Monday, August 31, 2015



Blood and Dirt , by Lloyd A Meeker,  is the second entry in the Russ Morgan investigative series (the first volume, Enigma, is included bundled with the print version  Blood and Dirt). Family squabbles can be murder.

Psychic PI Russ Morgan investigates a vandalized marijuana grow in Mesa County Colorado, landing in the middle of a ferocious family feud that's escalating in a hurry.   Five siblings fight over the family ranch as it staggers on the brink of bankruptcy, marijuana its only salvation.  Not everyone agrees, but only one of them is willing to kill to make a point.

Russ also has a personal puzzle to solve as  he questions his deepening relationship with Colin Stewart, a man half his age.  His rational mind says being with Colin is the fast track to heartbreak, but it feels grounding, sane and good. Now, that's really dangerous ...



Blood and Dirt
Wilde City Press  (August 19th, 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-925313-33-8


Excerpt

Setup:

[From Chapter Two of Blood and Dirt. Russ has gone on a hike in the Flatirons outside Boulder with Colin. They’ve flirted, but Russ has resisted Colin’s more direct signals. This is where they finally have The Talk.]

I turned to face him. “We should talk.”

Colin grinned and shook his head in mock amazement. “I was beginning to think you’d never say that.” He pointed to a flat rock at the edge of the lookout and shrugged out of his backpack. “Let’s eat while we do.” It was a little intimidating to see how patient and together Colin was. How mature. I followed him to the ledge, feeling like I was the one who needed extra care.

“So,” I said as he spread out the sandwiches. “I should start by saying that I’m really flattered by your interest in me.”

“But,” Colin said quietly.

“No but. Full stop. I can’t describe how good it feels to be desired by someone as young, smart, and beautiful as you.” I stared into his elfin green eyes, fascinated at their almond shape and hypnotic depth. I felt naked—and not in a good way. I looked away. “It’s also terrifying. I need to tell you a little story.”

I put down my sandwich, knowing I couldn’t eat until I got this out. “Almost fifteen years ago, shortly after I got sober, I met a beautiful young man. I was pushing forty, he was in his twenties. We liked each other. A lot. We dated. We had great sex, we shared a lot of interests in spite of our age difference. I fell hard.”

The memory hurt so much I had to close my eyes. “Fell so damn hard.” My voice cracked, so I took a drink of water and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. I felt Colin watching me, but I couldn’t look at him.

“One day, a few weeks into our affair...” My throat stopped working. In a moment, I tried again. “He’d stayed over, we were having breakfast. I pushed a set of keys to my house across the table to him, and asked him to move in with me. He put down his coffee cup, looked at me, and said, ‘I’ve thought about that, and realized that in twenty years I don’t want to wake up next to a sixty-year-old man.’ Then he got up from the table, kissed the top of my head, gathered up his things and left. We never spoke again.” As painful as it was, it felt good to have said it aloud.

“Jesus, Russ.”

“I felt so incredibly ashamed. I might have been able to change my behavior, or my work, or any number of other things to keep us together, but I could do absolutely nothing about my age. My ‘best used by’ date had long passed, apparently, even though I was so sure it hadn’t.” I laughed because I didn’t want to cry. “And now it’s over a dozen years past that.”

I shifted to face him square on. “It sounds melodramatic, but it nearly killed me. I came within a cat’s whisker of picking up a drink again, and for me to drink is to die. I can’t risk getting drunk again, I don’t think I’m strong enough to survive it.”

I stared at him, cherishing the way the sun lit the sheen of sweat on his ruddy cheeks. “I wish to hell it weren’t so, but I’m just too old for you, Colin. A relationship with you would be wonderful, I’m certain. But I’m not resilient enough to survive another breakup like that, just because I’m too old.”

 “But I—”
“No, let me finish. You’re twenty-five—”

“Twenty-six.”

“Twenty-six. You’ve got your whole life in front of you. I’ve lived most of mine. As wonderful as our life together might be, a moment would come when you looked at me with disgust. You’d ask yourself what the hell you were thinking when you took up with me.” I hoped my smile didn’t show my pain at saying good-bye to something precious. “I’m sorry. But thank you just the same. Your interest makes me feel young, even if I’m not.”

Colin didn’t say anything, just stared out at the prairie as he chewed on his sandwich. I tucked into mine, grateful to have something nonverbal to do. Halfway through my sandwich, I saw him put his down.

“I know how old you are, Russ. I like how old you are. Maybe you think there’s something wrong with me for wanting you, some psychological kink that makes me a freak.” He took a deep breath, sighed it out, and shrugged. “It sure would be more convenient if I could find partnership material in younger men. Believe me, I’ve tried, and I never have.”

He smiled at me, looking sad. “I have a story for you, too. About two men in Ireland. I want you to listen with an open mind. Really open.” He patted the back of my hand like a patient teacher encouraging a struggling child.

“Their names are Patrick Scott and Eric Pearce. Eric was twenty when he met Patrick. Patrick was fifty-six. They were partners for thirty-seven years. Do you know the statistics for any couple staying together that long, regardless of age? They did pretty well. When they got married in October of 2013, Patrick was ninety-three, and Eric was fifty-seven. Patrick died in February of last year. Maybe they knew that was coming, or maybe they just decided to get married because they finally could. Whatever the reason, they did. They had a long and wonderful life together.”

He looked at me, as if checking my face for a sign of agreement, or at least comprehension. “So, don’t tell me it’s impossible. Sure, it’s rare, and maybe we don’t go the distance like they did. All I’m saying is, don’t rule me out just because of our age difference. I’m sorry someone else hit you over the head with that, but I can promise you I will never say what he said to you.”

