Monday, March 29, 2010

Pottery Peter excerpt by Rick R Reed

Josh, between his freshman and sophomore years of college, gets a job at the pottery, a place where sweaty men dressed in sleeveless T-shirts, with biceps glistening and bulging, hoist heavy molds and liquid clay.

For Josh, it’s an eye-opening summer, building his own muscles and falling in love for the very first time. But falling in love is never uncomplicated, especially when two hot men have caught Josh’s eye. Which one of them will claim Josh’s virgin territory? Will it be Dale, the heavy-metal blond God with the tattoos and rough demeanor? Or will Kevin, Josh’s beefy, red-haired Irish boss, steal his heart, along with a few other parts further south?

Come along for a ride during one long, hot summer where the job benefits for an aroused young man are way more than what Human Resources promised. Inspired by working one summer in an industrial pottery in his hometown, Rick R Reed turns up the heat in the workplace!

Pottery Peter
Amber Kiss (Amber Allure) 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1-60272-535-5 (Ebook)


Kevin had a big basket and one morning when he was giving me an assignment for the day he caught me looking at it. He stopped talking, put his hand on his thigh and looked into my eyes.

I felt burning heat rise to my cheeks. Kevin appraised me coolly, a grin playing about his lips. Had he caught my stare and obvious interest? Was he about to tell me that they didn’t need any of “my kind” around the pottery? I just wanted to back out of his tiny office and head for the nearest exit. Jesus, why couldn’t I keep my mind off sex for a few hours a day?

“What you lookin’ at, Josh?” He grinned more broadly and I couldn’t tell if it was malicious or genuine. His green-eyed gaze met mine.

I fidgeted, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, hoping I was just being paranoid. “Nothing. Could we finish up here so I can get started?” I looked anywhere but at Kevin.

“Get started doin’ what, Josh?”

Kevin’s grin broadened into a smile and he reached down to grasp himself, outlining his cock with his fingers. Maybe things weren’t going so badly after all. I looked back down and could tell from the way the dick strained against the green fabric that it was hard.

Could this really be happening?

Nervously, I glanced behind me and out of Kevin’s office door, almost expecting a group of the casters gathered round, ready to laugh and jeer at the new queer college boy who had had the nerve to come and work with them.

But it was business as usual on the pottery floor. Nervously, I flicked my gaze back at my boss. What was going on? This guy was married with five kids, coached football. Maybe he was testing me, maybe he’d suspected all along and he’d…

And then he did something that made me suck in my breath. I felt his hand on my thigh, moving up toward my cock.

I instantly got hard, feeling my face flush even more than it already had. I moved toward him, letting his hand stroke the erection flattened against my stomach.

Kevin paused, his playful grin now broadening beneath his red beard. He winked at me, walked to his office door, shut it, and drew the blinds.

Kevin returned to me and replaced his hand on my crotch, alternately gripping and squeezing the rock hard cock beneath my jeans, then stroking it up and down. I feared coming in my pants, but there was no way I could stop him.

“That blush on your face sure looks pretty, Josh. Come here.”

He stood and gathered me up in his massive arms, crushing me against his chest. He reached up to run his fingers through my hair and then moved the same hand down to squeeze my ass. His mouth—even early in the morning—tasting of cigarettes and beer, covered mine. His tongue snaked into my mouth, dueling with my own tongue and exploring the roof of my mouth. His beard was rough against my skin.

I was growing more and more afraid I would come in my pants. I moaned as his tongue moved to my ears, my neck. He bit gently on my ear lobes, licked inside my ears. Shivers were coursing through my body and I bucked uncontrollably against him. It was a good thing he had such a tight grip on me, otherwise, I might have dissolved into a puddle on the floor.

He pulled my shirt over my head and licked, then bit, my nipples. The pain brought tears to my eyes, but I wouldn’t have stopped him for anything. He moved his mouth up to my pits, breathing in the scent, and then licking until the hairs were wet.

“Let’s see what you got, Josh.”

He unbuttoned my fly and with one swift motion, pushed my jeans below my knees.
Kevin shook his head. “That sure is pretty,” he said, getting a firm grip on my throbbing cock.

I closed my eyes as I felt my dick slip into his hot mouth, those Irish lips surrounded with beard hair. “Mmmmmm,” he moaned, his head bobbing up and down on my cock.

He stopped, squeezing near the base, just as my dick started twitching, ready to explode.

He looked up at me.

“Not yet. You’ve been a very bad boy. Good boys keep that nasty thing in their pants.” Kevin pulled down his fatigues and sat back in his desk chair. “You know what bad boys get when they don’t behave?”

I wanted so much to reach down and stroke myself off, but instead I said, “What?”

“They get a good, hard spankin’, that’s what they get. Come here.”

I looked at Kevin’s short but very fat cock, rising out of a thick matte of bright red pubic hair. I didn’t even know where the urge came from, but I wanted to sit on it.

Instead, he turned me over on his knee. “Bad fuckin’ boy,” Kevin said as he slapped the cheeks of my ass. “Bad, bad, bad,” over and over until my ass stung and my dick dripped pre-cum on the floor.

“Suck my dick,” Kevin grunted and pushed me to the floor between his spread thighs.
I looked at his cock just before I went down. I’d never seen a dick so hard, practically ready to explode, the skin stretched taut, exposing every vein. A drop of clear liquid was poised at its tip, ready to roll down the veined shaft with any movement. I took a deep breath, grabbing his cock and staring at it. Then, I swallowed it all the way down to his balls, feeling my eyes tear. I almost gagged, but reminded myself to breathe and just relax and savor the sensation of his fat cock resting against the back of my throat.

