Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Exclusive Sneak Peek: The 1st Chapter from DINNER AT FIORELLO'S

Okay, so I'm not a patient guy. I can't wait until my next romance, Dinner at Fiorello's, releases on May 1 from Dreamspinner Press. To give you a little taste of what's coming, you can now read the first chapter. Intrigued? Click on the links to preorder now.

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Chapter 1
Henry Appleby stared at the Craigslist ad on his iMac screen. No, it was not in the Men Seeking Men or the Casual Encounters section. Henry had perused those ads, but at eighteen years old, he found most of those ads were more for education, titillation, and fantasy. He couldn’t imagine the guys who posted them, nor could he picture the brave souls who had the courage to respond. Still, they showed Henry a part of the world he was curious about, even if he was not ready to take such a seedy plunge, if he ever would be.
No, the ad that had caught Henry’s eye was in the Jobs section. More specifically, it was in the “food/bev/hosp” subsection. It read:

General Kitchen Help Wanted
Fiorello’s, Rogers Park Fine Italian Dining destination, is looking for general front-end and back-end help. You’ll do everything from wash dishes and bus tables to food prep. Pay is minimum wage, but it’s a great way to learn the food industry from the ground up. High school graduate or GED required; past restaurant work desirable but not necessary. Please call in person at the restaurant between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. No phone calls, e-mails, or postal inquiries, please.

