A Good Sicilian Boy’s First Love #dreamer

June 12, 2015

Dinner at Fiorello's400x600

You probably can’t tell it from my name, but I’m half Sicilian, on my mother’s side. She was a Comparetto. And she was, as is the case with all good Sicilian boys, my first love (and my forever love—she was taken from me by cancer in 2007).

 The excerpt below (and the character of Vito’s mom) was inspired by my own mother and the conversations we would have on the phone.

 Sicilian mothers want two things for their boys—first and foremost, that they eat and second, that they find love….

An Exclusive Excerpt from Dinner at Fiorello’s by Rick R. Reed

Vito went into the living room, where he’d tossed his phone when he came home from his shift. He picked it up and pressed the Home button to bring it to life. He scrolled through his contacts and found the one labeled simply Mother. He tapped the word, and it brought up her picture.

She had once been a beautiful woman, and still was in many ways, defined and elevated by her Sicilian heritage. Her hair, once glossy and black, was now cut short, and it looked dryer. She kept the gray away by having it colored a deep shade of red. But you could still see the girl in her green eyes, still see the strength in her strong chin and broad Italian nose and full lips. He recalled when he had taken the picture, a few years ago, when he had begun work at Fiorello’s and she had come as his guest to dinner. She had been so proud! She had cried when he placed the lasagna with béchamel he made in front of her, not because it was sublime—it was—but because her husband, Johnny, wasn’t there to share it with her. This was a few years ago, and she had just lost him to a heart attack.

Vito shook his head and decided much more thinking like this would defeat the purpose of calling his mom, so he pressed the button that would connect him.

She answered, as she almost always did, on the first ring. And as soon as their hellos were out of the way, she said the same thing she always did. “I was just gonna call you.”

“Isn’t it funny how that works, Mom? Every time I call, you were just gonna call me. Yet my phone never rings.” He laughed to show he was teasing.

“Did you just call to give me a hard time? I haven’t even had my coffee yet.”

“Well, you have to admit, it’s usually the other way around. Isn’t it the parent who’s supposed to bug the kid about keeping in touch?”

“Oh, Vito, is my boy feeling lonely? What made you wanna call me up at the crack of dawn? I could have been sleeping.”

“Oh, come on, we both know Brenda gets you up at four every morning for her breakfast and a tinkle.” Why his mother had named her dog Brenda was a mystery Vito had never been able to unravel.

“She’s a good girl.”

Vito could imagine, and knew he was right, that his mother had the phone tucked between her shoulder and ear and was bending over in her kitchen chair to sweep the little dog up off the linoleum to cuddle her.

“Yes, she’s my baby,” she cooed, confirming what Vito was imagining. He smiled.

“So what’s up? You wanna come down for breakfast? I’ll make you bird’s nests. I baked bread yesterday, and I got some nice roasted peppers to put on top.”

Vito grinned at the mention of the egg dish, thick-sliced bread with a hole hollowed out in the middle for an egg, fried in a cast iron skillet in lots of butter or bacon grease. Not all that healthy, but God, was it comforting. Vito was tempted to throw on some clothes and head out to the western suburb of Cicero, where he had grown up and his mother still lived, just to sit in her kitchen and have her make that for him.

He could practically smell the toasted bread and hear the sizzle of the butter.

“That’s tempting, Ma. But I have to go to work today.”

“So what? You don’t go in until the afternoon, right? They hired that new cook, Elizabeth, right? To take lunches?”

Vito nodded, and when he realized his mother couldn’t see him, said, “Yeah, but I didn’t sleep too good last night, and I probably should take another run at it.”

Cora was quiet for a moment. “You thinking about them again?”

“Ma, I’m always thinking about them.”

“And you always will, son. Just like I always think about my Johnny, your dad. The world got a little darker without him in it. But you know what?”

“What?” Vito asked, even though he knew what his mother was going to say. Despite the fact he had heard this same speech over and over again, he let her say it. It showed she cared, and next to a hug, words like these made Vito feel loved.

“Everybody says it, but it’s true. Life is for the living. You gotta move on, boy. It’s been over a year now, hasn’t it?”

Vito said quietly, “One year, three months, and six days.”

“You have to think about not just the joy they brought into your life, but the joy you brought into theirs. You made them happy. You drove them crazy sometimes! But I know they always felt loved. That counts.”

“I know, I know, Ma.”

“If you need to, you go to church and light a candle for them. You think of them up in heaven, waiting for you. They’re okay. They wouldn’t want you moping around.”

She paused, and Vito could imagine the wheels turning in her head.

“I wanted to do the same thing when your father passed, just shut myself up in the house, crawl under a blanket. For good. But the girls, your aunts, wouldn’t leave me be. They made me come out to bingo on Sundays at the Sons of Italy. They made me go shopping at North Riverside. They even got me to get on a plane to Vegas! Ha! Remember that?” She didn’t wait for her son to answer. “They made me live. You gotta do the same. It’s time.”

At her words, a sudden, unbidden image popped into Vito’s head: Henry, piling dishes up to load into the dishwasher. Strands of his blond hair were glued to his ruddy forehead with sweat. He had stripped off the short-sleeve shirt he had worn in and had on only a ribbed tank that clung to him. He had caught Vito looking and given him a smile. It was a simple moment, but that connection stayed with Vito. It touched his heart. The moment was frozen because it was like they were the only two people in the busy kitchen, for just that fraction of a second.

“You’re right, Ma. You’re always right.”

She scoffed. “Yeah, that’s me. So, speaking of which, you’re off on Sunday. I’m making sewer pipes, sausage, and gravy, and you’re coming over. You can bring somebody.”

“Like Connie and Gabby?” Vito asked, referring to his big dogs.

“Well, I was thinking maybe a nice boy. That would make me really happy.” She was quiet for a moment. “Besides, those two monsters are gonna eat my Brenda for a snack one of these days, I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts.”

“Ma, they’re afraid of Brenda.”

They both laughed. Somehow the little five-pound dog always managed to ride herd on her much bigger “cousins.”

“But I’m serious, Vito. You got anyone you can bring? Seeing anybody? A handsome man like you shouldn’t be by himself.”

And again, Vito thought of Henry. Oh, he’d been “seeing” him, all right. Almost every night for the past two weeks. And then again, in his dreams sometimes. Once he even woke from one of those dreams with come in his shorts, an experience he hadn’t had since he was a boy. He had a feeling he dreamed of Henry because he pushed him away so consciously at the restaurant and even out of his waking thoughts. But his mind refused to let him go.

“No, Ma. I’m not ready to date anyone again.”

“I didn’t even necessarily mean date. But you got friends, don’t you?”

Vito thought sadly, or maybe gratefully, that the answer was no, beyond friends of the four-legged variety. The friends he used to have, in that other life that now seemed to belong to someone else, had all turned away. Not because they hated him or didn’t want to be around him, he knew that much for sure, but because they didn’t want to face his pain, didn’t know what to do with the longing and loss in his eyes, the hurt he wore like an apron. What could they do? What would they say? His life only brought theirs down. So one by one, they stopped seeing him.

He didn’t blame them.

“It’ll just be me and the girls. Is that enough?”

“Oh, let’s not have a pity party here. Remember when you told me you were a fanook?”

“Ma, we don’t use that word. We say gay.”

“Whatever. The point is, do you remember?”

“Yeah. I was twenty. I wrote you a letter.”

“And I cried. And I went to church and lit a candle for you, praying that this gay thing would be ripped out of you.”

“Nice.”

“You know it took some adjusting. You weren’t who I thought you were. But so much happened over the next few years. There was—”

And Cora went quiet, her voice stilled for several moments, and Vito knew she was trying to catch her breath, to hold back tears. He knew because his own were springing to the corners of his eyes and running down his face.

In a choked voice, she went on, “I learned that I was wrong. That if Jesus granted my wish and did rip this thing out of you, you wouldn’t be you anymore. And I wouldn’t have had—well, you know.”

“I know. I know.” Vito held a hand to his eyes to stem the flow. “I’ll be there on Sunday, and I’ll bring a nice antipasti. I got some of that good sharp provolone like you like.”

“Okay, son. I gotta go. Brenda’s tap dancing at the back door.”

“Bye.”

“And Vito?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Vito’s heart gave a little leap. He never, ever doubted his mother loved him, but she seldom said so. It wasn’t her way. She showed it more through hugs and pinches, sometimes too hard, on the cheek, but most of all through her food. Before he had a chance to return the sentiment, though, she had hung up.

BLURB

Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.

Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.

BUY

Dreamspinner ebook
Dreamspinner paperback

 

Stupid (MS)Word Tricks with Xara X. Xanakas #dreamer

June 10, 2015

We’ve all felt it.

That ‘oh, crap’ moment

That second just after your fingers got ahead of your brain and helped you out by going ahead and clicking “Don’t Save”. That cold-shower, stomach-drop of accidentally deleting half your book and then closing out. But, did you know there’s a way to get it back (in MS Word 2010 and later, at least)? Just open up a new Word document, and click ‘File’ at the top of the page.  Find the “Manage Versions” button. You should get the option to recover unsaved documents. Voilà. You’re back in business.

 

There are hundreds of different writing tools out there. Apps out the wazoo. Notepad, Scrivener, Growly Notes, Pages, Google Docs; the list goes on and on. And each of them have their own strengths. I’ll bounce between them all when I’m working on something, but I always seem to wind up back in ‘good’ (for a relative value) old Microsft Word. It’s the beast that’s been around forever, and while some of the updates and changes over the years have been infuriating not as helpful as they could be, there are some great features in it that you may not know about. Almost everyone uses Ctrl+C and Ctr+V (cut and paste, respectively), and the document-saving Ctrl+S (SAVE!!!!), but there are a lot more keyboard tricks up their sleeves. In fact, Lifehacker has compiled a cheatsheet of a whopping 247 keyboard shortcuts. You may never need the ‘Equation Toggle’ (Alt+=), but it’s there for all your Word problem solving needs (get it? word problems? okay, I’m done with the puns).

The more time you save fighting with your program, the more time you can spend with your head in the clouds. And that’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

 

~xXx~

 

 ***

Xara X. Xanakas decided years ago to embrace her weirdness. A friend first described her that way to the man who’s been her husband for over twenty years. That formula fits her, and she figures if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Being Texan, her crush on cowboys comes natural, but the techie in her loves to show nerds a good time. She relishes all things different, and brings saucy style to her writing. Whether wrangling a wayward ranch hand or adding another critter to her were-menagerie, Xara strives to make the outlandish appealing. She’ll make you quirk a brow and snort with laughter, and that’s all right by her. Xara believes that unique is best and happily ever after is the icing on the cookies.

 

 

German Interview with D.W. Marchwell

June 9, 2015

Ich bedanke mich herzlich bei D.W. Marchwell, der sich bereit erklärt hat, an diesem Interview teilzunehmen und euch Lesern Frage und Antwort zu stehen. Auch ein großes Dankeschön an euch Leser, denn ohne euch wäre dieses wunderbare Interview nicht zustande gekommen.

Zuallererst: Verrate etwas über dich, das deine Leser überraschen würde.

Es gibt nicht vieles über mich was ich nicht schon in meinen Büchern erwähnt hätte, aber die meisten überrascht es, dass ich ein ausgebildeter Opernsänger bin. Ich bin ein „Light Baritone“ (auch genannt: Baryton-Martin) und absolvierte Jahre lang professionelle Auftritte, während ich tagsüber unterrichtete. Meine Spezialität war „German Lieder“, vor allem alles von Schubert. Ich liebe es, Schubert zu singen!

Kannst du uns fünf deiner Lieblingsbücher nennen?

Meine fünf Lieblingsbücher – ohne bestimmte Anordnung – sind: „Halway Home“ von Paul Monette, da in dieser Story zwei Brüder – einer schwul, einer nicht – lernen, was es heißt, den anderen zu lieben. „Dance on the Earth“ von Margaret Laurence, da sie schon immer eine meiner kanadischen Lieblingsautoren war. „Caught Running“ von Abigail Roux und Madeleine Urban, da ich durch dieses Buch begrifft, dass auch meine Geschichten publiziert werden können. „English: The Mother Tongue and How It Got That Way“ von Bill Bryson, da mich Sprachen schon immer brennend interessiert haben. Und „Soldier“ von AKM Miles, da dieses Buch eine sehr wichtige Botschaft übermittelt, und zwar, dass eine Familie mehr ist, als in sie hineingeboren zu werden.

Was hat dich dazu gebracht, M/M Romanzen zu schreiben?

Schon seit ich denken kann, habe ich Geschichten geschrieben, aber erst als ich „Caught Running“ las, begann ich, mich über den Verlag zu informieren, der es publizierte. Ich begriff, dass es eine Zielgruppe für meine Art  von Büchern gab. Wie das Schicksal so spielte, reichte ich das Manuskript von „Gut zu wissen“ (Good to Know) ein, das angenommen und publiziert wurde. Dann folgten 15 weitere Geschichten.

Ich hoffe, die Frage ist nicht zu privat, wenn ja, musst du natürlich nicht darauf antworten: Wie vereinst du deine Liebe zum Schreiben mit deinem Real Life (Familie, Freunden, dem Partner etc.), ohne dass einer dabei zu kurz kommt?

Die Frage ist nicht zu persönlich. Es gibt kaum Konflikte zwischen meinem Schreiben und meiner Familie oder Freunden. Ich habe einen Partner und meine Freunde haben mich immer unterstützt und auch verstanden, dass es Tage gab, an denen ich zu Hause bleiben musste, um zu schreiben und deshalb nichts mit ihnen unternehmen konnte. Viele meiner Freunde sind sowieso verheiratet und haben Kinder, und sind auch selbst sehr beschäftigt, und wir versuchen uns zu treffen, wann immer es uns möglich ist.

Woher nimmst du deine Ideen? Was inspiriert dich? Fließen private Erlebnisse oder Menschen, die du getroffen hast, in deine Geschichten mit ein?

Meine Ideen entstehen durch Erlebnissen in meinem realen Leben. Ich sehe etwas in den Nachrichten, oder schnappe etwas im Lebensmittelgeschäft auf, und schon entsteht eine Idee über eine mögliche Geschichte in meinem Kopf.  Alle meine Bücher basieren also auf einem Ereignis oder einer Situation in meinem Real Life, die ich selbst erlebt oder über die ich gelesen habe.

Legst du dir schon einen Plot (mit vorgegebenen Situationen) zurecht bzw. weißt du schon zu Beginn wie deine Protagonisten gestrickt sind, oder agierst du während des Schreibens spontan?

Eigentlich ist es eine Mischung aus beidem. Ich beginne die Geschichte immer mit einer Idee, mit einer Vorstellung, was passieren könnte, aber wenn ich dann schreibe, erzählen mir die Charaktere selbst was sie erleben sollen. Es ist eine leise Stimme in meinem Kopf, die mir manchmal einen anderen Weg aufzeigt, den die Charaktere dann gehen werden.

Schreibst du an mehreren Büchern gleichzeitig oder konzentrierst du dich lieber nur auf eines?

Ich konzentriere mich immer nur auf ein Buch. Ich lese nicht mal – zum Vergnügen – während ich schreibe, weil ich nicht von dem gelesenen beeinflusst werden möchte, oder vielleicht sogar vergesse, was ich selbst schreiben wollte. Ich plane vielleicht ein Buch, während ich ein anderes schreibe, aber ich arbeite immer nur an einer Geschichte.

Was für eine Szene war die am schwersten zu schreibende?  

Die am schwersten zu schreibenden Szenen sind immer die, wo ein Kind oder ein Tier verletzt ist oder wird. Zum Beispiel, „Paradies in Aussicht“ (An Earlier Heaven). Ziemlich am Ende der Geschichte, versteht William, was es mit Frau Zimmerman auf sich hat. Das war eine sehr schwierige Szene, die ich schreiben musste.

Gibt es bestimmte Lieder, die du während des Schreibens gerne hörst? Wie sieht dein Schreiballtag im allgemeinen aus?

Passend zu meinem musikalischen Hintergrund und meinen österreichischen Großeltern, die immer klassische Musik hörten, höre ich klassische Musik, während ich schreibe. Einer meiner Lieblingskomponisten ist Felix Mendelssohn. Ich höre am häufigsten seine Musik. Ansonsten trinke ich während des Schreibens auch gerne eine heiße Tasse Tee. Und ich lösche alle Lichter – aber ich weiß nicht warum. LOL

Wenn du mit einem deiner Protagonisten einen trinken gehen könntest, für wen würdest du dich entscheiden und warum?

Das ist eine sehr gute Frage. Hmm. Ich denke, ich würde mich für Barkley Reinhardt von „Pictures on Silence“ entscheiden, da er mir sehr ähnlich ist. Wir beide lieben Musik, zu singen und Tiere. Aber ich würde auch gerne Scott von „Falling“ und „When Memory Fails“ treffen. Er ist Komponist, und ich würde ihn gerne fragen,wie es sich anfühlt, ein Musikstück aus dem Nichts zu kreieren.

Welcher deiner Charaktere ähnelt dir charakterlich am meisten?

Ich habe viele meiner Persönlichkeitseigenschaften auf verschiedene Charaktere übertragen. David, von der Serie „Gut zu wissen“ (Good to Know), unterrichtet wie ich und liebt Kinder. Barkley von „Pictures on Silence“ liebt Musik und Tiere, und singt für sein Leben gern. Und Hank, von der „Falling“ Serie, hat eine schwierige Beziehung zu seiner Familie, genau wie ich. Aber ich würde sagen, dass Barkley mir am ähnlichsten ist.

Hast du schon einmal abfällige / beleidigende Bemerkungen zu deinen Büchern erhalten? Wenn ja, wie hast du darauf reagiert?

Was abfällige oder  beleidigende Bemerkungen betrifft – ich denke, viele Autoren erhalten solche Kommentare – bin ich keine Ausnahme. Ich sehe mir keine Reviews an, seit ich Bücher schreibe, die die Leser unterhalten und genießen sollen. Aber wenn ich höre oder lese, dass jemand eine beleidigende Bemerkung gemacht hat, nehme ich einfach an, dass dieser Person meine Geschichte oder mein Schreibstil nicht gefallen hat, und mache einfach weiter.

Hast du vor, irgendwann die Länder zu besuchen, in deren Sprachen deine Bücher übersetzt wurden?

Ich habe bereits die meisten Länder besucht, die in meinen Geschichten vorkommen, und ich werde eines Tages definitiv wieder an diese Orte zurückkehren. Ich war sehr oft in Europa und genoss Deutschland, Österreich, Schweiz und Frankreich. Es fiel mir leichter, durch Frankreich und im Süden der Schweiz zu reisen, da ich französisch spreche, aber ich habe auch mein bestes versucht, um in Deutschland und Österreich deutsch zu sprechen. Und die Leute waren sehr geduldig und freundlich. Obwohl sie besser englisch sprachen als ich deutsch, haben sie meistens gelächelt und geduldig gewartet, dass ich das, was ich sagen wollte, aussprach. Außerdem habe ich eine anzestrale Verbindung zu Deutschland und Österreich, die Vorfahren meiner Mutter kommen aus Österreich und Bayern.

Letzte Woche veröffentliche DSP die deutsche Übersetzung von deinem Buch An Earlier Heaven (Paradies in Aussicht). Was hat dich inspiriert, diese Serie (Good To Know) zu schreiben? War es immer schon als Serie geplant?

Es war nicht als eine Serie geplant. „Gut zu wissen“ war eine der ersten Geschichten, die ich geschrieben habe. Es war 1981 und ich hatte gerade erst die High School beendet. Ich habe immer wieder Geschichten über schwule Männer gesucht, die sich verliebten und bis an ihr Lebensende glücklich zusammen lebten, aber ich konnte nie eine finden. Deshalb entschloss ich mich, meine eigene Geschichte zu schreiben. Erst 2009 dachte ich darüber nach, dass ich diese Geschichte möglicherweise einreichen könnte, da es immer eine meiner Liebsten war. Es gab ein paar Änderungen, aber es ist im Grunde dieselbe Geschichte, die ich vor 30 Jahren geschrieben habe. Ich dachte erst an eine Serie, als ich realisierte, dass die Protagonisten mehr zu sagen hatten.

Welcher Protagonist der Serie war für dich am schwersten zu schreiben?

William war der am schwersten zu schreibende Charakter, da – obwohl ich täglich von Kindern umgeben bin – ich mich sehr darauf konzentrieren musste, was er in verschiedenen Situation sagen, tun oder fühlen würde. Es war schwierig, sich vorzustellen, was ein 10-jähriger denken und wie er sich verhalten würde.

Gibt es eine Szene im Buch, die dich besonders berührte?

Wenn ich schreibe, bin ich darauf konzentriert, die Wörter auf Papier zu bringen, aber die Szene, als Cory zurückkam um zu bleiben, war sehr berührend. Natürlich, ich hatte diese Szene geplant und wusste immer, dass Cory zurückkommen würde, aber als ich sie schreiben musste, bemerkte ich, dass mir Tränen in den Augen standen (da William endlich seinen Bruder bekam).

Wir haben gehört, dass du leider keine Bücher mehr publizieren wirst. Was sind deine Zukunftspläne?

Es ist wahr, dass ich nicht mehr publizieren werde, und viele Leute fragten mich per E-Mail nach dem Grund. Um es klarzustellen: Ich schreibe noch immer, habe aber keine zukünftigen Pläne, meine Bücher von einem Verlag publizieren zu lassen. Ich mochte diese Pingeligkeit von ihnen nicht, ebenso wenig, dass sie versuchten, Aspekte meiner Geschichten zu ändern, die man eigentlich nicht ändern musste. Ich sage niemals nie, und werde möglicherweise wieder mal etwas von einem Verlag veröffentlichen lassen, aber zur Zeit bin ich damit glücklich, für mein eigenes Vergnügen zu schreiben. Es gibt ein paar Geschichten, die ich seit meiner Ankündigung, dass ich keine Bücher mehr publizieren werde, geschrieben habe, und die man auf dieser Website, die ich extra dafür angelegt habe, finden kann:

http://marchwellbooks.weebly.com/

Diese Geschichten gibt es nur in englischer Sprache. Also, sollte jemand englisch verstehen und will ein paar Bücher kostenlos lesen, könnt ihr meine Geschichten, die nicht von einem Verlag veröffentlicht wurden, hier finden. Sie sind für jedermann und unentgeltlich. Aber ich muss euch warnen: Ich bin der schlimmste Korrekturleser, den es überhaupt gibt, also solltet ihr euch dazu entschließen, ein oder zwei Geschichten zu lesen, stellt euch auf viele Fehler, Tippfehler und andere Irrtümer ein. LOL

Living the Dream: Five Years With Dreamspinner Press

June 8, 2015

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Five years. Wow. It’s only been five years since my first sale? Hard to believe. It seems like only yesterday that I sent in that first submission….

And it all started with a mummy.

No…. No wait…! It started with a call for submissions….

No wait! It started with an inspirational speaker who changed my life!

His name was Chris Michaels and on that particular morning he was speaking about dreams. What he refers to as “our soul’s assignment.”

He stood up there on that podium and asked us, “What is the thing that you do—that when you do it—you feel connected to something powerful and even somehow bigger than yourself? As if you were plugged into an outlet and electricity was flowing through you. And when you’re done and you look back at what you did, you are often amazed. You say, ‘Wow…. I did that?’

“It might be gardening or painting or cooking or baking or dancing or singing or writing a song, writing a poem, writing a story. It might be breeding an animal or training horses or sewing or quilting. It might be raising or caring for children. Or the sick. Or the elderly.

“Well, whatever that ‘thing’ is, that is the thing you were born to do. Whether you believe in a God or if you think it’s evolution, it doesn’t matter. Either way it is still what you were created to do.

“What’s more, if you don’t do that thing, you are blocking your own good. People who don’t do what they were created to do are often depressed, mean, get sick, and even live shorter lives.”

I sat there stunned, tears on my face. I knew that feeling of being “connected” to something powerful and then later being amazed at what I had done. I knew that depression when I wasn’t doing what I loved. I knew what my “thing” was. Writing of course. Telling stories. But I’d always been too afraid to submit anything. It didn’t matter to me that J.K. Rolling got 12 publishing rejections in a row before selling Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I just knew my ego was way too small for a rejection, especially if they told me what they told her. Don’t give your day job. It would be saying that I didn’t have what it takes to make my one true dream come true.

But listening to that man that day made me realize what I had to do. I couldn’t deny it any longer. I couldn’t be afraid. I had to try.

I went home, logged onto the internet and went to a website where the owner posted tons of publisher’s calls for submissions and soon found one that grabbed my attention. It seemed like Dreamspinner Press (whatever that was) was seeking romantic gay stories with an edge of suspense, a touch of heart-pounding fear, and/or a taste of the paranormal  “Scare us with your vampires, ghosts and spirits, zombies, and things that go bump in the night.” All I was required to do was provide a happy ending for my gay heroes. Yes! That’s my kind of story!

But I also knew human nature and figured there was a darned good chance that this “Dreamspinner Press” would get a deluge of vampire, ghost and zombies stories. So I decided to do something different. And since I was in love with all things Egypt and knew a lot about it, and because I had also loved the classic mummy movies growing up and was totally crazy for Anne Rice’s Ramses the Damned, I knew the perfect “scary” creature for me would be a mummy.

But it had to be romantic! Not an awful, decaying, dusty, evil mummy, but something far more akin to a beautiful immortal. My mind started to work. I studied my Egyptian books. I had to find just the right time period in Egyptian history to begin my tale. And I knew I wanted the story to also be set in the here and now. Finally I figured it all out. It would be about two lonely men, desperate and sad, separated my millennia—and finally brought together across the sands of time by love!

I wrote it! I held my breath! And I sent it in….

And four days later I had my first contract. What a confirmation.

Not that I haven’t had a few rejections since then. But you know what? One of the many somethings that makes Dreamspinner Press my home?

I wrote a M/M/M story called “Just Guys” for an anthology on that particular theme and I just knew it would sell.

But it didn’t. However I got the most amazing rejection imaginable. I was told they liked the story but it wouldn’t fit with what they wanted for the collection and then encouraged me to resubmit it. In fact, the editor Julianne Bentley, was more than encouraging. She all but insisted. So I reworked it, added some length so the wife character wasn’t a cardboard b*tch, submitted it again…and sold it!

And that’s the way it’s been ever since. Dreamspinner Press is the place where dreams come true. They published my first novel (and many since). They taught me and taught me and taught me to be a better writer. They partnered me with an amazing editor named Andi Byassee who “gets” me and doesn’t try to change my voice while at the same time doing a lot to teach me better writing skills.

Dreamspinner even made a life-long dream come true! They let me edit an anthology! And one about something I know quite a bit about—bears.

I’ve traveled all over the country because of them. Been to New York City and Chicago and Portland and Albuquerque and Orlando and more. I’ve met incredible people, publishers, editors, writers and readers.

And what’s more I’m getting to write happy endings! One thing I hated about gay fiction from the time I was in my early twenties was that it was always about unhappy endings. Gay bashings. AIDS and death. Sex addicts. Prostitutes who get murdered. Teenagers that commit suicide. And the message these stories told was that if you’re gay, you’re going to have an unpleasant and miserable life. Example: Brokeback Mountain. Yes I love the story and movie. But one guy gets killed and the other never really accepts himself. The Front Runner. One of them is assassinated. The list goes on and on.

I wanted to write stories of all kinds, but with gay heroes and that wouldn’t be afraid to fall in love. I wanted to write uplifting stories. I wanted to write tales that would inspire. Yes, my heroes would have some stuff to work through to get their happy endings. But that wasn’t a part of “real life” I was afraid to write about! Who doesn’t like some angst in their stories?

Imagine my surprise the first time I met Elizabeth North and found out that was a big part of her whole concept of Dreamspinner Press. To provide happier, more positive and loving stories.

I was at home!

Along the way I’ve written a number of short stories, quite a few novellas, seven novels, edited an anthology, and now have books on audio and books translated into German, Korean and Italian! Crossing my fingers for French next!

There is no way that five years ago I saw any of this coming.

But the best part has been meeting and exchanging emails with readers. I have heard some amazing stories. Stories from people who were too afraid to pursue their dreams but now they are as well. It makes my heart rush.

So thank goodness I was there that day to hear a man named Chris Michaels insist that we pursue our dreams. And it has all coalesced into an old Zen Buddhist saying for me:

Leap and the net will appear.

And it’s true. I want anyone reading this to hear these words. Whatever your dream is, go for it. It’s never too late. Leap and the net will appear.

The Universe is just made like that.

Namasté,

B.G. Thomas

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B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn’t matter the genre. He has gone to conventions since he was fourteen years old and has been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was child; it is where he finds his joy.

In the nineties, he wrote for gay magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. “The sex is never as important as the characters,” he says. “Who cares what they are doing if we don’t care about them?” Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. Gay men are what he knows best, after all. He submitted his first story in years and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days.

Visit his website and blog or contact him directly at bgthomaswriter@aol.com.

Murder and Mayhem Excerpt by Rhys Ford

June 2, 2015

The large case he’d set up as a wall between the front and the back of the store was broken as well, but from what he could see, the movie props he’d placed there were intact, although he couldn’t say the same for the enormous papier-mâché griffin he’d found at a Harryhausen tribute auction. Peppered with bullet holes, its body and head were marred with crumbling white holes, a scatter pattern large enough to make Rook’s stomach turn.

“Shit, they were trying to kill me.” He leaned back, trying to do a visual count on how many bullets pierced through the window and into the shop while he’d been plastered to the floor to avoid being shot.

“Go in but do not touch.” Rook echoed what his grandfather’s lawyers told him, trying to absorb the destruction. “I can’t even move without touching something. And how the hell am I going to document the damage? What isn’t damaged? Fricking lawyers.”

“Are these the same lawyers that told you to return to the scene of the crime and screw up any residuals that might be here?” Montoya’s deep voice rumbled out of the darkened doorway leading from the storefront to the elevator up to Rook’s apartment. “If they wanted you to be thrown into jail, they could have just left you there instead of this catch-and-release program we’ve got going.”

Montoya looked… good. Again. Too good. Too ruffled, too scruffy hot, with broad shoulders and his burned burned-honey eyes fringed with thick, long lashes. A hint of a dimple threatened to spread when his mouth quirked to the side, and Rook had to swallow around a lump in his throat when Montoya shoved his hands into his jeans pockets, sliding his black leather jacket back with his elbows to expose his gun harness.

Even from a few feet away, the man was a tall, dangerous complication in Rook’s life. One he wanted as badly as he didn’t want him around. Rook wasn’t sure what was worse—being accused of murder or being tailed by a man he’d gladly bend over for but who wanted him in handcuffs instead.

“What are you doing here, Stevens?” Montoya’s rumble tickled Rook’s belly, licking hot flames down his crotch and over his ass. “You shouldn’t even be here. What were you thinking?”

Rook had just the smartass answer to throw back at the detective. A burning slap of a sting mingled with a bit of a flirtation hot enough to make the man blush. It would have been an epic moment. One to balance out the unbearable want Montoya seemed to rake up inside of him and caustic enough to push the man’s buttons while pushing him away.

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Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys  admits to sharing the house with three cats of varying degrees of black fur, a black Pomeranian puffball and a ginger cairn terrorist. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a purple Bella coffee maker.

Andrew Grey will Cruise for Food #dreamer

May 25, 2015

I love cruises. For years Dominic and I took great vacations. We went to South Dakota to see the monuments, we spent a week in New York and saw everything we could want. We’ve been to Vienna, Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin, Schwabish Hall, Freiburg, Baden Baden. We always had a great time and we always ended up arguing over where we were going to eat. Dominic wanted to find someplace interesting and fun, so he’d go up and down each street to find something that caught his eye. Me, I was hungry and wanted to eat now!!!! There were times I swore I was going to eat the bark off the trees we passed before I got any food.

Then we discovered cruising and our problems were solved completely. We’ve been to Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Croix, St Thomas, Cozumel, Barbados, Haiti, Mexico, and many other places with no arguments about food at all. The ships make it so easy. I don’t want to sound like a cruise commercial, but there’s the buffet, the main dining room, specialty restaurants, cafes, hot dog stands, ice cream, salad cafes, served lunches, buffet lunches, and enough sweets to tempt a saint. I was happy as Louie Anderson at an all you can eat buffet. Included in the price of the cruise were enough food options that Dominic was happy and I was thrilled because I never have to wander around wondering where we were going to eat.

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Before we leave on any cruise, Dominic knows the menus, what will be serves each night and even what he wants to order. Or if there is nothing, what he can do to get them to make something special. (We’ve been on enough cruises now that they really want to make us happy) Cruises are my dream vacation. I get to write, relax, and never, ever wonder where in the heck my next meal is going to come from. Because let me tell you, the time we were in Munich, it was two o’clock in the afternoon, and he still couldn’t find anything he wanted to eat… was dang near grounds for divorce. And we were on our honeymoon. Not anymore. We’re both happy, well fed, and we love every minute. We embark again in January.

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Find Andrew Grey at the Dreamspinner Press Author Arcade here!

Once Upon a Dream with Lex Chase

May 21, 2015

Hello! I’m Lex Chase, the quirky action adventure author for Dreamspinner Press. Each month, Dreamspinner is giving me the reigns to discuss what it is to be a Dreamer. As the author of the fractured fairy tale series, Fairy Tales of the Open Road, this month’s theme, “Once Upon A Dream,” is right up my alley.

The first book in the FTotOR, Americana Fairy Tale, I’ve become obsessed with Disney Princesses and their once upon a dreams and happily ever afters. But my princess is a dude by the name of Taylor Hatfield who’s a complete fuck-up of a human being.

His dreams consist of the simplistic from binging on Netflix in his Dollar Store tiara and boxer shorts….

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To the more substantial with going his own way and living his life. His life is not always perfect. It can be lonely. But it’s his.

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Taylor is someone we can all identify with. He’s the voice of the everyman. He’s the guy that shoots for the moon and always lands short. His “Once Upon A Dream” is the ideal of being a kept boyfriend to a Type-A genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.

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Not that genius billionaire playboy philanthropist…YouknowwhatImean.

But sometimes we’re so dead set on the one dream, we lose sight of the dream right in front of us. It’s when we fall short of shooting for the moon, the true discovery begins. Taylor dreamed of the billionaire. What he got was…

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…A rugged fixer-upper of a huntsman that lives in his garbage dump of a pickup truck. Instead of being brainless arm candy, Taylor discovered his independence, courage, and that his true love may be disgusting, but he’s perfect.

We all have our “Once Upon A Dream” we all hold tight to it and shoot for the moon, the stars, and the universe beyond. It’s a lofty ideal. It’s good to have. It gives us hope.

But our lives are journeys. They’re not destinations. It was never about what happens when you get there. It’s about who you meet along the way, what you discover about yourself, and following the detours that lead you to the exact place you’re supposed to be.

The dream you longed for may be right in front of you.

Just open your eyes and realize you had met once upon a dream.

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Tune in next month where we discover dream beaches! Wouldn’t you love to be on a deserted island with your favorite books?

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GIVEAWAY: Everyone loves a good fairy tale. What’s your favorite fairy tale and why? Tell me yours and you too can get a $5.00 DSP Gift Certificate!

Come on now. Give me your awesome stories! I need fodder for more installments to Fairy Tales of the Open Road!

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Keep up with my shenanigans over the Interwebz? Find me here!

Dreamspinner Author Arcade: Lex Chase

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LXChase

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Lex_Chase

Tumblr: http://lexiconofkittens.tumblr.com

Instagram: http://instagram.com/lexachase

 

Photography Credits

Photography: Lex Chase

Taylor Model: Mae Wynn Talley

Robert Downey Jr. via Buzzfeed

Henry Ian Cusick via Eye Candy Deluxe at Tumblr

German Interview With H.B. Pattskyn: Paranormal and BDSM Author

May 20, 2015

Ich bedanke mich herzlich bei H.B. Pattskyn, die sich bereit erklärt hat, an diesem Interview teilzunehmen und euch Lesern Frage und Antwort zu stehen. Auch ein großes Dankeschön an euch Leser, denn ohne euch wäre dieses wunderbare Interview nicht zustande gekommen.

 Zuallererst: Verrate etwas über dich, das deine Leser überraschen würde.

Vielen Dank für diese Gelegenheit! Hmmm … eine Sache, die Leute überraschen würde, wenn sie mich irgendwo treffen oder auf einer Convention sehen, wäre, dass ich extrem introvertiert bin. Aber ich bin nicht wirklich schüchtern. Das verwirrt die Leute. Eigentlich „mag“ ich es, mit Leuten zu reden. Aber nach einiger Zeit kann es ziemlich erschöpfend sein, auch wenn ich mit meinen Freunden oder meiner Familie zusammen bin. Ich muss dann irgendwann gehen und meine Batterien an einem stillen Ort wieder aufladen.

Was hat dich dazu gebracht, M/M Romanzen zu schreiben? Wie lange schreibst du schon und wie lange hat es gebraucht, bis du von einem Verlag publiziert wurdest?

Ich begann mit dem Schreiben in der zweiten Schulstufe. Wir hatten die Aufgabe, eine Geschichte zu schreiben, und dabei die bereits gelernten Wörter zu verwenden. Es machte so viel Spaß, dass ich weiterschrieb. Ich bin jetzt 46, ihr könnt euch also ausrechnen, wie lange das her ist. *grins

Ich begann Fanfiktions zu schreiben, als Reaktion auf die schreckliche-nein-das-haben-die-nicht-wirklich-getan dritte Staffel von Ron Koslows „Die Schöne und das Biest“ (Eine Menge Fans der Serie schrieben nach der dritten Staffel Fanfiktions). Nach ca. 20 Jahren fing ich mit Torchwood Fanfiktions an, weil ich neugierig war, was wohl zwischen den Episoden passieren könnte – und vor allem, weil ich mehr von Jack und Ianto, ein heißes M/M Pärchen der Serie, sehen wollte. Viele meiner Fans ermutigten mich dazu, Bücher zu schreiben und zu publizieren. Ich versuchte es und erhielt eine Menge Absagen (so läuft das nun mal), was mich dann etwas zögern ließ.

Dann hatte ich die Idee zu einer Story, die einfach nicht mehr verschwand. Als das Buch geschrieben war, musste ich einfach irgendwas damit tun, weshalb ich es bei Dreamspinner Press (mein absoluter Lieblingsverlag) einreichte. Ich erwartete natürlich eine Absage. Ich war gerade dabei, mir Gedanken darüber zu machen, wo ich es als Nächstes einreichen sollte, als ich eine E-Mail mit dem Betreff „Vertrag“ erhielt. Ich denke, ich starrte ca. 10 Minuten auf den Bildschirm, ehe ich die Mail öffnete, und hab mich wohl auch grün und blau gezwickt, weil ich es einfach nicht glauben konnte. *grins*

Ich hoffe, die Frage ist nicht zu privat, wenn ja, musst du natürlich nicht darauf antworten: Wie vereinst du deine Liebe zum Schreiben mit deinem Real Life (Familie, Freunden, dem Partner etc.), ohne dass einer dabei zu kurz kommt?

*kicher* Wenn ich die Lösung gefunden habe, lasse ich es euch wissen! Ständig kommt etwas zu kurz. Glücklicherweise habe ich einen wundervollen und unterstützenden Ehemann und richtig gute Freunde, die verständnisvoll sind, wenn ich sage, dass ich ein Treffen sausen lassen muss, weil die Musen in Höchstform sind. Aber es kann auch das Gegenteil der Fall sein. Letztes Jahr zogen wir in ein neues Haus (ein wunderschönes 100 Jahre altes Haus in Detroit), und deshalb konnte ich nur sehr wenig schreiben. All meine kreative Energie wurde gebraucht, um die alten Böden zu schleifen und neu zu lackieren (manche wurden mit Fliesen und Linoleum bedeckt), und Farbe von den wunderschönen Hartholzleisten abzukratzen.

Schreibst du an mehreren Büchern gleichzeitig oder konzentrierst du dich lieber nur auf eines?

Im Moment schreibe ich an mehreren Büchern gleichzeitig. Ich hoffe, das klappt weiterhin so gut, damit ich zwei Bücher in nächster Zeit beenden und einreichen kann!

Gibt es bestimmte Stärken und Schwächen, die du als Autor besitzt?

Unsicherheit ist meine größte Schwäche. Bei jeder Geschichte komme ich zu einem Punkt, wo ich davon überzeugt bin, dass alles schlecht ist und ich das Handtuch werfen sollte. Gerade dann hilft es, wenn man eine unterstützende Familie und ein helfendes Netzwerk von Schreibkollegen hat.

Eine meiner Stärken ist das Schreiben von Dialogen. Es ist eines der Dinge, wo ich am häufigsten positives Feedback erhalten habe, als ich noch Fanfiktions schrieb, und wo das Schreiben von Fanfiktions auch ziemlich geholfen hat. Ich schrieb über bereits bestehende Charaktere, deshalb war es wichtig, sie nicht zu verändern. Und gerade Dialoge sind ein großer Teil davon, eine Person in einer Geschichte einzigartig zu machen.

Hast du einen bestimmten Schreiballtag und wie lange schreibst du durchschnittlich an einer Geschichte?

Meine Tage sind zur Zeit noch recht unbeständig. Mein Mann und ich teilen uns ein Auto (es ist der einzige Weg, dass es finanziell klappt, dass ich als Vollzeitautorin arbeiten kann), und meine Tochter hat einen Job, bei dem sie um Mitternacht anfängt zu arbeiten. Mein neuer Tag besteht als darin, sie um 23 Uhr zur Arbeit zu bringen, heimzukommen, ins Bett zu gehen, mit meinem Mann um 4 Uhr aufzustehen, ihn zur Arbeit zu fahren, meine Tochter um 7 Uhr abzuholen (versuchen, dazwischen ein wenig zu schreiben), mehr zu schreiben – oder dumme Computerspiele zu spielen, je nachdem wie müde ich bin! Irgendwann versuche ich ein Nickerchen zu machen und / oder ein wenig Hausarbeit oder Gartenarbeit zu erledigen. Dann hole ich meinen Mann um 14 Uhr ab. Zur Zeit bin ich am Morgen am kreativsten, aber ich versuche mich auf meinen neuen Zeitplan einzustellen und bin damit zufrieden, wenn ich mal 1000 Wörter hier und 1000 Wörter da schaffe. Mein Ziel ist es, 3000 Wörter an einem Tag zu schaffen, aber manchmal klappt das eben nicht.

Zwei Tage die Woche arbeite ich ehrenamtlich für die AIDS Partnership Michigan.

Was für eine Szene war die am schwersten zu schreibende?  

Eines meiner derzeitigen Projekte ist die Fortsetzung von „Das graue Halsband“. Es geht aber nicht um Jason und Henry, obwohl sie natürlich vorkommen werden, sondern um Derrik. Der Typ, mit dem er am Ende zusammenkommen wird, lebt am Anfang in einer missbrauchenden, gewalttätigen D/s Beziehung. Es ist ein sehr sensibles und berührendes Thema, und es fällt mir schwer, es zu schreiben, weil ich nicht daran denken möchte, dass D/s Beziehungen etwas anderes als liebevoll und einvernehmlich sein können. Obwohl ich in meiner vorherigen Ehe mit einem Mann verheiratet war, der das Konzept ganz und gar nicht verstanden hatte. Es wurde nie gewalttätig, missbrauchend (ich konnte mich sozusagen von ihm lösen, ehe es zu diesem Punkt kommen konnte) aber das Potenzial war da. Es fällt mir schwer, einen Dom zu schreiben, der so sehr meinem Exmann ähnelt. Es gab nämlich ein paar Situationen, wo er mich wirklich verängstigt hatte.

Du hast zeitgenössische und eine paranormale Geschichte geschrieben. Welchen Stil bevorzugst du und warum?

Ich denke, paranormale Geschichten, weil sie dir viel Spielraum und Freiheiten lassen, um kreativ zu sein und Spaß zu haben – aber in letzter Zeit waren meine Ideen eher den zeitgenössischen Geschichten zugehörig, deshalb schreibe ich mehr Bücher in diesem Genre. Genauer gesagt, ich schreibe all das, was meine Musen mir diktieren. *grins*

Gehörst du auch zu den Autoren, die von der Muse ständig Arschtritte bekommen, vor allem, wenn sie etwas will, das dir aktuell so gar nicht in den Zeitplan passt?

Auf jeden Fall!

Hast du schon einmal abfällige / beleidigende Bemerkungen zu deinen Büchern erhalten? Wenn ja, wie hast du darauf reagiert?

Möglicherweise war die abfälligste Bemerkung, der Satz: „Oh, du schreibst homoerotische Romanzen? Wo veröffentlichst du deine Geschichten online?“ Es war sehr frustrierend, dass er gleich dachte, dass ich mit Geschichten dieses Genres, bei keinem Verlag veröffentlichen kann oder für meine Arbeit bezahlt werde.

Als Antwort auf seine Frage sagte ich lächelnd, dass er meine Bücher ja gerne auf der Seite meines Verlages oder auf Amazon nachschlagen könnte.

Jemand anderes dachte, ich würde selbst veröffentlichen. Ich habe überhaupt nichts dagegen, wenn Autoren ihre Bücher selbst veröffentlichen – mich irritierte nur die Annahme, dass er dachte, dass wohl kein Verlag M/M Romanzen veröffentlichen würde. Ich habe ihn höflich korrigiert, und wieder auf Dreamspinner verwiesen – ebenso wie auf all die anderen tollen M/M Verlage.

Hast du vor, irgendwann die Länder zu besuchen, in deren Sprachen deine Bücher übersetzt wurden?

Ich möchte unbedingt mal nach Deutschland! Und auch einige andere europäische Länder besuchen.

Letzte Woche veröffentliche DSP die deutsche Übersetzung von deinem Buch Das graue Halsband (Bound: Forget Me Knot). Hat dir die Muse eines Tages die Idee (auch das Thema BDSM) zugeflüstert oder inspirierte dich etwas anderes?

*grins* Ich stand beim Tisch eines Händlers bei einer lokalen Science Fiction Convention (nicht die, wo sich Henry und Jason trafen, aber sie war der Convention sehr ähnlich) und gegenüber von mir erblickte ich diesen umwerfenden, jungen (19 oder 20 Jahre alt) Kerl, gekleidet in einem Netzshirt, seine Nippelpiercings waren deutlich zu sehen. Schräg gegenüber war ein Lederwaren Händler (mehr Steampunk als BDSM Zeug, aber es gab auch ein paar Halsbänder und Handschellen). Ich konnte nicht anders, als die beiden in meinen Gedanken zusammenzubringen.

Wird es eine Fortsetzung geben? Oder sind andere Bücher geplant, die das Thema BDSM beinhalten?

Neben Derriks Geschichte (die Fortsetzung von „Das graue Halsband“) arbeite ich an einer weiteren BDSM Geschichte, die Visceral heißt, und die ich sehr liebe. Mittlerweile habe ich ungefähr 70 000 Wörter geschrieben, also wird sie bald fertig sein.

Kannst du ein bisschen über dein Buch Hanging by the Moment erzählen? War der Plot geplant oder entwickelte es sich während des Schreibens?

Ich hatte nicht geplant, ein Buch über HIV zu schreiben, als ich mit der Geschichte von Daniel und Pasha begann. Ich hatte gerade erst „Das graue Halsband“ beendet, und wollte daher etwas leichtes und schmerzloses schreiben. Aber leicht und schmerzlos ist in meinem Wortschatz wohl nicht vorhanden. Ich hatte ungefähr 10 000 Wörter geschrieben und wollte mich gerade etwas hinlegen, um eine Pause zu machen, als mich Daniel darüber informierte (und zwar in der Art und Weise wie Charaktere manchmal die Autoren vor vollendete Tatsachen stellen), dass er HIV-positiv sei.

Nein.

Niemals. Das war nicht das Buch, das ich schreiben wollte.

Aber es war das Buch, das geschrieben werden musste.

Wegen der Recherche zu dem Thema endete ich als ehrenamtliche Mitarbeiterin bei der AIDS Partnership Michigan. Es bricht mir mein Herz, dass noch immer so viele falsche Informationen im Internet über HIV und AIDS zu finden sind. Es ist kein Todesurteil. Es ist keine Krankheit, die jemand haben möchte, aber man kann sich damit arrangieren und leben.

Ich weiß, eine Menge Leser mieden „Hanging by the Moment“, wegen dieses Themas, aber es ist keine depressive, traurige Geschichte. Es ist eine Geschichte über einen Mann, der sich in einen anderen Mann verliebt, der HIV-positiv ist.

Zu guter Letzt. Woran arbeitest du zur Zeit?

Neben Derriks Geschichte und Visceral, arbeite ich an dem Buch A Place to Belong, das mich ziemlich mitgenommen hat. Es ist eine weitere Geschichte mit einem schwierigen Plot, der Selbstverletzung, Straßenprostitution und eine Beziehung mit einem erheblichen Altersunterschied beinhaltet. Es ist einer der Fälle, wo ich, egal was ich schreibe, denke, dass es Mist ist (obwohl mir vier Beta Leser gesagt haben, dass sie es lieben, und das sind Leute, die ich sehr respektiere). Ich denke, wenn ich Visceral beendet habe, werde ich mich wieder auf diese Story stürzen (Ich begann mit Visceral, weil ich eine Pause brauchte – und weil ich an der Reihe war, etwas in einer Kritikergruppe zu schreiben, und ich wollte nichts von A Place to Belong posten, weil die Geschichte gerade bei einem Beta Reader war, und ich zu der Zeit nur deren Meinungen hören wollte).

Interview With H.B. Pattskyn: Paranormal and BDSM Author

May 20, 2015

A big thank you to H.B. Pattskyn, who agreed to do this interview and answer the questions of her readers. I also want to thank you, the readers, who came up with the questions and thus made this interview possible.

First of all, name one thing readers would be surprised to know about you.

Thank you so much for the opportunity!  Hmmm….one thing that surprises most people when they meet me somewhere like a conference or a convention is that I’m an extreme introvert, I just happen to not be a very shy one. That confuses people. I actually *like* talking to people, it’s just that after a while, it can be very draining, even when I’m around friends and family. I need to go and recharge my batteries some place quiet after a long day of interacting with people.

What made you start writing M/M novels? How long have you been writing, and was it a long process to become a published author?

I started writing in the second grade. We had an assignment to write a story using our spelling words and it was so much fun, I started writing more stories. I’m 46 now, so you can do the math on how long ago that was  *grin* !

I started writing fanficiton in response to the horrible-it-didn’t-really-happen third season of Ron Koslow’s Beauty and the Beast. (A lot of fans of the show wrote fanfiction after the third season aired, in the late 1980’s.) Fast forward about twenty years and I found myself writing Torchwood fanfiction, because I wanted to see what happened in between episodes—and mostly because I wanted more Jack and Ianto, a cannon M/M couple. A bunch of my fans encouraged me to write and publish original fiction. I’d tried that previously and collected a stack of rejection letters (that’s just the nature of the business) so I was reluctant.

Then I had an idea for a story that wouldn’t go away. Once the novel was written, I had to do something with it, so I submitted it to Dreamspinner Press (my absolute favorite publisher, from a customer-perspective) , fully expecting to get another rejection letter. I’d even settled on where I was going to submit it next when the inevitable happened. But instead of the anticipated rejection letter, I got an email with  Contract in the subject line. I think I stared at it for ten minutes before opening it and probably pinched my arm black and blue to make sure I wasn’t dreaming *grin* !

I hope this question is not too personal; if yes you of course don’t have to answer it. How do you unite your writing with your private life (family, friends, partner, etc.) without neglecting anyone or anything?

*snicker* When I figure that one out, I’ll let you know!  Invariably, something gets neglected along the way. Fortunately, I have a wonderful and supportive husband and really awesome friends who understand it when I say I have to bail on a social engagement because the Muses are dancing and I’m working hard. Sometimes it works the opposite way, too. Last year, we were very busy moving to a new house (a lovely 100 year old home in Detroit) and as a consequence, I got very  little writing done. All my creative energy went to sanding and refinishing old floors (some of which were covered by layes of tile and linoleum), and scraping peeling paint off of the most beautiful hardwood crown molding.

Do you work at several books at the same time or do you rather focus on one? 

Lately, I’ve been working on multiple books at once.  I’m hoping that works out to see two books finished and submitted very soon!

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as an author?

Insecurity is my biggest weakness. There comes a point in every story where I’m convinced it totally sucks and I should just throw in the towel. Those moments are where having a supportive family and network of writer-friends really helps.

I think one of my strongest suits as a writer is writing dialogue. It’s one the things I got the most positive feedback on when I was writing fanfiction, and one of the places where fanfiction really helped. I was writing pre-made characters, so keeping them in character was really super important. It became engrained me that dialogue is a huge part of what makes a person seem unique on the page.

Do you have a writing routine and how long does it take you on average to write a story?

My days are in flux right now; my husband and I share a car (pretty much the only way we can make it work financially for me to be a fulltime writer), and my daughter just got a job working midnights. So my new day is to take her to work at 11pm, come home, go to bed, get up with my husband at 4am, drive him to work, pick my daughter up at 7am (trying to get some writing done in between), do some more writing—or play stupid computer games, depending on how tired I am! Somewhere in there I catch a nap and/or attempt to do some housework or work in the garden. Then I pick my husband up at 2. My best creative times are in the morning, but I’m adapting to the new schedule and trying to be content to get in a thousand words here and a thousand words there. My goal is 3000 words a day, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen.

Two days a week, I volunteer for AIDS Partnership Michigan.

What is the hardest scene you ever had to write?

One of my current projects is the followup to Bound:Forget Me Knot.  It’s not a sequel, although Jason and Henry will be in it—but really the new book is Derrik’s story. The guy he ends up with starts out the story in an abusive D/s relationship. It’s a really touchy subject all the way around and hard to write because I don’t want to think of D/s as being anything but loving and consensual, even though my previous marriage was to a man who totally didn’t get the concept of that at all. It never got abusive (I got out before it could go there) but the potential existed. It’s hard for me to write a Dom who is so much like my ex; there were a few times he really scared me.

You’ve written contemporaries and you’ve written a paranormal novel. Which do you prefer and why?

I think paranormal, because paranormal gives a lot of leeway and freedom to really explore and be creative and have fun—but lately my ideas have mostly been contemporary, so that’s what I’m writing more of. Pretty much I write whatever the Muses dictate  *smile*

Are you one of the authors that get kicked by their muse all of the time, especially when she wants something that doesn’t really fit into your writing timetable in that situation?

Completely!

Have you ever got insulted because of your books? Or have your books ever got insulted? If yes, how did you react to it?

Probably the most insulting thing anyone has ever said was along the lines, „Oh, you write gay male romance? Where do you post your stories online?“  It was really frustrating that he thought that because of what I write, I couldn’t possibly have a publisher or get paid for my work.

In response to that question, I smiled and said that if he wanted to look me up, he could try my publisher’s website or track me down on Amazon.

I had someone else who assumed I was self published. I have nothing against self publishing—it was just the assumption that irritated me, like somehow no one publishes M/M romance. I politely corrected the misconception and once again suggested the other person check out Dreampsinner—and all of the other wonderful M/M publishers out there.

Do you want to travel to the countries where the languages your books were translated into are spoken?

 I would love to come to Germany some day! And most of Europe, for that matter.

Last week DSP published the German translation of Bound: Forget Me Knot. It’s the first book of you which was translated into another language. What inspired you to write this novel?

*grin*  I was sitting at a dealer’s table at a local science fiction convention (not the one where Jason and Henry meet, but they’re fairly similar) and across the room, I spoted this adorable little (19 or 20 years old) guy in a fishnet shirt, his nipple rings clearly visible. Just kitty corner to my table was a leather dealer (more Steampunk stuff than BDSM gear, but there were a few collars and cuffs discretely on display as well.) I couldn’t help putting those two things together.

Are you planning to write a sequel or more books dealing with BDSM?

In addition to Derrik’s story (the follow up for Bound), I’m hard at work on a BDSM story called Visceral that I’m really in love with. It’s at about the 70,000 word mark, so it’s almost done.

Can you tell us a little about Hanging by the Moment? Did you plan the plot before you start writing or did you let things just develop themselves?

I so did not set out to write a book about HIV when I stared Daniel and Pasha’s story! I’d just finished Bound and I wanted to write something light and easy. Light and easy is apparently not in my vocabulary. I was about 10,000 words in and laying down to take a little break when Daniel informes me (in that way that characters sometimes inform authors of things the poor author had no prior knowledge of) that he’s HIV positive.

No.

No way. That was not the book I wanted to write.

But it was the book that needed to be written.

Because of the research I did, I ended up as a volunteer at AIDS Partnership Michigan—it completely breaks my heart that there is still so much misinformation circulating around the Internet about HIV and AIDS. It’s not a death sentence. It’s not a disease anyone wants, but it can be managed and lived with.

I know a lot of people have steered clear of Hanging by the Moment because of the subject matter, but it’s not a depressing story. It’s a story about a guy who falls in love with a guy who happens to be living with HIV.

Last but not least: What are you currently working?

In addition to Derrik’s story and Visceral, I’m working on book called A Place to Belong that’s been causing me great consternation for the better part of a year. It’s another story with a difficult plot line that involves self-injury, street level sex work, and a relationship with a significant age gap.  It’s been one of those cases where no matter what I write, I think it sucks (even though I’ve had no less than 4 beta readers tell me they love and they’re all people I respect tremendously!)  I think once I finish Visceral, I’ll get back to it (I started Visceral because I needed a break—and because it was my turn to submit something to my critique group and I didn’t want to submit any of A Place to Belong; it was in the hands of a beta reader and his were the only other opinions I wanted on it.)

The Best Man by Rick R. Reed

May 8, 2015

I stare at the groom and hope it doesn’t show—the love I feel for him, the love I’ve always felt. I’m praying I can keep the ardor off my face, even though I know I’ve failed miserably to keep it out of my heart.

The best man obviously lusting for the groom would be, well, just wrong. Especially not when the groom has eyes only for his gorgeous bride, the blond and lovely Alana, in her Vera Wang wedding dress. Now, their eyes are locked on one another and I feel the old paradox I experience every time I look at them—a curious brew of jealousy and happiness at their having found the other.

Love is a rare thing in this world.

Yeah, you heard me right—I’m the best man. That groom up there at the altar? The gorgeous guy in the tux with the close-trimmed red beard, the green eyes, and the linebacker shoulders? That’s my best friend, Kevin. We’ve been together since we were in second grade. I’d lay down my life for the guy. And the sad truth is, I’d lay down for the guy. Period. With my legs thrown in the air. He knows this, yet he continues to call me his best friend, except he says, ‘best bud.’ He even proclaims he couldn’t live without me.

Sigh.

But shame on me for having such thoughts on Kevin’s wedding day! If the poor guy knew the wicked, lustful thoughts coursing through my brain as I stand here, smiling, but jealous as hell, with the other groomsmen, Kevin would be blushing as crimson as the rose in his lapel.

But God, he does look gorgeous! Edible. And I can’t help but think—unkindly, I know; inappropriately, I know—the thought gay guys have had about buff and beautiful straight men for millennia—what a waste!

I’m sure his bride, Alana, would beg to differ.

The music, Pachelbel’s Canon, has just ended and the crowd at St. Aloysius Catholic Church has grown quiet. There are only a couple of coughs here, a whisper there.

We’re ready to begin. Kevin turns to Alana. I can see he’s trembling and my heart gives a little lurch. A lump forms in my throat.

Alana beams beneath her lace veil, all smiles. I try not to think unkind thoughts about her. Jealousy is such an ugly emotion. And so is Alana, in anything backless. Stop it!

I let my mind drift back to a few months ago. A winter’s night when Kevin and I had traveled up from Seattle to the San Juan Islands. We had taken the ferry over on Friday afternoon to Orcas Island where we rented a small cabin at Doe Bay resort. The cabin was no frills and cold. It had rained all weekend. Even our trip to Mt. Constitution was doomed—the stunning vistas from its top blocked out by drizzling banks of low-hanging clouds.

