Tag Archives: paranormal

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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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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Come by Night—sneak peek excerpt

Dr. Vargas came bustling into the delivery room, and Madeleine Small caught her breath and glared at him.

“And how are we doing?” he asked, a little too cheerfully.

“I don’t know how you’re doing,” she snapped, “but I’m ready to tear off Ben’s testicles and shove them down his throat if he ever comes near me again!”

“Oh… ah… Ha ha,” Dr. Vargas laughed weakly. He didn’t seem to know if she was making a joke or being serious.

“I’m not joking!”

“I know, sweetheart.” Ben Small, the tall, dark-haired man who stood beside her, took her hand and stroked it. “And I promise, I’ll never touch you again.”

She turned her glare on him, about to snarl that he’d better not be making fun of her, when another contraction hit her.

“All right, Mrs. Small, you can push now.”

She didn’t waste her breath saying it was about damn time. She began to push.

“I see the head! What a crop of curls! No wonder why you had such morning sickness.” Vargas’ voice suddenly became sharp. “Stop pushing! The cord’s wrapped around his throat!”

They’d had an ultrasound and knew this baby was a boy. They even had a name all picked out: Tyrell, after a character in one of Ben’s favorite books. She figured she could let him have this, since she’d named their other four children, good names from the Bible.

“Okay, I’ve got it! Now, give me another push.”

And just like that the intolerable pressure eased off as the baby slipped out of her and began wailing his head off.

“Here’s your son, Mrs. Small. He’s a little small for a full term baby. In fact, I expected him to weigh more, considering your gestational diabetes, but he’s a 10 on the Apgar scale.”

She angled up on her elbow, squinting to see him more clearly, but he was covered in vernix. And she was so tired it felt as if her eyes were crossing. This had been her longest labor, in spite of the fact that it was her fifth, and subsequent deliveries were supposed to go faster and easier.

This entire pregnancy had been difficult, from the morning sickness that wasn’t restricted just to mornings and lasted until almost eight months, to gestational diabetes, to the threat of pre-eclampsia. But it was worth it, having this latest edition to their family.

The baby boy had stopped crying and seemed to be watching her with his father’s beautiful blue eyes.

“Happy birthday, little boy,” she murmured around a huge yawn.

“You need to rest, Mrs. Small. You can see him after the nurse has taken him to be cleaned up.”

She didn’t hear anything more as she slipped into an exhausted doze.

**

How much time had passed? Madeleine dug her elbows into the mattress in an effort to raise herself in the bed. She was still tired.

“Here, Mom. Let me help you.” Matthew, their oldest, elevated the head of the bed with the control, then carefully helped her to a sitting position. He was only eleven, but he was more mature than most of the boys he went to school with, and she was so proud of him.

“Thanks, sweetie. The nurse should be bringing in your new baby brother soon.”

“We saw him in the nursery, but I can’t wait to see him up close. We men finally outnumber the girls in this family.” He gave her a saucy grin, and her heart turned over. Of course she loved all her children equally. She just loved Matthew a bit more.

“Are you upset you couldn’t go trick or treating?” Truthfully she was glad they had missed it. Pagan holiday!

“No. We had the party at school, and Dad let me go around for a little while with Andy. Mark went with his friend Tommy. Dad took Sarah and Bethany.”

She really shouldn’t complain. Ben was a heathen, as she’d discovered soon after their marriage, but he didn’t interfere with their children’s religious upbringing, and so she overlooked it, prayed for him, and hoped he’d see the light.

“Where are your brother and sisters?”

“They’re with Dad, down in the gift shop. The flowers are supposed to be from all of us, but this is from me.” He handed her a small, floppy little bear. “This is Brownie, and he’s just from me.”

“He’s lovely, Matthew. Thank you.” Just then her other children burst into the room, followed by their father, holding what looked like a virtual garden. Madeleine looked at the flowers and smiled at Ben.

“How are you feeling?” He crossed to the bed and leaned down to kiss her.

“Fine.” She knew by his expression that he didn’t believe her. “Better.” He still wasn’t buying it, and she capitulated, admitting in spite of herself that it was nice not to have to be strong all the time. “A little sore. Tired.”

“All right, kids.” He put the flowers on the bedside table. “Mom’s tired. Give her a kiss goodnight and go wait by the nurses’ station. I’ll be along in a few minutes. And behave! If I hear even a hint that the nurses had to send for security, I’m gonna sell you all to the gypsies!”

