#BlogTour • Amazon Bestseller —The Harbinger by Keegan Kennedy + an Interview & Giveaway
WITH KEEGAN KENNEDY
Please help me welcome bestselling author, Keegan Kennedy, to MM Book Escape. I'm thrilled to have him here and he's brought some goodies to share with us today. There is a great excerpt to read plus he brought a giveaway for two lucky readers. First, a few questions so let's get started.
What advice would you give a new writer just starting out? Be true to your vision. Don’t let a publishing house tell you what you have to write or that your book must have a happy ending. Almost no one in my life reads my writing, so don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. On a more practical note, edit, read, edit, read, edit, read. Plot your book, tighten it, make it pack a punch. Give them something they’ve never seen before. If you see a glaring omission in a genre, set out to conquer it. Invest in grammar software, a thesaurus, and a stock photo website to find covers
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)? That readers can take things so very personally. I’ve been called: a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a pervert, a capitalist, a communist, a socialist, anti-religious, anti-Russian, an agist. I’ve been accused of not really being gay, accused of being a woman, accused of being gender confused, that I’m stupid, that I can’t write, that I should be arrested, that I molested as a child... I’ve had death threats; I’ve been told I have no clue about sex. I’ve been called a disgrace to the gay community. You name it. I usually just laugh.
What is the hardest part about writing for you? Two things. As an indie author, it isn’t easy to find readership. I’ve had to relentlessly promote and seek readers. And the other is attempting to break out of the niche of kinky erotica that so many of my contemporaries are so eager to box me into.
Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb. I actively challenge stereotypes of women, racial minorities, and gay people. One of the toughest characters turns out to be gay. Also, The Harbinger highlights the incredible diversity of the city of Memphis.
Tell us something about your work in progress. What is it about? I’m starting a new series about two men, who aren’t completely likable, who are star-crossed lovers. I wanted to challenge the romance novel genre—one that i truly love. At this time, I can’t use the character names or the title of the series as sometimes, the name of the work and the characters have been known to suddenly turn up in a hastily written project. I’ve found as an indie author that the element of surprise is paramount.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Harbinger was born, in part, from growing up in the 1980's. At that time, our culture was plagued by fear. It was everywhere--on the news, in conversations, in nightmares... As I think back, nuclear war was often presented by the media as a likely event. In retrospect, I now see it for what it was... Reagan-Era propaganda that was meant to keep everyone scared shitless.
Unfortunately, things haven't changed too much... But it wasn't just the media. Every other movie out there, it seemed, were full of slashers and killers, wars and disasters, and the end of the world. My favorites of these movies were always the huge Hollywood disaster flicks with fabulous all-star casts. Gloom and doom and the fantasy of starting over are common themes that endlessly fascinate us. And, of course, we're still in the grips of our zombie obsession.
My background is in gay romance and erotica. As a fan of post-apocalyptic and Sci-Fi fiction, I've noticed the glaring absence of major gay characters. Usually, they're resigned to be comic sidekicks, minor characters with occasional one-liners, or characters unable to defend themselves.
Two of the four major characters in The Harbinger are gay and are portrayed in a realistic light, as flawed people who are just like anyone else--fighting to survive. Of course, there are some zombie-type creatures, but my "creepers" aren't like anything I've read before. It would be incorrect to categorize this as a "gay" or "zombie" book because there's much more going on...
I wanted to express a different point of view that is lacking in most post-apocalyptic books. Instead of jumping into the middle of the story and telling how the world fell apart in a flashback, lasting for maybe a page and a half, which is fine for some writers and fans, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to examine and watch the world fall apart through the eyes of the characters and attempt to convey the emotions they experience.
So The Harbinger begins with these characters living their lives with their own sets of issues and problems. Before they know it, their worlds have been annihilated and they face these extraordinary circumstances.
It starts as a whisper, barely audible.
Rumors. Paranoia. Conspiracy theories. Subterfuge.
Like lightning, the plague moves across the globe, spreading out in all directions. When the naysayers can no longer ignore the wails and moans of the dying, the Harbinger will already have them by their throats.
But the end is only the beginning. . .
