Tortured Heart

Denying the Alpha:Manlove is Evernight’s latest shifter anthology.

Get is here from Evernight

Or here from Amazon

My story in Denying the Alpha is “Tortured Heart”

Aza, a crow shifter, has fought hard to rise to steward of a large household and to prove himself worthy to the kindly witch who raised him. But when he finds himself trapped and tortured by a rival witch, he struggles to even remember what manner of shifter he is. He had few clues to his identity and they seem inextricably tied to Thariff, a wolf is clearly his enemy and lover.

Selection from “Tortured Heart”

Didn’t he have the decency to leave me alone?
Thariff took my shoulder, more forcefully this time. The strength in his hand, the power of his arm, radiated through me. If he didn’t want to let me go, I wouldn’t be able to go. He’d tear me apart.
Instead, he pressed me back against the bricks and leaned closer. He smiled, smoldering. “I want to kiss you.”
I met his softness with bitter cold. “I want to attend to my errand.”
“You want me to do more than kiss you.”
I did. I really, really did.
But—
I scoffed at him, disdainful of what I didn’t deserve out of habit. “How charmed your life must be that you’ve reached this advanced age without ever being told no.”
Thariff looked at me, silent and patient. Waiting. For what? His silence caused a great shout to rise in me, a guttering screech, but I swallowed it and kept my face placid. Unimpressed.
He squeezed my shoulder, inhaled deeply, and listened to my heart pounding. Because a wolf could sense those things, as certainly as I felt a thunderstorm building in my bones. Then, with dusty tartness—the trace of lemons—his mouth covered mine.
That kind of kiss could break the weak. That kind of knee-buckling passion could sweep an innocent off balance and into chaos. That kind of desire defeated good sense, good instinct, and good intention, and instructed smart men to throw away everything on the off chance they might get another kiss like it.
I was only saved from utter collapse by the basket in my hand and the bricks at my back. The basket belonged to Madame Lamrow, good and kind and deserving of my loyalty. The bricks belonged to a dirty city and only an act of violence could make me touch them.
As soon as I resisted—which was less immediate than my pride cared to admit—the wolf abandoned the kiss. He kept me pinned and stared liked parting from me would be poison. “You don’t like kissing?”
I loved kissing. I didn’t get to kiss enough. Kissing was weak and foolish and…
He bowed close, bringing his lips back to mine.
I’d be lost forever if I let him kiss me.
I turned my head only at the last moment. He paused, kissed my cheek, and then plucked a soft path toward my ear.
“You want more than kisses…” he whispered.
My face was hot against his cool lips. My body radiated desire as if every inch of my skin wept for his touch. I wanted him so much that getting what I wanted might kill me. He rubbed his face into my neck and shoulder. What cruel tenderness…
I didn’t deserve it.


Reviews from Goodreads:

“Wow. This first story is a doozy and had me completely captivated. It’s filled with magic, both light and dark, and two men who seem so disparate but in the end they both want the same thing – to be safe, to be free, and to be loved. This was a fascinating story of fantasy and love, and I was hooked.”

“I’m totally in love with Tortured Heart by LJ Longo. That’s probably my favorite of the bunch. We’re instantly in the middle of it but the author does a fantastic job of explain what’s going on so the reader isn’t lost. There are lovers betraying, twists, torture, shifters, magic, yummy sex and a really interesting plot. I would have totally given this story 5 stars by itself. (5/5)”

Steampunk: How does Clockwork…Work?

While I was writing The Scribbling Windhund, I made the inventor/terrorist very aware and a little embarrassed when he started going into technical details, so he’d cut himself short and not over explain science that I couldn’t explain. However, I do know a thing or two about clockwork mechanisms and if you’re interested, I’m going to indulge.

One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was take apart my older sister’s wind-up music box collection and clean the insides. Partly it was fun because she couldn’t put them back together and it terrified her to see her beloved music boxes in pieces, but mostly I enjoyed it because it let me pretend to be an inventor.

I’d have my tweezers, a little copper bowl of Brasso, some q-tips, rubbing alcohol (which was absolutely not necessary and probably shouldn’t have been mixed with other chemicals), and a tiny screwdriver. Then I’d set to work dismantling the movement.

