Backstage Character Pass — Maris Dawson

Chris and Olivia are the only two characters who were both planned to be in the book and came out the way they were initially planned. Everyone else either joined the cast later on, or deviated wildly from their original concept.

Officer Maris Dawson is one of the former.

There’s exactly one reason that Maris broke into the book. While finishing up my outline and making sure it was going to work – this was once I already had over ten thousand words written! – I came to an unfortunate realization: The Deathsniffer’s Assistant didn’t pass the Bechdel test.

The test is a simple bit of feminist critical theory that started as a joke by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in the 1980s. It has three criteria. In order to pass, a piece of media has to have:

1. At least two female characters,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something other than a man.

Passing Bechdel doesn’t mean that something is feminist. And failing doesn’t mean that something is bad. But it’s a very low bar to set and it’s shocking just how few movies, books, video games, and so forth actually pass it.

It didn’t seem possible that I could fail the test. I strongly identify as a feminist and work hard to ensure my female characters are diverse, interesting, and have their own agendas. Considerably more of my cast is female than male! But as I went through the list of characters in my first book and compared them against the outline, I came to a pretty startling realization.

Rosemary, Evelyn and Analaea val Daren, and Vanessa Caldwell all interacted at least once with Olivia. But each time, they were discussing a man. The murder victim in the first book is male, and Olivia’s interactions with these characters were either about him or Christopher. Rachel and Rosemary’s interaction all happens offscreen and is communicated to Chris by one or the other. Somehow, while I had passed the first two qualifiers with flying colours, I’d utterly failed the third. It became obvious that I was going to need to add another female character, someone with a more personal relationship to one of my leads, if I was going to pass the test.

tumblr_nudthe1rlL1urkoeko1_1280I identified a bit of world-building I’d glossed over. I’d decided early on that investigators were beholden to the police, who used them as independent contractors and outsourced their cases. The sudden permission to create another character let me explore that a bit, and I decided that Olivia needed a supervisor.

And then Maris kind of just… happened. The moment I realized that she should exist, she did exist. A stern, tough, handsome redhead, burly and indelicate and dry. Faux-Scottish with a rough brogue, contrasting Olivia’s sharp-tongued English way of speaking. Someone who would have no tolerance for Olivia’s bullshit, but who Olivia would be incredibly fond of. Someone to show the reader – and Chris – that Olivia did care about some things other than herself, that in her own way, she had formed attachments to the world she inhabited.

Everything about Maris snapped into focus in a split second, and she quickly wound herself in through all the empty spaces the book had. She became absolutely necessary to the story. She provided a little window into Olivia’s life pre-Chris, and provided the context for a major subplot in the first book, the minor mystery of Constance. She allowed me to have another likable, sympathetic character with traditionalist leanings, to make the deck seem less stacked in favour of the reformists. And, as I originally planned, she let me pass Bechdel.

Whenever I read sections where she and Olivia rib one another, ask about each other’s personal lives, or just complain about work, I smile to myself. It humanizes Olivia a bit, adds texture to her life, and makes her feel like she existed before Chris met her. All that aside, Maris has become a central part of the series as a whole and plays an increasingly major role in future books. Passing Bechdel actually did make my book stronger.

I see a sentiment online a lot. “Diversity shouldn’t be added for the sake of adding it.” And to them I say: why not? Maris is one of my most popular and favourite characters, and she wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t trying to check those boxes. If an element doesn’t work, by all means, massage or cut it. That’s just good writing. But fantastic characters and plotlines might be hiding behind that diversity barrier. You just need to be willing to look.

Maris is at her most professional in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant, but in The Timeseer’s Gambit, you’ll see her in a much more personal context and learn a bit about who she is when she isn’t Officer Dawson!

