Monday, October 15, 2018

BIGGER LOVE, Now Available for Preorder, is Already Getting Raves!


Booklist:
"A tone of authentic tenderness and yearning, completely without artifice, suffuses Reed's engaging Appalachian tale of high-school gay love."

Coming out worldwide on November 13. BIGGER LOVE dares to challenge notions of gender conformity and romance in a small-town high-school setting. #ownvoices

Respected and widely-read librarian book review publication BOOKLIST says:

"A tone of authentic tenderness and yearning, completely without artifice, suffuses Reed's engaging Appalachian tale of high-school gay love. Truman's self-confident demeanor, complete with makeup and glitz, masks his fear of more ridicule and beatings. He longs for the big city, where "he could be the person he was meant to be . . . with bright lights, skyscrapers, and . . . cosmopolitan people," even though he keeps busy, directing the senior play. When a gorgeous young man, Mike, boards the school bus, Truman is drawn to him, then discovers that his single mom's suitor, George, is this mysterious stranger's dad. Reed beautifully conveys the loving mother-son bond, an unusual facet in romance novels, to great effect as Truman, though jealous of George, struggles to become a man, support his mom in their "run-down house," and develop a meaningful relationship with Mike. A romantic coming-of-age struggle that succeeds on many levels." (Whitney Scott)

PRE-ORDER

Monday, October 1, 2018

BIG LOVE and the Characters Who Bring that Love to Life

Big Love contains three of characters I think I’ve fallen in love more than any characters in any book I’ve ever written. I think that favoritism comes from the fact that:
  1. My main characters, two high-school school teachers and a pivotal student, are capable of inspiring deep emotion but at the same time, they’re flawed human beings with whom I think we can all identify to an extent.
  2. They’re all, at least in part, me at different stages of my life and my coming out process. Big Love is not autobiographical, but I believe every writer leaves a personal stamp on each of his or her characters (and they on him!).
So, in this post, I want to get you up-close-and-personal with three brave men whom I believe you'll love as much as I do and tell you about their relationship with me and with the delicate process of coming out.

 Our first character is Dane Bernard. Dane’s a little older than your average character in a gay romance, in his forties, and living a very settled life as a high school teacher, with a wife and two adolescent children, a boy and a girl. To look at him, you’d think he had the perfect, settled life. The American dream, the source of contentment. But look closer and you’ll see a man who’s hiding his most essential self under a mound of shame and secrets. See, Dane is in the closet and thinks that, because of the people he’d hurt if he were honest about his orientation, he can never come out of that closet.

Circumstances unlock the closet door, tragic circumstances (as you’ll see when you read Big Love), but nonetheless Dane has no longer got a reason to keep his gay self a secret. Tentatively, he begins to come out. The events in the book force him to come out quicker than he might have wanted or felt comfortable with, but once he’s out and on the other side, he finds the air there is very much worth breathing and very liberating.

I was Dane at one point in my life. As far as I knew, no one knew I was gay. I was married to a woman, had a wonderful little boy, and was living the perfect suburban lifestyle. No one could see that I wore a mask every day and in my darkest hours felt that no one, not friend or family knew who I was. And if they did, my greatest horror was that they would no longer love me. Like Dane, I eventually emerged from my closet and as it was for Dane, it wasn’t always easy. Like Dane did, I found more people stuck by me and still loved me than I thought would, but some did fall away. So I understood Dane’s pain, his anguish and secrets when I was writing. I also understood how a gay man could successfully function—at least for a time and relatively speaking—as a husband and dad. But most of all, I understood and brought to you, dear reader, the joy Dane eventually found in loving himself and that one special man who comes into his life right when he needed him most.

Our second character is Seth Wolcott. Seth’s what I consider the perfectly evolved gay man. Although he’s not perfect, by any means! He’s still smarting from a recent breakup and he’s prone to falling on his ass, in more ways than one (as you’ll see when you read Big Love). But I said Seth was perfectly evolved and that’s because he’s my counterpoint to the other two characters in the book, Dane Bernard and Truman Reid, who, despite a vast age difference, are both dealing with coming out for the first time.

Seth is the character I wrote who demonstrates what it can be like when you love yourself and live your life openly and honestly. With Dane, who’s facing the potential of his first romantic involvement with another man, Seth is not only an object of affection and desire, he’s a role model—one he can and does fall in love with. For Truman, our bullied freshman, Seth is somebody he can look up to and see that by embracing who you are with no shame, you can lead a normal and happy life.

Like Dane, our married, closeted man, I think I also have aspects of Seth. Like Seth, I’m now pretty settled in my gay existence. I’m actually neither proud nor ashamed. I just am. It’s kind of like my height or the fact that I have green eyes. It’s no big deal and yet it’s everything. It’s simply a fact of life.

So it is for Seth.

So it is for me.

Our third character is Truman Reid. It’s no accident that Truman and I share the same last name (albeit spelled differently). My teenage self and Truman have in common a lot of the same heartache growing up. It’s also no accident that Truman shares a first name of a celebrated gay author, Truman Capote. See the picture of the young Capote? In my head, my Truman looks very much like the beautiful young man Capote was at the time his first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms, came out.

Truman is the character I love most in the book. He’s a mess in some ways and in others, one of the most evolved characters. Like Truman at the start of the book, I endured teasing and bullying throughout most of my junior high and high school years. I know his pain. And when you read the opening scene of the book at the first-day-of-school-assembly and how Truman is terrorized, know that I was recreating something that happened to me when I was Truman’s age.

The difference between Truman and me is that I took a lot longer to deal with my shame and conflict over who I was than he did. I didn’t have his teachers, Dane Bernard and Seth Wolcott, to help me accept myself. I didn’t have Truman’s wonderful mom, Patsy, who said to him:

  “God made you just the way you are, honey. Beautiful. And if you’re one of his creations, there’s nothing wrong in who you are. You just hold your head up and be proud.” 

Although make no mistake—I did have a wonderful mom. She just wasn’t as evolved in her thinking as the fiercely loving Patsy. I suspect—and hope—that you will love Truman as much as I do. And I hope that you will help cheer him on his journey from being a bullied victim to an out-and-proud kid who loves himself fiercely and accepts no less from others.

