Immortal Blog Part–Post 4: Dialect is a bastage

May 8, 2015

Dialect—it’s a bastard to write in.

 

I mean, it’s bad enough when you’re trying to copy someone’s actual dialect, because you’re listening for phonemes—actual sounds—and not the morphemes—the symbols or letters behind the sounds. 

 

But when you’re pulling a dialect out of your old linguistics classes, a love of old movies, and thin air?

 

Well you’d better stick to basics. 

 

I wrote Immortal in dialect—the narration is written in a thinner dialect, because our narrator is telling the story from a great remove.  Time and distance have softened his words, and it shows.  But the dialog is written in the moment, and it had to be thick, and, because I’m not easy on myself, Diarmuid had to sound a bit different than Teyth—Diarmuid came from a different place, after all.  I shortened a lot of words and used some old Celtic and British expressions—and then boiled it down to two specific words that belong to each hero. 

 

Quick—take a guess.  Which expressions (there’s at least two) are expressly Diarmuid’s, and which two belong to Teyth? 

 

And while you’re reading the excerpt, don’t forget to let it rip your heart out, just a little, okay?

 

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Diarmuid and I stayed in the bedroom, leaning against the headboard side by side, waiting for the grieving and healing of the women. Our bodies were pressed together, knees to thighs to hips, and Diarmuid surprised me by leaning his head on my shoulder.

“Comfortable, are ye?” I asked dryly, and he flashed me a sweet smile from gentle brown eyes.

 

“Yeah-yeah. Do ye object?”

“Nay.”

 

I gave in to comfort and wrapped my arm around his shoulder because he let me.

 

“This isn’t what I wanted,” I felt compelled to say, thinking painfully on that kiss, on our bare bodies in the kitchen.

 

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, brushing my face with his hand. I closed my eyes and that moment came back, because as often as we’d sat in the same room together, we’d never sat like this.

 

“Doona be,” I said shortly, and he pulled his hand back in hurt. “Ach! No, be not angry!” I begged. “I…. Ye were marvelous, standing up ter the prince, there. Ye thought so fast, an’ spoke so well.”

 

He looked away. “I did what I must. Is not enow. Ye wouldha done the same, yeah-yeah?”

 

“Nay,” I said, feeling it. “I watched ye speaking, and I only had one word. The forest word. Murder.”

 

I thought he would pull from me, but he regarded me soberly instead.

 

“Is not the only word,” he murmured.

 

“Nay?”

 

“Nay. Murder wouldna get ye here. It wouldna get me this.” He pushed up and our mouths met. I let him lead the kiss while I were threading my fingers through his hair. Tongue, mouth, teeth, kindness. Were such a simple thing, but I could not stop. He pulled back after a few moments and rested his head on my shoulder again. Both o’ us were breathing harder.

 

When he could speak again, Diarmuid’s voice ached into the silence.

 

“I always loved ye,” he said softly. “Yer body grew, yer heart grew, the love grew. Were it tha’ way with ye?”

 

“Aye,” I whispered. I had the words in my heart, the carefully hoarded moments o’ us working side by side at the forge, o’ looking up and seeing Diarmuid, face intent on his task, and knowing all the world were well when we were side by side. The physical moment o’ seeing his muscles heave and wanting him, and the moments o’ kindness too numerous to count. Even that moment in the forest, after taking a piss, when his soon-to-be-departed lover slept in the sled. All the moments, all the stories he’d read, all the times he’d looked at my careful sketchings, tracing them with a callused finger and saying, “This’ll be summat, Teyth. I ken it deep.”

 

There were no words for that.

 

I kissed his temple, and repeated it, those images driving behind my eyes. “Aye.” And then, the words I could think ter say, the ungrateful ones. Always with me, it were the ungrateful ones. “I resent this year,” I told him. “I doona know how ter change it, but it festers under me skin.”

 

He cupped my cheek, and my chest swelled with the yearning— not just o’ this moment, but o’ all the moments before and after.

