The Reanimator's Heart

One Day Until The Reanimator’s Heart

As of when this post is dropping, there is ONE MORE DAY until The Reanimtor’s Heart releases!

cover by Crowglass Design

In case you haven’t heard about The Reanimator’s Heart, here is the blurb:

A reluctant necromancer, a man killed before his time, and the crime that brings them together.

Felipe Galvan’s life as an investigator for the Paranormal Society has been spent running into danger. Returning home from his latest case, Felipe struggles with the sudden quiet of his life until a mysterious death puts him in the path of the enigmatic Oliver Barlow.
Oliver has two secrets. One, he has been in love with the charming Felipe Galvan for years. Two, he is a necromancer, but to keep the sensible life he’s built as a medical examiner, he must hide his powers. That is until Oliver finds Felipe murdered and accidentally brings him back from the dead.
But Felipe refuses to die again until he and Oliver catch his killer. Together, Felipe and Oliver embark on an investigation to uncover a plot centuries in the making. As they close in on his killer, one thing is certain: if they don’t stop them, Felipe won’t be the last to die.

You can also see what others are saying about it:

The Reanimator’s Heart is my eighth novel, and it is a sort of tie-in to Kinship and Kindness as both series center around characters working in the New York Paranormal Society. The content warnings for The Reanimator’s Heart are on my specific book page for on my website as well as on the Goodreads listing (and inside the ebook/paperback).

Speaking of the paperback, that is available to order on Amazon and will disseminate to wider distribution in the coming weeks. You can also buy/preorder the ebook at all major retailers through this link and it will be delivered to your device on the 25th.

I am super excited about this book, which is sort of Pushing Daisies meets Sleepy Hollow but with MM romance.

If you pick up a copy, I hope you will leave a review! They really help authors like me out in terms of visibility and credibility.

The Reanimator's Heart

The Reanimator’s Heart Preview 2

It is officially less than a month until The Reanimator’s Heart (The Reanimator Mysteries #1) releases in ebook and paperback form (October 25th!). You can read the prologue and chapter 1 in a previous blog post. Today, I wanted to share with you chapter two. Do you need to have read the prologue and chapter 1? No. You can definitely read this one independently. Hopefully this will whet your appetite until it releases in a month.

I’m also super excited because so far the reviews that have come from early readers have been very positive. If you’re interested, you can preorder it here at your favorite ebook retailer. Paperbacks will be available closer to launch day.


Chapter Two: Masks

Felipe stared out the window of his apartment at the back of the Paranormal Society, though he wasn’t truly looking. He had been back for nearly three days, and while he slept through most of the first day, he should have unpacked his bags by now. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He had used this apartment as a landing ground between trips and investigations for years, yet it never truly felt like home. At the other hotels and safehouses, he never unpacked. Why should he here? But it was his. His name was on the door, his extra clothing hung in the wardrobe, his daughter’s picture and their family portrait sat on the dresser. Putting the teacup of sherry he had been nursing on the windowsill, Felipe snatched up the last picture they had taken as a family.

It had only been taken two years ago, but he looked so much younger to his eyes. There was no stripe of grey near his temples to mar the sweep of walnut brown. Louisa had told him it made him look distinguished, but his father was sixty and had less grey and it made him feel old. Now, he had dark circles and more lines at the corners of his eyes. Beside him in the photograph was his daughter. Teresa had been seventeen when they had had their picture taken. Where there once was an unsure girl, Teresa had now grown into a woman with plenty of ideas and opinions and a whole future unfolding before her. She was studying at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women now. One day, she would go on to study design in Europe and have her work in the best department stores, he was sure of it. While he was in town, he should take the train to visit her.

He sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. He should visit Louisa, too. She and her partner, Agatha, always knew how to snap him out of these grey moods. Vibrant, clever Louisa who never seemed to change in all the years they had known each other. She had, of course, but it always was in ways that made her more herself. Louisa grew out and up like a tree, stronger and better, while he felt the years creep over him like a fungus. With Teresa out of the house, Louisa had taken up new causes and spent more time at the gallery with Agatha. Felipe was happy for Louisa and Agatha finally having more alone time together. After all, his and Louisa’s reciprocal proclivities had drawn them together into their marriage of convenience in the first place, but it had been a long time since he had that sort of steady companionship.

Even without all the women in his life, he should be happy to be back in Manhattan. The city had everything he could possibly want: a wealth of entertainment, food he couldn’t find anywhere else in the country, the best tailors and department stores, a community of men who shared his tastes, yet he still felt hollow and alone. So unbearably alone.

At the solid rap of a knuckle on the door to his rooms, Felipe pulled himself together and put on his usual devil-may-care expression. The look fell off his face when he came eye-to-eye with Oliver Barlow. When he told Miss Jones he was looking for Barlow, he had never expected him to actually come. Barlow rarely came up to the society’s main rooms, except to eat, and almost never paid visits. Hell, he barely opened the door of his lab. In previous trips, Felipe had knocked but received no answer despite hearing the other man moving around inside. It wasn’t the worst outcome as Oliver Barlow had the worst effect on him, yet the other man didn’t seem to notice. Barlow wasn’t beautiful in the way most men were, but he was arresting. His skin was deathly pale, to the point that Felipe had thought him ill when they first met, which was only compounded by his severe black hair and grey eyes. He reminded Felipe of a drawing done in charcoal, all hues of black and white, which carried to his clothing, as he always wore the same nearly black suit and grey tie. The most color came from Barlow’s shapely mouth, which hung agape for a brief second before it snapped shut and the solemn, stiff man he presented to the world reappeared.

Behind him, Gwen Jones stood watching them with interest. Felipe often wondered if Miss Jones had taken to Barlow for the contrast alone. He was all stillness while she was all motion. She was full of warmth with her copper skin and vibrantly patterned dresses while Barlow exuded a sepulchral air befitting his job. She flashed Barlow a grin before slipping down the hall. He stared at her longingly as she mouthed, “You’ll be fine,” before he turned back to meet Felipe’s gaze.

“Gwen— Miss Jones said you wanted to speak to me.”

“Yes, please, come in.”

