George Seaton on Writing and Whispers of Old Winds (DSP author guest blog)

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whispers-of-old-winds

Whispers of Old Winds by George Seaton
D
reamspinner Press

Cover Artist Anne Cain

Available for Purchase at

        

My short story, “Whispers of Old Winds,” appeared in the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar. I expanded the short story to novel length, providing a more thorough view of the main characters, Sam Daly and his husband Michael Bellomo, and the secrets of Pine County, Colorado—a place where magic exists with quiet impunity.      

About Whispers of Old Winds

Sheriff Sam Daly, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his husband, Michael Bellomo, have made a life for themselves in sparsely populated Pine County, in the Colorado mountains. Sam oversees the small sheriff’s department, and Michael sells his paintings and tourist items out of his shop, Needful Things. From the beginning, Sam had known Michael possessed gifts: the ability to see and hear things Sam cannot.

When a report of a body in a massive snow-filled depression up a mountainside sends Sam and his deputy, Digger, to investigate, Sam struggles to reconcile the existence of skinwalkers in Pine County with the world he’s familiar with. Michael, though, deals with this reality through his art, and through the mysticism he’s been gifted. Sam’s effort to discover what is happening cause him to examine his life with Michael from the time they first met. The inevitable conclusion might be that he’ll never understand the mysteries of the mountains, but for the sake of Michael and their love, he’ll have to embrace them.

Excerpt

“I’m Monsignor Tumino,” he said, holding his hand out.

The Monsignor. I grabbed his hand, noticed the dark rings around his eyes and his stare that appeared, if not angry, surely intense. “Sam Daly,” I said.

“You’re Michael’s friend,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.

“We’re more than friends, Monsignor.”

He continued to stare, and I was feeling a little uncomfortable.

“Michael is special,” he said.

“Yes, he is.”

“He was given a divine gift at birth. Something that sets him apart from most of humanity.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“The dark veil. A curse if it’s not used properly.”

I looked at this little man, his white hair, the dandruff on his shoulders, his black crow-like eyes, his odor that I’d just identified as something between mothballs and death, and I smiled again.

“Michael is my husband. I love him more than I’ve ever loved anything or anybody in my entire life. If he is cursed, then he’s cursed with everything that’s bright and beautiful in this world, the dark veil, as you say, notwithstanding. Tell you what. You and Michael’s mother need to loosen up, maybe step out of the church every once in a while and smell the fucking roses, the trees, take a look at the sky, and see the beauty of the world rather than the dark mysteries that apparently you’re both so fascinated with. Whaddaya think? That sound like a plan?”

He smiled. And if I’d had Michael’s talent, I would have captured that smile in my mind and painted a picture of it—Beelzebub himself.

“What matter the world, when eternity is the goal? You are a sinner, Mister Daly. And you are ill-equipped to deal with Michael’s curse.”

I can’t say I really disagreed with him on that last part, though I hadn’t exactly characterized Michael’s weirdness as a curse. It was just who Michael was, and I was trying to deal with that. Long ago, though, I realized it’s practically impossible to talk reason or logic to anyone who believes the sum total of reason and logic is contained within the pages of a single book written by men at a time when the world was still flat.

[Note: This is a Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Highly Recommended Story, both when it was published as a short Advent Story and now in its fuller length.   ]

About George Seaton

George Seaton’s short stories, novellas, and novels capture contemporary life mostly set in the American west—Colorado and Wyoming in particular. He and his husband, David, along with their Alaskan malamute, Kuma, live in the Colorado foothills just southwest of Denver.

Website: http://www.gmseatonauthor.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/george.seaton

Twitter: @GeorgeSeaton 

Review: A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

A Casual Weekend ThingDoug Heavy Runner is the only member of the Baker County Sheriff’s Department that is also a member of the volunteer search and rescue team operating in his section of Montana.  So it is no surprise when a 911 call results in Doug hanging over the edge of a cliff, hauling up a body caught on ropes below him. The man is an apparent suicide but his suicide note and death will draw his younger brother to town, along with complications and clues that point to a criminal operating in town, something Doug Heavy Runner left Miami PD to get away from.  Doug lived an out lifestyle in Miami, but the undercover work and an abusive boyfriend sent him home to Elkin and life as a small town deputy and closeted gay.  Now one death may unravel Doug’s new life.

