Friday, July 22, 2016

Interview + Giveaway: The Embodied Trilogy by JB Dutton

UFI welcomes Author JB Dutton. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview?

So you want some sort of sordid personal story? Well… I’ve been married three times in three different decades in three different countries. And this decade is only half over! I also like very dark chocolate. I play soccer on Thursdays. I have a piece of the Berlin wall that I tore off with my bare hands and keep in a jar by the door. I make a brief appearance in a 1986 Queen music video. I don’t like bicycles. I do like scotch.

What do you enjoy doing on your down time?

See above (soccer, dark chocolate and scotch). I also love hanging out with my kids, who impress me all the time, and my girlfriend, who also impresses me. They’re all lovely – I’m a lucky guy!

What is your favorite part of writing? 

Coming up with the original idea. It’s just so exciting to watch a seed start to grow into something that you hope might become a beautiful flower or even a majestic tree. And usually, at that very first spark, you don’t really know. Once the writing is underway, I really enjoy figuring out action-filled scenes, which there are plenty of in the Embodied trilogy. I have a degree in film, so I visualize scenes cinematically and like to capture the exciting feel of a fast-paced movie.

Do you have any particular routines you must follow as you write?

For each of the books in the Embodied trilogy I set myself weekly word counts to hit. Sometimes when I was busy with paid copywriting work during a particular week, that meant working over the weekend, but I never missed my target. Whatever project I’m working on, at the start of any writing session I always edit the previous session’s work. For one thing, it improves it, and for another, it gets me back into the flow of the story.

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres?

Back in the day, I was very much into Anne Rice’s vampire books (Interview with a Vampire, etc.) and I’ve always been a huge fan of Doctor Who, which I guess has a fair few storylines that could be classified as Urban Fantasy. As for Paranormal, there’s no beating Stephen King’s The Shining. Another very creepy book that had a big impact on me was House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Right now I’m reading the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin and it’s awesome!

How would you pitch the Embodied trilogy to someone who has not heard of it before?

The trilogy tells the story of Manhattan prep school senior Kari Marriner in an unusual web of adventure, romance, fantasy, and science fiction, as she tries to unravel the mystery of symmetrical, beautiful aliens called the Embodied. These visitors from the Dark Universe are locked in a timeless battle with the Thoth, who materialize on Earth as mythological beasts. Kari’s mother gets caught up in this struggle and is transported to the Dark Universe. Kari finds that her emotions are being manipulated by the Embodied for a nefarious genetic engineering project with a terrifying underlying goal, and her adventures in New York, Wisconsin and Paris draw her deeper into the mystery. She finally discovers her role in this cosmological battle and must ultimately choose between rescuing her mother or saving the Earth.

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that the Embodied trilogy is set in? 

The books are set in three main locations: New York City, Lancaster, Wisconsin (where Kari is from) and Paris, France, where she’s taken by the English artist Starley in book 2. But there’s a fourth main location – the Dark Universe – which finally makes an appearance in book 3. So we have the present-day United States and France, where Kari encounters both the humanoid Embodied and the freakish beasts called the Thoth, plus the sci-fi setting of the Dark Universe, an unimaginable place that I set myself the tricky task of actually imagining and putting into words.

Do you have a favorite scene in the Embodied trilogy?

Not really – there are several that I still get a kick out of rereading, even though I wrote them and know what’s going to happen! Some are action-packed, some are scary or eerie, some are intensely emotional. But having just mentioned the Dark Universe, right now I’d have to say that the scene that’s set there (the climax of Kari’s story in book 3) is probably my favorite, because it literally takes readers into another dimension. I think I managed to create surroundings that will be just as strange and fascinating for readers as they were for Kari.

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about?
 
My favorite was Starley, the title character in book 2, Starley’s Rust. Maybe because he’s British, like me, maybe because he’s funny and quirky, maybe because he has a much wider vocabulary than the other characters, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing every line of his storyline. The hardest character was probably the taciturn Embodied bad guy, Cilic. He doesn’t say much and is generally unpleasant, so not a lot of fun!

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you?

I’ve started writing another Embodied story that’s set in ancient Egypt and involves some familiar characters as well as some new ones. This will be the first of several Embodied stories set in different eras that will have less science fiction content than the original trilogy and more historical fantasy. I want to expand the universe I’ve set up in the original trilogy, and since the Embodied exist on a different timescale to humans (they’re basically immortal), I can go back in time to different interesting periods and places.