BLURB
Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay. But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men.

And a new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth himself is starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup. The last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.

As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small-town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.

BUY 
Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback
Amazon paperback (buy the hard copy and get the ebook for .99!)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Guest Post: Joe Cosentino on Holiday Tales from Fairyland


My Two Favorite Things: Holidays and Fairytales
Tales from Fairyland by Joe Cosentino

I’ve always loved fairytales, ever since my older sister first read them to me before bed eat night. I was totally entranced by peasants becoming princes and princesses and finding true love. The quaint locations, wit, wonder, drama, and happily ever after endings filled my young mind like fairies in an enchanted forest. I wanted to live in those palaces, meet the charming princes, and bring financial equality to those kingdoms. However, I was always dismayed that LGBT people didn’t ever inhabit those kingdoms and stories. So, I wrote The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland/Tales from Fairyland Book 1, published by Dreamspinner Press with an audiobook performed by Joel Leslie. Readers and listeners raved about my gay, comic, romantic twists on Cinderella, Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, and The Snow Queen.

When readers begged for more, I decided to return to Fairyland, at my favorite times: the holidays for Holiday Tales from Fairyland/Tales from Fairyland Book 2. On Halloween in story one, Ichabod Crane, a young schoolteacher, has a boner over sexy and muscular farmer Brom Bones. When the residents of the homophobic Sleepy Hollow aren’t happy about it, the headless horseman rides into town. Will Ichabod fall off his horse into Brom’s strong, rescuing arms, teaching the town folk a lesson in acceptance they’ll never forget? The second story is a take-off on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. At Christmastime, hunky Cavalier P.I. receives a visit from a new client, handsome young Fritz. Somebody strangled Fritz’s sister Clara with the ribbons of her toe shoes, and Fritz is the top suspect. But he seems more interested in the bulge in Cavalier’s tights than in getting himself off the hook. When Cavalier turns sweet on Fritz, it’s time for the private investigator to question his old dance partner the Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara’s husband the Nutcracker, Fritz’s other sister Louise, and Fritz’s Godpapa Drosselmeyer to save his intended, and find out: Who Killed Clara? Finally, at Winter Solstice, young Vasily falls in love with a mysterious, handsome man who rides by his orphanage each morning, noon, and night. Upon following him, Vasily discovers the man is a prince under the powers of Baba Yaga. Can Vasily rescue his tortured Prince Anton from the witch’s conversion therapy and dance around his pole on May Day?

You can enjoy these holiday fairytale stories in an e-book: Holiday Tales from Fairyland, or along with The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland in the paperback anthology: Tales from Fairyland Collection. I hope you read and enjoy these funny, sexy, heartwarming, romantic fairytales. They will no doubt bring you back to better, joyous times. I also hope the movie studio producing those amazing animated fairytales finally realizes that fairytales should include everyone—including the boy in love with his nutcracker doll!

HOLIDAY TALES FROM FAIRYLAND
the second Tales from Fairyland e-book novella
by JOE COSENTINO
$2.99 pre-order sale until October 1
http://mybook.to/HolidayTales
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/886272
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/holiday-tales-from-fairyland-joe-cosentino/1129229032?ean=2940155760795
https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/holiday-tales-from-fairyland

It’s holiday time in Fairyland. On Halloween, Ichabod Crane, a young schoolteacher, has a boner over sexy and muscular farmer Brom Bones. When the residents of the homophobic Sleepy Hollow aren’t happy about it, the headless horseman rides into town. Will Ichabod fall off his horse into Brom’s strong, rescuing arms, teaching the townsfolk a lesson in acceptance they’ll never forget? On Christmas, hunky Cavalier P.I. receives a visit from a new client, handsome young Fritz. Somebody strangled Fritz’s sister Clara with the ribbons of her toe shoes, and Fritz is the top suspect. But he seems more interested in the bulge in Cavalier’s tights than in getting himself off the hook. When Cavalier turns sweet on Fritz, it’s time for the private investigator to question his old dance partner the Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara’s husband the Nutcracker, Fritz’s other sister Louise, and Fritz’s Godpapa Drosselmeyer to save his intended and find out: Who Killed Clara? At Winter Solstice, young Vasily falls in love with a mysterious, handsome man who rides by his orphanage each morning, noon, and night. Upon following him, Vasily discovers the man is a prince under the powers of Baba Yaga. Can Vasily rescue his tortured Prince Anton from the witch’s conversion therapy and dance around his pole on May Day?

and

THE TALES FROM FAIRYLAND ANTHOLOGY
The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland and Holiday Tales from Fairyland paperback
by JOE COSENTINO
$12.99
http://mybook.to/FairylandAnthology

 Welcome to Fairyland, a magical place where your favorite fairytale characters come out on the other side of the rainbow. Poor and beautiful Cinder offers his clothes to a naked prince in the woods in a twist on the classic Cinderella tale. Eighteen-year-old Gideon Golden, after being thrown out of his home by his homophobic parents, breaks into the cottage of three irresistibly burly men on Bear Mountain. Romance ensues between that stringy guy with a growing appendage and the character with a thing for giants. A handsome but cold-hearted prince bewitches young Kieran into being his captive. Can Gaelen thaw the ice palace and save his love?
Then it’s holiday time in Fairyland. On Halloween, Ichabod Crane, a young schoolteacher, has a boner over muscular farmer Brom Bones. When the residents of Sleepy Hollow balk, the headless horseman rides into town teaching the townsfolk a lesson in acceptance they’ll never forget. Somebody strangled Fritz’s sister Clara with the ribbons of her toe shoes, and Fritz is the top suspect. When hunky Cavalier turns sweet on sweet Fritz, it’s time for the dancing private investigator to question everyone involved with Clara and the Nutcracker to find out who killed Clara? At Winter Solstice, can orphan Vasily rescue a tortured prince from Baba Yaga, releasing him from the witch’s conversion therapy, and dance around the prince’s pole on May Day?

