Excerpt 1 – A Taste of Love

November 8, 2010

Here is the first excerpt of the evening from A Taste of Love.

Blurb:

The lunch rush at Darryl Hansen’s restaurant, Café Belgie, is getting to be too much for one man to handle, and Billy Weaver is a young man in search of a job—any job—to support his family. Billy gains Darryl’s respect with his earnest nature and willingness to work hard, but Billy’s admiring looks resurrect pain and shame from Darryl’s past.
Until Darryl stumbles across Billy’s secret, Billy is suffering in silence: his father died a few months earlier, leaving him struggling to raise his twin five-year-old brothers. Darryl takes Billy and the boys to the restaurant, where they’ll stand together to face the smorgasbord of troubles in their future… while Davey, Donnie, and Billy all worm their way into Darryl’s heart.

Excerpt:

The kitchen door opened, and Darryl looked up from behind the line and saw Billy peeking over the shelf. “Someone wants their steak frites with regular butter instead of the herb butter, is that okay?”

“Of course.” Darryl felt his mouth go dry as Billy smiled at him and handed him the note to go with the ticket. “You can just enter it on the computer. You don’t have to come back to tell me whenever you have a special request.” The smile faded just a little bit, and Darryl found himself wanting to put that smile back. It just brightened everything. “You’re doing fine. Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it.”

Billy nodded a little and turned around, leaving the kitchen, and Darryl found himself watching the door until a steak flared on the grill and he returned his attention to where it should be. He heard Kelly snicker a little, and she turned away from him, but he glared at her nonetheless. She must have seen him anyway. “Come on, boss, it’s funny.”

“What is?” He turned the steak, thankful it wasn’t burned. “I need two frites and a Niçoise salad,” he said, looking ahead to the next ticket.

“Okay, chef,” Kelly replied with a knowing smile, dropping the frites into the fryer and starting on the salad with practiced ease.

“You have something to say?” Darryl glanced up from his work, adding another steak to the grill and setting up two orders of mussels to steam.

“Nothing. It’s just that every time Billy comes in here, you forget what you’re doing. It’s funny.” Kelly placed the salad on the pickup station and pulled out the frites, letting them drain before transferring them to the paper cones. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were sweet on him.”

Darryl saw her bat her eyes at him teasingly, and he swatted her with his towel. “I am not. I just want to make sure he’s doing well. It’s his first week, after all.” He hoped Kelly bought the explanation, because while what he said was true—he did want him to do well—fuck, the kid could scramble his concentration with just a simple smile. It had been a long time since anyone had that kind of effect on him. He liked it, sort of, but there was no way he was going to act on it. He just had to deal with it.

Finishing the orders, he wiped the edges of the plates and pressed the button to tell the server that their order was ready. Billy bustled into the kitchen, picking up the plates and hurrying out again, taking a second to flash him another smile. Darryl closed his eyes and pushed away the images that flooded his brain. Billy was grateful for the job and happy to be working, that was all. Kelly’s chuckles cut through his thoughts, and he gave her a final glare before returning his attention to where it should be, on his food. “Keep it up and I won’t put your dish on special tonight.” He tried to sound menacing, but Kelly just smiled, seeing right through him.

“Come on, Darryl,” he heard Maureen interject from the pastry station. “Billy’s been working here three days and he’s already got you wrapped around his little finger,” Maureen said with a hint of laughter in her voice. “If you ask me, it’s about time someone caught your attention. I was beginning to think the pipes were clogged or something.” Both Maureen and Kelly laughed, and Darryl scowled at them.

“My pipes are just fine.” Damn it, he’d said that way too loud, and he looked up, thankful the door to the dining room was closed. Both women returned to their stations, heads down, shoulders bouncing, and he knew they were laughing. He was never so thankful for anything in his life as when the printer started spitting out orders. “Need two more frites and a Caesar.” Darryl ripped off the ticket, and another came right behind. “Seems your mousse is a hit, I need three of them,” he said to Maureen as he began preparing the main dishes.

“Billy sells more dessert than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Maureen commented as she went to the refrigerator, pulling out three decorative glasses filled with a creamy chocolate and garnishing them with whipped cream and strawberries.

“It’s those eyes,” Kelly replied, the words passing around Darryl as he tried to concentrate on his work. “Can you imagine saying no to him?” Kelly stopped what she was doing, looking at Maureen. “Would you like some chocolate mousse?” Darryl glanced up from his pointed effort to ignore the two of them, sighed in frustration while shaking his head, and forced his attention back on his work, to no avail. “Every woman out there says yes, thinking about what she’d like to do with that mousse.”