Other Backstage Character Passes:
Chris
Olivia

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Backstage Character Pass — Olivia Faraday

Beyond any doubt, my most polarizing character has been the eccentric Deathsniffer, Olivia Faraday. Some of my readers seem entirely focused on her to the exclusion of everything else. Some go so far as to say that she single-handedly ruined the book for them. All other reactions lay somewhere on that spectrum. The one thing I’ve heard absolutely nobody say is nothing at all. For better or for worse, Olivia Faraday gets a reaction.

I’m not the sort of person to dismiss reader feedback. I fully understand how and why Olivia could be a character so distasteful that someone couldn’t stand her. I hope those people come back for the sequel and beyond because Olivia has a lot of growing to do, and there’s a lot of story left to see.

But the little Olivia voice in my head that guides me when I write her? She smirks and proudly says “well, good.”

While I’m always disappointed when Olivia leaves a bad taste in someone’s mouth, it was something I not only expected, but anticipated going into the release of the book. She was never going to be a pleasant character, and I made sure as I wrote to make it clear that, in a lot of ways, she is a very bad person.

A lot of people have compared Olivia to the incomparable Sherlock Holmes, both favourably and unfavourably, but as I said in my Chris backstage pass, the characters of Olivia and Chris were either unconciously or not at all inspired from Holmes and Watson. The seed that grew into Olivia was the first one planted in my mind. Chris grew into her empty spaces, to be her foil and complement. Olivia grew all by herself.

And that seed was the idea of the Deathsniffer as a concept. The idea of a society where all detectives can choose or deny their own cases, and the realization that someone who chose to specialize in murder would be seen as ghoulish. With that weight of society’s judgement on your shoulders, what kind of person would you need to be? There were two answers: a brooding hero who is willing to shoulder the burden of ostracization to do the right thing and hunt down dangerous killers, or someone who just really liked murder mysteries and didn’t care about society’s judgement.

One character was infinitely more interesting to me than the other, and Olivia Faraday was born.

lil olivia fanart by MTWX
lil olivia fanart by MTWX

Right from that starting kernel of an idea, I had the image of this flambouyantly dressed, childishly excitable, and blissfully unnerving woman in my head. She’d whirl into crime scenes, tap people pertly on their noses while wearing a shit-eating grin, and then breeze past with hair and ribbons flying. She’d be a character who instantly filled every scene and made an impression, for better or worse. She’d be petite and short, a pint-sized ball of unsettling energy.

On the surface, that’s a pretty decent surface character sketch of Olivia. But that character lacks the most important ingredient: humanity. Olivia’s humanity developed and came to the forefront after I began to write. She’s a deeply private person who values her autonomy. She has a complicated relationship with her semi-estranged mother. She vascilates wildly between emotional extremes from one moment to the next; her manic glee can be shattered in a heartbeat, leaving behind churlishness or listlessness. Despite – because? – of her lack of interest in social mores, she doesn’t share any of society’s predjudices. And despite being occassionally monstrous, she doesn’t want to be a monster.

I know what personality disorders I’ve had in mind as I’ve written Olivia, though I’d prefer not to name them specifically. It’s never good to diagnose your characters when the society they’re being written in don’t have equivalent disorders. But I will say this: Olivia isn’t a sociopath. Not exactly. She’s more than capable of empathy, guilt, love, and the full range of human emotion. She just doesn’t default to that state. She has to manually turn it on and fight the urge to flip it back off – because the world is just easier and simpler without it.

I fully understand why she’s not universally loved. Olivia can be petty, cruel, and heartless when she’s not just oblivious. But that’s all a feature, not a bug. I prefer writing characters who are interesting to characters who are likeable or good.

In the sequel, tune in to see Chris drag Olivia, kicking and screaming, a little further into the world that people live in instead of the one Olivia lives in. And to see Olivia drag Chris, whining and dragging his feet, into the one where being polite isn’t the same thing as being nice.

Other Backstage Character Passes:
Chris

Backstage Character Pass — Christopher Buckley

Welcome to the first in my series exploring the characters of The Faraday Files! To start, here’s a little backstory and trivia about my narrator and arguable protagonist, Christopher Buckley.

