Author Interview: Nevermind

By now, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, is available on Amazon.

The only author I haven’t interviewed here is myself. But since that strikes me as a little bit crazy, I’m just going to share an excerpt from my story in the anthology. Originally, I wasn’t going to write a story about vampires, since I’m always doing that in my Vampire in the City series. But as it was coming together, I realized there were no other stories about vampires, and that made me sad. So I wrote this story to fill the proverbial gap.

Vampires of the G Train

Deciding that keeping him talking was the best strategy, she asked, “Are you going to turn me into a vampire?”

The man looked surprised. “No. Why? Do you want to be a vampire?”

“Sure. I mean, it sounds so interesting.”

“I guess it’s pretty cool,” he admitted. “Even though I’m kind of new at it.”

“What do you like best about being a vampire?” Claire asked.

“Besides the blood?”

Claire gave the generally accepted hand gesture for hurry it up.

“Well, doesn’t everyone want to live forever and stay young and beautiful?” he asked.

Claire tilted her head to the side and gave him a questioning look.

“I mean young,” he quickly amended.

Then what Claire had been waiting for happened. With a lurch, the train finally started moving again.

The man frowned. “Must be on some kind of a switch or a timer.”

But Claire didn’t want him to notice what was happening with the train, so she said, “What’s your name, anyway?”

“It’s Harold.”

“Do people call you Harry?”


“Anyway, Harold, I’m Claire. So, can you tell me what it’s like being a vampire?”

“Well, I’m new at this,” Harold admitted.

“You said that. How new? Like are you less than a thousand years old or something?”

“I was just turned about a week ago. As I was saying, you are meant to be my first kill.”

“Me, specifically?” Claire asked. “Or just any idiot who wandered into the train alone at night?”

“Not you specifically,” Harold said, almost smiling.

Claire suddenly had an idea. “How about I bring you over my boyfriend’s apartment instead? He’s much bigger than me, and that means more blood for you.”

The man shook his head. “I’m not supposed to get off the train.”

The G train had just pulled into a station, and the doors dinged open.

“Well, that works out for me,” Claire said. She managed to twist around enough to land a pointy elbow in his inner thigh before jumping up and leaping off the train. Unfortunately, something caught her mid-leap.

Harry had caught her around the waist and pulled her back into the train as the doors closed.

“Good try. I’m not letting go of you again.” He sat back down and pulled her beside him. Then he yanked her head to the side until her throat was by his mouth.

To read the rest of my story, buy your copy of Urban Harvest today!

Author Interview: Tara Hill

Tara is one of the authors in the (extremely!) soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m so happy to have her featured on my blog for an interview.

What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?

The paranormal genre really gives me a lot of room to let my imagination go free.  It not only includes fantasy, but also mystery and unexplained occurrences as well.  You can say something happened and the paranormal genre naturally allows that strange and wonderful event to take place in the world that you’ve created.   

What prompted you to write this story?

I was on the train going into the city, listening to music on my MP3 player.  I was thinking about the project, wondering what I should write about when Josh Groban’s song, “The Bells of New York City” came on.  I immediately stuck it on loop and kept on listening to it for the whole ride.  Music often helps inspire my writing.  The song is about a grey, snow filled night in New York City.  At the time, I worked down near Wall Street so naturally Trinity Church’s cemetery came into my mind.  Then in my head, I got an image of a man from the late 1800s walking down those streets and I just went from there.   

 What other things have you written/are you writing?

I have written articles as the New York Paranormal Examiner for  I have also kept a blog called Gay Family Life in which I talk about what it was like to grow up with a gay parent during the 1990s.  I currently write articles as a Yahoo Voices contributor.  I am working on building a collection of short stories, mostly about ghosts.  I also have written a novel that I am hoping to find an agent for and to get published someday.  It is a ghost story that talks about the importance of brotherhood and how love can last from one lifetime to the next. 

Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven?

A little of both, actually.  Usually the main character will introduce themselves to me first.  Then they tell me about the situation that they are in.  I guess really the character is in charge of my writing.  

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

I usually have an idea of what direction I want the plot to go in, but ultimately there are some twists and turns as the story progresses.  I have found that it doesn’t work well if I try to force something too much, so I just wait for my inspiration to lead me down the right path. 

Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?

