Title: Between The Lines
Author Name & Publisher: J. Scott Coatsworth (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: July 15, 2015 – 15,000 Words
As a writer, it’s fun when you get to choose where to set your next story. Sometimes I choose a place I know really well. Sometimes it’s a place I’ve visited a few times. And sometimes it’s a place I’ve never been, or that exists only in my head.
But when you are writing a place that exists in the real world, I think you have an obligation as a reader to try to get the details right – and to try to capture the essence of the place.
In between the Lines, my first stand-alone novella, I hope I managed to do both.
My husband Mark and I have lived in the Sacramento area for twelve years now. It’s a quiet, humble city that doesn’t give up her charms easily – you have to know where to look. When we came here for a meeting back in the late nineties, we drove around town for half an hour looking for restaurants or gas stations and found nothing. Now I know we were just looking in the wrong part of town.
Between the Lines tells the story of a man who finds out what really lies beneath the surface – at work and at home. I like to think of it as my little love letter to Sacramento – like the city in which it’s set, there are hidden charms that only become apparent with time and familiarity.
If you live in Sacramento, or have ever spent time here, I hope the setting rings true to you. And if you haven’t, I hope it gives you a little taste of the life here in the River City.
Brad Weston’s life seems perfect. He’s GQ handsome, the Chief of Staff for a Republican California State Senator, and enjoys the power and the promise of a bright future. And he’s in a comfortable relationship with his boyfriend of six years, Alex.
Sam Fuller is Brad’s young, blond, blue-eyed intern, fresh out of college, running from a bad break-up, and questioning his choices and his new life in politics. To make things worse, Sam also has a thing for the boss, but Brad is already taken.
While looking for a gift for his boyfriend, Brad wanders into a curiosity shop and becomes fascinated by an old wooden medallion. Brad’s not a superstitious man, but when he takes out the medallion in his office, he sees the world in a new light. And nothing will ever be the same.
This was short enough I read it in about an hour. It’s a fun read with a bit of humor, a bit of drama, and a bit of magic. I loved the snappy dialog and the smooth writing style.
I’ll admit, I didn’t like either Brad or Sam at first. But as their stories unfolded, Sam’s actions were understandable, and the revelation of who he was under the surface was great. Brad had a lot of growth for such a short tale.
Anything else I say would be spoilers, so you’ll just have to trust me that this one is worth reading for the surprises.
Between the Lines was about Brad getting an unusual medallion for his longtime boyfriend for their anniversary. This medallion has the ability to let Brad hear other peoples thoughts. What was supposed to be a gift turned out to be a lifesaver for Brad himself. Brad learned what people were thinking about not only him but about things in the political sector that he was working it. It also led to some peoples demise, which was probably the best part of the book. This short story had a lot of potential but seemed familiar at the same time, like I had read or seen something similar before. I didn’t feel the chemistry between Brad and Sam and when things finally clicked the story was over. It was just ok for me, could have had more romance or spice.
This short story was very well written. A political adventure that rivals episodes of The West Wing, which would be why I loved it. What I struggled with was the focus; if it was a romance or a political commentary, with a paranormal twist, of course, because why not and done in such an amazing way.
The ending of this piece seemed far to fast-paced compared the beginning, and it started to feel a bit like instalove to me, which I’m not a fan of. However, I loved the budding relationship, particularly with Sam’s character, and how that was interwoven throughout the politics. Brad never seemed interested in Sam to me, at least not in a romantic way, so the ending just didn’t click.
It began with a medallion.
The piece was a simple wooden disk, hand carved with the shapes of leaves and forest boughs and polished by centuries of use, giving it a patina of great age.
It sat upon a small green velvet pillow—the kind jewelers sometimes use, rather unsuccessfully, to enhance a plain necklace of false pearls. The kind you might expect to find on your grandmother’s settee, in a slightly larger size, embroidered with “Home Sweet Home.”
Yet there was something compulsive about it—something hidden in the dark crevices of the carving, filled with the dust of ages.
At least that’s what Brad would recall years later, when he thought back on the first time he saw it: the moment when the lines of his mundane life suddenly snarled, snapped, and ultimately recombined into something quite different.
Of course, he didn’t know any of this at the time.
Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.
Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”
Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before – and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi (http://www.queerscifi.com) site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.