Jeff & Will shout out a Carina Adores online Pride event coming up on June 14 featuring authors Adriana Herrera, Roan Parrish, Hudson Lin and Penny Aimes.
Jeff talks with Kirt Graves about narrating the Codename: Winger young adult series. They discuss why Kirt wanted to take on the series, and his desire to voice more YA books. Kirt gets into the differences in voicing YA versus romance, as well as why he’s live streaming some of his recording sessions on Discord. Kirt also asks Jeff questions about the Winger series, and they talk about some of the experiments they’re doing with the way the Winger audiobooks are being released (including being available for purchase directly from Jeff’s website). At the end of the episode, listeners can sample the prologue and first chapter of Tracker Hacker as read by Kirt.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Carina Adores Pride Panel Facebook Event Page
- Adriana Herrera on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Roan Parrish on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Hudson Lin on Amazon | Kobo
- Penny Aimes on Amazon | Kobo
- June’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Literature on Lamdba Literary
- Kirt Graves Interview
- Kirt Graves: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Discord | Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Codename Winger series by Jeff Adams on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm | Jeff’s Website
- Kamikaze Boys by Jay Bell on Amazon | Kobo
- Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Z.A. Maxfield on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Clare London on Amazon | Kobo
- Kim Possible on Disney+
- James Bond website
- Kingsman: The Secret Service on Amazon Prime Video
- Sky High on Disney+
- Travis Baldree on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- BookFunnel website | About the BookFunnel App
- Out of Character by Annabeth Albert on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm (pre-order until July 6, 2021)
- Revelations by Nicole Knight on Amazon
- Broken Warrior by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott on Amazon
- Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm (pre-order until September 22, 2021)
- Pride Month Bonus 2 – Kirt Graves (featuring Lynn Van Dorn’s Now You See Me) on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Pride Month Bonus 10 – Kirt Graves (featuring Jay Bell’s Kamikaze Boys) on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Coming up on this episode, YA week continues with audiobook narrator, Kirt Graves. He’s going to be talking with us about his work on Jeff’s “Codename: Winger” series.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 315 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff Adams and with me as always is my co-host and husband Will Knauss.
Will: Hello, rainbow romance readers we are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show. Now, before we get to our conversation with Kirt, we want to tell you all about an event that we think is worth checking out. Carina Adores is hosting a virtual Pride event on Monday, June 14th at 1:00 PM Eastern, 10:00 AM Pacific. It’s hosted by author Adriana Herrera and features Roan Parris, Hudson Lin and Penny Aimes. We hope that you’ll join us there because it’s bound to be an excellent conversation. We’ll have a link to the Facebook Event in the shownotes where you’ll find all the information you need about attending.
Jeff: I’m so looking forward to that because I can just imagine what a wonderful conversation that’s going to be with those four authors.
So earlier this month I began rereleasing my “Codename: Winger” books, the series about a high school student who is also a computer genius and works for a covert agency. I’ve talked a few times on the show about the series, and as it comes back out there’ve been some really cool things that have happened. Two of the books landed on the Lambda Literary list for most anticipated books of June, which was such a thrill to have happen. The second book in the series, “Schooled” is going to come out next week on June 15th, which is really exciting. And it’s really cool that I got to sit down with Kirt to talk about his work in this series.
And you’re going to want to stick around after the show, after all the theme music plays out at the end, because we’re going to give you an opportunity to hear the first 20 minutes of “Tracker Hacker,” which is the first book in the series. We’ll have the prologue and the first chapter for you.
Now, if you go back long enough in the show history here, you know that I am gaga for Kirt Graves’s narration, and I have been since he first debuted with TJ Klune’s “Wofsong.” He is absolutely one of my favorite narrators. It has been such a wonderful thing to watch him work on this series, and to get to listen to the finished product. It was such a treat to get to sit down with him and talk about how he’s prepared to do these books, what he thinks about people watching him record on his Discord channel, and why he wants to do more young adult books. And in this conversation, he also asked me a few questions about the writing of the “Codename: Winger” series.
Kirt Graves Interview
Jeff: Kirt, welcome back to the podcast. It’s great to have you here and happy Pride month.
Kirt: Thank you very much, I’m so excited to be back.
Jeff: I am too, because have wanted a Kirt Graves audio book, of my very own for so long, and now, I have an entire series.
Kirt: Yes you do.
Jeff: Because you are doing the “Codename: Winger” Books, bringing Theo Reese to life. I’m over the moon. As we’re recording this in early June, you’ve actually recorded the first two books with “Tracker Hacker” and “Schooled.”
Jeff: Which are working their way out into the world for everybody to get at their favorite audio book location.
You and I started talking about this series back in GRL 2019 in Albuquerque.
What made this series interesting for you to take on as a project?
Kirt: I mean, I think for any audio book narrator there are some things that you have to consider with every book that you’re going to do.
One of them is of course money. Like, are you going to earn out on it? And the other big one is this going to be an important part of your portfolio? So, for me this was just an important part of my portfolio as somebody who would like to be doing more YA. Not only who would like to be doing more YA, but who would like to see more queer young adult stories in the marketplace and would like to position myself to be somebody who’s considered for those stories.
And It’s really exciting to see that there are a lot more queer young adult stories being published these days, and so for me, this is all about being able to say, Hey, I’ve already done this number of queer YA stories.
In fact, here’s a whole series that I did. You know, and being able to put that in front of, the people who are influencers in my circles and be able to say, Hey, I would like to do more of this type of work, and hopefully I did a good job with it. So, go listen, and then hire me for more stuff.
Jeff: And those of you, if you can’t hire him, review them highly so that he can get more work in this space.
Kirt: Yes, that’s also really important. I mean, it’s completely, self-serving. Which, you know, I hate to say I put like a lot of the choices, You know, for narrators, we are doing this as a business, all of us should be, and so you have to kind of consider the business angles. As much as I might want to do YA, if there wasn’t a good reason for me to do it, I wouldn’t push myself into that space, but it’s very much a space I want to be in. And I want to see more of these stories published. And I want to be the voice of these stories as often as possible.
Jeff: Now, when we talked about doing this during GRL. These were maybe going to be first, but you’ve done a couple other young adults with Jay Bell specifically to some of the work you did with like “Conventionally Yours” with Annabeth Albert, and some others in there too.
What different things do you pull on yourself as you’re working with younger characters versus the characters you might work with in some of the other, you know, 30 and 40 year olds in romance?
Kirt: I don’t know that my take is that different. I think I actually have to do less work for YA, just because I think it fits my voice better.
