Thursday, April 1, 2021

Writing from Experience: BIG LOVE


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:
  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 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

New Release: MORBIDLY OBESE About a Vampire Who Has Some Heft to Him

 


I have a new story out and it's one that will surprise you--a vampire tale that's laugh-out-loud funny.

ABOUT THE STORY
Milton Bradley was not your typical vampire. Finding someone to love and with whom to share eternity would be difficult enough for a man who weighed over 400 hundred pounds, let alone one of the undead who only came out at night. Milton is caught in an endless cycle of blood sucking, guilt over his weight, and eating more to make the pain of being different go away.

Can the answer to his prayers be found in a 12-Step group for overweight vampires called Morbidly Obese?

HAVE A TASTE

Milton sat near his coffin, a custom job crafted from oak, wearing a blood moustache and feeling miserable.  It was a vicious circle, he thought, I am an addict.  The hunger gets out of control, I binge, then feel horrible, then binge again to ease the guilt and remorse.

It was the blue gray hour just before the sun rose and Milton recalled Sheila and Marie, the surprised looks on their faces when he approached them and tried to convince them that he too, had stumbled into the wrong meeting, suggesting they still their beating hearts by having a few slices of pie at the Baker’s Square which was just around the corner.  The women had been leery, but the promise of French Silk pie made them abandon their good sense when Milton suggested a shortcut through a dark alley from which they never emerged.

Milton climbed into his coffin and pulled the lid shut.  He promised himself that he would begin his diet tomorrow.  Tomorrow, he told himself, was another night.

But when the sun set the next night, Milton found himself rising with hunger pangs.  It was hard squeezing out of the coffin and Milton told himself mildew must be getting into the crypt somehow because the wood was surely beginning to contract.

He tried to deny the hunger pangs, telling himself that it was too difficult for him to have just one.  He could never stop at just one...no, he had to have a battalion, a troupe, a club, a group, a squad, a regiment, an assembly, a crew...drinking, drinking, drinking until he felt bloated, until the sharp copper tang of freshly-let blood filled the air...it was only then that Milton felt sated.

And just look where it’s gotten me, he thought with despair, I can’t even see my feet!  Thank God I don’t ever have to look in a mirror.

Milton struggled into his XXXL black canvas pants and black sweat shirt. Even these were beginning to feel snug and soon he would have to find a tailor, because he had gone as big as he could go with off the rack clothes.

And in spite of all these sensible thoughts, Milton still craved blood...large quantities of blood.  Why weren’t there vampire diet pills?  Why couldn’t there be an undead equivalent of Slim Fast?  He’d heard of liposuction...but how could he find a physician to perform the operation?

The first step of Morbidly Obese, the self-help group came back to him, haunting: We admitted we were powerless over our compulsive death and dining behavior; our lives had become unmanageable.  Milton felt a tear at the corner of his eye and reached up to wipe it away: his finger came back smeared with blood, greedily he licked it from his own tantalizing digit.

The tiny taste of blood made him crazy, filled him with blood lust.  In the midst of his red-misted fervor, he thought: this is the way it is for addicts...the yearning controls them instead of the other way around. He realized he was powerless. And a tiny voice inside said: “Yes, Milton you are powerless...so go with it.  Why fight it?  Lay down the sword and the shield and drink until you’re full.  Go on, you deserve it.”

Milton was out of the crypt as fast as his pudgy legs could carry him.  There was no gliding on air for a 400-lb. vampire.  His hunger warred with his desire to be thin.  I’ll start tomorrow night, he told himself, heading toward a little theater he knew of, one that was in rehearsal for a production of Twelve Angry Men.  Twelve was such a lovely number, he thought, and licked his chops.  These twelve men won’t be so angry when I get through with them!

GET YOUR COPY

Amazon Kindle

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A Little Taste of THE Q, My Novel About a Small Town Gay Bar


My latest novel, The Q, takes place over the course of one pivotal Saturday night in a small town gay bar. Read on for a glimpse into just one of the characters my story chronicles.

EXCERPT FROM THE Q ©2021 Rick R. Reed 

Nobody to Love

Nelson DiCarlo wondered, for the thousandth Saturday night, why he didn’t stay home.

After all, he had regular cable, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube. He had a fully-stocked liquor cabinet and could make himself just about any cocktail he could imagine, from the simple—gin and tonic with a twist of lime—to the exotic—a Pimm’s Cup with orange and cucumber slices. His pantry was stocked with chips, cookies, and crackers to go with the cheeses and dips in his fridge.

His dog, Homer, a so-ugly-he’s-cute mix of dachshund and poodle, was always ready to cuddle or take a long walk in the night air. So, he couldn’t say he was lacking for company. Homer was short on judgment, long on love, and as long as Nels was paying attention, the dog never got bored. If Nels’s attention did stray, the dog reeled him back in by covering his faces with kisses.

No, really, there was no reason why he, at sixty-two years old, should be getting ready to go out to a bar on Saturday night. Really, he needed to simply accept his lot and stay in, go to bed early, like the old man he was.

