Sean Padraic McCarthy, a Featured Spotlight

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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Sean Padraic McCarthy.

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Are you a full-time author? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time author if you could?

I’m not a full time author. I work in the mental health field as a human service coordinator. And yes, if I could support myself from writing, I would; although I would like to teach part time.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I’m always working on at least a few stories—and usually a novel—at the same time, so if one stalls, I just jump to another. I also find that writer’s block is much more torturous when thinking about writing; once you go into your writer’s mind—with either pen on paper or fingers on the keyboard—the answers are usually more accessible.

Who is your favorite character in your current story and why?

Both Sophie and Kinsley.  I love Sophie’s heart and innocence, and I love Kinsley’s alertness, practicality and wisdom, and I love the way the two of them look out for each other.

 

From “A Solstice Memory” by Sean McCarthy

Inside the house the twins stood waiting for me. They’re not identical, but they look alike. Sophie has darker hair, a slightly lazy eye, and freckles on her nose. A little taller. Kinsley is more compact, and more assured. An athlete.

“Dad,” she said.

“Yeah?’

“That wasn’t a dead cat you were burying this morning.”

“What do you mean?”

She beckoned for me to follow her, and slid open the door onto the back covered deck. Cheryl has always kept the back deck looking nice. A bar, and our grill, a teak dining table. More hanging plants, and potted herbs. And on the side wall of the house hangs a collections of faces. Masks. One, wooden, is a tree spirit, a bearded face in the bark. One is Pan, painted dark green, leaves in his hair. One is a gray stone cherub. And one is from Haiti. A tear drop shaped, with a bone through the nose, eyes in panic, and the mouth locked open in scream. Wild strands of hair, standing on end. My brother-in-law, a sociologist, game me that one. He told me it is very old, and one of kind, probably worth a lot of money, so we probably shouldn’t hang it out here, free to steal, but Cheryl insisted we do, insisted we hang it with the others, so she didn’t have to look at it every day.

Kinsley was already down on the lawn. “Come on.”

I looked at Sophie.

“I’m not going down there,” she said. “Not again.”

Kinsley stopped some twenty feet from the shed, from the pet cemetery.

I caught up.

“Look.” She pointed.

But she didn’t have to.

The hand stuck up from the earth. Rotten and gray. The yellow finger nails clawed at the soil.

“He wants out, Dad,” Kinsley said.

“Well, let’s see if we can stop that.”

“You can’t be burying dead guys in the yard. Mom’s gonna get really mad.”

 

Sean Padraic McCarthy’s short stories have been published or are forthcoming in Glimmer Train, The Hopkins Review, The Indianola Review, South Dakota Review, The Sewanee Review, 2 Bridges Review, Prole, Water~Stone Review,  Hayden’s Ferry Review, Shadowgraph Magazine, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and South Dakota Review among others. His story “Better Man”–originally published in december magazine—was  listed as a “Distinguished Story”  in The Best American Short Stories 2015, he was recently named a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction, and he is a 2016 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship in Fiction Award. 

Follow our Amazon page for On Fire’s release this December 1st!

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ON FIRE Cover Reveal

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ON FIRE Cover

I have been thinking about Ria’s parents for a long time. What their stories are, how they came together to make Ria—the spontaneous meeting that changed the world.

And no, I’m not being dramatic. Although Ria is not the one, she’s the catalyst for the one.

Cue the fake stadium roar that kind of sounds like a ghost instead.

Aderyn proved to be more of a mystery than Tatiana did, but his growth into mortality has made him such an interesting person for me as does his connection with the children in this story.

I rather enjoyed the surprises he’s brought me. So, let me introduce him to you:

 

New York City was heavy with fog and exhaust as Aderyn Tanguy returned to Tisch Hospital to check on his person of interest. Little Avery’s long limbs reanimated with uncanny energy, but the pale sheen to her dark skin drove suspicion into his gut.

