Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Release! BASHED by Rick R. Reed

BASHED: A Love Story by Rick R. Reed
Release Date: Mar 26, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60820-028-3 (print); 978-1-60820-029-0 (ebook)
Publisher: MLR Press
To order and for more details, click here.

Three haters. Two lovers. And a collision course with tragedy.

When Donald and Mark left the Brig that October night, they had no idea their lives and love were about to be shattered by fag bashers, intent on pain, and armed with ridicule, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.

The cowardly hate crime leaves one half of a couple alone and haunted—literally and figuratively—by the memories and denied promise of new love.

Bashed charts the course of a journey from grief to hope, from death to life, and from hate to redemption. Come along on a trip that encompasses suspense, horror, and—ultimately—romance.

The night had turned cold while they were in the Brig, one of Chicago's oldest and most infamous leather establishments. A strong wind out of the north had blown away the cloud cover that allowed the city of Chicago to retain a little Indian summer heat this late October night. With the wind, the temperature had plunged nearly twenty degrees, from a relatively balmy 62, down to the low forties. But the wind had also revealed a sprinkling of stars, visible even with the ambient light from downtown. And the moon had emerged, almost full, lending a silvery cast to North Clark Street.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald shook his head, glancing over at Mark, whose young face was creased with worry. "Don't let shit like that get to you. They're idiots. And chicken's pretty easy to call names at people from a speeding car." The pair continued south. Up ahead, they needed to turn and head east to make their way to the little side street where they had parked Donald's Prius. The street could usually be counted on for a spot, even on a busy Saturday night. Donald thought that it was more the fact that the street was hard to get to than the fact that it ran along the northern border of St. Boniface Cemetery that made it such a good parking bet.

"I know. They're just a bunch of assholes," Mark said as they continued east. Donald could feel the defeat and fear in his voice. He hoped the hotrod homophobes hadn't broken the spell of their night. Because Mark was much younger, he hadn't been exposed to some of the same ridicule and taunting Donald had, growing up in the late sixties and seventies.

Donald bit his lower lip, suddenly feeling all the shame and embarrassment he had once associated with being gay rise up again. It never really disappears, does it? His face felt flushed and a curious mixture of emotions warred within him. First, there was the shame, which he chastised himself for, but still couldn't stop the little inner voice that scolded him for the public displays of affection, even on an early Sunday morning and in a part of town that was very gay. Second, there was a more recent, more reasonable voice that was enraged, and asked, "How dare they?" This voice was ready to chase after the speeding car, shouting epithets right back at the cowards who hid behind the car's macho posturing and tinted glass. And the final voice, the other half of the fight or flee duo, just wanted to grab Mark's hand and run back to the car, jump inside, and make sure all the doors were locked before roaring off into the night themselves. Thank God they had a secure garage to park in at home.

"Yeah...assholes," Donald whispered, then spoke up, "I need to be getting you home, young man, it's way past your bedtime." Donald quickened his pace so that Mark would match his step and tried not to let the name-calling weigh too heavily on the evening. He was pissed about how a mood could be so easily shattered, especially by some more-than-likely suburban rubes that were not entitled to it. Fuck them! He wished he could make the mood come back, but not now, not with the "fucking faggots" still ringing fresh in his ears.

Maybe when they got home, Donald could put things to right. No maybe about it! He would light candles, open a bottle of wine, put on some trance music and urge Mark over to the couch. He would undress him slowly, gliding his strong hands over every inch of Mark's silky skin as he exposed it. He could already taste Mark's lips and the clean heat of his mouth.

They were almost to their car when they both tensed, slowing, as they heard the growling muffler of a car behind them. Donald closed his eyes, thinking, Oh God, please not again. Not them. They both stopped for just an instant. Donald didn't have to look back to know who was in the loudly idling car behind them. His heart began to thud in his chest and he resisted an impulse to simply grab Mark's hand and run the three or four feet it would take them to get to the car. But such a sissy maneuver was probably just the kind of thing those assholes would take particular delight in seeing. And the hot pursuit of a couple of scared queers would be the perfect capper to a boring night.

Donald spoke quietly, out of the corner of his mouth. "Let's just walk to the car. Don't look back. Don't even give them the satisfaction we're aware of them. We both know who it is. But to look back will just open the door to more shit."

Mark kept apace. "Right." His voice was clipped and Donald could pick up on the fear and tension in it.

