August Li’s The Kitchen Boy

April 7, 2016

August Li's The Kitchen Boy

Hi everybody. I’m August (Gus) Li, here at the blog today to talk about my novella The Kitchen Boy.

If you’ve read much of my work, you probably know I like to put a lot of pressure on my characters to see how dealing with conflict will force them to adapt and hopefully grow. In a lot of my books, characters face large-scale battles, conspiracies, assassinations, and powerful magic. I took a little bit of a different approach to this book. There’s still magic, and there’s political intrigue, some fights, and a body count. There are characters with selfish motivations, and there are betrayals. But the main conflict for my main character, Yoli, is internal, which leads to the topic I’m interested in exploring.

Does personal interest have a place in romance?

It’s easy to say no, that of course a character should put aside personal pursuits to chase love, to sacrifice selfish goals for the greater prize of a lasting connection with another person. But I like to poke around in the gray areas where things aren’t so simple. Love and partnership is a wonderful thing to have, but is there a point when its price is too high? What if a character must give up a lucrative career to be with another, or leave his homeland? Do we as readers cheer, or do we have to wonder if he made the right decision? What makes it a fair trade for the character who is giving something up? What does the love interest have to provide to balance the scales?

Or, as is the case in my book, what if the character is given a choice between loyalty to the man he loves and safety, freedom from being hurt, having his basic needs met, and the opportunity to realize his dream? It sounds too good to be true, and, in a way, it is, but walking away will make his life much easier and more comfortable. It might even mean the difference between life and death. It’s an interesting conflict to explore, because the desire to find love is such a basic and compelling one. But self-preservation is also a strong need. And not every character is a tragic hero who would rather die than lose they person he loves. Some characters are more practical. Some characters have also learned from experience that they have to look out for themselves.

As my character finds out, loyalty is lovely as a concept, but can become messy in practice. He wants to be an idealist, to stick to his beliefs no matter the opposition, but he also wants a future, and he wants that future to include enough to eat and the chance to do something he finds fulfilling. He’s put in a position where he must make an impossible choice. You’ll have to read the book to see how he reconciles everything, but does a certain amount of self-interest make for a bad romance protagonist?

Nobody likes a self-absorbed jerk who only cares about himself, but personally, I also don’t like a character without his own interests, without an investment in his own success, or who doesn’t use his agency to ensure a satisfying outcome for himself. I don’t like a character who only cares about what his love interest wants, at the expense of his own wishes and goals.  Most characters are never forced into a situation where they must, in absolute terms, choose between one and the other, but putting them there makes their most basic personality rise to the surface. As a writer, moving that dial between selfish jerk and doormat is a delicate balancing act. Push it too far, and the result is an unlikable character—no one cares about his success because he really doesn’t deserve it. Wiggle it in the other direction, and you end up with a character who lacks believability at best, comes across kind of deluded and pathetic at worst. Most people have a strong survival instinct, but most people also want to be loved—and to see those they love thrive. If they cannot have it both ways, what do they do?

So how do you like your protagonists? Self-sacrificing idealists or practical people who look out for themselves? It’s somewhere in between for me. Do you prefer characters that lean more one way or the other? What lines can a character not cross without losing your affection?

Check out The Kitchen Boy today!

KitchenBoyFS

Blurb:

Kitchen servant Yoli is one of only three men who know a carefully guarded secret about High Commander Koehen, the brilliant general who united their lands against a common invader. The enemy wants that secret, and they are willing to use either kindness or cruelty to obtain it.

Yoli must decide if his loyalties lie with the commander, who has shown him more affection than anyone in Yoli’s life, or with his own best interests. High Commander Koehen’s attention is capricious at best—he summons Yoli only when it is convenient for him, and Yoli knows there’s little hope of a future together. Is a glimmer of a hope for love worth sacrificing a chance for prosperity beyond his wildest dreams?

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“Scrolls, why did it have to be scrolls?” With M.D. Grimm

April 6, 2016

scrolls (1)

Hello lovely readers! M.D. Grimm here, author of “The Shifters” series. I’m glad you all can join me, so let’s get to it!

 

ShiftingMoonRGBFS

 

I’m here to ramble on about book #10—good grief, 10?—of the series, titled “Shifting Moon.”

 

Here’s the blurb: (You can find more info on it here)

After a year together, wolf shifter Derek Williams and vet Brian O’Donogue decide to marry. All Brian wants is to be legally part of Derek’s family, after his own disowned him for being gay. As far as Derek is concerned, he already belongs to his mate, heart, body, and soul. But their plans are put on hold when Derek discovers an injured young shifter, Tommy, one night while running as a wolf.

When they learn the truth behind Tommy’s presence in Washington, they are quickly drawn into a war that has waged in the shadows for decades. Brian, Derek, and their allies must fight against the Knights and their leader, Arcas, to prevent them from attaining an ancient scroll, one piece of a weapon that can destroy all shifters.

When worlds collide, no one will be spared.

I hope many of you will be pleased with the return of Derek, the wolf shifter, and his veterinarian mate, Brian. We first meet them in the very first book of the series, “Psychic Moon.” They were truly the couple that started it all. When I wrote “Psychic Moon” I didn’t have a clear idea where I was going with the series, but by the time I wrote “Blind Devotion” (3) I knew for certain the direction.

I feel as though I’ve come full circle—at least one of the circles—in the series by bringing back my first couple. They’ve been together a year and have melded their lives quite well. But no relationship is perfect and it’s in times of tragedy that you see someone’s true colors. Their teamwork and trust warms my heart and I *knew* they were the ones who had to be in this book at this stage of the series.

After spending the previous three books (“Hunted Guardian,” “The Serpent and the Angel,” and “Predator and Prey”) in the past, it was refreshing to come back to contemporary times. I could use modern slang and references and focus more on plot and character. It was less research, and though I’m a research fiend, even I need a break sometimes. ☺ And working with an established couple allows me to deepen their relationship and once again focus on other things instead of the “getting to know you” part of the romance. It changes the dynamic of the story trajectory and I apparently love to shake things up for myself. Because if I’m one thing, I’m *never* easy on myself.

What was immensely fun about “Shifting Moon” was the introduction of new characters and re-introduction of Gregor. Do any of you remember him? He’s the right-hand man of Arcas, the main villain. He’s also Arcas’s lover and most trustworthy supporter. Fun fact: the prologue for “Shifting Moon” is actually the second half of the epilogue for “Master’s Blood.” They are connecting scenes in a sense, though I had to modify the scene in “Shifting Moon” to give enough information for readers to follow along. I greatly enjoy the circular motion of the series and interconnectedness of events over time and distance. I did this intentionally to illustrate the simple fact that *everything* is interconnected. Nothing is truly isolated, not an event or a person. Life is a constant ripple effect and though it might take years to see the connection, it’s there.

Without Quincy and Con in “Hunted Guardian” boarding a ship to North America, then the scrolls wouldn’t have been dumped into the ocean, which means Reef and Digger (“Predator and Prey”) wouldn’t have met and one of the scrolls wouldn’t have fallen into Diana’s hands (the mother of Arcas). Also, Quincy and Con helped found Haven, which is where Tobias and Angel (“The Serpent and the Angel”) ended up with their scroll, which will play a large part in later books…. And without the founding of Haven we wouldn’t have Jack and Travis (“Blind Devotion”) and later Xavier and Josh (“Healing Minds”). I could keep going but for all of you how’ve read the series, you know this already. ☺ I hope you all caught the connections and the part Arcas has played through the centuries in one form or another.