My natural speaking voice, I think lends itself to YA. That is something I have been told by the people I coach with as well. so sometimes, with adult romances, you know, especially some of those grisly darker characters, you have to work a little harder to take on the character.
Where as with Theo and with some of the characters I’ve done for Jay and even the “Conventionally Yours,” and the sequel that’s coming out this summer, they skew much closer to my natural speaking voice. Which actually makes the job a little bit more fun and enjoyable for me, because I don’t have to think so much about voice. And I get to think a lot more about character and emotion and what’s happening in the story. So, you know, YA for me is a playground.
I also think you get to take a few more risks, things that would seem silly in a romance. Especially romances that aren’t romantic comedies. You can be a little bolder with some of the choices you make for the side characters, you know, those people who pop in in one scene and they say one thing like you can go a little bigger, you can make a bigger choice, and in YA, it makes much more sense then in a very serious, romance. Cause you, you don’t want to take people out of like the romantic element by having a bartender come in and have a silly accent or something, you know?
Jeff: I feel like I gave you a fairly large cast as well. And I’m not thinking like “Wolfsong” levels of huge casts, but as I was preparing character sheets, even in book one, there’s a lot of people floating around in there.
Kirt: Yeah, did you even realize how many people you had floating around in there?
Jeff: I did not, and I’m always, I try to be conscious of where I can reuse characters. Just cause I don’t want to give the reader a lot either, but then there’s like the one-off agents that show up occasionally or the one-off police officer who wanders in here and I can’t put that somewhere else. There were instances across the series where people will pop up again, but I’m doing those characters sheets, I’m like, I am so sorry.
Kirt: Yeah, I would say, and that’s actually something that you did for me that is above and beyond. Not every author has done that, where you gave me every character who is in every book and where they show up, and if they show up more than once, and if they had any defining characteristics about their voice, which was super helpful. I go back to that frequently as I’m recording, cause it’s like, okay, this person, I don’t remember anything about this person.
Is that because I forgotten an important person? Or is it because. Nope, they only show up the one time. Great. Give them a Russian accent or something like that because it’s like, okay, it doesn’t matter. They do come back. This isn’t like the big, bad who shows up in the 11th hour and suddenly they have to make sense, like, Nope, this is just one-off person.
Which I think is totally true to the world that exists for Theo in “Codename: Winger,” because he would be interacting with a lot of different agents, and depending on what case he’s on, those people would either be there or not again. You even address that a little bit in book two that, he gets to go and meet some people in person that usually he just knows by email or by codename.
So, really in his world, having people there who show up just the one time, it’s not unusual, and I don’t think it gives the reader or the listener, any extra weight that they have to carry with them. I think they’re just as willing as I am to say like, okay, this is just a one-off person, great. Moving on.
Jeff: We will never hear from them again.
Kirt: We’ll never hear from them again and that’s fine. It’s totally fine to have as many of those characters in a book as people want. Where it gets challenging is if those people become like really important, like two books later. And I didn’t know about it in book one, and then I make a silly choice and then like two books later, it’s like, okay, somehow have to make that silly voice make sense as the narrator of a book. But again, like all of those one-off characters, like that’s where the fun comes in, cause it’s like, oh, I don’t have to worry.
Like this, this story exists in the real world. It is not a fantasy, so I can’t go too nuts, but I, I also don’t have to worry about those choices. They can be can be a little more upbeat or a little off the beaten path and it works because it’s YA and it’s fun. The stories are fun. So I don’t have to be afraid of being fun.
Jeff: And so far, yeah, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. And I suppose for people who are like, what the hell are they even talking about? I should talk a little bit about what the book actually is. So the “Codename: Winger” series across the four books is we’ve got our high school hockey player who’s a computer genius who has been working with his parents in a covert agency, since he was 11.
He hacked his parents’ phones, figured out what they were doing, and the agency was impressed enough to have him come work in their I.T department.
In “Tracker Hacker,” we’ve got a situation where the agency’s, uh, tracking system has been hacked by somebody. They’ve got agents disappearing. They’re trying to plug this security leak. So Theo is very involved in that. And in pretty short order, his dad ends up and is somebody who’s gone off the grid and can’t be found. And it forces him out into the field, the very, for the very first time with minimal training, but he’s kind of the guy for them who can get in and take care of the situation because also the secret lair happens to be under a hockey rink where he can go play at a tournament.
You say some of it’s rooted in the real world to have your lair under a hockey rink? I don’t know.
Kirt: I mean, you created a character who is young, athletic, super genius who’s also emotionally intelligent and social enough to have friends and a boyfriend. I don’t know that that person exists in real life, but man, is he fun to hang out with on a page.
Jeff: I’d like to think that maybe somewhere there is a Theo out in the world, You know, who can tick all of those boxes and what I like it, my own story, but I gave those moments where it’s like, how are you this person, you know? In book two, somebody actually is like, how do you write these crazy technical papers and do this stuff? But you’re also, this guy who plays hockey and you’ve got this boyfriend too, how is that possible? It just is for him.
Kirt: With some struggles, which I also really enjoy about the story. It’s not easy for him. Balancing all of that takes, thoughtfulness and he struggles with it.
Jeff: And that’s something that he will not lose through the series. Things escalate and essentially each book amps up the stakes for him, and what he has to accomplish both as an agent, and in some cases being just a kid.
And “Schooled,” the second book really sets him up for that because his agency life and his school life collide here as a secret file that he’s been helping the agency search for that has been stolen actually ends up at the computer science competition, where he is coaching and working with his school’s team. And he has to somehow be winger. And be Theo at the same time.
It tests him pretty thoroughly and what he can do, because even at the beginning, he’s like, I don’t know why I would work with this computer science team because I’m better than all of them. But he learns a lot in that process in terms of leading people, working with people, and as Eddie, his boyfriend very bluntly says, you don’t have to be a dick about this.
Kirt: Right. He also discovers, like, you’re not the only smart kid in the school. Like there are other, very capable people. Maybe they don’t do it all like you do, but they have their niche and they’re, and they’re very good at it. Just to take the conversation back a little bit to like, when you first started writing this series, where did you come up with the idea to have a super genius hockey player, gay guy with a boyfriend?
Jeff: So it all comes back to GRL. In this case, GRL in Chicago in, I want to say 2015, maybe.
