charlie_cochrane: (awfully glad)
You can find all the instructions and links to participating blogs at Scavenger Hunt home page. My phrase is Special Forces - you'll find it in a recent blog post where it shouldn't be.

Today's theme is military/law enforcement. Well, I've got my fair share of soldiers in my stories, haven't I? But I'm not going for any of the obvious ones, partly because not long after I post this I'll be nipping across the road to tidy up the war grave I tend.

DSCF7658

I talk to Billy (which is what Captain Clegg Hill was known as) while I tidy him up, and I often stop for a chat as I go through the churchyard on other occasions. He feels very real and present to me. I imagine him hovering over, wondering what the daft old bird is doing now.

The idea of old soldiers not fading away but coming back to carry on their duty inspired "Music in the Midst of Desolation". That's got a Billy, too.

Billy Byrne had gone straight onto the fast track. Cherry picked in the afterlife just as he’d been when on Earth. He’d barely had time to find his feet in HQ, whisked back again almost the minute he’d walked through the pearly gates, then put into Neville’s team and told to sit tight and await orders. He was good at that, always had been, and so he’d waited, enjoying the facilities at the sort of London house which he’d only ever seen in television dramas. They’d given him little jobs to do, processing data and helping out the quartermaster but he knew they were just place holders for whatever the real thing was going to turn out to be.
Out in Iraq or Bosnia he’d always had a good grasp of the big picture. Strategy, that was his particular skill. Now he wasn’t even sure there was a canvas, let alone a picture. Nothing made a lot of sense beyond the obvious, that he’d died, been sent back and was part of some military-style operation again, only more a case of action behind the scenes rather than in the front line.
When the orders did come, he wasn’t too surprised. He was to take up the position of guardian angel, probationer status, working with another officer; that was logical, it would make reasonable use of his skills. The identity of the person being guarded was the problem. Never in his wildest nightmares had it occurred to him it would be Robbie Woodward he had to mind.
When Neville told him, for the first time in his life Billy found himself questioning a direct order. “Robbie Woodward? Are you sure you’ve got the name right?”
“No mistake as far as I can see.” Neville consulted what looked like a register, tracing the words with his finger. “Yes. Robert Woodward. Born May the third, nineteen seventy…”
“I know when he was born! Sorry.” Billy held up his hand in a gesture of apology. “I’m struggling with the idea of having anything to do with him. Assign me to someone else—I really don’t mind how difficult it would be. Just not Robbie.”
“I’m not sure I have any discretion in the matter. I’m not sure any of us do.” Neville leaned forward, looking avuncular and reassuring. “What’s the problem?”
“Problem? How much time have we got? I suppose you want me to spend all my time making sure he keeps dick inside his trousers?” Billy immediately regretted the outburst. Neville’s face had turned from avuncular to something resembling a headmaster addressing the worst behaved pupil in the school.
“I would seek to remind you, Billy, that we don’t employ such vulgarity here. Nor would some of the names you’ve seen fit to use in describing Mr. Woodward in the past be appropriate to our situation.” Neville consulted another list, one secreted beneath his register. “Lecherous bastard. Self-centred sod. Those are the only ones I can bear to repeat. He will be Mr. Woodward to you, or simply Robbie—is that clear?”
“Yes, sir.”
“No need for the ‘sir’, Neville will do for me.” His face softened again. “I’m not unsympathetic. I appreciate how difficult the situation is.”
“You already knew about me and Robbie?”
“Of course we did. And I’m delighted you saw fit to admit to both the past association and your misgivings. Couldn’t have worked if you’d denied any issues.”
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for survivors)
Music in the Midst of Desolation is one of my favourite stories among the ones I've written. It has ghosts, one of whom has to cope with being guardian angel to the man who'd been his love rivals in life. There's also hot men, and echoes of WWI...

It was odd walking real streets again, even if they barely resembled the ones Patrick remembered. The snow—there’d clearly been a fresh fall during the night—was white or slushy grey, for one thing. Not brown with horse droppings, like it used to be anywhere that cabs and drays plied their trade. It had been speckled brown out in France. Brown and red.

Here's the lads wrestling with their dilemma...

