TJ Nichols on Plotting and Planning and their latest release Olivier (Order of the Black Knights #7) (guest post)

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Olivier (Order of the Black Knights #7) by T.J. Nichols
Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

Buy links:   Dreamspinner Press |  Kobo | iTunes | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have T.J. Nichols here today to talk about the latest in the Order of the Black Knights series, Olivier and share some insight into the author’s writing process.  Welcome, T.J.!

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Plotting and planning by T.J. Nichols

I like to get to know my characters and have an idea about where my story is going before I start writing. Because Olivier is part of a series written by several authors there were also some basic rules that I had to follow, such as including the prologue (about the Knight’s last life and how he died) and also the detail about how Olivier became a Black Knight.

Aside from those couple of things the world was my own to create. It is less fantasy than my other works, but I love a cursed hero and the lure of including past lives was too great for me to pass up the opportunity.

The first thing I did was work out why Olivier signed on with the wizard. Who did he want revenge on and why? Then I needed to show an echo of that in the prologue and have him confront that issue once again in the actual story. After all those lives of killing and seeking revenge without understanding why, he has to eventually learn the lesson.

With one character established I then had to work out who it was that Olivier had been killing over and over again through the centuries. What had this guy done in the past and who was he now? While he hadn’t signed on with the wizard he’d been dragged into the curse.

I knew when I started that I didn’t want the breaking of the curse to become part of the Happily Ever After. It had to be another complication that only makes things worse for Olivier and Cody.

Somehow as I was writing it all got rather tangled and I had to go back to my reliable method of fixing a plot: make a list of every scene with a one sentence summary and a note about whose point of view it’s in. This method has saved many a story as I can see quickly when someone is taking over, or when scenes are missing, or need deleted. What I usually find is that when things get messy I’ve jumped ahead and missed scenes or I’ve taken a wild wrong turn and I need to rewrite one scene to put it back on track. Writing this list also helps me remember what the story is about and to keep true to that instead of trying to make it something else.

With this story one of my problems was working out how to deal with Cody’s father. I couldn’t let him walk away, but I also knew that he was too slippery for the police. Once I’d worked out what to do with him the ending came together—though not as I’d originally planned.

Olivier

Order of the Black Knights

Olivier Merlo works for a dangerous man. He does what he’s told without asking questions because he needs to protect his sister and niece. When someone gives his boss trouble, Olivier does what he does best. It’s a routine hit—until the victim’s brother starts poking around.

Cody Anders left his family behind a decade ago—along with their wealth and influence—to live on his own terms. Still, he knows his twin didn’t die of a drug overdose, and he’ll do anything to find the truth. What he uncovers is a conspiracy that will topple his family and leave him staring down the barrel of a gun.

Olivier must decide if he’s going to obey orders or free himself from the curse that has guided his hand for centuries. Cody, who challenges Olivier’s notion that no one can love him, holds the key to breaking his chains. But when the truth finally comes out, it might be more than Cody can accept.

About the Author

TJ Nichols is an avid runner and martial arts enthusiast who first started writing as child. Many years later while working as a civil designer, TJ decided to pick up a pen and start writing again. Having grown up reading thrillers and fantasy novels, it’s no surprise that mixing danger and magic comes so easily, writing urban fantasy allows TJ to bring magic to the every day. TJ enjoys writing novellas and novels and has a series, Studies in Demonology, coming out with DSP Publications.

With two cats acting as supervisors, TJ has gone from designing roads to building worlds and wouldn’t have it any other way. After traveling all over the world and Australia, TJ now lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Website: www.tjnichols-author.blogspot.com

Twitter: @TobyJNichols

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TJNichols.author

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cO-YRz

Andrea Speed on Soundtracks, Writing and her latest Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights #6) (guest post and excerpt)

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Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights #6) by Andrea Speed
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reamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Andrea Speed here today. Andrea is talking soundtracks for her stories, specifically her latest novel in the Order of the Black Knights series, Lochlann.  Welcome, Andrea!

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Soundtracks for Lochlann by Andrea Speed

I love making soundtracks for my stories. I have a ton of them, and I’ll admit they’re mostly pretty weird. I know people are supposed to mellow out as they get older, but I’m just getting stranger.

