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The 42 Days of Christmas Series from MLR Press continues and today I’m posting an excerpt provided by the loverly Ally Blue!
“I don’t know why I wanted to do a time travel Solstice story. Just being contrary, I guess. I seem to have trouble doing anything the normal way. LOL.” – Ally Blue on Christmas Future
Dr. William McGregor never intended his homemade time machine to strand him and his lifelong crush in the distant future. But building a life there with Tony is everything Will ever wanted. When rescue comes, they must decide if it’s a Christmas miracle, or the end of their private paradise.
Part 1: The Future
No one was more surprised than William McGregor when the time machine he built in his storage shed actually worked.
He clutched the wheel of the riding mower around which he’d assembled his masterpiece and gaped at the wilderness where his cluttered workbench and pegboard full of tools had once been. I’ll have to show this to Dr. Rupert. She’ll have no choice but to give me the Haynes project now.
“Sweet Satan’s granny. What’s that, a projection TV or something?”
William twisted in his seat enough to glance at the man behind him. He caught a glimpse of the wide brown eyes that had captivated him for years and had to look away. “I told you, Tony. We’ve gone forward ten thousand years into the future. Which was your idea, if you’ll remember. And we got here in the time machine you are currently sitting in.”
Tony laughed. “Yeah, sure.” He grabbed Will’s shoulders in both hands and gave him a playful shake. “C’mon, Doc. How’d you do it? I gotta say, I’m impressed. I didn’t even notice the projection equipment. Then again, you could hide Bigfoot in that wreck you call a shed and no one would notice.”
Will shut his eyes and counted backward from fifty by sevens. He’d ask himself why he’d told Tony Prescott about the time machine, but he knew why. Because he was crazy in love with the man and could deny him nothing. Therefore, when he’d come strolling into Will’s shed uninvited that morning, nodded toward the tarp-covered machine and asked what it was, Will had told him the truth as if he had no choice in the matter. Of course Tony hadn’t believed it was really a time machine, which meant Will had to prove it.
He never realized he hadn’t believed it would work until it did.
Which probably said something less than flattering about his confidence in his own abilities.
He really didn’t want to think about that right now.
Will opened his eyes. “I promise you, this is real. This is the future.”
“Uh-huh. Sure it is.” Tony leaned forward until his five o’clock shadow almost brushed Will’s cheek. He pointed out through the makeshift front window of the vehicle, biceps bulging in his ever-present black T-shirt. “How the hell did you do that? Is it a hologram or something?”
Will squinted against the glare of a sun he could swear was slightly larger than usual. His mouth fell open. A flock of winged creatures he couldn’t identify skimmed over the tops of the thin, scraggly trees a couple hundred yards away. They obviously weren’t birds, but he couldn’t tell exactly what they were. He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
Tony laughed. “Man, I’d never’ve pegged you for a practical joker.” Pulling back into the rear seat, he opened the door of the rickety shell Will had cobbled together out of aluminum scraps, duct tape and bullheadedness. “Well, it’s been real, but I promised Aunt Gertie I’d help Uncle El and the cousins hang the Christmas lights. I better book or I’m gonna be late and Jimbo’ll scarf all the cookies.”
Will waited, chewing on the pad of his thumb, while the man he’d loved in silence for most of his life hopped out of the homemade time machine and came face-to-face with the facts of the situation.
For a couple of tense minutes, nothing happened. Then Tony jogged past the front window, headed toward the unusual trees and unidentified flying things.
This was not one of the reactions Will had expected. Heart thumping, he fumbled his door open, tripped over his own feet trying to get out and landed in the softest, most fragrant grass he’d ever had the pleasure of falling face first into. He took a moment to luxuriate in the coolness against his cheek and palms before climbing to his feet and running after Tony.
“Tony! Wait!” He picked up his pace when Tony ignored him. God, he needed to get out of the lab and into the gym once in a while. Not two minutes of running and he was already out of breath. “Tony, dammit, wait!”
Maybe it was the cursing that did it. Will rarely cursed. Whatever the reason, Tony stopped halfway to the grove and stared at the treetops with a blank expression. Will jogged up to him and stood trying not to gasp like he’d just sprinted a mile uphill instead of loping a hundred yards or so across a nice flat field.
“You should work out more,” Tony observed without looking at him.
Will glared at Tony’s profile. “Really? I hadn’t noticed. Thanks.” He mopped his forehead with his hand. Wow, the distant future was hot, even in December. “What’re you doing?”
