Tuesday, November 29, 2011

5 Stars from MM Reviews for CAREGIVER

I'm pleased to share a wonderful five-star review for CAREGIVER from MM Reviews with you. The reviewer, Pixie, said, in part:

"Rick R. Reed, you do not get to do this to me. You do not get to write a book that is caring, beautiful, touching and wonderful. You do not get to write a book that even now has me trying to stifle the tears as I write this review… You’re supposed to write horror stories and if you change style it should be rubbish not this incredible piece of writing...This story gives you a range of emotions to experience, love, betrayal, sadness, happiness, guilt and hope, the love-making is wonderful, this is a true love story that is not to be missed so I recommend this to everyone and I hope you love it as much as I did.

Read the whole review here.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CAREGIVER Gets a Rave Review from Amos Lassen

Just wanted to share with you a wonderful review I just got for CAREGIVER from veteran GLBT reviewer, Amos Lassen. In part, he said:

"Reed has written this book as a tribute to those who are gone and I am certain that each person who has been touched by loss because of AIDS will find a lot to identify with here.

"I have read so much about AIDS that I was not sure I could handle another book so I approached Reed’s novel with trepidation and knowing that I would be affected by it from the moment I opened the covers. Once I began, I was pulled into the story and I could not stop reading. There were moments that I wept as I read and I really went through a catharsis by the time I finished the book."

Read the full review here.

BUY from Dreamspinner Press
In ebook.
In paperback.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

NEW RELEASE! Win a FREE Copy of My Vampire Love Story, BLOOD SACRIFICE

UPDATE: Thank you all for entering! Through a random selection process, we have a winner: Erica Pike. Congratulations, Erica! Untreed Reads will be in touch with you to get you your copy soon.

Finally, thanks to the good folks at Untreed Reads Publishing, my terrifying, erotic, suspenseful and richly romantic vampire tale, In the Blood, comes to new digital life as Blood Sacrifice. The new e-book version contains exclusive restored material not included in the print edition.

To win a free copy of Blood Sacrifice, simply:

1. Leave a comment below.

2. Be sure to leave an e-mail address so I can get in touch if you're a winner.

3. Bonus points for reposting news of this contest/release on your Facebook, Twitter, group, blog, or other social network.
4. Even more bonus points if you click on the link at the right to subscribe by e-mail to this blog.

I will announce the winner on Wednesday, November 23.

Don't want to wait to see if you're a winner? You can purchase your own copy at the following:

From Untreed Reads here.

What Would You Give Up for Immortal Life and Love?

By day, Elise draws and paints, spilling out the horrific visions of her tortured mind. By night, she walks the streets, selling her body to the highest bidder.

And then they come into her life: a trio of impossibly beautiful vampires: Terence, Maria, and Edward. When they encounter Elise, they set an explosive triangle in motion.

Terence wants to drain her blood. Maria just wants Elise . . . as lover and partner through eternity. And Edward, the most recently-converted, wants to prevent her from making the same mistake he made as a young abstract expressionist artist in 1950s Greenwich Village: sacrificing his artistic vision for immortal life. He is the only one of them still human enough to realize what an unholy trade this is.

Blood Sacrifice is a novel that will grip you in a vise of suspense that won't let go until the very last moment...when a shocking turn of events changes everything and demonstrates--truly--what love and sacrifice are all about.

Elise Groneman stares out the window, stomach roiling. What she has is like stage fright. She gets it every night, before she ventures out of her tiny Rogers Park studio apartment on Chicago’s far north side. It’s always been amazing to her that just a few minutes’ walk to the north is the suburb of Evanston and a different world; there, the streets are tree-lined and clean, the homes palatial, the condos upscale, the restaurants grand, and the stores exclusive. Affluence and culture preside. Yet here, on Greenview Street, one encounters abject poverty, crime, the detritus of urban desperation: tiny brightly-colored baggies, fast food wrappers, condoms, empty alcohol bottles, even pieces of clothing. The sidewalks are cracked, the grassy areas choked with weeds and garbage. Here in Rogers Park, the normal folks―the ones who travel on the el to work downtown every morning―stay inside, so as not to mingle with people like Elise, or the man outside her window right now, who’s screaming, “What the fuck do I care what you do, bitch? It ain’t no skin off my ass.” Elise glances out and sees the man is alone. A boy cruises by on a bicycle that’s too small for him. The bike is stolen; either that, or he’s a runner for some small time dealer, delivering and making collections. Sometimes, there aren’t many options for moving up the ladder.

But this neighborhood is all Elise can afford, and, unless she picks up more clientele soon, she may even be crowded out of this hovel she begrudgingly calls home. Once, she shared the place with someone else, but those days, for better or worse, are long behind her.