He gave me his devilish grin again. His teeth were a little crooked, and to me, they made him even more adorable. Mischievous. He patted my bare knee this time, and his warm hand was an angel’s touch.

“There are plenty of other reasons out there for parting ways, that’s for sure. If we break up, it will be for one of them.” He threw his head back and laughed, wild and free. “Here we are talking about breaking up, and we haven’t even started yet. How crazy is that?”

I nodded, forced to agree. “It’s crazy, all right.” His logic was impeccable, even if it didn’t do much to change the knot in my guts. That was the trouble with logic. It can peel away the most rational arguments and still never touch the heart. Below the neck, logic is the flimsiest form of persuasion.

Unpersuaded, my heart was walking along a precipice without so much as a path to follow. One sudden gust of wind, one misplaced foot, and I could be dead. I hated that the beauty of the view from this deadly cliff was so exhilarating.

“I’ll have to go slow,” I said, feeling strangely liberated at giving in. “I can’t... In spite of your story, I’m still scared. I’ll need all your patience. Lots of it.”

His smile was glorious as a sunrise and every bit as triumphant. Without another word, he took out his phone and took a selfie of us sitting side by side on that rocky ledge above a chasm. Our first photo, I thought, as if we were starting a scrapbook. Don’t say that, I scolded myself. That’s way too fast.

****

By the time we got back to Denver, it was late afternoon. We were happily tired, dusty, sweaty, and hungry.
“Thank you for today,” Colin said as soon as we were inside my apartment. “For everything.”
He stepped into my space and wrapped his arms around me, tentative and warm. Our first hug, I thought as my arms hauled him in. He lifted his face to me, asking silently for a kiss. Our first kiss. Sweet and fresh as a tree-ripe peach.
“Let me take a shower here, and I’ll make you dinner out of whatever you have in your fridge.” He wriggled in my arms. “Or maybe take a shower with me?”
I shook my head. “Too soon” was all I could croak out, even though I knew he could feel my erection through our clothes.
“Can I shower here, though? I have fresh clothes in my pack.”
“Sure,” I said, feeling cornered. “I’ll get you a towel.”
While Colin showered, I rummaged around in the kitchen for what we could eat, finding enough for a decent omelet and salad. I was arranging things on the counter when I heard the floorboards creak behind me. I turned and stopped breathing.
He stood wrapped in my towel and nothing else—wide-eyed, vulnerable, lips parted, his blond hair spiked damp and wild, his creamy lean body graceful and glowing. Without taking my eyes from his, I let my loaf of bread land somewhere on the counter behind me.
“My god, you’re... so beautiful.” It was all I could say. I could hear the awe in my voice, but I wasn’t embarrassed by it. It was the truth.
He walked to where I stood paralyzed, put his arms around my neck. His towel fell, bunching around his feet.
My hands found his waist, and the smooth small of his back. Then some dam inside me crumbled, and the crashing flood from behind it seized me. My mouth was on his neck, on his forehead, lips, eyelids. My hands caressed everything they could touch, frantic to discover. He began pulling my shirt out of my cargo shorts.
“I should shower first,” I muttered.
“Don’t you dare,” he said, breathing hard. “I want you just the way you are. Let’s go upstairs.”
****
Significantly delayed, the omelets and salad turned out pretty well. We made them together, navigating in my tiny kitchen with only minor collisions. We laughed at where I’d decided to put spices, staples, and utensils in my kitchen, bantered about how illogical my choices had been.
Dinner itself was quiet, comfortable. It was clear neither of us wanted to be anywhere else. Eventually, we agreed to do the dishes.
“I have to be at work early tomorrow,” Colin said as he stretched plastic wrap over the leftover salad. “Is it okay if I stay here tonight? You’re a lot closer to downtown than I am.”
“Ah,” I joked. “A relationship of convenience. Now it all comes clear.”
He stuck his tongue out at me. “Sure. It’s taken me months of dogged pursuit to run you to ground, just so I wouldn’t have to go home tonight. That was my evil plan all along.”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “Well, I have to go to work tomorrow, too, for a new client over on the Western slope. I’ll have to be out of here by nine and gone for four or five days. Strange business. I probably shouldn’t say more.” His face hardened, and I hurried to head off any misunderstanding. “I’m not holding out on you. I just... I feel protective of you. I didn’t think you really wanted to be burdened with the details of my work, which are seldom pretty.”
I watched his face and aura soften again. He smiled. “I know. It’s sweet of you, really, but eventually you’ll realize I’m not made of glass. Anyway, I’ll be long gone by the time you leave. I have to be at work by seven. Big trial coming up, and all us paralegals will be going through discovery documents for at least a week.”
A fear niggled at me. “Do you think I was a jerk for not talking about my assignment?”
Colin shrugged. “I hope we get to share parts of our work life, too. I want that, whenever you’re ready to do it.”
So the answer was yes, or at least probably. Was my reticence mere habit or real discretion? It wasn’t really a virtue to keep secrets just because I’d had no one to talk to for so long. I’d have to relearn how and what to share.
When we’d finished tidying, I fired up the dishwasher. “Do you want to watch a movie? I have Netflix on my TV. Or the Rockies game is playing on Altitude tonight, I think.”
“We’d have to sit on the bed to watch, right? Is that your only TV?”
I could feel my neck and face heat up. From guilt, mostly, because although I was looking forward to cuddling, I hadn’t tried to arrange it. “Yup, that’s the only one.”
“Good,” he said, running his tongue along his upper lip. “No place I’d rather be right now.”
We locked up, pulled the blinds, turned out the lights, and climbed the stairs. Doing those things with him felt... comfortable, familiar. Was that prophetic? Wishful thinking? I had no idea.
After the third inning, Colin stood up and shucked his clothes, folding them on an armchair. “I can’t stay awake any longer,” he said, yawning. He looked over his shoulder at me, caught me staring at his sweet tan lines, and twerked his perfect little ass at me. “No more of that tonight. Hope you don’t mind. Gotta save my energy for tomorrow.”
In a swirl of lust and relief, I tried to decide if I minded. I didn’t.
“So do I,” I said, feeling stupidly happy. I got up and found a new toothbrush for him.
After I turned out the light, Colin curled himself into my side. I don’t think I’d ever held anything so angelic. I kissed the soft-spiky top of his head, feeling my solitary life ready to scatter into chaos.
Maybe it was a mistake to have him in my bed. What if it was? I wanted him there anyway. I watched over him until his breathing shifted into the languid waves of sleep.
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Monday, August 24, 2015

