body option

Reviews, all the reviews

Reviews are in for Body Option … and folks, reviewers are loving it!

Top2Bottom rates it 4.5 kisses.

Rainbow Book Reviews gives it five stars, and Serena Yates purchased the book herself. (Rather than receiving a review copy.)

And today, Crissy at Joyfully Jay gives it 4.5 stars.

I was already planning on revisiting the world for LT3’s “Intertwined” fiction call, but this totally seals the deal.

Check out Body Option; three out of three reviewers assure you won’t regret it!

First wave of the mecha releases tomorrow!

Tomorrow, the mecha take the world by storm!

Right now there’s less than twenty-four hours left to pick up the first wave of mecha collection titles at a sweet, sweet pre-order price of 15% off.

My title, Body Option, is in the first wave. Check it out:

BODYOP

For five years, Grant Badu has been part of a solid fighting team with the Gemini Suit called Trefoil Argent. Together, they fly and fight so effectively, their combat record so impressive, that they’ve become informally known as the Infallible Duo.

When a case containing classified military innovations is stolen and shot down in the foothills of disputed border territory, Grant and Argent are tapped for its swift recovery. But the mission requires pilot Argent to take on the one cybernetic option he’s been avoiding, for reasons even Grant doesn’t know.

Excerpt here.

Happy reading!

Guest Blog at Joyfully Jay, plus giveaway!

Hop on over to Joyfully Jay today, and through Sunday, to read my guest blog “Heavy Metal Lover” extolling the virtues of mecha and how it’s played a surprising role in my creative development.

For today’s WIP Wednesday, I offer an exclusive excerpt of “Body Option” that isn’t available anywhere else.

BODYOP

    For five years, Grant Badu has been part of a solid fighting team with the Gemini Suit called Trefoil Argent. Together, they fly and fight so effectively, their combat record so impressive, that they’ve become informally known as the Infallible Duo.

    When a case containing classified military innovations is stolen and shot down in the foothills of disputed border territory, Grant and Argent are tapped for its swift recovery. But the mission requires pilot Argent to take on the one cybernetic option he’s been avoiding, for reasons even Grant doesn’t know.

***

The heels of Grant’s boots, polished to mirror levels of shine, clicked sharply on the tiled surface as he strode up the hallway that led to the Pegasus Eyrie’s mission room. When the Gemini Suit program had been established, Crestovia’s Air Armed Forces—AAF to everyone—had created stations at strategic points across the country that had been dubbed ‘Eyries’ for the Suits they deployed. Each line, from Raptor to the latest Hawk, was named for birds of prey and the station designations had stuck. He had been summoned back to the Eyrie that morning with a message flagged highest priority. The southern border had been quiet lately, so of course something had come up on Grant’s furlough, because that was his luck. Icarus Eyrie was closer to the southern lines, but when something required a lightning strike and guaranteed success, the AAF always tapped the Infallible Duo.

He reached the mission room and paused on the threshold as always, tossing off a crisp salute and admiring the view, perched as it was over the flight deck that launched the Gemini Suits. Argent’s chirp of greeting was loud in his ear from his position on Grant’s shoulder.

“Captain Badu, please enter.” An older, white-haired man with a silvery moustache was present at the head of the table. A general, Grant noted his insignia with surprise. They were infrequently graced with the presence of someone that high in the ranks.

“And my partner, Trefoil Argent,” Grant said pointedly, gesturing to the silver-metallic bird of prey on his shoulder. The fact that Argent was attending the mission meeting in peripheral form, rather than flesh, was something that shouldn’t go without acknowledgment.

“And the immensely talented Trefoil Argent, of course,” Dr. Badger Prane was quick to add, in the manner of an introduction.

“Ah, yes,” the general said, clasping his hands and bending a stare on Argent, who bobbed his head in a preening motion though his pinions required maintenance rather than grooming. “The other half of our Infallible Duo.”

An auspicious greeting, Grant noted, wishing he could make the comment in aside to Argent, but he hadn’t mastered the skill of sub-vocalization, while Argent could make free with his remarks to Grant without others hearing. “Sir?”

