Accessorize!!: Borderlands 3 Pistol Nerf Mod, Part 4

The last time I was able to work on the pistol, I left it here. Some progress was made, and it’s starting to look less like a Nerf gun, but it’s not exactly Borderlands material yet. IMG_1544

One of the things (actually it’s many things) that makes Borderlands weapons so much fun are the endless variation in accessories that can be added to each weapon. Even when they don’t make sense. For example, the version of the Raptor that I’m making sports a barrel extension of some sort (is it a suppressor? an extended barrel? who can tell???) AND an itty-bitty bayonet. Those don’t play well together practically, but they look cool as hell, so I’m doing both.

Aside from the itty-bitty-bayonet I made a few sessions back, I hadn’t gotten to any of the fun bits, so I was excited to get started. I had a few things to tackle:

  1. Add a mounting point for the bayonet
  2. Make the little charging handle for the back
  3. Figure out how to make the suppressor/muzzle extender
  4. Make the foregrip

That’s a lot, but fortunately I had a full day in the shop.

IMG_1549I decided to start by modifying the back of the pistol. I’d left it pretty boring, which is definitely antithetical to the Borderlands look. Now the Raptor pistol is very squared off in the back, but this Nerf pistol is all sorts of round. I stuck with the rounded look, but decided to add the lip that is seen on the Dahl pistol. There’s also a little round divot taken out of the back. You can’t see it well in this crappy photo, but it’s there. I was able to make that using one of the stone grinding bits on my Dremel. I wasn’t especially pleased with the little bits attaching the round lip to the grip. They were all sorts of gappy, and only became more so when I hit them with the heat gun. I’ll be revisiting those when it comes time to prep for paint.

From there, I took a quick twenty minutes to add the attachment point for the bayonet. That ended up being a piece of 3mm craft foam that I drilled out to insert a magnet. I drill out the corresponding half of the bayonet and superglued another magnet in there and moved on with my life.

Attachment point

Easy-peasy right? Well, actually the magnets were too strong and I ended up pulling the one out of the bayonet pretty quickly. I wouldn’t figure that out for a few hours, and would end up fixing that little error another day. *sigh*

Charging handleFrom there, it was back to dealing with the pistol’s butt (heh-heh). Since I had the detailing on the back end figured out, it was time to add the charging handle. This is one of those fiddly bits that I usually leave to the end of a build. There’s something about them being so small that ends up looking wrong if it’s even the slightest bit off. It’s not that any of it was particularly difficult, but it needs to be symmetrical, and without much room for error. I count it as a great deal of personal growth that I decided to tackle it at this point in the build instead of waiting to the last possible moment.

So like I was saying, this wasn’t a difficult piece to build. I used some 4mm EVA foam and transferred my pattern onto it using a silver Sharpie. I cut it out, then beveled and shaped the various pieces, first by gingerly cutting the with a sharp knife, then by smoothing everything over with a fine sanding drum in my Dremel. The carved in the grooves on the inside of the handle with the edge of that drum. The circles were made by scoring the surface of the foam, then hitting it with the heat gun. I took my time and planned out my cuts and was able to do it in one go without having to redo. Once again, the picture isn’t great, but in real life, that handle is pretty dang close to symmetrical.

After that, it was a simple matter of affixing it to the gun, which I did with some contact cement. I’m a little concerned about how I’m going to make that transition look seamless, but that’s for future me to figure out when I’m prepping everything for paint. (Sorry future Lise!)

CoresFrom one fiddly bit to the next… I was excited by my progress, so I dived right in to working on the suppressor-ma-jig. After a fair amount of thought on how to deal with all the cutouts in the design, I decided to make a solid core, and then do the cutouts on a piece of 3mm foam, which I would wrap around the core. Using my handy template, I sandwiched a few layers of  EVA foam together, then rounded the long edges. And then I made another one. The wrapping technique seemed tricky enough that I wanted another core in case I screwed up the first one. It’s always easier to make two of something at once, then to make another one later, so I just went with it this time.