Nearly entirely banished were the dreams that being out at the Q—the only gay bar in his little one-horse town of Hopewell, West Virginia—would conjure up a man who’d be everything Nels dreamed of: a passionate lover, a faithful companion, a best friend forever. He even held out little reason to believe the conversations he’d have with the same folks he saw every Saturday at the Q would be any different or more exciting than they had been on any other Saturday night, dating back years. 

He had no reason to think that, even if he’d given up all hope for a Mr. Right to come along on his white horse, he would meet a Mr. Right Now. There were a few of those in his past, but none lately. Not for a long time… So long, in fact, that Nels no longer pined for a physical connection with another man.

So why go out?

It was routine. It was a bore.

He was old. And so, so tired.

Yet, here he found himself, in the tiny blue and yellow ceramic tile bathroom of the house he’d grown up in—the one he’d inherited from his mom when she passed from lung cancer seven years ago—shaving in front of the medicine cabinet mirror.

It was funny, how he sometimes glimpsed the man he once was in that mirror, especially when half of his wizened face was hidden by Barbasol shaving cream.

If he squinted just right, he could look back in time and see the man he’d once been, hidden in the depths of the glass. He’d been handsome, what Mom would call a head-turner. On the shorter side at five-feet-eight-inches, Nels had been solidly packed with effortless muscle and good definition. Firm pecs. Bulging biceps. Thick black wavy hair and eyes so dark the pupils got lost in the irises. A perpetual five o’clock shadow that highlighted, rather than hid, the sharp angles and planes of his face, a contrast to his cupid’s bow lips. People, men mostly, used to tell him he should be a model.

That young buck hidden in the mirror was forever mistaken for being younger than he actually was. In his twenties, he was always asked for an ID. When he was in his thirties, everyone imagined he was in his twenties. In his forties, people guessed thirties. Even in his fifties, folks would guess mid- to late-forties and they were always surprised when Nels corrected them, because he never lied about his age. It was always a delight to get the compliments, “I never would have guessed!” “What’s your secret?” And that dreaded left-handed compliment, “You look great—for your age.”

And then, suddenly, and without warning, he looked his age. The revelation crept up without warning.

ABOUT THE BOOK


Step out for a Saturday night at The Q—the small town gay bar in Appalachia where the locals congregate. Whose secret love is revealed? What long-term relationship comes to a crossroad? What revelations come to light? The DJ mixes a soundtrack to inspire dancing, drinking, singing, and falling in (or out) of love.

This pivotal Saturday night at The Q is one its regulars will never forget. Lives irrevocably change. Laugh, shed a tear, and root for folks you’ll come to love and remember long after the last page.

BUY THE Q

Nine Star Press

Amazon Kindle 

Amazon Paperback 


Monday, March 15, 2021

New and Notable: We Cry the Sea by Glenn Quigley

 


Hi Rick, thanks so much for inviting me to your blog!

My new novel is WE CRY THE SEA in which burly gay fisherman Robin Shipp sets off alone on a perilous journey across the ocean. It’s the third book in my The Moth and Moon series. I thought it might be fun do an acrostic based on the title.

W is for Why Did I Pick Such a Difficult Blog Idea? This is already hard…   

E is for Edwin Farriner. Introduced in book one (The Moth and Moon) as one of Robin’s very few friends, their relationship has since blossomed into something more romantic. Usually so steadfast and dependable, how will he deal with the uncertainty of Robin’s absence?

C is for Call. Bucca’s Call, that is. Robin’s beloved boat and constant companion. He was born in it and he’s always said he’d die in it. Be careful what you wish for, Robin…

R is for Robin Shipp. The main character of all three books. He’s tall, wide, big-bellied and big-hearted. At the beginning of The Moth and Moon he was an outcast. Over the course of the first two books we saw him build himself a family. How will he fare without them?

Y is for You’d Think I’d Have Something Better For Y. But I don’t. Just skip to T.

T is for Treachery. When you’re knee-deep in a pirate’s lair, you’d better hope you know who your friends are.

H is for History. The book is set in the year 1781 but it’s a slightly skewed version of the past. In this world, there’s no religion and no prejudice based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Everyone is free to be who they are but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other reasons to dislike someone.

E is for Eva Wolfe-Chase. The aristocratic head of the Chase Trading Company will come to loggerheads with her cousin over how the business should be run. How will her actions impact on Robin’s time at sea?

S is for the Sea. Given that my main character is a fisherman, the sea plays a big part in setting the atmosphere for my books. It’s always been a comfort to Robin but now that he’s alone against the elements, he might just come to think of it as an enemy.

E is for Endings. Every story has one. And so does every person. Someone isn’t making it out of this story alive…

A is for Arminell Pinch. Introduced in book one as a tavern girl and given a name in book two (The Lion Lies Waiting), we get to see her in a bigger role here, and discover her family connection to the Moth and Moon. 

ABOUT THE BOOK


After the explosive events of The Lion Lies Waiting, life has returned to normal for burly fisherman Robin Shipp. That is until the innkeeper of the ancient Moth & Moon approaches him with a surprising proposal, and an unexpected arrival brings some shocking news that sends Robin on a perilous journey alone.

