Kendall McKenna
Love and Dog Tags

I am an author of M/M erotic romances, and all of my characters just happen to wear dog tags!

I get asked by readers all the time, if I’ve ever served in the military. My stories are all about United States Marines, and are technically accurate, but also manage to capture the feel of military service. The answer is no, I have never served in the armed forces. And the reason is simple; I question authority. Constantly! That’s not the least bit conducive to military service! I managed to pay for a portion of my college education with a scholarship for marksmanship, and I could have gone to West Point, but that was just asking for trouble!

So, how do I write military stories as accurately and realistically as I do, without having served a day? The short answer is, I grew up in San Diego. The men in my family all served in the military and became cops when they received their discharges. Calling San Diego a Navy town is an understatement. As a young adult, I dated more sailors and Marines than I can count, officers and enlisted. I might have been a civilian, but I was completely immersed in the military/law enforcement subculture.

It’s just like a child that grows up in another country, becomes fluent in the language, and then moves back to the U.S. as an adult. He or she completely understands both countries and cultures, can move around in both with equal alacrity, and can tell stories about both countries with equal detail and creativity.

I regularly proclaim that I am pro-military and anti-war. I love and respect those who serve but I don’t find armed conflict to be effective most times. I was called names when I spoke out against the move against Iraq in ’03, but I did get to say ‘told you so’. Hollow vindication, that. But I digress. Here I am, with this unique interest and skill, and I have an entire decade’s worth of two armed conflicts that provide me with so many themes to explore. From their reasons for enlisting, to the difficulties they face returning home, there is so much drama and conflict there from which I can spin fascinating stories about engaging characters.

The coming decade is going to provide me, and other authors, with so much to explore as we try to integrate our veterans back into civilian life. None of them, not a single one of them, has come home intact. Some have mild PTSD related anxiety, others have disfiguring scars, others have lost body parts, and many, many, many others have scars that aren’t visible. They are scarred, nonetheless.

These are the heroes, the characters, the men, about whom I am going to tell love stories. They have earned their happy endings, and I’m going to give it to them, one story at a time. I don’t explore DADT all that much, but it certainly colors all my stories set pre-2011. I just prefer to write stories that explore issues and themes that are universal, and familiar to us all, regardless of our sexual orientation. That could very well change some day, you never can tell.

I’ve blogged  before about what makes men in uniform sexy. Especially since it’s not just any uniform that gets us all hot and bothered. There are some sexy UPS drivers out there, but give me a Marine in coyote brown utilities and Under Armor fleece shirt any day of the week. And speaking of Marines and their uniforms, what about those Marine Corps dress blues? Oh, yes, please!

Here’s what it boils down to; yes, uniforms are hot. Especially dress uniforms, and the way they’re sharply pressed and so precisely decorated. They tend to emphasize men’s masculine body traits (broad shoulders & chest, narrow waist). But uniforms have meaning and men move differently (with more confidence and purpose) in uniform than they do in civvies.  There’s more to it, though.

Military men in uniform are both self-sacrificing and mortally dangerous. No greater dichotomy exists. Men in the military, most especially the Marines (every man a rifleman), are trained to kill the enemy. They enlist to learn to kill, already possessing a willingness to die for a cause. These men will sacrifice themselves to protect another, at the same time they will kill as many enemy combatants as they can. That danger mixed with altruism is complex and attractive.

When you start adding in all the other things that set military men apart, all the things that make them sexy, the list gets long. They are intelligent and competent. They possess a set of skills most of us don’t. They receive a level of training most of us don’t. They’re groomed to lead, as much as they are conditioned to follow. They are adept at using deadly weapons. Some of us will never see or touch the types of heavy weaponry these men carry around every day.

And yet, this is the same type of man who ran into the burning towers on 9/11.

Are they sexy? Yes. But they’re also complicated and interesting, and that’s why I enjoy making them fall in love with each other and then have to deal with feelings, on top of all the other issues their lives and jobs throw at them.

So, my first published story that features kick-ass Marines saving the world, falling in love and having hot sex with each other, is called Brothers In Arms. For business reasons, I pulled this title from the original publisher and was fortunate enough to have MLR Press pick it up for re-release. Brothers In Arms will be available once again on December 14th.

Blurb:
Jonah Carver is a Marine and combat veteran. He and his former Captain, Kellan Reynolds, once shared a scorching night, but then lost touch; something Jonah has long regretted.

When an investigation into government corruption, and the murder of U.S. troops, ends in the killing of a V.I.P. on Jonah’s watch, the FBI arrives. With them is Kellan Reynolds.

Together once more, Jonah begins to believe in second chances and sparks fly. Nothing is that easy, though, as the suspects will stop at nothing to bring the investigation to an end. Jonah must keep everyone in his charge alive while helping the FBI and Kellan find the proof they need.

When Kellan is kidnapped, Jonah has to find and rescue him. If he doesn’t, not only will the investigation unravel, but he’ll lose Kellan for a second time–for good.

Excerpt:
“Excellent. We’re done here then.” Jonah crossed the room and managed not to take the door off its hinges. He headed right for the front door of the manor house.

Anger seared Jonah’s insides. He wanted to run the perimeter of the firmbase, but he knew it wasn’t safe. His fury nipped at his heels, driving him away from the manor house and toward—he didn’t know what. Jonah needed to pace, to use up the energy of his rage. He kept running into cammie nets, Humvees, ammo cans, and trash. He balled his fist to punch something, and then stopped himself. He was right-handed and he needed that hand to pull the trigger. Jonah’s wrath tangled with frustration and he kicked viciously at rocks in the dirt.

“I thought I’d find you here.” Kellan’s words carried to Jonah, even before he stepped around a Humvee and into view.

Jonah’s temper dissipated slightly at the sound of Kellan’s voice, even as desire edged up his spine and settled in his belly. He damn well needed to get that reaction under control. The rapid ricochet of Jonah’s emotions threw him off and fucked with his equilibrium. He jammed his curled fists onto his hips. “You knew this was going to happen, Kellan?” Jonah winced at the accusation in his own voice.

Kellan drew a deep breath and seemed to weigh his words carefully. “I wrote an opinion for my consulting firm that dealt with the Big Three getting so many no-bid government contracts,” he said as he slowly approached Jonah. “I concluded they have strategically placed allies in the government to ensure they continue to make billions of dollars off of America’s armed conflicts.”

“You wrote the synopsis for a Tom Clancy novel and the President decided to send you to Iraq?” Jonah wanted Kellan to tell him he was right and it was all fiction.

Kellan came to stand directly in front of Jonah. He chuffed a laugh. “The President was dubious too when he read it. Still, he thought my arguments were sound enough to warrant a cursory investigation.”

Jonah took in Kellan’s familiar features: his lashes, the small mole beneath his left eye, and finally his mouth. “Obviously, the investigation turned up something.”

Kellan wet his bottom lip before he spoke. “The Attorney General has built a fairly strong case for corruption. She just can’t go before Congress and the President and say she thinks American weapons and munitions are being provided to the enemy for use against our own military personnel. So, she reached out to the State Department to find evidence of the supply chain here in Iraq.”

“They sent Grizzly?”

“Correct. And when they did, I issued another opinion that postulated he would be killed, using American-supplied weapons, in order to halt the investigation.”

“Hell,” Jonah sighed, tilting his head back to look blindly at the sky. He remembered all the friends he’d lost since this conflict had begun. His earlier rage flared again.

“I intended that first opinion to be a neutral stand for my consulting agency. We’ve received substantial funding from the Big Three, and I wanted it clear their money couldn’t influence us.”

“And then Grizzly was killed, making the investigation FBI jurisdiction, and since you’ve accurately predicted how things so far would go down, the President decided you should come provide guidance,” Jonah concluded with a harsh laugh.

“Which I could easily have done from DC, but I thought it would be fun to drop in and say ‘hi’.”

“There are these amazing devices called e-mail and cell phones, you know.” Jonah’s rage melted farther away as he smiled. “You didn’t have to get yourself airlifted to Iraq.”

“Well, the opportunity just presented itself.” Kellan grinned.

Jonah was pretty glad he hadn’t resorted to e-mail.

“You know, sir, I read that book of yours about the invasion” Jonah poked Kellan square in the chest with one finger. “When you run for President, I’m not voting for you if you run as a Democrat.”

Kellan’s laugh sent a shockwave rolling through Jonah.

“I have no intention of running for President,” he said.

“Well, maybe not right away. You’ll do some time in Congress or the Senate. Then you’ll become the Governor of New York. Maybe Massachusetts. Then you’ll make your run at the White House.”

“Actually, I’m more a ‘power behind the throne’ kind of guy.” Jonah felt a sort of perverse fascination as Kellan reached out and hooked two fingers into the waist of Jonah’s trousers.

“Is that a fact?” Jonah searched Kellan’s face.

“More to the point, some of the most powerful positions in DC are not elected but appointed.” Kellan leaned in, voice conspiratorial.

“You’re not an attorney, so you can’t be a judge,” Jonah mused. Kellan was standing so close; Jonah caught the scent of him and lost his train of thought.

“No, but there are cabinet positions. Say, Secretary of the Navy. Secretary of Defense.” Kellan paused. “Secretary of State.”

“Well then, Mr Secretary,” Jonah said solemnly. He believed Kellan would someday achieve that very thing. He wondered in passing what Kellan would do if Jonah leaned in and kissed him.

“Stop teasing me,” Kellan said, his expression serious.

Jonah became acutely aware of Kellan’s hand touching him. It was only teasing if Jonah didn’t mean it. He wasn’t teasing. He didn’t think Kellan was, either.

“When we’re both Stateside again, I’ll show you I’m not teasing.” The words were spoken before Jonah could stop them. He swallowed hard, his throat suddenly tight. This was the part where Kellan would tell him how much he’d enjoy a passing friendship with a former Team Leader; as if he was unaware this was exactly how things had started between them before.

Instead, Kellan looked pleased, and Jonah realized, with deep satisfaction, that was the reaction he’d been hoping for.

“I’m holding you to that.”

“I’m counting on it. For now, though, why don’t you head back inside and I’ll be in shortly.”

One corner of Kellan’s mouth lifted in a brief smile. “Good night, Jonah,” he said quietly, before he turned and climbed the steps into the firmbase.

“Good night, Kellan.”

Jonah took a cleansing breath and released it slowly. He rolled his head, stretching out the once tense muscles that had relaxed sometime during the last few minutes.

With a final upward glance, this time seeing the sky, Jonah followed Kellan inside, realizing he would finally be able to sleep.

 

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Kage is a Marine, newly returned from Afghanistan and having difficulty adjusting to being home. He tries to decompress with a quiet trip to Puerto Vallarta. Zach is a new college graduate and facing the realities of adulthood. Will their hot summer fling grow into something more?

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This way back to the
men & women of the military
giveaway blog hop

  1. Yvette says:

    Thank you for being a part of the hop. I love a great story with military themes.
    Yvette
    yratpatrol@aol.com

  2. Tawny says:

    Thanks for joining the hop. I have been intrigued by this since it was first mentioned. So glad it found a home with MLR

  3. DebraG says:

    Thanks so much for being a part of the hop. I love men in uniform.

  4. Gabrielle says:

    I love stories that involve men in uniform. Thanks for participating in the hop I have now added another book to my tbr pile.

    Gabrielle

  5. Trix says:

    Great post…I’ve never thought about military appeal so specifically before. Love the hop!

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com