 

“Dinna be angry,” he murmured. “Dinna resent it. Be grateful for this moment here, for the others stolen from time. Be happy because ye want me back. I know I feared fer the longest time. I woke ye up last Beltane, and yer eyes searched mine out, and suddenly ye wanted me. There ye were, covered in sex an’ bodies, and ye wanted me. I couldna stop wanting ye, not fer a thousand years.”

 

Ah! Gods, he could make it sweet. My Diarmuid—he could make pain and waiting sweet. I closed my eyes against the surge behind them, not sure where it came from, this thick emotion clogging my head.

 

“Yeah-yeah?” Diarmuid whispered, stroking my cheek.

“Aye.”

Immortal Blog Party–Post 3: An Unhappy Ending

May 8, 2015

Hi, and welcome to my blog party for the release day of Immortal

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One of the things that very much fascinated me with the original versions of fairy tales was how horribly they ended, particularly for the bad guy, but seriously, everybody involved got the short end of the stick.  In Bluebeard the heroine had to swim through the body parts of her sisters.  In one of the original versions of Cinderella, the stepsisters cut off their toes and their
heels to fit into the damned slipper, then bled to death and died.  An another version, they get their eyes pecked out.  In Twelve Wild Ducks, the poor woman’s babies are stolen from her by the queen and thrown into a pit of spiders, snakes and crawling things.  The villains were killed by being pulled apart by horses, rolled down a cliff in a barrel full of spikes, or forced to wear iron dancing shoes until they danced themselves to death.

I mean… horror stories?  Yes. The creepiest have their roots firmly planted in the woods of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and nobody will dispute it.

 

So on that note (which is pretty grisly at dark-thirty-a.m.) I want to hear your favorite way to off the bad guy.  Time to drink hot blood, people—how do you like to see your villains (or heroes, sometimes) destroyed.

Immortal Blog Party– Post 2: Excerpt about foundlings

May 8, 2015

Blog Post 2—Excerpt

The story of the foundling or orphan is a common one in fairy tale literature. I think it gives us a chance to see a child of two worlds—the one that spawned him and the one that he makes for himself. In Teyth’s case, we know where he came from, and his roots are dark and twisted and bitter. But Diarmuid too, is a foundling, and there is something otherworldly about Diarmuid’s origin. The interesting thing will be to see what trees these sprouts make grow from their foundling roots. When you’re done with the excerpt, go ahead and tell me what your favorite foundling story is—Moses in the rushes? Oliver Twist? The Lion King? What’s your favorite story of the rescued child with the two strong roots?

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I do not know how long I stayed, but I awakened to voices and the thumps of boots on the floorboards.

“’Ere ’e is,” boomed the smith, Cairsten. “Paid all tha’ money for the scamp, and he’s sleeping on our kitchen table!”

I dragged myself awake by the eyelids, as it were, and tried a sleepy scowl in the direction o’ that great, booming voice.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “Were I to start?”

“Not much to start, lad,” Cairsten said kindly, throwing his barrel-built, muscular body into a wooden chair that looked like it were built o’ four-by-fours and halves o’ trees, but that creaked with the fierce weight o’ his body. “We were closing down for the day. jobs that come in can be waiting for the early morning and don’t need doing now.”
“Do ye always work so early, then?” I asked hesitantly, because it seemed a strange way to do business.

“It grows too hot in the forge in the summertime,” Diarmuid supplied. He rooted through the cabinets as he spoke, assembling, I figured, the contents o’ our evening meal. “We get used to the early hours so we can run the forge before the full heat o’ day. But in the winter, when the sun comes later, we get up later, and the forge keeps us warm after last night’s embers die.”

I smiled a little, liking the simplicity of it. “Aye,” I acknowledged. I remembering finger-aching cold and being rousted from me bed to fetch water, and this seemed a better way.

“Yer not asking about today, then?” Cairsten asked, a slight smile under his dark hair.

“Yer gonna show me my chores,” I said knowledgeably. Funny how I thought I knew so much when in fact I knew nothing, not even the shape o’ the darkness.

Cairsten laughed, a great booming noise that shook the paned windows in their frames. “Nay, boy—not on yer first day. We’ll tame ye all right, but first we gots to bathe ye.”

I wrinkled my nose at him. “A bath? But there’s no holy day tomorrow!”