The Deathsniffer’s Assistant has been compared a lot to Sherlock Holmes — both favourably and unfavourably. I’m a Holmes fan, myself. The books, the Guy Ritchie movies, the modern adaptation on BBC… it’s easy to think that the concept for the book came from those places. But in a case of truth being stranger than fiction. The Deathsniffer’s Assistant started its long journey quite a while before the current Holmes renaissance. And the extent of my exposure to Holmesian media was my childhood favourite Disney film: The Great Mouse Detective. Did I absorb the concept of the brilliant eccentric and the staid companion from literary culture? Or do Olivia and Chris somehow not share a common ancestor with their most obvious counterparts at all? It’s hard to say, but there’s one thing that’s certain: Chris didn’t start as a Watson to Olivia’s Holmes.

His origin was somewhere smaller and simpler. I knew that I wanted to write a detective style fantasy murder mystery. I’ve always loved the dynamic of a woman in a position of professional power over a male subordinate, so the idea of a lady detective and her male assistant came from that. And as the character of Olivia Faraday began to take shape, I realized that she could never function as a narrator. She’d be too strange and alienating.

So that’s what I started with Chris. His relationship to the reader would be as narrator, and his relationship to Olivia would be as foil. So he had to be reasonable,  nonthreatening, and unassuming. He had to be as invisible a person as Olivia was remarkable.

art of christopher by http://stormbourne-art.tumblr.com/
art of christopher by http://stormbourne-art.tumblr.com/

He grew from that seed. Where initially I wanted to make him more of an every-man, I found myself drawn to the concept of writing him as a more mannered, sensitive character. He didn’t interest me me in his initial skin, as a simple, unassuming audience surrogate. I like writing characters who are flawed and occasionally unpleasant, so Chris evolved his snobbery, his close-mindedness, his judgemental nature and his prickliness from my being bored with a more conventionally likable protagonist.

Chris’s relationships are really the cornerstone of the Faraday Files, especially his relationship with Olivia. I really enjoy writing him interacting with others. Because of my decision to have a single POV story, Chris is in every scene and his personal issues come to be the anchor the conspiracies, murders, and politics are tethered to. I knew I wanted him to be a character who could have interesting dynamics with everyone else, with all kinds of sparks and fireworks and potential for growth.

I’ve been really happy with the reader reaction to Chris so far. Some have pointed out that he feels like an actual orphan with grief and baggage — that’s something I worked hard at achieving. Some have also mentioned that he’s not your typical male fantasy protagonist, which I talked more about in this blog on the subject. Most have said that they felt for him, and pathos is really the minimum I ask for.

(Funnily, the negative feedback Chris has gotten has made me pretty happy, too. I see some saying that he’s overshadowed by Olivia or that his snobbishness makes him hard to relate to, which is all stuff that I intended while writing him! It’s not going to be for everyone, and that’s okay.)

Sadly, I have less to say about Chris than I wish I could. My second book, The Timeseer’s Gambit, delves a lot deeper into Chris’s psyche than The Deathsniffer’s Assistant does, and it’s hard to talk about him without risking letting spoilers drop loose. I hope those of you who are fans of his will be excited to see how he develops and changes in the sequel.

So, what do you all think about my accidental Watson analogue? Any questions asked about Chris here, I’ll try to answer in a Q&A later on!

Next week, Olivia Faraday!

Tentatively Calling This One a Success

With thirty ratings on Amazon and fifty on Goodreads, it looks like a consensus is officially emerging on the topic of my debut novel. And that consensus, to my enormous pleasure and glee and pride, is that it’s pretty damn good.

The Deathsniffer’s Assistant has a 4.22 average on the very specific Goodreads, and a 4.5 on the considerably less precise Amazon. I told myself if I could get into the 3.9-4.1 range, I’d consider the novel a resounding success, but it looks like I sold myself short. So far, even my most negative reviews — for which I’m grateful and learning from — haven’t fallen below the 3 star mark. It’s hard to argue with  numbers, and as it stands, my numbers are looking very encouraging indeed.

