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Y is for you. It’s a day late thanks to faulty internet at my steampunk con room but it’s still an important topic to me. This one is all about you the reader and what you can do for the authors you love and want to support. I mean, besides buying the book and/or reading it via a library (I know it shouldn’t have to be said to not download it from pirate sites, please. It’s killing us).

Review the books on Amazon, that’s what you can do to help support authors. Yes, please do put the reviews on Goodreads or wherever else you’d like but whether I like it or not (and in many ways it’s not), Amazon is where it matters.

You see reviews drive Amazon’s algorithms. The more reviews, the easier Amazon makes it for the author to get their book in front of an audience. Once a book gets fifty reviews, the book goes to the next level up and becomes more visible to the people who scan Amazon looking for their next read. And there are more levels, the more reviews you get, giving the author perks like being a recommended book you might like etc.

If you don’t review, the book remains in Amazon’s basement, nearly impossible to find unless you already know the name from some other promotion the author has done. You have so much control over an author’s future in that manner.

I hear so many readers complaining about authors asking for reviews and to be fair some authors are absolute asshole about it. I can’t imagine why because I’ve read some of those posts and I’d be moved to never give that author a review. There is something to that whole ‘you get more flies with sugar’ saying so hopefully I’m not coming across like I’m blaming you for my sad royalty check.

Because you might not have known that. Heck I didn’t realize that’s how Amazon did things until the last couple of years myself. I hear a lot of readers also saying ‘but I just don’t know what to say.’ I get that you might feel pressured. I also hear ‘I don’t have time for that.’ There’s a simple solution to both problems. You don’t have to write a lengthy review. No one is expecting you to give a book a review blog quality write up of every book you read (but if you want to, more power to you!). Amazon’s internal gremlins don’t look at length. All they care about is that a review has been recorded. Heck it doesn’t even have to be a good review. One star reviews count the same as a five star.

Even a simple ‘I loved this book. I thought character XYZ rocked it.’ four stars counts. It’s low pressure and takes like 60 seconds. There used to be a 25 word minimum (or at least I thought there was) but I can’t see if that’s been changed other than some authors complaining that they’re getting one word reviews that were basically swears). I guess what I’m saying it, you don’t have to write something lengthy or even that in depth. It’s not like the book reports from high school. I’m sure most of us can come up with 25 words of what we loved and/or hated about a story.

You’ll be helping your favorite author write their next book if you can find just a little time to review. The publishing death spiral is real and you have the power to stop it.


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X is for Xiphoid, one of those things that might have been on today’s anatomy exam. Yeah, I couldn’t think of an X word that went with my writing. I do, however, have ideas for X words and titles. If I could come up with X titles that made the least bit of sense, I would probably use it. Those read the alphabet challenges are really popular right now. X (Q and Z) are all really hard ones to find. I suppose it’s a bit dishonest to sucker someone in with a title bearing a hard to find letter but it does cross my mind.

X marks the spot. Trite yes but hey it could be the title to an adventure romp, right?

X-rated, nah. Gay romance has enough trouble proving it’s nothing but erotica (and it is so very much more).

Xenolith…is anyone interested in rocks or Xylem in plants.

Ooo how about Xenon Station. That could be a neat SF story. You know I think I’m going to hang on to that one.

I suppose Xenophobia would work but I’ve had FAR too much of that crap in the real world. Shudders.
And I’m going to make this a short post as I’m packing for a steampunk event.


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W is for Wales. Shwmae. Noswaith dda. And pretty much my Welsh fails me after that. About the only other thing I can say is Hoffwn cwrw os gwelwch yn dda, which is about all I need to say! (I’m I’m sure I mangle that ch sound which to me sounds like Klingon. Scratch that, Klingon is easier to say. And oh, I can say wedi blino because I always am).

I can’t say when my interest in Wales started but I’m sure it was when I was young. It probably had to do with King Arthur and the red dragon. Oh, and my actual surname is Welsh, and in fact is about the fourth most common surname in Wales.

Whatever it was, I’ve had a live long interest in Wales. Back in my SCA days my name was an amalgam of Italian (which I am) and Welsh (of which I have not a genetic trace) so it’s been decades running on my interest in Wales. I always wanted to learn the language which is notoriously difficult and my university is the only Welsh language preservation center in the States. What I have learned is I blow at learning new languages. Snort. I did get to go to Wales to research the standing stones as the Madog Fellow. I hope to go again some day. I loved Wales. I got to travel from Cardiff all the way up to Ynys Mon. Lovely country.

Wales and Welsh characters pepper my writing. In Kept Tears Rhys is a Tylwyth Teg, a type of Welsh fairy because I wanted to do something a little different as far as paranormal fiction is concerned you know thinking out of but pressed right up against the box. While Rhys doesn’t bring a ton of Welshness with him, he does at least introduce people to Welsh folklore beyond the Arthurian.

Caleb Davies, the leader of my 1930s demon hunting team, in Soldiers of the Sun is also from Wales. He had a much stronger Welsh voice but still not that particularly strong since it’s set in America. I had a short story set in Wales but that one just didn’t quite worth, probably because I was aiming for contemporary fiction and it’s not my joy.

I did, however, succeed with one contemporary short story set in Wales, The Light of Winter which I’ve talked about before, Warun the doctor and his druid professor boyfriend, Gareth. I did get to showcase some of the more exciting (to me) parts of my Welsh trip. I hope I did the Welsh culture right with it.

I’ll leave you with the links to find some of my Welsh-flavored stories. Hwyl.

Find Kept Tears here.
Soldiers of the Sun. (novel)
The Darkest Midnight in December. (novella)
Snowbound. (short story)
The Light of Winter



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V is for vampires in Vegas. I’ve been working with my vampires Arrigo and Siobhan for twenty years now. They, along with Luc, have been in my brain for a long time now. I’ve sold one story with them to Dreamspinner but I have to revamp, no pun intended, the novel. It’s had some problems but that’s the story of my Vegas vampires.

Originally, way back when it was actually in New Orleans because I was twenty-something and too new to realize just how clichéd that is. Their story started as a short story that was my bestseller in the 90s. Well, in the sense that it was given a contract THREE times and all three times the publisher went under. I’m beginning to believe this story is cursed.