Elise moves to the window, attempting to obliterate memory by the simple act of staring outside. Dusk has fallen and the sky belies the earthbound life before her. The sun is setting, the sky deep violet, filtering down to tangerine and pink near the horizon. If she keeps her eyes trained on the riot of color and shape to the east, she can almost forget where she is.

But the denizens of Greenview Street make sure she stays reminded. They stroll the night in an attempt to escape the heat, the hot, moist air pressing in, smothering. They call to one another, using words she had barely heard, let alone used, back in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where she had grown up: nigga, motherfucka, homey. Fuck used as an adjective, verb, and ejaculation (but rarely, ironically, utilized in a sexual context). Snatches of music filter out from apartment windows. Cruising vehicles pass by, bass thumping hard enough to cause the glass in her windows to vibrate. She has picked up names of artists like Bow Wow, Def Soul, and Trick Daddy as she walks the streets. Elise puts a hand to the screen, testing the air. Will there ever be a breeze again? She wonders if her neighbors would recognize any of the names attached to the music she loves, names like Vivaldi, Smetana, Bach. Other music fills the street: arguments and professions of love shouted with equal force. Headlights illuminate the darkening night, which is also lit by the flare of a match here, neon there, and sodium vapor overall. The world glows orange, filling up not only the streets of the city, but the sky, blotting out the stars.

East of her churn the cold waters of Lake Michigan, and Elise imagines its foam-flecked waves lapping at the shores. She’d like to pad down to the beach at the end of Birchwood Street, kick off her sandals and run across the sand and into the water, its cold obliterating and refreshing. She wishes she had the freedom, but east is not her path. Her way lies south, to Howard Street, purveyor of pawnshops and prostitution.

Her destination.

Elise turns to survey her cramped apartment. Near the ceiling, industrial green paint peels from the walls to reveal other coats of grimy paint no color describes. Metal-frame twin bed, sheets twisted and gray, damp from sweat and humidity. Next to that, Salvation Army-issue scarred oak table, small, with the remains of this night’s meal, a few apple peelings, a knife, and a glass half filled with pale tea, darkening in the dying light.

It’s a place no one would ever call home. Elise’s apartment is utilitarian, a place to work, to sleep, to eat. It’s little more than shelter.

The only sign of human habitation is her work: huge canvases mounted on easels, bits of heavy paper taped to her drawing board. Much of her work is done in charcoal and pencil, but the palette of grays and black remain constant, whether it’s a sketch or a completed painting. Her subject matter, too, is always the same, although the variety of choices she has to explore is endless. Elise likes to draw intensely detailed renderings of crime and accident scenes, aping the cold, clinical detachment one might find in a book of crime scene photographs. Here is a woman, slumped beside a corduroy recliner, a gunshot ripping away half of her head (the blood black in Elise’s rendering), beside her, a half-eaten chicken leg and the Tempo section of the Chicago Tribune, folded neatly and splattered with her gore. There’s a man lying beside a highway, the cars a fast-moving blurred river. His head has been severed from his body. On the wall she has masking-taped a nightmare in quick, staccato slashes: a young woman strangled and left to lie in the pristine environment of an upscale public washroom, clean, shiny ceramic tile, untarnished metal stalls. Another woman, looking bored, checks her lipstick in the mirror. Near Elise’s floor is a small, intricately detailed drawing done in charcoal: two lovers lie in a bed of gore, the aftermath―one presumes―of discovery of their union by a jealous lover. The woman has a sheet discreetly covering her up to the neck. The man lies splayed out in a paroxysm of agony. And why not? His offending penis has been slashed from his body. Is that it on the floor beside the bed, a smudge of black, nearly shapeless?

Where is all the color? Elise herself wonders as she dresses for the evening. Color has been leached out of her world; it is getting increasingly difficult to be able to remember what color was like and thus, increasingly difficult to duplicate its varied hues on paper or canvas. Color, it seems, is but a hazy memory out of her past.

Enough of art analysis, she thinks. It’s her days she has designated to her art. Nighttime is when she prepares for her other job, the occupation that keeps a roof over her head. The job which perhaps is responsible for stealing the color from her vision.

Enough! Enough! Enough! she thinks. Put the introspection behind you. It’s time now, time to become a creature of the night, an animal doing what it must to provide its own sustenance.

She rummages in the apartment’s lone closet, pulling out one of her “uniforms,” clothing that helps identify her occupation as much a mechanic’s jumpsuit, or a waitress’s ruffled apron and polyester dress.