Was this really happening? Or would I awaken in my twin bed at home, my white briefs stained with goo?

No, this was real.

Kevin grunted once, placed his hands on the back of my head to hold it there, and pumped my mouth relentlessly, drawing himself almost fully out, then plunging back in, forcing me to swallow him down to the root. I was surprised that I could take it so well and had a fleeting thought of Kevin assuming that I was surely no virgin. I think just the fact that I had been starving for so long for this meal made any inhibitions or uneasiness about what I was doing vanish.

I gobbled him, my spit leaking out of my mouth to cover his shaft and balls. I could hear his breath quickening and his balls drawing up closer to his body. I shut my eyes, wanting whatever he would give me, burying my face in the fiery curls of his bush. He grunted and pumped my mouth full of hot cum. I could barely breathe—let alone swallow—as his cock spit out what seemed like an unending load. Oh my God, I thought—greedily gulping down his cream and savoring its starchy taste—this is what I’ve always wanted.

Suddenly the door swung open. I felt a rush of air on my naked flanks.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

RUNNING DRY excerpt by M Christian

Ernst Doud is a middle-aged 154-year-old nonhuman painter. He is living quietly in Los Angeles when he receives a cryptic message from a lover he last saw in 1913--when he killed him, or so he had always thought. So begins M. Christian's debut novel, Running Dry. It is unlike any book you have read, and Doud is unlike any hero who has ever graced the pages of a novel. Set in contemporary Los Angeles, with excursions into the surreal outback of Southern California's high desert, Running Dry is a stunningly realized vampire tale of vengeance, loyalty, and the inescapable humanity of the inhuman.

Running Dry
Camel Press (January 31, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1603818022
ISBN-13: 978-1603818025


“They say the seas are going to dry up. Blow away.”

“I’ve heard that.”

“The moon, too. It’s going to leave, sail off into the sky. Leave us behind,” Sergio said, swinging his feet off the edge. First the left, then the right, dancing with the heights. “Do you think we’ll see that?”

“We could,” Doud said, arm around Sergio’s shoulders. To reassure him, and to remind himself that this was real, firm, and solid, he tugged him closer.

Mahogany eyes directed at him, Sergio said, “Everyone will get old, turn to dust. But we’ll still be here, won’t we? The earth will be like the desert. No oceans, no water, no one will be alive. But we’ll still be here.” His legs stopped swinging.

“Maybe. Other things could happen, too. You never know for sure. Time changes too much.” Sitting on the toes of rearing elephants, they looked down on the gleaming architecture of Babylon, a plaster movie set brilliantly white from a still-neighborly moon.

Despite their height, Doud wasn't afraid. Not of falling, at least. He knew the elephants Sergio had made for Mr. Griffith, believed in his lover’s craftsmanship, and so implicitly trusted them to carry their weight. He hoped he knew Sergio as well, but he was still quietly grateful for the simple strength of his sculpture. Men were too complex, too unpredictable. Apparent solidity and dependability all too often hid deep flaws. The elephants of Intolerance, though, were wood and plaster.

Dependable wood, trustworthy plaster.

“Ever been to the desert?" Sergio asked unexpectedly. "I went there, with some friends, just after I came here. Hot, like a stove. But I didn’t think of cooking, the kitchen, or food, only that it was like a line across a page, like the start of a drawing. Now, I think of it like the way the world will be. All boiled away -- just hot air and that line.” Drawing his hand across the horizon, he underlined distant Hollywood.

“Too hot and dry for me. But we can go sometime. Both of us.” He didn’t need to say we have lots of time.

“They say the war will end soon. The War to End All Wars -- but that’s not true, eh? We’ll find out, I guess.”

“It’ll end. They always do.” Doud tried to catch his attention again, but the other man refused to look away from the bright lights of the distant city.

“Even our Babylon will be gone. Mr. Griffith’s film is over. They’ll break up my elephants.”

“There’ll be other pictures. You’ll see.”

After a moment of tense silence Sergio's eyes swung back to Doud. “You’ll be there, won’t you?”

“I will,” Doud replied, gently stammering, delicately hesitant. I will. Not a promise, just desire. With it, abrupt reality on the toes of great white elephants: please, let this one work out. I don't want to kill him.

“Kiss me,” Sergio said, closing those dark marble eyes.

And Doud did, a simple kiss on the edge of a Hollywood eternity.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Hadrian Enigma: A Forbidden History, excerpt by George Gardiner

LUST, LOVE, REVENGE, & COMING OUT. M/M romance, ancient Roman-style. The Hadrian Enigma is the tale of Caesar’s fatal search for love …

130 years after Christ, but two centuries before Christians receive state recognition, Rome is ruled by pagan values & uninhibited morals.

From a barbarous war’s victory triumph in Rome’s Forum to a drunken orgy at Athens’ Acropolis; from the excitements of a boar hunt in the forests of Bithynia to the steam rooms of a Roman bath house; from the opulent bordellos of Egypt to the privacy of an emperor’s bed chamber, a ruler’s search for love destroys the very person he most adores.

His loved one, Antinous of Bithynia, is found dead one dawn beneath the waters of the River Nile during a pleasure tour of Egypt. Is it a youthful prank gone wrong, suicide, murder, or something far more sinister? Hadrian assigns the barrister & historian Suetonius Tranquillus to urgently investigate. Accompanied by his concubine hetaera sex-worker Surisca of Antioch, Suetonius uncovers more than Caesar wants to know plus more than he wants others to know.