For several long seconds, Tony said nothing. He continued not looking at Will, which cranked Will’s nervousness level up past eleven and into the hundreds somewhere. Never in the thirty-some-odd years they’d known one another had Tony shown any tendency toward bouts of silent thought. In Will’s opinion, this sudden change in demeanor did not bode well.
Finally, Tony shook his head and turned a bewildered gaze to Will. “I don’t understand. Where the hell is this place? How did we get here so fast?”
“We haven’t moved in space at all. We’re still in my backyard. But it’s ten thousand years in the future.”
“No, it isn’t.”
Tony crossed his arms. “Look, I know I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box, but I’m not an idiot. I know enough about physics to know that time travel is not possible.”
Will sighed. Tony possessed an above average intelligence, but for reasons unknown believed himself to be stupid. His insecurity about the whole thing was aggravating at the best of times. This was not the best of times, and Will couldn’t be bothered to find ways to present the facts while soothing his best friend’s ego.
“Tony, please don’t take offense, because you’re actually one of the smartest people I know and I think you could understand this concept if you took the time to let me explain it to you. But you’re not a physicist. I am. It’s what I do. Time travel is, in fact, possible. I’d show you my equations, but you always say it hurts your brain when I do that. In any case, I’ve been developing my theories for years now, and I have built a working time machine.” He held up a hand to stop Tony’s protest. “We were sitting on a riding lawnmower. You saw it. Did you feel any motion whatsoever when I moved the lever? Anything at all?”
Tony glanced around at the pale blue sky, the green grass, and the grove of trees which looked more odd now that they stood closer to them. The flying things were nowhere to be seen, for which Will was grateful. They gave him the shivers.
His brow furrowed, Tony shook his head. “You know what, I don’t care where this is. Or when. Or whatever. I want to go back. I want to go to Aunt Gertie’s and hang Christmas lights and eat cookies. Take me back now.”
Will studied Tony’s face. The tightness of his jaw, the way the lips Will so wanted to kiss were pressed together, the way his gaze never settled, all announced his fear of this place—this time—as clearly as his request to leave.
Guilt squirmed in the pit of Will’s stomach. He shouldn’t have brought Tony here. Forcing a smile, he nodded. “Yes, we should go back. Come on.”
He turned and started toward the time machine, resisting the urge to try to take Tony’s hand. Tony fell into step beside him.
They hadn’t gotten more than a few steps before Will realized something had gone horribly wrong. He didn’t dare glance Tony’s way, but started running as fast as he could on shaking legs, Tony racing along at his side.
It couldn’t be, it just couldn’t. He’d gone over the return loop protocols until he could recite them in his sleep. All the equations were perfect.
So why was nothing left of his time machine but a fast-vanishing dent in the grass?
Today the lovely and fabulous Ally Blue, author of The Bay City Paranormal Series, who I interviewed back at the beginning of the year, sat down with the sexy and talented Rick R. Reed to talk about his book, A Demon Inside. Dubbed the ‘Stephen King of gay horror’ by Unzipped Magazine, Rick boasts an impressive backlist that includes gay horror with a romantic edge, gay romance, and more recently, gay romantic comedy.While the genres may change, Rick’s passion to explore the lives and loves of gay men within his fiction remain one constant for which we can all be grateful.
I give you Ally & Rick…
AB: The first thing that struck me about this book was your depiction of Hunter’s grief for his grandmother — how he gets tired of the sympathy and irritated with the attention, and the numb feeling you get after a while. It was like you’d plonked yourself right down inside my brain during the days after my mom died. You described what I felt during her funeral service and afterward exactly.
My question doesn’t really relate to that, exactly, I just wanted to tell you how impressed I was with that bit Well, okay, I guess it kind of relates. It seemed to me that in a way, Hunter’s grief for his grandmother set his entire adventure in motion. What do you think? How much — if any — do you think Hunter’s deep grief for his grandmother played into his decisions down the road? I think it made him especially vulnerable to you-know-who…
RR: I’m so glad that my portrayal of grief resonated with you. Like you, I experienced many of the same things when my own mother died three years ago. I think the shock and pain of losing someone so close resonates not just for days or weeks, but for years afterward. The world we have become accustomed to is simply not the same place without that person in it. I wanted to portray how we experience many different things other than tears and sadness in the immediate aftermath of losing someone close to us; the experience can be exhausting and soul-draining, which is why Hunter felt irritated. And yes, I do think this loss, along with losing his parents at such a young age (and so violently) made him who he is and colored his choices as he moved forward, forced, finally, to be on his own.
