Review Excerpts


Monday, November 1, 2021

The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions - Release Day!

 

It's here! The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions is now officially available on both Kindle Unlimited and in paperback. And! AND! To celebrate Release Day, Disintegration, Book 1 of the series, will be available for FREE on November 1st and 2nd, so if you need to catch up, now is the perfect time! Don't forget - if you haven't grabbed your free copy of Disintegration: The Prequels to round out the series, you can pick your favorite format here.

Blurb:

A year has passed since Ro Bernard escaped from the Midnight Scorpions, a clandestine group of mercenaries that exists in the outside world as little more than myths and rumors. Though haunted by the reprehensible acts she committed and witnessed as a member of the organization, her primary focus is keeping a roof over her head and food on her plate. A chance encounter leads her to Karin Cassels, whose son died in the Scorpions’ underground laboratory. While sharing details about her son’s research, Ro reveals the most disturbing information she has on the group. Their leader, scientist Dane Zedek, has been integrating cybernetic parts with human soldiers in the hopes of building a lethal army to help him achieve greater political power.

The women hatch a plan to take down the Midnight Scorpions with two ultimate goals: kill Zedek, and rescue Callum, Ro’s lover who was the first of the scientist’s experimental hybrids. For additional assistance, Dr. Cassels directs Ro to Reggie Quinn, a drifter who is no stranger to odd jobs and risky situations. Reggie negotiates a deal with Ro and agrees to join the cause in exchange for a percentage of whatever they loot from the Scorpions’ base.

They embark on an adventure throughout three warring countries to assemble their team and gather the necessary materials for their schemes. Along the way, Ro tries to fight her growing attraction to Reggie, especially as reminders of her unhappy past keep resurfacing. Love and redemption wait for her at the end of her mission to defeat the Midnight Scorpions…assuming she makes it out alive.

Excerpt:

Reggie collected their new belongings, and she opened her knapsack for him to deposit the ammo inside as they walked out the door. Once they left the shop, she took her handgun from him and slipped it into the back of the waistband of her pants. “Well, that was fun,” she said.

“I don’t know, Rosie. I think you could have batted your eyelashes a bit more.”

She’d given up on trying to fend off the nickname. “Don’t get too excited there, buddy. I don’t mix business and pleasure. It never ends well.”

They turned a corner, traveling back to Ted’s neighborhood on foot. “Sounds like you’re speaking from experience,” he said. “What, were there all sorts of illicit love affairs and secret trysts going on in the deepest recesses of the Scorpions’ lair?”

“Something along those lines.”

A wicked gleam lit up his eyes. “Ah, so you’ve been holding out on me. Way to leave out the best bits of the stories.”

“If you haven’t noticed yet, most of the stories don’t have a happy ending.”

“True.”

Ro bit her bottom lip as they walked along the paved path. She had yet to reveal her second main objective for when they made their way into the underground facility and disposed of Zedek. The gun at her back reminded her how much Reggie had been willing to risk for her. She owed him full honesty.

“Fine, you got me,” she said. “I may have neglected to mention one of my priorities for this mission, aside from killing Zedek, looting the place, and turning it into a pile of rubble.”

He stopped walking. “Dare I ask when you were going to bother filling me in?”

“I don’t know. Eventually?” She halted her pace and turned around to face him, sighing. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I should have been completely forthcoming from the get-go.”

“Apology accepted.” He continued down the road again, tugging on her wrist so she would do the same. “But start talking.”

Ro pondered how many details to disclose and the best way to convey them. “I have a friend down there and I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I didn’t have time to find out for sure before I escaped and, obviously, I couldn’t take him with me.”

“So we add springing your friend to our list. I don’t see what the big deal is.”

She didn’t say anything.

“Oh,” Reggie said after a few beats of silence. “Let me guess. I stumbled across one of those love affairs I was joking about.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be that way. He was a project, an assignment, a responsibility.” The words tasted bitter as they rolled off her tongue. “And he deserved better than what he got.”

“From the Midnight Scorpions or from you yourself?”

“Both.”

The street shifted from asphalt to dirt beneath their feet. “If you loved him, I don’t think he got such a raw deal from you,” Reggie said quietly.

Her teeth gritted together. “Zedek and the lab rats were responsible for fucking up his brain and his body. His emotions, his soul, those were all on me.”

“It couldn’t have been so bad.”

