Monday, January 28, 2013

Author Post: Kendall McKenna Talks Books

Hello! My name is Kendall McKenna and I write M/M erotic romance novels and novellas. I always start with that introduction when I do guest blogs or blog hops so people know what they’re getting into, right up front! My stories not only feature hot men falling in love, but also having lots of hot sexin’!

The result is that I could possibly bust out swear words or give a graphic descriptions of body parts or sex acts. Just so we’re clear! I think we’re all family here, though!

When I asked our hostess if there was a topic she wanted me to discuss, she gave me a really great one:
What makes a good book? Is what you like to read in a good book different from what you write in a book, or do you try to incorporate the things you enjoy reading about?

We agreed that that beauty of the topic was that no two writers will answer in the same way.

What might set me apart from other readers or authors is that I differentiate between good (quality) and entertaining (enjoyable). Some books I’ve read are well written from a technical aspect; word usage, grammar, punctuation, showing not telling, tight POV, use of all five senses by POV character(s). Some books I’ve read are entertaining; fun characters, engaging story, good sexual tension, but sometimes poorly written from the technical standpoint. The true gems are the books that combine the two. Those are the ones I re-read, analyze, break down, recommend, and sometimes stalk the author!

Writing a quality story is part innate talent and part learned skill. Constructing character and story arcs, pacing, showing not telling, sentence construction, grammar and punctuation are all skills that can be learned through practice and constructive criticism. A smooth, clear, pleasant narrative voice isn’t that easy to learn. It’s more of an innate talent.

Creating and enjoyable, entertaining story though; that’s part innate talent, good luck, dumb luck, and magic. It’s also much more subjective. Not every reader finds the same things entertaining. A formula that works in one story, won’t necessarily work in another, and no one is entirely sure why. The same author will create one pairing that captivates readers, and another pairing that leaves readers lukewarm. Some writers actually have knack for it, and we can all name them. They have an extensive back catalog of much loved stories and we all read them and we all stalk the writer!

Do I like to read in a good book different from what I like to write? Yes and no. I like to read fantasy/sci-fi, vampires, Regency historicals, and chick-lit, but I have no desire to write any of those (yet). I always want my stories to be technically ‘good’. I work hard to make sure they’re well written. If I use a trope, I try to give it a new twist. I always work to write something that hasn’t been done before, or at least isn’t done as often.

Because I like to read well written m/m erotic stories with graphic content, strong male characters, plot beyond the romance, action scenes, and character growth and development, those are the things I do try to write. My love scenes are details and graphic. Some of them are pretty aggressive and not on the romantic or gentle side. I will not feminize one of my male characters, they will both always be very masculine and very male. There may come a time when I write a character that is more on the feminine side of the scale, because those types of men do exist in the real world. But I don’t like and I won’t write a male character who is simply ‘representing’ a woman in my stories. I much prefer to write a plot that the romance revolves around, versus using the romance as the primary plot. I write the romance so that the story development also advances the romance. I like a good action scene that makes my heart race and I’ve learned how to craft that type of scene realistically. There’s a trick to it, the narrative isn’t like the rest of the story. And finally, I give my characters an arc beyond plot resolution and falling in love. I give them something to learn, something to move past, or the resolution to reach for something they desire (no, not the man they love!).

On the flip side, my latest release (Strength of the Pack) is a shifter story, and I don’t read shifter stories. I’ve read a couple of them, many years ago, but it’s nothing I’ve ever sought out. Yet, I’m one book into a series of werewolf stories. I knew going in that I would end up writing something very different, because I don’t have the influence of other shifter stories. There was never any guarantee anyone would like my take on the concept. The genre is popular for a reason, too much deviation from the ‘rules’ could have very easily alienated readers. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

I’ve decided I’m not going to start reading shifter books now; at least not until I’m finished with this series. I’m going to continue to write this series blind, and hope the future stories make the readers as happy as the first installment has.

So, what does this all mean? When you get right down do it, I don’t think it’s possible for writers to completely divorce themselves from their own tastes and preferences when writing. On some level, we’re always writing the things we enjoy reading. It’s even possible that we’re attempting to perfect or ‘correct’ things that we’ve read, that we feel could have been done better, or should have been done differently. Our stories are our fantasies, we gain a level of emotional satisfaction from what we write. The books we enjoy reading also provide us with a level of emotional satisfaction. The two are inextricably linked, whether we’re aware of it or not.

So, are you curious about the book everyone is talking about? Check out the info below on Strength of the Pack.

