Friday, January 15, 2021

Aaaaaaaand we're off!!!

 


Hm. Maybe I should have added AND RUNNING! :-D 

But yes, it's a whole new year, a whole new world, and I am feeling alarmingly hopeful. 

But seriously, I do feel different. Of course part of that is the clear mandate of both the presidential election and the Georgia runoff. Part of it is (and this is kind of sad) I'm just getting used to living in a pandemic and a country teetering on the brink of slipping into Fascism. 

Hey. So it's true. You really CAN get used to anything.

I have a lot planned for this year. And I'll be the first to admit that I may (as is my wont) be overly optimistic about what I can achieve in these twelve tiny months. I'm not immune to what happens in the world around me. Like most of the country--most of the world--I was glued to my television set last week while we watched insurrection happening in real time. Needless to say, not a lot of writing happened. Impeachment? Another distraction. Necessary, sure. But not good for the creative process.

So I'm excited and energized and I'm setting stretch goals for myself. Which means I might be shooting for the moon. We'll see. 

YES, I REGRET SETTING UP ALL THOSE PREORDERS. BUT THEY'RE UP AND THERE'S NO GOING BACK. OKAY? I KNOW. I ALREADY KNOW.

So first up is Mystery at the Masquerade. Why the switcheroo with BB&S? I felt I needed something easy and light to begin with. I mean, I haven't really written--other than managing to complete one little short story--in almost a year (ten months) so I felt like I needed an easy win before I tackled Bell, Book and Scandal. 

If I can hit both of those targets, I'll feel a lot more confident of tackling the rest of the year. If I slip on either of those, well, I still might pull manage to pull off most of the year, but it's going to be more slippery, more fraught with peril. 

Usually at this point I'd list what I have in mind for the year, but like I said, I'm optimistic but also cautious. The last couple of years have been BRUTAL on my productivity and ability to hit deadlines. So we'll see. 

Take this list as more of a My Publishing Hopes and Dreams than my hard and fast schedule for the year. 

Mystery at the Masquerade

Bell, Book and Scandal

Scandal at the Salty Dog


Body at Buccaneer Bay

The 12.2% Per-Cent Solution

Murder is Served

The Movie-Town Murders

Mr. and Mrs. Murder 


Anyway, that's it. That's the plan. Let's hope life cooperates this year. 



 


Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year!

 




Only a night from old to new;

Only a sleep from night to morn.

The new is but the old come true;

Each sunrise sees a new year born.

Helen Hunt Jackson, "New Year's Morning"


Monday, December 28, 2020

Advent Calendar Finale


 I'll be honest, when I began this year's Advent Calendar I was not really in the mood for it--in fact, I was pretty sure this would be the last Advent Calendar. Even with so many wonderful contributions, the calendar is always A LOT of work and I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. This year has been a tough one, no lie. 

But as I began to put the calendar together, and so many really lovely submissions began to come in, I found my attitude changing--improving--and I really do think this was one of the all time best calendars we've done. So thank you to everyone who took part from those of you who took the time to read and comment to those of you who contributed art, games, fiction. 


I hope the calendar did its job and offered a little comfort and joy this holiday season because that's its sole purpose! :-)


Again, my heartfelt thanks to the following contributors:


(In order of appearance)


thelastaerie

Haldis

Johanna

Meg Perry

Catherine Dair

Terry Wylis

Natasha

Almathea

Smitty

Sarah

SamSpayed

Joel Leslie Froomkin


(please, please let me not have missed anyone--every contribution was so very much appreciated!)


To make life easier on myself, I plan to work on next year's calendar throughout the year rather than wait till the midst of the holiday hubbub (er, yes, I do still use the word hubbub) ;-)  So if you come up with something you'd like to contribute to 2021's calendar, no need to wait till the last moment! 


In the meantime, I wish each and every one of you a very happy rest of your holiday season! See you in the New Year! (And let it be a better one.)


Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! 

Wishing you every good thing today and always. 


 


CHRISTMAS CODA 61

 


Aubrey and Aloysius from OUT OF THE BLUE






 England, December 24th, 1925



Twilight. Those soft, rosy minutes after sunset when shadows stretched and memory came creeping like a ghost.

For a few moments Aubrey gazed out the diamond-paned window, watching the sky darken, waiting for those first pinpricks of light in the fabric of night. The lilting voices of the carolers drifted into the crackling December air.

The holly and the ivy

When they are both full grown

Of all trees that are in the wood

The holly bears the crown…

Noddy. Pip. Tubby. Heath. Varlik. Gene. Orton. God. Orton. Friend and foe, he saw them all again in his mind’s eye.

