Friday, June 8, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Lost & Found, A Furry Love Story


Today, I'm thinking about Lost and Found and how it was inspired by my love for dogs...and for a good love story with a happy ending. Hope you'll let Barley the beagle and his human caretakers, Mac and Flynn, into your hearts today.


BLURB
On a bright autumn day, Flynn Marlowe lost his best friend, a beagle named Barley, while out on a hike in Seattle’s Discovery Park.

On a cold winter day, Mac Bowersox found his best friend, a lost, scared, and emaciated beagle, on the streets of Seattle.

Two men. One dog. When Flynn and Mac meet by chance in a park the next summer, there’s a problem—who does Barley really belong to? Flynn wants him back, but he can see that Mac rescued him and loves him just as much as he does. Mac wants to keep the dog, and he can imagine how heartbreaking losing him would be—but that's just what Flynn experienced.

A “shared custody” compromise might be just the way to work things out. But will the arrangement be successful? Mac and Flynn are willing to try it—and along the way, they just might fall in love. 

BUY
Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press Paperback
Amazon Kindle (Also available in paperback)
AllRomance ebooks

Friday, June 1, 2018

FLASHBACKFRIDAY: My Most Autobiographical Novel, BLINK


BLINK is my most autobiographical love story (the first part, which takes place in 1981, anyway) and, perhaps, my most touching. If you believe in love and second chances, I think you'll love BLINK

Buy paperback from Dreamspinner Press
Buy ebook from Dreamspinner Press
Buy from Amazon

BLURB
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….


EXCERPT
Part One: 1982

Chapter 1: Andy

TRANSFIXED. THAT’S the only word I can think of to describe the effect his eyes had on me. They were a trap snapping shut. It sounds schlocky, melodramatic, the stuff of bodice rippers, but it was true: they were mesmerizing. The irises were fashioned from dark chocolate, so dark it became impossible to distinguish the pupil. They were framed by lashes so black and thick that one might be tempted to imagine these tiny curls of hair were augmented with mascara.

But that was not the case. Carlos, as I would come to learn his name, was all man. The rest of him was pretty spectacular as well—and I’ll get to that—but his eyes were what really swept me up and, in a way, never let me go. Moth to the flame.

Can a person be hopelessly infatuated by just a look?

The answer stood but a few feet away from me that early morning in Chicago, on the ‘L’ train, what was once called the Douglas-O’Hare line. I was twenty-two years old and on my way to work at my first job ever, at a catalog house west of Chicago’s Loop where I was putting my BA in English to use as a copywriter. Back then, mornings I was bleary-eyed and hungry for more sleep. The ‘L’ cars were crowded, and the gentle rocking motion of the train encouraged further slumber.

But Carlos, and the connection our eyes made, snapped me right out of my reverie. Our gazes meeting for only a second was electric, elevating me out of the music I was listening to on my Sony Walkman—Human League’s Dare album. Is memory teasing me by making me think the song that coincided with my first glimpse of Carlos was “Don’t You Want Me”? Or would that be just too perfect, my memory’s way of romanticizing the moment? I do remember the book open in my lap, ignored, although it was one I have come to love and reread throughout the years—William Maxwell’s The Folded Leaf.

It’s been… what? A little more than thirty years since that morning, yet the memory of how he looked then is branded on my brain as if etched there by fire. That image is as clear as if he stood in front of me only yesterday.

It was cold. January. Carlos was bundled into a blue down-filled coat, a brightly colored striped muffler wrapped around his neck. Black jeans. I, who had been riding the train since I switched lines downtown, had a seat, but he stood across from me, jammed against the frost-etched doors, surrounded by people who now only appear to me as blurs.

He was tall, maybe a little over six feet. His eyes I’ve already told you about, but the whole package was about dark allure, exotic. I would later come to learn from him that he was Cuban, but then all I could do was drink in the simple beauty of this man. His hair was black silk. In accordance with the times, it was parted in the middle, feathered back, and just long enough to cover his earlobes. His skin was fine, nearly poreless, and a lovely shade of café au lait. Broad shoulders strained the confines of his bundled-up winter coat.

In that instant when our eyes met, the connection was like a pulse that went straight to my heart. It lasted for only a second or maybe a bit longer, but in that short space of time, my fertile imagination pictured an entire future with this man. Days together strolling a beach as the surf from Lake Michigan pounded the shore. Nights together as Carlos, dark eyes penetrating my own green orbs, pounded me. Hey, I was twenty-two years old—the hormones were flowing freely.

Yes, I lusted for him. In a split second.

And then I tore my gaze away. Heat rose to my cheeks, burning, in spite of the close-to-zero temperatures just outside the train car windows.

He had caught me. Caught me staring. In that fleeting moment, he had read my mind and seen the lust in my heart. He recognized me as the shameful, perverted thing I was, the queer I kept so carefully hidden from everyone I knew.

He was sickened by it. Or maybe another scenario—he was amused. The latter option was no more comforting. I tried to swallow and found my throat and mouth dry. I chanced a quick glance over once more and saw he had opened the Sun-Times and was reading.

My thundering heart slowed a little, and my rational mind tried to soothe me. He doesn’t know. He’s just another stranger on the train.

But God! He’s beautiful.

I chastised myself. I couldn’t allow the luxury of thinking the way I did about Carlos, even if my reverie lasted for only seconds. I was engaged to be married to my college sweetheart, who was, at this very moment, on the suburban commuter train, the Chicago Northwestern, headed into the city for her job as a sales assistant at Merrill Lynch, from her parents’ home in Kenilworth.

Alison. I turned my face to the glass and watched the river of cars moving along on the Eisenhower expressway, trying hard to forget the effect just a look from a man on a train had on me. The power, the attraction, the undeniable need I had for his touch. Whether I would admit it to myself or not, I was starved for the attention.

Yet I couldn’t allow myself these things.

It wasn’t who I was. It went against everything everyone—friends and family alike—believed about me. It went against the grain of the Catholic Church I had been baptized and confirmed in.

My biggest fear then was, if people knew, would they still love me? And the other worse fear was my awful wondering if anyone really did love me, because no one knew the real me, that dark part of myself I tried so hard to deny.

I forced myself to think of Alison, to replace the darkly taunting and delicious image of Carlos with her fair hair and blue-gray eyes, the warmth of her smile. I reminded myself, yet again, of my love for this sweet young woman. I pulled up a memory of her visiting me in the small town of East Liverpool, Ohio on summer break when we were both still in school. My parents had been away, and we spent a lot of time doing what two healthy nineteen-year-olds did (another reason I could deny these gay urges that polluted my dreams and fantasies and gave me no rest). We shared a fancy dinner neither of us could afford at the time just outside Pittsburgh. We saw The In-Laws at a long-ago razed movie theater in downtown East Liverpool. We slept curled into each other’s arms on the twin bed in my boyhood bedroom, spoons in a drawer.

It was magic.

And I cried like a baby as I watched her drive off in the rental car to Pittsburgh International Airport. I longed for her. I wanted her back. I loved her so much.

Weren’t those tears proof of my heterosexuality? Weren’t the days and nights lost in passion with a woman evidence that I could not be the thing I feared most—a gay man?

Of course they were. I couldn’t be gay. I was engaged to be married in just a few months. We would have a big wedding in the Catholic church in Lake Forest. Surely being a happy husband and maybe, one day, father would erase these urges that plagued me, would make me whole, would make me normal.