Discovered in the Alaskan permafrost, the ancient virus was reanimated and genetically-altered. The new strain showed great promise in curing many of mankind’s afflictions. When the specimen fell into the hands of the Russian theocracy, their inept scientists attempted to create a biological weapon—a weapon that outsmarted them.
Now, the androvirus is a deadly airborne plague, conquering the world in a matter of days. With a communicability of 100% and a mortality rate of over 90%, there is no immunity. For the survivors, who can suppress the virus, there is only change. A few adapt, but most become walking, talking gray horrors with an appetite for flesh.
Primarily set in the American city of Memphis, four loosely-connected strangers, caught up in their lives, find their worlds annihilated by the swiftly-moving plague.
Alex Connelly is a wealthy, young executive, living an idyllic life with his pregnant wife, Madison. Kirk Foster is a self-absorbed aging gay man, desperate to hang onto his youth and sex appeal. Meredith Brinkley’s on-going war with breast cancer takes a turn for the worse, and she faces an impending double mastectomy. Logan King is a closeted baseball jock, playing for a minor league team while coming to terms with his true identity. And only together will they survive...
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“Will one of you please tell me what-the-fuck is going on?” Logan demanded.
They’d taken refuge in a convenience store a few streets from where they’d started—the cop had used his nightstick to punch through the glass of the front door. The four had rushed inside, locked the doors behind them, and pushed a display of magazines in front of the entrance.
Inside, the air was stuffy and there were no signs of life. While the cop grabbed a beer out of the dead cooler, the athletic woman with the dark hair started stuffing candy bars into her purse while the red-haired woman tore into a pack of cigarettes and lit one.
Seeming not to hear Logan’s emphatic question, the Asian cop said to the dark-haired female. “You’d be better off with cans of food instead of those candy bars.”
“I like my Snickers!” she defended.
Beside the baseball player was a display of souvenir license plates. Somewhere between scared out of his mind and angry, Logan shoved it, causing the display to fall and bang loudly against the floor.
That got their attention.
“I asked ya, what-the-fuck is going on around here?!” Logan asked again.
“Calm down, man,” the cop said, approaching him.
“Stop throwing shit around!” the dark-haired woman scolded. “Do ya want them to hear us?!”
The police officer extended his hand. “I’m Simon Tanaka. What’s your name?”
“Logan – Logan King.”
“That’s Nina,” Simon said, pausing. The cop looked over at the dark-haired woman. “Hell, I don’t even know your last name.”
Nina smiled. “Castillo.” She turned toward Logan. “I’m Nina Castillo.”
“I’m Katie Reardon,” the red-haired woman chirped, pulling a chair from behind the counter and taking a seat as she inhaled the cigarette.
“I appreciate the introductions,” the baseball player said irritably. “But who or what are those things? And what’s going on around here?”
“Were ya living in a cave for the last couple of days?” Nina asked sharply.
“I know about the flu, well, sort of… But I’d appreciate it if y’all would quit answering my questions with more questions,” Logan requested strongly.
“I guess we have been doing that,” Simon replied, after killing the rest of the warm Michelob Ultra. “Sorry.” His face was sincerely apologetic. “I don’t know everything, but I’ll tell ya what I do know.”
“Please,” Logan said, grabbing a protein bar off the shelf nearest to him.
“There was no warning.” Simon paused. “My wife and I are separated, and she got sick, so my daughters were staying with me until Robin got better, but she died. But both of my daughters caught it too, so did my parents, and so did everyone I knew. And then they all died.”
“It was the same for me,” Nina spoke up. “I lived with my boyfriend. He got sick and died, and so did everyone on our street except for one person.” She opened a warm can of Coke and took a sip. “My next door neighbor, a white lady, named Mrs. Winston, was sick, so I took care of her. Then she seemed to get better. But her eyes turned black, and she went crazy.” Her angular face was grave. “Then she tries to bite me, telling me how hungry she was in this creepy voice. I ran away and locked myself in the house. Later, I peeped out the curtains and saw Mrs. Winston eating a dead body on the street.”
“She was eating a dead body!” Logan gasped.