Enigma excerpt by Lloyd A Meeker


In Enigma, a Russ Morgan Mystery by Lloyd A Meeker, who’s blackmailing the high-profile televangelist whose son was famously cured of his homosexuality fifteen years ago? Now in 2009, that ought to be ancient history.

It seems there’s no secret to protect, no crime, not even a clear demand for money—just four threatening letters using old Enigma songs from the 90′s. But they’ve got  Reverend Howard Richardson spooked.

Proudly fifty and unhappily single, gay PI Russ Morgan has made peace with being a psychic empath, and he’s managed to build a decent life since getting sober. As he uncovers obscene secrets shrouded in seeming righteousness he might have to make peace with a sword of justice that cuts the innocent as deeply as the guilty.


Enigma
Wilde City Press (August 28, 2013)
ISBN: 978-1-925031-40-9


Excerpt:



[The Setup: Russ Morgan interviews James Richardson, who apparently emerged from reparative therapy in 1994 completely cured of his same-sex attraction. Since that time James has assisted his father Howard in his evangelical outreach through The Abundant Life and Gospel Ministry Church.]

I got back to Kommen’s office in time to cool off a bit in their air-conditioned foyer while waiting for Colin to appear. He did, radiating his rosy-cheeked sincerity, precisely at one-thirty.

He’d already collected the contact info for the courier, Rocky Mountain Mercury, and their tracking number for the fourth letter. He was quick—a smart, decent gay kid trying to do his job right in what was undoubtedly a very precarious environment, and more power to him.

Colin didn’t lead me back to the big suite off Kommen’s office, but to a smaller, still well-appointed conference room down the hall. He parked me in one of the upholstered armchairs and scurried off, I assumed to fetch James. I wondered if Kommen was always this obvious in his messages about status difference between father and son. Given how he’d behaved toward me, I figured it likely.

In a moment, Colin opened the door and Kommen appeared with Richardson beside him. James sat down opposite me, but Kommen stayed at the door.

“I have a meeting,” he announced, glaring at me like it was my fault. “No recording this. I’ve instructed James to refuse to answer any question he feels uncomfortable with. Afterward, he’ll be reporting to me on your conduct. In detail.” He wheeled and was gone.

As he closed the door, I caught Colin’s eye. He knew his boss was an asshole, too. I watched him through the glass wall as he scooted down the hall. I could see that some days, he’d have to work hard at being cheerful.

I wanted the atmosphere to settle a bit before I got started, so I took my time pulling out my pen and notebook and getting set up. When I looked up, Richardson was sitting back, waiting with his arms on the chair and his knees wide apart. He had big thighs, and not from fat. Very fit.

He was an attractive guy in a button-down collar, perfect teeth, only slightly weathered, collegiate kind of way. Solid intelligence in the eyes, but I saw more pain than kindness there. Good jaw, but also hard, somehow. Dark hair like his father’s in the old press photos I’d looked up. James had a bigger, more athletic frame, though. He obviously worked out, but not obsessively. His features reminded me more of his mother, although I’d seen only one photo of her. Pretty nice overall, but not gut-grabbing sexy.

I gave him a conciliatory smile. “I can’t promise to ask you only comfortable questions, but my goal here is certainly not to harass you.”

He shrugged dismissively. “I know. Kommen is a martinet, and it gets old in a hurry. I’m a big boy and can take care of myself.”

“I have no doubt of that,” I said, grinning.

I shifted my focus to watch his energy. “I’ve learned a lot about the Enigma album containing the lyrics used in these letters,” I said, pen at the ready. “Do you think there’s any significance to the fact that it was released while you were in therapy?”

“No, I don’t,” Richardson said. Big lie—his aura blazed with it, plus anger. I made a note as slowly as if I were just learning to print block letters. I was half tempted to stick my tongue part way out with the effort.
“Do you have any idea at all as to who might be behind these letters, even just a wild guess?”

“None at all.” Again, a big lie, highly charged. Instead of anger, this time I saw searing pain. He had an idea, for sure. And now so did I.

“Your father believes that these letters are an attack on him, using you and your background as the point of attack. Do you think that idea is at all valid?”

“It could be. Leaders of some other churches would love to see my father disgraced. The math says donation dollars that go to one church don’t go to another, and our draw for members and donations is growing fast.”

“Is it possible that this is an attack on your father directly? Church funds, moral misconduct?”

“No.” Big lie. “Our books are rigorously audited and summarized annually for our members.” True.
I waited for him to address the moral misconduct part of my question. He didn’t. If his first answer was a lie, but the second was true, then moral misconduct sat big and broad in the equation somewhere. I’d gotten my answer from his silence.

