April 16, 2012
Posted by Erastes under Ava March
I’m sorry that we are a bit late in announcing this, my fault entirely! Thank you to everyone who entered, there was a great response.
The winner of Ava March’s bundle is ELIN GREGORY
The winner of my bundle is KIRSTEN
(Here’s a screencap of my draw so you can see it’s all above board!)
Well done, both of you, Carina will be sending your prize very soon. (probably after they’ve recovered from RT….)
Thanks for playing and I hope you both enjoy all the books!
April 14, 2012
Posted by charliecochrane under Charlie Cochrane
The last post in this series sees three more writers revealing their musical inspiration.
I’ve had masses of inspiration from music over the years. Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood inspired a long bildungesroman that I would love to work up into a novel. It’s about a hill with a wood on it flanked by two villages, King’s Norton and Brynlas, where the villagers protect the secret of the wood – a fully functional shrine to the celtic god Nodens – and in return benefit from the god’s protection. High jinks ensue when one of the hereditary protectors turns out to of a lavender persuasion. But there is sheep and beer, darts and village against village football and general good times to offset the edgy bits. I have 90k words of it, some of which I stored on Skyehawke. Cup of Wonder has most of it in it.
But these days I prefer something with a more epic scope and less recognisable lyrics so *blush* I quite enjoy listening to Two Steps From Hell aka Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergersen. They write music for computer games and are – did I mention epic? They are the most epiccy epic in the history of epicness! Best of all, since I don’t play computer games I have NO mental images to go with the music so can apply them to anything.
This one – Heart of Courage – has everything one might need to give a story a boost nicely compacted into 2 minutes.
I’ve also been listening to uillean bagpipe music for my Romano-Celts. Dark Slender Boy seems appropriate with its minor keys, especially since most of the story is a bit on the down side…
1940s swing music hits the spot for Sam Hobbs, my lame shepherd, and I have a whole playlist of 1920s songs for Winstanley Briers Winstanely and Miles Siward.
But usually I don’t play anything while I write. The music works away on my subconscious while I do other things – like ironing or driving – and I have memories of the feel of it later.
Louise Van Hine
I wrote one book in the form of a symphony in five movements, and another book in the form of a set of etudes.
BTW I stole the idea from Anthony Burgess, a composer/novelist who wrote “Napoleon Symphony” as a sort of a spoof of Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto and “Napoleon Symphony” – the Fifth which was dedicated originally to Napoleon, until he crowned himself Emperor.
I always have something on in the background when I write – favourite music of the moment, sports commentary or sometimes an audio book. While I’d find it hard to say (with one exception), “Oh, that song inspired that character/story”, the music itself makes me want to write, if that makes sense. Vaughn Williams’ Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis gets my creative juices going every time.
The exception is a song called “Boeotia”, by Matt Alber (track six here). When I heard that song I had to write a story based around it. I don’t know enough about the time when Alexander and his father were conquering half the known world, so I cheated a bit by having the historical bits happen within dreams – that’s how “Dreams of a Hero” was born.
April 11, 2012
Music doesn’t seem to work that way for me. For a start, I don’t listen to much music these days, except when doing housework, and that tends to be trance music without any words. I did listen to a lot of 18th Century sea shanties when I was writing my Age of Sail books, and they were excellent for letting me know the kind of things that the sailors of the time thought and said about themselves and their lives. I also listened to classical music of the time, so I could hear the soundtrack of the officers’ lives. I think that gave the overall setting a bit more texture, but nothing really became part of the story in such a dramatic way that it could have said to have inspired scenes or plot points.
Oh… oh, I lie (or at least, I have just remembered something.) Actually I did watch a TV programme about the castrati, which featured male soprano Michael Maniaci, whose voice is amazing. Listening to him sing inspired me to make John Cavendish in False Colors a countertenor and gave rose to the scene in which Alfie persuades him to sing and is awed by the result.
The music running through my mind while I was writing ‘Prove A Villain’ was Vaughan Williams ‘ Fantasia on Greensleeves’. ‘Greensleeves’ always reminds me of Elizabethan times, though I must admit that I smile to myself when I remember Michael Flanders’ wonderful monologue on ‘Green Fleeves’, (this chap Anon’s writing some perfectly lovely stuff, but no one seems to know who his agent is…) Sorry, I digress.
I’ve never been one to constantly have music on, I’ve never owned a walkman or an ipod or anything like that. I seem to have entirely skipped the CD generation and most of my records are vinyl. And I have nothing from this century, either, to the horror of the children of a friend who visited once!
It seems entirely incongruous but while I was writing Transgressions I was addicted to Billy Holliday and would play her obsessively on repeat while writing. The era is completely wrong but the “he was my man and he done me wrong” soulfullness was entirely right at the time.
Mozart’s Requiem sparked a plot line in Standish where Rafe’s son dies and he holds an enormous funeral where he meets up with Ambrose again. But I never actually wrote that, because it seemed entirely out of character for Ambrose to allow such a tragedy to bring them back together. So I dumped the entire idea which broke my heart as I adore that particular requiem.
