Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Face without a Heart Re-releases TODAY!

I'm excited to announce that DSP Publications is coming out today with a brand-new edition of A Face without a Heart, my award-winning modern-day and Chicago-set retelling of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Isn't the cover--by the hugely talented Aaron Anderson--gorgeous? Not only that, it really beautifully shows the duality of our main character.

A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away…. A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”

A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder. Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.

He was beautiful. Beauty is so seldom ascribed to men, too often incorrectly attributed to men with feminine features—wavy blond hair, fine cheekbones, teeth cut from porcelain. But I’ve always thought of beauty as a quality that went deeper than the corporeal… something dark, dense, inexplicable, capable of stirring longings primal, longings one would be powerless to resist.

He was beautiful. I sat on a Red Line “L” train, headed downtown, bags of heavy camera equipment heaped at my side, one arm resting protectively over them. I watched the young man, unable to train my thoughts on anything other than this man who had blotted out the reality of the day, magical and transforming. Beauty, especially so rare a beauty, can do that. The young man was an eclipse, his presence coming between myself and the reality of the day hurtling by outside train windows.

He had come in behind three foreign people, a bright counterpoint to their drab clothes, colorless, already wilting in the August humidity. They chattered to one another in a language unrecognizable, Polish maybe, and I was annoyed at their yammering, unable to block it out sufficiently enough to concentrate on the book I was reading, a biography of William Blake.

I almost didn’t notice him. It wasn’t like me to pay much attention to what went on around me, especially when I was preparing for a shoot. Usually I used the time on the train to set up the photographs I would take, the way I would manipulate light and shadow and how it fell on my models, to arrange the props, set up and test the lighting.

But something caused me to look up when the doors opened—perhaps I was struck by the dissonance created by the unknown language—and I saw him. Close-cropped brown hair, a bit of stubble framing full lips, a bruise fading to dull below his right eye. The bruise did not detract from the man’s beauty but served to enhance it, making of the rough features something more vulnerable. The bruise was the embodiment of a yearning for the touch of a finger, the whisper of a kiss. He wore an old, faded T-shirt with a Bulls logo, black denim cut off just above his knees, and a pair of work boots, the seam on the left beginning to separate. In spite of the workman’s garb, there was something intellectual about the man, an intensity in his aquamarine eyes that portended deeper thought.

At that moment, I made a decision. I don’t know what caprice seized me. I have always led an orderly life, completely without surprise. But when the train pulled to a stop and the young man stood, I acted on an impulse that was as sudden as it was uncontrollable.

Amazon ebook
Amazon paperback

Monday, January 30, 2017

Letting Go of Your Books

Letting Go

It takes two to tango. And it takes at least two to make a book. Just like a play needs an audience to fully come alive, a book needs a reader for precisely the same reason.

One thing I have to constantly remind myself as a writer is that, once I have written the words, ‘the end’ to a story is that I must let go. As much as I labored over the book, dreamed about it, had conversations with myself about it, agonized over word choice, character hair color, continuity, repetitive words and phrasing, the time comes when the book meets the public which signals that it’s time for me to step aside.

A book is a conspiracy between a reader and a writer. The reader has to bring it to life through his or her imagination. The wonderful thing about that whole process is that my story can become so many different stories when filtered through each reader’s unique frame of reference. I have no doubt that no matter the care I take in describing characters and setting, each reader sees them differently because each of them come to the table with different experiences, biases, and memories. All of those things have a bearing on the triggers my words pull in a reader’s mind.

It’s really quite a lovely process when you think about it. And maybe the readers out there reading this blog never really considered the vital work they play in every book’s success or failure. Writers provide a roadmap, signposts, but it’s really up to the reader to run with it, to make of it something real, a mind movie for one.

What’s my point? I guess it’s to share with you a little of what motivates me as a writer and what, for me is both a blessing and a curse. See, when I am working on a book, which is almost always, I am alone with those characters, immersed in their little world, consumed by their passions, their fears, their desires, their comedies of errors. I have never been one for sharing much of my unfinished work with anyone else. That would somehow be wrong, at least for me. In order to create, I need to be able to slip into a world inhabited only by my characters and me. It’s always a bittersweet moment when I write the words, ‘the end’ and know I am moving on. Sure, there will be editing, the thrill of seeing the cover design, the agony of trying to help craft the blurb, but once you type ‘the end’ it means just that. You’re giving your characters and their world away.