Music played a big part in my Infected series, but less so in my other stories. But just because music doesn’t play a direct part on the page in my Josh of the Damned series, doesn’t mean I didn’t have a soundtrack in mind. (Josh went through an embarrassing emo phase that he refuses to talk about.) The same is true of Lochlann, where music plays no part in the story, but I’m keenly aware of what should be there. I’ve already put together an online soundtrack you can listen to, but I’ll pick out a couple of songs to highlight Lochlann’s musical taste. .

To my way of thinking, Lochlann is a fan of gloomy music. Dark ambient stuff that lasts twenty minutes or so, longer than ever necessary. Stuff you think should be over long before it is, but is still undeniably creepy.

The Inward Circles – The Soul Itself A Rhombus

https://youtu.be/myk_wALF0_0

If you’re saying to yourself “What the hell is this” – congratulations! You have grasped dark ambient as a genre. I feel I can say that as I like quite a bit of it myself, but there’s no dismissing the fact that most of it can be boiled down to “why does this exist” and “who is this for”. An argument could be made it exists for soundtracks, but truth be told, dark ambient isn’t used in soundtracks like it should be, because people who put them together aren’t aware of the genre? Or don’t want to creep people out. Really good dark ambient can freak you the hell out. That’s a feature, not a bug.

Arovane & Porya Hatami – Becoming

https://youtu.be/dwPYry0v0q8

Now this is really dark ambient stuff, in that it’s a concept album. Yes, a collection of subtly shifting tones and notes is somehow a concept album. A really good one too! I encourage you to sit down and listen to the whole thing. I never really considered what a micro-organism might sound like, but this is probably close.

Verge – Deluge

https://youtu.be/y_833qIfDGI

A mild cheat, as this often falls under experimental, but it is very dark ambient sounding. Sometimes you do get genre creep with this style of music, as it is so damn strange. It also sometimes gets filed under electronic or metal, depending on whether it’s heavier with keyboards or guitars, alternate, post-rock, and a few other genres as well. It comes down to opinion of the artist or the listener a lot of the time. In that way, there’s a freedom to dark ambient that is kind of intriguing. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you hear it.

Lawrence English – Hard Rain

https://youtu.be/IrxDvJbZ9VQ


Another one that gets slotted into experimental more often than not, and that’s fair, as all his music doesn’t sound like this. But this is definitely dark ambient style experimental, and I feel that should be encouraged.

I think this puts you into Lochlann’s mindset quite easily, and I hope I encouraged at least one person to look up more dark ambient music. Because believe me, it’s so easy to write to, especially if you’re working on a dark or dramatic story. Let the creepiness commence!

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Blurb

Violence has been Lochlann O’Connor’s companion since he was born into a family of old-school Irish terrorists. From there he is recruited into Alpha, a secret government agency dedicated to fighting terrorism—with extreme prejudice. Lochlann’s bravery, efficiency, ruthlessness, and the natural dead eye that lets him hit anything that moves, quickly make him one of the shadowy organization’s most valued operatives.

Cas Vega joins Alpha because it’s marginally better than a prison sentence. He’s a former drug cartel assassin—or at least that’s his story. But Lochlann is suspicious. Despite an irrational and overwhelming attraction to Cas, Lochlann has questions, and they soon lead to a deeper and deadlier mystery. What is Alpha’s true purpose, and why does it seem they want to eliminate Lochlann?

Lochlann and Cas must work together to get to the bottom of Alpha’s scheme and escape it—and all while Cas keeps secrets that could cost him his life if they’re revealed. But it’s not an alliance that can last. Duty turns the men into enemies, even while fate compels them into each other’s arms. Before they can contemplate which will prevail, they must figure out how to survive.

 

Excerpt

 

Lochlann knew the mission had gone bad the second before Anze came over his earpiece and said, “We’ve been comp—” The rest of the sentence disappeared in a burst of static.