“She was. It was… It was,” Nina hesitated, “I can’t find the right words to describe my emotions at that moment.”
“I was a nursing student,” Katie said. “Well, I guess I can say that I still am instead of using past tense… Anyway, I was here for summer school. My roommate at the dorm, Cherise, died, and so did everyone else. It’s the same all over, I suppose.” She tossed the cigarette onto the floor and stomped it out with her foot.
“After I buried my daughters,” Simon was momentarily solemn, “and because of the communication blackout,” the cop strolled to the cooler and grabbed another beer, “I went out to find other people, but the person I found, a naked woman with gray skin, tried to bite me. The creepers move slowly, so I outran her.”
“Creepers?” Logan asked. “Like old men that go after younger people for sex?”
“I didn’t know the word creeper was a thing.” Simon shrugged, twisting the top off his second beer. “Creepers are what I call those things out there. Since they move so slowly and have poor coordination, the name seems to fit.” He took a swig. “The next person I came across—a naked guy—was in the same condition as the woman. He came toward me with this raging gray boner. When he tried to grab me, I shot him, but it took ten bullets to take him down.”
“You have to aim for the head,” Katie said. “If you hit them there, they go down.”
“I saw it when ya shot that kid,” said Logan. “Even with a hole in his chest, he kept coming, but the headshot got him.”
“If it wasn’t bad enough that our families are dead and that we have no answers,” Katie fumed, “now, we have to contend with those sickly survivors creeping around trying to eat us.”
“So they were sick like all the people who died?” Logan asked.
“Yeah,” the dark-haired woman replied. “At least Mrs. Winston was… When Chuy died,” Nina began, “that was my boyfriend’s name—Chuy. He turned all pale and his eyes got cloudy, sort of milky. But those things are different. Their skin turns gray and their eyes grow as black as the devil’s heart. And you can see their veins through their skin. The veins are so prominent that they look like tattoos.”
“And what’s up with the cats?” asked Logan. “I saw a cat eating a dead woman’s face earlier.”
With her freckles, creamy skin, and blue eyes, Katie smiled at him. “Well, I saw an old creeper woman eating a live cat.”
“Everything’s on the menu!” Nina proclaimed sarcastically as she pulled her long black hair into a ponytail and secured it with a braided hair tie. “And to add, I saw a creeper eating a dead dog.”
“So these folks who got sick and recovered try to eat people and animals—alive or dead,” Logan stated.
“Looks like it,” the cop said. “But we’re lucky they move slowly. They stagger like they’re drunk or have some sort of neuropathy.”
“From what you’re describing, they almost sound like zombies from the movies,” Logan observed.
“Zombies don’t exist,” Nina stated firmly as she stood next to Logan. “So I reject that observation!” She winked at him. “No offense.”
“None taken,” he replied with a faint smile.
“Before a day or two ago, I wouldn’t have said that killer flus existed either,” Katie countered, “but we all see how that worked out.”
“You have a point,” Nina conceded, “but since when do zombies talk?”
“That – I don’t know,” admitted Katie.
“This all still seems like some sort of nightmare.” Simon shook his head. “Killer flus, zombies, apocalypses.”
“Unless we’re all trapped in the same nightmare, it looks like this is our new reality,” Nina said dryly.
“If you estimate the numbers, it’s sobering,” Katie observed.
“What numbers?” Nina asked.
“Out of the people who survived this plague, I’ve noticed—and I think y’all have noticed too—there are a lot more of them than us. Combined we’ve seen hundreds of creepers, but so far, there are only four of us.”
“That’s not good,” Logan agreed, contemplating all of it. “Did y’all see a group larger than the one that was coming at us earlier?”
Standing in front of the counter, Simon was loading bullets into his pistol’s magazine. “Yeah, before I ran into Nina and Katie, I saw a huge group migrating down Danny Thomas Boulevard—had to be forty to fifty of ‘em… From what I’ve seen, they start off alone, but they band together, whispering and hissing words at each other.”
“I hate how they talk and the disgusting things they say, like: I eat skin or I smell your blood.” Katie shook her head. “It’s disturbing.”
