Reading in Baltimore – 3 and 4 of 4

These are excerpts from the book Red August, by H.L. Brooks – read by actors Erica Smith and Will Hardy. It is available at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Nobel and iBooks, among other places. Links can be found at http://www.hlbrooks.com

In this scene Red/August has been meeting her handsome neighbor near the stream that runs down their properties. They read books and discuss them.

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This reading took place at Scarborough Fair Bed & Breakfast in Baltimore, Maryland.

http://www.scarboroughfairbandb.com/

*This is an abridged version meant to be read out loud.

Book Synopsis

What if you found out that you were descended from a long line of clandestine fighters, and that your family was still at war? Or that the love of your life was something other than human? August Archer thinks she’s a normal teenage girl—even though she has been having disturbing and erotic dreams about wolves lately. Still grieving over the loss of her bookish, charming father, and wondering over his final gift of a red hooded cloak, August is uprooted from her New York City apartment to a tiny town in Maryland, and the rambling Victorian house where he grew up. There she meets a wise woman with a gift for herbal medicine, the gentle old man who keeps the house in repair and the grounds thriving, and her new neighbor: an enigmatic, irresistibly fascinating man who refuses to talk to her, yet who seems to know her better than she knows herself, and fuels her most intense romantic fantasies. But it’s when August begins to coax her feisty Scottish grandmother out of her self-imposed catatonia that a strange tale of werewolves and hunters emerges—one in which the man of her dreams may be her family’s oldest enemy—in this modern-day telling of the Red Riding Hood story.

 

Reading in Baltimore – 2

This is the second of four videos of Erica Smith and Will Hardy reading excerpts from Red August.

In this chapter, titled Talking to Strangers, August/Red is working at an apothecary in town, of which “Wolf” is a customer.  He enters the shop and August hides when she sees him.  This is their second encounter, the first being on Halloween night the year before.  That night August immediately felt attracted to her new neighbor, but he wouldn’t give her his name.  He didn’t even shake her hand when she tried to introduce herself, telling her they couldn’t be friends in such a small town.

You can watch the first video in my previous post, or go to YouTube HERE.

This reading was done at the lovely Scarborough Fair Bed & Breakfast in Baltimore.

Book Synopsis

What if you found out that you were descended from a long line of clandestine fighters, and that your family was still at war? Or that the love of your life was something other than human? August Archer thinks she’s a normal teenage girl—even though she has been having disturbing and erotic dreams about wolves lately. Still grieving over the loss of her bookish, charming father, and wondering over his final gift of a red hooded cloak, August is uprooted from her New York City apartment to a tiny town in Maryland, and the rambling Victorian house where he grew up. There she meets a wise woman with a gift for herbal medicine, the gentle old man who keeps the house in repair and the grounds thriving, and her new neighbor: an enigmatic, irresistibly fascinating man who refuses to talk to her, yet who seems to know her better than she knows herself, and fuels her most intense romantic fantasies. But it’s when August begins to coax her feisty Scottish grandmother out of her self-imposed catatonia that a strange tale of werewolves and hunters emerges—one in which the man of her dreams may be her family’s oldest enemy—in this modern-day telling of the Red Riding Hood story.

The Hound and the Hedgehog: A Radio Play

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This is the handmade cover for the original “The Hound and the Hedgehog” which was made out of a Harry Potter book that fell apart.  I later acquired a stuffed hedgehog and gave him the features of our lovable and fearless Pokey.

Weatherhill and Raven Heights Radio Presents

The Hound and the Hedgehog
Written by William Hardy
Script Adaptation by Heather Brooks & William Hardy
Directed by Heather Brooks

Private eye Don Keyhote knew he was in for it the minute he laid eyes on the gorgeous dame in the red dress who walked into his office that gray December day. But what starts out as a lost pet case turns into a whole kennel full of trouble for the doubtful gumshoe as he encounters a shifty bird, a hulking gorilla, and a slippery weasel—not to mention a hedgehog who’s handy with a cocktail sword—in this semi-hardboiled shaggy dog story.

The Players
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William Hardy as P.I. Don Keyhote & Pokey

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Erica Smith as Heather Fields (the Woman in Red) & Myra

Robin Elaine, Erica Winter & Heather Brooks as Ferret, Monk, Detective Brannigan and sound effects.

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Coming for the holidays is a fun little radio play that has been adapted from an adorable book written by William Hardy.

