Monday, January 26, 2009

I Do anthology edited by Kris Jacen

Do you support the right of any human being to marry the person they love? The right to say 'I Do' to a life of commitment and sharing with that one special person? We do.

The following authors have donated stories to the "I DO!" anthology in support of Lambda Legal Fund, which will receive all profits from the anthology. Printing and distribution costs have been kindly donated by MLR Press.

Alex Beecroft: Desire and Disguise
Sexual starvation makes for strange bedfellows in this 18th Century tale of love and despair.

Charlie Cochrane: The Roaming Heart
Sometimes you shouldn't believe everything you read in the gossip columns.

Fiona Glass: Salad Days
A fennel bulb causes havoc between two lovers in this 'kitchen-sink' style romp.

Jeanne Barrack: Finally Forever
A dream destroyed. A promise fulfilled. In today's America, there are still some places where wishes come true.

P.A. Brown: The Mistake
A hungry West Hollywood hustler, a hot cop and a pair of keyless handcuffs come together in a Hollywood motel room.

Erastes: The Snow Queen
The Snow Queen is impervious to love. Josh isn't.

Tracey Pennington: Lindorm's Twin
To save two kingdoms, an outcast prince without a name and a lonely young man half-freed from enchantment must outwit a serpentine king and his sorceress spouse.

Clare London: Outed
Guy said afterwards it was a relief to him that someone finally said something, but did it have to be Auntie Queenie's apparently artless comment, right in the middle of her eightieth birthday celebration tea?

Sharon Bidwell: Swansong
Richard believes what little love he had in his life has withered and died, but now the time has come for him to sing his own song.

Lisabet Sarai: Making Memory
A workaholic city girl facing her father's senility and a middle-aged widow from down-east Maine learn that love has no boundaries and that only the present matters.

Storm Grant: Lust in Translation
Sex, drugs, and a blinding reaction.

Marquesate: Code of Honour
The legion's motto was "Legio Patrio Nostra", but with Sergent Roux, Joe found more than just his home.

Lee Rowan: Wedding Announcement
For Kevin, telling his father the truth was more unnerving than anything he'd ever faced on the battlefield.

ZA Maxfield: Tango and Temptation
Dance and dishonesty bring two men closer than they necessarily want to be in this contemporary story of choosing between what is easy and what is real.

Moondancer Drake: True Love
Shona and Kai discover that even though their dream of having a child together is about to come true, not all dreams come with a perfect ending.

Mallory Path: Rules of the Game
When words fail, Charlie must come up with a new way of finding out what his partner really wants.

Emma Collingwood: Semi-detached
Is gay marriage a matter of equality, commitment or home improvement?

Allison Wonderland: Holy Macaroni (and Cheese)
At the ripe old age of six, two girls decide to jump the broom.

Jerry L. Wheeler: Templeton's In Love
A farewell concert frames a tale of two reunited lovers.

Cassidy Ryan and Zoe Nichols: Better than beautiful
Becca is busy planning her wedding to Charlotte, but Charlotte has been making plans of her own.

Victor J. Banis
Author of The Man from C.A.M.P., Lola Dances and Deadly Nightshade

Double Your Pleasure
This is like the steak specials at my local market: buy one, get one free. When you buy this book, 100% of the proceeds go to the Lambda Legal fund, to help in their fight against California's Proposition 8. That's a good thing in itself, as I'm sure you will agree. But, not only are you making a donation to a cause we all care deeply about, you also get—this is the FREE part—a collection of 20 stories from an elite list of M/M and LGBT writers. How can you beat a deal like that?

And what a collection! There's surely something here for every taste: man on man and woman on woman; fantasy and funny and sizzling and sweet. Swans and Snow Queens and salty sailors and slithering serpents, oh my! And Holy Macaroni, but you're going to have to buy the book to figure that out. French Legionnaires do it in the mud; little girls grow up married from childhood, and first timers discover the magic. All of the myriad elements of love lost and found and refined and redefined. I could go on and on, too, but every story here is a treasure on its own; together, they make up one of those rare "read-over-and-over-and-keep-forever" books.
I recommend stocking up. Get some steaks while you're at it, you're going to be doing a lot of curling up.

Josh Lanyon
Author of the Adrien English Mystery Series and Man, Oh Man! Writing M/M for Kinks and Ca$h

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: twenty tales — funny, sweet, erotic, poignant — from some of the best and brightest writers in GLBT romance. Never has support for a good cause been more delicious, more delectable than in this generous helping of life — and love — affirming stories.

I Do anthology
Publisher: MLR Press (January 2, 2009); Kindle edition
ISBN: 1934531707

Excerpt from Code of Honour by Marquesate

They got shipped out to Mayotte, an island in the Indian Ocean, which the legion used for jungle training. Joe found himself in a place he'd never hoped to visit, and even the excessive training didn't subdue his spirits. Not the swimming for miles in the crystal clear sea, with their kit heavy on their backs, and neither climbing Mt. Kali Keni, eight hundred meters straight up in full kit, and not back down in constant rain, either.