91sUvFJTGVL._SX425_
This is a “movement.” Clockwork speech for the shit inside.

The way these music boxes work is really painfully simple and extraordinarily beautiful. The round part in the upper left of the image is either called the main spring or the spiral spring. If you take it out of the case (and be very careful you don’t hurt yourself when you do), you’ll be holding a flat band of metal wound very tightly. That’s were the energy of winding the music box comes from and the longer and thinner the wire was the longer the box would play (the shorter and thicker the faster it would play). This is basically the battery of the mechanism. After you put in the energy turning the key to the music box, it tightens the spring. This is slowly unleashed and turn the wheels, gears, and eventually causes the revolving cylinder to turn. The raised bumps hit the tuned teeth of a steel comb (or lamellae) and “Music of the Night” or “Romeo and Juliet” begins to play.

I’d take great delight in carefully unscrewing the comb, and dismantling the gears, cleaning them of the little bits of dust and hair that somehow got into the device. I’d talk to myself pretending to either be inventing the thing for the first time, or defusing a bomb, or discovering a piece of old technology lost to the ages.

And of course, I’d reassemble it by the time my parents came to yell at me for messing with my sister’s toys.  They’d find nothing except a perfectly functional music box and the strong scent of rubbing alcohol and Brasso in her bedroom.

The only time I ever really got in trouble was when I took to un-making my Great Uncle Wes’ pendulum clock. The piece was much more complicated, with a lot more small moving parts (pinions, the escapement, the damned pendulum, a chiming train, and a movement train) and after I’d taken it apart I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to put it back together before someone caught me.

In the end, I stole the clock and all it’s parts and hid in the clean field (which was actually a very dirty hill) next to my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I can vividly remember skidding down the rocks and past the snake burrows to hide among the staghorn sumac. I spent the rest of the day figuring out those gears and wheels and pinions, watching the sunlight cutting through the leaves and the bars growing longer and longer as I ran out of time.

I was particularly frustrated when I realized I had put the hour hand where the minute hand needed to be and I had to take it all apart and reassemble it again.

I was there for about four hours, lying among the rocks and the grass on my belly trying to piece the thing back together. In the end, I couldn’t figure out the chiming mechanism (I suspect I lost some pieces on my flight to the field).

I don’t know if my Uncle Wes ever figured out exactly why the clock stopped chiming, but I know whenever my Aunt Annie would remark on how he ought to go and get it fixed he would just shrug and cast me a wry little smile.

It was like this clock, but not as ornate:


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

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Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk Music: Dresden Dolls

Another one of my favorite bands is The Dresden Dolls. I find it incredible the variety of sounds these two people are able to make. According to Wikipedia, the style of music is actually Brechtian punk cabaret, but given their encouragement for all kinds of artistic expression (there are living statues, fire jugglers, and all kind of busking at their live shows) I don’t think they’d mind being showcased with some steamy punks.

 


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Steampunk according to Elizabeth Spencer

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Elizabeth writes YA Fantasy and has published through EvernightTeen, (which is the innocent little sister of Evernight Publishing who releases most of my smut…I mean stories.)

 

Anyways, Ellie wrote Justice Unendinga YA fantasy/steampunk novel with a lot of really cool mystic elements as well. So I thought I’d reach out and see if she would talk to us dirty birds about Steampunk.

 

 

 


According to Elizabeth:
Since I’m coming in at the tail end of steampunk month, I’m sure all your readers would agree that steampunk can almost be anything! I think the only universal in steampunk is the aesthetic—the steampower, the industrialism, and some maybe-historical-maybe-fake-Victorian feel. But there’s alternate-history steampunk and steampunk that’s basically Victoriana science fiction. It can be based in the real world or just set in one that’s up to its nose in airships and steam trains. It’s all good!
Top Steampunk books/movies/etc. that influenced you?

• The entire Parasol Protectorate series is am-AAAAAAAAA-zing!
• Bioshock Infinite is a steampunk videogame, and it absolutely blew me away.
• The Something Strange and Deadly series is rough around the edges, but it has zombies! Steampunk and zombies!
• Agatha H and the Clockwork City is a novelization of a webcomic, and I admit that I haven’t read the comic (and the second book wasn’t my favorite.) So while I can’t say I know much about the actual series, this book did come at an opportune time for me. I read it just as I was really getting deep into editing Justice, and the world-building was just so quirky. It really inspired me on my journey with my own fantasy-steampunk.

