October 27, 2013
Hello to all! This is Bell Ellis, the author of “Swiftsilver” which appears in Dreamspinner’s Steampunk Anthology, Steamed Up. I’ve written a few other stories over at the site, but this would be my first steampunk story.
I was absolutely positive that I was doomed as I wrote it, because a) I know almost nothing of steampunk, and b) I wanted to bring Science(!) into the story, and Science(!), as we all know, is difficult to fake. I was fortunate in being able to consult a few friends who think more about these things than I do.
Here is an excerpt from my story:
One day, Thio was playing with a small square of it (enameled to a piece of flannel), when he sat up. “Seamus, look at this.”
“What is it?”
“Take this patch of swiftsilver and wave it back and forth in the air.” Seamus did so, waving it haphazardly, and Thio shook his head. “Not like that; keep the flat side facing the push of the air. Like this.” He held Seamus’s hand and helped him move the patch from side to side, pushing it against the air as though waving a fan. Seamus could immediately tell what Thio had noticed: on the silver side of the patch, there was intense resistance to the air, but on the flannel side, there was very little. The effect was baffling. When one waves a fan, the air resistance is equal on both sides. To have it feel so dramatically different….
“What the devil kind of substance is this?”
Seamus said, “It’s… a semipermeable membrane, Thio. Air passes through one side more easily than the other. Thio, that would be perfect for a wing. You would resist the air beneath on the downswing, but not the air above on the upswing.”
The idea of swiftsilver’s particular properties came to me when a friend of mine mentioned the thought experiment of Maxwell’s Demon. Maxwell’s Demon is basically a powerful little creature that opens a door between two chambers and allows hot molecules into one, and cool molecules into the other, to artificially create a temperature difference and defeat entropy. Apparently some demons need hobbies.
I thought, what if a substance could do that?
The same friend of mine went on to talk about vacuum airships, and the technical aspects of the story unfolded from there. Then I had to throw a bucket of cold water over my friend to get him to stop talking about technical constructs so that I could go and write the Glandularly Meaningful bits.
I’ve begun to read the anthology myself, and I’m delighted to see that I wasn’t the only person to focus heavily on technology (some of them even involve math, but don’t be frightened, it’s just a story); but that just betrays my basic ignorance of steampunk. Of course it would all contain technology and inventions and near-miraculous science (sorry, Science(!)). But that’s what makes this collection of stories special.
Are you a technically-oriented reader? Does it drive you crazy when writers get things wrong, or make you stand up and applaud when they get things right? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.
If you ever want to natter at me about my other stories, writing in general, dogs, pie, contortionists (I’m doing research for another story), or anything else that inspires you, please feel free to poke at me on Twitter, where I exist as EllisTales.
October 27, 2013
Hi. I’m Amy Rae Durreson, and I’m joining Mary, Eli and some of our fellow authors to talk about the Steamed Up Anthology. My story, “The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song” is the second story in the collection. It’s about an engineer, an inventor, a flying pleasure garden, and a clockwork nightingale with a broken heart.
I’ll be talking a little more about my historical inspirations later today, but to get us started, have a little taster of the story. Here Senior Engineer Shem Holloway and his apprentice are at work in the Vauxhall Flying Pleasure Gardens when the nightingale’s inventor Lord Gabriel Marchmont arrives to demand their attention, much to Shem’s annoyance.
That night, Shem found it hard to concentrate on his rounds. He was distracted by the thought of a brass nightingale that refused to sing and, more and more as the evening underwent its daily transformation from charming to wild, of its creator, his unguarded smile, the arrogance Shem wanted to slap off that pretty face, and his fine hands.
“Should we check the fountain, Mr. Holloway?” the boy asked, breaking him out of his daydream.
Shem glanced at Neptune’s fountain, currently occupied by three very drunk young men: one sitting in the water up to his waist and the others, shirtless, copying the pose of the great statue for the benefit of a squealing crowd of women who were clearly no better than they ought to be.
“Have some sense, boy.”
The boy’s eyes were wistful, and he wet his lips a little before venturing, “But they might need our help, Mr. Holloway.”
Like that, was it? Shem could see they were pretty, for drunken louts, the water slicking across their bare, muscled chests, and the colored lights which hung in the surrounding trees washing them with a gold-and-purple glow. Still, anyone who stripped off in a fountain on a June night in England deserved to get pneumonia, and he wasn’t going to let his apprentice lust after buffoons. “The constables will be along in a moment to help them all the way to the dock.”
“But, Mr. Holloway….”
“Come along, boy.” Shem firmly steered the boy away.
He wasn’t expecting a firm clap on his shoulder and an all-too-familiar posh voice to say, “There you are, Holloway. Must say the entertainment’s changed in tone a little since I was last here.”