AB: I thought it was interesting that while a lot of books follow hero’s who are "regular guys" — or if they’re rich, they’re rich playboys, ha — but this book has a hero who is rich, sheltered, virginal and extremely innocent when it comes to the ways of the world. My immediate thought was that this adventure could not have happened to anyone but Hunter. Events in his life seem to push him toward Beaumont House, events that may not have happened to someone more worldly. What do you think? Would the story have been possible with a protagonist less sheltered and innocent than Hunter?
RR: I think you’re right; the story is uniquely Hunter’s. His innocence, naiveté, and his profound sense of loss all contributed to his making the choices he did, choices that some people may consider ill-advised or even stupid, but I think they make sense within the context of the character. Beaumont House was a terrifying place and of course he should have left sooner, but it was also a sanctuary for a wounded soul who really didn’t understand the modern world that well and it also stood as a kind of metaphor for his ability to stand on his own. If he chose to flee, that would have been a smart thing to do, but in this character’s mind, it would have also been a deep personal failure.
AB: To what extent do you think Beaumont House itself and the country setting became characters in their own right? I felt like they were characters of their own, in a way, especially the house. The demon-thing was a whole other story though! **shudder**
RR: I definitely think the house, with its history, its perhaps paranormal (and evil) inhabitant, and its remote location all made it a sort-of "character" in its own right. It certainly seemed to have a will of its own, and an ability to not only terrify Hunter, but also to antagonize him in many perverse and odd ways. The house and the demon were one and the same, reflections of each other. The country setting, while perhaps not a character in the same sense, did serve as an isolating factor for Hunter, making it even more problematic to leave.
AB: As I was biting my nails through the scenes of Hunter’s encounters with the demon-thing (OMG that thing was HORRIFYING, argh!), I noticed the parallels between some of the ways it tortured Hunter and some of Hunter’s real-life experiences. I won’t say exactly what those things are, because I don’t want to give spoilers *g* But I did wonder how much of the demon-thing is created from the sufferer’s mind. Not just Hunter, but those who encountered the demon before him. So, Rick, is this demon truly, objectively, observably real in real life? Is it a creation from the mind of the tormented? Is it a combination of the two? Or are we mere humans not meant to know such cosmic secrets? (yeah I’m a Lovecraft fan, so sue me; heh)
RR: Now, that’s a question, as a creator, I really don’t think I should answer. I deliberately left things sort of ambiguous when it came to deciding whether the horror was a real supernatural entity or if it was a manifestation of mental illness. And I also deliberately made it possible for a reader to see it both ways…almost. There are definite clues though in the book that reveal whether I think the horror was real or imagined. I will just say: Remember the photograph of the house that turned up in the beginning and then again at the end?
AB: Lastly but not leastly, what do you wish I’d asked? What do you want to tell people about Hunter, about the house, and about this book in general?
RR: I wish you had asked me how this book fit into my body of work. I have had many labels applied to my writing: horror, suspense, mystery, thriller, and increasingly, romance, and I think A DEMON INSIDE is one great example of what I am trying to do in a lot of my work, which is to merge romance with horror or the paranormal. At its heart, you could look at A DEMON INSIDE as a love story, between two men certainly, but also as a love story of the self and discovering one’s own strengths and weaknesses. A DEMON INSIDE is the book I’d most recommend to ardent fans of horror and it also represents a direction I think I am moving further away from with the newer things I’m writing–I’m finding there’s more and more to be said about the connections people make when falling in love–and that fascinated me. Love and terror are actually, in many ways, both physical and emotional, two sides of the same coin.
AB: I very much enjoyed reading this wonderfully scary book, and I enjoyed serving as the delightful Mr. Reed’s interrogator *g*
Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: "Destroy Beaumont House." He’d never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.
But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And who—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, a caretaker for the estate next door, but is the man salvation…or is he the source of Hunter’s terror?
It didn’t take them long to round the curve of the driveway and all at once, Beaumont House stood before them. Just as Hunter had imagined, its imposing fieldstone looked solid and formidable against the bright blue autumn sky. Double oak doors, appearing in remarkably good shape, were outfitted with black wrought iron hinges and fixtures, all without a trace of rust. The windows reflected back the sky and the few clouds in it, looking almost black and empty. Hunter fancifully thought of them as eyes and shivered. Yet, not a single pane was broken or cracked. The glass did not even look dirty. He paused, staring at the house, feeling an odd sense of déjà vu, but couldn’t recall how he could have even seen the house before. Ian, beside him, was silent. In awe, Hunter said softly, “God, Ian, I never would have guessed.”
Ian sucked in some air. “It is beautiful, isn’t it? Even more than I remember.”
