Demon in the Machine

BEL-DemonMachineWe’re less than a month out from the release of Demon in the Machine, my latest novel!! This is a f/f steampunk paranormal romance with a bit of a mystery.

I wrote it because I needed an authorial palate cleanser. Five Moons Rising (my previous novel, which is contemporary paranormal) was quite dark, and I decided to try my hand at something that was a lot lighter, at least for me.

The story takes place in late Victorian London, and features steampunk technology that is heavily augmented through the use of demonic magic. Most people can’t view the arcane runes and inscriptions that bend infernal magic into the shape practitioners want it to take. However, those with enough demon blood in their veins, they see a London where glowing characters scrawl across most of the great technological wonders of the day.

It’s against this backdrop that Briar, a half-demon archivist and Isabella Castel, the only daughter of Viscount Sherard, find themselves thrown together to figure out what powers the newest model of horseless carriage. Briar suspects something is very wrong with the new carriages. She doesn’t give Isabella much choice in helping her. Along the way, they discover that they enjoy working together, and they strike sparks of attraction off each other while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the intersections of technology and magic. Not all is as it seems, and they’ll take to the skies and head underground while trying to stem a magical reckoning no one saw coming.

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The long break

Life_preserverMy last post was in July. Ugh. Not exactly what I’d been going for when I promised myself I would be more regular with my blog posts. Unless I’m going to post once every eight months like clockwork… No, better not.

The truth is, last year was difficult for me, as it was for a lot of people. My apologies for anyone who doesn’t want to read about politics, but the fact of the matter is that American politics have affected, and continue to affect, me deeply. It’s hard being part of a minority group under the best of circumstances, and it’s been so very much harder since the disastrous election results of this past November.

I heard someone say that liberals are just upset because we lost. That’s not it. I’ve been on the losing side before, we all have. Bush was annoying; Trump is terrifying. I didn’t have the pang of existential dread go through me in 2001 the way it did in November. I’d braced myself for some backlash after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling in 2015, but no assuming of crash positions could prepare me for it actually happening. And it continues to happen. The steady erosion of our hard-fought rights, the emboldening of bigots, that creeping, never-ending feeling of dread.

Which is how I ended up in therapy. I had writer’s block for most of 2017. I never thought it would happen to me. After all, I have a ton of ideas for stories. I have enough to keep me occupied for the next 10-15 years, without coming up with new ones. So it’s not that I didn’t know what I wanted to write. I knew very well what I wanted to write, but I couldn’t reach the appropriate mental space for it.

When it comes down to it, I’m a maker. I make things in my real-life job, I write, and I build things, but writing is different. For me, writing requires a certain amount of order in my brain, order that was being regularly disrupted by the malarkey gushing from the White House on a weekly/daily/hourly basis. My therapist says my brain is like a tree, which I can see. One idea sparks others, which branch out and spark still others. She also says that I spend a lot of time delving among the dark roots of that tree. Maybe a little too much time. I happen to disagree. Some of the most interesting things happen in the dark. Bringing them into the light, viewing that struggle to overcome the dark events of our lives is what inspires me to write. I love challenge for the feeling of overcoming it. What is a novel if not one long challenge? And finishing one is a triumph that has little equal.

So what was I to do when I was caught in the dark roots of my imagination? When I couldn’t see how we could move into the light? And that’s why I couldn’t write. I couldn’t see a way through.

Therapy has been helping. I’m learning some coping techniques for the alarms my brain seems prone to raise these days. My therapist says I have generalized anxiety disorder. I think my anxiety is pretty damn specific, given that it wasn’t a problem before the elections. But it’s getting better. I’ve started writing again, though the words aren’t coming as quickly as they have for other books. I’m not sure if it’s because of my writer’s block, my (possibly too) busy life, or the book I’m writing. We’ll see.

For now, I’m continuing with my therapy, continuing with my writing, and trying not to let the hatred and disdain of a vocal minority in our society derail me from doing what I love.

