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Thoughts From a Writer’s Brain, #46

Subconscious: Heya.

Me: Hi.

SC: Sooooo … you’ve been getting kinda whiny on social media about your book sales. You know, nobody likes to be guilted into buying stuff.

Me: *sigh* Yes, I know. I won’t do that anymore. And I wasn’t trying to guilt people. I was just trying to get some word of mouth going.

SC: Really?

Me: Oh, bite me. I already feel bad about it. I’m just going to shut up and write more books. If I can.

SC: Melodramatic cliffhanger much?

Me: God, you’re a bitch.

SC: You should know. Okay, fine, why “if I can?”

Me: Because my damn laptop is over eight years old and my desktop is over nine years old. Both of them are failing, and I really need to buy new ones before they completely die on me.

SC: Tell me you’re backing up.

Me: Religiously and onto multiple devices. But backups aren’t going to be of any use if I don’t have hardware to run them on.

SC: So why didn’t you just say that your computers are crapping out and you need to buy new ones?

Me: Well, hell, Chuck Wendig just did something like that for his vet bills and people jumped all over his ass. And I’m no Chuck Wendig.

SC: Verily, that is true.

Me: Also, it didn’t occur to me.

SC: Jesus. You’re telling me that saying, “Hey, folks, my antique computers are on the verge of joining the choir eternal so please buy my books so that I can get new ones and keep writing” didn’t occur to you, but “Oh, jeez, my books aren’t selling, woe is me” did?

Me: Fuck you.

SC: Not anatomically possible but an amusing suggestion nonetheless. Why are you in such a bad mood, anyway?

Me: Because I’m cleaning. I hate cleaning. I always wind up drenched in sweat and covered in cat hair. But it has to be done.

SC: You could be writing–

Me: YES I KNOW THAT BUT WE LIVE WITH FIVE CATS AND RANDY TREES OUTSIDE AND I HAVE TO VACUUM IF I WANT TO CONTINUE BREATHING, OKAY?

SC: Yeesh. Okay. But you’re going to be taking breaks, right?

Me: Duh.

SC: Okay, then. You can work on one of your WIPs during your breaks. See? That was easy.

Me: I–you– *incoherent with rage*

SC: Do you want a new laptop and desktop?

Me: *grinds teeth and goes back to dusting*

Wednesday musings on writing

It occurred to me earlier today that I’ve been working professionally in the writing dodge (and by professionally I mean people have given me money in exchange for my words) for about twenty-two years, now. My writing career can legally drink, if not rent a car. Which is probably for the best, if you think about it.

So while I may bitch and moan about sales at times, in retrospect I’m actually pretty happy with where I’ve gotten to at this point. Between my SF and romance names (by the way, you all DO know that I write science fiction and urban fantasy as Melanie Fletcher, right?) I have seven full-length novels, three novellas, two novelettes, and twenty-six short stories to my credit. That’s not bad at all, especially since I’ll be bringing out at least another three novels this year as well as more novellas and short stories.

And not only have I been publishing, but I’ve been gifted with a fiercely devoted band of readers (you know who you are, and you are all in the will), plus I’ve been getting critical attention for my work. Night Owl Reviews just did an interview with me, and the lovely and talented Cynthia Sax will also have an interview on Degree of Resistance up on her website soon. So, yeah, I’ve actually done pretty well in my career so far (take that, Imposter Syndrome!).

Fabulous, I hear you say, but why are you babbling at us about this? Well, 1) because I can, and 2) it helps to work out what I’m going to do next. This year I’ve decided to concentrate on leveling up to the next professional step; namely, increasing my readership, shooting for a USA Today bestseller list slot, and maybe even winning an award or two (although I’m reminded of the fact that Sir Terry Pratchett, he of the insanely successful and brilliant Discworld series, never won anything until late in his career. People rarely take humor with the seriousness it deserves. But I digress). And the best way to do all that is to keep writing, keep publishing, and keep entertaining folks, which, yeah, just twist my arm already.

Did I mention that you’re all cruel but beautiful, and I love you oodles for reading my stuff? Because I do.

SFR Brigade Showcase: Degree of Resistance

sfrb-showcasebannerHello, folks! My new cyborg romance Degree of Resistance (Pacifica Rising 1) is now available on Amazon and other online retailers of fine SF romance, and I want to share a scene here that, to me, encapsulates the relationship between my main characters, bless their hard little heads.

