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Alexis Duran: Jacqui the Cat Mysteries blog tour—giveaway, interview, and excerpts

Jacqui the Cat Series

Alexis Duran has a new book out in her Jacqui the Cat cozy MM mystery series – “Roam” – and there’s a Giveaway!

About the Series

Jacqui Corleone is a fashion designer, a yoga-instructor and a concerned citizen who selflessly helps the police solve crimes. Oh, and he occasionally turns into a small wild cat. Probably due to a wizard’s curse or an evil government plot to create super warriors.

Or, he’s a cat cursed to turn into a human and only the bite of a sexy alpha lion will allow him to remain in his superior form of Cat.

Jacqui does not have a split personality, but sometimes his cat personality can get rather loud.

Loud? You’re loud.

Jacqui Corleone is a cat shifter who doesn’t know why or how he turns into a cat. He lives a solitary life in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. He’s not afraid of intimacy (yes, he is) but sensibly refrains from potentially awkward entanglements. Unfortunately, the sexy new deputy sheriff just moved in across the street and Jacqui’s vow not to get mixed up with island dudes is sorely challenged.

When the mysterious disappearance of three blue pots draws Jacqui to investigate, he’s drawn ever deeper into danger–and into the arms of Deputy Wyatt West (you wish).


Giveaway

Alexis is giving one lucky winner a $10 Amazon gift card. Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4713/?


Book One: Prowl

Prowl

Jacqui Corleone is a fashion designer, a yoga-instructor and a concerned citizen who selflessly helps the police solve crimes.  Oh, and he occasionally turns into a small wild cat. Probably due to a wizard’s curse or an evil government plot to create super warriors.

Or, he’s a cat cursed to turn into a human and only the bite of a sexy alpha lion will allow him to remain in his superior form of Cat.

Jacqui does not have a split personality, but sometimes his cat personality can get rather loud.

Loud? You’re loud.

Jacqui Corleone is a cat shifter who doesn’t know why or how he turns into a cat. He lives a solitary life in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. He’s not afraid of intimacy (yes, he is) but sensibly refrains from potentially awkward entanglements.  Unfortunately, the sexy new deputy sheriff just moved in across the street and Jacqui’s vow not to get mixed up with island dudes is sorely challenged.

When the mysterious disappearance of three blue pots draws Jacqui to investigate, he prowls ever deeper into danger–and into the arms of Deputy Wyatt West (he wishes).

Prowl Excerpt:

Not that anything could make Jacqui a dull boy, but hours spent stooped over his sewing table had given him a kink in his neck along a strong urge to throw aside his needle and leap out the window.

Instead he sighed dramatically, pressed his palms against the edge of the heavy table and stretched his neck, tilting his head to one side and then the other. He arched his back, slouched, arched again. Not working.He stood, padded across the hardwood floor and slid open the glass door to his tiny balcony.

He’d been working for hours and still had two jackets to finish. Zee was arriving the next day to pick up the new outfits Jacqui had created. Everything had to be perfect. And complete. Complete and perfect and amazing. Because Zee was a rising star, and when the rabble got a look at the Cat’s Eye creations adorning Zee’s nearly famous bod, Jacqui would have it made. That was the assumption, anyway. Orders would flood his inbox, gobs of money would flow into his bank account, and he could hire an assistant and stop working these dog-awful hours.

Or not. After all, what else would he do with his time if not toil?

Right now, he had a strong urge to prowl.

Now is not the time, Cat. Now is the time of toil.

He stepped out on his second-story balcony and took a deep breath of fresh, slightly salty air blowing in off the water. His studio apartment overlooked Friday Harbor, and at the cusp of sunset, both town and harbor were bathed in a pinkish glow, doing that twinkly and picturesque as all get-out thing that happened on lovely summer evenings like this.

Must prowl.

No. The stitching had to be perfect. The lines exquisitely formed to Zee’s angular shape, the drape immaculate. The last version hadn’t been up to Jacqui’s exacting standards. He’d pulled out a day’s work in a pissy rage at himself, and now he was paying for it.

You’ll be more efficient after a prowl. And Zee’s seaplane won’t arrive until midday.

Jacqui made the mistake of looking down, letting his gaze wander across the street, to where a moving van had recently been parked.

Jacqui had a new neighbor.

Back. To. Work.

Jacqui’s new neighbor was Wyatt West, the new deputy sheriff in town. Yes, Jacqui had played around with the name in an endlessly juvenile fashion. Wild Wild West, with the broad shoulders, lean waist, and an ass to die for. Dark brown hair, amber eyes, and a crooked smile that made Jacqui’s heart do a little squeezy thing, leaving him breathless. How wild was West, Jacqui couldn’t help but wonder?

So they’d never spoken. Minor detail. Didn’t matter. Until this weekend Wyatt West of the exceptionally hot body was a live aboard, a local brand of lunatic who lived on a sailboat surrounded by fucking water. Jacqui wasn’t about to go sniffing around a mental case like that.

But now Wild Wyatt Hot Bod was Jacqui’s across-the-street-two-condos-down neighbor and required closer inspection. Because all neighbors required inspection. Because curiosity.

“Wait for it. Anticipation makes it all the more sweet.”

To hell with that. Do the change and let’s check Wild West out.

Get it On Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


Book Two: Pounce

Half-cat, half-human, all-awesome, Jacqui has spent his life avoiding getting too close to anyone.  But despite his best intentions, he just can’t stay away from the sexy deputy sheriff, Wyatt West, especially after Jacqui is the victim of a local band of thieves and turns to the police for help.

When the call of curiosity grows too insistent, Jacqui does a little prying around on his own, an activity that quickly leads him into danger.

