Today we give a warm welcome to author BJ Sheppard who visits our blog on a small blog tour!
BJ shares a great guestpost an excerpt of Always Have , Always Will and there is a giveaway for a Lucky reader of our blog
Title: Always Have, Always Will
Author: BJ Sheppard
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Length: 64 Pages
Genre: Gay Fiction, Contemporary
Imagine losing everything you ever loved in the blink of an eye. For Clayton Palmer, that terrible fate has just become a reality as he buries his lover, Gregg, after a brief and futile battle with cancer. Now, in the house in which they shared their love for all those years, Clay’s own life is slowly fading. In a war with his ailing body, Clay reminisces over the life they shared. Knowing time is running out, memories of their joy and sadness come to him; vignettes forming a road map back to the man he always loved; always has and always will.
“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I’m a fairly new writer, but I completely agree with Toni Morrison’s sentiment. When stories creep into my mind, I am overwhelmed with the need to tell the tale, to share it with the world. There is nothing more satisfying than coming up with a new take on a story and setting it to words on the page to be shared with others who might enjoy it the way I enjoyed writing it.
I like my stories to twist and turn, to have plots that snake away from the obvious and leave the reader poised for excitement and the unexpected. I love to read a book that defies my expectations and leads me down a road I never expected to travel.
Currently, I have multitudes of untold stories flying around in my brain just waiting for the time for me to sit down and tell them. But it’s not simply the story itself that needs to be told. Often, it’s the character’s perspective that needs to be divulged.
Typically, as I have found, some tropes are expressed time and again, with the writer making that story their own by way of the character’s perspective. Often, boy will meet boy, they will fall in love, boy will lose boy, and then he will win him back. Seems like a pretty typical story, but fundamentally, that is what most of our books are based upon.
There are intricacies that need to be considered when telling the story. If you are writing from a first person perspective, you are in the great position to tell the story with firsthand accounts of how each event feels to the character. If told in third person, the story opens up enough for the narrator to keep the secrets of the ending under wraps until the time comes to open the mystery box. The stories essentially may be similar in origin, but it’s how you tell them that sets the books apart from each other.
Proof of this can be found when considering the overall theme of all of the books in our genre. They are all about love, all have a strong emotional connection, a problem at the end of act two and then a resolution in the third act. But, with that, none of our books are the same.
As a writer, I embrace that fact. I will happily write a story as old as time, as long as the take on it is fresh and original. I love to write novel characters that tug at heartstrings or make a reader smile. These characters set books apart from their peer-written counterparts.
So, though I totally agree with Toni Morrison, the sentiment runs deeper. The book that must be written isn’t essentially always a new story. Sometimes, it’s a new character that has a different take on a traditional story. And as a writer, I think it is my duty, my responsibility, to write something new for readers to enjoy, even if it is built on the foundations of a timeless tale of love.
What about you? Are you happy to read a story based on an old trope, or do you demand pure originality in your books? What is more important to you – a mystery that keeps you nibbling your nails, or characters that guide you through the clichés of love with an off the wall take on the events transpiring? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
They say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. I guess I always thought it would be different, that it would be smoother somehow, that things would all line up and play in my head like a drive-in movie. It wasn’t that smooth at all. In fact, it was like I had to fight just to save myself the pain of reliving it. I thought it would play out my entire existence as my vision whitewashed and I slipped into a deep, peaceful sleep. Instead, it came flickering through my mind’s eye in out-of-sync images, with all the best times hand in hand with the worst. I’d never considered seeing the worst of times, it just seemed cruel to make a dying man relive his darkest moments, but in the end, some of the darkness was what I needed to bring me out into the light.
You understand, right? Of course, you do. Was it like this for you?
I guess I wasn’t sure you’d come, that you’d stick around until I was ready to go too. Your hand in mine feels like the most real thing I’ve ever touched, it seems like a lifetime since I held it last. As you lead me away, I know I would follow you anywhere. I’m trying to find words to tell you how much this means, grasping at nothing like I’m running out of time. Something tells me, that where we’re going, time won’t really matter anymore.
