Monday, January 13, 2020

NOW OUT! UNRAVELING!

Cover art by Natasha Snow

I'm so excited to announce that my latest book, a coming-out tale called UNRAVELING is now available at Amazon and at its publisher, Nine Star Press. It's somewhat autobiographical and I like to think it's a very touching and hopeful read.

BLURB
Randy Kay has the perfect life with his beautiful wife and adorable son. But Randy’s living a lie, untrue to himself and everyone who knows him. He’s gay.

Marriage and fatherhood, which he thought could change him, have failed. He doubts if anyone can love him for who he really is—especially himself.

With his wife’s blessing, he sets out to explore the gay world he’s hidden from all his life.

John Walsh, a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department, is comfortable in his own skin as a gay man, yet he can never find someone who shares his desire to create a real relationship, a true family.

When Randy and John first spy each other in Chicago’s Boystown, all kinds of alarms go off—some of joy, others of deep-seated fear.

Randy and John must surmount multiple hurdles on the journey to a lasting, meaningful love. Will they succeed or will their chance at love go up in flames, destroyed by missed connections and a lack of self-acceptance?

BUY
Amazon
Nine Star Press


EXCERPT FROM UNRAVELING
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
RANDY

I have my death all planned out.

Unlike the thirty-two years that have gone before, I want my passing to be peaceful and free of the discord and pain I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember. I want it to be easy. Effortless. Guilt-free.

Whether it’s any of those things remains to be seen.

I’ve rented this hotel room at a small boutique hotel off Michigan Avenue. The Crewe House has been standing on this same ground on Oak Street for at least a hundred years. The rooms are small, fussy, and charming, with flocked wallpaper, four-poster beds, and claw-foot tubs and pedestal sinks in their black-and-white bathrooms. It’s charming, and I deserve something nice to gaze at before I close my eyes for good.

I have some sandalwood-scented candles lit, and the fragrance is warm, enveloping. Their soft flicker is the only illumination. Outside, the winter sky darkens early. Dusk’s cobalt blue makes silhouettes of the water towers, train tracks, and buildings to the west of the hotel. Near the horizon the sky is a shade of lavender that mesmerizes me, makes me think of changing my mind. If a sky like this can exist, with its electric bands of color, maybe the world isn’t such a horrible place.

Maybe I can go on.

No.

What else have I done to ease my passage into whatever comes next? I have a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, my favorite champagne, uncorked and resting in a silver ice bucket, filled with melting ice. A flute stands next to it, waiting.

I’ll wash the sleeping pills down with the bubbly.

Before getting into bed, I’ll turn on the cassette I have in my boombox, Abbey Road. I have it queued up to “Golden Slumbers.”

I’ve been carrying this weight for such a long time.

I long for smiles.

At last, I’ll undress and stretch out on the four-poster. I’ll pull the eiderdown duvet loosely over me and close my eyes.

The plan is I will slowly slip under, my brain becoming a soft velvety fog, and I’ll simply fall into the arms of a comforting—and obliterating—slumber.

I will not dream.

It won’t take long.

And I’ll leave a beautiful corpse.

That’s the plan, anyway. Some of my research into this method of offing myself runs counter to this gentle fantasy, but I don’t want to consider the downside of overdosing on strong barbiturates.

I want to go to sleep.

I want to forget the impossibility of being able to become the man I know I should be.

Husband.

Father.

I blink back tears as I sit on the bed, staring out at the deepening twilight. They don’t deserve this: what you’re going to leave them with. I know the voice inside, the one that’s always made me do the right thing, at the expense of my very being, is right. And even though they don’t deserve it, you know they will hurt, of course they will, but in the end, they’ll be better off.

Who wants a husband and father who can’t seem to make himself straight, despite trying therapy, the Catholic Church, the Buddhist faith, self-help groups, and self-help books. A group of pathetic married men meeting once a month and thinking they can change. Nothing works. If I could change, I would.

And since I can’t change, I’m left with three options:

Accept myself as I am. How can I do that? I’d be a failure as a husband, a father, a son, a brother. I’d go on wearing this suffocating mask. I’d continue to live a life that’s essentially a lie.

Everyone who loves me doesn’t even know me.

They love a fa├žade, a projection, a mirage made of wishes, impossible hopes, and self-hatred.

No, acceptance is not an option. It never was.