Is this the end for our Furry Fashionista, or will the heroic and altogether too handsome Wyatt save the day? And more importantly, will they finally have sex?? Read Pounce, Book 2 in the Jacqui the Mysteries, to find out.

Pounce Excerpt:

Jacqui stretched out long, ass in the air, paws out in front of him. As Cat, he was strong, fast, invincible. He could see in the dark, leap tall fences in a single bound, smell and hear every nuance of change in his neighborhood, and spy on Wyatt without getting arrested for being a creeper. Everything about being Cat was good, except for doorknobs and dogs. And the inability to sew or make anything. And the fact that ordinary cats took one look at him and freaked.

He sat on the sidewalk outside his apartment. The gin had released its hold on his brain. The crowd at Wyatt’s had long ago dispersed, and Jacqui could not sleep. At two o’clock in the morning, the street was empty of people. A possum rooted around in someone’s compost pile on the next block. Two cats were facing off in a yard behind the apartment building, still in the growling low stage. Bats zinged through the air, chasing bugs.

His ears twitched and his tail flicked back and forth across the pavement. From a long way off, he heard a bicycle. Because he had nothing else on his prowling agenda, he went toward the sound, vaguely curious to see who was peddling home in the wee hours.

He padded across the street and peeked into Wyatt’s backyard. If the tree in the corner were positioned differently, he’d totally be peeking into that bedroom window.

No. That’s just wrong.

Another reason why being a cat is better. Peeping is required. It’s a survival skill.

It’s creepy.

Jacqui peered into the dark rectangle of Wyatt’s patio door for a while, thinking back on how dangerously close to flirting they’d come. They’d flirted with flirting. He knew if he changed back into Jacqui and rapped on that door, Wyatt wouldn’t be surprised. Except for maybe the naked thing. And maybe Wyatt would think Jacqui was more than a little weird, but he wouldn’t turn him away.

Jacqui turned away. It kind of felt inevitable, this imminent collision of body parts and exchange of fluids, but it had to be carefully controlled and limited.

Okay, Wyatt, we can fuck, because we’re guys and that’s what guys do, but here are the rules:

One: No getting all up in my business.

Two: No looking at me funny when I have out loud arguments with myself.

Three: No asking me where I’ve been all night.

Four: No questioning why a guy who loves cats and volunteers at the local shelter doesn’t own a cat.

Five: No falling in love.

Six: No suggesting I see a therapist to address my fear of intimacy issues.

Seven: No prying into my life prior to two years ago.

Eight: No whining when I drop you like a hot potato for no reason whatsoever.

Nine: Who the fuck is that?

Jacqui stopped on the corner of Harrison and Oak to watch the Midnight Biker push his bike up the hill. He was a young dude Jacqui hadn’t seen before, with stringy blond hair poking out of a stocking cap. He wore a lived-in, slept-in, rolled-in-the-dirt-in dingy canvas coat and shredded jeans. He had a big pack on his back and his eyes darted this way and that, peering into people’s yards.

Suspicious? Oh, yeah.

Jacqui slipped into a convenient pool of shadows and watched the interloper trudge by.

Get it On Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


Book Three: Roam

Roam

Being half-cat isn’t easy in a human world, and Jacqui’s life has just gotten a lot more complicated now that he’s dating the hot deputy sheriff who lives across the street. Wyatt’s brain might explode if he finds out his lover turns into a cat sometimes.

And even more unthinkable, Wyatt might REJECT Jacqui if he discovers that his boyfriend and Satan the feral wild cat are one and the same! As if Jacqui doesn’t have enough to worry about, he becomes the unwilling foster parent of a drooling dog, and soon discovers a nefarious plot involving marauding Rottweilers with a taste for Cat.

Follow Jacqui into trouble in his most exciting misadventure yet!

Roam Excerpt:

Several desperate phone calls did not procure any dog-sitter leads. Mei Lin was off island. Rose laughed derisively at the suggestion. Mary Lou, who ran the shelter, was ferrying visiting relatives around the island and just couldn’t possibly take in an extra dog, no matter how much she really wanted to.

When Sam pulled to a stop in front of Jacqui’s apartment, Jacqui’s spirits were low. All Cat could do was emit a low moan every now and then.

“I’ve got to give the beast a bath before I let it anywhere near my stuff.”

“Can I watch?” Sam asked, grinning.

“Help? Surely you meant to ask if you could help?” Jacqui said, turning a withering glare upon him.

“Yeah, that’s what I meant.”

Jacqui slid out of the truck and ran up the stairs to his loft apartment. He was half-tempted to lock the door, pull the drapes, and hope that Sam would give up and drive away with the dog.

Not likely.

He grabbed a bottle of expensive shampoo that he’d decided left his hair too dry, and a thick beach towel. Clutching these items, he looked around at his pristine upholstered furniture and shining wood floors with increasing trepidation. He set down the supplies, rummaged around for an old sheet, and threw it over the couch.

Jacqui didn’t have much in the way of old stuff. He quickly got rid of items that didn’t please him. In other words, he had little he was willing to sacrifice to the ravages of Stinky. Worst-case scenarios began to fill his mind: images of dog toenails shredding cushions, dog slobber staining silk, and so he forced himself to pick up the bath supplies and go back down the stairs.

Sam had found the hose the groundskeeper used and was playing a game of spray-Stinky-from-behind every time the poor dog turned around, which was constantly. The sight of the lumbering man-child and the soaking wet, hairy dog sent a shiver up Jacqui’s spine. He didn’t like hoses, and didn’t like the merriment with which men like Sam turned them on others.

“Put the hose down and step away,” Jacqui said in a low, hopefully menacing tone.

