May 29, 2018: Why “In Death” Is a Lively Series


Nora Roberts is a force of writing. She’s prolific and she’s earned the right to write whatever she wants. She’s generous to other writers and works to make her corner of the world a better place, both on an off the page.

Some of her books work for me; some don’t. The head-hopping doesn’t work for me, even in the books I like. But that happens when an author writes a lot of books — different books resonate with different people. That’s one of the joys of writing and reading. There’s something for everyone. That’s why libraries and bookstores are so vital to our inner and outer lives. Which is also a different conversation.

Nora Roberts writes the In Death series as J.D. Robb. The series is set in a futuristic New York City (that’s no longer so far away). The primary protagonist is a cop, Eve Dallas, who overcame a horrifying childhood to stand for justice, even for those who don’t deserve it. Her partner in all this is her lover, than husband, who only goes by the name of Roarke, who has his own dark past.

Robb takes the expectations of romance, police procedural, and science fiction and turns them inside out. Yes, there’s romance in each book — and plenty of sex, usually pretty rough. There’s murder (sometimes graphic), investigation, resolution. There’s a well-built alternate world that’s both familiar and different. There are interesting plots taken to sometimes extreme and frightening “what if?” scenarios.

But what keeps me reading is the ensemble of characters. Yes, Eve and Roarke are the center of the series, especially Eve. Roarke ticks the boxes for the perfect romance hero, even with his flaws. Eve takes “flawed” to a whole new level. I respect her and root for her, but I don’t always like her — and that’s one of the things I like about the series. My favorites in the series are Peabody and McNab, and the development of their relationship.

What’s great in all these books (I believe there are 47 tales in the series by now) is that Robb created an ensemble of characters and lets them grow from book to book. Not everyone is in every book. Sometimes characters are central to one story, and then have a cameo six or eight books down the line.

Often in books with romance as their central drive, in order to fit expectations of genre, the pair of primary protagonists are one-and-done. They have the collision and the adventure that lets them find each other and their passion, and then the book ends with an HEA (Happily Ever After) or an HFN (Happily For Now). And the author’s next book goes on to another pair of central protagonists.

Sometimes, they remain as supporting characters around the next pair of protagonists. Roberts herself does this in her trilogies, where a team of six hook up, and each pair has their adventure to each other central to a book, while supporting the other four characters. Jayne Ann Krentz, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, and Julia Quinn are other authors who do this and do this very well. I do this in my Coventina Circle series, although I wouldn’t put myself in the category of any of the authors I mention on this page.

But the In Death series allows Eve and Roarke’s relationship to grow, book to book. Yes, they’re married. But their marriage is far from boring. Readers get to watch the relationship evolve. They get to see the obstacles and how these people who truly love and need each other, find solutions TOGETHER. Every problem they overcome together strengthens the relationship. They learn how to build family, friendships, something beautiful amidst the ugliness in the world. That’s a sharp contrast to the adage that as soon as a couple marries, they’re boring.

It’s enough to give the rest of us hope.

Eve learns how to be friend. Some of the funniest and best scenes in the series are when she tries to help people she cares about (especially her women friends) through an emotional crisis, and her discomfort with it. But she tries, and that matters. She doesn’t make it all about her; she puts her own discomfort aside to help someone who needs her. Not by being a martyr or for praise, but because that person matters.

We get to know the other cops in her squad. They’re not ciphers; they’re human beings. And, like in life, people move away, move on, die, change. They have ups and downs; argue and make-up. But in times of crisis, they have each other’s backs. Always.

We get to know other people in her life: Mavis and Mavis’s expanding family; Summerset; Nadine (who looks like she might get her own happy ending one day); Quilla, who’s quickly becoming another of my favorites. The circle expands and contracts, but relationships and life are about more than the same three people you see most days. Too many books subtract characters or, if there’s a large ensemble, each characters “stands” for something instead of “being” something. The characters in this series are themselves.

It’s the best sort of world-building, in my opinion, because it builds the world through relationships. Yes, there are still cases and death and people doing horrible things to each other, and too many who don’t deserve to die are murdered. But the books also show how love, friendship, strength, and belief in the capacity for love — can make the world a better place.

The series may be called “In Death” — but it’s an affirmation of life.


