Monday, May 31, 2010

Mongrels and Mystics? A WIP Snip.

Clouds the color of soiled wool and urine threaded past a gibbous moon. The atmosphere may have produced them but the city had tinted them.

For Fanule Perfidor, the city was too close. Lying just to the west, that packed jumble of flaking bricks, weathered clapboards, and belching chimneys was a gritty distraction. Fanule sensed the pulse of life there. When the mania seized him, as it had tonight, he craved the city’s humid crush of bodies, the revelry that made them sweat and steam.

Wind slithered in from the sea and caught Fanule’s cloak, turning it, he imagined, into a black sail fluttering on a sturdy mast. He was the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship plying moonlit seas and portending doom. He was at the mercy of the wind yet he was one with the wind.

He was a freak of nature and a force of nature. Perfidor, der Hundkönig. The Dog King. The epithet and the image it conjured made him laugh aloud.

The air’s agitation suited his mood. He strode rather than strolled down the boardwalk, his boot heels thudding with satisfying aggression on the planks. The crowd had thinned, but the remaining visitors made a wide berth around Fanule. Their aversion both amused and angered him. He considered sucking the light from the white globes atop the lampposts, just to see the silly humans’ reactions.

No, no, no. Can’t play. Must stay on task. Gods, look at that man’s legs; they could bind a body better than tarred rope! And then… No, must stay on task. But where to start? Where, where, where?

Fanule’s gaze darted along the overdone facades of the buildings he passed, all strung together like a lineup of gaudy, aging whores. Colorful pennants snapped above their roofs. How absurd to see elaborate cornices and quatrefoil windows, little gargoyles and square cupolas on structures so squat, so grayed by the hammering salt of sea spray. But, he supposed, fancy was the stuff of Hunzinger’s Mechanical Circus, the permanent carnival that stretched along and beyond the boardwalk and included whatever attractions were tucked behind those fancy fronts.

Look at the signs; look past the blazing and burnt-out bulbs and read the signs.

With effort, Fanule slowed his steps and studied the painted words above each entry. THE HIVE. Poseidon’s Playground. LOVE’S BOWER. Soon, he was aware of shadowed, lifeless eyes staring back at him from beneath some of the signs.

Ticket booths. Yes. Some were veiled in drapery on the inside, which seemed to indicate the exhibits were closed. Such was the case with Love’s Bower and The Pugilists and several others. Fanule approached one that was still open.

A couple, exclaiming quietly, exited the building. A sigh and hiss of hydraulics followed them through the door. Then, a stuttering metallic snap. The exhibit within had likely just begun or ended its cycle.

The couple glanced at Fanule. Startled, they looked again. He nodded a greeting as they hurried past him, then he turned his attention to the ticket booth.

A life-sized homunculus stared sightlessly through the glass. No doubt it was voice-activated. Alphonse Hunzinger had certainly been thorough in remaining true to his carnival’s theme.

These booth tenders would do Fanule no good. Neither would fabricated fauna and flora. Only intelligent, living beings could answer his questions. If Hunzinger was indeed guilty of committing atrocities against Mongrels, Fanule’s only hope of uncovering those misdeeds was by talking to someone familiar with the Circus from the inside.

The music pouring from somewhere, everywhere along the boardwalk waffled as the wind caught it. Laughing, Fanule twirled. The gaslights atop iron posts and the electric lights outlining the buildings delineated his stage. As pedestrians cast him sidelong glances, he thought he heard a human voice, a robust voice, but the music had captured his attention now. He waltzed with an invisible partner—a man somewhat smaller than he, comely, graceful. When their dance was through, they would descend to the strand, shed their clothing, and dive into the dark sea…

Little by little, the coil that had sprung within him began to wind back on itself. Little by little, the energy released by the mania withdrew into his cells. Fanule’s steps slowed.

Swaying slightly, he lapsed into dazed stillness. The cloak began to feel heavy on his shoulders. He was crossing the bridge—that was how he thought of his shifts from wild to mild—and there was always this moment when his mind paused in the middle to reorient itself. Slowly, he blinked. Then his mind crept forward, to the mild side. Being calm was good, it was very good. It led to the clarity that came with serenity. But falling off the bridge was very bad. Beneath it lay a chasm, an echoing void.

Must visit Lizabetta soon. Must get more powder. Can’t forget. Must write it on the walls.

“Labor no longer beneath the ponderous chains of lethargy! Shuck off your dyspeptic despair!”

Fanule turned his gaze to the man with the booming voice, the one who stood behind a framed counter on a low platform. A semicircle of onlookers had gathered in front of it.