I have several.  Some of my favorite authors are J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Amy Tan, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, Mitch Albom, and Charles Dickens.  My favorite book of all time is The Hobbit.  I like writers that create other worlds for their characters to go into or create odd situations for their characters to encounter in reality. 

When and how did you first become interested in writing?

My family raised me to love books.  They took me to libraries and bookstores, they read to me every night, encouraged imaginative play, and had discussions with me about what I was reading. One day, I was in a bookstore pretending to be Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I was actually reading a novelization of it as I was walking through the store.  Being something of a tomboy, Belle was the one princess character that I really identified with because she loved to read. Then suddenly, I stopped and looked up at the walls of books. Turning to my mother, I told her that I wanted my name to be up on those shelves someday so that everyone could read my stories.   

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I tend to write for one to three hours at a clip.  I don’t really keep a strict writing schedule.  Instead, I just write my heart out every time I sit down at the computer and try to make sure that I find time to do this at least three to four times a week. 

What’s next?

I’m going to keep on writing more short stories and see if I can get them published. I’m also pretty sure I have another novel that is almost ready to bloom, but I don’t think I’m ready to start it yet. Also, I need to focus on getting a literary agent. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I have created two Facebook pages, one to help showcase my online work as a writer and another called Ghost Fanatic to share my interest in ghosts.  You can also check out my Twitter page, @TaraTheresaHill.  I’m really excited about the Urban Harvest anthology.  This is my first official story publication.    

The following is a short excerpt from Tara’s story in Urban Harvest.

Don’t Be Afraid

Every night, I rise just as the twilight ends and night descends around the city. Walking through the old cemetery, I wander to the front doors of the church. Old Trinity Church welcomes me long after the last visitor’s steps have faded into the sounds of the bustling streets. Walking the long aisle, I always stop at the altar to pray. Only this night will be different. This is All Hallow’s Eve, the one night of the year when the veil between the Spirit World and the Living is thinnest. Every year at this time, I go back to the old neighborhood hoping to find the one that I lost.

Having said my piece, I exit the church and start the long, lonely walk. The city is busy with people and spirits roaming about. Another gentleman and lady from my time nod their heads as I pass by. I tip my hat in return, but there are plenty of spirits from all walks of life and eras here. If the Living only had the sight, they would see souls of people from modern times all the way back to the ancients who first walked the land. All gather together sharing ideas and helping to influence the ones on the physical plane when they can. Most come and go as they please, but others are stuck here on the Earth. I should know because I am one of them. While people use the terms interchangeably, the real difference between a ghost and a spirit is that a spirit has the ability to shift between the two realms at will.

How I died is not important. I do not really remember it being different from any other day. I seemed to wake up just as I always did. Actually, it was a lot like waking up from a nap. I opened my eyes to find myself fully dressed even though I thought I remembered having gone to bed the previous night. I was sitting in my study, only the shades were drawn and the windows were closed. I had always liked to have them open even during the coldest days so that a bit of air could get into the room. Standing up, I walked out into hallway and toward the center of the house. That’s when I heard the weeping. It was a sad sound that shuddered up and down as it came to me from across the hall. Astounded at the noise, I still swept forward to find the source of it. My hand stopped at the parlor door, which was wide open for a viewing. Everything was draped in black and candles burned all about the room amidst the overwhelming perfume of flowers.

My wife and our grown children sat in the parlor, surrounded by friends and other members of the community. The grandbaby sat on his mother’s lap, his fingers stuck in his mouth to soothe himself. They all wore black and grey. Shaking my head, I looked toward the raised dais in the back of the room. All conversation was lost on me for the moment; I had to see for myself to make good their words.

Walking over to the coffin, I stared down at the remains of the body that I had only recently occupied. There was the strong, square jaw, the jet black hair laced delicately with grey at the temples, the broad shoulders and wide chest. I had been in the peak of health for a man in his sixties. What had happened? Surely someone must know. 

To read the rest of Tara’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon in just a few hours!

Author Interview: Don Corcoran

Don Corcoran is one of the authors in the soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m very happy to have him featured on my blog for an interview.

What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?

