New Year, New Schedule

We’ll be changing things up on the JenEric Designs blog for 2020, starting next week.

Monday/Friday will be Éric’s blog time.

Tuesday/Thursday will be Travelling TARDIS pictures (Paris/Cosplay continuing).

Wednesday will be something special that we’ll announce later. I will still occasionally post Fandom Travel and Blush posts, but not on a consistent schedule.

Happy New Year from our family to yours! I hope 2020 is the best year yet!

Éric’s 2020 New Years Resolutions

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

2019 was a big year for me and my family. Our son was born, both me and my wife were nominated for Aurora Awards, Everdome was released, and many other great things happened.

It’s hard to live up to or plan after such a good year, but I have to, so here are my resolutions.

Garfield from December 29th, 2017

Writing

1. Finish Writing The Dancing Lights

I’m a third of the way through the book and I really need to finish it and submit it this year if I want a chance at a 2022 slot for the book.

2. Finish Writing Paragenesis

I’m mid way through Chapter 11 of 15 and that means I have less than 15000 words to finish the story. I’d like to get this one done and sent to betas.

3. Write a Monthly Serial Story

I’ve managed it every year I’ve tried and it’s something I really enjoy doing.

Go vote on what I’ll write this year.

JenEric Designs and Coffee

4. Ensure there’s content 5 days a week on JenEric Designs

We’ve missed this once in six years and I don’t want to miss it again.

5. Design and Produce 2 new coffee flavours

I have already tested and have 4-6 flavours ready. I just need names and designs.

6. Print, Package, and Sell Oneshot – The Simplest RPG

I just need to figure out how to put it all together and sell it.

Editing and Marketing

7. Finish Playtesting the higher levels of Fadds

I’ve done a lot of work on this system over the past 10 years and it’s close to done I need to playtest the higher levels and then I can start some cleanup of the wording and other basic editing.

8. Figure out how to market my books better

Renaissance Press is a fantastic publisher but, as with any other publisher, a lot of work still needs to be done by the author. I need to figure out how to get my books into the hands of people who will enjoy them.

Personal

9. Read 20 books

Last year I barely made this goal so I’m hoping I can surpass it this time.

10. Don’t Burnout

Two years ago I burned-out pretty bad. I was just doing too much. After being on parental leave for 9 months, going back to work is going to be hard. I have to be careful not to fall into over-doing it again.

11. Be More Patient 

I love my family, kids, and friends but sometimes I just want to scream at them… unfortunately I sometimes do.

I’m working on it. Let’s hope I can continue to improve.

12. Play Some Video games with Dragon

I really enjoy playing with her and I think she does too. It’s a great stress relief.

13. Play Some Board Games with Dragon

She’s still young, but I think she can figure out some of the simpler games we have. We’ll try it out and see.

Hopefully I can succeed and survive this year.

Good 2020 to everyone!

Éric

Resolution Review 2019

Hello,

Another year down, another decade coming to a close.

I made a lot of resolutions last year and edited them mid-year.

So lets see how I did:

Writing (2/4)

1. Write a Monthly Serial Story (Success)

For the sixth year in a row I’ve written a serial story by the seat of my pants. It’s fun and I’m doing it again. Get your vote in for what will win for 2020.

Go Read Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station

2. Write the Bookend Material for the Short Story Collection (Success)

I wrote the material and added it to the short stories and submitted it to my publisher. I should hear in the new year.

3. Finish Paragenesis (Fail)

I’ve managed to get part way into chapter 11. Hopefully I’ll finish this one soon.

4. Get to the 2/3 mark on Mystery of the Dancing Lights (Fail)

I have to finish this one by mid-year next year. I want to submit it to my publisher by September for hopefully a release in 2022.

JenEric Designs and Coffee (1/2)

5. Continue to ensure there’s content 5 days a week on JenEric Designs (Fail)

We broke our 6 year streak with a missed post in February. The post was set for the right day but didn’t actually post and we didn’t notice until the next day; so it’s a fail.

6. Test, Design, and Produce 2 new coffee flavours (Success)

We debuted Mighty ThOrange, In Another Castle, and Unbirthday Cake this year. So I went a little overboard.

You can buy them and other JenEric Coffee here!

