Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Spend Some Time with THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR

Below is an excerpt from The Couple Next Door. It’s a scene where two lost souls—Jeremy and Shane—at last unite, under very difficult circumstances. See, Shane has been physically and emotionally abused by the man with whom he lives. Jeremy has been witness to it and has tried to be a friend, to help, to perhaps even be a savior. He’s tried to keep a respectable distance.

But the pull between these two men, as you’ll read, is just too powerful….

Does my knowing the truth make me an accomplice? Does Shane knowing the truth make him an accessory after the fact to murder?

What, I ask myself for the thousandth time, have I gotten myself into? The answer comes to me in an image: Shane, smiling, the delight clear in his icy blue eyes when he first sees me.

A man. It’s always a man. If I could learn to live without men, I’d be happy, I tell myself.

Good luck with that.

I go into the kitchen, grab some oranges and a couple of protein bars from a drawer. It’s a meager breakfast, but it’s the best I have to offer.

Knock, knock, knock and Shane opens the door. His eyes are rimmed in red. He looks as though he hasn’t slept—like me. He wears a torn and faded navy blue T-shirt and gray sweatpants. I can see the outline of his cock through the loose jersey fabric. My mind wanders away from danger, scaling other exhilarating heights.

He looks breathtaking. All I want to do is hold him, comfort him, and go from there—proceed directly to his bedroom, do not pass go. Why am I thinking of sex at such a horrible time, when he has shared with me the truth of his history? Now is the time for talk, not lovemaking. Yet the lust persists like an itch right in the center of my brain. There’s only one way to scratch it.

It’s like he’s read my mind. He takes the fruit and the protein bars from me and turns away to set them on the arm of a chair near the front door. Then he comes back to me and enfolds both of my hands in his own.

The moment is too charged with something, some kind of electric connection, for words. Talking would break the spell. The silence is delicious and weighted.

His hands are warm, verging on fiery, feverish. He tugs me toward him roughly, and before I know what’s happening, I’m in his arms. This is no friendly “hello” hug. This is an embrace born of hunger, of desperation, of an animal need for comfort. His mouth seeks mine, starving, and the merging of our lips and tongues is like some kind of communion. It’s more than passion. It’s the uniting of two lost souls.

And with the thought of lost souls, I realize why we both feel such a connection. In his famished kiss, I can feel not only his need for me but also mine for him.

We stop only long enough to turn, to head toward the bedroom. Shane never lets go of at least one of my hands. I can almost feel his need to cling, to ensure I don’t escape.

I welcome it.

He kicks the door closed, and then he’s on me like some kind of jungle cat, ripping the few clothes I wore off, scratching me in the process. I will not see the claw marks until later, until they appear red and scarlet on my flesh. I will rub them, treasuring the memory connected to them. Now, though, there is only animal want and the desire, deep-seated, for human comfort that only oblivion can provide.

We tumble on one of the two beds crammed into the room together, so hungry we can’t stop devouring the other. Not just cocks but nipples, armpits, the crooks behind knees, the tender, sensitive flesh of our thighs, the smalls of our backs. Fluid—saliva, come, tears, all flow, and we exchange them. Greedily.
He mounts me. I mount him. We are in such a haze we almost forget the condoms and the lube.


Time stands still as we fuck. As we suck. As we wait, breathless, and do it again.

It’s not until I am lying in Shane’s arms later, when our respiration and heartbeats have returned to some semblance of normalcy, that we speak.

I mince no words. “Why did he do it?”

With the couple next door, nothing is as it seems.

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.

Amazon Kindle

Monday, August 2, 2021

New and Notable from MD Neu

Two new releases worth checking out!

TAD Audiobook
When Tad pushes the boundaries of his duties too far, his angel wings are stripped, and he is sent to New York City to live as a human. Lost and alone he meets Doug, and the two start a friendship that will last a lifetime. But nothing is simple when you’re dealing with a former Angel of Death and a Drag Queen. Could these two cause our world to end or will they manage to keep the future secure?

Audible-US: https://www.audible.com/pd/TAD-Audiobook/B09559VHVZ
Audible-UK: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/TAD-Audiobook/B09557R232
iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/tad-unabridged/id1568054422
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/TAD/dp/B0955661TW

The world is changing quickly for Chris now that he’s part of the Immortal Community. The events of his past are finally behind him. But, true magic is gradually taking hold in the world and nothing in the Immortal community is what he thought. Now enemies must work together and longtime friends may not be trustworthy. Who is lurking in the shadows? What does this mean for witches, immortals, and humans?

Website (Signed copies US only): https://www.mdneu.com/shop
UBL: https://books2read.com/The-Called

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Wizard of Oz and Coming Out

My senior year of high school, back in East Liverpool, Ohio, my school put on The Wizard of Oz as the spring musical. It was a kitschy mix of the original with some songs from The Wiz thrown in to make our version unique and hip.

Since I have always loved The Wizard of Oz (clue #1 that I might have been gay), I had to audition. For the singing part of my audition, I sang "Sentimental Journey", an odd choice for a small town high school boy (clue #2).

For my stellar singing talents, I was cast in the farmer's chorus (swaying in the background as Dorothy sang "Over the Rainbow"); as a ghost in the witch's castle (I got to come through the audience in a sheet, dancing); and as one of the witch's generals.

This last part is what caused me to have a revelation. There were fifteen of us generals and we all said the same line to the single private in the witch's army. If we wanted to stand out, we had to do something to differentiate ourselves. I chose to do a nasal voice (thinking that's all it was). When my fellow cast members heard the voice, they cracked up. It took me a while to realize what they found so hilarious was that they thought I was doing a gay general.

Oh, a gay general? Sure, that was what I had in mind.

Not really.

But now I wonder if it was the subconscious, closeted gay boy yearning to be recognized for who he was coming out. Even though I hadn't intended to be a gay general, I went with it and added a lace hanky to my sleeve and a sashay to my march that was so effeminate it would make Paul Lynde look butch. It was probably a horrible gay Uncle Tom moment, offensive, but I plead ignorance--on a lot of counts.

The audience loved it; they roared.

Now I can look back at that thespian moment in my life and see it for what it was--an unconscious moment of coming out, a moment where I was recognized for who I really was, recognized and laughed at, yes, but appreciated all the same. And remembered. And, in an odd way, accepted--because I was entertaining. Bringing what I so loathed about myself and was desperate to keep hidden to the forefront was, now that I look back, revealing myself.

And the best part was, I was not hurt for it.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

My Psychic Thriller THIRD EYE

THIRD EYE is my thriller about a psychic and his reluctant visions into the murders of young women in small-town Appalachia. The awesome cover art is by Natasha Snow.



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

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

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


Third Eye
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

She was only thirteen. It wasn’t fair she now lay, bound, waiting for death. Before, there had been struggling: clawing and fighting, scratching their faces, pulling at their hair, batting at whatever part she could reach. Her breath had come in choking spasms, adrenaline pumping, burning, anteing up the hysteria so much she thought her air would be blocked. Then had come the dread that made her lose most of her fight, when her terror-addled brain had begun to accept her fate was to die here, in this tiny, hot room, with the only witness to her demise the sparkling eyes of her killers and the maddening, crooked whirl of a ceiling fan long past its prime and wobbling, doing nothing more than blowing the overheated, moist air around the room. The dread had risen up, a nausea twisting her gut and making her afraid she would vomit. And then had come the numbness, a dull tingling throughout her body that precluded movement, stripping her of coherent thought.

They stood above her. Faces she had trusted, faces she had seen before, around her neighborhood. The man she and her friends had had a crush on. He used to drive by her little house on Ohio Street in his old red Mustang, looking the picture of youth, confidence, masculinity. His hair was dark, cut bristle-brush short, and his face always clean-shaven. Thin lips bordered rows of perfect white teeth, and when he had smiled at her, only hours ago, she had lit up. A tingling had started in her toes and had worked its way up until the color rose to her cheeks. At her young age, the interest of a man in his twenties was inconceivable, although it had been something she had hoped for since the first day she had seen him, back at the onset of summer, when the sun had turned white-hot, burning up the grass and making illusory waves rise from the hot, cracked sidewalks.

