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Sharing covers with my heroes

September 29, 2014

Although perhaps not in the way that first comes to mind.

In just two days, the anthology Another Place In Time will be released. It contains historical short stories by the writers whom I most love to read in that genre – Aleksandr Voinov, K.J. Charles, Jordan L. Hawk, Joanna Chambers, and Tamara Allen. This is seriously my dream team of writers. When Susan, from Boys in Our Books came to me with the idea, and listed who was onboard to write stories, and then asked me if I’d contribute… I think I sprained a finger typing yes.

The jitters came later. Because really, I have one free historical story out so far. I’m the novice in this group when it comes to making the past live and breathe, and love. But it was a good reason to dive back into World War II research, which I’d had to forcibly put down to actually write Into Deep Waters. And it was a lovely excuse to write something new when I was really supposed to be editing novels.

And it meant sharing a cover with my heroes.

AnotherPlaceinTimefinal Another Place In Time is available for preorder on Amazon and Smashwords. It will appear on other retailers October 1st. All the profits from the book will go to AllOut.org in celebration of LGBT History Month, October 2014.

I can’t wait to read all the other stories in this anthology. I hope you enjoy finding my guys among the wonderful mix of characters, times and places. And if you’re not a fan of historical stories yet, I’m betting this anthology will be a great way to change your mind.

Wolves, good friends, and winners

September 20, 2014

Unjustified Claims is now available on Amazon so that should be all of the major outlets completed. Um… let the reading begin?

I told an author friend, Edmond Manning, last night, as we both obsessed a bit over our book releases, that I was really crappy at promo. I should be out there guest-blogging and Facebooking about my new book, and I’m barely here on my own space discussing it. I run out of things to say fast. I knew I’d post again to put the Amazon link up, so what else new could I write? (Other than posting the winners of the free ebook drawing below – if you entered, check for your name. I’ll be contacting the three winners shortly.)

Well Edmond was busy with his own release. (The third of his Lost and Founds series, by the way, which are exceptional. I gave the first book King Perry a glowing review before I ever knew Edmond, and I’m halfway through The Butterfly King and loving it.) But Edmond is not only a funny guy with an amazing turn for emotion and language, he’s also very sweet. So he said, “Hey, I can do an interview for you. I’ll give you questions to answer so you can post it on your blog.” He knows I do much better answering questions than self-starting. So below is his interview for me. With a few Manning touches, of course. (Thanks, Edmond.)
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“Kaje Harper is known throughout the MM world for her grounded, heartfelt romances and the authenticity she brings to real-world stories (Flattery – he likes me.). Are you prepared for her to cavort through the woods at night, snarling, drooling, and running naked? Get ready. Today she celebrates her latest triumph, the latest in the Hidden Wolves series, NAME OF BOOK HERE. (Kaje, you never mentioned the name of the book to me!)” He doesn’t actually read my werewolves, he was working off the blurbs, which is why I’m doubly grateful for the help, although not so much the naked drooling part. Unjustified Claims BTW, Edmond.

Curious readers want to know how the deviousness of her shifter mind works, so we tamed her long enough (bacon and belly rubs did the trick) to pose some questions about the nature of werewolves, the American military complex, and the Michigan pack Brandt tries to leave behind.

1. In your world-building, the pack remains homophobic and part of that is the notion that a werewolf could be “blackmailed into giving out pack secrets.” Very much a parallel to the old-school military fear of homosexuals in the armed forces. Old school homophobia. Can you talk a little more about that? Were you trying to highlight that outdated military thinking?

I wasn’t deliberately mirroring the military, or even the 1950s congressional hearings, although some similar forces are at work. My pack history reflects some of the excuses that have been made for homophobia, and some of the psychological reasons behind prejudice. There are a lot of factors that contribute to it. When I created my packs, my goal was to make it believable that they might continue to exist undetected in modern society. And with some of the choices I made about how the packs were structured, homophobia became a plausible part of it.

My wolves are somewhat longer-lived, which means that their leaders tend to be of an earlier generation than their human equivalents. They are all male, and very focused on rank and hierarchy. They are not tolerant of perceived weakness or differences, they are very paranoid, and have a strong us-versus-them attitude. Their solution to a threat is to kill it and hide the remains. They have very few offspring, and getting a mate pregnant is a cause for extreme celebration. And in real canine groups, accepting being topped by another group member is a gesture of submission, even when it doesn’t involve actual sex. All of those factors contribute to a strong and hopefully believable anti-gay bias within the pack.

2. Writing about werewolves probably has some interesting freedoms from writing a very grounded, contemporary romance. What do you like about writing stories that are paranormal?

