Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guest Blogger ~ Nica Berry

My guest blogger today is fellow Loose Id author, Nica Berry. Nica's work is, to quote, "Queer Science Fiction and Fantasy". Her upcoming novella for Loose Id is -- ready? -- steampunk/Inuit M/M/M! Well, I just had to find out more, so, without further ado: Take it away, Nica!
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Thanks to Jeanne for letting me stop by!

My latest books have, in a way, been experiments in working with particular cultures and crafting a story within those restrictions. And, of course, basing a story in a particular era or culture means--you guessed it--research.

Sometimes, it's actually easier to write within these confines, and it's actually a bit like writing fanfiction in that you have the world already made for you and you just have to decide what you want to do in it. There's a specific time/area to look at, and a set of rules and expectations already in place. But the same restrictions can also be a pain, from limitations on food, clothing and transportation to trying to keep in mind what words may be anachronistic because of their roots.

There are plenty of ways to add magic to a historical era, the easiest being to work off the myths already in place. I did this in CONSORT, just released from Loose Id in January, which is a re-imagining of Greek myths. That one started when I bought a cicada-shaped ring, got curious, and started looking up cicada myths. I stumbled onto a site about cultural entymology and somehow misread "gay" somewhere in one of the Greek myths mentioned. So my brain fixated on, "Oooh, boys with insect wings!" and I figured out a story from that.

My story ideas often change and improve with the more research I do. I hadn't really looked at any Greek myths since sixth grade, so the more I researched, the more I used. What Greeks considered "acceptable" sex between males became a focal point (they liked it from the front, between the legs; from the back was considered degrading.) I found and used drinking games, food, rituals, and I spent way too long finding a Greek butterfly to use as a symbol of death. And of course there were the various gods and goddesses; Pan and a posse of satyrs, Thanatos and his brother Hypnos, and the muses. Euterpe, the female muse of music, became Euterpius, a male muse, because after all, this is a gay love story.

HART AND SOUL, from Torquere, is pseudo-Native American with shamanism and animal magic. The idea for that came from a short story I wrote for the Clarion SF/F workshop in 2005. Research included lots of library books about shamanism, a handy flyer about totem animals I picked up in Albuquerque, and watching YouTube videos of deer mating and rutting. And, yes, I even did research for the infamous lizard story, in that I wanted to make sure the lizards were, um, anatomically correct.

My new novella, NORTHERN LOVE, is due out from Loose Id on April 14th. It's M/M/M with a mix of steampunk--that is, a sort of alternate, Victorian-era history in which inventions and technology are largely steam-powered--and an Inuit-like culture with shapeshifters. This first idea for this story began with now what is the second scene in the book when two lovers are reunited after one commits a terrible betrayal. And it was cold, in a palace of ice. So I had to figure out what happened for Jerek and Emmanuel to get where they were and why, which grew to include steamships and an Inuit-like people. So I went to the library and brought back piles of books on steam ships and how they worked. I researched Inuit names, lifestyles and rituals, then rented the movie "Atarnajuat" ("The Fast Runner", a movie written and performed by Inuit actors in their native language) and got ideas from that. I enjoyed the research, and I had a lot of fun writing NORTHERN LOVE.

So--if you chose a historical era to base a fantasy novel in, what would you choose, and why? How would you add your fantasy or SF element?

I've had fun in all of these worlds, so for me, it's hard to choose a favorite.

And do feel free to visit me online at http://www.orossy.com/nicaberry

But, before I go, here's a blurb and teaser from NORTHERN LOVE, coming next month!

BLURB: Jerek had long dreamed of finding the mythical citadel of ice with his strong, handsome lover, Emmanuel. Their search led them to years of enslavement aboard a steamship with only each other for comfort until Emmanuel committed a terrible betrayal and left Jerek to follow his dream alone.
Now, three years after escaping the ship, Jerek has found the citadel and a northern lover: mute, shape-shifting Piaktok, who teaches Jerek a new language of love and lust. They’re content until desperate, snow-blind Emmanuel finds his way to the citadel and reignites Jerek’s desire.
Despite their mutual attraction, Jerek cannot forgive or forget the past and unleashes his anger on Emmanuel. Piaktok, in turn, treats Emmanuel with tenderness, sparking love between them. Emmanuel tries to tell Jerek the truth about his “betrayal,” but Jerek refuses to listen. One last fit of rage sends Emmanuel and a gravely injured Piaktok fleeing from the man they love.
Too late, Jerek realizes his errors. If he can find a way to melt the ice around his heart, the three of them will have a sexual and spiritual bond unlike any other. If he can’t, Piaktok will die, and he’ll lose Emmanuel forever.


King Jerek’s steward, Suluk, prostrated himself before the dais. “My liege? We’ve found a person of interest.”

“Oh?” Jerek hardly looked up from the clockwork dog with which he played. His guards had brought him several “persons of interest” over the past few years, and none of them had been the one man he’d hoped to see. Several had fit Emmanuel’s basic description -- dark haired, brown eyed, skin near the color of pine bark, but none had been him.

Piaktok, leaning against the side of the throne, regarded Jerek with the doleful black eyes that mirrored his Seal form. The metal dog awkwardly ambled forward along the arm of his throne. Piaktok caught it when it fell off. He cupped the toy in his hands as if wanting to crush it, but he didn’t.

