Monday, April 28, 2008

Lawless excerpt by Sarah Black

Lt. Colton Wheeler is the law in a lawless land. A year after his lover, Dr. Diego Del Rio, lost his eye in a vicious hate crime,trouble from across the border threatens to shatter the life they're building together.
An old lover stakes a claim, and Colton suspects he wants more than Diego. Colton's family comes under attack, a missing Apache boy is accused of cattle rustling, and bloody tribal masks from the old rituals are being worn by someone carrying a whip, bent on terrifying the people of the borderlands.
Colton only knows one way to protect his people. By walking into trouble, by drawing fire, by putting himself between the people he loves and those who mean them harm.

Liquid Silver Books (April 21, 2008)
ISBN: 978-1-59578-461-2


Scrubby juniper and pinon pine, twisted and bent by the wind, dusty sage and tumbleweed dotted the landscape out the windows of the pickup. Diego leaned over and put his head in Colton's lap to sleep on the drive out to the old rancher's place. This is what heaven would be like, Colton thought. Driving an old pickup around the southern Arizona desert with Diego asleep on his lap. He put his hand down, rested it in his silky hair. He had come very close to losing him in the weeks after the hate crime that had cost him his eye. Closer than he realized, thanks to Rodrigo Valdez.

Diego stirred against his thigh and sat up, yawning. "We nearly there?"

"Yeah." He opened the directions Sanchez had written down for him.

You'll pass the sign for the abandoned copper mine on the left. Check your odometer and go seven-tenths of a mile further. On the right is a dirt track. Turn there and drive two miles until you get to the house.

"Have you seen the sign for the mine yet?"

Colton shook his head. "Should be coming up soon. You have a busy
night at the hospital, baby? I didn't even ask."

Diego shook his head. "A couple of acute abdomens I decided to watch. I stitched up a nasty knife wound. The girlfriend he cheated on practically carved her initials into his ass. That boy's gonna have quite a scar. Colton, look. Is that it?"

He looked out the window. A big, weathered piece of wood with faded red lettering was propped between a couple of juniper fenceposts: Peligro! Danger! Abandoned Mine.

"Looks like it." He glanced down at the odometer and turned onto the rough dirt track that in these parts passed for a road. "The old manbneeds to get a grader out here. I wonder how many tires he loses in a year?"

The ranch house was small and old, ochre colored adobe, built in the old way, thick walls, vigas and a flat roof, a couple of buildings out behind the pasture. The adobe looked like it needed some patch work. Colton had checked out the fences as they drove in, and they were in bad repair. The old man might have just lost his cattle because they took a walk out one of those broken pieces of fence.

He pulled up and parked next to a battered old Chevy. Impossible to tell if it was originally the color of dust, or if it had acquired that color through time and hard living.

Diego climbed out and walked around the front of the pickup, fitting the new cowboy hat down on his black curls. Faded Levi's, snakeskin cowboy boots with dust on the toes, black silk T-shirt and his hair was loose down to his shoulders. And that Stetson. Colton felt the bottom drop out of his stomach, lust, helpless love. He could have dropped to his knees in the dirt. "Jesus."

He had Diego backed up against the hood of the truck, one hand sliding through his hair, another sliding around that slender waist, and he pulled him close, buried his face in his warm neck. "Jesus, Diego..."It hit him like this, sometimes, like he was standing on the ocean shore, and a huge cold salty wave knocked him back on his ass. It was shameless, the way he felt about his man.

Diego slid fingers up under the new shirt, back and forth over Colton's belly. "Now, that's the reaction I was looking for."

His arms were trembling, his heart thudding in his throat. "I want to die in your arms. That's not too much to ask, is it?" The words fell out of his mouth before he could stop them. Diego's hands stilled against his belly and he moved closer, turned his head until his lips grazed Colton's ear, his cheek, his jaw, and settled on his mouth. Diego opened his mouth, let Colton slide his tongue inside and touch him.

"Goddamn, boy, your granddaddy know about this?"

Colton turned around and studied the old man. He was so skinny his Wranglers were held up with a rawhide belt wrapped twice around his waist. His head and his chin were covered with prickly nubs of hair, like an old boar, the exact color of the dust and sandstone surrounding them, and not a tooth in his head.

"Yeah, he probably knew." He let Diego go, turned around and offered his hand. "Lt. Colton Wheeler, Pima County Sheriff's Department."

"I'm Joshua Weaver." Colton reached into his pocket for his ID, but the old man waved him off. "I know who you are." He pointed to Diego with a tobacco stained forefinger. "I know I've seen you somewhere."

Diego adjusted the Stetson. "Ah..."

"You're that doctor fixed my ball last year." He turned back to Colton. "One of my balls, it turned ugly, swelled up as big as a coconut and the thing was turning black. I thought it was the end, gangrene, but that boy fixed me right up. Seems like he had two eyes back then. Well, it's a mean world."

He turned around, waving for them to follow. "Come on in, boys. You're here about the cattle rustling, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. I thought I'd die of old age before somebody showed up." They followed him up to the front porch, and Diego studied the arrangements. There were a couple of battered lawn chairs and a low sprung couch made of some yellowish-brown colored material. They could see where the old man's spot was on the couch. It was leaning, about ready to dump him on his ass on the weathered boards of the porch, and his bottle and ashtray were in easy reach. Diego grabbed one of the lawn chairs and pulled it around, dumping the sand off the seat, and he passed it over to Colton and got the other one for himself.

Joshua went into the house. "I'll bring us out some coffee." They could hear him rustling around inside, and Colton was thinking it would be better for Diego not to see the old man's kitchen. Colton wasn't quite sure where the water was coming from, but he suspected the hand pump around the side of the house was it. He also thought he had spotted an outhouse about 200 yards out back.

"Here you go." He handed around heavy old mugs, filled about two thirds with black coffee, then he settled in his spot and reached for the bottle. He poured a healthy slug of whiskey into all three cups. Colton looked at Diego staring down at the coffee. He looked up, met Colton's eyes, and his eyes were somber, the memories of what Rodrigo Valdez had done to him chasing each other across his face. Colton took a sip of his coffee. Bitter and black, with a smooth bite behind it. Good ranch coffee. He nodded his head, and Diego bent his head and took a sip.

"I need to tell you a bit about the boy's mama," Joshua said. "Then you'll know why I know it was him took that livestock."

"What all is missing?" Colton put his cup down and pulled out his little notebook.

"Two cows, two calves, and three goats. I can't blame him for the missing chickens, though I have my suspicions, cause we do have coyotes out here. I don't want to blame the boy unfairly."

"You think it was just him? That's a lot of livestock for one boy to handle on his own."

"He's a smart one, and a good roper. He took the calves first, and their mamas just followed behind. But we're getting ahead. I got to tell it my own way, boy, because in truth I don't know how much of this is my own damn fault."

Colton settled back, took another sip. This was working up to be a fine tale, just the kind he liked to hear. The kind that worked its way around to the truth in its own sweet time.

"Her name was Tamale Pie." Colton could see Diego twitch a bit. "She was a, well, I guess you could say she was a whore. But I never thought of her that way. She was a good old gal, had a trailer up there in the mountains and she used to entertain, you know. You could go visit her and you knew she would have a pot of stew orbbeans on the stove, and she'd make you up some fry bread. You could have a hand of cards and somebody to listen to your stories and somebody to share a bottle with. She had a bit of trouble with the drink, but, I mean, who doesn't! Anyway, that's what I mean she was a good old gal. Just a friendly, nice sort of woman. She didn't have the boy until she was more than forty. She told me she thought she was going through the change early. He was a bit of a surprise."

"Sounds like."

"She's part Apache, and the boy grew up dark, so she thought his daddy must have been Apache or maybe Mexican. She named him Johnny Bravo, and it didn't take the other kids in kindergarten very long to let him know he had been named after a damn cartoon character. That old girl never had the sense to fill a teacup. The boy, he grew up one of those lonely boys who like to ride off alone and read books, looking all handsome and desperate. He was always on a horse, every chance he could get, and he about drove those bookmobile ladies crazy demanding they bring him books. I don't know how he acted with his mama, because he always took off when there were any men around."

"How could his mama afford him a horse?"

Joshua shifted a bit on the sofa, reached for the bottle and tipped it up to his cup again. "Well, she couldn't have, and that's the truth of it. Her money went straight into the bottle. Now, she didn't drink, not one bit once she knew she was pregnant, cause I had to listen to her complain about it a good deal. But she's not out of the hospital from having him for two weeks before that came to an end.

