Monday, December 31, 2012

As I Remember Those Years excerpt by Kurt K Joyce

This excerpt from As I Remember Those Years by Kurt K Joyce is from an as of yet unfinished story about coming of age in the late 60's.  In this excerpt, the main character, Doug, arrives at college.

The regular format of this blog will return with the first excerpt of the new year, January 7th.


1 - Birth

As I remember those years...

In my youth, growing up, I was safe. Surrounded by friends and family, in my neighborhood in Flatbush, I was safe and secure. Cloistered in an upper middle class, Jewish, liberal community, I was safe, secure and sheltered. Now, seated in the back seat of my family’s Mercury station wagon, all my earthly possessions around me, on I-89 en route to Hancock, a small New England college (my first choice) - - for the first time since age five when I had my tonsils removed, I’m scared?

September, 1968. Saturday. It’s not that I’m going to miss high school all that much - I was only barely on the fringe of the “in-group”. In sports, when sides were chosen for teams, I was always the last one taken. In school plays, I rarely had even one line to say. And of course I didn’t have a date for the senior prom. But I did play alto sax - 1st seat, 1st stand in the school band - which made me at least semi-cool.

College Street. College Hill. The Merc is slowly making its way up the hill. At the top, my life awaits me.

* * * * *

“Hi! I’m Frank. Welcome to Hancock. Name?”

“Douglas Schoenfeld.”

“Glad to meet you, Doug,” shaking my hand while leafing through the papers on his clipboard, checking for my name. “You’re in Rutland, in State campus.” Freshman are housed in both State and East campuses. “That’s - turn left here on Maple, it’s four blocks up - past Faith, Hope and Charity, right turn at Grace. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around campus, Doug.”

“Hi! I’m Shari. Welcome to Hancock. Your name?” Weird deja-vu, followed by a vision of Shari, leading a cheer, waving her pom-poms at the Big Game.

“Hi! I’m Doug Schoenfeld. Nice to meet you, Shari.”

“So nice to meet you, Doug,” shaking my hand while leafing through the papers on her clipboard, checking for my name. “You’re in Rutland, the dorm on the left.” The three dorms in State campus - Rutland, Middlebury, and Burlington - form the letter U, with the open end facing Grace Street. The two smaller, brick buildings flank Burlington, which resembles a plantation house with its three-story pillars guarding the entrance doors. “Room 309. You can pick up your keys at the front desk.”

“Thank you, Shari.” Walking toward Rutland, I hear from behind me a cheerful, “Nice meeting you, Doug.”

“Hi! I’m Doug Schoenfeld. I’m in room 309. I’m really looking forward to being here at Hancock.”

Apparently, my New York sarcasm doesn’t travel across state lines because he replies, “Hi! I’m Kurt. Nice to meet you, Doug,” shaking my hand while leafing through the papers on his clipboard, checking for my name. Fuck, I feel naked, am I the only person on this campus without a clipboard? “Doug, just sign next to your name. Here are your keys. Third floor, on the left, corner room all the way down the hall. And welcome to Hancock.” Had Hancock been invaded by smiling, perky aliens? First thing, I’ll check for a pea pod under my bed.

My room. My new sanctuary. Except for the window overlooking Maple and beyond to “downtown” Hancock (the intersection of Vermont Routes 100 and 125), there’s two of everything: two twin beds, two desks, two desk lamps, two desk chairs, two waste paper baskets, two small bookcases; on either side of the door, hidden behind floor-length curtains, closet alcoves each with a small chest of drawers. One side of the room is the complete mirror image of the other. Okay, Alice, which side of the looking glass for you? Or, I could procrastinate, and put off a decision; laziness has immediate rewards. Therefore, after unloading the car (under my Dad’s strict observation and supervision), and agreeing to meet my parents for dinner at 6:00, I kick off my Adidas, strip off my Hancock College t-shirt, and crash on the nearest of the two beds.

I can’t ignore the persistent knock at my door. “It’s open.” “Hi! Doug?” I nod my head. “I’m John Janus.” Of course, he’s holding a clipboard. “I’m the RA for Rutland. If you have any questions, problems, or just need to talk, I’m in 101. Oh, and we heard from your roommate, Luke Thiboudeaux. Car trouble - he should be arriving tomorrow. I’m glad we’ve met, and welcome to Hancock.” Not knowing or caring what an RA might be, I now at least know my roommate has a name - Luke!?!

* * * * *

Fuck! It’s a few minutes before 6:00. I’d been dreaming that I was on a ferryboat, crossing the calm waters to? Quick. Jeans off. Khaki chinos, a white button-down dress shirt, burgundy cordovan penny loafers - very preppy. I dash down Grace, past Oak and Walnut, to Elm Street. Since my parents are staying overnight at the Inn on Elm Street, we’re eating at the Restaurant in the Tavern in the Inn on Elm Street. That’s actually the name of the restaurant - the Restaurant in the Tavern in the Inn on Elm Street. Really.

The dining area is fashioned as a rustic country inn. Wood beams, wood paneling, wood plank flooring. On the far wall, a stone fireplace. Lighting is provided by electrified hurricane lamps on the walls, and wagon wheel chandeliers overhead with bulbs shaped to look like candles. Heavy, dark wood tables and chairs; straw place mats with mock pewter plates and tankards. I order the roast duck, with baked potato and corn. I have a Coke, ‘though I would have much preferred some beer. Unfortunately, at seventeen, I’m still underage - skipped eighth grade. Which might explain my nephophobia (fear of clouds); chemistry, biology, physics yes but never studied earth science.

During dinner, conversation ranges from the weather in Vermont to the economics of inflation, from a discussion of politics and the Vietnam war to gossip about family and neighbors. Then my Dad issues his pontifical pronouncement. “Your mother and I are very proud of your previous academic achievements.” Have I mentioned that the minimum standards for admission to Hancock are a high school grade average of 93 and standardized test scores (SATs) of 1350? “We, of course, have full confidence in you and expect no less from you here at Hancock; we know you won’t disappoint us. But we also want you to experiment, to broaden your interests, and not be afraid of the new and unknown.” To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before! “Most of all, to enjoy and have fun during these next four years. We have watched as you’ve matured from a child into a fine young adult, and want to tell you how nice it is to have you as our son.” Nice? NICE? Unexpectedly, my Dad hands me an envelope containing cash. My neurotic impulses are assuaged, temporarily.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back at the ranch - Rutland, third floor, north wing, welcome party ...

Intros are made. “Hey Johnnie, he’s another New Yorker.” “Fuckin’ A!”

Beers are handed out, joints passed around. I am blitzed.

“Marilyn Monroe had to die ‘cause she knew too much about Kennedy’s assassination.”

"What a rip-off. Who are you going to complain to - the priest?”

Three of the guys do a bitchin’ imitation of the Supremes “Stop in the Name of Love.”

“I’m Jewish”

“But she died before his assassination.”

“So go to your express or local rabbi.” “Far out, man!”

Duncan Yo-Yo throws a watermelon out the window to watch it splatter.

“Jayne Mansfield was decapitated.”

“This weed is primo.”

If I only had a brain.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Have a wonderful holiday.  Gay/Lesbian Fiction Excerpts returns next Monday!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Daddy’s Money excerpt by Alan Chin

In Daddy’s Money by Alan Chin, everyone needs a little help now and then. For gay Muslim Sayen Homet, that help first came from his understanding mother, who brought him to America from the Middle East. Now that he’s working his way through Stanford Medical School, his help comes from a secret sugar daddy. But Sayen might be able to end their arrangement soon now that he has a boyfriend he can depend on, A student Campbell Reardon. Campbell is more than willing to support Sayen, even if it means coming out to his conservative family.

But when Campbell takes Sayen home to meet his parents, everything falls apart. Campbell doesn’t realize how his boyfriend pays for school… and neither of them knows Sayen’s sugar daddy is Campbell's father, Blake Reardon.

While everyone involved struggles to overcome their shock, it becomes obvious Blake will do anything to keep Sayen. Campbell and Sayen love each other, but in the face of so much hurt and betrayal, love might not be enough to hold them together.

Daddy's Money
Dreamspinner Press (December 10, 2012)
ISBN: 978-1-62380-233-2


Campbell Reardon watched a woman’s face, red and dripping with sweat, scrunch into a mask of pure agony. Her breathing became loud, frantic, crescendoing into a scream. “Oh God! What’s happening?” Her panting accelerated, wet sobbing breaths on the verge of hyperventilation. She leaned back on the table with a sheet draped over her elevated knees.

Her husband held her hand, stroking her forehead. “Breathe, sweetheart. Concentrate.”

The woman’s moans built into another scream.

On the far side of the room, Nurse Peggy Warren prepared bathwater and blankets. She had a bird’s narrow lips, bottle-red hair with forties-era bangs, and a Carolina accent that always sounded slightly pretentious. Beside Campbell, crusty old Dr. Crill studied his wristwatch, timing the pains. Campbell was feeling his usual sting of resentment that came whenever he had to work with Dr. Crill. The dinosaur should have retired when I was in diapers. He was convinced that the reason Crill treated him with disdain was not the fact that he was a handsome twenty-six-year-old with wavy blond hair, perfect teeth, and brimming with life, but rather that everything about Campbell spelled money—manners, posture, grooming. Everything except the nervous expression he could feel on his face at that moment.

“Late again,” Crill snapped. “How many times have I warned him?”

Crill glared at Campbell with hard, unfathomable eyes until good manners forced Campbell to look away. He turned his head to stare out a bank of windows overlooking Stanford campus, but what caught his attention was a moth with squiggly yellow markings on its wings battering itself against the inside of the windowpane.

“I’m sure he’s only moments away, Dr. Crill.” Campbell continued to watch the moth, somehow hoping it would find a way back outside, to break free and ride the wind. He yearned for a miracle, and he knew that his desire had more to do with Sayen than the moth.

The woman in labor screamed again as agony arched her back off the table.

“Be strong, sweetheart,” her husband crooned. “Breathe deeply.”

She reached up and slapped her husband’s face once, twice. She tried for a hat trick but he pulled out of her reach. “Don’t tell me to breathe you turd… DO SOMETHING! Make them give me the fucking shot!”

“We have plenty of time here,” Dr. Crill said to Campbell. “I’ll be at the nurse’s station checking on other patients. Send the nurse for me if the baby crowns.”