Surely.

I would be cured.

It wasn’t a stretch. I enjoyed the sex I had with Alison. I loved her with all my soul. Just to spot her walking across campus toward me lifted my heart.

My breathing returned to normal. While I had been lost in thought, we had made several stops on the Congress West line. I looked over. Carlos had gotten off at one of those stops.

The space left by where he had stood seemed to stand out to me, shimmering. Vacant. Part of me wanted to run to the window to see if I could see him making his way along the concrete platform running between lanes of traffic. But I stayed put and tried to tell myself I was glad this temptation was gone.

Chicago is a city of several million, I reasoned.

You’ll never see him again.

The thought was both a relief and a terror.

BUT I did see him again. The next time was a couple of weeks later, maybe a little more. A morning that was a bit warmer but still gripped by winter’s persistent but dying fingers. This was a morning just like the last. Again I was lost in thought, my nose buried in another book. This time I think it was one of my guilty pleasures, Stephen King and his rabid dog story, Cujo. I don’t know if I was listening to music. I was probably thinking of the workday ahead and the copy that would need to be written for products like hair dryers and electric mixers. The crowd was undistinguished, a blur and press of humanity.

I had forgotten about Carlos and the morning a few weeks ago. Work, evenings with Alison, and plans for our wedding that coming summer consumed me, and I was grateful for the distraction.

But then I looked up from the horror of Mr. King and saw him, once again standing in the crowded space by the doors of the ‘L’ car. I think I glanced up because he was looking at me.

Our eyes met. All the forgetting I had done in the ensuing weeks since I had last seen him rushed away like water down a drain. Just a glimpse of him set my heart to racing, sent blood flowing elsewhere too—lower. He was every bit as handsome as I recalled, and his beauty struck me dumb. I think if he had asked what I was reading, I wouldn’t have known what to tell him. A rabid dog was no match for the electrifying eyes of the man across from me.

He smiled at me, just a glimmer, little more than a quick upturn of his full lips.

I turned away quickly to stare out the window. My face burned as my mind interpreted the smile. It was not, could not have been, a gesture of welcome or recognition. It was not a smile that said, “Hey, I think you’re cute too.”

No, it was an expression born of ridicule. It had to be. My self-loathing back then took that simple smile and twisted it into something ugly—a taunt. He was laughing at me. Laughing at the queer who dared to stare at him for just a little too long, giving his hopeless desire away. I burned with shame, and I dared not look back.

I attempted to return to my book, but I found myself reading the same sentence over and over, trying to make sense of it. I wanted to restore order in my world, to feel like I was the young man I wanted to be, the one the whole world believed I should be.

I got off the train at Cicero that morning feeling shaken, yet wondering which stop he had gotten off at.


Buy paperback from Dreamspinner Press
Buy ebook from Dreamspinner Press
Buy from Amazon



Monday, May 28, 2018

Love is Love


"Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident." 

(Louis de Bernières in Corelli’s Mandolin)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

GUEST POST: Joe Cosentino Talks About his New Release, DRAMA FRATERNITY


Interview with Noah Oliver, of Drama Fraternity,
the sixth Nicky and Noah mystery/comedy/romance novel, by Joe Cosentino


Joe: Hi, Noah. Thank you for leaving my imagination and the six Nicky and Noah mystery novels to speak with me about Drama Fraternity, the sixth novel in your award-winning Nicky and Noah mystery series.

Noah: My pleasure, Joe. It’s great to see the real world. On second thought, I like the world of Nicky and Noah better.

Joe: Me too. Noah, since the readers can’t see you, please tell them what you look like.

Noah: I’m tall, with long wavy blond hair that Nicky says smells like strawberry fields forever, and I have blue eyes.

Joe: What does Nicky look like?

Noah: Nicky is handsome and muscular, thanks to the gym on campus, with gorgeous sparkling emerald eyes, thick dark hair, a sexy Roman nose, and smooth olive-colored skin. And he has long sideburns that I love to kiss. Since he was born in Kansas, he truly is a friend of Dorothy’s. Oh, he also has a nearly foot long penis. Thankfully I’m open (pun intended) to new adventures.

Joe: And you hail originally from Wisconsin.

Noah: The son of dairy farmers. That may explain why I like white creamy things. I’m blushing.

Joe: Me too. For any readers not familiar with your mysteries, and shame on them if they aren’t, tell them a bit about the first five Nicky and Noah mystery novels.

Noah: They chronicle how Nicky and I fell in love, got engaged, married, adopted our son, and solved lots of murder mysteries along the way. In Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Novel of the Year) college theatre professors are dropping like stage curtains at Treemeadow College, and amateur sleuths/college theatre professors Nicky and Noah (that’s my hubby and me) have to use our theatre skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out whodunit. Reviewers called Drama Queen hysterically funny farce, Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys, and a captivating whodunit. Who am I to argue? One reviewer wrote Drama Queen was the funniest books she’d ever read!

Joe: Love her!

Nicky: Me too. I’m pumped up. On to book two. In Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention) Nicky and I don our Holmes and Watson personas again to find out why bodybuilding students and professors at Treemeadow are dropping faster than barbells. Our relationship reaches a milestone by the end of the novel. That scene brought tears to my eyes.

Joe: Mine too.

Nicky: Time for a vacation. In Drama Cruise it is summer on a ten-day cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back. Nicky and I must figure out why college theatre professors are dropping like life rafts as Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship starring other college theatre professors from across the US and me. Complicating matters are our both sets of wacky parents who want to embark on all the activities on and off the boat with us.

Joe: Your parents remind me of mine.

Noah: And here I thought they were unique.

Joe: And I love how your father, like Nicky, is somewhat of a sleuth. As they say, men marry their fathers.

Noah: And marrying Nicky was the highlight of my life, as was our honeymoon in Hawaii. In Drama Luau, Nicky is directing the luau show at the Maui Mist Resort, where he and I need to figure out why muscular Hawaiian hula dancers are dropping like grass skirts. Our department head/best friend and his husband, Martin and Ruben, are along for the bumpy tropical ride.

Joe: They’re based on my spouse and me.

Noah: And they are equally adorable. In Drama Detective, Nicky is directing and ultimately co-starring with me as Holmes and Watson in a new musical Sherlock Holmes play at Treemeadow College prior to Broadway. Martin and Ruben, their sassy office assistant Shayla, Nicky’s brother Tony, and our son Taavi are also in the cast. Of course dead bodies begin falling over like hammy actors at a curtain call. Once again Nicky and I use our drama skills to figure out who is lowering the street lamps on the actors before we get half-baked on Baker Street. They’re all terrific cozy gay mystery novels starring the man of my dreams.

Joe: Explain for the readers what you mean by a cozy mystery series?

Noah: In the case of the Nicky and Noah mysteries, the setting is warm and cozy. Treemeadow College in Vermont is the perfect setting for a cozy mystery with its white Edwardian buildings, low white stone fences, lake and mountain views, and cherry wood offices with tall leather chairs and fireplaces. Also, in our series the clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, and there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning faster than a priest headed to altar boy training (as Nicky would naughtily say). At the center of our story is a touching gay romance between Nicky and me. As we fall in love, I’ve heard the readers fall in love with us. And we fall in love with them!

