Indie Book Promo is happy to welcome Sarah Remy to the blog. She is the author of Winter, and is here to share about her book! If this sounds like the type of book that you would be interested in reading, please find some buy links below.
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While trying to rescue his Sidhe family from exile, he mistakenly unleashes the monstrous Dread Host upon humankind.
Winter’s mother wants nothing more than to find a way to break the curse keeping the Sidhe imprisoned on Manhatten. New York City is driving Winter’s father slowly mad. Winter’s sister wears Chanel and longs for a Fairy Court she’s never seen. And winter’s mentor is a talking mouse.
Winter wants to save the world.
When he discovers an unlikely changeling lost in the subway, Winter realizes he’s been given a chance to finally banish the Host, and maybe even save his family. But the changeling isn’t quite what she seems, and Winter’s already unstable world begins to spiral out of control.
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Sarah Remy lives in Washington State. She’s an equestrian and rehabber of old homes. When she’s not writing she’s likely trying to herd her children, her tortoises, or her chickens. You can find Sarah and her stories at www.sarahremy.com, and you can find Winter and his companions at www.TheManhattanExiles.com.
A famous songwriter once said that the words of the prophets are written on subway walls.
He was right.
Not that I’m a big music buff anymore. Although sometimes I imagine I can still hear violins in the night, and the thump of drums through the ground will always make my fists clench. Because some things are hard to forget.
But I do know more than most people about prophets, and I spend good part of the D.C. nights in the Metro, looking for their signs, whether they’re scrawled on the sides of trains, or scraped into the walls of tunnels. Or splattered across the ground in bloody streaks and prints.
Problem is, prophets aren’t the most coherent of souls even on the best of days, and you can trust me when I say those touched by the Sight have more bad days than good. Reading their intent is a bit like trying to make poetry out of Spaghetti Os.
Lucky for me, I love Spaghetti Os.
“Okay, Winter.” Spotlights made the big man’s shadow fall over the floor and across my hands. His words were knives in my head, made sharp by anger or frustration.
Considering the circumstances, I suspected it was his anger I felt. Brutal murder tends to rile even the most hardened of Capitol detectives.
“What’ve you got?”
I took the hot dog he passed me. The bun was warm. The sausage smelled of sweet mustard and onions. My mouth began to water. I peeled the paper away from one end, and indulged in a healthy bite.
“Two people,” I replied once my mouth was clear. “One dead.”
The detective’s name was Bran and he was mortal. He’d been sent from Brooklyn to help me, although he probably thought it was the other way around. He worked for my mother, and he kept me in hot dogs and murder. Together we’d solved more than a few usual cases and one or two not so ordinary crimes.
“Forensics gets paid to tell me that much.” He glowered at me under heavy brows. He had the ruggedly handsome sort of face women swoon over, and he knew how to work it to his advantage. He didn’t waste a smile on me. “What do you see?”
I took another bite of hot dog, scanning the crime scene. The east and west entrances of the platform were cordoned off with yellow cop tape. The aforementioned forensics team had finished snapping pictures, and were waving blue lights around. The coroner waited against the sloping tunnel wall, body bag at his feet.
“He’d do better with a grocery sack.”
“Winter.” This time the knives were sharp enough to make my eyes water. I didn’t need to turn my head to know Bran was scowling in my direction.
“Sorry.” I was. “But it seems a waste. You know. An entire corpse bag. For a skull.”
“You’ve finished the dog,” Bran pointed out, ice and daggers. “Pay up.”
I licked my fingers. I sighed.
“Like I said, two. The vic was killed here. The perp was large, strong, calculating. Not much on emotion. Separated her head from her body easily. Maybe in a single blow. Looks like a really long knife, maybe a rapier. Not a traditional sword. Thin blade. Old, thin blade. Got the video?” Ever since 9/11 the underground railways were consistently on camera.
Bran didn’t question my weapons analysis. He knew better.
“Transit’s working on it. She?” he asked.
We both looked at the skull. It gleamed white in the light. Clean of flesh and muscle, the skull was an ivory island in a sea of congealing blood.
I shrugged, and stuck my hands into the pockets of my Levis. “Yeah. She.”
Even if I wanted to, which I didn’t, I couldn’t have explained how I knew. Maybe it was the slowing drip of blood onto the rails, and in the blood, the repeating perfume of feminine sorrow.
“Human, then?” He’d softened a little.
“How do you explain the stripped bones? The lack of a body?”
“Even humans occasionally dabble in blood magic.”
“What about these?”