While he’s away, his lover, Edwin, anxiously prepares for the birth of his first child with his friend, Iris. Her wife, Lady Eva, must travel to Blackrabbit Island for a showdown over the future of the family business. Meanwhile, Duncan nurses an injured man back to health but as the two grow close, the island’s new schoolmaster makes his amorous intentions clear.

Robin’s search for answers to the questions that have haunted his entire life will take him away from everyone he knows, across a dangerous ocean, and into the very heart of a floating pirate stronghold. Pushed to his limits, Robin’s one last chance at finding the truth will cost him more than he ever imagined.


BUY THE BOOK here

I have a newsletter that goes out every Friday and is packed with photos, original art based on my books, and promo codes. www.glennquigley.com/newsletter

I‘m a graphic designer by trade and I’ve come up with a bunch of t-shirt designs based on the world of my books. There’s the sign above the inn, a souvenir-style shirt and some pirate flags! They’re available exclusively from www.TheMoodybear.com and you can customise the colours and styles. https://themoodybear.com/themothandmoon.html


ABOUT GLENN QUIGLEY

Portrait of Robin Shipp by Glenn Quigley

Glenn Quigley is an author and artist from Dublin and now living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He designs for www.themoodybear.com as well as taking portrait commissions.

In March 2018 his debut novel, THE MOTH AND MOON, was published by Ninestar Press. December of that year saw the release of the follow-up, THE LION LIES WAITING. In March 2021, the long-awaited third book in the series, titled WE CRY THE SEA, will be published.

Web: www.glennquigley.com

Twitter: @glennquigley

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GlennQuigleyAuthor

Monday, March 8, 2021

Get Obsessed! My First Book is Out in a New Edition!

 

Dell, 1991
JMS Books, 2021


You always remember your first... I'm delighted to announce that my first book, OBSESSED, is out in a newly-reissued edition from JMS Books. Above are the original Dell cover from 30 years ago and the latest cover. 

Pick up a copy and see where my writing journey began... 

BUY
Amazon  
Smashwords (on sale for only $2.99 through March)

ABOUT THE BOOK 

I kill, therefore I am ... 

 Voices slam through the corridor of his wounded mind. The words of his dead sister cry out. His parents' taunts fill the silent room where he sits and waits--waits for the murderous rage, filling him with strength, driving him to kill, to touch the cold flesh, taste the warm blood--to feel alive again... 

A witness has seen him, but his killing only turns her on and now she wants to protect him. His wife suspects him, but the private detective she hired cannot stop him. Joe MacAree fears nothing -- except that he may no longer be human. The thirst that drives him is relentless, moving deeper and deeper into his own shattering, private realm, where each murder is a delicious new gift of life, where revulsion is beauty, and the obsession will never let him go.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Treat Yourself to a HOMECOMING This Weekend!

 Have you read my bittersweet love story yet? It's all about finding life and love after unimaginable loss... 


About the Book

After losing his partner Toby, Chase faces a long, painful road back to life and love.

At first, he doesn’t see how he can go on, but then Chase and Toby’s old friend Mike cajoles him into returning to Chicago for the annual International Mr. Leather Competition. There Chase revisits a world of hot, casual sex that he had forgotten existed, meets a friend who cares more for him than he ever realized, and discovers the possibility that he just might be able to move on without betraying the memory of his late partner.

Will Chase find his way back once more to life? To love? And will he find that place he’s been missing? Home. You’ll have to experience the heartrending journey firsthand to find out.

Excerpt

Homecoming
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Toby tried his best to stay awake.

He was on the Microsoft shuttle, traveling home from his job at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, to his condo in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. It was a long commute, but he had his phone, his weariness (which meant he sometimes slept through the trip), and an overactive imagination for company and entertainment. The commute was made longer because he had to transfer to a bus once he got to downtown Seattle to get close enough to home. Home was a two-bedroom with amazing views of the Space Needle and Lake Union he shared with his soul mate, his beloved, his special one, Chase.

He was grateful every single day for the wonderful life he’d built for himself. He was one of those lucky folks who could hardly imagine how things could possibly be any better.

The familiar scenery passed as the bus drew closer to closer to downtown.

He wished he could banish this fatigue, but it had been a long day and a long week and there simply wasn’t much fuel left in his tank.

But it was his birthday, for god’s sakes ! He wanted to celebrate—so much. It was a milestone, after all. One doesn’t turn forty every day.

If he came home exhausted and ready for bed—and sleep—at nine o’clock, it would only validate the sinking feeling Toby had that forty was the beginning of the long path down that particular piece of geography known as “over the hill.”

He hoped seeing Chase at the door to their shared home would revive him enough to at least maybe order a Pagliacci pizza for delivery and to stream a couple of episodes of Unforgiven on Britbox.