Barlow hovered in the doorway a moment too long, and for a second, Felipe thought he might book until he seemed to force himself to dart inside as if he didn’t trust himself to slow down. Closing the door behind them, Felipe turned to the tea service he had forgotten on the sideboard. Beneath the garish cozy, the pot remained warm. As he poured some tea into his remaining sherry, he watched Barlow from the corner of his eye. He stood in the center of the room with his hands clasped behind his back, but his gaze slipped over the furniture and hearth, lingering on the closed door on the far side of the room. Felipe thought Barlow lived at the Paranormal Society as well, though he could never figure out which room was his.

“Would you like some tea?”

Barlow hesitated again. “Yes, thank you.” He added in clipped tones, “One sugar and a finger of cream, please.”

“A finger? You don’t hear that often with tea. I have sherry if you’d prefer it.”

Crinkling his nose, he shook his head. “No, thank you. Tea is fine.”

Felipe poured him a cup, careful to follow Barlow’s specifications with the man’s grey eyes boring into him. He must have done it correctly as a ghost of a smile appeared when Barlow saw the color of his drink.

“Please have a seat.”

Trepidation flickered over the medical examiner’s face, disappearing as quickly as it came. Taking the chair across from Felipe, Oliver Barlow sat ramrod straight with his ankles crossed and looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but in Felipe’s sitting room. Better to get it over with.

“You probably know I recently returned from a trip out west with Inspector Monroe. While we were in California, we were asked to visit the estate of an anatomist of some renown who recently passed. The old man was into some esoteric things, but I came across a few specimens I thought you might be interested in.” Felipe’s lips quirked into a smile at the flash of interest that stole across Barlow’s features. “I have no idea if they’re what his records say they are, but I thought they might be of interest to you. I wanted to let you have a look before one of the junior archivists gets their hands on it and it disappears. You know how the archivists are.”

From behind the armchair, Felipe carefully hefted the crate and placed it between them. Barlow’s eyes widened as he abandoned his tea on the armrest. He stared at the box with a reverence that belied the grossness of its contents.

As Barlow reached for the nearest jar, he snatched his hand back. “I should probably look at these later, downstairs.”

“You can look now if you want. I brought them back with you in mind.”

“You thought of me?” Barlow asked, his gaze solely on the specimens, but Felipe swallowed hard at the way he said it. The way Barlow’s voice became huskier, softer, when his attention was focused on things he liked went straight to his groin. The voice he used when prattling with Miss Jones was so different from what he used with the rest of them, but in the quiet of the sitting room with a box of specimens before him, Felipe thought he glimpsed the man underneath all the irreproachable tidiness and polite austerity.

Of course I thought of you, Felipe wanted to say, but instead, he sat in the armchair across from him and watched Barlow slip from the chair to kneel before the box. “As I mentioned, the man who owned the house had passed and his family wanted the Paranormal Society to collect anything they thought might be dangerous or useful. It isn’t all paranormal, but I figured you might know what they are and do something with them. Dissect them, maybe? Or add notes for the archives? They probably would have been thrown out otherwise. His daughter wasn’t particularly thrilled by the collection.”

Inside sat nearly a dozen specimens pickled in unknown fluid or alcohol. A few boasted disembodied tissue, limbs, or whole organs while the rest were from animals or sea creatures. A wax model of a werewolf in mid transformation laid at the bottom beside a pile of notebooks filled with anatomical and life drawings. Or that’s what Felipe could surmise from his quick perusal. Looking at the more realistic drawings turned his stomach. He had seen enough things during investigations for his mind to fill in the horrific blanks.

“Some of these are new to me, but I already have a few of the more typical specimens. That isn’t a problem, though. You can’t have too many preserved hearts,” Barlow said, holding up a jar where a crusty, fist-sized heart sat serenely in cloudy, amber liquid.

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“I have a few in my personal collection already, but they’re all different. They usually look the same from the outside, but inside they might be thicker or scarred or clogged with oil. You wouldn’t always know that by looking at them. When you’ve seen one heart, you really haven’t seen them all.”

“And this is why you’re good at your job. You’re always willing to look beyond the obvious.”

Barlow’s ears and cheeks pinkened. Dropping the notebook he held in his other hand, he sat back on his heels and looked up at Felipe as if for the first time. “I never even asked how your trip was. That was incredibly rude of me.”

“It’s fine.” Felipe batted the thought away with a wave of his hand. “Honestly, I’m tired of talking about it. Everyone just wants to hear a good story, not the truth. I’ve retold the story at least five times. It’s hard to remember all the embellishments I added to make it interesting at this point.”

“You could tell me. The true version, that is.”

Staring at him for a long moment, Felipe nearly did. Oliver Barlow, strange as he was, wouldn’t ask for more than Felipe could give. He had never asked him to regale him with tales of monsters and saving the day. Barlow knew what the monsters looked like when he and the other investigators finished with them and what they could do to an unsuspecting victim. Felipe shook his head. The sherry must be loosening his tongue.

Instead, he put on his most affable smile and took another long sip of sherry-laced tea. “No one wants to hear about paperwork and estate sales. Tell me about your work instead. What have you been up to?”

“Nothing too arcane.” It didn’t seem like Barlow was going to elaborate, but when Felipe gave him a pointed look, he continued, “An investigator brought in a man they thought was mauled by a werewolf today. It turned out that his pet tigers tried to eat him.”

Gaping at him, Felipe laughed. “Is this a normal day for you?”

“Not really. Why?”

“Because you said it so casually, ‘Oh, he was eaten by his tigers,’ like it’s completely normal for that to happen.”

Oliver flipped through the leather tome in his lap without raising his gaze as he replied, “Stranger things have happened. Werewolf prejudice is all too common when, in reality, foolishness is the most common killer.”

“How did you figure out it was a tiger?”

Slowly putting the book and jars back in the crate, Barlow shifted back on his heels. Felipe watched as the other man seemed to slowly stiffen. The warm interest in his features had been replaced by something tight and bland. A lock falling tightly into place.

When Barlow spoke again, his voice had taken on a clipped, clinical quality. “The claw and teeth marks didn’t match a wolf. And the man owned two pet tigers, so that was the logical conclusion. I should really let you get back to whatever you were doing. I have a report to write about Mr. Henderson.”

Standing, Barlow returned his nearly full teacup to the tray and hefted the box into his arms as if it were nothing. Felipe wanted to say something. He wanted to ask him to stay and to tell him more about his cases, but there was a purposefulness and finality to Barlow’s movements that made that feel futile. Instead, he opened the door for him.