Joe: Now tell us about your current release?

Noah: In Drama Fraternity, Nicky is directing Tight End Scream Queen, a slasher movie filmed at Treemeadow College’s football fraternity house, co-starring Taavi, Martin, Shayla, and me. Rounding out the cast are members of Treemeadow’s Christian football players’ fraternity along with two hunky screen stars. When the quarterback, jammer, wide receiver, and more begin fading out with their scenes, Nicky and I once again need to use our drama skills to figure out who is sending young hunky actors to the cutting room floor before we hit the final reel.

Joe: Can you give the readers a run down on some of the characters?

Noah: Sure. First and foremost is my handsome husband. And me.

Joe: And?

Noah: We are joined by favorite regular characters like Martin, Ruben, Shayla, our son Taavi, Detective Manuello, my parents, and Nicky’s parents.

Joe: And book six adds a number of new characters.

Noah: Right, like Alejandro Gallo, the handsome and muscular star (who plays a vampire on TV’s Suck Off) cast as the detective in the film. There’s also hunky heartthrob (of the film Full Moon) who plays the lead role of Davey Doubt, the football team’s taunted and misunderstood tight end. And I can’t leave out the adorable and shy young screenwriter, Robert Lee, who penned Davey Doubt’s story based on his own.

Joe: Should Nicky be jealous?

Noah: Never. I’m a one-man man, and that man is Nicky Abbondanza.

Joe: Everyone tells me the Nicky and Noah mysteries are cinematic. Rather than Logo showing reruns of Golden Girls around the clock, and Bravo airing so called reality shows, I would love to see them do The Nicky and Noah Mysteries. I want to play Martin Anderson. Who do you think should play you and Nicky?

Noah: Somebody amazingly sweet and good looking should play Nicky. How about Matt Bomer?

Joe: I don’t think there is anybody on the planet who wouldn’t agree that Matt Bomer is handsome.

Noah: And maybe Neil Patrick Harris can play me. He’s as devoted to his husband and son as I am to Nicky and Taavi. I can also see Rosie O’Donnell and Bruce Willis playing my parents, and Nathan Lane as Martin’s spouse, Ruben. Wanda Sykes would be great as Martin’s office assistant, Shayla. Joe Manganiello would be perfect as Nicky’s brother, Tony. I can also see Valerie Bertinelli and Jay Leno as Nicky’s parents. Come on, TV producers, make your offers!

Joe: I’ll be waiting.

Noah: Who was your favorite character to write in Drama Fraternity? I’m hoping it was my amazing husband.

Joe: It was. I love Nicky’s never say die attitude, wit, smarts, and perseverance in the face of adversity. Like you, Nicky is genuinely concerned for others, and will do anything to solve a murder mystery. I also really admire his loyalty to you. Who is your favorite new character in the sixth book?

Noah:  Robert Lee, the adorable, shy young screenwriter of Tight End Scream Queen. His crush on Malcolm Kahue, the hunky star of the slasher film, is touching and heartwarming. Who was the easiest character to write in book six?

Joe: Ruben and Martin, since they are based on my spouse and me. I love Martin’s paternal instincts toward Nicky and Noah, sense of theatricality, and his inquiring mind. I also like how Ruben keeps Martin in line with hysterical barbs. The older couple stay sharp by engaging in their verbal warfare, but it’s all done in deep admiration and respect. Finally, it’s wonderful to see an elderly couple so much in love (uncommon in the entertainment field), and how they can read each other like a book.

Noah: No pun intended, as Nicky would say. I hope Nicky and I grow old together like Martin and Ruben.

Joe: Me too. Which character do you like the least in book six?

Noah: I started out not liking Alejandro Gallo, the TV star playing the hot detective in the slasher film. He seems conceited and always on the make. But then I realized he was a closet gay actor terrified of losing his heart throb status if his fans were to find out the truth about him. It must have been quite a heavy burden for him to hold. It’s always so much more difficult to hide and lie than to simply be yourself. Which character was the hardest to write?

Joe: Comey Collins and Pastor Karl Bounty. I will never understand how people can use “religious freedom” to try to take away the civil rights of LGBT people and their families. Religious freedom means having the freedom to practice whatever religious you choose, not disobey the law and/or persecute others.

Noah: No arguments here. Which new character was the sexiest?

Joe: Definitely Malcolm Kahue, the handsome, muscular, Hawaiian, rebel without a cause actor playing the leading role of Davey Doubt, the tight end, in the slasher film. Like Robert Lee, the screenwriter in the novel, I think readers will be quite captivated with Malcolm.

Noah: I also think readers will like your other mystery series, even though Nicky and I aren’t in it. Pout. Please tell the readers about it.

Joe: You twisted my arm. In the Jana Lane mysteries published by The Wild Rose Press, I created a heroine who was the biggest child star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In Paper Doll Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Forced to summon up the lost courage she had as a child, Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. In Porcelain Doll Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. In Satin Doll Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. In China Doll Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, faced with murder on stage and off. In Rag Doll Jana stars in a television mystery series and life imitates art. Since the novels take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s agent and best friend are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels.

Noah: Your Dreamspinner Press novellas (In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland) were so well received as books and audiobooks, winning various awards. What do you say to people who loved them and might be surprised that the Nicky and Noah mysteries are quite different?

Joe: I tell them to get over it. That reminds me of my gay friends who say they have only one “type” of man they like. Variety is the spice of life. I’d ask them to give the Nicky and Noah mysteries a chance. As my mother said to me as a kid about fish (now one of my favorite foods—minus the mercury), “Just try it, you may like it.”

Noah: And Nicky and I also aren’t in your New Jersey beach series, whimper.

Joe: Good Segway. You should be my agent. NineStar Press published Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, and Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, and Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings about handsome Cal Cozzi’s gay beach resort on a gorgeous cove. I spent my summers as a kid on the Jersey Shore, so it’s a special place for me. The first novel was a Favorite Book of the Month on The TBR Pile site and won a Rainbow Award Honorable Mention. I love the intertwining stories so full of surprises. Cozzi Cove is a place where nothing is what it seems, anything can happen, and romance is everywhere. Some reviewers have called it a gay Fantasy Island. But we’re here to talk about the Nicky and Noah mysteries.

Noah: Featuring my amazing spouse and me. Readers, if you haven’t paid a visit to Treemeadow College with Nicky and me, do yourself a favor and get reading.

Joe: The purchase links for Drama Fraternity are below, as are my contact links, including my web site. I love to hear from readers!

Noah: Nicky and I hope to hear from you too, through Joe! We live inside his head. It’s a wild and wonderful place.

Joe: Thank you, Noah, for sharing with us today.

Noah: It was my pleasure. It is also Nicky’s and my pleasure to share this sixth novel in our series. So everyone, take your front row seat. Lights, camera, action, frat house murders!

DRAMA FRATERNITY (a Nicky and Noah mystery)
a comedy/mystery/romance novel by JOE COSENTINO
http://myBook.to/DramaFraternity
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/808178
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1128306684?ean=2940155189787
https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/drama-fraternity-a-nicky-and-noah-mystery


Theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza is directing Tight End Scream Queen, a slasher movie filmed at Treemeadow College’s football fraternity house, co-starring his husband and theatre professor colleague, Noah Oliver. When young hunky cast members begin fading out with their scenes, Nicky and Noah will once again need to use their drama skills to figure out who is sending the quarterback, jammer, wide receiver, and more to the cutting room floor before Nicky and Noah hit the final reel. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining sixth novel in this delightful series. Lights, camera, action, frat house murders!