The paranormal brings three things to my writing: Suspense, Wonder, and The Creep. Supernatural elements bring a level of uncertainty to the page. The idea that a protagonist can be threatened indirectly and must approach problems through the same murky process heightens the readers anxiety. Often the reader hasn’t internalized the rules of engagement making plot development and character interactions more of a mystery (without making the piece a stone cold whodunit). That mystery delivers suspense – what is the bad guy going to do and will the white hat, superior in many ways, be able to see it coming.

That mystery is the source of wonder. I am not a person that likes writing about fireballs and flying vampires. I like my fantasy to be subtle and in the background. I like my paranormal to incite curiosity and illicit the reader to want to learn more, a forever moving target, like dark spots in your vision to chase.

It’s the ever-present, background weirdness that brings shivers to ones spine. When the reader starts to think about what’s going on and they think they’ve got it or they start to understand the implications and insert themselves into the narrative that the creep settles in. It’s not quite horror. It’s not disgust one gets from gore or the darkness revealed in a characters soul, rather it’s the inevitable. The slow crawling doom you see the characters approaching despite their best intentions.

Sure, some of this can be maintained through mundane means but there’s a balance that further enhances the effect of paranormal elements.

What prompted you to write this story?

I write supernatural westerns. I saw the submission call for the anthology and thought about some of the material that gets lost in the research process of my other work. I recently read A Passionate Girl, by Thomas Flemming, watched Copper, and had been doing a lot of research on New York during the Civil War. I am writing novels set at the beginning of the war in New Orleans. There’s just not an opportunity to explore religious immigration and the roles of slavery in Manhattan in the mid-1800s in my books, right now. I have nowhere to talk about Tammany Hall, political corruption, and the gangs of Five Points. Writing short stories allows me to not only express the fascinating details of those spaces but also lets me create a more complete picture of the setting without diluting the novels.


What other things have you written/are you writing?

I am currently writing a Voodoo Western Dime novel series. It follows the exploits of a black union soldier behind enemy lines desperately trying to free his mother from slavery. In the process he’s drawn into the politics of voodoo and discovering his supernatural inheritance. 

Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven?

That’s tricky since my plots are character driven. So my writing follows a very narrow path and leads to a focused point but that end point is developed by understanding what the goals of the characters are, what are their obstacles, and how they will change over time. A story begins by recognizing a character’s deficiencies and it ends in the afterglow of those changes

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

It’s semi-organic. I start by doing a character study of each main character, what they want and where they are going. Then I have a solid idea of where the story will go and what the whole things looks like from the top down. Once I have those general ideas then I plot out the story scene by scene every 10,000 to 15,000 words. I usually use a three scene/three act scene structure to think about the rise and fall of drama.

Obviously, with a short story I plot out the whole thing. With the story for this anthology I went through two first drafts, reorganizing the focus of the story and rethinking where I want it to go. With something so small I find that much easier to do.

When and how did you first become interested in writing?

My sister asked me if I’ve always been writing and I recalled that I write my first novella when I was thirteen, hand written on loose-leaf. I’ve always been a gaming and movie nerd. Have always been way over-educated. Writing allows me to express those interests and draw out the narratives in my head. Nothing gets me going to write than seeing something done poorly. It was inadequacies (or at least intriguing variations) in books, films, comics, and games that inspired me to rethink a fictional space. It was great authors like Lamour, Bradbury, and Eco that gave me the bar to set my craft to.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I wish there was a “schedule.” I have opportunity to write daily, thank goodness. I drop my daughter off at daycare, sometimes jog to get the blood flowing, sit at a café to get in about four pages of hand-written journaling, then sit at my desk and write to a dedicated playlist. That said, I usually can get a short story done in a day and a novel’s first draft in a month.

What’s next?

I am doing research on the Industrial Revolution for my next series. There is a strong possibility that the Voodoo Western series will extend to two more trilogies after this one. Each book I write is usually accompanied with one or two short stories exploring other characters and spaces in the periphery of the novels. All of my books have a social message, putting a finer point on various social issues. The Voodoo Western is all about race and religion. The new series will be about living wages and the loss of craftsmanship.

 The following is a short excerpt from Don’s story in Urban Harvest.

 An Elegant Cross

“Let’s begin. I can’t wait for William.”

Smitty held bottles and burning incense for Mama’Jo as she weaved her conjure. He sang, as he had so many times before, the song never quite escaping the back of his throat. Mama’Jo took a long draught of rum, finishing it by pouring the rest of the bottle over her head. Smitty danced in tight circles around the shop, the lavender smoke of the sage wafting in lines until it filled the small room with haze.

