Release Day | Pet Delivery

Release-Day

It’s release day! Again. Pet Delivery is now available in the shops. Last time it was live, it was under the name Once in the Underworld, but the title made me think of demons (if you read M/F you might have read Gena Showalter’s The Lords of the Underworld series. Demons yay!) so I changed it.

We have poor Gabe who happens to witness a murder. Once he tells the police he’ll testify he’s whisked away into the witness protection program and is hidden away in Nortown. Gabriel has to leave everything, including his beloved cats.

Chris is outraged when he learns that a person is living in his grandmother’s old cabin. That cabin is not suitable to stay in during the winter, and he’ll refuse to let someone freeze to death up there. He’d expected some battered woman hiding from an abusive ex, not a shy man who makes his pulse quicken.

This, like almost all Up North stories, is a contemporary small-town romance.

Small Town

Excerpt:

Gabriel sat on the worn sofa in the cold room. For every little creak, he grew tenser. The dark was thicker around him than he’d ever seen it before. There were no street lamps outside, no cars driving by, and no people who brought life to the surroundings. If someone came here, if they found him, no one would notice.

They would put a bullet in his head, just as they had that poor man who had happened to walk by the veterinary clinic, and then they’d be off. No one would be any the wiser.

Gabriel squeezed his eyes shut. Without him wanting it to, the scene played out before him for the thousandth time. He’d finished his shift about twenty minutes earlier, but he’d stayed behind to pat Zombie, Mrs. Bennett’s old Basset Hound. He was on his last legs, and while Gabriel was sure he would make it this time, it was just a matter of weeks, or months, if he was lucky, before he would be back. He was such a good dog, and he feared Mrs. Bennett would take it hard when he passed. But no matter how sweet the dog was, Gabriel wished he’d never stayed that night.

He’d hung his lab coat in his locker and headed for the door. The personnel entrance was right in the narrow alley behind the clinic, a dimly lit lamp above the door the only source of light apart from that spilling in from the road. Church Lane was only a few metres away, but at this time of night it only added to the spookiness.

Gabriel had been fiddling with his phone. He hadn’t been paying attention, not until he heard a whimper.

The image shattered, and he was back in the cabin again. His lungs screamed for air, and his temples pounded, but he couldn’t see the flame of the tea light he’d lit flicker in the dark, didn’t feel the press of the sofa against his body. The memory of those three men in the gloomy light of the alley, the metal glinting as one of them raised a gun, and then how the man who had whimpered convulsed… It still played out before his eyes.

He knew what had happened before the sound of the shot registered. For a moment, he’d stood frozen, then he must’ve made a sound without being aware of it, because both men had looked straight at him. Gabriel had believed them to be kids, but they were not. Both of them were grown men. For a second, the hazy light from Church Lane had spilled over their features—Gabriel would remember them for as long as he lived.

One had a scar running down his cheek, narrowly missing his right eye. The other was a face he’d seen before. He couldn’t place the man then. There hadn’t been time before the gun was raised and aimed at Gabriel, but he realised the man was one of the most prominent politicians in Minwall.

It was pure luck Gabriel had been able to get inside the clinic before he’d been hit. A bullet had slammed into the wall only a few centimetres from his head before he’d managed to wrestle the door open. Stumbling, he ran back to where Zombie was. He sank down on the floor next to the crate and as soon as he could get his fingers to cooperate, he’d called the emergency number.

Since then, nothing had been the same.

Gabriel froze as headlights shone in through the window. They’re here!

He leapt up from the sofa, hit his knee on the table, and almost fell. Panic clawed at his chest, leaving burning gashes inside. What was he to do?

There was nowhere to go.

He ran into the kitchen and grabbed a knife as the engine shut off. He squeezed the handle until his fingers ached and tried to fight off the buzz in his head.

The steps creaked outside.

The person wasn’t in a hurry, but then, assassins seldom were. They always had a plan, a well-calculated, elaborated plan, or so he assumed.

Gabriel waited for the door to bang open, for a mountain of a man to jump inside. What if he sealed the door and set the cabin on fire? Gabriel’s heart ceased. Out! He needed to get out.

In his alarm, he dropped the knife and started towards the door when the knock came.

Hello?”

Gabriel stopped. Did assassins say hello?

Hello? It’s Chris—Chris from the shop. Are you okay?”

Okay? Gabriel tried to find his voice, not that he had any clue what he would say. Maybe it was a trick.

