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Monday, April 16, 2012

Midnight Melody by Kate Devlin

Here's a brief look at my friend Kate Devlin's debut book, and the next installment of the Lesbians vs Zombies: The Musical Review line. Enjoy!

Overriding the misgivings of her pregnant lover Gillian, Francesca braves the zombie-infested Texas hill country with Gillian at her side and a floorboard full of zombie-repelling spray canisters. Their goal: to spend a weekend with famed composer and director, Sidney Foster--who is also Gillian’s ex. Francesca, a lyric soprano, sees Sidney as her express ticket to the New York world of music. With, of course, her pianist Gillian. Although the notoriously manipulative Miss Foster might still see Gillian as an express ticket to the bedroom, Francesca is confident she can handle whatever comes.

But why did the master composer turn her isolated home into an absolute beacon for every hungry zombie around?

Buy Link


Chapter One

I drove out of Austin in the fading sunset translating the light to an ever-softer melody, with Gillian in the passenger seat beside me. Oscar, our new white and tan terrier mix, rested on the console between us. Until the zombie rising, Gillian and I had kept our relationship secret. But now, with half the world zombied or just dead, hiding our truth no longer seemed important.

Night fell all too fast. As we drove farther from civilization, my aged Kia did little to keep out the foreign symphony of sounds in that ominously darkening song. Locusts droned in harmony with my engine, accompanied by the crickets' frantic descant. A wolf’s lonely cry rose, and another answered. In the city, we only had coyotes to worry about. The zombie packs and the feral dog packs harried each other more than either hunted people.

Gillian sat pretzel-legged, with a reading light reflecting off her metallic NASA suit onto the music score nestled in her lap. Her fingers played in the splintery triangles of light, using the score as a keyboard. Mental practice, she called it. Like most pianists, she put in eight to ten hours of practice a day. That schedule would be impossible for me; the voice tired more quickly than the hands.

On her model, I'd learned to touch the marks on paper while mentally passing from note to note, controlling my breath and posture, hearing the sound I needed to produce, training that mental singer in my head. Thanks to Gillian's secret, I'd become Sidney Foster's favorite soprano.

A working composer, Sidney divided her time between Austin and New York, both teaching and composing. Gillian and I belonged to her ensemble here in Austin: Troupe at the Edge of Sound. Every fall, we performed a one-act opera. This year's would happen at Halloween. The odd scheduling cut deeply into rehearsal time, hence this impromptu weekend at Sidney's remote mansion.

We slowed at a railroad crossing. I caught movement in the empty field out Gillian’s window. So did Oscar, who barked wildly. Ragged bodies hunched like screwing dogs over some unfortunate creature. The rank odor of rot instantly filled the car, and their discomforting huff-huffs of pleasure as they ate made me want to pull a two-wheeled turn and race back home.

"Oscar, hush," Gillian said, never once looking up. "I can't concentrate."

"Zombies, six or seven of them, feeding already," I told her.

She glanced up briefly. "But it isn't full dark yet."

She was right; the sky was still purple at the edge. Experts had warned this might happen, but to see it firsthand terrified me.

Gillian shuddered. "One stuck her hand through the glass of my practice room door last night. I called campus security and they came to get her. Drive faster, Francesca. I can't die yet. I'm not done learning this opera. God, Sidney's going to have my head."

Every time Gillian said her name, I fought a twinge of jealousy. They'd been involved the year before I came to Texas, and compared to Sidney I looked like an ungainly cow. I had voice, but I had a singer's body to go with it. More than once I'd caught Sidney staring at Gillian with a wistful hunger on her face, but thus far, Gillian didn't seem to respond. I worried this weekend might change things.

Hoping to ease the tension, I teased her. "You need musical perfection before you die? Don't kill me yet; I can't play the Liszt B minor."

"Don't make fun. I haven't touched my actual part in the score since September, and tomorrow, the whole ensemble might be there."

Probably not
. Although none of the troupe members had refused to show up tomorrow, only the two of us had committed to come. I smoothed a comforting hand over her thigh, pressing wrinkles out of the scent-masking, heat-masking suit. "The worst Sidney can do is yell. She has to appreciate all the juggling we did."

