Tag Archives: Strain

Join me today @TheJeepDiva! #Strain #BlogTour #mmromance @RiptideBooks

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Today, for Part One of the Strain blog tour, I’m over at The Jeep Diva discussing some of the world-building behind Strain. In particular, this article focuses on Project Juggernaut, which started the plague that doomed humanity. The article can be found after Vanessa’s review of Strain, which you should definitely check out as well. 😀

Remember that anyone who comments to the blog tour posts will be entered to win one of three ebook copies of Impulse: The Complete Trilogy, so be sure to share your thoughts and questions about the article with me.

And just to give you another shot at entering, today Cup-o-Porn is also hosting a spotlight stop for the tour, so be sure to comment there as well!

Check out the Strain Blog Tour schedule for more chances to enter. Please be sure to include some way to contact you with your comments (if not email, then a Twitter or Facebook ID will also work.) The contest will be open until February 28, with the drawing being held on March 1st. Good luck!

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Coming this week: The Strain Blog Tour

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Do you like DVD extras? Yeah? So do I. It’s entirely possible I’ve watched the appendices on the Lord of the Rings extended editions more times than I have the movies themselves.

So for the Strain blog tour, I’m going to try to make my posts a bit like the “behind-the-scenes/making-of” documentaries you might find on a good DVD. A lot of things the world-building and events that Strain depends on happen long before the events of the book itself, and while an in-depth recap of them during the course of Strain got in the way of the flow of the story, I find some of the back-story fascinating and hope you will as well.

Monday, February 17: The Jeep Diva

In Part One: Project Juggernaut, I’ll be discussing the Bane plague: how it began, what its effects were, and what the survivors did afterward.

Cup o’ Porn will also graciously be hosting me for a spotlight stop!

Tuesday, February 18: Pants-Off Reviews and 3 Chicks After Dark

In Part Two: The Juggernaut Battalion, I’ll discuss the workings of Delta Company and their comrades within Project Juggernaut, particularly as it relates to events involving Bravo and Charlie Companies. (Pants-Off Reviews)

Part Three, “Does a Sex Scene Have to be Sexy?” will be a documentary on the use of sexual content for non-erotic purposes. (3 Chicks After Dark)

Words of Wisdom from the Scarf Princess will also be hosting a Spotlight tour stop that day!

Wednesday, February 19: Queer Town Abbey

In Part Four: The Women of Strain, I’ll be doing a featurette on “The Women of Strain.” One of the most important and driving characters in Strain is Xolani, Darius’s second-in-command, and life within Delta Company has some interesting implications for its female-bodied troops.

Melanie M. at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (I just adore her, she’s so nice) will be hosting me for a spotlight stop that day, too.

Thursday, February 20: Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews and The Book Nympho

Part Five: Deleted Scene from Strain will include a scene from near the end of Strain that didn’t make the cut. (sex scene, including BDSM content, be warned) (Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews)

Part Six: Giving Life will be another documentary discussing the issue of fluid exchange and STDs and how I subvert those tropes within the book. (The Book Nympho)

Friday, February 21: Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Finally, Part Seven: Bane, Chapter One will include an excerpt from the rough draft of Bane, which is one of my works-in-progress. Though technically it could be called a prequel, it’s not necessary to understand Strain. I wanted to go back and tell the story of the beginning of the Bane plague. Where Strain is a post-apocalyptic story, Bane will be “peri-apocalyptic.”

I will also be doing a spotlight stop at Dawn’s Reading Nook.

Be sure to check the blog tour page at Riptide to see when each of these posts is scheduled.

 

Commenters at each stop along the way will be entered into a drawing for the chance to win one of three ebook copies of Impulse: The Complete Trilogy, the all-in-one edition of my novel-in-three parts. Please include your contact information, either email, Twitter, or Facebook. The Contest will be open until February 28th, with the winner being announced March 1—just in time for the Every Inch of the Way/To the Very Last Inch (The Professor’s Rule #4 and #5).

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A moody #ValentinesDay ficlet from the Strain universe over @TheBookBellas @RiptideBooks

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So, the world of Strain is a dark and tragic place, and at the end of the world, when everyone you loved is gone, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have the same meaning as it does today.

Joe is one of the most enigmatic side characters from Strain, and for Valentine’s Day, I thought I would give a little insight into the start of his relationship with Toby.

There are no real spoilers here. This ficlet pre-dates the timeline of Strain by about five years. Forgive the formatting. I’m not sure why the paragraph breaks didn’t work there on their site.

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In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. Cut off from the world since childhood, he’s finally exposed to the lethal virus that wiped out most of the human race. Now his only hope for survival is infection by another strain that might provide immunity. But it’s sexually transmitted, and the degradation he feels at submitting to the entire squad of soldiers that rescued him eclipses any potential for pleasure—except with Darius, the squadron’s respected, capable leader.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little humanity. He’s spent a decade putting plague victims out of their misery and escorting survivors to a safe haven he can never enjoy. He’d rather help Rhys live than put him down, so when Rhys can’t reconcile himself to doing what’s necessary to survive, Darius is forced to save Rhys in spite of himself.

But with each passing day, it looks less and less likely that Rhys can be saved. And that means that Darius might soon have to put a bullet in the head of the one person in years who reminds him of what it means to be human.

Strain releases tonight at midnight for those of you who pre-order direct from Riptide! There’s still time!

Also stay tuned next week for the Strain blog tour, and a chance to win a copy of the Impulse Trilogy!

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Up on NetGalley, excerpts, reviews and more!

Lots of news this week as we get closer to the release of Strain and TPR #4-5!

First of all, an excerpt of Every Inch of the Way (The Professor’s Rule #4) is available at Riptide. For all you Satish lovers, we get his POV in this one! Because they’re being released simultaneously, I’m not sure if we’ll get a preview excerpt for #5 (it would spoil the end of #4) but if we do, it should be available soon so keep checking back!

Also, remember that because I am Riptide’s Featured Author of the Month for February, there are lots of discounts on The Professor’s Rule right now:

Giving an Inch (The Professor’s Rule #1) is FREE all month!
An Inch at a Time (The Professor’s Rule #2) is $2.25–25% OFF!
Every Inch of the Way (The Professor’s Rule #4) and To The Very Last Inch (The Professor’s Rule #5) are $0.99 each–67% OFF!
And if you want to catch up on TPR all in one go, The Professor’s Rule: The Complete Collection is available for $8.97–40% OFF!

Most of these discounts will expire at the end of February, so be sure to grab them while you can! If you pre-order at Riptide, TPR #4-5 will be available on-site starting at midnight on March 1.

In other news, Saugatuck Summer is now available at NetGalley! I know some readers have really been looking forward to this one and, well, I’ve made it pretty clear a number of times how I feel about this book, so I’m really excited to get this into the hands of readers and reviewers! Saugatuck Summer is also available for pre-order at Riptide for 22% off–only $6.99!

Finally, with less than two weeks to go, more reviews are starting to come in for Strain, so if you’re still wondering if it’s for you, check out this list of review links, as well as the link to GoodReads, here on my Strain page!

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Guess who’s @RiptideBooks February featured author of the month?

Yep, that would be me!

This means, of course, that a whole bunch of my titles are on sale this month at Riptide. You can get The Laird’s Forbidden Lover for 50% off ($1.99), An Inch at a Time (The Professor’s Rule #2) for 25% off ($2.25) and–get this–pre-orders for Every Inch of the Way (The Professor’s Rule #4) and To the Very Last Inch (The Professor’s Rule #5) are 67% off ($0.99!!!)

And, of course, there has to be a freebie! That would be Giving an Inch (The Professor’s Rule #1), free all month!

