collection

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!

WIP Wednesday: Convergence

For today, I’m offering an exclusive first look at Convergence, my story premiering next week in the second Proud to Be a Vampire collection bundle. You can pre-order Convergence by itself here, or as part of a bundle with four other great stories here, which saves you 15% on the bundled titles. Having just read the galley to give it a last once-over, I’m really excited to bring this story to you–and it was a lot of fun to write!

Convergence small

    Chris and Ling travel the world in search of rare, exquisite curiosities, but treasure hunting is rife with danger and comes with a price. In order to retrieve a lost treasure deep within a perilous mountain, Chris hires on a vampire. But traveling with a predator comes with its own risks, and their venture may collapse into absolute loss unless they can each find the opportunity in one another.

The trip to China was arduous, though less a danger than in times of old, but it meant cramped quarters and little privacy even with the modern convenience of first class compartments on the steam train. Dorran was a less challenging passenger than Chris had expected, having arranged for a human-tall box to be shipped in the cargo space.

“You’ve read Dracula a few too many times,” Dorran remarked upon hearing Chris’s arrangement for a cargo box, and retired to the dimmest corner of the shared compartment with a heavy cloak.

“Sunlight is not anathema?” Chris responded, startled.

“Only in that it illuminates the shocking paleness of my skin.”

With that, Dorran withdrew, leaving Chris and Ling to their books and conversation. It was an interminable trip rendered passable only through the engagement of the mind. As ever, Chris envied the ease with which Ling got up to roam the narrow strip of walkway. At least he could escape the compartment to take a turn about the train, even if it was in the guise of servant.

One dark morning, as the train streaked through winding hills etched in black relief against the paler grey of massed clouds, Chris found himself the subject of scrutiny from a pair of piercing green eyes. Dorran had pushed the hood back far enough to expose his face.

“He surfaces,” Chris said in a wry tone.

“The injury.” Dorran’s voice was a dry crackle gone rusty after so long a silence. “It kept you from being pressed into service for the war?”

Chris’s hand tightened on the silver handle of his cane. “Among other things.” He could walk, with pain so preferably only short distances. “It does not keep me from managing the curiosity arm of the business, or from self-sufficiency.”

“Mm,” Dorran said. “I’m sure. That’s why Ling fetches tea and toast.”

“He does so out of respect rather than requirement.”

Dorran sat forward, eyes intent. “How severe was the damage, Mr Bryant?”

Chris’s response was prompt and well-rehearsed from repetition. “The doctor who saved my leg cut away the gangrenous tissue. In his zeal, he removed muscle to a degree that it impaired function. Yet, I am lucky. I am not disfigured; I did not lose the leg.”

Dorran’s eyes moved down his body, resting on his thigh. “You surely have a good deal of scarring.”

“Not any that you’ll see,” Chris retorted, wondering at the line of questioning.

Black brows flicked upward and Dorran’s mouth quirked in a sensual, crooked smile. “We are in very close quarters, Mr Bryant, and look to remain so for quite some time.”

Chris looked at him askance. He did not want to encourage familiarity, especially not with Dorran’s words dripping innuendo, but the use of the title only brought his father to mind. While Chris was grateful to John Bryant for providing him with an upbringing and opportunities to allow him to pursue his interests, he disagreed with him on so many other fundamental points that they kept contact brief and to a minimum.

“You may address me as Chris,” he said at last.

Dorran looked up from where he’d begun to subside within his hood. “Eh?”

“As you say, we are going to be in close quarters with one another for the foreseeable future, and you may as well address me by my given name.”

“And you may call me Dorran.” The offer was returned promptly, but with the air of one conferring a boon.

Chris eyed him a moment longer. There were many esoteric subjects that provoked his curiosity, but none so much as the motives of a vampire and now he had one before him. He would be remiss as a scholar if he let the opportunity lapse.

“What moved you to respond to the advertisement I placed?” Chris asked. He had wondered since the moment Dorran had set foot in his shop. Tall and handsome, no hideous monster had appeared before him. Dorran could quite obviously pass for human, and apparently there had been a certain amount of risk in revealing himself to begin with.

Dorran sat up straighter, arranging a fold of hood to shield himself from the wan light that had pierced the clouds outside the window. Chris raised his cane, reversed it, and used the handle to draw the curtain securely closed in an adroit move. Dorran nodded his thanks.

“You expect me to say I’m fleeing the country, evading the pursuit of those who I’ve robbed of their loved ones?” Dorran sounded amused.

“The thought had crossed my mind,” Chris said dryly.

“I would accuse you of reading penny dreadfuls, if I hadn’t seen evidence of your standard fare.” Dorran gestured to two of the books that Chris had set aside when Ling got up to fetch them breakfast. “You may be scholar as well as linguist.”

“I have a wide-ranging curiosity.”

“You have a taste for the exotic.” Dorran fitted his fingertips together and surveyed Chris over them. “And I have an appetite for adventure.”

“That’s the reason?” Chris attempted to mask his surprise.

“Reason enough to get me out of London,” Dorran said.

“And away from any retribution due the crimes of your nature,” Chris was unable to resist adding.

Dorran laughed; it was a rich, unfettered sound, causing Chris to stare in surprise again. “A scholar’s nature, but a poet’s mind.” He seemed admiring rather than sarcastic.

Chris flushed. It was the first time someone had praised his poetical bent without contempt. “I hardly see what that’s to do with it,” he said stiffly.

“You embellish and invent,” Dorran said. “What I do, I do from necessity. And those that receive my embrace are more than willing, in the end.”