“Thank you for bringing these back for me, Inspector Galvan. I’ll make sure they make their way to the archives when I’m done with them.”

With a final nod of goodbye, Barlow briskly took off down the hall. Felipe stood watching his retreating back until he disappeared around the corner. Returning to the empty apartment, Felipe wished he knew what he said to make him leave.

***

Unlocking the laboratory door with the box balanced on his knee, Oliver barreled inside before he could drop it. The moment he put it down, he sank to his knees with his back pressed against the hard wall. His breath came in a panicked rush. Why did Galvan have to ask about how he knew? It had been going so well. “Well” being a very relative term, but Oliver had had many conversations go catastrophically wrong, and that certainly wasn’t one of them. But Galvan had to ask about the one thing he couldn’t discuss. When Oliver turned up at the New York Paranormal Society after being dismissed from Howard Hospital, they had been hesitant to take him on. On one hand, a doctor with extensive dissection experience and a tie to the paranormal meant they would have someone who could do forensic investigations without running out of the building screaming. Taking on a necromancer, on the other hand, was far less attractive.

From a young age, he had made certain his abilities were only a footnote on his record. The few who knew when he was hired worried they had made a mistake putting a necromancer in charge of a room full of dead bodies. Imagine the havoc he could have caused, but he made sure to downplay his abilities. After all, he could barely make a bone dance. Mostly because he didn’t try hard in front of them, but they didn’t need to know that. The less he said, the better. They couldn’t know that his methods were often as scientific as they were direct. His employers liked results and little mess, and as long as he gave them both, they rarely asked for specifics. But Galvan asked questions. Friendly questions any normal person would ask, but Oliver couldn’t answer like a normal person. If Galvan knew he could wake the dead, he would never think of him the same way again. He wouldn’t trust him, he wouldn’t bring him specimens from far-flung assignments, and he certainly wouldn’t take tea with him in his rooms.

Oliver pressed his eyes with the heels of his hands. Why couldn’t he have been born with telekinesis like Gwen? Hell, if he had been born a werewolf, his life would have been easier. People were afraid of them, but that fear faded. The fear of someone who could manipulate the dead, potentially manipulate them one day, always remained. He could never forget that. Releasing a tremulous breath, Oliver shook out his hands and rubbed his face. Keeping Galvan at arm’s length was the most sensible solution. He had done it for years, and he would keep doing it. At least Galvan would probably be heading out on another mission soon, so all he had to do was hide away in the lab for a few more days, a fortnight at most, until he was gone.

Picking up the box of specimens, Oliver had gotten as far as the supply closet when a heavy knock sounded on the lab door. “Just a minute!”

At least no one but Gwen would barge in. Oliver smoothed his hair and the front of his clothing before making sure his face was set. He cast his gaze over the laboratory tables and floor one more time for anything he missed with Mr. Henderson and opened the door. Head Inspector Williams stood on the other side, his military bearing obvious even after years on land. Despite being past sixty and having a wooden leg, he was always the one to come all the way down to the basement to fetch Oliver when he needed something. Sometimes Oliver wondered if that was because Head Inspector Williams liked to stay active or because those under him refused to venture to the morgue.

“Mr. Barlow,” he said by way of greeting as he walked past Oliver into the laboratory’s anteroom. Once Oliver shut the door, he continued, “Have you gotten the chance to take a look at Hezekiah Henderson’s body yet?”

“Yes, sir. I don’t believe the cause of death to be paranormal. The bites look to have come from a wild cat, not a wolf or demon, as far as I can tell. They don’t appear to have human influence in terms of placement, so I would rule out a shifter.”

The older man nodded thoughtfully as he walked toward the shelf where Oliver kept his medical texts. Oliver tried not to flinch as the head inspector picked up a wax model of an eye and twirled the wooden stand between his hands. “I expect your report will be ready soon, so I can pass it on to the investigators.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.” When he put the model back with a thunk, Oliver’s shoulders relaxed a fraction. “Now, I need you to go out to the Corpus Christi Monastery in the West Bronx. A nun died, and the sisters suspect foul play— of the magical kind.”

Oliver frowned; it wasn’t often he was called out to the scene of a crime. “Why isn’t the body coming here?”

“The sisters aren’t comfortable with one of their own being brought to the Paranormal Society. They’re already going against their better judgement calling us in to take a look just in case.”

“Do you know why they suspect it’s something paranormal?”

“No idea, but you know how those types are, a superstitious lot.” As Oliver opened his mouth again, the head inspector held up his hand. “Save the rest of your questions for the nuns, Barlow.”

“Then, I’ll get my bags and leave within the hour, sir.”

 “As much as I appreciate your expediency, Mr. Barlow, you might want to wait for your companions. That way you only have to take one steamer.”

“Companions?”

“I’m sending you out with Newman and Galvan. They’re Catholic and less,” he made a vague gesture at Oliver’s person, “so they’ll smooth things over for you. It’s for the best that they go in first. The nuns are already jumpy.”

And you’ll make it worse. Oliver clenched his fist behind his back even as he nodded in agreement. “Yes, sir. I’ll meet them upstairs shortly, then.”

“Good. I knew you would be reasonable.” Head Inspector Williams took a step toward the door to leave but turned and said, “If you could clear this matter up quickly, I’d appreciate it. No dog and pony show if it isn’t necessary. Not everyone needs to be sliced and diced, you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” he replied tightly.

When the head inspector left, Oliver stood very still watching the shut door. For his entire life, he had heard the same thing: too brusque, too to the point, too honest, too you, too much. He could make himself as small as possible and they would still say it; they still did. Sighing silently, he gathered all the things he would need into a gladstone bag and prepared himself mentally for the ride to the West Bronx. His hopes of avoiding Galvan were dashed, but luckily, the man would probably not want to talk to him anyway after how he bolted. Locking the laboratory door behind him, Oliver eyed the plaque that read, Oliver Barlow, Medical Examiner. It should have read, Oliver Barlow, unsuitable, as always.


If you’re excited to read The Reanimator’s Heart, you can preorder your ebook copy at all major retailers by clicking this link.

Personal Life · The Reanimator's Heart · Writing

The Fear of Success

This isn’t actually the post I had planned to put up this week, so bear with me if this seems off the cuff because it is.