“What? Don’t want to get wet?” Sam asked with a grin, but when he saw the glower on Jacqui’s face, some glimmer of self-preservation stopped him in his overly playful tracks. He took his thumb off the trigger of the nozzle. “I promise I won’t spray you on purpose.”

“Not good enough. Put the hose down, Sam.” Jacqui reached for his best Clint Eastwood, steely-eyed glare.

Sam carefully lowered the hose to the ground and lifted both hands as he backed away a few steps.

“There’s the look that puts the fear into a Rottweiler.”

Stinky ran circles around Sam, barking gleefully, a sound that grated on Jacqui’s already taut nerves.

“This is not a game. This is not fun. We are going to clean that damn dog with no shenanigans. Understand?”

“No shenanigans.” Sam nodded and hung his head in fake shame.

Jacqui strode forward with confidence. Never let them see your fear.

He dropped the towel and the shampoo on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road, and picked up the hose. He took a deep breath and said, “You hold the beast. I’ll douse him.”

Get it On Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


The Author Interview

Q: What was the First Romance novel you remember reading?
A: The first romance novels I read were my mom’s gothic bodice-rippers. You know the ones with the heroine in a torn nightgown running away from a haunted mansion/castle on the cover? I have to say these books DID NOT inspire me to write romance. I was the kind of kid who’d read anything I could get my hands on, and I mostly had a love/hate relationship with these books. I hated them because the hero was always an incredible jerk, and the heroine was a simpering victim who tolerated his abuse until he came to his senses and fell madly in love with her, usually after she fell off a horse or something. So why did I keep reading them? I loved the mystery, the haunted mansion/castle, and sometimes, though not often, the plucky heroine who persevered against her jerk employer and the ghost/murderer/gang of thieves. I didn’t discover of the power of the romance factor until much later in life, when I experienced how a great romance can be portrayed. The book that redeemed romance for me once and for all was, believe it or not, Middlemarch, by George Elliott. The first really awesome gay romance that I read was The Archer’s Heart by Astrid Amara.

Q: What Characteristics make up your fave hero?
A: I really love the bad boys. But of course, they’re not really bad, they just need the right good boy to steer them back toward the light. I get all squishy over a bad boy with a keen sense of humor, a lot of self-awareness, boatloads of confidence and a fierce loyalty to those he loves. I have to say the lovable bad boy is my favorite to both read and write. As a writer, I also enjoy writing the hapless good boy; the geek, the bookworm, the sorcerer’s apprentice who gets every spell wrong. He’s the sort of lovable guy who is striving to do his best, and then gets knocked sideways by the arrival of his opposite, the über-confident bad boy.

Q: Pet Peeve when it comes to romances?
A: Hands down, most annoying that happens a lot in the romance genre is The Easily Avoided Misunderstanding. This happens when a writer in search of conflict creates a misunderstanding between their couple, or soon-to-be couple, by having one of them swallow on obvious lie about their love interest, or overhear and misunderstand a bit of conversation, or decide to take offense at something and fly off to the other side of the country without giving their alleged true love any chance to explain, refusing all phone calls, deleting emails, etc. And the reader knows the whole misadventure could be avoided by a ten seconds conversation.
“So did you really sleep with my sister?”
“No!”
“Oh, good. Didn’t think so.”

Q: Hardest part of the writing process?
A:This is a toss-up, and depends on which process I’m currently embroiled in. I love the first draft. I write fast and furious and let it all spill out. This makes for a pretty rough second draft, because I have to go back and make sense of all my babblings, fill in plot holes, murder my darlings (cut out all those lovely adjectives and adverbs) and mold that steaming pile of words I’ve created into something others will enjoy reading. The other hard part is the first round with my editor. Oh, ouch! And having my sex scenes analytically critiqued is just embarrassing. Who’s doing what to whom? Whose body part is that and is that even physically possible? The thing that saves me during this part is knowing my book will be so much better for having toughed it out.

Q: Words of wisdom to aspiring authors?
A: I in no way consider myself wise, or even terribly smart when it comes to the craft and business of writing, but I have learned a few things on the road to publication and I can now proclaim these three things to be self-evident:

  1. Don’t isolate. Get a writing group or partner and share your work. Use beta readers, and hire an editor if you’re self-publishing. Listen to thoughtful critique, be brave, do what it takes to get better.
  2. Be true to your voice and your vision. Write what you love. Don’t let anyone tell you dragons don’t exist so you shouldn’t write about them.
  3. Persistence is the key. Boring but true. Those who keep writing and submitting no matter how long it takes are the ones who get published. There will be rejection, it will hurt, but keep going. If you love to write, it’s worth it.

About the Author

Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing.

She’s worked in museums, finance, film production and for several performing arts organizations. Her favorite job so far has been inventorying the collection of a haunted Victorian Mansion. She is the author of the Masters and Mages and Edge of Night m/m fantasy series as well as several stand-alone romances.

Her fiction has won awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference.

She lives with one dog and four and a half cats. She is currently working on the next Jacqui the Cat mystery and always has several new ideas brewing.

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Author Website: http://www.alexisduranblog.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/alexis.duran.18294

Author Twitter: http://twitter.com/AlexisSDuran

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8332457.Alexis_Duran

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/alexis-duran/

Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00L4KQU0Y#

Thanks, Alexis Duran and Other Worlds Ink Tours. It’s been a delight to host you on Romance Across the Rainbow.

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The Curse by Kethric Wilcox—tour stop, giveaway, intriguing excerpt

The Curse - Kethric Wilcox

Kethric Wilcox has a new MM paranormal vampire book out:

Cain Slays Abel!

In this day and age, that’s not an earth-shattering headline. We want headlines that scream of life-altering events.

Terrorists Nuke Peace Conference!

