S.A. Garcia's Mutterings, Whimpers and Rants

S.A. Garcia's Mutterings, Whimpers and Rants. World Domination by 2020. Or 2025. Probably never.

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Christmas Present to You: Three Novels!

Holiday stories do not come easily to this cynical old gal. In fact, last year was the first time I submitted a story for Dreamspinner’s Advent calendar anthology. My futuristic story was set in a homeless shelter run by a gay pastor who thinks he’s loosing his mind, but by the end of the story, a few miracles happen.

I was stunned and delighted when “The Colors of Pastor Saul” was accepted for publication. I love my Dreamspinner editors.

Upon release, quite a few easily upset souls complained about the story. Too “sad” too “dark”, too “unsettling”… but wait, I thought, what about the miracles? Certain readers didn’t want to read about miracles in a homeless shelter, not for Christmas. These delicate readers wanted holiday trees and pretty lights…wait, I did feature those items in my story. Hmm. Maybe the specter of Death during Christmas upset readers. Cue Dickens. Obviously the oh-so-sensitive souls had never bothered to read Dickens.

Snarky? Me? Absolutely. I don’t tolerate ignorance and wanting intellect.

Back in March, I attempted to write a cheerful Christmas story set in 1947 Cornwell. Suddenly the trauma of World War 2 seeped into the celebration. I gave up and gently placed the story in storage.

When I saw RJ Scott’s invitation to submit a story to her “Christmas Delights” anthology, I said what the hell, I’ll give this holiday story game another shot. This time I selected nice hot sex as the story’s centerpiece. No trauma, no lurking death… there’s sex, voyeurism, snow, sweat, surprises, and a 1966 cherry red Mustang convertible named Sheila. When I feature a car in a story, I need to name her something fun.

There you go. I have discovered the ability to write a cheerful holiday story. OK, yes, there’s a little trauma, but it’s resolved in a blink.

To prove my holiday cheer, I’m giving away a holiday present of three novels: Cupid Knows Best, The Gospel According to Cher and Love in the Shadows. I’ll even throw in a copy of “The Colors of Pastor Saul.”

Your task is simple: recommend a great holiday story to me  and end the post with the Mustang's name.  *snicker*

Good luck!

My partner Professor Sandy will pick the winner on Sunday night.

Also, hop over to RJ’s blog for the chance to win great RJ-related prizes!

PS: By the way, the Cornwell story is coming out of storage. I think I found a happy ending. I'm trying, kittens, yes I am.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Shira Anthony Guest Post: The Blue Notes Series: Love for the Long Haul

Welcome to the Shira Anthony Weekend!

Thanks, Sandy, for hosting me!  It’s been a busy holiday season so far, since I have two releases in my Blue Notes Series of music-themed gay romances: Encore (released November 11th) and Symphony in Blue (to be released on Christmas day).  Symphony in Blue also happens to be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m going all-out with a Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Tour giveaway contest featuring a grand prize of a Kindle loaded with e-books as well as other fun goodies (details at the end of the post).
The Blue Notes Series books, with the exception of Symphony in Blue, are standalone novels and can be read in any order.  Encore shares themes in common with the other Blue Notes books: music and musicians, a heavy focus on character development, and long-term, committed relationships.  It’s this last theme I’d like to talk a bit about:  love for the long haul.
I’ve never been a fan of insta-love.  Not only that, I was the kid who wanted to know what happened to Cinderella and her prince after they got married.  When people talk about happily-ever-afters, I’m thinking years down the line, not wedding days.  Maybe I wanted a road map for happiness.  Maybe I just wanted more realism than I got from cookie-cutter Harlequin romances.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters to me is that readers see what it is that makes the men in my stories want to stay together and how they grow after they tell each other “I love you.”  Those are the books I wanted to read, and those are the books I write.  Symphony in Blue and Encore are perfect examples.
Encore is chronologically the first book in the series.  It begins in the 1970s and ends in the present day.  Talk about a long haul!  Roger and John meet in high school.  They are meant for each other.  But it’s the 1970s, and being gay was a million times harder back then than it is today.  I lived through the 70s and 80s. I remember the whispers and the judgments, the finger pointing and horrible suggestions that AIDS was some sort of retribution for the “sin” of homosexuality.  I knew men who lived their lives in the closet.  I knew men who died of AIDS.  I knew men who struggled to find a way to make relationships work in spite of the lack of role models for same-sex partners (we weren’t even talking about marriage back then!).  These are the men who inspired John and Roger’s story.  The road to a lasting happily-ever-after is a very long one in Encore.  It’s a story of young love, and it becomes a story of mature love.  The perfect representation of how I see happily-ever-after.  And it takes John and Roger nearly 30 years to figure out how to make their love work.
Symphony in Blue is also about the long haul and watching relationships come into their own.  It is also the only sequel in the series—a direct sequel to the first four books.  In it, I revisit the first four couples in the series, and show how their relationships have grown and the new challenges in their lives.  Is there a happily-ever-after in each of the first four books?  Of course.  Die-hard romantic that I am, I don’t write books without them.  But Symphony in Blue is a perfect illustration of how a happily-ever-after isn’t a particular place of mind:  it’s a state of mind.  So you might think of it as a second happily-ever-after for each of the couples.
Looking for sexy hot romances with fluffy scenes?  I think you’ll like the Blue Notes books.  But if you’re also looking for something more—for something more real than Cinderella and her prince? I think you’ll enjoy these stories about real men in real relationships.  You can find all of my Dreamspinner Press books by clicking here.  Want to read more about me and about my books, including free fiction and excerpts?  Check out my website, www.shiraanthony.com
Don’t forget to enter the Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour giveaway by clicking here (Rafflecopter).  There are plenty of ways to enter, and you can enter more than once by commenting, tweeting, buying books, and liking pages.  I’ll be drawing winners on New Year’s Eve at midnight!  Good luck! –Shira

