Saturday, May 4, 2013

“Prelude” – Where Love and Music Intersect


Thanks so much, Michelle, for letting me ramble a bit about my upcoming release, Prelude, and hosting the first stop on the Prelude Blog Tour!  The book releases this Monday, May 5th, and is now available for preorder at Dreamspinner Press’s website.

Prelude is the fourth book in the Blue Notes Series of classical music-themed gay romances from Dreamspinner Press and is co-authored with my good friend, Venona Keyes.  Each Blue Notes Series book is an independent story that revolves around two men, at least one of whom is a musician.  You can dive into the series in any order.  Please make sure to read to the end of the post to learn about how you can win a Blue Notes Series book or t-shirt to be given away at the end of the Blue Notes blog tour.

Prelude, as with the other Blue Notes books, is all about love and music.  In each book, I explore a different aspect of music and of relationships.  The first book in the series, Blue Notes, is about letting go of your expectations and finding yourself through the love of another person.  In it, attorney and former pianist Jason Greene escapes the ruins of his relationship in the US by running to Paris.  There, he meets violinist Jules Bardon, who has begun to more past his painful childhood to pursue blossoming career as a jazz musician.  Together, Jules and Jason find love against the backdrop of one of the most romantic cities in the world.  But it’s not just the relationship that helps them heal, it’s their shared love of music as well.

In The Melody Thief, cellist Cary Redding is on a downward spiral filled with anonymous sex and alcohol.  Things come crashing down around Cary when he’s mugged late at night on his way home from a seedy Milan nightclub.  Enter lawyer Antonio Bianchi, who saves Cary’s life in more ways than one.  With Antonio’s unconditional love and support, Cary not only comes to realize that he’s worthy of being loved, but that through that love he can connect with his music in a way he never knew possible.

In Aria, lawyer Sam Ryan (yes, I do like writing about lawyers!) meets and falls for opera singer Aiden Lind.  But Sam isn’t ready to let go of the love of his life who died several years before.  Fast forward five years, and Sam and Aiden meet once more at a party in Paris.  They begin a rocky relationship that’s threatened by Aiden’s demanding career and Sam’s inability to let go of the past.  Both men must learn to sacrifice a bit of what’s important to them in order to stay together and grow as a couple.

Of all the Blue Notes books, Prelude has perhaps the deepest connection to music.  Superstar conductor David Somers literally hears music in everything he does.  Whether it’s in the conflicts he had with his domineering grandfather when he was a child, or in the day to day activities of his life, each event, each emotion, each person evokes a melody in David’s mind.  But when David meets violinist Alex Bishop, the music he hears is unlike any other.  David, who always wanted to be a composer, longs to write Alex’s music.  But each time he tries, he fails miserably.  How can you write the music of your heart when your heart is walled off from emotion?  With Alex’s help, David must learn to open his himself to both pain and joy.  Only that way can he begin to express what he hears in his soul.

Curious about how love and music can combine in romance?  You can pick up any of the Blue Notes books at Dreamspinner Press’s website or on Amazon,, Barnes & Noble, and many other outlets. 

Thanks for listening to my ramble!  I’ll leave you with the blurb for Prelude and a short excerpt from the novel.  Want to win some Blue Notes swag?  I’ll be giving away winner’s choice of a paperback or ebook of one of the Blue Notes novels as well as a Blue Notes Series t-shirt (winner’s choice of cover) at the end of the Blue Notes blog tour.  To enter, comment on this post and the other blog posts to win!–Shira

PS:  Michelle mentioned she wanted me to talk a bit about my next book, the first in a fantasy series that will be published late summer by Dreamspinner Press.  Stealing the Wind is the first in a series of stories about Taren Laxley, a slave who is kidnapped by pirates and who learns that he isn’t human at all, but an “Ea”—a merman shifter.  Stealing is a bit sexier than my contemporary books, and features my first foray into mermen sex and my first ménage scene (although the pairing is strictly a twosome).  You can read an excerpt from the novel on my website (  Just click on the “excerpt” tab under the book summary on the “Works in Progress” page!  More about that later....


Blurb:  World-renowned conductor David Somers never wanted the investment firm he inherited from his domineering grandfather. He only wanted to be a composer. But no matter how he struggles, David can’t translate the music in his head into notes on paper.

When a guest violinist at the Chicago Symphony falls ill, David meets Alex Bishop, a last-minute substitute. Alex’s fame and outrageous tattoos fail to move David. Then Alex puts bow to string, and David hears the brilliance of Alex’s soul.

David has sworn off relationships, believing he will eventually drive away those he loves, or that he'll lose them as he lost his wife and parents. But Alex is outgoing, relaxed, and congenial—everything David is not—and soon makes dents in the armor around David's heart. David begins to dream of Alex, wonderful dreams full of music. Becoming a composer suddenly feels attainable.

David’s fragile ego, worn away by years of his grandfather’s disdain, makes losing control difficult. When David’s structured world comes crashing down, his fledgling relationship with Alex is the first casualty. Still, David hears Alex’s music, haunting and beautiful. David wants to love Alex, but first he must find the strength to acknowledge himself.


