Posts Tagged ‘Heroes’
Your Comic Book Alter Ego!
By Chris Marie Green
Okay, admit it. Who here has ever imagined themselves as a superheroine with their own awesome comic book story? Maybe your tale has a bit of angst and drama to it, but in the end, you know your girl is gonna win.
I have to say that I’ve gone there, and my favorites are…
1) Elektra. Because she’s freakin’ badass, and even guys don’t like to mess with her. Yeah, she’s sometimes more like a dude, with her emotional unavailability (except for Daredevil, really, right?) and her assassin take-no-prisoners ‘tude. Just dare your frenemies to mess with you when you’re in Elektra mode.
2) Sara Pezzini. As one of the wearers of the parasitic Witchblade, Sara had a sucky life sometimes, but she wears weapon and its responsibilities well. I have had days when I thought that, if I could just look as good as Sara Pezzini, I would rule the world. You know how it is when you have a good hair day. How about a good body day? Also? Kick-ass wo-man.
3) Raven. True, this spawn of an interdimensional demon has total issues, but if you’re going to have PMS, you might as well have the teleporting and empathic superpowers to go with it. Also, if you watch Teen Titans Go! (Eee!), you know that Raven would be hilarious to hang out with because she cracks really good sarcasm-laden jokes. Much appreciated.
It probably comes as no surprise that in my newest book as Chris Marie Green (PLUG!), The She Code, my main character Mandy has a comic book alter ego. And why not? She’s a twenty-two-year-old wannabe comic penciler, and her “other personality” is named Luka, a vampire/wolf hybrid. Whenever things get too heavy for Mandy with the dad who has just reappeared in her life, the novel goes into “Luka territory.” What I mean is that the book has comic panels to show Luka’s story, and they reflect Mandy’s own story, too. There are sketches, as well (also by Billy Martinez of Neko Press Comics), and those introduce what Mandy refers to as “the she code”—rules that govern how women coexist with each other.
As geek-girls, you all will be able to spot the many, many pop cultural references in the novel (comic, movie, book…just about everything!). And I’m sure you can relate to the rules, as well as the main story, which is all about how a long-time friendship deteriorates just as new ones are made in your early twenties. Those days were a time of great change for me, and I’m sure you’re story is much the same…
So do you all have any comic book alter egos? Who and why? Someone who comments will win a signed copy of Chris’ Night Rising, Vampire Babylon, Book 1! Winner will be chosen in three days, so stay tuned! Also, I hope you join me over at WattPad.com for a free, four-part serial short story that’s connected with The She Code. Part one of “Yes Girl” will go live Friday, 8/23, so I hope to see you there for reading and fun!
Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/mfonclj
Chris Marie Green is the author of the urban fantasy Vampire Babylon series from Ace Books and the upcoming Ghost for Hire series from Roc (Feb. 2014, Only the Good Die Young), which features a fun-loving spirit from the 80s.
She tries her best to avoid international incidents whenever she takes a break from her first love, writing, and cheats on it with her other true love—traveling. She has an alter ego named Christine Cody, who wrote the dark fantasy Bloodlands trilogy.
Can The Villain Really Be The Hero?
Of late, I’ve been a little obsessed with Megamind. Now here’s the thing about Megamind – he’s the bad guy. He’s a criminal genius determined to bring chaos and villainy to the world. Megamind is in constant battle with the hero of Metro City, Metro Man. Metro Man is the archetype hero – broad-chested, wide-shouldered, chiseled-jawed with an ego to match. Megamind is hell-bent on ridding Metro City of Metro Man and to this end, constantly kidnaps the city’s star reporter, Roxanne Ritchi (yeah, I know, it doesn’t make much sense but then, neither did Lex Luthor’s inclusion of Lois Lane in all his dastardly plans). I won’t give away the why and how of the end (for those that haven’t seen it) but Megamind become the hero and gets the girl. The villain no more.
Another villain I am totally enamored with who balances on the line of heroism is Dr. Horrible. Dr. Horrible is a wannabe villain who recognizes the world is a mess. Of course, he just wants to rule it, but it’s only because the status is NOT quo (and I just crammed as many quotes in those three sentences as I could). The thing about Dr. Horrible is he is basically a good guy with good guy intentions and a good-guy crush on a sweet girl, but (and thar be ***spoilers*** here) the actions of the hero—one Captain Hammer (“the hammer is my penis”)—pushes him to a place so dark he becomes the villain he thought he was. But by the end of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog I can’t help but wonder if Dr. Horrible IS the hero: his bitter-sweet transformation highlights the superficial nature of society.
Professor Snape (Harry Potter’s universe) is a perfect example of a villain whose actions define him—eventually—as a hero. I won’t expand on Snape because to do so would ruin the story for those that haven’t read the books (and I’m sure there are at least a twelve people out there who haven’t read J.K. Rowling’s series yet), but the Professor is a mysterious, dark sometimes malevolent man with an ambiguous goal and equally ambiguous motives.
Villains quite often walk the tight-rope of heroisms and it is this tenuous walk that makes a large number of them so damn sexy. We never know where their actions are going to take them—we never know what they will do. They may truly be trying to bring about the end of the world, but they may just decide to leave the world alone because the girl of their dreams longs for a better place. They may however, decide to create utter anarchy when said girl misses a coffee date. You just never know.
I’ve written my fair share of villains. In fact, I once had a reviewer write, “The villain was, as always, reprehensible. Ms. Couper writes slime quite well.” Hee, I’m not sure what it says about my psyche that I’m proud of that snippet. But it does lead me to my latest villain, a bad boy I’m very very proud of: Asmodeus.
Asmodeus is very much a villain. There is little to redeem him. He is the Daemon of Lust and as such wields his power with an arrogant, charismatic charm that is capable of destroying a human’s life while giving them the most intense, never-ending orgasm of that life. Asmodeus however, has a wit sharper than a knife and a killer smile and if, one day, he truly finds the woman of his dreams (as twisted and rapacious as they may seem) he will no doubt show the worlds of man and daemon-kind alike just how damn heroic he can be. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing…or a scary thing.
Seven Deadly Daemons, Book Two
Cate Sinclair is ruled by lust. Day and night, awake and dreaming, an unseen force plies her with pleasure to the point of pain. Each orgasm wrenched from her exhausted body stealing her energy, her very essence, until insanity seems a sweet relief.
When Eamon enters her life, Cate’s uncertain if the gorgeous, enigmatic man is her salvation…or the cause of her worst nightmares.
Reader Advisory: Our heroine endures endless amounts of forced seduction. But how do you fight advances from an enemy you can’t see?
“Now now, Xander,” a new voice uttered, smoother than melting ice—and just as cold. “Surely you’re not so weak you’ll let a mere Muse influence you?”
Eamon stiffened, his head swiveling toward the speaker. A silent curse fell from his lips, his eyes flaring golden heat, and he let Xander fall to a heap on the floor. “The Daemon Form of Lust decides to make an appearance, does he?”