THE HADRIAN ENIGMA is the secret record of Caesar’s investigation into one of history’s most intriguing & suspicious deaths. It depicts an era which sanctions men loving men in a macho culture of pride, honor, & shame.

THE HADRIAN ENIGMA: A Forbidden History
Publisher: GMP Editions (
ISBN: 978-0-9807469-0-7



In the 13th Year of Imperator Caesar Divi Traiani filius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus. (Hadrian, ruled 117-138CE)

Stop now. Cease immediately. You are at risk. If you intend reading this history, take great care. Caesar will not be pleased. Hadrian may exile you to some bleak rocky outcrop dashed by stormy seas if he learns of it. Or worse. Reconsider while yet you may.

However, if juicy morsels of gossip have reached your ears and you cannot help yourself, then be it on your own head. You now share in my own plight.

This saga came to its climax three months ago. Its culmination struck Caesar’s traveling Household at the dawn of one of those bleached-out, white hot, stupefying days so common in Egypt. In the molten miasma of liquid heat that morning three months ago his Court’s communal bloodstream froze to ice, as they say. An unexplained death at Court is a sobering matter. The death of a young, vital, handsome favorite augurs even greater concern.

What is to be made of it, we wondered?

Three months later my anxiety grows. My head is now forfeit. Hadrian does not forgive my revelations before his Court. They were truly embarrassing. His reputation for machismo as a Roman Imperator was exposed to view for what it really is. Yes, Caesar’s loving tenderness was revealed. Tenderness is a sentiment an Imperator deems it unwise to exhibit.

This is the path of my chronicle’s journey. By the grace of Fortuna, I hope these words will persuade Hadrian of the integrity of my actions on that fateful day. May they fix my head more securely to my shoulders.

* * * *

Greetings dear reader, whoever you may be.

Your writer is Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, historian of renown, barrister-at-law, and alleged playboy of Rome. ‘Alleged’ because all Rome assumes I have been notably successful in a Roman male’s obligatory career of lively priapic endeavor.

However in this thirteenth year of Caesar’s rule I will have seen a full sixty winters. This means I am six years older than Hadrian himself. Being no spring chicken, my alleged priapic activities wane alarmingly.

My patron and friend of the past twenty years, Gaius Septicius Clarus, the well-known senator and one-time Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, has kindly assigned me a suite at his luxurious villa at Alexandria. Here on Caesar’s behalf I am under house arrest until Hadrian decides what to do with me. As a member of the eques class at least I know what my worst fate may be – a swift beheading or permission to suicide somewhat less messily.

In the meantime I gather my thoughts onto paper about the recent journey through Egypt. These thoughts will either save my neck or make it even less secure. While the memory remains fresh I must record the fate and subsequent apotheosis of the young man at the center of its most disturbing event, Antinous of Bithynia. To some he was Caesar’s beloved companion and Favorite; to others a mere catamite, a toyboy, a typical Greek hustler on the make.

I have written several admired histories for the Empire’s book copiers and their readers. I am best known for my Lives of the Caesars. Perhaps you too know of it? There I show in eight scrolls all I have learned of our first Caesar, Julius, and the following eleven Caesars from Augustus to Domitian. That last monster ruled in my youth at much cost to the lives of members of my family.

In my Lives I tried to tell of Rome’s rulers as they truly were. It has not always been a pretty picture, dear reader, but as you may perceive, I am up to the chore. I leave no unsavory stone unturned, no scandal unexplored. If a Caesar proved to be boring, I might even invent a little.

Thirteen years ago on Hadrian’s succession to the role of Princeps he appointed Septicius to be his Prefect of the Praetorian Guard. I was then appointed to be the Director of imperial correspondence.

For five years I was active at the very center of imperial affairs. No letter, official document, edict, or warrant in Latin or Greek went to the far reaches of the Empire without my oversight.

After some time Hadrian’s wife, Vibia Sabina the Augusta, declared Septicius and I to have insulted her. Sabina is a strong-willed woman, so she cleverly engineered a charge of laesa majestas against us and our subsequent dismissal. Hadrian was obliged to agree with his wife’s claim for public form’s sake.

It’s well known no love is lost between the Imperial couple. Nevertheless both show proper conformity to their marital obligations. After all, he is our Princeps, the First Citizen, who leads us all by example.

Hadrian leads in most things except perhaps in the matter of whelping progeny to populate the Empire or stock the Legions with fighting sons. He and Sabina have bred no children.

Hadrian wed his arranged bride at the usual age when he was twenty-five. As usual, Sabina was thirteen. They do not sleep together. I doubt they have much in common other than their unlikely coupling by the strategies of the imperial succession.

She has been heard to say her husband is a monster!, though she never defines her meaning. She swears she will never bear him a son. And she hasn’t.

Nevertheless despite their mutual antagonism the two maintain a prudent public comportment as the Princeps and his respectful wife. They are role models for all Romans.

My books of Lives of the Caesars focused upon the acquisition of power by the emperors, their uses of that power, and their abuses of power. Of the first twelve Caesars I revealed how only Julius and three of the remaining eleven retained their moral authority.

However, in recording the sexual orientations of all fifteen Imperators up to this very day, the tally declines to but two recognized for their common, garden-variety disposition. The remaining thirteen sought opportunities to be erotic innovators of considerable invention, if not outright ingenuity.

The remote province of Bithynia has been a prominent source of this inventiveness. Earlier when I was secretary for two years to Rome’s ambassador at this backwoods colony on the edge of the Black Sea, I experienced its wild, exotic culture at close hand.

