Tuesday, 29 October 2013

"Saving Sonny James" Road Trip Blog Tour...Viva San Antonio!

 I am SO excited! 

If you know me, you know two of my favorite fictional characters are the creations of the fabulously talented author, Lou Sylvre. And those fellas are Luki Vasquez and his husband, Sonny James from the "Vasquez and James" series. 

Well...giddy here, please forgive me...Lou and the boys are stopping here on their blog tour, and I---yes, me, the Zampzter---get to tag along with them to San Antonio! 

So let's begin the trip! We're all yours, Lou Sylvre!

 * * * *

 Hi! I’m Lou Sylvre. Let me wave to Carol Zampa before I do anything else, and say thank you so much for letting the guys and me visit your state and your beautiful, classy blog.

I am presently touring with Luki Vasquez and Sonny James, a husband-husband pair that usually live in my Vasquez and James series books. The most recent suspense adventure, Saving Sonny James, was released a couple weeks ago—10/18. I am afraid I put them through hell in the pages (or pixels) of that book, and once they’d survived, they decided they needed a vacation—a road trip in Sonny’s Mustang, which was mostly Sonny’s idea. I agreed to it, as long as I could ride along in the backseat and chronicle the affair. Luki grumped about that quite a bit, but, because I’m the author, he really had no choice at all.

Alas, I think fate had other ideas. 

They started in France (where Saving Sonny James ends), took the Chunnel train to Ashford, Kent, England, and from there to London, where they got to meet up with friend (and future love interest of Luki’s nephew, Jackie) Brian Harrison. So far so good, and the flight to Providence, RI, where they picked up the Mustang, and a brief visit to New Hampshire all went well, But, then…

On their way to Ohio on I-90 Westbound they hit some kind of anomaly in the time-space continuum, and found themselves deposited sans car in the future Yellow Knife of Elizabeth Noble’s Sentries world. Fortunately, Todd and Nick Ruger (Sentries in Elizabeth’s books) helped them out, and they made it back to I-90. But then…

As soon as they got the car started, another disturbance occurred and they found themselves, again without the Mustang, wet, cold, and tired on a beach in New Zealand. They were once again fortunate, because vampire  (and supernatural agent for good) Simon, and his human partner, Ben, who will greet the world in early 2014 as characters in Anne Barwell’s Shades of Sepia, rescued them. After a little cock-crowing by Simon and Luki, they capitulated to the good sense of their sweeties, and everyone got in the car for a drive to Anne’s house in Wainuimata (no, no typo). So then…

Anne contacted me on chat. We decided that since the four men involved were all fictional characters, the best way to get them where they needed to be was to write them there. Kind of like magic only with keyboards and pixels instead of Wolf’s bane and stoat’s belly. We thought about having them fly back to the States, but we were worried that the anomalies might keep happening, so instead we utilized Luki’s superstitious nature. Like this:

Lou: Luki, ask St. Christopher to help you.
Luki: What the hell are you talking about now, Ms. Sylvre?
Anne: Don’t be disrespectful, Luki! You might be a badass, but she can write you down to size!
Luki: (Somewhat sheepishly, but rolling eyes.) I beg your pardon.
Sonny: But, honey, listen! That’s a good idea she has! He’s the travelers patron, right? And you’ve got this… connection thing with him. Try it!

So Luki did, holding his St. Christopher medal in his hand, then putting the chain over Sonny’s head and letting it fall down to lay over his heart. Then he pulled Sonny close, and though he didn’t say anything at all, we all knew he was… hooked up somehow with his saint. Finally, he just said, “Please, St. Chris, Sonny is dying out here without the Mustang.”

Sonny kissed him, and Luki thought it probably was in appreciation, but I (the author) happen to know it was mostly to shut him up… well and also, Sonny finds Luki’s thick, rich, curvy lips completely irresistible.

Now, as authors go, I sometimes am admittedly tough on Luki and Sonny, but I’m not without mercy. They’ve been through hell. So after a few chatted lines and scenes, Anne sent her boys back to their (weird) home in Flint, and I got Luki and Sonny back to the Mustang.

“What about you, Ms. Sylvre?” Luki pretends he doesn’t care, but he does. “I thought you wanted to go on this road trip, too.”

“Tell you what, Luki,” I said. “I’ll let you and Sonny have some time together to enjoy your trip, and I’ll meet you in San Antonio.”

“I’ll take pictures, Ms. Lou, okay? Then you’ll have something to blog.”