Praise for the Nicky and Noah mysteries:

“Joe Cosentino has a unique and fabulous gift. His writing is flawless, and his use of farce, along with his convoluted plot-lines, will have you guessing until the very last page, which makes his books a joy to read. His books are worth their weight in gold, and if you haven't discovered them yet you are in for a rare treat.” Divine Magazine
“a combination of Laurel and Hardy mixed with Hitchcock and Murder She Wrote…
Loaded with puns and one-liners…Right to the end, you are kept guessing, and the conclusion still has a surprise in store for you.” Optimumm Book Reviews
“adventure, mystery, and romance with every page….Funny, clever, and sweet….I can’t find anything not to love about this series….This read had me laughing and falling in love….Nicky and Noah are my favorite gay couple.” Urban Book Reviews
“For fans of Joe Cosentino's hilarious mysteries, this is another vintage story with more cheeky asides and sub plots right left and centre….The story is fast paced, funny and sassy. The writing is very witty with lots of tongue-in-cheek humour….Highly recommended.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews
“This delightfully sudsy, colorful cast of characters would rival that of any daytime soap opera, and the character exchanges are rife with sass, wit and cagey sarcasm….As the pages turn quickly, the author keeps us hanging until the startling end.” Edge Media Network
“A laugh and a murder, done in the style we have all come to love….This had me from the first paragraph….Another wonderful story with characters you know and love!” Crystals Many Reviewers
“These two are so entertaining….Their tactics in finding clues and the crazy funny interactions between characters keeps the pages turning. For most of the book if I wasn't laughing I was grinning.” Jo and Isa Love Books
“Superb fun from start to finish, for me this series gets stronger with every book and that’s saying something because the benchmark was set so very high with book 1.” Three Books Over the Rainbow
“The Nicky and Noah Mysteries series are perfect for fans of the Cozy Mystery sub-genre. They mix tongue-in-cheek humor, over-the-top characters, a wee bit of political commentary, and suspense into a sweet little mystery solved by Nicky and Noah, theatre professors for whom all the world’s a stage.” Prism Book Alliance
“This is one hilarious series with a heart and it just keeps getting better. I highly recommend them all, and please read them in the order they were written for full blown laugh out loud reading pleasure!” Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

As an actor, Joe Cosentino 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. He was voted Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for his first Nicky and Noah mystery Drama Queen. The other popular novels in the series are Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity. Joe also wrote the cherished Dreamspinner Press novellas: In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland, and the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories: A Home for the Holidays and The Perfect Gift. His much-loved Cozzi Cove series published by NineStar Press include Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings. Finally, Joe is also the author of the cherished Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press). Joe is currently Chair of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. Coming next: Holiday Tales from Fairyland, the second Tales from Fairyland Book; The First Noel, Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories Book 3; Cozzi Cove: Happy Endings, the fifth Cozzi Cove novel; Drama Castle, the seventh Nicky and Noah mystery!
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JoeCosentinoauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoeCosen
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4071647.Joe_Cosentino
Amazon: Author.to/JoeCosentino

Excerpt of Drama Fraternity, the sixth Nicky and Noah mystery, by Joe Cosentino:

After I starred opposite Noah in a new musical play at Treemeadow College last summer, we took sabbaticals and headed for the Great White Way. But it wasn’t so great. Sure, we won “Bravos!” and Tony Awards, but the glamorous life of living in “the city that never sleeps” grew as tiring as a child with ADD on a sugar high at Christmas after stealing his mother’s uppers. No longer dazzled by the bright lights and flashing marquees of Broadway, we longed for our little hamlet, and our not so little Victorian house (actually the college’s house) in Treemeadow—especially when an offer came my way to direct Tight End Scream Queen, a low budget indie slasher film. When I read the screenplay, I couldn’t help thinking of Williams, Hawthorne, Alcott, Twain, Wilde, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. How they would be turning in their graves. Okay, the script was crap, but the plot intrigued me.
Clearly there would be no Academy Awards in Tight End Scream Queen’s future, however, it was to be my film directorial debut. And it would be shot at our own Treemeadow College! The selected location was the Phi Delta BOFO (Ball on the Field Only) Christian football players’ fraternity house. More importantly, there were roles in the film for Noah, Taavi, Martin, and Martin’s ex-administrative assistant Shayla Johnson. Of course, Martin’s husband Ruben Markinson would produce. One of our female theatre majors (Bonnie Tyler) and three male BOFO Fraternity brothers (Petey Collins, Lenny Benedetto, and Tibald Regina) would appear in the film alongside two stars (Alejandro Gallo and Malcolm Kahue). I was sold, or rather bought.

Friday, May 25, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Couple Next Door are not who they seem


Below is an excerpt from The Couple Next Door, and it’s a scene where two lost souls—Jeremy and Shane—at last unite, under very difficult circumstances. See, Shane has been physically and emotionally abused by the man with whom he lives. Jeremy has been witness to it and has tried to be a friend, to help, to perhaps even be a savior. He’s tried to keep a respectable distance.

But the pull between these two men, as you’ll read, is just too powerful….

EXCERPT
Does my knowing the truth make me an accomplice? Does Shane knowing the truth make him an accessory after the fact to murder?

What, I ask myself for the thousandth time, have I gotten myself into? The answer comes to me in an image: Shane, smiling, the delight clear in his icy blue eyes when he first sees me.

A man. It’s always a man. If I could learn to live without men, I’d be happy, I tell myself.

Good luck with that.

I go into the kitchen, grab some oranges and a couple of protein bars from a drawer. It’s a meager breakfast, but it’s the best I have to offer.

Knock, knock, knock and Shane opens the door. His eyes are rimmed in red. He looks as though he hasn’t slept—like me. He wears a torn and faded navy blue T-shirt and gray sweatpants. I can see the outline of his cock through the loose jersey fabric. My mind wanders away from danger, scaling other exhilarating heights.

He looks breathtaking. All I want to do is hold him, comfort him, and go from there—proceed directly to his bedroom, do not pass go. Why am I thinking of sex at such a horrible time, when he has shared with me the truth of his history? Now is the time for talk, not lovemaking. Yet the lust persists like an itch right in the center of my brain. There’s only one way to scratch it.

It’s like he’s read my mind. He takes the fruit and the protein bars from me and turns away to set them on the arm of a chair near the front door. Then he comes back to me and enfolds both of my hands in his own.

The moment is too charged with something, some kind of electric connection, for words. Talking would break the spell. The silence is delicious and weighted.

His hands are warm, verging on fiery, feverish. He tugs me toward him roughly, and before I know what’s happening, I’m in his arms. This is no friendly “hello” hug. This is an embrace born of hunger, of desperation, of an animal need for comfort. His mouth seeks mine, starving, and the merging of our lips and tongues is like some kind of communion. It’s more than passion. It’s the uniting of two lost souls.

And with the thought of lost souls, I realize why we both feel such a connection. In his famished kiss, I can feel not only his need for me but also mine for him.

We stop only long enough to turn, to head toward the bedroom. Shane never lets go of at least one of my hands. I can almost feel his need to cling, to ensure I don’t escape.

