Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Best Gay Romance 2015



If you’re a fan of gay romance stories, then Felice Picano’s new anthology for Cleis, Best Gay Romance2015, is well worth the price of admission. Sure, there are a bunch of very short hook-up pieces and a few “WTF” moments, but the best stories in the book are deeply romantic and beautifully written.

“Discodemius,” by Jerry Wheeler, is a real hoot. A present-day twink casts a spell that conjures up a demon. But instead of the Azmodeus, whom he expects, he gets “the unholy terror from the seventies, Discodemius,” wearing a hot pink leisure suit and a “mass of medallions on gold chains that clacked against his scaly chest.”

Be careful what you wish for, right? When Kevin wishes to be “entertained,” he has no idea what he’s getting into. I read this one eagerly, wondering how a time-travel story could have a happy ending, and I was delighted by the twist at the end.

“The Great Masturbator” by Daniel Jaffe is another story that kept me puzzled, about a man who has an out-of-body experience at a circus. It’s a very clever twist on the idea of a romance, as well as full of great little details and very evocative writing.

Michael Thomas Ford
I was also delighted to see one of my favorite romance authors, Michael Thomas Ford, represented in the anthology, and “Reader, I Married Him” did not disappoint. When you get to the end of the story, then go back and look at the story’s title, and you’ll understand how a master works.

As an English major myself, I loved the romantic allusion here. Go Charlotte Bronte!

One of the sexiest and most romantic stories is by two women, Erin MacRae and Racheline Maltese, the story of a date that starts out to be a huge screw-up, as Pete tries to remove his wedding ring (his husband has died three years before) in preparation for a big date with Isaac. Olive oil, lube, and Windex make for a sweetly erotic encounter that has the reader rooting for both men.


All in all, this is a can't miss book for fans of the M/M romance genre. And of course, there's another can't miss coming out June 9 from Cleis -- my own Take This Man: Gay Romance Stories

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Love is Love



Show and Tell


Welcome to the "Love is Love" blog hop. Below my post, you'll find 
an entry link where you can win a Kindle and 42 ebooks! Also 
below you'll find links to the blogs of all the other participants, 
and you can visit each one to enter the contest again.

Remember those childhood days when you’d bring something cool
in to school for “show and tell?” As I got older and began to study
 writing in depth, the phrase shifted to “show, don’t tell.” Instead
 of writing, “Joe was happy,” you should write something that
 showed Joe’s happiness, such as “Joe grinned from ear to ear.”

Oh wait, that’s a cliché. Supposed to avoid those. How about 
“Joe grinned broadly.”

Nope, adverbs are weak. “Joe grinned, showing the perfect teeth 
his parents had paid so much for.”

That’s better, in that it gives some extra piece of information about 
Joe. But it makes him sound pretty young, doesn’t it? Suppose Joe 
is actually in his forties. “Joe grinned, turning his head a bit to the 
side in a way that made his weathered face look boyish and charming.”

Okay, enough with Joe. What does all this have to do with Valentine’s 
Day? Well, I think that it’s important to both “show” and “tell” when it 
comes to the person you love.

My partner and I say “love you” at least six or seven times a day. 
When one of us leaves the house, when we end phone calls, when 
we say good night. Even though it’s become such a habit that 
it doesn't have the meaning of a full-on face-to-face “I love you,” 
we both think it’s important to reinforce. It’s a tough world out there 
and anything can happen—and if at all possible I want my last words 
to him to be “love you.”

But as the cliché goes, actions speak louder than words. I’m the 
“Mr. Outside” in our relationship now that my partner has become 
disabled. I’ll buy food he likes at the grocery, make sure that we 
have all the over-the-counter medications and household items 
we need, like the brand of soap he prefers. I’ll go out late at night 
on a fast-food run for him. When he’s not up to going up and 
down stairs, I’ll fetch his pills or find his phone or wallet for him.

He looks after me, too, trouble-shooting computer problems, 
bringing in the morning newspaper on his way back in with 
the dogs, forwarding me articles about health or writing, 
reassuring me when I've lost an award or my book sales are down.

Of course, our relationship isn't perfect. I often say there’s a 
lot of free-floating testosterone in our house. We've been known 
to argue, yell, slam doors. But fortunately, so far we always 
come back to those positive words and gestures.

To tie this back to writing, I try and do the same thing in my 
M/M romances. Kimo and Mike in the Mahu Investigations are 
both alpha male types, so there’s lots of conflict between them, 
but there is lots of romance as well, and the sense that they've 
conquered a lot of challenges to be together.

In the Have Body, Will Guard series, Liam is the alpha male and 
Aidan the beta. Liam is the muscular former US SEAL, while Aidan, 
a teacher of English as a second language, is a nurturer with a 
wide range of domestic skills that often come in handy in their 
work. They, too, use a lot of tender names for each other like 
sweetheart and baby.

