that it should be. I?ve been a stay-at-home mum for over eleven years now. Before then, I worked in a printing press, manually inserting those little glossy ads into newspapers, sprained both my wrists at that job. In between that job, I also briefly worked in a factory that made the paper bags you?d put chips or pies in… Didn?t eat out of one for months afterwards after seeing one woman wipe her nose on the back of her hand then handle the bags. Blergh.
Apart from writing, what else do you like to do?
I love my video games. Especially fantasy RPGs, although I?m quite fond of the Lego games I play with my daughter.
Do you like to read books that are like the ones you write?
Of course. I adore fantasy, the longer the better, really. My favourite series are typically longer ones (Wheel of Time, Witch World, Discworld, etc.). And, if there?s not a romance in a book I?m reading, I?ll find something cute to cling to or add it myself.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write an epic fantasy novel?
Outline, but don?t be afraid to scrap that outline and move on if you find yourself stifled. Write down details as they come. Have references for your references, especially for journeys and towns. Research everything you don?t have firsthand knowledge of, but don?t put it all in. Study old cities in the civilisation you?re basing your world on to get an idea of how they?re laid out.
And back up your stuff that day! Multiple places if you can. I lost two complete chapters of In Pain and Blood and a bunch of other bits because of a corrupted file. Only the first chapter was saved because I?d made it separate. Because of this, I like to have each chapter in its own file. It also made it easier to find the spot when I needed to tweak.
Christmas is just a few days away, what is your favourite memory of Christmas as a child?
Er… I can?t rightfully say. Christmas sort of lost its magic for me at the age of seven. I can give you a ton of bad Christmas memories, but if there were ever some good ones in my childhood, they?ve long since gone. We stopped celebrating at all after my grandmother passed on, starting again when my daughter was two, so yeah…
How do you usually celebrate Christmas?
There?s not a great deal of ?usually? as things change every year (with us visiting my partner?s parents or them visiting us and whether or not we actually have a Christmas dinner/lunch anywhere). About the only thing that?s stable is the opening of presents in the morning.
And what is your favourite part of Christmas day?
Got to say, it?s the end. That probably sounds like I?m a jaded little me, but I find it all exhausting.
Is in Pain and Blood your first Fantasy novel?
No. That?d be, technically, The Rogue King, even if it?s in the Science Fantasy realm. For High Fantasy, there are a bunch of others I never finished or officially published. Then there?s Dark One?s Mistress, which has a gothic flare, but still within a Fantasy setting. In Pain and Blood is merely my longest standalone.
Why did you choose to write this novel as a MM Genre?
Largely because it felt right for the characters and the story. And a little bit because the characters took up the story and ran with it.
The book sounds exciting and with a whopping 700+ pages it is going to be an epic fantasy. Can you tell us a little more about the characters?
I suppose I should start with Dylan seeing he?s the main character. He?s naive of the world outside the tower and enamoured with this romanticised idea of wandering the land, fighting off the bad guys and helping spellsters like him be free without the populous being afraid of them. He has a fondness for lavender, singing, history and flat cakes.
Tracker… he?s been through a lot. Being of the King?s Hounds means they train them as soon as they?re able and anything goes. People have been known to die. Whilst he and Dylan have both learnt that loving someone just invites pain, Tracker learnt it in a far harsher lesson. Because of that, he tends to present himself as a man who?ll sleep with any number of people (he will, but that?s just a facet).
Authril?s a mercenary who lost her company in a fight against the encroaching imperial forces. She?s overall weary of magic after seeing its violent side, but grows to trust Dylan enough to accept his aid. Her main goal is in getting Dylan back to the army and then returning to the border to kick Udynean butt.
Marin is a person that vastly prefers being away from cities. She can?t stand people who think they?re better than others and is explosively violent to those who insult those she?s grown attached to. She sort of sees Dylan as a dorky big brother and does sort of nudge him in a few places whilst also teasing him.
