Thursday, June 30, 2022

My Thriller, TOXIC, Just Released in Audiobook!

 

So thrilled to announce the release of my newest book newest version, an audiobook performed by the amazing Paul Will! Toxic is a chilling thriller that #1 New York Times bestselling crime and thriller author Gregg Olsen calls,

 "a smart, nuanced novel of dark and compelling relationships with sparks of wicked humor - an unmitigated triumph by a master of twisted suspense..." 

BUY

NineStar Press | Books2Read | Amazon | Audiobook


ABOUT THE BOOK


Connor Ryman thought he had it all—a successful career as a mystery novelist, a condo with stunning views of Seattle’s Lake Union, a supportive and long-term partner, Steve, and a loving daughter, Miranda, who was following in her father’s creative footsteps.

It all went bad when Steve left the family suddenly. Jilted and heartbroken, Connor begins to search for love online. So long off the market, he enlists his daughter’s help in crafting a dating profile.

His prayers are answered when Trey Goodall, smart and handsome, answers his ad. He’s witty, urbane, a wealthy attorney, and his sex appeal is off the charts. But he’s a liar, a monster under a pretty mask. Miranda sees through the red flags and senses something very wrong beneath the fa├žade.

Can she convince her father to save himself before it’s too late? Or will Trey, a master manipulator with a very tainted history, play upon Connor’s innocence to ensnare him in a web of deceit, intrigue, and, ultimately, murder?

Excerpt

Toxic
Rick R. Reed © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“I know who you are and I saw what you did.”

The voice on the phone was tinged with acid, yet came out a little shaky and short of breath.

Despite the fear and acrimony in the voice, Trey Goodall hoped that the caller, a man named Jimmy Dale, was making a feeble joke, a lame reference to an old black-and-white thriller from the ’60s. Trey wasn’t ready for his game to be over.

“That’s funny, Jim. Did you watch that movie when you were a kid too? Back in the days of black-and-white TVs and Chiller Theater?”

“I’m not trying to be funny, Trey.” Jimmy halted, obviously frustrated. A slow grin creased Trey’s features. Jimmy sucked in air, obviously holding a sob in check.

There’s something delicious about when they cry.

Despite the delight in Jimmy’s pain, Trey feared it might come to this. This one, he knew, was too smart to stay in the dark for long. Sooner or later, Trey always got found out. He had a trail of broken hearts—and shattered bank accounts—behind him to prove it. Still, later was better because he could usually walk away with a little something in his pocket.

“Then what are you trying to be, dollface?”

“Oh, please save the terms of endearment—”

Trey interrupted. “Another movie reference! Bravo. When do I get a chance to play?”

His question, predictably, was answered with silence on the other end. Trey pressed the phone closer to his ear, listening for further telltale signs of tears, of trauma, of despair. Not that his aim was to instigate any of those emotions, but Trey was like a dog—any attention was good.

Finally, Jimmy spoke. “I don’t want to see or hear from you ever again.”

“Aw, you’re breaking my heart here.” Trey threw open the door to his motel room on Aurora Avenue. Outside, in the waning purple-gray light of dusk, a couple fought, seemingly to the death, in the litter-strewn parking lot. The woman had bleached blonde hair, a handful of which her companion had clutched in one hand. She wore an old flannel shirt, the sleeves cut off. It had come open and her dirty bra showed. The guy was a brute, big and hairy, and obviously had never learned how to treat a lady.

A kid of about eighteen, at most, sat on the curb in front of a parked rusted-out SUV. He was wearing a hoodie, ripped jeans, and a pair of work boots. His head was shaved and this, combined with his whitish pallor and skin-and-bones physique, made him look like a concentration camp survivor. A rheumy, bloodshot gaze moved dully over to Trey. The kid made a lame attempt to hide the meth pipe in his hand.

Trey slammed the door. He deserved better than this sordid dump. He should have been living in a luxury condo downtown overlooking Puget Sound, or maybe a house on Bainbridge Island with expansive mountain and water views.

Instead, here he was on Seattle’s Aurora Avenue, in one of a cluster of rundown motels where the clientele consisted of addicts, prostitutes, and those seeking to party with a capital T in one of the rooms.

He didn’t deserve enduring the chance of bedbugs or crabs. He didn’t like living amid cigarette-burned carpets and mold and hair decorating the bathroom fixtures.

“Stop.” Jimmy sucked in some more air. The guy’s gonna need an asthma inhaler soon. But Trey supposed he was trying to gain a measure of control. Jimmy was wounded, and of course he wanted to hide it, but he couldn’t. “Your heart can’t be breaking because you haven’t got one to break.”

“Ouch.” Trey chuckled, as though to demonstrate the insult was simply water off a duck’s back.

But it wasn’t.

Trey would never let on, but the reference cut like a knife to his very real heart, which was a broken thing.

In his mind, a vision arose. Trey chased it away as quickly as it appeared—but there it was: a vision of his mom, back in Trey’s old hometown of Wellsville, Ohio, burning him with her cigarette and laughing as Trey tried to be brave, tried desperately not to scream or wince because he knew if he showed his pain, his fear, it would only make things worse. Now it was his turn to try to buck up, be brave. “Things not working out the way you expected?”

There was no mirth in Jimmy’s laugh. Trey wanted to ask which was better—bitter laughter or abject tears. But he kept quiet and waited. He’d been through this before. Caught. Discarded.

There was always another sucker in the wings.

“What I expected…” Jimmy trailed off and started again. “What I expected was maybe a relationship. I’m forty-seven years old, Trey. I’ve spent my whole life pushing love away so I could build my career. Now I have a thriving law practice and make more money than I really know what to do with. But you know all that. You knew all that, I figure, before we even met, when you were researching me. I know you don’t have it in you to feel compassion or empathy, but all the money and success in the world doesn’t change the fact that I come home every night to a professionally decorated condominium in the clouds. Alone. Wishing I’d spent more time seeking love instead of that almighty dollar.” He drew in a breath that sounded like a shudder. “Ah, what do you care? You wanted my money. You’re not alone, but you were greedier and sneakier than most.”

