Megan Derr on How the Trilogy Came About and her latest release ‘Waiting for You’ by Megan Derr (guest blog, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Waiting for You

Series: Lifesworn, Book 1

Author: Megan Derr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 5, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction)

Length: 40000

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, friends to lovers, reunited, royalty, bodyguard, established couple, political, spies

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How the Trilogy Came About by Megan Derr

So a question that crops up pretty often is what comes first, plot, setting, or characters? For me, that varies from story to story. This particular one started with the characters and some of the plot (I wrote another post on the exact inspiration for this story).  I had a princess in danger, a prince, and his bodyguard, and an eventual threesome. I had an evil parent (though father become stepfather).

Since this had originally been meant as an erotic short for ARe, I decided to keep the setting simple. Two countries, one with obvious medieval Europe influences, the other with medieval Middle East influences. No magic. Pretty confined plot, in that there’s a small cast and they don’t move between a whole lot of locations. But as is my want and practice, I also built a world where all things queer are accepted. Her stepfather hates her, but only because she’s a threat to his power, not because she’s bisexual. It doesn’t matter to him if she marries a man or a woman, if they’re cis or trans. He just wants her out of the way or under his control once and for all.

And I felt it was important to lay out how this story came about, because there’s this idea that persists in writing, in art, that we must wait for inspiration! and be struck by muses! and listen to the voices! and that to purposely write something with a goal like money in mind makes us less. And that’s stupid and worse harmful. I always write what I want, but sometimes what I want is something that does not tax and exhaust me the way High King or Dance-verse or Tavamara-verse does, something that is easy to write, appealing to more readers than usual (since queer fantasy romance is never going to have the draw that contemporary romance does), and makes good money.

So that is how this trilogy came about.

Synopsis

Shanna has spent her whole life waiting—waiting to be old enough, waiting for the day she must pick a consort, waiting for a chance to finally overcome her despicable stepfather… and waiting for someone to finally banish the loneliness that comes with being a queen-in-waiting one step away from being murdered.

On the eve of the two-week event during which she must pick a consort from a bevy of suitors, two strangers arrive claiming to have been invited—though she knows full well they did not receive any such invitation. But the handsome, mischievous Prince Kallaar is too intriguing to resist, and his quiet bodyguard too compelling to ignore…

But she’s learned the hard way never to let anyone get too close, and on the verge of gaining true independence her stepfather will stop at nothing to see she never gets it.

Excerpt

Waiting for You
Megan Derr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Prologue

Shanna sighed in the gloom of the stables, enjoying the dark and quiet, even the smell of horse, dragon, and manure.

Gingerly touching her sore cheek, the result of a stepfather who’d succumbed to a rare fit of temper and struck her, she went to get some treats for the animals.

After she’d given apples to the horses and hazelnuts to the dragons, she pulled out the small flask of wine she’d brought with her, upended a bucket to make a seat, and settled in front of her favorite dragon’s stall for a night of drinking.

She’d prefer to be making merry, a proper ceremony honoring her mother, two years dead now, but of course her worthless stepfather, Mercen, preferred a much smaller, quieter, and more somber affair. Just one more occasion for him to do what he needed to further his own goals while paying token respect to the woman who’d made him consort.

At least it was late enough she’d be left alone out here. Everyone else was asleep or on duty. The only person who’d be in the stable at that hour was Tikki, the stable boy, and even if he woke and realized she was there, he’d leave her alone.

All the problems of the day—week, month, past two years—tried to rise up, but Shanna had endured more than her fill of them for the present. They’d have to wait until tomorrow. Instead, she drank wine and tried to focus only on happy memories of her mother, the sorts of things her mother would tell her to think about.

She’d almost managed to achieve a good mood, or something close enough, when she heard voices outside. Voices that were not speaking Remnien. If she wasn’t mistaken, they were speaking Morentian, which was bizarre. Morentians didn’t travel this far north very often, and certainly not in the dead of a winter night.

Pushing to her feet, Shanna headed for the stable doors—and barely jumped back in time to avoid being whacked in the head by one.

