Monday, September 21, 2020

NEW AND NOTABLE: Missing in Somerville

 

Title: Missing in Somerville

Author: A.J. Raven

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 21, 2020

Heat Level: 1 - No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 46200

Genre: YA Mystery, LGBTQIA, mystery, high school, in the closet, crime, young adult, suspense

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Synopsis

The young bride of the town’s wealthiest man is missing and rumors of her whereabouts are rampant. The whispers of her being killed by her husband and chatter about her running away sound like an interesting story for young Jerry Mathews to write to ensure a place in his school’s newspaper team. But peeling away the layers unravels a far more dangerous mystery than Jerry and his friends could have anticipated.

As if dealing with high school wasn’t already too much for him, Jerry has to quickly learn that a wrong move during his investigation could end his life.

Excerpt

Missing in Somerville
A.J. Raven © 2020
All Rights Reserved

“Jerry, wake up,” came my mother’s voice, the same voice I’d heard every morning for as long as I could remember.

I groaned.

“Wake up.”

“Eeeep, Mom!” I cried. I was in one of my smallest shorts and a vest. “This is so uncool!” I concealed myself in the covers.

“Well, it’s not as if I haven’t seen what you’ve got.” She smiled and winked at me. “Now get up, or you’ll be late for school.”

“High school, Mom!” I corrected her, rolling my eyes, ignoring the comment she made about having seen what I had got. “Not school.”

“Just get up, dear.” She smiled again.

She walked out of my room and down the stairs. Giving my body a good stretch and suppressing a yawn, I got up and went to the bathroom. I took a quick shower, pulled on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt lying on my bedroom floor, and looked at myself in the mirror. A five-foot-seven boy with black eyes, black hair, a not-so-deep cleft in the chin and wearing a pair of glasses looked back at me.

Not bad, Jerry Mathews. I had accepted the fact I wasn’t supermodel material a long time ago.

I picked up my backpack and went downstairs to the kitchen, where my parents were having breakfast.

“Ever heard of alarm clocks?” asked Dad, a huge, mostly serious man.

Knowing him, I knew he was trying to make a joke even though he was always awful at them.

“Good morning to you too, Dad,” I answered, sitting down at the table between my parents.

“It’s not his fault!” said Mom, obviously mistaking Dad’s weird, so-called joke for something else. “I like waking up my child in the morning,” she continued, pouring me a glass of milk with a smile as I helped myself to some toast. “He’s the only one I’ve got. I want to spend as much time as I can with him before he goes into the world on his own.”

Mom and her attachment issues.

Dad must’ve been rolling his eyes. I couldn’t tell because his face was behind the morning newspaper he was reading. The rest of the breakfast went on silently as usual; we were one of those families who preferred talking more as the day went by.

“Well, I’m off,” I said, getting up and grabbing my backpack from the floor. “See you both later.”

“Have a nice day, sweetie!” Mom called as I reached the front door, followed by a weird grunt from Dad—his way of telling me to stay safe.

He had always been bad at showing his emotions, though Mom did tell me he was quite romantic. That was yet to be proven true as far as I was concerned.

I went out of our house and started walking toward school, taking in the familiar surroundings. I lived in a typical suburban neighborhood. Every upscale house on either side of the road had well-manicured lawns. A few houses had small apple trees. I saw a couple adults in suits getting into their cars for work. A group of five kids laughing at something funny rode past me on their bicycles on their way to school.

“Good morning, Mrs. Dave.” I waved at our neighbor across the street. The old woman smiled and waved back as she tended to the flowers in her front yard.

Yup! Life does look the same when you’ve been living in the same neighborhood since you were born, and that, too, with the same people around you. Even if you don’t want to, you’re still going to end up knowing everybody living in the neighborhood as time passed and force yourself to have a smile when you see them.

“I knew that was you walking,” said a voice from behind me. I recognized the voice, so I slowed down a little to let her catch up.

“Seriously, Jerry, you walk too fast!” said Ash as she reached me.

I smiled; people had always told me I walked fast and, well, a bit weirdly. Weirdly in the sense I, according to them, walked as if I was about to jump in the air after every step. But as far as I was concerned, I walked fine enough, thank you very much. Mom did tell me years ago my weird gait might be because I used to walk on my toes as a child, as if I were wearing invisible heels around the house. That never made any sense to me.

“Your father isn’t driving you to school today?” I asked Ash, pushing my glasses up my nose.

“Nah, he had to leave early,” Ash answered.

Ash or Ashley Burro-way and I had been friends since kindergarten. She had beautiful brown hair, perfect dark skin, and piercing green eyes. I’d always told her she could be the hottest girl in our school if she tried. But she maintained a bossy air around her and dressed like a boy.

“Hey, did you do the chemistry assignment?” she asked, forcing her short brown hair into a knot behind her head. “I found it quite tough!” she added.

“I know what you mean,” I answered. “Who cares how atoms bond together. Why can’t we let three-dimensional objects be?”

Ash and I walked on for a few seconds when I heard a car behind us. “Ash, look out!” I yelled, pulling her away from the side of the road as the car zoomed past us. Its tire went through a puddle of muddy water. The drops missed us by inches.

“I bet you twenty dollars it was that jerk, Drew!” growled Ash, glaring at the speeding car as it grew smaller and smaller. “He’s been after me ever since I told the principal he and his cronies were smoking near the school bicycle stands.”

“Well, you know it might help a lot if you don’t feel the necessity to tell on everybody at school,” I said, as we both started to walk again.

“It’s not my fault the school has rules,” answered Ash. “And we as students are expected to follow the rules in order to…”

Blah, blah, blah. I tuned her out. It was something you had to learn if Ash was your friend. She was one of those people who held upholding the rules in high regard. It’s not as if I didn’t follow the rules; it’s that I knew about the line you shouldn’t cross unless you needed to make enemies at school.