We squatted side by side, considering the footprints. They zagged in an unsteady trail along the platform, crossing the white warning line, and then zigging back again before they disappeared under the west string of tape. There they faded into the shadows beyond.
Small foot prints. Child-sized, I thought. And barefoot.
“Again, human,” I said, although I couldn’t be sure of much else. The blood belonged to the skull, and the footprints themselves were mute.
“You said two people, Winter. Perp strong enough to behead a vic with a rapier doesn’t wear size four shoes. Children wear size four shoes.”
“Or no shoes at all, as the case may be. Perp went that way.” I jerked a thumb over my shoulder, west. “Up the stairs and out.” I knew that because I’d seen forensics marking the streaks and smears. Normal streaks and smears, nothing so perfectly delicate and clear as the trail leading in the opposite direction.
“That makes three people.”
I shook my head, and then irritably pushed hair out of my eyes. I’d meant to have it cut before the leaves began to change. But fall had come late this year, and I’d forgotten.
“I can only scent two.”
Bran lifted his chin and stared off down the tunnel. He didn’t insult me by asking if I was sure. Behind us the coroner loaded the skull into the body bag, and started to tote it away. A cop in uniform began putting little white numbers down along the trail of blood.
I stood up, crumpling the hot dog wrapper in one hand, and followed the numbers. Whoever belonged to the footprints had a child-sized stride to go with the child-sized prints.
“How far do they go?” I peered across the tape and into the tunnel.
It was never really dark in the Metrorail underground. Utility lights kept the train tracks illuminated for safety’s sake. But the cops had turned their square of murder into a fluorescent blaze, and my eyes were having trouble adjusting to the curving shadows beyond the crime scene.
“They don’t,” replied Bran. “They stop just there.”
I squinted past the tape and saw that he was right. The platform east of the tape was littered with a small collection of dirt and trash. Ten feet of scuffed mud and dropped gum wrappers and Starbucks napkins, and then the walkway ended and there was nothing but tunnel.
“What do your magic blue lights say?”
The officer who’d been laying out numbers glanced my way, mouth tight. They didn’t like me, Bran’s cops. But most of them are used to my occasional appearances.
“What I said. No blood past the tape. No spatter, no prints.” He shifted a little, putting himself between me and Numbers Man, blocking the line of sight. Bran was fit for his age, corded with lean muscle. “So either we sat down and took time to wipe our feet clean before doubling back or we went down between the tracks.”
I glanced around his muscle at the blood on the floor. There was a lot of it. I looked at the small foot prints, and tried to think like a child. It wasn’t difficult.
“If I were you,” I said, “I’d send forensics farther down the tunnel.”
Bran sent one of his detectives out into the night for another hot dog and a soda. I would have preferred coffee to Coke but the meal was free so I didn’t complain. I ate my second dinner leaning against the tiled subway wall, watching as three of D.C.’s finest went over the edge of the platform and into the tunnel.
I knew someone had certainly sent out an order to kill the live tracks. Still, the three cops walked carefully, lights steady. They avoided the rails. I thought that was a very good plan.
Numbers Man somehow ended up in my space, slouched against my wall. He seemed perfectly engrossed in the small computer he held in one palm. He didn’t fool me. No one gets reception in the tunnels. Plus, all the tile and concrete made the Metro colder than Alaska in January, and the guy was sweating.
He was afraid of me. I could smell the sour nerves in the drop of perspiration under his collar. I’m not the sort who usually inspires that kind of unease, which meant he knew or guessed what I was.
Or, like the prophets whose graffiti dirtied the walls, he saw a little more of the world than made him comfortable, and couldn’t stop looking, no matter how much it scared him.
I twisted the cap off my Coke and took a swig. Across the tunnel I could see my reflection in a glassed-off billboard: a nondescript silhouette with a sharp nose, a boyish chin, and too much hair.
“Hey, kid.” Numbers Man sounded like fog in my head, bleak and insubstantial. “Don’t your parents care you spend nights hanging around police business?”
“I’m eighteen.” Which wasn’t exactly true, but would be in less than a month.
“You don’t belong here.”
I swallowed more Coke, and didn’t answer. He was right, in more ways than one, and I wasn’t about to argue. He was afraid of me, and he had a gun in a holster beneath his cheap leather coat. I could sneeze in his direction, and he’d have it out before he even realized what he was doing, and if he accidentally pulled the trigger then there’d be more blood on the floor.
I moved carefully away until I found Bran at the edge of the platform. The men with the blue lights had climbed up out of the muck, and were packing their wands away.
“Nothing,” Bran reported. “No blood, no prints at all, and it’s not exactly a clean floor down there. Even the rat turds leave prints. So unless our size four shoe flew -”
I shook my head. “No sorcery, I told you. I’d know.”