Praise for The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland, the first Tales from Fairyland novella, published by Dreamspinner Press:
“This is a brilliant work, filled with imaginative twists and sly asides. This is adult literature, overflowing with sometimes gentle but often biting humor, and these fairy tales take on a new edginess without ever losing the morality underpinning each story. The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland gets my highest recommendation! If I could give it more than 5 Stars I would. Bravo, sir, bravo!” GGR Reviews
“Sometimes you are lucky enough to find an author that ticks every box you want as a reader, today I’m that lucky reader….a great saucy, fun collection and highly recommended.” Three Books over the Rainbow

“the stories are all well done and smart, engaging, funny and sweet.” Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

“The Naked Prince and Other tales from Fairyland is a fun, hilarious collection of stories. Joe outdid himself taking old favorites from our childhood and putting a grown-up spin on them….If you like gay princes, sexy bears, giants, reporters, fairy tales, comedy, suspense, and, sweet, fun man-sex, this is for you.” Cathy Brockman Romance
“If you haven’t read anything by Cosentino, you don’t know what you are missing. His humor and penchant for drama bring these old favorites a new life as he ventures deep into Fairyland….If you love fairytales, you’ve got to read the naughty versions – they are even better!” Joyfully Jay Reviews
“I was most surprised by the author’s sense of humor and his ability to get me to not only laugh out loud, but actually to “belly laugh.” I highly recommend this to audiobook lovers, and especially to those who loved fairy tales in their childhood.” Hearts on Fire Reviews
“In this wickedly entertaining take on classic fairy tales, Joe Cosentino gives us four short stories full of all the characters you remember from storybooks – Cinderella, Pinocchio, Goldilocks, Captain Hook, Jack and the Beanstalk, Prince Charming and many more – but fair warning: This ain’t your childhood Cinderella. Welcome to a world where it isn’t Pinocchio’s nose that grows when he tells a lie. Goldilocks discovers three sexy daddy bears in the woods and ‘someone’s been sleeping in my bed’ takes on a whole other connotation. Jack is ‘very nimble’ but sadly also ‘amazingly quick’ and Prince Charming dons ‘palace protection’ for hot sex with Cinder. Extra bonus points for this wonderful quip: ‘I always suspected he had more down his throat than a frog.’” Gay Book Reviews
Joe Cosentino is the author of six novellas published by Dreamspinner Press: The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Open Skye Book Reviews Audiobook of the Month); the In My Heart series: An Infatuation & A Shooting Star; and the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories: A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, and The First Noel; the Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Favorite LGBT Mystery), Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity; the Cozzi Cove series (NineStar Press): Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention/TBR Pile Book of the Month), Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, and Cozzi Cove: Happy Endings; and the Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, and Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press). As an actor, Joe appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Jason Robards, and Holland Taylor. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Goddard College, Master’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, and is currently a happily married college professor/department chair residing in New York State. 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 Holiday Tales from Fairyland, Tales from Fairyland Book 2, by Joe Cosentino

Comfortable as always in my white tights and gold jacket, I leaned back in my chair and focused on my captivating young caller. He spoke in a velvety smooth voice. His eyes seemed to penetrate my soul. Believe me, the decorated Christmas tree next to my gold fireplace wasn’t the only thing rising. “I’m sorry about your sister.”
“Me too. The Dance Village Dance Captain thinks I did it.”
“Did you?”
“I want you to prove my innocence.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
He sighed. “It doesn’t matter what I say. Nobody seems to believe me.”
I rested my elbows on the desk lined with figures of ballet dancers doing pirouettes. “I’d like to believe you.”
His handsome face softened. “And I’d like you to save me.”
I wanted to wrap my arms around him and protect Fritz from the world. “Then how about you tell me everything you know about this?”
“That may take some time.”
“I have nowhere else to go.”
“On Christmas Day?” He smirked. “Don’t you have anyone in your life, Cavalier?”
I met his gaze. “I could ask you the same question.”
“My parents are dead, and my sister has just been killed. What’s your excuse?”
“I pry into other people’s lives. It doesn’t leave me much time for a life of my own.”
“Lucky for me.” He smiled.
I’d never been that attracted to anyone before in my life. “How old are you?”
“Old enough to be tried in the Dance Village Square as an adult.”
“Meaning?”
His ruby lips parted, forming an intoxicating smile. “I’m legal, Cavalier. Twenty-one next month. And you?”
“I’m a decade older than you. So behave, or I’ll have to put you over my knee.”
“You’ll have to catch me first.” He winked. “And I’m not easily caught.”
The kid was driving me crazy. I wanted to assemblĂ© over the desk and have my way with him. Trying to maintain my professional persona, I said, “Let’s start with you telling me about this from the beginning.” Readying a pad lined with dancing snowflakes, I wrote on top, “The Case of: Who Killed Clara?”
Fritz tented his long thin fingers—and I wanted to devour them. “As kids, my sisters and I lived in a mansion. My parents weren’t around much, so the three of us spent most of the time in the playroom with our toys.”
I couldn’t resist. “Which was your favorite toy?”
“My soldier doll. He was strong and courageous. I slept with him every night.”
I couldn’t believe I was jealous of a doll. “And your sisters?”
Louise fussed over her Madame Charette doll, obviously exhibiting early lesbian tendencies. Clara loved her Nutcracker doll. Our godfather, Judge Drosselmeyer, gave it to her.”
Writing, I asked, “Can your godfather, the judge, assist you with your case now?”
He shook his head, and golden shafts formed a halo around his face. “He thinks I did it too. The patch over Godpapa’s eye isn’t the only thing keeping him from seeing clearly.”
“Let’s go back to the playroom when you were kids. How did the Nutcracker come to life?”
He did a double take. “You know about that?”
“I ran into your sister and the Nutcracker Prince when they were on their honeymoon in the Land of Sweets.”
“How sweet.” His dimples were like craters of honey.
I wanted to lick them dry. “I’m waiting for an answer to my question.”
“It’s quite a story. If I tell you, I doubt you’ll believe me.”
“Try me.” I moved my legs into third position to conceal my obvious arousal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

An #NSFW excerpt from OUT ON THE NET


Out on the Net: A Love Story in Blog Form is all about a small-town young guy’s tentative steps toward self-acceptance and finding true love. Below is one of the saddest—and most hilarious—of those tentative steps.


BLURB
Ray Tolliver has bad timing. Cold feet? It doesn’t get much worse than accepting you’re gay twenty minutes before your wedding to a woman, yet that’s just what happens.

