Kaje Harper Writes Too Many Series… or maybe not enough.
Someone once asked me, “What’s the most interesting criticism you’ve had, as a published author?” I told her probably the one in the title. It was in a lovely, rambling discussion of my work. The critic praised my writing, bemoaned the wait for follow-up series books, then asked for sequels to half my stand-alone novels and novellas. I think the actual, flattering translation was “Kaje Harper should give up her day job, and maybe sleeping and eating, to write.” It was a wonderful affirmation from someone tangled up in all the lives of the guys I create.
I do sympathize. When I started publishing five years ago, I put out quite a few different M/M novels, in a range of subgenres. Some were always meant to be series books, some were supposed to stand alone… except the guys would not shut up in my head. So I ended up with Mac and Tony in the Life Lessons mystery series getting three shorts, and four novels instead of two, John and Ryan from The Rebuilding Year getting an unplanned sequel three years later, a little coda for Into Deep Waters, because someone said there was nothing left for Daniel and Jacob to do but die of old age. (I growled at that, and immediately wrote the two pages of Can’t Hurt to Believe, because life isn’t over until you’re actually dead… or maybe not even then, if you’re Xan in Nor Iron Bars a Cage…)
Eventually, I found myself juggling those series with Finding Family contemporaries, Hidden Wolves werewolf stories, and now Tracefinder paranormal thrillers. As a result, some sequels have been a longer time coming. (Sorry!)
I do try to write solid Happy-For-Now endings in my books. The idea is that, although there are still dangling threads, and relationship stuff yet to work through, a reader can walk away from one of my series installments with a contented sigh. The two (or three) guys are together, at least for now. No one is in peril. The main thread of the plot has some resolution. The next book is hopefully anticipated, but not urgently needed.
In my most recent series, I may have underestimated what that contented HFN would require for some readers. Tracefinder: Contact begins with Nick as an undercover cop, and Brian as both brother-in-law and useful, reluctant employee of the drug lord who is Nick’s target. They are effectively enemies. Brian also has issues of dyslexia, and trying to hide who he is, which work against them getting together. The romance is a slow, slow burn, as a backdrop to the action story. The book does end with them in a far more positive place, if you look back at where they began. But it clearly wasn’t as solid as some people wanted, for that “sigh” moment as they set it down.
In my series-juggling at the time, I had the next Hidden Wolves book underway, plus Travis, Rick, and brother Sam, waiting to find out how they’ll move on from the events I put them through in The Family We Make. But Nick and Brian, and the readers intrigued by them, began urgently tugging on my mental sleeve. So after finishing the draft of Unsafe Exposure; Hidden Wolves Book 4, I turned back to my Tracefinder series.
I think Tracefinder: Changes will satisfy most readers with the progress Brian and Nick make through the book. Brian addresses the issues that make him a controversial romantic main character, and Nick deals with the fallout from starting a relationship on the wrong side of the law. It was great fun to write their adventures, especially when big brother Damon popped up to wreak havoc halfway through. So for once, I got a second series book out in just six months. I love the fact that readers are already looking for the third (and yes, there will be a Book 3.)
I hope that Tracefinder: Changes will now leave readers with that happy sigh moment, and a breathing space while I write a couple other stories. The Wolves will release in a month. Travis, Rick, and Sam and their Family are calling. But I will be back with more Nick and Brian, probably in early 2017.
…“Kaje Harper writes way too many series. But Full Circle really needs a sequel. And so does Nor Iron Bars…”
I can’t imagine any nicer back-handed compliment.
For those who have read book 1 – Tracefinder: Contact – or who are just intrigued by the sound of the series, here’s a small, fairly spoiler-free, excerpt from Tracefinder: Changes, Book 2.
Brian urgently wants to use his psychic Finding talent to do good, even though his almost-boyfriend Nick is scared of the risk. When suburban mom Emily Stewart is reported missing by her loving husband and three kids, Brian is willing to expose his ability to the cops, to help Find her. But although Officer Quentin fetches a possession of Emily’s for Brian to track psychically, he is not convinced…
Quentin pulled out a white terrycloth headband from his pocket and held it up. “This is hers. She went running every day. But if we’re going to do this, it’s going to be under my control.”
“You can drive my car,” Nick suggested.
“I’ll do it in the cop car,” Brian said.
Nick tugged on Brian to pull him aside. “You don’t have to. He’s hooked on the idea. Say no a few times, and he’ll change his mind. That squad car’s got a dash cam, sound recording. You don’t want to do this.”
“Come on.” Quentin dangled the sweatband. “Let’s either start, or I’ll head back to the real search.”
Nick winced, and sure enough, Brian said, “All right.”
Nick fell in next to Quentin. Under his breath he muttered, “You’re a paranoid fucker, and if anything bad happens because you couldn’t handle one psychic without your toys, I’m coming after you.”
“What? Can’t pull off the fake in a squad car?”
“He’s no fake.”
Brian was waiting impatiently. “Nick, you get in back. I’ll sit up front.”
Quentin popped the locks, walked around, and got in the driver’s seat. Brian scrambled in beside him, and Nick reluctantly got into the back. The safety divider between them meant Brian was out of reach, isolated up there with Quentin. Nick tried not to let that shake him. He leaned forward, close to the bars. “No recording devices, Quentin. Got it?”
“Better not be or—” Right, don’t threaten the cop inside the squad car. “Ready, Brian?”
“Give me her band.” Brian held out his hand to Quentin.
Quentin dropped the sweatband onto his palm. “There.” He made his voice all quavery. “Now tell me you see… trees, and… grass, right?”
