Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We Have Winners

Thanks for all who responded to my "gay crush" blog yesterday. Today, through a very mysterious and scientific process, I have chosen the five winners of autographed copies of my novel, A Face Without a Heart, my modern-day take on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Didn't win? You can still get a copy:

Buy paperback.

Buy Kindle.

But the following people will be getting a signed copy for nothin'. I will be in touch with all of you individually for shipping info.

Feo Amante
Jeff Ballam
Ally Blue
Dorian Wallace

Thanks again!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gay Crush

I have been seeing a lot of previews lately for this new potboiler movie coming out called Obsessed. Aside from my first novel sharing the same title, these previews always make me sit up and take notice. Not so much because I want to see the movie (but I do, sex and suspense are like eating and breathing to me), but because I get to see Ali Larter. Man, she is so beautiful, so hot, I just can't take my eyes off her. Everything about her just mesmerizes me, making me almost tongue-tied. I just want to stare.

Reality check: is this a gay man, talking about a sexy blonde woman? What's wrong with this picture? I thought a lot about that and I realized something: over the years I have had a lot of crushes on women. When I was a little boy, it was Natalie Wood and I watched everything of hers I could, Sex and the Single Girl, West Side Story, Splendor in the Grass, Inside Daisy Clover, Gypsy, and more. Those big brown eyes and that smile simply sent me.

Wait a minute, dude. Are you sure you're queer? Shouldn't you be rhapsodizing about, say, Clive Owen or David Beckham?

Well, sure, I guess. But I realized something about myself and perhaps about many other gay men as well: we can and do have crushes on women, physical crushes where we are just ga-ga over the beauty (come on, would a straight man use the term "ga-ga?") of certain women. Think about Marilyn Monroe. Statistics show roughly half the men whose hearts beat faster and pulses rise at a simple image of her are gay.

So what's this all about? It's about the gay crush. And the gay crush, to my mind, is more of tribute to a woman than a straight man's crush. Why? Because a gay man's crush is not all mixed in with physical desire. It's appreciation in its purest form: reverence for female beauty unencumbered by lust. A gay crush is what I have for Ali Larter, whom I can stare at and feel just wonderful, for Natalie Wood, who preoccupied my boyhood dreams and fantasies (but never sexual ones) and even for Lara Parker, the gorgeous witch from Dark Shadows, my grade school obsession.

Which makes me wonder: do other gay men have crushes on women? If so, who are they? And you lesbians out there...what hunky men knock your socks off? Leave a comment below and let me know. And if any of you straight folks out there (especially straight men) are brave enough to admit it: who are your same-sex crushes? Because the same principle of pure aesthetic appreciation minus physical desire applies here as well.

I look forward to hearing what you think.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Where Do Ideas Come From? BASHED's Origins

It doesn't matter what you write, whether it's crime, suspense fiction, literary fiction, or some other genre where you make stuff up, the most frequently asked question writers get from readers is: "Where do you get your ideas?"

Usually, I give them some smart ass answer, like "Off eBay. Some guy there sells plot ideas, six for a hundred bucks, minimum bid." Or, "The dollar store. It's all I can afford." But the truth is there's usually a different inspiration for every story or book I write, so the question is one that's truly difficult to answer, without sitting down and taking it on a case by case basis. Ideas come from all over. It seems the more of them I get, the more of them I have. Inspiration comes from dreams, snatches of conversation overheard on public transportation, a news item on the 'Net or in the paper, and asking myself the one question writers ask themselves more than any other: "What if..."

And sometimes, ideas come from real life. Such is the case with my new novel, Bashed, from MLR Press. For many gay men and women, hate crimes are a fact of life. Many gay people have either themselves experienced the terror, violation, and persecution of being attacked simply for who they are (and whether the attack took the form of words, fists, or something more lethal) or, at the very least, they know someone who has. I've been lucky. I have no permanent physical scars. But I did come very close to experiencing a hate crime up close and personal (and I suppose one could argue that what I did experience was actually a hate crime) and that formed the basis for the inspiration of my novel, Bashed. The title, of course, refers to being fag-bashed.

