Tag Archives: fiction

Grace R Duncan:Choices, Research, and a chance for Swag

After an unintentioanal hiatus, sylvre.com is back this week, hosting Grace R Duncan. What better way to break our silence? Take a moment to feast eyes on the wonderful cover by Paul Richmond (who just keeps getting better in this bloggers opinion), check out her bio and links, and then scroll down for Grace’s engaging post. And yeah, there’s swag! (As is usual on sylvre.com, click the cover for the buy link.)

Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?

Grace R. Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age—many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children—both the human and furry kind. She also teaches information technology classes at a local college.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance, and other erotica, or even dabbling in art.

Contact information:

Today, I want to talk about another portion of worldbuilding: history and politics. Like any other aspect of creating a world, it requires research because if I wanted to build a reasonably believable political system, I had to have something real to base it on. Politics in Choices matters because it affects the possible outcome of quite a bit


So I had to consider my political system carefully. I knew it was a monarchy, that part was easy, but not all monarchies are made the same and that was where I had to decide how it would work. Yet again, I ventured out to research.

Now, I am a history buff. I love history. I can read some of the driest stuff and still enjoy it more than almost anyone else (except maybe my history prof in college. That guy was quite insane. Wonderful, but insane.). But political systems and the various forms of monarchy soon had my eyes crossing. I decided that since the political system played a part but I didn’t have to be intricate about it, I’d go with a simplified version of the English system with Arabic names.
Part of my research led me to a delightful publication from the Society for Creative Anachronisms. Someone had done a good deal of research on using Arabic forms of address and naming within the SCA and I found it very helpful. It really made it easy for me to choose my titles and such for Neyem’s political system.

It also helped that I already knew I didn’t want to use sheik or sultan. Those titles have been overdone to the extreme in media, especially in romance. I wanted something different. I was very happy to see malik on the list and as soon as I spotted it, I knew I had my titles.

With that, the rest fell into place quickly. There was no malika (or malik’s wife), but I had two amirs – Bathasar, the crown amir and his brother, Seth. I didn’t want things too complicated. The English have an almost ridiculous number of nobility and the titles to go with it. Thanks to A.F. Henley and his research for Honour, I was well acquainted with just how complicated it could be. If I didn’t want to get lost in trying to keep it straight (and if I couldn’t, I knew my readers couldn’t), then I had to simplify.

Following the recommendations from the SCA publications, I chose a few other titles. They never made it into Choices, but will definitely make appearances in Deception. The one title I did use in Choices other than malik and amir was sayyid, meaning Lord. But as I wrote Deception, I had to include more ranks because more of the nobility would be making appearances, so it was time to choose.

Mushir, or duke was to me, a given. I’ve always liked the title of duke and the address of “Your Grace” (name puns not intended) really appealed to me. So that was easy. Next on the list was qadi – loosely count. Every time I hear the word “count”, I have unfortunate images of muppets crossed with Bela Lugosi pop into my head. But the next in line – viscount (naqib) wasn’t much better, so for simplicity, I stuck with qadi and moved on.

Next was one I’d wanted to avoid. Sheik. But I found a different spelling —shayk—that, at least, looked a bit better and I snatched at that one. I know it is, in the end, the same thing, but it worked better in my head. That was the English baron and, as far as the English are concerned, the last of the “Peerage”. From there, it includes Knight, which I liked (or faris) and the aforementioned sayyid.

It’s amazing how much can go into putting together what amounts to little more than a few dozen lines of text. I’d done hours of research and when I sat down to write this and saw how little of it made it in, I had to laugh at myself. Hopefully, it’ll work in Deception, though and it won’t be too wasted.
Neyem is, of course, not the only country in my world. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, the other two prominent nations are Saol and Tiantang. Saol was easy. Everything else had been based off of Medieval England and its political system was no different. Thankfully, I didn’t have to get specific as it hasn’t (as yet) been mentioned, so I could simply pick it and move on.

Tiantang, on the other hand, was more complicated. Because their empress was a main figure in the story, I had to give more thought to how that all worked. So, once more, to the Internet.

It turned out to be easier than I thought. Some basic research into Chinese history yielded information that showed that China’s dynastic period wasn’t too far off of a basic monarchy with a single ruler and nobility. It does, of course, change over time, but as I could choose for myself which I wanted to go with, keeping my eye ever on that simplicity, then a basic model with an emperor (or empress), some noble titles and not much else would work well.

It was even better that I didn’t need to consider the nobility themselves – yet. I have promised a short story to a very dear friend of mine featuring Jasim and his empress, Jielan. I have a feeling the Tiantang nobility will be much more prominent in that story. Even so, I can’t leave something like that unresearched and funny enough, when I looked… lo and behold the titles were not-so-amazingly similar to… you guessed it, British Peerage.

Duke (gōng), marquis (hó), count (bó), viscount (zǐ), and baron (nán) were all there. The Chinese didn’t, as far as I researched, include knights or lords so that made things quite neat. This, of course, changed often with the different dynasties, some using no titles and others getting even more complicated, but for my purposes, this worked and made me very happy.

I would never have thought I’d be working out a full political system for a book. When I sat down to write Choices, I had no idea just how much I’d put into it. I’m glad I had the chance to, though, because it was a great learning experience.

Now, if you haven’t fallen asleep, I’d love to hear from you. Do you like to read about these things in fiction? Or would you prefer to leave the intricacies of peerage and titles out of it? Any comments get you entered for a chance to win some great swag!

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, guest authors, New M/M releases

Conversation with Cardeno’s C’s Characters–or, the characters tell all

On a particularly busy Sunday in EC West, we joined our friends from Cardeno C.’s Home series for brunch. In between mimosas and food, we caught up with Noah and Clark (from Home Again), Micah and Ben (from Just What the Truth Is), Jake and Nate (from Where He Ends and I Begin), Jonathan and David (from Love at First Sight), Zach and Aaron (from He Completes Me), and TJ and Finn (from the free series of shorts posted at www.cardenoc.com). We’re grateful to Amanda, Anita, Wilbert, Monique, and Jonathan for sharing what they learned with us.

Zach, are you still having to visit the craft room when you visit Aaron’s family or is Mimi a little easier to take now?
Zach picked up his glass and swallowed down his mimosa before answering.

“Oh, shit yeah. Mimi’s nice and she dotes on Aaron, which is cute as hell. But when we go visit we’re usually there for a whole week and it’s fuckin’ chaos the entire time.” He rolled his eyes. “Hanging out in the craft room with the other in-laws is the only break I get.” Then he set his glass down and leaned forward, whispering conspiratorially. “Just don’t tell Aaron about that, okay? It’s top secret classified blah blah blah.”

We didn’t realize Aaron had walked up behind us until he we heard his voice.

“What if I already know?” he said.
Zach flew up from his chair and turned around. Aaron smiled at him and took his seat, then he pulled Zach down onto his lap and kissed his cheek.
“Don’t worry about it, babe. I realize those trips to see my family can be a lot and you’re amazing the whole time. Besides, I think it’s nice that you and Jane and Cliff spend time together.”
Aaron, you said next time you wouldn’t be so weird about being topped by Zack, so was there a next time? If so were you ever relaxed enough to really enjoy it?
Aaron’s neck and cheek turned bright red and Zach started laughing hysterically.
“Fuck, Aaron, it’s not a secret that we’re screwing, why’re you so embarrassed about it?” Zach shook his head. “The man’s hopeless. Don’t worry, though, it freaks him out to talk about sex, but he’s got no problem with actual execution.” He patted Aaron’s arm. “Are you going to answer the nice lady’s question?”
Aaron opened his mouth but no words came out. He looked so panicked, that Zach stepped in.
“I got this, big guy. Yes, we tried it again, because he wanted to. And it was better than last time. But the reality is, bottoming isn’t his thing and topping isn’t mine. Soooo, let’s just say, that’s never going to become a regular item on the menu.”

Do you guys see marriage in the future at any point? And given how much Aaron loves kids, any more thought on kids?
“Absolutely,” Aaron answered.
Zach’s eyes widened. “Seriously?” he asked Aaron. “When did you decide this?”
Aaron furrowed his brow. “Umm, probably about thirty seconds after you walked into Kimmy’s kitchen and I felt my heart race. You know that, babe, I’d love to be able to marry you. The day it’s legal, I’ll be down on one knee.”
“Oh,” Zach sighed in relief. “You were answering the marriage question.”
Aaron started laughing. “Course I was. I haven’t changed my mind about kids, and even if I did, I wouldn’t spring that on you at brunch.”
“I would, you know,” Zach nuzzled Aaron’s neck and spoke quietly into his ear. “If you want kids, I’ll do it, big guy.”
Aaron cupped Zach’s cheek. “I know. But I want you all to myself, so it isn’t an issue.”

