Friday, July 20, 2018

Tempest is live on Amazon!

Hi darlins!

My Rainbow Award-winning m/m fantasy novel Tempest is now up on Amazon! You can find it here: Tempest






Love can change a soul. But can it save one life?

Colm Weathercliff is a simple fisherman with an uncanny some might say preternatural knack for his trade. He thought leaving his small village to take his father s ashes to the capital city of Caithmor for a proper burial would be the grandest adventure of his life.

At first, all his hopes seem to be fulfilled. He finds a home where he s accepted without question, the freedom to use his talent to its fullest effect, and love with Nichol, a man with a longing for the sea as powerful as Colm s.

But Caithmor holds as many dangers as it does attractions. Colm s greatest secret turns out to be a dark revelation that gets him and his family shunned and changes everything he thought he knew about himself.

The truth about his parentage, his gift, even his physical form could poison his chance for love. And doom both him and Nichol to a gruesome, inescapable fate.




This is the second edition of the book, with a different cover, but it's the same story. If you've already bought it, thank you! No need to do so again, you're not missing anything.

If you're following it in Wattpad, never fear! I will continue to post chapters there until the whole thing is up. But if you want to know what happens next faster (and after this next chapter, you totally will) then here's your chance.

You might be wondering, what's the point of putting it up for sale if you're just going to give it away for free? Well, I've been thinking about that a lot lately, and I'll write a blog post about it later this weekend.

In the meantime, enjoy, and happy Friday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Thirteen, Part One

Notes: Action action action! Here, have a fight scene because I love you :)

Title: Mutable: Chapter Thirteen, Part One

***


Chapter Thirteen, Part One



Thick fingers choked Cas just hard enough to keep his airway free, but cut off the blood flow to his brain. Cas slammed his forearms down in an effort to break the hold, but they hit body armor. His attacker was wearing most of a power suit—all but the helmet, which would have made him so tall he couldn’t have stood up even while crouching. Still, he was armored enough that even straining, Cas couldn’t reach his face.

“She said you’d come.” Cas could barely make out the face on the other end of the arm holding him—it was already blurring in his vision. A man with pale skin and red hair, and black, black eyes. Black eyes… “She said to test you. If you survived the test, you were the one. And here you are.” The grip tightened momentarily. “And you’re still alive. But not for long, Cas Farling.”

Cas kicked up with his legs, wrapping one around his attacker’s elbow to try and break his grip down while snapping the other out toward the man’s head and jamming it under his chin. He forced his attacker’s head back and slowly, painfully, pulled out of his arm’s weakening grip. Cas flipped into a crouch and started looking for a weapon even as he forced the phage into his larynx to start repairing the damage done. His hyoid bone shifted with an audible snap, and he winced.

“There’s nothing here for you to use against me,” his attacker said, squaring off again. “I looped and muffled the AI. It won’t respond without a fix. No loose metal, no bolt holes. No chance for you to escape.” He grinned. “She’ll be so happy with me for finishing you off. She’s going to let me live forever, like her.”

Black eyes, living forever, her…is he infected with the phage?

Did Christala figure out how to make thralls?

It was a question that would have to wait until Cas had the time to consider it. The tube behind him ended in a flat blank metal surface. The floor, sidewalls and ceiling were solid. The only way out was past the man bending over and grunting as he picked up the chunk of metal plating he’d dislodged in his first assassination attempt. He held it in front of himself like a shield and began to advance, crabbing along slowly but inevitably.

“I’ll crush you,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll crush you dead and she’ll reward me, because I’m worthy. She’ll bring me up with her.”

Cas evaluated the situation fast. He couldn’t go through the man’s legs or over his head, there was no room for that. The only way out was through, but he couldn’t reach past the metal plate to get at his attacker’s vulnerable head.

Fuck. He was going to have to do something he really didn’t want to and hope it didn’t blow up in his face. Cas raised his hand to his mouth and bit deep into the cut he’d made earlier, enlarging it. Blood welled at the broken surface, just barely hanging back with the phage’s help. Kill, Cas thought to the concentration of phage in the blood. Kill, kill, kill. Then he stepped forward, jumped slightly, and snapped his hand out, sending a huge drop of blood flying over the shield. It landed on his attacker’s right eyebrow, and a moment later dripped down into his eye.

The man laughed again. “Is that all you’ve got? I’m already gifted with her blessing. You can’t undo that with a little blood.” He drove the metal plate forward, intent on squashing Cas against the back wall like a cockroach.