Seriously cursed. That short story I mentioned, somehow I missed an act by Luc that was there early on when he and Arrigo weren’t a couple because in the 90s you really couldn’t write much in the way of gay fiction (and I had to write it as a man which today, for obvious reasons, is frowned on when you aren’t actually male). I don’t know how that slipped by me, probably because it was the second or third short story I ever published at Jana and I was just too excited to do my due diligence. I would like to redo that story and remove that scene! Maybe I will if the novel ever comes to life.

It wasn’t easy bringing a short story into novel country. In the end it was too long...way too long. And then it had issues I was blind to and weren’t pointed out to me at first when it might have been easier to correct. I’ve fixed some of the issues the publisher identified and I’m glad they are willing to look at it again put mortified at the same time that it was submitted in this condition. That’s going to hurt for a long time.

When I started reworking this nearly ten years ago already when it was just a collection of short stories, I decided Las Vegas was the ideal setting for it. Yeah sure New York, L.A. or Chicago have very active night lives too but they’re so overused. Vegas shockingly has had less paranormal activity and I love its tackiness (sorry Vegas but you know it’s true) so Arrigo moved from his Pontalba apartments to a high rise on the Strip. Another thing I have to change in the short story is where Arrigo, my ancient Roman vampire, is living. Originally it was in the Sky but that was before I saw exactly where they were, too far away from the center of life on the strip. He’s now in the Veer in the heart of the Strip and I was able to look into the condos thanks to online real estate sites.

But Vegas is perfect for vampires. So much 24 hour casino action (casinos with no windows), very late night bars, throngs of people running about. Heck on weekends there are even all night bowling alleys and mini-golf courses (looking at you KISS mini golf). Of course most young vampires would need a good hiding spot in the unrelenting sun of the day though.

Arrigo works for a group, the Chiaroscuro which is made up of vampires, lycanthropes, mages and the like to be sure that the supernaturals don’t prey on the unsuspecting humans. He enjoys his job as an enforcer, not so much that he likes killing other supernaturals but because he’s dedicated to protecting humans. Happily bisexual, Arrigo has found lovers among the supernaturals, like his long time on again off again (off because forever is a long time so they drift apart and then together again over the centuries) Siobhan and Fadil (the ancient Egyptian vampire who turned Arrigo back in the days of Julius Caesar). However, Arrigo likes humans too and he’s head on into lust when he first meets Luc.

Luc is out of the bayou having lost his home to Hurricane Katrina and has come to Vegas with his abusive father and brother who have tormented him long before they even suspected he might be gay. Luc’s father pulled him and his brother out of school when they entered middle school so he’s uneducated, working as a bartender with his family. When his path crosses Arrigo’s, he’s surprised at how sophisticated Arrigo is (thinking Arrigo is barely 21). Luc doesn’t trust this rich man because why would he want anything to do with Luc?

As their relationship grows, a dangerous twist crops up, one Luc couldn’t guess at and one that maybe Arrigo should have been on watch for. One of his former supernatural enemies has cropped up and Luc’s odds, as most Vegas odds go, are long when it comes to him surviving to see another day.

Hopefully I’ll have this finished before June or at the latest July. It’s taking me too long as it is but I hope to get to share this with everyone.

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U is for unfinished. I’m sure we all have unfinished projects out there. My closet is filled with 1001 beads waiting to become jewelry. My hard drive is equally cluttered with the half-baked unborn stories. Some are just waiting for me to find time to work on them, some in the editing stage, some in the still only half written stage. Others, once the written scenes were out of my head, the story went with them. Nothing remains. Even rereading it, it’s like a strange wrote it. It’s very peculiar.
If I had to pick a couple unfinished stories that I’m sure will go somewhere I’d have to pick These Haunted Hills which, to be fair, I only recently started. Theoretically it’s my Camp Nano story. Even though the middle is as murky as a Louisiana bayou, I have a lot of good ideas. I just need time (and self-discipline. God five years ago I had that by the boat load but lately it’s just gone.)

The other has the working title Behind Blue Eyes and it’s a SF story about a young man born into a prison slum who thinks he’s getting a work release but ends up in sexual slavery (though the rich people using the Toys believe they’re willing courtesans). Kaleo ends up given as a birthday present to a genius scientist, Aneirin who really has no desire to own a Toy. Once he learns the truth about the Toys, Aneirin is determined to bring an end to the practice, provided he lives long enough as someone is out to stop him and his team of scientists from developing a cure to a virus that could prove genocidal.

Kaleo on the other hand is learning to live with the changes, now permanent, that were made to his body as part of the Toy process but his suicidal escape plans fall to the way side when he learns not only can he live with Aneirin who is a kind and gentle man Kaleo comes to admire for those qualities (and his intelligence) but he is determined to protect Aneirin from anyone seeking to harm him.

Kaleo and Aneirin’s story is easily a duology if not a trilogy. Now if only I could find time for everything I want to do.

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T is for Temple. In this case, Temple Chevalier, one of my 1930s demon hunters from the Soldiers of the Sun series. Ever have a secondary character who refused to be secondary and absconds with your story and the plot? That would be Temple. Caleb and Agni were meant to be the main characters but Temple, from the moment I put him on page refused the shadows. He is such a vivacious character that his partners often say not only does he have hair the color of an Irish Setter he has the enthusiastic personality to complete the analogy.

Temple hates that comparison but it’s accurate. He’s very friendly to just about everyone. He loves to talk (hates to study). He’s a fiend for dancing and music and Temple does have a bad habit of sleeping around. A lot. With both sexes.

Temple grew up in a family of Knights Templar from literally the moment there was such a thing. His family can all see the demons and they are exceedingly proud of their heritage to the point of arrogance. Temple always felt he never measured up to his father’s expectations as a soldier.

Temple believed his punishment for not being good enough was to be given to his grandfather for training. What the man was actually doing was sexually molesting Temple who bears deep psychological scars from this. Unfortunately for me this took me deep into the territory of ‘people think all bisexuals sleep around and can’t commit.’ That’s not at all what I wanted. Hypersexual behavior (or the opposite, sexual avoidance), self-blame, low self esteem, attachment disorders and PTSD are not uncommon in victims of sexual abuse. But it’s the 1930s. We didn’t even have 90% of those words, let alone much understanding of sexual abuse so I can’t really make my intentions clear within the scope of the novel itself. The closest I can come is having Agni observe that something is broken inside of Temple and that he tries to fix it with multiple partners but of course that isn’t working. So there is a huge potential for poor Temple to be misunderstood.

