Tuesday, November 29, 2022

A Taste of THE Q, My Novel about a Small Town Gay Bar in Appalachia


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

Audiobook 


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

My Rescue Dog, Joaquin, Celebrates His Gotcha Day!


Today, I’m #grateful for our #rescuedog, Joaquin. Today is his gotcha day (aka his adoptive birthday). He’s been with us two full years now, bringing joy and laughter at every turn. Here’s his #story:


Home. It's a concept not all dogs, rescue dogs especially, recognize. So many of them have been abandoned, abused, left behind that they become suspicious of the concept. For far too many of them, home is a pipe dream, a fantasy, a pot at the end of a rainbow that may never materialize.

For our Joaquin, home disappeared the day his owner died. He found himself alone in a kennel at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. All around him were unfamiliar noises--the barking of numerous and strange dogs, humans talking, humans gawking. How did I get here? he must have wondered. He tried to escape and his attempts were viewed as comical by volunteers and staff. "Look at that little guy! He can climb right up those wire cage walls!"

I heard about Joaquin and his feats, but I only found his searching for an escape route sad. He was looking for home, I thought.

And then I saw him, a little man with the most incredible green eyes. He was a chihuahua mix, as so many of the shelter residents were. But it wasn't only his eyes that set him apart. Perhaps it was stress from losing his home, perhaps it was genetic, but Joaquin had almost no fur. His dark skin hid the fact. He was still unquestionably beautiful.

For me, a volunteer at the shelter, it was love at first sight. From the moment I locked my own green eyes with his incredible ones, I was a goner. We already had another shelter dog at home, a very good boy called Kodi, and we weren't looking to add another.

But, as the weeks went by (and Joaquin remained unadopted), I fell more and more in love. I'd get to my dog-walking shift early, so I could make sure I would be the one to walk him. He seemed to know me, and would look up at me from time to time as we walked. He followed me around during playgroup in the yard, ignoring the other dogs and pleading with me to pick him up.

And then Thanksgiving weekend arrived. I got to the shelter early, as usual, just so I could be sure to have my time with Joaquin. But this time, his kennel was empty. He was gone! I looked to the board where all the dogs were listed and saw that he was being fostered for the holiday weekend. I despaired. Anyone fostering this beautiful little boy with the big personality would surely keep him.

I'd lost him. 



I checked the board again and saw that the foster was a staff member at the shelter. I went right home and emailed her, saying I'd be happy to foster Joaquin if she had too much on her hands. She came back quickly with an email thanking me for taking him; she'd even deliver him to my house.

Joaquin has been a part of our family, our pack, ever since that day. His big brother, Kodi, got used to him in stages, but he too gradually fell in love with what he initially saw as a little interloper in his kingdom.

Now, we don't know what we'd do without Joaquin (or Kodi!). Rescue is truly the best breed. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

TOXIC: Do We Really Know Who We're Speaking to Online?

 

#1 New York Times bestselling crime and thriller author Gregg Olsen says that TOXIC is...

 "...a smart, nuanced novel of dark and compelling relationships with sparks of wicked humor - an unmitigated triumph by a master of twisted suspense..." 


ABOUT THE BOOK

Connor Ryman thought he had it all—a successful career as a mystery novelist, a condo with stunning views of Seattle’s Lake Union, a supportive and long-term partner, Steve, and a loving daughter, Miranda, who was following in her father’s creative footsteps.

It all went bad when Steve left the family suddenly. Jilted and heartbroken, Connor begins to search for love online. So long off the market, he enlists his daughter’s help in crafting a dating profile.

His prayers are answered when Trey Goodall, smart and handsome, answers his ad. He’s witty, urbane, a wealthy attorney, and his sex appeal is off the charts. But he’s a liar, a monster under a pretty mask. Miranda sees through the red flags and senses something very wrong beneath the faรงade.

Can she convince her father to save himself before it’s too late? Or will Trey, a master manipulator with a very tainted history, play upon Connor’s innocence to ensnare him in a web of deceit, intrigue, and, ultimately, murder?

Excerpt

Toxic
Rick R. Reed © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“I know who you are and I saw what you did.”

The voice on the phone was tinged with acid, yet came out a little shaky and short of breath.

Despite the fear and acrimony in the voice, Trey Goodall hoped that the caller, a man named Jimmy Dale, was making a feeble joke, a lame reference to an old black-and-white thriller from the ’60s. Trey wasn’t ready for his game to be over.