He had pulled to the curb and sat there, car idling. She sat in the front yard, sorting through Barbie clothes: ball gowns and swimming suits, miniskirts and stretch pants. He didn’t say anything, not right away. She had looked at him once, then looked away, certain his interest could never be in her. Suddenly she felt ridiculous with her metal trunk, her Barbie dolls, and all the outfits she had once been so proud to collect. Swiftly, she returned the clothes to their case and slammed it shut.

She leaned back, resting on her palms, and lifted her face to the sun. Its heat beat down relentlessly, making the skin on her face feel tight.

She felt his eyes on her still. She opened her own eyes a crack and regarded him peripherally. He really was looking at her! The adorable little smile that caused a dimple to rise in his right cheek deepened in the sun’s play of shadow and light. She leaned back more, left hand reaching out to surreptitiously move the Barbie trunk farther away. In this posture, here on the withered and brown grass, she felt that her breasts, little more than two tiny bumps an unkind boy at school had once referred to as her anthills, looked larger. She could be eighteen, couldn’t she? With the right makeup and her hair pulled up….

But now her long blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, clipped with a pink plastic barrette. She wore a pair of cutoff shorts and an oversized South Park T-shirt belonging to her older brother. He would have killed her had he known she was wearing it. But he was away at the Y’s summer camp and would never know the difference.

The idling of the car was like an animal purring.

And then the sun disappeared, and she sat in darkness. Beneath her closed lids, she sensed someone standing over her.

Why hadn’t she heard the slam of the car door? Her eyelids fluttered, but she did not open them. It would be just like her mother to come outside now and stand above her, hands on hips, and ask her what she thought she was doing.


Finally, she opened her eyes and blinked at the brightness of the August day. He was smiling. So unlike the other guys in Fawcettville, he was dressed in pressed black slacks and a collarless white shirt, buttoned to his neck.

“How did you know my name?”

“Oh, I make it my business to know the names of all the pretty young ladies around here.”

Lucy felt the heat rise to her face once more. She grinned and could not think of a single word to say.

“Playing Barbie?”

She shoved the case farther away, until it was completely out of her grasp. The case lay in the white heat, glinting, looking, she hoped, as if it had nothing to do with her.

“What? Oh…no, no. These are my little sister’s. She always makes such a mess of things, and I was just organizing for her.”

“What a good sister.”

“Yeah, well…”

The two said nothing for a while, and Lucy began to grow uncomfortable under his gaze. She shifted her long, tanned legs in front of her, crossing them at the ankle.

“I was driving by and saw you sitting there, and I had to tell you”—he hunkered down beside her—“what a lovely sight you are. It made me stop just to have a better look.”

She laughed and thought she sounded way too much like the thirteen-year-old she was. “Thank you,” she whispered, wondering where her voice had gone.

“No, thank you, for being here, for making the heat of this day a little more pleasant.”

Oh, stop! she wanted to cry out but whispered again, “Thank you.”

He leaned closer, enough for her to feel his breath near her ear. In spite of the day’s heat, his nearness caused gooseflesh to rise on her arms, her spine to tingle.

“Listen.” He glanced around the empty street with eyes like none she had ever seen: green, ringed with thick black lashes. And in his gaze was a conspiracy that included only the two of them. “My car has air-conditioning. I know this is out of the blue and all, but I wondered if you’d like to go for a ride with me.”

Lucy glanced back at her house. She wished suddenly she lived in a bigger house, in a better neighborhood. Here on this modest residential street close to the river, her small white clapboard house was surrounded by other houses very much like it, some of them covered in rusting aluminum siding. She pictured her mother inside, on a vinyl-covered kitchen chair, watching All My Children on a thirteen-inch portable TV on the Formica-topped kitchen table. Her mother, she knew, would never approve of what was transpiring here, right in her front yard.

He stood suddenly. “Okay, okay. I get the message.”

“Wait.” She sat up straighter. A pickup rumbled by and left in its wake a smell of exhaust and a rush of hot air.

He turned. “What? Need to get your mom’s permission?”

“Of course not!” Her voice came out higher than she would have liked, the whiny protest of a child. She stood. “I’d like to come with you. But I can’t stay out too long.” She was about to say “My mom will be worried” but realized how immature that would sound. “I’ve got some people I have to meet in a little while.”

He smiled. And the smile erased any nervousness she had about going with him. After all, she had seen him around the neighborhood dozens of times. He wasn’t exactly a stranger, not really.

“That’s fine, Lucy. I’ll have you back within an hour. I promise. I certainly wouldn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with you.” He winked, and she followed him to the waiting car.

Lucy tripped getting into the car. Her head bumped against the chrome surrounding the upper doorframe, and her hand slid across the black vinyl seat. The laugh that followed came out high and flighty, a little bird. Lucy reddened once more, embarrassed by her klutziness.

He was grinning, already behind the steering wheel. “Don’t worry about it. We are all prey to tiny lapses in coordination.”

He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel while Lucy settled beside him, doing her best to recover her composure. With elaborate care, she positioned herself on the seat and crossed her legs. She admired her legs and hoped he did too: long and tan, smooth, the legs of a woman.

It was then she felt, more than noticed, the presence of someone else in the car. Lucy turned and saw her for the first time. In the back sat a young woman. Her hair, like Lucy’s, was blonde, but more of a brassy platinum shade. She wore a pair of dark glasses with cat-eye frames, bright-red lipstick, and a silk scarf tied around her neck. Her simple white shift contrasted sharply with her peach-colored skin. Lucy thought she was about the most glamorous thing she had ever seen in Fawcettville.

He noticed her looking. “This is my girlfriend, Myra. Sweetheart, say hello to Lucy.”

“Hello, Lucy.”

Did Lucy detect a very slight British accent in the gravelly voice? Whatever it was, this woman seemed so self-possessed and confident, Lucy’s dismay that this man had a girlfriend was almost overridden. Lucy was fascinated.

Lucy turned back to the man. “I don’t think you told me your name.”

He laughed, and Lucy forgot about Myra. His laugh was musical, setting her heart to thumping. She wondered what it would be like to slide closer, to rest her head on his shoulder.

“It’s Ian.” He slid a pair of Ray-Bans over his green eyes and shifted the car into drive. They sped away from the curb.

Lucy watched as her little white house grew smaller in the side-view mirror.

It wasn’t long before they were pulling up in front of a trailer on the outskirts of town. Lucy was disappointed; the dwelling didn’t seem to fit Ian’s character at all. She had expected something more romantic: a houseboat moored on the Ohio River, a high-rise apartment in nearby Pittsburgh, a mansion, a log cabin, anything but a trailer.

And it wasn’t even a nice one. Set up on cinder blocks, the trailer was a big box wrapped in harvest gold and dingy white aluminum. A piece of the skirting had torn loose at one end, and there was rust around the corners.

Ian shut the car off and draped his arm across the back of Lucy’s seat. “It isn’t much, love, but it’s all I’ve got. Care to come inside, or should we take you home?”

“Oh, just take her home, Ian. She’ll be late for supper,” Myra said from the backseat, where she hid behind a cloud of cigarette smoke.

“I’d love to come inside. This is where you live, right?”

Ian laughed. “Yes, for now. Are you sure you have time?”

Lucy glanced down at her watch, embarrassed suddenly by the pink vinyl strap and the Hello Kitty face on the dial. She would have to get a new watch soon, no matter what. Mom would probably be wondering, right about now, where she had gone off to. “I have a little time. Let’s go in. I want to see.”

Lucy followed the two of them toward the trailer. Ahead of her there was a copse of maple trees on a bluff. The Ohio River, looking brown and stagnant in the milky white light, curved as it made its way south.

Inside, the sudden change from the day’s withering brightness to the dark interior blinded Lucy, and she felt her first moment of panic. Neither of them said anything, and she suddenly felt helpless. For the first time that day, she questioned their interest in her and thought herself foolish for not having wondered why a young couple in their twenties would want to bring her home.

But she did look older, didn’t she?

Of course she did. Ian confirmed it. “We’re going to have a glass of wine, Lucy. Would you care for one?”

