Monday, September 28, 2009

Look Away Silence excerpt by Edward C Patterson

Martin Powers wanted an ironing board for Christmas. Instead, he got . . . Matthew Kieler, a non-returnable gift, but a gift that kept on giving. Chance encounters are sometimes the ones that most change our lives. He sold Matt a tie, but got more in the bargain - more than most people would want and more than anyone deserved. Although these lovers may not have had the pink American dream, they had it better than most, even as they faced a crisis that would change us all.

Look Away Silence by Edward C Patterson is a romance set in the time of AIDS, when ignorance could spell trouble and often did. It encompasses the author’s experiences in volunteer community service and personal friendships during a tragic period in American history. The novel is dedicated to the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, the NAMES Project and to the author’s own fallen angels. "Mothers, do not shun your children, because you never know how long you have to revel in them."

Look Away Silence
Publisher: CreateSpace (July 17, 2009)
ISBN: 1448651929


Chapter One



I am a child of Christmas. Some people are Easter-kids. Others get fired up over the Fourth of July or wax poetic for Arbor Day. Not me. Christmas has always been the focus of my year, because everything that has been good in my life has come down from the sparkling Yule Fairy and wrapped up in bows and striped paper. As little children, we wish for many things at Christmas — trains, bikes, Legos, baseball gloves and some, like me, asked Santa for an ironing board. Now that would bode well and never shock, except my name is Martin and not Martina, and . . . it quite put my Grandpa off his Monday Night Football. My mother was cool with it, otherwise she would have bought me a GI Joe and insisted I dig trenches and drop fake bombs over the chenille. However, I wouldn’t have minded a GI Joe either, a fact my mother also sensed. So it was an ironing board for me. Vivian Powers’ sissy boy was devoted to Christmas from that day forward. I knew there was a Santa Claus and his linen closet was impeccably arranged.

Across the folds of time and through the tumble-downs of Christmases over the years, I found all my requests fulfilled. When I was old enough to find true love (or so I thought it true love . . . I mean, every time it was true love), it was at Christmas. That was the year I had drunk too much eggnog and awoke in a stranger’s bed — a stranger who unwrapped me like a party favor and gave me the most wonderful Christmas gift of all. In hindsight, the ironing board was better.

Despite the exciting sensation of joining with another soul, I learned fast that such passion was like the sea at ebb tide. I know about the sea. I live by the sea, here in Long Branch where the tide comes in and then sucks out a bit of the Jersey shore, a bit like my first passionate experience. Metaphors are not my forte. I should stick to laundry. I saw then true love for what it was — as false as Ru Paul’s D-cup. It didn’t last past New Years Day. And yes, my heart was broken. I cried and cried like a bride left at the altar. However, I was a lucky boy — still am. I have a mother like no other. She sat me down, dried my tears and said, “Marty,” (I hate being called Marty, but mothers can’t be corrected — at least not mine).

“Marty, he was a stranger. Didn’t know ya and didn’t want to know ya.”

Still, I loved what’s his name (funny how I forgot his name . . . Frank. Frank . . . that’s it. I remember his face, his hands and his hot breath in the night, but I still need to squeeze the corners of my mind for his name). My heart was shattered. No amount of Vivian Powers’ insightful advice could bring me around. However, my mother is a straightjacket case at times. Nothing controls her. The few words of advice that she has given throughout my life have stayed with me. So I remember exactly what she said, because it echoes every time I fall in and out of love, whenever Christmas turns into Easter.

“Marty, he was a stranger. Didn’t know ya and didn’t want to know ya. Just like ya father. None of them are worth the spit they splatter. But always get at least one thing from each of them, and you’ll have enough carfare for the Path line to the city, where you can find a better one. In your father’s case, I got you, Shithead.” (She’s so endearing that way, but I’d rather be called Shithead than Marty).

Of course, Viv (I never called her Mom or Mama or Mother dearest — her choice) was never a proper homemaker. She knew to buy me an ironing board, but only so I could do her ironing. My dad, the mysterious Mr. Powers, gave me my name, which I thought to change from Powers to Jones, because Jones fitted me better. He hadn’t stayed around to top the tree with the fairy angel, but I never cared. In fact, Viv told me she wasn’t sure who my father was as there were three candidates for the month. All the men in my life were defective, except one. They were all either druggies, old men, flaming queens, drunks, or just lumps on my pillow, except that one; and he . . . well, perhaps he was the most defective of all, because I’ve never really found my way out of Christmas with him, even though Good Friday has come and gone.