Noah, Clark, what about the two of you? Do you think you’ll ever have kids? And how are things with Noah’s folks now that his big brother, Ben, has the twins?
“Lilah and Raphi are the best,” Clark answered. “We love being uncles.”
Noah nodded. “They’re cute as hell and I think they’ll be even more fun when they get older. Sometimes I think about what it’d be like to have our own, but family is …” He let the thought trail off and shrugged.
Clark curled his hand around the back of Noah’s neck and stroked his tattoo with this thumb.
“Things are getting better with Noah’s parents,” Clark said. Noah snorted. “But there’s still a ways to go,” Clark continued, calmly. “It might help speed things up if we spent as much time with them as Ben and Micah.”
“Right,” Noah scoffed. “Because when we have down time, I want to go hang out with my parents so they can look at us like we’re circus freaks. No thank you. Ben’s doing fine, he doesn’t need me there, so why bother?”
“They don’t think we’re circus freaks, sweetheart,” Clark replied. “It’s just that this is still hard for them and they’re not used to it. But at least they’re trying now. You know, they’re never going to get comfortable around us if we’re not there.”
“It’s not my job to make my parents comfortable. They need to get over their issues. Or they don’t. I don’t give a shit either way,” Noah said in an angry tone.
“I know you don’t, Noah. But Ben does. Your brother cares a lot. You know how much it means to him to get your family reconnected.”
Noah gazed into Clark’s eyes for several long seconds. “Ben, Micah, and the kids are coming over for dinner next weekend, right?” he said quietly. “I’ll call my parents to see if they want to come over too.”

So, Noah, you’re spending time with your brother now. When you were kids, did you miss not having a good relationship with Ben? Do you ever regret pushing him away?
“Honestly?” Noah asked and shook his head. “Nope. You have to understand, I didn’t know what Ben was going through back then. He seemed like Mister Shiny Happy to me. We lived in two different worlds as far as I was concerned, and I was too pissed off to think about wanting a good relationship with him. And as far as regrets …” Noah shrugged. “Why bother, you know? Shit happened, it’s over, and we’re all good now.” He brushed his hands together. “Done and done.”

Noah, you used to want Clark to be more dominant in the bedroom and now he is. But how would you feel if Clark wanted you to be the dominant one in the bedroom for a while?
“Thankfully, he doesn’t want that. I’d give Clark anything, but …” Noah shook his head. “He’s my angel, you know? I wouldn’t ever want to hurt him. I know that sounds weird, ‘cause of what I like him to do to me, but …” Noah shrugged. “It is what it is. What we’re doing works for both of us.”

David and Jonathan, What did y’all end up doing with the “Will Dragon” disk?
“Uh,” David pursed his lips and racked his memory. “I don’t remember seeing it at all after that first day I had it. I have no idea where it is.”
“I broke it into a million pieces with a hammer and then trashed it,” Jonathan supplied helpfully.
“You did?” David asked in surprise.
“Mmm, hmm. I mean, I didn’t want to take the chance on Sam somehow stumbling onto it. I sure don’t have any interest in seeing it. And you said you didn’t need to watch. So I figured, why keep it, you know?”
David draped one arm around Jonathan’s neck and the other around his waist. “Hey,” he whispered. “I’m sorry I didn’t think about Sam seeing it or about what you’d want to do with it. I guess I just—”
“Going on five years and you didn’t think about it at all. It didn’t matter to you. I know,” Jonathan said and kissed David softly. “And I love that about you.”

I decided it was my lucky day when Aaron got a call from his cousin, Jake, during brunch and I got to ask a question that had been on my mind. Jake, you told Mama C that you could handle the guilt of what happened the night of the accident. And I know you feel that you are protecting Nate by not telling him, but do you ever feel guilty about not being honest with him about that night when you are honest in all other aspects of y’all’s relationship?
“Fuck no. Nothing good can come to Nate from knowing about that. Honesty is one thing. Hurting him to make myself feel better is something else entirely. I try not to remember my parents in the context of that one crappy moment. We had years of great times and I focus on those. But I’d be lying if I told you that I could keep it out of my head all the time. I remember the way my mom was hunched in the car. I remember the look in my dad’s eyes. And I remember knowing that I’d never see them again. If Nate had been awake, he’d have probably figured out a way to save them, but I don’t have his brilliant mind.” A pause and a loud sigh came over the phone. <strong.“Do I feel guilty?” Jake asked, his voice rough. “Yeah, but not about keeping that awful shit from Nate. And not about choosing him. I just wish I had been able to save them too.”

Micah and Ben, how often does Micah’s mom come to visit the twins? And does she make you nuts while she’s there?
“My mom comes in about one weekend every month and we try to get out there every few months,” Micah answered. “She spends a lot of time with Raphi and Lilah, she cooks up a storm and fills our freezer with meals that last a couple of weeks, and she’s really good to Ben.”
“Don’t you love how he answered your question without actually answering it?” Ben laughed. “Deborah’s the best, but she does make Micah nuts sometimes.” He looked at Micah and winked. “Either that or it’s a coincidence that when she’s here you often remember a really critical project at the office that requires you to go in unexpectedly.”

Speaking of family, Ben, how is your relationship with Noah? Is it still somewhat tense?
“Tense? No, definitely not. Tense was most of our childhood when Noah was pissed off at our family and sometimes the world and I was hiding and pretending everything was okay. Things between us now are better than they’ve ever been, which is amazing considering …” Ben dragged his hands through his chestnut hair and sighed dejectedly. “I messed up so many times. The things I said to Noah, the way I treated Clark, I … I know I don’t deserve their forgiveness but—”
Micah put his hand on Ben’s bicep and squeezed lightly. “Come one, honey, don’t be so hard on yourself. You made mistakes. That makes you human. Your brother and Clark realize that and they’ve forgiven you. Maybe it’s time you forgave yourself.”

Micah, would you have been as forgiving to Ben as you were if he was a commitment-phobe as opposed to someone who ended up being severely repressed?
“I was frustrated with Ben because I didn’t understand why he kept pulling back and, frankly, freaking out. Once he explained what he’d been going through, a lot of his actions made sense. But the most important thing to me was that Ben was committing to put himself in the relationship. I wasn’t interested in chasing someone that wasn’t ready to settle down or wasn’t interested in me. With those issues resolved, there was no keeping me away from Ben. I mean, have you met my guy? He’s incredibly sweet, has a giving heart and a sharp mind, he’s fun to be around, and he is seriously hot.”

TJ, Finn mentioned a man at your office that gives you strange looks? Is it Ben Forman?
“Oh, God!” TJ cringed. “If I have any hope of making partner, I better pray word of that little comment I made doesn’t get out. Micah would surely find some way to make me wish I was dead or something if he thought I was bad-talking Ben.”
“Oh, please,” Finn rolled his eyes. “Ben all but apologized to you for all that. He knows he used to act weird. I’m sure it’s not a secret to Micah. Besides, it’s all in the past, right?”
“Course. Ben’s been great for awhile now.” TJ furrowed his brow. “Actually, he’s been better since around the time he and Micah got together. I guess true love ‘ll do that to you.”
“Either that or great sex.” Finn shrugged.
TJ nodded thoughtfully. “True,” he said. “Speaking of which, are you ready to go home?”

You can learn more about these characters and find information about Cardeno C.’s Home series at www.cardenoc.com.

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, guest authors, M/M romance

YAM Mag Blogathon—Caution: Characters Behind the Wheel

Bear with me. There is a point to this. It’s not really about writing (or reading) slash. It’s about writing (and reading) fiction, and loving it.

Sonny Bly James, one of the main characters in my Vasquez and James series, is a wild man behind the wheel. Here’s how Luki Vasquez, Sonny’s badass lover (and yes, husband) thinks of it during an iffy moment in the work-in-progress third suspense/romance starring the pair. Finding Jackie. Sonny, an artist, usually soft-spoken and gentle, has responded to an emergency with a promise to get them where they have to go quickly. And he’s driving a huge motor home. And as he hit the highway, he said, “hang on.” (Uh-oh.)

“This worried Luki. By now he was quite used to Sonny’s driving which often seemed wild, but rarely was, because he knew just what he was doing. The vehicle might spin, slide, or skid, but Sonny had control. It was crazy and it made Luki’s stomach do flips, but it didn’t really scare him—it kind of turned him on. But Sonny didn’t usually say, “hang on.” Luki wondered if perhaps he should have used the bathroom while he could.
His knuckles stayed white for the next half hour, until he acclimated himself to the faint squeal of tires, almost rhythmic on the winding road, the whoosh of cars and trucks as The Monster pushed past them, the rising pitch of the engine’s whine as they picked up speed on every downhill. Finally, he started to believe he was safe in Sonny’s hands even in the oversized vehicle, and he started to believe he would make it through without smoking, and he let hands relax in his lap.”

