Monday, July 28, 2014

Softly, Subtly, Homophobia Creeps In

Note: This post originally appeared at Joyfully Jay M/M Reviews and More.

So, my newly-reissued book, Bashed, is all about a tragic hate crime and its aftermath. The book revolves around an atrocity that happens all too frequently for the gay community (Google some statistics and you’ll be appalled). Fortunately, Bashed is also filled with hope and ultimately details a journey back toward life and love.

But what I wanted to talk about today is not the horror of a hate crime, where someone is physically hurt—or even killed—but about the root of hate crimes, homophobia, in its subtler forms. The excerpt below demonstrates the way hate toward gay people can manifest itself in a way that may not leave a bruise, but hurts just as much nonetheless. I am grateful that I have never been physically brutalized for being who I am (at least not as an adult), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been the brunt of prejudice. I’ve seen the downcast eyes and the friendliness drop when I mention my husband to a clerk in a store, or the sudden withering of enthusiasm from an old school friend when they realize, from my Facebook page, that I’ve become a bona fide queer. I’m not here to rant, but I know what prejudice feels like.

And so does Donald, my main character in Bashed, who is trying to process the loss of the man he loved so much when he feels the hateful tingle of homophobia (at the wake for his boyfriend)….

Excerpt
He looked around. The place was crowded. He never realized Mark had so many friends and family members. He and Mark had sort of cocooned themselves, as lovers often do in the early months, against the outside world. Donald would have said they were still in their honeymoon phase. He hadn’t even seen Grace as much as he used to once Mark came along.

Was Mark in the crowd right now, wearing a clever disguise? He would be eager to hear the loving words those left behind uttered, the fond memories and funny recollections. Would he be feeling much the same sense of loss that Donald was feeling? Perhaps he was one of the guys gathered near the front door. They certainly looked enough like Mark: big boned, ruddy complexions, and the curly blond hair that had so turned Donald’s head.

Grace brought him out of his reverie and wishful thinking. “Check out the guys by the door up there,” she said softly. “Those have to be Mark’s brothers. They look exactly like him.”

Of course. Mark had two brothers, Phil and Steven, both older, but not by much. Donald had seen pictures of them but had yet to meet them. He had yet to meet any of Mark’s family, in fact, and that had been a sore spot in their relationship. But Donald, the older, supposedly wiser member of the couple should have understood Mark’s trepidation. It would have meant bringing home his first boyfriend.

“Yeah. Quite a resemblance.” Donald drew his lips into a tight line. He wished they hadn’t come to the funeral home, to the wake that had been delayed for reasons he didn’t quite understand. He looked at his sister, whose eyes were rimmed in red. She had pulled her hair into a bun and wore a simple black dress, heels, and a strand of pearls that had once belonged to their mother. Grace had done enough crying for the both of them in their short time at the funeral parlor. Apparently she had no problems believing it truly was Mark in the casket.

“You know what? I was thinking. What if that box up there is empty? What if Mark isn’t really in there? What if he’s still alive?”

Grace’s mouth dropped open, and her face took on an expression of stricken fear. She looked nervously around her. Donald supposed it was to see if anyone on adjoining folding chairs had heard his remark. She smiled, but it was an uncertain smile that bore more of a relationship to a grimace than an expression of joy.

“What are you talking about?” Grace cocked her head and put her hand to Donald’s face.

He moved away. Her hand dropped. “What are you doing? Checking for fever?”

“No, of course not. But, sweetheart, what you said, that’s crazy. You do know that, right?” Her brows furrowed, and she leaned close enough that he could smell cinnamon, the Dentyne she had tucked into her mouth.

Donald shook his head and sighed. “It’s just wishful thinking. Maybe trying to understand why I have yet to cry over this.”

Grace squeezed his hand. “Oh, baby brother, that’s easy. You’re still in shock. You haven’t accepted things yet. It’s understandable.”

