Tuesday, April 25, 2017

So You Think You Can Author

Coming out of a rather long blog hiatus -- same old story. Been super busy with all kinds of things meaning I barely have time for any of the extras, including this blog. Social media? Pft. Pretty sure my computer can't remember how to find facebook. Speaking of computer, mine died, and I'm currently working on my slow-as-shit five year old laptop which hasn't worked the same since it was sneak attacked by the Windows 10 update.
All these things aside, there have been some very exciting things happening behind the scenes, but until they're confirmed, my lips are staying sealed.
But, for some reason, all these happenings have made me a little introspective, leading me to remember why I wanted to be an author in the first place. Would I have still wanted to go ahead with it if I'd known exactly what I was getting myself into? Probably. Ah, who am I kidding. I totally would have still gone through with it, coz I'm stubborn to the point of stupidity.
So, in the interest of putting my experience to use, I decided to compile this list of reality checks for anyone thinking of becoming an author.

#1 - I wanna be famous, bitches. 




Oh sure. This is the hot track to being a Z-grade celebrity. The paparazzi just can't get enough... of everyone else. Last week I walked a red carpet (actually it was red with some blues and greens and golds... it was a really ugly hall runner at a doctor's office. But I totally worked it in my torn jeans, T-shirt that had Vegemite stains on it from grubby toddler fingers and my hair in a messy bun that hadn't been brushed in about two days.)
But look at JK Rowling, George RR Martin, Stephanie Meyer. They're living the dream. Yes, they are, but for 99.9999999% of all other authors, the best you can hope for to gain that kind of notoriety is to piss off a high-profile reviewer or two on certain social media sites that shall remain unspoken and then get trolled for few months. Of course, the cost of that might be any other book you ever write, but if you're in this for the fame, then I guess you technically got what you wanted.
If fame is your only goal, then you'd probably be better off auditioning for the next season of RuPaul's Drag Race or The Bachelortte. At least that way you might end up with more than a thousand twitter followers.

#2 - Dolla dolla bill, ya'll.




Money. Who doesn't like money? Apparently 75% of authors. Hah. We don't need money. We're starving for our art, living on red wine and baguettes like this is Paris in the 1920s.
Seriously, if you want to make money from writing, then get a job writing instructional manuals or political press releases. The likelihood of making a living from your books is getting harder and harder every year. Who can be surprised when something like 5 million books were published last year alone? There are only so many readers out there, and they don't seem to have much more money than authors.
Yes, there are pool of traditionally published authors who can live off their sales, but because of market saturation (among other factors) this small pool of authors is shrinking.
Of course, there are plenty of accounts out there of self-published authors making piles of money, but from what I've seen, it's either luck, or they're social media buffs and the hours they work to make that money requires a huge amount of commitment. Want to work ten to twelve hours a day, seven days a week? Want to churn out eight or ten books a year? Then sure, you'll probably make a bucket load of money. And I'm not knocking people who do this if that makes them happy. Personally I like having a life outside of my computer screen and that's part of my over all career and life choice.

#3 - I love giving shit away for free. Here, take my kidney. 



Pirates. And not the fun kind that say "arrrgh me hearties!" Some authors have committed half their life to campaigning against those who illegally share and download books for free. Some authors stay out of it with the old "I'm just one person, what can I do?" While some authors have gone so far as to argue that pirates are actually good for their sales. Whatever the case, the pirates aren't going away any time soon. Personally, I'm on the fence, but only because my opinion on this swings depending on my mood and what kind of bills I have sitting on my desk. Sometimes  I think "it's great that people are even reading my books and love them, even if they didn't buy them."
Other times, when I need money for something and don't have it, I think if every person who'd downloaded one of my books for free even paid half of what my publisher sells them for, then I could pay for my kid to go to the dentist this week. Whether you hate them or accept them, pirates come with the job description. You just have to learn to live with the fact that somewhere, someone out there is giving your shit away for free.

#4 - I just want to get hit in the face over and over again for like ten years. 




When you were younger, did you ever say to yourself "I want to do a job where people constantly judge me. Where I get told over and over that I'm not good enough. I want to do a job where I'm totally alone and the only one who actually believes in me is me. I want my friends and family to be completely baffled by me and continually ask why anyone would do this to themselves. I want to spend half my life interacting with people in my head and get no medication for it. And I want to do it for free! Where can I sign up?"
Of course, I'm talking about traditional publishing. Sure, if that sounds too hard, then you can now chuck up the first thing you ever wrote on Amazon and wait for the cash to roll in (see point #2). Of course, if anyone ever found the first book (or ever first four books) I wrote, I would sell my own mother before admitting they were mine because they were that bad, even though I was under the delusion for years that they were awesome and I would soon be a best selling author.
It took me almost ten years to get published with even a small, barely known publishing house (that subsequently shut its doors) and then get an agent. Of course, I'm still small potatoes. My publisher isn't considered one of the "big 5." That's a target I'm still aiming for.
When I wrote my first book, I probably would have sat in a corner and cried for days if I'd been told it would take sixteen years (and counting) to get that "big 5" contract. I've never counted all of my rejections, both from publishing houses and agents, but it'd easily be over 300.
Even once you get that validation via your book being published, you'll still get stomped on. Some readers will hate your books. And they'll have no qualms about telling the Internet. If you're really lucky, they'll use gifs and memes to ram home their point of how much your book was like poking themselves in the eye with a spork over and over. So if you enjoy getting told "get lost, loser" on a regular basis, then being an author is definitely the right job for you.

#5 There's a book inside me. Please, God, somebody cut it out.




There are people talking inside your head. You walk around constantly narrating your own life. "As she washed the dishes, her fingers became all wrinkled and prune-like, and she realized it was an apt reflection of her failed hopes and dreams." Stories explode out of you randomly and with force like a geyser, so violent that it's starting to effect your employment, relationships, and sleep. You write fan fiction and hide it from your family like you've got a shameful addiction to drinking Hershey's chocolate syrup straight from the bottle.
This has always been my problem (the story part, not the Hershey's chocolate syrup. That's a whole other issue), and it started while I was still a teenager. I had stories inside me, but I was too young and naive to realize that by giving into these urges, I was effectively boarding a roller coaster that I could never, ever get off.
It's a cliche, but some people say writing is in their blood, and this has been true of me. Writing is more than a compulsion, it's like it's in my DNA. It's not a choice about whether or not I do it. It's more a fact of when, where, and how. Even if for some reason I decide to stop publishing, I just know that I'll still be writing stories to the day I die.
This is why despite years of rejections, despite the fact I'm still not making a living from this gig after sixteen years, why I don't go all cyber-rage over the fact that people download my books for free -- the fame I could take or leave -- despite all this, I'm still here doing this and hopefully will be for a good, long time.

