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The playful quartet that penned the acclaimed Once Upon A Dyke are dimming the lights for journeys into worlds of breathless seduction.

Haunted castles and lost ingenues, shadows hungry for life, immortal beings of power claiming their captive souls—everything is possible when the sun goes down.

Curl up for seductive, skin-tingling novellas, perfect for bed time. Don’t worry—the flutter at the window is only the curtain in the breeze . . .


Barbara Johnson, Karin Kallmaker, Therese Szymanski and Julia Wats join forces again for the third in their critically acclaimed New Exploits series, creating unique stories with lesbian erotica, humor and adventure. The result is what Curve Magazine called “a true rarity.”


an introductory musical passage of
two or four measures often repeated several times
before a solo or between verses

to piece (something old) with a new part

to practice seductive wiles on

one who lives by preying on others

a woman who exploits and ruins
her lover—short for vampire

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From Elsewhen by Therese Szymanski


I: Rhenné

Two days before Halloween

It had been a long day, filled with many criminals. I was totally and utterly exhausted. On top of all the regular crime that happened in Warren—which, as the third-largest city in Michigan, just north of Detroit, always had its share of crime—there were also now a few gangs terrorizing the Detroit metro area’s convenience stores, gas stations and mom-and-pops.

But I didn’t have anything in my apartment for breakfast, and I knew I wasn’t going to want to go very far in the morning before eating—so a quick stop at my local, neighborhood 7-Eleven was definitely in order. And who knew? Maybe while doing so, I’d run into Fattie, Shortie, or one of the other members of the crime sprees. My partner, Chuck Gertz—one of the few detectives in the squad who didn’t mind partnering with a woman as long as she pulled her own weight—had been joking yesterday about how lucky catching the baddies in the act would be. That might make our jobs a lot easier. But things were never that convenient.

Or at least, not usually. This time, I pulled into the lot and immediately saw them: two men, one lying on the sidewalk in front of the store, apparently unconscious, with another leaning over him. Leaning over his neck.

I slammed on my brakes and leapt from the car, pulling my gun. “Freeze!” I yelled, using my door as a block. The crouching one sat on his haunches and looked directly at me. His lean and compact frame reminded me of a jungle cat’s—ready to attack at any time. For a moment he really did seem like a panther, what with his black clothing, bloody fangs and sleek, dark looks.

Chuck is so never gonna believe this. I almost pulled the trigger, but froze even as I realized I was imagining things—I mean, there was no way he had fangs that were dripping blood—and he was also . . . strangely familiar.

I don’t know how long we were caught, stopped dead, staring at each other. I was the good guy, he was the bad guy, and it felt as if I ought to be a lover, not an enemy. I tried to remember where I knew him from, but couldn’t. I couldn’t place him, identify him, or remember him. But my whole body shook and I almost fell to my knees when I experienced a vivid, whole-body remembrance of gasping in ecstasy while he held me close.

He finally looked down toward the body at his feet, breaking our connection. He sighed as he rose to his feet. He wasn’t very tall. Not tall at all, in fact. To be honest, he was rather short.

“I said freeze or I’ll shoot!” I yelled as best I could over my suddenly dry mouth.

“No, actually, you didn’t. You just said ‘freeze,’ “ he said nonchalantly, wiping his mouth. He had a slight accent I couldn’t place. He was dressed all in black—black jeans, black boots, long black leather trench coat and untucked polka-dotted black shirt. But his sense of style didn’t matter as much as the fact that he now held his hands out to his sides in a non-threatening way, as if he was surrendering.

I took a deep breath, still trying to calm myself, and inched around the car door toward him, keeping my gun up. Trying to keep myself focused on what was actually happening—and not on—

The feeling of him picking me up in his strong arms and carrying me to safety, no matter how many times I told him I did not require his assistance . . .

Him leaping up onto my windowsill and looking across the room at me as if he was about to eat me in a very good way . . .

His tongue—his body—between my legs as he made me come from the inside out . . .

How much I just wanted to touch him and be with him and in his arms and . . .

The images flew through my mind, leaving me breathless and wanting, craving and reeling—

He kicked the limp arm of the guy on the ground. “He’s the one that you want.” He nodded toward the store—indicating the clerk, I guessed. “She’ll tell you everything you need to know.”

“You have to stay.”