I think it’s very difficult for some writers to realize that once they’ve ‘given birth’ to a book that it really no longer belongs to them. It belongs to the readers, the reviewers, the world. If you create with publishing in mind, it’s a harsh reality to accept—your book no longer belongs to you alone, but it’s gone off into the world, much like a child finally moving out of the house. Once you let go, you also must let go of trying to control what happens (same for books, same for kids).

And that’s hard. You hate to see your book suffer at the hands of people who don’t understand it, you celebrate it when someone ‘gets’ what you were trying to say.

But you must let go. The book is a piece of the world now and takes on a life of its own. Remember what I said earlier? A book is a conspiracy between a writer and a reader and the reader, each in his or her own way, makes the story his or her own.

I guess what prompted all this was a discussion recently at one of my publishers’ forums wherein authors were discussing, once again, how to respond to negative reviews and downright nasty ones, and the prevailing wisdom, at least to my mind, was with silence. I agree.

It’s harsh but true: writers must let go. Your stories are no longer your stories. If you’re very, very lucky, they are many people’s. Take comfort in that.

Friday, January 27, 2017

10 Silly Questions with Joe Cosentino, Author of the Cozzi Cove Series

10 Silly Questions with Joe Cosentino,

Author of the Cozzi Cove Series

Rick: Hi, Joe. Thank you for being my guest today.

Joe: It’s my pleasure, Rick!

Rick: First, if you could invite any famous person, dead or alive, for dinner, what would you eat?

Joe: Buckwheat blueberry pancakes. If Gillian St. Kevern is reading this, she’s smiling. Gillian told me she really enjoyed my Cozzi Cove series of novels (NineStar Press). However, she asked me why the owners of Cozzi Cove (a gay resort on the New Jersey Shore), Cal and Michael, often eat buckwheat blueberry pancakes. As I explained to Gillian, my spouse makes them for me and I love them. Buckwheat is good for you. I also think buckwheat sounds very butch, like you Rick. Since Gillian often writes about vampires, and since nothing is what it seems in Cozzi Cove, I created a vampire character in book four, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings (releasing March 27). That should give Gillian something to live for. Okay, I know I just put in a shameless plug when all you asked me about was dinner. Sorry, but please keep in mind some of us aren’t rich and famous like you, Rick.

Rick: Who do you think you are?

Joe: I’m definitely an entertainer and storyteller. It all started when my older sister and male cousin wrapped old sheets around us and charged neighbors a nickel to see our Nativity play. When I realized the story was about me, I was hooked! That morphed into full scale musicals created by my sister and me in our neighbor’s garage. After college, I became an actor in film, television, and theatre, working opposite stars like Bruce Willis (A Midsummer Night’s Dream onstage), Nathan Lane (The Roar of the Greasepaint on stage), Rosie O’Donnell (AT&T Industrial), Holland Taylor (My Mother Was Never a Kid, ABC-TV movie), Charles Keating (Another World, NBC-TV), David Paymer (Ruffles Potato Chip commercial), and Jason Robards (Commercial Credit commercial). It occurred to me that acting and writing are storytelling, so I decided to give writing a try. After writing some plays, I moved on to writing novels. My mother’s response was, “Don’t you have anything better to do at night than write novels?” Hm, I wonder if she’d prefer that I use the time to check out nursing homes?

Rick: What’s your problem?

People who demean and attack the rights and self-worth of others, including those who hide behind their religious or political beliefs to do so. Religious freedom means freedom to practice your religion, not to discriminate against others. How sad that so many people have forgotten the old Bible stories where Jesus served and loved everyone, especially the outcasts. And how terrifying that some people in our country are using their vast wealth and high positions in an attempt to take away people’s rights. That’s become a theme in some of my books.

Rick: I agree. So if you could have one wish, would you give it to me?

Joe: Of course! You’re Rick R. Reed, the author of so many dark and romantic novels I loved reading! The guy who travels all over the US eating in exotic restaurants. However, I would whisper in your ear a request to make your wish all about me.

