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Thursday, September 3, 2020

WIP it Real Good: A new series from UF author R.J. Blain

Greetings! Thanks so much for hosting me today. Rather than write about the ridiculous number of crystals decorating my desk, or how one of those crystals is actually a t-rex, or how seven of them are unicorns, I thought I’d share the first scene of my upcoming novel, Outfoxed. Outfoxed is the first in the Fox Witch trilogy, which is the opener series in a new world series I’m putting together. World series are a lot of fun, connecting duets, trilogies, and quartets to tell the overlying story of a new alternate Earth and the heroes and heroines who live there.

Please enjoy—and please enjoy the clutter. This was stolen before the editor got her masterful hands on the story.

Outfoxed (The Fox Witch Trilogy)
Friday, May 1, 2043.
Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Alley.
I’d been in the Alley long enough to understand only one thing mattered when faced with yet another twister: survival. The swarm of them headed for Tulsa roared, warning all of their impending arrival. The incessant crash of thunder accompanied the lightning, which struck with such frequency the dark clouds glowed white. I decided to stopped counting after five funnels; one, five, ten—it didn’t matter how many of them snaked down from the sky. If one of them got a hold of me, I’d just be another corpse strewn over the Alley. A day didn’t go by when I didn’t cross a new skeleton in the outskirts.

Death was a way of life outside of the safety of Inner Tulsa.

Another twister joined the party, bringing a cascade of hail with it.

Great. Just great. What was one more? Hadn’t Mother Nature figured out she didn’t need to fling everything she had at Tulsa? A single tornado would’ve done the job just fine.

A few minutes too late to do me any good, the lightning-lit clouds turned a putrid shade of green, a promise that Mother Nature wasn’t screwing around this time. Green meant go, and if I’d had any sense in my head at all, I wouldn’t have left shelter at sunrise; I would’ve stayed in hiding until right before work. Everything would’ve been different if I’d just slept in rather than explore the ruins of Tulsa’s outskirts for salvage.

If I hadn’t been looking for salvage, I wouldn’t have been spotted by the tall, dark, and handsome hot on my heels and determined to ruin my day if he caught up with me.

The swarm would cause me enough problems, but if the bounty hunter caught me, I’d be in worse shape.

Some choices in life were tough, and I hated myself for even contemplating taking my chances with the bounty hunter. Losing my freedom for profit could be reversed. Nothing could reverse death.

I flattened my ears, and I lashed my tail back and forth, the rain whipping off it. While I was part fox, I’d adopted more feline tendencies than canine ones. And I, according the tail and ears I couldn’t banish with any amount of magic, I was definitely a cat trapped in a partly canine body.

I could shift into a full fox, a secret I held close to my chest. The instant anyone learned the truth, I’d go from a common annoyance to a desirable. Nobody cared about powerless hybrids.

Everybody wanted full shapeshifters in their bloodlines, and I had trouble without every wealthy single man on the planet wanting to claim me as his wife.

Since six twisters wasn’t enough, the churning clouds spawned two more, and with unerring accuracy, they surged towards the city in a wall of churning wind, rain, and hail.

Tornado season had come, and it looked like it was going to open with a bang.

I skidded around a corner of a former house, a victim of a twister a few months back before the sky had opted to give us a break for a change. Shacks had sprouted like persistent little weeds, but I expected none of them would survive the storm. I worried for their inhabitants, but if they had half a brain, they’d take shelter in a cellar.

If they didn’t, they’d add to the bodies littering the dying suburban streets.

While I had the advantage of knowledge, the bounty hunter had me beat everywhere else, and he snagged the back of my shirt, yanked hard enough to cut off my breath, and slammed me into the broken brick of the trashed house. “Are you insane?” he screamed over the wind. “You’re not supposed to run towards tornadoes, you little idiot!”

I blinked, checked where I’d been running, and sure enough, Mother Nature had truly tired of my shit, opting to dump another handful of twisters directly into my path. When the twisters converged, probably where we were standing, it’d puree the neighborhood and leave matchsticks in their wake.

Stuck between a rock, a hard place, and a bounty hunter, I had few options if I wanted to keep my head long enough to figure out if death beat being picked up by a bounty hunter. Fortunately, the sensible had left the area anticipating the weather to sour, leaving their storm cellars open for my use—our use, as I wouldn’t leave him behind despite wishing I could ditch him without losing my freedom.

