Welcome to another Edition of
V. M. Black
The Alpha's Captive
Curvy Harper Bailey’s ordinary life was turned upside down by a chance encounter with the handsome werewolf Levi Harris. On the run from the vampire mafia, he pulls her into his high-stakes world—and straight into the crosshairs. Now she’s got no car, no job, and not even any dry clothes.To make matters worse, Harper’s falling for Levi hard at the most inconvenient time. And he seems to be developing some very definite ideas where she’s concerned, ideas she’s not so sure she wants to be a part of. Harper just wants to get through the next couple of days alive—and heart intact. Whatever Levi’s plans might be.
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Victoria Melantha Black, writing as V. M. Black, is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her dream has always been to write, and after she completed three novels in college, her fourth was accepted by Penguin and became a national bestseller. Over the next several years, she wrote books that were chosen as Publisher’s Weekly starred reviews and Romantic Times top picks, and she received glowing reviews from Library Journal and All About Romance. In addition, her books finaled in or won a number of reader, reviewer, and industry award competitions, including the Golden Heart, RT Reviewer’s Choice, All About Romance Reader’s Choice, and Smart Bitches’ best books of the year.
But life as a traditionally published author was difficult. Her advances were still in the poverty range after several years, and publishers didn’t want the stories she wanted to tell. So V. M. Black abandoned her old pseudonym and career and struck out as an independently self-published author in 2014 with the stories that New York publishing houses had rejected. Her books have already sold over a hundred thousand copies, and she hit the New York Times bestseller list for the first time in November 2014.
V. M. Black writes in the universe of Aethereal Bonds, where aethers (superhuman races) mix with humans. Her stories can’t be easily categorized. Set in a modern-day fantasy world, they have the depth and breadth of epic fantasy but feature the relationships of romance. She likes to mix traditional folklore about both high fantasy and urban fantasy stock characters, such as vampires, shapeshifters, elves, fae, and demons, and give them a fresh twist that draws heavily from sources as disparate as cyberpunk and Greek and Celtic legends.
Levi’s heart dropped as Harper’s body went limp in his arms. Swearing, he forged ahead through the water, making for the shore as fast as he could.
“I told you to stay awake,” he whispered harshly.
She didn’t stir. He had to get her warm—and fast. Or else he might lose her.
And the idea scared him more than he cared to examine.
The stream still came halfway up his chest, and her body was losing heat every second it was in the water. He held her ample body high and pressed onwards, as fast as he could make his legs move through the water, no longer angling downstream but heading straight toward the shore across the current.
In the distance, his werewolf-sharp hearing could hear the two men on the far shore, but even he couldn’t see them under the bridge and across the stream in the darkness.
“You think we got them?”
“Had to. You saw them go under, right?”
“Did they come up again?”
“I don’t think so.”
“So unless they’ve learned to breathe underwater, they’re dead, right?”
“Well, he’s a werewolf—”
“Right, a werewolf. Not a freaking weretrout. They’re dead, okay? We’ll wait for Guttmacher to catch up, and we’ll search the shores in the morning. We’re not going to find anything in the dark.”
“If you’re wrong, it’s going to be our asses.”
“I’m not wrong.”
The water now reached Levi’s waist, and only Harper’s round backside still dragged in it. Then the water dropped to his hips, his thighs, his knees. With every step, the shore drew closer, until finally, he stepped from mud to grass.
Harper’s breath was too slow, too shallow against his chest, but still he couldn’t afford to do anything about it. He jogged through the marshy brush up the gradual slope until he reached the treeline, then a dozen yards more before he could risk stopping.
Levi laid her on the ground gently, then set to work stripping her methodically—first, freeing the purse from across her body, then his jacket and her shirt, boots, and pants, even rolling her panties off and releasing her breasts from her bra. Anything that might hold cold water against her body had to go.
These were not, he thought grimly, the circumstances in which he’d dreamed of taking off her clothes. As it was, though, his stomach clenched with the cold clamminess of her flesh. He put a hand against her chest just below her throat and was reassured by the tiny, fluttering breaths.
Still she didn’t stir, her generous body lying pale and unresponsive in the moonlight that filtered through the trees. Levi knelt in the weeds and leaves next to her, taking one of her arms and chafing it rapidly with his hand until the skin was warm under his fingers. Then he did the same with the other arm—avoiding the slice across her bicep, pale and bloodless now, where the bullet had kissed her skin.
