Of Fury and Fangs Of Cinder and Bone Book 4 by Kyoko M Genre: SciFi Fantasy Romance
Someone wants Dr. Rhett “Jack” Jackson dead.
After surviving a vicious attack from a dragon in his own home, Jack and Dr. Kamala Anjali investigate who sent the dragon to kill him. Unfortunately, their list of enemies is long. Plenty of people have an axe to grind with the two scientists responsible for the rebirth of the previously extinct dragons that are now flourishing on every continent of the planet. Jack and Kamala rejoin with their team at the Knight Division to hunt down the culprit and put an end to their revenge scheme once and for all.
But will it cost them everything?
Of Fury and Fangs is the fourth novel in the Amazon and USA Today bestselling Of Cinder and Bone series, following Of Cinder and Bone, Of Blood and Ashes, and Of Dawn and Embers.
It was one-thirty a.m. when all hell broke loose.
The security alarm shrieked, its panicked cries high and deafening, and nearly catapulted Dr. Rhett "Jack" Jackson off of his comfortable couch where he'd been sprawled in an exhausted, impromptu slumber. Jack let out a startled yip of surprise and leapt to his feet on impulse, blinking hard to clear the sleep from his brown eyes. He winced as the screaming alarm jabbed at his eardrums and hurried over to the alarm pad against the wall not far from the front door. He punched in a code and the alarm fell into blessed silence. He sighed in relief and then swiped to another screen to see what had caused the disturbance.
The security alarm, unfortunately, was a bit overdramatic. Over the past year, Jack had gotten used to it crying wolf every so often due to the system's oversensitivity. Once, it had gone off when his daughter Naila had slapped both palms against the downstairs window facing the backyard. Another time when their German shepherd Brunhilde had been teaching herself to open the sliding door. Its first two weeks of installation had been a nightmare as well, since it often went off and its occupants couldn't even identify the source of the problem. By now, Jack had a lot of reservations about it, and had been considering switching to a new system.
He rubbed his eyes with his palms before he read the alert aloud in a gravelly, sleep-deprived voice. "Upstairs master bedroom. My ass, it's the bedroom window. Unless it's the damn Easter Bunny, I'm going back to sleep."
Jack took two steps towards the couch and then heard his daughter's distressed wails, wincing. "Oh, right. The munchkin."
He instead turned and headed for the stairs, yawning and scratching his messy brown hair, calling out, "Hang on, chubby monkey, Daddy's coming."
Jack reached the top of the stairs.
And stopped dead.
There was a dragon standing in the darkened hallway.
At first, Jack swore he was still asleep. He had to be. He couldn't possibly be seeing correctly.
And yet the icy fear slipping down his spine said differently.
The dragon stood at roughly five feet tall once its head rose upon sighting Jack at the other end of the hallway. It was lean and had dirty brown scales with an off-white belly. Its black, hooked claws kneaded the carpet as its yellow eyes stared out at Jack, its pupils dilating to drink him in from head to toe. Its wings rustled along its back on either side of the sharp spines protruding down its body to the thin, whip-like tail. A single horn glinted sharp and deadly under the small, motion-activated hallway light.
The only thing more noticeable than that were the many long, jagged scars scored across the creature's stomach, limbs, and neck. It had been hunted recently. Judging from the depth and extent of the scars, it had certainly killed a hunter or two to have survived with so many marks.
"Okay," Jack whispered hoarsely. "Five bucks says you're not the Easter Bunny."
The dragon's nostrils flared. It adjusted its body, feet apart, lips sliding away from sharp, gleaming white teeth in a warning hiss. Mercifully, Naila had quieted and no longer drew the creature’s attention. Jack swallowed hard and held out one hand, bending slightly so his six-foot-two-inch frame was less threatening. "Look at me, buddy. Just keep looking at me. It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you. Why don't you just come this way, huh?"
He took a single step down and the creature crept forward towards him, hissing louder. "That's right. This way. Come on."
Jack eased backwards one stair at a time. The dragon let out a warning bark and followed him, its saliva leaving damp patches on the cream-colored carpet. Along the way, Jack had slipped his phone out of his pocket and dialed 9-1-1, hoping he had just enough seconds left in the reptile's waning patience.
"9-1-1, what's your emergency?"
"Listen to me carefully," Jack said, not letting his eyes stray from the dragon as he fumbled behind him for the handle to the sliding glass door. He then quickly gave her his address before continuing. "There is an Appalachian forest dragon in my house. Get someone over here as fast as you can."
"We're contacting a retrieval team now, sir. Please stay calm and try not to make any loud noises or sudden movements--"
Jack had one barefoot on the cool stone of his patio when his daughter Naila cried for him again.
The dragon's head turned towards the direction of upstairs.
Jack dropped his cell phone, grabbed a patio chair, and slammed it down on top of the dragon's head as hard as he could. Whumpf! The blow flattened the forest dragon onto its belly. Jack hit it a second time, but the wooden chair fractured in half. The forest dragon charged him. He managed to dodge to one side, avoiding its deadly horn, but the creature slammed into him with its full weight. He cried out as it sent him flying across the grass and landed hard in a heap several feet away.
He managed to roll to one side as it swiped at him with its claws, tearing chunks out of the soil where his head had been, and leapt to his feet again. The dragon whirled and snapped its tail at his head, but he ducked and rolled again, landing in the rose bushes. He heard a metallic scrape and felt around under the plant. A small shovel had been left from Kamala's recent gardening. He scooped it up and threw himself into a dive roll as the dragon barreled forward again, snapping its jaws at his head.
