Recently Sirens Call Publications released it’s first romance/erotic anthology titles He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. True to form, we’re going to bring you guest posts from most of the authors who contributed stories, letting them share the inspiration behind what they wrote. Next we have the author of Living in the Shades, Vincent Ashcroft.
Vincent Ashcroft has spent a lifetime working to understand what it means to be human. Born in 1973, he spent his childhood at his ancestral home in northern Vermont, leaving only for college and to tour Europe after receiving a Masters degree in comparative religion. Though he has studied and written extensively on sociology, anthropology and psychology, he is only now entering the realm of fiction, where his theories can serve in application. When not analyzing the workings of the heart, he can be found at wine tastings with his wife, Danica.
With a Head Held High
It is a sad truth of human society that the children of the wealthy and powerful are often themselves revered. By virtue of association, each is held in a higher status than the common man, regardless of whether or not they have done anything to merit such respect. How often has been said, “Do you know who my father is?” or, “Just wait until I tell my parents about this!” While such lines are vague and typically reserved for Hollywood, the spirit in which they are said can be found underlying many conversations. At least the clichéd, “Do you know who I am?” indicates that the person speaking has deserved some heightened regard in certain circles.
There is another similarly unfortunate facet wherein victims are blamed for the tragedy they suffer. This can range from people who give false confessions to prisoners of war, from drug users to rape victims. Wherever you look, somebody’s ready to point a finger at the person crying out, and given the Internet, this trend is on the rise.
It is on these two principles I based the main characters of my short story, Living in the Shades. We have a person whose status makes him feel invincible, and for the most part, he’s right. In contrast, we have a sweet young girl who is put through the proverbial ringer, forced to deal with burdens none should face, let alone someone who is barely an adult. And where better to stage this clash in the idyllic small town?
While I obviously cannot speak for anyone other than myself, small communities seem to be ideal microcosms of social interaction. Each person in it, typically speaking, knows or at least has heard of one another. Most understand and support the goals of their fellow townsperson, regardless of how it might affect themselves. They are (generally) humble, contented little places where many like their work and live within their means.
Such peace and quiet must, out of necessity, be balanced by conflict and mayhem, whether there or elsewhere, because that is the nature of the universe—to institute balance in the form of chaos. Some say knowledge exists so that those who have it understand the tyranny of ignorance.
I grew up on the outskirts of a city in Vermont, which sat perfectly between the untamed wilderness and the bustle of ‘civilized society.’ My parents and I lived in a house my great grandfather had built when my family first arrived here, where I was given a conservative upbringing and a love of books. As such, I feel I’ve lived too bland a life to take a serious role in this great cosmic battle against the entwined forces of entropy and malice.
Yet, at the same time, I grow more disconcerted each day by the increasing amount of people who seem to think their fellow man is nothing more than a piggy bank and punching bag, here to be expended as the user sees fit. This story, for the most part, is an extrapolation of an ever more commonplace hardship. I fear I can do little to change the world I live in. Perhaps, though, some will read, and little by little, as a rock thrown into a pond spreads ripples to the shore, we can pull society back from the precipice before we all fall.
All little girls, and some little boys, know the game He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Each one who plays hopes to end on the He Loves Me petal. But how many of us really find that perfect mate? That one partner who will love us unconditionally for the rest of our lives? How many of us really live the dream, and how many live through the heartbreak of ending on the He Loves Me Not petal?
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not is an anthology of ten stories told from ten different perspectives on love and romance. Some have happy endings, while others end in tears, on a note of desperation, or even a new beginning. A few of the stories are fantasies come true, some steamy encounters of wanton lust, and others still are tales of woe – but the one thing they all have in common – they answer the age old question; does he love me, or does he not?
North Star – Rhiannon Fox
Glynnis – Julianne Snow
The Headless Ladies – Brenda Moguez
Keeping Distance – Alex Chase
Don’t Call Me When He Tries To Kill You – Kerry G.S. Lipp
Freefall – Kate Monroe
Living in the Shades – Vincent Ashcroft
Ruby – Stephanie Nett
Control – Ara Lynn
Railroaded – O.M. Grey
And now it’s time for an excerpt…
It was once said that Sarah Jane Wilson was a girl so innocent that if somebody had the audacity to fire a bullet at her, that bullet’s path would have curved and allowed it to travel harmlessly by, but those people had long since come to despise her. She was a petite girl with straw hair and amber eyes who grew up in the small town of West Chesterfield, living on the border between civilization and nature, walking the line between love and loss, never knowing either, but never knowing the difference. She went to church every Sunday, respected her parents, did well in school and so enjoyed her life that the notion of leaving her home town had never crossed her mind.
Sarah attended West Chesterfield high school and graduated with high marks, despite the fact that she had no intention of going to college. This was not because she was not intelligent, or because she cannot afford it, but because she did not need it. She was inventive and clever girl who enjoyed working painting to the extent that she had plans to open her own art studio for exhibitions and lessons alike. Praised for her industriousness, she was the pride and joy of her family. She even represented the Wilson’s at town functions, going out and about with the status of a monarch and the humility of a commoner.
When Sarah was but a child, a 60 pound bundle of energy bouncing on her mother’s knee, her mother, Winifred, gave her a piece of advice: a flower is a thing of beauty, and it is for that reason that we must never seek to hold them; that lovers who exchanged flowers were fools because it meant that love could only exist while embodied in that flower, but such life, and likewise love, would soon wither. Winifred said that true love is about being willing to let the flowers grow in your beloved’s yard, so that even if you never see them, even if that person never knows that you planted that those seeds, that life will flourish. This lesson had come just after Sarah pricked her finger on a Spiral Rose, a rare breed of flower that grew only in her home town, named for the way the stems of each bloom grew around each other, giving the appearance of a single stalk.
Sarah Jane Wilson would never forget those words, yet to her, that is all they were: words, utterly disembodied and without meaning, mere blips in the memory of her life. She, like many other girls, grew up on a steady diet of Disney movies and fairytales where waiting for her prince was the hardest task she thought she’d have to face.
She was nineteen when she met Sam Collingsworth the Fourth, great grandson to Sam Collingsworth the First, founder of West Chesterfield, though she only had a vague idea of who he was before he came knocking at her door.
“Is Sarah Jane Wilson available?” A tall man with a potbelly and lanky limbs from spending his days on the road, Sam was not the prince she had been waiting for. Despite his birthright, there was a common expression in West Chesterfield, albeit one that was whispered in hushed tones in private where few would hear despite that everyone knew it, was that Sam Collingsworth was an apple that had spent a few too many days waiting to be picked- but love has a funny way of looking past the physical.
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for an inspiration piece from Kate Monroe, author of Freefall!