Campbell nodded.

“And Campbell, if Sayen is not here by the time I return, I’m washing him out of the program. We take medicine seriously on this campus, and that means showing up on time, every time.”

“We don’t know what’s keeping him,” Campbell snapped, his anger leaping into the red zone. “It could be an emergency.”

The expression on Crill’s face revealed he did not like the tone the conversation had taken. He closed his eyes, obviously trying to determine if he was over reacting. “What do you think he’d prefer, Campbell, washing out of the program or setting him back a year?”

Campbell turned his attention to the windows. The moth still battered itself against the glass. “Are those the only choices, killing his dream or throwing him deeper into debt and delaying graduation by a year? Well, thanks. I’m sure he’ll be humbled with gratitude.”

Crill’s eyes narrowed as they followed Campbell’s stare to the window. “As well he should be. Few people get to choose.” He stood silent, no doubt waiting for a proper, reverential response. When none came he said, “Very well.”

Crill picked a pad of paper from a nearby table, strolled to the window, lifted the pad, and smashed the moth.

Campbell willed his face into neutral as his anger turned into shame, which stemmed less from ingratitude than from the dangerous way he had allowed himself to reveal his contempt when it could have been so easily concealed. That was a weakness that could get him drummed out of medical school, and he vowed never to allow himself that response again. His only hope of becoming a doctor was to placate Crill and all the other arrogant bastards like him in a self-effacing manner. And that I will do, no matter what.

Campbell’s chest squeezed tight. His lungs labored and his eyes watered. He reached into his pocket for his inhaler and lifted it to his mouth. One squirt brought sweet relief, and that helped calm him.

As Dr. Crill breezed out the doorway, another wave of pain rocked the patient. She grabbed her husband by the shirt-collar and squeezed. He fought to suck air into his lungs. As the pain rolled away, the husband pulled back, gasping for breath. He staggered to Campbell and clutched his arm. “Doc, you gotta give her that shot.”

Campbell glanced at the doorway, thinking he should probably go after Crill, but clearly not wanting to. “I wish I could, Mr. Bishop, but I’m a student here. I’m not allowed to administer drugs without a doctor’s supervision.”

“There must be something you can do. I mean, look at her. She’s in agony!”

Mr. Bishop clenched Campbell’s arm so tight he was in pain himself. Campbell could feel beads of sweat breaking onto his forehead. “Dr. Crill will be back any second. As soon as he’s here, I’ll administer the shot. I promise.”

Another scream sent Mr. Bishop back to his wife’s side to dab her forehead with a damp cloth.

Nurse Peggy turned on Campbell like an attack dog. “Her pains are under a minute. I’ll get Dr. Crill.”

Campbell rushed to put himself between Nurse Peggy and the door. He held out a hand to stop her. “We have to wait for Sayen,” he choked. He gave himself another blast from his inhaler.

The patient’s groans were constant. Her screams grew razor sharp. “Please, Doc,” Mr. Bishop pleaded, “do something.”

“I’m not making that poor woman suffer another second,” Nurse Peggy snapped.

"Peggy, no. Please don’t!”

“Screw Sayen!” She hurled past Campbell and jerked open the door, but then froze by what she saw in the corridor. Campbell cocked his head to the left so he could see out the doorway, and what seemed to fill the long hallway was Sayen on his skateboard, flying toward them like a charging bull.

“Hold the door,” Sayen yelled only moments before he rocketed into the delivery room. He leaned back on the board, screeching to a halt, then popped the board up and caught it with expertlike ease.

Sayen returned Nurse Peggy’s glare as the ends of his mouth lifted. “Hey, Pickles, you look more sour every time I see you. Lighten up and enjoy life.”

“Stop calling me that.”

Campbell stepped close to Sayen, and as he did, he felt that familiar weakness come to his chest, that feeling of awkwardness he always felt around this beautiful man. Sayen had a long face, bushy eyebrows suspended above deep-set eyes, the suggestion of a moustache set over impossibly thin lips, and a prominent Adam’s apple that constantly battled against his starched collar. “Crill is ready to wash you out. I’ve been stalling for time.”

Sayen grabbed Campbell’s wrist and turned it to check the face on Campbell’s Rolex. “I’m exactly on time.”

Campbell felt the heat from Sayen’s fingers on his wrist. He was always amazed at how this lovely man generated so much energy, as if he held an entire universe of burning life deep within, a brilliant comet streaking across an empty sky. “On time for Crill means ten minutes early. You know that.”

Another scream from the patient sent Nurse Peggy hurrying out the doorway.

"We both know that decrepit boob can’t even see his watch,” Sayen spat. “This has nothing to do with being late, and everything to do with him being a homophobic swine.”

“No argument there.” Yes, Campbell knew the truth of it all too well, and he felt a wave of admiration for this Muslim man who had the courage to be completely out. He also felt a tiny twinge of shame for not having the same pluck. In Sayen’s excited state, he had yet to let go of Campbell’s wrist. “If you’re timing my pulse, let me assure you, now that you’re here my heart rate has doubled.”

Sayen dropped Campbell’s arm. “We better scrub up before Pickles comes back dragging that knuckle scraper.”

They walked to the sink, rolled up the sleeves of their lab coats, and, side by side, soaped and scrubbed. Campbell felt waves of coziness. He seldom had the chance to be this close to Sayen. He could feel the energy radiating from him, and that warm strength comforted him. He nudged closer, but Sayen moved further away.

“Have dinner with me tonight,” Campbell said in a low voice.

Sayen glanced up, lifting one eyebrow. “You know I’m in a relationship.”

“Ah yes, the mystery man. Nobody believes he’s real.”

Sayen rinsed his hands. “He’s real alright. He just travels in different social circles.”

“He’s married?”

“Fuck off.” Sayen grabbed a towel and dried his hands. He turned his back on Campbell and slipped on rubber gloves.

Campbell cast his towel aside and lifted a glove. “I’d show you off regardless if I had a wife. Don’t you think you deserve better than that?” He stared into Sayen’s eyes. It never failed to amaze him that a man of North African ancestry, with thick, jet-black hair on his head and fine hair covering his arms, would have eyes the color of the sea. But then a purple spot below Sayen’s lips caught his attention. “You have a smudge of jam on your chin.”

Sayen held up his gloved hands, hesitating. Campbell felt a burning desire to lean forward and lick that sweet jelly off that bronzed skin, but instead he pulled a white, monogrammed handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Sayen. He smiled. “Keep it.”

Sayen hesitated again, until Campbell said, “It’s only a hankie, not an engagement ring.” Sayen dropped his head, taking the handkerchief and cleaning his chin, then he slipped it into his pocket. He glanced at the patient, at her spread legs. His head jerked back to Campbell, a mask of panic etched his face.

“What’s wrong,” Campbell whispered.

“That’s my undergraduate-English teacher, Miss Bishop. Jesus, I can’t do this.” He pulled the white handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his forehead, leaving a faint line of purple.

In the three years that Campbell had known Sayen, this was the first time he had ever seen the man so unnerved. He laid a calming hand at the back of Sayen’s neck, gentling him like an unbroken colt. “I thought you’d jump at the chance to rip the guts out of a homophobic Bishop.”

“This is no joke. She and I were really close. I can’t deal with her like this.”

“You can’t walk away from the people you care for, Sayen. She’s a woman in pain, and we’re going to help her bring new life into the world. Just focus on the baby.”

Sayen glanced at her spread legs again as sweat beaded on his forehead. “Shit, it’s crowning. What should we do?”

Campbell shrugged his shoulders. “You’re going to deliver a baby, what else?” He walked to the patient’s spread legs and lifted the sheet higher. He moved to Mrs. Bishop’s side and took her hand. He nodded to the husband, then to her. “Looks like someone is anxious to see its parents. It won’t be long now.”

Gloved and masked, Sayen advanced on Mrs. Bishop’s spread legs, but then he froze.

Campbell, aware that his friend’s distress had deepened, came to his aid. “What now?”

“There’s blood oozing out.”

“For Christsake, move over.” Campbell shoved Sayen aside and bent between the patient’s legs. Mrs. Bishop’s constant cries could shatter glass, but Campbell stayed calm, working to support the baby’s head as the tiny body emerged into the world. “Mrs. Bishop, I need you to push now. Push as hard as you can.”

Sayen turned away as more blood appeared. He continued to dab his face with the handkerchief, which became completely damp.

“You owe me dinner for this,” Campbell said over his shoulder, “and I’m hungry for sushi.”

Sayen leaned over the sink but managed to hold his stomach down. He glanced up at his image in the mirror and visibly tried to pull himself together. “You know I can’t afford sushi. How about Mickey D’s?”

Campbell shook his head, secretly pleased that he had gotten a dinner commitment out of this lovely man. “My dime. Sushi To Die For on 3rd Avenue, seven-thirty. And don't be late.”

Campbell pulled the baby away from the mother. “It’s a girl, Mrs. Bishop,” he said, holding it up for the parents to see.

Campbell held the infant while Sayen cut and tied the cord. They stood together at the foot of the bed while Campbell tried coaxing the baby into breathing. It didn’t respond.

"Slap it’s butt,” Sayen hissed.

Campbell shook his head. “We don’t do that any more. That was covered in one of the many classes you missed.”

“Fine, Mister Adorkable, do something!”

On her own, the baby balled her tiny fingers into fists and let out a cry that let the whole room know she was a fighter.

Relief swept through Campbell. He held that tiny bundle of bawling life in his hands as he gazed into Sayen’s fatally blue eyes, and he felt something pass between them, something so warm and natural it felt, well…loving. There was no other word for it. Caught in the wonder of seeing new life emerge into the universe, so frail and so dependent on him, he felt his infatuation for Sayen blossom into something deeper, some unknown force he could only call love.

They moved together as if joined at the hip to the waiting bath water, and worked as a team to fastidiously wash the tiny, pink body. Campbell felt warmth pour from Sayen as they fawned over the infant. It seemed as if their three bodies became one glowing force of nature, bound by some invisible strength. But even caught in this cocoon of heartfelt feelings, Sayen seemed to pull back.

“I can’t believe you’re so hot to be strapped down with one of these,” Sayen said. “I mean, they cry, keep you up all night, cost a fortune, and they smell.”