An image of Billy flashed in his mind, smooth skin, big eyes, chocolate mousse streaking his…. A clang as his spoon hit the floor pulled him back to the present, and both women howled. “You’re way too easy.” Maureen thumped him on the back before doubling over with laughter. Darryl growled and picked up the spoon, tossing it into the sink. Yanking open the stainless steel drawer, he grabbed another and went back to work, growling as the other two turned back to their stations, still snickering.

Come Chat with Andrew Grey

November 8, 2010

Good evening everyone. I’m Andrew Grey and I’ll be here to present excerpts of my new story A Taste of Love, chat, and answer any questions you light have. As a special bonus, I’ll also be sharing an excerpt of my upcoming Christmas story, Mariah the Christmas Moose that is being released in December and will be part of Dreamspinner Press’s Naughty or Nice Advent Calendar. I may even be persuaded to share some sneak peek excerpts, all you need to do is ask.

Also – The first 20 orders of A Taste of Love from the Dreamspinner Press site, will receive signed copies of the book.

Let’s have a good time, so bring on the questions…
Andrew

Get What You Need up for Book of the Week!

November 6, 2010

Hello,  Dreamspinner Readers! Janey Chapel here, with the proverbial hat in hand.

Get What You Need is up for Book of the Week at Blackraven’s Reviews. Lady Scarlet selected it as a Recommended Read and gave it , so it’s now in the running for Book of the Week!

If you read the book and enjoyed it, would you please vote? The link is below:

Blackraven Review’s Book of the Week Poll

Thank you so much!

XCon World

October 22, 2010

Hey guys, William Cooper here! Marguerite Labbe and I will be at the XCon World convention in Myrtle Beach this weekend! Any of our fans in the Myrtle Beach area should come by and see us at the Dreamspinner Press table in their dealers room! We have a bunch of their books for sale and tons of promo material! (If you’re nice, Marguerite might even sign one of her books for you! ;) )

You can find out more about XCon World at http://www.xconworld.com/

Myths and Magic: “The Light of Foreign Places,” by Rodello Santos and Damon Shaw

October 16, 2010

A little excerpt to whet your appetites…

…Heart hammering, his nerves taut as the hemp tendons of the city itself, Jai Honrein Sandalwood Morningsun clutched the balcony rail of his cabin and searched for the lights of foreign places. The night air sped by him, cool and calming. Surely such balmy air should bring rest and lazy half-smiles in the darkness? But Jai was young, and thrummed that night, his nerves afire. Standing next to him, his lover Honeysmoke thrummed too, but for reasons more to do with the dream-weed in her pipe. The purple wisp she exhaled was snatched by the wind.

Striyn only sped thus when its destination was close, and all within the wooden walls of the snake-city were on vigil: the ropemakers in their rigging; the tattooists and costumiers on Spine Street; the gardeners in their airy, silk-screened vivariums; even the belly rollers of the snake themselves, deep beneath the sewage pipes, sang as they rolled ever forward.

Nobody yet cracked open the crates of dried flowers, or snapped the top of even one flask of festive wine. The Captain, Long may Striyn Preserve Her, had forbidden excess noise or waste. Who knew, besides their centuries-old captain, when the snake would stop? Who knew who might be listening out there in the jasmine-scented darkness?

Jai knew someone was out there. On horseback, perhaps, cantering on hooves of velvet over the grass. Grass! Green and wasteful and wet, mashed by the belly rollers, smearing the planks…. Jai shook his head, unbelieving. He had thought sand would grate behind his eyelids forever…

I chose this excerpt because it sums up how I felt writing this story with Rod. After sending him a chunk of words, I would take the dog out for her evening ramble and imagine the enormous head of a wooden snake city blocking out the stars. We did not know how the story would end while we were writing. Anything seemed possible.

I met Rod at an online writer’s group called Liberty Hall. He was one of the big guys, with a few publishing credits to his name, and I was an earnest and enthusiastic beginner. I was desperately excited when he seemed interested in collaborating. We have written two stories together so far and have doodled around with ideas for a couple more.

But collaborations aren’t easy. When your hard work comes back sliced and cut, or twisted, or gone entirely, you just have to trust the other author knows what they are doing and let it go. During the process, I had to take a couple of deep breaths and remind myself that this wasn’t my story, that it was going to be better than I could do alone, and that Rod’s work is always impressive. I’m glad I did.