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Meet the Author

A.J. Raven is an author who likes to write mysteries with queer characters. He likes exploring leads that have a lot to learn and aren’t perfect; they will make mistakes. So, bear with them. You can find A.J. on Twitter

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Friday, September 18, 2020

COVER REVEAL: The Prince and the Pencil Pusher by Kenzie Blades

 

The Prince and the Pencil Pusher by Kenzie Blades

Cover Created by : Fern Lee

Release Date: September 28, 2020

 Available to Pre-Order at Amazon

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Bad things happen when supos go unchecked. That's why Abarra needs The Ministry: to keep tabs on royals with powers run amok. Queen Maialen has entrusted the safety of her subjects to her nephew, Prince Xabier, placing the agency in his capable hands.

Only, the Prince would rather spend his days putting his own power to good use in the vineyards than to wither away on the bureaucratic vine. Tired of policing perpetrators and babysitting bean-counters, he schemes to groom his first lieutenant (and second cousin) the Duke of Shrubs. After months spent moving chess pieces, he is poised to convince the Queen to assign his cousin to his post.

But an unlikely pawn still stands in his way: the sexy Zain Otxoa is the pushiest pencil-pusher in all of The Ministry and head of internal affairs. Prince Xabier has plotted to have him fired at least thrice. Zain's influence over the Queen—his only saving grace—is baffling.

When a master maneuver to have Zain reassigned exposes a shocking imbroglio, Prince Xabier learns The Ministry isn't what it seems. And Zain isn't a pawn at all.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR Is Now Out in a Brand-new Edition!

 So pleased to announce my psychological thriller/romantic suspense novel is now out in a new edition from NineStar Press! The awesome cover design is by Natasha Snow.

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, MM romance, author, multiple personality disorder, brothers, murder

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About the Book

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.

Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.

So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.

Excerpt

The Couple Next Door
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

How many disappointing dates will I endure before I just give up?

I mean, here I am, a perfectly attractive, fit, self-sufficient thirty-year-old, and I’m still waiting to meet the man of my dreams. Mr. Right. Hell, tonight I’d even settle for that character who seems to come along on dates for most of us, the all-too-common Mr. Right Now. But even he isn’t on the seat beside me. In fact, I strongly doubt he’s anywhere in the vicinity of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle where I live.

Believe me, I’ve looked.

Mr. First Date pulls his Ford Fusion up to the curb in front of my apartment building on Aloha Avenue. We sit in awkward silence for several long moments, listening as the engine ticks down as it cools. I can feel him looking at me. As he’s done most of the evening, he waits for me to speak. I turn my head and, in the dark, give him a weak smile. The date, dinner at a little sushi place on Broadway, had not gone well, full of uncomfortable silences, awkward pauses, and desperate looks around for avenues of escape—on both our parts.

Do I need to say we just didn’t click?

I didn’t think so.

So what he says now surprises me.

“Do you want me to come up?”

Really? We’ve just spent an hour and a half of agony together, trying to find a snippet of common ground that doesn’t exist, and he’s wondering if I want him to come up, which we all know is code for “Shall we make the beast with two backs?”

Seriously? The most irksome thing is, I’m considering it. I mean, he’s cute in spite of our lack of social connection. He’s a games developer for a software company here in town and looks it, with a sort of hipster/geek vibe going on. He has red hair, which I love. He has a beard, which I love. He wears retro glasses, which make him look paradoxically goofy and sexy—which I love.

Would it be so terrible to sleep with him? I mean, it’s been at least two weeks since I’ve enjoyed the charms of anyone other than Mr. Thumb and his four sons, so at least in terms of a release, maybe I should just say “Sure” and open the car door. If things go like some of my dates in the past, he’d follow me upstairs to my apartment and be back in his car in, like, fifteen minutes.

No, I tell myself. And then I tell him, shaking my head, looking sad, and saying the words countless heartbreakers have used over the years to stop ardent passion in its errant tracks.

“I’m sorry, Neil. But I have to get up early.” Lamely, I pat his hand. “Maybe another time.”

I don’t need to be psychic to know that we both know another time ain’t gonna happen.

Neil seems relieved as he restarts his car. He shrugs. “It’s okay. Club Z’s just a couple minutes away, right? Down Broadway and a right on Pike—easy.”

He grins at me, and I wonder if he expects me to laugh. Club Z is one of Seattle’s filthiest bathhouses, and yes, it’s only a few minutes away. He doesn’t seem to need directions.

It’s my turn to be relieved that I didn’t actually succumb to the temptation of inviting this jerk upstairs. Wordlessly, I get out of the car and slam the door behind me.

Neil roars off into the damp and still night.

I pause and sigh, staring up at the building in which I’ve lived for the past five years. It’s an okay place, an old redbrick three story with none of the modern amenities—no stainless steel, granite countertops, or gas fireplaces. My apartment is homey. It even has the original tile, sink, and claw-foot tub in its single bathroom. The living room is large, with three big windows that look out on Aloha and let in lots of light—on the days when we have sun in Seattle (that means usually summer days). The floors are scuffed original hardwood. The kitchen actually has a pantry and built-in china hutch. I’ve painted the place a cheery, soft yellow.

Upstairs, the TV, with its DVRed episodes of at-odds Sons of Anarchy and Downton Abbey, awaits. Upstairs, there’s the gelato I love from Whole Foods in the freezer—hazelnut dark chocolate.

Such is my life. Comfortable and a little lonely.

Sometimes I wonder, like Peggy Lee, if that’s all there is.

I head toward the glass-paned front door. I grope in my jeans for my keys. The mail had not yet arrived before I left for my date, and I wonder if there will be any surprises in the vestibule mailbox. You know, like an actual letter from someone, standing out from the usual assortment of bills and solicitations by the cursive spelling out of my name—Jeremy Booth.

My problem is I always have hope, even when there’s little reason.