The baby continued to cry as Campbell lifted it out of the bathwater. “They give you unconditional love, which is something I’m in short supply of lately.” He wrapped the infant in a blanket and handed her to Sayen. Nuzzling into Sayen’s protective embrace, she stopped crying. Sayen pressed his cheek to the baby’s forehead, humming a soothing tune.

The baby seemed to smile. Both men shared a wonder-filled moment, drawn close to each other, with the baby between them. They could almost kiss.

Sayen broke away from the moment to cross the room and press the baby into its mother’s arms. Mrs. Bishop’s tears were now joyful. She cuddled her infant, then grabbed Sayen’s hand and pulled him toward her like a fish on a line, kissing his cheek. A line of red moved up from Sayen’s collar to cover his entire face.

Mrs. Bishop grabbed her husband and kissed him. “It’s a girl. Honey, we have a baby girl. I love you. I love you so much.”

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Monday, December 10, 2012

The Good Cop excerpt by Dorien Grey

One of the residual spots of conflicts in gay rights is in the police force, and The Good Cop by Dorien Grey takes that conflict head-on in the murder of a gay policeman and the investigation by the inimitable Dick Hardesty. We meet many of the familiar characters as well as get to know Jonathan, a young hustler who becomes more than a casual acquaintance. The entire police force is suspect in this community mystery of intrigue and murder.

In this excerpt, Dick meets Jonathan for the first time.

The Good Cop
GLB Publications (November 1, 2002)
ISBN-10: 1879194759
ISBN-13: 978-1879194755


When my eyes were able to discern more than just vague figures, I noticed a really cute, kind of skinny kid about two stools down from me, looking at me and grinning from ear to ear. I wondered at first if he knew me, then decided maybe he mistook me for somebody else. I nodded to him in a casual greeting which he apparently took as an invitation. He scooted over to the stool beside me. “How’s it goin’?” he asked, using words I’d heard somewhere just recently.

“Pretty good,” I replied, playing a little Hardesty game with myself. “You?”

“Okay,” he said brightly. “I’m horny, though. Are you horny?”

One of the things I truly do enjoy about hustlers is their subtlety. If you want beating around the bush, go somewhere else. But rather than respond as I automatically wanted to (“Hey, kid, I’m a Scorpio. Scorpios are always horny!”), I didn’t want to lead him on, so I opted for: “I just came in for a beer and a paper,” I said.

But then, not wanting the kid to think I was brushing him off—he was really cute, and hustlers do have feelings—I said: “How’s business?”

He’d lost his grin only momentarily, then immediately got it back as he showed me his right forearm which, aside from a small, apparently self-applied tattoo, sported an obviously new if not very expensive watch. “I got this the other day,” he said like a proud little kid who’d been given an unexpected present. “A john gave me a fifty dollar tip!”

I smiled. “You must be pretty good.”

"Oh, I am! You really should check it out yourself.”

I’d noticed that instead of the ubiquitous beer bottle, he had what looked like a mixed drink—coke and something, I guessed. It was nearly empty, and he raised his glass, tipped it all the way up to drain it, then set it slowly on the bar.

“What are you drinking?” I asked, then immediately realized he’d probably take it as an invitation.

“Just coke. I don’t drink.”

Well, that was certainly different, I thought.

“Want another?” I asked, rather surprising myself, since I have a long standing rule to never let myself get suckered into buying drinks for hustlers. But it was just a coke, after all, and this kid got to me, in some odd way.

“Sure,” he said, still grinning. “Thanks.”

I motioned to Bud, who nodded, reached into the cooler, scooped some ice into a glass, then filled it from the mixes tap. He brought it over and put it in front of the kid. I handed him another bill and indicated he should keep the change.

“My name’s Jonathan,” the kid said as he gestured his glass at me in thanks. “I just got here a couple weeks ago, and I sure like this town. Lots of rich guys here. Are you rich?”

I smiled again, looking at the kid in front of me and thinking for some reason of a puppy.

“No, I’m not rich.” I took another drink of my beer. “I gather you haven’t been hustling all that long?”

He took a small sip from his coke—I got the impression he wanted to make it last—and shook his head. “No, not really. Just since I got here. I’m 19 but I tell everybody I’m 21. I’ve been trying to find a regular job, but they’re really hard to find unless you’ve got a car, and hustling pays really well. Maybe I’ll just do this for a while. I had the same guy pick me up twice now, and he gave me a fifty dollar tip both times!”

I strongly suspected that Jonathan was assuming fifty dollar tips were going to be common, and that he hadn’t been selling himself long enough to find out what the life really was like for most hustlers. I didn’t envy him the learning process.

He might have been conning me, but I think I’ve been around long enough to know when someone is and when they’re not. And I didn’t really think Jonathan was. He didn’t have the usual tough-guy bravado hustlers adopt as a survival mechanism.

Give him time, my mind sighed.

“You’re serious about getting a real job?”

“Sure. But like I say, I can make a lot of money hustling. I’ve been working since I was 12. Not hustling, of course, but working. Maybe now I can take it easy for a while.”

Hardesty! Stay out of it! my mind commanded.

But Jeezus, he’s just a kid! I thought.

And you can’t save the world, my mind responded, gently.

“Well, I tell you what. There’s a diner on the ground floor of the building I work in, and I see they’ve got a sign in the window for a busboy. If you’d be interested, you could check it out.”

He grinned yet again. “Sure! I been a busboy a couple times. Maybe I will. Where’s this at?”

I gave him the address, then finished my beer.

“Well, good luck, Jonathan,” I said, extending my hand. I wasn’t really surprised to know that I sincerely meant it.

For an additional excerpt from The Good Cop, see May 19th, 2008.

To purchase, click

Monday, December 3, 2012

Beau & The Beast excerpt by Rick R Reed

Inspired by the timeless tale, “Beauty and the Beast”, by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, Rick R. Reed has crafted in Beau & The Beast a new fairy tale for our times that manages to be ethereal, romantic and ripped-from-the-headlines realistic.

Beau is a down-on-his-luck street artist living on the streets of Seattle, drawing portraits of tourists to make enough money to live hand-to-mouth. He has a knack for capturing his subjects’ “very souls” on paper. One rainy night, he is accosted by a group of fag-bashing thugs, intent on robbing him of his art supplies and humiliating Beau for who he is. Beau is beaten into unconsciousness…

…and awakens in a beautiful bedroom, his head bandaged and with no memory of how he got there. Outside his window, pine trees and mountain vistas beckon.

Beau’s tale grows even more mysterious when a large, muscular man begins bringing the injured Beau his food. The man says nothing—and wears a wolf mask. When he finally does speak, it’s only to tell Beau to call him “Beast.”

What secrets does the wolf mask hide? What do these two outsiders have in common? And will their odd circumstances bring them to the brink of love—or tear them apart? The answers lie in Rick R. Reed’s haunting love story that reveals that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

This is the opening from Rick R Reed’s gay, modern-day fairy tale and in many ways, it really sets the scene for what’s to come. The line about seeing into a soul is particularly pertinent, if you read the entire story.

Beau & The Beast
Amber Allure
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-346-8


Seattle’s Elliott Bay, Beau thought, was a study in gray. With his artist’s eye, he could appreciate the gunmetal shade of the churning waters, here and there supporting the weight of massive ferries taking late afternoon commuters to Bainbridge and Vashon Islands. Beau thought the clouds appeared pearlescent in their pale tones of faded white, smoke, and touched with peach as the sun, all but invisible on this drizzly day, set over the water. Even the buildings, across the sound, and lining Alki Beach in West Seattle, appeared as colorless geometric shapes, stalwarts lined up against the approaching night.

Beau had been here almost all afternoon, just behind Pike Place Market, hoping even on this chilly and damp day, that he would be able to attract tourist trade from the busy marketplace. After all, even Seattle’s tepid winters drew tourists and their favorite destination, equal to the Space Needle, was Pike Place Market and the Elliott Bay waterfront behind it.

But today, the blustery winds, constant drizzle bordering on mist, and oppressive dark skies more suited to night, kept most tourists pursuing activities indoor in nature.

Yet here Beau sat on his little collapsible folding stool behind the market, easel set up and hoping to do a portrait or two to make enough money to perhaps get himself a room for the night in one of the fleabag motels lining Aurora Avenue farther north. He hoped for the added bonus of a little something extra to lessen the aching emptiness of his belly. The reality of the term ‘starving artist’ was not lost on poor Beau.

His skin was moist and he had grown weary of smiling and trying to cajole those tourists that did walk down to the waterfront to let him try to capture their likenesses with charcoal and paper. Now, all he wanted to do was find a place to hole up for a while, to try and dispel this chill that had crept into his very bones. Seattle was like that in the winter—even though the temperature seldom dipped down to freezing, the damp caused the chill to seep in, thwarting even layers of flannel, wool, and fleece.

On better days, Beau sometimes walked away from this area with enough money in his pocket to treat himself to teriyaki and a room, if he was lucky, for more than one night. On better days, Beau engaged with the tourists and locals who posed for him, getting an original portrait for only ten dollars (the highest amount he found he could charge, to his dismay).

Packing up his art supplies, Beau tried to warm himself by remembering the praise he would get on those good days, when he would do several portraits. He remembered one woman, a regal looking, olive-complexioned lady with a mass of graying hair she had pulled sloppily atop her head, effusing over her portrait. In it, Beau had captured the beauty that shone from her, luminosity not immediately apparent to the casual observer. He didn’t think the woman was being conceited when she smiled at the drawing, tears springing to her eyes, and said, “Why it’s like you captured my very soul.”

And that’s exactly what Beau tried to do when he drew someone—find their essence, some unique feature that made them them. He knew he was good, better than the hardscrabble existence he eked out, but aside from times being hard these days, he also constantly told himself that, albeit poor, he was free. He had no boss to answer to, save himself and his own biological imperatives—which were sometimes very demanding indeed—no set hours around which he would be forced to fashion his life.

Yes, he had to admit to himself, he was homeless, even though he usually made enough money to keep him off the streets most nights. Yet he had no permanent address, no real place to store his art supplies and to hang the straw hat he favored wearing. But when the fact of his aimlessness left him low, he could always remind himself he was free.


And alone.