Hunter took in more details: the roof was covered in black slate tile and again, looked in perfect repair. Black shutters fronted each of the windows. The house put Hunter in mind of what he imagined an English manor would look like and he briefly imagined red-jacketed foxhunters galloping through the grounds. There was a widow’s walk around the rooftop and to one side, a rounded tower completed the imposing façade.
All of it looked move-in ready.
Hunter scratched his head and turned to Ian. “I thought you said the place was falling down.”
“I assumed it was.” Ian’s expression revealed troubled thoughts beneath. He took in the house, eyebrows furrowed. “I mean, no one has been here for decades. The place should be in shambles, broken windows, doors off their hinges, weeds growing through the floors… Yet, it looks so well maintained.” Ian paused. “I don’t understand it. I took care of the property taxes for your family, but never paid out anything for upkeep. This is weird, Hunter.”
Hunter didn’t want to voice it, but he agreed. Aside from the overgrown vegetation outside the house, the place itself was almost pristine, as if someone still lived here, let alone not having been inhabited for more than half a century. Hunter began to wonder if all the overgrown trees and other flora could be tamed into a manageable yard and garden.
“The inside is probably a mess,” Ian said, weakly.
Hunter began striding toward the house. “You do have a key, don’t you? And I would withhold judgment on the interior if I were you.” Hunter paused just outside the double doors, waiting for Ian to catch up. He took in the detail of the floor-to-ceiling French windows on the first floor, how each was topped with intricate designs in leaded glass.
Ian was making his way through the weeds, toward Hunter, cursing as he stumbled. “Yes. I have a key.” He caught up and extracted a large, old-fashioned key from his jacket pocket, coated with rust. Hunter knew Ian could say nothing about the house, but also knew the lawyer would not deterred. “How do you propose to cut through all this?” He gestured at the trees and briars choking the lawn and driveway.
“Simple. I’m sure Wisconsin has a good supply of gardeners and landscapers, many of them, I’m sure, looking for work. They have skill. I have money. It could work. Can we go inside?”
“No guarantees this key will even fit.” He came alongside Hunter and inserted the key into the lock. The doors effortlessly opened, aided by a gust of wind behind them. There was not even a creak.
Hunter was astounded. And chilled. The massive foyer, with its curving staircase up to the second floor, its crystal chandelier, its marble-tiled floor, and its mahogany paneled walls—was spotless. There was not a trace of dust or grime anywhere. The chandelier sparkled as it caught the sun’s rays coming in from outside. The wood gleamed.
Hunter turned to Ian, confused. “Are you sure no one’s been taking care of upkeep?”
Ian shook his head slowly, walking more fully into the foyer. Hunter lagged behind, following his gaze as he looked into the living room, or what Hunter supposed in those days had been called the drawing room. It too was perfection. The windows gleamed, spot-free, in the sun. The wood floors looked freshly polished. The large fieldstone fireplace—a focal point—appeared to have been freshly swept, with a stack of logs on the grate inside, awaiting the touch of a flame.
“I have never authorized a payment for upkeep. Not in all the years I’ve been responsible for your family’s holdings.”
Hunter felt a chill. “Well, someone must be taking care of the place. It couldn’t just stay this way by itself.”
“Indeed. But why?”
Hunter would have liked to tell Ian not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the truth was, he too was as disturbed by the appearance of the house as Ian seemed to be. Delightful and pristine as the place was, it simply wasn’t—natural.
“I have no idea.” Ian turned to Hunter. “This is giving me the creeps.”
Hunter would not admit he was having a similar reaction. It would be all Ian needed to hear, enough for him to urge Hunter back into the car. “Who knows? Maybe there’s some neat freak in the village who comes by and takes out his obsession on the house.”
“That would give me the creeps as well.” Ian turned, his gaze roaming across the drawing room and foyer. He looked pale. “This sounds completely strange and I hope you’ll forgive me, but I don’t want to stay here anymore. My suggestion is we both go outside, get in the car, and head back to the city. On Monday, I will make arrangements for a demolition crew to come in and tear down the place. Then we can see about selling off the land.” Ian looked to Hunter, hoping, Hunter thought, for agreement.
“I want to see the rest of it. We came all this way.”
“That’s your right,” Ian said softly. “But I don’t want to stay here anymore. I’ll be in the car when you’re finished.” He strode quickly toward the front doors, which still hung open.
Hunter watched him go, wanting to call him back. Ian paused, just outside the door and turned around. “Be careful. And be mindful that you may spend your trust fund allowance heating this place, lest you be entertaining any thoughts of moving in.” And then he was gone.