Wow! What a gripping headline. This is something to change the world. Oh, wait! The world did transform. This ran as the lead story a few hours before the beginning of The Upheaval. The current world birthed in nuclear fire and electromagnetic disruption. Gone are the nations I grew up with. My life altered again.

Cain Slays Abel!

The truth behind such a classic story is far more complicated than anyone could imagine.

The brothers’ tale is a life-altering event, at least for me. Twice a report of murder transformed my life in an unpredictable way. I am Richard St. Martin, Master of Darkness. Before my story can be told, you need to learn the story of the first dark monster, Cain. My stepchildren call him Father Cain because he was the first. To find the actuality behind the myth, I recruited two talented mortals – Dr. Jeremiah Banks, Archaeologist, and Professor Juan Di Vargas, Theologian and Religious Scholar. Together they found the secret origin of the vampires:

The Curse!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books2Read | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Giveaway

One lucky winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card. Enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d479/?


Excerpt

The Curse banner

JEREMIAH SURVEYED his clothing choices for the conference and grimaced. He hated suits, but Dr. Sinclair, the dean of his department, and Mrs. Pike, the dean’s secretary and sort of a second mother, both insisted he dress in professional academic attire.

“You’re representing the University of Arizona and the Republic of Texas, Dr. Banks. Think of the university’s reputation. Don’t appear like you are fresh off the boat following months in the field,” Jeremiah recalled Dr. Sinclair saying as he handed him his clearance to travel. During a visit to her house, Mrs. Pike said similar things before she called her late husband’s tailor and made an appointment to fit Jeremiah for new suits. Suits made Jeremiah uncomfortable, he preferred sturdy field clothing, but Dr. Sinclair held firm, no wild field archaeologist attire. Resigned to his fate, Jeremiah gave into almost all the dean’s requirements, but refused when the request came to cutting his long copper locks. Jeremiah brushed through his hair, twisted, and slid the length into a sapphire-encrusted leather tube to hold everything in check.

The Emir, who oversaw his dig on behalf of the caliph’s government, gave him the hair binder as a gift. The man developed a fascination with Jeremiah’s copper hair and its silky texture. With his hair under control, Jeremiah dressed to impress in a navy-blue suit with a subtle white pinstripe. Sapphire cufflinks and tie tack finished the ensemble. The cufflinks came as a second present from the emir after a night of admiring Jeremiah’s body in all its naked glory. The combination of Jeremiah’s pale skin and fiery chest hair and pubic region, plus the impressive prick and balls in their natural state, fascinated the noble. The emir never touched him or asked for contact; the man wanted to check if the red hair remained the same color all the way down.

All three pieces of jewelry helped to highlight his bright blue eyes. Jeremiah checked himself in the mirror before picking up his notes and slides for his lecture and heading down to breakfast. During the evening, the staff worked their magic, transforming the ballroom from reception hall into a dining room. A waiter led Jeremiah to his assigned table and seat right next to Prof. O’Grady. The rest of the table filled with other scholars from universities in the Republic of Texas. He found Dr. Lanister’s vacant seat next to his and opposite Prof. O’Grady. “Prof. O’Grady, I want to apologize for the rude comments last night at the reception.”

“No, Dr. Banks, if anyone got out of line last night, I did, and should be doing the apologizing. Thank you for correcting my attitude towards Dr. Lanister. I spoke way out of line. I wanted to apologize to him in person, but the hotel informed me Dr. Lanister checked out late last night claiming illness and returned home.”

“I’m sorry he departed. He stopped by my room last night reeking of alcohol, so I encouraged him to retire for the evening. I’m sorry to learn he caught something,” came Jeremiah’s reply as a waiter stopped and filled his coffee cup. “I wonder, are you familiar with Prof. Juan Di Vargas from the University of Madrid?”

“Only by reputation, Dr. Banks. I understand he’s presenting today on how the story of the Flood developed in several early cultures,” O’Grady remarked, signaling the waiter to take her plate. “Don’t you present today as well, Dr. Banks?”

“Yes, about an hour after Prof. Di Vargas. I hope to catch a moment of his time between lectures. His latest paper mentioned the possibility of the biblical city of Enoch being in the Tigris-Euphrates Delta. I think Enoch might be part of the culture, which produced the tablets I found. I wish to compare research with him.”

“Good luck in your endeavor. Di Vargas doesn’t often deal with those who pursue the more physical aspects of their researches, at least according to his reputation. I can arrange for you to speak with a scholar of the period more open to using archaeology. Let me introduce you to Prof. Chevalier from the University of Paris.”

She missed Jeremiah’s grimace of distaste, which he hid behind a sip of coffee. Chevalier’s research clashed with every line of the investigation he pursued while Di Vargas’s headed in a similar direction from a different angle. Jeremiah wiped his hands with his napkin, picked up his notes and slides, and rose from the table.

“Thank you for the offer, Dr. O’Grady. Perhaps another time. Please excuse me. I need to make sure the media team receives enough time to arrange the presentation before lecturing. I’m confident we’ll cross paths at dinner.”

“I think they plan to mix things up tonight, but there will be other meetings during the conference. Such a pleasure to meet you again, Jeremiah, or I should say Dr. Banks. You stood out, one of my more promising students, and I’m proud of how well you blossomed under Adamson’s direction.” O’Grady offered Jeremiah her hand. “I’m eager for your lecture this afternoon.”

Jeremiah shook her hand and left to track down the media team. He still needed to set up his slides before attending the lectures he wanted to listen to this morning.