Henry had been staring at the ad for more than fifteen minutes. The only break had been the few minutes he took to leave Craigslist to Google Fiorello’s and locate their address on Jarvis Avenue. Even though Henry lived in Evanston, only a short drive away from Rogers Park, Chicago’s farthest-north lakefront neighborhood, he had never been by the place.
Henry’s father, Theodore, but known to everyone else as “Tank,” startled Henry out of his reverie. Henry jumped a little as his father swept into the room without warning.
“You looking at porn sites again? Damn, to be young!” His booming voice intruded on the sunny early June morning.
Henry quickly shifted the Google tab on his computer to the website for NYU and turned to give what he knew was a sheepish grin to his strapping father. Even though he had been doing nothing close to what his dad had suggested, heat still rose to Henry’s cheeks. “What? No, no, of course not.”
His father, already dressed in his Ermenegildo Zegna suit, crisp white shirt, and rep tie, whacked him playfully on the back of the head. “Lighten up, kid. I was just kidding.” He laughed. “And if you’re lookin’ at a little T&A, who am I to complain? You’re a red-blooded American male, just like your dad.”
Henry could only keep grinning stupidly. Porn would have been one thing. His father would have accepted, maybe even welcomed, his son looking at the ubiquitous one-handed art so prevalent on the Web, but he would have had a shit fit if he had known his son was getting excited over a employment ad for kitchen help.
Now there was horror. Kitchen help was not appropriate. Not in the Appleby family.
His father moved back toward the entrance to Henry’s room. “That summer help position at my law firm is still waiting for you. I told the partners you could start next week. You okay with that?”
Henry still could not find a single word to say. He knew his father wasn’t really asking if he was okay with it; he was simply reminding Henry of his obligation. Henry scratched his blond hair as if fleas had suddenly invaded it. He kept grinning and wondered if he resembled a chimp. He nodded weakly. “Sure, Dad,” he finally managed to utter. In a bold move for Henry, he added, “I’m just considering all my options for the summer. You know, last time to be free and all that.”
“What options?” his father asked in a chiding voice. “You’re prelaw at NYU this fall, right? What could be better than working for one of the best investment law firms in Chicago? That’s some solid résumé shit, son.”
“You’re right, Dad.” Henry said the words but experienced a sinking sensation, as one does when one speaks something that comes from the head but not the heart.
“Well, enjoy the life of Riley for a few more days. I don’t blame you. They’re gonna work you to the bone down there, but you’ll learn a lot.”
“Sounds great,” Henry said without much conviction. He let his gaze roam back to his iMac screen, staring at the Craigslist tab. Could he dare?
“See you later, kiddo. The early bird and all that. And by the way, what the hell are you doing up at 7:00 a.m.?”
“I don’t know, Dad. I was awake.”
“And decided to go online before anything else. You kids. Typical.” Tank ran his fingers playfully through his son’s mop of hair. “We’ll need to get this cut before Monday. Go see Giovanni,” he said, referring to his barber on Main Street.
Henry’s shoulders relaxed, and he let out a long breath as his father exited the room. He got up and crept to his bedroom door, watching as Tank descended the winding staircase. His father paused to pick up his metal briefcase from its place in the foyer, slipped the Wall Street Journal under his arm, and then headed outside.
The sound of the Lexus starting up in the drive let Henry know it was safe to go back in his room and return to Craigslist, where he could ponder such an outrageous position as “General Kitchen Help.” 
In the kitchen, their housekeeper, Maxine, was making herself some breakfast. Henry paused to watch the woman who’d been a part of the Applebys’ daily life since he was a little boy. She was what his mother would call “pleasingly plump,” with broad shoulders—like a linebacker, his dad joked—and even wider hips. She didn’t wear a uniform but always came to work dressed the same: black polyester slacks and a polyblend loose-fitting top, usually floral-patterned. Her hair, once a startling shade of red, had dulled over the years and was now shot through with gray. Still, it was a riot of curls, and Henry thought that a few extra pounds or gray hairs could not diminish the vibrant beauty he saw in their housekeeper.
He watched as she cracked eggs one-handed into a bowl, whisked them, then added a few torn basil leaves, some grated cheese, and a handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half. She poured the egg mixture into a pan Henry knew would be coated with a thick layer of melted butter.
“I know you’re watchin’ me, kid. That’s why I made enough for two.”
Maxine turned and bestowed upon him one of her trademark grins. The gap in her front teeth made her look impish. The one thing that never aged about Maxine was her smile. It had the ability to illuminate a room and made Henry feel warm all over, loved. The smile he gave in return bore no relation, he thought, to the sheepish grin he must have given his father moments ago.
“Thanks, Maxine. You have to show me how you do that sometime.”
“This? This is nothin’. Tomorrow you can cook for us. Just don’t let Mr. Appleby see.” She laughed.
It was like a donkey’s bray, and Henry giggled, a little boy again. But she was right. His father would have ridiculed him, at best, if he saw his son cooking in the kitchen. Cooking was work for the help when they were at home or for kitchen staff when they went out to a restaurant or to their country club.
Maxine finished up with the eggs in short order, jerking the frying pan rapidly toward her over and over until, like magic, a perfectly rolled omelet appeared. She pulled down a couple of plates from the cabinet, loaded them up, and handed one to Henry. They sat on stools at the kitchen’s marble-topped island to eat. “You want some toast with that?” Maxine asked after a while. “Just take me a minute. I got sourdough.”