Cas got both arms and legs up and onto the plate and pushed back with all his might. He wasn’t as strong as a man in power armor, not even with the phage’s help, but if he could just hold off long enough… Servos whined as his attacker put more of his weight into the press, and Cas felt a small bone in his ankle fracture. He grimaced and forced himself to breathe, forced himself to hold out, it wasn’t too late, it couldn’t be, he had to—

“Hkk-kkkah!” The pressure eased, the metal plate began to drop, and a second later fell onto its side as the man holding it groaned and brought both hands to his head. “Ah! AAaaaaaahhh!” His choked sound of horror turned into a scream, followed by a massive convulsion. He arched back onto the floor. Blood streamed from his nose and the corners of his eyes, then his ears. The phages were fighting inside of him.

Cas caught the edge of the metal plate before it could fall forward onto him. Fuck, it was heavy, and took his whole body to hold in place. He kept it up, though, winnowing through potential next steps as fast as he could and discarding most of them just as quickly. He couldn’t drop everything and run, leaving this person behind. This had been set up too carefully—if he ran he would throw suspicion onto himself, especially if he left behind a man who might not even die of the phage. He needed to—

“Cas.”

He looked down at the man beneath him. His eyes were still black, but his voice was more…familiar.

“I always knew my phage was stronger than yours.”

He stared down at his attacker, dumbstruck. This was her voice, Christala’s voice. How had she managed that? He’d never heard of a phage maintaining such an intimate connection with its original host once transferred. And if it was the phage speaking right now…then hers had killed his.

“You’re weak,” she whispered. “Too weak to do what had to be done for our people’s survival. But I saved them from themselves. And soon, I’ll save them from you as well.” She smiled, and it might have been on a new face, but Cas would know that grin anywhere. “You’re going to die.”

Well, that answered the question of what to do with the metal plate. “You first,” Cas muttered, and let it fall. It hit the man’s face with a wet crack, like a snail being crushed inside its own shell. The body convulsed once more, then lay still. Blood began to seep out into the corridor.

There was no way Cas was getting close enough to let that touch him. He couldn’t run for help, though—how would he explain escaping so cleanly against a man in a power suit? He weighed the odds in his head, and in the end decided that it was worth the risk of being found. It would probably be Fillie, and she was his strongest advocate on board after Rone. She’d stick up for him.

Plus, he already looked like hell, so… Cas stepped over the body so he wasn’t trapped near the end of the corridor, lay down, and used the phage to knock himself out.

Everything went black.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Twelve, Part Two

Notes: Oooh, action! Intrigue! And a long chapter, because I took the time to write it over two days instead of trying just today, when I'm so tired I can barely type. Enjoy.

Title: Mutable: Chapter Twelve, Part Two

***


Chapter Twelve, Part Two



The first thing to do was to get ears in different places, telling Cas what was going on and whether or not he was being mentioned. There were probably plenty of ways to do this with Imperian technology, but all of them would be trackable by other people as well, probably easier than Cas could even imagine. There was still too much he didn’t know, and even daily training sessions with Private Fillie and evenings spent debriefing with his husband wouldn’t be enough to fill the gaps. That meant it was time to dip into some of the more obscure abilities of the phage.

Training with the phage encompassed all kinds of tactics, with every conceivable espionage technique made available in some form or fashion. It could be dangerous to teach your phage too much, however. They were learning creatures, adaptable in the extreme, and if you didn’t hold their reins tight enough, they would destroy you in an attempt to escape. The organisms were independent-minded to begin with—it was part of what made the fatality rate of phage trainees so high. If their strength was greater than your ability to fight them down, they would win, overtaking your body and oozing out of every orifice in an effort to expand.

Cas had had his phage for long enough that they were well settled now, but it hadn’t always been like that. He’d nearly lost control of it three times before—once when he first received it, once when he first learned to separate it from himself (boy, had that ever given the rest of the organism the wrong idea) and finally when he taught it to gather resonant information.

Resonance gathering wasn’t as comprehensive a separation as making a piece of himself that behaved like his real body did. All it required was the slightest bit of the phage spread in a bodily fluid—blood was best but saliva or urine worked—and spread someplace where it would be exposed to sound, light, and vibration. While it was wet it would absorb and retain the stimuli around it, and then once it was dry Cas could return to it and use the phage to analyze the contents of its recording.