IMG_1566I found the center and measured the craft foam to the circumference on the piece. (Do you call it a circumference with it’s not a circle?) From there, I used the template to plan out the various cutouts. In the picture, you’ll see that I marked the corners on the 3mm foam. and used that to line up the cutouts. From there, I did some clean up, then I slathered the two pieces in contact cement and smushed them together. My first attempt was all right, but I didn’t line it up very well. I thanked myself for making a second core, added the cutouts to another piece of 3mm foam, and wrapped it again. The second attempt was so much better than the first!! After that, I glued a beveled circular piece into the end for the barrel opening, then I hogged out a circular piece to slip it over the Nerf gun’s barrel. That will eventually be glued in place. Finally, I did some cleanup and called that one done.

foregripBy this point, it was starting to get toward the end of the day. I was also being eaten alive by mosquitoes, which is a definite downside to having a garage workshop in the South. However, I was on a roll, so I pressed on. I really wanted to get some progress done on the foregrip. Once again, I started with the template. I had two slightly different sizes of foregrip to work with. The smaller was more to scale with the Dahl weapon in the game, but the larger was of a scale that would actually fit my hand. I ended up going with the larger one.

The first thing I did was snag a largish foam dowel from my foam stash. It wasn’t going to be quite big enough, but after I wrapped it with 4mm EVA foam, it was the thickness I was looking for. I wrapped a piece of 2mm foam around the bottom, then beveled it in to match the curve in the template. After that, I cut out and refined the bottom piece. That took a fair amount of trial and error. I’d only blueprinted out the side view, so I had to check my photographic references to get the shape really figured out. I was pretty happy with how that eventually turned out, but it took a minute. The shape is very complex. Once that was the way I wanted it, I used contact cement to glue the pommel piece to the longer handle part.

detailAfter that, I needed to tackle the detailing along the side of the foregrip. This was going to be a bit challenging, given that the blueprint I’ve been working from is two-dimensional, while I had a three-dimensional, mostly cylindrical shape to work with. I started by cutting out the appropriate piece and mocking it up on the detailless foregrip I’d just finished. From there, I could see where I’d need to extend the piece to wrap around, so I mirrored the template piece onto some paper and extended the top part. Then I cut that one out and fiddled a bit to get everything lined up properly. Once I’d gotten it to my satisfaction, I taped the two sides together, smoothed out the joins in the middle, then transferred the whole design to some craft foam. I cut that out, then glued it to the handle using contact cement. Finally, I had to do some cleanup on the sides to maintain the tapered shapes on the pommel piece.

And with that, I came to a finish for the day. I couldn’t help but pull together what I’d finished to see how it looked, and it was definitely starting to get that Borderlands feel to it. There’s a lot going on with this gun, and still more pieces to come.

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Finally, Progress You Can See: Borderlands 3 Pistol Nerf Mod, Part 3

The last time I was able to work on the pistol, I ended up here:


Since then, I’m pleased to say I’ve made what feels like some real progress! I’m not able to work on it as much as I’d like to, but a few hours here and there does eventually start to add up.

The first tasks I decided to tackle were to take care of some of the holes that are in the pistol, either by design, or because I modified something. (Or because this belonged to my son beforehand, and he lost some pieces, like the base of the grip. That’s okay, I wanted to change the shape of that anyway.)


I covered over and beveled the back of the pistol to disguise the hole I made when I cut the charging handle for the nerf gun out of there. (Goodbye functional nerf pistol! And hello, whatever this is!) The shape is only loosely based on the Borderlands gun. I may dress it up a bit later to get it closer, but for now, the ugly hole is gone.

So back to the grip… Originally, it looked like this:


My original thought had been to somehow incorporate that weird little nub that used to hold on the end of the battery compartment, but after trying to wrap my head around how I was going to clear that, I decided simply to lop off the offending piece. A short while later, and with the help of my trusty hacksaw, I had something that was going to be a lot easier to deal with.


It wasn’t completely flat, but that gave me something *much* easier to work with. I also roughed out some additions on the grip. I wanted to get those done before finished the base of the grip.