Jack lunged onto the dragon's back, wrapping one bicep around its neck to hold on, and jabbed the shovel into the creature's eye. It shrieked in pain. He aimed for the other one, but the dragon flapped its wings, sending them twenty feet into the air, and then it slammed them both into the ground with Jack underneath it.
Jack cried out as its spines gouged his chest. His back, right leg, and right shoulder screamed with pain under the wriggling reptile. The dragon shoved itself onto its feet and tried to chomp into his neck, but he shoved his forearm in the way. The dragon worried him like a dog with a bone, but he aimed a kick at its tender belly that sent it sprawling eight feet away. Jack felt hot blood sliding down his arm, coating his fingers, but he didn't stop to feel the pain; just struggled to his feet again once the dragon righted itself. He held the small shovel in front of him like a small combat knife and narrowed his eyes, panting with exertion.
"You're not going back in my goddamn house," Jack growled. "Over my dead body."
The dragon snorted, as if it understood him somehow.
Then it leapt into the air and flew onto the roof.
Jack froze in disbelief, and then raced back into the house as fast as he could.
He slammed one shoulder into the door to the baby's room, forcing it open so hard the dresser beside it shuddered. His one-year-old daughter, Naila, immediately pushed to her wobbly little feet and grasped her fingers in the direction of her father, tears tumbling down her cheeks. Jack practically flew over to the baby and scooped her out of the crib, tucking her against his uninjured shoulder.
"Hey, shh, it's okay, pumpkin," he whispered, kissing her forehead and dark brown curls. "Daddy's got you. It's okay."
The window across from him shattered as the forest dragon smashed through it and landed in the middle of the baby's room.
Naila let out a hysterical cry and buried her face in her father's neck, screaming, "Dada!"
Jack grabbed one side of her playpen and roared, hurling it at the dragon. It slammed into the creature's side and pinned it against the closet for a few precious seconds.
And seconds were all Jack needed.
He raced down the stairs, grabbed his keys from the dish, and darted into the garage. He shut the door behind him and ripped open the door to Kamala's powder blue Volkswagen Beetle. Blood-soaked hands shaking, he strapped Naila into her car seat and climbed into the car just as the forest dragon rammed the door between them and the house. Jack hammered the garage door button, shouting, "Come on, come on!" in pure frustration as it slowly groaned to life and lifted from the ground.
The door splintered apart. The dragon came tearing at them again, rocking the car as it threw itself against one side. Jack didn't wait for it to get its second wind. He stomped on the gas and the car shot out of the garage, its roof scraping the door on the way, and down the driveway. The tires squealed as Jack made a sharp right onto the street and peeled out.
He glanced in the rearview mirror, expecting to see the dragon give chase, but there it stood in the street. The dragon threw its head back and an eerie, almost alien howl of rage filled the cold night air, raising the hairs on Jack's arms. Its yellow eyes burned into his retinas. He would see them in his nightmares for the rest of his life.
Then, the dragon flapped its wings and darted towards the house next door.
Jack's blood ran dry. "Oh, God. Marci and Tim. The girls."
He'd known his neighbors since before he and Kamala had rented the house. They were both high school teachers, and had happily babysat Naila since the one-year-old got along swimmingly with their six and eight-year-old daughters. If anything happened to them...
Jack gritted his teeth as his daughter's cries brought him back to reality. He had to stay with her. She was so scared and helpless. She was his whole world. He'd bled and fought for her every step of the way.
But he knew exactly what that forest dragon was capable of.
Marci and Tim's family would never stand a chance.
Jack shut his eyes for a second. "God forgive me."
He stomped on the brakes in front of a pretty yellow house on the next street. He got out and picked Naila up again, then ran to the front door. He pounded on it frantically and rang the doorbell until the door opened on a worried black couple in their fifties.
"Felicia, I'm so sorry about this, but there's an emergency," Jack said to the woman. "I need you to watch Naila. I'll be right back."
Jack kissed Naila's forehead. "I love you, baby girl."
He raced back to the car and then gunned it back towards Marci and Tim's house.
When he pulled into their driveway, it was just as he feared.
The front door hung off one of its hinges and had deep furrows in the wood. He shut off the Beetle and hauled open the trunk. There was a large black case inside. He popped it open and retrieved a weapon roughly the same size and dimensions as a small grenade launcher, and strapped it onto his back.
Then he ran for the house as fast as his legs could carry him.
"Marci! Tim!" he bellowed once he made it into the foyer.
"We're in the girls' bedroom," Marci's shaken, high-pitched voice echoed back. "Hurry!"
"Dammit!" Jack took the stairs two at a time. He could hear Tim's grunts of pain and the thud of a struggle. He rounded the corner to see the teacher swatting at the dragon with his daughter's aluminum baseball bat, and the dragon just barely stayed out of its reach. Tim had cuts on both forearms and across his forehead, and Marci had the kids in her arms, shielding them in the corner. The dragon stood between them and the door, with its back to Jack.
Exactly what he needed.
"Hey!" he barked.
The forest dragon whirled to face him instead.
Jack shot the launcher at it.