Sometimes, I really questioned why I tried to meet society’s standards of being a good person. Being a good person was a pain in the ass.

As Mother Nature was a bitch on a mission of destruction, the twisters barreled our way. I cursed myself, cursed the hunk of a bounty hunter making a mess of my morning, and cursed my choice of moving to the Alley in the first place. “There’s a cellar nearby.” I pointed down the street in the general direction of my favorite bolt hole, which I’d have to abandon once I shared it with the man out to profit from my head—living head, at least.

The bounty hunters wanting my living head in their possession was looking to be the bright part of my morning.

“Go,” he ordered, giving me a shove to make it clear he was the boss.

Any other day, I would’ve fought him on principle, but the hail came down harder, hammering the broken streets as though determined to flatten the neighborhood without needing the help of a tornado to do it.

I ran for it, my worn shoes slipping on the ice-slicked road. Once again, the bounty hunter snatched my arm, holding me upright until I regained my balance.

Fortunately for us, the cellar wasn’t far. While I wanted to sprint for the opening, I shuffled along so I wouldn’t fall on my ass and need even more help from the man determined to make a profit off me.

Once upon a time, a wooden door had covered the entry into the storm cellar, but the last twister to pass through had torn it off. The sensible never checked it as an option, but I’d learned to leave no stone—or hole—unturned since moving into the Alley. I jumped into the hole, grunted as I splashed into the mud below, and waded through the standing water to the slight rise that led to the second door. I shoved that open, gesturing for the bounty hunter to hurry his hot ass up.

He joined me in the mud, looking less than impressed with my choice of cellars. “Aren’t storm cellars supposed to have doors?”

I pointed at the door behind me. “There are two more, too.”

“I stand corrected. Lead on, Miss Tamrin.”

Yep, the bounty hunter knew exactly who I was, although I would’ve preferred if he’d addressed me as Jade. What sort of bounty hunter addressed their victim so formally, anyway? If I had to share a cellar with someone out for my head, living or otherwise, I was of the opinion we needed to be on a first-name basis. “Got a name, or am I going to have to give you one?”

“More leading, less talking,” he ordered. He cast a glance over his shoulder up at the entry for the cellar, which would be a bitch to escape from after we rode out the storm. “They’re coming.”

I could tell; the ground shook, the wind screamed, and the hail graduated to chunks of ice capable of slamming through someone’s skull with terrifying ease. I shouldered open the door, grimacing at the creaking wood; I gave it another storm or two before it gave up the ghost, too.

Fortunately for me, the slope on the other side made it hard for water to penetrate the cellar, and the third door was crafted of good steel. I scrambled up the incline, waiting long enough for the bounty hunter to follow me through. “Close it,” I ordered.

He did as told, and the tunnel fell into darkness. The wood did little to buffer us from the sounds of the storm tearing through the neighborhood above. I made my way to the crest of the incline by feel, patting until I located the top concrete step. “There’s a set of concrete steps at the top. If you’re not careful, you’ll crack your forehead in the ceiling and fall. It’s a long way down.”

I already regretted my decision to be a good person, as it would lose me access to the best storm cellar I’d found in Tulsa. I’d have to search for a new hiding place and hope it was half as secure and safe from the weather.

Then again, I had to get away from my new unwanted friend first, which would be a challenge considering we’d have to share space until the storm ended.

It could take minutes, hours, or days.

I’d only stashed enough food and water for one person for one week, so if it took days, we’d be in trouble.

The bounty hunter joined me, and I eased down the steps once certain he wouldn’t take a lethal tumble to the steel door below. At the bottom, I felt around for the hatch wheel, grabbed hold, and turned until the door popped open.

Light spilled into the staircase from the luminescent moss I’d cultivated on the walls, barely bright enough to guide my way to the crank-powered lamp. I sat on the concrete floor and went to work charging the device. It’d only last for a few hours before I’d have to charge it again, but it would give me a chance to set up my home away from home.

The bounty hunter entered, closed the steel door, and whistled at my shelter. “I definitely stand corrected. Your file didn’t mention you have a good cellar. You’re listed as a vagrant.”