Some backstory: the year is 2048, the United States has fallen and the Pacifica Protectorate is the most powerful nation-state on the West Coast. Evie Contreras is a freelance cybertech who lost the love of her life, Ben Drake, twelve years ago. When she finds out that Ben is still alive and has been turned into a cyborg soldier by the protectorate, she rescues him with the help of a shadowy resistance group known as Rubicon. In return, Rubicon wants Evie to go back to the Pacifica Protectorate and retrieve a hidden AI for them. Needless to say, Ben is not happy about this.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great SF romance at the SFR Brigade Showcase!

A perfect society hiding a terrible secret. An innocent man forced into cyborg slavery. A woman determined to set him free.

Freelance tech Evie Contreras is part of the Employee class of the Pacifica Protectorate, the “perfect society” that rose on the West Coast after the breakup of the United States. But Evie knows all about Pacifica’s festering core and the secrets that keep it in power. And when she discovers that her fiancé has been turned into a cyborg slave by a sadistic protectorate officer, she will risk everything to rescue him.

degreeofresistancecoverEvie opened the control box wired to the pressure tank that took water from the Burgess well. A set of dusty but functional solar cells sat on a pole fastened to the tank, and insulated wiring led from the cells to the control box. “Okay, the well is definitely not dry and the battery is pulling juice from the cells, so it’s got to be a failure in the pump,” she said, rooting around in the bag of borrowed tools next to her.

Ben crouched down next to her, making sure he was in between her and any potential restart of the McBride/Burgess water war. “Think you can fix it?”

She gave him an “are you kidding” glance, then returned her attention to the dusty innards of the control box. She leaned closer, nose wrinkling. “Ew.”

“What?”

Grimacing, she reached into the box and pulled out a small, stiff body. “I think it’s a deep-fried lizard. Can they chew on wires?”

He gingerly accepted the small corpse. The arid air had done a fine job of natural mummification on it. “Not as much. It might’ve peed on something, though.”

“Yay.” She peered deeper into the box. “Yeah, I think you’re right—looks like a contact got corroded. I can fix that.”

As she got to work, Ben kept an ear cocked to the radio clipped to his jacket pocket. After giving them a royal chewing out for taking an unauthorized beer break, J.C. was overseeing the repair of the War Wagon while a chastised Vince and company drove the bartered food and the wounded security officer back to the base in the Bandit. Rob had volunteered to stay behind as backup, and Evie’s presence had been requested at J.C.’s side once she was finished with the well pump.

He watched her frown in concentration at the control box. “There, that should work. I already primed the pump so—” She flipped a switch and the pressure tank rumbled before settling down to a satisfied gurgling. “Damn, I’m good.”

“Yes, you are.”

She squinted at him, patches of color blooming in her cheeks. He didn’t think it was because of the blustery wind. “Thanks. We better get back to the War Wagon.”

He got up and gave her a hand, hanging onto it once she was on her feet. She didn’t try to pull away, which was reassuring. “I’m sorry about punching the wall in your office,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

The corner of her mouth quirked. “I think you were justified.”

“I don’t, but thanks for that.” He stared at the hollows between the hills of her knuckles, the elegant strength of the hand. He never wanted to let it go. “I just hate the thought of you going back to Pacifica without me.”

The wind drove strands of dark hair across her face, curtaining it. “I know, but I don’t have a choice. Ballardie and I are the only ones who know how to shut down Lilith’s server. He can’t go so it has to be me. But I’m going to have Mark, Rob, and Lisa backing me up, and they’re all armed and extremely psycho. I’ll be fine.”

Ben wanted to smile at her description of the security officers. “Baby, you could head in there with a cyborg army at your back and I’d still worry.”

She snorted. “Is there anything I could say that would make you feel better?”

“Not really.” He brushed the hair away from her face. “I guess … I’m feeling useless right now because I can’t protect you, and I’m scared I’m going to lose you again, and if that happens…” He didn’t want to think about the yawning abyss that would become the brief remainder of his life in that case.

Those lovely russet eyes softened. “I understand about being scared,” she said, cupping his cheek. “That’s how I felt every time you went on deployment. I never knew if you were going to be in danger or not. All I could do was wait and pray that you came home.”

“Shit.” He pressed into the warmth of her hand, memorizing how she felt against his skin. “If this is how you felt, I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about. It’s part of loving a soldier. I knew that going in.” Her thumb stroked his cheekbone. “But I also knew if there was any way for you to come back, you’d take it. And you proved me right. You survived twelve years under Camden, and you came back to me. So I’m telling you right now that I’m coming back to you, and I’m bringing Ally with me.”

He leaned down, pressing his forehead against hers. “You better. I don’t think I can live without you.”