“Please, be seated,” the general said. “I’m General Drake Barcek, I’ve been in weapons development for the past five years since receiving my latest star.”

Grant nodded, seating himself at the table and taking note of those present. Dr. Prane was one of the top minds in the Gemini Suit program, and made the rounds constantly to ensure that the pilots were well-treated and looked after. Across from him was Grant’s own commanding officer, Lieutenant General Jasinder Palova, looking stern. Her dark face shuttered in a considering squint and her uniformed arms were folded across her chest. Typically there was more support staff for a mission briefing; the lack of extra faces around their table had him wondering.

Must be secret weapons development, Argent remarked in his ear. Grant responded with the slightest dip of his chin to indicate agreement.

“A plane went down in the Cressian range this morning,” General Barcek said, lacing his fingers together and sending a formidable pale-blue gaze Grant’s way. “The plane was carrying proprietary technology obtained through espionage. Unfortunately for the Bah’zeth, but fortunately for us, they flew toward Bahazeth without the proper airspace access codes, and were shot down.”

One of Grant’s brows winched upward. “One of our own turned on us, and tried to make off with Crestovian military technology,” he summarized.

“In short.” A flicker of annoyance crossed General Barcek’s face. “This is bad for us, very bad. Our available data indicate the plane crashed in one of those cave-riddled areas. We need to send someone for retrieval, and fast.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Grant said, glancing at his colleagues and noting that Dr. Prane was grimacing and gnawing a knuckle. “That’s the kind of mission we can launch for, as soon as Trefoil Argent is prepped.” At the periphery of his vision, Lieutenant General Palova began to shake her head.

“It’s not that simple,” General Barcek said.

Of course it’s not, Argent said in his ear. Grant ignored him.

Dr. Prane left off gnawing his knuckle and sat forward in his chair, spine upright and eyes wide.

“It’s been brought to my attention, when I reviewed your specs for the mission, that Trefoil Argent does not have a body option,” General Barcek said. There was mild censure in his voice.

“I wasn’t aware that existing as a cybernetic suit required one,” Argent piped up, the fluting tones of his high tenor undercutting the saucy delivery that bordered insubordination. When dawning horror broke over Lieutenant General Palova’s face, he added a sharp, “Sir.”

“Not require, no,” General Barcek said slowly, pushing his fingers upward and steepling them, brows lowered as his eyes swiveled to pin Argent with a long stare. “Unusual. Most pilots your age, racking up hazard pay at the rate you have, can count a body option among the list of their peripherals to walk among us … enjoy the fullest life has to offer, as it were.”

“I quite like this peripheral, and my other cybernetic options. After all, a body option cannot fly.” Argent unfolded one silvery wing and extended it, birdlike head cocking as if to view it. “Sir.”

General Barcek grunted and shifted in his seat. “Couldn’t believe it when they told me,” he said, shaking his head. “A pilot of your considerable skill, long since financially solvent past the cost of cybernetic debt, and you don’t have a body option.”

Argent’s beak opened. Grant reached his hand up and pinched it shut.

“General Barcek, are we making conversation, or is there a point to this line of inquiry?” Grant asked. It was direct to the point of rudeness, and Lieutenant General Palova’s eyes narrowed in a very particular way that let him know he’d be getting his ears dismantled and whacked against his head later, but his question was worlds closer to social acceptability than anything Argent would have delivered.

“Yes.” General Barcek coughed into his fist, began to turn red, and re-settled in his chair, folding his hands beside a tablet display. “This mission will require Trefoil Argent to be assigned a body option.”

Grant removed his fingers in haste as Argent twisted his beak out from thumb and forefinger, head tilting in the way that meant he was going to nip, hard.

“It’s quite a steal for you,” General Barcek was saying. “Haven’t paid the money out for one, already, and now the AAF will foot the bill because we need you to have it for this mission. Works out quite well, when you look at it that way.”

“What if I don’t look at it that way?” Argent said flatly. “I’ve never seen the need for soft and squishy parts. I’m a pilot. I fly, I don’t—” He snapped his beak shut.