Cate’s gaze was riveted on the new arrival and her stomach knotted. The man stood beside Xander’s easel, his hand playing on the canvas, long, talon-tipped fingers stroking its edge with slow caresses. A lover’s touch, intimately gentle and knowing.
Even through the gray fog of her pain, she couldn’t miss the similarity. The Lust Daemon was almost a carbon copy of Eamon.
The name whispered through the deep reaches of her mind and with each syllable, her sex constricted. Consuming her with a horrific hunger unlike anything she’d ever experienced.
Asmodeus. The creature who’d given Xander power over her body.
Hate filled her. Hate and (God save me) desperate carnal need. She was going to kill him. She was going to—
She threw herself at the Lust Daemon, a raw cry erupting from her throat.
“Cate, no!” Eamon yelled, his voice like cracking thunder.
It was too late. Her body slammed into Asmodeus, her shoulder driving into his hard gut.
And the second her body touched his, a ravenous lust surged through her, mind, body and soul. She screamed, her sex constricting with such force her whole body shuddered.
God, she wanted to fuck. And be fucked.
Sharp claws raked at her back, her shoulder. Long fingers knotted in her hair, yanking her head backward until she was staring up at Eamon’s smirking double. His lips curled, his eyes flashing every shade of red. “Oh she’s a responsive one, isn’t she?”
“Let her go.” Eamon’s growl stroked all of Cate’s senses, the menace in his voice making her heart thump harder and the dark lust possessing her vanish.
Asmodeus laughed, a smug, confident chortle. “Don’t think so, Muse. Her pleasure does belong to me, after all.” And with that, Cate’s body was once more on the edge of orgasm. Instantly. Painfully.
Lexxie’s not a deviant. She just has a deviant’s imagination and a desire to entertain readers with her words. Add the two together and you get darkly erotic romances with a twist of horror, sci-fi and the paranormal!
When she’s not submerged in the worlds she creates, Lexxie’s life revolves around her family: a husband who thinks she’s insane, a pony-sized mutt who thinks he’s a lap dog, and her daughters, who both utterly captured her heart and changed her life forever.
Living in Australia makes it a bit tricky for Lexxie to pop by for coffee, but she still loves to chat! Contact her by email or find her at her website or her blog (http://lexxiecouper.com).
Grey is a Good Starting Place
He’s your knight in shining armor, handsome, wonderful, and there to do whatever it takes to help you out of a horrifying experience. Then, once you’re free, he’ll take you away for a happy ever after life together. Or he’s bad, gorgeous, and with evil on his mind. He’s there to kill you and your family, ending all thoughts of living a long and happy life.
Black or white, hero or villain, that’s the way it has to be, right?
No, it doesn’t, in fact those existing in the grey area end up following an interesting path to their end.
In Linda Howard’s “All The Queen’s Men”, the bad guy – Louis Ronsard – is selling a highly explosive material to the highest bidder. No question, that makes him beyond bad, right? What if I told you he was doing it to make money to help save his seriously ill young daughter? When the heroine, Niema, asks if that’s the reason he became an arms dealer, he says:
“Yes, I had to have enormous sums of money and quickly. The choice was drugs or weapons. I chose weapons.”
Not so cut and dry anymore, is it, at least Niema doesn’t think so.
There’s another type of neither good nor bad character and that would be the one who made a big, huge, ugly mistake. You know who they are, maybe they were the town toughie growing up or stole a car as a teen, and those are the ones in need of a second chance. Personally, as a writer, I like working with this type of figure. Perfection sounds lovely, but flaws can also be fabulous.
April 15th “Tied Up For Love”, from the Mythological Messes Redux series, will be released and it is the epitome of grey being a good place to start again. Marsyas, the hero, didn’t kill anyone, but he did insult a God and must therefore die. Before the sentence is handed down, he leaves to prepare himself mentally for the end of his life and people. As he comes to terms with the consequences of his actions, he finds himself falling in love, and is ashamed to share who he really is and disappoint his lover.
“I was stupid to throw down the challenge and once it was accepted, should have held back, flubbed a bit, but I was lost in the moment. It isn’t in me not to give my all.”
There is no place for the ipotane to go but toward being a hero or death. For Marsyas, the place in between being good and bad is where he needs to be in order to get a second chance.
A character who is either black or white, good or bad, are great to write and read. However, when it comes to romances, there’s definitely a place for heroes, villains, and those caught in between – in the grey area.
WARNING! Red hot romances ahead!
Tilly Greene Mythological Messes Redux Series
Hephaestus Lays Down the Law – paranormal erotic romance w/bondage
Together Again? – paranormal erotic romance
Cyra’s Cyclopes – paranormal erotic romance w/ménage
Double Punch – paranormal erotic romance w/ménage a trios
Tied Up For Love – paranormal erotica romance w/bondage – April 15 2011!
Walking the Plank – Pirates and Heroes
Reading through these fabulous guest posts on villains, heroes, and everything in between, one thing is perfectly clear: There is a point of no return for these characters, when they’ve done something irredeemable. Much like walking a plank, you can only go so far before falling into some shark-filled, treacherous waters, with little hope of escape – and if the character is bad enough, you might even hope that he’s eaten or drowns.
It’s also perfectly clear that the point shifts, depending on the reader.
This was something that I thought about constantly while writing The Iron Duke. My hero, Rhys Trahaearn, isn’t a nice guy. He’s arrogant and overbearing, and his moral center pretty skewed. A former pirate, he was a thief, and he didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who threatened him, his crew, or his ship. Sure, he had his reasons and a tortured history – and depending on where a person’s perspective, he might have even been justified in those reasons: the law failed him and many other people, and so he chose lawlessness.
Now, the worldbuilding itself gives him a little more leeway there on redeemable/irredeemable, because the pirate stuff he does would never fly in, say, a contemporary novel. No question, he’d be an out-and-out bad guy if the setting was modern day America (or Somalia). His actions would be unforgiveable. Much like the serial killer of the modern suspense novel, the excuse of a bad childhood only goes so far (but then you make that serial killer only murder bad guys, and you’ve got a Dexter – a hero of another sort).
So Rhys has a history that pushes him close to the edge of that plank, but there are other circumstances that keep him from falling overboard: because he freed England from an oppressive regime, he’s also considered a national hero. Even the heroine, who doesn’t like his pirating ways at all, is grateful to him for that.
And although Rhys isn’t a pirate anymore by the opening of the novel, he still often does exactly as he wants without considering what others want or need – and there’s always a point where overbearing and alpha can turn into: he’s a jerk.
I pushed Rhys to that jerky line a couple of times – I pushed him to the edge of that plank – pretty deliberately. For some readers, I know that means he goes straight over, because their plank is shorter than mine. There’s one scene that was actually difficult for me to write, where he is his usual “I know what I’m doing, I’m totally in control of myself” mode, and he inadvertently hurts Mina, the heroine. He’s immediately remorseful and horrified as soon as he realizes what had happened – which, to me, meant that he’s just barely hanging on to the edge of the plank by his fingernails, but there’s still the possibility that he can pull himself back up – but to a lot of readers, I knew that he took a flying leap right into the water.