Tonight would be just the three of us, so we could work through my two arias. Sidney was less than pleased with my interpretation of the music thus far.

Hands moving over the score again, Gillian spoke softly. "You're about to meet Sidney on her own turf. She's on her best behavior at school. There's a side to her—watch out!"

I swerved to avoid the figure stumbling across the road. The ragtag woman lurched toward the car, but I'd already snatched my foot off the brake and jabbed the gas pedal.

Gillian turned to look behind us. "One of her breasts was flapping, did you see? This is why I hate being out at night. In case you wondered, I won't be able to sleep a wink unless you're in touching distance."

"I wouldn't sleep anywhere else." Funny, I'd been worried that I'd be the one without a bed partner.

Gillian's hand smoothed down my arm, raising goose bumps under the crinkly NASA suit. She added, "Thanks. I lean on you too much."

Gillian wore her emotions wrapped around her like an antique shawl, fragile and delicate. Now that she was pregnant, as part of the Repopulate Earth project, she seemed even more vulnerable. In music, she found solace and peace, and pure, unadulterated feeling. But during our last few rehearsals, Sidney had reduced her to tears with little effort.

In retrospect, Sidney's ill-hidden glee gave me a good clue as to what we were up against this weekend. It also made me wonder about my part in Repopulate Earth. Once Gillian's child turned a year old, I was to take a turn—or not, depending on my career. I knew several excellent singers who'd lost their voices during pregnancy. And also depending on whether Gillian was then emotionally strong enough to handle my pregnant-lady hormone swings, assuming I'd have them.

I caught her hand and pressed it briefly to my cheek. "I'll tell you when you lean too much. Okay?"

"Perfect. Now I'm going to try to work through the rest of this piece."

My cue to shut the hell up.
Chances were good we'd see more zombies, so I concentrated on my driving. The closer we drew to the house, the tighter my nerves wound. For Gillian's sake, I had to keep control of things.

Sidney—there was no one like her. She stood like a sorceress, molding the world by her will. How such a short, gamine woman wielded so much power, I still didn't know.

Night closed in as we pulled into the long, narrow driveway. Sidney out here alone was relatively safe, so long as she didn't use the oven or the clothes dryer or—heaven forbid—a heater. But three of us gathering in an old, unprotected house would radiate enough life signs to pose a greater risk. Zombies seemed to sense us through smell and as heat sources. If we all stayed tomorrow night, we'd draw them like moths to a flame.

Austin had been one of the hardest-hit cities in Texas. The papers blamed the city's fatefully timed experiment allowing everyone free use of the public transportation system. Contact with any body fluid could transmit the disease. Infected sweat on a bus seat was more than adequate exposure.

I parked in front of the house. Come daylight, I'd move my little Kia wherever Sidney wanted it. For now, the goal was to get safely indoors. We both reached around to gather our things from the back, sounding like women rustling around in paper bags with the invaluable suits. The thin, silver material masked both scent and heat.

"Want your helmet?"

I hated the helmets. "No, Sidney should be waiting for us. We won't be outside for long."

"I'm carrying Oscar so nothing happens to him," Gillian said.

"I know you love him, but he'll only make you that much more vulnerable. Put him on the leash."

Gillian gave a harsh sigh. "How many dogs have we lost? Four at last count, I believe."

"Without them, we'd be the dead ones, sweetie, and they have a good life with us. Better than getting gassed at the pound."

"Until they get eaten, sure. You can't rationalize the torture these poor creatures endure at the end. I can still hear them ripping sweet, little Charlie apart."

Me too.
I hid my flinch and sighed. "Okay, look. I don't want to be here either, but we didn't have a valid excuse not to show up. With thirty-six hours of intensive work, we might actually be able to perform this opera without looking like idiots."

This was my chance, my big break. Being naked for my big aria should garner me some sort of attention. Even my zaftig body had its charms. In my fantasies, agents and critics rushed to the performance in droves.

"You won't leave me alone with her," she said, more a statement than a question. She tucked Oscar under her arm, protectively. So much for on the leash.

"Pinkie swear," I promised.