“Nah, I’m good.” Henry went back to eating. Maxine had been with the family since Henry was eight years old and was kind of like a mother. Unlike his own mom, though, this was a woman with whom he could talk and share secrets, knowing she would never pass judgment.
“You’re kinda tight-lipped this morning,” Maxine said once they’d finished their amazing eggs. They were soft, buttery, and silky, unlike any other Henry had ever had. There was something delicate about their texture, yet the taste was a melding of layers: sweet herb, acidic tomato, salty Parmigiano-Reggiano. Henry swore Maxine threw a little handful of magic into everything she cooked.
“Just thinking about all I have to do today.”
“Right.” Maxine covered her mouth as she belched. “What’s on your agenda? Wait. Don’t tell me. The beach with Kade? A bike ride along the Green Bay Trail? Maybe head out to Old Orchard, charge up your dad’s Visa at Nordstrom?” She winked. “Get somethin’ for me. I could use a new pair of shoes. Size ten. Kitten heels. I like red.” She giggled.
At the mention of Kade, Henry’s thoughts went dark. He hadn’t spoken to his best friend since the night of Henry’s graduation party ten days ago—but who was counting? What had happened between them on the beach after all the guests left was something Henry had been at first gleeful about, but as time wore on with no calls, texts, or e-mails from Kade, Henry had begun to worry he had pushed things too far and maybe lost his best friend. Yet he could still recall the satiny feel of Kade’s skin against his own, the seawater-sweet taste of his come.
Had it been worth it? If he had lost a buddy he’d had since boyhood, no. But he couldn’t help but savor the memory of that night, a fantasy he had never thought would come true.
Maxine nudged him, knocking her shoulder into Henry’s. “You mind putting the dishes in the dishwasher? Your mother wants me to clean floors today, and the marble ones are a chore—especially with only bein’ allowed to use vinegar and a little water.”
“Maxine, cleaning up breakfast dishes is not my son’s job. It’s yours.”
Henry turned to see his mother enter the kitchen. As always, when he saw her he was confounded by his perception and mix of feelings. For one, Megan Appleby was beautiful. She was only in her early forties but looked closer to someone in her thirties, maybe even twenties if the light was right. Her blonde hair was like silk, hanging to her shoulders, fashionably cut and woven in with strands of gold, brown, and platinum that looked perfectly natural but cost well over a hundred bucks every time she visited her “colorist” in Winnetka. Her face was very much like her only son’s: full lips, startling blue eyes, and a nose that was slightly too long but gave her an aura of aristocracy. Both she and Henry had fine bone structure, strong, but where Henry’s was chiseled, his mother’s was more delicate. Her skin was, to labor a cliché, like porcelain. That was as it should be too—Megan spent a lot of money on not only expensive toners and lotions, but saw a doctor, also in Winnetka, for regular Botox injections.
Today she wore a form-fitting floral dress that seemed too formal for a hot summer day. Henry wasn’t sure if his mother even owned a pair of jeans.
In spite of her head-turning beauty, there was something cold about his mom, something that kept people at a distance. Like right now. What need was there to talk to Maxine that way? Maxine was like family. He hated to see the way Maxine stiffened at the sound of his mother’s voice.
Henry moved away from the table, hands up, knowing it wouldn’t be prudent to grab the dishes from the island anyway.
“Sure thing, Mrs. A.” Maxine busied herself running the dishes under the tap and loading them into the dishwasher. Henry couldn’t see her face, but if he could, he was certain she’d be rolling her eyes.
Megan walked over to Henry and gave him a kiss he barely felt on his cheek. She smelled subtly of lavender and money.
Maxine closed the dishwasher. “You want anything for breakfast, Mrs. A? I can make you some eggs or pancakes.”
Pancakes! Henry wanted to bust a gut at that one. He knew Maxine was making fun of his mom without her even knowing it. Pancakes would no more pass Megan Appleby’s lips than a cup of hemlock.
“Thank you, Maxine. I’ll just have a cup of green tea, if you wouldn’t mind putting the kettle on.”
“And a carrot?” Henry couldn’t resist asking.
Mom wagged a finger at him. “Henry,” she chided. “You know I’m trying to shed a few pounds. It’s beach season, after all.”
Henry thought if his mother succeeded in shedding a few pounds, she would waste away to a skeleton, but he kept his own counsel.
Megan sat down at the island and fingered the pieces of fruit—pineapple, bananas, mangos, and kiwis—before drawing her hand away from them as though they were something distasteful.
“Have one, Mom. It won’t kill you. That’s healthy stuff.”
“It’s all sugar,” she said softly.
Getting his mother to eat was mostly a lost cause. Somehow she managed to subsist on green tea and rice cakes, with the occasional stalk of celery if she was feeling wild.
Henry started out. “Well, I think I’m gonna head back up to my room. See what I can get up to today.”
“Yes. That’s a good idea. Enjoy your free time while you have it. Your father wants you at the firm bright and early Monday morning.”
If Henry had any guts at all, he might have said to his mother, “Well, that may be what he wants, but what about what I want?” But all he said was, “Right.” He hurried from the room with the sound of Megan’s musical voice instructing Maxine to use only vinegar and water on the windows. Windex was toxic, she said.
In his room, Henry debated: what to do with his day, what to do with his life, what to do about his summer employment. He lay down on his bed and pulled the sheet over himself.
There was a thrumming in his veins even as he lay on his back. He didn’t know if the surge was due to dread or excitement.
First, there was dread. He could do what every North Shore kid was probably doing today—this glorious early summer (technically still spring) day when the rigors of school were but a memory—head out the beach. Bake in the sun. Dip his toes in the frigid waters of Lake Michigan. Maybe he’d run into Kade there. Maybe they could talk, clear the air.