Two figures, accompanied by horses, hurried into the stables and closed the doors behind them. The shorter of the two said something, and Shanna caught snatches of “finally” and “snow” and something she didn’t understand but suspected was a curse. Her mother had never taught her those words, though Shanna had tried to learn them.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

They spun toward her, going still a moment before removing the snow-crusted wrappings from their faces—which revealed extremely handsome men, tired and travel-worn though they were. Shanna swallowed, painfully aware suddenly of her own unkempt state: the old, ragged dress she’d thrown on, her hair only loosely knotted back, the bruise slowly forming on her cheek.

Oh, what did it matter? She was a princess—a queen in waiting—what did it matter if she looked good to a couple of travelers she’d never see again?

“I am sorry to disturb,” the shorter man said, mouth curving in a smile that reminded Shanna of the kitchen boy, Benni, who caused no end of trouble but always charmed his way out of it with smiles like that. “We are humble peddlers from Morentia and not accustomed to your wretched snow. We were hoping to reach the royal castle tonight, but I honestly have no idea where we are right now.”

Shanna laughed. “You’ll be relieved to know you’ve reached your destination, though you’ll have to wait until morning to peddle your wares. But come, there are places aplenty for you to stay the night, and the kitchens can give you a meal.”

“We’d be most grateful, Lady…”

“Shanna.”

Both men stilled again briefly before venturing farther into the stable, closer to Shanna. She moved backward a few paces and nearly collided with one of the two lanterns that lent the stables light.

The shorter man said something in Morentian she didn’t understand, the words spoken too low and fast to catch. “You are no lady, but the fine princess herself,” the man said, his wickedly charming smile returning. “We are most honored to make your acquaintance, my princess.”

Shanna shivered. My princess. She liked the way he said that.

“Shall we tend the horses before you attempt to flirt with someone too good for you, Kallaar?” the second man asked gruffly.

“Yes, Ahmla.” Kallaar glanced back at Shanna. “Where should we put our horses, Your Highness?”

“This way.”

Once the horses were tended, Kallaar returned to her side immediately, almost but not quite standing improperly close. “Now then, what brings a lovely princess to the stables so late at night? And all alone. Surely there are better places to be in this terrible weather? I should think anywhere else at all would be better.”

“It’s not that cold.”

Kallaar looked at her like she had lost her mind. “There is snow.”

Shanna laughed at his affronted tone. “Yes, but it’s early winter yet. Soon it will be so cold every breath feels like knives in your lungs, too cold even for snow, and everything that ventures outside unprotected freezes immediately.”

“How can it be too cold for snow?” Kallaar sounded affronted. “That sounds like a nightmare come to life.”

Ahmla made a noise that sounded like agreement.

“I’m certain many people say the same about the heat of Morentia. What brings you so far afield this time of year? Surely your wares could wait to be traded in weather you find more pleasing?”

“I come from a very bossy family, and there are things that must be done, and I am the one to do them,” Kallaar said, looking oddly intent for a man who probably traded in bobbles and knickknacks. “Not that I mind, of course. I am just as bossy and demanding as the rest of them—” He gave a snickering Ahmla a look. “Anyway, despite our grousing, we are happy to be here, my princess. Now, I do not suppose there is anywhere in this place where a couple of frozen strangers might thaw?”

“I think I can help with that,” Shanna said, smiling in a way she hadn’t since her mother had died two years ago. Hard to find anything to smile about when she was a prisoner in her own castle, constantly afraid she would join her mother in the afterlife while Mercen stole their kingdom.

“Splendid!” Once they were outside, Kallaar offered his arm.

Amused and charmed despite herself, Shanna made to accept—and slipped on a patch of ice, but even as she drew breath to scream, she was scooped up before she hit the cold, hard ground.

Shanna blinked at Ahmla, who held her like she weighed nothing, and was shockingly warm for a man who had seemed cold and miserable. “Are you all right?” he asked.

“Um. Yes. Thank you, Master Ahmla. That would have been a nasty fall.”

“My honor to serve, princess.” Instead of setting her down, though, Ahmla carried her all the way to the castle and only put her on her feet once they reached the stones of the kitchen yard, which were kept clean by the staff so they could work safely.