May 15, 2018: THE GOD KILLER by A.M. Griffin


I have known A.M. Griffin for quite a few years now. She’s someone I can always count on for support on a bad day, a good laugh on ANY day, and intelligence, integrity, and compassion. In other words, she’s one of my favorite people. So I’m excited and delighted to host her for her newest release, The God Killer. Which is a series I love anyway!

Here she is, in her own words:

Hello! I originally got the idea for the character Babylonia Delilah Jones after I came across a drawing of a fierce-as-heck woman. The drawing was on a stock card on a table at one of the book conventions that I’d gone to. I was immediately struck by her. So much so, that I picked up that card and stuffed it in my backpack for later. At the time I was only writing science fiction romance, but knew I wanted to do something with that character. When I returned home I pinned that stock card to the wall in front of my desk and roughly 3 years later it’s still there!

Now, five books later, that character has proven to be one of my favorites. My Urban Fantasy series, The Undercity Chronicles of Babylonia Jones, P.I. is about Babylonia Jones, the half-human, half-paranormal woman who’s lived most of her life in the human world, but desperately wants to fit into the paranormal world, The Undercity, but she’s not having much luck. Not only is she a human, half-breed, but she’s also unclaimed, meaning that she doesn’t have a paranormal House (others like her. Think of them as a family or gang—either would work in this scenario. Lol). Since she didn’t really fit completely into The Undercity, Baby’s paranormal P.I. business was struggling, to say the least. Meaning Baby usually ended up with the jobs that the other paranormal P.I.’s deemed weren’t worth their time or too dangerous. Because Baby is scraping the bottom of the barrel for work she finds herself in a ton of trouble ALL the time.

Luckily for Baby, she’s got super awesome gifts that come in handy for solving cases and getting out of jams. She can communicate with animals (they’re really chatty with her). Flowers and plants bloom for her and grow under her fingers. The Wind tells her secrets. And she can get a play-by-play of events by manipulating grass. Kinda cool.

But despite Baby’s many attributes, she’s still not seen as one of the cool kids (boo!). Nothing really stops Baby when she puts her mind to it, and being accepted in The Undercity is what she has her sights on. With her best friend and vampire, Melia, by her side, Baby feels she can take on just about everything. But oftentimes she needs the help of her demigod ex-boyfriend, Demarcus, and the Head of the Vampire House, Zaid.

The first four books in the series are about Baby trying her best to assert her place in The Undercity. She’s solving the cases that the others are unwilling to take on while also trying to find her paranormal House. Expect a lot of action and shenanigans. The books are fast paced and littered with humor. Eventually, we do learn what Baby is and where she belongs (no spoiler alerts from me!). It’s been a long time coming, and I’m really excited for her and what’s in store for her future.

It took me longer finish book 5, The God Killer, because I had to shift focus from the previous books. In books 1-4, Baby is desperate to find her place and struggling in a world that doesn’t want her. In The God Killer, the tables have turned and I wanted her to be more confident in herself and abilities. Hopefully at the end of The God Killer, the reader will feel that I’ve done her justice.

The God Killer
The Undercity Chronicles of Babylonia Jones, P.I.

I finally know what I am and who my father is. I officially hit the parental jackpot and all those Undercity bullies can suck it! Zaid, the love of my life, is by my side. I finally have my own territory. And Hermes, my grandfather, is absolutely adorable. The problem? The guilt of old mistakes haunt me, and the path ahead is anything but clear. With all the Houses trying to trick me into alliances I’m not ready to consider, I have to be cautious.

My solution? Get in good my new Pantheon. Even if it kills me.

When Hermes convinces Zeus that I’m the best P.I. to solve a string of murders on Mt. Olympus, ego and pride push me to see the case through to the bitter end. History tells me that all it will take is a little bit of luck, trickery, smarts, and a strong will to live to solve this case.

But it’ll take a whole lot more to save me and Mt. Olympus from The God Killer.

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About A.M. Griffin
A. M. Griffin is a wife who rarely cooks, mother of three, dog owner (and sometimes dog owned), a daughter, sister, aunt and friend. She’s a hard worker whose two favorite outlets are reading and writing. She enjoys reading everything from mystery novels to historical romances and of course fantasy romance. She is a believer in the unbelievable, open to all possibilities from mermaids in our oceans and seas, angels in the skies and intelligent life forms in distant galaxies.
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A Toe in the Surf: Introducing Emily Montgomery

I met Emily initially online during one of the National Novel Writing Months we both did. Can’t remember which one. But she stepped into the breech today, so to speak, stepped up to the plate, and all those clichés, so may I introduce someone I think is a terrific writer: Emily Montgomery.

