TagBound for Perdition

In Character: Thomas Benton

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It was hard to choose who would be up second in this series of In Character posts focusing on particular individuals in my books. Thomas Benton is often in the background, but I love his steadiness, his loyalty, and his competence. 

Benton is a point of view character in Ancient Trust (a prequel novella in 1922) and his own romance, On The Bias, in 1926. The best way to find all the books with Benton somewhere in the picture are the books about the Carillon family. (You can find that list at the end of this post, for convenience.)

Copy of On The Bias lying on a bouquet of early summer flowers, with tea and honey nearby, in shades of pinks and pastel greens.
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Neurodiversity in my books

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It seems a good time for an update on neurodiverse characters in my books (the last one was back in 2021.) April is one of the months celebrating neurodiversity (Autism Acceptance Month), and there was a recent extensive rec post on /r/romancebooks on Reddit for romances with neurodiverse characters.

As I did in 2021, we’re going to go at this by character (alphabetically by first name), since many relevant characters appear in multiple books. My goal with writing has always been to reflect a wide range of experiences of the world like me and many of my friends. And that includes people who don’t always get to be the ones on adventures or getting a happy ever after romance.

There are a number of other characters in my books you might reasonably read as neurodiverse. I’ve mentioned a few at the end of the post that Kiya and I have discussed back and forth, but some of this is in the eye of the beholder. Reader perception is important too!

Just want to explore some books? Here are all the titles that particularly feature a neurodiverse character.

You can also find more of a number of these characters in various of the extras I’ve written and shared.

Upon A Summer's Day displayed on a tablet in a sunset scene looking out across water to fields beyond, all of it glowing golden and sparkling with magic. The cover of Upon A Summer's Day shows a man in a suit silhouetted over a map of northern Wales in a muted green. He is gesturing, holding his cane in one hand, a cap on his head. Behind him is an astrological chart, with Jupiter and Saturn highlighted in the sign of Taurus.
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Idea to Book: Ancient Trust

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Ancient Trust is the novella you can get by signing up for my newsletter. (More below on why I did that). You can unsubscribe after, if my newsletter isn’t your thing, I won’t take it personally. Just please, don’t mark me as spam!

It also is a story I wanted to tell since I had the opening scene in my head.

The cover of Ancient Trust on a tablet, surrounded glasses, bottles of alcohol, and a man in a tailored suit. The cover shows a man with a monocle in silhouette, leaning on a table stacked with books.

Ancient Trust takes place in 1922, when Geoffrey Carillon inherits the land magic from his brother. Carillon and his valet Benton are in Kenya, as part of a longer expedition between points in Africa, seeking specific materia (plants, minerals, and other items with magical potential) to bring back to Albion. He does it responsibly, but this period is toward the tail end of a massive exploration of natural resources that was not, shall we say, often managed well or sensitively. 

The Carillons

I knew I wanted to write something that was toward the beginning of the larger arc of the Carillon family in this generation. There are in fact a number of of beads on this particular necklace, running from Bound for Perdition in 1917 through the upcoming Three Graces in 1945 (out in December 2023) that will finally bring out some answers to the question of what actually happened to Temple. 

The Carillons are a longstanding family – Ytene, their landed estate, goes back to nearly the Norman Conquest in 1066. There’s a lot of complex history there. And of course, there are recent tragedies, beginning with the death of Geoffrey and Temple’s parents on the Sussex, which was torpedoed in the Channel in 1916. This is an actual historical sinking, and the history about it has a number of unclear aspects, including – regrettably – the total number of deaths. 

In the course of the Great War, Temple is doing secret research with a number of other people. It becomes clear that some of that wasn’t good for him, on an extremely direct level – but Geoffrey has no idea what he was doing, nor is he in contact with anyone who seems likely to know. 

Carillon and Benton

A second reason I wanted to write Ancient Trust is because I love Carillon and Benton together. (Not romantically or sexually, Benton would never. But in all the ways they’re absolutely chosen family for each other, yes.) 

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Benton definitely falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum, but his life circumstances have given him clarity around what rules and expectations apply right now. He started out working as a hallboy and then a footman in a country house. When the Great War began, he served in the trenches, before being assigned as Carillon’s batman or soldier-servant when Carillon was assigned as an officer to their unit. When Carillon was pulled out for Intelligence work, he took Benton along – and discovered along the way that Benton was capable of learning quite a lot more magical technique and practical skills than he’d been taught so far. (You can see some of this in On The Bias, in 1925.) 

By the point we see them in Ancient Trust, they’ve settled into a life of expeditions punctuated by a few months back in Albion. They’re always moving on into some new setting, but Benton is clear about what Carillon wants out of him, and which parts Carillon will handle. And Benton, of course, brings an absolute pragmatism and attention to detail to all his work. 

I loved getting to write Ancient Trust seeing both of their takes on what was going on, and what information was and wasn’t available. Their mutual comfort with each other and trust in each other is an absolute delight to me. 

Connections to others

The last part of this is what I knew I wanted to do with this piece. For authors, this kind of reader magnet is meant to be an introduction to your characters, world, and writing that hopefully entices people to try out more of your work. Obviously, this is going to work better (and honestly, also be more fun) if you can tie in more than a couple of people. 

I’d been putting off writing this piece (despite having the opening scene in my head for quite a while, including Carillon’s comment: 

“I fear, Benton, that we must accustom ourselves to a new mode of address.” 

But as I kept nudging the outline, I realised that the timing of this allowed me to do some fascinating things with other characters. Ancient Trust overlaps with Outcrossing, my first book, which meant I could show Carillon’s meeting with Rufus (the hero of that book) from the other point of view. 