A huge diamond-wire net wrapped around the reptile and instantly tightened on contact. It hit the floor with a heavy thud that shook the picture frames off the walls and made the little girls scream. The dragon thrashed, but its limbs and wings were pinned inside the net, and it couldn't do more than just flop to and fro. Finally, it went still on its belly, and its yellow eyes fixed upon Jack with a look of pure murder, its tail lashing back and forth.
Jack lowered the launcher and hurried over to Tim. "Hey, you okay?"
Tim shuddered and lowered the baseball bat. "No. You?"
"No," Jack said, giving him a wobbly smile. "Still alive, though."
He offered his hand to Marci. She accepted it and stood, handing one daughter to Tim and holding the other as she cried, and together they carried them safely out of the room.
By now, sirens whooped hysterically and headed in their direction. Jack and Tim stood at the demolished front door and watched the blue-and-red lights creep closer.
"What the hell happened tonight, Jack?" Tim asked quietly, stroking his daughter's curly hair to sooth her as she sobbed into his bloody shirt.
Jack shook his head. "I don't know, man. But I'm sure as hell gonna find out."
Of Dawn and Embers Of Cinder and Bone Book 3
It's been six months since Dr. Rhett "Jack" Jackson and Dr. Kamala Anjali had their dragon cloning project shut down by the government. Just when they think they've gotten their lives back together, an agency within the government hits them with another suckerpunch: a criminal organization has cloned dozens of dragons in order to hold vicious dragon fighting rings. The government recruits Jack and Kamala to help them track down the organization. Jack and Kamala set out to put a stop to the illegal fights before any more dragons die…or worse, escape.
Of Dawn and Embers is the third novel in Kyoko M's sci-fi/contemporary fantasy series, following Of Cinder and Bone and Of Blood and Ashes.
“Jack…why is there a dragon in our backyard?”
Dr. Rhett “Jack” Jackson spit out his coffee and gaped at his pregnant girlfriend. “Wait, what?“
He pushed his chair out and stumbled to Dr. Kamala Anjali’s side. She had the curtain drawn to one side, her jaw hanging open slightly, her brown eyes wide as they beheld the mythical beast that was calmly sniffing the red snapdragons in her garden. Jack rubbed his eyes with his palms just to be safe, but there was no mistaking it. He ripped the sliding door open and padded out onto the neatly cut grass in his faded grey MIT t-shirt and black pajama bottoms.
“Pete? Is that you?” The scientist asked, of course knowing the creature wouldn’t answer, but he just couldn’t help himself.
The dragon Pete hadn’t changed much since the last time he saw her. She stood at the height of the average horse with long limbs and a muscular, streamlined body covered in leaf-green scales aside from her belly, which was a pale cream. Her wings were folded along the groove of her spine, rustling slightly as she lifted her head as he approached. She blinked large golden eyes at him and her tail lashed in the rose bushes behind her, scattering pale pink petals. Her long, sharp fangs protruded down over her lower jaw, but it was closed; she had a muzzle on. She flared her nostrils as he cautiously extended his hand towards her snout, palm flat. The dragon sniffed it and a soothing set of vibrations filled the air.
“Goddess above,” Kamala whispered as she reached Jack’s side. “It is her.”
The dragon chittered slightly in delight and nuzzled Kamala’s cheek, then blinked in confusion at her protruding belly. Kamala laughed slightly in spite of her puzzlement and rubbed the bumpy crown of the dragon’s head as she sniffed her enormous stomach. “Well, I guess introductions are in order. Pete, meet the baby. Baby, meet Pete.”
“Kam…how the hell is this possible?” Jack asked, pushing one hand into his dark brown hair. “How did she get here? How did she even find us?”
“Excellent questions,” Kamala agreed. “Which we will answer momentarily. First, we need to keep her out of sight before the neighbors start panicking. Do you think we can sneak her into the house?”
“I don’t know,” he said, scanning over their eight-foot wooden fence to see if anyone had spotted them yet. It was still early, barely past seven o’clock in the morning. Cambridge tended to wake up on the early side, as both the MIT and Harvard students and alumni would be flitting about getting ready for the day. “She’s kind of skittish about small spaces. Let’s try to get her into the garage.”
Kamala clucked her tongue. “Come along, Pete.”
She walked back inside and the dragon followed with slow, steady steps, ducking its head beneath the threshold. Pete’s forked tongue darted in and out, testing the air, as she glanced about the two-story house. The den had vaulted ceilings, so she had no trouble standing on all fours. She sniffed the couch as Jack pulled the sliding door shut and tugged the curtains together. He gave the dragon a nudge and she got moving again, following Kamala to the two-car garage. Jack’s trusty old Mazda Protégé and Kamala’s powder blue Volkswagen Beetle were already inside, but it wasn’t too cramped. Kamala led the dragon between the two cars and gently pushed on her shoulders until the creature sat on its hindlegs.
“Did anyone see us?” she asked.
“Not that I noticed, but if she flew in here, there’s got to be somebody who saw her,” Jack said, taking his phone out of his pocket and Googling dragon sightings in the last hour. He noticed quite a few hits; mainly a blurry figure or a short video of a shadow sweeping someone’s backyard. Neither he nor Kamala had any social media accounts, so he had to check to see if dragons were trending, and they were at the moment. Plenty of people were trying to prove or disprove the sightings, but no one had convincing evidence yet.
“I don’t get it. The government shut down our project almost six months ago and seized her as well as our other dragons. How could she possibly have gotten loose?”