As I said, Sonny is generally a gentle man. He’s a weaver with a deep affinity for beauty and color. He cries when his emotions warrant it and he doesn’t hide his tears, or his fears, or his love. But he also cuts his own firewood and gets good and greasy wrenching on his cars, and—as we have seen—he doesn’t mind driving like a bat out of hell. In fact he loves it.

This is contrary behavior.

When I first learned this about Sonny, it surprised me. And yes I use that language advisedly. He surprised me, even though I supposedly made him up, being the author and all. Not only was I surprised, I was a little pissed off. This behavior was not in my plan for Mr. James. I even tried to undo it, to bend him to my will, to reconstruct Sonny the way he was, dammitalltohell, supposed to be.

Didn’t work. Not at all.

This is what’s wonderful about fiction. Even in a simple romance, the characters get behind the wheel and take the story off-road, and pretty soon the reader (and yes, the author) can do nothing but buckle up and hang on. And as a reader, and as a writer, I am very glad it happens that way. Kind of like life. Seriously–everyone I’ve ever gotten to know, gay, lesbian, trans, bi, or any variety of strait–none have ever turned out to be who I first thought they were. There’s just so much more to a person than you can tell by their looks or their labels.

Still, when I write, I’m the boss! Er… no. They are in charge—the Sonny’s, the Luki’s, the sweet, bad, strong, pliant, ever-surprising men (and maybe women) in my stories who love each other.

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Filed under Lou Sylvre, Vasquez & James, Writers on writing

J. L. O’Faolain’s new Section Thirteen novel: The Thirteenth Pillar

The Thirteenth Pillar

A Section Thirteen Story (Sequel to The Thirteenth Child)

Tuulois MacColewyn’s simple life performing dirty jobs for fey hiding in New York City has died a quick death. Consulting for the NYPD on a case involving child abductions, losing a friend, laying siege to a stronghold at the end of Broadway, and being chased through a hospital by animated scarecrows combined to make last month hell. This month is shaping up to be much worse.

Yet, it’s not all bad. Cole has a new place to live, a steady-paying job working for the NYPD, and the heart of Inspector Joss Vallimun, head of Section Thirteen and, incidentally, Cole’s new boss.

Section Thirteen is understaffed and overworked, trying to solve every supernatural crime in New York, including a series of grisly child murders and evidence that local fey are being enslaved. When Vallimun is gravely injured just as the investigation reaches a fever pitch while a snowstorm blankets the city, Cole will need all the help he can get to have any hope of salvaging this month at all.

J.L. O’Faolain was born the youngest, with four older sisters, in the backwoods of the Deep South. Those that have braved getting to know him have attributed this to being the root of his growing insanity. A teased bibliophile in his youth, O’Faolain spent his years prior to getting published as a cook, laundry man, delivery boy, grease monkey, and retail stocker. He has a plethora of skills and abilities, none of which would work well on a job application. In his spare time, O’Faolain enjoys weightlifting, philosophy, deconstruction, reading, writing, porn, and the Internet in general. Aside from becoming a successfully published author, he would very much like to pilot a giant robot while Two-Mix’s “Rhythm Emotion” is playing in the background. Either that, or travel the world in a dirigible. In short, the general consensus by all, including himself, is that he is a mighty strange fellow.

In his spare time, when he isn’t writing, J.L. O’Faolain reviews televisions shows that were abused by the networks, or should never have been green lit in the first place,here: blip.tv/thatlong-hairedcreepyguy

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, M/M romance

An excerpt from J.L. O’Faolain’s *Blue Ninja*—interestingly X rated excerpt

Hokkaido

“Are you sure about this?”

Aoshi sighed at Otaro’s persistent question, it being the fifth time he’dasked, and turned looked back towards him. The stretch in his patience must have shown on his face, for Otaro looked away petulantly. Regaining control of his emotions, Aoshi forced calm into himself and took a deep breath before speaking.

“I honestly don’t know,” he stated truthfully. “For all anyone of us knows, Shinobachi’s information was completely false. It may have even been a flaw in his chain of communication, but the fact is, I have no other resources aside from going back to the Hyakuzyu Tenko and explaining the situation to them personally.”

Aoshi did narrow his eyes, then. “And you know what that would be like.”

“Gomen,” Otaro muttered, still sounding like a child. “It’s not like I don’t get that, but why do we have to go fight the Okami clan again?”

“We’re not going to fight them,” he corrected. “We’re going to try and negotiate. If Onizuka really is somewhere in the Hokkaido area looking to steal from the Okami clan, then chances are they’ll want to know about it. Hopefully, that will provide me with some leeway once we locate some of them. I don’t relish doing this anymore than you do but bear in mind that nobody forced you to go.”

“Is that why Kibako-san isn’t here?”

“Hai,” Aoshi told him, pausing for a second. “Kibako didn’t wish to go and I had no reason for forcing her. You, however, agreed to. And for the record, if you’re having second thoughts about it now, feel free to get off at the next available stop.”

“This is the express line,” Otaro reminded him.

“Then get on the first train back to Tokyo the minute we arrive,”Aoshi hissed, losing his patience now. “And go with my blessing.”

Otaro said not a word for the rest of the trip.

They had boarded the express together. Sabane had been willing to loan Aoshi the money for all of them, thankfully. Otherwise it would have been a solo mission, and despite the emphasis he’d placed on not wanting to ask for anyone’s help, Aoshi had to admit now how much he really needed it. Aoi-san had signed on as well, which made him feel a lot better. Kuroji had agreed to come also. Aoshi had the feeling this was why Otaro had come along. The four of them made up the team going to Hokkaido. So far, the biggest trouble they’d run into was listening to Otaro moan quietly to himself in-between bouts of questions about whether or not Aoshi was really sure about what they were doing.

Truthfully, Aoshi himself was not so sure. Granted, whatever Onizuka had planned would undoubted mean trouble for the Tokujogumi sooner or later but this really wasn’t anyone’s responsibility. Even though the sword had been handed to him by the Hyakuzyu Tenko elders, Aoshi still wasn’t sure he wanted it back. He’d left his clan and the responsibilities that came with it years ago. Getting involved in something that was sure to draw him back in was definitely unwise, yet he found himself pressing onward.

Other than Otaro, everyone else was quiet during the trip. Aoshi sat near Aoi-san, though they’d hardly spoken a word to one another. It made him a little nervous to be honest. He hadn’t thought to bring something to read with him, not that there had been much time to pack. Aoshi was grateful all the same for having Aoi-san come along. Having him there was comforting. He owed the man far too much to even begin paying it back. Aoshi just prayed nothing went wrong.

Something had been bothering him the whole time, however. He couldn’t put his finger on it and it was really becoming a distraction. Aoshi had been trained to be a warrior his whole life and a distracted warrior was a dead one. Taking several slow breaths, he practiced the meditation exercises he’d learned all those years ago during his initial training. As his mind cleared, he could sense the train car more clearly now. It was more than just the mission that was distracting him. Aoshi felt restless, even a little weak. Nothing like what had been happening to him but still bad enough that it affected his concentration.

Looking up, Aoshi spotted Kuroji staring right at him. The moment their eyes met, it felt like a sharp arrow pierced right through his chest. His heart skipped a beat, making Aoshi gasped involuntarily. Aoi-san turned to look at him curiously but Aoshi quickly shook his head, feeling embarrassed. When he looked again, Kuroji was turning away, though Aoshi knew the more experienced shinobi was keeping a close eye on him.

After several minutes, Aoshi stood up to use the bathroom. “Be right back,” he told Aoi-san. “I’ll be in the bathroom. Come get me if you think something’s wrong.”

As he walked down the aisle, Aoshi could still feel Kuroji watching him. Step by step, he made his way towards the back of the train where the restrooms were. Someone was in the men’s room when he arrived,leaving him with no other option but to wait. Luckily, after a moment, a handsome older man stepped out a second later. As their eyes met, Aoshi felt the bottom of his stomach drop out from under him. The man’s smile was almost predator-like but he continued on past Aoshi without so much as looking back.

Once inside the restroom, Aoshi splashed cold water on his face before shuffling over to the toilet. As his eyes left the mirror above the sink, he thought he saw something flash behind his reflection for a second out the corner of his eye. It had probably been nothing more than a trick of the light but it was enough to make him fumble with his fly for longer than necessary. When he finally freed his cock and balls, Aoshi let out a moan of relief along with the flow ofpiss.

