Tuesday, January 18, 2022

A Chilling Excerpt from MOVING TOWARD THE LIGHT

  


ABOUT THE BOOK

Sequel to Penance
Miranda had been through it all in her young life: homelessness, the victim of a crime that made national headlines, and losing those closest to her. Now, she barely gets by in a rat hole apartment in uptown Chicago, drowning her sorrows in alcohol she’s too young to buy, and making ends meet by turning tricks.

And, just when she thinks it can get no worse, it does. With the lure of easy cash before her, she blows off her shift at McDonald’s and heads home with an older guy she met in a bar. But when she gets there, she finds the guy has a party all set to go, when what Miranda had in mind was one-on-one. After a brutal assault and rape, Miranda winds up in the hospital, clinging to life.

In the half world between life and death, she finds Jimmy Fels, her dearest love, the boy who had died years before to save her. His appearance is enigmatic, but comforting and Miranda is just beginning to discover that he has returned to avenge her.

The men will pay. And Miranda finds, through her connection with a long-lost love, that vengeance is truly sweet.There is only darkness. She blinks, trying to focus, but the black presses in: a warm presence, engulfing, suffocating. She reaches out, wondering if she is floating in a vast, starless sky...and her hands connect with wood. Reaches up...and her hands connect with wood. Hard wood, she realizes now, supports her back. She takes in a great quivering breath, wondering how much air is left for her. This is too unreal, she tells herself and once more reaches around herself, fingers groping like subterranean insects, sensing only by touch.

EXCERPT

The box in which she has been trapped is little bigger than she is. At best, there are only a few inches on either side of her, above her. Before the panic sets in, she touches the holes drilled in the top of the box.

But even with the assurance of an air supply, she is terrified. Bile rises up to lodge and burn in the back of her throat. Although she trembles with cold, her body is covered with a slick veneer of sweat. She swears she hears blood pounding, constricting her temples. Her chest feels tight, as if too great an intake of air might cause her heart to burst.

And then the panic takes over, the adrenaline pumping through her like an electric current and she is slamming herself from side to side, lunging upwards, clawing the box’s top with her fingernails. Clawing and clawing until she can feel hot points of pain at her cuticles and the warmth of blood there.

She’s screaming, but she might as well be gagged. Her shrill cries carom off the box’s interior, bouncing around inside. Her hot breath is sour, leaving a bad taste.

“Please!” she shrieks. “Please, you have to let me out! I can’t stand this!” She kicks until her breath is ragged, until it’s coming so fast she begins to hyperventilate and it’s not just the box that’s closing in on her, but her own lungs.

And then, and then (and this is the part where everything goes cold), she hears a key being fitted into a padlock above her. The soft clicking of the key as it turns suddenly becomes the only sound. No more cries. No more pounding heart. No more blood rushing in her ears.

Just a key being turned in a lock and then the rush of cold air as the box is slowly opened.

She scrunches up her eyes and wills her body to disappear into the wood. 

No...

She will not look at him. Will not. Cannot. Look.

But her eyelids flutter anyway.

A dark hand draws closer, above her, closer, until nothing exists but that hand pressing down on her face.

BUY

JMS Books 

Amazon Kindle 

REQUEST A REVIEW COPY

Email me at rickrreedbooks@gmail.com with preferred ebook format.

Friday, January 14, 2022

NEW RELEASE Moving Toward the Light


My novella, MOVING TOWARD THE LIGHT is now available! Get it from JMS Books (https://www.jms-books.com/rick-r-reed-c-224_245/moving-toward-the-light-p-4216.html or Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09PKKW2SY). #amwritinghorror #WritingCommunity #HorrorCommunity #horror 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Miranda had been through it all in her young life: homelessness, the victim of a crime that made national headlines, and losing those closest to her. Now, she barely gets by in a rat hole apartment in uptown Chicago, drowning her sorrows in alcohol she’s too young to buy, and making ends meet by turning tricks.

And, just when she thinks it can get no worse, it does. With the lure of easy cash before her, she blows off her shift at McDonald’s and heads home with an older guy she met in a bar. But when she gets there, she finds the guy has a party all set to go, when what Miranda had in mind was one-on-one. After a brutal assault and rape, Miranda winds up in the hospital, clinging to life.

In the half world between life and death, she finds Jimmy Fels, her dearest love, the boy who had died years before to save her. His appearance is enigmatic, but comforting and Miranda is just beginning to discover that he has returned to avenge her.