The door opened. Smitty and Mama’Jo stopped and stood stock still. The mambo’s back was to the door. Smitty stepped closer, relieved to see it was William. He brought the new man’s saddle bags.

William said nothing, but emptied their contents. Smitty and William jumped back at the sound of a rattle and the appearance of a snake among Murphy’s belongings.

Mama’Jo’s voice was low, “Smart boy,” she said using her lips, her lungs. Mama’Jo reached down and picked up the dead rattler. “Perfect.”

The mambo slid about the tiled floor holding the serpent up high.

William found a rosary, a bull-sack pouch filled with tobacco, and a wooden comb. He put the rosary around Mama’Jo’s neck and began to recite a prayer. He emptied the pouch, mixed a few crushed herbs together, and poured piss from a bottle into the mixture. Smitty drew an elaborate pattern on mirrors with soap.

Mama’Jo snapped one of the serpent’s fangs and added it to William’s poultice. She began to dance. William stripped the comb of errant hairs and added it to the pouches contents. Carefully he put the pouch in Murphy’s mouth.

The mambo began to chant in Creole, calling her snake god, all the while shaking the rattle.

At the ceremony’s crescendo she opened Murphy’s mouth. The pouch was gone.

“It’s okay, young buck,” she whispered in his ear. “I got you.”

When they were done, Smitty and William cleaned up. Mama’Jo sang to the dead serpent in soft tones, devoid of the furrowed brow and set jaw that had her earlier.

“This is a good sign, William.” She smiled at the snake. “Is everything in order?”

 To read the rest of Don’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon this Sunday!

Author Interview: Andrea Stanet

Andrea Stanet is one of the authors in the soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m very happy to have her featured on my blog for an interview. 

What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?

The paranormal genre and I have had a long and tumultuous love affair filled with many sleepless nights for almost my entire life. To this day, I can’t get enough of vamps, were-creatures, and of course, ghosts. One thing I love about the genre is that you can do so much with myths and creatures. I enjoy turning tropes on their heads in wacky ways and I like to toy with the humorous side of the genre. For instance, a few years ago, on a whim, I thought a YA quartet of short stories that is a mash-up of vamps, werewolves, zombies, and aliens all living in a suburban community would be hilarious. It’s pretty silly, but I had fun writing it.

What prompted you to write this story?

“Under the Mattress” came from a very different place than most of my other short stories and novels, so I’m not completely sure what prompted me to sit down at the keyboard. Even at the time, I didn’t know where it stemmed from; it just popped into my head and bled out. I disliked it when I first wrote it because it felt so dark. The first draft left me sad and disturbed. I felt much better about the story once I revised and solidified Nathan’s arc, thematic issues, and the ending.

At the time I had been thinking quite a bit about a family member, let’s call him “P,” who is an Iraq War veteran. This was almost exactly a year ago, and his birthday was coming up. Shortly after I finished the first draft, I learned that P had been experiencing an emotionally traumatic period and had been suicidal. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to seek help. Since then I’ve felt that on some level his pain drew this story out without my knowledge. While the main character isn’t a veteran, like so many veterans’ families, his loved ones’ experiences still profoundly affect him.

What other things have you written/are you writing?

I recently wrote a short thriller that will appear in the anthology, Stalkers, set for release in October. Currently, I am revising a middle-grade piece to submit for a tween and YA paranormal anthology called Wild Cards. The proceeds will go to the National Children’s Cancer Society.

I have several fantasy novels in the revision stage. I decided to completely rewrite the perspective on the fae middle-grade I was submitting. Once my last anthology submission is done, I will also start revising a dimensional-travel modern fairy-tale. Some of my other novels feature zombie dragons, twisted fairy-tale characters in a house of horrors, and twins who get transported to a sword & sorcery world.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

I almost never plot ahead of time. I’ve tried with disastrous results. As I’m writing, I may project a few steps ahead so that I have a general direction, but I don’t really know where the story will end beyond a vague idea. For example, in “Under the Mattress,” I didn’t know what was under the mattress until at least midway through the story. It’s always fun when I get to the climax of a story and can’t decide how it ends. Luckily, the characters usually take over by then and don’t give me too much say in their outcomes.