“Thank you again,” Shanna said and hastened inside to hide her flushed face.

In the kitchen, she found the late-night cook in the pantry and requested she see about food and beds.

Returning to Kallaar and Ahmla, she said, “You’ll be taken care of quite well from here by the staff.”

“It’s most appreciated, my princess. You are even kinder and more gracious than rumors say.”

Shanna highly doubted any such rumors existed, but she smiled all the same. “It’s sweet of you to say so.”

“No, it’s not. Don’t encourage him,” Ahmla said. “He’s enough of a brat.”

“You wound me,” Kallaar said with a pout.

Shanna laughed. “I will leave you to charm sweets from the cook, for I must to bed. It was a pleasure to meet you both. Perhaps I’ll see you again before you continue your travels.”

“Count on it, my princess. I could never leave here without seeing your lovely face at least once more.”

Ahmla lifted his eyes to the ceiling, and even the cook snorted as she brought them bowls of the soup kept on the fire for staff and soldiers working through the night.

Smiling again, Shanna bowed her head as they bowed. “Goodnight, dear sirs. Sleep well.”

“And you, my princess,” Kallaar said. “Sweet dreams.”

As she headed off to her room, still smiling at Kallaar’s antics and how nice it had felt to be held so easily by Ahmla, Shanna thought maybe for the first time in a long time, her dreams just might be sweet.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Megan is a long time resident of LGBTQ fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr

Tour Schedule

6/5 – Erotica For All

6/5 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Word

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6/8 – A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

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Review: Dirty Deeds (Dirty Deeds #1) by S.E. Jakes

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 (should be 4.99 as it is so close to perfection)

DirtyDeeds_400x600British black op Cillian is deep undercover, his assignment so complicated, so twisted that not even Cillian is sure what the real purpose of his mission is.  Working for Special Branch 20 has meant doing whatever it takes to move his investigation forward.  It has also meant being totally out on his own without any support from his employers, alone for years.  Cillian has made a tenuous connection with the agent in the floor above him, Prophet Drews of EE, Ltd, for investigative purposes and a little pleasure too.  But now there is someone else on Cillian’s radar.  Someone who likes his sex rough and silent.  Cillian knows he should leave it at that.  But this new man is driving him wild and Cillian can’t seem to keep from pursuing him even though it might compromise his mission.

Former Navy Seal Mal is an operative for EE, Ltd.  Wanted in several states and countries, Mal is also considered crazy and dangerous by most of the people he works with. He is also a friend of Prophet’s.  His current assignment?  Tracking Cillian to try and find out exactly what and who the British agent is after.   But the mission has already turned personal for both Mal and Cillian through intimate encounters that should have stayed anonymous.  Soon the dangers are mounting as well as the body count.  But neither man is prepared for the  pain and betrayal yet to come when a devastating secret is exposed.

How can just 94 pages be so explosive?  The emotions and events of this story just seem to erupt like a geyser that has been building up pressure until it cannot be contained.  That’s what the men are like that SE Jakes has created for her Dirty Deeds story and series.  Mal and Cillian are titanium tough loners, made that way through their tortured pasts that include abuse and death, seasoned through brutal training as well as a variety of missions both successful and failed until it has all solidified into the dangerous, intelligent men they are today.

SE Jakes brings her characters vividly to life through descriptions and events guaranteed to have you hanging on by your fingernails.  Both Cillian and Mal have made appearances before in the Hell or High Water series, especially Cillian as he occupied the condo below Prophet Drews, an EE operative.  Now these men are the focus of their own action-packed, suspense-filled storyline,the characters who teased us unmercifully in the previous books are fleshed out with convoluted histories and traumatic events that are still only hinted at.  Mal and Cillian are playing with each other psychologically as well as electronically, each jockeying for the upper position in their investigations and surveillance of each other.  That each man’s methods include a playbook made up of mental games and sexual ones just serves to deepen a portrait of complicated men so sure of themselves and their methodology that they can risk their bodies without question.  It also includes some of the most combustible sex written. I’m talking incendiary hot, so hot and explosive that it starts to melt away the formidable walls each man has erected around their hearts and souls.

