Hi guys, we have Caleb James popping in today with his upcoming release Exile, we have a guest post from Caleb where he chats about the Haffling series, and we have a great excerpt, so guys check out the post and enjoy! ❤ ~Pixie~
Liam Summer, with the face of an angel and the body of an underwear model, has done bad things. Raised as the cat’s paw of a murderous fairy queen, his beauty has ruined many. When Queen May’s plot to unite and rule the fairy and human realms fails, Liam wakes naked and alone in a burning Manhattan building. Unaware the blaze is arson and he its intended victim, Liam prepares to die.
Enter ax-wielding FDNY firefighter Charlie Fitzpatrick, who Liam mistakes for an ogre assassin. As Charlie rescues Liam, he realizes the handsome blond has nowhere to go. So he does what he and his family have always done… he helps.
As for Queen May, trapped in the body of a flame-throwing salamander, she may be down, but she’s not out. Yes, she failed the last time, but Liam and others will pay. She knows what must be done—possess a haffling, cross into the human world engorged with magic, and become queen and Goddess over all.
As Liam realizes the danger they all face, he discovers unexpected truths—hat even the most wicked are not beyond redemption and that love—true love—is a gift that even he can receive.
Passion Plays: Caleb James on EXILE and the Haffling Trilogy
By Caleb James
I’m often asked what inspires me to write a book? Why would I spend months, at times a year or more, embroiled in worlds and with characters that I make up? The answer boils down to a single thing—passion. Pasion for themes, characters, and the story. As a real-life psychiatrist, I’m interested in going in deep, with both heroes and villains. I want my readers to fully understand why people do the things they do… even the bad things.
That fires me up. In the case of the HAFFLING trilogy, it starts with Alex Nevus. He’s a sixteen-year-old kid struggling to keep his family together in a world fraught with perils—abusive foster homes, a mother with serious mental illness, and a social service agency more concerned with following the rules than caring for the children in its charge. When the bottom falls out and everyone tumbles down a rabbit hole into the world of the fey, I further challenge Alex to figure out the playing field and do what needs to be done. He’s a hero in the truest sense, and when tested, he does what heroes do. He risks everything for those he loves.
Using that first book as a springboard, I leapt from a story of raw heroism to one of redemption—EXILE. Here we met Liam Summer, a being of indescribable beauty who has done horrible things. As the cat’s paw for a despotic and murderous queen, he has brought many to ruin. Cast from the world he knows, he lands in a burning building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. As certain death approaches, he sees himself for who he is and for what he’s done. But fate is not so simple, and Liam is pulled from the flames and dropped into an alien and more, world in which he is given that most precious of opportunities—a chance for redemption a chance for love.
Book three, HOUND, which I’ve just completed, rounds out the series. Here I grab a character haunted by a love that could never be and propel him into the starring role. Without offering up spoilers, this final chapter delves into addiction—for drugs, for impossible relationships, for all the things we continue to do or crave even when we know they’re bad for us… even when we know they’ll be the death of us.
To say these books write themselves would be disingenuous. Books are work, but when I play with big questions and heroes and villains who journey into dark places, it’s a treat to be along for the ride. Yes, there are many rewrites, and when I do a series, there’s the added importance of keeping everything consistent. But the artistic satisfaction is a great pay-off.
Sure, I feel sad to leave that world behind, but I did what I set out to do. Alex, Liam, and all the rest belong to you, the reader. I hope you come to love them as much as I do, and if I’ve done my job, the stories they share will ring both deep and true.
LIAM SUMMER awoke naked in a strange room filled with smoke and heat. “No!” The smell, like poison cookies fresh from the oven, filled his mouth with saliva and his gut with fear. Fairy fire! He coughed as it burned his lungs. “No.” He cowered on the hot floor. She found me. She knows. She knows what I did…. I’m going to die. I am not sorry.
Smoke hissed up from the slatted wood floor as he scrambled on hands and bare knees in the dark. Through tearing eyes he caught pulsing red and white lights against the walls. They lit the strange space and revealed bare walls, stacked lumber, and tools scattered across a counter.
He crawled toward a blackened window. His hands brushed splintered wood and nails. Where am I? Why am I naked? I am going to die.
His head bumped against a wall. He braced against its solid surface and crawled toward the flashes of light. The smoke, so thick, made it hard to breathe. Not a dream. I don’t know this place, a dungeon… a place of death. The sweet reek of fairy fire was everywhere. It’s her. She’s come to kill me. He knew the uses of his queen’s double-edged poison.
Fairy fire and what came after—fairy dust—were both cheese for the mouse and the deathtrap. She’s here. She’ll kill me.
HE STOOD on shaking legs, his hands against the wall. Through a crack in a window painted black, he stared at a strange world. Yet he knew its name. The See. How did I get here?
On the ground, stories below, giant metal dragons flashed with red, white, yellow, and blue lights. They screamed like banshees in the night.
The floor burned his naked feet. How did I get here? Unable to remember. One moment asleep in the cave he’d called home since…. She is here… she will kill me… is killing me. This is an oven; she will cook me and eat me…. He pictured his mother and father, Ileana and Cullen, who’d given their lives to save his. All for nothing. Mother… Father… I am sorry.