“No, really, I don’t. And I can’t,” he said, smiling sadly at me.

“You have to give a statement.” I kept my gun trained on him, but it didn’t really seem to bother him in the least. It was rather disconcerting.

He raised an eyebrow and shook his head slightly. “You’re not her.” He looked me up and down. “She’s gone now. Forever. I just have to accept that.” He looked right into me again then sighed. “And I have things to be and people to do.” He said the phrase, in his dark low voice, as if he’d coined it. It’s hard to explain how, but it sounded different than when someone was just using the same tired old cliché.

Then, before I could say or do anything, he was gone, leaping on a motorcycle I hadn’t even noticed—carefully ensuring the tails of his coat were tucked under him. He moved so swiftly it was as if he flew.

It was only when I heard the sirens approaching that I came back to reality and stopped staring after his bike.

Great. I didn’t mind some dead perp, but I did mind a new problem on my beat. Nobody likes a vigilante.

• • • • •

“I knew I shouldn’t have agreed to work this shift by myself. No way, no how, I said.” The clerk, a short, black woman who seemed powerful and sure of herself—the sort of small, black woman you know can get even the biggest, baddest dude in line and saying, “Yes, Mama,”—came out to stand next to me and smoke a cigarette. “See, Georgie was sick and they couldn’t find anybody to replace her, so I said, sure, no problem, just so long as you pay me overtime. After all, I’d be working for two. I mean, I’m only working here to pay my way through school. I’m pre-law at Wayne State and all.” She kicked the guy on the ground. “And this guy is so the asshole I want to make sure gets locked up forever.”

“What the hell are you doing?” I said, dropping to check out the guy on the ground. I had entirely forgotten about him somehow! He cackled gleefully as he ripped open the carriage doors to pull me from it and throw me onto the hard ground. I feared for my very life at the hands of these swarthy highwaymen. No, I thought, this was not a good time to relive the worst of my nightmares.

“I talked ‘em into time-and-a-half—” she continued.

I shook my head, not knowing why I felt so dizzy. “What the hell happened here?” I asked. The guy on the ground was pale, with a rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing. He had two pinprick- sized marks in his neck and bruises were rapidly appearing on his visible flesh, but he didn’t appear to be shot or stabbed. I couldn’t figure out why I was so sure he was about to croak, except maybe he was suffering from internal bleeding, and that was why he was so pale.

“This dirtbag,” the clerk tried another kick, but I stopped her with my hand. She satisfied her urge by flicking ash on him. “He tried to rob me. Or was robbing me when that . . . that . . . invincible, super-strong, short dude came in and saved me. Man, that guy kicked this dude’s ass good!”

A patrol car swerved into the lot, lights flashing. Two armed officers jumped out, aiming their guns at us and the store.

“Shh,” I told the clerk. I stood, raising my hands over my head and making sure she was behind me. “My name’s Rhenné Leon, badge three-eight-two,” I nodded down to my badge and name tag. “I’m off-duty Warren. We need an ambulance.” I indicated the downed perp.

“I called for an ambulance once Superdude threw this guy outta the store,” the clerk said from behind me.

“Oh,” I said, hands still up. “An ambulance should already be on its way.”

“I know Leon,” one of the cops said. “She’s Gertz’s partner.” Then, to me, “Is he the only one?” He was checking out the store and surrounding area.

Fuck me and the horse I rode in on. My head still wasn’t on right from that guy with the dark, soulful eyes. I hadn’t even thought of securing the scene and ensuring there were no other perps or civilians present.

“Yes,” the clerk said, saving my butt. “He’s the only one.”

I lowered my hands and knelt again. “Looks like he’s lost some blood,” I said. “And the only wounds I can find are right here.” I pointed the marks out to the other cop I now recognized as Hardy. George Hardy. And his partner, Chris O’Keefe.

George and I checked out the store, inside and out, to ensure no one else lurked about—that there wasn’t an accomplice waiting for us—while Chris kept an eye on the perp.

I was sure these crime-spreeing types worked as teams, so this guy must’ve had an accomplice, one who’d gotten the hell outta Dodge as soon as Superdude had shown. Or else I was totally barking up the wrong tree. The paramedics came and picked up the perp, whose ID said he was John Francis Peterson. I was willing to bet it wasn’t a fake, since no low-life convenience store thug would put the name Francis on anything he’d chosen for himself.

