My short story, “Whispers of Old Winds,” appeared in the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar.
Today is release day for the novel expanded from the short story. I started enlarging the story almost immediately after it was published, filling in the obviously missing details about the main characters, Sam Daly and his husband Michael Bellomo—something that a few reviewers took me to task for. The original story is included in the first few chapters of the novel.
Here’s the blurb: Sheriff Sam Daly, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his husband, Michael Bellomo, have made a life for themselves in sparsely populated Pine County, in the Colorado mountains. Sam oversees the small sheriff’s department, and Michael sells his paintings and tourist items out of his shop, Needful Things. From the beginning, Sam had known Michael possessed gifts: the ability to see and hear things Sam cannot.
When a report of a body in a massive snow-filled depression up a mountainside sends Sam and his deputy, Digger, to investigate, Sam struggles to reconcile the existence of skinwalkers in Pine County with the world he’s familiar with. Michael, though, deals with this reality through his art, and through the mysticism he’s been gifted. Sam’s effort to discover what is happening cause him to examine his life with Michael from the time they first met. The inevitable conclusion might be that he’ll never understand the mysteries of the mountains, but for the sake of Michael and their love, he’ll have to embrace them.
Cathy’s Café is a homey place with pine log walls and a wooden floor that saw its better days probably fifty years ago. Cathy is Cathy Miles, a fortysomething unmarried woman who has yet to declare her sexuality except for the unspoken evidence of it. Her blond-gray hair is shorter than mine, she wears cargo shorts and hiking boots year-round, T-shirts in the spring and summer, and red-and-black patterned flannel shirts in the fall and winter. Not that that means anything, but to my practiced eye, it does give a hint. Her T-shirts always shout one thing or another in bold letters and vivid pictures. The one with the snarling wolf on it reads Of Wolves and Women. The one with the angry bull’s head staring at you says Bodaciousness. I know. So what? The one she wears today reads If I Wanted Your Attitude, I’d Ask For it!
“Well,” Cathy says as she approaches us, drying her hands on a towel. She stops about a foot away.
“Hi, Cathy,” Michael says.
She looks at me with a slight tilt of her head, then smiles at Michael. “This asshole treating you okay?”
“So far,” Michael says.
I ask her who’s she calling an asshole, and she says, “Who do you think? C’mon.” She motions with her hand and turns. “You can sit where I can keep an eye on the silverware.”
“Walmart tinware is more like it,” I say as she leads us to a table near the streetside window.
“Something an asshole would say.” She stops at the table and pulls a chair out for Michael. “And you,” she says, staring at me with a half smile on her face, “can seat yourself.”
I give her a wink and sit down.
The first time Cathy and I met, we both saw something in each other we liked. We’re both pretty hard on the outside, but underneath we’re about as dangerous as Winnie the Pooh. I don’t know how we figured this out, except that we connected almost immediately after our first short conversation. Yeah, we trade barbs every time we see each other, and we smile at the reactions of others who think we might be serious about it. We’re not. But neither of us will admit that to anybody else. Cathy and I are as tight as two people can be who don’t sleep together.
Michael’s got his head turned toward the window. He’s staring at his store, and I’m staring at his profile. There’s something about concentrating on the side view of the person you love that, at least for me, sends little shivers down my neck. Looking at your lover in the eyes is one thing, but catching the profile is like seeing another sublime dimension of the whole. I savor it for a moment until Melissa, called Missie, arrives to take our order.
Review by Debbie Attenborough
Sam and Michael live happily in the Colorado mountains. Sam is Sheriff and Michael has his store. When the body of a skinwalker is discovered in a massive snow drift, Sam discovers Michael’s gifts are far more than he first imagined.
Struggling to word this review, because I’m not really sure how I felt about it.
The story itself had promise, and I looked forward to reading it, but for me, it fell kinda flat. The skinwalkers appeared, and then were gone. There was some magic and withcraft talked about, visited with, and then said goodbye to. Michael and his gifts? I never got the full picture about those, and I had to concentrate, so I didn’t miss it!
The book flips from what Sam is going through now, to chapters about when they first met, when they moved to the mountains and things that happened along the way. I didn’t quite get the point of those, they didn’t make much sense to the current time line, not to me, anyway.
And, its first person, present tense, single pint of view. To be honest, I didn’t notice the present tense bit so much at the beginning, but towards the end, when I was struggling to finish it, I noticed it more.
There is, listed on Goodreads, a much shorter version of this story, only 38 pages, which was published in November 2015 as part of the Dreamspinner Pres Advent Calendar for that year. Maybe, I’d have liked that version much more than this 315 page version.
But because I DID finish it, and ONLY because I did…
Meet George Seaton
George Seaton’s short stories, novellas, and novels capture contemporary life mostly set in the American west—Colorado and Wyoming in particular. He and his husband, David, along with their Alaskan malamute, Kuma, live in the Colorado foothills just southwest of Denver.