Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

cheap thrills November 25, 2012

I am still new enough to this whole writing/publishing thing, to be thrilled and amazed by the every day aspects of it.

There are three copies of Grace Awakening Dreams & Power presently in circulation in our library system.  I check periodically to see whether they’re signed out.  It makes me ridiculously happy that so far, whenever I’ve checked, all three copies have been signed out, and there is a waiting list. 🙂

According to the Okanagan Regional Library website:  “Established in 1936, the ORL serves over 360,000 people across an area covering 59,600 square kilometres through 29 branches. We also offer various services online through our website. Membership is FREE to people within our library regions, giving you access to the 16th largest library in Canada.”

One copy is at the Mission branch.  I attended Okanagan Mission Secondary.  It makes me happy to know that kids who attend my high school are reading my book!    Another copy is at the Armstrong branch.  At the moment, I teach at Pleasant Valley Secondary in Armstrong.  It’s a really lovely place.  The third copy is in Westbank aka West Kelowna.  I have never been in a high school in West Kelowna, but if anyone wants to invite me, I’d be happy to come! 🙂

If you would like to read Grace Awakening Dreams and Power but don’t have the 99c for the ebook or $20 for the paperback, why not request it from your local library?  If they don’t have it, they might put out an inter-library loan request for it, or they might buy it for their collection.  Share the love!

Just for fun, here’s a presentation made by the OKM Media class for your entertainment: OKM Gangnam Style

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(It being a small world, while I don’t personally know the camera man/editor, Harrison Mendel, my parents were best friends with his grandparents back in the day, and I knew his dad, uncle and aunt.  This tenuous link between the past and present also makes me happy. 😉 )

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NaNoWriMo Day 25: 1819    (November total 35,351)

(par is 41,650 so I’m 6299 behind.  I have 5 days to get 14,650 words.  Wish me luck!)

 

snippet of Grace Awakening Destiny November 17, 2012

I am brain numb today (still in recovery from our short week, and from  combing the internet for summer writing options in Provence into the wee hours last night).  As a result I can’t think of a thing to say.  In such a circumstance, sharing a snippet of the NaNoWriMo project on the go seems like a good solution, so here is something for your reading pleasure.  This is a first draft of Ben’s perspective on the infamous concert scene, set at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver:

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It was my turn.

Kraft called my name and smiled at me from the podium.

I stepped onto the stage.

Kraft asked me about the inspiration for the song and I looked right through the blackness and into Grace’s eyes when I replied, “I wrote this piece as a celebration of the kind of love that can not be stopped by time, the kind of love that makes the universe worth inhabiting.”

The Bösendorfer grand piano gleamed in the stage lights like an ocean reflecting city lights.  I sat down on the bench, positioned my hands, and nodded at Kraft.  He nodded to the violins and marked the down beat.

My song told the story of my search for Grace.  The strings wept my loneliness and longing for her.  The flutes danced into the melody in little trills of hope, those moments when I thought she was near.  Then I struck the keys of the piano and told of her appearance in my life, her rejection, her tentative interest, her fearful denials.  I wound the music with my fears for her and my joy in her.  A flute played the recorder part from the picnic when she’d accepted her ancient wedding ring from me.  The woodwinds laughed with the joy of her acknowledgment of our love.  I set my hands on my lap as the percussion beat out the danger and the brass howled my frustration and pain.  Then I started playing again, pouring my hope and adoration through my fingers and out onto the strings of piano.  My love rolled out from the piano and filled the hall with dreams and hope, and then I hit the final chord and dropped my head onto my chest, emotionally exhausted.

Like they had been at the end of Jilly’s composition, the audience sat, silently.

I stood up and turned to the audience.  I kissed the tips of my fingers and extended my arm toward Grace.  Her love filled my mind.  I bowed to the still silent audience, as tears of grateful adoration clouded my vision.

Grace  leaned over the railing of the balcony, stretching out her arm as if she could reach me.  Tears were pouring down her face.

Suddenly, in a single tsunami wave, the audience rose to its feet and began to applaud.  Applaud and applaud.  It went on and on, clapping and clapping.

The announcer touched my arm and guided me to the other competitors.