Temple, for all his faults, is a good young man. He’s the youngest of the team (until Jo joins). He ran away from Paris when he was in his mid-teams and gave up being Knight Templar (even though his name literally means Temple Knight). He joined the Soldiers of the Sun figuring it would piss his father off (he’s right) and he met Li, Caleb and Agni in London. They were all then sent to America where he unfortunately loses Li. Temple does worry about what he’s doing to Agni and Caleb’s relationship by joining them but his compulsion to be loved doesn’t let him back out. He’s also attracted to his new partner, Jo but believes General Taglioferro when the man promised bodily harm if Temple touches his niece.

Temple’s problems would be something I’d like to work with more if I ever revisit this world which I’d like to (but yeah seriously historical urban fantasy is a tough sell). He is fun to write though, all enthusiasm and sarcasm. And did I mention he fights demons with a Tommy gun? While he might take a ‘spray and pray’ attitude toward demon hunting, he is a good shot with a pistol as well, which he also carries.

If Temple sounds like fun to you, you can find his stories here. (Yes they’re in a series but they can be read as stand alones because hey 1930s demon hunters, right?).

Soldiers of the Sun. (novel)

The Darkest Midnight in December. (novella)
Snowbound. (short story)

On the cover Temple is down in front with the Tommy Gun.

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S is for Soldiers of the Sun, which is both the umbrella title for the series and the name of the novel. On the surface you’d look at this novel and wonder did she try to find a genre mash-up that would be impossible to sell? Honestly no, but as this is an urban fantasy historical novel with a polyamorous trio of main characters I can see how you’d think so. It would have a small group of people who’d be interested in it and it’s not served well by being listed as romance when it really isn’t. The paranormal/urban fantasy action-adventure part of it is the main plot.
It opens around Christmas 1931 where the group of demon hunters, Caleb, Agni and Temple are dealing with the loss of Temple’s lover, Li (see The Darkest Midnight in December to see Li alive nad in action) and their new reality of being in a three-way relationship. Add into that Temple’s new partner who turns out to be their general’s niece, a prince of hell terrorizing the city and a wave of French Knights Templar hot on the heels of that devil, Templars who just so happen to be Temple’s relatives.

I had enormous fun working on this novel. I really enjoy the character dynamics between the foursome (including Jo, Temple’s new partner in tahat). I didn’t know tremendously much about the 1930s beyond the obvious and I wanted to know more as this is the time period of my grandparents as they were just starting out in married life (or just a bit earlier, in their young adulthood). In fact, my maternal grandmother makes a cameo appearance with her girlfriends in the scene inside of Phipps conservatory. She was tickled pink about that. The ghosts of the 1930s can still be seen haunting the streets of Pittsburgh and uncovering what they looked like in their hey day was a blast.

In this novel I got to deal with real life themes such as surviving child sexual abuse and the effects of class inequality and the greed of those in power who want even more power. There is, of course, hints of prejudiced based on skin color, gender, religion and sexual orientation as it was the 1930s after all. Mixed into all of that is the paranormal demon hunting stuff ala Buffy or Supernatural.
I can’t remember exactly why I called them Soldiers of the Sun, other than they represented light in the darkness. I didn’t want them to be the Knights Templar (who are in this universe, who survived the attempts to wipe them out which they didn’t quite manage in the real world), mostly because the Templars are so religiously oriented. The Soldiers aren’t anti-religious in the least but they are secular. I wanted a group that would be inclusive of women, of other religions and ethnic backgrounds and of homosexuals because in a fight against demons it made sense to be all hands on deck (that and I’m all for inclusivity). I couldn’t see the Templars being that (and in the novel, they are not, drawing a strong contrast to the Soldiers. It’s why Temple ran away to join the Soldiers). I’ve created many demon fighting groups because I love writing these kinds of stories but man it’s getting harder and harder to think of sensible names for them!
I hope that maybe this interests you and you might want to take a look at the Soldiers’ stories.
You can find their stories here. (Yes they’re in a series but they can be read as stand alones because hey 1930s demon hunters, right?).

Soldiers of the Sun. (novel)

The Darkest Midnight in December. (novella)
Snowbound. (short story)

And check out Paul Richmond’s cover for this. I have been so lucky in covers.

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Blurb for Soldiers of the Sun Caleb Davies and Agni Pradesh are worried about their teammate and lover, Temple Chevalier. Not only has he lost his long-time partner, Fu Li, but he nearly died fighting a demon himself. Also, Temple isn’t sure he’s ready for a new teammate after Li. Caleb and Agni are even more concerned that their three-way relationship with Temple exists less because he loves them and more because he’s hiding from the pain of Li’s loss.
1932 shapes up to be a terrible year for the Soldiers as they welcome the New Year fighting demons and then end up investigating a case that pairs them up with the Knights Templar. This would normally be a good thing, but it forces Temple to face his painful past. Worse yet, the case leads right to Astaroth, a Prince of Hell, who might prove to be an unbeatable foe.
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Still continuing with These Haunted Hills. And happy Earth Day!

The snippet begins with Brendan laying out his plans for his ghost hunting trip.



“I had more thoughts on what I’d mot like to see beside Crooked Pines. You can decide how best to tackle them and if it’s worth trying.”

“Sure. Actually, if you want, we can drive into Athens. I can show you the Ridges which is a must-see and we can grab lunch or a coffee and sit down with your list.”

“That sounds good. Have to admit, I’m a night owl. When you said to meet here so early I was aghast,” Brendan chuckled.

Joshua snorted. “Not my idea either. Blame the scout masters.



Here is a shot of an upcoming scene where they're at the Ridges cemetery (yes these are tombstones for the patients of the Ridges (actual name Athens Lunatic Asylum)). They are unmarked except for a number which in theory matches up with a name in the files.