The sight of him made Fanule smile. The man was dressed quite ridiculously, in trousers and coat patterned in a large black-and-yellow plaid. A watch chain made a gleaming arc near the bottom of his green vest. His yellow cravat seemed to throttle his neck.

In spite of his flashy suit and commanding voice, the pitchman was young and sweet-faced. Fanule liked the look of him; would’ve nibbled him like a peach if given half a chance.

A gust snatched at the young man’s top hat, but he seemed accustomed to the wind’s stealth. He quickly clamped a hand to the hat’s black tower and kept it in place.

His pitch continued. Brandishing a wand in one hand and a corked bottle in the other, he extolled the miraculous qualities of Dr. Bolt’s Bloodroot Elixir. A signboard above his platform advertised the product in waves of scarlet lettering outlined in gilt.

Fanule drifted closer and stationed himself at the back of the small audience. He felt grounded now, and fully capable of appreciating this tender cutlet with the wind-rouged cheeks and inviting, unstoppable mouth.

~

Copyright (c) 2010 K. Z. Snow

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wowzers!

Not official yet, but . . . . . . . .

This is from Liquid Silver's megatalented
Christine Griffin.

And while you're here, I have a favor to ask:
Could somebody PLEASE
click on the post title and
leave me a message in the forums?
("Hi" will do.)

My listing is slipping off the page again
because nobody's posted to it.

:-(

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm sorry for the delay.

Not only do I dislike being boastful, but I really have been immersed in my steampunk WIP. It feels good -- a wonderful antidote to PETTI (Prolonged Exposure to the Internet). Anyway, as many of you know, a certain Reviewer Extraordinaire recently gave me one of these:




So I'm blowing it.


Because it's way better than getting one of these:

(If you have no clue what I'm talking about, click on the post title. I'm not going to expound. It makes me too self-conscious.)

Love you, Jen.

(And a note to Juniper, who won Kris's Krazy Kontest: You're a brave soul for picking InDescent!)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I Love My Internet Pals

Because they send me things like this when I really need things like this (compliments of Chris):


And because they invite me to participate in their demented schemes.

And because they often say nice things, privately and publicly, when I desperately need to hear nice things.

And because if I whine about wanting to see something, I usually get to see it. (No, I'm not showing you the wet men I got for my birthday. I want to keep them slick with water, not drool.)

And because they keep me in my place, pump me up, calm me down, and generally provide pleasant paths through the dung-strewn fields writers often have to navigate if they want to remain writers.

Thank you all so much. (I know I left out many names, but I'm not as patient or clever with linkity as the tech-proficient mom of a certain pair of cats. Besides, I couldn't blab about the private emails. And besides that, I don't want to look like I'm sucking up to reviewers and other authors who I happen to think are smart, caring, classy people. Let's just say they're an elite group.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I interrupt this release . . .

To remind everybody to go here and do what you're told. Because Kris is rapidly turning into the Wicked Witch of the South.


Now, for some miscellaneous news items:

  • A reader on Dreamspinner's Facebook page threw quite the complimentary hissy fit about wanting Jude in Chains available in print. I was very flattered. Alas, since it's a novella this will never be. But I did sort of mention that if DSP coupled Jude with The Prayer Waltz, they'd have a print-size volume. Heh.

  • My new steam-punkish WIP features a very alpha but bipolar "branded mongrel" named Fanule Perfidor (no, not a shifter; I don't do shifters), a young patent-medicine salesman, a second alpha, and a healer with some quite unusual characteristics. The book could be a bit grisly in spots but not gaggingly so.

  • Anybody with genuine love and respect for our language should see this post at Katrina Strauss's blog.

  • Congratulations to Lily for winning a download of Mobry's Dick via a Chris-sponsored giveaway. (Doesn't that sound egotistical? I mean, to "congratulate" someone for winning one of my books? I think so. Poor Lily could end up thinking it's the biggest piece of dreck ever to curse her eyes!)
  • A cougar has been attacking livestock in the county immediately to the west of mine. Looks like I now have some competition. :-)

  • My hands feel like overfried Spam after days of gardening. TMI?


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Doldrums and Dandelions

Again, I've been fighting off the Pre-Release Doldrums caused by the Invisible Author Syndrome. I tell myself I should be out pimping Mobry's Dick, then ask myself, Why? Who gives a rip? (Yes, it's entirely possible I have too many selves and they don't know when to shut the eff up!) Hopping over to Goodreads wasn't a good idea, since (a.) I still have no clue what role authors play in the m/m group and (b.) that group makes me feel even more invisible -- which, as I suggested above, is not conducive to enthusiastic book pimpage.