I can hear a piece of music and have it paint pictures in my head as to what is going on–there’s a piece of music (Polovetsian Dances by Borodin from Prince Igor) which very clearly tells me the story of a war-hardened warrior and him falling in love for a young recruit all bare chest and no chest hair. I haven’t allowed myself to watch the ballet, because I know jolly well there’s no such plot line in it. But it has sparked a bunny and the notes have gone into my “to do later” file. Probably around the time of Ghenghis Khan. Oh great. More research.
April 9, 2012
I was having a google chat with Elin Gregory when (as often happens) things took a daft turn and we decided it would be a good idea to ask some of our favourite historical authors whether music inspired them to write – and how. Turns out it wasn’t such a daft idea – we had some great responses, which I’ll post here over this week.
I’m one of those individuals who puts together soundtracks on occasion but the music isn’t exactly reflection of the time period, more the characters/storyline. “Sounds of Silence” – Simon and Garfunkle, “All It Takes” – Stellar (NZ band), “Touch of Your Hand” – Glass Tiger, “There You’ll Be” – Faith Hill.
Hm… It’s seldom a single song. Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partiro” (the original, not the duet with Celine Dion) is pretty much the theme song for the Royal Navy series. I almost played Bocelli’s “Romanza” album, and Bryan Adams’ “So Far So Good” and Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat,” to pieces. And Jackson Browne’s “Lives in the Balance.” Totally out of period, but the right emotional note.
Winds of Change, Eye of the Storm — The soundtrack for Master and Commander. Also Romanza and Sogno, Bocelli, (What can I say? I don’t understand much Italian, but the flow of words and a strong tenor… mmmm. and October Project’s two albums.
Home is the Sailor – mostly Enya, for some reason.
Walking Wounded, Mellissa Etheridge’s “Yes, I Am,” and Bocelli, again — also Carlos Nakai, a Navajo flute player.
Tangled Web was a mix of all of the above, and Chanticleer, and the Windham Hill Solstice albums. And, in all cases, probably several things I’ve forgotten.
Finding the right music really helps.
I have to say that music has influenced everything I’ve written (admittedly a very small list). Music, in particular the music of the 19th century Romantics such as Chopin, Liszt, Mahler, Debussy, Tchaikovsky (I never said I could spell the blasted name!) and perhaps first, of course, Mozart and Beethoven. That shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read either The Phoenix or Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story. Music that digs deep into my emotions always makes me write. And often cry. Song on the Sand, my favorite of my short story-ebooks, was completely inspired by the lovely song by the same title from my favorite play, La Cage aux Folles. While writing Counterpoint, I listened day and night to violin music, especially that of Josh Bell. Of course that gave me an excuse to have lots of pictures of Josh Bell all around.
April 2, 2012
Posted by charliecochrane under april fools day
Tommy Walker, “Toad”, took a quick look over the edge of the ditch. “Coach is comin, Jack,'” he whispered to his friend as he struggled to pull up his pants.
“Bugger!” Jack exclaimed, scrambling up from his knees and fumbling with his own attire. “Schedule must be off for sure. The bloody thing shouldn’t be along for another . . .” He glanced at the timepiece dangling from his waistcoat. “Half-an-hour, at least.”
“Not to worry, love,” Tommy said. “We’ll finish up after they’ve gone by or those chaps with the pistols on the other side of the road have done their business with them. Don’t think I could keep it up if there was any shooting and yelling.”
April 1, 2012
Here are Charlie and Owen from the Dr. Fell series transported back in time to some anachronistic and unspecified College Compleat with random Captalization and Over-Excited Verbs. Plus, some Extraneous Authorial Actions and Meta-Moments and an UnWarranted Instrusion from the Wrong Tom Brown.
Non amo te, Dickus Spotticus
Charles T Winkerton inspected the contents of his package glumly. His assignation with a Burly Brute down by the waterfront had left traces, nay, irrefutable evidence, nay, the Mark of the Beast was upon him.
He rebuttoned his placket, and whimpered. His bosom buddy and boon companion would be here at any moment and he was afflicted! Sorely stricken! And there was the small matter of his twice-skipped meeting with his Nemesis Tutor, Dr. Benjamin Rock. His Sensible Cousin, Richard Winkerton, should have arrived last night to rescue him from his Muddle. It wasn’t like Cousin Richard to be late.
“Woe!” wailed Charlie.
There was a tap at the door, and Charlie bit his pouting lips and flung the door open. At least he would look blooming and pink-mouthed for his Best Friend, Owen, and would not be reproached for being Out of Looks.
“Beloved Boy!” he trilled, and then gulped. It was his Formidable Landlady, Katherine de Medusa.
“Hello Kitty,” simpered Charlie, hoping his Charms would be Lucky.
“You’ve been summoned. The Proctor has had enough of your dockside exploits, playing hooky, and all around failure to be a Serious Student.”
“Hooker!” wailed Charlie. “But I’m free!” He frowned. “Wait! How does he know? How do you know?”
“I read his note,” said Katherine, and tossed Charlie a crumpled piece of paper covered in a crabbed black hand. “And the proctor knows all!”
She flounced away passing Owen DeCoverly on the stairs.
