Note: This post originally appeared at OnTopDownUnder Reviews.
The public sometimes sees two of me—one is the “Stephen King of gay horror” and that me writes books like A Demon Inside, Blood Sacrifice, and Third Eye. This Stephen King character is grizzled, bearded, and grumpy. You don’t want to meet up with him in a dark alley.
The other me is much lighter, in terms of psyche. That me is a gay romance writer. This guy, who is clean-shaven, has a smile for everyone, and is generally in a good mood, writes love stories like Chaser, Legally Wed, Caregiver and Dinner at Home.
These two me’s have seldom been left alone in a room together and when they have they have managed to produce books that are a hybrid of the two, books like The Blue Moon Café and Bashed. Those two combine the sometimes-at-odds with the other combination of horror and romance.
For the first time ever, the two me’s sat down in a café in Seattle’s free-spirited Fremont neighborhood (neutral territory because the horror me likes the big troll statue living under one end of the Aurora Bridge—see picture). In order to keep things, um, straight, the following interview uses HM to indicate Horror Me and RM to indicate Romance Me. And yes, you can romance me, anytime….
HM: So what are you doing here? Must you show up everywhere I want to be? Christ, I can’t get a moment by myself.
RM: Sorry, but it’s a free country. I can be anywhere I want. What’s that? A cappuccino?
HM (rolls eyes): It’s a black coffee. Drip.
RM: Well, I’m having the crème brulee latte.
HM: You would (snorts).
RM: I detect a note of disdain here.
HM: Well, there’s more than a note, Miss. Why are you sitting down at my table? Did I invite you?
RM: No, but I belong here as much as you do.
HM: Getting back to the disdain, I have disdain for you because you are taking over my personality and stealing my reputation. Before you happened along with your little love stories, I was doing quite well for myself writing about blood, gore, and things that go bump in the night. You know, mapping out nightmare territory. I had my author photos taken in cemeteries. People knew me for throwing a good scare into them.
RM: And they still know you for that, which is something you’d realize if you took a good, hard look at yourself. But I am here to tell you there is room for more than one writer under this rapidly-thinning head of hair.
HM: But why? Why romance? It’s the antithesis of everything I stood for.
RM: Not really. Romance, like horror, is ultimately about strong emotion. Fear, like love, is universal. So, we are not as different as you’d like to think.
HM: I’m not so sure about that. I write about people being killed, people being haunted, monsters, ghouls. I don’t see how that’s much like your la-di-da romance tales.
RM: Think of the emotions involved. The rising sense of excitement, the increased heart rate and perspiration, the breathlessness. All of those are present with both fear and passion.
HM: Okay, I get it. I get it. But does that mean you still have to step on my toes? You’re ruining my reputation.
RM: Just like with love, sweetheart, there’s room for variety, for harmony. I think we can coexist.
HM: But you seem so much more powerful lately. Just look at the books that have come from you over the past year.
RM: You’re right.
HM: Why is that?
RM (pausing to consider and take a sip of his latte): Maybe it’s because I’ve reached a different place in my life. I’ve reached a place where the stories I want to tell are about something other than the terror that life can bring, but the joy that life can bring, too.
See, for years, when you were really my dominant force, I was consumed with finding love in my own life. And I came close many times, for one reason or another, it never worked out. That is, until I met Bruce. He was the one. The perfect fit. The soul mate. The one with whom I can’t imagine not spending the rest of my days.
Once I was secure in my own personal romance, only then was I free to write about others’. Does that make sense? I needed to confront my fears (not just the ghastly, curl-your-hair ones), but the ones about being alone, about maybe never making that connection that was more than just passion, but family.
HM doesn’t say anything for a long while. He sips his coffee and eyes me, like I’m some sort of alien—not the illegal kind, but an invader from another planet. The kind he might write about. For a moment, I am afraid, he will fling the coffee into my face, but then a strange thing happens—he begins to fade away, just like the ghosts in the stories he used to pen.
Just as he’s about to disappear completely, he stops in mid-transformation and eyes me.
HM: I get you. You were who I always wanted to be. But, although I am fading away before your very eyes, I am not disappearing.
I am merging with you.
Bashed BlurbIt should have been a perfect night out. Instead, Mark and Donald collide with tragedy when they leave their favorite night spot. That dark October night, three gay-bashers emerge from the gloom, armed with slurs, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.
The hate crime leaves Donald lost and alone, clinging to the memory of the only man he ever loved. He is haunted, both literally and figuratively, by Mark and what might have been. Trapped in a limbo offering no closure, Donald can’t immediately accept the salvation his new neighbor, Walter, offers. Walter’s kindness and patience are qualities his sixteen-year-old nephew, Justin, understands well. Walter provides the only sense of family the boy’s ever known. But Justin holds a dark secret that threatens to tear Donald and Walter apart before their love even has a chance to blossom.