Hiya guys! We have debut author L. Rockwood stopping by today with his upcoming debut high fantasy release Defiant Revival, we have a fantastic guest post from L. and a great excerpt. Before you go running off to enjoy the post let me just say that this book is now the first on my to-read list, Why? I hear you ask, well it’s quite simple, when Dreamspinner let us know it was ready for review they sent a tantalising warning with it… and I’m now desperate to crack it open LOL so I’m gonna share the warning that Dreamspinner shared with me: “Readers please be aware this is not a traditional romance. . . . this title is a high-concept dark fantasy, with Tarantino and manga-style graphic violence, action, abuse, etc.” its just soooo tempting isn’t it! <3 ~Pixie~
To free the kingdom from the depravity of Cardinal Aldrious, Prince Micah Helvendeere must take his rightful place as ruler.
Unfortunately, the prince has been dead for a year.
Billiam Grimhart, former page to the prince, knows Micah’s assumption of the throne is the last chance to purge Casperland of the cardinal’s corruption. And for that to happen, the prince must be revived. Only one person stands a chance of achieving the nearly impossible: exiled enchantress Shemmy DuBois, a raunchy bog witch with an affinity for corpses and a heart of gold. Billiam sets out to coax Shemmy to their cause, despite what wading through piles of bodies will do to his favorite shoes.
If he can accomplish it, Billiam might finally get to consummate his love for the prince—something Shemmy is keen to witness. But first, they’ll need to steal Micah’s body, brave a land inhabited by vicious faeries, and accept the help of accomplices as vile and perverse as their enemies. They might be far from typical heroes, but sometimes those are the only people who can get the job done.
If you like dark and edgy high-concept fantasy that’s not for those with delicate sensibilities, join Billiam, Shemmy, and their Faelock allies as they stage their revolution.
By L. Rockwood
“What’s your elevator pitch?” asked my brother from across the small booth.
“My what?” I responded while pouring more of the practically molten chile de arbol sauce over my blackened mahi and mango taco. When planning my trip down to San Diego to visit him, I looked forward to eating at City Tacos nearly as much as seeing Neutral Milk Hotel. Said show was just a few blocks away, but not for another forty-five minutes.
“It’s like, if you were riding in an elevator with a big shot and only had a minute to sell him your story, what would you say?” Andrew had known I had been writing and was nearly finished with a novel, but we hadn’t had a chance to talk about it much yet. My newborn nephew was deservedly taking up most of his attention.
“Well, it’s like your classic hero saves the princess story, except the princess is actually a prince.” I paused for another bite and some dramatic emphasis before continuing, “Oh yeah, and the prince is already dead.”
He gave me his signature, enthusiastic thumbs up, showing me he truly approved before he even spoke. “Nice! It’s like a freaky fairytale. Tell me more.”
That was the first time I realized I had written a fairytale. I knew the basic storyline was familiar, but I had never been a knights and princesses sort of kid growing up. I still, of course, watched all the Disney movies and liked most of them, but I was the kid who idolized Godzilla. So why was this the novel I felt so compelled to write?
I have finally realized why that storyline is so personal to me. The idea of a damsel being saved by a hero doesn’t bring me back to any book or movie. For me, there is no clearer, nor simpler, nor more perfect tale of true love conquering evil than that of Mario rescuing his beloved Princess Peach.
I don’t know if I’d call Super Mario a fairytale, but it definitely is the reference that pops into my head when I think of princess-saving heroes. It does makes sense that I’d go there though. If you added up all the time my brother and I spent playing Mario games you’d get at least a decade. Its prevalence in my life isn’t the only reason for its importance and the other is much more personal.
Super Mario Brothers means more to me than Sleeping Beauty because I am a transgender man. I didn’t know that when I was kid playing games on Andrew’s bedroom floor. In fact, back then I didn’t think about my own gender at all. It just didn’t seem important to me. I loved playing with my Polly Pockets just as much as my brother’s Mighty Max toys. I would wear his hand-me-down clothes, loved to climb trees, and would even pee outside with him when we’d get the chance. The next day I might be painting my nails or dressing up my American Girl dolls. That’s not to say that liking any of those things has a thing to do with gender, but in the early nineties it was definitely still a world of only boys toys and girls toys. I only bring it up to make it clear that Mario doesn’t inspire me over the girly Princess Aurora, simply because he is a man or because video games were a “boy thing”.