Yet wherever they were, whatever they did, the sergent was with them. No matter how much Joe tried to ignore his superior, he was there. Getting over a wall? Sergent Roux did it faster and with less effort. Jumping into a pit and back up the other side? No one could beat Sergent Roux. Balancing along poles, climbing ropes, crossing ravines on a tightrope, jumping hurdles... Roux was there, with his grey eyes, his wiry strength, and his measuring gaze.

Eventually, they got sent out for jungle survival training. One week together as a section, then one week alone. Each legionnaire was given a compass, a map, a bottle of water, and sent into the bush to make their own shelter, find their own food, and survive the week, while solving mock missions, such as finding the supposed crash site of a comrade.

When they were separated in the early hours, it had been raining steadily for days. None of the men had a dry shred on them, and the morale would have been even worse, had they not been kept on their toes by the sergent, who sent each of his men off. Joe was the last one.

He had been given the details of the first mission for the following day, checking over the map, when he heard a strange sound: part voice, part roar. The moment he turned, he saw Sergent Roux's raised arm, a last glimpse of the green beret, all rapidly disappearing, sliding, slipping, crashing downwards and gone. The earth had opened in front of him, and the mudslide pulled the man with it, tearing branches on the way, burying the helpless body beneath the brown floods.

"Sergent!" Joe shouted, running after the man. Losing his footing, he slipped forward, towards the drop, managed in the last minute to hold onto thick, leathery leaves, which slowed his fall.

He couldn't see the body any more, a whole pile of dead wood had fallen on top. He slid downwards on his belly, and once he'd reached the bottom, he frantically pulled branches and vegetation out of the way. Finally managing to grab what felt like an arm, he pushed his legs underneath roots for leverage, and pulled with all his strength. Everything was slippery, soaked from rain and covered in mud, and he nearly lost his grip, but with a last bout of effort, Joe pulled the body free and to safety.

He was breathing hard as he knelt beside the sergent, shaking him, but there was no sign of life.

"Sergent!" Clearing the mud off the face, Joe checked the vitals. Pulse, yes, then he tried to clear the airways, but he couldn't get rid of the mud. Reaching for the bottle on his belt kit, Joe didn't think twice, using the precious drinking water to wash the sergent's face. Mud ran in ever-clearer rivulets down the sharply cut face and over the shaved hair. Water gathered on perfectly shaped lips that were relaxed now, not sneering, nor shouting. Joe couldn't look away, mesmerised by the face that was revealed beneath the grime, and he found himself staring at those lips.

He didn't think when he leaned down, nothing held him back or screamed at him to stop. All his hard work to ignore, lie, and pretend had been in vain, when he pressed his lips onto the sergent's. Lingering against the wet warmth, he felt their shape beneath his own, sensed the traces of mud, and he closed his eyes for one brief moment, savouring the kiss; his first kiss.

Joe opened his eyes and pulled back. The shock registered within a heartbeat as he stared down into wide open, grey eyes that looked at him coldly. That was it. He was dead.

"Sergent... Je n'ai..." Joe never finished his frightened stammer. A hand grabbed the back of his neck and he was pulled down, crushed against the lips that parted now. Tongue and teeth clashing, demanding entrance, as the sergent claimed his mouth, and Joe obeyed the order.

Taste, strength, everything different to anything before. He was pulled on top; the sergent held him, then rolled them around, changing positions. Joe groaned into the other man's mouth. Hands were suddenly on him, groping and taking, while Roux thrust down onto Joe's groin. Joe froze, unable to think, act, caught in the fulfilment of a need he'd fought for all of his young life.

Another shove, and the sergent's hard cock ground into his. That very moment Joe let loose, forgot who they were and how forbidden this was. Lust won, conquering every thought. Two bodies, mud drenched, wet, dirty and slippery, moving together and against each other in frantic need. He found total fulfilment in the strength of the sergent's body and the non-negotiable demand. No asking, but taking and willingly giving. Joe struggled and fought, both muscular and strong, he relished each grip and every forceful touch.

Thrusting their hard cocks against the other's, lust built, spiralled out of control, and seconds felt like eternities of insanity and greed.

When Joe came inside his uniform, he wanted to cry out and lose himself in the abandon, but the sergent's mouth captured his own, and a hand at the back of his neck kept him in a vice grip, not allowing any sound to escape. Roux's body bore down onto his own, forcing him to lie still, while the sergent came with nothing but a shudder and a strangled groan.

Joe was trapped by the weight, the hand and the kiss, and for a while, there was nothing but heartbeat and tremors that ran through him in aftershocks. All too suddenly, though, Roux rolled off. Bereft of the heat and the strength, Joe forced himself to move as well, but his mind couldn't catch on to what his body had just experienced. The whole magnitude of what had happened was too much to comprehend.

He sat crouched, still breathless, trying to will his fingers to do something, anything, like wiping mud off his drenched uniform.