Solution? Piss on it. Let's go flower shopping! Up until now, we've had a weird spring -- warm in April, cold in May (especially at night) -- and the only blooming plants on our acreage have been dandelions and some rather pathetic lilacs. But things are looking up, at least on the weather front.

So off we went to the flea market. Back we came with blooms. Since nighttime temps won't be above 50 (F.) for another few days, I only felt comfortable making up some hanging pots; they can easily be carried indoors when darkness falls. But soon, the rest of the flowers, along with bean seeds and tomato plants, will go into the ground. I've also been seeing sandhill cranes, Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and hummingbirds. They're seasonal visitors, and their appearance always means "sumer is icumen in." Or is about to, anyway. Plus, the jack-in-the-pulpit is opening, the ferns are unfurling, honey bees are buzzing about, wrens and bluebirds and barn swallows are darting in and out of their weathered houses and fresh new nests, and daylight lingers.

It's amazing how revitalizing nature can be.

Now, if it could just get me to pimp that damned book . . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Luxury of Reading

I don't have a lot of time to indulge in my favorite leisure activity -- hate that! -- but a certain biography recently caught my attention. (Actually, many, many books catch my attention, but being able to afford them and read them comfortably are entirely different matters.) Since this book isn't big and I don't have to sit in front of my desktop to get through it, I figured I'd give it a try. (You can't imagine what a treat it is for me to curl up in bed or in my favorite chair to read!)

The subject of this biography is the green-eyed young man below, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 26. Although I don't doubt his story will hold my interest, I'm not terribly fond of the author's voice. Maybe it will improve or I'll notice it less as the story proceeds.

Clicking on the post title will take you to the book's Amazon page. Reader opinion is quite divided.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mobry's Dick -- Wherein I (Again) Find My History Groove

Before I get to MD, I want to send out my sincere thanks to Erin Schmidt at Rainbow Reviews for taking the time to read and comment on Jude in Chains. It's been a while since one of my books has been reviewed on that site, so I'm particularly grateful for Erin's notice.

Now . . . as I've mentioned every time I've blabbed about Mobry's Dick, the novel has historical chapters (from 1899 to 1903) scattered among its contemporary chapters. This is the first time I've delved into the past since I wrote Plagued for Ellora's Cave. In that novel, "the past" was mid-14th-century England, and it wasn't pretty.

Following the blurb, which I've reposted just to refresh your memories, is a fin-de-siècle excerpt from MD. The period and location are considerably more pleasant than 1349 London.

* * * * *

Nineteenth-century illusionist Alain Mobry is known for his clockwork automata. He isn’t known as a member of the Green Carnation Club, a secret gathering place for gay men of the theater, or as a dabbler in the occult. But there’s an aura of "real" magic around his beautiful male assistant, never seen in public, and in a profane automaton Alain has devised to entertain the Green Carnation’s members. He would like his creation to be for one man in particular, a fellow magician with whom he’s infatuated. Only he never gets the chance to offer his gift . . .


Over 100 years later, a peculiar item turns up at a flea market. It looks like an artillery shell to Cameron Waters, who buys the piece out of curiosity. It looks like the legendary automaton known as Mobry’s Dick to Paul Patrillo, who’s been researching the history of stage magic. It looks like a blessing as well as a curse when it brings the two men together.

While Cameron inches his way out of the closet and Paul struggles to free himself from a sugar daddy who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants, the unlikely pair grow closer as they tackle the mystery of Mobry’s Dick -- with startling and nearly tragic results.

* * * * *

It was a cold November night. Alain’s shop had no basement furnace, so the acrid smell of coal, burning to ash in his stove, hung heavily in the air. Lamplight cut wavering swaths through shadow. When his day’s work was completed, Alain often lit a lamp or two. He found the nimbus cast by a yellow flame far more soothing than the glare of an electric bulb. The glow seemed to pave his way to sleep.

Feeling pensive and tentatively hopeful, Alain activated the automaton. Inscribed on the stones of the moon was the right to wish. Kafele could earn that right if he demonstrated courage and integrity, a desire to love and be loved regardless of risk. But if he demonstrated perfidy and put himself beyond Alain’s reach, the gift would be beyond his reach. Forever.

Once the automaton had completed its various cycles and again sealed itself, Alain got up and went to his favorite piece of furniture, a wide dental cabinet of quartersawn oak. Its numerous drawers and shelves of varying sizes held watch and clock parts, appropriate tools, and meticulously drawn diagrams. He’d modified the cabinet slightly to add several concealed slots and drawers, and it was from one of these that he pulled a small silver chest.