My close call came one October night several years ago back when I still lived in Chicago. I was once into what's affectionately called the "leather scene" and owned chaps, biker jacket, boots, and other accouterments that passed the dress code in either a gay leather establishment or a biker bar. That particular night, I had been hanging out at the Eagle, one of Chicago's foremost leather establishments. I had stayed late, arriving after midnight and leaving near closing, at close to four o'clock in the morning. I had made a new friend and we were making our way to my car, which was parked on a side street that ran parallel to St. Boniface Cemetery. It was a very dark and quiet side street, made all the more so by the late night hour. My companion and I weren't thinking about things like fag bashers or hate crimes. But we suddenly were when we noticed an idling old car parked just opposite from my own. The car was a souped up muscle vehicle of some sort and inside it, we could see several dark figures, all turning their heads, alert, as we approached. Both of us tensed and quickened our pace. Even in the middle of a metropolis like Chicago, it was easy to feel vulnerable and alone. And we felt even more vulnerable when the still of the quiet night was broken by the sound of car doors opening. Suddenly, my friend and I stopped, feeling exposed in our leather gear, as four young men emerged from the car. To the man, they all sported shaved heads and were dressed in uniforms of baggy jeans and hoodies.

And one of them was carrying an aluminum baseball bat.

They didn't call us "fags" or "queers". They didn't say anything. Their silence was perhaps more frightening than if they had hurled epithets our way. To reach my car, we would have to walk right by them...and it didn't appear as though they were planning to let us pass.

It was like being confronted by a Grizzly in the woods, or a lion in the jungle. What do you do? Run the other way, knowing that four strong men are on your heels? Try to get to your car and hope that the baseball bat was for a late night game of sandlot?

We froze. The four, as a unit, moved closer. One of the guys, the one with the bat, grinned, swinging the bat slightly.

This was a moment of irrational fear. My heart pounded. A trickle of sweat ran down by back.

In books, they call what happened next predictable or deus ex machina, but at just that moment, one of Chicago' finest rolled down the quiet street, very slowly, toward us. The men got in their cars quickly. And so did we.

Thankfully, I do not know what the outcome of that night would have been had not the police come along on such a fortunate patrol.

But the incident did stick with me for many years, until I got around to dramatizing the incident as the opening to Bashed. But in my fictional world, no police car came to the rescue and the pair of guys emerging from the leather bar end up bashed very badly...with an aluminum baseball bat. Its chilling to think that one of your characters could have been you, a you that might not have survived to tell a tale again.

BUY your copy of BASHED.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Left Brain Versus Right Brain: Which are You?

This is one of those silly, time-wasting, end-of-week kind of things that I find mesmerizing. Take a look at the following video which is supposed to test if you are more left-brain or right brain oriented. Naturally, I came up more on the side of the right brain, which is not surprising. Anyone with more of an artistic bent and lacking common sense (hey, you take the good with the bad) would come up a right brainer, right?

Anyway, take a look at the video. Where do you come up?

The Right Brain vs Left Brain test ... do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies

uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Feeling Poz about NEG UB2

Just a bit of quick education before we begin: VGL means, in Internet lingo, "very good looking" and "neg ub2" means "HIV-negative, you be too." There's a great article about the use of "neg ub2" on online profiles here.

I'm not the only one excited about the upcoming release of my new novella, NEG UB2, coming up on May 10. The sequel to my bestselling romantic comedy VGL Male Seeks Same, NEG UB2 is already generating some buzz.

For example, memoirist and self-proclaimed "positoid," Shawn Decker had this to say about NEB UB2:

“There’s no protection from Reed’s quick wit and and ability to craft a winning and thoroughly enthralling love story.”

If you haven't read Shawn's memoir, My Pet Virus, I urge you to check it out right away. Shawn was diagnosed HIV+ as a child (he's a hemophiliac and caught the bug from a blood transfusion) and his perspective on growing up HIV+ is a fascinating, often funny, and hopeful journey. Shawn is someone who knows first hand that being HIV+ doesn't have to mean tragedy, which is why I so wanted him to be one of the first readers of NEG UB2, which, just like its predecessor, VGL Male Seeks Same, is a light romantic comedy...with a happily ever after.

I thought it was important that people realize a couple things with this novella,

1. The casual cruelty of using a phrase like "neg ub2" in online profiles
2. And that a positive HIV diagnosis does not have to mean that happily ever afters are for other people

I hope you'll check out NEG UB2 when it releases on May 10. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get a little something to think about.

Here's a little synopsis to whet your interest:

The sequel to the bestselling VGL Male Seeks Same!

Poor Ethan Schwartz. He’s just had the most shocking news a gay man can get: he’s been diagnosed HIV positive. Up until today, he thought his life was on a perfect course: he had a job he loved and something else he thought he’d never have: a new man, one whom Ethan thought of as “the one.” The one who would complete him, who would take his life from a lonely existence to a place filled with laughter, hot sex, and romance.