"You must learn to lie." The sergent's voice cut into the silence, and the sudden English with its French accent didn't register straight away. It took Joe a second to make out the meaning.

"You speak English?" The moment he'd said it, Joe cursed himself.

"What does it sound like to you?"

"English, Sergent."

"Clever." Roux let out a soft snort. "You'll go far."

That stung, like everything the man was saying, or not saying. Yet all Joe could do was swallow the jibe, like any other. Ranks and discipline were everything in the legion, but he was too curious to let go, despite the potential consequences.

"You are not 'Belgian', Sergent?"

"Wrong and right." Roux stopped wiping himself down, the mud would have to get washed off with the steady rain. He didn't bother to look up when he graced Joe with an explanation. "Canadian. French Canadian." Picking up his beret, Roux put it onto his head after a disdainful glance at the soggy mess. "You are too transparent."

"Pardon, Sergent?"

"Your face. Your eyes. You were obvious."

"I don't understand." The sergent had him outgunned like an RPG against a pistol and Joe was certain he didn't believe the feigned ignorance.

"What were you trying to prove when you joined up?"

Not even the question if he did want to prove anything. Joe swallowed hard. "That I am...a man, Sergent. Not..."

"Men don't stammer."

Bastard. "Not a fag." Pédé, he'd heard it often enough as an everyday insult amongst the legionnaires.

"And you joined the legion for that? Of all places?" Roux's brows rose with thinly disguised amusement. "Have you forgotten to look into your trousers lately? That should have given you enough proof."

Joe felt anger rising, why the hell hadn't he just let that arsehole drown in the mud? Would have saved his water, too.

And why the hell had he given into that stupid, dangerous impulse to kiss that man?

"I wanted to be someone."

"Someone who was tough and an elite soldier, or someone who wasn't a fag?"

Both, was the first thing that came to Joe's mind, but he bit his lip. No, wrong. Not both. He didn't want to be a fag. "An elite soldier, Sergent."

From the minuscule flash in the remarkable eyes, Joe knew that the sergent had caught his lie, but Roux merely nodded curtly.

"You will receive a new mission tomorrow from the caporalchef, and I suggest you be more careful with your precious water." The sergent switched back to French. "Cinq jours de plus."

Five days. The whole survival exercise with hardly any water.

"Oui, Sergent!"

Roux turned and Joe made the mistake of opening his mouth before engaging his brain. "Sergent!"

"Oui?" Roux looked at him. Impassive, the same cool, mocking gaze as always, and Joe felt that look twist his guts.

"Rien, Sergent!" Nothing. Nothing at all. "Désolé, Sergent."

"T'as fini, Evans?"

"Oui, Sergent." Of course it was all, what else could he possibly want?

The next moment Roux was gone, vanished with a few steps into the thick vegetation.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Turning Idolater excerpt by Edward C Patterson

From Edward C Patterson, the author of Surviving an American Gulag comes Turning Idolater:

Philip Flaxen, who strips past his jockstrap on the Internet for, acquires a rare gift — a book that transforms his life. With it, he sparks with a famous author, whittles away at a new craft, swims with an odd circle of new acquaintances and is swept up in mayhem. Philip leaves the world of The Porn Nazi and enters the realm of crisp possibilities — great expectations and dark secrets that unravel over deep waters. Follow this whodunit as Philip Flaxen “turns idolater” and never looks back — a tale of Internet strippers, backstreet murders, Provincetown glitz, New York City nightlife and a love story for the ages. If you liked No Irish Need Apply and loved Bobby’s Trace, you will absolutely adore Turning Idolater. Life is filled with serendipity, pleasurable and bracing, but on the fringes and in the heart, life can be a very bloody business.

Turning Idolater
CreateSpace (September 2008)
ISBN: 1440422109


Chapter One

The Tools of the Trade


It was a small tub in a tiny bathroom, but it served Philip Flaxen well as he prepared. All craftsmen attend to the maintenance and condition of their tools. Chefs hone knives. Hacks change cab-oil on a schedule. Writers look to their quills; and painters care for their horsehairs and camels. Diggers sharpen pickaxes and none but a preacher can fill the fount with consecrated drink. Thus, it was with Philip Flaxen as he plunged his hands between his legs lathering the tool of his trade and, although changing the oil might be less scintillating, the honing of this particular tool gave Master Flaxen pleasure beyond measure.

The bubbles welled in massive peaks, like whip cream, almost eclipsing young Flaxen in a world of cleanser as he finished off. Nevertheless, his emerging better nature prevailed. Wineglass in one hand, he reached for a book with the other, his deep, black eyes intent on the words, not tools now, unless these were considered some additional craftsman’s artifact. Here in the pages was a new world, as foamy as his tub; he was under the prow of the Pequod as it ported its master in pursuit of the Great White Whale. The words may have been from a shelf above Philip’s normal mantel, as he had never finished high school, and in fact never pursued any white whale of education — not even a white elephant of a diploma, but this book was magic to his eyes. The words may not have had keen meaning, but they had rhythm — the beat of the waves; and aroma — the smell of the sea. The pages dripped with foam and he turned them like a capstan, weighing anchor. The margins puckered beneath his pruning fingers, but he didn’t care nor did he wonder. He was tripping beyond the bubble bath, out on old Nantucket wharves. Therefore, when the alarm clock buzzed, reeling him to shore, he flinched. The wineglass tipped turning the suds burgundy and the book nearly swam back to sea. However, Philip caught it before the plunge, diverting it to dry-dock, in this case, a mat on the bathroom floor.