Are you there?”

I…erm…just a minute.” Gabriel rubbed his forehead and approached the door. It was as if someone else raised his hand and placed it on the handle. He pushed it down and peered outside. The man from the shop stood there, battered by the icy wind and with his arms filled with blankets. His black jeans didn’t seem to hide any weapons. He guessed there could be a gun hidden among the blankets, but it was unlikely. The wind grabbed hold of Chris’s dark hair, but it was much shorter than Gabriel’s so it didn’t fall into his face. The stubble on his chin was darker than earlier but, again, much shorter than Gabriel’s unkempt growth.

Hi, sorry to intrude.” He smiled but didn’t try to move any closer. “I was worried. I know how chilly it can be in this cabin, and the temperature is predicted to drop even further without the wind letting up. It’s the worst possible combination when you’re staying in a draughty hut.” He flashed his teeth in a disarming smile, and Gabriel’s chest warmed.

I…erm…yes, it’s a bit chilly.” He stepped aside to let Chris in, a little embarrassed for not having any lights on.

Do you have enough wood to manage?” Chris glanced at the wood-burning stove and frowned. “Why haven’t you lit it? It’s freezing in here.”

Gabriel’s face heated. He should’ve tried to light the fire again, but instead, he stood there like a useless Michelin Man dressed in every piece of too-small clothing he had.

I…I… There was so much smoke I thought I would suffocate.” Gabriel hid his hands behind his back as he waited for Chris to realise what an incompetent fool he was.

Blurb:

petdeliveryChris Hart owns the only grocery shop in Nortown, but he isn’t exactly overrun by customers. Some days he wonders why he bothers to open the doors at all. Spending his days smiling at the few people trickling in and his nights alone in bed isn’t the most interesting life a man could lead. But when Chris suddenly gets the excitement he’s been craving, it may be more than he bargained for.

Gabriel Miller loves his life. He’s close to his sister, has a job he adores and is the proud owner of one and a half cats. But all of it is taken away when he witnesses a murder. To keep him safe, the police place him in Nortown, of all possible locations.

Chris can’t believe they’re letting someone live in his gran’s old cabin in the middle of the winter. It’s too cold. When the poor man shows up in his shop looking to buy clothes, Chris’s heart melts, despite the freezing temperature. Gabriel notices the way the shopkeeper looks at him, but it can’t be right. No one looks at a heavyset man with heat in their eyes. Do they?

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/PetDelivery

Fridays at Ofelia’s | After Vertigo

Guest-Post

Today, Amanda Meuwissen is here on a visit. Welcome, Amanda!

How Tabletop Character Sheets Can Help You Create Compelling Book Characters

A slightly older title of mine is part of the $1.99 Amazon Monthly Deal for May – After Vertigo.

This title is my second foray into superhero urban fantasy (the first being my two-book series, Lovesick) and tackles issues of acceptance, social anxiety, and enemies-to-friends-to-lovers with a slow burn that is, hopefully, a worthwhile payoff.

It also has a cat. ^_^

In a flash, the world changed. A solar flare—later dubbed Vertigo—activated the DNA of more than half the world’s people, granting them special abilities. Brilliant scientist Benjamin Krane might be Powerless, but his inventions are the only thing giving the police a fighting chance against super-powered evil. Ben doesn’t have much of a life beyond work, and when he gets wind of a robbery one evening, he decides to test his newest invention personally….

A thief, rogue, and shameless flirt, Grey Miller—aka the Streak—likes shiny things, but he doesn’t hurt people. When Ben catches him—and proposes they team up against the real bad guys—Grey doesn’t know whether it’s the offer or the man he can’t resist. But one thing’s for sure—they’re an ideal match in more ways than one.

With a psychotic supervillain’s catastrophic plan moving forward and everyone he cares about in danger, now might not be the best time for Ben to give in to Grey’s seduction, no matter how tempting. Grey is a man of secrets, and if Ben wants a future with him, he’ll have to learn to trust Grey—and himself.

I’m a huge superhero fan because I’m also a lifelong geek. I like everything from comics to cosplay to anime to tabletop gaming—which is the subject I’d like to discuss today: how tabletop character sheets can help you create compelling book characters.

For all my aspiring fellow authors out there, if you’re working to perfect how you create characters, a trick I used in my early years was picking up a player’s handbook from my favorite tabletop game and using a character sheet and the process within the handbook as a starting point.