Hunter swallowed, standing in the middle of the drawing room. Fingers of dread played up and down his spine. Hairs stood up on the back of his neck. It wasn’t just the perfection of the place that made him feel so odd, it was another sensation, one he was just now becoming aware of.
Welcome everyone to the inaugural post of the 5.4.8×5 interview series, and who better to begin with than the lovely and talented Ally Blue. She had me hooked from the very first pages of Oleander House, which was my first foray into Ally’s work and she hasn’t let go of me since. I was so happy when she agreed to sit down and answer a few of my questions about this incredible series, so without further ado…direct to you from the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina, I bring you Ally Blue…
Ethan: Before beginning your BCPI Series, I’d seen a handful of the Ghost Hunter-style shows on television, so I did have a basic idea of how things worked with regard to the occupation. I’d also heard talk about portals to other dimensions related to deadly monsters, just not outside of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer type of show. You’ve blended the paranormal, horror/monster, and sci-fi elements into this series. What made you think of mixing these subgenres together in this way? Had you planned this to be a series from the very beginning?
Ally: Ha, it’s funny that you’re talking about watching Ghost Hunter type shows on TV, because the Ghost Hunters show on Sci-Fi — oh, pardon me, Syfy **rolls eyes** — is one of the main inspirations behind the series. Or I should say, behind Oleander House, mostly, because in fact I did not originally intend for it to become a series. When I first started Oleander House many years ago, it was a very dark horror novel in which everyone but Sam and Bo died, and the two of them lived unhappily ever after in the house, basically due to the strength of Sam’s mind control powers over Bo. Awful, huh? You can thank my editor Sasha at Samhain for turning it into a romance series instead. Thank you Sasha!
So, here’s what happened. One night, I had this spectacularly horrible nightmare in which I was at a work meeting (that’s not the nightmare part, ha!), walked out of the room and everyone was dead. The walls were covered in blood and there were body parts lying around. The house in Oleander House is taken directly from that dream, the whole of which took place in that house. The look, feel and entire atmosphere of the house was so striking that when I woke up, I scribbled down a description of it before it could slip away from me. Sam’s first look at the place as he drives up is pretty much what I wrote down after waking from the dream. The interdimensional critters are also my attempt to describe whatever it was that killed everyone in my dream. If I remember right, Sam had a nightmare within the book in which there was blood and body parts all over the place. That’s taken from my nightmare too. Yeah, my mind’s a scary place sometimes O_O
Anyway, that dream was the initial catalyst for the book. I’d always wanted to write a horror book (I’m a HUGE horror fan) and I thought the house and the thing from the dream would make an awesome "creature" type horror story, but it needed a context. I love Ghost Hunters, love the whole scientific investigation aspect of it, and I liked the idea of contrasting that with the creature/horror thing. Sam and Bo’s relationship could hardly be described as romance at that point, more pure lust on Bo’s part and a part-lust-part-mind-control thing on Sam’s part, but I thought it was a strong enough relationship to give a character-driven backbone to the story. Thus Oleander House was born. I wrote the beginning, I wrote the end, but I couldn’t fill in the middle. In the years since, I’ve learned that when this happens to me, it means Something Is Wrong — plot-wise or character-wise — and I need to fix it, but back then I didn’t know that. I just knew I was stuck. When I signed on with Samhain, I asked Sasha if she’d look at what I had. She made the suggestion of not killing off everyone, and continuing the tale as a romance series. The rest might be history if it was, you know, something worthy of history instead of a book series.
And that was probably WAY more than you wanted to know, LOL.
Ethan: Not at all, Ally! That was awesome. The way inspiration comes to other authors as well as getting a little bit of the back story to such a great series like BCPI is fascinating to me. Looks like we all owe Sasha a big thank you for steering the project toward a romantic series. And I think this is a great lesson, especially for any new authors out there looking to get published as well. A difficult lesson for many authors – as I think we’re all inner-world control freaks – is that an idea doesn’t need to come directly from you, the writer, in order for it to be a great idea. Very cool! Thank you for sharing all that.
