Monday, August 24, 2015

Enigma excerpt by Lloyd A Meeker

In Enigma, a Russ Morgan Mystery by Lloyd A Meeker, who’s blackmailing the high-profile televangelist whose son was famously cured of his homosexuality fifteen years ago? Now in 2009, that ought to be ancient history.

It seems there’s no secret to protect, no crime, not even a clear demand for money—just four threatening letters using old Enigma songs from the 90′s. But they’ve got  Reverend Howard Richardson spooked.

Proudly fifty and unhappily single, gay PI Russ Morgan has made peace with being a psychic empath, and he’s managed to build a decent life since getting sober. As he uncovers obscene secrets shrouded in seeming righteousness he might have to make peace with a sword of justice that cuts the innocent as deeply as the guilty.

Wilde City Press (August 28, 2013)
ISBN: 978-1-925031-40-9


[The Setup: Russ Morgan interviews James Richardson, who apparently emerged from reparative therapy in 1994 completely cured of his same-sex attraction. Since that time James has assisted his father Howard in his evangelical outreach through The Abundant Life and Gospel Ministry Church.]

I got back to Kommen’s office in time to cool off a bit in their air-conditioned foyer while waiting for Colin to appear. He did, radiating his rosy-cheeked sincerity, precisely at one-thirty.

He’d already collected the contact info for the courier, Rocky Mountain Mercury, and their tracking number for the fourth letter. He was quick—a smart, decent gay kid trying to do his job right in what was undoubtedly a very precarious environment, and more power to him.

Colin didn’t lead me back to the big suite off Kommen’s office, but to a smaller, still well-appointed conference room down the hall. He parked me in one of the upholstered armchairs and scurried off, I assumed to fetch James. I wondered if Kommen was always this obvious in his messages about status difference between father and son. Given how he’d behaved toward me, I figured it likely.

In a moment, Colin opened the door and Kommen appeared with Richardson beside him. James sat down opposite me, but Kommen stayed at the door.

“I have a meeting,” he announced, glaring at me like it was my fault. “No recording this. I’ve instructed James to refuse to answer any question he feels uncomfortable with. Afterward, he’ll be reporting to me on your conduct. In detail.” He wheeled and was gone.

As he closed the door, I caught Colin’s eye. He knew his boss was an asshole, too. I watched him through the glass wall as he scooted down the hall. I could see that some days, he’d have to work hard at being cheerful.

I wanted the atmosphere to settle a bit before I got started, so I took my time pulling out my pen and notebook and getting set up. When I looked up, Richardson was sitting back, waiting with his arms on the chair and his knees wide apart. He had big thighs, and not from fat. Very fit.

He was an attractive guy in a button-down collar, perfect teeth, only slightly weathered, collegiate kind of way. Solid intelligence in the eyes, but I saw more pain than kindness there. Good jaw, but also hard, somehow. Dark hair like his father’s in the old press photos I’d looked up. James had a bigger, more athletic frame, though. He obviously worked out, but not obsessively. His features reminded me more of his mother, although I’d seen only one photo of her. Pretty nice overall, but not gut-grabbing sexy.

I gave him a conciliatory smile. “I can’t promise to ask you only comfortable questions, but my goal here is certainly not to harass you.”

He shrugged dismissively. “I know. Kommen is a martinet, and it gets old in a hurry. I’m a big boy and can take care of myself.”

“I have no doubt of that,” I said, grinning.

I shifted my focus to watch his energy. “I’ve learned a lot about the Enigma album containing the lyrics used in these letters,” I said, pen at the ready. “Do you think there’s any significance to the fact that it was released while you were in therapy?”

“No, I don’t,” Richardson said. Big lie—his aura blazed with it, plus anger. I made a note as slowly as if I were just learning to print block letters. I was half tempted to stick my tongue part way out with the effort.
“Do you have any idea at all as to who might be behind these letters, even just a wild guess?”

“None at all.” Again, a big lie, highly charged. Instead of anger, this time I saw searing pain. He had an idea, for sure. And now so did I.

“Your father believes that these letters are an attack on him, using you and your background as the point of attack. Do you think that idea is at all valid?”

“It could be. Leaders of some other churches would love to see my father disgraced. The math says donation dollars that go to one church don’t go to another, and our draw for members and donations is growing fast.”

“Is it possible that this is an attack on your father directly? Church funds, moral misconduct?”

“No.” Big lie. “Our books are rigorously audited and summarized annually for our members.” True.
I waited for him to address the moral misconduct part of my question. He didn’t. If his first answer was a lie, but the second was true, then moral misconduct sat big and broad in the equation somewhere. I’d gotten my answer from his silence.

“Your dad also says that you’ve been instrumental in expanding your ministry into Latin America. Do you think the threat comes from there?”

James shook his head. “I really don’t think so. Our membership there doesn’t care much about the competition between churches in the US. On top of that, our presence in Latin America extends back only a few years, probably no more than about 2002. Long after my experiences as a teenager.”

“Do you think they would know about those experiences?”