Questions that no longer mattered had been answered. Queen May, who had stolen a haffling boy—Alex Nevus—and vanished from the Unsee to the See with deranged plans of multiworld domination, was alive. She’s killing me. She knows…. She knows I helped him.
Those last days in Fey had been a frightening blur. The Mist had gone rampant, swallowing villages in a single breeze. He, like so many others, had sought escape as families and fields disappeared beneath its foggy terror.
While life under tyrannical Queen May had been perilous, her disappearance had triggered the worst incursions of the Mist in memory. If he wasn’t about to die in a burning building in a strange land, he would have wondered at the connection. Her magic held it back.
His feet blistered, and he choked on the smell of his burning flesh. He pressed against the wall, wondering when she’d appear. Would she roast him to death and then pick at his bones or have a royal chef dress him in a sauce of honey and cream? Or would she do what he’d been forced to witness as a small child with his parents… slit him open from chin to navel and with dainty hands rip out and eat his heart and his liver?
Once her servant—more a slave, if he were honest—Liam knew Queen May better than most. He knew her secrets and the face she did not show. He’d seen what became of the unfortunate souls she butchered. Her murders were neither random nor capricious. Queen May’s magic was fed—literally—by the life force of every fairy, sprite, and elf she murdered. When he’d been her fair-haired boy, he’d watched her gloat, her lovely face flushed with stolen power.
I don’t want to die. His betrayal, his aid to the haffling boy she’d ordered him to seduce, had been discovered. It was treason. It would be punished.
Snippets from the last days in Fey flew through his mind. Her disappearance, the ravaging Mist… something exploded.
Backed against the wall, he braced one foot on the burning floor and shifted his weight to the other. There’d been a sound, like a tree limb cracking only thousands of times louder. It had ripped the Mist, or more exactly torn a hole, maybe more than one. Like a tunnel, like something he’d seen before.
The tunnel. I fell… was pulled… into this house on fire. Well done, Liam. Out of May’s frying pan and into her fairy fire. I have to get out! There has to be a way.
Choking on the delicious smoke, his heart raced. He searched for escape. He climbed into a tub in front of the blackened window. The inside was littered with tools; his feet slipped on sawdust and porcelain. He grabbed something half wood and half metal. He smashed the window.
It was a mistake. The influx of oxygen fueled the fire, and where before it had just been smoke, red and blue flames pierced the floor. Through shattered glass he looked out on the human world, with its flashing lights, sirens, streets of liquid black, and buildings far taller than anything in the Unsee.
The cool night air, like a cruel joke, tickled his face as he sought for his own magic. It would not come. He tried to quiet the terror in his heart, to steady his pulse. I have no magic! Since before he could walk, Liam could ride the wind. He felt for the rhythm of this strange world, for the moment when air would mix into the fabric of his flesh and carry him aloft, carry him from this prison on fire. He panicked. I have no magic. I cannot fly.
The porcelain of the cast-iron tub grew hot, like a pot set to boil. He felt the air and the smoke, but his body would not obey his will. It’s gone! My magic is gone. “Stay calm.” Try harder. But he knew, as all creatures of the fey are taught, travel between the worlds comes at a cost. I have no magic here.
He startled as someone banged on the door. An inhuman voice growled, “FDNY. I’m here to get you out. Please, open the door.”
Frozen with fear, Liam thought to jump out the sixth-story window. It would be certain death.
A crash came against the door that stood between him and whatever terror May had sent to kill him.
An ax ripped through the wood, once, twice. Liam stared across the floor on fire as steel tore away the door. With each blow, more of the murderous weapon slashed through.
He had but seconds. No magic. He looked out the window at a world of metal dragons and humans who gaped up at him. They pointed and held small black rectangles in front of their faces, all trained on him. Liam clutched the tool with which he’d smashed the window. It was puny compared to the ax that any moment now would reveal its wielder and Queen May’s assassin. It’s too far to jump. Certain death… but a death of your choosing, not of hers. I don’t want to die. He spoke aloud. “Then fight, Liam. For once in your life, fight. For once in your pathetic life… fight!”
The hinges of the door ripped. Liam turned from the window to face his death. A clarity washed over him. He stood firm as the door’s upper hinge separated from the frame by a powerful blow. It hung for an instant and then crashed to the flaming floor.
The impact caused Liam to slip and fall. The tub burned hot, and still clutching his weapon, he spotted the monster sent to kill him. Sweat poured down his legs and back, and he stared at the hulking ax-wielding creature dressed in black with bands of yellow, like a honeybee, around the tops of his boots and on the sleeves of his jacket. The giant, with his single glinting eye and strangely shaped head, straddled the doorway. All pretense of bravery gone, Liam curled up tight and tried to vanish in the depths of the burning tub.
An ogre with an ax… this is how I end. He wanted to stand, to face his death with honor, as his mother and father had faced theirs. But the heat of the tub and the sweat that poured from fear and fire made the porcelain too slick. So clutching knees to chest, he waited for the ax-wielding assassin. He waited for death.
About Caleb James
Caleb James is an author, member of the Yale volunteer faculty, practicing psychiatrist, and clinical trainer. He writes both fiction and nonfiction and has published books in multiple genres and under different names. Writing as Charles Atkins, he has been a Lambda Literary finalist. He lives in Connecticut with his partner and four cats.