I’m also working on a series of novellas set in Victorian Montreal that fall under the newly defined genre of dreadpunk. They are gothic horror stories with very realistic historical backdrops featuring deadly disease, engineering marvels, economic upheaval and dark family secrets. I’ll be publishing them next year in quick succession, something like one per week.
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After graduating from film school in London, England, JB Dutton emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where he still lives with his two young children and their even younger goldfish. He spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter for clients such as Cirque du Soleil. JB Dutton has written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. He also writes adult fiction under the name John B. Dutton.

Find JB Dutton and his books
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The Embodied Trilogy
Special Edition Ebook Collection
Special Tour Price $7.99
Amazon

Follow Kari's exciting adventure in in one special edition of all three ebooks, including bonus author insights, deleted scenes and a treasure hunt quiz.. 

The Embodied trilogy is an unusual web of adventure, romance, fantasy, and science fiction.

Prep school student Kari Marriner is swept up in a mystery that fast becomes a thrilling adventure when she discovers that mysterious aliens called the Embodied and their pseudo-religion, the Temple of Truth, been influencing her family’s life for decades. She soon finds herself battling dragons, unicorns, and nefarious angels on the streets of New York and in the catacombs of Paris, while having her emotions torn by a handsome alien and a jealous boyfriend. In a final showdown, she must travel to the creatures’ home in the dark universe and make a heart-wrenching choice: rescue her mother or save the Earth.


Excerpt:

The first sensation was my stomach lurching and spinning. Then I seemed to be plunging dizzily while simultaneously zooming higher on some kind of impossible rollercoaster ride. And suddenly I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was separated from any kind of physical reality, like – oh… oh wow – like I was totally disembodied. I could sense things but not see them with my eyes. I had… a sort of mathematical awareness, as though I was plugged directly into the mainframe of a supercomputer the size of the universe, my mind swimming in pure information. Geometric shapes twinkled in and out of existence. Lines and points moved around in constant motion. It felt like a dream made of numbers… patterns and data combining and separating. Spirals within spirals and symmetries within symmetries.
“Mom?” I called out. Or at least imagined myself calling out. Ripples in this web of information undulated in front of me when I said her name. “Mom? It’s me. It’s Kari.” More complex ripples floated away.
Nothing.
At that moment it occurred to me I had no way of getting back home.
“Noon?” I said hopefully. Oh man – he’d told me how to use the sphere to reach the Dark Universe but now I was here and totally disembodied, I had no way of controlling my body to remove the sphere from my forehead.
But before I could worry about this too much, the waves of information started to coalesce into more recognizable shapes. Pyramids and spheres, but not solid ones. They seemed to be made of… of symbols and binary code. That was it – they were like living equations! And then weirdly, in one of the pyramid shapes, I could recognize Noon. I felt as though I could see his mesmerizing face. Even though it was data or whatever, it was somehow him. The whole experience was kinda hypnotic. Was it even really happening? In one respect, I guess none of it was real, because I was literally seeing outside my universe.
“Kari – you made it,” I heard him say.
“Is that really you? Cilic didn’t kill you?”
“Well, he killed Embodied me, but the Mihim brought my diamond pyramid back here.”
This was super-bizarro. Now it was like the surrounding patterns had gone out of focus and I could clearly see the pyramid that was Noon’s true form.
“Wait, let me do something,” he said. “I’m going to recreate a reality you’re familiar with to make this easier for you.”
And the entire crazy churning data kaleidoscope sort of crystalized. I found myself standing in a towering hall with walls, floor, and ceiling made of what looked like sheets of sheer diamond. But in the depths of the diamond the same patterns I’d seen before were refracted in a million colors. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever encountered.





Silent Symmetry
The Embodied Trilogy #1
Book One Free
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Kari Marriner’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains... something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?

Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.
 Excerpt:

When I got in, the apartment was empty. I dumped my stuff and had a shower. I only realized as I was drying my hair that the apartment was really empty. Flash wasn’t there. The hairdryer was his nemesis, and the feud had being going on since he was traumatized by it as a kitten. But he couldn’t resist confronting it. Whenever I blow-dried my hair he would freak, hissing and arching his back, fur standing on end. But not this time.
I turned off the hairdryer and called his name. Nothing. I made little squeaking noises with my lips, walking from room to room. Okay, this was bizarre. Where the eff could he be? There was only one sure-fire way of making him come running. I went into the kitchen and opened the cupboard where the cat food was stored. I shook the bag loudly. Silence.
Wait, there wasn’t silence.
There was a muffled voice coming from... coming from? I bent down to follow the sound. It was coming from the cupboard.
The cupboard was a medium-sized space, maybe three feet high and 18 inches wide, and as I stuck my head inside to listen I felt like I was somehow entering another world. It was a gut feeling. You know, the kind you can’t explain but know you should trust. Some people call it instinct, but Mom explained to me once that the gut and the ancient lizard brain are linked. This is the “fight or flight” response that you feel when you’re threatened. It’s helped us survive over millions of years of evolution. And it’s rarely wrong.
So what was different in there? What was my subconscious reacting to? The smell. Yes, that was it – something smelled different in there, and it wasn’t cat food. Now the muffled voice was louder, more distinctive. And I could tell that there were actually two voices, a man’s and a woman’s.
I put my head in further and another part of my gut sent me a second message. The dimensions were wrong. The cupboard stretched back much further than it should have, back beyond the kitchen wall.
I withdrew and stood up. I opened the cupboard above it and moved the cereal boxes to one side. This one was only a couple of feet deep. Looking back into the cat food cupboard, it was obvious that it went back at least a foot more.
I stood with my hands on my hips for a moment, trying to process. And where on earth was Flash? I called his name again and listened. Suddenly the voices stopped. I bent down and put my head back in the cupboard. There was a stale smell, and... was that a draft? I reached inside and felt around. The cupboard was so deep it was hard to see the back clearly. I shuffled inside, resting on my forearms and prodding the back wall with my fingers. It moved slightly. I pushed harder, and with a groan it swung open at the bottom. It was hinged somehow at the top, like a large flap. I opened the flap wider and felt a distinct whoosh of cooler, damper air hit my face. I peered through the opening but it was pitch black inside. Then the voices started again, this time much clearer. I still couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it was definitely a man and a younger woman talking.
Pushing the flap open even wider I realized that I could fit through the opening. The other side of the flap felt like a tunnel or duct the same width and height as the cupboard. The trouble was, it was too dark in there to explore it. I needed a flashlight.
Mom is nothing if not resourceful. There were always spare batteries in the house when I was a kid. A first aid kit that nurse-Mom whipped out at the first sign of fever. And a well-stocked emergency box in an easy-to-reach location.
Five minutes later I was back in the cupboard, flashlight in hand.
I wriggled inside on my hands and knees, then pushed the flap open again. I crawled through it, testing the strength of the surface beneath me as I went. The tunnel creaked a bit – I guess it was made of wood – but it seemed pretty firm. I advanced, the tunnel’s blackness stretching out in front of me. The flap swung shut and the dank air enveloped me.
I stopped and listened, probing the tunnel with the flashlight. It seemed to go on forever. “Flash?” I whispered loudly. But all I could hear were the echoey voices. I carried on crawling forward. They seemed to be getting louder. The young woman’s higher-pitched voice was easier to make out than the man’s gravelly rumble.
I thought I heard her say, “...control of it...here, I can get...here...make it...” Just snatches of sentences. The man said something in reply. When I was crawling, the noise my jeans made on the wood made it impossible to distinguish individual words in what the woman was saying. I shone the flashlight ahead of me. Was that a turn in the tunnel? As I got nearer, I could tell that there was a junction to the left in the tunnel up ahead.
I reached the bend and looked around it, the flashlight beam sweeping the tunnel walls. There was another long stretch that ended in...? A bend or a drop? “Flash?” I whispered again and listened. Now both voices were more distinct. They were definitely coming from further along the tunnel.
“...can’t stop them,” said the man.
“That’s just it,” answered the woman. Then silence.
I crawled onward, accompanied only by the swoosh and scrape of my jeans and shoes. Half a minute later I reached the end of this stretch of tunnel. Now there was a turn to the right, and a section that went upward. I raised my head to look up this chute. For a second my brain made a connection. That was it – garbage chutes! These big old buildings were usually equipped with them. Maybe that was what this was. But why did the tunnels go sideways? No, it made no sense.
I knelt at the junction, searching for an explanation. Then, before I knew what was happening, I screamed. Something had dropped from the chute and landed in front of me. Something alive. I scrambled backward, heart in mouth, the flashlight making crazy-ass shadows on the tunnel walls.
In seconds I was back at the first turn, but as I tried to crawl around it, one of the belt loops on my jeans snagged on a nail. I tried to pull it off, frantic. I glanced back down the tunnel and saw a movement. It was coming toward me. It was... Flash.
My limbs sagged, I stopped struggling, and the loop unhooked from the nail. The cat meowed and trotted up to me. Laughing in relief, I petted him. “You... you... I love you!” I said, happy to have found him. And happy that he wasn’t a giant rat. Or something worse that the depths of my imagination had conjured up in my state of panic. He purred and snuggled against my nose.
“Kari.”
I froze.
It was the young woman’s voice. Distant, but distinct. I strained my ears to hear more but I was already far from the source of the sound, and Flash’s purring obscured the rest of the words. But I know I heard it. I know I heard my name.
“Kari.”






