Monday, January 26, 2015

Blink excerpt by Rick R Reed

In Blink by Rick R Reed, life can change in the blink of an eye. That's a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago 'L' to work every morning. Andy's life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’s dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.

Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’s gaze on the 'L' train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance. If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of thirty years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever….

Rick R Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction.  Lambda Literary Review has called him, "a writer that doesn't disappoint." Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever "at work on another novel."

Dreamspinner Press (January 23, 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-63216-585-5


Part One: 1982

Chapter 1: Andy

TRANSFIXED. THAT’S the only word I can think of to describe the effect his eyes had on me. They were a trap snapping shut. It sounds schlocky, melodramatic, the stuff of bodice rippers, but it was true: they were mesmerizing. The irises were fashioned from dark chocolate, so dark it became impossible to distinguish the pupil. They were framed by lashes so black and thick that one might be tempted to imagine these tiny curls of hair were augmented with mascara.

But that was not the case. Carlos, as I would come to learn his name, was all man. The rest of him was pretty spectacular as well—and I’ll get to that—but his eyes were what really swept me up and, in a way, never let me go. Moth to the flame.

Can a person be hopelessly infatuated by just a look?

The answer stood but a few feet away from me that early morning in Chicago, on the ‘L’ train, what was once called the Douglas-O’Hare line. I was twenty-two years old and on my way to work at my first job ever, at a catalog house west of Chicago’s Loop where I was putting my BA in English to use as a copywriter. Back then, mornings I was bleary-eyed and hungry for more sleep. The ‘L’ cars were crowded, and the gentle rocking motion of the train encouraged further slumber.

But Carlos, and the connection our eyes made, snapped me right out of my reverie. Our gazes meeting for only a second was electric, elevating me out of the music I was listening to on my Sony Walkman—Human League’s Dare album. Is memory teasing me by making me think the song that coincided with my first glimpse of Carlos was “Don’t You Want Me”? Or would that be just too perfect, my memory’s way of romanticizing the moment? I do remember the book open in my lap, ignored, although it was one I have come to love and reread throughout the years—William Maxwell’s The Folded Leaf.

It’s been… what? A little more than thirty years since that morning, yet the memory of how he looked then is branded on my brain as if etched there by fire. That image is as clear as if he stood in front of me only yesterday.

It was cold. January. Carlos was bundled into a blue down-filled coat, a brightly colored striped muffler wrapped around his neck. Black jeans. I, who had been riding the train since I switched lines downtown, had a seat, but he stood across from me, jammed against the frost-etched doors, surrounded by people who now only appear to me as blurs.

He was tall, maybe a little over six feet. His eyes I’ve already told you about, but the whole package was about dark allure, exotic. I would later come to learn from him that he was Cuban, but then all I could do was drink in the simple beauty of this man. His hair was black silk. In accordance with the times, it was parted in the middle, feathered back, and just long enough to cover his earlobes. His skin was fine, nearly poreless, and a lovely shade of café au lait. Broad shoulders strained the confines of his bundled-up winter coat.

In that instant when our eyes met, the connection was like a pulse that went straight to my heart. It lasted for only a second or maybe a bit longer, but in that short space of time, my fertile imagination pictured an entire future with this man. Days together strolling a beach as the surf from Lake Michigan pounded the shore. Nights together as Carlos, dark eyes penetrating my own green orbs, pounded me. Hey, I was twenty-two years old—the hormones were flowing freely.

Yes, I lusted for him. In a split second.

And then I tore my gaze away. Heat rose to my cheeks, burning, in spite of the close-to-zero temperatures just outside the train car windows.

He had caught me. Caught me staring. In that fleeting moment, he had read my mind and seen the lust in my heart. He recognized me as the shameful, perverted thing I was, the queer I kept so carefully hidden from everyone I knew.

He was sickened by it. Or maybe another scenario—he was amused. The latter option was no more comforting. I tried to swallow and found my throat and mouth dry. I chanced a quick glance over once more and saw he had opened the Sun-Times and was reading.

My thundering heart slowed a little, and my rational mind tried to soothe me. He doesn’t know. He’s just another stranger on the train.

But God! He’s beautiful.

I chastised myself. I couldn’t allow the luxury of thinking the way I did about Carlos, even if my reverie lasted for only seconds. I was engaged to be married to my college sweetheart, who was, at this very moment, on the suburban commuter train, the Chicago Northwestern, headed into the city for her job as a sales assistant at Merrill Lynch, from her parents’ home in Kenilworth.

