Friday, November 27, 2015

My Psychic Thriller, THIRD EYE, is FREE for Black Friday!

TODAY ONLY! My psychic thriller, THIRD EYE, is FREE from DSP Publications!

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.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Gratitude

My Facebook friend (and real-life friend of—gulp—about 40 years) Donna Anderson challenged people to post something about what they’re grateful for as we countdown to Thanksgiving. Below are my posts, collected here on this Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2015.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates. May your day be filled with family, friends, love, good food, and continued blessings!

My friend Donna Anderson is asking people to post things they're thankful for and, without trying, this morning I realized I really had something to post. I was up early, as usual, sitting alone in front of the fireplace with my coffee and reading. I thought of how lucky I am to have two very special beings only a few feet away, really, slumbering in a warm bed. To those two, I matter most in the world and the feeling is mutual. I am thankful for my husband, Bruce, and my dog, Lily.

Continuing my countdown to Thanksgiving with what I'm thankful for: Today I'm grateful for my son, Nicholas and his husband, Tarik. Nicholas has been the light of my life and one of my most treasured blessings for the last 31 years. He is a constant source of joy and love and I cannot imagine life without him. When he married Tarik six years ago, that love and joy only multiplied. Very little makes me happier than knowing my son made such a good marriage and increased the love in our family exponentially.

Continuing with my Thanksgiving countdown posts about what I'm grateful for. Today, I'm remembering my mom, who passed away in 2007 from cancer. I was watching a TV show last night where one of the characters, a young woman, had had a fight with her mother and wasn't speaking to her. Later on in the show, something significant happened and she said, "I need to talk to--" and then she couldn't finish because she realized she wasn't speaking to her mom. I was immediately in tears, not for the character, but for that realization. In good times or bad, for much of my life, one of the first things I always thought to do was tell my mother. She always listened, always cared, and always made me feel like my news was the most important thing in the world to her. Losing that has left a hole in my life that I can't heal, nor would I want to. I'm grateful today for having my mother as long as I did...and the joy, memories, love, and lessons that she imparted that will stay with me always.

Continuing with my Thanksgiving countdown posts about what I'm grateful for. Today, I'm thankful for IMAGINATION. Imagination is my escape, but also my way of establishing a kind of order to the chaos of the world. Without it, I'd have no career and probably no sanity.

Today I'm thankful for my sisters, Susan and Melissa. Even though I like to joke that we grew up as only children (we have big separations in age: Susan is 8 years older and Melissa is 11 years younger), they're still the only remainders I have from my immediate family. We're orphans together and, in spite of our age differences and the miles that separate us, they're never far from my heart.

Continuing my Thanksgiving gratitude countdown, this morning I'm thankful for home. I don't know how big I am into astrology, but my sign is Cancer and one thing that rings true about Cancers for me is that they're all about home (and water). All my life, one of the most important things to me is having and making a home. Home is my sanctuary, my safe place, and Dorothy said it best when she said there's no place like it. My heart's desire IS in my own backyard. And that heart's desire, curiously enough, has always been very close to a body of water, which also fits in with the Cancer theme (growing up, I was two blocks from the Ohio River, my many years in Chicago were always
spent very close to Lake Michigan, Miami, I was a short drive from the Atlantic, and here in Seattle, I overlook Lake Union). So, like my husband, Bruce (and fellow Cancer) I'm grateful for home...and water. They're both life-giving forces.

Today's the day! Happy Thanksgiving! What am I grateful for today? You.

Have a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Good Karma, Good Books: Drama Queen by Joe Cosentino

Every Wednesday, I put on my pimp clothes (I favor feathered hats and zebra prints

with a little crushed velvet) and help promote the new or old work of some of my favorite fellow authors. Be sure to stop by every week and see what’s new. 

This week, I’m excited to introduce you to Drama Queen by Joe Cosentino. 

It could be curtains for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza. With dead bodies popping up all over campus, Nicky must use his drama skills to figure out who is playing the role of murderer before it is lights out for Nicky and his colleagues. Complicating matters is Nicky’s huge crush on Noah Oliver, a gorgeous assistant professor in his department, who may or may not be involved with a cocky graduate assistant...and is also the top suspect for the murders! You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat, delightfully entertaining novel. Curtain up!