I found it interesting that both Sam & Bo…even Dean are each more of an every-man type of guy. Sometimes brave but never without fear, capable of strong emotion yet not always able to show it. Not necessarily the kind of guy you’d notice right off the bat walking down the street or in a bar. They don’t seem to fit neatly into any stereo-types. Talk to us a little about that. Was this your intent all along, or just the natural selection of an author at work? : )
Ally: First of all, thank you! I’m very glad to know that my guys seem like every-man types rather than stereotypes. More than anything else, I want them to be relatable people
To answer your question, though, creating them that way wasn’t something I set out to do deliberately. I wish I could say it was, because I think that would make me sound a lot more awesome and talented than I actually am. LOL. But no, they just sort of happened that way. All my characters always seem to just sort of happen. Even in books that start from a kernel of interesting plot — or from some other outside source rather than from a character source, which is where my books usually come from — the characters themselves seem to grow organically. I don’t think I’ve ever once said to myself, "self, for this tale, you must create a protagonist with this sort of personality and these particular traits." I’ll usually begin with some simple idea, then "question" my budding character either with one of my character development worksheets or just fill in the blanks freeform as details about that person occur to me. Like with Dean, the first thing I had in my head was that he was going to be very outgoing and friendly; he just popped into my brain that way. A natural outgrowth of that was that he was a flirt. Then I realized he likes to tease and joke. His flirty, teasing personality often hides the depths of his loneliness, which he does not like to talk about. He had a history of being badly hurt in love; I literally didn’t know the exact details of that until he told Sam in that one scene
That’s an example of the sort of character-build process that usually happens. It’s always like that — it just sort of flows. I usually tweak as I go along in the book and learn new things, but I’ve never deliberately made a character a particular way. Luckily for me, the characters seem to fit into the story pretty well most of the time anyway. Heh.
Ethan: In the first three books of the series, which is as far as I’ve managed to get thus far, the closeted/coming out process has been a major theme. Was that intentional from the very beginning of the series or did it spring from the natural growth of Bo’s character over time?
Ally: As soon as I got to know Bo and realized how deeply closeted he was, I knew his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality and to come out would be central to the series. So, yeah, that overall theme threading through the series was intentional. The particulars of that theme — how it’s expressed from book to book and Bo’s progress in that area — is dependent on and built upon each previous book, so I never tried to plan in any great detail further than the book I was writing. No matter how hard I plan, the guys always surprise me somehow or another *g*
Ethan: LOL…guys have a way of doing that : )
I thought the introduction of Dean in the second book, What Hides Inside, was totally brill, especially considering the way book one ended – leaving the team short one member. His presence added a lot of emotional conflict both in the workplace as well as between Bo and Sam. It’s an incredible example of how changing one character or aspect within the larger construct of a series can wreak the kind of wonderful havoc we all hate to admit we love. Making the character so likable was even more brill, as I found myself wavering throughout the book as to the way I wanted it to end. I think you did an awesome job at setting up an alternative to Bo for Sam with Dean’s character. He wasn’t a replacement so much as another road Sam could take…and it didn’t seem like such a bad route at that. How much of this was planned and how much came organically? Did your approach to Dean’s character change at all as you were working on the book?
Ally: Thank you very much! You know, this is a particularly interesting question for me. I am so not a pantster. I always plot out the whole book before I ever start writing it. But, I don’t plot it minute detail. It’s usually an overarching plot. Key scenes are the only ones that usually get plotted in detail before I start writing. Which leaves a lot of room for characters to change things up as I go. And boy, did Dean EVER. He came waltzing into my book and damn near took over. Now, he didn’t change any big key plot points. I hardly ever have to make any big changes in my planned plot after I’ve started writing. Small changes, sure; huge ones, no. But Dean did switch things up right from the get-go and just kept on doing it.
I never expected him to be so darn nice. When I was plotting this thing out — and I’ll tell you what, I’m having trouble remembering that far back, so I think I’m right here, but I might be off a bit — I believe I expected him to be a bit more of a seducer. Someone to come in, woo Sam away from Bo long enough for Sam to realize he wants and needs to be with Bo, then step back out of the picture when Sam tells him that. Or maybe get angry when Sam tells him that, I wasn’t sure. But I did not expect him to be instrumental in getting Sam and Bo back together. I realized he would be after I met him and knew what sort of person he was. I had to adjust my plan on the fly. I have to do that with every book; it’s inevitable, really. I guess my approach to Dean’s character changed in that I had to change his plot arc because of who I realized he was, as opposed to who I’d thought he was. But it’s probably more a case of changing how the characters deal with each other because of who they each are. Or in this case, who Dean is, since Sam and Bo’s characters were already well established by then.