“Dunno,” Jack said, pacing between the cars and rubbing the five o’clock shadow he hadn’t shaved off just yet. “Maybe they were transporting her somewhere and she busted out. Does she have any abrasions or injuries?”
Kamala flicked on the overhead light and examined the dragon. “No injuries, but take a look at this.”
Jack stepped next to her and peered at where her fingers rested on the dragon’s neck. He could see one of her scales had been removed, so there was just smooth pale skin beneath it. The species of dragon that Pete was, varanus lacerto, had multiple epidural layers: thick outer scales about the size of a quarter, and then a protective layer of fat over the muscle. Someone had removed the first layer by force, it appeared, and there was a small scar as if she’d been sewn up from an incision.
“Shit,” Jack muttered. “Dollars to donuts that’s where they placed a subcutaneous tracker.”
Kamala shut her eyes for a second. “Which means the bastards are on their way right now.”
“More than likely,” Jack sighed. “Dammit. Ten bucks says they’ll find some way to blame this on the two of us.”
“I’ll take that bet,” she groused, stroking the dragon’s swan-like neck. “That still doesn’t explain how the hell she found us. She’s never been anywhere aside from MIT campus. Is her sense of smell truly powerful enough to locate us from literal miles away?”
“In theory? Yeah, I guess so. She imprinted on us at birth, and dragons’ senses are sharp as hell. Even though we’re indoors, we’ve lived here for a good while, so our scent’s on everything around here by now. Still, this is insane.”
Kamala smiled a bit. “Yes. But in spite of it all, I…missed her.”
Jack rubbed the bumpy scales over Pete’s right eye and listened to her purr. “Yeah. Me too, Kam.”
The doorbell rang.
Jack shut his eyes. “And here comes trouble.”
“I’ll stay with her,” Kamala said. “Make sure they show you a bloody warrant first.”
Jack shuffled back to the door, snorting. “Like that’ll matter.”
He shut the garage door, grabbed his coffee from the dining room table, and then opened the front door.
“Morning, assholes!” Jack said brightly. “What would you like to steal from us this time?”
Two men stood on Jack’s welcome mat. The one on the left was tall, sturdy, and had brunette hair and deep frown lines with a no nonsense expression on his face. He wore sunglasses, a black suit, black tie, a white dress shirt, and polished shoes. The one on the right was slightly shorter, pudgy, and had curly brown hair and a beard. He wore a lab coat over a stained Firefly t-shirt, khakis, and sneakers.
“Climb down off that cross, Dr. Jackson,” the man on the left said, folding his sunglasses and tucking them in the pocket of his suit.
Jack stared at him and then pointedly tilted the mug enough to spill coffee on the man in black’s shoes. “Oops. Clumsy me.”
The man sighed laboriously and shook his feet. “So infantile. You know why we’re here. Where is it?”
“What?” Jack asked innocently. “Oh, your hairline? I think it’s on the back of your head.”
“The dragon,” the man snarled. “Where is the dragon?”
Jack leaned against the doorjamb and purposely slurped his coffee before answering. “Oh, I’m sorry. Have you lost one of our dragons? What a pity. It’s almost like you two chuckleheads and the rest of your department have no idea what you’re doing.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” the pudgy man insisted. “The handler was careless.”
Jack glanced at him. “You’re really not helping your case here, buddy.”
“Dr. Jackson,” the man on the left said through his teeth. “Where. Is. The. Dragon?”
Jack leaned in, pronouncing every word slowly. “Up. Your. Ass.”
The man stared at him with his dead brown eyes for a long moment before smirking. “You know, if you weren’t so high-handed and pretentious, I’d probably like you. Fine. We’ll do this by the book.”
He reached into his suit jacket and withdrew a document, slapping it against Jack’s chest. “Here’s the warrant you’re about to ask for. Not that it matters.”
He jabbed a thumb at the man beside him. “Dr. Whitmore’s got the tracker to prove the asset is within these premises. So scurry along and go get it before I call local P.D. to kick the door down.”
Jack scowled and flipped the document open, again slurping his coffee obnoxiously loud and reading it as slowly as possible. “Well, seems everything’s in order here. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll see what I can do about facilitating the evidence of your complete and utter ineptitude.”
“It wasn’t my fault!” Dr. Whitmore whined, but by then, Jack had slammed the door in both their faces.
Jack returned to the garage and handed Kamala the letter. She growled and crumpled it in her small fist. “Four hours. She’s been missing for four hours according to this nonsense. They couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel.”
“Agreed,” Jack said. “But this is a fight we can’t win right now. Maybe we can use it later, but we have to turn her over to them.”
“Bastards,” she spat.
“Hey,” Jack said gently, kissing her temple. “Stress levels, remember?”
She exhaled, rubbing the top of her swollen stomach. “Right. Pete won’t go willingly. Find out if they have a tranquilizer first. I’ll administer it so she doesn’t get upset.”
“Will do, angel.”
Jack opened the front door again. “Agent Shannon, I assume you have something that can subdue the dragon.”
“Yes,” he said. “What about it?”
“Mind handing it over? I’m pretty sure she’ll rip your face off if she sees you coming at her with one.”
Agent Shannon lifted a thick eyebrow. “You want me to hand you a tranquilizer gun? So you can knock me out and take the asset and run?”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Actually, I don’t want your big, ugly body on my driveway. You’ll scare my neighbors and cause the property value to plummet.”