Not that it mattered. He knew what Anze was trying to say. And yet he barely quickened his pace as the emergency siren ripped through the building. Hoping security hadn’t been shut down yet, he ran Dr. Waters’s ID keycard through the door scanner. It beeped, and the light turned green as the lock released with a faint clunk. He opened the door and ducked inside as lights pulsed on the walls.

He was in the lowest level of the Kishigawa Pharmaceuticals building in Prague, which was actually a needless detail, as the building could have been any one of the two dozen or so Kishigawa Pharmaceutical buildings across the globe. The layouts were cookie cutter, exactly the same, which made it easy to find points of entrance and egress. But getting into the building was never the hard part of any operation. Getting what they came for and leaving were the issues.

He was on the second sublevel, which, according to the official records, was an empty storage area but was actually a secret lab, cooking up a biological weapon that made sarin gas seem like hot sauce. Alpha wanted to get the formula before Dr. Laska put it on the open market. That was Lochlann’s job—to neutralize the creator, and retrieve the only known sample of the finished product. And get out alive, which was the biggest challenge.

A lab assistant wearing thick glasses ran up to him. “Dr. Waters, do you know what’s going on?”

He was supposed to neutralize any witnesses. He had his Glock 30SF and his tactical knife, or he could simply punch the assistant in the larynx and kill him with a single blow. He would be neither the first nor the last innocent bystander Lochlann had killed.

So why didn’t he?

“Fire,” he said, jerking his head back toward the door. “Evacuate immediately.”

The assistant looked confused as Lochlann continued down the corridor. “Sir, what about you?”

“I’ll be right there. I have to get Dr. Laska. Go outside.” The comms were off. That burst of static that cut off Anze sounded like a jamming signal. If you couldn’t receive, you couldn’t send either. So officially none of it ever happened.

Laska’s lab was at the end of the hall. It was an airtight room with its own filtration system and its own inner airlock. No one ever asked why Dr. Laska needed those precautious. It was an idiosyncrasy everyone tolerated without knowing the reason behind it.

Dr. Laska’s assistant, Tinordi, turned to face him as Lochlann entered the room. “Dr. Waters, you’re not—”

Lochlann punched Tinordi square in the throat, crushing his larynx and windpipe. He crumpled to the floor and made terrible rasping sounds in lieu of breathing. He had to die—he worked on the project—but at least he’d die fast.

Laska was in his inner lab with his back turned to the outer chamber. That allowed Lochlann to cycle the airlock without being noticed. In there he couldn’t hear the emergency alert siren, which seemed like a tragic oversight. Laska would never know.

Once the airlock irised open, Laska, without turning around, said, “Bring me a number three flask, would you?” Laska assumed Lochlann was Tinordi. He didn’t know his assistant was dead in the adjoining room.

Lochlann didn’t answer immediately. He pulled out his Glock first. “I’m not your assistant.”

The strange voice made Laska spin on his heels, and he froze the second he saw the gun. His small eyes narrowed until they almost disappeared into the soft, white moon of his face. “Who do you work for? The Russians? The Chinese?”

Lochlann didn’t answer. Instead he fired, put a neat hole in Laska’s forehead, and blew his brains over the white wall behind him. Crimson bloomed messily and dripped down the wall, while grisly chunks splattered to the ground. Laska crumpled like a marionette that just had its strings cut. Lochlann stepped over the body and made his way to the wall safe, where the sample dubbed “formula X213” was stored.

Alpha had infiltrated Laska’s home and business computers a while before. The tech team had stolen all data on the formula and destroyed it, damaging the research from the inside out. They knew the safe code and all Laska’s other codes, because when Alpha targeted you, you were as good as dead in every sense of the word.

The safe opened with a pneumatic hiss, as it was temperature controlled, and Lochlann found the formula inside a vacuum-sealed thermos. He held it in his hand as he scanned the room and saw the incinerator in the corner.

A huge metal box, plastered with warning stickers, it used microwaves and intense heat not just to bake an object, but essentially to vaporize it and leave barely even a char mark. That was how Laska got rid of his previous failed formulas and kept industrial spies from taking even the tiniest samples of his work. Nothing survived that incinerator, not even clues.