Starley's Rust
 The Embodied Trilogy #2
Six months ago, Kari Marriner’s life was torn apart. Now turned 17, she’s looking for answers in her rural Wisconsin hometown. But just as the Embodied seemed to have vanished, there’s a new, more terrifying visitor from the Dark Universe.

Back in Manhattan, a charismatic English artist named Starley convinces Kari he can find her missing mother if she flies to Paris with him. He also shares an incredible secret from the dawn of mankind. But Starley is not who he seems. Before she knows it, Kari finds herself standing in front of the Mona Lisa with him, yelling out, “He’s got a bomb!”

And that’s when things go totally insane. The Rebel Embodied’s henchman, Cilic, returns to Earth on a deadly mission. The body of Kari’s treacherous friend Aranara is washed up on the banks of the Hudson. But is she really dead? In the Paris catacombs, Kari and Starley are hunted by a nightmarish mythical creature that’s all too real.

A family mystery, an exiled race, freakish beasts, jealousy, love… and death. Kari has to face them all in this fast-paced fantasy thriller. 
Excerpt:

The sun was setting behind the buildings. A big barn with half the roof missing. A grain silo. A couple of smaller shed-type buildings, one with no door, the other with the door hanging off its hinges. And a farmhouse. Windows shattered. Front door gawping at me. I gulped and sent an ILY back to Cruz. He liked those.
Then I had the strangest feeling. Like a disruption in the atmosphere, but also in my mind. The air changed somehow, and I heard a rumbling of distant thunder. I could have sworn that the fading daylight got brighter for a few seconds. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. It made me stop moving. Then reality seemed to snap back to normal. I kept going toward the farmhouse.
I saw something move.
The setting sun had backlit the barn so it was hard to be sure what it was. A horse, I think. A big, black stallion moving around in the barn.
My mind filled in the blanks. Probably a horse that had escaped from a neighboring farm and made a new home for itself here. Okay, cool. No mystery. Maddie must have seen it and her mind made it fit the legend.
I lay Maddie’s bike down in the grass, careful not to make a sound. I tiptoed toward the barn, not wanting to startle it. I turned on the flashlight app on my phone. Clouds were gathering, the light was fading. More distant thunder. I just needed to find it, take a photo and show Maddie. Her grandfather would know what to do, how to capture it safely and find its owner.
I entered the barn, still creeping quietly. Ew. It certainly smelled like a barn. There was hay strewn around on the ground. My phone flashlight was practically useless. It illuminated a patch, like, five feet in front of me. In the dim light, I could make out a row of stalls on each side and a hayloft up ahead with a ladder propped against it.
Now I thought about it, the smell was kinda weird. I grew up around here and although I’d never spent any time on a farm, I sensed that there was some kind of extra, non-farm smell here. Hard to identify. But yucky and familiar all the same.
Was that an animal noise in one of the stalls on the left? Or just the wind blowing through the holes in the walls? I crept toward the stall very, very carefully. My hand holding the phone was shaking. Come on, Kari. Get a grip. The sides of the stalls weren’t high enough to conceal a horse. Unless it was lying down in the hay, of course.
I reached the stall where I thought I’d heard the noise. I waited a second, held my breath, then stepped in front of the stall’s open gate. It was empty. And that’s when the hairs stood up on the back of my neck again. But this time there was another, all-too-familiar feeling along with it.
