Thursday, April 25, 2013

Neither Wind Nor Rain Care For Bravery (Reader-suggested Prequel)

Jon Hungerford strongly suspected the crew of The Broad Axe was unaware that he was sitting quietly in the inky shadows on the deck of the ship, his coat pulled tight and his hat down low against the damp cold of the August night. The steerage quarters below were crowded with nearly thirty people including himself, and the months of crowing and foul air was beginning to trigger in him a near-panic. If I have to wedge myself back down that buggering, stinking hatch one more time, and listen to that buggering rudder creaking, I’m going to go barking mad. It stinks worse than a neglected stable down there.

It had cost him everything he had to buy a one-way ticket from Adelaide to San Francisco on this boat. And when he’d lied about his name and who he was, and handed them forged papers, it hadn’t felt like dishonesty. That name no longer belonged to him, and he didn’t want it anyways. It had felt like shedding an old skin.

His stomach twisted with hunger. The food served down in steerage was nearly inedible, but he’d choked down as much of it as he could. They’d actually had to steal a little fresh water earlier, he and one of the Americans he was sharing quarters with. They’d broken into a second-class cabin whose occupants were at supper and had hauled several gallons of it back down into steerage to share with their fellow travelers.  

Almost there. He told himself, pulling his coat around his shoulders against the stinging salt air. It’s been getting warmer the last week or two. It feels less like winter. We're on the other side of the world now. Surely we’ll be there soon.

“I reckoned I’d find you out here.” The hoarse voice startled him, and he jerked his head around to see the tall, broad-shouldered Yank that had helped him scrump the water several hours ago. The man folded up his long legs and scooted alongside him into the shadows.

Jon gave him a hard look of concern, unable to see much more than the man’s dim shape in the darkness. “What are you doing out here, mate? This weather isn’t going to help that cough of yours.”

“Well, now...” the man sighed in his folksy, Carolina drawl. “You know it ain’t much better down below. Least the air’s clean up here and it aint’ like breathin’ in swamp gas. And I reckon they’s glad to be rid of me down there anyways.”

Jon frowned. Can’t argue that, and that’s the fair dinkum oil. Many of the passengers and crew were sick. Grippe, most likely. And when some of the steerage passengers discovered they’d be sharing quarters with a black American, they’d nearly revolted. Although they weren’t too good to drink the water we stole.  He put out a hand and settled it across the man’s damp, ebony brow.

“Struth... you’re burning up. You should be lying down.”

“Can’t breathe down there. I sure enough can’t sleep any noways. Aint’ enough air down there to keep a mosquito alive.” He crossed his arms across his knees and coughed into them.

Jon gave the man’s shoulder a comforting shake. “It’s getting warmer, mate. We’ll be there soon.”

Footsteps on the deck startled him and he jumped at the sharp voice suddenly barking a question at him. “What the hell are you two doing up here?”  The voice wasn’t Australian, and it wasn’t American. Jon looked up, squinting into the damp darkness.

The sailor was standing arms akimbo, glaring at them. “You aren’t supposed to up here. What’s going on?”

“Came up for some air.” Jon said carefully. “Bunking in steerage.” He jerked his head at his companion. “You know the others don’t like seeing him down there. And he’s”

The man took a step backwards. Jon pressed his advantage. “He’s less likely to spread the grippe up here than down below. So you might want to keep your distance, yeah?”

“You’re both from Carolina, yes? You are traveling together?”

Jon raised an eyebrow, baffled. And not for the first time. Why do they keep asking that? There were South African sailors on board, and more than one of them were seemingly unable to tell his Australian accent from an American Southern one.Truthfully, he’d only made the man’s acquaintance during the soul-crushing boredom and misery of this ocean crossing. But the indentured man had been as alone as he was, and having a companion on a harrowing journey like this one served to make them both less vulnerable. And unlike most of their fellow travelers, Jon could not have cared less that the man happened to be a negro.  He glanced over at his companion and took a deep breath. carefully queuing up the lie. “We’re traveling together.” He said, deliberately using his new friend’s speech habits as he looked back up at the sailor. The less anyone knows about me, the better. I could credibly hide where I’m from if I play this right. The wheels in his head turned rapidly, calculating. This may work in my favor And in his as well. If everyone thinks he’s with me, he might get treated better. Nobody will question him, either. “I reckon you don’t mind if we take in a little breeze, do you? Ain’t enough air down there to keep a mosquito alive.”

“Hmph.” The man said in his heavy, alien-sounding accent. “Do not make me regret letting you stay out here.” He gave them a warning nod and hurried off, clearly glad to be away from them.

“Hungerford...” The deep voice chuckled beside him. “If that ain’t the sorriest thing I ever did hear...”

“Go with it, mate, it might work out for both of us.” Jon chuckled. “You don’t need to be on your own in a place like this...and I need to be from somewhere else.” He felt bright, inquisitive eyes on him in the darkness, questioning him with fresh curiosity.

“I reckon Hungerford ain’t really your name.” 

