Back in December, I did a backlist book bump here, in which I offered a free copy of The Glass Minstrel. Not too long after – less than a month, I think – I received an email announcing the shuttering of Cheyenne Books, a small press dedicated to historical gay fiction. It was the same press that had taken a chance on my historical gay YA book. I’m very lucky to have Queerteen Press accept it for its 2nd Edition, and with a few minor tweaks, The Glass Minstrel is now available again.
In my backlist book bump, I talked about my inspiration for the book, and you can read all about it here. Now, rather than repeat myself, I’ll just share an excerpt from the book and mix in a couple of videos and some images to set the mood.
No surprise on the song featured in the second video, of course. 😀
From Chapter 7:
I’m too impatient for my own good, but I’m learning to take little steps forward. At least Stefan’s talking to me again. I’ll have to remember not to kiss him unless he asks for it. It’s going to be
hard, but it’s harder not being with him.
—from the journal of Heinrich Schiffer
With all the movement around him, Bauer occasionally glanced around to monitor the shoppers and ensure that Eugen was right in the middle of things. During one of these fleeting inspections, his gaze swept over the shop’s window, and there it stopped. His attention was now divided between his customers as they explained their needs to him and the lone, shivering figure that peered through the glass.
Bauer frowned as his half-distracted mind struggled to keep up with the moment while reaching back into the recent past.
“Yes, this particular set has always been popular with the younger children,” he said, lifting a wooden Noah’s Ark from one of the shelves, turning it around to exhibit its virtues to the wide-eyed couple. Pairs of painted wooden animals, standing in impressive rows on the shelf where the Ark had been sitting,
awaited people’s pleasure. As he spoke, he kept his gaze on the window. In time he recognized the boy.
It was the same one who’d come in with his mother and little sister a few days ago, Bauer realized. Bundled against the cold, the boy nevertheless kept his arms tightly crossed over his chest and his shoulders raised as though he were forcing them to touch his ears. There was something in the boy’s expression as he watched the activity in the shop that touched Bauer, but with the light and color of the shop’s interior vastly overcoming the monotonous dreariness of the outdoors, he couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was that moved him.
“What about this?” the young woman prodded as she swept over to a table and pointed at a round-figured man sitting at a worktable with miniature tools scattered all over it.
Bauer followed, tearing his gaze from the boy. “Ah, that’s a woodman, madam. He’s also a favorite of the boys – at least boys who enjoy using tools to make things.”
“What’s he doing?” she asked, her eyes sparkling in girlish delight. Beside her, her husband smiled and waited patiently.
“Making toys for Christmas.”
“Oh, of course,” she laughed. “How silly of me.”
Bauer chose that moment to look back at the window and found it empty. He barely registered the sound of the shop door’s bell as he continued to talk about every piece the young woman brought to his attention. She was proving to be a very finicky shopper, but he was also equally determined to keep her from leaving the shop empty-handed.
They’d gone about halfway around the shop when Bauer decided to look around again, and he spotted the boy hovering around the glass ornaments, gingerly digging through the basket. He was pleased at the thought of the boy’s repeat patronage, even found amusement in the fact that he didn’t need his mother to help him.
“Quite an independent young fellow,” Bauer mused before turning his attention back to his customers.
Before long he was standing behind the counter, finishing up the sales for the delighted pair. “Thank you very much for your business,” he said with a light, cheerful grin. “And a most blessed Christmas to you both.”
He tallied up the sales for a few more customers before he found himself free. The hour was nearly up, and only a few shoppers remained behind, including the boy, who lingered among the glass ornaments. At the other end of the shop Eugen assisted a gray-haired gentleman who seemed determined to drown him with questions. From where he stood, Bauer could see Eugen struggling with his patience.
“Good afternoon, young man,” Bauer said as he walked up to the boy, hands clasped behind him. “Thank you for coming back to my shop.” He paused and pretended to look around in surprise. “Your mother isn’t with you, I see.”
The boy glanced at him and spared him a tentative little smile. “No,” he said in a quiet voice. “I was on my way home from work and decided to come in.”
“Very good, very good! How did you like your angel? I assume that she’s quite comfortable in the company of the shepherd and the prince?”
“Um – yes, she’ll be given a special place on our tree. It will be the same with the prince.”
Bauer waited, but the boy said nothing more. He didn’t realize till then how pale and thin the young man was. And how melancholy. A quick inventory of the boy’s clothes said more about his background – relatively poor and living hand-to-mouth. The coat was a bit too large, the scarf too bulky and long. They belonged to an adult, Bauer concluded, perhaps the boy’s father.
“And your shepherd?” he prodded.
The boy looked momentarily stricken, but he turned away and inspected a glass cat. Bauer caught sight of a faint flush on the pale cheeks, and he was certain that it wasn’t because of the chill outside.
“The shepherd’s broken.”
“My sister broke it. It was an accident.” The boy shrugged helplessly.
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. What’s your name, son?”
“Jakob. Jakob Diederich.”
Bauer nodded. “I’m sorry you lost your shepherd, Jakob, but I’m sure you’ll find a suitable replacement here. That is, are you here to purchase one?”
Jakob picked up another shepherd and gave it to Bauer. “This one,” he said with a slight tremor in his voice. “I want to buy this one.”
“Very well. Excellent choice, young man.” Bauer smiled at
him, but Jakob merely looked away, the flush on his cheeks deepening as he buried his hands in his pockets. Was Jakob nervous? He appeared to be. The way he picked up the shepherd and nearly shoved it in Bauer’s face without giving it much thought – Jakob seemed preoccupied with something. All the same, Bauer beckoned to him with an easy, careless wave of a hand. “Follow me.”
Jakob said nothing as he completed the transaction, even surprising Bauer with the money he pulled out of his pocket. Wrapped up carefully in a slightly soiled rag, a small pile of coins appeared, and Jakob took what he needed and laid them on the counter before wrapping them back up and stuffing them away. It wasn’t Bauer’s business to pry, of course, and he simply finalized the sale and packaged the glass shepherd.
“I – excuse me, Herr Bauer, but what happened to the minstrel in the basket?” Jakob asked after a moment’s silence, his gaze glued to the box that contained his new acquisition.
“I beg your pardon?”
“The minstrel,” Jakob repeated. “I saw it in the basket when I was here with my mother and sister last. Did you sell it?”
It took a few seconds for the question to settle into Bauer’s mind. He blinked and adjusted his spectacles. “The minstrel!” he cried. “Yes, I sold it, my dear boy. I believe I sold it the day after you came to my shop. Was it a favorite of yours?”
Jakob smiled and scratched the back of his head. “It was,” he replied with a sheepish laugh. “I should have given it to Mama when I had the chance. Do you have any more minstrels, sir?”
“I only had one, and I’m afraid I can’t have any more.”
Jakob blinked. “Oh.”
It was Bauer’s turn to blush, and he laughed off his embarrassment. “No, I meant – it’s just that – I don’t have the mold for the minstrel anymore. I destroyed it when I was done.”
“But why? It was a lovely piece. It was my favorite.” Jakob’s face fell. “Now I really wish I’d taken it when it was still here.”
Bauer sighed, and he leaned over the counter, resting himself on his elbows as he regarded Jakob closely. “It was the most difficult piece for me to create,” he said, his voice dropping. “It took me several tries to get it perfect, and I was wasting too much of my time and materials, which could have gone to creating other glass pieces.”
Jakob watched him, the intense look on his face indicative of a sharp, absorbing mind. “It seems to be more special than the others you made. Why?”
“I made it in my son’s memory,” Bauer replied.
Buy Link: Queerteen Press
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