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July is going to be a busy month! I’m heading to a conference, and I’m doing a book reading in Raleigh, and I’m moving. So lots of opportunities for you to hear a reading from Five Moons Rising, my new book. You can also check out the reading I did for The Lesbian Talk Show Podcast. But if you want to hear me live, keep on reading!

gclsI’ll be at the GCLS (that’s the Golden Crown Literary Society) Annual Convention in Chicago next week! I’m really looking forward to this. My first one was last year, and I feel a little better prepared for it this year. At least this time I know to leave room in my luggage for the books I’m going to pick up.

I’m participating in a panel called Not Your Mama’s Paranormal on Thursday, the 6th. This is one I’m really looking forward to. The other panelists are RG Emanuelle, Jeanine Hoffman, D. Jackson Leigh, Alex Westmore, and it’s being moderated by none other than Barbara Ann Wright!

My actual reading is the next day (the 7th for those following along at home). Last year’s experience was great. The audience was super engaged and asked fantastic questions. Best of all, I got to rub elbows with more authors, including the incomparable Lee Lynch (She told me she liked my reading and I about died right there!)

Then of course, there’s the author autograph session. That was fantastic! It was definitely a high point for me, and I’m an introvert. Sessions like that are usually my kryptonite, but the excitement of all the readers rushing around the room to get everyone’s signature, and those who were seeking out their favorite authors, well, it was contagious. I’m looking forward to it again this year.

lgbtlibrarySo that’s GCLS, but that’s not all! I’m doing a reading for the Queer Women’s Book Group at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, or as I like to call it the LGBT Library, since that’s how I know it best. Five Moons Rising is the book for July, so I get to meet with the group, do a reading and chat about the story. It sounds like it’s going to be pretty low key and super fun!

And then the move. We bought a house, so I get to move to my fifth address in five years. My wife promises me this is going to be the last one for a while. So even though I’m sick of moving, I’m excited to be heading to a more permanent address. And there’s the fact that not only am I down to a minimum of stuff (except for my workshop of cosplay-making stuff), I still have the original boxes I moved everything in the past few times. I don’t even have to relabel! So a couple of silver linings there, but I have to try to shoehorn this in around my other stuff.

That’s it for now! Keep it tuned, as I have some exciting news coming up in the next month or so (once the boxes are all unpacked).

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Five Moons Rising is out!!

That’s right, you can get it in your hot little hands. Right. Now! I’m excited (and a wee bit terrified), and I hope you are too.

This book was a long time coming for me. I first started writing it as part of NaNoWriMo. I knew I wanted to write something paranormal. Part of the fun of the paranormal universe is that there are so many different myths and legends to choose from and incorporate, and I was looking forward to doing that. I got to pick and choose what my beasties could do. For example, in this universe, werewolves are not negatively affected by silver. They don’t do much to discourage that assumption, though. Silver makes for crappy weapons, and they’re happy to keep would-be werewolf hunters at a disadvantage.

The other thing I wanted was to write something dark. There are certainly very dark moments in my On Deception’s Edge trilogy, but overall, I see it as a very hopeful story. This one was going to be different. I relished the chance to write about monsters of all stripes, including the human variety. As I wrote it, I came to realize that for my characters being a monster was about the choices they made, not whether or not they were human. I certainly wasn’t looking to make my supernatural creatures cuddly. (In this book, I use the term supranormal instead of supernatural. In terms of the story, it’s a term developed by the government that means those beings that are beyond or who transcend “normal.” After all, if supras are being kept under wraps, there can’t be people wandering around talking about the supernatural all the time.)

So I started writing. A lot. For those of you who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. (My wife likes to refer to is as FroYoPoMo, though I can never get a straight answer as to exactly what that’s supposed to stand for.) Sadly, my plans for NaNoWriMo were derailed by life, as so often happens. That November was the same month my relationship of fourteen years ended. I had far less than the 50,000 words one has to write to “win” NaNo, but the timing simply wasn’t there.

The following year, things had calmed down significantly, so when November rolled around again, I dusted off the Five Moons Rising manuscript. To my surprise, I really liked what I’d written so far. The first couple of days of NaNo were spent reading it over, which put me at a deficit to begin with. For me, NaNo works best if I write about 1700 words a day. When I start slacking is when I get into trouble, and here I was slacking by getting into my own story. Still, I prevailed and was able to complete NaNoWriMo that year. I wrote my 50,000 words and was most of the way done with my manuscript. Those of you who have read my other work, you’ve probably realized that I don’t do short well. There was definitely some writing that had to be done to complete the story, but that was going to have to wait.