Still here? Didn't run screaming into the night at the horror? No matter your reasons for wanting to be an author, and if you only take one thing away from this, then make sure it's the part about the roller coaster, because it's a pretty accurate depiction. You'll have the highest of highs and lowest of lows. You'll be scared, you'll be excited, you'll be happy, depressed and everything else in between.
And if I can pass on a single piece of advice, then that is something I heard Jennifer St George talk about at an RWA conference about seven or eight years ago. She said if you spend long enough in this industry, then everything will happen to you at least once. Your publisher will close down. You'll find yourself out of contract. You'll get glowing reviews. You'll get horrible reviews that will make you question every word you've ever written. And so much more.
So far, I've found this to be pretty accurate and reminding myself of this has definitely helped me through some very hard times and choices, including my first publisher closing its doors.
And now I'm going to finish by quoting an Aussie hip hop group, the Hilltop Hoods:
"See the haters under rate us and this status takes years. But it ain't where we're at, it's how we made our way here."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Just Finished Watching... The Man From U.N.C.L.E


Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm not a movie buff. If given the choice I'll always watch a TV show. But I decided last night to dig up something on Netflix. The last movie I watched was Superman: Man of Steel with Henry Cavill. I found his portrayal of Superman brought a... I don't want to say darkness. Maybe an intensity (???) to the role of Clark Kent/Superman that hadn't been seen before.
So I thought another Henry Cavill movie might be just the thing.
What I didn't see coming was that his character wouldn't be the hero of this movie. I mean, his character was a hero -- usually one that I love, one of those ones where you never quite know if they're bad or good. He played Napoleon Solo, who'd been a young soldier in WWII, who stayed on in Europe after the war finished, but ended up making himself rich and becoming a career thief. When he was captured, the US government offered him a job in the CIA instead of jail time, so he became one of their best agents.
But I'm sorry to say, as well as Mr. Cavill portrayed his role, he was totally out-shone by Armie Hammer, who played a Russian spy Solo was forced to team up with to stop a nuclear bomb being built and delivered to the Nazis.
I'm not sure if it's because Hammer's role of Illya Kuryakin, (I think Solo called him Peril, as in Red Peril? Someone correct me if I'm wrong. While he called Solo Cowboy) had more depth, or that Hammer simply brought extra game, but I was definitely more interested in his story arc throughout the movie. Next on my list, I now want to watch The Lone Ranger, in which Hammer had the starring role next to Johnny Depp, even though I'd heard that movie got canned because of Depp's portrayal of an Indigenous American (sorry if that's not the PC term. Indigenous Australian is the correct term here).  
Of course, I probably can't go without mentioning the pseudo-love story. There's always a girl, and in this case it was the daughter of the scientist building the nuke. Solo goes in for her first, but Kuryakin is not far behind. At first it seems the not-so-damsel in distress is going to be Solo's love interest. At least that was my assumption. But once Solo is paired with Kuryakin, the former takes more of an independent role, while the latter assumes the cover of being Gaby's fiancee.
You could say it's one of those forced-proximity things, but Gaby and Kuryakin have pretty good chemistry from the get-go. This only builds as she proves she can take care of herself, and the twist of the movie is revealed.
These crazy kids almost-kiss three times (or was it four?) with each subsequent almost-kiss heightening the tension between them. But every time, something or someone interrupted them.
At the end of the movie, it looked like they were all set to go their separate ways, until they get the information that their little trio has been tasked to stay together for the time being and form the group U.N.C.L.E. Which stands for United Network Command for Law Enforcement.
So of course I immediately googled to see if there was a second movie coming out and when. Luckily there is (at this point in time anyway) but it's not slated to release until 2019, which is not surprising since it was considered a flop. Probably lucky it's getting a sequel at all. Still, I really enjoyed this movie -- it had a great balance of action, suspense, deadpan comedy, the almost-love-arc and actors who gave it that little extra something.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Going Back to the Valiant Knox


With the final two books in the Valiant Knox series coming out later this year (Cover Fire in June and War Games in November) I'm immersing myself back into the world of the battleship Valiant Knox and the crew. And I'm also going to be celebrating. A lot. This will be the first series I've written to completion. And you know what? I want to share the excitement with everyone!
I have plans. Lots and Lots of plans. These plans involve giveaways, an awesome new facebook group for my fans, and basically having a whole heap of fun while I work towards this milestone.
Want to hear about these super fantastical plans when I get them organized? Then find me places like twitter, Facebook and of course my newsletter.
In the meantime, if you haven't had a chance to check these books out, go find them! You've got a whole four months to read them before book #3 is out!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Go-To Gluten Free Muffin Recipe

After A LOT of experimenting and frustrating baking experiences since my daughter had to go gluten free, I think I've finally hit on a winner when it comes to muffin recipes. It only took me a year (that was sarcasm, I never expected it to take an entire year to work out one decent muffin recipe. Next goal is to improve on my bread recipe, which I still haven't perfected)
Sorry to people with nut allergies, but this won't be the recipe for you as it has almond meal in it.
These muffins have turned out moist, not crumbly, and perfectly light, not dense as can happen with a lot of gluten free baking. Or, at least, that's what happens to me. It's either crumbling apart, or had the consistency of concrete. They're also tasty without being overloaded with sugar. I used honey, which I know while still is a sugar, I figure is a bit healthier than the white refined stuff. The chia seeds also give it a little extra health kick.
Oh, and sorry about the un-glamorous picture. Food photography is so not my thing.

Ingredients:

1 cup Almond meal (or Almond flour? I don't know if they're quite the same thing)
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup milk (I used goat's milk, but you could use coconut, almond or whatever your preference)
2 bananas (or 1 cup of other ingredient such as blueberries etc)

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit

2) In a bowl, mix in the coconut oil, honey, eggs, milk and mashed banana (if that's what you're using, otherwise leave this ingredient out until the end) and mix until well combined. If the coconut oil is going solid due to coming in contact with cold ingredients like milk, heat gently in the microwave until it melts.

3) In a second bowl, add the almond meal, buckwheat flour, chia seeds and baking powder.

4) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until well combined. (If using blueberries or some other ingredient, add them now and mix in)

5) Spoon into muffin tray and bake for 20 minutes in the oven.

Enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Just Finished Wathcing... Teen Wold Season 6A

Actually, I finished watching it last week, so forgive me if things have gotten a bit hazy, I've watched a lot of other TV shows, read 2 books, done some edits and written several chapters of my own book since then. And a warning before I start, if you haven't seen the latest season of Teen Wolf, then click away! Click away now before you see any spoilers! ...Unless you want the spoilers, in which case, I can respect that, being the occasional spoiler bitch myself. Go right ahead.


So, where to start? Firstly, in case you've been living under a rock and didn't know, season six is the final season of this brilliant show. After 6B airs, that'll be it. No more crazy Scott McCall pack adventures forever.
It's good that they're going out on a high, coz there's nothing worse than a TV show descending into utter suckage before finally being booted off the air. But that being said, I don't think I'm ready to let go yet, and I'm sure many fans feel the same. I've got a vague plan that once 6B has wrapped up, I'll buy the season 5 and season 6 DVDs I don't have yet, and then sit down to watch the entire thing from start to finish in one long binge fest that'll definitely last a few weeks at least.