“He doesn’t do vague images,” Nick said, watching Brian’s face. There’s that inward look, the way his eyes unfocus.
Brian turned the band over in his hands, stretching it, and running his fingers inside it. He suddenly squeezed it in a fist. “This is hers? You’re sure?”
Nick leaned closer to the partition. “Quentin, if you’re playing games—”
“I’m not. Don’t have the time for that.”
Brian closed his eyes and pressed the fabric to his forehead. Nick winced, because if you didn’t know how rarely he screwed his face up like that, you might take it for fake-medium behavior. “It’s faint. Maybe she didn’t use this a lot yet.” But his hand eventually rose. “Yeah. That way.”
Quentin turned to Nick. “That way what?”
“Go where he points. Think of it like a compass, or a string with her at the end of it.”
“Really?” Quentin shifted out of park and started driving. For a few minutes, he turned corners, glancing over as Brian’s index finger swung back and forth, always settling to the southwest. After another series of turns, he said, “That’s the direction we found her car.”
“So? It makes sense, right?” Nick braced himself against the sway. The hard back seat was slippery, and echoes of some of his worst teen moments came back to him, sitting here behind the protective screen.
“Easy to fake,” Quentin muttered.
Brian’s eyes stayed closed in concentration, and his raised hand trembled. He whispered, “She’s that way. The mom.”
“Okay.” Quentin hit a faster road.
Suddenly, Brian shrieked, “No!” His voice was ear-splittingly shrill, and the car swerved as Quentin reacted. “No, no, no!” Brian collapsed forward, huddled over, head buried in his arms.
Quentin pulled to the shoulder and stopped. “What the fuck! Don’t do that while I’m driving!”
“She’s dead.” Brian dropped the headband to the floor at his feet and rocked, hands locked in his hair. “It’s gone. She died. She’s dead.”
“Ooh, yeah. Very convincing.” Quentin’s acid tone was more confident than his expression. “Nice save, psychic boy. It’s a decent bet she’s gone by now, and when they find her, eventually, you can be all, like, ‘I knew it. I couldn’t find her because she was dead. I’m so psychic.’ Should I clap now?”
“Shut up!” Nick pressed his hand against the divider. Brian was sobbing, harsh deep cries that gained volume and pitch. Nick turned to get out, but of course he was locked in. “Let me out of here.
He’s not faking it.”
“Sure he’s not.” But Quentin put the car into park and opened Nick’s door.
Nick yanked open the front door and put a hand on Brian’s bowed back. His muscles were rock hard under Nick’s touch, and his whole body shook. Nick patted him awkwardly. “It’s okay.”
“No, it’s not!” The last word rose into panic territory.
Nick met Quentin’s gaze over Brian’s doubled-up form. Quentin’s mouth twisted. “Well, isn’t this exciting? But not helpful.”
“Fuck you.” Nick wanted to punch that smug sneer off his face, except he felt Brian jolt at the harshness of his tone. Brian hated violence. “Money where your mouth is, asshole. I’ll bet you five hundred bucks they find that she died, right about now, right along a line from here to…” He pointed, more or less the direction Brian had. “Out there, somewhere. On this line.”
Quentin glanced that way. “Since that points to her car, sure. Sucker bet.”
“Time of death—” He glanced at the dashboard clock. “—four twenty-three. Money. Mouth.”
Brian sobbed harshly. “Can we just go? I want to go home. My head hurts. Can we please go?”
It wasn’t Bry’s thick, slow voice, but there was a hint around the edges of the way Brian would retreat into Bry under stress. “Sure,” Nick told him. “Quentin will drive us back to the car right now, so we can go home.” He tried to drill his gaze out the back of Quentin’s head. No more harassing Brian.
“Might as well,” Quentin muttered. “Not like this is helping.”
Nick held back his anger. Brian was clearly on the edge of losing it— well, losing it worse— so he kept his tone soft and even. “He can’t Find the dead, just the living. I’m sorry we were too late.” Even that made Brian cry harder. Nick patted his shoulder. “You want to get in the back with me?” Brian shook his head, so Nick closed the door and slid into the back seat. “Turn it around, Quentin.”
The drive back to the café was like nails on a blackboard, each minute raking over Nick’s taut nerves. Brian was clearly holding back as much as he could, but he stayed hunched over and shaking. The occasional wracking sob got past his resistance. Every time, Quentin huffed a breath like he couldn’t wait to dump Brian out on the street. Each delay for a stop sign or traffic light made Nick want to hit something. He clenched his fists until his hands hurt…
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Kaje Harper grew up in Montreal, and spent her teen years writing, filling binders with stories. But as life got busy, the stories began to just live in her head. The characters grew, met, endured, and loved, in any quiet moment, but the stories rarely made it to paper. Her time was taken up by work in psychology, teaching, and a biomedical career, and the fun of raising children.
Eventually the kids became more independent and her husband gave her a computer she didn’t have to share. She started putting words down in print again, just for fun. Hours of fun. Lots of hours of fun. The stories began piling up, and her husband suggested if she was going to spend that much time on the keyboard she ought to try to publish one. MLR Press accepted her first submission, the M/M mystery Life Lessons, which came out in May 2011. Kaje now has many novels and short stories published, including Amazon bestseller The Rebuilding Year, and a selection of free short stories and novels in a variety of gay romance genres, available at most ebook retailers. She currently lives in Minnesota with a creative teenager, a crazy omnivorous little white dog, and a remarkably patient spouse.
Website: http://kajeharper.wordpress.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KajeHarper Goodreads Author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4769304.Kaje_Harper
Or you can find me moderating my Young Adult LGBT Books group on Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/49526-ya-lgbt-books