What genre is Agent Undone and can you name any similar books?
Agent: Undone is a dark romance/romantic suspense novel with very adult themes. Books similar to this one would be the McIntyre Security Bodyguard Series by April Wilson, The Salvation Series by Corinne Michaels and The Broken Trilogy by J. L. Drake. They all have protective, slightly growly men and strong, independent women as their main characters.
The novel has two main characters, Carter & Maddison. Can you briefly introduce them?
Carter Hollis is a DEA Agent who has been forced to take medical leave after being shot in the leg during a mission. After his girlfriend and colleague died in his arms during an op, he couldn’t face being in a relationship again, so he became a ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em’ kind of guy. He’s always upfront about his intentions with every woman he meets and tries to not leave a string of broken hearts in his wake. He needs to focus on his work and doesn’t need a woman in his life for anything more than a bit of fun between the sheets whenever he’s off duty.
Madison Wells is living a quiet life in Florida, working from her little rented beach cottage and not allowing anyone close enough to see the deep cracks in her soul. She carries her secrets underneath a new identity and hides her fears of her past catching up with her behind an enigmatic smile and a well constructed armour. She doesn’t have friends, only people she says hello to in the tiny village nearby. Her days are spent on early morning runs on the beach, working on her writing and jumping at shadows.
Maddison has an ex from hell that she’s lucky to be free from. Not many people talk about trafficking and domestic abuse. Was it challenging writing about a such a difficult topic?
Trafficking and abuse are some of the worst crimes in our society, and they need to be brought out and examined in the cold light of day. In so many abusive situations, the victim is made to feel they are to blame for what is happening to them. They are stripped of their confidence, isolated from any outside support and made to depend on their abuser for everything. It’s incredibly hard for them to break free and escape their situation, and once they do the support available is often short term and run on shoestring budgets. I did a lot of research into domestic abuse and I was horrified when reading the women’s (and a couple of men) stories as they described their journey from being outgoing, confident, and in love, to an unrecognisable shell of their former selves. It’s a long, slow transformation that happens so gradually they don’t realise it before it’s too late. As much as I wanted to bring the subject into the book, I was also very wary of either trivialising or sensationalising it as it would be insulting to anyone who has ever suffered from abuse. The sex trafficking part was also emotionally hard to research and very complex, which is why I didn’t go into too many details and kept it to a more general description. We all know it happens and we all want it to stop, but as long as there are people who think others are there to be used as a commodity, and people who want to buy that commodity, it will always be an incredibly difficult trade to put a stop to. My heart breaks for anyone who has been put through it and for the families who lose a loved one in such a way. Many victims are never found which leaves parents, siblings and friends without closure and always wondering if they are still out there somewhere.
Carter has lost Mira and now uses women for a good time rather than to develop a meaningful connection. How did you rap into those complex emotions when developing his character?
Carter was both fun and interesting to create. I tried to visualise how a person would react if they didn’t deal with their grief properly after losing someone the way Carter lost Mira, and instead protected themselves from the risk of having to go through it again by pretending they didn’t want or need a deeper connection with a partner. I think we would all want to shield ourselves from heartache if the one we loved passed away. Some of us would go through all the classical stages of grief and eventually come out the other side, battered and bruised, but still open to finding someone new if the opportunity arose. Others would finish the grieving process but not feel the need for that kind of relationship again, and some would yearn for the love but be too afraid to have their heart broken again. The process of grief and loss is very individual and everyone tries to cope the best way they know how. Carter wants to fall in love and have that special someone in his life, but has convinced himself he’s not capable of it and only needs sexual gratification whenever his body demands it. I wanted him to come across as the stereotypical male who only wants one thing from women, while at the same time give glimpses into the fear and longing inside his heart. I promise, he’s not as bad as you might think when you first meet him.
You seem to have a style of writing novels with a dual perspective, one male, one female? Can we look forward to more of this?
I like writing from a dual perspective as I feel the reader gets a more three-dimensional insight into the characters. It allows me to develop the story from different levels and emotional angles, and the reader gets to know things about the characters they don’t know yet themselves. It lets the reader in on the secrets and builds a connection between them and the characters. It’s something I personally enjoy in the books I read and it’s a little like getting two stories woven into one whole.
The setting sounds beautiful. Have you been there or did you do a lot of research?
The story is set in the Florida panhandle and in Seattle, but I haven’t been to either of them so a lot of research was necessary. I’m on very friendly terms with Google Earth, Maps and Streetview. They are an absolute godsend for seeing how places look from lots of different angles. It’s also great fun to find new and interesting places to learn about and try to visualise as if you’ve actually been there. Quite often, I draw from memories of my own travels to try to create a picture of the sights, sounds and smells of the place I want to describe. After all, a sunny beach in Australia or Mexico is not going to be too different from one in Florida. Seattle was slightly more difficult, but as I didn’t need the characters to move around much, it wasn’t too hard to just get a feel for the city using the internet. The weather is also not too dissimilar to that here in the UK or even in Sweden where I grew up, so adding a lot of rain and grey skies was easy.