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If you'd like to play along, Rainbow Snippets is a Facebook community where we post up 6 sentences of one of our LGBT stories every Saturday. It's been fun and you can find it here. Be sure to check out all the offers! It's been a great supportive group!
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R is for Rhys. Remember the whole ‘sometimes I change a character’s name thing from N is for? Rhys was probably one of the biggest characters I’ve done that for. Originally he was Sebastian (knowing me, probably because I had just read Black Butler before I sat down to name characters). Then I saw no less than eight new releases with the name Sebastian in my genre and I said, yeah I have to change this. I thought about the character and who and what he is and decided why in the world did I ever think he was a Sebastian. He absolutely needs a Welsh name and Rhys is one of my favorite Welsh names.

You see, Rhys is a Tylwyth Teg, a type of Welsh fairy. He’d like to point out that the human belief that his type is only two inches tall is completely erroneous. I’ve mentioned before I love folklore about the fey both good and wicked. I enjoy stories about the fairylands and I knew I wanted to add to the volumes of material out there.

Rhys is a fey prince, destine to rule some day when his mother decides to step down. His job until then is to police Earth and make sure the wicked fey aren’t messing up the humans much. He decides to shift his base to Pittsburgh, PA (because hey it’s easier for me to write about a place I know). Rhys has spent more time over the centuries on Earth than he has in his own dimension. He doesn’t mind. There are some bad memories there like war and losing not only his wife but his child too.

He meets Aaron at a steampunk party at first captivated by the amazing tech of his prosthetic arm then after they talk for a while, he knows he needs to see Aaron again. It doesn’t matter that Aaron is human. Rhys finds him intelligent, geeky and fun to be with. But he isn’t being honest with Aaron who has no idea Rhys isn’t human nor that Rhys has other children, his twins Bryn and Bran who are about two centuries old, and his daughter Briallen who is one century old. For the Teg, they age very slowly, a century equates to less than a decade in human growth so Briallen is quite young and the twins roughly are twentyish and live to torment Dad.

Even when he knows a past fey lover is after him, Rhys is still reluctant to tell Aaron what he is. He also doesn’t mention that technically he’s married to Gwenllian, an arranged marriage but he does care about her. The fey are polyamorous and Aaron eventually understands this, though unsurprisingly some readers don’t. In spite of there being plenty of open calls for polyamorous relationships there is a persistent belief that polys can’t possibly be happy or trusted. It’s also hard to miss, looking at reviews, that bi-erasure is a very real thing. People seem to want bi-characters but only when we see the homosexual side of it, not the hetero. There is a danger of course with a bi poly of treading into the negative stereotype of they can’t commit and that’s definitely not what I want. Rhys is often on earth for decades at a time and Gwen, also being fey wouldn’t think much of him having lovers. Aaron, however has some adjusting to do.

Rhys, of course, is magical and powerful and has fun with it. On the other hand, he feels some regret and guilt that he can’t use his magic to give Aaron back his amputated arm or fix the other scars the war left behind.

Rhys was such a fun character to write and seriously, one day I need to revisit his and Aaron’s world in long fiction.

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Q is for quitting. No, not quitting writing, though I have to admit, some days I’ve considered that too. No, what I’d like to quit is all the self-doubt and second guessing myself. I’ve been doing that most of my life. It’s interesting. Our students did a study today on coaching, looking at which students had more self-confidence and success, the ones who were given praise or the ones who were subjected more to the militaryesque screaming. It was closer than comfort allows but praise did win out. I was raised the other way by teachers who screamed and belittled. I’ve come to automatically assume everything I do is wrong and not up to snuff. The worst were the surgeons who taught me surgery. Most of foot/ankle surgery isn’t done under general anesthesia which means the patients are more or less awake. During more than one surgery I had a patient call out, ‘will you quit screaming at her. You’re making me terrified.’ (Meanwhile my hands are shaking because they’re terrifying ME too).

So I am probably one of the most accomplished people you’ll meet with self-esteem this low. Have the time I’m convinced everything I’ve written, everything I am is absolute rubbish. I need to QUIT that. I let it paralyze me. Hell I haven’t written anything of note in nearly two months after being convinced my writing isn’t worth even looking over to edit.

I am crawling back out of that depression but I need to quit letting it get to me. I can’t take two month hiatuses because I’m letting self-doubt destroy everything I’ve worked for.

The other thing I have to quit is letting people talk me out of the things I want to write. That has happened so many times. I’m getting a little depressed with insta-freebie and other giveaways because I see SO MANY ghost and/or witch mystery stories. In the mid-90s I wrote a mystery novel where a ghost played a role in solving the mystery. My usually supportive writers group went ballistic (mostly the guys, the ladies were all right with it except for the lady lawyer). They were out rightly cruel, laughing at me, making me the butt of jokes for months. I put my mystery on the shelf (I think it died in a computer crash which is sad because I liked the one character, a homeless jazz sax busker.

Also in the 90s I tried selling stuff with Nephilim characters. No one wanted it. AT ALL. Some even yelled at me for being blasphemous. I ended up putting those characters in a shared universe I wrote in with [personal profile] evil_little_dog & [personal profile] silvrethorn (One looked a lot like Heath Ledger and another like Alan Jackson).

Now you can swing a stick without hitting ghost mysteries or a Nephilim/Angel character. It’s a touch disheartening. I’m not sure I would have been good enough 20 years ago to be published but I would have been right there are the leading edging of a trend, not piling on at the end.

So yes, I need to quit listening to the nay-sayers. I need to write what’s in my heart and I need to quit doubting myself.


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P is for Pradesh. My demon hunting trio in Soldiers of the Sun & The Darkest Midnight in December originated in the UK. Caleb from Wales, Temple who had run away from Paris to London and Agni Pradesh who ended up in London by way of Bombay. They were then sent to fill out the ranks in Pittsburgh’s Sun headquarters after a demon uprising decimated them.

I wanted a little cultural diversity in this story and considered, for better or worse, England’s colonial ties to India. I’ve always had a fascination with Hinduism so Pradesh was born. What I absolutely didn’t want was him to be subservient to his two White partners in any way. Agni isn’t the leader (that would be Caleb) but the Pradesh family is a well-known, well honored group of demon hunters stretching back generations on par with Temple’s family who had been Knights Templar (demon hunters as well in this universe) since before they were officially an organization.