I really enjoy writing fantasy and paranormal. Part of it is the chance to create conflicts and challenges that don’t have to be researched for realism and that can involve the MC’s emotions in new ways. (The bonds of a wolf to his pack, which in some ways parallel a mundane person’s ties to their family and their past, also add the paranormal threat of being tracked down by that family if the MC decides to leave, for example.)

The other enjoyable part is trying to make the magical world feel real. I enjoy world-building. I like to figure out how to make the characters and setting out of the realm of human experience and yet real enough to engage the reader’s emotions. Ideally, readers should feel like this fantasy world could really exist somewhere out there.

There’s fun to be had in puzzling out the logical consequences of each paranormal decision. (If shifting takes body energy, do I want them to lose weight when it happens? If a mate-bond means that mates can feel each other’s emotions, what happens when one mate dies?) Instead of hopping on the Net to do real-world research and find out an answer, I get to sit back with a drink and a cookie and invent my own.

3. Every writer wants their characters to be unique. What makes Brandt unique?

Brandt’s a guy who’s had a long, drawn out battle with his own built-in prejudices, as well as the threat of discovery by his pack. He’s not just bisexual – he could have perhaps ignored his attraction to men given the Pack consequences. But he also, early in the book, reveals that he has a lingerie kink that is most satisfying when he’s the one in the corset and heels. He’s tried to work through his fears and accept himself and what he likes, but the values he was brought up with, and the prejudices of humans as well as wolf society make it hard.

When he meets Ethan, he’s still hiding a lot of who he is. Getting kicked out of the pack didn’t let him suddenly undo all his indoctrination. Ethan is a gay man with an open mind, and as Brandt hangs around with him, he’ll slowly let down some of his walls.

4. Does this book illustrate repercussions of leaving his Michigan pack behind? Or are we finished with them?

Brandt’s pack definitely looms large in his mind, and they will show up in the book to make his life more complicated.

5. You’ve probably been asked this before. Sorry about that. But when you write, what drives you: the plot, the characters, or something else?

I’m very much about the characters, especially early in the creative process. Books first come to me in the form of one or both MCs and a setting, but I rarely know where the plot is going to go. At the same time, I do try to eventually have a real external plot happening in my stories. I want the lives of my gay MCs to happen as part of a wider story, and not as the sole focus.

6. What do you think a progressive wolf pack would look like? What old-world values would they cherish and which ones would they junk?

There are some traditions that don’t serve much purpose anymore. That includes their homophobia, their misogyny that excludes the pack wives from the decision process, their secrecy even from other packs. But until they are out to the human world safely, they need to maintain control over pack members and information. And no matter how much they come out, the bonds between pack members and their Alpha, and the military-like obedience and discipline, aren’t likely to ever change. Those are part of what being in a pack gives to the members— structure, common goals and a leader they trust. Individual wolves might be more likely to leave the packs, but those who remain will probably keep that hierarchical structure.

7. Do you see werewolves in your future work? Other paranormal leanings?

There will be at least one more book in this werewolf series. I’m also starting a mystery that I thought would be contemporary, but which has picked up a small paranormal twist. So I’m sure both paranormal and full-out fantasy will be among the things I continue to write.

8. Final question: you’re at a party. You volunteer that you wrote a book about gay werewolves. The person you’re talking with gets very, very excited. Would you rather A) she talk for the next hour about her love for gay werewolves, or B) she grills you for the next hour about the book, your relationship with werewolf stories, etc., forcing you to talk for the next hour?

That’s tough. I try not to read too many other werewolf series, to keep my world-building as personal as possible and not catch ideas. So an hour of listening to someone else talk about their concepts and favorites of other people’s wolves wouldn’t be ideal. At the same time, I’m not a big talker. But if someone asks specific questions, I’m pretty good at finding answers. So if pressed, I’ll take B. If not pressed, I’ll take a dark corner and a quiet cup of tea.

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Kaje Harper, author of Life Lessons, Into Deep Waters, and The Family We Make, is proud to introduce her latest release, zzzzzz. (Oh yeah, Unjustified Claims. ) She would like to affirm she is definitely not a werewolf. She just likes to take long walks in the forest at night when there happens to be a full moon.(Not that I’m spying on anything that might happen out there either. Really. Aaron would not be pleased, and I’m not making that Alpha mad at me.)

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And if you entered the drawing for the three free copies of Unjustified Claims I will be contacting the three winners:

Kim (GR message 5)
Jenn (GR message 18)
ArdentEreader (WordPress – comment 3)

If you don’t hear from me today, do get hold of me to claim your ebook. Thanks to everyone who commented.

Now it’s time to write again. (Yay! No editing! Did I say Yay?!)

Unjustified Claims released

September 19, 2014

greyWolf The third Hidden Wolves novel, Unjustified Claims, is now available from MLR Press, and on All Romance ebooks, and Kobo books. It will be out on Amazon tomorrow, Sept 20th.