“Same here. Twelve years was long enough.” Her lips quirked. “And as for you being useless, may I remind you that you just walked into a strange town alone, convinced an armed man to let you into his bar, singlehandedly negotiated a ceasefire between two crazy people, rescued a bunch of our guys in the process, and you didn’t fire a single shot or spill a drop of blood doing it. You’re about as far from useless as it’s physically possible to be.”

He considered what she’d said. Viewed in that light, it was kind of impressive. “I was just doing my job,” he said, self-conscious.

“That’s what heroes always say.”

“You think I’m a hero?”

Her smile was blinding. “Well, you’ve always been my hero.”

Christ, he loved her. He pulled her into his arms, resting his cheek on top of her head. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” he murmured, “but damn, I’m glad I did it.”

“So am I.” She leaned back and kissed him, her lips cool and soft. “And I know this is kind of pointless to say to a hero, but try not to worry about me. The thing is—”

She shifted, her hands moving. He suddenly found himself on the cold ground, right arm straight up behind him with his hand flexed in a wrist lock and her foot braced under his shoulder blade. “—I’m not exactly what you’d call helpless.”

He huffed out a rueful laugh. He could break the lock with his augmented strength, but not without hurting her. And if he was honest with himself he was damned impressed that she’d put him on the ground so neatly. “Someone’s been practicing.”

“Yup. Rob’s pretty damn good at hand-to-hand, and I still remember everything you and Tio Christo taught me.” Her voice dropped. “I’m coming back, Ben. And I’m bringing our daughter with me. You’re not going to lose either of us ever again.”

The grip around his wrist disappeared. He rolled onto his back, staring up at the most beautiful mouth in the world. Upside down, he wasn’t sure if she was smiling or frowning.

She planted her hands on her hips. “You believe me, right?”

He grinned. “My momma didn’t raise stupid children, ma’am. I believe you.”

“Good.” She toed at the dust. “Now get up. I’m freezing my ass off out here and I want to go home.”

Home. That sounded like a fine idea.


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Mid Week Tease: Degree of Resistance #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, folks, and welcome to Mid Week Tease hosted by Angelica Dawson! So, Degree of Resistance (Pacifica Rising 1), is now out and available for purchase. Today’s scene is where Evie first sees the graphic evidence of what the Pacifica Protectorate did to Ben. Next week we’re back to sexytimes, I promise.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

A perfect society hiding a terrible secret. A betrayed man forced into mindless slavery. A woman willing to break all the rules to set him free.

Freelance tech Evie Contreras is part of the Employee class of the Pacifica Protectorate, the “perfect society” that rose on the West Coast after the breakup of the United States. But Evie knows all about Pacifica’s festering core and the secrets that keep it in power. And when she discovers that her fiancé has been turned into a cyborg slave by a sadistic protectorate officer, she will risk everything to rescue him.

degreeofresistancecover“Excuse me,” Evie said, “where’s the ICU?”

The nurse pointed down the hallway. “Go down, turn left at the nurse’s station, then left again at the restrooms. It’s behind the big blue security doors—you can’t miss it.”

“Thanks.” She followed the directions to the doors that were marked “ICU—authorized medical personnel only.” If they were locked and controlled by Lilith, would the AI let her through? And even if she got through the doors, someone might challenge her.

Act like you belong. That was easy enough; she was already wearing scrubs. For added verisimilitude she grabbed a pile of sheets from a small cart as a prop, plopping the tablet on top. Taking a breath, she pushed at one of the doors. It opened and she stepped through.

A short hallway beyond ended at a circular nurse’s station manned by a handsome and clearly bored man in surgical blue scrubs. His curly black hair had been cut short, and he needed a shave judging by the heavy five o’clock shadow, but his eyes lit up when he saw her.

“Hel-lo,” he said in a drawled British accent. “Did someone finally hear my plea for more help?”

“That’s what I was told,” Evie said. “I’m Ally. Where do you need me?”

“Oh, my.” The man gave her a slow up and down that was too deliberately over the top to be offensive. “Don’t ask me questions like that, love. I’m still on call for two more hours.”

She snorted, glancing at the whiteboard propped up on the station’s counter. It had to be a list of patient rooms. “I bet you say that to all the staff members.”

“Only the ones who’ve stolen my heart.” He plunked his hand over his breastbone. “Promise me I’ll see you later, Ally. It may be the only thing that gets me through this deathly dull shift.”

This one was a charmer, which made things easier and harder at the same time. Easier because he’d let her slide past. Harder because he’d undoubtedly check out her ass as she walked away. “No promises—”

“Samir. Dr. Samir Haddad.” Something on his console beeped and he grimaced. “Damn. Duty calls, love. I’ll catch you later?”