I just could never relate to being trapped in a tower or waiting for someone’s kiss to save me. I could, however, see myself being the one to save the day. It’s not that I think so highly of myself or that I think I am that brave or have super powers. I just seem to believe I can do the impossible and solve everyone’s problems, which is obviously not always fortuitous.
It’s that heroism I feel inside myself that must’ve driven me to write my own fairytale. I loved and connected to the hero saving his true love more than I even knew and needed to express that. The best part of all was getting to tell this classic kind of story in my own way, i.e. morbid and flaming.
Despite acknowledging that I wrote a fairytale, the classic hero trope is the only thing typically ‘happily ever after’ about Defiant Revival. Even my protagonist, who is honestly an avatar of myself as a hero in many ways, is quite flawed. Billiam is not the bravest character, he is not perfectly masculine, and he doesn’t always make the right choices. My pure and innocent prince is neither of these things and my evil villain has a neatly hidden, but very real soul. My fairytale is one true to me, and thus it as dark as it is magical. Instead of cute birdies singing as a princess brushes her hair, I got to incorporate dancing reanimated bunny corpses. It seems like a fairytale was the perfect vessel for my aesthetic after all, which I describe as creepy/cute.
The amount of gore and dick jokes in Defiant Revival might stop some from seeing the simple, classic tale at it’s core, but that’s okay. I still want to address it’s surprisingly sweet origins and also give props to Mario for being my first hero. Video games can cultivate just as much creativity as all other media and I’m happy to list them as inspirations.
Access past Drummond grew increasingly exclusive and monitored following the devastating bombing of Casper by the fearsome nation of Knox, over a decade prior. All travel outside of the city had become completely marginalized into government transportation of goods to the two remaining villages and one fishing hamlet allowed to live on in Casperland.
Before things were made this stringent, merchants could make pilgrimages, and some lucky or stupid families could try to visit loved ones. By the time Billiam finally walked out, however, all exits and entrances of Drummond had to be governmentally approved and were still at the traveler’s own risk. In order for citizens to leave, they could try to get an expatrias permit, the processing of which never took less than six months, not that I’ve ever heard of any being approved. Taking one of the transport jobs could get you out of the city, but with no privacy as your guards and cohorts would monitor you the whole time.
The best way, and the way dear Billiam opted for, was through the Westend sewer. Cardinal Aldrious hadn’t bothered to have people investigate or monitor any of the sewer systems, as he would never demean himself to think of wading through excrement. Due to this pretense, the guards were not aware that the sewer tunnel had a dry path to an overflow, which emptied into a small lagoon. This runoff was a safe, short distance from the gates, with no wading through human waste necessary, and a relatively easy exit for those of us who knew about it.
It was nearly midday when the subterranean section of Billiam’s journey met its end. At last, he was able to remove the itchy burlap prison that had entrapped his visage the last hour. In order to make sure anyone else who might be taking a stroll through the sewers could not identify him, he had taken the guise of an anonymous peasant. The dirty shawl bent the shape of his bowler hat slightly, but nothing could distort the noble features and brilliant mustache underneath.
Billiam was a long wisp of a man, his lankiness making his strength deceptive. He was a well-trained swordsman and archer as well as an immaculate tailor. His thin face was brought to a perfect end with a strong goateed jaw. Unlike what I presume other heroes to think, he saw no value in saving the world if he couldn’t look good while doing it. After smoothing his tailcoat, straightening his skinny black tie, and sneaking a quick peer in the reflection of a puddle nearby, his adventure was able to continue.
He had only a quarter hour jaunt through the wastes left until he reached his destination—Drummond’s mass grave, bitterly referred to as Peace Valley. The rotting corpses—citizens and foreigners, criminals and the hopelessly ill, enemies to the crown both real and imagined—these were the cost of the “peace” granted us by the cardinal. The beastly creatures controlled by Cardinal Aldrious and his sect, the Mortanions, had to be sustained somehow. The sacrifice of one’s corpse served as a royal pardon.