 Lieutenant Lucas Young doesn’t know much about shifters. When Sergeant Noah Hammond is assigned to Lucas’ platoon, the Marine Corps’ True Alpha werewolf challenges the Lieutenant’s authority and his self-control. As Lucas learns to dominate and command Noah, he struggles against a strong attraction and deepening emotional bond.

During their combat deployment to Afghanistan, Lucas and Noah begin mirroring legendary partnerships. Their bond and their power grow as they survive dangerous combat and ambushes. When one of them is wounded in battle, they both must embrace the strength of their bond before they lose each other forever.

Lucas pulled his SUV into the parking lot. The sun blazed orange and hung low over the ocean, streaking the sky with shades of red and purple. Lucas estimated it was about forty-five minutes before sunset. There were several vehicles already parked, but Lucas knew there would be many more rolling in.
Noah was easy to spot, leaning against the spare tire of a Jeep, legs crossed at the ankles. A thrill ran the length of Lucas’ spine as he took the parking place beside the Jeep. Stepping out into the still warm evening, he realized he wouldn’t need the jacket he’d brought.

“I will admit, Lieutenant,” Noah said by way of greeting, “I didn’t think you’d actually show up.” His eyes were glittering silver.

“I said I would, Sergeant,” Lucas replied. “Why would you doubt it?”

“Not a mistake I will make again,” Noah drawled laconically.

Lucas knew there was more meaning behind that statement than was immediately obvious. He held out the clipboard with the roster of werewolves expected to show tonight. “Do you already have one of these?”
Noah glanced at the list and back up into Lucas’ eyes. “I won’t need that, sir. But if it makes you feel better to use it as a back-up, by all means.”

He knew Noah was laughing at him, and Lucas bristled. “You can keep track of exactly who shows up tonight and if they make it back in the morning, without writing anything down?”

“Yes, sir, I can.” It was a simple statement of fact, devoid of any arrogance.

“Since we’re off duty, we can set rank aside for the evening,” Lucas said, wondering at the wisdom of his words even as he spoke them. “Explain to me how you keep track of such a large group of shifters.”

“Yes…Lucas,” Noah replied. His face was expressionless, but his voice was laced with humor. “At the end of the night there will be two distinct scent trails for everyone who turns out for the run. If there’s any trail that goes out but doesn’t return, I’ll use that to track down the missing werewolf.”
Lucas ignored the tug of attraction he felt at Noah’s subtle amusement. “Does that happen often?” he asked brusquely.

“No, Lucas. Not very.”

Lucas suppressed a shiver at the husky, suggestive way Noah said his name. It had to be due to his impending shift into wolf form. He watched as Noah’s nostrils flared slightly.

“When it does,” Noah continued. “It’s usually a case of someone misjudging how far out they’ve run. Occasionally, I have to deal with trapped legs or lacerated paw pads.”

Lucas thought of how Noah always seemed to be scenting him. “Is that how you all keep track of each other?” He silently chastised himself for hoping he was something special.

Noah’s eyes narrowed as he studied Lucas for several seconds. “Are you asking if every werewolf is able to differentiate between over a hundred individual scent trails and identify the age of each trail?”

Not really. “Yes.”


The abrupt answer took Lucas by surprise. He waited for Noah to elaborate but quickly realized he didn’t intend to.

“So it’s a skill unique to Alphas?” Lucas persisted.

“Having the ability to monitor several different scent trails contributes to an Alpha being able to successfully lead a pack.”

Lucas forced himself to be patient. It was like pulling fucking teeth. He decided to meet Noah’s silence with his own.

Finally, Noah pushed off from the Jeep and said, “True Alphas can track and monitor larger packs. It manifests naturally; we don’t have to develop it.”

Lucas nodded thoughtfully. That was a hell of a useful skill to have.

“Listen up,” Noah suddenly shouted, causing Lucas to jump. “Everybody check in and out with my Lieutenant, here. He’s standing Sentinel, so make it easy for him.”

Lucas looked around, abashed that the parking lot had begun to fill up while they’d stood there talking, and he hadn’t noticed. How such a large group had remained so quiet baffled him.

As the Marines passed by, each one called out his or her name. Lucas checked the first box for each one on his alphabetized list. The entire process went quick and smooth. As the group checking in dwindled, Lucas turned to find Noah kicking off his shoes.

“Now what?” Lucas asked, surprised at his own informality.

Noah opened the back of the Jeep and pulled out several plastic tarps that he handed off to other Marines.

“We walk out into the setting sun, get naked and shift into wolves.”

Lucas’ mouth went dry at the mental picture of Noah stripping himself naked. “And the tarps?” he asked distractedly.