It was the feeling I had when Noon was in my head. Yet not exactly the same. This was unpleasant, even disturbing, and somehow stronger.
I spun around. In the barn doorway stood the black stallion. Protruding from its forehead was a long, tapered horn. It really was a unicorn. It raised its head and my mind felt like a heavy blanket had been draped over it. It eyed me purposefully. My irrational fear as a little girl came flooding back, multiplied by a million. I almost peed my pants. Was this a bad dream? Maybe I would wake up surrounded by My Little Pony’s in my 8-year-old’s bedroom?
If only…
The unicorn took a step forward. The feeling in my head got even stronger and now I could swear that I heard the name Noon repeating over and over. Not his voice, just his name. Was the unicorn Embodied? I didn’t get a chance to wonder about this because now the feeling in my head was becoming worse… painful. I was convinced that my mind was being probed by this astonishing creature. In the space of a few seconds, the pain increased and so did the repetition of the name Noon until it was so excruciating that I felt like screaming. I put my hands to my temples and opened my mouth. As I was about to close my eyes, I saw the unicorn start to charge toward me.
Despite the pain, I managed to fling myself to one side and into the empty stall just before it reached me. It galloped past and I heard it stop. My head was still throbbing. I staggered to my feet, one fist still pressed to my temple. Maybe I could make a break for it.
The unicorn appeared in front of me, blocking the stall entrance. I was totally trapped. I looked around in desperation. A broken wooden handle was poking out from a pile of hay in one corner. I grabbed it and pulled out a pitchfork. The unicorn advanced into the stall, its head lowered so that its horn was aimed directly at my head. The pain coursed through my brain like a river of electricity.
I swung the pitchfork at the unicorn’s head. I missed, but it backed up, startled. I swung again. It made a snuffling sound and stepped back further.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” I screamed.
The unicorn cocked its head to one side like it was listening to me. The pain in my brain diminished.
I swung again and shouted the same thing.
The unicorn drew itself up to its full height and then something even more incredible happened. It raised its tail. But this was no stallion’s tail. It was like a huge peacock tail, shimmering with shades of black, gray, and silver. The tail fanned out, probably ten feet wide, and despite the pain in my head, I lowered the pitchfork, just standing there in awe. What was this being? It seemed to possess incredible power and at the same time be unimaginably beautiful. In fact, it was all the more terrifying because it was so beautiful.

  Diamond Splinters
The Embodied Trilogy #3
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Prep school senior Kari Marriner has a heart-wrenching choice to make: rescue her mother or prevent aliens destroying the Earth.

Having faced down mythical beasts and trans-dimensional villains, Kari has finally unraveled the mystery of the cult-like Temple of Truth and found the diamond sphere that can free her mother from the evil clutches of the Thoth high priests. But to find out how to use the sphere, Kari must team up with the one person she can never trust: Aranara, the treacherous sister of her missing soulmate Noon.

When a submarine trip to the bottom of the Hudson River ends in death and disaster, Kari is scarred, both emotionally and physically. She wants to run and hide but digs deep and finds new sources of inner strength. As the storm of the century hits New York, a child’s life hangs in the balance and Kari gambles everything in a final confrontation with the genocidal Thoth.

Excerpt:


Aranara pushed at the hatch. Nothing happened. Whether it was the water pressure or some safety mechanism I don’t know, but she stopped trying and went back to the control panel. The sub reversed. I looked through the transparent bottom and saw Noon’s pyramid coming back into view. As soon as it was directly beneath us, she climbed onto her chair and aimed the gun at the globe-shaped acrylic window. With a surge of terror, I realized what she was about to do.
“Nooooo!” I screamed as she fired. I was kneeling on the floor of the cabin beside Mangold’s body. I automatically shielded my face. The bullet ricocheted. The dome had cracked instead of shattering. She shot twice more, not even flinching from the flying bullets. The crack spread. Water started to spray in. I reached up to try to stop her, but she held me off with one hand while she fired again with the other.
The window bulged inward. Then it burst. Water poured in and I screamed again, clawing at her uselessly as she pulled away enough acrylic to make an opening big enough to swim through. The water gushed like a torrent. She got hold of the sides of the hole she’d made and somehow managed to pulled herself out. The sub listed to one side and my reality shifted. Everything felt like a dream. I was in a reversed fishbowl. The air was inside and the water was outside, with Aranara swimming in it, downward toward Noon’s pyramid on the riverbed. The water was already up to my knees. There was nothing I could do. This was where I was going to die.
Wait – maybe one thing! I had shut Noon out. Maybe he could do something. I closed my eyes and calmed myself as best I could. “Tell Aranara to help me. I’m going to drown.”
I heard nothing. The water was up to my waist now. Spray. Smell. Sickening fear. I looked down but now it was impossible to see where Aranara was underneath the sub because of the river water rushing into the cabin. Did she already have the pyramid? Was she blocking Noon’s communication with me somehow? The water reached my chest. The dreamlike state disappeared. New panic set in. There was only one chance. Once no more water was flowing into the opening that Aranara had made, I could try swimming out through it. But we were seventy feet below the surface. Could I hold my breath long enough? I saw something move at my feet and looked down. I let out a huge scream as Mangold’s head floated up next to mine. Oh god, oh god. The water was up to my neck. I stood on the chair. My head was touching the top of the dome. The water was now level with the opening. I had to fill my lungs with as much oxygen as I possibly could from the few inches that were trapped at the top of the cabin. I breathed deeply. One, two, three deep breaths. The water lapped at my chin. Four. I held my breath.
I pushed off the chair toward the opening. It was barely wide enough. But before I could reach it, the submarine pitched downward. The hatch hit me in the back. The opening was further away than before, below me now. I swam toward it. The acrylic was at least an inch thick. I caught hold of the edge of the opening with one hand and pulled myself forward. As my head went through, the submarine lurched to one side. A searing pain in my cheek. I held on tight. Now I could use both hands to pull myself through. Then I was out. My lungs were already starting to hurt. Daylight was so far away up above. Suddenly an arm circled my waist. It was Aranara. She didn’t even look at me, just kicked with both legs, pulling me away from the listing sub. I felt myself getting dizzy as we rose faster than a normal person would be able to. The pressure was enormous. The air was forced out of my lungs. I passed out.



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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Promo + Giveaway: My Soul To Keep by Kris Norris


My Soul to Keep
Fearless #5
ARe
A deadly cycle…a haunting legacy.

From the moment Detective Caitlyn Decker arrives at the scene, she knows this crime is anything but a routine killing. The cryptic note. The contradictory evidence. The violence. There’s no doubt in her mind her life’s about to get complicated. Add Special Agent Deacon McGraw into the mix—a man she’s had an unfortunate crush on for the past six months—and it’s shaping up to get downright messy.

Deacon has waited twenty years to solve his father’s murder. If his calculations are correct, this recent killing is connected to it, and the start of something grisly. After nearly convincing himself his father’s outlandish theories on a cold case were nothing more than a slow slide into madness, Deacon’s suddenly faced with a harsh truth—no one’s going to believe him, either.

Caitlyn’s not sure what to make of Deacon’s claims. But she’s willing to give him a chance—one that quickly translates into more than just a working relationship. Becoming lovers carries more risks than simple heartbreak. One miscalculation, or a loss of faith, and they just might lose their souls.

Excerpt:

“Bloody hell.”
Detective Caitlyn Decker shook her head before pressing her fingers against the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes as pain throbbed through her temples, not that it’d do much good. The headache had already taken root, somehow pulsing with every beat of her heart. Nothing but time or drugs would touch it now. And, somehow, downing half a bottle of Motrin while working a murder scene didn’t seem like a viable solution. She glanced at the paper again, rereading the words scribbled across the crisp white sheet.
Some choices are easy, some aren’t. Can you guess which one this was?
Christ, she’d officially seen it all.
A male snort drew her attention, and she shifted her focus as Detective David Truman knelt beside the body, giving it the once-over. He gazed up at her, exhaling loudly as he gained his feet. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, nodding at one of the CSI technicians as they snapped some photographs.
He turned to face her. “Not exactly the kind of case you want to grab at the end of a shift, huh?”
She shrugged. “Thinking there isn’t a right time for a case like this, period. We both know that note means trouble.”
Truman glanced at the paper, nodding. “Just another Wednesday as far as I’m concerned.”
She frowned at his hollow tone, spinning slightly toward him. “You sound more cynical than usual. Everything okay?”
“Peachy. You?”
She shook her head. “Fine. Keep secrets.” She toed the pavement. “So, you aren’t on shift for another two hours. Why the early start?”
“I needed to get out of the house, and I heard the call come through over the radio. Thought I’d check it out…see if you wanted me to take it for you.”
“And let you have all the fun? That’s crazy talk.” She nudged his elbow. “You and Clare okay? We can go grab coffee after if you’d like.”
“God, who are you, Dr. Phil? I’m fine.” He glanced over her shoulder, cursing. “Looks like the feds just pulled up. You sure you don’t want me to take this? Their presence here probably means a joint endeavor, and seeing as you got stuck with the last one…”
Caitlyn did her best to calm the sudden pounding of her heart. The last thing she needed was to sound breathless. And all because of who might have just arrived. “I’m good. But I can count on your help if I need it, right?”
“It’ll cost you.”
“It always does.”
Truman gave her a mock salute before trudging off toward his car. She heard him murmur a token hello to the fed he’d mentioned, the gravelly reply beading her skin with a sudden rash of goose bumps. She took a few soothing breaths, only to jump when a rumble of thunder sounded off to the east, the promise of rain heavy in the early morning air. A nearby streetlight buzzed as it flickered, casting odd shadows against the brick building before settling, again. She turned up her collar against a blast of cold, damp air, tucking her hands in her pockets. After a few weeks of summer-like weather, the sudden shift into more typical spring temperatures felt even colder than usual. Or maybe it was just her. A reminder of how little else she had in her life to make the endless string of homicides bearable. To chase away the incessant chill that seemed to have settled bone-deep inside her.
Footsteps scuffed the pavement behind her as the fed moved into her peripheral view. She didn’t turn to greet the man. Couldn’t. Not when her face felt more than flushed. Special Agent Deacon McGraw—or Deke as he usually went by—headed the violent crimes unit for the Seattle branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he seemed to be the bureau’s prime choice in interagency ventures. Not that she had a clue why he was here. As far as she was concerned, this was just a routine killing in an alley of one of the poorer districts the city had to offer. Nothing to suggest it fell under federal jurisdiction. Her gaze strayed to the paper lying beside the victim’s bloody body, the words glaring at her. Perhaps routine wasn’t quite the correct term.
Deke cleared his throat as he crouched beside the corpse, using a pen to twist the paper slightly. He cocked his head to the side, glancing at her as he stood. “Just what this city needs, a killer with a twisted sense of humor.”
Caitlyn crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll admit. I found the note…odd.”
He chuckled. “Odd? It’s creepy as hell, though I think we both know the answer to his question. The way the throat’s been sliced damn near through to the vic’s spinal column, the arcs of blood against the wall, not to mention the fact the guy’s been virtually gutted…thinking it wasn’t a hard choice for the bastard that did this.”
“I don’t know…all that defensive bruising along his arms, the marks on his head. The guy fought hard. Could suggest reluctance on the part of our perp.”
“Or the killer’s not as strong as he thought he was.”
Caitlyn snorted, waving at the guy spread out across the black asphalt. “The victim’s easily two-twenty and those muscles aren’t fake. The guy obviously put in some heavy hours at the gym. And that faded tattoo on his wrist means he was part of the Fifth Street gang at some point. That kind of street tough doesn’t ever really go away. Thinking there aren’t many people who’d even consider taking him on. Lord knows, I wouldn’t want to have met him in a dark alley.”
“At least, not to fight.”
“Seriously, Deacon? He’s not even cold, yet.”
“But he was pretty. Thinking guys like him would want that noticed, even under these circumstances.” He winked at her. “Especially by a sexier than hell cop.”
“That’s detective to you, G-man. Besides he’s not my type.”