Agni is the quiet level headed studious one of the bunch but of course this leaves me being cautious not to tread too close to the ‘inscrutable Asian’ stereotype. Agni is open and honest about his feelings but on the other hand, feels he needs to be the anchor for the group. Temple is certainly not up to that task (and definitely needs anchoring). He shoulders burdens to allow Caleb, whom he has loved since the beginning of their partnership, to lead without as many worries.

Agni does try to hold on to as much of his culture as he can, which isn’t easy in 1930s America. His apartment is his refuge, decorated as closely to the average household in Bombay as he could manage. He struggles more with food but since the Soldiers of the Sun pull from peoples worldwide they try to help them feel comfortable by supplying things like ethnic food items as much as they can. Agni is unashamedly Hindu and his gods are prominently displayed in his apartment including the god he was named for.

Of course, this is 1930s America and Agni’s dark skin and accent (more the skin tone) can be a problem. This does crop up in the stories, especially in Soldiers of the Sun and the high end exclusive clubs they have to investigate don’t want to allow him entrance. I didn’t want it to be a huge part of the narrative but I didn’t want to simply pretend it wasn’t there. Yes, this is a different universe but I kept it as close to our world as I could. Prejudice was a huge issue in the 1930s obviously and I had to address that.

He faces another issue, being gay in the 1930s. Their leader General Taglioferro knows they’re gay. He knows Caleb and Agni are lovers. He probably even knows they’ve invited Temple into their bed as well. So long as it doesn’t interfere with their combat skills, he doesn’t care. He even considers the fact they might fight harder to save each other because they’re in love. Their homosexuality isn’t well known within the organization in general, however and Temple is a known womanizer (more about him at another time) and probably distracts attention from Agni and Caleb.

Agni might be a studious taciturn bookworm in public but behind closed doors he’s happy to remind everyone that Indians actually did write the book on lovemaking. He had been uncertain about bringing Temple into the relationship as they are polar opposites but was pleasantly surprised to find how compatible they were in bed.

Agni also gets to use the coolest weapons, preferring chakrams as his weapon (If you’re unfamiliar with them, think the metal discs Xena Warrior Princess used). Technically they’re Sikh weapons, not Hindu but in a world where you’re fighting demons, you learn to use every weapon you can get your hands on.

Agni is a fun character but hard to write. I hope I did him justice.

You can find his stories here. (Yes they’re in a series but they can be read as stand alones because hey 1930s demon hunters, right?).

Soldiers of the Sun. (novel)

The Darkest Midnight in December. (novella)
Snowbound. (short story)
And here’s some fan art done by one of my friends, Kira. Isn’t it cool?

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O is for Once Upon a Time. Some of the best known stories in the world start that way. There’s something about those words that capture our attention. The once upon a time I want to talk about isn’t a fairytale. Instead it’s a LGBT anthology Once Upon a Time in the Weird West which is a great collection by some truly excellent authors.

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It started as an email that read something along the lines of would you be interested in writing a short story for an anthology with a weird west theme? Would I? I wanted it bad. Actually I’m not a huge Western fan but you jam the word ‘weird’ on there and I’m all over it. But my excitement was about more than that.

You see, I’ve been in anthologies before but they’re all open calls. This wasn’t that. This was the first time I was invited in by other authors. I was over the moon because of that. It was validation by my peers. In other words, they like me, they really like me! I felt honored and excited to be asked and there was no way I was going to fail to turn out a story. I couldn’t fail, not when I had actually been invited.

I was going to say authors come in three varieties, the super self assured, the quiet competent one and the neurotic but that’s true of most jobs. The quiet competent ones are always there bringing their A game without much of a hub bub. Then the super self assured ones can be split into two or three groups themselves. There are the arrogant Tony Stark types who ARE as good as they think they are. I was going to say Elon Musk types but I’m not sure he’s arrogant (I don’t know him but oddly enough I was friends with his former father in law!) There’s no doubting their skill. The other super self assured think they’re better than everyone else but aren’t. I had one like that in a shared universe I was part of. You could NOT criticize her at all (because her work was too good for that) and if you did (because no, her work really wasn’t) she would have a tantrum. Once at a con after her work was shredded in a writing workshop she infamously locked herself in the bathroom and had to be bodily removed by her lover.

Then there’s the neurotic type. That’s me. I’ve been a big ball of anxiety and self doubt my entire life. I’m always afraid I don’t measure up (even though I know I’m pretty damn good at most things I really work at). Being asked helped to wipe those fears away.

I’m proud of my story in spite of the fact it was nearly 10K too long and I had to hack and hack to get it to only 3K over (sad face). This story wrote itself so easily. The theme of ‘weird west’ is so wide open. The anthology has SF stories, ghosts and demons and so much more. (Seriously if you like this sort of thing, pick it up!). My story is set in Virginia City, Nevada (fascinating place) and is steampunk. Dr. Isaac Adler was a doctor in the Civil War and it haunts him so he tried running from himself to the west, answering an ad from a retiring doctor to take over his practice. Isaac gets screwed by this guy and is scratching out a practice just the same. He answers the call when an airship is attacked by pirates. This is where he meets Tsela Zahnie, the Navajo first mate. Tsela is being followed by a skinwalker, an evil witch from Navajo lore. Isaac’s life just got complicated.

I’m proud of this story and this anthology. It took a lot of research of Jewish customs in the 1800s, ditto Navajo and all that rich Virginia City history. I loved every second of it (even when I was complaining). And yes even though I was asked, even though I knew the story was good, I was still neurotic about it somehow getting rejected. That’s just how I am.


You can find the anthology here.

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And here have a picture of Tsela drawn by Lex Chase as part of a trading card set for the anthology  photo Jana_WW_Fin_zpsntrigvof.png
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N is for names. If there is anything harder than putting a title on a story (I’m horrible at it) it’s finding the names for your characters. Of sure, on rare occasion I’ll end up with someone who pops in my head fully named and confident about it, like Temple Chevalier from Soldiers of the Sun. Mostly I waste hours going through name books (back in the old days and occasionally now) and hanging out at Behind the Name. online. I love that you can sort by ethnicity because on more than one occasion the character’s heritage is important to he or she is.