Tonight, she dons a short black skirt bisected by a wide zipper ending in a big silver loop. Over her head, she pulls a white T-shirt, tying it just above her waist. In combination with the low-riding skirt, it perfectly frames her navel. Elise pulls the skin apart and plucks out a piece of lint. She completes her ensemble with dark seamed stockings and spike heels. These are the tools of the trade as much as the brushes, sticks of charcoal, and pencils littering her space.

Elise flips back her long whiskey-colored hair, and leans close to the mirror. She lines her lips with a shade of brown, then fills in with glossy crimson. Cheapens her green eyes with thick black kohl. Elise pulls her hair back, away from her damp neck, and up, pinning it all together with a silver barrette adorned with the smiling face of a skull. Pentagram earrings. Tonight a witch, creature of the night.

Then she turns, hand on doorknob. The night awaits: exhaust fumes, traffic, the chirping of cicadas.

Purchase your own copy at the following:

From Untreed Reads here.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Letter from a Reader that Makes it All Worthwhile

Hi All,

Below is a letter I got yesterday from a reader in London regarding my AIDS-era love story, CAREGIVER. More than money, more than fame, it's this kind of connection to a reader that really defines what I do and makes me want to go on telling stories that matter...

Dear Mr Reed

I wanted to write and thank you for your amazing story. It was just so beautifully written and also appropriate 30 years on from the emergence of HIV and AIDS.

I am a part time priest in the Diocese of London and an African woman. I am also a community activist on the issue of HIV, and on the issue of LGBT human rights abroad. Part of what I do is try to mobilise churches here in London to respond to HIV both here in the UK and home in Africa. Sometimes it can be an uphill struggle and it is books like Caregiver that encourage me not to give up.

I loved Caregiver because it recalls the days before anti-retrovirals. It is also a reminder not to take treatment for granted. In the UK today many people have forgotten the eighties and early nineties when people were dying of AIDS here. I think it is important not to forget and to use the pain and loss from the past to continue to respond to HIV and to push for access to treatment for people everywhere.

There was a particular part in the book at the end where Dan had written to Adam saying that if he had stayed alive a few more years he would have seen the advent of treatment. Whilst I was reading your book the analytical part of me kept saying 'if only he could have lived a few more years he would have made it.' I just had a real sense of loss as I read the book.

You also touched on a very important issue about the treatment of bereaved gay partners who were often overlooked by their partners families. In all the debates we have today about the decriminalisation of homosexuality and gay marriage you have touched something very important and it is simply about the humanity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This is something I can hold onto.

I am not gay, but I am involved in the struggle for lgbt human rights in Africa and elsewhere because of this humanity. This is sometimes a very difficult path to walk as an African woman and as a member of the clergy. Holding on to the humanity of others helps me both to see and act.

I have so many friends who are alive today because of anti-retrovirals. There are many African women who are alive today because of the early struggles of white gay men. This might seem a controversial statement to make, but its true. African women are often invisible or not heard. We would have found it hard to struggle on our own. We have a lot to thank God for, and we still have much ground to cover and work to do.

You have told a beautiful story that reminds me that we must not take treatment for granted and that we must never forget those who were lost.

Thank you.

Ijeoma Ajibade

BUY from Dreamspinner Press
In ebook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2561
In paperback:http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2562

Amazon Kindle version: http://tinyurl.com/3flyqzr
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Saturday, November 5, 2011


Member of Goodreads? Enter to win a free, signed copy of my AIDS-era love story, CAREGIVER. Just go here and click on the link to be in the drawing! Winner will be announced on November 22.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

The 10 Deadly Sins of Website Design

From my friend and marketing guru, Penny Sansevieri:

Feature Article: The 10 Deadly Sins of Website Design
A Checklist to Help You Avoid Them

So, you're ready to create your very own author site, or maybe you're updating your old one. We all know there's a lot that can go wrong with a website (server gone down?) but there's also a lot you can do in the early stages to avoid some mishaps down the road. Here's a checklist that you can take with you as you work through the design elements of your website:

1. Cluttered: Let's just start there. A cluttered site is the kiss of death to conversion. Make sure the site you choose is clean, uncluttered and easy to navigate. If you can't figure it out, I guarantee you your visitor won't, either.

2. Confusing: Tell them what you want them to do. Several times. In order to make a sale, you have to tell your visitor what you want them to do - over and over and over. When we were redesigning our website, http://www.amarketingexpert.com, I kept hearing this from my web designer: let's tell them again and again what we want them to do. I responded to her, "But my visitors aren't stupid, they'll know what to do!" The problem is most surfers don't. We're busy, we're distracted, we want information and we want it now, also we want to know right away if we've landed on a site that can help us. If you repeat your primary message, they won't be able to miss it, and if the site is what they're looking for, they will stay. Which takes me to:

3. Too many messages: You must have one primary message and objective for your website. Yes, I know you want to do so much with it. You want to sell books and get speaking engagements and maybe even some consulting gigs. But all of this starts with one, clear objective. Take my site, for example. I have books, I am a speaker, I also sell marketing services and we are a full-service marketing and publicity firm. Wow, that's a lot, right? Yes, it is, but if you look at our homepage you don't see my books or my speaking. Why? Well, as much as I'd love to sell my books by the truckload, and speaking gigs are always fun to do, they don't keep the business going the way new business does. That's my primary objective.