After checking my reference photos about 5,000 times, I got some tracing paper to get to work on making a template. It took some doing. Even with the paper, the shape of the pistol is very complicated, but after some fiddling, and lots of drawing and cutting, and redrawing and recutting, I had something I could work with.IMG_1541

I traced my pattern onto some 2mm craft foam, then used contact cement to adhere the pieces to the grip. I smoothed out my seams with my rotary tool and the fine sanding drum bit. I’ll need to go back and do some sealing to hide the last of my sins, but overall, it ended up looking pretty good.

While waiting for contact cement to dry, I started on the grip’s base. It’s bit and chunky in the game, and I really wanted to bring that over. I glued a couple of 10mm pieces of EVA foam together and used my bench sander to get the wedge shape. Then I roughed out the shape using a knife before refining it using the rotary tool. I needed a spaced at the bottom, not only to fill in the space I made when I cut the nub off the grip, but also to get a little closer to matching the shape in the game.


And of course, I needed to add some detailing in! The strapping and “rivets” are in the original design. The line on the bottom of the grip is also. That I made by scoring the foam, then hitting it with a heat gun to open up the lines. It’s a super simple technique, but one I love to see. It works so well!!

The last thing to do was glue the grip pieces together, then head in for dinner.


As far as accomplishments go, it wasn’t a huge day, but it was fantastic to finally be building things on to the pistol. The shape of the gun is starting to take come through, and I couldn’t be more excited for the next accessories!

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Prep, Prep, and More Prep: Borderlands 3 Nerf Mod Pistol, Part 2

This is the boring part, at least it is for me. I’m always one who wants to get to the meat of a task. Prep and cleanup are the worst bits of it, but I’ve (finally) learned that they’re as important to a process as the doing is. Now if only there was a way to go back in time and tell that to my younger art student self…

So it doesn’t look like I’ve gotten very far. I started from here:


And I’ve gotten here:


I know, it doesn’t look like a lot, but that is probably somewhere around ten hours or so of work. Keep in mind, I’m working full time, doing edits on my current manuscript, DMing a twice-monthly DnD game, while also trying to be a good wife and step-mom. The progress isn’t going as quickly as I’d like, but it’s coming.

So how did I get to my after picture?

Much of that ten hours was spent on sanding. I decided that I wanted to not only get rid of all the Nerf logos and messaging, but also the weird bits of texture. I kept a little bit of it, but most of that went. I bent myself to my task armed with big files, medium files, needle files, and many grits of sanding blocks and paper. I’d thought I could just sand away what I didn’t want with my Dremel, but I quickly learned that it was doing a better job of melting the plastic than it was removing it, so I had to apply myself manually.

That was…time-consuming. Also mind-numbing. And gave me some interesting blisters. I knocked back the major stuff, then took the pistol apart to get access to certain areas.


I took the photo mostly so I’d be able to put the whole thing back together.

I’d had the idea that I would trim down the trigger, but after seeing how it went together, I decided not to mess with the structural integrity of that mechanism too much. I did fill in the weird holes in the plastic with Bondo (more sanding). I then clipped off the dart priming mechanism, and pulled apart all the orange pieces so I could prep them for paint.

And did that include more sanding? Of course it did! Apparently Nerf plastic doesn’t take paint well, so everything needs to be sanded to prepare the surface for priming. In my after photo, you’ll notice most of the orange bits are now black. The currently remaining orange plastic is going to be covered up as part of the mod.

While the paint dried, I sanded the body of the gun, working my way through progressively finer grits of sand paper, mostly to get rid of the worst of the file marks. It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but it took a LONG time.

After all of that prep, I decided I wanted to actually make something, dammit! So I started on the little bayonet. And I was so excited that I forgot to take process photos.


You can see in the photo how it’s constructed. I have a piece of plastic (Sintra) in the middle for some structure. The bulk of the construction is EVA/craft foam. I built it using blueprints I created using Inkscape (yes, more prep).


Most of my builds start with the blueprint before I ever step foot in the shop. This one is a little different because I could start with physically prepping the gun, and I only have to create the blueprint for each piece, and not the whole thing. The bayonet was an even better place to start as I really only needed one side.