Initially I just finished my very first trilogy, which was a young adult, new adult, trying to decide what I was going to do next. Was it going to be romance? What’s it gonna be more young adult? What did that look like? And I was talking with ZA Maxfield and talking with Clare London and Will was there. We kind of had this idea of something around a secret agent. A young secret agent could be interesting. Somewhere else in this con, and I never figured out for sure if they were with GRL or somebody who was just staying at this hotel, but somebody on their phone had a “Kim Possible” ringtone. I adore “Kim Possible.”
I love that show. I’ve watched it all. I’ve revisited a few times on Disney plus because they’re all there. Kim being this high-schooler, who was responsible for saving the world, saving her town, you know, doing big things. And also occasionally having that moment of like, gosh, I just wish I could go be with mom and dad and just not deal with this thing.
She wouldn’t have had the secret identity thing going on, but it was very much the similar thing. By the time I left GRL that weekend, I had the prologue in my head and actually wrote it on the plane coming back. I mean, it changed a little bit as anything will from first draft to finish, but by and large, there was Theo for the first time on a page.
Then it was a matter of like how long would the series be and what would escalate across those books? And essentially the four books are a year in his life that “Tracker Hacker” starts near the beginning of his junior year in high school. Book two takes place right after the holidays, and there’s the in-between short story that is the little Christmas story. Which again, it’s very rooted in “Kim Possible” because one of my favorite episodes is their Christmas special. Where it’s like, can Kim get back in time to save the Possible family tradition? It’s very much the theme for Theo, in that story. So book three takes place over summer break and then book four kicks off shortly after he’s back in school to start his senior year.
Kirt: And you, you mapped all that out from the beginning?
Jeff: I did, because I knew I wanted interconnection between the books, and I wanted to very clearly see him grow from mission to mission as they became increasingly difficult for various reasons, because they all take place a little differently. So, that first one, he had to go out into the field that second, when the field kind of came to him, In the third one, it’s not expected to be really a mission at all because he thinks he’s going with his parents to help out some family friends who are just like, essentially, it looks like they’re just being harassed a little bit, and they’re going to try and fix that. But it becomes something much more nefarious going on that then ties a little bit back to book one. And then in book four, everything kind of blows apart. With still tiebacks to books three and one. There’s some loose tiebacks to two, in some places, especially with some characters, but the big arc of the big bad kind of goes between one and three and four.
Kirt: So, the technical elements that we have to talk about. I assume that must come from your real life job. That or you’re doing a lot of research. Or you’re just making shit up and I’m not techie enough to realize that you’re saying nonsense, which could also be true.
Jeff: It’s a combination of all of the above. There’s some of it that I at least understand some aspects of tech enough that I can tease out the research to either make it sort of rooted in enough reality that it works.
Or, just enough outside of it that maybe there’s a little alternative reality thing here. As far as I know, like the super cool contact lenses that he’s using that are referenced at the end of book two and get used in book three. I don’t think those exist or at least they didn’t when I wrote the books, I don’t think, but, technology moves all the time. And it’s essentially, what Geordi ends up with towards the end of, “The Next Generation” movies where he’s away from the visor and has his ocular implants at that point. These are just contact lenses, but we see stuff like that in movies, right?
So I don’t move things necessarily further than I think Q would come up with something in a “Bond” movie. Cause those essentially are rooted now, and now you’ve just got the agency that has the super cool tech. Another big one to draw from was the “Kingsman” movies. Especially the first one. So I try to keep it, logical, but maybe with a little fantastical thrown in, because I want him to have that gadget, but I tried to make it all something that can be done too. Everything ties back to an iPhone for the most part, just super souped up iPhone,
Kirt: For sure, did you ever think about giving him a sidekick? Did Theo almost have his Ron to Kim Possible?
Jeff: You know, I was so into the idea of having to keep him mostly isolated. So, you know, it couldn’t become Eddie or it couldn’t become Mitch or somebody like that. Eddie’s his boyfriend, and Mitch’s is like best friend and the guy he plays hockey with and stuff.
In a lot of ways, if you were to give him a sidekick, it’s probably John. Who, you know, works with the family, and for a long time, he just thought he was an Uncle John who took care of him until he really found out what was going on.
And Lorenzo is kind of a sidekick too, in terms of being his agency counterpart and the one he works most directly with on most of the projects. But no, he didn’t get to have a Ron. Which is kind of a missed opportunity in some ways, but I think that would’ve made things wildly more complicated in letting him lead his mission life a little bit.
Kirt: Okay, that makes sense, I was just curious since I knew Kim Possible was such an inspiration if that was ever something you thought about having there for him.
Jeff: I noodled on it for a little bit, but couldn’t quite make that happen. I have to say, since we were talking about Lorenzo there for a little bit as Theo’s boss.
I love what you did with some of the characters where you didn’t have to go with anything on the page. I mean, I described what Lorenzo looked like, but there’s nowhere that I talk about how he speaks, and you granted him an accent, which I adore.
Kirt: I don’t know, it’s probably the same influence you and I talked about which Q for James Bond is just, this guy who’s in the background, talking tech, I was like, ah, he’s so much fun. And there was a part of me just, you know, his name being Lorenzo. I was like, oh, maybe he’s Italian, but then his last name was Davenport. So I was like, eh, maybe he’ll be British, and so I just, you know, had fun.
He had to be something, cause he’s too… that’s an example of a character who like, if I had played it straight and just very, you know, boring tech guy, it would have been a missed opportunity. That’s where YA, you can take a risk, you can make a bigger choice and have fun with it. And as he’s peppered throughout the stories, it’s such a, fun time whenever he shows up now I’m always like, Ooh, good. I get to do some Lorenzo. I get to do some Doctor Possible
Jeff: It works for him so well, and I like it when he is stressed because of how it tweaks how he speaks. And Theo’s got the same thing. Theo’s got an interesting kind of, you can tell what he’s on edge or tell when he’s upset because his voice takes on just the slightest hint of something else. Not over the top, because again, you’re keeping it really grounded, but it’s like, ah, that’s just, it made me happy.
I’m an author who listens to the books. I mean, not only do you need me to proof them, but I’m excited to prove them. I know there are some who just kind of get by with the minimal they can do cause they don’t want to hear their words. To me it’s exciting because it’s in the same way that if it were a play or a movie, I’d be seeing the performance of it.
And I’m hearing your take on my story. Cause there’s different ways you could have done it. That would have spun it a whole different way. But yeah, Lorenzo is become a big favorite, and Theo’s mom has just the slightest tinges of Elizabeth Bennett sometimes. Especially when she’s truly in mom mode and concerned about Theo. it’s just like, awww I have my little bit of Elizabeth right there.