Alison. I turned my face to the glass and watched the river of cars moving along on the Eisenhower expressway, trying hard to forget the effect just a look from a man on a train had on me. The power, the attraction, the undeniable need I had for his touch. Whether I would admit it to myself or not, I was starved for the attention.

Yet I couldn’t allow myself these things.

It wasn’t who I was. It went against everything everyone—friends and family alike—believed about me. It went against the grain of the Catholic Church I had been baptized and confirmed in.

My biggest fear then was, if people knew, would they still love me? And the other worse fear was my awful wondering if anyone really did love me, because no one knew the real me, that dark part of myself I tried so hard to deny.

I forced myself to think of Alison, to replace the darkly taunting and delicious image of Carlos with her fair hair and blue-gray eyes, the warmth of her smile. I reminded myself, yet again, of my love for this sweet young woman. I pulled up a memory of her visiting me in the small town of East Liverpool, Ohio on summer break when we were both still in school. My parents had been away, and we spent a lot of time doing what two healthy nineteen-year-olds did (another reason I could deny these gay urges that polluted my dreams and fantasies and gave me no rest). We shared a fancy dinner neither of us could afford at the time just outside Pittsburgh. We saw The In-Laws at a long-ago razed movie theater in downtown East Liverpool. We slept curled into each other’s arms on the twin bed in my boyhood bedroom, spoons in a drawer.

It was magic.

And I cried like a baby as I watched her drive off in the rental car to Pittsburgh International Airport. I longed for her. I wanted her back. I loved her so much.

Weren’t those tears proof of my heterosexuality? Weren’t the days and nights lost in passion with a woman evidence that I could not be the thing I feared most—a gay man?

Of course they were. I couldn’t be gay. I was engaged to be married in just a few months. We would have a big wedding in the Catholic church in Lake Forest. Surely being a happy husband and maybe, one day, father would erase these urges that plagued me, would make me whole, would make me normal.


I would be cured.

It wasn’t a stretch. I enjoyed the sex I had with Alison. I loved her with all my soul. Just to spot her walking across campus toward me lifted my heart.

My breathing returned to normal. While I had been lost in thought, we had made several stops on the Congress West line. I looked over. Carlos had gotten off at one of those stops.

The space left by where he had stood seemed to stand out to me, shimmering. Vacant. Part of me wanted to run to the window to see if I could see him making his way along the concrete platform running between lanes of traffic. But I stayed put and tried to tell myself I was glad this temptation was gone.

Chicago is a city of several million, I reasoned.

You’ll never see him again.

The thought was both a relief and a terror.

BUT I did see him again. The next time was a couple of weeks later, maybe a little more. A morning that was a bit warmer but still gripped by winter’s persistent but dying fingers. This was a morning just like the last. Again I was lost in thought, my nose buried in another book. This time I think it was one of my guilty pleasures, Stephen King and his rabid dog story, Cujo. I don’t know if I was listening to music. I was probably thinking of the workday ahead and the copy that would need to be written for products like hair dryers and electric mixers. The crowd was undistinguished, a blur and press of humanity.

I had forgotten about Carlos and the morning a few weeks ago. Work, evenings with Alison, and plans for our wedding that coming summer consumed me, and I was grateful for the distraction.

But then I looked up from the horror of Mr. King and saw him, once again standing in the crowded space by the doors of the ‘L’ car. I think I glanced up because he was looking at me.

Our eyes met. All the forgetting I had done in the ensuing weeks since I had last seen him rushed away like water down a drain. Just a glimpse of him set my heart to racing, sent blood flowing elsewhere too—lower. He was every bit as handsome as I recalled, and his beauty struck me dumb. I think if he had asked what I was reading, I wouldn’t have known what to tell him. A rabid dog was no match for the electrifying eyes of the man across from me.

He smiled at me, just a glimmer, little more than a quick upturn of his full lips.

I turned away quickly to stare out the window. My face burned as my mind interpreted the smile. It was not, could not have been, a gesture of welcome or recognition. It was not a smile that said, “Hey, I think you’re cute too.”

No, it was an expression born of ridicule. It had to be. My self-loathing back then took that simple smile and twisted it into something ugly—a taunt. He was laughing at me. Laughing at the queer who dared to stare at him for just a little too long, giving his hopeless desire away. I burned with shame, and I dared not look back.

I attempted to return to my book, but I found myself reading the same sentence over and over, trying to make sense of it. I wanted to restore order in my world, to feel like I was the young man I wanted to be, the one the whole world believed I should be.