Perhaps I’m the defective one. Perhaps Viv was wrong and I’m the one not worth the splatter. I can’t help it. I have standards. Men have taken a gander at me (not bad looking . . . me, that is. Not an ounce of fat, and that without a gym bunny schedule), and picture me in some interlude — some Act One in their own play. Unfortunately, Act One is always followed by . . . well, you get the drift. Sometimes they hear me sing (and I’m a veritable Lorelei — first tenor and soloist with the Jersey Gay Sparrow Chorus). Whatever it is, they end by worshipping at my shrine — the well-pressed sheets from my sacred iron capped by perfectly fluffed pillows. Morning always brings a different light. At night, they are Tom Cruise. At dawn, they transform into the bell ringers of Notre Dame. The grand consolation is that every year brings another Christmas and another handy appliance — Vive la Viv, my manicurist mother, who brought home lovelier men than I have ever nabbed — and those without an iron board to entice them.

Despite my gifted voice and inclination for housework, I couldn’t live my life under my mother’s wing. She scarcely noticed me, her little shithead, who, as I got older, got under foot. I had to close my eyes more than once to her tumbling over the threshold with one or, dare I say, two male companions, who had likkered her up and thought they had her at a disadvantage. Little did they know. They may have had their frolic, but always get at least one thing from each of them, and you’ll have enough carfare for the Path line to the city, where you can find a better one. I supposed some day that I would have a little brother or sister and learn to change diapers, scrub bassinets, and all the other happy chores that motherhood brings. But no. Viv just managed a collection of diamonds, pearls and emeralds. They were gaudy things, not to my tastes or I’d have pinched a few. However, as time went on, and I graduated from Red Bank High School, there were more than a few hints from the maternal maw that I should get to college, or a job and, by all means, into my own hermitage, such as it is. The suggestions were subtle in the mornings over coffee and English Muffins. “How’s the job hunt coming, dear?” In the evenings — those hazy evenings a la Viv, the point was sharper. “You’re still here, Shithead?” In any case, college was out. Couldn’t afford it and no one that I ever knew got a degree in laundry. I could have pursued my vocal training, but that would preclude that I had vocal training to begin with, which I hadn’t. I was the youngest member of the Jersey Gay Sparrows, and while the Chicken Hawks often were on my tail, they were also jealous queens seeking to push me aside and away from the prime solos. So I did what any respectful young man that had more than a foot out of the closet would do. I went into retail.


Christmas and retail are friends, as close as Marley and Scrooge. In the sprawl of Eatontown Mall stood paradise — a Christmas chaos called Abraham & Straus. I bought me a suit and got me an interview to swim in the rarified air of departmental retail duties. I saw myself as the perfect go-to person in the linen department. I could live my life in thread count and percale — heaven on earth. There’s nothing like the aroma of fresh linen — clean and mountainy, with a promise to bless the chest, to caress the shoulders and snuggle the toes with its gentle static-free cling — an adoration well beyond that of the Magi. However, to my disappointment, the management of the store saw me more as a behind-the-counter type in the men’s department amidst a sea of ties and pants and shirts and sweaters. So instead of my Elysian Fields of Canon and Burlington Mills, I was lost to the Forest of Arden — Men’s wear.

Retail didn’t pay much, but within six months, my mother awoke to an empty kitchen and asked her question no more. I found an apartment — not very classy, but it had possibilities. It was a first floor back dealie with a rear entrance and a small courtyard. I couldn’t see the ocean from my window, but I could smell the clams when they ripened — not the most encouraging aroma, but it was my stink and it stunk just fine for me. It was private for when I had my little heartbreak evenings, when the stink was worse than rotting clams, but that too was my stink. I was also within walking distance of the nearest gay bar — The Cavern, which would be a blessing if I didn’t visit it so often, donating my meager income to the latest assortment of fruity refreshments of the adult kind. I was an adult now (barely), so what better way to exhibit that fact than to imbibe a bit, and more than a bit. After all, it was just a stagger across the street, through the alley, along the beach and into my courtyard palace.