Basically, I printed out the blueprint, then used is as a template to cut out foam, which I glued to the plastic base of the bayonet. I then beveled it to create the blade and insane cutouts. Stabilizing those edges with crazy glue after the fact was hugely helpful in stabilizing the pretty fragile edges. That part of the build was only a couple of hours. Now the bayonet lives in a large coffee tin so my cat with the appetite for EVA foam doesn’t chew large holes into it. Once it’s painted, he won’t be interested, but until then, all foam items have to be locked up. One day I’ll post a picture of my foam protection measures.

At that point, it was back to prepping the pistol. Everything was sanded down to where I wanted it, so I put it all back together. Everything still fit, and it went together perfectly on the second try. I gave a quick mental thank you to past me for thinking to take that picture, and screwed everything down. Then I mixed up a small bit of Apoxie Sculpt and plugged the screw holes.IMG_1526

The holes aren’t quite flush, which I did on purpose. This is where I left it for the day, as the Apoxie Sculpt takes three hours to completely harden. However, I still need to Bondo those holes and the seams, then sand (yay!) it all back down. After that, it’s make some modifications to the gun to fix the hole in the back where I removed the priming thingamajig, build a new cap at the bottom of the grip, and fill the dart storage holes at the front (not visible in this photo). Then it’s build more pieces!!!

I’m reasonably pleased with my progress, I just wish there wasn’t so much boring crap to get through before the fun part begins. I also wish I’d remembered to take those progress pics. More next time, I promise!

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Something new: Borderlands 3 Nerf Pistol Mod, Part 1

Everyone knows there’s a lot going on right now. Like, a lot. What everyone might not know is that I deal with a little thing called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Current events are making the eternal negotiation between my brain and limbic system a little…interesting.

On the one hand, this feels like the event my brain has been training for. I spend so much of my time waiting for the other show to drop, and now that it FINALLY has, those nights of lying awake while my brain spins up countless doomsday scenarios suddenly seems worth it. We started doing what we could weeks before the stay-at-home order came out. So that’s a bonus!

The downside is that we’ve been in this for long enough that my brain has started working on new scenarios. It’s not like it doesn’t have fertile ground for this. My brain is a pro at worrying, about asking what-ifs ad nauseam, it’s part of what makes me a decent writer. It’s also getting hard to sleep at night.

When the proverbial shit first hit the fan, I had problems engaging with my creative brain. I was in a place where my creative works had naturally hit a slow point. My latest book was out to beta readers, and comments were only starting to trickle in. I’d finished my most recent prop project, and none of the ideas I’d had lined up to do next were really tickling my fancy. One idea had been to work on rehabbing my Elder Scrolls IMG_1046Skyrim cosplay to enter into the local con this summer, but that was sounding less and less likely.

But now that my brain had found some new ruts to churn in, I decided it was time to get back up on that creative horse I’d been letting flop around the pasture with no particular direction. First thing to get going was the novel. That does have a deadline, after all. It’s a generous one, but not enough that I’d be doing myself any favors by letting it get too far away from me. On the plus side, my editing passes have been fruitful, not only because I got some great feedback from my betas (with a couple more to come, hopefully), but because I gave myself a whole chunk of time before coming back to the story. That always helps me figure out the holes in the manuscript.

That only scratches one of my creative itches, however. It’s time to get a new prop project going. For that, I’ve decided to do something completely different, not only in the prop, but also with this very blog post. I’m going to document my progress, and add write-ups here. I have no idea if anyone else is going to be interested in that process, but I’m doing it anyway!

I’m also breaking out of the Fallout/Elder Scrolls box I’d put myself in thus far. That’s right, I’m finally doing a prop outside Bethesda’s IP! I have a whole new style to learn, so that’s exciting! I enjoy a new challenge, and this is definitely going to deliver it. I’m also going to be modding a pre-existing item, which is something I’ve never done before.

So what I’m doing is transforming this lowly busted Nerf pistol I inherited from my son:


into this Borderlands 3 Dahl Raptor pistol with all sorts of bells and whistles:


I’ve never done any modding before. On the plus side, it no longer fires so I don’t need to worry about maintaining that action. On the down side, I’m going to be doing a lot of prep to get the pistol to a point where it’s ready for modification and paint. I foresee a lot of sanding in my future!