When and how did you first become interested in writing?

The first story I remember writing, “Who Killed Crystal?” wriggled out of my brain when I was about nine. A young girl recounts a burglary and her attempts to escape the intruder. Too bad for Crystal, she ends up telling the story as a ghost. I recall that there was a lot of upheaval going on for me at the time, and I think writing fiction helped me cope with scary nine-year-old issues. My father and older brother had introduced me to monster movies and ghost stories at a young age, so it’s no surprise I followed the horror/paranormal/fantasy path from the very beginning. Since then, I’ve always had stories in me, even those that never make it to paper. When I go too long without writing, the ideas build up and assault me in my dreams, giving me terrible nightmares until I get back to work. So now I make sure to write all the time.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I don’t exactly follow a schedule although I do prefer to write early in the morning. My brain just doesn’t work after sundown. Whatever the opposite of a vampire is, that would be me.

When we first moved to what I consider “the country” (being the city kid that I am), I had grand visions of sitting out on the patio all summer with a cup of tea drawing inspiration from the woods around us. Then I learned that the trees block most of our morning sun, and it gets buggy as the day warms up. There’s not much inspiration in a drowned gnat polluting your tea, trust me.

Now when I work, you’ll find me hunched over my laptop in the corner of our dining area, often with a space heater blowing on my feet. I have two desks, but my work space is the dining table. Go figure. My second favorite spot in the winter is in front of our pellet stove. I like to borrow one of my kids’ lap desks, wrap myself up in a blanket and sit with my back to the fire. A warm, bug-free environment and fresh brain cells are the necessary components for my creative process.

What’s next?

Next I would like to see one of my novels published. I haven’t yet decided if I want to try self-publishing. There seem to be an increasing number of benefits to it, but it’s also a scary prospect. For now, it’s just revising, and then I’ll see what opportunities arise and where fate takes me.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My website is a work in progress at: I am in the process of slowly rebuilding my autism blog at:, and you can also find me on Twitter at: Thanks for reading!

The following is a short excerpt from Andrea’s story in Urban Harvest.

Under the Mattress

A fresh bouquet of assorted flowers added the only splash of color to the otherwise dismal family plot. Nate’s eyes roamed over the simple engraving on the stone, stopping at the date. Three years ago. The end of good times.

As he kneeled to straighten the flowers, water seeped through his jeans.

The rain stopped. His hands stilled. Then they clenched into fists. Nate ground his teeth together so hard they hurt. “I’m so done with this shit, Dad. I’m supposed to be the kid, not the parent! She’s useless!” Sitting back on his heels, he ran a hand through his curly black hair. “Ever since she came back—”

“I know, Nate.”

The voice came from behind him.

Nate gasped. He whipped around, fell over, his butt squelching into the wet grass, his spine smacking against his father’s headstone. Nate visited the grave often because he always felt his father’s presence, somehow. But he had never expected to see his Dad again—not in this world, anyway.

His father stood in the at-ease stance, his chin held high, across the grassy aisle that separated his section from the next. He wore his dress blues, the ones he had been buried in. Nate could see rows of headstones behind the transparent figure. It was impossible, yet there he was.

“Dad?” He reached for his father, then let his hand flop back to his lap. That’s it—I’ve finally cracked.

To read the rest of Andrea’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon this Sunday!

Author Interview: Saif Ansari

Saif Ansari is one of the authors in the soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m very happy to have him featured on my blog for an interview. On a personal note, I’m also happy to have him as my husband, so if you would like to know any embarrassing, personal things about him, such as what color his socks are (always black) and whether he prefers Diet Coke or Coke Zero (Zero), and if he had to be a kitchen utensil, what would he be and why (I have no idea, but I guess potato masher), please feel free to ask.

1. What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?

My favorite fiction tends to be in the dark fantasy/Victorian ghost story genre, and while I’m not looking to emulate that specific style, I enjoy the mood and textures that sort of fiction cultivates. Putting together that sort of feeling myself is a lot of fun.

2. What prompted you to write this story?

I was thinking about buildings with old, residual architectural elements that are out of use, and what the buildings might be doing with these abandoned structures. The story kind of unfurled once I established the main character and his relationship and how it tied in with the structures.