Saw Cowboy. Cowboy. He smiled faintly. Such a long time ago. A lifetime ago. But in fact, it was only seven years since the war had ended.

The door below the window opened, casting a long yellow rectangle across the snowy ground. Waring appeared, inviting the carolers inside.

From his vantage point, Aubrey could see what he hadn’t noticed before: the bony thinness of the shoulders beneath the butler’s black coat, the pink shine of his balding back of head. Waring was an old man now.

Well, they were none of them getting any younger.

Years go falling in the fading light. Gene had written that. Funny to still remember.  


The study door opened behind him. Aubrey turned as Archie poked his head around the edge of the door. Lying on the rug before the cavern-sized fireplace, Digs raised his knobby little head and began to pant in welcome.

“Uncle Aubrey?”

Aubrey smiled. “Finished?”

Archie nodded. He was the spitting image of Aubrey at the same age—tousled pale hair, solemn gray eyes, spindly limbs.

Aubrey held out his hand. “Let’s have it then.”

Archie pushed the door wide and crossed the shining floor to hand over the missive he had been laboring on for over an hour.

Archibald Reginald William Bryant, Earl Denford, was seven now. His father, Aubrey’s eldest brother Archie, had died in 1918 while in Spain on a “diplomatic mission,” i.e., spying, and his mother, Lady Pamela, had fallen victim to the Spanish flu not many months later. The old Earl, Aubrey’s father, had been carried off in the same wave.

Aubrey was beyond fond of his nephew, but guardian and trustee would not have been the future he chose for himself. However, with the old earl’s passing, his wings had effectively been clipped. If there was one lesson he had learned during the war, it was that life had a way of getting in the way of one’s plans.

Gravely, he read over the laboriously written letter to Father Christmas, mouth twitching a little at the ink stains and occasionally reversed letter.  Archie watched him with a hopeful intentness reminiscent of Digsby waiting for his walk.

“An aeroplane,” Aubrey murmured.

Archie’s eyes brightened, he opened his mouth, but was interrupted by the uncharacteristically sharp tones of his governess.  

“Master Archibald! Qu'est-ce que c'est?”

Both Aubrey and Archie jumped guiltily.

Mademoiselle Ghislaine Berger was Archie’s governess. She was young and very pretty and took her responsibilities very seriously.

Mortified that the prisoner had escaped, she began to apologize profusely for the interruption, but Aubrey cut her off with a smile.

“The boy’s alright,” he said easily. “I must approve the letter after all.”

Mademoiselle bit her lip, looking a little uncertain.

Aubrey winked at Archie who gazed up at him with worshipful eyes. “Looks good to me, old son. Go on. Chuck it in.”

Archie tossed the letter into the crackling fireplace. The three of them—four counting Digs—watched in silence as it shriveled into black crinkles. Archie’s wishes drifting up with the red embers into the night sky.

Then Mademoiselle snapped back to herself, apologizing again to Aubrey before shoeing her charge off to bed.

Not all wishes could come true, sadly.

 

 

Some time later, Waring appeared to inquire if Mr. Bryant required anything else that evening and to announce the arrival of Mr. Cooper.

Waring was used to the estate manager’s unceremonious comings and goings, but he still disapproved of the American’s lack of…well, being English.  

“Thank you, Waring. That’ll be all,” Aubrey said. “You can show Mr. Cooper in.”


Waring nodded glumly, withdrew, and Aubrey went to the black and gold chinoiserie liquor cabinet and poured two brandies.

A moment or two later Mr. Cooper arrived, Tall, broad-shouldered, with just as a hint of a limp as he went to join Aubrey. Mr. Cooper’s eyes were as bright as Texas blue bonnets, his smile as warm as the western sun.  

They kissed once, twice, lingeringly. Aubrey handed Mr. Cooper his brandy and they chinked glasses, the crystal chiming in the cozy room.

“How was the kiddie party?” Cowboy asked.

Bat groaned. Loudly.

Cowboy chuckled and kissed him again.

 

 

It was not easy for them, but it was a hell of a lot easier than it had been during the two long years when Bat had believed Cowboy was dead.

Originally they had flown together with the No. 44 Air Squadron stationed outside the village of Embry near Calais, but winter of ’17 Bat had been dragged back to St. Omer to serve as a flight instructor. This was after his brother Dorian had died in the North Sea, and Bat had always suspected his brother Archie of pulling strings in an effort to ensure at least one of them survived to carry on the old family name. Needless to say, Bat had kicked like hell to return to the front. To no avail.