Bithynia seems a place before memory; a place intoxicated with time’s open endlessness. Antique gods, demons, nymphs, or sprites of the forests, waters, skies or inner perceptions seem close to us at Bithynia. They challenge our very sanity. Sacred rites and holy oaths are essential to placate their feverish spirits. Strange, crude, brutal superstitions are veiled behind the token adoration of our sacred Pantheon or the honoring of our Deified Emperors.

Vestiges of customs from some ancient epoch survive beneath today’s normality, often undermining its validity. Ordinary assumptions become blurred, diffuse, flexible, shifting the barriers of understanding in unexpected or disturbing ways.

Male and female categories too become malleable, diaphanous, interchangeable, obverse sides of the same coin. In this heady climate the portals of license open wide. Vistas of voluptuous sensuality arise before us. Bithynia disturbs, shocks, and thrills simultaneously.

As you well know, a Roman male’s function is to subjugate, dominate, and penetrate. This has always been the victorious Roman way. Romans conquer and subdue compelled by their driven virility. Manhood is defined by the right to have sex – that is, to dominate and penetrate, or in earthier terms to fuck, if you forgive street Latin - whether it’s with a woman or a man, an older youth, a slave, an enemy, or a business opponent, though perhaps reluctantly metaphorically in the latter. Some say we Romans have an unimaginative sexual agenda. Others say we are immoral, wanton, crude fornicators.

Subjugation and domination are perceived to be a Roman male’s purpose in life. The way of the phallus rules. This is our ancient heritage, we proclaim. We despise intimate emotion. It is a sign of weakness. Only the meek, slaves, losers, and girls succumb to such defects. They are to be pitied.

Yet there are times when even I seriously wonder about this?

However in Bithynia, perversely, it is the giving and receiving of pleasure which rules. To this rustic breed pleasure is a two-way exchange at minimum, or every-which-way when inclined. Sex is a leisure activity, play, a game, recreation, an exercise in indulgence, a mode of luxury.

Those ancient rulers of Bithynia, the dynasty of her four opulent Nikomedes kings, were lauded across the Middle Sea as dissolute practitioners of this quality of luxury. Since Rome’s annexation of the province our virile Roman tastes have been infiltrating this Dionysian culture only very slowly indeed, if at all.

To Bithynia’s social elites sexual attraction is focused upon the beauty of the object, a person’s visible or moral appeal. This aesthetic ignores class, status, or even gender. The Bithynians are famously gender blind. Human beauty is praised, wooed, and hopefully consummated, regardless of its vehicle.

A century ago that last of the Bithynian kings, the notoriously bawdy Nikomedes IV, happily satisfied this racy itch while entertaining a visiting Roman ambassador. The ambassador was the nineteen year-old Julius Caesar. It seems our handsome future triumphant Roman victor of wars was introduced very personally, very intimately indeed, to the Bithynian mode of luxury. Consequently, his Legions later regaled the founder of the dynasty of the Caesars as being “every woman’s husband and every man’s wife’.

Yet today Rome’s stolid elders reject such license. To Romans, the Bithynians are soft, decadent, compliant, accommodating, too easily subjugated, too readily penetrated.

I am unsure which of these opposing convictions is the more natural under a philosopher’s definition of Nature’s Law? Surely if something occurs in Nature it is natural? Read Epicurus or Lucretius of long ago. But try telling that to Rome’s austere Stoics or those atheist followers of Chrestus who pester us with their prissy ways while defaming our gods and habits! Their abstemious asceticism chills our blood. It is utterly unRoman.

This leads us inevitably to --- What then is love?

Is love the urgent compulsion to have your way with someone, Roman style? Or is love some more ambiguous sensation, Bithynian style? Our thinkers search exhaustively for the answer. Even today’s philosophers Plutarch or Epictetus display uncertainty.

Take Hadrian and Antinous. Was this a love? Was it Roman style or Bithynian style?

Caesar’s promotion of his former companion to the status of Divus - godlike - positively compels our query.

His edict about the young man’s divine nature, as depicted by statues of the muscular stud as a New Apollo which are popping up all over the place, or the commemorative medallions being minted with his chiseled features, or the many reports of miracles attributed to his role as Osiris Resurrected, or the discovery of his new star in the heavens, plus the cult burgeoning everywhere in his name, make debate almost compulsory.

Was the five year liaison of these two a mere bizarre, brazen, delirious debauchery? Or was it a romance to touch our minds and hearts? Was it of Cupid, who Greeks call Eros, or was it of Venus, who they call Aphrodite? It was certainly a striking phenomenon.

Consequently I dedicate these scrolls of A Forbidden History to our Great Caesar. With luck they will persuade Hadrian how my revelations before the Court at Egypt three months ago were necessary to his peace of mind. The revelations do not warrant my head being cleaved from my shoulders.

In preparing my chronicle for the public record I have interviewed courtiers at the highest echelons of the Imperium. I have searched into times gone by to explore the hidden pasts of key participants.

I and my aide-in-detection, the beguiling Syrian beauty Surisca of Antioch, have probed the Court’s incessant gossip mill to weave together this tale’s dense tapestry.

Surisca is a captivating daughter of Aphrodite. She is a sweet courtesan enchantress of striking charms and superior intelligence whose worldly perception provided sharp insights into these concealed treasons. Surisca became my eyes, my logic, and even my heart.

I will relate these events as I experienced them. I will recount this saga as in a novella or romance by, say, Titus Petronius Niger of long ago. Incorrigible Petronius lived in the days of Caesar Nero and fell victim to that ruler’s vile temper. His lively Satyrica parodied the truths of that despised tyrant’s rule to warn us of the dangers of despotism. He paid the price for his witticism. But my tale is no comical parody. It will communicate the events of the life and death of Antinous as they occurred, plainly.

