Working It Out Release Party—Fruit With Faces

July 19, 2014

Kristen Slater here with my penultimate post in this release party for my first ever published story. You’re probably looking at that title up there and thinking “Huh? Has she finally lost the plot?”. Well, not exactly. For a start, that would mean there was a plot to lose, and I’m not too sure there ever was.

If you’ve seen my twitter or blog, you may have noticed that my picture is… well, not me. Instead it’s these guys.
Kristen Slater gravatar
Why oranges? With faces?

Well, you see, it’s like this.

It’s that National Novel Writing Month thing again. You remember how in my last post I mentioned that people doing NaNoWriMo meet up to write? The problem is, it’s all co-ordinated via the internet. So how do you recognise someone, or a group of someones, you’ve never met? Particularly when you’re meeting in a place, like a coffee shop, that lots of other people go to in order to socialise.

If you live in Yorkshire in England and are taking part in NaNoWriMo, you take a piece of fruit with you. It’s not a really odd thing to carry about in public, and yet not many people sit in coffee shops with fruit in front of them. It’s therefore a safe bet that if there’s a group of people with fruit, they’re probably the people you’re meeting. In South Yorkshire (which is a separate county), we put a slight twist on that. Our fruit has faces. Hey, don’t knock it. It works. One year I turned up at a pub with a pineapple under my arm. Last year it was little oranges—clementines to be precise.

Notice how I think it’s important what type of oranges. That’s because, as part of another hobby of mine, I’d just finished reading a book on medieval heresy and the Inquisition. It was fascinating.

At one point complaints were made against the Inquisition. There were strict rules governing its conduct, which included not torturing people just for the fun of it or out of personal animosity towards the victim. An appeal was made to the Pope at the time, Clement the fifth, who promptly investigated and attempted to reform the system. He did this by issuing a number of instructions requiring that the inquisitors had to have the agreement of a bishop before torturing people or imprisoning them. These were known as Clementines and they threatened excommunication against anyone who abused their power for personal reasons. Of course, I immediately thought about little oranges, and a week later when I had to think about fruit to take to a meeting, what else could I choose?

I never did eat those clementines. I just couldn’t, they were so full of personality. But then they went the way of all fruit that isn’t eaten and had to go in the bin. They live on in the pictures I took of them, and I can’t help but smile whenever I look at them.

Well, that’s me almost done for the day. You’ve got a little longer to comment to have a chance to win a copy of Working It Out and try out a new writer absolutely free. What odd things have you found yourself doing for perfectly logical reasons? When I post my final message an hour from now, I’ll collect together the names of everyone who’s commented up to that point and pull one out of a hat at random. The winner will then be announced around midnight UK time.
Cover of Working It Out by Kristen Slater
A quick reminder of what the story is about
Celebrating six months with his boyfriend has Cas in a bit of a panic. Joe’s been saying “I love you” for a while, but Cas just can’t get the words past his lips. A week before Christmas, he finally says them when a nearly fatal accident almost takes Joe, and Cas faces the possibility of losing the best man he’s ever known. But whispered declarations are one thing. Through a long, tough recovery both men must work out that love is more than words.

And if that intrigues you enough, go to the Dreamspinner Press store to buy it.

More from me at and twitter.

Working It Out Release Party—Writing is…

July 19, 2014

Kristen Slater here again.

So we’re well into the evening here in the UK. I’ve just realised, this is the seventh out of my nine planned posts, so you’ve got about two and a half hours to comment if you want to enter the competition to win a free copy of my novella, Working It Out.

This time I thought I’d talk about what writing is for me. Much in the style of those old “love is…” cartoons, but without the pictures.

Writing is… fun. There’s nothing like the rush of a new story jumping up and down in your head, clamouring to be told. Except perhaps seeing it come together on the page or screen. Or maybe finishing the story. Or perhaps reading it through and thinking, “I wrote that”. Even the editing process was fun.

Writing is… therapy. I’m prone to depression, have been since I was a teenager. There have been times when I spent a lot of time barely existing and there are gaps in my memory, some huge, forever lost to it. I was lucky if I went more than three or four months without having a period where I just wanted everything to stop, because living was too hard. Then I discovered writing. In the past four years there have been maybe three times when I’ve felt like that. Each one lasted less than a day. And it’s all down to being able to release that creative streak, to finally use it as it was always meant to be used. Even if I never succeed in publishing anything else, I’ll keep writing. Because now, I’m alive instead of existing, I’m happy instead of blah, I’ve had the energy and motivation to start sorting out some of the other problems in my life.