That is always the risk that heroes like this will run. There will never be a one-size-fits-all-readers plank for our characters to walk. As I writer, I accept that.
As a reader, it makes for a lot more interesting experience with each book. When I read a review, I never know whether a hero or heroine will cross my personal line into irredeemable territory . . . and I think that’s a good thing. It keeps everything exciting. Maybe not as exciting as hanging upside-down from an airship and shooting a spear at a kraken, but still a pretty damn good time. Heroes that walk to the edge of the plank keep us on our toes, if nothing else – hoping they don’t go over and become shark-bait (or hoping that they do.)
The Iron Duke Excerpt:
Mina turned to find a man as big as his voice. Oh, damn the newssheets. They hadn’t been kind to him—they’d been kind to their readers, protecting them the effect of this man. A hollow fear shivered within her, much like the first time she’d run into a razor-clawed ratcatcher in an alley—the instinctive knowledge that she faced something dangerous and that she didn’t wholly understand.
Not that Rhys Trahaearn looked strange, or mutated as those ratcatchers were. He was just as hard and as handsome as the caricatures had portrayed—altogether dark and forbidding, with a gaze as pointed and as guarded as the fence that was his namesake. The Iron Duke wasn’t as tall as his statue, but still taller than any man had a right to be, and as broad through the shoulders as Newberry, but without the spare flesh.
But it was not his size that made her wary. And for the first time, she could see why his crew might follow him through kraken-infested waters or into Horde territory, then follow him back onto shore and remain with him. When he leveled that cold, detached gaze at them, as if he couldn’t care less whether they dropped dead in front of him, they would be too terrified to do anything else. He leveled it at Mina now, and the message in his eyes was clear.
He didn’t want her here.
Because of her bloodline or her occupation? Mina couldn’t decide. It hardly mattered, anyway—she was here now.
She glanced at the man standing beside him: tall, brown-haired, his expression bored. Mina didn’t recognize him. Like the Iron Duke, he wore a fashionable black overcoat, breeches, and boots. A red waistcoat buckled like armor over a white shirt with a simple collar reminiscent of the Horde’s tunic collar. Perhaps a bounder and, if so, probably an aristocrat—and he likely expected to be treated as one.
Bully for him.
She looked to the duke again. Though she’d never been introduced to someone of his standing before, she’d seen Superintendent Hale meet a marquess without a single gesture to acknowledge that he ranked above her. Mina followed that example and offered a short nod before addressing him.
“Your Grace, I understand that you did not witness this man die.”
“And your companion . . . ?”
“Also saw nothing,” the other man answered.
She’d been right; his accent marked him as a bounder. Yet she had to revise her opinion of him. He wasn’t bored by death—just too familiar with it to be excited by yet another. She couldn’t understand that. The more death she saw, the more the injustice of each one touched her. “Your name, sir?”
His smile seemed just at the edge of a laugh. “Mr. Smith.”
A joker. How fun.
She thought a flicker of irritation crossed the duke’s expression. But when he didn’t offer his companion’s true name, she let it go. One of the staff would know.
“Mr. St. John has told me that no one has identified the body, and only your footman saw his fall.”
“Did your footman relate anything else to you?”
“Only that he didn’t scream.”
No scream? Either the man had been drunk, asleep, or already dead. She would soon find out which it was.
“If you’ll pardon me.” With a nod, she turned toward the steps, where Newberry adjusted the camera’s thermite flash. She heard the Iron Duke and his companion follow her. As long as they did not touch the body or try to help her examine it, she did not care.
Mina looked down at her hands. She would touch the body, and Newberry hadn’t brought her serviceable wool gloves to exchange for her white evening gloves. They were only satin—neither her mother’s tinkering nor her own salary could afford kid—but they were still too dear to ruin.
She tugged at the tips of her fingers, but the fastenings at her wrist prevented them from sliding off. Futilely, she tried to push the small buttons through equally small satin loops. The seams at the tips of her fingers made them too bulky, and the fabric was too slippery. She looked round for Newberry, and saw that the black powder from the ferrotype camera already dusted his hands. Blast it. She would bite them through, if she had to. Even the despised task of sewing the buttons back on would be easier than—
“Give your hand over, inspector.”
Mina hackles rose at the command. She looked up into Trahaearn’s face and heard a noise from his companion, a snorted half laugh—as if Trahaearn had failed an easy test.
The duke’s expression didn’t soften, though his words did. “You’ll finish more quickly if I assist you. Will you allow me?”
No, she thought. Do not touch me, do not come close. But the body on the steps would not allow her that reply.
“Yes. Thank you.”
She held out her hand and watched as he removed his own gloves. Kid, lined with sable. Just imagining the luxurious softness warmed her.
Mina wouldn’t have been surprised if his presence had, as well. With his great size, Trahaearn seemed to surround her with heat just by standing so near. His hands were large, his fingers long and nails square. As he took her wrist in his left palm, calluses audibly scraped the satin. His face darkened. She could not tell if it was in anger or embarrassment.
However rough his skin was, his fingers were nimble. He deftly unfastened the first button, and the next. “This was not the evening you had planned.”
She did not say this was preferable to the Victory Ball, but perhaps he read it in her voice. To her surprise, his teeth flashed in a smile—then his face quickly hardened again, as if his smile had surprised him, as well. He bent his head over her hand again and Mina found herself staring at his short eyelashes, so thick and black that his eyelids seemed lined with kohl. She looked away, but gold glinting through the thickness of his dark hair drew her gaze again.
Three tiny rings pierced the top curve of each ear. His earlobes had been pierced, too, though he wore no jewelry in them.
And so the newssheets had dressed him up. In a drawing, his thickly-lashed eyes and jewelry would have appeared feminine. But not up close, not in person. Instead, the effect was . . . primitive.
Unsettled, she focused on her wrist. Only two buttons left, and then she could work.
She should be working now. “Were the dogs patrolling the grounds before the body was discovered?”
“No. They search for the point of entry now.”
Mina pictured the iron fence. Perhaps a child could slip through the bars; a man could not. But if someone had let him through . . . ? “Have you spoken with your man at the front gate?”
She had not asked the gatekeeper his name. “If Wills has a prosthetic left leg, and often saves a portion of his supper in his beard for his breakfast, then we are speaking of the same man.”
“That is Wills.” He studied her with unreadable eyes. “He wouldn’t let anyone through.”
Without my leave, Mina finished for him. And perhaps he was correct, though of course she would verify it with the gatekeeper, and ask the steward about deliveries. Someone might have hidden themselves in one.
His gaze fell to her glove again. “There we are,” Trahaearn said. “Now to . . .”
She pulled her hand away at the same time Trahaearn gripped the satin fingertips. He tugged. Satin slid in a warm caress over her elbow, her forearm.
Flames lit her cheeks. “Sir—”
His expression changed as he continued to pull. First registering surprise, as if he hadn’t realized the glove extended past her wrist. Then an emotion hard and sharp as the long glove slowly gave way. Its white length finally dangled from his fingers, and to Mina seemed as intimate as if he held her stocking.