I’ve tried to do the same thing in my stand-alone romances 
and the “Love On” series about young guys finding romance 
and careers on South Beach. I guess that childhood of “show 
and tell” has worked out well. 

Here are the Ebooks you can win:

 
Shiloh Sadler              Private Pleasure
Aidee Ladnier
The Break-in
Amanda Young
Winner chooses from author's available titles
Bronwyn Heeley
Winner chooses from author's available titles
C. J. Anthony
Heaven
Charlie Cochrane
Something from my back list - winner's choice.
David Connor
Tidings of Comfort and Joey Down Under
DP Denman
Winner chooses from author's available titles
Elin Gregory
Alike As Two Bees
Ethan Stone
Winner chooses from author's available titles
Eva Lefoy
Love is a Mess anthology
H.B. Pattskyn
Hanging by the Moment
J.M. Dabney
When All Else Fails
Jessie G
The Protector
Julie Lynn Hayes
When Will I See You Again
Lisabet Sarai
Necessary Madness
Lynley Wayne
Winner chooses from author's available titles
M.A. Church
The Harvest series (book #1 and book #2)
Morticia knight
All Fired Up (Sin City Uniforms 1)
N.J. Nielsen
Winner chooses from author's available titles
Sibley Jackson
Private Performance
Sue Brown
The Next Call
Tali Spencer
Dangerous Beauty
Tara Lain
Canning the Center
Thianna Durston
The Blake/Dusty Chronicles: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Alexa Milne
Rainbow Connection (due out 13th Feb) or Sporting Chance.
Anne Barwell
Winner chooses from author's available titles
April Kelley
Whispers of Home
Brandon Shire
The Love of Wicked Men - Episode One
Catherine Lievens
Jamie
Cecil Wilde
Defying Convention
Christopher Koehler
Poz
Draven St. James
Scent of a Wolf
Elizabeth Noble
Winner chooses from author's available titles
Hayley B James
Undercover Addiction
Jennifer Wright
All 3 Finding Home Series books - Pavarus, Morvea, & Airos
Karen Stivali
Moment of Impact
Kendall McKenna
1) Strength of the Pack 2)Waves Break My Fall
L M Somerton
Rasputin's Kiss
Lily G Blunt
Paint the Sky
Megan Linden
Running Off the Edge
Stephen del Mar
Dark Love
TM Smith
Opposites
Tracey Michael
Pretty Please

Hop sites:


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Teachers Who've Influenced Me

The more time I spend writing the Golden Retriever Mysteries, which are set in a version of my home town, the more I find the teachers who made an impression on me dropping in.

Part of it is the setting, of course. Stewart’s Crossing is a small town in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just up the Delaware River from Philadelphia. In my mind, it’s just north of the town where I grew up, Yardley, and has a lot in common with my one-time home. 

There are now two PHS campuses. I went to the "east" one.

Main Street, Ferry Street, Canal Street, and the single traffic light in the center of town, for starters. The Friends Meeting House, the mill pond, even the tiny gingerbread Victorian that housed the local library when I was a kid. My hero and his best friend, the local police detective, went to Pennsbury High, as I did.

The secondary setting for the books is Eastern College, my hero’s alma mater, where he returns to work after a divorce and a brief incarceration for computer hacking. Schools are great places for second chances. I teach at a community college myself, and many of my students have returned to study after family drama, illness, even incarceration.

When Steve comes home, one of his first jobs is as an adjunct professor in the English department at Eastern. I get to use a lot of my own experiences and I have fun with the names of his students – Barbara Seville; Dezhanne, Cynnamon and Felae; football players Juan Tanamera and Jose Canusi.

Maybe it’s all that focus on education that keeps reminding me of my own teachers. Mr. Norman Haider, my tenth-grade English teacher, who assigned us to read A Separate Peace by John Knowles the year the movie version came out. I fell head over heels for that book, and when Mr. Haider told us to “rewrite” the book from Finny’s point of view, I discovered that writing was a way for me to explore my own feelings and what matters most to me. I’ll forever be grateful to him for that, and I’ll always remember the white patent leather belt and matching shoes he wore!

Other teachers pop up as well. There’s a strong Quaker tradition in Pennsylvania, and many of my teachers were Quakers. 

My ninth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Ash, was a Friend, and some of her gentle nature comes out in my Quaker characters. 

My social studies teacher in eighth grade, Mrs. Shea, was equally kind and generous, and her name pops up as one of my hero’s teachers.

Other teachers pop up in different ways. When I speak at conferences or give readings, I’m often told that I have a great speaking voice. 