Agent Shannon sucked his teeth and glanced at Dr. Whitmore. “Doc?”
“He’s right. The dragon is, uh, rather averse to your presence. It’s imprinted on the two of them and should allow them to inject it.”
The government agent gave Jack a long stare before walking over to the large unmarked truck with a long, metal trailer attached. He unlocked it and pulled out a silver briefcase. He popped it open and withdrew a tranquilizer gun.
“Any funny business,” Agent Shannon said, slapping it into Jack’s hand. “I take you down.”
Jack smiled. “Yeah, because that worked so well last time.”
Agent Shannon sneered. “It was a cheap shot, Jackson. Want to try me again when I’m paying attention?”
“No, I think I’ll just let you live with the shame of knowing a civilian put you on your ass.” Jack slammed the door shut a second time and headed into the garage.
Kamala took the tranquilizer gun and gave it a detailed once over, checking that the dosage looked correct and would subdue the dragon. She sighed and pressed her forehead to the dragon’s, her voice slightly hoarse. “I am so sorry, meri priya. We will save you. I swear it.”
She injected the sedative. The dragon flinched slightly when the tiny needle pierced her skin. The effect was almost immediate. Pete swayed and Jack caught her upper body, lowering her to the ground as gently as he could. A thin green film slid down over her golden eyes and she fell asleep in minutes. She even snored, which they both thought was cute.
Jack heaved another sigh and walked over to the garage door. He hit the switch and the door rumbled and roared as it slid up from the ground. Agent Shannon and Larry were already standing there with an altered version of a hand truck. It was collapsible and about eight feet long and a couple feet wide. Agent Shannon smiled as he spotted Kamala.
“Dr. Anjali,” he said politely. “Don’t you look radiant.”
“Don’t you look smug and unintelligent,” she replied, and then swept back inside the house without another word. He chuckled and helped the chubby scientist load the dragon onto the carrier. They wheeled her up into the trailer and locked it shut. Dr. Whitmore got inside the truck and Agent Shannon slid his aviator sunglasses back onto his face.
“Thank you for your cooperation, Dr. Jackson.”
Jack smiled again. “I hope you step on a Lego. Barefoot.”
Agent Shannon bared his teeth in a grin and climbed inside the truck. He backed out of the driveway slowly and then pulled off into the street. Jack spat the sour taste in his mouth out into the bushes and returned inside.
Kamala stood in the kitchen, furiously stirring a spoon into her chamomile tea. “This is unacceptable.”
“Yep,” Jack agreed, pouring the remainder of his coffee down the drain.
“Who do they think they are? They lose our dragon–they risk her life with their idiotic inability to comprehend her abilities–and then demand that we return her to them without any consequences whatsoever? I have never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life.”
“Yep,” Jack agreed, rinsing out the mug.
“What if someone had gotten hurt, eh? What if some gun-toting moron with a twitchy trigger finger spotted her before she came to us? She could be gone, just like that. Taken from this world through no fault of her own.”
Jack stepped up behind her and slid his arms around her shoulders. Kamala’s stiff spine slowly relaxed against the front of his chest. Her eyes drifted closed as he ran his large hand over her belly in soothing circles. He kissed her ear, his voice low and soft. “I know. And we’re not going to let them get away with this. We’re going to give them hell. We’re not going to give up on the fight until our dragons are back where they belong, safe and sound.”
She shook her head slightly. “You always know just what to say.”
“Hardly,” he said. “You were stirring that tea pretty hard, Dr. Anjali. I just didn’t want you to break my favorite mug.”
Kamala turned in his arms. “Yes, we both know you’re terrified of my superhuman maternal powers. I’ll try not to scare you so much.”
“You kidding me?” he said, lacing his fingers over the small of her back. “I’m counting on them to save us someday. You should be wearing a cape instead of stretch pants.”
She sighed. “Oh, don’t bloody remind me. I went up another size this week. I need to get this blasted child out of me before I become a manatee.”
Jack choked on a laugh. “Stop it. You’re gorgeous no matter what size you are.”
She pursed her lips. “Don’t try to get back on my good side, Dr. Jackson. Remember, it’s all your fault that I’m like this.”
“Oh, lest we forget. The rugrat was conceived the first time we, uh, fondue’d, and I believe you were the one who initiated that.”
Kamala blushed. “Point taken.”
She pressed her forehead against his and sighed. “This sucks.”
“Yes,” he said softly. “It does. But you know what doesn’t suck?”
She glanced up at him. “What?”
Jack leaned in and kissed her gently between words.
Kamala collapsed into stunned giggles. “You are an idiot, Dr. Jackson.”
“What? I mean, am I wrong?”
Her smile turned a bit wicked. “Not in the slightest. It would be an excellent distraction from the chaotic morning we both just had.”
She eagerly gripped his hand to drag him into their bedroom, but then her cell phone rang. She sighed and answered it with a brisk, dismissive tone. “Yes?”
“Kam,” Faye Worthington’s resigned, annoyed voice said. “I’m in jail.”
Of Blood and Ashes Of Cinder and Bone Book 2
The world's deadliest dragon, the infamous Baba Yaga, is loose on the streets of Tokyo.
