Behind the Scenes with Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau on their King of Dublin Tour!

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Hi! We’re Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau, authors of the new post-apocalyptic romance King of Dublin. We’re touring the web talking about Ireland, the post-apocalyptic genre, a behind-the-scenes look at our book, and even a sneak peek or two! And what would a blog tour be without a contest? We’re giving away two ebooks and a souvenir from Ireland to one lucky commenter, so KingOfDublin_150x300(1)read on!

Thanks so much to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for having us, and to all you readers for following along. And now without further ado, today’s look at King of Dublin!

What’s in a Name? A behind the scenes look at names in King of Dublin

One of the things we really enjoyed playing around with and exploring in King of Dublin was names and naming conventions. King of Dublin takes place in Ireland (obviously, unless of course we were writing about Dublin, California I guess!), so we had to take Irish culture into account when naming our characters, especially in the case of one of our characters, who comes from a predominantly Irish-speaking culture. Our story also takes place in a country ruled by anarchy, where things like birth certificates and social insurance numbers and passports and legal name changes are a thing of the past, so that adds a whole new complexity we could play with.

So here’s a character-by-character sneak peek into character names. Enjoy!

Darragh Fearghal Anluan

Darragh is the hero of our story: the Irish Gaelic-speaking wanderer who comes to Dublin in search of medicine for his village. When he swears fealty to the king of Dublin, he states his name as Darragh Fearghal Anluan, but did you know that’s not his legal name? He was actually born Darragh Calhoun. Darragh Fearghal Anluan is an approximation of how people in his village would have likely addressed him. Fearghal isn’t his middle name, nor is Anluan his last. He may not even remember his legal last name!

So why does he call himself that? Darragh comes from the Irish Gaeltacht, which is a part of the country where Irish Gaelic (Gaelige) is spoken as a first language. Here, people refer to themselves by their given name, and the names of their father and grandfather, or sometimes mother and grandmother. So rather than his legal name of Darragh Calhoun, Darragh goes by Darragh son of Fearghal son of Anluan, although I have to admit to not mucking about with using those names in the genitive case, as would be proper. Mea culpa, Irish speakers! (And Latin speakers now too, probably!)

So what do his names mean?

Darragh: A variant of “Dara”, which means “oak tree.” We thought naming him after a tree suited his stoic, solid, tolerant nature.

Fearghal: An Irish name meaning “man of valour”, referring to the courage in his character.

Anluan: From the Irish “an”, which means “great”, and “luan” which means “hero” or “warrior” (which is kinda the same thing in Irish mythology).

Of course, the name he gets called most often isn’t one given to him by birth at all, and is far less glamorous than any of the ones above: Culchie. Which is a term used in Ireland to describe people who live in rural areas, and not usually in a complimentary way.

Ciaran Daly

Ciaran is King of Dublin’s second hero, and Darragh’s love interest. When we meet him first, he is the King’s pampered pet . . . or is that tortured slave? He’s a status object for the king, as much as the plundered gold he wears. His name is much more “standard” than Darragh’s, but there’s still a bit of story to be teased out of it.

His first name, Ciaran, is a bit ironic. In Irish, it means “Little dark one,” while the text (and Darragh) make quite the show of how pale and golden Ciaran is, from the gold collar and cuffs he wears to the blond colour of his hair.

As for his last name, Daly? Well, Daly comes from Ó Dálaigh, or “Son of Dalach”. Dalach, in turn, comes from “dáil”, which means “assembly”, and also happens to be the name for the Irish lower parliament. The Ó Dalaigh, according to Irish history, were an important bardic family, part of a class of elite poets and musicians (yes, really) charged with carrying on and passing down the history, culture, and knowledge of Ireland. Ciaran, with his knowledge of the time before the collapse of Irish society, often takes on this role in the novel.

King Boru

The titular King of Dublin, Boru was a petty criminal in the days before the epidemic, and rose to power in the lawless years after. Having reinvented himself from gangster to monarch, he took on a new name to go with it. Although it’s never mentioned in the book (having likely been lost to time), Boru’s real name is Brian Menzies. It’s a completely ordinary name, but it has a little bit in common with a much more famous, royal moniker.