The night before she’d been so close to death that he pulled out every trick he had to keep her heart beating, but he left her weak and steady when her mother arrived for visiting hours. This, however, was miraculous and not his handiwork.

Her wide nostrils flared as he stepped into her new room, closing the door behind him. “Morning, precious. How long have you been awake?”

She blinked at him, long lashes and wild eyes. Her nostrils flared again.

Cachu hwch, he’d given her everything she could handle, but she’d died anyways.

Freshly awake. Must have been. Avery sat with her hands bunched in the white sheets around her lap. Disinfectant and bile lingered in the room. No hints at fresh blood. She hadn’t bitten anyone yet.

Thick canines pressed against her plump mouth as he breached the end of her bed.

“Where’s your mother? Hmm? Had any other visitors?”

Uninhabited hunger dilated her pupils, but she posed him little danger. Vampires rarely attacked healers. Most creatures didn’t. Perks of being a phoenix. The phoenix.

“It hurts.” Her words slurred, saliva sputtering from her thick lips.

“I know it does, precious. I know.”

Her fingers loosened from the sheets, but Aderyn grabbed her face and immobilized her with his gaze. Delving into her mind produced a blur of muted colors and bright red blood. Cold. Sharp. Prickling. Pain. The soft edges of a face passed through her vision before nothingness.

She didn’t remember anything. Just as well.

Aderyn snapped her neck, cringing at the blow that rebounded within him as he laid her back against the white pillows. “Sorry, precious. You didn’t want that life, no way.”

Layers of lemongrass lingered on her pillow, but no other traces were distinct enough to lend to a trail. Pushing back the curtain for the yellowed window. Entrance after he’d left was possible, but no clues. The place was clean, as it should be.

Eyes closed on the way out the door, he’d take the memory of her with him—the one’s full of hope instead of death.

Fog danced with his boots on the streets of lower Manhattan. Four blocks north, he used a payphone to check in, popping a quarter and dialing his handler.

What?” Fury seethed in the breath on the other end of the line.

Why was the big guy answering the phone? “Sir, no go on the mini-human.”

“Leads?”

“Minimal.” Aderyn leaned over the payphone box and cleared the smell death from his sinuses with a shift in the air. Lemongrass weaved through wind.

“Stick around.”

The phone clanked dead, and he replaced the receiver.

Not an investigator, Aderyn scouted the street. Beyond the wet gravel and litter, the ghost of other paranormals laced through the human scents.

At his back squatted a small storefront with a sparkling window. Inside, a mane of blonde curls shook and shimmied under the command of two equally pale hands. Her hair shifted to reveal startling blue eyes, lined with extravagant lashes, and guarded by a spattering of freckles. They looked right through him.

Into him.

Her smile rivaled the sun.

And it disappeared before the ching of storefront bells revealed her again.

“Bad news?”

“That obvious?”

An elegant one-shoulder shrug lifted the sage in her hands. “Well, when you have to answer a question with a question, you’re in deeper than you want to be.”

Disposable lighter flicked under her thumb, the sparks refused to light, and he took it from her before he thought not to. Aderyn ignited the fumes spitting from the top.

“Well, you’re handy to have around.” She leaned in, dropping the end of her bundle into the flame and blowing it out to plumes of smoke. Stepping around him, her fingers trailed over his shoulder, and she waved her smudge stick in the corners of the entrance.

Holding the door open, she peeked out. “Pure enough to follow me inside?”

He did.

“Lock the door. My foot traffic doesn’t start until the afternoon.” Smoke circled in on itself as she looped the store and stubbed the stick out gently. “Back here, bad news.”

She disappeared behind a waterfall of beads, fingers catching the cascade like a mating dance. The back was warm and dark, illuminated by Christmas lights. As the heat closed in around them, Aderyn caught the hints of nutmeg and clove.

“Did you want to talk about your trouble?” The space maneuvered him beside her, but she didn’t seem to mind. Her touch danced up his arm, filling his senses like a drug. “Or forget about it?”

The way her thumb brushed his mouth drowned him in hope. This type of thing didn’t happen. Not to him.

