The highly anticipated book, Strength of the Wolf, was released on September 6th by MLR Press! Less than 24 hours after release, it debuted at #6 on Amazon’s Top 100 Gay & Lesbian Romance. Reviews have begun to roll in and they’re excellent!
If you already know me as an author, and you already love my werewolf Marines, then you know that my writing trademark is authentic characters who are U.S. Marines. My stories feature realistic action sequences that are fast paced and heart pounding. I write believable love stories based on intimacy, which unfold against the backdrop of relevant and timely plots.
I never intended to write a paranormal book, let alone a series. I never made a point of reading shifter stories, so I was completely unfamiliar with the common tropes and themes. These days, I know what the common tropes are, because I’ve been told how my stories don’t contain them. When it came time for me to try to write what eventually became the book, Strength of the Pack, I wasn’t sure where to start. I know Marines, I know wolves, and I had a fondness for some of the older werewolf mythology. We’re told to write what we know, so that’s what I did.
It was daunting in the beginning, but anytime I expressed self-doubt, an author with experience in writing paranormal stories would tell me one thing; you can make anything believable, if you’re consistent in your world building. It’s the one thing I heard over and over, I knew it was true, so I paid close attention to the details of the world I was building.
I’m a very character driven fan and when I began my writing career, it was immediately evident I’m a character driven writer. When I began writing Strength of the Pack, I knew my story was about Lucas and Noah, and the conflicts they faced as they fell in love. As I developed their characters and moved their story along, I created interesting and likeable supporting characters that added specific things to the story.
Characters are wonderful, and they’re important. They’re only half the formula, though. Characters have to have things to do, problems to solve, goals to achieve, and in the case of my characters, a war to fight. My plots are the vehicles in which my characters travel as they follow the courses of their character arcs. Each of my plot points is built around the emotional note I need a specific character to hit at that moment in the story.
All of this is pretty basic when writing a real-world contemporary romance, because existing and functioning within the rules of our world come naturally. I don’t have to think consciously think about them. When I dove into writing Strength of the Pack, I used our modern world as my foundation, building Lucas’ and Noah’s world on top as I went. Taking the U.S. Marine Corps and Operation Enduring Freedom, I inserted a race of werewolves into that reality. I selected portions of old werewolf lore that appealed to me, coupled it with real-world wolf behavior, and layered that onto my Marines.
And from there, I built my world. I constantly asked the question, ‘how would this work if werewolves were real?’. How would a werewolf Marine handle entering a new platoon, as opposed to a human Marine? How would this training go if half the platoon was faster and stronger? How would a human officer command werewolves, when they’re stronger, faster, and require powerful leaders? If werewolves are faster, stronger, have better sight and hearing, how would that affect combat? How would the Marine Corps utilize these strengths in combat?
Word building is about attention to detail. It has to all make sense. Everything must seem possible within the context of the story. Consistency is critical; if one character can or can’t do something, it must hold true for all characters, and any exceptions have to make sense. If Noah the werewolf is able to save Lucas with a special skill in chapter five, but fails to use that same skill to rescue him in chapter fifteen, readers will mutiny! And they should. If I need Lucas in danger to create a dramatic moment, and I need Noah to rescue him to create an emotional moment, I can’t change the rules of my own world building simply because I’m in love with this idea I have for some good hurt/comfort.
If you’re curious to see what Strength of the Pack is all about, check out the excerpt below. I’m offering everyone the opportunity to enter for a chance to win an e-book copy. The winner will be announced on Thursday, September 12th, so be sure to check back then. I’ll also be sharing some insights into why my werewolves have some of the strengths they do, and why they’re missing others, what some of the problems were that I encountered in writing a paranormal story, and how I solved them.
You’ll also want to swing by tomorrow, the 11th, and find out how to win an authentic set of Lucas and Noah’s Dog Tags! These are just like the tags worn by U.S. armed forces personnel and are very highly coveted (and a little hard to get!).
You’ll find the Rafflecopter widget for the giveaway, at the end of the Strength of the Pack excerpt.
Lieutenant Lucas Young doesn’t know much about shifters. When Sergeant Noah Hammond is assigned to Lucas’ platoon, the Marine Corps’ True Alpha werewolf challenges the Lieutenant’s authority and his self-control. As Lucas learns to dominate and command Noah, he struggles against a strong attraction and deepening emotional bond.
During their combat deployment to Afghanistan, Lucas and Noah begin mirroring legendary partnerships. Their bond and their power grow as they survive dangerous combat and ambushes. When one of them is wounded in battle, they both must embrace the strength of their bond before they lose each other forever.
Excerpt: Lucas pulled his SUV into the parking lot. The sun blazed orange and hung low over the ocean, streaking the sky with shades of red and purple. Lucas estimated it was about forty-five minutes before sunset. There were several vehicles already parked, but Lucas knew there would be many more rolling in.
Noah was easy to spot, leaning against the spare tire of a Jeep, legs crossed at the ankles. A thrill ran the length of Lucas’ spine as he took the parking place beside the Jeep. Stepping out into the still warm evening, he realized he wouldn’t need the jacket he’d brought.
“I will admit, Lieutenant,” Noah said by way of greeting, “I didn’t think you’d actually show up.” His eyes were glittering silver.
“I said I would, Sergeant,” Lucas replied. “Why would you doubt it?”
“Not a mistake I will make again,” Noah drawled laconically.
Lucas knew there was more meaning behind that statement than was immediately obvious. He held out the clipboard with the roster of werewolves expected to show tonight. “Do you already have one of these?”
