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I’d like to welcome the wonderful Kendall McKenna as my guest today.

Though today Kendall will be talking about her upcoming book, Strength of the Pack (releases tomorrow!!!!), I wanted to mention that her recent release, Brothers in Arms, has been nominated in two categories for the 2012 Goodreads M/M Romance Member’s Choice Awards – Best Law Enforcement/PI/Firemen/Military Story & Favorite All Time M/M Romance Book. Congrats, Kendall, and good luck!! *fingers crossed*

Now, on to her post and giveaway. Everyone, please Kendall a warm welcome and feel free to leave a comment or two! 🙂

To Research Or Not To Research? by Kendall McKenna

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my guest blog post. My name is Kendall McKenna and I write M/M erotic romances. Yes, that’s kind of a code for the fact that I write fantasy gay porn! This is probably the best job I’ve ever had!

My specialty is writing about U.S. Marines in a very authentic way. Not only do I write realistically hyper-masculine men, but my entire narrative has an authentic military flavor and is filled with technical and slang jargon. I think you’ll agree that that’s not very common in this genre. What is common, though, is paranormal stories.

There was a time I read a lot of vampire themed stories. I don’t so much anymore, for no particular reason I can name. What I have never read in any great quantity is shifter stories. Again, I can’t tell you why I never made a point to seek out those types of stories.

So, a friend of mine, who likes shifter stories, asked me to write about Marine werewolves. When I agreed, my first inclination was to get my hands on a bunch of shifter books and do research. Immediately, I rejected that idea. Common sense would dictate that I should discover the rules of the genre and the popular themes so I could be sure the story would appeal to steadfast fans. I went completely against conventional wisdom and wrote my story completely oblivious to what’s out there being read right now. The result is a story called Strength of the Pack, and it’s become the first of a series called The Tameness of the Wolf. What I’m hoping is that I’ve been left untainted and uninfluenced by the creativity and world building of other authors.

It’s either going to be great, or it’s going to be a hot mess. Only time will tell. I may have broken every rule in the book without knowing it. I may have done things that have already been done a thousand times over. I can only hope that whichever it is, that I at least did it well.

The truly tricky part was building a world where werewolves could go into combat in Afghanistan and still be subject to the full moon. The wolves themselves in combat made sense and were pretty easy to integrate. Packs have hierarchies, which are really just rank structures, so they fit right in with the military.

My narrative style gave me an extra hurdle that another author wouldn’t have necessarily encountered. I don’t just write about characters who are in the military, I write the stories with realism and technical accuracy, right down to the jargon. The military is a sub-culture with uniform dress and its own language. We’re talking about characters and a sub-culture that calls a pen and ink stick; boots are leather personnel carriers; words are sometimes even replaced by the phonetic alphabet equivalent. In Strength of the Pack, I had to integrate the werewolf sub-culture into the military sub-culture, right down to the language, and make it seamless and believable.

Well, I tried to, at least.

So, Strength of the Pack, which is the first book in the Tameness of the Wolf series releases from MLR on Friday, January 18th. (Available at the MLR website and all of the major distributor sites.) If you’re interested, I’m giving away a copy to a lucky blog reader on Saturday. Keep reading to find out how to enter to win.

Kendall McKenna - The Strength of the Pack cover 1-17-13Book blurb
Lieutenant Lucas Young doesn’t know much about shifters. When Sergeant Noah Hammond is assigned to Lucas’ platoon, the Marine Corps’ True Alpha werewolf challenges the Lieutenant’s authority and his self-control. As Lucas learns to dominate and command Noah, he struggles against a strong attraction and deepening emotional bond.

 During their combat deployment to Afghanistan, Lucas and Noah begin mirroring legendary partnerships. Their bond and their power grow as they survive dangerous combat and ambushes. When one of them is wounded in battle, they both must embrace the strength of their bond before they lose each other forever.

Excerpt
Lucas ended the call, sighed heavily and leaned his head back against the truck behind him. That was when he caught sight of Noah. He too, had shed his Kevlar and armor. He stood several feet behind Vince, staring at Lucas with silver wolf-eyes, hands tightly clenched at his sides.