He chafed her legs in turn, rubbing the skin until it was pink. And then he lay next to her on the cold earth and pulled her body against his, rolling her so that her chest was pressed into his. Her cheek was against his shoulder, her arm tucked between their bellies and her side protected from the cold ground by his arm. Only her hip touched the leaves—he pulled her lower thigh so it nestled between his own, hooking her other leg up over his hip. He rubbed her back in long, slow motions with his free hand, trying to get some more warmth into her body from the flat of his palm.
At first, Harper’s skin was so cold that his own flesh shrank away, but gradually, she warmed against him. Her breathing, butterfly-light at first, slowly deepened, and she started shivering violently. And as she thawed, so did the part of him that was frozen in fear. And, predictably, something else began to stir at the presence of all those lush curves pressed naked against his body, circumstances be damned.
Eventually, the shivering stopped—this time not because her body was shutting down but because it was warming up. She made a small motion against his chest, wiggling in unconscious provocativeness. Which did nothing for his state of mind. Or, for that matter, his state of cock.
Her eyelids fluttered open, and she looked at him with the vagueness of semi-consciousness for a moment before her eyes focused.
“Um,” Harper said, blinking at him. “Is there something I missed here?”
“You fell asleep,” he said. “I told you not to fall asleep.”
“So…you stripped me? What piece am I missing here?” She wiggled again—quite deliberately, this time. “Not that I’m protesting or anything. I’m just wondering, you know, why.”
Levi relaxed, chuckling, even as the more primal part of him occupied an increasing portion of his awareness. “You were freezing to death. Hypothermia. It was a bit touch and go there for a while.”
“Touch is right,” she said, almost absently. Then she looked worried. “I dropped your boots.”
“I know. You told me twice,” he said.
She looked up at him, and her eyes got the slightly dreamy look that he was beginning to recognize. With his skin against hers, his pheromones would be all over her. And if the sudden heat against his upper thigh was any indication, she was warming up in more than one way.
“Mmm,” she said, inclining her head toward his and snugging her belly even more intimately against his raging erection. “Hypothermia, really? That’s a good excuse.”
He should remind her that men were chasing them.
Men who thought they were at the bottom of the river right now. Men who wouldn’t be looking for them until the next day.
It wasn’t like they were going much of anywhere until the morning, anyway. Just going to hole up in her cousins’ place. And sex would be a very good way to chase away the last of the chills.…
Screw it. Or, rather, her.
“Quietly, then,” he said. “The bad guys think we’re dead, at least at the moment.”
“Ooo, you know how to sweet talk a girl,” she said.
And he cut her off with a kiss.
1. Where did you grow up and how did it influence your writing?
I grew up in Texas. I don’t know why, but Texas seems to produce a huge number of writers. Maybe it’s because the Texas mind is essentially imaginative and romantic under the tough exterior—romantic in the old sense of viewing the world through a somewhat emotional lens. At the same time, Texans tend to be very pragmatic. So the mixture is something that often results in a vigorously imaginative successful career as a writer.
2. Did you attend college? If so, where?
I studied engineering in the Midwest, but I abandoned it even as an undergrad in favor of writing books for submission to major presses—which was the only game in town back then!
3. What were you like at school?
I was either the most diligent or the laziest student, depending on whom you asked! I made good grades, but I never completed ungraded homework. At the same time, I worked my way through hundreds of classic books and piles of historical research for fun. I just didn’t see that much point in formal school.
4. When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?
Around the time that I realized that not all writers were already dead! I read a lot of classics as a small child, so discovering that there were still living, breathing writers immediately made me want to be one.
5. You have some pretty steamy cover art—who does your design work?
I do some of it, Cormar Covers does some, and Yocla Designs does some. I choose the images and often the crops in my covers…all except my Panther series, where I let Yocla Designs have free reign. I’m a bit of a control freak. ;)
6. Why did you choose to write within the paranormal romance genre?
I love fantasy and I also love romance. When I started writing, paranormal romance tended to be very “thin”—there really wasn’t much to the fantasy component beyond a psychic heroine with Irish blood or something like that. As the romance genre developed more in the direction of being able to sustain deeper fantasy worlds, I became more and more interested in creating something unique in that space. So I ended up with Aethereal Bonds—living vampires whose blood-kiss kills humans but keeps them alive; genetically engineered shifters; transdimensional djinn; and, of course, space elves and dark fae poised to take over the world. I had a lot of fun setting up a universe that was both deep and wide, where all kinds of things could happen.