“The Hound and the Hedgehog” was a short story written for me as a gift one fine winter holiday season several years ago.  It contains lots of little inside jokes, like many of the animals mentioned happen to look a bit like our family pets.  Not to mention (though it seems I am mentioning it) the damsel in distress is named Heather and she bears a striking resemblance to another Heather you might have heard of (me) before I let my hair go white and pink and cut it all off.

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This is Hera.  She used to live with me when I had a house and a yard and my family was still all together.  She now lives with Robin in the most doggiest of happy dog havens.  Hera is part hound and therefore sort of a mascot for “The Hound and the Hedgehog,” even if the hound in the story is the gumshoe.

I think about this little story every holiday and Will reads it to our family (at my pressing) from time to time because it’s just short enough to do that.  My love of radio plays, which started with Seeing Ear Theatre’s production of Snow Glass Apples written by Neil Gaiman, had me thinking maybe I’d like to be involved with a radio play some day.  Then, after a couple of podcasts with Raven Heights Radio I read some of “The Hound and the Hedgehog” to Raven Heights mastermind and podcast goddess Erica Winter and asked her if she thought she’d be interested in it as a voice play.  She loved the story and the idea, and so we thought it would make a good bit of story-time around the holidays.  Partly because some of it takes place around the holidays and partly because it’s family friendly and fun.

We’re set to have a rehearsal in a couple of weeks, then we will record in early December.  Erica tells me she will be putting it on the Raven Heights website right before the holidays.

Below are some of the other animals that make cameos in the story.

 

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Copyright 2015 Weatherhill

Sexy Stuff

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I put sex in my stories.  I addressed some of it in a podcast before the release of Red August – but I thought I would blog about it, to explore it a bit further.  If you want to listen to the podcast you can hop on over to Raven Heights Radio and listen to that episode HERE.

To state the obvious, some people aren’t bothered by sexual scenes in a story, and some people even seek out books with sexual passages.  Then, there are readers who don’t like sex in a story, and regardless of my reasons for including sexual scenes, it’s not going to really make them like it.  So, for those who are curious, here are some thoughts about about those sexy bits of Red August  and also, why you will find sexy bits in my second book in the series, Red Archer, as well.

When I first conceived of writing a fairy tale, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at an erotic short.  I had listened to a podcast from an erotica author who cranked out many erotic shorts a month and makes a good living at it.  I was at a bit of crossroads in my career life and wanted to switch from focusing on art and photography to writing.  Naturally, I wanted to write something that would be financially supporting.  So, I figured I would try out this model mentioned in the erotica writer’s podcast.  I’d write something under 10k words and I would self-publish it for 99 cents and move on to the next fairy tale.  However, once I got to writing the character of August Archer and her budding age-gap relationship with werewolf Faolan Conall, I couldn’t just stick to the erotic stuff – I wanted more story.  Eventually, there wasn’t a lot of sex in the story left, but what was there was pretty hot.  So, what could I do now but finish the story?

I had believed writing erotica might be a good route for me because my first ever paycheck as a writer was back in the late 90s and it was a short erotic story for Playgirl.  I figured I could channel that part of myself and write something short and steamy – but I failed.  I just wanted to know more about the characters.  I wanted to know where they would end up and all of the adventures they might get up to as their relationships developed.  So, I decided instead to write a modern fairy tale adaptation and put sex in where it felt right to me.  That’s how Red August was born.

I am a sensualist.  I immerse myself in the clicks of a keyboard and the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the sweet and rich melting of chocolate on my tongue, the tickle of the hair on the back of my neck and the warm pressing of my lover’s lips to my cheek – all while just sitting here at my desk.  These things cannot be sorted out from each other.  They are interwoven.  Eggs, flour, milk, sugar, all baked together – touching and creating a full experience.

Sex, passion, lust and hormones are a huge foundation of our motivations as humans, even if we don’t want to admit it, despite the reality of it being all around us.  I realize for some people, they’ve got that part of themselves pretty locked down.  They keep it private.  They don’t like it intruding on their stories about adventure or danger.  But, for me, there is a message in that:  sex intrudes, whether we want it to or not.  If people want to read it just to enjoy the idea that there is this horny teen girl who has an interesting paranormal back-story – I am totally fine with that.  The book belongs to the readers once you put it out there.  The author’s intent sometimes isn’t clear, or the person reading it might not have an experience or perspective that lets the message in.  There is nothing wrong with any of that.  If sexy writing isn’t for you, I’m not trying to convince you otherwise.  I’m just saying that I can’t help but include it.