Luki rolled his eyes again, and we parted ways. The guys made excellent time travelling South and West, stopping only for hamburgers, a few hours of sleep, and occasional roadside surreptitious and inappropriate touching. Then they got to San Antonio, met up with Carol Zampa’s characters Honor C and his ultra sexy partner Jorge, and Candy G with the more-badass-than-he-looks Carlos. They stuck together, the six of them, for off-color jokes, drinks, and dinner at Las Canarias on the Riverwalk, and then Luki and Sonny set out on their own to explore the Riverwalk while dusk fell and the lights came on.

They held hands, stopped for kisses in a quiet spot…

Lost themselves in the rainbows of a million lights…

And finally retreated to a fabulous, warm, not-too-soft bed in the hotel La Mansion del Rio, where there was lots of sweet touching, none of it inappropriate or surreptitious at all.

* * * * * * *

 Ahhhh.....Luki. Sonny. Oh, man. Did you enjoy hanging out with them as much as I did? 

Coming down from my Cloud No. Nine, let me give a huge thank you to Ms. Sylvre for sending the boys our way and letting us spend some time with them. And...let me give point you in the direction for Luki and Sonny's latest adventure, Saving Sonny James

Click on Link to Purchase

The Blurb....

Luki Vasquez and his still newlywed husband are back home after pulling off a harrowing desert rescue of their teenage nephew Jackie. But the events of the last couple of years have begun to catch up with Luki—loving Sonny James and letting Sonny love him back has left gaps in his emotional armor. In the gunfight that secured Jackie’s rescue, Luki’s bullet killed a young guard, an innocent boy in Luki’s mind. In the grip of PTSD, memories, flashbacks, and nightmares consume him, and he falls into deep, almost vegetative depression.

Sonny devotes his days to helping Luki, putting his own career on hold, even passing up a European tour of galleries and schools—an opportunity that might never come again. But when Luki’s parasomnia turns his nightmares into real-world terror, it breaks the gridlock. Sonny realizes what he’s doing isn’t working, and he says yes to Europe. Enter Harold Breslin, a dangerously intelligent artist’s promoter and embezzler whose obsessive desire for Sonny is exceeded only by his narcissism. When Harold’s plan for Sonny turns poisonous, Luki must break free of PTSD and get to France fit and ready in time to save his husband’s life.

 What are you waiting for? I've got my copy! Go get yours!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Valentine Queen...

“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.” -- Adlai E. Stevenson II 

A while back I accidentally noticed one of my books had been an entry in a contest. Some book-of-the-month thing. No, no, I hadn't entered it in the competition, it was just there by default of having been reviewed during that particular month. 

My reaction? Nope, not the giddy glee most authors feel, not the rushing off to Facebook it, to ask for votes. My reaction was a cold chill, a sort of panic. Shaky fingers poised over the keyboard to write to the contest site, to BEG for my book to be withdrawn. A please do not enter me in a contest. I don't want to BE in a contest. And my panic wasn't just a fearful one, it was also an angry one.

Remember (if you are as old as me) the infamous Academy Awards ceremony when actor George C. Scott rejected his award for Best Actor? His very public statement on how he felt about the Oscars? THAT was what I almost did. 
And don't dare for a  minute think I was afraid my work wasn't good enough. I've come far enough along in my writing career to be more confident than that. My talent has a long way to go, sure, but I just try to have more faith in myself and my work. 

So why did I panic?

Old memories. Painful memories. One distinct remembrance from childhood that was my introduction into reality. The Valentine Queen contest.

Fifth grade. Mr. Harvey's class. 

Valentine's Day was approaching. A truly fun memory from my kidhood. Handmade decorated boxes---complete with glitter, colored hearts, doilies, foil, romance. Painstakingly writing names of classmates on those tiny little Valentines. The big day of the party. Cookies with red and white sprinkles, red punch. Pretty crepe streamers. Beautiful.

Then the announcement came. The class was going to nominate---a popular vote sort of thing---a Valentine's Queen.How cool was that? An unprecedented event! Complete with a crown (I believe it was handmade, cardboard, foil and glitter, but it was a CROWN). 

For a kid who'd never, until that time, experienced any sort of popularity contest, the event turned into an awakening. 

The day of the party arrived. I wore my best jumper. I remember is so clearly. A beautiful black corduroy jumper with red and white embroidery trim. A white blouse with a high ruffled collar. A Christmas gift from Grandma Vivian who lived in Seattle and always sent pretty outfits to my sister and me from the Spiegel catalog. 
Here's the funny part. I felt so pretty, I felt so confident. I honestly, from the bottom of my heart, thought I stood a chance to be voted Valentine Queen. Oh, yes. Even up against the most lovely, outgoing, sparkling gal in the class. Rella, her name was. 

Yes, Rella won. And rightly so. It was a vote of popularity. She was popular, she was everything one would imagine a Valentine Queen should be, even for fifth grade. 