Also, pre-orders of Strain and Saugatuck Summer are both still 22% off, or $6.99 each. And the entire The Professor’s Rule collection is on sale at $8.97, 40% off.

So, uh, yeah, get it while the getting’s good, huh?

While you’re there, be sure to check out the interview I did for Riptide, where you can also get a little info on my upcoming projects!

Also, Kazza K. at On Top Down Under Book Reviews has named Strain her Book of the Month for February! If you haven’t read her incredibly generous review, be sure to do that! (caution: may contain spoilers)

So February is going to be a hopping month for me! Just over two weeks until Strain releases, and just over four weeks until TPR #4-5 release. Come along for the ride!

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One month left until Strain! #postapocalyptic #mmromance @RiptideBooks

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One month from today, Strain will be officially released. And remember, if you pre-order from Riptide, not only will you get to download it two days early (4 weeks from today, in fact) but you will also be entered in a drawing to win free Riptide books for a year.

If you’re not sure about Strain, be sure to read the warnings at Riptide, and also check out my Is Strain for Me? post.

 

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Is STRAIN for me? #mmromance #post-apocalyptic #dub-con @RiptideBooks

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Coming February 17 from Riptide Publishing

So, in the past few days, I’ve been seeing a lot of people asking whether or not Strain is for them, because they want to read it but they’re not certain about the content. So I thought I would try to clear up some of the questions.

I’m not really giving any spoilers here; all this information is available in shorthand form in the Warnings and Additional Details tabs of the Strain listing at Riptide Publishing. Definitely check it out.

Even so, I’m going to put this beneath a cut.

Continue reading

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Don’t miss your chance to win one of the first two The Professor’s Rule books! @RiptideBooks

Just a reminder, you have until the end of the year to swing by our blog tour stops for Inch by Inch (The Professor’s Rule #3) and comment to be entered to win in a drawing for copies of the first two books that we’ll be holding New Year’s Day.

While you’re there, be sure to enjoy some of the tidbits we’ve shared. We discuss relationship dynamics, give sneak peeks at TPR #4, and answer some of great questions from interviewers!

Here is the schedule for all our stops:

December 16, 2013 – 3 Chicks After Dark
December 16, 2013 – The Novel Approach
December 17, 2013 – Live Your Life, Buy the Book
December 18, 2013 – Pants Off Reviews
December 18, 2013 – MM Good Book Reviews
December 19, 2013 – Cup O’ Porn
December 20, 2013 – Up All Night, Read All Day
December 20, 2013 – Sid Love
December 21, 2013 – Book-A-Holic Anon- Spotlight Stop
December 22, 2013 – Queer Town Abbey
December 24, 2013 – Attention is Arbitrary

Also, if you swing by Riptide, you can check out my upcoming release, Strain, including THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS! Enjoy!

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Check out the first three chapters of STRAIN now @RiptideBooks #mmromance #postapocalyptic

The STRAIN excerpt is now available on the Riptide website. A full three chapters! Woohoo!

http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/strain

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November 30, 2013 · 7:25 pm

Lovely early #reviews for Strain @Goodreads #mm #erotic #romance #postapocalypse

As I mentioned before, Strain went up on NetGalley last week, and a couple early reviews have been posted to Goodreads, and they’ve been quite gratifying on a couple levels.

Ashley Williams of http://booknerdash.blogspot.com/ had this to say:

And though the theme of the book revolved around sex as a treatment for the disease (yes I did say sex was the cure!!!), it wasn’t, for me, the forefront of the book. It kept me flipping the pages the whole time.

I loved the post-apocalypse-zombie-ish setting that Gormley creates. You can visualize where you are, without getting bored by all the details. Speaking of details, she does an excellent job explaining the medical necessities behind the unorthodox treatment. They were actually believable!

That one does my heart a lot of good. When dealing with a book based on a fuck-or-die trope, there’s a significant danger that the fuck-or-die situation will come off as nothing more than an excuse to propel the characters into sex they normally wouldn’t have. This isn’t an unfair estimation, to be honest. In a lot of places–especially in fanfic circles dealing with slash and non-canon OTPs–the fuck-or-die trope is used for precisely that reason. I wanted to come at it from a different angle, though. I wanted to make the story not just about situationally-coerced sex, but about the desperate lengths people will go to in order to survive, and about the conflict a character might face when the thing that is saving his body from death is killing his spirit and soul. I wanted to examine the uneven power dynamics inherent in a situation where one character is reliant on another for their very survival, and explore just what is considered “unpardonable” when someone does horrible things in order to save someone else’s life.

Which made it doubly gratifying to read this review from Sue/DavinciKittie at http://gravetells.com:

Even though this story features a lot of sex, it’s not ABOUT sex or even about a D/s lifestyle. It’s about fighting for survival and the life-affirming connections you make with the people you trust to have your back. It’s about brotherhood and love and making the best out of a hard life, and it is haunting… absolutely beautiful. The emotional depth is so tangible, Strain is both heartwarming and endearingly painful, from vivid adrenaline-packed start to aching, bittersweet ending. Definitely a must read for fans of male/male romance!

Yes. Thank you, God. People are getting what I was trying to do and not assuming the “plot” is just a sex vehicle, which would be very easy to do at first blush.

So, yeah, I’m really thrilled with these two reviews, and I hope other readers and reviewers continue to get what I was trying to accomplish with this book. I am sure it won’t work for some people, that they will dismiss it as just being an excuse to get the characters into bed, but it’s nice to see that some people are looking past that at the deeper themes.

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STRAIN (coming Feb 2014) is now available @NetGalley. #mm #gay #postapocalyptic #romance

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If you have a review blog, Strain is now up at NetGalley.

I’m so excited. You don’t even know.

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Finally! The #GRL2013 recap post

Okay, so I’ve been pretty much in my cave since getting back from GayRomLit. Not like I’m a terribly social person to begin with, and after five days of more social exposure than I normally get in any given year, I’ve been having some “me” time. Plus editing and writing. No kidding, this is my status message on GoogleTalk right now:

Editing and/or writing. Unless your name is God or Phil Coulson, you cannot possibly have anything to say worth disturbing me for.

So yeah, there’s that, too. Strain edits are progressing apace and it’s really exciting to think that there’s only three and a half months left until it releases. Even better, review copies and an excerpt should be going out within the next month, I imagine, so I can finally start to feel like this book, which has comprised a significant chunk of my creative energy since September last year, is finally getting into people’s hands and I can start getting the pay-off (by which I mean feedback and just knowing people are reading it, which is way more important than money for my creative soul.)

Edits are also in their final stages for Inch by Inch: The Professor’s Rule #3, and I believe we’ll have cover art and more information on that very soon. Heidi and I have begun on TPR #4 and if all goes according to plan, the series will wrap up with TPR #5.

I would love to say I have pictures to share of GRL, but honestly, I’m not a camera person. Like, if something is happening around me, my first thought is never “oh, grab the camera, take a picture!” so I actually don’t have that many pictures. We’ll have to settle for words.

My journey began on Tuesday, when I flew out of PDX with Devon Rhodes. Anne Tenino was on our same flight, but on Wednesday, so we didn’t get to travel with her. Devon booked a car from the airport rather than taking a taxi or MARTA, for which I ended up being extremely grateful because I decided to be very frugal with my packing space and managed to get everything I needed to take (minus the books and business cards that shipped from the printer right to the hotel) in a carry-on size suitcase and my backpack/laptop case, which meant that what I did have was VERY HEAVY. Especially that damn backpack. If I’d had to haul that thing on my back and take MARTA I probably would have cried.

