QSFer Cari Z. has a new fantasy/mythology book out:
Lee Summers is past expecting to find love. He has a fulfilling career and a few human connections, and he’s determined to be happy with those. When he meets Felix Clymenos during a vacation in Colorado, he doesn’t expect to feel so passionate about him. Felix is intriguing, but when he starts to feature in Lee’s dreams—and his slowly strengthening nightmares—Lee wonders if it wouldn’t be a better idea to walk away. There’s a mystery behind Felix’s affections and somehow Lee feels like he’s known Felix his whole life. Before they can be happy together, Lee has to know why that is… and what that means for their future.
The last farmers’ markets of the year are always the best, in my opinion.
Autumn is the season of harvest, the gasping end of summer’s time of plenty. It’s when everything living in the ground exerts itself with one final burst of fecundity before going gently into that dark, wintery sleep. The stalls of the local farmers’ market are filled with fruits that are smaller than their early counterparts but all the sweeter for it, and greens that have just barely avoided being touched with frost. It’s the season of preserves, jams and jellies, pickles, and sauerkraut stacked in bright clean jars on orange and red tablecloths. It’s the season of keeping and consideration. Even though I know I can get almost anything I want from the local supermarket, even though I could certainly grow it myself if I took the time to build a proper greenhouse here, I like the sense of scarcity. The culinary specificity, as it were.
One of the booths has bottles of last year’s ice wine on display. To make ice wine, the grapes have to freeze on the vine—literally perish of the cold—before they’re harvested and pressed. It makes the wine uniquely sweet. I don’t normally drink, but something about the metaphor moves me. I buy a bottle and continue my ramble, enjoying the sights and scents of people and dogs—so many dogs, it seems like everyone in this town has one—pushed together in such a small space. Boulder’s farmers’ market is hosted on a small stretch of street between a park and an art museum. Next to the art museum is an ornamental teahouse, and I’m tempted by it, a chance to escape the chill, but it’s not so bad out that I can’t browse a little longer.
There are stalls making artisanal pizzas baked on the spot, or empanadas, kebabs, or gyros, each one with vegetarian options. Children run from the bakeries to the florists to the puppy tied up in the shadow of a tree behind one of the vendors. People jostle for space in front of the booths, hands reaching for samples, voices raised in conversation, debate, and laughter. It’s nice. Lively. I like the energy of it, being in such a crowd. Sometimes I feel like a battery and that I need to be part of a group to recharge properly. Being in a greenhouse gives me the same buzz, and without the headaches that can come when I linger with noisy people a little too long, but I haven’t put down roots here. I won’t. This is a break from my regular life, a stutter in the breath of responsibility that normally fills me and gives me purpose. I like it here, but I can’t maintain it. Have to enjoy it while I can.
I buy a kebab from one of the food vendors, meat so tender the first bite literally melts in my mouth, breaking to pieces under the gentle pressure of my tongue. It’s blissful, and I shut my eyes to savor the flavors more fully. Lamb with a Moroccan flair: I taste coriander and cumin, the heat of ginger and the sweet bite of cinnamon. I finish my bite and reach for another.
Only my wooden skewer is empty. I stare at it for a moment, then down at the dog sitting at my feet, its jaws wide open in a grin. It’s a pit bull, I think, or maybe a pit bull cross of some kind, charcoal gray with two white spots on either side of its muzzle. It looks very pleased with itself, and so it should, I reflect as I shake my head and throw my skewer in the nearby trash can.
A tall man in black jeans and a dark brown Henley is striding toward us, his expression on the grim side. “I’m so sorry,” he says once he’s close enough to be heard over the crowd. His voice is a pleasant baritone with the slightest hint of an accent I can’t quite place. “Bear got away from me. Please tell me he didn’t knock you down searching for a treat.”
“Nothing so dire.” I pat the dog—Bear—on the head, and his owner sighs.
“That’s a polite way of saying he did get something from you. If my dog ate your lunch, the least I can do is replace it.”
“It’s fine, really.”
“Please, I insist.”
I look at the man, look a little more closely for the first time. There’s a veneer of irritation over his face, but beneath that I get a sense of depth, of layers. Irritation, affection for the dog, pleasure at a new, impromptu meeting, and… I pull back. It’s none of my business.
“Well, if you insist.”
“I do.” He glances behind me at the kebab shop. “Although the line here has grown very long. We may as well sit down if we’re going to eat properly.”
I thought back to the teahouse. “Will they let you in with Bear?”
“Possibly. If not, then we’ll sit outside. There are heaters set up beside the tables.”
He holds his hand out to me, palm facing more up than sideways. When I take it I almost expect him to raise my knuckles to his lips. The thought makes me blush a little, and I hope he doesn’t see it.
We shake, and his lip curls slightly.
“A pleasure, Mr. Summers, despite our unorthodox meeting.”
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Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which promptly sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She also started writing then because what else are you going to do for entertainment with no electricity? She writes award-winning LGBTQ fiction featuring aliens, supervillains, soothsayers and even normal people sometimes.