Please share a short snippet or teaser from Agent Undone?
“Before I forget, I might not make it for our run tomorrow morning.” Carter said with an embarrassed wince.
“Oh?” The tiny sound popped free from her mouth. “Are you going somewhere?”
“No, I’m not. My friend, Nathan, the guy who owns the beach house, is coming down today, and we’re going for a couple of drinks tonight at the bar.”
“And you might be too hungover tomorrow to go running? I get it. I suppose there might be a girl or two involved in that scenario as well?” Madison teased him, but he noticed a strained undertone in her words. It warmed his belly and made his chest feel light.
“Nope, no girls. Not for me, anyway. As soon as my leg has healed up, I’ll be on my way back to Virginia and my job. I don’t want to get tangled up with a woman that I must extricate myself from. Too many complications.” Damn, he was so lying to her — and himself. He just didn’t want her to think he was hooking up with other women while he was seeing her. Wait. Hold up. He was not seeing Madison. They were running buddies. Friends. Acquaintances. That’s all.
Carter tried to silence the annoying little voice in his head that was whispering the word liar very loudly.
“Well, if you need a hangover cure in the morning, give me a call and I’ll whip one up for you. I’ll even make one for your friend.” She snickered.
“If you have a hangover cure that actually works, Nate will worship you forever. He will also badger you for the recipe until you relent and give him what he wants. He’ll probably offer marriage and babies in return. You’ve been warned.” A deep laugh rumbled in Carter’s chest.
“No way, I’m not giving anyone that recipe, and for your information it does work. Or, at least it did on—“ Madison stopped abruptly and her lips pressed into a thin line. Carter knew that look.
Where can we find out more and buy your books?
There’s more information on Agent: Undone, including a video trailer made by the amazing J. D. Groom, and my other two books, on my website: cassidyreyne.comYou can purchase the books from Amazon and they are also available in Kindle Unlimited.
I connected with Ben on Instagram over our love of novels about shifters. I thought my shifters were unique but Ben’s debut novel is about a were otter! He agreed to a Behind the Book interview so I could discover more, and share it with you.
What genre is Petrified and can you name any similar books?
Petrifiedis contemporary fantasy. There are a lot of books that share some elements but I don’t know of anything that is similar. It’s written with more of an adult audience in mind like The Dresden Files. It’s focused around shifters like the Mercy Thompson series. It has a very likeable main character similar, although not as humorous as, The Iron Druid Chronicles.
With those similarities there are a lot of differences. It focused on shifters but it’s not romance. There are no vampires or Alpha pack structures. There are many different kinds of shifters, Wolves, bears, raccoons, coyotes, rats,even a were-doberman, and the main character is a wereotter.
Why did you choose an Otter shifter?
There are two answers to this:
The rules are that a Keeper has to be bound to a predator native to the area it works in. In North Georgia USA we have blackbears, coyotes, otters, or some kind of rodent that I could choose from. So I picked an otter.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t want Obie to be a wereotter. It’s a marketing nightmare. People don’t wake up in the morning saying, “Today I’m going to find some wereotter fiction.” Otters don’t have the street cred that wolves do. Some people have a hard time with the wereotter concept and will pass on the book because of it. I’ve had more than a couple sleepless nights debating changing Obie to a werewolf. Ultimately, I couldn’t do it.
It was like having a child that had a characteristic on the fringe of social norms. I could accept Obie for who and what he was or try to shoehorn him into a more culturally accepted role. I chose to accept him. If that means the book doesn’t sell then that’s okay.
Which animal would you like to shift into?
Too many to choose from… maybe a Platypus because I seem to keep people scratching their heads.
This is the first book in the Keeper Chronicles – how many do you anticipate in the series?
I don’t have a set number in mind. I’m working on book three now. I have a lot of ideas for other projects I’d like to get to but I’ll write them as long as the characters want to keep going.
What challenges did you face in publishing this?
It’s my first book so I had a number of challenges. The biggest challenge was that a year and a half after release I figured out some things I hadn’t done correctly. I took the book down and made some changes. After I fixed everything it was rereleased as second edition. The main thing I changed was the cover. I wanted to get a full body shot of a wereotter so people could better understand the concept.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of authorBenMeeks?
