Welcome to your introduction to some of the fantastic authors who will be joining us for the conference IN JUST A FEW DAYS!!!
Today I'm showcasing
J. LEIGH BAILEY
Hi J. Leigh, can you tell us a little about your work?
Hi Nicola! I write New Adult and Young Adult LGBTQ romance, featuring young men exploring the world of love, relationships, and acceptance. My Letting Go series with Carina Press features three stand-alone New Adult stories of men who have to overcome something traumatic in order to make a happy future with the men they love. This fall my first Young Adult novel--DO-GOODER--releases. Two missionary boys are kidnapped and held hostage by mercenaries in Cameroon, Africa. They have to work together to survive, and, eventually, gain their freedom.
Wow, that sounds really fresh and different. I always appreciate a book with an unusual setting. Know what else is an unusual setting in genre fiction? Detroit! So let's talk about RustCity...
1. Fill in the blank: "I used to be really good at getting to work on time! but these days I'm pretty rusty." I feel that pain for sure, and something about the summer time makes it even worse...
2. Eminem or Aretha? Explain.
While I greatly admire Eminem's skill with lyrics (the man is amazing!), I have to go with Aretha. The soul. The attitude. The conviction. Gives me chills every time.
Very diplomatic answer. I like it.
3. Choose One:
I'm confused. And not from around here.
All will be revealed at the conference...
4. What are you looking forward to most at the RustCity conference? I can't wait to spend the weekend with readers. I love being surrounded by people who understand how a person can become completely invested in fictional worlds and characters; with people who are aghast at the phrase "I don't like to read." These people are my people, my tribe. I think you've really nailed the appeal of book conferences.
5. What is an off-the-cuff association you have with Michigan, Detroit, or Troy?
Cars, music, water. Me too, almost exactly! -- I'm a non-Michigander who married in, so I have to add, "family" in there too.
6. Your latest work of fiction features a wealthy industrialist and an R&B singer. What's the first sentence? The sexy wail of a saxophone soothed his jagged nerves, a much needed respite from the world's shittiest day.
What's it about? This would be love story complicated by high profile media attention and family obligations. That sounds like a great setup!
7. And finally, would you like to participate in the Alpha Heroes Five Words Fiction Game? I'd love to!
Yay! J. Leigh kindly volunteered to let me choose the story for her, so she is adding to THE INFERNAL MACHINE, which is our attempt at steampunk-- and furthermore, she has provided us with a THRILLING CONCLUSION, which is no easy task with a game like this generating multiple threads! The world-building rules for the steampunk category are: set mid-nineteenth century, little or no magic, but alternate history without petroleum-fueled technology or electricity. The challenge words are: Triangle, Boy, Stronger, Key and Gash
Part 1, by Lorelei Brown
Part 2, by Marie Piper
Part 3, by Seleste deLaney
Part 4, by Cindy Spencer Pape
Jessa sucked in a breath. She’d purposely given him the opportunity to approach her, but she’d never considered he’d figure out that part of her secret. It wouldn’t matter, though. She knew just what to do to solve this little problem.
“Please,” she croaked out, using her free hand to grip his wrist, ostensibly to halt his fondling.
He grinned, his fingers squeezing her breast with more force. He was stronger than her, but if her unorthodox career had taught her anything, it was that brains outstripped brawn every time. With his attention on the curves hidden beneath her man’s suit, she stomped on his foot, proving that the clock-work pieces on her shoes were more than simple decorations. When he stumbled back half a step, she swung her knee up dead between his legs, a dirty trick her brother had taught her when they were children.
The Badger released his hold, and curled into himself, cradling his no-doubt sore man-parts. She took the opportunity to jam her knee into his face, propelling him back so he sprawled on the grime-covered ground unconscious. The gash in the skin of his forehead pleased her. It was the least he deserved, both for his traitorous acts and for his attempted molestation.
“Oy! Whot’s goin’ on ‘ere?”
