Thursday, December 30, 2010

FREE For Your Kindle: The Blood that Bonds by Christopher Buecheler

Whenever I see a good Kindle book for free, I like to share it with you. And a vampire tale about a heroin-addicted prostitute? Say no more. Get it quick, because these titles often do not stay free for long.

Product Description
Two is trapped: hooked on heroin, held as property, forced to sell her body to feed the addiction. Time brings her ever closer to what seems an inevitable death and Two waits, uncaring, longing only for the next fix.

That’s when Theroen arrives, beckoning to his Ferrari and grinning his inscrutable grin. He is handsome. Confident. Eager to help lift her out of the life that’s grinding her down.

The only problem? Theroen is a vampire.

His blood can cure her addiction, grant her powers she has never had, change her forever into something greater than she was. But when he sinks his teeth into her neck, Theroen also thrusts Two into a world of danger, violence, madness and despair. The powerful, twisted elder Abraham will use her arrival to shatter the uneasy peace that exists in his mansion, bringing an end to the dark game he has been playing for centuries.

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Monday, December 27, 2010


Hope you'll check out my latest e-release! Get your copy here (only $2.69).

Or leave a comment below (with a way to get in touch) and be entered in a random drawing to win a FREE copy.

And the winner is...Melissa Bradley. Congratulations, Melissa. I'll be in touch with your copy asap. Prepare yourself for a bumpy ride!

Moving Toward the Light

By: Rick R. Reed | Other books by Rick R. Reed
Published By: Excessica Publishing
ISBN # 9781609824280
Word Count: 11250
Available in: Adobe Acrobat, Palm DOC/iSolo, Microsoft Reader, Hiebook, HTML, Mobipocket, Rocket, Epub

About the book

Miranda had been through it all in her young life: homelessness, the victim of a crime that made national headlines, and losing those closest to her. Now, she barely gets by in a rat hole apartment in uptown Chicago, drowning her sorrows in alcohol she's too young to buy, and making ends meet by turning tricks.

And, just when she thinks it can get no worse, it does. With the lure of easy cash before her, she blows off her shift at McDonalds and heads home with an older guy she met in a bar. But when she gets there, she finds the guy has a party all set to go, when what Miranda had in mind was one-on-one. After a brutal assault and rape, Miranda winds up in the hospital, clinging to life.

In the half world between life and death, she finds Jimmy Fels, her dearest love, the boy who had died years before to save her. His appearance is enigmatic, but comforting and Miranda is just beginning to discover that he has returned to avenge her.

The men will pay. And Miranda finds, through her connection with a long-lost love, that vengeance is truly sweet.

An excerpt from the book

There is only darkness. She blinks, trying to focus, but the black presses in: a warm presence, engulfing, suffocating. She reaches out, wondering if she is floating in a vast, starless sky...and her hands connect with wood. Reaches up...and her hands connect with wood. Hard wood, she realizes now, supports her back. She takes in a great quivering breath, wondering how much air is left for her. This is too unreal, she tells herself and once more reaches around herself, fingers groping like subterranean insects, sensing only by touch.

The box in which she has been trapped is little bigger than she is. At best, there is only a few inches on either side of her, above her. Before the panic sets in, she touches the holes drilled in the top of the box.

But even with the assurance of an air supply, she is terrified. Bile rises up to lodge and burn in the back of her throat. Although she trembles with cold, her body is covered with a slick veneer of sweat. She swears she hears blood pounding, constricting her temples. Her chest feels tight, as if too great an intake of air might cause her heart to burst.

And then the panic takes over, the adrenaline pumping through her like an electric current and she is slamming herself from side to side, lunging upwards, clawing the box's top with her fingernails. Clawing and clawing until she can feel hot points of pain at her cuticles and the warmth of blood there.

She's screaming, but she might as well be gagged. Her shrill cries carom off the box's interior, bouncing around inside. Her hot breath is sour, leaving a bad taste.

"Please!" she shrieks. "Please, you have to let me out! I can't stand this!" She kicks until her breath is ragged, until it's coming so fast she begins to hyperventilate and it's not just the box that's closing in on her, but her own lungs.

And then, and then (and this is the part where everything goes cold), she hears a key being fitted into a padlock above her. The soft clicking of the key as it turns suddenly becomes the only sound. No more cries. No more pounding heart. No more blood rushing in her ears.

Just a key being turned in a lock and then the rush of cold air as the box is slowly opened.

She scrunches up her eyes and wills her body to disappear into the wood.