That’s thanks to Mr. Kelly, who coached our Forensics team in high school. I studied speech with him and participated in competitions in extemporaneous speaking and dramatic reading. Obviously that paid off! 

Finally, there’s a message I got on Facebook the other day from one of my former students, who wrote, “You truly are the best English professor at Broward.” I hope I’m keeping up the tradition my own teachers established.

And by the way, the sixth of my golden retriever mysteries, Dog Have Mercy, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It’ll be on sale there, and at lots of other places where ebooks are sold, as of February 2.



Tuesday, January 06, 2015

South Florida Wildlife

Living with dogs, I get an up close and personal view of all the wildlife in our area, because Brody and Griffin will chase anything that moves (yes, you, little girl on the tricycle).

Bright green iguanas and small lizards are always a part of our landscape. But the worst animals, from the point of view of the guy holding onto the leash, are squirrels. Periodically we’ll notice squirrels racing around together, chasing each other up and down trees, across streets and onto rooftops. Sometimes one will almost seem like he’s playing with the dogs, darting in front of them, hiding behind trees and so on.

Even with all that running around, I rarely see dead squirrels on the street, though I did see one a few weeks ago. Either they’re pretty quick, or somebody in the neighborhood likes road kill.

My least favorite have to be the land crabs. During their season, they’re everywhere, with big nasty claws. I’ve had to kick them out of our courtyard, pry them from behind the hurricane shutters, shoo them from the garage. When one of the dogs surprises a live one, it will rear up on its hind legs and wave those nasty pincers. More often, though, we see dead crab parts in the street and along the sidewalk. It’s an effort to rein Brody and Griffin in and keep them from snarfing up what they see as a seafood buffet.

Fortunately, a few years ago the City of Hollywood delivered new trash cans for us with heavy lids, so we haven’t seen raccoon or possums for a while. I vividly remember being woken in the wee hours of the morning by raccoon banging on our trash cans in the courtyard and Sam barking wildly.


More recently, there was a hive of bees in a neighbor’s water meter and a long-tailed mouse in our pool when it was drained. I am the designated wild animal control person in our household,and I doubt that will change in the future.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reindeer Got Run Over by a Grandma


Mrs. Doris Huffnagel of North Miami Beach is in police custody after an early Christmas morning traffic incident involving a neighbor’s holiday display.

Huffnagel, 75, is accused of driving while intoxicated as well as reckless endangerment of a ruminant. She told police that she had drunk several eggnog shooters at her son’s home as part of a Christmas Eve celebration. “I was good to drive, though,” she insisted. “Sure, I got cataracts in both eyes, and because of my scoliosis I can barely see over the steering wheel, but I get around.”

Christine Christian, a neighbor of Huffnagel’s, decorates her home lavishly each holiday season. “Even though I’m a Jewish-Wiccan-Buddhist, and technically I shouldn’t even be celebrating, I figure that the goyim have commercialized the holidays so much I can have some fun. I call myself Chris Christmas and I really go all out with my decorations,” she said. “I have a Disney manger scene, with Mickey and Minnie as Joseph and the Virgin Mary, and Goofy, Donald and Pluto as the three wise men. I’ve got lights in all the trees, an alligator in a Santa hat, and all my elves are full-sized, because I don’t discriminate against little people. But my centerpiece is Santa’s airboat, pulled by Shaygets, Shiksa, Shlemiel, Schlimazl, Schnorrer, Shnook, Shande, and Shmatte, with Shikkerer in the lead.”

She paused to wipe a tear from her eye. “It was Shikkerer who got hit. He’s always so brave, leading the airboat through the Everglades. If he hadn’t taken the hit, who knows what would have happened.” She shook her head. “Sometimes the neighbors complain about the noise, between the airboat motor and the recording of the Barking Dogs singing “Jingle Bells.” But that’s no reason to run down an innocent reindeer.”

The scene of the accident is a grisly tableau. Shikkerer’s carcass is on its side, with tire tracks over its abdomen. Its bright red nose light is jammed in the grill of Huffnagel’s faded yellow 1972 Mustang Mach 1. The reins that connected Shikkerer to Shaygets and Shiksa lie broken on the artificial snow of Christian’s front yard.


Reporters were unable to reach anyone at the North Pole for comment, reaching only a voice mail recording indicating that the Naughty or Nice List was closed for this season.

(If you think this is funny, hope you'll check out my humorous mysteries: Genie for Hire, A Biff Andromeda Mystery, and The Golden Retriever Mystery series.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Interview with Richard Stevenson



In a shameless attempt to get some publicity for my newest Mahu book, Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations, I thought I'd reprint some writing I've done in the past which is no longer available on the web. And where better to begin than with this interview with one of my literary heroes, Richard Stevenson, whose Don Strachey novels were a great inspiration to me.