Now, that sounded like a perfect evening and a birthday celebration ideally suited to his introvert leanings. He was grateful once again he and Chase hadn’t made big plans for the 4-0. They could have a nice dinner over the weekend, perhaps, at his favorite Korean street-food eatery, Revel, over in the Fremont neighborhood. Or maybe they’d splurge, as they had last year, and try to get a table at Canlis.

To keep himself awake, he brought his phone out of the pocket of his jeans and, like everyone else on the bus, stared down at the illuminated screen.

He checked Facebook and found it flooded with birthday wishes, so many he got lost in the long thread of well wishes, emojis, and memes exhorting him to have an amazing celebration. Twitter was a little less celebratory, but he still felt like a rock star when he scrolled through all the birthday tweets directed toward him.

Last, he brought up one of his favorite blogs, Tales from the Sexual Underground, written by an old friend of his from Chicago, Danny Britton, who went by the more youthful-sounding pen name of Bryce Weston, because Danny didn’t know how seriously he’d be taken as a middle-aged dude from Highland Park writing about fringe sexual practices and personages. No one would guess most of his tales were made-up (except for the interviews with sex workers and porn stars) and that the man behind the blog was actually pushing fifty and was happily settled with a doctor husband and two very demanding Pomeranians. The wildest Danny got was a season ticket to Ravinia music park every summer.

Danny posted a new column twice a week and devoted the other days to curated roundups of news about sex workers, the porn industry, and the rights and freedoms of those wanting to pursue kinks without government interference. His blog had grown so popular that, last Toby heard, he was making a good chunk of change from advertising. The Twitter followers for his blog numbered in the tens of thousands.

He had a way of writing that made Toby feel he was speaking directly to him, even though he and Chase were pretty much mere acquaintances when they all lived back in the Windy City area.

This week’s latest blog post, for example, spoke to him and where he found himself in life at age forty perfectly. He’d read it earlier on his lunch break, but found himself wanting to savor its short, sweet, sexy words one more time. It was all about how love wins out over sex every time, although the two together could actually induce heaven on earth, provided everything was in place.

It was amazing how Danny could put himself in the shoes of a single gay man so convincingly. He’d been with his physician partner, Jake Wells, for more than two decades.

Back when he and Chase lived in Chicago, he’d tease Jake about the blog when they’d run into him at Wrigley Field or strolling around Millennium Park or at the gay beach at Ardmore and Hollywood. Toby would wonder aloud if Jake had been reincarnated from the soul of a wanton slut of a gay man, or if he was perhaps a horndog trapped in a gay milquetoast’s body.

Perhaps inspired by the teasing, Jake had even written a blog about that. It was hilarious. You never knew what would inspire Danny, or Bryce, as he was known to the masses.

Anyway, this particular post, though, made him so grateful and happy he’d found his one and only, Chase. He was grateful there was no longer any need to play the field. Someone, a happily married gay friend of his at Microsoft, had once quipped that there was no reason to go out for hamburger when he had filet mignon at home.

Toby couldn’t agree more. He began reading.

“Going for Quality, Not Quantity”

Why, I can remember a time when sex parties and the filthy backrooms of leather bars were the height of sexual euphoria. Coupling with strangers en masse set my heart to racing, the blood to pumping, and the brain to disengaging. Caution and even reason were thrown to the wind. Out the window too—unwisely, yes—went fears of AIDS, STIs, and even the limitations of the human lumbar system as I swam through the darkness like a hungry fish, searching with eyes glazed for the next cock, mouth, or ass.

But all of that stuff seems to have lost its charm, to be replaced by “gasp!” if not romance, then at least human connection.

Am I getting old? Maybe not. Maybe I’ve just grown jaded. And, wonder of wonders, perhaps I’ve grown wiser.

But these days, sex seems hotter when it’s one-on-one, with someone I actually know more about than the fact that he’s able to swing that baseball cap around effortlessly, inhale a bottle of poppers, and blow me all at the same time. I get more aroused in my own bed, waiting for someone whose name, occupation, and likes and dislikes I at least have a rudimentary knowledge of than I used to lining up for a crack at the crack in the sling.

A couple cases in point. Old habits die hard, which is why I readily accepted an invitation to a party held during International Mr. Leather (IML) weekend in one of the rooms of the host hotel, the Hyatt. There were to be about fifteen guys gathered. There would be no chips and salsa, witty repartee, or flirtatious glances across the room. No, we all knew what we were there for. The only party favors supplied were bottles of various lube (even that new sensation J Lube, which bears no relation to J Lo, except that both might or might not have something to do with big asses, but I digress), poppers, a sling set up in one corner of the room, and a portable enema hose in the bathroom’s shower. There was no music. No conversation. Just naked men (and some pretty hot ones), grunts, groans, and the odd operatic aria (“Sweet mystery of life, I adore you”).

After about an hour or so, and making the corporeal acquaintance of at least five other men, the whole thing seemed rather amusing and well, if I’m honest, a little boring. Gatherings like these were often so much better in the imagination than they were in real life.

So I left, even though the partiers had hours to go before they slept. Trying to get my clothes back on amidst a tableau out of something Fellini might have dreamed up was no easy task. Picking my way to the door through the sweaty bodies almost made me giggle…it was like playing a very grown up game of Twister.