And of course, the other side of that coin is you have to have the confidence that when it is your turn to write, you know best. I cut a large chunk of Rod’s work one day. He had Jai escaping his cabin and sliding down a trapeze rig to the outside in a breathless chase sequence with Honey in hot pursuit. I couldn’t see how Jai could get back into the snake to get to where he needed to be in the next scene, so – Kapow! Out it went. Rod took it very well.

It was a mix of having the courage to choose where the story was going when we had not discussed something and it was my turn to write, and being open enough to say, phooey, it’s only words, and his are going to be as good, if not better than mine. Let them go.

As you can imagine, the story changed a lot as it was written. At one point, Duphal was female but disguised in male drag to escape her traditional role. The snake Goddess, Striyn, granted her wish and transformed her into a man in a magical triumphant finale. Honeysmoke was the captain of the guards for a while. She was also about nine feet tall, until Rod shrank her to human proportions. She only began prophesying and smoking dreamweed in one of the last drafts. And the story only became a true romance in the very last drafts, too.

Jai met his love in all versions, and they were both male, but the story had a much wilder feel for a while. Jai was the hermaphrodite incarnation of Striyn itself – his transformation into asexual Godhood beginning after his first true-love kiss. (The image of the flower after that kiss is one of the few fragments of that draft to survive.) Jai would become Captain. There would be war with the foreign city. Striyn would burn and shed her skin, emerging anew…

Rod’s calming influence tamed those excesses. He made it a more human story and more touching. If it was up to me, Striyn would have swallowed her own tail until she disappeared into a groovy new dimension where – hey, we could have robots that steal the dreams of the snake dwellers and only Jai can defeat them because – Shaddap Dame. Yes Rod.

Here’s to many more. I hope you enjoy the tale.

Damon Shaw has been published in Flash Fiction Online and A Fly In Amber Magazine .

He has stories forthcoming in Anywhere But Earth, a sci-fi anthology by Coeur de Lion Publications, and in Daily Science Fiction.

He can be contacted at http://damonshaw.livejournal.com/ or mailed directly: damonshaw (at) hotmail (dot) es



Myths & Magick

October 16, 2010

My story is set in a Golden Age that has been almost completely forgotten.  Judea in the year 70 BCE.

As a story teller, I’ve always been fascinated by the stories that challenge our understanding of history and the world. Presently, the name Salome is associated with decadance and depravity. The daughter of King Herod has become the historical scapegoat for the execution of John the Baptist. I was fascinated that for the Jews of the time the primary association of ‘Salome’ was with Queen Salome Alexandra, the only Queen Regnant of an independent Jewish state in the Holy Land.

The legends of her realm was that she was such a good and just ruler that rain fell only on the Sabbath, lest the weather deprive the worker of a days wage. Her reign was noted for the absence of civil war or serious outside threats. Of particular interest is the fact that her husband had spent his reign trying to quell civil wars and that her sons infighting destroyed the independance of Judaea within 4 years of her death.

While Rome was rising as a power in the world, many other interesting things were happening in ‘another part of the forest’. Greek sculptors were carving the first images of the Buddha and putting him into the long flowing robes that later became standard in China and Japan.  Pontus, a nation in what is now Turkey was challenging Rome for supremacy in the Mediterranean.  I’m hoping to have my lads visit more of their world later.

Cari Z, on writing and homesickness

October 16, 2010

I’m originally from Colorado but am living in West Africa with my husband right now, and when I wrote The Wild Hunt, I was feeling homesick.  I finished the rough draft of this story right around our first year away mark, and the thought of winter and snow and Trick or Treating gave me those deep, melancholic pangs in my chest that you can’t really do anything for; you just have to wait them out.  This story is fantasy, clearly, but parts of it resonate with the pangs I was feeling then, the impatience and sweet, sad memory of things that you can’t have and don’t really want to look forward to, so that you don’t feel worse in the present.  Melancholy isn’t a common emotion for me and it passed quickly, and now when I read this story I can think with pleasure on the personal memories I put into it. 

Some of the contrasts to my personal situation are funny, actually.  Not that “hunting” really takes place in The Wild Hunt, persay, but the impressions I try to convey are so different from how things are done here.  One way people hunt here is to form a long line and go walking across the savannah, each man armed with a club or spear or machete.  Whenever anything large enough to eat moves, they spear it, put it in a bag and then the whole line keeps walking.  In another year, when I’m back home in Colorado and have some distance from today, I’ll probably have some nostalgia for the unrelenting sun, the browns and reds and shocks of green that make up my personal setting, and the swirling buzzards circling overhead that are actually, from a distance, very beautiful.