"And if the truth be known, I gave the boy a horse when he was, oh, seven or eight, something like that. He was a serious boy and he was horse-crazy already, so I knew he'd take care of it. I thought he needed something to take care of, because there was no trying to take care of his mama, and some people just need that. And he loved that horse. Of course, he used that same damn horse to rustle my cattle!" He leaned forward, stuck a gnarled old finger at Colton. "You got to find him and stop him. He thinks he's living in some sad western song and he's gonna go down in flames, rustling. That's just the wrong way to go and he's gonna get hurt. What I want you to do is find him and help put him back on the right path."

Colton thought for a minute, and Diego spoke up. "What's he reading? Louis L'Amour?"

The old man shook his head. "No, it's that damn Cormac McCarthy! That old boy can write a crazy cowboy story."

"All the Pretty Horses? Not Blood Meridian? Damn."

The old man shrugged. "If it has a horse in it, he'll be reading it."

Joshua had a pattern to drinking his coffee, Colton noticed. He would take two sips, then top of the cup with whiskey. Two sips, then top off the cup. He needed to get him up and moving around or he was going to pass out and they would have to make three trips out here to hear this whole damn story. "Why don't you take me on a tour of the ranch?"

The old man struggled up from the couch. "I could do that. There was a time, this was the prettiest valley in Arizona. Still is to me."

Diego was resting his head on his propped up hand. "I'll just stay here a bit if that's all right."

Joshua nodded. "You just rest easy, boy." He followed Colton down the porch steps. "He's a pretty one. And he's a good doctor, too. What happened to his eye?"

"The sheriff of Pima County put his pocket knife in there and dug it out."

Joshua stopped in his tracks. "Not your uncle? What did he do a damn-fool thing like that for? Was it because he didn't like you being a queer?"

"He just wanted somebody to hate."

"Goddamn, boy, I am sorry to hear that. Where is he now, prison?"

"Dead. He got shanked in prison about two months after he got there."

The old man was shaking his head. "Goddamn, it's a mean world. And that doctor, he's something special. You know, I showed up at the ER, and I'd had a bit on, cause I thought the best thing to do would be to just cut it off myself."

"What, you mean your ball that got all swollen? You were gonna cut it off yourself?"

"Yeah. I haven't been to the hospital since I got my arm broke when I was a kid, and I figured, just go ahead and cut the bad parts out like you'd do to a bull got his balls twisted. I've castrated a lot of calves over the years. So I got tanked, preparing to do the job, but then I couldn't do it. So this old man lives back over there," Joshua gestured with his hand, "he rides me in to the hospital. Soon as I'm in the door some child with red hair keeps asking me for my insurance card. I say `insurance for what? The truck?'"`Health insurance,' she says, looking at me like she's smelling somebody's rolled in cow shit. `How are you planning to pay for your care?'"'So I say, well, you can just send me the bill and I'll pay it,like I do all my bills.' `You must be joking,' she says, and I was getting riled by then. So here comes the young doctor, and he says, `Let's see what we're talking about here.' And the girl, her face is getting all pink looking at him, which does nothing for her looks with that red hair. `You're doing too much pro bono, Doctor,' she says, `and he doesn't have any health insurance,' and he just smiles all gentle and says, `well, Michelle, what I want to do right now is examine this patient.' Next thing I know he has me in the exam room and I show him the problem. He rears back like a horse just kicked him in the teeth. `We'd better do something about that right now, don't you think? I don't want to put you to sleep, though, cause you've had a bit to drink. So let's just numb it up and do the job.' I say, `fine, you sound like you know what you're talking about,' and next thing I know I'm in the operating room and somebody's stripping me off and scrubbing me down and the job's done."

"How much was the bill?"

"He sent me a bill for forty dollars, and I paid it off when my social security came in. Want to hear something funny? I seem to remember I told him that forty dollars was how much the vet charged to whack off a twisted ball. Maybe they all set their prices the same."


"Now look out that way, boy. You ever seen anything so pretty in your life?" The old man was pointing to where his land began, a little creek running down through a mountain pass, falling down into the valley.

Colton turned in a circle, taking it all in. He could tell that Joshua wasn't seeing the disrepair, the fences falling down and the old tractor abandoned where it had stopped running. "It's fine country up here. I love the mountains. I don't have water like this down on my ranch. That creek running all year, that is a blessing."

"I first saw this land when I was seventeen. I had me a bit of money from selling my daddy's Trading Post. It was up there in Navajo country, but I had gotten a broken heart from some proud girl wouldn't have anything to do with me. So I sold up and went on the road, looking to find me some land of my own. I've got some pronghorn, like to come at dusk and drink out of the creek. It's right pretty watching them run across the land. I know those fences are down," he said, surprising Colton. "Last year a baby pronghorn got hooked up in the fence, trying to jump it. The little leg got broke and I just never had the heart to try and put the fence backbup. Not that I could do much these days by myself."

"I got a strong boy living out on my place. If you want, him and me could come up some weekend, give you a hand. You want to have a pen for the goats when they come back?"

"Thank you. I sure would like to have a good pen for those goats. But what makes you think they haven't been turned into barbeque already?"

"Two of them have. I think he's still got the third. Joshua, is that boy yours? You're sure acting like you're trying to be a father to him."

Joshua shook his head. "I'd stopped being with his mama that way about ten years before he was born. But I couldn't help but wonder, all those times I was with her when we were both young, what if she had gotten pregnant? Had she gotten rid of those babies? It's just that , I knew he wasn't, but I kind of thought he might have been."

Joshua looked out across his land. "He might have been, in another life."

And in another life, you might have had a son.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Christmas Noir excerpt from Rated: X-Mas by Barbara Karmazin

Christmas Noir by Barbara Karmazin. A cop and her partner and …

Rated X-Mas: Christmas Noir
Loose Id, LLC (originally July 31, 2007)
ISBN: 978-1-59632-367-4


Shannon gritted her teeth, paced back and forth, and counted to ten. Her hands were clenched so tight that her fingernails cut into her palms, but it was either that or pull her hair out in sheer frustration. Besides, turning around and assaulting two police detectives would only make the situation worse, not better, for her. “This is crazy! You can’t do this to me.”

The male detective, Fergus Desoto, spoke in slow, reasonable tones. His voice had a lovely Spanish lilt that sent every nerve ending on her body into super tingle. “We don’t like this any more than you do. It’s orders. We don’t have any other choice. It’s either this or put you into protective custody.”

Shannon whirled around. “Protective custody? You’d put me in jail? I’m not the murderer. Shouldn’t you be focusing your energies on capturing whoever’s killing herms instead of harassing me?”

The female detective, Tannamae Jones, had soft brown skin, almond-shaped eyes, and loose, black curls that gave her an exotic, almost magical appearance. Five-six was the minimum height for police officers. She must have barely squeaked by that requirement. Standing above her, Shannon felt like a clumsy elephant in her six-foot-tall frame.

Fergus splayed his hand across the small of Tannamae’s back and guided her to the other side of the table. She tilted her head to the side, flashed a seductive smile at him while he pulled out a chair for her. When she sat down, he moved behind her chair and rested his hand upon her shoulder.

Shannon sucked in a deep breath. Her throat ached. Detectives Tannamae Jones and Fergus DeSoto were more than just partners. They were lovers. Why couldn’t she have someone give her little touches and looks like that?

Tannamae held up her hand. She had short, clean nails and delicate wrists. Plus, she worked out regularly; Shannon was sure of that because the muscles in her arms were whipcord-hard. “We’re not harassing you. It’s your choice. You know the law mandates protective custody for potential victims of domestic violence. You qualify because of the threatening note you received with the holopic images of the latest victim. Either accept that we’re moving in with you until this case is solved, or accept protective custody in a more secure establishment.”

Shannon bit back a weary sigh. They were right. That particular law was an offshoot from domestic violence cases where the police hadn’t protected potential victims to the fullest extent possible. Even though this murder didn’t appear to be a domestic violence case, they couldn’t be sure and had to abide by the letter of the law. She didn’t have any other choice but to let them move in with her until the murderer was captured or killed. “All right. You can stay. I’ll tell the house droid to put clean sheets in the spare bedroom.”

Tannamae shook her head. “One of us must remain within three feet of you at all times. Would you be more comfortable having a man or a woman bunked down in your bedroom with you?”

