Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Love at First Sight


This morning I am thinking about love at first sight. And not necessarily romantic love, although that thought is there, too.

 What prompted these thoughts?

As a writer, as a person, I can often be an insecure soul, full of doubts and lacking confidence. When you release a book into the world, it takes on a life of its own, almost as though it's your child out there in the world, making its way. There are people out there, waiting to put the stamp of their own experience on your work. Sadly, no matter how hard you try, there are people out there who want to say that your child is less than you want, hope, and believe for him or her.

Such is the case with my novel, Caregiver, which is based a lot on my own experiences as an AIDS buddy back in the early 1990s, when being HIV+ or having the virus itself was truly a death sentence.

On a site called Goodreads, where thousands of readers come together to critique, catalog, and talk about books, I found a review of Caregiver that caught me short. Among all the glowing reviews (and there are many), was one reader that didn't like the book because he thought the main character's love for the AIDS buddy in the book happened too fast to be credible.

Now, this is where the insecure part of me comes in. I can easily shove aside all the many five-star reviews and immediately begin to doubt myself and my work. "Maybe this reader is right," I muse, "And all the good reviews are wrong."

The part that wants to defend my child against this person, though, wants to shout at that reviewer, "But it did happen that fast. It wasn't made up. This connection happened after only meeting two times. That's my truth, not fiction."

See, this is where the stamp of someone else's experience and mine diverge. Intellectually, I do believe that reviewer's criticism was valid. That person, sadly, has maybe never experienced an instant connection with another person. It's not his or her experience. So, he's not buying it.

But, for me, I believe fiercely in love at first sight. For me, when I met Jim, who would become Adam in my book, I felt a rush of emotion for him: sorrow, fear, but most of all a deep, human connection that, in spite of death and the passage of many years, I still feel. And all it took was meeting him for a couple of times. Like Adam, Jim did go to prison--and died there from AIDS. I can count on one hand the number of times Jim and I were actually face-to-face, yet his impression on me is powerful, lasting until this very day, some twenty years later.

I believe we often, or maybe even always, know when someone is right for us, when there is a connection of heart and mind, perhaps even of spirit. This connection happens for no logical or intellectual reason, no basis in shared interests or experience. It's just there, and we know it, deep inside ourselves. For me, that is true of almost every person I've loved. I wish I could explain it, and maybe my writing, which is chock full of people loving each other very quickly, is an attempt to make that explanation.

For me, it happened with Jim. It happened with Bruce, the man I've been with now for more than ten years. I remember picking Bruce up for our first date and seeing him for the first time, sitting on the steps of his apartment vestibule, waiting for me. I can see him as clearly now as I could ten years ago.

And I fell in love, then. There was no basis for it. I had no idea then that we would share many things, like a lifelong passion for the humor and wit of Lily Tomlin (for whom our dog is named), or that we would one day compose a family.

But I knew it. I knew it in my heart. Just from one glance....

I can tell you the same story about others whom I have loved. Friends I fell for immediately--based on only a smile or a quick conversation.

I can't explain why. It's almost like magic, as though something deeper lies beneath the surface of body and spoken language. It as though we see something in the other that proves to be deeper than easy explanation.

Most of the people in my life that I have truly cared about--and conversely, truly loathed--I knew right away, before I had any rational basis for believing it. I think, when we connect with someone, it's because of something we may never even consciously know, but our heart knows it.

So, while a lukewarm review caused me to write this blog, I will give that reader his or her due because I know that we all have different frames of reference and beliefs.

But for me, I will stick to mine about loving at first sight. My heart tells me it's true.

BLURB
Winner of the 2013 EPIC eBook Award for Best Contemporary Romance
It's 1991, and Dan Calzolaio has just moved to Florida with his lover, Mark, having fled Chicago and Mark's addictions to begin a new life on the Gulf Coast. Volunteering for the Tampa AIDS Alliance is just one part of that new beginning, and that's how Dan meets his new buddy, Adam.

Adam Schmidt is not at all what Dan expected. The guy is an original--witty, wry, and sarcastic with a fondness for a smart black dress, Barbra Streisand, and a good mai tai. Adam doesn't let his imminent death get him down, even through a downward spiral that sees him thrown in jail.


Each step of Adam's journey teaches Dan new lessons about strength and resilience, but it's Adam's lover, Sullivan, to whom Dan feels an almost irresistible pull. Dan knows the attraction isn't right, even after he dumps his cheating, drug-abusing boyfriend. But then Adam passes away, and it leaves Sullivan and Dan both alone to see if they can turn their love for Adam into something whole and real for each other.