I shouldn't have been surprised. Looking back, I don't know why I was surprised. Why I was...yes...disappointed. Silly, for sure. But I was genuinely disappointed. 

Do you know why it never occurred to me that I stood no chance to be voted most popular in a popularity contest? 

Because my mother never, ever told me I was not beautiful. She never clued me in, ever gave me a hint that I wasn't pretty. Oh, no, she never pumped her children up by telling them they were the prettiest, smartest, bestest. She didn't operate like that. But we were who were were and she never once told us that it was not perfect to be just that. Ourselves. In her eyes----without her ever having to say it out loud---I felt that I was A-okay just like I was.

In reality, looking back, I was as close to being homely as one could be. Big nose, awful hair (you remember the 50's short, short, short bangs)? Why, even once someone joked about my baby picture, commenting that I looked like Frank Sinatra. To look like Ol' Blue Eyes is okay...for Frank Sinatra. Not for a three month old infant. I just was...not...pretty. Not as a baby, not as an elementary student, not even in high school. 

I see that now, but I never, ever, ever realized it then.

So when the first popularity contest of my young life happened, I was inducted into the world of reality. That people really did rate you. By looks, by personality, by how well you dressed, by many things. Even as children, we start to rate others. We start, so very young, to make life into a contest. Competition.

For that reason, because of that very deep, very primitive, helpless feeling of coming up short in the popularity world, I've been skittish about contests. Of all sorts. Popularity. Talent. Beauty. Most popular this, favorite that. 

When I saw my book in this contest, those embedded feelings surfaced. I mentioned to a couple of friends that I wanted to remove my name from the list. And honestly? Yes, I'll be true and admit part of it was fear of being up against much bigger, much more popular authors than myself. I'm not going to lie about that. One thing I am, and that's brutally honest. It scared me to be pitted against popular authors. Here I was, set for rejection. Fifth grade all over again. LOL. 

After whining to someone about it all, I was pretty much made to feel like an attention monger, a prima donna. I was reminded that those popular authors were good people, good writers. And shame on me for bellyaching.

Whoa! Wait a minute! In my heart, this is never----ever since Mr. Harvey's class---been about resentment. I don't resent the other authors. I didn't even resent Rella. But what I do resent is being thrown against the Rellas of the world to prove that I'm not...well...a Rella. Because, as petty as I may seem, it is a truth: popularity contests not only prove who is popular, they are monuments---by virtue of voting---to those who are not.

I simply don't like---for myself, and I only speak for myself and my own work---to be thrown into this whirlpool of contests, the best of this, the most popular that. 

For me, it's not about the others. It's about me and my private---silly, irrational, surely---fears of coming up short.  It isn't right, it isn't grown-up. But it's me.

Being raw and honest again, I'll even admit that I'm just perhaps not emotionally equipped to face the disappointment that comes from competition in contests. I can talk the talk and strut and say it is what it is, that it doesn't bother me. But I am human. And, yes, it does affect me, even though i wished to the gods it didn't. Yes, I have an ego. And, yes, it can get crushed. And it's one thing to crush it on my own by submitting my work to a contest. But to have a proverbial boot hovering over my ego just because my work is out there---in a perpetual competition, simply because it is out there---is terrifying.

And I'm a wimp. I don't have what it takes to not be afraid of comparison. 

J. D. Salinger said There is a certain peace in not publishing during his absence from writing toward the end, during his years when it was found he indeed was writing, but not for publication. His situation, his comment, reminded me of those early days when I just wrote for pleasure. For a not-so-social miss like myself, I knew that peace he spoke of. I loved that peace.

Even a close friend of mine commented that she has seen the difference in my passion between my early writing-just-for-me days and my writing-for-publishing days. The days when writing wasn't a job, it was a hobby, a very private solace shared with only a handful. I miss those early days.

I wonder. Could I disappear from the social vortex and just...write? And never, ever be cognizant of the industry around me? Would my work be strong enough to pull the weight for me on its own?

Could I be this recluse writer-woman, this Howard Hughes type lady, who lived happily unaware of her own or anybody else's popularity status? In a mountaintop cabin with my laptop and cat and wind chimes and fresh air and hot tea. And just quietly write beautiful works---how could I not write beautifully in that surrounding?---but nobody ever know anything about me personally? Would my work hold up under such anonymity? Would I really be happy not ever knowing if my work---or me---was popular or not? 

Salinger seemed okay with it. He might have been on to something. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Fear of Water...

Depression isn't just being a bit sad. It's feeling nothing.. --- J. K. Rowling

When I was nineteen, my sister and I took swimming lessons at a local middle school. If she sees this, she'll remember this story.

