Since the moment he picked up his first guitar, Dez Conway dreamed of being a Rockstar. A multi-talented musician with the ability to play the electric violin, electric cello and even the bass, he’d be an asset to any group of musicians, if only the bands who’d hired him over the years had truly thought that way. Instead, he’s singing for the dishes in an upscale restaurant, bitter, pissed off and unwilling to entertain the offer to replace the front man of the world-famous Deviant Angels. After all, why the hell would they be any different than the guys who’d kicked him to the curb in the past?
Only…they’re not the Deviant Angels. Their longtime front man took the name with him when he left, along with their hopes of getting back on the road again and playing the music they love. Of course, a talented musician like Dez could change all that for them, if they can convince him that this time, his dreams of rock stardom, and love, can actually come true.
“Look, I’m not saying hiding among the chainsaws would be a good idea, but a running vehicle, I don’t know man, there’s something kinda sketch about it sitting there running with no one inside or anywhere around it,” Riley remarked. The ad on the television one that made him shake his head every time he saw it.
“Other driver already died of a terminal overdose of stupid,” came Dez’s flippant reply.
Riley glanced over to see him blinking sleepily, only half watching the TV, the notebook he’d previously been jotting lyrics on, drooping in his hand.
“And if it’s a setup?” Riley asked, grinning when Dez turned his sleepy gaze towards him.
“Then you should be asking yourself why your paranoia didn’t kick in before you got yourself in that situation in the first place,” Dez grumbled, giving his head a shake that left his tousled hair in his eyes. In Riley’s opinion, he looked downright adorable fighting sleep and fumbling around for his pen.
Snickering, Riley glanced between Dez and their drummer, who, from his heavy-lidded gaze, looked half asleep too. “See that right there is why Damien wouldn’t survive a horror movie. He’d overanalyze everything to death and end up merc’ed while debating which way to go.”
Damien didn’t crack an eye open, just flipped him off and chucked a crumpled bit of paper in his general direction, not that it hit anything.
“No, Damien wouldn’t have been involved in that dumpster fire in the first place,” their drummer intoned, referring to himself in third person. “Damien would have taken one look at the creepy ass road, said ‘oh hell no,’ and started hitchhiking home, leaving you idiots to whatever fate had in store for you.”
“There is that,” Riley conceded.
“Unless the person you hitch a ride from ends up being some psycho or serial killer,” Dez remarked, rolling onto his side. “Hell, these days you gotta be half-wackadoodle to pick up a stranger like that.”
“Sounds like you speak from experience.”
“From the note of amusement in your voice, it sounds as if there is one rather interesting story there. Dish.” Damien demanded, sitting up a little, his entire focus on Dez, who shrugged, shy and hesitant like most every time they asked him something personal.
“What I wanna know is if you were the wackadoodle out there hitchhiking, or the psycho picking people up?” Riley asked.
“Oh hell no. No way I’d let a complete stranger on the back of the bike with me. Too many things could go wrong. Between them freaking out over a close call to those that wanna get freaky and start shoving their hands places I don’t need ‘em to be when I’m driving, the whole concept would just be a very, very bad idea.”
“And once again, sounds like you’re speaking from experience.”
“Let’s just say that my first trek out on my own taught me a whole lotta things in some of the hardest ways possible,” Dez remarked, spreading the notebook open in front of him to put a barrier between him and them.
“That mean you hitched too?” Riley pressed, though he was certain he already knew the answer to that.
“Let’s just say that a situation necessitated it, once, and I found myself bailing out into a ditch from a truck going almost fifty. Any faster and I think I’d have been too scared to do it.”
“Mind if I ask what the situation was?”
“Yeah, actually, I do,” Dez remarked, rolling from the couch and stretching his back a little. “I’m tired and it’s not really a moment of stupidity I wanna relive. Let’s just say that there is absolutely nothing, including chainsaw wielding hillbillies, that could ever get me to do that again.”
And with that, he disappeared through the curtain into the sleeping area, leaving Riley and Damien to raise an eyebrow at one another.
“Damn…now I truly wish to know what took place,” Damien remarked.
