Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Kirby Crow for stopping by today.
Author: Kirby Crow
Cover Artist: Kirby Crow
Genre: Alternate Universe/Alternate World, Fantasy, M/M Romance
Marion Casterline is the highwarden of Malachite, an ancient, beautiful city floating in a shallow sea. In the aftermath of a brutal gang war, there is finally peace in the city, which gains new life every year through the sacred ritual of Aequora. Through Aequora, exiles, outlaws, and orphans can become citizens of Malachite. This ritual is vital to the city’s survival, because Malachite is populated only by males.
Jean Rivard grew up in the Zanzare slums at Marion’s side. As boys, they were branded into the violent Teschio gangs that ruled the criminal underworld of Malachite. Known in the slums as the Prince, Jean became a spy, an assassin, and Marion’s lover. As men, they worked together to destroy the Teschio and crown Kon Sessane as magestros of the city, only to drift apart after the battles were won: Jean to the Black Keep, Marion to the grand halls of the Consolari.
When Marion announces his engagement to Kon’s son, Jean is hurt and resentful. Marion is leaving him and their past behind in every possible way. Marion also believes that he’s starting a new life, but when a charismatic rebel leader kindles a revolt in the slums, he realizes that the only man who can prevent war from devouring the city he loves is his very own prince.
Kirby Crow on MALACHITE (The Paladin Cycle, Book 1) ~Guest
Kirby Crow joins us today to talk about Malachite, and to answer questions submitted by her readers:
But why an island of just men? (Malachite)
Exploring single-gender societies is not that unique in sci-fi/fantasy. If I had to point to one source, it might be my love of Star Trek and a fanfic I was thinking of writing a long time ago. I never did get around to writing it, but “away-team encounters an alien society of males” is almost a trope in slash fandom. It’s intriguing to imagine how such a society would function, what problems they’d encounter and how they would interact with the outside world, especially if they were vulnerable and outnumbered.
I usually dislike M/M love triangles intensely, as well as romances that begin with the main couple as broken up. Malachite made me rethink ALL of that and I wound up loving the romantic relationships. What do you think you did differently with your story?
KC: Hey, romance can be a triangle! It can be a quadrangle. Hell, it can be a dodecahedron if you’re willing to count on your fingers (and toes). 🙂
Seriously though: if the writer respects her/his characters, any romance can be written to work. Personally, I refrained from subjecting the lovers to situations they’d never engage in. Why would the hero of the story leave his best friend and the love of his life to take up with a shallow, grasping little ninny who was only written for the readers to hate? If the hero is in love, he’d better be in love with someone the readers can love, too, and “ninny” needs to be someone amazing in his own right. So to answer… I hope you loved it because I tried to write every character as bringing something valuable to the story.
What is it you personally like most about Malachite, and who is your favorite character?
What I like most about Malachite is the underlying communion among the main characters. They all want the same thing—a world without war, oppression, poverty, or horror—and they’re willing to sacrifice a great deal to make that happen. Not just for them, but for everyone. I like the altruism they share, a vision of striving valiantly for the greater good, and I like that they realize they can’t accomplish that without suffering great losses, yet it doesn’t slow them down.
Favorite character? Jean. Angry Jean. Sad Jean. Sexy Jean. Naked Jean. And in short, Jean. (laughs) I adore Jean, but I love Marion and Tris, too, and Kon Sessane. Kon is the most enigmatic character, while his husband, Mika, is more mysterious. I’ve had several reviewers comment that they want to see more of Mika in the sequel.
The world building in Malachite is vast and expansive. What kind of prep work and/or research went into that world building? And did you have to sketch out maps of Malachite and its different sectors to keep the geography and movements of the characters straight?
KC: Oh man, so much research! So much. So many people I bugged for fact-checking. I have dozens of folders for Malachite on my hard drive. I’ve never been to Europe or seen a canal. I don’t speak Italian. I’ve never been on a ship with sails. That said, I’ve never been to the alternate earth where Malachite exists either, but I wanted the city to feel authentic. That wouldn’t happen if I didn’t have a clear vision of it. As for maps… I get very obsessed with my maps. It’s usually the first thing I create for a new book. Since Malachite is a large place and I have dyslexia, I knew from experience that I was going to get turned around trying to remember which canal led to the Colibri and which one led to the castello or the Black Keep and so on. I can’t say X landmark is west of Z without keeping track of it all, because readers are sharp and they remember these things! So it’s either draw a map or do a spreadsheet, and luckily I have a background in coding game worlds and creating the maps to correspond with them. Maps wind up being more like playing than work.
Concerning Malachite: What inspired you?
