Lying in Ruins Fate’s Vultures #1
by Jami Gray Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Romantic Suspense
In a world gone to hell, it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad...
The world didn't end in fire and explosions, instead it collapsed slowly, like falling dominoes, an intensifying panic of disease, food shortages, wild weather and collapsing economies, until what remained of humanity battles for survival in a harsh new reality.
Charity uses lethal survival skills learned too early in her work as a 'Hound, sniffing out pivotal secrets for one of the most powerful people on the west coast. Her work is deceptive, deadly, and best performed solo, which means when she has a run-in with a member of the notorious Fate's Vultures, she has no intention of joining forces in some mockery of teamwork. The man might be sexy as hell, but she travels alone. She will accomplish her mission and she will settle a score - hopefully with the edge of her blade. But fate has other plans.
As one of Fate’s Vultures, a nomadic band of arbitrators known for their ruthless verdicts, Ruin witnesses the carnage of corruption and greed battering the remnants of humanity, and he bears the scars to prove it. Now he has a damn 'Hound showing up in suspicious circumstances, leaving every cell of his body sceptical - and painfully aroused. The woman is trouble, and Ruin has every intention of steering clear. But when they realise they have a common enemy, Charity and Ruin will have to set aside their distrust if they want to achieve their mutual goal - justice and revenge.
Sometimes, when the world's gone to hell, it's better to stick with the devil you know...
‘How good is your crazy?’
He canted his head and took a moment to replay her question. ‘Come again?’
Those full lips twitched, causing his cock to do the same. ‘Time to let your crazy fly, Ruin.’
A light touch on the reins brought his horse to a stop. Charity’s paint took another step or two before doing the same. She twisted in her saddle to face him, dark mischief dancing in those electric blue eyes. ‘You and Boden seem certain the Raiders were leading Simon into a trap. Add in the fact we’re tracking them deeper in the mountains, I’m thinking we’re about to be outnumbered.’ Slim shoulders rose in a delicate shrug under the battered leather jacket. ‘Why go in hard, when we can go in soft?’
‘I’m listening.’ He touched his heels into his horse, nudging it forward.
She held his gaze as he came up beside her. ‘This Cammon place, how many people know about it?’
‘Long-timers mainly, those who’ve been out here for years.’ And obviously others if his guess was right.
‘So if one of those long-timers happened to be a trapper calling it home, no surprise, right?’ Her paint held steady as he crowded close.
He filled in the blanks even as he caught a flash of heated awareness in her gaze before she doused it. Deep inside, under his wiseass persona, the hunter smiled in anticipation. God how he loved a challenge wrapped in a puzzle. ‘Crazy ass loner comes back from a hunt, his woman in tow, only to stumble upon uninvited guests.’
She shifted in her saddle, touched the tip of a finger to her nose and tapped twice.
Hmm, it might work. ‘Guns or blades, you think?’ A question he hadn’t asked her earlier, too caught up in tracking Simon. Since she was there when the Raiders attacked, she might have an idea of their weapons.
‘Might be both.’
His gaze went to the gun strapped to her thigh. ‘You any good with that?’
Feminine arrogance straightened her spine, and her hand brushed lovingly over the weapon. The real woman peeked out behind the alluring mask. ‘Want to play target?’ It was a dangerous purr, but he liked it. ‘I’ll even give you a head’s start.’
Ignoring the invitation, he raised an eyebrow. ‘Confusion will only work for a few minutes at most before they decide we’re not worth the hassle.’
Unflinching cunning and intelligence met his gaze. ‘Long enough to even out the numbers if need be.’ She leant in, her hand a hot brand as she braced it on his thigh near his knives. ‘Then you can bring these boys out to play.’
Despite the temptation she presented, he locked her wrist in his grip even as her fingers brushed against the leather holding one of his blades. Dust and sweat couldn’t drown out the delicate spice of her scent. Using his free hand, he captured her chin and dipped his head, their lips a breath apart. ‘No touching.’