BUY
Amazon
Dreamspinner Press

Monday, February 11, 2019

NEW AND NOTABLE: Typhoon Toby by RL Merrill


Last year, I went for the first time to the LA Times Festival of Books, held on the campus of USC. It's a huge fair and I was there with my publisher, Dreamspinner Press. Among the hordes descending on Los Angeles was a young writer who was just beginning her career. RL Merrill and I got along famously and I really enjoyed her company. I highly recommend it. And I also recommend her latest book, just out from Dreamspinner: TYPHOON TOBY.

My new friend has a way with words....

BLURB
On the surface, Toby Griffiths appears to have it all—talent, money, a brilliant mind, and model good looks. With his best friend, Reese, he’s built an empire as a singer/songwriter.

But beneath that glittering exterior, Toby suffers the lasting effects of abuse. To keep his tempestuous past where it belongs, he insists on anonymity with lovers—no names, no personal information. But a vacation fling in Bali changes all that, and he can’t get his recent playmate out of his mind.

Therapist Spencer Hart left Bali with a bad case of pneumonia and a broken heart. Although he’s recovering, he’s shocked to find his secretive partner on TV, and he’s determined to see him again. Spencer arranges to attend one of Toby’s fundraising galas, and their reunion is tense.

Toby tries to stick to his rules… until a New Year’s kiss with Spencer washes away the last of his resistance. But Toby is a man with secrets, and when the storm comes ashore, it could devastate not just his professional life but his fledgling love affair and his longtime partnership with his best friend.

Will Spencer stand by his side and help him weather the storm as Toby faces his worst fears?

BUY
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Read the First Chapter from my upcoming BLUE UMBRELLA SKY


Blue Umbrella Sky releases on March 19, but is available for pre-order now (links below). I thought you might enjoy reading the first chapter to see if this tale of two lost souls finding redemption and love in each other might whet your appetite for more.

BLURB
Milt Grabaur has left his life, home, and teaching career in Ohio to start anew. The Summer Winds trailer park in Palm Springs, butted up against the San Jacinto mountain range, seems the perfect place to forget the pain of nursing his beloved husband through Alzheimer's and seeing him off on his final passage.

Billy Blue is a sexy California surfer type who once dreamed of being a singer but now works at Trader Joe’s and lives in his own trailer at Summer Winds. He’s focused on recovery from the alcoholism that put his dreams on hold. When his new neighbor moves in, Billy falls for the gray-eyed man. His sadness and loneliness awaken something Billy’s never felt before—real love.

When a summer storm and flash flood jeopardize Milt's home, Billy comes to the rescue, hoping the two men might get better acquainted… and maybe begin a new romance. But Milt's devotion to his late husband is strong, and he worries that acting on his attraction will be a betrayal.

Can they lay down their baggage and find out how redemptive love can be?


PRE-ORDER
Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback
Amazon paperback 