Vince followed Lucas’ gaze. When he caught sight of the visibly agitated Noah, he turned to face him, putting himself between Noah and Lucas. He admired Vince’s balls and loyalty, but he was no match of Noah.

“Can I have a word with you, Lieutenant?” Noah carefully enunciated each word, his voice pitched low and gravelly. Something about the way he was speaking was slightly odd.

Excitement rocketed through Lucas when he realized the cause. Noah’s fangs were showing.

Vince saw them, too. He took a step in Noah’s direction. “You need to stand down, Sergeant,” he ordered.

Eyes never leaving Lucas’, Noah’s lips curled back in a snarl, a low growl emanating from deep in his throat. “Lucas,” he said softly, but firmly.

“It’s okay, Vince,” Lucas said, holding Noah’s gaze. “I’m never in any danger from Sergeant Hammond. This is Pack business, not Corps business. Give us a minute, please.”

Vince hesitated. “Are you sure, Lucas?”

Lucas was. “Absolutely. That’s a combat stress reaction. I’m not the cause, I’m the solution.”

Vince’s entire frame relaxed as realization dawned. “Should I run interference so you have some privacy?”

He nodded. “Please. The weres shouldn’t come anywhere near this area, so it’s just the humans to watch out for.”

As Vince turned to leave, Lucas handed him the sat phone. The moment Vince was out of sight, Noah pounced.

Moving almost too fast for Lucas to see, Noah slammed his body into Lucas’, pressing him hard against the side of the truck. Lucas’ wrists were pinned above his head in an iron grip. Noah held them there with one large hand, while he used his other to reach up under Lucas’ fleece.

Lucas jolted like he’d been shocked. Noah’s hand was hot and rough as it skimmed up his ribs to his chest. Noah buried his face in the side of Lucas’ neck, his breath coming in hot gasps against Lucas’ skin. Lucas’ cock was already fully hard, pushing against the front of his pants. He forced himself to relax, to keep his hips still, despite wanting to rut against Noah’s hip. Instinctively, he knew this was about comfort and not sex for Noah.

Lucas enjoyed the sensation of Noah’s hand running over the skin of his belly and back. He kept his head tilted back, baring his throat to Noah, showing both his trust and his understanding.

A shudder rocked Lucas when Noah licked the length of his neck with the flat of his tongue. Noah’s teeth grazed the pulse point in Lucas’ throat. Lucas’ cock twitched violently in fear and arousal at the feel of Noah’s sharp fangs against his vulnerable flesh.

“Why the fuck did you put yourself in danger?” Noah growled as he nipped along Lucas’ jaw. “Why didn’t you send Chandler with Hubbard?”

Noah shifted so he could nuzzle the opposite side of Lucas’ neck. He pressed his nose behind Lucas’ ear and inhaled deeply. His breath was hot against the shell of Lucas’ ear when he exhaled.

“I could taste your fear on my tongue,” Noah whispered, dragging his fangs down Lucas’ throat. “You were afraid for your men but also for yourself. Your focus and determination were like steel. They were all that kept me from shifting and running to find you.”

He’d tried so hard to shield Noah from all of that, knowing he had his own tasks and his own emotions to deal with. His heart sank to know he’d failed so miserably.

“Fuck, I wish we could block each other at times like that but the feelings are too strong.” Noah’s words answered Lucas’ unspoken question. “You have no idea how relieved I am you came through that okay.”

“I worried about you, as well,” Lucas choked out.

Noah opened his mouth and pressed his teeth to the tendon in Lucas’ neck. Lucas knew he should be scared as hell. An overwrought True Alpha werewolf had four fangs against the vulnerable flesh of his throat, able to rip him apart with no effort expended, and Lucas was fucking aroused by it.

“I fucking love how you smell.” Noah breathed against Lucas’ ear. “I love how your fear mixes with your arousal whenever I’m around. I love how your arousal wins out and the scent of it surrounds me and fills me.” Noah’s teeth came to rest against Lucas’ throat again.