Since the end of last year, I’ve been trying to get my shit together, especially in regard to my writing life. I ended up taking both of Sarra Canon’s classes, HB90 (a planning/goal setting system) and Publish and Thrive (a course on indie publishing), because I felt like I was spaghetti flinging hoping what I was doing would work. I’ve been sort of methodically moving forward trying to set and hit goals in order to move toward what I want. That goal is having more time for creative pursuits, leaning more into my writing, and only teaching at the university that gives me better opportunities and is better for my mental health but pays less. I have a chunk of savings as a cushion and have been trying to strategize how I can go about doing this in a way that doesn’t totally kick my butt and doesn’t depend on my partner landing a much better job as we cannot control that.

The Reanimator’s Heart has sort of been step one in that goal. It’s the project I’ve been working on since I started trying to get my shit together, and things have been going well. I do well with structure and goals, so I have surprised myself by actually getting a lot done. After taking Publish and Thrive, I was also able to brush up on what is working in indie publishing right now, and from watching various indie authors on Youtube, I’ve been working on my publishing strategy for this book. In the past, I’ve sort of just haphazardly launched things. I would let them rip as soon as I finished or not send them to any bloggers/ARC readers. I’ve certainly done things to tank my own success because I was more excited about people reading my work than doing a good job with the launch. This time, I’ve purposely slowed myself down, made lists, made a half-formed plan for releasing this book.

The problem is that I’m scared because it’s working.

Yes, I raised my eyebrow at myself too at the realization, but as reviews have been rolling in and people are enjoying the book, I’m panicking more. The cover is beautiful (thank you, Crowglass Design), the characters are lovable messes, and the pacing and such is solid. Between this book and Kinship and Kindness, I think my skills leveled up in certain areas, and that sort of rise and recognition of that rise is scaring me.

What if this is the best book I ever put out? What if everything after this is a disappointment?

Thus far, I haven’t gotten too far into my own head, but the panicked thoughts are seeping through more and more. The pitiful thing is that this isn’t like super viral panic-worthy success. This is “I’m doing better than my previous launch” success.

After everything that’s happened these past two years and my own issues with confidence as a creative person, I am always waiting for the shoe to drop and things to go wrong. It is an absolutely shitty way to look at life, but part of me feels like I should be bracing for impact instead of celebrating that things are going well. It’s possible to do both; I wildly vacillate between “Omg, look at my preorder numbers” and nail-biting panic.

Part of this, I think, has to do with also reaching outside my comfort zone with this launch. I set up my book with a review service, and I’ve reached out to a few authors I love and respect for potential blurbs, which I’ve never been brave enough to do. Pointing eyes to my work is something that could pan out for me, but also could potentially magnify the imperfections. Logically, I know not everyone will like my book. Certain people will absolutely hate Oliver and Felipe, which is fine. It really isn’t bad reviews that are bothering me (trust me, I’ve seen enough homophobia on The Gentleman Devil‘s reviews to cure me worrying about them). It’s a fear of success.

What if this book does really well? What if more people start reading my books? What if they’re disappointed when they go through my backlist and the rest of my books aren’t as good? What if nothing I write after this is as good as The Reanimator’s Heart? Or what if someone outside my usual circle sees it and sends the 1 star mob after me due to homophobia or whatever other assholery they can come up with?

Living in the age of the internet means constantly worrying about the wrong kind of attention for your creative projects, especially if you’re a queer author writing queer characters or in this case, a neurodivergent author writing neurodivergent characters. Will someone flag Oliver as “the wrong kind” of autistic and rip me and him to shreds? I could come up with a myriad of what-ifs at this point, all of which get more illogical and self-destructive.

On the flip side, I’m constantly trying to remind myself that people preordering and/or enjoying The Reanimator’s Heart is a good thing. It means I’ve done a decent job planning this launch, and that its success might move me a step closer to my goal of having more of an income from writing. This success isn’t random is something I have to remind myself. It means that I took the things I learned and applied them in a way that worked. Like I said earlier, this isn’t a runaway, gone viral, wtf happened kind of success. This is a building upon past success with previous books to make this launch even better. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I put in the work, and by doing so, things feel less out of my control.

I’m sure I’ll still have several absolute oh-shit panic moments between now and October 25th, but I’ll just reread this post and stare at all my past to-do lists to remind myself that months of work went into this launch and I should be proud of what I’ve done instead of scared.

If you’d like to help out while simultaneously adding to my panic, you can preorder The Reanimator’s Heart here. Paperbacks will be available closer to release day.

The Reanimator's Heart

A Preview of The Reanimator’s Heart

As a little treat and to whet your appetites for The Reanimator’s Heart, I thought I would share the first two chapters of the story. Keep in mind, it is still undergoing editing, so there may be a typo or two. The Reanimator’s Heart is the first in a new queer paranormal fantasy series and is an off-shoot of Kinship and Kindness as both take place around the New York Paranormal Society.

If you like what you read, you can preorder an ebook copy of The Reanimator’s Heart at all major retailers here:


Prologue

The Hand of St. Catherine

God only granted Sister Mary Agnes glimpses of the sublime on Thursday nights when the moon rose high enough to peek through the tallest windows of the monastery. Despite praying with the other sisters five times a day and spending hours in solitary prayer and study, she only received visions in secret. Stealing across the courtyard to the chapel, Sister Mary Agnes paused to gaze up at the darkened windows of their sleeping quarters to make certain she hadn’t awoken the other sisters. So far, she had been lucky in that no one had noticed her leaving in the night. Perhaps they thought it merely insomnia cured by meditative prayer. The Mother Superior might tolerate that, but would she put a stop to it if she knew that one of the sisters had lied by omission about having visions for years?

As she pushed open the chapel’s oaken doors, a beam of moonlight broke through the stained glass windows floating high above the altar, casting the faces of Christ and the Virgin in stark relief. Motes danced before the crucifix as Sister Mary Agnes fell to her knees, relishing the way the cold stone burned through the layers of her habit. She reached deep into her pocket until her fingers found the rosary her mother’s family had carried all the way from Bohemia. This wasn’t the plain rosary she used in daily prayers or when she prayed beside the sick. It was beautiful and far too fine for her. Its lush mahogany and gold medallions smacked of the decadence she had forsworn at her vows. She couldn’t flaunt the piece in public for obvious reasons, but she also couldn’t trust that it wouldn’t suddenly reveal her secret during the day. The timing of the holy visions had been consistent, but she wasn’t ready to tell the world yet. At the tug of the spirit within her, she pressed her forehead to the ground.