The detective shrugged. “No sorcery, then.” He glanced back at the drying gore. “But plenty of blood magic. Still your problem, Winter.” He was less sharp as he transitioned into work mode. The headache I’d been trying to ignore eased some.
“Yeah. I’ll look into it. Coffee Monday?” That gave me two days to stick my nose into the mess. Two days to come up with a solution that would satisfy the Capitol Police, the Feds, and the Lady. It’s what I do and why I’m still alive. “You’re buying.”
“Monday,” Bran said and walked away.
I don’t listen to music anymore, but I do own an iPod. These days, who doesn’t? I keep mine plugged into my ears whenever I’m on the move. Because the white noise I pipe through the machine mostly blocks out the buzz I don’t want in my head, and because no one bothers a kid wearing headphones.
It’s almost as affective as a Glamour.
I had the ear-buds firmly in place as I ducked under the police tape and emerged into the night, so whatever the Transit Officer guarding the top of the escalator shouted in my direction went unheard.
I slipped through a small crowd of gawkers made up mostly of street people looking for something to take their mind off the cold. Overhead the moon was a chewed fingernail in a sky filling with clouds. The air smelled of rain or snow.
I tossed my empty Coke can into a recycling barrel, and hunched my shoulders against the chill, walking fast, heading east toward L’Enfant Plaza. I didn’t have the night vision common in the first of my kind, but I could scent better than your average flop-eared bloodhound, and I had some hope that I might pick up traces of our murder victim’s blood on the breeze.
I didn’t have any luck. Which was okay, because I didn’t really expect to. Still, I’m always hoping for a break.
I cut across the street in front L’Enfant Hotel. Lamplight made the red brick cobbles slick. Beyond the Plaza the Washington Monument pierced the sky, brighter than the moon. The Washington Monument is my favorite piece of the Capitol. The obelisk is a spear in the heart of God, and if I lean against it I can feel the stones breathing in and out.
I took the old steps down into the Plaza Metro Station. If you’ve never been underground at L’Enfant, you’ve missed out. The vaulted ceilings are a miracle of engineering, and the reek of humanity is beyond anything you’ve experienced before. The huge station smells like piss and sushi and cheap perfume and warm cookies and train oil and grief and earth and damp stone and expensive dye and secrets.
Most importantly to me, it smells like home.
L’Enfant wasn’t yet closed for the night, but it was mostly empty. Late commuters slouched on benches, most of them too tired or drunk to pay much mind to a skinny boy in jeans and an old leather jacket.
I whistled my way along the platform, then ducked behind a three-sided advertisement for McDonald’s. When I hopped off the tile and onto the Green Line nobody raised a peep.
The D.C. Metro tunnels are nothing like the rambling underground train tracks you find in New York City. First off, the Metro’s a lot newer. And smaller. You won’t find any abandoned stations or forgotten architectural marvels buried beneath the Capitol.
And then there’s the third rail running between all the tracks. One slip, one misstep, and you’re fried like an egg. That unpleasant possibility, plus an overabundance of cameras, keeps the average track walker out of the tunnels.
I’m not the average track walker. I know my little piece of the Green Line between L’Enfant and Union Station better than most people know the way to their own fridge. I’m unusually surefooted. And although it’s possible a train could sneak up on me if I were distracted, it’s very unlikely.
I don’t indulge in distractions. I’ve got too much to lose.
Still, when I’m alone, I have to keep away from the round spy lenses in the ceiling. I have to scrape the knuckles of one hand on the curve of the tunnel wall. I take the headphones out of my ears, and close my eyes because in the false twilight I’m much better deaf and blind.
So I didn’t see the mouse when she skittered out of the shadows. But I knew she was there before she’d climbed my pant leg and settled on my shoulder.
“What was it?”
Gabby is an elder, one of the original aes sí. Her voice is the only sound in this city of man that doesn’t make me want to press my hands against my ears and weep. This is a very good thing, because she was sent to the Capitol as my chaperone, and she takes the job seriously.
She also likes to chatter. Which isn’t really her fault.
I paced carefully down the tunnel, counting strides. There was a break in the shadows as we passed Penn. The station was closed, but the emergency lights pricked the backs of my eyelids. Then we crossed back into the dim tunnel.
The mouse exhaled in relief. Her paws were busy in my hair, grooming. Another thing she couldn’t help, and another reason I needed to get my hair cut sooner rather than later.
“Nothing to bother Himself about, then.”
“I didn’t say that.”
Her paws stilled. Her tail twitched against my neck. “Tell me.”