Mal and Cillian are men who have killed, perhaps tortured, schemed to reach their many goals.  And its to the author’s credit, that we care immensely for these men as we watch them teeter on the brink of a relationship with each other, against all odds and their own proclivities.  Because as hardened as these men are, deep underneath they still retain the ability to be hurt by the right person and events from their pasts.

Jakes keeps us and her characters guessing at every step in the storyline.  We are never sure who are the bad guys or when they will pop up to deliver a death blow and derail an investigation.  The phrase “pins and needles” was surely meant to be used in reference to the Dirty Deeds men and their stories.  There are so many twists here I stopped counting halfway through the story.  There are twists in their missions, surprises in their backgrounds, mind blowing revelations and one huge whopper of an ending that I never saw coming.  God, I love books like this.

Jakes keeps her narrative flowing rapidly along, like a river about to rise out of its banks at flood time.  It pulls in everything around it, sweeping it along a merciless path.  You are transfixed by the scene in front of you,unable to look away.  It’s dramatic, its mind boggling and its hold on you is magnetic.  Most of you will want to howl at the ending.  So howl away.  What a revelation! What a great way to end this story!  Only a small lack of context kept this from a perfect five but oh how close it came.  Pick it up and run to the nearest place and start reading.  Make sure you are comfortable because you will be there a while.  Consider this story,Dirty Deeds, and its connected series, Hell or High Water, highly recommended.

Cover art by LC Chase.  Once again the artist has created a cover that is perfect for the story and its characters.  Just terrific.

Book Details:

ebook, 94 pages
Published January 13th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published January 11th 2014)
ISBN13 9781626490932
edition language English

Review of Armed and Dangerous by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 5 stars

“I’m sorry.  The walls are closing in and I need to go. Love you.” And with that note, Ty Grady was gone leaving Zane Garrett to wake up alone after finally declaring his love for his partner.  Missing Ty and his frustration levels rising by the minute, Zane prowls the hallways of the Bureau in search of anything to occupy his time.  When the Bureau Chief sends him as backup  to an agent on a specialty mission, Zane is astonished to find out that the agent he is meeting is none other than his missing partner, Ty.  Their mission?  To retrieve and escort part-time CIA operative and assassin Julian Cross (Warriors Cross) to Washington, DC to testify against his former employers whether Cross wants to or not.  In this case, its definitely not.  Cross won’t go.

Julian Cross retired after the events of Warriors Cross and has moved in with his love, Cameron Jacobs in Chicago.  And nothing, including a couple of FBI agents is going to take him away from that.  Garrett and Grady have orders that say otherwise and when the four come together, the explosions and gunfire reverberate from Chicago to Washington, DC.  Fighting not only each other but agents from other agencies as more and more people pursue them across state after state, Ty and Zane must also work on their newfound relationship as the present mission and Ty’s past threaten to come between them. Sometimes being Armed and Dangerous is just not enough to see them through the dangers ahead.

Armed and Dangerous is the 5th book in the Cut and Run series started originally by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux in 2008, and in my opinion, is the most satisfying book of the series. Armed and Dangerous is a remarkable book made even more so by the fact that Abigail Roux is now writing the series alone, as Madeleine Urban has quit writing.  To take nothing away from the terrific job Urban did together with Roux on the previous books, it is clear that Roux was right to carry on with Ty and Zane without her.   Years of coauthoring the books have given Abigail Roux decisive knowledge of both Garrett and Grady (and their unique personalities) that the writing is seamless between A&D and Divide and Conquer, the previous novel.  Only in the absence of Urban’s name on the cover does the difference between the books become apparent.

Abigail Roux is a master of location and she visits the cities where her characters reside and travel to.  Roux often posts pictures of her research travels on her website.  Such thoroughness and authenticity is appreciated and apparent in the way she captures the flavor of the neighborhoods in Baltimore as well as Chicago. As someone who lives in the DC area and visited Chicago, she has Chicago, Baltimore and the District spot on, including the Verizon Center and The Greene Turtle.  I really applaud that extra effort in an author and thinks it contributes so much to the story that a realistically described locale can become a character all its own in a novel.