Jimmy stopped and Trey listened again for some sign. Would it be worth it to try to save things? Maybe woo Jimmy with the old lines—this was all a misunderstanding. I really love you, man. I started off with bad intentions, but then you caught me. Can we start over? Sometimes crap like that worked. Trey was smart enough, and experienced enough, to know it wouldn’t here.

It’s too late, baby.

“Was any of it true?” Jimmy wondered.

Trey was getting bored. He had no use for this man with whom he’d shared so many recent days and nights. He was worthless now that he’d exposed Trey for who he really was. What Jimmy didn’t know, and didn’t need to know, was that what he’d discovered about Trey was only the tip of the iceberg.

It’s time to move on.

Trey glanced in the mirror over the bathroom sink and nodded approvingly. He still had it. Pushing fifty, but looking at least a decade younger, he was gorgeous. Black wavy hair, ice-blue eyes, full lips, a body taut and packed with muscle. He could always dazzle, and all the magic hadn’t escaped.

There’d be someone else.

And with that someone else, he might hit that elusive jackpot.

The laptop was already open on the desk. And there were eleven new messages.

For once, Trey might as well tell the truth. “No, kid. None of it was true. You’re pathetic. Weak. I feel sorry for you, more than anything else.” He said the words casually, as though they were discussing the weather or how the Seahawks were faring this season. “You’re a fool. A fool for love.” Trey chuckled.

And that broke Jimmy. He began to sob harder now, the grief confirmed and kicking its way to the surface.

Trey listened as the sobbing grew in volume and agony. This is a drag, a bore. He stared longingly at the door, wishing this would be over. How long did he have to listen anyway? Just to be polite? He cut to the quick. “You’ve been played,” Trey said softly. “Get over it.”

He hung up. The computer’s glow reminded him that it was time to find someone else. The right one. A chime alerted him he had yet another message.

But there would be time to attend to that in the morning. Time also for reading. He glanced down at his nightstand. A mystery novel, Cookie Cutter by Alfred Knox, lay there in its mass market paperback edition. It had a stark white cover with only an illustration of a heart-shaped cookie cutter which dripped blood into the crimson title. Below it, a stack of old magazines with articles about Knox, who lived only a few miles south.

Right now, though, Trey needed a little oblivion. He crossed the room and opened the door. The kid with the meth pipe still sat out there on the curb. He didn’t even bother to hide his glass pipe now.

Trey cast his most winning smile. “Wanna come inside?” He opened the door wider, stepping back and confidently waiting as the kid stood.

BUY

NineStar Press | Books2Read | Amazon | Audiobook



Wednesday, June 29, 2022

New and Notable: PARASITE by Ridley Harker

 

Genre: Horror, LGBTQIA+, Action/adventure, coming-of-age, dark, humorous

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About the Book

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ives is used to being unlucky. His only friend has just moved away to college, his parents are alcoholics, and he’s relentlessly bullied by the town psychopath. All that begins to change with the arrival of a handsome but quirky new student, Lucien, who wants to be more than friends.

Their newfound happiness doesn’t last, however, as a strange new illness strikes the island. Fishermen go missing, and the villagers left behind aren’t themselves anymore. When Lucien is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak, can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and save Eldrick Isle? Will he even want to?

Excerpt

Parasite
Ridley Harker © 2022
All Rights Reserved

0054 hours

September 2, 2015

Gulf of Maine

When some kooky mainlanders offered to pay extra for a midnight ferry, Bill Jamison had jumped at the chance to pay off his bar tab. Now he regretted it. The middle-aged fisherman leaned morosely against the starboard rail while beside him his business partner, Jim Kendrick, fought the uphill battle of smoking a pipe during a storm. The rain pounded against the deck in a dull roar and, judging from Kendrick’s cursing, the pipe had gone out once again.

Not for the first time, Jamison reluctantly noted that his partner was getting on in years. Kendrick’s coat hung from his wizened frame like a cloak. His mysterious weight loss had made them both nervous, not that either one said anything. For an Eldrick Islander, the prospect of cancer was like foul weather; something to be endured without complaint.

“Goddamned son-of-a—” Kendrick upended the pipe and a sodden wad of tobacco fell onto the deck. He kicked it away, smearing it across the boards.

“We shouldn’t have gone out tonight,” Jamison said.

“Horse shit,” Kendrick huffed. “We’ve sailed through worse than this.”

“That ain’t what I meant.” Jamison jerked his head toward the mainlander lurking near the bow of the ferry.

Tall and blond, his passenger’s washed-out appearance resembled a photograph, the kind found in a neglected attic of subjects long deceased. Judging by the young man’s pinched frown, Jamison assumed that Silas Spencer was either a lawyer or an undertaker. He shuddered; Jamison hated lawyers, having seen enough of their kind during his divorce. Blood-sucking monsters the lot of them, in his opinion, but he had never been afraid of them, not even when the wretches helped his ex-wife take half of everything he’d owned.

But he was afraid of this one.

It was the eyes. He had seen eyes like that once before, years ago. Back when he had spent much of his days drunk. Once, while Kendrick cleaned their catch, Jamison had gone too far and drunk too much. His legs had betrayed him, and he had tumbled over the side. He remembered tasting blood. A tangy mix of iron and salt that burned his lungs when he tried to inhale. His eyes had stung. He had floundered in the icy water. He, a man who had learned to swim before he could walk, was drowning.

Then the moment of panic was gone, and instinct had set in. Jamison’s powerful legs had propelled him upwards, his arms outstretched toward the boat. He had nearly reached it before the shadow was beneath him. It came at him like a torpedo, almost too fast for his gin-addled brain to comprehend. A massive, prehistoric monster armed with muscled jaws and sandpaper skin. The soulless black pits of its eyes rolled back in its head, and its gaping maw expanded to reveal rows upon row of serrated teeth.

In the split second before the attack, Jamison had stared into the darkness of oblivion—then he had been shaken like a terrier on a rat. The shark had separated the flesh from his leg and sentenced him to a month in a mainland hospital whose bill he was still struggling to pay off. The very existence of such a creature disproved the notion that humans sat at the top of the food chain.

Safely back in the present, Jamison shuddered and remembered to breathe. He rubbed at his forearms, warm beneath his thick woolen sweater. He had been lucky. If he had drunk a little more gin, perhaps he wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to sink his knife deep into the shark’s eye socket. Now only scars and nightmares remained, and he hadn’t touched the bottle since. He liked to say that his rock bottom was on the ocean floor.

Jamison recognized something of that great white shark in Spencer. The man’s flat, grey eyes made his skin crawl. He glowered at Spencer’s broad-shouldered back, but Spencer didn’t seem to notice or care. His attention lay on the swirling mists beyond the ferry’s bow. Typical yuppie mainlander. Pretentious bastard, Jamison thought.

“They’re up to something,” he said aloud, glancing toward the cabin where the other one had sequestered himself.

Kendrick only snorted. “They’re mainlanders. They’ll spend a few weeks on the Isle, get bored, and then go back to whatever hell hole they came from. You know the type. We get a few every other year or so.”

Jamison did know the type. Unlike Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard, Eldrick Isle never attracted the summer crowd. There was nothing to offer. The once booming fishing industry had been usurped by commercial trawlers decades ago, forcing the neighboring isles to turn to seaweed farming instead. Eldrick, however, chose to bow its head and soldier on, clinging to the memory of its glory days. Billboards advertised a hotel that had long since shuttered its doors. The lone diner had a Visitor’s Special that no one ever ordered. The pier greeting the newcomers reeked of dead fish, the ever-present stench emanating from the dozen or so rusted fishing boats docked in the harbor.

Then there was the island itself: Eldrick’s shores were steep, rocky cliffs, with edges sharp and jagged like broken teeth. The surf stirred up debris and rotting vegetation, littering the island’s few beaches with trash from the abandoned canning factory on the island’s east side. Even the hottest days of summer were damp and chilly. Mist obscured the frigid waters. It crept onto the island, soaking through the sturdiest of coats. The few vacationers that showed up in August inevitably took one look at the dying town and turned around to book their return ticket.

Rain splattered against Jamison’s hood, echoing in his ears. Kendrick tried his pipe again to no avail. The storm lulled enough that the sound of retching was audible from within the depths of the cabin. Rasping coughs followed by the wet splatter of vomit. The downpour returned with a roar. It slipped past Jamison’s hood, soaking his neck. His shiver had nothing to do with the cold.

Kendrick abandoned his pipe and frowned, his rheumy eyes searching Jamison’s face. Jamison cleared his throat, striving to be heard over the rain and yet not loud enough for Spencer to hear. “Something’s wrong,” he shouted into Kendrick’s ear. “We were barely on the water before the kid got sick—”

“Billy, you been drinking again?” Kendrick asked, clasping Jamison’s shoulder with gnarled fingers. “When’d you get so goddamned superstitious?”

“No, I haven’t been fucking drinking! I’m only saying that this whole thing feels wrong; if one of my brothers were puking like that, I’d at least go check on him. I think the kid’s got something bad—what if it’s contagious?”

“What, like ee-bolah?” Kendrick asked, with a sharp look toward the ferry’s cabin. “Naw, it couldn’t be…”

“You checked on him?”

“No.”

“Well, someone ought to,” Jamison said.

“You do it,” Kendrick said dubiously. “Last time, I slipped in it and damn near broke my back.”

“Go check it out. If he’s only seasick then I’ll clean it up myself, but I’m telling you, something’s very wrong with that kid.”

“Christ, Billy! Nag anymore and you’re gonna sound like my wife.” Kendrick gave him a shove and then marched across the deck toward the cabin. Jamison caught movement in the corner of his eye and found Spencer watching them, his back against the railing. Their eyes met, and all of a sudden Jamison couldn’t hear the storm. There was nothing but the blood pounding in his ears. One corner of Spencer’s thin mouth twitched upward into a razor’s edge of a smirk. Jamison’s skin crawled. He wrenched his eyes away.

“Jim, wait!” Jamison shouted over the rain, but Kendrick had already knocked on the cabin door. The old sailor reached for the handle, his calloused fingers closing in on the doorknob. Jamison sucked in his breath.

Kendrick half turned around, his shoulders squared and his lips pursed, eyes narrowed beneath his bushy white brows. His hand was still on the cabin door. “Jesus Christ, Billy, what now?” he demanded. “What in the hell’s wrong with you, you crazy son of a bitch? You’re shaking like a virgin on—” He paused and glanced down. Jamison didn’t know why until Kendrick tried to take a step back. His boot remained glued to the floor.

Kendrick shoved at the door and yanked at his shoe. He stumbled as it came loose, trailing a viscous black gel behind it. More of the substance pooled out from underneath the cabin door. Lightning flashed, and a rainbow sheen coated the surface of the muck. The door creaked open.

Before Jamison shouted in warning, something darted out from the gloom. Thick and ropy, like a bundle of rotten vines, it hit Kendrick’s wrist with a wet slap, latching onto his bare skin. Kendrick sputtered, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open in a perfect caricature of surprise—then another tentacled limb emerged and shoved itself down his gullet. Like a fish on a hook, he was yanked into the cabin.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Ridley Harker is an up-and-coming horror author who delights in all things gay and spooky. While past careers have included reptile keeping at a zoo and EMT work at a casino, writing is his true passion. His favorite books are those with enemies to lovers, small town settings, and great villains. He currently lives in the Middle of Nowhere with his two dogs, a grumpy old snake, and a host of pet tarantulas.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Patreon

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Friday, June 24, 2022

BLINK Is Now Out in Audiobook


I'm proud to announce that, in addition to paperback and ebook, one of my most autobiographical works in now available in audiobook.

When I was listening to this new version of Blink, it took me down memory lane—right back to my twenties and the 1980s. 

Youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! I was 23 years old in 1981, when the first part of the book takes place. I was big in denial of my gay self. So big, in fact, that I was engaged to be married to my (female) college sweetheart. A large part of the first section of the book deals with two young men being attracted to one another on one of Chicago’s L trains.

Both of them had issues. The character modeled after me, Andy, had more issues that Carlos, the character Andy lusts after, to his great shame. But even Carlos, out at the time, but still not so proud, struggles a bit with his sexuality, which is evident from this little taste from Blink, taken from Chapter 2 and written from Carlos’ point of view.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Life can change in the blink of an eye.  

That's a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago "L" to work every morning. Andy's life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’ dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.  

Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone, and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’ gaze on the "L" train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance.  

If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of 30 years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever....

EXCERPT
The guy obviously has a thing for me. I’ve caught him staring now a couple of times and, hey, I’m flattered. He’s cute. No, maybe that’s not a strong enough word. He’s handsome, with green eyes and dark wavy hair that clues me into some sort of Mediterranean heritage. Italian maybe? Greek?

Whatever. Maybe the word I’m looking for is hot.

I can imagine kissing him and the feel of his dark, bushy mustache against mine.

I don’t ride the train to meet men. I don’t do much to meet men, period, to be perfectly honest. I ride the train in the mornings simply to get to St. Philomena elementary school on the west side, where I teach fourth grade.

I’m okay with being gay. I wasn’t always, hence my stint in the seminary where I studied to be a priest. I learned pretty quickly, by the grace of god, and the hands and mouth of a fellow seminarian, that the priesthood was not work I was cut out for. Not if I wanted to live my life honestly, anyway.

So I left. I had already gotten my teaching degree, concurrent with my seminarian studies, so the job at St. Phil’s, low-paying as it was, was a natural fit.

But I digress. I’m trying to sort out my feelings for this sweetheart on the train. I know he’s gay too. I know he’s attracted. But I also know that nothing will ever come of it.

Why? Because I can see that, when our eyes meet, he’s filled with shame and guilt. I recognize his remorse because I cloaked myself in that dark, heavy fabric myself for many years.

And maybe still do, a little, to this day. The Church teaches us that same-sex feelings are to be avoided. They are not of our natural order. We should turn our sights away from our own sex and devote them instead to loving and pleasing the Lord.

Yeah, good luck with that.

The Lord created that cute guy that gives me the eye on the train, the one I feel this probably misplaced connection with. What is it about him that makes me think of him all the time? Why do I hope he’ll be in my train car every time I step on to it in the morning, even though most times he’s not? Why do I try and quickly scan the windows of the train as it rumbles into the station for a glimpse of him?

Is it just because he’s cute?

There are cute men, hunks, whatever, all around. I occasionally venture out to the intersection of Grand Avenue and Clark to the New Flight bar for happy hour and bring one of them home. Or I head up farther north to the Loading Zone on Oak, where I can watch free porn in the back or dance up front. Somebody usually brings me home.

I never make any lasting connections. I don’t even know if want to. Shame lingers on me like the scent of cigarette smoke after leaving those places.

But there’s something about the guy on the train. He tugs at my heart as well as my loins. Even from the brief glances we exchange, he makes me think there’s the possibility of more than just sex. He makes me think, for the first time in my young life, that maybe I could love another man.

And that terrifies me.

Read more of Blink to see where this flirtation on the train takes these two—does it take them to love? And how long does it take for them to get there?

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Amazon Kindle
JMS Books

Monday, June 20, 2022

COMING SOON: Seaspray--Escape from Domestic Violence Meets the Twilight Zone

 


ABOUT THE BOOK


Winslow Birkel is a sweet young man in his first relationship. But his boyfriend, the charming and fiery Chad Loveless, has become increasingly abusive to the point where Winslow fears for his life.

Everything changes in a single night when Winslow, fleeing yet another epic fight, goes out to a local bar and finds a sympathetic ear in a new friend, Darryn Maxwell. But when he comes home, Chad’s waiting. He’s got it in for Winslow, whom he wrongly accuses of being unfaithful.

The stormy night sends Winslow off on a journey to escape. The last thing he recalls is skidding off the road and into the river. When he awakens, he’s mysteriously in the charming seaside town of Seaspray, where people are warm and welcoming, yet their appearances and disappearances are all too inexplicable.

Back home, Darryn wonders what’s happened to the new guy he met during his first outing to the local gay bar, the Q. Darryn knows Winslow’s been abused, but he also feels he’s quickly fallen in love with Winslow.

Can Winslow and Darryn decipher their respective mysteries? Is it possible for them to reunite? Is Chad still lurking and plotting to make sure Winslow never loves anyone else? The answers to these questions await you in Seaspray, where you may, or may not, ever leave.



Will be available in both ebook and paperback with audiobook to follow!

Excerpt

Seaspray
Rick R. Reed © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Winslow


I opened my eyes to a world of blue and green. An eel, long with zebra stripes, swam by, undulating. A school of goldfish with Margaret Keane eyes and puckered lips circled, putting me in the eye of a surreal hurricane. A flick of their tails and they swam off as one.

The bubbles floated up, pouring from my mouth and nostrils.

My lungs weren’t tight. There was no desperate need to breathe, no panic. Mentally, I went back and forth—remain underwater, watching the play of light and shadow and the undulating flora in its rainbow of neon colors, or kick and rise to the surface.

But what was above, beyond the water, was a mystery.

The threat of certain death caused me to ascend toward the light shimmering on the water’s surface.

I broke through, sucking sweet, cold air into my lungs. I smiled, treading water.

I was not afraid.

For the first time in so long—I. Was. Not. Afraid.

I swirled in the gentle waves, which were as warm as a comforting bath, despite the chill in the air. White birds, gulls perhaps, pinwheeled above me in a leaden sky, the color of pewter. All across the water’s surface, strands of mist lay. The mist extended toward a rocky shoreline, dotted here and there with driftwood.

Cliffs rose up, chalky white at the edge of the beach. At the top, stands of pine towered over the sea, sentinels. Tree-covered hills, in shades of deep emerald, reached to touch the leaden sky. The top ones were shrouded in mist.

Where was I?

I stretched out in the water, part of me unwilling to leave, but following an instinct for self-preservation, I swam slowly to the shore. It felt like I was far from it, maybe even by as much as a mile, yet I covered the distance in mere minutes.

I pulled myself onto the beach, breathing harder but not gasping, and lay among the pebbles. Oddly, it was as comfortable as my grandma’s feather bed once was.

I remained there for a while, staring up at the sky, where the charcoal clouds were beginning to be burned away by the sun. As the gray vanished, it was replaced with patches of blue.

I could lie here all day, resting.

And then I tensed. A memory floated into consciousness, making me recall a horrible night. When was it? Paradoxically, the memory could have been years or only minutes ago.

My name is Winslow Birkel, and this is one of the things memory is forcing me to confront:

»

I sank into the driver’s seat of my beat-up Nissan Versa. At the little riverfront park, I marked the slow progress of a river barge cutting through the dark water. Its lights, reflected on the water’s shifting black surface, were the picture of loneliness.

I could identify with loneliness. Separation. Isolation. These days, they were my only companions.

I also could identify with fanciful notions and, in my mind’s eye, realized how the reflections of the barge’s lights on the dark water, golden, appeared to be traveling upward. If I looked at them just the right way, I could visualize them as shimmering fountains contrasted against a black background. How I longed to enter a world of golden fountains casting off the darkness.

Even though now, on this beach, I felt totally free of pain as though someone had dosed me with morphine, the memory of pain in my ribs was there. I imagined the intensity of the hurt when I dared to draw in a deep breath.

Like a doctor in a film, I visualized the bruise on my lower back above where my kidneys were. I could still feel the dull, unrelenting throb. The red marks in the shape of fists darkened to purple, a malevolent blooming.

Yet even with the bursts of nauseating pain, what hurt the most wasn’t physical.

I knew I’d fled the house I’d once occupied—I’d never call it a home because home meant warmth, security, stability, and most of all, safety.

I’d dashed out, looking over my shoulder at a menacing figure standing in the open front doorway of our house, fists clenched. Chad Loveless, my partner—I’d never call him my beloved, or lover, or even friend, not ever again—glared.

What had it been this time? Oh yeah, I’d broken his favorite coffee mug, the one with a German shepherd cartoon figure on a black background, as I was washing dishes. The mug had been slippery in my sudsy hands, and it had dropped. I’d gasped as it shattered on the linoleum kitchen floor, the dread and terror way out of proportion, rising immediately.

And so did Chad. He hurried into the kitchen from his recliner in the front room and forced me to the floor by the back of my neck.

The most menacing thing about this man I’d thrown my lot in with (love no longer entered the equation) was—and this would be surprising to an outsider—his smile. The smile never wavered, not when Chad was berating me for some real or imagined fault, nor when a fist connected with a soft spot on my body—rarely my face—it was our little secret, hidden by the baggy jeans and sweatshirts I favored.

He’d smile and smile and smile, as though what he was delivering was not pain and casual cruelty, but joy.

Joy had not had a place in our house for such a long time. Back then I didn’t think I’d know if I’d recognize the emotion if it turned up at the front door wearing a ribbon.

»

Enough. Whether the memory was recent or long ago, I had a strange reassurance that it wouldn’t come back. It wasn’t a threat.

Was Chad Loveless someone I’d made up? Or was this monster real? A part of my history? I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t be sure of a lot of things.

I got to my feet. Energy coursed into my limbs as I began to make my way up the shoreline to a path leading through the cliffs, up to where the pine trees towered.

Someone had been watching me from above. A dark figure, a man, stoop-shouldered, lingered at the cliff’s edge. I didn’t fear he was about to jump.

I felt as though he were about to welcome me.

But to what? To where?

I waved. He waved back as I continued my ascent up the side of the cliff.

When I got to the top, a bit out of breath, he waited. What was behind him? It was hard to say because everything was shrouded in fog, so only dim geometric shapes appeared, along with silhouettes of pines.

“Morning, son.”

I eyed him. His face was wizened, the crags and clefts as sharp as those of the stone cliffs I’d just ascended. Yet, there was a clarity and intensity to his pale-blue eyes that was arresting and mesmerizing.

“Good morning.” The greeting tumbled from my lips, a little tentative, barely above a whisper. I paused to glance over my shoulder at the vast expanse of ocean behind me. More clouds had departed, and the sun peeked through what remained, dazzling, casting diamonds on the water.

When I turned back, the old man was also gazing out to sea. There was something wistful in his stare. I wondered if he’d been a sailor or a fisherman—someone with close ties to the water, anyway. He wore a navy cardigan and baggy khakis, a pair of battered hiking boots. His hair and beard were thick and silver. He reminded me of Ernest Hemingway. Here I was, with the old man…and the sea. I chuckled.

“Something funny?”

I closed my eyes for a moment, thinking. Should I simply tell him the truth? There was no reason not to, crazy as it might make me sound.

“No, nothing really funny. It’s just that, um—” I rubbed my toe in the pebbly earth at my feet. “It’s just that, well, I don’t know where I am.”

This certainly wasn’t New Hope, the little town in the foothills of the Appalachians where I’d grown up. The closest body of water to us back there was the brown Ohio River that snaked through the town. I didn’t even know which ocean this was.

And I certainly had no idea how I’d gotten here.

The man smiled and I saw kindness and a hint of youth in his features, maybe a dash of mischief in his eyes. “Why, you’re in Seaspray, son.”

“What ocean is this, then?” I was afraid I sounded like a lunatic. “Where is Seaspray?”

He reached out and laid a hand on my shoulder. The touch felt warm, as though he were transferring a golden light into me. “Where’s Seaspray? It’s here. Just here.” He pulled away and turned.

He walked off, vanishing into the fog.

I pinched myself to determine if I were dreaming.

I wasn’t.


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Audiobook Alert: PERILS OF INTIMACY Is On Its Way!


In #audiobook news, I’m thrilled to announce the talented David Allen Vargo will perform the audiobook  edition of my novel about love’s triumph over #addiction, THE PERILS OF INTIMACY.

Look for an #autumn release.  

#ownvoices #lgbtqia #loveislove 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Jimmy and Mark make an adorable couple. Jimmy’s kindness (and clean-cut cuteness) radiates out of him like light. Mark, although a bit older, complements Jimmy with his humor and his openness to love.
But between them, a dark secret lurks, one that has the power to destroy.
See, when Mark believes he’s meeting Jimmy for the first time in the diner where he works, he’s wrong.
Mark has no recollection of their original encounter because the wholesome Jimmy of today couldn’t be more different than he was two years ago. Back then, Jimmy sported multiple piercings, had long bleached dreadlocks, facial hair, and was painfully skinny. And he was a meth addict. The drug transformed him into a different person—a lying, conniving thief who robbed Mark blind during their one-night stand.
Mark doesn’t associate the memory of a hookup gone horribly wrong with this fresh-faced, smiling twenty-something… but Jimmy knows. As they begin a dance of love and attraction, will Jimmy be brave enough to reveal the truth? And if he does, will Mark be able to forgive him? Can he see Jimmy for the man he is now and not the addict he was? The answers will depend on whether true love holds enough light to shine through the darkness of past mistakes.

BUY

Nine Star Press eBook

EXCERPT
I watch from the corner of my eye as Cinnamon Roll, as I’ve dubbed him, downs his low-carb breakfast. How someone can eat poached eggs without any toast is beyond me, but it takes all kinds.
“You got a thing for him or what?” Matilda Blake, the other server on duty, whispers to me. She pauses just behind me with three plates balanced on two arms. I smell pancakes, bacon, and the sage aroma of sausage.
I turn a little to grin. “What?”
“Ah, don’t play innocent with me, Mister. I could see the lust in your eyes from fifty paces.”
I shrug. “Guilty. Maybe. A little.”
She laughs, and it’s a sound like a bell tinkling. Matilda doesn’t even reach five feet and probably doesn’t top ninety pounds, but she’s a workhorse like you wouldn’t believe. She has short, spiked blonde hair and numerous tattoos. On the weekends, she plays in an all-girl metal band called Two Spirit. And in my head, I call her Tinker Bell, because that’s who she looks like to me. She takes off to serve her customers, but not without prompting me to “Go over and talk to him.”
I busy myself filling ketchup bottles and the salt and pepper shakers I’ve removed from empty tables, but I keep an eye on Cinnamon Roll. His food is gone and the newspaper’s been abandoned and he’s staring off into space. I shudder because I wonder if he’s recognized me and is thinking about our last encounter, a little over two years ago, at his place on Dexter Avenue.
But no, that couldn’t be possible, could it? I’m a different person now, inside and out. Back then I was twenty, twenty-five pounds lighter than my current one hundred and sixty-five. I had a septum piercing like Ferdinand the Bull. My hair, which is now cut high and tight and is reddish brown, was long back then, bleached blond, dirty, and tangled up in dreadlocks that reached down almost to my waist. My skin had, I’m sure, a pasty and unhealthy pallor.
That person doesn’t even exist anymore, and even though it’s only been two years, I look completely different today. He’s probably just thinking about his day or something.
Right?
I walk over to his table, a little nervous that he’d come to and look at me with an accusing glare. There’d be a scene. And maybe I’d end up getting fired or something. Thinking back to what I did to him, I deserve it.
But when I approach his table, all he does is smile. And that smile melts my heart. It did back then too. Just not enough to keep me from my desperate and dark ways.
“You need anything else?”
He looks down at his paper and back up at me. A blush rises to his cheeks, and I gotta say it—there’s nothing more adorable than this face staring up at me right now.

BUY

Nine Star Press eBook

Amazon eBook

Amazon Paperback


Tuesday, May 31, 2022

My Next Novel, SEASPRAY is Coming Soon!

 


I just got back the final proof for my next #book, SEASPRAY, a magical realism take on surviving domestic abuse. It should be out in a couple of months.

My editor had this to say (and from her mouth to God's ear):

"The more I went back through the story this morning, the more I imagined this being a huge hit. I just love it and I'm looking forward to seeing how well-received it is."


ABOUT THE BOOK

Winslow Birkel is a sweet young man in his first relationship. But his boyfriend, the charming and fiery Chad Loveless, has become increasingly abusive to the point where Winslow fears for his life.

Everything changes in a single night when Winslow, fleeing yet another epic fight, goes out to a local bar and finds a sympathetic ear in a new friend, Darryn Maxwell. But when he comes home, Chad’s waiting. He’s got it in for Winslow, whom he wrongly accuses of being unfaithful. 

The stormy night sends Winslow off on a journey to escape. The last thing he recalls is skidding off the road and into the river. When he awakens, he’s mysteriously in the charming seaside town of Seaspray, where people are warm and welcoming, yet their appearances and disappearances are all too inexplicable.

Back home, Darryn wonders what’s happened to the new guy he met during his first outing to the local gay bar, the Q. Darryn knows Winslow’s been abused, but he also feels he’s quickly fallen in love with Winslow.

Can Winslow and Darryn decipher their respective mysteries? Is it possible for them to reunite? Is Chad still lurking and plotting to make sure Winslow never loves anyone else? The answers to these questions await you in Seaspray, where you may, or may not, ever leave. 


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Life Changes in the BLINK of an Eye


When I go back and re-read portions of Blink, my memoirish (I admit it!) gay love story, it takes me down memory lane—and back to my twenties. 

Youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! I was 23 years old in 1981, when the first part of the book takes place and I was big in denial of my gay self. So big, in fact, that I was engaged to be married to my (female) college sweetheart. A large part of the first section of the book deals with two young men being attracted to one another on one of Chicago’s L trains.

Both of them had issues. The character modeled after me, Andy, had more issues that Carlos, the character Andy lusts after, to his great shame. But even Carlos, out at the time, but still not so proud, struggles a bit with his sexuality, which is evident from this little taste from Blink, taken from Chapter 2 and written from Carlos’ point of view.

ABOUT THE BOOK
Life can change in the blink of an eye.

That's a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago 'L' to work every morning. Andy's life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’s dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.

Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’s gaze on the 'L' train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance.

If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of thirty years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever ...

EXCERPT
The guy obviously has a thing for me. I’ve caught him staring now a couple of times and, hey, I’m flattered. He’s cute. No, maybe that’s not a strong enough word. He’s handsome, with green eyes and dark wavy hair that clues me into some sort of Mediterranean heritage. Italian maybe? Greek?

Whatever. Maybe the word I’m looking for is hot.

I can imagine kissing him and the feel of his dark, bushy mustache against mine.

I don’t ride the train to meet men. I don’t do much to meet men, period, to be perfectly honest. I ride the train in the mornings simply to get to St. Philomena elementary school on the west side, where I teach fourth grade.

I’m okay with being gay. I wasn’t always, hence my stint in the seminary where I studied to be a priest. I learned pretty quickly, by the grace of god, and the hands and mouth of a fellow seminarian, that the priesthood was not work I was cut out for. Not if I wanted to live my life honestly, anyway.

So I left. I had already gotten my teaching degree, concurrent with my seminarian studies, so the job at St. Phil’s, low-paying as it was, was a natural fit.

But I digress. I’m trying to sort out my feelings for this sweetheart on the train. I know he’s gay too. I know he’s attracted. But I also know that nothing will ever come of it.

Why? Because I can see that, when our eyes meet, he’s filled with shame and guilt. I recognize his remorse because I cloaked myself in that dark, heavy fabric myself for many years.

And maybe still do, a little, to this day. The Church teaches us that same-sex feelings are to be avoided. They are not of our natural order. We should turn our sights away from our own sex and devote them instead to loving and pleasing the Lord.

Yeah, good luck with that.

The Lord created that cute guy that gives me the eye on the train, the one I feel this probably misplaced connection with. What is it about him that makes me think of him all the time? Why do I hope he’ll be in my train car every time I step on to it in the morning, even though most times he’s not? Why do I try and quickly scan the windows of the train as it rumbles into the station for a glimpse of him?

Is it just because he’s cute?

There are cute men, hunks, whatever, all around. I occasionally venture out to the intersection of Grand Avenue and Clark to the New Flight bar for happy hour and bring one of them home. Or I head up farther north to the Loading Zone on Oak, where I can watch free porn in the back or dance up front. Somebody usually brings me home.

I never make any lasting connections. I don’t even know if want to. Shame lingers on me like the scent of cigarette smoke after leaving those places.

But there’s something about the guy on the train. He tugs at my heart as well as my loins. Even from the brief glances we exchange, he makes me think there’s the possibility of more than just sex. He makes me think, for the first time in my young life, that maybe I could love another man.

And that terrifies me.

Read more of Blink to see where this flirtation on the train takes these two—does it take them to love? And how long does it take for them to get there?

BUY
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JMS Books



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

 


Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, fantasy, gay, magic, fae, werewolf, shifter, witches, coven, gods, polyamory

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About the Book

Cam Habersham is having a hell of a time keeping up with his fae studies in the Ancestral Lands because a certain werewolf constantly interrupts his thoughts. Everton Lilch is the wolfen beast who follows Cam around, but he pushes Cam away every time things get steamy.

The queen of the fae has had enough and tasks Cam with an impossible feat, an undertaking only Everton can help him accomplish.

Without his coven, Sparks Gemmell is a lost witch. In desperation, he casts a spell, hoping to reunite his brothers. But he doesn’t count on the wayward route magic often takes. He finds himself wrapped up in a mandate of the horned god and inserted into his Shadow Brothers’ relationship in order to protect his city from the darkest elements of the Shadow Realm.

As the darkness of the Shadow Realm descends, Cam and his werewolf, along with Sparks and his coven brothers, confront wraiths, mutant werewolves, and witch law enforcement. Chaos erupts in an effort to please queens and gods.

After all, it comes down to the lay of the land.

Excerpt

Cursed
J.P. Jackson © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“I am not wearing this.”

Cam tossed the skimpy garment onto his sun-dappled bed while Sen, his man-in-waiting, a Kijimuna tree sprite, wrung his long-boned but tiny hands. Sen glared at Cam, but his nervous hand wringing never stopped. Cam returned the stare, hoping his stubbornness would win.

Eventually, Cam broke the connection and focused his sights on the far wall of his room. A new tendril wove its way up the wall.

Everything the fae used or constructed was in harmony with the environment. The bed had been crafted from woven tree roots. The mattress pillowed from being stuffed with a combination of dried grasses, tufts from animal pelts, and down. All the textiles were handwoven, and when the summer night air had a chill to it, more skins were brought in for comfort. Extra blankets hadn’t been necessary this summer. Despite the bed’s lumpy appearance, Cam had never slept so well. Although he still wasn’t used to the massive horns on his head or the protruding wings from his back.

The walls and the furniture were constantly changing, but when one lived inside a massive tree, one had to expect the unexpected. As the tree continued to grow, so did the interior of his assigned bedchamber.

“Your Grace, the loincloth is traditional clothing. You were scheduled to meet with the queen, and certain conventions must be upheld. You need to get down to the court room.” Sen tried his best, but Cam’s tenacity would eventually wear out the tree sprite.

“It’s nothing more than a jockstrap and I am not parading around in front of the entire Royal party in nothing but a G-string!” He pointed to the discarded underwear while scrunching his mouth to one side and crossing his arms.

“But Your Grace—” Sen licked his lips while he continued to rub his hands together.

Poor thing. Cam hadn’t made his summer an easy experience. The tree sprite had been assigned as Cam’s manservant as part of an international exchange program meant to expand the knowledge of cultural traditions and court customs from various fae clans around the world. Cam had seen and met Chaneques from southern Mexico, and Menehune from Oceania. Sen’s vibrant red hair, a characteristic of his tribe, contrasted starkly with his paper-birch complexion. Sen’s frame imitated the slender branches of a sinewy willow, so slight Cam mistakenly judged him to be frail, but he discovered otherwise. Fae could be inhumanly strong and there had been more than one occasion when Sen had managed to wrestle and hold Cam still during his magic training.

Sen’s Japanese ancestry meant his tolerance did not allow for the wild range of temperatures inherent in a Canadian prairie summer. Cam had witnessed the creature either shivering to death on the rare cool summer evening or wilting in the August heat which regularly coalesced beneath the dense forest canopy. Sen’s homelands were far more temperate and kinder on a body. Despite Sen’s constant battle with the elements, his elongated limbs and fine features meant he was nimble and quick, which made him an excellent tutor for Cam’s induction in the ways of the fae. Escaping wild and out of control fae magic spells gone awry required additional agility. The fae were supposed to be nimble, graceful, and eloquently able to slip in and out of the shadows when required, a magical talent Cam had not mastered, along with several others. Sen’s intelligence, however, proved the Eldritch clan fae outwitted and outsmarted Cam’s constant manipulations.