I got off the train at Cicero that morning feeling shaken, yet wondering which stop he had gotten off at.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Butcher's Son excerpt by Dorien Grey

With the new edition of "The Butcher's Son" now available for pre-order from Untreed Reads, here's a new look at how the tale begins.

The Butcher's Son
Untreed Reads Publishing

Excerpt (Chapter One)

As hard as it is for me to remember sometimes, I haven’t always been a private investigator. None of us starts life doing what we end up doing, of course, but how we get where we are instead of someplace else is often pretty fascinating to contemplate. Now, in my case…
—Dick Hardesty

Chapter 1

Did you ever have one of those years? You know. You start New Years’ day with a hangover, and everything just goes downhill from there?

Well, it was one of those years. I was stuck in a job I hated, and Chris, my lover of five years, was getting the seven-year itch two years early. We’d been together ever since shortly after we got out of college, and each of us was the other’s first real relationship, so I guess you couldn’t really blame him. Plus, we lived in a gay ghetto, so the candy store syndrome made it easy enough to stray for anyone so inclined; and Chris became increasingly inclined.

But we were hanging in there, putting on the good old “perfect couple” routine whenever anyone else was around and working on matching ulcers when they weren’t. I was up to two-and-a-half packs of cigarettes a day and rising; Chris was devoting considerable time to adding to his swizzle-stick collection. All-in-all, a real fun time.

Chris had always been a lot more into bars than I am, so it wasn’t unusual for him to go out by himself, although I noted that, lately, he’d been going out a lot more than normal. We did hold to our Saturday-night-out-to-dinner tradition, though, after which we’d stop in at the Ebony Room, a nice little neighborhood bar close to home, for a nightcap.

This particular night, however, Chris suggested we go to a new bar he’d found, Bacchus’s Lair, which he said had a great drag show. I would have put great in quotes, since I was never much for drag, but Chris got a kick out of it, so we went.

I should point out that this was after Stonewall but not by all that much, and the community hadn’t completely gotten its act together in most cities. Blatant homophobia was the attitude of choice for most police forces, and ours was particularly noted for its less-than-tolerant methods. It was also a solid source of income for the city—bust a gay bar, haul in thirty or forty gays too scared or too poor to fight it, charge them with “lewd and lascivious conduct,” drop the charges down to “disturbing the peace” and slap them with a $350 fine for a no-contest plea. The city was happy; the police were happy; the lawyers were happy. The gays weren’t happy, but who cared?

Bacchus’s Lair was located in a former loft over a discount furniture store on the edge of Skid Row. A lot of gay bars were in this area, probably in part because of the lower rents and the less likelihood neighbors would complain about the clientele. The decor was Early Flamboyant—tables the size of dinner plates, purple tablecloths, purple carpet, purple stage curtains, wall fixtures with dangly globs of plastic I suppose the management thought looked like bunches of grapes. Wall niches with little gold cherubs shouldering platters of plastic grapes. Oh, and a cover charge. And a two-watered-down-drink minimum. But you got to keep the little purple umbrellas that came with them.

There were a few people there we knew—I should say a few people I knew; Chris seemed to know a lot more. We were shown to a table—I asked for one close to an exit, as usual—by a lesbian in full male drag, a nice touch of equality, I thought. We ordered our drinks just as the canned music announcing the start of the show blared across the room, making conversation impossible. The lights dimmed, the curtains opened on a stage about three feet deep, and the show began.

If you’ve seen one drag show, you saw this one. Not too bad, really—the usual standard numbers by the usual standard drag queens. Only one—a huge black named, if you could believe the emcee, Tondelaya O’Tool—did her own material and was really talented.

Intermission arrived with the inevitable, and inevitably “cute,” announcement by the emcee that “We’ll be right back after a wee-wee break.” The curtains closed, the lights came back up, and the waiters rushed around the room restocking the what-passed-for-liquor. Also as usual, some of the entertainers came down to mix with the customers.

“Well,” Chris said, “what did you think? Great, huh?”

I nodded. “Great.”

“Yeah, but wait until the second half. That’s when Judy comes on. She’s fantastic.”

I was willing to take his word for it.

“I’m surprised how crowded it is,” I said.

“Do I detect a note of the famous Dick Hardesty paranoia? I notice you insisted on sitting near an exit again.”

“You didn’t think it was paranoia when I yanked your ass out of the Bull Pen the night the cops raided it. If we hadn’t been near an exit, we’d have been hauled in like everybody else.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry here,” Chris said, leaning back in his chair. “They’ve never had a raid.”