“You can try.” Giving him a smile, she walked around the station, resisting the urge to hurry.

The nurse’s station sat at the crosspoint of four corridors like a bull’s eye. Luck and left-to-right reading habits were with her and B corridor was immediately opposite. She headed down there, counting rooms until she came to B4.

The board had Drake, B printed neatly next to the B4 slot. Licking dry lips, she grabbed the door handle. The worst they would do was kick her out, maybe yell at her for coming in without authorization, right? She’d take that if she could just see him for a minute, make sure he was all right, maybe even talk to him.

She opened the door, ready to smile.

And stopped.

Her mind couldn’t comprehend the form that was on the hospital bed. It was as if someone had made a lifelike mannequin of Ben, then removed both arms and everything below the middle of its chest. The holes in the trunk and arms had been sealed neatly with some sort of gelatinous caps, and a variety of tubes and wires ran from them to a combination of equipment arranged around the bed. Some of it she recognized from her own work, like the rounded white med droid with the spidery arms that stood in the corner. The rest appeared to be high-tech hospital equipment, all of it keeping what was on the bed alive.

She’d known intellectually what a cyborg was. Artificial arms, legs, internal organs; she could accept that. She thought she could accept that. But this was something that bypassed rational thought and went straight to the primitive brain, terrifying it.

She gasped a little when he opened his eyes. “Ben?” It was a whispered prayer.

But he heard her. Those grey-blue eyes opened, blinking a few times before he could focus on her. It broke her heart when he smiled. “Evie?”

Go to him. Touch him, tell him it’s going to be all right.

She couldn’t move.

His smile faded. He glanced down, craning his neck. His eyes went wide, filling with horror. “No. Oh, God, no!”

She choked back a sob, shaking her head.

Fierce color flooded his face. The horror disappeared, replaced by incandescent fury. “Get out!” he shouted, raising his head off the bed far enough to jostle some of the wires and tubes. Somewhere an alarm began to bleep. “Goddamn you, Evie, don’t look at me! Get out!”

She wanted to. She didn’t want to see any of this. Screwing her eyes shut, she fumbled for the door handle behind her.

“Get out!”

There it was. She stepped backwards, away from the raging half-man screaming at her from the bed.

And backed into someone. When she turned, Samir glowered down at her. “I think we need to have a chat, Ally.”


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Mid Week Tease: Degree of Resistance #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, folks, and welcome to Mid Week Tease hosted by Angelica Dawson! So, Degree of Resistance (Pacifica Rising 1), is now out and available for purchase. And to switch things up a bit, today’s scene is more tense than teasing — after Evie, Ben, and Evie’s daughter have been captured by Ben’s former commanding officer General Camden, Evie’s ex …  I hesitate to call him boyfriend. Guy she was expected to have sex with in order to keep her job? Anyway, Gene shows up, wanting his property back. Ben’s not going to be very happy about this, as you will soon see.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

A perfect society hiding a terrible secret. A betrayed man forced into mindless slavery. A woman willing to break all the rules to set him free.

Freelance tech Evie Contreras is part of the Employee class of the Pacifica Protectorate, the “perfect society” that rose on the West Coast after the breakup of the United States. But Evie knows all about Pacifica’s festering core and the secrets that keep it in power. And when she discovers that her fiancé has been turned into a cyborg slave by a sadistic protectorate officer, she will risk everything to rescue him.

degreeofresistancecoverCamden settled back on the desk, wrinkling her nose. “There, that’s better. Now, the rest of us can have a lovely little chat.”

“Yeah, about that,” Gene said, practically vibrating in place. “You want the guy and his kid, fine. You’ve got them. I’m taking Evie now.”

Evie wasn’t sure who tensed first, herself or Ben. If Gene took her now, she knew she’d never see Ben or Ally again.

The general pursed her lips in dismay. “Oh, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that. I need her for this next part.”

Gene’s attention jumped between Evie and Camden. “We had a deal. I was supposed to tell you if she showed up. You’d take anyone she was with, and I’d get her. That was the deal.”

Camden’s bright good humor didn’t change, but a thin layer of ice formed under it. “To paraphrase one of my favorite movie characters, I’m changing the deal.” She leaned forward, fixing a predator’s grin on the younger man. “Pray I don’t change it further.”

Evie had to bite back a hysterical laugh when Gene’s jaw dropped in shock. He struggled to regain control, his status as a Shareholder’s heir helping to shore that up. “That shit may work on your soldier boys, lady, but it doesn’t work on me. I went to a fuckload of time and expense to get a cabin up north for her, and I’m not going to waste all of that because you want to play some fucked-up game.”