Beau finished putting what he could in the large backpack that transformed him into a beast of burden. He folded up his easel, compacting it, and turned to look once more at the waters of the sound, now still and shiny, mirror like, reflecting the last of the dying light of day. Below him, rush hour traffic rushed north and south. He checked his pockets, pulling out its meager contents. Today, he had five dollars and fifty-three cents to his name, barely enough to buy him a bowl of pho, the flavorful Vietnamese noodle soup that could be found in just about every neighborhood here in Seattle. It certainly didn’t leave him enough for shelter for the night.

That was okay.

He was free.

He would find a doorway in Belltown, the close-to downtown neighborhood, and curl up in layers of fleece and denim, and perhaps tomorrow would dawn a brighter day—and a more prosperous one.

He began trudging away from the waterfront and toward the market and Post Alley, looking forward to being away from his makeshift workplace, to eating some pho, and finding a quiet place where he could sleep for a while.

The walk toward food and possible shelter was all uphill and Beau wished he had not left it so late to attempt to find either. Quickly, as it did in winter, the sun beat a hasty retreat behind the mountains, barely noticeable anyway behind its thick shield of dark clouds—and now it had fallen to dull dark, the only illumination the artificial lights of the city.

Beau squared his broad shoulders, looking forward to sitting down for a while in the little Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Bac, near the downtown Greyhound station. He could practically taste the savory, star-anise flavored broth as he trudged uphill toward downtown, imagining the steaming noodles wrapped around chopsticks, the Thai basil, bean sprouts, and mint leaves floating in the soup, the tender pieces of beef tendon.

Simple thoughts like these kept him going, kept his mind off the ache in his shoulders and back from lugging around virtually everything he owned.

He was so focused on food, as hungry people often are, that he didn’t notice the two strangers trailing him. They were young men about Beau’s own age, but lacking his delicate, fragile, yet manly grace and beauty. These two were thugs, apparent in the cockiness of their walks, the fierceness of their frowns framed by dark stubble, and their attire, which leaned toward too-baggy jeans, hoodies, and heavy, steel-toed boots.
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Spine Intact, Some Creases excerpt by Victor J Banis

To celebrate the release of the Kindle edition, the following is a brief excerpt from Spine Intact, Some Creases, the memoir of Victor J. Banis - part personal history, part gay history, some writing tips, some comments on philosophy and religion, and a few recipes for good measure by a legendary name and pioneer of gay fiction.

Spine Intact, Some Creases
Publisher: Wildside Press; 2 edition (November 1, 2012)


James Franciscus used to intone on television that “there are eight million stories in the Naked City.” With all due apologies to the Big Apple, if you want stories the small town is the place to find them. Sodom and Gomorrah were small towns, after all. How do I know that, you ask? Simple. It is not nose count that defines the small town but rather the one inescapable fact of life: everyone knows everyone else’s business. If you go back and read the Biblical story you will see that it was true in Sodom and it is no less true in Eaton, Ohio, nor ever was.

The history of Eaton comes complete with every sort of drama you could imagine and some you probably never thought of. Murders, scandals, incest, adultery, great love affairs and heart wrenching tragedy.

And Miss Ames. Miss Ames taught Social Studies—some history, some geography. Not very well, I’m afraid. She was a spinster, for reasons which I will get to in time, already old when I knew her and a bit frail. Her round face might have been cherubic but for the unfortunate fact of her whiskers. We laughed at those, particularly when, as sometimes happened, she would be unaware of the lint that had been caught in them. Children are cruel and I am afraid we lived up (or down) to that truism. It is a major step in growing up when you come to find that you are ashamed of the thoughtless hurt you inflicted on others when you were young. Some people never get to that regret. Some never even get to the awareness of it. Saddest of all, some never stop inflicting it.

Still, though we were sometimes cruel we were fond of the old dear in our childish fashion and tolerant of her foibles. Hers was a sad story in a romantic, Victorian way. Long years before Miss Ames’ younger brother had vanished. Just disappeared, leaving behind a wife and daughter. And a sister, obviously.

Some thought him dead. Others theorized that he had been a victim of amnesia or had been shanghaied in some foreign port. Or perhaps there had been some secret, shameful act that had made it impossible for him to face those who loved him. We knew only that he was gone.

I hardly knew the wife and daughter and how they responded to this strange disappearance I cannot say. But all of us were aware of Miss Ames’ grief and her determination to solve the mystery.

It was for this reason that Miss Ames had never married, for her entire life had been devoted for several decades to searching for her brother. Her every penny, her every free hour, was spent
in her search. She traveled often, following up any clue or hint, however tenuous, however distant. She read police reports, spent hours poring over old newspapers from throughout the country, even from foreign lands. An unidentified body, a wandering vagrant who could not remember his name, put her on a bus or a train, to New York, to Florida, to California. There were detectives, paid for with her scant earnings as a teacher. Phone calls, telegraphs, letters.

The years passed. The young, once pretty sister became an adult, the marriageable young woman became a spinster, the spinster an old, frail lady brushing lint from her whiskered chin and pretending not to hear her students snicker.

We watched her come and go. It was a romantic story, one of family devotion and untiring faith, doomed, it seemed, to have no end.

But end it did, though it was not Miss Ames’ tireless efforts that brought it to conclusion. Rather it was the sudden, astonishing return of her errant brother and the even more astonishing explanation for his long absence. There was, it seemed, no tragedy, no mystery, no thrilling saga to impart. He had simply gone off, following his own restless spirit, and never thought to get in touch nor to return until his wife was gone, his daughter grown, his sister near the end of a long, fruitless life.

She welcomed the prodigal home, of course. How could she not, while the whole town watched, and for a brief time they could be seen together, brother and sister, daughter sometimes as well, chatting in low voices as they sat on her porch or strolled the town’s streets in the twilight.

What did they speak of, one wondered? Did she berate him for his neglect? Did she speak in aggrieved tones of the trips, the search, the money and, oh, the years, the lost, long years, gone like the sunset fading into the darkening sky?

Did he regale her with tales of his adventures in distant lands, of long treks along dusty roads, of flights in balloons and flights of fancy, of villains and heroes and saints and great, great loves? Did they laugh together, cry together, argue, coax, plead, explain, pray?

She died not long after his return, perhaps bereft of her reason for living, and he drifted away once again, this time to be unmourned, unsought, undreamed of on long summer evenings.

Not a grand story, you understand, not the stuff of operas nor even of novels. In a big city, in New York or San Francisco or New Orleans, the years might have passed, the comings and going, all unnoticed, hers a lonely woman’s private pain.

It was a small town thing.

For another excerpt from Spine Intact, Some Creases see the blog entry for March 20, 2008.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwestern Experience poem excerpt edited by Kate Lynn Hibbard & Among the Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience poem excerpt edited by Raymond Luczak

So: what does it mean to be queer and Midwestern? 
Some 35 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) poets across both When We Become Weavers and Among the Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience poem anthologies answer that question in many different and surprising ways.

When We Become Weavers brings together a multitude of voices exploring the many dimensions of the Midwest queer female experience: a land of moderation and extremes, lakes and thunderstorms, tall grass prairie and dance clubs, racism and transphobia, assault and female erotic power. In this volume, 17 poets, familiar and new, share stories you won't soon forget.

When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwestern Experience poem excerpt edited by Kate Lynn Hibbard

Squares & Rebels (October 1, 2012)

Black Ice
by Sheila Packa

I go back to the girl
her blades on black ice

crossing visible cracks
fracture fused by zero

on the December lake
over fish in descending currents

silver and precise
to turn and reverse

with her fingers burned by cold
and face red-cheeked

intoxicated with chance
carving the surface of her life

with hardly a glance
in wide circles and backward

keeping weight off the landing
racing from shore

to lift when she leaped
release the pain in her feet

almost blue. Exertion or

Drowning was very near the place
we could break through.

In Among the Leaves, 18 queer male poets share stories what it means to live in the Midwest. We learn what it’s like for them to play football and come up short. We feel their lingering effects of bullying. We experience the undeniable power of seasons affecting their moods as they ache for a meaningful connection. We learn what it means to celebrate in spite of the odds against them. But more than anything, we discover anew through their poems the redemptive power of love and renewal among the leaves growing and falling

Among the Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience poem excerpt edited by Raymond Luczak
Squares & Rebels (October 1, 2012)

The Piano Teacher
by Malcolm Stuhlmiller

Play something for me,
he says,
snuffing out a cigarette
in the great amber ashtray
already overflowing,
stinking the whole world
with stale butts.

Play something you love,
he says.
His smoke-stained fingers
stoke another filterless Camel
and beautiful blue acrobats
turn and tumble
in a circus of sunlight
between us,
stealing air,
making music our oxygen.

Let the music speak for you,
he says longingly,
remembering the car crash
that for two years
hospitalized his career
and still detonates his brain
with continuous cannons.
His potent hands,
delicately fondling the keys,
cannot muscle away the toccata
embracing his head,
always allegro fortissimo,
always relentless.

First practice living—
then practice piano.
Over and over he says this
like a father
forgiving his son’s mistakes,
as the smoky breath
marks a musical phrase,
while black and white keys
patiently wait
for his flesh and bones
finally to grow into mine.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

A Very Public Eye (Book 2 in The Public Eye Mystery Series) excerpt by Lori L Lake

A Very Public Eye by Lori L Lake, the second book in the Goldie Award-winning The Public Eye mystery series, promises to be just as good as the first. Police Officer Leona “Leo” Reese and her sidekick Thom are back to tackle a murder case at a supposedly secure juvenile detox center. As she uncovers long-buried secrets, someone else is murdered, and Leo realizes that she, too, is in danger. In the midst of her own emotional turmoil, is Leo strong enough to catch a clever and ruthless murderer?

A Very Public Eye
Regal Crest Enterprises: Quest Imprint (11/9/12)
ISBN: 978-1-61929-076-1
e-ISBN: 978-1-61929-077-8


Chapter 1

EDDIE BOLTON MOVED like a walking string of lit firecrackers. As he passed through the center’s cafeteria, teenagers much bigger than him stepped aside. Those who were seated leaned in and looked away.

Yeah, Eddie thought, get outta my face. I could hurt you.

One of the more popular staff members rose to intercept him and raised a hand at the doorway.


“Get out of my way.” He pushed past and stomped out into the hallway.

“But wait, you can’t…”

The man’s voice drifted away as Eddie strode toward his room, the pulse in his head beating a staccato as fast as a stampede of wild ponies.

