Saturday, January 16, 2021

What Inspired Me to Write DINNER AT HOME



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUY
JMS Books

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

YouthCare History

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

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


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


Contact

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

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

THE MAN FROM MILWAUKEE, my Jeffrey Dahmer Thriller, Is Now Out in Audiobook!

 

Genre: Horror/Thriller, LGBTQIA+, horror, mental illness, grief, virgin/first time, Jeffrey Dahmer, HIV, AIDS

Length7 hrs and 10 mins

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?

 

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 at Audible


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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Meet the Narrator

Donald Davenport is a screenwriter, author, educator and podcaster. He's also a film producer and director. donalddavenport.com

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Monday, January 11, 2021

New and Notable: LUKA by Dianne Hartsock

 


Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, age gap, witches, sorcerers, fae, magic, second chances

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About the Book

Luka makes a desperate wish and the earth shifts to his will. Regretting it immediately, he tries to undue the sorcery, but it is too late. He asked for hope, and to his horror, all the hope in the world is given into his keeping. He desires nothing more than to return this gift to the world.

Aethan wants to get his hands on the Well of Hope in Luka’s keeping. If he can ransom out hope to others at his whim, the world will be at his feet. Where it belongs.

With the aid of his lover, Rhys, Luka stays one step ahead of Aethan. But Rhys has his own enemy in Aethan, his estranged father.

Rescued by Luka, his sweet, gentle witch, Rhys now stands with him against Aethan. They have vowed to return the Well of Hope to the earth despite all odds, or die trying. For what is life worth, for anyone, without hope?

Excerpt

Luka
Dianne Hartsock © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Luka settled cross-legged on the hearth with a murmured word of gratitude to the fire as its warmth surrounded him. Keeping a veiled eye on the woodpile, he crumbled a crust of bread and honey onto the stones. The animals had grown skittish of late, and he missed their company on his long tramps through the forest. The cabin had grown lonely without Rhys’s vibrant presence.

The thoughts of his lover sent his gaze to the small stack of books he kept close at hand to leaf through during the long empty nights. He’d rescued the young man from a brutish existence at the hands of a madman, and the stories were all that would ease his frantic, tortured mind. Rhys would sit close to Luka while Luka read the heroic tales until his head would nod, and he’d slump into Luka’s arms, a warm, living presence in his solitary life.

Luka raised his head, attentive. Winter gathered outside the latched door, wind howling through the trees, sending their limbs scratching along the roof. A shiver traveled up his spine. Something darker than the storm was coming.

The fire snapped in a shower of sparks, recalling his attention. He drew a small bundle of twigs from a pocket, cupped it in his worn, nut-brown hands, and breathed in the scent of juniper and sage. Chanting the words his mother had taught him long ago, he tossed the clump into the flames. A tendril of smoke rose, twirled in lazy circles in the air and brushed against his face.

He breathed deeply, holding in his lungs the heady smoke of the sage and grasses he’d gathered by the stream last autumn. His thoughts cleared. He saw everything! Snow whipped through the darkness between the trees, carried on the fierce wind. His beloved animals huddled in the scrub brush for safety and warmth. The village beyond the forest barred its doors, fires lit, safe inside while the storm raged.

His thoughts soared, bursting into the moonlit landscape above the clouds. Laughing aloud, his spirit flew in wonder, heart aching at the beauty of the night. But something tugged at his heart, his name shouted on the wind. He blinked at tears, bringing the fire back into focus, the cabin solid around him. Night pressed on the shuttered windows. Something was in the night…

Luka’s heart leaped. He comes! A soft cry of joy escaped him, and he rose in one fluid motion to his feet. He’d sent Rhys away to find love elsewhere than in the arms of a lonely witch, and yet he came, daring the storm.

“Come to me,” he urged the solitary figure in his mind’s eye, struggling up the path to reach him. A tremor seized him. Long years of bartering his herbs and potions to the villagers had passed while he waited with hope and dread for Rhys’s return, darkness at his heels.

