Thursday, June 4, 2020

Quick message re: commenting

Hey darlins,

For some reason I can't comment on my own blog right now, and not for several months. I'm working on it, but in the meantime, if you comment, please know that I love you! YOU ESPECIALLY, RC, yeah I'm talking to you :) Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, comments really do help motivate me to keep going with this blog in the face of local upheaval, global uncertainty, keeping up with a toddler, and hustling for work.

Cari :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Rivalries: Chapter One, Part One

Notes: NEW STORY, NEW STORY, NEW STORY! My magical academy story Rivalries starts today! Get you some conflicted teachers, enemies to lovers (eventually), slow burn romance, and more powers than you can shake a stick at. It's going to be fun :)

Title: Rivalries: Chapter One, Part One

***

Rivalries: Chapter One, Part One

 

He’s staring across the testing field at a young man—a boy—half a head shorter than him, dark haired and wide eyed, but with a flinty set to his jaw. There’s a trickle of blood running down the boy’s chin, and Charlie feels bad but he also feels powerful, like his knack is running through his whole body and he could cast a shield in any direction. He feels like the shield he should be, strong, like he knew his mother was.

Everyone is watching, and Charlie knows this is his chance to choose. Which way will he go? Does he tone it down, rein it in? Does he stop pushing, when he knows there’s nothing to push against?

“Ready…steady…now!”

Charlie’s knack rumbles through him like a roll of thunder, tethering him to the ground as he stretches both arms out in front of him. The shield emerges like a storm-gray soap bubble, thinning at the edges but so, so strong in the middle. It’s never been so strong before, so powerful. He gasps as it leaves him, and gathers his breath. By the time he screams “No!” though, the shield has already hit the boy. He flies backward, and—

 

 

“Cast quickly enough and you can climb a wall with those tethers,” his drill instructor is saying, glaring at the group of shields like they’ve personally inconvenienced him. “The power holds you down to whatever you’re standing on, as long as it’s solid. You cast this on water, you’re going to be in for a hell of a shock when you go flying backward. Cast the shields down and behind you so that you learn how to fight against gravity’s pull. Yes,” he adds when some of the other shields’ jaws drop, “you’ve got to learn to cast a shield behind you, unless you want to walk up a wall backward.”

He grins. “Get ready to learn how to be Spiderman, shields. And don’t worry. We’ve got our healing cadets on hand to give their own abilities a workout fixing any bumps, bruises, or breaks.”

“Breaks?” one of the other men whispers anxiously. The drill instructor hears him.

“Yes, breaks! What the hell did you expect, we’d have you learning this in a padded room with a levitator on hand to keep you from falling on your heads? This is the army, cadet, and you’re not getting paid to be coddled!” The drill instructor moves close to the brick wall behind him. “Now, watch me do it, then you try.” And he’s off without another word, tiny red shields impacting the dirt like drops of blood as he slowly, casually walks up the wall.

 

 

Charlie is laden with heavy equipment, but he hardly feels it through his focus. He sees his target—in the center of the compound, tied and made to swim in the middle of a pool of water. These fuckers are smart, they know Delta Force was the most likely to come after this guy, and they know their specialty is shielding. If they had someone with a water elemental knack in their troop, like the SEALS, it would be a different story.

Still, they’ve got their orders, and he can do his part. Infiltrate the building. Retrieve the target. Return him unharmed to the embassy. “Got me covered?” he asks his sniper.

“All clear,” she says, not bothering with a scope—her knack is farsight, she’s a natural killer with a gun. “You’re good to go.”

He doesn’t waste more time talking, just heads for the nearest wall and, quickly and quietly, walks up it in a crouch. The color of his shields are a boon for night work—dark grey is a lot more covert than red or blue, which are far more common. He’s up on top of the wall and over it in an instant, checks in both directions for watchers, then levers himself over and runs along the side of the compound’s outer wall, shields a murmuring wave against the ground.

