Saturday, July 26, 2008

I took a break from "teh HOT"

Once in a while, I feel a need to take a brief vacation from the passions of the body and concentrate on the passions of the heart. Guess it's my inner child trying to express herself. So, to that end, I wrote All That Is Right, a contemporary fairy tale now available from MojoCastle Press (click on the post title to go to the publisher's page).

Following is the first chapter, in which the main characters are introduced: a dying man from a time long past; a modern woman tired of enduring her husband's abusive behavior and on the verge of divorcing him; that woman's twelve-year-old daughter, who hopes to help her mother through magic; and a modern middle-aged man suffering from vivid, terrifying dreams.

Here 'tis.


He fought to ignore the lightning scorching his belly and the thundering of pain through his limbs. I am dying; surely I am dying ran like a song through his mind. Oddly, the refrain helped numb him.

Firelight licked the damp, lumpish walls that arched all around. Murmurings filled the air, melodic whispers and sighs, as if the fire’s fingers had coaxed voices from the throat of the earth. He took a labored breath and forced his mind into clarity. The throat of the earth . . .

Slowly, he turned his head to the left, to the right. He was lying on straw. It rustled beneath his skull and poked into his hair. He squinted into the gilded, dancing darkness. The ceiling seemed festooned with flowering vines. But he was not within an arbor. The blackness seemed studded with winking stars. But he was not beneath the sky.

Then he knew.

It was roots that hung from the ceiling, roots both thick and fine, entwined with flowers. He tried reaching out to touch them but his arm felt as heavy as a bloated boar. Suddenly, the scent of the flowers wafted over him like prayer--foxglove, cowslip, primrose--and he could smell the wedding of their delicate fragrance with the rich, heavy breath of the soil. He knew, too, that the surrounding glimmer came from stones, smooth and shiny and veined with crystalline colors, purposefully embedded in the earth to adorn this space.

The Folk had brought him here. This was one of their sanctuaries. They were everywhere around him, melding with the shadows. They were keeping vigil.

A cool, thin hand, light as the call of a nightingale, covered his forehead. Someone spoke in a strange language he strangely understood.

"Myklwyn, do not struggle so. Surrender to the embrace. Much love and promise lie within it. But first . . ."

* * * * *

Twelve-year-old Daisy Austen stood before the makeshift altar she had fashioned from two empty beer cases and her old toybox, which now housed all her ritual paraphernalia. Once again, but distractedly this time, she wondered if she should paint over the mincing, pastel fairies that fluttered across five of its sides.

The voice of her stepfather, like a series of muffled sonic booms coming through the walls, redirected her attention.

With trembling fingers, she hastily lit five candles--white for peace, red for courage, green for harmony, blue for protection, pink for love and romance--and a stick of sandalwood incense, then tapped her silver-plated baby spoon three times against a small, engraved brass bell that had once hung around the neck of her best friend Sonja’s potbellied pig. Sonja had donated the bell to Daisy’s "cause" after Link the pig’s expanding neck began to envelop it.

"Shut up!" the voice boomed through the wall.

Startled, Daisy dropped the spoon. For one mercifully fleeting second, she’d thought the command was directed at her.

"No, you shut up," she muttered, bending over to retrieve the spoon from the littered carpet. "Better yet, I’ll shut you up."

She needed the spoon. The brass bell had no clapper. The man behind the voice behind the wall had pulled it out one day.

Straightening, Daisy decided to dispense with formalities. She couldn’t remember them all, anyway, when she felt this pressured. Immediate action was necessary, so she would have to wing it.

Once again, she must try rescuing her mother from Devil Dale’s demonic clutches.

* * * * *

Julie was not going to cower. It may have been in her best interest to do so, but it certainly was not in her nature. Neither was she going to lash out and further provoke Dale. So she sat stoically on the bed, eyes lowered and hands clasped in her lap, and let him rant. Like a firecracker, he’d soon burn himself out. It was inevitable. He’d been drinking.

"Look at me when I’m talking to you!" he shouted, bending so near her face she could make out individual hairs in his mustache and beard and could tell exactly what he’d been drinking. Once her eyes were turned up to him, he moved away, satisfied.