“It bloody well is, mate.” Jon dropped his voice down low. “Fair dinkum oil.” A grim smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth. “And anyways, that’s rich, coming from you. How the hell does a bloke get saddled with a name like yours?”

“Well, now, that’d be my brothers' and sister’s doing. Back home, I used to sneak out at night and come back with buckets of crawdad.” He laughed. “That...and ain’t nobody can grab me in a fight. I’m slippery.”

“Like this hellbender beastie you were telling me about last week? This thing that looks like a sheep’s tongue covered in slime?”

“Yessir, that’s the one.”

Jon shook his head, mopping his eyes with his fingers. “That’s buggering awful, mate.”

Hellbender Freeman laughed a deep, explosive guffaw, throwing back his head. “Sure enough beats the hell out of ‘Snot Otter, don’t it?”

Monday, April 22, 2013

Coming Along On The Book

So, we sent the book off last night and are now waiting on the proof copy. It's gotten pretty real over here in the last twenty four hours. Kindle version got sent off this morning, so it's only a matter of time at this point. As soon as the print version proof copy gets sent over here, it will be a couple weeks while we go over it with a fine tooth comb. And then it will be out.

I can't wait for you all to see. Just wait. I just know you all are going to love the cover.

I'm still chugging along on a story post for you. It's about half done. I've just been so busy with book submission stuff it's seriously slowed me down, but it's coming, I promise!

I'm not going to show you the cover for the first book till it's out. You don't have much of a wait, so I think I'll hold onto that bit of fun for just a little while longer. On the other hand, I'll show you the second cover, seeing as how you've already seen thumbnails of the portraits anyways. The same artist has done the first cover that has done this one, Angela Taratuta.

Let me tell you something about Angela Taratuta...she knows how to do justice to a beautiful man when painting him. I'm just saying. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ask Wash! Updated

Howdy, all,

Wash is back in the saddle, as it were. Someone asked him a question this week. He says he doesn't know the answer to it, but I made him give it a shot anyways. You can can see his attempt on the Ask Wash! Page.

I'm wondering if you all could do me a favor. A couple of you have asked if you could donate here...thank you for the offer, but what what I need way more than donations is a little nice word of mouth. That's what is really going to help me out here.

I noticed a couple days ago I'm getting some traffic from Web Fiction Guide. I opened an account there a million years ago, and every now and then see some traffic from there. This past week the traffic's increased. Not sure why. But what I have discovered is that due to the astronomical number of entries over there, it doesn't take much to boost an entry up in the ranks. FDM was on the top fifty yesterday. It's slipped off again today, but that showed me something about rankings, which is useful.

So I'm wondering if some of you would mind just going over there and voting for FDM? I don't think you have to be a member or log in to vote (I could be wrong). But it would be helpful to me if we could boost FDM up high enough to at least get noticed. The voting page is here.

If you DO have an account over there, maybe you could write me a review or a recommendation? I'd be in your debt.

Yes, I am working on some of the suggested stand alone stories. You all threw some good ideas my way.

Thanks for everything,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Favorite Bug Nerd

Here is an adorable picture of Tommy (notice what's down there in the corner) by Angela Taratuta! This is from the cover of Book 2. Love this!

He looks so clean cut and virtuous, duddn't he?

I'm going to try to give you some writing this week, but not sure how that's gonna shake out. Migraine this week, probably a weather migraine, too, which is the worst kind. Feeling a little better right now, so I"ll try to get something else done if that holds.

This migraine horseshit sucks. I'm just saying.

I meant to throw this out there for you: Since I am fanficking myself for a bit, I'm open to requests. If there is a scene you wanted to see or didn't, drop me a comment or an email, and if it's something I can accommodate in a normal sized post, I'll write it.  (Obviously, I'm not going to give away important spoilers or anything, but I'm not averse to revealing other stuff. Or even unseen scenes or backstory or whatever else you are curious about.

Anyways, enjoy your week.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Red Haired Boy, Part 3 (Prequel)

I rolled over in bed this past weekend and thought to myself, "You know, I can write anything I want this week."

I didn't so much need a break from writing as I needed a break from pressure. Fanficking myself is a lot easier than having to write within a tight framework on a tight schedule. 

Anyways, I love the Wash backstory, so this week brings us back to the Five PointsSo it does.  


Is that him? Is that the same Irish thug I met last week? Dorcas tucked her violin under her arm and squinted hard at the back of the man’s head as he leaned forward against the bar. Almack’s was crowded and noisy, a swirling vortex of music and dancing feet and sweat and whiskey. That’s not the first or only head of red hair that’s been in here. It was true that Amack’s was a black dance hall, but the Irish came here as well. It was an uncomfortable and volatile alliance, but even Dorcas had to grudgingly admit that the mish-mash of musical influences was doing wonders for the tavern’s success.

She studied the broad expanse of his shoulders, the narrow waist and long legs, and raised an eyebrow. That’s not him. I don’t remember him being so well built, she told herself. And he wouldn’t dare come here, anyways. She gripped her bow and held it close against her body, stepping tentatively towards the bar. Would he?