George and Chris interviewed the clerk and I stuck around since I was wondering about the clerk, what happened, and, well, the Man in Black. I convinced myself I was just checking to make sure all my theories about the crime-spree guys were correct, but really, I was hanging around because I was more than a little curious about the vigilante.

The clerk’s name was Sheryl Montgomery. She was 28 and lived in Detroit with three roommates. She worked way up here in Warren since it was a lot safer and she could make better money working here than in the cheap, close-to-campus neighborhood where she lived.

“I’d just finished restocking the shelves,” Sheryl was saying to George, “and was standing outside the store, having a smoke and thinking there was something in the air. I mean, it was like a storm was brewing or something—but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The breeze was almost cool and it really felt strange. It had an . . . ominous . . . feel to it, the feel that it gets when something’s gonna happen, and you just hope it’s gonna happen to somebody else.” She shrugged. “As they say—famous last words and all, y’know? Anyway, so I was just standing there, smoking, and running through a bunch of dates in French history in my head.”

“Huh?” That was George. Man, was that George, always ready to call people on things that didn’t make sense.

“I’m in college, pre-law, y’know? I already told you that. Anyway, so I was standing there smoking and running a mental review in my head for a test—French history—and a beat-up old Chevy—one of those ancient two-door types with the huge-ass hoods and an engine that’ll blow you away—pulled up. And this dude got out of the front passenger’s door, gave me a look and went into the store. So I dropped my smoke and followed him in. He went to the back cooler and grabbed some beer. I went behind the front counter. And that was about when I realized that bad feeling in the air was for me, and not some other unlucky son-of-abitch. Sometimes you can just tell, y’know?” Her preciseness with facts gave me some hope for a possible future for her as an Assistant D.A. I hoped she was in it to prosecute and not defend.

“Yes ma’am, I know,” George said. “So what happened then?”

“He came up to the counter, carrying a thirty of beer. I asked for ID, even though he looked like he might be old enough. That’s one thing you gotta be careful of in this line of work is making sure they’re old enough. Unless they look thirty, I ID ‘em. No exceptions. So he reached inside his jacket, like he was grabbing his license, but pulled out a gun instead. He told me to open the register, put all the money into a bag and give it to him. He was totally cold, ruthless and straight about it.”

“What made you think that?” I asked. Chris and George both looked at me, reminding me they were on duty and I wasn’t. I nodded my understanding with a single, subtle nod. Some roband- runs ended with beat cops filling out the paperwork, but I was sure detectives were on their way, since this was sounding an awful lot like one of our gangs.

“It was like he had a plan,” Sheryl said. “I’ve been held up before, by guys on drugs, and I know way too many addicts. This dude was straight—as in, not on drugs.” She paused, looked up at us, and said, “Did you know you’re more likely to die on the job by working as a convenience store clerk than as a cop?”

“Yes, ma’am, we know,” Chris said, apparently realizing how she liked to wander about in her narrative. “So he came in, pulled a gun and tried to rob you. Then what happened?”

“I recognized this M.O., but still I didn’t believe he’d just take the cash and run. I mean, really, no telling what he’d do to me once I gave him the money. Scum like this are the reason I’m getting into criminal law—to make sure those like him never, ever, see the streets again once they’ve been locked up. Anyway, then he told me he was gonna take the beer, too. So I told him I was going to grab a bag—a paper bag—to put the money into, and I did that. Just that. I tried not to make any sudden moves. It was when I was emptying all the money from the register into the bag that I realized I was never going to see another sunrise in my life. And that was when he walked in. Superdude. The short guy. I didn’t know what to make of him. I mean, he walks into the middle of a holdup . . . what do you do with that? Really?”

“So we’re talking about the guy who came in, beat up Francis, and took off?” Chris said.

“What did he look like?” George asked.

“About five-three, five-four,” Sheryl said. “We got that tape measure by the door, so we can give better info about bad guys, and I’m sure that’ll tell you just how short this guy was. When you see him leaving on the vid and all. Dude was short.”

“Then what happened?” Chris said, again putting her back on track.

“Well, it was . . . It was weird. Beyond weird, really. The bell over the door tinkled when Superdude came in, asking for a pack of Newports, and hold-up dude aimed his gun at Superdude like he was so gonna shoot him, and I was all thinking that this was my chance to do something. So I hit the silent alarm.”