Shannon stopped, crossed her arms under her breasts, and took her time looking them over from head to toe. Good. A blush darkened both detectives’ faces now. Served them right for doing this to her. If she called their bluff, would they back off and give her a semblance of privacy? What the hell? She might as well stick it to them deep and dirty. “It doesn’t matter who sleeps in my bed. I’m a herm, a shemale with breasts and a penis. Both sexes turn me on.”

She placed her hands on her hips and smiled a slow, seductive smile. “I’m going to take a shower now. Do you want to watch?”

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hard Hats: Gay Erotic Stories excerpts edited by Neil Plakcy

I spent five years working as a project manager on various shopping center construction sites, and the hard-working, hard-bodied guys I saw around me every day were the subject of some of my most intense fantasies. From the shirtless carpenters to the beefy laborers, there was plenty of guy candy.

Here are a couple of pieces from Hard Hats: Gay Erotic Stories by Neil Plakcy (Editor), just to whet your appetite!

Hard Hats: Gay Erotic Stories
Cleis Press (March 18, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1573443123


from Demo Dogs by Dale Chase

The guy driving this massive yellow belching beast wears a short-sleeved chambray shirt which looks about to burst at the seams. Beneath his white hard had he's deeply tanned. Even at this distance I can spot a chiseled jaw and rugged good looks. As his dozer chews into the old house with slow, persistent attacks I think of him doing that to me, knowing there's gotta be a fat dick in those jeans. After awhile when the porch overhang has collapsed, he backs up, pauses, and looks my way. Still at the deck railing, I wave. He nods, then goes back to work.

Others drive Bobcats and clear the rubble he creates. Some glance my way but when they stop for what appears to be a morning break, the dozer dude comes up the path.

“You like to watch,” he says.

“Like to do more than that,” I reply because my dick is hard and I can see he's interested. “Why don't you come inside,” I suggest.

He nods, rubs his bulging crotch.

from Hazard Pay-Off by Landon Dixon

Blake was in his mid-twenties, muscular all over from lifting and planting and stamping pavers for a living, with short black hair and warm brown eyes. He filled his faded jeans tight and taut, round in all the right places, his cheeks looking hard as the stones he was setting down. And since it was so hot, the work so heavy, he had his shirt off, his chiseled torso gleaming smooth and pumped in the sunshine. The guy was actually a good half-foot shorter than I was, but then I’m a carrot-topped beanpole.

I ogled my boss’s rock-hard, glistening body constantly, my mouth hanging open and eating dust, craving to lick the salty sweat from his muscle-humped chest and rigid nipples. I strangled the handles on the dolly, yearning to finger the soft, perspiration-slick crack of his apple ass. And what with all my sweating and drooling, I was soon parched with thirst.

from Daniel in the Lyons Den by Neil Plakcy

Joe Lyons was so near I could smell the tobacco on his breath, and a faint trace of his cologne. Leaning over me to point something out, his face was so close I could have kissed him.

And gotten my ass kicked, I was sure. Joe Lyons exuded a sexy machismo, and I knew from the ribbing he got around the site that he was quite a cocksman. The ladies were allegedly lined up for a piece of his sausage.

And speaking of that, I looked down at his thighs and saw his meat outlined against the taut fabric of his jeans. It had to be eight inches long, thick as a salami. It made me even more nervous to squat there next to him, and I lost my balance, almost tumbling into the ditch in front of us.

He reached out and grabbed my arm, and I fell back against him. For a moment, he held his arm around my shoulder, and I nearly melted under the strength of his grip.

“You all right, peckerhead?” he asked.

“You bet,” I said, standing up.

from Constructional Voodoo by Logan Zachary

My eyes followed the drop of sweat as it rolled down the hairy chest that stood in front of me. The tight blue jeans absorbed it quickly in the summer’s heat. The huge bulge strained against the zipper and seemed to swell. I forced my gaze up into the eyes of the man at my front door.

“As you can see, we’re digging up the street in front of your house.” The man stepped to the side so I could see the road. His red shirt hung open all the way down to his furry belly button.

An innie.

“You may want to store some water, in case we need to flush the hydrants.”

I forced my eyes back up to his face.

He turned, and our eyes finally meet.

Deep blue. I wanted to dive in.

No words were forming in my mind or my mouth. All I could manage was a nod.

“Just thought I’d let you know.” The man took out a white handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his brow. He turned and tried to stick it into his back pocket as he walked down the porch stairs. The handkerchief missed, slipped out of his pocket, and landed on the top step.

from Ball Bearings by Rob Rosen

I walked further into my new home, into what would be my bedroom. The flooring boards were stacked to one side, perhaps two feet high. I placed one foot on the stack and squatted down several inches, pulling on my hefty balls as I did so, and still slowly working my seven, upturned inches, occasionally pulling down on the clamps, each time moaning as I did so.

Luckily for me, the clamps weren’t the only things the workers had left behind. On the end of the pile of wood sat a finishing hammer, its base as wide as my prick, as phallic an instrument as ever there was one. With my cock and balls and nips getting stimulated, why not my asshole, I figured.

I reached over and grabbed it, then looked around for some sort of lube. My answer lay in the almost finished master bathroom. On the sink sat a small tub of grease remover, the jar open, its white, gloppy filling beckoning me.

I dipped my hand inside, engulfing three of my fingers in the slick goop. The trio quickly found their way to their intended goal, gliding around and then slowly inside my puckered hole, lubing it up, stretching it out, getting it ready for the object that now rested on the soon to be installed toilet.

Once my asshole was adequately prepped, I spread a layer of the lube up and down my shaft, then reached for the hammer, also slicking it up before placing the wooden base flush against my hole. It was a unique way to christen my new home, and a welcome one at that.

The solid wood slid in and up and back, sending a shiver down my spine and a flush through my stomach. My asshole clenched then gave in to the pressure of the unbending tool. My cock thickened and instantly became slick with precome. I sighed, and slowly, rhythmically, fucked myself with the end of the hammer.

I was too preoccupied, or too far in the belly of my home, to hear the approaching footsteps, but I did, however, hear this: “Um, I think that’s my hammer you’ve got there.”

I froze, with half the tool buried inside of me, and my hand gripped tightly around my dick. My eyes, which had been shut tight in rapture, suddenly blinked open.

A man in denim shorts and a tight, white tank was staring at me, grinning as he stood there, arms akimbo. He was tall, lean, ruggedly handsome and, much to my relief, amused at my present state.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Man, Oh Man: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks and Ca$h excerpt by Josh Lanyon

Hello, I’m Josh Lanyon. I write gay or M/M romance usually within the context of a romantic-suspense or mystery romance. I’ve been writing and publishing M/M or gay fiction for over a decade; in fact, MLR Press has just released my How To book titled Man, Oh Man: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks and Ca$h. This morning I thought I’d share a brief excerpt from the chapter on writing that ever popular staple of M/M romance: Angst.

Man, Oh Man: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks and Ca$h
MLR Press (March 22, 2008)
ISBN: 1934531308


Angst is closely aligned to another vastly popular element in M/M fiction known as Hurt/Comfort or HC. If your protagonist is critically injured and languishing in hospital, and his boyfriend is out of town on a secret mission, the hurt/comfort quotient drops, but the angst quotient skyrockets. See how that works?

Of course hurt/comfort and angst are not exclusive by any means to M/M fiction. Most romantic fiction is rife with the emotional highs and lows that result from pain and plenty of it. And like hurt/comfort, angst is a staple of slash fan fiction – which is where a great many M/M writers come from. As you can imagine all those serious illnesses, critical injuries, nervous breakdowns, rapes, betrayals, addictions, kidnappings, stalkings, deaths in the family, broken dreams, shattered hopes and really really REALLY bad days lead to a certain amount of tension. Even anxiety.

Angst is actually a Germanic word meaning “anxiety.” The Danish philosopher and theologian Kierkegaard, used the term angst to express his belief that the human condition was riddled with despair. He wrote a philosophical novel called Fear and Trembling. What does that tell you?

Typically we associate angst with adolescence. Few people are better at suffering loudly and noticeably than teenagers. It’s an art form with them, and you have to respect that.

Acne and existential quandaries aside, angst is also a very important ingredient in M/M fiction. Well, not all M/M fiction. Romantic comedy and action/adventure are mercifully angst-free for the most part, but any time your characters are suffering over their conflicted feelings — generally for each other — they are usually angsting.

Please note: if they’re just depressed and insecure, that’s not angst. Angst requires serious suffering. Breaking up with your boyfriend is sad. Your boyfriend dying is tragic. Finding out after your boyfriend dies that he was seeing someone else — now that’s angst.

Death, disease, disaster — this is all angstilicious stuff. High drama is what separates true angst from the anxiety normal to the human condition.