Her sleeve still covered her arm, but she felt exposed. Stripped. With as much dignity as she could, Mina claimed the glove.
“Thank you. I can manage the other.” She stuffed the glove into her pocket. With her bare fingers, she made quick work of the buttons at her left wrist.
Mina looked up to find him staring at her. His cheekbones blazed with color, his gaze hot.
She’d seen lust before. This marked the first time that she hadn’t seen any disgust or hatred beneath it.
“Thank you,” she said again, amazed by the evenness of her voice when everything inside her trembled.
“Inspector.” He inclined his head, then looked beyond her to the stairs.
And as she turned, the trembling stopped. Her legs were steady as she walked to the steps, her mind focused.
“Tell me, captain: Did you plan to assist her, or undress her?” she heard his companion ask. Trahaearn didn’t reply, and Mina didn’t look back at him.
Even the pull of the Iron Duke was not stronger than death.
Meljean was raised in the middle of the woods, and hid under her blankets at night with fairy tales, comic books, and romances…and that pretty much explains everything about her. Meljean is the author of the Guardians paranormal romance series, and the Iron Seas steampunk romance series. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.
From Villain to Hero in One Easy Step
By Jennifer Ashley (aka Allyson James)
Villains are tough for me to write, not because I don’t like them, but because I become so fascinated by them.
I dislike books with cardboard or unbelievably evil villains—poorly constructed villains can ruin an otherwise good story. On the other hand, really “good” villains can steal the show.
The villain is the hero of his own story. He thinks he’s good and right about everything he does. He might do really awful things (murder, assault, kidnapping, plotting to end the world), but he knows that whatever he decides to do is justified.
Writing a good villain means finding solid motivation for his actions. It’s not enough that the villain does what he does because he’s inherently evil (unless you’re writing broad comedy). He has to have a reason for kidnapping the heroine and putting her naked in chains in full view of the hero. A very good reason, and it can’t be “bad” to him.
The deeper I dig into the motivations of my villains, the more I like these guys. I like them so much, I decide to go ahead and make them heroes in their own books.
James Ardmore as villain wanted to hunt down and kill the pirate hero of The Pirate Next Door. Why? Because not only was James a pirate hunter, but the hero was a pirate James blamed for the death of the woman he loved.
Good motivation. I really liked James! In The Pirate Hunter, James is still hunting pirates, but he works through his problems and runs across a heroine who challenges him.
In Dragon Heat, which I wrote as Allyson James, the villain, Malcolm, a black dragon, tries to kidnap the heroine to use her latent magic. Why? Because he’s trapped in the human world and wants desperately to go back to Dragonspace.
Malcolm is pretty bad—he coerces a young witch to help him, and the witch starts to fall in love with him. So much so, that when she’s attacked in The Black Dragon, she calls on Malcolm to help her. And he steps in and becomes a hero.
Penelope and Prince Charming introduced one of my favorite villains, Grand Duke Alexander. Alexander wants the charming prince (the hero) dead. Why? Because Alexander battled all his life to save his country from the tyranny of the hero’s father. Now he fears that the hero will come home and carry on the tyranny.
I loved writing Alexander. He acts not from personal ambition but for benefit of his countrymen (well, he that and his big ego). Alexander becomes the hero of The Mad, Bad Duke, where he meets a young Englishwoman who won’t let him get away with that big ego.
In each series I have some bad guys who drive the plot, but the true villains in these series are more obscure. In the Shifters books, it’s the overall situation of humans vs. Shifters (Shifters are second-class citizens made to wear Collars and live in Shiftertowns). The Shifter heroes battle to keep the others Shifters in line in order to keep the peace and let Shifters get strong enough to end their situation. (The current book is the bestselling Primal Bonds, which came out this March.)
In the Mackenzies’ books, the villains are the Mackenzies themselves.
The entire world views them as “villains” (not criminals, but dangerous and powerful). The Mackenzies do as they please, uninhibited by society’s rules, because they don’t care about the rules. They have too many other things to deal with to worry about rules.
The youngest, Ian Mackenzie (The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, re-releasing August 2011), has Asperger’s Syndrome. Ian fights that demon every day, and his choices aren’t understood by most of the world.
His oldest brother, Hart, has done what he had to do to keep his younger brothers safe, especially from their father who was obsessive, jealous, abusive, and probably a little Aspy himself.
Hart’s actions regarding his brothers (and his father), can’t always be seen as “nice,” but he sees them as necessary and justified. More of his motivations and exactly what he’s done and why will come out in the August release, The Many Sins of Lord Cameron (about the womanizing, horse-training Mackenzie brother), and Hart’s own book, which I’m working on now.
As you can tell, I love giving villains a chance to tell their own stories. I love these guys so much, I want to give them a chance to fall in love and be happy.
“Good” guys can bore me—I think I’ll keep writing my men bad!
Jennifer Ashley Bio:
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Jennifer Ashley has lived and traveled all over the world, and now lives in the Southwest. She writes historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance as Jennifer Ashley; mysteries as Ashley Gardner; and paranormal romance and urban fantasy as Allyson James.
Jennifer’s/Allyson’s/Ashley’s novels have won RWA’s RITA award, the Golden Quill, RT Reviewer’s Choice awards, and the Prism award, among others. Jennifer’s novels have been also been translated into nearly a dozen European and Asian languages.
Jennifer enjoys writing and reading above all else, but her hobbies include cooking, hiking, playing flute and guitar, painting, and building miniature rooms and dollhouses.
If you have any comments or questions,
e-mail Jennifer at
A Different Kind of Dom by Joey W. Hill
Years ago, when I started the Knights of the Board Room series, I was driven by a basic theme. Five men, all top executives in a successful manufacturing/acquisitions company. All five sexual Dominants. Each book focused on one man finding his soulmate, the submissive he wanted to claim as his forever. And in each story, the other four men were willing to use a variety of combined sensual talents to help him win her over – body, heart, mind and soul.
Four of these men are very out front alpha types – Matt, Lucas, Peter and Ben. But Jon was the one who brought them all together. A deeply spiritual man who draws strength from the philosophies that underpin yoga and martial arts practices, he’d recognized their common code of conduct, both in the bedroom and the boardroom. When I wrote Matt, Lucas and Peter’s stories, Jon was a quiet force in their books, but somewhat overshadowed by the personalities of the others. If I now had the pleasure of sitting down with the other men to confess that impression (after I got over being tongue-tied and stammering) they’d probably exchange an amused, understanding look and then Matt would say, “People tend to underestimate Jon. And he’s the strongest of all of us.” After writing his story, I now agree. As the story unfolded, Jon surprised me, on so many levels. Though he was a different type of Dom, the underlying nature of a Dominant that appeals to a submissive personality was there in full force. Today, if I had to choose among all five of them (and mind you, I wouldn’t turn any of them away – lol), he’d be the one I’d choose for myself.