She will not look at him. Will not. Cannot. Look.

But her eyelids flutter anyway.

A dark hand draws closer, above her, closer, until nothing exists but that hand pressing down on her face.


Miranda awakened sweating, the sheets twisted in a ball next to her. The striped ticking of the mattress, with its topography of stains, looked dull in the gray light pouring in from the bedroom window.

Miranda sat up and ran a hand through her spiky red hair, another trembling hand across her cold, sweat-slicked face. Her temples throbbed, her throat was dry.

Outside, the el train rumbled by, carrying commuters south, to their jobs in the Loop: downtown Chicago.

She recalled the date: just a couple days before Christmas and the scattering images of her nightmare and the simple chronology make her tremble. Miranda reached out to the milk crate beside the mattress and shakes a Marlboro out of the pack, lights it with trembling fingers.

It had been four years. Miranda stood and walked to the window. Outside, Lawrence Avenue was already bustling, the cars like insects, busy and hurrying, the buses roaring and throwing plumes of dark exhaust into a cloud-choked sky.

Four years ago. Miranda had made the papers then, so had Jimmy, War Zone and Little T, a girl she never knew, a runaway called Julie Soldano. They had all been kidnapped by a sicko called Dwight Morris. Kidnapped and imprisoned in his basement on the west side. The dream was already growing murky, but not the memory: how she had been kept, like the rest of them, in a coffin-shaped box crafted of plywood. It had been Dwight Morris's intention to rid the world of street kids, mere children who kept his passion for them alive. By eliminating them with the cleansing tool of fire, he must have thought he could rid himself of his own personal demons.

Whatever hell Dwight Morris now rested in, she hoped, was filled with demons.

Get your copy here

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

On Challenges: A Guest Post by Author Jadette Paige

Author Jadette Paige has a few things to say about challenges...and how they put her on the road to publication. Check out Jadette's website here and her new book, Blue Heaven, here. 

Leave a comment below and Jadette will randomly pick a winner for a free copy of her debut novel, Blue Heaven.

I love challenges.  You know the ones where you feel dared to complete a goal in a limited amount of time. I guess, you could say I’m very competitive where my writing is concerned. I used to belong to a critique group that loved to issue writing challenges.  My favorite was the one where Blue Heaven, my debut novel, was conceived. We were instructed to write approximately 1500 words using a song (our choice) and a picture that was assigned to us. I was given a painting of a knight kneeling before a lady. Easy, right, especially since I love writing fantasy and paranormal stories. The piece started with a mercenary entering a holy center to kidnap the land’s holiest of men, the Godchild.  It was natural for the characters to be both male. I found their love story—yes, that is exactly what their story is all about—was endearing and enchanting. The more I wrote about them, the more they came to life until I ended up with a finished novel.

With this particular challenge, I learned one important aspect about my writing. I love writing in the male point of view. For some reason it feels natural.  It makes me wonder if in a distant past I wasn’t a man. You never know.  All this makes me think about how challenges bring out the truth of one’s abilities.  For me, it opened the door to an entirely new genre, one I’d never considered writing in. Several of my old critique partners were surprised at the path I decided to travel on. I normally wrote sweet romances. I still consider my romances sweet only they are gay romances and (grins) they are a bit hotter. So now with each day, I compose pages in my works in progress with an ease that surprises me, and it’s all because of a simple challenge issued in the past.

If you take the time to check Blue Heaven out, please let me know. I would love to hear if I succeeded with their love story. Stryver and Blue would greatly appreciate it!

 How do challenges affect you and your life? Share some of the moments which led you to a realization about you and/or some part of your life.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FREE for your Kindle: Deadly Sanctuary

Whenever I see a good Kindle book for free, I like to share it with you. This novel, although I haven't yet read it, sounds like it could be a lot of page-turning, keep-you-up-all-night fun. Get it quick, because these titles often do not stay free for long.

"Deadly Sanctuary is a literary rollercoaster ride of suspense, an outstanding mystery from first to last" -The Midwest Book Review
"Nobel's whodunit is in the vein of Agatha Christie or Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote fame. I got hooked...that's what a good mystery should be." -Grant Smith, Sonoran News

"Sylvia Nobel's tale of mystery will hold your attention from beginning to end. Her style is similar to Tony Hillerman. Try it--you'll like it!" -Amazon book customer -- Book Review

Product Description
The first title in Sylvia Nobel's popular mystery series that features spirited, flame-haired reporter Kendall O'Dell. The author's trademark style is to produce exciting, well-written, edge-of-your-seat, adventures with "knock your socks off" surprise endings. Her judicious use of language and lack of graphic sex and violence make her novels suitable from teens to seniors.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Book I Want--Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People

Seldom do one-star book reviews on Amazon make me perk up and say, "Now that's a book I gotta have. But the review below, posted about Amy Sedaris' Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People made me laugh so hard I peed a little bit, so I have to order the book today, even though my credit cards are maxed out from holiday shopping. Who could resist a book that has a whole section devoted to crafting under the influence?