“It was.” Nauseating guilt churned in her stomach, but she’d come too far to leave her confessions unfinished. “As soon as we started caring about each other, I should have walked away and put an end to it. Not only would it have been the professional thing to do, I knew nothing warm and bright and good could ever come from Zedek’s dark pit in the ground. I was right.”

He glanced up toward the sky. “When things look bleak, people want to cling to whatever glimmers of hope they can find.”

“Are you referring to him or me?”

“Both,” he said, repeating her prior answer.

They trudged along the dusty paths. The settlement of gray and brown hovels appeared in the distance, swathed in the illusion of murky shadows despite the mid-day sun. Before they reached Ted’s house, Reggie grabbed her shoulder and spun her around to face him. “Look, Rosie, I’m not going to tell you not to beat yourself up over whatever happened with this guy,” he said. “You and I both have our skeletons and scars, and sleep comes easier some nights more than others. I’m not going to delve into your innermost feelings or offer useless platitudes, and you’d probably tell me to go fuck myself if I tried.”

Ro shrugged, though the motion didn’t dislodge his grip. “Very likely.”

“For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re a horrible person, and I doubt anything you could tell me would change my mind.” His fingers remained on her arm, though his grasp loosened. “I don’t go following just anybody into hideouts filled with hordes of deadly mercenaries, you know.”

She stared up into his gold-flecked eyes. “You’ve heard enough evidence of how everything I touch turns to shit. Let’s follow through with the plans Ted helped us solidify and get the job done. Assuming we come out alive on the other end, we can then worry about whether your assessment was right or wrong.”

“Fine.”

They arrived at Ted’s door. “One more thing,” Reggie said as she reached for the knob.

“What?”

“Your friend, boyfriend, lover, whatever.” Sympathy softened the strong lines of his cheekbones and jaw. “We’ll find him and get him out, no matter what.”

Monday, October 4, 2021

Even More Disintegration News/Updates

Firstly, while I have your attention, go vote for Disintegration over at Cover Wars! I know I'm biased, but really, there aren't enough words for how much I LOVE this cover.

Okay, now that that's out of the way...actually, there isn't a ton to report from my writing world that hasn't already been covered. Just the other day on Twitter I was lamenting how time-consuming marketing is. I've said it for years: writing the damn book is not the hard part, getting people to read it is the hard part. I feel like I've just been going nonstop lately, to the point where I haven't written a whole lot of new words in other projects.

But! While I'm not a world-famous bestseller (yet?), at least I can say I'm getting some results. People are, in fact, reading what I'm writing, reviews are trickling in, and my sneaky ploy to include the pre-order link to The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions at the end of Disintegration is also paying off. And speaking of TFotMS, in case you haven't seen that spectacular cover yet, take a look!


So, I'm still plugging away at...well, everything. Marketing my existing books, writing the new ones, keeping up with the day job, and being present for my family. Outside of writing, we've been having a crazy couple of weeks in the Landen household, but I'm hoping things will level off soon.

I did notice that this blog went untouched for almost a month. Honestly, there was a time where I was thinking of switching my entire website over to a different format, one without a blog, but for now, I'm staying put. I do like to have a place for my "writing about writing" ramblings, whenever they're longer than a tweet or a Facebook post, and while the layout isn't perfect, I think it's easy enough to find the information about my published works. These days, though, I've been focusing on Twitter and my newsletter, so if you're not already following me in those places, click those links!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Trope-Tastic Tuesdays: The Lost Lenore

(Parts of this were originally published on March 28, 2013)

Trope: The Lost Lenore

Description: The Lost Lenore is a dead love interest of one of the main characters. Not only is she dead, her absence has a profound effect on the character for the rest of the work, to the point where it influences the plot. Lost Lenores can either be dead at the beginning of the story or die early on, but either way, it's the reaction to her death that determines if she qualifies for this trope. Just being dead isn't enough; it's whether or not she has the same level of significance, if not more, as she would if she were alive. While they're often female, every now and then a male Lost Lenore pops up.

Examples: Lenore from The Raven (duh), April from Rent, Ellie from Up, Glenn from Fire Emblem: Three Houses (as an aside, holy shit, is there a lot of fanfic about a character who never even appears on screen)

Pros: Love is powerful and can even transcend death. A Lost Lenore can also be the inspiration for all sorts of plots for the lover she left behind, from some soul-searching and self-discovery to kick-ass vengeance. In romance, the audience is touched if the hero is able to work through his grief and learn to love again.