I’m looking forward to making some new things, and hopefully giving my brain something to grind on that it can actually control. We’ll see how the write-ups go. The build is going to be worked on as I have the time for it, which you’d think I’d have a lot of right now, but my wife has ideas for projects…

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Hunter’s Descent

IMG_1296It’s almost here!!!!!!! I’ve gotten my massive stack of author copies. I’m getting ready to swing into giveaway mode. The excitement is starting to take hold.

What’s this all about, you ask? It’s been almost two years, but the sequel to Five Moons Rising is out in right around two weeks.  Hunter’s Descent was a challenge to write. That should be a redundant statement. I mean, every book is its own challenge. Descent was merely challenging in a new way.

This is the first sequel that I didn’t write right after the preceding book. The On Deception’s Edge trilogy was written back to back to back. The first book of the series, Depths of Blue, is the first novel I ever wrote. In fact, when I started writing it, I thought the whole trilogy was going to be one book. It didn’t take long before I figured out that it was much too long and I was going to have to chop what I thought was one book into three parts. Since I’d never published anything before, I had the leisure of writing through all three books in one go. Then I polished the crap out of Depths and submitted it for publication with Bella Books. While it was being considered, I was able to start working through the drafts of Heights of Green and Vortex of Crimson.

Things are different now. Hunter’s Descent is my sixth novel. (WHAT!?) I wrote a steampunk novel between it and Five Moons Rising. Demon in the Machine was very different in tone and feel than Five Moons was. That was on purpose. I loved writing Demon, it’s probably the easiest story I’ve done so far, and it scratched a creative itch I was feeling at the time, but Malice and Ruri’s story was still playing out in my head.

Once I finished up with Demon, I knew I wanted to get back to them. I’d left their story on a positive, if uncertain note, and I knew there was more ground to tread there. Getting back into their heads was a bit of a challenge, however. Malice was the hardest to get a handle on. I started her story back when I was going through a lot of upheaval in my life. I was frustrated and angry, and her character lent itself to a lot of what I was going through at the time. I’m not in that place anymore, and I’m glad for it. I’ve moved on, but Malice has waaaay more issues than I did. Her anger is still there under the surface, ready to boil over. I was able to get back in touch with her, but it took me probably halfway through the first draft to do so.

Ruri has always been an enigma to me. She is way more even-keeled and laid back than I can ever hope to be. I really enjoy that about her character, and it’s fun to explore sides of a personality that I simply don’t have. This time around, I had an easier time wrapping my brain around Ruri’s motivations. She’s laid-back, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get frustrated. The situation I put them in, and where Malice currently is in her own head put Ruri in a bit of a pickle. Yes, even solid-as-a-rock Ruri can still lose her shit when it’s justified.

I did get there, and I’m very pleased with how the story turned out and the interplay between the main characters. Hopefully, you will all be pleased as well!!

Hunter’s Descent

While investigating the deaths of multiple students at a boot-camp style institution, Malice and Ruri become trapped in the mysterious Kingdom of Flower and Bone–a netherworld filled with both magical and malignant beings. But which is which? Even ancient forces aren’t immune to petty squabbles. Will the pair make it out alive?

Mary Alice Nolan, code-named “Malice,” is a Hunter: genetically modified and rigorously trained to track and kill supranormals (“supras”) such as werewolves, vampires, and demons. Seeking revenge after her sister is malevolently “turned” into a werewolf, the last thing the hot-tempered Malice expected was to develop deep desires for one of her sworn enemies.

Ruri Samson is a magnificent golden-eyed wolven without a pack. Smart, sensitive and loyal, she considers Malice her mate. Ruri would sacrifice her own life to protect her—and this time she just may have to.

Hunter’s Descent is the sequel to Five Moons Rising.

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Demon in the Machine: Spring-heeled Jack

Jack6You never know where an idea will come from. I’m always on the lookout for things I can use in my stories and when I listened to an episode of Lore (Episode 22: Over the Top, to be exact), I was given the kernel of an idea. I’d been listening to the podcast for a while, by that point. It’s one of the many I like to have on in the background while I’m engaged in tedious work. If you haven’t checked out Lore, I highly recommend it. This particular episode was about a mysterious entity who plagued London and England in the 19th century. His name was Spring-heeled Jack.

