Today I am so pleased to welcome Aisling Mancy to Joyfully Jay. Aisling has come to talk to us about his latest release, Sleight of Heart. He has also brought along a great giveaway Please join me in giving Aisling a big welcome!
My newest book, Sleight of Heart, is an enchanting romance that combines primordial phantasy of the preternatural with the ancient superstition of the Romani—set against a backdrop of present day reality. The penultimate question: How would humans treat preternatural creatures in society today?
Along with the magic and the mysterious, you’ll find my writing style to be different from the norm. When I penned Sleight of Heart, I set out to accomplish two things. First, to write in a style I’m unaccustomed to; and second, to write an anachronistic piece. I wrote Sleight of Heart in the more graceful tones of British prose, and united the ancient with present day.
The term “gypsy” is a slang word conjured in Britain, the rude sobriquet’s root being the Anglicized term “Egyptian.” Gypsies exist throughout the world and have been labeled too many ways to list. The term describes a wider group of people than the true Romani, is considered offensive, and it is important to distinguish between Romani and non-Rroma people. Further, the Romani people and the peoples of Romania are not one and the same—unless, of course, you happen to be Romani and live in Romania.
What is lost on the world, no matter the culture, is that the Romani don’t want to be known, told or written about, much less, officially documented. Secondly, they are not homeless. They are freedom-loving persons who are happiest living outside what we would consider the norms of present-day society. Thirdly, while they are sly and culturally unethical to the Gadje—non-Rroma society folk—they are extremely loyal to each other, have a strict code of conduct, abide the rules of their clans, bands, tribes and nation, and care for each other dearly. Finally, I glean that they are largely punished more harshly by their own than we can imagine. While societies mock, ridicule, and abuse them, they also imitate them. Adapted Flamenco, Rumba, and Manouche Jazz are some of the gifts we have received from them. Elvis Presley, Charlie Chaplin, and Yul Brynner were Romani, to name a few. Rulers of countries have been Romani.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share a brief story about a personal experience with the Romani. I was in Paris on my way to Moulin Rouge. It was an unusual June evening, chill and mist were in the air, and I brought along a favorite woolen coat. I exited my hotel and the valet attempted to hail a taxi for me. None responded. From the corner of my eye, I spied a boy dressed in rags seated on the curb of the glass window of the hotel. I paid no mind. The valet tried a second time to hail a taxi, again to no avail. The boy jumped to his feet and I would have ignored him except that he snatched my coat from my arm and ran. Although stunned and disappointed, I couldn’t help but laugh. The valet apologized profusely and I couldn’t help but think, Good for the boy!
As the valet floundered and offered a limousine at the hotel’s expense, a taxi came roaring toward us. The boy, feet firmly planted on the sideboard of the taxi, rode to us waving my coat in the air. The taxi screeched to a halt, the boy jumped from the sideboard, and opened the door. He then ran to me, all but shoved me into the taxi, threw the coat at me, and ordered the driver to take me to Moulin Rouge. And that was that.
I laughed again and thought, I didn’t tip him! But my adventure didn’t end there. As the driver entered the cirque surrounding the Place de l’Arc de Triomphe, I swore he drove a hundred kilometers per hour and, without question, I was going to die. Alas, there came a rude rap on the window and I looked up only to find the boy still riding the sideboard of the taxi! He waved a small thick-fingered hand at me as if to say, don’t worry, you won’t die.
I arrived safely at Moulin Rouge, had a wonderful evening and, when I exited the show, the boy was there. Again, he snatched my coat, took off, and returned with a taxi. I arrived at the hotel after yet another harrowing experience, thanked the boy, and gave him twenty francs for his efforts.
The next morning I departed the hotel only to find the boy waiting at the curb. Clearly, he knew an opportunity for financial gain when he saw it. After a weighty and lengthy two-second thought on the matter, I carried on with Pesha at my side. And so it went. For my duration in Paris, little Pesha was outside the hotel every morning no matter the time I departed. He followed me, ordered me about with varying hand signals and unintelligible words, carried my bags, told me what I could and couldn’t eat, and negotiated my purchases. In the end, I gave him a one-hundred-franc note. When he saw the money, his frenetic gestures slowed and he looked at me, his liquid-chocolate eyes glazed with tears. He quickly dug in his pocket, placed a small medallion in my hand, and ran off. That was the last I saw of Pesha.