Historical M/M lends itself particularly well to angst. It’s the whole, love-that-dare-not- speak-its-name thing. In my World War II historical novella Snowball in Hell, Journalist Nathan Doyle has just returned home from North Africa -- still recovering from wounds received in the Western Desert Campaign -- when he's asked to cover the murder of a society blackmailer. Lt. Matthew Spain of the LAPD homicide squad is the cop in charge of investigating the blackmailer’s murder – and he has his own secrets.

He could feel Mathew’s withdrawal, although each time their eyes met, Mathew smiled fleetingly, and the knowledge of what they had shared was in his eyes. In Union Station, things happened very quickly, and they were out front on the pavement while the never-ending flood of passengers and friends and family parted around them.

Nathan said, “Can I drop you somewhere?”

“There’s a car coming for me,” Matt said.

Nathan nodded. He knew he shouldn’t ask, already knew what the answer had to be, but he asked anyway. “Will I see you again?”

Matt said brusquely, “I’m not leaving town.”

And that pretty much answered Nathan’s question. He nodded, turning away, and Matt caught his arm. He immediately let him go, and said quietly, painfully, “It’s not that I don’t—I’m a cop, Nathan. It’s…too dangerous.”

Nathan nodded. Smiled suddenly. “I know. Nice to have had a taste of…what it could be like. That’s more than I ever thought I’d have.”

Matt’s face twisted as though Nathan had said something terrible, and Nathan wanted to reach out and reassure him that he meant it, meant every word. That he was truly grateful for these few hours, that it was the best Christmas ever. He had no regrets at all, despite the fact that he wished he hadn’t woken up this morning, that perfect happiness would have been to have gone to sleep in Matt’s arms and never opened his eyes again. But of course he couldn’t say that, and he couldn’t reach out. He could never touch Matt again.

Instead he said softly, “Take care of yourself, Mathew.”
[Snowball in Hell by Josh Lanyon (Aspen Mountain Press)]

Yaoi is also angstful: all those giant cartoon eyes veritably brim with grief at the human condition — mostly their own.

Wondering if the object of your affections feels the same is not technically angst — unless you’re under 18. Having a closeted lover, however, is generally grounds for angst.

Because I have a weird sense of humor, the more angstful the story, the more likely I am to find it funny. I guess someone left a banana peel on my pain threshold. Anyway, my advice is that you use angst sparingly. Less is more. Heaping coals on your hapless character’s head in chapter after chapter just reminds me of those sappy Victorian novels where the noble and long-suffering hero (or heroine) endures tragedy after tragedy only to die with a brave smile and an angelic sentiment upon his rosebud lips after saving a child from the wheels of a train.

In my opinion the more angsty the journey, the more life-affirming and reassuring the happy ending should be — but that’s just me. I’m in favor of happy endings from a purely philosophical standpoint.

Sometimes angst is its own reward — some protagonists do suffer beautifully — but generally it requires comforting. Ideally from the other protagonist. You can see what a vicious cycle this could turn into. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Three Miracles of Santos Socorro by Sarah Black

The following, an excerpt from The Three Miracles of Santos Socorro by Sarah Black, is about several of her favorite things: tamales,Christmas, masks, and a couple of forty year old guys standing at a crossroads.

The Three Miracles of Santos Socorro
Loose ID (December, 2007)
ISBN: 978-1-59632-586-9


Emma reached for the door and held it open when she saw him fumbling
with the lock. "Mr. Green, what happened? You're bleeding!"

"I just skinned my knee," Abraham said, holding a piece of telfa to
the spot and hobbling in the door. "I can't get a Band-aid to stick."

Emma blinked down at his knee. "Maybe you should, you know, shave or
something. Use the scissors and trim a bit. Because you're really,
you know…" Her voice trailed off.

"Hairy. Yes, I know."

Emma was such a lovely golden cheerleader princess, with a smile
that must have put her orthodontist in a new Jaguar. But it was all
a mask, a disguise of her true self. When Abraham had first
interviewed Emma for the position of sales clerk at Aztec Gold, his
upscale chocolateria, she had been wearing black lipstick, a dog
collar with spikes around her tender ivory throat, and was going by
the name `Diablo.'

She told him she was a theater major at San Antonio State, and he
convinced her to assume the role of a perky WASP princess and sell
chocolates for him in the mornings, with the understanding that it
was only acting. Her performance was flawless. So flawless, in fact,
he suspected Diablo's blonde pageboy and Peter Pan collars and Navy
blue pleated skirts were a Catholic school disguise she had only
recently shed.

"I'll go along with this," she said, "but any sicko motherfucker
with gray hair thinks I'm Lolita and tries to cop a feel, he's gonna
get some Aztec Gold shoved up his ass."

"Agreed," Abraham said. "Actually, I don't see this role appealing
to the weirdo Daddy crowd. I'm picturing it more in the role of the
lovely and virginal daughter and granddaughter. Most of our
customers are, you know, well-to-do women. Society women. I want you
to pretend to be the good granddaughter they all want, the one with
perfect manners who listens to them, so they will come in here and
drop a fortune on our chocolate."

Diablo nibbled on her bottom lip. "I can do that. See, if I wanted
to appeal to the Daddy crowd, I would let one of my knee socks fall
down. They like that. It drives grandmothers crazy, though.

Grandmothers don't like messy. They like tidy knee socks. Okay, good
direction, Mr. Green."

And when Abraham saw her next, shining cap of gold hair, strawberry
lip gloss and a couple of ginger freckles on her nose and a very
slightly wilted violet pinned to her white blouse, he knew she had
embraced the role. Abraham had been right, too. More times than he
could count elegant matrons congratulated him on finding such a
charming young lady to help in the shop. So respectful! Such
excellent manners!

Saturday nights Diablo re-emerged, but by Monday morning all the
black nail polish, fake blood, and ripped fishnets were safely
hidden away again, and Emma was on the job.

"So what happened to your knee?"

"I skinned it playing basketball. Got anything planned for tonight?"

"Yeah, Blood Rave at The Grotto." She saw his look. "It's like our
Christmas party." Her face was suddenly gleeful. "I think we're
gonna do a fake virgin sacrifice. Cool, huh? I'm pretty sure I'm a
shoe-in for the virgin."

"Diablo, this is entirely safe, isn't it? I hear about these raves,
date-rape drugs and girls getting hurt. Now virgin sacrifice?"

She waved this away. Her nails were buffed and very clean. "It's
theater, drama. Role-playing. You know, since the time of the Greeks
altars and great drama have gone together like cheeseburgers and
fries. How about you, Mr. Green? Got any plans?"

Abraham shook his head. "I've got to go help Santos' grandmother
make tamales."

The swinging doors to the kitchen flew open. "Oh, no, you're not
making tamales tonight. You've got a date!"

The kitchen smelled like dark chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, vanilla,
and normally these smells, and the sight of his beautiful kitchen,
copper bowls, white marble counters, handsome Latin chocolatiers in
spotless uniforms, was enough to cause him to swallow his irritation
with David's latest scheme to fix he and Santos up in a threesome.
No matter how many times he'd told David they were happy, David
thought `happy' was a synonym for `boring', and they would become
sexually stale without the addition of a third or some stout ropes
or a can of foaming mint lube.

"Don't tell me you've rousted up another one of those strange `gay
bears.' That last guy must have weighed three hundred pounds and he
was significantly more interested in the Death by Chocolate cake
than anything else. He could have crushed Santos to death with no

David shrugged an elegant shoulder and reached into the Sub-Zero for
the eggs. "We have the tea menu yet?"

Abraham pointed silently at the menu, posted at 0530 this morning,
as it was every morning, before he had headed to the gym for his
usual morning B-Ball game.

"Oh, right. Well, what happened was I went to this mask-making
workshop with Diablo, and I met these frisky boys and they had a
branch, like, a gay mask-making club."

"A gay mask-making club in San Antonio?"

"Oh, yeah. The underworld is a rich and beautiful culture, bro."

Manuel nodded from the dried fruit table. He was dipping golden
pieces of pineapple in the ganache. "That's true, boss. Culture,
it's not what they talk about, like there's a dominant culture and a
non-dominant culture. It has layers, like the layers of a…of a…"

"Of a truffle!" David offered this like a gift, but Manuel shook his

"More like a tiramisu."

Abraham studied them as if they were recently arrived from another
planet. "Sociology in the kitchen? Interesting. But I said no to the
blind date. Me and Santos are fine, for the millionth time. We don't
want to have sex with strangers or bears or anything involving
lashes with a little whip."

"Wait, wait! You haven't heard the best part!"

Oh, God. Abraham pulled an apron on over his head and took a copper
bowl from the shelf. David was gearing up for some serious
storytelling. This might take till Christmas. Meringues would be
nice for tea. He started separating eggs, good for the concentration.

"So we were exploring mask-wearing as a metaphor for identity
formation, and I noticed this one guy."

Abraham studied his little brother. He could not possible be related
to this fey, gorgeous boy, such a bull-shitter, eyes like sweet milk
chocolate and the wheedling voice of a carny huckster. "What was
wrong with him?"

"Nothing! It was just, he didn't really fit in with the group. I
mean, he wasn't really into the dynamics of the whole group sex…

A clear point in his favor, Abraham thought. "Group sex thing? Could
we discuss your personal safety for a moment?"

"He was into the masks, though, and had done a careful study of
masks of several cultures. And, you know, he wanted to talk about
them. In truth, Abraham, I was interested, but some of the other
guys, they kind of ignored him. I think he was hoping for something
else from the club, like something a little more intellectual."

"The other guys were too busy fitting on their cock-rings and
harnesses for a little pony-play?"


"So your guy with the mask, he can only do what he wants to do with
his face hidden? That doesn't sound too healthy."

Manuel turned from the ganache and gave him a mournful look. "Masks
do more than hide identity, man. That's an Anglo-European

Emma had pushed through the doors. "I could use some more almond
biscotti out front. And you're quite right, Manuel. Masks, in most
cultures, serve to provide additional identity through ritual. Many
cultures, the masks allow a spirit identity to enter the body, share
the corporeal, so to speak. Masks don't hide. It's just a symbolic
representation—this is who I am. And I am also this, and I am also
this. Stranger, better, more powerful, more dangerous."

Abraham realized he was staring at her, mouth hanging open. She
pointed to her chest with her thumbs. "Hello? Theater major!" She
swept out of the kitchen like a princess, and Abraham had to resist
the urge to applaud.

He went back to work with the whisk. "So what's the deal? Who is it?"

"That thing Diablo said, that's what I'm…"

"David, cut the shit! Who is it, and how can I call and cancel?"

"You can't. He said you're already meeting him on the steps of San
Juan Capistrano at seven. He's on duty until then."

Abraham felt his lips go numb. "On duty?"

David was chewing on his bottom lip, and Abraham reached into the
cabinet for some pistachios. Divinity, that's what they needed.

"Detective Santos Socorro. Your…Detective Santos Socorro."

Pistachios flew everywhere.

David was on his hands and knees with a fox-tail broom and a dust
pan, sweeping up the nuts. "Put the cleaver down."

"Fuck you. I wouldn't use the good cleaver on you." Abraham gave his
brother the bird, then limped out of the kitchen.

Santos Socorro. His knee ached just thinking about him, because it
was his hip-check this morning that had sent Abraham sprawling onto
the concrete basketball court like an eight year old. Oh, fuck me.
Abraham could feel the heat flushing through his chest, down into
his belly. Abraham could feel Santos' hand on his hip, a little
extra heat on his skin. That's the way they touched in public, the
rough, competitive touch of a couple of middle-aged guys on a
basketball court, a hand on the hip. Was he ready to move on? Did he
want to roll with a bear? How did he feel, and why did his lover,
Abraham Green, not know exactly how he felt? Up until this very
moment, he would have said Santos was a ten on the satisfied scale.
And so was he. No, he was a nine, because Santos' evil witch of a
grandmother had hexed him. Shit! This was Magdalena Socorro's curse!
She'd cursed him, and now Santos was making masks at a secret gay
mask-making club.

They had lives, work. They weren't together every night, but who
was? He was just happy for anything Santos wanted to give him. But
if anyone had asked Abraham Green how he felt about Santos Socorro,
and he had decided to tell the truth, he would have just fallen
weakly to his knees, touched his forehead to the floor. Everything
he'd ever wanted in this life, and believed he would never find,
walked in that man's shoes. Santos Socorro was a miracle.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Drag Queen in the Court of Death excerpt by Caro Soles

This excerpt is from the Lambda Award finalist Drag Queen in the Court of Death by Caro Soles.

While cleaning out his dead ex-lover Ronnie's apartment, staid history professor Michael Dunn-Barten makes a grisly discovery. Suddenly Michael must travel back 25 years to find answers by revisiting everybody who knew Ronnie. Back to the 1960s, back to the realization of his sexuality and the boy he loved. Back to the troubling time when his wife threw him out and his family disowned him. Back to uncover disturbing answers amidst drag queens and murky memories—and to reveal whether or not his first real love was truly a twisted killer. Drag Queen in the Court of Death is a taut thriller about a man who needs to face his past in order to forge a future. He must unravel a mystery that's a quarter century old—no matter how painful the truth may be.

Drag Queen in the Court of Death
The Haworth Press Inc (January 1, 2007)
ISBN: 1560236302


The last time I came up these stairs was exactly three weeks ago. I would have stayed away longer, but Ellis was insistent, pining over all those gorgeous gowns and shoes and wigs; imagining great bolts of flashing silks and glittering lengths of magical cloth that ran though your hands like a sigh.

“And the make-up,” Ellis said, behind me on the stairs. “There’s probably mountains of the stuff.”

“No doubt,” I said. “Remember, he left most of it to Wilde Nights.”

“Well, I’m in Wilde Nights,” Ellis said.

“So am I.” That was his friend. Some young thing named Jaym or Jaym. A non-name. An effort at re-creation which I might have appreciated in my younger days. Now it just annoyed me.

I paused at the landing, the key warm and moist in my hand. The air danced with dust and heat. I didn’t understand why Ronnie had stayed so long in this place, the top floor apartment of an old converted rooming house in a part of the city that was finally becoming fashionable again. When he had moved in, he was just a student. In my home room. It was the sixties and we thought anything might happen. Anything might become something else entirely. Something wonderful and engaging and strange. Like Ronnie himself. At least, to me.

“Come on, Michael.” Behind me, the heat from Ellis’s tight body radiated close to my back. “I’m dying here.”

Immediately he caught his breath and I felt the air go still. Dying. But it was Ronnie who was dead.

For a moment I rested my hand flat against the painted door. The deep purple surface was warm. I put the key in the locks, all three of them, and stepped back. The door opened outward, making it awkward for a moment, balanced on the steps. Behind me the other two muttered and shifted to make room as the plum door swung towards me and I walked into Ronnie Lipinsky’s apartment.

Hot dust-filled air hit me in the face. It was like pushing into a wall of solid heat.

Ellis coughed. “Hell on wheels! Air! Air!” He rushed towards the one full length window, that opened onto the fire escape. We used to sit out there on hot nights, Ronnie and I, wrapped safe in the darkness and liquid emotion, talking the night away. Ellis struggled with the old much-painted wooden sash and finally forced it open. He stood for a moment, panting in the heat, the sunlight dancing on the short frosted tips of his hair.

Beside me, Jaym was looking around at the eccentric decor, his dark eyes taking in every detail. “Cool.”

Some time ago, Ronnie had remodeled the top floor, which was originally three separate rooms, into a small apartment. I didn’t understand why he’d bothered, but he loved the place. It had memories, he said. Associations. It gave him back the roots he had voluntarily broken when he came here all those years ago at the age of seventeen. Technically, he was not a draft dodger, since he hadn’t been called up yet. But he would have been. Here, in this eccentric top floor of an old house in Toronto, he recreated himself over the years, til at last, when I met him again, he was a different person.

The sloping walls were a deep midnight blue, the ceiling silver. The furniture was all upholstered in white, with painted cushions on the sofa and piled on the window seat. Near the dormer window hung five or six mobiles Ronnie had made from bits of colored glass and crystals and sparkling ornaments. They moved gently, emitting a soft tinkling sound that set my teeth on edge.

“What’s that about?” Jaym asked, pointing at one wall. It was covered with pictures of angels and saints, Madonnas and plaster cherubs and dried flowers with dusty ribbons hanging from their stems. There were pictures of men, some formal, some snapshots. Some were very old. There were also antique in memoriam cards bordered in thick black, with peoples’ names in spiked gothic script. On the floor stood two large painted wooden candlesticks, with squat beeswax candles.

“It’s a memorial to friends who have died of AIDS,” I said.

“It’s creepy,” said Ellis, with a mock shiver.

I shrugged. It was just another theatrical touch in a room filled with dramatic flair. “The gowns are through here,” I said, opening the door to the room at the back of the house.

This one was painted white, with a wall of mirrors along one side. The lighting was bright, but muted, so that the effect in the mirrors was flattering. Rows of clothes hung in plastic bags along both sides of the room.

Ellis descended on the goldmine with cries of delight. Jaym merely stared, as the light bounced off the sequins and satins, the bugle beads and seed pearls. It was as if the room winked at us.

I left them to it and went into the bedroom across the hall. Here the walls were sky blue. Someone had painted clouds on the ceiling. A mobile of stars hung in the window. This closet, I knew, was filled with sober expensive suits, which Ronnie wore to work at the law firm of Strauss and Hamburg. But it was not one of these suits he had chosen to be buried in, but a gown of old rose, with beadwork on the bodice and a high, almost Victorian neckline. I knew, because I had taken it to the funeral home, as per his request.

Across the hall I could hear Ellis’s laughter, his delighted exclamations, the ohhhs of appreciation. Jaym’s low voice answered him and occasionally he would laugh, too. I pulled myself together and collected the mail form the box downstairs, took back to the living room to sort. There was the usual junk, some bills which needed attention, a few letters and notes I put aside to answer later.

My concentration kept wandering and I soon gave in. I wasn’t ready for business. I took a box of photos from the top of the desk sank into the couch to go through them. Some of the pictures I recognized, but they were mostly of people I didn’t know, taken in bars and during drag shows, at parties where Ronnie smiled and talked with wide shouldered transvestites and men holding wine glasses or cans of beer.

Ellis and Jaym were piling selected gowns on the brightly painted chest in one corner of the living room. I vaguely remembered the chest, a trunk, really. In the old days it had stood in the middle of the room, used as a coffee table. Seeing it now brought back unpleasant memories of our breakup, an abrupt and painful wrenching apart of something I had assumed solid. I was a fool, but I had never really been in love before and Ronnie’s sudden erratic behavior was incomprehensible to me.

The laughter and screams of delight from the other room had faded now, as the two became serious in their winnowing of the treasure that crammed the racks. I raised my head to watch, catching alluring glimpses of Ellis posturing and pouting in one gown after another, his short spiky blond hair almost glittering in the bright light. Occasionally Jaym would try something on, but mostly he seemed to see his role as groom, the one who puts everything away, smoothing out wrinkles and zipping up the garment bags. I was glad he had come along.

“What a bitchin’ collection,” Ellis said, arms akimbo as he looked at the gowns he had piled on top of the old trunk. “How the hell can I choose just three?”

“Find a way,” I said. Three had been an arbitrary number, but having chosen it, I felt bound by my own careless words, something that often happened to me.

“Shit,” said Ellis. He passed several of the gowns to Jaym who obediently hung them up, I was sure in the exact same place they had come from. “I’ll have to shorten them,” Ellis went on, “but other than that they fit great. What’s in the trunk?”

I shrugged. “How would I know?” I glanced pointedly at my watch.

“Okay, okay. Just let me take a look in case he was keeping some gems hidden, for some reason. Jaym, give me a hand here. It seems to be stuck or something.”

I watched the two of them struggle with the trunk for a while. Irritated that it was taking so long, I got up and went over to help. The lock had sprung open but the top refused to budge.

“What the hell has he got in here?” Jaym asked. “His tiara collection?”

“Hold on.” I went into the tiny immaculate kitchen and came back with a screw driver, and a hammer. I resented that trunk. It had always been here, changing slowly as Ronnie changed, painted, repainted, covered with pictures or draped with shawls, while I had been banished, my life broken apart.

As I tried to force the screwdriver under the lip of the top of the trunk, I realized Ronnie had sealed it with something.

“Weirdness,” murmured Ellis.

Jaym had discovered the end of the tape used as sealer, and slowly and carefully removed it. Underneath was another kind of sealant, but with three of us working on it, we chipped and pealed it off too. By now, we were all determined to find out the treasures within. I felt the faint beat of an excitement I hadn’t experienced for many years. Anticipation. Adventure. I smiled at Jaym as he handed me the hammer. It was warm from his touch.

“One more whack should do it,” he said. “Go for it.”

I did. The top swung open with a creak. They cheered. Paint chips from the hinges flaked into the deep blue rug. A heavy smell of dust and mold rose from inside.

Ellis pulled back, coughing. “I don’t think I want anything that’s been in here,” he said.

“Don’t be too hasty,” I said, pulling out the heavy green tapestry material that lay on top. It was just material, nothing else. Underneath was something that looked like old leather, cracked and brown, discolored with neglect. I tried to pull this out, too but it wouldn’t move. Jaym reached in to help and we both pulled at the bundle, finally getting it half out. It appeared to be sewn together, so that the entire bundle filled the large trunk in a mass of stiff dusty leather.

Ellis coughed again. “What it this? Bondage gear?”

“You wish,” said Jaym, his dark eyes dancing. He flashed a sudden grin. “Let’s heave it out on the floor.”

It wasn’t that heavy, no more than you would expect from a package of leather, but I was beginning to sweat. Something wasn’t right about this. I had never heard of Ronnie being into anything leather before. The thought that there was a lot about Ronnie I might not know, was surprisingly painful.

We crouched on the floor, looking at the awkward package. Whatever it was, it had been in there a long time.

“Turn it over,” Ellis said.

When we did, he pointed to a row of heavy stitches. “So where are the scissors?”

I shrugged.

Jaym got up and went into the room where all the gowns hung. There was a sewing machine in there. He had remarked on it earlier. Now he went unerringly to the box where the scissors and such things were and came back with it triumphant.

“Piece of cake,” he said, and began to snip away with a pair of scissors. When that proved too slow he picked out a utility blade and sawed through the thick stitches.

The heavy leather pealed away from the package slowly, almost reluctantly. It took awhile, turning the bulky package around, moving it further into the room to give us more space. The dust was heavy, smelling strongly of mothballs, now. I turned away to sneeze.

Ellis screamed.

Jaym dropped his side of the bundle and jumped backwards,
knocking over the telephone table.

I swung around and stared. The air rushed out of me, as if someone had hit me hard in the stomach. Staring up from the leather cocoon was a mummified face, the skin shriveled and brown, pulled back over the yellowed teeth.


Jaym rushed to the window and opened it. I thought for a moment he might crawl through to the wide ledge outside but he didn’t. Ellis had scooted back till he was against the furthest wall. He held both hands over his mouth, still staring at the corpse.

“Holy Christ,” I said, my mind whirling in confusion.

There was no rational explanation for this atrocity. All I could think of was seeing this trunk all those times over the years when I had visited Ronnie. Was this monstrosity inside while we made love on the floor beside it years ago? I felt my insides well up and rushed to the bathroom. Nothing came up.

I threw cold water on my face, went back into the living room and dialed 911.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

The Bar Watcher excerpt by Dorien Grey

The Bar Watcher is the third of the 11-book Dick Hardesty Mystery series by Dorien Grey, and involves Dick's reluctant search for someone who is killing off cruel and obnoxious gay men..."taking out the garbage" as one character calls it.

The following excerpt is from the opening pages of the book, which is available in or on order from any bookstore, on Amazon, or any on-line bookseller. It is also available in various e-book formats from GLB Publishers (

The Bar Watcher
GLB Publishers (November 27, 2001)
ISBN: 1879194791


One of the reasons I became a private investigator was because I like puzzles, and every case is like working a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. Of course, the bulk of any private investigator's cases are like the puzzles you see for kids on the little table in dentists' office waiting rooms—five pieces and there's the bunny. But every now and then you get one that is more like one of those 1,500-piece reproductions of a Bosch or Breughel painting—a real challenge. They drive me crazy sometimes, but when I finally put the last couple of pieces together, there's a sense of satisfaction that's hard to describe, or match.

And almost always the people you're looking for are right there in the picture, though you don't recognize them until the puzzle's completed. And from time to time, the picture you think you're working on isn't the one you end up seeing.

Now, take the case of the bar watcher….

* * *

It's what I refer to now as my "Slut Phase." My monogamous five year relationship with Chris had broken up some time ago, and I decided it was about time I let the other guys spend their time looking for "Mr. Right"–I'd concentrate on Mr. Right Now. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't whittle a notch in the bedpost after every trick, or I'd have ended up sleeping on a mound of wood shavings.

When I wasn't pursuing research for a book I thought about writing on "101 Fun Things to Do With a Penis," I was actually making some progress in that part of my life which did not involve lying down. I'd obtained my private investigator license late the year before, and was struggling to make ends meet.

Business was beginning to improve, though slowly, thanks to a solid working relationship I had with members of the local gay Bar Guild, for whom I'd done a couple favors prior to taking out my license. Referrals from Guild members were in fact the source of much of my business. And the fact that there weren't exactly a lot of gay private investigators to choose from also helped, I'm sure. I'd rented a small office in one of the city's older commercial buildings, with an address far more impressive than the building itself.

If I'd started out with any illusions that being a private investigator might be a pretty exciting job, reality kicked me in the ass in short order. Lots and lots of checking on possibly (and too often definitely) wandering lovers, one or two incidences of blackmail, a case of embezzlement involving the business manager of a gay resort—that sort of thing; and lots of sitting around waiting for the next client.

Oh, yeah…and I'd given up smoking. Cold turkey. That was a hell of a lot harder than any case I'd had, or was likely ever to have. So I was relieved when the phone rang just as I was trying to figure out a 10-letter word for "reclusive or brutish person" in the paper's crossword puzzle (don't bother: it's "troglodyte").

"Hardesty Investigations," I said, in my professional, half-octave-lower-than-normal voice.

"Hardesty: this is Barry Comstock. Jay Mason of the Bar Guild referred you to me."

"Well, thanks for calling, Mr. Comstock," I said, making a mental note to thank Jay as well. "How can I help you?"

"I own Rage…you're familiar with it?"

Rage was the city's hottest bathhouse. I knew it.

"Of course," I said, then waited for him to continue.

"We've got ourselves a problem, and while I think it's a bunch of bullshit, they tell me you might be able to help resolve it."

"Is it anything you can mention on the phone, or…?" I asked.

"No; definitely not."

"I understand," I said—but of course I didn't. "Did you want to come to my office, or…"

"No, you come over here. I've got a business to run and I can't just be taking off."

Like I wasn't busy. Well, okay, I wasn't, but I didn't like his 'busier than thou' attitude.

"No problem," I said. "I could be there in around an hour, if that would be all right. I have a client coming in a little later this afternoon." I lied, but he didn't have to know that.

"Good," he said. "I don't see your name on our members list, but I might have missed it.."

Actually, he hadn't—I wasn't a member. Baths are fine, but they're not my thing. I like to have a few words come out of my mouth before putting something in, and the baths aren't exactly the place guys go for complex conversations like "Hi. My name is…".

"I know how to find it," I said. "I'll see you in an hour, then."

He hung up without saying "goodbye."

Though I'd never met Barry Comstock, I'd seen him at a distance a couple of times in the more trendy bars and discos, always accompanied by two or three different good-looking guys whom he seemed to enjoy treating like dirt. He had a reputation as a wheeler-dealer in the rapidly growing gay business community. A former porn star, he'd opened Rage about eight months earlier. He was noted for having a monumental schlong, and an ego to match. I'd seen some of his movies—I think I still have a copy of one of his better ones: "Comstock's Load." He was also rumored to have the first nickel he ever made, so I imagined he would not be calling on me unless it was something pretty important.

* * *

Rage was located in what local gays were beginning to refer to as The Central—sort of an homage to San Francisco's Castro district—and about a half a block off Beech, the main gay thoroughfare. No ground floor windows; just a dark blue canopy with "Rage" in white script, over a matching blue entry door. Just as I reached for the handle, the door swung open and a drop-dead gorgeous hunk exited carrying his gym bag and a satisfied smile. Our eyes locked for a moment, and he gave me a broad wink. "Have fun," he said.

Before I had a chance to reconsider my opinion of baths, I was inside the small lobby.

A blond Adonis stood behind the registration window wearing a "Rage" tee shirt so tight I thought at first it had been spray painted on his bare chest. Yeah, I thought, maybe I should reconsider…

"Your card?" the blond said.

"I'm not a member," I said. "I've got an appointment with Barry Comstock. The name's Hardesty."

The blond picked up a phone out of sight below the window, said something I couldn't hear, then hung up the phone and nodded toward the only door leading to the interior from the lobby. "First door to your left," he said, and pressed an unseen buzzer which opened the lobby inner door.

"Thanks," I said, and passed through it into a short hallway. The first door on the left said simply "Private" and I knocked.

"Come in," a voice said, and I did.

The room was large and windowless, paneled in what appeared to be dark oak. It apparently couldn't decide whether its function was to impress or to be a working office, and therefore didn't quite fit either category. There were several small framed photos on one wall, apparently of Comstock with various celebrities, a large painting of a nude male torso—undoubtedly Comstock himself—on a side wall next to a door, a couple file cabinets, a worktable with a copy machine and a typewriter, a couple of comfortable and expensive looking leather chairs and a large, equally expensive looking desk, behind which sat Barry Comstock, slitting open a stack of mail with a very wicked looking letter opener..

I mentioned that Barry Comstock had been a porn star, but it was obvious that he was no longer in his 20s—or, despite valiant efforts on his part, even his 30s. His face had that stretched-too-tight look that indicated a plastic surgeon's handiwork. In some odd way, he was rather like the room itself. He'd have been considerably more attractive if he'd just left himself alone.

He did not get up and so I deliberately walked over to the desk and extended my hand, which he had to put down the letter opener and lean forward to take.

"Dick Hardesty, Mr. Comstock." I said. "What can I do for you?"

He motioned me to a chair and resumed opening the mail, shifting his glance back and forth between the mail and me.

"We've had some…well, what my partners consider to be threats. I think they're bullshit, but they insisted I look into it. Frankly, I don't have the time, which is why I called you."

"What kind of threats?" I asked.

Comstock finished opening the mail, set the opener aside again, and leaned back in his chair. "Oh, we've been getting bitch letters since we opened...most of them have tapered off lately."

"What kind of 'bitch letters'?" I asked.

Comstock gave a slight sneer. "About our membership policy," he said.

"And your membership policy is…?" I asked. Actually, I had a pretty good idea from what I'd been hearing on the street, but I wanted to hear him spell it out. He looked at me with a mixture of disdain and surprise.

"Which is that this is a place where hot young guys come to meet other hot young guys. We don't let fats, or old farts in. If you're fat, or bald, or old, or ugly you can go someplace else."

So much for my buying stock in the Barry Comstock School of Charm, I thought. This guy was really starting to piss me off.

"So what made this letter different…and did you keep it?" I asked.

"Nah," Comstock said with a shrug. "I pitch them all. But I remembered this one–it came in maybe four, five months ago--because the asshole made it up to look like a ransom know, all cut-out words pasted together. It said that if we didn't change our membership policy we'd be hearing from him again. Fuckin' blackmail's what it boils down to, pure and simple. And I'm not the kind of guy you want to try to blackmail." He unconsciously hunched his shoulders forward as if flexing his muscles.

We sat silent for a moment, until I said: "And I gather you did hear from him again?"

Comstock gave a contemptuous snort and reached into the bottom drawer of his desk, pulling out what appeared to be a shoe box. "This came in the mail, addressed to me." He pushed it across the desk, and I leaned forward to take it. The box had no marking of any kind, and I lifted the lid to find it stuffed with tissue paper. Moving the tissue paper aside I found a 3x5 card on which someone had pasted a panel from what I assume was a comic book. It was a picture of a fireball over which was the word: "BOOM!" Turning it over, words cut from obviously various sources, in assorted sizes and typefaces said: "Last chance. Everyone plays or YOU pay." Kind of melodramatic, I thought, but it made it's point.

I put the card back, closed the lid, and pushed the box back across the desk.

"Did you save the wrapper it came in?"

"What the fuck for? I've got enough garbage around here as it is."

If he was too stupid to entertain the idea that a return address or postmark might have come in handy, I wasn't about to spell it out for him.

"It's probably just somebody with a grudge and an active imagination," I said. "But you never know; this guy could be serious. I guess you didn't consider contacting the police?"

Comstock shook his head scornfully. "Are you out of your fucking mind? I let the cops come in here scaring off the customers and I might as well shut the place down. I told you it's fucking blackmail. And I told you I don't pay blackmail."

Yeah, I heard you the first time, and I wasn't impressed then, either, I thought. Though I didn't say anything, it struck me that for anyone out to settle a grievance, real or imagined, with Rage, it would only take a couple of "concerned citizen" or "they're selling drugs" calls to the cops to effectively shut the place down. The police would love any excuse for a raid, and no gay man in his right mind would willingly put himself in a gay bath house that was subject to frequent raids. Obviously, something else was going on here.

"Exactly who determines who gets in and who doesn't?" I asked.