Second, I could resist. I could knuckle down and brace myself against the attractions I feel, the dreams that pop up in my sleep despite my desperately not wanting them there. I could hold myself back from falling prey to the temptations I feel on the streets, the subway, the locker rooms—everywhere I encounter a beautiful man.

The reason I find myself here is because I can’t resist. Not anymore.

And the third option is simply the one I have to choose—remove myself from the pain. Remove myself from existing as this broken thing that God nor man can fix.

Yes, Violet and Henry both will find a way to move on, and they’ll be happier, more anchored in life without me.

Who needs a gay dad? Or a husband who, deep down, doesn’t want what his wife has to offer? Or worse, a dad who contracts the death sentence of AIDS?

Enough of the grim thoughts. They were not part of my plan. Tonight, I go out peacefully. I’ll shut my eyes and remember things like my joy six years ago when Henry was born and seeing him take his first breath. I shouted, “We got a boy!” and fell into the deepest, most effortless love I’ve ever felt. I’ll remember proposing to Violet when we were both college sophomores and the thrill when she accepted the cheap diamond-chips ring I gave her. Things will be okay now, I remember thinking. I can change.

I really believed that. And I know I love Violet as best I can.

It’s sad when your best simply isn’t good enough.

I reach over for the bottle of sleeping pills on the nightstand. There are thirty of them, and I intend to take them all, two or three at a time. If it takes the whole bottle of champagne to get them down, well, things could be worse. No?

I tip the bottle and look at the tablets against the dark wood, so innocent, yet so lethal.

I’m just reaching for one when there’s a sudden knock on the door. Loud. Forceful. Urgent.

“Randy? Randy? Open up, please.”

The door knob turns as Violet’s voice penetrates the heavy wood of the door, making her sound muffled.

I close my eyes. I could ignore her, hope she goes away.

How did she find out where I was anyway?

She wasn’t supposed to know until she got the letter, the one neatly folded and an arm’s length away on the nightstand.

Pounding. “Please!” Violet calls.

I gather the pills, shoving them back in the bottle, then hide the container in a nightstand drawer.

How will I explain?

I get up, cross the room, and open the door.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

End of 2019 Thoughts


I think, ever since I was a kid, the last day of the year has been a reflective time--a dividing line between the old and new.

A day of letting go.

A day of hope.

A chance of renewal.

A clean slate. 

2019, on national, global, and personal levels, was a year of great change--extreme highs and extreme lows. For me, it was a year of reckoning--with who I am and with who I know I can be.

Personal change is always present. But 2019 also brought changes that marked the end of things and, as ever, the beginnings of others.

In 2019, I ended a relationship of nearly a decade and more than thirty books with Dreamspinner Press. It was like the end of a marriage...and equally stressful and painful. It was also eye-opening. Sadly, I will never again be as trusting of people. I had thought the folks at Dreamspinner were good friends and even family. I adored them and welcomed them into my heart, my home, and my imagination. I believed in a future with them. That these dreams went up in smoke and betrayal was testimony to the fact that everything changes. My dreams have been hobbled, but I will go on, hopefully stronger and more resilient and maybe even a better, more mature writer. I'm grateful for all Dreamspinner did for me and sad that our relationship ended in such spectacular disappointment.

But all change is, I believe, balanced. The new year will see a deepening relationship with other publishers and collaborators. I'm looking at you, Nine Star Press and JMS Books. 

2019 also marked the end of some significant friendships. There's a saying that people enter our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Sometimes, we can't predict who will fall into these categories, but they show us who they are, sometimes painfully and sometimes with simple acceptance for what once was. And sometimes both. I'm grateful for what once was and look forward to deepening and new friends who share my worldview.

2019 saw the loss of my mom's sister, my beloved Aunt Jackie. I'm so grateful for the support of family and friends who cared enough to reach out and to try, even in small ways, to offer comfort. But I'm more grateful for the memories I have of Aunt Jackie, which are so intertwined with memories of my own late mother as to be invaluable. 

I look forward to 2020, knowing it will bring, in varying amounts, the same levels of disappointment and joy. I hope to deepen the message my writing brings, to deepen my personal relationships, and to find that elusive inner peace I've searched for all my life.

I wish the same for you.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

New Re-Release: DINNER AT JACK'S Another Romance with Recipes



Yesterday was the re-release of my redemptive story of food, love, and yes, PTSD--DINNER AT JACK'S. It's another romance with recipes, originally published by Dreamspinner Press and now in a new, updated (cover, lower price) edition from JMS Books. Check out the gorgeous new cover from Written Ink Designs and then get between the sheets with Jack and Beau! BLURB Personal chef Beau St. Clair, recently divorced from his cheating husband, returns 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 by 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? His history could just as easily tear them apart as bring them together.