I scowled; unless rich, wealthy, or a hell of a lot braver than I was, everyone in the Alley counted as a vagrant. We went where the storms were least likely to strike, although there were few places left safe from the weather’s fury.

If I’d been thinking, I would’ve taken him an extra block down the road to a shallower cellar, although I had no idea if it’d survive through an entire swarm of twisters. Sighing, I kept cranking on the lamp. “Who isn’t a vagrant here?” I finally asked, aware of him waiting for an answer.

“Those who live in Asylum.”

Asylum. The rich, the famous, and the powerful received invitations from its lord and master, Benedict Mansfield. He’d bought the land rights beneath Tulsa’s city center, digging deep and converting the sandstone and the underlying limestone into habitable space. I’d given up figuring out how people could live underground long ago; they did, and everyone with a grain of sense and a desire to survive wanted to live in Asylum.

Hell would freeze over before average folks like me were welcomed down there.

I figured Mansfield had the right idea—as long as I ignored how many people would die without access to the underground sanctuary. But when I thought about it, I loathed the man for choosing who got to live and who got to die.

One day, I, along with everyone else uninvited to Asylum, would die to the swarms that grew in number and intensity each passing year.

“They can kiss my ass,” I announced, flipping the switch to turn on the lamp and properly illuminate the cellar. A mess of storage boxes and plastic water bottles littered the floor, and I regretted showing him my disorganized tendencies. “So, are you going to give me your name, or am I going to have to give you one?”

“I’m tempted to find out what sort of name a smart-assed woman like you would give me,” he replied. The lamp offered enough light for me to get a good look of at his face.

His mouth curved into a grin.

It’d been so long since I’d gotten any action that a hot ass bounty hunter out for my head was giving me bad ideas. Damn it, I should’ve taken my chances with the swarm. At least I would’ve emerged from the storm either dead or with my sanity intact. There was nothing sane about what I wanted to do with the man who wanted to turn me in for some quick cash. It involved a complete removal of our clothes and a good time.

Both the clothing removal and a good time were not on the agenda. Unfortunately for me, the cellar, for all it was deep and safe from even the angriest of twisters, didn’t come with a cold shower.

I really needed a cold shower and a stiff drink.

I blamed my unreasonable interest in the man on adrenaline, the aftermath of pure terror, and his sun-kissed skin, too dark to be American caucasian but light enough I pegged him as an Italian, Greek, or some other flavor of Mediterranean European. “I’ll just call you Idiot for testing your luck with a swarm on the way, Idiot.”

“Sandro is preferable to Idiot, but I’ll give you that. It’s pretty idiotic to be outside during a swarm. Should I call you Queen Idiot? I wouldn’t have been out at all if you didn’t insist on taking morning strolls through the hot zone. Did you not pay attention to the forecast?”

His question pegged him as someone from Inner Tulsa or Asylum; nowhere else still had electricity enough to watch tv, use the internet, or otherwise pay attention to the forecast. I hadn’t touched a computer since I’d left the East and run to the Alley to avoid an arranged marriage. Had I known the Alley was just as bad as the rumors claimed, I might’ve thought twice about whatever asshole my parents wanted me to marry to meet their standards rather than mine.

With my luck, Sandro had been paid off by the parental assholes to drag me back to Buffalo, New York to do their bidding through marrying some twerp with better genes than personality.

“You think someone like me is welcome in Inner Tulsa?” I laughed at him, hung the lamp from the chain dangling from the ceiling, and went to work checking over the supplies. Everything was as I’d left it a few weeks prior when I’d prepared for the start of the tornado season.

The steel door and thick concrete walls dulled the storm’s fury to an unsettling rumble. Within an hour, if the swarm persisted, I’d feel the sound in my teeth and be headed straight for madness.

If it continued on for longer than that, I’d be tempted to beat my head into walls to make the sounds filtering down from above go away.

“Your work history is good, and you’re reliable. You could find work in Inner Tulsa easily.” He looked me over, raising a brow. “All you’d have to do to be hired at a strip club is show up.”

“I’ll tell you what. You keep your bounty to yourself until the storm clears, and I won’t bust your balls for implying I’d make a good stripper.”

