I’ve got so many warm fuzzies over this, you have no idea.
This project’s been a labour of love and need and want and just trying to get it done. The latter was a struggle. The book took 7 months to write, twice as long as expected, then it took another 12 months to get it edited — I kept being tripped up by health issues, resulting in much frustration at myself for feeling like a failure, hating my inability to achieve anything useful. It was such a relief when I finally sent the finished book to LT3 at the beginning of January, and an even deeper relief to receive the acceptance email this week. I just hope people enjoy it, and I hope readers aren’t disappointed in the direction Mayr and Tash have gone. I love these guys — I adore this pair — and hopefully the readers who enjoyed Four will embrace this sequel.
To be honest, Soulbound was never intended to be a thing, not when I wrote Four. At the time, I just really wanted to give Mayr a story, explore his romantic side and place as Aeley’s best friend. When he found Tash, they just gelled — I fell for them, hard. I love their dynamic; the sweet, kind way they love each other, even when things get rough, and their soul-deep need to hold on to what they have. They take the time to slow things down and just breathe with each other. And I love it, that inner peace they find.
But around the time I was working on Blood Borne, I started getting ideas as to where Mayr and Tash would end up. I thought I’d do a novella, just a little bit of fluff, especially after what they said in Blood Borne. I actually have a file entitled “Aim for 30k – 35k (ebook only)”, from the time I’d believed that.
The joke was on me. The story wrote itself into a decidedly fluffy/non-fluffy novel. Even worse: there’s a third installment for these guys, and it’s going to be another beast that ends the series, bringing things full circle. Turns out they’re caught in the centre of the overarching story line, which also just waltzed itself into the series.
Welcome to the writer’s world. This calls for more chocolate.
But enough of that… More about the book!
Here’s the tentative blurb, though it’s likely to change:
In a relationship that violates rules and expectations, Mayr and Tash have found their perfect match in each other. Despite their fears and difficult pasts, they hope for a shared future with security and a family. When Mayr’s secret first love, Arieve, proposes they create that family with her, it seems dreams could become reality.
But life is complicated, and so is the delicate balance between duty and love. While Mayr protects the Dahe family at all costs, Tash is determined to succeed as a priest. Both positions require sacrifice, forcing their relationship into painful choices. To make matters worse, criminals lurk in the shadows, seeking revenge on them and those they guard.
The life they want risks losing everything—including Arieve and each other. Even if they can have it all, keeping it may take more than they can give.
Key notes about this one: It features bisexual characters, a poly relationship (MMF) that’s also open on Arieve’s end (FF), and it’s written from an MM perspective, with a focus on Mayr and Tash’s relationship and how things go when Arieve becomes part of it.
Having said that… I wish I could’ve added Arieve’s POV. But with the book already being a lot longer than an average novel, I had to hold back. The truth is that in order to tell Arieve’s part of the story, I also have to tell Coye’s (her girlfriend). To tell their story properly, without trying to jam things into a teensy space and doing them a great disservice, I’ve decided to tell Arieve and Coye’s story in a separate book, Heartfastened, which will be book #4.5 since the Shar-denn story line isn’t really part of it. I wanted more FF stories in the series, so it works out.
But seriously, what IS Soulbound about?
Moving past fears.
Moving forward together towards a brighter future, fears and doubts and uncertainties included.
Holding onto someone you love more than you love yourself and grappling to keep the peace they offer.
Keeping family and friends close and safe because life without them is terrifying.
Soulbound goes deeper into Mayr and Tash’s connection, spinning off of something brought up in Four, which Tash noticed but couldn’t really explain. It’s a matter of what it’s like to be soulmates and the struggle to make their relationship work, especially when their duties bump heads. They’ve both been burned in the past and they both have flaws that can clash, so having a family of their own can seem like a huge mountain to climb. There’s also the fact that Tash shouldn’t even be in such a relationship, not by the laws of the priesthood. He’s under a lot of pressure; they both are. Both fear making choices that will rip everything away and leave them broken and alone.