I open the front door, and that’s when everything changes. My life turns upside down. I go from bored discontent to panic in a split second.

The first thing I hear is someone shouting “No!” in an anguished voice. I look up from the lobby to see two figures on the staircase above, on the second-floor landing. One is a guy who looks menacing and so butch he could pose for a Tom of Finland poster. An aura of danger radiates from him. Aside from his imposing and muscular frame, he’s even wearing the right clothes—tight, rolled jeans and a black leather biker jacket with a chain snaking out from beneath one of the epaulets. His high- and tight-buzzed hair gives him a military—and mean—air. He has his hands on the shoulders of a guy who looks a bit younger and much slighter, making me want to call up the stairs, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” The smaller guy, blond and clad only in a pair of pajama bottoms, struggles with his attacker, looking terrified. Their movements, clumsy and rough, would be comical if they weren’t so scary. The smaller guy is panting and batting ineffectually at the bigger one.

“Please! No! Don’t!” the smaller guy manages to get out, his voice close to hysteria.

I have never seen either of these men before. In fact, the whole scene has the quality of the surreal, a dream. The danger and conflict pulsing down the stairs makes my own heart rate and respiration accelerate, causing feelings of panic to rise within me.

And then the worst happens. The big butch guy shoves the smaller one hard, and all at once he’s tumbling heavily down the stairs toward me.

The fall is graceless, and it looks like it hurts. It’s over so fast that I’m left gasping.

I look up to see the leather-jacket guy sneer down at his mate, lying crumpled and crying at my feet, and then turn sharply on his heel to go back into a second-floor apartment that had been vacant yesterday. He slams the door. The sound of the deadbolt sliding into place is like the report of a shotgun. Both slam and lock resound like thunderclaps, echoing in the tile lobby, punctuation to the drama and trauma of this short scene.

I switch into Good Samaritan mode and drop to my knees at the sniveling, crumpled mess of a man lying practically at my feet.

“Are you okay?” I ask and reach out to lightly touch his shoulder.

He jerks away and, wincing, pulls himself up into an awkward sitting position. He stares at me with clear blue eyes for a moment, almost as though he’s trying to place me. He finally looks away.

“My ankle is throbbing. It hurts like hell. Maybe I twisted it.”

I don’t know what to say, other than to ask, “Would you like to try and stand? Test it out?”

He nods.

I lean over to grip him under the arms—it’s damp there, and I can smell the ripe aroma of body odor, probably inspired by fear or panic—and pull. He comes up with me and then stumbles, wincing and crying out.

“Damn. I might have sprained it when I fell.” His eyes are so appealing, in both senses of the word, as he stares at me, as though seeking direction for what to do next. He leans on me, taking his weight off the injured ankle.

I keep my arm around him, and together we limp over to a bench set beneath the bank of common mailboxes. We sit.

“What do you want to do?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I think Cole may have locked me out for the night.”

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

New and Notable: The Handsome Twist by Pezhmun D Ghiassi

 

Publisher: Friesen press

Release Date: 8/19/2020

Length: 144 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction, New Adult, Thriller/Suspense

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Synopsis

The Handsome Twist is a dark fairy tale inspired by the author's actual life, being raised in Iran as a gay male, which for many who don't know, is equivalent to the death penalty. Due to tackling topics such as perverse behavior, taboo lust, political oppression, maltreatment, rape and homicide, in high volume of vulgar language, this book is aimed for the mature audience.

Living his sweetest life in a cozy cottage, deep in the heart of a magical forest, a little boy by the name Pezhmun is cursed on his 10th birthday by the 1st royal subject of Hell, queen of lust, to live a life full of horrific trauma and tragedy.

In the rudest awakening he is stripped from his chakras as they take human form, helping him to truly comprehend the power of love, through self acceptance and courage, where only then he meets his soulmate, but hopefully in time to save the world from plunging into eternal darkness.

This story points to topics in which many of people who grow up LGBTQ, usually face throughout the journey of self discovery and self acceptance with a hope of inspiring all to be there true organic selves.

The Handsome Twist simple edition is written in a more comprehensive manner for all to read without difficulty in comparison to the sophisticated, prosaic and poetic original version.

Excerpt

I was born on a glacial Thursday, 4 am of January 4th, 1990, in Baltimore, Maryland, from a mixture of Persian, Irish, Italian, and Native American, something my mother use to call a Heinz 57 ketchup. A year later, after my birth, both my father and mother grew exasperated from to the complexities of the cold climate. In a drastic change of mind, our domesticity was relocated to the Sunny Scottsdale of Arizona.

I confess life in the scorched city did us well. My parents both successful businessman and woman, steady income, a beautiful home and anything to ever ask for and how I wish life always showed its brighter side to me and my loved ones, but that's not always the case, and this life we speak of isn’t always dreamy…

I recall being ten and en-route from school to home that day as a certain anxiety pommeled my paunch.

I swung the door open only to my witness, the household tarnished! I had never seen so much shattered glass and porcelain gathered in one spot! My pops seeing me rapidly tugged my wrist, marching to the bedroom, sitting us at his computer. “You want to see what your mom's doing?” My momma's shriek from the other side of the house rang loud “Parheez No! Don't do that to him!” Disregarding her plea, he opened his browser, pulling up a website.  A tall, scrawny man, his blinkers framed in glass binoculars, and a dirty brown mustache with a red cap on his head appeared as my father uttered, “You're mother is fucking this man!”  I gasped in shock! My breath shortened as I dashed to my only sibling, my older sister's room drowning in tears! I leaped to her embrace as she nurtured me.  How could someone do that to a 10-year old I pondered! Anyhow, let's let that minor one slip, considering that the least of our worries, for now, that is.

Months later, the once upon a time madly in love couple split! My father by fate lost all his fortune to his partner who had swindled him to his very last dime and as far as my mother who till that day had dedicated her life-giving me and my sister her all, chose emancipation parting ways, re-wedding to a forest firefighter named" William Delaney " who most likely now quivers in the icy flames of Hell!

