WIP Wednesday: Courage Wolf Never Sings the Gorram Blues

Change of plans! Here’s an excerpt of next week’s release, Courage Wolf Never Sings the Gorram Blues, which is part of the Rocking Hard: Volume One anthology and available for preorder here. Five great stories for an incredibly low price!

Summary for Courage Wolf:

    Bailey Kravitz, lead singer of Courage Wolf, is a high-strung, perfectionist diva of a front man. Gunner Lansing, bassist of Courage Wolf, is a laid-back, hang loose ladies’ man who is only serious about guitars and sex. They say opposites attract, but Bailey’s terminal crush on oblivious Gunner is tearing the band apart. Meanwhile, his longtime friend, quiet but intense guitarist Tor Macleod, helps him pick up the pieces yet again. Between annihilating everything they’ve built and reeling from total rejection, there may be a third option Bailey has been overlooking all this time. Problem is, Bailey’s always been more than a little difficult when he’s out to get his way, and that may ruin his prospects after all.

A wall of bodies filled the arena, a sea of screaming fans facing the stage with their arms thrown up and waving. Luminous winks from a thousand phones cast their small, glaring lights like a field of stars across the dark sea of bodies as the crowd swayed to the music that thundered through the stadium.

Bailey Kravitz was in his element, pouring raw energy into his vocals as he clutched his microphone in one hand, balanced on one foot and clinging to the mic stand with the other hand. With the focus of the crowd upon them, all eyes turned on him, Bailey felt like a lens channeling their energy and reflecting it back in the radiance of the music. The instrumentals thrummed through his bones and swept him along toward the chorus.

He grinned fiercely during a guitar bridge, excited for the stage effects yet to come. They’d suffered through a shitty rehearsal and his stomach was bottoming out under the expectation that the effects would fail, again—but if they pulled it off, it was going to be spectacular.

The crowd roared, their bodies flailing wildly, and Bailey couldn’t help but give back an excited little air punch, skipping across the stage and kicking a foot out as Tor’s guitar crescendoed toward the next refrain behind him. He turned his head to grin at Gunner, who sent a sultry smirk his way, rocketing Bailey from simply high into the stratosphere.

Opening their brand-new single at the US Music Awards was a rush like no other, and Bailey was all too happy to seize it with both hands.

His heart quickened when he realized the bass had gone on too long and he’d missed his cue for the refrain. Instead of panicking, Bailey punched the air again and returned to his microphone stand, fitting the mic into the bracket and grasping it with both hands as he waited for the guitar and bass to circle back around to the right place in the rhythm for him to join in.

Inwardly, Bailey was seething. They’d only practiced it a million times; to draw out the song like that at the USMAs was galling. Pushing through, he leveled a brilliant grin at the front row, barely visible to him beyond the blinding lights, and sang his heart out.

Behind him, an explosion of golden stars blossomed across the latticework fixed to the stage, and Bailey kept singing even as the crowd’s reaction made him want to grin, so hard.

“You tried,” he sang, “but is it good enough—it’s up to you; though the way is tough … you tried …”

The screams from the crowd were so loud, they pierced the bubble of music he was enclosed in, thanks to his in-ear monitors. When he finished up the last line, the euphoria swelled his chest to the point that Bailey was barely tethered to the ground. He swept a bow and bounced off the stage as the lights cut, leaving everything in sudden darkness.

“We’ve got another instant hit,” Bailey declared, pulling out one of his in-ear monitors as he moved past the wing of the stage into the narrow corridor beyond it. His brow furrowed and he cast a glare over his shoulder at Gunner, their usually-reliable bassist, but current target of his ire. “Would’ve been better for our first live if you hadn’t fucked up my cue.”

Gunner’s brows rose. “Excuse me? Who missed their cue, Bailey?”

“Guys,” Tor interjected, his tone low but carrying. “Press.”

Bailey clamped his lips shut. Whatever problems they might be having, he wasn’t stupid enough to air it in front of the press. And, of course, they could be expected to be on camera at any turn of the corner at the USMAs.