“I can assure you that the management does not….” Shem started and protested as Marchmont plucked the key from his hand and unlocked the gate in the hedge. “My lord, the paths are for employees—”
“I’m on a retainer,” Marchmont said cheerily, pushing them through the gate. He was still in evening dress, but there was a lot more ink smudged across his cuffs.
A loud splash and a roar of jeering laughter sounded behind them, and both Marchmont and the boy craned in that direction, as if they could see through three inches of dense laurel hedge. Irritated, Shem said, “We weren’t expecting you quite yet, my lord.”
“Oh, I couldn’t stop thinking on it. I’ve revisited all my notes, and the standard reference texts, and now I must see the bird in situ. You’ve restored it to its post?”
“Some hours ago, sir.”
The boy was quivering with curiosity, so Shem said to him, “Nightingale No. 48. Show me that you can find the way.”
The boy darted ahead a little, and Marchmont commented, “It’s a veritable maze behind the scenes. You could make a fortune opening this up to the public. Mazes are all the thing, you know. I designed revolving hedgerows for the one at Blenheim.”
“We do try to keep undesirables out of the staff areas, sir,” Shem remarked. Marchmont seemed to have relaxed considerably since the afternoon, and Shem eyed him suspiciously. Was he drunk?
“Luckily, I am considered quite the catch,” Marchmont said as a money capsule went rattling through the pneumatic tube attached to the side rail of the path. “I say, what do you do about rust?”
This little snippet contains my favorite line in the entire story. It’s a throwaway remark, so I’m very glad it made it through the editing process intact. Anybody want to guess what it is?
October 27, 2013
My name’s Mary Pletsch and I’m the author of Ace of Hearts, one of the stories in the Steamed Up Anthology. It’s my pleasure to be here chatting with all of you today. I’m looking forward to showing some excerpts from Ace of Hearts, sharing some bits of real-world history that shaped the story, and enjoying some conversation with other romance lovers.
Prepare for takeoff! Here’s a little teaser from Ace of Hearts:
The flight leader was the spitting image of Dirigible Captain James Hinson, two-time winner of the Distinguished Flying Bar.
William felt his jaw drop. The man looked exactly like Hinson’s newspaper daguerreotypes—strong chin, chiseled features, a tousled lock of hair tumbling over his forehead—except that his hair was sandy brown. Funny how William had imagined him as a ginger, like William himself. William had spent a lot of time in the past year fantasizing about the famous ace Captain Hinson, but he’d never dared dream he’d get to meet the man himself.
William blinked, revised his personal image of Captain Hinson, and then dared to look again. He had to be mistaken. But when he opened his eyes, the newcomer was still the spitting image of the famous dirigible pilot, and he was standing in front of his purple-striped aircraft. The buried memory dislodged itself and swam up to the surface of William’s thoughts. Hinson’s dirigibles’ baskets had always been marked by distinctive purple stripes, just like the lead Gryphon.
What business would a hero like Captain Hinson have in a heavier-than-air squadron?
Captain Hinson is William’s ideal for a steampunk hero – what’s yours?
The Steamed Up Anthology is available now:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4267 for the eBook or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4324 for the paperback.
Saving Sonny James excerpt two: Meet Jesse Douglas–Luki’s sexy ex (yes, really) and another informal poll (decisions…)
October 22, 2013
Poll question: Do you think a spin-off starring Jesse shoud be forthcoming, or is he too… risky? (I’d sincerely like your feedback.)
Long before Sonny James Luki had a bit of a romance with a ginger man named Jesse Douglas. Jesse is sexy, quiet, capable, and a bit of a badass himself. He doesn’t look like Rupert, or Prince Harry, or this:
(Although some of us may wish that he did.)
This little excerpt is the by-chance, surprise meeting after many years between Jesse and Luki, on the plane heading for France, where Luki is determined to rescue his husband from whatever evil has befallen him.
Luki glanced up in time to see a man who had turned in his seat three rows up and across the aisle, looking at him—a man with brilliant green eyes.
Maybe the eyes distracted him, forcing his attention for no reason except their color. For too long an instant, he didn’t recognize the owner of those startling irises. But the man continued to walk toward him, smiling, and Luki knew him. The real memory finally overcame imagination.
“Jesse,” Luki said when the tall, slender ginger-haired man was close.
“Hey, Luki! Been a long time, eh? Too long.”