Dr. Rhett "Jack" Jackson and Dr. Kamala Anjali have been tasked with helping the government take down a dragon the size of a Tyrannosaurus Rex after it sends part of the city up in flames. Things worsen when they lose track of dragon in none other than Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest--a section of woods in Japan that is rumored to be one of the most haunted places on earth. They've also got the yakuza who cloned the dragon hellbent on getting her back, and they don't care who they kill in order to re-capture the dragon.
Jack and Kamala are joined by CIA field agent William Fry and dragon-hunting expert Juniper Snow as they infiltrate the forest to hunt the dragon before she can hurt anyone else. Between the ruthless yakuza hot on their trail and the growing mistrust in their small hunting party, it will take a miracle for Jack and Kamala to make it out alive...
Of Blood and Ashes is the second book in the series, following the Amazon bestselling Of Cinder and Bone.
His booted feet pounded out an insane, frantic rhythm underneath him as he raced into the cavern across from Baba Yaga’s den at a dead sprint. Pieces of dragon dung flew off him and hit the ground behind him in miniature chunks. He didn’t dare look behind him to see if the dragon had risen from the ground yet, but the deafening hiss that assaulted his ears meant she’d woken up. Icy claws of fear squeezed his heart with every breath as he ran, relying on the night vision goggles, the glimpse he’d gotten of the map, and his own instincts to figure out where to go.
Jack raced around one corner too sharply and slipped on a piece of dung, crashing hard on his right side. He gasped as it knocked the wind out of him and gritted his teeth, his mind screaming at him to get up and run, run, run. He pushed onto his knees, nursing what felt like bruised ribs and a sprained wrist, and then paled as an unmistakable sensation traveled up the arm he’d used to push himself up.
Impact tremors. Boom. Boom. Boom, boom, boom.
Baba Yaga was coming.
Baba Yaga was hunting him.
Jack forced himself up onto his feet again, stumbling backwards and fumbling for the tracker. He got it switched on to see an ominous blob approaching from the right. He’d gotten a good lead on her—maybe a few hundred yards—but he had no way of knowing if he’d eventually run into a dead end. He couldn’t hide down here forever. He needed to get topside to join the others so they could take her down.
Jack blocked out the rising crescendo of Baba Yaga’s hissing and pictured the map again. A mile up to the right had a man-made exit that spilled back up to the forest. The only problem was that it was a long passage. If Baba Yaga followed, there was a good chance she could catch up and roast him like a marshmallow. He could try to lose her in the twists and turns of the cave system, but there was a good chance he’d get lost, and Baba Yaga’s superior senses meant it would only be a matter of time before she found him. It came back to the most basic survival tactics: run or hide.
Jack switched off the tracker and stuck it in his pocket, his voice ragged and shaking, but solid. “You aren’t about to die in this forest, Jackson. Move your ass.”
He barreled forward into the passageway to the right in the wake of Baba Yaga’s ominous, bubbling warning, barely suppressing a groan as a spike of pain lanced through his chest from his bruised ribs. The adrenaline would only hold for so long. He could make it about halfway there before it ran out. Cold sweat plastered the mask to his face and ran down into his eyes. The tunnel stretched onward forever before him. No sunlight in sight. Had he been wrong?
Jack ripped off the hood and cold air slapped his face, making his eyes water. He held his hands out to make sure he wouldn’t bounce off one of the cavern walls and squinted up ahead as he turned the corner into the straightaway. There, faintly, he could see the pale glow of the exit.
Gasping for air, he collapsed against one wall and tried to catch his breath before the final marathon. He had to have put some amount of distance between himself and the dragon by now.
“Who knows?” Jack panted. “Maybe she got annoyed and turned around.”
An earth-shattering roar rocked the very walls of the cavern.
Jack paled. Boom, boom, boom, boom! Boom, boom, boom, boomboomboomboom--
Mother of God.
The dragon had broken into a run.
Jack shoved himself away from the wall, lowered his head, and ran as fast as his legs would carry him.
Of Cinder and Bone
Of Cinder and Bone Book 1
OF CINDER AND BONE is Ron Howard's Ransom meets Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park!
After centuries of being the most dangerous predators on the planet, dragons were hunted to extinction. That is, until Dr. Rhett “Jack” Jackson and Dr. Kamala Anjali cracked the code to bring them back. Through their research at MIT, they resurrected the first dragon anyone has seen alive since the 15th century. There’s just one problem.
Someone stole it.
Caught between two ruthless yakuza clans who want to clone the dragon, Jack and Kamala brave the dangerous streets of Tokyo to steal their dragon back in a race against time before the world is taken over by mutated, bloodthirsty monsters that will raze it to ashes.
Of Cinder and Bone is an all-new sci-fi thriller from the author of the Amazon bestselling Black Parade novels. Don’t miss out on this explosive first-in-series! Fans of Westworld, I Robot, Pacific Rim, and Reign of Fire will fall in love with this mashup novel that opens up a whole new world of possibilities into what we know and love about dragons.