“Your dad also says that you’ve been instrumental in expanding your ministry into Latin America. Do you think the threat comes from there?”

James shook his head. “I really don’t think so. Our membership there doesn’t care much about the competition between churches in the US. On top of that, our presence in Latin America extends back only a few years, probably no more than about 2002. Long after my experiences as a teenager.”

“Do you think they would know about those experiences?”

“Certainly. It’s a story worth repeating as often as possible.” He gave me a smile radiant with the Gospel’s glory, but his aura swirled up dark and angry. “My personal salvation is a testament to my father's faith, and the invincible power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“I’m glad for you.” I wanted to sound sincere, but I don’t think I made it. “Has any spark of that old temptation ever presented itself since those days?”

“No, thank the Lord.” His lie spiked out, even bigger than the others. James sighed a deep breath and gazed out the window, as if savoring his God-given liberation for the first time. Poor guy. What kind of hell was he living in, pretending the hand of God had fixed him, living a straight man’s life?

“Were the methods of your therapy harsh? I’ve heard they often are.”

Richardson’s aura boiled up with pain, grief, and rage, but his face remained an angelic mask. “I don’t have to answer that, but I will. Yes, they were harsh. But they were warranted. My very soul was at stake.” He paused, his eyes opaque with the flat stare of a bouncer. “And that’s a closed chapter you and I will not be visiting.”

I nodded. “Got it,” I said, making my note. “Is there any other light you can shine on this business right now?”

“Not at the moment.” To my amazement, he was telling the truth. He knew a lot about this, but he couldn’t shed light on it now. James Richardson was in this up to his neck. But how? Why?
I leaned forward, caught his eye and held it for a few heartbeats. I wanted him to know that I knew he knew something else. I pulled out one of my cards and offered it to him. As he took it I said, “In case anything else comes to you, I’d really appreciate a call. I promise not to badger you or anyone in your family. I’m just trying to solve this.”

“I will do that, Mr. Morgan,” he said, sounding thoughtful. “Something else may come to mind, and if it does, I’ll be sure to let you know.” He pulled out one of his cards and wrote on the back before he gave it to me.
I must have looked as surprised as I actually was, because he gave me a little smile, aura welling up in sadness. “My cell. In case you think of other questions for me,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said, tucking the card in my shirt pocket, pretending I didn’t understand the gesture was a significant invitation, maybe even a request. We shook hands. I tried not to wince. James Richardson was a man in serious pain, and some of it burned in my knuckles. We headed down the hall.

Colin appeared before we’d taken half a dozen steps, steering Richardson away on some vector that didn’t include me.

I headed on to the elevator.

As I walked down the 16th Street Mall, I called Rocky Mountain Mercury and set up an appointment with the dispatcher in an hour. It was Friday afternoon, and they were already slowing down. I gave them the document number so they could be ready. I promised to be in and out in just a few minutes.

****
The dispatcher at Rocky Mountain didn’t hand me a case-solver, but I did get a couple of interesting pieces of information.

Delivery of the fourth letter had been charged to the account of Stelnach, Kommen and Breyer. It had been picked up at the front desk, only to be delivered back to the same location an hour later. The same receptionist had signed off on the pickup as for the delivery.

That seemed strange, but when I asked the dispatcher about it he just shrugged. The courier’s pay was a low hourly base with a per-item delivery count determining the remainder. Even if the courier noticed that the letter was to be delivered to the same place where it was picked up, and he probably did when he scanned it into his handheld, he’d do it anyway. The rationale behind the letter’s origin wasn’t his problem, and the delivery meant another dollar in his pocket.

On my walk home, I pondered the varied nature of the deliveries—inter-office mail, regular post, taped to a shower door, and courier using Kommen’s own account number. Two things became clear.
First, Enigma had at-will access to the innermost workings of Richardson’s life. I’d got that already, but using Kommen’s corporate account number for this delivery and having it physically picked up at the law office showed significantly broader access than I’d imagined. There weren’t many with access to both Richardson’s shower door and his attorney’s office downtown.

Second, Enigma was bedeviling Richardson with item one. The deliveries had been orchestrated to that end. There was no other reason to use such a variety. Enigma was toying with the good reverend like a cat torments the mouse it will eventually kill.

No wonder Richardson’s aura had fried with panic. He could feel hot cat breath in his whiskers, but he couldn’t squirm out from under its paw. Howard Richardson was being punished. 
http://www.wildecity.com/books/gay-mainstream/enigma/#.VdJ6qnjvdLo

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Children of Noah excerpt by Neil Plakcy

In Neil Plakcy'sChildren of Noah, number 9 in the Mahu series, openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and his HPD partner Ray Donne have gone on assignment to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.  They’re investigating threats to a U.S. Senator with a mixed-race family, including daughter Jessica, who’s had a water balloon filled with white paint tossed at her.

Children of Noah
MLR Press (August 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-9910 (print)
          MLR-1-02015-0437 (ebook)

Excerpt:

We finally made it onto the highway. Ray leaned back in his seat. “You or Mike ever experience anything like what happened to Jessica? Anybody bother you because you’re mixed race?”

I shrugged. “A couple of times when I was a kid, but nothing that scarred me. For a couple of days after my mom came to our elementary school once, this one kid started saying ‘sayonara’ to me and pulling his eyes up at the corners.”

“What did you do?”

“I was taking karate back then,” I said. “Not in a serious way, just something to keep me from bouncing off the walls and bothering my brothers. I wanted to be able to do one of those high-jumping kicks, and I practiced on him.”