Luki couldn’t decide if it was too long or not long enough. Jesse had been part of his life—an anomaly—before Sonny, even before Luki had decided to forego attachments and keep solitary and safe with one-night stands done his way. In his youth Luki had twice tried to have a more significant relationship. One was with a guy in college, Graham Kennedy, whom Luki had dated—for real, dated—for a couple of months until Graham had decided to aim for the Catholic priesthood. Jesse, this mellow and still attractive green-eyed agent standing in the aisle on the flight to France, had been the other. They had trained together at FLETC—the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, in Georgia. Jesse had been a new hire with the State Department, and Luki had been new to ATF. That put them in the minority among FBI newbies and cops from various parts of the country, and they gravitated together when they had downtime. Sharing meals and movies and jokes started them talking. Serious study and skills practice started them touching.
Jesse was a likeable guy, adventurous and sexy. But he’d wanted things Luki couldn’t give. He’d wanted to be equals. He’d wanted to be in love. He’d wanted commitment. Luki couldn’t give any of that, then. And after that he didn’t let anyone get close enough even to think about such things.
Until Sonny. Sonny proved to be the one of a kind, sole contender for Luki’s devotion.
Still, Luki held no ill will for Jesse—he even had good memories, and maybe what he felt could be called fondness. So when his old, once intimate friend came up to him smiling his soft smile, Luki patted his extra, empty seat. “Join me for a bit?”
Jesse accepted the offer, and once he was seated said, “Damn, Luki, you look good!”
Luki started to deny that, then gave himself a mental shake. He did look good—or at least he looked like himself. He was groomed and well-dressed, and his body was in almost top shape. His eyes—he knew—had lost the glazed absent look they’d worn since Umatilla, and he’d gotten enough outdoor air for his skin to look its best, hate-scar down the left side of his face and all. And this man sitting next to him had rather liked that scar, even though—until Sonny—Luki had always thought it made him ugly. So instead of arguing, Luki just said, “Thanks. You too, Jesse. How are you? Still working for State?”
“Yeah, I am—moved out of the field agent ranks, though. Now I’m a pencil pusher.” His smile was wide and sincere, as it always had been, but he’d collected some deep lines around his eyes. His hair had some whitish streaks among the ginger too. It wasn’t a bad look on him. “You’re still with ATF, or no? I’ve heard different things….”
“Yes. I haven’t been working since last summer. I… well, it’s a long story. But I’m active duty now.”
“Are you official, then? I mean, is your trip to Europe connected with a case or something? Seems kind of unusual for ATF.”
Luki recognized the slight shift in Jesse’s voice, the minute narrowing of his eyes. Those little changes told him Jesse had switched from personal interest to professional. He was trying to gauge whether Luki’s visit was going to spell trouble for the State Department. Luki answered to set the man’s mind at ease. “No, Jesse. It’s personal. I’m on vacation leave.” For a change of subject, he asked a question even though the answer was evident. “Your duty station is in Europe?”
“Yeah, gay Par-ee.” He laughed, but it wasn’t entirely in mirth. “Hey, listen. I could see the sparkle off those rings clear over across the cabin. They’re on your left hand. Do they have the usual meaning?” Jesse dropped his gaze and pushed his hair back off his forehead. It changed nothing—the heavy forelock flopped right back down over his brow—but his posture and that nervous swipe of his hair was full of meaning. It told Luki the question held emotional impact for Jesse.
After all this time, Luki mused, but out loud he just said, “Yes.”
“I thought you…. Has it been long?”
“No, not really. We met last year, married this past summer.”
Jesse stared at Luki for a few minutes, as if he were trying to tunnel through his eyes to reach his brain and read what he found there. He tilted his head sideways, shaking it and laughing in disbelief. “You’re in love, Luki Vasquez! I can’t believe it!”
It wasn’t unkind, though faintly colored with old frustrations, Luki thought. He watched his friend, marveling that he could still read his old flame so well. Jesse had leaned forward, elbows on knees and hands clasped, his long, straight spine stretched but his shoulders slightly hunched, fighting with himself over something. Finally, he spoke in a breathy voice that told Luki how hard he had struggled not to ask, not to tread this path. “Have there been a lot of men since me, Luki?”
Luki’s long habit of privacy, of playing everything close to the vest, made him hesitate. But he thought it was a fair question, and Jesse was a good man, and though Luki would never have expected it, apparently for Jesse the end of their brief foray into coupledom remained unresolved. “No,” he said softly, but then he corrected himself. “Well, yes, but out of them all, you were the only one that mattered in any way, until Sonny—my husband.”
Clearly Jesse had been hanging on the words. Immediately he responded, “I mattered.”
Biting back a bit of his own frustration now, Luki spoke as kindly and honestly as he could. “Yes, of course you mattered, Jesse. The time we spent together was fun and sweet for what it was, and you helped me know myself. I remember only good things about you, and after we split I missed you.”