“That’s funny, Jim. Did you watch that movie when you were a kid too? Back in the days of black-and-white TVs and Chiller Theater?”

“I’m not trying to be funny, Trey.” Jimmy halted, obviously frustrated. A slow grin creased Trey’s features. Jimmy sucked in air, obviously holding a sob in check.

There’s something delicious about when they cry.

Despite the delight in Jimmy’s pain, Trey feared it might come to this. This one, he knew, was too smart to stay in the dark for long. Sooner or later, Trey always got found out. He had a trail of broken hearts—and shattered bank accounts—behind him to prove it. Still, later was better because he could usually walk away with a little something in his pocket.

“Then what are you trying to be, dollface?”

“Oh, please save the terms of endearment—”

Trey interrupted. “Another movie reference! Bravo. When do I get a chance to play?”

His question, predictably, was answered with silence on the other end. Trey pressed the phone closer to his ear, listening for further telltale signs of tears, of trauma, of despair. Not that his aim was to instigate any of those emotions, but Trey was like a dog—any attention was good.

Finally, Jimmy spoke. “I don’t want to see or hear from you ever again.”

“Aw, you’re breaking my heart here.” Trey threw open the door to his motel room on Aurora Avenue. Outside, in the waning purple-gray light of dusk, a couple fought, seemingly to the death, in the litter-strewn parking lot. The woman had bleached blonde hair, a handful of which her companion had clutched in one hand. She wore an old flannel shirt, the sleeves cut off. It had come open and her dirty bra showed. The guy was a brute, big and hairy, and obviously had never learned how to treat a lady.

A kid of about eighteen, at most, sat on the curb in front of a parked rusted-out SUV. He was wearing a hoodie, ripped jeans, and a pair of work boots. His head was shaved and this, combined with his whitish pallor and skin-and-bones physique, made him look like a concentration camp survivor. A rheumy, bloodshot gaze moved dully over to Trey. The kid made a lame attempt to hide the meth pipe in his hand.

Trey slammed the door. He deserved better than this sordid dump. He should have been living in a luxury condo downtown overlooking Puget Sound, or maybe a house on Bainbridge Island with expansive mountain and water views.

Instead, here he was on Seattle’s Aurora Avenue, in one of a cluster of rundown motels where the clientele consisted of addicts, prostitutes, and those seeking to party with a capital T in one of the rooms.

He didn’t deserve enduring the chance of bedbugs or crabs. He didn’t like living amid cigarette-burned carpets and mold and hair decorating the bathroom fixtures.

“Stop.” Jimmy sucked in some more air. The guy’s gonna need an asthma inhaler soon. But Trey supposed he was trying to gain a measure of control. Jimmy was wounded, and of course he wanted to hide it, but he couldn’t. “Your heart can’t be breaking because you haven’t got one to break.”

“Ouch.” Trey chuckled, as though to demonstrate the insult was simply water off a duck’s back.

But it wasn’t.

Trey would never let on, but the reference cut like a knife to his very real heart, which was a broken thing.

In his mind, a vision arose. Trey chased it away as quickly as it appeared—but there it was: a vision of his mom, back in Trey’s old hometown of Wellsville, Ohio, burning him with her cigarette and laughing as Trey tried to be brave, tried desperately not to scream or wince because he knew if he showed his pain, his fear, it would only make things worse. Now it was his turn to try to buck up, be brave. “Things not working out the way you expected?”

There was no mirth in Jimmy’s laugh. Trey wanted to ask which was better—bitter laughter or abject tears. But he kept quiet and waited. He’d been through this before. Caught. Discarded.

There was always another sucker in the wings.

“What I expected…” Jimmy trailed off and started again. “What I expected was maybe a relationship. I’m forty-seven years old, Trey. I’ve spent my whole life pushing love away so I could build my career. Now I have a thriving law practice and make more money than I really know what to do with. But you know all that. You knew all that, I figure, before we even met, when you were researching me. I know you don’t have it in you to feel compassion or empathy, but all the money and success in the world doesn’t change the fact that I come home every night to a professionally decorated condominium in the clouds. Alone. Wishing I’d spent more time seeking love instead of that almighty dollar.” He drew in a breath that sounded like a shudder. “Ah, what do you care? You wanted my money. You’re not alone, but you were greedier and sneakier than most.”

