Monday, April 24, 2017

A Symphony of Heart Strings by T.E. Hodden


A Symphony of Heart Strings
Paranormal Romance
By T.E. Hodden
Release Date: April 24, 2017
Publisher: Roane Publishing

Keywords: Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary, London, Novella Niblets

Meet Bob. Bob is the guy between the lines of every love story you ever met. The lucky chance, the twist of fate, the astounding coincidence that sets sparks flying. Never seen, but always there.

Today Bob is assigned to help Jenny find love. But there is something more than bad luck working against the quirky librarian. Bob might have to save her life, before he can help her find love.

And he can't do that from the shadows....



Time for a practical demonstration…
I step into a sandwich shop. It is busy with the lunch hour rush. Jimmy sits at one of the tables, staring into his book, and trying not to think. He is a heavy guy, big and round with jowls and a frown. His connection to the Loom is worn thin, and a lot of his strings play sour, dull, notes. He is nearly forty, but has never been kissed and never known that warm fuzzy glow in his chest.
What he has known is shame, self-doubt, and fear. Whenever he has felt his heart crack open, he has been trained to think it is unnatural and shameful. People like him were the butts of jokes, when he was a kid. Most the people he hang around still use “queer” and “gay” as a shorthand for worthless and disgusting. He has spent too long burying his feelings, and now believes that they make him less of a man, and less of a human..
There is a girl at his office who likes him. She is friendly and flirty. He responds politely, but is so convinced of his self-image that he thinks she is quietly mocking him. He sees no malice in her, but he thinks there is gentle teasing at his expense.
Kelly is in the queue. He is waiting on a chicken and avocado baguette to go with his bottle of soda. He is thirty-nine, tall, burly, and jolly. He has a kind laugh and gets on with everybody in the office. He recognises Jimmy. They bump into each other in the office kitchen, making coffees. They talk about cricket and football while waiting on the kettle.
Jimmy nods for Kelly to join him. They joke about the latest email from head office. The "Fair culture flowchart" is a policy that spends three thousand words telling them, in essence, not to be dicks.
Neither men see me standing by their table. I pluck the string that binds them. It plays a sweet note, made heavy by Jimmy's doubts. I knock his drink into his lap. Jimmy squawks in surprise and Kelly drops to his knees, mopping at Jimmy's lap with napkins. Jimmy panics at the touch.
"Hey. Let me." Jimmy laughs a little. "If you don't mind where you put your hands, you will do something you will regret."
I stoop down to Kelly's ear and whisper, "Will you?"
Kelly gives a dirty laugh. "I wouldn't regret it. Would you?"
For a moment they hold each other's gazes.




Ink Stained Tears

“It's impossible!” Petal made the declaration with her usual heaped tea spoon of drama.

She slammed her palm on the table, and her purse, notes, and manuscript bounce into the air. I had second thoughts about placing the tray before her, and could feel the eyes of every other patron in the coffee shop turning on us.

“What is impossible?” I asked, sitting down.

“I am writing a romance. It is a good romance.”

“Even if you say so, yourself?” I asked.

“Pah.” Petal glowered at my attempted humour. “Now they sent back my draft, and say they want it to be about a different kind of love. True love. And that...” Petal shook a fist as though she rued the day she had set fingertip to typewriter. “That is a very different kind of script.”

“Ah.” I watched her carefully. “Tell me what the problem is exactly.”

“I don't do love stories,” Petal admitted. “I barely write romances. A love story won't fit between the song and dance numbers, but a romance can. A romance only has to offer the illusion of depth. Make the girl cute and sassy, have the man suave and elegant, let them argue and bicker with enough jokes, and you can make it feel like love. But, now somebody wants this to be a little...more... true. To scratch the surface and still see love. Understand?”

“You've written about love before...” I sipped my tea. “What about the Pirate Bride?”

“That wasn't love!” Petal seethed. “It was passion, and flirting, and desire, and sweat. True love doesn't come from kidnapping. It was as pale a comparison to love, as my swashbucklers were to real pirates.”

“Passion, flirting, desire and...heat all exist,” I said. “They are part of love.”

“Oh yes...” Petal looked over her glasses at me. “They are the bits people like. The problem is, true love is never quite so wonderful to look at up close is it? People like the idea of pirates, but only the best bits. The cream on the top. They want bold colours, dashing rogues, and just a hint of naughtiness. They don't want scurvy, bad teeth, rape, murder, and the brutal realities of off-shore muggings. It's the same with cowboys. They don't want to know about the grime, the dust, the sores and the stench, of somebody who guided cattle on their exodus. No. They want rootin' tootin' heroes with embroidered shirts, surly stubble and a swagger. The love I write is pulling the same tricks. It ignores the lumps, the bumps, and the aches. It shows only the exciting bits, that we want to relive.” She rubbed her head. “And trust me. I know love is hard work.”

“It doesn't have to be,” I assured her.

“Then Plum, you are doing it wrong.” She looked at me, and put a finger to her lips. “It's okay. I know that you things are... different. You have to be sure of a lot of stuff, before you open your heart. Right?”

Ah. I should explain. I have been darkening the sidewalks of Hollywood for a few years now. I'm a painter. I happen to specialise in large scale canvases. Which is to say, I paint the backdrops for films. They hang behind sound stages, or appear behind actors with some camera trickery. Petal lives in the apartment above mine. She is, as you might have gathered, a scriptwriter. She goes to a studio every day (rarely the one I am working for) and attacks a typewriter to churn out things to keep the stable of actors happy.