Kirt: Yeah. Well, you know, every narrator has their, their bag of tricks, and the sort of the mom and dad voice or something that have to come out every now and again. You try not to make them exactly the same, and I don’t picture them the same in my head. But at some point there’s going to be crossover because yeah, they’re, both moms. They both care about their kid.
Jeff: Have there been scenes in these first two books that you have as favorites either because of how they were voiced or just how they turned out or something like that.
Kirt: I’m so bad at favorites. I kind of already said it, but like anytime Lorenzo shows up, I’m excited, except for when he was sad. I was like, come on now. Now I can’t do my excited Lorenzo, but yeah, there was a good reason for him being sad.
I was pretty excited when, the Irish lady shows up.
Jeff: Oh, I forgot. I wrote her Irish.
Jeff: That’s when that’s written into the manuscript that she had that little Irish accent and that it was there and I’m like, oh, this is awesome. And I loved every time that she cussed. Cause she cusses a lot. It was just wonderful.
Kirt: I really enjoy every time it’s just Theo and Eddie together. I like it both as a performer, but also just as like a gay guy. And I was like, oh, I love that there’s this book out there where there are two people who are in an established relationship.
It’s not a book about two people falling in love like they are in the relationship and they’re dealing with it as teenagers, just like any other teenage couple would. I love the way Eddie is written. I love that he is so sensible and kind, but stands up for himself and will bring up the things that he wants in the relationship. So I, I love the two of them together.
There are some times when I’m recording books. When I just know I’m going to have to really work for it. Most of these books, I don’t have to work too hard. It’s mostly just a series of like, well, what happens in this chapter? Oh yeah. These people talk. Okay, great. The only times I really dreaded it when I’m saying the technical stuff, cause I’m like, oh God, I hope I’m saying this correct ly. Cause I was like, I don’t know. Do I emphasize this part of the sentence or this part of the sentence? I hope I’m guessing. I am not a computer genius, I hope I am understanding what this is saying, and I am relaying correctly. Knowing that you will tell me if I get it wrong and that there’s always a chance to fix it. So I don’t stress too hard about anything.
But mostly it’s just a series of like, oh yeah, I get to do I get to do the mom again. I love doing the dad voice. Cause it’s just sort of that, You know, who was it in “Sky High?” I think a lot of “Sky High” when I’m doing these books. I’m sure that was an inspiration for you as well. If you ever saw the movie,
Jeff: I liked that movie a lot. Yeah.
Kirt: Who was it, Kurt Russell was a dad in that movie?
Jeff: I think so.
Kirt: That’s just kind of what’s in my head as I’m, going through this. Thinking of thinking of actors that I know and like and it’s like, oh, okay, this will be fun to, to take on these characters again. So again, I failed at the assignment. I did not pick a single favorite thing. I just listed a bunch of stuff I like
Jeff: That’s okay. I do like Theo and Eddie together. I’ve always liked those scenes , because again, they are that established character. You’re not having to watch them fall them love, go through, you know, whatever pushes and pulls they had to go through to get there. They’re established, they talk about their future plans and things like that.
Love the scenes where you get Theo and Eddie, and Mitch and Iris together. Especially their lighter scenes. There’s some heavier stuff in book one that they have to deal with, but there’s the scene at Christmas where they’re doing secret Santa, and Eddie’s doing his swim meet, but, Theo and Mitch and Iris are up in the stands to cheer him on, and there’s a great bit of banter between them as they’re kind of ogling the swim team, but making Mitch really uncomfortable while they’re doing it. Just those banter things are so fun to hear pop to life like that. But I’m really looking forward to three and four, too as the stakes continue to just amp, for what you’re going to end up and do there.
Kirt: So you got me scared now about these last two books. I better gird myself be ready to go through it emotionally.
Jeff: So I loved watching you record live. For people who don’t know, there are days, depending on the material that you’re doing, that you’re on Discord live doing the readings. Is it weird to have an audience for that? I mean, I know you’re a performer anyway, like you do plays, you’re involved in local theater, but is it weird to have people watch you do your thing in the booth?
Kirt: Yeah, I hate it. It’s my least favorite thing ever, but it’s an accountability thing. It really does help me stay focused and stay on task.
And, you know, as the pandemic went on, that was like my, toughest day to day issue is just like, how do I go and sit in this box and just read again. By month 15, it was like, oh my God. I’ve done nothing else in all this time, and so my impetus for doing it was simply to be like, well, if somebody is watching me, I got to do it.
I can’t take a 30 minute to two hour break when somebody is expecting me to come back to do another chapter. So I opened it up and was just like, I don’t know if anybody’s even going to watch, but just the idea that somebody might be there watching was enough to keep me going.
And I had seen another narrator, his name is Travis Baldree, he does a lot of LitRPG narrations, and he does voices for video games and stuff like that. And he does that through Discord. I completely copied his whole setup. Like his face is tiny in the screen, like he’s not the feature, but it actually lets people see the book that I’m recording. Like I have some artwork for the book and the name and who wrote it. And then I have my recording screen. So people are seeing the sound files being created. I was like, oh, that’s so much less about me and more about the process and that I was able to wrap my head around and do.
I still hate it, because I still just don’t like, I don’t like doing live reads. I don’t like people seeing behind the curtain because they know how often I mess up and have to stop and change things. I much prefer that people just think I sit down in the booth and produce a beautiful audio book and there was no struggle or a problem whatsoever, but that is, of course not the way it goes. You have to stop, you have to rethink things. You have to go, oh, I didn’t do that very well. Or like, oh yeah, this word, I looked this up. How do I say that? You know, It’s all a part of the process. And so people can kind of get a sneak peek.
I’ve had a couple of authors now come into the Discord room while I’m recording their book, which is interesting. You and the other have both been very kind. It hasn’t been a problem. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve been able to say like, oh, actually this part doesn’t make any sense. Can you help me out?
Jeff: We didn’t have to do that while I was watching you.
Kirt: I shouldn’t say it didn’t make sense, but it was just a time when, I would change what I was saying on purpose, just because, sometimes you put two words that rhyme in a sentence and you don’t think about it when you’re writing it down. Especially if those two words don’t look like they would rhyme, but they do actually. I remember there was one time when I was recording and the author was in the room watching and I was like, Hey, can I just change it to this? And real time she was able to be like, yes, that’s fine. So I was like, okay, that’s great.
It has served its purpose, and I don’t hate it as much as I used to. I do like that it’s advertising the books for the authors who I think deserve the attention. So, when I can do it, I will. I can’t always, because sometimes I’m recording a book that hasn’t come out yet, or sometimes I just haven’t gotten the okay to do that recording.