BLUE UMBRELLA SKY - CHAPTER ONE


--> -->
Milt Grabaur stared out the window of his trailer, wondering how much worse it could get.
The deluge poured down, gray, almost obscuring his neighbors’ homes and the barren desert landscape beyond. The rain hammered on his metal roof, sounding like automatic gunfire. Milt shivered a little, thinking of that old song, “It Never Rains in Southern California.”
He leaned closer to the picture window, pressing his hand against the glass and whispering to himself, “But it pours.”
That window had given him his daily view for the last six months, ever since he’d packed up a life’s worth of belongings and made his way south and west to Palm Springs and the Summer Winds Mobile Home Community. This same picture window, almost every single day, had shown him only endless blue skies and sunshine. An errant cloud or a jet contrail would occasionally break up the field of electric blue, but other than that, it was azure perfection. Milt reveled in it. He’d begun to think these expanses of blue, lit up by golden illumination, would never cease.
Until today.
At about three o’clock, that blue sky, for the first time, was overcome with gray, a foreboding mass of bruised clouds. Milt wondered, because of his experience in the desert so far, if the clouds would be only that—foreboding. The magical gods of the Coachella Valley would, of course, sweep away those frowning and depressing masses of imminent precipitation with a wave of their enchanted hands.
Surely.
But the sky continued to darken, seemingly unaware of Milt’s fanciful imagining and yearnings. At last the once-blue dome above him became almost like night in midafternoon and the first heavy drops—fat beads of water—began to fall, first a slow sprinkle, where Milt could count the seconds between drops, then faster and faster, until the raindrops combined into one single and, Milt had to admit, terrifying roar.
And then an unfamiliar sound—the drumroll and cymbal crash of thunder. The sky, moments after, lit up with brilliant white light.
The rain fell in earnest. Torrents of the stuff.
The other trailers, his neighbors, nearly vanished in the relentless gray downpour. The wind howled, sending the rain capriciously sideways every few seconds. The palm trees in his front yard swayed and bent with the ruthless gusts, testimony to their strength, despite their appearance of being stalklike and weak. The wind tore dry husks of bark from them.
At first Milt was unconcerned, thinking the rain could only do good. It would bless the parched succulents, cacti, and palms that dotted the rocky, sandy landscape of the park, maybe even bring them to colorful life, forcing a brilliant desert flower, here and there, to bloom. His decade-old Honda Civic, parked next to the trailer, would get a wash, the thick layer of sand and dust chased away, almost pressure-cleaned.
For the half a year he’d been here, Milt had been amazed at how clean everything could look when, in actuality, anything outdoors was quickly covered in a veneer of fine sand, almost like gritty dust. Milt was forever wiping off his patio furniture, cleaning the glass surfaces of his car. But this minor inconvenience was more than outweighed by the stunning and almost surreal appearance of the Coachella Valley and the desert, a wild beauty which far surpassed anything even an optimistic Milt had dreamed of when he had made up his mind, somewhat suddenly, to shed his old life in Ohio and move out to Southern California.
He stared out at the gusts of wind, the flashes of lightning, and the almost-blinding downpour and realized he had no idea it could be like this. The trailer park was smack up against the San Jacinto mountain range, and Milt realized with horror that not only would the little park suffer from the copious water falling from the sky, but it would also be the beneficiary, like it or not, of runoff as it came hurtling down the mountain face.
As if to confirm his notion, Milt gasped as he noticed the street in front of his trailer.
It was no longer a street.
Not really.
No, now it was a creek. A creek notable for its rushing rapids. Water was speeding by at an unprecedented pace. Milt sucked in some air as he saw a lawn chair go by, buoyed up by the current. Then a plastic end table. An inflatable pool toy—a swan—that Milt supposed was in the right place at the right time. But the damp throw pillows whizzing by, like soggy oyster crackers in soup, were not.
Milt turned to look behind him at the sound of a whimper.
“Oh, what’s the matter, sweetheart?” He held out a beseeching hand to the gray-and-white pit bull mix he’d picked up from the Palm Springs Animal Shelter over on Mesquite the first week he’d gotten here. “It’s okay.”