3. What other things have you written/are you writing?

I’ve written some other short fiction, my story, Entombed was a finalist in the Blizzard Worldwide Writing Contest, I wrote a short play that was put for a few nights, and I have a novel that I’d love to revise and release, but right now I’m focusing on short fiction.

4. Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven?

I suppose it’s character driven, even if sometimes that character is a building. Once I know who a character is, and their particular needs, a story rises around the structure of that circumstance.

5. Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

It’s a mixture, though my best material, I think, comes when I’m pressed for time and write without a safety net of an outline. An open-ended story is far more exciting because it lets me discover what happens as I write.

6. Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?

My favorite writers are William Hope Hodgson and Shirley Jackson. The way both these writers used textured and atmospheric writing, ambiguous endings, unreliable narrators, and their depictions of unstable reality is central to my writing. In addition, I really like how Jackson commented on her contemporary circumstances as a woman in very subtle ways and her use of strong if flawed, female characters.

7. When and how did you first become interested in writing?

It’s my passion, I write all the time,  though I go through fits of private and public writing. I’d like to find more exposure for my writing, it’s something I’m working on.

8. What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I don’t have a schedule, I write when I can find time to squeeze it in. My favorite place to write in anywhere I can  be completely alone, dark, a bit cold, with my laptop, music files, and headphones.

9. What’s next?

More writing. I just put out a small anthology with various friends and am trying to muster up the energy to release a novel on my own. I also blog at

10. Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for supporting the charity!

The following is a short excerpt from Saif’s story in Urban Harvest.


Six months ago I started working in the Goldbar building.  It’s art-deco facade reflected by the other buildings on the block.  All of them tall, tapering skyscrapers washed clean and well maintained by the wealthy corporations housed within them.  The Goldbar building had just become the home of a computing firm that was dissatisfied with its data pipeline.  Old buildings are notoriously difficult to rewire, especially when they want to connect directly on private lines to their main office half way across the island.  I was assigned to this building as part of a team to come up with a solution.  Our head engineer, Doug O’Brien, had discovered one.

“Pneumatic tubes,” he said, the self-satisfied grin on his face that spoke of a successful youth.  When a flat silence returned his grin he slapped his hand against one of the old tubes next to him, creating a hollow sound that filled the cramped office.  At the moment, the tube was cleverly disguised to appear as part of the room’s streamlined corporate appearance.  But the masquerade was easily dispelled once it was pointed out.

“The Goldbar has these things crawling around everywhere.  Now, they’ve been blocked off for about sixty years, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useable.”  The complete confidence he exuded was tangible, palpable.  He was the kind of man that seemed successful no matter what.  He was the kind of man who made you feel as if your life were missing something very specific in it, even if it was just a really great tie or a solid suit.

“What we need to do is split up into smaller teams and start mapping the network.  Once we have a full schematic, we can move on to figuring out how to run the wires through them.  Now, in the intervening years, things may have gotten a bit…” he hesitated casting about for a word but the smile never faltered.  He managed to make it all seem playful.  “Cluttered insides the pipes.  One of the primary exit points was the former mailroom, which is in the third sub-basement.  It’s been empty for over forty years.  That’s going to be our check spot.  Building management wants that area locked at all times so each team will have a set of keys.”

Doug never went down into the Mail Room.  He was instead set up in a spare office on the thirtieth floor with a sliver of the park visible between two buildings across the street from his window.  After my first visit down to the Mail Room, I never called it that again.  Maybe it had been a Mail Room once, but it was something else, now.

To read the rest of Saif’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon this Sunday!

Author Interview: Alex Shvartsman

Alex Shvartsman is one of the authors in the soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m very happy to have him featured on my blog for an interview. 

1. What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?

I would classify my story as more of an urban fantasy. I am fascinated by the idea of secret history, wizards and monsters walking among regular, everyday people, hiding in plain sight. It’s usually more interesting for me to set stories in modern, urban setting than writing more traditional fantasy.

2. What prompted you to write this story?

Brooklyn, NY has been my adopted home for nearly 25 years now (since I immigrated from the former Soviet Union). I enjoy writing stories that are set in New York and surrounding areas. The idea of interesting, supernatural stuff happening in locations I often visit in real life really appeals to me. I wrote several Conrad Brent adventures and each explores different neighborhoods and draws in some small way on the history and culture of Brooklyn. 