I first got into steampunk for the aesthetic, honestly. I love corsets, lovely dresses, and ridiculous hats (and yes, yes, I know the largest and most glorious hats are Edwardian!) All this led me to steampunk festivals. And then, because I wanted a costume, the first thing I ever learned to sew was good ol’ Simplicity 2712

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(Note to everyone else: don’t try to make something like that for your first pattern. Really. Don’t.)

Then it was books like Something Strange and Deadly and Agatha H and the Airship City, and then… well, I wanted to write something myself!

Steampunk just falls into a really cozy place for me. On one hand, it lets you play with a lot of really modern, familiar-feeling concepts, with a technology-rich world and some modern conveniences. On the other, it’s still distant enough that you don’t have telephones or television, which really make the world feel… small, I guess. Like it’s all known, and all visible, and all discoverable.

And since Justice Unending is essentially a steampunk-fantasy with corsets and trains and crazy inventors (and possession!), it just hits on a really fun mix of industrial but not modern, technological but full of magic. It’s fun!

I’ve read a lot more dystopic steampunk than utopian ones. (I’m… not sure I’ve read any, actually. I’d love to!) And that’s not too hard to understand—the real Victorian age was brutal, so it’s easy to get caught up in the “no workers’ rights, child labor everywhere, robber barons galore” elements.

And as much as I’d like a chipper steampunk, mine isn’t! I’d describe Justice Unending is a false utopia. Brittany Bastion, where the book is set, is genuinely a pretty nice place: it’s a completely sealed-off country, protected from the mysterious, Wilds that lie beyond its walls. And while the Wilds are lawless and savage—and obviously not a topic of polite teatime conversation—Brittany is a genuinely peaceful, prosperous place. It’s just one that expects sacrifices, and one of the most important relates to the spirits called the Unending. These bodiless, immortal spirits are the lifeblood of Brittany and keep it safe from harm. And since they don’t have their own bodies, they have to incarnate in a human’s—and then they’re sharing the body and fighting for control of it. When you get chosen, the only socially acceptable thing to do is to march yourself down to the capital, where you’ll be gently, kindly, asphyxiated to death so that the spirit can use your body for themselves.

Brittany’s society accepts this as the price of peace—that sometimes your friends and families get chosen, and that this is sad, but ultimately good for everyone—so it’s only when the main character, Faye, is possessed that she starts to learn about why this system was put in place and what it means to all the people who were killed before her. And she learns that it’s not what it seems, and that this seemingly fundamental part of their society is rooted in a lot of unpleasant, dark history. It’s not exactly a raging dystopia, but it’s definitely a world built on ugliness.

In Justice Unending, Faye, a stubborn, tomboyish teenager has her sister chosen by one of the Unending. This is supposed to be a joyous occasion—and her family and neighbors all try very hard—but Faye, being stubborn, refuses to accept that her sister has to die. So she goes to try and see her before the ritual is completed.

Instead, she instead bumbles right into the middle of a murder and is promptly chosen as the next body by the Mad Immortal, Aris, an Unending who has spent the last several hundred years trying to bring the Bastion down from within, mostly by committing horrible murders. And this leaves Faye with two equally awful choices: she could turn herself in and let herself be killed (which is obviously not a great choice) or she can try to escape, even though just about everyone in the Bastion would turn her in to the capital if they knew who was inside her.

And she has to do all of this with a murderer inside her who is fighting her for her body and very much wants to continue their fight against the Bastion. It’s very much an action-adventure!

You can find more Ellie here.


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

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Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk Music: Disturbed covers “Sound of Silence”

Okay, definitely more punk than steam.

So much of Steampunk is taking what we find interesting about the past and reshaping it to our own tastes. I understand Simon and Garfunkel and 1964 are not the same thing as the per-electric era, but… damn it I love this song.


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Images from the Past: Research into Prussian Fashion

I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t like to research. I have a terrible head for dates and years and things.