“And how long have they been open?”

He shrugged. “I dunno. Two months, maybe.”

“That long, huh? Maybe they should hang up a sign: ‘A fine tradition of excellence since June.’”

Chris grinned and shook his head.

“You’re crazy, Hardesty.”

Tondelaya O’Tool had come down from the stage and now moved through the room like a fully laden oil tanker in heavy seas bestowing forehead kisses, Queen of England waves, and assorted quips to the customers. Spotting Chris, she plowed her way to our table.

“How ya doin’, Chris, darlin’?” she asked, her gaze deliberately moving back and forth between Chris and me, one eyebrow raised.

“Great, Teddy. Great show tonight.”

Tondelaya-nee-Teddy put one hand on her more than ample hip and made a “get away with you, now” gesture with the other, a la Pearl Bailey.

“Why, thank you, darlin’.” Then, looking at me, she gave a slow, exaggerated, tongue-extended lip-lick and said, “And who’s this good-lookin’ hunk o’ man?”

Chris grinned. “This is my other half, Dick Hardesty.”

Tondelaya/Teddy extended a hand.

“I’ll just bet he is,” she said as I took it and was surprised by an unexpectedly strong grip. “My, you two make a handsome couple, don’t you, now?”

“We try,” I said.

“Can we buy you a drink?” Chris asked.

“I really shouldn’t,” she said while, in one continuous movement, sweeping a chair from a nearby table and motioning for the waiter. “But I am parched, and I do have a minute or two before I have to get back. Scotch rocks, double,” she said to the waiter, who disappeared as quickly as he’d come.

“So, how do you like working here?” I asked, for want of anything better to say.

“Oh, I love it, honey. Love it. It’s a lot better than the Galaxy, that’s for sure.”

“Didn’t that burn down a month or so ago?”

T/T reached out and tapped my arm.

“That it did, chile, that it did. That’s when I came over here. I was lucky, really. There’s gettin’ to be fewer an’ fewer drag clubs around, what with the raids an’ the fires an’ all. A lot of my friends are just plain out of work.”

“So, what time is Judy coming on?” Chris asked, demonstrating his usual short attention span.

T/T took the drink the waiter brought, downed it in one gulp, and shrugged.

“Same as every night. You know she’s always the last act. Save the best for last, that’s her motto.”

Suddenly, she put her hand to her mouth and lowered her voice. “I didn’t say that,” she said between her fingers. “You never heard me say that, okay?”

“Okay,” Chris and I said in unison, exchanging a puzzled glance.

“Good.” T/T pushed back from the table, nearly knocking our drinks on the floor in the process, and got up.
“I gotta go get changed. You liked the first act, honeys, just wait till you see the second.” With a broad stage grin, she moved off toward the dressing room.

“What was that last part all about?”

Chris shrugged. “I have no idea.”

The waiter arrived (unbidden) bringing two more drinks (unordered) just as the house lights dimmed and the second act began. It was more of the same, except for T/T, who did a really good down-and-dirty blues number I’d always associated with one of my favorite old army cadences:

I’m not the butcher,
I’m the butcher’s son;
But I’ll give you meat
Until the butcher comes.

She was followed by a marginally passable Diana Ross imitator, a slightly better Barbara Streisand imitator, and somebody who apparently thought, wrongly, he/she was Sophie Tucker.

“Judy’s next,” Chris leaned over and whispered.

The curtains closed, and the room went completely dark. A small spotlight came on, the music started, and a voice announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Judy Garland!”

The curtains opened on…Judy Garland. Quite a bit taller and not as frail-looking, but Judy Garland, nonetheless. It wasn’t just the face; it was the posture, the movements, the little gestures. Perfect. Even before she opened her mouth, I was impressed. This guy was good.

The song was “The Man That Got Away,” and instead of just lip-synching, she sang with the record, and it was as if Judy Garland were singing a duet with herself. Chris nudged me and gave me his “I told you so” nod, and I just nodded back.

The end of the song was greeted by tremendous applause, in which I joined wholeheartedly. Judy took a bow then went immediately into “The Trolley Song,” followed by “You Made Me Love You.” When she finished, the crowd was on its feet—Chris and I included. The curtains started to close, but the crowd wouldn’t have it, and she waved them back open, sat on the edge of the stage, and sang, of course, “Over the Rainbow.” Even I had a lump in my throat.

When she finished the song, the room went black again; and when the lights came back on, she was gone. The other entertainers came out for their curtain calls, but despite chants of “Ju-dy…Ju-dy,” she did not come out.