A flush of pleasure rushed through her. They did think she was older, a peer. Perhaps they were just trying to make friends. Before the onset of the summer, she couldn’t recall having seen either of them before. But what would Mom say if she came home with liquor on her breath? She groped in her pocket, thankful for the piece of Bazooka there.

“Well, maybe I could have just a small one.”

“Excellent!” Ian clapped his hands together and went toward the wall behind him, where a portable kitchen waited. He took a jug of white wine from the refrigerator and poured three glasses.

After they were settled in the living room and Lucy’s eyes had adjusted to the dim lighting, she said, “This is much nicer than I thought.”

The couple exchanged glances, laughing, and Lucy wondered why. The place was run-down. The carpeting, a beige-and-brown tweed, was threadbare, and the furniture was a hodgepodge of mismatched pieces, all of it looking secondhand. The scarred coffee table contained an odd assortment of items: a book called Crime and Punishment, a ceramic skull, and two black votive candles set on tin jar lids.

But the dimness and stale air bothered her more than anything else. Why were all the curtains drawn? “It’s kind of dark in here, isn’t it?”

That remark they found amusing as well; their laughter began to make her uncomfortable. She scratched her arm.

Ian said, “Lucy, haven’t you noticed? It’s hot outside. It keeps things a little cooler if I keep the drapes drawn.”

Of course.

After they had finished their wine—well, after Ian and Myra had finished theirs; Lucy thought it tasted horrible—Ian disappeared for a moment. When he came back, he was carrying a video camera. It was one of those tiny ones you could almost palm in your hand, and the red light on it was blinking.

What was going on?

“Smile for the camera, Lucy.”

Lucy tried to smile, but things were getting too strange. She managed to turn up the corners of her lips in a grin. Suddenly, Myra was on the couch next to her, too close, really. Lucy smelled her perfume. It was too sweet, with a bitter undertone. It smelled like she had rubbed incense on herself. The scent of the perfume combined with cigarettes and wine caused Lucy to lean back, away from Myra. Suddenly, the woman didn’t seem as glamorous as she had in the car.

She put her arm around Lucy and mugged for the camera. “Come on, Lucy, smile!”

Lucy bit her lip, thinking of the Barbie trunk she had left on her front lawn. Kelsey Timmons, just down the street, wouldn’t be above taking the whole trunk home, especially with the golden opportunity Lucy was giving her. Kelsey had coveted Lucy’s Barbie collection since she had moved in down the street four years ago. “I think I’d like to go home now.” Lucy tried to look anywhere but into the lens of the camera. She wished he would turn it off.

“Nonsense!” Ian exclaimed.

“You just got here, dear,” Myra whispered to her. Her lips were too red, and Lucy suddenly felt sick.

“Please, I need to go home now.”

“Just a few more minutes.” Ian hunkered down in front of the two of them, moving the camera slowly up and down their bodies.

Lucy lifted the wine to her lips, just to have something to quell her mouth’s terrible dryness. She began to perspire, dampening at her armpits, her hairline. She whimpered, “You said no more than an hour.”

“Such a pretty girl,” Myra whispered, lifting Lucy’s ponytail and turning it in her hand. “Oh, to have such tresses. What I wouldn’t give to have hair this color.” She giggled. “Naturally, I mean.”

“Jealous?” Ian stood and aimed the camera down at the two of them.

Lucy shot up, heat and fear coalescing to make her sick. The walls of the trailer closed in. “I don’t feel so good. Can we go now?”

Ian set the camera down for a moment and gave her his most winning smile. “The answer to that question, my sweet, is no.”


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

New and Notable Horror from Eric David Roman LONG NIGHT AT LAKE NEVER


Release Date
: 07/12/2021

Genre: Contemporary Horror, LGBTQIA+, horror, horror fiction, queer horror, queer lit, lgbt horror, gay horror, gay lit, dark horror, revenge, slasher, scary, supernatural, camp horror

Add to Goodreads

About the Book

Welcome to Camp Horizons, where they pray all day…and get slayed all night!

Nestled against scenic Lake Never, recently outed Tyler Wills has arrived at the secluded conversion camp, where the delusional staff of counselors believes he and his fellow camper’s queer affliction can be healed solely through the power of prayer.

After a full day spent rallying against sadistic deprogramming therapies, the deranged camp director, and planning his escape, Tyler discovers a larger problem—a mysterious stranger has rolled into camp with a grudge to settle and a very sharp axe.

When night falls, the terror and body count rise. And Tyler, along with his fellow campers, find themselves trapped between a brutal, unrelenting killer and their holier-than-thou prey as they desperately search for a way to survive the Long Night at Lake Never.


Long Night at Lake Never
Eric David Roman © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Tyler Wills had not gazed out the car’s window for a solid hour, but when he finally did, those three words angrily mocked him. Each word with its own crudely hand-painted sign, and each one staked in the ground along the roadside. The message, along with the overall cheap tackiness of the signs, churned his stomach.

And they couldn’t even spell it right. Assholes.

After tilting his head back, he nestled against the leather headrest of his father’s Mercedes and rolled his eyes, thinking about life and its accompanying bullshit. How much he wanted to be free—eighteen was ten months away. How much easier everything would be once on his own. Life, his way.

A glance out the window and another sign met his eyes, this one reflective green. It announced they were twenty-five miles from their destination: Camp Horizons. The crude signs, which at first appeared random, now made more sense. Tyler could have groaned or sighed loudly, but no one cared or listened. His parents remained silent the entire three-hour trip, and no noises Ty made were going to change that fact in the last thirty minutes. No radio. No small talk. Only the car’s interior noises, their collective breathing, and the curt driving directions of the British-voiced GPS.

Nadine Wills sat stone-faced and stared out the windshield, only letting the occasional sniffle escape her nose to show she was still alive. Tyler expected a ride filled with screaming and admonishments against his character, but instead, he got the Wills silent treatment. In the two weeks since the night Tyler was brought home by the police, she hadn’t acknowledged him once. She did not listen to him that night either. Once the door opened and she saw Ty there looking small and pitiful with the bulky police officer behind him, she slapped his face and demanded he go to his room. He didn’t, remaining hidden on the stairwell, giggling to himself, as the cop explained to his parents their seventeen-year-old son had been caught in the park giving, as the officer described, “vigorous oral sex.” He emphasized the word vigorous multiple times, either driving home the point he’d witnessed the offensive act, or to show how impressed he’d been by the skills displayed but remained obligated to uphold the law.

Tyler lamented life was not more like porn. If his had been, the cop would gladly have joined in, and Tyler wouldn’t have faced his third strike with Michael and Nadine. The previous two were for his attitude, minor offensives, but this infraction came with the threat of an indecent exposure charge, for which he got let go with only a warning. However, the more significant issue was the revelation their only son was queer. He knew the ordeal would cost him this time, which it did.

One day after the incident, as the event became referred to, Michael barged into Tyler’s room, a disgusted look etched into his worn and wrinkled face, and his laptop clenched in his hands. Tyler rolled his eyes as his red-faced father, livid at his only son for being a filthy fucking cocksucker (his exact words), showed him the website for Camp Horizons, a “rehabilitation” center for homosexual youth. Tyler understood exactly what a pray-the-gay-away-style conversion camp consisted of. He was an educated young man and was aware of what kind of rehab went down at places like those. The blood drained from his face as Michael smirked at Ty’s horrified reaction. Nadine wasn’t present for Michael’s fiery antihomo tirade about how the camp would be healthy for him. Tyler figured a silent or else came attached to the demand he agreed to be fixed. He hoped Nadine would swoop in for a rescue, tell her husband he was being ridiculous as she had in the past and that would be all. But Ty didn’t count on her this time; he knew she wouldn’t leave the safety of the bedroom where the surplus of Xanax kept her numbed and staring at the ceiling in mindless wonderment.

