Please join me in welcoming the amazing Holly Day to Stories That Make You Smile! Holly is here today celebrating the release of her new novel, A Drop of Moonshine, written in celebration of National Moonshine Day!
Hello, everyone! Thank you, Addison, for letting me drop by today 🥰 Did you know that June is the month we’re celebrating National Moonshine Day? We’re talking the drinkable kind of moonshine, not the kind you’re seeing in the sky.
Some writers have playlists for their books, I’m not one of them. I do, however, have a playlist on Spotify named Play it Again, Sam, and on that list, I have songs that when I listen to them have a story spinning in my head. It can be as little as one line, but when I hear it, it triggers something.
One of the songs on that list is William Elliott Whitmore’s South Lee County Brew. And it sort of started this whole story.
Moonshine… Back in April, we talked about weird internet searches in our Read Around the Rainbow post. If you don’t know what Read Around the Rainbow is, it’s an author collaboration. On the last Friday of every month, we’re a bunch of authors who blog on the same topic. I couldn’t make it last month (Addison wrote a post, though, so have a look at that 😉), but in April we talked about internet searches, and I talked about moonshine-making. Research, people!
I had this epiphany… Moonshine isn’t hard to make. It’s not. And where I come from, you make it out of potatoes, sugar and yeast. Easy peasy. My weird internet searches told me something else, though. Across the pond, you make moonshine out of corn 😲 AND that instantly made my mind hop to another song on my Play it Again, Sam list!
Sleeping on the Blacktop by Colter Wall. Though it’s on the list because I picture a ghost dancing in the rain and then someone seeing her lying on a road and wanting to save her (don’t ask me how my mind works), not the:
“Corn liquor tastes sweeter in this town”
The corn liquor doesn’t matter. Sid in A Drop of Moonshine is making potato vodka since it’s what makes sense to me. The world they’re living in is dark and violent. The government is controlling everything, and every person is given one government-sanctioned kill.
If someone does something you don’t like, you can file an application and have them eliminated.
Our main characters are Thorn and Sid, who is a potato farmer on paper. Potatoes don’t earn him enough not to go hungry though, so he’s making moonshine on the side.
Thorn is a liquidation agent, which means that when someone applies to have someone killed, he’s the one to do it. He’s realised it’s not the best career choice, but no one ever leaves the agency alive, so he can either continue to do what he does or he can be terminated.
Sid and Thorn grew up in the same area. Sid got out and is now living on the outside of town on a rickety farm with his dog. When another liquidation agent tries to blackmail him into giving his moonshine away for free, he turns to Thorn for help.
At first, Thorn doesn’t believe him, liquidation agents are paid well and can afford any liquor they want, but when he’s asked to kill Sid off the record, he realises everything is getting out of hand, and he decides to help Sid leave town.
This is dark and bloody. There is a HEA, but it’s not a feel-good story, so know that before you start to read.
Aaand since I’ve been talking moonshine songs, I’ll leave you with another song from the Play it Again, Sam list 😊
In a world where the government controls everything, and every citizen is given one government-approved kill, Sid Barker is doing his best to keep his head down and not get noticed. At some point, he must have failed. Being a potato farmer doesn’t generate enough income, and Sid is making moonshine on the side to keep himself fed, but one day a liquidation agent shows up at his farm, not to kill him, but to blackmail him into giving away his moonshine for free.
Thorn Hull is a liquidation agent. Every time someone hands in an application to have someone terminated, he or one of the other agents has to perform the kill. It’s a well-paying job, but no money in the world can fill the void in Thorn. He regrets ever becoming an agent, but no one has ever quit the agency and lived to tell the tale.
One night in a bar, Thorn runs into Sid, who’s far from the dirty little kid he’d been the last time Thorn had seen him. Sid remembers Thorn from his childhood and asks him to help him talk sense into the agent who’s blackmailing him. Things soon escalate, and Sid and Thorn find themselves on the run from the liquidation agency. How will they be able to deal with the blackmailer at the same time as they’re on the run from the government’s trained killers?