He almost loses his balance when a fighter turns around and sees him, raising their rifle and spewing bullets in his direction, but he manages to free one hand for a quick shield blast before putting both back to use holding himself up. The ground between him and the pool is covered with mines—only the fighters in their cordoned-off zone and the pool itself are free of them. “Full coverage,” he requests, and his sniper starts firing a moment later. She’s picking people off—they don’t want to spook them into killing the target, so a large-scale assault is out of the question until he’s got the target secure.

Bullets are flying. He’s grazed by one, but he barely notices the pain. He musters all his power for the thirty-foot jump he’ll have to make to the middle of the compound, then blasts the wall behind him with a shield. It sends him soaring through the air, exhilarating but also dangerous—he can’t shield right now, not when he isn’t tethered. Please let me hit the water, please let me hit the water…

He plunges into the water less than a foot from the target, who is swimming very weakly now. He takes a deep breath, lets himself sink to the bottom next to the wall, and blows the side of the pool out. The water drains away, and he catches the target before he hits the ground.

Charlie pulls him in close and tethers tightly, then uses his newest trick—a stationary shield that covers both of them in a half-circle, like a localized storm cloud. They’re being shot at, he can hear the bullets, but he can’t see them—his knack is rumbling through him like a freight train, and it’s all he can do to hold onto it while his team, seeing the target is secure, launches the assault they’ve been waiting for.

The little boy in his arms looks up at him, then tucks his face against Charlie’s neck. They—

 

 

—fire on all sides, and he can’t use his knack because there’s nothing beneath him, the floor has melted away and all he can do is fall, and he hears a scream and he thinks it might be him but it doesn’t matter now, because he has to shield to save himself but he can’t, he can’t, he can’t

 

 

Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep… Charlie finally reached over and slammed his hand down on his alarm clock, silencing it. His head ached like someone had driven an ice pick through it, and his eyes were gritty in the corners. When he reached up to wipe it away, he felt the tear tracks on his face. “Great,” he muttered. “Just great.” This was a fantastic start to his first day at his new job.

He got out of bed, scratching his hand through his hair as he headed for the bathroom. He didn’t bother to look at himself in the mirror—he knew what he’d see, and he hadn’t liked it for almost a year now. A year of moldering away in Intensive Care and psych wards. A year of rebuilding and rehab, and who did they even build? Somebody, I guess. But the somebody he was now felt nothing like the man he used to be.

Charlie got into the shower, careful to keep the temperature low—hot water still burned pretty brightly against some of his wounds. He washed up, paying extra attention to his hair. Shit, it was so long now. He hadn’t had hair longer than half an inch for nearly a decade. He’d have to get it cut soon, but for now…

He got out of the shower, toweled off, brushed his teeth and shaved, trying to make peace with how long it all took. He got dressed—fucking buttons, seriously—and made a cup of coffee, pouring it down his throat in his haste to get out the door so he could make it to the academy on time. He checked his phone—forty-five minutes. He could do this.

He couldn’t keep himself from taking one little glance at himself in the bathroom mirror, though. This was the first time in a long time he’d bothered to try and make himself presentable, except for the interview and training, and those had both taken place entirely online, so he’d been able to wear a nice shirt and sweatpants.

His dark blond hair was neatly styled, his Academy tie was tied—thanks, YouTube, for showing him how to get a pre-knotted tie over his head and snugged up—his jacket was on, his pants were pressed. He looked…good, if you discounted the dark circles under his eyes.

Oh, yeah, and the lack of a right hand and forearm.

The urge to bust the mirror out with a quick shield was almost overwhelming, but Charlie resisted trying. He didn’t have time to clean up glass. Besides, it had been too long since he’d cast a shield—he didn’t know what would come out of him now, and he wasn’t about to find out.

That’s what rehab is for, jackass. Right now you’re wasting commute time. Get to work, Charlie Verlaine.

Monday, June 1, 2020

New Release: Luckless!

Hi darlins!

