First rule of author club is never talk about author club… OR we will never shut up about the books we write or the books we love. It’s just a fact. Authors fangirl and fanboy four times harder than the average human. It’s a real fact. I didn’t just make that up.
Today on the blog, we have a returning favorite. AM Manay is the gifted author of the paranormal November Snow trilogy.
Psychic vampire November Snow must battle grief, injury, and her own family as she fights evil on all sides. She seeks a cure for the poison sapping her strength and a fairy weapon as powerful as it is dangerous to wield. When it is time to save the innocent and gain justice for her maker, will she find the strength to march through the fire?
Here’s AM Manay:
One of the details of the world I built in the November Snow Series is the problem that fairies and werewolves are having with respect to increasing infertility. As you might have guessed, I have my own history of infertility, which prompted me to incorporate such loss into my series.
Pine’s own marriage and his history of loss are mentioned in a few places, particularly in She Dies at the End and in the short story collection She Sees in her Sleep. Today, I’m sharing with you a portion of a short story I started but never finished. It describes how Pine’s marriage ended and how he met his late husband, Matt.
If you want to know more about Pine and his currently blooming relationship with werewolf Hector, you’ll have to order She Marches Through Fire, set to release on March 28th.
“We just can’t do it anymore.”
Pine looked up at both their sets of parents as he forced the words out. He clutched Primrose’s hand as though it were a lifeline. She was crying too many pink tears to say anything herself.
Prim’s father opened his mouth as it to protest, then thought better of it. The couple had heard all the words before: the threatened future of their people, their duty to their family lines, their only chance for children, for grandchildren. But these words held no power anymore, not in the face of four miscarriages and one preterm baby girl who’d lived only five minutes.
Birch reached over and squeezed Pine’s hand. “It’s alright. God knows you tried. No one can fault either of you. You both deserve a chance to be happy, after you mourn.”
Pine nodded his appreciation but couldn’t manage to say anything else aloud.
“You intend to divorce, I assume?” Rose asked gently. Her eyes were dry. She must have known this day was coming.
Prim and Pine nodded in unison. They cared about each other, of course, but their marriage had always been about producing children for two of the most powerful fairy families in the hemisphere.
“We’ll have the lawyers draw it up when you’re ready,” Birch promised.
It wasn’t unusual for fairies to take part in human wars. It was considered educational among a certain set, a way to stay abreast of the latest technologies and strategies for killing, a way to make connections that could be exploited later. It wasn’t considered terribly dangerous. Bullets were made of lead, not silver, after all, and a fairy’s reaction time being what it was, the odds of getting killed weren’t too high. One simply had to take care that one’s powers weren’t noticed: no miraculously healing the terminally injured, for example. With the werewolf wars over, at least for now, human wars were the only place to get combat experience, keep old skills from getting rusty.
Pine joined up this time so he could practice his skills flying helicopters in combat. It had been a while since Korea. That’s what he told everyone, anyway. He couldn’t very well admit to people that he was willing to fight thousands of miles away from home in an effort to use the din of war to drown out his grief for his daughter and his marriage of convenience.
Pine sat on a camp chair reading, unbothered by the humidity or the bugs or the waiting around for mortal danger to ensue. It was not his first rodeo. He ignored the fresh troops arriving today. It was too depressing to imagine which of their broken bodies he’d soon be fishing out of the jungle to send home dead or crippled. He tried not to get attached to anyone but the people he worked with directly. And how close could he get to them, really, with having to lie about who he really was?
Someone cast a shadow over his book. Pine glanced up to see one of the new arrivals glowering down at him, and he returned his attention to his reading. The new arrival smelled even worse than the grunts usually did.
“You’re lucky there’s so many humans around, fairy, or I would tear you to pieces,” the private snarled. Werewolves got drafted, same as humans, as it turned out.
Pine barely looked up from the page. “It’s your first day here, so you might want to ratchet that attitude back a bit. You start off at psycho, you’ve got no place else to go. Also, you might want to check in with your packmaster before you go breaking any treaties. Lieutenant Cramer, I believe, is his name. Additionally, I’m a captain, and you’re a private, so the next time you decide to talk to me, tack on a ‘sir,’ or I’ll have your sergeant make your life a living hell. Also, it is really wise to piss off a medevac pilot? Basically, what I’m saying is, you’re an idiot. And get the hell out of my light.”
The private seethed. His better angels finally prevailed, and he stalked away. “Welcome to Vietnam,” Pine called cheerily after him, rolling his amber eyes before he caught sight of a friendlier face approaching. “Hey, Ray,” he called to his medic.
“He looks like an asshole,” Ray commented, ambling toward Pine. The pilot and medic were close. They’d worked together for a year and, miraculously, both were still in one piece, no small thanks to Pine’s superhuman reflexes.
“Sounds like one, too.”
“Rumor has it we got us a trainee medic amidst this rabble,” Ray shared. He lit a cigarette. Pine made a face. “I know, the last one was a disaster. They gotta learn the real deal somehow.”
“I know. I just hate when they get themselves killed the first week.”
“Yeah. Well, he’s got a better chance with us than with most.”
“That’s a fact,” Pine agreed.
Marcel was just finishing up when Pine arrived to check on his baby.
“Hey, Cap, look, she’s good as new,” the mechanic bragged, patting the helicopter affectionately.
“Just in time to get shot up again,” Pine said cheerfully. “Thanks.”