Isn’t it weird to talk about these guys like they’re real people? I mean, I invented them out of my BRAIN! Referring to them like they’re actual people makes me sound certifiable O_O But they really do feel like real people sometimes! They surprise me when I’m writing! As if the things they do come from my subconscious mind rather than my conscious mind, you know? Of course you know, you do it too I bet
Ethan: I do, LOL! I’ve often joked that writers are the only people who can admit to hearing voices in their head without running the risk of being locked up in a nuthouse. : )
I thought it was really smart telling the stories from Sam’s point of view for a variety of reasons, but especially when it came to the topic of Bo’s wife, Janine. We’re given clues as the state of their marriage from the very beginning of the first book, Oleander House. Having information imparted second hand through Sam added a level of detachment for the reader, sheltering us from the pain and severity that would have been there had we been placed in Bo’s POV. Was this an intentional decision on your part? I assumed you did so because that wasn’t really the story you wanted to tell, but now that I have you at the mercy of my nosiness and curiosity I wondered if you had other reasons?
Ally: I’d love to say I’m really that clever, but sadly, I am not. I told Oleander House from Sam’s point of view because it just felt right, and I continued the whole series that way for the same reason, really. I hardly ever put much more thought than that into the point of view question in my books. Which is sad, really. I feel like I ought to know why I choose the POV I do, but the sorry truth is I pretty much operate on gut instinct in that arena. Instinct leads me around by the nose in a lot of ways when it comes to writing, which makes me nervous, but there you go.
I like your interpretation though. That’s a really great way to look at it, and it’s true, isn’t it? Bo’s POV would be way too skewed when it comes to his relationship with Janine. Not that Sam can look at it with 100% objectivity, but still, there’s not as much baggage attached to the whole thing from his viewpoint. Hm. Interesting…
Ethan: Wow…thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for us. I for one greatly appreciate it. : ) Now…on to the rest of the goodies:
To find out more about the rest of the books in this wonderful series visit Ally Blue’s author profile page at Samhain – CLICK HERE
As a special treat for anyone who hasn’t already discovered the BCPI series, Oleander House (pictured above) will be available as a free read on your Nook or Kindle for the entire month of January 2011!! Happy New Year Indeed! ; )
Facing an alternate-reality horror: deadly. Facing their own secrets: much, much worse.
Bay City Paranormal Investigations, Book 2
In one fateful, first week with Bay City Paranormal Investigations, Sam Raintree learned he’s psychic, possesses the power to open interdimensional portals and accidentally let loose an unimaginable horror. If that wasn’t a busy enough schedule, he also began a relationship with his boss, the firmly closeted Dr. Bo Broussard.
Three months later, Bo’s wedding ring is off, but he isn’t ready to come out. Sam, tired of hiding, can hear their relationship creaking under the burden of secrets. Cracks appear when Bo hires Dean, a new investigator who’s bi, out and openly interested in Sam. During an intense investigation into the mysterious disappearance of three students from South Bay High School, Bo’s stubbornly cold shoulder leaves Sam only one way to go: toward Dean.
As he wonders if he should continue the fight for Bo’s love, the team discovers shades of Oleander House echoing in South High’s halls. Sam pushes his newfound psychic abilities to the limit—until an eruption of nightmarish proportions threatens to take the decision out of his hands. Permanently.
Warning: This title contains explicit, male/male angry sex, break-up sex, make-up sex, violent creatures with a taste for human flesh, sex and down-and-dirty language.
They parked the SUV and piled out into the early morning sunshine. Sam lifted his face to smile at the pale blue sky. The weather was still unseasonably warm, and supposed to continue that way right through Thanksgiving.
Within a few minutes, the second SUV rolled to a stop. Cecile hopped down from the driver’s seat while Dean stepped out of the passenger side. Bo slid out of the backseat, looking unbearably hot in snug black jeans and a form-fitting long-sleeved red T-shirt. Sam licked his lips, wishing the sight of the man didn’t make his skin tingle. Not when he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
Dean sauntered toward Sam. “So, what do you think of the place?”
“It’s gorgeous,” Sam answered, truthfully enough. “I can’t believe this is a public school. It looks more like a private college or something.”
“Yeah, but don’t be fooled. There’s no air conditioning and it floods every spring.”
Sam gave Dean a curious look as they followed the rest of the group up the steps to the archway leading inside. “Cecile said you went to high school here, is that right?”
Dean laughed. “Yeah. Of course, I graduated twelve years ago, so I’m sure some things have changed, but I’m betting there’s still not air conditioning. It’d be a real bitch to install here.”
“So, did you ever hear anything about these tunnels when you were in school here?”
“Yeah, everybody knew about ‘em. Hell, I lost my cherry there.”
“It’s true. The baseball team’s pitcher nailed me during gym in tenth grade.”
“Doesn’t sound very romantic,” Sam mused, holding the front door open for Dean to pass through.
“Oh, and I suppose your first time was on a moonlit beach, with wine and roses and violins?” Dean arched an eyebrow as he brushed past Sam, so close Sam could smell his musky cologne. “Spare me. Besides, it took me weeks of plying the boy with my considerable charm before he caved. Major closet case, that one was.”