“And they’ll feed us squirrels. Sure, Dad.” They laughed at him. He’d been promising forever to sell them to the gypsies if they misbehaved.

Madeleine frowned. She didn’t like when he said things like that where other people might hear. They’d think she and Ben were bad parents, and they weren’t. Her children did as they were told – she was always pleased when people told her how well-behaved they were – and they excelled in school and sports and all the after-school activities they were involved in.

Matthew lingered at the door. “I’m glad you’re okay, Mom. G’night.”

“Goodnight, Matthew.” She waited until he was gone before turning to Ben. “So they’ve seen the baby. What do they think of him?” Tyrell hadn’t been planned. They were happy with their two boys and two girls and had been certain their family was complete. In fact, they’d given all the baby clothes and furniture to Goodwill. She’d felt so awful through much of this pregnancy that the task of getting new things for the baby had fallen to Ben. Maybe that was why this whole thing seemed so surreal.

“They weren’t too impressed. He was howling his head off.” Ben’s blue eyes crinkled with amusement, and her heart gave a little flip.

She loved him so much that sometimes it scared her. She’d married him against her parents’ wishes, but Ben had promised everything would be fine, and it was. He was such a wonderful husband. And he was so good with the children.

“Was he all right? I don’t remember any of the others doing that.”

“Dr. Margoles said everything is fine.”

She sighed in relief. Dr. Margoles had been the children’s pediatrician since Matthew’s birth.

“Ty’s weight is a little low, and Dr. M. wants to keep him here until he hits six pounds. The minute he does, we can take him home.”

“Will the insurance cover it?” Although she wasn’t really worried. Ben was a good provider, and his union offered excellent benefits.

“Sure.”

A nurse walked in just then, wheeling a bassinet. “Here’s the newest member of your family!”

Ben picked up the tiny bundle with competent hands. He wasn’t like some fathers who were only comfortable with their children once they reached the age of reason. He’d pitch in and help her, walking the floor at night if necessary.

And she could see from the besotted expression on his face that he was already hopelessly in love with their newest son.

Madeleine held out her arms. “Let me have him!”

Tyrell was swaddled from his neck to his feet, and a blue and white cap covered his head. A few black wisps of hair stuck out.

With the baby cradled in her arms, she lowered the front opening of her nightgown and put him to her breast.

“Ouch! He’s a greedy one!” She began to sing softly to him, and he opened his eyes, staring at her with seeming wonder. She ran a finger over his cheek – it was so soft – and smiled up at her husband. “He has your coloring, Ben, your eyes as well as your hair.”

“Do you think? All babies have blue eyes, don’t they? All the others did, but now they all have gray eyes, just like their mom.”

“No, I know this little boy will be the spitting image of his dad.” She burped him and put him to her other breast. “Ben, the children are going to get restless. You’d better take them home.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay? The nurse won’t be back for a while. I can wait and put him back in his bassinet.”

“No, I think he’ll be eating for a while longer.” Besides, she wanted to have some time alone with this new baby. She would have been told if anything was wrong, but she wanted to reassure herself, just as she had with each of the others.

When he’d first asked her to marry him, Ben had assured her that things would work out for them, but a peek wouldn’t hurt. And he didn’t need to know she was worried.

She raised her face for his kiss and relaxed against him for a moment, then smiled at him. “Make sure the children brush their teeth and say their prayers.”

“I will, Maddie. We’ll be back as soon as visiting hours start tomorrow.”

“That’s right, there’s no school tomorrow.” It was All Saints Day.

“Goodnight, sweetheart.” Ben leaned down for a final kiss.

He walked out of the room, pausing, as his oldest son had, to gaze back at his wife. God, he loved her.

He’d made her a promise, not knowing if he could keep it. There was something that ran in his family line, and when Maddie’s parents had learned of it, they’d forbidden her to marry him. But he’d made that promise to her, and she’d agreed to go ahead and marry him.

He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have her, to have their family, to have this wonderful life.

Thank God the kids were all fine. He knew with each birth the odds of that promise being broken grew, but they’d been fortunate and had escaped.

Tyrell hadn’t been planned, and the pregnancy had been a hard one, but already the little boy had Ben wrapped around his tiny, perfect fingers. Taking him out of the bassinet, holding him and breathing in the warm scent of a newborn – that was all it had taken.

