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Playing Ball Blog Tour: “One Man to Remember” Excerpt

playingballtourbannerNew York City, 1927

Walt leaned against the brick facade of a Times Square building and watched Babe Ruth get out of a cab. The Bambino was wearing a clean white suit with a matching fedora tilted at a jaunty angle. Walt always found the contradiction of Ruth—the expensive clothes on the odd, triangular body, with the craggy face that looked like it had been in too many bar brawls—to be quite interesting. But there were plenty of reporters in New York dying to follow Ruth around. Walt had another story to pursue.

The Penguin Club was around the corner. It wasn’t Walt’s favorite Times Square establishment. It was a little bland, but that was why he’d chosen it—it was safe. He couldn’t imagine a kid like Skip would do well in the sorts of places Walt really liked to go. He was skittish in the baseball stadium; Walt couldn’t imagine him calm in one of the racier clubs.

He pulled his fedora down over his eyes and slunk down Fifty-Sixth Street. The Penguin was a little off the beaten path—another reason Walt had chosen it—and tonight, Walt wanted to fade into the background a bit, to observe instead of be observed.

He spotted a figure walking down the street from Sixth Avenue and knew immediately it was Skip. He walked with a dancer’s grace, something Walt had noticed at the stadium. As he came closer, Walt saw he was wearing a brown suit a couple of seasons out of style and a battered bowler hat that didn’t really go with the suit. These were forgivable offenses, Walt decided, since he did look pretty great out of a baseball uniform.

“Why, Mr. Littlefield,” Walt said as Skip walked up to him. “You’re a real sheik outside of the ballpark.”

It was too dark to see if Skip was blushing, but Walt imagined from the way he ducked his head that he was.

“I’m still not really sure about this,” Skip said.

“One measly drink won’t do any harm.”

Walt gestured for Skip to follow him. He knew the password, although the door was being watched by a big six named Anthony, with whom Walt had once had a brief and tawdry affair. Luckily, they were still on good terms.

“How are ya, Walt?” Anthony greeted him.

“I’m just ducky. This is my friend John.”

Skip tilted his head, but then extended a hand to Anthony, who shook it.

Anthony said, “You boys can go on in. Although, Walt? If you’re looking for something to do later, Carmela’s performing at that little place off Forty-Third tonight.”

Walt nodded. He loved Carmela’s show, but he was sort of wishing this interview would go long enough for him to miss it. And he certainly knew better than to think Skip would be interested in a show like Carmela’s. “I’ll keep that in mind,” Walt said.

As Walt led Skip into the speakeasy, Skip said, “Who is Carmela?”

Walt chuckled. “Would it terrify you if I told you she is a female impersonator?”

Skip tilted his head again, as if he were taking that in. “Like a man in a dress?”

Playing BallWalt nodded. “Carmela is in fact an Italian fella named Carmine who I’ve known for years. He’s… well, he’s something, to be sure. But his brother owns a bunch of the Times Square establishments, plus a few other places downtown, so he has plenty of performance venues.”

Skip seemed more intrigued by this than put off, which was not the reaction Walt had been expecting. “What does he do in his show?”

“Dances, tells jokes, that sort of thing. Like a one-man vaudeville act. Why do you ask? Do you want to see it?”

Skip shrugged. “Just wondering.”

What an interesting man Skip was turning out to be. The lack of literacy had given Walt pause back at the stadium. Walt’s handwriting wasn’t so abysmal that it couldn’t be deciphered, so Skip’s hesitancy over the words said a lot. But he still had found the place. Asking about school was on Walt’s agenda for this evening. He didn’t know much about Skip except that he was very attractive—he had a round face with a narrow nose and surprisingly plump lips atop that athletic body, and as he removed his hat, he displayed a thick head of wavy blond hair—and he played baseball as well as or better than many of the best ballplayers in the city. He was also, apparently, barely literate and intrigued by the idea of a show like Carmela’s. Walt was fascinated.

Playing Ball will be available September 25th (tomorrow!) from Dreamspinner Press. Pre-Order the book here!

Show and Tell excerpt

KM_ShowandTell_coverlgI posted an excerpt of Show and Tell over here. Go check it out! The book will be out Tuesday! Woo!

A taste:

He appeared at the back of the store. I recognized him, of course, and I saw also that he was even better looking in person, perhaps because he was before me in the flesh instead of an image on a screen. He ran a hand over his messy, curly hair and said something to one of the production assistants. Then he started to walk forward. Toward me. Malcolm Tell was walking toward me. The man of my dreams, the object of my fantasies, that man was walking, and then the producer was nudging me forward and I was going to meet Malcolm Tell.