She looked ferocious but was a big softie, easily frightened, shy, and with a disposition that made Mother Teresa look like a terrorist. Ruby, he’d called her on a whim, in honor of the kind lady that lived two doors down from him when he was a little boy back in Summitville, Ohio. That Ruby, like this one, had always been kind but retiring, shying from the slightest spotlight.
This Ruby, right now, was terrified, her tail between her legs, backing toward the shadowy corners of the room, eyes wide with fear. Milt reached out, trying to grab the frightened dog, but she scurried away and dashed out of sight down the narrow hallway leading to his bedroom, nails clattering, slipping and sliding on the tile floor. Milt sighed, knowing exactly what she was doing even though he couldn’t see her—scurrying under his bed to cower among the dust bunnies and cast-off shoes.
It would take hours—and treats—to coax her out. Milt knew from experience….
He returned his attention to the storm raging outside, which showed no signs of abating.
Plus—and this made Milt groan—there was a new wrinkle to the carnage. Not only were the streets around his trailer now rapidly flowing rivers; Milt also realized with horror he was about to get flooded.
He gazed down on standing water several inches deep spread out across his patio. It covered the outdoor rugs he’d bought, with their whimsical cactus design, soaking them like washcloths. It rose up the sides of his patio furniture. Milt swore he could see it getting higher and higher.
Worst of all, Milt watched the water hover just outside the sliding glass doors, waiting, perhaps, for an invitation to come inside.
Ah, the hell with it, the water seemed to say, why wait for an invitation? This party needs crashing!
And it began to seep in…. A little at first, and then faster and faster, until his entire floor was covered.
Milt involuntarily cried out, voice high-pitched and terrified, nothing like the butch forty-two-year-old he thought himself. “Help! Flood! Somebody, please!” The cry was pure panic. Logically, he knew no one would hear.
What that helper would do, Milt had no idea, but he simply wanted someone to be with him in his predicament. The thought flitted across his consciousness that he’d been here six months, and it wasn’t until today and the advent of a rainstorm of biblical proportions that he realized he didn’t want to be alone. He swore as warm water covered his bare feet at the exact moment his power went out, plunging his little sanctuary into murky dark.
And at this very unnerving moment, Milt realized—gratefully—someone just might have heard his pleas for help. There was a pounding at the back door, rattling the glass jalousie panes. He turned, confused for a moment—he’d cast himself as a sole survivor, a man against nature, alone.
The pounding continued. A voice. “Hey! You okay in there?”
Milt crossed the living room and the small galley kitchen to get to the back door. But when he opened it, there was no one there. The wind pushed at him, mocking, and the rain sent a drenching spray against him. Despite getting soaked, Milt leaned out, gripping the door’s frame with both hands for balance, and looked around.
Even though the covering of storm clouds had made it seem as though a dusky twilight had fallen, he could see that there was no one there.
He wondered if he’d imagined the knocking and the voice. He really didn’t know his neighbors, having kept to himself since he’d moved out here because he just wasn’t ready to connect with others again. He’d given so much to his Corky during those final tortured months…. Sometimes Milt felt he had nothing left to give anyone again ever.
And a dog, cowering and bashful as she might be, had been company enough.
His little reverie was shattered by a second round of knocking, this time at the sliding glass doors in his living room. “Okay, so I’m not hearing things.” Milt turned away from the back door and headed to the sliders.
Outside, a young man stood, drenched from head to toe, in a pair of neon-pink board shorts and, well, nothing else. Maybe there’s flip-flops. Milt couldn’t see the guy’s feet. His jaw dropped as he hurried to open the door. In spite of all that was going on—the storm, the flood, the risk of his home being destroyed—he couldn’t help his thoughts, notions he’d decided long ago died within him.
I am looking at an angel; that’s all there is to it. He’s going to sweep me away in those muscular arms, lifting me right up to heaven and setting me down gently next to my Corky.
Milt shook his head. A short burst of laughter escaped him, almost as if someone else were chuckling in his living room with him.
The guy was handsome, a tanned and buff dreamboat. Corky would have loved him, saying, once upon a time, that looks like this boy’s should be illegal, or at least sinful. Milt smiled.