This was the end, though. He couldn’t stand the possibility of another pregnancy. As soon as he could, he was making an appointment with a urologist and having a vasectomy. He wasn’t going to tell Maddie. Not that she would mind; they had the family they’d wanted, but there was no need to trouble her with the fine line they’d walked these last thirteen years.

He walked down the hall to the nurses’ station. Matt was keeping an eye on Sarah and Beth, his sisters, as they hopped from one floor tile to another, playing their own game of hopscotch. The boy was too responsible. Ben knew that made Maddie proud, but it worried him. An eleven year old shouldn’t be that mature. He should laugh and hang out with his friends and have fun, not worry about what other people thought of his antics.

Oh, well, there was still time for him to do all those things.

Mark, his second born, was hanging over the counter. “Do you really keep dead bodies in a fridge in the basement?” he was asking the ward clerk. Mark was going through a stage where anything related to death fascinated him.

“Yep,” the clerk answered laconically.

“But aren’t you afraid they might come out and try to get you?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“Because they’re dead.”

“But suppose they really aren’t?”

“They really are. We make them sign a paper before we take them down to the basement.”

Mark’s eyes widened. “Whoa! That’s so wicked! But… ”

Ben hid a smile. “All right, Mark, that’s enough. We’re going- ”

Screams cut off the rest of his words, and blood drained from his face as he realized they were coming from the direction of Maddie’s room. Continue reading

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Jessica Skye Davies’ *Possession*

Scroll down for an author interview and some excerpts (yes, teasers).

Possession by Jessica Skye Davies (cover by Paul Richmond) Dreamspinner Press

Confirmed skeptic Tyler Ward dismisses his horoscope when it warns against bringing home anything “impish.” Then he finds an antique cast-iron doorstop shaped like Punch from the Punch and Judy puppet show, buys it as a reminder of his youth in England, and mysterious misfortunes begin to befall Tyler the very next day. His longtime partner Kevin begins to believe an unseen force is out to hurt Tyler… does he believe enough to find the truth?

Jessica Skye Davies has been a writer since her first works were “published” in her grandparents’ living room and written in crayon. Today she is a former administrative assistant who is now happily pursuing a degree in social work. She is a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she has been active in the local GLBT community for a number of years. Outside of writing, Jessica has a wide range of interests and hobbies: from Mozart in a music hall to punk in pubs, from Shakespeare to Vonnegut, from nights on the town to afternoons at country farm markets. She enjoys working on both sides of a camera and studying other cultures, languages and history. She loves meeting new people and exploring new places, always open to whatever elements might inspire her next writing project.

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Interview with Jessica Skye Davies (maybe a few surprises…)

Jessica, thank you so much for agreeing to appear here on the blog and answer a few questions. I’m itching to dig right in to some questions about Possession and your writing in general so without further preamble…

Q: I have a very strong impression that, other than some sweet, and perhaps even juicy, sex (note for the reader, we’ll get to taste that later), Possession has the feel of a “cozy” mystery—the kind Agatha Christie might write (or perhaps Rita Mae Brown as another example). Is that sub-genre an influence for this novella? For your writing in general? Yes or no, how did you come to write this story with that hometown feel?
A: A supernatural Agatha Christie is actually a pretty good description for Possession. At the time of writing it, I didn’t intentionally emulate any particular author or style, I just had the idea for a spooky story and went with it. I guess if anything might have influenced some of the “feel” I tried to put into the story it would be more like a toned-down Stephen King, or grown up “Goosebumps”/”Are You Afraid of the Dark?” kind of thing (I remember being totally creeped out by the Nickelodeon series). Perhaps a bloodless/zombie-less George Romero, being from Night of the Living Dead territory and having spent more hours (and dollars!) than I’d like to count in the mall from Dawn of the Dead. It’s kind of odd that I decided to put this one up for my first fiction publication because the majority of what I write isn’t in the supernatural/paranormal vein at all. I write much more sappy/angsty romance most of the time.

