Blood Winter & Dark Summer by S. J. Coles

Vampires are attempting to integrate into human society. When Alec MacCarthy first meets a ‘haemophile’ in the flesh, it’s not the obvious dangers that frighten him. Alec MacCarthy, Lord of Aviemore and largely-forgotten descendent of a once-proud family line, keeps the wolf from the door of the crumbling family mansion by restoring classic cars.

He leaves the real world alone and wishes nothing more than for it to return the favor. But in a reality where haemophiles—still colloquially known as vampires, despite the publicity campaigns—have come out of hiding and are attempting to integrate into human society, the real world is rapidly becoming a disrupted and conflicted mess that threatens to trouble even Alec in his remote Scottish hideaway.

When he unwittingly attends a Blood Party to please a friend, he has his first meeting with one of these mysterious and dangerous beings. Terje is like nothing he has ever encountered before…literally. His reactions are as troublesome as they are undeniable. Alec’s snap decision to help the haemophile rather than sample his sense-heightening and addictive blood sets them both on a path that will lead them into a tangled web of intrigue with consequences that will change their lives—and the world—forever.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, murder, kidnapping, blood stealing, drug use, addiction and blood drinking.

S. J. Coles

Give us the one to two sentence tagline for your book.

Vampires are attempting to integrate into human society. When Alec MacCarthy first meets a ‘haemophile’ in the flesh, it’s not the obvious dangers that frighten him.

What surprised you the most while writing this book?

Both when writing Blood Winter and its sequel Dark Summer (due for release 27/07/21) I was surprised by how much the characters changed from my original ideas for them. As the books progressed, the story allowed me to see who they really were. Terje got toned down a lot. Alec perhaps the opposite. I got to know them so well when from the off set I thought I had them and their trajectory all figured out. But whereas the bones of the story remained the same, their journey through it changed immeasurably. And for the better, I hope.

Why did you pick the setting you used for your book?

I’ve have gone walking and hiking in Scotland for many years. The wild, rugged remoteness of the landscape is a never-ending source of inspiration. I have long desired to visit the Cairngorm National Park where Alec’s decaying mansion of Glenroe is located, though have never so far got the chance. I have read much about it’s remoteness and beauty and known many people who have adventured there, however, so I know about both the powerful draw and the sometimes devastating affects of its isolation. There is a patch of snow somewhere in the centre that never melts (though even that is now threatened by global warming) which is unique in the British Isles. It seemed like the perfect location for these two outcast characters to discover both hard and comforting truths about themselves, each other and the world they live in. The city of Edinburgh features in the sequel Dark Summer too and this is one of my favourite, most romantic places to visit, full of history, sensuality and ghosts. I could not resist including it.

What is the sexiest trait of your hero(s)?

For Alec, his Heathcliffe-like brooding melancholy, of course. Oh and the Scottish accent. For Terje his beauty, strength and remoteness, just like the mountains.

What is your favorite scene/moment in your book?

My favourite scene is their first ‘trapped together’ scene in Blood Winter, where they are first snowed in to Alec’s mansion after a traumatic escape from dreadful situation. Alec is scared and furious, trapped in a house with a vampire who he is certain wants to do him harm. When Terje only seems both sad and curious, however, he is forced to face the reality of his character. The forced proximity then begins to open up both the impossible truths and tantalising possibilities that lie between them.

What scene did you have to cut but wish could have been included?

I was very lucky. No scenes that needed cutting were ones I particularly wanted to keep.

Tropes get a bad name, but they’re often the biggest draw for readers. What tropes do you love to write and read?

This is a hard one to answer because the draw of a book, for me, lies first in the characters and the quality of the writing before the plot and the tropes. But looking back I have to say that I most enjoy a Love Against The Odds story, the more challenging the circumstances the better. Making me believe in a romance that happens despite all of fate’s attempts to scupper it gives me the most emotional satisfaction. Similarly Enemies to Lovers or Second Chance can offer the same tantalising possibilities. And, as part of that, a Forced Proximity story often allows these against-the-odds romances to germinate in the most interesting ways. Pretty much all these tropes occur in Blood Winter, my debut romance novel, possibly for this reason. The sequel, Dark Summer, explores the Love Against The Odds trope in more detail.

What are your favorite genres/sub-genres to write in? Are there any you love to read but cannot write in?