Behind them, they heard the kissing sound again, over the beat of some heavy metal music, the bass throbbing hard enough to shake the car's frame. "Hey boys!" a falsetto voice, mocking, rang out through the autumn night. Donald wanted to freeze in his spot and could tell Mark did, too, by the way he tensed, unmoving. But Donald had enough presence of mind to keep moving forward, slowly, cautiously, the way one would back away from a lion about to pounce. No sudden moves. No eye contact. Donald had to remind himself to breathe.

A wolf whistle cut through the night air. "Hey if you guys are gonna suck some dick tonight, can we get in on the action?" The car's passengers erupted with laughter.

Donald dug in his tight-fitting Levis for his keys. His hand was trembling. His stomach was churning. He wished they had left much earlier. He wished they had parked on busier, more brightly-lit Clark Street. He wished they had taken a cab. He wished he had left his leather gear at home, just for tonight. He managed to grasp the keys just as they arrived at the car. Mark hurried around to the passenger side. When Donald met Mark's gaze, he saw that the younger man's eyes were bright with fear. He mouthed the word, "Hurry" to Donald.

The sound of car doors slamming behind them made Donald's hands shake so badly, he dropped the keys into the gravel by the side of the road. "Fuck," he whispered. They were off busy Clark now, and the side street was dark. Empty. He couldn't see where the keys had fallen. He could see where they should logically be, but of course, that's not where they were.

Mark said, in a tense voice, "Hurry up, Donald."

Donald didn't have to look behind him to know that the car's occupants were no longer in the Duster and were getting closer. Each slam of a car door caused his heart to beat a little faster, his breath to quicken.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two Bram Stoker Award Finalists

When the Bram Stoker Award finalists were announced the other day, I couldn't have been more pleased. Although I share the credit with a passel of other fine writers, two of the anthologies that featured my work in 2008 were named finalists for the most prestigious award in horror literature. And that's out of only four finalists in the "Superior Achievement in an Anthology" category.

The two books are Like a Chinese Tattoo, edited by Bill Breedlove (and featuring three of my short stories, along with the twisted work of Cullen Bunn, David Thomas Lord, and JA Konrath) and Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet, edited by Vince Liaguno and Chad Helder (and boasting the talents of Kealen Patrick Burke, Sarah Langan, and many others, including yours truly). Unspeakable Horror is a groundbreaking collection of queer horror, and I'm so happy to see it make the final cut.

Winners will be announced in June in Los Angeles. I am very proud to have been a part of these two collections and have everything I can possibly cross that one, or both, will take the prize. Hey, a tie could happen, right?

Meanwhile, why not pick up your own copy of one of the nominated books and give yourself hours of reading terror:

Click here to purchase Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet

And here to purchase Like a Chinese Tattoo.

Here's a little sample from my story, "Sublet" which was in Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet:

And then the boy moved, walking in a kind of lazy, jerking fashion across the floor to the other side of the room. He reached up to some bricks in the wall and it looked as if he were trying to move them. He turned then and looked at Ian with such a plaintive, woeful stare that Ian was shocked by the emotion he suddenly felt: sympathy. There was anguish in the boy’s gaze as he ran his hands ran over the bricks.

And then the boy was rushing toward him and Ian was so terrified, he squeezed his eyes together, collapsing back against the bed, and curled into a fetal position, waiting for the touch of the stranger.

But there was no touch. Ian lay still, every muscle tight, in the little ball for what seemed like hours, but was, he realized, only minutes. Slowly, his breathing returned to normal and he allowed his body to uncurl, to relax the muscles a tiny bit. He allowed himself finally to open his eyes.

And the room was empty.

And a taste of "Moving Toward the Light" one of three stories featured in Like a Chinese Tattoo:

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

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

Monday, March 23, 2009

IM Goes Academic

I was recently amazed to be contacted by a PhD candidate, asking if he could interview me about my online hook-up serial killer novel, IM, for his dissertation. Not that the book isn't study-worthy, I had just never thought of it that way. So when D. Travers Scott contacted me, I had to look over my shoulder to make sure he wasn't talking to someone else. Maybe he got me by mistake. Weren't PhD dissertations supposed to be centering around people like James Joyce or Dickens?

Once I got over the initial shock, I found that Mr. Scott (hopefully soon-to-be Dr. Scott) was interested in IM because of its links to the Internet and modern technology as part of modern-day storytelling.

