Guest Post & Giveaway: Gumption & Gumshoes by Alex Kidwell
When I started out to write Gumption & Gumshoes, it was a completely different experience than my normal process. G&G is a more light-hearted story, no major angst, no battles or explosions. It features a non-traditional hero, a grumpy older cohort, and shifting into fluffy balls of fur. Most of all, the idea didn’t start in my own head.
A few months ago, a friend of mine expressed a half-joking wish to see a chinchilla shifter story. I don’t normally do traditional shifters – to be honest, I wasn’t even sure how– much less a take on the usual predators. But the thought of this adorable fluffball somehow having a tale to tell was pervasive. So I figured I’d sit down and play around with the idea for a few thousand words, see if I could coax a short story for her out of it.
Fifteen thousand words later, I realized I had something else on my hands.
And so, August Mendez was born. Overweight, under-motivated, stuck at a dead end job, he loves nothing more than film noir, detective books, and fried cheese. His sarcasm and self-deprecating humor was fun to write, but for me, the real joy, and the real challenge, was seeing him through the journey of learning to be comfortable in his own skin.
Anyone who has body issues will tell you, it’s not something that just goes away overnight. And it isn’t an issue you can defeat with a few compliments and willpower. August is fat. He knows he’s fat. So when he meets Sam Ewing, an older, bitter divorcee who owns the building he rents office space from, it doesn’t really matter how attractive he finds Sam. In the end, he feels like he’s still the awkward, overweight nerd who will never get the guy.
Let’s just say, I identified with August.
Sam, though. Sam was veryenjoyable to write. A misanthrope with a secret marshmallow center, he’s fifteen years older than August and refusing to let go of the hurt from a marriage that went very much south. He wants to be left alone to watch football in peace. But then there’s August. And his life will never quite be the same.
I love love stories. I love the slow burn of this one that erupts into a molten heat. There’s a mystery to be solved here, yes, and the story, I hope, never takes itself too seriously. But at its core, it’s just about a guy meeting a guy and both of them learning how to fall in love again. With themselves, with each other, and with life.
In this excerpt, I’d like to share the first time the readers see Sam and August interacting:
Most days, Sam found, it wasn’t worth getting out of bed. Just flat-out was not worth the time or bother. And really, what was so great about the outside world? People were dicks, by and large, and dealing with them only put him in an increasingly foul temper.
All of this held doubly true on rent day.
Rent day was like a holiday designed by a masochist. Owning a building had sounded like a great idea before he’d actually, well, owned the damn building. Before, it’d just been a job where he would be his own boss, set his own rules, where he could insulate himself from the dickbags of the world. Do some repairs when they were called for, change light bulbs, paint once a year—the whole thing had been perfect. But that was before he’d known about rent day.
Sam slammed his fist on the door, barking out three quick beats. “Mrs. Pritchett, it’s Sam Ewing. It’s the sixth, Mrs. Pritchett, I’m sorry, but I need to collect the rent. Lights don’t go on by themselves, you know?” Yeah, this was exactly what he wanted his life to be. Harassing little old ladies for the rent to their offices. At least it wasn’t apartments. If he had to throw someone out of their home he was pretty sure he’d just give up completely.
Mrs. Pritchett owned a little hair-and-nail salon on the first floor. It was good for business, nice storefront, drove foot traffic. People liked to rent in a building that had all that shit. Four floors, seventeen tenants, and him living in the walk-out basement he’d converted. It wasn’t a bad gig, really. Except for today. Today he had to be up at seven to try to catch people before they opened for business, knock on doors, and be the bad guy.
He wasn’t the fucking bad guy. He was just the guy who wanted to get paid.
Sighing, he fished out one of the Rent Due notices from his pocket and stuck it to the door. Someone was bound to see it when they came to open up, and if he didn’t hear from Mrs. Pritchett by noon he’d have to come back. Silently, Sam begged her to call. He hated coming back in front of customers; it was just… awkward.
Next stop was the fourth floor. Room 403 was the smallest office space he had; he almost hadn’t bothered renting it at all. It was barely big enough for a desk, some bookshelves, and a coffee maker. But every so often a fledgling business liked to get a cheap storefront to start, and it wasn’t hard to keep up with the maintenance on it. So Sam rented it for a song, made the lease six months instead of twelve, and kept it pretty well occupied. He hadn’t had much cause to come up there, really, rent day or no.
At least, not until five months ago.
Five months ago he’d gone against his gut and signed a lease with some chubby, wide-eyed kid in a damn fedora. Something told him that he’d be trouble, but Sam was a sucker for brown eyes, and he’d been cute, in a roly-poly kind of way. Aw, hell, in any way, though Sam was trying real hard to not think about it. At first, it’d been fine. Rent had been paid on time, guy had been quiet, no worries. For the first month.
“Mr. Mendez, it’s Sam Ewing.” Sam frowned at the door, repressing the urge to sigh heavily. He could hear the squeak of a chair, the distinct noise of someone stumbling, a muffled curse. “Mr. Mendez, it’s the sixth.”
There was another curse and a heavy crash. The brass sign on the door proclaiming August Mendez, Private Detective reflected Sam’s face back to him, the eye roll of disbelief echoed there. Finally, though, cautious footsteps approached the door and August opened it, peering through. Sam was struck again by how attractive the guy was, dusky skin and dark, wavy hair framing a round face that seemed to broadcast every emotion. Not that he was there to flirt. Not that Sam flirted anymore.
“Uh. Hey, Sam,” August said, giving Sam his best innocent smile.
“Mr. Mendez,” Sam sighed.
He was interrupted by, “I told you, you can call me August. Or Auggie, whichever. You probably wouldn’t be the Auggie type, though, you know? Not that there’s a type. Or that that’s a bad thing! Just, you’re all stern and you’d probably look weird calling me by the nickname I got as a baby when you’re just, you know.” August trailed off, smile faltering, a miserable expression taking its place.
“Not a baby?” Sam suggested, expression still firm even as the corners of his lips twitched slightly.
“Exactly.” August nodded before he seemed to hear what Sam had said. Horrified, he quickly amended, “No! I mean yes, you are definitely a man. An old man. Not that you’re old!” Letting out an explosive breath, August sagged against the doorframe in surrender. “I’ll have the cash for you this afternoon?”
“Thank you, August.” Sam turned, hiding his smile and heading toward the elevator. Well, that had been slightly better than expected.
Thank you, Babes, for letting me onto your blog! I always love being here.
And I’d really like to give away an e-book copy of Gumption & Gumshoes. If you’ll leave a comment below with a way to get ahold of you, I’ll draw a random number out of a hat on 8/23 and get that person hooked up with a book!