“Well,” said Owen. “She’s in a fine taking!”
“Owen!” wept Charlie.
“Heavens,” said Owen. “Are you still declaring, declaiming, denouncing, and…”
“Oh hush up!” snapped Charlie. “I am very into verbal.”
“I think you mean oral,” corrected Owen. “A common conflation of the two words. Damn! Now you’ve got me doing it. I should never listen to you.”
“That,” sniffed Charlie, “is aural. And, I’ll have you know, I never talk dirty!”
Owen walked backwards out the door and re-entered. “Good morning, Charlie! How are you this fine morn? I see the roses are blooming in your cheeks!”
Charlie rechecked his placket. “Owen! I am in a Terrible Situation!”
“Again?” said Owen, resisting his urge to yawn his reply.
“Yes,” said Charlie, so distressed that he forgot to Verb. He flopped into a chair and then sprang up again as the Burly Brute’s Bestowal Bit him in the Butt.
Owen sniggered. “Another Fundamental Problem?”
Charlie checked his placket yet again. “Stop it, Owen!”
“Let me get to the Bottom of the Matter,” giggled Owen taking over the verb duties.
Charlie rolled his eyes and huffed. “Owen! Cousin Richard promised he’d take my Oral Exam for me and he’s not here! ”
Owen’s chortles crescendoed and cascaded and Charlie Tossed the Dictionary out of the window.
“Plain speaking,” he exhorted, and glared at the final Said Synonym as it Sailed towards Defenestration.
Owen nodded, and took a deep breath. “Carry on,” he said.
Charlie and Owen paused to check for Verbs, and then they continued.
“And now I’ve been summoned to the Ologist’s Office!”
“I don’t think you should call him that,” said Owen. “A Slip of the Tongue could be your Doom.”
“Very well, The Proctor wants to see me. I think my Tutor has sent me to have all my crimes dealt with in One Fell Swoop.”
“Oh dear,” said Owen. “He’s going to switch you?”
“No, pay attention! I was going to switch with Richard!”
Owen put his head in his hands. Conversing with Charlie made his brain hurt.
“You’ll have to face him. Tell him the truth about whatever he asks. You know what he’s like about Fallacious Boys.”
“Owen! I never – “
“That’s not what Dr. Benjamin Rock’s valet says.”
Charlie blushed. Was his prowess Common Knowledge?
Owen patted his arm. “Charlie, no one thinks you passed your first year exams any other way.”
“Oh! Oh! So not fair! I did pass them! I’m a pineapple of perspiration and knowledge.”
“I think I need a verb back,” hooted Owen. “Charlie, go to his study and see what he wants. Remember: a switch in time saves nine!”
“Oh, hush up,” whimpered Charlie succumbing to a verb. “If only Richard were here. He knows how to Handle a Pickle.”
Owen hooked his arm in Charlie’s and walked him across the quad.
“I’m going to my execution! I’m going to be beheaded!”
“Doing it a Little Too Brown,” said Owen as they paused while a man flashed by in pursuit of a Tom cat.
“I’m like Lady Jane Grey!” wailed Charlie.
“You’re nothing like her!” said Owen. “She was only a queen for nine days.”
They paused at the Door of Despair. Charlie quavered and quivered. He raised his hand to knock. “I do not like thee, Dr. Fell,” he whispered. “The reason why I cannot tell… wait yes, I can! It’s because you are Mean and have a Switch.”
Owen grabbed his wrist. “Wait! Charlie! I think I’ve Spotted your Dick!”
Charlie checked his placket and sighed in relief. He was still buttoned and, oh!, his Sensible Cousin Richard was crossing the quad.
He would not have to face the Proctor without his Stalwart Supporter after all.
April 1, 2012
Apologies for the Faint Smell of Fish (starring the actor laddies from Home Fires Burning)
“Apologies, apologies, apologies, apologies. For the faint, for the faint for the fai-ai-ai-ai-aint, for the faint smell,” the singer paused imperceptibly and took breath, “for the faint smell…of fish. Of fish. Of fish. Apologies, apologies, for the faint…” and she was off again.
Toby groaned. Modern avante bloody guard opera? You could go and stuff it. Give him a nice Gilbert and Sullivan patter song, any day, or something swish by Cole Porter, but not this load of old cobblers’.
“Remind me why we’re here,” he whispered into Alasdair’s ear.
“Supporting the boss.” Alasdair grimaced, making his heavily insured eyebrow dance an expressive jig. “Surely you can’t have forgotten his protégée? She’s loud enough.”
“Protégée? Is that what they’re calling it this week?” The girl didn’t have a bad voice, she was pretty enough—in a Junoesque way—but why on earth had she decided to launch her career in such a dire production? The Fishmonger’s Daughter. Even the title made your flesh creep.
“This should earn us plenty of credit.” Toby sighed. The relief of the interval, the even greater relief of the bar and a glass of red wine, the greatest relief of their companions for the evening having gone to powder their noses—at least he and Alasdair could steal one moment of quiet pleasure.
“Not the best faux-girlfriends they’ve ever foisted on us.” The eyebrow flew up again.