 

Join us for our two giveaways below!

And don’t forget that my friend Ali Abbas’s novelette, Like Clockwork, is on sale for 99 cents.

Giveaway One:

$25 Amazon gift card giveaway

Giveaway Two:

Win one of five copies of Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories by following Transmundane Press on Amazon. Only available for US participants.

 

Hello. My name is Alisha, and I am a Caffeine Addict.

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My addiction knows few bounds. After a week of intense grading, coffee has become my crutch once more. Four down and four to go? Refill the mug and hope my brain cells don’t melt, or combust, or simply give up on me.

It happened the other day. I laid down for a nap at 6:30 and woke up at 6:30…am…

Oh, the life of a professor/editor/business-owner/writer/wife/step-mom. Man, that’s a lot of slashing.

I wonder if my ingrained need to keep productive fuels my coffee addiction. It certainly works the other way around.

I don’t have to wonder—and maybe, now, neither do you—why Ria, my caffeine-fueled vampire, seems to drink a million cups per book. It’s her ultimate distraction—her ability to take a moment, calm down, collect herself, or avoid an awkward conversation that’ll likely happen anyways.

She also has the same trait of staying busy and stretching herself thin: working two job (Holla, I hear that), navigating her own survival, and taking on the world—in a more literal sense than I do.

Let the apocalypse reign, so long as we can still have our cups of joe.

Can you survive without your flavor of caffeine? What’s the one thing you couldn’t survive without?

Did You Know…About the Ningyo. How to Become an Immortal, Part One

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The ningyo are Japanese mermaids, but they’re different from the pretty, western versions many of us are used to. They’re often described as monkey-mouthed, half-human-half-fish creatures. And these poor things are famous for being eaten.

For good reason, their flesh is both tasty and leads to astonishingly long life.

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Now, Japan has some pretty weird shit in their waters, and the ningyo are no different. Catching them are believed to bring on storms and bad luck, so they’re often thrown back. And washing up on shore warns of oncoming war or disaster.

But of course, if one’s lucky enough to sample mermaid meat and get a taste of the ningyo, they’ll be rewarded with immortality. Seems like a storm or catastrophe is a small price to pay.

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Several fictional stories utilize this myth in their story-lines, like Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Forest or the Mermaid Saga, an anime/manga series that centers on Yuta who ate mermaid meat and lived for more than five-hundred years and searched for a cure to the more common side effects of this treat: death or becoming a damned creature known as a Lost Soul.

And its origins come from Yao Bikuni, a myth that depicts a young woman eating some after getting drunk at a party, and she stayed sixteen for over eight-hundred years before she became a nun and died in a cave.

Want to read more? Check out this link.

Guilty of Goal Goldbricking.

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Let’s talk about goals.

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I made a lot for this month, and I tried for the first half to keep on track, but as usual, I got caught up with life and my family, and now, I’m behind. A thousand-words-a-day behind.

But let me say something about goals and procrastination. The only thing that will keep me from finishing this is me. Getting behind doesn’t mean giving up, and I’m happy, frankly, that I’m getting anything done, as I’d let this story sit dormant for almost a year as other projects took over. I’m okay with the other three sitting and waiting for this one to get done, since it, too, will have to sit and wait to be edited afterwards.

Nanowrimo, for me, is designed to kick my rear back into action so that I can get my own creative work done because the rest of the year will be devoted to editing.

So, as long as I keep going, I’ll get my shit done and meet my goals.

Without the guilt of not getting it done sooner.

Are you participating in Camp Nanowrimo? Link me to your project below.

Not participating but still have massive goals to meet? Tell me about them and your tricks for staying on track.

Plan With Me: July & Quarterly Planning

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Summer is a time for big, creative goals. I focus on creation and new habits as the rest of the year is devoted to editing and publishing and grading…

So. here’s what I’m currently focusing on and how I’m keeping myself on track.

