Friday, February 20, 2015

Sneak Peek: Wedding Favors

I'm a bit under the weather today, so I thought I'd offer up a teeny, tiny, totally unedited and unexpurgated (whatever that means) glimpse at a short story I'm working on. This is from "Wedding Favors," the sequel to "Perfect Day."


I repeat, it is a short story, so those of you who don't see the point in short form fiction, keep moving. It is also romance with no mystery. What can I say? Sometimes even I just don't feel all that homicidal!


I hope to have it out sometime in March, but there are taxes to be paid (so very many taxes) and houses to be hunted (so very many houses). So we'll see.


Blurb:
Graham thinks Wyatt would feel more secure if they were married. Wyatt doesn't want to spoil Graham’s wedding plans. So who’s really doing who a favor?




Excerpt:




I was holding a bag of frozen peas against my eye when Graham walked into the kitchen.

“No use,” he said. “Mind control won’t work on pea-brains.”

“You’re telling me.” I lowered the bag of frozen veggies.

Whoa. What happened to you?”

“Tenth grade biology.”

He dropped his leather utility tote on the table, and moved to where I sat. His work-roughened hands were gentle as he tipped my head back to study the puffy bruise on my cheekbone. “Ouch. How the hell--”

“I walked into it.”

“You walked into a punch?” His touch was still gentle, but his gray eyes were searching.

“Yeah. I did.” I replaced the cold bag against my hot face. “So stupid I can’t believe it.”

“What happened?”

“Mitch Frankel tackled Richie Nunn.”

“What, your two football stars? I thought they were best friends.”

“They are. Were. Since they were kids. Little kids, I mean.”

“So--?”

I moved my head in negation. “Who knows. Hormones probably.”

“Is it mating season?”

“It’s always mating season when you’re sixteen.”

“True.” Graham’s smile grew thoughtful. “Five days before the wedding.”

I said shortly, “I know. It’ll ruin the photos. Maybe we should postpone.”

I was kidding, of course. Until I said it, I thought I was kidding. Graham thought I was kidding. Or at least he laughed. But then his smile faded. His dark brows drew together. He stared at me for a moment.

“You okay, Wyatt?” he asked finally.

“Great.”

“No,” Graham said slowly. He drew out the chair next to the table and sat down, facing me. “No, you’re not.”

Not much for talking, Graham, so this was a major effort on his part.

“I’m just stressed.”

“Okay. Well…”

I huffed out an exasperated breath as he trailed off.

“What’s going on?” His gaze met mine, serious and steady.

I shook my head. I didn’t begin to know how to explain this to Graham, when I was still trying to explain it to myself.

“Cold feet?” He sounded curious more than anything. The geologist observing shearing forces, noting pressure and temperature.

“Do you think maybe we’re…rushing into this?” I watched his face, but Graham didn’t give anything away unless he chose to. Even after more than a year together, I couldn’t always read him.

He said finally, evenly, “You do.”

“Maybe.” I took a deep breath. “Yes.”

“You don’t think maybe you should have brought this up earlier?”

“Yes, I should have brought it up earlier.”

“Why didn’t you?”

I said with a hostility that caught even me off guard, “It was hard to get a word in edgewise between the discussions of cake flavors and wedding favors.”

His eyes narrowed. “I see.”

I don’t think he did though.

Because I didn’t. A few months before I wouldn’t have been able to think of anything that made me happier than the idea of being married to Graham. I’d been overjoyed when he’d brought the subject up. Proposed. That was the official term for it. But that was before I figured out that we were getting married for the wrong reasons. Marriage as relationship therapy.

Probably not a good idea.

Certainly there were cheaper methods -- given that a relatively small wedding cake started at around a grand. Thank God it was June, because out-of-season flowers? We could probably landscape the front yard for what we’d spend. Not that we would ever landscape the front yard. Not that we’d ever change so much as a shrubbery or a lighting fixture at the house on Startouch Drive. The house Graham had shared with Jase.

“Do you want to call it off?” That was practical and straightforward Graham cutting right to the heart of the matter. And cutting my heart out at the same time.

My swallow was audible. No. I didn’t want to call it off. But I didn’t want us to be married for the wrong reasons either. Marriage was difficult enough without entering into it because we were afraid we wouldn’t make it if we weren’t legally bound and gagged.

I mean, a few years ago I hadn’t even thought marriage was a possibility. Let alone imagined what was turning out to be my big fat gay wedding.

“I…don’t know,” I admitted.

The planes of Graham’s face grew harder, the lines more pronounced. But his voice was level as he said, “That sounds like a yes to me.”

“I love you.”

“But you don’t want to get married.”

I said again, “I don’t know.”

“I do.” The chair scraped noisily as Graham rose. His back was to me as he went to the sink and stared out at the redwood deck and the green clouds of tree tops.

I rose too. “I do want to get married,” I said. It was hard to get the words out past the increasing tightness in my throat. “But I want it to be at the right time for the right reasons.”