The “hometown” feel of Possession is a story in itself. The setting, the “gayborhood” Westcroft, is essentially based on a neighborhood of Pittsburgh that I frequent, mostly known for upscale shopping, vintage clothes stores, antique shops, cafes and gay bars. The demented doorstop, in fact, actually exists in one of those antique shops. I saw it one Sunday afternoon while poking around and thought it was weird and creepy and couldn’t imagine anyone ever having it in their home. But then for the next couple days I couldn’t stop thinking about the thing, wanting to know more about whether there were other ones like it, its provenance, etc. I’d thought it might be amusing if someone displayed it in their dining room and gave a dinner party, just to watch their guest’s discomfort level with having that thing watching them eat. Finally I ended up going back to the shop, taking a couple pictures, and deciding that the only thing I could do to exorcise the thing from my brain was to foist it onto some unsuspecting characters. Little did I know it would end up becoming my first publication!

Q: Your two main characters in Possession have perhaps an exceptionally loving relationship, though of course it may hit a few bumps. Did you model them after ‘real world’ people you know, or is it an ideal? Something in between?
A: Actually, I go to lengths to make sure my characters don’t too closely reflect people I know. People always seem to worry about ending up in writer’s work, for some strange reason! I think when it comes to my characters their personalities more likely to come either from within me or out of the blue, sometimes they seem to present themselves almost “fully formed” as individuals ready to inhabit the story. When it comes to Kevin and Tyler’s relationship, I think that their strength is pretty much rooted in their reasonableness about themselves and one another. They accept one another as human and know that a relationship requires discussion and compromise, and that it’s ok to acknowledge that sometimes you might feel like throwing your partner “down the stairs,” as one friend once said, but you don’t because you know you can work on it together. They’re kind of like George and Jim in Tom Ford’s A Single Man (which I loved to bits and just saw again the other day), except that Kevin isn’t even remotely as closeted as George. They’re romantic, but also very practical. Rather like myself. So, short answer: somewhere in between.

Q: Raunchy question… Does Tyler always bottom? Feel free to be as brief or explicit as you wish. Seriously. And, does sex play an important role in the story other than keeping your characters and readers happy?
A: Only when he wants to. Which is most of the time, actually. Tyler’s a pretty pushy bottom, very nearly “bottoms from the top.” But Kevin and Tyler are really a very equal couple, Kevin’s more than happy giving in to Tyler’s whims. Sex certainly goes a long way for character and reader contentment, something I generally try to keep in mind when writing, but my writing doesn’t usually focus heavily on the sex. Kevin and Tyler’s relationship really isn’t sex-centric either. They certainly enjoy it and are very comfortable with physical affection, but it is far from the only thing that’s kept them together for five years. Sex does play a role in Possession, but it’s a very subtle one.

Q: Magic. Not exactly fantasy, but magic—does all your writing have the magical element? If so is it always explicit?
A: Just the magic of love! Although, it’s not terribly rare for me to include some mention of mystical/spiritual things like reading auras and “crystal” metaphysics. If anything, I’d say there’s often an element of destiny to my stories, but that may be just because it works so well for circularity of narrative.

Q: Your cover is yet one more example of Paul Richmond’s characteristic fine work. The elements surrounding Tyler and Kevin—the golden horoscope medallion, the truly sinister punch—express the theme and ‘flavor’ of the story quite well. Did you have input into what elements and what type of art Possession would have on it’s cover? What was your reaction to the cover when you first saw it?
A: My reaction to Paul’s cover art – love at first sight! For me, putting out my first publication was such a surreal experience from the beginning, it all went so smoothly. The further along in the process I got, I began to realize that the moment it was all going to “hit” me would be when I saw the cover art, that that would make it really real in a way, for someone else to be giving a representation of my work, literally seeing an interpretation of my characters and elements of the story through another’s eyes. I basically stated in my cover art specs that I wanted the artist to have fairly broad license on the cover and just gave several snippets from the story of Tyler and Kevin’s description and general attitude. I was mostly interested in relating the tone of the story as being about a regular, loving couple that faces a creeping, and creepy, influence over their lives.