Hello. My name is Emily Montgomery and I’m an introvert.

Not unusual for a writer, is it?

I love books and writing. I decided I wanted to write my own, because there were characters who kept telling me their stories and wouldn’t quiet down until I put them on paper. I don’t even have a website yet. I don’t blog (this is my first blog post ever); I hate Facebook, and Twitter overwhelms me. I do have an editor interested in my unfinished manuscript, which means now I have to finish it.

I was named after Emily Brontë, only I decided I wasn’t going to die young of consumption. It was a romantic idea when I was about thirteen, but life is much too interesting to leave it until I’m old and ready. I used to fantasize I was Emily of the New Moon series written by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

I’m an unpublished writer without a website or a contract, so what am I doing on A Biblio Paradise?

Funny story, that.

I’m visiting Devon Ellington, who runs this blog. The person who was scheduled to post today backed out yesterday. I was here on the Cape visiting Devon, on an impulse.

I never do anything on impulse.

Devon and I met during National Novel Writing Month. A friend of mine got tired of listening to me say I wanted to write a book “someday” and signed me up. I saw, on one of the forums, that Devon had something called “30 Tips for 30 Days” where she emailed a tip every day during Nano. I asked to be on the list. It gave me motivation, especially on days when I thought I couldn’t face a blank page.

National Novel Writing Month demands that a writer create 50,000 words over 30 days, in November. I figured that would force me to write every day.

I wrote every day.

The problem is, I am a slow writer. I learned the most I can write is 500 words on any given day. It doesn’t matter if I write for one hour or eight hours. 500 words is it for me. I have a confession: there was one day where I wrote 497 words, and I added three adverbs to make 500.

I’ve cut them since, I promise.

But 500 words a day times 30 days equals 15,000 words. That’s 35,000 words short of the goal.

I figured Devon would never speak to me again, because, on a good day, it seems like she writes a bazillion words. I know her minimum is 1000 words. From there, it’s until she falls over from exhaustion. During Nano, it’s usually around 2500, because she likes to be done by Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I struggled to hit 500 words for the day while stirring gravy.

But she did speak to me again. In fact, at a post-Nano event at a bar, when I was standing in the doorway wondering why I was there, someone smiled at me across the room, waved, and said, “Pull up a chair and join us.”

It was Devon.

I hardly spoke all night, but I listened a lot. We were an ever-growing table of writers, who wrote in different genres, read a lot, and had opinions. So many opinions! I felt I’d found home, even if I didn’t have a lot to contribute.

I love words. I love characters. I almost wrote that I love “people,” but that’s only true if I don’t have to deal with too many of them all at once. But words have power. I don’t believe “sticks and stone may hurt my bones, but words can never harm me.” I believe that words are more powerful than sticks and stones. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can tear my soul.

Nano taught me that I also love the writing. I don’t care about “having written” as much as I love to sit down, every day, and write out the stories that play in my head. I love the words themselves; I also love what’s between them, under them, around them. I love the writing.

Words can also help me create the world as I wish it would be. The better world I believe we are capable of creating, if we stop making the easiest choices and letting other people make decisions for us. We need to be engaged every minute of every day, even when it scares us. Especially when it scares us. We must both bear witness and become architects of a better history, not a repeated history.

Devon and I kept in touch. A few months ago, I asked if she would give me an opinion on a handful of chapters I’ve worked and reworked. She said yes. I spent the time from sending them to hearing from her in a state of constant nausea.

Her response was, “I don’t know what the hell this is, but I really like it. Call it literary fiction and you’ll cover the bases.” Considering she didn’t like what I’d worked on that first Nano, I figured she meant it. With her encouragement, I submitted to a couple of editors who were willing to look at partials. Most said no, but one editor said she liked it, and now I have to finish it, within a reasonable time frame. If it goes under contract (there or elsewhere), I will have to write another book. Even at 15,000 words a month, I can write a book in a year, if I show up every day and write. Eventually, I’ll have to have things like a website and maybe even social media accounts.