Here's the review, from "Pseudonomynous" and titled "Revolting":

I have never bothered to write a review before, but I had to for this book. My mother sent it as a gift after seeing it on, and reading the rave reviews. She would be horrified if she actually saw it. It is truly revolting. I see nothing humorous in it; it is crude and dirty.

Some section headings: CUI: Crafting Under the Influence. In this section, you can read about "Crafting While Boozing," "Crafting While Ramped Up On Amphetamines," and "Crafting While Under the Weed of Madness." Later on you can be edified by the chapter entitled "Love Making." A subsection in this chapter is "Fornicrafting." Pictures to fit that heading are provided.

Scattered throughout the book are images of middle aged women who don't seem to realize that, even if modesty isn't a virtue they aspire to, a little becoming vanity ought to keep them from displaying so much of themselves. Who wants to see a shapeless naked bottom through a thin layer of chiffon?

I did not enjoy the section on crafting accidents, either. The pictures of a mouth bloody from a knocked out tooth, a foot bleeding from numerous tacks stuck in it, a finger supposedly amputated while crafting with scissors, and an eye bleeding from a nail gun mishap just didn't strike me as particularly funny.

As for the "crafts," they are hideous and/or worthless pieces of trash. Do you really want to pay to learn how to cook hot dogs on a rake in your fireplace, or how to make "marshmallow stars"? (Cover toothpicks with glitter, stick them in a marshmallow, and hang the thing.) Or better yet, you can learn how to make a "Tampon Ghost." So tasteful.

I am astonished that this book ever got published, and sorry that it did. Don't waste your money. This copy is going back.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sample 60 Saturday: IN THE BLOOD

Every Saturday, until I run out of books--or decide to go to page 70--I will present an excerpt, page 60, from one of my books. No matter what it says--funny, filthy, scary, dumb, or tantalizing--you'll get it here.

And I'd love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below and let me know if this made you want to read more.

Let's continue the chronological tour and delve into my vampire love triangle story, In the Blood.

What Would You Give Up for Immortal Life and Love?
By day, Elise draws and paints, spilling out the horrific visions of her tortured mind. By night, she walks the streets, selling her body to the highest bidder.

And then they come into her life: a trio of impossibly beautiful vampires: Terence, Maria, and Edward. When they encounter Elise, they set an explosive triangle in motion. Terence wants to drain her blood. Maria just wants Elise . . . as lover and partner through eternity. And Edward, the most recently-converted, wants to prevent her from making the same mistake he made as a young abstract expressionist artist in 1950s Greenwich Village: sacrificing his artistic vision for immortal life. He is the only one of them still human enough to realize what an unholy trade this is.

In the Blood is a novel that will grip you in a vise of suspense that won't let go, forcing you to stay up long past midnight, turning page after page, until the very last moment, when a surprising turn of events changes everything and demonstrates, truly, what love and sacrifice are all about.

Page 60:

...swilling bum who wandered into this empty station seeking shelter from a storm…
“Trust me, Edward. There’s someone you should meet.”
The drug he had smoked clouded his brain. He had already forgotten what he had asked. His mind pondered another question: if this was truly an abandoned station, how could they have gotten in? Wouldn’t such a place be locked and barricaded against the public?
But that question, too, vanished into a hemp haze.
Mutely, he followed Terence to the end of the platform. It was even darker there, but the darkness was fragmented by a sharp line of yellow light, glowing underneath what looked like two huge metal doors.
“What’s behind the doors?” Edward felt a sharp stab of fear. It caused his heart to beat faster and made his face grow slick with sweat. He noticed for the first time the musty air that smelled mildewed, as if hadn’t been disturbed by anything living in years. To defy him, a rat the size of a small dog scampered across the platform before him and disappeared into a tunnel. “I don’t like this,” Edward said, reverting to a child. “I want to go home.”
Terence presented him with his most seductive smile, the tiny, pearlescent teeth almost glowing. “But, darling, we’ve come this far. And Maria is expecting us.”
Terence stooped and his hands moved near the bottom of the door. There was a click. Terence stood and rubbed his hands together, then wedged a fingertip into the slim line separating the doors, which swung open, releasing the very essence of dankness and a pale lemony light from a wall-mounted lamp, which after the gloom Edward had grown accustomed to, was nearly blinding.
The two men stood at the top of a wide flight of stairs. They descended into blackness. Edward shivered. He could not see where the stairs ended.
A strain of music floated up the stairs. Edward cocked his head. Was it Vivaldi?
Terence put his arm around him, urging him to the first step. “There’s another station below this one.”
“And what’s down there?” Edward reluctantly let his feet descend two steps.
“Maria. And our home. I’ve visited your home. It’s only gracious that I have you to mine.”
Edward swallowed hard and let Terence guide him into the pitch…