There was something I forgot to say, Clayton Palmer thought, as he fumbled with the keys to his house, his heavy travel bag draped in the crease of his right arm. He leaned against the frame and forced the brass key into the Yale lock, a double turn to undo the deadbolt he had engaged on their way out the door the week before. The lock clicked open, and he flung the door wide, the mahogany monstrosity flying back to land against the ancient hat rack behind it. As the echo of his clumsiness died, so did a part of himself.
It was afternoon, only a few hours later than it had been when he’d departed Dublin, yet the hallway was shaded in ominous darkness as he peered across the threshold of the front stoop. He had returned, but to where, Clay was unsure. Limping gently in through the door, he pulled it closed behind him, careful not to fasten it too tight against the outside world. He was relying on people from the outside to take care of him, so he closed it until the latch clicked but didn’t bolt it or fasten the chain. Eventually, someone would come.
Though only in his fifty-fourth year, Clay felt a millennium older, his limbs degrading at an increasing rate, reducing his mobility until he was barely able to function. But he dragged himself forward, dropping his bag by the dark wood table under the ornate mirror. The man who looked back from the reflection was unrecognizable, like it were possible a single week could change a man’s face, but he didn’t waste time glaring at the unknown. He kicked the bag beneath the table with his strong foot, not caring that it would never be unpacked. Still, he was clean, respectful of his living space as he had been his entire life, having always been told that cleanliness was next to Godliness. He was counting on God to come through for him.
The house was as they had left it, everything in its place as if the trauma of the previous month had never visited their lives the way it had. To look around the humble house he had shared with Gregg for ten years, an outsider would not be able to spot a thing wrong with the property. But Clay could see nothing but wrongness in how right everything seemed. Nothing in his world was right anymore. He discarded the keys for the last time, the same hook they had always hung from, now becoming their final resting place. He would never use them again.
The kitchen gave off an air of clinical detachment, nothing there was evident of the love that had existed in the years before. The oven didn’t boast of the meals he had learnt to cook and served by candlelight their first year in the house. The surfaces belied the morning conversations and the synchronicity of their paper-sharing ritual as they prepared their different breakfasts side by side, then retired to the nook with the morning stories. The floor was an aseptic tribute that hid the sex they’d had to christen the place their first night as the lawful owners. This house was no longer a home.
He sighed deeply, moving further into the cold room, searching and daring something to be out of place. Clay’s eyes landed on a bottle of whisky that seemed to grin at him from beside the stove. It was a portent and wanted to be drunk, so he grabbed a crystal glass from a nearby cupboard and filled it up with the amber liquid, his clumsy movements sloshing the liquor over the side of the glass. He didn’t clean it up. He didn’t need to.
Swallowing was harder than he thought it would be, so Clay assumed he was getting further along. Still the alcohol burned on its way down his closing throat, a wash of relaxation punctuating his thoughts as he looked around the kitchen for the final time. He said a prayer, though this time not to God. This time he prayed to Gregg, knowing in his heart that his lover was listening. He prayed for peace, but the words never formed. It was a prayer of will, and he projected it as he cleared the last of his drink.
He slammed the glass against the marble surface of the counter, the loud crescendo at complete odds with the eerie silence that permeated the house. The stark sound only served to illustrate how cavernous the house had become, how alone he truly was. He turned to leave the room, knowing in his mind that peace, like his former life, didn’t live there anymore.
My name is BJ Sheppard and all at once I found myself an author. Such a strange sensation to actually feel you deserve the thing you had aspired to for many years. After all, all it took was computer access and an inner world that reads like a Sheryl Crow song to pound the keys and translate my crazy ideas onto the page. I feel like I could have business cards printed. Maybe wear a black roll neck and perch my glasses on the tip of my nose. I could drink whisky and smoke a cigar and do all those really stereotypical things I imagine all writers do. Perhaps I could get laid a little more? This is not the end. Nor the beginning. Hell, it isn’t even about me. My boys write themselves; I really don’t have that much say in the matter. As long as my characters need a voice, I have two chubby typing fingers and a need to please— watch this space: there is more to come.
An e-copy of Always Have, Always Will
January 5 – The Novel Approach
January 6 – Rhys Ford
January 7 – GGR-Review
January 8 – Joyfully Jay
January 9 – Love Bytes