KC: Well, after the Star Trek thing, I started creating islands with tiny pixel serfs and warriors and imagining how Malachite would work as an isolated male society back when I was playing Age of Empires. It remained just a kernel of an idea for years, but then I played a game where I spent most of my time in Renaissance Europe, and the feel of Malachite began to flesh out more fully from there. It acquired details in my head; mythology, princes, castles, swords… all the fun things. I gravitate to medieval-style games, so there were about half a dozen gaming sources in all. I used visual references from online, too, like walking tours of ancient cities, classic paintings, etc. Nothing of the resulting story or characters directly came from any game, but if you can’t actually go to ancient Venice, then there are many virtual worlds to inspire you.
The Starless Men risk death on the shores of Malachite, but what is their relationship with the other nations of Cwen, Solari and Gathi?
KC: The Starless are pirates and have no loyalties to any nation, but they couldn’t have survived for as long as they have if they were at war with the whole world. That said, Cwen and Solari are the sworn enemies of the Starless Men, and they would be attacked if their ships approached either shore. One place they do make land is Gathi, which—like Malachite—is also an island nation, but I don’t want to tell you too much about Gathi right now because you’ll be seeing more of that place in Book 2. 🙂
Your characters are always interesting and real. They have flaws and virtues just like average people. This makes them likeable and make us think about them as our own friends or enemies. Is it hard for you to make them so real? How much time do you spend thinking about their backgrounds?
KC: Not hard, no. The hard part is getting them to shut up. My husband occasionally complains that I never really stop thinking about the cast of characters who live in my head. Before it was my husband voicing that complaint, it was my teacher, and before her it was my mom. I spend a lot of time with those imaginary people, even when I seem like I’m doing something else. They’re not real, but they are dear to me and on a quantum level, that means they exist in some infinitesimal measure. I don’t know if there’s a medical term for excessive fantasizing, but if there is, then I probably have it!
Use of contrasts—light and shadow—can make paintings look like photographs. Minor characters don’t necessarily need the detail of internal conflicts, complicated family issues, causes, habits, neuroses, subtlety, or flaws, but you need that and more for main characters, so I try to get it all, even the ugly things. No character should be perfect. Perfect is boring.
This is a question for the Scarlet and the White Wolf series! <3 Scarlet’s alienation in Rshan is apparent, and Liall is deprived of his people and birthright in Lysia. Will there ever be a place for them where they don’t have to sacrifice and compromise?
Possibly. Eventually. The most unusual thing about that couple is not their age difference or their conflicting philosophies, it’s themselves. Who they are. The Hilurin are a minority in Kalaslyn. Although they’re not native to that land, they think of it as home and they want to stay. Scarlet has grown up in a place that he loves, but he’s personally witnessed the increasing intolerance and violence toward his people. Liall is on the opposite end of that problem: His people are powerful in Rshan, and because it is Rshan—too cold and inhospitable for the other races to survive there—there’s no external threat to deal with. And yet, the Rshani have been at war for a few centuries now. Scarlet and Liall are beginning to realize that if they want to live in peace and equality, they’re either going to have to change the world they have, or forge a completely new one.
(another Scarlet and the White Wolf question!) Is there any connection between physics laws and magic in the worlds you create? Or are they separate things?
Physics is connected to everything in the universe, so I’ve always imagined that if magic were real, it would have a working relationship with physics. Can I explain the mechanics of that? Not really. Not without spoiling the end of the series. I’ve been really stingy thus far in the Nemerl books (the Scarlet novels) about allowing my characters to use magic. I’ve written those forces as stubborn and wildly unpredictable. Magic may work or it may not, and they don’t know why or why not, so those who can use it are respectful of it and aware of the dangers. Their magic does stem from a single source, though, and for lack of a clearer concept, they call it a god.
Malachite is listed as “book one” in the titling; do you intend to write a series with the same characters throughout, or just the universe, maybe with familiar faces periodically?
As it stands, I’ll be using the same characters throughout, but new ones will be introduced in later stories. Book 2 will feature Jean, Marion, and Tris, but Kon and Mika will have expanded roles, and you’ll get to see more of Thorn and Archer.
You guys came up with so many wonderful questions. I had real difficulty in choosing just a few! Thank you all so much, and thank you Prizm Book Alliance!
Marion’s insides felt like a tightly-wound ball of string, a jumble of conflicting emotions fighting each other for attention. Jean’s behavior of late was erratic, irresponsible. The man had never let anything get to him before.
Maybe it’s act to get my attention, he thought. He hoped so. Jean could never stand to be ignored. And Tris?