The instructor was an athletic coach for that school. Young. Good looking. Well-built. Particularly sexy in his swim trunks. You know the kind, you remember him from high school. The gorgeous hunky coach/teacher who all the gals swooned over. I think his name was Fred.

Fred, on our second day of lessons, decided it was time to leave our float boards behind and try out the waters unaided. 

With my fear of water, I knew I hadn't gotten to a comfortable level in my swimming. This pumped up the panic in me. 

My turn came.

"Jump in!" Fred commanded. 

"I don't think I can do this." Me, cowering, about to piss my pretty little swimsuit.


Again, no. 

"Jump in!" Fred's third and final command. 

Oh, hell, Fred must know better, I figured.

I jumped.

The moment my feet paddled against nothing but water, with nothing but water and more water under me---miles and miles of water it seemed to a aqua phobic like me---I panicked even more. 

And when I began to sink, head under water, nothing below, nothing above, I'd never felt such terror in all my life. 

The worst part? In those fear-filled moments when I could manage to get at somewhat above the surface, I saw good ol' Fred. Laughing.

Who will ever know what Fred thought was so funny. My guess? With his virile movie-star looks, he might have been used to gals feigning distress to get him to dive in and help them. Or maybe I just really looked hilarious. 

But my sister, on the sidelines, had had enough of Fred's sink-or-swim tactic. 

She shouted to him, "You get your goddamn ass in there and you get her out!"

So Fred finally plunged in. Unfortunately for him, my panic was at such levels that---when he placed his hands at my waist to push me up above the surface---I was frenziedly clawing at his head, pushing him down. Fred nearly expired in his rescue attempt.

I did not have to swim the rest of the day. 

This week, the vision of that frightful moment has come back to me. Strong. Because this week, I've sort of paralleled that experience with something I've wrestled with recently---depression.

I've spoke of depression before. But, when I mentioned on my Facebook wall about being in depression, I was surprised---and saddened---to see how many others suffer this condition as well. 

Why did the Fred experience remind me of this dark world my mind has been---this depression? 

Because the feeling of floundering, of being in over my head in an Olympic sized swimming pool of life is like that ill-fated swimming lesson.

In this big, huge nothingness where there's no bottom to touch your toes to, no shore to reach out to, it's a traumatic experience. There are people---like Fred---on the sidelines, seeing you are sinking. And, kind of like the handsome instructor, they can't fully grasp your panic because they know how to swim. 

You wonder---sometimes you know---the bystanders, our friends, sigh, There she goes again.  But, like with my sister's intervention at the pool, the blessing sometimes comes in the form of a friend who sees you are sinking. And they reach out. They might not be able to save you, to make it all go away, but they offer a hand to pull you up above the surface.

The saddest, most frustrating part is that others often feel your weird panicky behavior is nothing but self-importance, you're a big ol' prima donna. When, really, you are in a mode of high voltage fear, irrationality and frustration. And you're clinging to them, you're trying to make life rafts out of them. And, who wants to be a perpetual life raft to a panicking swimmer? So you lose those friends. 

Want to know the funny part? Since that awful day, I've learned to swim. Or I guess you can call it that. I can swim confidently in a pool if I can see the concrete sides within comfortable distance. Something to reach for, a safe touch point, as the pool is just too big for a chicken like me to swim without a proverbial net. If I know my head can still be above water if I sink. Which means I can pretty much swim in the shallow end of the pool.

Life has those kinds of touch points as well. Those sidelines and concrete botoms that---when we see them in sight---we feel we can do this swimming thing. And these little markers are nothing more---in daily life---than just those familiar things that have incorporated themselves into our routines. A friendly face in a store, a neighbor we say hello to every day, the mail man, anything or anybody. 

I even felt the added sadness to my depression when a neighbor in my apartments moved out last week. Not that I knew him well, but I had become accustomed to seeing him, chatting, seeing his cat in the window everyday when I came home from work.

One of my silly, daily markers. Gone. One of those little sidelines, those touch points in the big pool that made every day seem safer, more friendly. 

Sure, maybe it sounds silly. But depression isn't silly, it's not a mood. It's not a tantrum. It's not being sad about a thing, about anything. Like the quote says, it's the feeling of absolutely nothing. How much easier it might be to cope with depression if one could point a finger to the reason and just deal with it. But depression is a void, a big hole of nothing with no rhyme or reason. No warning that it's coming. It is just there like a black fog and you're enveloped before you can resist. 

Depression is not the glamorous fretting in the movies. 

There's no Greta Garbo to play your part in depression. No "I want to be left alone" chic-ness. Nope.