Editing and Marketing (2.5/4)

7. Edit and send Dinosaur Road Trip to a willing beta reader (Fail)

Yeah, I really need to do this, but I hate editing, I never plan on submitting this, and the story makes me sad and miss my mom.

8. Submit Everdome for blurbs (Success)

I gave my publisher all the information and they sent everything out. I got a really nice blurb from John Hass and a nice refusal from Seanan Mcguire.

9. Playtest the higher levels of FADDS (Success)

We’ve playtested 11-15 and so far it’s going splendidly.

10. Figure out how to market and sell CoasteRPG (Success/Fail)

I’ve changed the name to Oneshot – The Simplest RPG and I’m thinking making erasable character sheets with the rules on them. So I’ll say this is a half/half.

Personal (3.5/4)

11. Read 20 books (Success)

I barely made this goal. It’s a lot harder to read with kids in the house and no bus ride but I made it.

12. Don’t Burnout (Success)

I came very close twice. I recognized the signs and made sure to rearrange things. It wasn’t easy and I’m still doing more than I probably should but overall good.

13. Be More Patient (Success/Fail)

Potty training, allergies, and two colds meant I didn’t have as much patience as I should have. But I’m trying and improving.

14. Play Some Video games with Dragon (Success)

I played some mobile games and also played some Disney Infinity with her. She’s having a hard time with controls, but overall it’s fun.


So the breakdown is 9/14 which is 64%. I think that’s pretty darned great. Hopefully I’ll do as well or better next year.

How did you do on your resolutions?

Éric

Serial Story 2020 – Part 2

Hello Imaginary Friends,

Last vote was pretty definitive. Let’s see who wins this next round. You have until New Year’s Day.

Serial Story VS Word of the Day

Serial Story 2020 - Serial Story VS Word of the day

  • Point Zero (55%, 6 Votes)
  • Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station (45%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station

Space Mystery, YA, Adventure

Hokulua Station is the newest in generational exploration and protection space stations. Brand new and not quite working right.

Seren’s dad is the head or engineering for the new station and in charge of getting all the bugs worked out before the rest of the colonists arrive. That leaves her with plenty of time to explore. Something isn’t quite right though, weird noise, things going missing, and power drains that no one can explain.

Seren and her best friend Jan are going to do their best to figure out what is going on before someone gets hurt.

Point Zero

Disaster, Post Apocalyptic, Super Hero

Every generation has a disaster that is etched into their memories. My grandparents had JFK, my parents had 9/11, and we had first contact.

Short Stories VS Series

Serial Story 2020 - Short Stories VS Series Bracket

  • Sailing the Rubble of Galaxies (55%, 6 Votes)
  • The Tree of Worlds (45%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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Sailing the Rubble of Galaxies

Science Fiction, Epic, Space Opera

“Nice of them to design these cells with portholes,” admired former security commander, Nessa Muldune. It seemed like a strange waste of outer hull but she appreciated being able to see the stars.

The Tree of Worlds

Epic Fantasy, Steampunk

The Tree of the Worlds connects all the realms with it’s branches but there is a wyrm burrowing through trying to conquer or destroy. These are the stories of those that resist the Empire of the Wyrm.

Includes: Little DaggerCiamon of ChymarThe Ruby Child, and Battlemage Taika.


Enjoy Voting and thank you for your help,

Éric

Oneshot Scenario – The Lost Clause

Don’t forget to vote on what you want to read in 2020’s serial story


Hello Holiday Friends and Gamers,

This is a Scenario for Oneshot – The Simplest RPG.

Have fun!

Description

The players are toys that wake up in an abandoned Santa’s workshop. It’s up to them to save Santa and the holiday season.

Starting – The shop

The Group starts in an old-fashioned woodworking workshop. There’s paint, tools, wood, and lots of cobwebs.

There’s also a large design table with a fresh pad of paper.

There are two doors. One leads to the outside and the other leads to a small bachelor’s apartment.

Anything they draw on the piece of paper becomes real.

There’s also a large filing cabinet that has letters from every child in the world along with a list.

There are tunnels that lead to all three buildings. Search of 8 to find them.

Bachelors Apartment

Enemies: None

This is a spartan apartment with cot against the wall and a small kitchen. The kitchen has a large pantry cabinet, a counter, and a wood stove. There are some pots and pans in the cabinet. There’s one set of plates and utensils.