I left my students to their private discussion and joined my young graduate assistant seated on a red velvet bench in a turreted area of the lobby. As I dug into my sizable piece of cake, Scotty leaned into me like a cat facing a sardine, “Since it looks like the tech rehearsal will run late, I can teach your morning Theatre History class tomorrow.” 

“That won’t be necessary, Scotty.” Just stick your finger down your throat then head to the gym as usual. 

“With teaching your classes, assessing and updating curriculum, going to faculty meetings, advising students, writing your articles, advising the theatre club, and directing plays, I worry that you may get sick.” 

You’d unleash the bubonic plague if it meant getting my job. I patted his shaved and oiled knee, and said a la Margo Channing, “I’m fine, Scotty. Just leave your notes on tonight’s performance in my office box tomorrow.” 

“Am I too late for the party?” My knees dipped as Noah Oliver took off his coat and scarf and stood next to me. “Happy birthday, Nicky!” He winked at me. 

Maybe we can adopt seven children, run away to the hills, and start a family singing act. 

Scotty leapt from his seat like it was a pogo stick. “Have a piece of cake, Noah. No nuts!” 

I beg your pardon? 

“Thanks for remembering, Scotty.” Noah sat between Scotty and me and dug into the creamy wonder. Was that a familiar smile between Scotty and Noah?! 

Scotty explained as if he was Noah’s husband, “Noah is allergic to nuts, Nicky.” 

Hopefully not to mine. 

Noah took me in with his baby blue eyes. Did I notice a look of lust in them? “How’s the show going?” 

What show? Oh! “We’re all exhausted, frazzled, panicked, and certain of a great opening night.” 

Noah squeezed my hand. “You’re an amazing director. The creative way you move your characters around the stage, how the elements of design compliment the story, and your unique vision is thrilling to watch. I expect nothing short of brilliance in this production.” Noah beamed with pride. “And you have some powerful student actors in the show.” Scotty collected our empty plates. “Noah is a terrific acting teacher.” He gazed at Noah with pure adoration. “The students are lucky to have you.” 

Since theatre is a collaborative art, I said, “Tyler’s execution of David’s scenic design is amazing, and as usual Tyler has been a total work horse. Ariella’s costumes have an incredible gothic look, but they’re light enough for the students to move around in them.” 

Noah whispered in my ear, and I restrained myself from throwing myself on top of him. “Can I speak to you about something…personal?” 

“Sure.” How about a June wedding?

Joe Cosentino is the author of Drama Queen the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), An Infatuation (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Drama Muscle the second Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), A Shooting Star (Dreamspinner Press novella), A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press holiday novella),The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press fairytale novella), and Porcelain Doll the second Jana Lane mystery (Wild Rose Press).


Purchase the ebook from Smashwords at:
Purchase the audiobook narrated by Michael Gilboe at

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Recipe for Romance and One for Beef Stew

My books, even the ones that are obviously about food and romance, like Dinner at Home and my latest, Dinner at Fiorello’s, pay homage to the kitchen as well as the bedroom. I see a real link between the heart and the stomach.

Below is an interview I originally did at Prism Book Alliance during the blog tour for
Dinner at Fiorello’s. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I think it's worth repeating here, since it really reveals both my cooking and writing philosophies.

There’s a lot about food in your writing. Was cooking a big thing in your family growing up?

Oh yeah. I grew up with a Sicilian mom and, for Italians, food is at the heart of not only every celebration, but also daily life. Not only did my mother’s simple southern-Italian cooking she learned at the apron strings of her aunts and grandmother (her mom died at a very young age, so my mom was raised by other relatives) help inspire me and guide me on my journey toward loving and respecting food, but it also showed me how you could show your caring for someone by ensuring they ate…and ate well.

Whenever I visited Italian relatives as a kid, we rarely sat in their living rooms. It was always around a big kitchen table. And there was always plenty of food—especially around the holidays—which you better dare not refuse. An Italian woman who wants you to eat cannot be refused!

So, yeah, food was and continues to be a big deal for me.

What are some of your favorite dishes?
I am pretty much indiscriminate when it comes to loving different cuisines (some might say a food slut, but I prefer the term foodie). I mean, there’s very little I won’t eat, unless it’s processed or fast-food crap, and I love all different nationalities’ cooking. My favorites, though, I think would have to be Vietnamese and Korean (easy to find here in Seattle, where the Asian population is huge). And when it comes to my own cooking, it’s simple, nourishing, and comforting. I love to make my mom’s spaghetti sauce and meatballs on a Sunday, letting it simmer all day and fill the house with memories of other Sundays. I make really good soups and stews, often from scratch and assembled from what’s on hand in the fridge and pantry.