Why put myself through it? Because I love my characters and my story. I love the “what if?” and then “if then.” I love the process of discovery. People are interesting. The world is interesting, even when it breaks your heart.

Virginia Woolf stated she understood the world by writing about it (I’m paraphrasing). That’s how I feel.

I’m spending a few days in Boston. I took the bus down to Cape Cod to visit Devon. We were sitting on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine and some snacks, talking about books, when an email came through; there was a problem with the post that was supposed to go up on this site today.

Devon said I should write it (once she finished swearing). So here I am.

Maybe there’s hope for me yet. This post is over a 1000 words, and it only took me a couple of hours. But, no matter what, I will show up at the page and do the best I can. Every day.

Emily Montgomery is a writer. In the foreseeable future, she will have a website, and, with craft, persistence,and luck, a published novel.

Tues. May 8, 2018: THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, The Second Coventina Circle Novel!

The Spirit Repository.6

Some shameless self-promotion here! The Spirit Repository releases today. Here’s a little background, and thanks to Mary Tratt for the interview questions.

Question: Following the evolution of this book through your blog, Ink in My Coffee, and on social media, it seems this was more of a struggle than Playing the Angles.

Devon Ellington: The books offered different challenges. When I originally wrote Playing the Angles, it was going to be a stand-alone. I had no intention of creating a series. Bonnie wandered in to sublet from Morag near the end of PTA, and started telling me her story. Around the same time, I was reading Washington Irving’s diaries and books about the history of New York when it was New Amsterdam. That all came together for The Spirit Repository – the idea that Rufus was comfortable living with the ghosts of his ancestors, but that someone was trying to destroy those ghosts.

The original publisher of Playing the Angles, back when it had another title, had first-look on my next book in that world; while that book was in production, I went under contract for a different series with a different publisher. Repository kept going on the back burner while I fulfilled signed contracts. When the publisher of PTA and I parted ways, I put the book aside.

When I sat down with my advisors and we did the career re-evaluation in 2017 and discussed new directions, I re-read PTA and really liked it; and I had more ideas for Repository. I’d written about a third of the manuscript before putting it aside. I started thinking about the stories of the other members of Coventina Circle, and came up with a series proposal. When Bluestockings and Gentlemen Press were interested in the series and willing to commit to the series, not just a book once it was finished, I went back to Repository. I had to get back into Bonnie and Rufus’s rhythms. Rufus, in particular, has a particular formal cadence, while Bonnie is more effervescent. Very different than the dynamic between Morag and Simon.

I hadn’t outlined the book, so it was harder to get back into it, find its rhythm, keep writing, and then figure out where I wanted it to go. At the same time, I was juggling the release of Savasana at Sea and the re-release of Tracking Medusa. So it was a lot.

Q: You have some interesting side stories in the book: New York’s history as New Amsterdam, the Battle of Fort Washington in the American Revolution, the popularity of spiritualism and mediumship in Victorian New York.

DE: Because Rufus lives with so many decades of ghosts, there are different time periods that wound into the story. New York still had plenty of Dutch influences; if you look around the city, they are still strong. I didn’t know much about the Battle of Fort Washington before it came up. Once I started reading about the way the American prisoners were stashed on ships in Brooklyn, starved, and the dead bodies thrown over the side, well, it was awful. I knew I had to put it in. The tie-in to the Percy family of Northumberland – had to go in. Anyone who knows me knows how obsessed I’ve been with Shakespeare’s Hotspur and his real-life descendants. I’ve always been interested in how mediums and spiritualism became popular, especially in New York. It gained momentum after the Civil War, when people were so desperate to connect with their lost loved ones and grew from there. Other Powers by Barbara Goldsmith has inspired several of my characters.

Q: I felt like I could read an entire book about any of those side stories.

DE: It was difficult to keep them as anecdotes and discoveries, and not go too deeply into any of the tangents.

Q: Will we see more?

DE: Once the main thread of the Coventina Circle series is complete, I might go back and write some of these stories as straight-up historical fiction rather than paranormal romantic suspense. I still want to do that with some of the backstage stories in PTA, the stories behind the ghosts. Time and interest is going to dictate part of that. When I can schedule the writing, and if people want the stories.

