Table of Contents

Book Cover
Trigger Warnings:
This book contains mentions of past abuse, action-adventure style mayhem, and the beginning sparks of a slow burn, series-spanning relationship.
Author's Notes:
Variant Configurations takes place in a future Earth where humanity is reclaiming its spot in a gradually healing world.

Book Info

Author:
Series:

Variant Configurations Book

Number In Series:
1
Cover Artist:
Publisher:
Mischief Corner Books
Published:
28 June 2022
Formats
Book Type
Words:
67,000
Pages:
260
Heat Level

Synopsis

Variant children are vanishing at an alarming rate. It will take a uniquely mismatched pair of trackers to untangle a web of conspiracy and misdirection to find them.

In his isolated cabin, variant Damien Hazelwood avoids human contact as much as possible to prevent attacks of blind berserker panic. But his rare talent as a locator makes him the go-to contractor for tricky missing person’s cases and when agents bring him a troubling contract involving missing variant children, he finds it impossible to refuse.

Licensed tracker Blaze Emerson can’t help being irritated when he’s expected to follow the strange, twitchy locator’s lead on his latest case. He works alone, he’s damn good, and as a variant sparker, he has both the fire and the firepower to take on anything out there. Though he has to admit there’s something intriguing about a man who can find people with his brain.

With vastly different temperaments and backgrounds, Damien and Blaze need to negotiate quickly how to work together if they’re going to crack this case. Add in the sudden appearance of Blaze’s outlaw ex, the perils of tracking in the wilds, and a maddening lack of discernible motive or method, and they soon find themselves in as much danger as the kids they’re trying to rescue.

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How long have you been writing fiction?

For publication, since the mid-90’s. Good grief. We can say late last century and be taken seriously these days. There’s a scary thought.

 

Are you in agreement that writing fan fiction is a great way to hone ones’ craft – why or why not?

I’ve never written fanfic myself, but I believe in practicing, and anywhere you can do that is a wonderful thing. Fanfic allows writers a lot more freedom than published fiction and provides a space where there’s potential feedback as well from readers. Experimenting, making mistakes, trying again – it’s a good space for all of these things.

 

Do you write hetero romance? Why or why not?

I’ve written science fiction with hetero romances in them, but this hasn’t been the focus of my writing. There’s enough het couple fiction out there and not enough queer fiction by far.  I write what I want to read – queer characters – and am more comfortable here where the queer writers are, too.

 

What are your thoughts on erotica?

Mostly that it’s a misunderstood term. Erotica isn’t porn and it’s not romance with some adult scenes. Not that there’s anything wrong with porn, but porn is about sex, full stop. Erotica is about an emotional journey through/with/because of sex. Both of these things are valid and have a place in fictiondom, but they’re not the same. (I don’t write erotica – too much genre plot in my stories for that, lol)

 

What book are you reading at the moment? It’s okay to give a fellow author a plug!

I’ve just finished the third book in K.D. Edwards Tarot Sequence – The Hourglass Throne. Excellent urban fantasy with lots of queer characters! I highly recommend the series, both for the world building and the characters.

What are you currently working on?

 

When creating your characters, do you have models/actors/real people in mind or are they totally fictional?

Never. I can’t have a real person intruding on what the character looks or sounds like in my head. It just distracts me.

 

If you write gay romance or erotica, just how descriptive are you in their sex scenes?

It depends. Sex scenes need a reason to be there in my story and while they are definitely adult scenes, they don’t tend to go on for pages and pages. It’s the emotional connection, what the characters’ need out of the encounter, that are more important to me than insert lubed tab A into possibly lubed slot B.

 

As a gay fiction or m/m romance author, do you feel that the trend is changing where it is becoming more mainstream?

Yes. At least in certain portions of the fiction world. Science fiction and fantasy have a long history of being ahead of the curve regarding character identity and sexuality. We see more and more queer authors and queer characters in the big annual awards for these genres and queer characters have become much easier to find. Mainstream romance has come a long way – but it still insists on separate imprints of there are to be queer main characters.

But we have to start asking what mainstream is these days – with so many publishing options for authors and so many independent authors, the big houses no longer have a monopoly on the reader’s attention.

 

What would you say is the distinct difference between m/m and gay fiction?

I’m going to repeat what I often do – m/m is a pairing. It’s not a genre. If we’re talking about romance, the difference is obvious. Gay fiction may contain a romance, but is not primarily a romance novel. To compare them is like asking what the difference is between science fiction and mysteries. They’re two separate things. Also, I need to be clear that most of the time, when people say gay fiction, they’re referring to literary fiction with gay characters. It really should just be literary fiction, just as fantasy with gay or queer characters is just fantasy. I’d like some day for the separation not to be needed, but for now – for reader discoverability – I know we still need to make the distinctions.

 

Do you believe it’s important for you to know the gender of the author?

