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New Release: The Reluctant Undertaker – Angel Leigh McCoy

The Reluctant Undertaker - Angel Leigh McCoy

Angel Leigh McCoy has a new queer dark fantasy/horror book out (trans MTF): The Reluctant Undertaker.

Life is conspiring against Isabella. It’s hard to be the responsible one, especially when it’s the last thing you want. After her mother’s death, Isabella put her dreams on hold to run the family business—the Fandelli Funeral Home. She’s back in Wyrdwood, single, fighting with her sister, and trying hard not to act out in frustration.

When the beat drops, people die.

After a moonlit rave, a young woman ends up on Isabella’s slab. The evidence suggests it was no ordinary overdose, and more deaths follow. As Isabella investigates, she attracts the attention of the killer. He chooses her to be Bacchus’s Bride, the one who will bring about human extinction.
Can you flirt with evil without losing everything?

Author Angel Leigh McCoy has a dark side that heckles her lighter side. In this supernatural suspense novel, she returns to her mytho-horror roots. Not everything that happens in Wyrdwood is pretty.

Note: per the author, AI was used in the creation of this book’s cover:

“Only a small portion of the cover was created using AI, and it was then altered.”

For our current AI policy, please see:

https://www.queerscifi.com/policies/

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Excerpt

“I’m coming!” Isabella called. She stood on tippy-toe to peer out through the peephole. After a moment, she undid the deadbolt and opened the door.

A woman waited on the stoop, as pale as alabaster, dappled with the lightest dusting of freckles from her hairline to beyond her collar. Her ivory hair hung long and straight, tossed by the breeze; and her eyes reflected the blue sky, or maybe the sky reflected her eyes. She did not seem old, perhaps in her mid-to-late forties, and quite bellissima in a sharp-edged, wintery way.

I recognized her. The women in town called her “The Midwife,” capital T, capital M. Those who believed in the old ways, of which there were many, summoned her to attend their births.

Isabella said, “Good morning.”

The Midwife wore a calf-length sun-dress. Its fabric was a kaleidoscope of patterned quilt squares. To keep the morning chill at bay, she also wore a thick olive-colored wool sweater. It was shapeless and a size too big. In one hand, she carried a home-made tote bag woven from dried grasses.

The man who accompanied the woman was in his mid-twenties, taller than the Midwife, a black man with a short twisted afro. He wore sunglasses pushed up on his head and was dressed in antique white: long tunic and loose-fitting pants, both linen, both simple. He was cradling a swaddle of cloth as if it were a bambino. It was the worst kind of omen.

“You are Isabella Rosemarie Fandelli,” the woman said, her voice a smooth alto. She scanned Isabella up and down.

“Yes.”

“Cleona is no longer here.” It was not a question.

Isabella chewed her lip then said, “No. She passed away a few days ago. I’m her daughter.”

Neither of the visitors seemed especially moved by the news. The woman asked, “Who is shepherding the dead?”

The man’s brown hand stood out against the white cloth, spread wide to support it, and he was bouncing it just enough to be noticeable, as if comforting it.

I suspected the worst.

“My sister and I are.” Isabella stepped back and opened the door wider. “Please, come in.”

The pair did as invited but stayed near the door. The woman opened her tote bag and took out several sheets of paper, which she held out to Isabella. “You may call me Amalia. This is my son, Anpu.”

“Nice to meet you.”

The man did not respond.

Isabella gave the papers a quick glance. Among them were two copies of a stillbirth certificate, each filled in with precise handwriting, and they contained all the information Isabella needed to arrange a funeral for the family of the deceased.

“There is a copy for you,” said Amalia. “And the original. You will deliver it to the registrar.” Again, not a question.

The stillbirth certificate stated that the bambina was female—oh, la povera ragazza. No one had filled in a name for the child, although that was not uncommon. The trauma of a stillbirth could be overwhelming, and often the parents could not reveal their chosen name until time had passed.

Isabella asked, “And the mother?”

Amalia nodded again, this time as if in approval of the question. “She survives. For now.”

Isabella patted a gurney set against the wall. “You can lay her down here.”

With the greatest of gentleness, the man lay the bundle down on the cold steel table. He bent over it and whispered a few words, spoken so softly that even I could not hear him.

“She is to be treated with natural products,” Amalia instructed. “No embalming.” She pulled a dark brown bottle out of her bag. “Apply this essential oil to her skin, covering every inch of her, even the eyelids.”

Isabella took the offering. “What’s in it?”

“Nothing that will harm you. Herbs.” Amalia waited for Isabella’s nod then continued her instructions. “When you swaddle her, use the blankets she arrived in and sprinkle lavender buds in with her.” The woman held up a plain cotton pouch.

It was not uncommon for families to make special requests for the treatment of their loved one’s body. People—especially in Wyrdwood—each had their own superstitions and rituals. It was not Isabella’s place to question or reject them unless they were dangerous.

Amalia withdrew an ink pen from the bag and offered it.

For a moment, Isabella stared at it in confusion, until the pen’s purpose dawned on her. She took it and lay the papers on the gurney. Among them was a receipt for delivery. She signed both copies, clicked the pen closed, then handed it back to Amalia. The Midwife added her signature.

When she returned the pen and her copies to her tote bag, she did so at a snail’s pace, in no hurry, eyes downcast. The man with her—Anpu—rested his hand on the bundle one last time then turned away.

Amalia closed her bag. She prepared to leave, opening the door herself. She stepped across the threshold and into uneasy sunshine. Without glancing back, she said, “You take after your mother. Your hips and breasts were made for motherhood.”

“Um. Thank you?”

It was true that Isabella had inherited generous curves, though only the gods knew whether it was from the African ancestors on her mamma’s side or from her papà’s Italiano ancestors.

“We will meet again, Isabella Rosemarie.”

“My mother told you my middle name?”

“Yes.” Amalia’s answer was sharp and short, offering nothing more. She strode across the asphalt.

The man walked out in the Midwife’s wake.

Isabella told him, “Don’t worry. I’ll take good care of her.” She watched from the doorway as they crossed the covered driveway to their old, sun-damaged sedan. Anpu held the passenger door for Amalia then got in behind the wheel. His and Isabella’s eyes met.

Isabella raised a hand to wave goodbye, and the man nodded once again. He had not spoken a single word the whole time.


Author Bio

Angel Leigh McCoy’s paranormal suspense and mystery stories unfurl with sass, romance, secrets, dark strangers, and moonlight. In the Wyrdwood series of interwoven novels, novellas, and short stories, Angel weaves captivating tales that will leave you bewitched and craving more. When Angel isn’t spinning her wordcraft webs, she cuddles kitties and tends to the many mystical creatures who live in her backyard pocket-realm. To unlock more, visit AngelMcCoy.com and embark on a journey like no other into a realm of modern myth and magick.

Author Websitehttps://AngelMcCoy.com
Author Facebookhttps://facebook.com/WyrdwoodAngel

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