And, by the way, D. Travers Scott is an excellent writer in his own right, author of the acclaimed One of These Things is Not Like the Other. You should check out one of his websites here or here for more information about him and his writing.

Anyway, I thought our little dissertation interview was a fascinating process. I hope you do too, since it gives you insight into the book as well as the creative process.

DTS: So, to start, I was wondering if you could tell me how the idea came about to center a murder mystery around online dating/hookup sites?

RRR: I started writing IM a long time ago (when I was single) and I would be lying if I said I didn’t avail myself of online hook-up sites. After a while, two things amazed me: the sheer number of guys hooking up (either inviting strangers into their homes or vice versa) and the fact that we all casually dismissed the danger this anonymous way of meeting was putting us in. I know I am not the only gay man to invite a stranger into my home. And I began thinking, as all writers do at one point or another, what if… What if that hot guy you were inviting over was a killer? I started thinking how easy it would be for that killer and how simple it would be to commit an almost perfect crime: there would be no real life links to the deceased, you were invited in to your victim’s home, he often would put himself in a vulnerable and defenseless position…and on from there. Online hookups could be a perfect scenario for a sadistic killer. I just went from there.

DTS: What technology themes are there in any of your other works?

RRR: I use technology quite a lot in my work, probably starting with an early short story, “Online” in the vampire anthology The Darkest Thirst, about an unwitting woman who invites a vampire into her home via an online lesbian chat room. Vampires, according to legend, need to be invited in by their victims. The Internet is also an important part of my novella, VGL Male Seeks Same, a light romantic comedy about a man creating an online persona to find a man, and its sequel NEG UB2, where the same character from VGL Male is diagnosed HIV positive and discovers the online bias now against him. Blogging plays an important role in that story. I think the Internet as a community is here to stay, and growing.

DTS: How is Timothy Bright different from your other villains? Were there any aspects of his character that you emphasized or de-emphasized to 'fit' with his use of the web and messaging? That is, did you have any ideas about what sort of killer would be an online killer?

RRR: I don’t think I really consciously thought about Timothy being an online killer. I wanted to make him very innocuous looking, which is why I made him slight and blond, sort of elfin. I thought it was creepier to have someone who looked like the antithesis of evil cast as a monster. His appearance does come up throughout the book, though, and he lies often about what he looks like when he’s online (he never posts a photo), making himself beefier and manlier. The interesting thing, I thought, was how many of his victims ignored this disparity when he showed up at their door.

There seemed to be a few references to alcohol and substance abuse in the book. Was this an intentional theme?

RRR: From my own experience with these sites, “party and play” is a very common factor on almost every one I’ve encountered. I just thought it was realistic to have some of the characters using party drugs to enhance their experience.

DTS: What impact do you feel the Internet and modern communications technology has had on the gay community? For example, some people applaud how it empowers rural queer kids to find community, others say it has isolated us, weakening community ties and public meeting places like bars or leather events.

RRR: I think the world is constantly changing, whether that’s positive or negative is up to interpretation. As I said above, this way of connecting and communicating with others is here to stay and will probably continue to grow and make further inroads into all of our lives. I would need a good crystal ball to know how this will affect humanity and the ways we interact. It’s a kind of evolution and only time will tell what its benefits and downfalls are.

DTS: Telecom companies often advertise with phrases like, "stay always connected." How do you feel about this idea of being connected, given that your online presence lets you connect with readers, but you also have a novel about connecting to killers?

RRR: The Internet has been a wonderful way for me to reach out to readers that hitherto would have been unavailable to me. I am old enough to remember that one of the few promotional routes available to me were book signings or conventions, where I reached relatively few people. The Internet, and social networking, has exploded, and although there’s a lot of “noise,” I think I reach many more people than I used to before it was around. As with anything else in life, this way of connecting has its dangers and potential for abuse.

DTS: The initial victims presented in the book -- I'm thinking of the first kills especially but then also somewhat with Mark, the close call -- seemed like somewhat flawed people. They seemed vain, superficial, reckless, and/or closeted (particularly in contrast to Ed and Peter). Was this intentional? Were you intending any kind of commentary in that about aspects of urban gay men or culture? Or about the kind of men who would use hookup sites regularly?

RRR: To be quite honest, no. I think a lot of my writing flows from my subconscious and what you say about these characters make sense and while I wouldn’t say it was wrong, I would be the first to admit that my only intention was creating real people who are often flawed…and many of the adjectives you used above. I will say that I think hookup sites are used by all different sorts of men for all different sorts of reasons and to blanket characterize the group as a whole would be ridiculous.