“Hold on,” Chris said. “Who aimed at who?”

Sheryl faced off with Chris. “Superdude came in and Bad dude aimed right at him. Said, ‘Don’t move,’ and Superdude said, ‘Or what?’ And was practically next to the jackass—Bad dude—before Bad dude pulled the trigger. The weirdest thing was that it looked almost like Superdude hypnotized Bad dude or something.”

I kinda knew the feeling. “What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“Well, it was like Bad-dude-Francis-the-Man looked at Superdude, aimed, and . . . had to struggle to actually pull the trigger. Like he wanted to but didn’t want to at the same time. Y’know?”

“So the gunman shot this mysterious customer?” George said, obviously trying to bottom line all this jackass, code-name bullshit.

“Well, yeah. First he was all like, ‘Stop, or I’ll shoot,’ and Superdude was just about daring him with, ‘Really?’ And then Francis shot him. A bunch of times. All direct hits. I saw the bullets hit Superdude, and I saw Superdude jerk backward when they did. I so thought he shoulda been dead!”

“Hold on,” I said. “You’re saying the robber shot this vigilante at close range, and yet the vigilante was still able jump on his bike and ride outta here? After beating the bad guy up and all.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Superdude shoulda been lying dead on the ground, but he beat the crap outta Bad dude. He fuckin’ slugged Bad dude so hard Bad dude went flying. I mean, how the fuck d’ya think those cooler doors got smashed? Superdude hit Bad dude outta the ballpark, even though Superdude was like chock full of lead and all. It was like something outta the movies and all, I’m tellin’ ya.”

“Then what happened?” I asked.

“Superdude picked that jackass right up and carried him outside. He must’ve took six shots before he took that guy’s gun away, but he picked him up like it was nothing. I just wished he’d a come back inside for his goddamned cigarettes, ‘cause I’m tellin’ ya, that was a man who seriously needed his nicotine fix.”

I suddenly realized that what I’d seen on Superdude’s—the vigilante’s—shirt wasn’t polka dots, it was blood. Blood ‘cause he’d really gotten shot. Repeatedly. And then drove away on a motorcycle.

“I gotta tell you,” Sheryl said. “When I finally went outside, I was glad Superdude had taken out that asshole—as in, knocked his ass out cold, ‘cause . . . well . . . that poor mother-fucker got the crap kicked outta him. I know I’d hate to be beat up like that and still be conscious. He was all bloody. I heard him scream a couple of times, but, out here, nobody would’ve cared. It’s all good.”

“When did the car leave?” Chris asked.

“Which car?” Sheryl said.

“The getaway car,” Chris said.

“Fuck if I know. I was kinda distracted and all.”

• • • • •

The only explanation was that the vigilante had been wearing a bulletproof vest. At least, that was the only logical reason for why he hadn’t been killed by the shooting. As for everything else . . . There was just something very much not right with him. He really kinda spooked me out, actually.

Which was why I needed more beer.

Funny, I thought, as I ran into the kitchen table—all right, despite my large alcohol consumption, but my feet seemed to be broke. On my trek back to the couch, the phone rang.

“Yeah-lo,” I said, answering it.

“Leon! What the fuck’s going on?” Chuck said.

“Oh, Chuck, my buddy, my partner. Thanks for the call back. I think he was wearing a bulletproof vest.”

“Rhenné,” Chuck said with the same tone he’d use on a two-year-old. “Are you drunk?”

“Three sheets, baby. Three sheets.”

“What happened tonight?”

“Coincidence. The impossible. I went into a Seven-Eleven when it got robbed, and, man, you got to see the surveillance vids, ‘cause it’s all wicked whacked.”

“Wicked whacked?”

“Yeah. Huh. Say that three times fast. So when can you get over here?” Wow. My beer. It was empty already.

“Leon,” Chuck said, “it’s the middle of the night. You’re not hurt or bleeding. You’re just really drunk.”

“Yuppers. That I am.”

“So there’s really no need for me to leave my wife and children in the middle of the night to see you just a few hours after we just got off our seventh twelve-hour shift in a row.”

“You think more clearly than I do. And you’re the only one I can really talk to about this shit. I sure as shit couldn’t talk to those morons there tonight. George and Chris.”