She didn’t fight his hold or jerk back. Instead she held his gaze. Heat and awareness darkened those bright eyes, but she remained still, waiting, watching.
A curious tension sang between them, one that left him cautious despite the expected lust rising hard and rough. He couldn’t remember the last time he got hot and sweaty between the sheets. This wasn’t the time, and she sure as hell wasn’t the right woman, but … Giving into temptation, he brushed his lips over hers, just once. Her breath hitched, then she retreated, leaning back. He let her go, the warmth of her lips lingering against his. He watched her resettle in the saddle, his voice a rough rasp as he brought their conversation back on track. ‘You got anything against getting dirty?’
Surprisingly, a red stain rode under her gold skin, but she lost none of her edge. ‘How dirty?’
Beg For Mercy
Fate's Vultures #2
Choosing a side has never been so dangerous…
The world didn’t end in fire and explosions, instead it collapsed slowly, like falling dominoes, an intensifying panic of disease, food shortages, wild weather and collapsing economies, until what remains of humanity battles for survival in a harsh new reality.
An assassin by trade, a loner by nature, Mercy is sent to infiltrate the Cartels and unmask the identity of their new silent partner. Instead, she discovers a darker plan threatening to crumble the entire Southwest and ends up with a hefty bounty on her head. Still, she’s determined to stop the impending attack at any cost, even if it means partnering up with a member of the notorious Fate’s Vultures.
After enduring a brutal, blood-soaked lesson on the savagery of civilisation’s scavengers, Havoc is well acquainted with the consequences of battling predators. But as a member of the nomadic band of arbitrators known as Fate’s Vultures, he’s determined to cement the necessary alliances to oust the biggest threat looming on the horizon. When an enigmatic woman crosses his path, her secrets and troubling loyalty light the fuse on an unexpected craving and his insatiable curiosity.
In order to trap a common foe and derail an impending threat, Havoc and Mercy must turn the tables to hunt a predator. Can an assassin and a mercenary find their balance on the thin line of loyalty, or will it snap under the weight of their wary hearts?
Jami Gray is the coffee addicted, music junkie, Queen Nerd of her personal Geek Squad, Alpha Mom of the Fur Minxes, and award winning author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams, and her latest Romantic Suspense series, Fate’s Vultures. She writes to soothe the voices in her head.
Where were you born/grew up at? I hit the earth at an Air Force base in Florida, then bounced over to vegetation encrusted vistas of Oregon, before sliding into the desert climes of Arizona. I spent most of my time drying out in Arizona, with a side trip to Utah, and back up to Oregon, before settling back in the land of heat and sand. As much as I loved Oregon, I didn’t realize how much I’d miss the sky until the trees took over. There’s just something about wide open skies and streets laid out in a logical manner (not being diverted because of an old growth tree) that says home to me. As for the heat, eh, that’s why I have central AC.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day? I’m not sure there would be enough hours in the day for what I’d want to do, but I can say without hesitation that I would spend it with my Knight in Slightly Muddy Armor and my Prankster Duo. We’d throw a party, invite our loved ones (both family and friends) so we could spend the day making memories with much laughter, good food, and even better people. No matter what, it’d would be about the laughter, and not tears.
Who is your hero and why?
This isn’t an easy question to answer, because there have been a number of quiet heroes throughout my life. My aunt, when she found the courage to stand beside me as we confronted our family’s abusive history. My adoptive dad for restoring my faith in what it means to be a father and a good man. I have siblings who’ve come through things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies, and they’ve done so with grace and strength. My husband, for his never ending ability to find the best in everything and everyone, including me. My adoptive mom for personifying what it means to persevere. Trust me, I could go on. The thing is, at some point and time, there are so many around me that tend to end up in the role of hero. Life isn’t choosy, it tends to send everyone tumbling at one time or another. It’s all in how we get back up to our feet that tends to be the most important part.