Noah glanced at the list and back up into Lucas’ eyes. “I won’t need that, sir. But if it makes you feel better to use it as a back-up, by all means.”
He knew Noah was laughing at him, and Lucas bristled. “You can keep track of exactly who shows up tonight and if they make it back in the morning, without writing anything down?”
“Yes, sir, I can.” It was a simple statement of fact, devoid of any arrogance.
“Since we’re off duty, we can set rank aside for the evening,” Lucas said, wondering at the wisdom of his words even as he spoke them. “Explain to me how you keep track of such a large group of shifters.”
“Yes…Lucas,” Noah replied. His face was expressionless, but his voice was laced with humor. “At the end of the night there will be two distinct scent trails for everyone who turns out for the run. If there’s any trail that goes out but doesn’t return, I’ll use that to track down the missing werewolf.”
Lucas ignored the tug of attraction he felt at Noah’s subtle amusement. “Does that happen often?” he asked brusquely.
“No, Lucas. Not very.”
Lucas suppressed a shiver at the husky, suggestive way Noah said his name. It had to be due to his impending shift into wolf form. He watched as Noah’s nostrils flared slightly.
“When it does,” Noah continued. “It’s usually a case of someone misjudging how far out they’ve run. Occasionally, I have to deal with trapped legs or lacerated paw pads.”
Lucas thought of how Noah always seemed to be scenting him. “Is that how you all keep track of each other?” He silently chastised himself for hoping he was something special.
Noah’s eyes narrowed as he studied Lucas for several seconds. “Are you asking if every werewolf is able to differentiate between over a hundred individual scent trails and identify the age of each trail?”
Not really. “Yes.”
The abrupt answer took Lucas by surprise. He waited for Noah to elaborate but quickly realized he didn’t intend to.
“So it’s a skill unique to Alphas?” Lucas persisted.
“Having the ability to monitor several different scent trails contributes to an Alpha being able to successfully lead a pack.”
Lucas forced himself to be patient. It was like pulling fucking teeth. He decided to meet Noah’s silence with his own.
Finally, Noah pushed off from the Jeep and said, “True Alphas can track and monitor larger packs. It manifests naturally; we don’t have to develop it.”
Lucas nodded thoughtfully. That was a hell of a useful skill to have.
“Listen up,” Noah suddenly shouted, causing Lucas to jump. “Everybody check in and out with my Lieutenant, here. He’s standing Sentinel, so make it easy for him.”
Lucas looked around, abashed that the parking lot had begun to fill up while they’d stood there talking, and he hadn’t noticed. How such a large group had remained so quiet baffled him.
As the Marines passed by, each one called out his or her name. Lucas checked the first box for each one on his alphabetized list. The entire process went quick and smooth. As the group checking in dwindled, Lucas turned to find Noah kicking off his shoes.
“Now what?” Lucas asked, surprised at his own informality.
Noah opened the back of the Jeep and pulled out several plastic tarps that he handed off to other Marines. “We walk out into the setting sun, get naked and shift into wolves.”
Lucas’ mouth went dry at the mental picture of Noah stripping himself naked. “And the tarps?” he asked distractedly.
“Nobody likes putting on clothes that have lain in the dirt all night.” Noah’s grin made Lucas’ chest tighten.
“Of course,” Lucas replied, wondering when he’d lost the power of deductive reasoning.
The large group had almost all moved out into the growing dusk. “I should warn you; some of us are going to show back up in different states of…arousal,” Noah said, looking like he was avoiding meeting Lucas’ eyes. “There could be squabbling. There will definitely be some fucking. It’s typical. Just ignore it.”
Lucas wasn’t sure how to respond. He stared wordlessly at Noah for several long moments. “Seriously?”
“Ever been in combat?” Noah asked, finally looking directly at Lucas with his silver eyes.
“Yes.” Lucas wondered what that had to do with anything.
“Similar reaction,” Noah replied.
Lucas suddenly understood. “Copy that.”
“Are you really going to sit in your car all night waiting for us to come back?” Noah asked abruptly.
Why was this so fucking hard to believe? “I’ve got a book, a thermos and a cell phone. If something goes wrong out there, send someone with a message, and I can get help.”
Noah gave a slight shake of his head. “Are you for real?” he muttered.
“Excuse me?” Lucas had no clue how to answer, or if he even should.
“The first of us should start showing back up just as it gets light,” Noah said over his shoulder as he walked into the dark, his hips rolling slowly, broad shoulders cutting a defined silhouette.
Lucas locked down the sudden spike of lust that rocketed through him. “What’s the appropriate thing to say, right now?” he asked, hoping levity would dispel the sudden awkwardness. “Good luck? Stay safe? Play nice with the other wolves, and don’t pick up any strange fleas?”
Noah stopped in his tracks and slowly turned back. Lucas was sure he’d crossed some sort of line of inappropriateness. He mentally berated himself for openly flirting with an NCO under his command.
Relief washed over him when Noah suddenly grinned. “I wondered if there was any spirit to go with that brain.”
Lucas stayed rooted to his spot, speechless, blood thundering in his ears, as he watched Noah walk into the darkness.
ENTER HERE FOR A CHANCE TO WIN AN E-BOOK COPY OF
STRENGTH OF THE PACK!
The winner will be announced right here on September 12th!
(please leave comment to enter if the link doesn’t take you to the appropriate page, sorry for the inconvenience)
Love and Dog Tags,