Rick: I had the feeling. So let’s talk more about you. Where you at?

Joe: Unlike you, I don’t live in a condo overlooking a beautiful lake. But my spouse and I did build our own house (actually a contractor built it) upstate New York. Given what’s going on in the country right now, I’m happy to say I live in a blue state. I’m a department head/Professor of Theatre like Martin Anderson in my Nicky and Noah comedy mystery series (Lethe Press). Unlike adorable couple Nicky and Noah, I don’t impersonate others to solve crimes, however, like Martin, I have a beautiful cherry wood home study with a fireplace, huge desk, bookcases, and window seat overlooking the woods. I know. Another shameless plug for one of my series.

Rick: I think I caught that.

Joe: Sorry, it’s become a vice.

Rick: Speaking of which, if you had to choose only one vice, what would it be?

Joe: Taking vitamins. I’m a total vitaminaholic, like Nicky Abbondanza in my Nicky and Noah mystery novels. If there’s a vitamin, mineral, herb, or amino acid on the market, I’ll take it after breakfast.

Rick: Speaking of breakfast—

Joe: Are you going to invite me to have eggs benedict with you in Key West?

Rick: No. I was going to ask what’s your favorite brand of cereal for breakfast?

Joe: Believe it or not, I don’t eat cereal. My body is a temple. Though nobody wants to worship at it.

Rick: Good one.

Joe: Thanks. It’s copyrighted. My typical breakfast is oatmeal and fruit (no pun intended) or of course buckwheat blueberry pancakes in honor of Gillian.

Rick: Of course. When you wake up in the morning, what celebrity do you most resemble?

Joe: If you invite me for a vacation in your spiffy condo on the lake, you can find out first hand.

Rick: I’m booked up with guests through 2030.

Joe: Okay, I resemble Kermit the Frog. And that’s pretty much during the rest of the day and night too.

Rick: Here’s a strange question.

Joe: And the others weren’t strange?

Rick: I’ll ignore that. Do you know your ass from a hole in the ground? And if so, how do you tell the difference?

When I ask my students to stop texting in class, they’ll tell you that I don’t know much about anything. Actually, my sharpest time seems to be in the middle of the night. I generally leap out of bed at about 3am with an amazing idea for a new novel. I then jot notes on my nightstand. The next day, if I can read my notes, I write a biography for each character and eventually a plot summary. Then the fun happens as I let the characters talk in my head and type what they say. I show the second draft to my spouse for his notes. After we argue and then I finally admit he was right, the third draft goes to the publisher. The fourth draft is after notes from the publisher’s editor.

Rick: Okay, now’s the time. Do you have anything you’d like to plug?

Joe: Haven’t I been doing that all along?

Rick: I hadn’t noticed. (guffaws)

Joe: I’m told my Dreamspinner Press novellas make readers laugh, cry, and feel romantic. My In My Heart: An Infatuation & A Shooting Star (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention) are loosely based on my high school and college years respectively experiencing first love. A Home for the Holidays is about an American law student who, as I did, takes a trip to the romantic and gorgeous island of Capri, Italy, where he embarks on a relationship with his captivating third cousin. The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland is my comical gay take on my favorite beloved fairytales like Cinderella, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Snow Queen.

Rick: Congratulations.

Joe: But I’m not here to talk about them.

Rick: No?

Joe: No. My Nicky and Noah series from Lethe Press are hysterically funny, gay, cozy, who-dun-its set in the world of theatre academia and beyond. Drama Queen won Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, and Best Contemporary novel of 2015.  Drama Muscle received a Rainbow Award Honorable Mention. Drama Cruise released last month. This year Drama Luau and Drama Detective are set for release.

Rick: They sound like fun.

Joe: They are. But I’m not here to talk about them.

Rick: No?

Joe: No. My Jana Lane mysteries (the Wild Rose Press), with straight leading characters and gay supporting characters, are set in the 1980’s world of television, film, and theatre. They are Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, and Rag Doll.

Rick: I’m afraid to ask.

Joe: I’m not here to talk about them.

Rick: Joe, what in the hell are you here to talk about?