Jimmy stopped and Trey listened again for some sign. Would it be worth it to try to save things? Maybe woo Jimmy with the old lines—this was all a misunderstanding. I really love you, man. I started off with bad intentions, but then you caught me. Can we start over? Sometimes crap like that worked. Trey was smart enough, and experienced enough, to know it wouldn’t here.

It’s too late, baby.

“Was any of it true?” Jimmy wondered.

Trey was getting bored. He had no use for this man with whom he’d shared so many recent days and nights. He was worthless now that he’d exposed Trey for who he really was. What Jimmy didn’t know, and didn’t need to know, was that what he’d discovered about Trey was only the tip of the iceberg.

It’s time to move on.

Trey glanced in the mirror over the bathroom sink and nodded approvingly. He still had it. Pushing fifty, but looking at least a decade younger, he was gorgeous. Black wavy hair, ice-blue eyes, full lips, a body taut and packed with muscle. He could always dazzle, and all the magic hadn’t escaped.

There’d be someone else.

And with that someone else, he might hit that elusive jackpot.

The laptop was already open on the desk. And there were eleven new messages.

For once, Trey might as well tell the truth. “No, kid. None of it was true. You’re pathetic. Weak. I feel sorry for you, more than anything else.” He said the words casually, as though they were discussing the weather or how the Seahawks were faring this season. “You’re a fool. A fool for love.” Trey chuckled.

And that broke Jimmy. He began to sob harder now, the grief confirmed and kicking its way to the surface.

Trey listened as the sobbing grew in volume and agony. This is a drag, a bore. He stared longingly at the door, wishing this would be over. How long did he have to listen anyway? Just to be polite? He cut to the quick. “You’ve been played,” Trey said softly. “Get over it.”

He hung up. The computer’s glow reminded him that it was time to find someone else. The right one. A chime alerted him he had yet another message.

But there would be time to attend to that in the morning. Time also for reading. He glanced down at his nightstand. A mystery novel, Cookie Cutter by Alfred Knox, lay there in its mass market paperback edition. It had a stark white cover with only an illustration of a heart-shaped cookie cutter which dripped blood into the crimson title. Below it, a stack of old magazines with articles about Knox, who lived only a few miles south.

Right now, though, Trey needed a little oblivion. He crossed the room and opened the door. The kid with the meth pipe still sat out there on the curb. He didn’t even bother to hide his glass pipe now.

Trey cast his most winning smile. “Wanna come inside?” He opened the door wider, stepping back and confidently waiting as the kid stood.

BUY

NineStar Press | Books2Read | Amazon

  

Monday, November 7, 2022

How a Fever Dream Inspired SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES

Sky Full of Mysteries is one of my more unusual novels, inspired by a fever dream, it plays with science-fiction elements to explore the lure of new love versus long-term established love and commitment.


ABOUT THE BOOK

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….

BUY
NineStar Press
Amazon Kindle
Audiobook
Paperback also available

EXCERPT

Cole listened to the close of Tommy’s office door, the start of the new-age music he listened to as he wrote. Today it was Yiruma. Cole waited a moment, in case Tommy should open the door, and then headed down the hall to the master bedroom. He knew Tommy would not emerge until dinnertime, or even later, if he really got involved.

He sat down on the king-size bed, running his hand over the orange and gray quilt. Part of him simply wanted to collapse backward on it, close his eyes, and sleep for hours. The hum of the window air conditioner was soothing, and he knew he could be under within minutes if he allowed himself.

But no, it was the anniversary. He would do what he always did on this day. He pushed himself up and off the comfortable memory-foam mattress and walked to his closet. One of the advantages of the condo, which was built in the 1920s, was its massive size, a total of nearly 2500 square feet. Their bedroom was enormous and included two walk-in closets, one here and one they’d added off the en suite master bath.

Cole’s was in the bedroom, and even though he knew Tommy wouldn’t hear it, he opened his own closet double doors quietly, wincing at the familiar squeak of the hinges. Cole felt a rush of heat rise to his face, despite the frosty air-conditioned chill all around him. Guilt induced that heat, Cole knew. Like an addict, he’d told himself dozens of times he should put away his obsession with Rory. It wasn’t healthy, not for him, and certainly not for his marriage. Secrets never were. Tommy was understanding, sure, but Cole knew he didn’t realize the depth of Cole’s feelings for Rory, not after all these years. Tommy didn’t realize how much he still yearned for Rory, especially around this time of year.