My old man now left with empty pockets, and two kids on his hand did what he only knew best, returning to his homeland, Iran.

Luckily his parents had been financially blessed and were indeed the significance of benevolence granting us a home to launch a new life!

A year later, my Baba saw suitable to remarry, so he did. He pondered maybe if a motherly figure hovered our lives, it would do us good, another erroneous mistake!

My step-dame initially seemed the kindest, sweetest being to roam the earth, though gradually in time, she allowed her true colors to show vibrancy.

This woman I speak of had seen much darkness and cruelty in her life, and by the time she had been locked into our family, already had she entrapped herself in a chamber of bitterness, constructed by bricks of pessimism and paranoia. So to be honest, yes, she has a golden heart, though like myself a very fucked up past with the only difference I chose the path of wisdom, not ignorance in my years of youth.

My father made certain to never deprive her of emotion, yet still, she portrayed envy for the love and affection he offered us, making it her mission to assure our lives a misery.

By night shame would be our pillows and goosebumps of gloom our blankets. Now imagine me, my sister to her brown almond eyes, adversaries, not offspring!

Years of her crudeness sailed the sea of our existence till in a sudden twist, this compulsively jealous spouse of a wife of my father went down a darker spiral of violence as one day I declined one of her many ruthless requisitions, expecting me to drop whatever I had in hand and spring at her ease.

I stood up for myself for once, in-surprise my merit were sharpened claws! Scaring my throat, leaving a sting of blood, the image of my scrag!

If a wicked stepmother was my only pain, I'm positive I wouldn't be here scribbling away.

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Meet the Author

 

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Raised in Iran, Ghiassi is a renaissance in the field of art! At the age 10 after the separation of his parents he along with his father and sister moved to Iran. He soon began school in a Farsi language school and easily became adapted. In his teen years he discovered himself a dilatent in the field of art by sowing clothing, painting, dancing and high school plays. Ghiassi is a graduate with a BA in Persian literature. At the age 24 he returned to America, served as a US Marine reservist and soon found himself obsessed with writing and a brilliant outlet to manage his heavy luggage of trauma and pain. He currently now resides in Southern California, studying film and directing as an actors student in hopes to one day transform The Handsome into a full length feature.

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Monday, August 31, 2020

M4M Re-Release Three Great Stories, One Great Love

 


Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, MM romance, online dating apps, deception, HIV, men over 40, grief

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Synopsis

Three great stories. One great love.


VGL Male Seeks Same

Poor Ethan Schwartz. It seems like he will never find that special someone. At age forty-two, he’s still alone, his bed still empty, and his 42-inch HDTV overworked. He’s tried the bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find one another, but for Ethan, it never works out. He wonders if it ever will. Should he get a cat?

But all of that is about to change…

NEG UB2

Poor Ethan Schwartz. He’s just had the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s been diagnosed HIV positive. Up until today, he thought his life was on a perfect course. He had a job he loved and something else he thought he’d never have: Brian, a new man, one whom Ethan thought of as “the one.” The one who would complete him, who would take his life from a lonely existence to a place filled with laughter, hot sex, and romance.

But along with the fateful diagnosis comes another shock—is Brian who he thinks he is?

Status Updates

Ethan finds himself alone once more and wonders if life is worth living, even one with a cat. Via a Facebook friend request, an old nemesis appears, wanting to be friends. Ethan is suspicious but intrigued because it seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around…and the changes just might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life…and love.

Excerpt

M4M
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Ethan Schwartz was alone. At forty-two, the state of being alone was almost like having another person by his side, a person he was growing to know more and more intimately with each passing night in his too-big-for-one bed. In fact, Ethan sometimes wondered if being alone was his natural state of being. Perhaps it was simply his fate to spend his evenings in front of his brand-new forty-two-inch Toshiba HDTV, watching classic 1940s movies from an endless queue at Netflix.

He wondered if his life would ever change. Maybe he would continue to go to work at his job as a publicist for several Chicago theater companies, come home about seven o’clock, nuke a Lean Cuisine, fall asleep in front of the TV, and repeat the routine until he expired.

He had thought, as he tossed in bed at night, in those endlessly stretching hours slogging their way toward dawn, of getting a dog or even a cat. He envisioned himself walking into his apartment door at night, greeted by a French bulldog’s grin or the slightly harlotish leg rub of a Maine coon. But an animal just didn’t seem like—well, it just didn’t seem like enough.

In the above scenario, he also imagined a man coming in the same door minutes later and Ethan getting the four-legged companion riled up by saying “Daddy’s home!” No, Ethan knew—in his heart of hearts—he wanted an animal of the two-legged variety, one who would talk back to him, one he could spend long autumn weekends in Door County with, one he could take out to dinner parties and bring home to his family at Christmas. He wanted an animal that wouldn’t shed and would need little housebreaking. Well, at least not much. At forty-two, Ethan had lowered expectations.

He also dreaded the thought of subjecting some poor tabby or Boston terrier to a solitary existence much like his own. After all, the stand-in-for-a-boyfriend pet would spend most of its time roaming the apartment by his or her lonesome and staring mournfully out the window because of Ethan’s long hours at work.

He knew from experience that subjecting an unsuspecting animal to an existence akin to his own would be cause for calling out the SPCA.

So Ethan would have to go on dreaming of meeting Mr. Right in human form and continue to watch as those dreams faded into wispy gossamer as the years relentlessly marched toward old age. Already Ethan found it necessary to use a moisturizer on his face and a depilatory on his back. His dark brown hair he kept buzzed close to his skull in an effort to minimize its traitorous thinning. Starting at around age thirty-two, every year he’d added a pound or two to his five-foot-ten-inch frame, and every year that pound or two became harder and harder to lose, in spite of long, sweaty hours on the treadmill or a diet consisting chiefly of the frozen culinary delights of the people at Smart Choice, Lean Cuisine, or South Beach Diet.