One of my favorite things about summer is that I don’t have a second job to get in my way of working out, which means I can up my workouts from two or three times a week to five or six. The problem is…I’m home all day…with all of that food I buy each week…

That’s why I implemented two spreads, my 21 Day Challenge, which incorporates four exercises I actually enjoy doing, and a longer plan for my workouts in hopes of creating variety and mixing up my normal heavy-lifting workouts with cardio programs and light weights.

I also have a special spread for July Camp NaNoWrioMo and my four major writing projects for the year. I’m actually working on the same project I started for last year’s NaNoWriMo, which got put on the back burner for the After the Happily Ever After anthology.

I’m excited to dig into each of these again, my snarky YA paranormal detective, Boden’s journey home, a fire story about Ria’s father, and the prequel to Loving Red. The last three are short, so I’m hoping I can tackle each one with enough vigor to get their first drafts complete, or near-complete. You can join my cabin, Transmundane Team, or simply wish me luck. I know I’ll need it.

Finally, I’ve updated my quarterly goals to be more beneficial to me as a whole rather than simply working towards a better business. Sometimes, I forget other things exist outside of publishing, and I really need to focus on family, my home, and personal development with a bit more cohesion than I have been.

And in case you were wondering what planning for the next three months looks like. Here’s a quick peek.

How do you plan? Set goals? Stay productive? Share your process and hopes with me. I’d love to cheer you on!

Want to see my entire set up? Check out my plan with me on YouTube.

 

Did You Know…About Phea and James?

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I know, this isn’t my normal DYK post, but I’ve been in a sharing mood.

I’m a fan of context and connections and deeper meanings, so this is from the author’s mouth…urm, fingers? You know what I mean.

Two of the oldest characters featured in my Broken World series, Phea and James have pasts locked together with violence, manipulation, and the struggle for power.

If you’ve read “Maiden of the Underworld,” you know about Phea’s beginning. But if you haven’t, let me give you a recap: Phea is the daughter of Chronos, the Primordial god of time and an Atlantean woman. She’s set against the twin gods of the Atlantean pantheon: Markandeya, the god of the underworld; and Jydios, the god of war. Without too many spoilers, she dies, becomes the first vampire, finds some romance, and makes some heart-breaking sacrifices. Hers is a tragic story.
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There’s much more I haven’t written about her past yet, like how she started the war between vampires and shifters because she was jealous of her son’s wife and family. Or how she’s the grandmother of all shifters. Unfortunately for the lot, blood ties don’t seem to curb her cruelty. She’s merciless.

How does James fit into this? Well, mini-spoiler: James is the reincarnated Jydios—the war god that tricked and murdered Phea to steal her power by using her love for him against her. Does that give her some more sympathy? Kinda, yeah. Does it undo the six-thousand-year-old torture she lays down on James? No, not really. It’s complicated.

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Jydios tortured and killed any demi-god who had the balls to visit his real godly temple. That’s more than two dozen sacrificed to feed his well of power. James knows this, the knowledge beaten into him by Phea, and he understands that he suffers for the dharma branded on his soul.

The two of them have been allies and adversaries at once. She was given a child that abandoned her, so Phea made James abandon his wife and child, taking their second from them before his birth. She claimed and refuses to release him, although she invites others to her bed to test his faith and force him to fight for her. He fights to survive and does her bidding because he has no other choice.

He really doesn’t. Because Phea’s powers were bestowed on her from the higher pantheons, she can control him just enough to disable his uprising, but he doesn’t make it easy on her.
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Especially now, he’s played his trump card, and they both have limited time to put their warring plans in motion to see who really controls their kingdom.

So there it is, some Broken World history. Want to read their story? Got some unanswered questions? Let me know!

In the meantime, I’ve got four full novels and three short stories in the world. Take a look and catch up in time for the upcoming stories featuring Ria’s father, Aderyn Tanguy, and Boden’s trip home to see his family for the first time in better part of a millennia.

Reading as an Editor

I am doomed. I can’t seem to finish reading most of the books I pick up. I can’t do it. And I used to read between fifty and one hundred books a year. Last year, I started thirty and completed four.