Buy the print version of In the Blood. Note: A new e-book version, titled Blood Sacrifice, will be out next year from Untreed Reads.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

TRICKS Gets Rave Review from Coffee Time Romance

I'm happy to say that my romance novel, Tricks, received a highly positive review at Coffee Time Romance. In part, reviewer Delane said:

"Tricks is a walk on the wild side of life. Mr. Reed brings the reader right to the dregs of life and gives them a view of the bottom. The love he built between such different men seems impossible but somehow works. I recommend Tricks not only for the love but for an amazing test of love..."

Read the full review here.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Blue Moon Cafe Gets Honorable Mention in the Rainbow Awards

Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions in Elisa Rolle’s 2010 LGBT Rainbow Awards. The contest is held annually by Italian reviewer Elisa Rolle to recognize outstanding achievement in GLBT romance.
One of the things that sets the Rainbow Awards apart is that there are no entry fees. No one is paid for judging. It's simply about making note of the best stories this year.
I'm proud to say that my werewolf book, The Blue Moon Cafe, was given an honorable mention in the Paranormal/Horror Category.
Find the full list here.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sample 60 Saturday: IM

MLR Press E-book edition cover
Every Saturday, until I run out of books--or decide to go to page 70--I will present an excerpt, page 60, from one of my books. No matter what it says--funny, filthy, scary, dumb, or tantalizing--you'll get it here.

And I'd love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below and let me know if this made you want to read more.

Let's go chronologically and start with my 2007 serial killer thriller about a madmen preying on gay men via Internet hookup sites, IM.

One by one, he's killing them. Lurking in a digital underworld, he lures, seduces, charms, reaching out through instant messages. In this killer's world, IM doesn't stand for instant stands for instant murder. Openly gay Chicago Police detective Ed Comparetto is on a quest to unmask a killer--who may himself be dead--before he loses everything, including his life.

Page 60:
And now his brothers were dying; slow, horrible deaths, Ed was sure. Deaths marked by terror.
The phone rang. Ed picked it up. “Hello.”

“Ed? Is this Ed Comparetto?”

The voice was unfamiliar and male. “This is he.”

“Hi, Ed, this is Peter.” A pause. “From the library?”

“Oh sure, how are you?” Ed rolled his eyes.

“Good. Listen the reason I was calling is you, well, I don’t know if it matters or not, but you left behind your pen when you were here the other day.”

“I did?” Ed hadn’t noticed.

“Yeah. It’s a pretty decent pen, a pewter Cross fountain pen, and I thought you’d like it back.”

IM paperback cover
Ed didn’t own a Cross pen, fountain or otherwise. He was partial to Bics, the cheaper the better. Either that, or a pencil. He started to tell Peter that the pen wasn’t his, then thought of the guy’s face, the way he smiled and how helpful he’d been. Maybe, especially since his days were lately filled with nothing but TV and brooding, he shouldn’t be so hasty to cast away this opportunity. “Oh?” Ed didn’t want to say the pen was his, but he didn’t quite want to close the door, either.

“Yeah. I brought it home with me for safekeeping.” There was a long pause and Ed felt for the guy. Who hadn’t been in this situation before? This call had nothing to do with a pen. “I was wondering if I could get it back to you.”

“That’d be great.” Ed was suddenly feeling generous. “When do you work again? I’ll drop by the library.”

“Actually, I’m off for four days.”


“But I was thinking maybe I could meet you someplace. Um, maybe we could have a drink or something and I could give you your pen back.”

“Well, my schedule’s pretty open. When’s good for you?” Ed could feel the relief at the other end of the phone.

“How about tomorrow night?”

“That would be just fine. How about Carlisles, say nine o’clock?”