Most of the time, if it’s an indie author, they’re pretty enthused about the opportunity to preview the work for people, and it’s not like anybody’s showing up for every minute of every recording that they’re getting a free audio book in the process because folks usually pop in for you know, five to 10 minutes, say hi, and then go off and do something else.
Jeff: I had you in my ear for most of the morning that I listened to you. I think you did the first 12 chapters of “Schooled” or something like that in first session, and I listened to most of that. I was just fascinated by it, and watching you manipulate the sound file and look at the spectrum analysis on it. Since I do similar things for the podcast, it’s like, Ooh, this is kind of interesting watching how this happens and how he backs up and redoes certain things, and frankly, that you do screw up because certainly Will and I in front of the microphone doing it, even with the script in front of us, can’t say the words right sometimes.
Kirt: Those are the ones I catch in the moment, sometimes I don’t catch it. And then the proofer comes back with, you said this dumb and I was like okay. I don’t know where that came from, but you know, you fix it.
Jeff: But it was also fascinating to me to watch you, change voices on the fly. I mean, you’d go through whole big sections where you’d be popping between Theo and Eddie or Theo and Lorenzo and maybe somebody else. And I mean, I’ve seen you do live readings occasionally at GRL, too, but to watch you in the booth, just make the magic happen. It’s like, that is so cool.
Kirt: Good, good, and I hope that that’s, you know, educational or informative, at least for people who are watching. That’s the craft. That’s, you know, convincingly moving between narrative and dialogue and all the different people who are talking in the chapter. And there are definitely some chapters that, I will skip because I know they’re going to be really difficult.
I did a book this last week where it was almost like a bad joke. It’s like a Russian, an Irish and an Australian shifter all walk into an antique shop, and it’s like, that was my day. Like, that chapter took like over an hour for like 10 minutes of finished recording audio, because it was just so much stuff to switch between all of those different accents. And so that’s when I will turn the mic off. Cause it’s like, you don’t need to see this,
But if I can, sit in a story, especially, you know, book two “Schooled.” I’m in it. I know the characters, I know the people, and that’s a pretty smooth recording process, which people can come and watch if they want, because I don’t keep a specific schedule. You just kind of have to join my Discord server and then I’ll send out a message being like, Hey, I’m doing it today.
One thing I’m curious about from you is like, so this is technically a rerelease. The books have been released before, and you have the opportunity to go back and look at the series again, and I’m curious what that experience was like for you, being an author who has more experience, who knows more about not only the writing side of things, but you and Will do a lot of research on the marketing and publicity side of being a writer. When you went back and looked at these with new eyes, what did you find? And did you change anything?
Jeff: Very few things changed. We talked about changing the covers to maybe trying to make those a little more in market, but you still, I mean I compare this the most to, the “Alex Rider” books and these can sit alongside those books pretty well.
Kirt: I was going to say I think that covers are great.
Jeff: So we left that. I read through the stories all again, to see if I wanted to change anything. I think I changed a few bits and pieces, but these were so tightly edited and the developmental edit I had was so, so good. I still, to this day, can’t thank Laura enough for what she did to make these books better.
I’m like, you know what? I’m going to leave these alone. There are some things that I’ve gotten back, that I have made significant changes to especially stuff that’s like early in my career, which is shockingly now, like in it’s 11th year or something. And those I’m looking like, God, why did we ever publish that? But these, I was proud of when they came out. They’re not that old. “Tracker Hacker’s” just celebrating its third birthday.
Kirt: Really? Is it only that long?
Jeff: Yeah, it came out in November of 2017. So, I decided to let, them be for the most part. I’m excited that the Christmas story is now bound into book one so that it sits in the timeline correctly, because it actually came out between books two and three, and I’m like, Hey, this actually belongs over here next to this other thing.
The only other thing I’ve been looking at is just how to make more of my universes connect, overall. Really for the most part, everything connects, I mean, in a broader sense, you know, Theo and Tactical Operational Support exist in the same way world that Caleb and Aaron exist in, in “The Hockey Player’s Heart.” And if I had made some of those choices earlier, I actually would have probably written Caleb into a book somewhere just as like a player that Theo liked, but those connections will happen later.
Jeff: The young adult, new adult series of “Hat Trick” still needs to come back out. And there’s actually a crossover scene that I’ve written into that book that puts those characters on the ice at Christmas time with Theo.
Kirt: Oh cool.
Jeff: And Eddie’s in the audience. So that will help connect everything together, kind of going forward, when I finally get those back out, which probably won’t be until 2022.
Kirt: The shared universe.
Jeff: Why not make one big happy family.
Kirt: If Marvel has taught us anything,
Jeff: One big MCU.
Kirt: Make everything a shared universe
Jeff: Then eventually the plan is that while Theo’s story is essentially done in “Netminder,” I want to do adult romantic suspense using Tactical Operational Support is like the backbone to that. So even when we’re done in this series, characters that you know from this series will end up in be support characters in that series.
Kirt: Very cool
Jeff: Someday, down the line.
You know, we didn’t talk about process or behind the scenes stuff at all, but like you and I are learning a lot along the way of putting these out as well. Outside the traditional, like just going through ACX, format for creating audio books. So, I hope that people know to go to your website to buy the book.
Jeff: That’s a good point. While these are available widely through all the audiobook, resources or figures crossed, that book one is actually wide by the time this podcast episode comes out. Cause it’s headed that way. You can’t actually come to my website at jeffadamswrites.com and click on the shop button, and then the books will be sitting there as well. That you can get them at a lower price than you could through any other outlet. Which is super exciting to be able to do that. As you said, that’s an experiment that we’re running, together and the way that this is getting released. So, kind of exciting to take that on too, to see what that’s like. Cause then you could take it maybe to your other clients that you’re working with. Maybe we want to do this thing over here.
Kirt: Oh, I know for sure, all the writers out there in writerland. They’re looking for something that’s not ACX that can still make them money, it’s all about return on investment. And so, for a lot of people that means they’re trapped in the Amazon ecosystem. So I’m excited for us to try something different and see if we can report good news to everybody else.
Jeff: Fingers crossed. So yeah, everybody go buy them off my website if you are so inclined because the Bookfunnel app is really cool.
Just a little commercial for the Bookfunnel app. It’s just as easy to read and listen to whether it’s an e-book or an audiobook right there in that app, as you would, anywhere else. I’ve been very pleased with that functionality.
Kirt: Very seamless. So, yeah, and these will be in libraries too, which is really exciting that if you yourself enjoyed the story and you know a young person in your life who doesn’t have the cash in their back pocket to go buy an audio book, like encourage them to go through their local library and find these stories.