Heading toward middle age sucked…especially when you were doing it alone.

Tonight Ethan dug in the Doritos bag for one remaining chip of decent size while glued to the adventures of Ugly Betty. Why couldn’t he at least find a nice nerd, as Betty once had? Why couldn’t he at least have a little drama at work, like the Mexican magazine assistant faced every single day of her charmed life? Ethan’s days were spent trying to chat up theater critics in hopes of persuading them to write a review or feature on whatever play he was pushing that week. Or he holed up in his cube and wrote the same press release over and over, with only the titles, venues, and dates changed. When he had taken the job ten years ago, he’d thought the free nights out at the theater would be a great way to get dates. He’d assumed he would meet lots of handsome actors, and they would all want to cozy up to the publicist who could get them so much press.

He’d thought wrong.

Ethan got up and shut off the TV and threw his Doritos bag in the trash. He stretched and looked out the window. His move to this North Side Chicago neighborhood had been another misguided romantic maneuver, one that started full of hope and confidence and had been dashed by cold reality. He felt even more isolated and alone as he looked down from his studio apartment on Halsted Street, the blocks between Belmont and Addison that Chicagoans referred to as Boystown. When he had rented the little studio above a gay bookstore a decade ago, he had reasoned that wrangling a date would be no more difficult than hanging out his third story window with a smoldering gaze and a come-hither pout.

He had reasoned wrong.

Shortly after Ethan had moved in and hung his first Herb Ritts poster, Boystown had begun quickly gentrifying itself. Most of the gays moved farther north to Andersonville or even Rogers Park. Sure, gay bars still lined the street, and the teeming throngs continued to taunt him with luscious examples of masculinity on the prowl, but it had been a long time since one of the minions had made his way up the creaking stairs to Ethan’s studio.

Oh, he supposed he could throw on some jeans, T-shirt, and his Asics and run across the street to Roscoe’s or any of the other watering holes lining the rainbow-pyloned avenue, but he had been to that dry well too many times to even consider it. Every year, it seemed, there was a new crop of gorgeous twentysomethings laughing and drinking…and practiced in the art of ignoring nice but nondescript men like Ethan. One could only endure so long the hours of standing against a wall, Stella Artois in hand, trying to look approachable and then never being approached. It didn’t do much for the ego.

And it didn’t do much for the wallet. Or the self-esteem. Or certainly the romantic, or even sex, life.

No, the bars had long ago lost their allure, becoming more and more an exclusive club for younger gays looking to hook up, or dance, or text message each other…or whatever other ways they found these days to make Ethan feel old. Besides, Ethan hoped for a more meaningful connection.

And with each gray hair, each crow’s-foot and laugh line stamped upon his features, he despaired of ever finding it.

He padded into the little bathroom and gasped as a cockroach beat a hasty retreat into a crack between the baseboard and linoleum-tiled floor. He shook his head and thought that even the bugs wanted nothing to do with him.

He looked at his tired face in the mirror and laughed. “Jesus,” he said to his reflection, “you’re pathetic.” He held his aging mug up to the light cast by the overhead fixture and said, “What’s wrong with everybody? You’re not so old. You’re not so bad.” And indeed, Ethan spoke the truth. He looked every bit of his forty-two years, but that was still pretty young, wasn’t it? Didn’t somebody at the office just yesterday say something about forty being the new thirty? And his face, while certainly not Brad Pitt sexy, was pleasing, with a nice cleft in his chin, a strong nose, and deep blue eyes framed by long black lashes. His lips were a bit thin—a gift from his German father—and he could probably use some sun to give his pasty complexion a little pizzazz, but all in all, it wasn’t a face one would run from, screaming into the night. It was every bit as cute as a Tom Hanks or Will Ferrell.

Ethan pulled his toothbrush from the medicine cabinet and decorated its bristles with orange gel—when had toothpaste gone orange?—and gave his teeth a savage brushing, even though his dentist always admonished him about that, telling him a slow, gentle course was the way, lest he wanted to erode his gums entirely away. But Ethan had never been able to dissuade himself from the idea that the harder the brush, the whiter the teeth.

He spit and wiped his mouth on the hand towel and headed back into the common area to pull out his queen-size—hush!—futon for another night of lonely slumber.

Tomorrow, he thought, he had to do something about his depressing state. And he did not mean moving out of Illinois. Somewhere there had to be a companion for him, just waiting. His dream man wasn’t in all the places he had fruitlessly checked, like the bars, backstage, and in his office. But he was out there, and like Ethan, he too was pulling the covers up by himself and thinking the answer to the riddle of how to escape a solitary existence was just within reach.

Just before he fell asleep, he wondered if his mystery man also cynically told himself the same thing every night.

“Shut up!” Ethan cried into the darkness. And then whispered, muffled into his pillow, “Tomorrow will be different. I just know it.”

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NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love. 

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Kind and Wise Ghost Gives a Man His Life Back in HOPE


My short story HOPE is a poignant quick read. It's a little #scary, a little #sweet, and all about the redemptive power of #love

BLURB

After Todd's mother dies from cancer, he moves back to his hometown in the foothills of the Appalachians from Chicago. It's 1997 and he's just been given a death sentence--an HIV-positive diagnosis.

Todd expects his remaining time on earth to be spent alone. But Cal, his handsome next-door neighbor, has other ideas.

Cal is not the only surprise in Todd's new life. Todd begins having visions of an older woman, Essie, when he dims the lights. Is she just a figment of his imagination? Or is she a truth teller? When she talks to Todd, she's smart and hopeful. 

When Todd tells Cal about the ghost, Cal knows her already because Todd's mother spoke with her before her death. Essie was a godsend when Todd's mom was in so much pain. 