I have a new release today that I'm really excited about. This one has been a whirlwind--I wrote it over two years ago for Riptide, then pulled it from them for reasons which many of you know, then sent it in to Tor.com and almost--almost!--got accepted by them. Seriously, it was the most flattering rejection letter I've ever gotten before or since, but it was still a no. I was starting to think I should change the title.

Eventually I decided to self-publish, and today's the day! Luckless is a story about monsters and dragons and a city under siege, but it's also about second chances, new love, and family. It's one of my favorites, and I hope you enjoy it too.




Evan Luck is a dragon rider with no dragon. Five years ago, his dragon gave her life defending the monster-ridden remnants of Marble, and ever since, his ability to connect empathically to another dragon had been as broken as his heart. Now he spends his days dodging his disappointed mayor, crafting arrows, fighting off the not-as-legendary-as-they-should-be beasts that’ve overrun America, and just trying to get by in the city of Forge.

But when he meets newcomer Lee Caldwell, Evan thinks his lonely luck might be changing. Lee is the only person in the city who doesn’t blame Evan for his dragon’s death, and he welcomes Evan into his own little family. There’s more to Lee than meets the eye, though, and between his refusal to talk about himself, pressure from the mayor to split them up, and a monster attacking the city’s foundations, Evan isn’t sure he’ll live long enough to learn the truth.

But not learning the truth will almost certainly be fatal, both to Evan and Lee’s budding relationship, and to the entire city.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

New Blog Story Title: Rivalries!

Aaand that's pretty much all I can tell you so far, except that it's going to be a magical academy story. Yes, I am going full-on Hogwarts (no I'm not, there will not be houses and this won't be in Britain, just two rival schools in Somewheresville, USA that educate kids with magical abilities.) This will also not be a revamp of X-Men. I'm not making people immortal or invincible or biasing society against them in hideous ways--there's enough of that going on in the real world right now, thank you very much. This is a world just a hop, skip, and a jump away from ours where the people with notable paranormal abilities get educated in how to use them, either in a private school atmosphere or at a school funded by the government. Yes, that's the rivalry. Two schools.



Oh, and two teachers. Because this story isn't really about the students--I'm not rewriting The Academy either, much as I love it--why would I even try? ;) This story is about two teachers who were once students there, who disliked each other then, went on to have interesting lives, and eventually have to work together to make things happen for their students.



Not my normal fare, but not out of the question. Should be fun! I'll post the prologue next week, methinks :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Coming Soon To A Blog Near You...


Hey, darlins! Sooo...how's it going?

I'm doing pretty well on the writing front lately. I sold an M/M contemporary holiday novel to Entangled Publishing for Winter 2021, and got some editor likes from Carina Press on a pitch--another M/M contemporary romance. I'm hitting runs on the contemporary front lately--crazy!



But what should I do here? What do you want to read, what does your heart long for?

FYI, I tried making a poll and embedding it, but that was a miserable failure, so...back to square one--comments!

Contemporary is working out well for me lately, Sci-Fi is always in my wheelhouse, I have so many Urban/Low Fantasy stories percolating at any one time they might unionize, and I've had some major thoughts about Epic Fantasy lately. Then there's the other stuff I do--steampunk, cyberpunk (I've got one I need to finish, arg arg arg), fairy tale and myth retellings, that kind of goodness. What are you in the mood for? Please comment and let me know!

Let's narrow it down to genre before we dig in deeper. My only caveat is it has to work as a standalone--nothing connected to another blog story, nothing connected to another story I've published :)


Thanks, friends! I hope you're as well and happy as can be.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Tank: Chapter Seventeen, Part Two, aka THE END!!!

