Tales of the Black Court
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Abracadabra Publishing
Date of Publication: April 2014
Word Count: 90,000 words
Cover Artist: Kari Ayasha Cover to Cover Designs
A rebellious prince, a reluctant witch, and a mysterious prophecy,twisted together in a tale of Beauty and the Beast
Trapped in an underground palace Prince Kian must remain a beast, or give in to the queen’s plan to strip him of his powers. But Kian refuses to submit to his mother's evil plan and is determined to escape both his prison and his curse—even if it means dabbling in witch's magic.
On the run for most of her life, Bryanna MacElvy has never learned to use her healing Gift. When she’s pulled by Kian’s spell into his prison, the prince sees the golden witch as his salvation. Refusing to let her, or to accept she is incapable of curing him, Kian offers her a terrible bargain—heal him, or give up her freedom forever.
Their lives entwined by fate, the prince must learn to love a human and Bryanna must learn to trust herself—or risk losing their freedom, his powers, and their passion, to the evil of the Black Queen.
Dare to enter Jessica Aspen’s world of steamy, fantasy romance in book two of her fairy tale trilogy: Tales of the Black Court
Kian barely got into his chamber and slammed the door shut before succumbing to his desperate need, frantically clawing off the confining cloak, scrunching it into a bundle, and viciously hurling it into a corner. He shook with the effort of controlling himself, his rage, anger, and frustration, spewing out in a bone-shaking roar.
As the dust settled, he paced the room, shoving broken furniture out of his way and listening to the tinkling of the crystal chandelier as it quivered to a stop.
He’d been here too long. So long he’d forgotten how a single breath of rose-scented skin could tempt a man to violence.
From the long blond hair and almond-shaped glass green eyes, all the way down her very long legs in those ridiculously short shorts, she couldn’t have been any more tempting. And he’d been tempted. Tempted to rip off her clothes and see what her full breasts looked like below the low scoop of her tank top. Tempted to lick and taste and devour her skin all the way down to the soft indent of the belly button that had flashed him when he’d scared her. Tempted enough to take her, and ravish her, and jeopardize all chance of her good will.
The wench had no idea how close she’d come to being violated.
If she hadn’t turned out to be a witch, would he have been able to resist the lure of her femininity? He’d been alone with only Beezel and the goblins for too long. He didn’t think any man would resist a fantasy sex slave dropped into his prison. But she wasn’t a slave. She was his only hope, and he would need to woo her into helping him break the curse.
Kian crossed to the full-length mirror he forced himself to look into once a day, lest he forget how much his mother hated him. She had twisted his Gift, and it was twisting his soul. His magic was strong, a legacy of his royal blood, and she’d used it against him the way only his twisted mother could. She’d taken his Gift, a thing of beauty, the ability to take on any shape—a mouse, a troll, a wolf, anything at all—and she’d perverted it before imprisoning him.
He stared and brooded at his reflection in the mirror, at the worst motley of animals he’d ever seen. Himself. And wondered what the terribly young, terribly beautiful, terribly innocent witch would think.
The upright stance of a human, but the humped-up shoulders of a bear. The razor-sharp talons of an eagle, but the heavy, earthbound weight of a boar. Long tusks protruded next to his wolf-like muzzle, and if it weren’t for magic, his too long tongue and sharp fangs would make speech impossible. His mother had stolen all his shapes from him and left him a mess, but at least she’d left him the ability to communicate. Goddess only knew why.
No woman would want to look at a creature like him. No woman would kiss a man with a wolf’s face and tongue, and a boar’s tusks. No woman would be running her hands down his coarse, hairy chest, and when she discovered what lay between his thighs? No.
His fist lashed out and connected with the mirror. Gleaming shards of glass flew, catching in his short, scrubby mane and fur.
The girl would help him. And soon. He didn’t know how long he could restrain himself from burying his face in her hair, and his cock between those long, long legs.
A hesitant knock sounded on the door.
Beezel entered and scrambled into a low bow.
“Enough of that.” Kian began pacing again, too restless to stand still. “Does she like her room? Do you think we should have put her in the one next to the library instead?”
The gnome’s accusing eyes took in the broken glass and the shattered mirror, but like the good servant he pretended to be, he kept his opinion to himself. Kian restrained the overwhelming urge to beat the gnome for the reproach he would never voice.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine, Your Highness. She doesn’t seem to care.”
“Doesn’t care?” Kian crossed to the trembling gnome, who edged closer to the open door. “Explain,” he growled.
Beezel hesitated. “She threw herself on the bed, sobbing, as soon as she entered. She doesn’t want to be here, none of us do.”
Kian stalked up and down the large room, pushing chairs and tables out of his way. “She’s staying.”
“Sire, I doubt your mother will let her.”
“My mother!” Kian crossed the room and picked up the gnome, shaking him hard until his arms and legs flew as if on strings. “You will not tell the queen. You will not tell anyone about this girl. Do you understand?”
“B-b-but, I must.” The gnome’s knees knocked together.