At last, the applause died away, and the show was over. We finished our drinks, paid the bill, and got up to leave.

“I’ve got to hand it to you, Chris,” I said. “That really was great.”

He put his arm around my shoulders.

“After five years, you doubted me?”


I’ve already mentioned I hated my job. I’d had several since I left college and hadn’t felt really comfortable with any of them; but as I always say, it isn’t the principle of the thing, it’s the money.

At the moment, I was being rather embarrassingly overpaid by a small public relations firm, Carlton Carlson & Associates. The reason for the high salary was that CC&A was run by the rear end of a horse with a monumental ego, and the only way he could keep help was by paying them so much they couldn’t afford to go elsewhere.

He had, thanks to his rich wife’s family connections, passably juggled the careers of one or two fairly well-known clients over the years. Now, he had volunteered his—that is to say, his staff’s—services in the promotion and setup of a press conference for the chief of police’s contemplated assault on the governor’s mansion. His magnanimous gesture was hardly altruistic, since C.C. viewed it as his key to taking over the chief’s entire campaign.

The task wouldn’t be an easy one, as anyone with his head a little less far up his behind than my boss would readily have recognized. The chief’s political beliefs fell considerably to the right of Attila the Hun’s, and he ran his department like Vlad the Impaler. Need I add that he loathed homosexuals? His tact, diplomacy, and delicate handling of any problem involving the gay community had, among some gays, earned him the nickname “The Butcher.”

But his methods, however reprehensible, had kept the local crime rate in check, and he had, until now, maintained an extremely low personal profile.

If the chief managed to win the primaries—his opponent was one Marlen Evans, a moderately popular but lackluster state senator—he would be pretty much a shoo-in, since the incumbent governor’s wildly liberal policies had alienated the most powerful lobbying groups in the state.

The first step in humanizing the inhuman, my boss decided, was to play up the chief’s warm and loving family life. Guess who got stuck with gathering homey bits about this little nuclear holocaust? Yep, yours truly. The fact that, up until now, very few people had any idea, or the slightest interest, that the chief had a license to breed, let alone that he had exercised it five times, left me a pretty open field.

We started by building a rather anemic file of newspaper photos and articles. The chief’s wife Kathleen was always on hand at functions that required the presence of a spouse, but she generally blended so well with the wallpaper she was almost impossible to pick out if there were more than three people in the picture. Of the children, there was almost nothing known except that the eldest son was a minister, and the chief had recently become a grandfather.

It was, therefore, decreed that I, together with a freelance writer noted for never having met a subject she didn’t like and a photographer selected for his Vaseline-lensed portrait work—both handpicked by C.C. himself—would be sent out to meet with the entire family. The object was getting a feature story into the Sunday supplement of the city’s leading newspaper. My purpose for being there was a bit vague, other than to ride herd on the writer and photographer and to steer them clear of the unlikely possibility they might touch on anything that could smack of controversy.

I viewed the entire project with the same enthusiasm as I’d anticipate a root canal, but I had little choice.


The interview was set for a Saturday afternoon, my boss not believing in the sanctity of weekends where his employees were involved. We arrived at the chief’s Hollywood-back-lot, two-story neo-Georgian home at exactly the appointed hour and were met at the door by Kathleen Rourke, looking like a cross between June Cleaver and Donna Reed. She ushered us into the living room, which appeared to have been set up for the photographers from House Beautiful. Chief Rourke, obviously painfully uncomfortable out of uniform, removed the unlit pipe from his mouth, set it in the chair-side ashtray, and rose from a wing-back chair near the fireplace to greet us.

The cursory introductions over, to the obvious relief of both Chief Rourke and me, we were told the rest of the family was gathered on the poolside patio and followed Mrs. Rourke outside through a set of curtained French doors. Standing around a picnic table at the far end of the pool like deer caught in the headlights was the rest of the Rourke clan.

Chief Rourke, who followed us outside lest, I suspected, one of us if unattended might make a grab for the family silver, made the introductions. Clockwise around the table: Tammy, aged fifteen; Colleen, age seventeen; Mary, thirteen; Robert (Robby), fourteen; and Kevin, the minister, age not given but probably 25, who was accompanied by his lovely wife Sue-Lynn and their infant son Sean.

The children took after their mother, except for Kevin, who had obviously inherited all the good looks. That is to say, they were nondescript to the point that any one of them would be hard to pick out of a police lineup.

