Hi! We’re Lisa Henry and M. Caspian, the authors of FALLOUT. We’re touring the web talking about our influences, our processes, anything we can think about actually, and even giving you guys a sneak peek or two! And what would a blog tour be without a contest? Check out the details at the bottom of the post to see what you can win!
Today, we’re sharing an excerpt from Fallout, from the moment things starts to go really wrong:
Jack dozed, idly planning the day. Maybe try that higher section of the stream, just below the tiny rapids? Would the water be cooler there, by the deeper pool?
A soft pattering, sliding sound slowly trickled into Jack’s awareness. He blinked his eyes open, swallowing away a strange dryness on his tongue. Bastian stirred.
“Is it snowing?”
Jack pried himself off Bas, and fought his way out from under the sleeping bag. The zippered tent opening resisted his tug, and it took several jerks to free it until he could look out into the clearing. Specks of gray dappled the tiny fresh oak leaves of the nearest tree, and dusted the rocks that ringed the campfire. Jack held his hand out. Silvery motes drifted onto his skin. He rotated his wrist, watching the dust coat his hand in a powdery second skin.
He glanced upward into the dizzying spirals of falling particles. The darkened hazy sky gave no frame of reference, the light feeble and dull. Jack rubbed his fingers together, a fine gritty residue rough against the pads.
Bastian’s hair brushed against Jack’s torso as he stuck his head out of the tent. “It’s so weird. Can you remember it ever snowing this late in spring before?”
“It’s not snow. It’s ash.”
Bas jerked back. “There’s a forest fire?”
Jack shook his head. “No, not that kind. Feel it. See how it’s like coarse sand? That’s volcanic ash.”
Bas didn’t move. “Like, from a volcano?”
“That is the meaning of volcanic, yes.”
“Don’t be absurd. This is the Midwest, not Iceland. You’re kidding, right?”
Jack brushed the delicate sprinkle of ash from his bare torso, smearing it into a pale daub of clay against the faint gleam of sweat that coated him. Bas knelt on the floor of the tent and pulled a couple of their protein bars from his pack, passing one up to Jack.
“Here. I might as well get some coffee started, now we’re up.” Bas opened Jack’s pack. “You want to move upstream or downstream today?”
“I think . . .” Maybe he was overreacting.
“I think we should go back into town.”
“What? But you only just started. This is nothing.”
“Just this much ash will be enough to close any airports. And the highway, too, if it keeps up. We should probably go and find a place to stay tonight. A motel or something.”
“I don’t have the cash for that.”
“I’ll stick it on my credit card.” Anxiety stirred in his gut. “But yeah, we should hike back down. And try not to breathe it in, okay? Wrap a t-shirt around your face.”
“This is ridiculous.”
Jack pulled out his pocketknife and a Mizzou Tigers t-shirt and made a couple of makeshift dust masks for them. They bumped into each other in the small space as they dressed and rolled up the sleeping bags. Bas deflated the sleeping pad and stowed it in his smaller pack while Jack collected their scattered clothes from last night. They worked together to collapse the tent and pack it away, then set off back down the trail.
Every step took hours. Unease jittered in Jack’s skin, making his fingers clumsy and uncertain. Slow down. Breathe. Everything would be okay.
Bas laid a hand on his back. “Are you all right?”
“I just want to get back to the car. I want to get somewhere safe.”
“Then let’s go.”
They pushed their way through spring growth that should have been lushly green, not sporting this gray shroud that veiled the bushes crowding their campsite. The thin layer of ash on the ground scrunched and rasped under Jack’s feet.
“At least the good thing is this is all very fine. Very light. It’s probably from hundreds of miles away. Thousands, even.” Jack raised his voice to make sure Bas heard him through the layer of fabric over his mouth. Were the words to convince Bas? Or himself?
Jack took point. The sky was dull granite, only the haziest of light making it through. The ash pattered on the leaves as it fell, a constant hiss like slow, rolling static on a radio. The branches released powdery payloads with every touch, clouds of fine ash billowing up, each splash of viridian and apple momentarily shocking against the blank grayness. The fine grit filled Jack’s mouth and throat, even through his makeshift mask. Shallow coughs punctuated Bastian’s breathing. The spaces between the trees were absent of the usual spring sounds. No insects buzzed, no birds sang or fluttered from branch to branch.
Relief shot through Jack as he spied a blaze of the main trail, the flash of orange stark against the gritty ash. When they reached the lean-to, a half a mile down the trail, Jack turned to check on Bas. He knew that tension in Bastian’s body.
“You need to stop?
Bas shook his head, but the line of his back, the caution with which he held himself as they walked, all gave lie to his denial.
“Right,” said Jack. “Don’t dick around, get your programmer out. We can wait here for twenty minutes while you do a session.”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“Don’t bullshit me, Bas. Why are you even bothering to lie? I can see the pain right through your body; you’re in agony. Just do a stim—a short one—and then we can go.”