Sam grinned. “Something tells me you were never a closet case.”
“Right you are. I proudly swing both ways.” With a quick glance at the group a few paces ahead, Dean leaned close, voice dropping low. “You’re not, are you?”
“What, a closet case? No, I’m out.”
“I figured. I can always spot the bent ones, if they’re my type.” Dean flashed a wicked smile. “And you are definitely my type.”
A spike of pure lust shot up Sam’s spine at the suggestion in Dean’s voice. Hot on the heels of his physical reaction came a wave of horrified guilt. I love Bo. How could I want Dean?
The answer, of course, was clear. Sam’s feelings for Bo couldn’t overcome his need for a warm, willing body between his legs and a hot, hard cock pounding him into blissful oblivion. Much as he wished it wasn’t true, he craved sex, and Bo wasn’t ready to give it to him. The fact that Dean was willing and able was terribly tempting.
“Would you two care to join the rest of us now?”
Bo’s irritated voice shook Sam out of his thoughts. He looked over to where Bo stood in the open doorway of the principal’s office. Bo’s cheeks were flushed, his dark eyes snapping with transparent jealousy. Sam didn’t know whether to be flattered or aggravated.
“We’re coming,” Sam said, ignoring Dean’s barely stifled giggle. “We were talking about the tunnels.”
“Yeah,” Dean chimed in. “They’re really hot and tight.”
Sam cringed. Bo gaped. Dean plowed on, apparently oblivious to them both. “I was telling Sam how I’d been down there in high school. The tunnels are narrow and low-ceilinged, and warmer than you’d think.”
“That’s true,” Mr. Innes added as they stepped through the door. “As a matter of fact, some scholars have speculated that the unexpected heat in the tunnels may have been the reason the monks abandoned the place. Evidently the original cellars didn’t turn out to be cool enough to store their wine and perishables for any length of time.”
“They didn’t tell anyone why they left?” David wondered.
Mr. Innes shrugged. “If they did, it was never recorded. The monks simply disappeared, without leaving any record as to where they were going.”
Andre’s eyebrows went up. “That’s interesting. Can you tell us any more of the property’s history?”
“I’m afraid I’ve already told you all I know.” The principal frowned. “Is it important?”
“It could be.” Bo glanced at Dean, dark eyes cool now. “Dean, on Monday I’d like for you and David to go to the main library and see what else you can find out about this property.”
“Okay.” Dean gave Bo a winning smile. “Anything in particular you want us to be on the lookout for?”
Bo tugged on his braid, his expression thoughtful. “Keep an eye out for any other disappearances especially, but you’ll want to look for anything unusual. I wish I could be more specific, but I can’t. You’ll both just have to use your judgment.”
“Got it, boss.” David nudged Dean’s elbow. “You’ll be training with me, by the way.”
Dean nodded. “Bo told me. I’m looking forward to it.”
Glancing at Bo, Sam was relieved to see the man’s eyes gleaming like they always did on an interesting case, all traces of jealousy gone. Sam caught Bo’s gaze and held it, letting his love shine through. Bo cast a furtive glance around the room, then flashed a brief, brilliant smile that made Sam feel hot all over.
Bo cleared his throat. “All right, let’s get started. Mr. Innes, what we’ll need to do first is tour the school, including the tunnels. After that, we’ll regroup here in your office, if that’s okay, and decide on an investigative plan for the day.”
“Very well. And what do you need me to do, apart from showing you the school?”
“Nothing, really,” Andre answered. “We may have more questions for you after the tour, though.”
“And we’ll need to know where the electrical outlets are,” Sam added. “In case we need to set up cameras.”
“I can show those to you as we go.” Fishing in his desk drawer, Mr. Innes pulled out a hefty ring of keys and pocketed it. “Shall we go?”
“We’re ready.” Bo started toward the office door, then turned around again. “Who’s got the notepad?”
“I do,” David said, pulling a small notebook and a pen from his jacket pocket.
“Oh, no.” Andre snatched the items out of David’s hand and passed them to Sam. “We need notes that someone can actually read later.”
David pressed a hand to his heart. “I’m wounded, man. Wounded.”
Rolling his eyes, Andre gave David a shove toward the door. “I’ll show you wounded, smart-ass. Move it.”
Still playfully bickering, Andre and David followed Mr. Innes out of the office, with the rest of the group trailing behind. As they headed down the first floor hallway, Sam found himself walking between Bo and Dean. He couldn’t help wondering just how prophetic that position would turn out to be.