Donald stared again at the casket, his gaze roaming over all the mourners, the little groups of them gathered in clusters, all speaking in hushed, serious tones, as if they wanted their conversation to match the muted wallpaper, ecru walls, plush carpet, and the overly heavy drapery.

What did any of this have to do with Mark?

He turned to his sister. “I know Mark is not in that box.”

She cocked her head and frowned.

He waved her away. “Listen. He’s not in that box. He’s not in this room. I’m not crazy. Sure, wishful thinking made me entertain—for like, five seconds—that Mark isn’t really dead, but I know he is. But I also know Mark isn’t in that box. Not Mark. Mark’s shell. Mark’s body. Maybe. Those things might be there. But Mark is no longer with us. So he can’t be in that box. He’s not in this room either. He wouldn’t be caught dead….” Donald sputtered out a mournful laugh at his unintentional quip. “At a place like this. Mark was full of humor and life. If he were here, he’d be cracking jokes in a corner, trying to make people laugh. He’d be trying to turn this wake into a party, just like his Irish ancestors probably did at one time.”

Grace put a hand on her brother’s chest. Donald could see she was relieved. “You’re so right.” She started to say something else and stopped. Donald had seen, peripherally, the movement he supposed had caught his sister’s eye. One of Mark’s brothers was heading their way.

Donald marveled again at how much the man looked like Mark, albeit an older variation on the same theme. He had the same wild blond curls, although his were more tamed by his shorter haircut, the same broad shoulders, although this man sported a gut Mark didn’t have, and the same cherubic face. He was heading toward them with purpose, a smile lighting up his features.

Donald swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry, and tried to smile back. He didn’t know if he was ready to finally meet some of Mark’s family. He supposed he could mouth the same words that had been mouthed at funerals since time immemorial—sorry for your loss, such a tragedy. He could only hope the sympathy would be returned.

The man stood before them, smiling. Grace started to say, “We’re so sorry about your brother—” But the man cut her off and turned his attention to Donald.

He continued to smile, but his words were tinged with acid. “You the boyfriend?”

Donald’s mouth grew a little dryer. He nodded, suddenly unable to put his brain and tongue together to form speech.

“I just wanted to say how happy I am to lay eyes on you. How happy we all are—here in this room—to finally see you.” He cocked his head, grin undiminished, blue eyes (so like Mark’s!) twinkling. “See, I wanted to thank you.” The smile faltered for an instant, and a sob went through the man’s body, like a tremor. His eyes welled with tears. Then the emotion vanished, replaced once more by that hateful, terrible smile. Donald thought it would have been so much better if he were frowning, furious, yelling at the top of his lungs. “See, I wanted to say thanks for making my little brother a fag.”

“Oh, now—” Grace whimpered, but the man put up a warning hand near her face to cut her off.

“Thank you very much, sir. Before he met you, my brother was normal, just one of the guys. He played touch football with us; he did normal things. He even had a girlfriend. Thanks to you, he’s dead. Thanks to you, he was so badly beaten that we delayed the funeral so they could work on him, make him presentable so we could have a last look at him.” He glanced over at the closed casket. “You can see how well that worked out.” The man smiled more brightly and nodded, as if he and everyone around him agreed with what he was saying, as if he were speaking the voice of reason. And even though his voice was soft, the intensity with which he spoke caused the other people talking around them to go silent. Donald’s face felt hot as he realized people were eavesdropping. He wondered if they felt pity or hatred for him, wondered if there was any ground between the two extremes.

“Yeah, you ‘turned’ him. Isn’t that what you pansies like to do? Look at you. You were old enough to be my brother’s father! Why couldn’t you have just left him alone?” He turned away for a moment, and when he turned back, the smile was gone, and tears were rolling down his face. His mouth was drawn into a tight line. “None of us would be here now if it weren’t for you, you perverted son of a bitch.”

Donald’s face felt even more heat, as if it were on fire. He was so stunned by the man’s words, his mind had gone blank. He could think of no rational way to respond. The whole funeral parlor had now gone silent. He realized people were staring at him and Grace.