And now, Essie urges Todd to live...for himself...for new love. But is she too late?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

NEW AND NOTABLE: CJane Elliott's SAND-MAN'S FAMILY

Title: Sand-Man's Family: An M/M Coming of Age Romance

Series: Wild and Precious Book 3

Author: CJane Elliott

Publisher: CJane Elliott

Release Date: 8/24/20

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 36,800 words

Genre: Romance, New Adult, Young Adult, Coming of Age, coming out, family drama, bisexual, college, hurt-comfort

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Synopsis

It isn’t easy to leave a family that hurts. But what if it’s the start of finding a love that heals?

High-school senior Sandy's Catholic parents are furious to discover he's had sex before marriage. But when he blurts out he's bisexual, they go ballistic. To avoid conversion therapy, Sandy runs away from Rockford, Illinois to move in with his gay uncle in Portland and start a new life.

He leaves behind Jade, the fabulous out gay kid in their Catholic high school. They hooked up—once—to confirm Sandy’s bisexuality. Jade had never expected to get that far with star athlete and altar boy Sandy. But he was crushed when Sandy disappeared without even telling him.

A year later Jade and Sandy run into each other on the train going home to Rockford for Thanksgiving and form an alliance to help Sandy confront his parents. Will they keep building where they left off or will their spark turn to dust?

If you like coming of age stories, queer kids finding the courage to be themselves, and the comfort of found families, you’ll love Sand-Man’s Family.

Excerpt

Sandy woke with a start from a bad dream, a wild panic seizing his lungs, and gasped for air. Something wasn’t right. Instead of Connor’s snores, he heard traffic noises and clanging outside, and a series of rhythmic squeaks inside the room. He sat bolt upright, then remembered. He wasn’t at home. He was in Chicago, on the lumpy couch in Dan and Fred DeMartino’s apartment. And that squeaking noise was from their caged hamster doing seemingly endless laps on its wheel. He’d forgotten that hamsters were nocturnal.

He slumped down and checked his phone. Six o’clock Tuesday morning. If he were at home, he’d be getting up and arguing with Connor over who got to shower first. His eyes filled with tears at the thought of Connor. He’d had tons of text messages and calls from him in the three days since he’d run away, none of which Sandy had answered. He’d never kept Connor in the dark about something so major before, but this time he had to. He didn’t want Connor in trouble with Mom and Dad, not when Connor still had to live with them. Josh was the only one who knew where he was.

Sandy let the tears run freely as the hamster wheel squeaked. He missed home. Caitlin and Bridget, the eight-year-old twins, used to tackle him every morning when he came down for breakfast, squealing with delight as he picked them up and ran around growling like a big-brother monster. Maureen would watch, pretending to be dignified, until finally she’d jump on his back, clamoring to join the fray. Mom would scold them from where she stood at the stove scrambling eggs, but she’d have one of her rare smiles. Mornings were a nice time in his family. Dad was either still asleep or awake and sober, and Mom was usually in a better mood.

Running the back of his hand over his eyes, Sandy thought about the rest of what he was missing out on. They had a big baseball game this week with their arch-rivals, and he was going to be a no-show. Coach would kill him, if he could get his hands on him. There was a student council meeting that he was supposed to run. He’d been looking forward to the high school musical this coming weekend, especially to seeing what Jade would do with his starring role. And he and Brittany had planned to go to the cabin. Then later came prom and the sports banquet and graduation. How was he going to graduate now? He thought he had enough credits even without finishing his current classes, but how would he get a diploma out of St. Ignatius?

Damn Mom and Dad. He longed to go home and keep living his old life. But that was no longer an option, not with them set on sending him to conversion therapy and Canticle College. He’d called them from a pay phone Saturday night to let them know he wasn’t coming home and not to look for him, and had hung up in the middle of their yelling. They weren’t going to change their minds, and neither was he. He put a hand to his cheek, which still ached slightly from his father’s blow, as bitterness washed over him from everything they’d taken away.

Sandy sighed, his tears forgotten and the beginning of a headache pressing at his temples. It was scary to be on his own. Chicago seemed huge and alien, like he’d landed on another planet. The money he’d taken out of his savings account wasn’t going to last long. Dan and Fred, guys he’d known from Rockford before their family moved, were cool with him staying with them for now. And if he could manage to graduate and then make it to fall, he’d be able to start at U of C. Somehow. Even though his parents were no longer supporting him.

Salvation came later that day in the form of a text from his favorite uncle. Uncle Phinney lived in Portland, Oregon, and had always been cool. Sandy knew he was gay, although they’d never spoken about it. He saw him every year at Christmas and enjoyed hanging out with him and talking about books and movies, especially those his parents disapproved of.

The text came through as Sandy was walking back to the apartment with a small bag of groceries.

Hey, guy, I hear you got out of Dodge. Send me up a smoke signal and let me know how I can help.

Relief flooded Sandy from the new future rising up in front of him. He could move to Portland. Uncle Phinney would take him in, no questions asked. He didn’t care if Sandy was straight, gay, or a unicorn. The brisk March wind ruffled his collar as he called his uncle back.

Fifteen minutes later, Sandy strolled into a funky hair salon he’d seen on his walk. The tattooed-and-pierced girl with dreads nodded to him. “Need a cut?”

“No. I want it dyed. I’m moving to the West Coast tomorrow.”

“Cool. Got any color in mind?” She beckoned him to a seat and draped a protective gown over him.

Sandy considered himself in the mirror. Time to say good-bye to Opie. “How about green?”

Purchase at Amazon

Get the whole series! Book 1, Wild and Precious, is on sale for just $0.99 for a limited time. Find the entire series HERE.

Meet the Author

 

After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, award-winning author CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane writes sexy, passionate LGBTQ romances that explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.

CJane is bisexual and an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality. In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her family supports her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.