“More ‘protégées’, do you think?” Toby shrugged. “Still, if we smile for the cameras and applaud in all the right places, we’ll get to go to the bucks’ do.”
Boxing, Bethnal Green, black tie and not a woman in sight. Landseer actors out in droves to promote the new film about a gentlemen boxer of Victorian times. Toby couldn’t wait. Maybe there’d be pre-bout singing—it couldn’t be worse than what they’d had to endure in the first few acts here.
“I’ve never been to a boxing match before.” Alasdair seemed equally delighted at the prospect. “Will there be lots of blood?”
“Gallons, I imagine. And styptic pencils and grease and all sorts of black arts being practiced in the corners.” Toby laughed. “Good, honest sport. None of your sissy rubbish.” The last remark had not been just for the benefit of bystanders. Gay they might be, but effeminate they were not—which was all to the good as far as the studio was concerned.
“I’d like to see you try it.” The glint in Alasdair’s eye—the same glint he’d used in their pirate film—spoke volumes.
“Me in shorts, dripping sweat?”
Alasdair swallowed hard, concentrated on his wine glass and whispered, “Stop it” from the corner of his mouth.
“Landseer wouldn’t let me. Spoil my looks.” Toby grinned. “And here come the girls.”
“Maybe that’s a lucky rescue, for once.” Alasdair got his best welcoming smile ready.
The five minute bell sounded.
“Seconds out, round two!” Toby said, brightly. “Prepared for more haddock, ladies?”
The girls giggled, Alasdair rolled his eyes. Business as usual.
Although Toby could have sworn a certain voice breathed, “Wait till I get you on the canvas”, in his ear as they sauntered back to their seats.
April 1, 2012
Posted by charliecochrane under april fools day
Slippery When Wet by Blaine D. Arden
“Oh, come on. I know you’re dying to try it out.”
“N’uh-uh. No way. Your brother—”
“Won’t be back for at least another two hours. Besides, he asked me to put it up for him.”
“For the kids, Alex, not for us to… fool around on.”
“One quick rinse with the water hose and it’ll be as clean as it was before.”
Seth shook his head. He and Alex had done some crazy things, but this… “There is no way you’re going to get me up that thing to…” He froze as Alex dropped his sweat pants, and nearly started drooling as he noticed the heavy cock ring, the one he’d bought Alex for their tenth anniversary. The sudden spluttering of the pump saved him from making a fool of himself. He should never have told Alex about wanting to fuck him on a slide. He should have known Alex would remember.
Alex sauntered over to check it out. Seth bit his lip to keep from groaning as he watched that bubble-butt walk away from him and spotted the black marble coating of his favourite butt plug clenched between his cheeks. Behind Alex the inflatable slide rose and rose and rose. Seth swallowed as he imagined Alex face down on top of it while he pounded into him. For two seconds Seth panicked and patted his pockets for a packet of lube, until he remembered Alex bringing a backpack.
Seth found the backpack near the back door. In it, he found the much needed lube, as well as rope, cuffs, two dildos and a crop. Alex had planned this. The sneaky bastard had planned it from the start. Seth grabbed the lube, but left the rest of the toys. His pushy little bottom was in for a surprise if he thought he could manipulate him like this. Two could play this game.
Alex was still watching the pump and the slide, wiggling his butt, but not even once looking back at Seth. Seth shook his head and made his way to the tiny shed next to the terrace where he knew the kids’ toys were kept. It didn’t take him long to find the table tennis paddles.
Seth stuck the paddle between the waistband of his jeans and his back, pulling his T-shirt down to hide it, and walked back to Alex. He stood behind Alex, pressing his coarse jeans into Alex’s butt, rubbing against him as he grabbed Alex’s hips to keep him from moving.
Seth clamped a hand over Alex’s mouth and ignored the mumbling. “You think you’re clever, don’t you, boy?”
Alex froze. Seth smiled at Alex’s effort to keep from moaning. He swallowed the ‘good boy’ comment he was about to utter. Alex had done nothing to deserve it… yet.
Seth studied the slide and shook his head. This thing didn’t even have proper rungs, just a strange set of scattered foot rests. There were two he though were the right height for him, but that would leave Alex with no foot rests at all. Seth grinned. The idea had some merit, after all. “As soon as that pump is done, you’re going to remove the rest of your clothes and drape yourself over the top of the slide.” He took his hand away from Alex’s mouth. “Is that understood?”
Alex bounced on the balls of his feet as he kept an eye on the slide and the pump. Seth stepped back and watched him, shaking his head at the realisation that he was actually going to do this in Chris’ back yard. Two hours, Alex had said. They’d better make them count.
Seth enjoyed watching Alex undress as fast as he could once the slide was ready—maybe Seth should have told him to go slow. Watching him scramble up the slide was even better. Especially when Alex lay down and tried to find purchase with his feet, only to realise he couldn’t quite reach any of the foot rests.
Seth kept his expression blank when Alex looked at him, but smiled as Alex let his legs hang awkwardly. He only took his shoes, socks and shirt off before going after Alex. Once he reached the right height, he bounced up and down to make sure he wouldn’t slide down once they began. It wasn’t perfect, but it would have to do. At least on this side there were ropes he could hold on to, as opposed to Alex. “Are you comfortable?” he asked Alex, while he rubbed a hand across Alex’s butt.