In this Forbidden History I will take a role as a character in the unfolding scenario. I, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, an historical biographer, will appear as but a single performer in my saga.

The treason against Hadrian began long ago, Surisca and I discovered. It began a quarter-century ago at the very edge of Europa on its northern frontier of Dacia. This was an entire decade prior to Hadrian’s ascendancy as Caesar and five years before Antinous had even been born. At that distant time at least one contender in my saga was compelled to invoke the remainder of this chronicle’s savage drama.

But I am ahead of myself. First we must travel back to Middle Egypt three months ago to revisit the climax of these events. This opens the door to all else.

Here my tale begins ----
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Men With Their Hands excerpt by Raymond Luczak

Growing up different is never easy, but Michael, a deaf young man from a small town, knows that he must find his true family beyond his biological one. He struggles and fails to find others of his kind until he attends college in New York City. There, we meet a variety of people from a deaf gay family of sorts: Eddie, an older accountant aching for love; Lee, an effeminate dishwasher with a pronounced weakness for red-haired men; Vince, a charismatic dancer who lives intensely no matter the state of his health; Neil, a brooding woodcarver who becomes a deaf woman s obsession; Stan, a lanky stock boy at the A&P on Christopher Street; Ted, a hard of hearing college student with ambivalent feelings about the deaf community; and Rex, an ASL interpreter who avoids his own emotions during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. It is through these people that Michael, no longer a smalltown boy, begins to create a new family of his own. Taking place from 1978 to 2003, his story will open your eyes and heart to what it means to be different in an indifferent world.

Raymond Luczak's novel MEN WITH THEIR HANDS won first place in the Project: QueerLit 2006 Contest and a first-place grant for Full-Length Fiction 2003 from the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation.

Men With Their Hands
Publisher: Queer Mojo (A Rebel Satori Imprint) (November 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1608640248
ISBN-13: 978-1608640249


Sneaking away on a hot May afternoon, Michael carries his brother Gordy’s Boy Scout Handbook and a flashlight into his bedroom closet, and slides the door shut. It is pitch-black under the plastic-bagged longcoats and tweed jackets; a thin lining of dust is heavy on the shoulders. He doesn’t turn on his flashlight yet: He must turn up his body aids. He thinks he can hear his own heart throbbing so madly next to the microphones on his body aids, but he is immediately distracted by the lintballed dust itching his nose. Michael has just turned fourteen. The year is 1980.

His eyes adjust to the darkness. He can see a few cracks in the plaster wall, the dust clinging to his sweaty legs, and the different gradations of dust all around him. Aimee and Frankie, his younger sister and brother, also like to hide in here. But today everyone is gone, for it is balmy out; he hopes his absence is not noticed.

He shifts his crouching position for more comfort before he aims his flashlight away from the bottom of the closet door and opens the handbook. He finds the page titled INDIAN MANUAL ALPHABET, and stares at its twenty-six handshapes. His parents, teachers, and speech therapists have told him not to learn any signs.

Yet he finds the handshapes irresistible. He searches for M, and looks at it on his hand.

M? he wonders. Why like that?

Then he notices the N on the page. He sees the difference: M has three fingers folded over the thumb; N, two. Yes, it resembles the claws of those two letters. He runs through the alphabet slowly, trying to see how or why the handshape was created for each letter. He runs through it again and again, until he feels fairly sure he has it down.

His name? “M-i-c-u-a-e-l O-s-b-o-r-n-e.”

He checks the spelling again, and realizes his H fingers should lean sideways. He spells his name again until he can spell it quickly.

THUD.THUD.THUD. Michael jolts from the banging on the door. His arm has gotten too sore from holding it up so high that he drops his flashlight. He stuffs the handbook behind a pile of shoes just as his younger sister Aimee slides the door open. “Michael! What are you doing in there? We were looking all over for you. We’re going to Burger
Chef. You wanna come?”


In the station wagon they cruise through Olney to Burger Chef. Michael tries to act nonchalant as he watches for that older deaf man. He doesn’t know his name, and he notices that his parents always pretend he is not there whenever he is. He takes in the metronomic fingerspelling on the man’s hand as two young girls watch and giggle with him in that secret language.


Two days later, Michael takes his ten-speed bike and pedals furiously into town, up this way and that, seeking that deaf man at every bench he has seen him sit on while passing out the manual alphabet cards. At last, he sees him strolling out of the A&P near St. Rosita’s Church, and slows down after him until he sits on a bench in front of a tavern.

The man’s face changes suddenly into a question. He points to him and then his own ear and to his mouth. “You deaf?”

Michael is immobilized. He gets off his bike and brings it up to behind the bench. He fingerspells slowly, “A-g-a-i-n.”

The man points to Michael’s hand and brings his own fingertips together against the palm of his other hand. “Again.” He gestures fingerspelling and looks exhausted by the whole idea, and then smiles. “Again.”

“Again?” The sign feels different.

The man nods with a grin on his face. He points to Michael and then to his own throat, and shakes his head no-no.

“You don’t want me to use my voice?”

The man shakes his head, and points to his own lips. He squints his eyes as if lipreading is too painful for him.

Michael is hit by a desire to run away, but the blue flames of the man’s eyes beckon him to stay. “W-h-a-t—”

“What.” The man shows him the sign, a simple slash across the palm.




“Name. My name T-o-n-y R-a-t-h-e-s. Yours—what?”

“My name M-i-c-h-a-e-l O-s-b-o-r-n-e.”

“Good. Better hearies think they know fingerspell names.”