San Diego PD Detective Christopher Hayes is still trying to recover from a devastating gunshot wound that threatens to end his career when he gets a call from a small town coroner in Montana.  His older brother has committed suicide and Chris needs to identify the body and see to his brother’s estate.  The problem is that Chris hasn’t seen his brother in over 20 years by choice as his brother was a convicted pedophile who Chris thought was still in jail.

On the way to Elkin to attend to his brother’s remains, Chris stops in to a local gay bar,  hooks up with a Native American cop and a hot weekend of sex ensues.  Imagine both mens surprise when the suicide’s brother turns out to be Chris and the deputy in charge of the case is none other than his weekend hookup, Doug Heavy Runner.  When Chris’ brother’s house is burned to the ground and the cause is arson, all clues lead to another pedophile operating in the area.  The deeper they probe into the brother’s life, the wider the scope of the investigation.  Soon the FBI is involved and Chris’ partner from San Diego shows up, and everyone is second guessing themselves and each other as the case folds back to Elkin and its citizens. And all the while, Chris and Doug’s casual fling deepens and turns into something neither expects or can accept – love.

I was not expecting a book as complex and moving from the title, A Casual Weekend Thing.  A.J. Thomas has written a book with so many layers to it that I was continually amazed with each reveal and new element  she added to the overall picture.  This book is a police mystery, a cop romance, a character study, and just a grand read.

At the core of A Casual Weekend Thing are two damaged men, each a gay police officer whose back history has made them who they are today, two driven individuals who run from commitment and any relationship other than friendship or casual hookups.  Each is a runner, one by name and one by emotional need, a clever turn by the author.  Christopher Hayes is an ultrarunner, a rare breed of runner who pit their endurance against distances from 50 to 100 mile runs in extreme weather conditions.  Chris was told by his abusive brother to run for his life when he was 12 and run he did, never looking back.  Chris is still running, from his past, from his tenuous future on the force, and from all relationships, never fully trusting anyone.  In Christopher Hayes, Thomas has created an emotionally damaged man, who thinks he has coped with his past but in reality is in denial.  It is a wonderful characterization, multidimensional and realistic in every respect.

Doug Heavy Runner is Chris’ equal in complexity and pain.  In Doug, Thomas gives the reader a man who ran from his culture, that of a Salish-Kootenai Indian on a reservation where crime, poverty, and despair rule and very few escape.  Doug fled to Miami, to become a police officer and live an openly gay lifestyle, passing as a latino.  But the undercover work and abusive boyfriend combined to break him down until his path led him home to the reservation and the small town nearby.  Doug is running just like Chris, too afraid to trust himself in a relationship or to come out to the community.  Thomas balances these two men against each other’s past history even as the author starts them on the investigation that will hit close to home for both men.  Thomas manages to create not two but multiple realistic characters, including Chris’ partner, Ray, a man who was supposedly “straight” until he wasn’t, to Chris’ surprise.  Not once did I feel that any of these characters strayed into a less than authentic portrayal of a real person.  Some were repulsive, some sympathetic, and others incompetent, but always real.

Great characters were certainly a necessity given the complex, and densely layered plots that play out in this story.  Thomas takes the time to set up the situations for the events that follow.  It is a slow build that pulls in element after element, revealed to Chris, Doug and the reader in small increments.  As more facts are unearthed, a feeling of unease sets in.  Then we discover the truth of Chris’ relationship with his late brother, and the horror arrives.  That he treats it so unemotionally makes it worse.  The more clues are discovered, the more horrific and wider the investigation becomes, pulling in the FBI and Chris’ partner.  Thomas does a superlative job in creating a monstrous psychopath who eludes identification until close to the end.  And intertwined with this investigation, is the romance between Chris and Doug, a tenuous thing given each man’s trust issues and past history.

I have to admit I came so close to giving this story 5 stars.  I really wanted to.  But there were a few minor issues with police procedure as well as some actions on the part of Chris that had me shaking my head in incredulity.  I just don’t think a police officer of his experience and background would have committed the errors he did, given the clues he had at his finger tips.  I can’t say any more but when you read the book, you will recognize the areas I am talking about.  That, combined with a little rough transition at the beginning, kept A Casual Weekend Thing from being perfect.  But it sure came close.  It hooked me right from the beginning and keep me on the edge of the bed (so to speak) until the last page.