The real Brian Boru was an Irish chieftan credited with becoming the first High King of Ireland. King Boru, with his penchant for using his country’s history to solidify his own dictatorship (as many other dictators have done), must have jumped at the chance to re-name himself after a much more famous Brian than “Menzies”!

Rabbit

An orphaned child taken in by Irish Travellers, Rabbit has no (known) legal or given name, only one informally and affectionately given him based on his personality. He goes by Rabbit because of his tendency to “rabbit on”–that is, to chatter excitedly–which Rabbit most certainly does.

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Contest

Thanks for following our tour! To celebrate our release, we’re giving away a great pair of prizes! Up for grabs are: a book from BOTH of our backlists (that’s one Lisa Henry title and one Heidi Belleau one!) and a King of Dublin-themed souvenir from the National Irish museum, mailed straight to your door! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way for us to contact you, be it your email, your twitter, or a link to your facebook or goodreads account. Please put your email in the body of the comment, not just in email section of the comment form, because we won’t be able to see it otherwise! Two weeks after King of Dublin’s release, on March 8th, we’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments! Be sure to follow the whole tour, because the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win this awesome prize!

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ARC fullcoverAbout King of Dublin

Title: King of Dublin by Lisa Henry Heidi Belleau
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, Erotic, M/M, Romance
Length: 382 pages/Word Count: 100,900
Buy at Riptide Publishing

Twenty years after a deadly pandemic ravaged the world, Darragh Fearghal Anluan and the people of his village have carved out a hard but simple life in the Irish countryside. But with winter comes sickness, and Darragh must travel to Dublin in search of medicine. What he finds there is a ruined city ruled by a madman, where scavenging is punishable by death . . . or conscription.

Ciaran Daly came to Ireland with aid and optimism, but instead was enslaved by the so-called King of Dublin. After months of abuse from the king and his men, he has no reason to believe this newcomer will be any different. Except Ciaran finds himself increasingly drawn to Darragh, whose brutish looks mask how sweet and gentle he really is.

The tenderness Darragh feels for the king’s treasured pet is treason, but it’s hardly the only betrayal brewing in this rotten kingdom. Rebellions and rival gangs threaten the king’s power, but not nearly as much as Darragh and Ciaran—whose only hope for freedom is the fall of the king.

You can read an excerpt and purchase King of Dublin here.

About the Authors

Lisa Henry lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.

She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

You can visit Lisa her website, at Goodreads, or on Facebook or Twitter..

Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write.

Her writing reflects everything she loves: diverse casts of characters, a sense of history and place, equal parts witty and filthy dialogue, the occasional mythological twist, and most of all, love—in all its weird and wonderful forms.

When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her daughter or sipping a drink at her favourite coffee shop.

She also writes queer-flavoured M/F as Heloise Belleau.

Review: Strain by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Strain_500x750When a deadly virus is unleashed, it spreads and mutates quickly, wiping out most of the human race.  Rhys Cooper and his small family has escaped the virus and its consequences by living in a small compound under the rule of a puritanical preacher and his son.  But soon the zombie like plague victims discover them and all are killed except Rhys and Jacob, the preacher’s son.  They are rescued by a special militia corp, but not before Rhys and Jacob were exposed to the virus themselves.

Sergeant Darius Murrell  belongs to a group that used to be Army and nows roams the country looking for survivors.  They are also charged with finding and killing the people the virus has turned into cannibalistic murderers who spread the virus by various means including blood sprays.  When Darius and his unit find Rhys, he is covered in the blood of a revenant, their name for the infected.  Rhys and Jacob are surely infected themselves by their exposure to the revenants that killed the rest of their group.  When the militia’s medic comes up with a last ditch experiment that might save Rhys and Jacob’s lives, Rhys is begins to think that dying is preferable to the experiment the soldiers propose.

Xolani, the medic present, knows that her squad cannot return to base with the survivors in time to save them so Rhys and Jacob’s only hope is to be infected by another strain of the virus and that the combination might confer immunity. The problem? The virus needed is one that’s sexually transmitted, and the only means to obtain it is to sexually submit to the entire squad of soldiers as many times possible daily over a six-week time period.  At what cost is his survival, Rhys wonders.  Would he rather die than become the sexual plaything of a bunch of hardened soldiers?  And if Rhys chooses to try the experiment, will he be able to live with the memories and the humiliation afterwards?