Camden blinked. “I see. And what were you planning on doing in this cabin with Ms. Contreras?”

“What do you think?”

Ben’s muscles tensed for a lunge at Gene. Evie gripped his arm hard.

The general steepled her hands, raised index fingers resting on her lips. “I’m thinking you were planning on kidnapping a citizen of the protectorate and imprisoning her in that godforsaken wilderness near Portland so that you could rape her whenever your wife-to-be cut you off from your marital privileges. Is that roughly what you had in mind?”

This time Gene’s jaw almost hit his chest. “I’m not—I don’t—what the fuck is wrong with you?”

Evie had to throw all of her weight into keeping Ben on the couch. “Don’t,” she pleaded softly. “Please.”

Camden threw them a smirk. “Captain Drake here doesn’t seem all that impressed with your plans, Mr. Song. Neither does your inamorata, to be honest.”

Startled, Gene glanced at Evie. “Look, I know it’s little primitive but it’ll do for now.” From the slight whine in his tone, it was clear he was annoyed at having to use persuasion. “But you can stay there and no one will ever be able to find you, I promise.” He held out a hand. “She’s not stupid enough to shoot either of us. Come on, let’s go.”

Evie stared at him. He was right; Camden wouldn’t shoot the heir of Dae-Jung Song in his own home. If she took his hand and walked out the door with him now, she’d live.

As his sex slave, trapped in the middle of nowhere and totally dependent on him for everything. Protected behind his privileged bubble, he couldn’t understand that his offer wasn’t life. It was a life sentence.

Slowly, she shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere with you, Gene.”

His brow furrowed. “Goddamn it, Evie, I’m telling you I found a way we can be together. Hye won’t ever find out—”

“I don’t care about Hye. I’m not going anywhere with you, don’t you understand that?” She wrapped her hand around Ben’s. Gene spotted the gesture, eyes widening in astonishment. “I don’t want to be with you.”

His incomprehension disappeared, replaced by anger. “You belong to me,” he snarled.

“No, I don’t. I never belonged to you.” All those emotion bottled for so many years rose to the surface, burning her clean. “I didn’t have a choice about fucking you—that was all your father’s idea. Now I do have a choice. I’m free, and I’m not going anywhere with you.”

He bared a set of perfect teeth in a predator’s snarl. “You stupid bitch. I’m going to stash you in that cabin until that fucking fidelity clause is up, and I will fuck you any way I please, and you will say ‘thank you, sir’ each fucking time, do you understand—”

“Sit down, captain,” Camden barked.

Ben dropped back onto the couch from a half-crouch, blue eyes flat and murderous as they fixed on Gene. “Then tell him to shut his mouth before I shut it for him permanently,” he said softly.


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Author swag, promo, and wine — oh, my!

facebookad_countdown3So I’m running around like the proverbial headless chicken trying to get my gift basket and author swag for Wild Wicked Weekend put together, and I like how things are shaping up. The gift basket will have a tiara, three–count them, three–bottles of wine, both Two Thrones books and Degree of Resistance (CreateSpace worked a miracle and the print copies should arrive the morning I leave for San Antonio), some lovely chocolates from World Market, Belgian hazelnut cookies, a VISA gift card, a Burt’s Bees care package, and a purse-sized lint roller and bottle of hand sanitizer for purposes of practicality. If you’re coming to San Antonio next weekend, make sure you bid on my basket — it’s going to be awesome. Also, come find me at the group signing and get me to personalize your books.

lhI’m also busy doing promo on Facebook and Twitter for Degree of Resistance, (THREE MORE DAYS, PEOPLE! Get your copy at 99¢ while you still can!) and I came close to disaster a few times. See, in order to have the ad graphic appear instead of the graphic link to Amazon I have to upload the ad first, then paste in the text with the Amazon link. The link is still active, but that way I get to choose what graphic gets used in the post.

Under normal circumstances this little dance works splendidly, except that my graphic is only one of two graphics on my desktop at the moment and I almost posted a picture of Louis Herthum a couple of times. Which wouldn’t be bad, mind you, especially since he provided so much inspiration for this book. But it’s rude to involve people in your PR without their permission.

That being said — damn, he’s cute.

Mid Week Tease: Degree of Resistance #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, folks! I’m gearing up for the release of my new cyborg romance Degree of Resistance (Pacifica Rising 1), and it’s time to start posting some hot little teasers so that you know what you have to look forward to on February 21. The book is also available for pre-order on Amazon at a sale price of 99¢, so snag your copy now before it goes up to the regular price of $3.99.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

A perfect society hiding a terrible secret. A betrayed man forced into mindless slavery. A woman willing to break all the rules to set him free.