The men will pay. And Miranda finds, through her connection with a long-lost love, that vengeance is truly sweet.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

What Inspired Me to Write THE Q

 


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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE BOOK


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

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

BUY THE Q

Nine Star Press

Amazon Kindle 

Amazon Paperback 

Friday, December 31, 2021

My Top Ten 2021 Movies


Here are my Top 10 Movies of 2021. Note that I'm including a few streaming "series" as movies with the caveat that they were one-offs, standing alone and were, essentially, long-form movies broken up into episodes. So, without further ado, here's what I really appreciated in 2021:

*WEST SIDE STORY. One of my all-time favorite movies is the original 1961 version. I first saw it as a little boy, alone in the State Theater (a glorious former vaudeville palace) in East Liverpool, Ohio. It left me in tears that extended to my time standing outside among snowflakes falling, waiting for my mom to pick me up. The new version was just as moving, but added layers of depth and characterization the original simply didn't have. No one was more shocked than I that I actually preferred it to the original film.

* THE POWER OF THE DOG. Lyrical, deliberate, and darkly poetic, Jane Campion's take on westerns is one that will haunt me for a long time to come. Magic.

* SWAN SONG. Filmed near where I grew up in Ohio, this comic and ultimately poignant story of an elderly drag queen making good on a promise to do the makeup for his nemesis for her funeral demonstrates how we can hate someone and also love them fiercely, showing how life is filled with disturbing and delightful contradictions. 

* BELFAST. A black and white homage to the troubled Ireland of the early 1960s, Kenneth Branagh's nod to his own boyhood becomes a lens in which we view the historical through the personal. It crossed time and frame of reference barriers to resonate with me personally, as all good art does.

* DON'T LOOK UP. Wow. Biting satire and social commentary so on the mark that the laughter was undercut by nausea because it was so reflective of our current times. Great performances all around.

* TICK, TICK, BOOM. I am one of those folks who absolutely adores Jonathan Larson's RENT. I've seen it multiple times on stage (skip the movie version, please). TICK, TICK, BOOK shows the genesis of the show and its creator's passion and, lurking in the shadows, his all-too-soon demise, under the masterful direction of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

* TIME. This prison drama, hyper realistic, is on Britbox and appears in three episodes. Everything from the writing to the directing, to the acting, is a masterclass in realism. The film is about hope beneath the darkest of circumstances and will stay with you long after the final credits roll.

* THE GUILTY. A showcase and nearly a one-man show for star Jake Gyllenhall, this super intense story of a few hours in an LA 911 response center, is not for the faint of heart. Powerful, moving, dark, and ultimately redemptive, this is one that's getting far too little buzz in my opinion (streams on Netflix).

* WHITE LOTUS. An HBO Max miniseries from the brilliantly-quirky mind of Mike White, this series gripped me from its opening to its closing. Featuring a career-best from the always wonderful Jennifer Coolidge.

* MARE OF EASTTOWN. Both a meditation on small-town life and an intricate murder mystery, this was some of the best television I've ever seen. And Kate Winslet and Jean Smart, as mother and daughter, demonstrate how transformative good acting can be.

Honorable mentions: Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu), Dopesick (Hulu), It's a Sin (HBO Max), Queen's Gambit and Midnight Max (Netflix).

What were your favorites?

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

2021 Year In Writing


2021 was my year to color outside the lines.

From a raw and poignant portrayal of a pivotal night in a small-town gay bar, to a tale of a tortured--and addicted--ghost in Chicago, to a story of ultimate sacrifice for love, to my depiction of a serial killer's reign of terror in Chicago, the year proved to me that good stories need not be hindered by genre restrictions. 

On deck for 2022: a romantic thriller called TOXIC and a magical realism novel that explores domestic abuse in a unique way, SEASPRAY.  

Hope you had a happy reading and/or writing year!

THE Q

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 from Amazon.

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.

Buy from Amazon.

IMMORTAL THINGS

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 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.

Immortal Things 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 from Amazon.

OBSESSED

I kill, therefore I am ...

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

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

"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 from Amazon

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Two Holiday Tales That Will Warm Your Heart and Make You Think



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


AN OPEN WINDOW


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

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

Divine Magazine said:

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

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

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

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

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


BUY 
JMS Books
Amazon Kindle

AND... 
MATCHES

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

THE MAN FROM MILWAUKEE is a 2021 Rainbow Award Winner!





I am thrilled to announce that The Man from Milwaukee won the 2021 Rainbow Awards in two categories:

  • Best Gay Book of the Year
  • Best Gay Mystery/Thriller

Read on to find out what the book is all about, including an excerpt. Watch the video book trailer. 
And get your own copy. All below! 


About the Book


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?

Video Trailer

Excerpt


The Man from Milwaukee
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Headlines

Dahmer appeared before you in a five o’clock edition, stubbled dumb countenance surrounded by the crispness of a white shirt with pale-blue stripes. His handsome face, multiplied by the presses, swept down upon Chicago and all of America, to the depths of the most out-of-the-way villages, in castles and cabins, revealing to the mirthless bourgeois that their daily lives are grazed by enchanting murderers, cunningly elevated to their sleep, which they will cross by some back stairway that has abetted them by not creaking. Beneath his picture burst the dawn of his crimes: details too horrific to be credible in a novel of horror: tales of cannibalism, sexual perversity, and agonizing death, all bespeaking his secret history and preparing his future glory.