Even though his hair was plastered to his head, Milt could tell it was thick and luxurious—right now the color of dark wheat, but Milt was certain that in dryer moments, it was as gold as the pure, unfiltered sunshine Milt had grown accustomed to being greeted by every morning. He had a body that made Milt, if only for a moment, forget the storm and the fact that he was a widower, still grieving nearly a year after losing his man. Muscles, smooth bronze skin, and a six-pack had the power of oblivion, of taking precedence over everything else.
Stop, he mentally chastised himself. He flung open the slider, noticing the rain had—at last—slowed to a patter and the winds had died down almost completely. Milt, though, couldn’t seem to put lips and tongue together to form a greeting or ask a question or to even say anything at all. His eyebrows came together like two caterpillars possessed of their own will.
“Hey there, man. I heard you calling out for help.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “I live in the unit behind you.” He smiled, revealing electric-white teeth that made Milt’s thoughts go even more blank or even more lascivious, he wasn’t sure which. He shivered.
The guy gave Milt a more tentative smile, the type you’d give to the kindly neighbor down the street who’d just emerged from home wearing nothing but a pair of saddle shoes and a big smile. Milt wondered if the guy thought he was encountering a person who couldn’t speak, or maybe someone whose mind had completely deserted him. Lord knew Milt was familiar enough with people like that, having  only very recently seen to every need of a person just like that.
“Are you okay, buddy?”
Milt managed a smile, despite the fact that his feet squished on the soaked carpeting. Oh Lord, is everything ruined? How much is this going to cost? Is it going to wipe me out? “Yeah,” Milt sputtered. He glanced behind him. “It looks as though I’m getting flooded.” There appeared to be at least a couple of inches of water covering the floor of his trailer. He groaned.
The young man leaned in to survey the damage and gave a low whistle. “Yikes!” He leaned back out so he could face Milt. “Bet you didn’t think you needed to worry about flooding in the desert?”
Milt shook his head. “Well, it wasn’t foremost.” He glanced behind him again, feeling like his sanctuary had been violated—as it indeed had. And what fresh hell would spring forth from the damage? “What am I gonna do?”
“Well, my opinion is you need to get yourself the hell out of there. As I said, I’m right behind you, up the mountain a tad, so I’m still dry. You wanna grab some of your stuff just in case and come on over?”
“Stuff?”
“Yeah, man, like, I don’t know, a laptop, maybe? Family pictures? Important papers? You know, just in case. The stuff you’d run out of here with if the place caught on fire.”
“Oh, right.” Milt sighed. “This is awfully kind of you.”
“Hey, we’re neighbors. At Summer Winds, we look out for each other. I’ve been wanting to meet you, anyway. Sucks that it has to be under these circumstances. But come on, I’ve got a dry house, air-conditioning, and enough candy to send you into a diabetic coma.” He laughed.
Milt stood, his mind beating a hasty retreat. He shouldn’t feel indecisive, but he did.
“Or if you have other plans…,” the man finally said. “Indoor pool party?”
“No. No! I’d love to come over.” Milt looked around his place once more. Most of his stuff was up high enough that it wouldn’t get wet, unless the trailer toppled over or something, but there was one thing he couldn’t just leave behind. “I need to get Ruby.”
“Ruby?”
“My girl, my dog!” Milt snapped, as if his visitor should know. He immediately regretted his tone, but his neighbor simply seemed to be taking his dire straits way too lightly.
“Ruby. Cute name. I’ve seen you walking her. She’s sweet. Go grab her. She’s welcome too. Animals of all varieties are welcome in my crib.” He winked. “I used to have a dog myself, a Yorkie, Bergamot, that thought he was a Doberman.” He frowned. “But he passed away last winter. Coyote got him.”
Milt jerked a little in horror. “I’m sorry.”
Milt couldn’t imagine losing his dog—he’d already fallen hopelessly in love with Ruby. He felt a deep-seated twinge of empathy. “The storm shook her up. Let me just see if I can coax her out from under the bed.” Milt didn’t think the task would be too tough, since it was now wet under the bed and Ruby hated water. He turned and started away, sloshing through the hateful water. Midstream, so to speak, he changed his mind and turned back.
He held out a hand. “I’m sorry. Milt. Milt Grabaur. I’d invite you in, but my place, as you can see, isn’t exactly presentable.” He laughed and then felt like bursting into tears.