Q: From your bio, it looks like you’ve been very busy with your education, and have plans for a career apart from writing—in social work. I’d love to hear a bit more about that, but I’d especially like to know whether you expect social work to affect the type of writing you will do. Perhaps also you can just give readers an idea of what to expect in the future (near and far).
A: Almost a decade after high school, I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up. Having decided to go back to school after a number of years working as an administrative assistant was a pretty big move for me, but it was one of those things that I knew I had to do then and there at the time. I started just going back for my general studies associate of arts, but finally came to terms with the decision to go for a bachelor’s in social work last year. I’ve always wanted to do something more than just “being” an ally to the gay community and that’s what I’ll be focusing my education on over the next couple years. As much as I love writing, I’m the sort who, unless we’re talking on a J.K. Rowling scale, could never rely on writing to be my primary income. Being a Taurus does not allow for that sort of uncertainty! Being able to use my office-life experience as well as my capacity for compassion, and possibly my writing skills, to really make a difference in the community was the perfect answer for me.

Whether my future in social work will have a huge impact on what I write, I honestly rather doubt unless it just gives me some different perspectives to write from in general. Though I do think most writers would agree that our life experiences often make a difference in our writing.

Upcoming projects: I’m currently doing some heavy polishing and detail work on a story that’s been finished but just sitting around for quite a while. It’s much longer than Possession, novel length rather than a short novella, and not at all a creep-show. It’s the story of a 30-year-old shy virgin who’s only just gotten to the point of being ok with being out to his friends. He gets dragged to a male strippers club for his best friend’s bachelorette party and after the show, when he ducks outside for a cigarette, he meets that night’s star performer who asks him out for dinner and drinks. It’s a heavily romantic story about what impact love and acceptance from others can have on our self-acceptance.

Thanks, Jessica, for graciously indulging my questions, and for allowing me to feature you on Sylvre.com. It has been a pleasure.

You’re very welcome!

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Another Possession excerpt—a sweet one (rated X minus, but still if you’re under 18 walk away)

Tyler stirred a bit, yawning, and felt Kevin’s arm tighten around him. “Morning, old man,” he murmured.
“Are you okay?” Kevin asked immediately, his voice still gravelly from sleep.

“Yeah, it’s fine this morning. Guess I just needed to sleep it off, y’know?” Tyler said, turning to face his lover so he could meet his eyes.

“Glad to hear that,” Kevin said, relieved. “I hate seeing you hurting.” He brushed a stray curl back from Tyler’s forehead before kissing the soft skin his fingers had traced.

“Nothing hurts too much when you’re near me, Kev,” Tyler said honestly.

“I’ll always be near you,” Kevin vowed, softly kissing Tyler’s jawline.

Tyler’s fingertips under Kevin’s strong chin brought their lips together. It wasn’t long before it was more tongues than lips, and not long after that before Tyler was rolling onto his back and all but dragging Kevin on top of him, his hands greedily roaming his lover’s chest.

“Want you even nearer,” Tyler murmured.

Kevin responded by wrapping Tyler tighter in his arms and going in for a long, deep, passionate kiss.

“Nearer,” Tyler breathed when he finally had use of his tongue again, canting his hips upward so that their rigid cocks pressed together served to reinforce his point.

“You sure, angel? I was a little worried that maybe Saturday night was why you were hurting yesterday, I don’t want to cause you pain,” Kevin said, managing to keep his voice more steady than he felt. He was more than ready to sink into Tyler’s beautiful body then and there, but with Tyler only just coming off an attack, Kevin was also more than prepared to exercise unlimited self-control.

Tyler just shook his head, though. “It’s fine, really. I want you in me, Kev. You know I’d tell you if I thought it was still dodgy. C’mon, please? You’ve got me all hot and bothered. Don’t be a cock tease now!”

Kevin couldn’t help grinning at Tyler’s precious pout. “Well, if you promise me you’re all right, I suppose I could see my way to doing something about this for you,” he said, cupping Tyler’s groin.

“I’ll swear on a stack of Playgirls,” Tyler said vehemently, snagging the lube from the nightstand and pushing it into Kevin’s other hand. “Get on with it, then!”

Kevin laughed out loud at that, but complied, circling a lubed fingertip around Tyler’s opening a few times before seeking entrance. “Demanding little bitch. And I thought you got rid of all your Playgirls when you met me.”

“Kept a small stack for swearing on at need.” Tyler smirked, then gasped as Kevin pressed another finger into him. His gasp melted into a long groan when Kevin ducked his head and Tyler felt a hot tongue lapping at his shaft.

Once he was sure he had him properly lubed, Kevin gathered Tyler into his arms, murmuring, “C’mere, beautiful.”

