Saturday, July 30, 2011

Spotlight: Youthful Gods, Book One: Pretty Pleasures

Youthful Gods, Book One: Pretty Pleasures
317 pages / 64,600 words

Greg Barton has worked at the renaissance faire for years, but it’s Greg’s last season so he’s determined to live it up. Lucky for Greg, Boone, the hot traveling armorer, remembers Greg from previous years and returns his interest. The two reconnect and Greg finds himself tumbling into Boone’s bed, dangerously close to losing his heart.

Only, there’s something not quite right with Boone. From the way Greg kept dreaming about Boone in the off-season to Boone’s overprotective friends, Greg’s light-hearted romance quickly gets heavy. When Greg wakes up to an unexpected sight beside him, his entire world is up-ended. Magic is real and his new lover has more secrets than Greg ever imagined. But Greg has a few secrets of his own, and he has to decide if he wants to be a part of Boone’s world. If Greg has a touch of magic himself… Well, that world just got a whole lot more complicated and dangerous for both of them.

What J says:

When I talk about the inception of Youthful Gods, I'm going to tell you a different kind of story than I usually do, one with renaissance faires and a long-haired guy with a sword and the slightly psychotic fangirl who stalked him.

It's a romance, I promise.

Once upon a time, the colony of Virginia had a Renaissance Faire in Staffordshire filled with quaint village shops, a huge tavern, Rapunzel's tower, and a pirate ship listing on the shore of a small lake. Due to reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, the Renfaire was only open for four short years, from 1996 to 1999.

In 1996, the wise Ground Crew supervisor decreed that the Faire was in need of a Privy Princess (this is where I come in). This was in the days of trailer privies and not port-a-privies, so really, it could have been worse. The Privy Princess was known to be an angry, gothic, violent sort of Princess, as those who mocked her soon found themselves in need of better-working kidneys, and she had many adventures with the ragtag lot of the Grounds Crew. But the following Season, the Privy Princess graduated to the Games and Rides Crew, playing with the kiddie joust and stabbing herself in the leg with Bloody Mary Darts and generally having ye grande olde times. She liked it so much, she went back the next year, and then was offered a job as Candy Girl with her own little stand.

Then came 1999, the Last Year unbeknownst to those partaking of the Faire, but the Best Year Evar as far as the former Privy Princess was concerned.

You see, dear reader, during a sticky humid yucky day in April, the former Privy Princess was selling candy by the lakeshore and turned towards the archery booth at just the perfect moment. She espied a man dressed All In Black with his broadsword peace-tied on his back (almost a la Wesley from the Princess Bride, without the mask or piracy), his long hair flowing all the way down his back to his perfect bubble butt, which she fairly drooled at as he walked away with his group of friends. He was hip, he was cool, he smirked at everything, and he laughed loud enough to be heard halfway down the lane. Obviously, he was married with five children, a dog, and from another state, sent there just to taunt her fancy. That was her usual luck.

She was filled with resignation, dear reader, because his walking away would become an unfortunate habit. The Man in Black was quite frequently spied from a distance traveling in the opposite direction of the candy stand, his faithfully clinging trousers rousing the former Privy Princess to levels of frustration heretofore unknown.

So she did what any sensible former Privy Princess would do -- She sicced her far more outgoing friend on his glowering companion and secured an introduction. It took another week and an awkward moment with the far more outgoing friend, surrounded by Faire goers demanding Twizzlers, but a double date was set for that Saturday at a local coffee shop, well after the Rennies kicked all the patrons out and started to party.

Now the Man in Black was quite put out with this dating nonsense and set on lolly-gagging, as he and his glowering companion putted along in their violet Aspire, forgoing the film they had originally intended to see that night (Star Wars Episode I -- he had a far better time at the coffee shop, believe me). So the Man in Black arrived late, despite his normal neurotic punctuality that the former Privy Princess would soon learn of, just around the time both wenches had begun to despair and make other plans to prove how Not Despairing they were.