Said creatures were wicked winged beasts known only as reapers. They were generally five feet long with double that for a wingspan; rotten lizards with bodies covered in sparkling, black scales and dusty feathers smothering their appendages. Their gaping mouths housed at least three rows of crimson teeth. It is unknown whether their teeth actually are red or are perpetually stained with human blood; however, it is unlikely anyone who finds out would live to tell us. Their handlers, low-ranking Mortanion brothers referred to as goons, were the only people who regularly patrolled the wastes. They were few but could summon reapers to attack when they saw a trespasser. The beasts would lunge at travelers on their own, but a simple umbrella with a painted red eye was enough to deter them. Thus the purpose of the goons was to summon an attack on said umbrellas.
Billiam’s parasol was made of a sheet of black silk with a piece of fine red ribbon stitched in around the top and clutched tightly in his left hand. As he approached the cliffs, the odor of sun-dried flesh from the valley finally reached his nose. Pulling his handkerchief out of his pocket, he began to scan the valley of corpses. It took only moments for him to spy his target.
A huge black and ratty umbrella poked out from the shade of the cliff on which he stood, just a few paces to the right. An eye was scrawled in what was likely blood, though it was an oxidized brown barely resembling the prior crimson. The pole jutted out from a large deteriorating baby carriage fitted with the hairy legs of a man on either side. The frame of a spritely, wild-looking woman could be seen crawling and rummaging through the bodies next to the carriage’s feet.
This creature was, without a doubt, the famous enchantress Chammerline DuBois the XII, who since her exile had adopted her childhood nickname, Shemmy. This eccentric master of a dying craft was the only hope for his kingdom, the only hope for his heart, and happened to be weighing two obese forearms in either hand.
He needed to implore her; she needed to know her importance. He feared her wildness but hoped reason could still be won, and thus he beckoned to her, “Hello to you, my lovely girl!”
“What you sayin’?” A raspy but high-pitched voice, heavily accented by the slang of the slums, rang up to him.
“I said, a hearty hello to you, my lovely girl!” Although he was shaken by the importance of this interaction, he knew he could still be the most charming man she’d ever meet. She could not resist nor detest him, could she?
“I assure you, mate, I ain’t lovely, and I haven’t a need for no hullos,” she yelled up with a dismissive wave, never turning her face to him.
Billiam sensed too much charm was used, dialed it back, and proceeded instead with his honest approach. “Oh don’t worry, miss, I could give a damn whether you are lovely or not; I was simply trying to be pleasant. I am a dandy and shan’t be getting excitement from you either way.”
Billiam could make out a beet-red blush that appeared all across her face in an instant, forcing her wild eyes to make contact with his at last. She hurriedly gasped out, “Shush yer mouf! That is not a fing you want goons hearin’, and I dun need the damn attention.” It was meant to sound angry and dismissive, but they both heard only excitement.
He began to realize the secret he used to gain her trust by showing vulnerability, was actually something she was quite keen on. The practice of homosexuality had become formally outlawed following the discovery of the Promise of Aegis and the kingdom’s conversion to the orthodox MortiAegis religion forty years ago. Although it was never an entirely accepted way of life, there were never laws against it prior. Dandy was a common term for homosexual men, and there were also female fans of their shows of affection. Cabarets of such acts could be sought out in certain neighborhoods before Drummond’s conversion. The current rouge upon Shemmy’s face provided Billiam with assurance he would definitely get through to her.
Relaxed and now confident in his approach, he calmly replied, “You are quite right, but now you shouldn’t fear talking to me, as we are both criminals in the eyes of the crown. Neither of us are about to cry to the goons, are we, Shemmy?”
“Aye, so yer a fan, Mr. Dandy? I won’t bother arguin’ no innocence, then. Get to the point, eh?”
“I was hoping to employ you, if you are so inclined. Should we, perhaps, go somewhere a bit less vulnerable before we get to the particulars?” He smiled down at her and noticed the gleam of her grin back up at him beneath her knotted mess of hair.
“I s’pose yer right, Mr. Dandy.” She had finally decided on the plump appendage she clutched in her left hand and set it in her legged carriage, tossing the reject down, back to the grave. “Come along now, Gam,” she instructed while facing her carriage, before turning to Billiam and singing up with a wicked smile, “let’s go back to my place, dear.” She swayed her arm in an inviting motion, beckoning her visitor down.
“Oh wonderful, and you can call me Billiam. Also… must I really go down there? Is there not any other way around?” The smell of rotting flesh was enough to permanently scar his psyche. The idea of seeing it up close or, most awful of all, having to feel it gave him the need to be sick.
