It’s here! My Ant Monster Mate is finally LIVE on Amazon! Click on the image to check it out on Amazon!
Hunting giant ant aliens is never an easy job, but the opportunity to capture a male Menops before he imprints on a queen is too good to pass up. Even if it means putting up with a mouthy Artificial Intelligence and traveling to a planet restricted by the Cosmic Syndicate. Vengeance for humanity—for my family—is too important to let any obstacle stand in my way.
But I’ve never confronted a male Menops before, and nothing about the encounter goes as planned.
Now, I know why the Cosmic Syndicate restricted access to this habitable world, and my only ally in the struggle to survive just so happens to be the enemy I came here to hunt. I should hate him, but the battle that brings us together is forging a bond between us that makes the growing heat I feel for him undeniable.
But can enemies who are so different in almost every way learn to forgive each other in order to fall in love?
Content Warnings can be found here.
The rest of this blog is the extended Author’s Note for My Ant Monster Mate. It is full of spoilers, so please do not read on until you’ve read the book if you don’t want any spoilers!
Thank you so much for reading my book (I hope)! I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Writing this author’s note, on the other hand, is going to be a bit more difficult.
Right before this book’s scheduled release, a family member passed away. By this time, everything for the launch was set up and ready to go, and I really just needed to get the book published or it would be one more item on a suddenly overflowed to-do list that might end up getting knocked off the list altogether.
This book is too important to me to see that happen, and I must admit that getting it ready and putting together all the posts and newsletter and blog really helped distract me from everything going on in my life right now.
If you read my shorter author’s note at the back of the book, then you probably already know that I had a ton of help, encouragement, and guidance from my artist/beta-reader/great friend Sumooli. This book came about because I asked her to create a chibi version of Ixceramenops (aka Hunter) from The Hunter’s Mate:
She did such an awesome job on that adorable little ant monster that I commissioned a character sheet for another Menops hero I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing ever since I commissioned the art for Hunter’s insectoid form from Sam Griffin in 2019.
(Spoiler for The Hunter’s Mate!)
You see, the reason Hunter transformed into a more humanoid appearance was because he was critically wounded and accidentally consumed a minute amount of Tarin’s DNA through her blood dripping between his mouth slit. That was all it took for his adaptive biology to kick into gear and make the assumption that the DNA belonged to a creature native to the environment that was killing him. Therefore, Hunter’s body formed a cocoon (of fast hardening white fluid rather than silk), and within it, an emergency transformation took place.
All of that was part of Hunter’s storyline, and metamorphosis and choosing whether we become a monster, despite what our bloodlines or past are, are important themes of Hunter and Tarin’s story, so the change needed to happen.
That being said, I had so much fun writing the early scenes between Hunter and Tarin when he was still a full-on ant monster and they both found each other repulsive, that I wanted to write more scenes like that, only they didn’t fit within the story I wanted to tell at that time. Back then, I shelved the idea, along with many, many other ideas I have for future stories, and moved on to finish the story arc for the Iriduan Test Subjects series.
Flash forward to cute chibi Hunter, and an amazingly talented artist who just so happens to also be a big fan of the Menops ant monster. When I spoke to her about drawing another Menops male character, she jumped on the opportunity, and she outdid herself on Isolimenops!
I was so blown away by her artwork of him that I felt inspired with a ton of ideas for another story. I also commissioned another character sheet. This one of his heroine, Yesenia. It’s the first character art I’ve had done of one of my heroines, but by no means the last. I would love to have artwork for every single one of my characters at some point.
With both character sheets in hand, I got to work on their story, and I had so many ideas that I struggled to narrow it down! From the start, the base romance trope I wanted to build off was “enemies-to-lovers,” but I had several potential setups that I considered and discarded.
Some of them would require some darker moments, and I wanted to keep this story in the same tone as the rest of the Iriduan Universe Love Stories series, or at least lighter than the Iriduan Test Subjects series. Thus, I discarded several laboratory experiments scenarios (but not the concept of experimentation on the Menops, as you’ve probably noticed).
I also wanted my heroine to be a warrior or soldier or security of some sort, because the last three heroines in this spin off have lived softer lives (though they each suffered their own losses and heartaches, largely due to the Menops).
Not long before coming up with this storyline, I binge-watched ALL fifteen seasons of Supernatural on Netflix (I was in a weird place then, lol). Even though the show came out back when I was younger, I had never actually seen it (potential spoilery if you’ve lived under a rock like me and have never seen the show before XD), but I was inspired by the dynamic between John and his son Dean Winchester as they hunted down the demon who killed Mary (John’s wife).
I got to thinking what it would be like for someone so young to become a demon-hunter to get revenge for his mother’s death. I also pondered how that would affect the parent-child relationship as they worked together to gain their vengeance.
And through those ponderings, the Venganza was born! And ooh, I have so many stories I’d love to tell about Alessandro and Yesenia’s adventures with the crew of the Venganza, but then again, I have so many stories I’d love to tell about many things, lol.
I must admit, the hologram of Alessandro scene made me cry while writing it. It was a sad moment, but also a very sweet moment, and I knew that Yesenia needed closure, because at the end of the day, Alessandro loved his daughter very much, and she needed to see that for her story to truly have its happily-ever-after.
Yesenia being from Panama instead of somewhere in the United States like most of my heroines was a choice I made after realizing that I had yet to show the international impact of the Menops invasion. The Panama Canal seemed like the kind of target an invading alien force with human minions would strike to destroy supply lines and create logistical problems for the humans of Earth.
Though I did a lot of research, I understand that reading about a place or watching videos about it isn’t quite the same as being from that place. If I made any egregious errors in my representation of Panama and the people and culture, please accept my sincerest apologies and feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know so I can correct them.