She should know better. If God wanted her to lose control, it was his divine will, and she had to trust him. She let the wooden beads slip between her fingers in time with the movement of her lips. With each prayer, her mind cleared until she brushed against the center pendant representing the First Mystery. Her heart slowed, then hastened as every muscle in her body seemed to tighten and go slack all at once. Sister Mary Agnes should have been afraid, and she had been when her mother presented her with the rosary of some long forgotten cloistered great-aunt and the visions began. At thirteen, she knew she was destined for sainthood. For who saw visions of the Almighty and the Holy Mother but saints?

Sister Mary Agnes’s lips parted and her eyes rolled back in her head at the wave of toe-curling ecstasy overloading every synapse in her body until she could sense nothing but her soul pulling through time to meet the soft brown eyes of the Blessed Mother. Today, she wore the guise of a weary woman about her mother’s age, her face lined with age, silver threads weaving through her ebony hair. For one tender moment, she held Sister Mary Agnes’s face in her gnarled, olive hands. Light flooded the nun’s vision. Love purer than any human could know bore down upon her, terrible and beautiful as the woman holding her. Blood dripped from the corner of the Virgin’s eye, and Sister Mary Agnes knew. She knew, and she wasn’t afraid. She would be returning to the Lord.

Her sisters would find her papers, and they would know. The friend she had been writing to for years about her visions would help publish her writings. He would see things through. She could die in the Blessed Mother’s arms knowing her last vision would go unrecorded as long as the others would live on. With a sear of light, Sister Mary Agnes left this world.

***

Sister Mary Agnes’s body slumped forward, limbs akimbo before the altar. The shadow in the nave waited, watching the nun’s still back to confirm she was truly dead. He would end up in hell, of that, he was sure. If all the other things he had done hadn’t put him firmly there already, this sealed it. Standing over her body, he knelt and carefully rolled her onto her back. Her eyes were half-closed and her lips lax, but even in her habit, he recognized her face. It was the same face he seen and loved throughout his boyhood when she was still called Maggie. They had both gotten out of the tenement and made something of themselves but only one could survive. As he closed her eyes with the lightest brush of his fingertips, he winced at the blooming pinpricks of blood left behind by what he had done. He wasn’t sure he regretted it, but he was sorry it had come to this.

Sitting back on his heels, he checked her empty palms and invaded her pockets only to find paper and a medal. He couldn’t risk lighting a candle and drawing the attention of anyone who could see the chapel windows, but he had to find it. If the sisters got their hands on it, he would never see it again and killing her would have been for nothing. Prostrating himself before the altar, a flash of gold glinted from beneath the nearest pew. The moon still hung high in the night, so he wrapped his handkerchief around his hand and carefully pulled the rosary out by the chain. In the faint light, he could scarcely make out the miniatures engraved in the softness of the gold medallions, but even without seeing it, he could sense the relic humming within the crucifix.

Peeling the fabric back, he stared down into the face of Christ, barely more than an impression of features. Unlike most crucifixes, this Christ’s arms were not attached to his body, but that wasn’t obvious unless you knew that once upon a time, the thin form of Christ had been the bone from a saint’s palm. Saint Catherine’s visionary magic and the belief of her followers had permeated her very bones. While most of her body resided in Siena in pieces under glass, someone had the forethought to keep a fragment of her hidden away in the most unassuming reliquary. There were few things he appreciated about those who came before him, but the people of the Middle Ages knew how to sense magic and grab onto it with both hands. For centuries, there had been rumors that someone had the hand of St. Catherine somewhere in Europe, but it had been lost for over a two hundred years. It wasn’t until his friend had doodled on the margin of a letter that he realized what she had. She never knew. Maybe that was his one regret, but perhaps it was better she died thinking the visions had been a blessing and not a fluke of fate.

Wrapping the rosary up tightly, he stowed it in his pocket and turned his attention to Sister Mary Agnes. He could leave her to be discovered in the chapel, her body looked whole enough, but the nuns would surely sense something was amiss. Pleasure and pain warred in her ecstatic expression, beatific as St. Teresa. The eyes would give him away. Lifting her into his arms, he backed out the way he came through the darkened halls to the kitchen and the snowy trees beyond the cloister. Sister Mary Agnes’s head lolled against his chest, but he pretended she had fallen asleep and he was carrying her home. This was why he had volunteered to do this himself. It wasn’t cruelty, it was mercy. None of the others would have been as gentle in the face of such awesome power.

Graves of past sisters and the local faithful broke through the ground like gentle hands reaching for her. Beside them stood a lifesize statue of the Virgin on a pedestal of rough stone. This was where he would leave her, safe among the people she had longed to be. The others had said to burn her or bury her or drop her in the nearest river. He couldn’t. He would just have to leave her here and trust the sisters would think she had frozen outside. Laying her before the statue of Mary, he carefully arranged her body to look as if she had fallen asleep on her side.

“Good night, Mags,” he whispered, pressing his lips to her temple. As he walked toward the tree line, he stopped at the sensation of eyes boring into his back, but when he turned, all he found was the Blessed Mother’s all-knowing gaze.

Chapter One

Foolish Choices

Dead people had been at the center of Oliver Barlow’s world for as long as he could remember, but that didn’t mean he liked them. On one hand, they were the optimal patient. They were quiet, they could be put away when he was tired of dealing with them, they didn’t hide things they would have in life, and they truly couldn’t help any weird noises or smells they made. Unfortunately for Oliver, they rarely stayed so innocuous in his care. Taking one last long swig of coffee, Oliver steeled himself for what he was about to do.

Mr. Hezekiah Henderson had come all the way from the Pennsylvania countryside sealed in a lead-lined casket laden with preservation spells. That should have kept him, but as Oliver well knew, it didn’t always work. He had read the man’s file three times to better understand what may have happened to him before his death and to put off his least favorite activity. Mr. Henderson had been found disemboweled in the woods outside his home. Oliver sighed. Preservation spells could only do so much. With a final breath of uncontaminated air, he cautiously freed the latch and opened the casket.