"Then, let's do this."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Not So Random Musing

North Korea’s goal to have nuclear weapons capable of reaching the U.S. has me really wondering if, given our recent history of structuring our military efforts to avoid civilian deaths and doling out dollars to families of civilians we kill in war… if we would actually retaliate in kind should our country be attacked with a nuclear missile. Or would we invade, establish a new government, and then go home when the new government and our own citizens got tired of us being there so the cycle could begin all over again?

If I’m wondering, our enemies certainly have to be wondering.

Here’s what I know:

The Korean War proved we could be battled to a stalemate.

Vietnam proved we could be beaten.

Kuwait proved we will come to an ally’s defense.

Afghanistan and Iraq haven’t proven anything other than to once again affirm that warfare designed to win “the hearts and minds” of our enemy doesn’t work.

I grew up believing an enemy would be obliterated if they were ever stupid enough to attack us. Now, I’m not so sure, and I don’t like that feeling. I’m concerned the term “paper tiger” has more relevance today than ever before.

If North Korea fired a nuclear missile into South Korea, what would we do? I doubt we would respond with our own nukes. Would we pull out and go home, offering up South Korea as a sacrifice to avoid further U.S. blood being shed on foreign soil? Or invade, knowing we didn’t beat North Korea in war the first time.

What if Juneau, Alaska, was wiped out in a nuclear attack? For those who don’t know, Juneau is the capital of Alaska. Would Juneau be worth nuclear retaliation?

What about Seattle? Portland? Or would it take Los Angeles or San Francisco to rattle our plutonium sabers? Or, as I said before, would we choose to invade, change governments, give them billions and billions of dollars, and hope they didn’t attack us again until someone did attack us again?

That’s just it. I don’t know anymore.

To date, the nuclear poker game has been played by semi-rational governments not willing to risk total destruction. Now, there are new players preparing to sit down and call our hand. Do we lay our cards on the table, or do we fold and walk away, leaving a trail of concessions in our wake?

It would appear we may soon find out.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Author Lee Brazil on Reality and Romance Fiction #3

Ladies and gentleman:
My friend, author Lee Brazil.

How do you it's not? Hmm? I mean, seriously.... how many of you have seen him naked?