The part of the chemical dependency unit to which Eddie had access was shaped like a U, and he had to travel from one end all the way around to the other end to reach his assigned room. At the midpoint, he passed near the security station where an unarmed guard kept the general public from wandering in, while also assuring that Eddie and his peers were not allowed out. The guard was no taller than Eddie and much skinnier. With his worry-lined face and buckteeth, Eddie thought he resembled a rodent. He hated the guard on sight and wouldn’t meet his eyes as he passed.

Each resident at the Benton Dowling Center was supposed to be considered a temporary “patient,” but in Eddie’s mind, inmate was the more appropriate term. No freedom. Locked up and the key taken away. He didn’t ask to be here, and he wouldn’t play their game. He couldn’t get out until he was deemed emotionally ready—or until he reached the age of eighteen. After a quick mental count he mumbled, “Forty-six days. Just have to make it forty-six days.”

He knew he wasn’t supposed to leave his group at the table. They hadn’t even been released to get their food yet. He would surely get in trouble for his angry departure, but there was no way he’d squeeze in, elbow to elbow, with that bunch of pathetic weasels. He considered himself a man while they were all stupid boys. He didn’t want to deal with their shit.

After breakfast each morning, residents were allowed quiet time in their rooms until eight a.m. when school started. At eleven, they had athletic time in the gym. Today he would refuse to do either. All he wanted now was to curl up on his bed and convince himself not to beat the hell out of the pansy guard, escape, and run for the woods. He knew that wasn’t a good plan. He looked down at his soft slippers and the baggy jeans and t-shirt he wore. No, he’d be found shivering within an hour.

When he reached his room, he grabbed both sides of the door frame and pulled, launching himself across the room and onto his assigned bed. He lay there panting, sweating, tense. He wanted a drink, some pot, anything—even just a cigarette. Some of the boys used behavior credits to buy candy for when they were jonesin’ real bad. He’d only been at the place eleven days and hadn’t yet earned any privileges. He was pretty sure that throwing a punch last week at Mike, the counselor, hadn’t helped his cause. But, oh, it felt so good! The impact of fist on bone, the startled look in the counselor’s eyes, the fear and anger as the bigger man went down. At once, Eddie had felt calm—focused—as though the only objects existing in the world were the knuckles of his fist and Mike’s scruffy, unshaven cheek. It was worth the night spent in isolation in a padded room with no toilet. He dreamed of slugging Mike all night long, though when he awoke the next day, stiff from lying on the thin padding, he agreed not to act out again. That was the phrase they used: act out. Like he was on stage somewhere. He wanted to tell them, “This is no act. You wanna see some real action? Gimme some crack or a few shots of Jack Daniels, and I’ll show you an act!”

He was surprised no one came after him now, but breakfast would be over soon enough. He didn’t want the lukewarm scrambled eggs or cold toast. Cheerios were for little kids, and the sausage looked like something from out of a dog’s rear end. He contemplated going on a hunger strike and smiled grimly. He thought he could last forty-six days. Easy.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and looked around the room: two twin beds, two chairs pushed up to small tables meant to serve as desks, and some open shelving near the doorway where he and his roommate kept jeans, plain white t-shirts, socks, and underwear. All of their personal clothing, shoes, and possessions had been taken away. He wasn’t even allowed an iPod or even a watch in this unit. There was no door in the frame leading to the hallway. Anyone could look in. Worst of all, the bathroom door was cut out two-thirds up so that staff could peek over. He hated that there was no privacy, that he couldn’t even take a crap without the worry that someone would watch.

He stood and paced, but the room allowed him to take only six cribbed steps. He’d never liked enclosed places. Tightening his fists, he squeezed, tensing his forearms, and let out a growl. His breath quickened, and the panicky feeling welled up inside. The pale blue walls sported no pictures, no windows. It would take a year of Sundays and fifty jackknives to scratch his way through the cement block to the outside.

He stepped into the bathroom and whispered, “Gross!” under his breath. The room was, at most, seven by ten feet. To the right, the sink was built in an alcove. A sheet of high-gloss metal, screwed into the wall above the sink, served as a mirror. Two toothbrushes lay on the counter next to a plastic soap dish and one tiny tube of generic toothpaste. The area to the left sported a showerhead in one corner, and six feet away, in the other corner, a toilet stool. No curtain. He had to shower in the tiny space, and if the metal toilet got splashed, too bad.

“Fucking gross. No fucking privacy…people just watching you shit and shower.”

Eddie leaned over the counter surrounding the sink, his palms pressing hard. He could make out his reflection in the metal, but everything was fuzzy around the edges. In the past, he’d never understood when his Aunt Phyllis told him he was too intense, but obviously his level of intensity was too much for this hellhole. He knew nobody he could trust. His roommate, a fat kid two years younger named William, was closed off in his own mute world. Even after Eddie provoked him mercilessly, William pretended Eddie didn’t exist.

The area under the sink was open. Beneath the water pipes was a rack made of plastic. It held a stack of scruffy towels, washcloths, and a spare roll of toilet paper which had gotten speckled with water but was now dry and rippled. He kicked at the rack, and the shelf bounced up off the supports, then fell back in place. The roll of TP hit the floor, and so did something else.

Frowning, Eddie reached down for a flat metal container lying on its side. Liquid swished to and fro, gradually settling. He picked it up. The screw-on lid opened to reveal pungent-smelling liquid.

“Well, shit. What’s this?”

He sneaked a look over the closed half-door. His roommate had not returned, and he heard no sounds in the hall.

“Oh, wow,” Eddie whispered as he sniffed at the metal flask. “William, you little creep. How the hell did you keep this from me?”

He closed his eyes and took a tiny sip, just one touch on his tongue. He hadn’t ever tasted anything quite like it. Jim Beam, Jack Richland, Johnny Walker Red, and Captain Morgan were familiar. He liked liquors with a man’s name attached, but he’d been drunk plenty of times on Absolut, Cutty Sark, Bacardi, Wild Turkey, and every variation of cheap wine and beer. This tasted like bourbon—but not exactly like any bourbon he’d ever had before. He wasn’t sure if it was of high quality—or perhaps just crap. He didn’t care. He raised the flask to the makeshift mirror. “Bottom’s up.”

Relishing a mouthful, he swallowed in metered amounts, feeling the liquor burn its way down his throat. His eyes watered, and he wheezed for a moment, then let out a satisfied burp. With a deep sigh, he swirled the remaining liquid. A feeling of intense happiness threaded its way through him from the tips of his toes all the way up to his ears. He quaffed down another shot. This one tasted exceptionally bitter, and for a moment, his throat threatened to close up.

Eleven days and I’m already out of practice? He let out a snort, then turned and leaned back against the counter, holding the container in both hands. The next swig he intended to savor. He licked his lips and thought of his last binge, of how sweet the rum tasted and how cute the girl with him had been. He refused to think of the crash that put her in the hospital. Eddie’s aunt’s car was an older model with one air bag, on the driver’s side only, so he’d been all right. His cousin Stevie in the back seat had only gotten banged up, but Kimberly went through the windshield. Aunt Phyllis hadn’t known about the girl’s medical condition when he’d seen her the day before. Oh, well, he thought. There’ll be plenty of other girls.

At most now, there were two swigs left, and he had to choke down the first. The dregs tasted grainy and he decided against taking the last sip. He thought that this booze was indeed the cheapest kind. Every sip had gotten progressively more bitter. He wiped his lips on the back of his hand and stuffed the empty flask under the plastic rack. Before he could stand up, his stomach felt tight and too full.

Eddie laughed, glad he hadn’t eaten breakfast and knowing that if he had, the liquor wouldn’t have as much effect. He grinned to think how much he was going to enjoy the high.

He leaned back against the edge of the counter, arms crossed and eyes closed. As he rocked himself from side to side, he could feel the power growing in his torso and upper arms. He didn’t know how long he stood there, but when he opened the door and stepped into the room, William was just entering from the hallway.

“Hey, Big Boy,” Eddie said in a jovial voice.

William gaped at him, startled, then turned away and headed for his bed on the right.

“Your secret’s out, Willie. It’s out, out, out.”

The chubby face appeared alarmed. William opened his mouth to speak, but then closed it and looked down.

“What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?”

William rose and strode toward the hallway. Eddie watched him leave, then stood swaying in the middle of the room, eyes closed. He hummed a Puddle of Mudd song and bobbed his head in concert with drumbeats only he could hear. Tipping his head back, he turned in a slow circle. His reverie was interrupted by William’s return.

“Hey, the deaf-mute’s back.” Eddie giggled, and William ignored him.

The other kid lowered himself to his bed, scooted away until his back was against the wall, and crossed his arms over his chest.

“I just want to thank you, Willie boy. Your generosity is appreciated.”

The tight feeling in Eddie’s stomach blossomed up his throat through the roof of his mouth, and into his head. Bam! He heard pounding, and then the sound gradually muffled as though someone had poked something into his ears. “Cut it out!” he shouted.

William gazed up at him, eyes wide. Eddie staggered over to his own bed and fell on his side. “Shut up,” Eddie said. “Just shut up. Shut shut shut…”

The pounding in his head increased, and with effort, he panted. His right hand came up and he pointed at William. “I’m a dog, Willie…like a dog…” He closed his eyes and let his tongue loll out as he strained to pull in a breath. “Doggie, doggie, dog, dog…”

A spasm rippled through Eddie’s body. He tried to fight it. “No…” Clenching his jaw, he struggled to control his arms, but they tightened up of their own accord. His legs spasmed. He jerked and thrashed. Fell off the bed. He felt himself falling and falling into darkness and pain.

“Take the fire away. No! Don’t hurt me...” His mid-section burned like it was on fire. He screamed.

Then it hurt too much to speak, to open his mouth, or to breathe. The hot hammer in his chest pounded, relentless, unyielding. A giant man—bigger than the scariest monster he had ever dreamed—let out a roar.

And Eddie Bolton stopped breathing forever.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

The Buchanan Letters excerpt by Neil Plakcy

In The Buchanan Letters by Neil Plakcy, Jeff Berman, a Pennsylvania history professor, discovers correspondence between President James Buchanan and his male aide, which depicts their sexual and emotional relationship. With the help of handsome Pascal Montrouge, a disgraced New York Times reporter hungry to return to the big time, Jeff is swept away by publicity for what he has seen as an academic book, and his dreams of tenure and true love seem to be coming true. But when his life falls apart and his academic career is threatened, Jeff questions whether Pascal has only been using him—and how he can build a new life from the debris of his old one.