Of all the thoughts that crowded into my mind after finishing this story, first and foremost is the one that said that Strain is a story people will either love or hate or even possibly hate to love.  The plot alone is one of such emotional impact that the blurb itself just might be a turn off that will leave some would be readers cold.  At its barest outline, you have a teenager who has just watched his family killed by revenants and is now forced to have sex with multiple partners and not yet once but as many times a day as his body can stand.  Throw in the fact that he is a virgin and I can almost see potential readers cringing in dismay, wanting to avoid any emotional involvement this story will demand.

This is not a story for the faint of heart or stomach.  It rears up and commands a reaction from its reader.  And gets it.  At almost 400 pages in length, the reader, once committed to the story, will find themselves on an emotional roller coaster that will include a range of responses, from disbelief to distain, hopefulness to despair, and even moments of hostility towards the author for putting Rhys through such torment for such a long duration.  But if you stick with this story, then it also had its own rewards.

Some of the issues that crop up at first glance are blatantly in your face huge. First, there is Rhys.  He is 19 and a virgin.  Raised in a religious sect environment, he has been abused, starved, and finally deprived of those he loves when they are killed by the revenants that infect him. And in order to live he must whore himself out to a group of unknown hardened soldiers, trusting that the experiment isn’t just a falsehood used to gain his services.  I defy any one out there to to deny the emotions that arise within themselves just by reading that description.

Secondly his rescuer, Darius, that Rhys comes to have feelings for, is 42 years of age.  Think of that difference in age, experience and outlook on sexuality and morals.  Once the reader adjusts and gets past those elements, more arrive to be dealt with.  Additional issues will depend upon how your tolerance and acceptance of the fact that the only method available to transmit the virus is near constant coitus, the more partners Rhys has the greater exposure to different variations of the strain he requires.  I will admit that I was skeptical of the science behind this experiment at the beginning.  Thoughts of injections, blood exchanges or other field methods that an army medic would have at their disposable, even on the go as this company is, rose up to make me question the plausibility that such extreme measures as they require of Rhys and Jacob.  But again, the author managed to answer all my questions, convincing me of the science behind it and the medic’s explanations as the story progresses.  All it takes is sticking with the story, even if you have to stumble past those sections that make you cringe.

Then there is the sexuality that prevails throughout the story.  It is crude, harsh, with elements of voyeurism, D/s, bdsm, and other kinks.  It is noncon, almost noncon, sprinkled with “boy”, dirty language, and the need for pain and humiliation.  That is most likely the biggest hurdle of them all.  Rhys and his initiation into sex by such a horrific requirement is the element that will give most people pause.  I think my take on the events and changes that occur within Rhys might vary from those found within.

Gormley takes Rhys from virgin to one who adjusts his morality to include casual sex among partners while still needing to have relations with someone who cares about him, all within a month’s time.  Towards the end he has adjusted his outlook to become more flexible in his thinking and morality.  Here is Darius’ take on Rhys somewhere in the middle of the story:

“Of course given the way that Rhys seemed to like a rough and dangerous edge to his sex, maybe it was time for that to change. Toby and Jie might be right up his alley.”

For me this is by far the largest issue here. My opinion is that if you take a 19-virgin who has been isolated from others and made to feel that sex is for procreation, including the idea that same sex feelings are a perversion, you have an almost fragile blank canvas in the person of Rhys. Then by  subjecting  him to constant near rape, you are practically hardwiring him to not only accept the role he has been made to play but also that casual rough sex and domination are the norm because he doesn’t have any other frame of reference.  It verges on Stockholm Syndrome in my opinion.  That odd lack of recognition that Darius and the group’s treatment of Rhys might have played a role in the formation of his sexual preferences makes this aspect of the story its biggest obstacle in my opinion.

So why stick with this story and why give it such a high rating?  Because for all those elements, and distasteful to some, storylines, Strain is a well written and absorbing novel.   The further into the novel the reader gets, the deeper the reader sinks emotionally. It grabs onto your heart or should I say Rhys does, and, refuses to let go.  Trust me when I say you will be sobbing at certain junctures within this story.  Rhys will break your heart over and over.  And not just because of his current situation either.

