Join Lou Sylvre and me, Elizabeth Noble, in spying on Todd Ruger and Luki Vasquez! Afterward, leave a comment and be entered to win our prize--one book from each of these series—Lou Sylvre’s Vasquez and James, and Elizabeth Noble’s Sentries.
Winners to be announced June 15, 2013.
It’s the 2013 annual meeting of the Fictional Badass Association (FBA), and the keynote address is scheduled to commence in twelve minutes. There is the usual low, echoing roar of scraping metal chairs and mostly phony expressions of friendship. The wide, vaguely beige hall boasts poor lighting—overhead canisters that glare, yet somehow manage not to throw enough light for Luki Vasquez, with his sometimes uncooperative left eye, to read the program.
Luki (mumbling and fumbling on his hated pince nez): “God damn it, these chairs are fucking uncomfortable! This is the badass association, people, not numb ass. Or maybe I just shouldn’t have let Sonny have his way with me before I left.” He chuckles without smiling and tries to find a spot of light to situate the program in. Then, suddenly, someone’s large feet are standing close, and someone, presumably the owner of those feet, is clearing his throat overhead. Luki looks up to find a rugged looking man with a good-natured smile—a man who looks familiar. Recognition strikes. “Oh, Todd… uh… Todd Ruger.”
Todd: “Hey, Luki Vasquez, right? I think we met briefly on Lou Sylvre’s blog? Listen, do you mind if I sit here? Most of the people here….”
Luki: “Yeah, sure, join me. I know what you mean. Slash is seriously underrepresented. And have you seen who’s on for the keynote? Fucking Frodo!”
Todd: “No shit? Well… you know one doesn’t simply walk into Mordor.”
Luki shakes his head: “Yeah, well if any of that bunch should be involved with FBA, it’s Sam Gamgee. Not Frodo. Although I admit in the movie version he made sounds of pain a human male could not reproduce. But how about Boromir, eh?”
Todd: “I've never seen a movie, not actually sure what one is, but I've read and, Hell no! Aragorn has my vote.”
Luki: “I would never vote for Aragorn! I mean… Sonny really likes him, and all.”
Todd: "So, your idea of a badass is to sit around and watch stuff? I didn't manage to get rid of a few shifters and fight in a war, you know an actual war with bullets and explosions and stuff sitting on the side lines watching some wannabe badasses pretend."
Luki: "Geez, dude, this is a meeting, not a boxing ring, calm down. I suppose the people in the movie might be wannabe, pretend badasses, but I’m not in a movie—and if you want to know what one is just sit tight for a while, they’ve got clips cued up to demonstrate Frodo’s alleged badassness. You might even see Aragorn whining around. But you know besides Boromir, there’s also Gimli! That dwarf can throw an axe, baby.”
Todd: “Aragorn. To hell with the rest.”
Luki: “Broken record.”
Todd: “What’s a record?”
Luki: “But as for me, I've got bullets, and explosives, and I hate to boast and so forth, but I can pretty much take a guy out and make it seem I’m hardly moving. Tai chi. And more. Then, should I need it, I have a security team—all badasses in one way or another, especially Jude, who runs the office.."
Todd: "I don't need a team. Just me and Nicky, he’s psychic. As for entertainment, I'm not sharing the details of what we do."
Luki: "Oooh such a gentleman. What in the hell would make you think I’d be telling you what I do in private with my husband?”
Todd smiled, clasped his hands behind his head, leaned back in his chair and stretched ridiculously long legs out in front of him. "Dandy like you probably couldn't handle it."
Luki chuckled, shook his head, and put his own muscled arms, in their tailored shirt sleeves with their white gold and sapphire cufflinks behind his head, mirroring Todd. “Fuck you, Ruger. Or rather I wouldn’t. But if we’re all done playing cock o’ the walk, for now, I have a serious question for you.”
Todd: “You are a rude son-of-a-bitch, aren’t you.”
Luki: “Leave my mama out of it. Here’s the thing, though. See I’m ridiculously in love with my husband. So much that I can’t imagine living without him. What’s it like for you, Todd? I mean… don’t get me wrong, but Nick’s your slave? Would you love him even if he wasn’t? Would he love you?”
Todd heaved a long suffering sigh. He couldn’t believe even someone like Luki Vasquez couldn't get it. "There is no law that says an owner, or a slave, have to have fond feelings for one another, or even love. I have to provide for him, nothing more. I worked hard to earn his love and I work to keep it. I've known Nick since he was five and I was twelve. Let me ask you, would your husband so much as give you the time of day if he'd known you that long?"