Of course, numbers are stale and simplistic and can only ever scratch the surface of impressions. A five star rating makes my toes curl in pure happiness, but some kind or even critical words make my day complete. From meeting new fans eager for me to sign their dog-eared copies to the most amazingly encouraging words on the internet, interacting with the people, reading their feelings, and seeing the passion they can feel for my characters has been the absolute best experience of my life, and everything I ever could have hoped for.

So many years of blood, sweat, and tears went into The Deathsniffer’s Assistant. And even one stranger’s positive opinion has made it all worth it.

Having officially reached this threshold, I’m going to start a new weekly series about the actual content of my book. I’ve tried to avoid talking much about it because I don’t want to spoil anything so soon after release. But I think the time has come to start unboxing some of this book that so many people have liked so much.

In Defense of the “Weak” Male Lead

There are certain traits that we, as a society, tend to value in a male lead. Stoicism. Wordliness. Confidence. Physicality. Adventurousness. Fortitude. Courage. There’s a certain image that is conjured to mind when you think of a “hero,” and he’s probably every single one of those. His flaws usually involve overconfidence, insensitivity, or inflexibility — when they’re even portrayed as flaws. He’s James T. Kirk, Indiana Jones, Nathan Drake, Commander Shepard, and Owen Grady. And he is absolutely everywhere.

He isn’t, as those who have read my first novel will know by now, in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant.

Christopher Buckley is an altogether different sort of male lead. He’s proper, stuffy, prudish, insecure, physically unimpressive, squeamish, and meticulously groomed. He cares about fashion, societal expectation, and his own personal comfort. He doesn’t like situations that put him into any kind of discomfort, and he’d really rather be discussing society gossip with a cup of tea than kicking any ass or taking any names.

While more masculine women are mostly accepted as characters, more feminine men absolutely are not. And the answer why is fairly obvious. Masculine is good, feminine is bad. A woman who can fight alongside the men is respected. A man who’d prefer to talk fashion with the women is not.

And yet, I’ve always loved this type of character. He’s rare and unique and that makes him special to me. I’m bored with tough, snarky white guys whose value is measured in their ability to grizzle their way through any situation. Chris is in rare company. Already, some of my reviews have negatively pointed out how much he cares about the opinions of others and his strict compliance to the rules of courtesy. Which is about what I expected. Chris isn’t the sort of character who gets showered with love from the masses. He’s always going to appeal only to a niche. I’m proud of him.

I’d like to draw attention to some of his compatriots. Male leads — and they have to be leads! — from fantasy novels who are defined primarily by uncertainty, insecurity, fragility, or propriety. Men who have strong character arcs that aren’t about overcoming their softer attributes, but about becoming more flexible, more empathetic, or more open-minded, while still embracing their “weak” personality traits. I love this characters and I have so much respect for them and the authors who choose to write about them.

1. Eldyn Garritt (The Wyrdwood Trilogy by Galen Beckett)
Eldyn is a the impoverished son of a once wealthy family, money that was drunk away by his abusive father after the loss of his mother. He works as a clerk and dreams of investing in a major venture to reclaim his family fortune and enter polite society once again. Eldyn falls in love with the theatre and the actors who perform there, but he’s torn between the impropriety and immortality of that life and his faith in God. Eldyn is sensitive, kind, soft-spoken, and extremely concerned about the appearance of respectability. His arc has him fall in love with a fellow actor, be forced to confront the ugly truths about the church, and learn to fight for a cause he believes in. But he ends the trilogy as sweet and kind and yielding as ever. Eldyn shares main character status with two others and his plot is intertwined with the other two.