What book do you think everyone should read? Just one book? That’s like eating chips, you can’t stop at just one. It’s just not possible. Okay, so if you’re limited to one book, it would have to contain a bunch of stories…and yeah, I know, there’s the ultimate collection known as the Bible, filled with all sorts of life lessons, but I’m a fiction nerd, so let’s go with my favorite, the Brothers Grimm and their Fairy Tales.
What kind of world ruler would you be? Yeah, I would abdicate before word got out. Hard enough to live your life for yourself, who wants to take on making choices for others? Because, when you get down to it, that’s what leaders do. The thing is, I’m not one for telling others what to do, if their lives make them happy and it’s not harming others, then go forth and live. It’s when they start to impose their beliefs on others that I get grumpy. So yeah, no ruling houses for me. I’m more likely to end up the Wandering Yarn Spinner of Yore.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
(Seriously, you do the “choose one” thing to see if you can drive me nuts, uh? Fine.) Again, picking just one out of many isn’t easy, but let’s go with—Anna from Patricia Brigg’s Alpha and Omega series…no wait, let’s do Eve Dallas from JD Robb’s In Death series…mmm, wait, then there’s Gin Blanco from Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series. Alright never mind, I give up. Here’s the thing—my favorite characters tend to have a core of strength (sometimes obvious, sometimes not) that grants them insight into how to deal with what comes their way. Their answers may not always land on the white side of the line, but compassion and ruthless practicality always play a part.
Describe your writing style.
My writing style? Seat of the pants, with the occasional GPS checkpoint of an outline. When I first started out, it was all by the seat of my pants. Only after I meandered through overgrown paths that led nowhere, did I start to check in with a rough map of where the story should be at certain points. My stories are character driven, so much of my story creation comes from characters, and that’s not always something I can plan out. Now days, I have sign posts to ensure I’m heading in the right direction, but the journey in-between never comes out like I imagined when I started out.
What makes a good story?
Characters, definitely. Someone once said that every story that’s ever been told, has already been told. That may be true, if you’re thinking of it from a general story idea (boy meets girl, prophesized child saves the world, tarnished knight saves the lady/kingdom for redemption, etc.), but what sets each story apart are the people in them. Every person reacts differently when faced with challenges, and it’s in those reactions that a story is born. Character choices are what keep you turning the pages to find out what they’ll do next.
What are you passionate about these days?
Oh man, that’s tough as it can change depending on what I’m dealing with in my every day life. When we adopted two Labrador Retrievers from a rescue, we were all about rescue pets. When I’m helping my sons figure out which higher institution of learning they want to put their time into, I’m researching scholarship options and what’s the best/fastest path for them to explore. I think with all the upheaval spinning around, I’ve been more aware of what’s really important to me—my family, my loved ones and pursuing things that bring me choice, instead of wasting my time with things I can’t change. I’ve always been a huge news junky and lately I’ve scaled way back in an effort to keep things in perspective.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I’ve always been a huge reader (which isn’t every writer!) and that hasn’t changed, even when I’m etching out my own stories. More often than not, you’ll find me with a book or Kindle in hand. Being an introvert, peopling is hard, but I lucked out and my Knight in Slightly Muddy Armor is a social butterfly. Let’s see, besides reading, music is my next choice. I can make my Mustang shake during my commute to the day job, my house windows rattle when cleaning, and I’m thrilled that both my boys share that love with me. We tend to exchange which new groups we discover. Got to love family share with iTunes, it’s a huge plus in our family. When things get really wired, I tend to do Yoga. You know when your mind takes off like a speed-freak hamster on a wheel? Yeah, my brain tends to hit that stage and I find that Yoga helps to bring it back to something a little less frenetic.
How to find time to write as a parent?