Tris would tolerate Jean for Marion’s sake, but only so far. Tris looked soft, but scratch that gentle surface and there was a diamond-hard core through the middle of him, courtesy of the ruthless magestros who had raised him to inherit a legacy.
For all that, there was a side to Tris that melted Marion’s jaded heart. Tris blushed when they tongue-kissed and trembled when Marion’s hands got too bold. Sometimes he caught Tris gazing at him over the breakfast table, and there was a tender, yearning look in his gray eyes that Marion had never been blessed with from Jean. Not once.
He unfolded his arms and slipped his hands around Tris’s narrow waist, pulling him tight against his body. “You know what I think?”
Tris shook his head, his eyes growing wider.
“I think I care for you much more than you know.” He bent his neck and kissed Tris, gently at first, but harder when he felt Tris press against him and wrap his arms around his neck. “And I want you.”
“Hush.” Marion kissed him again.
“Mmm,” Tris smiled against his lips. “You taste like beer.”
Marion busied himself with brushing his lips back and forth across Tris’s soft, irresistible mouth and smiled back. “Is that good?” he murmured.
“I like a man who drinks beer. Father drinks wine. Papa Mika drinks beer. It’s more forward, less pretentious.”
“Too much talking.” He traced Tris’s lower lip with his tongue. “Let me show you how forward I can be.” His hands slid up and down Tris’s back. Tris was slim but strong, and his body felt so good against him. Marion realized he was hard just from the kissing. He pressed the stiff line of his cock against Tris’s thigh, rubbing against him.
“Damn it,” he growled. “It’s so hard to wait.” Then he laughed a little, aware of what he’d said. “Well, it is.”
“I’m tired of waiting for you. Can’t we…?”
Tris’s voice was shaky and unsure. The sound of it made Marion want to pick him up and carry him straight to bed. But I promised Kon, he thought.
Thinking of Kon Sessane was like throwing cold water on Marion’s desire. It had been a long time since he had enjoyed sex, or done anything that did not include a dark room and his own right hand. It was necessary, if he wanted to marry into the Sessane family. The magestros took a dim view of his only son marrying the kind of man who went to prostitutes, so Marion had been on enforced celibacy for more than six months; all during the time he courted Tris. After he proposed, Tris was allowed to move in with him, but it was only the customary mese; a month-long experiment of living together, to see if they could get along. They were not lovers yet. Kon had made him swear.
Why did Kon make me promise? Does he really believe I’ll just fuck Tris and run out on him, run back to Jean?
He curled his fingers around Tris’s hand and tugged it down between their bodies. “There are other things we could do,” he whispered hotly against Tris’s ear. “Very nice things, mia promessa. I want you so bad, baby. Ti adoro.”
“Ohhh,” Tris moaned.
He was thrilled with how pliant Tris was in his arms, how deliciously yielding. Jean had seldom surrendered control, and disliked being dominated or taking the passive role. Theirs had been a match of passionate equals, though both of them had craved other desires, softer men. He let his teeth mark Tris’s neck gently. “You know how?”
“With my… yes.”
He chuckled. “With your what? Do I want to let you finish that sentence?”
“I was going to say my hand.”
He reached down and cupped Tris’s groin. Tris grew hard under his fingers. “I’m pretty sure you’ve known how to do that for a long time.”
“Then what… oh.”
Marion laughed. He couldn’t help it. But when he looked down at Tris’s pinched face, he knew he had made a mistake. “I’m sorry.”
Tris’s pretty mouth turned down into an unhappy curve. He grabbed Marion’s belt buckle and began to jerk at the clasp. “I suppose you never had this difficulty with Jean. He was probably born knowing how to make love.”
“Well, no, but… Tris, stop.” Tris opened Marion’s trousers and slid his hand down the front of his underclothes. He sensed Tris was embarrassed and trying to make up for it, trying to pretend that he wasn’t intimidated by Marion’s experience, or by the long history he shared with Jean.
He caught Tris’s hands. “I said stop.”
Tris hooked his arm around Marion’s neck and dragged his head down, kissing him hard, sliding his tongue boldly inside Marion’s mouth. After more than half a year of celibacy, Tris’s tongue was almost unbearably erotic. He moaned and unbuttoned Tris’s shirt. Tris copied him, and Marion shivered when Tris’s gentle fingertips skated over the numerous scars on his broad chest, and over the brand he’d received when he was thirteen, a symbol of his formal acceptance into Aureo Marigny’s family.
“So many scars,” Tris whispered. He bent his head and kissed the silver ridge of the brand, tracing a wet tongue over the intricate lines. “Is it true, what they say about the mark?”