Diarmuid grunted. “I told ye,” he said, disgusted, and Cairsten shook his head in response.

“Tha’ ye did, but I were thinking good on the—”

“Don’t,” Diarmuid snapped. “Don’t ever ye think good on him.” Diarmuid cast me a veiled glance. “Not tha’ one. He dinna deserve nobbut!”

“Aye, aye,” Cairsten acknowledged, holding his hand up to forestall what looked like a flash of Diarmuid’s temper. “I hear ye.” He turned his attention back to me. “We’ll start with a bath, boy, and move on to putting sheets on yer bed, showing ye letters, finding ye clothes. I think Diarmuid’s old things might fit ye fine, and we’ll need a good suit o’ yer own. Did ye not have that at yer cottage?”

I shook my head and looked at the brown-and-gray stained jerkin and breeches I were wearing. “Is all I have,” I said, embarrassed.

“Well, now ye have more,” Diarmuid said with decision. “Bath first.”

They worked as a team, as they did out at the forge. The smith went and fetched the tub while Diarmuid pumped water, first into a pot to boil, and then into bucket after bucket that he dumped into the tub. There were steam rising from the surface before they had me strip naked and step into the tub itself.

Cairsten picked up my clothes using a pair of forge tongs. “I’ll just… just see to these,” he said grimly, and I watched him go, feeling dismal and half-drowned and sorry for myself.
“Me knife,” I said, thinking of the blade in my pocket. It weren’t really a knife, but it had kept me safe from Kump that one night, and all the kindness in the world couldn’t set my mind at ease regarding the bald, barrel-chested, black-bearded smith.

“Ye need a knife?” Diarmuid asked, pressing a piece o’ lye soap and cloth in my hands.

“I…. It were handy,” I said, trying for dignity. “What’s this for?”

“Rub the soap on the cloth, and rub the cloth….” Diarmuid grimaced. “Everywhere.”

I gazed at him blankly. “Everywhere?”

“In yer hair ’til it’s soaked, then under yer arms, between yer legs, behind yer knees, on yer manhood—everywhere.”

The water were already making me flush, or I might’ve flushed all on my own. “Are ye watching to make sure I do?”

Diarmuid grimaced. “I’ll turn me back if ye wash the crease o’ yer arse and everything in there.”

“Why?” I asked boldly, but I were already doing it. His back were broad and stoic. He didn’t seem interested in touching me, and, well, he’d fed me. Small boys are animal, feral—feed them, give them safety, they’ll curl at yer feet and never sniff another soul. I were no exception.

“Ye smell,” he said frankly. “We have to live with ye. Would be good not to smell ye, day in, day out.”

“Excuse me—”

“And ye get sores if ye dinna wash!” He must have felt uncomfortable, because his voice were thickening with that forest accent again.

I looked at my arms and realized he were right. I already had them from the stiff edges of the coarse, chafing fabric.

“They sting in the water,” I told him, as though this had just occurred to me. Well, maybe it had.

He turned and caught my eyes. “Next bath, after living in clean clothes, they willna sting so much. The next one, they’ll be near to gone.”

“How do ye know?” I asked. Aye, I were but a child—but it were occurring to me, looking at me thin limbs, me shins covered in sores from me ragged trousers, that I weren’t much good to these two great, brawny men who could make good porridge and hammer metal and bend it to their will. How could I earn my keep here, where I might have eggs for breakfast one day?
“I were the same when Cairsten found me, only covered in blood to boot. He were taking a fixed wagon to a thatcher’s cottage in the woods. He found me there. I were nobbut four or five.”

“How’d ye get there?” I asked, intrigued in spite o’ myself.

“I dinna know,” Diarmuid said, shivering. “I knew me name, and I kept pointing deeper into the forest. Cairsten said… well, he said he felt summat wrong that direction. He took me with him, cared for me. Were father to me. ’E’s a good man, Teyth. Ye’ll see.”