Who cooks more, you or your husband? And who is the better cook?
I would say I do about 98.9% of the cooking at our house. Bruce does the cleanup and we are both very happy with this arrangement (well, at least until I use three saucepans, two skillets, a baking sheet, and four mixing bowls to make dinner). But I enjoy doing all the cooking. I read somewhere someone had three rules in the kitchen: shoes off, music on, and a glass of wine at hand. I ascribe to that philosophy. It just makes me happy to feed my loved ones.

And I don’t think Bruce would mind a bit if I admitted that I am the better cook. Yet, when he puts his mind to it and gets in the mood to cook, it’s always wonderful. His roast chicken is a thing of beauty that not even I can rival.

Who taught you how to cook?
My parents. Both my mother and father were excellent cooks. So I never had the sense that cooking wasn’t something for boys. My mom, who was Sicilian, showed my how to cook with love and that the simplest and freshest things were often the best. She taught me how to make the good, hearty peasant-type food the Sicilian aunts and grandmother who raised her made. My dad was more of the chef. Like me, he loved reading recipes and getting ideas, getting inspired.

Do you follow recipes or do you prefer to make up your own dishes?
Ah, definitely the latter. Even when I follow a recipe, I seldom stick to it—I have a need to add my own touches. Since you asked, here’s one of my own recipes and a personal favorite (we eat low-carb these days, so this recipe accounts for that and omits white potatoes—I guarantee you will not miss them!):

Rick R. Reed’s Beef Stew

2.5 lbs. beef stew meat
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large sweet potato
1 cup baby carrots
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
1 cup red wine
1 can beef consommé
2 T Better than Bouillon (Beef)
3 T Worcestershire Sauce
2 T tomato paste
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T dried thyme
2 T Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper to taste


1.     Sear beef in a little oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven; do not crowd—do in batches if necessary.
2.     Remove beef to platter or plate. Deglaze pan with red wine and a little Worcestershire. Reduce down to a syrupy consistency.
3.     Add vegetables, wine, consommé, tomato paste, bouillon, and seasonings to slow cooker.
4.     Add meat, pour reduction over all.
5.     Cook on low 8-9 hours.

Thanks for having me. Hope people will consider taking a bite out of Dinner at Fiorello’s!

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.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Good Karma, Good Books: Press START to Play by Briana Lawrence

Every Wednesday, I put on my pimp clothes (I favor feathered hats and zebra prints

with a little crushed velvet) and help promote the new or old work of some of my favorite fellow authors. Be sure to stop by every week and see what’s new. 

This week, I’m excited to introduce you to Press START to Play by Briana Lawrence. I'll let Briana tell you more about the story:

"Press START to Play is my first gay romance short story and was featured as part of a 'Daily  Dose' anthology - a collection of 30 other stories so that readers had one a day. I was also lucky enough to have an alternate cover drawn by Ann Uland of Arbitrary Muse Comics."


Lukis Singleton’s once-popular sports column is fading fast, thanks to the terrible track record of the local football team. In an attempt to save the column, Lukis's editor, John, decides he needs to go in a different direction. Video games are all the rage these days, so John insists that sending Lukis to a huge video-game tournament in Los Angeles will shake up his current readers and bring in new ones. Lukis isn’t thrilled about reporting on games with impossible powers or gamers who still live in Mom’s basement, but then he meets a tempting flaw in the gaming stereotypes of unwashed man-children. Aaron Sanders is a gorgeous breath of fresh air at the tournament who takes Lukis’s less-than-stellar view of gamers and turns it on its head, leaving Lukis to wonder if it might be worth being Aaron’s player two.

Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback (entire anthology)
Amazon Kindle

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My "Romance with Recipes" DINNER AT HOME On Sale for Only $1 through Nov 20!

Dreamspinner Press is having a "bring home the bacon sale" with books that marry food and love, including my DINNER AT HOME--for only $1! Also on sale at Amazon for the same price; see buy links below.

It only takes a few days for Ollie D'Angelo to lose his boyfriend, his job, and his home. Instead of mourning what he doesn’t have, Ollie celebrates what he does: the freedom to pursue his real passion—cooking. He begins Dinner at Home, a home-catering business, and it takes off.Late one night, Ollie catches Hank Mellinger, a streetwise hood down on his luck, about to rob his car. Ollie soon discovers that appearances aren’t necessarily what they seem. Hank isn’t a criminal caught red-handed, but a hungry young man trying to make a life for himself and the four-year-old niece he’s trying desperately to take care of.