“No, Mr. Dandy Billiam. Come on down!” She yelled as if commanding a circus show, full of bravado. “You’ll see a rusted chain ’bout twelve paces to yer right. Climb that and you’ll get only ’bout halfway down, but there’s a great, big fatty to cushion yer fall.” She laughed as she swept her mop of hair out of her eyes. Her face was dirty and smudged with dried blood, but her eyes gleamed a sparkling sienna. Billiam was surprised to see she actually was lovely, although probably sadistic as well.
Swallowing hard, both stomach and pride, he nodded down to her and began his twelve-pace march, the last steps of his favorite suit. He grabbed the chain and shimmied down the cliff, one pointed loafer at a time. Said loafers met a comfortable stoop at the same time his hands were grasping an inch above the chain’s end. He spotted the purple-tinted soft landing Shemmy had mentioned. All he could think of was falling through its skin as if it were a rotten tomato. If that happened, every fiber in his clothing, every piece of hair on his head and body, were sure to be compromised. To the left of the fat corpse was a spot free of flesh or feces. It was a sharp-looking patch of rock and at least a five-foot jump but appeared quite clean. Billiam realized it was madness and pure egomania to choose broken bones over soiled suits, but his immaculate aesthetic was far too important for him to be able to humble it.
Kicking hard against the cliff, he let himself go, spinning as far to the left as possible. He could hear Shemmy’s cackling below him as he fell helplessly toward the jagged rocks. Unfortunately it was farther than he had thought. He had no choice but to prepare to roll, holding his hat and tucking in his head, landing shoulder first on a torso. His calves got their fall caught by the rocks, slicing one trouser leg from ankle to knee. Almost completely defeated, he used his last bit of strength to roll onto the ground off of the torso. He pulled his legs close to his chest and wiped dust off of his limbs until his eyes forced themselves shut.
A jostling motion was the first thing Billiam perceived as he began to rouse. The next sensation was the pittering sound of bare feet slapping against soft ground. His eyes refused to open, and his head throbbed. His back felt comforted, almost embraced, yet his legs were being blown about in a breeze. The musky odor of death that completely filled his nose when everything first went dark still lingered yet had become much fainter. He pried his right eye open slightly to see a wooded path moving around him before it fell back shut.
If my eyes will not obey, perhaps my mouth shall, he thought to himself. Gasping out a coarse breath, he muttered, “’Emmy…? I’m alive… yes?”
“’Course ya are, Dandy, no thanks to yourself. I told ya to land on the fatty, not swan dive for a jagged fuckin’ rock,” she replied, sounding irritated and to be a few paces ahead.
“I… it was too… too disgust… I couldn’t….” The words coming out of his mouth snapped him awake with the memory of the horror that befell him, or rather, that he fell on. “My shoulder! My trousers!” he screamed, while frantically brushing at his shoulder with one hand and grabbing at his leg with the other. The top of the hand going for the shoulder grazed against a cheap, tacky-feeling fabric before the hand moving toward the pants could feel the passing air around it.
Billiam immediately leapt a few paces forward and onto his feet. “You put me in your corpse carriage?” he shouted, spinning around toward his abductor.
“You was out cold. I ain’t in the habit of waitin’ for nightfall in the middle of Peace Valley, and we got something to discuss I ’spose, so I could’nae leave ya. I hate to admit it, but I dun get sought out too often of late. I’m intrigued, so I got ya in Gam, I did. You did’nae fit well. ’Tis a babe’s pram after all.”
As mortified as he was, Billiam knew she had saved him. “Right, thank you, miss. I should be fine to walk from here. How long have we been traveling?”
“Erm… I’d say something around ten minutes or so. We got about two more ’til we at me shack.” She scratched her head, feigning innocence and smiling to Billiam as he marched backward ahead of her.
L. Rockwood is survived by his artist wife, Rae, and their three adorable but stupid cats. He is also quite alive however terribly morbid. It is thanks to this macabre fascination (and likely his Scorpio moon) that death and rebirth is the central focus of all his works. L. definitely has a lighter side, usually manifesting in hot pink or glitter, as he is just as obsessed with all things kawaii.
L. is an out and proud pansexual transgender man. He draws from his own experiences, striving to celebrate the various and beautiful ways love and sexuality can manifest through his characters. His time is split between the Central and Lost Coasts of California. He has yet to spot his favorite animal, the unicorn, in his travels, but he will never give up hope.