Notes: THE END! IT'S THE END! THE END OF THE TANK, HOLY CRAP! And it's not as perfectly HFN/HEA as I usually go, because I think I need one more story in this world to round it all out. However! It's still hopeful, and will hopefully satisfy you :)

What comes next? Honestly, for the rest of this month it will probably be vignettes and excerpts as I take some time for massive edits on the book I've contracted with Entangled, coming out in 2021. After that...I don't know yet! Something very different. We'll all find out in June :)

Thanks for sticking with me, darlins! I love you and appreciate you coming to read my blog stories.

Title: The Tank: Chapter Seventeen, Part Two

***


Chapter Seventeen, Part Two



The room was dark, only barely illuminated by the remains of the fire in the grate. It was intimate, which fit the mood, but not a warm, tender intimacy like Camille had just shared with Anton. This was an intimacy forged from blood and duty, and despite the bond that flowed between him and his half-brother, Camille felt cold within it.

“You have your instructions?”

“I do.”

“Good.” His brother swirled the brandy in his rounded glass moodily before taking a sip. “We need a to make an example of the Dévoué, preferably one that will serve to inspire our own aristocracy back into line as well. I need a list of suitable targets within two months, at least ten, no more than twenty.”

“Understood.”

He sighed in a long-suffering manner. “You needn’t be so petulant about it.”

“Petulant, Laurent?” Camille half wished he had his own glass of brandy at the moment, so he could have the satisfaction of throwing it into his brother’s face. “I’m not petulant.”

Laurent scoffed. “I see it in every line of your face, every movement of your body. Don’t blame me for your lover’s inability to choose his friends wisely, Camille.”

“I don’t blame you for that,” Camille said, making an effort to keep his voice even. “I certainly do blame you for putting him into a position where he had to give up both his freedom and his research to further a cause he has next to nothing to do with, though.”

“He did so voluntarily.”

“Because you threatened to kill a woman he loves like a sister as a spy!”

“She was a spy,” Laurent said simply. “Letting her go without some sort of punishment or appropriate governmental exchange would weaken my position in court, which is something neither of us can afford. Proulx wasn’t the only man in a position of power with doubts about the monarchy, and you and I are both very vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life in Paris, brother. You know I had no choice.”

“You had to act,” Camille agreed reluctantly. “But you didn’t have to force his hand.”

“I didn’t even know he had anything to offer,” Laurent pointed out. “But I’m grateful for all of us that he did. If this works, Camille, we will buy peace for the entirety of the French Empire for years with it. Tell me you see that.”

“I see it.” But you will buy it at the cost of Anton’s heart and soul. Nothing he could say would dissuade his brother once he had the bit between his teeth, though. “I will go now.” He stood up and pulled on his cloak.

Laurent stood up as well. “I need regular messages, weekly if you can manage it.”

“I shall.”

“And return here within two months’ time.”

Two months… It was barely enough time to do what Laurent wanted from him, and far too much time to be separated from Anton. Camille’s heart yearned to rejoin him, to kiss him awake and fill him with pleasure. He was the first thing that Camille had ever wanted for himself, with no regard to family or duty, and the only thing he’d wanted to keep separate from those heavy responsibilities. Now they were inextricable, and he felt sick with the weight of that knowledge.

Laurent touched his arm with one chill hand. “I will ensure he’s taken care of,” he assured Camille. “No harm will come to Mr. Seiber while he remains with us. You have my word.”

Camille knew it was the best his brother could do. “Thank you.” After a moment’s wavering, he leaned in and embraced the other man. Laurent seemed startled, but clasped him back for a moment.

“Carry on then, Lord Lumière,” he said once they were parted.

“As you bid, Lord Jourdain.” Camille put on his tall hat and nodded, then left his brother’s cozy study and headed along the cold, empty corridor to the front of the Institute, where a carriage was waiting for him. He didn’t stop to take one last look at Anton. He couldn’t—he couldn’t bear to leave him again.

He stepped into the cold pre-dawn air, handed his valise over to the footman waiting for him, and got into the simple black coach. It rattled as it set off down the road for Paris, and the train that would take him north.

Camille closed his eyes, bit his lip, and tried not to think of Anton.

He failed.