Good morning all!  Thanks for having me over DaveK, KevaD. *sips coffee*  Nice to see all of you. For those who don't know me, I'm Lee Brazil, author of m/m romance for Breathless Press and Story Orgy.  I'm a coffee addict, a music lover, and a cynic on days that contain the letter a. This causes me some conflict, as I'm a romantic on days that end in Y.
So my answer to this question depends on when you ask it.  Do you believe in love at first sight?  Some readers are adamantly opposed to what they call insta-love.  Others like it just fine. Some people like love at first sight only when it involves shifters.  *eyes widen* Because that makes it more believable? That mythical creatures fall in love instantly is more believable than that human beings do?
*sips coffee*  Today I'm a believer.  I read the sweetest book last night. It was indeed a love at first sight story.  Green eyes met blue across a crowded room.  The earth stood still.  The main character forgot to breathe; he was so entranced with the vision of loveliness gazing back at him. Hearts beat and stall, skip and throb, mouths go dry or wet, and the physiological symptoms are all there. They make their way across the room, with remarkable ease, blindly guided by love itself as neither breaks eye contact. Without a word these two men are locked in one another's arms and kissing passionately.
Then a dead body falls from the sky or some such and they must solve a crime together before they can actually be together, but it's all just a minor inconvenience...because they have love, and they know it.
Okay.  That's a great bit. I love stories like that. Recognizing that you love someone is almost as huge a commitment as marriage itself. Anyone who thinks that's it- I said I love you and that's the end of it, is crazy. *sips coffee* But that's a post for another day. Time to let the cynic play.
Yeah. Okay, so that guy whose gaze you met across the room? He's not looking at you. There's a TV monitor directly over your head and the highlights of Monday's game are playing. You just think he's looking deeply into your eyes and smiling. The truth is his team scored a miracle play in the fourth quarter and he won $50 from the scowly guy standing next to him.
Or maybe he is looking at you.  Because your face is turning blue and your eyes are bugging out because you forgot to breathe. *Snort* Okay, okay...he is looking at you, and he really sees you.  But what then? The crowd parts and leaves a shining path between the two of you as though Moses approved of your union?  Yeah right. 
In my experience what happens next is more like, you take a sip of your drink trying to look all cool, and the toothpick with the garnish stabs you in the cheek, or the eye, or the nose.  Or you swallow too much and choke. Or my personal favorite, you're so busy staring that you misjudge the distance between lips and glass and pour Midori down your shirt. (because this NEVER happens when you're drinking something that is NOT neon colored)            
Then his smile gets bigger and your cheeks burn brighter and you smile weakly. You stumble away from the wall that's been anchoring your "throbbing, soaring heart" to earth and dash for the bathroom before your silk "on the prowl" shirt gets permanently stained...
If you're really lucky- or not- he meets you at the bathroom door with an offer to help you clean up.
And you know what? Even then, I'm not sure it's love at first sight, or love of a good joke.
But, if you make it through that, and all the other pitfalls, then you're going to need a sense of humor, because long term relationships are not for the faint of heart.
Now, remember, this is just a tongue in cheek look at why romantic fiction is better than reality...I did a bit of research...not too much, because I'm retired, damn it, and I'm lazy like that. Seems 60% of people surveyed in Psychology Today believe in love at first sight, and a whopping 50% of those surveyed have experienced it. 
So there you have it...Love at first sight, reason #3 why romantic fiction beats reality! *looks to the side* What?  I didn't?  *Shakes head* I've just been reminded that I didn't tell you whether I really believe in love at first sight or not.  Who am I to judge? I fell in love with a voice on the phone...And we celebrate our fifteenth anniversary this year! So, yes...I believe with love all things are possible.
Got a love at first sight story to tell? Funny or touching, real or imaginary...share it here and be entered to win a copy of my latest short novella, Loving Eden.
Loving Eden is not a love at first sight story- It's a "recognize that there might be something between us if we take the time to find out" story.  Which is kind of what happens a lot of the time, isn't it? You meet someone, and if things line up right, you could have a great relationship.  If he leaves on the next bus and you never hear form him again, you aren't going to be devastated, because even though the potential was there, the seed wasn't watered, and nothing grew...Wait...I wasn't going to talk about that in this post... Anyway, here's a bit of Loving Eden to entice you to share you stories with us today.

Title: Loving Eden

Genre: m/m contemporary romance


Eden St. Cyr wants to let the boy who's crushing on him down easy. Drew Harris wants to protect his son from what he considers a disastrous relationship. Neither of them counted on being attracted to the other.

Eden St. Cyr has wandering feet.  He shuffles around the country from place to place and college to college, changing majors and lovers at whim. When Bailey Harris starts following him home, mooning around and showing signs of affection, Eden hatches a plan to let the kid down lightly before he leaves for the next semester, the next college, and the next lover.

Drew Harris is stunned at the changes in his son.  His responsible dependable, cheerful boy has become a moody despondent, irresponsible teenager. Drew knows exactly who to blame, too.  When Eden doesn’t' return his phone calls, he's forced to be a little more devious in his plans to get the bad influence out of his son's life.

An unexpected attraction derails both men from their plans, but when Bailey walks in at the least appropriate time, can things be put right?


Eden stepped up to the doorway inadvertently brushing against that hard muscled body as he did so. Heat seared through his thin T-shirt and gooseflesh prickled his arms. He bit his lip to keep the moan inside, just nodding his head, too afraid that his arousal would show to speak. He ducked his head and made to move into the room, when a hard warm hand closed around his upper arm. He found himself turned to face Bailey's dad, and looked up into puzzled blue eyes.
"We'll talk later, yes?" The man asserted. Eden was trapped in the depths of those deep blue eyes and unable to utter a response. A big, calloused hand came up to cup Eden's jaw, thumb rubbing gently over the two-day growth of beard he hadn't bothered to shave. Shaking his head, Drew began to speak again but then his head tilted slightly to the side and his lips came down. Eden caught his breath in surprise. Surely Bailey's dad wasn't going to kiss him?
But he was. Warm dry lips pressed to his own briefly, sliding a little to the side, nipping lightly at his own lower lip. The gentle kiss swept right across his mouth in a brief warm touch that left him craving more. It had barely begun before Drew pulled away.