Why did Alpha want formula X213? At the briefing Number One instructed them to wipe out all records of it, along with the scientist who created it. It was too deadly. A teaspoon of the stuff could kill everyone in a crowded mall, and in the open it could contaminate soil, air, and water for decades. But they wanted the sample. Yes, they had the formula, so they could make it themselves, but there was something tricky about the mixture. He didn’t know what. He didn’t need to. He was a field operative, not a tech.

The operation had never felt right to him. Alpha had plans for it, and he didn’t trust Alpha. They were supposed to be the good guys, but questions had been eating at him since the Rome incident. Alpha worked in deception. Could anything that relied on obfuscation be exactly what it seemed?

Before he could think about what he was doing, he went to the incinerator, dropped the thermos in, and activated it. He had to step back because the heat it shed was impressive, and the noise it made, while brief, was incredibly loud… which might have explained why Laska’s lab was soundproofed.

He had no idea what he was going to say to Number One, but he’d figure it out. Working for Alpha had made him an excellent liar.

He planted the explosive charge and shed his lab coat and fake Dr. Waters ID. Then he grabbed Dr. Laska’s security badge from his bloodied corpse and left the lab. Lochlann kept up his normal stride, as though he were leaving at the end of a shift, but he still had his gun out, held casually down at his side in his left hand. According to his trainer, he was one of the rarest of people—a truly ambidextrous shooter. He could use either hand with virtually the same results.

Lochlann met no one on his way to the exit. He’d have to kill anyone he encountered. The exit door had a security lock, and there was a chance that, if they’d locked the entire system down, it wouldn’t open even for Laska’s high-clearance badge. Hopefully the interruption to the comms hadn’t completely locked Alpha out of the building’s systems.

The first time he ran the badge through the lock, it made a negative noise and the light stayed red. He ran it again, and got the same response. Lochlann counted down in his head the time remaining to detonation as he ran the badge a third time and it worked. The light flashed green, and the lock released with a clunk. He flung it open and was out in the subterranean parking lot within five seconds. And despite the low lighting, he knew he wasn’t alone.

Buy link: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lochlann-by-andrea-speed-8493-b

About the Author

Andrea Speed is a random collection of newspapers and food scraps that somehow became sentient. Perhaps this explains her fear of goats. If you see her, just nod politely as she tells you how composting is an Illuminati conspiracy, and try not to make any sudden moves.

Author contacts:

An Ali Release Day Review: Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights #6) by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Violence has been Lochlann O’Connor’s companion since he was born into a family of old-school Irish terrorists. From there he is recruited into Alpha, a secret government agency dedicated to fighting terrorism—with extreme prejudice. Lochlann’s bravery, efficiency, ruthlessness, and the natural dead eye that lets him hit anything that moves, quickly make him one of the shadowy organization’s most valued operatives.

Cas Vega joins Alpha because it’s marginally better than a prison sentence. He’s a former drug cartel assassin—or at least that’s his story. But Lochlann is suspicious. Despite an irrational and overwhelming attraction to Cas, Lochlann has questions, and they soon lead to a deeper and deadlier mystery. What is Alpha’s true purpose, and why does it seem they want to eliminate Lochlann?

Lochlann and Cas must work together to get to the bottom of Alpha’s scheme and escape it—and all while Cas keeps secrets that could cost him his life if they’re revealed. But it’s not an alliance that can last. Duty turns the men into enemies, even while fate compels them into each other’s arms. Before they can contemplate which will prevail, they must figure out how to survive.
 