“If you knew I was coming, you’d have baked a cake? A sponge cake?” He snorted and shook Milt’s hand with a big calloused paw. “Billy Blue.”
Milt smiled. “Seriously?”
Billy shrugged. “Yeah, my mom and dad had a great sense of humor. Or thought I was destined for the stage, instead of cashier at Trader Joe’s. The advantage of a name like mine, silly as it is, is that people tend not to forget it.”
“I think it’s a lovely name.” Milt met Billy Blue’s gaze—and thought how fortuitous it was that his irises matched the color of his last name. And you’re a lovely man. Handsome, built like a brick shithouse—and sweet as pie.
“I’ll be right back with Ruby.” He turned and this time did manage to slosh to the very rear of the trailer, where his wood-paneled master bedroom awaited. Before he even stooped down in the grimy water to coax, he began talking to Ruby. “Good girl. Nothin’ to be ascared of, honey,” Milt said in his most soothing voice, cadence and words dredged up from his boyhood memories of living near the river in the foothills of the Appalachians, in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. He squatted down, wincing a little as his knees came into contact with the spongy shag carpeting he’d hoped to replace one day, and lifted the bottom of the comforter, which was stained dark from the water.
Underneath the bed there was only a couple of inches of water, a pair of Keen sandals, and a metal storage box that contained Milt’s “toys”—and we’re not talking Fisher-Price here.
There was no Ruby. Nor any other living creature.
Milt got to his feet, groaning, and took stock of the entire bedroom, thinking perhaps Ruby had retreated to a corner or hidden behind the chest of drawers. But she was nowhere to be found, not even in the adjacent bathroom, which looked now as though Milt had taken a long, long shower and had simply not bothered to turn the water off.
Knowing she wouldn’t be there, but checking anyway, Milt opened the frosted glass shower door to find it empty.
He made a tour of the trailer, getting more and more anxious with each step, with each empty nook and cranny. “Ruby?” he called out several times, each time his voice growing louder, as though sheer volume would make her appear.
But she didn’t.
And the thoughtlessly left-open back door gave testimony to what had most likely happened. The poor terrified girl had probably tried to escape that way, running headlong into a fate worse than she was trying to escape. Milt hurried to the open door, peering out onto his little patio, hoping against hope she’d be out there, stub of a tail sending up splashes as she looked mournfully at him.
But Ruby was gone.
Milt felt as though his heart would break.
He closed the door behind him, sighing and wondering if he should leave it open, just in case she tried to return. Return to what? A trailer flooded with filthy—and probably bacteria-ridden—water?
He moved back to the sliders, looking over Billy’s broad shoulders, hoping Ruby would appear on the doused desert landscape.
Billy smiled at Milt’s return. “Dog?” he wondered.
Milt’s breath caught. The day, or not really the day but only, really, the past few minutes, had been a disaster. Disasters happen fast and savage in Palm Springs. He wasn’t sure he could speak without bursting into tears, without chastising himself for his own carelessness.
If only I hadn’t left that damn door open.
“She’s nowhere to be found.” Milt shrugged.
Billy frowned, and his gaze seemed to reach out to Milt in sympathy, which made Milt want to cry even more. “She’ll turn up.” Billy changed his expression to a reassuring smile. “She’s got it good—a man all to herself, and I assume a limitless supply of treats.” He winked. “I wish I could say the same.”
Ah, so he’s one of us. I thought so, but one doesn’t want to assume. “I’m sure you’re right,” Milt said, although he wasn’t sure at all.
“You still want to come over? I got carnitas cooking in the Crock-Pot. Homemade tortillas. I may be blond, but I cook like the locals.”
Milt managed a smile. The thought of food made his stomach turn, thinking of Ruby running around out there somewhere—with threats like coyotes, black widow spiders, and rattlesnakes all around, just to name a few. She might look fierce, but Milt feared she wouldn’t last long up against the desert’s more formidable predators.
At least it’s not raining anymore.
“You wanna gather some stuff up?”
Milt shook his head. “It’ll be okay.” Barefoot, morose, he stepped through the sliders and outside.
“Atta boy. We’ll get settled over at my place, and then we can do a little search-and-rescue mission. I’m sure she’s not far away.”
“I hope not.” Milt followed Billy Blue into the unseasonably damp day. Steam was already beginning to rise off surfaces not under water.
The sun was beginning to come out again, revealing blue skies.
Milt couldn’t see it, though.