Grant huffed and thanked his own lucky star that Argent hadn’t completed that thought in front of the General. We’re fighter pilots, we fly and we fuck. Argent had never gone with the peripheral that would let him follow through on the second. He did plenty of the first, and claimed it was all he needed.

Grant went stone-faced to avoid betraying any expression to General Barcek, Dr. Prane or even their commanding officer. Dr. Prane and Lieutenant General Palova had questioned him repeatedly, right around the time of Argent’s yearly flight-readiness evaluations, on why Argent consistently held off on getting a body option. Grant’s loyalty sealed his lips. In truth, though, he didn’t know. It was one of the few things Argent had never confided in him, and Grant had too much stubborn pride to ask for something not freely given.

“Lieutenant Argent,” Lieutenant General Palova said sharply.

Argent tilted his beak in the air and shut up, but turned his head so one black eye-lens was fixed on those assembled at the table.

“This mission requires it,” General Barcek said, straightening his shoulders. He had a barrel chest that was halfway slid into a gut that strained the seams of his deep green military tunic.

“Any multi-legged cybernetic peripheral worth its weight–”

General Barcek spoke over him, raising his voice and increasing in volume until Argent fell silent again. “For those unfamiliar with the cave system of the Cressian range,” he said, modulating his volume when Argent ceased speaking, “it’s riddled with veins of lead and other heavy metals, those with insulating, signal-dampening effects.”

Grant’s jaw tightened and his nostrils flared. “Metal peripherals won’t do well there,” he re-phrased, to confirm his own understanding.

“Your metal peripherals will not do well there,” General Barcek repeated, fixing Argent with a gimlet stare. “The link for the body option is different, and stronger, based as it is on DNA rather than circuitry. You don’t uplink, you transfer.”

Argent’s metallic pinions rattled together as he shifted on Grant’s shoulder. Grant tried not to frown; existing through cybernetic peripherals as he did, Argent had no need to fidget. He was making his opinion known with that rattle.

“It’s a two-person mission on foot,” General Barcek continued. “Our coordinates can put you in the approximate location where the fighter plane was downed, but gunner and pilot will need to proceed into the caves to track down and retrieve that case.”

“It’s imperative that we deploy our best team immediately in order to recover that technology,” Lieutenant General Palova said, taking up the thread of the mission briefing. “Without question, Captain Badu, Lieutenant Argent, you are that team. Which brings us to this table, here and now.” She rapped her knuckles on the table’s surface.

“Thank you,” Grant said, when it became apparent no one else would speak, especially Argent who only rattled his pinions again. He smoothed a dark-skinned hand down the front of his uniform and tugged. He was still in fighting trim beneath his green tunic, though his days of working up from foot soldier to fighter pilot were long past. He had manned the weapons from Trefoil Argent’s cockpit for eight years once he’d promoted into the Gemini Suit project at twenty-four, and the suspension rig was enough effort that he had to keep up on regular workouts and stamina runs to remain fit for the job. “General. Lieutenant General. I’ll fly wherever Argent takes me, but accepting this mission comes down to his choice.”

It was Dr. Prane who spoke up, manner soft and conciliatory. “Argent?”

Argent replied with several strident clicks and caws more reminiscent of the bird of prey that his current form resembled—a shape he’d chosen for his primary off-duty cybernetic peripheral. At last, following a conclusive sharp click, he settled down, talons squeezing Grant’s shoulder until he grunted. “Not like I have much choice, sir. I guess I’m getting a body option.”

***

Release date: Wednesday, April 2nd.
Pre-order here.

Body Option: Pre-order and giveaway

Happy Sunday, everyone! Do you mecha? My latest, Body Option, is available now for pre-order, and there’s also a lovely giveaway.

BODYOP

For five years, Grant Badu has been part of a solid fighting team with the Gemini Suit called Trefoil Argent. Together, they fly and fight so effectively, their combat record so impressive, that they’ve become informally known as the Infallible Duo.

When a case containing classified military innovations is stolen and shot down in the foothills of disputed border territory, Grant and Argent are tapped for its swift recovery. But the mission requires pilot Argent to take on the one cybernetic option he’s been avoiding, for reasons even Grant doesn’t know.