CJane is the author of the award-winning Serpentine Series, New Adult contemporary novels set at the University of Virginia. Serpentine Walls was a 2014 Rainbow Awards finalist, Aidan’s Journey was a 2015 EPIC Awards finalist, and Sex, Love, and Videogames won first place in the New Adult category in the 2016 Swirl Awards and first place in Contemporary Fiction in the 2017 EPIC eBook Awards. Her contemporary novel All The Way To Shore was runner up for best bisexual fiction in the 2017 Rainbow Awards.

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Sitting Down to DINNER AT FIORELLO'S



The new edition of DINNER AT FIORELLO'S, "where love is on the menu" is now out from JMS Books in an awesome new edition with a gorgeous new cover.

BLURB Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy. Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more -- something real, something true -- to separate the good from the bad and find the love -- and the hope -- that just might be their salvation. REVIEWS "I recommend this to those who love stories of embarking on your own path in life, of being poked back to life and the living, of a tentative new love blooming, of grabbing life with both hands and facing the fall out, and of two men who embark on a new stage in their lives." --MM Good Book Reviews *** "I loved this book...I very highly recommend it!" --Love Bytes Reviews *** "In the end, everything came together nicely and exactly the way it should have. I loved watching these guys battle with themselves as they stubbornly made their way to each other....Overall, an excellent love story." --On Top Down Under Reviews *** "...a beautiful love story, not just showing the early stages of what may become love for Henry and Vito, but the love Vito holds for his son and his husband--a love that transcends their death. Don't miss a chance to pick this one up." --Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Reviews *** "Dinner at Fiorello's is one of the reasons why I adore Rick R. Reed. I highly recommend to those who love an emotional journey featuring all the hurdles MM Romance generally provides." --Wicked Reads *** "From the characters to the food, Dinner at Fiorello's is a warm, sweet and emotionally raw story of love and loss, independence and interdependence. I loved it." --Inked Rainbow Reads

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Monday, August 10, 2020

Cover Reveal:

Exposed by H.L Day

Cover created by: Jay Aheer of Simply Defined Art

Release Date: 24th August 2020

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Available at Amazon

Romance ~ Thriller/Suspense ~ Science Fiction

Sometimes salvation comes from the most unlikely hero.

When Tate Gillespie is marked for death for a crime he didn’t commit, his life crumbles. In a world where ‘justice’ is meted out by a relentless military force, he’s going to need more than a mythical guardian angel. His life down to seconds, he’s saved by the mysterious X, a knife-wielding man he's never even met before. But who is X? Is he the man who threatens and kills without a second thought? Or the strangely gentle man who only seems to act that way around Tate?

X is a shadow. A wraith. A man who flits through the city virtually unseen. He’s got no time for people when knives are far more reliable. X does have one weakness though—the man he's been keeping safe for years who doesn't even know it. He'd burn the whole world to keep him alive. But what he won't do is stake his claim. Tate’s not his and he needs to remember that, no matter how close they might become.

With the military in hot pursuit, they’re going to need to rely on X’s skills to keep them both alive. Tate’s feelings are growing with every hour they spend together, but X is a tough nut to crack. Can two people from very different backgrounds really find common ground? Or will one of the many perils they face throughout their long journey drive them apart?

It’s all about survival. Not love. Isn’t it?


Excerpt

I turned in a slow circle, my gaze raking across every nook and cranny in order to try and find out more about my mysterious... friend? Was he a friend? He'd saved my life. There was no disputing the fact. But what that made him, I wasn’t too sure. Did he want something from me? If so, what? I didn't have anything to give him. I had some money in the bank, but nowhere near enough to make putting himself on the wrong side of the MPG worthwhile. I needed to start demanding answers from him.

Stepping back, my foot brushed something against the wall. I glanced down, expecting to see something innocuous like a rug, although my previous thoughts about soft furnishings should have told me that that wasn’t possible. In the circumstances, the scream that escaped from my throat was unavoidable. I'd barely started though, before a rough hand clamped over my mouth and stopped in its tracks. It held fast as I automatically struggled against the pressure. A hand fastened across my chest, pulling me flush against his body so that we were pressed together. Again. The only difference this time was that my back was to his front. Lips hovered by my ear. "Shhhh... we might be underground but there are vents. If you scream, someone might hear. Nod if you understand."

Despite the surge of panic still turning my blood to fire, I managed a shaky nod, the hand fastened over my mouth shifting with the motion.

More words were spoken directly into my ear. "I'm going to let go now. Promise you won't scream."

I gave another nod, the fingers covering my mouth slowly loosening as X stepped away. My gaze immediately returned to the floor, nausea bubbling away inside me. "There's a dead body in your house."

X's gaze followed mine, raking the prone figure in an unconcerned fashion. "I’m aware of that fact."

"He doesn't have a head."

For a second, the corner of X's mouth twitched as if he might have been considering a smile. If so, it was a pretty strange thing to find amusing. "That happens when you trespass on someone's property."

It all clicked into place. The tripwire. The shotgun. The corpse with the missing head. It still didn’t make it normal though. "And you just left him here?"

X tilted his head to the side. "He wasn't really up for going for a walk."

No matter how much I tried not to look at the body, my eyes kept straying back to it. Given the MPG's brand of justice, I was used to death. But death by laser gun left nothing but a pile of ash. I wasn't used to seeing bodies with nothing but a ragged stump of flesh where their head used to be. There was a sweet, cloying smell coming from it as well. Only faint, but it was still there.

X walked over to what passed as a sofa, sweeping a covering from it and laying it over the corpse. "Better?"

"Yes." It was better. At least I could stop looking at it now. I forced myself to walk away from it until I was in the middle of the room. But when my eyes strayed over to the bed in the corner, I almost wished I still had the corpse to stare at. It suddenly struck me that I was trapped. I didn’t know how to deactivate the trip-wire myself so I'd just walked willingly into a place where I couldn't leave. What if X’s intentions were simple? Abduct someone who wouldn't be missed. He could keep me as some sort of sex slave. Chain me to the bed and do whatever he wanted to me. The real question though was why that thought wasn’t as repugnant as it should have been.