3. What other things have you written/are you writing?

I began writing fiction in 2010 and have sold over 50 short stories to different magazines and anthologies since then. Although “A Shard Glows in Brooklyn” has a gritty noir feel to it, I mostly write light, humorous fiction. 

I am currently working on a humor/alt-hist/steampunk novel starring H.G. Wells as a Victorian-era James Bond-like character, protecting the world against aliens, time travelers, and inter dimensional incursions.

4. Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven?

My fiction is very much plot-driven. Sometimes to the point where it becomes a bit of a problem, and I consciously try to rewrite in order to make sure there is sufficient emotion and depth of character. 

5. Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

When I sit down to write any given story, I must know two things: how it begins, and how it ends. I won’t begin actually writing a new tale if I don’t have a firm grasp of the ending. However, it can take all sorts of interesting twists and turns on it’s way to that ending, and often surprising new sub-plots and characters emerge from this exploratory approach. 

6. Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?

There is no one specific writer whom I would consider to be mentor or whose style I’m trying to emulate. However, my writing is very much informed by the classic 1940s-1950s science fiction which I read in translation growing up in the Soviet Union. Modern English-language fiction wasn’t available in the USSR at the time, so I missed out on the New Wave and much of the interesting works of the 70s and 80s, picking up on modern fiction in English again, starting in the mid-90s. I suspect this reading history affects my writing style and makes it a bit of a throwback to the pulp era, but with some modern sensibilities.

7. When and how did you first become interested in writing?

I was always interested in writing science fiction and fantasy, making up my first (very short) story around the age of 10. I meddled with writing fiction in Russian when I was very young, but gave up the pursuit when my family moved to the United States because I never expected my command of the English language to become sufficient to write fiction. 

Like most aspiring writers, I kept planning on writing someday — for years! Until, finally, I realized that mythical day of ample free time and no responsibilities will never come. I should just begin writing — and I did.

8. What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I write at my home office, in the mornings, before heading out to my day job. Typically I can only put in about an hour or two at a time, a couple of times a week. This doesn’t make for a very productive writing career, but other responsibilities must often come first, and I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish given the limited schedule.

9. What’s next?

That novel I mentioned earlier? I hope to get the first draft finished sometime in the foreseeable future. I am also editing three different anthologies at the moment, have short stories I need to write for various projects I’ve been invited to submit to, and am translating fiction from Russian. Doesn’t leave too many hours in the day for sleep, and thank the Lord for coffee!

10. Anything else you’d like to add?

I have several projects as an editor coming out soon. Unidentified Funny Objects 2 will release in early October. Coffee:  Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic is slated for late November. Dark Expanse should be releasing early next year. I encourage everyone to check those books out, For additional samples of my own writing, please visit and click on the Bibliography link.

The following is a short excerpt from his story in Urban Harvest.

A Shard Glows in Brooklyn

“Philippine Energy Beetles are nasty critters,” I lectured him as we walked, straining to be heard over the noise. “They nest by the power lines and feed off the electricity. Those flickering lights the power company says are caused by faulty wiring are often caused by an infestation.”

Having finished with the cars, I fumbled with the lock on the front door of a vacant house.

“This place is lousy with beetles,” I explained. “We’re gonna have to fumigate.”

“That’s just great,” said the prospect. “I can’t stand bugs. Now you tell me the Watch is in the exterminator business? This couldn’t possibly get any worse.”

But, of course, it could. He hadn’t seen the beetles up close yet. The prospect’s problem with insects was part of the reason I had brought him to this place. I needed to know, when push came to shove, that he’d be able to handle himself. I needed him to overcome whatever phobias and preconceived notions he’d been living with, before he learned about any of the really bad things that are out there.

“Relax,” I told him. “There’s some good news. These critters hate loud noise.”

The lock finally surrendered to my ministrations and the door was forced open by the pressure from the inside. Hundreds of fully grown beetles burst out of the house. Each of them was two to three feet long and stood at least a foot tall. The entire swarm rushed past us and toward the sewer, trying to get as far away from the roar of the sirens as they could. The prospect turned white as a sheet, but he didn’t run. This one just might be a keeper.

“They are . . .” the prospect gulped, “enormous.”

“This is New York,” I told him. “We don’t sweat the small stuff. You should see the size of the troll under the Verrazano Bridge. Come on.”