A fellow author wondered, on her blog, if social forums played a part in depression. My thought was a big, resounding yes. Although Facebook denies it, there is actually a legitimate term, Facebook Depression

Looking deep into myself, I think I agree with this. Instead of being a friendly, safe touch point in the pool of daily life, I wonder if it's not more of a sinkhole that swallows those---like me, who might not be emotionally strong enough to deal---into a constant whirlpool of competition. Insecurity because you're in the waters with much bigger talent than yourself. Frustration because, as it's a free-speech community, so much antagonism flows from the walls of the forum. Bad-mouthing, constant innuendos about other people who for---silly folk like me---keep one in constant fear that it's us they're talking about. 

Coming and going of friends on forums---loss of those comfortable touchstones---happen. To them, you were just fish in the sea. To you, they were safe markers, faces you saw every day. You shouldn't have, but you did depend on them.

While I can't do anything about losing these touch points in my life---life is change, after all---I can at least try to look deeper into myself to understand why I so desperately need this sideline markers to feel confident in navigating the social ocean. In navigating life. Period.

I feel like I'm rambling here. But that's how my mind feels. Floundering, kicking, dog-paddling like mad, to stay above water. To make sense of this dark place, to get to the surface. And that frenzy to get there is a rambling, wild and scary feeling.

I'm grateful to those life rafts, those friends, who've let me panic but stood by the sidelines just in case. Oh, hell. Sure, I'm even grateful to ol' Fred.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

500 MILES by Parker Williams...

I get such pleasure from discovering new authors. We all have to start somewhere and I love, love, love the experience of reading the 'starting points' of other authors.

Only...well, hell...this new author, Parker Williams, bounded from his starting point and just jetted right into awesomeness!

This scrumptious story, 500 Miles, is part of an anthology, Mixed Tapes, from MLR Press, by the way. And, if I'm not mistaken, it's Mr. Williams' first published work. What a beautiful beginning he's made with this lovely contribution to this collection of stories.

 Click on Cover to Puchase

It's the tale of Mark, who is fourteen at the beginning and has a huge crush on his older brother's best friend Jase. When the brother and Jase both head overseas for the army, Jase leaves Mark with a cassette tape assuring him he will never leave him. Sure, he will be miles and miles away, but his spirit will never be any further than at Mark's side. And Jase leaves a recording of the song 500 Miles at the end of the message. 

That song carries a much deeper message that Mark will one day understand. And so will the reader by the time they've come to the end of the wonderful story.

This story immediately touched my heart because (no plot, remember, that's what the blurb is for...lol) it dragged me back to my own past, to a secret love for a soldier overseas in a war. To a youngster who loves that older sibling's friend with a yearning that's not any less true just because the dreamer is just a kid. With me, it was the Viet Nam era, a boyfriend of my older sister's. Just like Mark in the story, I wrote letters to him, clung to his every response, dreamed of him and missed him something fierce. 

I daresay many folks have been in this position and will relate to this poignant telling of just that sort of young love. It's a common thing, told in a very UNcommon sweetness that was very, very deep and personal and heart wrenching. 

The other facet of 500 Miles that impressed me, that was such a delight, was the prose. This is not fancy writing. And by that I mean it's natural as breathing yet powerful as a heartbeat. It IS a heartbeat, a lovely VERY personal rhythm that melts the reader right into Mark's very mind and heart. Only problem with that is that the reader's going to bawl with Mark, hate with Mark, love with Mark, smile with Mark and fly to the moon with ultimate happiness with Mark. The reader is going to BE Mark. And that, my friend, is good writing. 

The prose was down to earth. Not like an author telling Mark's story but like Mark sitting on your porch with you, telling it to you himself. The beauty in that is that you come away from the book knowing Mark and never forgetting him. He made a friend of you. 

Mind-blowing perfection in a short package. Perfect characters, very real characters. Perfect, well-synchronized plot fit into that small space. And a perfect ending. 


Tuesday, 25 June 2013


On the battlefields of WWII Europe, Charlie Harris fell in love, and after the war, Roger marched home without a glance back. Ten years later, Charlie receives a cryptic summons and quickly departs for his former lover’s hometown of Whistle Pass.
But Roger Black isn’t the lover of Charlie’s dreams anymore. He’s a married, hard-bitten political schemer who wants to secure his future by destroying evidence of his indiscreet past. Open homosexuality is practically a death sentence, and that photo would ruin Roger and all his wife’s nefarious plans.
Caught up in foggy, tangled events, Charlie turns to hotel manager Gabe Kasper for help, and Gabe is intrigued by the haunted soldier who so desperately desires peace. When helping his new lover places Gabe in danger, the old warrior in Charlie will have to take drastic action to protect him... or condemn them both.