I sat there as the audience continued to applaud.

The announcer stood waiting, trying to speak, but completely [overcome] by the crowd who were not ready yet to stop.

Wesford Kraft came over and shook my hand.

The announcer smiled at me in awkward acknowledgement and clapped his own hands.  He had me stand once more and bow, and finally the crowd gradually stopped and took their seats again.  He thanked the other contestants with a smile, told the crowd that the special long piece commissioned for tonight from the winner of last year’s competition would be performed after the intermission.  They would announce the winner of the this year’s competition afterwards.  He thanked Wesford Kraft for conducting and Kraft bowed to polite applause, and left the stage.

My heart was thudding so hard it was filling the room.

The house lights were turned back up and I glanced up to the Dress Circle.  Bright was beaming down at me.  Grace had disappeared.

I started up the aisle toward the lobby, people parted, smiling and thumping me on my back as I went.

In the lobby Grace flew at me in her flowing red dress like a shooting flame of longing.  She fired into my thoughts all her joy, excitement, and love.  I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her, devouring her presence greedily.

The world fell away as we collapsed into ourselves, hearts, heads, and hands consumed in the bliss of physical presence at long last.

Grace gasped for air and we pulled apart, staring into each other eyes, our minds full of the euphoria of togetherness.

I looked around and realized that a crowd had gathered around us, beaming in amusement.  I took half a step back, slightly embarrassed, and they applauded again with enthusiastic approval.  Grace buried her head in my shoulder and I laughed, hugging her tightly.

The lights flicked to send us back to our seats, and I pulled her along with me to the front row.  The others just grinned at us, and Jilly Tomm from Saskatchewan slid over one chair.

I was feeling very little appreciation for arm rests as we cuddled together when the lights went down.  I knew that in the overflow of stage lighting we would be silhouetted for the entire theatre to see, and so I tried to be circumspect, when all I wanted to do was throw her onto the ground and make wild, passionate love to her.  We hadn’t done that this life-time, and this truly wasn’t the place, but it didn’t stop me from wanting it.  I nestled down to kiss her neck, and she made tantalizing little noises.  They were an interesting cross between a squeak and a purr.  They didn’t help my composure.

The orchestra played its accompaniment to our blissful entwining of affection, adoration, euphoria, and lust.

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NaNoWriMo report.

Day 17 words:  2570                    (November Total 27,515)

True confession.  I have changed my NaNo time zone to Midway Island.  That gives me three extra hours to write before NaNo closes down the day.  Since I tend to do my writing after midnight, this is a great help!

 

So, whatcha writin’ in that NaNoWriMo thing, anyway? November 6, 2012

Thought you might like to see what’s coming along.  Ben is now at University of Calgary with his friends Paul and Ryan.  (Craigie Hall is the music building). Grace is living in the Shuswap with her Auntie Bright.  If you’re new to the story, you should know that Grace and Ben are connected telepathically.  Ben is the earthly realm form of the demi-god Orpheus.  He’s narrating.

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I was walking down a corridor in Craigie Hall when a stab of pain crashed into my head.  I staggered into the wall, and grabbed for support.

A girl rushed over to me, “Are you okay?”

I shook my head, gasping, and she guided me to a bench.  I dropped my head between my knees.  “I’ll be okay.  It’s fine.”  The pain wasn’t mine, it was reverberating from Grace.  She didn’t know yet how to completely control her side of our connection.  Her calls to me were generally hesitant and gentle.  I had to be fully open to catch her tentative yearnings in my direction.  This time, her anguish exploded with her full power.  Without any guards up against it, she had blown me over with the image that was filling her head: a girl with brightly coloured hair, twisted into dreadlocks in the hallway of her school.

“Grace!”  I shouted back into her mind.

“Everything is okay, Ben,” she thought in reply.

“Who was that?” or what was that?  It was something from the Other Realm, that was clear enough, but what was it doing in Grace’s new school?  Had they followed her and sent something evil to attack her there?  It was supposed to be safe there!

“I don’t know.  What are you worried about, Ben?”

“Nothing,” I spit out. I needed help.  Grace needed help.  Right now.  I’ll talk to you later.”