Cons: It can be hard to land in the sweet spot of "has grieved appropriately and is ready to move on." As always, this is subjective, and what might be "too soon" to one reader is another reader's "what took so long?" Tone is important to keep in mind here, too, as anything overly cheery will feel incongruous right after Lost Lenore's death. Also, considering they're dead (or die quickly), Lost Lenores can be difficult to develop and make into three-dimensional characters.

Would/Did I Use It?: Meyta from Disintegration definitely qualifies. That's not a spoiler, it's in the blurb of the book. She's dead by the second chapter, but don't think for a moment that she'll be easily forgotten. (And that's all I'll say about her, as I don't want to reveal true spoilers!) I also have a less-common male example in Kevin, April's dead husband in Elysium. Not only is she still grieving him at the start of the book, which kicks off the plot, but a simulation of him actually shows up at one point via virtual reality. What would Poe have to say about THAT, hmm?

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Disintegration - Release Week

 

The official release day for Disintegration was on August 30th, and it was a great week! Pre-orders went out, some ARC reviews went up beforehand, pages have been read on Kindle Unlimited, and I even sold a couple of paperbacks. Phew! I'm also in the midst of some promo events, so let's have a link dump.

 


As a reminder, newsletter subscribers get a free PDF of Disintegration: The Prequels (check out that new AMAZING cover art!), as well as being the first to hear about news and sales and whatnot. If you haven't already signed up, there's a form in the corner, or you can use this link.

In addition to having some reviews on Amazon, there are more ratings and reviews on the Goodreads page. I guess now is a good time to not-so-gracefully include a reminder to support indie authors by reviewing their books, as we're all on an endless mission to defeat the Dreaded Algorithm (for Amazon, Twitter, etc.).

Also this week, I was interviewed by Aubry Andrews, which was a ton of fun! If you're not already following Aubry on Twitter, DO IT NOW. In addition to posting submitted confessions every Friday, she's a big supporter of her fellow erotica authors, and is just plain fun. You won't regret it.

I'm still working on some other promotions, along with trying to find some time to work on my new project, and I'll have some relevant tropes for you in the coming weeks. Busy, busy, busy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Trope-Tastic Tuesdays: Author Avatar

(Parts of this were originally posted on June 6, 2013)

Trope: Author Avatar

Description: Not limited solely to books, the Author Avatar is a version of the creator of a work inserted into the work itself. This can work in a number of different ways. Sometimes the Author Avatar is the narrator, giving opinions on what's going on in the story. Other times, he/she just makes a cameo appearance as a minor character. Every now and then, you get a character who is obviously the creator's favorite and can do no wrong, leading to the dreaded Mary Sue (which, yes, can happen in canon works).

Examples: Charlie Brown/Charles Schulz; Dante in the Divine Comedy; Liz Lemon/Tina Fey in 30 Rock; a whole lot of Stephen King, Woody Allen, and Tim Burton characters

Pros: It's important to have a distinctive voice when writing, so why not use your own? Aspiring writers are frequently told "write what you know", so it makes sense to write it from your own point of view, regardless of whether you're blatant about it or try to camouflage it. I only chose a few examples for this post, but there are plenty of others out there. A lot of writing conveys the author's opinions and biases anyway, so you might as well really try sell it via your main character, right?

Cons: Make your Author Avatar unrealistic and flawless, and your audience is going to rebel. They'll probably rebel loudly, especially if they disagree with "the character's" opinions. Somewhere along the way, you're going to have to write a character that isn't a version of yourself. Don't let the Author Avatar become a crutch!

Would/Did I Use It?: Years later, my answer hasn't changed much. While some main characters I write are more similar to real-life me than others, I haven't intentionally put myself into a book, nor do I plan to. For fun, though, if I had to pick the character who comes the closest, I'd go with Veronica, the main character of Seductive Suspect. We all like to think we'd be a hero in an adventurous story, but when the shit starts hitting the fan in the book, Veronica locks herself in the bathroom and cries, which is probably what I'd wind up doing. Combined with her love for coffee, crossword puzzles, and snark, she's the closest thing I have to an Author Avatar.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Trope-Tastic Tuesdays: Act of True Love

Trope: Act of True Love

Description: So our characters are madly, hopelessly in love, but the universe is often cruel and refuses to let them be happy together for more than five minutes. (Fucking universe, man.) One of the pair—or sometimes even both!—is so very much in love, they will make a great personal sacrifice for the other person, whether for their relationship in general or even to save their partner's life. This doesn't necessarily have to be a romance trope, as it can be for a platonic or familiar relationship; it's also possible for this one to be a death trope. Hmm. Ominous.