I wake up around 7:30. I take my daughter to school first. After that some or all of the following happen in no particular order. Clean up or work around the house, have a morning writing session, and exercise. My exercise varies depending on how I’m feeling and what else I have going on but generally will be weightlifting, rowing machine, playing disc golf, or mountain biking. After that I get a shower and eat. I’ll take an hour or so to relax and watch TV or read. Then I get back to work on whatever needs to be done that day. I still have a day job and I work 15:00 to 24:00 from home. If things are slow I fit in some writing there too.
Please share a short snippet or teaser from Petrified?
I walked over to find the answer to the mystery of the missing bones. They had been arranged in a central pile about three feet in diameter with three rows on each side of varying lengths pointing off in different directions. The end of each row came to a point with a bone that had been cut sharp. I knelt for a closer inspection.
“It looks like a weird compass, like you see on old maps,” Holt said over my shoulder. “What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know, maybe some kind of marker or cantrip? Whatever it is, it’s not good,” I said. The breeze shifted, blowing against my back, bringing with it a smell akin to rotten eggs. “You smell that?”
I stood and turned to see a small grey face peeking up over a headstone. The imp crawled up on the headstone, giving us a clear view of it. It stood almost two feet tall with four arms, grey skin, and long claws on its hands and feet. Its long arms and pallid complexion made it look like a miniature resurrected gorilla, with a Cheshire cat smile. A line of black barbed quills ran down its back. By far my least favorite thing about imps was catching them.
“What’s it doing?” Holt asked.
He was right, this was strange behavior. Imps are small and not inherently powerful. They use their speed and size to evade; they never go toe-to-toe or expose themselves like this.
“Something’s wrong,” I said, trying to put the puzzle together.
It clicked just as pressure, followed by severe pain, shot through my calf. I looked down to see one of the sharpened bones sticking out of the front of my leg. The bone pile behind us had stabbed me with the row closest to where I was standing. Holt jumped to the side, avoiding a similar strike meant for him.
“Get the imp,” I said through gritted teeth.
The five rows of bone that didn’t have me impaled moved underneath the center pile, lifting it off the ground like a spider. The orientation of the bones suddenly made more sense: they were legs. I bent forward to support myself with my hands and donkey-kicked its center mass with my good leg, sending it flying back into the woods. The bone piercing my leg was ripped free, leaving a gushing wound that was quickly filling up my shoe.
Holt was busy chasing the imp around the graveyard and not having much luck catching it. I wasn’t going to be much help until my leg healed. The skeleton monster came shambling out of the woods like a Model T with loose wheels.
Where can we find out more and buy your books?
You can find out about me on my website,www.authorbenmeeks.com. Petrified is available on Kindle, Audible, amazon or any bookstore.
I was all prepared for it all to go wrong during my first attempt but it went surprisingly well. My first vids have areas for improvement but everyone has to start somewhere.
It must have been beginners luck…
I was all set to make my September videos. I got Aria down for her nap, set up a tidy space and hit record. I nattered the whole way through and then hit playback…
My lips were moving, my face was animated but there was no sound.
I tried other recording apps on the iPad, I checked various settings but nothing would bring my audio to life. Yet, previous videos played fine.
I attempted a test recording.
I switched to my mobile. Hit record. Hit Playback. I could hear my voice… And, I could hear Aria was up from her nap.
I’d wasted my full hour of free time on accomplishing nothing. To make matters worse, that was Aria’s last nap. We even had a few nights where she decided she didn’t even need sleep at all!
This leaves me no choice but to record in the evenings. I know this means the lighting won’t be good but it’s the only time I have, and I won’t be beat by a baby that won’t sleep.
I figured out how to set my mobile up to record – without a proper stand. I recorded my video. I hit playback and…. Yes, I had sound. Things are looking good.
I wanted to edit on the iPad as it has a bigger screen. I uploaded the video to my G-Drive but it wouldn’t let me download it. Apparently, my 5 minute recording is too big.
So, I emailed myself from my mobile, and opened the email & attachment on the iPad. It saved.
Oh, you’d think that was it but no, I got a brand new problem…
My video was pitch black! No sound & no picture! It was getting worse!
I had no choice but to edit on my mobile. It took me longer and was more fiddly, but I was pleased with the end result.
The next nightmare was uploading it to YouTube. The upload button had gone in the app! I opened YT Studio in my browser which wasn’t mobile friendly. If I zoomed in, I couldn’t zoom out. I used the site in teeny-tiny-writing mode
I wrote my description and scheduled it for 7pm Tuesday evening and went to bed.
I checked it over in the morning & was proud of myself. I showed my hubby my creation.
He found it cringeworthy.
He wasn’t criticising me but… He hates being recorded; photo, video, sound, anything. And, in the background you can hear him chatting.