Dungeons & Dragons, for example, allows you to add character ideals as well as flaws to help you roleplay that much more engagingly, further flushing out what could be a cookie cutter archetype into a character who truly pops off the table—or in this case, off the page. I’ve even saved many of my old character sheets as treasured keepsakes.

Usually, I start with an idea for a character and learn new things about them as I decide on specific aspects like their Intellect, class/profession, and how they look.

And don’t think you need to be writing fantasy to use a D&D character sheet. The general principles of a character’s Strength versus Charisma, their backstory, the items they normally have on them, etc., all still apply, even if you don’t put anything into a magic slot or equip them with a sword. There are plenty of contemporary settings for tabletop games, too, if you want a starting point that’s closer to what you’re writing.

Player handbooks can sometimes be expensive, but you can usually find a lot of what you’ll need online, though frankly, the books themselves can be beautiful and awesome to own, and the process is so much fun!

I also highly recommend Hero Forge as an asset for customizing the look of characters – and they’re not purely fantasy either. It can be a fun exercise to get you out of your own head and enjoy the creation of a new character in a different way. And hey, if you love what you create, you can order a miniature.

What it really comes down to is creating characters who feel real, whether ones you’re roleplaying or writing into a story. To sign off, here are a few fun and unique things about the MCs from my book, After Vertigo. I hope you check it out during this month’s Amazon sale.

Ben Krane (Cold)

  • Talks to his cat
  • Obsessed with romance novels
  • Socially awkward introvert
  • Secretly wants to be swept off his feet – and make friends

Grey Miller (The Streak)

  • Kleptomaniac
  • Speedster
  • Shameless flirt
  • Hides behind more than just the mask from his costume

CoverAfterVertigo

Excerpt:

The Streak sat back on Ben’s thighs, not truly holding him down anymore, but not moving from his lap either. “If I’m so little a threat, why waste time with me?”

Because I need your help,” Ben said. “I built the gun and others like it to temporarily depower Supers, and it works on others, but not you.”

That’s what you were trying to do?” He looked at the gun with interest now. “I thought they just stunned people. The cops caught Talon because this thing can remove powers?”

Disrupt powers,” Ben corrected. “It lasts about ten minutes. No one’s been able to figure out how to override the Vertigo gene completely.”

But with your guns, you’re close?”

You hardly need to worry since the output doesn’t affect you. Do you know why it doesn’t affect you? Any idea at all why you might be different from the others?”

The Streak kept his eyes turned away as he answered, “No clue.”

Ben wished he could tell if he was lying. “Regardless, your powers are unique. Extraordinary.”

Thanks for noticing, but I don’t do handouts.”

Please, I’m only asking—”

I look out for me.”

Then I’ll turn you in,” Ben said boldly—amazed at how bold he felt. “I’ll give the police your name and address. Even if you run, you won’t have an easy time living your life.”

He gaped at Ben but also seemed impressed. “You’re blackmailing me now? How heroic.”

The desperate get creative.”

Desperate why?”

Because….”

Ben hadn’t fully admitted it to himself, why this mattered so much outside the thrill, but he had so few people in his life that meant something to him—Tony, Beverly, his mother. They were it. Tony was easier to protect. As a captain at the FCPD, he didn’t hit the field as often, and he had all the equipment Ben could provide him.

But Beverly was a civilian. Worse, a politician, someone people could target. She was in danger just walking the street, and so was their mother. If anything ever happened to any of them….

My family lives in this city. Sister, best friend, mother. I don’t want to lose any of them because I was too weak to do something. Don’t you understand that even a little? Friends? Family you want to protect?”

The smugness drained from Streak’s face, but he didn’t say anything.

Please. I just want the innocent to have a chance against impossible odds. If there are any Supers out there wanting to be heroes, we haven’t seen them. You’re the only option left.”

He was quiet for a while, but when he spoke up, it was with a twist at his lips again and a resettling of his body on Ben’s thighs. “I’m no hero, so… got any other perks to offer?”

I-I’ll… cover your grocery bills?”

He laughed. “It’s cute you think I pay for my groceries.”

Then I’ll… keep the police off your back! My friend’s a captain.”

Not really endearing yourself to me right now.” He grimaced. “But you got me at a disadvantage and you’re not exactly wrong. I don’t want to move, and your resources might be enough to keep me safe while bringing in these psychos out doing more than property damage. So, if I say yes”—he leaned closer, almost nose to nose with Ben—“what else is in it for me? Do I get a kiss to seal the deal?”