Ray laughed so hard he snorted. “I can just see you. What happened?”

“He fell backwards, and I landed on my butt. We both had to stay after school and clean the blackboards.”

When we got back to Kapolei, we unpacked the boxes that had been left for us and filled out more paperwork. We had to watch an online video about sexual harassment in the workplace, and another on the history of the FBI. Ray took the folders down to the fingerprint lab and then emailed myself copies of the letter and the envelope, which I added to the case file I was developing on my iPad.

While Ray looked for churches who used the kind of rhetoric in the letters, I did a search through the police database for pickup trucks with KTF as the first three letters of the plate, and got about three dozen matches. None of them on the Windward Shore, though, so I put that information aside in case it matched something in the future.

When I got home, our golden retriever Roby tackled me as soon as I walked in. I scratched behind his ears and then followed him to the kitchen, where Mike was foraging through the freezer.

Until you get up close to him, Mike looks completely haole and distinctly Italian, from his dark curly hair to his swarthy skin. His Korean heritage is only visible in the slight epicanthic fold of his eyes—though it was distinctive enough to make him uncomfortable when he was a kid growing up in Long Island, around his dad’s Italian-American family.

Mike looked up from the freezer. “When was the last time we went grocery shopping? There’s nothing in here but ice packs, half a bag of meatballs and two boxes of creamed spinach.”

“Can’t be,” I said. “Dakota and I filled a grocery cart last weekend. Could he have eaten everything?” I looked over Mike’s shoulder and saw he was telling the truth.

“The kid must have a tapeworm,” Mike grumbled. “Oh, crap.”

“What?”

“I’m starting to talk like my father. When you hear me do that, slap me, all right?”

“Can I spank you?” I asked, with a smile.

TMI!” Dakota said. I looked around to see him standing in the kitchen doorway. “What’s for dinner?”

“I guess we’ll order a pizza,” I said.

“Two?” Dakota asked. “One for you guys and one for me?”

Mike and I groaned in unison. I called the pizza place at the bottom of the hill and put in our order, and Dakota went into the living room to play with Roby.

Mike sat at the kitchen table with a bottle of Fire Rock Pale Ale. “How was your first day as a special agent?” he asked.

“Ray and I have our first case. Our newest senator has gotten some hate mail.” I got a bottle for myself and told Mike about Senator Haberman’s wife and the threats her family had received. “Peggy Kaneahe and Sarah Byrne told me that they’ve both gotten similar harassment.” I looked at him. “You had problems on Long Island when you were a kid, being mixed race,” I said. “Anything once you moved here?”

“Not specifically that. But I remember we were studying the Korean war in middle school and I said that’s how my parents had met, when my dad was a soldier and my mom was a nurse. One of the kids got confused between South and North Korea and accused my mom of being a Communist.”

“What did you do?”

“I stuffed him in a locker.”
I laughed and told him about my own experience. “I’d better get a move on,” I said. “There’s a grocery by the pizza parlor. I’ll get Dakota to go with me and buy some food."

When I parked in the grocery lot, Dakota took a picture of my Jeep, and then another of the storefront. He kept taking photos of aisles and products and our cart as we grabbed enough food to carry us through the next day. When we were in the checkout line, I finally had to ask. “What is so fascinating about this store?” I asked.

“I’m posting to my Instagram account,” he said. “Dylan and I are competing to see who can take the most different pictures.”

“Who’s Dylan?”

“Just a guy. He’s in my English class.” Dakota slouched against the rack of tabloid magazines, his head down.

Hmm, I wondered. Just a guy. Back home, Dakota took photos of his pizza as he ate each slice, but I resisted the urge to say anything.




Monday, August 10, 2015

Mother Asphodel excerpt by Edward C Paterson


From the novella Mother Asphodel by Edward C Patterson, a different stroke in the pool of gay literature.  Previously, the opening of the novella was posted.  But this time a different interesting slice involving Elvis Presley.

"“Clothes don’t make the queen. The queen makes the queen.” 

It’s Santa
 Saturday in New Hope, Pennsylvania and Mother Asphodel is trudging through the snow to a gig at the Phoenix Club - her drag queen couture bundled in a shopping cart - her bony feet stuffed into galoshes. At seventy-seven plus, Mother has seen the glory days and, in the course of this evening, she’ll share those memories with a younger queen, Brooks MacDonald (a.k.a. Simone DeFleurry of The Jade Owl fame). Listen to these stylish dames as they plan Mother’s return into the spotlight, to shine once again in the eyes of the community and peers.

Mother Asphodel, a novella, bubbles with the secrets of a raging entertainer, who has rubbed elbows with the famous. Still, time knows no friends and Mother cleaves to life’s ornery path on a bleak wintry evening when hope is as sparse as bread crumbs thrown to the birds. The possibilities are endless on the road least taken - a kaleidoscope glimpsed only by those who take it.

“I was just rambling, dear - reflecting on the word gay. Just when did they give us that name?” 
“I think we took it when no one was looking.” 

Mother Asphodel
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 8, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1503148947
ISBN-13: 978-1503148949?

:
Excerpt:

Chapter Four
The Comforts of Home

Brooks MacDonald drove a Buick — a 1990 beige beauty, now thick with snow, except the wipers which did double duty. But the heater worked and Mother Asphodel found much comfort in that. The bridge over the Delaware was icy, but it was better to cross it on snow tires than on galoshes pulling a shopping cart for balance.

“Where am I going?” Brooks asked, squinting through the heavy veil of wintry flakes.

“Just a block passed Lambertville Station, my dear. Not too fast or you’ll miss it.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t be going fast.”