Roger watched the snow fall outside the window of his apartment before glancing over at the clock. It was nearly 9:00 p.m., and John should have arrived an hour before.
“Promise me you won’t come if the snow gets too bad. You know how I-23 can get,” he’d told John that morning over the phone.
“I’ll be fine,” John had reassured him. “With the opera rehearsal schedule and Professor Menard’s vocal performance class, I’d never get to see you if I waited for perfect weather.”
Now, an hour after John was supposed to be here, Roger was pacing the apartment. Worrying. Imagining John’s car somewhere in a ditch. Or worse.
He pulled a beer out of the fridge, popped the top, and resumed his pacing. Ten minutes later, the phone rang.
“Hello!” he practically barked into the handset.
“Oh, hey, Mom.” Fuck. “How’re you doing?”
“Fine.” She paused, and Roger tried to think of something to get her off the phone. If John needed to get a hold of him, he didn’t want him to get a busy signal. “I’m surprised you’re around on a Saturday night. You usually aren’t.”
“I’ve got an exam on Monday,” he lied. “I can’t talk long.”
“No, of course. I wouldn’t want to keep you from it.” She’d been thrilled when he’d told her he planned on finishing school in three years. He hadn’t told her he planned on moving to New York, where John had already been accepted to do his master’s in conducting at Juilliard.
“Thanks, Mom.” Roger pushed back the curtain on the window in the kitchen with his foot—the long telephone cord didn’t go quite that far. From here, he could see the parking lot. A blanket of white covered the stripes on the asphalt. No John.
“… aren’t you?”
“I asked if you were coming over on Monday for dinner.” She sounded irritated.
“Oh, yeah. Right. Sure. I’ll be there.” He had to get her off the phone. “Look, Mom. I gotta get back to studying. I’ll see you Monday, okay?”
“Are you sure everything is all right, dear?”
“It’s great, Mom. I really need to go.”
Her huff was audible through the handset. “Of course.”
He hung up the phone before she could say anything more, and opened the drapes a bit farther. There had to be at least six inches of snow outside. He pressed his nose against the cold glass like he had when he’d been a kid, then closed his eyes. A moment later, the buzzer to the apartment sounded.
Thank God!
Roger scrambled over to the door and opened it to find a disheveled John smiling back at him. “Had to ditch the car over by the Woolworth’s. Forgot my keys. The ploughs haven’t made it this far yet—”
Roger grabbed John and pulled him inside. He was soaking wet, his shoulder-length hair curled at the ends, but Roger didn’t care. He drew John against him, wrapped his arms around his shoulders, and just held him.
“You okay?” John’s voice sounded muffled against Roger’s cheek.
“I am now.”
“Can I take this backpack off?” John asked with a soft laugh. “It’s a little heavy.”
“Oh. Shit. Sorry.” Roger grabbed the pack off John’s shoulders and kicked the door shut behind them.
“You were worried about me.” Not a question, and the way the edges of John’s mouth edged upward, Roger could tell he was teasing.
Roger was tempted to lie, but he was so relieved, he just sighed and said, “Yeah.”
John stared at him in surprise. “You really were worried.”
“Fuck, John, I—”
John kissed him. He tasted of snow and Coca-Cola. Roger closed his eyes as their tongues skirted each other in a now-familiar dance. God, he loved John! More than he could get up the nerve to admit.
For two years they’d stolen every moment they could, working around John’s busy schedule and Roger’s mother. Miranda suspected something. Roger was sure of it. She’d even shown up at the apartment early in the morning on the weekend. John said he was sure she was trying to catch them together. It made things a bit more difficult, but they’d worked it out. John stored his things under the bed, and the bedroom closet was big enough that he could slip inside and hide. They’d left a few pillows behind Roger’s clothing, as well as a flashlight and a few books.
“Don’t worry about it,” John had said the first time he’d hidden there. They both knew Roger needed his parents to pay tuition—at least they hadn’t threatened to stop when Roger announced he was getting his own apartment. “It’s just for a little while.”
Roger came back to himself and realized John was shivering. “Shit, John. You’re freezing your ass off.” He took John by the hand and led him into the bedroom. In the light, John’s cheeks looked pink in contrast to his pale skin. Roger unzipped John’s wet jacket and pushed it off his shoulders. “Stay right there,” he said before stepping into the bathroom to retrieve a towel.
John smiled as Roger dried his face and hair. “Feels good. I like it when you fuss over me.”
Roger’s cheeks heated. “Your pants are soaked,” he said in an effort to mask his embarrassment. He reached for John’s belt, undid the buckle, and unbuttoned the waist of John’s pants. The room was silent except for the sound of the zipper and Roger’s heart pounding in his ears. His hands shook as he pulled John’s pants down—he still hadn’t quite moved past the sinking feeling in his gut that had lodged itself there when he’d worried something had happened to John. He could handle a lot, but the thought of losing John terrified him.
“Are you okay?” John was studying him with a strange expression.
“Yeah.” I am now.
Roger focused on helping John step out of the cold, damp pants. He knew if he met John’s gaze, everything he felt would be obvious. It wasn’t just that he was embarrassed. What he felt was something he’d only begun to understand: vulnerability. The feeling you get when you realize your entire world would come to a screeching halt if the certain someone in your life were to vanish.
John shivered again.
“Get under the covers. I’ll be there in a minute.” Roger watched John pull the warm comforter over himself as he got undressed. He joined John underneath and skated his palms over John’s cold thighs until they warmed to his touch.
“Feels good.”
“You’re still cold.” Roger wrapped his body around John’s and held him. John’s skin was slightly damp against his own.
“I’m fine.” John tucked his chin into the space between Roger’s neck and shoulder. “Really.”
Roger just held him tighter.
“You okay?” John pulled away a bit and looked at him with obvious concern.
“Talk to me, Roger. What’s up?”
It was Roger’s turn to shiver. “I told you. I was just a little worried.”
“About me?” John reached for Roger’s face and pulled it gently so that Roger had no choice but to look at him.
“Yeah.” He didn’t want to talk about this. He just wanted to hold John and reassure himself John was safe. He looked away again.
“Hey.” John rolled onto his side so his face was next to Roger’s. “You can tell me, you know. I’m not going to laugh or anything.”
“I know.” Roger hesitated another moment, then said, “It’s just that I feel like an idiot.”
“Worrying about me doesn’t make you an idiot.” John leaned in and kissed Roger’s nose. “It makes me feel good.”
Roger’s breath stuttered. “I kept thinking back to that night… the accident. I kept imagining you in a ditch somewhere. Hurt…. Shit.” He grabbed John and buried his face in his chest. “I dream about that night sometimes, except in my dreams, you’re….” He clenched his jaw and blinked back tears. He’d had a lot of those dreams—nightmares, really—since John had started driving down from Ann Arbor to stay with him. He dreamed he woke up in the hospital and instead of John being all right, the doctor told him they’d done everything they could, and then he was standing in front of a headstone and he knew, he just knew whose headstone it was.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you,” Roger whispered. “I’d lose my mind. I love you so fucking much, I don’t know what I’d do.” It took him a moment to realize what he’d just said.
John leaned over and kissed him again, this time on the lips. In the semidarkness, Roger saw John’s eyes sparkle. The edges of his mouth curved upward in a tentative smile as the kiss broke. “You love me?” he asked.
Roger could only nod.
“Thank God. Because I don’t know what I’d do if I was the only one who felt like that.”
“You love me too.” He said the words as though he didn’t believe them.
“Always, Roger.”

Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour Info

This blog tour is to celebrate TWO Blue Notes Series releases:  Encore (Blue Notes #5) on November 11, 2013, and Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes #4.5) on December 25, 2013 (Christmas Day).  Symphony in Blue is my 10th Dreamspinner Press release!  I’ve put together a special prize list to celebrate.  
Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:
·      Begins on release day for Encore, November 11, 2013
·      Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
·      Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.
·      Prizes (U.S. Only):
o   Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
o   1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
o   2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
o   3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice

Remaining Blog Stops Currently Scheduled:

December 10th: Brilliant Disguise (Tali Spencer’s blog)
December 16th: Rebecca Cohen’s blog
December 20th: Purple Rose Teahouse (Charlie Cochet’s blog)
December 23rd: Mrs. Condits and Friends
December 25th: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party at Melanie Marshall’s Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
December 26th: Book Suburbia
December 27th:  Helen Pattskyn’s blog

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Trying not to Rewrite Marathon Man Dental Scenes

I’ve long needed serious dental work over the past years. Yeah, years ago a temporary cap fell off and I never went back, just put up with the pit in my back right wisdom tooth. Two years ago my lower left wisdom tooth exploded on the opposite side. I bravely held off until ta-da I took a real job again featuring dental insurance. Trust me, writing novels is NOT good for the teeth.

During the past three weeks, I suffered through rebuilds on two wisdom teeth in order to put crowns in place. We’re talking those tedious hour long drilling sessions… followed by sitting for long minutes waiting for the implant goop to set. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Instead of panicking, I tried to write while I lay there helpless to the drill. Aside from writing a scene referencing the movie Marathon Man where Dustin Hoffman is tortured by Laurence Olivier via dental drills, I could not focus.

I tried. I think the damned drilling noise destroyed my concentration. It’s hard to think about anything but that damned drill when it’s at a high pitched whine or—and I find worse— the low-pitched burr. Arrrrgh!

Now as the massive anesthesia doses wear off, the temp side hurts and the new crown hurts. But hey, as least I finally gave my teeth proper attention.

Just wait, I’ll start grinding at the new cap while I try to write a scene as I fall into sleep tonight.

I know none of my new novels will feature a dentist. Sorry, I can’t think of a dentist as sexy. Then again, it might be great aversion therapy to write about…no. I can’t.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

FREE Christmas Anthology from Love Lane Books

I have a story in a FREE Christmas anthology Christmas Delights, it organized, and lovingly promoted by RJ Scott for Love Lane Books. The anthology is a mix of new authors and authors that have been around the block a few times (ahem). 

My story "Paid with a Full Moon"  is a sexy comedy about voyeurism for a good cause...

To celebrate, on December 13th I'll be giving away a few of my books and RJ will also be giving away goodies. I'll update as the time draws closer.