Isolimenops and his colony were another exciting challenge for me. I created an entirely new homeworld for him, as well as added some new details to the Menops lore. Since the Menops are a polymorphic species that specializes in adapting to different worlds and environments, I have a lot of room for making changes, and this time, I wanted to focus on the fire ant, and really go crazy with the “fire” part.
This time, I was inspired by fire-breathing giant ants in a videogame I love to play. Fallout 3.
Grayditch. Iykyk. 😉
As for the “how” of Isoli breathing fire, I returned to my love of fungi. I’m sorry, but if you’re a fan of mine, you have probably read more fungi-inspired worldbuilding and plot than you ever wanted to read. XD
I’m fascinated by fungi!
I just am. I can’t help it! It comes in so many shapes and sizes, and has so many amazing properties and, and—
Okay, I’ll stop before I wax poetic about mushrooms, but yes, you will see almost as much fungi-based worldbuilding as genetic engineering in my books because those are two real-world topics that I love to research and that inspire the heck out of me.
The “Mother’s Gift” is loosely inspired by the real-world ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus, which zombifies ants. (IKR! Fascinating! Why did I have to wait until I was an adult to learn that? Biology would have been so much cooler if they’d taught that kind of thing before all the boring stuff!)
Since I mentioned that I play videogames, someone might assume that I got the zombifying fungus idea from Last of Us. I did not, and in fact, wasn’t even aware that was how the zombies came about in that series (I’ve heard great things, but I have not played it) until after all my own worldbuilding was done.
When I did find out, I wanted to cry, because quite honestly, by that point, the Menops were real to me, and there was no changing that important detail. I will usually go out of my way to avoid any potential similarities between my work and any other creative endeavor when I’m aware of those similarities, but some concepts are so obvious that it’s unavoidable that it will have been done before and will likely be done again.
I mean, I’m clearly not the only one who learned that a fungus can zombify ants and thought…hmmm, what if it could do that to humans? I just changed things up and made my ants intelligent and capable of striking a deal with an alien and sentient version of the zombifying fungus so it became their symbiont instead of their killer.
The Menops species turned out to be much more complex than the giant bug monster aliens I initially planned when I started the first book in the Iriduan Test Subjects series, The Scorpion’s Mate.
I know invading giant alien bugs is a concept that has been done to death, but that’s not why I changed my mind about the Menops. I started researching ants (I love researching insects of all types, entomology being another real-world topic that fascinates me) and found this YouTube channel called AntsCanada that featured such incredible footage and information about ants (it’s well worth a watch if you love ants) that I knew I could do better than the typical giant bug alien invaders for my alien monster ants.
The more I researched ants, the more I realized how complex their societies are and how impressive their accomplishments are given their tiny size. So, the Menops were conceived as a far more thoughtful and intelligent species than the typical universal menace bugs I had planned (for Thrax to hunt). And oh, how they have grown (pun kinda intended, lol) from the first book!
Obviously, to be a true universal threat, the Menops have to be almost overpowered in order to compete against (and cause fear and loathing in) such powerful species as the Iriduans, Ultimen, and even the Lusians (though they are more manipulative than afraid).
To build them up to the level that they could actually pose a true threat, I needed to give them ships, and the living ship concept is one I always have a lot of fun with. In this book, I didn’t have the time to do any real scenes on the Mariposa, but I would love to write some scenes for that ship and her new family, because I love writing about these ships.
And moving right along from the guts of a living ship to the guts of an alien rock-frog…
Why a frog, you ask? (I mean, maybe you didn’t, but my inner critic did).
The simple answer is that I had this image in my head of a frog snatching a fly out of the air with its tongue. A giant frog eating a ship the same way seemed like a cool concept and also allowed me to show Isoli and Yesenia on an insect-sized scale in comparison to something like the rock-frog. I thought that was a neat way to make them feel small and powerless against an overwhelming and uncaring enemy.
The behemoths of Batul’To are a whole ‘nother note! So, I won’t go into detail on them, but needless to say, Inner Critic was busily interrogating me about the feasibility of their existence and blah, blah, something, blah. (I stop listening to Inner Critic somewhere around the ten thousandth word in a manuscript)
Okay, well, that side tangent went on way longer than I planned! I keep this up, this Author’s Note will be almost as long as the book! So, to get back on track, what’s next for the series?
Short answer? I don’t know.
I have six solid concepts, three with outlines, and about a dozen more in the idea stage. There are all kinds of fun romance tropes I’d love to use (arranged marriage is a top contender, for example), and usually, when I decide which species and/or hero I’ll be writing about next, I know what the perfect trope for that couple will be.
This series clearly inspires me, and the books so far have been a pleasure to write, just breezing off my fingertips and onto the digital page. I love the ability to add humor and some lighter moments, and even some downright silliness, especially when my real life gets a lot less amusing, but I also love those deeper moments of emotion and those bigger questions of the universal condition. This series has been allowing me to blend those elements into something that is fun to read, but also hopefully deeper than expected.
I do still have books planned for my other series. My next project was supposed to be The Director’s Mate (I created art, I outlined it, I even already wrote the blurb), but then some things happened in my life that sucked all the motivation out of me, so I’m taking some time off to focus on family and mental wellness before jumping back into writing again.
When I do, I’m hoping I’ll be feeling up to doing The Director’s Mate (because I really miss my grays and want to reveal a new character design), but since that will be a big, high pressure project, I’ll have to see how I’m feeling and whether I need to go with something lighter first.
But until then, I hope you can find some books to enjoy in my other series. I thank you so much for all your support and encouragement, and for taking the time to read this extended author’s note and (hopefully!) the book it’s about. 😀