Monday, February 4, 2019

New and Notable: The Vampire's Quest by Damian Serbu



Good #LGBT horror is hard to find. So that's why I'm excited to see Damian Serbu's latest vampire story coming out. It's also why I want to share it with you. Gay or straight--you're sure to get chills with this one.

BLURB
The Vampire’s Quest brings back the beloved gay vampires, Xavier and Thomas, in the anticipated sequel to The Vampire’s Angel. In 1822, the Archangel St. Michel orders Xavier to go on a quest to America, a quest that violates the Vampire Council’s laws to the point of a possible death sentence. Worse, Xavier must abandon his lover, Thomas. Xavier runs to his aging sister and pleads for Catherine’s help as Thomas races after them. With Thomas and the Vampire Council vying for Xavier’s soul, Xavier and Catherine struggle to obey the former priest’s divine calling before their inevitable capture.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Joe Cosentino on his latest release: Drama Castle, the seventh Nicky and Noah mystery



Joe Cosentino on his latest release:
Drama Castle, the seventh Nicky and Noah mystery

“Humanity has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Mark Twain could have been writing about our times when he wrote those poignant words. I took them to heart when I first read them. I come from a funny Italian-American family, so humor has always been a large part of my life. As an actor, my favorite roles were comedic roles, and my favorite co-stars were gifted comic actors like Nathan Lane, Rosie O’Donnell, and Holland Taylor. So it wasn’t a surprise when I turned to the comical world of a college theatre department (where I currently work as a theatre professor/department chair) to create the Nicky and Noah mystery series, called “the funniest MM series ever” by one beloved reviewer. It also wasn’t coincidental that the seventh novel in the series includes making a movie (I acted in several) and takes place in a Scottish castle loosely based on a vacation spot I shared with my spouse.
For those of you who haven’t yet hidden from the traumas of our times inside the pages of a Nicky and Noah novel, I’ll explain that the Nicky and Noah mysteries are warm and cozy—and yes hysterically funny. The clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, and there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning faster than a Republican senator scheduling a private meeting with Russian spies (as Nicky would say). At the center is the touching relationship between Associate Professor of Directing Nicky Abbondanza and Assistant Professor of Acting Noah Oliver. We watch them go from courting to marrying to adopting a child, all the while head over heels in love with each other (as we fall in love with them). Reviewers called the series hysterically funny farce, Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys, and captivating whodunits.
Here’s a quick review for the newbies. In Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Novel of the Year) Nicky directs the school play at Treemeadow College—which is named after its gay founders, Tree and Meadow. Theatre professors drops like stage curtains, and Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out whodunit. In Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention) Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out why bodybuilding students and professors in Nicky’s bodybuilding competition at Treemeadow are dropping faster than barbells. In Drama Cruise it is summer on a ten-day cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back. Nicky and Noah must figure out why college theatre professors are dropping like life rafts as Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship starring Noah and other college theatre professors from across the US. Complicating matters are their both sets of wacky parents who want to embark on all the activities on and off the boat with the handsome couple. In Drama Luau, Nicky is directing the luau show at the Maui Mist Resort and he and Noah need to figure out why muscular Hawaiian hula dancers are dropping like grass skirts. Their department head/best friend and his husband, Martin and Ruben, are along for the bumpy tropical ride. In Drama Detective, Nicky is directing and ultimately co-starring with his husband Noah as Holmes and Watson in a new musical Sherlock Holmes play at Treemeadow College prior to Broadway. Martin and Ruben, their sassy office assistant Shayla, Nicky’s brother Tony, and Nicky and Noah’s son Taavi are also in the cast. Of course dead bodies begin falling over like hammy actors at a curtain call. Once again Nicky and Noah use their drama skills to figure out who is lowering the street lamps on the actors before the handsome couple get half-baked on Baker Street. In Drama Fraternity, Nicky is directing Tight End Scream Queen, a slasher movie filmed at Treemeadow College’s football fraternity house, co-starring Noah, Taavi, and Martin. Rounding out the cast are members of Treemeadow’s Christian football players’ fraternity along with two hunky screen stars. When the jammer, wide receiver, and more begin fading out with their scenes, Nicky and Noah once again need to use their drama skills to figure out who is sending young hunky actors to the cutting room floor before Nicky and Noah hit the final reel.
Now in Drama Castle, Nicky is directing a historical film co-starring Noah and Taavi at Conall Castle in Scotland: When the Wind Blows Up Your Kilt It’s Time for A Scotch. Rounding out the cast are members of the mysterious Conall family who own the castle. When hunky men in kilts topple off the drawbridge and into the moat, it’s up to Nicky and Noah to use their acting skills to figure out whodunit before Nicky and Noah land in the dungeon. Nicky and Noah are joined by their best friends and fan favorites Martin and Ruben, and by Noah’s eccentric parents. And book seven adds a number of captivating new characters like Brody Naughton, the hunky head of Housekeeping with a red beard and roving eye for the oldest Conall brother, Barclay, and for Donal Blair a waiter in the castle’s Great Hall dining room. Each of the three hunky Conall brothers (Barclay, Magnus, and Fergus) have a surprising secret, and Noah makes a shocking revelation.
It is my joy and pleasure to share this seventh novel in the series with you. They say: laughter is the best medicine. So take your seats. The curtain is going up on steep cliffs, ancient turrets, stormy seas, misty moors, malfunctioning kilts, and murder!



Theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza is directing a historical film at a castle in Scotland, co-starring his spouse, theatre professor Noah Oliver, and their son Taavi. When historical accuracy disappears along with hunky men in kilts, Nicky and Noah will once again need to use their drama skills to figure out who is pitching residents of Conall Castle off the drawbridge and into the moat, before Nicky and Noah land in the dungeon. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining seventh novel in this delightful series. Take your seats. The curtain is going up on steep cliffs, ancient turrets, stormy seas, misty moors, malfunctioning kilts, and murder!

Praise for the Nicky and Noah mysteries:

“Joe Cosentino has a unique and fabulous gift. His writing is flawless, and his use of farce, along with his convoluted plot-lines, will have you guessing until the very last page, which makes his books a joy to read. His books are worth their weight in gold, and if you haven't discovered them yet you are in for a rare treat.” Divine Magazine

“a combination of Laurel and Hardy mixed with Hitchcock and Murder She Wrote…
Loaded with puns and one-liners…Right to the end, you are kept guessing, and the conclusion still has a surprise in store for you.” “the best modern Sherlock and Watson in books today…I highly recommend this book and the entire series, it’s a pure pleasure, full of fun and love, written with talent and brio…fabulous…brilliant” Optimumm Book Reviews

“adventure, mystery, and romance with every page….Funny, clever, and sweet….I can’t find anything not to love about this series….This read had me laughing and falling in love….Nicky and Noah are my favorite gay couple.” Urban Book Reviews

“For fans of Joe Cosentino's hilarious mysteries, this is another vintage story with more cheeky asides and sub plots right left and centre….The story is fast paced, funny and sassy. The writing is very witty with lots of tongue-in-cheek humour….Highly recommended.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews

“This delightfully sudsy, colorful cast of characters would rival that of any daytime soap opera, and the character exchanges are rife with sass, wit and cagey sarcasm….As the pages turn quickly, the author keeps us hanging until the startling end.” Edge Media Network