Jeff: Yeah, cause they should all be out there as everything kind of rolls out widely that anybody should be able to request it through their library and hopefully they will want to pick it up, and make it part of their catalog. So that the young people, as you noted who, you know, don’t necessarily buy things through audible or some other outlet, just pick it up for free?
So I really hope you do more yA. Outside of my own books. I mean, I love what you’ve done with Jay Bell I’m excited to know there’s a “Conventionally Yours” sequel to come.
Kirt: I think it comes out in July. It’s recorded. It’s done.
Jeff: Oh, wow.
Kirt: It’s called “Out of Character” by Annabeth Albert.
Jeff: Cool. Anything else you can tease us about that is on your docket to come out in the next few months?
Kirt: I’m doing a few really cool series. A book that just came out Nicole Knight wrote “Revelations” in the “Fire and Brimstone” series. It’s sort of like a reverse harem story, but because it’s male/male, there’s no reverse involved. But like the harem is like angels. It all exists in like the mythology of, heaven and hell, which is really fun.
Sort of towards the end of 2019, I kind of put out in the world, like I’m loving these werewolves, but I would love to just kind of do some other realms of like fantasy and magic. And boy did the universe deliver because I have that series. I have, another series the first book is out “Broken Warrior” was the first book in the “Weaver Circle” series. So check that out. They’re all going to be coming out like slowly but surely these series that just kind of take some time to work their way through.
Then of course, the big, exciting thing later this year is TJ Klune’s “Under the Whispering Door” comes out in September and I will be recording that this summer. So that’ll be my, debut in one of the big five, Audio houses for the publishers. So that comes out from McMillan Audio on September 21st.
Jeff: That is so exciting. I can’t wait to hear that
Kirt: Yeah, it’s exciting, and it’s a beautiful story that in some ways is very much TJ Klune, and in other ways is like no other book I’ve ever read from him.
Jeff: Well, Kurt, it has been wonderful talking to you, getting in a little bit more of your process around the “Codename: Winger” books. I’m so excited that you’re bringing this series to life and I look forward to everybody getting to hear them and really see what Theo’s all about through your voice, cause I think they’ll really like it.
Kirt: Me too. I’m very excited to have this as a part of my portfolio now moving forward. It’s a really good series. I hope you’re really proud of the work that you did. Theo is a great character and the stories are so much fun. So I’m really excited to be a part of it.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the shownotes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. And don’t forget the shownotes page also has links to everything that we talked about in this episode.
Jeff: The entire “Codename: Winger” series is going to become available on Libro.fm over the coming weeks. And of course, we love Libro.fm because it is the place that when you buy audi books from them, you’re also supporting a local bookstore of your choice. Listeners to the Big Gay Fiction Podcast have the opportunity to get a two month audiobook membership for the price of one and all you need to do to take advantage of that and get all the details is go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/librofm.
And thanks again to Kirt for talking with me about the “Codename: Winger” series. The audiobooks, as we mentioned, we’ll continue to roll out wide over all the outlets in the coming weeks. And of course, you’ll be able to get the audiobooks the same day the ebooks release on my website so that you can listen to those through the BookFunnel app. You can find out all about the “Codename: Winger” series, plus links to the store on my website at codenamewinger.com.
And remember to stick around for the first 20 minutes of “Tracker Hacker” coming right up in just a minute or two. Plus, if you’d like to hear more of Kirt’s readings, you can check out his appearances in last year’s Pride month episodes, where he actually read from books by Jay Bell and Lynn Van Dorn.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Monday in episode 316, author Stephen Rowley joins us to talk about his brand new book, “The Guncle.”
Jeff: Steven was so fun to talk to about this very gay take on the classic “Auntie Mame” type story. You will not want to miss this conversation.
Will: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, stay strong, be safe and above all else, keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.
Audiobook Sample: Tracker Hacker by Jeff Adams, Narrated by Kirt Graves
Kirt: “Tracker Hacker, Codename: Winger” Book One. Written by Jeff Adams, Narrated by Kirt Graves.
I guess most people probably think their life isn’t much different from their friends’, and it’s probably not. But mine very much is.
My name’s Theo, and I’m a sixteen-year-old junior at McKinley High, where I’m a damn good, high-scoring winger for Tigers hockey.
I suck at science and literature, but I can do anything with a computer. I’ve been taking afternoon classes at MIT since last year.
Eddie’s my awesome boyfriend. He’s a science nerd who makes me swoon. All he has to do is look at me over the top of his geeky black glasses and I’ll pretty much do whatever he wants. It was murder having him as my chemistry tutor last year, because all I wanted to do was make out with his cuteness.
Here’s where my life gets weird.
Five years ago I used my mad computer skills to figure out why my parents often left for long periods of time.
I wanted to know why they weren’t like other parents.
Usually if one parent’s gone, the other is around. Not so for me. They traveled together a lot, leaving me at home with Uncle John.
When I asked what they did for work, all they said was that they helped people for an international relief agency. I told them I was doing a report for school. They answered all my questions. But it’d seemed like I wasn’t getting the whole story.
So I hacked their phones.
I discovered they were agents for something called Tactical Operational Support. They traveled around the world solving problems, though I didn’t understand what kind.
Oh, and Uncle John. He’s not related. He works for TOS with my parents. One of his jobs is watching out for me when Mom and Dad are away.
Mom and Dad grounded me for the phone hack.
I’d impressed TOS. They signed me on as a contractor to work with their tech teams on software and technology. Mom and Dad weren’t keen on that but decided since I already knew their secret, it was okay if I helped out.
I make some serious bank on the job. It’s more than enough to keep me on the cutting edge of technology, have a sweet bike, and save for college and beyond.
I work on missions sometimes, especially ones my parents handle.
My first was when I was fourteen. Uncle John woke me up in the middle of the night to break my parents out of a confinement cell. The agency techs couldn’t do it, and John was certain I could. It was easy—I triangulated on the building TOS knew they were in, looked for the cell phones the bad guys were using, found the ones on the LAN, and….
I suppose I shouldn’t talk about that. Ultimately I broke my parents out and disabled the baddies by locking the doors around them.
These days I’m teaching the agency guys how to be more agile and more confident with on-the-fly coding to solve problems.
As strange as this gig is, I love it. It’s a blast working through complex problems to get the job done, whether it’s an emergency like saving my parents, or helping keep the agency’s tech up-to-date.