“You met the new medic yet?” Marcel asked. Pine shook his head. “Word is he’s a little on the sensitive side, if you know what I mean.”
“Ah,” Pine said noncommittally. He wondered, as he did whenever this topic came up, if he himself ever struck the other troops as being “a little on the sensitive side.” Would they believe that a pilot who’d been shot down two dozen times and lived to tell the tale was a little light in his combat boots? Would they believe that a man’s man could also be a homosexual? Among Pine’s own people, homophobia had died long ago, in spite of their demographic pressures. Its persistence among human beings baffled him.
“Here he comes,” Marcel said, cocking his head toward the kid as he approached alongside Ray.
The child was tall, skinny, bespectacled, and green around the gills. Pine was overcome by the sudden urge to protect him from every evil in the world, an impulse he quickly stifled as he returned the young man’s salute.
“Welcome to the team. What’s your name again?” Pine asked, reaching out his hand.
“Crane, sir,” he managed to reply. “Matt Crane.”
“You’re gonna do fine, Crane. You’ve got the best teacher and the best pilot in Vietnam. Let’s go get ready to fish some poor bastards out of the jungle.”
And Crane did, in fact, do fine. The young man’s nerves disappeared the moment he had work to do. He had the skills, and he had the temperament to stay calm under fire, “sensitive” or not. It wasn’t until they’d gotten their first load of wounded men back to the base that Crane began to shake.
“Come on, rookie,” Pine said, clasping his shoulder. “Let’s find you a drink and a smoke. You earned it.”
Matt and Pine soon became inseparable. This fact did not go unnoticed, but Pine’s reputation was such that no one was about to make an issue of Matt’s perceived orientation to either of their faces. Pine never started a fight, but he was known to finish one with prejudice. The first person on base to mock his mixed racial heritage had learned that lesson the hard way. So if one of the most decorated helicopter pilots in country wanted to take some queer medic under his wing, nobody was going to stop him. No one even voiced the possibility that Pine himself was gay— no one but the wolves, and they only amongst themselves.
Pine and Matt slowly got to know each other. It was months before they even approached the fact that they were both gay, not until they’d gotten a few days leave and had left to spend it in Saigon.
“So they know? Your parents actually know that you’re, you know . . .” Matt was both tipsy and incredulous.
“Yes. Yours don’t, I assume.” Pine was, of course, not tipsy. Fairies don’t get drunk. They don’t even drink. Pine was faking his way through his third beer.
“God, no!” Matt laughed. “They would die. But first they would kill me.” His face turned sad at the truth of that statement.
“I know my parents are not typical. I’m very lucky,” Pine admitted.
“Hey, um, are your parents, like, is one of them . . . are you . . . like, Italian or something?” Matt stammered awkwardly.
Pine decided to have mercy on the poor white boy. “My dad is Black, and my mom is extremely white.” Pine shook his head. “Am I the first brown person you ever had a real conversation with?”
Matt winced. “Maybe?” he admitted. “I mean, where I come from . . . Kansas is pretty white. Your parents sound so great. “
“You can’t help where you come from,” Pine said. “The fact that you don’t seem to be a raging racist tells me at least your heart is in the right place, even if you haven’t ever been anywhere except here. So when did you know you were gay?”
The kid shrugged. “I didn’t know it was a thing you could actually admit to being. I think I always knew I was weird. I knew I felt things that were wrong. I pretended to be interested in girls so people wouldn’t look at me funny.”
“At least you didn’t get married,” Pine offered.
“I was. Got divorced a couple of years ago. Don’t worry, it’s cool. She’s a lesbian.”
Mike burst out laughing before realizing that Pine was being serious. “Wow. How did that happen?”
“We both wanted kids. Our parents wanted grandkids. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out.” Pine looked down, surprised at how fresh that pain still was. He was glad that it was too dark in the bar for Matt to see that the tears stinging his eyes were tinted amber.
“I’m sorry, man,” Matt said, reaching out and touching Pine’s bare arm. Pine took the opportunity to feed on his energy. The taste made him feel warm again, and he swallowed his tears.
“Yeah, thanks.” Pine pretended to take a sip of his drink. “So how does the small town boy end up in Indochina?”
“I just got drafted. Like everybody else.”
“I guess telling the draft board you’re a flaming homosexual wasn’t an option?” Pine asked sympathetically.
Matt barked a laugh. “My dad knows every one of those guys. Also, I’d like to be employed someday. And maybe I kind of thought . . . maybe it’ll fix me. Coming here. Make me normal.” He looked down, his ears burning.
“Make you a real man?” Pine asked sympathetically. “You aren’t the first to think that. It’s bullshit, though. Trust me. Killing people, or getting shot, doesn’t make you a man. You were already tough before you got here, or you couldn’t do the job.” They were quiet for a moment. “So, do you have someone back home?”
“You’re the first gay person I’ve ever talked to. Knowingly,” Matt admitted sheepishly.
“Yeah, the gays of Kansas probably think you’re a cop, or a minister,” Pine laughed. “With that haircut,” he teased. “And the glasses.”
Matt laughed, and then Pine knew.
Oh, no. You are not falling for this babe in the woods. He’s just a kid, and you work together, and you’re in Vietnam, and he could die tomorrow. He is human. You are not, and you can’t tell him. Do not sleep with him. Don’t do it. You’ll regret it.
Of course, Pine slept with him. He kept on sleeping with him for nigh on fifty years.
And he regretted not one moment.