Contrast that with Sunday…and a very nice day at the beach with someone whom I’m getting to know on many levels. Contrast the sex party with just the two of us, in my sun-drenched bedroom, pretty much doing what the guys at the sex party were doing, but instead of looking for who we should fuck next, we stared into each other’s eyes, charting the course of each other’s pleasure.

What’s happened to me? Does this mean I’ve finally grown up? Or am I just getting boring?

Yeah, Toby thought, I get it. He and Chase had been together now for years, and the thought of wanting a little variety or a little on the side had no appeal at all for Toby. He’d won the prize—a hot man who still inspired his passion, but also one who inspired a sense of contentment, a sense of home, and best of all, an assured future together.

They were almost at his stop and, yes, Toby, anticipating kissing Chase in the next few minutes gave him with a boost of energy. He wouldn’t need anyone else to make his fortieth birthday one for the books.

Buy the Book

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

BLUE UMBRELLA SKY Now Out in Audiobook!

 



My Lambda Literary Award finalist, BLUE UMBRELLA SKY, is now out in audiobook! The story of redemption through love is set right here in my hometown of Palm Springs. 


BLURB
Milt Grabaur has left his life, home, and teaching career in Ohio to start anew. The Summer Winds trailer park in Palm Springs, butted up against the San Jacinto mountain range, seems the perfect place to forget the pain of nursing his beloved husband through Alzheimer's and seeing him off on his final passage. Billy Blue is a sexy California surfer type who once dreamed of being a singer but now works at Trader Joe's and lives in his own trailer at Summer Winds. He's focused on recovery from the alcoholism that put his dreams on hold. When his new neighbor moves in, Billy falls for the gray-eyed man. His sadness and loneliness awaken something Billy's never felt before - real love. When a summer storm and flash flood jeopardize Milt's home, Billy comes to the rescue, hoping the two men might get better acquainted...and maybe begin a new romance. But Milt's devotion to his late husband is strong, and he worries that acting on his attraction will be a betrayal.

Monday, February 15, 2021

What Inspired Me to Write THE Q


 The Q
is one of the books I'm most proud of. It also has the distinction of being the hardest to classify.

It chronicles one night at a small town gay bar in the foothills of the Appalachians (which is where I grew up) where all the locals gather. Through the course of one revelatory night, a memorable cast of characters come forward to share their stories—there’s heartbreak, missed connections, falling in love, falling out of love, making tough decisions, the exposure of secrets…and a lot more. 

There are a few books that inspired my desire to tell a story through individual glimpses into different lives over the course of one pivotal night. Spoon River Anthology, Winesburg, Ohio, and the Elizabeth Strout books, Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again. All of these books basically weave short stories together to create a novel. I loved that idea and have had it in the back of my head for a while.

On a visit to my hometown, which is on the Ohio River and in the Appalachian foothills, I went with my sister one night to a dance club and casino in West Virginia. To draw people in to use the casino, the place has a live band for dancing every Saturday night and I watched all the regulars who come to dance and socialize and thought how they each have a story. And therein my idea for The Q was born. 

ABOUT THE BOOK


Step out for a Saturday night at The Q—the small town gay bar in Appalachia where the locals congregate. Whose secret love is revealed? What long-term relationship comes to a crossroad? What revelations come to light? The DJ mixes a soundtrack to inspire dancing, drinking, singing, and falling in (or out) of love.

This pivotal Saturday night at The Q is one its regulars will never forget. Lives irrevocably change. Laugh, shed a tear, and root for folks you’ll come to love and remember long after the last page.

BUY THE Q

Nine Star Press

Amazon Kindle 

Amazon Paperback 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

New and Notable: 2B by Mark Allan Gunnells

 



I love a well-told ghost story and Mark Allan Gunnells doesn't disappoint with this short, but original take on the form. A gripping tale that just might force you to read in one sitting, 2B is full of interesting and sympathetic characters and a palpable sense of dread as the tension and mystery rise. And watch out for the surprising, but ultimately very logical and fulfilling climax and denouement. 

BLURB
“When your ex wants you dead, they will take you to the grave with them!” -2 B

When two passionate lovers fall out, the results can be deadly.

Berkley Simmons died … for five minutes.

Berkley woke up to find himself in the hospital. He discovered that his ex is dead after a failed murder/ suicide attempt. With nowhere else to go, Berkley must return to the apartment where it all happened. It doesn’t take long for Berkley to begin to suspect that his ex never left the apartment, and still wants him dead.

Get your copy at Amazon Kindle.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

NEW RELEASE! Step out for a Night at The Q by Rick R. Reed

 


Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, Ace, Bi, Gay, Lesbian, Family drama, bartenders, blue collar, coming-of-age, coming out, hurt/comfort, soulmates, open relationship, #ownvoices, over 40, reunited

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About the Book

Step out for a Saturday night at The Q—the small town gay bar in Appalachia where the locals congregate. Whose secret love is revealed? What long-term relationship comes to a crossroad? What revelations come to light? The DJ mixes a soundtrack to inspire dancing, drinking, singing, and falling in (or out) of love.