The reviewer for Whipped Cream blogspot noted: “I have a feeling that anyone would submit to Jon. The author did a great job displaying his strength without making him harsh. As a reader I found myself wanting to do whatever he demanded along with Rachel; that is how much power he wields. His character had me asking myself if men like him really exist and if so where can they be found? …This story has a strong yoga/tantric/Buddhism element to it. This helped to demonstrate why Jon was so comfortable with who he is and how he lived his life.”
To give you a more concrete example of what kind of hero Jon is, I chose a couple snippets from the book I thought you’d like. The following one comes at a point in the story when, in a desperate attempt to deal with her desires and escape her feelings for Jon, Rachel (who is a yoga instructor and physical therapist) goes to the wrong kind of club. This is a couple days’ afterward, when Jon comes to her apartment and confronts her about it. They’re sitting on her bed.
* * * * *
He put a hand on her face, the uninjured side. “Rachel, why did you do this?”
When he was little, her son had taken martial arts training. For some reason, at Jon’s direct look, the firmness in the hand on her cheek, Rachel remembered one of Kyle’s instructors. He’d been gentle, careful, intelligent. Yet when he helped the boys spar, there was a concentration in his gaze that suggested it was best not to underestimate the power of a gentle, focused man.
She closed her eyes. “Jon, we can’t have this conversation. I can’t have this conversation. It was stupid and pointless. That part of my life was over a long time ago. I’d accepted it. It was just…”
“I started something with you I didn’t finish, and left you nowhere else to go.”
“No.” She opened her eyes immediately. “This was my stupid decision, Jon. You weren’t responsible. I appreciate you coming by to check on me, but…”
It was as if he were weighing the significance of every word that came from her mouth, noting every minute change in her expression, the uncomfortable shift of her body. Since he was sitting on her bed, his hip brushing her thigh, he now slid his hand from her cheek to her shoulder, his thumb resting on her collarbone. It effectively stopped her babbling. She couldn’t seem to continue, to tell him she was fine, that he needed to leave.
“Breathe,” he said. “Like when you start your yoga class. Three count. And keep your eyes on mine.”
His thumb shifted so it was on the pulse in her throat, making short strokes there as she drew in a breath. She felt foolish, but she took that deep breath, drew it in for a count of three, even as she remained conscious of those two points of contact, his hand on her throat, his hip against her leg. When she let it out, emotion welled up in her chest, making it tighter. She got the second breath out, and it got worse, such that more tears spilled forth.
“I don’t want you to see this.” Her voice broke. “I can’t—”
“One more,” he said, not unkindly, though his hold on her throat increased, underscoring the relentless command.
It was a shudder of sobs, more than an indrawn breath, and as it crested, they broke. She’d cried a lot over the past day and a half, but this was different. This was the way a person cried when someone was there to hear, to help. Pulling her into his arms, he turned them so they were stretched out on the bed together, one of her arms wrapped around his back and the other around his neck, her face buried into his chest. He stroked her, crooned to her as she shook and cried, until she’d cried out the fear and shame, and was left limp with exhaustion.
* * * * *
Though the man captivates with his ability to slide inside a woman’s soul, he’s also fire engine hot (an added perk!). I’ve provided the gorgeous cover above, but on the Joey W. Hill fan forum, Katishka Taylor, one of our wonderful moderators and graphic artists for the site, designed a beautiful banner inspired by her impression of Jon. I provide it here for your additional viewing pleasure.
Now, in case I gave you the impression Jon was too gentle, let me leave you with another side of him –
She turned then, faced him, and it was so hard, for so many reasons, to meet that steady gaze. “I can’t have what you’re offering, Jon. You’re too young, too late and I’m too fragile. It took me too long to pull myself back off the cliff edge, and…” Her voice trembled once more. Closing her eyes, she steadied herself, spoke the desolate truth to that black space. “I won’t survive going there again.”
“I’m not offering anything.”
He moved then, closing the space between them. She wanted to shrink back against the glass, but managed to keep herself still. He had such a smooth way of moving, gathering an energy around him that would always turn a woman’s head. Her gaze latched onto the tie. His tie tack was a Japanese kanji symbol, one she recognized, because it was on a tapestry in her yoga studio. Perseverance.
Her palms tingled, wanting to reach out, touch it, flatten against his chest, feel his heat and heartbeat. When he laid his hands on her tense shoulders, she had another brief spurt of panic, but before she could wrench away, he’d pushed her against that panel of glass. It had absorbed a considerable amount of the sun’s heat, such that it burned through the fabric of her bolero and the thin blouse beneath.
“Let me go,” she whispered.
“No.” The resolve beneath the deceptive mildness was terrifying to her. Gentle, thoughtful Jon, so interested in the philosophy and spirituality behind yoga, yet he also understood the strength of it as well. A mountain could be placid, but it didn’t make it less immovable, less capable of demonstrations of utter power. However, while he could easily overcome her physically, he didn’t need that. His voice and manner alone arrested her.
“The instruction I left you this morning wasn’t an offer, a suggestion or a proposal, Rachel. It was a command. I’m not going to give you a choice. Not right now. Because you’ve been given far too many. That isn’t what you need, is it?”
The ache low in her belly was becoming that spinning wheel she knew too well, a wheel with blades that were going to cut her insides to pieces. “Please…don’t.”
“Keep your eyes down, Rachel. You’ll meet my gaze when I give you permission. You understand?” The implacable tone shut that wheel down, made her knees weak. He leaned in, until his lips were at her temple, trailing down her skin in a highly distracting way until he reached her ear. “Tell me you understand.”
Squeezing her eyes shut, she realized she’d latched onto his shirt at the waist, digging her fingers into the cloth as an anchor. A hard shudder ran through her body.
“Ssshh, girl. At the end of the third class I took with you, you told me you saw an old soul in my eyes. We talked about how we both believe in reincarnation, the idea that the physical body isn’t the sum total of a human being. You remember?”
She nodded. He tightened his grip. “Well, when I look in your eyes, I see a young soul, one who had her wings clipped too soon. She doesn’t realize they’ve grown back, that she can spread them out and fly, finally realize the potential that’s been there all along.”
Shifting, he closed his hand over one of hers at his waist. When he detached her fingers, he gave them a quick squeeze and then turned, taking her across the room to the drafting table, the stool there. He slid a hip onto it, then perused her with that lingering, appraising look. “Take off the shoes.”
He’d tolerate no disobedience, no discussion. She didn’t know what that would mean if she resisted, but her pulse thudded hard against her throat. Her shoes. If that was all he was asking, she could do that, right? And truth, they were pinching her feet. As she slid out of them, giving up the two-inch height they’d offered, she immediately realized why slaves were made to go barefoot. There was a distinct difference in status, looking down at her feet clad only in thin stockings, positioned between his polished dress shoes. Her toes curled into the deep carpet.
“Now the hair. Take it down and hand me the pins.”