“Sure. I’ll see you then.”

As soon as he hung up the phone, Ed thought of hitting the automatic callback code and calling the whole thing off. What was he doing? He was in no state to be meeting people, gloomy and preoccupied as he had been lately.

A little voice inside chided: You might get rid of some of that gloom if you got out and met someone, maybe, God forbid, even got laid.

“Oh shut up,” Ed whispered to the little voice, and grinned. He flipped the sound back on and switched to another channel. It was time for Roseanne.

Buy the print version of IM. Buy the e-book version.

And do let me know what you think...
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

That Strange Bird: The Anthology. Will It Become Extinct?

I have a confession to make.

I rarely read anthologies.

And yet, I have had short stories and essays published in more than 25 anthologies. One of the anthologies I was in won the Lambda Literary Award the year it was published. Another one won the Bram Stoker Award. I have gotten between the covers--book covers, mind you--with the likes of Harlan Ellison, Iggy Pop, James O'Barr, Ramsey Campbell, Douglas E. Winter, Henry Rollins, Andrew Vachss, and many, many other fine writers.

Yet I wonder, in the brave new digital age, if anthologies, especially print anthologies, will eventually fall by the wayside.

See, as a writer, it's getting harder and harder for me to see the upside of working hard on a short story only to have it published (usually for very little pay) and buried alongside the often very promising work of ten, twenty, or thirty other authors. I can't really claim the book as my own. Often, stories for an anthology get a one-time flat payment (pet peeve: those anthologies who pay by the word, as if having more words make a story more valuable! Ridiculous!) and I never see a royalty.

With the advent of e-books, I can now sell short stories and novella-length work to publishers as stand-alone fiction. I don't have to share the marquee with anyone else, no matter how talented or esteemed, so I succeed or fail all on my own. My story has a unique cover and can be bought all by itself and reviewed the same way. And...I usually make more money than I would ever hope to get from an anthology, because of the often-generous royalties e-books generate.

So why am I writing this blog? Go publish your e-books, then, and let someone else worry about making the cut for an anthology, you might say.

But I wonder how other writers feel about this? Would you rather, if given your druthers, sell a 12,000 word story, say, as a standalone e-book with your name alone on the cover? Or would you rather sell it to an anthology, where it might appear with the work of two dozen other writers? If you're a writer, I hope you'll let me know in the comments section below.

And if you're a reader, I'd love to know how you feel about multi-author anthologies. Do you buy them? Do you read them? Why or why not?

Back to my confession: for me, I seldom read anthologies, even the ones I'm in. It's not because I have no interest in the stories or the writers (just the opposite, in fact). But I just find it an embarrassment of riches, usually--too many stories, too many writers, all under one roof. I get overwhelmed. I like to take my writers one-on-one, in a novel or even a shorter work in electronic form.

I hope some of you will speak up regarding your feelings about anthologies.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

OUT ON THE NET Now Available for Kindle

As I turn, turn, turn toward more romantic tales, I thought I'd share with you my latest addition to the Kindle store, Out On the Net (only $4), a novella told in blog form about a young man coming out minutes before his marriage to a woman...and the bumpy road toward self-acceptance, new life, and love. Here's a sample from the first blog, which brings you right into the story:

...I get the same question all the time—when did you know when you were gay? Aside from the obvious sarcastic response to such a query—“When did you know you were straight?” And aside from the obvious further probing of the asker—“Well, what do you mean? When did I know? Or when did I accept it?”

Fine hairs.
I knew, accepted, whatever…that I was gay when I was standing in the little room just off the altar at St. Alfonso Catholic Church in Summitville, PA at approximately 12:30 P.M. on a hot and humid July afternoon. I was wearing a white tuxedo jacket, white shirt, black tie and cummerbund, and black tuxedo slacks. My black patent leather shoes were buffed to a high gloss. My dark brown hair had just been cut and not a single strand was out of place. I could hear the soft talking and laughter of those who had assembled in the church as they waited for the proceedings to begin. A string quartet played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” so gorgeously it brought tears to my eyes.

I was thirty years old and about to be married for the first time.

To a woman.

The ceremony was due to begin in twenty minutes.

That’s the moment I realized, accepted, knew for sure, that I was gay. I’d like to say it came to me in a flashing moment of clarity, like some blinding white light. Or that I fainted straight away, hitting the marble floor with a thud. Or that a chorus of angels came down from on high to reveal to me this alarming news in celestial tones.

But all I did was say softly to myself, “Oh sh**. I can’t do this. I’m gay.”