“That so? What is your type, Detective?”
“Still breathing would be a good start.”
Deke grinned, the simple gesture making her heart race. Damn, but the man was handsome. Shaggy brown hair, the perfect amount of scruff, and those eyes—so fucking blue it made her stomach flip-flop. She’d had an unfortunate crush on the guy since they’d worked an assignment together six months ago, and bumping into him every few weeks on any potential crossover cases only made the fire in the pit of her gut burn hotter.
She drew in a much-needed breath, turning to fully face him. “So, there something about this case I’m unaware of? A reason I’m going to have to play nice with the bureau?”
Deacon placed his hand over his heart, the wind tousling his hair around his face. “And here I thought you liked playing nice with me. That hurts, Caitlyn.”
She did her best to ignore the way his words curled over her flesh, making her skin prickle as if he’d actually touched her. Damn, she shouldn’t react to him like this.
She glanced at the body again. “Is this where you tell me there’s a slew of other bodies just like this one scattered across the country? All with cryptic messages that make your skin crawl? Which makes this whole damn mess some jurisdictional bullshit? Because honestly, if that note is any indication of what direction this case is going to take, I might be inclined to just hand it over to you. No fighting. No whining to my superiors.”
His expression sobered, the lines of his face becoming slightly harsher. He scanned the alleyway, motioning her to join him in a relatively unoccupied area off to their left. Caitlyn followed him, unsure whether it was curiosity or the inklings of fear making her stomach tighten. Or maybe it was just him. He stopped when he reached a dumpster, looking up and down the narrow road again before focusing on her. Those crystal blue eyes of his made her breath hitch, the intensity of his expression bordering on lethal.
She reached up, palming his shoulder, wondering why he suddenly seemed so serious. As if the previous banter had just been for show. “Hey, you okay?”
“I was better before I got here.”
She pulled her hand back, tucking it in her pocket. “Thanks, Deke. Way to boost my fragile ego.”
He chuckled, leaning in dangerously close. His breath feathered over her cheek, rustling the wisps of hair that had pulled free from her ponytail. “Sweetheart, you’re the only silver lining in this whole mess.”
Her face heated again as his jaw brushed hers when he eased back, palming the brick behind her head. The position virtually trapped her between him and the building, his chest grazing hers as she inhaled deeply. Her pulse kicked up as her breasts rubbed across his pecs, the slight friction making her nipples peak against her shirt. Thank God she had on far too many layers for him to notice. She cursed inwardly. Now wasn’t the time or the place to consider anything other than the task at hand. But damn…every new case, every lost soul just seemed to be a hollow echo of her life. Claimed a bit more of the part of her she’d tried to lock away—keep safe. And she knew that, sooner or later, there’d be nothing left of her. Nothing left for her to give to anyone other than an empty shell of the person she’d once been.
She scanned the area, expecting someone to start yelling suggestive comments, but no one seemed to notice them. Or maybe everyone was simply too focused on the dead body splattered across the pavement to spare them a passing glance.
Caitlyn schooled her features. “Obviously, there’s something much deeper going on here than one creepy note and a dead body. So spill.”
Deacon tilted his head slightly, a hushed sigh sounding between them. “It’s…complicated.”
“Everything with you is…complicated.”
He arched a brow. “I could say the same thing about you, but…” He raked his free hand through his hair. “For the record, this isn’t the first body. Or the first note. There’s just one catch.”
“There always is.” She moistened her lips, quirking her mouth into a hint of a smile. “And…”
“The truth is, this is the thirteenth victim in a string of killings, all of which have the same MO and the same type of cryptic note.”
“Thirteenth? Strange how I haven’t heard anything about it. Not so much as a bulletin over the wire. There a reason for that?”
“The murders began about sixty years ago. The killer seems to target fit, young males in their prime. There were six deaths, then nothing for about forty years. Then suddenly, there were six more. An agent tied the two cases together, despite the first file being buried beneath a bunch of high security red tape, but he was killed during the investigation. The bureau pretty much back-burnered the whole thing when the killings stopped as mysteriously as they’d begun. In fact, there hasn’t been another case…until now.”


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Kris Norris is a jack-of-all trades who's constantly looking for her ever-elusive clone.

A single mother and slave to chaos, Kris started writing some years back, and it took her a while to realize she wasn't destined for the padded room, and that the voices chattering away inside her head were really other characters trying to take shape. (And since they weren't telling her to conquer the human race, she went with it. Though she supposes if they had...insert evil laugh).

Kris loves writing erotic novels. She loves heroines who kick butt, heroes who are larger than life, and sizzling love scenes that leave you feeling just a bit breathless.

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