This is the 6th book in the Order of the Black Knights series.  This series is unique in the fact that each book is written by a different author and they can all be read as standalones.  There is a short, but thorough description of the world and the events that are happening in it so you know what’s going on when you start the book.
I was excited about this book as the author is a favorite of mine.  Unfortunately the book was just ok for me.  Lochlann works for Alpha, a secret  government agency, and he thinks he is a good guy.  Through the course of this book he finds out that things are not quite what they seem.  Lochlann and Cas meet when they are assigned to work together.  Lochlann knows something is off about Cas but he doesn’t realize Cas’ secrets are going to implode his entire world.
The action scenes were good and entertaining.  Very Jason Bourne-ish.  The romance part was where the book didn’t meet my expectations.  I didn’t feel any connection between Lochlann and Cas at all.  Most of their time intimate time takes place off page.  I’m not talking about sex scenes, although those were fade to black too, but we don’t see much of them getting to know each other and falling for each other.  When they’re on page together it is usually some sort of action scene.  So, even by the end, I didn’t feel I knew either MC and I hadn’t at all bought in to their relationship.  The story was all telling and no showing.
Overall, this was just an average read for me.  It wasn’t bad but also wasn’t what I was hoping it would be.
The cover was done by Aaron Anderson.  I think it is well done and I like how all of the books in the series have covers that are similar.
Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook
Expected publication: May 22nd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleLochlann
ISBN 1635333954 (ISBN13: 9781635333954)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOrder of the Black Knights #6

RK Staunton On Writing, Stories and her latest release, Gabriel (Order of the Black Knights #5) (guest post)

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Gabriel (Order of the Black Knights #5) by R.K. Staunton
D
reamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

Available for Purchase at

           

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host R.K. Staunton here today to talk about her latest story, Gabriel, the latest in the Order of the Black Knights series from Dreamspinners Press.  Welcome, R.K.!

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~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words R.K. Staunton Interview ~

How much of yourself goes into a character?

I think at least a little of myself goes into every character I write or have ever written. We have small commonalities. For instance, at one point in my life I wanted to be a social worker and work in foster care like Lucas in Gabriel. For one reason or another, that never worked out for me, but that early ambition made its way into Lucas’s character.

At the same time, my characters are very much their own people. They have their own voices, and their own ideas that are often very different from what I think they’re going to do. Writers talk a lot about whether we outline or not and how much we outline. I fall somewhere in between in that I attempt to outline important parts but leave a lot of the getting there open, and I say that I attempt to outline because no matter how much I try the characters still seem to somehow change things up in the middle on me.

Gabriel is probably the character who is most different from me. He’s a hard-edged assassin, and I tend to be far more of the caregiver type.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

I’ve been voraciously reading romances since I was about 16. I write the kind of stories that I like to read. Gabriel is my first M/M book, but I’ve been a reader for years. Personally, I think it’s essential that you know your genre as a reader before you try to write it.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

I’m a sucker for HEA. I’m a hopeless romantic who wants happily ever after. HFN is okay, but to me, it seems like more of a stopgap along the road to HEA than a true ending. When stories end in HFN, I always find myself wanting to know what happens next. It doesn’t feel like all the loose ends are tied up for me with that kind of ending.

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

Honestly, I don’t really have a method to choosing covers. It’s all about which one feels like it fits a particular story best. If I had to summarize it, I usually pick photos that look like the characters to me first. Then I’ll get a general idea of what I want as the look of the cover. Often, it doesn’t all come together until I’ve have a title, and that can be at any point in the book. I went into Gabriel knowing the title because all the books in the series are named after the knight featured in the book, but in the past, there have been times when I haven’t known the title until the very end of the book. On at least one occasion, I called the book by one title throughout the entire process then ended up changing it to something I thought fit better at the last minute. Sometimes, that would’ve also changed the cover, but it didn’t on that one.

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

Not really. Trying to choose between my stories would be like trying to choose between my friends or even my children. I’m fond of each of them for different reasons. I do have favorite parts in every story that I especially like, but not a favorite book.

What’s next for you as an author?

For the next few months, I will be working on books that I’ll publish under my Ruth Staunton pen name. I publish books that feature spanking/domestic discipline under that pen name and more mainstream M/M books as RK Staunton. Prior to now, everything I have published as Ruth has been M/F, but the series I am working on for the remainder of this year will be M/M. For now, I have informally dubbed it my Geek Love series because at least one character in every couple is a technology geek. Those books will be out beginning in July with a crossover prequel, and the series proper will probably start sometime around September.

As for the next RK Staunton book, I’m toying with a sci-fi idea about a man whose partner disappears and is replaced with his genetic double, but no one believes this man when he says the double is not his partner. I have no idea when I’ll get around to writing that one though.