“Beezel,” Kian lowered his voice and drew close to the gnome. “If you do, I will kill you.”
“If I d-d-don’t the q-q-queen will do much worse.”
The reek of the gnome’s fear overwhelmed his sensitive wolf’s nose.
“Beezel, the queen is not here. I am. The strength of the spell confining me here has left her blind to whatever goes on within the confines of my prison. She’ll never know if you don’t tell her.” He lowered his voice and whispered into the gnome’s bumpy, pointed ear, “But I’ll know if you tell the queen and the girl is taken away from me. And I’m sure you will still be here for me to punish.”
He lowered Beezel to the ground and patted his bald head. “Beezel, what do you desire? Jewels? Gold? An underground palace such as this one?” Kian swung his arm wide. The warren was falling apart, but for a cavern gnome such as Beezel, it would be more lavish than any other home he would have in his lifetime. “Once I am released I can give you all of that, and more. But only once the witch has freed me from this curse that binds my form and my powers. If you tell the queen and she takes the witch, I will still be stuck here, but without a chance of freedom, and whatever hold she has over you will remain.” He paused, and sighed. “Trust me, she never lets go. If you do this, I’ll set you free and make sure you’re well rewarded.”
The little gnome avoided his gaze. “Well, Beezel? What’s it to be? Do I reward you, or do I have to kill you now to gain some time?” Kian pushed out a frustrated breath. “Are you in?”
Beezel moved his head in a slow nod.
Kian’s muscles relaxed in a rush of relief. He didn’t know what he would have done if the gnome had refused. He likely would have had to kill him, and who knew what the queen would send next.
“Good,” he said. “Swear to me you’ll not tell anyone about our visitor, anything about the girl, nor my endeavors.”
The gnome’s voice came out almost too low to hear, but Kian caught the words. “I swear.”
For the first time in too long the tell-tale energizing upswing of joy and anticipation tingled along his nerves. Finally, after too many years in this dusty abandoned place, he would have his own shape, his powers, and his freedom.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
The first book I ever published was Little Red Riding Wolf. It was written for a Red Hot Fairy Tales contest for a publisher. They loved it, but they wanted traditional fairy tales, and mine is a very modern twist. After hanging on to it for six more months, trying to decide if it would fit into their regular catalog, they eventually let it go. The good thing about this is it gave me confidence to try pitching it somewhere else, and when the following year Passion in Print came to Colorado, I pitched it to them. They wanted to see it and I had a contract in the mail within a month. It was super fast! Since then it’s been a finalist in several contests and I’ve written two more books in that series, Snow and the Seventh Wolf, and Goldi and the Bear.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
I do bits and pieces of other jobs, mostly retail. My husband has been very supportive. He believes in me, and my writing, and because of that I’m lucky enough to be able to write most of the time.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
My latest book is Prince by Blood and Bone, A Fantasy Romance of the Black Court, and here is my one sentence blurb:
A rebellious prince, a reluctant witch, and a mysterious prophecy, twisted together in a tale of Beauty and the Beast.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Each book is a little different. My novellas are generally fast to write. They’re short and I’ve kept them in a modern setting, so the world building is simple. From start to finish they take any where from two weeks to a month to get that first draft down. Then I have to edit them and go through them with my crit partner. And edit them again. That process can take up to two months. But my Tales of the Black Court books are three times the length. They require lots of world building, and making sure that overlapping locations and characters are consistent. They also have way more words to edit and write, so it takes more like two to three months to get a rough draft down, and then the editing begins.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I love paranormal romance, so I’ll keep writing that, but I’m always delving into different aspects of the genre. I’m currently working on book three, Broken Mirror, in my fantasy, fairy-tale series, Tales of the Black Court, but I also have the first in a new series coming out this summer: a modern, new adult, Gothic. Sometimes when you are writing something as long and intense as a fantasy book, you need to take a break and write something entirely different. That’s what Ghosts of Christmas Past will be. No fantasy world building, no fairy tales. Just a modern couple and a haunted house. What could be better for a contemporary love story with a Gothic twist.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
I’d have to say my favorite character so far is Solanum: my amoral, shape-shifting puca. He’s a major character in The Dark Huntsman, book one of the Tales of the Black Court, and he makes a cameo appearance in Prince by Blood and Bone. Solanum doesn’t care what’s right or wrong, he’s just here for the party and the destruction, but he’s bound by an ancient magical oath to serve Logan’s family until the last one is dead. This puts him in the predicament of wanting them all dead, and also being bound to protect and serve them, possibly forever. He’s snarky, super-sexy, and no-holds barred bent on violence, but there’s something about him that draws you in. My critique partner, ML Guida, says he needs his own book, but I’m holding out for a while. I like him too much the way he is to let him settle down.
How long have you been writing?
I dabbled in writing off and on for years, but between finishing school, getting married, and having kids, I hadn’t really gotten serious and finished anything until 2008, when I started The Dark Huntsman, book one in the Tales of the Black Court. At that time my kids were both in school and I only worked part-time, so I was finally able to finish a book. Many edits later, it was published in 2013 and now I finish everything I write and have published three novellas and my second full length novel, book two in the Tales of the Black Court, Prince by Blood and Bone.