The landmark restaurant, closed like the rest of the town, was on the right side.

“Make a left at the light,” Mother said, “and you can’t miss it.”

“The light, the left or your place?”

“All of it.”

Brooks tugged the wheel, the Buick seemingly having a mind of its own.

“Yikes, we’re spinning.” Brooks turned away from the spin and the car shuffled back onto the right of way. “It’s bad out. Now, how much farther?”

“Just there,” Mother said. “The yellow house. I’m on the second floor. See my balcony?”

“I can barely see the house. Is there a driveway?”

“Afraid not. I don’t drive anymore and my landlady’s in Florida.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Just thought I’d say. You can park anywhere.”

Brooks maneuvered to the curb, which probably would have been occupied had the landlady not been in Florida.

“I wish I were in Florida,” Brooks said. “Or in sunny California with my boyfriend.”

“Do tell,” Mother said, blandly. “That’s good enough. I can make it from here.”

“Glad you can,” Brook said. “Let me help you out and up.”

“You’ve done plenty already, my dear.”

“Nonsense.”

Brooks opened the door and hoisted her feet over the snow mound. She opened the back door and clutched the shopping cart, navigating it through the space onto the street. She hadn’t changed into street clothes, so her wig was acting up and her false lashes whipped the snow flakes.

“Now wait,” she told Mother. “I’ll help you over this mess.”

But Mother was already out, slipping and sliding like Sonja Henie on a bad day. She would have fallen if Brooks hadn’t caught her. Together, with the help of friend shopping cart, they managed to make it to the front porch and through the door.

“More stairs,” Brooks declared.

“I can manage.”

“No, no. You go up. I’ll tug your trap to the top.”

“You’re so kind. Not like those other bitches.”

“You can’t blame them, my dear. Wasn’t there a time when you climbed to the top of the tree and clawed at anything that threatened your grasp at the tiara?”

“I’m still at the top.”

“If you say so. I wish I were at the top now. Are you sure you’re on the second floor and not in the family circle?”

“You’re so droll.”

“Like Santa Claus?”

“No. You know what I . . . oh, here we are.”

Mother flipped the light switch, the sudden beam startling Brooks, who almost let the cart go back to the bottom.

“You could have given me some warning.”

“Well, the lock’s tricky and . . .” Mother fiddled with a key. “I never get the right one on the first try, but . . . oh, here we go.”

Mother pushed the apartment door open. Brooks found the change delightful — a blast of aroma — rose.

“Is that Rose of Attar?” Brooks asked.

Serge Lutens Sa Majestè La Rose,” Mother said.

“I’m impressed.”

“Only the best. Down to my last bottle and I’m afraid Santa can’t afford to bring me more.”

“Shame.”

“My Stumpy kept me in constant supply, but . . .”

“Stumpy?”

“My ex.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. He passed, and not on my watch. But he did leave me this lease and memories galore.”

Suddenly, Brooks was effused in warm amber lights, the lamps on the same switch and each covered with a shade and a silk scarf. The living room — more a parlor by design, was cozy, especially with the snow beckoning from the street. Built-in shelves held a considerable library and on every table, and there were a half dozen, set framed pictures and mementos from life — a long life, no doubt.

“Your abode is wondrous, my dear,” Brooks remarked.

“I like it,” Mother said, shedding her coat and flopping out of the loose galoshes. “Can I fix you a cup of tea?”

“I’d love a cup of tea.”

Chamomile?”

Chamomile tea is my favorite.”

Mother retreated into the kitchen.

“You know it’s just chamomile.”

“That’s fine.”

Brooks brushed the velvet chairs with her hand, and then dared to shove the shopping cart into a spare corner.

“I mean,” Mother said, her head popping back into the parlor, “it’s not chamomile tea. Chamomile is tea. The tea plant is the camellia, which, by the way, is one of my favorite blooms if it didn’t have such a reputation — La Traviata and all that. So if you say chamomile tea, you’re actually saying tea tea.” She laughed. “You wouldn’t want to be embarrassed in upper crust company now, would you?”

Brooks grinned. This old ‘ne had rapacious charm and, like her own tastes, insisted upon strict forms when it came to hostessing.

“I appreciate it,” Brooks said absently, touring the bric-a-brac. “You have such nice things and so many books and photographs.”

“Ghosts,” Mother said. “Soon I shall join them.”

“Nonsense.”

Brooks glanced at the bookshelf. Many classics and some not so classic. One gilded spine caught her eye. She couldn’t help herself, pulling it out and glancing at the first page. Poetry for Ordinary Folk by John Dwight Fellowes. Brooks had never heard of the man, but since she loved poetry, she made a note to ask for a copy the next time she was in a book store. She set the volume on a table beside a picture of a young man in uniform — a handsome lad. There were several framed photos of this soldier in old fashioned poses. Then one caught her attention. She picked it up. The same young man was sitting on a footlocker beside another soldier — beside . . .

“Is that the King?” she muttered.

“Excuse me, dear?” Mother replied, returning with two cups on an unsteady tray.

“Is this a photograph of Elvis . . . Elvis Presley?”                                   

“Oh, yes,” Mother said. “It’s one of my treasures. Did you want an amaretto cookie with your chamomile?”

“Yes, please, but what do you mean: this is Elvis? I know Elvis was in the army, but . . .”

Mother set the tea down on the coffee table.

“It was years ago. He’s gone now, you know. 1977, I believe, the poor man passed. He played so well and was so very handsome. Please, sit.”

“But how . . .”

Mother clumped onto the sofa out of breath. She reached for a cookie tin and fished out four amaretto biscuits, placing them at the edge of the bone china tea cup saucers — two each.