I scrubbed myself, careful o’ me sores, and thought on it. “I willna be no trouble,” I said after a moment. “I don’t need no raising. I can make porridge fine, haul water, herd chickens and pigs, sweep hearth….” I looked around me uncertainly. There were no chickens or pigs as far as I could see, and Diarmuid had made a better porridge than ever I could. “I….” I bit my lip. Now that some of the grime had been stripped away, I could smell the lack of the smell I’d worn on my skin. “I… would rather not go back,” I said baldly, thinking sadly on Mum. I were an evil boy—Kump had always said so. Mum had begun to agree with him at the end there. And now I’d just gone and proved them both right by turning my back on them.

“Well, we’ll find things for ye ter do,” Diarmuid said, and again I were reassured. It were wise o’ him, I thought later. He didn’t say I could stay right off, although that were what he and Cairsten probably planned the minute they looked at me. He said they’d find things for me to do. Right there, he’d known about me, about the heart o’ me.

He’d known I’d want to make a place, want to grasp a thing that were mine between my fingers and never let go.

May 8, 2015
Anne Cain's Pretty Pretty Cover

Anne Cain’s Pretty Pretty Cover

Post 1

Hiya! taps microphone Is this thing on? Probably not, because I’m up at five in the morning to host a blog party, and I’ve never done it. It’s probably off out of pity for the rest of y’all y’all who need to sleep!

Anyway—

So I’ve always loved fairy tales. I’ve got a post out at http://thenovelapproachreviews.com this morning talking about fairy tales and why they’re not for children. Suffice it to say when I was a kid, I was exposed to a host of fairy tales that were not really… mainstream.

Beauty and the Beast—obviously, witness my remake, Truth in the Dark. However, my next fairy tale after that, Hammer & Air, was based on Snow White/Rose Red, and not many people have heard of that one. So I have in my head this host of bloody, violent, fantastical stories that inspire me to twisted heights—Felicia and the Pot of Pinks, The Little Goose Girl, Twelve Wild Ducks, The Giant Who had no Heart in His Body—the list goes on.

So for my first post, since we’re all yawning and blinking our eyes open, I’m going to throw you a softball—

What’s your favorite fairy tale that has not been covered by Disney? I recently saw Tom Moore’s luscious adaptation of the selkie myth—Song of the Sea—and it broke my heart. Which obscure fairy tale would you like to see get more play?

At the end of the day, I’ll be doing an eenie meenie miny moe from all the comments made at this party, and giving the winner a free e-book of Immortal, so don’t be shy. What’s your favorite obscure fairy tale or fantasy story that you think needs to be a movie?

The Royal Treatment with John Wiltshire

April 27, 2015

The Royal Treatment

 

Readers who know me well will probably be amazed at me doing this blog post. My name is John Wiltshire (http://johnwiltshire.co.nz/), and I’m a social media virgin. There, confession over, apologies made in advance if I press the wrong buttons and end up answering questions that were never asked. I’m only here today because the sequel to my novel A Royal Affair is out today. Aleksey’s Kingdom picks up the tale of Nikolai Hartmann and King Christian X (Aleksey) two years after Nikolai finished narrating the events of the first book, which took place in Hesse-Davia. I very much wanted A Royal Affair to be a complete and satisfying read without the need for a sequel, and I think I achieved that. The novel has an almost lyrical, fairytale ending as Nikolai and Aleksey carve their new life in the freedom of the great woods of the New World.

However, although it has a romantic ending, A Royal Affair is an exploration of conflict—political ones, the war in which the protagonists are engaged and the reformation they attempt in Hesse-Davia, but also a very personal one between Nikolai and Aleksey. At the end of the novel, they are still two very different men with very different experiences and outlooks on life. So, leaving them in a perfect relationship in the dreamlike innocence of the New World and just concluding ‘they lived happily ever after’ would have been a denial of this central premise. I’m fascinated by the idea of what lies beneath the surface of things, what you discover if you journey into the heart of darkness. In other words, I couldn’t help but picture Aleksey’s face, tool (hammer) in hand, as he was expected to build and live in a cabin in the woods…So, the personal conflict for Aleksey’s Kingdom was very easy to establish—these men haven’t changed who they fundamentally are, and Aleksey, a king and the general of a victorious army, is now stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing very much to do. I envisaged mischief ensuing.