Be well. May God and my brother keep you safe until we see each other once more.

For if they did not…Camille would burn the world down.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Tank: Chapter Seventeen, Part One

Notes: Almost to the end, my darlins. We've got an epilogue to go, and then that's it for this one. I've got two options for what comes next, and I'll be looking for insight from you all on which to pick :) In the meantime, have some final Anton and Camille before we say goodbye--for now.

Title: The Tank: Chapter Seventeen, Part One

***


Chapter Seventeen, Part One



The series of farewells that followed Anton signing his life over to the Institute were disconcertingly rapid. Dr. Grable was the easiest to say goodbye to, and the one that also felt the least permanent, in a way. “You can’t possibly think I’m giving you up for lost to these bastards, can you?” he gruffly asked that evening. He was preparing to board the airship—Dr. Wictoryn was standing by to load him onto it, and perhaps to do a bit more, if the pink flush in her cheeks was anything to judge by. “We’ll be in touch, Seiber, and I’ll continue to communicate with Jourdain on a regular basis. The moment you’ve served your time, I’ll come and get you myself.”

“Thank you, sir,” Anton said quietly. It was as much enthusiasm as he could manage, the limit of how far he could push his mind to overcome the fearful flutters of his heart. The second after he’d made his deal with Lord Jourdain, he’d been frightened of the ramifications, but there was no way he could go back. His choice was made, and no matter what happened to him, he would see it through.

“Lord above, don’t thank me for being the one to drag you into this, lad.” Dr. Grable held out his hand, and Anton took it. His mentor’s grip was warm and strong. “We’ll see each other again soon,” he promised, and Anton was warmed by the assurance in the other man’s voice. That sort of confidence was catching, and when Anton straightened up again his carriage was a bit taller, his head a bit higher.

Seeing Caroline appear at the entrance to the Institute, dressed in her traveling clothes with two servants bringing her trunks behind her, was almost enough to break him down again. She looked elegant, like a woman who wasn’t being forcibly escorted off the grounds, but the expression on her face was pure panic. “Anton!” She ran to him, and he held out his arms and pulled her in close. She trembled, silent sobs wracking her frame, and it was all he could do to keep himself from joining in.

“I’m so sorry!” she wept into his shoulder. “I should have been more careful, I should have—I never meant for you to be dragged into such a mess. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I promise, I didn’t—I would never prey on your good nature, and when you told me ‘no’ I knew that was the end of it. I didn’t think you would—that you would—”

“I know,” he said as soon as he could get a word in edgewise. “I know, I promise. I never thought that, not for a second.” Caroline might have tried to use their friendship to get him on her side in the beginning, but his no had been final and she had respected that. If she hadn’t, he wouldn’t have offered himself in her place.

“I do not deserve it.”

“You do,” he assured her. This part, at least, he felt confident in. “You deserve to go home to your family.”

“To a husband that doesn’t even notice when we’re in the same room together and a child who probably won’t remember my face once I return.”

“He will.” Anton pulled back a bit. “You know he will. Children need their parents, and he will need you if your husband is neglectful. Be there for him. Do your research and improve your craft.” A knot welled up in his throat, but he managed to speak around it. “Try not to think of me.”

Caroline pulled back and stared at him, dumbstruck. “Are you mad?” she demanded at last. “To ask me not to think of you, as close to me as any brother, who puts me before you despite my terrible mistakes? Darling.” She kissed both his cheeks. “You might as well ask me to forget the sun. I will think about you every day, and pray for the moment that they let you go and you may come back home. Come straight to me.” It was half plea, half command. “Come to me and you will always have a place, and never have to worry about money or providing for your mother. You are always, always welcome in my home.”

“Thank you.” Anton hugged her again, one last time, pressing a kiss to the top of her head before reluctantly pulling back and letting her go. “You must leave now,” he said quietly.