Anyhoo, this season, I felt like it wasn't like any other season we've seen so far. The tension was way up, and everything seemed to happen so fast. On the show, the events apparently happened over three months (as Scott told Stiles when he finally got back from the other side or wherever he was) or was it three weeks?
Nope, pretty sure he said three months. But if you had of asked me, I would have said the timeline unfolded over a few days, maybe a week or two at most. So I think the writers might have missed the boat a little on making sure the timeline was coming across correctly for viewers. But this was just a minor problem, and I can see why it happened.

The writers seemed to have so many threads running in this season. First, the riders of the storm (who were the Big Bad for this story line), then Stiles being taken and Lydia trying to remember him, then the fact that Stiles's mom was back, finding clues like in the other town where the riders had taken people, the only person left was a banshee. Parrish made an appearance or three, there was the Nazi guy from last season who was temporarily the new science teacher (what is it with supernatural psychopaths becoming teachers at that school?) then there was Scott's mom -- Melissa, and Allison's dad -- Chris Argent, who were off on their own shenanigans and suddenly had a thing.

For so many years, I was like "why didn't they just get Scott's mom and Stiles's dad together? Would have been so cute!" But Melissa and Argent? Oh mamma, they were actually really hot together. I so didn't see that coming, but I was on that ship 0.002 seconds after their first scene together in this season. The kiss in the last episode? Okay, it was a little corny (would have been less corny if Melissa hadn't said "that was so hot" after Argent had just been in a wild-wild-west style shoot out with one of the riders, like she was the seventeen year old) but it was also totally gratifying for the sudden and intense chemistry that had sprung up between them. I REALLY hope they do a lot more with this into 6B. I just want to see the look on Scott's face when he realizes his mom is getting it on with Allison's dad.

I did have a point before I got distracted by the Melgent... Arlissa? I don't know what the hell they're
going to call that ship. Anyway, before I got distracted by that, I was saying that I think the writers had so many threads on the go, it was hard for them to have any downtime. So I think there was stuff we probably missed, important information that was skipped over in favor of showing us the really important moments.

This also meant we didn't get to see the usual expected Teen Wolf scenes of the gang sitting around discussing things, or the occasional detour into humor that gave us breathing space from the heart stopping drama. Of course, this could have been in large part due to Dylan O'Brien's accident on the set of the third Maze Runner movie (which I'm so sad about, coz it now probably means that movie will never get made) which I believe meant the writers had to maneuver around him not being able to work. So the fact that Stiles wasn't even in nearly half the season (except to be mentioned by Lydia) meant that much of the goofy fun that comes along with Stiles was missing.

Whether intentional or not, this season seemed to be all about giving the Stydia fans what they'd been waiting for all these years. From the very beginning, when Stiles was taken and told Lydia "remember I love you" (don't know about the Stydia fans, but that caused me some momentary heart failure), to Lydia feeling like she was missing something and slowly piecing together that someone important was missing, to telling Scott she couldn't remember him, but she thought she was in love with him, to finally remembering him, and then her efforts in trying to get his dad to remember and finding a way to bring him back.

All of this accumulated in a reunion that I'm sure the fan were not disappointed in. First, Lydia remembered the moment when she first fell in love with him, even if she didn't realize or couldn't admit it -- which turned out to be the day she'd kissed him to stop the panic attack he'd been having, which was way back in season three or something. After that, Stiles managed to break through the supernatural... um, barrier? Gateway? Rip in the space-time continuum? Whatever it was, he got through, but ended up back in his jeep where he'd originally been taken from. Then it was a matter of spending half the episode waiting for him to find Lydia.

In the end, she saved him from getting shot by one of the riders. The first thing she said was "I didn't say it back." (talking about when he'd told her he loved her right before being taken). And Stiles replied with "you don't have to" right before they ran into each others arms for the kiss that Stydia fans had been waiting six years for.
I'm sure they weren't disappointed. The scene was done fantastically, and it's going down as one of my favorite ever couple moments. For six years worth of build up, I'm sure no one was disappointed with how they finally brought Stydia officially together, and the fans who'd been crying "endgame" were validated.


I'm sure more than a few fans were feeling a serious case of emotional jetlag after all that.
But the writers knew what they were doing, wrapping up the final episode with the pack leaving their last class, Stiles feeling a little ripped off because he missed most of the action while he'd been disappeared by the ghost riders. In the hallway, Scott made a comment something along the lines of "it feels like nothing's changed" (in regards to the fact that they were now officially finished high school). Stiles looked over to where Lydia was at her locker, and when their gazes met, there was something much more substantial there now. Stiles replied with "everything has changed." After that, he and Scott got in the Jeep and drove away into the sunny afternoon.

Now, its going to be interesting to see where the writers/creators take things from here into season 6B. I've seen online that there's going to be a time jump of a few months, so I can only speculate that the gang will either be just about to start college, or maybe have started college and be home on their first break, or away at college and forced to come home to deal with whatever latest supernatural crisis is happening. I'm sure fans will also be dying to see how the Stydia relationship has progressed. Of course there are plenty of rumors and fan speculation, one of the most popular being whether Stiles will finally become a werewolf. Unfortunately the only thing that can answer these questions is time. No word on an exact date for the second half of season 6, the promo just says "coming this Summer" which could mean any time between the beginning of June and end of August.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the season 6B premier as much as I'm dreading it. With every episode I watch, I'll be getting more sad about the fact that it's one less episode left until the series is finished for good.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Just Finished Watching... Continuum

A note of warning before we begin, this post will contain spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers. So if you haven't seen this show but are planning on watching it, click away now!