The Buchanan Letters
MLR Press (October 19, 2012)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-7879 (print)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-7996 (ebook)


“Is this Dr. Berman?” my caller asked.

The only people who use my academic title are those who want something from me, like entrance into a closed class, or a change of grade. It’s not like I can save someone’s life or deliver a baby. “Yes,” I said hesitantly.

“My name is Pascal Montrouge, and I’m the assistant editor of the Upper Bucks supplement for the Courier-Times.”

His voice was deep, with a hint of a French accent. “I’ve been going through old press releases looking for local authors for a feature I’m working on. I was hoping to interview you about your book.”

I was flattered and relieved. Some publicity, at last, even if it was only in the local paper. “Sure. What do you want to know?”

“Can we meet, maybe have a cup of coffee, and talk about your book? I’ll need to get a photograph of you, to go with the story.”

We agreed to meet at a little country inn slash coffee shop in Washington’s Crossing, a few miles downriver from Leighville, that evening at eight. As soon as I hung up, I called Naomi. “I’m going to have my picture in the paper!” I crowed.

“Oh, no, don’t tell me the police found out about that place you go, in the woods behind the library.”

“I only went there once. And I swear to you, I didn’t do anything.”

“Ah, but did you have something done to you?”

“Do you want to find out why I’m going to be in the paper?”

“Yes, yes, tell me, or I shall surely die.”

“You’re in a snippy mood today, Naomi.”

“School is going to start again. A whole new crop of students who have no grasp of the subjunctive and whose idea of critical thought consists of the word because. So I’m understandably cranky. Tell me, my dear friend, why are you going to be in the newspaper?”

“I’m going to be interviewed about my book.”

“Congratulations! That’ll be nice. You can clip it out and send it to your father and your stepmother.”

“Well, that depends on how gay the article gets.”

“Jeffrey, you’re thirty-seven and unmarried. Don’t you think your father already knows you prefer boys to girls?”

“Sometimes I think he does, and then other times he or Evelyn will mention something about my getting married and I realize they don’t have a clue.”

“Trust me, they have a few clues. If you’re not comfortable with people knowing you’re gay, you shouldn’t have written a book about a gay president.”

“I’m comfortable with people knowing. Just not my father.”

“Fathers are people too.”

“What should I wear? This reporter wants to take a picture of me.”

Naomi has a wonderful sense of fashion, most of which she represses, and she loves to dress me. I’m like the doll she never played with as a little girl, when she was always stealing her brother’s GI Joes and staging mock battles with them in the backyard. “I’ll come over,” she said. “Give me ten minutes. And while you’re waiting, trim your eyebrows.”

“Take twenty. I’ll take a shower so I can be nice and clean for you.”

“I love it when you talk sexy to me,” she said, and hung up.

She arrived right on schedule and we settled on a pair of crisp khakis and a blue and white striped oxford cloth button-down shirt I had bought at the Brooks Brothers outlet at Franklin Mills. Though it was the middle of winter, my skin was still Mediterranean-dark, my arms and neck coated with a thin layer of dark hair, and the shirt made me look healthy and vibrant. I combed my thinning hair into place and then shellacked it down with hair spray.

Our only argument arose because I wanted to wear my new Swatch, while Naomi insisted the occasion called for my gold dress watch.

“You want to look distinguished, like a professor,” she said. “Professors don’t wear goofy sport watches.”

“Most professors we know don’t wear any watches at all. If you really want me to look academic I should dig out my loden cloth jacket with the leather elbow patches.”

“That jacket is so 1950s prep school,” she said. “If I were your wife I would give it to the Salvation Army instantly.”

“If you were my wife I would join the Salvation Army.”

We ended up on the living room floor playing Monopoly; I got hold of both Park Place and Boardwalk and bankrupted her. All in all it was a very satisfactory time.

We ate a quick pasta dinner and by 7:30 I was on the road to Washington’s Crossing. “Call me as soon as you get home and tell me how it went,” Naomi said, waving out the driver’s window of her Jeep.

I was so happy I was almost whistling as I drove south along the river. The trees were bare and snow was heaped along the edge of the road, but it could have been high summer to me. I loved driving along the river; I grew up in the middle of endless suburbs and I still could not believe that I lived so close to the country that there were cows within walking distance of my house.

I drove through the quaint downtown area of New Hope, past over-ripe hippies in sheepskin coats strolling in the early evening light. I had to stop for a crowd streaming across the street and through the parking lot of the Bucks County Playhouse, heading for a production of the musical La Cage aux Folles. When I was back in the country, I turned on the radio and relaxed in the fall of evening, passing wooden bridges over the canal that led to quaint country farmhouses.

I pulled up at the Crossing Inn a few minutes ahead of schedule and walked out to the patio behind the old stone building. The owners had constructed a beautiful little garden back there, with an arched bridge across a trickling creek where tiger lilies and black-eyed Susans grew in the summer. In the winter it was picture-perfect, with a faint dusting of snow on the branches of the pine trees.

Inside the wood-paneled lobby, empty except for a clerk behind the bar/registration desk, I chose an Adirondack chair with big cushions, stripped off my coat, gloves and scarf, and settled in next to the crackling wood fire.

As I leaned in and rubbed my hands, a deep, sexy voice behind me that matched the one I’d heard on the phone said, “I’m hoping you’re Dr. Berman.”

I turned around to see a dark-haired man, six-foot-three at least, with square shoulders and a lopsided grin, sticking his hand out to me. My heart soared and sank at the same time: he was the kind of man I fall for, the kind who is so bad for me. Someone I think will be big enough and strong enough to take care of me, but who turns out to be all Jell-O on the inside, needy and whining and no good in a street fight.

“Call me Jeff,” I said, standing and shaking his hand. “I’m always afraid when I hear people call me Dr. Berman that they’re going to expect me to resuscitate someone before the evening is out.”

He wore a long leather duster over jeans and a light blue shirt. He gave me a sly grin and held my hand for a fraction of a second too long. “Sometimes those evenings can be the best kind.”

I loved the way his “th” sounded like a “z.” Our eyes met and locked and I knew that I was in trouble. He was handsome, gay and charming, and I was depressed and horny. Like combining vodka and methamphetamine, the mix could be deadly.

He ordered a couple of beers for us, then said. “Let’s get the pictures out of the way first.” He posed me next to the stone fireplace, to give me a historical context, he said. Never mind that the inn was built in 1768 and Buchanan had lived nearly a hundred years later. “Buchanan never even came to this part of Pennsylvania, did he?” Pascal said, angling his camera and snapping shots.

“I think he must have,” I said. “He was our Senator for many years.”

“You’re probably right.”

I couldn’t help noticing how Pascal’s faded blue jeans embraced his legs and butt like a second skin, the way his raw silk shirt moved so easily as he tilted the camera, zoomed and focused. I felt like a fashion model, but instead of making love to the camera I was flirting with Pascal Montrouge.

The bartender brought over our beers, and we sat down by the fire again. Pascal’s long legs stretched out in front of him, putting his generous package into sharp relief. “How did you end up at Eastern?”

“I got my undergraduate degree in history from Penn and a Ph.D. in history from the State University of New York at Albany. After graduation I landed my first job, a one-year gig at a small private college in Illinois.” I sipped my beer. “From there I got another one-year job in Maryland, and then another in Pittsburgh. I published a couple of papers in history journals, and then lucked into a tenure-track job at Eastern.”

“What got you interested in Buchanan?”

I forced my gaze up from his crotch to his dark eyes, sparkling with humor in the firelight, and told him about finding the letters in the old oak box. “By the end of that first day my friend Naomi and I had figured out that what I’d found were love letters were between two men. It took more research to figure out that the men involved were James Buchanan and his aide.”

Pascal sputtered his beer and slammed the glass stein back down on the wooden table between us, beer frothing up over the edge in a little geyser. “Wait a minute,” he said. “You’re saying Buchanan was gay?”

“That’s the whole point of the book. You didn’t look at it, did you?”

He grinned shamefacedly. “I read the press release. All you said there was that Petitjohn was Buchanan’s aide. I thought you would tell me the rest.”

“Ah, Mr. Montrouge,” I said, wagging my finger at him. “You’re lucky not to be one of my students. I frown on that kind of sloppy research.”

“Please, call me Pascal,” he said, and our eyes locked again, and I knew that at some point I was going to end up in bed with him. I just wasn’t sure when. “Why didn’t you focus that press release on the proof you have that Buchanan was gay? That’s the real angle.”

“My editor was afraid that people would find it too controversial and that libraries and academic collections wouldn’t buy it. I complained that they were missing the market of people who would buy it because of what it’s about. But my editor told me they’d find it.”

“And have they?”

I shook my head. “Not so far as I can tell. My editor quit six months ago, and I can’t get anyone to tell me how many copies they printed, or how many have been shipped.”

“That’s publishing. Everything’s a big secret.” He ordered us a second round of beers and said, “That should be enough about the book. Now tell me something about yourself—what made you decide to be a history professor?” There was that accent again, the way he stressed the last syllable of the word rather than the first. It gave me a sensuous thrill.

“When I was in tenth grade, I fell in love. Not with a girl, or a boy, but with history. My social studies teacher assigned us to interview a family member and write an oral history. I thought it was a stupid assignment and that our family was so boring. There wouldn’t be anything for me to write.”

“Families are always interesting,” Pascal said.

“Yeah, I figured that out. My father suggested I interview my mother’s mother. My mother didn’t want me to, and of course, that made me more determined. One day after school I took the train in from Long Island to Queens, where my grandmother lived. My father gave me some money to buy her flowers, and I got her a bouquet of red tulips. She told me that her family had tulips outside her house when she was a little girl.”

I took a sip of my beer, then sat back. “All I knew of my grandmother at that point was that she had been born in the Netherlands, and come to the United States after the Second World War. She led me into her living room and I sat on an old velvet couch and turned on my tape recorder. She must have talked for the next hour without a break. I discovered that her family had moved from Amsterdam to Curaçao when she was five years old, that she had grown up there and married my grandfather when she was eighteen.”