Cam struggled with his fae classification and history. The amount of concentration required to take in the volumes of documentation given to him bested his attention span. The antiquity of the clans spanned the course of human existence, and beyond.

Each fae belonged within one of four houses, although there were multiple species within each camp. Earth fae belonged to the clan of the Eldritch, like Sen and Cam. Air fae were the Aethers and Corvins. Their feathered wings and skin made for unusual flying creatures who lived above the clouds. Cam latched on to the name for water fae because he found out Atlanteans were real. But he couldn’t recall what fire fae were called, and at this point he simply didn’t care.

Cam had made the first few weeks frustrating for them both. He refused to study, and his wayward use of fae abilities had resulted in wanton destruction within the village, which landed him in hot water with the Ancestral Lands queen, Lady Aine.

In his defence, Cam had demonstrated his ability to become invisible, and he regularly used probability spells to favour his penchant for doing nothing in the hot August afternoons.

Cam stood beside his bed, naked, staring at the wall and contemplating how he had managed to get here. He had his best friend in the whole wide world to thank for all of this. Devid Khandelwal and his cockamamie summoning board had been the catalyst in forever altering Cam’s humanity, and subsequent captivity within the Ancestral Lands of the forest fae. Granted, his home in Edmonton wasn’t far away, but until Cam had, at a bare minimum, mastered the art of a human disguise, Lady Aine would never let him leave.

Grasping the concept and maintaining the illusion proved inordinately difficult. He had to completely change his new horned and winged form into the way he used to be. That meant being able to maintain the image he wanted to project in his mind’s eye, all while holding conversations, or carrying out mundane tasks like household chores or visiting the local market. Illusions proved to be impossible for Cam, but public appearances with massive, curved horns and a slender furry tail would expose the Shadow Realm and its inhabitants to the mundane world. Exposure was something the entire magical community, fae, witches, beasts, and spirits alike, avoided at all costs.

Cam’s membranous wings sputtered. The appendages had a life of their own, and often reflected his emotional state.

“May I point out you’re not wearing anything right now, and yet I’m here. What’s so different between your nudity right now and satisfying the queen with your presence in clothing which is customarily worn by males?”

“Sen, you’ve seen me naked every day, several times a day. You bathe me, not my choice. You dress me, not my choice. You wake me in the morning, also not my choice. And speaking of morning, where is my required cup of coffee?” Cam’s tail flicked from side to side as he glanced around his room, his wings flapping in annoyance. Camila, Cam’s alter ego and super bitch, showed up when the caffeine levels were bottoming out. The fae folk didn’t consume coffee, and Cam hadn’t had a good cup of velvety deliciousness in weeks. His irritability lately had known no bounds, but the community had made exceptions considering his most unusual initiation into the Ancestral Lands—coffee being one of them. The elders of the Ancestral Lands had commented on Cam’s oddness. His fae body held on to the addiction of caffeine when his stomach no longer tolerated anything more than meat. Protein, and lots of it, was a daily requirement.

In short, Cam moped and perpetuated his miserable mood to everyone around him. His normal routine had been turned upside down, his dating life had been non-existent, and as much as he had relied on Dev for so much of his past life, he had to cut the guy some slack. Dev was going through his own adjustments, what with becoming a witch and getting a boyfriend in the deal.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson is an award-winning author of dark urban fantasy, paranormal, and even paranormal romance stories, but regardless of the genre, they always feature LGBTQ main characters.

He works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shapeshifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. His husband of 22 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summonings and regularly lines the doorway with iron shavings and salt crystals. Imps are most definitely not house-trainable. Ghosts appear at the most inopportune times, and the Fae are known for regular visits where a glass of wine is exchanged for a good ole story or two. Although the husband doesn’t know it, Canela and Jalisco, the two Chihuahuas, are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive traveling and believe it or not, knitting.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

The Power of Redemptive Love in My Ghost Story, HOPE



My short story HOPE is a poignant quick read. It's a little #scary, a little #sweet, and all about the redemptive power of #love


ABOUT THE STORY

After Todd's mother dies from cancer, he moves back to his hometown in the foothills of the Appalachians from Chicago. It's 1997 and he's just been given a death sentence: an HIV-positive diagnosis.

Todd expects his remaining time on earth to be spent alone. But Cal, his handsome next-door neighbor, has other ideas.

Cal is not the only surprise in Todd's new life. Todd begins having visions of an older woman, Essie, when he dims the lights. Is she just a figment of his imagination? Or is she a truth teller? When she talks to Todd, she's smart and hopeful. 

When Todd tells Cal about the ghost, Cal knows her already because Todd's mother spoke with her before her death. Essie was a godsend when Todd's mom was in so much pain. 

And now, Essie urges Todd to live...for himself...for new love. But is she too late?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

WOUNDED AIR's Chilly Charm


If you're looking for a chill, a whisper in the dark, check out my urban ghost story, WOUNDED AIR.



Sinfully Good Gay Book Reviews says:

"Ah, foreshadowing. As we English majors used to say back in the day, "Foreshadowing: Your Key to Quality Literature." We quickly learn that one of the former tenants disappeared without a trace, and almost immediately Rick begins seeing ... something. Is it left-over energy, a timeslip between past and present, or is the desperate young man with "the essence of a ruined little boy" who appears in the apartment simply a very vivid dream?
In much the same way 1950's horror movies about unstoppable blobs or creatures from black lagoons were metaphors for communism or panic over nuclear war, the apparition here is rich with meaning. We all have our ghosts - ghosts of past mistakes, past relationships, past what-ifs. Do you confront those ghosts in order to move beyond them, or do you let complacency and fear overcome your life? Does love really conquer all, or do we sometimes throw that love away with both hands?

 

...The characters are deeply developed and the sheer emotional depth of this story as well as the wrenching depiction of addiction hooked me right away."