“It’s true.” Marion gasped and arched his hips forward, and then Tris cupped his hand over the front of his trousers. “If a Teschio swears by his mark, he must be believed.” He was no longer crossbones, but the brand would never go away.
Tris worked the buttons, taking Marion in his hand. “So I could ask you anything, and if you swore by your mark and lied, there would be no mercy?”
“None,” Marion groaned.
Tris licked his shoulder and smiled. “Then I should have pity, and not ask.”
It was only when Tris began sinking to the floor that Marion grabbed his shoulders.
“Wait, wait,” he panted. He looked down. “Are you sure?”
Tris pushed his hands away and dropped to his knees.
“Oh baby, yes,” Marion groaned. His hand cupped the back of Tris’s head and urged him forward.
Behind them, a man cleared his throat noisily.
Marion jumped and half-turned. “Fathers save us! What the hell are you doing here?”
Kon Sessane stood in the doorway, his gray eyes fixed on him with the cold disapproval that he usually saved for felons. “Paying a visit.”
Tris didn’t say a word. He stood up immediately and began buttoning his shirt with his head down while Marion stuffed himself back in his pants. Tris smoothed the front of his tailored shirt, took a breath, and lifted his chin.
Kon’s gaze shifted from Marion to Tris, and his anger visibly evaporated. He nodded. “Son.” His eyes flicked back to Marion. “Warden Casterline.”
“Marion is to be your son-in-law, and we’re not in public,” Tris said. “You should address him by his name.”
Marion felt a moment of pride for his promessa. It was rare that Tris corrected Kon. If Malachite could have had a single ruler, Kon would have been it. As it was, the city was ruled democratically by the governing body of the Consolari, but Kon was magestros of that body, holding the highest rank possible. In his youth, Kon had been a fierce swordfighter turned spy for the Consolari, running the intelligence network that eventually overthrew the Teschio. Now, no man’s word carried more power than his. Kon Sessane was a leopard in a city of cats, and he knew it.
Marion turned. “Evening, Kon. What brings you out so late?” He used the maestros’ given name for Tris’s sake, but he wasn’t comfortable with it. He suspected that even Kon’s husband addressed him respectfully.
Kon looked at Tris, avoiding the question. “Would you be so kind as to make me a cup of tea?”
Tris glanced between Kon and Marion. “You have an artless manner tonight, father, which means you’re plotting something.” When Kon simply waited politely, Tris blew out his breath in a huff. “Fine. I know when I’m being sent to the kid’s table.”
Kon smiled gently as Tris passed. “Thank you, my dear.”
“Just don’t expect anything fancy.”
Kon waited until Tris was downstairs. “I thought we had a gentleman’s agreement.”
Marion could still taste Tris’s kiss on his mouth. He realized his hands were clenched. It really had been too long. “We did and we do. Do you want details?”
Kon frowned. He was a tall, lean man in his early fifties, with coal-black hair and deep-set gray eyes. Age had streaked his pointed black beard with silver, which rendered his aspect imperious and virile. The city called Kon old bastardo behind his back, but he was far from elderly. Marion was one of the few men left alive who had seen Kon engage in a sword fight. Kon looked like a scholar, but drop a blade in his hand and he became a walking slaughterhouse.
Kon straightened the collar of his long robe; a spotless black vestment adorned with an official sash of crimson and a heavy silver necklace denoting his high office. The necklace was inlaid with red garnets and crystals, flashing in the light.
“No,” he answered. “I fervently wish to know as little as possible, but since I have my doubts, I only require reassurance that you’ve kept your word.”
He really is going to make me say it. “We haven’t had sex. We weren’t going to have sex. Things were just going a little further than usual.”
“So I gathered.”
“I desire Tris. I thought that was plain when I asked him to marry me.”
“Do you? Desire him, I mean.” Kon picked up the faded rose that Marion had placed on the book case.
“Of course I do.”
“Hmm.” Kon smelled the rose and gestured to the doorway with it. “And yet as I was coming down the canal, I saw southwarden Rivard leaving. Did he have some business here tonight?”
Be damned if he would recount his fight with Jean to Kon. “I’m his superior officer. I will occasionally need to meet with him.”
“But a former lover, received in your home before your wedding?” Kon shook his head. “Well… his post comes up for review in a few months.”
Marion squared his shoulders up like he was facing a brawl. “Dismiss Jean and you can have my post, too.”
“There are a dozen candidates—”
“And not one of them would last a month in the slums. They’d tar and feather him. Jean is known there. Shit, he’s a legend there. They still call him il principe.” Marion raked his hair back from his forehead and rubbed his temples. He didn’t want to shout at Kon tonight on top of everything else.