Examples: Anna blocking Elsa from that asshole Hans's sword in Frozen; both Rapunzel and Flynn try to sacrifice their happiness/lives for each other at the end of Tangled (Disney really is a fan of this one); depending on your choices in Dragon Age: Origins, the ending can play out this way if you've romanced Alistair

Pros: The power of love is always compelling. And this isn't just everyday, garden-variety love...this is true love! Done well in a romance, an Act of True Love can make readers all fluttery and swoon-y.

Cons: For me personally, you've got to *really* develop your characters and plot well to stick the landing here and make it convincing. Like, I don't know if I'd risk using this trope in, say, a short story. Not to say it can't be done, of course, but it takes skill. Also, if you're writing a romance, if you're using a death trope version of this, some readers might hate you forever. Then again, some might love you even more. Blah blah art is subjective blah.

Would/Did I Use It?: Hahaha, so, funny story: Timeline-wise, I wrote most of Fire Beyond the Frost first, shelved it for a while, and wrote Out of Orbit before coming back to it. I think it was while I was editing FBtF that I realized—if you whittle both of those books down to their basic elements, they essentially have the same plot. And both of them end with an Act of True Love. Granted, the stakes are higher for Jasmine in OoO than they are for Catalina in FBtF, but the striking similarities are there regardless. So, like Disney, I guess I'm a fan of this trope!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Disintegration Updates, Part the Next

If you haven't seen the full cover for Disintegration yet (which means you may not be a newsletter subscriber or a Twitter buddy, which means you're missing out!), here it is in all its glory:

Everything's still on track for an official release day of August 30th, though I may make the paperback live earlier. I'm happy to report that everything went smoothly with setting up the paperback on Amazon when I uploaded the file. I'd heard horror stories of tiny little things going wrong and authors ripping their hair out when trying to find the needle in the haystack and figure out why it wasn't being accepted, which is why I was considering outsourcing the formatting. I actually got it right on the first try, which I was pretty damn excited about, though I did make a couple tweaks once I saw it in the previewer. Then I ordered a proof, which was also pretty damn exciting:

To get ready for the release, I've been sending out ARCs/review requests, setting up promo spots, and so on. I intentionally planned the release for the end of the summer since we'll be up at the Cape for much of August, so now I'm a little restless as I'm in the "sit around and wait" phase. I know once I actually get to the beach, I'll be glad I scheduled everything the way I did; I just have to slog through that "I want to do this thing NOW" feeling for the next few days.

The blurb hasn't changed since the original release, but I'll include it below, anyway. The next newsletter is going to have a link to the first two chapters in their entirety, so make sure you're signed up!

Blurb:

Dutiful soldier and devoted family man Callum Renwick fights to defend his country from the two opposing nations sharing its border. Following a brutal attack on his unit, he wakes up in the underground laboratory of a well-known mercenary organization. The leader of the Midnight Scorpions, Dr. Dane Zedek, informs him he was the sole survivor of the attack, and his hometown and loved ones were obliterated by enemy forces. As he processes the news of his loss, he learns he has been badly injured, and Zedek and his assistant have supplanted half his body with artificial skin and cybernetic parts.

Zedek intends to train Callum to become a lethal assassin for him, designating the woman who coordinated the attack as his first target. While he prepares to exact his revenge, he is assigned to the care of another agent in the Scorpions’ base. Ro is brash and outspoken, yet aspects of her character remain enigmatic. Despite declaring personal relationships useless in the cold, cruel world in which they live, she invites herself into Callum’s bedroom more nights than not. In her coaching, she pushes him physically, emotionally, and sexually to mold him into the killer the organization desires.

During his quest to hunt down his nemesis, more and more of Callum’s biological body parts fail and must be replaced. In addition to dealing with his grief, he struggles to come to terms with his new appearance, functions, and responsibilities. Will he be able to transform himself into what Ro and the Midnight Scorpions need, yet still retain his humanity?