“Nobody likes putting on clothes that have lain in the dirt all night.” Noah’s grin made Lucas’ chest tighten.

“Of course,” Lucas replied, wondering when he’d lost the power of deductive reasoning.

The large group had almost all moved out into the growing dusk. “I should warn you; some of us are going to show back up in different states of…arousal,” Noah said, looking like he was avoiding meeting Lucas’ eyes.

“There could be squabbling. There will definitely be some fucking. It’s typical. Just ignore it.”

Lucas wasn’t sure how to respond. He stared wordlessly at Noah for several long moments. “Seriously?”

“Ever been in combat?” Noah asked, finally looking directly at Lucas with his silver eyes.

“Yes.” Lucas wondered what that had to do with anything.

“Similar reaction,” Noah replied.

Lucas suddenly understood. “Copy that.”

“Are you really going to sit in your car all night waiting for us to come back?” Noah asked abruptly.

Why was this so fucking hard to believe? “I’ve got a book, a thermos and a cell phone. If something goes wrong out there, send someone with a message, and I can get help.”

Noah gave a slight shake of his head. “Are you for real?” he muttered.

“Excuse me?” Lucas had no clue how to answer, or if he even should.

“The first of us should start showing back up just as it gets light,” Noah said over his shoulder as he walked into the dark, his hips rolling slowly, broad shoulders cutting a defined silhouette.

Lucas locked down the sudden spike of lust that rocketed through him. “What’s the appropriate thing to say, right now?” he asked, hoping levity would dispel the sudden awkwardness. “Good luck? Stay safe? Play nice with the other wolves, and don’t pick up any strange fleas?”

Noah stopped in his tracks and slowly turned back. Lucas was sure he’d crossed some sort of line of inappropriateness. He mentally berated himself for openly flirting with an NCO under his command.

Relief washed over him when Noah suddenly grinned. “I wondered if there was any spirit to go with that brain.”

Lucas stayed rooted to his spot, speechless, blood thundering in his ears, as he watched Noah walk into the darkness.

Strength of the Pack is available from:



Be one of the first to obtain an e-book copy of Strength of the Pack!


  1. This sounds really good. I am looking forward to reading one of your books! Thank you for the chance to enter! wendynjason04 at gmail dot com

  2. Thank you! I hope you enjoy whichever one you end up reading first! Good luck in the contest. :-)

  3. I love your idea of a "good" book. Hopefully, that kind of book would appeal to most of us. Thanks for the chance to win your book. :)

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I like to think that most readers care about the quality of a story as well as the entertainment value of it.

      Good luck in the drawing!

  4. I like your discussion of what a "good" book is. One item that I liked particularly was the aspect of showing and not telling in writing a story.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

    strive4bst(At) yahoo(Dot) com

    1. I'm actually disappointed at how many novellas of about 20-30K words I've bought that are pages and pages of internal narrative, instead of dialog or direct action or even indirect action. It makes me wonder how good the longer, developed version of the story could be if the writer would have done the work.

      Good luck in the drawing!

  5. It is great that you don't have the influence of other shifter books and yours will be unique. Thanks for posting about your views on a good book. The excerpt was quite tasty!! Can't wait to read it.

    taina1959 at yahoo dot com

    1. Yes, I came to the conclusion that if I were to start reading shifter stories, I would run the chance of unintentionally tainting my own creativity, so I'm abstaining! I just hope the second and third books can live up to the first!

  6. I enjoyed the excerpt I love Shifter stories. Please count me in for the Giveaway.

  7. I've been dying to read this book, and I loved the excerpt!


    1. When you finally get a chace to read it, I hope you enjoy it!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I always felt ambivalent about shifter stories myself, but m/m seems to make them more palatable to me. This one sounds very appealing!


    1. A great number of readers who either don't like shifters or were burned out on them are liking this story, which seems pretty amazing to me! If you take a chance and read it, you'll have to let me know what you think!

  9. Wow sounds really good. I like shifters (and who ever imagined years ago that gay werewolves would almost be a cliche?), and I like the different take this one has. Also appreciate the distinction you make that your men are both men, that neither is written as a woman.

    slayer at junct dot com

    1. LOL! Yeah, it does seem like gay werewolves are everywhere! I won't complain because I'm just thrilled this genre (m/m) is finding success!

      And I have a difficult time reading stories where a male character acts more like a woman than a man. Effeminate men are still men, and don't act entirely like women. It's great to BE a woman, but I don't want my men acting just like me! And, it's also a case of poor character development to just fall back on m/f behavior stereotypes.


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