I welcome it.

He kicks the door closed, and then he’s on me like some kind of jungle cat, ripping the few clothes I wore off, scratching me in the process. I will not see the claw marks until later, until they appear red and scarlet on my flesh. I will rub them, treasuring the memory connected to them. Now, though, there is only animal want and the desire, deep-seated, for human comfort that only oblivion can provide.

We tumble on one of the two beds crammed into the room together, so hungry we can’t stop devouring the other. Not just cocks but nipples, armpits, the crooks behind knees, the tender, sensitive flesh of our thighs, the smalls of our backs. Fluid—saliva, come, tears, all flow, and we exchange them. Greedily.
He mounts me. I mount him. We are in such a haze we almost forget the condoms and the lube.

Almost.

Time stands still as we fuck. As we suck. As we wait, breathless, and do it again.

It’s not until I am lying in Shane’s arms later, when our respiration and heartbeats have returned to some semblance of normalcy, that we speak.

I mince no words. “Why did he do it?”

BLURB
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.

BUY
Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback
Amazon Kindle
Amazon paperback


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Fill to the RIM



Once upon a time, I wrote a column for a weekly Chicago LGBT paper called TALES FROM THE SEXUAL UNDERGROUND. I wanted to write about people who were not just out, but out there, people who lived their sexual lives in ways most of us could only imagine…and for whom the flavor vanilla had absolutely no appeal. I interviewed porn stars, prostitutes, self-proclaimed sex pigs, and delved into bizarre sexual practices. It was eye-opening, arousing, and a lot of fun (but never, never good clean fun). My columns all explored a side of life that exists not in the twilight zone, but in my favorite destination…the sexual underground.

Here's a sample. 

Fill it to the Rim…
Ask your mother, or any of your straight friends, to use the word “rim” in a sentence as a verb and they may be hard pressed to come up with a response. Oh sure, Mom might say, “Grandma’s lovely mixing bowl was rimmed in fleur-de-lis.” But for the most part, your straight friends probably think of the word rim as a noun.
 
But ask your gay brethren and you’ll come up with an entirely different response. The rim of their favorite coffee cup is probably the last thing to come to their filthy little minds when that particular three-letter word arises in conversation. “Rimming” or “tossing a salad” are just a couple of metaphors for the act known less delicately as “eating butt” or for those of a more clinical semantic bent, analingus.

 
But how safe is putting your tongue where the sun don’t shine? Once again, I will reiterate my claim, before I go any further, that I am not a doctor, nor have I ever even played one on TV, so what I say here should not be construed as medical advice. It’s only the results of my own feeble research into the topic that I present here, so take it with a grain of salt…or a shot of penicillin…or a hepatitis vaccination. Which brings me to my first point: hepatitis. Other than winding up with a shit-eating grin, your biggest risk when it comes to rimming is contracting hepatitis, A or B, maybe even C. Face it, butt munchers, the easiest way to get hepatitis is through fecal matter and you’re bound to come into contact with some if you go sticking your nose (and your mouth) in a loved one’s butthole, however tight, pink, hairy or beautiful that little rosebud may be. The good news here is that you can allay many of your worries by visiting your doctor and getting yourself vaccinated against the dreaded virus(es). Then you can munch away with abandon, bearing in mind that you have not been vaccinated against other nasty little critters you could pick up this way, like parasites. As with most any gestures of affection, you must weigh the risks and benefits of any such display and decide what is right for you. Keeping your nose out of others’ business is your decision, as an educated consumer. 

 
You may be wondering about that old bugaboo we hear so much about these days: HIV. From what I’ve learned, rimming is not all that likely to give you the dreaded virus, provided you have a healthy mouth (no cuts, sores, blisters, icky gums, etc.) and he has a clean ass free from any sores, rips or cuts. We won’t even get into felching here. 

 
I guess when it comes to tossing a salad, cleaning the kitchen, or whatever fanciful term you choose to dress up your taste for butt with, the key words are common sense and caution.

 
So, dear ones, I close with two clichés: bottoms up! And bon appetit!

Friday, May 18, 2018

FLASHBACKFRIDAY: Have Dinner at Jack's this Weekend!




Today, I look back at my novel, Dinner at Jack’sLike my previous Dinner at Home, it's another romance with recipes. It deals with post-traumatic stress disorder, food, love, and redemption through the latter two. The gorgeous cover was designed by the super-talented Reese Dante. 

BLURB
Personal chef Beau St. Clair, recently divorced from his cheating husband, has returned to the small Ohio River town where he grew up to lick his wounds. Jack Rogers lives with his mother Maisie in that same small town, angry at and frightened of the world. Jack has a gap in his memory that hides something he dares not face, and he’s probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Maisie, seeking relief from her housebound and often surly son, hires Beau to cook for Jack, hoping the change might help bring Jack, once a handsome and vibrant attorney, back to his former self. But can a new face and comfort food compensate for the terror lurking in Jack’s past?

Slowly, the two men begin a dance of revelation and healing. Food and compassion build a bridge between Beau and Jack, a bridge that might lead to love.

But will Jack’s demons allow it? Jack’s history harbors secrets that could just as easily rip them apart as bring them together.

BUY
Dreamspinner Press ebook | Dreamspinner Press paperback (when you purchase the paperback, Dreamspinner Press gives you the ebook for free!)
Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback (when you purchase the paperback, Amazon gives you the ebook for 99-cents!)

REVIEWS
It's probably no secret that I really enjoy Rick R. Reed's mad writing skills. For example, Reed's Big Love is one of my 2016 favorites. His latest book "Dinner at Jack's" is in the same vein as Big Love in that it really delves into the two main characters - Beau St. Clair and Jack Rogers - and its conclusion is heartfelt, satisfying and well worth the wait, much like a lovingly prepared home-cooked meal.
GAY BOOK REVIEWS

Storyteller Rick R. Reed wove an intricate tail of of the beginning of the perfect love affair, lost in time and rediscovered in the cobwebs of the mind. He bought Jack out of his reverie and gave Beau a reason to fall in love all over again. Throughout it all, the author continued to entice this reader with delicious meals and recipes that made salivating take on a whole new name.
ALPHA BOOK REVIEWS

Dinner at Jack's is definitely romance, with a major thread of fate interweaving the storyline. However, the side cast had a more romantic bent, which I loved. Beau and Jack had issues to overcome before they could reach romance. The best way to describe the entire novel is to say Beau was like a person holding out their hand, trying to feed a wounded animal. Beau was patient and kind to our wounded Jack.

WICKED READS 

BUY
Dreamspinner Press ebook | Dreamspinner Press paperback (when you purchase the paperback, Dreamspinner Press gives you the ebook for free!)
Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback (when you purchase the paperback, Amazon gives you the ebook for 99-cents!)

Friday, May 11, 2018

FLASHBACKFRIDAY: Have Dinner at Fiorello's tonight!



Although Dinner at Fiorello’s doesn’t contain actual recipes, it does contain a lot of food. Below is an excerpt that shows you our main character, Henry Appleby, on his very first—and very nervous—visit to the restaurant where he hopes to go against his family’s wishes and apply for a job working in the kitchen. 