“What was that?” Michael has reverted back to his voice.

Tony closes his eyes shut and points to his throat: Still a no-no. Finally, he opens his eyes and smiles. “You m-u-s-t must l-e-a-r-n learn.” He points to the fingertips of his V and then his eyes: Wherever his V looks, his eyes also follow.


“L-o-o-k.” He demonstrates the various uses of that V as a pair of eyes.

“W-a-t-c-h. S-t-a-r-e.” As he does this, Michael notices a slight change in his eyes when a girl of about six years old walks past with her mother. “She w-i-l-l will grow b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l beautiful w-o-m a-n woman. You l-i-k-e like g-i-r-l-s girls?”

“Yes,” Michael lies. He still dreams about Nick, a varsity quarterback who used to be his best friend when they were younger.

“H-o-w o-l-d how old you?”


“No. Fourteen.” He holds up the closed fingers of his 4 towards himself, then beckons him. Michael copies it quickly and opens up like a flower blooming.

The afternoon evaporates in the melting of Michael’s voice. He is ecstatic when he arrives home.


“Michael.” Mom and Dad sit morosely at the kitchen table. “Michael.” It’s the first time that Michael has ever thought of them old, or looking beaten.

“What?” Michael signs, and then remembers his voice. “What?”

“You’re not supposed to be talking hands with that man.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not good for your speech, and then we’ll never understand you.”

Michael storms upstairs and buries his face on the bed. His face is hot inside the pillow where he has constantly dreamed a world all his own. He’d know every sign in the world. He would be so clear that everyone would see the fallacy of speaking with their voices and clamor to sign instead.

No one in his family would tattle-tale to Mom and Dad about his signing. He would gossip to them if they lapsed into using their voices. No speech therapist would admonish him gently when he tried to gesture by way of explaining something. He would feel more confident about using his voice without worrying about enunciation.

None of his classmates would stare at his earmolds or the cords out of his collar. Everyone would wear hearing aids and take those early morning two-hour trips to Lansel for audiological exams . . .


He wakes up at seven in the morning with a strong urge to pee. He clambers downstairs and is relieved to find that no one else is up yet.
When he steps out of the bathroom, Dad is drinking a glass of orange juice. “Morning.”

“Good morning.” Dad’s eyes seem so sad as Michael lipreads. “How are you today?”

“Okay. I guess.”

Dad’s face turns past Michael, and he turns to find Mom saying, “Good morning, Michael.”

“I’m not sorry,” Michael says abruptly. “I’m not going to be.”

Dad turns away as if slapped in the face.

"Michael . . .”

“Mom. Dad. It’s too frustrating for me. It’s nothing for you to talk with your voices. For me, it’s just hard work.” Michael glares at them sullenly before he tiptoes upstairs and slips back into bed.


Two hours later Michael changes from his old gym shorts into another pair, one with two pockets, and a fresh T-shirt. He eats a bowl of cereal and downs a glass of orange juice. Frankie runs back into the kitchen as he puts his dirty dishes into the sink of suds and says excitedly, “Judy ran away!” Judy is their huge German shepherd usually chained to a pole in one corner of the backyard.

“Where’s she now?”

“The Crowleys up the street got her. Gordy’s bringing her back.”

“Really.” For some reason he can’t feel more excited about all this.

“What’s wrong with you? You never talk to me.”

“What’s there to talk about?”

“Aren’t you going up the street with me?”

“Oh, do I have to?”

As they walk out the door, Judy comes prancing into the house, the chain of her leash banging loudly along on the floor, and slurps water from her pan. Gordy comes in and shakes his head.

While Frankie tries to slip the lock off the leash on the panting Judy, Michael is already sneaking away on his ten-speed toward town.


All morning he doesn’t see Tony anywhere.

After lunch he tries again, but still no sign of him.


Two days later he finds Tony sitting on the same bench. “How you?”



“Voice no-no. Fine f-i-n-e fine.”

“Fine. Oh. Fine.”

Michael learns Tony is a janitor at the elementary public school, and has lived alone since 1969. Tony invites him to his apartment, just above the tavern.

Michael walks upstairs after him. The place is well-kept. He finds it rather odd that the living room and bedroom should have so many stuffed animals placed about; he has never known of an older man having such things.

They sit in the living room and continue chatting while they drink lemonade. “How d-o you understand T-V?”

“C-l-o-s-e-d c-a-p-t-i-o-n.” He points to the huge brown box with a few knobs on it, and turns on the TV. He turns the channel until he finds a program with white captions set in black strips at the bottom of the screen.

Michael is entranced. “Where c-a-n you g-e-t it?”

“S-e-a-r-s.” He looks under his coffee table and pulls out the catalog. He opens it to the right page easily, and as Michael looks at the price, he notices how well-worn the print has become from much perusal. Expensive, but better than nothing. Michael nods, memorizing the page number so he can point it out in the catalog later to Mom and Dad.

He puts it down on the coffee table, and finds Tony sitting on a chair. “Like girls? What k-i-n-d?”

Michael hesitates. No one’s ever asked him so pointedly about that; besides, he knows he is still in love with Nick.

“I d-o-n-t k-n-o-w.”

“You don’t-know? Come-on. You know what you like.”

“What do you like?”

“You not bla-bla-bla out-there? You-and-me, good-friends.”

Michael nods hesitantly.

“Me-like girls y-o-u-n-g. Understand?”

He nods again.

Tony says, “Wait.” He enters his bedroom, and Michael turns up his hearing aids to hear his actions better. All he can comprehend out of the various sounds he hears is a door opening and closing.