The messages I got when I was younger, compared to those that I claimed for myself later, helped me come to a place where I recognize that sex is embraceable as a whole part of yourself and not something to try and put in a box.  There are so many contradictions in our society about sex.  We require consent, but don’t always prosecute rapists.  Or we get consent, then are accused of breaching a boundary we didn’t know was there.  We say girls are too young to dress in a sexy outfit or buy dolls that push sex, then we sell everything with sex.  There is a calamity about young girls wearing sexualized make-up and clothing, then we deny that clothing or appearance can be sexualized (feminist perspective).  It’s confusing as hell.  And there is no way for me as one human to un-confuse it.  But what I can do is write about a girl who is in touch with her sex drive.  I can also make an attempt to not romanticize things that are unhealthy.  I will write about things that are not healthy happening in a relationship, but I make great effort to not romanticize or objectify in my story.

I wrote about August’s desires and private actions because that is part of who she is.  Her body is doing things that are invisible to those around her, but hormones and chemicals rage on inside of her nonstop.

For me, I think part of the problem is that too often, women aren’t portrayed as whole individuals.   When we get explicit sex in a story some feel it defines the story, putting it into a specific slot (I know), saying “oh, this book is about sex.”  There’s nothing wrong with reading it on that level.  But that’s not what I’m trying to create – a story that’s primary objective is titillation.  My objective is simple – to show a whole girl, with her desires, menstrual cycles, awkwardness and cleverness–all the good and the bad–and sex is part of that story.

Take all of the above and add onto it the fact that August is not just a human girl.  She has hormones of something other than human coursing thorough her veins.  Her blood is rich and heavy with longing and the drive to procreate to a point she doesn’t understand it.  Furthermore, because as a general rule, people don’t talk much about sex to each other, she’s confused by it.  And if teenagers do talk about those things, particularly before the information age (my book is set in the 1980s), they can be misinformed.  They don’t know how normal it is to be having these aches and desires.  It’s an aspect of our animal side that is going on in our brains as we go on with all of the activities of our day.

There is a well-loved episode of the original Star Trek series in which this subject is the main theme.  Pon Farr highlights the power of hormones and instinctual drive.  You won’t get to see any steamy sex scenes with Spock, but I would have liked to.  I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there isn’t some fan fiction out there taking that episode much further than shirtless fight scenes on Vulcan.

Hormones and bonding chemicals, like oxytocin, are fascinating and still a bit mysterious.  I’ve learned a lot about bonding chemicals in the past four or five years. They are addictive and  powerful and can affect you like other drugs – clouding your judgment, making you feel euphoric, or numb.   When people have affairs, they can get the sense that they don’t love their earlier partner any longer because of the bonding chemicals that take over their brains with the new person.  This isn’t a mystery and it isn’t new, but it’s overwhelming and sometimes ruinous.  I like exploring the way these bonding chemicals can make us hold on to relationships that were cut short, or idealize people who aren’t good for us.

I attempt to write sex in my stories sensually rather than what somebody might consider raunchy.  But, if you like your sex tucked away, as an aside mention, or avoided like tip-toeing through a garden, then the Red August series probably isn’t for you.

Writing in a Bubble

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You can’t write in a bubble.  You’re influenced by everything you’ve been exposed to.  Good, bad, whatever.

I think it’s important to keep that in perspective when you are feeling a bit like you can’t offer up a fresh voice in stories.  It’s a hurdle I had to overcome.  I had a sense that I couldn’t add anything to the conversation.  I had a sense that even though I wanted to reach out and touch people with a story about different kinds of love and struggles, I didn’t know if I had anything special to add.

In the end I decided to just sit down and write the story.  To write down the show unraveling inside of my head.  To see where it takes me.

Now that I have finished the first book – Red August – I am thrilled that book two – Red Archer – is already full of life in my mind.  It’s crackling with energy and concepts that are exciting to me and I can’t wait to write them all down.  My sweetheart has been helping me with ideas about love and bonding and even obsessive feelings and where they come from and how to work with them.

Right now I am hip deep in props and set decorating for an amazing play written by my friend Audrey.  My sweetheart is in the play, too.  So we’ve been all about the play these past couple of months and “hell week” is next week, so it’s going to get busier before it lets up.  But come November, once a brilliant run of Maytag Virgin is over, I can settle back into working on book two.

