The Novel Approach welcomes author Joel Skelton today to chat a bit about his latest novel, Beneath the Palisade: Justice. He’s also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an e-copy of Justice, so to enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below. At the close of the contest, the e-book will be delivered directly to the winner’s Dreamspinner Press book shelf.
Why I’ve Written (mostly) Nice Guys in a (mostly) Nice World
Not a day goes by when I don’t pull up some form of media on this laptop only to discover once again, that I’m a different person. Different from most others it seems. I’m so different in fact, that my rights are continually being debated out there for everyone to noodle over or, sadly, ignore. There are some folks who think I should be killed. In less dramatic fashion, more than a few think I should be gathered up with other different people and put into a compound because we are so different. Others (and these are the people who really piss me off, even more so than my would-be assassins) think perhaps I’m worthy of at least a few of the same rights as everyone else. For their own benefit, they graciously offer that everyone should be treated almost equally. But when it comes to some disputable rights like marriage, they think others should decide if we different types are worthy of those rights or not. To those political posers I say: show some leadership or please, just stay home.
Before I continue, let me say emphatically—I’m very thankful to those who tirelessly fight for my rights—my life could depend on the outcome (see above). But while the world engages in this war on civil rights, I’m momentarily stepping aside by way of my writing.
For the Palisade series, I decided at the outset I was going to sail along as if gay people already have all the rights and privileges as everyone else. Oh, I’ve thrown in a few bumps along the way, but for the most part, the characters in the series are debate free. They have the luxury of waking up every morning and not seeing their human rights argued in every form of media imaginable.
So you might ask, why let up now when we are so close to winning what never should have been considered ours to lose?
Because at some point we all need a break—a timeout from the daily barrage of angst and hypocrisy thrown at us. We need to see what the light at the end of the tunnel actually looks like. Even though it’s a short breather, one that lasts only until the final page of my story is turned, it’s my hope someone will benefit from the filter I’ve intentionally put in place.
That could be you—yes, you—the one wrapped up snug as a bug in that warm blanket, a glass of wine on the table, and your e-book reader nestled in your lap. I hope when you rejoin this challenging world, you’ll be just a little more energized and filled with a bit more optimism than you might have had before you cracked open one of my stories. Allow me to introduce to you those loveable, zany men and their friends who live Beneath the Palisade. Relax and enjoy! You’re going to love them! And trust me, you deserve the break!
Blurb: Despite a spirited inner debate pitting right against wrong, Owen Grady is lured off a forest trail by a handsome stranger. Just as he is about to surrender to an urgent desire, Owen realizes he is making a mistake and attempts to leave, but the rejected man wrestles Owen to the ground and discloses he is a cop. Wrongly accused of sexual misconduct, Owen seeks legal help.
Ambitious young lawyer Brent Burns is a junior partner at Burns & Callahan, a law firm located within the Men’s Center in Two Harbors, Minnesota. He takes on Owen’s case, determined to prove him innocent. But Brent can’t possibly predict the obstacles on the bumpy road to an acquittal—not the least of which is an ethical taboo involving his heart, which threatens to defeat him before he ever sets foot in the courtroom.
Excerpt: “Thank you for returning my call, Ms. Dingman. Mr. Callahan asked I remind you to bring all your employment records for your meeting with him today. Yes, all of them. We will make copies for our file while you’re here. You can take the originals back home with you.”
Brent smiled at Fern while he waited for her to finish her call. He had to admit, she’d made great strides over the last week. Gone was the nervous fluster. Her tone was efficient and friendly.
“You know, I’m not sure if they will be of interest to him or not. If it’s not too much trouble, bring them along. Mr. Callahan will look them over and decide.” Fern looked up and rolled her eyes. Her personality was starting to emerge too. Brent liked what he saw.
“I understand. There is a lot to this. Well, any other questions? Right.Just like it says in our letter, 2:00 p.m.” Fern looked hopeful she’d reached the end of the conversation. “Terrific. I’ll look forward to seeing you this afternoon.”
She hung up and blew a strand of hair away from her eye. “Ms. Dingbat, if you ask me. Crap. I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with such a scatterbrain. It’s a wonder the woman can find her way home on her own.”
“Is this the new workers’ comp case Harper took on last week?” Brent asked while fumbling through the mail.
“Sure is. Now you were asking about the pleadings going to Judge Mallory. You know, my dear boy, I don’t think he’s specified….”
Fern stopped midsentence. Brent followed her gaze and looked to the door. Through it walked a lanky young man who sported an impressive black eye that even his superhot designer glasses couldn’t hide. He carried a manila folder. Despite the bruises and scrapes covering much of his handsome face, Brent recognized great potential. Over the years he had fine-tuned an image of someone he deemed highly fuckable. It was his very own benchmark by which all prospective players were measured. This unknowing contestant easily qualified for the championship round.
“Good afternoon. May I help you?” Fern asked with more than a hint of caution.
Brent pretended to look through a stack of folders. Curiosity kept him from heading back to his office. Shithead.
“I was wondering if I could talk to someone about… well, I….” Obviously distressed, the man paused and shifted from one foot to the other.