“Why didn’t you ever call?”
“Or even e-mail?”
“Jesse.” Luki let his voice take on a note of warning. As much as he held no ill will for his long-ago lover, he just wasn’t inclined to have this discussion. He’d already gone above and beyond, as far as he was concerned. “Stop,” he said.
Jesse visibly shook off his tension, sat up, and sat back in the seat. “Okay,” he said. “Sorry. Sometimes I get unreasonable.”
Luki said, “Yes, yes, you do. I remember.”
At first it looked as though Jesse was going to take offense at that, but then perhaps memory struck, because he laughed. “I’d bet you’ll never forget,” he said. “But okay, change of subject. Why are you going to Europe? Are you stopping in Paris?”
“Yeah. Paris. I think that’s as far as I’m going.” He allowed himself a sigh as today’s reality sank over him. What to say, though? He wasn’t prone to giving out a lot of information, but it crossed his mind that he had no allies lined up on the far shore, and Jesse might be in a position to help. So, “Um…. Well, it’s where Sonny is, my husband.”
“Do I detect a note of… I don’t know, trouble?”
“Probably. So what do you do, these days—for State, I mean. If it’s not classified.”
“Some classified, but generally I work on various problems around US citizens abroad—they get arrested or stranded or whatever. Why did you ask? Is there something you need help with?”
“Maybe. I don’t really want to lay everything out right here, right now, but Sonny’s sort of… missing.”
Jesse’s whole demeanor changed, taking on his professional persona, which
Luki appreciated. “I take it you’re sure he’s not evading?”
A swift wind of self-doubt swept over Luki—would he want to leave me?—but it passed, leaving him only slightly shaken. Truth was, it didn’t matter. Harold Breslin was anything but trustworthy, and as long as Sonny was in the same country with him, he wasn’t safe. But deep in his heart, he knew Sonny would never walk away from him, from their love, their marriage, their home. Never would he disappear on purpose. “Not evading,” he said.
“I’m afraid maybe so.”
October 22, 2013
Informal poll question: What’s your take on humor in romance and suspense fiction? (a) detracts, stop it, bugs me; (b) love it, should be more; (c) some, carefully placed and balanced helps show humanity in the characters and makes the tough stuff easier to get through; (d)some other answer; (e) plead the fifth.
“WHY not, Luki?” Sonny had sent Harold on his way quickly and come upstairs while Luki was still finishing his shower. Luki, groggy again after standing a long time with hot drops pelting his skin, sat on the stool afterward, and Sonny dried his hair with a fluffy towel. The two of them barely fit in Margie’s tiny, feminine, neat little bathroom at the same time, but that didn’t prevent Sonny from attacking Luki’s head with real vigor. At the same time, he was trying to convince Luki to fly to France with him and Harold. “I’ll make sure you get first class, and I’ll have them tow a giant brick of sugar under the plane so the flight attendant can swoop down and pick up a ton of granules whenever you want coffee.” He felt gratified when Luki laughed—never easy to make that happen, and especially not lately.
“I guess I never told you,” Luki said, and then he pulled Sonny down for a kiss. “But since I met you, sometimes I don’t add the sugar.”
“See! I’m good for you. I’ve convinced you to fix that bad health habit.”
“Not exactly. Besides my sugar is probably not as bad for me as that flavored chemical creamer is for you! No, the reason I forget the sugar is because everything already tastes sweet when I’m with you.” Anyone else would have probably punctuated that with a cheesy grin, Sonny thought, but Luki just bobbed his eyebrows and it had the same effect. Sonny laughed, hard, which finally resulted in a slow smile from his husband. Luki said, “I love that, you know. When you laugh really hard like that? You sound like Woody Woodpecker.”
With a supreme effort Sonny stopped laughing, or at least almost, put his hands on his hips, and said, “I do not!”
“No really, you do babe. If I can figure out how, I’ll record it on my phone so you can hear yourself.”
Luki kept an almost completely straight face, but Sonny could see the gleam of fun—joy, maybe—in his eyes, and it was like clean water and fresh air, reprieve. Perhaps unfortunately, the feeling overwhelmed him. And tears stung his eyes, though none fell, and his lip twitched, and the whole damn good mood was broken. How could he explain that he was falling apart because he felt so good? “I’m sorry….”
Luki stood up and wrapped his big, strong arms around Sonny, and then pulled him tight against his chest, stroking his back, kissing his hair. “No, baby. I’m sorry. For how I’ve…. What I’ve become.”
“I love you, Luki—no matter what. And… just now, you were like you are… usually… with me.”
“Yeah,” Luki said. “Today’s a good day. I haven’t had many lately. They’ve just been getting worse and worse, and yesterday… I was so scared, baby.