It sucks not being able to tell anyone, though, especially Eddie. Mom and Dad say telling anyone could be dangerous. That’s why they didn’t want me to know about them.
My friends think I do consulting work through my MIT connections, which would also be awesome.
Want to know what’s super cool about working for TOS?
To them I’m not Theodore Reese, or even Theo.
They call me by my codename—Winger.
“Defender, Winger here,” I said once the call connected.
“Winger, thanks for getting back to me. Are you secure?”
“I’m secure enough. What’s the situation?”
I was in Coach’s office at the rink. Practice had ended a few minutes ago, and when I got to my locker, I found an urgent text from Dad. Officially it was from Defender, but I always translated that in my head to Dad. He was out on a mission, and he needed something, which was why I had to be somewhere private to talk.
This wasn’t the first time I’d had to take a call here. Luckily the coaching staff let me use their offices when I needed to. They thought I sometimes took client calls and just wanted to be away from the noise of the rink. They didn’t know I did secret agent stuff in here.
“Intel I have on this mission says the door I need to go through has a keypad,” Dad said. “However, I found an upgraded biometric fingerprint screen. I was in touch with Doctor Possible to see if he had anything I could use to get past it, because I brought tech to deal with a keypad. Anyway he referred me to you. Seems you’ve got a prototype app you’ve been testing.”
“That I do. Still working on it. It’s only about 70 percent accurate. You wanna give it a try?”
“Might as well. Not much to lose and I’d rather get what I came for.”
I was glad I’d grabbed my backpack when I decided to take the call, so I had my computer with me. I wished I had time to shower before calling. Sitting in a desk chair while still in my hockey gear wasn’t comfortable, and it was gross having the sweat drying on me.
“Do you have a tablet with you?” I asked.
“Yup. ID three-five-seven-one-two.”
“Got it. Stand by.”
I logged in to the rink’s Wi-Fi and scrambled my signal using TOS encryption. Then I quickly got onto the TOS network and into the program I’d been working on. Connecting to Dad’s tablet was easy, and I was able to see his face looking through its camera.
“Perfect. I see you. Place the tablet against the interface. Make sure it covers all the touch points.”
“Like this?” he asked.
When the tablet’s camera focused, I saw blue circles where users put their fingers.
“Exactly. Hold it steady.”
I put the program to work separating out the fingerprints. The great thing about these panels, at least from a break-in point of view, was they weren’t often cleaned. It was easy to lift prints, and using the same forensics software police used, piece the prints together. Then, using a system of my own design, the program projected the prints back to the touch pad.
“The prints are built.” The program had worked for less than a minute.
Time for the real test. When the app failed, it was usually a problem with projecting the prints strong enough for the reader to capture. Time to see if I’d fixed that problem.
The panel flashed green, and I heard the success tone through Dad’s phone.
“Yes!” I was louder than I meant to be.
“Well done, Winger. That did it. I gotta move. Thanks.”
“Great. Let me know if you need anything else.”
He cut the connection and that was that. There was no time for pleasantries when he was working.
I hustled back to the locker room because I was late to meet Eddie. I got showered and stowed my gear in record time. As I headed for one of the rink’s exits, I looked around for Eddie but didn’t see him where he usually waited. I didn’t see his Jeep in the parking lot either, which was weird because I thought he was picking me up.
I pulled out my phone and found nothing from him.
Instead I discovered I had more than fifty unread emails from TOS. There’d been nothing when I’d gone into practice two hours earlier. It’d been quiet for weeks with just the usual chatter between me and Lorenzo Davenport, my main TOS contact. He was the Doctor Possible Dad had referenced. I tended to call him Doc P.
Besides the fingerprint scanner, Lorenzo and I were working on a new authentication system for agents accessing the TOS network. I’d suggested the upgrade because I’d found some security holes one day while I was helping Dad.
According to the emails, something was up with tracker chips. I didn’t even know what those were, and I thought I knew all the agency’s tech. It sounded serious. I picked the most recent message and scrolled through the long chain. Something about the system going off-line for a few minutes, followed by a handful of agents not showing up in the system anymore. TOS declared a Code 1-2B alert, which was one step down from the highest possible.
I dialed Lorenzo to see what was up and if I could help. He picked up before it even rang on my end.
“Doctor Possible, Winger here.”
There was never a hello with these guys. Protocol was to give the name of who you were expecting to talk to, followed by your own codename. I’d found out the hard way how much they enforced that, when I called Lorenzo once and said something like “Hey, Doc P, what’s goin’ on?” He’d instantly fried my phone to make a point about following directions.
“Winger. Were you able to help Defender?”
“Yeah. We can mark down one field test. It worked like a charm.”
“Awesome,” he said excitedly. Despite being a stickler for procedures, Lorenzo was always excited when new tech worked right. “So you saw the emails?”
“Yeah. What are these tracker chips anyway?”
“Really?” He sounded exasperated. “One second?”
I heard him typing lightning fast. The clicking of his keys was one of my favorite things about talking to him. The clickity-clack was soothing to me for some weird reason.
“Sorry, Winger. I gotta go. Red Hat’s calling an emergency meeting.”
“Understood. Let me know if I can help out.”
He hung up.
Where are you?
The screen lit up with a message from Eddie before I could pocket my phone.
I typed and sent my reply: What do you mean where am I? Where are you? Thought we were meeting at the rink.
Um. Yeah. I’m waiting at the pizza place.
Oops. Totally forgot we were eating there.
Be right there.
I sprinted through the rink—the six-rink facility—so I had to dodge around people. I finally came up behind Eddie, kissed his fuzzy head, and wrapped my arms around his shoulders.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I thought we were headed straight to your place.”
He put his hands on mine and tilted his head back just enough so I could kiss his forehead.
“Did you end up with a head injury? We decided to eat first since it’s Cheap Pizza Tuesday.”
“Right.” Oops. Totally forgot the plan. “I ran suicides right at the end of practice and then talked to a client for a few minutes. I guess I got flustered because I knew I was late.”
The suicides were true, but I hated lying about the rest.
“Not a problem. When I saw Tommy and Mitch leave but I hadn’t seen you yet, I sent the text.” He craned his head back farther, and I leaned over so I could kiss his full lips. “You’re here now, so let’s eat and then we can go.”
I put my backpack on the table next to his, and we got in the pizza line to fill up on two-for-one slices. We’d discovered this a couple of weeks ago and decided we’d milk it for all it was worth because the rink pizza was good.