The week until they left for the camp had been hell. They took everything from him: the car went first, the phone next, along with all the electronics, and like a prisoner, his remaining freedoms were stripped away. Tyler spent the week locked in his near-empty bedroom. The severity of his punishment pissed him off and it wasn’t due to premarital sex or getting caught by the police. If he’d been blown by a girl, sure there would have been some yelling and tears since Nadine cried at fucking everything. But once she settled, his father would have come into his room and congratulated him on becoming a man and probably expunged any punishment with a hearty high-five.

No, their anger, their disgust came from the fact Tyler was gay. What infuriated them more, Ty had no issue with his sexuality at all. To them, being queer equaled unacceptable, and yet, he held no shame whatsoever. For the past two years, he’d tried on multiple occasions to come out but always retreated at the last minute. He understood the truth: Michael and Nadine were bigoted archaic assholes. The kind who spoke disparagingly about queer people whenever they showed up on a television show or in a movie. “Ugh, do we need more of them?” Nadine would say as she fidgeted in her spot until the offensive parties left the screen. His father would mumble fags under his breath, and so Tyler would sit there being hurt and annoyed by the two people who were supposed to love him more than anything.

And he thought, foolishly, he could make it to eighteen and get out before he ever had to tell them. His libido thought otherwise. The allegations were true. He’d done everything the cop accused him of—and more—before the offensive flashlight so rudely shined on them in the plastic playhouse atop the slide. Tyler picked at the seams on his jeans and thought about Daniel, his long-time crush, who had finally agreed to meet him.

Closing his eyes, he pictured Daniel’s slender face, his deep eyes, and his full lips, which felt as nice as Ty had hoped. Without any of his devices, there’d been no way to see how much trouble Daniel had gotten into with his family. And no means to apologize or tell him how he’d not stopped thinking about their brief night. Nadine and Michael hadn’t merely sent Tyler away; they’d successfully cut him off from the world. He wouldn’t know if there may have been something more with Daniel than a few quick make-out sessions behind the lunchroom and a sloppy half-finished blow job.

He opened his eyes when his father’s voice demanded he wake up though he had not been sleeping. A large wooden sign filled the front windshield as they passed, declaring they’d reached Camp Horizons. In the camp’s heyday, the hand-carved sign had been brightly painted with yellows and blues, depicting a serene sun setting on a group of cabins. Each ray of the sun became a cross the closer to the camp they reached, but the current state of the sign showed those days were long gone. Now the sign’s faded paint showed off how dried and cracked the wood had become. The sign hung crooked, drooping on one side from damage to one of the posts, which no one had bothered to fix. Past the broken sign were a few hundred more feet of dense forest, which sent a chill, cold and icy, traversing up Tyler’s spine and sent shudders through his body. The camp was more isolated than he realized, and the fact unsettled him. An apprehensive knot formed in his chest and told him this place wasn’t right.

The Mercedes followed the curve of the camp’s driveway, and Tyler saw a trio of cabins nestled together along the rim of the circular drive. Behind them, sloping down the uneven terrain to the edge of Lake Never were several more. From the window, Tyler spotted a round-faced man in his late thirties, with a short beard and thinning hair, wearing a bright-yellow shirt and tan khakis, waving happily at them. Michael pulled the car around until he faced the way they’d come in. He shoved the gearshift into park, pissed off at it and blaming everything in the world for his son being a queer.

Michael turned to face Tyler in the backseat. For a moment, Ty thought his father would finally speak to him, and he did, but not with any words. The anger and disappointment were painted all over his face as they’d been for days, and the look told Tyler without question, you’d better not fuck this up too. Tyler blew him a kiss and flung his car door open, happy for the fresh air. As his parents slammed their doors, the man from the porch trotted down to them.

“The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful day, hasn’t he? Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Wills. Welcome to Camp Horizons,” he said warmly, his greeting coated thickly by a Southern accent as rich as syrup smothering a stack of pancakes. He extended his hand and shook Michael’s, and then Nadine’s, who barely registered a response. “Robert Kendall, the camp director here at Horizons. But please, Bob is fine. Been going by it for years. And this young man must be Tyler.” Bob swung his hand over to Tyler, an obviously super fake grin smeared across his round face.

Tyler refused to shake any hands. Instead, he let his focus drift around the camp as Bob spoke to his parents. If Horizons had any glory days, they were long gone. There was not one cabin which didn’t need some form of repair or wasn’t boarded up. Every surface needed a paint job, and the grounds were overgrown, except in the prominent areas along the front to keep the entrance looking deceptively beautiful. Tyler’s sneakers dug into the gravel of the drive, his thoughts only on running away, as Bob led them to the office sitting to the left of the largest cabin, which he referred to as Integrity Cabin.

For a religiously run camp, Tyler found there was not much around touting the place’s pious nature past the crosses on the camp’s entrance sign. In his head, he half expected to see nothing but crosses—hung to everything, twenty feet tall—but the camp appeared subdued.

He recanted this opinion once inside Bob’s office. The room was adorned with an obscenely large and ornately framed painting of Jesus Christ on the rear wall. Between the pictures of the camp through the years were photos of the Guides who had worked there, small but ornate crosses, placards with scripture quotes, and religious-themed motivational posters, which encouraged all to Pray it Away with the power of God.

Situated at his desk, Bob was tiny in front of the looming Jesus, who glared down on them, and the desk was covered with files, papers, and a complete set of apostle bobbleheads.

The Wills family sat quietly as Bob beamed at them with a righteous awkwardness for a silent minute. Exhaling loudly, he leaned his head up to the heavens as he began, “The Lord is here today. Yes, he is. He is always present when one of his disciples begins their Journey.” The word, said often, was always accompanied with a pompous weighted reverence. “Tyler, Horizons exists to restore those trapped within sexual sin. Our program is specifically designed to cater to those that have fallen prey to the sinful cult of homosexuality.” He bowed his head, raised his right hand, and shook like an evangelist on Sunday morning television, casting away queerness like one would cast off the evil eye.

“Homosexuality is a vile disease, and through the power of prayer, we can get Tyler onto the path of righteousness and return him to the arms of our Lord.”

“Kinda thought the idea here would be getting me out of the arms of men, but hey, who am I to argue?” Tyler could do nothing but laugh off the absurdity around him.

“God sees you, Tyler Wills, and your soul is in peril. Do you want to spend eternity in damnation and hellfire? Let’s try to approach this with some decorum. Our mission here is to save your soul.”

Tyler rolled his eyes at the idea of his soul needing saving—an impulse reaction but one that earned him a hard smack across the back of his head from his father.

“How long does this process take, making them straight again?” Michael asked with an annoyed tone, suggesting he expected to literally drop the offensive party off and leave. Nadine sat quietly, not looking at her son, husband, or Bob’s suntanned face. She stared up at the large painting of Jesus, dopey eyed in her sedated state. “Tyler had an incident,” she whispered softly.

“I got caught vigorously sucking some cock,” Tyler boasted as his father fumed, and Nadine covered her mouth and shook her head.

“An incident,” Michael spoke over him, “that concerned us enough to bring him here for treatment.”

Bob put his hands together in a prayer stance and once again sounded like a preacher. “The path to religious righteousness is a thorny one. Romans 12 tells us, ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.’” He quoted the Bible with the slimy ease of a used car salesman trying to offload a lemon.

Michael rudely cut through the religious platitudes. “And what kind of time frame does that entail?”

“Bob,” Tyler interjected before the camp director answered, “my parents are extremely uncomfortable. Neither of them is religious enough to know what Romans means. What they want you to tell them, and in the simplest words possible, is how long this introduction will take. They’re so uncomfortable. I mean, look at how much they want to leave.” The retort was worth the second smack to the head.

“The Journey is two and a half weeks, but they are laborious weeks for sure.” Bob cleared his throat. “Now I’m required to make clear that neither I nor my Guides are actually licensed therapists. We’re merely servants of God, who’ve gone through the Journey and are invested in keeping the camp running so other young people will have a safe space to embark on their own path back to the Lord.” He rattled off a few other disclaimers rapidly before sliding across the desk three papers he advised were confidentiality agreements, each stating the Wills would not divulge their therapeutic techniques.