I then had to plan the dramatic clash—the plot. I’d recently watched a little-known (well, I’d never heard of it) film called Ravenous (1999), in which a group of soldiers travel to an outpost to unravel various nefarious goings on. There’s nothing better for any plot than to have a small group of people trapped together with mysterious emanations (and possibly cannibalism). Today, such stories need to be set in space (or perhaps the Arctic) to establish such a profound sense of isolation, but in the late seventeenth century everything was unknown and can be used to create a wonderful sense of fear and menace. It’s no coincidence that the most infamous witch trials in history took place in the New World at this time—Salem. So, I borrowed the very basic premise of Ravenous, mixed it with the atmosphere and hysteria that surrounds The Crucible and had the skeleton outline for my story. I also have to give credit to John Connolly, one of my favourite authors, who explores the idea in his novels that evil does exist in this world—that the fallen angels still walk amongst us.

So, in Aleksey’s Kingdom, Nikolai and Aleksey join a small band of soldiers and colonists travelling to a deserted outpost that lies alongside a vast waterfall on the border between the English and French occupied regions of the New World. The falls, which dominate the book, are real, and based on Niagara. I once visited this out-the- world place and, for a dare, paddled in the river above the drop off. I leave it to Nikolai to describe the impression that foolish action had on me…This natural cataclysm comes to represent the great metaphorical descent he has to make to save Aleksey—his own personal journey into the heart of darkness and the final abandoning of his scientific, rational way of seeing the world.

I think most of my readers have worked out by now that I don’t write conventional m/m fiction. I’m rather proud of the eye scrawled in blood on the cover of Aleksey’s Kingdom—thanks to L.C. Chase, who did such a great job bringing this to life. Trust me that smear of blood sets the tone for this novel. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted. No adorable presents are exchanged; no romantic dinners eaten; no babies adopted or fluffy kittens were purchased during the making of this novel. There is death and horror—after reading one scene, my editor came back to me and exclaimed, “You have to leave this out; you’ll have no readers left!” The scene is still in. I have faith. And sometimes, as with soldiers in war, there’s great humour in adversity. I find Nikolai extremely amusing, and I know Aleksey secretly does, too. Ultimately, this novel is about bravery and sacrifice. It’s about Nikolai and Aleksey, Faelan, Xavier and Boudica. It’s about love. Always love.

***

To celebrate the publication of Aleksey’s Kingdom, I’d like to give away a copy of the first in the series: A Royal Affair. I said earlier that I’m fascinated by the concept of what lies beneath the surface of things—the journeying into literal and metaphorical darkness. To win a copy of A Royal Affair, comment on this blog post and let me know of a book you love that you think also explores these themes. We’ll pick the best answer and a copy of A Royal Affair will be winging its way to you.

***

I have a very active fan club on Goodreads, where they discuss all the novels (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/151017-john-wiltshire-fan-group). Tempers flare; emotions heat up, because these books are controversial. I have a feeling there will soon be a very long thread on Aleksey’s Kingdom, especially after some of the scenes in it. This is your chance to challenge me—ask me anything…I could give some hints to up-coming events in the More Heat Than the Sun series about Benjamin Rider and Nikolas Mikkelsen (Book 8 of which is currently being written). Or I could chat about my new novel set in New Zealand (where I’m currently living): Ollie-Always.

I love discussing books (especially mine). I’m sitting comfortably, so let’s begin…

Brown Eggs in the Woods — (Gerry’s Lion)

April 24, 2015

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Ashavan Doyon here, celebrating the release of Gerry’s Lion.

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about family traditions without speaking to my own. For me the tradition is for Easter. And while I’ve made up a lot of the traditions Gerry and Leo speak about, this one comes from my own family–so we have a little bit of an excerpt from the middle of the story:

“It’s just Easter,” Gerry said. He was trying to be reassuring. It was sweet. Also terrifying.

“Yeah. Just Easter.” Leo shook his head. “You’ve only told me about a million times how it was his mom’s favorite holiday.”

“She won’t hate you.”

“Maybe. But she’s not going to love me either.”

Gerry swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “She’ll understand.”

“Will she?”

Gerry’s voice was very quiet. “I hope so.”

Leo glared at the snow and ice. “At least we’ll be able to see the eggs.”