Another show I binged in a matter of weeks (I only get to watch maybe 2 episodes a night between putting my kids to bed and reaching the point where I can't keep my eyes open any longer, so when I "binge" watch things, it takes me a few weeks, not a few days) and I have to admit, I had mixed feelings about this show.
Continuum had been on my to-watch list for years, probably since it began. I did watch the pilot episode at one stage and thought "meh" but was still interested enough in the premise that I planned to go back to it eventually.
It's funny how you can watch something at one point and not connect with it, and then later down the track, watch the same thing again, but this time get sucked in. Obviously the first time I tried to watch it, sci-fi wasn't what I was in the mood for.
So yes, this time I did get sucked in. But like I said, I had mixed feelings over the 4 seasons.
To begin with, I spent the entire 4 seasons wishing Kiera would get together with Carlos. At first, I could see why the writers wouldn't do that. Kiera's entire purpose for being was focused on getting back to the future to be with her son. However, at the end of season 1, I was totally pissed off that she turned to Kellogg of all people. Though it was hinted at that they'd slept together, it was never actually confirmed, at least in my mind... maybe that's just my wishful thinking.
Even though I think Kiera completely recognized Matthew Kellogg for who and what he was (a self-serving narcissist who would throw anyone under the bus if it meant saving himself. Including himself, as we later found out, which will make no sense until you watch the show. Let's just say it involves time paradoxes and people from multiple timelines. Mind blown yet?).
Keira no doubt used Kellogg in her own way, I suppose she needed some kind of no-strings-attached comfort and/or distraction after everything that'd happened. However, it did make my respect for her slip a notch. There were a handful of other things that made that respect slip even further over the course of the seasons, including the way she treated the poeple in her life. Occasionally she seemed to get tunnel vision and either couldn't see or didn't care how her actions affected others.
But Kiera was understandably flawed by the fact that all she wanted to do was get home to her son, to the point that she never understood it was impossible. Despite knowing she'd traveled to another timeline and they'd created a different future than the one she left, it never occurred to her that it would mean Sam would have a different Kiera as his mother. The Kiera who belonged to the new timeline and would never travel back to 2012. The thought that there would be another Kiera in the future did cross my mind in the beginning of season two, but then I forgot and the writers cleverly hid this fact, even though when you think about it in context of how the show handled multiple timelines and the paradox of a future self meeting a past self, it made total sense. The answer was really in plain sight all the time, though no one ever saw it.
So in the end, Kiera got a real bitter sweet ending. She returned to a different 2077 to find her son safe and well with a brighter future to look forward to. But she was no longer his mother, and would never be able to have any contact with him. She was an orphan in the new world she created with no place to belong. Obviously we needed these answers, because those were the question of the entire series: would she ever get home to her son, and would they prevent the bleak future they'd left from ever evolving?
However, I have to say that even though there was satisfaction in seeing her reach her goal of getting back to 2077, despite it being a hollow victory, I was really hoping she would choose to stay in 2016 with Carlos, young Alec, and her rocky love interest for season 4, Brad, who was a soldier from a different future, 2036 I think from memory.
However, Kiera and her story arc wasn't what had me really hooked on this show. Mostly it was my nerdy brain loving the way the show's creators presented time travel and how it works, with multiple timelines and questions of how choices affect a person's life.
The highlight of this was portrayed in the brothers Alec and Julian (Julian was played by Richard Harmon, who now plays Murphy in The 100. Guy can act. Will be interesting to see where he goes in the future). One was supposed to be the good guy, and one was supposed to be the villain, but the angle on who was good and who was bad was always shifting, especially depending on whose point of view was being presented. I loved the interesting shades of gray over who was doing the right thing and for what reasons, both in the present, and into the flash-forwards of the future we got as the complete picture slowly unraveled. And that was another thing I loved about this show. The writers weren't afraid to hold things back. There were ideas and moments present in the very first episode that weren't clarified until the very end, four seasons later.



Honestly, I have to say that this wasn't just another empty TV show on our screens for entertainment value and nothing more. The writers didn't dumb anything down, they kept it smart and expected that the audience would keep up. And if they couldn't then it wasn't the show for them. There aren't many TV shows with writing this smart around anymore, and as a writer myself, I'm impressed and have a lot of respect for what the show's creators were able to do over the four seasons of Continuum.
I'd been toying with the idea of a story with multiple timelines, but more along the theme of alternate universes, instead of past and future. Continuum has definitely inspired me to take another look at it, even though I'd been finding some of it problematical.
If you have trouble reconciling time travel and its implications, if you want a show that's simple entertainment and a bit of a distraction, then Continuum isn't what you're after. However, if you do want something that leaves you questioning the fabric of your own reality, something that will twist and blow your mind, then check out this series now!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

New Year, New... I Don't Know


2017? That happened, huh? I kind of didn't notice.

Yep, this is me, going all bah-humbug about the New Year. Usually, I'm all sparkly and optimistic and excited about what the new year is going to bring. This year? Not so much.
Okay, so it's not all doom and gloom. It's not like I think bad stuff is going to happen or 2017 will be worse than any other year. I'm just busy. Really, freaking busy. Like, have to write 4 books this year busy.
Kinda brought that on myself though, didn't I?


 ...Who am I kidding? The new year ROCKS!
Oh man, I have so many exciting projects in the pipeline this year. I mean, maybe I need like two of myself to get everything done, but truthfully, I can't wait to get all my new books out and see how things have played out by this time next year. I know the year is going to go fast (last year seemed to fly by in a flash) and I'm sure before I know it, I'll be sitting here saying I didn't notice it'd ticked over to 2018.
Bring it on, 2017. I know shit is going to happen -- some good shit and some bad shit. But whatever happens, I'm here and I'm doing this thing, and that's something to be grateful for.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

And The Winner Is...






The winner of an e-book copy of Atrophy is...


Shari Elder!

Congratulations, Shari. Send me an email at jess@jessanastasi.com and I'll organize to send a copy your way.
Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks to the SFRB for hosting their wonderful holiday showcase.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Science Fiction Romance Brigade Holiday Showcase!

It's nearly the holidays, and what better way to celebrate than by giving? Yeah, I'm totally going to rock that cliche.
So, in the spirit of giving, as part of the SFR Brigade Holiday Showcase, I'm sharing an exclusive sneak peek of Diffraction (coming out on Jan 2nd 2017) AND giving you the chance to find out where it all started by winning a copy of Atrophy. So, without further blabbing, I give you...



And now for some action...


The doc went to step back, but he shot a hand out and clamped his fingers around her upper arm. “Not so fast.”
She stilled beneath his grip and raised her eyes to meet his. For a long second they stared at each other, almost like enemies weighing up the advantage, but there was something far more dynamic and incandescent beneath the surface.
“You might want to think about removing your hand from me.”  
So the petite doctor had a pair, which for some reason he found way too intriguing. On first impression, he’d never have picked that, but of course, she worked for Major Captain Sherron, and he probably wasn’t the type of guy to surround himself with wilting violets, or however the saying went.
“And you might want to think about opening this door before the Imojenna breaks dock.”
Her expression hardened. “I told you, it’s too late. Let me go.”
He yanked her up against the door and grabbed her other arm, leaning in closer so that only the bars separated their faces. “Look at that, now I’ve got two hands on you. Open the door, before I start breaking bones.”
He squeezed her right bicep just to make sure she knew he meant business. Really, he couldn’t have hurt the woman—not with the way her voice was doing a number on his central nervous system and the way her green eyes were making his blood rush, heating him up in all the wrong places—but desperate times and all that shite. He had to get off this ship. There were things about him that he needed to keep to himself. Because if they got out, his life as he knew it would never be the same, wouldn’t be his own any longer.
She stared at him; a spark of something in her gaze, he told himself, was all in his recently scrambled mind. “Is this really how you want things to go down? Because I’m telling you, if you leave the Imojenna now, you’ll be vacuumed.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
She huffed a short sigh. “Fine. I’ll need at least one arm to release the door controls.”
This time it was his turn to stare hard at her for a long moment. That had kind of been too easy. Did she have some ulterior motive? A weapon hidden somewhere she’d go for as soon as he let her go?
“How about a compromise?”
Her brow lowered over an impatient look. “What kind of compromise?”
“I’m not prepared to let you go, in case you’ve got a weapon stashed somewhere in that petite package of yours. Instead, we’re going to tango.”
Her expression morphed into skeptical confusion. “Tango?”