Cole squatted down on the floor, pushing aside his rather sizable collection of running shoes, Cons, and sandals—no wingtips for this boy—and from the far back recesses of the closet, hidden by shadows and garment bags, pulled forth the old black Reebok shoebox. The box held his and Rory’s entire history. Sad thing was, there wasn’t even enough to fill it halfway.

As he opened the box, Cole wondered why he even bothered. In more logical moments, he told himself that the Rory he still loved didn’t even exist anymore, no matter what had happened. If he was alive, he would have aged, just like Cole, by twenty years. So much could happen, physically, emotionally, spiritually, to a person in two decades. Most people weren’t even close to the selves they were twenty years ago.

Still, he dug into the box. There were only a half dozen or so items inside, and Cole knew each and every one of them by heart. He could just as easily have sat in the kitchen and brought each item out in his mind, examined it, and put it back.

But there was something about touching the mementos. There was an electric connection to each item. He likened it to movies he’d seen about psychics—and how they could get a certain energy from a person off an object they’d touched.

First, there was his old ID for the Bally gym at Century City mall. Cole fingered it and laughed, remembering a time when he did have the energy for going to the gym on a regular basis. Thank God he did, because it was where he’d met Rory. At first sight, he knew that all he’d wanted to do was kiss the guy. He believed, and still did, in a way, that to kiss this kind of nerdy, uncoordinated, bespectacled young man would be a revelation and a kind of salvation for him. He’d be home. His wish had come true later that same day. And Cole had not been disappointed.

What they shared had been far too brief, but it had been real.

Next, there was a cereal box top Cole had hung on to through all these years, simply because it was Rory’s favorite breakfast food. It was kind of endearing that Rory loved Froot Loops so much. Cole used to kid him about how childish it was, that he should eat something more grown-up, sensible, something with a little fiber, for Christ’s sake. “Real men don’t eat Froot Loops,” he’d tease, playfully whacking the back of Rory’s head as he sat on their thrift-store couch, hunched over a mixing bowl full of the stuff, just going to town. “You want me to put some cartoons on?” Cole remembered asking, and Rory had nodded, grinning through a mouthful of milk and unnaturally colored, fruit-flavored confetti.

As the weeks and then months passed with no sign of Rory, he’d hung on to the cereal in the pantry. It wasn’t until he moved in with his sister, Elaine, and she was helping him pack up for his move, that he rescued the box of cereal from the trash, where she’d thrown it.

“Oh no, not this.” He’d snatched it out of the wastebasket.

“You and your sweet tooth,” she said, taking the box from him. She opened it and dug around inside, grinning at him. When she put some in her mouth, though, she spit it into the sink. “That stuff is stale, Cole. Tastes like sugary cardboard.” She replaced the box in the trash.

He waited until she was in the bathroom to rip off the top of the box as a souvenir. Even then it was stupid. But somehow the cereal was a concrete reminder of Rory, who could sometimes be a little kid in a very smart man’s body.

There was a poem Rory had written him, late one night after the third time they’d made love. It was scrawled on a yellow Post-it. Bad rhymes and nearly short enough to be a haiku, it was still the only poem a man had ever written to Cole, about Cole. Even Tommy hadn’t, and he made his living as a writer. Cole got a lump in his throat as his fingertips danced over the six lines and the words “You’re all my heart.”

He missed his sister too, although not nearly as much as Rory. She’d passed away the year before, much too soon, a victim of breast cancer. He knew he should get out to Arlington Heights more often and see his nephew, Bobby, who was in high school now.

He returned his attention to the contents of the box. Here was the photo of Rory unpacking in their new apartment. He wasn’t looking at the camera, his glasses had slipped down his nose, and his reddish-brown mop was a mess, sticking up in several different directions. Cole recalled Rory didn’t even know when Cole snapped the picture. He was too absorbed in what he was unpacking—his computer game software, his most treasured possession. Back then Cole thought the photo would be funny, something to rib Rory about once he’d had it developed at Walgreens.

But now, with the sunlight hitting Rory’s head just so, the youthful exuberance on his face, even the bend of that lithe young body, the photo had become sacred to Cole, a reminder of their beginning a new life together.

How short that life had been! If he had known it would all be snatched away just a few weeks later, would he have behaved any differently? That was the thing about life, though; we were never given the courtesy of a warning when something bad was about to strike. We could only mumble bitter what-ifs, which tasted like ash in our mouths.