It was harder when they were younger, and I’m here to tell any writer with kids under double digit age—don’t stress about the words, enjoy the time with the little ones. When they hit teenage years, you’ll find your me-time increasing. When my boys were younger, I’d escape to a coffee shop, mainly on Sundays for four plus hours. Not only did I need an escape from the mom action, but it was nice to remember there were other adults in the world. Now, with them being a Junior and Senior in high school, I’m not haunted by the guilt of slapping on a pair of headphones and disappearing into my fantasy landscapes. My routine changed too, no longer is it a once a week getaway, but I tend to write about three hours each night after dinner (an advantage of cutting cable and going to streaming services) and nabbing some more words during my lunch break at work.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I was eight and had just returned from watching Star Wars at the drive-in theater (yes, the one where you park the car and the clumsy speaker hangs on your window). When I went to bed that night, I spent a couple of hours re-writing the story so Han Solo would have a kick ass female to be with instead of the whiny Princess Leia. From that point on, I would constantly re-write stories in my head so I could play a pivotal part. Years later, my parents got an electric typewriter so the six teenagers who were in typing class (back when that was a thing) could practice their emerging skills. Needless to say, I took it over and we became inseparable. I have that 150+ page, “never to be seen” first story I started in high school as a memento of that time.
Writing became a form of therapy, where I could spill the stories spinning through my head on to the page. I wasn’t sure I’d ever really make a living wage, but I couldn’t stop. I kept writing through college, but didn’t get serious about it until my boys were about four and five. It took me two years to write my first full-length, then I joined a critique group and re-wrote it (a few times), and began submitting. Once Shadow’s Edge was picked up, I couldn’t stop writing, couldn’t stop submitting—I’m worried I’m addicted. Even when it gets hard (and it does), I can’t regret it. For me writing wasn’t a decision, it was necessary.
A day in the life of the author?
I wish I could share something exotic here, but nope. I’m up before the sun because my commute to my day job is roughly an hour and fifteen minutes (the joy of living in Phoenix) and I need to time to get my brain in gear, ensure the savage beasts feed (both human and furry), and that I haven’t paired stripes with polka dots. Then I do my day job thing, snatching time where I can to get a paragraph or two down (on a good day), then hit the trail of exhaust for another hour and a half. Once safely ensconced inside mi casa, I wade through the “Mom, I have…we need…can we?” flood, forage for sustenance, and once the males are all occupied conquering electronic worlds or mastering homework that makes my eyes crossed, I stumble to my desk and write. Eventually I’ll sneak in a few chapters of whatever book I’m reading, and then hit the pillow so I can start all over again the next day.
Oh yeah, and somewhere in there I have to make sure I’ve blogs scheduled on my website, I’ve popped into Facebook without getting lost, scroll through articles that threaten to lure me away from the necessary and suck me into a procrastination pit. You know, the normal.
Advice you would give new authors?
If you want to write, write. Don’t just daydream about it. Sit down, every day, and make your dream a reality. It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is, so…
Have a plan in place before you run on down the publishing road. Yes, writing is a wonderfully creative process, but be smart about it. Know what genre(s) you want to focus on, if you want to do standalones, series, or both. Keep your finger on the pulse of the market so you know how to position yourself when you’re finally ready to query. Be sure you’re smart about who you query to, or if you’re going the indie route, do it right.
Work with a critique partner or group. They’ll be able to help you hone your skills and having secondary eyeballs on your writing never hurts.
Always, always keeping stretching and learning. Writing, like any skill, gets better with practice. So if that first book doesn’t get picked up, try your next story. You can always go back to the first later.
And overall, keep writing.
What are you currently reading?
