The Dusk Parlor Blog-Tour (Novella by SA Stovall)
Hello world and internet! I’m SA Stovall and I’m blog-touring my latest novella, The Dusk Parlor, a contemporary romance set in Japan as part of Dreamspinner Press’ ‘World of Love’ novella series. Feel free to follow along as I post articles, sneak peeks, and share a little bit of my love for Japan (April 27th to May 9th)! I hope you all enjoy!
Main Character: Hugh Harris
Hugh moves to Japan after the death of his father and for the first few weeks is judged as a “foreigner” for being hāfu—half-Japanese, half-American. Things start to turn around when Hugh gets a job at the Dusk Parlor, however, which leads us straight into an excerpt from the novella.
I hope you all enjoy!
Dreams are the playground of memories, and every night I find myself jerked from one happy recollection to a quagmire of dread without warning.
First I’m awash in the warm glow of childhood memories—my father taking me out to play catch, my mother walking me through the local parks to spot butterflies—but the next moment I relive the funeral and the tense soul-crushing hours I spent in the hospital waiting to hear if at least one of my parents would make it through the accident.
My father died. My mother lived, but she didn’t walk away without permanent injury.
I awake on my tiny mattress, my heart pounding and my body drenched in sweat.
I sit up and run a hand across my face. With a deep breath, I glance around my apartment. It’s tiny enough that I can see the entire layout from where I sit in the main room. There’s a bathroom, a kitchen and… that’s it. The “main room” acts as a bedroom and living room all in one.
The place is empty except for me, my mattress, and a couple of dishes stacked in the sink. The silence thickens with each passing moment. It’s the exact opposite of my old home back in Sacramento.
The city of Kobe wishes me good morning with the hushed melody of urban life. There are cars and people and businesses, but the noise is a few decibels quieter than in the States. I glance to the window and see the orange rays of the sunrise.
Although I have nothing planned for the day, I get up and begin my daily routine regardless. A strict schedule is burned into my mind from years in the Army—especially after boot camp. I stretch, do my push-ups followed by my sit-ups, and finish with a jog around my apartment complex.
The neighbors give me odd glances as I go past, despite having done it for the last few weeks now.
Most people in my apartment complex ride bikes, and I see them saddling up for a commute into town. I think it’s a great way to get around, especially given the packed and dense city streets, but the subway suits me more. Japanese bikes have always been too small for me to ride properly.
Once I reach my apartment, I hop into the shower and rinse away the bad dreams that linger on the edge of my thoughts. The water on my body soothes me, and I remain in the stall far longer than I should. Japanese showers are wonderful. When compared to American showers, they’re huge, taking up half the bathroom and allowing for a bench to sit and relax. Of course, that’s the exception to the rule. Most things, when compared to their American counterpart, are tiny.
I force myself to think of something else—something other than my dreams.
My musings turn to Ren. I don’t know if he’s the type of guy who wants a relationship, but I’d be willing to bet he’s the type who doesn’t mind “fuck buddies.” I’ve always had a hard time dating due to my commitments with the military…. Of course, that isn’t a concern now.
I step out of the shower and dress for the day in loose cargo pants and a T-shirt.
My plan had been to explore the museum of literature—on my mother’s recommendation—but I know that won’t help me find a job.
Ren’s offer to work at the Dusk Parlor is tempting… but a part of me doesn’t want to mix work and pleasure. If I am going to hook up with Ren, it would be weird to work with him as well…. Then again, it’s not like I have a million offers on the table. Perhaps I should go and see what he has to say before turning it down.
I can’t live forever on what little savings I have. My aunts and uncles in Kobe have been kind enough to offer me support and a place to live, but I’ve been independent most of my life, and I want to keep it that way.
After gathering my wallet and keys, I exit my apartment and make my way deeper into town, taking my time to enjoy the sights.
Suma Beach glitters in the sunlight, and I admire the blue waves and flocks of people under their umbrellas. Signs mark all the entrances to the beach—NO TATTOOS—and I chuckle to myself as I pass them. I don’t have any tattoos, but I find it funny that the city would be concerned with such a trivial thing. How did an ordinance like that ever pass through the legislature?
Men and women alike stop and stare as I make my way by. I grit my teeth and ignore their curious susurrations. My mixed blood is easy to spot in the cloudless midmorning light.