“Aw, Leon, you’re gettin’ soft on me,” Chuck said, yawning.

“Go to sleep, bud. I’ll fill you in on . . . in two . . . three . . . when we see each other again.”

“Call me if you need to.”

“Gotcha,” I said.

“Like you should’ve a few hours ago,” Chuck said, just before hanging up.

Fucker didn’t even let me say good-bye.

I leaned against the wall for a moment, resting my head, before grabbing another beer to take with me back to my lounge chair. After all, I wouldn’t want to just sit down before needing another refill.

“Who the fuck was calling at this hour?” Paula said.

“Fuck, don’t do that!” I’d forgotten my little sister was crashing at my joint tonight.

“I was trying to sleep through all your noise.” She made the Paula Grumpy Face as she pulled a beer out of the fridge.

I stumbled to the table to sit. And missed.

“You’re drunk,” she said. “You’re really stinking drunk. What the hell happened tonight to make you freak out so much you needed to kill a . . . twelve pack?”

Oh, yes. It was because of the freaking and the drinking that I was forgetting so much. Even as drunk as I was, I couldn’t admit everything about tonight—about why I suddenly knew reincarnation—the wiggiest fruit loop theory ever—was real and all that. No, not know so much as believe.

I could only hope that in the clear light of day, and hangover, reality would return to my universe.

“The impossible happened,” I said from the floor. “Never happened. None of it. But you . . . You came here because . . . because . . . something happened with your . . . boy . . . boyfriend . . .” I slurred as I stumbled to my feet and toward her. “I need another beer.”

“You really don’t,” she said. “But here, have this one.” She thrust a can into my hand. A full can. Oh, glory. “And that wasn’t the question.”

“Goddamn you,” I said, after swallowing. “This is . . . this is water!”

“Runner, you’ve always been the sober and obedient one. What the hell is all this about?” With a wave she indicated me and the twelve brave, empty, little soldiers.

“I already told you—you, oh she who does not live with me but moved in nonethe . . . nonethe—”

“Nonetheless. Got it.”

“I was coming home tonight after work . . . No food here, so I had to stop to get something for breakfast—some breakfasty yumminess . . .”

“And . . . ?” Paula asked.

“I stopped at Seven-Eleven. The one right up the goddamned road at Thirteen and Hoover. And it’d just been robbed.”

“Yeah, I got all that before,” Paula said. “From when you were wandering around, talking to yourself while I was trying to sleep.”

“I don’t talk to myself.”

“You always have. Go on.”

“So all this shit went down, and I got there right after, and there was this mesmeric guy. This incredible dude. But he took off. And then we—me and George and Chris—talked to Sheryl, the cashier, after we packed off John Francis in the ambulance . . .” I kinda wanted to sleep. Really rather needed to, in fact. And my kitchen floor looked really nice and cool.

“I still don’t get what happened that freaked you so,” Paula said, sitting across the table from me. I saw her morph through three different looks and outfits: First she was a nun, which worked for her with the grumpy face she does; then she was some sort of renaissance harlot (or maybe a renaissance witch?), which also worked for her ‘cause when she’s not grumpy she’s a hottie; and then it was like she was some la-di-dah Jane Austen high-buttoned lady.

I really needed to finish drinking my water. I was way too drunk.

“From what the clerk said, this guy got shot—repeatedly—and still did incredible, unbelievable, shit. I mean, I saw him after, and thought his shirt was polka-dotted—but it was really splattered with tons of his blood!”

“Oh, god. Did he like die in front of you?”

“No! He got on his goddamned bike . . . and . . .” I suddenly remembered something—somethings. I found a pad and pen and tried to write, but couldn’t. “Here,” I said to Paula, “write this down—he jumped on his bike, a Harley, with California plates, and took off!”

“Okay, and this is important why?” she said, writing.

“From what the clerk said, he should be dead, but he wasn’t, and he nearly killed someone, and then disappeared and we don’t have a lot to go on!” I got up, again excited by this, and grabbed another beer from the fridge. “Y’know, Sheryl—she’s a real bad ass, did I mention that? I think she’s gonna be a French Perry Mason some day.”

“Uh, yeah.” She took the beer out of my hand before I could even open it.