“Yes,” Alex said without hesitation.
Alex didn’t move, didn’t wriggle, not until Seth slid a hand down to his balls and cock and tsked. Alex’s cock was pointed up and trapped between slide and his belly. That just wouldn’t do. Without a word, Seth rectified the situation, freeing Alex’s cock and moving it so it was pointed down and rested against the slide between his legs. He gave it a couple of tugs until Alex’s breath hitched just the tiniest bit. “Are you ready, boy?”
“Yes.” Again, no hesitation.
Seth grabbed the paddle with his left hand, while he wrapped his right hand into the rope. He bounced once to check his feet were still firmly planted into the foot rests and turned the paddle in his hand, getting a feel for its weight. Alex would expect the crop or his hand, maybe, and Seth smiled as he imagined Alex’s reaction.
When he issued the first slap, he wasn’t disappointed. No movement, aside from Alex’s butt muscles contracting in reaction to the slap. But Seth caught a surprised gasp that Alex only just kept from turning into a moan. Seth knew Alex was already trying to figure out what he was using. Maybe after a nice set, Seth would let him guess.
Though the angle was awkward, Seth managed to settle into a rhythm, hitting Alex’s cheeks, but avoiding hitting the butt plug, and by the time Alex was moaning continuously, his butt had a nice red glow and his cock was dripping. Alex even tried to push his butt up when Seth stopped. Seth knew his boy wanted more, and he would get more, but his butt was red enough… for now.
“You have one chance to guess what I’m paddling you with. If you’re right, you choose. If you’re wrong, I will.” Seth didn’t need to spell it out that he meant where the next slaps would hit. Alex would know.
“Nice try, but no.” A good try, since they’d bought the kids the cricket set on their last trip to the UK. “Spread your legs.”
Alex moved his legs sideways, brushing against Seth’s knees. Alex’s legs trembled slightly. Without anything to rest his feet on, it wouldn’t be easy to hold them like this, and Seth was about to make it even harder. He slapped the inside of Alex’s thighs, left and right, listening to Alex’s breaths, alert to any sounds that indicated he was struggling.
Alex lasted longer than Seth thought. His legs were severely trembling, and his breathing was fast and laborious, but no signs of stress whatsoever, and Alex’s cock was still happily dripping pre-cum. Still, Seth let the paddle fall to the ground. He trailed his free hand across the reddened thighs, brushing Alex’s balls as he moved to the other leg. He enjoyed the heat and the trembling beneath his hands. He kept touching, soothing Alex with his touch until his breathing slowed. Then he moved his hand towards the butt plug and gently eased it out. Alex sighed loudly as it slipped free.
Dropping it, Seth checked his footing again. He leaned his knees against the slide and unwrapped his hand from the rope. He unzipped himself and freed his hard cock from its confines. Grabbing the lube was next. Seth worked some into Alex’s crack and used a generous amount on his own cock, before letting the bottle join the paddle and the plug on the ground.
“Ready?” he asked as he grabbed the rope with his free hand.
“Yes.” Alex voice wasn’t much more than a whisper this time.
Seth entered Alex slowly, ignoring the pleas for more and faster. Alex seemed to have forgotten where they were, but Seth couldn’t. One wrong move and they could both fall. Besides, he loved going slow. As much as Alex was wont to cry for more, Seth knew going slow, hitting Alex just right, was much more effective.
And Alex responded so well. He moaned, he gasped, he pleaded, and every change in pitch told Seth how close he was. Seth wished he could touch Alex, could feel the sweaty body tremble beneath his hands, but he needed to hold on to the ropes. He closed his eyes and bit his lip when Alex clamped down on his cock. They were both getting close.
His thrusts lost rhythm after that. Alex’s hole kept clenching around his cock, and he was almost keening now. Seth grabbed the rope tighter and thrust deep, once, twice. He came, gasping and grunting, as he hung onto that rope for dear life. His fingers felt numb as he let go of the rope and let himself fall forward onto Alex’s back. Alex’s strangled cry of release echoed in his ears.
“Oh, God,” Alex said, voice hoarse. “That was so much better than I thought it would be.”
Seth kissed Alex between his shoulder blades. “Been thinking about it a lot, have you?”
“Ever since Chris told me he hired the bloody thing.”
Which was weeks ago, Seth was sure. No wonder he’d been so horny lately. Not that Alex was ever not horny, but he’d seemed needier these past few weeks. Seth kissed Alex again, smelling and tasting his sweat. Seth smiled. “Maybe we should buy one.”
“And put it where? In the attic?”
Seth snorted. “Yeah, I get your point.”
“I think we’d better move, if I want to rinse it down before they come home.”
“We’d better.” Seth straightened up and let his cock slip free, enjoying Alex’s moans as he did.
He knew Alex was going down the slide as soon as he felt Alex’s legs push against his. He was lucky to have hold of the ropes or he would have lost his balance.