Philip rolled his eyes. He had an evening ahead. It wasn’t difficult work. It didn’t require a Master’s degree to sit at a computer and wait for requests from an invisible audience. He wished that Sprakie was better heeled. They could have rigged up one of them home cams so he wouldn’t have to haul his ass across town to Hell, some of those set-ups could have made the tub his workplace. However, he couldn’t be so particular. Manhattan rents were exorbitant and he was living in Sprakie’s place not by royal decree, but by near-charity. He did pay his share, or near it, but as long as he followed his roommate’s rules, he could luxuriate in the bubbles, sleep on silk and keep his employment across town.

Philip sighed. He would have preferred to keep sailing in Nantucket. The words were tough, and he needed to read each passage twice, but he savored them like a fine corned beef on rye. He wished he could delve beneath the waves, because he knew there were deeper meanings swimming there, but there was hope. The man who had put him onto this book was a generous trick, an old gent who wanted nothing more than to stroke off before a live stripping twink. There were such freaky fetishes about, but Philip was over eighteen. Hell, he was twenty, almost old enough to drink. His roommate nagged him about such tricks — the old geezers who just wanted to recall their long lost days. Sprakie also warned Philip that a few went beyond harmless voyeurism. Some might explode like a firecracker and cause you infinite harm, sweetie. However, Philip didn’t think that Sprakie, that is Robert Sprague, would follow his own admonition. Sprakie was the wildest hoohoo in Philip’s acquaintance, and had proved to be a valuable guide into outrageous waters.

Philip hoisted himself from the tub careful not to drip bathwater on the book. He didn’t have many books, at least ones with words only. He smiled at the binding as if it were a candy box with plenty of samples left. Standing before the steamed mirror, he dried off, keeping his own peerless figure in sight. What that old geezer must have thought, he mused. That was a pacific trick. The man was grateful both with money and a shower of grizzled kisses, which Philip could have done without, but as long as things didn’t get too kinky, he supposed it was a kindness — like a charity visit to the old folks home. Then the man gave him — the book. What’s this? Philip asked. What’s it look like? chuckled the geezer. Philip opened it. It had an aroma about it like nothing he had touched before — electric and deep. His eyes scanned the illustration engraved on the page. A huge bump spouted water from its head and aimed at an old-fashioned ship. It was about something called Moby Dick and some guy named Herman Melville penned it. Both were beyond Philip’s ken, but somehow, as the pages turned under his tidal hand, he was hooked — or harpooned, if you will. Call me Ishmael? Then, the call to the planks and rigging.

Philip dried off and glanced at the clock. He had better get his ass in gear if he was going to be on time. He wrapped the towel around his toolbox and sought his flip-flops. It was a short trip through the common room (he could never come to call it a living room) to his own small cubby. The apartment was cluttered from necessity. The kitchen was a mere counter with a half refrigerator, two cabinets, a two-burner stove and a toaster. It barged into the common room, the only room with a full window and small enough to accommodate a couch and a chair. There was a Murphy bed in the closet for guests, and Philip had slept on it when he first moved in, but it was a pain in the ass to open, so he slept in a converted closet.

Sprakie’s room once had a window, but the man of the house insisted on making the room wall-to-wall bed, of which the canopy and Arabian valance blocked any sunlight that could have managed an appearance through the barred window that lurked behind some plywood. Philip had to rattle through this bedroom to get to his small cubby. Small, but it was his. By real estate value, his six by six (if it were that) would fetch $500 a month on a good day, but Sprakie let it go for $250 and a third of the utilities. A bargain. The only drawback was when Sprakie entertained — that is, went on the clock. Philip would need to fade to the streets then.

What to wear? Not a huge variety in his clothes stack, which mushroomed in the corner laundry basket. Philip wondered if he had anything clean. The launderette on Avenue A was a pain in the ass to use — all those quarters and little boxes of soap, not to mention the stink. At one time he could flirt with the local hustlers there (it was a good pick up point), but lately the place was filled with haggard old Puerto Rican housewives and skuzzy, green haired Goth girls from the West Village. He reached for his favorite shirt — a turquoise silk affair that favored his curly shock of hair. He sniffed the armpit and choked.

“I have to get to the laundry this week,” he muttered. “Shit.”