This pivotal Saturday night at The Q is one its regulars will never forget. Lives irrevocably change. Laugh, shed a tear, and root for folks you’ll come to love and remember long after the last page.

Excerpt

The Q
Rick R. Reed © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One: Hey Bartender!

Mary Louise hated the term fag hag.

It was demoralizing, conjuring up an image of an older woman, heavyset, with too much makeup and hair that was too big. She would be sitting at home with her two cats, Will and Grace, drinking Cosmos alone and streaming Queer as Folk or Queer Eye while she waited for one of her gay male friends to call to shape and determine the extent of her social life. She’d maybe drink a little too much and laugh a little too loud. She’d play wingperson and watch wistfully from the sidelines as her cohorts paired off for an evening, a week, a month, or a lifetime. She’d tell her friends and family who’d never darkened the threshold of a gay bar that she liked going to them because she didn’t get hit on by predatory losers and she could let her hair down.

She knew the stereotype because for many years she’d been it—well, maybe not exactly, but close enough to make her cringe at the memory.

Sure, she still owned cats (or they her, far more likely), who were Siamese and not named Will and Grace, but Harry and Sally. Her hair had never been big and her idea of great TV was streaming the Golden Girls on Hulu. “Okay, so that’s a little gay,” she heard Sophia saying in the back of her mind. Her drinking taste leaned much more toward beer or a nice glass of whiskey, neat.

She’d broken free of being the wingwoman to the various gay men she befriended. She’d gotten rid of the idea that her happiness depended on a man, gay or otherwise.

She still laughed too loud and probably always would. One of her friends, Mort, delighted in acting out a scene with her from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf when she let loose with one of her ear-splitting laughs. He’d accuse her of braying, and she’d respond, in her best Elizabeth Taylor, “I don’t bray,” and then command him to make her another gin and tonic. He always would comply and would sheepishly respond, “All right. You don’t bray.”

Mort had been gone since 1992, when AIDS took him at the tender age of twenty-eight. Mary Louise still missed him and kept a picture of the two of them, taken while on vacation in Provincetown, a year before Mort was diagnosed. She’d look at that photograph of the two of them, arms slung around each other on Commercial Street, and her eyes would well with tears, even though it had been close to thirty years since Mort had passed in an AIDS ward in a Pittsburgh hospital with only Mary Louise at his side. That loss still was tragic, not only because of Mort’s tender age, but because he was so alone. His partner, Nate, and his folks in Shippingport had abandoned him, the former claiming he couldn’t stand to see him this way and the latter voicing concerns that they might catch the virus. He was your son! She’d wanted to scream at the parents. He needed your arms around him. He needed you to see him. He was your lover! she’d say to Nate. His dying and death wasn’t about you and your fragile feelings.

Mary Louise hoped there was a special place in hell waiting for all three of them.

She’d watched many of her friends succumb to the virus before protease inhibitors came onto the scene, turning what was a death sentence into a somewhat manageable condition. She’d never stop mourning the loss of so many beautiful men.

When the fallout from all this was over, for all practical purposes, Mary Louise found herself bereft of friends. That’s when she decided to pack up and move back to her home town of Hopewell, where her mom and two sisters still lived. There was comfort in coming home to a place where her roots were deeply embedded, even if the area was blighted with poverty. It was still some of the most beautiful countryside Mary Louise could imagine.

Chicago had suddenly seemed too big and, at the same time, paradoxically empty. There were so many reminders—the Boystown strip along Halsted, the Baton Club on Clark, the Swedish restaurant Ann Sather next to the Belmont L stop—all of these places and so many more held more painful memories than she could count, even if they had the power to make her smile and laugh. She figured time and distance would transform the painful memories into joyous ones.

But each recollection of a night of drunken revelry out with her boys or a bleary-eyed brunch the morning after, were a hot touch to her grief, a pain that may have softened, but never went away. Mary Louise was grateful—she’d never willingly give up the hurt. She wanted to hold onto these memories of her boys forever. Despite the fact she was a bit of a stereotype and fit the fag hag profile pretty much to a T, the days and nights in Chicago with her circle of gay friends had been some of the happiest days of her life. And she didn’t even realize it at the time. Wasn’t that always the way?

Hopewell brought a sense of quiet, with its looming tree-covered hills—the foothills of the Appalachians and its position on a winding curve of the mud-brown Ohio River.

Moving back had simplified her life, even if it drained a lot of the bustle and color from it. In Chicago, she never walked alone; the streets, no matter the time of day or night, were always busy. In Hopewell, she could wander and never bump into anyone.

It was her mom, at eighty-six, who needed her help with things like shopping, cooking, running errands, and chauffeuring her to doctor’s appointments. Old Trudy, as she and her sisters referred to her behind her back, refused to move in with one of them, or God forbid, the assisted living facility up the road in Newell. Trudy always said, “I live alone because I like it. They say money is the root of all evil, but the truth is it’s people.”