And he realized he didn’t belong here.

Another of Mark’s brothers, the eldest, Donald imagined, with a bald pate, came over and took the man who had just bashed Donald verbally by the arm. “C’mon now, man, this isn’t right. Let’s just go outside and cool off.” The other man cast a glance back at Donald, and Donald was grateful to see that there was sympathy in his gaze. He mouthed the word “sorry” over his brother’s shoulder and continued to pull him away.

Grace and Donald sat in stunned silence for only a few minutes. Grace took his hand. “I think we should go. You want to say good-bye?” she gestured with her head, stiffly, toward the coffin at the front of the room.

Donald managed to gather some spit in his mouth, enough to say, “No. I’m not saying good-bye.”

Grace spoke softly, her voice infused with kindness. “Then let’s just go.”

Dear old Grace, Donald thought, bless her heart for holding it together when she could have easily let everything spin out of control. My rock.

Donald followed his sister out of the funeral home, feeling again the heat in his face as conversations went silent as they passed, as gazes bore, like lasers, into his back.

Outside, the pair of Mark’s brothers stood stiffly next to one another, smoking cigarettes. Neither was speaking. They simply stared forward, two strangers who happened to be occupying the same place at nearly the same time. Donald could feel the tension coming off them, though.

“Just a minute,” he said to Grace. He felt himself begin to tremble as he walked away from his sister and her comforting closeness. But he couldn’t leave things as they were. He neared the brothers and caught the gaze of the one who had spoken so cruelly to him inside. The man glared at Donald, ready for a fight.

Donald cleared his throat and said, in a soft voice, “I’m really sorry you lost Mark. But I lost him too. And when you’re calmer, maybe you’ll realize that it wasn’t me who killed him, or the fact that we loved each other, but it was attitudes like yours.” Donald swallowed. “I hope, for Mark’s memory, you can come to see that.”

Donald didn’t wait for the man to respond. He simply turned, took Grace’s hand, and walked away.

Blurb
It should have been a perfect night out. Instead, Mark and Donald collide with tragedy when they leave their favorite night spot. That dark October night, three gay-bashers emerge from the gloom, armed with slurs, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.

The hate crime leaves Donald lost and alone, clinging to the memory of the only man he ever loved. He is haunted, both literally and figuratively, by Mark and what might have been. Trapped in a limbo offering no closure, Donald can’t immediately accept the salvation his new neighbor, Walter, offers. Walter’s kindness and patience are qualities his sixteen-year-old nephew, Justin, understands well. Walter provides the only sense of family the boy’s ever known. But Justin holds a dark secret that threatens to tear Donald and Walter apart before their love even has a chance to blossom.

Buy Links
Dreamspinner Ebook.
Dreamspinner Paperback.
Amazon Kindle.
Amazon Paperback.
AllRomance eBooks.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Blue Moon Cafe's Sam Comes to Life!

Once in a while you run across an image that could be a character you created. This IS Sam, my Italian chef and maybe-werewolf from THE BLUE MOON CAFE. All he's missing is the wolf tattoo.

Someone--or something--is killing Seattle's gay men.
A creature moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from the rain city's gay gathering areas.

Someone--or something--is falling in love with Thad Matthews. 
Against a backdrop of horror and fear, young Thad finds his first true love in the most unlikely of places: a new Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam is everything Thad has ever dreamed of in a man: compassionate, giving, handsome, and with brown eyes Thad feels he could sink into. And Sam can cook! But as the pair's love begins to grow, so do the questions and uncertainties, the main one being, why do Sam's unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon?

Buy ebook.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Comfort Comes in Many Forms

Note: This post originally appeared at  Joyfully M/M Romance Reviews and More.

If you’ve read any of my romance books, you know that I like to take my characters from heartache to a happy-ever-after. There’s something so satisfying about that—how we can disappear into a book and live for a bit in world where everything eventually comes out all right.