Author Bio

Kethric Wilcox

Kethric Wilcox began writing and publishing as a personal challenge to be creative in a new medium. He was attracted to the LGBT Romance genre after reading several paranormal romances where it seemed like the shape-shifters never faced dangers outside the relationship issues thrown at them by their authors. Thus was born the shifter hunting House of Beauty on the premise of a twisted fairy tale. What if Beauty and the Beast didn’t end with happily ever after? Wilcox’s Legend of the Silver Hunter trilogy looks at this question and then asks what happens if a member of this family falls in love with a descendant of the Beast, can they find happily ever after or are they doomed to repeat the tale. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Wilcox now lives and works in Little Rock, Arkansas in a house that he and his partner renovated. By day Wilcox is a graphic artist and exhibit designer, and at night an author of paranormal romances.

Wilcox currently has two new trilogies in progress: Origin of the Vampires (The Curse, Lord Hunter, and Lord Slayer) set in a dystopian future of the Silver Hunter world; and Legacy of the Silver Hunter (The Goldilocks Pledge, Ruby Wine, and Black Snow) which continues the story told in the Legend trilogy from the view points of other couples in Kieran and Cory’s lives.

Author Website: http://www.kethricwilcox.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/Kethric

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/WorldoftheSilverHunter/

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/KethricW

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9818683.Kethric_Wilcox

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/kethric-wilcox/

Author Amazon: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/kethric-wilcox/

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March “Community” feature: Sharita Lira (Here with two Michael Mandrake releases this month!)

I’m happy to feature Sharita Lira, an extraordinary author, in my “Community 2018” series here on sylvre.com Romance Across the Rainbow. Check the exclusive interview for her in-depth answers to questions about her writing and her active role as a proponent of true diversity in the community of LGBTQ+ writers and readers. Oh, and don’t miss an excerpt from new release, Caught in the Crossfire. First, though, here’s a little about her two recent releases, both under pen name Michael Mandrake. (About that, Sharita is a busy writer, and has four, count ’em, four pen names! See the interview to learn why and how…)


Caught in the Crossfire is book 3 of the PROTEKT series:

Musician Bastien Desmarais is thrust into danger, but he’ll have a chance at love—not once, but twice.

Tryst Olivares aka Domingo Macaya was hired by PROTEKT to guard superstar Bastien Desmarais because of threats he’d received. However, Domingo has an ulterior motive. Instead of following through on his PROTEKT assignment, he has other plans that don’t involve the popular entertainer.

Normally independent of security, Bastien sees this move to hire a bodyguard as a hindrance, but he’ll make the best of it. Why not have fun, especially since Tryst has the look Bastien appreciates?

In the midst of searching for a world-renowned felon, Claudius Peltier is very busy. But even this mission can’t deter his infatuation with Bastien. After years hiding his true self, Claudius won’t turn down the opportunity to be something more than the singer’s number one fan.

Three paths cross, leading them all down a very dangerous road. If they can survive this mission to catch a dangerous criminal, they can survive just about anything.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and homophobia.

Genre themes:
Erotic Romance, Gay, Menage and multiple partners, Multicultural
Buy the book:


Calisto’s Quest is coming March 31, book four in the Immortals series:

A battle between good and evil or does love conquer all?

For centuries Calisto and Valios had been frenemies, growing up in the ranks on two different sides. Over a mortal year ago, Most High granted Calisto one wish. A night with Valios, the Dark Lord’s son. By doing this, he thought Calisto would get over his fascination with the demon. However, Calisto developed feelings for the Soul Catcher that would never disappear.

Valios had lost out on true love in two instances, so he created a harem for himself to forget the pain. Though Valios has feelings for Calisto, his loyalty to his fathers Luci and Death must be upheld or he’ll face the wrath of both. Because of this, he’s kept his distance, ignoring his desire for one of High’s most prominent angels. Nothing, not even the commitment he seeks, is more imprtant than making his parents proud.

Once Calisto and Valios realize their emotions for one another run deep, they make plans to have children, which runs the risk of enraging their families and bringing punishment to both.

Calisto and Valios are long time rivals with a chance of gaining something more. Will they bypass it in order stay loyal to their respective sides?

Warning: Rough sex, violence, and MPreg. Relationships that others might find objectionable.

Click here for more info about Calisto’s Quest and a snippet!


Michael Mandrake’s author bio:

Michael Mandrake pens complex characters who are already comfortable in their sexuality. Thorough these characters, he builds worlds not centered on erotica but rather the mainstream plots we might encounter in everyday life through personal experiences or the media.

To find out more please visit Michael’s website.
(Michael Mandrake can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Ello.)

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Demons and Wolves by Katze Snow—family, heat, and vengeance

Katze Snow brings Demons and Wolves to sylvre.com today… well, the books in that series anyway. Here’s more:

Broken in Silence
Demons and Wolves book 1
Get it on Amazon (Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, Paperback)

Tannerian Wulfric is a leader—a strong alpha who bows to no-one, especially those who try to undermine his authority.

When an opportunity arises, he grabs it with both hands and lets nothing get in his way. Trouble is, his brother has been caught in the crossfire of glorious retribution, and Tanner is in need of assistance.

For many years, Alex Jonas has lived his life in peace. But when fate lands him in the hands of his ex-lover and alpha, he finds himself in the centre of a feud he never knew existed, and must immerse himself in ways he had never imagined. One chance encounter, one night, and everything comes crashing down around him. Alex must fight for his life while Tanner fights for one thing and one thing only—vengeance, which has never tasted sweeter.

Can Tanner avenge his family’s death without spilling more blood? Or will his inner demon tear apart everything he has worked for, and lose the man who owns his heart?


Within These Depths
Demons and Wolves Book 2
Get it on Amazon (Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, Paperback)

Tanner is so close to his revenge that he can almost taste it. With an unusual brand of negotiation skills under his belt, he has everything he needs. Now all that stands between him and destroying Elijah Ravenhill is a dangerous mission into the depths of Hell. Accompanied by his guides, he will enter where loyalties and souls are tested, and few ever return.