Join Ray as he recounts in his blog the hilarious and touching events that lead him on a journey toward true love. Although he originally starts looking for love in all the wrong places, will he eventually find another man who wants more than just quick sex? A man who appreciates romance, hearts, and flowers? Or will he find that self-acceptance and bliss do not always go hand-in-hand?

And what of Alice, Ray’s lovely, jilted fiancĂ©e? Will she find it in her heart to forgive the man who left her at the altar?
These questions and more are answered in this unique love story, told in the form of blog entries. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but you’ll come away with a renewed appreciation for the power and difficulties of loving not only others, but yourself…

Get your $1.99 copy at Amazon (or FREE if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber)

EXCERPT: A VISIT TO "Lollipop Park"
Oh, I know what you’re going to say when you see the title of this entry. You’ll roll your eyes and probably think that things are going to get juicy and scandalous.
Because everyone in Summitville knows what goes on at that little rest stop just north of town, on the way to the highway. There’s a reason people snicker about it and call it “Lollipop Park.”
Are you rolling your eyes and hoping in every sense of the phrase that I will not go there?
Hang on to your hats, boys and girls, because I did go there. Sordid. Seedy. Shameful. I know. I went there in real life and I’m going there now on paper. Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
But I didn’t yet tell you why I drove out there just a couple of weeks after the disaster that was to have been my wedding day. And I haven’t yet related what happened there, so just hold your horses on your judgments, Mary. I am trying to learn to talk as I imagine a gay man would and it’s not coming easy. Case in point—calling you “Mary.” So stupid.
Anyway, Summitville, PA has no gay bars, no gay clubs, no gay newspaper. To the untrained eye, one might even claim the little riverside town has no gay people, but discerning minds know that in a town of 12,000, that can’t be true. If you take the more or less accepted rule of thumb of one in every ten people is gay (don’t ask me where I got that statistic; I’ve heard it all my life), that would mean there are at least 1200 people here just like me, or at least like me in that they prefer sausage over pie or vice versa.
I digress. Why did I stop by the rest stop, when I neither needed to rest, nor to pee? What made me go to that shadowy, stinking-of-excrement, gravel-fronted little rest stop with the obscene graffiti and lone men lingering too long in parked cars? What would possess a nice, clean, upstanding guy like me to wander out to a place known for anonymous sexual encounters?
Curiosity. Don’t give me that crap about killing the cat, either. It was curiosity. Because, you see, even though I knew now that I was a gay man, I had no idea what gay men did, where they went, how they met. Maybe if I lived in that big city to the west, Pittsburgh, with its gay bars and clubs, I would have a better idea. But here in Summitville, where when people think of “cornholing,” they think of a summertime game played with beanbags and slotted boards, I just hadn’t had much opportunity to know much about gay life—the ins and outs of it (yes, I hear you snickering…shut up!).
Ergo the rest stop, rest area, Lollipop Park, whatever you wanted to call it. It was my only frame of reference for where gay men met up. I had driven by many times, on my way to the mall, and had heard the whisperings and jokes about the place, had even pretended to find the idea of such a locale humorous. But when I was alone, I put the humor aside and toyed with the rumors I’d heard—that men sucked each other off in the woods nearby and sometimes even right there in the stalls; that guys picked each other up and went back to each other’s home for God knew what. Parcheesi? Root beer floats? I don’t think so. These ideas made me feel paradoxically sick and weak and, at the same time, queasy with desire.
So I decided that my first act as a gay man should be to meet another one. And my very limited frame of reference left this as my only option. The idea of driving up to Pittsburgh or down to Steubenville and setting foot in one of the gay bars there filled me with terror. I was so not ready to mingle with my more urban, and sophisticated, gay brethren.
So I was stuck with this seedy and unseemly choice. I pulled into the gravel parking lot, where several other cars were already sitting, and shrugged. What would be the worst that could happen? Okay, okay, I could be fag bashed or arrested…that would be the worst. But if I was careful, maybe I would come out of this at least knowing someone else like myself and maybe, oh God, just maybe, I would have my first sexual encounter with a man.
Whoa there, boy, you’re getting ahead of yourself! I quieted the lustful thoughts and the rising erection that both seemed to arrive of their own accord, with no prompting from me.
I sat in my car and looked around the little parking lot. It was around nine o’clock, dusky. A few fireflies danced in the air over the grassy area just ahead of our cars, where the Summitville park district had kindly put out a pair of decrepit looking picnic tables. Who would want to picnic here? And what was on the menu?
Shut up with the weenies comment, please!
Because of the dying light and the setting sun reflecting off car glass, it was hard to see any of the other occupants of the three other vehicles in the lot. One thing was for sure, though: from the silhouettes, I could tell that a lone male occupied each car. One of them was smoking; I could see the glow of the cherry at the tip of his cigarette as he brought it to his mouth and drew in.
What was I supposed to do now? I didn’t know, so I just sat in my car, the butterflies dancing in my stomach, for what seemed like hours, but was, in reality, only about fifteen minutes or so. I drew in a deep breath and gathered up my courage. Someone had to start something.
I rolled up my car windows and exited my Kia Soul, closing the door softly behind me. I used the remote over my shoulder to lock the car up as I headed to the little cinder block structure to my left. Even from here, the word, “MEN” beckoned in white on a blue background.
Promising.
I went inside and thought of uttering that old Bette Davis line, “What a dump!” and then chastised myself for being such a queen.
But the shitter, er, the restroom was not exactly a sight for sore eyes. It was dingy and dark, the only illumination came from a bare, low-watt bulb hanging from the ceiling. The paint-peeling industrial green walls looked like they would be damp to the touch. Flies buzzed around, obviously delighted with the luxurious accommodations. Cigarette butts and toilet paper littered the floor. Twin pieces of reflective metal, trying hard to find their motivation as mirrors, had been affixed to the wall above a pair of old, dripping, and rust-stained sink. On one wall was mounted a dispenser out of which one could get a condom for just a quarter. What was that doinghere? The whole place stank of urine and shit.
Isn’t it romantic?
If this was gay life, perhaps I should crawl back to Alice on my hands and knees and beg for forgiveness.
But, as the saying goes, “in for a penny, in for a pound,” I thought I should at least check out the rest of the place. See what some witty scribes had written on partition walls…
I headed over to the two toilet stalls and, after wiping the seat with a piece of single-ply toilet paper, I nervously sat down. Even though I had wiped the seat, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to lower my cargo shorts.
The first thing I spied was some graffiti that said, “10-4 good buddy, this is the place, pull down your pants and fuck my face.”
Charming!
I wondered what poet wannabe had written those lines on the wall and if any burly trucker had ever heeded its siren call. I searched in vain for more rhyming couplets, but none of the other graffiti matched its poetic flair. In fact, the rest of it was downright crude, exhortations to suck and be sucked, to fuck and be fucked, penis sizes, and messages left by people who cared so little about their privacy that they left phone numbers.
I could not imagine calling one of those numbers…or what kind of person would be hanging out on the other end of the line.
I stiffened—and not in a good way—as I heard footsteps. It was then that I noticed the hole drilled into the partition wall. It was just the right size to fit a hand—or, oh my Sweet Jesus, another part of the anatomy—through and positioned at waist height.
Did people really use that hole for what I thought they did?
Was there no romance in the gay world?
The footsteps neared my stall, and because there was no front door, I locked eyes with my new restroom buddy. He stopped in front of my stall and stared at me. I didn’t know what to do. Even though my shorts were up, I placed my hand over my crotch.
He had his hand over his crotch, too, and was rubbing it suggestively. He squeezed and I could see the outline of an erect cock beneath the denim.
Suddenly, my mouth felt dry and my heart was beating at double its usual rate. Good Lord, when had it gotten dark outside?
I eyed the man and he met my stare almost with a challenge in his eyes. He was about my age, but had long, stringy blond hair. He was too skinny and his bare arms (he was wearing a grimy wife-beater) were tattooed up and down their sinewy lengths. A hoop earring dangled from one ear, peeking in and out from the strings of his platinum locks as he glanced down at his own crotch, as if making sure it was still there.
My mouth was dry and I wanted to lick my lips, but was afraid of giving the wrong idea. I was learning fast that the language spoken here was with the eyes and not-so-subtle gestures.
Finally, he smiled at me and I saw he had what my mom used to refer to as “summer teeth.” Some are here. Some are there.
Suddenly, he reached for my crotch, as if to give it a neighborly squeeze. I swung my legs around to ensure his intended was out of his reach.
He sighed impatiently and ducked quickly into the stall next to mine. For a long time, there was silence and I dared not hazard a peek through the hole in the wall to see what my new buddy was up to.
But finally, I could stand the suspense no longer. I leaned forward a little, positioning my eye so it was level with the hole.
Boy, did I get an eyeful. Mr. Summer Teeth had had no compunction about dropping his drawers and working himself up into a frenzy. A huge cock, what I would estimate to be between eight or nine inches, rose up from between his tanned thighs. He worked it hard and there was a drop of precum poised at the slit in his head.
I have to admit it. My mouth wasn’t so dry anymore.
I watched. I think I was a little in shock. All kinds of things were running through me, making me feel both nauseous and lustful. I wanted that thing. I needed to get the hell out of here now.
He must have noticed me peering through the hole because the next thing I knew that big missile was coming right through it. Hey, buddy, watch it! You could take out someone’s eye with that thing!
Suddenly the cock was right in front of my face, dripping precum. With just a slight lean forward, I could have the pleasure of tracing a bulging purple vein with my tongue.
Did I touch it? Did I take it in my mouth?
Are you crazy? I ran out of there as fast as I could and if it didn’t mean being labeled as a drama queen, I would have said I rushed out screaming into the night.
As I drove away, tires sending up a spray of gravel behind me, I wondered if I would ever make a very good gay.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Guest Post from Author Laury A. Egan: When a Funny Guy Comes to Visit