So, if this turned out to be Emmanuel, Piaktok wouldn’t be happy about it. Jerek had taken no other lover for the past year. Jerek wished he could have reassured the Seal that he had no intention of replacing him, but they couldn’t talk now. Not here.

The steward spoke again. “This one babbles, my liege, in the Southerner’s tongue.”

This peaked Jerek’s interest. “Where is he?”

“Just outside, my liege. The Bears found him.”

The king allowed himself a small smile at that. His Bears, Inuq and Nutaaq, were superb trackers, far better at finding the living than ordinary men.

“He’s alive, then?”

“Yes, my liege, and well enough except…” Suluk paused, obviously fearing Jerek’s wrath.

“Go on.”


Blind. At least for a while. The bright light on the snow could be brutal indeed to those unprotected. He took the dog back from the unhappy Piaktok and wound it up again. “Does he know where he is?”

“No, my liege. We’ve said nothing to him.”

“Good. Keep it that way. No one is to speak to him without my permission.”

The steward bowed. “Aye, my liege.”

“Bring him in. I want to look upon his traitorous face.”

Suluk left the room. Piaktok placed a hand on Jerek’s knee. “It’s all right,” Jerek told him. “I only want him because he’s done me harm. It’s time he paid for his wrongs.”

Piaktok’s mournful expression didn’t change. He watched the dog as it ambled along the throne. This time, he made no effort to catch it when it fell. It clattered to the stone floor. After a couple of mechanical seizures, it went still.

Jerek didn’t have time to worry about it. Suluk returned, accompanied by two Bears supporting a bent, struggling figure. It wore a thick, hooded parka of caribou hide, decorated in the style of the tribe that lived near the shore. The clothes were stolen; no one of the tribe would have given a visitor clothing laboriously designed for a hunter. Jerek’s derogatory opinion of the man dropped even lower. He didn’t tolerate thieves in his land.

The two Bears, dressed in parkas of the same white fur as their ice bear counterparts, looked to their king for direction. Jerek waved his arm in an impatient gesture. As soon as Inuq and Nutaaq let go, their prisoner dropped to his knees. He fought again when the Bears stripped him down to a pair of ragged undershorts, but exhausted as he was, he was no match for the two powerful men. Sweat glistened on his bronze skin. Black hair hung in clumps to obscure his face. Iron rings surrounded his ankles and neck. His shoulders drooped in defeat.

The Ice King’s heart skipped in his chest. Could it be him? At last? He couldn’t be sure at this distance. He kicked the dog aside and took the dais’s stairs at speed until he stood before the prisoner. Jerek grabbed the man’s chin and wrenched it upward. The prisoner’s sightless red eyes blinked profusely. He jerked his head in a failed attempt to loosen Jerek’s grip.

Emmanuel. Jerek mouthed the name but did not say it aloud. Angry as he was, he hadn’t actually expected to see his former lover, much less Emmanuel’s weakened, ravaged condition. Lash marks corded Emmanuel’s back, and he’d lost most of the muscle he’d gained while working aboard the Tophet. The skin beneath the iron collar and fetters was raw and bleeding. Jerek’s free hand went to the scars at his own neck. He knew full well what the iron collar meant. He’d worn it himself for a time.

The old Emmanuel would have been full of solid support and love, always aware of what Jerek needed. Then Jerek had been the weaker of the two, easily exhausted by the labors aboard the privateer ship while Emmanuel had been the stronger. Strong enough to betray him.

Now they’d traded places. This Emmanuel looked to be little more than a madman. He was filthy and scarred. And, like the steward had said, he babbled in the Southern tongue.

“Let me go, whoever you are,” Emmanuel said, voice raspy as if his throat was raw. “I’m looking for someone. I have to find him. Have to. I won’t give up until I do.”

Jerek held his breath. Looking for someone. Him? Possibly. Hopefully. The frigid mountains had a way of twisting a man’s greatest need into reality. Jerek said nothing, wishing to draw out Emmanuel’s anguish as long as possible.

“Captain?” he asked, tentative. “I’m sorry I ran. I had to.”

The mere mention of the captain made Jerek’s anger flare. Nails dug into his palms as he made tight fists.

The silence frustrated Emmanuel. “I won’t be your slave any more. At least give me an honorable death instead of letting me die like a mongrel in the street.”

Tempting as the offer was, Jerek refrained. Torturing him for his betrayal was going to be far more fun. At last, he let go of Emmanuel’s chin. He spoke in Suluk’s ear, too quiet for Emmanuel to hear. “This is the one I’ve been waiting for. Get Tupilek to see to his needs. Make him comfortable. Ensure that he feels safe. I will see to his punishment in time.”

“And the collar, my liege?”

“Leave it on for now, but take off the ones at his ankles.”

The steward bowed again. He gestured to Inuq and Nutaaq. They hauled the man to his feet. This time, Emmanuel made no move to resist.

The parka lay where the Bears had dropped it. Jerek crouched beside it. He felt Piaktok’s eyes upon him. This wasn’t betrayal. It was revenge, something the Seal wouldn’t understand. Lifting the parka to his nose, he could smell the musk of the caribou and, mingled with it, the scent of the man he’d been craving for the past year.

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Thanks again for visiting, Nica. Can't wait for Northern Love to come out!

1 comment:

Anne Harris said...

Ooooh! This sounds great. Can't wait to read it.