I get shit sometimes for reading multiple books at once. But I’ve always had the belief that all books require a certain attitude or mood. So, I’ll start something that speaks to me, and if I can’t struggle past the first few chapters, I’ll put it down for another time.  Once, I finished a book four years later, sporadically struggling through a few chapters at a time. As it turns out, the book developed into quite the story by the end. The last seventy-five pages flew by, and I was glad to stick it out.

The majority aren’t so lucky, and I often wonder what’s wrong with me. Why can’t I read?

Then, those books come along that sucker punch you right in the kidneys. The Hunger Games was one. Divergent was another. The Testing, Cinder, The Clockwork Scarab, and Feed, etc. They have a rather distinct theme—young adult, satirical, dystopian fiction. This is my brightest of geek buttons, and if I ever decide to go for my PhD, this is what my dissertation will focus on. Ask me for a book to read, and most of them will be in this niche. Just saying.

Anyways, the reason for the massive DNF pile is my equally large list of pet peeves: dialogue tags and adverbs—especially together—passive voice, vague words, and missing Oxford commas. Believe me, the list is rather extensive.
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Instead of wallowing on this inability to read, I need to learn to focus on those moments when a writer can capture me despite the faults I might find in their style or grammar—ones that remind me that my voice is not the only voice—ones that make me throw away my editing pencil for the cats to play with and feel the adrenaline of being surprised by a story.

I had two of those moments this year, and I’m concerned that it’s already June…maybe the two-day train ride without my laptop will help.

Anyways, the first was Red Queen, which I’m almost finished with and will review soon. Man, this had character and a world I’m not used to seeing. A mix of mutants, future dystopia, and a medieval system. Plus that snarky, quick-witted, and rebellious female lead that I love all too much. *Coughs* Ria*Coughs.* Since I first wrote about this in my March newsletter, I’m still almost done with the novel. I ran out of steam again, and I don’t know why, but I’ll get there.

The second book that gripped me probably harder than a book has in the last few years was Like Clockwork, and I had the privilege of publishing this novella. Before you know it, this story has its nails in you, and it drags you, stumbling behind, until the very last word. And by the way, I read the story at least seven times, and the layers Ali needed to deliver the blow that he does grew more and more complex with each read. He truly did a brilliant job.

So, tell me, do you read more than one book at a time? How do you overcome reader’s block?

Did You Know…About Ria’s Meditation Techniques?

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From early on in the Blood Phoenix stories, we watch Ria use meditation to deal with her newly acquired vampirism. She uses her chakras and focus to keep from killing her victims and controlling her visionary powers in Rebirth. In Claimed, she learns to stack them to tap into her powers and defend herself. With practice, she uses them to heal her mind and deal with her PTSD in Imprinted.

Here’s a little background information and the techniques she uses.

Meditation with chakras allows one to strengthen the connection between body and mind, to build on each chakra, and to tune intent and energy to create ultimate focus.

The six physical chakras stack like a pyramid:

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The base is dense, heavy, and difficult to change as it represents strength and stability, opposite in nature from the tip, the sixth chakra is easily changeable, light, and airy. The seventh chakra, at the crown of the skull, is our connection from the body to consciousness.

Stacking chakras through meditation, as Ria does, means visualizing and stimulating each chakra from the root through the navel, chest, throat, and forehead to the crown. As each grows balanced, one gains a better feel for the world around them, relating to it physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Ria often imagines the process as wrapping a suit of armor around herself, and the regular activation lends to her advanced healing and controlling the excess of energy feeding her wild abilities, essentially caging in the feral chaos she holds onto—more to come on this later.

The other techniques Ria uses in the books are not as elaborate, so a brief overview will do.

Flames—this was the first technique I used when I learned about meditation in college. This takes on a variety of starting points, staring into a real flame, creating an imaginary flame in the mind, and building a shrine either physically or mentally, that allows a person to add means of reaching into our consciousness.