Lucas caught the very tail end of a thought. Not a thought, really, so much as an emotion; a need. Noah needed to claim him. Noah needed to reassure himself that Lucas was unharmed and still his living, breathing Dominant. Noah hurt with the pain of needing to mark Lucas.

There was nothing to fear. Lucas knew that, despite the sharpness of Noah’s fangs and the strength in his jaws, he was in no danger. Noah would die rather than injure him. Lucas hesitated only because he’d be marked for the entire world to see. He’d spend the next several days with bite marks on his neck and throat.

Fuck it. The Marine Corps knew he was Dominant to a True Alpha werewolf, there were no secrets here. This was normal Pack behavior. Despite the fact he was human, Lucas was now a part of Noah’s Pack.

“Do it,” he said, barely above a whisper. “Mark me, Noah. Go on. You need to.”

With a feral growl, Noah bit down on Lucas’ neck. His teeth were hard and sharp. Lucas groaned and tilted his head to give Noah all the access he needed.

Suddenly, Lucas’ hands were free. Both of Noah’s were up under his fleece, running over his chest and stomach. Lucas’ neck and throat stung in the places Noah bit him. It was never hard enough to break the skin, but it was enough to leave marks that would linger.

Noah’s hands stilled and he lifted his head from Lucas’ throat. Lucas’ chest heaved with his every ragged breath. Noah pressed their foreheads together, his own heavy breathing mingling with Lucas’. Lucas held himself very still, struggling not to push his hips against Noah. This wasn’t about his needs.

Noah’s eyes were closed. Lucas wished he’d open them, he wished he could see if they were finally blue again. He wished he could tell what Noah was thinking. Lucas reminded himself he couldn’t let it matter.

“Never again,” Noah whispered.

“What?” Lucas struggled to understand.

“Never again are we going to travel with that much distance between us.” Noah pulled back and finally opened his eyes. They were bright blue. “We’re stronger together. We’re safer when we’re together.”

Lucas almost couldn’t hear him through the rush of blood in his ears. He innately understood precisely what Noah meant.

“Agreed.” Lucas’ voice sounded raw to his own ears.

He gasped in surprise when Noah’s mouth settled over his. Noah took advantage and pushed his tongue passed Lucas’ parted lips. The kiss was slow and affectionate, so different than the desperate ones Lucas always seemed to initiate.

Their lips parted with a soft, wet sound.

“Why did you do that?” Lucas stunned himself with that question.

“What? Kiss you?” Noah looked puzzled.

“I thought werewolves didn’t kiss.”

“We don’t. But you’re not a werewolf. You like kissing.”

Lucas took a deep breath and struggled to steady his voice. “We need to RTB.”

Noah stepped back and Lucas felt chilled. “I’ll round up the platoon so we can step off.”

Buy link: MLR

Author bio

Kendall McKenna’s first work of fiction was written at the worldly age of nine, and was a transformative work that expanded on the story told in a popular song of the time.

She tried her hand at vampire and cowboy fiction, winning high school poetry and short story contests along the way. It wasn’t until she discovered the world of m/m erotic fiction and found her stride with cops, Marines and muscle cars, that she felt inspired to share her stories with readers who enjoy the same things.

Putting herself through college by working in a newly-created HIV testing clinic in her local Department of Health, introduced Kendall to the gay and lesbian community. Understanding and empathy has made her a lifetime advocate of GLBT issues.

A brief bout of unemployment gave Kendall the time and focus she needed to finally produce a novel worth submitting for publication. Her first novel, Brothers In Arms, introduced the world to her authentic military stories and characters.

Kendall was born and raised in Southern California, where she still lives and works. A non-conventional relationship has kept her happy for the last decade. Her four dogs enjoy it when she writes, as she sits still long enough for them to curl up around her.

You can find her at: Website/Blog * Facebook * Twitter

You can email her at: kendall.mckenna3@gmail.com

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