* * * * *
I hope you’ve enjoyed this view of one of my heroes. You can read further excerpts and blurbs about the whole series on my home page, www.storywitch.com (direct link http://www.storywitch.com/Books/KBR/KBR.htm). You can also visit the JWH fan forum, where you’ll find further graphics of the Knights, character interviews with them and more (instructions on how to access the site, click here). In the coming months, I’ll be posting free vignettes there about Ben, my final Knight, to whet your appetite for his story. (Coming later in 2011 if all goes well!)
Thanks for letting me join in the fun with Heroes, Villains and In-Between. Best wishes to everyone.
Bio: Joey W. Hill is the author of over twenty-five award-winning titles of paranormal and contemporary erotic romance, most of them of the BDSM genre. She is a two-time nominee for the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Erotica. She writes vampires for Berkley Heat, mermaids and angels for Berkley Sensation and contemporaries (as well as a smattering of anything-goes paranormal) for Ellora’s Cave Publishing, so you have your pick of a wide range of heroes!
Bad Boys vs Assholes
There are all kinds of heroes in books. I write just about every type you could think of from the good guy to the tormented hero. However, there’s a breed of hero out there that I think is gaining a lot of momentum with readers: the heroes who aren’t all that sterling. Of these not so wonderful heroes, the two I like most are the bad boy and the asshole (jerk.)
The bad boy is the guy who appears to be not squeaky clean, not the boy next door, and definitely not the sweet, good guy. The bad boy may not be all that bad in actuality. He may not have a criminal record or have done anything that could remotely be called bad. He may be a bad boy simply by virtue of the fact that he’s unconventional. He wears biker boots or work boots instead of wingtips. Faded, ripped Levis instead of a suit. He may ride a motorcycle or drive a beat up truck instead of a sports car or fancy sedan. These guys are bad boys by virtue of their appearance.
Then there are bad boys who actually aren’t all that nice. These guys could be suit wearing corporate raiders or leather jacketed ex-cons. Their commonality is that they do what they want and brush aside the feelings of others. In other words, they are arrogant assholes.
In my series Tales of the Darkworld, I have both bad boys and assholes. In Ride the Lightning, the hero Vahid Delrey is a total asshole. He spurns his destined mate in favor of moving in with his boss’s sister. He’s horribly rude to his mate, judgmental and uncaring of her feelings. Eventually, he begins to change his attitude and his feelings about her. In the end, he takes responsibility for his poor behavior and the detrimental affect it’s had on Emily. He realizes that he needs to put her and her needs first and his attitude does an about face.
Seth Dylan who first appears as a secondary character in Common Ground gets his turn as the bad boy hero in Sunstroked. He’s the boot and jeans wearing, scowling and dour Scots werewolf who doesn’t recognize his mate when he finds him. I think Sunstroked’s readers found Seth to be pretty much a classic bad boy. He admits that his sexual relationships with men aren’t relationships. He admits to using those men to get off with complete disregard for whether they might be interested in more from him. When the man who took his virginity appears in his life after nearly two years, Seth realizes he’s held himself distant from other men because it’s Corey he wants, needs and loves.
The penultimate bad boy in my series is black dragon Sean Antaeus who won’t have his own book until the very last book. Sean is both bad boy and asshole. The arrogant, take no prisoners head of the Antaeus family and the conglomerate Antaeus International can be ruthless when he needs to be with family, friends, and in business. But a good portion of his bad boy image is just that, an image. One that equals the leather, ripped jeans and motorcycles of other bad boys. Sean uses it to hide how much he loves his family and how much they mean to him.
Whether you’re a fan of the bad boy hero or not, you can’t be indifferent to them. They always bring out some sort of emotion in you even if it’s annoyance. But I see more and more readers of my series calling for Sean’s story and exclaiming over Vahid’s redemption. The asshole and bad boy heroes are gaining ground on the nice guys. I like to think it’s because we all admire a man who is strong and forceful but still caring and loving. We all want to believe that everyone has good qualities. And who wouldn’t want to be swept away by a primal man with a fiercely loving heart?
An award winning, multi-published PAN author, Lex is a member of Romance Writers of America and EPIC. Her publishers include: Ellora’s Cave, Pink Petal Books, MLR Press, Liquid Silver Books, and Cobblestone Press. She is published in both ebook and print. The Tales of the Darkworld series can be found at Pink Petal Books.
Born and raised on California’s Central Coast, Lex moved to Southern California in 1992. She lives in Orange County with her daughter Nikki and Rott, her long haired, tattooed DH. She loves loud music, builds her own computers, and has very weird dreams about Nikki Sixx. Lex works full-time at a cemetery as the network administrator.
Saving the Father- Hero’s Redemption of Evil
It’s not a secret, but somehow, not everyone knows I’m a Luke Skywalker fan. Yes, there’s the rogue Han Solo, but as much as I enjoyed him, there was an elemental call from Luke to me that profoundly affected me for many years. It wasn’t until I heard a speech given by a mythology professor that I realized on why Luke attracted me so much. He’s a hero not only defeating evil, but also redeeming it.
I spent much of my teen years in major angst over the whole Light side and Dark side of the Force. But more than that, I completely sympathized with Luke’s reluctant yet willing role as a hero. I wanted to be at his side as he helped the Rebellion fight the Empire as he became the last of the Jedi Order.
At the end of A New Hope, I was very much anti-Darth Vader. If I had a lightsaber, that villain would have been toast! The one thing I knew was that even though he escaped via Tie Fighter at the end of the movie, I knew one day he and Luke would face off and it’d be the kiss of death for the evil one. In fact, I was counting on that one point- in all major stories, good always triumphs over evil. Then I watched The Empire Strikes Back and my heart stopped dead in my chest as the most gods awful truth was revealed- the villainous Darth Vader was none other than Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker.
My core belief about good conquering evil was shaken. A Jedi Knight had gone to the Dark side! At this point, I had learned more about the Emperor and I was ready to unleash my fury because everyone knows that evil can’t be allowed to exist or even to win. There was a part of me that mourned the fact that Anakin Skywalker, called Darth Vader, was the reason for the wholesale destruction of the Jedi Knights. I didn’t know how anyone could do it to those he knew. How could Luke reconcile that one day he’d have to kill his father.
I impatiently waited until Return of the Jedi came out. Then the scene that foreshadowed exactly how Luke would handle that very question arrived. It was when he stood before Jabba the Hutt, demanding his friends to be released and let bygones be gone. His quiet faith, his calm demeanor was new, humbling and foretelling. By giving this galactic gangster a chance to do what was right, by embracing the truth of the Jedi way, I knew what would come when he faced Darth Vader for the final time. Luke had become the last Jedi and tried to emulate both Yoda and Obi-Wan Ben Kenobi.
Quietly came the confrontation on Endor. It became subtly, with comments from him to his father about sensing the good within him. Then we saw the true evil- the Emperor Palpatine. Their confrontation was in a way the true confrontation though it came down to Darth Vader and Luke fighting. Even as they fought physically, Luke spent the time talking to his father, trying to make him see reason and turn from Dark side. Each point he made was to remind Darth of the fact he wasn’t always Darth Vader, scourge of the universe, but also Anakin Skywalker, someone who was a Jedi Knight.