Comments and emails are welcome.  My blog is at http://carizerotica.blogspot.com, you can find info and links to more of my work there.  Huge thanks to Dreamspinner Press for including me in such a beautiful anthology.  I know you’ll enjoy everyone’s contributions.

Night and Day: Of music and myth…

October 16, 2010

by Rowan Speedwell

Back in the olden days, when most of the kids my age were screaming about the Beatles and the Beach Boys, I was holed up in my parents’ upstairs bedroom, listening to 78 rpm records on a “portable” monaural record player my dad insisted on calling a “Victrola,” which weighed only slightly less than a refrigerator (or “icebox”).  Those records were really cool:  thicker than the more modern (then!) 33 1/3 LPs, holding only a song or two per side though they weren’t much smaller than the LPs, and some of them of colored plastic or cellulose or whatever they made 78s of in those days.  Seriously; I remember “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)” was red.  Another one was purple.  They were scratchy and tinny-sounding compared to the LPs and 45s that were ubiquitous in the ‘60s; acquired by my music-loving dad in the ‘30s and ‘40s, they were a record (pardon the pun) of the music that he and my mom had grown up listening to.

They weren’t what we think of as “jazz” nowadays—intricate instrumental complexities, all intellect. These were old jazz standards—Gershwin, Berlin, Cole Porter; Hoagy Carmichael, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, the Dorsey brothers.  When other kids my age were learning the Frug and the Watusi, Dad was teaching me to jitterbug to Glenn Miller. 

A lot of the music was originally from Broadway theater, from vaudeville to the Great White Way—the way that songs got exposure and reviews in the days when the only access the general public had to music was on the radio.  (To this day, I’m still a huge fan of soundtracks—most of the music that I own that is less than twenty years old comes from soundtracks.)  In the ‘20s and ‘30s, that was how the songwriters got their product to their public. 

Everyone listened to that music back then.  It’s the soundtrack of the Roaring Twenties, of the Great Depression, of WWII.  It’s beautiful music, complicated and passionate and full of feeling.  But it also has an internal structure of line and meter and rhythm that makes it eminently danceable, eminently singable, eminently memorable.

“Night and Day,” as the title of the story, comes from the song by Cole Porter, one full of passion and need and hunger, just like the lost soul Nate Pederowski that the Bellevues hire to sing in their speakeasy.  It’s also in mythological terms one of the aspects of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis.  Apollo is the god of music, archery, and the Sun; Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and of the night and the Moon.  Opposites, yet eternally complementary.  Rick and Corinna Bellevue reflect that complementariness—Rick bright and lively and warm, Corinna cool and professional and distant.  Nate is Orpheus to their Apollo and Artemis: a brilliant musician who’s lost more than just his job. 

Dionysus makes an appearance, too, as the gangster Dion Winyard.  He’s a god of music, too, but where Apollo’s is must that is structured and rhythmical, the music of civilization, Dionysus’s is the music of the wild, the abandoned, the feral.  Apollo is jazz; Dionysus is rock ‘n’ roll.  In ancient Greek myth, Dionysus and Apollo compete for the worship of the musician Orpheus; here, Nate has already made his choice, but it’s one Dion will turn against him.

Other gods pop up in cameos:  Cerberus, the hound that guards the gate of hell; Hephaestus, the club-footed blacksmith god of fire and weaponry; Hermes, the messenger god, in the person of Harry, who sends Nate to Starlight.  Lesser myths, too:  the smoke-drugged oracle at Delphi, the snake-haired patron of the club who can be no one else but Medusa, and Billie, the domestic Hestia.

There are so many possible stories here I have the feeling I might be coming back to Starlight again some day….

Yin Yang: The Flower Boy by Belinda McBride

October 16, 2010

Most people are familiar with the black and white Yin Yang symbol. In fact, long before I ever remember seeing one, I sandblasted the symbol onto a plate of glass for an art class. Its one of those symbols like the cross or the star that is part of our universal consiousness.

In Chinese philosophy, the Yin Yang symbolizes balance. The black side is associated with yielding, softness, water, night and femininity. The Yang side is the male oriented side, and is fast, hard, daytime, hot and aggressive.

While the sides of the Yin Yang symbol seem absolute, you will see that there is a spot of black in the Yang, and a spot of white in the Yang.  If you rotate the symbol on a peg, the black and white fade away and become gray. In Taoist philosophy, nothing remains in stasis. Life is about balance and change.