Tyler figured his father listened and honed in, as Tyler had, on the unlicensed and unregulated part, which to anyone else would have been a huge red flag. He hoped that would have shown his father how ludicrous the entire idea was, and how potentially dangerous. Except Tyler imagined his father hoped the so-called techniques included a little bit of physical punishment. “Fucking kill them all, and we wouldn’t have this problem,” Michael Wills had once proclaimed at the breakfast table in front of his son and wife after becoming annoyed with the ongoing coverage over the fight for marriage equality.

“We here at Horizons have developed our own patent-pending, seven-step rehabilitation program, which will take Tyler on a voyage of self-discovery where he will once again find, through prayer, and our assistance, God’s eternal love. And in that love, he will find the courage to reject these deviant homosexual impulses, falsely implanted within him by Satan.

“All of our Guides have taken the Journey. They are trained to assist other young men and women going through the process. Luckily for Tyler, our attendance is rather low this cycle, which is all the better to give those here a truly one-on-one, immersive experience, which will return him to our Lord and Savior. Through God’s beautiful bounty, we are blessed to be here providing this service to his flock.”

“I’m pretty sure this shit is illegal.” Tyler’s already upset stomach tied itself in more knots listening to the eerie way Bob referred to God so subserviently that it didn’t seem to Tyler like they had the healthiest relationship. Whomever Bob was referring to wasn’t the God Ty knew, and everyone in the room would be gutted to know how well Tyler was versed with the Bible, but he kept that to himself.

“Language,” Bob chided. “We keep our words G-rated at Horizons.”

“Fine, I’ll reiterate—isn’t conversion therapy illegal?”

“No laws have been passed as of yet…in this state anyway,” Bob quickly pointed out smugly before shifting his attention to Michael and Nadine. “As you may have observed driving in, Lake Never is rather large. We are secluded here on the south side. As such, there is no access to the internet. No televisions. No radios. No distractions. And any fraternizing, in a physical manner, is strictly forbidden.”

Tyler sat back in his chair, believing he had found his way out. The first guy he found to be willing—bam—he’d get kicked out.

“Expulsion is not the punishment,” Bob declared as if reading the blueprints of Tyler’s escape plan directly off his face. “The program resets, and our Journeyer must begin again. And if this causes them to go over their allotted time, there will of course be a small fee. We will need to collect Tyler’s phone and any other electronic devices he may have. There is a landline here in my office. If you are so inclined to check on Tyler’s progress, you may call, but the Journeyers are not permitted access to it.”

Tyler laughed. They wouldn’t give a shit about his progress once they drove off. “Don’t have to worry about that, Bob. These assholes don’t care if they hear from their faggy son or not.”

“Language.” Bob’s demeanor flipped, and the word came with a more pointed tone making it clear foul language wouldn’t be tolerated again.

“Tyler, shut up,” his father demanded. “And after these two weeks he will be straight, correct?”

“Oh yes,” Bob assured Michael. “We here at Horizons are God’s mechanics, determined to help fix our brothers and sisters who’ve been led astray.”

“There is nothing fucking wrong with me. I happened to luck out and got these two braindead assholes for parents.” Tyler went to stand up and storm out. Michael proved quicker, snatching his arm roughly, forcing him down into his seat.

“Sit the fuck down right now,” Michael yelled, never once looking at his son. “You will take this seriously. You will follow the rules, and you will not come home until—”

“Until what?” Tyler pulled his arm back. “Until I magically like pussy? There is nothing wrong with me the way I am.”

Michael wound up his hand again and started to say something when Bob jumped in. “Mr. Wills, please. Tyler, we will not accept this kind of talk or behavior at Horizons. That is no way to speak to your parents. One of the commandments is to honor thy mother and father. They are your moral compass.”

“You’re fucking joking, right?” Tyler sat up in the chair and laughed. “Moral compass? My mother over there dopes herself every day to ignore the fact that my father is sticking his dick into every woman he meets. She doesn’t care about this as long as her meds are refilled, and the credit card doesn’t get declined. I do believe gluttony, infidelity, and generally being a shitty person are sins too, are they not? Where’s the rehab camp for these asses?”

Nadine shifted in her seat and exhaled loudly as she turned her face away when Michael sent the back of his hand across Tyler’s face, effectively silencing him. Bob didn’t comment on the slap, waiting a moment until the air settled before he continued.

“We are not here to discuss semantics, Tyler. We’re here to talk about you starting your Journey toward being a straight and God-fearing member of society.”

Tyler rubbed the side of his face, still hot from Michael’s hand, and shrugged the slap off. “I get your gig; you pick and choose what parts of the Bible you feel like enforcing. The rest doesn’t matter, right?”

Bob, still sporting his Cheshire-cat-like phony grin, studied Tyler as he slid the confidential agreement across the desk toward Michael. Bob motioned to the pens in the cup in front of him. “We are going to require our fee up front.”

Purchase at NineStar Press

Meet the Author

Eric David Roman.com spent twenty years wandering the wrong paths; he tends to get lost a lot (he’s from Florida). He worked the wrong jobs (as it turns out, streetwalking is not a profession for just anyone) and avoided his true passion—writing, or as he refers to it, devouring sleeves of gluten-free Oreos in a dark closet whilst crying. After hitting a low point while trapped in retail management hell (a harsh rock bottom), he rearranged his thinking (now with 75 percent less anxiety and depression) and switched his focus fully to writing; well, as much as his gAyDD allows. And now, you’re reading his bio, so things are progressing nicely. He is the author of the outrageous novella Despicable People, the new novel Long Night at Lake Never, and multiple upcoming works. Eric remains socially distant in Northern Virginia (don’t stalk him, you’d just be disappointed), where he lives, writes, and loves a mix of all things horror, campy, and queer. He spends the days with his adoring husband and loveable cat (both of whom remain indifferent to his self-proclaimed celebrity).

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Friday, July 2, 2021

MAN FROM MILWAUKEE is One Year Old This Month

It was just about a year ago that my Dahmer-inspired novel, THE MAN FROM MILWAUKEE came out. July is also the month that, in 1991, Jeffrey #Dahmer was arrested. If you haven't read this story of horror, hope, and redemption yet, get yours at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08C26Z5TM and NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/the-man-from-milwaukee/. Or listen to the audiobook, narrated by the amazing Donald Davenport: https://www.amazon.com/The-Man-from-Milwaukee/dp/B08QR1HH67 

Check out the stunning book trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrSs73qY7rc 


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?

#ownvoices #serialkiller #Chicago 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Love Dogs? Love Love? Check out my heartwarming LOST AND FOUND

LOST AND FOUND, my story of how a lost beagle brings two men together in Seattle is available from JMS Books and other online bookstores, like Amazon. BLURB
On a bright autumn day, Flynn Marlowe lost his best friend, a beagle named Barley, while out on a hike in Seattle’s Discovery Park. On a cold winter day, Mac Bowersox found his best friend, a lost, scared, and emaciated beagle, on the streets of Seattle. Two men. One dog. When Flynn and Mac meet by chance in a park the next summer, there’s a problem -- who does Barley really belong to? Flynn wants him back, but he can see that Mac rescued him and loves him just as much as he does. Mac wants to keep the dog, and he can imagine how heartbreaking losing him would be -- but that's just what Flynn experienced. A “shared custody” compromise might be just the way to work things out. But will the arrangement be successful? Mac and Flynn are willing to try it ... and along the way, they just might fall in love.
Kneeling on the hardwood floor in the front hallway, Mac Bowersox pulled the harness from Hamburger. “Good boy,” he said, stroking the dog. He then bent a little to give the dog a good, strong hug. The dog wriggled to be free. He’d never liked being hugged. But Mac needed to hug him. He padded after Hamburger as he walked toward the kitchen. Mac stood in the entryway and watched as the dog paused at his two stainless steel bowls and rapidly lapped up almost the entire bowl of water. Mac supposed the poor pooch was tired and parched after the way he’d made him run from the park. But Mac couldn’t take a chance. If that Flynn guy had come after them, Mac didn’t know if he’d have had the courage to continue insisting that Hamburger wasn’t Barley. Because he was. He was Barley. Of course, Mac didn’t know that until just a short time ago. But something weird happened the moment Barley spied the gorgeous man in the gray nylon running shorts and form-fitting lime-green tank top. Mac chuckled grimly. The dog had spotted the succulent morsel of masculinity almost before he did. And Mac could plainly read Hamburger’s reaction -- joy and recognition in one big tail-wagging bundle. At first, Mac didn’t understand the dog’s reaction. He didn’t see Hamburger’s interest as recognition. How could he? He simply thought old Hamburger might have the same eye for the fellas as his master did. Takes one horndog to know another! And Flynn was hotness personified -- with his lean runner’s build and those amazing blue eyes that contrasted so gorgeously with his black hair and those damn long lashes. He was like a god -- someone lifted from the pages of GQ or a fitness magazine. And Mac simply thought Hamburger was reacting in much the same way Mac had to the sight of him. After all, the dog could very well have learned how to ogle a good-looking man from his master, who was, he thought, the absolute champion of ogling. Mac could ogle a hottie like nobody’s business. He could have taught a master class. It should have been a moment of lusty happiness. But it wasn’t. Because now, as Mac looked back on the encounter in retrospect, he did so with deep shame. He felt like punching himself in the face -- repeatedly -- as he watched Hamburger lap up his water. A voice startled him out of his reverie. His deep well of guilt must have been obvious. “What’s the matter, Mac? You look like you just lost your best friend.” Mac looked up to see the wizened and withered face of his landlady, Dee -- short-for-Delores -- Weeda, staring at him with concern in her brown eyes. Mac had occupied her attic bedroom and en suite bath for more than two years now. Mac swallowed. “I almost did. At the park.”