You will find yourself getting angry or disgusted at times during the narrative.  “Why should that happen to Rhys?  It’s all so unfair” you might find yourself saying, conveniently forgetting that Rhys and the injustice of his situation are the product of a fine imagination.  Truly despicable characters along with those that pull at your heartstrings come not from poorly layered constructs but from wonderful characterizations.  If at times you forget everything but the world the author has created, then that person, in this case, Amelia C. Gormley, has done their job and then some.

This is a HFN story.  Indeed given such a post apocalyptic world and constant peril, it is the only reasonable ending the author could apply.  For some people, Strain will be a difficult book to read, for others a complete joy and for still others, the wide array of strong elements pose just a mild discomfort, a small price to pay for such a complex and compelling tale.  Take a moment to think and make the decision for yourself.

This is how it all starts:

D eath smelled like old wooden pews whose varnish and cushions had become saturated with acrid layers of dust. It smelled like mildewing carpet rotting from rain that had leaked through a roof he’d never had the skill or resources to repair. The hymnals had long since been used for tinder, but the musty scent of old books—once so comforting but now vaguely nauseating—remained.

Cover Art by Kanaxa.  I think the cover fails to deliver any idea of the story or character within.  Rhys is rail thin, disheveled, a survivor.  The model here looks the very antithesis of Rhys Cooper.

Book Details:

ebook, 375 pages
Published February 17th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published February 15th 2014)
ISBN13 9781626490710
edition language English
 Book was received as an ARC through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick

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Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

Freedom coverPatrick Henry thought that he had it made.  Patrick was tested by the Empath Center at New Las Vegas and now he was being promoted to Class One Empath.  As a Class One Empath, Patrick will have all the stability and success he has wanted, an apartment, independence and even a chance to partner and have a family.  Patrick has come a long way from being a scavenger on the streets of Neverneverland on the outskirts of New Las Vegas and appreciates everything the Empath Center has done for him.  So he is eager to succeed with his first assignment his Adjudicators give him.

The file reads Case #723, John Doe 439 and it is Patrick’s first solo assignment.  His advisors have warned Patrick that the man has tried to commit suicide several times and is to remain heavily medicated for everyone’s safety, including his own.  John Doe 439 was found tortured, raped and unconscious outside the city and since he was brought inside the Empath Center, he has been mute and unmanageable except with drugs.  Patrick’s assignment is to try and reach inside to see what is anything is left of the man they call 439.

What Patrick finds is a haunted, beaten and abused man that he is not only attracted to but can actually reach.  And the discoveries Patrick makes as he connects with John Doe shatters his notions of the society he lives in and the rules he has lived by.  John Doe 439 is actually  high-level Psychic Talent named Jac.  And Jac’s talents have made him a wanted man.  Soon Patrick must decide between the safe confines and regimented society of his world or help Jac flee to freedom in the outside, fighting the government forces every step of the way.

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick was listed as one of the Best M/M Book by a Debut Author of 2013 by Goodreads and it certainly deserves that title and more.  What an astounding debut novel for Jay Kirkpatrick.   I kept returning to the author’s bio, sure to find previous works listed and finding none.  It is rare that an author’s first novel packs the emotional punch this one delivers, along with just terrific world building (I can count those other authors with one hand), but Jay Kirkpatrick’s first novel is just amazing.

First of all, Freedom is set sometime in the post apocalyptic future after some catastrophe has hit Earth.  Whether the “Blast’s”  origin was human or astronomical in nature is never stated but we see how the human societies have restructured themselves, the “civilized society” pulling back from the contaminated “outside”, where touch and the notion of romance is frowned upon and people are elevated by their “gifts” to a level where they are granted education, housing, safety and perhaps even a “partnership”.  A white city peopled with those in white, all seemingly isolated by their very politeness and niceties, a very chilling place to be sure.  Jay Kirkpatrick does a remarkable job in letting us feel how safe and content Patrick is within these regimented walls while still portraying how stark and barren of life the Empath Center and the City really is.  As Patrick meets John Doe 439 and we accompany Patrick through the halls and rooms that house John Doe and others, we start to get an uneasy feeling about the place and the rules Patrick has lived by, just as Patrick does.  The author slowly builds our suspicions and unease with each chapter until we feel like screaming at Patrick to grab Jac and run.  At that point, the reader is completely lost within the story and the plight of Patrick and Jac. A perfect blend of skillful world building, complex storyline and great characterizations.