I pushed into the men’s washroom.  Thankfully it was empty.  I spun into the Other Realm igniting the room with light as I vanished.  In the flashing glow, I didn’t notice that someone had pushed through the door.

“Mars!” I shouted into the Other Realm.  “Where are you!” 

Alexandros sauntered out from the foggy gloom.  “He’s busy.”

“What do you mean busy?  He’s needed.  Something is wrong in the Shuswap.  Grace is in trouble.”

Xandros nodded, pursing his lips.  “Ah yes.  We figured that would happen.”

“What do you mean?” I snarled at him, nostrils flaring.  “You knew?”

“Calm down.  This is exactly why you make such a terrible guardian.  You lose all sense when there’s danger.   You have to be cool and cautious when there’s trouble.  You can’t go all wild and hysterical.”  He shook his head at me.

“Well, I’m not a guardian anymore, am I?  Mars is.  And he’s missing!”

Xandros punched me, hard in the bicep. 

I raised my fist to return a shot, but his guard was up, and he caught it easily in his fist.  “You’re such an idiot,” he said, holding my fist tightly in his.  “Where do you think Mars is?”

“What?”  I loosened the tension in my arm, and he let my fist go.  “Is he at Grace’s school?”

Xandros rolled his eyes.  “He’s doing his job, O.  Now it’s time for you to leave Grace in our hands.  You go back to Earth and do your job.  Go back to your nest of musicians and make pretty melodies.

I narrowed my eyes at him.

“He’s guarding her?”

He nodded.  “She’s in good hands.”

“Better than mine, you mean?”

He smirked.  “You said it, I didn’t.  Go on.  It’s under control.”

I studied his face.  He was an irritating, obnoxious ass, but he was reliable in a fight.  Between Mars and Alexandros, Grace was in better hands than she’d been when I was her guardian.  It just wasn’t easy to trust the girl I loved out of my sight, though.  Not when either of them would happily take her from me for themselves.

I nodded.  “All right then.  Thank you.”

I spun back into the washroom, narrowly missing landing with my foot in an unflushed toilet.  As I  stepped off the rim a voice greeted me.

“Are you going to tell me what the hell that’s about?”

I snapped my head to the speaker and sighed, “Hi, Paul.”

He raised an eyebrow.  “Hello.  Don’t change the subject.”

“Is there a subject?”

“Well, apparently my best friend can vanish in flashes of light and reappear in toilets like some kind of janitorial Superman.  I’d say that’s a pretty interesting subject.”

I swallowed.  “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain…” I intoned in a hypnotic voice, “You didn’t see anything…”

“Bullshit,” he said conversationally.

“Paul.”

“We’ve been friends for what?  Four years?  We’ve been there for each other.  You help me out.  I help you out.  Never once did you ever mention that you had magical powers.”

“You believe in magical powers?  I could have sworn you were more sensible than that.  Do you believe in fairies, too?”

“Nope.  But I saw you come into this room.  When I opened the door, I saw that weird light.  You were glowing and then it…swallowed you.  You were no longer in the room.  I looked.  I even lifted up the lid on the damned toilet tank, Ben!  You were not here.  Then there’s another flash, and there you are, pulling your foot out of a toilet bowl like you were visiting the Ministry of Magic or something .  I know what I saw, bro.”  He crossed his arms across his chest and watched me.   His face showed confusion, irritation, and just a little bit of fear.  “You weren’t at the Ministry of Magic, were you?”

I sighed.  “I can’t explain, Paul.”

“Is it something to do with Grace?”

Wasn’t everything to do with Grace?  I took a deep breath.  “You have to trust me, Paul.  I can’t tell you anything about this.  It’s not safe for you to know anything.”

“So Ryan was right?  We are in danger around you?”

I shrugged my shoulders.  “I don’t know what the hell is going on here.  It makes no sense.  No one should be after me.  They’re still after Grace, that’s for certain.  You should be safe with me, but you might not be if you know everything.  Like who I am.”

He studied me, reading my eyes to see if I was lying to him.  “Who you are or what you are?”

I raised my hands is silent appeal.

Finally, he nodded, and unfolded his arms.  “We’re late for [ subject ] class.  Come on.”  He pushed open the door.

“Thanks.”