I suggested we first get the photos out of the way, and Ted, the photographer, proceeded to take up the next half-hour orchestrating various homey shots of the family around the picnic table, by the barbecue, in the living room, around the kitchen table, etc. It might have just been my imagination, but it seemed like every time I looked at Kevin, he was looking at me. Whenever our eyes met, he’d hurriedly look away.

Actually, Ted need have taken only one photo of the chief, since his expression—that of the proud family man—never changed except for one moment when the baby, who had been handed to him, reluctantly, only after Ted’s repeated suggestion, developed a slow leak in the diaper department.

While all this was going on, the writer, in obvious awe at actually being in the presence of someone so prominent as the chief, tried getting responses to a set of routine questions.

After the majority of the photos had been taken and the chief and Mrs. Rourke were huddled at one end of the living room with the writer, I wandered over to the mantle to look at a set of family photos. There were individual shots of all the kids, plus Kevin and Sue-Lynn’s wedding photo, plus a photo of baby Sean. However, one that caught my eye was an older family shot, taken in front of the house apparently when Mary, the youngest child, was a baby. The interesting thing about the picture was that it contained two Kevins.

Kevin, who had been off somewhere with Sue-Lynn changing the baby, had just reentered the living room. He must have noticed me looking at the photo and hurried over. I got the distinct feeling I’d been caught at something illicit.

“I was just looking at your photos,” I said, rather lamely.

“Yes,” he said, the first time since we’d arrived that he’d spoken directly to me. “My mother and father are typical proud parents, I guess.”

Never having been noted for excessive tact when my curiosity is aroused, I couldn’t resist remarking on the photo.

“I hope I’m not touching a sensitive area, but I notice in this one photo there seem to be two of you. I didn’t know you had an identical twin.”


Suddenly, we were aware the chief had gotten up from the sofa, crossed the room, and was, like a thundercloud at a picnic, hovering just behind us.

“Sue-Lynn needs you, Kevin,” he said, although how he might have come by that information was totally beyond me, since he’d been seated at the other end of the room for the past ten minutes.

Kevin turned without a word and left the room the way he’d come in, leaving me standing there with the chief. The beaming family man façade was gone. His eyes were cold black holes, and his voice sent a chill down my spine.

“Patrick’s dead,” he said.

Untreed Reads publishing kicks off of its acquisition of the popular Dick Hardesty Mystery series beginning 01-14-15 with special pre-order offers for the first reissued book of the series, "The Butcher's Son." (The official release date is slated between February 5 and 7.

Specially-priced pre-orders are now being taken through Untreed Reads ( only, with two strong incentives to buy:

1. All pre-ordered books will, unless otherwise requested, be individually signed by the author.

2. All pre-orders will receive a special 25% discount--$13.50 as opposed to the regular price of $18.00.

This offer will, incidentally, benefit not only the buyer, but the author, whose royalties are considerably higher with publisher-sold books.

For more information or to order

Monday, January 12, 2015

"A Ukrainian Melody, Sort Of..." covers the once thriving, growing Ukrainian community on New York's Lower East Side in the early 1960s, which now doesn’t exist any more. Focuses on the accordionist Igor Skrypka who has his eyes set on a "young" schoolgirl, Zulka, who really is somewhat older than her other classmates, which Skrypka doesn't know. It's the weekend and the community is gathering at the Ukrainian National Home for that night's wedding festivities. A look at the events and people of the community, plus our narrator, Danylo, son of Skrypka, and his growing gayness, still unheard in the community.

A Ukrainian Melody, Sort Of …”
Zazulka Press (12/5/2014)

On the first Saturday morning I was working at the Baths I was thunder-struck when I saw Father Echo climbing the stairs. Father Echo wasn’t his real name, he was known as Echo because of the two upper unfinished floors of the school building which the school had allowed their band, the drum and bugle corps, to use as their rehearsal place. Unfinished, so that the bare open space cast an echoing sound from whoever spoke up, it was like being in the Grand Canyon rather than on the streets of the Lower East Side. And Father Echo loved being up there in the cacophonous space when the drummers drummed and bugles bugled that in the quiet space that followed the barest sound turned it into a loud echo. That’s why the boys called him Father Echo because he loved to talk out loud to the boys who had just rehearsed.

     “Good job, men!” he would shout and praise them.

      Good job, men! his echo echoed.

     He instantly became known as Father Echo that even it had been heard that a few of the nuns even called him that, Father Echo.

      But I was thunder-struck in seeing him because he was without his priestly collar or the black pants and black shirt he always had on, instead was wearing an orange T-shirt and checkered pants, totally unlike anything I imagined he’d be seen in. But it was too late for me to skirt out of his way; he probably was surprised at seeing me there as well.