There are many stories about Spring-heeled Jack. Reported from the 1830 until the 1880s, most of the sightings centered around London and its suburbs, though some occurred in the north of England as well. In these sightings, a demonic-looking man would burst out of the shadows and accost someone, usually a young woman. He was usually described as a devil, or devil-like, with sharp claws at the tips of his fingers. Sometimes he was also said to be wearing a helmet or a black cloak. In other descriptions, he had red, glowing eyes. And he almost always made his escape by leaping away, hopping over tall obstacles as if it was nothing, hence the name.

The podcast episode was an interesting one, and it stuck with me. It was about the same time that I was working on plot and character development for Demon in the Machine. I knew Isabella was going to be a cat-burglar, and I knew I wanted her to have some mechanical leanings. The legend of Spring-heeled Jack was suddenly too good an opportunity to pass up.

I decided to work it in by having Isabella accidentally contributing to the urban legend. One of the items she invented to aid in her burgling was a jump rig. The device allowed her to easily get to roofs and to scale the sides of buildings. It also made traveling through London at night much easier. However, in her pale canvas suit and helmet, making long bounds through various neighborhoods, Isabella also created a bit of a scene, one that was remarked upon perhaps more than she was aware of. Still, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as no one could trace the legend back to her.

A couple of the details aren’t exactly right. Demon in the Machine takes place in the 1890s, by which time the scare had mostly died down. I considered moving the timeframe back a bit to take advantage of the period during which Jack was historically most active, but decided against it. The main thrust of the plot has to do with the rise of the automobile, which happens later in the 19th century. However, given that 19th century English inventions weren’t enhanced by demonic magic either (that we know of), I decided the liberties I was taking weren’t too terrible.

Making things up out of the whole cloth is great, but I do enjoy it when I can take something that existed and borrow part of it for one of my own stories. Steampunk as a genre works well for that in general. In particular, this strange little urban legend helped me add a lot of flavor to my story.


Demon in the Machine, out June 15, 2018

At the height of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, steam power and magic join forces to create wonders the world has never seen. But those wonders have a dark side—one that will soon force a reckoning few could have anticipated.

Half-demon Briar is content with her structured life as an archivist, a far cry from the chaos of her background and upbringing. Briar’s simple and predictable existence is rocked when she discovers something sinister powers one of the grand, new inventions of her era.

Isabella Castel, the only daughter of Viscount Sherard, is far from the brainless socialite she pretends to be. Isabella is everything Briar is not: passionate, creative and impulsive, but with secrets to rival even Briar’s own. Two more unlikely partners should not exist, yet if the women cannot find a way to work together, they will lose far more than their reputations.

Can a half-demon and a debutante work past their secrets before all hell breaks loose?

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Demon in the Machine, Meet the Characters: Isabella

Isabella Castel is the only daughter of the Viscount Sherard. While Briar revels in the structure of Victorian society, Isabella chafes against it. She was raised in high society, but her mother is not only American, but also highly unconventional in her own right. However, Althea Castel has learned how and when to disguise her differences while Isabella is still trying to get a handle on that.

When Isabella and her brother Wellington were children, their mother insisted tat Isabella was to have access to all the same schooling and tutors as her brother. Isabella discovered that she had an interest, and even better, a talent in building mechanical things. While her brother gravitated more toward the magical side of tinkering, Isabella gloried in the challenge of creating mechanical marvels using as little magic as possible. She developed a number of tools for around the shop, and designed and built what she calls a jump rig.

She was very careful not to let her father (Joseph, Viscount Sherard) know that she was using the jump rig to help her break into the houses of their peers. After Wellington drained the family resources and was sent to Germany ostensibly for school, but mainly to keep him out of trouble, she began supplementing the family’s resources with burglary. The shady past of Isabella’s mother past came in handy when Althea hatched the plan to keep the family from the poor house.

And so it is that Briar keeps running across Isabella at various high society functions and balls. Isabella plays the brainless socialite while keeping an eye on the expensive baubles of those around her. While Isabella is pretty good at playing her part, she yearns for more from her life than what she has. She and Briar do not hit it off, in fact, Isabella takes delight in tormenting Briar. Things begin to change when they’re forced to work together, and they realize they have more in common than either had thought.