Katarina is far more aware of things than she likes to display. As a dwarven archaeologist, she?s not fully up to speed with the cultural differences between human kingdoms, but she?s travelled to places Dylan could only dream of and has survived a few hair-raising journeys to get where she is now. Over all of them, I think she?s likely the most forgiving.
How did the idea for the story come about?
It was all likely inspired by a mess of songs, games and movies. There?s the odd trope that I played with, too. After I commissioned a portrait piece of my dear RPG character, Dylan sort of pop up fully-fledged and ran with things until Tracker took the reins.
How difficult is it to write fantasy / magic stories?
Not very. I?ve been doing it for so long that it?s more of a go-to place for my brain. Having stuff set in the real world is far harder.
It must take a lot of research to get things believable?
The magic part, not so much. I tend to stick to it needing to be an innate ability that must be trained and honed rather than one that can be taught by anyone. So the rules are fairly simple: do something and it?s going to drain your energy. Too much and there?s not enough in a person to do the basic things, like breathe.
Of other details, yeah. It took a little research. I?ve been writing and researching for some time now, so a lot of it being be reaffirming what I remembered was correct. I think the most I did was checking up on plants and when they flowered for certain scenes. Travelling was another big one. It altered a few details and led to some additional scenes.
Will the other books in the series be MM or MF?
Some will. Some won?t. There are five definite other books, with two more maybes that I?m currently mulling over. Two of those five are MF with rest being MM, FF and M/Intersex.
Some will focus not only on other characters, but other places in their world. Most of them remain in one country with the exception of To Target the Heart, which is set in two kingdoms and is about two princes falling in love and one secretly competing when the other?s mother holds a contest of arms with him as the prize. I?m sort of torn between writing that and Spectre of the Golden Voice, which is the M/Intersex couple and is heavily influenced by Phantom of the Opera and far tamer.
What is your favourite take out / eat out food?
KFC. Although, I?ll go for most non-spicy fried chicken, if I?m honest.
If you won, the lottery what would be the first thing you would buy?
Most likely a bigger house, something large enough that I could have my own writing space without having to either hog the bedroom and relegating my partner to the lounge or stay up until late for some peace and quiet.
If you could meet anyone in the world who would it be? (family and friends not included)
That is a very good question as most of the big names I would?ve liked to meet are dead, even though I?d likely have been too tongue-tied to say anything. So? David Tennant.
Favourite Book and why?
Year of the Unicorn by Andre Norton. The focus is fully on this young girl, Gillan, as she struggles with her magical abilities and trying to decipher the intrigue within the were-riders, especially since they target the man she has chosen to be her husband. That inner conflict is a good foil for the outer which happens in the second half of the story, where they become almost a battle couple in a fight of both will and physical endurance.
Favourite Song and why?
There Must Be An Angel by Eurythmics. I can?t remember the original reason why it?s my favourite, only that it?ll get me singing every time.
Favourite movie and why? Probably the animated version of Disney?s Beauty and the Beast. I haven?t watched it in years, but I can still quote large chunks of it.
About the Author
Mother. Animal Lover. Vampire. Fangirl. Aldrea Alien is a New Zealand author of romantic speculative fiction of varying heat levels. She grew up on a small farm out the back blocks of a place known as Wainuiomata alongside a menagerie of animals, who are all convinced they’re just as human as the next person (especially the cats). She spent a great deal of her childhood riding horses, whilst the rest of her time was consumed with reading every fantasy book she could get her hands on and concocting ideas about a little planet known as Thardrandia. This would prove to be the start of The Rogue King Saga as, come her twelfth year, she discovered there was a book inside her. Aldrea now lives in Upper Hutt, on yet another small farm with a less hectic, but still egotistical, group of animals (cats will be cats). She self-published the first of The Rogue King Saga in 2014. One thing she hasn’t yet found is an off switch to give her an ounce of peace from the characters plaguing her mind, a list that grows bigger every year with all of them clamouring for her to tell their story first. It’s a lot of people for one head.
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