The recipe below, included in an early chapter of Dinner at Home, is all about the heartache portion of the story. My main character, Ollie D’Angelo, has lost his boyfriend, his home, and his job, practically in one fell swoop. Comfortably Curried Carrots and Lentils is what he makes for himself his first night in his new—and lonely—apartment. Try the recipe when you’re in need of a little comfort.

Hey, it worked for Ollie.

Comfortably Curried Carrots and Lentils 
(Serves 4)

2 cups green lentils

2 carrots, peeled and diced

3.5 cups chicken stock
2 T grated ginger
1 small red onion, chopped
2 T curry powder
3 T tomato paste
1 cup coconut milk
1 t salt
1 t cumin
½ t coriander
½ t cinnamon
2 cups baby spinach
Garnishes: Greek yogurt, chopped parsley, sliced jalapenos

Use a 4-qt. slow cooker.  Rinse lentils and pick through for any stones. Combine all ingredients, except for baby spinach, and set cooker to low for six hours or until lentils are tender. Add baby spinach at the very end, replace cover and let wilt. Serve with optional garnishes. Can also serve over rice or couscous.

Here’s an excerpt that shows where Ollie was at the beginning of the book. And, as you can see, things are not all bad as Ollie gets ready to prepare his carrots and lentils.

EXCERPT
In spite of the goodies he had purchased, Ollie felt the exhaustion peculiar to emotional shock set in on him as he entered his new apartment. Calling it home was out of the question, at least in these early days. The place was depressing and the fact that it was empty made it even moreso. He dared not even talk to himself, because his voice would echo pathetically.

After setting down his purchases on the kitchen counter, he walked back to the main living area and pulled the blinds up. He looked down at 10th Avenue, which, a bit farther south, morphed into Broadway, the main drag through the gay ghetto of Capitol Hill, wondering if he would ever feel a sense of home again. It didn’t help that, while he was making his way there, the cloud cover had become complete, blocking out the sun and shrouding the day in somber tones of gray. A light drizzle, more of a mist, had begun to fall.

Everything outside looked dirty and drab. If Ollie had taken a photograph, it would have shown up in black and white.

Ollie wondered why he wasn’t brought to his knees on the floor with grief and wondered why he wasn’t crying. Wouldn’t these be normal reactions to one’s world falling apart? Why wasn’t he on the phone with his mom in Chicago, pouring out his almost laughable tale of woe?

Ollie did sit down on the floor then, and smiled. He didn’t smile because he felt particularly happy, but because he realized he wasn’t sad.

Sure, he had lost almost everything in one fell swoop and was now faced with the prospect of starting over with almost nothing. But it didn’t take long for him to emerge from the cloud of shock and confusion and realize the reason he didn’t feel despair.

He was free.

Starting over did not represent a troubling, exhausting climb back to where he had been, but a chance to begin anew. And that prospect was liberating, exciting even.

How many of us have a chance to start over, really start over? Ollie realized that his experiences with Walker and his job had taught him things, things that would need to be examined more closely, but on the surface he knew that he now had the chance to learn from what he had been through, and come out on the other side a better person.

He could do anything.

BLURB
It only takes a few days for Ollie D'Angelo to lose his boyfriend, his job, and his home. Instead of mourning what he doesn’t have, Ollie celebrates what he does: the freedom to pursue his real passion—cooking. He begins Dinner at Home, a home-catering business, and it takes off.

Late one night, Ollie catches Hank Mellinger, a streetwise hood down on his luck, about to rob his car. Ollie soon discovers that appearances aren’t necessarily what they seem. Hank isn’t a criminal caught red-handed, but a hungry young man trying to make a life for himself and the four-year-old niece he’s trying desperately to take care of.

Instead of calling the cops, Ollie offers Hank a job and a way to pull himself up by his bootstraps. Together, they discover they can really cook... and that their shared passion for food just might lead to a passion for each other.