Traveling in the car with us as well was Rick R. Reed, who had been waiting in the airport after his flight from Seattle. GRL peeps were already starting to congregate in the lobby bar of the Melia when we got there, including the lovely P.D. Singer, whom I’ve been blessed to see three frickin’ times this year. I also got to meet Eden Winters and EM Lynley, as well as a handful of others. The most interesting conversation I had that night, hands-down, has to go to Anel Viz, who sat with me and gave me some really lovely feeback, both flattering and constructive, on my Impulse books, which it turned out he’d read. He’s a fascinating guy and meeting him was an absolute pleasure.

Wednesday was the Writer’s Workshop, which was great except that the air conditioning in the hotel was set to “meat locker.” Well, not according to everyone else, but I was freezing. I kept ducking into the “powder room” area of the women’s restroom because it had all these big, warm vanity lights that kept it considerably warmer than the other rooms. The reason I mention this is because when I get cold, I go into hibernation mode and all I want to do is sleep. I swear I’m part reptile or something. Coupled with an already critical sleep deficit, I decided to pass on the third session of the day and catch a nap, but before I did that, I attended the luncheon where KA Mitchell was the guest speaker, and *sigh* I would sell my soul to be able to be that interesting and glib when speaking publicly.

The fourth session, I was a panelist on the BDSM panel, moderated by Sarah Frantz. There I got to finally meet LA Witt and Rachel Haimowitz, and KA Mitchell was on that panel as well. Being the final session of the day, only six people attended, but that was fine because it was intimate and we had a lot of fun and there are six people–including my esteemed co-author Heidi Belleau–who probably now know far more personal details about me than they ever wanted, since I was on the panel as a person who actually is into BDSM in real life.

Wednesday night, Riptide hosted a dinner for all the authors and employees who managed to attend, so there were a lot more people I got to meet, including Cat Grant, LC Chase, Aleks Voinov, Abi Roux, Marie Sexton, Alex Whitehall and Ally Blue, and Riptide’s new marketing guru, Keturah Jenkins. I ended up sitting across from Ally at the table and she was just a wonderful person to talk to over dinner.

Lots of people went out Wednesday night, but by the time I got back to the hotel I discovered my feet were swelling rather alarmingly. Like, I never was that swollen even when I was pregnant. So I decided to take it easy and stuck to my room.

Thursday morning launched  GRL proper, and the first function–aside from the newbie informational session hosted by Jay of JoyfullyJay, was the Supporting Author’s Signing event. I had ordered a number of print copies of the Impulse books that I could offer for sale, and I also had coupon codes for ebook downloads. Riptide was giving away copies of Giving an Inch (TPR #1) as swag, complete with excerpts from An Inch at a Time, Apple Polisher and Strain in the back. There I got to meet Allison Hickman, who has been just lovely and supportive and kind here and on other social media. It’s always an ego boost to get to sign autographs, especially being someone so new to the genre whom a lot of people haven’t even heard of, but even more gratifying was the number of people who remarked on Kerry Chin’s artwork on the Impulse covers. I’m so proud of those, I really can’t get enough of hearing how beautiful they are. You’d think I was the frickin’ artist. Everyone kept remarking how sweltering the signing room was, and I was all, “No no! This is the first time I’ve been comfortable since I got here!” Me and my inner thermostat, I tell ya.

At the signing I got to sit next to Anna Martin, the author of Tattoos & Teacups, and listen to her absolutely adorable accent for two hours. That was a lot of fun.

By the time lunch rolled around, the swelling in my feet had escalated from alarming to “Um, do I need to see a doctor for this?” P.D. Singer, a pharmacist by profession, took a look at them and asked me very earnestly if I had a history of congestive heart failure. I’m not even kidding. Seriously, the things looked like balloons and all the tissue from my shins to just about where my toes began had the consistency of molding clay. So I ended up missing Anne Tenino’s reading and the rest of the Thursday afternoon events in favor of putting my feet up on a huge stack of pillows while P.D. Singer graciously brought me lunch so I wouldn’t have to order room service. By evening the swelling had gone down enough that I ventured out to the Juke Joint party, but I was still trying to stay off my feet as much as possible, and where I was staying off my feet was not where anyone I knew–or anyone to strike up a conversation with at all, really–was lingering, so I only stayed about an hour. Then I went back to my room to put my feet up again and fight with the hotel wifi some more.

God, the hotel wifi. I could write a whole post about that alone. It was horrible. Around Friday evening or so, I made a tweet entreating the hotel internet to get fucked with a rusty pitchfork, and I think just about everyone following the #GRL2013 tag favorited or retweeted it, so I was definitely not alone in my struggles. I would pass through an area where my phone managed to connect long enough for me to get a text from my husband and by the time I could stop and reply, I wouldn’t be able to connect anymore (no, I don’t have a data plan on my new iPhone; I almost never use it anywhere where there isn’t wifi, so there’s no sense paying for one.)

Luckily, keeping my feet elevated for the best part of a whole day did the trick and the swelling had gone down by Friday morning. I spent the morning in a bit of a panic because one of the Fun Faire events was a welcome for the supporting authors hosted by Marie Sexton and Lori Witt, for which I’d been invited to do a reading. I’ve only ever done one other reading, and that was in September up in Seattle, and I kind of bumbled it a bit. I REALLY didn’t want to make a fool of myself, so I spent the morning practicing. P.D. Singer promised me I was among friends who would understand if I stumbled or stammered, as did Lori and Marie, but still. However, the reading went very well, I think. I wish I had a video of it, but to the best of my knowledge, no one was taking video of that particular event (if someone was, PLEASE hook me up!) If I had a video, it would be your first look at Chapter Three of Strain, which is where things begin to get really interesting. As it is, you’ll have to wait for the excerpt from Riptide. Sorry. So I was really happy with that event, even if I didn’t win the bag of Tucker Springs print editions. The next event was hosted by Riptide, a competition where you had to guess a book’s title based on an excerpt of a sex scene where the significant give-away details had been altered to make it unrecognizable. I managed to score a paperback of Abi Roux’s Shock & Awe, which was very enjoyable and worth its weight in gold for bragging rights to my BFF, who is a C&R addict.

Friday night was the Dine With An Author dinner, and I ended up sitting with some absolutely lovely people there, including Anna Zabo. The woman sitting to my left–whose name I can’t remember now, I’m so sorry!–actually lives in the area of Michigan where I used to live, so when she asked me about my upcoming releases and I mentioned Saugatuck Summer, she was like, “You mean, as in Saugatuck, Michigan?” and that was really awesome because she knew exactly what I was talking about and why Saugatuck is such a perfect setting for a series of m/m coming-of-age and romance stories.

After dinner, there was the Dreamspinner cocktail party, where we got to see everyone dressed to the nines. I was looking for a place to sit down with my drink and dessert and a party of three other women asked if they could sit at the empty table I’d chosen because all the others were full, and what followed was the sort of socializing I almost never do, which is comfortable, engaging conversation with virtual strangers. Usually I hide in my shell like a turtle until I know someone well enough to venture out, but that evening it was effortless and I really loved sitting and talking with them. After they had moved on, Melanie Marshall, who reviewed the Impulse books over at JoyfullyJay as well as her own blog, made room for me at her table and I got to talk to them for a while until it was time to call it a night so I could go back to my room and call my son and husband before they went to bed.

I’d say of the entire retreat, that party was the most remarkable for me, precisely because of that socialization thing. I spent an ENTIRE EVENING socializing with people I didn’t know. That never happens to me. I am absolutely incapable of bringing myself to break the ice with strangers, but from dinner onward, I didn’t hang out with a single person with whom I had any sort of acquaintance, aside from an email or two I had exchanged with Melanie thanking her for her lovely reviews.