Gerry laughed. “She’ll just huck ’em into the woods.”

“You’re joking.”

Gerry’s laugh became a grin, and it was a broad one.

“Oh, fuck. You’re not.”

“It’ll be fun.”

“You weren’t joking, were you? She paints them brown?”

“Afraid of the bears?” asked Gerry.

“A little!”

“It’s a tradition. Don’t worry, you’re not actually expected to find any.”

“But the little kids will, won’t they?” Leo sighed.

This was a little bit of a memorial to my Grandmother. Yes, we hold an Easter egg hunt every year. And yes, the adults have to search for brown plastic eggs, hidden in the woods, with the bears. I’m totally not kidding. For the record, the hiding of these eggs in the woods (with the bears) is now my job, with the help of my husband. And the place we hide them? Black Bear Pass. You thought I was kidding about the bears, didn’t you?

I like putting these bits of myself into stories now and then, because honestly, I think it helps the stories come alive a little bit more.

So, final giveaway. The winner will receive a copy of Gerry’s Lion as an e-book (delivered to your Dreamspinner Press bookshelf): If you were writing a romance, what quality or quirk of your own would you lend to a character to help give them life? I’ll have an answer for myself at 9 pm when we wrap up, along with the winner.

Of course, everyone is welcome to BUY A COPY NOW at: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6305 <–25% off because of the sale going on now! or in print (sadly not on sale) http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6306

Presents! — (Gerry’s Lion)

April 24, 2015

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This is Ashavan Doyon and I thought I’d spread some good cheer! I mean, giving presents is very much a part of Christmas, and the story does start with a Christmas cruise.

So, I’m giving away two prizes. I mentioned that commenters would be entered to win a giveaway! The first went randomly to a commenter on all the posts for the New Release Party up to this one. Yvonne is the winner - please contact me at ashavandoyon@gmail.com with the email you use at the Dreamspinner store. You’ve won a free copy of anything from my Dreamspinner backlist (that’s any e-book I’ve written for Dreamspinner EXCEPT my new release, Gerry’s Lion).  Pick from The King’s Mate, The Colors of Romance, I Almost Let You, The Byte of Betrayal, or A Wounded Promise.

I’ll also be giving away an e-book copy of Gerry’s Lion a little later tonight, so stay with me!

The start of Gerry’s Lion focuses on Christmas, and I think we see that both Gerry and Leo are very much drawn to their traditions. That was also part of my attraction to doing a story based around holidays, because I think those traditions can be very meaningful. For Gerry, they are so meaningful that he actually packed a small artificial Christmas tree to put up in his cabin on the cruise.

What is your most meaningful holiday (not necessarily Christmas) tradition?

EDIT: because I want to forget about this, but you know I need to remind you! PLEASE BUY THE BOOK:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6305

 

 

 

Winners!

April 24, 2015

My lovely time here is about gone. A big thank you to everyone who stopped by to visit!

The people below need to contact me at amberkellwrites@gmail.com to claim their prizes.

Debra E – won a $10 Amazon GC

Waxapplelover – won a dragon and a pen

Sophie – won the $25.00 Amazon GC

Didi – won the $25.00 ARe GC

Mary Calmes’ Story – Just Desserts

April 23, 2015

Available for Pre-order at most ebook sites

Blurb:

A Tale of the Curious Cookbook

Boone Walton has tried hard to create some distance between himself and his past. He’s invested in his new life, his New Orleans art gallery, and his friendship with Scott Wren. Things finally seem to be settling down to normal, and Boone couldn’t be happier.

Chef Scott Wren wants much more than normal with Boone. He wants to raise things to the next level, but Boone is terrified—and not because of the ghost in Scott’s apartment or Scott’s relatives. No, Boone’s past is about to pay him a visit, and the only thing that can get between Boone, Scott, and a hinky recipe for chocolate mousse found in a curious cookbook is the river of pain Boone had to swim across to get to this side of The Big Easy. There’s a secret behind the ingredients, though—one that might reveal the trust and love that have been missing from Boone’s life.