So I thrived, after a fashion. Then came Arthur — Arturo, a stunning man, who wandered home with me one night and never left. Well, Christmas be damned, he did leave, but not fast enough. He stayed for six months, two of which were quite nice actually. He didn’t work, so I left my daily bed unmade; and he would be off spending my money at the Cavern by the time I arrived home. It was fine with me. I joined him, and then we’d laugh and play volleyball and run about naked on the beach (after dark, when neighbor eyes were dimmed to see us). However, Christmas came to a close after a sixty-day period, like an expired Library book that I forgot to return. Arturo had another little addiction other than Appletinis and beer. Meth. He was not a Methodist, would that he was, and I am not judgmental when it comes to another man’s predilections. However, when the cost is visited upon my bank account and the benefits of the bed fade, I usually become as mad as Queen Mab. My scant income could not compete with his habit. Therefore, he augmented his income with a better-heeled married man who made him his little lunchtime tidbit. Dinners went to a leather daddy who lived in Asbury Park and would pick Arturo up on the corner and redeposit him back there like clockwork. My evenings were spent listening to snores. So we argued.

Arturo turned out to be a mean son-of-a-bitch. He trashed my place one evening, and when I threw him out into the courtyard, he howled like a cat — my neighbors stirring to call the police, who showed up at my door wondering why a young swishy thing like me would even consider letting a bum like Arturo be my roommate. (We did the roommate thing on the police report). The next day, I took off from work and called my sister, Russ — a fellow ironing board surfer, who was also a Gay Sparrow and worked in retail. Together, we packed Arturo up and showed him the door. He was more docile in the mornings — pleading even, but Russ was born with a steel corset. He deposited Arturo on the sand without as much as a z-snap. I was glad to know this tough little baritone from the Tuxedo store — fiery charm in the declarative and a fine connoisseur of dust ruffles and dainty hand towels. I decided to live alone from that day forward. After all, I’m my mother’s son and had to do her proud. But then, Christmas came along and ...
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Murder on Camac excerpt by Joseph R.G. DeMarco

In Murder on Camac by Joseph R.G. DeMarco, author Helmut Brandt is gunned down in the street, his life ebbs away and puts a chain of events in motion placing P.I. Marco Fontana on a collision course with Church and community. Brandt’s research into the decades old death of Pope John Paul the First made him serious enemies within the Catholic Church. As Fontana digs into the case, he finds Brandt also had rivals in his work and in his love life. Rivals with motives for murder.

Dueling with the Catholic hierarchy and combing through seedy gay hangouts, Fontana encounters dangerous characters and powerful forces intent on stopping him. When Fontana himself is attacked, he knows he must find answers before any more lives are lost. The web of intrigue and deceit is intricate, tangled, and deadly.

Will the solution uncover a decades old plot to kill a pope or will Fontana find that jealous rage or academic rivalry caused Brandt’s death? The only thing Fontana can be certain of is that Brandt's enemies have killed once and won't hesitate to murder a private eye who gets too close to the truth.

Fontana deftly balances his work as a P.I. with his position as owner of StripGuyz, a troupe of male strippers; he must also negotiate the intricacies of love and relationships which he has been avoiding all too long. Along with Anton and Luke, Olga his secretary, a host of male strippers, and other denizens of his world, Fontana manages to navigate his way to a surprising conclusion.

Murder on Camac
Publisher: Lethe Press (August 22, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1590212134
ISBN-13: 978-1590212134


“Fontana,” I said, fiddling with the file.

“Someone’s trying to kill me,” he said. No introduction, no nothing. My antennae went up.

“Who is this?”

“My name is Helmut Brandt.” I noticed a slight German accent. The name seemed vaguely familiar.

“I’m listening.”

“Someone… you must believe me, Mr. Fontana. This is no joke.”

“Believe what?”

“Someone wants me dead. For what I’m about to expose in a book I’m writing.”

“How about coming in to my office to talk?”

“Have you heard of Opus Dei, or P2, or the Roman Curia?”

I’d heard of two out of three. Not bad.

“These are the people trying to kill you?” If he thought so, I knew exactly which shrink to refer him to.

“Someone wants me out of the way. I’m in possession of documents which people would kill to keep secret.”

“Has there been an attempt on your life?”