Cole set the photo back in the box, eyes welling with tears. Why do I do this to myself? Once upon a time, it seemed there was a point to it, but no more. He was a middle-aged married man mourning a too-brief love from when he was in his prime. Pathetic.

He didn’t look at the rest—a takeout menu, a note Rory had left on the nightstand shortly before he disappeared, letting Cole know he’d gone to the gym—he simply put the lid back on the shoebox and then sat for a moment, cross-legged on the floor, staring at it.

As he did every year, he thought I really should get rid of that box. Burn it, maybe. And just like every year, he shoved it to the back of the closet, hiding it behind and under shoes.

It was his history. No one could take that away.

“Hon?” Tommy called from the hallway. “What are you thinking for dinner?”


Friday, November 4, 2022

New and Notable: STOP THE WEDDING by RJ Scott

 STOP THE WEDDING (A Snowed Inn Story) by RJ Scott

๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—–๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ❄️ ๐—•๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜ ๐—ณ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—น๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€ ❄️ ๐—™๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฃ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜…๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜†!

ABOUT THE BOOK

One drunken phone call with a desperate plea for help, and Patrick races to stop his best friend from marrying the wrong man.

Patrick never stopped loving Declan, even if he did shove him away at graduation when they kissed. His alpha-type brothers and father, with all their firefighter history, would never accept him being bi, or understand his need to step outside of the family firm and be a cop. So, he hides how he feels, and ends up losing the only man he’s ever really loved. The only reconciliation they tried was on the night he found out Declan was engaged, and he never imagined he’d have a chance to make things right. That is, until he receives a desperate phone call from Declan asking to be rescued. Through travel chaos and storms, Patrick finally reaches the venue in the Colorado mountains, but with an empty wedding room and no sign of Declan or the fiancรฉ, he knows he’s too late.

All too familiar with rejection, jilted by his fiancรฉ on his wedding day, and lost, Declan has no idea what comes next. He never imagined he’d be entirely alone after his former fiancรฉ and the wedding party leave, or that an avalanche would trap him in the hotel over Christmas. And worse? Patrick is in the hotel with him and won’t leave him alone. Sharing a room with his former best friend is the last thing Declan wants, but maybe nature has given him a sign that he needs to confront the past and find a way to move on with his life. If only it was easy to fall out of love with the man who holds your heart.

All the books in the Snowed Inn collection are standalone stories and can be read in any order.

BUY ❤️ Amazon/KU  




Tuesday, November 1, 2022

THE Q and My Inspiration

 


 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 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

My Top Ten Halloween Horror Novels

Halloween is coming up! Here are my own Top Ten to put you in the mood...

For your consideration, I offer 10 of my scariest novels and hope you'll check out one (or more!) as a Halloween treat! So, in no particular order, here goes: 

TOXIC
"Rick R. Reed's TOXIC is a smart, nuanced novel of dark and compelling relationships with sparks of wicked humor - all hallmarks of a writer at the top of his game. TOXIC is an unmitigated triumph by a master of twisted suspense." 
(Gregg Olsen, #1 New York Times bestselling author) 

Connor Ryman thought he had it all—a successful career as a mystery novelist, a condo with stunning views of Seattle's Lake Union, a supportive and long-term partner, Steve, and a loving daughter, Miranda, who was following in her father's creative footsteps.
 
It all went bad when Steve left the family suddenly. Jilted and heartbroken, Connor begins to search for love online. So long off the market, he enlists his daughter's help in crafting a dating profile.

His prayers are answered when Trey Goodall, smart and handsome, answers his ad. He's witty, urbane, a wealthy attorney, and his sex appeal is off the charts. But he's a liar, a monster under a pretty mask. Miranda sees through the red flags and senses something very wrong beneath the faรงade.

Can she convince her father to save himself before it's too late? Or will Trey, a master manipulator with a very tainted history, play upon Connor's innocence to ensnare him in a web of deceit, intrigue, and, ultimately, murder?

BUY

THE MAN FROM MILWAUKEE


2021 Rainbow Awards Winner
* Best Gay Book of the Year    * Best Gay Mystery/Thriller

It's the summer of 1991 and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in Chicago who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to Dahmer in prison via letters.

The letters become an escape—from Emory's mother dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.

Dahmer isn't Emory's only lifeline as he begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him and, just like Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory's desire for love leads him to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own peril.