DTS: If you had to sum up the moral or lesson of IM, what would that be?

To realize that the Internet can often be a lot of smoke and mirrors and even if you think you know with whom you’re hooking up, use caution. Meet first in a public place. Tell someone you trust where you’re going if you’re meeting up with someone. There are no guarantees for either bad or good resulting from Internet interaction, but there are precautions that might help tip the scales in your favor.

To purchase IM in trade paperback go here.

To purchase IM as an ebook, go here (for Kindle) or here (for other ebook formats).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Not Even My Husband Knows!" The Secrets of Erotica Writers

Last weekend, when I was in Las Vegas at Epicon, the big annual gathering of electronic publishing professionals, I had the pleasure of meeting many others of my ilk: namely those of us who toil a good part of our lives away in solitude writing stories that we hope will entertain, inform, and provoke thoughts and emotions.

One woman I met at the Thursday night party seemed a cheerful sort. She came right up to me and began telling me about all the erotica she writes and publishes. She's quite a name among erotica e-book readers. But then she said something that surprised me: "Nobody knows I write erotica. Even my best friends and my family don't know. Not even my husband knows!" She laughed and I laughed with her, but then I was thinking, "But aren't you proud of what you do? Why would you spend all the effort and time on something that no one near and dear to you even knows you do?" I assume family and friends know at least that she's a writer and have just not delved into the subject matter of her work...or perhaps they don't know at all. Later in the conference, a male erotica writer confided that he needed to keep his identity as a writer of erotica separate from his real life because he also coached Little League baseball. He didn't think writing erotica would go over too well with the parents of the kids he coached. And I think he may have something there, though I think some of the kids might think it's way cool.

But the coach did make me begin to understand this need for anonymity the successful writer I met on Thursday felt she needed. And that was brought home to me the other day when I had lunch with a friend here in Seattle. I was telling him about Epicon and the people I'd met and happened to bring up that I'd met several people who wrote erotica.

He grinned and sort of rolled his eyes and said, "You mean porn?"

Now, this isn't the first time I have heard of erotica being equated with porn, but I did have a flash of further understanding about why someone would choose a nom de plume under which to publish their erotic writing. I don't think my friend's assertion was all that uncommon. I did try to explain that there was a difference, but found it hard to do. I think, the short answer would be that erotica uses sex as a way to bring out emotional themes and to propel a story, whereas porn is there purely for the sake of titillation. Porn does not need character development, a plot, or any commentary on the human condition. It's unfettered, one-handed reading. Nothing wrong with that, in my mind, if that's what you're in the mood for and no one's getting hurt. But all this talk at the conference about being "in the closet" as an erotica writer made me wonder how many others out there automatically think "porn" when they hear "erotica."

I am not above writing the occasional porno story. But the two book covers above, the first for Fugue and the second for MANamorphosis, demonstrate stories that are all about sex, but I don't think are porn. Fugue, in particular, is quite graphic, XXX-rated, yet I think,in the end, it's a story about power in a relationship and the varying ways we experience love...and it's themes like that, I think, that differentiate erotica from porn.

What do you think? For you, what separates erotica from porn? Really, I wanna know. Please leave me a comment below.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Days As an Advertising Copywriter...and Lapsed Catholic

It may stun some of you to know that I am unable to make much of a living from the proceeds of writing fiction. While it does keep me in cigars, peanut butter, beer, and fancy underwear, I still need to do other things to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. That’s why I turn to a kind of prostitution: advertising copywriting. Oh yes, boys and girls, working in advertising is no different than being a two-dollar whore. It might even be worse, because, while the two-dollar whore sells her body and keeps her spirit and mind intact, those of us who labor creatively in advertising keep our bodies intact but we sell something more important: our imaginations.

While I haven’t yet been able to leave the fold of writing for hire (but I do it now only on a very selective basis, for special clients, kind of like a high-priced call girl), I have been able to escape the folds of Catholicism. I may burn in Hell for eternity, but I just can’t get down on my knees for a man with such an absurd looking chapeau and such outdated (not to mention hypocritical!) ideas on people like us.

What follows are a couple of ads that combine my lapsed Catholicism and my writing to sell products. These commercials run only late at night, but perhaps one night, you’ll see one…over the shoulder of a close friend.