Meet the Author


H.L Day juggles teaching and writing. As an avid reader, she decided to give writing a go one day and the rest is History. Her superpower is most definitely procrastination. Every now and again, she musters enough self-discipline to actually get some words onto paper—sometimes they even make sense and are in the right order. She enjoys writing far too many different sub genres to stick to one thing so writes everything from rom-coms to post-apocalyptic sci-fi.
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Monday, August 3, 2020

BASHED, My Hate Crime Love Story Is Now Available!



The GLBT Roundtable of the American Library Association gave Bashed a highly favorable review and recommended the book for public libraries.

In part, the review said:
"A gripping thriller told from multiple points of view, Bashed delivers what readers have come to expect from Rick R. Reed: a violent and emotionally wrenching tale of realistic horror. The story is told by three characters: two perpetrators of a horrifying hate crime, and the man who survived the attack...The violence is graphic, as is the sex, but neither is gratuitous..."

About the Book


It should have been a perfect night out. Instead, Mark and Donald collide with tragedy when they leave their favorite night spot. That dark October night, three gay-bashers emerge from the gloom, armed with slurs, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.

The hate crime leaves Donald lost and alone, clinging to the memory of the only man he ever loved. He is haunted, both literally and figuratively, by Mark and what might have been. Trapped in a limbo offering no closure, Donald can’t immediately accept the salvation his new neighbor, Walter, offers. Walter’s kindness and patience are qualities his sixteen-year-old nephew, Justin, understands well. Walter provides the only sense of family the boy’s ever known. But Justin holds a dark secret that threatens to tear Donald and Walter apart before their love even has a chance to blossom.

Excerpt


Bashed
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

The night had turned cold while they were in the Brig, one of Chicago’s oldest and most infamous leather establishments. A strong wind out of the north had blown away the cloud cover that allowed the city of Chicago to retain a little Indian summer heat this late October night. With the wind, the temperature had plunged nearly twenty degrees, from a relatively balmy sixty-two, down to the low forties. But the wind had also revealed a sprinkling of stars, visible even with the ambient light from downtown. And the moon had emerged, almost full, lending a silvery cast to North Clark Street.

Donald wrapped his arms around Mark as they headed south on Clark, toward the side street where they had left their car. Even with his chaps, biker jacket, and boots, Donald felt the chill bite into him, vicious. He couldn’t imagine how Mark was faring, wearing only a T-shirt and jeans. He’d get his boy into leather one of these days! It was just past three a.m., and the far north side neighborhood called Andersonville, once the province of Swedes and working class folk, and now the home of yuppies and gays, was quiet. A lone taxi headed north up Clark, looking for fares. Someone even unsteadier on his feet came out of the adult bookstore ahead of them, blinking rapidly, and looking around, perhaps for more excitement than he had found in the bookstore. Donald thought that, once upon a time, he could have been the sad, singular man emerging from an adult bookstore while the rest of the world slept, but things had changed since he had met Mark six months ago.

“I feel almost—almost—like we’re the only two people on earth,” Donald said to Mark, drawing him in close for a sloppy, beery kiss. When he pulled his mouth away, he flashed the crooked grin he knew entranced his boyfriend and completed the thought with, “And that’s fine by me.”

Mark grinned back, then rubbed his upper arms. “It’s not fine by me. Not when it’s this frickin’ cold! Let’s get home!”

They wrapped their arms around each other to ward off the cold, much as they had done the night they met, back in March, in the same leather bar. And once again, they were just a bit boozy and flushed with need for each other. Tonight, the weather outside may not have been as frigidly cold as it had been last winter when they had first laid eyes upon one another, but the heat and electricity passing between them was still burning as brightly as that very first night.

Donald stopped again in the middle of the sidewalk, pulling Mark close and planting a kiss on his cheek. There was no one around, and in this neighborhood, such displays really were nothing to worry about, Donald thought. Hell, most anyone they encountered would either be sympathetic or jealous. He nipped at Mark’s earlobe and whispered, “I love you, you know that?” He paused to breathe in Mark’s scent and to nuzzle his nose in Mark’s blond curls.

And Mark stopped, right there in the middle of Clark Street, on an early Sunday morning, and placed his hands on Donald’s shoulders, so he would stop walking and so he could look right back into Mark’s penetrating stare. “And I love you, Donald.” He gave a small grin and looked down at the ground for just a second, almost as if he was embarrassed, and then said, “And I always will. This is a forever thing.”

Donald felt a rush of warmth go through him at the exact same moment a harsh wind, full of chill and with the smell of dark water, glided east from over Lake Michigan. He pulled Mark close and kissed him full on the mouth, his tongue lifting Mark’s and doing a little duel with it. Neither of them closed their eyes, preferring instead to stare into each other’s rapt gazes. Just as they were breaking apart, they stiffened as the roar of a souped-up engine shattered the still of the night. The backfire issuing forth from the car’s muffler made both men jump. They gave each other a quick glance, then laughed.

The car, an old maroon Duster that had been tricked out beyond good sense, taste, or fiscal responsibility, slowed across from the pair. Three shadowy figures moved inside. One of them rolled down a window, and a young male face, pale and marred by acne in the moon’s light, emerged making a kissing sound, exaggerated and prolonged. Donald heard the other guys in the car laughing. He stiffened and felt a trickle of sweat roll into the small of his back, in spite of the chill in the air.

Just as suddenly as they had arrived, they roared off, leaving them in a wake of sour-smelling exhaust. But they did not leave without casting a parting shot out the window. “Fucking faggots!”

Donald shook his head, glancing over at Mark, whose young face was creased with worry. “Don’t let shit like that get to you. They’re idiots. And chickenshits… It’s pretty easy to call names at people from a speeding car.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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