Read the excerpt, and if you’re intrigued by what Rosalie serves Henry, read on for the recipe. You should note that the Tripe Stew is a dish my Sicilian mom would make—and that I would always turn my nose up at. Now that Mom’s no longer with us (she passed in 2007), I’m sorry I never gave it a try. It always smelled heavenly.

EXCERPT—“Tripe Stew and A Case of the Nerves”

Rosalie, as this must be, seemed like she’d come straight from central casting where the request was for someone who looked like an Italian mother. Rosalie had an upsweep of salt-and-pepper hair and wore a black dress and what Henry mother would call sensible shoes. Her nose was big, her features careworn, but there was something about her eyes, a greenish-brown in color, that exuded warmth and maybe, if he looked really hard, mischief. She didn’t smile. “Did Carmela get your drink order?” she asked.
“Yeah, she’s bringing me some water. And bread.”
“Good. Take a look at the menu and see what you want. The fish today is good. Snapper with olives, garlic, and tomatoes. It’s fresh.”
She hurried away, and Henry opened the menu and began to scan it. He wanted to let out a little sigh. For him, this collection of food was like porn was to some of his peers. Right away, he could see the offerings leaned toward what Henry imagined was southern Italian comfort food—baked manicotti, ricotta pie, braccioli, greens and beans in tomato sauce, a pepper and egg sandwich on “Mom’s homemade bread,” were just a few of the things that set Henry’s mouth to watering.
The menu was like the family photos on the wall. It made him feel like he was visiting someone’s home, sitting in their kitchen, and being welcome. No pretense. Just a suggestion of “we’re so glad you’re here.”
When Rosalie returned, Henry ordered a cappicola sandwich with mozzarella and arugula, also on homemade bread.
“Anything else?” Rosalie asked. Henry noticed she hadn’t written anything down.
“Does it come with anything?”
“Like?”
“Fries?”
The question finally got Rosalie to crack a smile. “We don’t have fries. I can have the cook make you a nice salad, or we got roasted red potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic. Very tasty.”
“Sounds like it. I’ll have the potatoes.”
“Good choice. You could stand to gain a few pounds.” Rosalie looked him up and down.
Henry was surprised to hear her assessment. His mom was always getting on him about watching his calories and carbs.
Without another word, Rosalie turned and walked away. She disappeared into the kitchen. She came back out moments later and set down a small cup full of what looked like some sort of stew.
“What’s this?” Henry asked, inhaling the rich aroma of tomatoes and garlic. “I didn’t order it.”
“On the house. Just something to tide you over until Vito makes your sandwich. It’s what we had at our family meal today.”
“What is it?”
“Tripe with tomatoes and potatoes. It’s good. Mangia!”
Henry wanted to ask, “Isn’t that cow stomach?” but Rosalie had already taken off to wait on another table. He picked up his spoon and moved it around in the cup with more than a little doubt. Hey, if you’re thinking you’re some kind of foodie and today could be the start of a new direction for you, you can’t be a candy ass about trying new things. Just take a bite.
He did. The tripe was a little chewy but had a wonderful meaty richness to it that was complemented by the sauce, which was redolent of tomatoes and garlic. Henry could also taste carrots, onions, and herbs like oregano. He was surprised that it was actually quite delicious, and in no time he had finished the small bowl and found himself wishing for more.
The rest of Henry’s lunch did not disappoint him and continued on its theme of Italian comfort food. Everything he ate was filling, richly flavored, and bore all the signs of being prepared fresh right here on the premises. The bread was a revelation—light, airy, with a golden crust that stood up to the bite. The crust was hard, but in a delightful way.
He pushed his plate away and wondered about dessert. Rosalie, after all, had said he needed to put on some weight. But he was so stuffed—that sandwich was huge—that he was afraid he’d burst if he ate so much as another morsel.
Now came the moment of truth. Of course he’d pay the check; that was a given. But did he have the nerve to do what he’d really come here to do?
Baby steps. He told himself he’d be a fool and a coward if he didn’t at least fill out the application. He could always refuse the job if he decided he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, as the universe expected him to do. That way he could turn it down if they called him, which even Henry knew was unlikely.
Working here would be fun, Henry thought, even if he wouldn’t fit in with his flaxen hair and blue eyes. So what? He could be from northern Italy. They had blonds there, didn’t they?
Rosalie brought him his check. “Take your time,” she said. Henry pulled out the cash he had brought along—no way was he using a credit card for this—and put down enough to cover the bill and a generous tip for the “warm and welcoming” Rosalie.
And then he sat back. Everything he had eaten began to churn. I can’t do it. It’s more than just filling out an application and waiting to see what happens. It’s defying your family. You know they’ll be unhappy, especially Dad. Unhappy? He’d be furious, ashamed, and questioning my sanity.
If I do this, and they just so happen to offer me the job, I will want it. No doubt. And this is not a summer job. It’s not fair to take it under the pretense that I can just leave when school starts in the fall.
So at least you understand yourself now and what’s at stake. No illusions.
He picked up a piece of cappicola that had fallen out of his sandwich and gnawed on it, its rich spices and heat bursting on his tongue. He slowed his breathing to listen to the bustle in the kitchen. Someone shouted, “Throw it away! It smells rotten.” Henry grinned.
He took in all the other diners. They seemed happy, content, their bellies full. Wouldn’t it be something to feed people as his life’s work? Wouldn’t that mean more than managing stuff like portfolios, hedge funds, and other things his dad talked about over the dinner table? Henry was pretty much clueless about what his father did, and worse, he was sure he had no interest in finding out.
Do it.
RECIPE—TRIPE AND POTATO STEW

To serve 4, you’ll need:
2 lbs. pre-boiled tripe, cut into bite-sized strips (you need to pre-boil it for about an hour, just to tenderize it)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
Olive oil
A couple tablespoons white wine
8 oz. can of whole tomatoes, crushed up with your hands
4-6 small potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Bay leaf
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, dried thyme
Parmesan for serving

Directions
1. In a large, heavy pot, sauté onion, carrot and celery in olive oil until soft, making sure not let any of them brown. Season with salt and pepper as you go.
2. Add the tripe strips and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes to allow it to take on the flavor of the aromatics. Then add white wine, raise the heat, and let the wine cook off.
3. Add tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them to the pot, together with the bay leaf and herbs. Mix everything well and cover the pot. Turn down the heat to low and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the tripe is tender and the sauce reduced. About halfway through the simmering, add the potatoes, mix them in, re-cover the pot and continue simmering. When the tripe is tender, if you find the dish too liquid, uncover the pot and raise the heat to reduce for a few minutes, until you have the consistency you like. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
4. Eat with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil on top.

BLURB
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.

BUY 

Friday, May 4, 2018

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY The World's Best Spaghetti Sauce and DINNER AT HOME



Food, Memories, and Love

It might just be me, but I believe one of the most powerful ways you can show someone you love them is through feeding them. Growing up, the maternal side of my family was Sicilian. And let me tell you, the Sicilians believe in three things: love, family, and food. You simply did not turn down food when you visited my relatives (and you always sat around the kitchen table when you visited, never the living room).

Mom and me, circa 1961.
My mom, who passed away from cancer in 2007, was a product of her Italian roots. Her best food was the simple Sicilian peasant fare she grew up on and learned to cook from the aunts and grandmother who raised her. One of her best recipes, and the one she was known for, was her spaghetti sauce and meatballs. To this day, I make her all-day-simmer sauce on lazy Sundays. The smell of it brings her memory back to me more powerfully than any photograph and, yes, that aroma often brings a tear to my eye.