Comstock leaned forward, putting his elbows on the desk, one hand wrapped around the other lightly clenched fist. "I'm the boss. I decide. The desk men are told in no uncertain terms who gets in and who doesn't; they do the sorting out," he said. "If there's any doubt, they buzz me. But usually it's pretty cut and dried. Ugly's ugly. Fat's fat; old is old."

"And how do they handle it when an undesirable comes in?" I used the word "undesirable" deliberately.

"The ones we want as members are given membership cards to fill out. The others are told that memberships are closed."

"And if somebody is filling out a membership card when a non-desirable comes in?" I asked. "Or worse, if somebody's getting the 'closed membership' spiel and somebody worthy of belonging comes in?"

"Same thing. They get the message pretty fast. And you can cut the fucking sarcasm. I'm running a business here, not a bleeding hearts social club. There are lots of other baths around. Let the creeps go there."

That's it, Comstock, I thought; you're definitely off my Christmas card list.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reap the Whirlwind excerpt by Josh Aterovis

The following excerpt is taken from Reap the Whirlwind by Josh Aterovis. "Nothing can stay the same forever. We get in trouble in life when we think it can and will. Everything changes, or as King Solomon said in the Bible and The Byrds sang in the 60's, to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. It's not a particularly easy lesson to learn, or a fun one for that matter. I learned it the summer between high school and college, and my life would never be the same."

Will's life is changing so quickly he can't keep up. He's moving out of his parents' home for the first time, changing careers, making new friends, and falling in love with the person he least expected. In the process, he's also learning a lot about himself. As if he doesn't have enough going on, his life-long best friend dies in what appears to be a drunken accident. But when Will receives a note hinting that it may not have been an accident after all, he finds that he can't rest until he knows the truth. With the help of Killian Kendall and his friends, Will begins an amateur investigation that will result in even more death. Will thought the biggest changes were behind him, but they had only just begun.

In this scene, Will has just met his possible new roommate Aidan for the first time. After touring the apartment, he then meets his best friend Joey's new girlfriend, whom he knew nothing about. Will freaks out and runs from the building, but he's followed by his other best friend, Laura.

Reap the Whirlwind
PD Publishing
ISBN: 1933720352


I found my way out of the building and wandered into the back yard. The wooden bulkhead edging the river made a great seat. I had just about gotten myself under control when I felt someone come up behind me. I didn't have to look up to know it was Laura.

"Okay, that was appalling. What the hell was that all about?"

"I've had a bad day," I repeated softly.

"So you keep saying. Wanna tell me about it?"


"How 'bout you do it anyway." She sat down next to me and swung her long legs out over the water.

"Beth and I broke up today."

"So? You're always breaking up or getting back together. Call her tomorrow, and tell her you're sorry."

"It's not like that this time. She broke up with me."

"Oh... oh, my gosh."

"Yeah, I got the feeling it was pretty permanent this time."

"Will, I don't know how to say this tactfully..."

I snorted. "Since when have you been tactful?"

"Point made. Okay then, have it your way. Why are you so beat up about Beth dumping you for a change? You've dumped her enough times. You don't like being on the receiving end?"

"It's not that. Actually, I don't really care about Beth that much. She was comfortable, familiar... I mean we've been together for years... but..."

"A 'but' is never a good sign, sweetie, and there was always a 'but' with Beth."


"So what's really bothering you?"

"Something she said. She said that I always put you and her second."

"How did I get into this?"

"She said that I always put Joey first. Do you feel that way too?" I looked over at Laura for the first time. She was looking out over the river, the reflected light playing softly over her features. For a moment she didn't answer. When she began to talk, I had to lean in closer to catch what she was saying.

"You never knew this," she said. "I never told anyone really, but I've had a huge crush on you for the longest time."

I opened my mouth, but she shook her head before I could speak. "Let me finish. I used to get so hurt whenever I would call you to do something and the answer was always 'Joey and I are doing this' or 'Joey and I are doing that.' It was even worse when it was 'Joey and I might be doing this or that.' I wasn't even competition with a possibility. After awhile, I guess I just accepted the fact that Joey would always get top billing when it came to you, but I still wanted to be close to you, so I infiltrated your little club. We became the three musketeers, and we lived platonically ever after. All for one, right? As long as Joey was 'the one.' I got over you eventually. Now I wouldn't trade your friendship for anything. Gabe knows I exist. He treats me right, and I love him. But to answer your question, yeah, I do feel as if I always came second to Joey."

"Why...why didn't you ever say anything?"

"Like what? 'Hey, Will, I'm in love with you but you treat me like dirt?' 'Hey, Will, why is Joey so great? What's wrong with me?' 'Hey, Will, acknowledge that I exist, dammit?' What was I supposed to say?" She swiped angrily at the tears that were rolling down her cheeks. I had only seen Laura cry a few times as long as I had known her. It unnerved me worse than anything she had said.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, "I'm so sorry, Laura."

"It's ancient history," she said taking a deep breath. "I moved on. Like I said, Gabe is the greatest. I really do love him. Maybe I'm not as over you as I thought, but I am moving on."

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

"Did you know Joey and Shelley were dating?" I said at last.

Laura sighed. "He still comes first doesn't he?"

"I didn't... It's just..."

"It's okay. I should be used to it by now. Yeah, I knew."

"Why didn't he tell me?" I tried to keep the whine out of my voice, but I still came out sounding like a petulant five-year-old.

"Maybe because he knew this would happen."

"What do you mean?"

"Will, every time Joey has ever had a girlfriend, you've been jealous. You do nothing but pick them apart and criticize their every move. Maybe Joey wanted a little grace period with Shelley before you started in on her."

"I'm not jealous," I said defensively.

"Oh, please, then what was that whole scene up there?"

"I was just surprised. I mean, you saw the way she was all over him. 'Joe has told me all about you,'" I mocked.

"See, there you go."

I opened my mouth to argue, but Laura hurried on, "Look, Will, I have a very serious question I need to ask you. I want you to be honest with me. Please, I've never asked anything of you. And I don't want you to answer until you can give me a one hundred percent sure answer."

"Of course, Laura," I said indignantly, "You know I would never lie to you."

"Not on purpose, maybe."

"What's that mean?"

"Never mind. Here's my question." She took a deep breath. "Are you in love with Joey? I mean romantically - 'in love' in love. Because if you are, you need to face it and deal with it and figure out what it means. You can't just keep on hurting everyone around you. You know I'll always love you no matter what."

"Are you...are you asking if I'm gay?" I asked in amazement.

"Will?" We both turned toward the voice. It was Joey up by the parking lot. "Hey, Will? Laura? Are you guys out here?"

"We're down by the water," Laura called back. She turned back to me, reached out, and touched my cheek for just the briefest moment. I almost didn't feel it. "Think about what I said, and remember I love you."

She jumped up and ducked into the shadows as Joey approached.

"I, uh, didn't interrupt anything, did I?" he asked.

"No, we were finished," I said slowly.

"So, uh... What did you think of the apartment?"

"It was great - airy and light with a great sense of the original integrity of the building. Great color schemes and tastefully decorated. Everything a guy could want," I said sarcastically. "Why'd you come here, Joey? It wasn't to talk about the apartment. Or are you that eager to foist me off on Aidan?"

"Will, it's not like that, and you know it. Shelley thought I should go see..."

"And when were you going to tell me about her? Was I going to be invited to the wedding?"

"We've only been dating two weeks! I was going to tell you tonight. I told you there was someone I wanted you to meet. Do you think I'd be that stupid as to invite you to a party she was going to be at if I wasn't going to tell you about her? I would have told you sooner but…I guess I needed some time with her just to myself first."

I looked out across the river. "We're growing apart," I said softly. "Laura and Gabe, you and Shelley... me with nobody."

"We're not growing apart, we're growing up. You're my best friend, Will, and you'll always be my best friend. Nothing will ever change that. But we're not fourteen anymore. We can't spend all our lives together. We're all going to have families and careers. It can't be just the three of us forever."

"I don't want things to change."

"Everything changes. If you don't change, then you're dead. Make the most of it. Now that Beth is out of the picture, date new people. Try some new things. Get out there and live. You can start by moving in with Aidan. He's a great guy; you won't find a better roommate. I think it would be good for you to be more independent."

I sat for a few minutes thinking about everything that had happened today, especially what Joey had just said. Finally, I stood up, dusted the dirt off my bottom, and started for the building.

"Where're you going?" Joey asked, trotting to catch up.

"To see if that roommate position has been filled."

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