It wasn’t an easy or foolproof way of gathering information—most of the time all you got was gibberish—but it would let Cas know where to concentrate his focus. The morning after his talk with Rone, he sat and meditated in his room for a while, thinning out the phage in his blood and preparing it to receive new information. Rather than fighting to escape him, the rest of the phage settled deeper into the bone, like a skeleton-eel content to gnaw on an old, familiar carcass. The danger of a revolt was always there, but didn’t seem like it would be acted on today.

After an hour of preparation, Cas carefully cut the index finger of his left hand. The standard shake for Imperians was with the right, so if he had to greet someone he could do it that way and leave his wound unnoticed. The wound bit fairly deep, but no blood flowed out. That would only happen when he was ready for it to.

He met Fillie five minutes later and they began today’s activity—a guided tour of the ship. “There are a lot of interesting departments,” she said as she walked down the hall with him, bright as a torch in her smooth red uniform. “Astrometrics, Botany, Logistics and Trade—that’s where I work. Engineering is always fun, and so is the Leisure department. You’ve already seen the medical unit and the mess hall, so we can skip those—”

“Let’s start in the mess hall, actually,” Cas said. “I could use a snack before we get started.”

“Oh right, of course!”

Being with Fillie was like having a buffer made out of pure sunshine. Most of her colleagues warmed around her, softened by her own softness. A few of them tried to take advantage of it, but either she recognized the attempt and toughened up a bit, or someone else stepped in to keep it from escalating. People like Fillie were probably the reason a closed environment like this didn’t lead to a bloodbath—natural peacemakers were invaluable to any army.

“The muffins are good,” she advised as they got into line. Cas touched his finger to the very end of the counter and let it stay there as they walked down, leaving a very thin smear behind. It would stay liquid for a few hours, maybe half a day if the air temperature stayed constant. The phage came with all sorts of advantages. He could come back at dinner tonight and see if it had learned anything.

“What kind of muffins?”

“Oh, everything is good, but I think the special today is currant-cherry. Have you ever had currants before?”

“No. Or cherries.”

“Beren!” She plopped a muffin down on his tray. “That’s got to change!”

They sat and ate together, Fillie keeping up a string of light conversation, and Beren expanded his hearing and listened to the people around him gossip quietly. The attention was less intense today, but still present—perhaps half of it was positive, the other half derogatory. Interesting.

They moved on soon enough. Astrometrics was quiet and beautiful, filled with holographic star charts and math that Cas couldn’t follow but found wonderfully elegant. The lieutenant in charge there was nice enough, with no obvious signs of discontent at Cas’s presence, but not a lot of curiosity either. The same happened in the Botany lab—if anything, the woman running it was eager to ask Cas questions about the flora found in the caves on Leelinge, and asked him to point at similar specimens in her repository.

“It’s a terrible shame we weren’t able to make any actual forays there,” Lieutenant Peshar said pensively, curling the tip of her long white braid around her finger. “Leelinge is one of only two planets with extensive underground caverns, and the one on Nomad isn’t easily accessible to its inhabitants. We know almost nothing about the kind of plants and animals that thrive there. It’s a terrible scientific oversight, not to mention the humanitarian consequences.”

“Why not conduct interviews of refugees?” Fillie asked before Cas could.

“I requested to,” Peshar said. “My requests were denied repeatedly by Lieutenant-Commander Jepson.”

Naturally. Cas still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of Jepson. She seemed to be loyal to Rone, but at the same time she was a rule-following bureaucrat of the highest order. Was she also a rabid xenophobe?

“Maybe next time,” Fillie tried to commiserate. Lieutenant Peshar snorted.

“There won’t be a next time. The Leelanger government is going to quarantine those caves to all outsiders and either rework them or level them completely, so that nothing remains of the original inhabitants and the evidence of their way of life. It’s a damn travesty.”

“I’d speak to you about it,” Cas offered. He wasn’t sure why he offered—he didn’t know this person any better than most of the people on the ship. Maybe it was her passion for a place that had been everything to him once. “I mean, you could interview me about it.”

Lieutenant Peshar looked intrigued, but wary. “We were given orders not to ask you for anything.”

Oh, Rone. “You’re not asking,” Cas explained. “I’m offering. I’d love to talk about Shyne to someone who’s really interested in listening.”

“Well, in that case…” They made an appointment for the following morning, and Fillie looked as proud as if she’d set the whole thing up herself.

“That was so nice of you!” she enthused as they headed toward Engineering. “The lieutenant has been in such a grumpy mood ever since we left Leelinge. Some people say that her, um, attitude is the reason she hasn’t made commander yet, despite how good she is at the science.”

“People are jerks sometimes.”