For “Shifting Moon,” the scrolls still play a vital role, and Derek and Brian get tangled up in the war. I’m dealing with a lot more characters in this book, in terms of POV, then I have in previous ones. That also adds some complications as well as complexities. It was a story that had to be told with an established couple. There just wasn’t time for “getting to know you” since the story takes place in the span of a week, thereabouts. So why not bring back the guys that started it all?

“Shifting Moon” also acts a little like a “part one” since it connects intimately with book 11, tentatively titled “Feather and Scroll.” A few new characters introduced in “Shifting Moon” will take a prominent role in “Feather and Scroll.” And then that book will lead into book 12, which also brings back another established couple… *cough* Nordik and Poe *cough*

For those of you who don’t know, this series will run into the low 20s. So hold onto your hats! I have all the individual plots, couples, and overarching series plot planned out for the series. I just have to write the darn things. That’s the hard part.

I still have more bird shifters to play with, the return of Ryan and Caleb (“Love is a Whirlwind”), master shifters finding their mates, a historical about the founding of the Agency, and Merlin, the master shifter of all shapes, himself. It all starts and end with him and the secret he’s keeping. You’ll want to stick with the series just to get to HIS story. Trust me, it’s a doozy. Plus, I’m sure you’d all like to know what/who the hell Arcas is and his grand plan. In due time, my pretties. In due time.

Well, that’s it for me. My question to you is: If you could shift into any animal, what would it be and why? For me, it would totally be a dragon. If I have to choose actual, living animals, then I’d say a golden eagle. I totally want to fly.

Here’s a short excerpt for “Shifting Moon” to hold you over until you can get your hands on the book itself.

Brian came home to a surprisingly empty house. He was an hour late, and it was raining hard outside. Careful about tracking in mud, he took off his shoes and coat at the entryway and walked on stocking feet to the kitchen. He draped his coat on the back of one of the kitchen chairs and set his shoes in a corner to dry. The simple trips to his car from the clinic, and from his car to the house, and he was soaked.

He had to assume Derek would be even more soaked. And the dogs. He groaned.

As it was six o’clock, Brian started dinner. About ten minutes passed before he heard noise at the front door. Hurrying back to it, he wasn’t quick enough.

Derek came in soaked to the bone, and their dogs were no better shape. And then, before his horrified eyes, all the dogs shook violently, spraying water and mud on the floor, walls, and even the fucking ceiling. Brian flung up his arms to protect his face and knew all hope was lost to avoid a mess.

Even Derek—the jerk—shook like a dog, a big-ass grin on his face.

“Honey, I’m home.”

Brian scowled and punched Derek’s arm. “Look what you did! And you are damn well going to clean it up!”

Derek looked around and had the grace to wince. Brian noticed the dogs trying to sneak away, their ears and tails down. They knew his tone.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Brian said. He pointed. “In the bathroom, now.” He sent them all an image to make sure his point was clear.

The dogs obediently padded down the short hallway into the downstairs bathroom, which was just big enough to accommodate them all. Brian winced at the tracks they left before glaring at Derek.

“What?” Derek said defensively. “There was no way to clean them all before getting in the house. And—”

“Clean them up, clean yourself up, then come back here and clean up your mess.”

Derek’s eyes sparked, his skin rippled, and Brian braced himself. He knew and accepted Derek’s temper. Since Derek had never once harmed him or their dogs and rarely even destroyed their property when he was really pissed, Brian didn’t fear him. But he still braced himself because Derek could shout with the best of them and curse like sailor.

Derek suddenly lunged at Brian and pushed him up against the wall. Before Brian could speak, his mouth was assaulted and invaded and strong, rough hands slipped under his shirt, pressing against his bare skin, cold and wet. Brian gasped and could only cling to Derek’s shoulders to keep his balance during the assault.

Brian became soaked by Derek’s sopping clothing, but he didn’t care. He couldn’t make himself care. They hadn’t made love since Henry had passed, and now Brian felt as ravenous as Derek was. As Derek slipped his hands into the back of Brian’s pants and gripped his ass, Brian yanked and pulled at Derek’s shirt and sweater, desperate to find skin and heat.

Intent on getting naked, they barely heard the several snorts and sneezes and whimpers nearby.

Derek pulled back, and Brian looked over to the source of the noises. Their dogs had returned and stared at them. Brian noticed a few, like Fenrir, were trembling from cold.

“Take care of them,” Brian said, his voice noticeably husky. He cleared his throat. “I’ll clean up here.”

Derek looked back at Brian, frustration in his eyes but acceptance as well. He pulled away and yanked down his shirt and sweater. Then he corralled the dogs back to the bathroom, and Brian, trembling and hard, searched for towels and cleaning supplies. Dinner would be later than usual.

 

May dragons guard your dreams,

M.D. Grimm

 

Website: www.mdgrimmwrites.com

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Purple or Green? – Post + Ficlet with Jackie Keswick

March 29, 2016

Purple or Green

I’m Jackie Keswick and I’m happy to be visiting the Dreamspinner Press blog again. This time as part of the blog tour for House Hunt, the third book in the Power of Zero series.

Jack and Gareth had their unexpected reunion in Job Hunt. In Ghosts Jack decided to make a family for himself with Gareth, Daniel and Nico. So far, they’ve dealt with each emergency as it came and now it’s time to settle down and make that relationship work. Find ways to handle all the little mundane things that are part of becoming a couple.

That’s new territory for both of them and, of course, they both bring their own baggage. Gareth’s need to look after people and arrange situations as he sees fit is alive and well. And six months aren’t long enough for Jack to get used to having people in his corner ready to help him out.

Yes, getting into the team spirit is going to be interesting.

Especially for Gareth, whom readers have called a lot of things from a rock to a patient cat herder to downright invisible. I suppose he’s all those things at one time or another. He’s also gorgeous (of course! just imagine a cross between George Clooney and Laurence Nicotra and you have my Gareth), competent, stubborn, loyal and in love with Jack. More so than he expected to be after so short a time. More so, even, than he has admitted to himself just yet.

Jack’s pretty clueless about relationships. He’s uncompromising when it comes to his work. He’s just as determined as Gareth to have things his own way. And at times he appears to be more focused on helping Nico and Daniel than having a relationship. Does that make him difficult to love? Not to Gareth.

Most of the time Gareth sees past the armor and the crusades. He’s there, supportive, confident and determined to help Jack deal with whatever happens. He sees how similar he and Jack are. Jack can’t say no when someone needs help and Gareth loves to look after people.

He’s done it ever since his father was deployed and left him “in charge” at home. Gareth couldn’t stop taking care of people if you asked him to. He’s made an Army career out of it, and now does it at home and at Nancarrow Mining. Jack, Daniel and Nico need someone to make their lives a little easier and Gareth needs to be needed. So it just works.