Search 4: They find a hidden panel in the wall with a diary. The diary says: “We think we’ve figured it out. The clock is the key.” Followed by either gibberish or code. (Mind 9 to figure out it’s instructions for winding the clocktower.)

Outside

Enemies: Polar Bear

Outside the small building is a land of snow and ice bathed in complete darkness. The only light being the dim reflections of the Aurora on the snow.

There are two other buildings. A large Clocktower, and a Stable. There’s also a lake.

When the characters leave a building there’s a chance they are seen by a hungry polar bear. Unless they are actively sneaking, flip a coin to decide.

Stables

Enemies: Feral Reindeer

These stables are both well kept and well built. There are eight pens with 7 reindeer. They are well fed, clean, and very friendly. There’s also a large red sled that seems equally as well taken care of.

The empty pen shows signs of a struggle. Scratch marks and hoof prints.

The feral reindeer is hiding in a dark corner takes a flip of 5 to see them.

If they don’t see them, the reindeer attacks as they leave.

Frozen Lake

Enemies: The Kraken

The frozen lake has one lonely but devoted gardian. The Kraken is there to protect the pole and stop the toys from escaping.

It is quite gentle with them but firm.

Clocktower

Enemies: None

The clocktower radiates power. It has an ornate brass door with clocks and time imagery carved into it. The words, “You must stop to go” are carved in wood over the door.

The clock face seems to glow from the outside. It chimes every 15 minutes.

Inside there’s just a staircase going up nearly 100 metres or just over 300 feet.

At the top there is a room filled with gears but with a small platform. The platform has a couch and two large levers.

One lever Stops the clock and one will make it go forward or backward. (This actually stops time or moves it.)

Conclusion

Enemies: Anti-Clause

The entire area was built by Saint Nick an ancient wizard. It’s self sustaining. Before he could use it, however, he was attacked by Anti-Clause and his last action was to cast a spell that would animate a group of toys to finish his mission.

Polar Bear Feral Reindeer Kraken Anti-Clause
Health 7 4 5 6
Defence 2 5 5 6
Body 5 2 3 4
Mind 0 0 3 4
Luck 0 3 0 4
Abilities Bite 1 Gore 1 Squeeze 1 Laser Eyes 2

Happy Holidays!

Éric

Serial Story 2020

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

For this coming years serial story, I see it as a chance to revisit old stories that are begging for continuation, sequels, or spin-offs. We’re going to do this bracket style and see what happens.

There are 4 categories; Serial Stories, Word of the Day Stories, Short Stories, and Series. Only one of each will move on to the next round.

Click on the title to check out the story. Voting on the first Brackets closes on 19th of December.

Serial story

Serial Story 2020 - Serial Story Bracket

  • Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station (67%, 4 Votes)
  • Only Human (33%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 6

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Only Human

Urban Fantasy, Supernatural, Romance

The story of an ordinary-ish human, who enrols in Monster University to find her sister’s killer but finds love instead.

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station

Space Mystery, YA, Adventure

Hokulua Station is the newest in generational exploration and protection space stations. Brand new and not quite working right.

Seren’s dad is the head or engineering for the new station and in charge of getting all the bugs worked out before the rest of the colonists arrive. That leaves her with plenty of time to explore. Something isn’t quite right though, weird noise, things going missing, and power drains that no one can explain.

Seren and her best friend Jan are going to do their best to figure out what is going on before someone gets hurt.

Word of the Day

Serial Story 2020 - Word of the Day Bracket

  • Point Zero (67%, 4 Votes)
  • Blue Victory VS Doctor D.U.M.B. (33%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 6

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Point Zero

Disaster, Post Apocalyptic, Super Hero

Every generation has a disaster that is etched into their memories. My grandparents had JFK, my parents had 9/11, and we had first contact.

Blue Victory VS Doctor D.U.M.B.

Superhero, Comedy, Romance

“You have besmirched my good name!” The man in a long purple lab coat bellowed as he took a step closer to the edge of the building.

“What name is that?” I asked, trying to sound calm. I had no idea who this person was or why he’d taken my date hostage.

Short Stories

Serial Story 2020 - Short Story Bracket

  • Sailing the Rubble of Galaxies (80%, 4 Votes)
  • The Cosmic Cuckoos (20%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 5

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Sailing the Rubble of Galaxies

Science Fiction, Epic, Space Opera

“Nice of them to design these cells with portholes,” admired former security commander, Nessa Muldune. It seemed like a strange waste of outer hull but she appreciated being able to see the stars.