Can Emory discover the roots of his own madness before it's too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of the man from Milwaukee?

BUY

UNHINGED

Horror. Romance. The two seem at odds, yet in provocative author Rick R. Reed’s hands, the pair merge like a match made in heaven ... or hell.

Prepare for a dark journey into an unhinged world populated by ordinary and extraordinary monsters. Unhinged brings you sometimes chilling, sometimes romantic, sometimes hilarious, but always thought-provoking tales.

Among them you’ll find a chilling and redemptive ghost story, a most unusual and shocking first meeting for two lovers, a story revolving around one of the 20th Century’s most horrific serial killers, and a darkly comic take on the vampire mythos. This collection will make your heart race with passion ... in all its forms.

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WOUNDED AIR

Rick and Ernie found the perfect apartment on Chicago’s West Side. Before they’re settled, Rick begins having all-too-real disturbing “dreams.” Each time, an emaciated young man with sad brown eyes appears, terrifying and obsessing him.

From their next-door neighbor, Paula, Rick learns about Karl and Tommy, who lived there before them. Tommy’s mysterious disappearance pains her. When she shares a photo of her with Tommy and Karl, Rick is shocked and troubled. Tommy is the man who appears to him in his dreams.

The ghostly visitations compel Rick to uncover the truth about Tommy’s disappearance. It’s a quest that will lead him to Karl, Tommy’s lover, who may know more about Tommy’s disappearance than he’s telling, and a confrontation with a restless spirit who wants only to—finally—rest in peace.



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A DEMON INSIDE

Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’s never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, Michael Burt, a caretaker for the estate next door. The man might be his salvation… or he could be the source of Hunter's terror.

BUY
Amazon


THIRD EYE

Who knew that a summer thunderstorm and his lost little boy would conspire to change single dad Cayce D’Amico’s life in an instant? With Luke missing, Cayce ventures into the woods near their house to find his son, only to have lightning strike a tree near him, sending a branch down on his head. When he awakens the next day in the hospital, he discovers he has been blessed or cursed—he isn't sure which—with psychic ability. Along with unfathomable glimpses into the lives of those around him, he’s getting visions of a missing teenage girl.

When a second girl disappears soon after the first, Cayce realizes his visions are leading him to their grisly fates. Cayce wants to help, but no one believes him. The police are suspicious. The press wants to exploit him. And the girls' parents have mixed feelings about the young man with the "third eye."

Cayce turns to local reporter Dave Newton and, while searching for clues to the string of disappearances and possible murders, a spark ignites between the two. Little do they know that nearby, another couple—dark and murderous—are plotting more crimes and wondering how to silence the man who knows too much about them.

BUY
Ninestar Press

IMMORTAL THINGS

What would you give up for immortal life and love?

By day, Elise draws and paints, spilling out the horrific visions of her tortured mind. By night, she walks the streets, selling her body to the highest bidder.

And then they come into her life: a trio of impossibly beautiful vampires: Terence, Maria, and Edward. When they encounter Elise, they set an explosive triangle in motion.

Terence wants to drain her blood. Maria just wants Elise . . . as lover and partner through eternity. And Edward, the most recently-converted, wants to prevent her from making the same mistake he made as a young abstract expressionist artist in 1950s Greenwich Village: sacrificing his artistic vision for immortal life. He is the only one of them still human enough to realize what an unholy trade this is.

Blood Sacrifice is a novel that will grip you in a vise of suspense that won't let go until the very last moment...when a shocking turn of events changes everything and demonstrates--truly--what love and sacrifice are all about.

BUY
Ninestar Press
Amazon

OBSESSED


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.


"A harrowing ride through cutting-edge psychological horror, this one's got a vicious bite. Rick R. Reed's Obsessed is a twisted nightmare." - Douglas Clegg, bestselling author

BUY

DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE

Amid an atmosphere of crippling fear, Thad Matthews finds his first true love working in an Italian restaurant called the Blue Moon Cafรฉ. Sam Lupino is everything Thad has ever hoped for in a man: virile, sexy as hell, kind, and… he can cook!

As their romance heats up, the questions pile up. Who is the killer preying on Seattle’s gay men? What secrets is Sam’s Sicilian family hiding? And more importantly, why do Sam’s unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon?

The strength of Thad and Sam’s love will face the ultimate test when horrific revelations come to light beneath the full moon.