“Yes, Lord Jourdain already informed me of where I am to be deposited,” Caroline said, wiping the corners of her eyes and regaining her composure until she was once again a lovely, haughty noblewoman. “Which, given the circumstances, I must be grateful for.” She caught his gaze one last time. “I love you very much, Anton.”

“And I you,” he replied. Then she was gone, off to the airship, and he was left to watch as a few minutes later it floated into the sky, moving so quickly that it vanished into the clouds in moments.

It was so strange, to be here without anyone to anchor him now. He had come with people he relied on, people he cared for and communicated with—now there was just him. Hrym came to see him at dinner, which Anton ate in the big room without the benefit—or blight—of more company, but Hrym was intensely distraught himself, and not easy company.

“I thought God loved me,” he said, as confused and hurt as a caged mouse. “I thought I was his child, beloved by him. That’s what Cardinal Proulx told me. But he wasn’t telling the truth. He thought we were bad.”

“God does love you,” Anton said, feeling greatly out of his depth but trying anyway. “God loves all of us.”

“Even those with no souls? Or those of us born outside of holy matrimony?”

“Of course. We are all made in God’s image, aren’t we?” Anton tried. “How could he despise us for faults that are not of our own making? If God’s hand is in everything, then it’s in the making of us as well. No person is perfect, but he loves us just the same.”

“Then why did Cardinal Proulx try to kill Lord Jourdain and his brother?”

Anton’s meager appetite slipped away, and he set his napkin down in his lap with a sigh. “I don’t know. He was a man with many harmful thoughts, Hrym. I don’t know why he did what he did.”

“But you don’t think he was right?”

“No. I don’t think he was right at all.” The rest of the meal passed in slightly-less-painful silence, which Anton was grateful for.

He kept the rooms he’d been originally given, entering them was both a relief and a sadness at the end of the interminable day. He’d been set up with his own laboratory, and all of his possessions left at the university would be coming back with the airship. He could pick up his research where he’d left off, with more supplies, more assistance, and more financing behind him than ever before. He would be unstoppable. And soon, Napoleon III’s forces would be as well.

He showered that night alone. He undressed and got into bed alone. He had thought he would fall asleep alone too, his room only brightened by the light of a huge full moon, but just as he finally began to drowse, the comforter moved, and a second later a warm body pressed in behind his.

“You came,” Anton murmured.

“I did.”

“Where were you?”

“Readying for my departure.” Camille’s voice was pained. “I leave before first light.”

“But Montgomery is already here. Who else do they have for you to hunt down?”

“The list is endless.” There was a moment’s silence, then Camille pressed a gentle kiss to the back of Anton’s neck. “I don’t expect you to forgive me. But you should know that I don’t leave lightly, and I will return to you as often as I can, if you wish it.”

If I wish it… Anton wiped his face across his pillow before rolling over to look at Camille. He seemed exhausted, a shell of himself, dry-eyed but pallid and too thin through his face. Even his moustache drooped.

“I always want you with me,” Anton said simply. Fighting his desires was too much, now. He couldn’t do it, even though he was angry over all that Camille had kept from him, and all he would have to continue to keep from him. As a lumière, Camille belonged to his country, to his emperor, first. Anton had to accept that.

Camille swallowed hard and closed his eyes. “Then I shall return as soon as possible.”

“Good.” There was no lust between them tonight—Anton was too afraid, and his lover looked too exhausted. He tucked himself into the curve of Camille’s arms and closed his own eyes. “I shall depend upon it. I’m…” Sorry I didn’t listen to you, sorry we’re both stuck here, sorry I’m not sorry that you’re part of my life. “I’m glad I won’t be alone,” he whispered at last, ashamed but honest.

“Never. As long as I’m alive, I will be here for you whenever I can.” He kissed Anton’s forehead. “Sleep. We both need it.”

“Yes,” Anton agreed, and with the warmth of Camille’s body and the thrum of his steady breaths to lull him, he fell asleep in moments. He slept harder and better than he had in days.

When he woke up, Camille was gone.