How do you come up with characters names in your books?
Each series is different. For the elves in the Tales of the Black Court I used Celtic names, including those of the original Fir Bold and Tuatha De Dannan kings and heros. For the witches their first names weren’t as important as their shared last name. I loved the name MacElvy because it sounds like it means “Of the elves” (it doesn’t mean any such thing) and since my witches have magical powers due to the fae blood in their veins, it made sense to have their name bring that idea to mind.
In my Twisted Tales: Come Into the Woods spicy, twisted fairy tales, all of the female characters have color names that are also take from their fairy tales. Red, for Little Red Riding Wolf. Snow for Snow and the Seventh Wolf, and Goldi for Goldi and the Bear. Poor Ethan, Seth and Zeke have to make do with normal, sexy guy names. J
Are character names and place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
Place names have been fun to invent and I do a little of both. I use Celtic mythology in the Tales of the Black Court, and I have to admit, I’ve been liberal with mixing my Celtic names and myths. Mostly, because I use them to flavor the story, not because my stories have anything to do with real Celtic history. Some of the place names I make up after I start writing. For example: Prince Kian, in Prince by Blood and Bone is imprisoned in an abandoned gnome palace named, Cairngloss. I made it up long after I started writing about it. I also use real names for the places that my characters go in our world. Prince by Blood and Bone starts off in Albuquerque. In The Dark Huntsman, Logan, has to go to Wyoming to hunt down the witch the queen wishes him to kill.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
For me, creating a book and a character is a process. I start with a basic idea of the characters involved and then use them and my plot ideas to come up with a skeleton of a plot. But I don’t do very in depth character trait charts and interviews. Instead, I let the character reveal themselves as I write the book. Sometimes I go back and tweak pieces of it as realizations come to me as to what motivates them to behave the way they do.
For instance, in Prince by Blood and Bone, I knew Bryanna lacked self-confidence from the beginning, but it wasn’t until I reached a point two-thirds into the book that I realized that it wasn’t only because she’d been on the run her whole life and unable to really study her magic or have any real teachers. That certainly was true, but she also had been babied by her mother, Theresa, who needed her to stay young so that Theresa could keep a sense of the past, when her children were little.
Now, not much of that comes out in the book. I didn’t write that sentence in the book, nor do you see much of her mother, but it did mean that I went back and made sure that that feeling of inadequacy had both those elements when it comes up. And you’ll be happy to know that Bryanna has a terrific growth arc in the book and definitely becomes the witch she needs to be.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
No hidden morals. But, as an author, I find that I have a theme that reoccurs—finding home. All my heros and heroines are looking for that someone who is their heart—the person who loves you, even if you aren’t perfect. That’s what true love is to me. We aren’t perfect. We’re loud. and make mistakes, and are prone to say the wrong thing, but someone loves us anyway. Home is the place where they have to take you in, but most of my heroes either don’t have homes, or for some reason can’t go home and they find that acceptance and love in their partner.
Take Prince by Blood and Bone: Not only is Prince Kian’s mother the evil queen, but she doesn’t even like him, let alone love him. He doesn’t have a home, and he’s not very good at being the kind of person who people want to take in. He’s admired, he’s a leader, but because he’s always been a prince he’s also a little selfish and bent on his own agenda. Bryanna doesn’t let him push her around and in fact he realizes that she’s the only one who really sees who he is inside. He finds his home in her love.
Your favorite food is?
There are so many terrific foods out in the world, I hate to choose just one. I love all things with dark chocolate and mint-chocolate chip ice cream. Since I’m currently not eating a lot of those things I’m working on some good gluten free, grain free, dairy free and now chocolate free treats. Believe it or not, currently my favorite treat is carob cake, made with coconut flour. It’s not chocolate, but it’s pretty close!
Your favorite singer/group is?
Currently I’m listening to Hedley sing Kiss You Inside Out. Give me the angsty alphas like Nickelback and Daughtry. I love David Bowie, April Lavine, and Pink. And Fleetwood Mac. Rumors is an amazing album. If it’s good, then it’s good, no matter when it was recorded.
Your favorite color is?
Whatever is the most beautiful at the time. I love morning glory blue when you see it in the pools up at Yellowstone. And I love the fresh green of spring. When I see orange used in a cool painting next to just the right colors, I love that. And I when the daffodils are in bloom, I love yellow and white. Don’t make me choose just one, because I can’t. J
Your favorite Author is?
Oh, I have a slew. When I’m on vacation I usually re-read Jane Austin and catch up on my murder mysteries. Give me Allison Brennan any time. But I also love Karen Marie Moning, Thea Harrison, and Laurel K. Hamilton. I have eclectic tastes, what can I say?
Thanks so much for having me on as your guest and for featuring Prince by Blood and Bone, book two in the Tales of the Black Court. It’s been fun!
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.
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