He crossed the wooden floor of the cabin, logs he’d hewn and planed himself, lighting the candles with a word as he passed, filling the room with light. Luka paused at the door, hand hesitant on the latch. He had enemies beyond this safe threshold. What if Rhys had gone to them in his bitterness and returned now for revenge? Luka closed his eyes, seeing again the pain on Rhys’s youthful face, the confusion in his eyes when Luka told him to go, and closed the door on his anguished pleas.

A rap on the door sent his pulse racing. Love and doubt warred inside him, but he had to know, see the truth of it. He opened the door a crack; icy wind whistled in. A figure stood on his step, the heavy cloak clutched against the cold obscuring his features. Who was this? He swung the door wider. The energy was all wrong. But Luka would welcome him in whatever guise he wore.

He opened his hungry arms, but Rhys shook his head and looked up, candlelight spilling on his pale face, grown older. “You sent me away—brokenhearted.” Rhys’s voice was deeper than he remembered. “If I cross this threshold, I won’t leave again. Be very sure.”

Luka trembled, searching the beloved features, and mourned the sweet innocence that was missing. Snow sifted through the trees adding to the weight on Rhys’s shoulders, and Luka swallowed his doubts. “Come inside.” He tugged on Rhys’s sleeve, unable to mask his eagerness. His heart stumbled, then leaped, seeing a flash of elation in Rhys’s eyes.

Rhys stepped into the cottage in a flurry of cold air and snow, and Luka hastily closed and latched the door behind him. He turned, and his lips parted in a startled gasp. Rhys had removed his cloak, snow already melting on the warm floor. His golden hair fell loosely to his shoulders, and his body filled out the tunic and trousers he wore in a way it hadn’t five years ago. He had grown into a handsome man, the fine wool of his clothing attesting he’d done well in the village.

Suddenly conscious of his frayed sleeves and ink-stained fingers, the silver now threading his dark braid of hair, Luka glanced away. His gaze fell on the books and parchment littering every surface, candle wax spilled on the tabletops. A thick layer of dust covered the bookshelves, except for the volumes he used for reference. He chewed a lip, troubled.

“Come to the fire,” he offered, taking Rhys’s cloak to hang on a peg. “There’s a stew simmering on the hearth.”

Rhys touched his shoulder, halting him. “A moment. I’ve come to warn you. Your old enemy—”

“Is coming. This I know. We’ll talk of it later. Please, come to the fire. You must be cold.”

“Luka.”

Luka swiveled sharply at the command in Rhys’s voice, a thrill rushing through him. So much courage from his once timid lover. Was this the same man he’d rescued? The young lad of seventeen years, chained and beaten in a dank cellar? Rhys wouldn’t speak of his parents back then, saying only he’d lived on the charity of others—until he’d been snared, captive to a cruel man’s dark appetites.

Rhys’s soul had cried out in anguish from his prison, finding Luka’s heart, drawing him deep into the forest to the monster’s isolated hut. Luka had eluded the dark sorcerer, freeing the lad and taking him into his home. And later, into his bed, a moth to Rhys’s bright flame, his heart opened for the first time in uncounted years to love and promise.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Dianne is the author of paranormal/suspense, fantasy adventure, m/m romance, the occasional thriller, and anything else that comes to mind. She lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee warming her hands, which kindles her imagination.

Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

PENANCE, My Darkest and Most Terrifying Book, is Back Out in a Brand New Edition




JMS Books has just re-released a new edition of my novel about Chicago streetkids and the monster who preys on them.

I adore the new cover JMS Books has put on the book. For comparison, here's the original Dell paperback cover from 1991, where it was part of their stellar Abyss line-up of horror novels. 



BLURB 
Bound by misery. Marked by sin. Set free by death.

Barely into their teens, without homes, they dwell in neon shadows, the violent eddies of urban America. They trade their innocence for money, abuse their hopes, and then a monster comes...

A monster without fangs or claws, but more deadly. Because of them, he has lost everything: his wife, his family. And he vows to clean the streets of Chicago...for good.

One of the street kids and a man of the cloth form a desperate pact. Together, they will find the madman whose basement has become a chamber of horrors...

PENANCE was part of Dell Abyss' remarkable horror line, lauded by none other than Stephen King.

EXCERPT
Lawrence Avenue was alive with rain-slicked excitement. Here, in Chicago’s uptown, royal blue, yellow, and green neon reflected off the pavement’s darkness. Cold night air. Steam rushing up through manhole covers. Christmas lights in neighborhood bar windows beckoned passersby with watery promises of “Christmas cheer.”

Jimmy Fels occupied his street corner. At thirteen, he already knew the poses. There was a casual defiance in the way he leaned against the storefront doorway, pelvis thrust out just enough to attract the interest of the cars cruising by more slowly than the others. He wore a faded jean jacket, Metallica T-shirt, pegged jeans, and Reebok Pumps. His ripped T-shirt deliberately exposed a nipple and a flash of smooth white stomach. The top of the T-shirt was cut away to reveal a gold rope chain, glinting in the glow of the streetlight above him.

Green eyes, wizened beyond their years, stared out of a pale face. He brought a cigarette to his full lips, lips almost too feminine and full for a boy, too ripe for anything clean. His hair, freshly washed, was still damp, looking darker than blond.

He tried not to appear too interested in the cars passing by, some slowing down to take a look at him. He knew it was bad to look too hungry. Make them think you’re doing them a favor…always keep the upper hand. Street knowledge passed on. Remember Gacy. Remember Larry Eyler and what he did to Danny Bridges, the boy who ended up chopped into pieces and thrown into a Dumpster. Get it over with as quickly as possible and keep moving. But he looked anyway, his eyes moving slowly, catching glances out of the corners, and saw the shadows of men leaning forward, their faces ghostly through car windows.

*

Dwight Morris looked at himself in his bathroom mirror. Forty-two years old, he thought, forty-two years old and you can’t even tell. The Cubs baseball cap was positioned just so, with the bill facing backward. His acid-washed Levi’s jacket hung loosely on him, with the cuffs of the sleeves turned up. Under the jacket, he wore an old grey-hooded sweatshirt unzipped just enough to show the New Kids T-shirt underneath. The mirror didn’t reveal the pegged black jeans and the BK high tops.

Dwight smiled at himself, exposing the boyish gap in his teeth. The hint of rouge on his cheeks made him look flushed; a young boy.

I must look at least twenty-five years younger.

*

Jimmy imagined their yearning.

He was cold, but didn’t want to warm himself. That would destroy the pose. The tough guy. So his arms remained at his sides, the cigarette an orange glow in one hand, held between thumb and forefinger. Too many suburban guys tucked at home with wife and kiddies, Indiana Jones on the VCR, lust for his little thirteen-year-old ass on their minds.

“Isn’t it a little cold out here for you, little boy?”

Jimmy jumped at the sound of a girl’s voice. He turned to his left and there she was. Miranda. Tonight she was wearing a black derby, a big black sweatshirt, urban camouflage pants, black leg warmers, army boots. Christ.

An amused grin played about her lips. “Shouldn’t you be home in bed, little boy? I think your mama has some cocoa and Oreos waiting.”

“Real funny, ’Ran. C’mon, gimme a fuckin’ break. I’m workin’.”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “Slow night?” She took off the black derby she wore and ran her hand through her close-cropped red hair, making it stand on end.

“It is with you standin’ there blockin’ the fuckin’ view.”

Miranda shook her head. “I can see we’re in a mood tonight.” She started away from him, hips sashaying, swinging her bag.

“Hey.” Jimmy took a last drag off his cigarette, flicked it into the gutter.

Miranda stopped and turned, cocked her head. “Thought you didn’t want to be bothered.”

Jimmy raised his hands to her. “See ya later?”

Miranda shrugged. “Depends on how it goes.”

“Right. That’s cool.”

Jimmy watched her walking away. Who would she find tonight? Would she make enough to buy herself a bottle of Cisco?

“How you doin’, son?”

The man’s voice made Jimmy take his eyes away from Miranda. He pulled a cigarette out of his jacket pocket and lit it, cupping his hand to shield the flame, before he looked up.

It was the creep. At least that’s what Jimmy called him. Some fucking preacher who lived around here. Tall, thin, pasty white with these little old-fashioned wire-rim glasses.