When I wrote my debut novel, Depths of Blue, I had no other demands on my writing time. In fact, I wrote the first draft of the entire trilogy back to back to back. Five Moons was my first experience of having to juggle multiple novels at various points in the publishing pipeline. While I was trying to finish up my latest manuscript, I had to put it aside to work on edits for Heights of Green. By the time I got back to Five Moons, I simply wanted to finish the manuscript. As a result, the pacing felt strange to me, and I really wasn’t certain if I’d written a decent story or not. I put the manuscript aside for a few weeks before starting on revisions, which is pretty typical for my writing process.

After getting the manuscript polished to the point where I felt I had a decent final draft, I sent it off to my publisher and promptly got sucked into edits for Vortex of Crimson, then working on some short stories before starting a new project. (Actually, I started a few new projects, but the one that stuck was Demon in the Machine. Look for that one next year.)

So imagine my surprise when I got Five Moons back for edits and I found that I really liked the story. I’d gotten so sick of it, and the experience of writing it had been so disjointed compared to my first go-around, that I was half convinced it was terrible. It turns out it wasn’t! The big problem during edits is that I’d find myself reading the story instead of working on changes. The more time I spent with Malice and Ruri, the more I fell in love with them all over again. And as usual, my editor (the incomparable Medora MacDougall) had excellent suggestions. With her help, Five Moons Rising became a book I knew I could truly be proud of.

So here she is, finally. My fourth-born, of whom I’m inordinately proud. I hope you’ll come to love her as much as I do.

 

bel-fivemoonsrisingFive Moons Rising, now out!

Unknown to regular citizens, nightmarish creatures lurk in the dark underbelly of human civilization. The presence of these supranormals (“supras”)—werewolves, vampires, demons—is a closely guarded government secret, as is the existence of a cadre of specially engineered Hunters charged with exterminating them.

Code-named Malice, Hunter Mary Alice Nolan was genetically modified and rigorously trained to use her great strength, heightened senses, and killer instincts to track and eliminate supras who prey on the innocent. A loner by choice, her only real link to the human world is her close connection to her mother and sister—until the unthinkable happens…
Ruri Samson has been a werewolf for more than a century and is comfortably situated as the Beta of her peaceful pack. Until she is betrayed by the woman she loves and an evil outsider massacres her Alpha and his most loyal followers. Barely escaping with her life, Ruri is forced to tread the perilous path of a lone wolf while vowing vengeance against the usurper and his minions.

Although these two powerful women should rightfully despise each other, fate will soon compel them to join forces on a dangerous quest to avenge their loved ones—and will ignite a forbidden passion that neither of them ever imagined.

Available directly from Bella Books or Amazon.

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Five Moons Rising, Meet the Characters: Ruri

No romance is complete without another main character. While Five Moons Rising may be paranormal fiction, there is a strong romantic subplot, and who better to play the counterpoint to dark and brooding Malice than Ruri Samson?

Ruri has been a werewolf for over a century. She knows her place in the world and she’s very content in it. Ruri is her pack’s Beta, and she has a knack for werewolf middle management. While she could probably have been Alpha to her own pack, she is happy in her role as Beta. She gets to do the fun stuff-taking care of her packmates, making sure their situation is stable and comfortable-without any of the pesky challenges and much fewer of the day-to-day dominance games that go along with being Alpha.

Above all, Ruri is responsible, so when things go terribly wrong and her Alpha is killed while her pack torn apart around her, she blames herself. Not only that, but she’s suddenly thrust into the human world as a lone wolf, with no pack bonds to fall back upon, and no experience being on her own in the 21st century. She has no official identity and no legal avenues through which to make money. All she has to keep herself focused is a thirst for revenge against the rogue Alpha who destroyed her life.