Excerpt

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Gabriel went on, and Lucas nodded. He forced himself to unlock the door and push it open, and he felt more than saw Gabriel turn to go down the steps.

“Wait.”

Gabriel froze midstep and immediately turned back to look at him.

“Do you even have my number?” he asked as he stopped in the open doorway and turned back to face Gabriel

Gabriel’s face shifted from confused to blank and back again. He took his phone from his pocket and thumbed through the contacts. “No,” he said after a moment, “I don’t guess I do.”

“It will be hard for you to call me, then,” Lucas teased, and he smiled despite his anxiety.

Gabriel jogged up the steps, and they traded phones and added their information to one another’s contacts. “Sorry. I wasn’t trying to blow you off.”

“I know,” Lucas said. He passed back Gabriel’s phone and pocketed his own. “Now you can call me tomorrow.”

“And I will,” Gabriel promised.

Lucas stepped back. He meant to say good-bye and close the door, but his hand closed over Gabriel’s wrist before his mind was even consciously aware of what his body was doing. “Don’t go,” he heard himself say, sounding like nothing so much as a child begging a parent to stay with them after a nightmare. “I can’t do this alone.”

He didn’t mean to say that out loud. Yes, he was terrified. He couldn’t remember the last time he even spoke to Eric’s father beyond the briefest of pleasantries when he answered the phone. And it was going to be hard enough to go into Eric’s room to find the number. He hadn’t set foot in Eric’s room since Eric had been gone. He wasn’t looking forward to doing that alone. But he wasn’t supposed to say so out loud.

About The Order of the Black Knights

Every century has seen its knights. But there are those who are never seen. They do what must be done—what has to be done—when nobody wants to get their hands dirty. They are called the Black Knights. First created in the 1100s by the wizard Moriel, these men seem cold and hard, and it is said that some have no soul. But for each knight, there is one who can bring out the man who waits inside. The question is whether or not he will kill the individual before he figures it out.

Through the ages, they’ve conquered and ruled and taken what they wanted. And they have adapted to modern times. Instead of being bullies for hire, they have taken their skills further—the Internet, the CIA, government infiltration, hacking, special ops, assassination, but each one of them has a need they don’t understand—to squash, kill, or destroy.

Blurb for Gabriel

Gabriel Ingram is running from his past. It’s common knowledge at the college where he teaches that he’s a former CIA technical analyst, but no one knows the things he really did—or about the rage and bloodlust that are his constant companions. He’s holding on to his normal life with both hands, but he knows someday he’ll lose his grip.

Lucas Craig is a social worker studying to become a family therapist. For reasons Lucas can’t understand, the normally reclusive Professor Ingram takes an interest in him, and Lucas secretly hopes their friendship might become more.

Then Eric, Lucas’s roommate, disappears. Lucas is frantic. The police are no help. With nowhere else to turn, Lucas begs Gabriel for his expertise.

What starts as a simple errand to help a friend becomes a journey into a violent world of gangs and human trafficking—one that will bring Gabriel face-to-face with the forces intent on stealing his soul. But Lucas might be the one who can save him—if Gabriel can get them out alive.

About the Author

RK Staunton rebelled against having a Christmas birthday in favor of making an unexpected debut in early fall, and she’s been doing the unexpected ever since. This tendency has resulted in many adventures, including a ten-year stint as a guide in that strange urban jungle called middle school. While entertaining, that expedition ultimately proved too harrowing. After finally making her escape, she turned to a quieter life masquerading as a crazy cat lady living in a small town in the southeastern US.

RK has lived with a menagerie of characters inside her head for as long as she can remember. In a desperate bid to preserve her sanity, she has begun to transcribe the tales they tell her. This endeavor has proven to be fun, occasionally profitable, and cheaper than therapy. It has also fueled raging addictions to caffeine and chocolate on top of her lifelong addiction to books, but everyone is entitled to a vice or three, right?

RK also writes spanking and domestic discipline romances as Ruth Staunton. Right now, these are M/F, but several M/M stories are coming later this year. You can find out more about those books and get a free story here.

Find her Online: