PROMO: The Hands We’re Given


The Hands We're Given - O.E. Tearmann

O.E. Tearmann has a new MM (trans) hard sci fi/cyberpunk tale out, book one in their “Aces High, Jokers Wild” series: “The Hands We’re Given.”

Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.

Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.

Life’s a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you’re given.

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Psst. Here’s a secret for you
O.E. Tearman is a front, for two writers. One cis woman and one genderfluid person. And we started writing together because we love to play with words.
I’m not kidding here. We started writing because we both liked to write. These books started as a collaborative role-playing play-by-post game, way back when. We got our fears and our hopes, our joys (along with some jollies) and our pain out through our characters. We played with words.
And it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I know a lot of terrible things are said about collaboration. It’s one of the reasons we decided to write under a pen-name: we didn’t want the nasty cachet of a co-authored book. And finding that person you just click with is hard work.
But here’s the thing: a healthy collaboration can drive you to heights you didn’t know you could reach.
Here’s the setup:
One bubbly bisexual cis woman. Friendly, outgoing, trained in the sciences. Acts confident to the point of exuberance. Talks faster and faster the happier she is.
Goes home after a setback, hides her face in a pillow and sobs silently. Comes from a family riven with the issues of intergenerational poverty, anxiety-depression issues and genetic disorders. Deals with anxiety that can leave her a shaking mess.
Desperately tries to be good enough in the eyes of those around her.
One thoughtful genderfluid person. Well-read and well-versed in literature. Obliquely sassy. Quietly competent. They can tell you anything you ever wanted to know about a pocketful of fandoms and they know Norse mythology up, down and backwards.
They can tell you what depression feels like. They know how dark it can get behind your eyes. They know that sometimes even the body you’re in seems like the enemy, and the world just asks too much.
Some days they wish the eyes of the world would just stop judging them.
Somehow, these two odd birds met. The chipper girl with the too-bright eyes sat down next to the warily watching person, and started chattering away. And the stories started coming out. Shapeshifters. Other worlds. Grand battles. Wonders.
Telling stories together was a lifeline though shitty jobs, through family problems and bad days. It was a place to dance with words, to stop being ourselves or let some part of ourselves out for some cathartic exercise. Under the auspices of chatting about our games, we celebrated each other’s successes and talked each other through our troubles.
As 2016 grew difficult, the stories we told got a little darker. We worked out our fears on the page. Both of us felt the despair of wanting to do something valuable. Neither of us are built for going to rallies, calling politicians or yelling at political opponents.
We needed to do something real.
So we decided to take what we’d written and turn it in a story that would keep the hopes of the people like us alive.
This is the thing about good collaboration: it’s a way to complement one another’s strengths. Both people in this collaboration found in the other person something they needed.
The girl looked confident, but she never would have had the courage to start getting serious if her buddy hadn’t gotten her into stories she fell in love with.
The person was a great writer, but depression could bring them low for months, unable to put down words that were intended for publication and came weighted with that stress: the exhausting pressure of judgement.
The girl had been taught to do ‘important work’ and not to ‘waste time’. She wrote carefully researched non-fiction essays for public consumption. She never would have had the courage to write fiction for sale if her friend hadn’t shown her it was valid.
The person had trouble valuing their work, no matter how much they’d put into it. Old pain and old failure made it hard for them to believe they could ever do work worth publishing. They never would have considered turning the stacks and stacks of roleplays into a serious book if their friend hadn’t grabbed their shoulders and gushed ‘dude, do you realize we have something seriously good here? We could really do something with this!’
Tearmann is actually the Irish Gaelic word for the concept of a safe harbor or sanctuary. And that’s what collaboration can be: a safe place to explore ourselves and our dreams together. A safe harbor. A sanctuary. As we batted first drafts, second drafts and proof reads, cover designs and blurbs back and forth between us, we always knew one thing: No matter what, we were safe to try things. We were safe, in each other’s company.
To readers: if you’re feeling stuck, think about doing some collaboration. What you get out of it might surprise you.
To my co-writer: Thanks. For all of it. I didn’t just get good stories out of this. I got an amazing friend.
And also: Dude! We wrote A Book! We wrote two! We’re working on Book Three!
Dude. We rock!


The Hands We're Given meme - O.E. Tearmann

The dark shapes of three drones flitted over the junkyard, blotting out the stars. Aidan desperately turned the keys, slamming his foot on the accelerator. The truck’s engine finally revved. Kevin flung open the passenger side door and leapt inside. “Go, go, go!”

Aidan slammed it into reverse and hit the gas. They jumped backward. Once the truck was far enough away from the fence, he changed gears and wrenched the wheel around. They bumped and rattled into the night as fast as Aidan dared without the headlights on. The heat of the engine would make them easy to follow for the drones’ thermal cameras, but the short-range guard drones couldn’t go too far from their base of operation before their programming called them back. Aidan just hoped they could outrun them.

He gripped the steering wheel so hard it hurt. He could feel the suit tightening down against his skin. His heart pounded in his chest. Kevin’s breathing was ragged beside him. Another burst of bullets sprayed the ground right in front of them. Aidan yelped and yanked the wheel to avoid getting hit. The truck jittered to the side. Aidan slammed on the gas. The desert night sped past in a blur of blue and red under the starlight. Slowly, the whir of rotors faded into the distance. Aidan’s grip on the steering wheel began to relax. Kevin pulled his tab out of the bag and set it on the dashboard, watching as the screen flipped through the security channels they’d hacked into, keeping track of the location of dozens of drones.

Finally, Aidan pulled up under an overhang of red rock and cut the engine. The wide-range security drones were due to make their fly-over soon. Better to stop for a while and recover, get back on the road when it was safer.

They sat in silence for a long time, listening for rotors over the quiet buzz of the night insects. Aidan rested his arms on the steering wheel and propped his chin on his wrist, watching the star-studded sky.

“You all right?” Kevin breathed. At some point during the drive, he had deactivated his slick suit.

Aidan sighed and leaned back so he could manually flip his face screen up.”Yeah. Think so. Banged my knee pretty bad. Your shoulder?”

“Bruised. Doesn’t feel severe.” Kevin shrugged.

“Um, good,” Aidan whispered eventually.

So. They were alive. They’d gotten out with most of what they’d gone in for.

At the expense of a bad bruise across Kevin’s cheek, that or worse to his shoulder, and an action that could have caused so much more.

Slowly, some of his anger seeped back. He took a breath. “You scared the hell out of me back there and acted like a complete gamma, Kev. Don’t do that again.”

Kevin ducked his head in a slow nod. “I’m sorry, Aidan. I—When I saw you like that, I guess I panicked.”

Aidan sighed. Kevin was normally so level-headed. He’d been utterly cool on-Grid, when Aidan had been scared shitless.

So why had he acted like this out here?

On the tab screen, the red dot of a drone approached their location. They waited in breathless silence as the long-range drone passed, not even the sound of whirring to announce its presence. The red dot moved out of range.

Aidan breathed out. Kevin looked up with a smile. So close. They were so close.

“That’s the last of them. A very fine night’s work if I do say so.”

Aidan tried to smile, but it faltered. “I didn’t get the holo board. That was the part we needed most.”

Kevin smirked as he pulled the bag up from the floorboard and into his lap. He rifled quickly through the materials they had managed to grab, yanked, and pulled out the board with a wink.

“Oh, I don’t know about that.”

“What? How…?” Aidan breathed, feeling the wave of defeat that had been threatening lift.

“Fell down the pile when you did,” Kevin whispered, grinning. “I simply grabbed it up. After all, I am the requisitions officer. Snatching things is my forte.”

A rush of joy shot through Aidan. They’d done it. They’d gotten everything. Nose to nose with Kevin, he grinned.

“Holy shit, we- Holy shit! You… wow. Kevin, holy shit! This is like one of your vids!”

Kevin’s eyes glittered like silver in the low light. “You know, if this is a vid, I know how the scene ends.”

“Yeah?” Aidan asked, still giddy with relief.

Kevin was still smiling, his teeth white outlines in his grin. And he was leaning closer. Aidan could feel the heat of his skin, his breath.

“Heroes always get a kiss at the end of the adventure. That’s the convention.” Kevin tipped his head, eyes holding Aidan’s. “Would the hero like a kiss?”

Aidan froze. Was Kevin actually… Was he…?

He wet his lips. His voice escaped as a whisper. “Am I supposed to be a hero?”

Kevin’s smile was soft now, and he was so very close. “I don’t see anyone else in the driver’s seat. So you must be.” Then he pressed his lips against Aidan’s.

Kevin’s lips were hot. Aidan’s brain turned inside out. Kevin was kissing him.

Kevin had started kissing him.

This was real.

He leaned into the warmth with a pleasure that was almost pain. This was only going to be a second, but if only this second would last.

Softly, Kevin drew back. “Was that okay?”

Kevin’s whisper barely made it through the buzzing in Aidan’s brain. He gasped in a breath. “Um, okay. Yeah.” He swallowed hard and forced himself to sit up. “We-we should get going home…”

Kevin nodded, eyes still holding his as he drew away. “I suppose we should.”


Author Bio


O.E. Tearmann lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, in what may become the Co-Wy Grid. They share the house with a brat in fur, a husband and a great many books. Their search engine history may garner them a call from the FBI one day. When they’re not living on base 1407 they advocate for a more equitable society and more sustainable agricultural practices, participate in sundry geekdom and do their best to walk their characters’ talk.

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