“You’ve got a right to be skeptical, Mr. Fontana, but I assure you I’m telling the truth. Look me up on Amazon or Wikipedia, you’ll see why certain people want me buried. Maybe you’ll find that more convincing.” He paused and I heard him breathing. “I’ll come to your office tomorrow. Ten in the morning.”

He hung up. I didn’t really want to talk to him again, let alone take his case. I’d had my fill of paranoid nut cases. But he’d given me homework. Something about his voice and his name made me curious about why he’d have potentially lethal Christian organizations trying to skin him alive.

As I was about to type his name into Amazon’s search bar, the phone rang again. I wondered why Olga put yet another call through without asking, then I heard the voice.

“Marco, we’ve got a minor problem which you apparently caused.” Anton said.

When Anton used the word ‘minor’ I knew it meant trouble. What he considered minor was usually an eight point five on anyone else’s earthquake scale. His unflappable nature was why he helped manage StripGuyz my other source of income. StripGuyz, an ever-growing troupe of male strippers and go-go boys, was a business I’d started a few years back.

“Cal’s being a diva again? The baby spots are not the right color or what?” I felt happy to have something other than paranoid people to deal with.

“Cal and Bruno are sulking and it’s almost showtime. They both expect to be the Feature this weekend. Said you promised them. Did you promise both of them, Marco?”

“Me? Anton, you know I nev…”

“What I know is, that when a pretty boy bats his eyes at you, you kinda forget the promises you made to the pretty boy who came before.” Anton’s tone was world-weary and accusatory.

“And I thought you liked me. Just a little.”

“I keep hoping you’ll like me. Marco. But that’s another story.”

It certainly was another story. Anton was interested in a relationship. With me. And I was equally interested. All right, maybe not equally. But I was interested. The timing wasn’t right. There were too many unsettled things in my life. I also had to be sure. Trouble is with Anton it was all or nothing. We could date but he wouldn’t allow us to sleep together. Kissing, cuddling. Everything but rolling in the hay. He wouldn’t let that happen until I was ready to commit. It was actually sweet and one of the things I liked about the beautiful hunk.

Anton was far and away the favorite with the crowds when he danced, which was rare now. He was my first dancer and had become my right arm in the business. Even as my manager, Anton was still popular. How could he not be? His sultry, golden, Eastern European looks almost literally hypnotized men. He’d had his share of guys. But no one ever tempted him to settle down. Except me. And I just wasn’t ready.

“Anton, you know how I feel about you.”

“Anyway, Marco, I need you here.” A wistful note threaded its way through his words making me feel small and alone. “Both Cal and Bruno are threatening to go on strike. I’m not sure they know what the word means but they’re threatening. They might take others with them. If you don’t get down here and fix things, we’ll have an empty stage tonight.”

“I’m on my way, Anton.”

I hung up the phone, stashed the file, and found my cell phone hiding under some papers. On the way out I grabbed my jacket, October was colder than expected but I enjoyed a chill in the air. It woke me up, brought me to attention.

“You are going to stripping guys?” Olga kept her eyes glued to the computer monitor.
“Another emergency is arising and they need Daddy to handle?”

“I’m not old enough to be anybody’s daddy,” I said and opened the door. Unless thirty-two was daddy territory, I was still safe.

“You will be back?”

“Not tonight. It’s almost seven. I’ll deal with the boys at Bubbles then get something to eat. Why’re you here so late?”

“Is personal project,” she said.

I took the stairs to the street. The too small elevator was not quick enough. The peeling paint and cracked walls reminded me that I’d promised myself to look for a new office as soon as I cleared a few more cases.

It was chillier than I thought which made me glad that Bubbles, the bar where StripGuyz is based, wasn’t far. The suede jacket I wore was more fashionable than warm. I’d struck up a friendship with Stan, the owner, several years before. When I started the troupe, he was only too glad to let Bubbles become my base of operations. My guys brought in business. Lots of business. Like my office, the bar was smack in the middle of the gayborhood. With four floors of fun, a restaurant, lounges, and a small twenty-four hour café, Bubbles was as complete a setting as you can imagine.

My StripGuyz office occupied a small, microscopic was a better word, space at the rear of the second floor. There was also a large locker-dressing room with lots of accoutrements to keep the boys happy. The dressing room was near the back stairs which only my guys were allowed to use to move from floor to floor without being disturbed.