Want more awesome SFR excerpts, chances to win and other fun stuff. Then keep trekking via this link to find SFR goodness: http://sfrcontests.blogspot.com.au/p/sfr-brigade-presents.html

AND NOW
 
To win a copy of Atrophy, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post. I won't even make you think of a ridiculous answer to any mundane holiday related question. But if you really wanted to, you could tell me what's the one thing about the holidays you wish you could avoid. That's right, bah-humbug! I'll start off by saying parking lots (we call them car parks in Australia) and all the crazy people who stalk you for your spot when you leave the shops. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Just Finished Reading... Born of Defiance by Sherrilyn Kenyon

This is a hard book to rate/review. I'm probably leaning toward it being a 3.5 rather than a 4, but I decided to rate up, as from an author point of view, I know how important ratings are, though maybe not for someone as massive as Sherrilyn Kenyon who has already made her mark on the publishing world.
So, before I talk about this book, I want to say don't get me wrong, I respect the hell out of SK. She was one of my idols twelve years ago when I was a baby writer and I was chewing my way through her Dark-Hunter / Were-Hunter books like they were cotton candy.
And when she (re-)released the League books, I was over the moon because what the emerging sci-fi romance genre needed was someone with a market presence like SK to set the relatively unheard-of genre on it's way. Not that I'm sure her League books really achieved that.
Anyway, the first few League books, I absolutely loved. But I think I'm beginning to get series fatigue. Or maybe SK is getting series fatigue. Either way, it felt like while all the usual moves were being made in this book, it wasn't quite ringing true. Like it was an echo of something that should have been much more substantial.
Maybe I'm just getting picky in my older (not old, hell no!) age. Like, I felt like I was being told about all these crazy tough Alpha males and kick-ass chicks, but not really experiencing it. Sure, Talyn could and did beat the crap out of about 1000 guys (not an exaggeration) but the rest... I don't know. I also never really "got" Felicia. This was especially a problem in the second half of the book. However, I think this was because there was SO much story crammed into the last part, it was kind of one beating, on top of another drama, on top of another abduction attempt, on top of some Alpha blah-blah "going to gut anyone who touches my woman," on top of people escaping, and changing alliances, and blowing people (aliens?) up... I think I skimmed at least the last quarter.
Plus, it was like there were scenes missing. Like half the action was happening elsewhere while Talyn was off doing something else. Plus some scenes that I felt like were really important and/or climatic happened in a matter of paragraphs. Obviously this was already a pretty long book and not everything could get jammed in there, but still, it felt lacking in the end, especially in feeling like certain threads were left unresolved. Plus, this book was really heavy on needing to remember what had happened in previous books, and since I've read all these books 12 months+ apart, half the time I was like "who was that and what happened to them again and why is that important??"
Anyhoo, I'm not saying it was a bad read. If it was a bad read, I would have DNF'ed it (like I have with nearly every book I've tried to read this year) because with my own contracts and writing schedule, I don't have time to waste on books I'm not enjoying. So yeah, it was a good read, and I enjoyed being back in the world of the League again, but I just don't know if I'd ever bother reading it again.

Monday, December 5, 2016

!!WIN!! Just in Time for Christmas

It's that time of year when "giving" goes on steroids and everyone does crazy shopping and eats ridiculous amounts of food. This year I'm totally on board with the crazy and signed up for this massive giveaway with loads of other talented sci fi rom authors.

So, would you like the chance to win over 60 science fiction romance titles? How about a Kindle Fire as well?

Sounds good? Yeah it does!

Just go here:  https://www.booksweeps.com/enter-win-60-science-fiction-romances/ and enter before the 12th of December to be in the running!

Friday, November 25, 2016

All Over The Shop

Is that title another bit of Aussie slang that I think everyone should understand? Let me go ask Professor Google... Oh, yep. Totally is. What I mean for my non-Aussie mates is that I'm all over the place at the moment! At least that's how it feels anyway.
To give you a bit of an idea of what's happening in the background while you guys are waiting for Diffraction to come out in January:

1. Yes, Diffraction is finally ready to be released on the world, ARCs should be going out soon. I've seen the cover and it is AWESOME! Cannot wait to share it all over the place.

2. Atrophy and Quantum are going to be re-launched with new covers to match Diffraction. I'll also be revamping my website so everything is sparkly and new going into 2017

3. I've been working on edits for Cover Fire, the 3rd Valiant Knox book, which will be out in June 2017... it's early days yet, so I still have several more rounds of edits to do before it's finished.

4. I started writing War Games, the 4th Valiant Knox book which will be out in November 2017, but then I got distracted by a shiny new idea.

5. What I've actually been writing is an Atrophy series spin-off, featuring !Space Pirates! who work out of the Barbary Belt (where Rian took the Imojenna and Zander took the Swift Brion at the end of Quantum, as it's pretty much the only safe place left in the universe for them now). It looks like this spin-off series of shorter books (200 pages approx) will be getting published, I'm just working out with my agent how/when that is going to happen.

6. In early 2017, I'm also looking at self-publishing some of my romantic suspense. Also working out the how/when of that with my agent, so keep a look out, I'll have more news on that as it comes to hand.

7. I'm also currently working on a super-secret project with a group of other awesome sci fi romance authors to release a multi-author sci fi series in late 2017, but its not confirmed yet and details are still confidential. But when it's all ready for public consumption, I'll post it here first.

8. I keep telling everyone in December I'm going to take a "holiday" from writing coz quite honestly I have worked my ass off this year, and next year is looking to be even more intensive, so I probably should take a break. We'll see how that pans out though.

So, that's about where I'm at. I've got all these balls in the air and seem like I'm juggling like a pro, but don't be surprised if one hits me in the face any time now and sends everything falling to the floor! 
But if it all works out, 2017 will be a very busy year of releases, one after another.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Just Finished Watching... The Last Ship Seasons 1 to 3


This show had been on my radar since it started three years ago -- most notably because it was starring Doctor McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy and Jayne from Firefly. But see, there are two things I cannot watch: apocalyptic movies/TV shows where people are dying en mass (because I can't help but think there's no way I would survive the apocalypse. I'd be like stunt extra number 3 who survives the initial attack only to be inadvertently beheaded by a random helicopter blade when the hero blows up a helicopter and I just happen to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time) and zombies. I draw the line at zombies. I tried watching Walking Dead. Really, I did, but when the zombies ate the horse in the first episode, I was done.

Anyhoo, I finally decided to ignore my worry over seeing people dying from a gruesome virus to watch The Last Ship, and woo-baby am I glad I did. And I'm also glad I waited this long so I was able to smash through all three seasons in a good (not-so) old fashioned binge-fest. Only problem now is, I'm like "June 2017 for season 4 is foooreeeeeever away!!! Can't even!!! *insert angry face emoji*"

Set predominately on the US Navy ship Nathan James (I think it was some kind of destroyer. Missile guided destroyer, does that sound right?!), you might assume it would limit the type and number of storylines the writers had to play with, but you would be wrong!

If I had to sum up the characters or show in a single term, it would be hardcore. No two ways about it, neither the characters or the story lines ever pull their punches, and there were times when my mouth literally dropped open, or I yelled "omg are you SERIOUS?" at my screen while I was watching.
From the same guy that produced the Transformers movies, Michael Bay, the action sequences, shit blowing up, gun fights, fist fights, and destruction on a mass scale was pretty much a given.