In addition to location, her descriptions of the fighting, explosions and in an hilarious scene, TSA search methods, are all so incredibly written that the story moves forward at a pace that keeps time with your heart, beating rapidly with anxiety  and anticipation as the story builds to its conclusion.  But its with the characters, and what characters they are, that Abigail Roux really shines.

Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are two of the most complicated (and charismatic) protagonists in a relationship that I can remember.  Absolutely wonderful creations at the beginning, each has continued to evolve and strengthen as the series continued, the reader learning about them as they learned about each other, adjusting by small increments to the partnership the Bureau foisted upon them.  This journey continues with A&D as Ty and Zane’s relationship reaches a new stage.  The insecurities that have hounded both men  and kept them from acknowledging their love are slowly let go, the men finally on the same page at the same time.  To appreciate the struggles these men have gone through to get to this level, it is imperative that the books be  read in the order they are written. Ty and Zane have faced down their own demons, including drugs and alcohol, as well as the Bureau’s use of their abilities and still gone forward in their relationship, to each others surprise.  These men are beautifully  written, each with their own unique personality and a dialog that reflects that individuality in each phrase they utter.  It is no wonder that these men have rabid fans with Team  Zane or Team Ty t-shirts of their own.  I *cough* am a fan of both.

In each book, a layer of the past is pealed back, revealing more of one of the main characters background.  Here it is Ty’s turn and some of the revelations are truly unexpected, including the real reason he joined the military.  I really wasn’t expecting that one.  And that is just another one of the many pleasures these books, and this one in particular, deliver.   I never know what will happen next.  Roux kept me guessing right up until the end and then some.  I love that.  Also it’s the tricks of the trade that Ty, Zane, and Julian employ to frustrate, roadblock, and totally disable those trying to apprehend them that amaze me as well.  What until you get to the doorknob maneuver.  Amazing.

But all the neat bells and whistles won’t help if you don’t have a great plot filled with tremendous characters.  That Armed and Dangerous has in spades.  Ty and Zane are joined here by Julian Cross, an enigmatic Irish assassin and his lover, Cameron Jacobs, a waiter in an upscale restaurant.  Yes, you read that correctly, that would be Cameron the waiter.  Definitely not a person you would expect to find paired up with such a dangerous individual as Julian Cross.  But   Cameron is more than his unremarkable exterior and a lovely layered character in his own right.  Julian is not your typical assassin either as he comes complete with his own driver, Preston and a pair of wicked Maine Coon cats named Smith and Wesson. I have loved all of them since their introduction in Warriors Cross and was thrilled to see them brought into this story.  To fully appreciate both characters, again I will direct you to read their backstory in the book I just mentioned.  To read Armed and Dangerous without reading Warriors Cross or any of the other Cut and Run books, is only to skim the surface of the ocean, missing all the life, formations and depth that make up the whole.  If you are already a fan of these books, you know what I mean.  If you are new to the series, stop reading this and head out to get Cut and Run.  No reading from the back!  I know who you are!

Abigail Roux is an amazing author.  Armed and Dangerous is an exemplary example of her talent.  I haven’t heard if she plans to write another story in the Cut and Run series.*  I can only hope she does.  I need to know what happens next to Ty and Zane. And to Julian, Cameron and those darn cats.  That’s what happens with great characters, they live beyond their pages and reside in our hearts.  Ty and Zane do both.

*(Reviewer note: There is a 6th book coming out in August by Abigail Roux, published by Riptide Publishing. See below)

Here is the series in the order they must be read to fully appreciate the characters and the growth of their relationship:

Cut and Run,  Cut and Run series #1 by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Sticks and Stones, Cut and Run series #2 by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Fish and Chips, Cut and Run series #4 by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Warriors Cross ( Julian and Cameron’s story – side novel to Cut and Run series) by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Armed and Dangerous, Cut and Run series #5 by Abigail Roux

Stars and Stripes, Cut and Run series #6 by Abigail Roux due out in August

Cover:  I love the covers on this series.  Simple yet elegant.  And yes, handcuffs appear often in this story so this is perfect. Love it.

More about the author can be found here at her blog: