Thursday, December 27, 2018

Have You Read my Book About Reincarnation...and Love?


A novel about reincarnation and love

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

Christmas, 2007: Robert ventures out and finds a young girl about to fling herself into the waters of Lake Michigan. He rescues her, and the two form a bond forged from familiarity, and even love. Neither understands it, since Jess is a lesbian and Robert is gay. But there's more ...

Jess begins having strange dreams, reliving key moments she couldn't know about in Keith and Robert's life. They begin to wonder if their feelings might be rooted in something much more mystical than a savior/victim relationship.

As the two move toward each other, Robert's younger lover Ethan plots the unthinkable. His crystal meth-addled mind becomes convinced there's only one way to save himself: Robert's destruction.

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

And a new love is born.

BUY
JMS Books ebook
JMS Books paperback
Amazon Kindle (FREE with Kindle Unlimited)
Amazon paperback

EXCERPT

Robert hesitated outside the bedroom door. Inside, it was quiet, and he dreaded going in there and finding Keith on the bed asleep, a sheen of sweat clinging to his sunken cheeks, his breath phlegmy and labored. What if Keith’s call was just a momentary peek through the twin curtains of fever and consciousness? Or worse, the product of his own overly hopeful imagination?

What would be, would be (hadn’t some virginal blonde even once sung about it?). Robert steeled himself: deep, cleansing breath, let it out slowly. And entered the room.

Keith was awake. His face looked even more drawn and tired—the color of ash. Robert would have said it was impossible for him to look any sicker even this morning, but now he did. In the air, despite the cinnamon- and vanilla-scented candles in the room, was the smell of sickness and shit.

But oh, Lord! Keith was looking at him. Looking right at Robert. And he was seeing him! For the first time in forever, their gazes met and connected. Robert approached the bed warily, as if a sudden movement would send Keith plummeting back into unconsciousness.

“Honey? Can you hear me?” Robert stood, wringing his hands, heart fluttering, beating against his ribs.

“Of course.” Keith’s voice was a croak. Gone were the bass notes that had made him sound so sexy and assured. Keith reached a bruised hand out over the covers and patted the bed. “Would you sit next to me?”

“Oh, of course!” Robert took two steps and weighed down the bed, reaching out to brush a strand of hair off Keith’s forehead, biting his own lip at the heat radiating off Keith’s flesh. “I’m so happy you’re awake.”

Keith swallowed. The swallow took a long time and looked as if it took all of the sick man’s effort. He let out a weak sigh and turned his head. He looked up at Robert and managed a wan smile. Robert closed his eyes and gently laid his head atop Keith’s.

And then Keith began to talk, his old voice suddenly returned, strong and sure. “I have just a few things to say, Robert. And I need you to shut up and listen. No interruptions. The first thing I want to say is ‘Merry Christmas.’ I’m so sorry I couldn’t be a bigger part of things for this, our first Christmas together, but that decision was taken from me and it doesn’t look like Mr. Claus is seeing fit to give me a chance to make it up to you.

“The second thing I want to say is that I love you with all my heart. I searched forty-some-odd years for you, for what I’ve always dreamed of, and what I thought I couldn’t have when you dropped, like a gift, like an angel, into my life last winter. You were what I hunted for all my life: a family. You are my family. Don’t ever forget how precious that is.

“The third thing I want to say is that you’re an idiot, running around, burying your head in the sand, and trying to make a Christmas that neither of us has the capacity to enjoy. And last, I love you for that. I love you so much for trying ... for hoping against all odds that this moment would come and I would let you know how much I appreciate you. For hoping that we might share one final kiss before I have to go. And my love, I do have to go.

“But I couldn’t leave without you hearing these four words. You. Are. My. Family.”

Robert wanted to cry, but there was cold stillness inside, almost as if the frigid air outside had invaded and possessed him.

Robert lifted his head, stopping himself from recoiling at the memory of a feel of a crusty lesion on his cheek. He reached down and squeezed Keith’s hand, knowing with all his heart that Keith wanted to say all those things.

But the reality was that Keith had only enough breath left to whisper, “I need ...” A big hard swallow, tears welling up in Keith’s sallow eyes. “You.” Keith pushed out the word “you,” Robert thought, with all the breath he had left.

And that was all, really, Robert needed to hear.

Now, the eyes Robert stared down on were not only yellowed and red-rimmed, but vacant.

Keith was gone.

Robert patted his cheek. “I know,” he whispered. “I’ll always know.”

BUY
JMS Books ebook
JMS Books paperback
Amazon Kindle (FREE with Kindle Unlimited)
Amazon paperback

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

10 Silly Questions with Author Xenia Melzer



Excited to have fellow Dreamspinner Press author Xenia Melzer answering my impertinent questions on the blog today and to tell us all about her new book, A Dom and His Warrior....  


10 SILLY QUESTIONS WITH XENIA MELZER and RICK R. REED


RR: If you could invite any famous person, dead or alive, for dinner, what would you eat?
XM: I would invite Marie Antoinette and have a set of molecule kitchen dishes with her, just to see her reaction.

RR: Who do you think you are?
XM: I actually think I’m several people, of which three come out on a daily basis (mommy, wife, ‘official’ nice-face), while the others (hormonal driven threat to life, sex goddess, natural enemy of all things sweet) only make occasional appearances… Okay, the natural enemy of all things sweet is the most dominant of all…

RR: What’s your problem?
XM: What isn’t? Though my worst problem is grocery shopping, no, make that window cleaning… on second thought, it’s laundry, and cleaning the house, and people at the supermarket who wait for the clerk to pull all their shopping over the beeping machine before they start packing it away.

RR: If you could have one wish, would you give it to me?
XM: Depends on what you would wish for. 😉 If we could agree on trees growing chocolate (70%, dark) we have a deal.

RR: Where you at?
XM: Home.

RR: If you had to choose only one vice, what would it be?
XM: I’m a perfect angel! I don’t even know what a vice is! *coughs* Binge eating sweets without gaining weight!

RR: What’s your favorite brand of cereal?
XM:  A tough one. I’m pretty sure nobody knows this brand because it’s a pretty local German producer, but the cereals are great. Seitenbacher.

RR: When you wake up in the morning, what celebrity do you most resemble?
XM: Ozzy Osbourne.

RR: Do you know your ass from a hole in the ground? And if so, how do you tell the difference?
XM: Yes, my ass is way prettier.

RR: Do you have anything you’d like to plug?
PS: How about my newest release, A Dom and His Warrior?

Who is PD Singer?
Xenia Melzer is a mother of two who enjoys riding and running when she's not writing stories. She doesn't like beer but is easily tempted by a Virgin Mojito. Or chocolate. Truffles are especially cherished, even though she doesn't discriminate. As a true chocoholic, she welcomes any kind of cocoa-based delight.

You can contact her through her website
Or befriend and follow her on Facebook

When not writing, playing her fiddle, or skiing, she can be found with a book in hand.

BLURB for A Dom and His Warrior
Leeland Drake and Jonathan White are a committed BDSM couple and have just moved in together. Leeland has only one year left in college, and everything seems perfect… until Leeland’s uncle asks him to stand in for an injured UFC fighter. 

Leeland wants to help his uncle, but he remembers all too well from his years competing in martial arts how strenuous life as an athlete can be. He doesn’t want to risk his relationship with Jonathan. After some discussion, they decide Leeland will go pro for a year. 

As if the training and strict diet weren’t bad enough, the pressure skyrockets when Leeland encounters homophobic fighter Tommy Adams—especially when they end up facing each other in the championship

Between the bigoted rants of his opponent, the scrutiny of the media, the pressure from his sponsor, and a fire in his uncle’s gym, Leeland is close to breaking down. Only Jonathan’s support and love keep him focused enough to set foot in the octagon once more—and maybe even walk away a winner.

BUY
Dreamspinner
Amazon

Monday, December 24, 2018

Free on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

As my holiday gift to you, MATCHES, my twist on the beloved Hans Christian Anderson classic, THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL, is #FREE today and tomorrow. 

BLURB
Christmas Eve should be a night filled with magic and love. But for Anderson, down on his luck and homeless in Chicago's frigid chill, it's a fight for survival. Whether he's sleeping on the el, or holed up in an abandoned car, all he really has are his memories to keep him warm: memories of a time when he loved a man named Welk and the world was perfect. When Anderson finds a book of discarded matches on the sidewalk, he pockets them. Later, trying to keep the cold at bay hunkered down in a church entryway, Anderson discovers the matches are the key to bringing his memories of Welk, happiness, and security to life. Within their flames, visions dance and perhaps a reunion with the man he loved most.

GET YOUR FREE COPY  
At Amazon 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Throwback Thursday--My Most Redeemed Character

Today, I'm thinking about Raining Men, my heartfelt love story about a sexually-addicted man finding his way toward loving himself and, at last, that special one.

It's not an easy journey and it's one fraught with danger, missteps, and outright peril. But if you travel along with Bobby Nelson, you'll also discover hope, joy, and the transformative power of love.

BLURB

The character you loved to hate in Chaser becomes the character you will simply love in Raining Men.

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

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

REVIEWS
From LIVE YOUR LIFE, BUY THE BOOK
“Rick R. Reed makes the commitment to write about issues of interest in the gay community and he does so regularly. Sexual addiction is certainly one we hear about and it’s universal. I found myself pulled into this story as I realized what was going on with Bobby. I wanted Bobby to show the vulnerable aspects of himself he has buried over time to avoid hurt. I wanted him to be whole, to be happy and to find himself. This is not an easy journey, but a journey very worth taking.
Read the review.

From ON TOP DOWN UNDER BOOK REVIEWS
“...another amazing story...Never in a million years would I have thought that I would love Bobby. Only a truly talented author could turn a character like him around as he did.”
Read the review.

From SID LOVE M/M Reviews
“...definitely a keeper. I would recommend it to anyone…a real deal, with a believable storyline and some great writing by a very talented author.” 
Read the review.

From MM Good Book Reviews
“And while this is definitely a romance with a HEA I get to say that the achievement of that HEA has never felt more realistic and approachable...The entire book felt as if the author handpicked the characters straight from out on the streets, stripped them of their stories and wrote their lives for us to have a glimpse of…A very remarkable book that the forever-romantics would not want to miss.”

Read an excerpt

BUY 
from Dreamspinner Press in ebook or in paperback
Kindle version
Amazon Paperback
Audiobook



Wednesday, December 19, 2018

10 Silly Questions with Author PD Singer



Thrilled to have fellow Dreamspinner Press author PD Singer game to answer my rude questions on the blog today and to tell us all about her new book, Concierge Service....  


10 SILLY QUESTIONS WITH PD SINGER & RICK R. REED


RR: If you could invite any famous person, dead or alive, for dinner, what would you eat?
PS: Mmm, a lovely roasted beef tenderloin with Chantilly potatoes, asparagus, and Napoleons for dessert. I would invite Albert Einstein to come share it with me, and ask him to bring his violin along so we could play duets after dinner.

RR: Who do you think you are?
PS: Secure Pam says, “I’m a kickass author, professional, and mom with an assortment of weird skills. Let’s go scuba diving!” Insecure Pam is hiding under the table saying, “Who, me?” Secure Pam drags her out to give hugs.

RR: What’s your problem?
PS: I lost my roundtuit. Can’t do a thing until I get a roundtuit.

RR: If you could have one wish, would you give it to me?
PS: Can I wish for wishes for everyone? You get a wish, and you get a wish, and everyone gets a wish!

RR: Where you at?
PS: Most of me is in Denver. But I don’t know where my head’s at. Darned head’s all over the place.

RR: If you had to choose only one vice, what would it be?
PS: The big one on the workbe—Oh. Damn homonyms. Wine. Yeah, let’s drink wine.

RR: What’s your favorite brand of cereal?
PS:  Honey Bunches of Oats. Kinda healthy, mostly sugar bomb.

RR: When you wake up in the morning, what celebrity do you most resemble?
PS: Charlize Theron. And then I put on my glasses.

RR: Do you know your ass from a hole in the ground? And if so, how do you tell the difference?
PS: Yes, I do. Just look for the W. Also, only the burrow has small animals living in it.

RR: Do you have anything you’d like to plug?
PS: How about my newest release, Concierge Service?

Who is PD Singer?
P.D. Singer lives in Colorado with her slightly bemused husband, one proto-adult, and thirteen pounds of cats. She’s a big believer in research, first-hand if possible, so the reader can be quite certain Pam has skied down a mountain face-first, been stepped on by rodeo horses, acquired a potato burn or two, and will never, ever, write a novel that includes sky-diving.

When not writing, playing her fiddle, or skiing, she can be found with a book in hand.

BLURB for CONCIERGE SERVICE
Joshua Hannes, the concierge of the Vivaldi Central Park Hotel prides himself on fulfilling every impossible request. Tickets to a sold-out show? A purple dye job for a purse dog? A last-minute table at a premier hotspot? No problem.

But the penthouse guest wants what?

Self-made billionaire Craig Ridley’s in New York on business, but at the end of the day, he wants to relax with someone interesting. The concierge should be able to supply a friendly face. Just for a little conversation. Dinner and a card game. Not sex with a man he doesn’t know or respect.

Craig didn’t expect the concierge to personally volunteer to be a rental friend, and he really didn’t expect to get attached. How can a paid service ever turn real?

A billion reasons why they shouldn’t be together. A billion and one reasons why they should.

BUY
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple

EXCERPT
The rap at the door slightly after eleven jerked Craig away from the e-book he was reading with indifferent attention; if this was a thriller, he wasn’t nearly as thrilled by the text as he was by the interruption.

Perhaps he should have peeked through the peephole, but anyone who knocked on this door had to use the passcard in the elevator, soooo… He opened the door.

Very scenic.

The vision he’d seen coming out of the suite earlier greeted him. Brown eyes under full brows, a perfectly straight nose over a sunny smile, wide shoulders dressed in a decent suit—the same label as the one Craig had treated himself to when he’d sold his first company.

He jerked his gaze back to his visitor’s face—a laser dissection of the visitor’s charms was just not okay. Not when Craig made it abundantly clear he wanted nothing but company. The guy was worth looking at—and an unknown quantity as to what kind of person he’d prove to be.

Ten seconds of admiration for the view. Would this stranger last longer once words started coming out of his mouth?

“I’m Joshua Hannes. You rang?” The smile faltered for a scant second.

Craig found his voice and the memory of why he needed it. “I’m Craig Ridley.” Oh, that was stupid, of course rent-a-friend would know that, but… “Didn’t I see you earlier?”

“You did—I arranged your dinner. Now I’m back. If that’s okay.” Joshua remained in the doorway, a bag dangling from his fingertips.

Oh, right, Craig was keeping him standing. He ushered his guest in. “Hope you brought the Scrabble board, or that there’s one tucked away in some yet to be explored corner here.”

“I don’t think so, but I found us a deck of cards. We could play gin rummy, or war, or go fish.” Joshua pulled the sealed deck from his bag.

“Definitely more social than watching a movie.” Craig slit the cellophane wrapper to shake out the cards. “Or we could talk politics and possibly have our first fight, or compare weight lifting routines if we both lifted… Sorry, I didn’t even think about going downstairs to the gym to burn off some energy—I’m exhausted but my body still swears it’s two hours too early to go to bed.”

“No problem.” His visitor’s smile looked genuine. “I brought some Izzes.” He found coasters in the sideboard inlaid with enough exotic woods to endanger an entire rain forest, and two cut crystal tumblers, which he filled with ice from a minifridge disguised as more finely milled cabinetry. “Pomegranate, blackberry, or peach?”

Craig studied a maroon can, searching for symbols. Packaging had betrayed him before. “Is this kosher?”

Joshua examined his own can. “I don’t think it’s certified, but it’s vegan. Is that close enough?”

“Sure is. Blackberry sounds good.” He poured and offered to clink his glass against Joshua’s peach drink. “To new friends.”

Josh gave him that look again, a nanosecond of I don’t understand. “L’chaim?”

“La kayim,” Craig agreed. Whatever that meant. Probably New-Yorkese. That gravelly consonant might just be another regional thing. Craig sipped again, the fruity bubbles dancing on his tongue.

 Nice choice—Craig could appreciate the subtlety of not bringing wine or liquor. This wasn’t a date. What the hell did they do next? Cards, okay—another nice choice. Joshua hadn’t mentioned poker. Not when that could go lascivious. Not that Craig would mind in the least demanding shirts and trousers as forfeit.

Stop. That. One more stray thought and he’d have to adjust himself. The thin sweats he’d changed into for lounging wouldn’t hide a thing. Besides, where the hell had that thought come from? That was twice now. His interest hadn’t been piqued like this in years.

“So, gin rummy?” Craig offered.

“You’re on.” Joshua produced a pad and pen from a work of art generally shaped like a desk.

They sorted out their versions of the rules into mutual agreement, and Craig dealt out the cards. “We need some stakes.”

“Money?” Joshua stilled. “Or…?”

Damn it—even the small things worked against this rent-a-friend business. That “or” had to be exactly why his companion hadn’t mentioned poker. He hadn’t removed his suit coat, only pulling the knot of his tie away from his throat and undoing the top button.

Craig liked the lack of assumptions. What else could he like about Joshua? “Lose a round, answer a question, is that okay?” Damn it, that could go bad again fast—Joshua stopped sorting his hand. “Getting to know you kind of questions, nothing super-personal.”

“That works.” Joshua relaxed again. “Prepare to lose.”

“You can try,” Craig shot back, and took the top card from the stack.


Monday, December 17, 2018

A Little Holiday Poignancy for You

In the mood for a little holiday poignancy?

Check out my story, AN OPEN WINDOW, about which Divine Magazine said:

An Open Window is told retrospectively, which is a tactic that works really well for this short because Reed focuses the reader's attention on Henry and Jim's meeting.

Reed poignantly highlights the plight of homeless people at Christmas and immediately we only feel sympathy for Henry rather than judging him for his choice to enter the open window in someone else's home. I think our emotions are intensified by the fact that Henry thinks about being found frozen on Christmas morning with a mixture of "terror and relief".

Another man who is alone on this Christmas Eve is Jim, who has had a lucky, if upsetting, escape from a man who could not give him the love he deserved. Every reader knows that Christmas is a time to be spent with loved ones and for that reason, we feel compassion for Jim, who feels that "he might never celebrate the holiday again".

Reed brings these two men together unconventionally but beautifully and I adore the fact that Reed is able to capture the Christmas spirit of goodwill in An Open Window. I turned the final page and was left with all the right warm and fuzzy feelings.

An Open Window may only be 21 pages but it is a story perfectly formed!

BLURB
Two men. One Christmas Eve that changes the courses of both their lives.

Henry’s homeless and only wants a warm place to sleep on the coldest night of the year. A forgotten open window in a darkened house entices Henry inside with the promise of warmth and comfort. He knows it’s bad, but he promises himself he’ll be out before the owner wakes on Christmas morning. Except he oversleeps and the homeowner, Jim, discovers a bearded stranger sawing logs under his dining room table. When the shock and the drama that ensues dies down, Henry and Jim discover that they might have found, quite unexpectedly, the Christmas miracle they’d both been longing for—love and home.

BUY FOR $1.99
Dreamspinner Press

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Read the First Chapter of BIGGER LOVE


To whet your appetite, please check out the first chapter of my high-school romance, Bigger Love.

BLURB
Truman Reid is Summitville High’s most out-and-proud senior. He can't wait to take his fierce, uncompromising self away from his small Ohio River hometown, where he’s suffered more than his share of bullying. He’s looking forward to bright lights and a big city. Maybe he’ll be the first gender-fluid star to ever win an Academy Award. But all that changes on the first day of school when he locks eyes with the most gorgeous hunk he’s ever seen.

Mike Stewart, big, dark-haired, and with the most amazing blue eyes, is new to town. He's quiet, manly, and has the sexy air of a lost soul. It’s almost love at first sight for Truman. He thinks that love could deepen when Mike becomes part of the stage crew for Harvey, the senior class play Truman's directing. But is Mike even gay? And how will it work when Truman's mother is falling for Mike’s dad?

Plus Truman, never the norm, makes a daring and controversial choice for the production that has the whole town up in arms.

See how it all plays out on a stage of love, laughter, tears, and sticking up for one’s essential self….


BUY

EXCERPT (CHAPTER ONE)

“There’s a man in your room. I can smell him.”

Truman Reid confronted his mom, Patsy, in the kitchen. Early morning sun streamed in brightly through the kitchen window over the sink, making Truman long for the relative freedom of summer that was about to be put to rest that very day.

Patsy glowered at him from the stove where she was scrambling eggs. She didn’t often get up to make him breakfast, but Truman had figured—at least at first—that she was doing so because this was Truman’s first day back at school. He’d be a senior at Summitville  High. First days of school had always been a source of high anxiety for Truman, who’d been bullied and teased mercilessly throughout almost the entire four years. But now Truman wondered if Patsy had risen early to fix bacon and eggs because she was hiding a man in her room. You know, to distract him. This wasn’t a usual experience for his mom, Truman was sure, and he wondered if he’d embarrassed her. But he couldn’t help but wonder how a man in her room might affect his exclusive hold on her. Would he still get her undivided attention, you know, if this was a “thing”?

Of course, Patsy, lovely, diminutive, with curly black hair and wide eyes, had every right to have a man in her room. Even if that man smelled of cigarettes and motor oil. But she didn’t have the right, Truman opined, to keep secrets from him. A mother should never keep secrets from her boy, right? Wasn’t that one of those unwritten laws?

“That may be. Or may not be,” Patsy said, giving the eggs one final push-around with a spatula before dumping them on a plate. She sighed and eyed him. “I have a right to my privacy. You don’t need to be privy to every detail of my life. I show you that respect and expect the same in return.”

She’s reading my mind. Again. “Oh, I didn’t mean to pry, Mama. I just wanted to say it’s okay if you did have a man sleep over. It’s not like I would mind. It’s not like we’re not both adults around here. We have separate bedrooms and separate lives.” Truman almost choked on the words.

Patsy set the plate of steaming eggs before him. Truman saw, to his delight, that the eight pieces of bacon Patsy had fried up before the eggs were all for him.

Patsy smiled, but there was something just a tad bit evil in it. “Thank you, sweetie. I’m so glad to have your go-ahead if I want to whore around.” She chuckled and returned to the counter  where she’d left her mug of coffee. She leaned against the counter, mug in hand, and took a sip. Patsy was all of thirty-four years old but looked at least ten years younger in the dappled morning light, and Truman felt a rush of love for her. The bond they had was kind of a you-and-me-against-the-world one. Truman felt he could say just about anything to Patsy, and he knew she felt the same; witness the “whore” comment. What kind of mother said that to her son?

Truman wasn’t sure, but he was glad he had one who did.

Besides, between raising him, which could be, um, challenging at times, and working at the Elite Diner in Summitville’s tiny downtown, she had little time for romance. Given that Truman’s father was still a mystery to him—and to Patsy—he assumed that, once upon a time, she did have her whoring-around days, but he’d seen little evidence of them.

Until this morning.

“So who is he? Can I go take a peek? Is he hot?” Truman laughed.

Patsy answered the three questions in short order: “None of your business. No you can’t. Yes. Very.” 
She took another sip of coffee and tightened the sash of her white chenille  bathrobe. Truman noticed she was wearing a little makeup this morning—mascara, some blush, a hint of lip gloss. She hadn’t overdone it. Truman would say she looked “dewy” if she asked. “You need to eat up and get in the shower, young man. The bus will be here—” She turned to look at the wall clock on the soffit above the sink. “—in twenty minutes. I know you need your primping time.”

Truman dropped his fork to the table. “Seriously? Only twenty? Good Lord.” He wrapped his bacon up in a paper towel and headed for the single bathroom. Patsy blocked his way. “Since when do we leave our plates on the table? What? You think I’m your servant?”

“Mom!” Truman whined. “You know I need time to get ready. Please, please, please take care of it for me. I’ll love you forever!”

“Okay. This once. And sweetie, I’d thought loving me forever went without saying. But you cook and clean up tonight.”

“Deal.”

Truman rushed to the bathroom, wondering if Patsy would use the time to sneak her man out of the house. Too bad the only window looked out on the backyard. It was frosted glass anyway.

He hoped his mom had found someone to love.

He hoped his mom hadn’t found someone to love.

It had been just the two of them for so long, Truman didn’t know if he could cope with someone else vying for Patsy’s affections. He felt a little sense of violation at the thought.

In the bathroom, Truman laid out on the counter all the stuff a boy would need to make a suitable senior-year debut:
eyeliner,
clear mascara,
blush,
and the lip gloss that added no extra color to his lips but made them shine. 

He stepped into the shower after brushing, flossing, and exfoliating his face.


When  he emerged, breathless, in what he thought was far too little time, Patsy rolled her eyes and then smiled. “The bus is waiting outside. I signaled Fred to hang on for you, but I think he may be losing his patience. Didn’t you hear him honk? Three times?”

“I heard him.” Truman, ever observant, noticed Patsy’s bedroom door, just off the kitchen, was open. It had been closed before. Patsy had hastily made up the bed, from the looks of it. He thought about mentioning it to her but decided to give her some slack. After all, one day he might want a little privacy, although he still didn’t know how he felt about his mom’s newfound  secretiveness. Or why it was even necessary.

Besides, he didn’t have time to interrogate her. A honk sounded outside—again.

Patsy kissed him on the cheek and handed him his lunch in a brown paper sack.

“There’s no carbs in this, right?” Truman asked.

She side-eyed him. “What do you think? Celery, carrots, ham-and-cheese rollups, and a Honeycrisp  apple. You worry about carbs but have no problem wolfing down eight slices of bacon!”

“Thanks, Mom.” He snatched the paper-towel-wrapped packet of bacon he’d made earlier off the table. “Bacon doesn’t have carbs, or hardly any. Carbs are what make you fat.”

“Whatever.”

The bus horn sounded again.

Patsy slapped Truman’s ass. “Scoot!”

Truman hurried to the door. When he had it open, she called after him, “Love you, son.”

He waved over his shoulder and called back, “Love you more.”


When  he boarded the bus, there were whispers. There were snickers. Someone said, “Get her!” which caused an eruption of laughter as Truman headed for the back of the bus.

He was used to it. There was a time when he would have been devastated by the laughter and the remarks, but now? Just another part of the school day, he told himself. Truman knew it was important that they didn’t know they could get to him. So he took a little bow, left, then right. He forced himself to smile at the other kids, who gawked at him. “Please. No special ruckus for the likes of me.”

Once upon a time, he wouldn’t have dared say such a thing. He would have hurried to his seat, face burning and head bowed. That was before he knew the power of claiming your own identity, however different it was. That was before he stopped believing he was worthless because he wasn’t like everyone else. That was before he’d caught on to the lie that being different somehow made you less. Often it made the reverse true.

He headed toward a pair of empty seats near the back of the bus, knowing every eye was trained on him. For his first day of school, he’d paired black skinny jeans with a hot-pink-and-black polka-dot  button-down shirt—he’d raided Patsy’s closet for the blouse. Black Chuck Taylors  completed the ensemble. He thought the look had kind of an eighties vibe, back in the olden days when his mama was born. For Truman, today’s outfit was dressing down. For everyone else on the bus, well, he knew they were stupefied into silence by his ensemble. He couldn’t imagine why. He’d been dressing this way—a style he’d come to term gender-fuck—since freshman year, when the bullying and teasing had reached a tipping point, driving him to the literal edge. He’d almost jumped off the roof of the high school after a particularly humiliating and cruel prank.

What he’d learned that year was not to hide who he was but to claim it—to get right up in the faces of those who dared challenge him, in effect saying, “Fuck you, sister. This is who I am. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem, not mine.”

It took a while, and many days of daring, to come to school in thrift-store treasures that played with the idea of gender with a mélange of male and female options, a little makeup to highlight his handsome yet waifish appearance, and an attitude that one might be tempted to say he’d borrowed from someone like RuPaul. Fierce. When he began saying, with his outward appearance and attitude, that he was different, and that this difference was his right, the bullying and teasing continued but slowed dramatically. It was hard for someone to call him a “sissy,” a “fag,” or a “piss-willy” if he first claimed those terms for himself. It became difficult, if not impossible, for the bullies to challenge what they thought of as his effeminate ways if Truman himself not only didn’t hide them but celebrated them.

Of course, inside, Truman was always terrified he’d be pummeled, teased unmercifully, spit on, or worse, but he tried his best to never let that fear show. He discovered, after a long time of practice, that one could be quivering with fear on the inside while his outside could exude a calm radiance.
No one knew he was shaking in his boots if they couldn’t see it.

Though the bullying and teasing never quite came to the halt Truman dreamed of, it slowed increasingly over the past three years of Truman’s high school career. For this, he was grateful. Yet he always harbored a little anxiety that the front he projected would one day come tumbling down, things would go back to the way they once were, and he’d find himself again on his knees in the dark of his bedroom praying tearfully to God that the hurt would stop, if only for one single day. He’d spent too many nights in the past like that, even wishing his very identity away.

Just like Pinocchio, he’d once been desperate to be a “real” boy.

But Truman, through hard-won self-acceptance, realized he was just as real as any other boy… or girl.

For now all he had to do was stare out the window and wait for the bus to transport him to Summitville High. It was his final year, the year when seniors ruled the school. What would these nine or so months hold for him?

Truman couldn’t wait to jump the hurdle of this final year and get out. He knew that once he put Summitville behind him, with its small minds and judgments, he could really begin to live. He could be the person he was meant to be—somewhere with bright lights, skyscrapers, cosmopolitan drinks, and cosmopolitan people….

He took his gaze away from the view out the window, the sun-dappled foothills of the Appalachian Mountains , and opened the book he’d started a week ago—Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith . The book was fast becoming his bible; it deepened his faith that something bigger lay in wait for him beyond the tree-covered rises of this provincial valley.

Near the last stop before they got to the high school, Truman couldn’t prevent a grin from spreading across his face, because he spied his best friend waiting there beneath the shade of an old maple. Like Truman, Alicia Adams had endured her fair share of teasing over her school years. She’d tell you herself she was fat, black, and sassy, and if you didn’t like it, you needed to get over yourself, because that’s just the way God made her. Hey, if Ms. Oprah Winfrey  could claim those same attributes and be adored by the masses, well then, by God, so could she.

One day.

Like Truman, Alicia put up a brave front but had been tormented a lot—especially in elementary school—until one day a group of mean girls pushed her past her breaking point and she lashed out with fists, claws, and a brick. Alicia wasn’t proud of how she’d sent two of the mean girls to the emergency room, at least not in retrospect; but she was proud of how her actions, decidedly not compassionate or kind, had afforded her a measure of fear-based respect she used to her advantage from about the sixth grade onward.

She and Truman had become pals when she became his first defender and supporter. She knew what it was like to be different, and she celebrated Truman’s courage when he’d shown up one day at school in a “Sissies Rule” T-shirt and makeup. Her defense, and his gratitude, had forged a bond—one that allowed each to be vulnerable around the other. That was something neither could claim with almost anyone else.

A dark shadow crawled in front of the sun when Truman thought of Alicia’s brother, now playing basketball at Ohio State . Darrell. Truman closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of him, of the warmth of his eyes—and his arms. He’d thought they were in love. And, in his naïve way, he’d supposed Darrell would forgo a full-ride scholarship to stay in town and close to Truman. He knew it was horribly selfish to expect such a thing, but Truman read a lot of gay romance, and his thoughts were clouded by their easy visions of happy-ever-afters.

He forced his mind away from the image of Darrell, the two of them pressed close, their contrasts of skin color, height, and weight not mattering. He realized toward the end of that summer after Darrell’s senior year, he had no choice other than to let him go, to wish him well at school. He could still harbor the belief that one day Darrell would come back to him.

He’d gotten disabused of the notion, though, once Darrell was really gone to that metropolis of Columbus, Ohio, and a school with five times the population of Summitville. The fact that their love affair had ended all too quickly became easier to endure as a figure stepped out from behind Alicia. A figure that caused Truman to forget, if only for a moment, all about Darrell.

Wait. A. Minute.

Damn.

Who is that? Truman wondered.

The boy, young man really, was one Truman had never seen before. He’d know if he had! Good God, this one was unforgettable.

There was something about the guy that set Truman’s heart to racing, that erased every logical thought from Truman’s mind as all the blood in his body rushed south.

It wasn’t only the fact that he was gorgeous—which he was, with cropped black hair and a five o’clock shadow—but there was something about him that called to the nurturing side of Truman. 

Even at a glance and from this distance, there was something dark and brooding about him. It set him apart, making him both mysterious and alluring. For just a moment, everything around Truman silenced—the chatter and laughter of the other kids on the bus, the grumble of its engine, the whine of its brakes as it slowed to a stop, and the pneumatic whoosh of the doors opening.

Truman knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that these sounds should be there, but for one brief, shining moment, all that existed was the boy.

He was at least six feet tall, probably a couple of inches above that. Broad shoulders. Beefy. To use one of Patsy’s terms, he was “strapping.” Unlike Truman he dressed not to attract attention to himself. He wore only a pair of faded Levi’s , a plain white crewneck T-shirt that had seen many washings, and a pair of very basic black canvas tennis shoes. Slung over one shoulder was a battered and faded red backpack.

Mesmerized, Truman watched as he made his way to the bus and then disappeared from view for an instant as he boarded. Truman snapped out of his reverie as he realized Alicia was staring at him as she stood a few people back in line. She stuck her tongue out as their eyes met. Truman chuckled. And he went right back to searching for just one more glimpse of that face.

And then he was on the bus, passing close enough to Truman to touch. Truman swore his heart stopped. Their eyes met, and Truman was nearly bowled over by how crystalline blue they were, bluer than Truman’s own, with an icy paleness from which it was impossible to look away. The lashes fringing those eyes were as black as the hair on his head—which, by the way, contrasted wonderfully with the pale blue—and long enough to cause a twinge of jealousy and desire to flare up in Truman.
Truman swore he felt something pass between him and the boy in that smallest exchange of glances. Something charged. Truman actually felt the downy hair on his neck rise, tingling. He would be hard-pressed to say just what that something was, but he knew for certain that a kind of communication definitely took place.

For the fearful, teased boy who still lived somewhere inside Truman, there was a supposition that the good-looking boy met his glance because he was appalled by what he saw. Through those self-hating eyes, Truman would see a boy dressed all wrong, a boy with makeup who should be ashamed of himself. He wasn’t a real boy. Through that lens, Truman saw disgust.

And it made his blood run cold.

But the other—and ever-growing-even-stronger—part of Truman hoped that what had passed between them was recognition, a kind of kindred-souls thing. Maybe a little interest?

Dare he hope for attraction? Even lust?

Alicia plopped into the seat beside him with a sigh. She punched him, hard, in the bicep, which drew his reverie to a close. Frowning, Truman looked over at her and began rubbing at his upper arm.

“Ouch! That hurt!”

“Dude! Where were you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Honey, you were not on this bus. You were someplace far, far away. Over the rainbow, maybe?” Alicia snickered as she settled into the seat, spreading her stretch-pant-clad legs and crowding Truman. Some things never changed.

“Very funny.” Truman had a lingering thought, yearning, about the black-haired boy and had to fight the impulse to turn and look for him in the seats behind. “I was just thinking about the year ahead.”

“I know, right? Seniors. Can you believe it?” Alicia settled her stuff on her lap—her phone, a spiral-bound notebook, and one of those clear plastic organizers that seemed so old-school, which had an assortment of pens and pencils in it.

“It should be an interesting year,” Truman said and thought Especially if he’s in some of my classes. And then he chastised himself. Jesus, pull yourself together. Next you’re gonna be doodling his name in your notebook, right in the middle of a big red heart. Whatever his name was  …. Heathcliff? Gage? Hunter?

“Interesting?” Alicia made a huffing sound. “That’s a good word for it. There’s way too many days ahead of us until graduation, and we can finally break free from this shithole one-horse town.”

“And be the superstars we are meant to be?”

“Damn right.” Their heads canted toward each other as they laughed. “Who you got for homeroom?”

“Mr. Bernard! I am so grateful.” Dane Bernard, although old enough to be Truman’s dad—and could be, for all Truman knew—had come out almost simultaneously with Truman during Truman’s freshman year. That connection helped negate a thirtysome-year difference in their ages. They’d forged a special bond. Truman considered Mr. Bernard, and his new husband, Mr. Wolcott, friends as well as mentors and role models. He and Patsy had even been honored to attend their wedding at the beginning of last summer.

“Lucky,” Alicia said. “I’m stuck with some chick goes by the name of Ms. Waggle.”

Truman cocked his head. “Who dat?”

“I don’t know. She’s new. First job out of school from what I hear.”

“So that means go easy on her. Behave yourself,” Truman said, knowing what he was asking for was hopeless.

“Right. Sure thing.” Alicia snickered. “You know how easy I go on everyone.”

They sat, for once, in silence for the rest of the ride to Summitville High.

Truman didn’t know what Alicia was thinking about. For one, he supposed she was preoccupied with what kind of year it might turn out to be. Remarkable? Devastating? A year in which she might finally find herself a boyfriend, maybe? Would she pull good enough grades to get into a decent college, like her brother, with his basketball full-ride scholarship? Alicia’s family, like Truman’s, could never in a million years afford to send a kid through college, even one of the cheapest state schools, without help. It was reaching for the stars.

He supposed all or none of those things might be cycling through Alicia’s mind. Maybe she was simply thinking about what color to paint her nails. Or nothing at all.

As for Truman, his mind was filled with one thought.

That boy.

BUY


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Author David Dawson Answers 10 Silly Questions



Delighted to have fellow Dreamspinner Press author David Dawson on the blog today. He was a great sport about answering my rude questions....  


10 SILLY QUESTIONS WITH RICK R. REED


RR: If you could invite any famous person, dead or alive, for dinner, what would you eat?
DD: I would invite my local butcher Tom Newitt from Newitt’s of Thame and get him to do the cooking. What he can’t do with a sausage isn’t worth talking about… 

RR: Who do you think you are?
DD: That so depends on when you ask me. Today I’m inside the head of Dominic Delingpole, the protagonists of one of my books. He’s got a new mystery to solve, and I’m trying to work out what he’d do.

RR: What’s your problem?
DD: I'm not Rick R. Reed. (RR: Ha! Be careful what you wish for).

RR: If you could have one wish, would you give it to me?
DD: For you Rick, anything. (You charmer.)

RR: Where you at?
DD: Wherever you be.

RR: If you had to choose only one vice, what would it be?
DD: To have as many vices as I like.

RR: What’s your favorite brand of cereal?
DD: Quaker Porridge Oats. I look sweet and wholesome, and I’m so warming once I get inside you. (RR: Oh my! We're talking about cereal, right?)

RR: When you wake up in the morning, what celebrity do you most resemble?
DD: I’ve been told I look like Tom Hiddleston, but I prefer to think he looks like me.

RR: Do you know your ass from a hole in the ground? And if so, how do you tell the difference?
DD: So you’ve seen my ass?

RR: Do you have anything you’d like to plug?
DD: Now if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question…

Seriously, please read my latest novel For the Love of Luke. It’s primarily a sexy romance with a mystery running through it. I’m so happy with this book, and I shyly say I think it’s my best yet. So do quite a few readers, judging by the five star reviews it’s getting on Amazon.

Who is David Dawson?
David C Dawson writes contemporary thrillers with gay heroes in love at their core. His latest book For the Love of Luke is a romantic suspense about an American who falls in love with a British man in London.

His debut novel The Necessary Deaths won a bronze medal for Best Mystery & Suspense in the FAPA awards. Rainbow Reviews said it was “an exciting read with complex characters".

The second in the series, The Deadly Lies, was published last December.

David worked for the BBC as a journalist. He lives near Oxford in the UK, with his aging Triumph motorbike and two cats.

Website         
Twitter          

BLURB for FOR THE LOVE OF LUKE
A handsome naked man.
Unconscious on a bathroom floor.
He’s lost his memory, and someone’s out to kill him.
Who is the mysterious Luke?
British TV anchor and journalist Rupert Pendley-Evans doesn’t do long-term relationships. Nor does he do waifs and strays. But Luke's different. Luke's a talented American artist.
With a dark secret in his life.

BUY FOR THE LOVE OF LUKE

EXCERPT
“Evening, Mother,” Rupert called as he entered the large scullery off the main kitchen. “I’ve come to give you a hand with supper.”

Lady Cynthia Pendley-Evans peered around the open kitchen door into the scullery. She had a pair of reading glasses perched on the end of her nose. 

“No you haven’t,” she said. “You’re here because Luke told you we should have a little talk.”

She turned from the doorway and stood with her back to him at the large wooden table in the middle of the kitchen. “Although, now you’re here,” she said, without turning around, “you can scrub some potatoes for me. I’m making a potato salad to go with the gammon.”

Rupert could not remember the last time he had seen his mother cook. It was a pleasant surprise to see her in the kitchen. He unhooked a large pot from above the stove and carried it to the sink to fill with water.

“Don’t keep me in suspense,” he said. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Oh, darling, you are funny,” said his mother. “I want to make sure you’re going to carry on seeing Luke, of course.”

Rupert set the pan of water on the stove with a clatter and lit the gas. He turned and leaned against the worktop with his arms folded. “I have no idea. Does it bother you?”

Lady Pendley-Evans put down the large knife she was using to slice tomatoes and looked at him over her glasses.

“Stop being so defensive, darling,” she said. “I asked a perfectly simple question. He’s a charming young man. Your father and I would be very happy to see you two together—”

“Father would?” asked Rupert. “I can’t believe that for a second.”

“And why the devil not?” said a voice from the hallway. Rupert’s father appeared at the kitchen door, a bottle of gin in his hand.

“Ready for a snifter, old girl?” he asked Lady Pendley-Evans. He looked across to Rupert. “What are you drinking, my boy? Gin?”

“I’ll have a gin and tonic, thank you, Father,” replied Rupert. “Can I help with them?”

“No, no,” replied Lord Pendley-Evans. “You stay with your mother. And tell her why you think I’m such an old fart.”

“I didn’t say that,” protested Rupert.

“No, darling,” said his mother. “But we know that’s what you think of the pair of us.”

“Well,” said Rupert, “I have some reason to.” He pulled a bag of small earth-encrusted potatoes from the cupboard and tipped them into the sink. He began scrubbing fiercely with a brush to remove the soil. “You’ve made it very clear for years that neither of you approve of me being gay.”

“Don’t take it out on the potatoes,” said his mother. “They’ll have no skins left if you carry on like that.” She picked up her knife and resumed slicing the tomatoes. “And you’re being grossly unfair. Of course, we were rather shocked when you sprang it on us. But that’s fourteen years ago. Please bless us with a little intelligence to have thought about it since then.”

Rupert set down his scrubbing brush and turned to look at his mother. “Then why haven’t you said anything before?”

“The subject never arose,” replied Lady Pendley-Evans. “Whenever I’ve asked you about your life in London, you’ve told me very little. I learn more from the Daily Mail about your night life than I do from you.”

Rupert laughed. “No wonder you don’t approve of me, if you believe what you read in that rag.”
“Darling,” said his mother, “it’s not that I don’t approve of you—”

“Well, maybe a little,” interrupted his father. He entered the kitchen and set down a tray of drinks on the table.

“Don’t interrupt, Clarence dear,” said Lady Pendley-Evans. “It’s not helpful.” She turned back to Rupert. “I’m worried about you, Rupert darling. You go to all those dangerous places with your work. We see you on the television in Yemen or Iraq or somewhere equally terrifying. The next moment we read about you in the newspapers, flitting from one nightclub to another. Then once in a blue moon you come back here and spend the whole time being grumpy.”

She took the drink her husband offered her, and tasted it. “Heaven.”

Lady Pendley-Evans took off her glasses and looked at Rupert. “I just want to know when you’re going to settle down and be happy.”

“And we’d like to think,” added his father, “that this young chap might be the one to do it.”

Rupert could scarcely believe his ears. He accepted the tall glass his father handed him and drank from it. He was grateful Lord Pendley-Evans had been generous with the gin.

“When did you change your mind about me being gay?” asked Rupert. “Because I know damn well you hated ‘having a poofter for a son,’ as you so charmingly put it.”

“Yes, well,” said his father. He coughed loudly. “I suppose I’ve had a few years to think about everything—”

“It helped a lot when Roger told you he had a boyfriend,” added Lady Pendley-Evans.

“Roger?” said Rupert with incredulity. “Your school friend who was in the Guards? You never told me.”

“Well, you never asked.”

“Why on earth would I ask you if Roger was gay?”

“I thought maybe you chaps had a sixth sense about these things,” said his father. “Because I certainly didn’t. Mind you, he seems very settled with Jeremy. So it’s all for the best.”

 “And their wedding this spring was absolutely heavenly,” said Lady Pendley-Evans. “All those beautiful young men in uniform. I simply swooned.”

Rupert turned to his mother. “All right. How do you explain me away at All Saints Church these days? Are you still telling them I’m waiting for the right girl to come along?”

“Oh, don’t be so silly.” Lady Pendley-Evans put her glasses back on and resumed preparing the salad. “Reverend Whittaker left years ago. The Reverend Kenneth might be a little progressive for your father’s tastes, but I find him charming. And it’s so convenient that his partner is the organist and choirmaster.”

Rupert nearly dropped his glass. “The vicar of All Saints is gay?”

“I’m sure I’ve told you,” said his mother. But Rupert was certain she had not. “He’s so charming. And he’s marvelous with the flower committee. Anyway. You haven’t answered my question. Is Luke the one?”

Rupert was speechless. Partly because of everything he had just learned from his parents. But mainly because he was unsure of the answer to his mother’s question.

“I really don’t know, Mother,” he said at last. “We’ve known each other for such a short time—”
“That’s got nothing to do with it,” interrupted his father. “I knew with your mother the moment I laid eyes on her. As soon as I asked her to dance, she was the girl for me.”

“And I knew I wasn’t going to get any better than your father,” said Lady Pendley-Evans. “He was quite a catch that season. Luke seems to be a lovely young man. And he’s very smitten with you. Are you smitten with him?”

Rupert set down his glass and leaned back against the sink. He thought back over the last few days. He had never felt so happy in his life.

“I suppose I am,” he said. “But Luke’s got a lot of problems in his life.”

Lady Pendley-Evans crossed the kitchen to where Rupert stood. She put her arms around his waist and reached up to kiss him on his cheek. “My darling boy. We all have heaps of problems. Life’s like that. But they’re so much easier to face when you’re with someone who loves you. I think he could be very good for you.”

“Hey, hey,” said Rupert. But he could not help smiling. “Aren’t you rushing ahead just a bit? Let me take things at my pace. It’s been a very eventful week.”

“Of course, darling.” She patted his chest and looked up at him. Her face wore the same expression he remembered when she came into the nursery to say good night when he was a boy. “And when the time comes, Reverend Kenneth will be very happy to offer his blessing on you both.”

“Mother,” said Rupert. “Just….” He put his arms around her waist and hugged her. “Hold your horses, eh?” Rupert dropped his arms and wiped his eyes. “But thank you.”

He turned to his father. “Both of you. I wasn’t expecting to hear any of this tonight. And as for the vicar of All Saints—”

He was interrupted by a loud thumping on the front door.

“Who the devil’s that?” asked Lord Pendley-Evans. He put down his drink as the banging on the front door sounded again. “All right, all right, I’m coming as fast as I can.” He stomped off to the hallway, followed by Rupert.

Standing on the doorstep was Christian. He looked past Lord Pendley-Evans to Rupert. “Thank God I’ve found you. Where’s Luke?”

“What on earth are you doing here?” asked Rupert. “I brought Luke here to get him away from London. Just like you said. What’s happened?”


“It’s Pa,” replied Christian. “I think he’s tracked him down. He wants to kill him.”



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