How can I make you understand? I’d never want to hurt you, and I didn’t have any way to control it! Shit, I didn’t even know I was doing it.” He shook his head, punished his lip with his teeth, then very quietly added, “I couldn’t stay there, sweetie. If it happened again, if I ever hurt you, that would be worse than dying, worse than anything.”
Sonny felt a surge of anger. He growled, “But if you did die, Luki! Like at that fucking place! Like when that man…. That green-eyed guard you can’t seem to stop worrying over was going to fucking shoot you dead! If you’d died then, Luki….” By now Sonny’s rage had turned into sobs, and he just that moment realized how badly the whole situation was fucking with his own head. “I wouldn’t have wanted to live, either. Fuck… Luki. You didn’t do anything wrong. Can’t you just… I don’t know.” His flame had spluttered out, and now he sat down on the edge of the bathtub feeling defeated.
He half expected Luki to be pissed that he’d spoken to him—yelled at him—like that. Amazingly, Luki’s humor resurfaced instead, and he sat on Sonny’s knee. He whispered into his ear, “And for Christmas, Santa—or sooner, if you can make the extra trip south—I’d like to get my big-boy badass pants back.”
September 26, 2013
It’s no surprise that, given their history, Kelly and Cooper have unresolved issues between them. So when Kelly needs Cooper’s help (if anyone has read Floods and Drought, you know what he needs him for!), Cooper isn’t too eager…
KELLY found his way to the woodshed by walking toward the bright yellow light shining from its open door. When he walked in, Cooper was sweeping the last of the woodchips from the back of the tractor trailer. Despite the quickly cooling autumn air, he looked sweaty and hot.
“What are you doing here?” Cooper asked gruffly after letting Kelly wait for several long seconds.
“Looking for you. Can we talk somewhere? Privately.”
“What is this about?”
Kelly couldn’t help hearing the unspoken dismissal. Cooper clearly had no desire to talk to him. He decided to cut to the chase. “It’s Rory McCown. He broke his parole this afternoon, and he needs your help.”
“That’s what public defenders are for,” Cooper replied as he continued to sweep the floor.
“And his public defender is Sean Goddard,” Kelly said without further explanation.
“Norm’s son? Is he even out of diapers yet?”
Kelly chuckled, more out of nervousness than because he found what Cooper had said funny. “Just passed the bar. You know his dad, right?”
Cooper nodded. “Sure I do. He was my biggest competition when I first came to town. Big shark of a small-town lawyer, but he was gracious enough to not fight me over my piece of the pie.”
“Well, Sean’s a little out of his depth against Emmett Love.”
“Jeezus,” Cooper replied. “Emmett Love? Carries the name, but doesn’t know what it means. He used to hold the record for the most parolees returned to prison. Don’t suspect he got any more lenient in his old age?”
“Nope,” Kelly replied. “And he’s got it in for Rory’s hide.”
“Rory needs your help, Coop.”
“Can’t do it. I’m not a lawyer anymore.”
“You’ll always be a lawyer, Coop. You were the most amazing legal mind I’ve ever met.”
Cooper looked at Kelly from under his hat. “The emphasis on ‘were.’ They disbarred me, Kelly. Stripped me of my rights. I couldn’t represent Rory if I wanted to. And I don’t want to.”
“You don’t need to represent him. He just needs some advice. And to know someone is on his side.”
“We’re all on his side,” Cooper was quick to reply, standing tall, his broom by his side. “He’s Tim’s man. He used to work here. I like him. But I don’t see what I can do for him.”
Kelly smiled. If his memory didn’t betray him, the sparkle he saw appearing in Cooper’s eye was the first sign of Cooper becoming excited about something, although the rest of his body still dismissed him. “He needs someone to show him he’s worth fighting for. And he needs someone to talk Emmett Love under the table. According to your reputation, you’re the only guy in this town who can do that.”
“Naah,” Cooper said, putting his broom aside. “I was never interested in him enough to talk him under a table.” Cooper wiggled his eyebrows, and Kelly was transported back to the law library, their study group, and their favorite place for sex. On top of or under the long tables.
“Pretend,” Kelly ordered. “Just this one time and just for Rory’s sake. Love is hell-bent on sending him back to state prison for a year. I’ll settle for him serving the remainder of his parole, not his prison sentence, in county jail.”
“But it’s not your call, is it?”
“No, that’s something the county prosecutor has to decide, but he’ll listen to Love. If Love recommends the shortest possible sentence, he’ll follow, and then all Sean Goddard needs to do is agree with it. The judge will follow the prosecutor. You know that.”
“I suppose it’s worth a shot.”