My best man, Doug Taylor, primped in the mirror. He had no reason to primp. His reddish blond hair, freckles, and blue eyes were already the lustful design of every female in the wedding party. His body, buff, tight, and ripped, filled out his tux better than I could ever hope to fill out my own.

Doug helped me realize the truth because at that moment—as God, literally, as my witness—I discovered I’d rather be marrying Doug than my bride, Alice, who was, I’m certain, waiting anxiously with her father at the rear of the church. Poor Alice’s anxiety was nothing compared to what it could have been had she known what was going through her groom’s head at this very moment.

Doug turned to me. “Did you say something?” He smiled and I have to tell you, Doug has one of those smiles that light up a room. I also have to tell you that it wasn’t quite true what I said about Doug—I really didn’t want to marry him, but I would prefer that the wedding night be spent in his arms.

Should I make Doug—my old college roommate at Ohio State University and beer-drinking buddy—the first recipient of my revelation?

I didn’t think about it. I knew that, in moments, the anxiety would rise up, the adrenalin would kick in and I would be a mess—a trembling, heart-palpitating, sweating buckets mess. In moments, thoughts like how I was about to hurt Alice, disappoint my parents, stun the wedding guests, and perhaps ruin my life as I knew it would be taking turns tormenting my mind.

But, as I said, I didn’t think about it. Instead, my mouth worked independently of my brain as I said to Doug, “Yeah. Yes, I said something.” I cleared my throat, and looked around the cramped little room, at how the sun’s beams shone in through the stained glass window of Jesus opening His robe to reveal His heart.

I shrugged, and like a lemming poised at a cliff with a thousand of my lemming buddies waiting impatiently behind me, I jumped. “I said I can’t go through with this...”

Sample or get your copy of Out On the Net
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sample 60 Saturday: A Face Without a Heart

Every Saturday, until I run out of books--or decide to go to page 70--I will present an excerpt, page 60, from one of my books. No matter what it says--funny, filthy, scary, dumb, or tantalizing--you'll get it here.

And I'd love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below and let me know if this made you want to read more.

Let's go chronologically and start with my 2000 take on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Face Without a Heart.

Amidst a gritty background of millennial urban nihilism, a young man bargains his soul away, while his painfully beautiful holographic portrait mirrors his each and every sin, each nightmarish step deeper into depravity... even cold blooded murder.  
A Face Without A Heart takes you on a thought provoking tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction and violence. 

Page 60:

...minutes more and you’ll understand completely why I love her.”
    Liam sips his drink and doesn’t move his hand. In fact, his finger gently strokes the side of my hand. I smile at him, pat his hand and lift mine away. “She’s been trained in ballet, you know. And it shows.”
    Finally, the house lights dim and the last dance tune ends. The people on the dance floor make their way to their seats as a single spotlight shines down on the stage. Warmth fills me. I am so proud of her! I can’t wait for Liam and Henrietta to see.
    “Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice booms from off stage. “Please welcome Ms. Zoe D’Angelo!”
    The crowd erupts with cheers and I sit back, almost gloating. Once the applause dies down, the music begins: Peggy Lee singing “Fever”. The stage goes black for an instant as the clapping and cheering dies down to silence. Then, the spot comes back up and there she is: almost glowing in a black bodysuit with a tattered skirt of white nylon illusion. Her long black hair is loose and her tiny feet are encased in a pair of ballet slippers.
    Liam leans over to me and whispers. “She’s beautiful, Gary. I can’t argue with your taste. Simply stunning. Bring her around...we’ll do a session.”
    I beam. “Oh, I will. I will. Once we’re married, I want to take her away from here. She needs to do something legitimate...a real dance company. Your photographs could be her calling card.”
    “Of course.” Liam whispers and sits back, watching.
    I look to Henrietta, who sips her martini, her golden-eyed gaze never leaving the stage. She doesn’t have to say anything. If anyone appreciates beauty in the female form, it’s a drag queen. Hell, they’ve made their whole lives a kind of homage to feminine beauty.
    And Zoe begins to move. She starts with a graceful leap, only it’s not so graceful. She comes down with an audible thud on the stage. Although she didn’t quite stumble, her landing was awkward and heavy.
    “Ouch.” Henrietta giggles and I assure her that it was only a momentary lapse. Henrietta pats my hand. “Don’t worry about it, honey. She’s probably a little nervous. She knows you brought your friends tonight, doesn’t she?”
    I nod and continue to watch. The movements, though, do not...
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