Here's a run down of authors:

  • RJ Scott - Deefur and the Great Mistletoe Incident
  • Amber Kell - Christmas Tree Magic
  • Meredith Russell - Spiced Apple and Cinnamon
  • Diane Adams - Christmas Lightning
  • Kay Berrisford - Gifts from the Tree
  • Nicole Dennis - Christmas Promise
  • Caitlin Ricci - A Jaguar for Christmas
  • John Wiley - Once you go Black Friday
  • SA Garcia - Paid with a Full Moon
  • A.T. Weaver - Josh's Christmas Angel
  • Valynda King - Christmas in Hawaii
  • Christopher John - Two for Hooking
  • Francis Gideon - Mistletoe and YouTube
  • Allan Jay - Christmas Angel
  • Aisling Mancy - Joyeux Noel
  • Gary Hendrickson - Our Best Christmas
  • Hollis Shiloh - The Christmas Mansion
  • Tom Alexander - Ivy Park
  • AJ Henderson - Christmas Reunion
  • Abigail Winters - Love Delayed
  • JC Wallace - Waiting for Snow

    Here's your chance to grab some free holiday reading.

Love Lane Books

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Welcome to Oscar Wilde’s 159th Birthday Celebration!

Welcome to Oscar Wilde’s 159th Birthday Celebration!

Who doesn’t love Oscar Wilde? He’s like a fabulous mascot. I think it’s sad that his family— who doesn’t share his name due to shame— decided to place a glass wall around Oscar’s magnificent tomb in Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery. Yes, people were lipsticking the monument with great enthusiasm, and, far worse, defacing the statue with graffiti.

But think about it. Oscar Wilde lived his life with a barrier around him, one built from his homosexuality. When he broke free and took a stand, the haters punished him for daring to be smarter, more self-assured… just all-around braver about his life. People with narrow little minds wanted to rip Oscar down.

In the end, they succeeded. But wily Oscar had the last laugh. Now he’s celebrated as a gay icon. His witty bon-mots are legendary. His plays and books have stood the test of time and are still part of popular culture.

Which is why placing a glass wall around his tomb seems wrong on many emotional levels. They’re trying to box in Oscar again by placing a barrier around him. When I visited Oscar’s tomb, I didn’t kiss or deface, but I did hug a corner.

Oscar’s tomb barrier sparked my short story. Last night after sipping too much wine, I pounded out my words and cried a river. Tonight, I fixed the errors in spelling, logic, and overall tone. I cried all over again.

I’m starting the b-day celebration a little early.

In turn for reading and commenting, you’ll be entered into a drawing for one of my two my new novels: “Love in the Shadows” or “The Gospel According to Cher.” Keep in mind I can’t send out “The Gospel According to Cher” until October 28th.

When I pick the winner on Thursday, I’ll give them the choice.

I hope you enjoy my fantasy.

Oscar’s Army

A PG-13 M/M Fantasy by S.A. Garcia

Why had he done this to himself?

Alexander Fingal O’Flahertie Riodian shifted his numb ass against the cold, hard stone base. His romantic Irish Granna had really cursed him with one helluva long name. Afor— which everyone usually called him—gazed around the gloomy graveyard. He eyed the stone chin looming above him and scowled in annoyance.

Two days of freedom from uniform beckoned to him, yet here he sat tucked under an angel’s cold stone chest. He perched like an abandoned gnome, watching as people visited the tomb. They didn’t pay much attention to him. How odd.

He shifted again, but seeking comfort on stone was useless. Had he really promised his Granna he would visit Oscar Wilde’s tomb? Yes. He had sworn if he had the chance, he would go to Père Lachaise Cemetery and pay his respects to Oscar. After all, Afor owed Granna everything. His grandmother had raised him after his sainted mother had died during childbirth. Granna had raised Afor with unconditional love.

When she had taken in Birdie after his parents had died, she had given Afor a new best friend. As the years had passed, Afore and Birdie realized they were something more than best friends. They worked had Granna’s Bucks County farm together. Sometimes they worked in the hay wain to see whose tongue could make the other come first. They both liked that work far better than plowing.

Just after Afor’s eighteenth birthday, Granna had caught Afor and Birdie naked in Afor’s bed. She had come in to fetch Afor’s wash. Afor had wanted to become invisible, had wanted to deny everything. Instead of reacting, Granna had blinked, closed the door and never said a word. The two young men didn’t understand their luck. Birdie had convinced Afor not to ask Granna about her silence. Why tip the scales?

In 1918, Afor and Birdie had signed up for duty in France. They couldn’t wait to fight against the dastardly Germans.

On that day, Granna had sat Afor down for a good cuppa of strong Irish tea in the sun-washed kitchen. After she had stirred her usual five heaping teaspoons of sugar into the warm brew, she sipped. She stirred again and sipped before she regarded him over the teacup’s china rim. Her bright blue eyes had sparkled with joy. “Didja know I met Oscar Wilde when he visited Philadelphia in 1886?”

“Granna, who’s Oscar Wilde?”

Afor remembered Granna looking like she had wanted to smack him back into next year. He’d never forget her heated response. “Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest Irishmen ever to walk the earth. His wit and wisdom made the birds sing his name from the trees. He’s a genius or, bless his soul, was a genius. Those who refused to understand him killed the dear soul by imprisonin’ him.”

“For what?”

“For bein’ different! For darin’ to love above all else. We’re related to him, laddie, removed, yes, but his blood flows in yer veins.” Granna had sipped tea before she shook her head. A few strands of red and white hair had tumbled free from her bun. “I’m not surprised you cotton to Birdie. He’s a right decent fella, but you must be careful. Promise me.” She had gripped Afor’s forearm with surprising power. “Promise.”

He had promised.

Afor shivered and shook his head. Granna had always understood how he felt toward Birdie. Apparently, this poor Oscar fellow had ruined his life because he felt the same way. Afor wondered if Oscar had lain awake at night trying convince himself he could change. Too many sleepless nights fighting with himself had led Afor to one conclusion: he loved Birdie.

He wanted to spend his life with Birdie. After the war, they planned to return to Granna’s farm and continue making it blossom. They discussed branching out into raising racehorses. The future seemed wide open, limitless with options.