So we had little to do but hang out in the cabin. There was no TV or Wi-Fi, so cards or reading were pretty much the order of the day.

And drinking.

A lot of drinking. See, Kevin had asked me to come away with him that weekend because he had acquired a severe case of cold feet regarding his wedding to Alana that summer. “She’s great,” he’d told me. “But suddenly I’m just not sure I’m ready. Maybe it’s like they say, you know?”

“No. I don’t know.” An evil little part of me just wanted Miss Alana to go away so I could have my Kevin back. I’d missed things like our early morning runs together on the Burke-Gilman trail, with the sun coming up and the world seeming to contain only the two of us. I missed Friday nights with Kevin at his condo in Wallingford, ordering in a meat-lover’s pizza from Pagliacci to go with a nice IPA I’d bought on my way over to his place, streaming old horror movies on his big-screen. We both loved Carnival of Souls.

“Like, maybe I love Alana, but I’m not in love with her. You know what I mean?”

I’d wanted to say that I knew exactly what he meant. For example, I loved Kevin and to my heart’s great regret, I was also in love with him. So yeah, I got the distinction.

I thought our weekend together, somehow, might change things between us. Magically. Maybe it was because I was reading a lot of books lately that featured some butch “straight” protagonist falling suddenly for his buddy and realizing that, while maybe he wasn’t strictly gay, he could be gay for this man he’d fallen for. Like that ever happens

And yet…those stories always had a happy ending. Why couldn’t ours?

Hey, if I read it in a book, it must be possible, right?

And I thought, on our Saturday night here on Orcas, drunk on beer and a good single-malt Scotch, that maybe, just maybe, the same could happen for Kevin and me. Magically. I mean, we’d been practically inseparable since we were kids. We’d played softball together, spent countless nights together, went through the trials and tribulations of high school as one, cheered each other on at our respective events at track meets and cried on one another’s shoulders as we each met yet another disappointment in love. As we grew, we grew closer.

And then Alana came along.

And spoiled everything.

Oh, Alana’s a wonderful woman—kind, sweet, funny. She can curse like a sailor, drink a man under the table, and arrange a bouquet of spring wildflowers like Martha Stewart. And, if you’re straight, she’s a knockout. Hell, if you’re gay, she’s a knockout.  She’s the kind of woman who turns both straight and gay men’s heads when she walks down the street, although the latter, I cheekily admit, might only be wondering if her bag is Prada or Ferragamo.

But that night, as the rain drummed down on the roof of our little cabin, it felt like Kevin and I were the only two people in the world. I remember how, after we finished with the cards, and me beating his ass three straight times at canasta, we relaxed together on the bed in Kevin’s room.

Now, don’t go thinking this was odd. As I said, Kevin and I had had countless sleepovers, starting at the age of seven. Although we didn’t often share a bed, we had fallen asleep next to one another on the couches at one of our houses. I never told Kevin how sometimes, during those nights, I would snuggle close and then, if he woke, pretend to be outraged by what I’d done in my sleep.

So it was not unusual we both were on his bed, our backs against the wall the bed was shoved up against, legs stretched out before us, dangling. We both had that one-too-many tumbler of Scotch in our hands, but we weren’t thinking about the headache and nausea surely waiting for us in the morning, but only how loose and warm it made us feel tonight.

Kevin babbled on and on, finally getting to the topic of our trip up here—his upcoming nuptials to Alana. He told me how he didn’t know if he was ready to give up his independence. He said that she could sometimes be controlling.

I told him these were all good points, worth considering.

He even told me how she wasn’t always so keen about going down on him and I just about lost it. I mean, really? Talk about casting pearls before swine! Was the girl crazy or what?

It just seemed natural to me then, with the lights low, the Scotch making our systems hum in a languid way, and with the rain’s staccato beat on the roof, to turn to Kevin and look into his eyes. I knew they were green, but in the dim illumination, they looked brown. And like wells I could fall into….

I thought something passed between us. A signal, maybe, an understanding.

And I did something I’d never done before. But, damn it, it felt right.

Yeah, you know what I did. I leaned forward and I kissed him. It wasn’t a playful little peck either, but a full-on kiss, with my tongue darting impetuously into his mouth. He was so surprised—and drunk—that, for a second, a delicious, life-altering, wished-it-would-go-on-forever second, he kissed me back. His hand even went up to the back of my neck for a moment.

And, in that tiny, tiny amount of time, I imagined that things could change, that this would be a scene like in one of those books I’d read where the straight guy magically turns gay—just for me.

For all time. Kev and I would have our happily-ever-after. It all flashed by, like they say one’s life flashes by in our final moments—our going back to Seattle and announcing to Alana that we were in love and always had been. The marriage with her could not take place because he was marrying me. The condo we would purchase together on Capitol Hill, overlooking the Space Needle and the Olympic Mountain range. All that stuff. And, of course, the more immediate—both of us hurrying to get out of our clothes, tossing them to the floor in our passion, in our yearning heat to feel the electric satin of a full body press of naked skin.

Except…

Kevin pushed gently against my chest and leaned back to break the kiss. He stared at me for a moment and I misinterpreted the stare as lust. I went in for another kiss and he pushed harder against my chest, holding me back.

He smiled and I’m happy to report there was nothing mocking or disdainful in it. “Dude,” he whispered. “You know better.”

And just like that, my dreams shattered, dropping on the floor in tinkling shards of regret.

I moved away from him, putting a few feet between us. I hung my head. “I’m so embarrassed. And ashamed,” I managed to get out.

He moved close to me and he laid a hand on my shoulder. “Look at me,” he said.

I did.

“I love you, man. I always have. As much I love anyone. You’re more than my best friend, you’re family. You know that, right?”

I nodded, feeling tears well up in my eyes.

He touched them away with his thumbs. “Now, I don’t want you to feel weird about what just happened. We were both a little drunk and we can always say it was the Scotch talkin’, but I want you to know I’m flattered. Hey, the fact that anyone finds a big lug like me, who farts constantly, attractive is a bonus in my book.”

We both laughed. Me, reluctantly at first, and then the giggles took over. I fell onto Kevin and soon, we were both short of breath, holding each other. He kissed the top of my head. “You’re my man. Always.”

The next day we said nothing about what had happened.

And now, well, you know the rest of the story. He’s up there, saying his vows to Alana.

And I’m happy for him.

Really I am.

But I can’t look at them. Not right now. It hurts too much. I turn away and let my gaze light on the crowd.

And that’s when I see him. And I’m not imagining it—he’s looking right at me. And when out gazes connect, he smiles.

I smile back and then glance down at the floor, a little embarrassed.

The priest is presenting the new married couple to the crowd. I join in the cheers and the applause.

And I turn to follow Kevin and Alana, the new husband and wife, in their processional out of the church.

He looks at me again as I pass his pew. He’s tall, with dark brown hair, almost black, and eyes so dark the pupils get lost in the irises. He has full lips that shift my mind into naughty mode. His five o’clock shadow gives me a visual cue to how it would feel against my face. His suit, dark blue, hangs perfectly on his lanky, yet broad-shouldered frame.

Our eyes connect in that way only two gay men can have (or two lesbians or a man and a woman who are hot for the other). The milliseconds pass and they cement us together. It’s just a bit longer than two strangers would glance at one another. It acknowledges interest, attraction—potential.

Outside the church, the drizzle that had come down earlier has been pushed away by a brilliant sun. Everything sparkles. There’s laughter, the chatter of a hundred happy voices, raised in celebration and excitement.

Someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn and it’s Alana. She’s beaming at me and her blue eyes project love. She hugs me and I feel just horrible for the thoughts I had about her new husband during their wedding. But hey, they were honest. At least I can say that.

She kisses my cheek and whispers in my ear, “I’m so glad you’re here. You really are Kevin’s best man.”

I have no words. I just pull her close to me.

At last, we pull away. There are too many others waiting to kiss this blushing bride. I step back, thinking to move away, when her hand on my arm stops me. “Hold on, there’s someone I want you to meet.”

She steps aside and it’s him. We grin at each other as though we share a secret.

“This is Ryan, my very best friend from college. He’s out here from Boston, but he’s thinking of moving to Seattle in the fall. He’s interviewing with Amazon.” She pulls me close and whispers in my ear once more, “And he’s dying to meet you.”

I reach my hand out and we touch. And it’s electric. There’s something about a wedding—all that concentrated hope and happiness. It makes me gleeful for the future.

“Ryan. I’m so happy to meet you.”

He winks. “Likewise.”

______________________

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). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. 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.”

Rick’s latest novel is Dinner at Fiorello’s.