Book Title: Ryld’s Shadows: AURA 4
Author: Angel Martinez and Bellora Quinn
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Release Date: March 8, 2022
Genres: Urban Fantasy M/M Romance
Tropes: Fish out of water, friends to lovers, unlikely pair
Themes: Acceptance, growth, people aren’t always what they appear
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 74 000 words/ 276 pages
It is not a standalone story. It is book four in the AURA series.
Ryld must learn to control his dangerous shadows before they kill someone he cares about or someone unscrupulous learns how to control him.
AURA’s offices have been quiet since the mage tower incident—as quiet as they can be for an agency dedicated to policing holes in reality—and the department heads have been free to turn their attention back to mundane matters. The return to quiet bureaucracy gives AURA’s Director of Research, Kai Hiltas, the time to turn his energy to a new issue—a young drow with unusual and dangerous powers named Ryld.
Though his shadows always lurk at the edges of his vision, Ryld does his best to live peacefully and not let them hurt anyone. He has his work, his apartment and a succession of minders assigned by AURA who are, ostensibly, there to keep him safe in his new world and to prevent him from causing any scenes with his shadows. Most of the time, the arrangement works. But one disastrous incident causes Ryld’s minder to leave him unattended and lost—the precise thing he was hired to prevent.
To replace the faithless minder, Kai suggests Hank, a half-goblin accountant recently in the middle of a string of terrible luck, while Kai works out how best to get Ryld the magical training he so desperately needs. For his part, Hank truly likes Ryld and insists he would be happier working as Ryld’s companion rather than as a controlling minder.
As Hank and Ryld slowly come to terms with sharing space—and eventually more—Kai’s search for a teacher for Ryld takes them out west on the invitation of the Elvenhome’s aelfe queen and right into the lap of inter-elven feuds, ancient prejudice, conspiracies and trafficking rings. What should have been a pleasant visit soon turns into more than even forever-scheming Kai can handle.
“Another one, Brady. I don’t have all night.”
The bartender sighed when Hank thumped his fist on the bar. That crack was already there. I know it was.
“One terabin per customer. You know the rules.”
“I’m not even close to drunk enough.”
Shaking his head, the bartender put a glass of water in front of Hank. The water swayed. Maybe the bar swayed. A single terabin would’ve taken down a human and sent them to the ER. A second one would even put a troll on the floor. Hank was pretty sure he could manage another.
Brady put his hands on the bar and leaned in. “What’s happened, Hank? This isn’t like you.”
Hank tried to answer, his short tusks getting in the way of his words. That hadn’t happened since he was a teenager.
“What was that?”
“They fired me today. Fired me.” Hank gave up trying to look menacing and put his head in his hands.
“Did you screw something up? Lose a decimal place or something?” What Brady knew about accounting probably wouldn’t have filled half a jigger.
“No.” Hank gulped a breath. “I did my job. I worked hard. But the new manager… She said I wasn’t commensurate with the company image.”
“Wait. Just ’cause of how you look? You could file a complaint?”
“Sure. Right. The pretty sylphs in the non-human rights office are gonna get right on that. Far as they’re concerned, the only place I should be is locked up.”
The bartender winced in an uncomfortable way and patted Hank’s arm awkwardly. “Not like you’re riding a varg down the street swinging a battle-axe. You’re, you know, civilized. Still can’t serve you another one.”
A bitter smile curled Hank’s mouth as he took the water and chugged half of it down. “Thanks, Brady. I feel so much better now. I’ll… I guess I’ll find something. Somewhere.”
Out on the sidewalk, Hank breathed in the relatively fresh air. Poisoned with exhaust fumes and all the reek of too many humans in too small a space—still it was cooler and not the close, claustrophobic smell of the bar. He probably shouldn’t have let Brady’s racist comments go, but tonight he was too damn tired to deal with it, and Brady needed to count his lucky pebbles that Hank wasn’t some thin-skinned goblin kid with a chip bigger than his head. You’re okay, Hank. You’re one of the few good goblins. Not like those other filthy barbarians. Pat the half-gobbo on the head and smile.
He wanted chilies, huge bags of them, wanted to drown in the capsaicin high they’d bring. But he had enough sense, even this drunk, to know he’d overdo it in his current state of mind and probably end up in the ER from a ghost pepper OD again.
Once was enough.
No. Go home. Get some sleep. Figure it out in the morning.
He’d manage. He always did.
It was just that this time he thought he had managed. Found a place for himself. Reached the spot where things could be routine, and he could be normal. Just another worker bee in the crowd.
The screech of tires on pavement yanked him out of his reverie and just about made him jump out of his skin. His reactions were muddled and slow, but the shot of adrenaline racing through him as he stared at the truck only inches away was almost enough to knock him sober.
The driver’s door opened, and a tall elf got out. His face was full of haughty arrogance and disdain, as was usual for aelfe, but his words were even and neutral as he asked, “Are you all right?”
Before Hank could answer the passenger door opened, and another elf got out, this one a drow. “You are walking where vehicles are supposed to be driven.”
“Get back in the truck, Ryld,” the first elf said sternly.
“But, he’s walking where vehicles are driven. That’s against the rules.”
“Get. In. The. Truck. Ryld.”
The drow cut his eyes away. He made some odd gestures but sat back down and closed his door. Even from behind the windshield Hank could pick out how unnaturally blue his eyes were. He’d only ever seen drow with red eyes or white.