JMS Books
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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

NEW AND NOTABLE: The Illhenny Murders by Winnie Frolik


Title: The Illhenny Murders

Author: Winnie Frolik

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/21/2021

Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 67500

Genre: Historical, LGBTQIA+, genre, historical, crime, lesbian, 1930s, private detective, district nurse, murder

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District Nurse Mary Grey saves the life of young architect, Anthony West, when he is involved a car wreck, only for West to tell her it was no accident. Someone tried to kill him. Mary is skeptical at first, but when West dies, she’s determined to investigate the matter. More blood is spilled, and Mary becomes embroiled in a tangled web of intrigue and murder as she joins forces with exiled Jewish German detective Franz Shaefer. And on top of everything else, Mary finds herself dangerously attracted to Anthony’s beautiful and unattainable sister Harriet.


The Illhenny Murders
Winnie Frolik © 2021
All Rights Reserved

October 1936, Illhenny, England

It was no longer night in Illhenny, but not quite morning. Those weird in-between hours, when the darkness began to retreat but the sun had not quite shown its face. Although at this time of year, the best Illhenny could hope for was some feeble rays of light peeking out from behind the fierce clouds dominating its sea line. Still, sunny or not, people had begun to stir. Fishermen went off in their boats to cast their nets and haggle with the sea. Tradesmen set out to open for the day. Farm folk had cows to milk and livestock to feed. Mothers began coaxing surly children from their beds to have breakfast before making their way to school. And the district nurse set off on her rounds.

District Nurse Mary Grey had known she would be quite busy that day. In preparation, she had eaten a solid, manly breakfast, and packed a ham sandwich for later. She wore an oversized knitted gray-green sweater, gifted to her by her sister, over her uniform to face the weather. She rode her BSA motorbike. Some uncharitable souls might have noted the bike was over a decade old, and hardly ideal for inclement weather. And in the UK, of course, inclement weather tends to be the norm. No matter. Mary loved the motorbike from the moment it had been issued to her by the Rural Nurses Association. She loved how the wind whipped in her face when she rode it full throttle. She loved the sense of power between her legs. She loved how speedily it could get her to her appointments. She loved occasionally beeping to people she met on the ride. Most of all, she loved the freedom and independence her motorbike represented. She even enjoyed cleaning it and keeping it fueled and oiled. Mary had never ridden a horse, let alone owned one, but she imagined her love for her motorbike was akin to what a rider might feel toward their faithful steed.

Mary rode her bike past the bakery, post office, the vicarage, and the forge. Her first task of the day was to check in on Mrs. Simpson, who’d recently had surgery in London. She was a widow of some sixty years of age, living on a small pension after her husband’s death.

“You need not have come, my dear,” Mrs. Simpson told her. “As you can see, I’ve made a full recovery.” To punctuate her point, Mrs. Simpson did an elegant little curtsey. She was surprisingly limber for a woman her age.

“You certainly are looking better. You don’t seem to have any trouble moving at all now,” Mary noted.

“No. In fact, I took a long walk around the village yesterday and will take another today.”

“You didn’t mind the cold?”

“Oh no! I found it quite refreshing,” Mrs. Simpson proclaimed. “There’s nothing like fresh sea air and exercise for one’s health, is there?”

“No argument there,” Mary agreed. “Will you be going to tomorrow’s meeting of the Illhenny Women’s Society?” Mrs. Simpson was known for her needlework and her keen interest in village affairs.

“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away. We are going to start decorating the church for Christmas. I picked up some new items in London to show everyone! There’s no place like London for shopping.”

“There certainly isn’t. In fact, I’m taking the train down tomorrow to stay with an old friend of mine for a couple of nights while her husband’s away.”

“Wait, is that your friend Phyllis?” Mrs. Simpson asked. “You’ve visited her before, haven’t you?”

“Well, her husband travels regularly, and she likes the company,” Mary explained, not making direct eye contact with Mrs. Simpson.

“Oh, well, that’s very kind of you then,” Mrs. Simpson remarked. “How exactly do you and Phyllis know each other?”

“I met her when I was studying at the Queen’s Institute for Nurses in London.” This time Mary was on solid ground. “And we’ve stayed in touch. You know, I really have to get on to my other appointments.”

“Of course, dear, of course.”

Mrs. Simpson waved a cheerful goodbye and Mary rode off.

Mary next called on rheumatic old Caleb Barnaby. Caleb was a grizzled fisherman with several teeth missing, but one molar long and sharp as a harpoon. He’d been a big man once but in the last year or so had begun to lose weight and his clothes now hung on him rather alarmingly. He lived quite alone with only a large ginger cat, Ahab, for company. His rooms were shabby and dark, with only a single window, but they did have one charm—handcrafted shelves filled with little birds, fish, seashells, deer, and other creatures, all beautifully carved out of wood by none other than Caleb himself. Caleb’s whittling and carpentry were famous in Illhenny. After coming in, Mary, as usual, opened the window to air the room a little, while Caleb groused.

“Just kill me all the faster, the chill air will.”

“No, it won’t.”

“Will too!” Caleb retorted. “Cold gets worse every year for me old bones.” He gave a melodramatic sigh. “This will be my last winter, it will. Ought to start planning my funeral.”

“What would you have them write on your headstone?” Mary asked, amused.

“Don’t want a headstone,” Caleb pronounced. “Waste of time and stone if you ask me. Don’t want to be left in a box in the ground to rot either. I’d rather be taken by the wind or the sea. That way, at least I’d get to travel a b—”

There was a loud crashing sound and a startled Mary turned just in time to see a pile of wooden carvings on the floor while an orange blur raced around a corner and out of sight.

“Go ahead and run, you coward! You cur!” Caleb shouted. “If I ever get my hands on you, I’ll turn you into slippers!”

Mary had heard similar threats from Caleb before regarding Ahab’s crimes, and knew them to be empty. She instead set out about picking up the wooden figures and returning them to their rightful place. As she did so, she spotted an envelope hidden in a cleft among the shelves and, on an impulse, took a peek at its contents.

Much to her amusement, it was filled with cheap little pictures of women in various stages of undress. Pornography and smut were illegal in England, but that didn’t seem to diminish its popularity one jot. Most of the women were simply posing, but some of them were more active. In fact, several of the photos included men as well, engaging in all sorts of calisthenics with the women. Mary hurriedly put the envelope away.

“What you doing now?” Caleb asked.

“Nothing! Just examining your workmanship. How about I put on the kettle?”

“Tea? What good is tea? Now whiskey, aye, that’s proper medicine. I’ll have me a shot now.”