Maybe not. The thought filled him with both longing and trepidation.
Sure, he could spend the day leisurely working on his tan or wandering Old Orchard, the outdoor mall in Skokie, or just go out in his family’s backyard, which faced Lake Michigan, and plop down in one of the Adirondack chairs out there and read all day. He was in the middle of David Sedaris’s latest, and that guy always cracked him up.
Henry recognized all these things for what they were—distractions. He made a list of things he didn’t want to think about.
The first was getting on the train Monday morning with his father, wearing a Brooks Brothers button-down shirt, khakis, and sensible shoes, looking like the little junior attorney his father was expecting him to be.
The second was talking to Kade. He and his best friend had gone skinny-dipping in the freezing waters of Lake Michigan after Henry’s graduation party. They had emerged near the boulders bordering the beach, and, in a bit of a tipsy state, Kade had remarked that neither of them seemed to be suffering the effects of “shrinkage” from the frigid waters. One thing led to another, as they say, and Henry had ended up somewhere he had always dreamed of being, on his knees between Kade’s spread thighs. At the time, Henry thought the act might bring their friendship to a new and more intimate level, but the radio silence that followed their brief tryst had proved otherwise. Still, he needed to make things right with Kade, show him he wasn’t a threat and they could go back to where they were before.
But could they? Could anyone after they’d been intimate? Henry was too inexperienced to know, and he certainly had no one to ask.
Not going to Fiorello’s and applying for a job he thought he would love was third on the list of things Henry didn’t want to think about. Sure, the work would be hard, he imagined, and sweaty. It would be tedious. He’d be treated like the underling he knew he’d be. But he would be around food and cooking all day, things he was passionate about. In his wildest fantasies, he imagined being a chef, somebody like Grant Achatz or Rick Bayless or even someone as big as Thomas Keller. He was already, with Maxine, honing his knife skills, learning the difference between a dice, a mince, and a julienne.
When Henry dreamed, he dreamed about food.
Not once had he ever dreamed about investment law.
Henry knew spending the day doing what other rich North Shore kids do would only take him away from pursuing his dream.
But that dream went against the core of what his family wanted for him. He’d always been the golden boy, doing exactly what his family expected. He felt like no one really knew him, knew his passion for food, for cooking (well, except for maybe Maxine).
As people often do when faced with life-altering decisions or yielding to temptations that may or may not be the right thing to do, Henry tried bargaining in baby steps for what he would do with the day.
I’ll just hop on the ‘L’ and go down there, check the place out. Maybe I’ll even have lunch. And if I like what I see, maybe I could ask for an application and fill it out. Odds are, they won’t even call me. I don’t have any real-world experience. They’ll probably have lots of other people with years under their belts lining up for that job, even though it sounds like grunt work, entry level, or bottom of the barrel, depending on your point of view.
So why do I want it so, so much?
Never mind. Just go there. See what it’s like. You may not even want to apply once you see it.
Henry got up from his bed, stripped out of his plaid boxers and T-shirt, and headed for the shower in his bath. He had to admit to himself that there was a certain relief in thinking that, by going to the place, he would see it for the dismal work environment it was and would come home with more enthusiasm for working downtown at his father’s law firm.
Part of him even wished for that outcome.
Life would be so much easier.
He switched the shower on and waited for it to get hot. Once the temperature was as he liked it, he slid under the showerhead and turned under it. He closed his eyes, trying just to let himself relax and not think.
But one thought stayed with him—it won’t hurt just to go see. No one has to know.
Back in his room, Henry debated what to wear. He knew his father recommended a suit and tie for any interview situation. But Henry didn’t even know if there would be an interview. If he even wanted to fill out an application, all he might be faced with would be filling in the blanks.
His mother always said, “I never apologize for being overdressed.”
Yet Henry didn’t want to walk into the place looking like some privileged, private school, North Shore teenager—which he was. That could be off-putting, especially since he was imagining Fiorello’s as a small family restaurant. Otherwise, why would they be looking for a jack-of-all-trades kind of kitchen person?
In the end, he thought he couldn’t go wrong with a pair of soft gray jeans and a pink button-down shirt, tucked in. He’d wear his Cole Haan black monk strap shoes. They were comfy and not too dressy, he thought. All in all, he thought he’d look neat and not trying too hard.
Besides, the pink of the shirt set off his skin, blue eyes, and blond hair in a very fetching way. Dressed, he turned in front of the mirror and thought he didn’t look too bad, not too bad at all.
Now his only challenge would be getting out of the house unnoticed by either his mother or Maxine. Both women would be immediately suspicious if he left the house in anything other than board shorts and a tank top.
That’s why we have a back staircase to the kitchen, he told himself, creeping down its carpeted length. Besides, if I run into Maxine, I can confide in her if I need to. She’d understand. Mom, not so much.
As if to allay his worries, he heard the sound of his mother’s Mercedes two-seater convertible start up. He hurried over to his window to see her pulling out of the driveway onto Michigan Avenue.
It’s meant to be, Henry thought.
The kitchen was empty. Maxine must be in the foyer, scrubbing the floor.