Click on Cover to Buy

As always, I'll leave you to the blurb for plot details. But I will tell you the setting was a new one for me.

A town called Whistle Pass, not much of a place in the big scheme of things; but, in story telling, it's a luscious locale that seems all quaint and homey on the surface but underneath that diners-loaded-with-smiles-and-cherry pie veneer is a snake pit of corruption, violence and homophobia. It's a delicious setting straight out of a George Raft movie. And just as noir and tantalizing.

If Whistle Pass was a motion picture and if I was an Oscar judge, I'd---first of all---give the book an award for its rich description of the world the reader is drawn to. KevaD is extremely gifted in transporting us to the era. The imagery, not only in visuals but all the other senses---smells, touches. With KevaD, I'm inside automobiles, sitting in a diner's booth, hiding in dark corners in the rain, looking in a hotel mirror at myself, smelling the freshly lit match, fingering the worn deck of cards, sniffing a dame's strong perfume and----ah, wonderfully last but not least---rolling around in the warm, fresh scents of masculinity and Aqua Velva and the fingers-on-bristly-beard.

Whistle Pass is chock full of sights and sounds I've personally never experienced in fiction---the railroad. The town is a spot where railroaders lay over and I enjoyed the flavor this aspect contributed to the story.
I'd give Whistle Pass an award for characterization. Charlie and Gabe, Roger and his scheming wife, the waitresses in the cafe and all the townsfolk---good guys and bad guys.

Charlie and Gabe are lavishly realistic.

Charlie's no angel, plain and clear. No bones about that. He's a shell-shocked veteran with some boulders on his shoulders all wrapped up in a gorgeous man's body. Virile, steely, slick, rough, seasoned, keen to his surroundings. He's a lumberjack. Oh, yes, I loved that! Wait! What's a lumberjack doing in a noir-type story? Well, read it and find out!

Gabe? Young hotel manager. Sophisticated, swank, dark hair always perfect, good looking, gentle yet strong as a lion when he needs to be. And he has a secret beneath all that sweet kid coating. Yet I adored him and I accepted him and all his frailties and life decisions. I very much loved his loyalty to his friends and to his new lover Charlie.

And, oh, man, oh, man, did I ever FEEL Gabe's longing for Charlie and Charlie's attraction for Gabe. Sizzling. One of those get-together-why-don't-you-already type relationships that I love to read.

Roger. The former lover who wasn't so lovable anymore. But, in spite of his fall from grace (or at least the grace Charlie had fixed in his mind from the past), I still kind of liked Roger. Because he was, underneath it all, just a human, too. A human gone bad and greedy. And, to me, that's a literary accomplishment to develop the protagonist so carefully that the reader can't really hate him even though they want to.

But, alas, Whistle Pass is not a movie. It's a book. So I give it a whopping award for being a book that reads like a wonderful, well-detailed, opulent, lavish big-screen production.

Highly recommended.


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Dear Father...

 “It never gets easier, missing you. And sometimes I wonder if it ever will.” --- Heather Brewer, "Ninth Grade Slays"

This is a re-post of a blog I originally wrote in 2009, the year my dear father passed away. My sister asked if I would repeat it this year, in honor of Father's Day.

And I might add that, even after four years, I miss Daddy just as much as ever.

Here's the post...

I’m listening to Neil Diamond’s “Dear Father” from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” right now.  Seems appropriate. 

Today is your birthday, Daddy.  You would have been 83. I lost you on February 29, this year. And, oh God, this is your first birthday away from us.  Before you tell me you’re in a better place, I do know that. I find comfort in that. Comfort in the fact you’re whole, healthy. In fact, I still keep seeing visions of you at 18 years old, in the army.  Before I knew you.  And I tell myself it’s really you, not just a wishful thought. It’s you, telling me you’re fine. That you don’t need your oxygen machine anymore. You can go anywhere you want now without having to lug your little portable oxygen device. And you assure me that is something I should be happy about. And I am. Believe me, Daddy, I am. 

But. Of course there is a ‘but’ to this. I went to Walmart on the way home from work today, Daddy. I needed to go the card aisle to get you a birthday card; and, damn it, I got hit with it. Hit like a piano falling from a five thousand story building. You are gone. You are gone. No more birthday cakes. No parties. No cards. Never again. 

I mean, really. Do you realize how hard it was to find the perfect card for you every year? You hated those schmaltzy cookie cutter cards just as much as I did. And they were SO not you. So my yearly mission was to find the card --- the card that reflected you. And let me tell you. It was hard. Because you weren’t one of those Hallmark Daddies. You were good ol’ Daddy, plain ol’ Daddy. 

