Today I am so pleased to welcome Rachel Langella to Joyfully Jay. Rachel has come to talk to us about her latest release, Gods and Monsters: Carnival of Mysteries. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Happy Spooky Season, everyone! I hope you’re all ready for Halloween!
I’d like to give a huge shout of thanks to Joyfully Jay for letting us be here today. I’m Ari McKay/Rachel Langella, and we come bearing gifts, of a sort. If you like fantasy and paranormal romance, well, have we got something for you!
Yesterday was the release date for the latest Rachel Langella book, Gods and Monsters. This is part of the Carnival of Mysteries series, and if you’ve been reading along, you’ve gotten many glimpses of how the Carnival operates. Indeed it goes from world to world and between times, touching down at places where a little magical assistance is needed to move things along. And now our story brings you the secrets of the Carnival itself, in the person of Errante Ame, its creator and magical force behind the mysterious goings-on. And since this is a romance, it wouldn’t be complete without a tall, dark, and handsome hero, our Ringmaster, Rafe Harper. But Rafe has a few secrets of his own, ones that not even Errante suspects!
Strangely enough, we didn’t set out at first to tell the story of the Carnival, but to use it as a device for a series of our own. Long ago we were both enchanted with the series Carnivale, and that was when the idea for our own little spin was born. It grew over time, becoming sort of a setting for other romances to play out, but we’d still imagined it being only on a single world. But somewhere along the line it started to take shape was this multiverse spanning entity, and at that point, it was so big of an idea that we knew we’d never be able to do it justice. It was about this time that we were participating in Meghan Maslow’s Magic Emporium series, and that’s when we decided that since our playground was much too big for the two of us, we needed to let others into the sandbox!
Let me tell you, it’s been a journey. There were so many people who wanted to be included that we had to turn some away, unfortunately. Then we had a few people who had to drop out for personal reasons, which is sad, because I was looking forward to their stories. But we were able to pull together fourteen amazing takes on the Carnival — and we hope that you’ll give each of them a chance to fill you with wonder, delight, and maybe a little dread as well.
So we come bringing a little snippet of the Carnival to tantalize you — and if you find that late at night, when you’re all alone, that you hear the calliope playing a mournful tune, it just might be that the magic is coming to visit you too!
Rafe felt the magic coursing through him, and he focused, as Errante had taught him, on shaping the energy to his will. Holding up his hands, he “pulled” from the storehouse within himself, letting it flow up and out through his fingertips. Obedient to his control, the flames shaped into a sphere.
“Rather than quantity, we shall try for quality this time. Try making the sphere hotter and smaller.”
Errante was standing a few feet away, observing Rafe with focussed concentration. He stood as still as a statue, dark eyes narrowed slightly, hands clasped behind his back. Under the lights of the big top, his black hair had a blue cast, and the warm tone of his skin looked even darker. Rafe was used to being watched — he was Ringmaster, after all, and so being the center of attention was nothing new. Yet it was far more intimate to be the subject of Errante’s intense regard, and the warmth that stole over him as he gazed back had little to do with the flames in his hands.
It felt as though as his magical abilities slowly grew under Errante’s tutelage, so did the pull he felt toward Errante. He’d lived with his feelings for Errante for years, of course, but something, somehow, had changed since his magic had manifested. What had been a sort of yearning from afar had deepened, and now he felt a pull that was becoming harder to resist with each day that passed. The more time he spent with Errante, the more he felt compelled to spend. Perhaps that was the tipping point — what had begun as a yearning, a want, was developing into an increasingly strong need. Now it had grown to where all he could think of in the morning when he woke was getting ready so that he could hurry to get his first sight of Errante. Even his dreams were haunted by images of them together, naked bodies entwined, and now not a day seemed to pass when Rafe didn’t wake up so hard with desire it was a physical pain.
“Your concentration is not the best this evening. Is there something disturbing you?”
The erotic images which had filled his dreams were hard to dispel, so it took a moment for Rafe to register what Errante had said. He blinked in surprise as he realized that the ball of flame, instead of condensing and becoming yellow as it should, had expanded and turned redder and cooler. Which of course it would, if he wasn’t concentrating. An increase in entropy when focus was lost, Errante had explained early in their lessons, was as true for magic as for any other system in the multiverse. It was why a mage must train their will intently to maintain an effect, especially at first. Otherwise there could be unintended consequences.