Chris frowned. “I don’t …”

“Because it is their end,” Dorran clarified, tone gentle. “And when they reach it, I am mercy. I am solace. And I take nothing that would not be spent uselessly, otherwise.”

Chris inhaled sharply. “Are you saying—” he began, and turned his head when the rattle of the door opening diverted his attention.

Ling stood on the threshold, levering the door open with one arm, a heavy tray balanced on his hip. “No, don’t move,” he commanded, when his dark eyes took in Chris’s struggle to rise, spurred by his need to help. “I haven’t dropped a tea service yet.”

With a sigh, Chris settled back into his seat and looked across the way. Dorran was already wrapped within his hood again, arranged as though he had never stirred.

The door slid shut on its own weight and Ling grasped the tray with both hands, edging his way into the narrow compartment and seating himself beside Chris. “Eat while it’s still lukewarm.”

Chris snorted and reached for the tea, which was badly over steeped. “Any trouble?”

“If there was, would I tell you?” Ling returned. He gave Chris a knowing look and a clap on the shoulder. “Relax, white man. The closer we get to Shanghai the more you will be the outsider, and I the man of means.”

“As always,” Chris said with a faint smile. “And have all your countrymen wondering why you put up with such a challenging situation.”

Ling shook his head and pushed a plate of toast on him. “Because it was the white man who troubled himself with bettering my situation,” he replied as he always did. “It’s you who is my brother now, Chris. You say challenging. I say it’s another word for opportunity.”

They shared a laugh over that together. Ling’s eyes were warm. He rarely smiled, but he was expressive in other ways. Having been a solemn child himself, Chris was best suited to understand that.

“My father should adopt you, if he had any sense,” Chris said. “You’d be best suited to run the company after him.”

“And leave you to your studies and haring off after fusty knick-knacks?” Ling exclaimed, copying his mock outrage straight from one of the elder Bryant’s rants. “You would like that, wouldn’t you? Left to your books, field studies, and your deep thoughts.”

Chris said nothing, merely turned a melancholy glance on his thoroughly stewed tea. He could not turn the question back on Ling on whether he would like that; it would be too cruel. He was satisfied that his station could at least provide Ling the ability to manage the business capably under guise of assisting Chris, even if he could not accrue the credit.

“Have your deep thoughts turned up an answer for what we’re to do with him, when we disembark?” Ling nudged him, sipped at his own tea, and made a face. Neither of them took their tea with sugar, and both were dismayed at the atrocious liquid that was being passed off under the guise of tea.

“I suppose we could find him a burqa and pretend he’s a woman, if we disembark in full daylight,” Chris said slowly.

Dorran’s hood retracted enough to show a slice of face and glaring eyes. “I hardly think that will be necessary.”

“Ah, you do listen. Thought so,” Ling remarked, appearing unsurprised. “You are too still at all times.”

“Being still takes no effort,” Dorran said. “It’s moving like a human when you have no need for it that takes practice.”

Chris shared a glance with Ling. Mirrored in Ling’s eyes was an awareness that they were out of their depth, and had no idea even how lightly to tread in their dealings. Had the particular artefact they sought not required a vampire in order to secure it, they could have remained blissful in ignorance.

“What curiosity are we searching out?” Dorran inquired. “The contract lacked specific detail.”

“It’s not the kind of detail I wanted to spell out in print,” Chris said, intercepting a warning look from Ling, who gave a slight shake of his head.

“Come, now, we’re en route and you need my help to secure it. You are going to have to bring me into your confidence, sooner or later.”

Chris hesitated a moment longer, measuring the reasonable request with his instinct that called for utmost discretion. He and Ling had been on many expeditions since they were in their teens, and more than once they had come to near ruin by entrusting the wrong people. It was another thing that knit them together.

“You don’t trust me.” Dorran’s voice was barely audible over the rushing grind of the train.

“Why should we?” Ling shot back.

“I am in your employ,” Dorran replied. “A deposit has been paid for my services, the rest due upon safe return.”

“And money is the only consideration?” Chris said, sceptical of that motive. “A tidy sum, no matter how enticing, would seem secondary to a creature such as you.”

Dorran’s laugh was tinged with bitterness. “I set my signature to your contract.”

“That means something to vampires?”

“It means something to me.”

Before Chris could phrase a reply, Dorran disappeared beneath his hood once more, shutting down the conversation. Ling made a sceptical noise in his throat and Chris exchanged a glance with him once more. Outward protestations to the contrary, they could not trust an outsider, let alone a vampire.

Though they had said nothing aloud, the message seemed to have been heard, as Dorran remained within his hooded cloak until the train reached its final stop.

Convergence will be available next Tuesday evening.

Buy books, save money!

In honor of Sasha’s birthday:

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Save 30% on any of your purchases from the Less Than Three Press book market, today only! I’m picking up some I’ve meant to read, there’s been so many exciting releases lately. And don’t forget, you can pick up Appetite: A Cut Above the Rest at a discount if you missed the pre-order price!

Don’t forget, there’s three days left to sign up for Casey K. Cox’s Finding King giveaway.

And if you need some gorgeous reading this week, I’ve read some of the Tea for Two stories and they are, simply put, amazing. You cannot get quality fiction such as this for free anywhere else! Enjoy the stories and leave the ladies some love.

So, what are your plans for the weekend? Partaking of any traditionally Easter activities? Over here, there’s a whole lot of editing going on. I’ve got to get The Competitive Edge edits incorporated and back to the editor, because I’m expecting the hard edit for The More Plausible Evil back any day now. Today, lamb burgers and oven fries; tomorrow, lamb roast and garlic potatoes with green side veg to be determined.

Will you be reading? Spring cleaning? Relaxing? Enjoy it, whatever you do!