BUY
Amazon


MEAT MALLET


Steven's cruising the Chicago lakefront park when he meets the man in the Jeep. He seems nice. He seems sexy. He seems like the kind of guy Steven could have a very good time with. When the guy invites him to his place, Steven doesn't hesitate to accept.

But when Steven gets back to the guy's apartment, he realizes, too late, there's more on the menu than just sex. Steven has fallen into the hands of a very hungry predator...and he may never escape.

BUY





Sunday, October 2, 2022

Ryan Murphy, Netflix, and Dahmer

 



Last night, I finished #Netflix and Ryan Murphy's #Dahmer series and, overall, I was saddened, outraged, and depressed, but also uplifted and in awe of the reverence and respect with which it treated the families of the victims and the ineptitude of law enforcement (who could have prevented some of these deaths had they not been blatantly racist and homophobic).

I agree that no one needs to watch stuff like this if it disturbs them or simply isn't their cup of tea. But I believe there are benefits to understanding the human condition, both light and dark, and media that allows us a glimpse into the shadows can help us understand ourselves and each other better, because we're all composed of both darkness and light.

For me, it's an aid in my writing about real people in my work (who sometimes happen to be killers).

Overall, I thought the series was, in the end, a testimony to love, redemption, and perseverance. If you don't care for such subject matter, it's your choice to avoid it, but there's an almost shaming aspect to some of the posts I'm seeing, which can steer people away from some truly thought-provoking stuff. #DahmerNetflix #DahmerMonsterTheJeffreyDahmerStory

Check out THE MAN FROM MILWAUKEE, my award-winning take on how a closeted young man, filled with self-loathing, becomes obsessed with the killer at the time of his arrest in the summer of 1991: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08C26Z5TM


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Validation and Representation: THE IMPOSSIBLE CHILDHOOD OF MY DESIRES

 


My new #book ventures into territory with which I don't have first-hand experience--the life of a transgender person. I do consider myself a passionate ally for living one's most authentic life and that's one of the themes of the book. One thing that's pleased me most since its release is the reaction I've had from #transgender readers--which is validating because I tried to always be respectful. For example, this review, from a trans man on Goodreads, made my heart sing:

"This is the kind of representation I've been dying to see. Seeing trans characters in books is spectacular, but let's not forget that not all trans people figure themselves out as teenagers or young adults...Seeing a trans main character that not only didn't come out until much later in life, but also did not come out until /after/ they'd already been well established in a life with a committed partner- that's some powerful stuff...

"There were so many things about Cara's journey that I felt deep down in my bones, because I had those thoughts, those feelings, and those experiences too, just as a trans person; but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Being able to see the fears and worries I've had to deal with, and sometimes still have to deal with, as a gay transman married to a very straight cisman, and being able to see a character experiencing all the same feelings I know my husband's felt- that's what's really making me loose my mind over this book...

"I hope this book gets a lot of readers, because it deserves the world."

For some thought-provoking reading, I hope you'll pick up a copy!


BUY

(Paperback coming soon!)




Saturday, September 24, 2022

THE IMPOSSIBLE CHILDHOOD OF MY DESIRES Releases Today!

 



I'm thrilled to share that my latest novel releases today. This one is a little different, branching out in to an area of queer identity I've never explored before, but I hope I've managed to write about the process of transitioning with compassion, kindness, deep respect, and empathy. Please read about my main character's poignant and challenging journey with love and an open mind. 

ABOUT THE BOOK


Carl Young’s biggest secret: he’s always felt like Cara Young. Through the years, he acknowledged his authentic female self in ways he kept hidden in the shadows. The makeup, the dresses, the shoes -- all of them represented his most longed-for desires and his deepest shame.

When Carl’s husband Roberto comes home early from work to discover Cara in her wig, makeup, dress, and high heels, he’s shocked. Who is this person he married decades ago? He flees, leaving their home in Chicago for the obliviousness of the sunny skies of Southern California.

Cara begins making tentative steps into a world she imagined would always remain secret. She ventures out, dressing the only way she feels whole. Publicly claiming her identity, she’s terrified, but also filled with joy when she discovers there are others like her, people who will welcome her with open arms and support.

But for both Roberto and Cara, their long-term and love-filled marriage is now a challenge with which they both must reckon. Does her transition mean following separate paths? Or forging a new one ... 

EXCERPT

Milton had convinced her.