“I’m not implying. I’m telling you. You’d make one hell of a good stripper. A natural auburn vixen with a good complexion doesn’t come around every day. Hell, now that I’ve gotten my first real look at you, it’s no wonder you’re worth so much. You’re enough to tempt a man to forgo the cash to keep you.”

Had we been in the South, we’d both be at risk of spontaneous combustion. Then again, I wasn’t an elementalist.

I’d be a lot better off if I could convince metal to bend to my will. In a city in constant need of repair, everyone wanted a metal elementalist.

Then again, I didn’t want anyone knowing just what I could do, especially the hot ass bounty hunter already ready to take me into his custody.

If he found out I was a witch on top of being a fully fledged shapeshifter, he’d be drooling all over me like I was a fresh bone up for grabs. I’d also crank his profits through the roof, as being a fully fledged shapeshifter would easily triple my bounty value, whatever it was. Being a witch on top of that?

I’d make him rich in a hurry.

“How about we just keep our hands to ourselves,” I suggested, doing my best to scowl without admiring the man’s lean, muscular body through his rain-soaked clothes. Any other day, I would’ve suggested he wear a coat to keep from getting cold when the storms kicked Tulsa in the face, but his shirt, when wet, did him a lot of justice.

“I’ll do you one better. Let’s call a truce. Once the storm blows over and it doesn’t look like another swarm will hit, I’ll give you a five minute head start. You escape me, you win this round. If I catch you today, you’ll come along quietly. I’d rather not have to hurt you to catch you.”

I could work with a five minute head start. I’d disappear so fast his head would spin, and he’d go home frustrated, alone, and without his quick profits. “Deal.”

The rumble escalated, and the lamp swayed on its chain, a warning one of the twisters passed directly overhead. Sandro frowned, his gaze locking on the light. “I wonder how much damage that swarm’s doing.”

People from all over the United States came to the Alley, and I’d joined everyone else in no longer caring where someone came from. He had an accent compared to the locals, but I couldn’t tell if he was deliberately hiding where he came from or if he always sounded like he could have lived anywhere in the world and magically fit in.

His question, however, told me a simple truth: Sandro hadn’t been in the Alley long. Those who’d survived through their first tornado season no longer cared about the damage ratings of a twister or a swarm.

It didn’t matter.

No matter how bad it got, like a weed in the cracks of a sidewalk, Tulsa endured.

Check out Blain's newest release!

A Chip on Her Shoulder (Magical Romantic Comedies #11)
by R.J. Blain
September 1st 2020
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
After a deal with loan sharks sours, Darlene’s brother is permanently transformed into a chipmunk. Not one to accept impossibility as a good excuse for failure, she’s determined to rescue her brother and secure revenge against those who’d poisoned him with grade-a transformatives.

If she wants to perform a miracle, she’ll need to join forces with a divine, but the man upstairs and his angels refuse to help.

None of the other so-called benevolent divines are willing to help her, either.

Running out of time and options, Darlene prepares to storm the gates of hell for her brother.

She never expected to fall in love with the Devil.

Warning: this novel contains a wo
man with a chip on her shoulder, humor, and one hell of a hero. Proceed with caution.

Rather than try to talk my brother out of the money he rightfully owed them, the local mafia’s loan sharks opted for a more permanent solution to their problem. They transformed my asshole brother, Jonas, into a chipmunk and saddled me with the bill.

My brother had lost his human life for five thousand dollars.

What a waste.

Since that wasn’t bad enough, the goons my brother had pissed off forced me to watch the entire process, which involved forcing him to drink a vial of clear fluid. The transformation took a matter of minutes, and he started screaming within seconds of consuming their concoction.

It took until he’d shrunk to half his true size to stop screaming, and he squealed instead.

Shapeshifting hurt like hell; I went through the gruesome process every few days, when my thin, human skin drove me to the brink of madness. Some days, I took on my more hybrid form, sporting a tail and my feline ears. Sometimes, I tossed in a light coat of spotted fur to ease my discomfort. Sometimes, I kept the thin, human skin to pretend I fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, hiding my tail and ears beneath my clothes. One day I’d give up on hiding my true nature. Every rare now and again, my hybrid transformation came with a full coat of fur, my ears, and my beautiful tail, something I loved.

My light coat was a mockery of my full glory, and one day, I’d master my magic so I decided which parts of me had light fur, no fur, or a thick coat best suited for wintry mountains.

