In the grand scheme of things, a year and eight months isn’t that long, but if something’s hanging over your head, badgering you each and every day, it can feel like forever. That’s how long it’s been since I released Rhythm In Blue – my first book, the love of my life. When I first wrote it and sent it off to my agent, I felt it was perfect. A year later, with no bites from publishers, I recognized the book was less than perfect, even though I pulled it from the agent and self-published the story.
In my quest to hammer out the rough edges, I hired an editor to help me figure out how to perfect it. His analysis left me frozen for over a year. The job of fixing it seemed overwhelming. How far from my original version was I willing to stray? Not far. I didn’t give it quite the major overhaul I thought it needed, but I’m very happy with the end result.
The story isn’t for everyone. Some will no doubt be offended by the content, but I knew that the moment I started banging it out. In the revision, I’ve made it slightly easier to swallow, but the theme of a skewed morality is still there as Rick Rowland struggles with his feelings for and behavior toward an under-age Shelby.
One of the biggest problems with this book has been identifying my audience. In fact, my editor even asked, ‘Who is this book for?’ Good question. I wrote it for adult women, but it has a strong YA appeal to it. Many of the book’s biggest supporters are men who say, ‘I don’t normally read romance, but I love this book.’ It has a wide appeal, and I think one of the most difficult roadblocks to revising the book was the idea that I had to target a specific audience. I will next time. It’s a rookie mistake I’ll try to avoid in the future.
I have a couple of projects I’ve started that probably fall under the contemporary romance genre. I guess time will tell if they turn into a Brandie Buckwine story or a tfc Parks story. I kind of want to move away from erotica, but knowing me, the break won’t last long. In the meantime, I hope you’ll give tfc Parks a try.
“So, darlin’,” Devon said, slapping 50 Drachma on the bar, “this is your life’s dream, to tend bar in some rundown club, putting up with drunken idiots like us?”
Erin handed him his beer and shook her head, “You know, we can’t all be rock stars.” She continued as she wiped the wet ring left by his bottle on the bar, “And this place is not rundown,” she said. “It may need some TLC, but look at this place – I mean the island. It’s amazing, and the people are all so nice, why wouldn’t I want to stay here?”
She was right about the place needing some care. To Rick, it looked like Kostas hadn’t changed anything since he’d walked through the door ten years earlier. Erin explained that technically, the Islander was a discotheque. Any club with a dance floor was a discotheque and if it didn’t have one, it was just a bar. However, for this club, the label discotheque didn’t fit. The lights for the dance floor were ancient and dull, the tables bore the scars from years of unattended cigarettes, and the little stools surrounding them were all in need of new vinyl. The murals on the walls were faded and peeling. The bathrooms were little more than a hole in the floor to piss in, and smelled as though most people who used them were too drunk to find the hole.
“Well, it does have a homey feel to it, I’ll give you that,” Rick tried to reassure her. Devon’s comment put her on the defensive, and Rick didn’t want the discussion to turn into a battle. “And I’ll take one of those beers. Put it on his tab,” he nodded toward Devon.
Kostas rushed over, muttering, “No, no, it’s on the house.” Only, he couldn’t say house. It came out without the h sound and with more of a soft x sound- kxouse. Rick wondered if it was Kostas or all Greeks who couldn’t make the h sound, or w for that matter. He used the same kx sound for who and house.
Rick chuckled and raised his bottle to Kostas, “Thanks man.” He received Kostas’s toothy grin in reply. He was always grinning, it seemed to Rick. Must be because I make him nervous. Kostas did appear to be going to great lengths to make a good impression, but he also seemed to be perpetually happy.
The place was beginning to fill up, and about ten people occupied the dance floor, all gyrating their hips to Brown Sugar. Rick noticed that no one was dancing with anyone – they were all on their own. Ten islands dancing, all doing their own thing.
Out of the crowd and onto the dance floor burst a young girl, and she joined in the rhythmic gyrations. It seemed as though she was waiting for just this song. She moved to the center of the dance floor, becoming the center island, her enthusiasm for the song inciting the other islands to thrust and gyrate just a little harder. Rick envied her youthful energy and zeal. He felt old. When the song abruptly changed to Roxanne, the girl screamed and jumped up and down. Never mind, this must be her favorite song.
Long and wavy, bleached blond by the sun, her hair fell midway down her back. As she danced, it seemed to float around her head, as though it too loved the song. The long, gypsy type skirt she wore floated as well, indifferent to the moves she made within. Her peasant blouse revealed long, tanned arms that waved in the air as though she conducted an orchestra in which her skirt and hair played.
She looked out of place among the other dancers, yet she oddly seemed a perfect fit. As Rick watched the scene, he began to see that it was the other dancers who were out of place – passengers aboard a ship, unable to disembark and join the revelry, they could only stare wistfully from the deck.
Randy motioned to Erin, and she approached him with a raised eyebrow. “Who’s the girl?” he asked, nodding toward the dance floor.
“Oh, that’s Shelby. You have to meet her. American girl – lives here with her folks. Kostas has known her for years. Her parents are pretty cool. They’re both artists. You guys will meet them while you’re here. There’s an American art school on the island, so we get a lot of artists here from all over the world.”
Randy was watching her dance and licking his lips. Devon, seeing his lusty gaze, said, “Good God Randy, she’s a kid!”
“Hands off!” Erin said, “She’s only fifteen. Too young, even for you, Randy.”
“If she’s only fifteen, what the hell is she doing in a club, whooping it up?” Rick asked.