Writing is… fulfilling. I always knew I was creative, I just didn’t have a satisfactory outlet for it. Discovering writing filled a hole inside me that I’d never realised was word-shaped.

Writing is… compulsive. Who needs narcotics? Seriously, just try writing. Once you’ve experienced that buzz, that “oh wow!” moment of seeing a story appear from your fingertips, you can’t get enough of it. You want to do it again—and again, and again.

Writing is… surprisingly social. I came to writing via the internet and National Novel Writing Month. So I was surrounded (virtually) by people doing the same thing as me. All talking about it, encouraging each other, providing help and advice to each other. And meeting up to sit in the same room and write. OK, not all of them in the same room. That would be difficult since there were over quarter of a million people round the world doing it last year. But people in the same area getting together to write. Then there are the writers’ forums, where you can connect with other writers, share hints, tips, recipes, all sorts of things.

So, that’s a few of the things writing is… for me. What do you like to do for fun? What makes you feel good?

While you’re thinking about that, here’s another excerpt from Working It Out, something that makes Cas and Joe feel good.
Part of cover of Working It Out by Kristen Slater

While Joe is unconscious in hospital, Cas talks to him, hoping it will help him to wake up. In three weeks it will be Joe’s birthday, and Cas makes a promise.

“I’ll do your favorite cake. With gummy bears.” I’d promise anything to bring him back. Cake’s not such a big thing.

Joe makes it to his birthday, and Cas makes good on his promise.

Joe’s got the computer keyboard on his lap, and he’s checking emails and his favorite websites. He’s missed being in contact with people. I found out within days of meeting him that he’s miles more social than me. Lots and lots of friends, all of whom have written to ask how he is. There’s an inner circle of people, and Joe doesn’t know yet, but they’re coming over tomorrow for a surprise birthday party.

He’ll be ensconced on the sofa like a king holding court and we’ll all gather round him. Like I promised, we’re having cake with gummy bears on the icing. His favorite is lemon sponge cake, and I’ve had one made in the shape of a medieval castle. There’s lemon icing over it and then gummy bears climbing the walls, defending the towers, standing and lying all over the place. What? So? We both like gummy bears; it’s our favorite thing to take with us when we go to the cinema. I can put them on lemon cake if I want.

To read more, buy the story at

I can be found on the web, babbling away at and on twitter as @Slater_Kristen.

Working It Out Release Party—The Evil Day Job: Not so Evil?

July 19, 2014

Another hour must have passed by, because here I am again to talk about my new story Working It Out.

Like many other writers I don’t write for a living. It’s a hobby—a paying hobby, but a hobby nevertheless. I’ll never write enough, or sell enough of what I do write, to be able to give up the day job. While I wouldn’t mind having to myself the time the job takes out of my week, at the same time I enjoy my work.

A lot of creative artists refer to the bill-paying, food-buying job as the “evil day job” or EDJ. I’m not so sure they’re all that evil, specially if you write fiction.

Why not? Because they bring you into contact with people and situations that can be used in your stories. People say things you could never make up, they do things you wouldn’t have thought of. Things happen that you just didn’t expect. I see the day job, and my commute there, as providing inspiration for my writing.

Just like sitting in a cafe, a bus station, or a park, your job presents you with opportunities to observe people. You also get to see how a workplace functions, how a team interacts, what happens in the course of a working day. It’s no coincidence that quite a lot of my characters work in offices. That’s where I’ve spent my working life, I know how they work. In one story, still to be finished, I have a character arrive at the office in the morning. This sentence was inspired by what actually happens if you work for a big organisation, where the computers are connected to a centralised network and run a mandatory virus check at every point, including logging in.

“He busied himself with the usual routine of turning on the computer and making a drink while it crawled through the login process.”

That right there is an example of writing something I know inside out. How many times have I done exactly the same thing? No idea, but it’s a lot over the years.

In Working It Out, Joe has a bullying boss. I’ve had a few of those in my time, and she’s based, in part, on some of the things they did. Thankfully I’ve had a lot more good bosses than bad, but the bad ones were very bad indeed. The silver lining is that they provided me with an example of something a bully does, which is to decline holiday requests as a method of showing you they’re the one in charge. So even the worst jobs can give you something to use in a story.

A new hour means a new question, of course. What was the worst (or best) job you ever had? Comment for a chance to win a copy of Working It Out. (You don’t have to answer my question, you can make up your own if you’d like.)