BUY Amazon
JMS Books (where it's even cheaper, for you bargain hunters)

Monday, December 16, 2019

Two Holiday Options for Your Reading Pleasure


In the mood for a little holiday poignancy? I have two tales that just might bring a tear or two to your eye....

AN OPEN WINDOW

Check out my story, AN OPEN WINDOW, about which Divine Magazine said:

REVIEW
An Open Window is told retrospectively, which is a tactic that works really well for this short because Reed focuses the reader's attention on Henry and Jim's meeting.

Reed poignantly highlights the plight of homeless people at Christmas and immediately we only feel sympathy for Henry rather than judging him for his choice to enter the open window in someone else's home. I think our emotions are intensified by the fact that Henry thinks about being found frozen on Christmas morning with a mixture of "terror and relief".

Another man who is alone on this Christmas Eve is Jim, who has had a lucky, if upsetting, escape from a man who could not give him the love he deserved. Every reader knows that Christmas is a time to be spent with loved ones and for that reason, we feel compassion for Jim, who feels that "he might never celebrate the holiday again".

Reed brings these two men together unconventionally but beautifully and I adore the fact that Reed is able to capture the Christmas spirit of goodwill in An Open Window. I turned the final page and was left with all the right warm and fuzzy feelings.

An Open Window may only be 21 pages but it is a story perfectly formed!

BLURB
Two men. One Christmas Eve that changes the courses of both their lives.

Henry’s homeless and only wants a warm place to sleep on the coldest night of the year. A forgotten open window in a darkened house entices Henry inside with the promise of warmth and comfort. He knows it’s bad, but he promises himself he’ll be out before the owner wakes on Christmas morning. Except he oversleeps and the homeowner, Jim, discovers a bearded stranger sawing logs under his dining room table. When the shock and the drama that ensues dies down, Henry and Jim discover that they might have found, quite unexpectedly, the Christmas miracle they’d both been longing for—love and home.

BUY 
JMS Books
Amazon Kindle

AND... 
MATCHES

I've always loved the darkly beautiful fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. "Matches" is my gay take on "The Little Match Girl".

BLURB
Christmas Eve should be a night filled with magic and love. But for Anderson, down on his luck and homeless in Chicago's frigid chill, it's a fight for survival. Whether he's sleeping on the el, or holed up in an abandoned car, all he really has are his memories to keep him warm-memories of a time when he loved a man named Welk and the world was perfect. When Anderson finds a book of discarded matches on the sidewalk, he pockets them. Later, trying to keep the cold at bay hunkered down in a church entryway, Anderson discovers the matches are the key to bringing his memories of Welk, happiness, and security to life. Within their flames, visions dance-and perhaps a reunion with the man he loved most.

BUY for .99 on Amazon Kindle (FREE for Kindle Unlimited Readers)

Friday, December 13, 2019

New Re-Release: DINNER AT FIORELLO'S


Happy Re-release day to me! The new edition of DINNER AT FIORELLO'S, "where love is on the menu" is now out from JMS Books. This new edition has a new cover and new lower price (only $3.99 at JMS Books).

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. REVIEWS "I recommend this to those who love stories of embarking on your own path in life, of being poked back to life and the living, of a tentative new love blooming, of grabbing life with both hands and facing the fall out, and of two men who embark on a new stage in their lives." --MM Good Book Reviews *** "I loved this book...I very highly recommend it!" --Love Bytes Reviews *** "In the end, everything came together nicely and exactly the way it should have. I loved watching these guys battle with themselves as they stubbornly made their way to each other....Overall, an excellent love story." --On Top Down Under Reviews *** "...a beautiful love story, not just showing the early stages of what may become love for Henry and Vito, but the love Vito holds for his son and his husband--a love that transcends their death. Don't miss a chance to pick this one up." --Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Reviews *** "Dinner at Fiorello's is one of the reasons why I adore Rick R. Reed. I highly recommend to those who love an emotional journey featuring all the hurdles MM Romance generally provides." --Wicked Reads *** "From the characters to the food, Dinner at Fiorello's is a warm, sweet and emotionally raw story of love and loss, independence and interdependence. I loved it." --Inked Rainbow Reads

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