This is the third novel in the ongoing series, and the fifth if you count the two free novellas. While each book is intended to have a complete arc, this story will make a lot more sense if you’ve read the others in the series, beginning with Unacceptable Risk. The world and the characters in it build through the series.

My wolf society is paranoid, hypervigilant, narrow, and at times violent. The wolves adhere to rules that have kept them hidden for generations. But times change. Information is shared far and wide online, cell cameras abound, street corners have 24/7 surveillance and satellite images become sharp and clear. My wolves find themselves fighting harder and harder to stay safely out of sight of humans. The Packs are changing. These books are the story of that change, and of some of the men, both were and human, who come together in the resulting interesting times.

UnjustifiedClaims In this third novel, Ethan, the human, and Brandt, the werewolf, have problems of their own. But the pressures coming to bear on wider werewolf society will affect them as well. I hope fans of the series enjoy this installment.

Wolves, a cover and a contest

September 11, 2014

In just a week, on Sept 19th, my third Hidden Wolves novel will release from MLR Press. Unjustified Claims is the story of Brandt and Ethan, werewolf and human, and their rocky path toward a relationship.
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Brandt Davis loved being part of his Michigan werewolf pack, until they found his stash of gay porn. He escaped their anger, running in wolf-form into the wilderness, but he can’t live that way forever. And he can’t hide in fur like a coward when an injured man needs his help.

Ethan Sjulstad knows life is making him crazy when a solo hike into the Minnesota Boundary Waters seems reasonable. Then a bad fall leaves him seriously hurt and facing death. Delirious, he hallucinates being rescued by a big grey wolf and a naked woodland godling. For a man who has always loved fantasy, it’s worth surviving just to find out what the hell is going on.

Brandt is increasingly drawn to the man he rescued in the wilderness, but it’s easiest to just be friends. The homophobic scorn of his old pack still haunts him. Even if he can bring himself to admit his attraction to another man, what kind of relationship can he have with Ethan, when he can’t tell any human about his biggest fears, or the details of his past?

Ethan has been fascinated by Brandt from the beginning, even back when he was too hurt to do anything about it. Spending more time together should be good. But Ethan’s been deceived before, and some of Brandt’s evasions and silences begin to feel like outright lies. It’s hard to trust a man who’s clearly hiding a big part of himself.

They don’t have the leisure of time to figure it out. Old enemies and new acquaintances, human and werewolf, show up and complicate their lives. The guys have to handle their mix of friendship, desire, and distrust, as they decide when to fight, when to stand together, and when to run…

And I now have a cover:

UnjustifiedClaims

Although the novels are intended to work as a series without the free shorts, you’ll find a few familiar references to Unwanted Appeal, the free book 2.5 novella that comes right before this novel. So if you want to ease back into the world of my werewolves and haven’t read that freebie yet, this might be a good time to check it out.

To celebrate the release of the book, I’ll be giving away three ebook copies of Unjustified Claims to three randomly chosen commenters from either my Goodreads or WordPress blogs. The drawing will be open through midnight CST September 18th. Make a comment on one of the two blogs (no email needed) and I’ll draw three winners out of a hat on the 19th – on Goodreads I’ll PM winners, on WordPress the comment will save your email link.

I’m looking forward to seeing this novel release next Friday. I hope readers will enjoy another encounter with Minnesota’s werewolves.

Cops, Firefighters and Forensics

September 8, 2014

In the early morning light, two officers from an eight-man police team in Guilford County moved silently toward a building. Reports said a dangerous felon was holed up inside. Their job was to get him out. Each man wore camo and body armor, including a helmet and eye protection. The officer in front held a rectangular, black shield, with his gun out and aimed past it.

The door of the building was closed. A confidential informant had told them it was reinforced with multiple locks. The arms dealer inside planned to have time to get to his own weapons if the police tried to kick or ram it in. But the officers had a different plan in mind.

Silently, the two men crept up to the door. The point man reached out and very cautiously tried the handle. Nothing like looking stupid if you force a door that was actually unlocked. But this time, there was no give in the handle. He gave a small nod to the man behind him, and said over the radio to his team, “Breacher up.”

The second man attached a fat adhesive strip of explosives along the hinge side of the door, where there would be fewer locks. Then both of them backed away, unspooling the cord as they went.

When they were eight feet back and off to one side, they crouched, shield held ready. The point man spoke over his radio to the team leader and the cops waiting at the back door, “I have control. I have control.”

And then he counted down quickly, “Three, two, one.”