I love both of Jack and Gareth, of course. But while Jack makes total sense to me – even if he makes sense to nobody else – Gareth tends to surprise me. Gareth grew up with loving parents. He has expectations of what a relationship and a family should be like. I often wonder whether Jack, and the crazy that follows in his wake, are like a bucket of cold water on those expectations. And whether Gareth is just too stubborn to walk away, even when he feels he should.

Few men would start a relationship by adopting two vulnerable, scared teenagers. Gareth does it without flinching, even when it means he has to watch Jack remember his own past every time he steps up to calm and soothe the two.

Jack’s past, and the way he deals with it, is a huge part of what makes Jack the character he is. His courage is without question, but Gareth’s courage is more than a match. He’s there every time Jack doesn’t realize he needs a wall at his back, quietly, patiently, while learning what makes Jack tick. He challenges Jack, pushes him when he needs it… and does a damned fine job hiding his own insecurities.

Oh yes, he has them. They’re just as valid as Jack’s troubles. And they will need dealing with if Jack and Gareth want to make it to their HEA. But that’s a couple of books away. So, for now, let’s take a look at Gareth as we haven’t seen him yet: vulnerable, worried, and intent to make himself as enticing and irresistible to Jack as Jack – with all his crusades and idiosyncrasies – is to him.

I’m glad to report that Jack gets it. Immediately.

 

Purple or Green?

A Jack & Gareth Ficlet

“Camouflage paint is so much easier to work with.” Gareth scrubbed the towel over his face. This was not going as he’d planned. He’d almost poked his eye out with the stupid pencil. Using the liquid stuff with the brush tip was no better. It smeared like nobody’s business and made him look like a grumpy panda.

How did Jack manage to draw such a sexy thin line? In less time than it took Gareth to unscrew the cap, too. He’d been trying it for the last half hour, and all he had to show for his efforts were a ruined towel and makeup smears all over his face.

It was lucky he had the house to himself for once, or he’d catch it big time from the boys. Daniel, with his recent interest in dressing to get noticed by the girls, might understand why Gareth was trying out Jack’s collection of eyeliners. Nico would pour nothing but scorn on the attempt.

The sad fact was, Gareth was jealous. It was juvenile and stupid and completely unwarranted. Gareth knew that, but he couldn’t change how he felt. Lisa had asked for Jack’s help shutting down an escort agency, so Jack was once more playing bait. And according to Baxter and Lisa, who were backing him up, Jack attracted a lot of attention in the clubs. From men and women alike.

Jack had come home in the early hours, hyped and buzzing, lipstick on his neck and his makeup a smudged mess. He’d looked gorgeous, dangerous… and so enticing that Gareth had been grateful that they had the house to themselves.

And yes, they’d been late for work that morning.

Once the lust haze cleared, though, it left Gareth feeling unsettled. As if he wasn’t quite enough any longer. And that had, by strange, meandering pathways, led to Gareth scowling at the mirror, Jack’s makeup case open on the dresser. He had no idea what he was doing, the ruined towel could attest to that, but he’d dare anyone to call him a quitter.

Maybe it was time to apply a little logic.

Jack’s stash of colors and implements was huge. Gareth had thought that eyeliner was black, but it seemed he’d been wrong about that. Jack had eleven colors of eyeliner in his case – thick, thin, pencil, liquid, brush, gel – and… really. What the fuck?

In the end Gareth chose purple, because it looked appealing, and a deep green that he could see Jack wearing. Deep green and Jack went together like pie and mash, even if he couldn’t explain why.

He ditched the pencils as unusable and too dangerous and was trying to get the hang of the liquid liners with the brush and sponge tips when he found one that looked like a felt tip pen. One side was as thin as a fineliner, the other side broader, more like a whiteboard marker. He used both of those every day, so that should be easier, right?

With grim determination, Gareth set to work once more.

He was putting the finishing touches on his right eye when Jack came home. The morning’s excellent mood hadn’t faded yet. Jack was whistling, calling out, bounding up the stairs… only to freeze in the doorway when he caught sight of Gareth. He lost his smile, too.

“What… are you doing?”

Gareth shrugged. “Trying to make myself a bit more presentable?” he offered, voice hesitant, not surprised when Jack got it right away.

“As if you have need.”

“I thought I might,” Gareth admitted, but then he turned his head this way and that. “So, which one? Purple or that deep green you use?”

Jack breathed out. His shoulders dropped. And then the smile returned.

“You’re hopeless, Flynn,” he pronounced as he joined Gareth by the mirror. “With your eye color, what you want is teal. C’me here.” He riffled through the brushes and pens until he found the shade he sought. “I bought that on a whim a while ago,” he explained as he reached for a pack of wipes that Gareth hadn’t even noticed. “It’s not my color and I had no idea why I’d ever want it, but…it’s perfect for you. Here, scrub your face.” He held out the wipes and watched while Gareth turned them purple and green, idly rolling the liner in his palms.

“There’s no reason for you to spruce yourself up with paint, unless you’ve got your eye on someone else,” he said. “I’m perfectly happy with the man you are. I don’t need embellishments. Besides…”

“Besides what?”

Jack looked uncomfortable all of a sudden. He waved at the case. “That’s camouflage,” he explained. “Armor. Walls made from bullshit and deception. I’ve no need for it unless I’m hiding.”

Gareth spun around on the stool and settled his hands on Jack’s hips. “So this was a bad idea?” he queried while his fingers teased along the edge of Jack’s waistband.

“Maybe… not entirely,” Jack decided after a moment and leaned into the touch. “I never thought you’d try liner, so while I have you here I might as well satisfy my curiosity. Hold still.”

He straddled Gareth’s lap and unscrewed the cap on the teal liner. It took him just moments to line Gareth’s eyes and when he surveyed his work, Jack’s breath caught in a way that Gareth found oddly comforting.

“Fuck… that’s hot,” Jack breathed almost reverently. “We can do that again.” He leaned back a little for a better look. “But I tell you one thing for nothing, Flynn: you are not leaving the house looking like that!”

 

Check out House Hunt today!

HouseHuntFS

 

Pups and Prague with H. E. Kollef

March 24, 2016

Pups & Prague

Hello! My name is H. E. Kollef, and I’m here to tell you a little bit about my new book, The Danger in Bohemia, which came out from Dreamspinner yesterday!  I’d also like to say thank you to Dreamspinner Press for taking a chance on me.

The Danger in Bohemia is a love story about Max Knight, an American on the run, and Hadrian Walls, the British bartender he falls in love with. But there’s another love story weaving through the novel, one with the city itself. I spent nearly two years there living as an English teacher, like Max, and Prague sunk her hooks into me. I hope I was successful in working my love for the city—its food, history, and people—into the story. Maybe it will inspire you to take a trip of your own.

City herself aside, The Danger in Bohemia is populated with a lot of characters, almost none of who are based on real people (sadly, because I would love to get a beer with Hadrian and hear some of his war stories). The one exception is Vaclav the dog.

Prague in real life is an incredibly dog-friendly city; people bring their dogs into pubs and restaurants, to the grocery story, and even to work. Some of the sweetest sights you’ll see in the city are big Czech men, often very macho in appearance, walking tiny Minpins and Chihuahuas. And because dogs are so prominent in Czech culture, you quickly begin to recognize them just as you’d recognize your human neighbors.