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

At Dreamspinner Press
For Amazon Kindle

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Playlist You Can Strip To

My new book, TRICKS takes place in the world of male dancers (i.e. strippers). My main character, Arliss, is a one of the hottest dancers at TRICKS and, when I put this post together, I wondered what kind of music he’d pick out to dance to and get down to just his little pouch and combat boots.

Below is the (very diverse!) list I’ve come up with. Put it on to get yourself in the mood to immerse yourself in the world of TRICKS.


1. Cookie by R. Kelly
2. Night Train by Oscar Peterson
3. Pour Some Sugar on Me by L.A. Guns
4. Hot for Teacher by Van Halen
5. Magic Man by Heart
6. Slow Ride by ZZ Top
7. Toxic by Britney Spears
8. Erotica by Madonna
9. Pull Up to the Bumper by Grace Jones
10. Face Down, Ass Up by 2 Live Crew

Tricks can mean many things: sex partners, deceptions, even magic—or maybe all three.

Arliss is a gorgeous young dancer at Tricks, the hottest club in Chicago’s Boystown. Sean is the classic nerd, out of place in Tricks, but nursing his wounds from a recent breakup. When the two spy each other, magic blooms.

But this opposites-attract tale does not run smooth. What happens when Arliss is approached by one of the biggest porn producers in the business? Can he make his dreams of stardom come true without throwing away the only real love he’s ever known? This question might not even matter if the mysterious producers realize their dark intentions.

BUY: Dreamspinner ebook || Dreamspinner paperback || Amazon

Arliss had everything he needed right in front of him for that night’s performance—hardhat, check; steel-toed boots, check; tool belt, check; black mesh thong with pouch for his rather prodigious endowment, big check—yes, Arliss was just about ready for his turn on the stage at Tricks, located in Chicago’s infamous Boystown neighborhood, at its epicenter on the corner of Belmont and Halsted. He also had before him a tall tumbler of Stoli vodka with just a whisper of cranberry juice cocktail in it for color and a half-empty pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights. The latter two items helped the twenty-one-year-old calm himself before a performance, and the vodka in particular went a long way toward reducing backstage jitters.

He lit up a cigarette and regarded himself through the smoke. The lights in the crowded dressing room, which he shared with the other eight or so exotic dancers, were unforgiving. Fluorescent did little to hide any imperfections, like rings under the eyes, reddened noses from too much partying, and for those on their way out of the club, track marks on the arms. But Arliss didn’t have to worry about signs of drug abuse showing up on his person. He had learned to just say no a long time ago, in a manner he preferred not to dredge up, at least not now, when he was trying to put himself in a cheerful, high-energy mode.

The face that looked back at him was young, handsome, and vital. Arliss had a shock of white-blond hair that stuck up in a manner reminiscent of rocker Billy Idol back in his glory days, before Arliss was even born. Both ears sported piercings—from one a single razor blade, cast in sterling, dangled; from the other, three hoops crawled up the side of his ear, growing smaller as they ascended. Arliss had full lips, sharp cheekbones, a cleft in his chin, and the most piercing ice blue eyes in the Midwest (or so he had been told). The only thing that marred his nearly perfect face was a gap between his front teeth, for which he comforted himself by saying the space gave him character. Cigarette clenched between his teeth, he struggled into his costume, ending by stuffing his dick into the pouch that protruded from his black thong. His member stuck out in a way that invited grasping hands, which was what Arliss wanted, as long as there was cash in those hands to stuff the thong even more fully.

BUY: Dreamspinner ebook || Dreamspinner paperback || Amazon

Note: This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, at The Novel Approach.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rave Review for TRICKS from Hearts on Fire Reviews

I'm so pleased to share the review Hearts on Fire gave of my stripper/nerd love story, TRICKS yesterday. In part, reviewer Barb said:

"If you love age-gap, love at first sight, and sweet underrated main characters, you should like this one. And if you are a fan of thrillers, or at least nail-biting suspenseful M/M romance, you will definitely like this one."

Read the whole review here.