I most love writing, above everything, Dark M/M Romance. Anything that feels real, dangerous and daring. These are also my favourite romances to read. There is a line, however (I don’t like my stories too graphically violent or torturous, either emotionally or physically – I still enjoy it as escapism after all) but I find darkness and danger add a spice to a romance that is impossible for me to resist. I have never quite figured out why I prefer M/M romance storylines to M/F or F/F ones, though there are one or two exceptions, as with everything. I’ve just always loved a gritty in-depth exploration of relationships between men, plutonic as well as romantic. A lot of my favourite books, TV and film have complex and interesting relationships between men, not always romantic. I honestly couldn’t tell you why, I just find it so interesting. I want ALL my characters and their relationships interesting, not just the men, obviously. But male relationships entice me the most as the story-driver. Don’t ask me why, because I simply don’t know. So I write M/M paranormal romances, mysteries and thrillers for the most part. And these are the ones I most prefer reading too, though I do struggle to find many of the level of quality I most enjoy. There are some very worthy exceptions out there though so I never turn down the chance at discovering a new author. As for genres I love to read but can’t write in, I struggle to think of any. I read and enjoy Mysteries, Psychological Thrillers, Paranormal, SciFi and Fantasy as well as M/M Romance and over the years have tried my hands at all these. I do find I have not made any real inroads or efforts to writing fantasy since my early twenties (I won’t tell you how many years ago that is but just take my word that it’s a fair few) because that genre I do find extremely hard work to write well.

Which do you love to write best: dialogue, setting, action, love scenes, or other?

Oh dialogue, without any question. I find it so easy to write and it’s instant access, both for me and the reader, to character’s motivations, personalities and intentions, as well a a perfect and effective way of delivering exposition, backstory and plot. I wish a story could be all dialogue. Perhaps I should try script writing?

Which do you hate to write: dialogue, setting, action, love scenes, or other?

Establishing setting and describing movement I dislike the most. Where the story is set impacts on everything from plot to character development . Moving them around that space and through time is also important and though you obviously don’t need much detail, you need enough to explain what’s happened without either losing the reader because you’ve explained too little or not enough. I find it immeasurably hard to include enough detail without making it boring, slowing the plot or resorting to cliche. It often takes me a fair few edits to get a passage describing action, movement or setting to a standard I can tolerate.

Excerpt from Blood Winter

I couldn’t fight. I swallowed. Heat and pleasure rolled through my flesh like waves of a warm, tropical sea. My extremities throbbed just on the edge of pain. Every cell in my body seemed to be set alight. My nerves were wires sparking with electricity. My brain and groin pulsed with every beat of my suddenly-powerful heart.

I blinked, my eyes watering, the rich smell filling my senses. Through a dizzying mist, I watched Terje rise from the edge of my bed, holding an empty tumbler. Thick residue, a red so dark it was almost black, stained the glass. He pulled his sleeve down to cover a small cut in his wrist, which was already healing.
I searched for horror, for anger, for bitterness and fear. But my consciousness wavered and I faded into warmth and comfort and the feeling that every inch of my body was filled with light.

“Sleep, Alec.”

My eyes closed. I slept.

Dreams came—senseless, formless but loaded with sensation, filled with heat and a burning need I’d never known, not even at the dawn of adolescence when my hand and my imagination had first opened a new and entrancing world to me.

I woke with my heart racing, my skin on fire, my breath heaving. Every inch of me buzzed and begged to be touched. My pulse pounded in my neck, my chest, my groin. I was painfully hard. Even the feel of the sheets against my skin was overwhelming. I pushed them back.

The air was warm. The stove in the next room was blazing. My skin prickled in the heat. I was in nothing but my underwear. I reached for myself, gasping at the contact, and I brought myself off in seconds. I groaned as I came, hot seed spilling into my hands as waves ran up my body like rays of an autumn sun. But when the blaze of the orgasm faded, I was left with simmering heat that had only been stoked by my climax.

I closed my eyes and tried to visualize hands on me—David’s…or Brody’s. But my mind skidded away from thoughts of them both. Instead, it was a pale face with a fall of white-blond hair that rose before me. I saw burnished silver eyes, deeper than wells, ageless and heavy but filled to the brim with knowing, looking at me like they knew and understood me better than I did. I groped for the nightmare that had made me run or the memory of Brody being ripped apart that had dampened and confused my desires the day before. But the images wouldn’t form.

All I could think of was Terje touching me. I grew agonizingly hard once again. I lay, panting, my blood thundering in my veins, staring at the ceiling as I pumped my cock, but it wasn’t enough. I sat up. I was trembling, but not with cold. I moved through the kitchen in a sort of dream. The feel of the linoleum against my bare feet sent shivers through my over-sensitized skin.

S. J. Coles is a Romance writer originally from Shropshire, UK. She has been writing stories for as long as she has been able to read them. Her biggest passion is exploring narratives through character relationships.

She finds writing LGBT/paranormal romance provides many unique and fulfilling opportunities to explore many (often neglected or under-represented) aspects of human experience, expectation, emotion and sexuality.

Among her biggest influences are LGBT Romance authors K J Charles and Josh Lanyon and Vampire Chronicles author Anne Rice.

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