Eddie Cochrane had transferred to my school at the start of sophomore year. I’d seen him around before he became my tutor, but I was too intimidated to introduce myself. He was way too cute with his bushy afro and inquisitive brown eyes, which were always darting around behind his nerdy black-framed glasses. He swam and had the tall, lean physique you’d expect. He didn’t join the school team until this year, but last year he’d practiced every morning as if he had.
It only took one tutoring session at his house for me to get up the courage to ask him out. I thought I was getting a vibe from him, and I didn’t have much to lose. Even if I misread his interest—at the time I didn’t know if he was gay or not—I didn’t expect him to go off on me or anything.
Turned out he wanted to ask me but he’d been too shy, even though he knew I was out. We laughed later about how skittish we’d been about asking each other.
He taught me chemistry. I helped him in courses where logic was key, because I used that kind of thinking with my computer work.
We each learned about the other’s sport too. He ragged on me because I was so covered up when I played, whereas I got to drink in his sleek, sexy body anytime I watched him practice. Eddie in those tight swim shorts was a sight to behold. I was already looking forward to December when his season would start.
Honestly I loved how heads turned when we were together. He was a half foot taller than me and his dark skin was such a contrast to my pale, freckled complexion. Add my flaming-red hair and you couldn’t help but notice us.
“Look at you,” Eddie said after I’d ordered six slices.
“Long practice plus cheap food means I’m trying one of every pie they’ve got out.”
“So you’ll have plenty of energy to, oh, I don’t know, make out for a while?”
“There’s always energy for that.” I collected my food, and waited for him to get his paltry two slices.
As soon as we sat down, I tore into a slice of hawaiian. As Eddie only got two slices, I needed to eat fast. I didn’t want to lose out on any more make-out time than I already had.
“So I was wondering.” He sounded unsure and paused. That was odd, because he usually had no trouble saying what was on his mind. “Um. Do you think we could go to the fall dance in a couple weeks?”
Interesting. Usually going out meant movies, food, maybe a party at someone’s house. We’d never gone to a school thing. Did he even know how to dance? I sure didn’t.
“It’d be something different,” he continued. “See if we like it. Maybe it’s a dry run for prom in the spring? Something to think about since we’re juniors now.”
School’d only been back for a few weeks, and he was already thinking about spring. That was cool.
I nodded while I chewed. “Sure,” I said finally able to talk. “Why not? Do you know how to dance or are we going to look silly?”
“I’ve got no idea. I tap my foot to music. I’ve never really tried to do more.”
“Okay, so it’ll be a couple of firsts, I guess.”
Eddie smiled big. I wondered if the dance was on our anniversary. It’d be right around then, so we should be doing something special for that anyway.
My phone vibrated in my jacket pocket—four pulses, a pause, and four more. It was TOS, most likely Lorenzo. I had to answer, which sucked because I wanted to give Eddie my full attention.
“Sorry.” I pulled the phone out and checked the screen. “It’s the client I was talking to earlier.”
Eddie gave me an annoyed look but kept eating. He hated it when I had to take work calls when we were together. Most of our friends, if they worked, had a job with very clear-cut hours. Mine could be all over the place, and sometimes involved emergencies.
I couldn’t ignore the call, so I said nothing and answered.
“Winger. Doctor Possible here.”
“Doctor. What’s up?”
“Can you talk?”
“Okay, just listen. I’ve got to get you access to the actual system, but here’s the basic scoop.”
I listened closely. Because I was in public, I couldn’t take notes like I would in a secure location. At least I’d tricked out my phone with encryption and a special speaker to ensure the TOS-side of conversations couldn’t be overheard.
“Some background first. All TOS agents have an implant tucked just behind their left ear that allows us to track them.”
This was news to me. Did my parents have them? Did they know they had them? Did I have one? Technically I’m an agent, even though I’m not traveling around the world. I felt around my left ear, which made Eddie raise an eyebrow at me. I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary.
“The trackers work unless the agent is somewhere that the signal can’t penetrate,” Lorenzo continued. “With Wi-Fi and cell towers everywhere, that doesn’t happen very often. Anyway someone has hacked the system. A dozen or so agents are off the tracking grid, and we can’t get in touch with some of them. A couple of others have had their IDs switched inside our system.”
I had to choose my question carefully so I wouldn’t reveal sensitive information. “Why do you think it’s a hack and not a failure?”
“Logs show traffic that’s not ours making requests through what should’ve been secure nodes. It started a few days ago. We thought we had it plugged, but today things got worse.”
“What can I do?”
Lorenzo sighed, which was unusual for him. “Right now, nothing. I’m working to get the system available to you so you can have a look. Mission Ops denied the initial request, so I’ve escalated it to Raptor, because I think your skill can be very useful.”
Whoa. If he took it all the way to Raptor, this was serious. Raptor was the head guy and for him to be involved in a question of clearance was abnormal. Usually Joanna Bristow, aka Red Hat, aka Lorenzo’s boss, could take care of anything access related. I’d only talked to Raptor once, and that was when I first started working with TOS. He wanted to meet the kid who hacked their phone system.
The other question I had, that I couldn’t ask while I was in public: why was it such a problem to clear me? I thought I had access to everything.
“Okay. Let me know.”
“Will do. Thanks, Winger.”
I hung up and set my phone on the table. “Sorry about that.”
Eddie shrugged, but the roll of his eyes told me he was less than happy. He wouldn’t talk about it.
“Everything okay?” he finally asked.
“Yeah.” I took a bite of my pizza before I continued. “Client thinks someone’s hacked their system. I’ll probably have to do some work on it later.”
I talked as I ate. It was something we both did, even though our parents hated it.
Eddie took the veggie slice off my plate and chomped into it. “I’ll help you eat faster. That way we can get outta here.” He grinned before taking another bite.
“You’ve got a one-track mind today, and I like the track.”
At least Eddie’s mood cleared quickly. I leaned over and we kissed. Eddie and I hadn’t had much alone time lately, so part of me hoped Raptor wasn’t going to make a decision for a couple of hours.
Yes, I wanted to dig into the problem. But I hated the frustrated look Eddie had while I was on the phone. It was a difficult split. I loved Eddie, but I loved my job too. There were only so many hours in the day.
We scarfed the pizza and then headed to the parking lot. Once we got to the bike rack, I unlocked my bike, and rode to Eddie’s Jeep.
“I’ll see you in a few minutes,” I said. “Maybe I’ll beat you this time.”
“That’s only happened once and only because of traffic.”
I scooted up to him as he unlocked the door and gave him a kiss. Then I sped away to race him to his house.
“Tracker Hacker” Copyright 2017 by Jeff Adams. Production Copyright 2021 by Jeff Adams.