Finding the right name can be agonizing for the author. I’ve been known to change a character’s name mid-way through. Thank God for the search function in Word because I put it to good use. I’ve also been known to put in place holders like XXX or YYY to use the global find and replace later on once that jerk of a character finally chooses a name. I’ve even held contests to help name characters. My usual beta will help me and then say ‘you won’t use them. You never like my names.’ That’s true (and probably goes both ways).

And that brings me to the other difficult thing about naming characters. What works for someone might not work for another. There is nothing you can do about that of course. I once knew a woman who literally hated her parents in part for her name which was a bit different but I thought it was beautiful and would have loved it. There’s a romance author I’ve run across recently (I don’t read a lot of het romance but this cover struck me and I looked her up) and the names were so bizarre and so weirdly spelled that I found it off putting. Heck I find it off-putting even with my students where you have a relatively normal name spelled so strangely as to make their child ‘different.’

Some names, however, should probably send up red flags to us and make us rethink. The fantasy genre for instance usually has bizarre names and using regular names might give the fantasy reader pause. I mean would Frodo, Samwise, Gandalf and Aragon have been the same if they had been named John, Tim, Dave and Bob? Conversely if you’re writing contemporary fiction and you named your protagonist, Dylton we might look at you strange (Charlaine Harris does that in her Midnight Texas story, all the characters have slightly weird names like Fiji, Xylda, Manfred and Bobo but they ARE slightly weird people).

Some names make us judgy even if we don’t mean to be. If I told you this woman’s name was Cinnamon you probably would assign jobs in your head to her (like I know I’ve seen strippers with that name, just saying) and never guess she writes science text books (she does). Some really make you think what were the parents were thinking (and if that’s part of your story then by all means go for it!) Like the race car driver, Dick Trickle, with all due respect to the man who has since passed. Or like someone I interact with professionally whose actual name is Precious. That’s a cute nickname for a baby sure but now she has to endure that name professionally and to an outsider, hearing a doctor call a nurse that would sound like grounds for a sexual harassment suit.

Names are very important. My great grandmother on Mom’s side of the family refused to Anglicize her children’s names when she came here from Italy. She was forced to do it for herself by the government (going from Guiseppina to Josephine) but her children she gave Italian names. On Dad’s side of the family they hid their Italian heritage. Many people did because of the racism of the day. We use names as clues to heritage and sexual identity, for better or worse (often worse). My actual name is unisex. When I noticed I couldn’t get a single response to my job search back when I was seeing patients I removed ‘American Association of Women Podiatrists’ from my resume and got dozens of call backs because they thought I was male (and then hung up on me when they learned I wasn’t). A prejudiced character could easily use a character’s last name to judge him or her without even meeting them, assuming for instance Lanisha is African American or Po Chin is Chinese or Stern is Jewish (Hell I’ve seen people doing that looking over resumes and tossing the ones they think could possibly be non-White, non-Christian because that is their only clue since ethnicity etc. would be off limits when it comes to job applications, and yes it made me see red.)

So yes, naming those main characters is a time consuming job, fraught with emotions (damn you why don’t you like ANY of these names?). Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes you just want to murder the character before you’ve even written about him.
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To all my friends who celebrate.

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 M is for Me. I thought this might be a good time to really introduce myself to everyone.

This is the blurb I hide behind: Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her.

It’s pretty true but I am, naturally so much more. I’m my parents’ only daughter. I grew up in the country outside of Pittsburgh and I remain a country girl to this day. Cities make me itchy. I love popping in to enjoy all the things a city has to offer and fleeing back to where I can see stars and listen to the wind in the trees.

I was the wrong girl in high school, too smart, too weird, too much a loner to fit in. Hell, I AM Lisa Simpson right down to the saxophone. I only fit in with the other Dungeons & Dragons playing SF/comic book geeks. (I’m house hunting now and seriously considering living an hour from work just to be closer to my D&D playing friends). I hate high school and almost everyone in it (even now there are some I won’t friend on FB because of how horrible they were to me in h.s.).

I blossomed in college, working on three degrees at once (chemistry, biology and English. I didn’t quite finish that last one). I was in three bands, in three plays a year, worked three jobs, was an officer in my sorority for all four years and did a massive amount of ghost hunting back in the days before everyoen was running around with gauss meters. I went to podiatric medical school from there. I’ve been a doctor in Harlem and on Pine Ridge reservation. My specialty was diabetic wound kill.

The first time my life went sideways was 1992 at the end of the year. Between October and April of 93 I gained over 150 pounds. No one knew why. I was at the gym every week. I was barely eating because who has time in med school? They blamed the stress of getting a residency. It would be more than a decade before we realized I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I have yet to lose any weight in spite of medically guided weight loss programs. Much of my hair fell out and I’m severely diabetic as a result.
The second time my life was ripped apart was 2000. A patient kicked me (he was demented, I can’t blame him) and ruptured the nerve in my right hand. My surgical career was over. I fought for six months but I didn’t repair. (Watching Doctor Strange last year made me cry for the first 20 minutes or so. I’ve been THROUGH those horrible PT sessions). Eventually me and my half dead hand went back to school in Florida. I lived with a friend in Cassadaga, the psychic community. That was cool. I do have some feeling back in my hand but it’s often painful, stiff and weak.

From there I moved into being a professor in Appalachia (near the Hocking Hills in OH and Point Pleasant and the Mothman in West Virginia). It’s a challenge. It’s not my dream. That died with one well aimed kick. But I am good at it.

And through it all, I’ve written. It started with Star Wars fan fiction after seeing the original movie when I was 10. I’ve written fan fiction for forty years now (oh, good god). I remain a fan of SF, urban fantasy, fantasy and mystery and that is what I write.

What else can I tell you about me? I love to swim and hike. I love music and books beyond all reason. I love to cook. I’m still a ghost hunter. I travel and I love historical travel and museums. I love to talk and talk and talk and I am LOUD. I make my own jewelry and desperately wish I could draw my own characters (but I can’t).

That is the story of Me. Chapter One at any rate.