2. Portier de Savin-Duplais (The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg)
From birth, Portier dreamed of becoming a great mage. But after years studying at the Collegia Magica, he was finally forced to admit that he had no talent for the art. His father, ashamed of his son’s failure, attempted to kill him, and Portier was turned patricide in self-defense. It’s hard to say which of these events contributed to Portier’s desperate self-loathing, insecurity, and skittishness, but it’s probably a combination. Portier badly wants people to like him and he still dreams of magic, which makes him a very internal character, constantly battling his own self-hate and lack of confidence as he acts as an undercover agent to solve the mystery of who is trying to assassinate the King. He grows to accept himself, at least in part, but he continues to be as proper and as careful and as studious as ever. Portier is the solo protagonist of The Spirit Lens and is a supporting character in the subsequent novels in the series.

3. Travis Wilder (The Last Rune by Mark Anthony)
Saloon keeper Travis Wilder is a skinny, shy, sweet, withdrawn lad with big, ill-fitting glasses, floppy hair, and a kind smile. He works his nine to five and tries to bury the trauma of his youth until he’s pulled into the fantasy word of Eldh, and something entirely shocking happens. He doesn’t learn to wield a sword. He doesn’t lead any armies. He doesn’t become brave and tough. Instead, he learns that he has a talent for runecasting — which is a challenge for him due to his severe dyslexia — and falls in love with handsome knight. Travis spends seven books becoming a hero, but he’s a hero who always has a soft smile, who’s shy and kind, who’s terrified of hurting people, who struggles with his own self-worth. Travis shares his main character status in all seven books with the emotionally distant and expertly confident doctor Grace Beckett, which provides a great gender reversal.

4. Sedric Meldar (The Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb)
Sedric Meldar fell in love with the wrong person when he went head over heels for the confident, intelligent, sly Hest Finbok. It was easy to ignore all the ways Hest could be cruel when the good times were so good. So good, in fact, that Sedric convinced Hest to marry his friend Alise so that they could continue on in secret. When Sedric ends up on the wild and dangerous Rain Wilds River, with Alise and without Hest, he’s forced to realize and confront truths that he’s spent his entire life avoiding. Sedric is the jackpot for the “weak” male character. He’s delicate, sensitive, proper, fancy, and buckles under adversity. While he excels in the civilized world due to his extremely organized mind and his social aplomb, he’s a disaster in a typical fantasy plot. Sedric’s arc is brutal and epic. He struggles with depression and suicide, has to come to terms with his status both as a victim of Hest and an accomplice in helping Hest victimize others, and reaches the absolute lowest point of self-worth I’ve ever seen from a fantasy hero. But he rises again and rebuilds himself… and is just as proper and sensitive as ever, and would still vastly prefer an afternoon tea to a river adventure. Sedric shares his main character status with three other characters, including Alise herself.

5. Vanyel Ashkevron (The Last Herald-Mage by Mercedes Lackey)
And, of course, the original flavour. Like many other women my age and younger who are passionate about fantasy, Valdemar was a huge cornerstone of my growth, Vanyel especially. Vanyel’s books span thirty years of his life, and he starts as the quiet, soft, musically inclined nobleman and ends his life as the most famous hero of his nation. Vanyel is defined by his longing for love and his fear of loss and how hard those two traits are to coexist. He’s also shy and sweet, and is known for his love of fine things, his vanity for his looks, and his passion for music. Vanyel is the sole main character of his trilogy and the defining character of the entire 20+ book Valdemar series.

There’s something worth mentioning about this list, of course. All these characters except one are queer. I love seeing queer characters in fantasy, and there are a lot of them who are masculine and tough and some who even fit into that fellow we outlined up top. But insofar as I can tell, there’s only one heterosexual male in all fantasy with this archetype! In addition, these were the only five I could think of in the whole catalogue I’ve read that were protagonists and not secondary characters!

I want to see more characters like this in all media. Especially as protagonists! Not only does it buck gender stereotypes, it says that we do not fine stereotypically “feminine” qualities as being inherently inferior to stereotypically “masculine” ones! And the more characters we see like this, the more normal they’ll become.

And I just… like them! All of these characters instantly appealed to me and stood out to me. They’re different. They struggle with things I can identify with. They flout the concept of toxic masculinity hard. They grow and learn and becoming better people, but they don’t move out of their archetypes and into a more acceptable one. That’s something that should be valued.