I’m always looking for people who have insight on the Celtic/Scottish and Irish aspects of the story as well – if you have some thoughts, please send them along (email below).  I’m interested in traditions related to weddings, marriage, birthdays, holidays, things lovers might say to each other and other cultural things that would be hard for me to know about without living there.  I always want to research well and be respectful.

****REVIEWERS***

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If you would like to review Red August (ebook only at this time) please contact me at hlbrookswrites(at)yahoo(dot)com.  See my Media Kit page for images and synopsis.  Please note, the book contains sexual material.

Late Night Driving

Went on a late night drive with Will. He was restless and happy when he came home from rehearsal. Hair mussed up from his moon roof, chilled-neck hug and then a pat on my backside. “Let’s go on a drive,” he said.  “I want to take you out somewhere.  I don’t know if anything is open, but the night is amazing and I want to take you out.  Maybe we can just drive and find a little place.  Soft-serve maybe.  Maybe pie.”

I said I didn’t think we’d find any soft-serve, but maybe we could find a diner and some pie.  “Yes, let’s go.  I’d love to take a ride with you.”

Cool and humid night air.  Windows down. Talking about stuff we did when we were kids and why we’re always trying to capture that wonder you feel when you discovered something new. The roads were empty and nothing was open. Missed the I-Hop by ten minutes. We’d pass clumps of trees filled with singing insects, then buildings covered in windows, lights on, but no life inside. End of the world, but not.  Empty parking lots. Parts of Route 1 smooth as butter all black and shiny, other parts pocked and shaking the car. We were holding hands and saying I love you, too many times (if there is a such thing, when you mean it, and we did).

Hardly anybody was driving like a jerk and mostly we had the road. It reminded me of being on the road with my family – military, back and forth – California then Virginia, then California, then Virginia, then Texas and Virginia again.  Many hours on the road, watching the streetlights go by.  There was no portable DVD player, just the games my mom and dad made up.  Dad would say, “Hey, there’s a rub-broka,” and we were supposed to figure out what it meant. Mom would toss out “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” questions and my sister and I would play “Paddidle.”  When games grew old it turned to sisters annoying each other.

“Mom, she’s touching me!”

“Stop touching your sister!”

“Mom she’s not on her side!”

“Stay on your side!”

Stopping at I-Hops and Shoney’s and Denny’s on whatever route my dad decided for this trip. There’s something exciting about eating in a nearly empty diner after midnight. That’s still true for me.  A middle-of-night visit to Silver Diner excites some part of me that’s still wild and still seven.  You’re not supposed to eat in the middle of the night.  You’re not supposed to especially eat in the middle of the night at a restaurant.  Always – silver dollar pancakes and “dippy eggs” – usually with milk, or hot chocolate (with whipped cream) if I could convince my parents. There is something decadent about a spherical scoop of whipped butter that spreads neatly over the hotcakes. Mom would eye my syrup portion – I always overdid it, even for a runty beanpole of a kid, she didn’t like my sugar addiction. Grape Nehi, grape-jelly donuts (powdered please), grape Now & Laters, grape Pixie Sticks, grape Tootsie Pops.  I might have had a thing about grape.  I ate a lot and burned it hard and fast, running, climbing, skating, swinging, flipping, jumping – nonstop.

Will and I talked about camping and fishing and he kept laughing and telling me how cute I am, and I held it.  He told me his family went on a lot of camping trips and I tried to count mine.  Not a lot, but enough, I thought.  And for some reason paddle-boats were amazing to me.

He’d rub my thigh with his palm.  We’d talk about the empty buildings.  The lights.

“Does that one look open?”

“I think it closes at midnight.”

“Phone says there’s a Tastee Diner nearby that’s 24 hours.”

“That one’s dinky and really a greasy spoon, you sure you wanna try it?”  He knows more about these things than I do.  He knows these roads.  He knows what everything used to be.

“Maybe not.  I’m fine just driving.  Sorry we can’t find any pie for ya.”  He loves pie.

“It’s ok, I’m fine, too.”

We listened to a podcast we recorded together that had just been posted.  We got home before it was over and we sat in the car, windows down, leaning into each other, listening to us telling the story of how we met.

Now we’re both back in the house, distracted by pixels and electronic machines.  But I’m going to end this now and go climb into bed with the love of my life.

Good night.

Red August Quote – Healing

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Find out where to order Red August HERE