In any case, that spring Cowboy had been transferred to Escadrille Américaine. In February ’18 he’d been transferred again into the United States Army Air Service.

They’d tried to keep in touch, of course, but it hadn’t been easy. A few months after Cowboy’s second transfer, Bat had learned he’d been shot down and taken prisoner.

Then came the worst news of all. Captain Aloysius Cooper had been killed while trying to make his escape from a German prison camp.

Not unexpected, of course. They had talked occasionally of the possibility that one or both of them might die. Probably would die, in Bat’s opinion. Cowboy had been more optimistic. Stubbornly, aggravatingly optimistic.

So that had been that.

The war ended—along with most of Bat’s world. But life went on. Had to go on for there was a squalling, shrieking, red-faced newborn Earl Denford to be preserved and raised and prepared for his eventual responsibilities. And eventually to be loved. Loved as if he was indeed Bat’s own son.

Then, unexpectedly, two years after the armistice had been signed, a wish was granted. A wish that was more like a miracle. Out of the blue, Mr. Aloysius Cooper applied for the position of estate manager to Denford Castle in Kent…

 

 

The clock on the mantel struck midnight, twelve slow, silvery chimes drifting across to the rumpled bed.

Cowboy turned his head on the pillow. He said lazily, “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” Bat murmured, relaxed and warm and contented within the circle of Cowboy’s arms.

“It’s snowing again.”

“Mm.”

Cowboy studied the ceiling. He asked, “What’ll you do about the aeroplane?”


Bat made a sound of amusement. “I’m not buying Archie a bloody plane.”

“Not this year,” agreed Cowboy. “We can’t afford it this year. Nor next.”

“Not ever.”

Cowboy’s smile was enigmatic. “You don’t fool me. You’d love to fly again.”

Bat snorted, but yes. He missed flying sometimes. Sometimes. He tilted his face up, studied Cowboy’s rugged profile.

“What’s up?”

“What’s that?” Cowboy asked.

“Something’s worrying you. I can tell.”

Cowboy grimaced. “I was going to wait till after Christmas to tell you. No point spoiling the day.”

Bat ignored the sinking feeling in his chest. “Tell me now.”

“I got a telegram from my sister. The old man’s not doing so well.”

Bat swallowed. Said, “You must go home then. You can’t wait. You’ve got to go right away.”

“Yes.” Cowboy’s eyes met his, piercingly blue even in the soft gloom. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Bat nodded. Cowboy had been back to the States twice before. Each time was… wrenching. Each time Bat feared Cowboy would not return. Would be pressured by circumstance to stay as Bat had been pressured by circumstance to make the choices he had.

“I’ll be back before you know it.”

“Right.”

Three days from London to New York by steamship. And then how many days by train to Texas? Too many. Too long. That went without saying. It already felt like forever and Cowboy hadn’t moved an inch from his side.

“Look at me,” Cowboy commanded.

“I’m looking.”

“No. I mean, look at me.”

Bat gazed solemnly into Cowboy’s eyes.

Cowboy said, “England is my country now and you’re my home.”

Bat’s throat closed. He turned his face into Cowboy’s shoulder. Muttered, “Tall tales and Texans.”

“Have I ever lied to you?”

Bat raised his head, glared. “Yes. You have. As well you know.”

Cowboy laughed. “You still holding that little bitty white lie against me?”

“Little bloody bitty!”

Cowboy’s mouth captured his. When Bat could breathe again, Cowboy whispered. “I’m coming back. And that’s a promise.”

Bat managed a shaky laugh. Reminded himself that Cowboy always kept his promises and, sometimes, wishes did come true.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Advent Calendar Day 24

 I can't believe it's already Christmas Eve!

I'd hoped to finish another coda by now, but this last week just slipped through my fingers. Hopefully tomorrow? In the meantime, we have a song--Adrien English's favorite Christmas song, and a particularly apt one this year.




So have yourself a merry little Christmas Eve.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Advent Calendar Day 23

 And now for something completely different. ;-) 

Joel Leslie Froomkin recently did a live reading of A Christmas Carol to benefit the Ali Forney Center. So far they've managed to raise over $2000. for homeless teens. If that isn't a demonstration of the spirit of Christmas, I don't know what is.

Joel very generously offered to share his performance with us, so here for your listening pleasure on this wintery December morning (a mere TWO days before Christmas) is the full reading of A Christmas Carol.

God bless us, every one.