This week's excerpt is straight out of From The Desk of Buster Heywood, due for release in mid-September!
The overhang outside the door kept him dry as he looked out at the storm that had rolled in over the North End. The slush banks Cameron had kicked to pieces were already melting under the onslaught of the rain, pitted and spiked like termite hills, and rivers ran past the edges of the sidewalk into the gutter. Buster pulled his gloves on and buttoned up his coat to steel himself, then stepped out into the frigid deluge.
The tenement building had no roof overhang for him to duck under, so he was soaked by the time he reached the alley. Even so, the building shielded him from any gales coming at him from the side, leaving him to contend with the rain from above. He ducked beneath a fire escape and paused to remove his glasses, wiping droplets off with his scarf. It wouldn’t last long, but at least he’d be able to see long enough to find his way back to the Jetta.
“You,” an unfamiliar voice called out from behind him.
Buster turned, feeling his dinner turn, as well.
“Yeah, you.” A short, thin man with a patchy goatee moved forward into the alley. He wore a faded grey wool coat that looked as though it had seen several previous owners before him, and tattered jeans. The stained apron around his waist and red bandana tied over his hair marked him almost unmistakably as Luis’ busboy. “I know who you are..."
Hi, everyone! I apologize for the lack of post this past Thursday ... not only has life been hectic, but I am trying to push and get 30 Days of Aviario ready, so that I can build my mailing list. I am behind in my short story deadlines, but that's something I can work with ... I am still hoping to have From the Desk of Buster Heywood published on Smashwords by September 18th. In order to get things moving, however, I am going to have to put this blog on a hiatus until the book is out.
In the meantime, I encourage you to still follow me on Twitter, where I will be continuing to help #2bitTuesday grow: this week's optional theme is "Temperature". To keep myself sane, I've been taking short breaks by indulging in the following things. Feel free to check them out, if any strike your fancy!
In honor of the first Two-Bit Tuesday, here's an excerpt from In The Cards which follows the optional theme!
The setup of the morgue hadn’t changed much at all during Sam’s years on the force: some of the equipment had been modernized, but the large double doors, mosaic-tiled floors, and layout of the place remained the same. The banks of large, stainless steel drawers along the right side of the room that held the deceased, the wide, open space reserved for examinations, and the file cabinets along the left wall that gave way to storage space for personal effects, and the small office alcove at the back reserved for the mortician… all of that was the way Josie Belmont had left it when she retired. It was her replacement, Sam decided, that made it all so very different.
Everything had its place, still – in fact, in some ways, the young man who’d stepped into Josie’s tennis shoes was neater when it came to his paperwork, even though it was piled high on his desk. The difference was in the details: the ice in the channels along the examination tables couched cans of soda, one rolling equipment table held a bowl made of a human skull, lacquered and filled with fun-sized candy bars, and of course, there was the matter of the music. One thing Dr. Jonathan Knight had made very clear from the day Sam had met him was that he liked his music the way he liked his women: loud and fast. On this particular afternoon, the mortician was leaning back in his chair, clipboard in hand, working away on a form and scatting along to the jazz oozing from the stereo, ticking off boxes on the paper in time with the music. He bobbed his head back and forth, vibrant waves of ginger hair bouncing, and paused for a moment to conduct the horn section.
“JON,” Louis hollered over the din.
Dr. Knight spun around in his chair and launched himself onto his feet, grinning. “Whoa, hey! Sluggo and Blankman! … And guests.” He snatched up the stereo’s remote off his desk and turning the music down to a more civilized level. “Sorry, I was getting my paperwork groove going. Breaks up the monotony, you know? But this works, too. What the hell happened?”
“We got an anonymous call,” Sam repeated, as Steve handed Jon the paperwork from the ambulance. “They found the body buried in leaves in the culvert behind the Starlite alley.”
“I knew I couldn’t trust their nachos.” Dr. Knight lifted up the sheet to take a look at the body. “No confirmed ID?”
“Not yet. We’re waiting on the person who reported him missing to come and give us a positive. Only got the call yesterday. But I figure you might be able to at least have a look and give us a cause of death.” Sam sighed out the last word, his posture sagging. “You’re a nice guy, Dr. Knight, but I sure do hate bringing you business.”
“It’s okay. He’ll keep me company while April’s elbow deep in lab sludge across the hall,” Jon shrugged, his oversized white blazer bunching at his shoulders. “We’ll have a regular dead man’s party in here, get to know each other. And I’ll call you once he tells me what happened to him. I should have something for you by tomorrow morning.”
"Thank you, Doctor.”
“Doctor. Psssht! Seriously, when the fuck are you gonna just drop it and call me Jon, like everybody else?”
“When are you gonna watch your mouth?”
“Well, let’s see now. Uhhh … Proooobably never.” Unbowed, he shot Sam a cheeky smirk.
“There you go, then, Dr. Knight. Steve, Louis? Thank you, gentlemen. The three of you have a good evening. I gotta get going and fill Troy in on all of this. He’s already flipped his lid on me once today for spending the day going after leads on someone who’s just turned up dead. Least I owe him is the story he’s been diggin’ for. Pun unintended."