“Certainly. It’s a story worth repeating as often as possible.” He gave me a smile radiant with the Gospel’s glory, but his aura swirled up dark and angry. “My personal salvation is a testament to my father's faith, and the invincible power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“I’m glad for you.” I wanted to sound sincere, but I don’t think I made it. “Has any spark of that old temptation ever presented itself since those days?”

“No, thank the Lord.” His lie spiked out, even bigger than the others. James sighed a deep breath and gazed out the window, as if savoring his God-given liberation for the first time. Poor guy. What kind of hell was he living in, pretending the hand of God had fixed him, living a straight man’s life?

“Were the methods of your therapy harsh? I’ve heard they often are.”

Richardson’s aura boiled up with pain, grief, and rage, but his face remained an angelic mask. “I don’t have to answer that, but I will. Yes, they were harsh. But they were warranted. My very soul was at stake.” He paused, his eyes opaque with the flat stare of a bouncer. “And that’s a closed chapter you and I will not be visiting.”

I nodded. “Got it,” I said, making my note. “Is there any other light you can shine on this business right now?”

“Not at the moment.” To my amazement, he was telling the truth. He knew a lot about this, but he couldn’t shed light on it now. James Richardson was in this up to his neck. But how? Why?
I leaned forward, caught his eye and held it for a few heartbeats. I wanted him to know that I knew he knew something else. I pulled out one of my cards and offered it to him. As he took it I said, “In case anything else comes to you, I’d really appreciate a call. I promise not to badger you or anyone in your family. I’m just trying to solve this.”

“I will do that, Mr. Morgan,” he said, sounding thoughtful. “Something else may come to mind, and if it does, I’ll be sure to let you know.” He pulled out one of his cards and wrote on the back before he gave it to me.
I must have looked as surprised as I actually was, because he gave me a little smile, aura welling up in sadness. “My cell. In case you think of other questions for me,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said, tucking the card in my shirt pocket, pretending I didn’t understand the gesture was a significant invitation, maybe even a request. We shook hands. I tried not to wince. James Richardson was a man in serious pain, and some of it burned in my knuckles. We headed down the hall.

Colin appeared before we’d taken half a dozen steps, steering Richardson away on some vector that didn’t include me.

I headed on to the elevator.

As I walked down the 16th Street Mall, I called Rocky Mountain Mercury and set up an appointment with the dispatcher in an hour. It was Friday afternoon, and they were already slowing down. I gave them the document number so they could be ready. I promised to be in and out in just a few minutes.

The dispatcher at Rocky Mountain didn’t hand me a case-solver, but I did get a couple of interesting pieces of information.

Delivery of the fourth letter had been charged to the account of Stelnach, Kommen and Breyer. It had been picked up at the front desk, only to be delivered back to the same location an hour later. The same receptionist had signed off on the pickup as for the delivery.

That seemed strange, but when I asked the dispatcher about it he just shrugged. The courier’s pay was a low hourly base with a per-item delivery count determining the remainder. Even if the courier noticed that the letter was to be delivered to the same place where it was picked up, and he probably did when he scanned it into his handheld, he’d do it anyway. The rationale behind the letter’s origin wasn’t his problem, and the delivery meant another dollar in his pocket.

On my walk home, I pondered the varied nature of the deliveries—inter-office mail, regular post, taped to a shower door, and courier using Kommen’s own account number. Two things became clear.
First, Enigma had at-will access to the innermost workings of Richardson’s life. I’d got that already, but using Kommen’s corporate account number for this delivery and having it physically picked up at the law office showed significantly broader access than I’d imagined. There weren’t many with access to both Richardson’s shower door and his attorney’s office downtown.

Second, Enigma was bedeviling Richardson with item one. The deliveries had been orchestrated to that end. There was no other reason to use such a variety. Enigma was toying with the good reverend like a cat torments the mouse it will eventually kill.

No wonder Richardson’s aura had fried with panic. He could feel hot cat breath in his whiskers, but he couldn’t squirm out from under its paw. Howard Richardson was being punished.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Children of Noah excerpt by Neil Plakcy

In Neil Plakcy'sChildren of Noah, number 9 in the Mahu series, openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and his HPD partner Ray Donne have gone on assignment to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.  They’re investigating threats to a U.S. Senator with a mixed-race family, including daughter Jessica, who’s had a water balloon filled with white paint tossed at her.

Children of Noah
MLR Press (August 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-9910 (print)
          MLR-1-02015-0437 (ebook)


We finally made it onto the highway. Ray leaned back in his seat. “You or Mike ever experience anything like what happened to Jessica? Anybody bother you because you’re mixed race?”

I shrugged. “A couple of times when I was a kid, but nothing that scarred me. For a couple of days after my mom came to our elementary school once, this one kid started saying ‘sayonara’ to me and pulling his eyes up at the corners.”

“What did you do?”

“I was taking karate back then,” I said. “Not in a serious way, just something to keep me from bouncing off the walls and bothering my brothers. I wanted to be able to do one of those high-jumping kicks, and I practiced on him.”

Ray laughed so hard he snorted. “I can just see you. What happened?”

“He fell backwards, and I landed on my butt. We both had to stay after school and clean the blackboards.”

When we got back to Kapolei, we unpacked the boxes that had been left for us and filled out more paperwork. We had to watch an online video about sexual harassment in the workplace, and another on the history of the FBI. Ray took the folders down to the fingerprint lab and then emailed myself copies of the letter and the envelope, which I added to the case file I was developing on my iPad.

While Ray looked for churches who used the kind of rhetoric in the letters, I did a search through the police database for pickup trucks with KTF as the first three letters of the plate, and got about three dozen matches. None of them on the Windward Shore, though, so I put that information aside in case it matched something in the future.

When I got home, our golden retriever Roby tackled me as soon as I walked in. I scratched behind his ears and then followed him to the kitchen, where Mike was foraging through the freezer.

Until you get up close to him, Mike looks completely haole and distinctly Italian, from his dark curly hair to his swarthy skin. His Korean heritage is only visible in the slight epicanthic fold of his eyes—though it was distinctive enough to make him uncomfortable when he was a kid growing up in Long Island, around his dad’s Italian-American family.

Mike looked up from the freezer. “When was the last time we went grocery shopping? There’s nothing in here but ice packs, half a bag of meatballs and two boxes of creamed spinach.”

“Can’t be,” I said. “Dakota and I filled a grocery cart last weekend. Could he have eaten everything?” I looked over Mike’s shoulder and saw he was telling the truth.

“The kid must have a tapeworm,” Mike grumbled. “Oh, crap.”


“I’m starting to talk like my father. When you hear me do that, slap me, all right?”

“Can I spank you?” I asked, with a smile.

TMI!” Dakota said. I looked around to see him standing in the kitchen doorway. “What’s for dinner?”

“I guess we’ll order a pizza,” I said.

“Two?” Dakota asked. “One for you guys and one for me?”

Mike and I groaned in unison. I called the pizza place at the bottom of the hill and put in our order, and Dakota went into the living room to play with Roby.

Mike sat at the kitchen table with a bottle of Fire Rock Pale Ale. “How was your first day as a special agent?” he asked.

“Ray and I have our first case. Our newest senator has gotten some hate mail.” I got a bottle for myself and told Mike about Senator Haberman’s wife and the threats her family had received. “Peggy Kaneahe and Sarah Byrne told me that they’ve both gotten similar harassment.” I looked at him. “You had problems on Long Island when you were a kid, being mixed race,” I said. “Anything once you moved here?”

“Not specifically that. But I remember we were studying the Korean war in middle school and I said that’s how my parents had met, when my dad was a soldier and my mom was a nurse. One of the kids got confused between South and North Korea and accused my mom of being a Communist.”

“What did you do?”

“I stuffed him in a locker.”
I laughed and told him about my own experience. “I’d better get a move on,” I said. “There’s a grocery by the pizza parlor. I’ll get Dakota to go with me and buy some food."

When I parked in the grocery lot, Dakota took a picture of my Jeep, and then another of the storefront. He kept taking photos of aisles and products and our cart as we grabbed enough food to carry us through the next day. When we were in the checkout line, I finally had to ask. “What is so fascinating about this store?” I asked.

“I’m posting to my Instagram account,” he said. “Dylan and I are competing to see who can take the most different pictures.”

“Who’s Dylan?”

“Just a guy. He’s in my English class.” Dakota slouched against the rack of tabloid magazines, his head down.

Hmm, I wondered. Just a guy. Back home, Dakota took photos of his pizza as he ate each slice, but I resisted the urge to say anything.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mother Asphodel excerpt by Edward C Paterson

From the novella Mother Asphodel by Edward C Patterson, a different stroke in the pool of gay literature.  Previously, the opening of the novella was posted.  But this time a different interesting slice involving Elvis Presley.

"“Clothes don’t make the queen. The queen makes the queen.” 

It’s Santa
 Saturday in New Hope, Pennsylvania and Mother Asphodel is trudging through the snow to a gig at the Phoenix Club - her drag queen couture bundled in a shopping cart - her bony feet stuffed into galoshes. At seventy-seven plus, Mother has seen the glory days and, in the course of this evening, she’ll share those memories with a younger queen, Brooks MacDonald (a.k.a. Simone DeFleurry of The Jade Owl fame). Listen to these stylish dames as they plan Mother’s return into the spotlight, to shine once again in the eyes of the community and peers.

Mother Asphodel, a novella, bubbles with the secrets of a raging entertainer, who has rubbed elbows with the famous. Still, time knows no friends and Mother cleaves to life’s ornery path on a bleak wintry evening when hope is as sparse as bread crumbs thrown to the birds. The possibilities are endless on the road least taken - a kaleidoscope glimpsed only by those who take it.

“I was just rambling, dear - reflecting on the word gay. Just when did they give us that name?” 
“I think we took it when no one was looking.” 

Mother Asphodel
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 8, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1503148947
ISBN-13: 978-1503148949?


Chapter Four
The Comforts of Home

Brooks MacDonald drove a Buick — a 1990 beige beauty, now thick with snow, except the wipers which did double duty. But the heater worked and Mother Asphodel found much comfort in that. The bridge over the Delaware was icy, but it was better to cross it on snow tires than on galoshes pulling a shopping cart for balance.

“Where am I going?” Brooks asked, squinting through the heavy veil of wintry flakes.

“Just a block passed Lambertville Station, my dear. Not too fast or you’ll miss it.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t be going fast.”

The landmark restaurant, closed like the rest of the town, was on the right side.

“Make a left at the light,” Mother said, “and you can’t miss it.”

“The light, the left or your place?”

“All of it.”

Brooks tugged the wheel, the Buick seemingly having a mind of its own.

“Yikes, we’re spinning.” Brooks turned away from the spin and the car shuffled back onto the right of way. “It’s bad out. Now, how much farther?”

“Just there,” Mother said. “The yellow house. I’m on the second floor. See my balcony?”

“I can barely see the house. Is there a driveway?”

“Afraid not. I don’t drive anymore and my landlady’s in Florida.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Just thought I’d say. You can park anywhere.”

Brooks maneuvered to the curb, which probably would have been occupied had the landlady not been in Florida.

“I wish I were in Florida,” Brooks said. “Or in sunny California with my boyfriend.”

“Do tell,” Mother said, blandly. “That’s good enough. I can make it from here.”

“Glad you can,” Brook said. “Let me help you out and up.”

“You’ve done plenty already, my dear.”


Brooks opened the door and hoisted her feet over the snow mound. She opened the back door and clutched the shopping cart, navigating it through the space onto the street. She hadn’t changed into street clothes, so her wig was acting up and her false lashes whipped the snow flakes.

“Now wait,” she told Mother. “I’ll help you over this mess.”

But Mother was already out, slipping and sliding like Sonja Henie on a bad day. She would have fallen if Brooks hadn’t caught her. Together, with the help of friend shopping cart, they managed to make it to the front porch and through the door.

“More stairs,” Brooks declared.

“I can manage.”

“No, no. You go up. I’ll tug your trap to the top.”

“You’re so kind. Not like those other bitches.”

“You can’t blame them, my dear. Wasn’t there a time when you climbed to the top of the tree and clawed at anything that threatened your grasp at the tiara?”

“I’m still at the top.”

“If you say so. I wish I were at the top now. Are you sure you’re on the second floor and not in the family circle?”

“You’re so droll.”

“Like Santa Claus?”

“No. You know what I . . . oh, here we are.”

Mother flipped the light switch, the sudden beam startling Brooks, who almost let the cart go back to the bottom.

“You could have given me some warning.”

“Well, the lock’s tricky and . . .” Mother fiddled with a key. “I never get the right one on the first try, but . . . oh, here we go.”

Mother pushed the apartment door open. Brooks found the change delightful — a blast of aroma — rose.

“Is that Rose of Attar?” Brooks asked.

Serge Lutens Sa Majestè La Rose,” Mother said.

“I’m impressed.”

“Only the best. Down to my last bottle and I’m afraid Santa can’t afford to bring me more.”


“My Stumpy kept me in constant supply, but . . .”


“My ex.”


“Don’t be. He passed, and not on my watch. But he did leave me this lease and memories galore.”

Suddenly, Brooks was effused in warm amber lights, the lamps on the same switch and each covered with a shade and a silk scarf. The living room — more a parlor by design, was cozy, especially with the snow beckoning from the street. Built-in shelves held a considerable library and on every table, and there were a half dozen, set framed pictures and mementos from life — a long life, no doubt.

“Your abode is wondrous, my dear,” Brooks remarked.

“I like it,” Mother said, shedding her coat and flopping out of the loose galoshes. “Can I fix you a cup of tea?”

“I’d love a cup of tea.”


Chamomile tea is my favorite.”

Mother retreated into the kitchen.

“You know it’s just chamomile.”

“That’s fine.”

Brooks brushed the velvet chairs with her hand, and then dared to shove the shopping cart into a spare corner.

“I mean,” Mother said, her head popping back into the parlor, “it’s not chamomile tea. Chamomile is tea. The tea plant is the camellia, which, by the way, is one of my favorite blooms if it didn’t have such a reputation — La Traviata and all that. So if you say chamomile tea, you’re actually saying tea tea.” She laughed. “You wouldn’t want to be embarrassed in upper crust company now, would you?”

Brooks grinned. This old ‘ne had rapacious charm and, like her own tastes, insisted upon strict forms when it came to hostessing.

“I appreciate it,” Brooks said absently, touring the bric-a-brac. “You have such nice things and so many books and photographs.”

“Ghosts,” Mother said. “Soon I shall join them.”


Brooks glanced at the bookshelf. Many classics and some not so classic. One gilded spine caught her eye. She couldn’t help herself, pulling it out and glancing at the first page. Poetry for Ordinary Folk by John Dwight Fellowes. Brooks had never heard of the man, but since she loved poetry, she made a note to ask for a copy the next time she was in a book store. She set the volume on a table beside a picture of a young man in uniform — a handsome lad. There were several framed photos of this soldier in old fashioned poses. Then one caught her attention. She picked it up. The same young man was sitting on a footlocker beside another soldier — beside . . .

“Is that the King?” she muttered.

“Excuse me, dear?” Mother replied, returning with two cups on an unsteady tray.

“Is this a photograph of Elvis . . . Elvis Presley?”                                   

“Oh, yes,” Mother said. “It’s one of my treasures. Did you want an amaretto cookie with your chamomile?”

“Yes, please, but what do you mean: this is Elvis? I know Elvis was in the army, but . . .”

Mother set the tea down on the coffee table.

“It was years ago. He’s gone now, you know. 1977, I believe, the poor man passed. He played so well and was so very handsome. Please, sit.”

“But how . . .”

Mother clumped onto the sofa out of breath. She reached for a cookie tin and fished out four amaretto biscuits, placing them at the edge of the bone china tea cup saucers — two each.

“I don’t understand,” she replied. “How what?”

“How did you get this photograph? It must be worth a fortune.”

“Oh, it’s only worth something to me. It provokes a great memory.”

A memory?  “You met him back then?”

“Of course. I was there, you see. It was 1958 — November 26th, 1958 to be exact — in GrafenwöhrGermany — Thanksgiving. Elvis came to dinner and jammed with us in the barracks.”

You were there?”

“Yes.” Mother Asphodel reached for the picture. “I am there. Here in fact.”

She tapped the young handsome soldier’s image, the subject in other photos.

“That’s you?” Brooks grabbed the picture and looked from Mother Asphodel to the soldier and back again. “You were so young.”

“Just twenty.”

“You were in the army?”

“Drafted. Yes — got my valentine from Uncle Sam and was stationed in Deutschland.”

“Well, you are full of surprises, Mother.”

“Yes, that’s Elvis posing with PFC John Fellowes — that is — me.”

 Brooks was aghast.

John Fellowes — John Dwight Fellowes. Well, Kissme Asphodel.

Chapter Five
Blue Suede Memories

“Now, trust me, Brooks,” Mother Asphodel said, retrieving the picture frame and setting it beside the tea cup. “Elvis was not supposed to be in the barracks that night, but, just like tonight, the weather prohibited travel.”

“I mean to leave after this cup of tea, dear,” Brooks said, cocking her head. “I enjoy your company and your place is homey. Indeed, these mementos are begging for my attention, but I have my own place and . . .”

“Don’t be foolish,” Mother said. “We barely made it across that damn bridge. The hilly pilly between here and wherever you hail from surely will be hazardous. So, you’ll miss church tomorrow morning.”

Brooks grinned.

“With a name like Simon Geldfarb, I’m not much of a churchgoer.”

“That settles it. There are plenty of biscuits and I have a spare room and all sorts of bed clothing. You can choose the most stylish.”

Simon Geldfarb lifted the cup to his lips and sipped.

“We’ll see.”

“As I was saying, Simone. You don’t mind me calling you Simone?”

“I could get used to it, although no one has ever called me that.”

“Does your boyfriend call you Brooks?”

“No. Simon. Never anything but Simon.” Simone blushed, her eyes batting back a tear.

“You must miss him.”

“I do, but you were telling me about Elvis and how you met him.”

“Was I? Oh, yes. That dear boy. I was a mere chit then too and sat in my nicely pressed fatigue apparel. We all blossomed with lavender aroma.”

“Lavender,” Simone sighed.

“Yes. We walked in a manly blush of lavender and starch. But Elvis came to Thanksgiving dinner not to entertain us, because he was training at Grafenwöhr — the Tank corps, you know. I was clerical, of course, but the weather was awful and Elvis . . . well, Elvis got stuck.”
Mother closed her eyes, and then sipped her tea mechanically. The chill of the Bavarian forests rippled through her old heart. She recalled the dinner — double helpings of turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce. She was shy then — the diffident PFC Fellowes, who laughed when everyone laughed and listened when everyone listened. He was fond of playing backgammon in the early evenings with his buddy Carl Lewis. He liked Carl — not liked — loved. But even though kisses were exchanged in the shadows at off times, and hands were held in the quiet remoteness behind the motor pool, this was not a safe zone for such activity. Such activity meant a prison sentence — Mannheim for twenty years. So the silent game of eyes and smiles and whispers ensued. Notes were dangerous and anything beyond the hand holding could provoke all hell. Not to say that PFC Lewis and Fellowes didn’t play, mostly in the shower — fleetingly assuming the natural merriment of a locker room — the sport of queens on the king’s landing.

Sweet pine aroma blended with the lavender and, in the barracks, a famous man, whom the women of America deemed swoonable, sat. Women poured their hearts out for him — their throats convulsed with screams and banshee cries. It was beyond PFC Fellowes, because although he found this hick fetching in the hip and in the twinkling of the eye, John preferred the tamer croon — a show tune croon. This rock ‘n’ roll stuff was far too heady for him. Still, with the winter wind kissing the window panes and the barracks sheltering a renowned guest, John sat on his footlocker and listened, struck with wonder — with poetry and prosaic warmth.

Love me tender,
love me sweet,
never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
and I love you so.
Yes, complete.  That’s what he longed to be, and in the promise of things to come, complete would be denied him. His parents expected him to return a better man, seek out a woman and make babies for their grandparental laps. They knew he was a sissy boy. They fully expected him to run when the draft caught him in its clutches. But he went and trained and muddled through and got by. Then this overseas gig — how proud they were of their son Johnny, over near the iron curtain making the world safe for democracy and the family he’d come home and raise, complete with a dog kennel and a split level house. But Johnny saw a different abode — a smaller affair, somewhere in Bohemian climes with perhaps a PFC Lewis at hand or any of a dozen other candidates. He saw tea-cups and petit fours, not split levels and dog kennels.

Love me tender,
love me true,
all my dreams fulfilled.
For my darlin’ I love you,
and I always will.
Yes, Elvis was there, guitar over knee, smile radiating in the dim light and it seamed he sang directly to PFC Fellowes. Be my beau, it said, but John knew it was all sham. This yokel was sweet and sugary and meant for a Tammy or a Gloria, never a John. This was a stroke to thank fellow troops for the warmth and comfort of their barracks and no more.

Love me tender,
love me long,
take me to your heart.
For it’s there that I belong,
and we'll never part.
And yet the man, a mama’s boy at heart, had a gift — a sweet and enduring gift that melted winter’s rough and smoothed the hours. John was mesmerized, not by the man, but by the magic — the filigree of sound that drew the usually raucous barracks to silence. He could hear nothing else but this carol to love’s endurance — to a memory long in the lingering.

Love me tender,
love me dear,
tell me you are mine.
I'll be yours through all the years,
till the end of time.
“Till the end of time.” Mother said, opening her eyes, glancing at the photograph. “Yes, my dear. He finished the song, and then turned to me.”

“Just you?”

“Yes, as if he had sung the song to me and me alone, which he certainly had not, but such was the compass of the man. Whoever sat within range of his voice felt his personal touch. It was show, of course, and I learned much from it when I took to the stage myself. But he turned to me and said: I’m sure you’d like a picture with me to give to the wife and children.”

“He didn’t.”

“He did, and I was so dumbfounded, I couldn’t tell him there was no wife and certainly no children, and not likely to be because I had other ideas along those lines. Elvis grinned, and I felt a warm rush. I was worried that I’d sit on his lap and give him one, smack on the lips. But I was shy then — a wallflower boy just learning the ropes.”

“I know the feeling, I do.”

“Well, his cameraman posed me like you see me there and flash! Pop! — there you have it.” She held it up. “A picture for the wife and children.”

“Delicious. And what a memory.”

“You only know the half of it, my dear. Yes, the half of it.”

Mother sighed, set the picture down. Simone reached back grabbing the golden spine book.

“And I suppose this little gem was penned by you.”

“Oh, that,” Mother said. “That probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day, but Allen insisted.”


“Yes. Allen Ginsberg. We were an item, you know.”

Simone’s jaw dropped.

To read another excerpt from MotherAsphodel, see the entry for 11/17/2014

To purchase the paperback or Kindle ebook, click here

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Baker (Workplace Encounters series} excerpt) by Serena Yates

In Serena Yates' second book in the Workplace series, Wallace works as a baker for his tyrannical father in their family owned Scottish Bakehouse in Casper, Wyoming. He wants to represent the bakery in the upcoming Tartan Day competition, but his father refuses to reveal the secret ingredients that make them so successful—unless Ian gets married and has a son, proving he is fit to continue the family line.

Just before New Year’s Eve, Cameron Lewis, a former Marine turned police detective, comes into the bakery for donuts for his department and some black buns for himself. Cameron is hooked, and as his visits become more frequent, they stir Ian’s father’s suspicions. But threats can’t stop Ian from donning his kilt and entering the competition anyway—to show his father what he can do on his own. Though he might not have the secret ingredients, Ian and Cameron might still discover a recipe for happiness.

The Baker
Dreamspinner Press (August, 2015)

Excerpt from chapter 2:
As soon as the waiter was gone, Ian leaned forward. “I’ve been dying to ask you if you’ve had a chance to try the black bun I gave you.”
“Yep, I have.” Cameron could still taste the flaky goodness of the pastry and the sweetness of the filling when he closed his eyes. “I’ll have you know I hid the box in the trunk of my car so it’d be safe from my colleagues, but I managed to sneak a taste during my lunch break.”
“The other police officers would steal your food?” Ian shook his head, his lips twitching suspiciously. “And here I thought they’d all be upstanding members of the community. I am so disappointed.”
“They wouldn’t exactly steal the food.” Cameron smiled, loving how playful Ian turned out to be. “But they’d make a strong case for having me share, and I’d find it difficult to turn them down. Not with something as excellent as that black bun. The donuts were pretty outstanding, but the cake? Amazing.”
“So you liked it.” Ian nodded and sat back, more relaxed now. “Not everyone does, you know? The filling is pretty compact and, like much of Scottish baking, very sweet, so it’s not always received well.”
“If you ever have any leftovers, you now know where to send them!” Cameron winked.
“Oh, well, that’s good to know.” Ian smiled shyly and took a sip of his water. “So, did you manage to identify the ingredients in the filling?”
“I think so.” Cameron leaned back in his chair and focused on recalling what he’d tasted. “Other than flour, baking powder, milk, and egg, there were raisins, currants, some almonds, and chopped peel, I think. I suspect the presence of brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon. And just to throw me off, there might have been some black pepper and a trace of either brandy or whisky, I’m not sure.”
“Wow, that’s pretty impressive.” Ian smiled. “I can see you’re not a detective in name only.”
“I got it right?” Cameron couldn’t believe it.
“Almost. The alcohol you tasted was whisky, the real Scottish kind, of course. It’s my personal variation, since most recipes say to use brandy. But there is one more ingredient nobody is even supposed to get, since it’s secret.” Ian had lowered his voice to almost a whisper.
“A secret ingredient?” Cameron made a show of checking if anyone could overhear them and leaned toward Ian. “Are you going to tell me?”
“If I did, I’d have to kill you.” Ian grinned.
“No!” Cameron laughed at the sneaky expression on Ian’s face. “But I got the rest right?”
“You did.” Ian nodded.
“Is there a prize?” Cameron knew what he wanted, but he had no idea how Ian would react.
“A prize?” Ian tilted his head in thought. “Possibly. I hadn’t thought about it yet. Is there anything you’re thinking of?”
“I am afraid so.” Cameron attempted to look serious.
“You’re afraid to tell me?” Ian frowned. “Why?”
“Because….” Cameron paused dramatically. “Because you might want to kill me if I did.”

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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Hired Man excerpt by Dorien Grey

In this newly revised edition of The Hired Hand, private investigator Dick Hardesty is hired by businessman Stuart Anderson to conduct routine background checks on potential store managers, he becomes reacquainted with a former trick, Phil Stark, who has undergone an amazing transformation from bar hustler to professional escort. When Anderson is murdered, Hardesty is hired by the escort services owners, Arnold and Iris Glick, to keep Phil and the agency away from police scrutiny. Two subsequent murders make this impossible, and Hardesty embarks on a mission to find the identity of the killer

The Hired Man
Untreed Reads (July 14, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1611879280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611879285


I must have finished the conversation with Tim somehow because suddenly I was aware that I was sitting there, with the phone still in my hand, listening to a dial tone, afraid to move for fear I would throw up. 

Slowly, I eased the phone back onto the cradle and leaned forward with my elbows on my desk and cupped my hands over my nose and mouth, forcing myself to take slow, deep breaths.

I had to tell Phil, but I couldn’t do it by phone. When the nausea had subsided, I let my motor responses take over. They got me out of the chair, walked me to the door, made sure it was locked behind me, then walked me to the elevator. By the time I reached my car, I was sufficiently pulled together to let my mind, which had been spinning wildly out of control, shift into gear.

How was I going to tell Phil? What could I say? I didn’t even know Billy’s last name, which meant that Phil was going to have to go with me to the coroner’s office to try to identify the body.

Having sex with a guy doesn’t make you best friends, and I’d only met Billy a handful of times, if that. But what I knew of him I liked. A lot. He was funny and sexy as all hell, and sweet and young, and beautiful and full of life and some son of a bitch had taken all that away from him and I still thought I might throw up.
A blaring horn from the car behind me made me realize the light had turned green, and I moved along.
I parked about half a block from Phil’s apartment and idly thought I should have brought the photo Billy had lent me of Phil and Anderson and Glen O’Banyon and whoever else in hell it was in there with them. I walked down the hallway to Billy’s…. no, to Phil’s…apartment and knocked on the door. A full minute went by and I was about to knock again when the door opened. Phil took one look at my face and all the color drained from his own. His eyes riveted onto my own, as though he thought they might help keep him from falling down. “What is it, Dick?” he asked, though I think he knew.

“It’s Billy,” I managed to say. “He….”

“Is he hurt?” he asked. “Is he in the hospital?”

I shook my head.

Phil looked at me and duplicated my head shake, in slow motion. His eyes filled with tears and his lower lip began to quiver. He started to say “No,” but couldn’t make it. I moved forward and put my arms around him as he put his head on my shoulder and started crying like the very little boy who lives somewhere deep inside us all.

The Hired Man is available in paperback edition, ebook (Kindle and other) editions, audiobook edition.  Check these links: - click Amazon    Untreed Reads    Audible Books 


Monday, July 20, 2015

Lola Dances excerpt by Victor J Banis

Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and often bawdy, Lola Dances, in this new edition by Victor J Banis, ranges from the 1850 slums of the Bowery to the mining camps of California and Montana, to the Barbary Coast of San Francisco.
Little Terry Murphy, pretty and effeminate, dreams of becoming a dancer. Raped by a drunken profligate and threatened with prison, Terry flees the Bowery to disappear into the wilderness of the West. In the rugged settlement of Alder Gulch, he stands out like a sore thumb among the camp’s macho inhabitants – until the day he puts on a dress and dances for the unsuspecting miners. As beautiful Lola Valdez, fame and fortune are within reach, and so, ultimately, is love.

Lola Dances
Rocky Ridge Books (6/19/2015)
  • ISBN-10: 162622028X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1626220287


Joshua and Brian had barely arrived in Butte when an early winter set in. They were just able to get a crude cabin up and get some supplies in before a major blizzard struck. It snowed without stopping for a full week, stopped for a day, and began to snow again, the sheets of white blown about in a strenuous wind that roared down from the mountains. Gray wolves drifted into town like wisps of smoke, and sometimes got bold enough to scratch at cabin doors.

