I'm so pleased to announce that my love story set in the early days of the AIDS crisis, CAREGIVER, has won the prestigious EPIC eBook Award at EPICON ceremonies in Vancouver, WA on March 16. The book won for Best Contemporary Romance. I am especially happy because lately my writing has shifted from suspense/horror to romance and my other finalist, PENANCE, was in the horror category. I'm not glad I lost on that one, but the fact that I won for romance is validating.
This win means a lot, too, because the story of CAREGIVER has deep personal ties to me. One of its main characters, Adam, who is dying from AIDS in my story, was based on a very significant real person in my life, Jim. I was Jim's AIDS buddy when I lived in Tampa, FL in the early 1990s, when AIDS was a death sentence, the only treatment AZT. Almost everything that happens to Adam in CAREGIVER happened to Jim in real life. Jim remains a very special influence; he will always be with me.
I dedicated my award to his memory--and the victory was bittersweet.
It’s 1991, and Dan Calzolaio has just moved to Florida with his lover, Mark, having fled Chicago and Mark’s addictions to begin a new life on the Gulf Coast. Volunteering for the Tampa AIDS Alliance is just one part of that new beginning, and that’s how Dan meets his new buddy, Adam.
Adam Schmidt is not at all what Dan expected. The guy is an original—witty, wry, and sarcastic with a fondness for a smart black dress, Barbra Streisand, and a good mai tai. Adam doesn’t let his imminent death get him down, even through a downward spiral that sees him thrown in jail.
Each step of Adam’s journey teaches Dan new lessons about strength and resilience, but it’s Adam’s lover, Sullivan, to whom Dan feels an almost irresistible pull. Dan knows the attraction isn’t right, even after he dumps his cheating, drug-abusing boyfriend. But then Adam passes away, and it leaves Sullivan and Dan both alone to see if they can turn their love for Adam into something whole and real for each other.