Excerpt from Chapter Two

David Somers had a headache.  He’d hoped it would pass, but it had only gotten worse in the past fifteen minutes.  He waited stage left as the orchestra finished tuning. 

Deep breath.  Focus.

The concertmaster sat back down—the signal for David to walk onto the stage of Orchestra Hall.  His hall.  His orchestra.  He breathed in slowly before walking onto the stage, his expression schooled, utterly focused.  The Armani tux he wore was perfectly pressed, his posture faultless, and his stride confident.  The orchestra stood as he entered.  The hall, filled to capacity, rang with polite applause. 

But David’s disinterested poise was merely a sham—he was irritated to the extreme.  Only his strong sense of duty had brought him back to the stage tonight for the second half of the program.  That, and the potential sponsors of his modern music series whom he knew sat in the center box seats—the box that had been owned by Somers Investments for more than sixty years.

He glanced stage-left to where the soloist waited to make his entrance.  David had seen him for the first time only moments before, and he'd been left with the distinct impression of a street thug.  Tattoos, indeed.  There was no place for such a thing in the refined world of classical music.  True, the soloist had worn the traditional tails of an artist making a solo appearance with the Chicago Symphony, one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world.  But that was de rigueur, expected of him, regardless of his personal tastes.  No, it had been the telltale ink visible at the other man’s throat as he buttoned up his shirt that had taken David by surprise.

"Lastislav Voitavich is ill," his personal assistant, James Roland, had told him as he arrived at the back entrance to Symphony Center that afternoon, "but we've managed to find a replacement."

David hadn’t been concerned.  Such last-minute substitutions were rare, but not unheard of.  He knew there were plenty of violinists who would give their eyeteeth to take the stage under his baton and with such a prestigious orchestra.  There were few conductors on the classical music scene with his reputation, let alone as young as he.

"Has the replacement performed the piece before?"

"Of course, Maestro," James assured him. “Several times, I’m told.”

"That will be sufficient."  It would be just that—sufficient—nothing more and nothing less.  That was the way of all last-minute substitutions.  The evening would not be a memorable one, but David would make sure that his audience did not leave disappointed.  The orchestra’s performance would, at least, be outstanding.

"There is one thing you should know, though," James added in a quavering voice.  It meant little that they’d worked together for nearly five years; David had never been an easy man to please.  But then, one didn’t get a reputation like his by having lax standards.  David was a perfectionist and proud of it.

He glared at James—he didn’t appreciate being troubled with such nonsense before a performance—he needed time to prepare, to focus on the music, and review the score.  "What do you wish to tell me?"

"Th… the… the soloist… he… ah—"

"I don’t care who he is, as long as he can play the Sibelius."  David ran a hand through his hair in frustration.

"He… he can, of course.” Beads of sweat appeared on James’s forehead.

Five minutes before he’d taken the stage for the second half of the concert, when he read through the bio James had handed him, David realized what a mistake he’d made by not pressing the issue further.   It’s a concert.  Nothing more.  There will be time to kowtow in apology to the board tomorrow, if need be.  He detested kowtowing, but he also knew he did it quite well.

David rarely made any sort of public speech, let alone an announcement in the middle of a concert.  He despised public speaking, but there was nothing to do for it—the substitution had been too eleventh-hour to print something to add into the programs.

“Good evening,” he began with a practiced smile.  “There has been a slight change in tonight’s program. Our featured soloist, Lastislav Voitavich, has taken ill.”   There were murmurs from the audience, so David waited until the hall was silent before continuing, “Alexander Bishop has graciously agreed to perform the Sibelius.”  Instead of voicing their disappointment, the audience applauded with surprising enthusiasm.  “Thank you.” David was unsure what to make of the response.   He nodded toward the wings.  There was renewed applause as the violinist took to the stage. 

Alex Bishop.  A rock star masquerading as a classical violinist.  Tattoos and groupies.  He didn't doubt that the man was competent—his assistant was young, not stupid.  Still, David loathed this "new breed" of musician who all too often graced the covers of magazines like Time and, more recently, Rolling Stone.  Tattoos, indeed.  In David’s estimation, the term “crossover artist” was a mere marketing tool, intended to exploit an artist’s good looks and increase sales. 

He signaled for the concertmaster to provide the soloist with an opportunity to tune before turning to face the orchestra, his back to the audience.  The Sibelius Violin Concerto was a challenging but not an overly taxing piece, and he’d rehearsed his orchestra well.   The orchestra will shine, despite any deficit in the quality of the fiddle playing. He raised his baton and did his best to ignore the auburn hair that fell onto the soloist’s shoulders in a tumble. 

Alex Bishop was attractive enough.  Tall and muscular—taller than David himself.  David was surprised he even noticed, but then there was something about Bishop that commanded attention.  Still, in spite of his apparent ease in front of the large crowd and his undeniable stage-presence, David knew Bishop was no more than a pretender to the world of classical music.  All hype and no substance—a creation of Hollywood agents and a second-rate player, no doubt.  He’d heard so-called “crossover” artists perform before, and he hadn’t been impressed.