Catholic Condoms

A couple fumble in darkness underneath a blanket. Squeaking of bedsprings and other sounds. A man sits up and switches on a light. He fumbles under the covers and brings out a tattered remnant of latex.
He: Hey! This thing has holes in it!
A woman, nude except for a blanket covering her breast-high and a nun’s headress, sits up next to him. She smiles.
Nun: I know, honey. They’re Catholic Condoms.
He: What?
Nun: Catholic Condoms. They’re the only condoms endorsed by the Vatican. And...blessed by the pope!
He: But...
Nun: No butts, honey. That’s frowned upon by the church.
He: I mean, b-u-t.
Nun: Catholic Condoms. Haven’t you heard the slogan? “There but for the grace of God go you.”
He: Ahhhhh
Nun: Yours isn’t the only prick in these things. (Giggles)
Announcer Voice Over: Catholic Condoms. Leave it to God to decide.

Joan of Arc Charcoal Briquettes

Darkness. We hear a soft sound, something liquid being squirted from a bottle.
Man: Damn these faggots!
Another sound of liquid being squirted.
Man: Damn these faggots to hell!
Lights up to reveal a suburban house husband, in a "kiss the cook" apron, standing over a grill with lighter fluid. His wife comes up to him, bag in hand.
Woman: Honey! Don’t you know those tired old faggots will never cooperate!
Man looks down despairingly into grill.
Man: I know; they never have.
Woman: Well, we both know that’s not quite the truth.
Man: Honey...
Woman: I’ve got something here that’ll put those faggots to shame!
Man: As if they had any!
Woman: Try these...
Man: What are they?
Woman: They’re Joan of Arc Charcoal Briquettes!
Man: Ah, sweetie pie, you’re a saint.
Woman: Saints and sinners alike love Joan of Arc!
Woman takes faggots from grill, pours briquettes in. Man squirts and lights. Flames come up.
Man: Burn, baby, burn!
Woman (giggling): Throw those steaks on!
Man does so.
Announcer: Joan of Arc Charcoal Briquettes, brought to you by the woman who burned her steaks!
Woman (looking up to locate the voice of the announcer): Shouldn’t that be burned at the stake?
Announcer (giggling); Right. Joan of Arc Charcoal Briquettes...for perfectly well-done flesh...every time!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ORIENTATION Wins EPPIE for Best GLBT Novel of 2008!

Okay, so I'm sitting here wondering: do I really want to blog about the EPPIE Awards? I mean, I spent all day yesterday shouting from virtual rooftops about my win (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace) and I know there's a wafer thin line between being giddy over success and being obnoxiously self promotional. I really don't want to be the latter. But it's on my to-do list to do a blog about the awards and it's also on my list of ethical things to do to include a list of all the EPPIE winners and to give them my heartiest and most heartfelt congratulations.

For those of you who don't know, the EPPIEs are held annually by EPIC (which stands for the Electronically Published Internet Connection, an international professional organization or authors, editors, publishers, and fans devoted to promoting e-books). Each year, they receive hundreds of entries for the awards (this year I think it was close to 800) and a too-small panel of judges works tirelessly in the months preceding the awards to make their decisions.

This was my first trip to the EPPIEs, which is part of the annual EPICon, a four-day convention that boasts numerous panels from industry experts on writing, publishing, and technology. It's also a fun time to party, make new friends, and renew old ones...especially when it's held in Sin City, otherwise known as Las Vegas. I went on my own and, ever the introvert, was apprehensive: what if no one talks to me? What if I spend four days shut up in my hotel room, feeling ignored? Yeah, I do think like that. But even before I got there, people were already reaching out with offers to pick me up at the airport, dinner get-togethers, and more. The days went by in a desert-sun bleached blur.

And then that same old introvert began telling me there was no chance I would win an award. "Hey," that shy little man who lives inside my head said, "It's an honor just to be nominated. And you were--twice. It would be greedy to expect to win." So, honestly, I didn't really let myself even imagine what it would be like to win.

But the blood pressure did shoot up when they were announcing the nominees for best GLBT novel. And the old BP probably went through the roof when they said the winner was me. I think I was in a mild state of shock as I went up to accept my award, babbling something into the microphone about not having prepared anything to say, since that would jinx me, so I would rely on the words of my idol, Lily Tomlin, and just say: "Thank you all a lot." It was nice that the GLBT category came first because HIGH RISK did not win for mystery/thriller, for which it was a finalist. I already had an award, so I could heartily, and not bitchily, applaud the winner.