When a Funny Guy Comes to Visit
by Laury A. Egan

Rarely does a writer have fun creating a book. Yes, there are special scenes, a bit of humorous dialogue, or a serendipitous turn of phrase that please, but mostly our job is hard work. Long hours sitting in front of a computer, long nights dreaming about what we’ll write the next morning on the computer, and clusters of notes around the computer that require eventual insertion. Most of what we do requires grit, tenacity, and a large dollop of obsessive-compulsive behavior. However, in stark relief from my previous novels, Fabulous! An Opera Buffa, was wicked fun from the beginning.
One summer day, while I was sitting on the deck, gazing serenely on the ocean, Gilbert Eugene Rose flew in for a visit, rather like Peter Pan arriving in the open window of the Darling house.

Immediately, Gil made me giggle. He was arch, charming, sweet, irresistible, nor would he be ignored, so I set down my iced tea and rushed to the keyboard, wherein he acted like a greyhound let off the leash. After telling me of his psychic reading by Madame Clara, in which he was informed, “It’s just a matter of time,” Gil explained this meant he would achieve his goal of singing in a professional opera production and finding his one true love.

Well, with Gill, things are never easy, and he soon finds himself hired for a soprano lead in a Mozart opera and the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, with a lesbian mobsterette, La Donna, requiring Handel in between. His madcap adventure—changing wigs and identities—becomes more complicated when La Donna reignites a dangerous feud with the producer of one of his operas. This lands Gil in the middle of Mobster Boulevard and me holding my hat, trying to keep up with his zippy tale. And there is also romance brewing with the hunky Hank—of course there is romance!

Where did Gilbert come from? This gay guy who sings opera and performs the occasional drag show? I have absolutely no idea except to say that the process was akin to channeling (either that or I have multiple-personality disorder in addition to obsessive-compulsive issues). Regardless of his origins, Gil made me laugh and provided a much needed antidote to our depressing times and serious relief from my literary endeavors. I hope readers will enjoy visiting with him as much as I did.

Laury A. Egan is the author of The Outcast Oracle, Jenny Kidd, and Fog and Other Stories. Her poetry has been issued in limited-edition collections: Snow, Shadow, a Stranger; Beneath the Lion’s Paw; The Sea & Beyond; and Presence & Absence. Her website: www.lauryaegan.com

Paperbacks and eBooks are available from Tiny Fox Press:
http://tinyfoxpress.com/product/fabulous/
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your bookstore.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

BOOK REC: QUEENPIN by Megan Abbott


I have to recommend QUEENPIN to anyone who loves hard-boiled noir crime fiction.