“Are you all right?” the blond elf asked again.
Hank pulled in a slow breath, then two more. The rising nausea settled, and he leaned a hand against the lamppost on the corner. “Fine. I’m fine. You stopped in time.”
The elf stared at him, maybe thinking Hank owed him a thank you for not ploughing over him. Finally, he gave a sharp nod. “Okay. Good.”
That was it. He climbed back into the truck, shut the door, said something sharp to the drow and drove off.
Weird. That was…weird. Though maybe the terabin had made the whole interaction so strange. Maybe there hadn’t been any blue-eyed drow insisting on road rules. Hank shook himself, hurried across the street and reached his apartment building without any further bizarre incidents.
Tell us a little about yourself and your writing goals.
Hi, I’m Angel, I’ve been writing seriously for a little over twenty years now and have been published for about sixteen. I’m a little ball of anxiety wrapped in a mostly polite package, and still haven’t quite recovered after retiring from corporate life. From the start, I’ve written science fiction and fantasy with queer characters and they’ve only become queerer over the years. My goal is to keep writing these things until I can’t write any longer.
Congratulations on your new release. Please tell us a little bit about it. What’s your favorite aspect or part of the story? Do you have a favorite character? Who/Why?
Thank you! It’s the 4th book in the AURA series, the premised of which is that a magical accident causes random rips in reality and anything can potentially come through those rips. So we now have elves, goblins, centaurs, pixies and so on trying to figure out how to live among us.
The first three books center around AURA itself, the agency tasked with the safety and welfare of these “crossovers”, but this fourth book looks at the world from a different angle, with main characters who aren’t part of the agency.
Readers of mine know by now that my favorite character is the drow, Kai Hiltas. He’s never been a main character, but he somehow manages to become crucial to every story. Just shoves his way in there. He’s prickly, has trust issues and a spiky temper, isn’t always entirely forthcoming with his friends and loved ones, but he’s also persistent, intelligent, loyal, and hungers to be the hero.
Are you a planner or a pantser? How much do you know about your story before you start writing? How often does your plan change? Why does this work best for you?
Something of a plantser. For longer works, novel length, I like to have an outline in place before I start. This helps me to keep moving forward and not lose things along the way. Otherwise we have dropped plot threads and dangling thoughts all over the floor. Very messy. The details of the outline change ALL the time since I reserve the right to have a better idea or one that makes more sense.
Do deadlines motivate you or block you? How do you deal with them?
They tend to light a fire under my butt. Nothing gets me moving faster than someone else counting on me to do a thing. (That’s probably not a good thing to admit, that I’m more motivated by obligation than something I want for myself, lol.)
Do you schedule a certain amount of time for writing each day/week, or do you just work it in when you can? Would you like to change this, or does your current method work well for you?
I try to do some writing most days, but I don’t schedule it too strictly. Mornings are for administrative tasks, after lunch is for writing. The last couple of years have been tough, and it’s been hard to stay consistent, but I’m trying to get back into the swing of things again.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book? Why?
Getting time together to write. You know how people joke about how hard it is to get your friends together for a D&D session? That’s kind of how it is with co-authors, too. Bellora has a day job and we both have various obligations, and while we work in Google Docs and often take on a scene to write on our own, (this took some getting used to, since your co-author can watch you write, mistakes and all, in real time), there are times when we want to write together, to have that dialogue exchange and immediate back and forth of ideas.
How do you develop a story idea? Do you always use the same method? Specifically, which do you develop first in your story building, the characters or the plot?
I’m perfectly happy having a skeletal plot first and then build characters—though the characters need to follow quickly after plot. Bellora needs to know who the characters are before plot or the plot building fizzles out and goes wonky.
What are your favorite genres when it comes to your own pleasure reading? Do you prefer to read ebooks or print?
Probably not shocking that my favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy. I’ll throw some paranormal and horror in there sometimes and I do like mysteries. Especially cozy mysteries.
Mostly reading ebooks these days. I still love my print books, but I have so many and not enough space for them. Ebooks let me indulge in as many books as I want, let me adjust the font when my eyes are tired, and are easier to take on a trip and not ruin.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Oh goodness. Research your publishers carefully. Don’t jump at one just because they offer a contract. (They like me! They really like me!) Have someone more experienced look at that contract with you. Look at the website. Look for any customer/author complaints online. Look at what they do for authors. So many mistakes were made, younger me.
What is your favorite underappreciated novel?
That probably changes day to day, but I’m going to go with Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian. Everyone talks about her Regency romances, which are fun, but I think the Leo Page mysteries are better crafted books with better characters and really should get more love.
What were you like in high school?
Probably pretty insufferable. I was a smart kid who hardly had to study, got A’s in everything but gym, was impatient and sharp-tongued, and thought I was all dark and edgy reading Lovecraft and such. I wore a lot of black, hung out with the music kids, played D&D, and went to the art film house in town with friends to watch all those dangerous, fringe foreign films our parents wouldn’t have approved of. La Cage aux Folles, anyone?
About the Authors
The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.
Originally hailing from Detroit Michigan, Bellora now resides on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida where a herd of Dachshunds keeps her entertained. She got her start in writing at the dawn of the internet when she discovered PbEMs (Play by email) and found a passion for collaborative writing and steamy hot erotica. Soap Opera like blogs soon followed and eventually full novels.
The majority of her stories are in the M/M genre with urban fantasy or paranormal settings and many with a strong BDSM flavour.
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