Jessa turned, reaching under her sleeve for the collapsible brass baton she’d invented herself. She relaxed when she saw who had interrupted her. He was a boy, no older than thirteen, a street urchin from the looks of him. She didn’t have time for this. She had to find the mark, retrieve the engine, and deliver it to the Index. “Run along, young man. This is no concern of yours.”
He ignored her order and strolled closer. “I got a message for you.”
“I doubt it.” Jessa busied herself with straightening the lines of her suit and repositioning the bowler hat on her head.
“To get what you want, you need a key.” He spoke the words slowly, as though reading from a script.
That stopped her. “A key, you say? What kind of key?”
The boy shrugged. “I dunno. But I was also told you should ‘urry.” With those enigmatic words, the boys ducked into the shadows and disappeared.
Shaking her head, Jessa settled against the pitted stone archway of the barracks, and waited for Miss Alma to make her way past. Alma would only wait for someone to approach her at the bar for so long before giving up and heading home. Jessa only hoped she’d give up soon. The night was waning. She tilted her wrist until a moonbeam illuminated her Index-provided timepiece. It was a clever contraption, all the benefits and charm of a pocket watch, but able to be strapped on the wrist using a band of brass links. She lifted the small cover, a delicately wrought triangle of etched brass, to see the hands of the clock. As she suspected, it was only a couple hours from dawn.
Several minutes ticked by, until Jessa began to think she’d have to approach Alma at the bar after all, despite her preference for privacy. While she debated her options, she heard the tell-tale click of women’s heels on cobblestone streets. One peek around the corner confirmed her thought: Alma was almost there.
Jessa whipped her arm out, grabbed Alma’s lace-and-linen-covered arm, and was nearly bashed in the head with the woman’s parasol. “Stop that!” she hissed, levering the parasol away from her face. “I need to speak with you.”
The young woman trembled, hands clutching the valise to her chest.
“I am your contact. You can give the engine to me.”
“But…but…” Alma stuttered. She swallowed hard and tried again. “Franklin said to—”
Jessa cut her off. “Franklin has been disposed of. I am here to return the engine to the proper individuals.”
She bit her lip, staring at Jessa. “I have your word.”
Silly, naïve girl. Jessa wondered at the innocence. Had she ever been so trusting? It was a good thing that Jessa was on the side of angels. “My word, I have been duly authorized to return the engine to Alpha Cross.” In all actuality, she would deliver the parcel to Index, but as they were the secret protective force for Alpha Cross, it was as good as delivering it to the hands of Alpha Cross.
The girl pulled open her valise to display a gleaming engine, with cylinders and hydraulic mechanisms. It was too big, though. Jessa had been told the engine would be the size of her two fists together, not nearly triple that. Had she been duped? She lifted the metal contraption out, using the available moonbeams to examine every shiny inch. There, along one side, nearly hidden under a broad cylinder, was an impression of a delicately etched triangle, the same size and design as the face of her wrist-held time piece.
Jessa removed the small cover, noticing for the first time the ridge that ran down the center. She placed the triangle into its matching indentation. A perfect fit! She used the ridge to turn the triangular piece. After two clicks, the outer casing of the engine split open, revealing a smaller engine, with parts so small she could barely make them out in the dark. This thing, this compact bundle of gadgets, gears and pumps, was thought to be the greatest invention of all time.
Alma stepped back suddenly, hugging the precious invention to her chest. “You promise Franklin is dead? And my family is safe?”
“You have my word.”
Nodding, she passed the valise, engine and all, into Jessa’s hands. Without another word, she spun on her heel and walked away, leaving Jessa holding her ticket to freedom, her ticket back to New York. Holding the invention of the millennium—the first transplantable, human compatible, clockwork heart.
Thanks so much for playing, J. Leigh! You did an amazing job with this story! I love it! Where else can we find you?
I'd love to connect with people. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, or you can reach me on my website. Also, I have a piece going up tomorrow at the Read A Romance Month site, so please check that out!