Mom got by with her girls. And Mary Louise, even as she sometimes got nostalgic for the bright lights and hustle of the big city, knew she was doing the right thing. She’d experienced the Chicago skyline on a clear night, Lake Michigan’s blue/aqua/gray waves crashing against the shore, and the vast diversity of people living on its shore, and no one could ever take those memories away.

Even if she was feisty, clearheaded, and mobile, no one knew how much longer Mom would be with them.

At the Q, Mary Louise still could eye the boys, flirt with them, tease them, and play matchmaker in her role as bartender.

Right now, she stood behind the bar in a pair of unflattering black orthopedic shoes. Once upon a time, Mary Louise adored a pair of CFM (come-fuck-me) pumps with four-inch spikes. Oh, how great they made her legs look back in the day! Not that many noticed in hangouts like Sidetrack or Roscoe’s.

Now, midfifties, she needed to be comfortable when she was on her feet all night. Her smile depended on it, and thus her tips.

Currently, she waited for the doors to open, which would happen in about an hour. She was blissfully alone. Well, maybe blissful wasn’t the right word because all the lights were on as she prepped citrus and olives for drinks, washed glasses, polished the bar, and made sure the bottles behind it were stocked and ready to go.

The overhead lights cruelly stole most of the limited magic the Q possessed. And that was too bad. One of Mary Louise’s favorite characters was the tragic Blanche Dubois, from Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire and one of her favorite lines from the show was Blanche’s opinion that she didn’t want realism, she wanted magic. The shadows, soft lighting, and even the disco ball above the dance floor lent a kind of alchemy to the place, transforming it from run down to a setting where anything could happen, where hope lived.

Just before the doors opened, though, the joint looked tired and sad (as Mary Louise herself often felt). The cinder block walls, painted black, possessed a menacing air, like a dungeon—and not a fun one! The concrete floor, stained, showed its grit and the cracks that ran through it. Even the single long rectangle window at the front appeared dusty. Night pressed in on the tinted glass like a monster, hungry for admittance.

Stop it! Now you’re just getting crazy. Mary Louise finished her prep work and allowed herself a moment to sit on the stool she kept behind the bar. It might be her last chance for several hours to relax, if only for a few minutes. She dreaded the coming ache of her feet at evening’s end, orthopedic shoes or not.

But, oh, how she looked forward to seeing everyone! Every Saturday night was a party, and she was the hostess with the mostess.

Despite how some of the regulars could try her patience down to its last reserves, it brought her joy to watch the revelers, to serve them, to offer oblivion in a glass or a bottle. Even though her dancing days, mostly, were well behind her, she loved seeing everyone out there, bodies gyrating and spinning. Some were great, others awkward, others downright embarrassing, but to witness them cut loose after a long week was a thing of beauty, no matter their level of expertise or coordination. She especially loved some of the older patrons, who would bring their shakers of corn starch in to sprinkle on the floor, making it easier to slip and slide to the pulsing dance beat.

Gracie, Rose, and Liz were a lesbian trio that she particularly adored. Even though she’d never had much conversation with them, other than to take their drink orders, the three seemed so well-adjusted and happy, despite never once pairing off, as half the bar expected them to do. And Mary Louise, who considered herself a pretty astute observer of human nature, could tell from a mile away that Gracie was in love with Rose. So obvious! Why couldn’t Rose see it? Or did she simply not want to? Mary Louise had wondered if maybe they were a throuple, but everyone she talked to about that particular suspicion shot in down. “They’re best friends, that’s all.”

She turned as the door squeaked open. There stood Billy Breedlove, her barback and bouncer when needed (not often) in his usual garb—black combat boots, black cargo pants, and a black T-shirt that appeared to be painted on his beefy physique—looking worried.

Mary Louise was taken a little aback. For one, her breath always did a little catch in her throat when she saw him, accompanied by a skip of a heartbeat. He was a beautiful man with his muscles, his bleached-blond buzz cut, and the tattoo sleeves, wildly colorful butterflies and birds that ran down both arms. The fact that he was unattainable made him even more attractive.

And then she’d chide herself. That young man is a good twenty years younger than you, if not more. Cougar. Shame on you.

He’d once told her, when the doors were closed and the lights back on, as they concluded the evening’s business and everyone had headed home, that he was a volcel.

“What the hell’s that?” Mary Louise had asked, mystified.

“I’m an ace,” he’d said, only confusing her further.

“Voluntary celibate, asexual,” Billy told her. “I’m better off without the nasty, you know. I just don’t want it. It would be hard, no pun intended, if it didn’t work for me. But honestly, I never think about sex. Call me weird, but it works for me. And that’s all that matters.”

On hearing those words, she laughed, disbelieving. She fully expected him to laugh, too, maybe slug her in the arm for being gullible. When he didn’t join her in her laughter, her heart broke for him because she knew he wasn’t kidding. She’d pined with unrequited love for gay men most of her adult life and here was one who was most likely straight. And wouldn’t you know it? He’d sworn off sex.

The world was a hopeless place.

He’s too young for you anyway.