Preorder here and enjoy 15% off savings up through the afternoon of Tuesday, April 1st.

You can also sign up for the Goodreads giveaway here through Tuesday, March 25th.

Sign up for the giveaway, and if you don’t win, there’s still a week to pre-order at the 15% discounted price. Enjoy!

Cover reveal: Body Option

Let there be MECHA!

Before I ever saw Pacific Rim and fell in love all over again, my very dear publishers decided to run a Mecha-themed anthology. And thus my idea for Body Option was born. I can’t even remember the working title for it, but this is how it all came together, and I love the cover so much it probably shouldn’t be legal.

bodyoption400

For five years, Grant Badu has been part of a solid fighting team with the Gemini Suit called Trefoil Argent. Together, they fly and fight so effectively, their combat record so impressive, that they’ve become informally known as the Infallible Duo.

When a case containing classified military innovations is stolen and shot down in the foothills of disputed border territory, Grant and Argent are tapped for its swift recovery. But the mission requires pilot Argent to take on the one cybernetic option he’s been avoiding, for reasons even Grant doesn’t know.

Body Option will make the drop on April 2nd.

I have a confession: if I got to fan cast Grant from Body Option, he’d be played by Idris Elba.

New author interview!

First things first!

Zeph is the winner from The Fall Guide pool and Kathleen is the winner for the Proud to Be a Vampire Vol 1 pool. Congratulations! Both winners have been contacted and their shipping details are confirmed. Thank you everyone for your participation!

Some lovely new developments in the authorial department. All About Romance picked up a review copy of The Fall Guide and said some very good things. Have you picked up your copy yet? Let me know what you think!

There’s a brand-new interview with me up on Rainbow Book Reviews. Go and check it out! You may learn something that will surprise you. 😉

In upcoming months I’ll be featured on Joyfully Jay as one of the Rainbow Con authors, and there will be other fun things to look forward to as well.

Also there’s news! I’ve signed contracts for Like Stolen Pearls and My Sexual Superhero, two stories that will release in collections/anthologies later this year. Body Option has an absolutely awesome cover I’ll reveal a little later on.

What’s on tap right now? I’ve finished Dragonspire, first draft is a whopping 150k, so I’m faced with editing. Lots and lots of edits. Time to look at due dates on some submission calls, as well.

Have a great week!

No Plot? No Problem!

My early days of productive writing took place during a proliferation of what people fondly referred to at the time as “PWPs,” short for “Plot? What Plot?” The stories were thinly-veiled excuses for the two characters to get together and do the deed.

And I was good at them! I’m not going to stand on false modesty, here. I had mastered the art of getting two characters together through a variety of creative means–one memorable instance involving a gun and a shot to the head–then delving into the erotica and leading out with a moment either poignant or humorous, hopeful or lascivious.

Over the years, the enforced regimen of Nanowrimo after Nanowrimo, and developing certain skills through project management work, I got better at adding in plot. My focus gradually shifted to telling a larger story where two people getting together were a part, rather than the driving mechanism of the whole. Conflict existed, deeds were done, tension flourished, and the fabric of the plot consisted of more than the relationship weaving two people inextricably together.

Casual fiction can be a great method for learning how to tell overarching story arcs. I wrote a five-part original series, After the Rising, over the span of several years where I started out fumbling through a relationship story focused on three brothers, and somehow by the time it was done, told an epic tale about demons versus humans, and the battle for a particular artifact that could shift the balance of power between warring factions. Looking back through those masses and masses of words I wrote, I can spot a lot of flaws. There’s a drag in certain installments–the middle child suffers that most horrible fate where a great deal of words were wasted to cover very little ground. And by the second or third book I finally realized not everyone can be gay men. At least I got in some good, strong females who were there to do their jobs, and diversity was a part of the story from the first installment.

Overall that casual fiction effort can’t be considered a complete loss. It was compelling enough that one of my friends asked me to send them the entire series, to see if they could help me work it over into a shape approaching publishable. (After having been through the editorial process with seven manuscripts now, and currently engaged in two more, I can say that particular original series needs a lot of hard work before I’d submit it.)

