Interview, Extended Excerpt and Giveaway: The Harbinger by Keegan Kennedy

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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Molly: How long have you been writing? What inspired you to start writing?
Keegan: I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I would make up these insane little books featuring a few of my friends. Over the years it bloomed. What started my career as an erotica writer was a very toxic relationship that was very sexually frustrating, back in 2010 or so. And Keegan Kennedy was born.
Molly: What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Keegan: 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 ommision in a genre, set out to conquer it. Invest in grammar software, a thesarus, and a stock photo website to find covers.
Molly: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Keegan: No. On the otherhand, I often suffer from writer’s exhaustion. Several ideas for different works will be creeping in my head at once, so I have to make myself focus.
Molly: How do you come up with the titles to your books?
Keegan: Often, I will change the title multiple times. It happens organically. There was one 2015 erotic novella that I had the hardest time with. Eventually, I called it: ”The Rugby Alpha.” I still find the title bland and uninteresting.
Molly: What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Keegan: 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.

Extended Excerpt:
No gas stations seemed to be open along Highway 51, and the Mercedes’ engine was starting to sputter.

He spotted a road junction ahead and a sign towering over the trees, reading: Elmer’s Pick & Pay.

Please let them have gas and please let them be open!

Kirk’s gaze fell to the loaded Glock on the passenger seat. The gun, a gift from his father two years before his death, had already come in handy, and he had a nagging suspicion he’d need his gun again soon.

When his SUV cleared the trees, Kirk saw the gas station on the right side of the highway. He wasn’t sure if the store was open or not, but from the woman and small child running from the front door with their arms full of snack foods, it appeared the place was open for business—in some capacity. Even if the gas station was closed, the SUV wasn’t going to make much further, so this place was his last resort.

Kirk pulled into the gravel parking lot and came to a stop next to a prehistoric-looking set of gas pumps. He spotted the ‘Open’ sign on the door.

Briefly, Kirk’s gaze returned to the woman and child running down the road. They were now a good five hundred feet down the highway rushing toward the town of Sardis as fast as their legs could carry them. Then Kirk became aware of it again—this strange sense of foreboding—so he hesitated, carefully scanning his surroundings.

In the parking lot, there was a dusty old Ford truck and a 1970’s Chevy station wagon; both vehicles looked like they’d not been driven in decades. There was a dead dog in the gravel near a line of trees, and half a dozen newer cars were haphazardly parked in the lot. When he looked closer at the newer cars, he saw that many of the occupants were still inside.

This is some fucked-up shit, he thought with adrenaline coursing through his veins.

Opening the car door, Kirk grabbed his Glock and tucked it under his shirt. As the outside heat engulfed him, he was racked with a peculiar mixture of apprehension and premonition.

Something isn’t right.

Straightening his short but stout body, Kirk stepped forward, undeterred.

As he passed a Honda Civic, a hacking cough and a low moan greeted him. He stopped and spun toward the car. Mashed against the rolled-up glass, an alabaster face watched him. Seeing Kirk, it emitted a more urgent moan as cloudy eyes stared up into his. This was no alien creature or horror movie ghoul watching him; this was a woman—a very sick one. Her skin was nearly translucent and her nose flattened against the glass made her resemble a nightmarish hog. A pink concoction of blood and snot was running from her nose and crusting on the window.

“Help me,” her haggard, gurgling voice pleaded. She sounded as if she were drowning. “Please.”

Yes, she’s sick, and yes, she’s suffering, but the only help I can give her is a bullet to the brain. And I won’t kill an innocent person!

This is so fucked-up! This is so fucked-up! This is so fucked-up!

Just look away. Just keep walking.

Kirk turned his head and pushed her from his mind.

He walked into the store, his senses on high alert. Dim, flickering lights illuminated the shadowy interior of the country gas station. Rustic, the store had dusty old plank floors. Two center aisles were flanked by wooden shelves and drink coolers. An old woman was behind the counter. With unkempt gray hair and a dazed look in her foggy eyes, she was propped up beside the register, her body trembling and her cheeks pink with fever. She wore a t-shirt with the indifferent face of a cat on it. The shirt was crusted with vomit and blood that had leaked down her chin. Kirk could hear the subtle hum of a small motor and realized she was running a generator. The front of the store was bright from the sun coming in through the windows, but farther back the place fell into shadow.

For a long, unnerving moment, Kirk and the old woman stared at each other. Her expression was bewildered and confused. “You’re not sick,” she finally said in a tremulous voice, her eyes trying to focus harder on him.

“No,” Kirk replied, “so far, I’m not.”

“Praise God!” she croaked. “Maybe this plague won’t kill us all!”

Kirk had no idea what to say to her, so he forced his mind back to the task at hand. “Do you have gas?”

She nodded. “I’ll give ya six gallons.” Before he could seek clarification, she continued. “I lost my husband ‘a fifty-seven years last night,” a stray tear fell from her left eye, “and until this flu kills me, I’m gonna do the work of God and help as many folks as I can with food and gas. So I’ll give ya six gallons, and hopefully, it’ll get ya to where you’re going.”

Trapped in this fearsome hell, Kirk was briefly comforted to see some goodness. “Thank you and I appreciate it, but you should lie down and rest.”

“I’ll be dead soon enough.” Her weak voice was fatalistic as she tapped the register. “I just set ya up for six gallons. And ya can take whatever food ya want.”

“Thank you. Do you have a bathroom, Ma’am?” he asked respectfully.

“In the back.” She coughed. “Dear God, I can hardly breathe!” she cried as Kirk rushed to the back of the store.

The room was lit by a candle on top of the toilet. Closing the door behind him, Kirk wanted to collapse and give over to his fear, but instead, he looked at his reflection in the mirror. Breathing in hard, he fought to maintain his focus. Deeply, he inhaled and exhaled, thinking of his one and only goal—his mother. That was all he needed to crush the deranged mania threatening to boil over inside him.

As Kirk relieved his bladder, another pang of alarm struck him—a premonition. His inner voice was suddenly screaming at him to get the hell out of there.

Something was wrong—something was coming.

He exited the bathroom with his heart in his throat, but raised voices halted his steps.

That something was happening now.

“Give us the fuckin’ money, ya cunt!” a man’s voice boomed before exploding into a cough.

“Just take what ya want!” the kindly old woman shrieked, her quivering voice now sounding pained. “Please stop hurting me!”

“Push that bitch outta the way so I can get to the smokes!” another man barked.

“Why are you doin’ this to me?!” she choked out.

“Just kill ‘er!”

Kirk pulled his Glock from his waistband and flattened himself against the wall beside the bathroom. Aside from the woman, he’d heard two voices, but there could’ve more people with them—he didn’t know. What he did know was that he had to help her.

As he took the first step toward the voices, a single shot silenced the old woman’s cries.

One of the men started laughing. “Good shot, Dan!”

“Got that bitch right ‘tween the eyes!” replied a man—Dan, Kirk assumed. The murderers sounded stupid and mean, always a dangerous combination.

Rage boiled inside him. A light in all this darkness had been snuffed out by two idiots. The kindly woman had to be avenged; there was no doubt in Kirk’s mind about that, and it was left to him to make sure that vengeance was served.

Ducking down, he moved along the rear of the store where it was the darkest. Coming to the endcap of the aisle closest to the register, he peered around and saw the two assholes. The body of the sick woman lay at their feet. Both men were white and appeared to be in their twenties. One was heavyset in a baseball cap, baggy shirt, and jeans. The other was thin, slimy, and wearing ripped shorts with no shirt. The skinny one was loading packs of cigarettes into a bag while the chubby one was coughing as he cleaned out the register.

“Tommy, go back yonder and see if they got any Doritos left,” the heavier one said, still relieving the cash register of its money.

The chubby guy in the cap must’ve been Dan, the one who’d actually killed the woman, so Kirk decided to save him for last.

The skinny man moved in between the two aisles. “It’s dark back here! I can hardly see.”

“Quit yer bitchin’ and get my Doritos!”

With the Glock in his hands and a full magazine, Kirk shifted on his feet and watched Tommy walk down the center aisle. Kirk’s knee bumped the endcap, causing the thin one to slow. He peered down the dark aisle toward Kirk, but the man’s eyes couldn’t pinpoint his exact location.

“Who’s there?” Tommy hollered, a cough erupting from him.

“What’s going on?” asked the other one.

“I think someone’s in here!”

As soon as the words had left his mouth, Kirk had Tommy in his sights. Kirk fired, aiming for his head, and the shot boomed through the country store. The bullet entered the right socket of Tommy’s eye. In a split second, his face caved in. His blood, brains, and teeth exploded from the back of his head, showering the plank floor. The slim man staggered backwards, slammed into the side of the aisle, and crashed into the Doritos. Then his dead body crumpled to the floor.

“Get out here, motherfucker!” Dan roared. “Ya killed my brother, and now I’m gonna kill you! Show yourself, coward!”

Kirk didn’t take the bait and remained silent. The hypocrisy of the man, who’d murdered a sick and helpless old woman, calling him a coward didn’t escape his notice. But it’d only been a ploy so he’d reveal his location. Kirk wanted to beat the fuck out of the fat man in the baseball cap, letting Dan know that he was the only coward here, but he decided killing him would work too.

In the shadows, Kirk had the clear advantage, so when he heard the panicked man’s feet rushing toward him, he stood, aimed, and fired with deadly precision. The bullet hit the second man in between his eyes. Bloody tissue exploded from the back of his head, and he fell onto a large display of canned goods. His lifeless body and the cans crashed against the old floor.

With his heart slamming in his chest, Kirk finally exhaled, his ears ringing from the shootout. Aside from the sweet old woman that the brothers had killed, there’d been two shots and two bodies, the entire gunfight lasting less than a minute.

Kirk had demolished many targets at the shooting range over the years, and he’d killed plenty of deer and fowl while hunting with his father back in the day, but he’d never killed a person before. Now Kirk Foster had killed two and he felt zero remorse.

Calmly, but with speed in his step, Kirk approached the register and regarded the old woman’s corpse. Her cloudy eyes were still open and her head lay in a pool of her own blood. Spotting a light jacket behind the counter, he put it over her face.

“Find peace,” he mumbled.

Rushing out of Elmer’s Pick and Pay and past the sick woman in the Honda Civic, Kirk pumped his six gallons of gas before resuming his journey toward Grenada and his mother.


About Keegan:
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.

Author Contact:
Twitter: @Keegan_Kennedy_

Tour Stops:
September 16: MM Book Escape, Cat’s Guilty Pleasure, Blissfully Bookerized, MM Good Book Reviews, KinkyGirlsBookObsessions, Books all things Paranormal and Romance and Assassins
September 19: My Fiction Nook, Triple A
September 20: Molly Lolly; Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words, Queens Of The Darkside, Yah gotta read this
September 21: Bonkers about books, Oh My Shelves
September 22: Anna Butler Fiction, Bayou Book Junkie
September 23: Nicole’s Book ‘Musings
September 26: velvetpanic, Boy Meets Boy Reviews
September 27: Mousey books
September 29: MJ’s Book Blog and Reviews, Booklover Sue
September 30: Alpha Book Club, Passionate Reads

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