For example, I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that Scribbling Windhund isn’t based off the Victorian era… or even the Regency.  Prussia was a nation-state in the 1700s.  So when I write the story of a fashion critic in a Steampunk version of Prussia this is the height of fashion:

Frederick the Great and Voltaire
Friedrich the Great and Voltaire in Sanssouci (If you want to spread salacious rumors about 300 year old men, these two were totally banging.)

Since I have such a terrible memory (or such a penchant for anachronism), I have to keep really good notes.  Normally, since that takes time away from actually writing the thing I want to write, I tend to be rather sloppy about it and let actual fact be damned. But Otto Lang is obsessed with fashion so, for once I couldn’t cut corners. So I actually tried to do this correctly… for you.

From what I can gather (and it’s mostly from Wikipedia) the idea was to look at tall and narrow as possible, to wear pale but bright colors, and to have curly white hair. I think, the 1700’s was the last time when men were as vulnerable as women to the whims and trends of fashion since they were peacocking it up as much as the ladies.

Men in court, at balls, and on the job would wear a three piece ensemble. Breaches (the tight shorts that stop at the knee) a waistcoat (the fancy vest) and a justaucorps (which is the really long jacket). The actual shirt and stockings were considered like underwear and probably only had to be changed when they got dirty.

The cravat, which I mention a lot in The Scribbling Windhund, is basically the forerunner to the necktie only a lot fancier. I read on one of the fashion blogs that it was, like much men’s fashion, originally based on military clothing. Apparently, wearing thick fabric around your neck protected you from spears, bayonets, and daggers.  Maybe it was psychological.

For those philosophy buffs watching at home, that last image is of Voltaire. He came up a lot when I googled Fashion and 1700s.

My favorite images, by far, are the Prussian army. Keep in mind, these fellas were one of the fiercest fighting forces in history. Lead by the junkers (the nobles who were trained from birth to lead the army) and comprised of mostly peasants who could expect to become middle-class if they survived the battles and the discipline of army life, one of Fredrich the Greats ministers quipped that, “Prussia was not a country with an army, but an army with a country.”

The final bit of research I suffered through was basically to find out what these fuckers wore at home when they were relaxing. I’m so glad I did, because I was rewarded with these sexy, sexy gems:

 

 

Apparently, formal dress was too restrictive for intellectuals and it was very common for studious men (like Sir Issac Newton on the left) to have their paintings done in their libraries wearing banyans.

Here’s the kicker for me. He’s still wearing breeches, stockings, a waist-coat and cravat. Basically, when you went home to relax you took off one jacket and replaced it with another, less tight, jacket.

Oh, and you also took off your wig.

My take away from all research is a loud and joyful, “Thank God for jeans and sneakers!” Though, if I were asked to be more profound:

Sassy never goes out of style.

498EL MONTE-  71.

 


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk Music: Steam Powered Giraffe

I think the general reaction to the live Steampunk culture when you first encounter it is… “what?”

Followed quickly by a “I want to do this too…”

No band personifies that quite as much as Steam Powered Giraffes. I really don’t have any way to describe these guys except to show them to you.

Same band. Different day.

And that, my friends, is what counterculture is all about.


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Cover Reveal!

Once again, I got so interested in Steampunk that I forgot to announce my new release!  It’s another anthology story called “Tortured Heart” and it will appear in Denying the Alpha.

Which looks something like this:

 

 

denying the alpha antho-MM-complete

I love these anthologies because they always get me to write something new and interesting. I keep returning to the same world of shifters so this is similar to “The Scarf” and Hiring the Tiger. “Tortured Heart” tells the story about a crow shifter who has fought hard to rise to steward of his witch’s household only to fall in love with a rival witch’s wolf.

The release date and teasers soon!

 

Steampunk according to Michael Butcher

Michael Butcher is also being published in the Fantasist this month. He says he writes fantasy stories somewhere in the blasted wastelands of Western Australia and that he’s bee successfully avoiding roaming packs of raiders, but I think we all know better. He’s leading those damned packs which is why I’m afraid to Americanize his spelling.


According to Mike:

Although I don’t consider myself a steampunk writer, I enjoy the potential for storytelling the genre provides. It’s a genre that revels in the idea of exploring new frontiers of the physical world and of science, and perhaps magic. For readers, it may be a sort of interest in history, of alternate timelines or simply the aesthetic. It’s a genre that can perfectly blend fantasy and science fiction with a strong spirit of adventure. I can see why it is so popular.