Tony carries out a pictorial magazine and opens up to the middle.

Michael blanches: The girl can’t be older than nine years old.

“Sorry. Me-misunderstood you. You not tell? You not tell, promise you not bla-bla, don’t-want lose job, deaf find job hard—”

“Stop!” he shouts at the top of his voice.

Tony stands still, fear quivering in his eyes.

“I’m sorry. I don’t want any more personal questions.” Michael is not sure how to sign all of that; at least Tony is lipreading him very intensely.

“Sorry. You not t-e-l-l?”

He shakes his head. “M-u-s-t g-o.”

“Me understand. T-a-l-k again?”


Michael gets on his bike and pedals as far as he can go, and he finds himself on the winding road to Olney Lake. He stops at the Thomas Bridge over the Abbott River, and watches the shimmering rays reflecting back into his face.

He pedals laboriously back home.


Four months later, on a September Saturday afternoon, one of his older sisters Glenna runs upstairs and tells Michael, “The police wants to talk to you!”

“What?” Michael puts his mark in his book, and follows his sister Glenna to the kitchen. He sees Mom looking on very anxiously while Aimee and Frankie sit on one side of the kitchen table.

A tall, stocky uniformed man with a trimmed moustache and a slight beer belly extends his hand. “Hello, Michael. I’m Officer Bowie, and this is Officer Wilson.”

Michael feels the warm thickness of their hands and whispers, “Hello.”

“We have some questions to ask you. For the sake of our records, we have to ask you some preliminary questions.”

Michael stares with a puzzled face. “What was that?”

“Your friend Anthony Rathes—you know Tony the deaf guy here in Olney—was arrested for having dirty pictures in his house.”

Michael looks at Mom, and then Glenna. What should I say?

“Do you know him?”

“Yes . . .”

“Did you know he had dirty pictures?”


“He says you told on him.”

Mom says, “He can’t use the phone yet.”

“Oh.” Officer Bowie is relieved. “That clears up a lot of things. Someone else called and told us about his stuff. But did you know he had that stuff?”

He swallows some air before he says, “Yes.”

“Did he do anything to you? You know?”

“No! He just showed me a magazine and I told him I didn’t want to see him any more! I just wanted to learn sign language! That’s all, that’s all!”

“Calm down, it’s okay. You’re not in trouble.”

Mom asks, “Michael, why didn’t you tell someone?”

“He’s deaf like me.”

Everyone in the kitchen seems still for a second upon hearing this. Michael blinks his eyes to fight his tears.

“Can you talk with your hands?” Officer Bowie wriggles his fingers.

“Some. A little bit.”

“Could you come along with us and try talking with him?”

“No! I don’t want to!”

“So he did do something to you.”

“No! You got it all wrong. He asked me if I liked girls, and I thought he meant girls my age, but I misunderstood him. He thought I liked girls the way he liked them.”


When Michael rides through downtown, he sometimes stops across the street from Tony’s building and stares up at his window; all his stuffed animals have been taken away. He wonders whether Tony will find a deaf jailmate like himself, so neither one of them will ever be lonely. He wonders again if he himself will end up like him, and hungers more than anything to sneak away again, so he could commit that sweet crime of language without any hearies watching.

To see a subtitled clip of Raymond Luczak talking about the book in ASL, click here
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Monday, March 1, 2010

LA Bytes excerpt by Pat Brown

In PA Brown’s LA Bytes,Los Angeles' Ste. Anne's Medical Center has been hacked by a brilliant, malicious cracker. Christopher Bellamere has been hired to find out who is behind the break in. When tampered medical records nearly kill Homicide Detective David Eric Laine, the stakes go up and Chris goes after the cracker with all his skills.

LA Bytes
Publisher: MLR Press, LLC (February 25, 2010)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-040-5


Chapter 1

Monday, 10:55 am Ste Anne's Medical Center, Rowena Avenue, Silver Lake, Los Angeles

Christopher Bellamere studied the traffic on Hyperion Avenue, eight stories below. A blanket of brown smog lay over the nearby Golden State Freeway. Behind him, Terry Corwin, the network manager at Ste. Anne's, fiddled with his Blackberry and carried on whispered conversations with himself. Terry was the anxious type.

"What are you saying?" Terry asked him. "Please don't tell me what I think you're telling me. I know I saw some anomalies, but they only started last night. You gotta be wrong."

"I'm not. You were right in your initial assessment." Chris pivoted to face him. Terry wore a custom made suit Chris recognized as a Dolce and Gabbana. Chris remembered him from CalTech where he'd been more of a T-shirt and ripped jeans kind of guy. He never had that kind of taste -- or discretionary funds. Chris was glad he'd worn his newest Versace to this meet. He hated to be upstaged. Still, he felt bad for the news he had to deliver.

"You were hacked. By someone who knew what they were doing."

"A virus? Trojan?--"

"Nothing I've ever seen. It's got enough of a unique signature to suggest it was written just for your system."

Terry shoved his glasses up his nose. "Who?"

"Don't know that," Chris said. "Whoever it was, they're good. Covered their tracks well."

"But you were able to spot them?"

"They're not that good." Chris held up his hand to forestall Terry's next question. "There's more. The attack came from inside your network. And my guess is, it's still occurring."

Terry slumped into one of the swivel chairs crowding the oak and brass table. He stared down at the report Chris had given him earlier. "How much damage?"

"Hard to say at this point."

"Any indication our patient records were compromised?"

"That will take more time to determine."

"How much time?"

"Can't say at this point."