“Beat it. I ain’t interested.” Jimmy sucked in on the cigarette, blew the smoke toward the man.

The preacher made a gesture like a shrug, bringing his hands up, like I’m innocent.

Right. “Look, man, I’m okay. All right? See you later?”

Jimmy smirked as the preacher walked away, his hands dug deep in his pockets, head hunched down against the Chicago wind whistling down Lawrence, off the lake.

A Toyota pickup pulled over to the curb. Black with neon detailing. The truck had these squiggles of hot pink and turquoise. Jimmy pretended not to notice at first, then glanced in the direction of the truck. There was some young guy inside, wearing a baseball cap backward, leaning over and rolling down the window. Jimmy leaned over to get a better look at the face.

Wait a minute. Jimmy moved a little closer, trying to make it look like he’d just decided he wanted to cross the street or something. But he needed to get a better look.

This guy wasn’t so young. There were lines around his eyes, across his forehead. He had so much makeup on his cheeks he looked like fuckin’ Bozo the Clown..

BUY
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Amazon Paperback (original Dell Abyss paperback)

Monday, December 21, 2020

My Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2020

I am, and have always been, a voracious reader. The ability to escape into fiction has been a saving grace throughout my life. Below are my favorite 10 books, out of some 60 I read over the course of the year.

Let's get to it. And I hope some of my likes will inspire you to read... All books are available in digital and hard copy at Amazon or any other bookseller.

10. Girl Gone Mad by Avery Bishop 


A mind-bender, stay-up-all night super suspenseful read. Very few books deserve the accolade, "I just couldn't put it down," but this is one of them. From the well-defined characters, the authentic sense of place, the expert build-up of suspense, this is simply an outstanding thriller. Hollywood, if you're listening, this would make a great movie. 





9. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman


Although I liked this author's A MAN CALLED OVE much better, I did really love this one too. I deducted a star for this one only because it was a bit confusing and hard to follow because of an unnecessarily (in my opinion) structure that made it difficult for me to get into the story and to feel empathy for the characters. That said, by the end of the book, I was in tears and in awe at Backman's ability to transport me, make me think, deliver emotions, and wrap it all up in a very meaningful way. 




8. A Marriage in Dog Years by Nancy Balbirer


Although this memoir caused me to ugly cry in the most undignified way, it doesn't interfere with my wanting everyone to read it, especially those of us who've come out on the other side of loss, whether through break-up or death. Balbirer writes with wit, charm, and sensitivity about her failing marriage and the slow death of her beloved dog, all in the same time frame, and about how we all may tend to cling to things we love that are beyond saving, simply because we can. Profound. Full of emotion and insight. And, at times, bracingly funny.



7. In the Shadow of the Valley by Bobi Conn


This is one of the best books, in my opinion, to come out of Amazon's publishing imprints. It's filled with wisdom, heartbreak, despair, joy...and hope. It's a portrayal of the resiliency of the human spirit and, while it chronicles one woman's growth, it's a story I believe we can all relate to. We're all broken and we can all find our paths on this journey we call life. Bobi Conn, I can't wait to read what you write next.





6. At Risk by Alice Hoffman


Gut wrenching. Took me back to a time when AIDS was a death sentence and I lost so many close to me. Hoffman's narrative, though, of a child succumbing to the virus is almost beyond bearable. In her capable hands, though, the book is a powerful meditation on the strength of love and family during a crisis. Not an easy read, but certainly a worthwhile one.





5. Man from Milwaukee by Rick R. Reed


Yes, I had to include one of my own! I'm particularly proud of this unreliable narrator story about a closeted young man's fascination and identification with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the summer of 1991, when he was arrested. 







4. Calypso by David Sedaris


CALYPSO is one of Sedaris's very best books. He brings to the stories contained within the collection a wisdom and maturity that will resonate with most of us, especially those of us growing older and who've faced losing family members and others close to us. That's not to say there aren't laugh-out-loud hilariousness afoot here, there is, in spades, but Sedaris's musings about his parents (one dead and one in decline) brought out such poignancy and humanity that makes CALYPSO a masterpiece. I listened to Sedaris himself read the book on audio and when he gets to the last lines of the last piece about his father, my heart broke and I was in tears. And I looked very stupid because I was in the midst of an outdoor run at the time. But those last couple of lines not only tie the whole collection together, but our lives as human beings.

3. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout


I adored this book. I also adored its predecessor, OLIVE KITTERIDGE and doubted Strout could surpass herself. I wouldn't say she surpassed herself, but OLIVE, AGAIN was certainly an equal to the first book in terms of emotional power and truth. Its beauty and depth lie in deceptively simple prose that renders deep commentary on the human condition, love, aging, and loss.





2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


Oh man, this is right up there with not only one of my most cherished books of the year. It'll also have a place in my heart and memory as one of my favorite books ever. Entertaining, profoundly moving, achingly beautiful prose that skirts poetry at times, unique, flawed, and all-too-human characters, and a mesmerizing sense of place all add up to literary gold.





1. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart


If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I would. It's shot right up to the top of the list of best books I've read not only this year, but in my life. And that's no small feat, since I have been a constant reader since my age was in the single digits. This debut novel, which deservingly won the Booker Prize and was shortlisted for the National Book Award, is a heartbreaking portrait of alcoholism and poverty in Scotland, centering around the tragic and beautiful Agnes and her son Shuggie, who loves her with a kind of hopeless ferocity anyone who has ever loved an addict or alcoholic will understand. Stuart brings to poignant light the Glasgow (and surrounding areas) with a palette of simple grays...startling in its clarity, breathtaking in its detail, and cutting in its truth. This is one of the rare books I will read again and again. It's not a happy book and I shed many tears, but the artistry here is beautiful and a real testimony to the resiliency and kindness of the human spirit.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

My Take on THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL


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)

EXCERPT
Anderson made his way down the stairs into the Grand Avenue subway station, the mildew smell of the station rising up as he descended. A rush of commuters passed him going up; a train must have just discharged them. People edged by, giving him as wide a berth as possible. Just as he neared the bottom, a young woman with short black hair, wearing a down coat trimmed in fur, stumbled on the concrete stairs. She dropped her purse and its contents spilled out. Anderson paused and spotted the makeup, the few dollar bills-and a CTA transit card. A part of him told him to grab it and run, that she could well afford another one. If there was enough money stored on the card, it could get him through a good part of the winter.

But no matter how cold it got, no matter how much snow fell, no matter how well the woman could afford to buy another card, Anderson couldn't do it. He just didn't have it in him to steal.

He reached down to help her gather her things and she recoiled, gasping at the sight of him and scooting back and away. "That's okay!" she said, quickly lowering her gaze to hurriedly pick up the things she had dropped.

It hurt Anderson to see the fear and disgust in her eyes.

In the station, Anderson didn't know what to do. To access the platform, you had to have a card. Sure, he could jump the turnstiles and risk getting arrested; he had seen it done. Some got away with it, more didn't.

Like stealing the woman on the stair's transit pass, it simply wasn't within Anderson to do something criminal.

Among the straggling commuters, Anderson spied an old woman who looked kindly. Perhaps she would take pity on him. With her upsweep of gray hair, her sensible wool coat, rubber boots, and hand-crocheted scarf, she appeared kindly, reminding Anderson of his own late grandmother. There was something lively and warm in her pale blue eyes.

Anderson stepped in front of her and smiled. "Excuse me, ma'am."

The woman stopped, regarding him.

"I hate to ask, but I need to get on the train and, honestly, I don't have a dime to my name." Anderson thought for a moment and came up with a small white lie. "I need to get to the south side, where my family is." He smiled again. "It's Christmas."

The woman didn't say anything.

"Do you think you could spare a couple dollars so I could ride?" Anderson gnawed at his lower lip, hating the position circumstance and the economy had put him in.

"Get the hell out of my way," the woman said quietly, edging by him. She called over her shoulder, "Get a job, why don't you?"

Anderson was taken aback by the coldness and the almost-hatred in her voice. It was so unexpected and so unnecessarily cruel.

Anderson felt the bright sting of tears at the corner of his eyes. His shoulders slumped. He was about to turn and leave the station when a young guy, about his own age, came up to him. Once upon a time, Anderson would have thought he was cute, and if he had opened the door a little, Anderson might have flirted with him. But now his only reaction was-what now?

"What a bitch," the man said, his gaze roaming over to where the old woman was mounting the stairs. He reached into the pocket of his worn denim jacket that looked too thin for the weather and pulled out a transit card. He held it out to Anderson. "Take it. There's only one ride left on there. I wish I could give you more, but I'm pretty strapped myself."

Tentatively, Anderson reached for the card. "Are you sure you can spare this?"

"I wouldn't have offered it to you if I couldn't." He wiggled the hand holding the card. "Go on."

Anderson took it, wondering if some guardian angel, or even Welk, was looking out for him.

"Thank you."

"It's nothin'. Merry Christmas."

Anderson swallowed hard, feeling a lump in his throat. "Merry Christmas to you too."

The guy turned and headed up the stairs, out into the snow.

And Anderson moved toward the turnstiles.

The card worked.

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

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Monday, December 14, 2020

New and Notable Holiday Edition: CJane Elliott's Trio of Seasonal Romances


Three M/M holiday stories in one festive collection!

Home is Where the Christmas Trees Are

A grieving brother caring for his niece receives holiday hope from the cute band instructor at his niece’s school.

After the death of his sister, physical therapist Dex abandons his urban single life to move to a smaller town and raise his 12-year-old niece Rowan. Christmas is approaching, and he doesn’t have a clue how to make the season merry—for Rowan or for himself. Then he meets Rowan’s teacher, Ed, and things start to get brighter.

Middle-school band teacher Ed is kind and handsome, totally single, and likes kids, music, and holiday decorations. He also happens to be killer at trimming Christmas trees. Like a twinkly Christmas elf, Ed brings with him the possibility of love, home, and celebration, and Dex is immediately smitten.

But how will Rowan feel about her uncle and her band teacher getting involved?

A Holiday Crush

Opposites attract as a jaded San Francisco trial lawyer and a young Berkeley activist find their way to love.

San Francisco lawyer Brad is in a rut. At forty-one, he’s successful but alone, and even his holidays are predictable. Then attractive but oh-so-young filmmaker and activist Michael invites him out. Michael lives in a group house in Berkeley and as Brad joins the group in their holiday celebrations, he learns that life can be joyful. But he hesitates to saddle Michael with a much-older boyfriend.

Michael longs for a partner, and he hopes serious but sweet Brad Halberstam is the one. His housemate reminds him that Michael always latches on to someone during the holidays, so he won’t be alone. After a misunderstanding, Michael loses heart, no longer sure if his relationship with Brad is real or just another holiday crush.

Pattern for an Angel

Can an angel gown for a little boy let a single dad and a drag queen stitch together a new pattern for love?

Hospice nurse Gabe Martin is bisexual but doesn’t have time for love—his main priority is raising Ian, his adopted five-year-old son. Ian loves wearing dresses at home and wants an angel gown for his kindergarten holiday pageant. When Gabe visits a sewing store to get help with Ian’s costume, he’s assisted by a bewitching employee named Loren who opens up Gabe’s focused world.

Drag queen Loren Schuster likes playing with gender norms and wearing skirts and dresses in everyday life. A bad breakup killed his interest in serious relationships, but he reconsiders that stance when gorgeous single dad Gabe walks into the shop. Loren helps young Ian see it’s okay to be himself, and together, Loren and Gabe create a new pattern for a family full of love.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Sweet Memory from 2013: RAINING MEN


Sweet memory from 2013! I am so proud of RAINING MEN and believe it's one of my very best. I took a very reprehensible character (the kind one loves to hate), redeemed him, and made readers come to love and root for him.

ABOUT THE BOOK

It’s been raining men for most of Bobby Nelson’s adult life. Normally, he wouldn’t have it any other way, but lately something’s missing. Now, he wants the deluge to slow to a single special drop. But is it even possible for Bobby to find “the one” after endless years of hooking up?