Tyler wrapped his arms around Kevin’s shoulders and his legs around Kevin’s waist, taking Kevin’s kiss for all it was worth as he felt his partner slowly, gently filling him. “Two halves whole,” Tyler said softly, smiling as Kevin hit bottom and stayed there for a few moments.

“Love you so much, Ty,” Kevin mumbled, his face buried against Tyler’s neck. “Love you always.”

“Love me, Kev,” Tyler whispered.
Kevin kept the pace slow and gentle, not only because of Tyler’s back, but because, more than anything, he wanted to express physically how much Tyler really meant to him, on a level beyond the teasing and dirty talking, grasping and thrusting. There was hardly a moment when his lips weren’t in contact with his lover’s body, kissing, suckling, and generally worshiping every bit of skin he could reach.

Even with the lazy morning pace, it still didn’t take long for the intensity of their feelings to take them both to the edge of physical completion. Then it was just a few deep thrusts and several gentle tugs, and they were both in the profound rapture of a shared orgasm.

Despite his boneless, blissed-out state, Tyler didn’t let go of Kevin afterward as they gradually drifted back down from the peak. After a while, Tyler moved to comb his fingers through Kevin’s shaggy locks and kissed his lover’s temple before Kevin lifted his head from Tyler’s shoulder and kissed him back fully.

“I never really knew what sex was till I met you,” Tyler said softly.

Kevin grinned languidly, watching the love glow in Tyler’s expressive eyes. “Scared the fuck outta me that first time. I thought for sure I’d done something wrong and I’d never see you again.” The first time he had made love to Tyler had been one of the best experiences of his life, until he had glanced down and saw a tear slipping down his lover’s cheek.

Tyler smiled back and shrugged. “I’d just realized there really was such a thing as a soul mate, and that I’d found mine. Of course I was teary-eyed.”

Kevin just wrapped Tyler in his arms and held him tightly. There was a question practically on the tip of his tongue, one he’d wanted to ask for years, but he never seemed to have the courage to just say it. One day, Kevin promised himself, like every other time, and instead just whispered, “I love you.”

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Out of Film: Leaving the Camera Behind

I began my illustrious writing career by writing screenplays, largely because I felt more comfortable writing dialog than prose.  I also had access to film equipment and local community actors, so I was able to turn some of these screenplays into microbudget films, and, in that sense, publish them.  However, some of the ideas I had were a bit out of my reach as a filmmaker.  It’s difficult to do a historical film on a shoestring budget, for example.  So I began to write out my ideas as short stories and novels.

One screenplay that I was never able to make into a film, due to technical constraints, was a werewolf short.  After about three years of trying to find a way to realize it on film, I finally decided it would be better to turn it into a story, rather than let it languish forever as an unfilmed screenplay.

My first attempt to turn one of my screenplays (about a boy battling an evil coven) into a novel, years before, had failed, because I’d approached the project as if all I had to do was “fill in” the screenplay — as if the dialog in the screenplay was most of the story, and I simply needed to add some description.  This turned out to be absolutely the wrong approach.

Now, coming at the werewolf project, I have a few novels under my belt and that’s given me some new insights into the process.

Let’s take a look as the opening scene from my werewolf screenplay:

EXT. CABIN – DAY

A rustic log cabin with a broad front porch sits at the end of a dirt road.  Behind the cabin is a deep forest.  Although nobody can be seen, at the moment, there is a beat-up truck parked near the cabin with “Jack of All Trades” stenciled on the side.

A car comes up the road, stops, and the driver climbs out.

SEAN is in his late twenties, blonde with a boyishly- handsome face.  He is wearing jeans and a t-shirt with his favorite rock band on it, which makes him look all the more like a teenager.

SEAN
Hey!  Jack!  You home?

There’s no response, so he moves around to the back of the car and opens the trunk.  As he’s retrieving his bags, a dark-haired man appears from behind the cabin, dressed in dirty jeans and a flannel shirt.

This is JACK, and although he’s the same age as Sean, he comes across as more serious and somehow a bit older.

JACK
You moving in?

This works (I hope) as the opening to a film, but the information is far too sparse for a prose story.  We have a brief description of the cabin, but only mentioning details that will be important later in the film, and brief descriptions of our two main characters.  The description of Sean might do, in a story, but the description of Jack is useless.  Frankly, it wouldn’t pass muster in a professional screenplay, either, but since I wrote the screenplay for myself to film, I didn’t worry that much about description.  Generally, the director doesn’t want too much description in a screenplay, anyway, because, unless it’s essential that a character be blond, or have blue eyes, there’s no point in restricting the choice of actors based upon those traits.