What really makes this show, is the fact that all this admittedly very cool action is balanced perfectly with some very, very well developed characters, played by actors who have great chemistry (and I don't mean romance chemistry, I mean all the actors clicked really well in different ways).

Despite the restraint and very military-reserved nature of Tom Chandler (played by Eric Dane aka McSteamy) and Mike Slattery (played by Adam Baldwin aka Jayne) they've earned a spot in my top favorite bromances of all time list. These are two guys who really are brothers in everything but blood and this is subtly proven over and over throughout the seasons, even though there's barely a man-hug to be seen.

Not to mention that Tom Chandler is a perfect example of hero material. He's put in this extreme situation where the whole world was dying, while him and his crew are sitting out in the Antarctic for months on end. Then, when the truth is revealed, though he has no clue if his wife or kids are alive, he has to step up to put duty and the fate of the world first, trusting in a woman, Doctor Rachel Scott, who betrayed him by lying about the true nature of their mission in the first place, believing that she can come up with a cure to save whoever is left when they eventually get home. Meanwhile, they've got other more hostile parties to fend off who will do anything to get their hands on the cure. Tom isn't perfect, he's flawed, he makes mistakes, he loses men, but he keeps going forward, keeps making the hard decisions.

Now, even though there's not much in the way of romance in this show (which doesn't detract from the overall makeup of the show at all), a lot of people were shipping Tom and the doctor, Rachel, very early on, even though Tom was still married.
I was never on board with it, because Tom was a very honorable man, and there was no way I could see him betraying his wife. However, I could see that gradually Tom and Rachel developed a respect for one another, which definitely had evovled into something more by the end of season 2. Unfortunately, they just weren't meant to be.

However, I do have to say, the one kiss they shared -- one that wasn't even a real kiss -- that was the moment when I was like "oh yeah, I am so on this ship!" I knew as soon as Rachel got her hands on him that something else was going on, and it turned out I was right -- Tom was being held captive and Rachel had to get him a VERY small note (on waterproof paper I assume???) with the details on how the crew planned on freeing him. But oh mamma, it was some kiss. Of course, I have to imagine that passing someone something by kissing would entail being very, shall we say, committed to the kiss. Never tried it myself, but I'm thinking a fair bit of tongue action... yep, just took this examination too far.

Into season three and Tom has a new love interest. I really like Sasha for Sasha. She's independent, smart, sassy, tough and can definitely hold her own. Everything you want in a heroine. But I feel like she's not quite right for Tom. I feel like their history is really the only reason they're interested in each other. They didn't work out once before for good reason, right? So I just think it's a little forced, or more love-interest-for-convenience-sake rather than something really solid that I could see going anywhere.

You know who I think Sacha should get together with? Mike. I have no idea why, they've barely said two words to each other for the entire season. But I just feel like THAT would be something interesting to see. Mike, I think, was separated from his wife (I could be wrong) plus while Tom (and most of the crew) eventually found out what happened to their families, Mike never did. He had initial contact to find his son had died, but his wife (ex-wife?) and daughter/s (can't remember if he had one or two) had gone to a safe zone. When he eventually got to that safe zone, it was deserted.

I'm actually hoping that in season 4, the writers remember they left this thread hanging and do something about it, even if it's to find that the rest of his family died as well (listen to me, I'm so sympathetic "I'll just kill this entire family because its convenient to the plot") In the meantime, if the writers of the Last Ship happen to read this GET MIKE AND SACHA TOGETHER. Man, it would be sooooo much more interesting.

The other personal element to the characters I loved was the relationship between Danny and Kara, two of Tom's crew on the Nathan James. From episode one, it was established that these two had a secret affair going on (which is a HUGE no-no. The old fraternization rule) but when it came out, Tom was very cool about it.

Yes, they had to be punished under Navy regs, but the way Tom went about it, there was no doubt he was giving his approval and accepting the relationship, even though he officially wasn't supposed to. Going through the seasons, it was almost like Tom became a kind of father-figure to the pair. He definitely had a soft spot for both of them, and looked out for their best interest when he could, as long as it didn't get in the way of duty or put the rest of the crew in danger.

And one last thing, this show has a plethora of interesting secondary characters. They're not just there to support the main heroes, but could stand all on their own. And they come with cool names like Tex and Wolf. But don't get too attached to anyone, because like most shows these days, the writers can and will kill off your favorite characters, leaving you reaching for the tissues.

So now that I've ripped my way through the 3 seasons of The Last Ship, I might go back and watch it again, because I'm sure there were things I missed the first time around, plus it's always interesting to re-watch something once you know where it's all headed, you see things a little differently. Or maybe that's just me.

I can't wait to see where the writers take season 4, since they pretty much destroyed Tom, and ended season 3 with him basically broken and quitting the Navy, the service, the country he'd dedicated his entire adult life to. Something will draw him back into the fight, and I'm dying to know exactly how they achieve that.
June 2017 can't come fast enough! 


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Exclusive Rian and Ella Scene - You Won't Find This in Any Atrophy Book!

This extra special scene was made available to my fans who've subscribed to my newsletter initially about a month ago, and as well as being able to find it under the Extra Content tab at the top of this page, it'll also be going up on my website in the new year when I re-launch it with a fresh new look. Stay tuned, because there will be more extra content coming in the future!

This scene answers some questions about Rian and Ella's past and special connection, but it also creates more questions... Set just after the events at the end of Quantum...