Luki: “Todd, relax. I get it. I do. I asked you an honest question, I’m not so sure the question you asked me is in kind, but I’ll respond as though it is. "
Todd: “I asked an unfair question? You're the one who insinuated that because my relationship with Nick started out differently from you and your husband's it's not real. We still chose to mate, both of us, freely. Nick was never forced."
Luki: “I said I get it, about you and Nick. Do you think I’m lying, or do you think I’m too dense to understand? Or maybe you’re just on the defensive. I don’t need a response, though. I’ll say it one more time. I get it. You love the man and he loves you. That can’t be bad. As for whether Sonny would love me under those circumstances… who can say? The first decades of Sonny’s life he endured horror stories piled one on the other—no less than what Nick went through. He pulled through it and made something beautiful of his own life, and thank the saints, when I stumbled into his domain, he was able to open up for me. So your question makes no sense, because in the world Sonny knew as a kid… well, there just wasn’t any room to admit someone like me. But speaking for me, I’m 42 and I’ve never been in love, until Sonny. But to my heart it feels like he was always there and I just didn't know it.”
Todd: "And you didn't answer my question. Would he still love you having known you since you were twelve?"
Luki: “As I tried to explain, the question makes no sense in the context of Sonny’s life. And I don’t have a backward crystal ball any more than I have a forward one. And when I was twelve, he was one year old, for god’s sake. As I said, my husband and I love each other, and I’m willing to accept that though your relationship is not one I understand, you and Nick love each other, too. And you’ve told me about evil in your world—demons and things like that, horrifying! Well my world is full of evil, too, and just because it’s human doesn’t make it less horrifying, or less deadly.”
Luki waited for Todd to speak, but the man just stared straight ahead, so eventually he concluded. “I know what it’s like to be willing to give up anything, even your life, in a fight to save the man you love, Todd. People will be reading soon, Ms. Sylvre hopes, about how I had to win against a man who kidnapped my husband and poisoned him—yeah, evil. Every bit as awful as those demons you fight. Believe that love and goodness and strength matter in my world. And in that weird world Ms. Noble created for you, the same things matter. So as annoying as you’ve been, I want you to know, young man, that I’m glad you’re there to fight that brand of evil, and I’m glad you and Nick have your brand of love…. Hm, I think Frodo’s at the podium.”
Todd: “Yes, I know what you mean, about fighting for your man’s life. I recently spent weeks getting Nick from the clutches of a psychic vampire, and a few more getting him to stop blaming himself for something he had no control over." Todd stretched in his seat and stared forward. "I can’t see anyone up there.”
Luki: “I know. But I think Frodo’s at the podium.”
Todd turned in his chair and looked Luki up and down, speaking in a soft voice, "For the record, some people are worse than demons and are monsters."
Luki chewed his lip in order to stop the smile that wanted show itself. “Yes,” he said, “ and short."
Last month Lou Sylvre was kind enough to give me and the Ruger men a spot on her blog. She and Luki had a few things to add as well!
Elizabeth: Hello, and thank you to Lou Sylvre for giving me a spot on her blog. Actually this time the spot will go one of my favorite tough guys, Todd Ruger to answer a few questions.
Todd: Only one of your favorites?
Elizabeth: Shhh, we don’t want the others getting jealous. Lou doesn’t have all day, she has her own tough guys to cater to so, let’s dive right in.
Lou: Luki Vasquez you get back here right now! Todd is not going to bother Sonny at all. He loves Nick!
Elizabeth: Recently, within the covers of Collared Souls, you had to do something very difficult for you. Tell us about it.
Todd: You’ll have to be more specific, I was sort of kept busy start to finish with difficult things. You never gave me a moment’s rest.
Elizabeth: You and Nick had to return to the village Nick grew up in, Eldrid. How’d that go for you?
Todd: You wrote the book, don’t you remember?
Elizabeth: *clears throat* Why don’t you share, for all the nice readers?
Todd: Okay, no need to get testy. Taking Nick back there, the way we had to go about it, was a fat pain in the ass. Chancellor Clarke likes to pretend he’s our friend, but he really just uses us. I would have rather gone back for our own reasons, but that’s not how things worked out.
To be honest, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Nicky was scared going back there, even though he did a great job of covering up how he felt. It was like a constant itch, the vibes I got from him the whole time we were there.
Elizabeth: But you both got things done?
Todd: Of course we did! I was a bit sad because I didn’t have a chance to blow the place up.