BEL-DemonMachineDemon in the Machine, out June 15, 2018

At the height of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, steam power and magic join forces to create wonders the world has never seen. But those wonders have a dark side—one that will soon force a reckoning few could have anticipated.

Half-demon Briar is content with her structured life as an archivist, a far cry from the chaos of her background and upbringing. Briar’s simple and predictable existence is rocked when she discovers something sinister powers one of the grand, new inventions of her era.

Isabella Castel, the only daughter of Viscount Sherard, is far from the brainless socialite she pretends to be. Isabella is everything Briar is not: passionate, creative and impulsive, but with secrets to rival even Briar’s own. Two more unlikely partners should not exist, yet if the women cannot find a way to work together, they will lose far more than their reputations.

Can a half-demon and a debutante work past their secrets before all hell breaks loose?

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Demon in the Machine, Meet the Characters: Briar

Briar, Briar, Briar… What can I say about Briar? There’s a lot to her, certainly more than most people would guess. Isabella Castel thinks she’s a prude. Isabella’s best friend thinks Briar needs to be rescued from her hum-drum existence. They both know her as Brionie Riley, the somewhat odd employee of the Earl of Hardwicke. What they don’t know is that the very proper Miss Riley is actually a half-demon, and her mother is a succubus.

One of the things I love about Briar is how divided a person she is. Half of her nature is chaotic and all about sensuality and hedonism. She was raised in that environment, with her mother’s people on the infernal plane. The infernal plane is no place to raise a child who might look a lot like the other succubi, but has more in common with her human ancestors when it comes to temperament. She left home for the mortal plane and has been doing her best to quash the demon side of her personality. She embraces order and discipline in direct contravention to the situation in which she was raised. She works hard to eradicate the lack of impulse control her mother’s genes leave in her, and is mostly successful. And if she appears closed off and cold, well it’s only because she is terrified that if she lets go, she will revert to the behavior of her demonic ancestors.

In this world, succubi and incubi are empaths, capable of reading the emotions of others with the slightest touch. Briar shares that ability, but someone who has problems controlling her own emotions has little use for experiencing the emotions of others. Add to that her odd ability to read objects in much the same way, is it any wonder that Briar holds herself apart from most others? The ability to divine information from objects comes in handy for her chosen profession. As an archivist, she can tell which of the materials she handles are related to others. Occasionally, she can even experience events where those items were present. That particular feat can be quite disorienting since things don’t experience the world in the same way as humans, but over the decades she’s become quite adept at interpreting those experiences into something that makes sense to her. It’s an unknown trait among succubi and one her mother would love to breed into their lineage. Briar has other ideas and avoids her family as much as she can, which isn’t too difficult when she’s on the human realm.

Finally, Briar is an accomplished used of demonic magic in the eyes of many humans. She dismisses that particular feat, as demonic magic to her is simply a matter of linguistics and semantics. She grew up speaking and reading the demonic tongue, the same language that twists demonic magic into useful shapes on the mortal realm. As far as she’s considered, she’s simply literate. Her disdain doesn’t stop her from using magic when the situation calls for it, however.

That’s Briar, a bundle of contradictions trying to make her way in the human world and looking for ways she might be happy. She might have grey skin and red eyes, but she’s as human as anybody else.

BEL-DemonMachineDemon in the Machine, out June 15, 2018

At the height of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, steam power and magic join forces to create wonders the world has never seen. But those wonders have a dark side—one that will soon force a reckoning few could have anticipated.

Half-demon Briar is content with her structured life as an archivist, a far cry from the chaos of her background and upbringing. Briar’s simple and predictable existence is rocked when she discovers something sinister powers one of the grand, new inventions of her era.

Isabella Castel, the only daughter of Viscount Sherard, is far from the brainless socialite she pretends to be. Isabella is everything Briar is not: passionate, creative and impulsive, but with secrets to rival even Briar’s own. Two more unlikely partners should not exist, yet if the women cannot find a way to work together, they will lose far more than their reputations.

Can a half-demon and a debutante work past their secrets before all hell breaks loose?

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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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