     “Danylo,” he happily raised his eyes, “what are you doing here?”

     “Slava Isusu Khrytsu Glory to Jesus Christ,” typical clergy greeting. “I’m working here, Father. I have a job here now, I’m their go-fer boy,” and I proudly smiled but was still embarrassed, looking away from his gaze at me.

     “Is that right? Well, Danylo, that’s ideal. I knew I should go to the Baths more often,” and he winked, “And you are the perfect boy for this place, the St. Marks Baths, wouldn’t you say?”

     All I could do was answer, “Yes, Father,” and bow my head as if we were at a church service and not in a bathhouse with Father Echo licking his lips. Echo was a robust man, big, large, tall and wide enough but I never would think of him as fat, being big was more in line with his demeanor of being a large muscular man, probably six feet and a half, if not more. And that afternoon, after finishing my few hours of go-fering, going and getting anything they wanted, I was back in my bedroom at home just dreaming and whacking off again. Still, I couldn’t get rid of the image of Father Echo stripped of his clothes and carrying a towel around his neck, his torso bare of any other holy priestly material looking back at me and winking. His hard stiff penis was also very big. So not only was he a priest but very human, too. I masturbated more that day than any other day, I think, but who the devil knows?

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Monday, January 5, 2015

First Exposure excerpt by Alan Chin

Alan is very excited to be sharing the story of First Exposure with readers because it is loosely based on his becoming the target of homophobia while serving in the US Navy, when he took a second (off duty) job delivering flowers at a gay-owned florist.

In First Exposure, straight, married Petty Officer Second Class Skyler Thompson battles homophobia from his Navy buddies, the military, and his wife when he takes a second job creating flower arrangements at a gay-owned florist. But rather than yield to pressure and quit, he refuses to give up the joy of creating beautiful arrangements, battling homophobia for artistic expression. His dream is to leave the navy and open his own florist shop.

Ezra Dunphy—his shipmates all call him Dumpy because of his obesity—is a gay sailor who likes to dress in drag. He is shunned by his shipmates, tragically lonely, and uses drugs to cope with his solitude. What he wants more than anything is someone to share his life with.

Can these two men, opposites in every way, help each other achieve their dreams?

First Exposure
Bold Strokes Books (August, 2014)
ISBN: 9781626391253e


He crept up behind Skylar and stood close to the only man aboard who had treated him with any amount of kindness. He leaned forward until his nose hovered inches away from those broad shoulders, inhaling the fragrance of lavender-scented soap. He also detected the piquant odor of shoe polish softened by a trace of talcum powder.

He pulled back and lifted his head to scan the same starlit sky, reading it like the dog-eared pages of a favorite novel. That made their slim connection somewhat stronger, more intimate. Thin clouds scudded across the moon. It was what the crew called a “peekaboo night.” He focused on a cloudless patch, through the firmament and beyond the myriad of familiar shapes—Pleiades, Scorpius, and Hercules with its dazzling star, Vega—and even beyond the dim specks from the most distant stars, surveying the darkest regions of the unknown. His mind emptied and he felt himself become the unknown, until a voice echoed in his head.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

It took him a moment to realize Skylar had spoken to him. He struggled to engage his brain to understand and respond. He stepped back to put some distance between them.

“Yeah, the bang put all this into motion. It’s overwhelming.”

“The big bang?” Skylar asked. “Right. Whatever exploded must have been gargantuan.”

Dunphy shook his head. “A few advanced minds think it was the size of a golf ball. Space-time and matter and energy compressed into something unbelievably dense and hot.”

Skylar chuckled. “Unbelievably dense and hot, sounds like Travis Bolton.”

Dunphy had to bend his mind to accommodate Skylar referring to any man as “hot.” Tuning in on his gaydar had never been Dunphy’s strong suit. He tilted his head, wondering if it were possible that Skylar batted for both teams. The notion became thrilling and unnerving.

After a silent pause became awkward, Skylar said, “That was a joke.”

Dunphy flashed him an arid smile, realizing that he had read too much into it. But still…as his mother used to tell him before he was kicked out of the house, at the heart of every joke is a kernel of truth.

Skylar fished in his pocket for a cigarette and accepted one from the pack of Marlboros Dunphy offered him. “I only smoke at sea. Rosa would kill me if she knew.”