MY REVIEW 
I've read some of Megan Abbott's stuff before and really liked it. And then I read QUEENPIN and thought, "Oh my God, this gal can really do noir. She's like a female Raymond Chandler." This is one of those books I hated life for intruding and forcing me to put down.

I savored every hard-boiled word, every tough and muscular description, rooting for the long odds of a happy ending. I can't wait to read more Megan Abbott, especially in the vein.

EXCERPT
Because she was solid gold, fourteen-carat, barely burnished despite twenty years of hard molling.

But beneath it, I knew, beneath that gold and stardust, she was all grit and sharp teeth gnashing, head twisting, talons out, tearing flesh. She was all open mouth, tunneling into an awful nothing.

I hated her.

And I felt closer to her than ever.

Goddamn her.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

The Pull of Love


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.

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Get Two of my Darkest Books, IM and MUTE WITNESS for an Amazing Price!




Through September 11, experience my dark side with this #BOGO deal. Buy my serial killer, IM, & get my child-abduction nail-biter, MUTE WITNESS #FREE


IM 

The Internet is the new meat market for gay men. Now a killer is turning the meat market into a meat wagon. 

One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, and charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. When the first body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. At the scene, the young man who discovered the body tells him the story of how he found his friend. But did this witness play a bigger role in the murder than he’s letting on?

For Comparetto, this encounter is the beginning of a nightmare—because this witness did more than just show up at the scene of the crime; he set the scene. Comparetto is on a journey to discover the truth—before he loses his career, his boyfriend, his sanity… his life. Because in this killer's world, IM doesn't stand for instant message… it stands for instant murder.

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Dreamspinner Press Publications


MUTE WITNESS
"The abuse of a little boy turns a community against a loving gay couple, and nobody comes out of it unscathed."

Mute Witness is a hard book to classify. The publisher files it under mystery/thriller, but there’s also some romance and a more than generous dash of horror—of both the real life variety and, in one instance, the supernatural. If I could make up a genre for Mute Witness, it would be redemption. The book’s all about finding redemption and how love can lead us there.

BLURB
Sean and Austin have the perfect life: new love, a riverfront home, security. Their love for one another is only multiplied when Sean’s eight-year-old son, Jason, visits on the weekends.

And then their perfect world shatters. Jason goes missing.

When the boy turns up days later, he’s been so horribly abused he’s lost the power to speak. Immediately small town minds turn to the boy’s gay father and his lover as the likely culprits. What was a warm, welcoming community becomes a lynching party out for blood. As Sean and Austin struggle to stay together amidst innuendo, the very real threat of Sean losing the son he loves emerges. Yet the true villain is much closer to home, intent on ensuring the boy’s muteness is permanent.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Read the First Chapter of SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES


Greetings from southern California! Here's your exclusive opportunity to read the entire first chapter of my new book, just to whet your appetite for the story to come. I'm hoping that, once you've read it, you'll want to read more (hint: buy links are below, too).

BLURB

What if your first love was abducted and presumed dead—but returned twenty years later?

That’s the dilemma Cole Weston faces. Now happily married to Tommy D’Amico, he’s suddenly thrown into a surreal world when his first love, Rory Schneidmiller, unexpectedly reappears.

Where has Rory been all this time? What happened to him two decades ago, when a strange mass appeared in the night sky and lifted him into the heavens? Rory has no memory of those years. For him, it’s as though only a day or two has passed.

Rory still loves Cole with the passion unique to young first love. Cole has never forgotten Rory, yet Tommy has been his rock, by his side since Rory disappeared.

Cole is forced to choose between an idealized and passionate first love and the comfort of a long-term marriage. How can he decide? Who faces this kind of quandary, anyway? The answers might lie among the stars….

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(Also available in Italian, German, and French!)

Chapter One SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES

After they made love, they were polar opposites in how they reacted.

Cole, barely minutes after coming, would be asleep, mouth open and snoring, body lax. A baby who’d just been fed. Rory looked down on him as he sat perched with his back against the headboard. Despite—or maybe because of—the spittle that ran out of one side of Cole’s mouth, he felt a shock of warmth go through him as he gazed at Cole, wondering how he’d gotten so lucky. Although Rory was a few years younger, he was a nerd with glasses. He wasn’t bad-looking; he just wasn’t all that noticeable in a crowd. How had he snared a guy like Cole, with his perfect runner’s build, his dark brown wavy hair, and the perpetual five-o’clock shadow that accentuated, rather than hid, the angular planes of his face and his sharp jawline. Rory snickered in the darkness at Cole as a snore erupted from him, almost loud enough to shake the glass in their bedroom window.

It was always like this—maniac in the sack until he came, and then it was lights out for Cole, as though he’d been drugged.

Rory, on the other hand, always felt energized, pumped up, alive, as if he should hop from the bed, go outside, and run a mile or three. Or make a meal. Or write the great American novel. Or catalog his collection of books alphabetically, and then by genre.

Tonight was no different. They’d just moved into the one-bedroom apartment in Chicago’s Rogers Park  neighborhood. The neighborhood, the Windy City’s farthest east and north before heading into suburbia, afforded them a chance to live by Lake Michigan without the higher rents they’d encounter closer to downtown.

They were young and in love, and cohabitating was a first for both of them. Rory felt they were already having their happy-ever-after moment.

The apartment was a find—a vintage courtyard building east of Sheridan Road on Fargo Avenue . Their unit’s bedroom faced Lake Michigan, which was only a few steps away from their front door. A lake view, high ceilings, crown molding, formal dining room with a built-in hutch, huge living room with working fireplace, and an original bathroom with an enormous claw-foot tub were just a few of the amenities they were delighted to find—all for the “steal” monthly rent of only five hundred dollars.

The apartment, which would eventually be filled to bursting with a hodgepodge of furniture and belongings, ranging from family antiques supplied by Cole to Lost in Space  action figures from Rory, was now a scene of chaos with moving boxes everywhere, almost none of them unpacked.
They’d spent the whole day moving and were exhausted when they were finished. Even though it was August, by the time they were done dragging the boxes out of their U-Haul truck, through their building’s courtyard, and then up to the tenth floor via the rickety but thank-heaven-reliable elevator, the skies above the lake had gone dark. They ordered stuffed spinach pizza from Giordano’s, just south of them on Sheridan, and feasted on it, melted mozzarella on their chins, on a couple of beach towels they found at the top of one of the boxes.

