I am slowly, more slowly than I was initially expecting, making my way through the revisions of Trigger Warning, book 4 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series. I’ve been slowed down by my work on books for my other pen name, my academic writing, the beginning of the new semester–it’s so pesky the way you’re expected to show up and teach classes regularly–and my own rather slow revision process.
One of my rounds of revisions is to read the entire book out loud. This is prior to making the actual audiobook, although it did give me the idea of making audiobooks. But it’s a pretty slow stage, even if, in my opinion, an essential one, especially if I’m trying to preserve my already-strained voice–again, that pesky teaching!
Speaking of audio, you can get free samples of my books and many others in the Listen to Books in 2020 giveaway on Bookfunnel.
However, I do expect to have e-ARCs of Trigger Warning ready sometime this spring, and of course, you will be the first to know! Meanwhile, here’s a quick excerpt:
I got up from the table and, with all eyes focused on me, made my way past the woman from food service, who was staring ahead impassively like she was a hair’s breadth away from snapping and calling all these assholes on their pretentious bullshit, and Tanika Scott, who gave me a smile that was probably supposed to be encouraging but came out as stricken, and left the basement. Even though I tried to close it soundlessly, the door slammed behind me. Good thing I wasn’t being disruptive by texting silently.
I checked my phone as soon as I was out the door. Three more texts had come from Dima while I’d been sitting there getting lectured on sensitivity and consideration. I figured this was as good a reason as any to go all the way outside and get out of the oppressive basement for a while, so I did.
By the time I got out onto the sidewalk, a fourth text had come from Dima. A shell fragment had lightly grazed his shoulder, he said, but it was absolutely nothing to worry about. He’d been bandaged up and pumped full of antibiotics, and was already back out on the front lines. Best of all, it was his left shoulder.
Now I’m balanced, he wrote. A wound on my left shoulder to counterbalance the one to my right hand.
I don’t think that’s a good kind of balance, I replied. While covering the battle for the Donetsk Airport in December, Dima had gotten three fingers on his right hand snapped by Ukrainian forces who thought he was a separatist, not a journalist. Luckily he’d convinced them of his journalistic bona fides before the torture had gone any further. He’d even gotten an interview with Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the paramilitary Right Sektor, out of the bargain, so he considered it all worth it. I was less sure.
No worries! he texted. Like I said, it’ll heal by the wedding. Meanwhile, not sure whether to stay here around Mariupol, go up to Donetsk city, or check out Stanitsa Luganskaya. There’s so much action I’m spoilt for choice!
How long have you been on the front? I texted back.
Oh, you know how it is.
Yes, I do. How long have you been on the front without a break?
You know I can’t go home.
I know. Dima’s home was Moscow, but he wasn’t welcome there anymore.
You can go to Kiev, I pointed out.
True. I was there just…well, I guess it was six months ago, at least. No, more. Before New Year’s. I came out here to greet the New Year with my comrades, and I guess I haven’t left since.
That’s eight months on the front! After another year already. You need to take a break. At least go to Kiev for a few days. Or maybe you could go somewhere else. Have you done anything about Israeli citizenship?
Dima’s maternal grandmother had been Jewish, so there was a chance that he might qualify for Israeli citizenship. It was something he’d talked about on and off for years, but never actually done anything about. Dima might write blistering diatribes against the corruption poisoning the Russian Federation, but the homemade tattoo over his heart that read “Russians Don’t Surrender” was the real expression of his one true faith. I suspected that the only way to get him to renounce his Russian citizenship would be to pry it from his cold, dead fingers.
Not yet, he texted back. Someone I know in Kiev said he’d look into it for me, but I haven’t heard anything about it yet.
I ground my teeth a little. What about American citizenship? I texted. You could probably qualify for political asylum.
Still trying to get your stars and stripes on me, Inna? ))))) Actually, no fooling, I did ask about that the last time I was in Kiev. They told me officially maybe, but they told me unofficially I’d need to do something like marry a native-born American citizen to be sure.
I stared at the phone for a long time. Was it the heat of an August morning in Georgia making me feel sick, or was it a rush of crazy emotion at those words? I wanted to laugh, cry, vomit, kiss someone, and punch someone in the face all at once.
You know that would be easy enough to organize, I texted back.
Really? Who’d you have in mind for the bride? ))))) Kim Kardashian? ))))))
Is that who you want? I meant to add some smiley faces to help keep the tone light and joking, but my hands were clumsy on the phone, and I accidentally sent the text instead.
No thanks. Armenians are nice to look at, but I’ve never wanted to marry one )))) I’m afraid there’s only one American woman I’ve ever considered worth a second glance, Inna, and that’s you.
Why was my heart beating so fast? I must have gone soft after a few years up North, and now I was getting heatstroke from a little warmth and sunlight. It wasn’t even that hot yet.
This might not be the best moment, and I don’t…I erased that text, started another one, erased that one, tried again, erased that one too, and went back to my original words. This might not be the best moment to say this, and I don’t want you to feel, I don’t know, awkward or obliged, but you know that if you ever need an American bride in order to get an American passport, that can be arranged.
There was an excruciating eternity of waiting before Dima’s next text came through.
Are you offering? ))))
Of course, if that’s what you need.
There was another excruciating eternity of waiting.
Oh, Innochka. My little Decembrist’s wife. Don’t waste yourself on me, Innochka, my silly little girl. Aren’t you still with that American? What’s his name?
Alex. Yes. But we’re not married. We’re not even engaged. It’s just a…thing.
Does he know that?
I don’t know.
Is he a good man?
Better than me?
That means he’s better. And I hope he is. Because I want you to marry him.
Who are you, my father? Do you also have a dowry you’re prepared to offer along with my hand and heart to the first suitable suitor?
))))) Still as witty as ever, Inna )))) But no fooling, Innochka, if he’s a good man, you should marry him. Didn’t you just turn thirty-five? You’re not getting any younger, and old age is not a pleasure, especially when you’re alone.
And what about you?
Let me take care of myself, Inna.
You don’t seem capable of taking care of yourself. You just got hit by a shell!
A shell fragment. If it had been a direct hit, I’d be smeared from here to Rostov ))))
You know what I mean! You say you can take care of yourself, but you’re not doing a very good job of it. For the love of Christ, Dima, go see a surgeon about this wound. And take at least a little break from the front. Go to Kiev, go to Lvov, go to wherever the hell you want, just get out of the Donbass for a while. At least until your shoulder heals.
I obey, Comrade General!!!! )))))
You know it ))))) Wait: aren’t you supposed to be at work? Some kind of training?
They kicked me out for texting.
They kicked you out for texting?!??! What is this, a strict regime of freedom deprivation? Are they going to send you to do corrective labor next?!?
So it seems. But with a paycheck.
A paycheck—that’s good. Get back in there and earn it!
I obey, Comrade General!
Akh, Inna, what am I going to do with you? ))))) Look, I have to go. My phone’s about to die. Try not to get into trouble, okay?
I’ll promise if you will, I wrote. But there was no reply.
I hope you enjoyed it! And here are a few more giveaways:
Did that excerpt want to make you find out more about Dima? You can read a bit about the backstory between him and Rowena in Foreign Exchange. Grab it and many other free suspense stories in the Short Story Suspense Promo.
Want to read about more international women and men of mystery? Check out the International Mysteries & Thrillers giveaway.
And the Thrilling Experience thriller and suspense giveaway is still going strong!