“A laugh and a murder, done in the style we have all come to love….This had me from the first paragraph….Another wonderful story with characters you know and love!” Crystals Many Reviewers

“These two are so entertaining….Their tactics in finding clues and the crazy funny interactions between characters keeps the pages turning. For most of the book if I wasn't laughing I was grinning.” Jo and Isa Love Books

“Superb fun from start to finish, for me this series gets stronger with every book and that’s saying something because the benchmark was set so very high with book 1.” Three Books Over the Rainbow

“The Nicky and Noah Mysteries series are perfect for fans of the Cozy Mystery sub-genre. They mix tongue-in-cheek humor, over-the-top characters, a wee bit of political commentary, and suspense into a sweet little mystery solved by Nicky and Noah, theatre professors for whom all the world’s a stage.” Prism Book Alliance
“This is one hilarious series with a heart and it just keeps getting better. I highly recommend them all, and please read them in the order they were written for full blown laugh out loud reading pleasure!” Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
Bestselling author Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen. He also wrote the other novels in the Nicky and Noah mystery series: Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle; the Dreamspinner Press novellas: In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, The First Noel, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland with Holiday Tales from Fairyland, the Cozzi Cove series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, Cozzi Cove: Happy Endings (NineStar Press); and the Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Chair of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and he is happily married. Joe was voted 2nd Place Favorite LGBT Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards, and his books have received numerous Favorite Book of the Month Awards and Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions.

Excerpt of Drama Castle, the seventh Nicky and Noah mystery, by Joe Cosentino:
Wearing a canary polo shirt that highlighted his olive-colored skin and black hair, Taavi looked adorable with his legs dangling off the high bed. “Grandma and I explored the castle.” His dimples appeared. “I found a secret passageway.”
“A sleuth, like your dads,” Dad said.
“And like your grandfather,” Mom added.
 Taavi wiped his palms on his sky-blue shorts. “I can’t wait to shoot my scenes.”
Noah smiled. “Will you steal them from me?”
“That’s the plan.” Taavi offered his father a hang loose sign and a huge grin.
Mom said, “Judy was very impressed with our little Taavi’s acting in that slasher film you all did last year.”
“As she should be,” Dad said as if he were Taavi’s agent.
“Judy said that little Dung’s chocolate coloring would show up well on film.”
“Too bad Tommy and Timmy aren’t in the movie business like our Nicky and Noah,” Dad said.
Mom and Dad laughed together triumphantly.
I noticed a gold necklace around Dad’s neck as it danced over his flabby chest. “I’ve never seen that before, Dad.”
He stuck out his already protruding stomach. “What, my sexy physique?” Dad winked at Noah. “I may be giving you a run for your money tonight, Noah.”
Noah’s scarlet cheeks turned crimson.
I walked over to Dad. “I mean your necklace.”
“He’s worn that thing around his neck since I met him,” Mom said.
Taking it in my hand, I admired the fine craftsmanship of the gold two-leaf clover.
“It’s really a four-leaf clover,” Dad explained, “but the other two leaves broke off.”
“Where did you get it?”
“In a little shop on a glen in a valley in the highlands of Scotland. A year before I met Mom, I visited the land of my ancestors to find my roots.”
 “While I was covering up mine with peroxide,” Mom said with a smile.
“But my ancestors didn’t come from a place like this.” Dad explained, “They were sheepherders.” The dairy farmer added, “Milking is in my blood.”
“So is high cholesterol from all the cheese he eats,” Mom said as if speaking about a death row criminal.
Dad patted his stomach. “I like food.”
“Me too, Grandpa.” Taavi patted his stomach too.
“Did you all eat dinner?” Noah asked with concern showing on his handsome face.
Mom nodded. “A sweet young waiter named Donal served us in the dining room.” She giggled like a young girl. “He paid extra attention to me.”
“Were you jealous?” I asked Dad.
He waved me away like a color guard on speed. “Donal was a nice-looking guy. But he reminded me of you and Noah, if you know what I mean.”
My father-in-law developed gaydar?
Taavi’s dark eyes glistened in delight. “We ate cock-a-doodle-doo soup, blood pudding, green fish, and bread for short people.”
As if a United Nations translator, Mom said, “Taavi means cock-a-leekie soup—”
Okay, it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s a soup with chicken, bacon, leeks, and spices.
Mom continued, “—black pudding—”
Get ready to be grossed out. It’s pork fat, pork blood, oatmeal, and oat and barley groats.
“—scallops with cabbage and green apple sauce, and shortbread.”
“I texted all my friends from school. I can’t believe we’re living in a real castle!”