But along with the fateful diagnosis comes another shock: who is this new love? Had Ethan ever really known him? And did he infect him? As Ethan says, his love history had been more of a haiku than an epic and Brian, his new love, seems to the likely culprit is his newfound diagnosis.

The course of true love never runs smoothly, right? And for Ethan and Brian, their new love, once so bright and shining, now appears tinged with darkness and deceit. Can they face this hurdle together with honesty and forgiveness? Or will this revelation tear them apart?

Ethan turns to creating a blog, Off to See the Wizard of Poz to help him deal with his diagnosis and love troubles. And finds there just may be more hope and support in the world than he once believed. And one of his blog readers just might have the key to Ethan’s happily ever after.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Rave Review for MANAMORPHOSIS

A new rave review for my twisted little short, MANamorphosis, from Rainbow Reviews says, "Only Rick Reed could manage in just twenty pages to spin a tale that is original and jaw-dropping and eye-opening...I am a huge fan of Reed's writing and this is yet another story that surpassed all my expectations ~ not that I ever could have really known what was in store for me upon picking up this tale. I laughed out loud, I chuckled silently, I gasped at the unexpected turns, and I smiled at the message lying just beneath the surface. My only complaint is that it had to end, but it is the perfect size and shape for what it means to be, with just enough length and the right amount of girth to make for an exceptional org ... er, read. No really."

Read the review.

Purchase MANamorphosis for only $2.25. You can also read a short excerpt there as well (too hot for my blog).

And here's a summary:

I awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find my penis had transformed itself into a vagina...

Thus begins the story of a very unusual day in the life of Rick, one utterly baffled gay man. After the shock wears off about his new, compelling, and completely different genitalia, this promiscuous, fun-loving gay man wonders how he can take advantage of his bizarre new gift.

Bagging a straight man is the first thing that comes to mind. Well, actually bagging whole battalions of straight men spring to mind.

There's only one problem: while he now has his very own love taco, he has none of the customary toppings to go with it. Enter Pete Thickwhistle, friend and drag artist extraordinaire. Pete quickly sets about making his friend's appearance go from butch man to convincing female as fast as you can say "Max Factor."

Rick, now Rickie, sets off on his quest for yards and yards of straight-man flesh. Little does he know that what awaits him is not his lust's desire, but his heart's. Rickie finds that when you go out looking just for sex, you may end up with something a lot more substantial...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Swing! Anthology Releases on April 24

I admit it; I am a complete virgin to this concept of a "blog tour." From what I understand, it's like a book tour, but instead of getting on a bus and going from bookstore to bookstore, you get on the computer and hop from blog to blog to promote a particular book. It's a lot more comfortable for readers and writers alike, and it saves on gas.

I was fortunate enough to be included in a new anthology called SWING! Adventures in Swinging by Today’s Top Erotica Writers, which will be officially released on April 24, 2009. During the month of April, the idea is to visit the blogs/websites of the authors in Swing! and check out each author's response to a set of five provocative questions, posed by Swing! editor Jolie du Pre. Click here for a full list of all the authors and their answers to the following questions.

1. Why do you write erotica and what do you love best about it?
Gee, I don't even know if I write erotica. I write stories about people and, hopefully, those stories take my characters (and my readers, I hope) on a journey. The journey can be a physical one or a more emotional one. I have been trying to figure out just what erotica is and even I'm not sure. All I can say for certain is that erotica has to do with sexuality. And since sexuality does crop up fairly often in my books and stories, I suppose some might label a part of what I write erotica. But the truth is, I'm more interested in finding out what compels people and how they solve problems and that includes in the sexual realm.

2. Tell us about your story in Swing! Adventures in Swinging by Today's Top Erotica Writers and please feel free to give us an excerpt.
My story is called "Initiation." It's a strange story about a man who finds a mysterious ad for a group called the F*ck Club. When he responds to the ad, which is all about joining a group where members engage in anonymous sex, he finds himself getting cryptic directives to pass various tests to see if he is worthy of admission to the club. There is something dark, disturbing, and secretive about the messages. I write horror and while my story for Swing! is very sexy, it's also very dark, and by the end, extremely horrific. Here's a small taste:

I pressed on the door and it opened easily at my touch. It didn’t squeak. These guys think of everything. Someone must have gotten here early and oiled the hinges. I moved inside; the air smelled of metal filings and I swore there was the echo of machinery: wheels turning, generators humming, stuff like that. Something scurried across the floor in front of me. I took a deep breath and continued moving forward, keeping my hand out in front of me for protection in the pitch.