7. In five words, describe your romance writing style.
Dark, sensual, imaginative, narratively complex.
8. Do you have a favorite minor character in this book? If so, who is it and why?
My favorites are always my main characters, of course. But I have a great deal of fun with my minor characters.
In Cora’s Choice, my favorite minor character has to be Lisette, though I had lots of fun with Cosimo.
In Cora’s Bond, Lucretia and Hattie are among my favorites, but the title must go to Clarissa.
In The Alpha’s Captive, Beane was so much fun he got his own book.
In Taken by the Panther, no one can really compare to Annie.
9. Do you have a least favorite character in this book? If so, who is it and why?
In all honesty…I don’t. So far, Mortenson’s been a bit dull to write (across all the series, where he appears as a minor character in most of the books). But most of my characters, whether good guys or bad, have been lots of fun to write.
10. Out of all of your characters, which one do you relate to the most?
I write a tiny bit of myself into every character. It lets me relate to them. I’ve wrestled with chronic illness like Cora, so a great deal of her first book—though I never had anything as serious as her disease—was taken from my thoughts and experiences when I was very sick and no one knew why. I’m neurotic sometimes like Lisette. I’ve got something of Chay “Beane’s” sense of over-responsibility and control. Like Tara, I tend to look at the things that I can change rather than the ones that I can’t. Like Dorian, I try to do what I think is the right thing in difficult circumstances. I’ve got Harper’s smart mouth, and like Levi, I sometimes rush into things without thinking.
11. You have released several series featuring some very different heroes, but they all exist in the same world. Is there a particular reason why you wanted to connect them?
I like the idea of building out a world as real as our own that I can tell all kinds of different stories in.
12. Is there any topic that you would never write about? If so, what is it?
I’ll never write ménage. J Got nothing against it, but I don’t write it.
13. What book do you wish you could have written?
Antigone, Brideshead Revisited, Heart of Darkness, and (believe it or not) several of the later Watchmen books by Terry Pratchett. The first because of the wonderful sense of drama and tragedy—and inevitability that still has you hooked. The next two because of their use of language, mood, emotion, and suspense. And the last because of Pratchett’s plotting abilities.
14. Name one thing (writing-related or otherwise) that drives you absolutely insane.
Typos. It seems impossible to get rid of them all!
15. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your main characters?
Oooh, this is a hard one. The one character I have the truest “movie star” image of is Dorian Thorne, my vampire. He’s kind of a mash up of Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian Somerhalder, and Tom Hiddleston.
16. What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your series?
I learned that I could write faster and more consistently than I ever thought I could! A lot of the details of my universe also came to me in the process of writing.
17. You often publish new installments one or two weeks after the last release. Isn't it stressful to meet those kinds of deadlines?
Yes. J Being an independent author can be brutal, schedule-wise. I’m at a disadvantage compared to someone published by a big publisher…except when it comes to publication speed! So I use what advantages I get.
18. Your readers love to hate the cliffhangers at the end of your books—why must you torture them this way?!
I love cliffhangers myself! Love them. I do get nasty notes sometimes from people who hate them but can’t quit the books anyway. Every book builds to some sort of conclusion or revelation, and it’s a pivot point for the next part of the story. It’s really effective in structuring something complicated, and there are few things quite as riveting as the “oh, crap” moment when everything blows up in the characters’ faces.
19. Does your hubby ever get jealous of your heroes?
He loves reading my books, but the sex scenes freak him out, so he skips them!
20. When you walk into a bookstore, where do you go first?
I almost never go to the bookstore anymore because what they have is so limited. It’s very, very rare that the books that I want to read are in stock—not just indie titles but 95% of the nonfiction that I read and traditionally published backlists just aren’t there. I’ve also gone heavily toward ebooks. I now pretty much only go to the bookstore if I’m buying a classic children’s book for a friend that I need quickly—and to browse the new cookbooks.
21. Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you get through it?
All the time. I just beat my head against the wall and hope for the best. So far, it’s worked.
22. If you could change ONE thing about your story, what would it be?
The nice thing about being independently published is that I can go back and change things, if need be! I change subtle things, generally, but if there was ever something big that I didn’t explain well, causing a lot of readers not to “get” it, I’d tweak it for future readers. J
23. If you couldn't be a writer, what would be your dream job?
App development. I like software development.