He nodded.  “We’ve been friends for four years, after all.  That’s got to be worth something.”

I smiled.  “It is.  I’ve never lied to you Paul.  I’m not starting now.”

“Good.”

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NaNoWriMo total for day 6: 589  words (November total: 9013)

 

How’d it go at SIWC? October 25, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening Myth,OUTLANDERishness,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:13 am
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Prior to SIWC this year, I kept focusing on the excitement of meeting Diana Gabaldon, and completely ignoring the fact that the MOST IMPORTANT thing at these conferences is pitching to agents and publishers!

Aside from my 15 minutes  of blue pencil time with Diana discussing her suggestions and observations about Grace Beguiling, I did pitch Grace Awakening Myth to two agents: one from New York, and the other from Toronto.  I met with the NY agent on Friday, and the TO agent on Sunday.

After the pitch, both agents quizzed me on various plot elements, character descriptions, conflict development, etc., and both requested the first 50 pages of the manuscript.

One thing I found quite interesting was that the New York agent was intrigued with the story, and offered no opinions with respect to the setting, but the Canadian editor asked me if I’d consider changing the Calgary setting to “an anonymous North American city.”   Isn’t that ironic?  The New York agent didn’t care, but the Toronto one wanted to remove the Canadian element?

At the moment I’m in recovery from my sleep deprivation, but in the next day or two (after my brain recharges), I’ll take another look at the beginning of the manuscript focusing on some of the things I learned in workshops, and on Diana Gabaldon’s observations with respect to the other manuscript (general observations to keep in mind), before I send Myth off to see whether it makes some new friends.

 

inspirational kids October 10, 2012

Filed under: Commentary,Grace Awakening Myth — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:11 am
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I’ve already told you that I occasionally use the names of my students (with their permission, of course) in my stories.   The characters are not representations of their namesakes; they have their own adventures, conflicts, and personalities which are completely distinct.  Still, sometimes the fictional and real have the odd thing in common.

For example, in Grace Awakening Myth there’s a character called J-Roy.   You learned the other day that J-Roy dances, is athletic, and looks great in a unitard.

The real J-Roy is also pretty tough.  Look who’s a head-liner in a local mixed martial arts fight? Uh huh.  Ben desperately needs all the help he can get.  I wonder if J. Roy will give him fighting lessons? 😉

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Four years ago… October 9, 2012

The week before Thanksgiving in 2008, I was given Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga to read by one of my English students.  That Thanksgiving weekend I bought my own copies of the books, read through the series again, and then poured over Stephenie Meyer’s website, reading everything I could about the genesis of the story, the process of writing, what she’d done to find an agent, and the adventure her life had become.

I was completely, totally, thoroughly inspired.  An idea sparked.  I’d had a story floating in my head for decades.  I’d written it down in a couple of versions before, but it wasn’t right.  I had known I needed a hook, but I just couldn’t figure out what it could be.  Stephenie gave me the solution: mythology.  Just as she had used vampires and werewolves, Greek mythology could be melded into the experience I wanted to share in order to provide the depth and conflict that had been missing in previous drafts.

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving (that is, this very day four years ago) I began writing Grace Awakening.  That first day, I wrote about five double spaced pages.  The second day I did the same.  Then the third.  By the end of three weeks I had 75 pages of writing.  I set the goal to keep writing 25 pages a week. I met or exceeded that goal each subsequent week.  Twenty three weeks later, the first draft was complete.  It was the week before Easter, and I had 155,000 words.

A couple of weeks after Thanksgiving in 2009, I went to the Surrey International Writers Conference.  I pitched the book to a small Vancouver publisher.  She was interested and asked to see more.

A week before Thanksgiving in 2010 I signed the contracts with Gumboot Books.

In 2011, Gumboot Books went out of business, but Grace Awakening Dreams was released anyway through Lintusen Press in July.  By Thanksgiving 2011, it had been in the list of  Top iTunes Fantasy books in Canada over a hundred times.

In 10 days, I’ll be back to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference to pitch Grace Awakening Myth, a companion novel that tells  Ben’s version of  his battle for Grace.