Fillie nodded. “They really are. Great, we’re at Engineering, let me introduce you to the Chief!” She leaned in a little closer. “He’s the only other noble on the ship, a lower Lord of Metal. But he never holds it over other people like he could.”

“That’s…” the bare minimum of decent behavior in an environment where talent is supposed to take precedence, “nice of him.”

“I know!” She led Cas into a large, cavernous space in the bottom of the ship. Silvery tanks humming with thousands of gallons of coolant lined one wall, with an orderly mess of tubes extending out from them through every surrounding surface. Another wall contained a very robust-looking AI interface, in front of which a heavyset man with cavern-black hair tipped in blue stood, watching a dozen different screens and shouting at a dozen different junior engineers.

“Brendan, I swear to the fiery mountain, if you don’t get that electrical line unhooked before another surge comes through, I will come down there myself and dampen it with your thick head.”

“We really just need a replacement, Chief, it’s—”

“And do we have a replacement?” he demanded, rhetorically it seemed. “No, we do not, because we had to give all our extra supplies to a bunch of damn diplomats, so make it work with what you have! Take it off, find the source of the surges and fix it, then put that one back on.” He finally noticed Fillie and Cas and turned with a scowl. “No tourists today, Private.”

“I know you’re busy,” Fillie said. “I just wanted to give Beren a quick tour, if that’s all right? The Captain—”

“The captain knows better than to mess around in someone else’s domain just because he wants to keep his pretty little husband from getting bored! I’ve got three emergencies in three different departments today because those fucking diplos took my fucking supplies, and you want me to—”

“The sealant isn’t working, Chief! We’re going to lose Nu-Tank Two in less than a minute!” This was from a different screen, spoken by a dark-skinned young woman who was shaking a tube of something with a scowl on her face. “I can back it up with a sara-patch that might hold it for another few minutes, but then I’m out of options down here.”

“I’ll bring the welding equipment, you do whatever you can in the meantime. Do not let that tank fail, Nevins, otherwise we’ll be eating nothing but unflavored protein mush until we get home.” He turned to Fillie. “I’m commandeering you, Private. Grab that rig over there and come with me.” He pointed at a heavy, backpack-set welding unit. Cas wondered for a moment why he couldn’t take it himself until he picked up a cane from on top of the desk and began to limp down the second hall to the right.

“And you!” He twisted and pointed a finger at Cas. “No wandering! You can have your little hand-holding expedition later!”

Fillie, her expression torn between immediate obedience and dismay, looked apologetically at Cas. “I’m so sorry, Beren. I’ll catch up to you as soon as this is done, all right?”

“It’s fine,” he assured her. “Go, before everyone gets nothing but protein mush.” She grabbed the rig and heaved it over her shoulders, then ran off after the Chief, who was very fast with his cane. Cas stood there for a long moment by himself, tempted to look around but knowing he was being filmed right now. He reopened the cut on his finger. Where would be a good spot to mark before he left…

“Help!”

The voice was faint, coming from the hall farthest to the left. It was smaller than the others, and looked more like an open access hatch than an actual hall. Cas walked over to it, letting his hand brush gently against the wall as he stopped in front of it. “Help, please!” the voice called out again.

“What’s wrong?” Cas called back.

“Hurry, before it falls! Please, I need help!”

Strange timing. Cas pressed his wrist to the wall and said, “AI, respond.” Nothing. Was that normal in Engineering? Perhaps it was—perhaps there was too much going on in here already to configure the AI in the walls as well. Or perhaps it was a trap.

“Help!”

Cas’s instinct was to ignore the cry. Obviously this place was a mess, so it might be legitimate, but unless he knew for sure, he shouldn’t risk it. It wasn’t his job to help. He could find another crewmember and send them in.

Beren, though, wouldn’t do that. He was a sweet-hearted, actions-without-second-guessing kind of soul, and he wouldn’t wait. He would go in himself. Cas knew that, and more to the point, Rone probably knew that. The last thing Cas needed right now was more oversight from his husband.

“I’m coming!” Cas called, and started down the small access corridor. He had to stoop a little to fit, and moved as quickly as he could while stretching his senses wide. Machine lubricant, ozone, steady vibrations in floor and walls, and—

He reached a four-way stop in the corridor, and suddenly the lights went out. Only because his ears were attuned for it did he hear the sudden creak of the metal plate over his head, as though every bolt holding it on had just been loosened. Cas dove forward into a roll, and a second later a thick square of ceiling plunged to the floor just behind him.

A second after that, someone’s hand was around his throat.