I try to push the thoughts from my mind, I really do, but I’m not sure how to deal with the situation. Instead I focus on the airport island out in Osaka Bay. It’s beautiful. It calms me for another long hour of my walk.
My feet are sore by the time I reach my destination. It’s high noon, and I’m sweating from the heat.
The multistory building looks different in the light of the sun. There aren’t lines of people, and I suspect that most of the nightclubs aren’t open yet. I decide to try the Dusk Parlor regardless, just in case Ren is there. My body tells me I want to see him, and intellectually I know he’ll pull me from my doldrums.
I take the elevator and exit on the “fifth” floor. The lone solid wood door to the parlor appears shut, but when I try the handle, I find it’s unlocked. I allow myself into the dark hallway and walk inside unimpeded.
The place has no windows—the sun could be plummeting to earth and not a single ray of light would pierce the dark ambiance of the Dusk Parlor.
My gaze lands on the sole person manning the bar. Kaito glares at me through his glasses.
“We are closed,” he says. “Please return during standard business hours.”
The man is dressed just as sharp as he was last night. His slick suit and white gloves give him a butler vibe, but he holds himself with more pompous pomp than most princes.
“Ren told me to come back today,” I say as I cross the large room over to the bar. “He mentioned something about a job.”
Kaito turns his gaze down to a mountain of paperwork. There are open boxes all around the bar and on the floor—each box containing a shipment of bottles and food—and he seems to be taking inventory. Some of the paperwork is riddled with numbers and complex math, but Kaito closes it all the moment I draw near.
“We do not have need for a person such as yourself,” Kaito states. “Thank you for your interest.”
He doesn’t even look up from his work. I hold my breath for a moment before asking, “A person such as myself? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I think it is obvious. I trust you can find your way to the door.”
“Because I’m hāfu?”
“Because you are unsophisticated,” he drawls. “This is a high-class establishment, not a construction yard. I think your talents would be best utilized elsewhere.”
His statement rocks me for a second and all other emotions are burned up by my ensuing anger.
I storm up to the bar—directly across from him—and slam a fist down on the smooth surface. Kaito snaps his gaze to mine, a look of shock written across his face.
“I’m sick of people judging me before they know anything about me,” I say in a tone of reserved rage. “I can handle whatever level of sophistication this job requires.”
“Yes, and you have proven that perfectly by demonstrating your brute force all over my bar.”
I open my mouth to retort but shut it when I realize I have nothing. I pull my hand back and shove it deep into my pants pocket.
Kaito sneers and returns his attention to his work. “You can lie to yourself all you want, but we both know you are not suited for this line of work.”
I didn’t even want this job when I walked in, but now I can’t stand the thought of leaving without it. I can show him—I can show everyone here—I’m not some sideshow of mixed blood. I’m not some muscle-bound thug or amateur. I’m not some rowdy American or college-age frat boy. I can work a fucking bar, goddammit!
Former soldier Hugh Harris is a “hāfu”—half-Japanese, half-American—and, after his father’s death, he returns to Kobe, Japan, in order to connect with his mother and her family. Confused and feeling out of place, Hugh finds work as a waiter at an upscale nightclub. The other employees, an odd and eclectic bunch, quickly make him feel at home, especially the bartender, Ren, and the club host, Kaito.
But the tranquility doesn’t last forever. As Hugh gets deeper into his relationships with both men, he finds they may have dubious connections with the yakuza in town… and when the local street leaders send their enforcers to the Dusk Parlor, Hugh, Ren, and Kaito may be in for a storm of trouble.
S.A. Stovall grew up in California’s central valley with a single mother and little brother. Despite no one in her family having a degree higher than a GED, she put herself through college (earning a BA in History), and then continued on to law school where she obtained her Juris Doctorate.
As a child, Stovall’s favorite novel was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. The adventure on a deserted island opened her mind to ideas and realities she had never given thought before—and it was the moment Stovall realized that story telling (specifically fiction) became her passion. Anything that told a story, be it a movie, book, video game or comic, she had to experience. Now, as a professor and author, Stovall wants to add her voice to the myriad of stories in the world, and she hopes you enjoy.
You can contact her at the following locations.