As the EMTs and mortician waved their goodbyes, Sam turned on his heel and headed back out of the morgue. He wasn’t even halfway back to the elevator before he heard the music being turned up again, and shook his head. “I know you wouldn’a picked him if he weren’t any good, Josie,” he muttered under his breath, “but I gotta tell you something: that boy is just plain weird.”
After these last few weeks, I thought it was time to take a break from sharing what else is going on in the online realm of writing, and go back to Aviario. What better way to start than by showing how the town came to be?
Some of my strongest memories from my childhood are of long road trips to visit my father's side of the family. To get to south-western Connecticut from central New Hampshire in time for Thanksgiving dinner, I'd be woken up before sunrise, and stagger out to the family car clutching my pillow under one arm and a tote bag full of amusements under the other. I'd nap in the back seat until the sun rose up through my window and woke me, and then I'd busy myself with books and sketchbooks and toys until we finally rolled up in front of my Uncle's three-story Victorian. It turned 100 in the year 2000, and we rang the new century in there to wish it happy birthday. That house embedded itself in my soul. I loved everything about it: from the tiny little sink in the dining room pantry, to the narrow, winding staircase from the kitchen to the back of the upstairs hallway that felt like a secret passage. It has a place in Aviario, though I've melded it with another house that captured my imagination. I can't tell you about it, yet, though: that would be spoiling a great deal of my fun.
I loved the towns we stayed in during those holiday and wedding visits: they were such a far cry from the tiny little town we lived in, with sprawling main streets full of ancient brick buildings and beautiful architecture. Sadly, time and tide have taken away a lot of those buildings, or changed them from their former splendor, but they remain in my memory, and I have chosen to preserve them by lifting them up and placing them in a town that I've nestled in between them, right on the banks of the Housatonic River.
There are other favorite places that have found a home in Aviario, too: the town where I spent many an afternoon visiting my Gram had a similar charm, on a smaller scale, and its library, in particular, stole my heart. Back in May, I was lucky enough to finally be able to live there, myself: close enough to my childhood yen to live in Connecticut with my family without having to grapple with the high cost of living.
I've been taking my camera around and slowly collecting pictures of places, so that I can take you all on a virtual tour. But that's something that will come later. For now, I just wanted to give you a taste of the town's origins.
As for the name, Aviario (say "AY-vee-uh-REE-oh")... well. Originally, things were a lot different. Let's just say that many, many birds were involved, and I had this M.O. in the bag long before E.L James. Wink wink.
As a follow-up to last week's post, long story short: I'm starting a new Twitter hashtag. If you want more details, read on ....
inAs of last week, I was still waiting to see the Romance Writers of America's response to the open letters and other feedback regarding their poor choice in RITA finalists. Last Friday, they posted their official response.... and missed the mark, entirely. RWA chose to say it was a matter of censorship, when in my opinion (and the opinion of many others who commented), the issue was one of taste and ethics. It has also been pointed out that the current nomination guidelines do not have a single thing to say about the content of submissions.
I'm not a romance writer, so it is far easier for me to say that I am done associating with the RWA, even in so small a manner as participating in a hashtag every Wednesday. I do, however, still love the thought of authors being able to collectively share their content, so I am starting up an alternative for those who are like-minded. I will be officially "kicking off" this hashtag on August 18th, and anyone who wishes to join in is most decidedly welcome.
Here are the guidelines!
Yep. That's it. Share and share alike! I also like to round off my day by posting a piece here on my blog that's a bit larger than Twitter will allow ... so feel free to adopt the practice yourself, as well! The aim of #2bitTues is to build a supportive online writing community where authors can share what they're proud of, and help others get the word out about their own projects. We're just in this for the love of the written word.
See you on Tuesday!
For the last few weeks, I've been sharing excerpts which fit the weekly theme for Twitter's One Line Wednesday. Though this week's theme is "coffee", I admit to stretching it a little with this scene out of From the Desk of Buster Heywood... by taking you to the haven of 9-to-5 coffee drinkers everywhere: the break room.
The water cooler was one of the most useful yet frustrating points of interest in any given workplace. Long before fad diets had started pushing the importance of eight glasses of water a day, Buster's mother had been a vocal fan of hydration. When most kids had gone on field trips with bottles of Gatorade or foil pouches of Capri Sun that shined like status symbols, the Heywood kids had clambered aboard their fair share of buses and mini-vans with thermoses full of fresh, filtered water. But while there was an ingrained predisposition for Buster to seek out the nearest watering hole in lieu of cracking open a can of soda or popping out for a cup of coffee at the shop across the circle, there was also the fact that he often felt like the lone gazelle in a crowd of hyenas.
"... and can you believe what they did with the lobby of the Courier? Completely gutted it, made it all modern. I don't know how the Historical Society ever let that one slide, or who approved the building permit there." Ben, the salt-and-pepper-haired town registrar, was leaning against the counter near the microwave, addressing two of the clerks who were sharing their lunch at the table.
