Welcome to the Eyes Only for Me Release Party

November 23, 2015

Good morning!  I’m Andrew Grey and I’ll be hosting the release party for Eyes Only For Me for much of the day right here at the Dreamspinner Blog.  So ask a question, comment all you want.  But especially on this post because I’ll choose one commenter to win the Andrew Grey story of the choice.    So let’s get this party started!!!!

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Tricks is Out! Win a FREE autographed copy with Rick R. Reed

October 12, 2015

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I confess: the world of sex workers fascinates me.

And what fascinates me more is how love can flourish in such an environment. This was the question I posed to myself when writing TRICKS.

I also love the idea of an opposites-attract love story. What could be better, I wondered, than taking a male stripper and a kind of nerdy, straight-laced guy who hardly would ever even frequent a place where male strippers dance and…have them fall in love?

I based my stripper bar, Tricks, on an actual bar I went to once in a while back when I lived in Chicago called the Lucky Horseshoe (it’s still there, if you’re a Chicagoan or visiting, on Halsted, just south of Belmont Ave,). The Lucky Horseshoe was good sleazy fun with an endlessly rotating roster of young male dancers (and a mostly older clientele). The times I went in there, I was probably storing away the details for the romance novel I would one day write. Once I got beyond the tight pecs, firm asses, and bulging straps of the men on stage, the writer in me wondered if they ever met anyone engaging or special in their work. And, if they did, were they able to sustain a relationship? It’s an interesting question. Could you let your significant other go out night after night and strip down to almost nothing for strangers? Quit laughing! It’s a serious question! Could you allow him or her to be fondled by those same strangers for money? And, if you could, how would you make it work? My male dancer, Arliss, besides being super-hot, is also a real sweetheart. He’s deserving of love. But how would Sean, whom most of us would think of us as pretty conventional, answer those questions?

If ever the path to true love never did run smooth, TRICKS is one story that proves the old saying…in spades…or jockstraps.

BLURB

Tricks can mean many things: sex partners, deceptions, even magic—or maybe all three.

Arliss is a gorgeous young dancer at Tricks, the hottest club in Chicago’s Boystown. Sean is the classic nerd, out of place in Tricks, but nursing his wounds from a recent breakup. When the two spy each other, magic blooms.

But this opposites-attract tale does not run smooth. What happens when Arliss is approached by one of the biggest porn producers in the business? Can he make his dreams of stardom come true without throwing away the only real love he’s ever known? This question might not even matter if the mysterious producers realize their dark intentions.

WIN A COPY
To win a free autographed copy of TRICKS, simply comment below (leaving an e-mail address so we can get in touch if you win). And, just for fun, let me know: could you allow your significant other to work in a stripper bar? I will draw a winner from all entries submitted by October 19. Please note that this offer is only available for US residents (because of the prohibitive cost of foreign shipping). Those outside the US will win an ebook of TRICKS.

EXCERPT
Attired in a costume that would make the construction worker from the Village People look demure, Arliss turned in front of the mirror to ensure he was the perfect fantasy specimen of pornographic machismo. He was grateful he had added the angel wing tattoo to his back and the snakes that twisted around each bicep. And the one on his chest, the tiny heart with the name “Helena” in it, always brought a lump to his throat—or a splash of bile to the back of it, depending on his mood and how forgiving he felt. But now was not the time for being sentimental! Arliss was glad for the tattoos because they added a bit of manliness to his six foot two inch frame that held only 160 pounds in weight. He was what the older men at Tricks referred to as a twink and, thankfully, was a desirable commodity in some circles.

He set the cigarette down in a tin ashtray and took a swig of vodka. He could feel as much as hear the heavy bass of the techno music playing in the bar and knew that Antonio, a Puerto Rican dude with a shaved head and heavy stubble, was probably just about finished with his set, which meant his boxing ensemble cluttered the small stage.

Arliss would come out, dance briefly and flirtatiously with Antonio, and then have the stage to himself. He didn’t know how he did it, night after night, but somehow he managed. He had always been the shyest boy in Ruskin, Florida, where he had grown up. He remembered his hometown with no nostalgia, only with relief that he’d managed to escape its flat, charmless stretches, so unlike what most people thought of when they conjured up images of Florida. Ruskin had no coastline, no beaches, and no picture-postcard landscapes. If they could see me now…. Well, if they could see me now, they’d probably still call me a fag and try to beat the crap out of me, as they once did. Once again, my dear, now is not the time for sentimentality. He took another swig of vodka, draining the glass and feeling the warmth of the liquor as it spread through his chest and extremities. Showtime!

Arliss hurried to the door that separated the cramped dressing room from the bar proper. Tricks didn’t really have a stage, although the dancers liked to think of the bar upon which they danced as one. It was Friday night, and from the rise of conversation and laughter beneath the pounding electronica beat, it sounded as though they had a sizable crowd. He sucked in a breath, looked down at his perfectly smooth pale skin and six-pack abs, and told himself he was gorgeous.

“Don’t forget to smile, toots! You always look like some gloomy Gus out there!”

Leave it to Emmett Myers, owner of Tricks and Arliss’s boss, to try to unsettle him just before he went on stage.

Arliss flashed the man a big Farrah Fawcett smile. If the prissy older man with the pencil moustache recognized it as fake, he gave no indication.

“There! That’s what they like to see! For heaven’s sakes, you have to remember that if they think you’re having a good time, they’ll have a good time. And a good time means more money for all of us.”

Arliss listened as the song wound down, morphing into yet another bass beat that signaled him it was time to stride out through the door, amble across the crowded room, ignore the covert feels and pinches he got as he made his way to the bar, and climb up on it to join Antonio in front of the crowd.

This moment, just before he went out, was always almost surreal. There was a paradoxical rush of nerves that made him feel both nauseated and tingly with electric anticipation. He felt as though he became someone else when he opened that door, or more properly, that his everyday world changed when he opened it. It was kind of like when Dorothy opened the door to Oz and saw the hyper colors of Munchkinland. But instead of munchkins and good witches who descended in translucent bubbles, his world was populated with bitter old queens, alcoholics, and trolls trying to put some oomph into their libidos by staring at boys young enough to be their sons—and in many cases, grandsons.

“Get out there, gorgeous! Shake your groove thing!” Emmett cackled and placed a hand on Arliss’s back to propel him forward.

Just as much to get the hand off his back as to get to the stage, Arliss threw open the door, plastered on a big smile, threw his shoulders back, and strode through the crowd, keeping his eye on the narrow strip of bar that would, for the next fifteen minutes, be his stage.

BUY
Dreamspinner ebook
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Also available at Amazon, AllRomance, and other fine booksellers.

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

Web: http://www.rickrreed.com
Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickrreed
E-mail: jimmyfels@gmail.com

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Unexpected Joy with Shell Taylor – Post + Giveaway

October 5, 2015

Unexpected Joy

Hi, everyone! Shell Taylor here, and I’m over-the-moon excited to share my very first release, Redeeming Hope, the first book of the Home for Hope series. This story is so close to my heart for many reasons, but the most obvious is it’s my first published story. My baby. My firstborn. I feel like my child is heading off to college as I get ready to ship the book off to you. This particular baby of mine, this little plot bunny that hopped around in my head for months started out as a  playful-but-angsty story inspired from a picture of two celebrities dressed to the nines in their tuxes. One of my favorite things about writing, though, is that literally anything can become an unplanned detour, and that’s exactly what happened when I fell in love with one of the secondary characters.

Adam and Elijah were supposed to live in a world where discrimination was nearly non-existent. Adam was a college professor, and Elijah was meant to be a personable asshole. (I had lofty goals!) While they struggled to figure out their attraction to one another and how, or even if, they wanted to make a go at a relationship, this kid name dKollin would wreak havoc with those plans. And then I wrote Kollin’s first scene. He was such an effervescent, breath of fresh air, I immediately scrapped my entire plot. Adam became the founder of an LGBT center so he could give today’s youth options he himself didn’t have as a teen. Elijah became a closeted bisexual, who after a great tragedy in his life locked away his heart. And the force of nature that is Kollin demanded his own story of rejection be told on behalf of the scared, lost, hurt, and voiceless.

In a lot of ways, Redeeming Hope tells the story of why I began writing M/M romance. Like many others, I fell in love with the genre hard and fast. As an avid reader, I found the different dynamic, chemistry, and personalities of two male main characters refreshing. The vast diversity of the genre enabled me to discover more ways to support the community and enlightened me to issues that I didn’t know still existed. Through Kollin’s story, it quickly became clear that what I really wanted to do was write a story about how I see the LGBTQ+ community—strong, brave, flawed, loved, sometimes rejected—and be sure my own admiration for not only surviving but thriving shined through.

A recurring theme throughout the series is how sometimes we meet people who unexpectedly change our lives. I’d love for you all to share an experience about an individual who made a tremendous impact on your life. The kicker—this person never realized how profoundly his or her actions affected you?

To be fair, I’ll go first! I’ve met a few people who’ve helped me more than they know, but I’ll go with the most recent. I’m pretty shy, so when my husband got a new job about two years ago, and we moved away from all of our friends and family, I was absolutely terrified to meet new people. And so I didn’t. As a stay-at-home mom, there were no opportunities for me to form friendships on the job, and I had no other social opportunities besides church. Even for an introvert, this can get a bit depressing! Finally, after about a year of attending a really wonderful and open-minded church that we truly love, I got an email from one of the members, inviting us to the new Sunday school class. Through that class, I’ve been able to create individual and familial friendships I never would’ve had otherwise, and I never would’ve taken the step to join the class without that simple email. Even though I thanked the sender afterward, he will probably never know how grateful I am for his invitation. After all, he was just trying to grow his class!

So now it’s your turn! I can’t wait to hear from you guys. DSP will select one of you to receive a free copy of Redeeming Hope, so don’t be shy! I hang out a lot on Facebook, but you can find me on Twitter and Tumblr too (where I reblog a lot of stuff about comics, hot guys, Once Upon a Time, and food)!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shelltaylorpens

Twitter: @shelltaylorpens

Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/shelltaylorpens

RedeemingHopeFS

Check out Redeeming Hope!

Lasting Friendships with Melanie Hansen + Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

September 28, 2015

lasting friendships

Hey, everyone, I’m Melanie, a frazzled and busy mom of two preteen boys (Lord, give me strength!). My little family is also about to face our 8th Navy move in 15 years, so things are a little hectic at the moment. But today I’m so excited to talk about my recent release with Dreamspinner Press, Signs of Life, the second book in my Resilient Love series! I love Kai and Jeremy with all my heart; they are very, very special to me. Sometimes, very rarely, a story just flows, and writing it is easy and natural; that’s how Signs of Life was for me. Despite the heavy themes of grief and loss, something I really want readers to take away from this book is the delight Kai and Jeremy both take in their friendship with secondary characters Loren and Jase. That’s what I would like to talk about today in this post, the dynamics of their friendship, and I’m also going to share a deleted scene and an exclusive excerpt with you.

Along with the romantic relationship enjoyed by the main characters in Signs of Life – Jeremy Speer and Kai Daniels – a major element of the story is their friendships with others. In real life no couple in a healthy relationship exists in a vacuum, and in my stories, I try to weave in secondary characters who are very important to the main couple. We all have friends who fulfill various needs in our lives separate and apart from our significant others, and my book characters are no different.

Jeremy and Jase
Jeremy Speer and Jase DeSantis (my romantic lead from Everything Changes) are high school friends and lovers who reconnected as adults. They have some history, but they hadn’t been all that close in recent years. When Jeremy’s husband is fatally injured in a car accident, Jase is the first one Jeremy thinks to call, and Jase, being the innate caretaker that he is, drops everything to be there for him at Brent’s death and the immediate aftermath.

This deleted scene gives you a glimpse into their relationship, and how important they are to each other. Their friendship is one of the foundations of Jeremy’s character development, and although this scene didn’t make it into the book for several reasons, I love it, and I wanted to share it:
Jeremy couldn’t even count how many times he’d stumbled out of the guest bedroom in the middle of the night to find Jase already up, wrestling with his own demons. Jase would never talk about the war with him, though, his eyes haunted and full of pain.

One particularly bad night, wanting and needing some physical forgetfulness, Jeremy made a clumsy sexual advance, pushing Jase back into the cushions of the couch and kissing him with a sort of panicked desperation. Jase cupped Jeremy’s face in his hands and responded briefly, letting Jeremy deepen the kiss, but when Jeremy reached between Jase’s legs to touch him, Jase caught his hand, kissing the palm and squeezing his fingers before gently pushing him away.
“Jase, please, I need you,” Jeremy begged, clutching at him. Jase disengaged Jeremy’s hands again and knelt on the floor at his feet, resting his hands lightly on Jeremy’s knees.
“No, babe, this isn’t what we need from each other right now,” Jase said softly. “Not like this.”
In an agony of embarrassment, Jeremy pushed Jase away and stood, bracing his hands against the nearest wall and breathing deeply, trying to find some control over his emotions and losing the battle. He felt Jase come up behind him and wrap his arms around his waist, anchoring him as Jeremy fell apart once again. He turned and buried his face in Jase’s neck as he sobbed, “I just miss him so much.”
Jase rocked him, rubbing his hands up and down Jeremy’s back, kissing the top of his head over and over as they rode out the storm together. Afterwards, weak with emotional overload, Jeremy let Jase lead him to his bedroom and pull him down onto the rumpled bed. Jase spooned up to Jeremy’s back and held him close as he whispered, “One day at a time, bud. One day at a time.”
Jase’s words, so simple yet so powerful, struck Jeremy like nothing else had. One day at a time. He didn’t have to worry about how he’d get through next month, next week or even the next fucking day. All he had to do was get through this day, and he needed to stop trying to use people, or drugs, or alcohol, to do it. If Brent could see him now, a sad, defeated and broken man, he’d be devastated.
For weeks Jase had been touting the benefits of yoga, so Jeremy tried it a few times, deciding it wasn’t for him. But running…running calmed him, focused him, quieted the noise in his head like nothing else could. He and Jase ran together as much as possible, and soon Jeremy was outdistancing him, running for hours, coming back to the apartment in a pleasant state of physical and mental exhaustion. He started sleeping better, and it was becoming easier to ride out the bad days.
Jeremy had learned to exist, and that was more than he could have hoped for a year ago.
When Jase got home from work one night, Jeremy told him that he was finally ready to move on. There was a flash of relief in Jase’s eyes, quickly masked, even as he protested that Jeremy could stay as long as he needed to.
“I have, Jase,” Jeremy said quietly. “I’ve stayed as long as I needed to. It’s time for me to make my own life and leave you to yours.”
“Will you move to your Coronado house, then?” Jase asked. They were sitting on Jase’s small balcony, sipping cups of coffee.
“No, I don’t want to live in San Diego anymore. Too many memories. I need a fresh start, a totally fresh start.”
“Where will you go? I assume back to Florida isn’t an option, for the same reason.”
Jeremy nodded. “I asked my realtor to look for listings in Northern California, and she actually stumbled across this.”
He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his jeans pocket and handed it over. Jase perused it with a raised eyebrow.
“Bend, Oregon?”
“Yeah. The city isn’t too big, but it’s big enough. And the running trails are supposed to be superb.”
“So you’re going to go up there and isolate yourself in this cabin in the woods – which is a fucking awesome cabin by the looks of it. ‘A Jacuzzi on the wraparound porch,’” he quoted from the listing using his best Robin Leach voice.
Jeremy shrugged, fighting a small smile despite himself.
“Fuckin’ moneybags,” Jase said without heat, tossing Jeremy’s paper back to him. Jeremy shrugged again. It was true enough.
“Jere,” Jase began tentatively. “I’m only saying this because I love you, man. I understand the fresh start, I do, but are you sure isolating yourself like this is the answer? How are you –“
“How am I ever going to meet someone?” Jeremy finished bitterly. “I don’t want to meet anyone, Jase. I had everything I ever wanted, and now he’s gone.”
“So you’re just gonna live the rest of your life alone, without companionship, without intimacy?”
“You mean without fucking? Oh, I expect that someday I’ll want to fuck. In fact, I already tried that once and got shot down.” Jeremy let his eyes travel with deliberate crudeness over Jase’s body, fury boiling through him.
“Jeremy,” Jase said earnestly, ignoring the insolent look, “you feel this way now, and I understand it –“
“Do you? Do you understand it, Jase? How can you possibly understand a goddamn thing about the way I feel? Stop shoving bullshit up my ass and let me live my life the way I fucking want!”
Now Jase was as angry as Jeremy had ever seen him, and he stood up and towered over Jeremy.
“And you don’t understand a fucking thing about me, Jere,” he hissed. “How I watched the man I love be blown into pieces right in front of my eyes, how I worked through my tears to keep him from bleeding to death right then and there. How I felt when I learned his heart had stopped twice on the way to Kabul. Fuck you!”
“But he’s alive, Jase, so fuck you!”
They were both breathing hard, staring each other down.
“Yes, he’s alive,” Jase finally whispered. “But he doesn’t want me. He’ll never want me. In a way he’s as lost to me as Brent is to you. I’ll have to watch him fall in love, and get married, maybe have children someday. I’ll have to watch him be happy with someone else. And that will fucking kill me.”
Jeremy watched the agony that suffused Jase’s face, and he set aside his own self-absorption long enough to come to terms with the fact that yes, maybe there were differing degrees of loss, but loss is still loss. He reached out and took Jase’s hand in his, squeezing his fingers.
“Jase,” he said gently. “I’m sorry. I truly am.”
Jase blinked back tears, then squeezed Jeremy’s hand in return and sat back down.
Jeremy blew out a breath. “I’m not ready for anything else, and I don’t know if I ever will be. If I even want to be, Jase. And besides, I don’t see you taking your own advice. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen you go on a single date.”
“I’m not ready either,” Jase said ruefully. “But at least I’m open to the possibility. I’m sorry I brought it up, but I’m worried about you. You’re just going to go stick yourself in BFE, man, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Jeremy opened his mouth to argue, and Jase held up his hand. “But it’s your life, babe. I’ll leave you to it. And I hope you know I’ll always be here for you.”
Later that night, Jeremy packed up his belongings as quietly as he could and stole out of the apartment, not before leaving Jase’s spare key on the counter along with a note: Thanks for everything.

Kai and Loren
Kai and Loren have a slightly different relationship than Jeremy and Jase do. They met as adults, each carrying some emotional baggage, and have been extremely close for eight years. They do most everything together, such as camping and hiking, or simply hanging out. Their friendship also contains an element of sexual intimacy, although Kai hates to classify Loren as a “fuck buddy” – he’s so much more than that.

They aren’t in love, but they love each other very much. Loren is Kai’s emotional support, the one he goes to when he has a problem he needs to talk out, or when he just needs a shoulder to cry on. When Kai first meets Jeremy, things are pretty rocky between them, so Kai turns to Loren more than once for a sympathetic ear and, yes, some plain talk. Loren isn’t afraid to call it as he sees it because he cares about Kai’s well-being. In this exclusive excerpt from Signs of Life, Kai has just had another upsetting encounter with Jeremy:

“You’d think he could have shared that little tidbit of info with you before he let you suck his dick,” Loren said caustically, looking up at Kai from his sprawl on Kai’s couch. It was a couple of days since the evening at Jeremy’s house, and this was the first time he’d been able to pin Loren down to talk about it.
He handed Loren a freshly opened beer and then plopped down beside him, taking a huge slug of his own.
“Honestly I think the whole evening took him by total surprise, from issuing the dinner invitation in the first place to the sex. I don’t think he’d planned it, Loren, in order to spring his ‘conditions’ on me after he got his rocks off at least once.”
“You’re nicer than I am, Kai. I’d have told him to get bent.” Loren drank some beer and then grabbed the TV remote, flipping on the TV and mindlessly scrolling through the channels so fast it made Kai dizzy.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” Kai retorted. “Jesus, the dude has suffered almost unimaginable loss. You can’t blame him for being closed off, cautious of letting anyone get close to him again.”
“He treated you like shit at the club, and what he did the other night wasn’t a whole lot better, Kai. Handing you your clothes and pushing you out the door like a john who was getting rid of a trick. Don’t let him use his loss as an excuse to be an asshole.”
“Would you turn that shit off?” Kai wrestled the remote away from Loren and clicked off the TV, throwing the remote into the chair the farthest away, knowing Loren was too comfortable and lazy to get up and go after it. “I want to talk to you about this!”
“The more you tell me, the more I want to go kick the dude’s ass,” Loren grumbled, but sipped his beer and looked at Kai expectantly. “So talk.”
Kai took a sip of his own beer, marshaling his thoughts. “He told me that the night at the club was the first sex he’d had since his husband died. When did we go, about two and a half, three months ago?”
“Something like that.”
“And he said his husband died more than two years ago. I’m the first one he’s even tried with since he lost his husband.”
“You think that makes me feel any better?” Loren asked. “To know you’re basically his rebound, his stepping stone from ‘unimaginable loss,’ as you said, back to the wild and wonderful world of dating and sex?”
“He’s got to start somewhere, Loren,” Kai said quietly. “You know I’m tough, and resilient, and obviously now I know the score. I think I can be good for him, and I won’t let him hurt me.”
Loren set his beer down on the coffee table and took Kai’s from his hand, putting it down next to his. “I know this will fall on deaf ears because you really can’t seem to help yourself, but you don’t have to save the world, Kai. You don’t have to be his little experiment boy.”
Kai sighed and leaned his head on Loren’s shoulder. “It’s not just that. I really like him, Loren. I don’t know why, exactly, but I do.”
“I know why. Because you want to fuck him,” Loren said.
Kai didn’t answer, and Loren heaved a sigh of his own. “Okay, have fun with that. Get laid, have a great time. But if he breaks your heart, so help me, I’ll break his goddamn face.”
Loren’s voice was fierce, deadly serious, and affection for him clogged Kai’s throat for a minute, making his own voice hoarse as he replied, “I know you will, man.” A short silence fell and then Kai asked, “Don’t you ever get tired of putting my broken pieces back together?”
Loren put an arm around him and hugged him close, kissing the top of his head. “Never,” he vowed in a whisper, then shoved Kai away and lunged for the remote, laughing at Kai’s curses, both of them letting the emotional tension relax into the comfort of easy friendship.

As a military brat and now a military spouse, building lasting friendships have been an ongoing challenge for me my entire life. My childhood and high school years were filled with transfers, both my family’s and my military friends’ families. Sadly, I’m not in touch with anyone from back then, even with the advent of social media.
During my 15 years as a Navy spouse, in each of our duty stations I’ve found that other military spouses hesitate to make friends with each other, because we’re eventually going to leave anyway. Oh, we’re friendly enough and we have our kids in common, but there’s nothing lasting about it. I think that’s partly why I’m fascinated with the idea of exploring close friendship in my stories.

More recently my online friends have become precious to me, because I can “take” them with me everywhere I move to. In fact, when we face another Permanent Change of Station within the next several months, and it’s such a relief to know that I don’t have to worry about losing touch with “my girls.” They’re always a tweet or a FB message away!

 

*Giveaway*

I’d love to hear about your experiences with friendship, the longest-lasting one you’ve had and why you’re so close. Please share in the comments! 2 lucky winners will be given a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift cards!

 

meljhansen@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/MelJoyAZ

http://www.melaniejhansen.com/

Signs of Life at Dreamspinner Press

SignsofLifeFS

Fight For Your Right with Evan Gilbert

September 18, 2015

Fight ForYour Right

 

Evan Gilbert here. My latest novella, Love Turned Blue, releases on September 16, 2015 amid the continuing brouhaha of religious objection to the Supreme Court’s decision this past June affirming the constitutionally protected right of same sex couples to marry. The movement is currently personified by Kim Davis who, as I write this, has just been released from jail after defying court orders to issue marriage licenses in her capacity as a county clerk. Ms. Davis has essentially declared that God won’t allow her to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. She claims God’s law and her sincerely held religious beliefs trump the US Constitution and the rights of LGBTQ individuals.
I have deep roots in the African-American community, where there are a lot of Kim Davises running around.  They take heated exception to any comparison between the campaign for gay rights and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The church is still the centerpiece of the community, and homophobia is perhaps a bit more heavily entrenched here than in the rest of American society. Such attitudes have always made it very difficult for gay African-American men to form committed relationships with each other. Unfortunately, even in today’s more open society, there are still gay black men who are afraid to come out of the closet, and who cheat themselves of the joys and benefits that come from having a loving spouse or partner in their lives.
Slade Thompson, one of the main characters in Love Turned Blue, started his adult life as such a man. He married a woman to please his parents, believing rightfully that they would disown him if they found out he was gay. He deprived both himself and his wife of real love and affection for many years. Fortunately for them, Slade eventually grew to embrace his same sex desires and embarked on a path that eventually brought him to Bruno. But he also brought along the fallout from his failed marriage, including a bitter teenaged son who hasn’t forgiven him for the turmoil he created.  These are not exactly the optimal circumstances for beginning a good, strong relationship.
Three people in my life inspired me to write Love Turned Blue. Two of them are middle-aged black men who have been in love with each other for fourteen years. They are a faithful couple, but they live in separate apartments and won’t even consider tying the knot now that their right to marry has been secured. They are afraid their families will be devastated if they live openly as gay men. The third person is also a gay middle-aged man. He grew up in the church and is a devout Christian. He firmly believes the Biblical admonition of homosexuality as an abomination in the eyes of God. He’s told me how lonely he is and how he longs to have a man in his life. But he denies himself that companionship because he believes the only way he can avoid violating Biblical law is to refrain from all homosexual activity.
The LGBTQ community’s fight for rights and equality is far from over. It is still legal in most of this country for a man to be fired from his job for being gay. Local, state, and federal legislatures are considering laws that would allow people with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens. Conservative courts will likely find ways to uphold many of these laws. In short, there is still a lot of stigma out there for people who don’t fall under the heterosexual banner. Thankfully, there are many LGBTQ men and women who continue to stand up and live their lives proudly. We need more movies, television shows, and stories about men and women of all ages and races who are not afraid or ashamed to be who they are. And that’s why I love writing about diverse men who find love and happiness with each other.
So, what do you think about gay love and marriage in the good ol’ USA? Should the right to religious freedom supersede the right of a gay man to live where he chooses or to marry the man he loves? I’d love for everyone to share their thoughts, so please leave a comment. You’re also welcome to write me directly anytime at EvGilvibes@gmail.com.

Common Sense with Andrew Grey

September 14, 2015

Common Sense

Hi I’m Andrew Grey and I’m here today to talk to you a little about Love Comes Unheard.  This is the fifth story in the Senses series and as you might be able to guess, this story features a main character who is deaf.  The entire Senses series has main characters who are sensory impaired in some way or another.    When writing a series, sometimes a story plays off another one.  This is very much the case with Love Comes Unheard.  After Love Comes Around, I wanted to give Wilson his own story and give little Janey someone to help mentor and show her the way as she comes of age.  The amazing thing was that Garrett just showed up in my head as the perfect person to fill that niche.  I didn’t set out to create him or think about the kind of character I wanted, he simply showed up and knocked on the door of my creativity.

Wilson, from Love Comes Around, simply captured my heart and I really felt he deserved his own story and to find love.  He’s the perfect servant and very quiet about his life before working for Dan and what happened before he immigrated to this country.  Wilson deserves to find love in his own right.  He adores Dan and Connor’s three children, but he craves his own family, someone to call his own. Wilson is always putting others before himself, it’s part of what makes him good at his job, but he deserves to be the center of someone’s universe.

The stories in the Senses series all touch something special inside me.  For many years the Farm series was where I went when I needed peace.  I’d write those stories and they felt like coming home.  I think the Senses stories have taken over the warmth and comfort for me.  The characters aren’t simple, but the values and warmth in the stories always make me think of coming home to people I’ve known my entire life, the ones who surround us with joy, warmth, and encouragement when we need it most.

LoveComesUnheardFS

GIVEAWAY!

What I’d really like to know from you is which Senses series character is the one you’d like to be a part of your life.  I’ll offer a copy of the Senses story of your choice to one lucky winner.  Enjoy and enough warm hugs to last you through the coming winter.

 

Andrew Grey

Andrew Grey grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. He has since lived all over the country and traveled throughout the world. Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but the sink.

Get your copy of Love Comes Unheard today!

Rating Guys: A Primer from Legally Wed (A Guest Post by Rick R. Reed)

September 12, 2015

LegallyWed cover front and back

How do you rate guys? Do you have a system? What kind of man turns your head and what kind makes you simply shrug and say, “meh”?

In my book, Legally Wed (Dreamspinner Press, January 2014), my sort-of “Will and Grace” best friends, Marilyn and Duncan, have developed a unique rating system for identifying who is leer-worthy and who, sadly, is not. The following excerpt details their system. I encourage you to share how you rate men in the comments below—or just share what you think of Marilyn and Duncan’s unique classification system.

Excerpt from Legally Wed by Rick R. Reed (Dreamspinner Press, January 2014)

“What the fuck are you staring at?” Marilyn had strained to turn around in her seat, to try and follow the line of Duncan’s gaze. Marilyn never wanted to miss out if Duncan had spotted a hot guy. Looking out for one another was one of the many ways they cemented their friendship. That, and the way they rated men, using a food system:

Dee. Lish. Us. was the top of the heap, the guys who could stop traffic, open doors, inducing in the viewer heart palpitations. These were men who either were models or could have been, with little effort. The DLU guys were so gorgeous that both Marilyn and Duncan realized—and accepted—they moved on a different plane from mere mortals. Thus, they could never be approached, for to talk to them would risk one being blinded by their magnificence. They saw very few men who actually warranted the DLU label, but when they did, oh boy, did they love to look, in spite of the intimidation their beauty inspired.

Yummy. These guys were the good-looking ones that were still hot, but fell into the realm of the approachable. They could be young or old, tall or short, stocky or thin, hairy or hairless—they could be anything, as long as something about them caught the eye of either Marilyn or Duncan, who had very similar taste in men. If there was a commonality to these men, it was that they were most often regular guys who, more than their good looks, exuded a sense of confidence and masculinity which was immediately apparent and, often, immediately magnetic. Duncan’s sole sexual experience these past several months had been with a yummy man, a shaved head, bearded guy who worked on one of the commuter ferries in town. Duncan thought he had hit pay dirt until he had gone home with the guy and seen his Barbie collection. Oh well, they had spent a pretty amazing night together, one for which Duncan had been long overdue, but he declined when Abbott, as his name was, called to see if Duncan wanted to go along with him to a meeting of his favorite social group, Gays and Dolls, a group of doll-collecting gay men. As lovely as it sounded, Duncan didn’t think the group was for him and probably Abbott wasn’t either.

Edible. Truth was, most guys fell into this category. These were not the men you stopped on the street to admire. These were the run-of-the-mill guys that most people did not notice. But Marilyn and Duncan had found that, if you took the time to really look, you could always find something quirky or wonderful about these men to admire. It might be something as simple as a pair of cool retro glasses that shielded a pair of amazing brown eyes, or a brilliant tattoo-sleeve of dragons or birds running down one manly arm, or perhaps something not easily identified, such as kindness, a genuine warmth that came across in a smile.

Not quite appetizing. While Marilyn used this appellation more often than Duncan, he had to concede she was always spot-on in her estimations. The NQAs were guys who just didn’t appeal. They may not be terribly unattractive in any obvious way, but there was simply something about them that made them disagreeable. For example, a very good-looking man, one who might be a DLU, could become an NQA if he gave off too much of a self-absorbed vibe. Duncan had seen one such situation in a men’s room at a bar once, where a man they had both admired (and Duncan followed into the bathroom, even though he didn’t have to go—hey, he was gay after all) had disappeared. And there, Duncan had witnessed a full-fledged love affair that the guy had—with the mirror. Duncan would later swear to Marilyn he hadn’t even seen Duncan or any of the other men entering the restroom as he adjusted his black hair just so, gazing rapturously at himself, and even, at one point, treating himself to a smile and a wink. Not all NQAs were of this variety, but they all did not appeal, for one reason or another.

Tofu. These were the bottom of the barrel, the flavorless guys, the ones who, sadly, just failed to register at all on their attraction meter. For Duncan, these men were as rare as the DLUs, because he could usually find something worthwhile about a man, be it a strong nose, or a good haircut, or even the way he carried himself across a crowded dance floor. Marilyn was less kind but even she too would admit that very few guys were actually tofu and those that were, well, they probably never noticed them anyway.

“Do you see a DLU?” Marilyn turned back to Duncan, eyes bright with anticipation.

“Well, kind of, in my eyes, anyway.”

“Where?” Marilyn did an almost Linda Blair-like swivel of her head.

Hope the above entices you to want to read more from my latest! More information is just below:

BLURB
Love comes along when you least expect it.
That’s what Duncan Taylor’s sister, Scout, tells him. Scout has everything Duncan wants—a happy life with a wonderful husband. Now that Seattle has made gay marriage legal, Duncan knows he can have the same thing. But when he proposes to his boyfriend Tucker, he doesn’t get the answer he hoped for. Tucker’s refusal is another misstep in a long line of failed romances. Despairing, Duncan thinks of all the loving unions in his life—and how every one of them is straight. Maybe he could be happy, if not sexually compatible, with a woman. When zany, gay-man-loving Marilyn Samples waltzes into his life, he thinks he may have found his answer.

Determined to settle, Duncan forgets his sister’s wisdom about love and begins planning a wedding with Marilyn. But life throws Duncan a curveball. When he meets wedding planner Peter Dalrymple, unexpected sparks ignite. Neither man knows how long he can resist his powerful attraction to the other. For sure, there’s a wedding in the future. But whose?

BUY

Dreamspinner Ebook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4531

Dreamspinner Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4532

Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Legally-Wed-Rick-R-Reed-ebook/dp/B00HNXIT5U/

Amazon Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Legally-Wed-Rick-R-Reed/dp/1627982043/

AllRomance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-legallywed-1387389-149.html

NOH8RickRick R. Reed Biography
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). 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.”

Stay in touch with Rick
Web: http://www.rickrreed.com
Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickrreed

Write to Rick at jimmyfels@gmail.com

Lovers & Fighters Release Party Extravaganza! ft. Nash Summers

September 8, 2015

Lovers & Fighters by Nash Summers

Hey guys. I’m Nash. Thanks for stopping by.

I’m here to chat about my new novella that’s coming out tomorrow titled Lovers & Fighters.

You can also check out my pathetically small Pinterest inspiration board for Lovers & Fighters.

 

I wrote Lovers & Fighters about a year and a half ago. It was my first exploration into M/M contemporary in a slightly longer format. I have a tendency to write short stories. I think it’s because of my short attention span. I went through a lot of ups and downs with the story, mostly because I thought I created two almost unlikeable characters. Scott and Julian each have redeeming qualities, and hopefully most readers will enjoy their story despite their obvious flaws. Or maybe because of their obvious flaws.

At one point in the story, Scott reflects on his poisonous first love. I call the relationship poisonous because I viewed it as being manipulative, one-sided, and extremely unhealthy. I think a lot of people have been in relationships like this. Not necessarily abusive relationships, but ones where the love is so fierce yet completely unrequited.

 

Here’s a quote from Lovers & Fighters about first love, and first loss:

It felt to me like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest, like there was a vacancy there that I wanted to fill with all the bad things that embodied this talented boy I’d thought I loved.

My first love took me this way. It wasn’t an unhealthy relationship, and we’re still friends, but the kind of longing I felt at that time for another person was something indescribable, and almost torturous. I knew I’d never be able to go on without him in my life. Mind you, I was sixteen years old, knew everything about everything, and thought my life would fall apart if my best friend was angry with me. So, I wanted to write a story about that kind of overbearing love, not necessarily first love, but consuming love. Lovers & Fighters is the result.

A few lovely readers have said that this story isn’t a romance, and that it is, instead, a love story. That’s given me a lot of food for thought. I completely agree with them, and thinking about it now, I think a good majority of the stories I’ve written, or plan to write, could be considered love stories instead of romances. Which makes sense. In person, I’m not romantic.

Sometimes when people I know ask me what kinds of stories I write and I say, “Romance”, they’re surprised. It might be because I’m an atypical romantic. Romance to me isn’t flowers or rom-com movies or wedding rings (not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things, of course). To me, romance is companionable silences while driving through the rain down a dusky stretch of road. It’s listening to my favorite album and holding someone’s hand. But it’s also drinking beer and playing a co-op FPS together.

I guess I think the word romance can mean absolutely anything to anyone.

 

Thanks for stopping by! If anyone out there in the great, big blogverse would like to tell me about their first love, or even their ideal version of romance, I’d love to hear it.

 

- Nash

Welcome to Sutphin Boulevard with Santino Hassell

July 31, 2015

Hey guys. I’m Santino Hassell and I’m dropping in on Dreamspinner’s blog to talk about SUTPHIN BOULEVARD—released today.

SUTPHIN BOULEVARD is a contemporary gay romance and features two teachers from Jamaica, Queens. Don’t know much about Jamaica? Don’t worry. It rarely comes up in pop culture and gets very little recognition despite being a hugely diverse neighborhood that houses major thoroughfares. Sutphin Boulevard itself is a hub of transportation, which includes the AirTrain to JFK International Airport. It’s the kind of the place people pass through but don’t linger around unless they live in the neighborhood.

Despite that description, certain parts of Jamaica have struggled with crime (especially in the 80s and 90s) and have large populations hovering on the poverty line. And that aspect of the area bleeds into the lives of Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici in my new novel. They’re both intense passionate gay men whose choices are strongly influenced by their families and the neighborhood they grew up in. Even their career paths were motivated by a desire for the stability they didn’t have as kids (NYC has a pretty solid teachers’ union and strong benefits despite being unsurprisingly underpaid) as well as a passion to educate young people who may be dealing with the same barriers they managed to overcome.

Stress the word educate and not help ;) . They both judge idealistic people who go into teaching thinking they’re going to be stars of the next Freedom Writers or Dangerous Minds.

It would be a lie to say some of my own experiences didn’t bleed into writing this novel. I’ve worked in education, I practically grew up with my ex-wife’s large Puerto Rican family, my own family is Italian, and I also spent a lot of time in South Jamaica as a young adult. But I also really wanted to write an urban love story people could relate to even if they’ve never lived in a city like New York, and if they grew up in a quiet cul-de-sac instead of a checkered neighborhood like Jamaica.

There are authors who have mastered the ability to write characters people can relate to despite extraordinary circumstances. Jordan Castillo Price writes some of the most brilliant queer speculative fiction I’ve ever read but I can almost always connect with her characters. Take Desmond Poole in MEATWORKS—that book is set in a near-future filled with robots but Desmond’s problems (big and small) were almost a mirror of my own. The same could be said for the former rich kid Tom Worthington in Amy Jo Cousin’s novel OFF CAMPUS. My life is nothing like his, but I strongly related to his need for privacy, his trust issues, and the total lack of preparedness he had once he found himself caught out in the world completely on his own.

I wanted to follow in their footsteps with SUTPHIN BOULEVARD. My goal was to write a book that spoke to people no matter who they were or where they came from even if they picked up the book and thought they would never have anything in common with a couple of cynical New Yorkers. So hopefully while you’re reading about Michael’s and Nunzio’s teacher drama, raunchy sex, and even the darker moments, there will be moments when you stop, nod, and think “I’ve been there”.

Talk to me in the comments and let me know which books or characters you’ve had major text-to-self connections with and why.

© 2015 Santino Hassell.

 

Find Sutphin Boulevard on:

Dreamspinner Press | All Romance ebooks

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6532

https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-sutphinboulevard-1850450-149.html

 

Find me on:

My Website (www.santinohassell.com)

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/santinohassellbooks)

Hassell & Hall FB Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/HassellandHall/)

Twitter (https://twitter.com/SantinoHassell)

Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/santino_hassell)

Amazon (amazon.com/author/santinohassell)

 

Author Bio:

Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of queer fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Image Credits:

Ace Excerpt with Jack Byrne

July 15, 2015

 

 

Ace_FBbanner_DSP

 

 

On a lighter note: Australian men and understatement (and another excerpt for you):

“Jesus, the things people do to dogs. It’s disgraceful. They ought to do the same to the owners. But how did you retrain her? Apart from occasionally trying to eat me, she seems sweet now.”
Jake laughed. “You should have seen the look on her face the first time I petted her. She looked at me like I’d lost my mind.”
“Was she savage?”
Jake remembered the snarling beast that had been pulled into the back of his pickup truck in Brisbane by two burly men with lead ropes on either side of her. “She wasn’t too bad. A bit stressed out.”
Damien peered at his face and asked, “Where did you get her?”
“Brisbane—from a car wrecker’s yard that had gone bust.” Jake hadn’t been able to get her off the back of his truck for a week and had to borrow a work car to get to and from work. He had parked the pickup under the carport and put food and water on the truck with her.
“Weren’t you scared of her?”
He remembered feeding her by poking her food bowl along to her with a stick. “Not scared. Respectful.”
“What is it you’re not telling me?”
“She was a bit of a handful, to be quite honest. Took me a while to gain her trust.”
“I know the feeling.”

 

Rescuing Dogs – the ones they don’t tell you about.

I put Karma, Sally and Bunny in this book because I find it hard to write a book without a dog in it.  I’ve lived all my life with dogs and horses around me, and it would seem strange not to have a furry friend nudging me awake in the morning at some ungodly hour, or greeting me when I come home.  The other day, someone referred to dog rescuers as ‘do-gooders’ and that really burred me up though because… it’s not an easy thing to do.  These dogs often don’t come to us in a good state.  They are often filthy, starving, smelly, horribly stressed and snappy, and generally not nice to know.  It takes a strong stomach and a lot of money, time and work to rehabilitate a dog once it gets that far down.  I rescue German shepherds, Rottweilers and some of the large breeds with bad reps, and I have scars up my arms from where they have bitten me, usually in the first few days of handling them when I’ve had to do all the unpleasant stuff (baths and clipping nails and treating injuries and infections and getting them needles) before they have learned to trust me.  I take my hat off to anyone who has ever rescued a dog, and I will keep writing dogs into my stories.  Of the two I am working on now, Feind Angelical has a huge black German shepherd in it, and of course if you read Taniwha Dreaming you will meet Shivers.

In ‘Ace’ I think Jake’s treatment of the dogs (Sally and Karma) shows that he is not a cold-hearted person, and this is one of the reasons Damien decides to stick around initially, despite being rejected sexually.  So the way he treats his animals becomes a key note in the story.