After last week's encounter with the red-haired man outside her tenement, Dorcas couldn’t decide if she ought to be afraid or not. On one hand, she’d let him play her violin. In fact, she’d been shocked to learn that a member of the Roach Guard could play, much less play well. And he hadn’t hurt her. In fact, he’d defended her against his own brother’s leering aggression and had helped her with the stuck door on the building so she could get inside. On the other hand...well, on the other hand...I did hold him at knifepoint, call him a filthy Mick, and threatened to gut him and leave him for the rats...

She stared harder, stumbling as someone jostled into her. Seemingly alerted to the weight and heat of her gaze boring into the back of his skull, he put down his glass and turned, his vivid indigo eyes lighting up when he focused on her.

“That was some fine playing, so it was,” he said, his freckled face dimpling as he broke into a smile. In the warm, smoky light of the dance hall, his pale skin seemed less ghostly than it did when she’d first met him on the street. His face was softer, and color bloomed in his cheeks. But it's unmistakably him.  “No more troubles with the front door, I take it?”

Damn it.  Dorcas felt her temper flare. “Did you follow me here?” She snapped. “Why are you here talking to me? Why do I keep running into you?”

He shrugged, picking up his glass. “No, lass, I wasn’t following you before, and I’m nae following you now. I was coming here long before last week. And I’d be here now even if we’d never met, so I would.” He took a sip of beer, the foam clinging to his upper lip. He licked it away. “I’m here for a bevy, maybe a little dancing, and some nicely played fiddle.” He gestured towards her violin with his glass and took another sip.

“Violin.” She tersely corrected him.

“Aye, that too.”

She glared at him, looking around warily for others like him. “Where’s...your brother?”

“Sent him off to the Red Door for a pint, so I did. He doesn’t like it here. And I don’t like him here, either.”


“Never you mind why, lass. Look.” He put his glass down and gestured absently at it, waving over Brother J, the bartender. “Let me buy you a drink.”

If my brothers see me drinking with an Irish gang member....”No, thank you.”

He swivelled his chair around to face her, cocking his head with a look of amusement on his face. “Miss, Brother J will tell you I come here all the time. Love the music, so I do, and the dancing.  I’m nae some sort of debauched tosser lurking about after the lasses.” He leaned back with his elbows on the battered wooded edge of the bar. “I can’t help it if this is the first time you’ve seen me here. Neither of us knew we lived in the same building until last week, either.”

Her mind went back to the incident, remembering how his eyes had closed when he’d fitted the bow to her violin, how every note had seemed to seep into his soul as he played. How wet and bright his eyes had been when he finally opened them and handed her violin back to her, longing and gratitude and bittersweet regret etched across his pale features. She frowned, at war with herself.

“You ain’t buying me a drink.” She said defensively, striding to stand beside him at the bar and dropping a coin in front of Brother J.

“Dorcas?” Her brother’s voice cut sharply through the smoke and noise.

Did you really have to say my name out loud right now, Ethan? She cringed and turned to face him. Ethan had shouldered his way through the crowd and stood scowling at the the Irishman, invading his space, wordlessly warning him off. She knew if Ethan took a swing at the man, he’d get away with it. Nobody in Almack’s would have seen a thing when the coppers showed up and started asking questions, if they even bothered. An potato-eating thug getting beaten up by a negro at a black dance hall in one of the worst neighborhoods in the Points would hardly be of interest to anyone. She also knew if said thug went limping back to his gang after said beating, he’d be hard pressed to point her brother out. They think we all look alike. His gang wouldn't do anything.The Irish come here, too, they’re not going to cause trouble here over a petty squabble. I could get rid of him pretty easily right now...he’s on our turf, this time...

She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “I’m fine, Ethan. It’s alright.”

“Who’s this Paddy you’re talking to?”

Dorcas turned, looking the Irishman over, remembering him squabbling with his menacing brother over her. Telling the man to leave her be, shouldering his brother’s insults and threats. Had he not been there, had his brother been alone that night and came upon me struggling with the door in the dark...

She shook her head and sighed, ever-so-slightly relaxing her grip on her fear and dislike of the red-haired man. “Hmph.” She shrugged and and gave them both and exasperated smirk. “This is Jargie Feckin’ Washington, so it is.”

Monday, April 1, 2013

Check out Blood and Gunpowder!

Howdy, all

I came across the work of Annaick Bengtsson on DeviantArt.

It's a western, has fun characters and a romance flavor, so I thought some of you might enjoy checking it out. Like Melissa and Brittany Ann Zayas of Three of Swords, she is both writing a novel and illustrating it. 

I'm a big fan of artwork accompanying a novel, something I'm sure I don't have to tell any of you. If I could do illustrations myself, FDM would be illustrated beyond character sketches. 

But anyways, give it a look if you are so inclined, I think you'd enjoy it. Here's what Annaick herself has to say about it:
Blood andGunpowder, by Annaick Bengtsson is the story about Kayleen, a young woman with big dreams of becoming a doctor. But she puts those dreams aside to find out the truth about her parents' murder. She finds help in Derek, a greedy bounty hunter with a troublesome past.
Together they travel through the wild west, learning on the way that one's past isn't one's present.