Inside, Mr. Henderson rested with his sightless eyes staring ponderously at the morgue’s ceiling and his mouth agape. The man inside still looked like a wealthy businessman with his well-groomed, albeit now askew, mustache, uncalloused hands, and what remained of an expensive pinstripe suit. A suit that had now soaked up a considerable amount of blood and offal, but that was unavoidable as his chest and neck had been flayed opened by what looked like claws and teeth. According to their report, the investigators thought it could be a werewolf attack or something far more esoteric from beyond the veil. Craning his neck and pushing up with his knee on the table, Oliver measured his hand against the claw marks. They were large, but werewolf attacks tended to be far less messy than this. Wrinkling his nose at the familiar metallic, meaty tang of innards, he carefully tidied Mr. Henderson’s remaining entrails into his abdomen and buttoned his jacket over it. At least Mr. Henderson wasn’t too far gone yet.

After washing his hands and double checking that all sharp instruments were out of reach, except for the scalpel tucked into his pocket, Oliver leaned into the coffin and laid his hand over Henderson’s forehead. He closed his eyes and focused on the faint glimmer of life still clinging stubbornly to the man’s body. The microscopic organisms crawling through his intestines, the muscles that fought to clench and unclench as his life slipped away, the minor storm still cascading through his brain. Oliver’s breath hitched as the hook caught and Mr. Henderson took a shuddering breath. The tether burrowed deeper between them, sending Oliver’s heart sputtering until the other man blinked his still dead eyes and sat up in his coffin without seeming to notice the holes in his chest.

“Who are you?” Henderson rasped, his voice whistling through the tear in his throat.

Oliver straightened and schooled his features against the familiar discomfort. “Oliver Barlow, sir. Now, this may be alarming to you, but you are dead. You have died and are at the New York Paranormal Society in my lab. I just want to ask you a few questions.”

“Dead! I’ll have you know—”

Like clockwork with the older men, but at least the less than freshly dead were easily distracted. “Mr. Henderson, what is the last thing you remember? Did you summon anything from beyond the veil recently?”

Henderson recoiled like he had been slapped. “Summon anything! What do you take me for? I have never summoned anything in my life. My gift is speaking to beasts. If I had summoned a demon—”

“Sir, what is the last thing you remember?” Oliver stood with his arms crossed and resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. These people were infuriating.

“I was petting my cat, Shiva.”

Oliver looked from his hand to the deep scratches across the man’s body. “Shiva is a Hindu god, isn’t he?”

The dead man’s eyes lit up, though Oliver could feel his hold slipping. Mr. Henderson would soon realize he could step out of the coffin and that would only led to problems. “Why yes. I named him after the deity. His sister is Durga.”

“And how long have you had Durga and Shiva?”

“Since they were cubs.”

And there it was. “Durga and Shiva are tigers, aren’t they?”

“Of course, they are, but—”

“Thank you, Mr. Henderson, you have been most helpful. Have a good rest.”

Before the man could say another word, Oliver snapped the tether. Mr. Henderson fell back into the coffin with a squelch as Oliver wretched at the horrid sensation of being covered in bugs. He hated the awful feeling of every hair standing on end when he cut the tether and the remaining energy raced across his skin. He rubbed his palms on his trousers and gagged again. It never got easier, and the longer he let them prattle on, the longer the feeling lasted. Shaking out his hands and taking slow, deep breaths at least helped. After a long moment, he steadied his breathing long enough to slam the lid shut and lock Mr. Henderson in for good. Oliver hurried over to the sink and washed his hands again. He winced as the water burned his chapped flesh, but it was worth it to be rid of any traces of Mr. Henderson and his energy.

“And all for death by pet tiger,” he murmured under his breath with a derisive sigh. He would have to take measurements and do sketches to confirm his findings, but at least there wasn’t something supernatural wreaking havoc in their world. Death by foolish choices was a far too common cause of death for Oliver’s liking. Half the people the Paranormal Society brought to him died by their own thoughtless hands and not on purpose. A spell gone wrong, thinking they could persuade a lesser demon should submit to their will, a box haunted by a spirit that they just had to open. While the cause of death didn’t say it, death came because they lacked a healthy respect for their own gifts or the otherworldly creatures that lived among them.

The one good thing to come out of his job was a healthy fear of his own abilities. For most of his life, Oliver Barlow hated being a necromancer. People weren’t keen on those who could raise the dead, and when you factored in his “unsuitable” temperament, he felt like a pariah at the best of times. But he highly doubted his ability to raise the dead would get him killed. He had too many fail-safes and rules to ensure that didn’t happen.

Rolling the worktable over to the storage drawers, he shoved the bespelled casket out of sight. He would deal with the particulars of Mr. Henderson’s case later. Now, he would write up his report for the head inspector. Hopefully the tigers hadn’t gotten too far. As he put pen to paper, he paused at the sound of a slow click behind him. He focused on his chest, but the tether had broken. Certainly, it couldn’t be— He had only half-risen when the laboratory door flew open and slammed into the wall. Oliver jumped, whacking his leg into the desk and knocking over the stool. Biting back a murderous look, he was relieved to find Gwen Jones standing on the landing, admiring her handiwork.

“Apologies, Ol. I don’t know my own strength sometimes,” she said between wheezes. “The door and wall are all right, though.”

Tripping over the fallen chair, Oliver rushed to her side. Her usually rich brown skin was startlingly pale and flushed with sweat that flattened the tight curls framing her face. He slipped an arm around her elbows and quickly steered her into the room’s only other chair. She rolled her dark brown eyes but didn’t stop him.

“I’m fine.”

“Forgive me, but you don’t sound fine.”

Oliver darted over to the bench under the window and grabbed one of his personal mugs. Decanting a cup of syrupy, overcooked coffee, he winced at the astringent smell of burnt grounds. It would have to do.

“Here, inhale the steam for a bit, and then, drink it. The heat should help.”

“If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were trying to poison me.” Gwen took a slow sip and grimaced. “That is disgusting. Please tell me you don’t drink it like this normally.”

“I got involved with,” his eyes drifted to the preservation cabinet, “something.”

“I’m sure I don’t want to know, though that would explain the smell.”

“Try not to talk until you can breathe, please.”

“Yes, Doctor Barlow,” she rasped sarcastically but without malice.