Q: Stylistically, this book is different than much of the rest of your work.

DE: Yes, and that’s always scary, isn’t it? There’s more narrative than I usually use. I dramatized some of the narrative, and it created too much of a tangent so it had to be cut; I needed the information (although I cut it way back), so it made the most sense to have Bonnie and Rufus make the discoveries and then share them. Both of them are introverts. There’s more self-reflection and internal monologue here than in most of my other work. I had to be true to their characters, not worry about my ego and holding on to “the way I usually do things.” That way lies madness and bad writing.

Rufus and Bonnie question themselves, they have trouble trusting their hearts. I also use exclamation points more often. Because they don’t trust their instincts during the course of the books, they also tended to ask questions instead of make statements. My editor and I had to change some of that because of what happens in the third book, Relics and Requiem. One of the characters in that is Australian, with the upward inflections at the end of many of his sentences. It’s a different rhythm than the self-doubt in this book, but we had to look at the use punctuation to communicate the cadences properly, and how the cadences would play against each other, book-to-book. So we changed some of the questions in this book to declaratives. We had more discussions about comma placement and how to set interior quotes in spoken dialogue than usual, because we had to make it read clearly. Digitally, some of the correct copy editing style didn’t work, so we had to amend it and work with the publisher to make sure it was okay. It was difficult to let go of some of the style guide protocols that are second nature. Grow and evolve, right? I am so grateful to both my editor and my copy editor for their willingness to hash out punctuation beat-to-beat when necessary.

Q: Jake is a very strong character. How did he come about?

DE: He walked into the book and made himself at home! I cut him out of a few drafts, and he kept coming back. So I let him do his thing. One of the themes in this book, which I will build on in future books, is how interconnected this particular community is. Even if they don’t always get along, they’ll help each other. Bonnie and Jake have a strong connection that makes Rufus uncomfortable. Going further than that gives too much away too soon!

Q: There’s a lot of Celtic/Irish connection in this book, too.

DE: Yes. New York has pockets of different communities. They mesh, but they also keep a strong sense of identity. It’s one of the great things about living in New York, and one of the things I miss about it. There’s still a very strong Irish community. Lots of students, lots of young men and women who come over and work for a few months for their gap year and whatever. When I lived in Hell’s Kitchen, the community was changing. But it was still very strong down in the Village.

Q. Are there really hidden gardens in New York?

DE: Oh, yeah. Plenty of friends and colleagues created sanctuaries, sometimes just putting a blanket or table and chairs on the asphalt roof, or “Tar Beach” as we used to call it. More people than you’d think create rooftop gardens, and rooftop farming is getting more popular. Also, many of the buildings have tiny, narrow enclosures, back to back, bricked-in or fenced in, where they can have a bit of outdoor space. There aren’t a lot of alleys in New York – the gardens tend to back up against each other. But those delightful sanctuaries exist. It’s amazing what people can do with the space.

Q: I have to ask about The Dragon’s Lair.

DE: That is my fantasy of a perfect pagan club in NYC. As far as I know, it doesn’t exist. It would make sense to put it on the Bowery, as it re-gentrifies, although I’ve jiggled the geography a bit to make it fit.

Q: Will we have stories set there?

DE: It features in Relics and Requiem at the very least. I’m pretty sure I will set some short pieces in and around the club. Kayla and Lerrien are pretty interesting, and having that setting allows for all kinds of stories to flow through.

Q: What about the esoteric library on Orchard Street?

DE: Again, fictional. I love the NY Tenement Museum, and I could imagine the library being a couple of buildings down from it. There are a few private libraries. The New York Theosophical Society is on E. 53rd St. I thought I remembered it being down by Grammercy Park, but maybe I mis-remembered or maybe it moved. Their library is open to the public. There’s also the New York Society Library on E. 79th St. and the General Society’s Library on W. 44th St. I was a member of the latter for several years, before I moved away. I loved working in there. I thought it would be fun to have an esoteric library where Bonnie and Rufus could make discoveries, and it took on its own life.

Q. I’d like to see stories set there, too.

DE: When I can carve out the time, and if the stories pull enough, it’ll happen.

Q: You also have two in-jokes. One referencing a character from another series; one a nod to the next book in this series.