“Well, Kostas used to kick her out, but then she just went to other clubs where they didn’t know her, so Kostas figured if he let her in, at least he could keep an eye on her. You know, make sure she doesn’t get into any trouble. He won’t let her drink though, that’s the rule – she can come here and dance all she wants, but just Coke to drink.” Rick slowly nodded. Seems Kostas is a decent sort, he had to admit.
Randy was still licking his lips, so Devon slapped him on the shoulder, “Man, seriously, you wouldn’t eat a piece of fruit that wasn’t ripe…gotta give ‘em time to ripen, mature.” Rick regretted Devon’s choice of words because he knew what was coming.
“I’d eat that in a heartbeat!” Randy said, nodding his head. Rick could tell he was picturing doing just that.
“You are one sick son of a bitch,” Devon shook his head and turned away.
When the song changed to a slow one, the girl, obviously disappointed to have her dance party end, stepped off the dance floor and headed toward a group of Greek, teenage boys.
“Shelby,” Erin yelled at her.
Shelby turned to see who had called her, and spotting Erin, waved and skipped over to the bar. “Hey Erin. Are you getting so excited? The big day’s getting closer.”
“Yes, I am, but I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed,” Erin admitted. “But hey, right now I want you to meet my brother, Ricky. He just got here today from the States.” Rick just gave her a nod, but Shelby extended her hand. As he took it, he found himself struck by her beautiful smile.
“Wow, it’s really great to meet you! Erin says the nicest things about you. Really makes me wish I had a big brother.”
“Nice to meet you Shelby.” While shaking her hand, he had a sudden pitching sensation in his stomach, probably left over from the ferry ride, but quickly shook it off, turning back to the bar.
“Ricky, I gotta go wait on those guys, you’ll have to finish the introductions,” Erin called out as she hurried down the bar to take an order.
It seemed strange, to make such a big deal about everyone being introduced, after all, she was just some kid they let hang out, but before he could sort out the importance, Randy pushed in front of him and took Shelby’s hand, his gaze fixed on her chest.
“You looked really sexy out there dancing. I’m Randy.” Shelby nodded as Randy introduced himself. Rick could tell she was sizing him up, and from her raised eyebrow, it appeared she had done well. He continued, “This is Devon, and this is Keith.”
They all shook hands, and Rick thought, Yes, yes, now we’re all just great friends. As he dismissed her again and went back to his beer, he lit another cigarette. Randy was telling her, “You know, Smoke n’ Mirrors! Bring it to Me? That was our big hit last year. I wrote it, and I play lead guitar,” Randy beamed with arrogance.
Rick looked over as Shelby shook her head, “Sorry, never heard of you.” Randy sputtered in disbelief, but Rick caught Shelby’s wink to him out of the corner of his eye. Good, Randy needs to be knocked down a notch or two.
“Oh my God, you have to know Heartbreak on the Bayou! Holy hell, Louisiana was gonna make it their state song!” Actually, Louisiana had no such intention, but Randy was just sure they would, eventually.
Shelby began to slowly nod her head. “Oh yeah,” she said, as though trying to remember something from long ago. “I think my parents used to listen to you guys.” With that, she turned and ran back out to dance some more, as the lights came back up and the lovers left the floor. The Dire Straits Sultans of Swing began, and her enthusiasm returned. He had to hand it to her, Randy was a charmer, and hard to fool when he was on the make, and now, he was pissed.
“Jesus Christ, she makes it sound like we’re ancient history! Did you hear her?” Randy was right in his face.
“Yeah, I heard her, but you know Randy, you can’t be everyone’s favorite. Kids are listening to different music than you and I do. They go for that disco shit. I’m sorry, but she’s right, our audience is usually older.” The thought of catering to an older audience at twenty-four didn’t do much for Rick’s ego, either, but they’d been on the road and cutting records for so many years, it was hard not to feel old.
“Well that settles it, we need to update our sound,” Randy said.
Devon patted him on the back. “Don’t you worry, we’re fine, just as we are. What you need to do is look for women closer to your own age.” Rick and Keith each gave Randy a thumbs up.
“Fine,” Randy said, looking around. He spotted a couple of blonds up the bar and headed their direction. As he walked away, Rick wondered again how Randy butted his way into coming with them on this trip. Man, he can really be a pain in the ass!
“What we need to do is find him a shorter leash,” Devon said, as he slid onto the bar stool next to Rick.
Randy didn’t like obscurity. Honestly, he just didn’t like to have to chase tail. He was lazy, and he liked it when tail presented itself and bluntly said, “Let’s fuck.” Rick, on the other hand, relished the anonymity the bar and island afforded. He liked being able to down some beers without being hounded for his autograph, without some girl putting her arms around him and asking to have her picture taken with him.
When the song ended, Shelby left the dance floor and became the center of attention with the group of young Greeks. She apparently had the same effect on them as she did on Randy – they all seemed to be vying for her attention. One of the boys pulled on her arm and pointed to the dance floor. She looked at her watch and then to the door. Rick couldn’t understand what they were saying, but Shelby didn’t seem confused. He looked away as she started toward him.
She pulled on his sleeve, “Hey, will you tell Erin I said ‘bye’ in case I don’t make it back?”
“Yeah, are you heading out?” Her hair fell across her face, and he fought the urge to reach out and tuck it behind her ear.
“Yeah, I have to go home and go to bed,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I should be back in a bit though. Nice meeting you,” she said, as she headed toward the door.
“Yeah, you too,” Rick called after her, leaning back against the bar.