Julie immediately turned her gaze to the mirror over the dresser. She had an absurd desire to comfort the woman she saw there: About forty-five, I’ll bet, and never beautiful--but, at one time, pretty . . .

Unconventionally pretty, with straight hair that never could seem to settle on one color but insisted on blending every hue in autumn’s palette, and with large eyes that did the same. The face had never been graced with symmetry, but kind Nature had compensated with outstanding cheekbones, an assertive-without-being-masculine dimpled chin, an "interesting" nose, and clear skin with a single small, coquettish mole between the left corner of the mouth and the ear. One tooth slightly overlapped another, giving her a charming, impish smile.

But look at her now--hair without luster, eyelids creased and weighted from sleeplessness and tears, face at the mercy of gravity, exhaustion, despair. And she doesn’t smile much anymore.
I have to do something to help her.

* * * * *

He couldn’t help her. In blurred fragments, it was coming back to him now. He had not been able to protect the imperiled woman, and he somehow knew these were her kin.

Had they sought retribution? Is that why he was imprisoned here, beneath a hill, in torment? Is that why he was urged to accept death?

"No," a voice replied, like a breeze soughing through the dense silence. Other, similar voices echoed the denial, until they were all chorusing, "No. No, Myklwyn, no."

They had read his thoughts! If only he could remember more clearly what had happened, how he had failed, why he was languishing on this bed of straw beneath a dank canopy of tangled roots. And how could it be that he was still clinging to life, however tenuously? Why and how and by whom was he spared?

"We did not inflict your wounds," said the same voice, an elder male voice both gentle and firm. "And we do not know why you were spared or who, if anyone, rescued you. We simply found you and brought you here."

The man was standing beside him and was likely the one whose hand had earlier touched his forehead. He heard the tinkle of jewelry, saw the glint of gold, copper, silver as the soothing hand once more descended. But the hand seemed ghostly, insubstantial, and the bracelets, only a little less so.

"Is this a troop of the Dynion Mwyn?" he ventured to ask, "of the race Tylwyth Teg?"


"Please, allow me to see you."

"You can and will see only as much as you are able--no more, no less. Most men do not see us at all. But you are not like most men, Myklwyn."

Ah, but I am, he thought. Most men feel pain. And all men die.

A vast weariness overcame him, and he let his battered body relax into the crude bed of straw. His pain seemed to be seeping into it. For this, he was grateful.

"Not yet, cousin," his companion whispered, close to his ear. "First you must remember."

He no longer wished to. It would be too agonizing. Nearly oblivious, he merely exhaled his answer. "Why?"

"Because it will bring you both peace and a sense of purpose before you begin the last, most wondrous leg of your journey. If we never face our shortcomings and learn the nature of our errors, and never take that knowledge to heart, we can never have hope of correcting those errors. And such correction is the key to a cleansing of the soul that leads to true peace in the afterlife."

"Redemption," Myklwyn sighed, not knowing, or caring, why that particular word had issued from his mouth . . .


The alarm rang and Butch Thomas jack-knifed forward, blankets tumbling from his sweating torso. He ached all over. He slid his half-open eyes to the right and saw 5:30 staring back at him with a boldly taunting, green luminescence.

"Damn," he groaned, dropping his head to his hands. "I am so sick of this shit."

He'd been sick of it for a good long while--not only this dream that kept tormenting him, but what he knew its aftermath would be: When he shambled into his bathroom and took his first tentative look into the mirror, he would see, or think he saw, a faint shadow of that battered man's face within his own reflection.

It was, as usual, a hell of a way to start the day.

* * * * *
Excerpt from "All That Is Right"
Copyright © K. Z. Snow

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What is the fiction writer's role in our society?

I've asked myself this again and again, as my finances go down the tubes and I wonder why I can't bring myself to stand over a deep-fryer at MacDonald's (because, you see, I'm an old bag with no marketable skills to speak of; writing is what I do best).

These thoughts were prompted by a conversation I had with a good MF at a local watering hole. (Note: I was raised in taverns, because my parents were tavernkeepers in Milwaukee. I learned from a very young age that the best learning comes from such places -- not colleges and universities and overpriced online programs, not seminars and conferences and "retreats". The most trenchant of life's lessons come from ordinary people who are scraping by, doing the best they can to survive. And this was a realization that came to me after I'd earned degrees and worked in the "professional" world.)