Newly mated Alex just wants to keep his loved ones safe. In the sprawling grandeur of Wulfric Manor, he finally has his family under one roof, even if it may only be temporary, and his dreams of having something normal seem to be within reach. Yet what’s normal for the wolf is torture for the prey, and chaos descends on Alex with one mysterious phone call.

Can Alex have all he ever dreamed of without sacrificing his life? Will Tanner put an end to Elijah once and for all, or will his revenge go up in smoke within the fires of hell itself?

But uh-oh, lovers of sweet romance be forewarned! Here’s what the author says about book 2:

Warning: Within These Depths is the highly anticipated sequel to Broken in Silence: Demons and Wolves Series, and things are really heating up. This story is NOT a typical romance and it’s not intended for those who seek a HEA. It cannot be read as a standalone. As with book one, hold on to your knickers, because it’s going to be one hell of a ride. Oh, and just because I like to keep my readers on their toes, book 2 ends in a cliffhanger. You’re welcome!

So… yes loyalty, excitement, heat, and revenge, but no happy ever after. Got it!

Here’s a snippet to tantalize:

“Do you hear my voice, sweet wolf? See the inferno in which I have brought upon you? You will obey me, do you understand? You will hunt me to the ends of the earth because that is what I desire. My wish is your command even if it may cost you your life. Now, obey me, Tannerian, or watch your world burn.”

The demon’s teeth latched onto Tanner’s neck again, biting into his purpled flesh. Amongst his agonising screams, the vampire drank from him like he was sucking the youth out from his body.

Sucking all of the good, the light, his innocence, and soul.

Tanner had never been bitten before. He hadn’t been turned into a werewolf like some humans were––he’d been born a supe. For a ludicrous moment, Tanner suspected the demon was trying to turn him into one of his own kind… Or something worse.

I’m not human, you blasted fool. You cannot turn me!

But words failed him.

He could say nothing—do nothing.

About Katze Snow

Katze Snow never learned when to shut up. Food and coffee are what encourage Katze to function in a semi-normal, sort of socially acceptable way. Doses of sarcasm and sass are what she lives for, and her wolf, Kiba, who is Katze’s little furbaby. She’s been writing since she was a child, but finally published her debut novel, Alpha’s Bane, in Autumn 2016.

While Katze also writes MF, MM is where her heart truly lies. Her writing is dark, gritty, and takes satire to a whole new level. Come and join her! But be warned: Katze likes her men dark, twisted and all kinds of messed up, and she hopes you do too.

When Katze’s not writing, she’s working for a top secret, underground organisation, or taming wolves.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Shades of Sepia: Lou’s review of Anne Barwell’s paranormal M/M page turner


Anne Barwell’s latest novel Shades of Sepia is out from Dreamspinner Press, and I got a rare opportunity to do a release day review. Here it is, followed by the blurb and Anne’s bio. As usual on sylvre.com, the cover photo is a buy link–just click. Enjoy!

5 unrestrained sexy stars for Shades of Sepia! Anne Barwell’s vampires, werewolves, and yes, even humans live vividly in the pages of this novel, and on the streets of a thoroughly reimagined Flint, Ohio. Bonded souls, bloodlust, and murder wreak havoc on the lives of Ben Leyton—a rather happy-go-lucky guy transplanted from New Zealand—and serious, soulful vampire Simon Hawthorne. Attraction is too soft a word for what happens between them when they meet, but little does either of them know that the more they court each other, the more they court danger.

In a world where not all vampires are cold, loveless creatures of the night, it might still be challenging for a human to accept the love he needs from a man who fears his own capacity for violence—even if he vows to use it for your protection. On the other hand, oh-my-god sex might make that a little easier. Author Anne Barwell has written some sexy nuggets before, but she’s given us over the top heat here, both of the slow burn variety and the kind of sex that explodes off the page. In the mix: a park bench, a mirror, some fangs, and a little dominance. That’s all I’m going to say; if you want more—and believe me, you do—read the book.

But sex isn’t the whole story, by far. The romance between these two souls is about as haunting—and haunted—as it gets, and though it’s “sweet as” (read the book to interpret that phrase), barriers arise out of both past and present that may never be overcome. As for the suspense? Well, to illustrate, at one point I got so anxious that I slapped my e-reader down and shouted, “Oh my god, Ben! Forget the *&#$ tea!” So yeah, edge of my seat, really. Usually, in a review I like to touch on anything I found held the book back from being the best it could be. In this case, I can’t really put my finger on anything like that—it’s simply a very well-written book with a plot that kept me turning pages.

I can’t say much more without venturing into spoiler territory, but here’s my recommendation for readers. If you enjoy characters that come alive, paranormal M/M romance that’s hot and sexy, emotional, a little angsty, a little funny, and full of suspense, you will certainly love this book. I did, and I plan to love it again, soon.

(Note: Authors Anne Barwell and Elizabeth Noble have imagined this world, called The Sleepless City together, and plan to write alternating novels set here. I’m looking forward to the next!)

The Blurb:
A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.

Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.

One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.

After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer’s next target.

About Anne Barwell
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher and a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Visit Anne at her blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com or her website: http://www.annebarwell.wordpress.com. You can contact her at anne0(at)xtra(dot)co(dot)nz.

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Andrea Speed interview–excerpt from *Infected: Lesser Evils*

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press online store.

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

Until recently, Roan was ahead of the curve when it came to reining in the lion that lives inside him. Now his control is slipping at the worst possible times. A new drug has hit the streets—one that triggers unscheduled changes in infected users. Street hustler Holden Krause gets attacked by one of his clients, then is surprised to find himself involved in an unwanted, unexpected relationship. And a serial killer begins targeting infecteds in their cat form—something that’s 100 percent legal.