He threw the towel aside, grabbed a reasonably clean jock strap and holstered his assets. His underwear was clean, because he was too exposed to the public to have otherwise, but his shirt was a problem. So he ventured into Sprakie’s boudoir, to the dresser that slept under a tumble of oriental silks and aromatherapy candles. He poked about the top drawer — no shirts. The second drawer was more promising. He shook out a golden golf shirt. Nice. Sweet. Philip couldn’t remember when Sprakie wore this. Still he slipped it over his head. It fit like a glove. Most of Sprakie’s duds fit him, but Sprakie would have a fit when Philip borrowed his clothing. This was an emergency, after all. Wasn’t it? No duds — no work. No work — no rent.

Philip strutted to the mirror, clearing away a pink feather boa.

“That’s the ticket.”

He shut the second drawer, but decided that perhaps the bottom drawer held an even better choice. His fingers poked around until it stroked a delightful, satin number. He pulled it out with a snap, and as he did, something came flying from the back and across the floor, slipping under the bed.

“What the fuck,” he murmured. He reached under the bed, his fingers spidering over the traveling knick-knack. He winced. What the fuck? He snapped his hand back. In it was a gun. Not a two-fisted rootin’, tootin’ firearm, but a pearl-handled ladies’ pistol. At first, he thought it was a starter’s gun, but Sprakie wasn’t a runner. Philip sniffed it as if he could detect a firing.

“I better ask him about this.” Then he thought better. He shouldn’t be poking around in Sprakie’s dresser, even to purloin a shirt. The neighborhood was shitty, so he supposed Sprakie kept it for protection, and, in true Robert Sprague fashion, he would want a pearl-handled, purse size affair, something that was fashionable at a mugging — a pretty cap gun. Therefore, Philip shrugged, shoved the gun back into the bottom draw and covered it with the satin garment that no longer held his interest.

“Oh shit,” he said. “I’m going be really late.”

He dove for his jeans, his wallet, and his easy-off loafers and prepared to emerge from this fifteen-hundred dollar per month rabbit warren. He stuffed the book in his backpack, hit his pocket for change, checked for his Metro Card and scooted through the door into the ratty old hallway. Locking the door and securing the bolts, he scurried past the solemn portal of the old lady next door. He felt her eyes though the peephole as she always monitored the hall’s comings and goings. Philip flipped her the finger as he descended the stairs, down three flights, and then over the broken tiles into the foul, urine soaked vestibule. That stink always matched the first breath wafting in from Avenue A. Philip just closed his eyes and imagined the Nantucket wharves, which transformed the slum into a harbor — the tenements into tall-ships. No wonder Sprakie had a gun in this shit-hole. Shouldn’t everyone? Wouldn’t Ahab?


His watch stopped. Battery needed changing. Philip had to rely on the street signage and the charity of others for the time. The digital displays increased as he trotted through Greenwich Village, and a good thing, because the charity of others was scant. In any event, by the time he reached the Subway, he was already a half hour late. He debated the issue at hand — subway or bus. They both would get him to Times Square, and a bus was waiting, but he feared the evening rush hour traffic. Therefore, he whipped out his Metro Card and plunged into the abyss taking the stairs two at a time, not that it would matter if there were no trains in the station.

The West 4th Street station was always a busy stop, and at evening rush hour, it was a monster — hot, humid and redolent of foot odor. Most travelers were heading home — tired and weary from a day of rasping bosses, heavy pushcarts, lousy customers and a host of information age combustion. Philip plowed his way through the crowd, swiped the turnstile and prayed for a short wait. The uptown platform was as thickly lined with commuters as the downtown one was, but somehow Philip knew that there would be three downtown trains to every uptown one, but it was better than getting stuck in traffic.

He leaned over the track hoping to feel the hot blast of an approaching train. The air was still — noisy, but still. The downtown train had screeched into the station, its doorbells tinkling and its computerized voice singing West 4th – Watch your step.

C’mon, he thought, moving back to the station wall. He considered the line of crap that Sprakie would hand him for being late. That would be amplified when Sprakie beheld the golden golf shirt. Philip chuckled. He wasn’t afraid of Robert Sprague, but a Sprakie hissy fit could mean missing a meal or even being locked out for the night. However, the streets held no fear for Philip . . . anymore. As he bounced his backpack off the wall, he noticed a young thing sprawled on the bench — a student, perhaps — N.Y.U., or at least from the way he consumed his book, Philip thought it must be. In his slouch, the student brushed the sweat from his curly brown hair. His black rimmed glasses made him appear scholarly. Philip imagined that this guy wasn’t really reading his book, but was using it as a ploy to gaze at the surrounding travelers. Every so often, he’d peep askance and then dart his eyes back to the page. Philip wasn’t impressed. In fact, he considered whipping out his own book as a springboard. My book’s bigger than your book. However, the subway was a crappy place to read a precious work with golden binding and clean white pages. After the near miss in the tub, Philip didn’t want to chance a drop into station crud.