Ty, the afternoon bartender, was setting things up for the night shift when I walked through the first floor bar. Short and muscled, he had a face like a prize fighter who’d been at it a long time. The rough manly look made him wildly popular.

“Hey, Marco.” Ty turned to smile at me. “Situation upstairs?”

I always unconsciously touched my face when I saw his broken nose and this time was no different.

“Yeah, Ty. Too many divas and not enough stage. That’s why I want you to work for me.” I wasn’t joking. Ty was a natural. His innate grace along with his dark hair and olive complexion made his rough exterior even more appealing. I could see him pulling down a few hundred on weekend nights. No problem.

“I might just be another diva.” He winked and continued stacking glasses.

Nearing the locker room, I heard the buzz of angry voices. I entered without knocking. The glare of dressing room mirror lights was calculated and necessary. These boys needed to see their flaws so they could figure out how to fix or disguise them before going on stage. Some just loved seeing themselves. I squinted until my eyes adjusted.

“Marco!” Cal turned from his place at one of the mirrors. No shirt, smooth chest, low rise jeans revealing the flattest of stomachs, he had a fresh, innocent face. Cal was anything but. He was nice enough but was savvy, could be manipulative, and never let anyone best him. He threw an arm around my shoulder and seductively pulled me to him.

“You’re gonna clear this up, right, Marco?”

“Yeah, you will clear this up,” Bruno rumbled from a far corner. His dark Puerto Rican looks made him appear fierce and wildly sexy. At that moment he smoldered with anger. He was usually polite, courteous, and a willing worker. But anyone could see that beneath the civil exterior, there was more going on, a suppressed slow burn.

“Marco’s a great fixer.” Anton smirked.

I didn’t remember promising feature status to either guy, yet each had the impression I’d given him the nod. Being the feature meant more money. A bigger paycheck from me as well as a lot more in tips. Everyone wanted to be featured. I had a system for rotating them. Usually. Something went wrong this time. Boy, had it gone wrong.

I had to come up with something quick.

“Well, Marco?” Anton smoothed his hair and stared at me as if I had the magic answer. Sure enough it came to me. Maybe it was his stare, maybe I’m just used to talking my way out of things.

“Someone’s not remembering something,” I said.

“You got that right.” Bruno’s soft accent and lingering anger colored his words.

“Doesn’t anybody remember that tonight is Auditions? We never have a Feature on Audition night.” Which was true. I had five guys who’d applied to become dancers. I let applicants work for tips to see how they performed. Not everyone could hack it. Bruno made a ton of money when he’d auditioned.

“Oh, auditions! Right. How could I forget?” Anton fell in with me. Not to save my ass, I was sure. He wanted to keep the dancers happy and working without a lot of unproductive competition.

“Saturday and Sunday are Amateur Nights. We don’t do a Feature those nights either,” I said and heard Cal sniffle softly in the background. “But I’ll tell you what.”

“Yeah, boss man?” Bruno said.

“I’ll let you and Cal have top billing Saturday and Sunday. You can host the Amateur contests and dance between their sets. I’ll make sure Anton schedules each of you for your own feature-weekends later. How’s that?”

Bruno grunted; even his grunts were seductive. The man exuded a sexual power that drew the customers to him like few other dancers. Cal sniffled and hiccupped which I took for agreement.

I knew they were happy, they just had different was of displaying it – after a while you get to know your guys well. They’re great at hiding things from an audience – even though they bare it all for a living. But privately, when they get to know and trust you, there’s little they can hide or want to. With all my own trust issues, lots of people had no trouble trusting me and I never violated that confidence. Having people trust me was paramount. It ranked right up there with loyalty. In the stripper troupe, trust was all there was at times. The guys had to confide in someone and they knew they could count on me. I was something between a house mother and on-scene psychologist. They came to me with all their problems. It was nice being needed.

“Great,” Anton said. “In fact, Marco, you and I will work on that schedule now. Right?” Anton raised one eyebrow, a trick I’d never mastered.

“Yeah, sure. We can work it out right now.” I agreed. Anton hated handling diva moments. I knew my office was going to feel a lot smaller once he got started in on how I needed to manage the group better.

Anton moved to the door. Holding it open for me, he said, “After you, boss.” I didn’t like the way he emphasized the word ‘boss.’