Onboard the Imojenna
Rian rolled out from the sheet that was half-suffocating him, cracking one eye open to see his cabin. Everything was the wrong way up. Whoever had left him on his bed had put him face down with his boots on his pillow and the sheet he’d kicked off last night scrunched up under his cheek.
 He got his hands underneath himself and pushed up, getting vertical and expecting the usual post-Violaine head spin. But apparently his equilibrium had its shite together today, because everything around him remained motionless and whirl-free. Which would have been weird, until he remembered that liquor hadn’t put him down this time.
Frecking Ella had.
Furious heat stormed him with the recollection of what she’d done—used her Arynian abilities and put the whammy on him. A glance at the clock in the bulkhead revealed it had only been an hour since he’d come in here with the intention of drowning himself in the hard liquor. Yet the darkness boiling in his veins he’d been so desperate to smother had settled to its usual low rumble in the back of his mind. No doubt thanks to whatever sorceress powers Ella had used on him.
The notion didn’t bring a sense of relief. No way in hell. It was the complete opposite, sending a thrashing wave of apprehension through him. If her touch—one euphoric, heated blast of those mystifying abilities—could so effectively repress the demons within him, even when they were at their worst…? Jezus damn. He could become far more addicted to her than he ever had been to Violaine.
Like the first night she’d been onboard all those months ago, and he’d comprehended the extent of her power, an unfamiliar shot of dread and anxiety swamped him, starting in the middle of his chest like he was having a frecking heart attack and radiating out through his limbs in spikes of sharp coldness. He clamped a hand against the middle of his chest, forcing himself to breathe through lungs that had become solid chunks of ice. Because this was all in head, damn it. No one had any power over him, not the Reidar and not the frecking priestess.
He stumbled to his feet, knocking the pillow off his bed. He staggered out to his office and over to the drinks compartment, already standing open with no bottle of Violaine in sight. Where the freck was it? If Zahli had confiscated it, thinking she was helping him—
A surge of anger burned away some of the ice as he started toward the hatchway, boots crunching over broken glass.
He glanced down at the scattered shards. Oh, right. He’d drunk what was left of the Violaine and then tossed the empty bottle, shattering it against the bulkhead near where the priestess had been standing when she’d refused to leave him alone. Well, she’d sure as hell had the last laugh, hadn’t she?
He kicked a few of the larger pieces out of the way and stomped out into the passageway, not hearing any voices. Since the Imojenna was still docked on the Swift Brion, no doubt his crew were making the most of being on the larger ship with more room to move.
The short trip down to the cargo hold proved that the ship was definitely empty, which he was taking as a win since he didn’t have to face his sister’s disapproval over his treatment of Ella or anyone else’s damned silent opinion over his drinking habits. He dug a new bottle of Violaine out from one of the secret compartments.
As he made it back to the bottom of the stairs, a light tread of footsteps echoed from the ramp, and he glanced over his shoulder to see Zahli coming into the ship. He almost turned his back on her to continue up-ship to his cabin, where he planned on locking himself in and not putting down the bottle of Violaine until he could forget all about what Ella had done to him. Or at least not have the weird tingles all over his body every time he recalled it.
But no doubt his sister would simply follow him, especially if she had something on her mind she thought needed to be said. So instead of making like he hadn’t seen her, he shifted to lean against the rail, twisting the lid off his Violaine as he waited.
Zahli topped the ramp, definitely looking like she was on a mission, but paused abruptly as she saw him standing there.
“Oh, you’re up.” She took several slow steps closer, as though now she was face to face with him, she wasn’t sure what to say.
“Yeah, I’m up. Did the princess expect me to be out longer after scrambling my brain?” He took a long swallow of the liquor, keeping a close eye on her expression for hints about what was going on in that head of hers.
“Actually, Ella didn’t say anything about it. She disappeared into her quarters. I was just going to check on her.”
Ah. So he hadn’t been the intended victim of her concern. Mostly he was relieved, but a small part of him was frecking annoyed that apparently the priestess rated more worry than he did. From his own sister, yet.
He half stepped to the side, waving an arm toward the steps. “Don’t let me get in your way. I’m sure she’ll appreciate your solicitations.”
Her features tightened a little, as if she wasn’t impressed with him, but working to keep herself locked down. She started to walk past him, but then paused. This time when she looked up at him, he could well read the apprehension in her eyes, the same color their mom’s had been, making his heart pinch in his chest.
“You would tell me, Rian, if it was getting worse?” Her gaze roamed him, as though searching for the answer on his face. “You’d tell me if we were all in danger, wouldn’t you?”
He tightened his hold on the Violaine, resisting the urge to suck down a large, smoldering mouthful because it would likely be too telling.
Damn it, why did she have to ask him that? She should have been smarter. They all should have been smarter. He’d never trusted himself a single day since escaping the Reidar. Maybe he’d been on a leash since his parents had died, when he’d forced himself to maintain tighter control, but there was always that little niggle of knowledge in the bottom of his mind that he could be one decent blackout away from killing every single one of them.
“I can tell you with all certainty that you’re in exactly the same amount of danger today as you were yesterday.”
Despite this not being much in the way of an answer, Zahli actually looked somewhat relieved.
She reached out as if she was going to take his hand, but then changed her mind and crossed her arms instead. “I know it helps, but try not to drink too much Violaine. I worry about what it’s doing to your liver.”
He could have almost laughed at that, but simply sent her the ghost of a grin. “Pretty sure I’ll be dead long before my liver craps it.”
She shook her head with an exasperated glare. “So optimistic.”
Without waiting for him to reply, she continued up the stairs. Rian stood there for a moment longer, taking another drink. If Ella was on the ship, why hadn’t he sensed her presence…? But even as he had the thought, that invariable, low-vibrating awareness of her hummed back to life, as though it’d been there all along, but he’d been too distracted to notice.
And freck him if he couldn’t decide whether he was annoyed or relieved that the invisible tether binding them together was still in good working order.
With a longer swig of Violaine, he headed back up into his cabin and did a few cursory checks for messages and any media reels that might be connected to Reidar activity. Nothing of any particular interest grabbed his attention.
The bottle was over three quarters empty, and this time when he stood, the expected head-spin hit him. But instead of feeling woozy, relief spread through him, and he allowed a small release of the furious tension of control he held onto savagely, knowing the hard liquor would douse any sentiment of violence, and with a bit more Violaine, his body would be too sloshed to follow through, anyway.
He unsteadily grabbed up the liquor and made his way over to his bed, not bothering to pick up the pillow as he plonked down on the edge. When he tipped his head back for a drink, his whole body went with the action and he flopped back onto the mattress.
He was sinking fast and happy to go under. But maddeningly, the last lucid thought he had was of the damned priestess and the way her touch sparked through him like an elemental chain reaction bursting new stars to life.
Like always, he didn’t sink into a deep, oblivious slumber or liquor-induced-coma. He was forever conscious on some level, like the Reidar had destroyed his mind’s ability to completely shut down. Either that, or because he was too aware of what could happen if he entirely blacked out, he simply couldn’t let himself go.   
The dreams started as they always did—more a sense of voided existence, empty of life. Totally hollow. No heart, no soul, no will. Only the darkness.
Snatches of images began flashing, and he knew this dream was going to be more of a recollection. He couldn’t stand remembering—even disjointedly—the things he’d done, the faces of the people he’d killed during those lost years. The number was countless, but every single one of them was in there somewhere, their last moments an incoherent jumble of brutality and bloodshed.
However, something about this was different. The pictures were clearer, more vivid.
He was walking through a spaceport. He had a target, an important target. But not one he had to kill, one he had to take. A girl. The Reidar wanted her. He didn’t care why, he just wanted to get this done so they’d give him his next assignment, the next fix, the next bloody repast to feed the darkness.