24. How long does it usually take for you to write an installment?
8 days to a month, depending.
25. What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing?
The initial draft, absolutely! Once I have that down, it’s easy going!
26. You decided to self-publish—why?
Well, I’m from the traditional world, and most of the self-publishing wave passed me by. I got tired of people with nothing but contempt for romance and romance readers telling me what the audience does and doesn’t want. I found out that self-publishing actually was a decent alternative and decided to prove them wrong.
27. What is your preferred inspirational elixir: wine or espresso?
I run on Diet Pepsi and tea, black, white, and green, but straight up, without milk or sugar.
28. You do a lot of conference and convention appearances to promote your books. Do you have a favorite event?
Not yet. J They’re very taxing for me, so I’m reconsidering my schedule this year.
29. Have you ever considered writing anything other than books? (For example, movie scripts, TV pilots, etc.)
I was once invited to write a TV pilot, but I’m really not qualified for it, and I don’t have much interest in it. However, I do very much like writing graphic novels.
30. Many authors find that intimate love scenes are the hardest to write. Things get incredibly hot and heavy between your heroes and heroines—do you struggle while writing those chapters or is it something you enjoy creating?
They are the most exhausting and difficult thing to write, for sure!
31. Do you ever daydream about people you see in public and create romance scenes around them?
Nope, not at all! All my people come from my head, though I grab names from things I’ve recently heard.
32. If we took a peek into your purse right now, what would we find?
Not much. A Vera Bradley wallet my mother-in-law gave me—my actual purse is from Walmart—an EpiPen, a coupon to a restaurant, and a Leatherman multitool.
33. What inspires your stories?
I like thinking “What if?” I also make lists of things I dislike about a genre or a convention—for example, I made a list of all the things in vampire romances that I was tired of—and then decide how I’d fix them.
34. You've made in clear in your series that you're not afraid to kill off popular characters. Do you ever worry about alienating your readers?
I’ll never kill off the main couple, but you’re right, no one else is safe! It just makes the books work better. The stakes have to be high for the stories that I tell, and when everyone gets through everything okay, well, there’s no real drama there.
35. Tell us, master of romance, which would you prefer: a decadent night out dancing, or a cozy candlelit night in by the fire?
I love ballroom dancing, but crowds stress me out. So I’d like a couple of hours out dancing, then home again.
36. Do you create a master story outline before you write, or do you prefer to jump in and see where an idea takes you?
I do a very general outline of a book before I start and a tight outline of the first few chapters. I fill in the rest of the outline once I’ve written those first chapters.
37. Do you have any strange writing habits or quirks?
Nope. I just write. I often listen to soundtracks when I write as white noise. Regular classical music and music with lyrics generally take too much of my attention!
38. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment (literary or otherwise)?
I can’t really say! The hardest thing I used to do was to take my kids to their afternoon activities. That’s something that’s almost trivial for most people, but with my sleep and pain disorder, it was more challenging than anything else that I attempted, including working 100+ hours a week as I do now or house-flipping, remodeling, hauling firewood, clearing land—literally anything else that I could do on my own schedule. I was thrilled to get an afternoon nanny who could do that so I could work more simply because it cost me so much.
In terms of actual accomplishment, I suppose I’m proudest of my Aethereal Bonds world! I really love being able to have the freedom to write the stories I want to write without being told by people who hate the genre what readers do or don’t like.
39. What do you do when you're not busy writing?
I sleep! I also homeschool my kids, cuddle the youngest, occasionally cook, spend time with the husband, and those sorts of things. I don’t have time for any serious hobbies right now. I work far too much.
40. Do you have a unique talent, party trick, etc?
I’m dyslexic, which now is obvious only through my inability to catch my own typos and my ability to read aloud fluently upside down and in a mirror. This enormously impresses my kids!
41. Who are your author idols within the paranormal romance genre?
Christine Feehan really opened up paranormal romance to a new kind of story with more worldbuilding behind it. Stephenie Meyer made it mainstream. J. R. Ward, of course, brought in a darker, exciting world with her Black Dagger Brotherhood. And though not technically romance, Laurell K. Hamilton and Anne Rice, of course, made enormous contributions to how people see these kinds of paranormal worlds.
Many thanks to V. M. for joining us today and giving us chance to get a copy of her novel for FREE!
I'll be back with more awesome authors before you know it...