He begged me not to post the video and assured me I can make a better one. So, I cancelled it. The things you’ll do for love – right?
I was going to record in my lunch break, but my appointment over ran. Then, I was going to record after work, but my hubby needed a break. Then, I was going to record once the kids were in bed, but guess who doesn’t want to sleep tonight?
Oh, and did I mention, I still can’t figure out how to change my channel cover art…?
Oh well, there’s always tomorrow…
I will succeed! I will make my videos! And, it’s suppose to get easier… I mean – It WILL get easier.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the IT Crowd clips in this post. It has to be done when talking about IT issues. It was that or “Computer Says No”, from Little Britain…
The story of the Sea Witch, the villainess from Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale The Little Mermaid, told from the viewpoint of the Sea Witch when she was a twelve-year-old girl…
Evie has been wracked with guilt ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned. So when a girl appears on shore with an uncanny resemblance to Anna, Evie befriends her in an effort to make amends. And as the two girls catch the eyes – and hearts – of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at happy ever after. But is Evie’s new friend really who she says she is?
A gripping story of friendship, betrayal and the power of hope…
The story starts by introducing the three friends Evie, Anna, and Nik (aka the Crown Prince). The childhood friends are running along the beach and playing in a cove until there’s an accident. Evie risks her life to save Nik. Evie cracks her head on a rock. Her friends rush her home to her family that know magic and her mother gives her life to save Evie.
We then jump to Nik’s sixteenth birthday taking place on a ship. It reminded me of the scene from the start of Disney’s little mermaid. Anna isn’t here as she died in a tragic accident. This did confuse me a little as I thought I’d missed something because the only tragic accident I knew about was the one above, and Anna was fine.
A storm comes and Nik is washed overboard. Evie and his playboy cousin Iker search the tide for him, hoping he’s been washed ashore. Evie spots Nik first, he’s with a girl, but in a flash she is gone.
Evie is a witch but hides her magic because it’s punishable by death. The story covers lots of celebrations including one where wicker dolls to symbolize witches are thrown into the fire.
Evie meets a mysterious girl that is a dead ringer for her friend Ana who tragically died, taken by the sea, during a swimming challenge gone wrong. The new girl claims to be Annemette.
Annemette reveals to Evie she too has magic, and confesses to being a mermaid. It was her that saved Nik when he almost drowned and she fell in love and had to come to land for true love. She has limited time to get true loves kiss or return to the sea as foam.
Annemette is in luck because, as Nik’s BFF, she’s the one girl with access to him. But, Evie is poor and shunned away by the elite as unsuitable, so she’s not usually invited into the palace. Evie lies, and says Annemette is from a well off family, and Annemette uses her magic to create herself (and Evie), fine dresses. As a result, they are invited to stay at the palace.
Evie encourages Nik to date Annemette. She reminds her so much of her lost friend, she’ll do anything for her. Evie starts dating Iker. Nik isn’t too pleased about this, due to Iker’s reputation and there is a hint of jealous. Evie knows her and Nik can only ever be friends due to her heritage.
While Iker keeps kissing Evie, Nik holds back with Annemette. As the days pass, Nik starts expressing his suspicions more and more causing friction.
Evie searches for another way to break the curse. She starts practising her magic more, becoming stronger.
During all of this, there are flashbacks. These sometimes reveal Evie’s pasts, and sometimes the Little Mermaids and her life bebeathe the waves.
Time is running out! In Evie’s desperation she tells Nik, Annemette is a mermaid. Annemette is not impressed, so, she reveals Evie is a which! Iker over heals and demands the guards arrest her.
The girls run. Evie is still determined to save Annemette and believes she’s figured out the spell. It turns out Annemette has her own ideas to stay human & it has nothing to do with kissing Nik.
It’s during these final pages, Nik confesses he never had eyes for Annemette, he has always loved Evie. Annemette takes Nik’s life, making her human. But, as a human she’s vulnerable. Evie is shot with arrows and pulls Annemette down into the water. She holds her down until her last breath. Her friend, dead again.
Evie doesn’t die. With all the magic swirling in the water, she merges with an octopus and becomes the Sea Witch.
I loved the story telling. Sarah Henning set the novel in Denmark where it was from originally. She brought to life the Danish coast, and a fishing village rich in customs. There were moments that were so vivid, and I loved the fresh take on a classic fairy tale.
There wasn’t a happily ever after. I really wanted to see her with the crown prince & show those snobs that their love is more powerful. But, I guess I should have expected it. I kept looking at the cover and wondering where the famous sea witch was, and she was Evie.
The sea witch is usually the villain but in her own story she wasn’t. I liked Evie and I felt sorry for her fate. I’ll have to read book 2, Sea Witch Rising, to see if things improve for her.