At the core of it all, however, no matter what deeds take place and however strong the world-building of the places I envision, one thing I’ve realized is I am still, at the heart of it, telling stories where two characters get together and do the deed. And that means I will probably always be considered a romance author, and I’m good with that.

To me, that’s where a great deal of the interest, the joy of telling a story, lies. It’s not only the plot twists, or the clever mechanisms. The heart of the story, the part that I love reinventing with every new set of characters that I write, is taking these two people (or more, if there are multiple couples) and finding out who they are, and how they come together.

Two people meet, and there’s something in each of them that reacts to the other, whether that’s positive or negative. Subsequent encounters, or repeated exposure, bring out more tension, whether it’s personality or attraction-based. I love writing the unfolding relationship, and I’ve seen mixed reactions from authors on this next item, but I love to write the erotica. My sex scenes vary from light to detailed depending on the story and what’s happening with the plot, but I look forward to, and enjoy, writing that part of the story too. If I’ve made my characters (and the reader) wait for it, then everyone deserves the payoff for sure.

Stories, especially novels, can’t subsist on sex scenes alone, however. I did learn to plot my stories around the bones of the relationship, starting with my very first Nanowrimo back in 2002. Knowing that I was going into a thirty-day writing sprint, expected to come out of the other end with a 50,000+ word manuscript, and determined to succeed, I approached the project with my first-ever comprehensive outline. Prior to 2002, I’d completed novel-length works before, both fannish and casual original fiction endeavors, but my approach was completely laissez-faire, totally by the seat of my pants, and typically took months. I would start out writing with vague ideas, and found out more as I went along. I invented everything the story needed in terms of world-building or supporting characters on the spot.

That wasn’t going to work for an endeavor like Nanowrimo. I needed to have enough material planned so that I could write through each and every scene and get through the day having met my word count by the end of it. So I penned out my ideas for “Not Another Regency Romance,” roughing out a cast of characters and two romantic storylines unfolding side by side: May, the novel’s heroine, and her younger brother Tor, who incidentally fell for the older man who was intended to be May’s suitor.

It might not have been completely terrible? A good handful of people read it, and at least one person whose opinion I trust told me it was well-told and they enjoyed it. I never ended up editing or trying to submit it anywhere, because I didn’t think the story would have a market. Too gay for straight romance, too straight for gay romance, and I had no interest in editing out either of the romantic storylines. Those dual storylines were what really made the plot.

The important takeaway from that early effort was how to outline, and it gave me the confidence that I needed to continue with that format. 2002 was like a writing exercise in which I learned which parts of my outline to stick to, which to scrap for the sake of the story, and where I could improve upon it during the writing process, always allowing for inspiration or characters becoming so much more.

That’s how I write from my outlines, in the end. The outline is the framework that the story is built upon, but I’m free to change or tweak as needed, add extra characters when they’re called for, accommodate a dramatic twist when the opportunity presents itself, and let the story play out the way it wants to be written. Sometimes the characters surprise me, and I like it when that happens–if I can get caught up in writing it, hopefully others will get caught up reading it, too.

For Nanowrimo 2003, I dove into it with the same mindset, but started with an unfinished outline. Little did I know, once November was over and I’d turned out over 85,000 words, without an outline or a clear path to the end I would lose momentum. It took me nearly ten years to finish From the Inside Out. When it was accepted for publication, the epilogue got axed, and many of the storyline details changed during the editing process. I believe this is partly because my outline, penned back in 2003, was weak in plot and the relationship story I tried to tell wasn’t right for the characters I developed. Since then, in my meager opinion I think I’ve gotten better at those elements.