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Still continuing with These Haunted Hills, still not writing nearly enough for Camp Nano. Sigh. This picks up after Brendan shows disbelief that the ghost haunting the cave is that of a 1920s lady (and that is the real haunting ascribed to the area and Joshua's answer below is about as best we have as far as answers are concerned. (and sorry I think it's 8 sentences today, is bad).


“I agree though this was a popular place at the turn of the century with various lodges and small hotels in the region like the one we’ll investigate. There was even a small town near here but it's long gone. While many night time hikes have reported seeing the lady, even ones not here specifically to ghost hunt, I’ve not see her nor have I found any records of anyone dying here.”

“Do you always look into the records for the haunted you investigative?”

“Yes, I’m first and foremost a scientist. I like collaborating evidence. Here at Ash Cave the best I can do is say it’s highly likely to have seen some death, but none I can document. I do have some evps I can let you hear.”

Brendan straightened, eyes bright. “Really? I’d love that.”




Here's a little proof of the long term activity in the area. Some of these date back to the early 1800s but the one here is turn of the last century. For some reason we feel the need to carve our names into everything.

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If you'd like to play along, Rainbow Snippets is a Facebook community where we post up 6 sentences of one of our LGBT stories every Saturday. It's been fun and you can find it here. Be sure to check out all the offers! It's been a great supportive group!
jana_denardo: (kept tears)
L is for love. It’s a natural that I’d choose this for L. Most of my stories are LGBT romance after all. For that matter, I love what I do. I love books and I love writing, which is a good thing because for the most part, you’re not getting rich doing this. Oddly enough that’s what I found the least believable about Castle, how rich Richard was. For every Stephen King, JK Rowling and James Patterson are thousands of midlisters who can’t (or barely can) quit the day job. And I’m okay with that because I DO love what I do.

But that’s actually not what I want to talk about in regards to love. Last year I was represented in two anthologies with the name Love in the title. Love Wins and Love is Love. While I am proud to be in both, it is a very sad thing that either of them was necessary. Both were a way to help support the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando. I find it eerie that as I sat down to write this blog post more information about that shooting surfaced ( See it here ) and in Russian they’re putting up internment camps and/or killing LGBT people. It’s a terrifying thing on so many levels.

And the truth is, as I see it, I can’t do much on a world-wide scale so I concentrate on doing what I can in my own backyard (like steering students to the Southeast Ohio Equality group), or anthologies like this. I might not be able to go to Florida to help (and I did go to school in Orlando so I do have a connection to it, even if I’m so not a Florida fan in general).

Both anthologies give all proceeds to charities in the Orlando area that can help directly. I jumped at the chance to help and maybe it’s not much but it’s what I could do. Love is Love is a poetry anthology and that is a huge stretch for me. I don’t do a lot of poetry. I’m not sure it’s my strong suit but I have always enjoyed poetry. I was going to read it on campus last week but unfortunately the poetry slam was the same day as another event I was obligated to be at.

Love Wins is one of two charity anthologies Dreamspinner put out to help the Pulse shooting (in fact many publishers did similar ones). My story here More Than His Scars is in the Kept Tears universe (see yesterday’s post). On the anniversary of the bombing that cost him his arm, Aaron’s friends, along with his lover, Rhys take him to Kennywood amusement park to help keep his spirits up. In another strange convergence, today a brand-new review of this anthology went up and the reviewer got the humor in the story. I’m happy for that.

Circling back to the main theme here, love is love. To me it doesn’t matter if it’s between a man and a woman, two men, two women. Love is blind to gender, to religion and skin color. It deeply saddens me that not everyone agrees on that. There could be people reading this post who don’t (well not any of my actual friends. I know they do) and I’m prepared for that. I can’t change the hearts of everyone but I will do what I can within my own circle.

If you want to buy either of these anthologies (again all proceeds go to those LGBT charities) you can find them here and thank you.

Love Wins (which is on sale along with ALL DSP titles this weekend)
Love is Love




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jana_denardo: (kept tears)
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K is for Kept Tears. Hopefully I can get this uploaded this time as my first attempt to write this corrupted. However, nothing will stop me from telling everyone about my first novel. I still love this one to death and not just because it was my first. I got to pull a plethora of my favorite things together in this.

You got to meet Aaron, one of the protagonists in A is for… He’s a disabled veteran and as I said then, ever since I was a resident doctor at a series of V.A. hospitals I’ve wanted to have a character who incorporated some of the best and some of the worst of my former patients.

Aaron, like me, grew up outside of Pittsburgh in the country and through him I was able to showcase some of the fun things about Pittsburgh (and there are plenty of fun things there). Aaron is a geeky grad student who thinks he might be ready to date again, having come to some sort of peace with his amputated arm and rearranged life. When he spots Rhys at a steampunk party, he thinks he’s found the hottest guy there, a man so out of his league he couldn’t possibly have a shot. When Rhys proves him wrong, Aaron has to rethink the whole ‘I’m ready to date’ thing. With his best friend, Corinne prodding him on, Aaron steps out into the dating world and quickly is swept up with Rhys.

What he couldn’t possibly have imagined is Rhys is something out of the fantasy novels Aaron so loves. Before he knows it, Aaron has a wicked fey, Morcant, Rhys’s ex, after him. Elves, dullahans, fairies and nixes, all the things Aaron has loved as fiction prove to be all too real and potentially dangerous. Rhys is Tylwyth Teg, a crown prince of the fey and he is centuries old (heck even his children are all over a hundred). With a life that long there is baggage and this particularly baggage could be deadly. Morcant wants to make Rhys suffer and if Aaron has to die to achieve that, Morcant is thrilled to do it.

Urban fantasy and steampunk are some of my favorite things and it was fun weaving them into this. People seemed to enjoy the story and it was a Rainbow awards finalist. I’m never not going to be proud of this novel. I love Aaron and Rhys and would love to revisit their world.

If you want to learn more I’ll leave you with the blurb and where to find it. Also, check out Paul Richmond’s beautiful cover!