I can tell you that Jay Kirkpatrick had my stomach was churning with apprehension, because the author had lead me so skillfully to the point that I was so fearful for Patrick and Jac’s future.  I was absolutely invested in these characters and others around them because they were 100 percent real to me at that moment.  We watch Patrick evolve from a citizen complacent in his gilded cage he didn’t even know he was in to one shattered by the truths he uncovers and the person who revealed them to him.  A transformation made all the more believable because of Jac, the wounded, abused psychic Patrick heals and then loves.  Jac is also a beautifully realized character.  His abuse and the events that set off his broken mental state are shown to the reader in flashes, the worst of which occurs “off stage” as it were but the horrors inflicted upon Jac and others is still brought home to the reader and Patrick with skill and sensitivity.  And the villains are made more chilling because of their absolute belief in the rightness of their actions.

This book is divided into two sections.  The first called Confinement, taking place within the Empath Center and focuses on Patrick and Jac’s meeting and slowly building relationship.  The second is called Escape where Patrick realizes his world and work are a sham and has to decide whether to stay or flee with Jac.  That is all I will say but the focus does shift from the personal, intimate stage of Jac and Patrick to a much larger focus, with more characters introduced and a greater reveal of the world outside.  I think Jay Kirkpatrick handles the shift in focus smoothly and realistically. And while I do understand the direction the author took with the narrative,  I might have preferred the focus to have stayed narrowed to Patrick and Jac, but that’s just my preference.  Not all will feel like that.

The only quibble keeping me from a 5 star rating is a power one character demonstrates late in the book that had me wondering why it did not reveal itself before.  Either I missed something or this new power came out of nowhere, giving me a “huh” moment at the end of the story.  But that small quibble aside, the ending was everything I expected from this story and its author.  Heartrending, satisfying, while still leaving room for more to come.

So run, don’t walk to the nearest eBook store and grab this up.  What a remarkable debut, what a marvelous journey Jay Kirkpatrick takes us on.  I can’t wait to see what Kirkpatrick will come up with next.  This will be one of my top books of 2013.

Cover art by Anne Cain, just perfection in every way.

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick

Dreamspinner Press, novel length, 232 pages

Buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3618

Glorious Books, A Web Hunt and Glorious Weather Too! What A Week It’s Going To Be!

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The weather is perfection today so I am getting ready to pull on the gardening gloves, turn the water for the outside faucets back on and prepare to spend the day getting down and dirty.  I have ferns, some grasses and even an English Daisy or two to plant and weeds to uproot.  To say the least, I am grinning like crazy in anticipation.

Also this week I am reviewing some books that are not only on Scattered Thoughts “Must Read” lists, they have made my Best of 2013 List as well.  Among them are Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord, T.J. Klune’s Into This River I Drown, Abigail Roux’s Touch & Geaux and Jay Kirkpatrick’s Freedom.  I can’t remember when I had so many wonderful books to read and recommend that released almost at the same time.  A surfeit of riches for us all to enjoy time and time again.

And on Monday, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is participating along with many other websites in Riptide Publishing’s Web Hunt for ???????????????????????????????????????Abigail Roux’s Touch & Geaux, book 7 in the amazing Cut & Run series.  On April 8, 2013, all participating book blogs will be joining the party by posting about the book and including one of their favorite quotes from any book in the Cut & Run series. Readers who collect each quote and submit their findings to marketing@riptidepublishing.com will be eligible to win one of two runner-up prizes and one grand prize.  More about this Cut & Run fun will be posted tomorrow along with my blog of Cut & Run favorite moments in the afternoon.

What a week!  So here is the full schedule, don’t miss a day!

Monday, April 8:          Riptide Publishing’s Web Hunt for Touch & Geaux,

Scattered Thoughts Favorite Cut & Run Moments

Tuesday, April 9:          Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) by Abigail Roux

Wed., April 10:             Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick

Thursday, April 11:      The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Friday, April 12:           Brute by Kim Fielding

Saturday, April 13:       Into This River I Drown by T.J. Klune

Really, just turn this week’s lineup into a shopping list because you won’t want to miss a single one.  Now the flowers and worms are calling me, really I can hear them right now.  So off I go or should I say Geaux in keeping with the books this week.  Have a wonderful Sunday everyone and I will see you right here on Monday.