A few visitors drifted past Wilde’s tomb. Three smiled; four scowled. Afor hoped the scowlers didn’t report him to a cemetery official for sitting here. Afor spoke no French. He wished he had asked someone to write an explanation for him. “My dying Granna asked me to visit this place.”

He blinked, telling himself only the strong late evening sunshine caused his eyes to tear.

He knew better.

Granna had died before Afor had reached France. Her proud heart had given out while he and Birdie had sailed across the Atlantic.

A lump built in Afor’s throat. Birdie had died a month ago from a grievous gunshot to the head. The war was finally on the wane, but the last battle demanded final victims. Afor had tried everything to help his— lover, but Birdie had died writhing in the blood and mud flooding the filthy trench, his cornsilk hair filthy and matted with gore and filth. Afor had tried kissing Birdie back to life until another soldier had punched him in the head.

Now Afor slumped against cold stone, not caring, he only wanting to visit Paris and find something to kill his staggering pain. Yet here he slumped waiting for—something. The sun drifted toward the horizon. Afor shifted again. He thought some official would come to toss him off the structure. Around him, the shadows grew deeper. Eerie ground mist rose from the earth, floating up to obscure the other monuments.

No one came to bother him, not even when full night claimed the cemetery. Why hadn’t that last guard chased him away? Afor frowned and tried to remember coming to the cemetery. He couldn’t remember the journey. His last memory was of sitting in a bar after drinking too many beers and telling the soldier who had followed him to fuck off— yes, it had been the same soldier who had punched him for trying to kiss Birdie back to life.

A sharp pain blossomed against Afor’s right temple. For a second, redness veiled his vision. Both sensations vanished.

Afor sat straighter. What did he hear? Voices echoed from down the path. He leaned forward, cocking his head. The sound intensified, coming from all directions.

A man with a dark brown pageboy haircut walked toward him through the heavy fog. He wore a smart green velvet suit more suited to an earlier age. He gestured like a grand magician. “Dear boy, why are you all the way up there?”

Afor blinked in bewilderment. How had he gotten up there? Not only didn’t he remember coming here, but he didn’t remember climbing up on the tomb. “Sorry, sir, I don’t know.”

The man smiled with sly comedy. “Well come down already. We’ve been waiting for you.” The man waved toward his right.

Afor gasped in delight. “Granna! Birdie!” He easily propelled himself off the tomb to hug the two most important people in the world to him. He wrapped their loving warmth around his soul. He felt the approval of the others who gathered close to touch them. Birdie reached up to ruffle Afor’s hair. Granna’s lilac and love scent drifted into his nostrils.

They both looked happy and hale. How could this—

Another shadowy figure walked close to Afor, she growing clearer and brighter with every step. Afor stared in amazement. He recognized the sweet face from old photographs, but before now he had never viewed her wild green eyes or intense red hair. “Mama?”

The thin redhead nodded before she reached to touch his damp cheeks. “Son. My beautiful son.” Afor met his blessed mother for the first time ever. Everything became clear for him.

He understood what had happened to him last night. He understood.

He accepted his special position into Oscar’s Army.

Oscar gestured toward the east. “Time to move, my lovelies. A suffering soul needs release. We need to guide him gently into his new world.” He clapped his hand against Afor’s shoulder. “We look out for one another. Will you help me?”

Afor held out his hands to grip Oscar’s shoulders. “I’m honored. You—” Afor shivered and shook his head in helpless adoration.

“Are here for you.” Oscar patted Afor’s cheek before he turned. “I always like walking toward the East. It feels so adventerous.”

Birdie cuddled against Afor’s right side. This time Afor ruffled Birdie’s cornsilk hair. Birdie seemed recreated, he standing proud and tall, not burdened by the wretched sickness which had defeated him during the war. Granna and Mama held onto Afor’s left arm. Granna winked at Afor. He grinned and returned the wink.

Together they followed Oscar toward the next compassionate mission.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Come Celebrate Oscar Wilde's 159th Birthday!

October 16th is Oscar Wilde's birthday. To celebrate this fabulous literary and cultural hero, I'll unleash a free story that has something to do with Oscar along with the chance to win one of my new books.

Stay tuned, kittens!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ramblings of a Reluctant Blogger

I had all these vague ideas for blog posts and now that I need them, they’ve whiffed away. Friday nights can have that effect on my brain. Mainly what I want to do is grab a glass of wine, order a pizza, and sit and watch a silly movie with Prof Sandy. This whole grand scheme of writing on my blog every day between my two new releases is off to a grand start. I’ve posted a grand total of, erm, two. How’s that for consistency?

I mean what the hell, I don’t want to write a blog post tonight. I know some people spin out blog posts in an effortless manner. I tent to regard them as little essays. I take ‘em waaaay too seriously. Why? It’s not like judges will hold up scores or a reader will snark, “That’s the worst damn blog post I’ve ever read.”

Well, they might do that, but… hold on, yeah, they could very well do that. There, you see, in kicked the obsessive personality again, the personality I tend to instill in a few of my characters.

My characters don’t tend to blog. Wait, Hindy Nardella—the diva art gallery owner from my upcoming romdramedy The Gospel According to Cher—does blog about art and restaurants.

Does writing a Goodreads review count as a blog post? I can spin out a review far faster than I can craft a blog post.

Well, ya big silly, you could write book reviews for your blog. No one’s stopping you.

Wait, who said that? I think my common sense just took a potshot at me. How rude.

And lookee there… by rambling on like a drooling goofball, I just wrote a blog post. Ain’t life grand?