“She talked about Superdude a lot. And then we—Chris, George and I . . .” I remembered how this vigilante made me feel, and I slowly slid to the ground.

“No, no, Rhenné,” Paula said, stopping me as I tried to lie on the kitchen floor. Grunting and cussing at me, she hauled me to my bedroom. “Your bed is a lot more comfortable. C’mon now. Walk with me here.”

I could never say no to my baby sis. Neither could most guys, what with her being so attractive with long, blonde hair and green eyes. Plus, she sometimes did this flippy thing with her hair that I could never quite get down right. People thought we looked a lot alike. But she was younger and . . . bouncier. “You thought I was . . . always . . . moving . . . running so fast. Always running. When we were younger. Plus, you couldn’t say my name.”

“Yes? So what happened, Runner-who-will-regret-the-last-sixbeers- tomorrow?”

Yeah. Like I was gonna tell her ‘bout how this vigilante looked at me and made me pudding. Like I’d admit I didn’t want to sleep ‘cause I knew I’d just dream about him and pasts we never shared. Fruit Loops, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Then I realized she was just wanting specifics, things I could point my finger at and say, “There, this is why I’m drinking myself silly tonight.”

So I said, “We watched the surveillance tapes. And we saw the bad guy entering and trying to rob the joint and all. And we even saw him flying through the air like that nun, on that TV show—d’ya remember that?”

“Yeah, yeah, I got the memos and the speeches and all the rest of it, Runner. Got it all already. Except one answer.”

“And, uh, yeah. Right. Which one’s that?” I was on my back in a dark room and it was nice and peaceful. Restful. Oh, my. Closing my eyes felt quite nice. And stopped the room from spinning.

“Why the fuck did ya get home and drink yourself under the table?”

“Because nothing made sense,” I said, rolling over and burying my head under a pillow. “Plus, well, I couldn’t reach Chuck.”

“Oh. Okay. Fine. And, by the way, my darling, loving sister—I’m fine staying here as long as I’d like, right?”

“Huh?” I sat upright.

“You got here all scared shitless. Nothing’s ever scared you before. So what happened? Give me the truth and I’ll move out quicker.”

“Paula, I already told you that you can stay here as long as you . . . want. Need. You’re my sister.”

“So tell me what happened tonight already. Why you needed to come here and drink yourself stupid.”

“We watched the surveillance tapes, to get more on this mysterious vigilante.”

“And . . . ?”

“Nothing.” I said. “I saw this guy, face-to-face, and then, we looked at the tapes and he wasn’t there. You’ve heard it all, honest. Just let me sleep already.”

“Hold on, what do you mean he wasn’t there?”

“We looked at the surveillance tapes from the store. Repeatedly. Several times. And . . . He. Wasn’t. There. I saw him—California plates on his Harley-Davidson bike. It was big and black, just like everything he wore. Well, actually, since he wasn’t too big, everything he wore was small and black. But the bike was big and black.” How could I tell her—or anybody—that I saw him and he got inside me, somehow, or maybe he was already there, and it’s like he took something out of me when he drove away?

“So what did you see on the tapes?”

“Our perp just flew across the joint, got smashed, smushed, smunched and tossed away like bad white trash all on his own. Nobody done him wrong. In the least. Where vigilante Superdude ought to have been—nothing.”


II: Daron

. . . meanwhile . . .

Can I help you?”

“I have a reservation. For a week. Silvers, Daron Silvers.” I handed the clerk my driver’s license and credit card. It was handy to have appropriate identification for several different countries in unlife. Any vamp who planned and thought ahead had that aspect covered.

“Yeah, I can guess which group you’re with,” the clerk said, his disgust clearly showing through. His little white-trash ass must not have cared too much for the large group of lesbians staying there this Halloween. I really wished we could stay someplace a little classier some time.

“I hate traveling these days. I just can’t wait to get back home. To my castle,” I said, filling out the paperwork lightning fast.

“Yeah. Whatever. Room two-ten,” the clerk said, handing me my keys. Evelyn kept stressing that we stayed in these cesspools because we were trying for anonymity. Mostly.

“It’s in England,” I said, letting my English accent flow freely. I reached across the counter and thwapped his shoulder so hard he flew backward. He’d annoyed me with his homophobia and I wanted to make sure he wouldn’t even think of messing with us further. “Cheerio, mate.”