On “one” the breacher triggered the blast. The boom of explosives echoed off the surrounding buildings — sudden, loud, shocking, with rolling repeats behind it. The door slammed forward into the structure, ripped completely off the jam. Before anyone who wasn’t expecting it could recover from the shock, the officers drove forward into the building, guns ready. They shoved the broken door aside, clearing their way. No shots came toward them. Now they could search the dim interior for the arms dealer they were after…

And in the parking lot, ninety feet away, two hundred mystery writers broke into loud applause. The point man came back out of the building, holding the broken door. “The explosive acts on the weakest point,” he said calmly. “With this door you can see that wasn’t the hinges or the actual door, but the door jam which got split in half. I built this shack, and I guess you can see where I used a weaker material.”

He grinned and glanced at the little makeshift plywood shack with its gaping hole in the front, where the door had been. “Actually, I wasn’t sure the whole thing might not fall down with the blast, so this is good.” Beside him, his breacher pulled off his helmet and goggles and grinned.

And so began another wonderful morning at the Writers’ Police Academy this weekend, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I love writing mysteries. I felt like I couldn’t put Tony into another murder without him becoming “Typhoid Tony.” (I already had the occasional review saying, “If I was Tony’s friend, I’d move.”) But that doesn’t mean I need to wait ten years down the road to revisit Mac and Tony in order to write a mystery. So in search of material for a new series, I signed up for the Writers’ Police Academy. And it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a conference.

Over two and a half days, attendees were treated to police ride-alongs, demos, tours, lectures and presentations on everything from that explosive door breach, to triaging a multi-victim accident scene, how K9 teams work, arson fires, ballistics, defensive driving, self-defense moves… There were far more interesting classes than anyone could get to. It’ll probably take several years to get through all of it.

We heard from ex-undercover cops on both short and long assignments, not just the tactics but the toll it takes. We got to ask about officer-involved shootings, or how women in police work deal with the job. (Apparently, the hardest part is neither co-worker bigotry, nor violent criminals, but trying to find the place and time to pee while on patrol, dealing with a belt full of heavy and awkward gear and the need for a bathroom, when the guys just unzip…)

We were allowed to ask our specific work-in-progress questions, and a couple of writers got to block out a gunfighting scene for a cop’s comment. The instructors, from forensic experts to fire-fighters, to explosives experts, to cops, were all amazing, articulate, welcoming and patient with those of us who describe, but do not do the job. Their banter with each other was almost worth the price of admission. And we had talks from Lisa Gardner about researching books, and from Michael Connelly about writing them.

It was completely worth the trip and cost. In fact, I hesitated for a moment about telling y’all about it, because it fills up and I want that space next year… Organizer Lee Lofland is hoping to perhaps expand to more than one location in the future, which I’m sure would be a welcome move. And I came back with a dozen plot bunnies leaping in my head.

So… that was my weekend. How was yours?

Coming soon…

August 28, 2014

wolfPair Hey everyone, I wanted to touch base and let you know that I now have a release date for Unjustified Claims – the third book in the Hidden Wolves series.

Although we’re still tweaking the cover, this book will release from MLR Press on Friday Sept 19th. It’s a pretty long novel (about 133,000 words) and you’ll meet a new main-character couple, and encounter some old friends.

Here’s the blurb:

Brandt Davis loved being part of his Michigan werewolf pack, until they found his stash of gay porn. He escaped their anger, running in wolf-form into the wilderness, but he can’t live that way forever. And he can’t hide in fur like a coward when an injured man needs his help.

Ethan Sjulstad knows life is making him crazy when a solo hike into the Minnesota Boundary Waters seems reasonable. Then a bad fall leaves him seriously hurt and facing death. Delirious, he hallucinates being rescued by a big grey wolf and a naked woodland godling. For a man who has always loved fantasy, it’s worth surviving just to find out what the hell is going on.
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There’s a fair bit of wild and rural country up in Northern Minnesota, near the Canadian border. There are real wild wolves up there, and it’s the kind of place a wolf in trouble might go to hide out. For a while. But there are also werewolf packs in Minnesota, and right now they’re a little jumpy, and a little worried about newcomers…

Ethan and Brandt will find their time together becoming complicated on several fronts, some of them ordinary and human, some of them… not.

I hope you’ll enjoy this new installment in the Hidden Wolves series. When I have the final cover I’ll be posting it here. Then you’ll get a chance to see what Brandt, a wolf on the run, and Ethan, a programmer and apsiring-musician turned motel-owner, look like. Soon.

A quick note for Amazon users about Automatic Updates

August 18, 2014

A reader had told me Amazon suggested she activate the “Automatic Book Updates” in Annotations Backup options, to get the latest file of books including The Family We Make. I put a mention of that in my last post. But another reader has told me that if you have a lot of AZ books on your device, Automatic Updates may cause many of them to try and update, which can overwhelm the device. It may also remove highlighting on books with updates. So I’d only recommend this if tech support has confirmed you should try it. I believe you can have them just “push” one book for you. Or get a copy from me, or convert it in Calibre.

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