“I’m sorry,” Rafe replied guiltily, relieved that mind reading apparently wasn’t among the several magics Errante seemed to do as easily as breathing. He allowed the ball to continue to expand and cool until it dissipated completely — it was easier to conjure another than to try to pull one back that had expanded that far. “I promise I’ll try to do better.”
“You can burn out as easily from overdoing magic as from exercising your body into exhaustion,” Errante replied, seeming unperturbed. “We have been practicing every day for several weeks now, and you also work hard all day, every day performing your duties for the Carnival. You are likely in need of a break, and for that I apologize, as I should have considered it sooner. Perhaps we should stop here, and you can rest for a few nights before we begin again.”
“I don’t want a break,” Rafe said quickly. “I enjoy the lessons. Really, it’s nothing for you to apologize for, Errante. This is important to me.”
“Hm.” Errante stroked his chin with one long finger, seeming to consider. “I have no wish to deny you, if you desire to continue. You have been working diligently on manifesting your power, but perhaps it would not be as draining if we were to change focus. We should switch gears for a bit and find how to increase your reserves.”
That caught Rafe’s interest. He could tell the amount of magic he could store within himself was growing, as evidenced by the way he could produce more flames and hold them longer. Errante had told him to imagine his store not as a battery, which had a limit that could not be exceeded, but more as a body of water. It might seem small at first, like a puddle on the ground, but it could grow and grow, becoming a pond, then a lake, perhaps even an ocean.
At the moment, Rafe sort of felt he was working more on the puddle size. Which wasn’t bad, considering that when he’d started, it had probably been more like a few drops. Errante had repeatedly urged him to go slowly, and even with his limited knowledge of magic, he knew enough to be cautious.
“What do you suggest?” he asked. Taking a chance, he crossed the Big Top to where Errante stood, wanting to be closer.
“We can start with learning what will ‘recharge’ you, other than sleep.” Errante frowned in thought, then motioned for Rafe to follow him outside the Big Top. “It is quiet now, and almost everyone has settled in for the night. Walk with me.”
I’d follow you anywhere. The thought came unbidden, and Rafe wished he could voice it. How would Errante react?
Since he couldn’t speak the words he wished to, Rafe simply nodded. “Of course.”
Welcome, Traveler, to Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries!
What you see before you is no mere vagabond circus. Indeed, our show is full of wonders and delights that will leave you breathless, but whether that is with amazement or dread depends entirely upon you. We are unlike any other band of creatures you have ever encountered — and you few brave souls who choose to step beyond your mundane expectations and join us may witness sights beyond your wildest imaginings.
So sit back, relax, and let us entertain you. For time and worlds are fleeting, but each soul has a tale to tell.
For centuries beyond count, Errante Ame has taken his Carnival of Mysteries from world to world and across times, never staying in one place too long lest his great enemy discover his location. Along the way he has accumulated friends and built a family of sorts among his ragtag band of performers, yet he doesn’t dare let anyone get too close to protect them from becoming a target as well. He stands apart, an outsider even among those closest to him, concealing his true nature.
Even from the man who has somehow come to mean more to him than his own life.
The Carnival is all Rafe Harper has ever known. Plucked as a toddler from the remains of a destroyed village on a world he doesn’t remember, he was adopted by Calliope, the Tattooed Lady, and raised among the performers. As an adult, he was given the position of Ringmaster by Errante — though he secretly longed for far more from the enigmatic leader of the Carnival. Despite all the wonders he has seen, Rafe stayed with the Carnival to remain close to Errante, wondering if someday he could break through Errante’s walls and finally reveal how he truly feels.
But unbeknownst to either of them, a traitor lurks among their friends, and unless Rafe can discover the secret of his past, he stands to lose Errante, the Carnival, and perhaps his very soul.
Ari McKay and Rachel Langella are the professional pseudonyms for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.
Ari McKay is a retired systems engineer turned full-time writer and seamstress. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.
Rachel Langella is a creative writing teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She loves all things spooky and/or vintage, and she’s given in to Ari’s corruptive influences and learned to sew so she can make her own vintage-style clothes and costumes. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Ari to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.