And of course, Rory being twenty-three and Cole twenty-six, with their blossoming love all of six months old, they did find the time and the energy to make love, once on the beach towels and once in their bed. Rory knew there’d be more of the same come morning’s first light.

Ah, sweet youth.

But getting back to postcoital  bliss, Rory now found himself feeling restless as he lay beside the snoring Cole. The moon was nearly full and they’d yet to put up blinds, so it shone in the bedroom window, casting the room in a kind of silvery opalescence. Rory thought the boxes and the furniture—Cole’s oak sleigh bed and Rory’s pair of maple tallboy  dressers, plus an overstuffed chair they’d found in an alley just before moving—all had a kind of grayish aspect to them, almost unreal, as if he were observing his own bedroom as a scene from a black-and-white movie. Maybe something noir… with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray . Rory smiled and turned away from Cole. Just a half hour or so earlier, with the overhead light fixture shining down on them, Rory thought the movie would have been a porno, with himself cast as the insatiable bottom.

He chuckled to himself.

He tried to relax, doing an old exercise he’d learned from his mom. Starting with his feet, he’d wiggle, tense, and then allow that body part to go slack to relax. He worked his way up his whole body, wiggling, tensing, and relaxing as he went, until he reached his head.

And—sigh—he was still wide-awake.

Behind him, though, as if he had eyes in the back of his head, he noticed something odd.

It was like there was suddenly a waxing and waning of light.

Rory turned and looked toward the uncovered window. He couldn’t quite see the moon, but it seemed like it was brightening and darkening, brightening, then darkening….

But the whole of this August day, it had been clear, with nary a cloud in the sky. Rory wondered if a cloud bank had moved in, obscuring the moon and then revealing it as the wind pushed it away. He could see this in his mind’s eye but couldn’t quite believe it.

The light was simply too brilliant. At its brightest, the whole room lit up, as though he’d switched on the overhead fixture. Rory was surprised Cole didn’t awaken. Or maybe he wasn’t so surprised after all. Rory had spent enough nights with his “great dark man” to know his slumber habits. When Cole drifted off, which he did effortlessly and with amazing speed, there was little that would wake him. Rory thought they could have a New Orleans jazz band march through their bedroom and all Cole would do, at most, was maybe turn over… or snort a little.

He lightly kissed Cole’s cheek, undeterred by the scratch of Cole’s scruff, and slid from the bed to peer out the window.

The lake was a great black expanse. The sky was only a few shades lighter than the water below it, with a slight yellowish tinge due to all the city lights. And the moon, just shy of full, shimmered, a lovely yellow-gold, completely unobscured by clouds. If Rory squinted just right, he thought he could just about make out a face in the surface of that moon….

The sky simply had no clouds to offer that night.

Rory stepped back from the window and glanced back at his slumbering man. So why was the light getting brighter and then darker? He turned to the window and peered outside again. If not for the city’s light pollution, he was certain he’d see entire constellations of stars. He allowed his eyes to adjust a bit and saw more detail below, along Fargo beach. The water was not exactly black, after all. The waves, small and unimpressive due to the lack of wind, still managed to toss up a few whitecaps, especially near the shore, which looked grayer in the darkness. The beach, and the island of boulders just a few laps beyond it, took on more definition, enough that it made Rory come to a decision.

If he couldn’t sleep, he might as well take the opportunity to go outside, enjoy the warm breezes and what appeared to be a deserted beachfront.

He dressed quickly and silently—even though he knew he needn’t have bothered since Cole was beyond waking—in a pair of cutoffs  and a D  octor  Who T-shirt. He slid his feet into flip-flops, grabbed his keys off the dresser, and headed for the front door.

Other than the steady whoosh of traffic on Sheridan Road to the west, the night was quiet. Rory wished he’d checked the time before heading out, but judging from the silence all around him, he’d guess it was the wee small hours of the morning, maybe 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. This was Chicago, after all. There was usually someone stumbling around, even in blackest night.

But his street was empty. The tree branches and their leaves cast shadows on the silvery pavement beneath his feet because of the moon’s brightness. His footsteps, even in flip-flops, sounded extra loud as he headed east, toward the beach.

At the end of the street, there was a cul-de-sac where cars could turn around, and beyond that, a set of stone steps that led down to the sand. Rory stood at the top of the steps, looking out at the sand and water, the pile of boulders just offshore  that Cole promised he’d swim out to the next day with Rory. A white lifeguard chair, empty, sat crookedly in the sand, leaning as it sunk to the left. The moon shone brilliantly on the water, laying a swath of golden light upon its gently undulating surface. If Rory looked at this light just right, perhaps squinting a bit behind his glasses, he could almost imagine the light rising up, like an illuminated fountain, from the water’s surface.

He took the steps quickly and was on the sand in seconds. He kicked off his flip-flops and sighed when he felt the cool sand squishing up between his toes. He looked around once more, paying particular attention to the concrete that bordered the beach, to assure himself he had the gift of a city beach all to himself.

And he did. He did!

He tore off his shirt, set it down, and then removed his glasses, placing them on top of the T-shirt. With a little cry, he dashed toward the water, a small laugh escaping his lips. He stopped briefly at its edge, gasping at the icy cold of the waves, even this late in the summer, as they ran up to meet him, lapping and biting at his toes. And then he took a deep breath, waded in up to his knees, and paused to consider if he really wanted to go whole hog.

What the hell.

He waded in a little farther, until the bottom dropped out from under him suddenly and instead of the water reaching to the top of his thighs, hit him just above his belly button. It was freezing! And Rory knew there was only one solution: get full immersion over as quickly as possible.

He raised his hands over his head and dove as a wave rolled in toward him. The world went silent as he went under, the murky depths of the water almost black. He held his breath as long as he could, swimming outward. His mother’s voice erupted in his head, scolding, telling him to go back to shore because it was late and there was no one around. What if he, God forbid, got a cramp?