The cards were right about one thing, though, Daddy. Every single one of those pesky cards said, “I don’t tell you I love you as often as I should.” How did those card writers know that most of us kids do not do that? Well, I suppose they were all kids, too? Well, they were right. I did not tell you as often as I should. Heck, looking back, I don’t suppose I told you much at all.  I figured you knew, anyway. And I’m sure you did. But I bet you would have loved to have heard it more often. 

Well, we won’t have to be bothered by those irritating American Greetings anymore, will we? 

Oh, Daddy, I wish it really did make me feel better to tell myself that. That I’m glad to be relieved of that chore every year --- that quest for the Ark of the Covenant of birthday cards, the Holy Grail of greetings. 

But it does not. I’d gladly spend all night in stupid Walmart to find you a stupid card if you were just still here. All night, I’d look for a card.  I wouldn’t care how sugary it was, how silly. If you could just be here for me to give it to you. 

Well, I’ve whined enough. Your birthday is nearly over now. Good. So maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and not miss you so much? Fat chance.

Daddy, I sure do miss you. I miss you so much. Didn’t get you a card. But --- wherever you may be --- Happy, happy birthday. I love you.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

"FINDING JACKIE" by Lou Sylvre...

What. A. Book. Finding Jackie by Lou Sylvre. 

This was the third installment in the Vasquez and James series by this author (the series also included a short novella titled Yes), and I would advise reading the books in order to get the maximum benefit of the series. 

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First of all, let me mention Sylvre's writing style. I know, I know, I've bragged about it very often---it's magical, lyrical, there's just something about it. How can I describe it? It's not even just the prose, but the presentation. Reading these books, the Vasquez and James delicious installments, I sort of get this light, airy but can-be-very-serious tone as though I'm listening to a delightful narrator with a very simple, very blunt and almost dry humor reading it to me. An arresting delivery like in the film Vickie Christina Barcelona. In fact, I can almost hear Giulia y Los Tellarini singing the zippy tune Barcelona as I read. How Sylvre does this is pure magic. Such serious themes---in Finding Jackie, a kidnapping and torture of a young boy is the heart---and yet presented in a perfect balance of drama and light comedy. A perfect balance.

For instance, I loved this bit: At the Monaco, they’d been offered the Ambassador Suite, but Sonny had insisted the purple furniture would prevent him from sleeping, so they ended up with the Monte Carlo suite. So adorable and yet somber, you just know Rod Serling is just sitting somewhere offstage, narrating. 

Sylvre displayed her trademark knack for showing not telling her characters, and I was particularly touched by the humanness of one character, a drag hooker named Rita:  Well, you know, Vasquez. I know I’m not like I used to be. I don’t draw the same clientele. You know what I mean?” Luki did know. Rita hadn’t been a street-corner “ho.” She’d drawn her clients from the richest, the most prestigious men in Chicago, both the flagrantly criminal and the supposedly legit. That was the reason she’d been useful to Luki. Small-time thieves and conmen weren’t the people Luki needed to know about when he was working for ATF. Rita hooked the big ones, and her trade in gossip was as lucrative as her trade in sex. Or possibly more. When Luki didn’t say anything, Rita deflated a little. She attempted a laugh but choked on it. 

So subtle, just a teency touch of body language, and Rita's entire persona is sewn up in vivid color. A sad wishing that someone would tell her, no, you're still beautiful, you still got it going on, girl.  But no one contradicts her and she deflates but carries on. Body language. A gift of Sylvre's. 

You know I don't talk much about plots, and this is no exception except to say this particular story line was absolutely riveting. Big time. Sylvre knows her stuff. Weapons, computer technology, strategics, logistics, all the goodies that make for good action and adventure.

But...but...Ms. Sylvre also knows something ever bigger, even better. Humans. What one person has that makes another person tick. What one person has that dries another person ape shit. What one person has that makes another crazy with desire. Love, sensuality, deep-in-the-gut emotion, no holds barred. The good with the bad, the pretty with the ugly. Humans. The way we really are. 

Sonny James and Luki Vasquez are two of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Something about them...just something about them. Beautiful, gentle but-can-be-a-force-to-be-reckoned-with Sonny James. So loyal, so enamored of his husband Luki. A perfect character, so well drawn I feel as though I could just pick up the phone and call him. So well drawn I find myself wildly attracted to him. 

And then there's Luki....confirmed bad-ass who is growing a heart over the course of the series and who is softening up a little because of that heart. 

Their dynamics---in and out of the bed---are fabulous. Oh, and speaking of the bed. One unforgettable scene---in a bath tub---ay-ay-ay! I even stopped reading to make a comment to the author. Oh, hell's bells. Can Sylvre write the intimate scenes. And they are not hump-it-baby-oh-yeah-baby fare. Her sex scenes are hot as Hades yet so damn classy. The lovemaking session by the water. On the rock. Beautiful, intense. 