As I moved further ahead, the quality of light changed, becoming more grayish, paler. I wasn’t sure if it was my own eyes adjusting to the darkness or if there was actually a light source up ahead.

I rounded a corner and came into a large open space. Now, I could see. Someone had placed several of those oil Coleman lamps in a circular formation on the floor. The light they cast was weird, shining upward. It all looked menacing, like something out of a horror movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, something of the modern extreme
horror genre, like Saw or Hostel. I wanted to laugh. These guys were good.

I found myself growing excited again, especially with what else awaited me in this open space.

In the center of the lights stood a metal frame upon which was suspended a leather sling. That wasn’t the best part. The best part was the half dozen men that stood waiting around the sling. All of them were naked. All of them had nearly identical bodies: packed with solid muscle, ripped and defined.

3. Name some other books where we can find your work.
My tenth novel, Bashed, about a gay hate crime and its aftermath, just came out from MLR Press. My short fiction can be found in more than twenty anthologies...and I'm proud to say that two anthologies that feature my work--Unspeakable Horror and Like a Chinese Tattoo--are both finalists for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award this year, which is the most highly-regarded award in horror literature. News of my past, present, and upcoming publications is all on my website. Or join my Rick R. Reed Book News group on Facebook.

4. What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on a book called Mute Witness. It’s a thriller about a little boy’s abduction and how small town minds immediately accuse the boy’s gay father of the crime. And, on May 10, my novella, NEG UB2 will be coming out from Amber Quill Press. I’m excited about that, because, for one, it’s a sequel to my very well received romantic novella, VGL Male Seeks Same and for another, it’s a book that shows a story about a man being diagnosed HIV positive can have a happy ending.

5. If you could offer one piece of advice to a new author, what would it be?
Read a lot. Write a lot.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We have a winner!

It's a good Friday for Queer of Steel (aka KC, aka Kristopher), who, through a painstakingly unbiased and scientific process, came up as the winner of a FREE autographed copy of my new novel, Bashed. KC is an HIV/AIDS Care Case Manager in Michigan. Congrats, KC. I'll be hunting you down to get details of where to send your book.

I'm so sorry I couldn't name all of you winners, and I really wish I could afford to send you each a copy for all the nice things you said, but I hope you'll consider picking up a copy of Bashed anyway.

Excerpt and ordering details are right here.

Thanks so much to everyone!

A lovers' kiss. One moment of wanton evil. And Donald Griffith's blissful world is changed forever.

Rick R. Reed has long been celebrated for taking his readers to the places where the dark things dwell, but this exemplary piece of fiction goes well beyond the conventions of genre. To be sure, there is plenty of seat-of-the-pants suspense, the kind that has you biting your nails and won't let you stop turning pages; but the author has far more in mind here than mere chills and goosebumps: he offers the reader nothing less than a stunning treatise on love, and loss and, ultimately, redemption.

This is a book you will savor long after you've read the last page.

....Victor J. Banis, author of The Deadly Mystery Series, MLR Press

Monday, April 6, 2009

Win a FREE Signed Copy of BASHED

To celebrate the publication of Bashed, my hate crime horror/romance novel, I am going to give away one autographed FREE copy of the novel to readers of this blog.

To win, all you have to do is post a comment below (and if you're reading this on Facebook, please go to the source blog to post your comment; only comments posted there will count), become a follower (click in the box to your right) and that's it. I will be checking back all week long to see who's signed up, and will announce the winner this Friday, April 10 (it could be a GOOD Friday for you).

Here's a little bit about what Bashed is about:

Three haters. Two lovers. And a collision course with tragedy.

When Donald and Mark left the Brig that October night, they had no idea their lives and love were about to be shattered by fag bashers, intent on pain, and armed with ridicule, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.

The cowardly hate crime leaves one half of a couple alone and haunted—literally and figuratively—by the memories and denied promise of new love.

Bashed charts the course of a journey from grief to hope, from death to life, and from hate to redemption. Come along on a trip that encompasses suspense, horror, and—ultimately—romance.

Don't want to wait for the contest to be over? Go to the MLR website where you can read the prologue and get all the easy options for ordering.

Thanks! Feel free to pass the word!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Haunting In Connecticut Gut Reaction

So I just got back from playing hooky this afternoon in a darkened movie theater watching The Haunting in Connecticut. It should come as no surprise to any of you even remotely familiar with me that horror is a passion of mine and I have loved and devoured movies in this genre since I was a wee lad. My parents used to warn me I'd get nightmares and be scarred for life.

They were right.