Taking another cautious sip, she watched Oliver from over the cup. She knew he was practically vibrating on the inside. He had given up practicing medicine as a doctor almost as soon as he started, yet old habits died hard, especially when it came to Gwen. As she drank, he listened for the echoing wheeze of her breath, but after refilling the cup a second time, the crackle had mostly disappeared. Asthma could kill as swiftly as tigers. The thought of that made his chest tighten as he sat stock-still on his stool.

Sensing his mounting anxiety, Gwen released a sigh and lightly patted his arm. “I’m fine. Seriously, Ol. I’m fine now. The drink helped.”

“Good. So, what was so important that you had to risk your life to visit or were you running from someone?”

“Ugh, I think it was John Marsh’s godawful cologne that set me off. I walked into a cloud of it, and it took my breath away. I wasn’t even close to him!”

“And you came running to warn me to stay away to avoid a cologne headache? Or do you have more corpse-related questions for your research.”

“You wish. Unless you’ve had vampires in here, you are of no help to me.”

“There’s no such thing as vampires.”

“So says you.” A sly smile graced her lips when she added, “Actually, I came to get you because a certain Inspector Galvan is back in town, and he would like to speak to you.”

Oliver’s cheeks flushed all the way to the tips of his ears. Quickly averting his gaze, he emptied the remaining coffee into the sink. “Any idea what he wants? I was about to write out my report about—”

“Oliver!” Shaking her head, she gave him that sad, barely piteous look. It was mostly exasperated amusement, but he still felt that minor sting of pity. That he must have no idea he was self-sabotaging when he full-well knew he was and couldn’t help himself. “The dead can wait. Go talk to Galvan.”

He opened his mouth to speak, to refute the urgency of reporting a tiger attack, only to deflate. “Will you come with me?”

A grin shot across her lips as she moved to catch his arm and haul him up the stairs. “Of course, now let’s go before you lose your nerve.”

He sniffed and froze. “No, wait.”

“Oliver.”

“Two minutes outside first, that’s all. Don’t give me that look. It’s important. I don’t want to smell like a corpse.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Two minutes.”

“Two minutes.”

With a fleeting glance over his shoulder at the morgue, Oliver slipped out the door to the loading bay and pressed his back against the cold brick. A flurry of snow swirled across the pavement and over the black leather of Oliver’s boots, but it did little to cool his nerves. No one was around, so he shook out his hands and paced in time with his breath. How could he want something so badly, yet dread the very thought of it? Panic coursed through his veins as he sank to the ground in a tight ball. He would just be very still. As long as he was still, he couldn’t say anything foolish or weird. Counting to forty, he braced himself and went back inside before Gwen could fetch him.


If you enjoyed this snippet of The Reanimator’s Heart, I hope you will preorder it by clicking the button below. Liking and sharing this post on social media also would help me immensely and is free ❤

The Reanimator's Heart

The Reanimator’s Heart Cover Reveal

For the past month or so, I’ve been working with Crowglass Designs as he created the most perfect cover for The Reanimator’s Heart, and let me tell you, keeping this under wraps has been HARD. He is an absolutely fantastic designer who understood the mood and tone of The Reanimator’s Heart to a T.

The Reanimator’s Heart is the first book in the Reanimator Mysteries series and will be out October 25th, 2022. You can preorder the ebook now, and the paperback will launch in October.

Check out the cover along with the blurb and the preorder links below:

Manhattan, 1897

A reluctant necromancer, a man killed before his time, and the crime that brings them together.

Felipe Galvan’s life as an investigator for the Paranormal Society has been spent running into danger. Returning home from his latest case, Felipe struggles with the sudden quiet of his life until a mysterious death puts him in the path of the enigmatic Oliver Barlow.

Oliver has two secrets. One, he has been in love with the charming Felipe Galvan for years. Two, he is a necromancer, but to keep the sensible life he’s built as a medical examiner, he must hide his powers. That is, until Oliver finds Felipe murdered and accidentally brings him back from the dead.

But Felipe refuses to die again until he and Oliver catch his killer. Together, Felipe and Oliver embark on an investigation to uncover a plot centuries in the making. As they close in on his killer, one thing is certain: if they don’t stop them, Felipe won’t be the last to die.

CWs include but are subject to change/not limited to: Death, dead bodies, murder, violence, grief, gore, Catholicism/Christianity, on page sexual content, mentioned/remembered ableism against autistic people, blood, consumption of relics/human tissue


You can preorder The Reanimator’s Heart at

| Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play | Add it on Goodreads |

By the way, if you’ve read Kinship and Kindness, you may recognize some characters in The Reanimator’s Heart as both series share the New York Paranormal Society.

Once again, thank you for stopping by, and I hope you will share this post or pics of the cover if you’re excited about The Reanimator’s Heart.

The Reanimator's Heart

Writing Update TRH #1

I promise the next blog will contain some helpful info about writing, but between allergies kicking my butt, stepping up my writing, and other random life goings-on, my brain is not working. Instead, I wanted to talk a little about The Reanimator’s Heart, which is my current work-in-progress.

Since we last spoke about The Reanimator’s Heart, several exciting things have happened. The first being that I finally finished the synopsis/blurb!

A reluctant necromancer, a man killed before his time, and the crime that brings them together.

Felipe Galvan’s life as an investigator for the Paranormal Society has been spent running into danger. Returning home from his latest case, Felipe struggles with the sudden quiet of his life until a mysterious death puts him in the path of enigmatic Oliver Barlow.

Oliver Barlow has two secrets. The first, he has been in love with the charming Felipe Galvan for years. The second, he is a necromancer, but to keep the sensible life he’s built as a coroner, he must hide his powers. That is until Oliver finds Felipe murdered and accidentally brings him back from the dead.

But Felipe refuses to die again until he and Oliver catch his killer. Together, Felipe and Oliver embark on an investigation that will take them to the darkest corners of New York to uncover a plot centuries in the making. As they close in on his killer, one thing is certain: if they don’t stop them, Felipe won’t be the last to die.

If you are a writer, you understand the head-on-desk weeping that is involved in writing a blurb. Shockingly, this one came together after only about three drafts, which makes me incredibly happy. I highly recommend How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis by Bryan Cohen if you’re struggling to write your blurb. Right now there isn’t a preorder link for The Reanimator’s Heart as I am waiting on the cover from my cover designer first before I set it up, but you can add it on Goodreads if you’re so inclined.