No. Absolutely not. The author owes the reader nothing – nothing – about themself as a private person. If the author is nonbinary and not ready to come out, they owe the reader nothing. If the author is a woman writing under initials, they owe the reader nothing. What the author must not do, under any circumstances, is co-opt and claim the identity and voice of authority of any marginalized person who is not them. If the author is not a gay man, they must not claim or infer that they are one. If the author is not a transgender woman, they must never claim to be an authority of that lived experience.

 

Do you think women making up a good portion of the m/m fiction writers detracts from the genre? Why or why not?

Once again, m/m is a pairing, not a genre. If we’re talking about Romance, writ large, the genre, it’s inevitable and understandable that the majority of writers are women. Romance has always been considered fiction for women, and often looked down on and derided because of that. The vast majority of readers and writers are women and while I’m pleased to see more men getting involved in the genre as both readers and writers, we have to keep in mind that there’s still that stigma out there. Writers have an obligation to create whole, well-drawn characters – and to understand that research and care is required for writing someone who is of a different identity, whether those writers are men or women.

Thank you.

 

Excerpt

The ice around the weed bed glowed blue as first morning rays stretched tentative fingers across the lake. Even the sun was smart enough not to rush out of bed on a cold-as-a-penguin’s-pecker Vermont morning. Damien, however, apparently suffered from some intellectual deficiency since he was out on the lake already with his ice chisel, chipping away at a likely spot for a fishing hole.

His breath ghosted in front of him, every gulp of air biting into his lungs. It wasn’t that he liked the cold or enjoyed the self-sufficient, mountain-man lifestyle. He hated it. His hands always hurt. He was always hungry. It took him forever to warm his lonely bed at night no matter how many pairs of socks he put on, the frame rattling with his shaking for an hour or more.

Chip-chip-chip. The ice chisel on six-inch lake ice echoed back to him off his cabin in a strange, one-sided conversation.

The move wasn’t for his health or even part of a dream of a better life. He had left Raleigh to escape. Yes, he could have taken it a step farther and vanished. Away from the coasts, out in the abandoned wilds to the west, he might have found somewhere to hole up. Much of the land surrounding the Mississippi was still poisoned, but farther out toward Kansas, the remains of chemical skirmishes diminished.

The life of a wilding was dangerous for a lone person, though, and the constant need to be on high alert against scavengers who roamed the wastelands would have worn him down to nothing within a few months. Here, he was close enough to civilization for relative safety, far enough away for some peace. He’d given a promise for a promise, after all—his promise to Dr. Parma that he would still take the jobs he was uniquely suited to and her promise that he would be a last resort.

Mostly, the arrangement worked.

Up here, they couldn’t hound him so easily with every minute need. Up here, anyone seeking him out had to go to considerable trouble to reach him. They knew where he was, of course. The inconvenient locale enforced the mandate that they think long and hard before paying a call, and now they only showed up when they had exhausted other options.

So he pretended not to hear the crunch of the snow-crawler’s treads as it trundled up the snow-crusted hill accompanied by the whisper-hum of its solar battery engine. Then he deluded himself a few more minutes with the fantasy of late-season sport fishermen. The voices, when they reached him, shattered his careful illusion.

Chip-chip-chip. If I ignore them this time, will they give up and go away? Probably not. Please go away.

“That’s him? He’s kinda puny,” an unfamiliar voice rasped.

They hadn’t sent Cummings? What idiot was in charge now? They’d sent some stranger as the messenger, someone who didn’t understand him?

“Variants come in all the usual shapes and sizes, Wirth.”

There was Cummings. Thank God for small favors.

“But Sledge—”

“Is just one guy,” Cummings snapped, obviously losing patience with what had to be a rookie.

Footsteps crunched through the snow toward him. Damien tried to block them out, but his muscles tensed. The terrible sensation of having someone walking up behind him crawled up his back on millipede legs.

Chip-chip-chip.

“Wirth, hold up! You don’t want—”

Something touched Damien’s elbow. The millipede crawling up his spine leaped into his brain and exploded in a thousand spiny pieces. He whirled, snarling, and swept the ice chisel at whatever had put a hand on him without permission.

“Holy fuck!” A dark-haired man leaped back from the makeshift halberd. He fell on his ass and scrabbled backward on the ice, his eyes cow-patty huge in shock.

“I tried to warn you,” Cummings said calmly from the bank. A squared-off man with salt-and-pepper hair, he was the perfect bland-faced federal agent. He stood with his hands in his trench-coat pockets, stance relaxed and nonthreatening. There was a reason they usually sent him alone instead of sending a team or someone from the Guild, as they’d done once or twice. Cummings didn’t judge. Cummings understood Damien’s boundaries. “Maybe you’ll learn to listen now.”

“He tried to fucking kill me!” The intrusive man, presumably Wirth, still scrambled backward as he failed to get his feet under him.

“No. You invaded his space without warning. You don’t do that. I might kill you if you don’t stop acting like a jackass,” Cummings grated out, shaking his head. Then he gave a nod to Damien and said more evenly, “Hazelwood. Good to see you.”

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Biography

The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.
Published since 2006, Angel's cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You'll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don't expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.

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