Behind the Book

Now this was one novella theme I’d been waiting for the New Exploits' team to vote for. My co-authors knew I was a Buffy fan, and a vampire fan… and at least one knew I had this little project lying around called Vamp! (Obviously, it was decided to use the first page of that manuscript for a kind of a bit of the foreword to this book. Well, you can’t tell that here, but you can if you buy the book.)

Now, as for that little manuscript that made me want a vampire New Exploits' book... Well, I know I had a first draft of it back in 1997, when I did my first reading ever. The reason I know this is that it came up.

At the first reading at A Woman’s Prerogative bookstore in Ferndale, Michigan, in front of more than 50 women, my other projects came up. See, a lot of the audience came because they were big fans of my playwriting and I'd just had a very successful run of a great little show called Just a Phase (a Sapphic Tale).

I can’t remember what all I had on the burners then for sure, but I’m pretty sure that I had complete drafts of Dead and Evil by then, as well as one for a rather bad romance, Office Politics. I think I also had a draft of the first Shawn, which changed phenomenally between the first draft and what was published in 2007, (partly because Naiad books were much shorter than Bella books. What I definitely remember is that I had a draft of Vamp done. I remember this because the bookstore owner thought vampires were on their way out. And that was in 1997.

Yeah, right.

Now, the original Vamp! might’ve been Naiad-novel length. I can’t remember. I do know that I opened it up for the first time in years to work on it for this book, unlike some of my other early projects, like Shawn. I'd opened Shawn up every once in a while to tweedle it.

Anyway, when I opened this one up I was flabbergasted with how much I’d learned about language, storytelling, and all sorts of things since the first draft. Now, this doesn't mean my early books weren't good. What it does me an is that I was trying some really strange things in this one, things that might've helped me with my other projects back then, because I'd see that some things didn't really work here, but I wasn't sure why.

For instance, the original opening was told from the POV of the clerk, but it was just too messy and… I never again used her, so it didn’t make much sense. She had a terrific voice and there were just some totally awesome parts to it, but it didn't do much for the book overall. There's this saying, "Kill your babies," and that was meant for things like me not doing the opening in the way I wanted to.

I have to say, editing taught me a lot about writing. Nothing rams some concepts into your noggin like realizing why the rules are the way they are. For instance, I’d read stories where people head-hopped (constantly switched POV) and it was annoying and confusing to editor me, and I had to spend many long hours teaching them not to do that ever again. It also made sure that I'd never try to sneak annoying POV stuff around my own editor.

Back to Vamp!: I opened it up. Was shocked. Did a quick read. Cut and refit some really big things—like changing around the first chapter—and then I got to the real work.

I think I always thought that this book/novella might be the beginning of a new series. That's still a possibility, but since only a few people have requested it (more have requested that Ty Black, from Bell, Book & Dyke’s ”By the Book” return for more action).

Oh, and as a final note on this novella, my main vamp, Daron, does indeed appear in a short story I wrote before this book got rewritten and published. That story, “Dream Lover,” in the Bella After Dark anthology Call of the Dark: Erotic Lesbian Tales of the Supernatural, edited by an editor I was sure would love it: me.

Anyway, since each of the four of us (Johnson, Kallmaker, Watts and myself) has our own style and inclinations, each of the New Exploits books has a wide variety of stories, with something for everyone!

The four New Exploits authors with Szymanski, the butch, on a chair in the middle, surrounded by the four femmes: Kallmaker, Johnson and Watts.

Butch in the middle: This was taken the first—and only—time all four of us were in the same place at the same time. I'm straddling chairs to be in the middle, with Barbara Johnson standing behind me, with Karin Kallmaker on my right (your left), and Julia Watts on my left (your right).

Is that all clear now? {wink}

Julia referred to the entire photo shoot as "How many ways can we humiliate Reese?" Of course, her girlfriend was taking the pictures.


Buy the Book

And you can buy the book from your local independent/feminist/LGBT or rockin' lesbian bookstore, or any really cool store that might sell books like mine.

Oh, and of course, you can buy it/find out about its availability and such from my terrific publisher, Bella Books.

Bella Logo that links to Bella's Web site.

My books are also available on a veritable plethora of online booksellers, including

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all the Amazons in the world:

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U.S. Canada United Kingdom Germany

France Japan China

And a whole lot of other places.