Tag Archives: paranormal

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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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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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, just a category, M/M romance