The Cosmic Cuckoos

Mystery, Science Fiction, YA

While some children dreamt of candy, school, or some other mundane things; Helen dreamt of the stars. Not literally the large balls of gas, but of everything that was and could be between them. She’d curl up, with a blanket, on her parents’ balcony and stare up wondering what was waiting for her up there.

Series

Serial Story 2020 - Series Bracket

  • The Tree of Worlds (60%, 3 Votes)
  • Sun Speaker (40%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 5

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Sun Speaker

Space Opera, Adventure

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Includes: Hal The Sun Speaker, The Assassin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral, Gladiators in SPACE!, and Ghost Ship Robinson

The Tree of Worlds

Epic Fantasy, Steampunk

The Tree of the Worlds connects all the realms with it’s branches but there is a wyrm burrowing through trying to conquer or destroy. These are the stories of those that resist the Empire of the Wyrm.

Includes: Little Dagger, Ciamon of Chymar, The Ruby Child, and Battlemage Taika.


Good reading and Voting.

Thank you for your help,

Éric

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 12 – Conclusion


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 12: An Imposible Mission and a Conclusion?

The Techno-Mage ships sat in space like darker versions of themselves. “What are they waiting for?” Jan asked. The ships had arrived almost an hour ago and seemed idle.

“The Techno-Mage had said about a day and it’s only been half that,” suggested Annie.

“Okay. That means we have less than half a day to get us a way out of this. Any thoughts?” The Captain rubbed his bald head as he asked. The man was a decorated stations captain and this was supposed to be his last command. When Hokulua Station was finished inspections, the real captain was going to take over and he was going to retire to a cushy quarters.

Seren raised her hand. The senior crew looked at her father and he shrugged. She started by explaining a little about the repository, “The repository runs like a translation AI for the Mother-of-All-Suns just like Hoku does now for our micro-sun. Hoku proved that they can take over some of the stations systems and that was before they had complete integration with the AI. Now they could take over any system they want.”

“So it can kill us at any time? How can we trust it?” the Doctor asked, sounding incredulous.

Annie laughed loudly enough to stop people murmuring and said, “I can kill you at any time too. Any of us is capable of murder. Why would a micro-sun be more inclined?”

“Yes, but we enslaved it.”

“We can either give up space travel or take the suns at their word that they don’t hold a grudge and won’t kill us,” Seren said before going on, “The only reason that Hoku was able to communicate and take us here was because of a glitch in the AI that let them access it. The changes we’ve made since to help relieve their pain, give them better control, and better communicate are all easy software updates.”

Mr. Plentyn smiled and added, “She’s right. It’s a small update and could easily be applied to other ships. The update would also allow the station’s suns to talk to each other. What my daughter is suggesting is that we upgrade the Techno-Mage ships and let their micro-suns take over.”

The Captain smiled, “We’d have to leave the Techno-Mages to the mercy and justice of the Mother. Great, sounds like a plan. Push the update to them.”

“Well…” Mr. Plentyn started but trailed off.

“We’d have to push it locally,” Seren finished.

“You’re telling me you have the perfect solution but we have to somehow get onto each of those ships to implement it? That’s suicide.” The Captain sat down.

“It can be done by drones but they’d still have to get close.”

Annie stood up, smiling, this caused her brother and her flight group to groan and look worried. “I can get the drones there. The new ship has limited stealth tech. All we would need is a distraction.”

“Can the repository make more of those ships? Or maybe a cruiser?” the Captain asked.

“I’ve already requisitioned a dozen. They’ll be ready within the hour but that’s the best it can do. It only has that design because of Annie’s help.”

Standing up again and looking not at all confident, the Captain said, “You all have until those ships arrive to be ready. Commander, with Annie’s help, prepare a dozen pilots for the new ships and a battleplan that the Techno-Mages won’t expect. Plentyn, get everything ready to deploy. The rest of you, prepare for combat.”

As they were leaving, the Captain stopped Mr. Plentyn and Seren. “The Techno-Mages have a reputation of being all knowing and able to hijack computers. Are you sure they don’t know what’s coming?”