BUY
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Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback
AllRomance eBooks

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm Glad She Wants to Stay Awake

Last night, I had the pleasure of doing a reading at Seattle's historic Rendezvous in Belltown. It was a lot of fun. The organizers asked me, as part of my reading, to respond to a prompt, which was, "I'm glad she wants to stay awake, but I don't know. Is that really the best way?" This is what I wrote (and read): 

"I'm glad she wants to stay awake, but I don't know. Is that really the best way?"

“What are you talking about?” Alan rolls over in bed to regard me with a quizzical stare.

“She should sleep. She should rest,” I tell him.

“Who?”

“Oh come on, you know who. My mother.”

Alan doesn’t say anything. I can feel him staring at me in the dark and I don’t know if I can bear to meet his gaze, to see the sympathy in his eyes. Instead, I look up at the ceiling and repeat, “I’m glad she wants to stay awake.” I feel his hand, warm on my chest, put there in an attempt to comfort. I want to twist my chest upward to knock it off. “She wants to stay awake,” I say again, a little ticked.

We’re both tired. Not just from the funeral this morning, but from witnessing the long-range war that goes by the ubiquitous name—cancer. I can think of nothing else but Mom in that room at the hospice, afraid that if she succumbed to her weariness and allowed her eyes to close, she’d never open them again.

I change the tense of my statement, turning my head at last to look at this person next to me, this person who’s meant to be comfort. “She wanted to stay awake.”

“I know, sweetheart. I know.”

The tears, which have been threatening to come for a very long time, but always delayed, spring up, trickle down. “I wanted her to stay awake. But she didn’t. And I never got the chance to say ‘I love you.’

Alan snuggles closer, rests his head on my chest. “You didn’t have to say the words. She knew.”

“She went to sleep,” I pronounce, thinking that Alan, who knew me better than anyone, was right.

“And it was the best way,” he says softly.

I pull him close. “Let’s sleep.”

We lay silent for a long time, until I hear the deepening of Alan’s breath beside me. I nudge him, poking my elbow gently into his side. His breathing changes and I know he’s awake again.

“What?” he wonders.

“I love you,” I say.

(Photo courtesy of David Warner)
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Monday, June 16, 2014

Cover Reveal: BASHED

Do you believe that real love never dies? 


That's the premise behind my July 14 release from Dreamspinner Press, Bashed. Bashed is a haunting blend of romance, suspense, and ghost story, wrapped up in a timely story that could have been ripped from today's headlines.

I'm happy to share the amazing cover by Aaron Anderson with you today. I think it's simply gorgeous, and, appropriately, haunting. What do you think?

BLURB
It should have been a perfect night out. Instead, Mark and Donald collide with tragedy when they leave their favorite night spot. That dark October night, three gay-bashers emerge from the gloom, armed with slurs, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.

The hate crime leaves Donald lost and alone, clinging to the memory of the only man he ever loved. He is haunted, both literally and figuratively, by Mark and what might have been. Trapped in a limbo offering no closure, Donald can’t immediately accept the salvation his new neighbor, Walter, offers. Walter’s kindness and patience are qualities his sixteen-year-old nephew, Justin, understands well. Walter provides the only sense of family the boy’s ever known. But Justin holds a dark secret that threatens to tear Donald and Walter apart before their love even has a chance to blossom.

1st Edition published by MLR Press, March 2009.

PRE-ORDER BASHED FROM DREAMSPINNER PRESS (Wide release July 14, 2014)
In eBook
In Paperback


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Friday, June 13, 2014

Inspiration Can Be Inspiring Too

If, or hopefully when, you read my newest book, Dinner at Home, you’ll encounter Hank Mellinger, a homeless twenty-something who, when we first meet him, is staying at a Charity called Haven, where he gets room, board, and training in how to be a professional cook. Two similar charities exist in Seattle, where the book is set, Fare Start, which teaches cooking skills to the homeless, and YouthCare, which provides shelter, food, clothing, and vocational training for homeless youth, an astoundingly (or maybe not) large number of whom identify as LGBT.