The reminder came just in time. “Hi! How’s it going?” inquired a perky blonde who materialized in front of them with an oversized yellow microphone with ‘USM’ on it in large, bubble-font letters of three different colors, denoting she was a US Music network personality. “I’m Angela; does Courage Wolf have a moment to do a spot with me?”

Bailey put on his pleasant professional smile. “Of course we do!” he said, matching her enthusiasm level.

“Fantastic!” Angela gushed, gesturing for the four of them to line up beside her. There were tape blocking marks on the ground, as there had been on the stage, and Bailey lined up beside her, checking the camera’s position relative to himself to ensure he was in an advantageous spot. “So I’m standing here with Courage Wolf, backstage at the USMAs—”

She pronounced it ‘us-ma’s,’ and Bailey kept his smile fixed on his face, giving a slight nod to the camera as it panned in his direction.

“Guys, can you introduce yourselves to our fans who may be less familiar with Courage Wolf’s rising star?” Angela invited.

“Sure!” Bailey said gamely. “I’m Bailey Kravitz, our singer and lyricist …”

“Any relation to Lenny?” Angela asked, earnest or deadpan.

Bailey couldn’t tell which, but gave her a wide smile and treated it like a legitimate question. “Unfortunately for me, not related, though people keep asking. I can’t even play the guitar … ” He was about to continue, but Tor spoke up beside him and Bailey resumed his smile.

“I’m Victor, Tor Macleod, guitarist and songwriter,” Tor supplied. He dug a thumb into Gunner’s ribs.

“Gunner Lansing, bassist,” Gunner said briefly, jerking his head in Sasha’s direction.

“Sasha Guzina,” Sasha said. “Drums for Courage Wolf. You know, heart of the band.”

“Great!” Angela said. “Thank you. So, Courage Wolf. That’s a fun name for a band; where did it come from?”

“Everyone asks us that!” Bailey said with a dazzling, dimpled smile that in no way showed how tired he was with the question. “It’s an Internet meme. A lot of our songs are mash-ups of Internet memes, actually.”

“That’s right!” Angela interjected. “In fact, your homemade video, self-titled Courage Wolf, went viral and that was what brought you crashing into the music industry, is that right?”

“Well,” Bailey said with a deprecating gesture. “More or less? We got signed by a major label, and we’ve been selling well enough that we’ve been able to do what we love ever since.”

“And those sales seem ensured by a rabid fanbase online,” Angela supplied with a grin.

“Oh, stay away from the Internet,” Sasha said, straight-faced. “I wouldn’t poke it with a stick. It bites back.”

“Seriously though, we love all of our fans,” Bailey said, returning to safer territory. “We’re so grateful to them for all of the voting they’ve done, all of the support they’ve given us, that has allowed us to come this far.”

“So, what do you say to the people who are less than fans, your detractors who call you out as hipsters, manufactured, or—the horror—a misfired boyband?” Angela said, making a face.

Bailey couldn’t tell if it was apologetic, or if she was trying to slip the question in on her own agenda. They’d dealt with a lot of two-faced interviewers over the past few years.

“I’d say they’re jealous,” Tor replied when Bailey held his breath, stewing. It was Tor’s turn to flash one of his rarer, but no less dazzling, smiles at the camera. “And it’s pretty telling that a so-called ‘one-hit wonder’ band has had over twelve songs debut in Billboard’s top ten.”

“Enough said!” Angela said brightly. “Thanks for your time.”

Bailey stalked down the hallway, keeping a grin fixed firmly in place that was more like a rictus now. The moment they reached their dressing room, he shoved the door open hard enough for the knob to crack against the wall. Storming into the middle of the room, he swung around to glare at Gunner. “You dropped a note, and I missed my cue!” Bailey accused, leveling a finger at him.

Gunner swelled up, his face going red.

“No, he didn’t,” Tor interjected, quiet but forceful. “Fair’s fair, Bailey. You were crowd-dazzled again; it’s understandable, performing a new song at such a big show.”

Bailey turned toward Tor, compressing his lips. He was still angry, but didn’t dare unleash its full force on Tor the way he did with Gunner, who always fought back. “I wasn’t dazzled,” he protested.