To stop the murders, Roan has to work outside the law. But his newfound thirst for violence makes him worry he might be more like the killer than he thought, and his reluctance to talk about it with his husband, Dylan, puts an extra strain on their relationship. So Roan isn’t just fighting the killer and struggling with his mutating virus… he’s trying to save himself.

Andrea Speed writes way too much. She is the Editor In Chief of CxPulp.com, where she reviews comics as well as movies and occasionally interviews comic creators. She also has a serial fiction blog where she writes even more, and she occasionally reviews books for Joe Bob Briggs’s site. She might be willing to review you, if you ask nicely enough, but really she should knock it off while she’s ahead.

http://www.andreaspeed.com/

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Usually names come to me when I’m writing, and I’m glad, as they’re very vital in telling you about your character. For instance, everyone in the Infected series has a very telling name: Roan is named after a rough approximation of his haircolor, and has a Scottish surname that nearly everyone pronounces incorrectly, so you know right away you’re dealing with a stubborn Scotsman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, yet must suffer them a lot. Paris had a slightly exotic name, pointing towards his exotic (tiger) nature and appeal. Dylan has actually changed his name to his mother’s surname to escape his younger, more troubled self and his violent childhood. And Holden’s real name is known to a select few, while he’s mostly known by his street nickname, Fox, giving him a complex identity all based on what name a person calls him. So names are super important, and everyone has their name for a specific reason.

As for titles … wow, do I struggle with those. I don’t know why, but that’s usually the last thing I come up with. I’m really bad with them. This is probably why nearly all the Infected chapter titles are song titles.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Since the latest book is Infected: Lesser Evils, that would be alternate universe Seattle, much like the real one, just with some places and street names swapped or invented, and cat virus infected people walking around. It seemed a natural to set Infected in Seattle (and Washington State as a whole) because I lived there, still live in Washington State, and I knew going in that the whole thing would have to be set in progressive city, where you got the good (an infected cop, for example) with the bad (a whole religious cult built around infecteds) of an open door policy. A city that was slow to embrace societal shifts would shut down about half of the plot points immediately, so the story had to be somewhere where people would try very hard to accomidate the different, but go overboard perhaps, in some circumstances, and trigger a backlash in other ways. Places where the different would have no choice but to go completely underground is a different story, and frankly, Roan wouldn’t stand for it. He’d have gotten the hell out of there first thing, and I would have to put the plot into pretzel like contortions to make him stay somewhere he didn’t want to be, because he’s an especially willful character.

And that speaks to locations in general. They can have a profound effect on a story and a character, depending on how close to reality you get with your tale. Now I enjoy writing science fiction – places that don’t exist, don’t exist now, or can’t exist – and horror – places that don’t exist, places that have taken a turn for the crazy – and those genres allow you to do whatever you want to whatever you want (same with fantasy). But if you want to try and stick to as much realism as possible, that’s hampering. Not in a bad way at all, though, because sometimes that forces you to be more deliberate in your choices, and to think through the repercussions. “If x happens, then y has to occur, and it’ll probably all become z”. That can spur new ideas.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: They have a lot, whether I give it to them or not. So they might as well have it.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: That they’re relationships like any other relationship. No matter the genders involved, they all have rythyms, peaks and valleys, and some work, and some never can. No different from anyone else’s relationships.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Sometimes I do get suggestions from readers on what they might like to see characters do, but I’m not sure I’ve ever used one.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Friendly, cordial. But not so friendly restraining orders are involved.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: That they exist and can help spread word about your book. Sometimes there’s constructive criticism that works as well.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Sexiest? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. Paris was pretty much made to be the most attractive guy on the planet, and holy hell, is he ever, but I suppose for me personally, I’d have to pick Roan, for his sense of humor and his general refusal to let people hold him down. Also our taste in noisy music is similar. Which is a super boring answer, but there it is.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Eeee … this might qualify as a spoiler, since its in the new book, Infected: Lesser Evils. So can I just say read it, and hopefully you’ll know it when you read it? (Really, Andrea? I think you cheated, here, bigtime. But okay, I’ll read it and let you know.)

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now I have some many irons in the fire I t’s crazy. I’m working on more Infected, of course, including a Paris prequel and a possible Holden solo story, and I have more coming up in my Josh of the Damned comedy-horror series. Oh, and there’s this fantasy novel in the works, and a science fiction one as well. So I hope I live long enough to write it all down.

Excerpt from Infected: Lesser Evils

Roan knew he should never have taken Nadia Rubin’s case the moment he took it.
She couldn’t afford him, she’d know he was taking pity on her and would probably resent it, and it wasn’t his usual thing anyways. She was asking him to be a bodyguard as much as a detective, and that really wasn’t his thing.

Still, how did you turn down a fellow infected? Especially when they were being threatened by another infected. It almost felt like a duty.

What she was, was a waitress who wasn’t wearing enough makeup to cover all the broken blood vessels beneath her eyes, indications of past beatings. She was a cougar strain, in the midst of a divorce from her abusive husband, Mike Oliver, who been threatening her. The problem was, the threats were obscure and personal—leaving dead flowers inside her car, leaving dead mice on her porch, flooding her e-mail with spam, putting dog shit in her mailbox, throwing red food coloring on her door—and to get him arrested she’d have to prove he did it. The cops had talked to him, but it had had no effect whatsoever, and she was sure he was going to ratchet things up, mainly because she’d finally got a restraining order. Right now she had no idea where he was living, as he’d been evicted from his last apartment, and all his family lived in Alabama or Virginia. What she wanted Roan to do was twofold: find where Mike was, and catch him in the act of vandalism. If she could prove something, she could get him arrested for harassment and violating the restraining order.