Blurb
Having left most of his arm and his self-confidence behind in the Afghanistan desert, young veteran Aaron Santori has enough on his plate learning to use his prosthetic arm. Attending graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh makes life both interesting and challenging. Mentally, he's ill prepared for meeting Rhys Edwards, a young-adult novelist from Wales and everything Aaron could want in a man. Between the scars from the explosion and his PTSD, he’s reluctant to date. Ready or not, though, Aaron finds himself jumping into the deep end of the relationship waters.
What Aaron couldn’t possibly know is that Rhys isn’t human at all. As a prince of the Tylwyth Teg, Rhys is fae, with a list of enemies he’s accumulated over the past few centuries—among them a former lover, Morcant, who is back to make Rhys’s life miserable. An unwitting pawn in their Machiavellian fae politics, Aaron only knows he’s falling in love, never suspecting love might be his death sentence.


Find Kept Tears here.

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jana_denardo: (kept tears)
J is for Jana, Joshua, John, Jason and Jupiter. You might think I like J names looking at that list. I don’t know how true that is but I will say in the real world, my whole family has J names except me. Jana is my nom de plume, which oddly has become problematic with people being unable to differentiate between pen names (exceedingly common in the publishing world) and catfishing. I’ve blogged about this before so I have little else to say on that other than how I got the name. Jana, pronounced Yah-nah, was my great grandma from Croatia’s name before it was changed to Jenny. My parents considered it for me when I was born but thought it was too ethnic (which given my age was unfortunately a big deal then). I decided to take it for my pen name along with Denardo, the surname of one of my Italian Great grandmas. What would those ladies think of what I write? Given they were alive in the 1800s, probably not much I’m sad to say. I’d like to think they wouldn’t have cared. Jana originally started as my romance pen name both gay and het though I haven’t done het in a while. It’s morphing into the pen name I use for LGBT stories as I want very much to write non-romances.

Let’s talk about those other J names. Joshua I’ve already mentioned in this bloghop series. He’s the ecologist in my WIP These Haunted Hills. I don’t know much about him yet. He’s still introducing himself to me. I know he’s a steampunk fan both dress and music. He’s literally one big, cute fan boy who would think nothing of running around in the woods with a Harry Potter ball cap (but he always gets sorted into Slytherin poor thing). He loves ghost hunting with his best friend and maintains a website (I posted it a few days ago). He’s a blond blue eyed German extract sort (rather picturing the lead of the new MacGyver show). He is in geeky heaven being asked to escort Brendan to all the haunted areas as he’s an enormous fan of the man’s writing and later of the man himself. He’s passionate about the woods and the environment.

Jason is a vampire I created for a m/m romance (a Goodreads group) and he also lives in the Hocking Hills/Athens Ohio area (as do I). He’s from ancient Greece and is part of the Lucerna, a group that hunts down evil supernaturals. He’s the long-term lover of Faolan, a mage who heads up the local branch and he’s with the local police force (in this world the people know the supernatural exist and that the Lucerna is there to protect them). He and Faolan, in Triskelion, fall in lust with Derrek the twin to the local werewolf pack’s alpha. In this world vampires and werewolves don’t get along well so there’s plenty of snark and plenty of local color. I’ve done many shorts with them and would love to do long fiction with them. If anyone is interested in Triskelion let me know. It’s a free story but I don’t have it up on my website yet. If you’re a member of the m/m romance group on Goodreads you can read this story here.


John is in Peace in the Valley and he is the human half of a werewolf/human ‘rescue dog’ team. It’s a Christmas short for Dreamspinner Press’s Advent calendar. There is some search and rescuing, there’s a lot of sex and of course Christmas stuff. John, like Joshua is a giant geek (as am I, coincidence? I think not). This story could be an ad for the Think Geek company. You can find this one here.


Jupiter is from the story The Ghost of Jupiter and is the star ship in my space pirate story. It was another very fun story to write. Modified hybrid humanoids, evil scientists, sexy star ship captains, all the things I grew up loving. Unfortunately the anthology it was in Crossbones is out of print I believe. This is another story I need to get up on the website as a freebie.

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jana_denardo: (kept tears)
I is for If Two of Them Are Dead. It’s my steampunk mystery novella. This is one of my favorite stories. I originally wrote it for Dreamspinner’s Steampunk anthology. It wasn’t accepted but the editors asked me to expand it to a novella. I was over the moon. It was the first time I had ever been asked that. I felt like ‘wow they really believe in me!’

In full honesty, I think that a short story format was a disservice to this story. Mysteries deserve longer stories. I have NO idea how the Ellery Queen authors did it. Unlike a lot of steampunks which are set in London, I set mine in the Hyde Park area of New York’s Hudson Valley. For one reason, I wanted something different than London (and if I’m remembering correctly, the anthology had asked for that). The second reason is, I lived nearby for a year during my residency and its rich history made for a great setting.

Mysteries are my first love. The first adult books I read were mysteries, moving up from Nancy, Trixie and the Hardy Boys to Agatha Christi and Ngio Marsh. Mysteries are devilishly hard to write, especially in a shorter format. Still, I wanted to pair up my first genre with one of my newer ones, steampunk. This novella was that (with a strong romantic subplot of course). It is, however, more mystery than steampunk.

Victor and Abraham were so much fun to work with. I would love to revisit them someday. There is a trickiness to their relationship of course. They can’t exactly live openly in the 1800s but they could pull of an eccentric friendship no doubt.

I’ll let the blurb speak for itself.



Blurb Called to Hyde Park, New York, ex-Air Corpsman turned detective Victor Van Voorhis comes to only three conclusions about his newest case: the gulf between his status and the wealthy Westbrook family is no trifling matter; someone brutally killed a young mother; and the victim’s brother-in-law is one of the most intriguing men Victor has ever met.

Inventor Abraham Westbrook lost his wife five years ago and is worried about the effect another death in the family will have on his children. He spends most of his time tinkering with steamships, but even his inventions can’t distract him from wishing Victor was in his life for any reason other than a murder investigation—one where Abraham himself is a suspect. He’s hidden his desires all his life, but no longer. Somehow, he’ll catch the detective’s eye.

With murder standing between them and a killer stalking the Westbrooks, Abraham and Victor’s chance at happiness could go up in steam.

If you’re interested in this novella you can find it here.



And check out Paul Richmond's beautiful cover for it!  photo IfTwoOfThemAreDeadFS_zpsfez35ni1.jpg


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