Saturday morning, I attended P.D. Singer’s reading and then hung out in the bookseller’s room with the Riptide peeps for a while. I went out to a late breakfast with P.D., Eden Winters and a couple others, and then I had an appointment with Nicole Forcine, who aside from being an author herself is a member of the Happily Ever After video book club on YouTube. I hadn’t heard of this club before, but I’m definitely a fan now. Being the only member of the four of them who would be attending GRL, Nicole got tapped to do some author interviews and vlogging, and I arranged to do an interview with her. It just so happened that Anne Tenino was also available at the same time, so the Ladies From Portland (minus the lovely Devon Rhodes) did a joint interview. You can find that here:

The interview was a lot of fun, and I’d never met Nicole before but OMG is she a hoot. I just adore her now. It also turned out that her book club had covered Giving an Inch just a few weeks before. You can find that video here:

The night was Totally Bound’s Heaven & Hell masquerade party, for which I got to dust off a very old outfit and add a mask. I don’t have any really good pictures of myself from the party that night, so here’s one from when I bought the gown about thirteen years ago:

gown2I don’t look as good in the gown these days, because I no longer fit into the corset I was wearing under it in this picture, and Spanx just don’t achieve that same effect (namely, pushing your boobs up so high you could wear them as earrings.)

I also had some absolutely amazing old-fashioned shoes laced up with ribbons, which I ended up taking off because Sarah Frantz–God only knows how; I suspect mind-control powers–managed to get me out onto the dance floor. So I spent a good chunk of the party dancing with Sarah, Heidi Belleau, Keturah Jenkins, Alex Whitehall, and Nicole Forcine, who is just a party animal.

I was going to go to the after-hours hangout in the pub, but then I decided it would be better for me to try to pack that night instead of rushing to do it Saturday morning. So I was pretty much almost completely packed by Saturday morning, which meant I got to linger over the farewell brunch with people I didn’t get to spend a lot of time talking to during the conference. And then I got to hang out with them some more in the hotel lobby while I had lunch and waited until it was time for the car service to take Devon, Anne and I back to the airport.

So. I met a lot of people, connected with several others I already knew, and even managed to socialize with some of them after I hit my stride. All in all it was a really great time, even if it was somewhat overwhelming at times. I probably would have gotten more out of the early days if my body hadn’t decided to get weird and turn my feet into inflatable rafts. I think next year in Chicago, if I can manage it, I will try to go as a featured author, and hopefully I will feel less like a clueless newbie and hit my stride a lot sooner.

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Strain is available for pre-sale (22% off!) @riptidebooks #mm #erotic #post-apocalypse #romance

It’s finally here!

Strain is now available for pre-sale on Riptide’s website!

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. Cut off from the world since childhood, he’s finally exposed to the lethal virus that wiped out most of the human race. Now his only hope for survival is infection by another strain that might confer immunity. But it’s sexually transmitted, and the degradation he feels at submitting to the entire squad of soldiers that rescued him eclipses any potential for pleasure—except with Darius, the squadron’s respected, capable leader.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little humanity. He’s spent a decade putting plague victims out of their misery and escorting survivors to a safe haven he can never enjoy. He’d rather help Rhys live than put him down, so when Rhys can’t reconcile himself to doing what’s necessary to survive, Darius is forced to save Rhys in spite of himself.

But with each passing day, it looks less and less likely that Rhys can be saved. Which means that soon Darius might have to put a bullet in the head of the one person in years who reminds him of what it means to be human.

For some excerpts from Strain, be sure to check out the following previews I’ve posted for #SevenSentenceSunday and #TeaserTuesday.

Meet Rhys, part 1
Meet Rhys, part 2
Meet Darius
Meet Xolani
Meet Jacob
Meet the revenants
About Project Juggernaut
Life at the monastery
Dissent in the ranks

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A carrot vs stick imbalance

So I’ve spent the last week, since my huge whinge-fest in my last post, trying to find the momentum to begin moving my various projects forward again. I think at least part of why I’ve been having such a hard time is a preponderance of stick and a dearth of carrot. Since early this year, I’ve been working on some really big projects. A 103K novel (Strain). A 93K novel (Saugatuck Summer). I think Risk Aware came out somewhere about 75K. 40K and still going on the mystery. Two other novels begun and past the 10K mark already.

The problem is that none of these projects have been yielding tangible results, especially the ones I’ve already completed (Strain, Saugatuck Summer, and Risk Aware.) I dunno, maybe my inner 6-year-old believes she deserves a lollipop for every day of effort or something, but the fact that I had over 250K worth of writing just hanging in limbo, completed and yet not out in the world, felt very unrewarding. I know I’ve had smaller projects produced in the interim, but for some reason (probably due to my own neuroses) those don’t feel like they count.

The good news is, some of that is being resolved. I’ve had a couple people (namely my editor, Sarah Frantz, and the marvelous Leta Blake) help me with brainstorming which wasn’t so much about the results of the brainstorming so much as it was about the “oh, somebody cares!” boost, so I wasn’t feeling quite so much like I’m slogging along all alone. I’ve seen the cover art for Strain (ALMOST complete,) worked on a blurb and excerpt of Strain that is going in some swag we’re having made, and edits will begin in the next week. So, bottom line is, I’m getting a bit more carrot this past week, which helps. I feel more enthused about my WIPs than I have in a long time.

But I’m still not writing. I wonder if the problem might not be inertia. My biggest fear when I started slowing down on writing was that I was going to lose momentum, because boy does that “objects at rest tend to stay at rest” rule apply to me. So now I’m at rest, and somehow I have to begin all over again with motivating myself to write. I’m having ideas, I’m having more enthusiasm, I just still haven’t managed to make it across that line from inactivity back into activity.

Of course, part of the problem could be that my sleep has been all messed up the past couple weeks due to some trouble I have with my hip, so I’m pretty much exhausted and in an effort to combat the other sleep issues, I’ve cut out caffeine and now I’m in withdrawal as well. *sigh*

At any rate, things are looking up, somewhat. Amazing what just seeing some results, or some movement toward results, can accomplish.

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#TeaserTuesday from Strain, coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks – About Project Juggernaut

We’re getting close to the end of what I feel comfortable sharing from Strain. I imagine the first three chapters or so will be the excerpt when it goes up on the Riptide website, and today’s segment comprises the end of Chapter Two. Take this with a grain of salt, because this section is one I know that is going to see a lot of tweaking when it goes through edits, due to a ton of infodumping. All critical information that needs to get out very early in the story, but we all hate lengthy chunks of exposition, so I’m sure Sarah Frantz and I will be working very hard to make this feel less clunky.

In this section, Darius and Xolani and the rest of their squadron have rescued Rhys (Part 1 and Part 2) and Jacob from an attack by revenants on the monastery where they’ve been sheltering for the last seven years. Rhys, who is still concussed and disoriented from an earlier fight with Jacob, wants to know what is going to become of him, which leads to a discussion about the nature and origin of the virus to which they’ve been exposed in the attack.

Rhys nodded slowly. Some of this he’d learned in history lessons with his mother, also. “Did they succeed? In creating the super soldiers?”

“After a fashion.”

“I don’t understand. How did it turn into the Rot?”

“Because the virus was designed with a second purpose, which was to weaken the enemy. Imagine you’re one of these super soldiers and you’re wounded in battle. Maybe even killed. Any force strong enough to do that needs to be weakened, either to slow their offensive or cripple their defense. So, when exposed to air, the Alpha strain in the blood of the infected troops would mutate into a Beta strain, which any nearby enemies would take back to base with them to infect their comrades. Beta was airborne as well as blood-borne, which meant they could spread it easily. It wasn’t supposed to be permanent or fatal. Just a bad rash and a flu-like malaise for a while, nothing more. Enough for our guys to get in, wipe them out and leave, or set up shop and take over.”