“Look, it’s flat, all right. The battery on my programmer is flat.” Bas held one hand up, forestalling Jack’s retort. “And yes, I know you told me four times to get a new one before we came out here. I know that, okay? And that’s half the reason I didn’t. Because somehow I’ve become one more thing you have to manage.”
“Hey, if you weren’t so irresponsible I wouldn’t have to keep reminding you. How do you think that makes me feel?” Jack pressed his lips together in an effort to keep the rest of his words inside. “Fine.” He rifled through Bastian’s pack. “Give me the programmer.” It was tucked inside some swim shorts for padding, the chunky, unrefined shape looking like a 1990s TV remote. He slid it into an outside pocket on his own pack. “When we get to town we’ll go to the pharmacy, get a new battery. You need me to carry your pack?
“I can manage.”
They were about twenty minutes from the parking lot when the ashfall increased. The change in the gentle pitter-patter all around them was unmissable, even over his heavy breathing and the adrenaline surge that made his pulse beat in his ears. The noise was no longer faint static on the radio, but someone throwing handfuls of gravel into a cornfield. The steep trail was already difficult, and now the pitted and worn sections waiting for the summer work crews lurked below a soft and growing layer of ash that made everything even and smooth.
“Step where I step,” said Jack.
Bas only nodded, concentrating too hard on navigating a steep embankment to argue. Jack looked up. The ash spiraled down in clumps now, irregular and rapid. The sky was darker. They hugged a cutting slanted into the hillside as they caught their breath, navigating by touch as much as vision.
Fallout by Lisa Henry & M. Caspian
Published ~ 17th April 2015
Genre ~ M/M Dark Thriller, Non Con.
High-school boyfriends Jack Haldane and Bastian Wade thought everything would be perfect once they reunited at college, putting disapproving parents and small-town attitudes firmly in the past. Now Jack’s on track for a PhD scholarship and a career as a researcher, and Bastian . . . well, living inside a broken body and trailing along in Jack’s shadow didn’t feature in his lofty teenage ambitions.
A weekend camping trip back home offers a chance for them to reconnect, but an ugly confrontation with the local motorcycle gang is only the start of their problems. When disaster occurs and the world unravels, will Bastian and Jack manage to hold on to each other, or fall further apart as they try to survive?
Lisa Henry is one of my favourite authors, she writes books that make me feel, they hurt, guaranteed… She does it so well, it’s bloody scary! Having only read one book by M. Caspian, The Arroyo, which was just fabulous, I was really excited about this author pairing. Having now read Fallout I’m hoping these two will put their heads together again… because they delivered a brilliantly crafted dark thriller that truly delves into the darkness of human nature and left me sitting on the edge of my seat, inwardly screaming at the traumatic experiences our two main characters endure during the course of this book and how their own moral compass is more than definitely put to the test.
Before getting to the horrors of rape, torture and abuse…yes, it’s not pretty. They subtly move the story forward, and I liked how they built the arc in intensity, essentially endearing me to both Bas and Jack, two men conflicted in their relationship, it was so sad to watch and I hurt for them. Because despite their reservations and the crossroads they were at, the foundations of their love had been formed and securely bonded at a young age, best friends and lovers… and I wanted them to get past all the guilt and resentment and just see their love for what it was. But when their weekend camping trip to their teenage haunt, a time for them to try and reconnect, turned to disaster. Firstly by pissing off a gang of ruthlessly violent bikers, then a volcanic ash storm hits creating chaos and lawlessness. Which put a series of events in place that had me feeling nervous that they were in for a whole heap of shite.
This book is compelling reading… At. It’s. Best. The writing excellent, complimented by both authors styles. The story is cleverly weaved together with alternating POV’s and flashbacks, providing more understanding of how both Bas and Jack are so entwined, and even though they are separated for the most part, seeing what they go through and watching their bravery whilst still clinging on to hope, only increased my anxiety and nervousness, and like them, I wanted to disconnect from the horrors. They had to survive, they had to find a way back to each other not only physically but mentally. I couldn’t have willed it so any harder if I tried, because what they were going through just broke my heart.
Whilst reading, I kept thinking… normal service will resume, they will be saved and all will be right in the world again. But the more you read the more you realise with a sense of doom that the cavalry ain’t coming to the rescue. It’s a hard and realistic look at a natural disaster, one that can render the world and all it’s modern technologies useless. It’s frighteningly believable, where the authors were not in the least bit afraid to show the truth of human nature, and our two boys are thrown right in on the ugly side of it. Where crazies rule and pack mentality takes over, and reality becomes your worst nightmare. Yet in the face of adversity, despite their weaknesses, they find a strength to survive through all the ugliness, as they grasp how fragile life itself can be… and we get glimpses of beauty and faith in humanity with so much pain and raw emotion I was moved to tears.
Meet Lisa Henry
Lisa Henry lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Thanks for following our tour! To celebrate our release, we’re giving away a $20 Amazon gift voucher for you to spend on whatever you’d like. Hey, you should buy Fallout, I hear it’s pretty good!
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