Vaclav was named for my favorite dog in Prague. I never got his name, but he used to sit outside a coffee shop near my apartment on the Jiřího z Poděbrad square. He was big—as big as the Newfoundland I had when I was growing up—with short, course white hair and perky ears that stuck up like small sails on the top of his head. He usually had a few friends with him too—a Minpin that would sit tucked into his front legs and another small dog of indeterminate breeding that liked to sprawl out near his head. I loved walking past them on my way to work, especially on a warm day when they really seemed to be lapping up the sunshine.

If you want a visual for Vaclav, imagine this guy but bigger:

Wgsd_walking2

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Shepherd#/media/File:Wgsd_walking2.jpg

Book-Vaclav lives in U Medvídků, the subterranean pub where Hadrian works as a bartender. Like his inspiration, Vaclav is a massive white dog, tall enough that his head is level with most men’s hips. He’s a sweet, friendly dog, for all his size, and loves nothing more than curling up by the fire (or sneaking a few treats from Hadrian).  He’s also very smart, which comes in handy when [Note: plot spoiler involving arson has been removed].

Hopefully, everyone reading Dreamspinner’s blog is an avid animal lover and will be won over to The Danger in Bohemia purely on the basis of having a great animal character. Or if you’d like to read more about Max and Hadrian, you can check out this guest post I wrote for DivineMagazine.net here.

***

Still not sure this book is for you? Wondering at the steam level of The Danger in Bohemia? Maybe this excerpt from Max and Hadrian’s first kiss might persuade you to pick up a copy:

“It’s okay, lad. That’s fine. Would a restaurant do?”

“Well….” Max took a deep breath while Hadrian held his. “I still haven’t tried goulash,” he said, carefully.

“That can be arranged,” Hadrian said. He moved closer, going slowly, letting Max see every move he made.

Max shivered but didn’t move, instead looking up at Hadrian through half-lidded eyes. His lips parted slightly, and Hadrian saw how full they were.

“Can I touch you, lad?” Hadrian asked, voice low.

“Yes,” Max whispered.

Gently, carefully, Hadrian lifted a hand and laid it against Max’s cheek. His skin was cold and soft.

Max leaned into his touch. “This is a bad idea, you know. I—”

“You’re dangerous, you’re trouble, you’re complicated,” Hadrian interrupted, rubbing his thumb along the ridge of Max’s cheekbone. “I know. I don’t care.”

“I’m just trying to be honest,” Max said, and Hadrian could hear that truth in his voice. “There are parts of me that are broken. I don’t know if they can be fixed. I don’t know what you’re expecting, but I probably can’t give it to you.”

“I. Don’t. Care,” Hadrian repeated, voice gentle but firm. “All I want is the chance to know you better.”

“Really?” Max asked, and the surprise—the genuine surprise, almost shock—pushed Hadrian the extra step he needed.

He leaned down, pressed his thin lips against the softness of Max’s mouth, and felt Max trembling beneath him. Hadrian held himself very still, rubbing thumb over Max’s cheek, trying to say with his body what his mouth could not: You’re safe. Let me know you.

Slowly, Max yielded to him.

 

Thanks for reading this far, if you didn’t run away already. And if you like this story, check out my previous short story, “One Cold Night in Prague,” published in Dreamspinner Press’  Random Acts of Kindness anthology.  You might recognize the main characters in the short story…including Vaclav!

Now, it’s my turn to ask y’all a question. Let’s pretend you’re the proud owner of a romantic, gothic pub in the heart of Prague. You can pick one animal to live in your pub—what do you choose? And why?

 

Best,

H. E. Kollef

 

PS: If you’d like to know more about my writing, follow me @HEKollef or on my website, HannahKollef.com.

Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback
Amazon.com
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
All Romance e-books

Blurb:

“Will Mracek is forced to flee to Prague when he witnesses his boyfriend, powerful security magnate Jean Claude la Bête, commit murder. On the run, and with help from his cousin John, Will becomes an English teacher named Max Knight and does everything he can to blend in. Meeting Hadrian Walls, however, changes everything.

Max falls in love with the grumpy ex-RAF, now bartender, and Hadrian finds himself doing the same, despite not knowing the secrets of Max’s dangerous past.

But trouble has a way of coming home, and Max and Jean Claude will face each other one last time in a confrontation that sends both of them over the edge….”

Author Bio:

H. E. Kollef currently lives in the UK, where she splits her time between her latest novel, tackling her MSc in Library Science and attempting to pet every dog she comes across. She loves Prague and romance almost as much as a well-organized library, and hopes to incorporate all three in her next novel. You can learn more about her work at HannahKollef.com, or follow her on Twitter @HEKollef

The Big Day is Here! With Ken Bachtold

March 3, 2016

The Big Day is Here!

Hi, I’m Ken Bachtold and I will have the excitement of seeing my new book Mood Indigo being released. The first paragraph of this book came to me almost unbidden and the rest of the story just followed, one scene after another. I do not use an outline, each scene from the beginning suggests the scene that should come next. This bothered me, until I read an article about Stephen King – and he doesn’t use an outline either! So I now feel vindicated. As the story is told first by Bill Ward and then by Johnny Desmond, I had to be careful to keep the time sequences in order, and let each one move the progression of the story further when their next section occurred. I had to make sure that when old song star, Sadie’s character was introduced it would fit a timeline where she could have been a contemporary of Dinah Shore and Peggy Lee. At present, I’m working on an entry for Dreamspinner’s States of Love series. As I live in New York, I was very lucky to be able to secure New York as my state! The story is going along just fine. It’s semi-autobiographical, as I came to New York and started my own theater company, A Company of Players, which became its title. As Mood Indigo is the title of my book, I would like to ask you if you have a favorite song of your own. Or, perhaps a singer from the big band era. If so, please let me know! I have a website which you can find by entering www.KenBachtold.com. You can find me on Facebook and I Tweet almost daily. I also have a Tumblr account that at present is being refurbished. I hope you will enjoy Mood Indigo!

Check out Mood Indigo today!

MoodIndigo_postcard_front_DSP

Blurb:
What happens when a powerful connection forms between two damaged strangers?Found injured by the side of a road, Bill Ward suffers from retrograde amnesia. Having no recollection of his past, he feels like a nobody. Romance is definitely not an option for a nobody. Jazz singer and piano player Johnny Desmond, on the other hand, is emotionally dead from the ultimate betrayal. But from the moment their eyes meet, there’s no fighting it, and with their friends’ encouragement, Bill and Johnny decide to get to know each other.Bill’s memories are hovering at the edge of his mind, tormenting him with fear and doubts about what he has to offer. Johnny also has a past—one that could endanger his life. It might have been love at first sight, but it will take courage and commitment to see it through to love that lasts forever.
Author Bio:
Ken Bachtold graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA and an MA in acting and directing and a minor in art. Passing up a great teaching job and surrendering to the “lure of the big time,” he came to New York. After pounding the pavement and finding it wanting, he decided to shape his own destiny and founded A Company of Players Repertory Theatre, producing and directing five plays. Always an avid reader, his two-year-old Kindle currently stores 400 books, mostly MM romance. Often frustrated at finding exactly the type of story he favored, he thought, What the hell, I should write one. And so he did!

 

Dragon Appreciation with Susan Laine – Post + Giveaway

March 2, 2016

Dragon Appreciation

Hi, everyone. My name is Susan Laine. I’m a Finn but I write in English. Today is release day of my paranormal gay romance, Stealing Dragon’s Heart. This is the sixth in the Lifting the Veil series but it is completely a standalone, so you don’t need to have read the previous books. You can find the story from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and other retailers.

Here’s the blurb:

“A Lifting the Veil Story

Notorious master thief Finn Grayson is hired to break into a high-class skyscraper in New Shanghai and steal a priceless artifact known as the Shard. But someone’s gotten to the Shard first—and the penthouse suite turns out to be a dragon’s lair.

Cameron Feilong, Guardian of the Earth Shard, is ancient enough to realize that he and his unbidden guest are being used like puppets on a string. Forming a shaky alliance is the only way for them to survive and to stop their ruthless foes.

Unfortunately, Finn and Cam seem to be forever one step behind. To learn more about their clandestine enemy, they travel together from walled Asian cities, barren tundras, and underwater temples to secret paranormal clubs and legendary elvish cities. Finn and Cam must learn to trust each other before it’s too late, for bringing together the five Elemental Shards will spell the end of the world.”

**********

Today I’m here to talk a bit about the behind the scenes, and to do a giveaway of one (1) e-book.

My mother introduced me to ancient Chinese culture, art, and literature when I was a child. Ancient China felt like a mythical land, far removed from contemporary Finland. I’ve wanted to write a story based on what I’d learned for a long time. The setting is an alternate contemporary Earth, and about a decade after the mysterious Veil lifted, reshaping our reality. Our boring human world and the magical realm of myths, legends, and folklore ended on a collision course, irrevocably changing our planet.

What’s so special about Stealing Dragon’s Heart then? The answer: Dragons! Specifically Chinese dragons that are depicted as wise, good, and honorable. I may wish to be a werewolf myself if I could, but of all the mythical, paranormal, and supernatural creatures I most wanted to meet a Chinese dragon.

Their effect on Chinese mythology is substantial, and they appear far more complex than their monstrous counterparts in Western myths. The Chinese dragons are typically shown as snake-like creatures that move on four legs, and they have characteristics of turtles, fish, serpents, and the like. These beings represent positive powers, and they control rain, floods, typhoons, tsunami, and other water-related phenomena. Dragon was an imperial symbol of power, strength, and good fortune.

I mostly kept that image with my dragon. Cameron Feilong is an immortal dragon. But his powers connect with the element of Earth, not Water. His sacred duty is to guard the Earth Shard. He is wise and powerful, and he is a sign of good luck for his human and flawed anti-hero, Finn Grayson, a thief who ends up in the lair of the dragon but manages to get through unscathed. Mostly, anyway.

Picture taken from Wikipedia.

My dragon is many things. Among them an artist and a poet. For the art, I was influenced by Wǔ Xíng paintings depicting the five elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The natural themes of the art style were inspired monumentally by the landscapes of ancient China, most significantly by Huángshān, or the Yellow Mountains. Below are, a picture of Huángshān, and an ink Wǔ Xíng painting of Huángshān, both taken from Wikipedia:

As you can see, Huángshān, or the Yellow Mountains, and their scenery were common subjects of artwork and poetry an ancient China, and even today through photography and film. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), tens of thousands of poems were written about Huángshān alone, and a school of painting was named after the region.

The cover of Stealing Dragon’s Heart, which depicts the Wǔ Xíng painting style, was done by the extremely talented Anne Cain.

Cameron Feilong, my ancient dragon, shares my love of Wǔ Xíng artwork and poetry, and he even lives high in the Yellow Mountains. I adore ancient Chinese poetry, and the multitude of interpretations. In the story Cameron talks about his favorite poems and poets, among them Dù Fǔ and Li Bai, two essential poets of the Tang period. Below is an English translation of one of Li Bai’s poems, Long Yearning.

“Long yearning,

To be in Chang’an [capital city of the Tang Dynasty].

The grasshoppers weave their autumn song by the golden railing of the well;

Frost coalesces on my bamboo mat, changing its color with cold.

My lonely lamp is not bright, I’d like to end these thoughts;

I roll back the hanging, gaze at the moon, and long sigh in vain.

A beautiful person’s like a flower beyond the edge of the clouds.

Above is the black night of heaven’s height;

Below is the green water billowing on.

The sky is long, the road is far, bitter flies my spirit;

The spirit I dream can’t get through, the mountain pass is hard.

Long yearning,

Breaks my heart.”

(Poem: http://www.chinese-poems.com/lb.html)

As you can see, there’s a connection between literature, painting style, and nature. The aesthetics of these three always pleased me as a child, and now as an adult, ancient China inspired me to write a story about a wise dragon and his perilous adventure with a human thief.

So there you have it. My thoughts on Stealing Dragon’s Heart. I hope you liked reading my sort of intro into the story and the ancient Chinese culture.

I’m doing a giveaway of an e-book (Stealing Dragon’s Heart, or anything from my backlog), so if you’d like to enter, comment below with an answer to this question: “If you could be any mythical or paranormal being, which one would it be, and why?” Good luck, everyone!

Thank you, DSP Blog, for hosting my guest post, and thank you readers for stopping by!

Author Bio:

“Susan Laine is an award-winning, multi-published author of LGBTQ erotic romance. Her favorite pastimes include listening to music, watching action flicks, eating chocolate, and doing the dishes while pondering the meaning of life.”

Find Susan online:

Website – http://www.susan-laine-author.fi/
Blog – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5221828.Susan_Laine/blog
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/susan.laine.author
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Laine_Susan
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5221828.Susan_Laine

Find Stealing Dragon’s Heart online:

Dreamspinner Press – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7488
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Stealing-Dragons-Heart-Lifting-Veil-ebook/dp/B01BO6TYU0/
Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stealing-dragons-heart-susan-laine/1123402484?ean=2940157914202
All Romance eBooks – https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-stealingdragonrsquosheart-1983709-143.html

 

Relentless and More with Cheyenne Meadows – Post + Giveaway

February 29, 2016

Relentless

Hi. I’m Cheyenne Meadows and wanted to stop by and share some goodies with you today. Namely, my latest release from Dreamspinner Press entitled Relentless.

This is a story near and dear to my heart. The idea came to me one day when I saw a documentary about the real world situation in Afghanistan with our military service men and woman and the daily fight they face. A section of the show addressed snipers, the role they play, and the training they receive. I saw the incredible shots they made and a story began to percolate, needing to be told, borrowing from reality to tell a heart wrenching, compelling tale about an incredible man. I considered the difficulties, the courage, the commitment a high level sniper must possess and knew I had to create a story that would portray that image in my main character along with a twist or three. That led to the usual ‘what if’ questions, my penchant for writing shifter romance, and voila, Jag was born.

He’s a jaguar shifter, working with a special military unit made up entirely of shifters. They are on loan to the regular military as special ops freelance guys who are highly trained for very unique and difficult missions. To boot, the human population doesn’t know that shifters exist, making the tenuous relationship a bit challenging at times. Just another complication in a whole nest of them when it comes to Jag and his assignments. He’s never had life easy, but has the balls to get the job done. No matter what.

Many readers ask what I listen to when writing, how I write, or come up with ideas. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The ideas come from everyday life. Sometimes, like with Relentless, a television show sparks an idea. Sometimes it’s a song or even the evening news. A character pops into my mind that demands to have his story told. Who am I to argue? I then start with the typical questions. Who is he? What does he do for a living? What is his background? If he’s a shifter, what variety? Each decision gets me closer to understanding the guy. Once that is all set, I start trying to create a scene around him. I’m a plotter, meaning that I like to iron out the important details of a story before really getting started. No, I don’t make an outline. I just jot down notes of what I know and then let it take me from there. Sometimes as I go, my story takes a bunny path, and that’s okay. It basically boils down to the fact that I know where I want to start and where I want to end. The middle gets a bit vague. But, that’s the fun of letting the story have a life of its own.

Oh, as far as listening to music? Nope. I like things to be perfectly quiet. I have an office where I write, a large wooden desk, with my desktop computer on top. The window next to me allows sunlight in and a glimpse of the outside world. I’m very formal about writing in the fact I have to treat it as a job. I try to keep a set schedule and writing at a desk helps to keep my mind on the “job” philosophy. If I only wrote when I felt like it, I’d never get anything done. Writing takes time, effort, and devotion. Thus, it’s butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. Oh, and the kitty sleeping in her hammock next to me doesn’t hurt, either.

What am I working on now? Well, I have a couple of other stories in progress. I can’t seem to stick to writing one at a time, so normally have a few in various stages of completion. Nice in a way because when I finish one, I can just go through my works in progress folder and pick another to work on again. Alleviates boredom that way, too!

Enough about me. Now back to Relentless. Jag meets his new spotter in Afghanistan. Sonar is an ocelot shifter with enough guts to stand up to Jag in his worst temper, yet still has enough compassion to see the man hurting deep inside and step up to help. He vows he’ll keep Jag on track, sane, and alive through this treacherous and emotional journey, no matter the cost to him.

The two kitties might start out flashing fangs but soon realize there’s much more than animosity driving them together.

Speaking of kitties, I have a big question for all of you. What is your favorite kind of shifter? Felines? Canines? Ursines? Be specific. Lions? Tigers? Wolves? Wild dogs? Another variety of shifter? What about hybrids? Tell me what you love to read in a shifter story, what mixes you crave, and what combinations you’d love to see. Comment on this question and you will be entered in the drawing to win a free ebook copy of one of my backlist stories from Dreamspinner. One winner will be chosen two days from now. So don’t be shy and don’t be tardy!

Don’t forget, you can check me out at:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cheyenne.meadows.10

Blog: cheyennemeadows.blogspot.com

E-mail: Cheyenne1.meadows@yahoo.com

I love to hear from readers!

 

Check out Relentless today!

eBook

Paperback

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Blurb: 

Jaguar shifter and sniper extraordinaire, Jag, is tasked with his most difficult and dangerous mission to date—take out the man responsible for his spotter and husband’s violent death. Again.

Sonar, an ocelot shifter, is assigned as the new spotter to the surly and scowling feline alpha. He’s impressed with Jag’s skills but sees more beneath the surface: a grief-stricken and furious man on a trail of vengeance.

Together Sonar and Jag face perils and challenges that test their skills, resolve, and the budding feelings they have for each other. As the death toll rises, so does the heat between them. Their longings could give them the strength needed to persevere, but it also might force them to succumb and sacrifice everything. One thing’s for certain: someone won’t be making it back alive.

 

Author bio:

Growing up in the Midwest, I began reading romance novels in high school, immediately falling in love with the genre, to the point where I decided to write professionally for a career. However, that dream splattered against a brick wall and resulting quick death in my first writing class in college when my professor told me bluntly that I wasn’t any good at it.

I shifted gears quickly, and left my writing dreams behind, eventually settling on being a nurse. A few years back, I stumbled across a fan-fiction writing site on a favorite author’s webpage. I began to read stories others wrote, not only making some wonderful close friends from the experience, but also, really learning to write for the very first time. Here I was able to share short stories, practice my writing skills, and truly develop into a writer. More than that, the experience allowed me to revitalize my dream, as I rediscovered joy in writing.

When I’m not working or writing, I enjoy working in the garden, canning, and seeing my backyard as a living canvas for my whimsical landscaping, and, of course, reading romance novels.

 

No Smoke Without Fire with Kay Ellis

February 17, 2016

No Smoke Without Fire

In the words of the song – whoa oh, my sex is on fire. Literally, in this case!

Hi, I’m Kay Ellis and I’m here to talk about my latest release, The Fire King. This is the third book in the Evolin series and continues Sully and Tylan’s story. Mostly Sully’s as Tylan is conspicuously absent, assumed to be dead, for most of the book, and Sully’s head is turned by a handsome newcomer.

It first became clear that the fire had its own personality during The Fallen, when Tylan said he thought the fire was in love with Sully. Now, their roles are reversed. Tylan is trapped inside the mind of the fire and the fire is flesh and blood and out to claim Sully for its own.

The evolvement of the fire seemed a natural progression and I liked the idea of giving it human traits and a personality. I’m a great admirer of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, in particular, the character Death. One of my favourite Pratchett books is when Death takes a holiday because he wants to know what it means to be human. I love the part where he gets bored of being drunk so he stops and goes home. Death wants to understand why life is so precious; people will do anything to hold onto it.

In The Fire King, Okhela (aka the fire) wants Sully to teach him to be man. I guess it would be unsettling to any of us to know that our most human traits, mannerisms and odd little habits, are not yours at all, but belong to someone else. Personally, I think I have some habits nobody else would want to lay claim too. I’m rather OCD about a lot of things from not touching the car after I’ve locked it to only using even numbers!

Writing is such a great release for me. It’s good to lose myself in my little fantasy worlds. Right now, I’m working on a piece that is probably half contemporary and half fantasy. It’s a bit of a change for me because it involves an alien invasion!

If we ever were invaded, I would definitely want to hide behind Daryl Dixon and his crossbow. So let’s throw it out there. In the case of an alien invasion, who would you want protecting you and why? Where would you go to escape? My favourite answer will win a copy of either Fireheart or The Fallen, the first books in the Evolin series

Check out Kay Ellis on Facebook!

Get “The Fire King” today!

FireKing[The]

Blurb: 

Sully is summoned back to Maestraad by the entity who took control of Tylan’s body when Tylan perished. This Fire King—now calling himself Okhela—offers Sully a bargain he cannot refuse: if, after six months, Sully fails to fall in love with him, Okhela will return Tylan. The trouble is, as much as Sully wants to hate Okhela, the Fire King rules with wisdom and generosity… and Sully cannot resist the attraction he feels toward the handsome king. Though his heart will always belong to Tylan, Sully gives in to his body’s demands.

But can Sully trust Okhela to keep his word? With assassins on the loose, can Sully keep the Fire King alive long enough to find out? With the future of the kingdom—as well as his heart—at stake, Sully must call upon old friends and new to protect the Fire King, who might hold the keys to both.

 

Of Intergalactic Space Ships and a Paradise on Earth with L. J. LaBarthe – Post + Giveaway

January 18, 2016

Of Intergalactic Space Ships and a Paradise on Earth

Hi there! I’m L. J. LaBarthe and I’m here today to talk about my new release, “Song of Song.”