With a “Whoop” Alex slid down the slide into the grass, softer than Seth would have expected, laughing and rubbing his chest. Seth didn’t think he’d sweated enough to ease the path.
“Come on. It’s fun.” Alex rose and waved him down.
Seth was about to refuse, when he realised he, at least, was wearing his jeans. Bracing his knees against the slide, he tucked himself away and zipped up before hoisting himself up to the top and sliding down in a sitting position.
He nearly swiped Alex off his feet, but Alex jumped aside just in time, still laughing. He dove on top of Seth and kissed him, mauled him more like, until they were both breathless. Alex sighed into Seth’s mouth and pushed himself up a bit.
“So, what was it, really?”
“What you paddled me with?”
Seth brushed his lips against Alex’s and smiled. “Table tennis paddle.”
“We’re taking that one home. I’ll buy Chris a new one in the morning.”
April 1, 2012
“God damn, son of a bitch!” Corporal Chet Herbert usually watched his language when he was working with a jump class, but with no officers or ladies present, he felt free to express himself as the tiny figure suspended from its silken canopy drifted further away from his pursuing Jeep. Chet hadn’t expected all the trainees to hit the target zone on their first drop, but how the hell had Valenti managed to not only miss the field, but wind up miles away, in the only clump of trees downwind of the base?
On the other hand, it was a beautiful June day, and if he’d been given the choice of helping a bunch of green paratroopers recapture their chutes and stuff them into ditty bags or taking a quiet drive out into the countryside… he’d have chosen to be right where he was.
The chute went into the trees about a mile from the road—but it did not emerge on other other side. Chet downshifted, leaving the paved road for gravel, hoping the little bastard wasn’t caught too far up to get at.
Of all the men to jump today, it would be Valenti. PFC Eddie Valenti, small but tough, snapping black eyes and a ready grin, the only guy in the bunch who had the nerve to read poetry off-duty, a book he claimed his mother had sent with him. “Ma used to teach school,” Valenti said when another would-be paratrooper challenged him. “She says I should read some good books. You tellin’ me I shouldn’t listen to my mother?”
And the crazy thing was – Valenti pulled it off. “This guy Whitman, he was a real man. Listen to this:
‘An Army Corps on the March
With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip,
And now an irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press on
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust cover’d men
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground
With artillery interspers’d—the wheels rumble, the horses sweat
As the army corps advances.”
Yeah, well… Chet knew that book, parts of it by heart. He knew there was a lot more in there besides military poems and “Oh Captain, My Captain.” There were love poems in there, love poems written from one man to another, and sometimes when Valenti caught Chet’s eye, he smiled as though they shared some kind of secret.
Eddie Valenti was handsome as the devil.
Eddie Valenti was dangerous.
But, Chet reminded himself, training wouldn’t last forever, and before too long, Eddie Valenti would be shipped off to Korea, while Chet, with his slightly crooked spine that would not stand up to a march with full pack, would stay here to help train young men to jump out of airplanes without killing themselves in the process. He would be lonely, but he was used to that. It was better than worrying about a court-martial.
His foot hit the clutch and he was braking almost before he recognized the flash of white that had to be the missing parachute.
A few minutes of plowing through underbrush brought Chet to the base of a bur oak tree, its massive branches reaching almost to the ground. He could see the fabric of the chute wrapped around a branch some twenty-odd feet up, but nothing else. “Hey, Valenti, you up there?”
“Herbie, that you?”
Chet hated being called Herbie. “You okay?”
“Yeah, but I’m stuck. Can you come up and give me a hand?”
“Yeah, hold on.” For a man who’d spent most of his boyhood climbing trees on the family farm, this old patriarch wasn’t even a challenge. The limbs were perfectly spaced for a climb, his boots dug into the rugged bark, and it was cool and pleasant up here in the breezy shade.
He spotted Valenti and had to laugh. Somehow or other, he was lying atop a limb nearly as wide as his own body, head-downward. His chute was caught on a dead branch just below him. “How the hell did you do that?”
“You got me, buddy. The tree snagged it and I got flipped up here –the damn harness is so tight I can’t get my hand into my pocket for my knife, and I think the quick-release is jammed.”
“Just as well. You’d drop straight down.”
“Yeah, I thought as much. Now you’ve had your laugh, how about you get me outta here?”
Chet made sure his own knife was where he could reach it, and inched out onto the limb. Studying the situation, he realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as he’d thought. “Look, Valenti, you have to roll over so you can hang on while I cut you loose, otherwise you’ll slide right off the limb and probably take us both down.”
“No can do. Can’t get hold of the tree. Can you brace me?”
“Guess I have to.” Chet crawled out farther and found himself staring straight into Valenti’s face, and found himself uncomfortably aware of the other man’s scent—sweat, and maybe a little fear—and had the brief thought that Eddie Valenti looked good enough to eat. “Okay—”
His words were cut off as Valenti grabbed his head and pulled him down into a kiss. Stupid, dangerous… but he couldn’t let go of the tree and he really didn’t want to push Valenti away. After a moment’s hesitation, he thought, the hell with it, and let his lips part, tasting the sharp mix of emotions on the other man’s mouth. Finally, with a shiver, he pulled back. “You crazy bastard.”