The end leaves us with a very realistic HFN and I think it needed it.  A HEA for Doug and Chris, considering the events they just emerged from would be just implausible and not in keeping with the characters Thomas was so careful in creating.  I can hope, however, that this will set them up to return in a future novel with another case to solve together.  Now that would be perfection.  Consider this book highly recommended.  I can’t wait to see what A.J. Thomas has for us next.

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht.  I applaud the cover artist’s choice of model, although he looks far more Indian than Native American.  Also the woods below aren’t really in keeping with the landscape around that area of Montana.  I know, that’s really getting picky, isn’t it.  But they get the tone of the book right.

Book Details:

ebook, 310 pages
Published May 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623804876 (ISBN13: 9781623804879)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3806

Review: The Good Fight by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 4.75 stars

The Good FightJerry Lincoln moved back to Sioux Falls, SD to take care of his grandfather and stayed on after his death.  It seemed the perfect place to live and work, especially since Jerry’s small IT consulting business is run out of his home.  As Jerry’s business grew, his friend talked him into hiring additional help in the form of  IT students from the local college. Of the two men Jerry hired, John Black Raven made Jerry’s thoughts turn to things other than computer code, something that hadn’t happened in a long time.

John Black Raven needs this job and for two very specific reasons, his nephew and niece currently caught up in the SD Child Services Agency and placed with a foster family.  John has been trying to get them back since his sister died with little luck.  Now that he has a good job, John is hoping to prevail in his fight to bring his nephew and niece home for good.

As John and Jerry get to know one another, they start to realize that the relationship being formed is one that will last the rest of their lives and John starts to accept that Jerry will stand by his  side in his fight with Child Services.  Jerry is shocked to find out that Native American children are seen as a source of income by SD Child Services , the agency caught up in politics, greed, and bigotry.  It will take everything the men have got and more to fight the system and bring the children home.

I know I can always count on a well written story with characters of substance from Andrew Grey, but this book surpassed my expectations and then some.  The serious subject matter at the heart of this story was one I was unaware of just as Jerry Lincoln is at the beginning of the book.  I have to admit it sent me on a search for more information, and I was horrified to find out that the situation explored by  Andrew Grey in this story was actually far worse in detail.  It is a heartbreaking case and one that Andrew Grey brings to life realistically and poignantly in The Good Fight. I won’t go into additional details here but will say that you should look up the situation on your own.  It will shock and appall you that things of this nature are still able to occur now with the government’s casual oversight and approval.  When reading this book, I thought surely Grey is overstating the issue, and I should have known better.  If anything he used Jerry (as the mouthpiece for the reader) to voice the amazement and horror we would feel over discovering such a misplacement of judgement and child abuse at the hands of government officials.  Any channel that helps to make people aware of the plight of South Dakota’s Native Americans fight to reclaim their youth should be applauded.  And The Good Fight brings this issue to the reader with heart, immediacy, and a well researched story.  Kudos to Andrew Grey for every aspect of this remarkable story.

Now normally i would talk about characters first, but the subject matter just begged to be put first.  The characters of Jerry Lincoln and John Black Raven are well crafted, full of the flaws and layers I have come to expect from this author.  I liked Jerry, a person still caught up in his grief over the loss of his grandfather, the family member who understood and supported him throughout his life.  Jerry is caught up in his IT world, leaving his house only at his friend’s invitation or to shop for personal needs, like food.  Only the growth of his business forces Jerry to interact with others, this time his employees to a wonderful result.  I loved not only Jerry, but his friends, Peter and Leonard, a couple who have taken Jerry into their hearts.  Through their interactions with Jerry, we actually learn more about Jerry’s past, his grandfather and his current situation.

John Black Raven, a terrific character on his  own, is also used to inform the reader about the plight of Native Americans, not only with regard to the deplorable situation with their children and Child Services, but with the bigotry and racism that is evident not only in South Dakota but elsewhere in the United States.  That is a heavy weight to put on one character but John Black Raven, as written by Andrew Grey, is certainly up to the task.