Marie Sexton’s Story – Lost Along the Way

April 23, 2015

May

 

IT WAS not a dark and stormy night. Somehow that would have been appropriate. It certainly would have suited my mood on the day I was fated to return to my hometown to deal with my parents’ cluttered house, but it simply wasn’t the case. Instead, the sun shone bright in the cloudless Colorado sky as if to spite me.

 

I wrapped up my shift at the news station, smiling as I gave the afternoon weather report for the Denver area—10 percent chance of showers in the evening, cooling to the high fifties overnight—and a forecast for the next day of mostly clear skies, 30 percent chance of afternoon storms, highs in the midseventies. All in all a typical day for late May. Then I made my way to my office with my heart full of dread.

 

I didn’t want to do this, but I’d already put it off too long. Landon had generously taken care of it for me since their deaths, but it was time for me to deal with it, once and for all.

 

Chase called at four o’clock, just as I was removing my makeup with a baby wipe. He often teased me about having to wear it, as if it was only about covering up the wrinkles that were beginning to form at the corners of my eyes, but it was more than that. The camera could be brutal.

 

“I thought I’d grill some burgers for dinner,” he said. “We’re out of buns, though. Can you stop on your way home?”

 

“You bet.” An early dinner would be perfect. We could be on the road before six.

 

“Get some coffee too.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Are you leaving soon?”

 

“In a few minutes.”

 

“Good. See you in a few.”

 

“Love you.”

 

“Bye.”

 

The conversation took less than twenty seconds and was as routine for me as drinking a cup of coffee in the morning. Although the law prevented Chase and me from being legally married, we’d called each other “husband” for the last fifteen years.

 

No, I wasn’t looking forward to returning to Laramie, but at least I’d have Chase by my side. We’d been floundering lately. Not arguing, exactly. We didn’t talk enough to argue. But we’d become depressingly mechanical and complacent in our relationship. We’d become little more than roommates. I hoped a few days away from our normal routine would shake us out of it.

 

I stopped at Safeway on my way home as requested. Hamburger buns were easy, but as I stood debating the shelves and shelves of coffee—caramel cream or hazelnut biscotti?—I felt a tap on my elbow.

 

“Are you Daniel Whitaker?” a middle-aged woman in jogging clothes asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

“The Channel 9 weatherman?”

 

“Meteorologist,” I said, as my heart sank. I could tell by her tone this was going to hurt.

 

“It was supposed to rain yesterday, and it never did. I missed my afternoon run because you said it was going to rain.”

 

“I said 70 percent chance of afternoon showers.” And personally, I’d argued for lowering our prediction to 60 percent, but I’d been overridden by the senior meteorologist at the station.

 

She crossed her arms and tapped her toe. “But it didn’t.”

 

“It did. It just didn’t reach this far north. It was more in Castle Rock and Parker.”

 

“But not here.”

 

I resisted the urge to sigh, or to explain to her that “70 percent chance of showers” meant only that the predicted probability of more than a measurable amount of precipitation—defined as more than one one-hundredth of an inch—in any one point of the forecast area averaged out to 70 percent. We’d been 90 percent sure of rain in the southeastern portion of the city, but only 40 to 50 percent sure in the northwestern regions, which boiled down to a glib “70 percent chance” for the forecast.

 

“We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t predict tomorrow’s weather,” she grumbled as she walked away. “Maybe one of these days you’ll get it right.”

 

I brooded over the conversation all the way home. Everybody knows the jokes about meteorologists: Why did the weatherman get fired? Because the climate didn’t agree with him. What do you do when you get every answer wrong on your SAT? Become a weatherman. Who does everybody listen to, but nobody believe? You guessed it.

 

The weatherman.

 

As usual it wasn’t that our forecast had been inaccurate, but many viewers don’t understand basic forecast terminology. They also don’t seem to realize how difficult it could be to take massive meteorological and climatological events in an area as large and geographically varied as ours and boil them down to a three-minute forecast. If we’d only had to predict the weather for the one hundred fifty-five square miles that made up the City of Denver, it would have been easy, but our forecast area covered the entire state of Colorado—an impressive one hundred four thousand square miles—and stretched as far north as Laramie, Wyoming. Even in the greater metro area of Denver, what happened in one suburb could be vastly different than what happened in the others. It was the most frustrating part of my job. We were predicting the future, for fuck sake. Even though we got it right 90 percent of the time, people only ever talked about the 10 percent of the time when we didn’t.