Every mission was about precision. Every move premeditated and deliberate. Passing effortlessly through checkpoints and security stations, he’d calculated exactly where he needed to intercept and snatch her without the deed appearing on cameras or gaining the attention of spaceport officers.
He reached the intersecting passageways and shifted to lean against the bulkhead, a few people passing here and there. A shuttle would be docking right about now and in a few minutes, there would be an influx of passengers heading into the main terminal.  
Counting down the seconds, he recalculated the timeframe as the first few groups of people began flooding down the corridor, bringing a low murmuring wave of chatter with them.
Finally, he spotted her coming toward him down the corridor, walking between two male minders. Even though he knew this was already a dream and a memory, everything became surreal. The girl walking down the passage was Ella.
She couldn’t have been more than fourteen or fifteen. She looked so much younger, but he had no doubt it was her. Those eyes—he could never mistake her eyes.
He straightened, counting their steps toward him as she approached. When the trio drew even, he inserted himself into the shifting crowd, coming up behind her and reaching out to grab her arm. As his fingers closed around her wrist, she glanced back at him, their eyes clashing.
Hers widened and for a moment, nothing existed, like the whole universe had stopped. Like time had frozen and his breath was no more. He was suspended as surely as he’d been immersed in pure, clear crystal.
Sensation returned in a roar. And this time, everything vacuumed into a tiny atom of awareness, riveting on where his skin was in contact with hers. Then every thought in his mind exploded with blinding light and ripping noise. He let Ella go as she collapsed, her eyes rolling into the back of her head when she went down.
But he—he was coming apart from the inside out. He clamped his hands over his ears, but the shrieking that tore through his skull was inside his head.
Rian stumbled away into the crowd, his movements no longer precise or controlled. The darkness thrashed, lost its grip on him, was cut free in the depths of his mind. And he remembered in a crushing tidal wave.
Aliens. Those aliens…the Reidar. They’d taken him from his military post. They’d killed his friends. The things they’d done to him—
His gut clenched, and he veered into another corridor, this one leading to the men’s. He slammed into a cubicle in the mercifully empty bathroom. But the churning had settled, and he’d succumbed to a cold sweat, deep shivers wracking his body like a junkie coming down.
He surged up from the near-dream, coming fast awake and too-sober, considering the amount of Violaine he’d drunk, but the memories didn’t leave him, they only became sharper.
That had always been the first lucid moment he could recall—waking up in some men’s room on a random station, sick to his soul from the mind control and reprogramming the Reidar had subjected him to for years on end. He’d never been able to remember why he’d suddenly kicked the Reidar hold and come back to himself.
It had been Ella.
He’d touched her and the darkness had released him.
After that, he’d gone on the run, knowing the Reidar would come for him. That they’d try to reacquire him, and failing that, would send out other brainwashed assassins to kill him. And they had. Any number of the bastards had tried to take him, and he’d put down every single one of them.
Surging to his feet, Rian almost tripped over the pillow on the floor in his haste, rushing across the room and out into the passageway. The dim wayfinding lights were on, which meant it was night ship-time with everyone likely asleep.
But none of it mattered right now.
He needed to know. Had to find out if the memory was real or some sick game his damaged mind was playing with him.
At her door, he didn’t knock, simply used his captain’s codes to gain entrance. She wasn’t asleep, but sitting in the middle of her bed, making notes on a commpad.
She didn’t glance up as he stopped at the foot of her bed. No doubt she’d known this was his destination the minute he’d gotten upright in his cabin.
“Did you know?” His voice came out rough, but strong—an undeniable demand.
She set the commpad aside and clasped her hands in her lap then looked up at him.
“Did I know what?” Her voice, serene as always, was like an effervescent in his veins, making his blood fizz.
He set a knee on her bed and leaned down toward her, planting a fist on the mattress and bringing them face to face. For a second his mind scrambled, and he saw the girl from his memory, her as she would have been seven or eight years ago, young, barely a woman, the potential of her beauty like a new blooming bud.
“Did you know you were the one who brought me back the day you saw me on Arleta?”
Very rarely did her collected countenance ever alter, but now a definite note of confusion entered her gaze.
“What are you talking about?”
“This.” He clamped a hand on the side of her neck, his thumb along the line of her delicate jaw. The usual warm tingles hummed to life, but this time he was the one in control. He let the memory flood his mind, and the vibration between them intensified. Her eyes widened as the images flowed, connecting them almost like they were forging one consciousness. And then the pictures, the memory was changing. He started seeing things from Ella’s perspective. Walking with her father and older brother through the spaceport the first and only time she’d ever left Aryn until the day she was kidnapped.
In the midst of a crowd, not long after they’d left the shuttle, someone had reached out and touched her. The sensation of his hand closing around her wrist had been like nothing she’d ever felt before. A heated and delirious intoxication had sufficed her. She’d turned, not sure what she’d been expecting, but then she’d met his eyes and everything had turned cold.
Because those eyes—they were dead. As though he had no soul.
And when their gazes had met, so had their minds, and she’d seen nothing but a vast, terrifying darkness. On instinct alone, she’d filled herself with light, drawing it inward to protect her very essence—more luminosity and power than she’d ever called on before.
It’d been too much, and some of it had blasted into him where he still held her wrist, until her mind had shut down.
Ella wrenched out of his hold, breaking the connection, and Rian half-collapsed forward, both hands braced against the mattress as he struggled to regain his breath like he’d just run up fifty flights of stairs.
Her breathing equally unsteady, Ella stumbled to her feet, backing away from him until she reached the bulkhead and leaned heavily against it.
“Did you know?” he repeated, voice now ragged and disjointed over the words.
She shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself. “I didn’t know. I had no memory of that. I didn’t remember anything after leaving the shuttle. I didn’t wake up until we were back on Aryn. I asked my father what had happened, and he simply told me that I wasn’t able to cope with being out in the galaxy and forbade me from even leaving Aryn again.”
“Until the Reidar decided they wanted you enough to risk snatching you off your home world, since apparently I failed seven years earlier.”
This connection, though he didn’t understand it, though it had been immediate and apparent the first time he’d touched her all those years ago and forceful enough to break the Reidar hold on him, it was real.
It was real, and he feared where it would lead them.
He got himself upright, limbs jellied like half-formed repli-rations, only just supporting his weight. “Don’t tell anyone about this. Not a word. In fact, this is the last and only time we’re going to talk about it.”
She stepped toward him, expression becoming a little calmer. “Rian, this could be important. We need to understand why—”
“No!” He shifted back from her, holding out both hands to ward her off before she got any ideas about touching him. Christ, he couldn’t take that right now. Clearly her touch would be his ultimate undoing. Never mind the Reidar, the real danger to him was residing on his own damned ship. “It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change who and what I am, what I’m capable off. In fact, it gives me one more reason to warn you to stay the hell away from me.”
He spun, stalking out of her cabin before she could say anything else. His mind reeled, both from his newly surfaced memories and Ella’s memories he’d experienced as though they were two parts of a whole—something he couldn’t comprehend and refused to acknowledge.
He couldn’t accept the knowledge that if it hadn’t been for her, if the Reidar hadn’t sent him to abduct her, he might still have been under their hold to this day.
Shite, he needed the rest of that almost-empty Violaine. And he needed to find some way to forget again. Because this revelation, despite what he’d just said to the priestess, it changed everything—everything he knew of himself, everything he’d assumed of her.
No, he couldn’t deal with this right now. But he could deal with the why. Why the Reidar had wanted her, even back then. What exactly was so goddamn special about the woman? What did they plan on doing with her?
Somehow, someway, he had to avoid her and at the same time, work out just what exactly he’d taken on to his ship the day he’d decided to keep her for his own gain.
The idea now was almost laughable, that he’d thought to wrench some advantage from the Reidar by taking the captive they so clearly wanted.
 
 
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