To read the rest of Alex’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon this Sunday!

Everything Is Happening!

When I started working on two books at the same time, I had the passing thought, “What will happen if they both come out at the same time?” Then, the passing thought passed as I answered myself with, “That will never happen.”

Now, it is months later and both my charity urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest and the fourth installment of the Vampire in the City series, Cold Blood are both very close to being complete. I’m actually a little surprised at how far along I am on Cold Blood, but during the long Labor Day weekend, the ending became very clear in my mind, and I breezed through 10k in about three days. Since I’m working on the release and promotion of Urban Harvest now, Cold Blood will most likely be released in October.
So Urban Harvest will be releasing on September 22, the first day of Fall. Please join the Facebook page here: Teasers from the book and other fun stuff will be going on there up until the day of the release. Also, right here in this blog, I will be having some interviews with the authors!

Why I Don’t Review Books

Although I don’t have enough time to write for my blog as much as I would like, I do my fair share of blog reading. And one thing I noticed is that many authors also review books. This got me thinking as to why I don’t do any reviews. It’s not that I don’t read; I’m always in the middle of one or more books. Here are my reasons:

1) I don’t read a ton of genre fiction. Once in a very long while, yes, I do. But I tend to read straight-up literature rather than urban fantasy or what-have-you. In fact, I think the last book (other than mine) that I read that features a vampire was Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. And that was a few years ago. And yes, I do highly recommend it.

2) I don’t like criticizing other people’s writing. Writing a book is hard. Publishing a book is hard. My congratulations to you if you have done so! I know how hard it is, and would feel bad at the thought of publicly hurting anyone’s feelings.

3) Somewhat related to the previous item, but I would also feel bad at posting a good review for a bad book just to save the author’s feelings. Because people might buy the book based on my recommendation, and then I would have caused them to waste money.

4) I don’t have a bunch of time these days. Oh how I miss being a freelancer! Sure, the money is not consistent, but I had gobs more time to work on things like writing the very delayed fourth installment of Vampire in the City, aka, Cold Blood.

However, I will gladly take a look at whatever short story of the urban fantasy genre that you have for my anthology that’s coming out in the fall! Send it to me (soon, as the deadline is July 1) at

And here is the actual call for submissions!

I am pleased to announce a call for submissions. Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in NYC will be a short story e-book anthology showcasing urban fantasy stories that take place in New York City. This will be a charity anthology; all proceeds will be donated to NYC-based City Harvest (

This is an open call and may be reposted anywhere and everywhere. This anthology is expected to be published in September 2013. The requirements: 1. All stories must be between 1500-5000 words.

2. Stories may take place in the past, present, or future. NYC should be directly mentioned or implied in the story.

3. Stories should lean more towards urban fantasy than the science fiction side. 4. Submissions must be in DOC or RTF format.

5. We will not be publishing the stories individually. Only the anthology will be available on-line from Amazon KDP.

6. Authors will not receive a royalty. All royalties will go to City Harvest.

7. Previously published works are fine, providing that electronic rights have reverted to the author.

8. Stories currently published through a self-publishing venue (Smashwords, Amazon KDP, etc) will not be accepted.

9. Deadline for submission is June 30, 2013. This is a firm date; no submissions after this date will be considered. 10. All submissions should be sent to Donna Ansari at with the words “Urban Fantasy Anthology” in the subject line.

Writing for a Charitable Cause

Between a vacation in Costa Rica and coming down with pneumonia, I haven’t had too much writing taking place recently, but still my goal is for Cold Blood to be out by this summer.

However, being that I cannot work on only one project at a time, I am also planning for my next book, which is where you come in. I have always wanted to work on an anthology, so I thought it high time I do just that. My specific idea is to release a collection of urban fantasy short stories and have the profits go to City Harvest.

For those interested in reading about this charity, which feeds so many hungry New Yorkers, click here:

I would like the anthology to be released this fall, which means the actual call for entries will have to go out soon. So if you’re reading this and you’d like a chance to have a work of short fiction published and help out a good cause, get those ideas rolling.

Another thing we’ll need obviously is artwork for the cover. I’m hoping to get this done for free, so that all of the money raised can go to City Harvest. So if you or someone you know is a budding artist willing to give your time and creative energy to a good cause, please consider this project!

More information, including the what, where, and how to submit, coming soon!