It’s time for a glass of wine to celebrate my achievement.

Lobcock! The Fear and Terror of Researching a Historical Novel

Lobcock! The Fear and Terror of Researching a Historical Novel

At the 2010 Readercon, I remember listening to SF author Barry B. Longyear describing how he wrote Confessions of a Confederate Vampire—The Night, a historical vampire novel set during the Civil War. The amount of dedication he put into setting the mood for writing a novel set during the Civil War was impressive, to the point of playing music from the genre, displaying artifacts on his desk, and even eating food from the era. It sounded daunting. He had performed a megaton of research, all organized into folders on his computer.

The problem is there’s not quite as much ready information floating around about the Carolina colonies circa 1701-1703. Okay, I already hear an American history major sighing in disgust. Let’s put it this way: I am not an American history expert. I would have a better chance of writing a novel about Great Britain because I’ve always been a British history fan.

In truth, it’s not so much a matter of the broad history; it’s a matter of seeking out everyday details. One huge question: what type of clothing did people wear? There’s ready info on what the rich wore, but what about the common people? What materials were used for clothing? What styles, colors, or textures were used? I never imagined that folks wore shoes crafted from wood.

Describing meals is important to me. I hate reading stories where no one eats. What food did people eat back in 1701 Carolina? What did they drink?

Then came the matter of what people lived in. What house styles were in use in 1701-1703 Charleston?

What type of insults would have filled the air? When I found a site featuring insults from that timeframe, I jumped for joy. I want to start calling people lobcocks (a large relaxed penis or a dull inanimate fellow).

Then I made the mistake of inflicting a serious wound on a character. Now I needed medical research. Talk about stomach-turning!

All this research baggage is why I was scared stupid of attempting to write a M/M historical romance. Fellow writers warned me if I screwed up a detail, a savvy reader would happily call me out on it. Readers with degrees in history would wait with daggers, studded clubs, and blunderbusses. Damn, I do love that word. Fellow writers also warned me that reviewers would cheerfully point out any mistakes, down to “well, that buckle style wasn't used until 1715, not 1701.” It made me terrified to talk about shoes, but I did!

Hell, compared to historical research, fantasy world building is easy. Let’s face it, when you world build, you call all the shots. You draw maps, name cities, determine what people, wear, eat and how they live. It’s a blast. The author is God. How fun is that?

Happily I swallowed down my historical fears and took the plunge. I researched, researched, and researched the research. The research was equal parts fun and frustrating. When I found solid, factual information, I grabbed on with both hands and changed my vague descriptions to match reality.

The result? I am proud to have written “Love in the Shadows”, a mix of a historical and contemporary romance. The historic novel is set in 1701 New York, then over 1702-1703, in the Carolina colony, Boston, and Sweden. At least the contemporary story is set only in Stockholm. I cut myself a break there. I was also lucky enough to have a Swede read the novel and point out glaring errors regarding aspects of modern Swedish culture. Many thanks to Alison and Christina for their valuable support.

A note to the 16th century Colonial History majors— please, I tried my hardest. I did. Be gentle with me.

Thanks to Charlie for having me here today! xo

Here’s the first chapter from “Love in the Shadows,” a chapter set back in 1701.

When history, romance, and the supernatural collide, can love triumph over all?
Opening an ancient trunk transforms Doctor Rolfe Almersson’s life. When the spiritually-sensitive academic breaks his rules about touching an article sans gloves, fierce love wells at him. The unwrapped parchment reveals a burnt diary written by Magistrate Nels Halverson. The diary documents meeting seventeen-year-old orphan Aindrias Aster in 1701. Nels describes their eventual love affair, along with tragedies and triumphs in infatuated, intimate detail.

Rolfe’s obsession with his find overwhelms him. Reading about the men’s evolving relationship influences Rolfe’s tempestuous relationship with his lover. Will the story’s romance and tragedy push Rolfe forward into romantic liberation and academic triumph, or will it ruin his life?

Afternoon, January 26, 1701, Kingston, North of the City of New York

(This is where I wish to begin my memories. I own no reason to begin elsewhere. I need to begin here. This is when my heart truly started beating.)