I also knew that Carillon had been friends with Giles for quite some time, since before the Great War, and that one of the things he is quietly furious about is the sort of warfare that involves gas attacks, like the one that blinded Giles. What I didn’t entirely know – until I wrote Ancient Trustwas how the Edgartons fit into that. 

When Captain Kate Lefton (newly married) and then Richard Edgarton showed up at the end of Outcrossing, I knew that these were people Carillon trusted, but also that that trust was relatively new and untested. I also knew he was very new to his title and had only recently returned to Ytene, so he’s not yet confident in his own connection to the estate and the land magic.

(Including, in this case, whether he could reliably pull off the soc-and-sac judicial magic, which requires the Lord of the land’s permission, and also someone who has the land magic connection and judicial magic knowledge to make it work. Richard Edgarton, as a Lord in his own right and also a magistrate, makes an excellent substitute. But of course, when I wrote Outcrossing, there was a lot I didn’t know about any of these characters yet.) 

I loved having a chance to explore how Carillon comes into the Edgarton’s circle, why he trusts them as quickly as he does (largely because he trusts Giles), and he is absolutely clear they’re competent in their own areas of skill and knowledge. 

Again, if you haven’t read Ancient Trust, it’s a novella (so a quick read) and you can get it for free by signing up for my newsletter. Enjoy! 

Happily ever after, no kids

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One of my romance spaces was talking about romances that don’t presume a child is necessary for the happily-ever-after of the romance. If you’ve read my work, obviously I’ve got a mix in here. I thought it might be interesting to talk about the variations. 

(I obviously think people can find happiness in a whole bunch of different configurations and life choices. My characters make a wide range of choices, both in the immediate aftermath of a book and further down the road.)

Cover of In The Cards displayed in a gleaming silver frame, with purple flowers on the right and a purple velvet high-heeled shoes.
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Summer (any time) reading fun

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It’s time for summer reading challenges where I am. Whatever time of year it is for you, I thought it might be fun to do a round up of some reading challenges. Some of these come from libraries, and some come from other groups. I’m still waiting on my local library’s challenge (out on June 17th), but I’m thinking about how I’d like to nudge my reading a little bit. 

Bound for Perdition displayed on a phone, standing on and surrounded by stacks of leatherbound books. The cover of Bound for Perdition has a man and woman silhouetted in dark brown on a green and brown background, with the woman holding a book while the man gestures. An open blank book and pen are inset in the top right corner.

(To be honest, a lot of it has been research reading, one way or another, and I would like to mix it up, and also just read more.) 

Here are some different challenges to check out. You can also check your local library systems (a lot of libraries put something together for adults, as well as for kids and teens.) If there’s nothing up yet, check back later in June, my local public library isn’t launching theirs until the 17th.

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Bound for Perdition is here!

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A copy of Bound for Perdition lying on a piece of aged paper with elegant handwriting. The cover of Bound for Perdition has a man and woman silhouetted in dark brown on a green and brown background, with the woman holding a book while the man gestures. An open blank book and pen are inset in the top right corner.

Get your copy of Bound For Perdition now!

In 1917, Lynet has done what seemed impossible. A skilled bookbinder, she’s worked to create magical journals that can readily communicate with each other.

When she returns from leave for the death of her father, she’s given a new challenge – make them faster and cheaper. She and Ellis, the papermaker on the project, struggle to figure out how to move forward. When Reggie is assigned to help them, Lynet isn’t sure what to do with him – or make of him. Recently invalided out of the front, he’s like all the Schola men downstairs who ignore or insult her. But he’s also willing to fetch the tea, take instruction from her, and share some good ideas.

Reggie isn’t sure how much help he can be, but he’s soon swept up by the project’s potential and fascinated by Lynet’s skills and knowledge. When problem after problem crops up for the project, he’s willing to do what it takes to protect the work and keep moving forward.

  • Lynet, a bookbinder
  • Reggie, figuring out who he is now
  • Magical research and development
  • Dealing with recent grief
  • A house party or two
  • Magical journals and their implications

And for those of you who’ve read other books of Albion, a look at Temple Carillon and his wife Delphina, in 1917.

Get your copy of Bound For Perdition now!

My plans for 2023

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Now that I’ve talked about what I got up to in 2022, it’s time to look forward into 2023. I’m incredibly excited about my plans for 2023. There’s quite a lot to come! Publication dates may shift a little, but I expect them to be fairly close to the following.

Copy of Best Foot Forward lying on a desk with a dip pen, bottle of ink, and paper. The cover has a deep red background with map markings in a dull purple. Two men in silhouette stand, looking up at a point in the top left. An astrology chart with different symbols picked out takes up the left side of the image, with glowing stars curving up to the title.

Coming out in 2023

This year, I’m alternating between a series of 1920s books (Mysterious Arts) and books dealing with the Second World War (the Land Mysteries series).

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What I got up to in 2022

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It is the time of year where a roundup of what I did seems useful for a variety of reasons. (Come back next week for what’s coming in 2023!)

The cover of Best Foot Forward, displayed on a phone, resting on a mess of papers with a letter sealed with wax. The cover has a deep red background with map markings in a dull purple. Two men in silhouette stand, looking up at a point in the top left. An astrology chart with different symbols picked out takes up the left side of the image, with glowing stars curving up to the title.

What came out in 2022

I put out four novels, two novellas, and a substantial extra in 2022. That’s a lot! Links here that aren’t the title (in the header) will take you to my public wiki. There you can see more details about people and places.

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