So that was my EPPIE experience. They say you always remember your first time. And for an old warhorse like me, getting a first time to remember all over again was like some kind of blessing.

For more about my winning novel, Orientation, go here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Win a FREE, Illustrated, First-edition Copy of A FACE WITHOUT A HEART

So I'm writing this post from Las Vegas, where I'm in town for the Eppie Awards. I'm feeling a little bleary-eyed this morning, after a night of martinis and Middle-Eastern food last night on the strip with a group of boisterous erotica writers. How I long to be like the Gary Adrion (it's an anagram for Dorian Gray, see) character in A Face Without a Heart: to look young and fresh as a daisy while a portrait of me somewhere showed signs of age and debauchery.

I'm writing this blog to celebrate a new review of A Face Without a Heart, my contemporary take on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. And to celebrate this e-book edition, I'd like to give away five, free signed copies of the now-out-of-print trade paperback illustrated first edition of A Face Without a Heart.

All you have to do is:
1. Subscribe to this blog
2. Post a comment to this specific blog
3. Make sure I can get in touch with you for mailing instructions

That's it! If you want to read the book, and don't want to wait, simply click on the title links above.

Here's a little snippet of what has me feeling so good this morning, despite the dirty martinis last night:

"I would recommend this novel to those readers who are interested in great character studies and like to challenge themselves with confronting themes and issues...I also think for anyone who was fascinated by The Picture of Dorian Gray reading A Face Without A Heart is an absolute must."

Read the rest of the review here...and enter the contest! Bonus points if you cut and paste this blog on your own blog or e-mail list, so your friends can get in on the give-away.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Off to the Eppie Awards!

I am counting down the days until I go to my first ever Epicon, this year held in Las Vegas, NV. It's a counting task I can handle: I leave in two days. I'm particularly excited because this year, two of my Amber Quill Press books are finalists: High Risk in the mystery/thriller category and Orientation in the GLBT category. For those of you who don't know, the Eppies are given out annually by EPIC (the Electronically Published Internet Connection) to recognize outstanding achievement in e-publishing. Wish me luck!

And if you want to know a bit more about my nominated books, here's a little taste:
High Risk
Her Secret Life...

Beth Walsh seems like such a demure housewife. Taking care of her attorney husband and doing volunteer work, the young woman is someone you’d meet at a church social. But Beth has a secret life. While her husband works, Beth slides into what she calls her “slut clothes” and goes on the prowl. She becomes a completely different woman, wanton and uninhibited, with dozens of handsome strangers. Until she meets the one blindingly gorgeous stranger who will make her more than sorry for her secrets and lies…

Abbott Lowery is every woman’s dream: handsome, muscular, with intense blue eyes that contrast with his thick black hair. Women want him. Men want him. But Abbott is deeply damaged, and inside lurks a monster just waiting to be released. When Beth Walsh pursues him, it pushes a deeply-buried rage to the fore and he becomes determined to punish her.

Beth meeting Abbott lights the fuse on a bomb. Its explosion leads to a tale of terror and desperation so intense it will sear everyone who knows them. High Risk is a story of secrets, tainted histories, murder, kidnapping, and an ending so brutal and shocking readers will be left breathless.

To read an excerpt, see reviews, or to purchase, click here.

Christmas, 1983: A young man, Robert, tends to his soul mate, Keith, who is dying from AIDS. Robert tries valiantly to make this a special Christmas for his lover, but loses the fight late Christmas night.

Christmas, 2007: Robert ventures out late Christmas night and finds a young girl about to fling herself into the unforgiving waters of Lake Michigan. He rescues her, and the two form a bond forged from an odd feeling they share of familiarity, and even love. Neither understands it, since Jess is a lesbian and Robert has never been attracted to women. But there’s more...Jess begins having strange dreams, reliving key moments she couldn’t know about in Keith and Robert’s life and courtship. Robert and Jess begin to wonder if their inexplicable feelings might be rooted in something much more mystical than a savior/victim relationship.

As the two move toward and pull away from each other, Ethan, Robert’s younger lover, plots the unthinkable. His crystal meth-addled mind becomes convinced there’s only one way to save himself, and that is through Robert’s destruction. Christmas 2007 spirals downward to a shattering climax in which both love and lives hang in the balance.

There’s a murder attempt...salvation...redemption...

And a new love is born.

To read an excerpt, see reviews, or to purchase, click here.