“I don’t understand,” she replied. “How what?”

“How did you get this photograph? It must be worth a fortune.”

“Oh, it’s only worth something to me. It provokes a great memory.”

A memory?  “You met him back then?”

“Of course. I was there, you see. It was 1958 — November 26th, 1958 to be exact — in GrafenwöhrGermany — Thanksgiving. Elvis came to dinner and jammed with us in the barracks.”

You were there?”

“Yes.” Mother Asphodel reached for the picture. “I am there. Here in fact.”

She tapped the young handsome soldier’s image, the subject in other photos.

“That’s you?” Brooks grabbed the picture and looked from Mother Asphodel to the soldier and back again. “You were so young.”

“Just twenty.”

“You were in the army?”

“Drafted. Yes — got my valentine from Uncle Sam and was stationed in Deutschland.”

“Well, you are full of surprises, Mother.”

“Yes, that’s Elvis posing with PFC John Fellowes — that is — me.”

 Brooks was aghast.

John Fellowes — John Dwight Fellowes. Well, Kissme Asphodel.


Chapter Five
Blue Suede Memories


“Now, trust me, Brooks,” Mother Asphodel said, retrieving the picture frame and setting it beside the tea cup. “Elvis was not supposed to be in the barracks that night, but, just like tonight, the weather prohibited travel.”

“I mean to leave after this cup of tea, dear,” Brooks said, cocking her head. “I enjoy your company and your place is homey. Indeed, these mementos are begging for my attention, but I have my own place and . . .”

“Don’t be foolish,” Mother said. “We barely made it across that damn bridge. The hilly pilly between here and wherever you hail from surely will be hazardous. So, you’ll miss church tomorrow morning.”

Brooks grinned.

“With a name like Simon Geldfarb, I’m not much of a churchgoer.”

“That settles it. There are plenty of biscuits and I have a spare room and all sorts of bed clothing. You can choose the most stylish.”

Simon Geldfarb lifted the cup to his lips and sipped.

“We’ll see.”

“As I was saying, Simone. You don’t mind me calling you Simone?”

“I could get used to it, although no one has ever called me that.”

“Does your boyfriend call you Brooks?”

“No. Simon. Never anything but Simon.” Simone blushed, her eyes batting back a tear.

“You must miss him.”

“I do, but you were telling me about Elvis and how you met him.”

“Was I? Oh, yes. That dear boy. I was a mere chit then too and sat in my nicely pressed fatigue apparel. We all blossomed with lavender aroma.”

“Lavender,” Simone sighed.

“Yes. We walked in a manly blush of lavender and starch. But Elvis came to Thanksgiving dinner not to entertain us, because he was training at Grafenwöhr — the Tank corps, you know. I was clerical, of course, but the weather was awful and Elvis . . . well, Elvis got stuck.”
Mother closed her eyes, and then sipped her tea mechanically. The chill of the Bavarian forests rippled through her old heart. She recalled the dinner — double helpings of turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce. She was shy then — the diffident PFC Fellowes, who laughed when everyone laughed and listened when everyone listened. He was fond of playing backgammon in the early evenings with his buddy Carl Lewis. He liked Carl — not liked — loved. But even though kisses were exchanged in the shadows at off times, and hands were held in the quiet remoteness behind the motor pool, this was not a safe zone for such activity. Such activity meant a prison sentence — Mannheim for twenty years. So the silent game of eyes and smiles and whispers ensued. Notes were dangerous and anything beyond the hand holding could provoke all hell. Not to say that PFC Lewis and Fellowes didn’t play, mostly in the shower — fleetingly assuming the natural merriment of a locker room — the sport of queens on the king’s landing.

Sweet pine aroma blended with the lavender and, in the barracks, a famous man, whom the women of America deemed swoonable, sat. Women poured their hearts out for him — their throats convulsed with screams and banshee cries. It was beyond PFC Fellowes, because although he found this hick fetching in the hip and in the twinkling of the eye, John preferred the tamer croon — a show tune croon. This rock ‘n’ roll stuff was far too heady for him. Still, with the winter wind kissing the window panes and the barracks sheltering a renowned guest, John sat on his footlocker and listened, struck with wonder — with poetry and prosaic warmth.

Love me tender,
love me sweet,
never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
and I love you so.
Yes, complete.  That’s what he longed to be, and in the promise of things to come, complete would be denied him. His parents expected him to return a better man, seek out a woman and make babies for their grandparental laps. They knew he was a sissy boy. They fully expected him to run when the draft caught him in its clutches. But he went and trained and muddled through and got by. Then this overseas gig — how proud they were of their son Johnny, over near the iron curtain making the world safe for democracy and the family he’d come home and raise, complete with a dog kennel and a split level house. But Johnny saw a different abode — a smaller affair, somewhere in Bohemian climes with perhaps a PFC Lewis at hand or any of a dozen other candidates. He saw tea-cups and petit fours, not split levels and dog kennels.

Love me tender,
love me true,
all my dreams fulfilled.
For my darlin’ I love you,
and I always will.
Yes, Elvis was there, guitar over knee, smile radiating in the dim light and it seamed he sang directly to PFC Fellowes. Be my beau, it said, but John knew it was all sham. This yokel was sweet and sugary and meant for a Tammy or a Gloria, never a John. This was a stroke to thank fellow troops for the warmth and comfort of their barracks and no more.