Sid glanced at Thorn as he jumped into the passenger seat of his old, rusty Chevy. Cognac took up the entire backseat—he normally sat next to Sid in the front.
“Why are you here, Thorn?” If he was gonna kill Sid, the car was a bad place to do it. Unless he planned to burn it of course, then it was pretty efficient to have him there.
“I… It’s wrong. All of this is because of some liquor deal, and don’t ask me how Kannan got caught up in it, but he was only supposed to scare you.”
“Well, he succeeded.” Sid started the car and drove south. Shade’s cabin was about an hour’s drive outside the city, and he wanted to get there as soon as possible. If Jeb was right, this might not go as badly as he’d first imagined it would. He’d do best in dropping Thorn off before he got there, though.
“Scare you into stopping.”
“I need to eat. Hell, Cognac eats more than I do.” He gestured at the slobbering mess in the backseat. “Hey, perhaps it’s best if you take your car. Cognac is used to sitting in the front, and he’ll be drooling on you the entire ride.”
Thorn grimaced and glanced at Cognac who tilted his head to the side, showing off a string of drool already dangling from his mouth. It would only get worse from here. Once they were on their way, the drooling would increase.
“Erm… I would, but they can trace my car. Every agent has a tracking device in their car in case they go missing, and we’re not allowed to leave the city.”
“Oh.” Maybe going to Shade was the smartest thing they’d ever come up with. Her postal address was Vinbay, not Hamndon. It might not stop Kannan from going after him, but if they tracked the liquidation agents, it might make it harder for him.
“Yeah, we’re not allowed to disappear anywhere.”
Sid had always believed they could do what they wanted more or less. “You’re not allowed to skip town?”
Thorn shook his head and gazed out the window.
“Are you sure you should come with me then? I mean… I’m not planning on coming back.” Not if things turned out the way they’d planned.
“You’re running away?”
“I don’t know if you can call it running. I’ve rented a cabin outside the city, we’ll live there, Cognac and I. If anyone checks Sidney Barber’s records, they’ll see he has left Hamndon and moved to Vinbay. Sid Barker will fade away, I guess.”
“Is that wise? I can’t leave you.” He turned to look at Sid, his dark eyes filled with an emotion Sid couldn’t pinpoint.
“I’ve been thinking about you often.”
“Yeah?” Sid had been thinking about him too, though he’d tried not to.
“Yeah. Had I known your name I would’ve checked in on you. Kannan gave me hell that day… I would’ve killed him, you know?”
“You killed him?” Thorn stared at him, and Sid winced.
“No, not I, I filled out an application, then a few days later I got a confirmation letter stating he’d been eliminated.”
Thorn nodded. “Good.”
“No, it’s not good. Can’t you see it’s not?” The usual frustration came crawling. Why couldn’t people see the system was wrong?He hit the accelerator and cut the corner of the street without signaling a turn.
“Jesus! Do you want me to drive?”
“What’s wrong with you?” Thorn curled his fingers around the seatbelt.
“There is nothing wrong with me.” Sid frowned and eased up on the pedal. It would be stupid to get killed in traffic while trying to avoid getting killed by a… killer.
“Look, I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? What do you have to be sorry about?”
“I’m sorry I came after you this morning, I’m sorry Kannan has forced you to run, I’m sorry I wasn’t in time to stop the man in the alley.”
“Not your fault.”
“Look can’t you… Is Jeb your partner? As in boyfriend?”
Sid slowed down more and glanced at Thorn. A light flush spread on his cheeks, and he turned to look out the window.
“No, we used to hook up, but not anymore.”
Thorn nodded. “Then why did you hug him?”
“I hug Jeb all the time. He’s dear to me.” Sid pressed his lips together. Perhaps talking about Jeb was stupid, if Thorn wanted to blackmail him, threatening Jeb was all he had to do to make Sid give everything up.
According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.
Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.
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