I considered. In the near distance I could smell Chinatown, which would also be closed. My stomach rumbled. Two hot dogs and I was still hungry. I wanted sushi. Or donuts. And that coffee, because it was going to be a long night, and already it was almost dawn.
“What did Lolo bring in for breakfast?”
“Winter!” She nipped my ear. Most of the time Gabby doesn’t remember she isn’t really a mouse. I think she doesn’t want to mourn the life she lost. It’s a less painful to forget a wound than to keep poking at it.
“Blood magic,” I admitted. “Gleaming skull, no body. Lots of nasty smelling fluids.”
The mouse made a hissing sound. Gabby had once helped Himself hunt down the most desperate of monsters: an aes sí who practiced blood magic on our own kind.
“Mortal,” I said. “And whatever he was trying for didn’t work. It smelled off, interrupted.”
Gabby pressed her head against my throat.
“And still,” she said, tinged with sorrow, “it was murder.”
I walked the rest of the way home with my eyes open.
Richard met us on the tracks just past Judiciary Square. He held an old oil lamp in one hand, the kind you usually find in antique shops or on the mantle of fancy houses. A flame danced in the glass chimney, and kerosene shown orange through the beveled pot.
“Have we work?” he asked, lifting the lamp over the tracks to guide us.
“After I eat,” I promised.
“Are you never full?”
“It’s breakfast time.”
Richard ignored my wounded glare. His delicate features remained impassive in the flickering light. The carefully knotted cravat at his throat looked crisp and clean, and the green velvet coat he’d stolen from the Smithsonian was dust free. I suspected his trousers and lace up boots were also museum relics.
Just before Union Station Richard turned sharply right. He let me hold his lamp as he unlocked a grate in the tunnel wall with the key he kept on a chain around his neck. I brushed past him, waiting on the steps as he locked the gate again behind us. Richard took the light back and led the way forward as we descended beneath the track.
“He’s been worried,” Gabby cautioned.
“Not worried,” Richard returned. “Frustrated. The television’s gone off again. Lolo’s incessant whining is giving me a migraine.”
Richard, even when he wasn’t worried, sounded like a small bird beating its wings against a high wind. His dark curls were tussled, probably because he’d been pulling on them in aggravation.
“Leave Lolo to me.”
Fifteen feet into the ground the stair ended against a pair of steel doors. I punched our code into the grimy keypad. There was a faint quiver as the lock released. A late model fish eye watched us from the ceiling, but because we were with Richard no one at the other end noticed our passing.
According to Richard our home beneath the Metro was once a side track for the Transit Authority’s money train. Then technology made the money train mostly obsolete, and the tunnel was turned into a dumping ground for old train parts, stripped escalators, and pipe. The passageway is maybe as long as a football field, and not much wider than a subway car.
Lolo says it’s like living in the belly of a snake.
Richard found the tunnel by mistake and saw possibilities in the junk heap. By the time I trailed him to his lair, he’d spent more than a year cleaning and sorting, and he’d made the place almost livable.
The T.A. cut off electricity to the passage in the 1980s. Richard managed to hijack a piece of the main line. Now we have two strings of bare bulbs running the length of the ceiling and enough extra juice to power a microwave, a mini fridge, and Lolo’s precious television.
I don’t think the place was ever heated. We’d hung rugs and blankets from the ceiling, dividing the corridor into rooms, cutting the draft as best we could.
And you’d be surprised how easy it is to grow a collection of abandoned mattresses. The entire floor of Lolo’s room is covered with mismatched box springs and pillow tops. He’s a restless sleeper.
That night the abandoned money line sparkled. Every one of Richard’s kerosene lamps were lit, placed here and there on the floor between the old tracks, or in niches on the wall. It was a fire hazard of epic proportions, but it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen all day, Washington Monument included.
“You said the television was out.” I glanced sideways at Richard. “You didn’t say we’d lost power entirely.”
“East Grid’s shut down.” He shrugged. “It’s out of my hands.”
“There’s been a murder,” Gabby explained. She clamored down my back, and sat on the floor between Richard’s boots. “On the tracks.”
“Not on the tracks, exactly. Did you crack the vent?” I asked. The burning kerosene used to make me dizzy and sick but I’d grown used to it. Still, I didn’t intend to die of suffocation on a secondhand mattress.
Richard smiled a little, nodding. The back of the tunnel is his provenance. Most of the time the rest of us aren’t willing to brave the accumulation of junk he’s sorted into ceiling-high piles.