The concept is stunningly simple, and yet so completely difficult to comprehend. Long before pop psychology books had American men getting in touch with their “feminine side,” the Taoists venerated Lan Caihe, who was the incarnation of both male and female, young and old, joy and grief. Without one, you can never know the other.

www.belindamcbride.com

The Wild Hunt excerpt

October 16, 2010

                Okay Dreamspinner aficionados, have a snippet!  It’s the beginning of my short story, The Wild Hunt, a small sip of a much greater mythology that I borrow from.  I can and do create from scratch, but sometimes there’s no substitute for the depth and flavor that working within a traditional mythology can get you.  Which isn’t to say I was perfectly faithful to the recipe, but that’s half the fun.

~~~

David Evans first witnessed the wild hunt when he was five years old.  It was Halloween night, and his mother was dressing him up as a pumpkin.  David would much rather have been dressed as a Ninja Turtle, Donatello by preference, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.  Cuteness won out over being cool, and early that evening, a saggy orange ball protecting his body from the cold Colorado air and a green woolen cap tied tightly to his head, he and his older cousins headed out to make the rounds in their sleepy mountain town. 

            The sky had already darkened by the time they left the house, and the wind, which tended to be fierce at that time of year, had picked up speed.  It buffeted his ungainly little body and almost made him lose his empty pillowcase.  The twins had sighed and begged their sister Megan to stay with “the baby,” and given permission, they ran happily ahead.  Megan held David’s hand and helped him down Main Street, promising him that soon they would be back indoors and he’d have all the candy he could eat.

            The wind howled down the street like a living thing, picking up fallen leaves and pine needles and throwing them through the air like darts.  Thunder rumbled in the sky and tremendous clouds rolled by overhead, followed by a quickly creeping white mist.  In the distance, David heard snarls and growls and he stopped in his tracks, eyes wide.

            “What?” Megan asked him.  She was fourteen and feeling kind of embarrassed about trick-or-treating at such an advanced age, so having David to look after wasn’t hard on her.  She knelt down beside him.  “What is it?”

            “Hear it?”

            “Hear what?” Megan asked.  “The wind?”

            “No,” David said, bright blue eyes staring straight ahead.  “The dogs.”

            “Dogs?”  Megan turned and looked down the road.  Apart from the fast-incoming storm and a few other determined trick-or-treaters, there was nothing there.  “What dogs?”

            David raised his free, orange-mittened hand and pointed down the road.  “Those dogs.”

            How could anyone not see it?  David saw them plain as day—sleek, tremendous hounds that raced faster than the wind, hounds with shining black bodies and luminous, shimmering eyes.  They howled out fierce, joyous cries, warning the living and the dead that there was no escape.  The dead were listening too.  David saw them as well, ghostly apparitions streaming in on the mist, faces ecstatic with the fury of the hunt.  The dogs roared by and the dead followed them, and he was there as well, shepherding the frenzied procession.

            He rode a massive stallion, as white as the mist beneath its hooves.  His body was covered with armor, ever-shifting, first like metal, then leather, then bone.  The top half of his face was covered by a helmet, his eyes glowing white through a narrow slit.  From the crest of the helmet, two tremendous antlers extended into the sky.  Pale blond hair flew wildly in the wind, partially covering his face.  David could see him smile, though.

            The hunter stopped his great horse for a moment and looked down at David and Megan.  “Small prey,” he said, and his voice was an eagle’s scream, fierce and proud.  “Too small yet to take, and too rare to waste.  Run home to your mother, child, and go no more this night.”  His white horse reared, dagger-like hooves flashing in the flickering light, and then he was off again, the spirits of the dead following helplessly in his wake.  For a moment David thought he saw regular people too, wild-eyed and panting, but then the hunt had passed. 

            “Whoa!” Megan exclaimed, pulling her witch’s cloak tighter around her body.  She took in her little cousin’s stunned, blank expression and shook her head.  “That’s it, we’re going home.”  It was too blustery and cold for David to be out tonight.  “C’mon, Davey.”  He didn’t move when she tugged on his hand.  “Davey?”

“He had a horse.”

            “Who did?”

            “And dogs.  And he had antlers.”

            “What, like a costume?”  Megan looked around briefly.  “There’s no one else here, Davey.  Let’s go home, okay?”  She pulled again and this time he came, still silent but at least walking in the right direction.