Intrigued and attracted in a strong way that usually led to arousal, Brent speculated, bar fight. Before he could think of anything professional to say, Fern came to the rescue.
“We’re a law office. If you enter the building through the main door, you’ll find materials on the other services the Center provides,” she stated delicately and then asked, “Are you looking for legal assistance?”
“I need an attorney,” the man said softly, while his eyes, meeting Brent’s for the first time, screamed for help.
Understanding this was his cue, Brent stepped forward, extending his hand. “Hello, I’m Brent Burns. I’m an attorney.”
Another panicked expression flashed across the man’s face when he looked at Fern. That was enough for Brent to reevaluate his approach.
“Let’s do this.” Brent gestured over to the area across from the reception desk. “Have a seat, and I’ll be back in a minute. We’ll go into one of our conference rooms to discuss your matter. Will that work?” We’re making headway with the sensitivity thing.
“That would be great.” Obviously relieved, the man sat.
“Fern, please take a message if someone calls. Say I’ll be back to them before the end of the day,” he added as he turned to leave.
His pulse raced. He couldn’t wait to find out what this was all about. “Would you care for a cup of coffee or a soda?” he heard Fern offer as he made a beeline to Harper’s office.
“Hey.” Brent knocked on his partner’s doorframe.
Seated behind his desk, Harper looked up from a stack of documents. “Hey.”
“Some guy just walked in all banged up. His face… black eye, cuts… ew. He’s a mess.” Brent took a few steps inside the office.
“Seriously?” Harper looked mildly interested.
“Yeah.” Brent folded his arms across his chest. “He’s kind of nervous too. Anyway, I have him waiting out front. I was going to bring him back to the conference room to chat. Care to join us? I know you have a client coming in soon.”
Thinking this was one of those times where he needed to be assertive, he suggested, “I can take this if you’d like.” Maybe too assertive. “Or, should I have him stop back? You know, make an appointment?” God, you fucked that up. Despite being made a partner, Brent couldn’t shake the feeling of continually being evaluated. Bordering on paranoia, he scolded himself. What’s he going to do, fire me?
“No.” Harper bolted out of his chair. “Don’t have him come back. That’s one of the big-city, big-firm practices I think really sucks. I want us to be an open door. I’ve been meaning to have that discussion with you. Your instinct to bring him back was the right one.”
“Part instinct and part I haven’t got anything else to fucking do at the moment,” Brent joked.
Harper led the way into the reception area. “Hello,” he greeted the guy seated on their tastefully upholstered new sofa.
Startled, the man spilled the contents of the folder he was carrying onto the coffee table. Harper’s dazzling looks and confident manner caused calamities like that all the time. Brent was used to them. “Hell… hello.” Flustered, he bent down, collected his papers, and stood.
“Fern.” Harper leaned over her desk. “We’ll be in the conference room. Please let me know when my two o’clock arrives.
“I’m Harper Callahan, the other half of Burns and Callahan. I trust you’ve met my partner?”
“Yes,” the man answered, clutching his folder tight to his chest as he accepted Harper’s hand for a shake.
“Care for something to drink?”
“We’ve covered that,” Fern announced as she typed away.
“Of course.” Harper winked at Brent. “Your name is…?”
“Owen. Owen Grady.”
About the Author: Up until recently, I joked with friends that the only creative thing I had going on in my life was my sock drawer. Writing has offered me an opportunity to be creative again. It wasn’t until I started thinking about writing seriously, that I realized how starved I’d become to express myself in a creative way.
Growing up in central Minnesota, I was wrapped snug-as-a-bug in an environment rich with creativity. Having a musician for a father, our holidays and family gatherings always turned into joyous song-fests. My father would spend the better part of the afternoon (sometimes well into the night) at the piano acting as an accompanist to anyone who felt the urge to stand up and belt one out. I feel blessed to have those great memories to pay a visit on from time to time.
I guess it was a natural progression for me to leap from music to the theater. Shy by nature, I found that hiding behind a character I could overcome my fear and anxiety and truly enjoy myself. I could be silly, sing, dance around and entertain others to my hearts delight. What I couldn’t do, or thought I couldn’t do, was be silly, dance around and entertain others and still put food on the table and keep the lights on.
As we grow older, our priorities often change, and mine certainly did. I reached a point in my life where I needed to buckle down and think about my future. At the time, I viewed the Arts, specifically my success in them, as far too risky an investment. I needed something steady, something surefire that would bring to me the comforts in life we all strive for. It was this concern, this need for security that slowly, almost imperceptibly, closed down my creative urges/surges.
Well, that and laziness.
I have spent a healthy portion of my adult life working 9 to 5, and truthfully, for the most part enjoying it. However, there isn’t a day I wake up I’m not in some way reminded of the joy one feels to have stepped out of the box and participated or contributed to the Arts. It’s a feeling of wholeness, a unique sense of accomplishment I will never turn my back on again.
For now, writing seems like a perfect fit. I hope that I can continue to grow as a writer with each effort and in the process, perhaps entertain others as well.