Anyway, my MF is in his mid-forties and dyslexic, but a helluva mechanic and carpenter and just plain decent man. He has the opportunity to apply for a job that pays $52k a year, which is a lot around here (and I mean double the average annual income). Only, the job is empty bull-work. None of his interests or skills would be brought into play -- no building or fixing or problem solving, just a lot of driving and humping . . . and not the good kind.

He's very torn about this. He has kids and responsibilities, but he also has a wife who's had an affair and isn't particularly into him anymore. He'd rather, he said, "live like a bum" than bust ass doing something he finds soul-numbing. He craves purpose and challenge and, more than anything, a sense of fulfillment. He also craves appreciation for his efforts. And he has plenty to bring to the table in return for these gifts.

I listened and absorbed.

It got me wondering: What the hell do we tale-spinners have to offer that enriches people's lives? Are we making, or trying to make, a genuine contribution to society or just indulging our egos and/or our sloth? And how do we perceive our contribution? Would society be any worse off if we didn't do what we do? Would we even be missed? (Well, yeah, writers like Nora and Stephen and JRW and LKH and other acronymous bigshots would be missed, no doubt, but what about the rest of us literary gnats?) Should we all be doing something perceptibly and demonstrably useful instead of making up stories?

I suspect most writers are thinking, People need escape from humdrum and sometimes ugly realities. We provide that escape. Indeed we do. BUT . . . couldn't one-tenth of the authors now in existence provide adequate escape? Aren't the rest of us as interchangeable and replaceable as paper clips? Honestly, I sometimes think people would get way more of a bang out of a perfectly executed burger than any book I've written!

Sorry for the existential issue-raising, but I'm genuinely curious about this. I suspect artists throughout history have asked themselves the same questions. How important is it, both personally and socially/culturally, for people to do what they're good at, even if it doesn't yield tangible results like food or widgets or big economic rewards?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two Excerpts ~ Same Scene, Different Viewpoints, Part I

First time I've done this. (Part II, by the way, is directly below.)

The following excerpt from Tormented features Rahenna, the diseased female vampire, lurking on the roof of Adin Swift's chalet at his 30th birthday party. She witnesses a tantalizing scene on the patio below. Although she can see what's going on, she can't hear what's going on . . . and it maddens her.

* * * * *

Rahenna was about to descend to the lawn when something caught her eye. Easing down, she alit on the roof of the house and peered into the backyard.

Adin had come out onto the patio. He turned off the grill. Jackson Spey rounded the corner of the house. Smiling, the two men immediately approached one another. Like magnet and steel, Rahenna thought, wondering why she had a sense of that kind of attraction. She waited to hear the words they spoke…and soon realized she couldn’t.

Normally, with accurately trained concentration, Rahenna would have been able to listen to their conversation. Her sense of hearing was as keen as her other senses. But their voices were silent to her ears. She suspected the wizard was shielding Adin and himself from any eavesdropping. But why?

The reason quickly became clear. Spey’s hand suddenly slid to the back of Adin’s head, into his hair. They looked as if they were about to kiss.

Magnet and steel indeed.

The air instantly thickened with sexual tension, with unfulfilled, long-festering desire. Like tongues of flame, it lapped at Rahenna’s cool skin. Her pussy creamed as she waited to see what would happen. Her respiration accelerated. The points of emerging fangs touched her lower lip.

By the gods, how she wanted to have both these men while they had each other! It required a titanic exercise of will to keep from swooping down on them. She knew she should stop watching—the temptation was unbearable—but the potential here for spontaneous, unbridled passion was riveting. Still, both men kept reining in that passion. The strain of their control was palpable.

Jackson's hand finally fell to his side. He and Adin again spoke in low tones. Rahenna again couldn’t hear them. She saw Adin raise a hand to the other man's chest. It was an intimate gesture, perhaps even covetous. He said something.