Done, Aoshi stood there for a moment longer, casually running his hand up and down over the skin of his dick. Sighing, he threw his head back and close his eyes, just savoring the feel. His whole body was tense with the need for release. In spite of that, his hand didn’t quicken.

“Seems like a waste to me,” said a deep voice from behind, tickling his ear.

Aoshi tried to turn, but a pair of black arms encircled him, holding him fast. “A real waste,” whispered Kuroji-san. “When there’s someone here that’s more than willing to offer something alot better.”

“When did you…” Aoshi started to ask, but Kuroji-san silenced him by placing a hand gently over his throat.

“Just after you started,” he answered. “I wanted to watch you for a moment. Now, how about you let me?”

Aoshi felt his body grow slack as Kuroji-san gripped him in his strong arms. The fingers of the older ninja dug almost painfully into his chest for a second. Aoshi’s first instinct was to pull away and fight off the heat rising up from within him. However, before he could move, Kuroji-san seemed to sense what he was about to do and bit down hard on the fleshy area of his neck. The moment his teeth made contact with Aoshi’s pale skin, it was as though a switch had been thrown somewhere in his head. One moment, he was prepared to do anything to get away. The next, all the will in him evaporated into nothingness.

A low chuckle rumbled through his body from the man standing behind him. Kuroji-san wasted no time in removing their clothes, taking to Aoshi’s surprise great care to not just tear them off. When they were both naked, Kuroji-san bent Aoshi down over the sink and began pressing his cock between his ass cheeks. Aoshi felt a sharp pain,one that caught him off-guard for a moment. It had never hurt this much going in before. As if in answer, a door in his mind swung openand flooded power through him. Something held Aoshi’s body in it’s grip as Kuroji-san began shoving the first few inches of himself in. Aoshi gasped, partly from pain, but also from a whole different sort of orgasm the pain was giving him.

As Kuroji-san began pushing the length of himself slowly in, Aoshi finally understood. He had only consciously accepted the knowledge that had been given to him. This was different, however. He could feel the Kyuubi-Onna’s power flowing out from within him in droves now. It swirled around them both, holding Kuroji and himself in a grip of sexual rapture. As the power pierced through every pore in the shinobi’s body, Kuroji-san began thrusting in and out in afast-paced rhythm, driving the air out of Aoshi’s lungs in the process.

Each time Kuroji-san’s manhood shoved it’s way through to his innards, Aoshi felt the Kyuubi-Onna respond in kind. With every thrust, she unleashed more power into the air. With such a small space, it wasn’t long before the molecules in the air practically sizzled. Aoshi began to cry out, responding to Kuroji-san’s own moans as he pounded into him. They both felt the power build, felt it swimming around their sweat-soaked bodies.

When Kuroji-san came, he let out a howl that was surely heard all the way back up to the front of the car. Aoshi screamed right along with him, feeling Kuroji’s strength seep into his form down to the dark place where the Kyuubi-Onna resided inside of him. His seed sloshed around in Aoshi’s bowels for several minutes after, slowly leaking down onto the floor. Aoshi turned around to lean forward into Kuroji-san’s massive chest as he leaned helplessly against the wall. Rather than tired, Aoshi felt revitalized now.

“Once I recover my strength,” Kuroji gasped, laying a hand on Aoshi’s shoulder gently. “My power will be stronger than ever. I will be able to protect your host much more efficiently.”

Aoshi understood then that he was speaking not to him but the entity that dwelt within him. “Thank you,” he said softly, echoing her sentiments. “You have done me well, Kuroji-san.”

“Iie,” the dark-skinned shinobi replied breathlessly. “Just Kuroji now. You are far beyond me.”

Kuroji smiled then and lifted Aoshi’s chin up. Capturing his mouth, he drew Aoshi back into his sweat-covered form. Together, they kissed for a moment in blissful silence, savoring the taste of one another. Aoshi raised up enough to where he could wrap his arms around Kuroji’sneck. Kuroji, in turn, leaned down a little to give him better access. As he did so, the train suddenly gave a violent lurch.

Somehow, Aoshi felt as though he were falling forward and to the side nearly at once. The whole restroom seemed to turn on it’s end and spin like a washing machine for a second. While this was going on, a horrible sound like metal screeching on metal rang loudly in his ears.

Aoshi forced his brain to think even as the world spun around him. Kuroji had his smaller form in a death grip, using his much larger frame to take the brunt of the damage. There was only one possible thing that could be causing this.

Thetrain had derailed, somehow. They were going to crash!

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Kate McMurray’s *Across the East River Bridge* (Loose ID)

Kate McMurray is this week’s featured author on sylvre.com. Scroll through the page for an interview well worth reading where we learn about Kate’s work, her play, and a little about her hometown. As always, cover images are “buy links.” Just click on the image and you’ll be virtually transported to the the publisher’s bookstore.

Find Kate McMurray:

When Finn’s boss sends him to a museum in Brooklyn, the last person he expects to see is his old rival, Troy. Finn still blames Troy for sending his career off the rails, but Troy has research Finn needs. Troy also has an intriguing story; the museum he curates is haunted by the ghosts of two men who died under mysterious circumstances in 1878. Troy strikes a deal: he’ll help Finn if Finn helps him find out what happened to the men who died.

From diaries, police reports, and newspaper articles, Finn and Troy piece together the lives of the two dead men—and the romance that bloomed between them—and it becomes clear that the men were murdered. It also becomes clear that the ghosts are real and are capable of manipulating the dreams, thoughts, and actions of the living. When Finn and Troy start falling for each other, Finn worries that it’s all an illusion concocted by the ghosts to keep them working together to solve the mystery, but Troy is convinced the love between them is real. But how can he get rid of a couple of ghosts and prove it?


Kate McMurray is a nonfiction editor by day. Among other things, Kate is crafty (mostly knitting and sewing, but she also wields power tools), she plays the violin, she has an English degree, and she loves baseball. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Visit her web site at http://www.katemcmurray.com.

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Author Interview: Kate McMurrray—a Renaissance Woman in Brooklyn (or, A Plotter Not a Pantser)

LS:Kate, welcome. I’m happy that I was able to persuade you to visit and let me ask some questions.

KM:Hi, Lou. Thanks for having me!

Q: Your bio is so very brief, Kate, that it begs fleshing out. I hope you won’t mind a few inquiries. You mention a variety of interests—violin, crafts, power tools—and that you are a non-fiction editor in your day job guise. I snuck around and saw that on your blog you refer to yourself as a Renaissance woman. I love that, but I really hope you’ll elaborate.
A: The short version is that I like to keep busy. I thrive when I have a little too much to do, and I have one of those brains that needs to be engaged all the time to stave off the dreaded boredom. So I have many hobbies. I work, I write, I knit sometimes. I’m a sucker for a fun DIY project. I played violin for fifteen years before giving it up when I graduated from college, but then I decided maybe four years ago to pick it up again as a New Year’s resolution. I, conveniently, live a few blocks from a music school, so I started taking lessons, and I got a lot out of that. I actually recorded my own music for the Across the East River Bridge book trailer, but the lack of soundproofing in my 100-year-old apartment building plus noisy neighbors meant the recording had too much ambient noise, so I went with a professional recording. Not that I even sounded anywhere near as good as the other recording. Actually, the trailer is a good example of how my brain works: I decided it was a good excuse to learn how to make videos, so I spent a weekend learning iMovie, et voila! Book trailer! I also like to bake, I’m pretty handy with pencils and water colors, and I read 2-3 books a week. What I don’t do is sleep much. 🙂

Q: I’m wondering, what sort of non-fiction do you work with? Are books about your various interests represented in what you edit? Academic writing? Where does fiction writing fall in the hierarchy of your interests? Do you ever hope to write full time?
A: I’ve spent most of my publishing career editing textbooks. I got my start in college-level science/tech books, but these days, I edit textbooks for the grade-school set, mostly in language arts. It’s fun, I like the work. It’s really different from trade/fiction publishing, though. Well, the basic process of assembling a book is the same, but it’s a whole different world in terms of how books are acquired and marketed. I do some fiction editing on the side, too. Writing is a big priority, though. I spend as much of my free time as I can writing, and I love it. I would love to be able to write full-time, and maybe I will someday, but in the meantime, I have to pay rent, and there are worse things than spending all day manipulating words. (I’m also the rare bird of a writer who really enjoys revising, I’ve found; it’s a good blend of my skills, I think.)