The far more outgoing friend went to order another coffee with the glowering companion, leaving the former Privy Princess and the Man in Black to sit awkwardly at a table together and avoid eye contact.

Finally, the former Privy Princess could take the silence no more. She turned to him and uttered the words that, to this day, their friends still mock:

"This tastes like shit," she said, motioning with her Italian soda. "Try it."

He looked at her in amusement, and maybe like she was nuts, but had a sip followed by a comical grimace and a rant about the merits of Coffee-Flavored Coffee. That, dear readers, was the start of how the dour former Privy Princess learned to laugh at life.

It was also probably around that time when she turned into a gooey pile of mush, her black little heart swelling ten times its size, and that first date lasted well until the next morning in a haze of coffee shops, Mike's Diner, Waffle House, and aimless driving down Virginia highways with a crap air conditioner (there may have been a police stop in there, but that's just what happens when you drive through Manassas at night).

At the end of the date, birds tweeting their morning greetings and the former Privy Princess due at work in two hours, the Man in Black escorted her to her door and very politely requested another date, perhaps not as long but just as fun. She kissed his stubble-rough cheek as he froze like a deer in the headlights, and laid out her demands. It may have been sleep deprivation, but he had no defenses left and folded like a house of cards in a stiff breeze.

Fast forward to June 1, to the former Privy Princess (still a mushy pile of goo) and the Man in Black sitting in her car in his driveway, dressed in full goth gear and glitter, having just attended the Renfaire's Funky Formal to close out the Season and having seen each other at least once a day since that first date. In their usual fashion, they spoke at the same time:

"Would you like to rectify that no-boyfriend situation?" he asked nervously, trying to be suave.

"Wanna date?" she demanded.

They laughed.

And that, dear readers, was how the Man in Black became known as her Bay, then her Mister Bay, and the former Privy Princess was dubbed his Bae, for you must have the proper declension for these nicknames, as you know. (Imagine Harley Quinn saying "Mistah J!" and you'll get that joke and, perhaps, an accurate picture of my personality...)

They formally declared to all and sundry that he was Off Limits, Bub the following Halloween, where there were Renfaire costumes and a pig roast and wrought iron covered in ivy with twinkle lights and tents. They got out of dancing and toasts, and cackled as their guests slowly froze in the cold outdoors, and somewhere in there vowed that She would support him in the manner to which he'd like to become accustomed and He would keep her feet warm.

Fast forward ten years to this Halloween, and she, still a pile of gooey mush, has added to his duties "cooking delicious gourmet meals every night" and "walking the dog when I don't feel like getting up from the couch," but they seem to be getting along swell. Her friends got over the shock of her dating a man and his friends got over the shock of him dating anyone at all, and if she seems over-protective at times, well, those people didn't really need their faces anyway. They have three furry children now, having lost their fourth one last year, and they added two scaly brats this year, so their little townhouse is quite lively between classes and video games and being Responsible Adults against their will. They may wear their Crankypants on their heads at times, but usually not at each other, and when one's down, they know the other has their back.

Which is why, dear readers, they lived happily ever after.

He giggled when he read that ramble, but it has the Mr. Bay seal of approval.

Those of you that know me are either laughing your asses off about how soppy that was or rolling your eyes because you've already heard it twenty times. I swear, I get around that guy, even think about that guy, and I turn into mushy goo.

On a sad note, the Virginia Renfaire grounds are abandoned now. I admit, while writing Youthful Gods I often had the urge to scroll through this website while listening to Madonna's "This Used to be My Playground" on repeat and sipping box wine.

I managed to refrain from being that maudlin, but I do miss the place. The Virginia Renaissance Faire is now held at a winery to the south of us and we've gone once, but it just wasn't the same :( I grew up visiting the Pennsylvania Renfaire and we usually try to hit the Maryland Renfaire each year, but the old Virginia one was my faire. The Faire in Youthful Gods is loosely based on it, with a mix of other North-Atlantic Faires tossed in, and I hope I did it some justice...

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