But character descriptions are much more important in a novel adaptation.  Here is the description I came up with for Jack:

     After a minute, the man came around from the back of the house, wiping dirty hands on a red checked flannel shirt he was holding.  He looked good, Sean couldn’t help but notice.  The last several years, working as a handyman around town, had kept him lean, and added some definition to his stomach and chest.  Sweat was running in tiny rivulets from his dark brown hair, streaking down his face and neck to pool in the hollows of his collar bones, before spilling down his naked torso.
     Jack looked at Sean for a long moment, before tossing the shirt over one shoulder and saying, “Hey.”

Since Sean is the viewpoint character, I worried less about describing him physically and more about what was going on inside his head.  And if we’re going to be listening in on Sean’s thoughts, we might want to start the scene just a bit earlier, because his anxiety about the reception he’ll get from his old friend certainly begins long before he pulls into the driveway.  We don’t want to go back too far, but a bit of him driving along the road, fretting can help set the story up:

     The old Mazda shimmied so much on the dirt road that Sean could almost forget that his hands were trembling.  But not quite.  It had been so long.  Would Jack be happy to see him?  Sean felt as if they’d had a fight.  But they hadn’t, had they?  Not really. Things had just gotten…weird.

The description of the cabin can more or less remain the same, but we’ll flesh it out a little, and add some atmospheric detail:

     Sean thought about turning back, as the road narrowed and the brush seemed to be closing in on him.  But just as he had decided he couldn’t risk going any further, he rounded a bend, and there it was: a log cabin with a broad front porch, just as Larry had described it.  The clincher was the beat-up, hunter green pickup in the yard with the words “Jack of All Trades” stenciled on the side in yellow letters.
     Cute.
     Relieved, Sean pulled his car up alongside the truck and stepped out.  The late summer air was hot and muggy, and his t-shirt was already clinging to his torso.  Now that he was standing still, mosquitoes began to savage his skin.

But by far, the most important thing to remember is that, in order for the adaptation to be more than a dull transcription of the screenplay, you have to breathe life into it, as a novel.  This means doing what you would do for a novel that you were writing from scratch — allowing the characters to live and breathe on the page, and act according to what motivates them.  In some cases, this can mean deviating from the dialog in the original screenplay.

In this scene, we have things spelled out fairly explicitly in the dialog, because, frankly, that’s the best way for the audience to learn about the characters’ history:

SEAN
(disappointed)
You’re making me sleep on the floor?

Jack moves past him, towards the bedroom, pausing in the doorway to look back.

JACK
Or the couch.

He sees Sean’s disappointed look and smiles wryly.

JACK
There’s only one bed, and I’m not sharing it with you.

SEAN
We used to share beds all the time, before I went off to college.

JACK
There’s more beer in the fridge.  Help yourself to anything you want to snack on.
(pause)
But stay inside.

But it isn’t necessary for characters to say everything out loud in a novel.  Some of this dialog can be made internal:

     The pleasant buzz Sean had gotten from the beer began to fade, as he realized things weren’t going to be that easy, after all.  Jack opened the door to his own room, clearly not inviting Sean to follow.
     “You’re making me sleep on the floor?”
     “Or the couch.”
     Jack hesitated in the doorway, and gave him a wry smile.  “There’s only one bed, and I’m not sharing it with you.”
     They’d shared beds all the time, before college separated them.  But clearly things were different now.  Sean tried to think of something to say that would restore the casual relationship they’d once had, but his mind was blank.
     “There’s more beer in the fridge,” Jack continued.  “Help yourself to anything you want to snack on.”  Then, just before he closed the door, he added, “But stay inside.”

I’m still in the process of adapting this screenplay, so no doubt some of these passages will be modified in later drafts.  But you get the idea.  The point is not just to adapt, but also to create something new.  Films have an advantage over novels, in that they can present events in a more active, visually exciting format, enhanced by sound effects and dramatic music, but the advantage novels have over film is the ability to delve more deeply into the characters and their emotions.

For more of my ramblings on the writing process, come visit me at my blog:  http://jamiefessenden.com

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