And then she crosses paths with Malice…


bel-fivemoonsrisingFive Moons Rising, out June 20, 2017

Unknown to regular citizens, nightmarish creatures lurk in the dark underbelly of human civilization. The presence of these supranormals (“supras”)—werewolves, vampires, demons—is a closely guarded government secret, as is the existence of a cadre of specially engineered Hunters charged with exterminating them.

Code-named Malice, Hunter Mary Alice Nolan was genetically modified and rigorously trained to use her great strength, heightened senses, and killer instincts to track and eliminate supras who prey on the innocent. A loner by choice, her only real link to the human world is her close connection to her mother and sister—until the unthinkable happens…
Ruri Samson has been a werewolf for more than a century and is comfortably situated as the Beta of her peaceful pack. Until she is betrayed by the woman she loves and an evil outsider massacres her Alpha and his most loyal followers. Barely escaping with her life, Ruri is forced to tread the perilous path of a lone wolf while vowing vengeance against the usurper and his minions.

Although these two powerful women should rightfully despise each other, fate will soon compel them to join forces on a dangerous quest to avenge their loved ones—and will ignite a forbidden passion that neither of them ever imagined.

Available directly from Bella Books or Amazon.

 

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Five Moons Rising, Meet the Characters: Malice

Holy crap, what happened to the time? I knew it had been a bit since  last posted, but I had no clue that was in February!

A lot has happened since then. I’ve been doing some custom work as a result of my Etsy store, so that’s been fun and interesting. It turns out that I’m not very good at estimating prices on first-run objects, so that’s been less good, but it’s meant some more money has been coming in.

I’ve also completed the final draft for my next-next release: Demon in the Machine. I actually sent that in to Bella Books yesterday, and on time no less, so yay there!

I managed to get the page proofs for Five Moons Rising taken care of also, which is good as that one is out in something like six weeks. Six weeks!!! (Or maybe less, I’m apparently not good with how time goes by, as we’ve just now established .)

Oh yeah, and I got a job. No big thing there. (It’s totally a big thing!) I’ve been unemployed since last August, so that one’s really a load off my mind. And no, I’m not making enough money from my writing to do that full time, so I’m safely in the same boat as the majority of the other writers out there.

But!!!

That’s not what I wanted to talk about today. As I mentioned, Five Moons Rising is out soon, which means I need to tell all of you a bit more about that project, and I thought I’d do that by introducing you to the characters.

So… Malice. How does one explain Malice?

To start, Malice is the code name for Mary Alice Nolan. She is a genetically-modified super soldier who is tasked with keeping the worst elements of the supranormal community in the greater Chicago area under control.

It turns out that our worst nightmares are real, and they inhabit a strange place between myth and real life. Werewolves, vampires, demons, and even faeries live in the seams of human society, doing their best to go undetected , and our government is happy to keep it that way. So happy, in fact, that they created a cadre of soldiers who make sure that those supras who may be on the edge of going rogue are taken out before humanity can confirm their existence.

These soldiers, called Hunters by the supra community, are few and far between. The process for creating them is long, grueling, and often deadly, and that’s just for getting the modifications. Once the Hunters are out in their communities, the mortality rate of their profession is pretty staggering, and there’s a high incidence of destructive behaviors that go along with this. These are people who live with one foot in the human world and the other in the supra world. To say that their lives are highly compartmentalized is an understatement.

Malice has managed to stay ahead of the curve. She isn’t dead, yet. Nor has she fallen into the clutches of addiction, but she doesn’t have the healthiest sex life. Since the establishment of personal relationships is frowned upon by her superiors, she’s coped by having a string of one night stands, but she’s starting to lose interest in those. What keeps her grounded is her relationship with her family. Any familial ties are a rarity among her group, but she’s especially lucky in that her sister lives in town. Her mother, Sophia, lives in New York, but little sister Cassidy moved out to Chicago for university. Mary Alice is as close with Cassidy as she’s able to be. They meet up for dinner or lunch once a week, except during mid-terms and finals.

So when the worst comes to pass, Mary Alice’s carefully balanced life is thrown into disarray. The parts of her life that she’s worked so hard to keep in their separate boxes start to become jumbled together. Her response to the crisis is logical, but not necessarily sane.