Emory Hughes stared at the picture of Jeffrey Dahmer on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, the man in Milwaukee who had confessed to “drugging and strangling his victims, then dismembering them.” The picture was grainy, showing a young man who looked timid and tired. Not someone you’d expect to be a serial killer.

Emory took in the details as the L swung around a bend: lank pale hair, looking dirty and as if someone had taken a comb to it just before the photograph was snapped, heavy eyelids, the smirk, as if Dahmer had no understanding of what was happening to him, blinded suddenly by notoriety, the stubble, at least three days old, growing on his face. Emory even noticed the way a small curl topped his shirt’s white collar. The L twisted, suddenly a ride from Six Flags, and Emory almost dropped the newspaper, clutching for the metal pole to keep from falling. The train’s dizzying pace, taking the curves too fast, made Emory’s stomach churn.

Or was it the details of the story that were making the nausea in him grow and blossom? Details like how Dahmer had boiled some of his victim’s skulls to preserve them…

Milwaukee Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen said authorities had recovered five full skeletons from Dahmer’s apartment and partial remains of six others. They’d discovered four severed heads in his kitchen. Emory read that the killer had also admitted to cannibalism.

“Sick, huh?” Emory jumped at a voice behind him. A pudgy man, face florid with sweat and heat, pressed close. The bulge of the man’s stomach nudged against the small of Emory’s back.

Emory hugged the newspaper to his chest, wishing there was somewhere else he could go. But the L at rush hour was crowded with commuters, moist from the heat, wearing identical expressions of boredom.

“Hard to believe some of the things that guy did.” The man continued, undaunted by Emory’s refusal to meet his eyes. “He’s a queer. They all want to give the queers special privileges and act like there’s nothing wrong with them. And then look what happens.” The guy snorted. “Nothing wrong with them…right.”

Emory wished the man would move away. The sour odor of the man’s sweat mingled with cheap cologne, something like Old Spice.

Hadn’t his father worn Old Spice?

Emory gripped the pole until his knuckles whitened, staring down at the newspaper he had found abandoned on a seat at the Belmont stop. Maybe if he sees I’m reading, he’ll shut up. Every time the man spoke, his accent broad and twangy, his voice nasal, Emory felt like someone was raking a metal-toothed comb across the soft pink surface of his brain.

Neighbors had complained off and on for more than a year about a putrid stench from Dahmer’s apartment. He told them his refrigerator was broken and meat in it had spoiled. Others reported hearing hand and power saws buzzing in the apartment at odd hours.

“Yeah, this guy Dahmer… You hear what he did to some of these guys?”

Emory turned at last. He was trembling, and the muscles in his jaw clenched and unclenched. He knew his voice was coming out high, and that because of this, the man might think he was queer, but he had to make him stop.

“Listen, sir, I really have no use for your opinions. I ask you now, very sincerely, to let me be so that I might finish reading my newspaper.”

The guy sucked in some air. “Yeah, sure,” he mumbled.

Emory looked down once more at the picture of Dahmer, trying to delve into the dots that made up the serial killer’s eyes. Perhaps somewhere in the dark orbs, he could find evidence of madness. Perhaps the pixels would coalesce to explain the atrocities this bland-looking young man had perpetrated, the pain and suffering he’d caused.

To what end?

“Granville next. Granville will be the next stop.” The voice, garbled and cloaked in static, alerted Emory that his stop was coming up.

As the train slowed, Emory let the newspaper, never really his own, slip from his fingers. The train stopped with a lurch, and Emory looked out at the familiar green sign reading Granville. With the back of his hand, he wiped the sweat from his brow and prepared to step off the train.

Then an image assailed him: Dahmer’s face, lying on the brown, grimy floor of the L, being trampled.

Emory turned back, bumping into commuters who were trying to get off the train, and stooped to snatch the newspaper up from the gritty floor.

Tenderly, he brushed dirt from Dahmer’s picture and stuck the newspaper under his arm.

*

Kenmore Avenue sagged under the weight of the humidity as Emory trudged home, white cotton shirt sticking to his back, face moist. At the end of the block, a Loyola University building stood sentinel—gray and solid against a wilted sky devoid of color, sucking in July’s heat and moisture like a sponge.

Emory fitted his key into the lock of the redbrick high-rise he shared with his mother and sister, Mary Helen. Behind him, a car grumbled by, muffler dragging, transmission moaning. A group of four children, Hispanic complexions darkened even more by the sun, quarreled as one of them held a huge red ball under his arm protectively.

As always, the vestibule smelled of garlic and cooking cabbage, and as always, Emory wondered from which apartment these smells, grown stale over the years he and his family had lived in the building, had originally emanated.

In the mailbox was a booklet of coupons from Jewel, a Commonwealth Edison bill, and a newsletter from Test Positive Aware. Emory shoved the mail under his arm and headed up the creaking stairs to the third floor.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon ebook | Amazon Paperback

 

Meet the Author


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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