He said without turning around, “And love isn’t the right reason?”

“It’s not the only reason to get married.”

He finally turned. “Then what do you want?”

“I…” I didn’t understand the question.

That must have been obvious because he said with that same unfamiliar hardness, “Are you moving out?”

It felt like the gleaming floorboards cracked beneath my feet. I unobtrusively placed my hand on the table to steady myself. “Is that what you -- that’s not what I want. That’s not what I’m saying.”

“What are you saying, Wyatt? If you don’t want to get married, what do you want? What are we doing? Because to choose not to make a commitment at this juncture feels serious to me.”

At this juncture? He was angry and getting angrier by the second, which I hadn’t expected. Probably because Graham had never been genuinely angry with me before. That I was aware of anyway.

“I don’t want to end anything.”

“But you don’t want to move forward.”

How was it possible that we were having this conversation? That I was somehow in the position of being the one who didn’t want to move forward? By rights that should have been Graham’s line. Graham was the one who had initially had doubts, concerns, hesitations. I fell in love with Graham before Graham fell in love with me. Not that I was keeping score. But it’s not like I didn’t remember.

“I am committed to us. To this relationship. I don’t want anything to change.”

He just stared.

“I mean that.”

He laughed. Or at least he made a humorless sound that was probably supposed to be a laugh. “Okay. You tell me what you think happens now.”

All the work he’d put into this. All the planning and preparation. The expense. We would never get our deposits back. It was way too late. It wasn’t about the money, but even so, that disregard for his time and effort, that would be part of why he was so furious, and I didn’t blame him. Why the hell hadn’t I spoken up?

“I’ll…take care of everything,” I said. “I can call and let everyone know we’re postponing.”

“That would be helpful.” Anyone else and I’d have known they were being sarcastic.

I said tentatively, hopefully, “At least there’s no deposit on a reception hall.”

“Yeah, what a relief,” Graham said coldly, and walked out of the kitchen.




Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ducking my head in a day early to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. I don't have strong feelings about Valentine's Day one way or the other. If you're not with someone, it can be a lonely sort of day. Heck, it can be a lonely sort of day if you are with someone.

The SO and I usually keep it pretty simple. Nice dinner and a movie at home. While I do like a nice romantic dinner out, not on Valentine's Day. In fact, I think one of the perks of being in a long time relationship is NOT having to go out on Valentine's Day.

I remember when Love Story was THE book. It was supposed to be so very romantic. (I found it mostly irritating -- there were a lot of sweary words and I was more easily offended then.) I bet it's as dated now as Ali MacGraw's crocheted hats -- wait, those are probably back in style! I'm trying to remember if there was any particular book that I found really, really romantic when I was college age or early twenties. It's a vulnerable age, but it's also a cynical age.

Do you remember a particular romance novel that influenced you -- or just really stayed with you?

What's your best ever Valentine's Day memory?

What's your worst ever Valentine's Day memory?

Maybe we'll give some stuff away -- OH! We ARE giving stuff away. Head on over to my Facebook Fan Page tomorrow for a celebration of love in all its varieties. We'll have games, goodies and giveaways. But mostly we'll just have a lot of fun. :-)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Spring is coming...

Spring is in the air!

Well, not really, but if I keep saying it, it will eventually be true.

The air starts to feel different this time of year. Technically Spring is still about a month away, but the light starts to change and although there is nothing in bloom in my garden, I still keep thinking I smell flowers. The bees and the hummingbirds are back. Come to think of it, they never went away.

We really didn't have a winter this year -- I have a tree in my back yard that never lost its leaves. That's not good. This is most definitely a deciduous tree. I think we had all of one hard freeze. Maybe two. It is so dry.

I've been working a few hours every day in the garden this week. This is the first year that I haven't had any big plans for the spring. But if we're moving, there isn't much sense in doing a lot of planting. Even so there's always so much to do in the yard. A lot of plants need repotting -- a few need to be composted. I'm doing a lot of evaluating what would go and what should stay.

It's odd to think this might be the last time I prepare this garden for spring.

Anyway, on the writing front I had quite a shock when I opened the file to Winter Kill and realized the plot was WAY too similar to a proposal I have out. So that had to be totally reworked. But I already like my new crazy idea so it turns out I'm still on track.

What do you have planned for the months ahead? What are you planting this spring, be it animal, mineral or vegetable?

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Coincidental Killer


I’ve been researching  serial killers this week. It’s not one of my favorite things.

 

Not that I don’t enjoy the chilly creepy pleasure of the occasional serial killer thriller, but too often serial killers are used as a means of having to avoid writing a real mystery. These fictional serial killers always make it easy for the detectives by contacting them first because they’ve inevitably formed a weirdo attachment and they’re planning the de rigueur cat and mouse game in which the serial killer does all the real work.