Without answering, Chet wrapped his legs around the tree limb and got a grip on Valenti’s shoulders. Even in a mild breeze, the chute was tugging at the jump harness. This could be tricky. “Okay, loverboy, I’m going to shift you to the side. You get hold of that branch and hang on, or we’ll be up here all day.”
“Suits me.” But he cooperated, inching around until he was lying face-down and holding on for dear life.
“Okay, now raise up a little so I can hit the quick-release.”
Valenti laughed. “Thought you’d never ask.”
Sliding his hand under Valenti’s body felt a lot more personal than Chet had intended. But, thank God, he felt the ‘click’ and the release of tension as the swaying of the tree pulled the riser lines away from the harness. It’d still be a pain in the ass to get that chute back, but at least he wouldn’t be hauling back a casualty.
“Now what?” Valenti asked.
“Now I back off, you follow me, and we report in that you need to repeat suspension training. You can’t steer for shit.”
Valenti looked up from his nose-down position, his grin back and as cocky as ever. “The hell I can’t.” He looked Chet up and down from a distance of about a foot. “I think I got exactly where I wanted to be.”
April 1, 2012
Posted by charliecochrane under april fools day
“Oh!” Don put the Sunday paper on the coffee table and got up. As soon as Rick had entered the living room he saw something was wrong. “What’s the matter? Bad news.”
Rick put his mobile beside the paper with a peevish little click. “The boss. I’m going on a training course.”
“What?” Don shook his head. “But why?”
“Some new computer programme we all have to use. As if that’s going to make an already shitty job any better.”
Once they had decided to move in together, they had managed to find the perfect flat to rent, nice and close to the school where Don was head of Physics. But Rick had had to take what he could get in the way of employment – data processing for some faceless international corporation. Sure there was a gym in the basement of the building were he worked, but no discernable soul amongst the middle-management.
“Apparently I have to have the bit of paper before I can go up to the next grade where I might do something that requires a brain,” Rick elaborated with a wave of his hand. “So it’s the course for me. Thursday.”
“That’s short notice,” Don scowled. “But at least it’s just one day. What?” Rick was shaking his head.
“Thursday first thing through to lunchtime Saturday.” He shrugged. “I’ve got no choice but at least it’s all expenses paid and the hotel should be a good one.”
“London?” Don asked.
“No, down on the south coast.” Rick grinned. “You could come with me. I’ve opted for a double bed with no sharing.” He patted his belly. “Claimed I need my space, see. Some of the other guys are taking spouses so there’s no reason why you can’t come.”
“And what would I do while you’re doing whatever? I’d sooner stay here. Make ready to give you a really warm welcome when you get home.” Don raised his eyebrows suggestively.
“You could keep me warm down there,” Rick protested. “Come on. It’s a nice place.”
“Bognor? No, I’m not going.” Don folded his arms with a scowl. “God awful place that’s stuck in the 50s. Walk down the street holding hands and corseted matrons have the vapours and call for the Peelers.”
“Exaggerating much,” Rick said. “Oh please yourself. This crap job hasn’t got many perks so excuse me if I make the most of this one.”
Don went to make supper, feeling guilty but not yet prepared to apologise, while Rick sorted the laundry with more force than necessary. Neither job was improved by sulking.
By the next morning they were at ease with each other and when Rick asked again Don had an answer that couldn’t possibly cause offence.
“You know we’ve been meaning to give the hall a coat of paint. I can do that Friday night after I get in. You wanted that soft green, didn’t you?”
“Okay.” Rick smiled, kissed Don good bye and went to catch his bus.
Rick asked again on Monday evening just after they had gone to bed. “Are you sure you won’t come?”
“I think I’m bound to if you keep doing that,” Don replied with a gasp.
“No,” Rick snickered. “I meant Bognor?” But he didn’t stop and he didn’t get a sensible answer either.
Don assumed that the matter had been dropped. Rick made the occasional comment about ways and means. He was getting a lift with a colleague. Ellie would pick him up from the house at 6.30 on Thursday morning which should give them plenty of time to be there by ten. The hotel was a modern one – Rick had checked it out online – very plush.
Don provided satisfactory responses but was still adamant. “I’ve just got too much on,” he said. “Between the office and home – no, I can’t spare the time. You get your sleep.” He raised his eyebrows. “You’ll need all your energy when you get back.”
“I thought I might go out on the town,” Rick said.
“In Bognor?” Don snorted. He too had looked it up online. “Good luck mate. I can recommend the music hall. Dan Leno, Marie Lloyd, Nosmo King and Hubert are still playing down there.”
“Exaggerating,” Rick sang out again but this time he was laughing.
Thursday morning, Don got up early to see him off on the doorstep. “Take care,” he said and drew him close for a farewell kiss.
Rick sighed. “I’ll miss you,” he said. “Last chance? You could come down by train?”
“You don’t give up do you,” Don said and gave Rick a squeeze. “Off with you. I can hear a car.”
Ellie came to the door – a bright twenty something in impossible heels that didn’t seem to slow her down at all.”
“Ready?” she asked. “Got your glad rags?”