“Oh.” Rhys hesitated, trying to make sense of it. The kitchen had gone virtually silent, the attention of the strange soldiers a little disconcerting. “But wouldn’t that end up making our soldiers sick, too?”

Darius shook his head, giving Xolani an irritated look. “Alpha gave them immunity.”

“But the Rot is deadly. It’s not just a rash and a flu.”

“Yeah.” Xolani looked grim, zipping her pack shut with a hard jerk. “The live trial went to shit once it was deployed in the field. No one really knows what happened. Best theories are that it was influenced by another virus, something local to the region of Russia where Alpha was first administered to a battalion of test subjects—the Juggernauts, or Jugs, as they called themselves. Or possibly it was affected by radiation from all the uranium that ended up floating loose around there. At any rate, it didn’t do what it was meant to do. It mutated. The rash became necrotic lesions, and what was intended to be an exhausting malaise was so severe and debilitating that the infected victims were left pretty much catatonic, trapped inside their bodies while their tissues decayed. But before all this became apparent, some of the wounded, Alpha-infected troops brought it home when a bureaucratic snafu sent them back to the States to recuperate instead of into quarantine, so Beta started spreading back here as well. That’s when reports of the Gamma mutation first appeared. There were probably revs in Russia, too, the military just managed to hush it up.”

Rhys wiped a hand over his mouth, the nausea that had been plaguing him since he regained consciousness redoubling. He’d known the Rot was bad but hearing it described that way, it sounded a lot worse.

“Well, it’s wonderful you folks came along when you did!” Jacob said brightly. “Who knows what would have happened to me—us—otherwise.”

“What’s going to happen to us? Are you going to quarantine me and Jacob like you do the other survivors you find?” Rhys asked. That would be just great, stuck with Jacob alone without even Cady there.

Darius sighed. “We ain’t taking you back to base and putting you with the other survivors.”

Something in his voice made Rhys’ head snap up. “Why not?”

“Because there’s very little chance—statistically speaking, zero, really—that you’re not infected.” Xolani’s eyes were gentle, full of pity. “I’m sorry. You took a faceful of blood there, kid, and even if you hadn’t, you were in too close of proximity to those revs.”

“Oh.” Rhys swallowed hard. Everyone’s voices became fainter as a low humming grew steadily louder in his ears. His headache kicked up another notch with the increased force of his pulse in his temples. “I’m still going to die. Okay.”

There was something wrong with his numbed acceptance of that fact, though he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what. After all, he’d known he would die from the moment Father Maurice ordered him to use himself as bait to distract the revs so the rest of them could get away.

Then he looked up in alarm, the humming in his ears became an unnerving drone, a cold sweat prickling his skin. He felt dizzy and his head throbbed mercilessly.

“You have to kill us. Both of us. Now. We’re endangering you.”

Everyone shuffled.

What?” Jacob squawked in alarm and started protesting, but Rhys had no attention to spare for him. His eyes were fixed on Darius and Xolani, who were glaring at each other for no reason he could understand. His knees felt weak and he gripped the edge of a stainless steel table for support.

“Don’t worry.” Xolani never took her eyes off Darius. “You won’t infect us.”

The droning turned into a deafening klaxon and dark spots began to spread across his field of vision. Rhys’ whole body tingled like every part of him was falling asleep, except his head, which hurt so terribly he almost wished they would kill him.

“Oh. So, you’re Jugs.” He gave a short, hysterical giggle. “Guess that explains how you broke up the pews, then.”

The terra cotta tile floor leapt up to smack him in the face before he could decide what he thought about that.

Strain will be released in January 2014 from Riptide Books.

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#SevenSentenceSunday from Strain (#mmromance coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks) – dissent in the ranks

You don’t honestly expect me to limit myself to seven sentences for #SevenSentenceSunday by now, right?

This snippet comes from a little later in the book, when Rhys (part 1 and part 2) and Titus are discussing a potentially volatile situation regarding Jacob within the unit Darius and Xolani command.

(As always, these excerpts are as-yet unedited. All mistakes are my own.)

“You should know he’s taking aim at Darius and Xolani. Trying to undermine them. He called her ‘that Arab bitch.’”

“Did he now?” Titus’ eyes, wrinkled with a perpetual sun-squint, glinted with amusement. “And just when I’d almost managed to convince myself stupidity isn’t a terminal illness. Well, she’s a Persian bitch, in the interest of accuracy. She ended up in the med corps during Iran because she could speak Farsi.”

“Huh. I didn’t know that.” Rhys pursed his lips. “So Xolani is a Persian name?”

“Nope. Zulu.” Titus laughed again, a deep, rumbling noise that sounded like boulders rolling down a hill. “Darius started calling her that when she joined Delta Company. Means ‘peace.’”

“Peace?” Rhys felt his eyebrows creep up and Titus laughed even harder.

“Well, he didn’t have a word for ‘will rip off your face and eat it with ketchup.’” After a moment he sobered. “I don’t mind saying your pal’s life expectancy just got a lot shorter, Cooper. He steps a toe out of line, I’ll be there to put a bullet between his eyes, if she doesn’t beat me to it.”

“I thought you weren’t allowed to mistreat the recruits?”

“Well, he’s not a recruit anymore, is he? Besides, who said anything about mistreatment? I’d kill him so fast, it wouldn’t even hurt. Much.”

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#TeaserTueday from Strain (coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks) – Life at the monastery

Today for #TeaserTuesday, we’re going to explore what life was like at the abandoned monastery where 19-year-old Rhys Cooper has been sheltering from a deadly plague and its aftermath with his sister, nephew, and a handful of other survivors.

Here are the other #TeaserTuesday and #SevenSentenceSunday excerpts I’ve shared from Strain.

The Revenants
Meet Darius
Meet Xolani
Meet Rhys (part 1 and part 2)
Meet Jacob

As always with these snippets, the text is not yet edited. Any mistakes are my own.

“What happened to your knuckles? That’s not all from trying to punch out that other guy.”

Rhys looked down at his bloodied hand, red meat showing raw through cracked, bruised skin.

“Doesn’t matter. Won’t be happening again.”

“Think you can stand? Otherwise, if you want to sit in the shower, I can turn it on for you while I go find a blanket.”

“I can stand.” With her help, he pushed himself to his feet and staggered into the shower. The shredded remains of his clothing still littered the bottom of it. Jesus, his jeans must have really been threadbare if they’d just managed to rip wet denim off him like that. He leaned against the tile of the mildew-spotted wall and let Xolani turn on the cold spray.

“I’ll be right back. Try not to fall over.”

Nodding hurt too much, so Rhys just grunted and began scrubbing off the mud. The longer he was on his feet, the steadier he felt, until he got brave enough to bend over and pick up a scrap of his t-shirt to use as a washcloth.

She came back a moment later with another blanket like the one he’d lost when he attacked Jacob. Rhys turned off the water and wrapped it around him.

“Interesting marks there on your hips and thighs. Last time I saw a set of bruises that looked like that, they were on a guy who’d been beaten with a cane.”

Rhys flushed but said nothing, clutching the blanket tighter.

“The old man had a cane lying beside him where he died.”

He glowered and stomped out of the bathroom, trying to ignore her when she followed.

“I notice that guy you tried to clobber the shit out of wasn’t wearing rags like you were.”

“Yeah, well, he didn’t outgrow all of his clothes,” Rhys muttered. “I was twelve when we got here.”

“And how long ago was that?”

“Seven years.”

Why was she following him, much less asking all these questions? “And it was— what? Just you and your sister, and Jacob and his father?”

“No.”

“That’s right, there was the baby and a kid, too. Who else was here?”

He sighed in annoyance. He shouldn’t be so unfriendly to her—after all, she did help save his life, and stitch him up—but he really wished she’d stop probing for information about things that weren’t any of her business.

“My mom died a couple years ago,” he answered shortly. “We think it was cancer. She had some, uh, lumps. Gabe—Gabriel—ran away and his parents went to try to find him and never came back. Guess they must have all died, too.” Rhys grimaced, trying not to think of why Gabe had run off. “The eleven-year-old boy you found out there today was Gabe’s little brother, Jeff. When they went after Gabe, they left him behind here where he’d be safe. There was another family, too, in the beginning. The Merkles. Holly got appendicitis. Her dad committed suicide. Her mom was stung by a bee. Now we’re all that’s left. Anything else you wanna know?”

Xolani shook her head and took his arm without asking, helping him down the stairs. Her grip was really strong, but then, even though she wasn’t tall, her shoulders were broad and she had a solid, muscular build. A scar ran down her cheek, a light line puckering and pulling at the skin and making her look tough. Even without it, she wouldn’t have ever been called pretty. Darius was a lot bigger than her, but something told Rhys that if it came down to a fight between them, she could probably hold her own.

And she didn’t try to apologize or sympathize as he cataloged their losses. He appreciated that.

“Look, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a jerk, and you’re being nice and all, but my head hurts and can we just not talk about all that?”

“Okay,” she said with perfect equanimity and fell silent.

Darius was outside—along with some of the others whose names Rhys hadn’t gotten yet—standing beside a large pile of scrap wood. Father Maurice, Jeff, Cady and Caleb were laid on top of it and Rhys had to swallow hard seeing them just draped limply like that. On the far side, Jacob was watching him with eyes that glittered with hatred, but Rhys couldn’t be bothered to care. All he could do was stare at the dark gold of his sister’s blood-matted hair hanging down.

When he drew near, he could smell kerosene fumes.

Darius grabbed a length of wood and lit it from the fire still burning the remains of the revenants. But before he could touch it to the other pyre, Jacob lifted his head and raised his voice dramatically loud.

“Dear Lord, we commend to you these loved ones, my father, wife and son . . .”

No mention of sister or nephew, of course.

“Oh, shut up.” Rhys snatched the torch out of Darius’ hand, setting the whole thing ablaze. The last damn thing he needed to hear was about God and heaven and salvation. After a moment of glaring, Jacob continued droning on, but Rhys didn’t hear the trite platitudes. The pompous voice was drowned out by the roar and crackle of the flames.

Strain is coming January 2014 from Riptide.

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An anniversary and a year in review

As of yesterday, it has been one year since I self-published my first book, Inertia.

I will be the first to admit that I went into publishing all wrong. I had no idea what it was about. A friend told me “you should do this” so I commissioned cover art, hired an editor, and did it. I knew nothing about the finer points of self-publishing or book marketing or the genre. I was fortunate in that one of the first contacts I made when I found out that offering copies for review was the thing to do was Cryselle, who runs her own review blog and also reviews for Jessewave and a few other sites. She was absolutely lovely and sort of took me in-hand and nudged me in the right direction.

Amusing anecdote time:

I was advised to self-publish by a friend in gaming fandom, whom we’ll call D.R. Her words were basically, “what you write is as good as any other the other stuff I’ve been reading in this genre, so you should go for it!” So I went for it. And because of that, I met Cryselle, who told me I should introduce myself to P.D. Singer, which I did. Pam was totally delightful and hugely helpful, and she told me to introduce myself to Angela Benedetti, who is also wonderful.

Then one night on Gchat, Angie and I were getting to know each other and she mentioned some fanfic pairings she read, one of which was somewhat unique, so I said, “hey, I know someone who writes that!” And she said, “You know T?” And I said, “No, but I know her wife” at which point Angie was all “Oh, you know D.R.!”

So. Apparently it is, indeed, a small world after all.

After releasing Inertia, which did, I admit, end on a rather abrupt note, a fact which has been pointed out many, many times, there was a lot of furor for Book Two. Unfortunately, my editor had quite a backlog, though, so I wasn’t able to release Acceleration until the end of November. As an author, I felt like Acceleration was a much more solid book, and both my editor and the reviewers seemed to agree with that assessment.

Luckily, by that point I was starting to get into a pretty smooth production groove. I knew Acceleration would be coming out in late November, so the last minute push there was going to each into NaNoWriMo. So I time-shifted my personal NaNoWriMo and began working on October 13, giving myself 30 days (until November 12) to write 50,000 words on Book Three, Velocity. I finished on November 4, scheduled editing for January, and planned the release for March. The entire process went incredibly smoothly.

In the meantime, I was also working on other projects. In August after I finished writing Acceleration, I wrote an 8K short based on nothing more than a mention I had seen on Twitter that there needed to be some m/m Highland romance. I really wasn’t happy with the result, though, so I shelved the short and began working on Strain.

Strain was an interesting endeavor, because it was written in response to Riptide’s At World’s End open call. Submission deadline was Nov 1, and I didn’t discover the call and realize I had a story idea for it until August 31, which meant I had two months to write and polish a novel for submission.

I finished writing Strain on September 28, and submitted it on October 10. It came in at ~65K. In 29 days. I thought that was pretty spiffy.

In mid-December, I heard back on the Strain submission and the manuscript wasn’t quite there yet, so the lovely Sarah Frantz gave me some revision suggestions and brainstormed with me and from the last week of December to mid-January, Strain went from 65K to 103K and I resubmitted it.  In December, Leta Blake also did a beta read of the Highland story and gave me some suggestions (and also reassured me that a lot of my problem with it was my inner critic being too harsh) and that story went from 8K to 13.5K and I submitted it to Riptide as well in mid-January. Then I got my edits back from my editor on Velocity, turned those around, and began sending out review copies.

Then my brain got eaten by zombies a story. It started in the car on the way to pick up lunch for my son and I one afternoon. A single line of dialogue. That was it. Just one completely out of context line that I knew I had to write. So I began building the world and plot around that line. It was easy, because the character who spoke that line was the most amazing, clear, intensely vivid character to ever give birth to himself in my mind. And he did. I claim no responsibility for creating Topher. He created himself, walked up to me, whispered that line in my ear, and demanded I write about him. And his voice! Oh, God, his voice. Clarion-clear from beginning to end.

I actually deviated from my refusal not to write out-of-sequence working on Topher’s story, because scenes were composing themselves in my head so clearly and loudly I had to get them out to make room for other things. Honestly, I don’t know how to begin describing the experience of writing Saugatuck Summer. It was magic. I knew as I was writing it that it was the best thing I had ever written, and quite possibly would ever write. I completed writing the entire 93K novel in 15 days, edited, polished, and submitted it. I actually waffled on whether or not to submit it or self-publish. I knew I could turn it around a lot faster if I self-pubbed, and I really, really wanted to get it into the hands of the public because it’s just such an amazing story. But I knew going through Riptide, it would reach a much broader audience and have a lot more marketing support, and it’s a book that really deserves that sort of backing.

Velocity released in March, and I began working up another story in the Saugatuck universe and conceptualizing a couple more novels. I received an acceptance for the Highland story, which was then expanded from 13.5K to over 20K and became The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, and Heidi Belleau surprised me with an invitation to write a novelette to fill a void in the Riptide schedule, which became Giving an Inch (The Professor’s Rule #1). We quickly completed TPR#2, An Inch at a Time, which is currently awaiting edits and is, for my money, better than the first. We have TPR#3 mostly written. All it’s awaiting for is an audience participation element that will take place when TPR#2 is published.

Giving an Inch was published in April, and The Laird’s Forbidden Lover was published in early May. During April, May, and June I worked on the second book in the Saugatuck universe, and also began a new and somewhat different project: a murder mystery, an honest-to-God whodunnit, which is called Third Wave. I’d say it’s about 2/3 complete in its first draft, but it definitely needs some work. I also am now working on a third book in the Saugatuck universe and I have a few other projects just beginning.

I admit, I’m hitting a bit of a slump at the moment. I’m trying not to stress out over it, because I know I’ve been plenty productive, but I’m one of those perfectionist people who feels utterly useless if they’re not actively working on something, so this not writing thing is grating on me. But between drafting, revisions and edits, I’ve written almost 500K so far in 2013 (closer to 700K if you go back a full year to when Inertia was first published), and I’ve gotten contracts on both Strain (coming January 2014) and Saugatuck Summer (coming May 2014). I’m not sure I’m going to meet my goal of writing a million words in 2013, but I can’t say I haven’t kicked some serious writing ass the last 12 months.

When I get back into the groove, I’ll be working on Third Wave and Risk Aware, which is the other Saugatuck story I have completed, but which needs some pretty extensive revision.

So, that’s my first year in publishing. Not bad, if I do say so myself. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

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#TeaserTuesday from Strain (#mmromance coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks) – Meet Jacob

For #TeaserTuesday today, I’m introducing Jacob Houtman, who is the common-law brother-in-law to 19-year-old Rhys Cooper (Meet Rhys, Part 1 and Part 2). Seven years before the story begins, Rhys, along with his mother and sister, found refuge at an abandoned monastery with a few other families, including Jacob and his fundamentalist dad, Father Maurice.

In the aftermath of an attack by revenants, from which Rhys was saved by Darius and Xolani, Rhys discovers that he and Jacob are the only remaining survivors.

(as usual, this excerpt is not yet edited and may be subject to change.)

Cadence and Caleb were dead and Jacob had managed to live.

Didn’t that just suck? If the revs weren’t going to chase and kill Rhys the way he’d intended, the least they could have done was gone after Jacob instead.

Rhys spared his so-called brother-in-law a disgusted look when he keeled over and began puking, then went back to contemplating what had been the last of his family. In a moment he’d start moving again. He’d help gather wood so he could do the proper thing and lay his sister and nephew to rest. Revs weren’t above scavenging fresh graves, so cremation was the best way to spare a loved one the indignity of becoming carrion.

He heard the guy in charge, Darius, bark something about getting Jacob washed off, but he couldn’t be bothered to care. If the Rot took Jacob, Rhys wouldn’t waste any tears. Jacob had agreed readily enough, after all, when Father Maurice had tagged Rhys to be bait, writing him off to save their own asses.

“Don’t know why we’re bothering,” he heard the grizzled guy over by the pump—had Darius called him Titus? What was with the Roman names, anyway? Was it a theme? Jesus, why couldn’t he focus on a single thought?—grumble to the woman who’d introduced herself as Xolani. “More trouble than this shit-stain’s worth. It could just as easily be the girl’s blood as rev. They were on her when the fucker ran off.”

It took a moment for the words to make sense, and then everything went hot and cold all at once. Sweat prickled and chilled as it erupted from pores all over Rhys’ skin; he could feel it running down his back to the crack of his butt. Everything in him clenched, like that flushed, crampy moment when your entire body seizes up just before the first wave of a bad case of the runs. He whipped his head around to stare at Jacob.

“You ran away?” This was it, then. This was what it felt like to lose your mind. Wow. You really did snap. Rhys was pretty damn sure he felt something physically break inside him. “They were being attacked and you left them?”

Then he was flying at Jacob, the half-healed cracks on his knuckles breaking open as he swung his fists. He drove Jacob out of the pump’s stream and into the muddy soil beneath it, screaming obscenities and trying to pummel him with far more rage than skill. Only Jacob’s shock and the insane force of Rhys’ anger gave him any advantage; he certainly didn’t have the stature, weight, or skill to take down Jacob otherwise.

“Get off me, you cocksucker!”

You left them!” Spittle flew from his lips and he didn’t care that he was screeching. His arms flailed, fists driving toward the body beneath him. He couldn’t even see Jacob for the red rush of fury blinding him. “I’ll kill you! You left them!

Jacob managed to flip them, driving the breath from Rhys’ lungs as he hit the ground. He didn’t bother to throw a punch; he just grabbed Rhys’ head and slammed it back, cracking it against one of the bolts on the thick steel pipe coming up from the well. Rhys saw stars, though he kept swinging blind punches toward Jacob as blood trickled down the side of his face and into the thick layer of mud-churned moss under him. He growled and snarled—sounding, he realized in some disconnected portion of his mind, like a revenant himself. His upper lip and chin were wet and he wasn’t sure if it was from the pump or if he really was foaming at the mouth.

I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you!

What the fuck is going on here, Titus?

He barely heard Darius’ roar before Jacob bashed his head against the pipe again. Then everything went black.

Strain is coming January, 2014 from Riptide Books.

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#TeaserTuesday from Strain: Meet Rhys part 2 (coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks ) #mmromance

As promised, I’m offering another, longer passage for TeaserTuesday today regarding Rhys, the nineteen year old protagonist in my post-apocalyptic novel coming in January from Riptide. You can find the passage I shared for Seven Sentence Sunday here.

Rhys is a survivor of a deadly plague that ravaged the human population over the last decade, killing a vast majority and turning a significant portion of the rest into maddened, animalistic predators called revenants. In the first snippet I shared, I introduced you to Darius via Rhys’ first impression of him. Rhys–who has been sheltering in an abandoned monastery for the last seven years with a handful of other survivors, including his younger sister and most recently, her infant son– is under attack by the revenants when Darius and his second-in-command Xolani rescue him.

This will actually be two segments because I can’t decide between the two passages and they’re both too long for Seven Sentence Sunday. It should also be noted that all these snippets are at present unedited. That’s due to happen next month, after which I very much hope there will be a longer, less segmented excerpt to share.

So, enjoy!

They snarled like rabid dogs and stunk to high heaven. He hadn’t considered what they might smell like until they bore down on him. Their wild manes of tangled hair reeked of oil and dirt. The ones who had once been men had beards even more ragged than the facial hair that grew indifferently in haphazard patches around Rhys’ jaw. Clearly hygiene wasn’t high on the revenant list of priorities.

Rhys giggled madly. He was losing it, he realized. His senses were aflame, singing; his awareness of everything had sharpened to a keen point. His heart raced and his muscles quivered. In those moments before death, he felt more alive than he had in the past seven years. He could almost thank the revenants for smelling so foul, because it made his last breaths into something that actually had an impact.

For one instant, he considered not fighting. Let them kill him. Let his final moment of this delicious sensitivity be the excruciating pain of their teeth rending his flesh.

In the end, though, the survival instinct was too strong. He swung his useless shotgun-turned-cudgel with what limited momentum he could muster, knocking one of them back. A spray of blood erupted from a cut on its brow and its head snapped back toward him, its eyes narrowing in fury. So human and yet so lacking anything resembling humanity.

The other charged him before he had a chance to draw the blood-smeared shotgun back for another blow. It knocked him to the stone floor, driving the breath from his lungs. The club flew from his hands. He managed a lucky blow with his elbow to its throat, winning himself a moment more of existence as it recoiled. Then it pressed down on him again, yellowed teeth snapping.

And the next one:

Darius had to hand it to the kid. With his shoulder blades visible beneath his skin, ribs jutting out like the bars of a xylophone, and his hazel eyes bulging with shock, he still had fight in him. No sooner had the question left his lips than he pushed past Darius.

Cady! Cady, are you okay!?”

Darius’ stomach sank and Xolani’s normally stern expression softened with sympathy. Before Darius thought to catch the kid, he’d darted out the door.

“Where is she? Cady!”

Shit.

“Keep searching the rooms. Find me that last rev Jamie reported and get the kid some damn clothes!” He took off after the survivor. His long strides carried him down the stairs where he caught the naked, dripping kid almost out the door. He might as well have been trying to hold an angry badger. The survivor thrashed and flailed, and Darius finally had to push him away when he even tried scratching and biting. Last fucking thing he needed was for the kid to draw blood.

Not that it mattered.

Suddenly free, the survivor didn’t pause but charged the final few steps to the door, against which Darius slammed him chest-first to eliminate the hazard posed by the kid’s teeth and nails.

“Settle down, son. There’s still a rev on the loose and we gotta find it. My scouts reported four. I’d hate to think you fended off those other ones just to run smack into the last.”

“My sister might run into it!” The kid’s flurry of struggles renewed. “Cady!”

Darius growled to himself and tried to make his tone at least somewhat sympathetic. “There ain’t no one left alive out there.”

The thrashing came to a shuddering halt.

“They got away?” The plaintive hope in the kid’s voice probably made a whole host of angels somewhere burst into tears.

Darius was no angel, but he didn’t want to be an asshole, either.

“I’m sorry, son.”

“But the revs were supposed to come after me. I was gonna distract them.” His voice cracked with desperate confusion. “They were supposed to get me!

Oh, fuck. This was why he hated dealing with survivors. Especially traumatized ones.

Futilely brave, fucking heroic traumatized ones.

“They probably heard the baby cry and it was all over.” As comfort went, Darius was pretty sure it fell short but he didn’t know what else to say. “Revs are predators and like any predator, they know babies are easy prey. You couldn’t have got their attention no matter what you tried.”

To his credit, the kid didn’t burst into tears. That would have put the perfect cap on Darius’ afternoon. Instead, he drew a few quavering breaths and said almost calmly, “Let me go.”

“You don’t wanna see what’s out there, son.”

Xolani spoke from behind him and Darius almost jumped. Shit. He got so distracted by the kid he wasn’t even watching his six.

“Kaleo and Gina are reporting the rev still at large isn’t in the building or courtyard. Jamie says Titus is out on his bike. He suspects the last rev ran off from pack and Titus gave pursuit. We’re still looking for clothes, but for now here’s a blanket the kid can wrap up in.”

Darius reached behind him to take the scratchy woolen blanket. “If you promise not to bolt, I’ll let up so you can put something on.”

The tips of the kid’s ears turned red and he gave a stiff nod. Darius eased his weight off him and stood back, proffering the blanket. Avoiding Darius’ eyes, the survivor wrapped it around himself, then opened the door and dashed out.

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#SevenSentenceSunday from Strain (coming Jan 2014 from @RiptideBooks ) Meet Rhys pt 1

I’m going to cheat a bit today and give you a bit more than seven sentences. Because the theme I’ve been going with is using Seven Sentence Sunday to introduce characters and elements you’ll encounter in Strain and there are just no seven sentences that encapsulate nineteen-year-old Rhys Cooper, a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world where a deadly virus has killed a vast majority of the population and turned a significant portion of the people remaining into maddened predators.

So I’m quoting here a more-than-seven-sentence passages which really give some insight into who Rhys is and how he functions. Stay tuned for #TeaserTuesday when I will share another, longer, passage about Rhys.

Rhys was splattered with blood by the time the revenant stopped thrashing. A drop itched as it chilled and dried on his lip, its weight irritating.

Don’t lick. Don’t lick. Don’t lick.

He supposed it didn’t really matter. Even if he managed not to become dinner, he was still a dead man. He had been from the moment he’d breathed the same air as the revenant.

Knowing that made it easier, in a morbidly reassuring way. He had a small knife in his pocket, the faux-ebony handle cracked and the blade dulled. It was useless as a weapon, but with enough determination he could try to slit his wrists. Assuming he survived the revs, he might still die a clean death. If he was smart, he’d do it now, before they got through the door.

But then they might still turn and go after Cadence and Caleb.

It was all about priorities, he thought, his chest heaving and his arms aching as he stared down at the caved-in face of the rev he’d killed with dispassionate curiosity. He could see that with a remarkable clarity he’d never had before. First, keep the revs from chasing his sister and nephew. Second, take them out and avoid being eaten. Third, kill himself before the Rot set in or he became a revenant. Knowing what to do had never been so easy.

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#TeaserTuesday from Strain: Meet Xolani

Xolani is for many, many reasons my favorite side-character in the cast of Strain, my post-apocalyptic novel due from Riptide in January. I just adore her so much. Since I’ve been using #SevenSentenceSunday to introduce characters and elements from Strain, I thought I would do it here, too.

“Fuck this noise.” Darius threw up his hands in defeat. “It ain’t my job to baby the civvies.”

He heard Xolani sigh behind him. “The profundity of your compassion makes me weep.”

“They teach you those big words in med school?”

“Taught me a few short ones, too. The kind with four letters. Wanna hear ’em?”

“Go saw some bones or something and get off my ass.”

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#SevenSentenceSunday from Strain: Meet Darius

Another snippet from Strain, my post-apocalyptic novel due to be released with Riptide in January.

In this segment, nineteen-year-old plague survivor Rhys Cooper is saved from a revenant attack (see last week’s snippet for info on the revenants) in the nick of time by Darius Murrell.

Rhys’ first thought when he opened his eyes was that his final prayer had been answered. He’d died before the revs could begin to eat him. God appeared before him, stern and mighty enough to justify all the fuss people made about Him. His dark face was concerned in a detached sort of way. That tracked, too; Rhys had never seen any indication that God actually cared for him. He didn’t know why God would be wearing camo fatigues or why He had His holy hair pulled back in a ponytail, but who was Rhys to question the Almighty? Instead, he accepted the proffered hand and it pulled him to his feet as though he weighed nothing.

 

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#SevenSentenceSunday from #Strain – Meet the revenants

I’ve decided to start participating in the Seven Sentence Sunday thing over on Twitter. The following excerpt is from Strain, which I will be publishing with Riptide. Release date is scheduled for January 13, 2014.

In this snippet from Chapter One, you meet the baddies of Rhys and Darius’ post-apocalyptic world, the revenants.

Wondering if he should ask God for forgiveness, he bashed the still-struggling body on the aisle runner, which was so dark and dingy a red that in the faint light that it looked like a river of dried blood down the middle of the chapel. He hoped to snap the spine or pulverize the brain or at least blind it before the other two—or was it three?—revs he knew rampaged outside were attracted by the noise. If Father Maurice was to be believed, revenants weren’t actually undead, despite the name. He’d said that rumor had only started because everyone had assumed the Rot to be fatal without exception. When the virus mutated and began turning some of its victims into animals, people had panicked and made up wild claims about zombies. But no, the revs were alive, and if they were alive, they could be killed just about any way a living, breathing person could die. They were just strong, insane, and impervious to pain.

Stay tuned for more snippets from Strain, and also from Saugatuck Summer, in the Sundays to come.

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It’s finally official! Announcing Strain!

I’m pleased to announce that today I signed the contract with Riptide for Strain.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, Strain is a novel I wrote back in September for Riptide’s open call for post-apocalyptic stories. Set in the not-so-distant future, Strain tells the story of 19-year-old Rhys Cooper and 43-year-old Darius Murrell, two very different men thrown together in extreme circumstances. Predicated on a fuck-or-die trope, which by its very definition is dub-con, this book is a lot grittier than my usual offerings. It examines the extremes people will go to in order to live, and just what morals and ethics they’re willing to compromise in a world where survival has become the ultimate ideology.

This has been a really intense book to write, so I’m glad its finally in motion and heading toward publication. Anticipated release date is in January, 2014.

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