DE: You can blame Jenn McKinlay for those! She has similar cross references in her series. But it makes sense – two of my series are in contemporary Manhattan. Although the characters inhabit different circles (no pun intended), it makes sense that they would both use the Sociἐtἐ Sortileger. And the other reference came about by accident, and we decided to leave it in.

Q: What can you tell us about the next Coventina Circle novel?

DE: Relics and Requiem is scheduled to release in October. That’s Amanda’s story, and her complicated life gets even more so when she helps out an acquaintance at a small museum and winds up involved in a murder. The detective who catches the case is Phineas Regan, who we met in Playing the Angles. They are the primary protagonists. Amanda’s got a lot of sharp edges. She’s very forceful and dynamic, very different from Bonnie. I’m having a lot of fun with Amanda and Phineas.

Bonnie Chencko knows books change lives. But she never expected her life to change because she happened to duck into a small bookshop in Greenwich Village on a rainy late November night. She’s attracted to Rufus Van Dijk, the mysterious man who owns the bookshop in his ancestors’ building. A building filled with family ghosts, who are mysteriously disappearing. It’s up to Bonnie and her burgeoning Craft powers to rescue the spirits before their souls are lost forever.

Before Rufus could question or she could elaborate, the front door opened and banged shut. A gangly young man with short-cropped black hair entered, carrying a large take-out bag. Delicious smells of meat, chicken, onion, melted cheese, and peppers wafted from it. Minerva growled, and the other two cats glared at him. “Hey, the line at the taco place took for damn ever, but at least I got some beers to go along with the food,” he said. He noticed Bonnie. “Oh, hello. I’m sorry, I didn’t know we had company. I’m sure we can make the food stretch.”
“Because you probably don’t need to eat six tacos,” Rufus smiled and shook his head. “Bonnie Chencko, this is Adam Grenowski. Adam, this is Bonnie. She ducked in here to get out of the rain. Adam works with me.”
“Hidden away from the real world and daylight like a vampire,” he agreed cheerfully. “Good thing I’m nocturnal.” He sneezed. “Damn, guess the allergy drugs wore off. Gotta take some more.” He placed the greasy bag on the table and took off his outerwear.
“Adam’s allergic to cats.”
“And dogs and ferrets and all the rest of the critters New Yorkers tend to hoard to keep loneliness at bay,” Adam retorted. “Give me a nice goldfish any day.” He opened a drawer behind the counter, pulled out a packet of pills, and swallowed two without water.
“You work here anyway?” Bonnie asked.
“Hey, a little sneezing never killed anyone.”
“Now, that’s not entirely true,” said Rufus. “Back in –”
“I don’t wanna know, Mr. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Encyclopedia.”
“I better go.” Bonnie placed her cup and saucer on the table.
“You’re welcome to stay,” said Rufus.
“Yeah, sure,” said Adam. “Rufus is right. I really don’t need to eat six tacos. That’s why I ordered two extra enchiladas.”
“No, I need to get home to my dogs,” said Bonnie. She looked at Adam sideways through her lashes. “Hoarded to ward off loneliness.”
“Hey, if there’s a way I can put my foot in my mouth, I will,” said Adam. “Part of my charm.”
Rufus snorted and nearly choked. Adam whacked him between the shoulder blades.
“It was nice to meet both of you, and thank you, Rufus, for the tea.” Bonnie stood up and put on her coat, hat, and gloves.
“You’ll come back, won’t you?” Rufus asked.
Bonnie picked up her messenger bag and her purse. Was she imagining it, or did she detect a note of worry in Rufus’s tone? “I’d love to come back. I want to browse through the books, and I’m sure it’ll take more than one trip.”
“Soon, I hope.” Rufus smiled at her, a hint of a flush creeping into his cheeks.
“Soon,” Bonnie promised. She walked to the door and tried to open it, but it wouldn’t give way.
“Oh, hey, hang on a sec, I’ll be right there,” said Adam. “Sometimes the door sticks.”
“Yeah, when you slam it shut like that,” Rufus countered.
Bonnie gave it another good jiggle, hearing Adam’s footsteps behind her. A moment later, she screamed as a knife sailed through the air and pinned part of her sleeve to the door.


Published by Bluestockings and Gentlemen Press. Available on multiple digital channels for $3.99 here.