Cover of Working It Out by Kristen Slater


Celebrating six months with his boyfriend has Cas in a bit of a panic. Joe’s been saying “I love you” for a while, but Cas just can’t get the words past his lips. A week before Christmas, he finally says them when a nearly fatal accident almost takes Joe, and Cas faces the possibility of losing the best man he’s ever known. But whispered declarations are one thing. Through a long, tough recovery both men must work out that love is more than words.

You can buy it now in the Dreamspinner store.

And don’t forget to see what else I have to say on my blog and twitter.

Working It Out Release Party—People Are Amazing

July 19, 2014

0 caterpillars
Kristen Slater, back again to bother you. This hour, I wanted to mention some amazing people I met while putting my story together. The editors. They took a caterpillar of a story and helped me make it into a beautiful butterfly. Not that there’s anything wrong with caterpillars, some of them are spectacular. But butterflies…. Whole new level of beauty.

0 butterflies

I’d no idea what to expect and when the first editor’s comments arrived I was equal parts excitement and apprehension. My goodness, they’re thorough.

All those punctuation changes—I write in British, but the Dreamspinner standard is US. That’s a big difference, right there. I found we don’t include anything like as much punctuation, and what we do is less formal. Then there were the differences in spelling and preposition use. In US English there are lots of words and forms we no longer use in the UK and which make the text sound very stilted and formal, almost like a legal document. A couple of times we had a disagreement where I felt the changes they wanted to make were simply wrong. They were not what my characters would say or think and, in fact, were US-specific usage—thus giving a US accent to my very British guys.

And that’s the thing about editing. It’s a dialogue. They make suggestions, you respond. Some things you agree, some things you reject and a whole lot of other things you have a discussion about before coming to a mutually acceptable position.

One word I got to keep was “afterwards”. In the US they say “forward”, “toward”, “afterward”. Here there is an “s” on the end of those words. This was the result of a discussion back and forward in which the editors accepted my preference. I conceded one where my word just didn’t translate. I described Joe as being “teasy”. Now, if you’re in the UK you know exactly what this word means. Not in the US. The first editor asked whether I meant “testy”, which led to this exchange.

Kristen: No, I meant “teasy”. “Testy” means irritable, in the early stages of what will become anger later. “Teasy” is like an over-tired toddler, possibly one who’s had too much candy and the sugar rush has suddenly worn off. Slightly tearful, a bit oversensitive, touchy, tired, whiny. There isn’t really another word for it, unfortunately. Well… unless… can you think of one?

Editor: edgy, easily irritated, touchy? I’m afraid in this case “teasy” is not going to be at all familiar to American readers. I would never have gotten that meaning from a word so similar to “tease”, so I don’t think context works well in this case. Usually it does, but not here.

Kristen: Well, that was fun! Half an hour with a thesaurus and a couple of dictionaries (plus the suggestions above) and I ended up with the slightly old-fashioned, but understandable (and rather wonderful) “querulous”. I was tempted to use the equally lovely “fretful”, but it’s not got the complaining element that the other does.

They didn’t confine themselves to these very straightforward, simple things, though. They also commented on the structure, identified key information that was either missing or in the wrong place, helped me see where the story slowed almost to a halt in one place and gave me hints that enabled me to fix that. There was great advice on style, too.

So, thank you to the amazing editors. If you want to see the results of their work, you can buy the story in the Dreamspinner store.
Part of cover of Working It Out by Kristen Slater
Remember, for a chance to win a copy and try a new writer for free, comment on any of my posts here today. I have a new question, or you can answer one of the previous ones, or even come up with a question of your own. Have you ever come across someone amazing? What made them amazing?

Here’s what the equally amazing blurb writers came up with
Celebrating six months with his boyfriend has Cas in a bit of a panic. Joe’s been saying “I love you” for a while, but Cas just can’t get the words past his lips. A week before Christmas, he finally says them when a nearly fatal accident almost takes Joe, and Cas faces the possibility of losing the best man he’s ever known. But whispered declarations are one thing. Through a long, tough recovery both men must work out that love is more than words.

You can find me blogging on WordPress and tweeting as @Slater_Kristen.

Working It Out Release Party—Write What You Know

July 19, 2014

Cover of Working It Out by Kristen Slater

Hi there, it’s Kristen Slater again, with the next instalment of the release party for my novella, Working It Out. Following on from my previous post, I thought I’d give my take on advice that’s given to novice writers everywhere. “Write what you know”.

Yeah, about that. I’m a woman writing about gay men. I’m writing love stories despite never having been in love. I’m middle aged and most of my characters are under 30.

For me, “write what you know” isn’t actually saying you can only write people identical to yourself, in your own situation. It’s really saying that you should bring your experiences to your writing. That when you write about something you don’t know that much about, you should do some research, find out about it. This might involve reading up on the subject, or talking to people, or going somewhere and doing whatever it is.

After all, if “write what you know” really was so narrow, there’d be no science fiction, no fantasy, very few mysteries or thrillers. It’s the basic premise in writing; a writer’s job is to put themselves in someone else’s head, to try to walk in their shoes. It’s a uniquely human gift, that ability to imagine what somebody else is thinking, how they might react to something. We start with how we might respond in a particular situation. We then try to project that onto other people. Even quite young children are encouraged to imagine how someone else feels by asking them “how would you feel if…?”. Usually when they’ve just thumped someone.

Image taken from:

(Image taken from:

Reading fiction is a way of exploring the world. It can give us clues about how we should behave, show us worlds other than the one we live in, a wider range of people than the ones we meet every day. It has always been my favourite thing to do. The escape into another life, another place, another time is irresistible. And all that fiction has been written by people who take what they know and apply it to other situations.

So when I write about men, I focus on the things that are the same. They grew up in the same country as me, with a lot of the same cultural influences and values. That whole men and women are from different planets thing? Codswallop. Absolute piffle. We’re from the same planet. We want the same things out of life, on the whole. Sure, there are some differences in how men and women process experience and emotions. So I have to look at what men say about how they relate to each other, how they deal with feelings. That’s the research I mentioned above.

I know about being uncertain how to react to people; I know about being scared to say what I’m feeling (assuming I’m able to articulate it at all). Those things translate to being in love and not knowing if you should tell the other person. They translate to not wanting to make an idiot of yourself in front of someone you like. They translate into not wanting to give them ammunition to hurt you if they turn out to be a heel. Because that’s the same as general social anxiety, just with more at stake.

And hey, to have reached middle age I have to have passed through my twenties, right? So I can remember what it was like, even if some of it’s a bit hazy now. The pressure to conform to a perceived norm, the slightly scary feeling of being out there on your own now, responsible for your own life, the gradual change to knowing who you are and what you want.

All of those things, and more, feed into what I write. It’s what writers do.

What do you think? Should writers stick rigidly to what they already know, or is it about taking their thoughts and experiences and translating them to new situations? Comment for a chance to win your very own copy of Working It Out.


Celebrating six months with his boyfriend has Cas in a bit of a panic. Joe’s been saying “I love you” for a while, but Cas just can’t get the words past his lips. A week before Christmas, he finally says them when a nearly fatal accident almost takes Joe, and Cas faces the possibility of losing the best man he’s ever known. But whispered declarations are one thing. Through a long, tough recovery both men must work out that love is more than words.

Follow these links to catch me blogging and tweeting.

Working It Out Release Party—On Inspiration

July 19, 2014

I’m back!

So, those first lines. Where did they come from?

Working It Out is a novella about finding out how you know you’re in love. After six months living with his boyfriend, Joe, and around a year before that of more-or-less casually hooking up with him, Cas just isn’t sure. Joe’s sure, and that’s part of Cas’s problem.

This story began with the question Cas raises. What is love, and how do you know you’re in love? It’s something I’ve always wondered and struggled with. You see, I’ve never been in love. Or, at least, I don’t think I have. In my younger years I did have a couple of relationships. I even lived with someone for five years. But….
You see, I don’t really get love, friendship and all that jazz. It’s a complete mystery to me. I don’t think about people if they’re not in the immediate vicinity. Out of sight truly is out of mind. I don’t miss people; I don’t worry about them. Maybe that’s why I’m writing romance, the ultimate relationship story. I’m trying to understand the same thing Cas is. How you link to people, how that feels.

It’s a problem when you’re largely—well, I’m not sure if the word is antisocial or asocial. I can interact with people, on the surface at least. I work in offices and everyone says I’m nice, I’m a central part of the team. In one instance I worked in a team that was so dysfunctional they called in an independent arbitration service to try to get to the bottom of the problem and fix it. Apparently I was the one person everyone liked and the one who held the team together. While that’s nice to know, I guess, when I left that place a couple of years later I never thought about them again.

I’m not a keeping in touch sort of person, it doesn’t occur to me to share my thoughts and reactions with people. So love is an exotic and incomprehensible thing that I just don’t understand. Over the years I’ve asked myself that opening question many times and never got an answer. This time, I wrote it down and it became a story. I don’t think I’m any closer to the answer, although I’m getting pretty good at the theory. I suspect the people who say “you just know” are right. I’m not going to stop asking, though. And I’m not going to stop writing love stories.

Don’t forget, if you would like a chance to try my story out for free, comment on any of my posts here today. My question for this hour is have you ever been in love? And how did you know? (Of course, you can always ask your own questions if you’d prefer.)


Celebrating six months with his boyfriend has Cas in a bit of a panic. Joe’s been saying “I love you” for a while, but Cas just can’t get the words past his lips. A week before Christmas, he finally says them when a nearly fatal accident almost takes Joe, and Cas faces the possibility of losing the best man he’s ever known. But whispered declarations are one thing. Through a long, tough recovery both men must work out that love is more than words.

You can buy the book by going to my page in the Dreamspinner store. And you can see what else I have to say on my blog and in tweets.

Cover of Working It Out by Kristen Slater

Working It Out Release Party—A Taster and a Giveaway

July 19, 2014

Hello, Kristen Slater here again. I thought I’d give you a flavour of my novella, Working It Out, this time. But first, a chance to win something. At the end of the party I’m going to give away a copy of my story to one of the people who comment on my posts here today. It’ll be totally random—I’ll put names in a hat and draw one out—so talk to me and you never know, it could be you.

To start us off, tell me about your first kiss. Was it romantic? Yucky? Perfect? Awkward? Or you can just comment randomly, if that’s what you’d prefer.

So, I promised a taster, and I’ve chosen the opening of the story.

If this whets your appetite, you can buy the whole story from the Dreamspinner store.

You can see what I’m thinking about on my blog and on twitter.
Part of cover of Working It Out by Kristen Slater


What is love, anyway? I mean, you tell me how you know you’re in love.

Joe’s been saying I love you for months. I get the feeling he’s expecting me to say it back. But. I dunno. It just doesn’t feel right, you know? Aren’t you supposed to just know? And I don’t. Maybe I love him. I know I like having him around. Those days when he’s late home and there’s no one in the house when I get back, it feels kind of… empty. But that’s habit, isn’t it? Because most times he’s already there when I walk through the door. So it’s bound to feel odd when he isn’t. Isn’t it?

I remember the day he asked me to move in with him. We’d been seeing each other casually for over a year, meeting up and going to his place or mine for some mutual fun. I’m still not sure how it developed into spending most of our spare time together, but we became really good friends at some point. Then there was the day we went back to his flat in the middle of the afternoon, unable to wait to get our hands on each other’s bare flesh. Afterwards, the late afternoon sun bathing us with warmth, he propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at me with an uncharacteristically serious expression.

“Cas? I like being with you. I like it a lot.” Joe’s hand idly stroked my belly in circles and swirls. “I don’t just mean the sex, although that’s incredible. I like the way we never seem to run out of things to say to each other, the way we like doing the same things, going to the same places.” The hand stopped and rested over my diaphragm, warm and relaxed. “What I’m trying to say is I’d like to spend more time together. All our time. I want to wake up next to you every morning and know I’ll see you again that evening. I’d like to try living together.”

The longer I stayed quiet, the more tense his hand became. His beautiful gray eyes were fixed on my face, as if he was trying to read my thoughts. He’d have had a problem. I didn’t really have any coherent thoughts initially. Then, when I did, I wondered why he was asking. What we had was good. Why change that? Living together was like some sort of heavy-duty commitment. I’d seen enough people who had a good thing going break up after moving in together. And we’re only in our midtwenties, what’s the rush?

I suppose I should have seen it coming. The “I love you” thing. I’d said yes to living together because I couldn’t see a way of continuing to see Joe if I didn’t. And I wanted to keep seeing him. Like he said, the sex was—and still is—incredible. Also, I’ve never been one of those people who have hundreds of friends. I always say it’s because I’m picky and have a different definition of what the word friend means. And Joe was—is—a friend. He isn’t the only one who likes us spending time together. The way I define friend, I’ve only ever had about four or five, and Joe’s the best one I ever had. It’s not that I’m antisocial or anything, but most people are acquaintances. Some closer than others, but still—acquaintances.

Tonight, I’m on my own on the sofa, some program or other on the muted TV providing a bit of light and movement in the corner. And getting all introspective. Tonight’s one of those late nights for Joe. His job at the Council is on flextime, which looks like an excuse to mess people around, if you ask me. Unlike him, I don’t have unexpected delays at work, because the library at the University has set closing times. It’s a specialized library and I help people find the information and references they need, and assess the quality of their sources, as well as the usual library things. You know, making sure everything’s back where it belongs at the end of each day, keeping our journal subscriptions up to date, chasing down students and staff who don’t bring stuff back when it’s due. But mostly I help people with their research.

I came home to a text on the mobile I accidentally left on the kitchen worktop when leaving for work this morning. I could tell he was pissed off about working late. He doesn’t normally swear in texts. Or any other time really. When he gets in, he’ll need to let off steam about his boss, Penny. I keep telling him he needs to get another job. The trouble is, he likes what he does. It’s just her.

I was disappointed. I’d been looking forward to telling him about my day, finding out about his. There’s always some small thing that’s happened in the day and I need to share it with someone—with Joe specifically. He understands what I’m saying, he gets why it was funny, or sad, or annoying. I like to hear what he’s been up to as well. We sit there after dinner swapping anecdotes, snuggled up on the sofa or one on the sofa and the other in a chair, depending on our mood. I feel like I’ve known him all my life, and even when we’re quiet, it’s comfortable sitting together. I don’t have to make this huge effort to be constantly entertaining, and if a thought crosses my mind I know I can say it out loud and he’ll understand.

So. Where was I? Oh yeah. What is love, and how do you know if what you feel is love? Why should I be worrying about this tonight of all nights, you ask? Well, we’re going away this weekend. Joe’s planned this incredibly romantic weekend in Brussels. I know why. Sunday’s six months to the day when we moved his things in to join mine. If we’re going to start celebrating anniversaries and stuff like that, I need to think about what sort of relationship this is. Is this just good fun, or are we in it for the long haul?

Working It Out Release Party—Well, hello there!

July 19, 2014

Hello everybody. My name’s Kristen Slater and it’s my birthday today. No. Really, it is. As an extra-special birthday gift, Dreamspinner is letting me take over the blog for a while and hold a release party for my first ever published story, Working It Out which came out on Wednesday.
Birthday Balloons

It’s not the first thing I’ve written—that particular piece of dross will remain forever hidden in the depths of my hard drive—but it’s the first I felt brave enough to share. And someone liked it and agreed to publish it. The email came just a couple of weeks before Christmas last year, together with a contract, so that was my Christmas present. That’s a pretty fabulous pair of presents, don’t you think?

Since then the mysteries of editing have been opened up to me, I have seen the magic that is the blurb writer’s art and been amazed by the ability of the cover artist to bring my vision to life. It’s been a wonderful few months and I’m just hoping it will continue.

I’ll be back very soon with more info and a giveaway, but for now, here’s a taster of what the story’s about, and a look at the pretty cover. You can buy it in the Dreamspinner Press store.

Cover of Working It Out by Kristen Slater
Celebrating six months with his boyfriend has Cas in a bit of a panic. Joe’s been saying “I love you” for a while, but Cas just can’t get the words past his lips. A week before Christmas, he finally says them when a nearly fatal accident almost takes Joe, and Cas faces the possibility of losing the best man he’s ever known. But whispered declarations are one thing. Through a long, tough recovery both men must work out that love is more than words.

You can also find me burbling away online on my blog at or on twitter as @Slater_Kristen.

I’ve always spent more time living in the world inside my head than in the one outside it. Since I discovered writing, that world’s escaped from its confines and got mixed up with my real life. I’m not entirely unhappy about that. Particularly since I get to admit that I hear voices and listen to them without having to worry about the men in white coats coming to take me away.

Whilst never having any inclination to romantic relationships for myself, I nevertheless get all misty whenever I see a wedding or someone announces an intention to commit their lives to each other. It was kind of inevitable that everything I write turns into romance, no matter what it started out as.

A proud member of the Cloud Appreciation Society I think there’s nothing wrong with living with your head in the clouds.

You Can’t Go Home Again

July 17, 2014

I’m here today to tell you all about my newest book, You Can’t Go Home Again, that is scheduled for release tomorrow, July 18th. The story starts simply enough.  A seasoned cop and a brand new rookie are on an undercover assignment that goes seriously wrong – big time wrong. Threats are thrown around and shortly after bullets are flying. When it is all done, the seasoned cop, Jack, finds his rookie partner, Kevin, on the floor, dying.

Jack has spent years trying to be the tough guy, the guy who could take anything.  He had to be because a whole lot of crap had been thrown his way over the years, and his choices were to let everyone else win, or be tough and survive.  Jack is a survivor.

But as Jack sees his partner lying on the floor bleeding out, he drops to the floor and holds the rookie trying desperately to keep him alive until help can arrive, trying to provide him with some small degree of comfort. But Kevin is too badly injured and dies in Jack’s arms a moment later. Jack sits holding his rookie partner, soaked in his blood, feeling guilty, sad, angry, bitter, furious, and a whole host of other emotions. He should have done more to train the kid, he should have done this, he could have done that.  Jack beats himself up for having failed on what was supposed to be a simple undercover op.  No one was supposed to die, least of all the rookie assigned to him for training.  But he did, and now Jack has to deal with the fall out. He could run and hide, but that’s just not Jack.  Once he’s able, Jack washes the blood off his body, changes clothes, and goes to tell Kevin’s wife, Marie, about what happened. More about Marie in my next post when I talk about why I write about strong women in so many of my books.

Bashed: A Haunting Blend of Romance & Suspense Is Out Today

July 14, 2014


Recently, I had two notes from readers. I think these two notes point at the dichotomy in my writing—light and dark. The first note was from a woman, who said:

I love your romance novels. They can be a little angsty, but for the most part, they’re light and fun. And they have a happy-ever-after, which is a must for me. I have to admit, I’m scared to read some of your other stuff. I’m afraid it would give me nightmares.

The other note, from a man, said:

I really enjoy your romance novels. They’re sweet and romantic, but what really connects with me are the darker ones, that deal with real issues. Those are the ones I remember long after I close the book.

What’s a writer to do? A writer needs to remember the maxim: You can’t please all the people all the time. And, although it might sound selfish, my first responsibility when creating any work of fiction, is to please myself. I have to tell the story that’s itching to get out of my psyche. Love stories are great—I enjoy writing them more and more. They usually make me both laugh and cry as I take my character or characters on their journey to true love. But like the reader above, it’s often my darker work that resonates with me, that echoes in my head long after I’ve typed those bittersweet words, the end. Bashed is a good example. I wanted initially to write about a very real plight in the gay community—hate crimes. People being beaten for just who they are seems unimaginable, but those crimes happen with alarming and often growing frequency. Bashed examines, through the structure of a paranormal love story, the after-effects of a tragic hate crime on a small group of people—both victims and perpetrators, and tries to how even hate can bind us in unforeseeable ways.

But as I’m writing about Bashed, I look up and see what I’ve written about romance, about taking my characters on a journey to true love. That is probably the essence of my writing and it holds true whether I’m writing about something ripped from the headlines or something that might give you goosebumps—ultimately, almost everything I write is about finding that elusive state most human beings search and long for—true love. The same is true for Bashed.

My main character, Donald, loses the love of his life at the beginning of the book, loses him in an almost unbearable way—at the hands of people who, for no other reason than sexual orientation, want to hurt them in the most terrible ways possible. But the thing I want to say to the woman who wrote to me above is that she shouldn’t be afraid to read a book of mine like Bashed, because, at its heart, it provides hope, and the possibility of finding true love again, even in the face of unbearable loss. I think that’s why some of my darker works sticks with me and resonates more deeply—because my characters have to come from such a place of despair to find love that it’s that much more worthwhile when they do.

It should have been a perfect night out. Instead, Mark and Donald collide with tragedy when they leave their favorite night spot. That dark October night, three gay-bashers emerge from the gloom, armed with slurs, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.

The hate crime leaves Donald lost and alone, clinging to the memory of the only man he ever loved. He is haunted, both literally and figuratively, by Mark and what might have been. Trapped in a limbo offering no closure, Donald can’t immediately accept the salvation his new neighbor, Walter, offers. Walter’s kindness and patience are qualities his sixteen-year-old nephew, Justin, understands well. Walter provides the only sense of family the boy’s ever known. But Justin holds a dark secret that threatens to tear Donald and Walter apart before their love even has a chance to blossom.

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He had found Mark, fifteen years his junior and with the face of an angel but the mind of a demon, at the Brig, the leather bar they had patronized “that” night. But this was last winter, March, and it was bitterly cold. The bar was a Chicago institution with a strict leather dress code and lots of macho posturing. A Harley hung from the ceiling. Tom of Finland posters adorned the walls. Hard-core porno played on monitors hanging from the ceiling. A St. Andrews cross was set up in one corner. And then, of course, there was the infamous back room, where anything could happen. Donald knew the latter for a fact, since once upon a time, he had been a habitué of that back room, instigator, hunter, and hunted.

The Brig was not exactly celebrated as a place where love ignited and blossomed. It was known more for multiple, faceless partners in the crowded back room, where a full-length urinal ran along the length of one wall and one could indulge oneself with many partners in an evening, all of them unrecognizable should you pass them on the street the next morning. The idea of romance and a long-term relationship by the Brig’s standards was a one-night stand.

Donald had fully expected, that night in March, to enter the bar, grab a shot of Jack and a Budweiser, down them, and head to the back room for a quick release. Oh sure, it wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t romantic, but it was efficient, and he could go home feeling that his evening was complete. His night had begun innocently enough with dinner with his friend Mary on Devon Street at their favorite Indian hole in the wall (they shared samosas and chicken tikka masala) and then a play at The Steppenwolf.