Joe: I thought you would never ask. As a kid, I spent my summers in my aunt’s bungalow at the New Jersey Shore. In honor of those wonderful times, I created the Cozzi Cove series (NineStar Press) featuring handsome and sexy ex-professional football player Cal Cozzi managing his family’s gay resort on the New Jersey Shore. Each novel offers us Cal’s story with his partner, family, and friends, as well as intertwining stories about his bungalow guests. After Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention/TBR Pile Book of the Month) and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward released, readers and reviewers praised their romantic, humorous, dramatic, and mysterious style. So I wrote Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, which just released. As with the first two books, romance is everywhere on Cozzi Cove, and nothing is what it seems. It was like visiting good old friends to further develop the characters in book three.

Rick: Something tells me you’d to tell us a bit more about your leading characters?

Joe: You twisted my arm. In book three, Cal and his partner Michael reach a plateau in their relationship. Connor, the musclebound houseboy with a roving sponge, becomes the subject of a handsome young psychologist’s/guest’s study on human sexuality with unexpected results. Tommy (the bald, muscular, tattooed resident of Cozzi Cove who owns the local bar) and George (Cal’s half-brother) both meet someone from their pasts and are off to wild adventures. We learn something shocking about Cal’s sister’s past. Lucky for Taylor her best friend, Cozzi restauranteur Carla Mangione, is there for support. And a guest, Bill (a disbelieving pastor), sees a vision of two sexy male angels on the cove, which leads him to start a new life. What secrets, humor, tragedy, mysteries, and passions lie in the magical place called Cozzi Cove? And we’re not done yet! Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings releases on March 27.

Rick: So you said, already. Nice book covers by the way.

Joe: Thanks.

Rick: Who’s on them?

Joe: Me, of course. Kidding! Cal is on the cover of book one, Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back. Book two, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, highlights Cal and Michael. Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, book three, has George. The fourth book, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, will feature a brand new character to Cozzi Cove, Billy Dean. I can tell you he’s quite the looker, and he’s an amazing character as well.

Rick: Do you see Cozzi Cove as a movie or television series?

Joe: I sure do! I can see Matt Bomer as Cal. Actually, I can see Matt Bomer in anything. And I want to play Bill in this story. So let me know when you’d like to produce it!

Rick: On that note, I’ll say thank you for being intimate with me today, Joe.

Joe: It was even more fun than I had anticipated.

Rick: It was certainly…unusual. And best wishes with Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, book three in the Cozzi Cove series published by NineStar Press.

Joe: And all the best wishes with your amazing books too, Rick. I’ll read yours, if you’ll read mine. And I love hearing from readers. They can contact me at: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com. So grab your Speedos, suntan lotion, and shades and head back to Cozzi Cove. Cal Cozzi has a bungalow waiting just for you. I hope to see you there, Rick. Until next time.

Rick: Next time?!

the third novel in the Cozzi Cove series
by JOE COSENTINO, published by NineStar Press


It’s time for another summer of sun, sand, suntan lotion, sandals, and Speedos on Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey Shore. Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are once again open for love. This summer, sexy Cal welcomes back his brother and sister, who are confronted with people from their pasts. Connor, the maid packed with muscle and mayhem, becomes the subject of a handsome young psychologist’s study on human sexuality. Tommy, the strapping, bald and tattooed local bartender, is captivated with guest Cory Magnum, a police officer with a secret. Another guest, Bill, a disbelieving pastor, is inspired by a vision of two sexy male angels on the cove. And Cal and Michael reach a plateau in their relationship. What secrets, humor, tragedies, mysteries, and passions lie waiting to unfold in this magical place called Cozzi Cove?

Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, and Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings (NineStar Press); Drama Queen (Divine Magazine Readers’ Favorite LGBT Mystery Novel and Humorous Novel), Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press); In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Open Skye Book Reviews Favorite Audiobook of the Month), and A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press); and Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries. 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. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. He was voted 2nd Place for Favorite MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards, and his books have received numerous awards.

Excerpt of Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out by Joe Cosentino, published by NineStar Press

A soaring golden orb turned the violet, pink, and tangerine sky into a canvas of blue. Early morning was Cal Cozzi’s favorite time. Treading water in the cove that had boasted his family name for generations, Cal felt as if his blood was the bay water, his flesh was the sand, and his soul was the sun. And Michael Rodgers was his heart. Michael swam over to him and wrapped his stocky arms around Cal’s neck. Cal cupped Michael’s firm bottom and squeezed him in closer. As Michael caressed Cal’s muscled back, they shared a salty wet kiss.