“If there’s just one or two of them, they’re easy to deal with, but you saw that group coming for us when they heard the gunshot,” Nina said.
Logan nodded. “How long have y’all been traveling together?”
“Since this morning,” Nina replied. “I ran into Simon when I went to look for other people. Then we ran into Katie.”
“Where is it you’re trying to get to?” asked Logan.
“A safe place,” Simon said. “About a mile or so away is my old precinct on Peabody Place. We’re gonna check it out and see if it’s secure.”
“And hopefully, we’ll run into some government people or someone who knows more about what’s going on,” Nina added.
“What about you?” the police officer asked Logan.
“Well, my family lives in Missouri,” he began. “I was gonna try to go there to check on my folks, but they blew up the bridges.”
“Wait, did you see what happened to the bridges?!” Katie asked.
“Yeah,” Logan revealed, “the bridges were blocked with cars, so people were trying to cross from Memphis to Arkansas on foot. There were gunshots, and then helicopters fired these missiles.” His voice trailed off for a moment. “Those assholes in the helicopters just blew up the bridges with hundreds of people on them, maybe over a thousand.” He shook his head. “They killed all of them – just killed ‘em… like dogs. It made my blood run cold.”
“Who did it?! Who blew up the bridges?!” Nina asked, anger flashing across her face.
“I don’t know for sure, but the helicopters came from the Arkansas side of the river,” Logan replied. “If I had to guess, I’d say they were Army or National Guard.”
“Jesus!” Simon exclaimed. “Why does this not surprise me?”
“Did any of y’all talk to people out of town?” asked Logan. “They said on the news that this flu was everywhere, but I’m holding out hope that my folks are okay.”
“I talked to my mother before the phones went out,” Nina said sadly. “She said the sickness was in San Antonio.”
Katie nodded. “Before the phones went down, I talked to my mother in New Orleans and my friend, Camille, in Oregon. There were people sick there too.”
“Hold up!” Simon interjected, his eyes fixing on Logan. “What did they say on the news?”
“Did you guys watch TV last night before the last channel went off?”
All three shook their heads.
“So you don’t know,” he realized aloud.
“We don’t know what?” Nina asked pointedly.
Logan inhaled. “Do you remember how CNN kept pimping those same news stories about the Texas Separatists and North Korean hackers?”
“Yeah,” the cop stated.
“There was this one news commentator, Ariana Hernandez, who had that show Night’s Edge Live. Have y’all ever watched her?”
Nina nodded. Katie shook her head.
“I have – she’s hot,” Simon added.
Logan took a deep breath. “She went off the rails and said all kinds of things… She called out the United States Government for concealing the truth – that there were no hackers or terrorists. And she said that the government were the ones who grounded all the flights and pulled the plug on the Internet.”
“Are you fucking serious?” Katie stood, her oval face was incredulous.
Nina scrutinized him. “I hope for your sake that you’re telling the truth – because if you’re some sort of idiot or crazy or a pathological liar, I’ll have to kick your ass!”
Logan knew she was serious. “I’m telling the truth!” he proclaimed. “But I genuinely understand your skepticism. Ariana Hernandez also said this flu was something created in a lab over in Russia – it started over there. She said it was everywhere.” He paused. “She described this as the deadliest threat we’ve ever faced as a species.” Logan looked at each of them. “Those words stuck with me… She said that the military were making them read prepared statements to purposely mislead the American people and that her own husband had died from this illness.”
“What else did she say?” Nina asked anxiously.
“She wasn’t able to say anything else,” Logan replied darkly. “Someone off-camera shot her in the back of the head and the screen turned to static. CNN didn’t come back on, and a few hours later, neither did the power.”
“Holy shit!” Simon exclaimed, the shock evident on his square face. “She revealed the truth and they killed her!” He shook his head. “That was incredibly brave of her.” He was clearly impressed. “She had some cast-iron balls.”
“Why would the government lie to us?” Katie asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I don’t know,” Logan said bleakly. “We may never know.”
“Something told me the stories on TV were bullshit,” Simon grumbled.
“How did ya know?” Katie questioned.