Q: You live in Brooklyn—have you always lived there? Obviously, the area is key to your novel Across the East River Bridge, and the importance of the sense of place becomes even more obvious in the excerpts we’ll be sharing. Do you place all or most of your work here? Perhaps you’ll be willing to talk a bit about how you work with setting and location, what it means for you when you’re writing and how you hope it will influence the readers’ experience.
A: I’ve been in Brooklyn about five and a half years now. I grew up in the New Jersey suburbs, then I lived in Massachusetts for a while, and then I moved to Manhattan almost ten years ago. I did the small-apartment-in-a-not-so-great-neighborhood thing for a while until the neighborhood started improving and I got priced out of it, as is the way of things in New York. I moved to Brooklyn after that, and it was fortuitous in the long run; I love Brooklyn, and I feel more at home here than I’ve felt anywhere else.
I place a lot of my stories in NYC. Most of Blind Items takes place in Brooklyn, and Kindling Fire with Snow is set in my neighborhood. I find that a lot of media—books, movies, TV—gets the finer details of New York wrong, and part of me is always trying to convey New York as I experience it. And I personally love stories with a lot of nitty gritty detail, particularly of the setting, so I want my readers to be able to “see” what my characters do. (Plus, with some notable exceptions, most NYC stories are set in Manhattan. So I want to represent my adopted borough.)

Q: Not being familiar with New York at all, I fell back on my usual habits and turned to Google for enlightenment about the book’s geography. But I ended up confused—there are four East River Bridges! Maybe you can explain?
A: I think there are actually maybe eight bridges that cross the East River; I can’t remember off-hand. But the bridge referred to in Across the East River Bridge is actually the Brooklyn Bridge. During its planning/construction, it was named the East River Bridge because it was the first bridge built to cross the East River, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn and beyond. Before that, commuters traveled mostly by ferry, which was especially problematic in the winter when things got icy, plus the East River can be tumultuous. The historical part of Across the East River Bridge takes place in what is now called Brooklyn Heights in the 1870s, when that first East River Bridge was under construction.

Q: Your main characters in Across the East River Bridge seem to flow together quite seamlessly while still maintaining strong, unique personalities. Did you draw these characters to fit your story, or did they come into being and then draw you into the ghost tale? Is your fiction typically character driven, or based first on plot?
A: AERB started more with a situation. I’d been sitting on an idea for a ghost story for awhile, and I wanted to write an enemies-to-lovers story, and I had read an article on Victoria Woodhull—a historical figure who has fascinated me for a long time; she was a businesswoman and free love advocate in New York City in the 1860s and 70s—and things sort of fell together. As I wrote, Finn emerged as the more skeptical/cynical one of the pair, and Troy is more arrogant but fun-loving, and I liked the dynamic of those personality types together. So to answer your question, I would say my fiction is probably more character driven, but plot is important, too. (I’m more a plotter than a pantser; I do a lot of outlining and brainstorming before I start writing.)

Q: It doesn’t seem that your other work has a particularly strong paranormal strain. How did the idea to write a ghost story, and this ghost story in particular, first take hold in your imagination?
A: This was my first attempt at paranormal. My interest in the ghosts probably stems more from my interest in history, although I think one of the fun things about writing fiction is exploring the unknown. I don’t know if ghosts exist, nor do I know what happens after we die, but there are tons of stories circulating about haunted places in the city. And I’d read a few novels with ghosts and liked the idea of the dead being able to convey important information to the living. So once I thought up this haunted museum, I thought, “Well, obviously, in this universe, the ghosts are real and they’re going to help solve the mystery.”

Q: Kate, this is the question I subject all my interviewees to: who do you think of as sexier, Finn or Troy? A couple of rules apply, here. First, it’s an essay question—no one word answers. Also, you can’t say “both”, that’s cheating (though it’s okay to blur the lines a bit as long as you explain).
A: Hee. Troy is probably more the type of guy I would go for. He’s a big guy of the tall, dark, and handsome variety, plus he wears glasses, and I’m a total sucker for a hot guy in glasses. (In the book, I describe him as looking like Clark Kent, and in my head, he looks sort of like Brandon Routh in the Bryan Singer Superman movie, plus 8 years or so.) Finn’s more disheveled and less fashionable, though there’s certainly something to be said for that, too.

Q: While we’re on the subject of characters, it strikes me that as writers and as readers people often develop unique relationships with characters and learn from them as we write or read along. Can you think of something you’ve learned from a particular character—whether one you wrote or one you read—and share what it was and how the learning happened?
A: Probably Drew from Blind Items fits this more than anyone. That novel went through many drafts, and the final product doesn’t resemble the first draft much, but Drew was the constant. Through the revision process, I joked with my writers group that he was kind of a Gary Stu. He’s not really a stand-in for me, but there is a lot of me in that character. Still, he’s pretty different from me, too—in more ways than just the obvious!—and writing that novel taught me a lot about voice and point of view. For example, I wrote the previous drafts in third-person, and I had it close to finished but there was something that still didn’t quite work. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem and agonized over it for weeks. Then one day, as an experiment, I started rewriting the novel in 1st person from Drew’s POV. That fixed it; the story just flowed after that. Some scenes I didn’t even have to rewrite that much, because Drew’s voice was already right there on the page. It’s a weird thing to say about a story you’re writing, but I felt in that last rewrite like Drew was bursting out of the story. Writing that was an interesting experience.

Q: Your cover for Across the East River Bridge was designed by Valerie Tibbs, and that artist has also done at least one other cover for you. It’s great work, balanced and illustrative, setting the tone for the novel. How did you react when you first saw it? How much influence were you given as to style, elements, color?
A: I had a little bit of input—I wanted the Brooklyn Bridge on the cover!—but the final product was all Valerie. (I will tell you a secret, though. I was surprised when saw the cover because one of the models bears not a small resemblance to an ex-boyfriend of mine, which is a strange thing to see on the cover of an erotic novel you wrote).

Q: Kate, we’re going to share a little bit from your novel Blind Items (Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention) below, sort of an extra prize for readers, here, but you have several other published works as well. I will vouch that, in this readers’ opinion, “A Walk in the Dark” is a fun, sweet short piece that has the power to perk up flagging spirits. What else is out there that you’d like readers to know about?
A: Thanks! Well, as mentioned, I have a novella about two guys trapped in a Brooklyn apartment during a blizzard called Kindling Fire with Snow and also my novel The Boy Next Door which is about two guys who were childhood friends but haven’t seen each other in a long time until one of them moves back to their hometown and they end up as neighbors.

Q: And what’s coming up, Kate? Anything soon to be released? What can readers look for in the next year or so? Anything else you’d like to say to your readers?
A: There are a bunch of things up in the air at the moment, but, among other things, I’m currently working on the sequel to The Boy Next Door (this new book is Neal’s story); a romance between two professional baseball players (I’m a huge baseball fan, which readers may have picked up on, so this was inevitable); a crazy fantasy thing with gods and mythology and reincarnation and magical objects that is way outside the scope of what I usually write but is a ton of fun; and an angsty contemporary friends-to-lovers story that takes place in Chicago. Information about these will be on my website as I get more details.

LS: Thanks for being here Kate, and for letting me delve a bit into what makes you tick as a writer. I appreciate the opportunity to feature your work, and I hope you’ll visit again!
KM: Thanks again for having me and letting me be all wordy and talkative on your blog!

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Kate McMurray’s Across the East River Bridge—An Excerpt

“What the hell are you doing here?” Finn asked, letting his gaze travel over Troy’s infuriatingly handsome face. He rubbed his temples gently, trying to get the ache to ease.

Their gazes met briefly. Troy was still hot in a Clark Kent kind of way, his broad chest hidden under an eggplant-colored button-down shirt and matching tie, dark-rimmed glasses sitting on his nose, dark hair neatly combed. Finn silently lamented that his enemies had to come in such attractive packages.

Troy laughed. “It is lovely to see you again too. As it happens, I curate this house.”

Finn knew that Troy was working for the KCHS these days, but this promotion was news to him. “You’re kidding, right? I made an appointment with a woman named Genevieve.”

Troy’s grin was unnerving. “Genevieve is my assistant. She has been doing the tours lately, but when I saw that she’d made an appointment with one Christopher Finnegan, I decided I had to follow up myself.” He straightened the cuffs on his shirt, drawing attention to his big hands. “How are you, Finn?”

“Oh, just dandy. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were stalking me.”

“You give me too much credit.” Troy motioned for Finn to follow him into an office off the lobby. The room looked like the relic of the past that it was — given the ornate wallpaper, the thick curtains, and the severe-looking man in the painting on the wall — if you overlooked the brand-new laptop sitting on the intricately carved desk. There was a lot of clutter too; Troy had never been terribly organized. He clucked his tongue. “Or maybe you’re right. Obviously, I knew that you would one day be researching a project on nineteenth-century Brooklyn, so I quit my job at NYU to take a low-paying assistant curator job at the Kings County Historical Society in the hopes that one day I’d curate the museum in an old house the KCHS just acquired three months ago, knowing you’d want an appointment.”