He unlocked my office and held the door for me again. I was in for a lecture.

“Well,” he said, leaning on the door, leaving me no escape. “Quick thinking, Marco. Even I have to admire that. But you weren’t here when it all hit the fan. I was. I had to listen to Cal whine and Bruno rumble like an old car.”

“I’m sorry… really.” I moved closer to him, which wasn’t saying much since the office was like a sardine can made for two. “How can I make it up to you? Tell me what I can do.” I took him in my arms and was about to kiss him.

“Here’s what you can do,” Anton said, not pulling away, but not accepting the kiss, either. “Promote me to Manager.”

“Of the whole shebang?” I was taken aback. Anton was good but I wasn’t about to give up complete control of StripGuyz.

“No, tiger.” Anton said and stroked my cheek with one long finger. “Just of deciding schedules and features. That way, I won’t have to call you for every little thing. We won’t have to have auditions when we didn’t plan to. And you won’t be allowed to make promises you can’t keep. Sound fair?”

I had to admit it was fair. It would take a lot off my back. Anton liked keeping things orderly. Not that I ran a sloppy show. I just had a different management style, kinder and gentler, you might say. After working with some of the low life types I met in my investigative work, dealing with my strippers allowed me to indulge an entirely different side of my personality.

“Sure, it sounds fair. But I can’t promise I won’t interfere once in a while.” I laughed. Pulling him tighter to me I nuzzled his neck and savored the clean fragrance of his flesh.

“But…,” he moaned, a small guttural sound filled with longing. Then he caught himself and cleared his throat. “But not often. Promise?”

“Promise,” I said and made my smartest Boy Scout salute.

He pecked me on the cheek, pulled away, and opened the door.

“What? You’re going?”

“Why? Is there more to discuss?” He was all business.

“I thought maybe we could have dinner?”

“I’ve got a lot to do before the show tonight.” He was almost out the door when he turned. “Give me the list of the guys who want to audition. I’ll call them. Curtain’s up in three hours.”

“Sure. I told them we’d call when we were ready.”

I wanted Anton in my arms but he had his rules and even my saddest puppy-dog look wouldn’t have made a difference. We stood awkwardly outside my office, me wanting to hold him and cover him in kisses and me wanting to pull back and tell myself to slow down. It was tough being me.

Before I could move, Ty rushed up the stairs, his face drained of color.

“There’s been a shooting. On Camac. Some guy was killed…” Ty was breathing heavily and sat down on the top step. “This is crazy. That’s the way I go home every night. It coulda been me. Shot dead on the street.”
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Monday, September 14, 2009

M4M excerpt by Rick R Reed

M4M by Rick R Reed. Two great stories. One great love. Get between the covers with Ethan and Brian, the men whose hearts connected online and offline in the best-selling VGL Male Seeks Same. Follow them on their continuing journey in NEG UB2, where a shocking health diagnosis derails the couple’s blissful romance and teaches them both a lot about acceptance, forgiveness, and faith...especially when it comes to love.

Previously available only in electronic format, these twin novellas of gay erotic romance have now been combined for a paperback edition!

Publisher: Amber Allure (June 24, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-60272-868-4


Ethan was just finishing a victorious game of Spider Solitaire in his cubicle at LA Nicholes and Associates, the entertainment publicity firm where he toiled, when he overheard the office receptionist (a bleached blond waif of a boy no older than twenty) talking to the payroll clerk.

“Girl, if it worked for me, it can work for you!” The receptionist, even though he ostensibly possessed a penis and a supply of God-given testosterone had a voice that Ethan would swear was an octave above that of Miss Beverly Sills. “I have met, like, so many guys on this site. I have, like, a jillion dates lined up. I don’t know how I’m going to find time to come into work!”

The receptionist and the payroll clerk did what seemed to be a carefully choreographed twitter duet. Ethan stared at his screen, moving a queen onto a king, and listened as the receptionist waxed rhapsodic about an online dating site he had found. He had shrieked that it “wasn’t like all the others,” that it “was more than just for quick hook-ups, like so many of those sites, okay?” and that it was simply, “a lonely girl’s best friend.”

That was all Ethan needed to hear. Well, no, actually, that was not all. And even though Ethan could stand no more Spider Solitaire or Free Cell and was more than ready to call it an honest day’s work, he had to sit in his cubicles for twenty minutes more while “Bubbles” (as he secretly called the receptionist) prattled on about this wondrous—and apparently no-name—dating site. Finally, frustrated, and absolutely unable to endure one more hand of Hearts, Ethan stood and peered over the wall.

Almost immediately, the blond receptionist swiveled his head around to peer at Ethan. “Yes?” he hissed. The payroll clerk, a portly woman of Latina heritage, eyed him with suspicion. Together, they both seemed to be saying, “How dare you interrupt us?” with their eyes.

Ethan applied his most sheepish grin and began to stammer, “Sorry to interrupt but I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying…you know, about that dating site. But I didn’t catch the name of it.”

The blond and the Latina exchanged knowing glances and Ethan, even though he would never claim psychic abilities, could read their minds quite well, thank you. They were telepathically saying:

“And who does Miss Mary over there think she is?” Bubbles asked.

Latina replied, “I don’t know, but if she thinks she’s going to have the same kind of success that you did just because she logs on, she better think again.”


“Hello?” Bubbles was staring at Ethan, head quizzically cocked, and Ethan grinned, realizing he had let his imagination run away with him. He may have just missed his only chance to learn the name of the dating site in question, the one that apparently had men lining up for the affections of a nelly nineteen-year-old who probably didn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds sopping wet and whose dubious intellect most likely rivaled that of a Chihuahua.

“Sorry? I missed that.” Ethan felt heat rising from his neck to his face.

Bubbles closed his eyes and held them shut for a beat to indicate his distaste for, and impatience with, his coworker. Speaking slowly, as if he were talking to someone hearing-impaired, Bubbles enunciated carefully, “The name of the site is”

The Latina held a hand over her mouth to artlessly—and unsuccessfully—hide her giggles. Ethan noticed her nails were shellacked a lurid red, topped with dragon designs, and so long they were curving back at the top. And this woman managed to handle the challenges of a computer keyboard?

“Oh, okay,” Ethan said, staring down once more at his monitor, which had gone to a screensaver of Barbara Stanwyck movie posters. Sorry, Wrong Number seemed like an apt title to be up at the moment. Ethan may have not been possessed of a dazzling intellect, but even he knew when his leg was being unkindly pulled. He had just sat back down and was powering off when Bubbles’ voice fluttered over the beige partition. “It’s wing people dot com.”
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Taming Groomzilla excerpt by E.N. Holland

In Taming Groomzilla by E.N. Holland, Joel Harfner and Luke Townsend, lovers for two years, have just bought their first home together in Scarborough, Maine. In a moment of domestic impetuosity, Joel proposes to Luke, who says yes. Then, to Joel's surprise, Luke says he wants a wedding with "all the bells and whistles." Joel, who never expected to be married, suddenly finds himself in the midst of planning a full-scale destination event to be held in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Why Massachusetts? As Joel says, "We can't get married in Maine ~ yet ~ but we are ever hopeful." Taming Groomzilla tells the story of how Joel and Luke navigate the tribulations of the six months from "Will you marry me?" to "I do." And while they do seal their union, complete with a kiss, there is more than one twist and turn in store to complicate their journey and keep the reader hilariously entertained.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Protect Maine Equality to help support their efforts to protect same-sex marriage in Maine.

Taming Groomzilla
Publisher: Bristlecone Pine Press
ISBN: 978-1-60722-010-7

Excerpt (from Chapter Four)

Marital plans were proceeding apace. In fact, I was amazed at just how quickly things were moving forward. I felt like I had gone from a laid-back, low-key sort of guy whose biggest decision every day was what sort of latte to have on my mid-morning coffee break, to a whirling dervish of planning and organization. And if I was a dervish, what was Luke? A Tasmanian devil? I think so. The description seems apt.

Once we had decided on the date, a whole chain of decisions suddenly presented themselves. Where to have the wedding? How elaborate? How many guests?

We started with location. Since same-sex marriage is not legal in Maine (yet—we are ever hopeful) we decided to get married in Massachusetts. We tossed around ideas such as Canada, Spain—even Iowa—but really, I don’t do cornfields well.

Massachusetts made sense: it is familiar and almost local so it wouldn’t be an onerous trip for friends and family.