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Focus/Re-Focus—this is one I learned of through my husband. When clearing one’s mind, we must allow the noise in our heads to have their say before they can give us any peace. This is what he does, calling up his worries, filing them if important, and swatting them away if he lacks control to change them. Similar techniques relate to the effort it takes to shoo away that random, chattering noise in the mind (at least in my mind). For Ria, this means dealing with her survival’s guilt after killing another renegade vampire.

The vitarka mudra—this hand gesture is commonly seen in Buddha statues as the sign of enlightenment. The term vitarka in Sanskrit means reasoning, consideration or deliberation, and mudra means closure, mark, or seal. Together, vitarka mudra is the gesture of debate. In yogic practices, the mudra aids in controlling the flow of energy and unblocks chakras.  Ria uses a variation of the mudra by touching both the index and middle fingers to the thumb, symbolizing compassion. When she uses it, she’s honing her powers in attempts to keep others from harm.

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Got questions about these techniques? Leave them in the comments below.

Want to know more about Ria? Check out the Blood Phoenix novels here.

Polyamorous Relationships & Urban Fantasy

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Ria has three men in her life, and I know a lot of readers are over the love triangle—or square in this case. I know people are going to react to this. In fact, a reviewer already has: How can Ria love more than one man at the same time? Here’s a disclaimer, the Blood Phoenix mini-series is not a romance. It’s more of a sexy horror/urban fantasy.

Well, let me try to explain this fictional set up and why it reflects a bit of my life and beliefs.

One of my major influences, Laurell K. Hamilton, talks about polyamory in several blog posts and interviews. In fact, here’s a quote from her in a 2015 interview:

“Even in the LGBT community, polyamory and bisexuality are not totally accepted. They are both seen as a way of not committing to one sexuality, or one person, even among those who you would think would be the most accepting. Most people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are very invested in the ideal of finding the love of their life and living happily ever after. It works for some people, but happily ever after is from fairy tales, which are bedtime stories for kids. Why does everyone try to fit real world love into a model from children’s stories? Shouldn’t true love be able to grow up, at last?”

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Over the last year, I’ve written, read, edited, and presented over fairy tales and gender roles and societal influences, etc. Her quote fits for my recent state of mind. I highly believe we can love more than one person at a time, and most of us do. We love our significant others, our parents, our siblings, our children, and our friends. Each love is different, even if they’re the same “type” of love.

I feel as though I try to get into the intricacies that comes with polyamorous relationships—as with every relationship, the variables apply to the people involved—that I’ll just say that having multiple partners—sexual or not—can be done in a healthy and respectable way. So long as honesty and open communication exists, more love can only lead to positive outcomes. The same is true with couples.

I’m in favor of combating pre-designated ideas about human behavior. Love who you love and fuck everyone else. It’s none of their business, anyways.

Okay, with that in mind, let me elaborate on Ria’s men and her need for all three. I’ve been told that they could be combined into one or two at most.

They can’t. Maybe this is an author pout, the characters are real to me, and I cannot eliminate one out of the selfish attachment to them. Maybe.

Or they represent the three versions of my husband. Without spilling too much personal information about him, Jason, I will say that the combination of his high intellect, his enormous vault of experiences, and the effects of twenty-six months of extremely active combat in Afghanistan, I don’t always know which version of him I will get on any given day: the surly sergeant determined to fix the corruption of his government—aka James; the needy, silly, goofball that spends a lot of time entertaining himself and causing mischief—aka Boden; or the lonely, sullen man in need of affection and fighting a mouthy, combative female he’s meant to take care of—aka Gene.

The three have a bit of overlap, but they’re distinct enough to make them different people. Besides, Ria needs all the help she can get, and each supports her in different ways as she adapts for each of them.

In any case, my novels are meant to be satirical, poking fun at the tropes of my genre(s), like the ever-popular and overly-used love triangle.

Got a trope you wish more authors used, eliminated, or adapted? Let me know in the comments below!