Thanks to Carson for hosting me during Shifter month to talk about my novella, A Cunning Plan.
It’s a Regency romance with a just a bit of a paranormal twist, so historical fans will be annoyed, and shifter fans will want more shifting. Pleasing none of the people all of the time, yay! J No, but seriously, what was I thinking??!?
The story came about because occasionally one of my critique partners will forward calls for submissions when publishers are looking for gay romance. One particular publisher was looking for shifter stories for an anthology. I don’t write paranormal; most of the paranormal I’ve read annoys me because authors cram in too many characters and superpowers with no lifeline to reality. I told my friend, “I don’t write paranormal”…then immediately started thinking of ways I could write paranormal.
My first idea was for a VERY sexy story, a shifter who could change into any shape to fulfill the fantasies of his partner….but if a shifter can become ANYTHING, what would their natural form be? Some sort of amorphous gooey blob? When you think of “sexy”, the image that comes to mind first is not usually “amorphous gooey blob”…..
So I put that idea aside (well, tossed it out completely, really). My next idea was to make the identity of the shifter somewhat of a mystery, since every story in the anthology would be about one or more shifters. I thought it might be interesting if the reader had to guess a bit. I also love Regency stories and had wanted to write a gay romance set in that period, and everything just sort of came together after that.
However, the word count quickly shot past the maximum for the anthology, so I decided to go on with it as a stand-alone novella. The story turned out to be a lot more work that I’d planned for because I really don’t know the specifics of the historical period, and the Dreamspinner editors are quite thorough. I had to add DAYS to the carriage rides because I wanted to set the story in more-or-less real locales in England and my googlemaps travel time estimates were oh, SO wrong.
But once I’d made those corrections, I think the story came together well. It’s mostly a Regency romance with the obligatory parties, sherry, pistols, the war with Napoleon and a near-marriage of convenience. But it’s also a story about acceptance – of one’s self and of others – despite faults, quirks, and eccentricities. And there are foxes. Mustn’t forget about the foxes. :)
Alec, Earl of Whittlesey, lives a dull and reclusive existence, rarely mingling with society and, to his mother’s regret, refusing to marry. But his mother and society do not know he harbors a secret: a kind of madness that is driving him to deadly despair.
When Alec meets the commoner Morgan Villenie, he finds the man’s cheer and wit hard to resist, despite his own dark moods. Alec warms to Villenie, but Villenie has secrets of his own. If these two men are ever truly to be together, they must trust each other enough to reveal those secrets—even if they both believe the truth could tear them apart.
I can’t post an excerpt of anything shifter-y without spoiling the mystery aspect of the story, but in the following scene, Alec, who has begun to trust Villenie, puts his guard up again while talking with Mr. Belmont, an old family friend. Belmont’s son Robbie told his father some unsavory gossip about Villenie, and Belmont asks Alec what he really knows about the man.
“Did he say what he did in His Majesty’s service?”
“No.” Every time they’d talked about Villenie’s military career, Villenie had soon changed the subject. “He prefers not to speak of that time.”
“Most likely because—” Belmont looked around, as if searching for eavesdroppers in the library. “—he was a spy.”
“A spy? Villenie? That can’t be true.” But even as Alec spoke, he recalled the lies that fell so easily from Villenie’s lips.
“Oh, yes,” Belmont said. “Had the ear of the commanding officer. Came and went as he pleased. Quite the enigma. Robbie said his entire regiment was quite frightened of him.”
“Frightened? Of Villenie?” Alec asked, unable to keep from laughing. He couldn’t imagine it. “We can’t be speaking of the same man, then.”
“Tall and wiry, with hair red as the flames of Hell?”
Damnation. “Well… yes, I suppose.”
Belmont nodded, sighing. “Robbie said that Villenie was so skilled at gathering intelligence without being caught that he must have been spying for both sides. Or he was killing his informants once he’d got his information, before they could betray him. Ice water in his veins, they all said.”
In his mind, Alec could picture Villenie laughing, laying a sympathetic hand on Alec’s shoulder, panting against Alec’s neck in the coach—every variety of heat from warm affection to burning desire, with no ice anywhere in sight. Except on the morning they’d left London, when Villenie accused Alec of trying to drink himself to death. “I think you must have the wrong man after all.”
“No, my lord. Morgan Villenie. The commanding officer was about to begin an investigation when Villenie up and quit the service. They never found any real evidence—”
“Then perhaps it was all idle gossip—”
“—but only because that commanding officer was killed at about the same time. There was talk that Villenie had a hand in his death, in order to stop the investigation.”
Alec suppressed a shiver. “I suppose there was no real evidence to link him to that death, either?”
“None except that Villenie was one of the last men on our side to see him alive. Some of the men heard them arguing the last time they were together.”
It couldn’t be true. Villenie wasn’t a dangerous man… or was he? Had he ever spoken a word of truth to Alec?
I hope you’ll check out “A Cunning Plan”. [ buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4429 ]
I also have three (non-shifter) anthology stories out – college roommates, pirates, not-Cinderella – and one story coming out in the next few months. How to describe Joe from “Miles to Go” in Bedtime Stories? Guy whose wife left him because she thinks he’s gay but he doesn’t think so except he’s kind of attracted to the hot (male) babysitter? That’s succinct…. Anyway, you can find links to the already-published stories at my blog.
Thanks for reading!
B. Snow found her way into the magical world of romance writing via fanfiction, and original characters began banging on her brain several years ago. Despite suffering from acute procrastinitus, she has managed to get several anthology stories and one novella published.
Originally from the west coast, B. Snow and her husband now live in the Atlanta area with their cat, who is really the one in charge.