Carrying it to a Morris armchair, he nudged aside the footrest and sank into the tufted leather. Alain loved this chair perhaps more than he loved the dental cabinet. This was the seat of his dreams. It was here that lines drew themselves in his mind, looping and intersecting, as if the blades of invisible skaters were inscribing them on a frozen pond. It was here that he, dreaming further, plucked bits of brass and nickel and steel from a corner of heaven and fit them lovingly to the lines.

Growing wistful, Alain moved his fingertips over the silver box. In this chair he also dreamed of that one man -- not perfect, but pure of heart -- with whom he could share his magic and for whom he would always make more. He still didn’t know who that man was. Probably, he thought ruefully, not the Turk. But he still clung to his unraveling threads of hope.

Never did fame play a role in Alain’s dreams. It had never been important to him.

He opened the lid of the silver chest, embossed with birds and butterflies. Whenever he looked at it, he thought of taking flight. How glorious it must be to soar or glide through life, unencumbered and unimpeded. How glorious…

The envelope that lay within the box was circled in dried ivy and bore symbols Alain had executed. He lifted the envelope and withdrew the folded paper it contained. The scent of a complex potpourri rose to nostrils, a blend of apple blossom, dragon lily, amaranth, grass, iris, rose, carnation, angelica, and yew. Plant fragments formed a cushion both beneath and within the envelope, thus imbuing the paper he held.

Which of his skills, Alain wondered, did he value the most? The natural sensitivity and dexterity he displayed when pleasuring men? The acquired craft through which he earned a living? Or the secret arcane art that allowed him to cheat fate?

He couldn’t decide.

On the handmade paper was a wish Alain had composed for himself. He’d held off employing it, thinking there must be some man in this vast, complex world who would come to care for him before he grew too old to enjoy such fellowship. His parents had always taught him patience was a virtue and there was immeasurable strength in bearing one’s burdens with grace. But he was past thirty now and often weary. If Kafele ultimately disappointed him, why should he resign himself to a life of bitter loneliness?

Alain rubbed his eyes, reached to his left to turn up the lamp’s flame, and read what he’d written.

It is the time

That his is mine

And love comes, fresh as dew.

Across the ages

We’ll turn our pages

And with each page, renew.

It was an ambitious wish, perhaps even unforgivably arrogant, and for that reason he would hold it in reserve as his last resort. He tucked the paper back into its envelope and set the silver box on the table where the lamp stood.

After rising from his chair, that friendly seat of inspiration and optimism, Alain went to his stove and opened the door. Iron squealed against iron. He touched the envelope to his lips and whispered, "Wish come true when I need you to." With a small flick of his wrist, he tossed the envelope onto the bed of glowing coals.

And hell broke loose.




Monday, May 03, 2010

So what's new?


InDescent made the Literary Nymphs Hot List (the top picks of outstanding and recommended reads) for 2009.

Fugly now has its own page at Liquid Silver's "House of SiN" forums.

Mobry's Dick (approximately 67,000 words) is being released in two weeks. It's listed on one of the Coming Soon pages at Loose Id. However, going to that page won't tell you anything, so here's a long blurb:

Late-19th-century illusionist Alain Mobry, a short, homely man with a clubfoot, is known primarily for his elaborate clockwork automata. But his private life is even more complex than his mechanisms.
Mobry is a homosexual and a member of the Green Carnation Club, a secret gathering place for gay men of the theater. He’s also dabbled in "real" magick. There are hints of it in an illusion called the Fountain of Youth—in which a beautiful youth called Puck, never seen in public, emerges from a diorama and disappears back into it—and in a profane automaton Alain has devised specifically to entertain the Green Carnation’s members. He would like his creation to be for one man in particular, a fellow magician with whom he’s infatuated. But he never gets the chance to offer his gift . . .

Over 100 years later, a peculiar item turns up at an outdoor flea market. It looks something like a blunt-nosed artillery shell to Cameron Waters, the young real estate broker who buys the piece out of curiosity. It looks like the legendary automaton known as Mobry’s Dick to Paul Patrillo, a graduate student who’s been researching the history of stage magic. It looks like a blessing as well as a curse when it brings the two men together.

While Cameron inches his way out of the closet and Paul struggles to free himself from a sugar daddy who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants, the unlikely pair grow closer as they tackle the mystery of Mobry’s Dick – with startling and nearly tragic results.

[Excerpt coming soon. Hey, you need some reason to keep coming back here!]