Tam MacNeil on Salt and Iron ~ Excerpt, Guest Blog

Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Tam MacNeil for stopping by today.


Title: Salt and Iron
Author: Tam MacNeil
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: AngstyG
Genre: M/M Romance, Urban Fantasy


James van Helsing is the youngest son of the famous monster-hunting family—and the family’s big disappointment. He’s falling in love with Gabe Marquez, his oldest friend and son of the family the van Helsings have worked alongside for years. Things get even harder for James when he becomes what he and everyone else despises most—a magic user.

He didn’t mean to evolve into such a despicable person, and he knows using magic is illegal, but there’s nothing James can do about it, no more than he can stop himself from loving Gabe. Just when things can’t seem to get worse, he and Gabe are called to help nab a network of magicians who are changing destiny. Not just any destiny, but the destinies of the van Helsing and Marquez families. James foresees a terrible fate, one in which monsters emerge from the cracks, along with his dark secret. And that’s when people start to die.

In the modern world, we’re pretty rational people. If you get a cold, odds are good you know it’s because you picked up a germ somewhere, and you’re not so worried that there’s evil magic afoot. You’ll probably take a day or two to eat some chicken soup and drink a lot of tea and be extra-scrupulous with the hand washing. No need to leave out sweet cream to placate the fairies, or to throw rice on the floor to stop the Soucouyant from sucking your blood.

In spite of that, lots of us still hang on to magical behaviours – knocking on wood, throwing a little spilled salt over your left shoulder, or keeping a lucky charm in the car. We just can’t help it. If you’re like me, you grew up with mundane magic – from informal prayer to reading tea-leaves and making a wish on a birthday candle.

I grew up in a pretty homogenous environment – a small town mostly populated by the descendants of British and Irish settlers. We had a horseshoe nailed over the door to the barn and the garage, we saved wishbones from the turkey for springtime wishes, and we knocked on wood, but then, so did pretty well everybody I knew. So it was a bit of a shock when I moved to the Big City and discovered other people did other mundane magic – burning ghost money and putting pennies on door frames and window sills. For a kid from the sticks, the Big City was an astonishing hodgepodge of cultures and the beliefs and day-to-day magic that came with them. I figured that if humans were getting along together while keeping their magical traditions, then their myths and gods must be getting along cheek-by-jowl too.

That’s the world Salt and Iron exists in. A world where the Loa, the Sidhe, and folk saints work together and intermarry. For James, the novel’s protagonist, the idea that all these nonhumans are working together isn’t anything new, that’s just the world he lives in. It’s their interest in him that’s a little unnerving. After all, his last name is van Helsing, a name that’s been anathema to monsters and gods for over a hundred years. Seems weird that the Dullahan bartender Brett should take him to see Skinny Mary and Baron Samedi one very dark and stormy night.

In almost all traditions there are a few things you should never do in your dealings with the unhuman world. One of those taboos is to eat the food or drink the wine, and the other is make a deal with them. But when someone in the unseelie world takes Gabe, the man James loves, and makes him one of their own, there’s nowhere else to turn. So James goes to the creatures that have been his family’s enemies for generations. And when he does, he gets a lesson in making deals with magical beings, and the meaning of bad blood.


“Sit down, kiddo, and have some wine,” Skinny Mary says.

James considers protesting. Pointless. If they want him to drink, he’s going to be drinking. If they want him to eat, he’ll eat. He should run. He should do as he’s told, then escape when no one’s looking. He should never have come, taken his chances with the tornado. He was drunk, proud, curious, and he’s a van Helsing. The sidhe wouldn’t dare come after him. And it’s Brett the bartender. He’s known her two years, across the bar. He wasn’t thinking any of this could be real. And it is. Oh God. He realizes, like he’s taken a bucket of ice water in the face, just how colossally stupid he’s been.

But Brett pulls out the chair across from the baron, and right beside Skinny Mary. She does it like it’s just good manners, like he was waiting for her to do it, as if his hesitation had something to do with him not knowing where to sit, and not a prey-animal sort of desperate indecision. He drops into it, and it creaks like an old door. Brett glances at him, then at Skinny Mary.

“He’s going to get too drunk,” she says.

“I can hear his heart pounding like a drum all the way over here,” Skinny Mary answers. “Give him a drink to calm his nerves. Bourbon.” She smiles at him then, skull-mouthed. “That’s what you prefer, isn’t it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says softly, not really sure what he’s agreeing with, only knowing it’s better to give the queen of the seelie no reason to dislike him, over and above the connotations of his family name.

Brett snags a bottle from the center of the table, produces a cut crystal glass from the pyramid that’s sparkling in the candlelight, and pours out a generous measure of amber bourbon. She sets it down at his right hand and steps back again, behind him, beyond his peripheral vision.

He looks at the glass. He grew up on stories of Persephone and Izanami and knows better. “I think I’ve had enough to drink tonight,” he says, and his voice doesn’t even shake, which is amazing, actually.

She laughs. Smoke comes out of her mouth again, but he didn’t see her draw on that chocolate cigarillo.

“You think I’d want to keep you here?” she asks. “You’d be a shitty hostage and no good for a ransom. I’d want your brother. He’s the valuable one, isn’t he?”
He swallows and isn’t quite sure what to say.

Her open mouth curves up like a fingernail moon. “You’re being real damn Celtic, boy. Which is pretty funny, considering.”

He knows bait when he hears it. But he’s past caring, because everything about this is a disaster. And he’s a disaster usually, but this is colossal, even for him.
Him, a van Helsing, sitting at Skinny Mary’s table with her servants waiting on him, with Baron fucking Samedi sitting here watching him like he’s a whole litter of kittens that might be cute and delicious, but it’s hard to know ’til you test it out.


Salt and Iron on Goodreads
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
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Amazon CA
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Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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