Dunphy presented Skylar a light and was pleased when Skylar cupped his hands around his own to shield the flame. That slight touch sent needles of ice down his spine to zap his testicles. He flicked at the lighter, but it refused to fire in the breeze. They both hunched closer, coaxing it to life.

Dunphy took a long drag that dizzied him. He slipped the pack and lighter back into his pocket.

Skylar looked at him with an expression both melancholy and avid. After holding his stare for a heartbeat, Skylar glanced at the sky again. “You think there are other beings living on other planets? Like, are those rumors of little green men in Los Alamos even possible?”

The wind rose, pressing against their bodies like a living force. They inched closer so their words wouldn’t be carried away by the breeze, and stood staring into the dome above.

“Living on other planets, sure, why not?” Dunphy said. “Them coming to earth? The distances are too great for any sort of humanoid to journey here, unless they are so smart they know how to travel faster than the speed of light, which is impossible. Any beings that visit us would have to be a race that has evolved into super intelligent androids.”

“What about worm holes?”

“You watch too much sci-fi. See those stars? They could have died and collapsed into themselves a hundred thousand years ago, and we don’t have a clue because we’re only now seeing the light they spawned back when dinosaurs walked the earth.”

They both grew quiet. Dunphy drew on his cigarette and expelled the smoke. The warm night air felt deliciously comfortable after the stifling humidity of the day.

“How do you know all this?”

“They’re called books, Skylar.”

“So you took astronomy classes?”

Dunphy stuck his cigarette between his lips and shoved his hands in his pockets. He suddenly felt cold.

“Naw. Never made it to high school. I left home on my thirteenth birthday. On the streets, you don’t have TV or money for movies. You spend a lot of nights looking up at the stars and a lot of days at the public library trying to stay warm.”

“Really? What was your childhood like, I mean, before you left home?”


Dunphy realized that Skylar deserved a better answer, but he didn’t want to spoil the mood with his depressing saga.

They both dropped their cigarettes to the deck and crushed them. Dunphy struggled to find a new topic, one that had nothing to do with his past. Living it had been hell; reliving it was futile. He liked to stay in the present as much as possible, and right then he reminded himself that he had four more OxyContin pills in his pocket to help him do just that. His fingertips caressed the pills. He glanced sideways looking for a quick retreat, but at the same time he said, “I’m sorry I got you sucked into standing watch. You didn’t have to stick up for me, though. I can take whatever they dish out.”

“Right.” Skylar nodded. “No tears. I get it. What I don’t get is how you swallow crap from every swinging dick on this ship. I mean, I’ve never seen anyone eat so much shit.”

“Hell, this is a five-star cruise in the Bahamas,” Dunphy said, and laughed.

“Compared to what?” Skylar waited, but when no answer came he said, “You don’t want to tell me. Why?”

Dunphy sighed. “Before I left home, my old man beat me every chance he got. The five years I lived on the streets, I ate out of garbage cans and was hassled by thugs and perverts. No, the navy’s good to me, relatively speaking.”

“Garbage cans? That explains why you always chow down like there’s no tomorrow.”

“At enlistment, I weighed ninety-four pounds,” he said, noting the incredulous look on Skylar’s face. He could hardly believe it himself. Only two years ago, he had been a petite, narrow-faced, willowy creature as exotic as an osprey. He was definitely expanding much faster than the universe. “Yep, that’s the great thing about the navy—three squares a day, clean sheets, and we never have to march.”

Dunphy studied Skylar’s hands as he talked, noting how big they were, like Dunphy’s father’s hands. But Skylar kept his nails trimmed and clean. His father never wasted time on hygiene, nor had the old man been approachable or self-assured like Skylar. Standing there in the moonlight, Dunphy could appreciate the contrast, but why, he wondered, was he comparing the two men? Why was it important?

What happened to Dad after I left? His father’s light still reached him like a star glow, light waves from his distant past after years of empty space, sieving into his bones.

“Say,” Skylar said, “what the hell is your first name, anyway?”


 “Well, Ezra, don’t feel sorry on my account. I don’t mind staying aboard ’cause I spent most of my pocket cash making sure Rosa got flowers on our anniversary.”

Dunphy had not been called by his first name since leaving home. He felt tears welling up in his eyes, and his voice sounded funny when he said, “Wow, that’s so thoughtful.”jj                       

“Yeah,” Skylar said through a beaming smile, “she’s gonna love ’em.”

Dunphy glanced at the horizon as he inhaled the airborne brine. Over the city, stars drizzled into the pale mouth of dawn.

To read another excerpt from First Exposure, see the entry in this blog for July 28th, 2014.

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