I could not write my “romance with recipes” Dinner at Home, without including that recipe. I share it with you below. I also would like to share a little excerpt from the book, in which my main character, Ollie, remembers making meatballs with his own Italian mom. The excerpt reminds me of the special times I shared with my mother, almost always in the kitchen.

Ollie and Meatballs (an excerpt from Dinner at Home)

“Go ahead, you do it.”

Ollie looks up at his mother, her warm smile, her dark hair and green eyes as she stares down at the five-year-old, expectantly. 

“Like this?” Ollie asks and he upends the jug of milk over a couple of slices of white bread his mother has placed in the sink.

“Rub it in. Get the bread all nice and wet,” his mother says.

“Like it’s getting a bath?” Ollie asks.

His mother laughs. “Like it’s getting a bath.”

Once the bread is thoroughly wet, Ollie picks it up and holds it, dripping, over a bowl of equal parts ground beef, veal, and pork. 

“Now grind it all up,” his mother says. And Ollie squeezes the bread, squeezing and twisting it until it drops in damp crumbs to the meat.

“Very good.” His mom pats his head. “What comes next?”

“The eggs?”

“That’s right.” His mom hands him the first egg and Ollie awkwardly cracks it against the side of the glass bowl. Some of the white runs down the outside of the bowl. “That’s okay,” his mom says when he looks up at her, lower lip out and eyes wide. “You’ll get it right with this one.” And she hands him another egg.

He does, cracking the egg and opening it over the meat and bread mixture so the yolk breaks when it hits. He looks down at the mixture, then back to Mom. “What’s next?”

“You know what’s next.”

“Garlic?”

“Lots of garlic.” She has already chopped the cloves fine and she gestures for him to cup his hands. When he does so, she delivers the pungent smelling stuff into his palms and tells him to scatter it around.
They add dried basil, oregano, onion powder, and salt and pepper. “Now get your hands in there and mix it all up.” She rubs his back as he combines everything, giggling at the wet mushiness of the mixture. She giggles too.

“Now the best part!” Ollie says. “Meatballs.”

His mother pulls a chair from the kitchen table and sets little Ollie on it so he can work more easily. She rolls up her sleeves and says, “Let’s get to work.”

Ollie awakened from the dream with a smile. One of his favorite childhood memories was helping his Sicilian mother make her spaghetti sauce and meatballs every Sunday. He did it throughout his life. He could now make her simmer-all-day-thick, rich, and delicious sauce with his eyes closed. Even though he used all the same ingredients in all the same proportions, it never tasted quite the same. Good, but just not quite the same. There was no substitute for a mother’s love.

Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs
(Serves 4-6)

1 29-oz. can tomato puree
1 12-oz. can tomato paste
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon each oregano, basil, and onion powder
2 handfuls grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (half a cup?)
7 cups water or 1-2 cups red wine with the remainder water (I usually use wine)

Note: Most all of the above ingredients can just be eyeballed. Mix everything in a big pot, add meatballs and pork and simmer for at least four hours. Highly recommended: brown some pork (ribs, chops, whatever’s cheap, a little less than a pound in the pan you’re going to cook the sauce in. Just caramelize it. Once it’s done, pull out, deglaze with a splash of red wine, and begin making your sauce.)

Meatballs
1 lb. ground beef (or beef and pork, or turkey)
1 egg
1 slice bread
¼ cup milk
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley, onion powder, basil, oregano (just eyeball all of this)

Take a slice of bread, wet with milk, crumble into meat, and add seasonings and egg. Mix with hands, form into balls, brown in hot fry pan on stove in a little olive oil, and drop into the sauce.

Read another excerpt

BUY
from Dreamspinner Press in ebook or in paperback
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback
Audiobook

Note: This blog post originally appeared on The Novel Approach.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

An Update on a Fairy Tale, by a Fairy


 BEAU AND THE BEAST is my LGBT Seattle-set, modern-day version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. I hope you'll pick up a copy! 

BUY
At JMS Books
Amazon Kindle (FREE if you're in the Kindle Unlimited program)
AllRomance Ebooks

BLURB
Beau is a down-on-his-luck street artist living on the streets of Seattle. One rainy night, he is accosted by a group of fag-bashing thugs, intent on robbing him of his art supplies and humiliating Beau for who he is. Beau is beaten into unconsciousness ...

... And awakens in a bedroom, head bandaged, with no memory of how he got there. Outside his window pine trees and mountain vistas beckon.



Beau’s tale grows more mysterious when a large, muscular man begins bringing Beau his food. The man says nothing -- and wears a wolf mask. When he finally does speak, it’s only to tell Beau to call him “Beast.”



What secrets does the mask hide? What do these two outsiders have in common? And will their odd circumstances bring them to the brink of love -- or rip them apart? Inspired by the timeless fairy tale, this is a haunting love story that reveals that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.


EXCERPT

The door opened and a large figure, clothed all in black, stood for a moment, framed in the doorway. His massive shoulders were so broad that Beau wondered if he would have difficulty making his way across the threshold. The man -- and Beau was sure it was a man despite not being able to see his face—stood well over six feet tall, perhaps closer to seven. In the form-fitting black jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt, Beau made out a pumped-up body in which the muscles were piled on like slabs. His hands, huge, dwarfed the silver tray he clutched, a tray containing a ceramic teapot and several bowls and plates.

Breakfast? Dinner? What time was it, anyway?

And, more importantly, was he a prisoner here?

The last thought came unbidden, but bolstered by the logic of the most mysterious and disconcerting aspect of the man standing before him -- his face was completely covered.

And it wasn’t merely covered, but covered in a most unusual fashion: with a mask made of rubber that looked surprisingly realistic -- the visage of a wolf. The salt and pepper fur crowning the top of the mask blended perfectly with a mane of salt and pepper hair that hung halfway down the man’s back.

“Who are you?” Beau managed to stammer and his words seemed to propel the man forward, although he offered no response. His silence was equal to his appearance in eeriness.

Beau caught his breath as the man approached the bed, his footfalls echoing on the hardwood. Beau wanted to ask more, but suddenly lost the power to form words. He could only stare.

The man paused at the bed and stooped over, one hand outstretched. Beau imagined he was going to touch him and recoiled, drawing back.

But all the guy did was push the Tiffany-style lamp on the bedside table over a few inches, so he could set down the tray. Once he positioned the tray just so, he stood back up and clasped his hands together, staring down at Beau.

Even though Beau could not see his face, he had a certainty that this man, creature, whatever was hiding behind the mask, was smiling. Beau glanced up at him and, for the first time, their eyes met.

Beau was struck by the intensity of the eyes peering out from behind the holes in the wolf mask. Not only was the gaze fixed and passionate, but also the eyes themselves were remarkable. They were a pale green, the palest shade of green Beau had ever seen on a person, almost a kind of aquamarine, and they were rimmed by long black lashes.

They were the kind of eyes, Beau thought, that had inspired that careworn cliché for the eyes: the window to the soul.

Just this connection with the man’s eyes calmed Beau somewhat. Even though the man had spoken not a word, there was something in those eyes of his that told Beau he was safe and that the man standing above him meant no harm.