Within moments, Spey turned away. He dropped into a near-by chair, his legs parted, and grasped his head in both hands. Adin walked over and squatted before him, bracing himself on the other man's knees. They exchanged more words. Clearly, Adin was cajoling Jackson. Rahenna could only imagine why he was trying so hard to be persuasive. She felt Adin’s hunger for the man. It gripped her as surely as it gripped him. She felt the restlessness that shimmied through his loins and stirred his cock. It drove her to distraction.

Her mind shouted to Spey. Give in to it, damn you!

As if in response to her silent command, Jackson shook his head. Soon, he rose to his feet and Adin followed suit. A new feeling slammed against her—Jackson’s arousal. Adin’s closeness and Adin’s words had stirred him. He was struggling to ignore the lure of his friend. He wanted Adin as much as Adin wanted him. Each man’s hoarded desire seemed to bounce off the other’s, like two balloons bloated with water.

Jackson gave Adin a quick, fraternal pat on the shoulder. Then, shoving his hands in pockets, he turned away and sauntered off toward the woods. Adin watched him for a moment before re-entering the house.

Copyright (c) 2008 K. Z. Snow

Two Excerpts ~ Same Scene, Different Viewpoints, Part II

Now here's the same scene as it replays in one of Adin Swift's dreams. His account is, of course, first-hand. This is from Obsessed.

* * * * *

The birthday boy feels good. Has a nice little buzz going, making his brain seem downy. No prickly thoughts. All day he’s been surrounded by good wishes, love and laughter. The party guests have enjoyed themselves. He and Celia have been proud and happy hosts. Only a few people in attendance are even aware of his past.

Better yet, any reminders of that past remained mostly in the background and went unnoticed—vampires lurking in the woods like smoke, then shooting, harmless as sparks, into the blue-black sky. The birthday boy is glad he didn’t have to see them. He’s especially glad his guests weren’t subjected to them.

He’s not like those creatures anymore. He’s mortal again.

Throughout the day, a realization kept striking him. God, I actually turned thirty. From this October on, each birthday will indeed make me a year older. It’s a fact of his life now, one he still finds hard to believe.

Stepping from his well-lit house onto the unlit patio, he smiles at the way he staggers. It’s graceful. This, he thinks vaguely, must be another odd little remnant of what he used to be—a creature who was cousin to the air.

He goes to the grill and turns it off.

A tall, solid column rounds the corner of the house and gradually emerges from the engulfing darkness. The figure is his friend, Jackson, and he’s zipping his fly. This man has his own kind of grace, distinctly grounded and distinctly masculine.

Adin’s stomach suddenly goes gymnast and does a quick flip. It never fails.

"Oops, there’s the master of the house," Jackson says. "I’m glad you didn’t catch me pissing on your shrubs."

The birthday boy grins. "Why? Did the fucking things turn flamingo pink and start speaking in tongues?"

"There’s nothing enchanting about pee, Adin."

Jackson is entirely mortal and always has been, but he isn’t part of the mainstream. He’s an Adept, a practitioner of High Magic, a modern-day Merlin. He’s the only person Adin now knows who’s out of the ordinary. And he’s very out of the ordinary. They’ve been friends for a decade. It was their "otherness" that brought them together.

Jackson strolls up to him. "Content?" he asks, clapping Adin on the shoulder.

"Indescribably. And made even more content by that liter of gin and tonic I consumed."

Jackson’s husky laughter is muted, as if in deference to the silent night. "It’s a landmark occasion, my man, your first real birthday in like a gazillion years. Even if you end up with JDD tonight, you deserved to celebrate. Besides, getting head tomorrow morning is going to feel super fine."

"What’s JDD?"

"Jack Daniels Dick. A woman once diagnosed me with it. But you don't have to drink Jack to be afflicted."

Now it’s Adin’s turn to laugh. "What makes you think I’m going to get head in the morning?"

"Get head, get laid, get some kind of lucky. I know it because Celia can’t keep her hands off you. Hangover relief is always a good excuse for sex. Not that the two of you need one."

"Not that we do." Adin puts a hand on Jackson’s shoulder. The two of them are nearly the same height. "I can’t thank you enough for that incredible frame you made. Your work is exemplary. Really top-notch."

Jackson cups his forearm and gives it a squeeze. "My pleasure. It was a logical present. I figured now that you can be photographed, you’d need a frame to put your picture in."