Yet in the end, it was Darth Vader who physically saved his son, when the Emperor attacked Luke. We can see Darth look from his son to the Emperor and back. You can almost see the moment when all of Luke’s actions and words have connected to push him into throwing the Emperor over the railing. In the end, we see a dying Darth Vader who has done what none of us considered possible- he’s redeemed himself in the eyes of his son and of the audience.
Heroes can not only learn and grow, but they can also redeem the bad guy. What amazed me is that in turn, I started thinking more and more about how bad guys aren’t always the bad guys in the long term. They can start off good or even start bad, but they can redeem themselves when things show to be in a new paradigm, requiring them to act for a bigger payoff- one that evil can’t top. Which is why for me, Luke Skywalker is my favourite hero and one I’ll never give up; he taught me the value of redemption.
Currently living in the state that resembles one of her favourite male body parts,(otherwise known as Florida), Cynnara Tregarth learned early how to read, write and entertain. Due to her mother, Cynnara spent way too much on books, but then again, it sent her on the quest for immortality.
Early in 2003, she found that route by getting her books published. Since then, she’s learned even more about love, life, sexuality, and how to annoy gods, goddesses, and siblings of all kinds.
You can find her at the following places:
Her website: http://www.cynnara.com
Cat Marsters—The Original Sinner: Striker
When I first wrote Striker he was going to be a villain, plain and simple. He had one function: to tempt my heroine, Chalia, away from the man she loved. Striker had varous magical powers and he wasn’t above using them to get what he wanted. When he got angry he’d explode things. Like buildings. People. Cities.
I kinda liked him.
And that was the problem. I wanted him to be the bad guy. I even tried to kill him off. But I couldn’t do it. Well, I did, but no one stays dead for long in my books. At the last count, Striker had been declared legally dead three times. He’s still walking around.
But herein lies the rub. I can’t make him a romantic hero. He kills people for fun. He once cut someone in half, vertically, with a sword made out of fire. Got angry and flattened an entire city. He explodes pickpockets. Kills people for looking at him a bit funny. He’s a psychopath. A proper unhinged nutter. He’s a villain. So why do I like him? Why does everyone else?
Well, he’s hot for one thing. A giant walking pheromone. But we’re not that shallow, are we? He’s funny, for sure—he has a very nice line in sarcasm. He can do anything. I mean quite literally, anything. Travel through time (what, like it’s hard?). Kill immortal beings. Being people back to life. Make it snow, just because Chalia says she likes it.
Is that it? Do we like him because he loves his woman? He’ll quite literally do anything for her, up to and including mass homicide (she’s never asked, but he’s waiting for the opportunity). Making it snow is nothing: when she died he brought her back to life. When she decided she wanted a baby, despite the gods attempting to keep him from procreating by making it physically impossible for the only woman he loved to carry a child (okay, so he can’t do everything—cut the guy a break, he’s a homicidal maniac, not a fertility expert) he travelled in time to change the course of history and befuddled the gods out of noticing until the baby was born.
Or do we feel sympathy for the devil? Striker was, after all, once an ordinary person. A very good-looking, smart, rich, and mischeivous person, but with no more inclination to mass murder than you or me. And then a random accident got him stranded in an alien world for twelve years, all alone and with just a few magical powers lent to him in order to survive. Telling himself every day he’d get back to the woman he’d left behind. Thinking of the one and only night they spent together. Pickling in his own madness. By the time he returned he was lean and hard and strange and cold, and he might still have turned into something resembling a human being were it not for the fact that his One True Love had buggered off and got engaged to someone else, and told him in no uncertain terms that she wanted him out of her life.
So he flattened a city. As you do.
The thing is, he does love Chalia, but that’s about his only redeeming feature. And it’s not much of one. He loves her selfishly, like a child loves. He doesn’t want to share her. It’s kind of hard to figure out whether he really loves his daughter or not—even I’m not entirely sure if he does, or if he just takes care of her because Chalia wants him to. I wrote about Striker’s relationship with his daughter, Chance, in my first Ellora’s Cave book, Almost Human. She doesn’t know what to make of it, and neither does he.
She knows her father is the most evil man in history. That’s going to give a girl quite a complex.
Excerpt from Mad, Bad & Dangerous, available now ffrom Ellora’s Cave.
Was this how Striker had become so terrible, so powerful and so dangerous? Was this why he’d rampaged through Euskara twenty years ago, murdering Magi and stealing their power, flattening cities, roasting people alive—just to mirror his own pain?
What the hell could have hurt such an inhuman man so badly?
He found himself on the ground, back in his human body, staring at the scryer in his palm. It glowed red then the face resolved into Striker’s visage.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asked.
The same shock of fear and disgust ran through Bael, but far less powerfully than it had before. “Why did you do it?” he asked.
“Do what? Who are you?”
“Kett’s— I’m…a friend of Kett’s,” Bael said through the bad taste in his mouth.
“Oh yeah.” Striker’s mouth twisted cruelly. “You ran away.”
“You murdered hundreds of my people.”
Striker shrugged, as if he couldn’t see what the two things had to do with each other.
“Why did you do it? You flattened the city of Vaticano twenty years ago. You stole power and tortured innocent people. Why did you do it?”
Striker shrugged again. “What are you, a groupie? I did it ’cos I wanted to, kid. I enjoyed it. I’d do it again—”
“No, you bloody wouldn’t,” came a female voice, the voice of the brunette at Nuala’s house. Chalia. Chance’s mother…
Understanding stabbed Bael in the heart.
“You did it for her,” he said slowly. “Because she hurt you.” With every word he became more certain, the knowledge creeping into him like fog.
Striker’s face turned to granite.
“Because she did something to you,” Bael went on. “Because she hurt you so badly it screamed inside you, and all you wanted to do was make everyone else feel as much pain as you. To hurt and maim and burn and slash and kill, because that’s what she did to you. And she never stopped you. She stops you now but she didn’t then. And you went on sucking power out of people so you could destroy more and more, bigger and bigger, until you’d destroyed a city and killed thousands—”
A jolt of power suddenly surged through the scryer, like the shock from ungrounded metal, making Bael flinch and lose his thread.
The view on his scryer tilted, as if someone else had taken hold of the device, and Chalia’s face appeared, pale and shocked.
“It was you,” Bael said, and her lovely dark eyes swam with fear and guilt and pain.
“What did you do?” Bael asked her.
Her hand went to her throat, lovely and unlined even twenty years after Striker had burned and destroyed cities in her name.
“I got engaged to someone else,” she said distantly. “Who are you?”
“Baelvar.” The world had narrowed to the scryer in his hand and the anger pulsing through him.
Chalia regarded him through the scryer. “You’re Kett’s mate, yes? The Nasc. With power.”
Bael clenched his fist and looked away.
Striker laughed softly. “What did she do?”
“Someone else,” Bael said.