It’s a lot to be thankful for: four years of creativity, empowerment, challenge, excitement, growth, and adventure.  It’s been an amazing ride!

Four years ago, when I started typing, I would not have been brave enough to imagine that I’d be in this place today.  But here I am.   My friend Heather observed, “Where will you be in another 4 years? Do you not love the “wait and see”‘ of life?”   The thought of it hit me in the gut.  Where will I be? I can only dream where Grace will be, keep writing, and hope I’m holding tightly to her coat tails as she explores the world!

 

 

HELP! Which start is your favourite? October 7, 2012

I’m unhappy with the opening to Grace Awakening Myth.  I need something strong , intriguing and compelling.

I’m brainstorming, and would appreciate some feedback from you!  Here are six versions of the first 100 words or so.  Version one is the original.  Which do you think is the strongest option?  Can you identify why it appeals to you?  Would you mix components of a couple of the options?  Please leave your observations in the comment section below.   (Though I see many of you are using Facebook, and that’s all right as well).  Thanks for your help!

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Version 6:

Aphrodite’s words exploded in my head like a missile shot from a catapult, leaving me dizzy and stunned.

I stared at her  as the words ricocheted through my head, smashing through my consciousness, crushing my hopes, and destroying my future.

Finally, I sputtered, “What did you say?”  It couldn’t be true.  She couldn’t have said what I heard.

Aphrodite stood, her back to the temple columns, watching me solemnly.  “Oh, Orpheus,” she sighed.  “I said, ‘This is that girl’s last life time in the Earthly Realm.  If you are to have her for eternity, she must choose you this time.’”

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Version 5:

Aphrodite’s words exploded in my head like the sound of crashing swords, leaving me dizzy and stunned.

Finally, I gasped, “What did you say?”

Aphrodite stood, her back to the templecolumns, watching me solemnly.  “Oh, Orpheus,” she sighed.  “I said, ‘This is that girl’s last life time in the Earthly Realm.  If you are to have her for eternity, she must choose you this time.’”

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Version 4:

Aphrodite was watching me with a solemnly pitying expression as I came over the hill.  She leaned languidly against a pillar, golden hair flowing around her in waves, waiting.

She made me nervous.  I bowed low.  “You wished to speak to me?”

She nodded, stepping forward and straightening into a formal posture. “I am to inform you, that this is the girl’s last life time in the Earthly Realm.  If you are to have her for eternity, she must choose you this time.”

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Version 3.

Aphrodite leaned against the temple column and watched me warily.  “Did you hear what I said, Orpheus?”

I bowed respectfully, shaking my head.  I had heard, but I wished fervently that I hadn’t.

“I said, this is that girl’s last life time in the Earthly Realm.  If you are to have her for eternity, she must choose you this time.”

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Version 2:

Aphrodite’s words sliced into me like a sword and I wheezed, feeling the blood rush from my face as the pain of them slashed through me.  “What did you say?”

Aphrodite stood, her back to the templecolumns, watching me solemnly.  “Oh, Orpheus,” she sighed.  “I said, ‘This is that girl’s last life time in the Earthly Realm.  If you are to have her for eternity, she must choose you this time.’”

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 Version 1:

“Orpheus!  Come here.  I need to talk to you.”  Aphrodite stood, her back to the templecolumns, watching me solemnly.

I didn’t like the expression on her face.  I bowed respectfully, “Yes?”

“This is that girl’s last life time in the Earthly Realm.  If you are to have her for eternity, she must choose you this time.”

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(FYI- this is what follows the above…)

That girl.  She tossed the words like Grace was of no consequence.  The girl I had followed through time, the girl who made my life complete, and gave me music.  The girl who could save all that was good in the world.  The girl I was waiting for.  My heart started to pound.  “Where is she?”

She shook her head.  “I’m not allowed to say; you know that.”

“I was told Canada.  In Calgary.”

Her eyes widened and she tilted her head, but she made no comment.

The eyes were enough confirmation.  At least I didn’t have to scan the entire population of the planet.  I only needed to find Grace among the million or so residents of Calgary.  I’d come to the city a couple of years before on a tip, and had settled myself into high school there.  My informant had assured me that Grace would show up there eventually, but I had reached my final year in high school without any sign of her.  I’d begun to doubt, but Aphrodite’s alarmed surprise was enough evidence that I was in the right place.  I would try to be patient.