Currently, since I’m working on the third book in Fate’s Vultures series, I’m re-reading the In Death series. Of course, my Goodreads profile will show all the books currently sitting in my To Read file. Right now, I’m pretty heavy on the romantic suspense end—Cynthia Eden, Cristin Harbor, Tonya Borrows, Julie Ann Walker—and then there’s the straight up awesomeness of Kristen Ashley, Rebecca Zanetti, Nalini Singh, Christine Feehan…see my lists get long.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I use to write by the seat of my pants—basically have a general idea and then fumble my way through the rest. That’s never the best way to write. After much trial and error I discovered the beauty of big picture outlining. Yes I know…I’m a type-A personality so you would expect detailed outlines, character sheets and PowerPoint graphs, but nope, I start with an overall idea, some appealing characters and an intriguing problem and let it go. So long as I have the big signposts (big bad guy hits here, heroine reacts here, dead bodies here), I can let my characters go and follow along for the ride. It’s a frightening way to write, but I’ve found it works best for me. The more I outlined a plot, the farther away from it I tend to get. I think because, for me, it takes away the unexpected twists that come from letting your characters evolve holistically (it was the best word I could think of, sorry!).
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Beg for Mercy?
This series came about when I asked the question of what would the world be like if the worst happened—Mother Nature reshaped the world as we know it, the economy crashed, and humanity was whittled down, who would rise to be the protectors? They wouldn’t be your typical white hats, in fact under the dust and grime, their hats would definitely be gray—and Fate’s Vultures was born. This is the second book in the series, so you actually meet Havoc in the first book (Lying in Ruins). Out of the four Vultures, he’s the big, quiet one that you just know has a story. It’s not a pretty one, but he’s come out of it scarred and battered, with an unbreakable core of strength. His co-star, Mercy, holds an equally strong core, but it was shaped from ruthless practicality and a need to direct her own fate. These two equally strong characters find a strange, hidden balance in each other, but it’s not an easy path they choose to follow. It doesn’t help when it seems like their goals are mired on opposite sides.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
The main characters tend to hit the stage with serious definition, but I find as the story goes, who they are deepens—their motivations, their desires start to crystalize and what I thought about why they react they way the do becomes increasingly complex. Minor characters tend to pop out and demand my attention, and some even go so far as to demand their own story. In this series, I actually had a secondary character shove their way to the main stage, which threw off my story line until I realized I was looking at it wrong. Frustrating as it is to have that happen, it’s also one of the most exciting aspects of being a writer.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
It depends on which series I’m working on. For example, the PSY-IV Teams series takes place in various locations (Phoenix, Vegas, San Diego) and I do know those locations. Not just because I live in one, but because both Vegas and San Diego are travel spots for me and mine. When I’m there I tend to poke around while considering what will work for my stories. If I get a chance to grill, um politely ask questions of, someone who’s involved in the various agencies I use (USMC, DOD, etc.) I make the most of it.
Same with the Kyn Kronicles—I lived in Portland, Oregon for a couple of years and still have family and friends up there, so writing about it works for me. For Fate’s Vultures—they span the west coast and tend to stick to places I’ve lived or visited, which makes it much easier on the world crafting.
For the different aspects of each series—magic/paranormal abilities/futuristic societies—I do a ton of research. I’ve read books that deal with criminal profiling, psychology texts, academic papers pondering the future impact of modern decisions, book after book on regional myths, weapons crafting, whatever topic is pertinent to my story. I’ll take classes to experience what it feels like to take a hit (self-defense, martial arts, sword fighting), pull a trigger (shooting ranges), what’s involved in approaching a crime, whatever is needed so I can get my details down. I refuse to limit how I come about that research. I’ll use whatever is available: the internet, libraries, interviewing people, and if I can pull it off, getting hands on practice.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Warning: crazy may be catching.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The world crafting was a blast. Most of my books deal with my characters being magical in nature or possessing unusual phenomenon, but this time it was the world itself that was unusual, not the characters. I’ve always loved FireFly, Mad Max, Blade Runner, Dune, and then I got sucked into WestWorld. Can you see what each of these shares? Yep, I love me a space cowboy or futuristic rebel. Add in my fascination of “what if”, and suddenly I was gobbling up all these economic papers on where society would end up if on the current course (and not all were grim and gritty), getting lost in historical accounts of exploration, and binge watching Life After People and other such gems. While there were times I wracked my brain about how to deal with something when modern conveniences weren’t available, it was fun to mix modern tech with historical practicality.