Rory shushed his mother and continued to swim toward Michigan or whatever was directly opposite, hundreds of miles away. He swam until he felt his lungs would burst.

And then he surfaced, shaking the water from his hair. The first thing he noticed was how full immersion had done the trick—he wasn’t exactly warm, but the water temperature was at least bearable.

The second was the light on the water. It had changed to a strange pale radiance, a shifting, silvery opalescence that, in addition to his recent underwater swimming, left him nearly breathless.
He trod water and hazarded a glimpse up at the sky, expecting to see the moon and perhaps that bank of clouds that had managed to elude him earlier.

But the moon was gone. Or at least hidden.

Is this real?

Rory couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He actually slipped under for a helpless moment because both his arms and feet stopped moving. He came back up quickly, sputtering and spitting out lake water, gaze fixed on the sky.

“What the fuck?” he whispered.

Was what he saw natural? Like, as in a natural phenomenon? What was above him appeared like some membrane, formed from smoky gray clouds, but alive. It rose up, mountainous, into the night sky. As he peered closer at the form, it seemed to almost breathe, to expand in and out. And within the gray smoke or fog, figures seemed to be spinning. They were black and amorphous, like shadows brought to life. The fact that the cloud—or whatever it was—cast an otherworldly silvery light from below didn’t make the figures any more distinctive.

This can’t be real. I’m back at the apartment right now, sound asleep next to Cole. That pizza really did a number on me. Rory knew his notions were simply wishful thinking.

The membrane or cloud or whatever one wanted to call it was as real as the moon had been above him.

The black figures, spinning, began, one by one, to drop. They were too far distant for Rory to hear any splashes, but he could plainly see that some of them were disconnecting from the membrane or cloud or whatever one wanted to call it and plopping down into the placid surface of Lake Michigan.

Because of its immensity, Rory was unable to determine if the thing above him was close by or distant. It could have been hovering directly overhead. Or it might have been as far away as downtown or even the western edge of Indiana. Perhaps it was some industrial disaster thrown up by the city of Gary ? Perhaps it was a military experiment, a new kind of aircraft?

And of course Rory, ever the science fiction geek, came to the last supposition almost reluctantly, because it terrified him—perhaps it was some sort of alien vessel, a UFO in everyday parlance. The kind of thing Rory had both dreaded and hoped to bear witness to almost all of his young life.

He stared at it in wonder, lost for a moment in time. He hoped he’d gain more clarity on what the thing was, but the longer he stared, the more confusing it became. Was it some freak of nature? Some hitherto unseen cloud formation? Was it really a spaceship beyond his or anyone’s wildest imagination?

Whatever it was, he was certain it was warming the water around him, which led him to the conclusion that it must have some powerful energy to heat up a body of water as large as Lake Michigan. What had been cold, now felt almost as warm as bathwater.

And that scared Rory just as much as this monstrously huge thing in the sky above him. What if the water continued to heat up? What if it reached the boiling point and he was poached alive in it?

What if the black, shadowy beings he witnessed spinning within the mist meant him harm as they dropped from the cloud? What if they were, right now, swimming toward him, all bulbous heads and soulless gray eyes?

He shuddered in spite of the warmth of the water around him. He leveled himself out, lowered his face to the water, and began the fastest crawl he could manage toward shore, which suddenly seemed impossibly far away.

And a new fear seized him as he paddled, panting, through the dark water—what if something as prosaic as drowning claimed him? Would they ever find him?

What would Cole do when he woke at last, to find himself in bed and alone? What would he do as the sun rose, lighting up their little love nest, and there was no Rory?

Rory didn’t want to see the thing anymore. Just looking at it induced in him a feeling of dread so powerful, it nauseated him. So he kept his face in the water, only turning his head to the side every few strokes to grab a breath of air, until he neared the shore. He squatted low, panting hard, in the shallows and at last hazarded a glance up at the sky.

It was empty.

Save for a muted orange glow from light pollution and the moon, now distant, there was nothing in the sky. Rory crawled from the water and plopped down on the damp sand at the lake’s edge.

Had it simply been a hallucination? Or maybe there had been a cloud bank, a thunderhead maybe, and his sci-fi geek’s mind had transformed it into something much more wondrous? And much more threatening?

He shivered and rubbed his hands up and down his bare arms to warm himself. After a while, when he felt he was ready, he stood on shaky legs, the comparison to a newly born colt not lost on him, and staggered over to where he’d left his T-shirt and glasses. He yanked the tee over his head and put the glasses—chunky horn-rims —onto his face. He’d been wearing glasses since he was five years old. It felt more natural with them on than without.

It crossed his mind for half a second that his blurry vision had been a contributor to what he’d seen—or not seen; he was already doubting himself—but even with the glasses restoring his vision to twenty-twenty , the view of the sky above remained placid, dark, unremarkable.

He scanned the horizon for a while, still looking for something he’d lost, but saw nothing new other than an industrial ship way out there, at the very edge of what Rory imagined was the world.
Perhaps the ship would topple off the edge and into the mouth of a waiting giant membrane that looked something like a cloud with lights and spinning figures inside?

Rory thought he should laugh at the notion but couldn’t quite bring himself to. He walked slowly across the sand. It wasn’t until he got halfway up the steps to the street that he realized he’d left his flip-flops on the beach.

He hurried back to claim them. As he was stooping over to grab them, he noticed a dog running toward him. It was a black Labrador , or something like it, because it appeared as if it was some kind of charging shadow.

It rushed by him without slowing to sniff or in any way regard him. “Hey!” Rory called after the animal, which ignored him. Rory looked around to see if there was a frazzled owner, leash in hand, running after the dog, but the beach was empty.

When he looked back, the dog was gone.

Could it have been one of the dark figures that dropped from the cloud?

Rory froze at the middle of the stairs. The thought chilled him. The whole idea of his sanity suddenly came into question.

He hurried up the rest of the stairs and headed back toward his apartment. He hoped Cole hadn’t awakened and gone looking for him.

As he neared the courtyard of the building, he decided, unless he couldn’t avoid it, he would keep this whole weird episode to himself.

As he headed for his front door, he thought things would look better, more rational, in the light of day.

Right?

###

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