Finally, there is Bryce Morgan, the other man Jerry employes.  Bryce is a character easy to connect with, so I was thrilled to hear that the sequel to The Good Fight, moves Bryce up from a secondary character to a main one. It is a position he deserves.

If I have any issues with this book, it is that I wished for more resolution for the problems with SD Child Services than what occurs at the end of the book.  I am just not sure I should lay that at Andrew Grey’s doorstep.  While he did resolve the case of John’s niece and nephew, the problems of  disappearing children, well over 700, have yet to be put to rights in almost every way.  So that frustration lingered after the book was over and maybe that is as it should be.  Like a burr too close to the skin, a little irritation can move people to action, even if only to sign a petition. So pick up The Good Fight, you get a wonderful, heartwarming story along with a shocking tale of modern injustice that needs to move into the media mainstream.  And there is a sequel to be read next, The Fight Within.  I can’t wait.  But start here first and check  back with me on the latter.  Again kudos to Andrew Grey, for a remarkable story that is big enough to encompass a love affair while shedding light on the ongoing plight of Native Americans out west.  It does justice to both.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  While I loved that Native American man in the background, the character in front is not my idea of Jerry Lincoln, a misstep in an otherwise gorgeous cover.

Sunday, Glorious Sunday and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Finally, our weather seems to have evened out into a semblance of spring and the day is truly glorious.  The sun is shining, the day is warming up and a slight breeze is ruffling the remaining cherry blossom petals on the trees that line the streets of my neighborhood.  My hostas are now at least 4 inches above the ground, my early azaleas are starting to bloom, and the trees all around are raising almost single handedly the pollen count for the entire Metropolitan area.  In fact all my gardens are shaking off their winter doldrums, waking up to the warm spring sunlight and recent nourishing rains.

I love this time of year, the season of rebirth and new growth.  For me, spring is something I also internalize, a time for changes inside as well as out.  I look at the house and think “time to spruce up a bit, hmmmm, new paint job for the living room?” or maybe just the time to start donating or throwing away those unused or rarely used things around the shed, in the basement or in my closet, definitely my closet.  Time to buck up and get rid of those size 8 jeans that have not seen the light of day since my late twenties or those gaucho pants I so dearly loved in my 30’s.  And what do you know? Jumpsuits are back, but maybe not in that military green and Pointer Sisters style.  I know all trends come back around in time, but really, I doubt I will ever see that size again no matter what Weight Watchers tells me!  Why have I kept a bike helmet when I don’t ride a bike?  And what did I think I was going to do with that broken hand turned coffee grinder?  Wait until it was an antique?  In that case, my basement is full of antiques to be, just waiting for their time in the sun.  Kind of like me. I do admit to looking in the mirror and thinking that perhaps a swath of purple would look amazing in my hair and that maybe a visit to the new tattoo parlor that just opened up might just be the thing to add to my calendar.

Hey, its spring and the possibilities are endless, promise of new growth, any type of growth,  is everywhere.  Why not just go with the flow and see what’s new around you?  New places to explore, new people to meet and  always new authors and new books to take along with you on your journey.  Here are some books you might want to consider:

This is what our week ahead in reviews looks like:

Monday, April 15:                 Fire for Effect by Kendall McKenna

Tuesday, April 16:               The Good Fight by Andrew Grey

Wed., April 17:                       The Fight Within by Andrew Grey

Thursday, April 18:               Highland Vampire Vengeance by J.P. Bowie

Friday< April 19:                    Loving Hector by John Inman

Sat, April 20:                           Into This River I Drown by T.J. Klune

That’s the plan at any rate.  I think I have gotten over my snit fit with Into This River I Drown, at least enough to offer a reasonably objective review.  We will see on  that one, rarely does a book make me want to cheer and smash things as that one did.  And thanks, Lynn, for the recommendation of the John Inman book, that was great.  If any one out there has a book they think I have missed out on, please send me the titles, authors and publishing house.  I make no promises but I am always looking for something new to read.

So, that’s it.  There are gardens calling and color samples waiting to be pondered over.  The terriers are gazing longingly out the windows, telling me its time to head outside.  I totally agree with them.   See you all later.