Kelly had the overwhelming urge to wrap Cooper in his arms and kiss him senseless. He thought he could smell Cooper’s sweaty, manly scent from where he was standing, but considering the overwhelming woodsy aroma emanating from everything else in the shed, he figured it was just his imagination. When he took one step toward Cooper, the man tensed up, though, so he decided a butch punch to the arm would be enough. “I knew I could convince you.”
Cooper shrugged. “Emmett Love probably won’t even let me in.”
“Don’t know if you don’t try. And if he doesn’t, at least Rory will know you support him.”
“Fair enough,” Cooper said. “What time do you want me there?”
If you’ve read Floods and Drought, you know how this ends!
September 26, 2013
Ready for the blurb and a first excerpt?
After an affair with a married DA led to scandal and disbarment, Cooper Nelson left his legal career in shambles, and found solace working as a hand at the Blue River Ranch. Eight years later, during a rare visit into town, Cooper bumps into Kelly Freed, a man he left behind fifteen years earlier when he started out as an attorney. Unfortunately, Kelly is running for sheriff and his wife is terminally ill, so Kelly can’t even consider rekindling their relationship. Cooper knows from sad experience that hiding the truth leads to lives being ruined, so for his part, he refuses to be anybody’s dirty secret.
In the meantime circumstances at neighboring Blackwater Ranch have taken a desperate turn. Gable’s friend Calley has breast cancer, and when Gable and Flynn take in Calley’s kids, they need help from their friends. Cooper and Kelly’s combined talents are put to work to ensure Gable can make a bid to become the legal father of his children, and that Calley’s affairs are in order if worse comes to worst. For Cooper, staying away from Kelly was never easy, and now with a common cause, Cooper finds he can’t stop himself from seeking the man out.
You can read the first chapter here, but here is a powerful memory of how Cooper and Kelly first met….
LATER that night, all alone in bed, Kelly couldn’t stop thinking about Cooper Nelson. When he moved to St. Anthony, he knew he was bound to bump into him sooner or later, but he’d been surprised it had taken him almost a year. Maybe the stories of Coop keeping to himself and practically living as a recluse were true. It was strange seeing Cooper again after fifteen years and realizing time hadn’t been kind to the man. The Cooper Nelson Kelly remembered was quite different from the one he’d bumped into that afternoon. Both the younger Cooper and the more mature one were hard to resist, though, so it was easy to let his mind stray to the first time he laid eyes on Cooper, back in law school.
Even before reaching the study hall, Kelly could hear a boisterous voice rising above the others. “Yeah, but then you’d walk into the hallway, and there would be Tanker Overhead. I swear Overhead was her real last name, and she looked like a tanker, so the nickname stuck. She’d prowl the hallways and corner you at the lockers, so there was no way you could be late, or she’d report you. I swear….”
The door to the study hall squeaked when Kelly pushed it open, and all conversation stilled at the same time seven pairs of eyes looked his way. The silence was killing him. “Is this the study group for Professor Finkelstein’s class?”
“And you are?” a guy sitting on top of a long mahogany table asked.
“Are you sure you’re old enough to be in law school? College is on the other side of town.”
The guy stretched out his legs and jumped down from the table. With an insanely wide, bright white smile across over his face, he walked over to Kelly and held out his hand. “Cooper Nelson, and I’m a few years older than you. Welcome to the only way to succeed in Fink’s class.”
“Yeah, Coop, you should know. This is the fourth time you’re taking it,” one of the other guys said.
Cooper turned around. “That’s why you need me here. I know all the loopholes by now. And it’s not like I haven’t passed his class before. I’m just doing it again to get a better average. Thanks to me, all of you will only need to take this class once.”
“That’s what you said last time, Coop,” one of the girls said. She got up and walked over to Kelly. “Don’t listen to him. He’s got a high opinion of himself and absolutely no reason for it. He wants to do corporate law, because that’s where the money is, but I told him he should become an ambulance chaser instead, because the way he lies without batting an eyelash―”
“I just sugarcoat the truth, darling,” Cooper intervened, wrapping his impossibly long arm around her tiny shoulders. “The world would be a prettier place if more people did that.”
“Hi, I’m Nina,” the pretty dark-haired girl said as she shook Kelly’s hand. “Don’t mind Cooper. He means well but forgets how he comes across sometimes.”
“So what are you going to be when you grow up?” Cooper asked, looking at his study hall group when a few of them laughed at his statement. Kelly didn’t like being the butt of anyone’s jokes, but he’d been told this group was his best chance at beating the notoriously impossible Professor Finkelstein at his own game, so he knew he had to grin and bear it. “Law enforcement,” he replied, trying to sound casual.
“Well, sheriff, sit down, listen, and learn.”