Jack raised his gun as a man came around the front of the truck and opened fire with a roar, emptying the clip into the man’s chest. The yakuza crumpled to the road in a heap. Another one stepped out from behind him and raised his AR-15, his finger closing on the trigger. And then the dragon dropped out of the sky right on top of him. Pete slammed the man to the ground with her clawed feet and took a vicious bite out of his neck, killing him instantly. A third man jumped on top of the truck’s hood and stopped dead out of pure shock, as he was now level with her. The dragon snarled and slammed her tail into his chest. It sent him cartwheeling off the edge of the road and down into the ravine beside it, screaming the whole way. The dragon snorted once and then hurried over to Jack and Kamala, sniffing them briefly in confirmation, and then nudging them towards her large, scaly torso. “I… I think she wants us to get on,” Kamala said, dumbfounded as Pete bumped her side up against them and flapped her huge wings. “That’s impossible,” Jack sputtered. “The two of us together nearly weigh three hundred pounds. She can’t possibly lift—holy shitbricks!” Impatient, the dragon slid her neck through Jack’s parted legs and stood up, barking once at Kamala. She threw her leg over the dragon’s back. Then Pete took three mighty steps towards the edge of the road and leapt off. For three terrifying seconds, they dropped through the air like a cement block. Then, Pete’s leathery wings spread and they flew. Gunfire cracked behind them, but the dragon flapped her wings to carry them higher out of harm’s way. She wheeled to one side and they disappeared into the shadow of the mountain range, over the forest below. Jack dug his fingers into the dragon’s collar and finally opened his eyes. He stared speechless at the ground easily forty feet below them and into the cloudy horizon. Wind whistled past his ears, interrupted only by the powerful strokes of the dragon’s wings and the raspy clink of the chain still dragging below her body as they cut through the crisp air. She flew smoothly, as if she’d been doing it all her life, as if it were an effortless skill. Behind him, Kamala had locked her arms around his waist and buried her face between his shoulder blades when they’d first taken off. Now, she held one hand out flat, her palm parallel to the ground, feeling the wind rushing over it. Half-hysterical laughter enveloped them both as the dragon carried them higher still, until they were circling one of the mountain’s peaks. Enormous clouds piled high around the mountain and the air became sharply cold as they neared it. The trees stopped halfway up its craggy face and gave way to perpetual ice created from the height and upper atmosphere. As Pete circled for the fourth time, they realized she was searching for shelter. On the fifth pass, the dragon brought her wings in close to her body in a dive as they reached a cliff near the mouth of a cave. She fought the stiff wind and landed hard, digging her claws into the earth. Jack helped Kamala off and the dragon shook herself and stepped forward into the cave. The two of them called to her, but she paid them no mind. The freezing temperature and high winds wouldn’t make it easy to get down any time soon. They had no choice. So they followed the dragon into the darkness.
Kyoko M is a USA Today bestselling author, a fangirl, and an avid book reader. She has written the Amazon bestselling Black Parade urban fantasy series as well as the Of Cinder and Bone science-fiction dragon hunting series. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit degree from the University of Georgia, which gave her every valid excuse to devour book after book with a concentration in Greek mythology and Christian mythology. When not working feverishly on a manuscript (or two), she can be found buried under her Dashboard on Tumblr, or chatting with fellow nerds on Twitter, or curled up with a good Harry Dresden novel on a warm Georgia night. Like any author, she wants nothing more than to contribute something great to the best profession in the world, no matter how small.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
There are a lot of “I can make you a bestselling millionaire” books waiting to trap unsuspecting aspiring writers. The truth of the matter is that yes, it’s possible to pay someone to coach or mentor you on the world of writing and publishing, but most of the time, these books are scams. A lot of the information offered can be obtained elsewhere for a lower price and some of it can be found for free.
The first thing to know that there is no such thing as a surefire way to become a bestseller. There are best practices, but there is no book on this Earth that you can buy and as soon as you follow all its instructions, boom, you’re a millionaire bestselling author.
The second thing to know is that what can be taught that’s worth paying for is understanding the writing process or navigating the many, many steps it takes to get published, not insisting that it’s possible to follow a set of steps and sell a million copies of a book.
The third thing to know is that books insisting they can make you a millionaire become less relevant every day after they’ve been written and published because the publishing industry changes on a constant basis. The market changes, readers change, and the economy changes. All of it is constantly updating and moving around. “How to sell a million copies” books therefore cannot keep up with it and so while some of the foundation they lay can still be accurate, most of the material isn’t going to stay relevant long.
Additionally, vanity publishers are dangerous traps for aspiring writers. There are a lot of them that set up nets in Google searches, so they get alerted to people who are entering searches that indicate they want to write a book, are writing a book, or have finished writing a book and want to publish it. Then they send this grand email stating that they want to publish these authors and if the aspiring writers haven’t done their research, they don’t know that there is no such thing as paying to publish a book. You never pay an upfront cost to publish a book; you either query an agent and they get paid a percentage or you self-publish/independently publish a book and pay for things like the cover art and editing before it’s given to the chosen publisher.
The best piece of advice I can give for avoiding common traps is “if it looks and sounds too good to be true, it is, so don’t trust it and don’t spend money on it.”
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
This is a great question. I actually recently had a long conversation with a friend about this topic because of Jim Butcher’s recent novel, Peace Talks (Book 16 of The Dresden Files). I’m not going to spoil anything in detail, but in short, in my opinion, Peace Talks is basically just one 400-page set up for the next book in the series, Battle Ground. My friend and I were discussing whether or not that’s not a good idea for books in general. I’m of the opinion that all books should be able to be read without reading what’s before or behind them, but strictly from a plot and story standpoint. I believe that books in a series should still operate independently and should blend with the overall series and the books in sequence. I say this because that’s how some of us discover books.