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Monday, April 6, 2015

My Psychic Thriller, THIRD EYE, Now Available in Audiobook. Get Your Free Copy!

My psychic thriller, Third Eye, awaits your listening pleasure and/or shivers (available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes). The narration, by Chad Tindale, is gripping.

GIVEAWAY
I have four copies to give away to four lucky winners. To win your copy, go to the Third Eye Amazon page, listen to the sample, and answer the following questions:

1. Who cries out to Cayce in his hospital dream?

2. What was the name of the first nurse to come to Cayce, the one he remembered from high school?

E-mail your answers to jimmyfels@gmail.com. The first four people who do will get a free copy of the book! Bonus points for sharing this blog post to your Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+.

BLURB
Who knew that a summer thunderstorm and his lost little boy would conspire to change single dad Cayce D’Amico’s life in an instant? With Luke missing, Cayce ventures into the woods near their house to find his son, only to have lightning strike a tree near him, sending a branch down on his head. When he awakens the next day in the hospital, he discovers he has been blessed or cursed—he isn't sure which—with psychic ability. Along with unfathomable glimpses into the lives of those around him, he’s getting visions of a missing teenage girl.

When a second girl disappears soon after the first, Cayce realizes his visions are leading him to their grisly fates. Cayce wants to help, but no one believes him. The police are suspicious. The press wants to exploit him. And the girls' parents have mixed feelings about the young man with the "third eye."

Cayce turns to local reporter Dave Newton and, while searching for clues to the string of disappearances and possible murders, a spark ignites between the two. Little do they know that nearby, another couple—dark and murderous—are plotting more crimes and wondering how to silence the man who knows too much about them.

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Look What's Now Available for Pre-order! DINNER AT FIORELLO'S!


You can now pre-order your copy of Dinner at Fiorello's ("Where Love is on the Menu") at Dreamspinner Press (wide release May 1)!

BLURB 
Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.

Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.

Please reblog and/or post to social media! Many thanks in advance...

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Penance: Street Kids & Horror


To celebrate Throwback Thursday, I'm offering a free digital copy of my 1993 horror novel, Penance, from Untreed Reads!

To enter the drawing for my horrifying story of a group of homeless street kids terrorized by a madman hellbent on cleansing the world of their kind, simply leave a comment below. I will announce a winner on April 9.

Penance was part of Dell's historic horror line, Abyss, lauded by none other than Stephen King, who called it "remarkable".

 You don't have to wait to win the contest to get a copy. Penance is only $2.99:
Kindle version
From Untreed Reads

SYNOPSIS

Bound by misery. Marked by sin. Set free by death.

Barely into their teens, without homes, they dwell in neon shadows, the violent eddies of urban America. They trade their innocence for money, abuse their hopes, and then a monster comes...

 A monster without fangs or claws, but more deadly. Because of them, he has lost everything: his wife, his family. And he vows to clean the streets of Chicago...for good.

 One of the street kids and a man of the cloth form a desperate pact. Together, they will find the madman whose basement has become a chamber of horrors...

EXCERPT
Lawrence Avenue was alive with rain-slicked excitement. Here, in Chicago’s uptown, royal blue, yellow, and green neon reflected off the pavement’s darkness. Cold night air. Steam rushing up through manhole covers. Christmas lights in neighborhood bar windows beckoned passersby with watery promises of “Christmas cheer.”

Jimmy Fels occupied his street corner. At thirteen, he already knew the poses. There was a casual defiance in the way he leaned against the storefront doorway, pelvis thrust out just enough to attract the interest of the cars cruising by more slowly than the others. He wore a faded jean jacket, Metallica T-shirt, pegged jeans, and Reebok Pumps. His ripped T-shirt deliberately exposed a nipple and a flash of smooth white stomach. The top of the T-shirt was cut away to reveal a gold rope chain, glinting in the glow of the streetlight above him.

Green eyes, wizened beyond their years, stared out of a pale face. He brought a cigarette to his full lips, lips almost too feminine and full for a boy, too ripe for anything clean. His hair, freshly washed, was still damp, looking darker than blond.

He tried not to appear too interested in the cars passing by, some slowing down to take a look at him. He knew it was bad to look too hungry. Make them think you’re doing them a favor…always keep the upper hand. Street knowledge passed on. Remember Gacy. Remember Larry Eyler and what he did to Danny Bridges, the boy who ended up chopped into pieces and thrown into a Dumpster. Get it over with as quickly as possible and keep moving. But he looked anyway, his eyes moving slowly, catching glances out of the corners, and saw the shadows of men leaning forward, their faces ghostly through car windows.