September 25, 2013
I had to write a little something extra for release day. That’s part of the fun of sharing a new stories. This is my thank you for giving me a little bit of your attention. Thank you.
But I couldn’t decide what part of the unwritten story I wanted to tell. Home Team is a short novella, spanning a few short weeks in Aaron Buckley’s life. I could tell you about after, but I didn’t quite want to spoil everything. I could tell you about Aaron’s sister, Rosie, or his friend, Emile, or the kid, Teddy, who won’t leave him alone.
But I decided to tell you about before. Before is so important to Aaron and Zach’s story because the past is hanging over them now. It was good, then it was bad. Aaron hopes it can be good again.
September 24, 2013
When writing this two-part story, my foremost thought was that Lacey is normal. I never saw her any other way.
For her—a boy—to dress up in girl’s clothes is normal. In the eyes of the world that makes her a transvestite and/or transgender. When a woman wears pants, however, she is not either of those things. But for a boy to doll up and desire to feel pretty in silk and lace, that’s apparently a whole other ball game. And don’t even get me started on her being a violinist!
The above image shows sort of how I saw her. — Oh, an BTW, that model is a boy: Andrej Pejic.
For Lacey, this way of being is natural. It’s the adults who have a problem with her. It’s the world at large that demands labels and categories. Yet, do they really understand?
Does Lacey feel like a boy or a girl? Does she want to physically be a boy or a girl? Does she like being called a she or a he? In Finnish, we don’t have gender designations for him/her personal pronoun. We simply have hän. In English, a gender classification is required, and this has become a social issue as well. Is Lacey Bro’s girlfriend or boyfriend? Funny how that is a question neither teenager feels compelled to address. To each other, they simply are. Friends, lovers, partners. Lacey and Bro are together.
From the beginning my goal for this story was to depict Lacey’s problems as the kinds any teenager might face, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. An alcoholic, abusive parent; being bullied in school; the pressure to conform; and the need to be true to oneself. In that sense, Lacey being a boy in a girl’s dress is secondary. For her, there is no other way to be who she is. And that is how I wrote it: As a normal, natural, instinctive way of being. If adults pay attention to only this one outward aspect of Lacey, then it’s their problem, revealing more about them than her.
This may be a different way of seeing this issue of transvestism in literature. A big segment of the transgender genre makes transvestism the focal point of a story. I chose an alternative view point. This is a romance, an erotic coming of age tale of a young man who comes into her own, battered by a world that sees her as a freak, but also blossoming in the light of love and acceptance.
I hope you enjoy this story. I surely enjoyed writing it. You can find The Sweetest Scent here.
September 24, 2013
The best way to describe Bro is cocky. But he has good reason to be an opinionated smart mouth, as he’s got a big heart. He may be flippant and direct, but he’s a good guy, always helpful and friendly. And for him to love a boy who dresses up like a girl is normal.
Oh, I fully intended to show you a picture of a jock who reminded me of Bro—but considering after a Google search on jocks the only images I got were of man-packages in jockstraps… Yup, yup. Pass! I’d probably get booted out of here so fast!
The best way to show who Bro is, is to give an excerpt of the moment he and Lacey met at their high school music room. Enjoy!
On that day Lacey had been crying silently, and not even music could distract her from her melancholy and sorrow.
Startled, Lacey jumped at the sound of a boy’s voice. She turned around to find a cute guy leaning against the doorframe of the music room, looking relaxed and comfortable, with a lopsided smile dangling on his lips. Wearing blue jeans, a gray T-shirt, and a school football jacket, he had a casual charm Lacey found more than a little attractive. The shiny black hair—almost emo in style—and the bright-blue eyes only added to the effect.
“Um, thanks,” she muttered, feeling emotionally exposed.
The boy’s head cocked to the side as he inspected Lacey, who was getting more than a bit uncomfortable with every passing second. Suddenly, he looked bashful, even blushed a little.
“Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you, or anything. I just thought… you play beautifully.” Standing up from his slouching position, he squared his shoulders—and for the first time Lacey saw how big the guy actually was. Not beefy, but tall and very fit. He gave a small, shy smile, lifting his chin in a quick good-bye gesture. “I guess I’ll see you around.”
As he started to turn, Lacey called out, “Yes, see you… around….” She had tried to sound confident and at ease, but it came out an undignified squeak. She knew he wouldn’t stay now.
But the guy glanced over his shoulder, curious, and then he sauntered closer to Lacey, who suddenly found it hard to breathe—or look anywhere else but at the young man with eyes the color of forget-me-nots and a flirtatious grin tugging the left corner of his mouth.
He stopped in front of her, sort of swinging on his heels. “Hi, I’m Bro.”