“Shut up,” was the best witty rejoinder Finn could come up with. He blamed the headache.

Troy picked up a file folder from his desk and extracted a few sheets of paper. “This is the fact sheet,” he said, handing the paper to Finn. “That has all the same information as went into the press release we put out when we announced the museum’s opening, plus a few other facts that I thought the public might find interesting. The other two pages are a brief history of the building that I wrote up for the Historical Society. Was there something in particular you’re looking for?”

“My boss is researching Victoria Woodhull.”

Troy pursed his lips. “Are you sure you’re not stalking me?” He shook his head. “Right time period but otherwise wrong tree. Woodhull never lived in Brooklyn, as far as I know.”

Finn already suspected that this trip out to Brooklyn was a dead end. Woodhull had spent most of her years in New York in the same house in East Village, and the date Finn had been given for Woodhull’s supposed residence at the Brill House conflicted with the date she’d left for England to start over after she’d been ruined. Still, Loretta had insisted he check it out. Plus he didn’t want to waste the trip. “She spent time in the area. She gave speeches in Brooklyn, for sure one at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and it’s pretty well known that she befriended Theodore Tilton. He lived a few blocks from here, right? As did Henry Ward Beecher.”

Troy appeared to consider this. “I’ve spent the better part of the last two months poring over almost everything ever written about this house. If Victoria Woodhull had ever been here, I’d have run across her name. I’m pretty sure I haven’t yet.” He shrugged. “You want the tour anyway?”

Finn had come all the way into Brooklyn. “Sure, what the hell?”

Troy grabbed a small notebook from his desk. “Let’s go.”

He led Finn down the hall. Finn took a moment to check Troy out again; looking at him certainly stirred something in Finn. Troy had always been classically handsome, but whether it was his good looks or their long history together that got Finn’s blood pumping, it was hard to say. Probably a little of both. Finn found that frustrating; this would be so much easier if he could just get the information he needed and leave without having to think about all of this.

“We’re setting up exhibits on the first, second, and third floors. The fourth floor is the library, and the fifth floor is mostly storage. The third floor has a portrait gallery of famous residents of Victorian Brooklyn and a gallery of mediocre landscapes by Brooklyn artists, mostly the cast-offs of the main KCHS museum. Do you care about those?”

“Not especially.”

Troy nodded and continued walking toward a stairwell. He mounted the first step and said, “I want to add a photography gallery, but I’m still sorting through several boxes of prints from the KCHS archive. I’ll keep an eye out for Ms. Woodhull.”

“Thanks. What’s on the second floor?”

Troy smiled. “This is the real highlight of the museum, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve recreated what a building like this would have looked like in the 1870s. A lot of this furniture was in storage at the KCHS or other museums in the city, waiting for a home. Some of the pieces are really extraordinary.”

When they got to the second floor, Finn followed Troy into what looked like a bedroom. There was a grandiose four-poster bed off to the side with heavy green damask draped all around it. The bed was made of oak, Finn guessed, as was the ornate chest of drawers on the other side of the room.

“The building was originally constructed in 1868,” Troy said, flipping through pages in his notebook. “It was intended to be a single-family residence according to the plan, but from very early on, before 1872 at least, the owner rented out rooms on the upper floors. My guess is he needed the income from the boarders. At any rate, this was the master bedroom. It’s been many other things over the years, too, and this whole building was converted into apartments in the sixties, but this is our best guess for how the room would have looked when the first owner lived here. We had some floor plans and even a fuzzy photograph.”

Finn wondered if he should be taking notes. “You’ve had to do a lot of work on this room.”

“Yeah, in its last incarnation, this was a studio apartment with a kitchen and everything. We took out the kitchen. It’s been kind of fun, watching this house devolve into its original form. Like backward time-lapse photography.” Troy walked over to the bed and ran a finger up one of the posts. “The house is said to be haunted too.”

“Oh, please.”

“I’ve seen enough weird stuff that I can’t stay completely skeptical, let’s just say. There have been a number of documented ghostly occurrences here. A woman who lived here briefly in the forties kept a journal detailing her encounters with the spirits. Most of it’s classic haunted-house stuff. Strange noises, cold blasts of air, doors suddenly slamming shut. Interestingly, almost every account of paranormal activity here indicates that the ghosts are two men.”

“Okay.” Finn had run into many ghost stories over the years he’d been working as a researcher and thought most of the stories were pure nonsense. He humored Troy, though, who seemed to be enjoying himself. “Do you know anything about who the ghosts might be?”

“No one has ever specified, but I have a guess.” Troy’s eyes practically sparkled with excitement.

“Did the previous owners know?”

“No, but I don’t think they bothered to find out.”

Troy enjoyed drawing things like this out, Finn knew. He held out a hand and motioned for Troy to keep talking. “What’s your guess?”

“The first owner of this house was Theodore Cummings Brill. He was the youngest son of a large and moderately wealthy family. He and another man, George Washington Cutler, were found dead in this very bedroom in 1878.”

A shiver went up Finn’s spine. Someone had died in the room in which he was standing. “So that’s who you think is haunting this house?”

“Yes. The facts fit, given when the sightings started.” Troy walked closer to Finn. “I’m working on digging up causes of death. There was a story in the Times, but it was vague, saying only that the circumstances of their deaths were unusual. I’ve been piecing together other evidence, though.”

“And you have a theory. You always have a theory.”

“Suicide. Possibly murder-suicide, but I’m pretty sure they both took their own lives. Because they were gay.”

Finn rolled his eyes. “You always think everyone was gay. You bought that horseshit about Lincoln being gay. Sometimes there’s a simpler and much less biased explanation. What makes you think murder-suicide?”

“I can’t remember offhand. Something I read, a contemporary account of the crime, I think. It makes more sense than any other theory of the crime I’ve seen.” Troy rocked on his heels. “Some of the flooring is original. If you squint, you can still see the blood stains in the wood paneling on the floor.”

Finn shivered again. “Show me something else.” He left the room.

Troy’s shoes squeaked on the floor as he caught up to Finn. “The theory has merits.” He led Finn across the hall to another room. It had an elaborate sofa and a couple of chairs, everything Rococo revival. It was not a style Finn especially liked, but he knew it was popular in the 1870s. The upholstery on all of the pieces was beautiful, almost like new, except for a chaise longue in the corner that looked faded and worn.

Finn bent to take a closer look at the scrollwork on the sofa. Troy said, “This is the parlor. The furniture is mostly from the 1850s, but we had everything reupholstered, save for the chaise, obviously. The upholstery on the other pieces had disintegrated, but, I don’t know, I kind of like the old faded quality on the chaise. What do you think?”

“I agree. It looks kind of…soft and homey.” Finn meant it. He bet that chaise would be an excellent place to take a nap. Of course, thinking about that made Finn think about beds, and he had a sudden flash of Troy, hovering over him, naked. That certainly got his blood pumping. He coughed, trying to keep his body’s reaction to the memory at bay. He reminded himelf that he didn’t like Troy much.

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2nd Excerpt from across the East River Bridge (spicy kissess)

That night, Finn and Troy ordered Chinese food and sat on the floor of Troy’s office to eat it, careful not to spill any sauce on anything of value. Mostly, they talked about the mystery, and it didn’t escape Finn’s attention that they were talking around the big kiss in the room. Finn had probably already wasted too much time thinking about it.

The kiss itself had been nice, but the greater problem here as far as Finn was concerned was that it seemed to signal some sort of change in their relationship. Not that they’d never kissed before; quite the contrary. But in the past, the kisses had always been preludes to sex, and this one had been a sweet little kiss that had happened just for the sake of kissing.

And now he was sitting in the same room as Troy, who was yammering on obliviously about gender relations in the nineteenth century, and all Finn could think was that Troy had a really lovely mouth, and he would very much like to kiss it again.

Troy interrupted his lecture to ask, “Do I have something on my face?”

“What? No.”

“Oh. You’re staring.”

Finn blinked a few times. “No, I’m not.”

Troy shifted his feet so that he was sitting with his legs stretched out. He leaned against the sofa, right next to where Finn was also leaning. “You weren’t even listening.”

Finn contemplated lying. “Eh, I guess I zoned out. Sorry.”

“It’s fine. Probably stuff you mostly already knew. Here, have a fortune cookie.” Troy picked up two and handed one to Finn.

Finn cracked his open. He read aloud, “Look in the right places; you will find some good offerings.”

“In bed,” said Troy with a grin.