I volunteer for YouthCare, cooking lunches and dinners once or twice a month with a group of my friends—we call ourselves the “It Gets Better” group. There’s not many things I do that are as satisfying, rewarding, and inspirational as this service. It warms my heart to know that the food I made with my own hands is feeding kids who may not have anything else to eat the rest of the day. Their happiness at seeing what we made that day can bring tears to my eyes.

My experience with YouthCare is part of the reason I love my character Hank, in Dinner at Home so much. He’s like the kids I feed: streetwise, tough on the outside, but vulnerable too. They’re really barely more than children and they’ve been forced to grow up too fast and have seen too much. Hank is no different.

Here’s a little excerpt that shows you what Hank is all about—tough guy outside, but all heart on the inside:

“You really want to feed people this crap?” Hank Mellinger snapped at his new boss. Lined up in the kitchen of Haven, a charity that housed and fed the homeless of Seattle and provided chef training for some of its residents, were several industrial-sized boxes of generic mac and cheese mix. Alongside the boxes were sticks of no-name margarine and boxes of powdered milk.

His boss, E.J. Porter, an African-American woman with her hair braided tightly to her scalp and oval-rimmed frameless glasses, shook her head as she took in her latest charge.

“Hank. We have to face reality here. Now, as much as I would love to serve people mac and cheese with real cheddar, cream, and maybe roasted red peppers, we just can’t afford that kind of stuff on the measly funds we get from the state and what donors kick in. Hell, honey, we might as well do a b├ęchamel and throw some lobster in too.” She patted his shoulder. “It’s a nice dream, sweetie. Now you need to get cookin’. Lunch is only a couple hours away and I still need you to chop and prep the salad.” She pointed to the sorry pile of heads of iceberg lettuce in the sink.

Hank shook his head. “So because people are poor, they have to eat this fucking shit? Why can’t we get some fresh vegetables? Is it that pricey? This stuff gives ‘em nothin’. Artery-clogging crap that might fill up their bellies, but doesn’t do a thing to keep ‘em healthy. Fuck.”

E.J. moved in close to Hank, so close he could feel her breath and maybe even a bit of her spittle on his face. She spoke softly, but there was an intensity, perhaps even a fury to her words. “Look, Hank, you just got here. I have been trying to run this place for the last nine years. You have no idea what I go through just to get the food we have to work with. You have no idea how grateful some of these people are for this ‘shit’ as you call it. It tastes pretty good when the last meal you had came out of a dumpster, if you had anything at all. We work with what we get. Some days it’s healthier fare than others, but all of it’s food. For hungry people. And you might not think that’s something, but it is.

“Now, you are just starting here. We gave you a roof over your head, food to eat, and we’re trying to help you find a career path as a chef. Haven may not be Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, but we will get you ready to work in a kitchen. We’ll give you knife skills, teach you how to make simple sauces, stocks, and soups, we’ll make a real cook out of you. Maybe not a chef, but a cook.

“Now you need to watch your language, watch your attitude, and get to work.” E.J. stormed away.

BUY
from Dreamspinner Press in ebook or in paperback
Amazon Kindle

If you want to know more about YouthCare (and maybe even donate), here’s a little more information:

YouthCare History

For 40 years, YouthCare has been a leader in providing effective services to Seattle’s homeless youth.

In 1974, a group of concerned citizens started a three-bed shelter for homeless and runaway youth, the first in the Western United States.  Since then, we have grown to become a community-based agency with six sites serving the greater Seattle area. During that time, we have led the way in creating effective, innovative programs for homeless young people:


  • In 1989, YouthCare created one of the first transitional living programs in the Northwest. Straley House now houses Catalyst, one of the first low-barrier housing programs for homeless youth in the region.
  • In 1998, YouthCare opened ISIS House, the first transitional living program in Washington State to focus on the unique needs of homeless LGBTQ youth.
  • In 2003, YouthCare was one of the first agencies nationwide to contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to house a shelter/case management program serving the specialized needs of refugee youth.
  • In May 2010, YouthCare partnered with the City of Seattle, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, and others to open the Bridge Program, the first residential recovery program in the Northwest for sexually exploited children. Today, the program operates as a full continuum of services for sexually exploited youth and  young adults, and includes dedicated beds in both emergency shelter and transitional living programs.