 

I’m not saying that can’t be entertaining. Sometimes it’s very entertaining. There’s a reason serial killer stories continue to sell well.

 

Part of the horror of real life serial killers is that -- like other forces of nature -- there’s no real way to guard against being randomly targeted by a lunatic. That’s also part of the fascination. It’s like spontaneous combustion. The chances of it happening are phenomenally slight, but at the same time there aren’t any real preventative measures you can take. Don’t eat too many jalapeƱo peppers?

 

Well, let me qualify, there aren’t any real preventative measures beyond the preventative measures we all hopefully take on a regular basis. Lock your doors, don’t walk alone at night down a dark alley, etc.

 

What is more preventable are the crimes that occur simply out of bad luck and the opportunity for evil. The night you have a fight with your boyfriend and go to a bar...and end up giving a stranger a ride home...that's arguably preventable. But someone’s car breaking down on a lonely stretch of highway -- nine times out of ten this results in nothing more than a long walk and a lousy night. But every so often, bad luck and evil collide.

 

Black coincidence. A different day, a different hour, sometimes a matter of minutes can make the difference between life and death.

 

Of course fiction is not real life and the number of coincidences a reader can swallow are fewer than might occur in real life.

 

Also, although smart people do dumb things, in fiction the dumb things have to be believably dumb. Also limited in scope and few in number.

 

Anyway, I’m not sure what my point was. The fact that humans are capable of vile and depraved action is not news. Humans are also capable of heroism and self-sacrifice. Evil and insanity are over-represented in fiction. From a reading standpoint, I prefer small, intimate stories over grand scale slaughter. Motive is the single most interesting element to me in any crime story. Crazy is not a motive. But when you write, you have to mix it up.

What do you love in mystery stories? What makes your scalp tingle and your pulse thump?  Do you intricate puzzles or romantic cozies or bloody thrillers?

Friday, January 23, 2015

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

This post is a little overdue -- mostly because I wasn't sure what I was going to say!

Generally, around this time of year I share my writing plans for the months ahead. With various degrees of accuracy. Midway through last year I was planning on 2015 being a very busy and very prolific year (much like 2014 was turning out to be with three full-length novels, two novellas, and an Advent Calendar as the end score).

However, as the year wound down and I began to evaluate the past months, I came to the conclusion that it was time to consider long term strategy.

The thing about publishing right now is we're all -- at least those of us without seven figure advances to keep us afloat -- on a hamster wheel. We're writing constantly in order to keep up that steady influx of cash. Which a lot of the time is fine for someone like me who really doesn't know what to do with myself if I'm not writing.

But this is a different kind of year. I plan to travel and I want to buy a new house. And those are both time consuming -- thought consuming -- things.  But more importantly, last year I was ablaze with creativity and the drive (need) to write. I don't feel that at the moment.

I'm not burnt out -- I know only too well what that's like -- but I'm just not ready to write. I suppose part of it is just the projects that I do have planned for this year are a little more complicated. They require more research and more prep than usual.

And that's a good thing. Both for me and for you.

So...fewer but bigger projects for 2015.

Winter Kill (Spring/Summer)
Jefferson Blythe, Esquire (Fall/Winter)
A charity short for the Trevor Project

And...that's about it as far as for-sure projects this year. And once upon a time, two full length novels would have been a very reasonable year's output.

Not anymore.

Are two lonely little releases reasonable during a year when I will have unusually high expenses? I really had to stop and give that some thought because how much I earn is dependent on how much I produce. New release equals big influx of cash. No new release means long stretches of juggling.

What I concluded was...quality of life and quality of work have to be paramount. Always. Also there's no point in being self-employed if I have no more control over my fate than when I worked for someone else.

But there's more to it than that. There is the ever-present and looming shadow of the hamster wheel. We (every indie writer I know) are all on it and most of us are running at top speed and going nowhere. We're not looking beyond selling lots of books in the short term followed by vague dreams of eventual "mainstream success" (whatever that means -- I don't think most writers have a clue).

There has to be a long term strategy. We all need a long term strategy. And I think, as with financial investments, the key here is diversity. I need space in this year's schedule to try (or at least consider) other possibilities. Non fiction? Other fiction? I have no idea. And I have no idea because I never have time to stop long enough to think about it -- but thinking about it, mulling over the possibilities is half the fun. That's the root of creativity right there: what if?

So this is my What If year. There will be stories -- probably more than I anticipate at this moment (because, like I said, I basically don't know what else to do with my time besides write) -- and I hope they'll prove as satisfying to read as I believe they will be to write.

We shall see what we shall see...



 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!


Thank you for your support over the past year (well, years now) -- it is a great pleasure to be able to share my stories with you. I hope you continue to find as much pleasure in reading them as I do in writing them. I know I'm not curing cancer or bringing about world peace, but if I provide a few hours entertainment and escape, I'm well satisfied.

 Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you much joy and happiness. I hope the coming year brings you health and happiness.