Finn rolled his eyes. “You are such a child.”

“I don’t think there is anything childish about showing you the offerings found in my bed.”

And there was a mental image Finn didn’t want. Before that line of thinking got out of hand, he asked, “What does yours say?”

Troy chuckled as he opened his fortune cookie. “’Bide your time, for success is near.’ In bed. Ha! I knew it was only a matter of time.”

“Until what?”

“Well, I have always been an advocate of slow and steady in certain…circumstances. So one could take it that way. Or one could argue that the moment I will succeed in seducing you is nigh.”

Finn’s face heated up. “I told you, no sex.” Although, he admitted to himself, he wasn’t completely opposed to being seduced.

Troy moved a little closer. “It’s not that I don’t respect your boundaries…”

Finn put a hand on Troy’s chest to ward him off. He wondered when Troy had gotten so close. Then he marveled at how warm Troy’s body was. How strong and alive. He looked up because he knew something was about to happen. Their eyes met.

“It’s that I don’t believe you,” Troy said before lowering his face to Finn’s.

Their mouths crashed together. Almost by instinct, Finn devoured Troy. It was not the most appetizing of kisses; Troy tasted mostly of garlic sauce. But there was something there, something that pulled at Finn, that forced him to move his hand to the back of Troy’s head to hold him there, that compelled him to slide his tongue along Troy’s teeth. There was a promise in the kiss of greater things, of memories and events not yet experienced, and it was familiar and strange all at once.

Then Troy had to ruin it by groaning, which brought Finn back to the time and place they actually inhabited, and he pulled away. “We’re not doing this.”

“You want to,” Troy said, his warm breath feathering across Finn’s cheek. “You want me.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does. Why would we deprive ourselves of something we both want?”

Finn knew it would be best to back away, but he was trapped in Troy’s orbit now, unable to move more than a few inches. “Professional. You promised to keep this professional.”

Then they were kissing again. This time, Troy ran his fingers through Finn’s hair, sending electric tingles along his scalp. Finn opened his mouth to let Troy in and then was lost, surrounded by the mixed scent of Chinese food and Troy’s spicy cologne. Finn could only feel; he forgot how to think. The world stopped when they kissed.

Except kissing Troy could only end in disaster. Finn knew that from experience. He managed to pull away again, but this time he stood up to remove the temptation. “No,” he said. “I mean, yes, obviously I’m attracted to you, but we’re not doing this. We can’t.” He bent down to pick up the empty food containers.

“You won’t.”

Finn looked at the containers in his hand, the eviscerated bits of food left behind. He wondered if there wasn’t a metaphor there. “I can’t,” he said. He dumped the containers in the trash can.

“Finn.”

“What do you want from me?”

Troy pulled his legs up to his chest. “I thought that was obvious.”

“Yeah and then what? So, we have sex, just like we have a half dozen times before, and then what do we do? There’s too much shit between us for that to not end in disaster.”

“Will you stop being such a pessimist? Besides, you’re the one who always storms out. So don’t do that this time. Stay. Look, you know that I want you. I’m pretty sure you’re just as hot for me. The only thing that is preventing us from having really awesome sex tonight is your stupid stubborn streak.”

“I’m still mad at you.”

“So you keep reminding me. But maybe you should consider taking a moment to look at yourself and figure out who you’re really angry with. The last time you and I had any meaningful contact besides for sex was in grad school, and that was, what, six, seven years ago? Are you really still holding on to that grudge?”

“You sabotaged my whole academic career.”

Troy stood. His brow was furrowed like he was angry, yet all he did was casually wipe the dust off his pants and walk over to his desk. “I did nothing of the sort. You’re being irrational. I will not discuss this further unless you want to take the time to work out what’s really going on here.”

But Finn was already reaching for his jacket. He didn’t want to spend time wallowing in his feelings. “I’m outta here.”

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S.A. Garcia Author Interview (Fantasy? Sci-fi? Macabre? She writes it all!)

LS: Welcome to the blog, S. A. I’m glad for the opportunity to hear you talk about your work and your unique approach to M/M Romance.

SG:Thanks for this opportunity to come toot my own horn. Sigh, I do realize I don’t write normal m/m tales. My joke is I need to write a modern day tale set in Kansas about a fireman rescuing a kid from a tree and then being attracted to the kid’s policeman stepfather who thinks he might be gay but is still married to his high school sweetheart. That is never going to happen. I’m more concerned about whether a secluded doctor in a remote Scottish castle will hook up with the unstable descendent of H.P. Lovecraft and… you get the picture. As writers we all have different approaches and my stories tend to sneak in through the crooked back door.

Q: Before we start talking about your work, I’d like to ask a few questions about your background and life as an author. To begin, I’m curious about where you’re from. Your bio leaves that information out! Are you willing to tell where you’re from? Other places you’ve lived, and where you live now? Most authors I’ve asked say that their hometown, so to speak, greatly influences their writing in one way or another. Is that true for you? Please elaborate.
A:Nothing too exciting there! I was born in a blizzard in Racine, WI. My father was stationed there as a Marine Corps recruiter. When he retired in 1963, the family moved back to the Philadelphia suburbs. Both parents were from Philadelphia and they wanted their kids to be near the grandparents. Like I said, I’m pretty dull. I spent the first 29 years in Pensylvania and the last 22 years in New Jersey in the small, battered riverside city of Burlington.

Where I live really has no impact on what I write, although I really want to set a scary story in the Pine Barrens. No, it will not involve the Jersey Devil, but the story will involve how lost one can become in that eerie wilderness. When darkness falls there, it falls like black wool, thick and dense.

In my case where I have traveled has had a huge impact on my writing.

Q: You used to run an Indie music magazine! That’s something not everyone can say. You mentioned that the people you met in the process allowed you to accumulate potential characters. Have you found a way to use them? There’s a lot more involved in running a magazine, small or large, than meeting people, travel, deadlines, and of course writing. Besides finding characters, are there other ways in which that experience helped you become an author, or define yourself as an author?
A: The traveling really has greatest impact on my writing. What a great perk. For instance, we had planned to do a cover story on the Cranberries. Whoops, no one had contacted us when the band was in the States doing publicity. The publicity person asked, “want to travel to Dublin over the weekend to do the interview?” I countered with, “Fly us in and arrange for us to stay the week and it’s a deal.” The record company covered the air fare and we paid for everything else. Boom, instant vacation and the chance to travel around Ireland. Ireland is the star of a story I’m not quite ready to speak about yet.

A story I’m working on has a scene set in Paris. I was lucky enough to stay in Paris for a week, so I have a great sense of what I describe.

As far as characters, Amando from Temptation of the Incubus is roughly based on a singer I was good friends with who adored himself. This singer was a deliciously androgynous dude, long red hair, leather and eyeliner, and he fell into a pout if he wasn’t the center of attention. I’m not finished mining his character.

The amusing thing is we were terrible business people because we trusted people. That sounds harsh, but it is true. For example, we discovered that a print broker who we considered a friend wasn’t finding the cheapest printing for us. At one point we nearly went bankrupt because he had us paying $25,000 for one issue’s print run. I started investigating and discovered that we could have the magazine printed in full color for $9,000 at another press house. Something like that hurt on a financial and, even worse, a trust level. I put a little of that trauma into the character Mads from Temptation of the Incubus. He had a business partner screw him over, which tainted his trust in people.

We also sucked at self promotion. It always seemed rude to toot one’s own horn. I’m still getting over that problem.

A rock and roll character driven story still lurks inside of me. I wrote a short story touching on characters from that time frame but ahh, there is so much more to explore. I’ve read a few m/m novels set in the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll realm, and shook my head in despair. I’ll be nice and clam up.

Q: Your work—content, style, and prose—is unusual, and probably even more so in the M/M genre. To me, Divine Devine’s Love Song has a certain “Cyber Punk” feel to it. Are you familiar with that term, and if so, do you feel it describes your work? If a potential reader asked you to describe this novel other than content, how would you describe it?
A: I never in a million years thought I’d ever write anything vaguely “cyber punk,” but then Divine Devine came along and bit me in the ass. I’m a devoted reader of sci-fi and fantasy. When a teen, I devoured sci-and fantasy as an escape mechanism just like every other closeted geek. Never had a problem writing fantasy, in fact many of my abysmally written m/m tales from 30 years ago are fantasy-driven, but sci-fi? Ouch. I gave it a shot and aside from the length, I’m happy with Divine Devine’s Love Song. The story should have been longer. Tren and Shatter needed more time to develop their relationship.

Many of the political demons which bother me in this time frame haunt this novel. Corporate greed, disregard for the environment, disenfranchising of dissenting voices, yes, they all were stirred into the novella.