4. Not knowing what your consumer wants: Once you figure out what you are selling, now you have to package it in a way that will entice your buyer. Knowing what they want and how they want it is key. Let's say you've written a cookbook for busy parents. And let's say your only objective is to sell books. That's a great goal! Now, your site needs to be designed around that goal. That means the book is front and center on the homepage, and because your user is probably busier than most, there's a big 'buy now' button just under the book that takes them to a page where they can purchase and download an eBook or order a print copy. Easy! You may also want to add a sign-up on the homepage so your readers can get cooking ideas, recipes and tips in their inbox a couple of times a month!

5. Cropsharing: This is what I call those folks who use other people's website domains. I seem to recall years ago there was something called Angelfire. Anyone could get a free site there. You could never own it, or upgrade, it was on their server and that was that. The problem is when their site goes away, so does yours. There are a lot of freebie websites out there, there's nothing wrong with this per se (other than I don't think we should design our own sites), and if you're strapped for cash this is a great, initial way to get started. But be sure that you can own the site at some point. Often free sites have an upgrade option, look into it before you build your website!

6. Copying your competition: It's great to love what your competition is doing, but don't copy them pixel for pixel. Not only is it not a nice thing to do, but consumers landing on both sites may not be able to tell the difference! Additionally, if Google spots this type of duplication, you could get your site pulled down.

7. Uh-oh, typo: Please spell check your website. Really. I don't understand why anyone would launch a site that wasn't spellchecked.

8. Staying static: No one likes a site that never changes, and a quick and easy way to make sure you don't have a static site is to add a blog to it. A blog is a fantastic way to keep your site looking fresh and it's great for SEO, too.

9. Not understanding your traffic: OK, I admit this has less to do with website design, but it all flows into the same pot. Get to know your stats, and if you aren't sure how to read your site analytics, get someone to help you. Many authors I speak to don't even know if they have traffic reports. To me, that's sort of like having access to a bank account you never check!

10. Nowhere to go: Regardless of how you will sell your book, you want to be sure that the sales process is super clear on the site. Additionally, you don't want your consumer to go through a lot of steps to buy your book; with each step you lose a sale so keep that in mind. Ideally, no more than three steps to a buy!

When you're going through your website - either building one, redoing one or making sure yours is in check, take note of the points I've shared here. It's hard enough getting people to come to your site; when they get there don't send them into "surf shock" and miss a potential sale.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Inspiration: CAREGIVER

Picture it: Tampa Bay, Florida, 1991. A young man flees a troubled life in Chicago to begin anew on the Gulf Coast of Florida. White sand beaches and azure waters beckon. Shortly after landing in Tampa Bay, the young man, in a gesture of solidarity with his gay brethren who are dying by the thousands, volunteers to become an AIDS buddy, focusing his attention on one victim of the virus…

Actually, if you’ve read the blurb of my new novel, CAREGIVER, you might think that the above is an alternate synopsis I wrote for the book. But the truth is it’s about me. Like my main character in CAREGIVER, Dan, I too fled Chicago for a new life in Tampa, FL and I too joined a program that supplied AIDS buddies to those suffering from the virus. In 1991, the afflicted had a very bleak outlook. But sometimes, we meet a person who can overcome that bleakness with biting wit, humor, grace, and style. My buddy was just such a man—he left a mark on me that has stayed with me until this very day and will always be one of the most special people I have ever met.

My book is called CAREGIVER, but by the end, the reader will wonder who really is the caregiver.

It’s taken me twenty years to write about Jim, my AIDS buddy from 1991 (who becomes “Adam” in the novel), my funny valentine who ended up dying in the Florida State Prison—but I think the results are ultimately worth it.

In CAREGIVER’s first review by fellow author (and icon) Victor J. Banis, he says:

"Reed has a fine command of words that sometimes approaches the magical...I think few readers will come away from reading this emotionally untouched... I could not stop reading until I had finished, and I don’t know how you can pay a writer any better compliment than that...I began by explaining my aversion to AIDS novels—but I’m not so great a fool that I didn’t know from the first page or so that this is a terrific work, insightful and bold, by a very talented writer..."

Read the whole review on Reviews by Jessewave.

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.

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In ebook.
In paperback.

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