Speaking of the cover, I have been talking to my cover designer for this book and I am super excited to see what he comes up with for this story. His artwork fits the aesthetic perfectly, and he’s done the covers for one of my favorite authors, so I am very excited.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing, playing catch up, and writing some more. Everything around my house is in full bloom, so I am in allergy hell. My body likes to overreact to things I’m allergic too, even with the medicine I’m on that is supposed to tamp that down, so my brain is swimming through the fog most days. April has been frustrating to say the least. I set my word count goal at a very manageable 500 words a day since I’m still restretching my writing muscles, and I managed to fall behind within a few days of the month starting. It took until last Friday to finally hit my current target word count, so now all I have to do is stay on track. Cue the panicked laughter. Truthfully, all I want to do is watch Our Flag Means Death (hooray for the gay pirate romcom we all deserved) and play video games, and if I get a day ahead in terms of word count, I’m taking a day off to rest my brain. During my procrastination time, I also made these character mood boards for Felipe and Oliver, respectively, and commissioned character art from @bloodwrit on Twitter (thank you, Vic!)

Art by Bloodwrit/Vic

I know I’m biased, but I really love Oliver and Felipe. Oliver is brilliant but reserved and sort of sheltered. Felipe is worldly but deeply unsettled about what his life has become though he won’t admit it. Together they’re a fantastic team with enough knowledge to take on almost anything, but can they manage to help each other find a way forward toward the life they want is the question. What I’m also loving about writing this is where future books in the series will go. Oliver’s necromancy really only starts to bloom in book 1, so there are so many places it can go while the specter of past necromancers looms large over him. The Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow meets Pushing Up Daisies feels are ever present in this story, and my hope is that the strange mix of gruesomeness and tenderness are something you all are into.

I think this is where I will leave you all today. If you want a little more of The Reanimator’s Heart to tide you over, you can check out its Pinterest Board and playlist.

The Reanimator's Heart · Writing

Introducing The Reanimator’s Heart

You may have seen me talk about my current WIP, The Reanimator’s Heart, but I realized I really haven’t gone into what the story is truly about. Today, we’re going to change that, especially because this month’s author newsletter will include a never before seen snippet of The Reanimator’s Heart. If you’d like to join my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking here.

I started writing The Reanimator’s Heart, or at least toying with the idea, while I was struggling with my mental health getting worse during covid and losing my dad. At the time, I had been working on Trousers and Trouble, which is such a joyful book that I was struggling despite knowing where I was going. This book, on the other hand, is definitely a reflection on loss, autism/neurodivergence, chronic illness, grief, and the things left behind after death. At the same time, this book is actually coming out far funnier and lighter than I expected. Are there heavy themes and a high body count? Yes. Are these characters having a grand old time and incredibly charming? Also, yes.

First off, where does The Reanimator’s Heart fit in the Kara Jorgensen extended universe?

It is technically an off-shoot of The Paranormal Society Romance series. The story takes place in the New York Paranormal Society as mentioned in Kinship and Kindness where Bennett works. Originally, I debated including this book as part of the Paranormal Society Romance series since it runs concurrently with what I already have planned, but neither of the love interests are trans (and there’s a trans MC in each of those books) and the book is a bit more mystery than romance. Like a lot more of a mystery than romance. Then, as I was brainstorming The Reanimator’s Heart, I realized I had an idea for a second book with the same couple. It just made sense to split this book off into its own series, which will be titled, The Reanimator Mysteries.

What is The Reanimator’s Heart about?

The Reanimator’s Heart is like Penny Dreadful meets Vienna Blood with a healthy dose of Tim Burton’s style of levity (like Pushing Up Daisies). That sounds incredibly contradictory, but my work is generally on the Gothier side of dark complete with at least some of the campiness that makes the Gothic so much fun.

Here is the rough working blurb:

Oliver Barlow is the coroner for the New York Paranormal Society, and he has been harboring a secret from his coworkers: he’s a necromancer. He often solves cases by briefly reviving the dead, asking them a few pointed questions, and sending them back to the great beyond. Anything more and he could be treading into dangerous territory. His life working (and living) in the basement of the Paranormal Society has been going smoothly until Felipe Galvan returns to the Paranormal Society after a bounty hunting mission across the country. For years, Oliver has had a crush on Felipe, and they soon find themselves working on a case together involving a murdered nun. All is going well until the same person who murdered Sister Mary Agnes comes for Felipe. When Oliver finally musters up the courage to ask Felipe Galvan out, he finds him dead, and accidentally reanimates him. But Felipe will not go quietly. He refuses to die until they figure out who murdered him and solve the case. Things far worse than murder are afoot in Manhattan. Oliver and Felipe soon find themselves facing a cabal ready to unleash something horrific into their world.

As you can probably tell from the blurb, this is probably a little closer in tone to my Ingenious Mechanical Devices series with murders, monsters, and m/m romance.

Why am I so excited about this book?

Because I love Oliver and Felipe. Oliver is the science goth of my heart. He’s sweet yet awkward, and a lot of what he deals with comes directly from my experience as a neurodivergent person. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be in an overactive, overthinking brain, you’ll definitely get it in his point of view. On the other hand, Felipe is dashing, courageous, but much like Oliver, he presents a mask to the world. He has plenty of his own issues that he’s running from. He grapples with what it means to be undead and to suddenly have one’s powers and life suddenly change (cough chronic illness analog cough).

Speaking of Felipe, his extended family has been one of my favorite parts of writing this book. Felipe is in a lavender marriage with his wife, Louisa, who is a relationship with a trans woman, Agatha Pfeiffer. Together they have a daughter, Teresa, who is in college studying art and design. Felipe, Louisa, and Agatha raised her together. I really enjoyed working in another trans character, especially one who would have been part of a growing trans culture back in Germany (if you’ve never heard of this, please look up Willi Pape or Magnus Hirschfield) and who has a child/family.

The details.

The Reanimator’s Heart will probably be out in the fall of 2022. I’m not setting a date or preorder until I completely finish the manuscript, but you can add it to your Goodreads TBR by clicking here.

At the end of the month, I will send out the first sneak peek of the story exclusively to my newsletter subscribers, so if you’re interested, you should sign up here or by clicking the button below. You may also want to sign up in order to get the first look at the cover in the future and to get some interesting weirdness packaged and emailed to you every month.