For you readers who are devoted Vasquez and James fans, you will not want to miss this installment. There are excellent flashbacks into Luki's past, when he was eighteen. There is a final confrontation with his childhood, when he faces the ghosts---thanks to the love and patience of Sonny---of the incident when his face was slashed. It's a wonderful insight into Luki, his growth, his triumph over his demons. And a beautiful tribute to his Sonny who has stood by him through all these fabulous books.

Finding Jackie. If I gave stars, I'd have to give this read its own constellation. Yes. It is that good. 

Thanks, Ms. Sylvre, for another beautiful, satisfying read.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

YES by Lou Sylvre...

First thing in order is an apology from the Zampster to the author, Lou Sylvre, because I had not read this short story sooner. I had my reasons for holding off on this giant gem of a book, but---now that I braved the emotional waters to read it---I only regret I didn't do it long ago.

I'd been blunt when Ms. Sylvre announced the release of this book. The subject matter---cancer---sent ice through me, scared me. Just prior to the release, I'd lost my son-in-law to cancer and I quickly informed Lou I was pretty sure I wouldn't be touching this book, that I could NOT deal with this issue in fiction. To compound my stance, it just so happened I'm an ardent fan of the characters of this series by Ms. Sylvre----the Vasquez and James series---and here the author was, telling me my favorite character was going to have cancer. No can do. Nuh-uh. Next book, please. 

Well, since the author has another new Vasquez and James release coming up, I wanted to prime myself for the upcoming story (titled Finding Jackie), and bite the bullet by reading this short story titled simply Yes

And my initial reaction after finishing this story? A resounding DAMN!

I seriously doubted----remembering the long emotional journey in watching my son-in-law battle cancer---that a story could efficiently address the complex nature of the illness. The moments from diagnosis to treatment to healing or the unthinkable---death. I was so sure I'd come away from the book with all sorts of points that had been missed. The emotions. The details. 

I was wrong.

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Somehow, Ms. Sylvre did manage to address this issue so fully, beautifully as I should have expected of her. She's a magnificent author, a gifted wordsmith, a talent I am in awe of. And why I ever doubted her handling of this subject, I don't know. 

Luki Vazquez, as his fans have grown to know, is a bad ass. How was he going to handle the big C? How was Sonny, his lover of six years, going to handle it? 

For one thing, with an odd sort of Luki-style humor which has become a beloved trademark of Lou Sylvre's writing style. 

Remembering the day I sat with my father in the doctor's office when he got his lung cancer diagnosis, I laughed out loud at the truth to this moment with Luki when he is delivered the same news….and made his lung look like an almost egg-shaped hole, and the tumor look like a yoke splatted in the middle of it. Mr. Vasquez, I’m afraid you have a fried egg in your lung. Luki didn’t realize he’d chuckled aloud until Sonny clamped a hand on his shoulder, and he saw a shocked look on the doctor’s face. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I was thinking about… something….” 

True Luki Vasquez. True human. So real. That haze between reality and disbelief.

Chills gripped me. My Luki. But with Sylvre's lovely sense of humor, the scene was put on a realistic, personal level. This fictional character is a real guy, just like you and me. 

The most beautiful, poignant, powerful part of this story, though, is Sonny's battling with the illness of the man he loves more than his life. 

The confusion, the pain, the hope, the loss of hope, the denial, the helplessness, the protectiveness, the over protectiveness, the craving for sex and intimacy but making do because love is more important than sex, the thought---that awful thought---of maybe losing them forever. The anger because they got sick in the first place. 

And---oh, damn---Sylvre even added humor into one of the most base aspects of it. A moment when Sonny worries that Luki has expired in the bathroom...What if Luki died in some laughably compromising position? What if he, the most dignified and contained man Sonny had ever met, was held up for ridicule just for dying wrong?

Luki's illness carries into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, so very perfectly. I won't say much more, in fear of gushing too much. Although I sure could gush without end.

Luki's Christmas gift to Sonny. A tribute to how very little Sonny really wants from Luki---or should I say how much? Sonny's gift to Luki. Just the ending is reason alone to warrant reading this luscious masterpiece of prose. 

And speaking of the ending. Lou Sylvre at it again, weaving this tapestry of words into the perfect ending with the end that ties the whole thing together. And the meaning behind the title, Yes. Ah!

So I apologize, Lou Sylvre. There's a reason you're one of my most beloved authors, why I love your work. You managed to incorporate a full-blown journey, jam-packed with every emotion possible, into this short story.

 I should never have doubted you.