“When we linked up with the repository I had it and Hoku scan for bugs, trojans, and any back doors. We cleared them out before the meeting.”

“So you’re sure?”

“As much as I can be.”

The next hour on the station almost made it feel like it was fully crewed. People were rushing everywhere and getting everything ready. When the ships arrived and it was time to go, Seren brought Annie the drones. 

“You have four drones per ship. Try to space them out…” Seren trailed off looking worried.

“Don’t worry. I’m the best pilot here.” Annie took Seren’s hand and kissed it. “I’ll come back.”

“You’d better.”

The hardest part of the mission was being quiet. Annie missed the radio chatter, but she had to disable her coms both incoming and outgoing in order to avoid detection.

The trip was quiet and space felt bigger than it ever had to her, despite the relative smallness of that solar system. When she arrived at the first ship, she gently dropped her charges. She expected resistance but her stealth tech seemed to be working. The same near boring procedure occurred for the next two ships.

On the way to the last, and furthest ship, she wondered if she should have started on the far end. Her thoughts were interrupted by a blast to her aft. A small pirate ship had seen her and now she was being chased by a squadron of fighters. 

She dodged and evaded the ships and thanked the Mother for her shielding. One impressive dodge also had her avoid a direct shot from the last station. Had she not avoided it, she would have been destroyed. The Techno-Mage ships had weapons that could implode a sun; her shield meant nothing to it.

It was starting to look and feel useless. Every time she got close, the station would fire and she’d have to move back. She was about to retreat when the other stations started firing at the last one. They took out all the guns and Annie was able to fly down and drop the drones.

As she flew back towards Hoku she saw hundreds of fighters and escape pods leave the stations. It seemed the Mother-of-All-Suns was feeling merciful and they weren’t shot out of the sky. By the time she made it back to the station the cloud of pirate and Techno-Mage ships had left the system.

Seren was waiting for Annie when she landed. They hugged and both blushed. Jan rolled their eyes at their friends.

The Captain came by and shook Annie’s hand. “With the stations and Hoku no longer blocking coms we reached the council and given them all our information. I think the Techno-Mages are done. The council has also agreed to work with the Mother to make things right.” He smiled and sighed. “Alright. You two get some rest. We’re headed back on our original course. We have a few million crew to pick up.”

Surprisingly, it was Jan who spoke up, “Sir. Are we leaving a team to work with the Mother and the Repository?”

“Yes we are. A small engineering group, some archeologists, and a fighter wing.” The Captain smirked.

All three of them started volunteering at the same time.


Thank you for reading.

If you’d like to read more serial stories please have a look at the previous years versions.

Untrained Deception Checks, (or How I Found the Right Voice for Faux Ho Ho) – Guest post by ‘Nathan Burgoine

This summer, I was lucky enough to take part in an all-writer Dungeons & Dragons campaign, alongside some amazing authors. Brandon Crilly was our DM, Marie Bilodeau was our fast-talking, shanty-singing aasimar bard, Evan May played a hysterical bugbear monk of few words (and even less grammar), Kevin Hearne played a grumpy human former-soldier turned ranger, and I rounded out the group with my perceptive—but really honest and trusting—half-elf cleric of the sea goddess. In the middle of a tense scene, where we were pretty sure we were up against a particularly bad foe who was skeptical of our arrival not being a hostile invasion (it was totally a hostile invasion, but we were hoping to convince him to leave without a fight), my wee half-elf tried an untrained deception check.

It went poorly. Or at least, he ended up having to blast the villain with the wrath of his sea-goddess, so it didn’t go as planned. But that’s D&D. You make a plan, the plan falls apart, you throw lightning and thunder around. Repeat.

Over the same time period, I was also working on a holiday-set, fake relationship trope romance novella, and our D&D sessions turned out to help coalesce some facets I was struggling with when it came to my protagonist, Silas. The set-up for Faux Ho Ho is pretty simple: Silas’s family isn’t particularly supportive of him, but they’re in the public eye as a political family, so they take pains to make things look better than they are. He lives in Ottawa, they live in Alberta, allowing him to keep his distance when he can, but at the start of the story, they’re trying to wrangle him back home for Thanksgiving, partly so they can have him included in an event for his eldest brother, a Member of Parliament, keeping the optics of “we support our queer kid” if not the actions. Silas can’t think of a single thing to get out of it, and then his roommate—who his parents don’t know exists—pretends to be his boyfriend, claiming they have plans already with his family for Thanksgiving. This sets into motion a series of further fibs that send Silas and his roommate on a path to a happy-ever-after, albeit one with quite a few hiccoughs on the way.