“But it isn’t even noon,” Mary pointed out.

“Exactly. I need breakfast!” Caleb drained the shot with satisfaction. “Come you, nurse, join me in a tipple. It’ll put some color in your cheeks, do you a load of good.”

“Sorry, but I’m not allowed to drink on duty. Those are the rules.”

“Too many damned rules,” Caleb grumbled. “That’s what’s wrong with the world these days.”

“I don’t know that the problem is the number of rules themselves,” Mary said thoughtfully, “so much as who makes them.”

“Hmph. Speaking of people who make the rules, Lord Pool’s called a town meeting tonight at the dance hall.”

“A meeting? About what?”

“Don’t know. Didn’t say anything. But his friend from next door is going to be there as well.”

“I heard The Laurels had just been rented out to some young man from London,” Mary mused. “I wondered what that was about. We don’t get many visitors from London here. In fact, we usually don’t get any.”

Caleb scowled. “No good will come of this. I can smell it. You mark my words!”

Mary did not respond to this premonition but kept to her schedule. As she rode past Mr. Legge’s tobacco shop, she saw pretty, young Mrs. Legge assisting Mr. Winthrop, the vicar. Mr. Legge, who was quite a bit older than his wife, stood directly outside the shop, engaged in an argument with Dick Townley, Lord Pool’s gamekeeper.

“No more credit for you, you wastrel! You ever darken my door without the money you owe me, and it’ll be my boot up your arse!”

“I’d like to see you try.” Townley spat on the ground, but he left the shop empty handed.

Mary passed Constable Evans as well. He was still a young man with plump cheeks, red as apples.

“Hello, Nurse Grey.” He tipped his hat to her. “Busy day, is it?”

“It’s always busy. What about you?”

“Getting a cat out of a tree has been the highlight of my morning. Had some more excitement yesterday though. Another one of those tramps came around and I had to clear him off. There seem to be more of them every week.” He frowned.

“The slump perhaps,” Mary suggested. “Too many poor souls out of work with nowhere to go.”

“Maybe, but they can’t come here,” Evans retorted. “I have my orders to keep them out. Well, I’ll leave you to your caseload.”

The saddest part of Mary’s day was visiting poor Annie Capman with her consumption. Annie was from an industrial town in the north but, because of her health, she’d moved to Illhenny in hopes the fresh sea air would revive her. Sadly, while Annie did enjoy a respite from breathing in black smoke and soot, it soon became clear her days were numbered no matter where she lived. The other villagers in Illhenny kept their distance from the little cottage Annie lodged in, fearing contagion. Annie’s coal and groceries were always delivered and left outside. Mary entered the cottage directly with a key left underneath a stone in the yard to see Annie’s skeletal figure in bed, swallowed up by comforters and sheets.

“Mary.” Annie’s hollowed pale face shone at the sight of the nurse. “It’s so good to see you.”

“How are you feeling today, Annie?” Mary asked.

“Tired,” Annie replied. “I know you say it does me good to walk outside, but today I’m afraid I haven’t the energy for it.”

“That’s all right, Annie,” Mary reassured her. “Let me open the windows at least and get some fresh air in for you. I’ve got another bottle of that tonic you like.”

Mary dosed Annie, helped her bathe in the wash basin, and combed her hair before tucking her into her newly changed bed with tea and biscuits.

“Rest now,” Mary told her as Annie shut her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Mary’s final appointment of the day was at the Martins’ farm to check on Mrs. Martin and weigh the newborn twin boys who Mary had delivered herself just fourteen days before. This visit in particular gave Mary cause for worry. Not so much the twins themselves—they were both putting on weight nicely and had hearty lungs they kept in good order with constant roaring. No, the rest of the family concerned Nurse Grey. The birth of the twins had brought the total number of children at the farm to nine, all crowded together on top of one another. From the moment she entered the home, Mary was met with the smell of dirty nappies and unwashed dishes. Without electricity, plumbing, or running water, it was difficult to maintain even the most basic level of sanitation in the home. Mrs. Martin had dark circles around her eyes, like someone had smeared coal there, and a dull, blank stare. Her hair was tangled as a bird’s nest and she had a nasty cough as well. She was uncommunicative and answered questions with just a “yes” or “no.”

Finally, Nurse Grey had directed her questions to the eldest girl, Libby. Libby informed Mary that her mother hadn’t slept for days thanks to the twins’ constant bawling, and she had seemed off her food as well. Thirteen-year-old Libby had more or less taken charge of the household and the care of her younger siblings. Mr. Martin had not been present during the interview, and Eliza volunteered that her father had been spending less time than ever at home since the twins were born. His hours minding the farm had always been long, but now it seemed he didn’t come home most nights at all. Rather he went to The Mud Crab or slept in the barn, finding it more comfortable than the Martin household at present. Looking at the dirt and grime around her, as the twins began to bawl once more, Nurse Grey understood why. Still, the absence of a father and husband in the home was only making things worse.

“Is there anyone who could come and help your mum? A neighbor perhaps? Or family?”

Libby thought a moment. “Aunt Amy,” she said. “She’s Mum’s sister and she works as a housekeeper in Anchester.” Anchester was a market town some six miles distant.

“Would we have to send a message in person, or does she have a phone?” Nurse Grey asked.

“The house she works at has a phone,” Libby replied.

“Good! Do you know the number?”

Libby shook her head.

“That’s all right. Directory can probably find you the number as long as you know who and where her employer is.”

“I know that,” Libby stated firmly.

“Then run down to the call box by the post office. Here are some coins for the phone. Tell your aunt to come here as quickly as possible, assuming she can get the time off.”

Libby turned to go, and Mary called after her, “Remember to wear your mittens!”

Nurse Grey spent the next few hours doing her best to clean up around the household, having one of the children draw her water from outside, and delegating tasks of sweeping, mopping, and laundry. A hearty new fire was built to warm the place up a bit. The twins were fed, bathed, and changed. Meanwhile, Mrs. Martin was given hot tea and put to bed for some much-needed sleep. As Mary started making porridge for supper, Libby returned.

“I spoke to Aunt Amy and she spoke to her employer. She’ll be here tomorrow.”

“That’s wonderful news! But we will have to keep an eye on your mum’s cough too,” Mary told Libby. “If it gets any worse or lasts much longer, she may need to see a doctor.”

Libby nodded, though she did not look happy. “Doctors are expensive, ma’am.”

Nurse Grey sympathized. “I know. Hopefully, though, once your mum gets some rest, she will start to get better on her own. Make sure she rests by the fire and drinks lots of hot tea.”

By the time Mary left the Martins’, it was nearly time for the public meeting. And while Mary Grey was no native to Illhenny, a district nurse should always try to stay appraised of matters within the local community. She rushed to attend and managed to get in the doors of the local dance hall just before the meeting began. It seemed half of Illhenny was crammed into the room, seated in rickety folding chairs, and Mary despaired of finding a seat.

“Hey, Nurse Grey, come you here!” Caleb Barnaby gestured to Mary to join him on a bench and somehow managed to squeeze in room for her.

“Thank you, Caleb.”

“I may need you before the night is out,” Caleb told her. Mary looked around. The walls of the hall were still decorated with the cheap paper and tinsel from the last dance. The wooden floor was scuffed from constant use over the years, and the air permeated with the smells of resin, varnish, and dried sweat.

At the far end of the hall, at a makeshift podium, stood Lord Pool, darkly handsome in a Savile Row suit. Next to him stood a remarkably fair young man wearing cream colored linen slacks, with white-blond hair that he’d grown out to a shocking degree. There was also a large free-standing presentation desk; recognizable from the form, but with a curtain drawn hiding the main display.

“That must be Lord Pool’s friend,” Mary noted.

Caleb gave a rude snort. “Looks like a poofter to me,” he grumbled. “London’s full of nancy boys and perverts.”

Mary ignored this and waved to Mrs. Simpson across the room. At last, as the conversations in the seats built in a crescendo of curiosity, Lord Pool stood up to a microphone and, after a few staticky attempts, was able to make himself heard throughout the hall.

