Happy early weekend! Just thought I’d post one more HAHAT ramble before I hop a plane today for a trip to Lansing, Michigan and Media*West Con! I’ll be manning the Dreamspinner Press table with fellow authors J.P. Barnaby, H.B. Pattskyn, Thea Nishimori and my good friend Venona Keyes. Don’t forget to check out all the other Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia posts! And as a reminder, don’t forget that I’m running giveaways for an ebook copy of one of my back catalog books (you can see them all here), a Blue Notes Series t-shirt, and a paperback copy of one the Blue Notes Series books to three winners, so be sure to comment on one of the HAHAT posts here to be entered.
As some of you know (you’ve probably seen me tearing my hair out over this one!), I’m working on the fifth Blue Notes Series book, Encore (you can read a bit more about it by scrolling down my WIPs page). The story begins in the early 1970s and ends in the present. It’s really a story of modern day star-crossed lovers. Best friends in high school, conductor John Fuchs and violin teacher Roger Nelson don’t have it easy. This is the 1970s, after all, not long after the Stonewall riots in New York City. Not exactly gay friendly territory.
Roger is at heart a good man, but he’s afraid to embrace his sexuality. Roger loves two things more than life itself: John and playing the violin. When his fear of losing John and his fear of admitting he’s gay combine, the consequences are tragic and far-reaching. Roger tries to move forward and embrace his new reality, but he struggles.
John, on the other hand, knows he’s gay. Rather than shrink from who he is, he lives an openly gay lifestyle in New York City. As John’s career flourishes, Roger runs away from their relationship and John is left to pick up the pieces of his heart. For both men, there are other loves to be found, but Roger and John are always there for each other. But only as friends. As the world changes around them, they are drawn once more to each other. How late is too late to discover that your soulmate is your best friend?
Encore is a story about acceptance and redemption in a world that doesn’t except homosexuality. As the characters in the story grow and change, so does the world. Yes, there is a happily ever after, but it’s a hard won HEA for both men. Roger and John live in a world full of bigotry and hatred, and are deeply and personally touched by the AIDS epidemic. Their growth is to some extent the growth of our own world, and their HEA the promise our world holds for LGBTQ people everywhere.
I’ll leave you with a never before seen excerpt from Encore. Don’t forget to comment to be entered into the HATHAT drawings – I’ll draw names when I get back from MediaWest. Oh, and don’t sweat it if your comments don’t appear – they are there (I can’t access my website from the road, but I promise everyone who comments WILL be entered and I’ll approve all comments when I get home!).
Have a wonderful long weekend! -Shira
Excerpt Setup: John and Roger got together at the end of high school and now are roommates at the University of Michigan, both studying music. Between Roger’s mother and Roger’s own insecurities about being gay, Roger and John face more than their fair share of obstacles.
October 8, 1972
“I’ll get us a few beers.” Roger told John after they’d settled onto one of the threadbare couches in what had probably been a living room before the house was sold to house the frat on the outskirts of campus.
“You don’t need to. I can come with you.” John looked uncomfortable. He always did at frat parties, although he never complained when Roger dragged him along.
“No. It’s better you save us the seats, otherwise we’ll be standing out on the grass watching someone puke their guts into a bush or something.”
John’s face grew paler than usual, and Roger wondered why the hell he couldn’t keep his mouth shut sometimes. “Verbal diarrhea,” one of the cellists had called it. Probably a good description. It was worse when he was nervous, and even though he wouldn’t have admitted to anyone, parties made Roger nervous. More so now that he and John were together, since people always seemed to ask questions about them.
“Roger!” Valerie Thomas waved at him from over near the keg. She was blonde, with legs that wouldn’t quit. Tall and thin. A flautist. They were in the same music theory class.
“Hey, Val.” He pulled a couple of plastic cups from a stack on the floor next to the keg. The whole place smelled like beer. Maybe the keg had leaked when they’d rolled it in, or maybe someone had spilled a cup or two nearby.
“Where’s John?” she asked with a brilliant smile.
Shit. She was interested in John. He could see it in her eyes. John didn’t handle women all that well.
“Over by the door.” He pointed to the couch where John sat, legs crossed, back straight, looking more uptight than usual.
“Great. I wanted to ask him something. See you around, okay?”
“Sure. See you.” He started to fill the first of the cups, then set it down where he hoped it would be safe while he filled the other. He’d get over to John and rescue him from Val as soon as he could.
“Oh. Hi, Elizabeth. How’re you doing?” Another complication. Music geeks rarely went to the frat parties—it was part of why Roger preferred them. Anonymity. Most of the kids were too trashed to figure out that he never left with any of the girls and always left with his roommate. Besides, he and John were freshmen. Nobody expected them to make out like bandits with the chicks. At least Roger hoped they’d buy the excuse.
“Good.” She hiccupped, then blushed.
“More beer?” he asked.
He put his cup down and filled another, then handed it to her. Their fingers brushed.
“So how’s practicing coming? For the concerto competition?” she added when he just looked at her blankly.
“It’s good. John’s been coaching me. He’s really good.”
“That’s what I heard. One of the French horn players says John helped him with a piece he’s working on.
“Do you think he’ll be able to make a living conducting?”
“Of course.” No hesitation. He might not be sure of a lot of other things, but he was sure about this.
“He’s lucky to have a friend like you.” She blushed again and took a long drink, leaving a beer mustache on her upper lip when she finished. She giggled and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
Roger glanced over to where Val had just joined John. John got up when she sat down—the guy was over-the-top polite sometimes—and then proceeded to fidget when she moved to close the gap between them.
“Listen, Elizabeth,” Roger said. “I gotta do something. Maybe we can talk later, okay?”
“Sure.” She didn’t look very happy.
“Maybe we can have coffee sometime,” Roger offered. He felt a little guilty stranding her there, but John’s face was obviously tense and his cheeks were pink with embarrassment.
“Sure.” She brightened. “How about Monday after music history?”
“I… ah… sure.” Crap. He hoped she’d just forget, and that he’d be able to weasel out of it. “Look, Elizabeth, I really need to go.”
“What were you talking to Elizabeth about?” John asked as they walked across campus to the dorm. “She looked really happy.”
“Nothing really. She just wants to have coffee with me after class.”
“I don’t know.” He grinned at John, hoping to cover for his own discomfort. John wasn’t buying any of it. Roger knew he should have realized John would see right through him. John knew Roger worried people would figure out they were together, or at least Roger was pretty sure he did.
“It’s okay if you want to do stuff with her.” John’s face reddened and he added quickly, “I mean having coffee.” They turned down a narrow walkway and John walked in front of him.
“Oh.” Roger wasn’t sure he liked how comfortable John seemed with it. He’d kind of wanted John to be more possessive. Jealous even.
Neither of them spoke until they were back in the dorm room, and then it was just dumb things like what homework they had to do when they got up in the morning and what time the RA would be by to inspect their room. By the time they settled into bed, Roger had the definite impression that he’d hurt John.
“Hey,” he said after they’d turned off the light.
“Hey.” John’s voice was a soft monotone.
“You mad at me?” Roger was pretty sure John wouldn’t tell him if he was.
Roger rolled onto his side, propping himself up on his elbow. “I’m sorry.”
“I like being with you, you know.” He kissed John and tried to ignore the guilt that made his gut do back flips. “I really do.”