“I didn’t – just a feeling I had,” the police officer replied.
“Quiet!” Nina whispered loudly, her body stiffening. “I hear them coming. Get down.”
The conversation halted and all four crouched.
At first, there was nothing—all was silent. Then came the collective hum of low, hissing voices. Next was the sound of slow, dragging footsteps on the sidewalk outside.
As he listened, perfectly still and crouching next to Nina, panic rose in Logan’s chest and his heart pounded in his ears. In the shadows of the darkened store, Simon peeked around a display and watched them pass. For several minutes they waited, listening to the drone of their voices and their dragging footfalls. Apparently, it was a large group.
Finally, the pack of creepers passed.
“They’re gone,” Simon said, standing.
Nina and Logan stood too.
With trembling hands, Katie lit another cigarette. “How many were there?” she asked.
“A couple of dozen or so. It might’ve been the same group that we roused with the gunshots while saving Logan here.”
Logan smiled. “Again, I can’t thank y’all enough for that.”
“Don’t mention it, man,” the cop replied, patting him on the back.
“So what should we do now? Stay here?” Nina asked, fanning herself with her hand.
“No, this place isn’t safe.” Simon jogged over to the blocked door and looked out the glass windows. “They may be slow, but a group of them could’ve shoved through the doors or come through those windows.”
“Where did you two get guns?” asked Logan.
“Both belonged to me,” Simon stated. “I gave Nina the one she has.” He looked over at Logan. “Do you have a gun or any weapons in your backpack?”
“I found a Beretta on a dead guy, but there weren’t any bullets.” Logan tore open another protein bar. “He’d used the last one on himself.”
“My precinct is close. I say we stick to the original plan, make a break for it, see if anyone is there, and,” he paused, “the station has a generator.”
Logan, Nina, and Katie looked over at Simon, the word generator causing their eyes to at gleam with excitement.
“Does that include an air conditioner?” Nina asked hopefully.
“Yes, but I don’t know how much fuel it has.”
“What about showers with hot water?” Logan asked.
“Yes. Plus, we need to get more ammo.” He looked at Logan and Katie. “Do you two know how to shoot?”
“Yeah,” said Logan.
“I’m willing to learn,” Katie added.
“Okay, we’ll get some guns.” Simon shook the keys in the pocket of his snug uniform pants. “I have the keys to the doors and the gun cabinet. After we get situated, then we try to find others – others like us. Because that old saying is true about strength in numbers. Six, nine, or twelve people with guns can do a lot more damage than four. So pack up as many things as ya can in here, like food and water, and let’s get moving.”
Spotting something behind the cash register, Logan moved behind the counter.
“Logan, I don’t think we’re gonna need the money from the cash register,” Nina said.
“I wasn’t going for that,” he replied, turning and brandishing a baseball bat. “I played for the Redbirds, and since I don’t have a gun with bullets yet, I’m pretty sure this’ll come in real handy.” Logan swung the bat through the air, stopping before striking a display of cheap Memphis-themed fridge magnets. With the bat in his hands, he found himself grinning for the first time since he’d last seen Derrick.
And after all the insanity, the deaths, and the collapse of everything he’d known, Logan’s reunion with this particular old friend left him with a small semblance of normal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally hailing from Mississippi, Keegan Kennedy is a writer based out of Memphis, TN. He has a knack for uncovering love and romance in the darkest of places. With a tendency toward the melodramatic, he does more than arouse or excite the reader - he engages them.
Author of Homecoming: International Number One in four countries: The United States, The United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. (2013) Other chart number ones: The Substitute Wife, Magnificent Pretense, Captivated, Ganymede 4, West Texas Rivalry, and the Ties that Bind.
10 Things I Want to Do Before I Die
1. Have sex with (top him) gay porn star Riley Price.
2. Meet Kylie Minogue.
3. Visit Easter Island.
4. Visit Iceland.
5. Visit Sweden.
6. Smoke weed with Willie Nelson.
7. Be topped by Actor Andy Buckley (David Wallace from The Office)
8. Write an international best seller.
9. Retire from my day job to write full time.
10. Pay off my student loans.
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