In Malice, I’ve created a character who is physically about as strong as she can be, but circumstances have created some pretty glaring weaknesses in her mental and emotional well-being. To a certain extent, she’s aware of these deficiencies, but she ends up in a very dark place as she works to hold together a life that is unraveling around her.

Malice is a take-charge, get-the-job-done kind of woman, but she’s about to find out there’s more to life than completing the task in front of her, and that sometimes even the right choices have devastating consequences.


bel-fivemoonsrisingFive Moons Rising, out June 20, 2017

Unknown to regular citizens, nightmarish creatures lurk in the dark underbelly of human civilization. The presence of these supranormals (“supras”)—werewolves, vampires, demons—is a closely guarded government secret, as is the existence of a cadre of specially engineered Hunters charged with exterminating them.

Code-named Malice, Hunter Mary Alice Nolan was genetically modified and rigorously trained to use her great strength, heightened senses, and killer instincts to track and eliminate supras who prey on the innocent. A loner by choice, her only real link to the human world is her close connection to her mother and sister—until the unthinkable happens…
Ruri Samson has been a werewolf for more than a century and is comfortably situated as the Beta of her peaceful pack. Until she is betrayed by the woman she loves and an evil outsider massacres her Alpha and his most loyal followers. Barely escaping with her life, Ruri is forced to tread the perilous path of a lone wolf while vowing vengeance against the usurper and his minions.

Although these two powerful women should rightfully despise each other, fate will soon compel them to join forces on a dangerous quest to avenge their loved ones—and will ignite a forbidden passion that neither of them ever imagined.

Available directly from Bella Books or Amazon.

Posted in Five Moons Rising | 2 Comments

What’s up in 2017?

bel-fivemoonsrisingWhat is up in 2017? As usual, I have lots of plans for my writing, and as usual, that’s the easy part. It’s becoming painfully obvious that the writing-adjacent stuff is as important as the actual-writing stuff, and I need to be more diligent about it, too.

So the writing stuff… This year, Five Moons Rising comes out. Already, I’ve been working with my editor on getting it polished up for publication in June. In fact, I returned the manuscript to her for the final time yesterday, now it goes to the proofers. I’m extremely excited about this one. It’s a departure from Jak and Torrin’s story, but I guarantee the readers will fall in love with Malice and Ruri like I did.

I’m also working my way through drafts of my next novel: Demon in the Machine. I don’t have a publication date for it yet, but I’m thinking either very late 2017 (which is probably a stretch), or more likely 2018 sometime. This one is a lot of fun. It’s not nearly as dark as my offerings to date, and since Five Moons does stray into rather dark territory on occasion, that’s probably a good thing. This one is steampunk set in Victorian London and features a half-demon archivist and a cat-burgling debutante.

I’m working on one short story right now, and I have plans for at least one more this year, maybe more. Like last year, these will probably be a combination of brand new characters/locations, and revisiting old worlds. That I’ll have to play by ear…

And of course, I’ll be starting another big project, once Demon is in the can and off to Bella. I have a lot of ideas (as usual), so picking one is going to be the hardest part. My little book of notes and ideas gets more and more full as time passes. If I ever lose it, I’m sunk.

Finally, the writing-adjacent stuff. On the fun end of the spectrum, I’ll be continuing to review books for The Lesbian Review, and I’m working with The Lesbian Talk Show on a new project! That’s right, Andi Marquette and I have teamed up to put on a podcast!! It’s called Lez Geek Out! and it explores where the lesbian community overlaps with popular/geek culture. Our first episode is up, and the next one should be out next week. I’m looking forward to this little adventure.

I’m going to the GCLS conference again this year! I had a really great time last year, and I got to meet lots of readers and fellow authors. This time, I’ll be going with a fresh new release, and I couldn’t be more excited!!!

On the less fun end of the spectrum is the beast I’ve been wrestling with since the publication of my first novel. That’s right, I still need to slay the marketing beast. But! I’ve been talking to people, and I have some ideas, so all I have to do now is implement them. Watch this space for an email newsletter. It’s my top priority once I get my current project put to bed.

So that’s it for me. I’m sure I’ll pick up some extra things as I go along, but for now, that’s the plan!

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