Metrics of Success

Have you ever sat down and tried to sketch out an exact scenario that would signify you’ve achieved your dreams?

I did.

About ten years ago, my friends and I were trying to come up with moments like that. Moments where, once they happened, we could sit back and say “Well, all right. That’s it. I did it.” I constructed this scenario:

If someone I’d never met before and didn’t know my family or know someone who knew my family approached me with a physical copy of a book I’d written in hand and asked me to sign it, I’d consider that my dreams come true.

And now I need to come up with a new scenario, because I achieved that one ten times over!

Last Tuesday was my first official signing! I’d scribbled in a couple of books that I gave as gifts to my family and friends, but thanks to the wonderful people at Chapters in Moncton, I was sitting down a nice table, surrounded by my books, pen in hand, and was ready to sign some copies. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was shocked at what I got.

I was expecting a good turnout, just because my parents are social butterflies and know a hundred people. But a lot of those folks they convinced to come didn’t show up. And I had a good turnout anyway. A really good turnout.

A dozen strangers approached me. They’d heard of the book from an article in the local paper, or one of the posters I put up around town, or they were just walking by and curious what the display was for. They flipped it open. They read the back. And they wanted to buy it — and wanted me to sign it!

I loved talking with the fans. I’m actually pretty  bad in crowds and am quite shy. But it wasn’t only painless — it was wonderful! Answering questions, giving the skeptical my pitch, asking them what names I should write to personalize the signings. It came easily despite all past experience to the contrary. I was filled with such an energy and passion. And confidence! While I sat there, pen in hand, I really believed in the book. All these people couldn’t be wrong, could they?

I hope so deeply that this wasn’t the only time I interact with the people who came and bought a copy. I’d always thought that I’d be awkward at events, but instead, I can’t wait to get out there and connect with my readers again.
A friend of the family is a talented amateur photographer and took some great pictures of the event. I’ll leave those with you while I try and concoct a new scenario for success. It’s going to be hard to top this one!

My Baby Turned Loose Into the World

Today is the day!

It was October 4th, 2011, when I wrote the last word of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant. (The last word is “murder,” which is very appropriate.) At the time, I didn’t know if the book was good. I didn’t know if I could ever find an agent, much less a publisher. I didn’t know if anyone on earth would ever read it.

Fast forward! Years later, I have the best agent, the funnest publisher, and strangers all over the world are holding my book and breaking into the first pages. I have traffic on my site, retweets on my blog, and shares on my Facebook. I have 200 goodreaders hoping to win my giveaway! It’s happened faster than I possibly could have imagined and this is it. The day when MY book because A book.

It’s out there in the world. You can get it one click for the price of a nice coffee. It can be on your phone as you read it on the bus. And none of that has anything to do with me. For so long, I’ve been the custodian and arbiter or my own work, but not anymore! Control over my work is completely out of my own hands.

It’s liberating. It’s terrifying. It’s exciting. Did I mention it was terrifying?

Today has been a whirlwind! I’m in the local paper, my social media is blowing up, and my book! My book is out there! Disseminating into the wide crazy world! All I can do is watch it happen and hope that there are people who will love my characters and my stories, because that’s all I ever wanted.

In my first ever post on this blog I said that I wanted you to buy my book. Not because I want to get paid (though who doesn’t love getting paid), but because I think you’ll like it. And I still think that’s true. There’s a link to Amazon in the sidebar of my site, and I invite each and every one of you to take this thing that I build out into the world, out of my hands, and judge it for yourself.

What’s In A Name?

I’m going to go a lot more personal today than I have in the past. There’s now a mere weekend between us and the release of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant, and I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the name that’s on the front cover: Kate McIntyre.

It ‘s not my name. Not the one that appears on my passport or birth certificate or driver’s license. But what is a name, really? Something we inherit combined with something we’ve given. And there’s value to be found in the names we choose for ourselves, whether it’s shortening my given name, Kathryn, into something that suits me better, or taking on a completely different surname.