Terry swelled up like an angry cat. "When can you say? I need answers on this fast. We have an audit coming up, otherwise I wouldn't have called you in. I'd have taken care of it myself."

"I'll need at least two more days."

"I'm good with that, but I'll have to clear it with management. And they're not likely to be as accommodating."

Chris nodded. He'd expected that. He gathered his laptop and tucked it into his carrying case. He'd make himself scarce while Terry argued with the suits about the catastrophe that had hit on Terry's watch.

Terry held up his hand.

"Don't go yet." His fingers fluttered over his tie after hanging up. "We need to talk. Let's go to my office. I've got some decent coffee. You can fill me in on how you're going to approach this so I have something more concrete to take upstairs."

Chris glanced at his watch. David would be done at the doctor's downstairs in about twenty minutes. He had time. "Sure."

He followed Terry out to the elevator. They didn't speak on the short ride down to the second floor. Terry's office mirrored his attire. His dark cherry veneer desk was clutter-free except for an IBM laptop and a picture of his wife, Cathy. They had no kids as far as Chris knew. Terry and he hadn't done much socializing over the years. He hadn't been invited to the wedding and hadn't invited Terry to his, either.

On a sideboard was a drip coffee pot, an assortment of free trade coffees and the usual mix of large and small mugs. "What's your flavor?" Terry asked, holding up the coffee filter.

"Something dark.".


Chris nodded and looked around the small office. The walls were covered in framed certificates that spoke of Terry's long years in the industry. He'd been a real go-getter at CalTech. That drive apparently hadn't left him. There were several O'Keeffe prints showcasing New Mexico. Under the certificates and prints, something he never would have expected, an acoustic guitar with the patina of long use leaning against the wall.

Terry followed Chris's gaze. "I took it up about a year ago. Play some jazz and blues."

Chris approached the instrument. He didn't touch it, but he did notice half the dozen photos taken at small clubs on the wall above the guitar. In each one Terry was part of a trio of musicians. In them, he had eschewed his suit in favor of jeans, a T-shirt and a neon headband.

"Where do you play?"

Terry grinned. "Around town, did a couple of gigs in San Francisco." His frown returned. "Just what did you find in our system?"

Chris continued to stare at the images. You thought you knew a guy. "Besides the signs of file activity you mean? Password cracking tools. Some pretty sophisticated stuff. It can be deconstructed, which might point to who wrote it, but I'll need time to do it."

Terry opened his briefcase and drew out several pages which he handed to Chris. "This is what your final contract will look like. Check it over, let me know if you have any problems with it."

Chris skimmed the contents quickly. It looked like a standard boilerplate non-disclosure work-for-hire four-week contract. He'd signed a similar, shorter one for the initial assessment. No unusual term that would limit his ability to do his job or bind him up afterward.

"Take it home," Terry said. "Read it over. Have your lawyer vet it."

Chris held out his hand. They shook. "I'll let you know tomorrow." He glanced at the guitar one more time. For some reason it intrigued him. "Let me know when your next gig is. I'll bring David. He loves jazz."

Terry nodded, he seemed too preoccupied to pay attention. Chris could tell his mind was already back on his computer problems. Chris stuffed the contract into his laptop case. He strode across the dove gray carpet toward the elevator. Once inside, he pulled out his Blackberry. No messages. At least he wasn't late picking up his husband. David hated tardiness.

David's doctor had an office in a building attached to the main hospital. David, who hated needles, was due to get his allergy shot. Chris made the appointment for him, knowing David would avoid it as long as he was left to his own devices.
The receptionist showed him into a small consulting room off the main waiting room.

David scowled up at him. "They're not here yet. We have to wait."

The fierce look on David's face didn't faze him. He dropped into an uncomfortable chair beside his husband of ten months. "Who's not here?"

"The pharmacy." David's scowl deepened. "And my shot."

Chris rolled his eyes. "You mean I get to watch the tough as nails homicide detective take his medicine? Think of all the good that comes of it -- you won't be sniffling and carrying on when the animals jump on you. And we'll save a fortune on Kleenex. You're always after us to save, right?"

"Right, a fifty dollar bottle of wine is acceptable, but a two dollar box of Kleenex isn't?"

Chris grinned. After several seconds, David followed suit. The smile lifted his dour face and reminded Chris of why he loved this man.

One of the clinic nurses bustled in. A diminutive Korean, she smiled when she saw Chris and glanced at their joined hands. "Come to comfort the patient?"

Everyone, it seemed, knew about David's aversion to needles. David quickly disengaged his hand from Chris's.

David refused to watch as she uncapped the syringe and swabbed his arm with alcohol. He winced as she deftly slid the needle into his arm and depressed the plunger. She covered the puncture mark with a circular Band-Aid.

David rubbed the spot. The nurse deposited the used syringe in a sharps container and left the room.

"There, that wasn't so bad, was it?--" He waited for David to stand. Chris reached for his arm, carefully avoiding the injection site. David shook his head. Suddenly he blinked and swallowed convulsively.


David wheezed, struggling to catch his breath. His face went rigid. Lips pressed together, his eyes unfocused.


His entire body stiffened. He drew in a convulsive breath, then struggled to draw another. His face blanched as he clawed at his throat.

David arched forward and spewed out a stream of vomit across his jean clad legs and the tile floor beside the bed. Before he could take a breath, he repeated the action. The room filled with the sour stench.

Chris's stomach rolled over at the smell. He darted toward the door.

"I'll find the doctor," he said. He emerged in a waiting room full of expectant patients. Several of them turned startled eyes on him.

"Where's the doctor?" he shouted.

In the room behind him metal crashed and David's guttural cry was abruptly cut off.

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