I stealthily raised my worn leather flask to my lips and indulged in a mouthful of inferior rum. My body needed the false comfort on this cold, miserable day. Faugh. Winter’s deadly bite ruled the day. My mind also needed fortification before I conquered the crucial matter at hand.
Blast Samuel for running off with a flirtatious doxy. Lively Samuel’s love for lasses had destroyed his dedication. I had found him at a Quaker orphanage near Philadelphia. My former clerk was adept in Latin and competitive thought, yet deep in my heart, I realized that Samuel’s destiny lie elsewhere. The sprightly youth had never displayed the proper spine to wear the magistrate’s wig. No wonder he escaped after a mere six months.
Many a day I wondered if I still had the proper spine myself. After long years as a competent yet hardly brilliant judicial specimen, did I still deserve the sacred honor? Did this sad fool deserve to pass judgment on others?
My thoughts skidded toward self-defeating bleakness. My fingers clutched the slick reins. I refrained from indulging in more drink, tucking the half-empty flask into my right saddle pouch. To arrive reeking of cheap swill seemed unwise.
I urged Bel Canto forward through the murk. My colleague Howard had warned me that St. Luke’s Home for Orphans looked more like a stone jail than a benevolent almshouse guiding young souls toward a better life. His words rang true. The lumpy stone building looked foul, almost rotten. I curled my upper lip in disgust. However, three years ago, Howard had unearthed his highly praised clerk from this establishment. Just after that, a new deacon had stepped into place. The notion worried me.
My meager funding did not allow me to hire a seasoned clerk. I had hired my past clerks from charitable institutions such as this one. Often my choices worked well for me, except for poor Charles. Damn. My heart tightened in remorse.
I refocused on my task, urging Bel Canto to the gate. During my dismount, my coat caught on the saddle. Happily no one watched my near fall from my horse. When had my life turned into a sad comedy?
I clanged the battered outer bell. The worm-eaten, stout wooden outer gate did not raise my spirits when it opened.  Curious lizard-green eyes set in a gaunt, pockmarked face examined me with suspicion. “Master Halderson?”
“At your service, sir.” I bowed. “I am here to interview my clerk candidates.”
A cringing boy scuttled out, pushed forward by the slovenly man in the doorway. He accepted my horse’s reins with trembling fingers, greeting me with a brief, frightened bow. “If you please, sir, I shall stable your horse.”
“Thank you, lad.” The poor boy acted positively browbeaten. 
A cold breeze swooped around me. I slapped down my wrinkled gray greatcoat from flapping up. A stray raindrop ran behind my collar. Typical. The miserable weather was accompanied by miserable company. The ill-kept man standing in the home’s outer doorway sparked worry in my soul. His appallingly defiant stare raised my hackles. I had done nothing to warrant such a rude welcome. If this was the teacher’s caliber here, my journey beyond New York’s energetic confines seemed useless.
The scarecrow’s reedy voice wavered between respect and mockery. Quite a verbal feat. “Welcome to St. Luke’s, sir. I’m Master Amos, teacher of numbers. Right this way, if you please. Deacon Buck will show you the selected candidates. I’m sure one will suit your legal needs.”
“Lead on, Master Amos.” We entered the dim recesses. The smell of despair, unwashed bodies, and rotting garbage assailed my nostrils. I was far from a dandy, but the bitter smell even overwhelmed my senses. I left my wet tricorn on my head. Why expose my tied-back hair to the cold dampness? This rank, foul place did not deserve my gentlemanly consideration. At least my casual day wig sat safe in my room. The infernal curly confection took forever to dry. When wet weather threatened, I ignored the need to appear proper.
We entered a dismal central courtyard. Slick brown rats rooted through a tumbled refuse pile in the far corner, dispersing only when the youth returned from stabling my horse and shooed them away. What an unhealthy sight. 
In another dreary corner of the courtyard, five youths, dressed only in patched black breeches and rough, gray, homespun shirts, stood under a sheltered area. How barbaric to make them stand in the raw cold without coats. Four appeared to be normal young men, slightly defiant, nervous, and uncertain. They shivered in the murky damp.
The fifth lad, taller than the others, stood straight as a slender beech tree challenging a mountainside’s chill snowfall. The others glanced my way. Number five stared forward in resolute determination, ignoring me with peculiar intensity. Tattered ribbon kept his long hair away from his face. Wavy lengths tumbled down his neck, imprisoned by his tight queue. The surface of his long face reminded me of rosy marble. A wild pattern of raw, red eruptions were scattered across his forehead and chin, likely caused by a mix of adolescent growing pains and poor diet.
Although I tried not to stare at him, I concentrated on his intelligent face. I realized he was my choice. Why did he appear desperate? Something in the set of his lips displayed a deep fear, and I had witnessed enough honest fear to judge the sensation in my fellow men.
Something in this hovel terrified the youth.
I studied Deacon Buck’s poorly-shaven face. Discouragement fluttered through my soul. The man looked to be a drunkard, a liar, quick to use the whip for punishment. He had probably procured his current position through patronage, not skill. Nothing surprising there. Any youth who had advanced into manhood under this creature’s tutelage could not be trusted as my clerk.
Neverthelsss, I might as well interview the lads. Perhaps before he passed on, the former Deacon had skillfully crafted the fifth lad’s mind and soul. I wished for such a glad outcome.
“Magistrate Halderson, welcome to Saint Luke’s.” The stout man possessed a whiny voice which could have irritated a saint. He grabbed my unhappy right hand, squeezing as if he intended to woo me. His filth skin felt greasy.  “I feel honored my fine establishment is still known for producing learned lads. Before you stand five candidates selected for your clerk position. They can read, write, and think.” The Deacon raked his piggish stare over my candidate with loathing. “Aye, one of them thinks a bit too much for his own good.”
Buck’s open antagonism sickened me. “I feel sure I will find a lad to suit my needs.” Despite my urge to point at the slim youth and declare I would rescue him, I queried the others in my normal fashion.  The first four boys answered in coherent sentences, yet they lacked outstanding mental abilities. Candidate one, the biblically named Joshua, displayed a severe stutter, not beneficial in public speaking. Malcolm and Guy acted too obsequious toward me. How badly had this place treated them? As he stumbled on his answers, Matthew scratched a nasty magenta neck rash and refused to meet my gaze.