Yes, Philip thought. This guy’s cruisin’ me. It wasn’t his imagination. He knew the call of the wild, and since he had the tools of the trade in evidence, there might be a chance that he could be fed later. Supper was always the short meal. There was usually not enough fixing’s in the half fridge to constitute a meal. Breakfast was cereal and perhaps and an egg. Lunch was some toast, or if the spirit moved, peanut butter and jelly, but supper was always up for grabs. If he was lucky and there was a cash spike at work, he could get a hamburger, but supper was sometimes an every-other-day affair. Sprakie sometimes treated, and of course, if this young college student was interested, he might buy Philip a full course meal as prelude to an evening of passion. So, Philip winked.

The hurricane of the uptown train blew over the platform. Philip would need to finalize the deal in transit. The passengers jockeyed for seats and poles and overhead bars. There was an almighty crunch, but Philip was a master. He managed to pin himself and the edge of his ass against the college student, who smiled an apology and tried to juggle while reading his book.

Watch the closing doors, came the mechanical voice, followed by three chimes. The train chugged uptown.

Philip used ever contour of motion to press himself against the student, who grinned a knowing grin. He knew what was apace. Hadn’t he started it? Philip shrugged, but returned the smiled — one that irradiated the car. Even the Pakistani lady, who stepped on his foot, returned that smile as if she was the target of his attention.

Timing was an issue. When they reached 23rd Street, Philip twisted his head over the student’s book.

“Anything good?”

“Quantum physics.”

Quantum physics? Give me a break. You’re reading quantum physics in a speeding uptown train pressed between the sweaty masses? “Interesting.” Philip smiled again. “N.Y.U?”

“Yes. Engineering.”

“Good,” Philip said. “You can drive the train then.”

The student chuckled. “I don’t think anyone’s driving this train.”

34th Street. The Pakistani lady moved away rushing for a seat. A wave of passengers surged out, while a third as many shoved in. Philip almost fell. Not really. It was a surefire maneuver. The student caught him.

“Thanks. My stop’s next.”

“Oh,” said the student. He frowned. He fumbled around his jacket pocket. He managed to grab an index card, and then grappled for a marker. Philip was ready on the spot. He always kept a marker near at hand in the outer slip of his backpack. He whipped it out with rapier speed.

“Thanks,” said the student, who closed the book using it as a slipshod desk. He scrawled a shaky note, and then returned the pen. He slipped the card into Philip’s pocket and smiled. While down there, he groped and Philip was already trying to decide whether he would have the prime beef or the swordfish.

Times Square. Watch your step.

“Bye now,” Philip said, mission accomplished.

“Later . . . but if not tonight . . .”

Philip tapped the side of his nose and went with the flow onto the platform. The doorbell bonged three times.

Watch the closing doors.

Philip turned and saw the soft eyes of the student. He wasn’t reading now, or at least not Quantum Physics. He was now studying a different course of engineering and Philip Flaxen was masterful at steering this craft ashore — as masterful as Ahab on his poop.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Sweet Flag excerpt by Jeanne Barrack

In The Sweet Flag by Jeanne Barrack, Brandon Keats is a paranormal investigator, specializing in Civil War phenomena. As a gay man, he's searched for years for evidence of gay paranormal activity. When he finally finds what he believes to be an example of this, he decides to confront the ghost of a homosexual Civil War soldier at the grave where he's been sighted.

Ron Tayvail has guarded the grave of Matthew Hardesty for years. When he learns of Brandon's interest in the legend of "The Vigilant Soldier", he's determined to dissuade him from any deeper investigation. He didn't realize that he'd fall in love with the fellow on first sight. And yearn to become his lover. For always.

In this excerpt,Ron uses his intimate knowledge of deMonde and Matthew to entice Brandon to become his lover for one week. Like Sheherezade, each time he offers Brandon just a little bit more of their story.

Title: The Sweet Flag
Publisher: Loose Id (May, 2008)
ISBN: 978-1-59632-1


“DeMonde and Hardesty met at a private party.”

“I knew it!”

He pinched my thigh. “Tais-toi, who is telling this? To continue, they met at a private party where deMonde was performing. It was for a select group of people from the bourgeoisie, invited back for a more intimate gathering after a sumptuous debut for the eldest daughter of a prosperous businessman who had delusions of grandeur.”

“I thought only upper class and nobility had debuts for their daugh...Shit! That hurt.”

“I told you, the man had delusions of grandeur. Besides, he was fishing for a husband for the girl. Along with the wealthiest, most prominent families, any unattached males between the ages of twenty and forty with money or a title, better yet, with money and a title, were invited back to the villa for fancy desserts, drinks, cigars, and music. The few with titles came because they owed the man money for unpaid bills and loans. The man had promised concessions to anyone who would attend the soirees. The others came to criticize everything about the event, from the food to the entertainment.

“DeMonde was to sing, offering a selection of lieder and chanson, presumably to encourage a relaxed, and perhaps romantic mood, in the guests. Unfortunately, the eldest daughter decided that deMonde was to be her quarry for the evening.” Ron took a breath. I felt him shrug. “Perhaps it was the novelty of capturing a male from a lower class and an entertainer as well. Who knows? But she followed after him until he lost her within the immaculately manicured grounds. The evening was cloudy, the grass was damp, and deMonde relied upon her lack of desire to get her shoes muddy to aid in his escape. He found his way to a charming gazebo equipped with its own miniature chandelier, the lit candles providing enough light to see that it was already occupied.