For instance, years ago, my brother randomly found Turn Coat (Book 11 of The Dresden Files) and read that long before he ever picked up Storm Front. Now, could my brother understand the massive context related to all of the characters? No way. But he was able to read the story and enjoy it enough that he then decided to buy the whole series and start from the beginning so that when he reread Turn Coat, he would understand all that context. That is why I think books in a series should be able to stand alone but just provide connectivity between each other for things like payoff and context. Peace Talks does, technically, stand on its own, but not very well. It just sort of alludes to what’s coming constantly and so it almost feels like a prequel novel. None of the other books in the series have been written this way, so you understand why it stood out to me so much.
In my own work, I try to have each book stand on its own if possible. That being said, once it passes a certain point, I expect the readers to know some of the lore and story in the previous books in order to understand what’s going on. I make mini-introductions for what the main characters look like and how their personalities are in order to serve that purpose. It shouldn’t negatively impact those who already have read the previous books and it allows new readers to climb into the saddle.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I have a lot of male friends, and I always have, and so one thing that I’ve learned from my experiences with them is that men tend to be very straightforward (for the most part) and they don’t think in the same pathways that women do. They often don’t pick up on context, body language, or other things that women see on a daily basis. I’ve had a male friend I’ve known for almost ten years who somehow had zero idea that I had a crush on him when I thought it was perfectly obvious and clear based on my own behavior. For that reason, I have to remind myself that men see the world differently from how I see it. They are also, unfortunately, taught by society to withhold their emotions far more often, so many of them struggle with being honest or open in their relationships with others. I try to have that in my work as often as possible so that the male characters feel authentic. I also have my brother read my drafts before publication because he can sometimes offer insight into something that the male characters would or would not do in case I lapse into being forgetful.
What did you edit out of this book?
Ha! About 11,000 words. The original draft for Of Fury and Fangs was way different from the final draft. The short version is that I was halfway through the book and got an idea for a better book and so I was trying to write that, but the two concepts clashed with each other and it didn’t work. I had to yank 11k words out and save it for the draft of another book, which then set off a chain reaction for this one meaning that I had to rewrite it with that whole chunk taken out. (Spoiler alert: there’s gonna be a fifth book in the series, you’re welcome.) The good news is that means I have 11k words already done and ready for the next book. At the time, though, it was a pain in the ass having to go back and rewrite Of Fury and Fangs with an updated concept so it was a stand alone book and also part of the overall series.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I use a combination of things to name my characters. First, how does their whole name sound aloud? I am an ex-band geek and I always joke that being a band geek never wears off. There is a certain set of habits that I formed from being used to how sounds work and having to understand them or reproduce them. I’m also someone who loves languages in general, so I want the names to flow off the tongue. That is how we ended up with Jordan Amador from my Black Parade series or Kamala Anjali from the Of Cinder and Bone series. I like the flow of those names. Second, I usually like to have their names mean something. Jordan’s first name is because of the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized (her mother Catalina was very religious) and her last name means ‘lover of God’ and both Jordan and her mother are Seers, which are basically God’s anointed capable of seeing angels, ghosts, and demons. I enjoy putting symbolism into some of the character’s names.
On a more minor note, sometimes I name characters based on other characters that I love as tributes. For instance, Misaki Fujioka is a mashup of two of my favorite female anime characters: Misaki Ayuzawa from Kaichou wa Maid-Sama and Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club. There’s also Kazuma Okegawa, whose last name is after Kyotaro “Banchou” Okegawa from Oresama Teacher.
…I’m a big nerd, in case you can’t tell.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Given that I am an extremely anxious, neurotic person, yes. I check for reviews daily because I cannot help myself. I just can’t. That being said, for my own mental health, I will not read one star reviews. One star reviews are almost always someone who is a complete jerk who is insulting me directly and attacking my writing because of their own personal hang ups rather than providing their perspective on the book itself or the writing style. One star reviews are usually pretty nasty and sometimes the people who post them are snobs and bullies who just want the overall star rating to go down for whatever personal reason.
For two star reviews, I will skim them a little if they are detailed. I do this because I am a human and I have lots and lots of faults, but what’s important is that I also have blindspots. If a negative review points out something that I missed that I need to be aware of in order to improve my work, then I will at least acknowledge it. That is the only reason I will read any negative reviews.
As for positive reviews, yes, I read them. I need to see what’s working for people and to keep an eye on what is keeping their interest in the series. It’s also good for my morale to see people enjoy the thing I spend literally hundreds of hours of my life doing.
On that note, if you’re reading this interview and you’ve read and liked my work, please leave a review. Reviews actually help authors get marketing promotions and it improves our visibility on all of our sales channels. It doesn’t even have to be more than just one sentence. Please always review books that you like, but especially from self-published and indie authors. Traditionally published authors have the big machine pay or trade favors to secure reviews, but we don’t have that luxury. Please review our books.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I find that the transitional/connective tissue scenes are the hardest for me to write. Action scenes, emotional scenes, and banter are no problem for me. However, scenes where I have to give exposition or have the characters move from one place to another or where we’re setting up before a big sequence are my Kryptonite. It takes me so long to get them written. I procrastinate forever because I just hate utility scenes. Most of the time, you can’t skip over them. You need those scenes so that everything ties together and the cogs continue to work, but I hate them. There was one in Of Fury and Fangs where I wrote the characters coming up with an idea…and then forgot I was the one who had to actually write the execution of said idea. It took me weeks to stop whining and do it. I’m an adult, can’t you tell?
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