Luke liked the idea of Provincetown, the gay mecca at the very tip of Cape Cod. While I love P-town, I wondered if it might be a little too “in your face” for some of our guests, especially his parents. But that was precisely why he wanted to force the issue. “I’ve been out for twelve years,” he said. “They need to realize this is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ or phase I am going through.”

I shrugged. Whatever. If he wanted to have a family showdown at his wedding, I wasn’t going to argue. I just hope they take the fisticuffs outside at the reception.

The next obstacle was finding a venue.

We discovered that planning a wedding on a six-month timeline is, at least in the eyes of event managers, akin to planning the invasion of Normandy in three days—in other words, were we nuts? I had a few memorable phone conversations, such as this one with the wedding coordinator at “The Dirty Gull” (name changed to protect the guilty!).

Wedding coordinator, in a faux British accent: “You are scheduling your event for October seventeenth, I assume that would be next year? Eighteen months from now?”

“No,” says I, “October of this year…in the fall.”

“Surely you jest,” says WC. “Don’t you realize that The Dirty Gull is booked at least two years in advance for all events of significance?”

“If I realized that, I wouldn’t be calling now, would I?”

WC sniffed. “Next time, sir, plan better. Propose sooner.”

“I am not planning on proposing again. This is one of those ‘for now and forever’ type deals.”

“Hmmphf,” he said. “I’ve heard that old saw before.”

I hung up on him.

“The Bitter End” seemed promising: they had availability on our selected date and they could accommodate our proposed number of guests. I felt my pulse speed up.

“What’s the process for making a reservation?” I asked.

“Easy,” said the bubbly, chirpy young woman on the other end of the line. “First, we confirm the date.” She whispered to herself as she did this and I could picture her writing the information in big loopy handwriting in a spiral bound notebook. I wondered if she used a purple pen and dotted her i’s with hearts. “Now, do you want a three-course or a five-course meal?”

“Actually, we want passed hors d’oeuvres and champagne.”

“Sorry, no can do!” she said brightly. “Luncheon or dinner only, three or five courses.”

I paused. “Well, let me discuss that with my fiancé. He might be open to the idea of a meal.”

“While we are on the topic of what you can and can’t do, let me outline the rest of our policies: you will use our chef, our baker, our florist, our tables, our chairs, our linens, our silverware, have our bartenders serve only our top-shelf liquor and the event must not go longer than four hours, otherwise we begin charging by the minute. No exceptions. We have a list of approved DJs that you can choose from who will ensure that the music is not played louder than one hundred decibels so that the neighbors aren’t disturbed.”

Quite a list, I thought. “Is that it?”

“Will you be having out-of-town guests?”

“Yes, of course. None of us live in Provincetown.”

“Well then, we require your guests to stay at The Bitter End.”

I looked at the phone like she was a lunatic. “How can you possibly enforce that?” I asked.

“We have our ways,” she said mysteriously.

I hung up on her, too.

I was beginning to despair of finding anything on the Cape and was starting to toy with the idea of Boston, when I made one last desperate call to The Blue Door — desperate, because I think it’s the nicest place in P-town and I never imagined that it would be available at this late date. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained as my mother always says so I called them up.

First, the date. “You’re in luck!” said the manager. “We were booked on the seventeenth but just had a cancellation. I can pencil you in.” Wow. Next question: fifty to seventy people? Oh, yes, we have the perfect size space for that number. Hors d’oeuvres? Absolutely. Bring our own cake? Of course! Our own florist? You even have to ask? Certainly!

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. There had to be a hitch. Can we get married there? Bien sûr! Dancing? Champagne? Let the party go on into the wee hours of the morning if we want? Yes, yes, yes!

She laughed at my litany of questions. “You sound like you’ve had some bad experiences. The Blue Door tries to bend over backwards to accommodate our guests and make your special day be more than special…we want it to be sublime. All we ask is for a fifty percent deposit and final payment in full two weeks before the event.”

“Okay…this sounds really good. I need to confirm with my fiancé but I can get back to you before the end of the day. One last thing…you do realize we’re gay, right? That’s not an issue?”

“GAY!” she shrieked. “GAY!” So this was the hitch—until she laughed. “Honey, this is P-town. I would have been surprised if you weren’t gay.”

All right, she had a sense of humor. I could work with this woman.

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