How would I describe the novel? An anti-hero hacker meets the alpha male warrior of his dreams and discovers his own inner hero. Okay, lame-o!

Q: Getting down to the nitty gritty about your novel, Divine Devine’s Love Song—Where did this complex story have its origins (an event, a dream, a conversation, or…)? Perhaps you’ll share a little about how you go about taking a kernel of an idea and turning it into a work of fiction.
A: A few years ago there seemed to be a huge interest in the post-apocalyptic in the m/f world. I also saw submission calls for m/m post-apocalyptic stories. I thought what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. I wanted to write a story using more intrigue than slam-bam action. I didn’t want to create a world where danger via the threat of cyborgs or the like lurked around every corner. I wanted an amplified version of our current world but gone to completely hell. People are still the worst predators. They make machines look puny. Human cruelty trumps other power.
No wonder I like bunnies as pets.

Q: Divine Devine’s Love Song is post-apocalyptic, and not mutated human life seems to be hanging by a thread. Yet, when I read this material I have a feeling of lush, almost jungle-like density of life—in whatever form. I’m also taken by the apparent beauty of things that are perverted from their natural forms, like the Howlers. I realize those feelings may be my experience alone, but in any case, can you talk a bit about how and why you created the atmosphere in this sci-fi?
A: You are not alone. Despite my fear of hurricanes and tornadoes, I love the Sea Howlers. In the novella, the Native Americans regard them as earth spirits seeking revenge against what damage has been done to the ocean. The Howlers own an elegant beauty poised to destroy humanity. If we’re going to be snuffed out, let it be by nature’s cruel grace.
Yes, certain types of greenery such as kudzu has taken over areas to the point of lethal suffocation. I will say watching shows that described what will happen when humans are gone influenced my thinking. I loved thinking about tidy garden herbs growing into proud bushes. I saw that in Italy in a 1600’s mountain top ghost town. The rosemary bushes had developed into tall hedges. Lovely. I hugged them.

Actually if nature rebels against us, so be it. We’re only guests on this planet.

Q: Temptation of the Incubus seems to be really a bird of a different color from Divine Devine’s Love Song. Supernatural, macabre, and humorous, if the excerpt is anything to judge by. Although your writing is certainly your own, there are a couple of author’s that spring to mind when I consider this piece. Rather than guess, though, I’ll ask! Were there any particular authors that influenced you in this particular style of writing? Perhaps you can share some things about the origin of this story, and what you most enjoyed about writing it.

(Readers, here’s the blurb for Temptation of the Incubus: Hybrid incubus Amando Renato is a true man-eater. Consuming life force to exist makes committing to romance a difficult task. The ancient Amando fears he is destined to be lonely, until he meets electrician Mads Massimo, a human who innocently bites back. Is their love a match made in Heaven or Hell?)

A: Anne Rice. The Vampire Lestat is one of my favorite books, and I have always dreamed of writing a an outrageous character along the lines of her Brat Prince. Hello Amando.
The story’s origins started in a fan fic group. There was a call to write a story with one of the heroes being “working class.” An early, unfinished version of Mads was born in that short story, but I realized even back then that Amando felt determined to be the star. Over time I realized that I loved the characters. They deserved something beyond a short story which led me to grow their story into a novel. Odd thing is as the novel developed so did the morbid comedy. I quite enjoy how the black humor turned out although Amando’s back story is one of the most violent things I’ve ever written.
I keep saying this, but writing Amando gave me true pleasure. He wrote himself. Writing him involved throwing aside any self censoring and taking off at light speed. He’s one of those vivid characters a reader needs to click with or the story fails even if Mads is the story’s true hero. Wait, that’s not fair , at the end they both are heroes, only as usual Amando wants everyone to know about his status.
Amando and Mads will return.
Q: So sorry, S. A., but I have this question that I ask everyone, and you cannot be granted an exception. You have to answer this even if it seems like you are not the right person to ask. Keep in mind here that there are rules. (1)These are essay questions, so one word answers are not allowed. (2)Fudging is allowed, cheating is not. In other words, you can’t say “both.” Here’s the question(s). Between Sam Devine and Pokatawer who is the sexiest, and why? Between Mads Massimo and Amando Renato, who has the greater sex appeal, and why?
A: Oh you cruel interrogator! Sam, Pokatawer, Mads and Amando stare at me in horror. Wait, Sam and Mads just shrugged and went off to have a drink. They know what I plan to say.
Pokatawer is sexier than Sam, and Sam would be the first one to shout the news.
Humble, sweet Mads doesn’t regard himself as sexy, although he’s wrong. Amando is walking, breathing sex. As an incubus, for him it’s all about sex. If I say differently, he’ll pout at me.
Oh no, now Pokatawer and Amando are sizing each other up. Time to leave them work out their little battle. If they plan a Zoolander-style walk-off I’m not cleaning up the mess.
Q: Is there any other work that’s out and available you’d like readers to know about? (If so please tell what it is and where to find it.)
A: My first novella Canes and Scales is quite popular with readers. That was my venture into a romantic fantasy world detailing the relationship between a heroic serpent prince and a half Elf, half human bed slave descended from nobility on both sides who owns major issues with life. I battled to keep Linden from turning into a heroic cliche. The conflicted Alasdaire never failed to supply intrigue and drama. He owned no chance of turning into a cliche. And whoo-hoo, they loved to make love.

I definitely plan to revisit Linden and Alasdaire. Let’s see, Prince Linden is now the King but he has many enemies. Alasdaire is the half human heir to an Elven throne. Everything sounds poised for messy political intrigue.

To Save A Shining Soul is a romantic fantasy set in hell. It’s also a comedy. I think the story confuses people. The sales on Amazon look like the stock market, up and down, up and down, lately more up than down which is pleasing. Part of me wants to team up Amando and ex demon Marius for a wild supernatural adventure set in the jungle. That will probably happen when I’m 60.

Q: What’s on the horizon, S.A.? Can readers look forward to some more releases in the coming months? Any new projects just getting off the ground that you feel comfortable sharing?
A: I hope they can! I am in the dreaded waiting and crossing my fingers mode about one novel, and two others are in the intensive editing stage. I hope to send them off before the year’s end. It seems when I talk about specifics, karma bites me in the ass. Therefore I am not revealing any more details except that the two in editing mode are, gasp, contemporaries. No kids in trees.
What me superstitious? Damned skippy I am.

I can talk about the other numerous WIPs stamping their feet in heated irritation. One embraces a haunting H.P. Lovecraftian romance set in Scotland. At 50,000 words it’s damned close to a finish but it needs one crucial missing backstory chapter and ouch, a solid ending. Hello, I need to write the ending to know if I have discovered the correct resolution.

Another involves a noble painter in Victorian London saddled with a muse whom the painter fears is driving him insane (36,000 words and wandering badly). Then there’s the vampire trilogy that I have worked on for years (280,000 words). These are nasty, violent vampires, so I wonder who will accept the tale. Wait, there’s another demon story pouting in the corner (150,000 words). I wrote that during a lurid purple prose phase which means heavy editing is required. Time to call in Adverbs Be Gone squad.
This past summer a m/m romance/horror novel which I love to pieces was rejected three times. I spent too much time fussing over the story. I am putting that on hold because one editor’s suggestions were great but basically they point to a complete restructuring. My head can’t handle the stress.

I also spent entirely too much time writing a 25,000 word free novella. Readers loved it, but ding, ding, ding, free is the important word in the mix. With regard to writing, the summer of 2011 wasn’t managed in a smart manner.
And then there are the planned sequels and screaming plot bunnies ripping at my ankles. One story, The 3:05 Solution, is trying to push in front of my other WIPs. Bratty thing! The story might win. The story is a determined bugger and I love the premise. The idea sprang directly from a dream. I got up, wrote it down and now the first chapter percolates in my brain’s basement.

Sorry, folks, like it or not, I don’t plan on vanishing anytime soon. I need to hunker down and finished my WIPs. I figure I’m 51, and have been writing for years. I need to keep going. Writing has always been a part of me, and I love it for being there when I need to escape. I just wish I’d discovered the nerve to start pushing the stories out the door a little sooner in life.

LS: It’s been a pleasure to have you here on sylvre.com, S.A. I hope you enjoyed it as well, and I hope you’ll come back and visit again.

SG: I enjoyed this opportunity to blather away! You asked me excellent questions which made me really examine my work. Hope I didn’t ramble too much. Of course I am more than pleased to visit again. Wish me luck in 2012! Damn, sounds like Pokatawer and Amando are conducting that pesky walk-off. Sam’s, “Youse go like a pro, Po!” is unmistakable. Better break it up. Bye!

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