Despite protests of not being ready, of not being prepared, of being absolutely terrified, Milton had insisted Cara jump into the deep end of the pool.

On the phone the other morning, he’d told her, “Sweetheart, all we have is the present. Right now. You can wait around and wait around for some mystical, magical correct moment, but what if it never comes? What if, in actuality, it’s already here?” He blew out a breath. “Honestly, and I’m old, the correct moment seldom ever shows up.” He chuckled. “Maybe the correct moment is an elusive unicorn.”

Cara had had no answer.

Milton persisted. “I can tell that you, my darling, have been waiting all your life for someone else to open the door to your cage. But you have to bear in mind—only one person has been holding the key. And that person is you. You can go on as you have, barely tasting life on your own terms, or you can move forward. Sashay proudly into the future and claim it. It can be terrifying, but you’ll be happier. I promise.”

Because Cara didn’t have the strength or the wisdom—if it could be called that—to argue the point, she’d agreed to dine out with Milton.

As a woman. That would be her enormous leap.

She figured she could back out a couple hours or even a couple days after hanging up. No one was holding a gun to her head.

Yet here she was on Friday night, waiting for the text that would alert her that Milton waited outside. Her emotions were a bittersweet salad of anticipation, dread, and hope.

The honest-to-God truth was that she really, really wanted to do this. Milton was simply the bully/savior standing at the side of the pool, arms outstretched to shove her in the deep end.

And for that, she was grateful, even if she was terrified. Milton was an angel sent down to guide her in the right direction. Stasis had been her byword for far too long.

Roberto had left her. Permanently? That was yet to be determined. But she had no reason to hold herself back from what she’d dreamed of since she was a small child, burying a nose in Mom’s perfume-scented frocks and coats.

So here she was, seated in her living room, watching the dusk fade into night. For courage, she had a Grey Goose martini in front of her. For energy, she had a dance remix of the 1980s playlist on.

She took a sip of the icy vodka and stood. She’d had to look in the mirror when she applied her makeup, otherwise, she feared looking like John Wayne Gacy at a kid’s birthday bash.

Not funny.

But she’d yet to take herself in fully in a reflection.

She was scared to death of what might peer back at her. Would the effect be comic? Ridiculous? Milton Berle in a dress?

She had to face the woman in the mirror. No one else could judge her and, more importantly, no one else could love her as much as she knew she needed to love herself.

There was a silver-framed square mirror hanging above their blue velvet couch. It’d always been ornamental and Cara had passed it without really looking into it hundreds of times.

Now it was a litmus test.

Mirrors don’t lie.

She set down her drink and wandered over to stand before it. She didn’t even realize she’d closed her eyes the moment she was before the silvered glass.

She drew in a deep breath and allowed herself to open her eyes.

She immediately went to the old movie she’d adored as a little boy growing up, Gypsy. And her thought was of the scene when Natalie Wood as Gypsy Rose Lee encounters her adult self in a mirror, in a blue satin gown. Gypsy realizes, finally, she’s come into her own as a woman.

She’d said three profound words, “Mama, I’m pretty.”

Even as a small child in Ohio, Cara recalled how she understood that the character was, for the first time ever, discovering her own beauty. There was such power and grace in that moment.

Cara thought she was no Natalie Wood as she gazed into the mirror. She probably had at least twenty years on the tragic actress when she’d made the movie, for one thing. For another… Well, she didn’t want to admit how many more pounds she weighed, how her figure was, er, less than Greek.

Yet she spoke to her reflection with tears glistening in her eyes. “Mama, I’m pretty,” she said.

She didn’t laugh. She didn’t think she was being vain. She regarded herself, also in a dress made from blue satin. Coincidence?

She shook her head, taking a spin in front of the mirror. The dress was vintage with a scoop neckline, and belted at the waist with a rhinestone belt. Blue satin pumps on her feet. Her wig was perfect, looking to Cara like her own natural hair. Her makeup was subtle, with a good foundation, a little blush, some eyeliner and mascara and just the faintest hint of blue on her eyelids.

I don’t look like a woman.

I am a woman.

Just before turning away from the mirror, she gasped. Her mother stood behind her, one hand on her shoulder. Her nails were blood red. She squeezed and mouthed, “You are pretty.”

And then she was gone.

The ding ding of an incoming text tore her out of her reverie.

Milton was outside.

BUY

(Paperback coming soon!)





Saturday, September 10, 2022

THE Q and Inspiration



 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