When Bobby’s father passes away, Bobby finally examines his rocky relationship with the man and how it might have contributed to his inability to find the love he yearns for. Guided by a sexy therapist, a Sex Addicts Anonymous group, a well-endowed Chihuahua named Johnny Wadd, and Bobby’s own cache of memories, Bobby takes a spiritual, sexual, and emotional journey to discover that life’s most satisfactory love connections lie in quality, not quantity. And when he’s ready to love not only himself but someone else, sex and love fit, at last, into one perfect package.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

M4M: How Three Stories Translate Into One Great Love

 


About the Book

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.

Read a Little...

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.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Perfect Idea for Thanksgiving: Enjoy DINNER AT HOME




Dinner at Home, my "romance with recipes," offers you a compelling love story, a taste of redemption, and just a few recipes you might want to try for yourself, at home.

BLURB

It only takes a few days for Ollie D'Angelo to lose his boyfriend, his job, and his home. Instead of mourning what he doesn’t have, Ollie celebrates what he does: the freedom to pursue his real passion—cooking. He begins Dinner at Home, a home-catering business, and it takes off.

Late one night, Ollie catches Hank Mellinger, a streetwise hood down on his luck, about to rob his car. Ollie soon discovers that appearances aren’t necessarily what they seem. Hank isn’t a criminal caught red-handed, but a hungry young man trying to make a life for himself and the four-year-old niece he’s trying desperately to take care of. 


Instead of calling the cops, Ollie offers Hank a job and a way to pull himself up by his bootstraps. Together, they discover they can really cook... and that their shared passion for food just might lead to a passion for each other.


BUY
from JMS Books (only $3.99!)
Amazon Kindle ($4.99)

EXCERPT
At the front door, Ollie paused, keys in hand. "I'm an overly trusting idiot and have been told my heart's too big for my own good." He laughed. "And it's all true. If you have a gun, a knife, or whatever, I hope you know you can take whatever you find in here. Just don't hurt me."

Ollie unlocked and opened the door. Smells of cooking drifted out, warm and comforting, making Hank's mouth water and his stomach growl -- loudly. He placed a hand over it and grinned at Ollie, embarrassed.

Ollie didn't smile back. He cocked his head. "You're hungry?"

"Oh God, you don't know." Hank swallowed painfully, his throat dry, hating to be found so weak and wanting. His mind rushed to Addison, and he realized, again, how important it was that he get home soon to her.

"Why don't you come into the kitchen and sit down? I'll fix you something to eat."

"You don't have to do that, man. You don't even fuckin' know me."

"I know you're hungry. And I suspect, because I have great and powerful deductive reasoning, that your breaking into my Subaru had something to do with that." He opened the refrigerator and started rooting around in it. Although Hank couldn't see his face, he could hear Ollie.

"And I'm a cook. It's your lucky night. I have leftovers out the wazoo. Name your pleasure. I have mac and cheese with roasted peppers and bacon, my famous Mexican casserole with salsa, black beans, corn and roasted chicken, a little veggie beef soup, half a pork tenderloin with a bourbon brown-sugar glaze ..."

Hank wanted to get up and shove the man out of the way and simply kneel before the refrigerator, stuffing what sounded like manna from heaven into his mouth.

"What do you want, buddy? I can heat up any of this stuff in two minutes in the microwave."

Hank put his head down on the table and sobbed. He heard the refrigerator door close and felt Ollie's shadow fall over him. "Oh for Christ's sake, kid. Get a hold of yourself! It's just food." He chuckled and Hank could feel Ollie kneeling down beside him. Ollie slid a hand onto his shoulder and rubbed. "What's the matter?"

Hank managed to ebb the flow of tears once more, embarrassed and ashamed. "It's just that I'm so hungry. I've never been so hungry."

Ollie stood up. Hank watched him pull what looked like a glass dish of mac and cheese from the white refrigerator. He put it in the microwave, pressed a couple of buttons, and the machine was humming, giving Hank a warm late-night supper.

This would seem like such a blessing if it weren't for Addison.

Ollie said, "I'm sorry. We'll get something hot into you in just a couple of minutes."

"I'm not alone," Hank said.

"What's that?" Ollie paused before the microwave, glass dish in his hand.

"I said I'm not alone."

"I don't know what that means. You look alone to me."

Hank stared out the kitchen window at the darkness pressing in, like something palpable. He felt like he and Ollie were the only two people in the world. "I have a little girl. Her name is Addison."

Please feel free to repost this blog! I'd be forever grateful.




Monday, November 23, 2020

STRANDED WITH DESIRE is Out Now!

 


Thrilled to announce STRANDED WITH DESIRE is now out (see below for links to get your very own copy)! This romance that blooms after a plane crash in the Cascade Mountains is an exciting adventure and love story. It was great collaborating with awesome author, Vivien Dean on this. 

About the Book


CEO Maine Braxton and his invaluable assistant, Colby, don’t realize they share a deep secret: they’re in love—with each other. That secret may have never come to light but for a terrifying plane crash in the Cascade Mountains that changes everything.

In a struggle for survival, they brave bears, storms, and a life-threatening flood to make it out of the wilderness alive. The proximity to death makes them realize the importance of love over propriety. Confessions emerge. Passions ignite. They escape the wilds renewed and openly in love.

When they return to civilization, though, forces are already plotting to snuff out their short-lived romance and ruin everything both have worked so hard to achieve.



Get a Taste...

Stranded by Desire
Rick R Reed and Vivien Dean © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
Colby LaSalle never dreamed his life would end in a plane crash over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. But here he was, whispering fevered petitions to the Lord as the plane screamed, plunging downward…faster, faster.

Out the windows, all he could see was white. And the only outcome he could imagine was that once that white cleared, the last thing he’d take in would be towering pine trees and the cold side of a mountain hurtling toward him. It was almost too horrific to comprehend.

In those few moments, as Colby braced himself in his seat, head down near his knees, he found himself thinking what a loss this was. The man across from him, his boss, Maine Braxton, would never know the most important thing about Colby. And that thing was not his proficiency as an administrative assistant, keeping Maine on track and on schedule in all his business affairs, but that Colby was passionately—and secretly—in love with him. With all his heart and soul.

That fact, and the unspoken words that hid it, seemed tragic to Colby, maybe even more tragic than the life he was about to lose. What kind of life, Colby wondered, did you really have if you’d never truly loved and been loved in return?

Colby, at twenty-eight, had never been in love before. And now it looked as though he would never have the chance to act on his desire, on that feeling that made his heart flutter whenever Maine walked by his desk. Was love like a tree falling in the forest? If the object of that love never knew of it, did it really exist?

Colby looked up for a moment, maybe to have a final look at Maine, but was distracted by the view through the cockpit window of the six-seater plane they were traveling in—a Beechcraft Bonanza. The opaque fog of white cleared for a moment, and Colby could see, to his horror, that his imagination was correct.

They were hurtling toward the side of a mountain. The view was surreal. Shock kept him from thinking it was anything other than a very vivid nightmare.

He then looked over at Maine and saw he had slid from his seat to the floor. The strong, powerful man cowered there, hands over his head. His lips moved in what Colby could only assume was silent prayer.

Colby longed to slide over, to cover Maine with his own body and shield him from the impact, but he was paralyzed, a butterfly pinned to a board, and could only add his own whispered prayers to those of his boss.

“Please, God, help us get out of this alive. Let Maine know how very much I love him. Give me that chance.”

The private pilot, a blustery, gruff man named Gus Pangborn but whom everyone just called Rooster, shouted, “We’re gonna try and go up! We’re gonna try and go up!”

Colby didn’t know if he was talking to him, Maine, or himself, but the desperation in the pilot’s gravelly voice was clear. The despair in Rooster’s words communicated one thing to Colby and one thing only—he had no hope.

Colby squeezed his eyes shut tight and placed his head back down toward his knees again, covering it with his hands, although he wondered how much good it would do once the plane crashed, once it was consumed by a giant fireball.

What Colby LaSalle didn’t realize, though, was that the plane crash would signal not the end of his life, but the beginning.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Also available in Audio at Audible

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