“I imagine,” he began, “you’re all wondering why I’ve called this meeting. Well, the reason is because I have decided to partake in an investment opportunity. And the opportunity in question directly involves all of you. As most of you well know, my family has been here for centuries. We consider ourselves deeply rooted within this community, and that its fortunes and ours are intertwined.” Lord Pool paused and looked around the room meaningfully. Not a whisper was to be heard. “Which is why it truly grieves me to say that Illhenny has for some years been in a state of decline.” Voices rose in a sudden murmur throughout the room. “Oh, it’s no one’s fault,” he continued, “but neither the fishing or agriculture around here are what they once were, and mining’s long gone. To survive, Illhenny must adapt with the times, which is why it is my great pleasure to introduce you to my old and dear friend, Anthony West, who happens to be one of England’s most promising young architects. Anthony?”

The blond man was passed the microphone and Lord Pool stepped aside, and then, to Mary’s surprise, left the podium altogether. It was almost as if he was fleeing the scene. Anthony West stared at a crowd full of strangers, eyeing him suspiciously, without quailing.

“As Edgar—I mean Lord Pool—just told you, I’m an architect,” Anthony began, “and I’m proud to announce that my next project will be—” He put his hands on the display case and drew away the curtain. “—a grand, new seaside resort, right here in your community!” Now visible were schematics for a very modern looking hotel in the Art Deco style, all windows and curved white walls, with a huge veranda positioned right along the beach.

There was a moment of stunned silence, and then the whole hall exploded.

“What about noise?” someone shouted.

“What about all the new traffic?” Mrs. Simpson fretted.

“We’ll be overrun with tourists,” Mr. Wilberforce lamented, and there came a chorus of agreement.

“You bastard!” Caleb Barnaby had risen to his feet, his face as red as a tomato, and screamed at Anthony West. “I knew something was up. I knew you were no good just looking at you! And I was right! You’re going to ruin this town!”

“Ruin it?” Anthony West was indignant. “I’m saving it!”

Mary noticed that Lord Pool was nowhere in sight.

“Bollocks! You’d turn this place into nothing more than a watering hole for rich fops like yourself!” The assertion on Caleb’s part prompted a resounding “aye” across the room.

“Yes, well, better your town had a few more fops like me than drunken oafs like yourself,” Anthony retorted frostily.

Caleb started striding to the podium.

“Wait a minute. What’s he doing?” Anthony wondered aloud.

“I’ll teach you a good lesson,” Caleb snarled, and young Mr. West looked alarmed. Fortunately, at that moment, Constable Evans intervened and manually escorted Caleb away. The meeting broke up in a general disorder.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Library in Oakland was always my second home. I was diagnosed as being a high functioning autistic in college. I hold a useless double major in English literature and creative writing. I’ve worked at nonprofit agencies, in food service, and most recently as a dog-walker/petsitter but the siren song of writing keeps pulling me back into its dark grip. I have co-authored a book on women in the US Senate with Billy Herzig, self-published The Dog-Walking Diaries, and in 2020 my first novel Sarah Crow was published by One Idea Press. I live in my hometown Pittsburgh with my better half, Smoky the Cat.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Pride 2021 Reading: CHASER and RAINING MEN

For #Pride2021 🏳️‍🌈, I'd like to highlight the novels I've written that have the most relevance to issues facing our #LGBTQ community.

Both CHASER and RAINING MEN deal with body image, sexuality, and self-esteem.

Get your copies from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B075V3G2JX and other online retailers.

CHASER Caden DeSarro is what they call a chubby chaser. He likes his guys with a few extra pounds on them. So when he meets Kevin Dodge in a bar bathroom, he can’t help but stare. As far as Caden is concerned, Kevin is physically perfect: a stocky bearded blond. But Caden gets tongue-tied and misses his chance. When Caden runs into Kevin one night on the el train, he figures it’s fate offering him a second shot. Caden manages to get invited back to Kevin’s place for a one-night stand that turns into the kind of relationship he’s dreamed about. But the course of true love never runs smoothly—Kevin and Caden’s romance is no exception. When Caden returns from a few weeks away on business, Kevin surprises him with a new and “improved” body—one that fits Caden’s shallow friend Bobby’s ideal, but not Caden’s. Caden doesn’t know what to do, and his hesitation is just the opportunity Bobby was looking for. RAINING MEN The character you loved to hate in Chaser becomes the character you will simply love in Raining Men. 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.

#ownvoices #loveislove

Thursday, June 17, 2021

BASHED and Hate Crimes


For #Pride2021 🏳️‍🌈, I'd like to highlight the novels I've written that have the most relevance to issues facing our #LGBTQ community.

BASHED deals with the aftermath of a horrible #hatecrime and how it affects the victims and perpetrators. 

If you want a copy, BASHED is available from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Bashed-Rick-R-Reed-ebook/dp/B08DTKLZ3V and other online retailers. 

#ownvoices #gaybashing #ghoststory

Do you believe that real love never dies? 

That's the premise behind my ghost/love story from NineStar Press, Bashed

Bashed is a haunting blend of romance and suspense, wrapped up in a timely story that could have been ripped from today's headlines.

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..."


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. 

Sometimes, ideas come from real life. Such is the case with my novel, Bashed. For a lot of gay men and women, hate crimes are a fact of life. Many gay people have either themselves experienced the terror, violation, and persecution of being attacked simply for who they are (and whether the attack took the form of words, fists, or something more lethal) or, at the very least, they know someone who has. I've been lucky. I have no permanent physical scars. But I did come very close to experiencing a hate crime up close and personal (and I suppose one could argue that what I did experience was actually a hate crime) and that formed the basis for the inspiration of my novel. The title, of course, refers to being fag-bashed.

My close call came one October night several years ago back when I still lived in Chicago. I was once into what's affectionately called the "leather scene" and owned chaps, biker jacket, boots, and other accouterments that passed the dress code in either a gay leather establishment or a biker bar. That particular night, I had been hanging out at the Eagle, one of Chicago's foremost leather establishments. I had stayed late, arriving after midnight and leaving near closing, at close to four o'clock in the morning. I had made a new friend and we were making our way to my car, which was parked on a side street that ran parallel to St. Boniface Cemetery. It was a very dark and quiet side street, made all the more so by the late night hour. My companion and I weren't thinking about things like fag bashers or hate crimes. 

But we suddenly were when we noticed an idling old car parked just opposite from my own. The car was a souped-up muscle vehicle of some sort and inside it, we could see several dark figures, all turning their heads, alert, as we approached. Both of us tensed and quickened our pace. Even in the middle of a metropolis like Chicago, it was easy to feel vulnerable and alone. And we felt even more vulnerable when the still of the quiet night was broken by the sound of car doors opening. Suddenly, my friend and I stopped, feeling exposed in our leather gear, as four young men emerged from the car. To the man, they all sported shaved heads and were dressed in uniforms of baggy jeans and hoodies.

And one of them was carrying an aluminum baseball bat.

They didn't call us "fags" or "queers". They didn't say anything. Their silence was perhaps more frightening than if they had hurled epithets our way. To reach my car, we would have to walk right by them...and it didn't appear as though they were planning to let us pass.

It was like being confronted by a Grizzly in the woods, or a lion in the jungle. What do you do? Run the other way, knowing that four strong men are on your heels? Try to get to your car and hope that the baseball bat was for a late night game of sandlot?

We froze. The four, as a unit, moved closer. One of the guys, the one with the bat, grinned, swinging the bat slightly.

This was a moment of irrational fear. My heart pounded. A trickle of sweat ran down by back.

In books, they call what happened next predictable or deus ex machina, but at just that moment, one of Chicago' finest rolled down the quiet street, very slowly, toward us. The men got in their cars quickly. And so did we.

Thankfully, I do not know what the outcome of that night would have been had not the police come along on such a fortunate patrol.

But the incident did stick with me for many years, until I got around to dramatizing the incident as the opening to Bashed. But in my fictional world, no police car came to the rescue and the pair of guys emerging from the leather bar end up bashed very badly...with an aluminum baseball bat. It’s chilling to think that one of your characters could have been you, a you that might not have survived to tell a tale again.