Contact

For general inquiries, including program information and donation options: info@youthcare.org or (206) 694-4500

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New and Notable: A Heart for Robbie by J.P. Barnaby

BLURB:
Waiting for someone else’s child to die so yours can live is the worst kind of Hell.

Celebrated Young Adult author Julian Holmes pits the heroic characters in his Black Heart series against all different kinds of monsters. But when a critical heart defect threatens his son’s life, he finds he has no champion. No amount of books, classes, or practice can prepare Julian for the fight to save his beautiful son’s life Suddenly there are hospitals, transplant lists, and the nightmare of insurance red tape to navigate. In the midst of his trouble, Julian meets Simon Phelps, the insurance coordinator for Robbie’s case. Simon lives so deep in the closet he might never find his way out, but he dreams of exactly what Julian has. Then one night, drunken need and desperation brings them together, and a new fight begins.

BUY LINKS – DREAMSPINNER PRESS:
EBook
Paperback

EXCERPT
“You want Daddy to tell you a story?”

The sweet boy snuggled down closer to his father, as if waiting to hear his story. Julian smiled, rubbing the unbandaged side of Robbie’s head with his thumb as he held the baby snug in his arms, oxygen tube in front of his rosy cheeks.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Julian felt Liam smile.

“I’ve probably had stories in my head since I was your age, only they didn’t start coming out until I was a little older and could talk. Once I was able to spell, that was it for me. So, let’s see, a story for my Robbie. Okay, once upon a time, there was a prince named, uhm, Bobby. Now, Bobby was out one day in the forest around the castle playing with one of his friends. The boys were hiding from each other, catching frogs, you know, things that boys do. Anyway, they happened across a robber. He must have been a foreigner, because he didn’t recognize Bobby as the prince over that land.” Robbie’s eyes fluttered closed, soothed by the sound of his father’s voice.

“The other boy ran, telling Bobby to come with him, but Bobby was a prince. No way would he give up his gold to some mere commoner. His father wouldn’t allow it. His father always protected him. Only this time, he didn’t. The robber took Bobby’s gold and put a blade into his chest. By the time the other boy brought help, Bobby was in bad shape.”

Julian stroked Robbie’s little cheek with his thumb.

“King… uhm… Cerulean, okay, don’t make fun, you don’t know that word yet,” Julian whispered to Robbie with a laugh and actually heard Liam roll his eyes from the little spot in the back of his mind. “Anyway, the king, well, he didn’t take any chances and rushed Bobby to Merlin, the greatest wizard in the land. He begged Merlin to help his son. Merlin put the boy on a table and examined him, muttering incantations under his breath. He touched the boy’s pierced chest and felt the coolness of his skin. He told the king that the only way to save his son was to cut out the heart of a dragon to make a very special potion for Bobby to drink. Only that would save the boy’s life.”

Robbie lay quiet in Julian’s arms, his breathing slow and rhythmic in sleep. Julian decided to continue, even if just for himself.

“And he did it, Robbie. That king went out and searched day and night to find a dragon. Finally, he did. He risked his own life to bring the heart back to the old wizard. Merlin used the heart to make a potion for the prince, and once he drank it, the wound in his chest closed up, and he was right as rain.”

He pulled Robbie a little higher on his chest, bringing his lips down to whisper in his son’s ear.

“I’ll find that dragon, buddy. I promise.”


ABOUT J.P. BARNABY
Award winning romance novelist, J. P. Barnaby has penned over a dozen books including the Working Boys series, the Little Boy Lost series, In the Absence of Monsters, and Aaron. As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.

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