He could have, maybe should have, gone home after that, but once he dropped Mary off at her condo in Evanston, he found he was still wide awake and hungry for a different kind of companionship than his good friend could possibly offer.

But life often had a way of surprising you. Life often was deliberate and patient, waiting until just the right moment, when hope, such as it was, was extinguished, to throw a big, surprising present right in your lap.

And that present was Mark. Donald hadn’t even glanced around the bar for potential suitors. He wasn’t looking to make idle chitchat, to buy someone a beer, to go to some walk-up in Rogers Park where passion would rule for an hour at best, only to be eclipsed by an awkward exchange of numbers and excuses Donald would make about having to get up early in the morning and needing to head home. No, Donald was on his determined way to the back room, half downed beer gripped in his fist. He knew he could be in and out of there within minutes and home in his comfy bed in Edgewater fifteen minutes after that. The routine was becoming habitual, and Donald wondered, in darker moments, if he wasn’t stunting himself emotionally with such behavior.

But dark thoughts like these were not foremost in Donald’s mind as he neared the arch that would lead into the back room. The thoughts he was having (a warm mouth just waiting for him in the shadows) were rudely interrupted by the appearance of a stranger, blocking his path. The guy was young, blond, and smiling, dressed all wrong for the Brig. (His leather biker jacket was the only thing that had probably allowed him in the door on a Saturday night.) He had the kind of innocent face one might call cherubic: pale blue eyes, creamy white skin, cheeks that were noticeably rosy even in the dim, functional light of the bar. His hair was a riot of curls, very Shirley Temple. Under the biker jacket, he wore a pair of Levi’s and a dark cotton crewneck sweater with a white T-shirt underneath. Christ, the kid was even wearing Asics! The guy on the door must be asleep at the wheel tonight.

Donald almost couldn’t believe the kid’s smile was for him. He tried to brush by him. But then the kid said, “Don’t I know you?”

Donald regarded him with a wary eye. Donald was six-two, with salt and pepper hair and a full beard to match. He had stayed in good shape and still filled out a form-fitting T-shirt well. The wrinkles around his green eyes and the bushy eyebrows above them only served to make him more appealing… especially to kids like this one, who, he knew, wanted to get around to calling him “Daddy” sooner or later.

He gave the kid a smile and shook his head. “Don’t think so.” He tried to brush by him again. Even though the kid was cute and the fact that he had approached him opened the door to possibility, Donald just wanted to get in, get off, and get out. He wished it weren’t so, but Donald couldn’t hide from himself, not after thirty years or so of hanging out in just such places as the Brig.

“Sure. You work construction… downtown. At Wacker and Michigan?”

Donald rolled his eyes. Was he supposed to be flattered? He supposed he looked the part, but he hadn’t done any job even remotely physical since he had landed a summer job in a steel mill when he was in college. The truth was, Donald made his living as the director of marketing for a professional association downtown, not far from the corner the kid had just mentioned. If the kid had seen him at that intersection, he would have been wearing khakis and an Oxford button-down, not flannel, denim, tool belt, and hard hat. He placed his hand on the kid’s shoulder, and a little jolt went through him, unexpected but delightful. The kid felt solid beneath his cotton and leather, a real man’s body, broad-shouldered, belying the Shirley Temple hair and the angelic face. It gave Donald pause. He met the kid’s blue-eyed gaze and grinned. “Yeah, I drive a fork lift down dere.” Donald could do a good Chicago south-sider accent. He burst into laughter. He couldn’t maintain the ruse, not even for a few seconds. “Actually, I do work near Michigan and Wacker. But in a high rise that was finished long ago. And the most physical labor I do is adjusting a mouse pad just so.”

The kid winked. “I probably could have guessed that, but I knew I needed a good opening line fast when I saw you walk in.” He shrugged and took a swig from his beer. “The best I could come up with.” He took another swallow and looked up at Donald. “I’m ready for another one. How ’bout you?”

And so it began. Before Donald could even respond in the affirmative, Mark had taken note of what brand of beer he drank and had nimbly made his way through the crowd, ordered, and returned with two fresh, sweating brown bottles. Donald hadn’t even had a chance to think about answering the siren call of temptation issuing forth from the back room, just opposite from where he stood. In any event, when Mark pressed the beer into his hand and pressed close to him, Donald suddenly abandoned any thought of the back room. Tonight was going to be different. And no one was more surprised about the turn of events than Donald himself.

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.”