*

Dwight Morris looked at himself in his bathroom mirror. Forty-two years old, he thought, forty-two years old and you can’t even tell. The Cubs baseball cap was positioned just so, with the bill facing backward. His acid-washed Levi’s jacket hung loosely on him, with the cuffs of the sleeves turned up. Under the jacket, he wore an old grey-hooded sweatshirt unzipped just enough to show the New Kids T-shirt underneath. The mirror didn’t reveal the pegged black jeans and the BK high tops.

Dwight smiled at himself, exposing the boyish gap in his teeth. The hint of rouge on his cheeks made him look flushed; a young boy.

I must look at least twenty-five years younger.

*

Jimmy imagined their yearning.

He was cold, but didn’t want to warm himself. That would destroy the pose. The tough guy. So his arms remained at his sides, the cigarette an orange glow in one hand, held between thumb and forefinger. Too many suburban guys tucked at home with wife and kiddies, Indiana Jones on the VCR, lust for his little thirteen-year-old ass on their minds.

“Isn’t it a little cold out here for you, little boy?”

Jimmy jumped at the sound of a girl’s voice. He turned to his left and there she was. Miranda. Tonight she was wearing a black derby, a big black sweatshirt, urban camouflage pants, black leg warmers, army boots. Christ.

An amused grin played about her lips. “Shouldn’t you be home in bed, little boy? I think your mama has some cocoa and Oreos waiting.”

“Real funny, ’Ran. C’mon, gimme a fuckin’ break. I’m workin’.”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “Slow night?” She took off the black derby she wore and ran her hand through her close-cropped red hair, making it stand on end.

“It is with you standin’ there blockin’ the fuckin’ view.”

Miranda shook her head. “I can see we’re in a mood tonight.” She started away from him, hips sashaying, swinging her bag.

“Hey.” Jimmy took a last drag off his cigarette, flicked it into the gutter.

Miranda stopped and turned, cocked her head. “Thought you didn’t want to be bothered.”

Jimmy raised his hands to her. “See ya later?”

Miranda shrugged. “Depends on how it goes.”

“Right. That’s cool.”

Jimmy watched her walking away. Who would she find tonight? Would she make enough to buy herself a bottle of Cisco?

“How you doin’, son?”

The man’s voice made Jimmy take his eyes away from Miranda. He pulled a cigarette out of his jacket pocket and lit it, cupping his hand to shield the flame, before he looked up.

It was the creep. At least that’s what Jimmy called him. Some fucking preacher who lived around here. Tall, thin, pasty white with these little old-fashioned wire-rim glasses.

“Beat it. I ain’t interested.” Jimmy sucked in on the cigarette, blew the smoke toward the man.

The preacher made a gesture like a shrug, bringing his hands up, like I’m innocent.

Right. “Look, man, I’m okay. All right? See you later?”

Jimmy smirked as the preacher walked away, his hands dug deep in his pockets, head hunched down against the Chicago wind whistling down Lawrence, off the lake.

A Toyota pickup pulled over to the curb. Black with neon detailing. The truck had these squiggles of hot pink and turquoise. Jimmy pretended not to notice at first, then glanced in the direction of the truck. There was some young guy inside, wearing a baseball cap backward, leaning over and rolling down the window. Jimmy leaned over to get a better look at the face.

Wait a minute. Jimmy moved a little closer, trying to make it look like he’d just decided he wanted to cross the street or something. But he needed to get a better look.

This guy wasn’t so young. There were lines around his eyes, across his forehead. He had so much makeup on his cheeks he looked like fuckin’ Bozo the Clown..

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Gay-Themed Books

When I move, the worst part of it is packing up and moving all the books. I am buried under books. I have read more books than I can count. I am a true book slut, moving restlessly from one to the other, finding satisfaction here, disappointment there…and sometimes magic. I wanted to just give you the very first books that came to mind when I thought of my very favorite “gay” books. I’m a great believer in going with one’s gut. So here they are (in no particular order):

1. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith. Highsmith has long been one of my literary icons. When it comes to probing the darkest sides of human nature, no one does it better than she. Strangers on a Train is a much better novel than the Hitchcock movie of the same name (although that was not without its charm, among them the very lovely Farley Granger) and has a much darker resolution. Its homoeroticism, too, is much more explicit than in the sanitized Hollywood film that bears the same name.
2. The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren. How many other gay men have had the same experience as I did? I discovered this book on a trip to the mall when I was in high school, surreptitiously bought it when my friend wasn’t looking, and took it to home, hid it between my mattress, and box springs…and absolutely treasured it. It opened my eyes to so much (yes, two men can really love each other—it’s not a sickness or an abnormality) and made me realize I was not alone.
3. No Night is Too Long by Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine). No contemporary mystery/psychological thriller writer does it better than Ruth Rendell. She plays with gay themes in several of her novels, but in this tale of psychological suspense, she most successfully blends homosexual themes and characters with heart-pounding suspense and shines a light into our darkest fears and compulsions.
4. Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim. This was Heim’s debut novel and it’s weird, wonderful, and disturbing, combining alien abduction, memory loss, and child sexual abuse in a compelling, lyrical, and thought-provoking narrative. I’m sad to say that none of his subsequent work had the sheer power of this one.
5. In a Shallow Grave by James Purdy. Purdy is one of the most underrated American writers. I believe he is one of the masters of 20th century literature and this gem, about a disaffected and disfigured war veteran and his love for a hired male caretaker and the fugitive who comes into both their lives is spiritual, carnal, and profound. And Purdy’s command of the language and his use of American colloquial speech is nothing short of poetry.
6. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. A perfectly rendered portrait of England in the 1980s and the rise of the new right, this story about young gay Nick Guest and his social and sexual awakening is harrowing stuff, since we know that tragedy lurks just around the corner for not only our naïve young—and often selfish—protagonist, but for a whole segment of society.
7. Was by Geoff Ryman. This revisionist take on my favorite movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz, is simply brilliant literature. In its parallel stories of a “real” Dorothy Gale, a “scarecrow” dying of AIDS, and the plight of a child star named Frances Gumm combine to form a narrative that is nothing short of literary brilliance.
8. Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin. The Tales of the City books, like The Front Runner, were eye-openers and touchstones for me as a young gay man coming to grips with his own identity. Reading this last entry in the series really resonated with me and touched me, since I am not far behind Michael himself and have experienced many, if not most, of his same joys and sorrows.
9. The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. This was Leavitt’s first novel and, while I wouldn’t say it’s his best, I would say it’s his sweetest and most satisfying. So much of the story resonates with me personally (the closeted father with a gay son) that it simply touches my heart more than his other work.
10. IM by Rick R. Reed. You didn’t think I’d compile this list without putting myself on it? But people always ask which of my books is my favorite and this one is clamoring for a mention. I love it because it combines a little romance, with a lot of suspense, some horror, and commentary on gay life and culture.
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Dreamspinner Press Publications



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Friday, March 27, 2015

Welcoming Guest Blogger A.E. Via


DEFINED BY DECEIT
~ A.E. Via ~
M/M GAY ROMANCE CONTEMPORARY
Edited by: Tina Adamski
Cover Art by: Jay Aheer
300 pages
Release Date: March 27, 2015

ABOUT THE BOOK

Life isn't always fair, and that’s something that Llewellyn Gardner knows about first hand. His life was on the fast track until one night of extreme passion changed everything.

Now eight years later, he’s still living with the aftershocks of that night. Everywhere he turns or runs, there’s another reminder. What the hell do you do when you try to drown your demons only to find out Shane Smith, Jr. owner of Smith Construction, could see the emotional turmoil within his new employee — it’s why he hired him. There was something about the gorgeous, misunderstood man with the overly expressive eyes that came to their small town with a past no one was willing to overlook. Shane could see the good in Llewellyn, and those eyes of his were a clear window to his soul. Shane wasn't going to let the man live a future of solitude because his past had been plagued with deceit.

Llewellyn wasn’t sure what to think about Shane. After years of protecting himself from being tricked twice, he was now faced with worry again. What would happen to him if Shane didn’t believe his truth, and walked away? Llewellyn wasn’t sure he’d be able to survive being left alone. Again.

EXCERPT

“Thinking of going in? Or are you just gonna block the entrance?”

Llew turned at the sound of the sure voice behind him. Since he seemed to tower over everyone he looked down at the pretty brunette with dark brown eyes to match. “Um. Sorry.” Llew mumbled quickly, “Well don’t be sorry shuga’, just escort a lady inside.” Llew didn’t blink as he watched the lady stalk towards him. Her full chest sat above an extremely narrow waist. It almost looked unnatural. She dressed and wore the amount of makeup that a grown woman would, but her smooth face and approach screamed her real age. She was jailbait if he’d ever seen one. Llew gave her a slight head nod and turned to leave when his elbow was hooked.