“A young man lounged carelessly on the cushioned bench, a thin cigar between his sensual lips. Smoke swirled from its tip, and the heady aroma wafted toward deMonde. DeMonde turned to go, but the young man called out to him to join him.”

I halted Ron’s story. “Hardesty.”

“Who else?” This time, he didn’t pinch me.

“The closer he came to the gazebo, the clearer the man’s feature’s became. He was so…blond, so young, perhaps five years younger than deMonde. He looked like an angel to deMonde.”

I started. To me, Ron looked like an angel. A fallen angel, true, and one with a magnificent dick. If I remembered correctly, though, angels had no sex organs.

“Are you paying attention? I thought you wanted to know how they met?”

I collected my thoughts and focused on his words. “Go on.”

He shifted until his cock was wedged in the cleft between my buttocks, nipped me on the shoulder, and growled in my ear. “If you are not attentive, I will not continue, and I will leave this bed. Comprendre?”

I nodded, the threat of his leaving finally regaining my concentration.

“To go on. Matthew offered deMonde one of the cheroots he had in his case. After brief introductions were exchanged, they fell silent, then burst simultaneously into speech, and then into sweet, shared laughter.

“Matthew said to deMonde, ‘I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your singing. I’ve never been much for this type of music, my sister, Susan, calls me a barbarian, but, when I heard your voice…’ He hesitated and deMonde encouraged him to share his thoughts.

“The American blushed, enchanting deMonde with his shyness, then took a deep breath and spoke.

“He told deMonde, ‘When I heard you sing, I thought that this was how Orpheus sounded when he tried to regain Eurydice from Hades.’

“DeMonde’s heart stopped beating, and he fell in love.”

I interrupted him again. “How can you know this much? How could you know such intimate details?”

I felt Ron’s lips form a smile against my back as he shifted to press his mouth against me. “I have deMonde’s diary…and Matthew’s.”

I pulled away from him, turning to face him. “Look me in the eye and tell me you’re not lying.”

“I am not lying.”

“Where are they? What condition are they in? How did you wind up with them? When can I read them?”

He laughed. “They are here in the house, in excellent condition, they were left in my care, and you cannot read them.”

“Why the fuck not?”

He shuttered his eyes, and his hand touched my penis and stroked it like it was his pet, like he owned it. Then his fingers gripped my cock like a vise, getting tighter and tighter. He opened his eyes, and in the darkened room, they seemed to glow. I blinked, and they were back to normal. His voice froze my blood.

“We have a deal, remember? If you were to read the diaries, what need would you have of me? You would take them and try to leave.” He ground out the next words. “And I would not let you. I would have to prevent you.” He relaxed his grip, then stroked me once more. “I don’t want to hurt you, Brandon. I swore to you I wouldn’t. Please, let me tell you their story in my own words.”

I took his hand and brought it to my mouth and kissed his palm. He understood the gesture then remarked, absentmindedly, “Your fingertips are calloused, and for one so blond, your beard is rough.”

I smiled against his skin then dropped his hand. “You don’t know everything about me. I have my own secrets. Nobody else knows, but I play bluegrass guitar. My beard always grows in coarse and darker than my hair, a family inheritance. At least that’s what my grandmother told me.”

I could see him better now that my eyes had adjusted to the dim light in the room. He nodded. “Now I know one of your secrets.”

I shook my head. “And I know none of yours.”

“You went to the cemetery to learn Hardesty’s secrets, not mine. If you will keep quiet, perhaps you will learn them.”

“Yeah, right, just keep talking!”

He laughed mockingly. “I thought you’d never ask. They spoke for several hours, lost in their own private world, but deMonde had enough sense to insist they return separately to the house. There was also an old-fashioned maze on the grounds, and they concocted a tale for Matthew that he had lost his way in it, until finally stumbling upon the exit. They each had their own carriage and, with Matthew’s calling card in deMonde’s pocket, they planned to meet at Matthew’s rented townhouse.

“First, deMonde had to get rid of a little problem of his own.”

“The bourgeois’s daughter?”

“No, his lover.” He leaned in and kissed me. “You are worse than a female.” He gripped my jaw and lightly smacked me. “The sooner I finish this bit of business, the sooner I can fuck you. Now, be quiet!”

He leveled his gaze and went on.

“Now, deMonde had not had that many lovers. He had only discovered the pleasures of being with a man a few years before. Clermont, a veteran singer in the Paris Opera, had invited him for some private coaching, and the naive youth had succumbed to the man’s seduction. To be fair to the older man, he had observed signs that deMonde’s interests lay more toward the tenors and basses in the troupe than the sopranos and contraltos. One particular up-and-coming favorite of the public, noted for his soaring tenor, seemed to have captivated deMonde’s attention. Clermont knew that this younger man, Boulanger, had male lovers and, with youth and beauty on his side, it was only a matter of time before deMonde fell prey to his blandishments. First come, first served, was Clermont’s motto, and so he introduced deMonde to the joys found cock to cock.