Cal looked up at a seagull gliding to the lighthouse in the distance. He pondered having the freedom to fly away from Cozzi Cove, but there was no place he’d rather be than in the confines of his legacy with the man he loved.

Cal’s great-grandfather, Calvin Cozzi I, had built everything in the sleepy town on the New Jersey shore, including the eight bungalows on the cove. This beautiful spot was the result of sun and salt water wearing away softer rocks more quickly than the harder rocks surrounding them.

Cal’s legacy was passed down to him from his great-grandfather through his grandfather, Calvin Cozzi II, and finally by his father, Calvin Cozzi III. Cal’s father, sensing his son’s sexual orientation as a boy, had opened Cozzi Cove as a gay resort.

Though Cal had dabbled briefly as a professional football player, and then as a restaurant owner, neither was a good fit. It wasn’t until after the unfortunate death of his parents in an automobile accident that he found his true calling: managing Cozzi Cove. The previous summer, Cal had been united with his half-brother, George, an architect, and the two of them had recently completed renovations on the bungalows, expanding them to add modern amenities while maintaining their grandfather’s nautical theme.

The tip of his head only reached Cal’s chin, so Michael had to stretch up to kiss his nose. Cal’s Italian and Scottish heritage had given him height, auburn hair, emerald-green eyes, an olive complexion, a strapping build, and a wide nose, which, as noted, Michael liked to kiss. “Should we be skinny-dipping at the start of a new summer season?”

“Probably not.” Cal ran a strong hand through Michael’s chestnut hair and gazed into his exotic eyes.

“What if a guest comes early?”

“He can get his own boyfriend.” Cal pressed his tongue inside Michael’s welcoming mouth. It felt warm, and Cal wanted more. As Michael stroked Cal’s broad shoulders and round pectoral muscles, prominent from working out at Cozzi’s gym, Cal pressed his nose against Michael’s thick neck and enjoyed the scent of vanilla. Michael’s African-American and Swedish heritage awarded him smooth golden skin that Cal loved to caress. Cal thought about the eleven-year difference in their ages, how they had met when Michael, still in the closet, tried to gay bash him in an alley, and the year Michael still had left to finish college. It was illogical and improbable for Cal and Michael to be together, yet it felt incredibly right. At that moment, he couldn’t be more in love with Michael.

George Valis, wearing a violet polo shirt and white shorts that accentuated his muscular legs, stepped out of Bungalow Seven and met them at the cove. “Hey, my ex back in Maine dumped me, remember? Stop rubbing in your happiness, you two.”

“Have breakfast with us.” Michael’s dimples appeared. “Cal is making a feast.”

“And Michael is cleaning up after me.”

“As usual.” George winked at Michael.

They got out of the water and put on the terrycloth robes they’d left on a rock at the water’s edge. Cal smiled at the sight of his brother’s height and eye color, which was exactly the same as his own. Cal and George shared the same father, with George being the result of Cal Cozzi II’s infidelity. They had met for the first time last summer when George looked Cal up, and Cal couldn’t have been happier to have a brother like George. He mussed George’s dark hair affectionately. “After breakfast, I’ll pack a lunch for your ride back to Maine.”

Michael’s shoulders slumped. “Do you have to go?”

Cal put his arm around Michael, recalling the brother Michael had lost two summers ago to suicide. “Bungalow Seven is always here for George.”

“Good.” George grinned like a kid with a secret. “It looks like I’ll be staying for a while longer.”

“Yeah!” Michael gave George a hug. “Cal will make a special celebration dinner tonight.” He kissed Cal’s cheek. “My favorite is surf and turf.”

“How about I leave my turf and throw you in the surf at the main beach instead?” Cal kissed Michael’s neck and then turned to his younger brother. “What’s up, bro?”

George looked at them and giggled. “Clearly you two, just before I arrived.”

Cal moved in and placed George in a playful headlock. “Look, little brother, the guests will be here soon. If you want breakfast, spill it.”