The second reason Mary Louise was taken aback was from the worry stamped on Billy’s face.

“There’s been an accident,” he called over. “It’s bad.”

“Oh no.” Mary Louise stood. “What happened?”

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

What Inspired Me to Write DINNER AT HOME



If, or hopefully when, you read my book, Dinner at Home, you’ll encounter Hank Mellinger, a homeless twenty-something who, when we first meet him, is staying at a Charity called Haven, where he gets room, board, and training in how to be a professional cook. Two similar charities exist in Seattle, where the book is set, Fare Start, which teaches cooking skills to the homeless, and YouthCare, which provides shelter, food, clothing, and vocational training for homeless youth, an astoundingly (or maybe not) large number of whom identify as LGBT.

When I lived in Seattle, I volunteered for YouthCare, cooking lunches and dinners once or twice a month with a group of my friends—we call ourselves the “It Gets Better” group. There weren't many things I did that were as satisfying, rewarding, and inspirational as this service. It warmed my heart to know that the food I made with my own hands was feeding kids who may not have anything else to eat the rest of the day. Their happiness at seeing what we made that day could bring tears to my eyes.

My experience with YouthCare is part of the reason I love my character Hank, in Dinner at Home so much. He’s like the kids I fed: streetwise, tough on the outside, but vulnerable too. They’re really barely more than children and they’ve been forced to grow up too fast and have seen too much. Hank is no different.

Here’s a little excerpt that shows you what Hank is all about—tough guy outside, but all heart on the inside:

“You really want to feed people this crap?” Hank Mellinger snapped at his new boss. Lined up in the kitchen of Haven, a charity that housed and fed the homeless of Seattle and provided chef training for some of its residents, were several industrial-sized boxes of generic mac and cheese mix. Alongside the boxes were sticks of no-name margarine and boxes of powdered milk.

His boss, E.J. Porter, an African-American woman with her hair braided tightly to her scalp and oval-rimmed frameless glasses, shook her head as she took in her latest charge.

“Hank. We have to face reality here. Now, as much as I would love to serve people mac and cheese with real cheddar, cream, and maybe roasted red peppers, we just can’t afford that kind of stuff on the measly funds we get from the state and what donors kick in. Hell, honey, we might as well do a b├ęchamel and throw some lobster in too.” She patted his shoulder. “It’s a nice dream, sweetie. Now you need to get cookin’. Lunch is only a couple hours away and I still need you to chop and prep the salad.” She pointed to the sorry pile of heads of iceberg lettuce in the sink.

Hank shook his head. “So because people are poor, they have to eat this fucking shit? Why can’t we get some fresh vegetables? Is it that pricey? This stuff gives ‘em nothin’. Artery-clogging crap that might fill up their bellies, but doesn’t do a thing to keep ‘em healthy. Fuck.”

E.J. moved in close to Hank, so close he could feel her breath and maybe even a bit of her spittle on his face. She spoke softly, but there was an intensity, perhaps even a fury to her words. “Look, Hank, you just got here. I have been trying to run this place for the last nine years. You have no idea what I go through just to get the food we have to work with. You have no idea how grateful some of these people are for this ‘shit’ as you call it. It tastes pretty good when the last meal you had came out of a dumpster, if you had anything at all. We work with what we get. Some days it’s healthier fare than others, but all of it’s food. For hungry people. And you might not think that’s something, but it is.

“Now, you are just starting here. We gave you a roof over your head, food to eat, and we’re trying to help you find a career path as a chef. Haven may not be Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, but we will get you ready to work in a kitchen. We’ll give you knife skills, teach you how to make simple sauces, stocks, and soups, we’ll make a real cook out of you. Maybe not a chef, but a cook.

“Now you need to watch your language, watch your attitude, and get to work.” E.J. stormed away.

BUY
JMS Books

If you want to know more about YouthCare (and maybe even donate), here’s a little more information:

YouthCare History

For 40 years, YouthCare has been a leader in providing effective services to Seattle’s homeless youth.

In 1974, a group of concerned citizens started a three-bed shelter for homeless and runaway youth, the first in the Western United States.  Since then, we have grown to become a community-based agency with six sites serving the greater Seattle area. During that time, we have led the way in creating effective, innovative programs for homeless young people:


  • In 1989, YouthCare created one of the first transitional living programs in the Northwest. Straley House now houses Catalyst, one of the first low-barrier housing programs for homeless youth in the region.
  • In 1998, YouthCare opened ISIS House, the first transitional living program in Washington State to focus on the unique needs of homeless LGBTQ youth.
  • In 2003, YouthCare was one of the first agencies nationwide to contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to house a shelter/case management program serving the specialized needs of refugee youth.
  • In May 2010, YouthCare partnered with the City of Seattle, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, and others to open the Bridge Program, the first residential recovery program in the Northwest for sexually exploited children. Today, the program operates as a full continuum of services for sexually exploited youth and  young adults, and includes dedicated beds in both emergency shelter and transitional living programs.


Contact

For general inquiries, including program information and donation options: info@youthcare.org or (206) 694-4500

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