Bishop glanced over to David, his instrument tucked under his chin.  Their eyes met for a brief moment.  Bishop’s dark brown eyes simmered with passion and focus.  David raised his baton higher, the signal to the orchestra for the downbeat.  One deft flick of the baton later, the orchestra began the first measures of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor.

As a conductor, David had always preferred the less emotional, modern repertoire to the sweeping romanticism of Brahms, Mahler, or Sibelius.  Tonight's program had been a nod to the wealthy patrons who kept the orchestra’s finances in the black.  It was a tedious thing, to be required to accommodate the common musical tastes of his benefactors, but David tolerated it, knowing he'd been able to include a less tonal, more challenging piece of music later in the symphony's performance schedule.  In David’s opinion, the Sibelius concerto was no exception.  He was unmoved by its soaring and plaintive melodies, although he knew that his audience would respond to it with enthusiasm.

David glanced over at Bishop.  Their eyes met again as Bishop began the first few notes of the solo line and the heady tones of his violin filled the concert hall.  With practiced concentration, David returned his focus to the score that sat on the podium in front of him.  He didn't need to read the music to conduct the piece—he had committed every measure to memory—but he sought the distraction. 

Strange.  He’s better than I expected.  Far better, really, although David would hardly admit it to himself.

Bishop finished the opening phrase of the movement with obvious ease.  Again, David found himself taken aback by the intensity of the other man's playing, as well as the natural musicality and the warm tone he was able to coax from the fiddle.  The violin Bishop played was serviceable, but it was no Stradivarius or Guarneri.  Still, David found it remarkable that the instrument sounded nearly as resonant the as finest instruments he had heard through the years.  “A good instrument can make the performer,” his old friend and predecessor, John Fuchs, had once told him.  “But without talent, it is only an instrument.” 

As the evening progressed, Bishop began the second movement: a slow and sensual adagio.  Once more, David found himself transported by the artistry with which Bishop conveyed the depth of the composition, and again David found himself struggling to maintain his focus and not lose himself in the music.  After the third and final movement, the crowd jumped to its feet.  Amidst the enthusiastic applause were resounding calls of "Bravo!" from some of the patrons.  Including, David noted with pleasure, the two men and one woman seated in the Somers’s box.

The audience was satisfied with no fewer than four bows, each time calling back both soloist and conductor to the stage with more cheers and applause.  As they walked back and forth across the stage for each bow, David watched with interest, half-expecting Bishop to react as a rock star might and toss an article of clothing to his adoring fans.  He did nothing of the sort, instead bowing with surprising grace and maintaining the decorum expected from a soloist performing with a world-renowned symphony orchestra.  David noticed that rather than basking in the glow of the audience’s response, Bishop appeared slightly ill at ease with the adulation, although he smiled personably and with genuine appreciation.

After the final bow, David followed Bishop offstage.  He had intended to retreat to his dressing room, but several fans already crowded the wings, blocking the way.  Irritated by the lack of security, David attempted to walk around the gathering crowd by taking a path through the wings instead of directly out to the corridor.  Several orchestra members milled about, clearly anxious to congratulate Bishop on his performance.  Seeing David, they nodded in a formal manner—they had long since learned that the he did not wish to be disturbed after a performance.  David returned each gesture with a curt nod, sidestepping the approaching fans before slipping out the door and into the hallway.

He closed the door behind him and looked up into a pair of dark eyes.  Bishop, it appeared, had also sought to avoid the backstage chaos.  He smiled at David, holding his violin and bow in his right hand.  “Maestro,” he said.  Transferring his instrument to his left hand, he offered his right hand to David.  The casual warmth of the gesture took David aback—he was used to being the one to initiate such contact with the orchestra’s guest artists.

They shook hands in silence.  There was a moment’s hesitation before David withdrew his hand and said, "We appreciate your willingness to fill in at the last minute."

"It was my pleasure," the violinist murmured.  He watched David as if unsure what to make of him.  "I've played the concerto a few times, although never with such a skillful conductor."

David, accustomed to compliments, remained unmoved.  "Thank you."

Bishop shifted inelegantly on his feet.  "Listen," he said, "we're having a little party at my place.  Just a few friends, a couple of beers, that sort of thing.  Nothin' fancy.  Would you like to join us?"

"I appreciate the invitation, but I’m expected at a donors’ party in a few minutes."

"No problem." Bishop smiled and nodded.  "I understand." 

Was that disappointment David saw in the other man’s face?  Unlikely.  He’s relieved.  Besides, can you see yourself at a party with a few friends and a ‘couple of beers’?  He’s just trying to be kind.  Then, realizing that his response had been quite rude, David said, "Perhaps another ti—"  His words were cut short by shouts and giggles as two teenage girls launched themselves at Bishop, nearly knocking his violin from his hand. 

David stepped backward to avoid the onslaught and almost collided with a woman with long blond hair who swooped in to protect Bishop from the girls.  The girlfriend, no doubt.  Time to leave.  He turned and strode quickly down the hallway to his dressing room, closing the door and taking a deep breath on the other side.


Shira Anthony, in her last incarnation, was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.