Freelance tech Evie Contreras is part of the Employee class of the Pacifica Protectorate, the “perfect society” that rose on the West Coast after the breakup of the United States. But Evie knows all about Pacifica’s festering core and the secrets that keep it in power. And when she discovers that her fiancé has been turned into a cyborg slave by a sadistic protectorate officer, she will risk everything to rescue him.

degreeofresistancecover“I’ll have Ally packed up and ready to go tomorrow.”

“No problemo, El Capitan,” Evie brushed a spiky lock of hair behind one ear, flicking the purple tip with a finger.

Ben sighed. “You know I feel old every time you call me that, right?”

“Yup. That’s why I do it.” She tried not to stare too openly at the man behind the wheel of the GoCar. Not only was Ben Drake her late uncle’s best friend and a good friend of her family, he was also her employer, at least until she started college in the fall. And she understood it wasn’t too terribly slick to crush on your boss, especially when you were nineteen and he was thirty.

Even if he was tall, handsome as hell, and confident in an “alpha male without being an asshole” way. That last part was so damn sexy it carbonated her hormones every time she saw him. She decided to cut him some slack. “Seriously, though, it’s all good. I’ve got everything ready for her in my room.” Ben’s six-year-old daughter Ally had stayed over at the Contreras’s often enough that everyone knew the drill. The little girl was sound asleep at her dad’s base quarters now, one of the other officers keeping an eye on her while Ben ran Evie home. “Do you know how long you’ll be gone?”

He hesitated, then gestured vaguely, his PPDF grey uniform jacket dark against the GoCar’s upholstery. “It’s supposed to be two weeks, but you know that can change. Will that be all right with your folks?”

She had to grin at that. “You’re kidding, right? Mama’s already cooking up everything Ally likes, and as far as Papa’s concerned the more kids in the house, the better.”

Something in his expression flickered and she bit her lip, wishing she hadn’t put it that way. It sounded too much like flirting. Or worse, a suggestion. Yeah, Papa would be over the moon if she made him an abuelo, and Mama would be even more thrilled. But first she’d have to get married, then apply for a child permit. Then and only then would the contraceptive implant the local clinic had installed after her first period be turned off. No chance of unexpected kids in today’s Pacifica Protectorate, that was for damn sure.

She wasn’t even sure she wanted one, anyway. Babies were a huge time sink, and she had a lot of schooling ahead of her. But having a six-year-old stepdaughter might be okay, a little voice spoke up.

She quashed that voice. It was stupid even to hope. Ben was smart, hot, and a Defense Forces captain. There had to be tons of women after him. “Anyway, we’re all set to have her, don’t worry about that. You just take care of yourself.”

“Roger that.” He grinned at her, his smile dazzling even in the dimness of the car interior. “And thank you, Evie. I don’t think I tell you enough how much I appreciate everything you do for Ally and me.”

“Oh. Um, you’re welcome.” She could feel her cheeks heat at the praise, which just made them blaze even more. Ben’s wife Marilynn had died in her sleep from an unsuspected aneurysm when Ally was two. Christo was still alive then, and the entire Contreras family had unofficially adopted Ben and Ally. When Mama suggested that Evie become Ally’s regular babysitter, she’d grumbled a little for show, but soon came to appreciate the extra money Ben gave her for her school fund.

Over the last four years, however, her feelings towards both Ally and Ben had changed. Ally was a sunny little girl who lived for hugs, reading, and playing with Evie’s collection of BuildIts, cybered building blocks that could be made up into simple robots. Evie liked to tease Ben that one of these days he’d come home to find out that Ally had turned their household electronics into a kludged-together death ray. Ben would just smile and say that the Defense Forces would be happy to recruit her for their research department.

As for Ben, at some point he’d crossed an invisible border from being Tio Christo’s best friend to a handsome man who took up more and more space in Evie’s thoughts. When she turned eighteen last year, Ben had surprised her by asking if he could file the necessary permits to make her Ally’s official guardian. “Just in case. You know DF grunts—we like to have everything covered,” he’d said. She didn’t want to assume anything from the gesture; she was of legal age, and it made perfect sense for the family that already loved Ally to take care of her in case anything ever happened to him.

But in her heart of hearts, Evie wondered if it meant something else. He could have asked Mama or Papa to become Ally’s guardian—they would have said yes in a heartbeat. But he’d asked her instead. Once the permit had been approved, she’d caught Ben looking at her more and more, something wistful in his eyes. He’d never said anything, never made an overture. Was he waiting for her to make the first move?