Lacey looked down, shy, and smiled a little. “I’m… Lacey.” She wondered what it was he saw. Did he see a pretty girl in a lavender-colored dress, or a boy trying to be something he wasn’t?
Bro’s thumbs were hooked in front pockets of his jeans, and as such his hands framed his bulging crotch deliciously. All of a sudden, Lacey realized she was staring.
While she was busy blushing, he chuckled softly. “You’re new?”
Lacey dared a quick glance up and saw only fascination in the boy’s face. “Yes. We moved here two weeks ago. Me and my dad.”
The boy nodded. “Welcome to DC.”
“Thanks.” Lacey became aware she was still holding her violin in one hand and the bow in the other, undecided as to what to do with them. Fidgeting, her hands seemed to move on their own, searching for the red fiberglass violin case, and she feared she might have given the impression of a broken robot, twitching away.
But then Bro was there, handing her the case from the chair nearby. “This what you wanted?”
“Yes, thanks.” As she grasped the case and started putting her instrument away, not forgetting to wipe the excess rosin from the strings, Lacey noted she had probably thanked the boy half a dozen times by now. God, what is wrong with me? She was usually more articulate than this.
Lacey didn’t have a boyfriend. Yet she wanted to get to know a boy. And this Bro was surprisingly kind and courteous. He must have had a great, supportive family.
That thought brought into the foreground her own recent loss, and she found herself shaking with sorrow, her eyes watering.
“Hey, hey,” the boy said, his voice filled with concern as he placed his hand on her shoulder comfortingly. “I’m sorry if I—”
“It’s not you, I swear,” Lacey denied quickly, in between sobs, blinking furiously to dispel the moisture in her eyes. “You’re nice.”
His hand left her shoulder in a hurry, and when he spoke, his tone was darker, lower, more dangerous. “Has someone been… not nice to you?”
The boy’s protectiveness surprised Lacey, who looked up in amazement. No one had cared about her well-being like that before, unless they were family. Bro’s expression was akin to a storm cloud, and Lacey felt a sudden, strange feeling of safety flowing over her.
Smiling uncertainly, she said, “No, I haven’t been here long enough. It’s….” She bit her lower lip. “I lost my mom.”
Bro’s face overflowed with sympathy, and he took her hand very carefully, as if it were a fine piece of porcelain. “I’m so sorry. I’ve lost my mom too.”
Lacey’s eyes widened in shock. “Your mom’s dead too?”
Looking sad and dejected, Bro shook his head a bit. “No. She just didn’t want me, or my brother.” Then he frowned, looking ashamed. “I suppose it’s not the same.”
“No.” Lacey shook her head. “It’s worse. Being alive and abandoning your children? Yes, it’s definitely worse. At least my mom loved me.” She gasped when she realized what she had said, how insensitive it must have sounded. “Wait, I didn’t mean it like that—”
“It’s okay.” Bro smiled encouragingly, his eyes filled with levity again. “I know what you meant.” Sighing in relief, Lacey squeezed his hand empathetically, and his hold of her nimble fingers tightened a bit. “I didn’t intend to sound, you know, aggressive and shit—um, I mean all… caveman. It’s just I thought you might have been… bullied, or something.”
“Thankfully, no.” Lacey offered her brightest smile, showing her white teeth, and the effect was instantaneous. Bro’s eyes seemed to glaze over and a goofy, lopsided grin rose to his lips. Had this cute guy been into boys, Lacey would have hugged him. But someone that sweet probably already had a girlfriend anyway, so she quelled the instinct.
Then she was proven wrong.
Puffing his chest a bit, Bro nodded and said, “If you ever are, you know, bullied, you just come to me, okay? I’ll straighten everything out.” Lacey was about to interject that she did not need a knight in shining armor, especially one who thought he was protecting a girl, but Bro spoke first. “I mean… you look real pretty in that dress. Even if you are… you know… a guy.”
Bro’s cheeks reddened as he spoke, but to Lacey he looked chivalrous to the point of glowing. “Y-you don’t mind?”
Then the self-assured, cocky grin was back in place as he winked. “Nah. I definitely don’t mind. And I’d mind even less if you were my girl. Even if you are a boy. Fortunately for us, I’m a boy who likes boys.”
And now, a question for you all: What was your best date like? Was it a traditional dinner and a movie? A walk on the beach and making out in the back of a car? A ride in a rollercoaster and sharing cotton candy ’cause you both have a sweet tooth? Hooking up at a party and knowing instantly you two were meant to be? Did you go mountain climbing or scuba diving? Don’t be shy, people. Bro sure wouldn’t be! And he’s a nosy guy
My books can be found through my website.