Tricks can mean many things: sex partners, deceptions, even magic—or maybe all three. Arliss is a gorgeous young dancer at Tricks, the hottest club in Chicago’s Boystown. Sean is the classic nerd, out of place in Tricks, but nursing his wounds from a recent breakup. When the two spy each other, magic blooms.

 But this opposites-attract tale does not run smooth. What happens when Arliss is approached by one of the biggest porn producers in the business? Can he make his dreams of stardom come true without throwing away the only real love he’s ever known? This question might not even matter if the mysterious producers realize their dark intentions.

Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback
Amazon Kindle

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Good Karma, Good Books: Desert Run by Marshall Thornton

Every Wednesday, I put on my pimp clothes (I favor feathered hats and zebra prints

with a little crushed velvet) and help promote the new or old work of some of my favorite fellow authors. Be sure to stop by every week and see what’s new. 

This week, I’m all about DESERT RUN by Marshall Thornton.

Here’s what Marshall has to say about what makes DESERT RUN unique:

I wrote this in 2010 before I understood much about the m/m romance community. About a year after I wrote it I found out that it’s what’s called a Gay-For-You story - though when I wrote it I considered it more of a bisexual story. The first sex scene is actually het, which I included for the character’s arc. When I wrote that scene I was very concerned that it be accurate - or at least not outright wrong - so I ran it by a couple of female friends. What I didn’t know at the time was that a lot of m/m readers would have preferred that I skip that scene entirely.


Palm Springs, 1973. On the lam after killing a mobster’s son in a bar fight, Don Harris hides out as a piano player in a Palm Springs restaurant until he’s accidentally found out. Broke and desperate, he walks into an unfamiliar bar where he meets... 

Harlan, the secret lover of a well-known movie star. Stashed away in the sleepy resort, Harlan is bored and often alone which is why he’s spending the afternoon in his favorite gay bar. 

When the two meet, Don thinks he’s using Harlan for a place to hide out but slowly realizes he’s falling for the kid. Don knows he shouldn’t get involved but can’t help but step in when Harlan gets into trouble. To save himself, Don’s got to save Harlan. Jamie does, will he turn out to be the ideal candidate for the vacant position of boyfriend?

Amazon Kindle

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

COVER REVEAL: The Couple Next Door

I'm very excited to unveil the awesome cover for my new romantic suspense novel, THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR!

Cover artist Reese Dante worked her magic and I couldn't be happier with the mysterious face she put on my latest work.

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR releases on December 7, but you can pre-order your copy NOW (buy links are below, or just click on the hyperlinked title).

With the couple next door, nothing is as it seems.

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.

Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.

So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.

Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dates from Hell: An Excerpt from BLINK

If you’ve read much of my work, you might have noticed I like to have a little fun with what I call “dates from hell.” We’ve all had them, right? And if you answered no to that question, let me congratulate you. It takes a very special person to get through life without at least one date from hell on his or her resume.

The excerpt below is from my latest, Blink, and it showcases the date from hell one of my characters, Andy, has before re-connecting with Carlos, the man he’s never forgotten. Are you nervy enough to share one of your own dates from hell in the comments below? I’d love to hear about yours!

I have just taken a sip of the expertly-made cocktail, reveling in its briny chill, when I feel someone tap me on the shoulder.

I turn around to face Chet. I smile and think that the picture he used on the site had to be at least a few years old. It’s okay, I think, we all want to put our best foot forward. The guy before me still has the beard and the baseball cap I saw in his profile pic, but the beard that was flecked with gray on OkCupid is now fully silver. He also didn’t wear glasses in his profile picture, but now a pair of wire-rimmed oval frames shield his muddy-brown irises.

Which is not to say he looks bad. He doesn’t. Just older. He’s still cute, with a kind of high-school wrestling coach vibe about him, augmented by his outfit—an Abercrombie and Fitch jersey, cargo shorts, and workman’s boots. I try to hold in any judgment I know I would make if I were sitting here with Jules observing him, about a man trying a bit too hard to look manly and young. We would laugh into our drinks and for sure Jules would say something like, “Mutton dressed as lamb.”

I slide off the stool, smiling, to shake his hand.

He grabs my hand and uses it to pull me into a bear hug, planting a too-wet kiss on my neck, which startles me. I move back and hop up on my stool, give a little laugh. I want to admonish him for being fresh, as my mom would say, but instead I ask him what he’d like to drink. “I’ll get the first round,” I say, holding up my glass. “Since I’ve already started.”

