The Hollows series
Short stories were where I fell in love with the power behind the printed word, a small little nugget of truth or observation, a “what if” of thought pared down to its simplest thought to make the complex easy. Those masters of the science fiction and fantasy field had created for me a gourmet meal, with its small portions elaborately presented to leave the participant impressed, knowing that they had taken in something out of the ordinary, even if it did leave them hungry for a burger on the way home.
So it was with great pleasure that I accepted Marty Greenberg’s challenge to put together a short story collection of urban fantasy and paranormal romance: tastefully erotic tales of romance, love, and downright inescapable lust running the stylistic temperature from sweet to spicy to tantalizingly dangerous. With urban fantasy’s goal of finding the reason behind the attraction and paranormal romance’s open and honest explorations of love and lust, I found a refreshingly wide span of storytelling styles, but the common thread of an intelligent, strong-willed female protagonist in a little over her head rang true in every story.
I finished deciding that I hadn’t helped prepare a gourmet meal in this case, but instead somehow created a cool, summer fruit salad: a bursting of sweet strawberries for romantic love, the twang of sour grapes for revenge and loss, chunks of apples and peaches—the stories from established worlds we have become familiar with, and the exotic flavor of kiwi and passion fruit—the tantalizing glimpses of something new we’d like to see more of, all mixed up with the sweet dressing of incomparable, good storytelling from some of the best authors in the paranormal romance and urban fantasy field today.
So please pull up a chair in the shade, prop up your feet on the cooler full of the icy beverage of your choice, set the phone on mute, and dig in. Enjoy! And if you’re wondering what kind of fruit I think my work is? That would be the nuts.;-)
MUSIC HATH CHARMS
AS GLEN MANEUVERED HIS CAR OVER THE RUTTED field the sign insisted was the parking lot, Ali frowned out the tinted window at a line of teenagers dressed in white and leading enormous brown cows and wondered if her partner had lost his mind. Bands that played the county fair circuit might be a step above garage bands, but it was usually a small step. Bedford Entertainment needed to sign a group that could pull in some numbers, and she didn’t think they’d find that here.
“What’s up with the kids and the cows?” she wondered as they bounced to a stop next to an impressively rusted pickup.
Glancing past her as he shifted into park, Glen shrugged. “Different leash laws in the country, I guess. Come on, they’re on in twenty minutes.”
He’d brought her here to see a band named NoMan. Five-man, country-rock, fronted by two brothers, Brandon and Travis Noman. One sang lead, one played—well, in country-rock she supposed it was a fiddle, wasn’t it? She wasn’t sure about the name but names were easy enough to change. They were backed by guitar, bass, and drums but she had no information on the musicians.
When asked, Glen laughed. “Backup doesn’t matter, Ali, it’s the brothers you’re here to see. You could back those two with…with boy-band leftovers and they’d still kick ass.”
“A ringing endorsement.”
He laughed again. “You’ll see.”
The stage had been set up at one end of the midway. It had a back and a roof of sorts and the ubiquitous three guys in black t-shirts screwing around with the sound system, but there was no disguising it was actually a hay wagon or that hay bales had been arranged in rows for the audience.
This explained Glen’s instruction to wear jeans.
“How rustic,” she murmured as they settled on a bale at the end of the fourth row.
She closed her hand around his arm. “Please tell me you didn’t sleep with them and you’ve dragged me out to the middle of nowhere to hear a thanks-for-the-fuck audition.”
He laid his hand over hers, large and warm and calming. “I didn’t and it isn’t. Although I would have. Couldn’t get close.”
Leaning around him, Ali realized the bales were filling fast with an interesting cross section of humanity. She hadn’t known baseball caps came in such a wide variety of colors. A closer look at the packed first three rows—the rows between her and the stage—and she realized no one sitting there could be considered either old or young and they all exuded a certain visceral anticipation as they waited for the show to start.
Evidently, NoMan had groupies. A decent enough showing for a Saturday afternoon gig at a county fair but not the kind of numbers that would have kept Glen away from the prize. Nor, more importantly, the kind of numbers that would make them the saviors Bedford Entertainment needed.
On the other hand, if they were as good as Glen said they were, she could build their numbers to the point where they’d become what she needed. And if they weren’t…at least she’d got out of the city for the afternoon. There had to be some truth in what everyone said about fresh air.
“If you’d got to them, would they?” she wondered, determined to distract herself.
Mouth by her ear, he murmured, “I pegged them as enthusiastically nondiscriminating.”
Well, she was all for enthusiasm. Settling her weight against Glen’s shoulder, she found a certain amusement in noting the envious looks being sent her way. Six foot meant a lot of leg in tight jeans, the heavy white shirt emphasized the breadth of his shoulders, and the rolled-up sleeves exposed muscular forearms. It might have been gym muscle, not work muscle, but he didn’t look out of place amid the surrounding country boys. The light dusting of freckles across his nose just added to the wholesome appeal.