That prompts a chuckle. "You’re right. Anyway, Celia and I were impressed as hell. We’d like to have you do other things for us."

Their banter comes to a strange, skidding halt. On its heels is a silence packed with unspoken confessions. Neither man removes his hand from the other’s body. Instead they lean into a spontaneous hug, arms going around backs. Their cheeks graze briefly, scruff against scruff. Adin lets his hand roam the contours of Jackson’s back. They’re pronounced, even through his clothing. A rolling landscape.

It’s an awkward moment. They’re bumbling through indecision. Jackson’s hand slides into Adin’s hair, fondles it, grips it. Adin feels the tug at his scalp. He gets the distinct impression Jackson is going to kiss him. They’ve never kissed. His lips part slightly, go slack and soft, become receptive. He’s waiting for it, wanting it. The breath in his lungs feels like something solid.

Then Jackson pulls away and clears his throat. "Memories. Sensory memories," he mutters. "What a bitch."

He’s recalling last spring…

It’s the only encouragement Adin needs, this moment of vulnerability in Jackson. The man never shows weakness, is always in control. Now, though, he’s remembering their brief period of abandon. And it’s affecting him.

Adin splays a hand on Jackson’s chest. Before he can think about it, he says what’s on his mind. "Why don’t you spend the night with us? In our bed, I mean. I doubt Celia would mind. She’s been hot for you since she met you." He tries to smile, but the smile doesn’t quite fit. Still, he keeps going, trying to make the proposition casual even though it isn’t. The hunger that’s simmered in him for ten years is breaking into a full, rolling boil. "What’s a ménage among friends?"

The darkness makes Jackson’s face difficult to read. His eyes, though, are shining. Then he blinks, extinguishing that brightness for a split second. "Sounds like you mean it."

"Yeah. Why not? Hell, we all enjoyed ourselves when—"

"That was different," Jackson says curtly, still looking at him. Maybe there’s disbelief on his face. "Shit, Adin."

He turns away and drops into the nearest chair, his legs spread wide. He rolls his had back and clamps his hands to either side of it. "No, it wouldn’t be right. Especially not on this occasion." He expels a long breath. "Jesus. What made you suggest that?"

Adin steps over to him and squats between his parted legs, hands resting on Jackson’s knees. "The fact that we like each other?"

With a wan chuckle, Jackson lowers his hands to the chair arms and brings his head forward. "Yeah, we sure do."

"So what does that tell you?"

"It tells me to tell you to stop kneeling between my legs, because—"

"Because what?" Adin asks quietly.

Jackson wags his head. "You know, you should be a stripper."

"Why? I can’t dance worth a crap."

"But you’re a superb goddamned tease."

"I’m not teasing you. I’m dead serious."

"So am I." Jackson rises from the chair. Adin, too, stands. "Go back to your party, my friend. Eat, drink and be merry." He gives a friendly pat to Adin’s arm. "Then make love with your very lovely lady."

"You’re not leaving yet, are you?"

"No, but soon. I’ll pop in and pay my regards before I go."

"I wish you’d reconsider."

"I already have."

Hands in pockets, Jackson saunters into the yard. Adin watches him for a moment before re-entering the house. He feels confused and frustrated and disappointed.

Even desolate.
Copyright (c) 2008, K. Z. Snow

Sunday, July 06, 2008


After nearly 660 years, Adin Swift is dreaming again.

As a vampire, he slept like the dead. Now that he’s reverted to mortality, vivid dreams surface every night to torment him. And the most disturbing ones involve his best friend, Jackson Spey.
It was their "otherness" that drew them together ten years earlier—two extraordinary men living outside the mainstream, one a bright and beautiful vampire, one a cynical and handsome wizard. Their unique bond took on more dimensions than either was willing to acknowledge . . . until now.

Realizing he can no longer ignore the desire that’s been simmering for a decade, Adin must face the heart-wrenching fact he’s in love with two people: the woman to whom he’s committed and the man he can’t seem to live without. Two confrontations ensue over the course of one explosive weekend, and they will forever alter three people’s lives.

Coming Friday, July 11, from Changeling Press.