My head ached in a dreadful fashion. One last chance for redemption stood before me. Number five performed a swift bow and surprised me by speaking first with nervous authority. His alert, green stare met mine. I half expected him to grasp my hands and drop to his knees.
“Sir, believe me, I am a worthy clerk for such an honorable man as yourself. Not only do I read, speak, and write fluently in English and Latin, but I also communicate in French and Spanish. My handwriting is superior and neat. My spelling is flawless.” He darted a sharp glare at the glowering Deacon before he refocused on me.
“Sir, I am accused of thinking too much, but an inquisitive mind is essential for learning. I do not comprehend the law’s sterling rule, but I am a fast study. In addition, I am healthy, I never fall ill, and I am willing to work as hard as you desire. I will endure long, hard hours serving you. In addition, sir, I feel ready to leave this place far, far behind me.” The youth’s intense words ended in a second bow. He looked down at his battered, square shoe tips. Rich, pink color stained his pale cheeks. 
My mind reeled. What an astonishingly forward speech.
Something haunted this lad enough to make him beg for the clerk’s position. Indeed, the poor boy acted no different than a shunned leper offered a king’s grand palace. I hardly considered the unpaid two-year clerk’s position a prize.
Deacon Buck snorted in reprimand. He glared as if his irritated vengeance could melt flesh. “This miserable sinner acts awfully bold for his place in life. You can tell he thinks right highly of himself. Sir, trust me, young Aster is an insufferable brat. The chit is not worthy of your important time.”
How odd. I smiled in arch reply. “Pray tell, sir, why do you present this sinful brat to me?”
The Deacon flapped his chapped lips in annoyance until he shrugged off my question. “The law requires I offer you my eldest lads for the position. This dense wretch falls into the category. I’d hardly select Aster to present to you.” The miscreant cozied up to me with physical camaraderie. I almost stepped away from his swill-tainted breath. “Listen well, sir. I warn you, he is not your choice. Mark my words, this mouthy cur’s fantasies, endless questions, and lies will make your ears bleed. Aster’s brash speech shows his shameless disposition. Is that any way for a callow bumpkin to talk to someone like you, sir?”
Buck’s crude character assassination stiffened Aster’s body. “I am not a liar, sir.” His defensive assertion barely broke a whisper.
“Did the good magistrate ask your opinion, you bold scum?” Buck lifted his grimy right hand in a threatening gesture.
The Deacon’s hand never completed its threat. If his corrupt flesh had touched Aster’s skin, I might have disgraced myself by punching Buck’s warty nose. Something evil had happened between my candidate and the Deacon. I ignored the vile man, returning my attention to my prime applicant. “Master Aster, I need to see a sample of your handwriting. Deacon, may we use a desk?”
This time the Deacon included me in his glare. My stern, cold stare devoured his mistake, pummeled it, and spat the mess into his face. I possessed a dangerous gaze, ripe with my icy Swedish heritage. I suspected Viking blood fueled my finest stares.
Buck struggled to conquer my will, but he failed. After ungraciously accepting defeat, the ogre angrily gestured toward a narrow opening across the courtyard. My cutting smile betrayed my frigid mood. We traveled down a rank hallway littered with dust-decorated cobwebs which smelled, to my dismay, worse than the fetid courtyard. Did any room in this pit smell remotely pleasant? Horrible.
Our mismatched trio entered a crowded office. The sty resembled the town dump. The sputtering oil lamp’s flicker had blackened the small paned windows. The familiar, welcome aroma of old pipe smoke masked another sinister stench, something my nostrils equated with dire rot. How fitting.
Buck slumped behind his disorderly desk. A crusty inkwell, and a few tattered quills jammed into a broken ceramic mug added to the clutter.
My nervous candidate shuffled his feet.
“What is your full name?”
“Aindrias Aster, sir.”
“What an unusual name.”
“Yes, sir, a family name given by my poor parents, may they rest in peace. Shall we start, sir?” Another respectful bow. “Let me select a quill.” Aindrias critically examined three different quill tips, rapidly dismissing them. Number four earned a thoughtful frown before Aindrias lifted the rusty pen blade and sharpened the tip.
For a second, I feared Buck might strike Aindrias for his innocent effrontery. My stern stare halted him as I encouraged Aindrias. “Excellent. A man who understands his writing quills. You have neat sharpening work.”
“Sir, I cannot abide a dull quill.” Aindrias’s words drifted toward the quill, but they also aimed for Buck’s ears. “A blunt, ill-treated tool wastes ink and time. Any instrument not kept tidy is useless.”
Aindrias stirred the ink and performed a few practice flourishes. His fingers pantomimed a beautifully light touch. He finished his preparation and nodded in approval. His gaze shyly questioned me. “What shall I write, sir?”
Without asking, I selected a clean parchment page, cleared an area on the desk, and silently dared Buck to challenge me. The lout remained quiet. “While I recite, take notes in Latin, please.”
To my satisfaction, Aindrias smiled as if I offered him heavenly solace. His pen anticipated my words. I subjugated my amused smile and spoke in my normal trial pace. Aindrias’s pen raced across the paper with graceful speed, the flow broken only for the needed ink dip. He performed the mundane task with neat precision.
I droned on about nothing in particular, glancing at Aindrias’s tidy, easily readable handwriting. Once I finished speaking, I read the written page and nodded with sincere appreciation. Every Latin word appeared correct. He performed well under stress.
Intelligent Aindrias was my perfect candidate.
His tall grace made me wonder about his true age. “How old are you, Aindrias?”
My question encouraged Aindrias to stand straighter, trying to appear older by squaring his slight shoulders under his threadbare shirt. He reminded me of a young rooster facing down an older, far more experienced cock. He hiked his pointed chin in  the air with stubborn pride. “I turned seventeen a few days ago, sir. I am plenty old enough for the job. Truly I am, sir.”
His age suited the position. My choice made complete sense to me. Unlike Charles, Aindrias would be my proud achievement.
Deep in my soul, a knowing voice straight from Hell hissed, “Wrong.” Black-winged guilt smiled and danced in bony malevolence.
Begone! I vowed to wait. I would.
I swore to myself on Charles’s sacred soul.
The act nearly brought me to tears.

(I need to break here. Writing this account is more difficult than I ever imagined. A jolt of sherry comforts me.)