“Song of Song” is a science fiction novel. I’ve always wanted to write a sci-fi, as I love sci-fi myself. I grew up watching “Star Wars,” the original “V” series’, “Blake’s 7,” the 1980s mini-series “The Martian Chronicles” starring Rock Hudson (one of the last things he made before he died), and more. My father was an avid fan of sci-fi, he loved “Buck Rogers,” which never really appealed to me at all, and “Battlestar Galactica,” which I liked (although I preferred the remake!) My mother was and still is an avid “Doctor Who” fan, and I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books while I was growing up… and I still do!

So as you can see, sci-fi is a genre that is near and dear to my heart. It was only going to be a matter of time before I sat down and wrote one myself, and “Song of Song” is the result. It’s set in the future, a future where the rich have taken over Earth, sending the poor to live in off-world colonies and eke out their own existence, while the rich use Earth as their own paradise and playground. To support the wealthy families, there are groups of genetically engineered humans called Boxies, who live in what are called Box Towers and do things like mechanical repairs, laundry, clothing alterations, and things like that. One Boxie, named Dex, decides to escape with his only companion and friend, an AI cat named Manx.

As AI pets are not permitted to Boxies, Dex decides to run away with the help of his friend, and soon finds himself on board the sentient and organic spaceship Fa’a with her crew. He’s instantly physically attracted to the man who designed and built her—Song. Despite all manner of threats and trouble, the two of them manage to get together and fall in love, even when it seems that their burgeoning relationship may be destroyed by outside nefarious forces.

While I was writing, I had a variety of DVDs on as background noise, things that are both dear to my heart and inspired me to come up with ideas. I alternated between “Star Wars,” “Babylon 5,” and “Blake’s 7,” which makes for quite a mix of dystopian sci-fi, wartime futuristic sci-fi and a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away sci-fi. All of it did help keep me in the zone, though!

SongOfSong

So what’s your favorite sci-fi show or film? Do you prefer the modern ones or the older films, the more kitschy and schlocky ones? (“Planet of the Apes”—the original one with Charleton Heston, “2001: A Space Odyssey” “Alphaville,” “Solaris,” “Logan’s Run,” and “Dark Star” are all favorites of mine from the 1960s and 1970s.)

Leave a comment about your favorite sci-fi TV show or film or both to go in the draw for a copy of “Song of Song!”

You can find me on social media too at the following locations:

Twitter: @brbsiberia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lj.labarthe.9
Blog: http://misslj-author.livejournal.com/
Webpage: http://www.ljlabarthe.com/

Get your copy of “Song of Song” today!

Timeless love against an ancient enemy–who will rise victorious? with M.D. Grimm – Post + Excerpt

January 14, 2016

Timeless love against an ancient enemy--who will rise victorious-

Pic1 (1)

Hi everyone! My name is M.D. Grimm and I am the proud author of “The Shifters” series, of which “Predator and Prey” is the latest book. I plan to run “The Shifters” into the 20s before coming to that epic battle that will conclude everything. Hopefully, at that point, all loose threads will be tied up neatly and we can all leave this strange world I created satisfied.

But until then….

Pic2 (1)

“Predator and Prey” is book #9 in the series and the last of the “historicals” for a while. Yes, I know the 1970s are hardly “historical” in the usual sense, but they aren’t current times, so I just lumped this story in with “Hunted Guardian” (#7) and “The Serpent and the Angel” (#8). I have two more historical stories in the series to write, but those are for later.

First the blurb:
Vietnam War vet turned deep-sea treasure hunter Digger Sullivan scratches out a living, and this new commission is just another job—albeit an exciting one off the Florida coast in 1977. But while exploring the area, Digger and his crew encounter a lot more sharks than they expected.

Reef and his shark shifter clan are charged with protecting a vital, magical secret—two of four scrolls that, when brought together, could annihilate shifters across the world. But Reef can’t keep his head in the game around this intriguing diver, and it’s not long before Digger takes one of the scrolls topside. Reef now has two missions: seduce Digger and recapture the scroll. Despite his attraction to Digger, Reef’s priority must be reclaiming the scroll.

But when Reef’s true identity is exposed, Digger is scared and appalled, and rejects him. Yet Digger might change his mind when his crew is captured by the very person who commissioned them, and Reef and his shark clan are the only things standing between them and death.

Are you all intrigued yet??

Now, for what you’ve all come for: the dirty deats on “Predator and Prey.” First of all, it came about because I really wanted to write a story about a shark shape-shifter. I have a particular fondness for sharks and hope to swim with them one day. What can I say? I’m a little odd. The biggest challenge this presented, however, was trying to reconcile the inherent “alieness” of a shark’s emotion with the more familiar one of a human. It was a similar challenge that “The Serpent and the Angel” offered, since Tobias was a snake. But sharks are even more alien and practically emotionless. But I needed Reef to be relatable, so that was a delicate balance I had to keep. I decided that the best way to approach the situation was to pick a few key features of the shark I wanted to emphasis and stick with them, giving them as much play as possible. Reef is practical, territorially protective, and isn’t ashamed by what he wants. He just goes and gets it. He’s refreshingly free of human idiosyncrasies… at least at the beginning of the story. He was a fun character to play with, and I liked him more and more as the story progressed.

Digger, however, I knew right off: ex-soldier looking for freedom on the ocean, living by no one’s rules but his own, and befriending those society didn’t want. Yeah, I liked him a lot. I have a soft place in my heart for those who serve, and I wanted to try my hand at bringing one to life. It was intriguing to put Reef and Digger together, and even I couldn’t have guessed how well they would click! They “get” each other on a level that most could only dream about.

I consider this story my most ambitious yet. I had zero knowledge of scuba diving, treasure hunting, boats/ships, the Florida coast and waters. For that matter, I had to research the 1970s and be grateful my story was set mostly in isolation on a boat. College work had nothing on the massive research project I dumped on myself. Jeez. But it was all worth it. I am very proud of the end product and though some of my research didn’t end up in the story, that wasn’t the point. I needed to know all those tedious details if I was going to make everything seem real. If it wasn’t real for me, how could I make it real for anyone else?

Most of my story ideas come from the question “what if?” I’m a big fan of asking “what if?” and letting it lead me down winding paths filled with plot bunnies. This has served me well for “The Shifters” series since I wanted to distance myself from the classic wolf shape-shifter stories and experiment with other animals. Don’t get me wrong, I love wolves, but there are so many interesting, beautiful creatures out there, and I didn’t want to limit myself. This strange world I created is full of life, various and magical, and yet connected and fragile. That’s one of the themes I work with through most of the stories—the idea of connectedness. We are all connected to each other, and if one of us fails, it’s a loss to everyone. In my series, the world essentially has three sorts of players: shape-shifters, magical people/fae descendants (the Knights and the Agency), and mundane humans who are oblivious to the war waging. It’s a massive, dysfunctional family, and there aren’t many who know how the war all began.

“Predator and Prey” answers some of those questions. The main villain in the story has an intimate connection with Arcas, the main villain of my series. Also, for those who’ve read “Hunted Guardian” and “The Serpent and the Angel,” I’m sure you’ve guessed the connection between the villains in those stories and Arcas.

Arcas is more than he appears. But more on that at a later date.