He orders a Bud Lite and sits down beside me. Immediately, one of his hands goes to my leg, just above my knee, and rests there. He looks me up and down, and then does it again. His grin, a little lewd, never wavers. I wonder if a wolf whistle is in store. I begin to have my doubts about Chet but again, remind myself to withhold judgment. He just got here, after all. Give the guy a freakin’ chance!

“Man, am I glad I sent you that message. It’s so nice when they look better than their pics.” He leans back on his stool to check me out again and I have to admit, he’s making me more uncomfortable than flattered. Much as I admired my reflection in my condo building’s front door before heading over here, I am not all that. I’m relieved when the bartender, a blond in a black V-neck T-shirt who could be Alexander Skarsgard’s twin, sets Chet’s beer before him.

“You want a glass with that?” the bartender points to the sweating brown bottle.

Chet winks at the kid and asks, “Do I have any other options?” I groan inside.

The poor bartender just looks confused. Then he smiles. “I don’t know. I think we’ve got an aluminum bowl in the back if you’d be interested.”

Chet shakes his head and reaches into his wallet and throws a ten on the bar, in spite of my having said I’d treat. “Keep the change, stud.”

The bartender grabs the cash from the bar and gives me a look. In the look, we’re both saying something along the lines of “Do you believe this character?” He hurries away, presumably to wait on less flirtatious and younger men. Or maybe to find out what the Jeopardy! response is to the answer displayed on one of the monitors: Arizona's motto, ditat deus, means he “enriches.”

God, I think, the answer is God. A fella I fear whose help I’m going to need to call upon before this night is over.

I turn to the guy I agreed to meet, based only on about a dozen or so lines of type and a decade-old (at least) photograph and try to make the best of things. “So Chet, do you come here a lot?”

He shakes his head and crinkles up his nose, as though he’d smelled something bad. “Nah. I just picked this place because it’s kind of neutral, you know?”

I shake my head.

“Pretty boys. Bright lights. Nothing too extreme.”

I think I see. “Good for meeting for the first time, huh?”

He leans in closer to me and slides his hand up farther on my leg toward my crotch. “Right.” He leans even closer and growls in my ear. “If I like the guy, we can always go someplace else.”

Like your place? I wonder, but don’t say. I lean back and away from him. He smells like cigarette smoke, Old Spice, and booze. I laugh and am embarrassed when it comes out a little high-pitched. I try to get him back on course. “So, where do you like to hang out?”

“So to speak?” He raises his eyebrows and laughs as though I said something filthy and then I realize he’s making my reference to ‘hanging out’ into something lascivious.

Why didn’t I call Jules and set something up? You know, the old saw where she would call a half hour after I meet my date and, if it wasn’t going well, I could say there was an emergency at home and I had to go?

“Yeah. Do you go to any other clubs?”

“Me, I like the leather bars.” He stares at me and I wonder if he’s expecting me to rush in with something like, “Oh me, too! I left my harness and chaps at home.”

“Yeah,” he says. “There’s no pretense there.”

Really? Men standing around in biker gear trying to look butch? Okay….

“What I mean is,” Chet continues, “They don’t have game shows on the TVs, for Christ’s sake. Or run show tune videos like that joint down the street. They’re just about what we’re all here for.”

Although I know what he means by ‘what we’re all here for’ I ask Chet anyway, “What’s that?”

“Come on, Andy!” He rubs a hand over my chest and tweaks a nipple. I pull back. I can’t keep the scowl off my face. Undeterred, he leans forward once more to whisper throatily, “Fuckin’ and suckin’.”

I grab his hand, still on my chest, and return it to him, placing it carefully on his leg and nowhere near his crotch.

“I mean, why do gay men come out to the bars? To meet fuck buddies, right? We might as well be honest about it. I know I am. I like the leather bars because even if I don’t meet a guy to bring home, I can always wander into the backroom and get a little somethin’-somethin’.” He laughs. “You know what I mean?”

I’ve had enough. I think I know this is going to go nowhere. Same old story. I feel a little sad. “No, I really don’t Chet. When I go out, and it’s not that often anymore, it’s to meet up with friends, laugh, talk, have a few drinks.”

“And then go off to your bedroom and do the nasty.”

I sigh. I’m impatient now. “Well, I’d be lying if I said that never happened, but it’s usually more of a thing about circumstances turning a certain way, rather than something planned.”