“I saw you in the general store applying for a job. You musta’ jus’ got into town, because if not I’d have known, honey. So you got kin here?”

The laugh was an all-out immature giggle and it graded on his nerves. “Cat got your tongue,
darlin’”. She moved in even closer and dragged a long red nail down Llew’s arm, tilting her head back to look up at him. “You want me to beg, huh? Come on now, handsome. Escort a lady to a movie… then, “Maybe when he sees’ a lady… he’ll escort one.”

Llew diverted his attention away from the overzealous minx that was practically humping his leg
and focused on the beautiful man approaching with another guy in tow. His voice wasn’t overly deep like his own, it was a smooth and melodic southern drawl. Like he could be a singer or a poet. He walked with an unhurried gait that was a mixture of ‘I’m in charge’ and ‘you’re on my time, not the other way around’, and Llew found it sexy as fuck. His tall friend chuckled behind him, moving away to purchase their tickets.

Is he on a date? No, their demeanor definitely said ‘friends.’

“Mind ya’ own business Smith, Jr. I saw him first.”

The man hooked one thumb in his pocket not the slightest bit fazed at the remark. But Llew was
thrown. Was this guy actually gay or was she being a smart aleck? The man gave him nothing to go on. He moved closer towards them and Llew got a nice whiff of his spicy, bold cologne when a cool breeze blew his way. It was an interesting contradiction, because the man’s entire persona said ‘cool and “Mosey along, Sallie Ann. Don’t make me ring ya’ daddy. He told me keep an eye on you while
he’s gone and I agreed. He’d be rather put out if I didn’t follow through on my promise.”

She reluctantly let go of his arm, letting loose a long drawn out huff of annoyance. Llew didn’t bother watching her walk away. She was irrelevant. With his hands tucked deep in his pockets he eyed the man in front of him with a mixture of curiosity and wistfulness.

“Sometimes a person has gotta’ run interference with that girl. She’s usually not that bad but her
daddy’s outta’ town, so ya’ know how young girls can be.”

“Hi. I’m Shane Smith, Jr.” he stuck out a large, calloused hand and it took Llew a couple seconds to process that he was going to touch him. Llew shook his hand, his mouth still closed tight as he watched the man’s eyes. They were light brown and full of humor and amusement. He immediately thought that this was obviously a guy who had little worries if any in life. Wait a minute…Smith….Jr. Is he the owner of? He let go of the strong grip on his hand and wished he’d been able to hold it a little longer.

Llew swallowed before answering. “Llew.”

Those eyes twinkled again and dark brown brows rose up in question. “Llew…just Llew.”

It was a humiliation when a man hated to tell someone his name. But by doing so it meant that they would soon know who he really was. Know who he was classified as. He didn’t want this man to know that, god help him he didn’t. But lying wasn’t an option.  Fuck it. “Llewellyn Gardner.”

So many broke eye contact with him and Llew was more than intrigued that Mr. Shane Smith, Jr. was staring at him just as hard as he was staring back. He didn’t know why he was looking at him that
“Now that’s a name.” Smith smiled beautifully.

Llew wasn’t sure if this guy was flirting with him or not, he’d been in a place where flirting didn’t exist for so long, he’d forgotten what it looked like…what it sounded like. The way Shane Smith, Jr. was smiling at him it sure seemed like it. Llew could imagine himself with a strong man like this. A man who was gorgeous but didn’t know it. Not overly done up in fancy digs, he was dressed like a working man but he wore that look well. He appeared simple but confident, like a man that followed his own counsel and was not easily persuaded. But Llew wouldn’t dare get his hopes up. As soon as word got out that there was a newly registered sex offender in their quaint little town, Smith, Jr. might be leading the lynch mob to run him out of there.

BUY LINK
Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A.E. Via is still a fairly new author in the beautiful gay erotic genre. Her writing embodies everything from hopelessly romantic to spicy to scandalous. Her stories often include intriguing edges and twists that take readers to new, thought-provoking depths.

When she’s not clicking away at her laptop, she devotes herself to her family—a husband and four

While this is only her seventh novel, she has plenty more to come. So stalk her – she loves that - because the male on male action is just heating up!

Go to A.E. Via’s official website for more detailed information on how to contact
her, follow her, or a sneak peak on upcoming work, free reads, and where she’ll appear next.

Author Official Website
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