 

Grace Awakening in Calgary October 3, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:21 am
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So, following on the videos of sites from Grace Awakening Power, I thought I should probably include some videos of sites from Grace Awakening Dreams, which is set in Calgary.  So here is Fish Creek Park, where Ben and Grace picnicked and he played her a special tune:

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and here is the Calgary Tower(enjoy the saucy music!).  I’m sad to report that they no longer have the informative recording in the elevator!

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and here’s the C train, Light Right Transit.  This video starts at Chinook station, which is approximately where Grace has the encounter with the knife. She’s off the train by 39th Street with the police.

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Salmon Arm October 1, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:27 am
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Here’s a nice video that shows you some of the scenery in Salmon Arm, the setting for Grace Awakening Power (and where we live, coincidentally).  How many places do you recognise from the book?

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unitards… September 30, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Grace Awakening Myth,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 4:54 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s gratifying to go back through a manuscript completed ages ago, and find yourself giggling at scenes you’d completely forgotten about.  As I’m editing Grace Awakening Myth this evening, I came across this scene, and I thought you might enjoy it, too.

Please note that this is a draft version, I can already see several things to fine tune! 🙂

Ben is backstage, preparing for a band concert.  One of his friends took dance to meet a girl he likes, and he’s about to perform in a quartet dance number as part of the concert.  Ben is narrating.

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I could sense Grace in the audience as we set up the stage for the band concert.  She must have come early with Christie.  The tenuous ribbons of connection between us floated invisibly in the air, but I could feel them.  She had been ignoring me at school, but her mind had been busy thinking about me.  She was opening possibility, and the awareness made my heart soar.

Her presence was calling to the music in me.  Surely, the other players would be captivated by it as well.  The concert was going to be a good one.

Ryan was shivering in a corner.

“What’s wrong?”

“I think I’m going to be sick.”

“It’s just nerves,” I said.  “You’ve played concerts plenty of times.  It’s always fine.”

He stared at me like I was a moron.  “I’m wearing a spandex unitard under this band uniform.”

I laughed, and as the picture seered my brain, I laughed harder.

He sent me a withering look and the tears started.  They stung my eyes and rolled down my cheeks, but I couldn’t stop laughing.

Paul came over.  “What’s so funny?”

“Ryan,” I sputtered.  “Spandex.”

Paul wrinkled his nose.  “Ooh, nasty.  Nothing is worth that, Bro.  What were you thinking?  On the other hand,” he glanced to the wings, “Georgia is looking mighty fine this evening.”

She was.  Her hair tumbled loosely in waves almost to her waist.  She was wearing a beige unitard that disappeared at a distance.  Her curves were magnificent.

Ryan sighed.  “It is sooooo worth it.  Excuse me,” he muttered to us, and went to stand with her.

Her smile lit her face as he came near.  It made my heart warm.

Paul looked around for Tanis, and saw her standing off to the side watching Ryan and Georgia.  “Do you think she’s jealous?”

I shrugged, “Maybe a little.  Don’t let it worry you.  Have you seen J-Roy yet?”

He looked around, “There he is, at the back in black.  Oh my.  Is that the same thing Ryan is wearing?”  He started to snicker.

I sucked back the guffaw that started to explode out of me.  J-Roy was clad in a black unitard.  A hood covered his trademark lion’s mane of tawny hair.  The only skin that showed was on his hands, feet, and face.  J-Roy is athletic.  He stood tall, his body rippled with muscular definition.  He looked fantastic.  “Oh, poor Ryan,” I groaned.

Ryan’s slightly paunchy belly and sloped shoulders were not the optimal build for a unitard.

Paul smirked at me, “Maybe Ryan hopes the black will be slimming?”

I started to shake, pursing my lips tightly.

Misty floated by in a glowing euphoria, with frequent glances over to J-Roy.  “Doesn’t he look like some kind of Greek god?” she murmured to me.

I pondered a lecture on over-generalization, but with another look to J-Roy I had to acknowledge that he did, in fact, bear a strong resemblance to some of my relatives.

 

 
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