 

I was still replaying the conversation in my head, imagining all the ways I could have contradicted the jogger, as I pulled into my driveway. Before going inside, I strolled down to the sidewalk to check the mail. My neighbor was there as well, just locking the little square door on her box.

 

“Evening, Daniel,” she said, without glancing up at me. She was flipping through her stack of envelopes.

 

“Hi, Lydia.”

 

“Not going to get any hail tonight, are we?” Lydia had moved to Colorado from San Diego only a few months before and seemed to live in fear of one of Colorado’s outlandish hailstorms shattering the skylight in her bedroom as she slept. Never mind that the worst hail usually stayed northeast of us, where Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska collided in an area known to weather buffs as Hail Alley. Denver had apparently seen enough golf ball-sized hail over the years to make Lydia nervous.

 

“Probably not.”

 

“Thank goodness.” She sighed and waved her stack of envelopes at me. “All junk. Every single piece.”

 

“Isn’t that always the way?”

 

Lydia was three steps away when she stopped and turned back. “I meant to tell you, Daniel. You might want to get your engine checked.”

 

“What?”

 

“I was walking Rio the other day, and I noticed there was oil in your driveway, right where you usually park.”

 

“Oh. Thanks for letting me know.”

 

Back at the house, I tried to spot the oil stain, but with my Subaru parked right on top of it, there wasn’t much to see. My car was only a few years old. None of the little alert lights had been on, and I’d had all the usual maintenance done at prescribed intervals. I didn’t know the first thing about cars, and Lydia’s warning about the oil leak worried me. Laramie was only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from my home in Westminster, but the last thing I needed was engine trouble along the way.

 

I found Chase in the kitchen, patting ground beef into patties.

 

“How was your day?” he asked as I set the bag from the grocery store onto the counter.

 

“Wonderful. I had another argument with Grant about the five-day forecast. I was reminded that my job is to read off his prediction rather than formulating my own.” I ticked the points off on my fingers. “The station manager suggested I lose a few pounds. The makeup girl told me the wrinkles around my eyes are now so pronounced she needs the extraheavy concealer to cover them. And I was ambushed in the coffee aisle by a fair-weather jogger.”

 

“All in a day’s work.” He pushed the plate of patties aside and used his wrist to nudge the faucet handle on the kitchen sink in order to wash his hands, which were coated with congealed fat from the raw hamburger. I stepped forward to squirt a drop of dish soap into his palm.

 

“Are you packed and ready to go?” I asked.

 

“Well, no. I needed to talk to you about that.” He kept his eyes on his hands as he washed. “The restaurant called today. One of the waitresses broke her collarbone in a bicycle accident—”

 

“Ouch.”

 

“—and now they’re short-staffed for the weekend.”

 

My heart sank. “But you asked for the time off. We already have plans.”

 

He turned off the water and finally faced me as he dried his hands on a kitchen towel. “I know, hun. I’m sorry. But I’m low man on the pole, and after the row I had with the manager last weekend, I can’t afford to push my luck.” He set the towel aside and stepped forward to put his hand on my arm. “It’s not like this’ll be your only trip back. I’ll request a weekend off at the beginning of July, okay?”

 

I nodded jerkily, trying not to take it personally. After all it wasn’t Chase’s fault somebody had broken their collarbone.

 

No, said a small voice in my head, but he sure jumped at the chance to stay home, didn’t he?

 

Well, I couldn’t blame him for that, either. Who wanted to spend an entire weekend locked in a musty old house, sorting through boxes of who knew what, dwelling on somebody else’s memories? Even I would have jumped at the opportunity to stay home. And as he’d said, cleaning out my parents’ house and getting it ready to sell would probably take several weekends.

 

Still, I was disappointed. Having a couple of days away with Chase had been the only bright spot for me in an otherwise depressing weekend. But there was nothing to be done about it now.

 

“You’re right,” I said at last. “There’ll be plenty of other weekends.”