In terms of the outline process itself, I always start with the characters first. I have a general idea for a story, which I may or may not write down right away. I form an idea of the main characters in my head: what they look like, their personalities, what they do. I’ll often use actors as character bases, but not always. Sometimes their names come to me easily; other times, I do research based on ethnicity/nationality, personality traits, when they were born and what names were popular at the time, and personal preference. Once I have their names down, I commit that to paper or electronic file and start jotting down ideas about them. At this point of the brainstorming process, I may or may not rough out a general idea of the storyline itself. “Convergence” started out as “Indiana Jones with vampires,” so you can see I had a long way to go from there. In fact, my original short story idea for the Proud to be a Vampire call was going to be something else entirely, then instead of shifting the scene I’d mapped in my head to the end of the story, I realized as the characters developed that the scene in my head wasn’t the right part of the story to tell, at all. I developed an entirely new story from there–and it’s one I like a lot better. “Appetite,” which ended up a sprawling three-part tome, began its life as the teaser sentence “competitive chefs with a passion for cooking…and each other.” I start with building blocks, and the idea grows until I have to write it all down. Usually the story name comes in at some point during my outlining process. Sometimes, the name is a placeholder and I change it at the end. “Body Option” and “Fireborn” both had different working titles; I can’t even remember what the original titles were anymore.

Right now, I’m at the beginning stages of outlining two new manuscripts, and the process is so different for each of them! “My Sexual Superhero” is a short story I’ll be submitting for a fiction call. All I know about it, at this point, is the two characters get together at a club, and one brief encounter ends up turning into something more when they actually open up and start learning about one another. One of the main characters is tentatively named Jaden, but I might change it. His best friend is Marina. The other guy would be Chris if I hadn’t already named another character Chris, in Convergence. I have a snippet of dialogue already written, but that’s it! Oh, and I know what they look like.

…and I came back from lunch and “Not Chris” became “Felipe” and all my nascent ideas about him have changed, and I like him even better than my original concept for him. I have more ideas about where the story is going, but not how it ends.

The other manuscript I’m plotting is going to be my 2013 Nanowrimo, and I’m trying out “Dragonspire” and “Dragon’s Nexus” for WIP titles. After searching for novels titled the same or similarly, I’m sure I’ll scrap those and come up with something else. The three characters I’ve got so far are Gideon Stahl, intrepid photographer engaged in a major life change; Chrysania Vallorum, high priestess and princess of Callar-dune; and Echo Glaive, a powerful dragon whose actions threaten the livelihood of Callar-dune’s citizens. Tagline for the story is “Gideon went to save the maiden. He pledged himself to the dragon.” At this point, I’m concentrating on the world-building details while the general storyline comes together in my head. When I start outlining things scene by scene, that’s usually when a lot of things start to shake out into specific form and structure. For longer stories, I tend to decide early if there will be different “parts,” or story arcs, divide the outline into those sections, and work on those. I think that Dragonspire will be two parts, possibly three, but I don’t want it to be much longer than 100k altogether, because I want this to be a standalone fantasy work. That’s going to help dictate the complexity of the outline.

Once I have all the general pieces, I start writing scene by scene. This varies from extremely general–“Jaden goes clubbing with his friend Marina”–to very specific, with some scene-setting or world-building details that may get incorporated into the manuscript. I outline in a relatively linear fashion, but jot down bursts of inspiration as they come. Often, I know how the story will end before I have the middle nailed down, for example. Or I’ll get a scene in my head that takes place in the story, and I write it all down and figure out a place for it when I’m going through the linear plotting.

Ultimately, most stories can be deconstructed to a single element: conflict, and resolution of the conflict. Whether that takes place as relationship conflict, or external conflict through opposing forces, it’s all up to the author and what they want to achieve, and how they want to get there. Some people work best when they jump right in with those vague ideas, and work their way through it during the writing process. For me, the story works better when I start with those vague ideas, and work their way through it during the writing process. For me, the story works better when I start with the ideas and give them greater substance with the structure of the outline, however loose or detailed. We tell the stories we want to tell–the ones that want to be told. If you don’t have a plot at first, it’s not a problem. Put your characters down on paper, maneuver them into the same space together, and figure out what makes the sparks fly from there. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what methods work best on an individual basis. I used to think that I had to have every single world-building detail figured out, and I was failing some criteria of being an author if I didn’t–then I discovered not everyone works that way! The great, fun, endlessly inventive thing about writing is that everyone does it differently. And we all find our best way.