“By the time deMonde decided to go out on his own as a concert artist, he had already parted on good terms with the older artiste and slept with most of the other men in the troupe. DeMonde’s manager, Georges Mercier, became his lover, agreeing to a reduction of his take of the fees in exchange for access to deMonde’s bed.”

Ron grinned. “According to deMonde’s diaries, deMonde, quite an egotist, was a lover tres formidable, and Mercier was more than happy with the arrangement.” Ron sobered. “But when deMonde met Matthew, it was over for any other man. When Mercier arrived to pick up deMonde, he was told that their arrangement was finished. He’d receive the additional percentage of his fees to compensate. Mercier grew furious. He was a vulgar man, built like a bear. He cuffed deMonde with the back of his hand, cutting his cheek with his ring. He stopped the carriage in the middle of the road and threw him out, shouting at him that his career was over. He would tell the world that deMonde’s voice was gone. He threatened to tell deMonde’s sire that his son practiced lewd and unnatural sex acts.

“Unfortunately, deMonde didn’t believe him. He couldn’t, at that time of his life, comprehend the depths of vindictiveness that Mercier held. He trudged the few miles to Matthew’s home, arriving dirty, disheveled, and aching, but filled with happiness to be with Matthew. That night was heaven for the two men. Matthew had only been with one man before, his neighbor’s son back in America,a fumbling, inexperienced, selfish lover. And in deMonde’s arms, he learned what it meant to be with ”

“A formidable lover?” I taunted him.

“A real man.” He took a deep breath and continued. “They awoke the next day to reality. There appeared to be no outright rumors of deMonde’s ‘unnatural behavior,’ but without his manager’s skill in getting new venues, and with Mercier dropping hints of the unfortunate condition of deMonde’s voice, deMonde was forced to give up his apartments and move in with Matthew. That, of course, could not destroy their happiness. Then, one day, a discreetly sealed envelope arrived addressed to deMonde. When he opened it, sheet after sheet of paper fell out, each one a bill for clothes, hats, shoes, food, wine, cigars, even his barber. All overdue. DeMonde was flabbergasted.

“He gazed at Matthew and spoke in bewilderment. ‘Mon pere, he pays for all of this. He agreed to do so when he parted ways with my mother. Why is he doing this to me now?’”

“Matthew looked inside the envelope. Stuck inside was a folded card, embossed with a coat of arms. He unfolded it and handed it to deMonde. At first, deMonde couldn’t focus on the words slashed in black ink upon the heavy paper. He read them, once, twice, then carefully ripped the card in half and then again.

“Matthew took the pieces from his hands and asked in a soft voice, ‘What did he say?'"

“DeMonde couldn’t speak. He cleared his voice, shook his head, and cleared his throat again. ‘He said…he said, that it wasn’t enough that my mother was a Jewess, and her father a Negro. He had done his best to overlook that and honored his debt to support me.’ Here, deMonde’s voice broke. ‘But he could not condone his bastard son engaging in unnatural behavior. He gives me my current unpaid bills with the wish to sever all communication with me. He will not support me in my debauched lifestyle.’”

I listened to Ron relate this part of Hardesty and deMonde’s story, trying not to notice that tears had gathered in his eyes. I knew he wouldn’t want me to see how the story had affected him. Could he be related by blood to one of these men? An unknown descendent of Hardesty’s sister, perhaps? Why else the interest in the gravesite? Since deMonde’s father had disowned him, even if there were legitimate half-siblings, it seemed hardly unlikely that they would have acknowledged any connection to their father’s bastard or had an interest in Matthew’s grave. But, who knows? Perhaps some later descendents felt guilty over the way deMonde had been treated and took it upon themselves to take care of his lover’s grave.

Ron bent his head and regained control. He lifted his face and attempted to smile, but it became a grimace. He took a deep breath.

“They didn’t care. For a year, they led a carefree, quiet life with few friends, but they were happy. Clermont came to visit and often would sing duets with deMonde to Matthew’s delight. But it couldn’t last. DeMonde needed to sing like others needed to breathe and not just for Matthew. He could not be happy unless he was performing before an audience. And then...”

“And then?”

Ron smiled, completely in charge of his feelings again. “‘And then,’ mon ami, will wait for tomorrow night. Stay there. I’ll bring us something to revitalize us.”

He left the room, stark naked, and went back downstairs. I was glad for the time to assimilate everything he had told me…and how it had affected me. And Ron.

As Ron became more caught up with the story, his voice changed. His accent grew stronger, his speech patterns shifted. The diaries must be incredibly detailed if they could have such an effect on him. My hands itched to get a hold on them and see for myself. If I got the chance, I determined to look for them.

For now, I leaned back against the pillows and waited for Ron to come back upstairs.