She has ever said as much to my face (because she doesn't want me blacklisted as fast as you can say 'and probably a communist too'), but I think she believes I am a homosexual. She holds no malice about this, and has never suggested that she sees any shame in it. I have tried to tell her several times how wrong she is, and she has nodded, winked and whispered that of course I was straight.

“No. I mean...” I wrestled for the words to fit what I was trying to say. “Love isn't heart ache, and trouble. Those will find you if your romance was meant to be, or not. But love, for better, or for worse (and I hope for the better), is the strength it takes to get through. I don't mean it is what lets you weather a bully. I mean it is what gives you both the strength to support each other, to keep each other afloat, during all the turbulence and storms we encounter every now and again. Your passion, your flirting, and your steamy moments are all part of it, but so is friendship, support, hope, and kindness. So is... just being there. We can have any and all of these without love, but love is what makes them more.”

Petal chuckled.

“What?” I asked.

“I've been in love too many times to count, and that...” She patted my hand. “That is what I have never stopped hoping to feel.”

“Then maybe you haven't been in love.”

“Oh. I have.” Petal dug out her cigarettes, and lit one for herself. “Truth be told, for one of them I still am. But... you know... the war and all... There was love again. There will be another. But, there are all kinds of love, and I'm pretty sure they mean the forever kind, which... It's as rare as unicorn farts.”

“I'm pretty sure when you are in love, truly, deeply, you stop thinking of any other kind as variations. The word becomes something new. Love with a capital L.”

“Plum...” Petal cocked her head at me. “Have you even been with anybody since I knew you?”

“None. But I have been in love.”

“Oh, Plum,” Petal whispered with a sigh that belonged to a mother, putting aside apple pie, and realising it was time to have special conversation with an impressionable young lady. “True love is not something you experience alone.”

“I wish that were true,” I sighed. “But one can, unfortunately, fall completely to their love and devotions, even if they are ignored or unnoticed. I will not pretend it is anything but torture, to feel incomplete, but...”

Petal stared at me.

“What?” I asked.

“Who is he?” Petal shook her head, and swept her notes aside, so she could lean over the table. She grabbed my head, so I as staring into her eyes, unable to escape those whirlpools of absolute, azure, blue. “Why didn't you tell her? Why didn't you tell me?”

“Because...” The words were hot coals on my tongue. “She doesn't think of me that way, and I don't want to drive her away. She is a friend.”

“If she were a friend, she would not think less of you. Who is she?” Petal demanded.

“Look, all it takes to turn romance to love, is one moment. You say love is painful? Then perhaps that is because love has consequences. Just have one moment, one scene, where the actors act, instead of smile. Where emotions weigh heavy, where they are scared, where they are hurt, where their emotions are raw and barbed. Have the boy have to admit to the girl what he feels. Have him worry about all he could lose if he is wrong. Have him realise that 'Happy Ever After' are the longest words in the English language, and... then it is love, not romance. Even before they kiss, even before they say the words, more than any song, it is love.”

“Who is he?”

“She.” The word was a little too sharp as it escaped my lips. “I keep trying to tell you.”

“She.” Petal raised an eyebrow. “I have never seen you flirt with a girl. Or dance. Or...”

“You have never seen me flirt with, or chase, another woman.” I swallowed. “Because I want nobody else. I have to be true to my heart, even if she is not. It would not be fair to be indiscreet with another, to them, or to myself. It would lessen the one good thing I have ever been sure of in my heart.”

“Then why have you not considered flirting with her?” Petal released my cheeks.

“Because...” I felt heavy, weary, and defeated. “You have. It's just being in love, and being able to show it, are two different things. I am sorry, but the only ways I know to try and impress a woman are to encourage her, and support her. To be kind, and honest, and hope one day she finally notices I am trying my best to be all the things you always say you want in a man. But when I tell her it won't matter. She wants it in another man. She won't even want to be my friend after that.”


“She always says she wants in a man.” I could feel my face trying to turn into a beetroot.

“That is not what you said.”

“I know.” I closed my eyes. “Sorry.”

“Okay...” She let out a long sigh. “You are right.”

“About which bit?”

“About... almost all of it.” She took my hand. “It takes one moment. I can't deny that now. This was yours, right? And you are in love. If I want it or not, I can't deny what I am seeing right now can I?”

“No.” My laugh was hollow. “But this is where you will tell me that I am about to discover I was wrong, and there will be heartache and pain, now?”


“No?” I dared to let a spark of hope splutter in my heart.

“No. I don't know yet.” She kissed my fingers. “But if you think I would want to stop being your friend, if I would shoo you away for this, you are an idiot.”


“Why don't you ask me out sometime, and I will see if this is a good thing or not?” She spoke in an ice cool, velvet tone. But I could hear the slight waver of undercurrents and rip-tides beneath the surface of her words.

“Would you like to-”

“Tonight? I would love to.” She kissed my fingers again. “But... I think I better go type. My muse just slapped me. Tonight. Eight. That place I like that does the beef cooked in port?”

I nodded numbly, trying to work out what had just happened.


T. E. Hodden trained in engineering, and works in the rail industry. He writes as a hobby, when he is not walking the Kent coast, looking for forgotten nooks and crannies of history and folklore.

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