I put one foot in front of the other, shaking with nerves the whole time. I was aware of everything: of Malcolm, of the cameras, of all the people milling about. But mostly I was aware of Malcolm, who didn’t seem to have noticed me yet, as he was still engaged in conversation with the PA. Then someone—a director maybe—shouted for quiet on the set. Malcolm got to his spot, turned toward the showroom, and grinned. He looked over at me, finally.

Our eyes met.

The world stopped.

Four Corners: Excerpt

I’ve posted an excerpt of my upcoming Four Corners, and you can read it on the book page. The book will be out August 8!

Out in the Field excerpt

David RobertsonThis is Yankees pitcher David Robertson, and he is here because he’s on my shortlist of potential baseball boyfriends. (I mean, seriously. How cute is this?) Also, he would like to tell you that I’ve posted an excerpt of Out in the Field, and you can find it over here. Enjoy!

Kindling Fire with Snow Excerpt

Kindling Fire with Snow CoverMy novella Kindling Fire with Snow will be available from Dreamspinner Press two weeks from today! If you want a taste, I’ve posted an excerpt to the book page. Here’s a teeny tiny piece:

Because here was Kieran O’Malley, who, granted, was often associated in his mind with soft-serve cones and perfect little frosting roses atop immaculate white ice-cream cakes, but who also evoked in Seth’s mind Saturday afternoons spent horsing around in between serving bratty teenage girls, silly conversations late at night when they closed together, and stealing kisses when the store was empty. Here was Kieran O’Malley, the cute guy from the next town over, the first person to see through all of Seth’s masks, to see the person that Seth really was. And here he was smiling, looking the same yet totally different, older, more beautiful, and he was a thirty-year-old in a bar in New York City instead of an awkward seventeen-year-old in an ice-cream parlor in suburban New Jersey.

excerpt: baseball

Babe Ruth!You guys want a taste of my baseball WIP? I wrote this scene this evening.

The dream always started the same way. Matt stepped out of the dugout. He picked up his bat and walked to the on deck circle, where he took a few practice swings. Then it was his turn at bat. He paused to acknowledge the crowd, which gave an uproarious cheer. He walked up to the plate and swung the bat again. Finally, just like Babe fucking Ruth, he pointed. Where he pointed varied, but it was usually towards the left field bleachers.

Anytime he had the dream, he was confident that his bat would connect and he’d drive that ball out of the stadium. Everything from the wind to the velocity of the pitch was under his control. He choked the bat, he lifted it, he saw the pitch, and he swung.

What happened next was a crapshoot. Sometimes he got the home run he expected. He’d run triumphantly around the bases. Best case, the bases were loaded before he got up to bat and he became the hero of the game. That version of the game usually ended when he was hoisted up on the shoulders of his teammates. Sometimes the bat whooshed right over the ball and he woke up just after he heard the slap of the ball hitting the catcher’s glove. Sometimes the bat connected but the ball soared into an outfielder’s glove. Sometimes the ball hit him in the head.

He had the dream the night after Ignacio Rodriguez’s first game. Instead of Cruz or Roger, the person who slapped his back before he got up to stand on deck was the Rodriguez kid. Although, Matt knew even in his dream that Rodriguez was clearly not a kid, he was a man, and a sinfully attractive man at that. His touch was affectionate, supposed to be encouraging, maybe even a promise for something to happen later. It felt a little like a kiss before being sent off to war, only Rodriguez was right there in the trenches with him. More than that, Rodriguez was probably the better player, now that Matt’s knees ached, now that his batting average had plummeted. But in the dream, he was aware of these things, but they didn’t matter, because then he was at bat, then he saw the pitch, then he was swinging.

Slap! Strike 1.

“No,” Matt said. “That’s not how that was supposed to go.”

He choked the bat and held it up. He could see everything as if it were in slow motion. He saw the pitcher spit, his right leg draw up, his glove rise, saw the way his fingers fit around the ball before he threw it, saw that ball flying right for him. He had this one. He could control it. He moved the bat forward slowly, knowing it would connect. Then whoosh! Slap! Strike 2.

Matt cursed. He glanced towards the dugout, where Rodriguez waited expectantly. He could not disappoint this man. He would not. He went through the routine. Practice swing, point to the left field bleachers, Babe fucking Ruth. He had this.

And again, there was the windup. The pitch. The ball hurtling through towards him. The bat slicing through the air. And slap! Strike 3.

Matt fell forward onto his knees. He cried out in anguish. The crowd booed.

He woke up with a start.

excerpt

Here’s a (raw, unedited) piece of the NaNo novel:

For context, this scene takes place in 1959, when our protagonist, Harvey, is 14.

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