Now, Silas is an introverted sort, a coder geek and a gaming nerd, and while this is by no means outside of my wheelhouse (I mean, I don’t really code, but otherwise) I was struggling to find the right way to present Silas to the reader. His voice, in early drafts, wasn’t landing right.

Then we had the D&D session with my half-elf’s botched deception check and it struck me. While Silas is staring down his parents on the Skype call, his “boyfriend” behind him, Silas has to lie outright to them if he wants out of the Thanksgiving visit. I slipped into his point of view and wrote:

Okay. He could do this. He’d never put any points into deception in his entire life, but natural twenties happened, right?

And there he was. From that moment on, Silas took shape in my head, and everything started to flow just-so. Before I knew it, writing Silas’s dialog, his reactions, and his thoughts wasn’t just easier, it was fun, and I realized it was the first time I’d written a D&D playing adult as the protagonist of a romance, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I’d waited so long. I write queer characters in romance specifically because I want to see people like me with happy endings, but I hadn’t gone that extra step to add this particular flavor of nerdy gamer into the mix.

Dungeons & Dragons became one of the geeky lenses through which Silas viewed the world, and it was a joy to put those references in there. Luckily, my editor also has a history with the game, so I didn’t have to explain too much (and, in fact, some of the editing notes that came back included D&D references in return). Silas and his gaming group even get to play a session in Faux Ho Ho. Silas also dresses up in a Dungeons & Dragons cartoon cosplay outfit at one point (spoiler: he’s Presto).

In short, if it wasn’t for those gaming sessions this summer, and my writer friends who always have my back, I’m not even sure Faux Ho Ho would have made it out of the gate.

As for Silas’s ongoing deception checks to maintain the illusion of him and his “boyfriend” at his sister’s Christmas wedding, and how it all works out with his family and his roommate? Well, if you want to know how that particular campaign turns out, the answer is in Faux Ho Ho. But since Faux Ho Ho is a romance, it’s not a spoiler to say that even though it absolutely doesn’t go to plan, it definitely ends happily.

The Blurb:

Silas Waite doesn’t want his big-C Conservative Alberta family to know he’s barely making rent. They’d see it as yet another sign that he’s not living up to the Waite family potential and muscle in on his life. When Silas unexpectedly needs a new roommate, he ends up with the gregarious—and gorgeous—personal trainer Constantino “Dino” Papadimitriou.

Silas’s parents try to browbeat him into visiting for Thanksgiving, where they’ll put him on display as an example of how they’re so tolerant for Silas’s brother’s political campaign, but Dino pretends to be his boyfriend to get him out of it, citing a prior commitment. The ruse works—until they receive an invitation to Silas’s sister’s last-minute wedding.

Silas loves his sister, Dino wouldn’t mind a chalet Christmas, and together, they could turn a family obligation into something fun. But after nine months of being roommates, then friends, and now “boyfriends,” Silas finds being with Dino way too easy, and being the son that his parents barely tolerate too hard. Something has to give, but luckily, it’s the season for giving. And maybe what Silas has to give is worth the biggest risk of all.

You can pre-order Faux Ho Ho at the Bold Strokes Books webstore in all e-formats; it will also be available December 10th, 2019, wherever quality LGBT e-books are sold.


‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. This began his long love affair with short fiction, which has seen dozens more short stories published, including his first collection Of Echoes Born. Even though short fiction is his favorite, ‘Nathan stepped into novel writing, and his first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Triad Blood and Triad Soul are available now from Bold Strokes Books, as well as his first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks. More novels, novellas, as well as works of short fiction are always under way.

Stuck in a Cabin for the Holidays

This story takes place the winter after the events in Everdome and at the same time as The Night of the Sisters

Everdome is available as an Ebook or Hardcover at Renaissance Press’s Website. It’s Also available as an ebook at AmazonIndigo/Chapters, and Kobo.

“Joyous Yule…” The tall dark-skinned man with an impressive white beard trailed off as he looked around the small cabin. Putting down a large red sack he asked, “Where am I?”

