Today we've got Kat Mancos talking about relaunching - or, perhaps more accurately, evolving - in terms of one's own writing. We'll also get a teaser from Kat's recent release, Taste of Air. Where else can you find a line like, "That man has always had his cock in one alchemist or another."
It's all yours, Kat!
An Unexpected Direction
When I first started writing seriously about twenty years ago, all my stories centered on heroes and heroines thrust into impossible situations and unbridled passions set against fantasy or alien landscapes. Though I had read and adored Mercedes Lackey’s The Last Herald-Mage series, the thought never popped into my head to write about two heroes. My ideas never seemed to evolve in that direction. As a matter of fact, I remember saying a time or two that I could never write for m/m because I couldn’t put myself into the story.
Boy was I wrong.
This seemingly innocuous statement ended up being my lesson in never say never.
In all honesty, I did have bisexual characters in a few of my books. I wasn’t totally closed to the idea of m/m love interests, I just didn’t think I had the writing chops to do an entire novel featuring gay characters—that is until I wrote a sequel (or started writing a sequel since I never finished the book) to The Host: Shadows. The secondary plot of the sequel focuses on an artist Benito Achilles turned into a host back in the 1980s, who then became his lover. Arturo Biazzio sets out to paint a series depicting Achilles’s rise to power. The male model he hires to pose is hot, tanned, toned, and rich. As I wrote the scenes featuring Biazzio and his model something amazing happened—I saw the attraction between these two men blossom and blaze off the computer screen at me and threatened to overtake the main plot. I soon fell down the rabbit hole of wanting to know more about these two characters and not so much about the main plot. Ah, the troubles of authors. I really must finish that story some day. I want to see how it ends.
Okay, so this little exercise taught me a very valuable lesson on writing: perhaps it was time to fall back and reassess my earlier stance. I’m not too proud to admit when I’m wrong and take corrective action. However, I’m also not the type of author who thrusts her characters into actions or situation that aren’t organic to plot or idea. I had to wait for the perfect vehicle to enter my mind—one where the characters came to me and said, “Yes, we’re gay and this is our story.” That happened with the first book in my Alchemists and Elementals series, Eye of Truth.
It all happened in a chat room where I go to hang out with some writer friends. I don’t exactly remember the topic of conversation, but I do know my contribution did center on a traveling bard who is chained to tree and his biggest rival coming upon him in the forest. (If you’ve read Eye of Truth you know this does not happen in the book, but it is the genesis of the idea.)
Don’t ask me how being chained to a tree evolved into alchemists battling necromancers because I don’t quite know the answer to that myself. All I know is that once I started writing Theodyne’s story, it all kind of poured out of me. And since I cut my teeth on writing epic fantasy, I tend to think in terms of series. There was never a question of Eye of Truth being a stand alone. My brain doesn’t even consider that a possibility with most of my ideas. One book grew into three and I’ve enjoyed every minute of writing them.
As a matter of fact, I enjoy writing m/m so much I have at least three more series planned, though not all in the same world as Alchemists and Elementals, though I will give you a hint and say I do have one series planned that takes place 500 years after the events of Kiss of Death—the last book in the series. There are a few contemporaries on deck that are ready to publish and at least one historical. My mind is a very busy place.
My first contemporary Hot Water is under contract at Dreamspinner Press and due to release this fall. It’s funny how I went from being unsure if I could ever write an entire novel with m/m romance to being unable to imagine not writing it. Ideas come at me from all over the place now, flooding my mind with the deliciousness of the stories and possibilities to examine.
I love writing my guys—but then when I look back over my career, I’ve always enjoyed writing my heroes more than my heroines. In retrospect, the ability and desire to do so was always there, I just had to hone my skills a little more before I expanded my repertoire.
Now that you know a little bit more about how Cassie Sweet came to write romances, I’ll give you a little taste of my latest release in the Alchemists and Elementals series, Taste of Air.
The necromancers have returned to the Dominincál city-states.
Determined to see an end to their influence, Sadonia prolate Estobán Medovin has requested an alchemist well-versed in ferreting out the death dancers accompany his retinue to the demigogal elections in the holy city of Gusan. Estobán has more reasons than one to worry over their continued spread through the city-states. Ever since Masters Nico and Theodyne drove the necromancers from his mind three years before, he’s suffered an odd affliction—painting while asleep. It is a secret that if discovered by his enemies could bring his rule to an untimely and violent end.
Estobán is not quite the man Master alchemist Jolen Meripen expected—neither is the villa at Gusan. Evil floods the streets of the holy city and the elementals are anxious. Jolen should know, as an aerothant—hybrid of a human and air elemental—he can hear their voices in his head, telling him of the corruption which festers under the pristine edifices.
When he discovers a piece of the ruby tablet known as the Elementica in Estobán’s possession, and the necromancers bid to collect them all and thus rule over the elements, he knows he must do everything he can—including sacrificing his life to bring peace to Dominicál and save the man he has come to love.
Estobán leaned forward and pressed his ear to the board. The words were hard to make out.
Those behind the partition were speaking in the address of the holy court: ancient Dominicán. Estobán was somewhat rusty in that area of language, especially conversational. Most rites and rituals were handed down through fifteen hundred years of practice and repetition. The words were known by all who attended the services in the cathedrals. The subject was taught by tutors to those in the upper classes. He knew enough, however, to get the gist of the conversation.
Estobán lifted a finger to Jolen. He didn’t know how much or how well the alchemists taught the ancient language, but he motioned for Jolen to press his ear to the wall. They stood facing each other, gazes locked, and listened.
“…minor dignitaries and clerics. The guard will have autonomy to dispense justice as needed.”
“And in the prolatial villas? Who will see to it that the house guards are not a problem?”
“May I suggest we take those more slowly? We must first win the prolates themselves over to our cause. After that, their guards will not be a problem.”
A creaking and popping of wood, as if someone changed position in a chair came through the divider. “There is an adept staying with the Medovin.”
“Are you positive?”
“Ha! That man has always had his cock in one alchemist or another.”
“I can’t say I blame him this time. I hear the man is as powerful as he is handsome. Quite the combination.”
“And quite the problem. If this alchemist is the Medovin’s new lover, the prolate will listen to his council. The alchemists as a whole are not inclined to unite the city-states.”
Estobán held his breath. Already assumptions by those who had seen them at the opening ceremony that he and Jolen were lovers ran rampant in the city. There had already been talk in the basilica.
“We will force them to see our point of view.”
The ominous words hung on the air as someone else entered the room and called them to attend their charges. Estobán motioned for Jolen to remain still until the others were gone. When he heard their retreating footsteps he leaned back against the outside wall and heaved a sigh.
“I need to warn the other prolates.”
When Estobán started to turn away, Jolen held his arm in a tight grip. “This was not an accident. The sigils on the entrance guided you here for a reason. Do not play into their hands.”
Acid burned his belly and throat. “I can’t keep silent. The other prolates have a right to know they are being plotted against.”
“Then send a message anonymously. Do not be seen stirring the waters. You already have enough problems with Cesare and I’m sure the Agia by association.” Jolen’s touch gentled. His gaze softened, pleaded for understanding. “Please, Estobán. I fear this will end badly for all involved.”
From Taste of Air: Alchemists and Elementals Book II, © 2014 from Dreamspinner Press.
Available at Amazon, BN.com and Dreamspinner Press.
Cassie Sweet lives and works from her rural New Jersey home where she is often confronted by characters wishing to tell her their story. Currently, she is working on a series inspired by Mary Shelley and the Brontë sisters sprinkled with a large dose of the dark fae.