I-I-I beg your pardon?” Ben felt his face heat up hotter, certain he had to be as red as the Streak’s T-shirt. He could feel so much of the man in this position with his knees parted around Ben’s waist. The Streak was handsome and strong and lean while also just the right amount of muscled. The dimples hiding beneath his beard and the occasional sunspots were nice too.

But he couldn’t be serious! He was mocking Ben again. And even if that wasn’t the case, Ben would hardly want an impudent thief to ravage him like Ryder from his eBook. His dream man was supposed to be charming and sweet, not unlawful and crude.

Not that the Streak was Ben’s dream man!

I don’t kiss men I hardly know,” Ben said, which was true since he’d barely kissed anyone.

But you do kiss men. Glad to know I guessed right. And you know more than most, handsome.” His eyes darted down Ben’s body. “You’re here. How’d you find me, anyway?”

With hard work and ingenuity. And my name is Ben. Benjamin Krane.”

Nice to meet you, Benji. You can call me Grey.”

And you can call me Ben,” Ben corrected, since Benji was intimate and something to be earned.

Oh, I like you.” Grey chuckled, resting his hands on Ben’s chest and causing a shiver to course through him. “I’ll play along for now, but just you wait, I’m gonna get that kiss out of you someday.”

Finally, he extricated himself from Ben’s lap, and Ben stood slowly after him, unable to tamp down his blush.

Why on earth would you want to kiss me?” He glanced away when Grey’s eyes bore into him like he’d said something scandalous.

You have no idea how hot you are, do you?”

Ben was not hot. He was a science geek, like Grey had pointed out. But since he didn’t know if he was being teased, he simply said, “I thought, because of my gun, you called me Cold.”

Cold it is.” Grey snickered. “When I’m not calling you Benji. So, Benji, where do we go from here? Dinner? A movie? Or straight to the extortion?”

Ben hadn’t thought that far ahead, but it seemed he had a super-speedy thief at his disposal to finally make progress against the city’s villains.

It was definitely the best and worst decision he had ever made.

Amanda Meuwissen

Amanda Meuwissen is a bisexual author with a primary focus on M/M romance. As the author of LGBT Fantasy #1 Best Seller, Coming Up for Air, paranormal romance trilogy, The Incubus Saga, and several other titles through various publishers, Amanda regularly attends local comic conventions for fun and to meet with fans, where she will often be seen in costume as one of her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, John, and their cat, Helga.

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Cover Reveal | Once in May

Cover-Reveal

Ready for another cover?? I have to admit that there are so many dates, titles and covers spinning around in my head at the moment that I have a hard time remembering what I’ve written about and what I haven’t. 

Once in May is one of my favourite stories. I loved writing it, and while it’s been some time – it was first published in 2016 – I still remember Zach and John. Some characters disappear from my head once I’ve written their stories, others remain. 

Since this now is an Up North story, and all Up North stories being stand-alone, Honey Baked has been added to the end of it. I didn’t want to publish Honey Baked as a story in itself since I feel you need to have read Once in May to fully appreciate it *snicker* But if you don’t feel like reading a Christmas story in May, save it for later in the year. 

Okay, are you ready? Here it is! 

onceinmay

Burb:

In an attempt to run from his past, John Welsh has spent the last few years building walls around himself. He knows the best way to stay safe is to keep people at arm’s length and preferably out of sight. During weak moments, he might wish he had someone, but he’s not ready. After all, it takes seven years for the body to replace all its cells. He has four years to go before he’s new.  

Zachary Fane is always on the move, always on his way to somewhere. He’s going from job to job, from country to country. Contrary to what people might think, he wants nothing more than to find a place to call home, and he knows just where. This time, he is ready. This time, he will stay in Nortown. This time, things will be different. But when he arrives to buy the log cabin he believed would be his, he finds it inhabited. When he goes to talk to the new owner, he is met by the most beautiful green eyes followed by a door slammed in his face. 

John should’ve known the peace he’s found in Nortown wouldn’t last. One day everything is fine, the next a mountain of a man shows up wherever he goes. All Zachary wants is to be close to the quiet man who has moved into his cabin. If following him around is the only way, then so be it. Sooner or later, John will get used to having him there…at least, if Zachary hangs around long enough. 

Note: This story now includes Honey Baked.