“Lolo!” I shucked off my coat, and hung it on the rack Richard had fashioned out of copper pipe and old train hitches. “What’s breakfast?” I thought I could smell fried rice through the clouds of kerosene.
We picked our way past the lamps, and I pushed back a pair of heavy velvet curtains we used to divide the entry from our ‘kitchen’.
“Yum.” I inhaled, greedy. “You hit Mr. Shu’s.”
Lolo, sitting hunched over the monstrous creation Richard called a dining room table, refused to look up. An especially elaborate lamp burned next to a pile of bulging takeout bags.
“Uh oh.” I hooked a stool with my foot and settled down to nosh. Richard shuffled paper plates into a circle around the table, then followed suit. “Which rerun are we missing this morning?”
Lolo kept his eyes on his plate as I shared out noodles and ginger beef. Gabby wound her way up a table leg, and stuck her nose into a serving of pineapple chicken.
“Lolo. You know I can’t hear what you’re saying unless you actually spit it out.”
He slouched almost into the fried rice. “James Bond marathon on local. I was halfway through Goldfinger. And Richard won’t fix it.”
Where Richard’s a desperate bird in a storm, Lolo’s so cold he’s almost frostbite. You wouldn’t think it, because he’s generally all smiles and wise-ass. For a twelve year old human, he’s an excellent fraud.
“Richard can’t do anything about it until the T.A. decides to throw the switch back on. And you should have been asleep four hours ago. The sun’s almost up.”
Lolo sells papers to the morning rush hour. He stands on a curb in Dupont Circle, long dreads corralled under a baseball cap, and plays romantic ballads on his battered harmonica when he isn’t hawking the paper. In a world where every other person is connected to a news app, Lolo still manages to make plenty of money selling words printed on paper.
His boss loves him, and manages to ignore child labor laws so long as Lolo keeps bringing in fistfuls of dough.
“If I’d gone to sleep you’d be waking me up now. And then I’d be all sick-like and no good to you.” He finally met my stare. “Right?”
“Probably,” I admitted. “But you have to sleep sometime, Lolo. Eat that broccoli.”
“Broccoli tastes like fart.” He took a helping anyway. “What is it this time? Drug dealers, gang snuff or sorcery?”
“None of the above.”
Richard paused, fork suspended, noodles dangling. “Sluagh?”
I wasn’t sure I liked his eager anticipation. Gabby muttered wordless mousy syllables under her breath.
“No. Perfectly mortal blood magic gone off.” I slid from my seat in search of the coffee carafe, and then swore in surprise when the tunnel lights flashed abruptly on. “That was quick.”
Lolo craned his neck, trying to see past curtains to the clock in my room. “They must have finished clean up. Ninety minutes until the station opens. We going?”
“Grab your things. We’re going.”
We walked the Metro back to the crime scene. With Richard at my side I didn’t have to worry about being seen, and when the trains aren’t running the tunnels are the easiest way to get around.
Gabby ran ahead, flitting from track to wall. Lolo walked in the middle, head cocked, listening. Richard and I made up the tail. He tapped the watch fob on his belt with a gloved hand, but he didn’t speak so I couldn’t guess what he was thinking.
Bran’s team was efficient. The police tape was gone, and the walls and floor gleamed, an unusually clean patch in the grimy underground. The Sunday morning commuters would stare and wonder, then board their trains and forget.
Gabby jumped onto the platform and snuffled about. Richard hoisted himself after. Lolo kept walking east down the tracks.
I didn’t have to snuffle. The stink of blood and violence lodged in the back of my throat.
“You are correct,” the aes sí confirmed. “A waste of life but nothing to do with us.”
I stood below the platform and turned in a slow circle, carefully avoiding the third rail, trying to decide what it was that made the nape of my neck twitch.
Richard was rooting around at the foot of the frozen escalator. He straightened, and held something out on his palm. “Rock salt.”
“Probably came off some tourist’s pretzel,” Lolo guessed.
Richard walked to the edge of the floor, and held his hand over the tracks so I could see. The rock salt was very white against his black glove. Thick chunks, too big to be part of someone’s lunch. And mixed in with the salt, shards of polished ivory.
“Bone,” I confirmed. “Human bone. He cast a Summoning. Or tried to.”
“Still nothing to do with us,” Gabby said.
I stuffed my hands in my pockets, and pursed my lips. “Do you suppose he cut down our vic before or after he cast the circle?”
“I thought you said it was blood magic.” Richard closed his fingers over the salt and bone. “Blood magic, blood comes first.”
“Smells like blood magic,” I agreed. “Looked like blood magic. But -”
“Win,” Lolo interrupted from down the tracks. “You’d better come see this.”