My spots were my best assets, and I loved each and every one of them. Life would be so much better when I could wear my spots whenever I wanted.

When the mood struck me, the night was young, and the weather was cool, I ran as a snow leopard, displaying every one of my spots and hunting through suburbia for prey, typically one of the more annoying squirrels or rabbits to menace my garden.

I’d be hunting for bigger prey soon enough, and I kept my expression cold and calm. Warning my prey I would be coming for them wouldn’t do.

A wise huntress gave no warning before the ambush, and I would use every opportunity to crush the entire mafia. Unlike the local law enforcement, who played by civilized rules, there would be nothing civilized about me.

They had destroyed my family, so I would destroy their family. No, I would do far worse than merely destroy their family. I would destroy their ambition while I was at it. When I finished with them, ruin and suffering would be all I left in my wake.

Sometimes, I was not a very good person. Actually, no. Most of the time I was not a very good person.

I’d learned early on being good left me taken advantage of, alone, and miserable. When I did good, I did it because I wanted to, expecting nothing in return, for I’d learned that lesson well enough.

What went around rarely came around, and I’d gained nothing from any of the good I’d done in my life.

I kept my breaths slow and even, waiting while doing my best to detach myself from the reality of my situation. Panic would win me nothing, neither would fear. Patience might win me a lot, depending on what I learned in the next few minutes.

One of the thugs, someone who’d gotten into a fight with a fire and lost, held a rather nasty gun to my head to make sure I behaved.

I behaved, but only because we had one rule in our household of two: survival came first. Once I survived my current mess, I would add a new rule to our household of one and a rodent: revenge would come eventually.

I couldn’t win against eight men who’d cut their teeth on violence, not even if I transformed and put my sharp claws to good use. Not yet. I’d keep my claws a secret for a little while longer, and when I brought them out, I would shred their entire outfit.

Revenge would be mine, and I would enjoy obtaining it.

Revenge wouldn’t save my brother. If I had fought against the mafia he’d tangoed with, I couldn’t have saved him anyway. They likely would have killed us both. I’d find some way to do the impossible and restore my brother somehow. The man my brother had been was gone, replaced by a chipmunk with a rodent’s puny little brain.

No, he was still my brother, but he possessed a rodent’s puny little brain. He might remember me. He might even be able to understand English and allow me to keep him outside of a cage.


That stung.

My brother was an asshole. He probably deserved some form of punishment at the hands of the mafia, but he was my asshole brother, and nobody beat him other than me.

I would make that our third household rule, and I would adhere to it.

I took my time memorizing the faces of those who’d pay for their crimes. Their scars would make them easy to identify. I wouldn’t forget their scars, I wouldn’t forget their faces, and I gave it a week for me to learn their names.

Then the fun would truly begin.

They weren’t the only ones who could get their hands on transformative drugs. It just cost a little money or having the right ingredients available. I could get the money, and I could go where the rare ingredients grew.

So hellbent on revenge, I barely remembered the conversation leading up to my brother’s transformation into a rather small rodent. I remembered the part about the money, where they wanted me to bring it and when, but the rest remained a blur.

I needed to memorize their scarred faces so I could do what an Esmaranda woman did when she got mad.

I’d get even, and I’d charge interest.

My mother, may her soul rest in peace, had taught me that from the day I’d busted out of maternal prison and escaped her womb.

Picking my brother up by his furry little tail, the lead asshole, who had a rather ugly scar over his nose where someone had failed to slice his skull in half, tossed him my way. I forgot about the gun pointed at me, scrambling to catch my brother so he wouldn’t escape. He squealed and squeaked protests before biting the hell out of my hand.

What an utter asshole. I prevented him from running away and losing all chance of becoming human again, and he bit me? When I refused to let my brother go, he took another chomp out of the fleshy part of my hand connecting my index finger and thumb.

I bled.

The mafia goons laughed, and then they left.

They’d pay for that, too.

Come hell or high water, they’d pay.

About the Author:
RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until satisfied.


  1. I love the covers for this series. It makes me want to click on them and learn more.

  2. The book sounds really good and the cover is fab too.

  3. when i read about the storms i sure didn't expect that, but it only made me more curious
    sherry @ fundinmental

  4. Thanks for hosting today, Sharon!