Love me tender,
love me long,
take me to your heart.
For it’s there that I belong,
and we'll never part.
And yet the man, a mama’s boy at heart, had a gift — a sweet and enduring gift that melted winter’s rough and smoothed the hours. John was mesmerized, not by the man, but by the magic — the filigree of sound that drew the usually raucous barracks to silence. He could hear nothing else but this carol to love’s endurance — to a memory long in the lingering.

Love me tender,
love me dear,
tell me you are mine.
I'll be yours through all the years,
till the end of time.
“Till the end of time.” Mother said, opening her eyes, glancing at the photograph. “Yes, my dear. He finished the song, and then turned to me.”

“Just you?”

“Yes, as if he had sung the song to me and me alone, which he certainly had not, but such was the compass of the man. Whoever sat within range of his voice felt his personal touch. It was show, of course, and I learned much from it when I took to the stage myself. But he turned to me and said: I’m sure you’d like a picture with me to give to the wife and children.”

“He didn’t.”

“He did, and I was so dumbfounded, I couldn’t tell him there was no wife and certainly no children, and not likely to be because I had other ideas along those lines. Elvis grinned, and I felt a warm rush. I was worried that I’d sit on his lap and give him one, smack on the lips. But I was shy then — a wallflower boy just learning the ropes.”

“I know the feeling, I do.”

“Well, his cameraman posed me like you see me there and flash! Pop! — there you have it.” She held it up. “A picture for the wife and children.”

“Delicious. And what a memory.”

“You only know the half of it, my dear. Yes, the half of it.”

Mother sighed, set the picture down. Simone reached back grabbing the golden spine book.

“And I suppose this little gem was penned by you.”

“Oh, that,” Mother said. “That probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day, but Allen insisted.”

“Allen?”

“Yes. Allen Ginsberg. We were an item, you know.”

Simone’s jaw dropped.


To read another excerpt from MotherAsphodel, see the entry for 11/17/2014

To purchase the paperback or Kindle ebook, click here



Monday, August 3, 2015

The Baker (Workplace Encounters series} excerpt) by Serena Yates


In Serena Yates' second book in the Workplace series, Wallace works as a baker for his tyrannical father in their family owned Scottish Bakehouse in Casper, Wyoming. He wants to represent the bakery in the upcoming Tartan Day competition, but his father refuses to reveal the secret ingredients that make them so successful—unless Ian gets married and has a son, proving he is fit to continue the family line.

Just before New Year’s Eve, Cameron Lewis, a former Marine turned police detective, comes into the bakery for donuts for his department and some black buns for himself. Cameron is hooked, and as his visits become more frequent, they stir Ian’s father’s suspicions. But threats can’t stop Ian from donning his kilt and entering the competition anyway—to show his father what he can do on his own. Though he might not have the secret ingredients, Ian and Cameron might still discover a recipe for happiness.

The Baker
Dreamspinner Press (August, 2015)

Excerpt from chapter 2:
As soon as the waiter was gone, Ian leaned forward. “I’ve been dying to ask you if you’ve had a chance to try the black bun I gave you.”
“Yep, I have.” Cameron could still taste the flaky goodness of the pastry and the sweetness of the filling when he closed his eyes. “I’ll have you know I hid the box in the trunk of my car so it’d be safe from my colleagues, but I managed to sneak a taste during my lunch break.”
“The other police officers would steal your food?” Ian shook his head, his lips twitching suspiciously. “And here I thought they’d all be upstanding members of the community. I am so disappointed.”
“They wouldn’t exactly steal the food.” Cameron smiled, loving how playful Ian turned out to be. “But they’d make a strong case for having me share, and I’d find it difficult to turn them down. Not with something as excellent as that black bun. The donuts were pretty outstanding, but the cake? Amazing.”
“So you liked it.” Ian nodded and sat back, more relaxed now. “Not everyone does, you know? The filling is pretty compact and, like much of Scottish baking, very sweet, so it’s not always received well.”
“If you ever have any leftovers, you now know where to send them!” Cameron winked.
“Oh, well, that’s good to know.” Ian smiled shyly and took a sip of his water. “So, did you manage to identify the ingredients in the filling?”
“I think so.” Cameron leaned back in his chair and focused on recalling what he’d tasted. “Other than flour, baking powder, milk, and egg, there were raisins, currants, some almonds, and chopped peel, I think. I suspect the presence of brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon. And just to throw me off, there might have been some black pepper and a trace of either brandy or whisky, I’m not sure.”
“Wow, that’s pretty impressive.” Ian smiled. “I can see you’re not a detective in name only.”
“I got it right?” Cameron couldn’t believe it.
“Almost. The alcohol you tasted was whisky, the real Scottish kind, of course. It’s my personal variation, since most recipes say to use brandy. But there is one more ingredient nobody is even supposed to get, since it’s secret.” Ian had lowered his voice to almost a whisper.
“A secret ingredient?” Cameron made a show of checking if anyone could overhear them and leaned toward Ian. “Are you going to tell me?”
“If I did, I’d have to kill you.” Ian grinned.
“No!” Cameron laughed at the sneaky expression on Ian’s face. “But I got the rest right?”
“You did.” Ian nodded.
“Is there a prize?” Cameron knew what he wanted, but he had no idea how Ian would react.
“A prize?” Ian tilted his head in thought. “Possibly. I hadn’t thought about it yet. Is there anything you’re thinking of?”
“I am afraid so.” Cameron attempted to look serious.
“You’re afraid to tell me?” Ian frowned. “Why?”
“Because….” Cameron paused dramatically. “Because you might want to kill me if I did.”

Buy Links:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6646
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thebaker-1840886-149.html
http://www.amazon.com/Baker-Workplace-Encounters-Serena-Yates-ebook/dp/B011A0JBW6