“Okay,” Tor said, accepting it. “Let’s make our quick change, all right?”

Bailey took the hint and dropped it, but not without a dire sidewise glance for Gunner. Although he was a perfectionist, he wasn’t petty enough to want to ruin the high for everyone. Fresh off a stage show, he tended to nitpick and be critical, and Tor kept the peace when Bailey would otherwise blow up at everyone just because he was angry at himself.

He frowned over his shoulder as Tor left the room while he scrambled into his second outfit for the evening. His attention turned quickly to his own appearance, though, because he didn’t have much time and everything had to be perfect. He was tall and lanky, some might say too reedy, and used fashion to clothe his figure to advantage. He had black hair that varied in length depending on the year and his mood, currently long enough to style up or keep loose around his face as it was that night.

Tor emerged from the closet sized bathroom pulling his sandy ponytail out of his form-fitting shirt as Bailey was smoothing a hand down the front of his immaculate charcoal blouse with its silver threads, casting a critical eye over Gunner and Sasha.

“Band T-shirts again, really?” he said disdainfully. They were both good looking enough: Gunner had a long sweep of hair reminiscent of hot bassists from other eras and a tight well-muscled body, and Sasha had a plain broad face but the sweetest rare smile as well as a stocky physique that earned him his share of admirers. Yet despite those good looks, they refused to let him improve their choice of dress.

“Chill, Bailey,” Sasha replied. “You’re never going to get us into haute couture, so may as well stop trying.”

“Yeah, you can’t turn us into Bailey clones,” Gunner added.

“Don’t you both wish—” Bailey began.

“Enough,” Tor said, taking Bailey’s elbow and steering him toward the dressing room door. He, at least, dressed to a standard Bailey couldn’t complain about, in a clinging blue shirt that went well with his hazel eyes, and slacks over motorcycle boots. “We’ve got an award to lose, am I right?”

“I know, right?” Bailey quipped, shifting himself forcibly into a more upbeat mode. It was nerves, he told himself, but it was more than that. Gunner was so oblivious. He just didn’t get it, and it was driving Bailey wild. He had to put that aside for now.

For every award they’d been nominated, they had a kind of ritual, treating it as a sure loss rather than a sure thing. From their humble beginnings, Courage Wolf had been a long shot. Their fan-driven wins had been a surprise to all of them, pushing them so far up into USM’s visibility, along with VidTube, that they’d ultimately drawn the attention of some important players in the music production world.

Within their group, they never believed in the win until their names appeared as the winners. It was like a dream, and even though they’d come so far, Bailey still thought it could all end overnight. That wasn’t so terribly implausible, after all. They tried to present themselves as fresh rather than cynical, though. Bailey was certain the fans responded better to that approach.

Once they returned to their seats, escorted by venue staff, Bailey watched the show with interest, taking mental notes. He half-expected to use all of his experiences as material later, and Tor, the other half of their creative team, more than met him halfway.

When they reached the award section of the program, Bailey clasped his hands together, staring up at the presenters. There was only so far their we’re not going to win mantra could take him. Each time, at a certain point he found himself with his heart in his mouth, feeling as though everything was on the line. They’d be fine if they didn’t win, of course, but the sick swoop of the wait, followed by the rush of winning, was better than the most amazing roller coasters Bailey had ever ridden.

He was tempted to hide his eyes, but he kept them fixed wide open.

“Looks like someone will not be going home with a gold ‘you tried’ sticker tonight—the winner is Courage Wolf!”

Bailey rocketed to his feet, throwing his fists toward the sky in triumph. His scream of “We won!” was lost in the general dull roar of the crowd.

He turned to Gunner, but he had his back to Bailey, and he was clapping Sasha on the shoulder. Bailey scowled and turned toward Tor, who had already left the row and was standing at the end of the aisle. He cocked his head to one side, silently asking a question. Bailey gave a brief headshake in response and walked toward him. It wasn’t the time to address the reason for his frown; he had a performance to put on.

Next week on WIP Wednesday: Convergence.

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