There’s also the matter of what it’s like having that soul-binding connection and welcoming someone else into it — which is where the poly comes in. Most of the time, when the concept of soulmates comes up, people only ever focus on seeing two people as soulmates and we never discuss the possibility of more because two-by-two is the rule of religion and law and tradition. There’s never a question of what it could be if more than two people were soulmates, or if they brought someone else into their relationship to perhaps build something more. This book goes there, because I’m done with playing by the rules.
I also wanted to write another poly where having kids is on their wishlist. There’s a tendency for poly stories to focus on sex, angst, and the confines of the relationship among the adults involved, but I want more. I want to see poly families. I want to see kids growing up within that framework, with love and support from multiple parents. Stories where it isn’t necessarily about getting off on sexual fantasy, but commitment. I definitely want to see more stories where poly isn’t a boo-hiss, that’s disgusting issue — stories where it’s both socially and legally acceptable.
The book also goes into matters of faith, which I haven’t done in the series yet. Soulbound goes further into their Goddesses, their spirituality, and their customs. With Tash being a priest, it made sense to explore them here — it’s part of how he sees the world, how he thinks, how he solves problems. It’s his safety net, so I ran with it.
Oh, boy, did I run with it.
For those who don’t already know: I’m a Pagan. More specifically, Druid, coming from the old Celtic beliefs, pre-Roman invasion and pre-Christianity. I don’t hide the fact. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m also really, really frustrated with the lack of positive Pagan representation in queer literature and fiction as a whole. There are witches aplenty, but few stories about Wiccans or others in the Pagan boat, especially stories where we’re portrayed as good people. We’re a minority that keeps getting shoved into the dark corners. We’re sneered at, called crazy, dismissed, and there’s always someone wanting to convert us. Our gods and beliefs keep getting twisted up and out and around, bits and pieces used and abused for the sake of pop culture, without an ounce of respect or care that these things are sacred, special, and that people still worship them. Things like Marvel’s Thor movies piss me off because of that very thing — tearing things apart, cherry-picking bits and smashing them together without caring about the deep significance or sacredness. (Because NO, Loki isn’t Odin’s son. He’s more like a blood brother — and knowing that is key to understanding Loki’s value in the pantheon, especially if you consider Odin and him like two halves of the same coin. And NO, Hela isn’t Odin’s daughter, she’s LOKI’s [an important distinction], and she’s in charge of Hel, a realm of the dead — kind of a “default” realm, actually, where many good, regular people end up instead of the halls of other gods. Even Odin and Frigga’s son, Baldr, is there until Ragnarok so he can put the world back together afterwards. Don’t even get me started on ignoring most of the other goddesses.)
Oppression remains alive and well — even our holidays tend not to be recognized, or if they are, many employers don’t care and won’t allow for religious observance, despite our sacred days being millenniums old. There’s also a need to hide — hide our thoughts, hide our symbols, hide who we are. So it’s not a surprise that when I write religious elements, most of the time they’re Pagan-based. I don’t write about the real-life pantheons, though — I leave those be. I would rather live them than write them, out of respect. But I take inspiration from them and come up with something new. That’s what I’ve done with The Republic, and Soulbound gives a better look at the particulars. There’s a portrayal of the Goddesses themselves that I’m rather proud of — the full image of what they represent as individuals. One day, I’m hoping to write a discourse on that religion for this blog, discussing the details, but those familiar with old pantheons might notice the common factors, such as ties to nature, liberty, the hunt, and death. There’s a crapload of symbolism involved. I’ve also included pieces of ritual — Tash actually casts a formal circle at one point, which I’ve never had a character do before. Wiccans, that one’s for you.
There’s so much else to the rest of the book that I haven’t mentioned here, but… spoilers! Hopefully most of it makes it through the rest of the editing process. More than that, I’m really hoping people love it like I do. Mayr and Tash have become so dear to me it hurts sometimes. Their last book is going to be the best kind of hurt… said the sadistic author.
*wanders away, cackling wickedly*