BUY
At JMS Books
Amazon Kindle
AllRomance Ebooks

Friday, April 20, 2018

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY: True Romance, Real Life, and LEGALLY WED



WHY WRITE ROMANCE?

I get asked this question a lot and the answer lies in the little story I’m about to tell you. It’s a story about finding one’s own happy ending—and how, today, even two men in love can end up Legally Wed.

My husband Bruce and I were having dinner at a little French bistro in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle on my birthday a couple years ago and, as the wine flowed, we talked. He told me how content he was with his life and that, really, there was nothing else he could wish for. I felt the same way (I still do). It's nice when you're on the same page. He said we had something special and that one word summed up what we had. I'll get to that word later.

But it wasn't easy getting to this page in the book of our lives. And thinking about Bruce and me has made me think about my other special love, and that's writing. If any of you out there have followed my career at all, you'll know that, lately, my stories have plotted out the course of love just as much as they have the build-up of suspense or horrifying revelations. I can proudly say I am now just as much a romance writer as I am a horror or dark suspense writer.

You may wonder why my writing slipped off in this new direction. I certainly have. And I think it has a lot to do with Bruce. See, we're happy. We're content. We're settled and in a love that only continues to grow with the passage of time.

I don't know if this is a leap of logic that makes sense but I think that I am more drawn to writing stories that map out the connections made by the human heart these days because I am not expending as much energy seeking out that connection in my own personal life. Now that I have found my one true love, my soul mate, I can open up and write more freely about what draws people together and what keeps them apart. I find those connections fascinating and I don't believe I could write about them objectively until after I had found, after much searching, a relationship that would work for me, one that would nurture and sustain.

Before Bruce, there was a marriage to a woman and a child. Both of those were—and still are—wonderful in their own ways. But trying to live a life that was not my own was not only emotionally exhausting, it was dangerous in many ways. With a lot of heartache, I had to let that dream, which really was never for me, go. I came out in my early thirties, in a world where gay marriage was not really even being discussed yet and the specter of AIDS loomed large. It was not necessarily a good time for a gay man to be experiencing the world and finding himself. But then, when is it ever a good time? But my point is I went through a lot of searching, a lot of experimenting, a lot of bad choices, always in search of love, and always coming up empty-handed.

A lot of those disappointments occurred because the real love I needed—the love of myself—I had yet to discover. I look at my thirties as my true adolescence, with its attendant growing pains.

It wasn't until I was 43 that I met Bruce. Gone were the hopes that I'd meet a special man in some bar or even a gay social group. The era of the Internet was on us in a big way and I placed an ad with the headline, "What's Your Story?" Bruce was one of several who responded, and the only one with whom I connected. He sent me some pictures of himself. He said things in his very first response to my ad that resonated.

I wrote back. He wrote back and we started a daily correspondence that would last two weeks, two weeks before we even laid eyes on one another, even though we lived less than two miles away from the other. We began to get to know each other and we both liked what we saw, what we read in our lines to each other, and what was between them. We had both reached a stage where we were ready for the other. Timing is everything.

We met in person and it was magic.

I won't say we didn't have some bumps in the road, though, getting to where we are today. Nothing really good ever comes easily. But Bruce and I were always willing to talk--whether it was face to face or through e-mails (and now texts and Facebook updates!). The line of communication has always been open and I think that's what's made the difference with us.

It's also made it possible for me to be able to sit back and be more objective about writing romance because finally, at age 59, I finally, finally, have a handle on what works and what doesn't. Until I had that key, I honestly believe I couldn't have written convincingly or effectively about romantic love.

So you can expect two things from me—one, that I will always be in love with Bruce and two, that you will enjoy many more stories of love and romance between two men—because of Bruce and what he gave to me.

Oh, and that one word I alluded to above? The one Bruce used when he said it summed up what we had?

That word was family.



Legally Wed BLURB

(Dreamspinner Press/2014/Contemporary Romance)

Love comes along when you least expect it. That’s what Duncan Taylor’s sister, Scout, tells him. Scout has everything Duncan wants—a happy life with a wonderful husband. Now that Seattle has made gay marriage legal, Duncan knows he can have the same thing. But when he proposes to his boyfriend Tucker, he doesn’t get the answer he hoped for. Tucker’s refusal is another misstep in a long line of failed romances. Despairing, Duncan thinks of all the loving unions in his life—and how every one of them is straight. Maybe he could be happy, if not sexually compatible, with a woman. When zany, gay-man-loving Marilyn Samples waltzes into his life, he thinks he may have found his answer.

Determined to settle, Duncan forgets his sister’s wisdom about love and begins planning a wedding with Marilyn. But life throws Duncan a curveball. When he meets wedding planner Peter Dalrymple, unexpected sparks ignite. Neither man knows how long he can resist his powerful attraction to the other. For sure, there’s a wedding in the future. But whose?

Legally Wed EXCERPT
Same-sex marriage had just become legal in Washington State and Duncan Taylor didn’t plan on wasting any time. He had been dating Tucker McBride for more than three years and, ever since the possibility of marriage had become more than just a pipe dream, it was all Duncan could think of. He had thought of it as he gazed out the windows of his houseboat on Lake Union, on days both sunny and gray (since it was late autumn, there were a lot more of the latter); he had thought of it as he stood before his classroom of fourth graders at Cascade Elementary School. He had thought of it when he woke up in the morning and before he fell asleep at night.

For Duncan, marriage was the peak, the happy ending, the icing on the cake, the culmination of one’s hearts desire, a commitment of a lifetime, the joining of two souls. For Duncan, it was landing among the stars.

And for Duncan, who would turn 38 on his next birthday, it was also something he had never dared dream would be possible for him.

And now, too excited to sleep, he was thinking about it—hard—once again. It was just past midnight on December 6, 2012 and the local TV news had pre-empted its regular programming to take viewers live to Seattle City Hall, where couples were forming a serpentine line to be among the first in the state to be issued their marriage licenses—couples who had also for far too long believed this right would be one they would never be afforded. Many clung close together to ward off the chill, but Duncan knew their reasons for canoodling went far deeper than that.

The mood, in spite of the darkness pressing in all around, was festive. There was a group serenading the couples in line, singing “Going to the Chapel.” Champagne corks popped in the background.

Laughter.

Duncan couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he watched all the male-male and female-female couples in the line, their mood of jubilation, of love, of triumph traveling through to him even here on his houseboat two or three miles north of downtown. Duncan wiped tears from his eyes as he saw not only the couples but also all the supporters, city workers, and volunteers who had crowded together outside City Hall to wish the new couples well, to share in the happiness of the historic moment.

And then Duncan couldn’t help it, he fell into all-out blubbers as the first couple to get their license emerged from City Hall. 85-year-old Pete-e Peterson and her partner and soon-to-be-wife, Jane Abbott Lighty, were all smiles when a reporter asked them how they felt.

“We waited a long time. We’ve been together 35 years, never thinking we’d get a legal marriage. Now I feel so joyous I can hardly stand it,” Pete-e said.

It was such a special moment and it was all Duncan could do not to pick up the phone and call Tucker and casually say something like, “Hey honey, you want to get married?”

Legally Wed Buy Links
Dreamspinner Ebook
Dreamspinner Paperback
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback
AllRomance eBooks