Tris hadn’t even been born when the Peace was signed. Kon needed to remember the years when planning for the future was impossible.
“How many times have you been down to the Zanzare this year, or even the Martello?” Marion asked. “Only Jean’s wardens will patrol the Mire. It’s a sinking shit-pile, but it does have two very important features: Aequora, and it faces the mainland.”
He lowered his tone. Only reason would get through to Kon. “If we’re attacked again from the west, the Mire will function as a land-bridge straight into the Citta Alta. It has to be manned and watched, and I’m precious short on wardens capable of doing the job. If you want the Myrtles safe at night, Jean’s your man.”
Kon listened to his speech without reaction. “Then I suppose I’d better keep him at his post.”
Marion knew that he’d lost a point. Kon was misdirecting him, taking with one hand and giving with the other.
“But,” Kon added, “any contact between the southwarden and my son must be kept at a minimum. There’s no official necessity for them to speak at all. More importantly, I don’t like the way he looks at Tris.”
There it is. Marion shook his head slowly. He admired Kon greatly, but when it came to Tris, every flaw in Kon’s persona was outlined in scarlet relief. “You’re a piece of work, you know that? You had no intention of sacking Jean.”
Kon’s tone was brittle. “Calling a man’s bluff is a tool to be used sparingly.”
Marion ignored that. “Did you bluff Tris this way when he was growing up?”
“My son can have no complaint of how I raised him.”
“That’s because he’s not a complainer.”
Kon smiled thinly. “No, he is not, is he? I didn’t coddle him, though I very much wanted to.” He looked down and traced his finger over the polished edge of the drawing table. “Wait until your own sons are under your roof before you judge me. It’s a thorny puzzle to raise a boy you love into a man, to support him without making him weak. I was harsh with Tris, but he’s not afraid of me.”
“No, just terrified of losing your respect. Do you know how hard Tris works to make you proud of him, to live up to your name? Jean’s qualifications aren’t the issue. You just don’t want him near Tris.”
“Very true, I do not.”
“Jean Rivard is not suitable company for a gentleman. You will agree that Tris is a gentleman?”
Marion sighed. “Of course, of course. But Tris can make his own decisions about his friends. Have you asked him how he feels about Jean?”
“I believe he’s made his feelings very clear to you in that regard. The question is,” Kon held his gaze, “are you respecting his wishes?”
Am I? Marion frowned. He felt a twinge of guilt. Tris did bristle and snap when Jean was around, but Marion put that down to youth and jealousy, which was natural and not that unexpected. If it was more than that…
“You haven’t answered my question,” Marion persisted, unsettled.
“What makes you think I don’t listen to Tris? I’m allowing him to marry you. Isn’t that enough?”
Not even close. “Thank you. Yes, you are. But if Tris is going to have a household, it’s going to be truly his, not yours by extension. That includes his choice of guests. Are we clear?”
Kon sketched a polite half-bow, flourishing with the rose. “Benissimo.”
Marion could ask for no more than that, and in truth had been given nothing. He wanted to argue the point further, but there were too many other favors he needed from Kon.
I will give away 1 digital copy of Malachite to 3 random commenters.
About the Author
Kirby Crow is an American writer born and raised in the Deep South. She worked as an entertainment editor and ghostwriter for several years before happily giving it up to bake brownies, read yaoi, play video games, and write her own novels. Whenever she isn’t slaying Orcs or flying a battleship for the glory of the Amarr Empire, she can be found in the kitchen, her garden, or at the keyboard, tapping away at her next book.
Kirby is a winner of the Epic Award (Best Horror) and has won the Rainbow Award multiple times for her novels in LGBT romance. She is the author of the bestselling “Scarlet and the White Wolf” series.
Kirby shares an old, lopsided house in the Blue Ridge with her husband and a cat.
Always a cat.
Her published novels are:
Prisoner of the Raven (historical romance, Bonecamp)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Pedlar and the Bandit King (New Adult fantasy, Torquere Press)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: Mariner’s Luck (New Adult fantasy, Torquere Press)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Land of Night (New Adult fantasy, Torquere Press)
Angels of the Deep (paranormal/horror, MLR)
Circuit Theory (novella, scifi, Riptide)
Hammer and Bone (anthology, mixed-genre, Riptide 2015)
Poison Apples (anthology, mixed-genre, June 2015)
Scarlet and the White Wolf : The King of Forever (New Adult fantasy, 2015)
Malachite (steampunk, speculative, m/m, January 2016)
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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