Elizabeth: You did speak to a very important person from Nick’s past, however.
Todd: Yeah, that was a highlight. See, Nick had a tutor the entire time he was growing up, a guy called Linn. He was a real prick and thought a good way to get a kid to behave was to hit them. I’ve spent a few years fantasizing about snapping the little twerp in half. I held back and only hit him a few times.
Elizabeth: There was another thing you did for Nick while you were there, can you tell us about it?
Todd: My biggest problem was making these people see Nick as my mate and a sentry. Not a little slave kid. He had strict instructions not to kneel to any of them. I had to make him stay on his horse to be sure and threaten to restrict his coffee drinking.
Luki: Oh my god!
Lou: Luki, relax. One more outburst and you’re out of here!
Elizabeth: The ultimate punishment for Nick!
Todd: You got that right.
Elizabeth: Thank you for sharing with us today.
Todd: Don’t you want to talk about the hidden archive, or the bombs and shooting, or… ?
Elizabeth: We don’t want to spoil things.
Todd: Not even my Dad?
Elizabeth: No. And don’t sulk.
Nick: Todd says I pout when I don’t get my own way. And I loved what he did to Tutor Linn. Talk about revenge.
Todd: Where’d you come from? Did you hear all that?
Nick: *nodding* Where do you think I came from? Don’t tell me I have to explain that to you.
Elizabeth: Nick, since you’re here, tell us, how did you feel going back to Eldrid.
Nick: There’s a saying ‘you can’t go home again’, but that’s not really true. You can go home, but you can’t go back to the way things were when you were a child. I could never have stepped foot in that village without Todd. He really made me see I could go back a different person, not a slave, but a sentry. Todd’s my hero.
Todd: *Groan* Maybe we should give these nice readers an excerpt.
Nick: And don’t forget the blurb.
Luki and Lou: Bye, you two. Thanks for stopping by!
Blurb and Excerpt
Anne Barwell asked me to write a bit on how I thought up my Sentries series. She posted this on her Blog back in March and this is a repost.
One of the questions I’m often asked is, where did my concept and use of slavery in my series the Sentries originate?
It’s sort of an interesting story, at least I think so.
The whole thing started one lazy afternoon when I was trolling through a community on Live Journal. In this particular community people post summaries of things they’ve read/watched, or would like to, to see if someone might know the fanfic/movie/book. One such summary caught my attention; it was basically about two people who grew up knowing they would marry and be together. Then I read the very next entry, which was someone looking for stories in general about arranged marriages. To complicate matters the one after that talked about wanting to find stories with slaves who were not abused.
That’s when my brain had an ah-ha moment.
Then my brain had to do some real work to meld those ideas, which are sort of opposites, into one story. I started with working out how all these ideas might work together. From there I stumbled over the idea of one of my MCs being a slave. One character being a slave allowed me to weave my three main concepts together nicely. Obviously, this wasn’t going to be set in our world today, so my next step was to do my world building homework and create a society that would also fit. I prefer scifi and future settings so that part was the fun part for me.
The more I planned, the more involved and intricate the development of both slaves and sentries became. In Sentries, the slaves are not captured people, but children bred specifically to be slaves. These children are highly educated so as to benefit their future owners.
In Collared Souls, Todd and Nick Ruger discover their roots, as sentries, and how the slave industry came into being. The men learn their ties to both sentries and slaves go back to their youngest days, as well as generations preceding them.
Making the character Nick a slave allowed me to do a few things with both the characters. It gave me the chance to have the characters know about one another, have some contact via correspondence, and still be somewhat unsure how their prearranged pairing would go once they were together. While they came from the same society, the culture and atmosphere each man grew up in, and was shaped by, was different. It was a meeting of opposites, taking them and turning them into a strongly bonded couple.
Slaves have certain advantages their owners do not. Nick uses the fact that to some people he’s invisible, a piece of property owned by Todd, nothing more, to allow him to develop covert skills of observation. Todd, of course, has his own unique talents, and the two complement each other incredibly well. Their lives intertwine and affect each other from the time each of them is a young child.
My biggest challenge was making the slaves and institution of slavery in my books different from others out there. Todd is not the typical slave owner. Nick isn’t forced into their relationship, Todd spends a great deal of time in the beginning of the series wooing his newly acquired slave. As the series progresses we see how these two very opposite men come to love and respect one another while doing a very dangerous job.
Their love for one another and their teamwork is highlighted in Collared Souls and is what carries them through the challenges thrown in their path and in the end brings Todd and Nick even closer together.
Welcome to My World