Oh, and he was cougar strain too. Apparently they’d met through the Church of the Divine Transformation. Sometimes Roan wondered if the universe took perverse pleasure in mocking him.

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K.Z. Snow interview and an excerpt from upcoming release *Xylophone*

Click on the Dreamspinner image to go to the Dreamspinner store, where you’ll find many K.Z. Snow titles. Farther down the page, click on the cover for a buy link to InDescent at Liquid Silver Books.

Xylophone–Coming in December from Dreamspinner Press

Daren Boothe has a secret. It centers on an unlikely object: a xylophone. And it’s reflected in his professional alter-ego, an androgynous but extremely sensual performer named Pepper Jack. When Dare begins his second (and considerably more wholesome) job playing clarinet in a polka band, he meets an unassuming young man who takes his grandmother out dancing each week — a man who also has a secret and is about to change Dare’s life.

Jonah Day immediately recognizes the clarinetist. Three years earlier they’d crossed paths in a therapist’s office, but they’d both abandoned that route to mental health. Neither was ready then to open up about the psychological traumas that haunted them and were adversely affecting their lives.

Dare and Jonah, both in their twenties, are survivors of sexual abuse. Still struggling to heal their wounds, they turn to each other — or Jonah suggests they do. Dare balks at first but then, almost in spite of himself, gives in. The men begin to confide in each other. Understanding and empathy come instantly, accompanied by ambivalence about their growing attraction. But the repercussions of their victimization are many. Soon, the very experiences Dare and Jonah share threaten to drive them apart. Only learning how to “play past the past” will sustain and strengthen their bond.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Titles are, to me, far more important than character names. Often a title comes to me first, sparking the story. All that concerns me about names is that I haven’t used them before, they seem age-appropriate, and I mix in non-Anglo surnames. (I grew up in a very ethnic city.)

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Almost all my stories take place in Wisconsin – cities, small towns, and rural areas. I guess I see a Midwestern setting as part of my “brand” (whatever the hell that is!)

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: It isn’t a choice. The buggers just take over!

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I could make something up, but truthfully, I just don’t know. Must be my inner gay man. (I’ve been aware of having one since I was in my twenties. In fact, straight men have even pointed it out to me.)

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Not too much. I have a very wayward imagination. Once in a while, though, people express interest in a sequel, and I take that into consideration. It was reader interest in my steampunk novel Mongrel that spurred me to start writing Merman (which is nowhere near finished, by the way — gah!)

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Interactive, in a way marked by mutual respect and appreciation. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either. 😉

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I don’t read reviews of my own stuff unless I’m specifically notified. Too many authors go off the rails because they’re constantly trawling through and fretting over their reviews. I don’t need that kind of distraction. But I’ll check out reviews of books I’m considering buying or have read.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Jackson Spey, my urban wizard (who happens to be in the short excerpt below). I’ve loved him for a long time and made no secret about it. Ex-biker with a colorful past, hot and powerful as hell, a little rough around the edges, a lot intelligent. He’s currently in his early forties, and he’s grown increasingly complex over the years. Now he’s married, going through a midlife crisis, and has a surrogate son. Can still work some phenomenal magic, though, and doesn’t take any crap from anybody.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).

Jackson’s expression didn’t change. His face remained impassive yet somehow eloquent. Only his shallow breathing belied his blank composure. “You have no idea,” he whispered, “how much I’ve wanted to feel your mouth on me again. It’s been a kind of torture.”

Those words pulled the trigger. Adin’s fingers dug into the tendons of Jackson’s neck. “You want my mouth on you again? I swear I’ll worship you with it.”

He crushed his lips against the lips of his best friend.

~ from Obsessed

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’m waiting on edits for my next Dreamspinner release, Xylophone. And I’m trying to pull together that sequel to Mongrel.

An Excerpt from Xylophone

The following week I got off the bus just a few doors down from Over the Rainbow resale shop. Since I had a bus pass, I wouldn’t have to walk the remaining distance, maybe a mile or so, to my house. This mattered, because I was carrying my clarinet. Not that it was heavy, but I was afraid someone might snatch it from me. I was even more slightly built than most girls my age. If I’d been mugged (and it never occurred to me most muggers weren’t after clarinets), I couldn’t have hung on to my most treasured possession.

At first I dawdled on the sidewalk, hugging the case to my chest, and studied the stuff in the windows. A manikin wearing a polka-dot bikini and a Creature from the Black Lagoon mask. A barbecue grill heaped with molded plastic food and a rubber plucked chicken. Painted wood fish and frogs sitting on the rungs of a swimming pool ladder. African-looking busts draped in costume jewelry. An old-fashioned picnic basket stuffed with garden tools. A red bicycle. An alto sax with silk flowers erupting from its bell.

Beyond this summery mad mess, the shop looked dim and dingy inside. But a multicolored OPEN sign hung crookedly on the door. I set my clarinet case at my feet, cupped my hands around my eyes, and peered inside. The ceiling lights were on. I saw shelving units, brimming with merchandise, set at odd angles to each other, and more weird stand-alone displays, and even a few racks of clothing. But no one was manning the old office desk that sat near the wall to the left of the door. It must have been the checkout area, I thought, because a scrolled brass behemoth of a cash register weighed down a counter behind the desk.

Someone had to be there.

I crept inside…and immediately heard it. Magical music dancing behind the buzzer sound that wavered from somewhere in the back of the shop. Notes like a fusion of dripping water and muffled bells.

He’d seen me. I didn’t know it then but I know it now. He’d seen me staring enrapt at the junk in the windows, a clarinet case clutched to my heart, and he’d scurried away to set his trap.

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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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