You might inquire how I came to know Pesha was Romani. The medallion he bestowed me bore a red sixteen-spoke wheel and it remains with me to this day. Pesha looked to be eight or ten years of age, but I surmise he was older. I wish I’d had a chance to get to know Pesha better and I wish I knew where he was today. It goes without saying that much of Pesha is in this story.
I am well-traveled, but have yet to encounter a people as secretive as the Romani. One man explained, and I’ll paraphrase: The Rroma believe that mere association with Gadje will show them as disloyal, and is punishable unless it is for purposes of business. It is further believed that association with the Gadje will weaken them in myriad ways, including weakening magic and luck. Plainly stated, their first loyalty is to the compania, and they dare not do anything to bring bad luck or bad magic to the band.
“Pala Tute” is an old Romani folk song. Gogol Bordello sings it here; and they sing a medley with Madonna here. Bénédicte Girault will translate Sleight of Heart into French as Les Tromperies du Cœur. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Sleight of Heart will be released from CoolDudes Publishing and can also be found on Amazon. Read the first chapter.
Taliesin held Pesha against him as they lay in bed, Pesha’s lean, small torso over him. He wanted Pesha now more than ever but willed his body not to react to the closeness. He didn’t want Pesha to think he only wanted him for sex. Or food. Or both.
“Do you think you can fall in love overnight, Taliesin?” Pesha asked in earnest.
“If I had to base my answer on how I feel right here, right now, with you, I’d say yes.” When Pesha’s lips formed a kiss on his thumb, a shudder ran through him. He closed his eyes and willed his body to behave as he basked in the feel of the moist tongue on his thumb. “I’m sorry I frightened you today.”
Pesha lifted his head and rested his chin on Taliesin’s chest. “How does it feel? To be dead, I mean.”
Taliesin smiled down at him. “I don’t know. I can only tell you what it feels like to be a vampire. I have heightened senses, I am more powerful than you can imagine, I can fly and move fast enough to be invisible to the human eye, and I will live for an eternity. As long as I don’t thirst, I simply feel like an omnipotent human. In theory, I should be happy with what I am. Then again, I miss sunlight, dreaming and the taste of good food. I can hardly stand my near imprisonment by the humans and I might have liked to have more children. Nevertheless, I certainly don’t feel dead, particularly with you here.”
“You still love Christophe.”
Taliesin smiled a small smile. “I’m pleased to say that I no longer love him. I can almost forgive him.”
“What happened between us happened over two centuries ago during a time when humans came after us with pitchforks, torches, garlic and crosses. They set us afire, dragged us out into sunlight to die slow and ugly deaths, and drove stakes through our hearts. It is no wonder that Christophe hid what he was. It is now 2016 and, while I am a being with rights, I was still terrified to tell you what I was.”
“It is a great sin to sleight the heart, Taliesin, most importantly when it is your own.”
“What do you mean to say, Pesha?”
“Fear is never a reason to deny the heart’s desire.”
Taliesin hugged him. “If only everyone was as brave as you are.”
“How many times have you been in love?”
Taliesin stroked his soft, blue-black curls and thought for a moment. “Four. I found a mouse in the garden when I was five years old or so, the only other creature I’ve seen with albinism. I’ve loved Sax since the day I was born. I loved Feather’s mother with all my heart, and Christophe was the only man I ever loved. ”
Pesha snagged a pillow and stuffed it briefly at Taliesin’s face. “You compare me to a mouse, a dragon, a biti-foki and a vampire?”
Pesha laughed. “Time to love the human!”
Lord Taliesin Solitaire was born albino, cursed mute by the fey, and betrayed by a vampire lover. For two hundred years the vampire mage has vowed never to love again and has only used sex as a means to a meal. Until a palm-reading gypsy finds himself in peril and Taliesin can’t resist rescuing the beautiful young man.
Pesha Sinclair is the eldest but smallest son of King Vaida Sinclair, the oppressive ruler of the Kåle Romani Compania. Deemed impure by his father, Pesha is shunned and mistreated by his band and four half-brothers, and one brother in particular wants him dead. His pale, silent savior gives him safety, security and a love he never could have imagined. As Pesha falls in love with his handsome white knight, his half-brother does the unthinkable.
Can Taliesin rescue Pesha from the cruel clutches of his half-brother a second time?
Ash is an author who lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Ash writes adult fantasy, science fiction, adult romance, and fiction for gay young adults as C. Kennedy.
Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Ash doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Ash contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Ash can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary.
Aisling has brought a signed, print copy of Sleight of Hand to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on March 1st at 11:59 pm EST.
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