But all those horror movies through all those years has made me a bit of a jaded old fart when it comes to scary movies. I am sad to report that most horror movies are really just lame; calculated gross-outs, shrieking violins, and jump-out-your-seat "boos!" have really gotten rather old hat.

That's why when you come across a real gem, a movie that has it all, you rejoice in your own little dark and depraved way.

The Haunting in Connecticut has it all. It creeped me out, gave me some genuine shivers, even made me look away from the screen in terror a couple of times. Even better, it's well-written, well-acted, and has a great storyline, with a careful build up of suspense and dread.

I don't know much about the alleged "true story" upon which the film is based, but taken on its own, this haunted house tale is remarkably gripping and yes, even scary to this jaded old fart. At the heart is the timeless theme of the dead reaching out to the living because they want something from us. But you know the dead...they can't just come out and say what they want.

Damn passive aggressive ghosts.

Anyway, just wanted to give a two snaps up in a circle to The Haunting in Connecticut. And, on a personal note, this is one of the rare films where I can actually lay claim to knowing one of the producers. Daniel Farrands is a very cool guy who optioned my novel, IM a while back. Maybe the project fizzled because he was too busy with this one. But I'm glad he at least found something worthy to occupy his time away from bringing IM to the screen. Sigh. Maybe someday...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

All About My Father

Okay, this blog is not going to be about books or new releases or reviews or awards or anything related to literature, my own or anyone else's. Maybe. This blog is about my life, and the reason I say "maybe" is who knows what shapes us as writers or artists in general?

Anyway, I'm not much for philosophical discussions. I wanted to talk to you about having a perfect Sunday the other day with my honey, which wound up with relaxing in front of the TV watching a movie from Netflix: ELEGY, with Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz. No, this blog is not a movie review either, although we both liked the movie and found it very rewarding by the end.

The reason I mention all the above is because, like good art should do, ELEGY touched me on a deeply personal level. And it wasn't necessarily about the major themes of love, loss, and commitment that the movie is about, but about the side story to the movie: the relationship of Ben Kingsley's character (a selfish, egotistical writer) with his adult son.

That relationship reminded me a lot of the anguish I experienced growing up with a father who was a perfectionist, selfish, and, in no way, shape, or form, a family man. While the details differ markedly, the father-son relationship at the core of the movie was so like the one I had with my own father that I am still thinking about it today, three days later.

See, Ben Kingsley's son in the movie is furious with Ben for leaving the family when he was still a boy. He has never gotten over this rage he holds toward his father and is literally blinded by it. He cannot forgive his father for abandoning him and his mother...and it's coloring his own relationships as an adult (relationships that are eerily veering off in directions very similar to his own father's failings and shortcomings). I understood the son. Even though my father never divorced my mother (but, oh, how often I wished he would have!), he was emotionally distant and thought so much about himself that he never made much of a connection with our family.

And, like the son in ELEGY, I could never forgive my father for this. Growing up, I had recurring dreams where I would scream at him, saying all the things I never dared speak aloud. And I too felt cheated by life and furious at not getting the father I thought I deserved.

But there is a short scene in ELEGY that economically revealed a shift in the movie's father and son relationship. Ben and his son are in a coffee shop and the son is giving Ben the same old shit about being worthless as his dad, when Ben suddenly gets up and says they will have to talk later, that he has an appointment. The son is outraged and thinks at first this is par for the course. His father has never been there for him before, so why should today be any different. He challenges his father, wondering underneath his words: what could be more important than your son, sitting here before you with a problem? But then Ben tells him the appointment: his best friend has died and he has to hurry off to make the funeral. The son is taken aback and you can see the shift in his perception of his father in that moment. What he sees is not the father he was denied, but a human being, in pain. That moment, the son turned a corner.

My own corner turning was not as dramatic. It took me many years to realize what the movie son realized in a dramatic instant: that my dad, for all his failings, was NOT put on this earth simply to fulfill my yearning for a good father, but was simply, like me, a human being. I didn't stop thinking my father wasn't a good dad, but I did realize well into my adulthood, that my father was just another human being. With limitations.

And when I realized that, well into my thirties actually, I could begin to love him. Maybe not as a father. But as a person. Like the son in the movie, I finally came to understand that the only way I would ever have any kind of relationship with my dad was to accept him as he was, and stop wishing for him to be something he never could.

After this realization, I began to have a kind of relationship with him, more than I ever had. I won't say it was great or life-changing, but it was honest and real. I often wonder about the timing of my own realization, though, because it was only a few years later that Dad dropped dead of a heart attack one morning in the bathroom.

And I cried at his funeral, something I thought, through most of my life, I would never be able to do.