“Predator and Prey” also continues the storyline of the four ancient scrolls that act as keys to unlock a weapon that can annihilate shape-shifters. The scrolls will feature heavily for the next three books, then a new facet of the war will emerge. To keep things organized for myself, I split the books up into parts (of which there are five) and kept to specific themes and connected events.

Part 1 has all been published and includes: Psychic Moon, Love is a Whirlwind, Blind Devotion, Hunter and Hunted, Healing Minds, and Master’s Blood.

Part 2 is what I’m working on now: Hunted Guardian, The Serpent and the Angel, and Predator and Prey. There will be three other stories in Part 2. Happily, Shifting Moon has been accepted by Dreamspinner and due out in April/May 2016. Shifting Moon will be based in current times and chronologically follows Master’s Blood. It also includes Derek and Brian from Psychic Moon. I was very happy to meet up with them again! I missed them.

Because I’m super excited with the progress of the series, I’m going to reveal the titles of the next two books… drum roll please… Feather and Scroll (#11) and Kindred Truths (#12). While Feather and Scroll introduces new characters, Kindred Truths will revisit some fan favorites… *cough* Poe and Nordik *cough*

As you can see, I’m moving right along and hope to have Feather and Scroll done perhaps by the end of 2016. But no promises! You know how life can happen.

Since I’m sure you’re done with my rambling, here’s an excerpt!

That’s when they all heard something smack hard against the starboard side, causing the boat to rock slightly. Everyone jumped up from the table, and for some reason Digger decided to race to his bedroom and thrust the tube inside before following the rest on deck. He’d learned long ago not to question his impulses, and it had saved his life more than once.
“The lights!” Digger said.
Kevin and Felipe flicked on the large spotlights and scanned the waters. It wasn’t long before the light flickered on something pale in the water.
“Put it back.” Digger pointed. “Put it back over there.”
Felipe followed orders and swung the light back around. What it illuminated made everyone freeze in shock. A pale, naked man was floating facedown in the water.
“How—” Hook started but then he let off with a cry when Digger dove into the water. The sudden motion jerked everyone into action. More lights were turned on and directed at the motionless man and their captain, who swam straight and sure through the dark night waters. Jewel dashed below to grab blankets while Angie threw a rescue donut attached to a rope into the water. Kevin and Felipe kept the lights trained on their captain.
Digger quickly reached the man and flipped him over, slipping an arm under his chin. He turned back to the boat, thankful it was summer and he was at the surface. The temperature was mild but carting the dead weight of the man through the water taxed him. How long had the man been in the water? And why the hell was he naked? Digger gripped the donut and watched Angie and Felipe pull on the rope, reeling them both in. He hadn’t thought before he dove into the water. One minute he’d been on the deck and the next the sensation of swimming in inky black water with the unknown lurking beneath made him grimace in agitation. He gritted his teeth, trying not to dwell on the fact that the man in his arms wasn’t breathing.
Digger’s entire crew helped drag him and the naked man onto the boat. He shivered as a wind rose up and accepted the blanket Jewel draped over his shoulders. Angie wrapped the rest around the man before she bent to give him CPR. She managed to give him only one breath before his eyes popped open and he began coughing and gagging. Angie rolled him onto his side as he sucked in air, and Digger closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. Thank God.
Soaking wet and shivering slightly, Digger pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders and could only ride the wave of relief that flooded inside him. It had been a while since he’d saved anyone’s life, and this hadn’t even been in a war. Just an odd, random occurrence.
“Sarge?” Hook gripped his shoulder.
Digger grunted before opening his eyes. He considered the man who was now sitting up, wrapped tightly in several blankets. Jewel and Angie each had a shoulder and were rubbing his back and arms. The man wasn’t very old, if Digger was any judge. He couldn’t have been past his midtwenties, and Digger remembered his body had been slender, his skin cold. And where the hell had he come from?
The spotlights glared off pale skin that had a strange, almost translucent quality, and Digger gave a start when he realized the man’s hair was silver. Not blond, not gray, but freaking silver. How was that even possible?
Then the man opened his eyes and a sharp black gaze met Digger’s. A zing of familiarity pinged inside Digger before quickly fading. There was no reason for it; he’d never seen this man in his life. He wasn’t a forgettable one. The man continued to stare at Digger though, breathing heavily, shivering now and then. Digger couldn’t read what was in those black eyes but he was intrigued despite himself.
“Can you tell us your name?” Jewel asked.
The man jerked slightly at her voice and glanced at her. Digger looked away, realizing his gaze had been held captive. Mentally cursing himself an old fool, Digger struggled to his feet. Hook grabbed his arm to steady him.
The man turned back to watch him, a puzzled expression on his face.
“My name is Reef.” His smooth voice was pleasant to hear.
Digger raised an eyebrow.
“Reef?” Angie scoffed. “What sort of pansy name is that?”
“Angie!” Jewel scolded.
“Calls them like I sees them.” She stood and walked below decks.
Reef watched her go and Digger thought he looked amused rather than insulted.
“I’m sorry, Reef,” Jewel said, continuing to rub his back. “She’s a foul person on her best days.”
Reef shrugged. “It’s my name and I like it. No one else has to.”
Digger smiled. “Good sentiment for most things in life.”
Reef returned his attention to Digger, and Digger realized he wanted it to stay there. Old fool. What would a young buck want with you? You’re twice his age!
“Where’s your boat, kid?” Hook demanded. “Your clothes? One would think you’d just bubbled up from the depths.”
For a moment a look of panic seemed to cross Reef’s face but then it was gone, and his expression was smooth and unaffected. Digger wondered if he’d imagined it.
“Give it a rest, Hook,” Jewel said as she started to help Reef to his feet. “Hasn’t he been through enough? Are you hungry, Reef? Thirsty?”
“I’m fine. I just—” He suddenly gripped his head and wobbled. Digger found himself by Reef’s side, supporting him as Jewel was doing. His own blanket fluttered to the deck as his focus centered entirely on Reef.
“Sarge, don’t you think we deserve some answers?”
“In the morning is early enough, Hook.”
Hook scowled and part of Digger was surprised by his sudden defense of a stranger. But when Reef began to lean against him and his unique scent filled Digger’s nose, an urge to protect overcame him. The feeling intensified when he realized Reef couldn’t be taller than five feet and that, added to his slender form, made him appear fragile. Then another feeling rose up, one he hadn’t felt in years. He almost welcomed it, relieved the war hadn’t taken away his sexual drive, as it had some men’s. But most of him was wary of it as it caused him to forget his control and lower his guard.
But then Reef looked up at him, gaze steady and direct, and smiled. It wasn’t a smile of puppy dogs and kittens, but one that a shark might give potential prey. A challenging, hungry smile, and it shot a bolt of lust straight to Digger’s gut. He reassessed his initial thought that Reef was fragile. There was steel in that gaze. Unconsciously, his grip on Reef’s arm tightened, and Reef’s smile became knowing even as he looked away. With help from Jewel, they managed to get Reef below decks.

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And that’s it for now!

Who is your favorite couple in my series? Or, if you haven’t read any books yet, what’s your favorite shifting animal? Or shifter series? I’m always on the lookout for new books and series to dive into!

May dragons guard your dreams,
M.D. Grimm

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