Make no mistake: Kate McIntyre is a poor choice for a pen name, at least from the point of view of marketing and branding. There’s an English anchorwoman with the name, and at least one very successful real estate agent is pretty annoyed that I’m taking a chomp out of her Google rankings. There are a lot of other names I could have taken as my own that would give me no competition in the vicious, fanged world that is internet publicity. But I wanted this name, and I’d like to get personal and talk about why.

Sometimes, I’ll see a photograph of my mother as a teenager. My first thought is always — “Hm, how old was I in this? I don’t remember taking it.” Suffice to say, we look very much alike. My jolly maternal grandfather held me when I was born and jokingly told my father than the only physical resemblance we could have had was if I was a boy. McIntyre is my mother’s maiden name, and I’ve always felt like a part of that clan. We look alike, we value the same things, and we’ve always just immediately fallen into a rhythm with each other when we’re all together.

In the back of my mine, I always thought I might use McIntyre as a pen name, for all of these reasons, but it wasn’t until shortly before I finished my first book that I decided for sure.

In the spring of 2011, my Uncle Steve was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, and for the next two years my life completely changed. My uncle, always uncomfortable getting too close, moved in and really became part of the family. He was a constant presence in my life, encouraging, big-hearted, and wonderful. He joked and loved and occasionally ate all the cookies in the house in the middle of the night like a true McIntyre. He dragged presents under the Christmas tree in the dark of Christmas Eve, all marked “From Santa,” so he wouldn’t have to admit that he bought them for us — plausible deniability, you know. He brought an entire tank of helium and about a million balloons for my mum’s birthday; he and my sister and I spent the whole morning blowing them up, singing along at the top of our lungs to Wild Ones by Flo Rida ft Sia, truly beautiful music that once again says so much about my music tastes. The three of us dancing about, surrounded by an entire civilization of balloons, is one of my best memories, and it’s the story I told him while he was dying and I was holding his hand. He had fought so hard, living longer than anyone thought possible until the day he passed in my living room, smiling faintly when I reminded him about Wild Ones.

(not the kind of song that usually moves you to actual tears every time you hear it)

If not for his cancer, Uncle Steve probably would have continued to hold himself apart from us. He deserved better than pain and a young death, but I’m so grateful for the time that he had together as a result of it.

I wrote most of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant while he was living with us, and he died a few months before I found Caitlin and my career really started. He was always asking about the process and was so proud of me. It breaks my heart a little that he isn’t going to be there Monday when my book hits shelves. He would have wanted to see it through to the end, and he’s always in my thoughts.

I’ve always thought of myself as a McIntyre, but because of the system we live in, I’ve never been able to claim ownership of that name that’s rightfully as much mine as the one on my bank account. Despite what a bad move, business-wise, it was to take Kate McIntyre as the name I shared my work with the world with, I don’t regret it. It’s a tribute, not only to Uncle Steve, but to my mother and my other uncles and my cousins and my sister and all the McIntyres, either by name and by blood. My birth name will be on my birth certificate and on my tombstone. It just seemed right to leave something with that other name, even if it’s just some fantasy murder mysteries.

Another Giveaway for THE DEATHSNIFFER’S ASSISTANT!

In addition to the Rafflecopter Giveaway, (which has ten days left and you can enter here!) we’ve also launched a Goodreads Giveaway! This is super easy to enter if you have a Goodreads account, only taking a single click! You can enter here on Goodreads. And be sure to add the book to your to-read list!

We’re only a week and a half away, now… I can’t believe it!

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for THE DEATHSNIFFER’S ASSISTANT!

We’re running a giveaway where you can win a free signed copy of THE DEATHSNIFFER’S ASSISTANT mailed to your front door! There are tons of different ways to enter by signal boosting the giveaway or otherwise supporting me and the book online! With less than two weeks left before the book is out (eek!), I appreciate all the support I can get!

Click here to enter the giveaway!