It was an exercise in creativity to mix things like sustainable energy sources with herbal medicines and damaged or lost tech. I had fun marking an underground tech den with the Pac Man symbol or researching how you could modify a modern motorcycle to run on alternative fuel. Then there were the remnants of our lives—cars, malls, freeways—what happens to them when humanity’s numbers are more than halved, and power grids disappear. What if you need a horse drawn wagon? Wouldn’t it make sense to hook up rusted truck bed instead of a flimsy wooden thing? Yeah, world crafting was the best part of working with this series.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
Titling is not an easy thing, but for me I try to find a way to capture the main situation. So my first book was Shadow’s Edge, and I came up with the title because the main character, Raine McCord, works in the shadows hunting monsters that hide deep in the dark. The thing is, in a world of monsters, she has the potential to be the nightmare they all fear, so she needs extraordinary balance to walk the thin edge between secrets and light.
Plus I try to keep the titles in a similar pattern (it’s that OCD thing raising it’s narrow little head again). So for my Kyn series, every title involves Shadow’s, and my PSY-IV Team series uses three words that focus on what major psychic ability the character holds.
For this series, I wanted each of the four books to play on the four Vulture names: Ruin, Havoc, Vex, and Reaper. Ruin was easy—the world as we know it is gone, and his co-star, Charity, is the queen of secrets so Lying in Ruins fit. Thing was, for Havoc’s story, my strong, quiet, unbendable hero needs to find some flexibility and his co-star’s name worked best, hence Beg for Mercy. Vex is up next and her title is still under construction, but Reaper’s was easy—Fear the Reaper.
I know, writers are weird, but hey we have fun being this way.
Who designed your book covers?
Each of my series is done by a different cover artist. For my Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, I use Kim Killion from The Killion Group. I love working with Kim, she’s able to take my ramblings and give me a cover that’s gorgeous. For my PSY-IV Teams books, I use EerilyFaire Designs, who works with my publisher MuseIt Up Publishing. She does a beautiful job on finding the best couples to put on my covers. For Fate’s Vultures, I work with Escape Publishing’s in-house cover design. They’re fantastic in working with me, from their in-depth questionnaire to coloring to text, the whole experience has been out of this world. It’s never easy trying to capture the world an author’s created and translate it to a cover. One of the best things is that first glimpse of the cover. It’s like Christmas for writers.
Do you see writing as a career?
A second career, most definitely. Right now, it’s secondary to my day job because those pesky bill collectors are so demanding. However, further down the road, when both financial and time commitments shift, I can see where my writing becomes the only job I’ll tackle. It’s one of the benefits of the shifting publishing industry, the ability for an author to take control of their career when they’re ready. I enjoy working with publishers, but the indie route holds its own appeal. No matter what road I take, I’m not sure it’s really a job per se, more like a necessary addiction, in my case.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I think it’s a great time to be a writer, tough but great. Tough in that you have a ton of competition, great in that you have so many different options to choose from to get your story in front of an audience. The rise of indie publishing has been a blessing and a curse, a view I’m sure many writers share. I’m all about being a hybrid author (using both traditional and indie routes to publish), but if an author chooses to travel the indie road, my hope is they would do so with the right tools—a solid editor (or two), an experienced cover artist, and a respect for the craft. Writing is not simply putting words on a page and hitting publish—it’s an artistic endeavor that takes practice—lots and lots of practice. Creating a story is like polishing a rough diamond; it takes time and dedication to make it shine. And to know just how to polish that diamond, you better know what you’re doing, and in the publishing industry, writers are constantly learning—how to market, how to hone their craft, how to reach more readers—the list is endless. So if you decide to dive into the pool, make sure you trained for what lies ahead, because while there will be helping hands if you start to go under, if you refuse to grab hold, you’re bound to go under.