Buster winced: the three of them had formed the dreaded Break Room Triangle, a configuration which not only allowed for the maximum amount of possible social interaction before he could collect his cup of water and retreat, but demanded that he pass straight through the middle of it in order to do so. He prepared for the imminent small talk, and stepped forward with his customary nod of greeting.
"Oh, hey, Buster. How's it going?"
"That good, huh?" Ben chuckled, though Buster found the joke as funny as he did every single time it was made. "I was just telling the girls about the remodel the Courier had done. They're the first winners of that local business makeover contest Loren's committee started."
Buster's hand hovered below the cup dispenser as something clicked. Loren's committee... maybe this had something to do with his promised errand, later in the afternoon. There was a slim chance of it, after all. But he wasn't prepared to doom himself to being stuck in the Triangle just for a slim chance, and made another quiet noise of agreement.
"What is it, one every three months? They're due to pick the next one pretty soon." The part-time girl from upstairs nudged a carrot stick through a Tupperware container of dressing. Buster couldn’t remember her name, but it was hard to forget the heavy floral perfume she tended to drench herself in, or the way her feathered blonde hair stuck out at strange angles, like tiny wings all over her head. He'd learned to keep his eyes fixed on the water cooler as he filled his cup, so he wouldn't stare at her head, wondering when it was going to take flight off her shoulders.
"Probably voting on it at the next town meeting, yeah," Ben agreed, sipping at his coffee. "Whoever it is, I sure hope they do something nicer than the paper's done. The whole point was to keep the spirit of the town, not ... I don't know, try and drag it kicking and screaming into modern day style. People like this place because it's classic, you know? Some things need to be kept the way they are."
The part-timer pointed her carrot at him with a raised eyebrow. "I bet you don't want that new shopping center, either, Ben."
"Right you are. Even if I did, I couldn't afford to go to it, am I right? Not on what they pay me." At this, he let loose a wheezing, fake laugh - something that most people found charming in a self-deprecating sort of way, but just tended to grab Buster's spine and twist a little. It reminded him of sitcom scenes where a character was choking, but no one else noticed until the last minute: something else that he had never thought was funny. He topped off his cup and headed back to his desk.
I'm going to open this blog with what I said to my fiancee when I came home Wednesday evening: "I'm going to be blogging about something much more serious than I intended to, this week."
I feel the need to preface this blog article with a few points, before we begin:
The focal point of today's discussion is a novel called "For Such a Time", by Kate Breslin. It takes place during World War II in a Nazi concentration camp, and is a retelling of the Biblical Book of Esther. In this case, Esther's king is a member of the SS, the leader of the very camp she is being held in. From the reviews I have read, the main character eventually converts to Christianity and winds up with the SS officer. I have also seen it written that Breslin's prose is fantastic, but that is not the issue, here. The issue is the content.
It does color things slightly once you consider that Breslin is represented by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing, which specializes in "modern-day stories of His supernatural presence and power". Even so, there is a certain level of revulsion that occurs when you think of a romance between a Holocaust prisoner and an SS officer, isn't there? I had a tumbling, unsettled feeling in my stomach before I even got to the detail of the protagonist's religious conversion. Then it doubled.
What makes this worthy of a blog post, you ask? I have had friends point out the value of the 1st Amendment, and they are not incorrect: that this book was published at all is not where my objection lies. If it found itself a little niche market with people who (for some reason I can't fathom) enjoy this sort of fiction, that's fine, they can quietly enjoy it on their own. The problem is, a few weeks ago, the Romance Writers of America announced their finalists for the annual RITA Awards. "For Such a Time" was nominated in 2 categories: Best First Novel, and Inspirational Romance. Remember that tumbling icky stomach feeling? It's ten times worse, at this point. Thankfully, it did not win. A member of RWA wrote in to the board with her feelings on this, which echo my own. You can read it here.
I am not a romance author by any means, but several of my Writing Tribe are, and I have met most of them through my participation in One-Line Wednesday, which readers of this blog are already familiar with. This weekly tradition is sponsored and "mediated" by RWA, which puts out the theme to be followed. The RITA award nomination process is detailed in this forum thread by a user, and expanded on by another. After doing a fair amount of research, I've decided that RWA dodged a serious bullet. I'm going to continue my #1lineWed participation, but if "For Such a Time" had won? You would be reading a much, much different blog post.
"So why write all of this if the end result is that life as usual carries on?", you ask. The answer is this: it made me think about a lot of things. It made me think about what lines authors walk when using sensitive material for inspiration, and what can happen when they're crossed. It made me think about free speech, and about how an author should be careful where they place their associations, and how much digging really needs to be done to get to the heart of an issue. At the start of this post, I didn't even know most of the things I've linked. I'm smarter, if a little sadder, but not as sad as I could have been. You take your silver linings where you can...
As for the initial post which brought this book to my attention, the author, Katherine Locke, has already received messages from white supremacists, criticizing her for her opinions. I asked her permission to link the article, and you can read it here. Also, please give her website some love: she deserves to be known for more than just an angry post about a terrible book.
If you read all the way through this post, I thank you for it, and welcome your comments, either here on the post, on Facebook, or on Twitter. Next week, there will be less incendiary subject matter, I promise.
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