Did she have the gónadas to do it?

Before she could open her mouth, he cleared his throat. “Anyway, I better get going. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She slumped against the seat. So much for that. “Yeah, okay.”

She reached for the door handle, then paused. Serving in the Defense Forces was a dangerous job. Christo was proof of that. And while Ben was an experienced soldier, there was never a guarantee that he’d come back from a deployment. She was of legal age and had her contraceptive implant. And the worst, the absolute worst he would do was tell her no. It would break her heart, true, but it would break her heart even worse if he never came back and didn’t know how she felt.

She took a deep breath, then leaned back into him and pressed her lips to his, heart pounding. This close she could smell the light scent of his usual body wash, and underneath it the scent of cotton, salt, and something she could only describe as healthy male. His lips felt warm and firm against her own, but he didn’t react to the kiss. Please, Ben. Do something.

Still no reaction. Deflated, she pulled back just enough to see his eyes. The light blue had almost completely disappeared, pushed into a thin ring around a dark center.

“Oh, thank God,” he muttered.

And then his arms slid around her, pulling her in tight as his mouth came back down on hers, forcing out a soft whimper. Dimly she hoped that he didn’t take that as a no. Because it was most definitely not a no.

It was nothing like kissing guys her own age. It was much, much, much better.


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Mid Week Tease: Degree of Resistance #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, folks! I’m gearing up for the release of my new cyborg romance Degree of Resistance (Pacifica Rising 1), and it’s time to start posting some hot little teasers so that you know what you have to look forward to on February 21. The book is also available for pre-order on Amazon at a sale price of 99¢, so snag your copy now before it goes up to the regular price of $3.99.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

A perfect society hiding a terrible secret. A betrayed man forced into mindless slavery. A woman willing to break all the rules to set him free.

Freelance tech Evie Contreras is part of the Employee class of the Pacifica Protectorate, the “perfect society” that rose on the West Coast after the breakup of the United States. But Evie knows all about Pacifica’s festering core and the secrets that keep it in power. And when she discovers that her fiancé has been turned into a cyborg slave by a sadistic protectorate officer, she will risk everything to rescue him.

degreeofresistancecoverShe leaned back on her arms, letting her robe gape open at the top. His eyes darkened as the soft terrycloth material softly dragged across her nipples, teasing them. “May I see you?”

Without a word he loosened the knot in the towel and let it fall. Let her look.

Her first thought was that he reminded her of a da Vinci nude she’d once seen, every muscle developed without unnecessary bulk and giving the impression of restrained power. His chest was the same from her memories at the pool, beautifully shaped pads of pectoral muscle and shoulders ending in curved deltoids that she wanted to grip. The same light scattering of blond chest hair narrowed to a trail that led down over trim abs to his navel and beyond.

His legs were those of a runner, lean muscle and tendon rising in powerful mounds at the backs of his calves, along the length of his thighs. The hair covering them was sparser, only slightly darker than the hair on his chest, and curled against his indoor-pale skin.

Taking a deep breath, she looked at his groin. The hair darkened here, turning sandy brown and curling in a springy nest around a well-shaped cock, neatly circumcised. It had thickened a little, judging from the way it stood out from his body, but wasn’t anywhere near full erection yet.

He laughed softly. “You should see your face,” he said. “You look like all your birthdays and Christmases came at once.”

“I think they just did.” There were no scars, no obvious signs that parts of his body were artificial. “You’re perfect.”

He glanced down at himself. “I think you may be a little biased, but thank you.” He looked back at her, pupils expanding until all the light blue had been pushed into a thin ring around each black pool. “You’re the one who’s perfect.”

He came to her and knelt, gently urging her knees apart so that he could move closer. She felt a flicker of embarrassment at the thought of him seeing her 30-year-old body nude, but couldn’t resist the pressure of his hands. Her heart raced as the belt on her robe loosened, falling to each side. The terrycloth gaped open, putting her on display the same way he’d done for her.

He didn’t say anything for a minute as he looked at her. The embarrassment she’d felt earlier was gone, banished by the naked worship in his eyes. “You’re everything I ever wanted.” His voice was husky. “You’re so beautiful, baby.”

She fought back the sudden urge to cry from sheer relief. “Kiss me. Please.”

He did, his chest pressing against her breasts as he slid the robe down her arms, his mouth sweetly devouring hers. She surrendered to the delicious sensation, every brush and teasing press lighting up her nerve endings like wildfire. When his tongue trailed along the soft inner flesh of her lips she opened them, welcoming him in. Between her thighs an echoing heat built and she could feel the first traces of slick wetness there.