“I was kind of planning on you and me getting together tonight.” He jerks his head toward the door behind him. “I live just around the corner. On Cornelia?” He says, in a softer voice, “Got the sling all set up.”

I laugh. “We have an optimist here!”

“What? You agreed to meet up with me.”

“And that means I agreed to have sex with you?”

“Well, yeah. That’s what guys go online looking for, right? I mean, what else is there?”

I wanted to answer—romance, companionship, friendship, maybe, just maybe, finding true love. But I have a feeling that our Chet here is too far-gone for any of those responses to resonate. Concepts like love and friendship would be lost on him. I don’t think his thought processes go any higher than above the belly button. It’s kind of sad, really. Like his clothes, I suspect Chet is stuck in a kind of faux masculine adolescence. At the end of the night, when he’s alone and covered with sticky lube and his latest conquest is but a memory, does he ever hunger for more?

“For some, I guess, not much.” Finally, I allow myself to touch him, putting a hand on his shoulder. As much as I am a big old introvert and hate confrontation of even the mildest sort, it’s not that hard to be honest, because I know at the end of what I have to say, I’ll be free. “Listen, Chet, I think you and I are after different things.” I gulp down what remains in my glass and set it back on the bar. “I’m gonna take off. Thanks for coming out to meet me.”

He sneers. “What are you after? True love?”

I get down from the bar stool and stand, facing him. “Yup,” I say and turn to walk out the door.

“Good luck with that!” he calls out behind me. “You’re gonna need it.” He pauses. “At your age.”
He laughs and my consolation is that no one laughs with him. I slip outside into the exhaust-choked air, feeling like I can breathe again.

Life can change in the blink of an eye. That's a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago 'L' to work every morning. Andy's life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’s dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.

Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’s gaze on the 'L' train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance. If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of thirty years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever….

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Good Karma, Good Books: What's in a Name and Redesigning Max by Pat Henshaw

Every Wednesday, I put on my pimp clothes (I favor feathered hats and zebra prints

with a little crushed velvet) and help promote the new or old work of some of my favorite fellow authors. Be sure to stop by every week and see what’s new. 

This week, I’m all about two books, WHAT'S IN A NAME? and REDESIGNING MAX by Pat Henshaw.

Here’s what Pat has to say about her books:

At one point when my daughters were growing up, I read a book by Indries Shah entitled World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places.  In it Shah presents the retelling of common fairytales, the ones most of us know from our childhoods, as they were told in other times and by world-wide cultures.
For example, there are a charming Algonquin Cinderella and a Welsh retelling of Aladdin. Like all folktales, the stories in the book aren’t exactly the same as the ones most of us know, but each reflects the culture and peoples from which it sprung.  I’ve carried the variations of these stories in my head for years.

So when I began writing my Foothills Pride novellas for Dreamspinner Press, in a way I saw the retelling of the age-old tales in terms of gay men and love in a contemporary California setting.

My first story, What’s in a Name?, which published in January 2015, riffed on the quirky Rumpelstiltskin fairytale in which a man’s name holds power and intimacy.  Unlike the story we know best, however, my tale has no threatened babies, but rather the specter of modern day hate crimes and homophobic acts while barista Jimmy Patterson tries to guess the given name of the handsome owner of the historic Stonewall Saloon.

The second in the Foothills Pride stories, Redesigning Max, out July 29, takes a look at a modern Cinderella tale.  When outdoorsman and closeted gay man, Max Greene, first spies new Stone Acres, California, resident Fredi Zimmer, Max tumbles into lust and possibly love.  But since Max has been in the closet his entire life, he realizes right away he needs help figuring out how to woo a man.  Who better to take him in hand (in oh-so-many ways) than the flamboyant architect and designer, Fredi?

And the third in the series entitled Behr Facts, coming in October, finds six foot six Abe Behr, CEO of Behr Construction, being charmed by golden-haired CPA Jeff Mason.  Someone in the Behr family is embezzling from the company, and Abe needs Jeff’s help in uncovering the culprit.  The basic Goldilocks props are integral to the plot: a chair in which Abe gives Jeff a sensual backrub, a bed for when their hormones take over, and lots of food.

The Foothills Pride saga only begins there as I’m currently finishing the fourth, When Adam Fell, and plotting the fifth, Cookie.  

For now, both What’s in a Name? and Redesigning Max are available to readers who like their romances light and bite-sized, and their men as exciting as the gays living in Northern California foothills communities. 

What's in a Name?

Redesigning Max