“Hardly,” Rick said. “I plan to do a lot of reading.” He waved his Kindle.
Ellie snorted. “Silly man.” She rolled her eyes and grinned at Don. “Didn’t they tell you that the venue had to cancel? They rang last night. Dry rot or salmonella or something. We’re not going to Bognor. We’re going to Brighton instead.”
“Brighton!” Rick and Don’s voices meshed perfectly in yelps of delight and disbelief.
Rick turned to Don. “Changed your mind?” he asked.
“You betcha, big boy,” Don replied with a grin.
Bugger Bognor. Brighton was more like it!
Elin is fairly new to official authordom; Alike As Two Bees, her historical gay romance, was only published in March. Links to her work can be found here.
April 1, 2012
Posted by charliecochrane under april fools day
Arising out of Obscurity
by Bruin Fisher
I was walking the dog, an innocent enough activity, you would think. It should have been half an hour along the canal towpath and then over the bridge and back along the other side, getting home, towelling Tardy down if he’d been in the water and then a doze on the cane sofa in the conservatory with a nice caramel latte out of the machine. That was the plan.
Tardy is my Springer Spaniel bitch and I adore her, although today’s escapade will take me a while to forgive. She is the daughter of Bonny, the dog I grew up with, the last of a litter of five, which is why we called her Tardy, or Tard for short. She’s not yet two years old, hardly more than a puppy, and she’s excitable and mischievous and adorable. Since I’ve been single again she’s my companion and she loves me unconditionally and what more could you ask of a dog? Well, a bit of common sense might come in handy…
We set off on our walk, Tardy pulling at the lead in her excitement to get going, and made it down to the canal without incident apart from the lead getting tangled round my legs a few times as she ran rings around me. Down on the towpath she calmed down a little, she loves to sniff around, checking on the badger paths and the holes of the water rats. Occasionally we see an otter, and she gets almost as excited as me. I’m fascinated by wildlife, which is why I always take my binoculars with me when we walk the canal. Anyway, on this particular day we’d gone maybe half a mile to the point where the towpath narrows and runs under a road bridge. You have to duck as you walk the path through the tunnel because the bridge curves down leaving less headroom than you’d like.
When we got to the bridge, with the main road into Guildford running over it, we were both interested to see that some repair work was in progress. There was a big mechanical digger on the opposite bank, with its grab partly extended and resting on our side of the canal. Work had clearly stalled, there was no-one around, and we paused in our walk to take in the evidence of weed-clearing. Along the opposite towpath were regular piles of slimy-looking green stalks, pulled from the bed of the canal by the long tines of the digger’s grab. It was a long-overdue bit of maintenance; the water beyond where the digger had reached was clogged with lily pads and bulrushes, and the water was green and opaque. Where the digger had been the water was running more swiftly and you could see through it down to the bed, and even the occasional little fish swimming against the current. A big improvement.
We should have continued our walk, but at this point I decided I needed a pee. The stone wall of the bridge runs up the steep bank above the canal path, and there’s a massive thicket of brambles covering the bank, but there’s a small gap between the bridge and the thicket, enough to slide into, and it gives cover so that you can relieve yourself without being overlooked unless someone up on the bridge were to lean right out over the parapet. I’ve used it before.
So, there I was, with my tracksuit bottoms and undies around my knees, my binoculars in one hand and my other, er, directing proceedings. Tardy was sniffing around on the towpath and I ignored her, the lead is not quite long enough for her to get to the water from where I was so she couldn’t get into trouble that way. Tardy has never had any difficulty getting into trouble, though, when she wants to.
Absorbed in what I was doing, watering the stonework, I was only slightly irritated when my hand was tugged away from its duty by the loop of lead around my wrist, causing my stream to swing wildly, including a splash on my shoes. I gave the lead a tug to remind her who’s boss, which didn’t feel right – there was no ‘give’ in the lead, and after that everything happened very fast.
My arm was pulled vertically upwards, caught by the loop of dog lead. If I’d thought fast enough I might have wriggled my wrist free of it, but I was taken so much by surprise that I didn’t think of that and by the time I realised what was happening I was lifted off my feet and rose ten, twenty, thirty feet in the air, above the parapet of the bridge and into full view of passing motorists and pedestrians alike, my trousers and pants around my knees and my t-shirt hiked well up my torso. I was wriggling around desperately trying to reach with my untethered hand down to the waistband of my jogging bottoms, without dropping my valuable binoculars in the process. All I achieved was to draw attention to myself.
An excited barking from above caused me to look up, to see Tardy looking down at me from the safety of the inside of the digger’s grab, one of the metal rings of her lead caught around a tine of the grab. Hoist by my own pet, Tard!
It took very little time for the digger driver, who’d returned to work without checking to see that there was no crazy dog sitting in his grab, to realise what had happened and lower me back down to the towpath, where I pulled up my trousers, massaged my sore wrist and slunk off without, to my shame, apologising. But I’m home now, and I don’t know how long it’ll be before I dare show my face in public again. I’m certainly never going to show any other part of me in public again. I wonder whether Tardy actually knows today’s April 1st?
© Bruin Fisher March 2012