“Emrys, old friend. You look younger somehow.” The woman was covered in furs and looked to be both loving and hating the cold. Her wild curly red hair was tied in a semblance of a ponytail. 

The man looked confused at her and the only other occupant of the cabin, a woman with tan skin and the build of a fighter. She was wrapped in a thick cloak and looked miserable. “I’m sorry, who are you? And where is here?”

Sighing, the older woman replied, “Here, is a cabin in the mountains of Pakaha. I am Es’Sem and this is my descendant Jasmine.”

“Wait a second,” Jasmine said, “Are you telling me you’ve never been to Everdome before?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“So all my memories of you teaching me about chivalry and the history of Earth, Everdome, and King Arthur while growing up?”

It was Es’Sem, not Emrys, that replied, “Happened in your past and will happen in his future. What’s in the bag, old man?”

“I’m barely a hundred, thank you. They’re Yule presents for young Arthur.”

Jasmine stood with her mouth agape and Es’Sem whistled before saying, “This is the youngest I’ve ever seen you.”

“Alright then. I know who you are, kind of, and I know where I am. When am I?”

“We’re post Montrose, if that tells you anything.”

“Great, so after the Corrupter and all that stuff.” Emrys said.

“This is very strange.” Jasmine shook her head. Her dyed blonde braid barely moved. “You were there, but it’s not you. Yet?”

“You get used to it.” Es’Sem smiled and hugged the tall man.

“I’m glad it’s possible to get used to because it seems I must.” Emrys sat down in a comfortable chair near the door he’d come in from.

“Is it… What was your midwinter festival called? Night of the Sisters?”

Laughing Jasmine said, “No. We don’t worship them. We respect them. You’re thinking of New Albion.”

“Right. Parasomnia.”

Smiling, Es’Sem said, “I liked that one. It was fun to write.”

Emrys gasped. “Oh my. I have so many questions for you.” The two spent the next few hours discussing her book series Everdome. 

When she had had enough, Jasmine asked, “Why are you here and can you get us out?”

“We haven’t discussed this yet? Wow. I am getting old.”

Es’Sem took a drink of her rum and said, “Talk to me in a few thousand years about being old.”

“Outside is a magical storm. The kind that can transport a poor old wizard over thousands of years and an entire Realm. This cabin is protected against most of it by some clever magic, but we’re not going anywhere.”

“I’m going to miss Cataclysm Day with my people, aren’t I?” Jasmine sighed and sat down looking completely defeated.

“Cataclysm Day, of course. Where you celebrate surviving and give thanks for family and the magic that powers the Domes.” Emrys nodded. It was the only major celebration that all of Everdome followed and it always involved a massive party and ceremony where the High King or Queen presided. He bowed and said, “I’m sorry your majesty, but there is nothing I can do.”

“That’s okay. I’m actually a little relieved.”

Es’Sem sounded annoyed as she said, “Oh for Goddess’s sake, you’d be fine. I’ve known you your whole life and you’ll be a fantastic Queen.”

“Yeah but I shouldn’t be. This wasn’t my job. I’m the warrior not the diplomat. I’ve been Queen for less than two years and in that time the whole of Everdome almost fell.”

“Focus on the fact that it didn’t, dear.” Es’Sem sounded worried and her Australian accent became more pronounced.

“It should have been Daniel. It was his responsibility, not mine. I should be out there not trapped in here.”

The cabin fell quiet. Shifting awkwardly, making his chair squeak, Emrys said, “So I’m going to ask a few questions and pry.” The two women looked at him expectantly. “Jasmine, do you want help or do you want to complain?”

“You sound just like my father,” Jasmine said and smiled. 

His voice cracking, he replied, “Thank you.” There were tears in his eyes.

“I need help. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve survived this long because I’ve been a wartime Queen. I don’t know what to do when we’re at peace.”

Taking her hand, he asked, “What happened to your brother?”

“He died heroically. The bastard.” Jasmine cursed. “He was raised to be King and he was going to be a great one. But when my father died, Daniel decided to take a tour of the kingdom before his coronation. ‘I must learn to know all the people not just those that live near us,’ he said. He insisted he didn’t need more guards and refused to let me go with him…” She trailed off.

Es’Sem continued the story, “He was in a remote village and there was a mudslide. He died saving the town’s children. Refused to leave until the last one was safe.”