“Think he’ll ever tell us?” Riley pondered.
“No chance in hell!” Dez bellowed, the fierceness of his tone startling them both.
“Guess he told you,” Zakk called from the front where he’d been keeping James company. The pair of them laughing like hyenas as the RV bounced, hard.
“How about you two pay attention to the road before one of us has to hike up the road looking for a farmhouse or cell phone reception, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be Dez.”
“Believe that!” came the reply from the back, prompting another round of laughter. It’s all fun and games until real life imitates the movies, and a horror movie at that. With that in mind, Riley turned his attention back to the TV in the hopes that the pair in the front would put their focus back where it belonged…on the road.
Q&A with author Layla Dorine
1. What are common traps for aspiring writers? One thing I’ve noticed, just being in writing groups, is that some aspiring writers tend to worry more about the publishing process, and what they need to do to grab a publisher’s attention than finishing the story they are trying to tell. Another thing I’ve noticed is a resistance to feedback and only showing work to those who they know are going to praise them regardless.
2. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I try to tell the story my characters show me. It’s not a matter of being original or doing what I think readers want to see, for me, my stories are about what is going on in the hearts and minds of the characters. Their triumphs, their failures, their growth, and their pain. I want them to be as alive to the reader as they are in my mind. Quirky and snarky, funny, serious, sad, whimsical, I strive to help them leap off the page and into the imaginations of the readers.
3. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? Being moved to tears by songs. The first time I cried listening to “Don’t know what you got, ‘til it’s gone,” I realized that words had power and the way they were expressed could trigger emotions. I still cry when I listen to certain songs, or when an author truly digs deep and makes me feel a characters pain or happiness. Eventually I learned that words and memories were associated too, like hearing someone sing ‘This Little Light of Mine,” or the sound of a tambourine, and immediately, I think of my grandmother. Words are an important part of human expression, and how they are said can mean so much.
4. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? An ice dragon. I love winter, the stillness and the snow, it’s my favourite time to curl up in my easy chair and write. An ice dragon with swirling teal, lavender, and pale blue scales, with bits of white interspersed here and there. Like snow reflecting off water. There is a calmness to ice, a brittle mystery, like the first moments of exploring a new character, or meeting a new person. I think it would be a lovely spirit animal for me.
5. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Well, let’s see. The first two books I ever completed remain unpublished. They were written more to prove to myself that I could complete a novel, and that I could tell a long story from beginning to end, than to ever show to anyone. The first one isn’t even written in what would be considered novel format, it is written more like a screenplay might be, and the second is all over the place, plot wise. I also have five unfinished manuscripts, two I really would love to complete, two I’m not sure will ever be completed, and one that I hesitate to dive back into because some of the influences I don’t enjoy reflecting back on.
6. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice? Yes, it purges emotion, it makes me feel lighter, freer, I feel like I am touching beings that only exist on a different level of consciousness, and I love being able to tap into them and get swept along on their journey.
7. How do you select the names of your characters? I keep a running list of names from different cultures, but usually, those are for secondary characters, my primary characters tend to reveal their names to me in their own time.
8. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? I’d want to be a forest ranger and live out in the wilderness, or a musician in a rock band, traveling the world, I could never see myself at some regular, non-creative job, or punching a time clock. I have to have an outlet for the things that spin around in my brain.
9. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer? Civilization. I would love to live on a mountain somewhere I wouldn’t be bothered, and write to my hearts content with very little interruptions. I would happily give up shopping, stores, malls, even going out to restaurants, if it meant I could be a better writer with the focus and drive to do the thing I love.
10. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? Switching gears between finishing a piece and getting to work on another one. I sort of laze around a bit and struggle to get into the next story, sometimes I even pop open the old one and make some tweaks to it. Every now and again it is hard to get characters to stop talking even when their story has been told and I know that holds me up some too.
LAYLA DORINE lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places.
Layla got hooked on writing as a child and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found curled up with a good book and a kitty on her lap.
Layla Dorine can be found at:
Author Website: layladorine13.wix.com/layladorineauthor
Author on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9814124.Layla_Dorine