In no time, Joshua and Brian were snowed in. For several weeks they went outside no more than was essential, and sat instead for hours before their stove, so close that sometimes their boots got scorched.

"Of all the rotten luck," Brian grumbled, pacing the floor like a caged mountain lion. He, at least, could pace; the cabin's roof was too low for the taller Joshua even to stand up without ducking his head. "We might be stuck in here till spring, the way it's snowing out there."

"Not much we can do about it, the way I see it," Joshua said. "We've got plenty of whisky, haven't we, and food enough if we're careful, and as soon as the snow lets up, I'm going to cut some more wood. Doesn't look like we'll be doing much mining, but we'll get by all right."

"That's easy for you to say."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Joshua asked him, puzzled. "Looks to me like we're in the same boat at this point."

Brian had been thinking about Terry, and now he was going to be stuck in a cabin for weeks, maybe for months, with Joshua, who he doubted was a likely candidate to take Terry's place.

It had never occurred to him that he might miss his brother in that way, but it hadn't taken him long to begin to miss his steady diet of sex. And the longer he went without, the better his memories of how good it had felt.

He couldn't very well say that to Joshua, however. "Nothing," he said instead. "I'm just riled, is all. All this damn snow. Might have been better to stay where we was."

 "Too late to be thinking of that," Joshua said.

Brian grunted and went to throw some more wood in the stove. Joshua watched him and thought about what Terry had said, about him and Brian. Nothing like that had come up between them. At first, when Brian had suggested Joshua come with him, Joshua had wondered if Brian had any inkling of what had happened with him and Terry, like maybe Terry had told his brother. For the first day or so, he'd been alert for any untoward movement on Brian's part, half expecting to turn and find Brian's gun trained on him.

Nothing of the sort had happened, though, and Brian had said and done nothing in all this time to indicate that he had any idea of that business, and Joshua had decided after all that he had no suspicions and began to breathe easier.

They almost never talked about Terry at all, and then only obliquely. Brian asked one evening, out of the blue, "That dancer that came to the Gulch just before we headed out," and paused. "To The Dollar. Remember?"

"Lola Valdez?" Joshua asked, surprised to have that brought up.

"Was that her name? Well, what did you think of her?"

Joshua took a moment to consider anew what Brian might or might not know.

"What do you mean, what did I think of her?" he asked cautiously. "She was a pretty thing, wasn't she? Had most of those miners standing on three legs, seemed like to me. What is it you're wondering about?"

Brian gave him a long look. "Nothing," he said with a shrug. "I was just wondering, is all. What you thought of her."

"She was just a dancer, was all," Joshua said. "Pretty enough, I guess. If you like dancers."

Brian seemed content to leave it at that.
Supplies quickly began to run low. There was a little general store, with a table for poker, run by a bear of a man named Angelo, but he was no better prepared for the unexpectedly early winter than the hundred or so miners in the camp, and soon enough salt and flour grew scarce, and most everything else not long after.

Luckily, almost the first thing Brian and Joshua had done when they got there was to stock up. Many of the miners had little in their pockets by the time they arrived at the crude camp, expecting with the prospector's optimism to find enough gold dust right off to provide for themselves, and quickly chagrined to find out how misguided the expectations had been, but Brian and Joshua were luckier than most. Brian had the money he had taken from Terry, although he did not mention its source to his partner, and Joshua had brought with him the rest of the stake his father had given him when he sent him west.

As a result, they at least faced the winter with plenty of coffee and plenty of whisky, and enough beans to tide them over. They had killed a deer shortly after arriving, and the venison hung in the rear of their cabin, along with a big side of questionable beef they had purchased from Angelo, much of which had been made into jerky, the rest of it gradually growing its own overcoat of mold. By now, they were so used to it they never even noticed the smell.

Even so, by Christmas they'd had to reduce their three meals a day to two, as a precaution, and then to one, and they pretended they didn't hear their bellies complain, and kept a close eye out in case anyone started envying their provisions.

"You think this is bad," Brian said, "Christ, this is a damn picnic, I tell you. Back in the states, in the Five Points, people lived two and three families together, sometimes a hog, too, or chickens, in rooms so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, and a man could never say for sure whether he'd fucked another man's wife or his own, or one of his kids, even, and didn't much care which, either, and women would lay drunk all day long in the shit piles they called their back yards. This ain't nothing, I tell you."

"What is it you came for, anyway, Brian?" Joshua asked him one day. "Was it just the money, is all?"

They were sitting by the stove, the toes of their boots beginning to scorch, and Brian was so long answering, Joshua thought maybe he hadn't heard the question, or didn't mean to answer it at all.

"I don't exactly know," he said finally. "I used to think it was the money, but maybe it was just getting out of there, as much as anything, getting away from, well, The Bowery, or something, anyway. Only, it don't seem like I've got yet wherever it is I was going." He looked around, at the dirt floor and the empty tin cans scattered on it, and the jerky hanging in the corner. "Sure as hell, this ain't it. I don't know where is, though."

For more excerpts from Lola Dances, see entries form April 20, 2015: May 13, 2013; January 14,2013; and February 11, 2008.

To purchase Lola Dances in paperback edition, click here
To purchase Lola Dances in Kindle edition,  click here