“That’s certainly exotic,” he said. “A lot more interesting than most people on Long Island.”

“It gets better. Two years after they got married, they left for Japan. Her husband was older than she was, and he imported Japanese porcelain and textiles to Curaçao. It was cheaper for her to go to Japan with him, rather than have to keep her in a house in Curaçao for a year.”

“When was all this happening?” Pascal asked.

“They left Curaçao in 1940, and spent a year in Japan. They got on a ship in September of 1941. They docked in Batavia—that was what they called the capital of Indonesia then—in December of 1941.”

“Mon dieu. During the war.”

“Yeah. The captain decided it was too dangerous to leave Batavia while the Japanese and the United States were fighting in the Pacific. So my grandfather opened a store in Batavia, and started selling the merchandise he had bought in Japan. My grandmother was pregnant with my mother, and even after the Japanese came everything was fine for a while. My mother was born in Indonesia, and she had never even told me.”

“Parents have secrets.” Pascal ate a handful of peanuts from a dish on the table between us. “That must have been scary. How did they get out of there?”

“Eventually the Japanese confiscated the shop and the house, and took away my grandfather. After that my grandmother and my mother had to move into the Tjiden camp.”

“That must have been terrible,” Pascal said. “I’ve written a couple of articles about places like that. The treatment there was inhumane.”

“It made my grandmother very sad to talk about it, but she said we had to. It was like Holocaust survivors, you know? They feel like they have to leave behind a testimony.”

“Poor you, just a teenager and having to hear all that.”

I nodded. “It was tough, but that’s when I became seduced by history, particularly by the stories of all those bit players in the grand sweep of world events. I started reading about all these tragedies—the San Francisco earthquake; the Triangle Shirtwaist fire; the Armenian genocide. Every time I had a history paper to write I picked a topic where there were so many anonymous victims.”

“You must have been a real goth.”

“No, just a nerd. But enough about me. Tell me something about yourself.”

(To learn what Pascal has to say, read The Buchanan Letters!)

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Makara excerpt by Kristen Ringman

The novel Makara by Kristen Ringman asks the question, “What if you grew up with a seal mother and a human father?”

Fionnuala is such a daughter: a part-human, part-seal Deaf woman who falls in love with Neela, a Hearing woman in India. While growing up with Neela’s family in Tamil Nadu, she struggles with her distant parents living apart in Ireland and Indonesia. Eventually her father brings her to Venice where she becomes a mime artist. What binds them all together is the unstoppable undercurrent of ache running through the sea of their lives.

Handtype Books
ISBN: 978-0-9798816-4-0



I was fourteen when the darkness started. It was a year after the night my arms became splattered with blisters from the ants. The night when Neela first touched me and I could feel my entire body singing to her, wanting to sign, move, speak.

Finally, it said.

* * *

Neela and I sneaked away together often. Our bedroom became our own private temple in homage to our favourite stories and each other’s bodies. We kept a picture of Lakshmi besides our picture of Ganesh on the wall. We conversed in sign and wrote in Tamil. Sometimes we just stared and let the words flow back and forth beneath our eyelids.

Neela’s skin was almost black, like many South Indians. She had a round face and thin eyebrows. Her hair flowed down to her waist in soft waves. Her eyes were dark, but when the sunlight shone in them, I was able to see tiny flecks of gold around her pupils. We liked to compare our lips in the mirror because they were so different from each other. My lips were narrow and pointy. Pale against paler skin. Neela’s lips didn’t have the same two points on top that mine did. Hers were rounded and full. The kind of lips you can’t stop thinking about kissing. The kind of lips you want to feel on your skin. I was self-conscious of my freckles, but Neela said they were beautiful. She licked them sometimes.

Father hadn’t written in months. He was somewhere in Indonesia. I pictured him diving with sharks, examining the corals shining with shades of red, orange, and yellow, rivaling the brightness of the saris around me.

* * *

The day the darkness began was a day like any other. It was a sweltering afternoon. Neela and I went home from school early. We wanted to do something bad. Our newfound womanhood leaned us towards experimentation. The canyons called to us—promises of daytime nudity, swimming in our favourite pool, making love in the sunlight. I was thinking of the curve of Neela’s wet hip against the canyon rocks as she pulled her body up onto the ledge. The way I would try to brush the red dirt flecks off her skin, but they would only stick to my fingers until we jumped back into the water. The way her dark hands tangled in the auburn waves of my hair as she braided wet flowers into it.

I didn’t notice Neela’s Amma standing near the shops as we passed. Her eyes met Neela’s, and I could feel the ground shaking below us. She was furious to see us so far from school and why?! I read the Tamil on her lips without needing anything written down. Normally that would have made me feel proud, but I was terrified.

Neela pretended to cry, and Amma said something terrible to her. I didn’t know what it was. I pinched Neela’s arm on our way back to school repeatedly, but she would not tell me.

After school, we were sent to our room without dinner. On our shared bed on the floor, Neela finally signed, A demon will come here tonight.

I laughed. I brought her under our blue elephant sheets, and told her we were safe there. I signed, Remember G-a-n-e-s-h? He will protect us!

She shook her head. Not now.

How can I do anything if I don’t know what’s going on?

She sat for a moment. Tears made salt rivers upon her face, prominent against the dark of her skin. Her eyes were full of fear. She never showed fear without courage lurking behind it. Her ego was strong like a snake—but it wasn’t strong now. She began slowly.

I’m going to write the name down, then you burn paper and I’ll tell the story. Ok?

NILI, she wrote.

I burned the paper and waited. My stomach grumbled. My eyes were tired, although the sky was still violet. We both sat cross-legged beneath the blue sheet. The grey and white batik elephants froze in their procession to watch the story told by the moving hands below.

Her story went like this:

In a small hut by the river, there lived a man and his wife. She was by far the most beautiful woman of the entire village and the man felt lucky to have her. She became pregnant and throughout the pregnancy, she was very sick. They were both afraid for the child, but the woman was strong. She held on through her contractions until she was finally able to squeeze the baby out of her. Once the little boy was in her husband’s arms, she died.

The father wept as he washed his healthy son and cut the cord linking him to his mother.

The ghost of the man’s dead wife materialised out of the far shadow in the corner. The man was overjoyed to see his wife’s soul come to bless her baby and kiss him goodbye. But as she glided closer, he saw a deep blackness in her eyes. The man bolted out of his home and ran with his child, still damp in his arms, up to the hut of a saint. He felt her breath upon the back of his neck. She whispered into his ears, “Let me kill the child.”

The baby wailed.

When they reached the hut, the door was already open for him. Saints knew such things before they happened. As the man entered, the door slammed behind him. Strange herbs were hanging on small strings from the ceiling of the hut. The saint sat cross-legged by a glowing fire. He wore only a white lungi and clear crystal beads hanging from his neck. His hair was long and tied back with a string. His eyebrows were thick. His deep brown eyes radiated peace.

The saint spoke in a whisper. “Your wife’s sorrow at her own death and separation from her child has caused her to become a demon. She will try to kill you and the child until she has succeeded.” He took a gleaming silver blade from beneath his skirt and handed it to the man. “This knife will protect you both from her as long as you hold it. Lose it, and you will not escape your death again.”

The man understood. He replied over and over, “Nandre nandre nandre.”

He crept back out into the dark.

His wife was waiting, but when she saw the knife she vanished into the night. With the knife in his hands, he walked back home and slept until dawn. As the sun rose, the light comforted him. He began to prepare his wife’s body for burial. First, however, he had to carry the child down to the river for a bath and gather water for washing the body. As the husband made his way to the river, the demon took on solid form in the sunlight and went before the leader of their village. She cried before him: “My husband has gone mad and stolen my child and he has a knife he will use to kill me with if I get near them! Please help me!”

The village leader responded: “Where is your husband, so that I may demand his knife from him and give you back your child?”

“The river, the river.” She moaned and followed him with an invisible smile upon her perfect lips.

When the leader saw the husband with the blade in his hands, he yelled: “Set down your knife and give your child to his mother! You must not abuse her like this!”

The husband cried: “You don’t understand! My wife is dead! That woman behind you is a demon!”

“I will hear nothing of that! She has been weeping and weeping over your madness! Drop that knife! End this now!”

The man looked to the heavens. He looked towards the saint’s hut at the top of the hill. Neither the saint nor the god Shiva seemed to be near enough to help him. Giving in to his fate, he kissed his child, and replied: “Let it be finished then!”

The man let his sacred knife slide through his hands as the demon flew towards him. She grabbed her child and ate him. As the remaining chunks of his tiny body fell from her hands and his blood poured into the river, she seized her husband with her long nails and tore into his flesh, too. And she disappeared.

The story was terrifying, but I didn’t know how it related to what Amma had told her. Seeing the question in my eyes, she signed, Wait, I’ll finish.

I waited as she rested her hands on her skirt. I let my own hands press against her knees for comfort and found that she was still shaking. She continued. Mothers here tell this story to their children. If we pretend to cry, they say we are Nili?? crying and once the sun goes down, she will come and get us.

My hands couldn’t move to reply. We clasped against each other in the terror Neela had shared. Between us, the terror grew so large it filled the room. There were moments when we felt Nili’s hands scratching at our sheet that we kept covering our heads—a mystical barrier. We didn’t notice the sweat dripping down the sides of our faces, down our necks, between our breasts. We didn’t lie down for the fear that she would crush us beneath her. The night passed from one gasp to another.

In a subtitled YouTube clip, the publisher discusses why he chose to publish Makara –click

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Horror, Dark & Lite, volumes 1 and 2 excerpts by Anel Viz

In Anel Viz’s Dark Horror anthology, the vampires, serial killers and shape-shifters in these three novellas will drain the blood from your heart. Where it goes from there is no one’s business but your own.

“Val” – For years, Brad has been obsessed with the memory of his dead lover, Val. His obsession takes over his life when he meets another Val, a hustler who looks exactly like the first.

“Slasher” – A man is found in a cubicle at a gay bathhouse with his throat slit. Then another victim turns up. Only Lou’s lover, Jamie, can identify the most likely suspect.

“The Matador” – Soledad de Riquer feels certain that her brother, the celebrated matador El Valiente, has his eye on her young boyfriend, Adulio.

