As you know, my site was trashed, I have to say by my computer, as if my provider is responsible for this; well, that's just unthinkable! Most of what was lost were lines and lines of me blubbering like a spoiled rich kid about not being sure if I could ever write again, boo-hoo, but a few items were important, and will be recaptured here for posterity. Chief among them was my review of Sarah "Jazzfeathers" Zama's new novella, Give in to the Feeling. This was part of a pre-release blog tour she went to great lengths to set up, and it is not my intention that my bit of it be lost, so without further ado, a reprint of my review of a most worthy read by a most worthy writer.
Jazzpunk? Yeah. Most of you have a pretty good handle on what steampunk is, the Victorian era alternate history thing. Project that into the Roaring '20s, with its flappers, gangsters, and speakeasies, and you will find yourself firmly entrenched in the world of jazzpunk. You will also find Sarah Zama, Jazzfeathers, a master of the craft. Sarah has had a book in the works for as long as I've known her, a complicated tale of an Irish girl coming to America with a coin that's been in her family for centuries, and presumably gathered some spirits over that time. Arriving in Chicago, her quest for family members takes her into The Old Shelter, a haunted speakeasy whose ghosts don't seem to mix well with those spirits. This book is being carefully crafted under the title The Old Shelter. I have been blessed to read excerpts and snippets and talk with the author, and just can't wait to read the finished product. I will be linking Sarah's website at the end of this article, and suggest you stampede over there and avail yourself of the same access. It's a ride worth taking.
But the subject today is Give in to the Feeling, a novella that is unlike any concept I have ever seen before. It uses a few of the characters from The Old Shelter in what has the feel of a spinoff, but reads more like a prequel. If its purpose is to whet readers' appetites for the parent novel, well, it's sure working on me! Behold:
Susie left Simon’s table and crossed the speakeasy toward the bandstand.
The club was dusky, smoky, chock-full of people. She knew most of these people, at least by sight. The smoke and the soft light had become so familiar to her that they now wrapped around her like a warm protection.
She squeezed in between two men standing beside a table with cocktails in hand. One of them winked at her. She smiled back but didn’t stop. The show would start momentarily. Susie found a chair waiting for her by the bandstand and sat, watching the crowd ease off the dance floor as the band finished their number. As always, before the show, her heart beat faster. She liked that sensation. The music embracing her, taking control of her body — it lit a flame inside her every single time.
A brush on her shoulder, and she thought a feather might have fallen from her headband. Its gentle touch breathed down her back, causing a shiver that wasn’t unpleasant, but when she turned, she saw no stray feathers. Her gaze then rose to the entrance by its own accord.
That’s when she saw him.
Only people familiar to the doorman would enter, or people introduced by a customer, and she had never seen this man before. Lithe and willowy and dressed in a grey suit with a matching fedora, a grey coat draped on his shoulders. A black man with black curly hair reaching past his shoulders — and she was staring at him.
A smile crept onto Blood’s lips.
“I want to dance.” He turned to the dance floor and Michael followed the line of his gaze.
People crowded the edge of the dance floor, clapping their hands at the rhythm of the song, trying to imitate the dancers’ steps. In the narrow spaces between them, Michael saw a flash of red.
He looked back at Blood. “What about her?”
Blood’s smile faded. A long hesitation. “She’s calling,” he said.
Michael thought for a moment. “She’s calling… you?”
Blood let his gaze float down to the tabletop and roam as if looking for something. Then he looked up at Michael. “She’s calling,” he said again.
“Here you are.” The waiter took a tumbler from the tray and placed it on the table.
A sickening feeling settled in Michael’s stomach. A hitch bothered him between his shoulder blades and his skin crawled as he distinctly perceived the temperature drop. The sound of the music bent in his ear in such a weird way and then screeched, making his teeth grate.
Michael looked down at the hand placing the glass on the table. Had the light dimmed too? It was hard to see even near the light of the candle. It hadn’t been so hard before. And the light from the candle hadn’t been that weak and that cold. In the bluish glow of the lamp, he saw that the guy’s hand was now a claw of bones and skin as dark as old leather. Or parchment. So thin it split at the knuckles as Michael watched. It peeled away and a nail fell from a finger as the hand retreated.
The music didn’t sound like jazz at all. It sounded like nails scratching a blackboard and Michael couldn’t say whether that was what sent a chill down his spine or the intensifying cold.
He looked up at the waiter’s skeletal arm. Pus filtered through rotten tissue, maggots slithered out of tattered clothes. On the man’s chest, ribs punctured the skin and protruded like a fiend’s toothy jaw. The neck barely sustained the weight of the skull covered in parched skin, stretched over angular cheekbones and bared teeth. Hair fell from a dry scalp. Yellow blind eyes stared down at him.
The music grated hard at Michael’s brain, then his sight cleared. The cold dispelled. He saw the young fellow again, whose smile had now faded entirely.
Give in to the Feeling by Sarah Zama is available now for preorder from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the iBook store. Links to pre-order, plus to all of Sarah's stops (and there are many!) on her blog tour are listed at her website, The Old Shelter, as are excerpts, discussions, and features about the Old Shelter novel. I cannot urge you strongly enough to visit her blog and acquire this novella. As well as being a wonderful story in its own right, it is a superb introduction to the world of The Old Shelter, a novel that I can tell you I am as excited about reading as I was when I first heard of it over a year ago.
But I've held you up long enough. Click that link, and let the excitement begin!