“Stubborn fool!” Jasmine released a few more curses. 

Timidly, knowing the reaction, Emrys asked, “What would you have done differently?”

“Now you really sound like my father. Nothing. I would have died heroically. I’ve done the same damned fool thing a hundred times and survived. I have scars for proof. I’ve fought and defeated everything that should have killed me. Why didn’t he? Why did I survive and not him?”

“Fate, a Deity, or plain luck. Death is never easy and we all have our own ways of dealing with it.” Emrys stared out into nothing as he spoke.

“And how do you deal with it?”

“Don’t take my example. I wandered through fairy and the Realms for thirty years before stumbling onto a young boy destined to be king. Everyday I’m faced with my old grief and the knowledge that my charge must die.” 

“Not really one of my options. I have a kingdom and a world that looks to me for leadership. I don’t know what to do.” She turned to the window and didn’t see Emrys wink at Es’Sem.

The door burst in and a snowman wielding a large sword made of ice roared. Es’Sem looked at Emrys and cocked an eyebrow. He smiled and she sat next to her favourite sword and poured herself another drink.

As if she was expecting it, Jasmine took two long strides and unsheathed her two shortswords from their scabbards and attacked the snowman.

It got a lucky stab in and nicked her arm. Jasmine scowled and attacked in quick succession. The snowman was cut to pieces and a single scream could be heard from the storm. Jasmine ran out after the voice.

“What are you up too?” Es’Sem asked.

“Me? Up to something? I was brought here by a magical storm, nothing more.”

“Bullshit. That snowman was straight out of Calvin and Hobbs.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not some conjurer of cheap tricks.” Emrys sat down with a warm cup of peppermint coffee that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

The storm outside was a wall of iridescence, snow reflected and refracted with every colour in existence. There was always a path however and a new snowman to fight. Jasmine threw herself into the battle. Part of her knew it was shadows and snow but she ignored that part.

When she was thoroughly exhausted and suffering from several cuts, the snow parted and Daniel walked through. He was dressed in his finest livery and the three-day stubble he liked so much. He smiled warmly at her and said, “Sister. Why are you lost in this storm?”

She cursed at him and pulled him into a hug. The roar of the storm covered her sobs and froze her tears to her face. “You’re dead.”

“You’re not.”

“You should be doing this. Everdome needs you, not me.”

“Everdome needs a monarch with heart and a sense of fairness. Ruling like living isn’t about how good you are at it, it’s what you do with it. The people need someone who is strong and lucky.”

“Are you real?”

“I have no idea JayJay, but I know that I love you and that I can’t think of a better person to take my place. You’re going to be a fantastic Queen, if you let yourself be one.”

“Thank you.”

He turned away and waved. She watched him walk back into the storm and softly said goodbye.

Back at the cabin, she hugged Emrys and said, “Thank you for letting me say goodbye.”

“I’m glad you got to say goodbye. But I’m just a poor wizard who’s been displaced by a magical storm.”

“But you didn’t?”

“People always accuse me of doing and knowing things. It’s a bit frustrating and—”

A knock at the door interrupted him. A woman walked in. She wore similar robes to Emrys and had the same skin tone. Her hair was long and white and was braided over one shoulder. “Brother, you’re missing the celebrations. Are you done meddling yet?”

Es’Sem snorted in laughter. “I’ll be right there, Morgan.” The storm outside dissipated and Emrys turned to the other two in the cabin and said, “Well, look at that. The storm is gone.”

Es’Sem laughed harder and Jasmine shook her head. Neither said anything. Emrys picked up his sack and smiled, “May your fractured nights be followed by glorious dawns.” The traditional Cataclysm Day greeting given, he left.

“That was all rather melodramatic and over the top,” Es’Sem said before adding, “I loved it.”

The two women packed their gear and, dressed for the winter weather, headed back to the castle.

When they arrived at the castle, there were two presents wrapped in plain wrapping with garish red bows.

“Bless that man,” Es’Sem said as she opened her present to show a large jar of vegemite.

Unwrapping the larger, flatter of the two, Jasmine started to cry. It was a painting of her and her brother. It looked like it was from just before he left. “No painting was ever commissioned. How?”

“Look at the signature. J. M. Emrys.” Es’Sem then read the inscription on the frame, “Those who leave us are never gone as long as we remember them.”


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