Steampunk is an aspect of the retro-futurism art movement, a movement that basically imagines how certain eras of the past might imagine their own future. In steampunk’s case, typically the future with a distinctly Victorian or Edwardian flavour. The genre is ripe for criticising the class distinctions of the era along with unethical scientific endeavors and the hubris of inventors, entrepreneurs, “captains of industry” etc. Frankenstein could be considered a precursor to Steampunk because of the way Mary Shelley worked fantastical science fiction elements into a cautionary tale of arrogance in a world where advances in science seemingly make everything possible. Also there’s lots of gas powered lamps and steam powered everythings.

One of steampunk’s primary real-life influences was the industrial revolution, a period of growth and possibility but also of wealth inequality and labour exploitation. I can’t help but imagine that underneath a glittering, marvelous, steam-powered metropolis, there wouldn’t be a vastly exploited working class. I think that tension is one of the more appealing aspects of steampunk, or retro-futurism as a whole concept. For me, there’s a cautionary aspect to it, a just-cos’-you-could warning about pushing the limits of science into the unknown and what horrible things that might reveal to us.

A steampunk city is a city built on the idea of limitless potential, the underlying feeling that it could collapse into a dystopic nightmare at just the right push is one of my favourite things about it, and it is what I will enjoy writing about the most as I continue to tell more tales in this world I’m building with this work!

The Thief’s Darling is a novella I started writing late in 2017. I didn’t actually set out to write a steampunk story.

[L.J. exclaims on first read: What! But it has gas lamps? It’s totally steampunk.]

Originally, it was going to be much more of a classical fantasy setting, with the weird science aspects replaced with more traditional, occult magic shtick, but I was doing quite a lot of research into the practices of alchemists in preparation for the writing process and was really interested in alchemy, in the early modern period, as a precursor to modern day chemistry and the effects it had on science as a whole. Also, I do like the aesthetic of gas lamps.

It is the story of five sisters who are master alchemists living in the run-down town of Wadlock, a once vibrant place that has fallen on hard times. The sisters, led by Enith, are attempting to create the perfect man by distilling the essence of romance novels down and transmuting them into a man who is sort of the amalgamation of a whole range of pulp romance novel “hunks”. His name is Troy.

[L.J.: As someone who writes these romance novels, I am all about this premise. But if we get this technology IRL, I think we have to name him “Chris” because of the inordinate amount of sexy Chrises.]

Most of the sisters are partaking in the project for a laugh and to spend time together, but it certainly seems to mean something entirely different for Enith.

They have hired a thief, a young woman named Cady “Nine-Lives”, a scrappy sort of sixteen-year-old who is trying to pull together enough money to skip town. One night, during a raid on the local library, she runs afoul of the librarian, an old man with an affinity for classic romance novels who also hides a bloody and tragic past. Cady accidentally burns down the library which puts her life and the life of Troy into jeopardy.

My intention was to create a story that subverts the reader’s expectations. There seems to be a sort of culture of disdain surrounding women who read romance novels (or just anything women enjoy en masse).

[L.J.: you said it, brother!]

Most of the story is told through the eyes of Cady, a teenager who carries that same disdain, and so she tends to view the sisters as “gross” or “wrong” for their reading habits, but as we explore the character of the sisters more, it is suggested that not only do some find a sense of comfort in reading and appreciating romantic fiction, but also find good-natured community and sisterly  bonding.

You can find Michael’s story here.

 


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Images from the Past: Completely Inaccurate Images from the 1800s

So, I said before the Victorians had some interesting ideas about what the future would bring.  Here’s some of the ones that really missed the mark:

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So not only were we supposed to have hover-boards by 2000, we were supposed to be walking on water with the aid of balloons, weird shoes, and… a unicycle.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Air_cab

Seconds before a futuristic collision. Still less wait time than the Path.

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Here’s another flying machine. That apparently hovers while the exceptionally well-dressed rural person greets his mailman.

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I love this image, because conquering the depths is not complete until we can gamble underwater.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Fishing

I love this image because … I have no idea what they are doing.

 


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. –Oscar Wilde