Volume I: Dark Horror
Silver Publishing (October, 2012)
ISBN: 9781614956266

Excerpt from “Val”:

[Situation: Brad knows that his much younger lover, Val, is a hustler – it’s how they met. But he has seen Val in the company of another older man, and the two seem to know each other too well for it to be a strictly business relationship.]

On the third night Brad waited outside his office building to see if Val and the tall stranger would hook up there again. They did, and he followed them at a distance. When they stepped into a bar he hid in a shop entrance to see when they would come out. He didn't have to wait too long. They came out as soon as the night had turned very dark and continued on their way.

He did not understand the irresistible urge he felt to follow them. Jealousy? Curiosity? The risk of discovery? It was not hard trailing them inconspicuously. There were still plenty of people in the streets.

He rushed to catch up with them when they suddenly turned into an alley. Afraid they might see him, he sidled up against the building and peered around the corner. The alley was empty; they were not there.

Cautiously, he walked down it. He'd gone only a few steps when everything fell silent, the noise of the street behind him blotted out. It was very dark. The alley opened into another street, a lonely street, also dark and quiet. Empty, too, or so he thought at first, but hidden in the shadows against the walls dozens of young men stood lined up, on the prowl for sex. In this light they all looked like Val.

He walked slowly down one sidewalk, then the other, checking each one out as he passed. No, they were not Val, but they could have been. They had the same long, straight, black hair, the same piercing blue eyes, the same pallid skin; the height and build were right, the tight denim outfits, too. Except for their hustler's come-on stare, at once veiled and brazen, a look which any of them would have shed had he brought him home, they reminded him of the dress-up Vals he used to create; not quite right, but right enough. In fact, he thought he recognized one or two among them as his male-for-hire Galateas, but they had all blurred together over the years, and his new Val, the true Val, had effaced their features even more. There was no telling, and there was no denying they were all beautiful.

He approached one of them, bold yet apprehensive, like a cat with lives to spare. He raised a finger to his cheek, and gently stroked it. "Val?" he whispered.

"Whatever," the man said. "We're all nameless here." And he placed his hands on Brad's shoulders and forced him to his knees. "Undo my belt."

Brad resisted. The hustler held him firmly by the back of the head and pulled his face into his crotch. The sexual scent of his groin and the bloated cylinder stirring like a living thing beneath the denim was all the invitation Brad needed. He reached up and opened the man's jeans, admired, and tentatively mouthed, smooth as satin and startlingly cold, what he would have willed himself not to desire if he had the strength to do so. Snarling abuse at him, breathy and guttural, the Val thrust into his mouth and humped his throat relentlessly.

The other Vals homed in on them, stroking their bulges. Through the corner of his eye, he saw hands unzipping flies, pants lowered over hips, cocks pulled out and jerked, and he heard obscenities muttered as encouragement by leering lips. He felt the man swell in his throat, then his head was pushed back and the hot spurt splashed onto his face and shirt. Though he hadn't noticed any pleasurable sensations in his own penis, Brad felt a sticky wetness in his underwear.

Almost immediately, another pair of hands grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head to the side. "Suck me!" The man pulled him with such violence that Brad banged his face on the hanging belt buckle and cut his lip. Another large cock, cold and silky, slid over his tongue and plunged into his gullet. He gagged, and tears welled in his eyes to blind him. He was dimly aware of other couples forming around them, grinding together, beating off, sucking. He struggled a little, but ineffectively.

He lost count of how many forced themselves on him. He had no idea how long it went on. He lay doubled up on the pavement and listened to their receding footsteps. When he opened his eyes, the street was deserted.

Bruised, disheveled, his nose running, his clothes crumpled and stained, he rode the subway home. The car was nearly empty, but he felt that the few people in it were staring at him. Was he that much of a sight? Did he look roughed up? Or did the stench of anonymous sex cling to him yet like a wax mask?

He stumbled up the stairs and saw Val sitting forlorn beside his door, resting his head in his arms folded in front of him. He'd forgotten Val had no key to the apartment. He looked weak, helpless, exhausted, as the first Val had been when he found him in the gutter and took him home many years ago. He didn't feel much better than that himself.

Val sat directly under the hall light; Brad stopped short of the end of the flight, back in the shadow of the stairwell. Hearing the footsteps stop at that floor, Val looked up. "Where were you?"

There was nothing weak about his voice. He sounded angry. Brad ignored the question. "I saw you with someone tonight. A client?"

"Maybe. What did he look like?"

"Tall, thin, dark hair. Greying, I think. He held you by the elbow." He did not say he had followed them.

"Oh, that was Derek, my agent," he said, getting up as Brad stepped forward into the light. "God Almighty! What happened to you? Were you mugged?"

"It's nothing. I fell, that's all."

"Fell, my ass. You've been punched."

Brad put his tongue on his upper lip. There was still a trickle of fresh blood. Val came up to him and licked it.

"What on earth are you doing, Val?"

"Dogs lick their wounds."

"When human beings lick their wounds they admit defeat."

"Only when they lick their own."

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In Anel Viz’s Lite Horror anthology, the vampires, stalkers, aliens, and shape-shifters in these stories prove less threatening than the main characters feared.

“A Layover at Atatürk International” – When their plane is delayed in Istanbul, Chase looks forward to sharing a hotel room with fellow passenger Viet Bloedrank.

“Coffee and Aftershave” – Skyler discovers that the creepy individual who followed him home from the subway is also stalking the men he dates.

“Bryce Olson is Pregnant” – Hoping for benefits, Russell decides to play along when Bryce Olson gets it into his head that his ex-boyfriend is an alien.

“The Stray” – John thought it just coincidence that his housemate and the big grey dog that came by for handouts never crossed paths. How long would it take him to catch on?

Volume II: Horror Lite
Silver Publishing (October, 2012)
ISBN: 9781614956273

Excerpt from “A Layover at Atatürk International”

[Situation: Chase went to bed while his assigned roommate stayed up to read. When Chase wakes up in the middle of the night, Viet is gone. He assumes the man has left to drop in on the Frenchwomen he flirted with earlier that evening.]

The door opened and the light came on in the tiny entrance vestibule. Chase pretended to be asleep and watched under half-closed eyelids Viet undress before coming into the room, as if afraid he might wake his roommate. Chase thought he looked different. Although he moved cautiously and on tiptoe, his actions radiated greater energy despite their slowness and a rosy glow suffused his pale skin. He slipped naked into bed behind Chase and—delight of delights!—pressed close to him, passed his arm around him, placed a hand on his chest, and drew him toward him. His palm felt as dry as when they had shaken hands, but now it was warm, and the rest of his body was, too.

"Am I dreaming?" Chase murmured.

"Yes," Viet whispered in his ear. "Is it a pleasant one?"

"It's a dream come true. Does it go on?"

"It goes on."

"How does it end?"

"The way you dreamed it would."

Chase tried to turn his body face to face with dream lover, but Viet tightened his grip and wouldn't let him. "Lie still," he cooed. "Let me fulfill your dream. And I will. Trust me. Viet Bloedrank knows how to give pleasure, exquisite pleasure."

"I want to see you. I want to touch you, too."

"You'll have that chance. We won't be leaving tomorrow. For now, leave everything to me." His voice descended in pitch and took on a mesmerizing quality like a low rumble. "I'm in charge now," he intoned. "Yield yourself. Prepare to be transported to another world, a world of wonderful sensations."

Chase's heart fluttered in anticipation and his body went limp, while Viet's incantation flowed from his lips like a slow-moving river, uninterrupted. "Sensations like those you love so well, but more intense, keener, more all consuming, and unbearably pleasurable."

"Unbearably pleasurable," Chase repeated breathlessly.

Viet put his mouth on Chase's shoulder, opened it wide, and, sucking like a greedy infant, passed his tongue over the sentient, imploring skin. He pinched his nipples and slid his hand down his chest, over his abdomen, ever lower, tantalizing, and brought it to rest on Chase's hardening penis. Chase parted his thighs in invitation. Viet cupped his hand over his balls and traced circles with his thumb on his cock head, slicking it with Chase's own precum.

"Yes," Chase whimpered. The pleasure was more thrilling than any he could remember, and Viet had done little more than touch him.

Chase felt a sudden but painless stab as Viet bit down hard on his shoulder. His eyes opened wide and his muscles tensed. It felt as if he had been injected with a drug that at once sedated him and made his body more responsive. His senses grew more acute and his awareness heightened. So alert was every nerve, the skin on his buttocks and the back of his thighs seemed able to visualize every feature of the body pressed against them, a body that grew harder as his own relaxed, more passive than when he had first yielded to the spell of Viet's seduction. He had never felt more vulnerable, and his now pounding heart rejoiced in his submission. He pushed backward and clenched his buttocks around the thick, heavy shaft nestled between them.

Chase felt the tip of an oily finger probing and greasing his hole. Then a larger hardness slowly eased into him, deeper, deeper, until Viet's pelvis lay flush against him and he was filled. It swelled even more inside him as Viet pumped more blood into it. Then he withdrew half way and plunged back in to the hilt.

Chase stiffened and his body tensed. When had Viet had time to put on a condom?

As if he understood what frightened him, Viet lifted his face from Chase's shoulder and said, "Don't be alarmed. You're perfectly safe."

How could he be sure of that?

"Hush," Viet murmured, "hush and enjoy. I won't hurt you. I never gorge myself, and I drank at least a pint before I came back for you. I'm very environment oriented and not one to deplete what sustains me. I'll be able to feed on you again tomorrow night, and the night after if we're still here, and you'll be none the weaker for it, I promise. My seed will replenish your strength. I decided when you first approached me I would save it all for you, and I have. Our French acquaintances, on the other hand, will feel wan in the morning. They'll need a hearty breakfast. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"

"I understand."

"Good. Now, is there something you want to say to me?"

"Yes. Fuck me."

"Do you mind if I drink a little more while I do it?"

"Drink as much as want. Drain me dry. Just fuck me. Please… I want it."

"Tsk tsk. Viet Bloedrank isn't a glutton. It would appear, however, that his dear friend Chase is. No, just a little blood in exchange for one huge fuck."

Then he rolled Chase onto his stomach, climbed on top of him, positioned his mouth below his ear and his hips above his bottom, sank in fangs deep into the one and his dick deeper into the other, and pounded. Chase was in seventh heaven.

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