Cat Marsters lives in Essex and belongs to a pride of adored cats. On occasion she can be persuaded to admit ownership of a demon puppy (but not if you suspect your flowers have been trampled). She enjoys watching TV and films that showcase the looks and talents of Richard Armitage, David Tennant and Hugh Jackman, reading books that make her laugh, dyeing her hair, and talking about herself in the third person.
Cat has been writing all her life, but in order to keep herself rich in shoes and chocolate, she’s also worked as an airline check-in agent, video rental clerk, stationery shop assistant, and laboratory technician. She’s still aiming for the fairytale cottage of her childhood dreams, and asks all potential Prince Charmings to apply in writing with pictures of themselves and their Aston Martins.
Buy link: http://www.jasminejade.com/p-8185-mad-bad-dangerous.aspx
Don’t Call Me A Hero: Major Harker.
by Kate Johnson
He doesn’t really like being called a hero. He doesn’t really reckon he’s done anything heroic. He’s just done his job. It’s never occurred to him not to.
For Harker, being a soldier is about one thing only: looking after your mates. And as he’s been promoted, his mates have become his lads, they’re in his care, he’s their leader. But he’s still looking after them. To Harker, success isn’t measured by how many yards of land you’ve won from the enemy that day, it’s in counting heads and getting the same number as you did before you started fighting.
All right, he has bigger concerns than that. He belongs to his country, body and soul. He’ll do anything the general tells him to, because she’s his general and he’s a major and that’s just how it works. Questioning orders is like questioning why a bullet comes out of the gun when you pull the trigger. And because he respects the general, most of the time he’ll do what she asks, even when it’s not an order. Most of the time.
He didn’t join the army in search of glory. Of course, at the time there wasn’t a war on. At the time, the army offered the best prospects for a working-class lad with no education and an ageing mother to support. Twenty-five years’ service and you get a decent pension. Retire as a sergeant, that’s a very good pension indeed. Enough to find a nice little place, maybe raise a family. He can send his pay home and not worry that his mother isn’t being cared for. Or course she didn’t really want him to join the army, she wanted him to go to the grammar school and become a teacher. In his heart of hearts, that’s what Harker wanted, too. But you can’t always get what you want. He knows that pretty well.
The army breaks some men and makes others. Harker was one of the latter. He’s a natural leader. That promotion to sergeant came quickly and deservedly. He’s still not sure if his ex-wife was behind his commission as an officer, but the role suits him. More men to look after, sure, but he’s got a natural authority, he takes care of his men and he listens to them. They know he’s got their best interests at heart. They know he won’t ask them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. They know he’d actually do the dangerous stuff for them if he thought he could spare them the pain.
He’s got about as much in common with a traditional leading man as he has with a teapot. He’s not good-looking, he hasn’t cut his hair in years, and he’ll only shave if someone threatens him with a knife. He doesn’t have sexy and exciting scars, he has ugly patches of scar tissue where people have tried, repeatedly, to kill him. He has no idea how many confirmed kills he has to his name. Only a bastard would count. He can use a sword or a gun or he can fight with his bare hands, and if you offered him a fencing foil he’d punch you in the face. He doesn’t see the point of wearing a suit or having special shoes to go with it. Hates his dress uniform with all its shiny braid. He refuses to refine his accent, especially when there are posh people around to annoy. He’ll hold the door open for you whether you’re male or female, soldier or civilian, but you won’t get called Sir or Ma’am unless you happen to be of a higher rank than him. Or he’s patronising you. He spends most of his pay on importing cigarettes, which he smokes when he’s thinking, or when he’s worried, or frustrated, or stressed. Which is most of the time.
He leads like a wolf alpha leads: unself-consciously, without arrogance, and without vanity. He leads with natural authority and the respect of his men. He’ll go to hell and back for someone he considers to be his.
He’s Major William Harker of the 75th of Foot, and he’s at your service.
Excerpt from The Untied Kingdom, available from Choc Lit 1st April 2011
‘Sir! Sir, are you all right?’
That was Tallulah. Grimly, Harker dropped to the stony shore under the Tower’s walls and let the body over his shoulder flop on the pebbles.
‘I’m all right,’ he said. ‘Get a doctor, would you?’
She peered closer at the limp body. ‘Is it – is it a person? Is it alive?’
Harker, busy performing mouth-to-mouth and trying not to think about what the drowned woman would be coughing up if she was still alive, didn’t bother to answer. In the background, people were shouting. The guards on the walls had seen him dive into the river and come out with some sort of bedraggled alien.
Well, it wasn’t an alien, Harker was pretty sure. It was a human woman, and she – yes, there she went, coughing up river water through blue lips.
He rolled on to his back and fought the urge to throw up. Who knew what he’d ingested in the Thames’ foetid depths?
People were streaming out of the South Gate now, and a guy with a stethoscope flung over his pyjamas was kneeling by the unconscious woman.
‘She all right?’ Harker said, and the doctor nodded.
‘I think so. We need to get her inside. Can I get a stretcher?’
‘Dunno,’ Harker said, mostly to himself. ‘Can you?’ Patting his pockets, he found his cigarettes – a soggy, unsmokable mess. Dammit. Well, if he couldn’t have a quiet smoke, he’d have a quiet nap instead.
He lay back, closed his eyes, and tried to block out all the noise and the light. It was a trick he’d perfected after years on campaign. These days he could sleep anywhere, any time.
Then a foot prodded his ribs, and he opened one eye, grumpily.
‘Well, then, hero,’ Saskia said, her face demonic in the torchlight. ‘I suppose you’ll be needing medical attention, too?’
Harker waved a hand. Truth be told, he was so wet and cold he was beginning to worry about his extremities. ‘Get me a packet of smokes and I’ll survive,’ he said.
‘I think we can run to that.’ Saskia extended a hand. ‘Come on. Wheeler wants to see you.’
Harker groaned. ‘Why? What’d I do?’
Saskia just glared at him.
‘Oh, right.’ Ignoring her hand, he hauled himself upright. ‘Let’s go and face the fun, then.’
Dripping wet, he squelched through the gate after Saskia and gave the guard there a damp salute.
‘Sir, is it true you pulled an alien from the river?’
Harker rolled his eyes at Saskia. ‘Yep. Blue skin, it had, and one giant wing.’
The young man’s eyes were enormous. ‘Gosh!’
‘That wasn’t necessary,’ Saskia said, as they made their way to the General’s quarters next to the mess.
‘Yeah, but it was fun,’ Harker said.
Kate is a prolific writer of romantic and paranormal fiction and lives in the south east of England with a small and cheerfully insane collection of cats. She misspent her youth watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and reading Terry Pratchett, which sort of made writing fantasy a bit inevitable. Under the name Cat Marsters she also writes award-winning erotic romance. She lives behind a keyboard in Essex and can be found online most days talking about men she fancies, the pride of adored felines aiding her ambition to become Crazy Cat Lady, and the Demon Puppy hindering it. Sometimes she talks about writing. Occasionally, she stops talking about writing and actually does it.
Buy link: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781906931681/The-Untied-Kingdom