It was the night in the front seat of the GoCar all over again, but this time they didn’t have to stop. And it was much better than the evening in the park hotel because now he knew who she was, who he was.

His tongue danced around hers before breaking away to lick at the roof of her mouth. Liquid fire ran through her body and she moaned into his mouth.

She leaned back for a breath and heard him chuckle. “Okay, so I like that,” she muttered, amused by his smugness.

“Good. I like making you moan, baby. Plan on doing a lot of it, to be honest.” He kissed his way down to her ear, doing something wickedly good to the spot underneath it and pulling another moan out of her.

Her breasts tightened, the nipples starting to ache. Two could play that game. She ran the tip of a finger lightly around the shell of his ear, ending by gently rubbing the lobe between her finger and thumb. The shudder that went through him confirmed a direct hit.

“Wench,” he muttered against her neck. “Evil, vicious wench.”

“And that’s the way you like it.”

“Mm-hm.”


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Lord, it’s Sunday night already

NotEnoughCaffeineI honestly don’t know where this weekend went to. Well, no, I do — it went into sending out copies of Degree of Resistance to my beta readers, finalizing the cover for DoR, setting up pre-sales at Amazon (available here if you’re of a mind to pick it up for 99¢ before it goes up to $3.99 on release day), cleaning my utter sty of an office (whereupon I discovered that one of my furry darlings peed in my office closet, which required me to move everything off the floor so that I could attend the stain with the portable rug cleaner and some Nature’s Miracle, whee…), doing laundry, attending a meeting at the local Democrats office, having coffee with one of my beta readers who reassured me that she was enjoying the story so far (and she will tell me if I’m screwing up), adding DoR here to the Bookshelf, creating ads and doing promo on social media, and formatting the DoR ebook. I’m going to hold off on doing the print version until I have all of the other edits done, but in the meantime I can get the print version of Palace of Scoundrels finally done and published, which would be nice seeing as it was released in, oh, late October.

Yeah, well, we were kind of busy around that time.

Anyhoo, yeah, the weekend kinda got away from me and I still need to put all the laundry away, pay bills, and finish cleaning the office (aren’t you envious of my glamorous life?). But by God I’m going to hit the ground running tomorrow, especially since I don’t have to start Round Three of edits on DoR until Wednesday (I swear to God I actually have a schedule this time), and that means I can continue to edit the alternate history mystery starring Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll that’s been languishing on my hard drive for the last three years and get it ready for release on 2/28.

Two books released in one month. Yeah, I like the sound of that.

Did someone remember to salt and burn 2016?

Gah, what a year. Okay, there were a few bright spots (I became an international bestseller thanks to the German translation of Trickster, hit Las Vegas, Toronto, San Antonio, Orlando, and Tampa on various trips, and managed not to die unlike so many others), but on the whole I’m glad it’s all over with.

louisherthumSo, first goal of 2017 — write 3K a day and get the first draft of Intersection knocked out by 1/10. I’m currently at 42,337 words, so hopefully I can stay on schedule and take the draft on the upcoming cruise with me to edit, with an eye to having it published by 1/31 in time for Wild Wicked Weekend. It helps that I already have the rough draft of the cover done and an editor is chomping at the bit for this puppy.

And yes, I’m editing on the cruise, because there is no such thing as a vacation day for an author. Oh, what larks that would be. Instead, we have guiltily stolen hours here and there where we peel ourselves out of our writing dens and totter out into the daystar, blinking and cowering.

Now, that being said, I will state that the time I’ve spent watching Seasons 1 and 2 of Longmire since Christmas are not stolen hours. Oh, no, my friends. They are research, I tell you, research into the golden smart-assed gloriousness that is Louis Herthum, may he win something nice for his marvelous work in Westworld. He did inspire Intersection‘s male lead, after all, and I like hearing his voice in my head when I write Ben so I need to watch him work for … motivational purposes. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

(Have I mentioned that I love my job? God, I love my job.)

But Longmire is also really damn good — I have no idea how I got the impression that it was some sort of grim post-modern Western. Oh, wait, yes I do — it was A&E’s crappy advertising. Arrgh. But it turns out to be this gorgeously shot and incredibly well-written police procedural that just happens to be set in a small Wyoming town. Also, I could watch Robert Taylor glower from under his cowboy hat all day long, but that’s another blog post. So I still have two more seasons on DVD, then I can finish off the fifth season on Netflix, then wait patiently for season six to start sometime this year.

Jesus. I’m actually watching TV again. Damn you and your charming performances, Louis!