“I learned long ago not to let personal prejudices make a scrap of difference to my work. I promise I’ll behave if I have to go to the pub with the lecherous bugger.” Billy savoured the words, knowing full well there probably wasn’t anyone else here he could use them in front of.
Patrick grinned then continued. “You were on your way to seeing Woodward when the lorry hit you. Is that just coincidence?”
Billy narrowed his gaze. “You know it isn’t. I bet your bloody dossier tells you exactly what was what. I was on my way to beat the shit out of him. Only your file will say ‘beat the living daylights’ if Neville’s had anything to do with it. I suspect if I’d got there and kicked the bucket on the way back I’d not be here now.”
Patrick smiled; a frank, rueful smile which spoke volumes about what must be lurking in that file. “What these papers don’t tell me is why.”
Billy slammed his fist on the table. “Why? Because he deserved it. Robbie Woodward had spent the previous two years—most of which I’d spent on tours of duty or training other poor sods to go out to the Middle East—trying to get my bloke into bed with him. Every time I was posted abroad he was hanging around, taking Rafe down the pub and setting himself up for when there’d be a need for a shoulder to cry on.”
“I’m sorry to have to ask you.” Patrick looked concerned. “If they’d written it all down in here I wouldn’t have needed to…”
“That’s okay. You’ve got to do your job.” Still hurt like stink though. All those do-gooders who said it was therapeutic to talk about things could get stuffed; forcing the words out was only making Billy feel more aggravated. He picked up his empty mug and worried at it. “Rafe’s a good bloke. He didn’t feel the need of filling up the hole in our bed with a great streak of water from the tap.”
“I’m sorry?”
“It was a description of Woodward. There’s more meat on a butcher’s pencil.” Billy chuckled, flexing his own, well toned muscles. The short time he’d been back at HQ, he’d forgotten how good that felt. “Not that Rafe got to savour any of it. Not back then, anyway.”
“And now?” They both knew the question had to be asked. Rafe had only a memory to be loyal to now, and the empty space in his and Billy’s bed was no longer spoken for.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to know.” Billy’s hands tightened around coffee mug, knuckles as white as if it was Woodward’s throat he had hold of. “Guess I’m going to find out, though.” He laid the mug down before he snapped off the handle. “Anything about it in that bloody dossier?”
Patrick turned over a page, read it through as if to refresh his memory, then carefully closed it. “Not directly. I think that may be the point.”
“Meaning?” Billy narrowed his eyes.
Patrick considered for a moment before speaking. “Not sure. Insufficient evidence to make a judgement.”
“Insufficient fucking evidence?” Billy shouted. “You can take your insufficient evidence and stick it up…”
charlie_cochrane: (old time winter)
Like my favourite biscuit, place to write, books to read. All revealed over at Top 2 Bottom reviews, who have also reviewed Music in the Midst of Desolation.
charlie_cochrane: (charlie and jonny)
Am over at [livejournal.com profile] elin_gregory's blog today, answering some of her not-your-run-of-the-mill questions.

Including the never before seen (and potentially traumatic) answer to "Is there one story in the Lessons canon that you would like to write but have declined to tackle?"
charlie_cochrane: (charlie)
Have been blogging over at Guys like Romance Too about an encounter a friend had with a very unlikely looking angel and how it inspired "Music in the Midst of Desolation".
charlie_cochrane: (Default)
First and foremost, the Speak Its Name Advent calendar opens today. This is a seriously good thing, with (if past years are anything to go by) excellent posts every day and plenty of goodies to be won. Participants include some of the biggest names in GLBT romance/fiction writing.

Now, a bit of squee. [livejournal.com profile] elisa_rolle named Lessons in Love among her Top Gay books of the XXI century. And there was a lovely review for Music in the Midst of Desolation over at Cryselle's bookshelf. I love it when a reviewer really 'gets' the story: "these guys are literally on the side of the angels; they will do the work honorably".
charlie_cochrane: (charlie)
I'm delighted to say that my story in the Quick Reads collection, Music in the Midst of Desolation, is now available, at MLR. It's, I;d say, a typical Charlie Cochrane type story but with a 'different' twist, as the blurb shows:

Old soldiers never die -- they get whisked straight back to earth to take part in angelic "manoeuvres". Patrick Evans has no idea why he and Billy Byrne, who fought their wars a century apart, have been chosen for this particular "op", nor why it seems to involve fixing up the man Billy left behind with someone Billy's always hated. When Patrick realizes his old lover also has a connection to the case, will the temptation to refuse orders become too great?

Excerpt:

"You won't be bored, you know." The person assigned to settle Patrick in on his return to Earth, a tweed-clad lady of indeterminate age, had met him at Waterloo Station. She looked more Agatha Christie-Patrick had seen the author's picture on the cover of a book in WH Smith's store while he waited to be scooped up-than Archangel Gabriel. She'd extended a brown, wrinkled hand to be shaken. "Should have introduced myself properly. Call me Marjorie. It's not my name now, although it was my name once, and it'll do. Let's get you to your lodgings." She'd set off at a great pace, Patrick barely able to keep up with her.

"I've forgotten what boredom's like." Funny how tedium hadn't featured back there, but now a vague memory of what it felt like returned, along with recollections of other feelings he'd left behind. Hurt. Jealousy. Cold. Patrick pulled his jacket tighter around him and wished he'd worn a thicker sweater.

"There's work to be done and they've decided you're suitable to be entrusted with it." The woman stopped in her march, turning to face him and rolling her eyes, as if to insinuate that Raphael or one of his lesser lights was lacking in judgement this time around. "I suppose they know what they're doing."

"What exactly is it that you want me to do?"

When he'd first been given his notice to prepare for "embarkation," Patrick had wondered whether he'd be assigned to being Christopher's guardian angel. Any previous occupant of the post would have needed to take an extended sabbatical due to extreme mental fatigue. But now he was back on Earth, it was obvious the timescale wouldn't work out. According to the newspaper he'd seen at the newsagent's, this was 2011, so Christopher-if alive-would be one hundred and twenty-one and incapable of getting into any mischief that a guardian angel would need to get him out of.

"Do? Be patient in the short term." Marjorie snorted, turning a corner and leading him out of the concourse.

It was odd walking real streets again, even if they barely resembled the ones Patrick remembered. The snow-there'd clearly been a fresh fall during the night-was white or slushy grey, for one thing. Not brown with horse droppings, like it used to be anywhere that cabs and drays plied their trade. It had been speckled brown out in France. Brown and red.

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