This interview took place in 2010 at the release of his novel, Death Vows, which confronts the issues involved in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. It was originally published at a now-defunct website called GayWired.com. 




NSP: Death Vows has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel to it.  How did you come up with the plot?
         
RS: Homophobia is the villain, one way or another, in all the Strachey books.  It does terrible things to gay people and it does terrible things to straight people.  And since I witnessed the rage that gay marriage generated in some of its opponents in Massachusetts, it was easy to come up with a plot where gay marriage turns lethal.  I took part in some of the pro-gay-marriage demonstrations at the State House in Boston.  Counter-demonstrators were bused in by Catholic and Protestant right-wing groups, and I had never seen such hatred on human faces. 

NSP: There’s a theme of masks that runs through this book---everyone seems to be hiding something about who they are. 

RS: I lived behind masks for much of my early life, and what this does to people’s psyches interests and frightens me.  I think one reason I loved John LeCarre’s early spy novels was that his protagonists led double lives out of patriotism and not for reasons of shame or social embarrassment.  Of course, it was more complicated than that for LeCarre’s characters, just as it’s not all bad for closeted gay people.  Leading secret lives sometimes has a kind of romance to it too.  But overall the closet is self-destructive.  And the people in Death Vows who bravely refuse to lead lives of secret shame in their home towns are plainly the ones I admire most.

NSP: I love the repartee between Don and his long-time partner Timmy; it seems that their relationship is the cornerstone of the books, particularly in Death Vows.

Richard Stevenson
RS: I am never happier than when I’m watching these two go at each other in that half-maddening way of theirs.  Each, in my mind, is a whole person, and yet together they comprise a kind of third organism that I find likable and entertaining.  All the best relationships have this interesting mixture of tension, durability, fragility, despair, joy and---best of all---humor.  Relationships like this are high on the list of things that make life worth living.  I’ve been tremendously lucky in this regard, and it’s great fun writing about one of these relationships.

NSP: Death Trick, the first of the Don Strachey mysteries, came out in 1981.  How are Don and Timmy aging?

RS: Ver-r-r-ry slowly.  My original editor at St. Martin’s, the estimable Michael Denneny, advised me not to age them as I aged, which was my original plan.  He said readers would not put up with an old-fart gay private eye.  So they have aged at about half the rate nature ordinarily requires.  In 1981 they’re about forty.  Now I’m pushing seventy and they’re in their early fifties.  That’s quite a feat for them.  In Death Vows there’s actually an AARP joke. 

NSP: How have the changing times affected what you write?  For example, I recall in the early books Don was more of a sexual hound dog.

RS: Death Trick is the only pre-AIDS book in the series.  It’s set in that last spasm of 1970s gay sexual hedonism and social rebellion.  Strachey loved that life---the sexual variety, the adventure.  Timmy was more conventional in his emotional makeup, and I guess there was a chance their relationship might not have survived that era.  But Strachey was forced to alter his habits because of AIDS and also because he loved Timmy and didn’t want to lose him.  And Timmy gradually loosened up a bit too.  In Death Vows there’s a brief reference to the two of them going to Paris twice a year and together attending “the over-forty grope” at the Odessa Baths.

NSP: How do you feel about the here! TV versions of your books (three so far)?  Have you had any input?

RS: I have been kept at a very long arm’s length.  They pay me (not much), and that’s it.  Overall, I’m glad the whole thing happened, because it’s revived interest in the books by, among others, me.  Two of the films, Third Man Out and On the Other Hand, Death, are more or less faithful to the spirit and substance of the books and are pretty good in their different ways. Shock to the System, however, the second film, was just ghastly and a real betrayal of the Strachey character.  Some bozo at here! took a mordant black comedy about the barbarism of reparative therapy and turned it into a cliché-ridden turgid melodrama in which Strachey boo-hoo-ingly laments that he was ever born gay---until, that is, Timmy talks him out of this foolishness.  It’s just totally nuts.   I haven’t seen the fourth film, Ice Blues, yet.

NSP: How has seeing Don come to life on TV changed your ideas of him?

Chad Allen
RS: My ideas of him haven’t changed.  But interestingly, I now have two Stracheys in my head.  There’s young Chad Allen, who’s very good as Strachey, and there’s also the “real” older Strachey---i.e., the one who’s been in my head since 1979 when he first appeared there.

NSP: You’re on your ninth book.  How do you keep the series fresh? 

RS: By writing a book only when I think I have a fresh idea.  Most publishers insist that mystery writers produce a book a year.  This practice has led to too much not-so-interesting stuff.  And even though I have resisted this practice, some books in the Strachey series are plainly better than others.

NSP: You live in Massachusetts yourself.  Any wedding plans? 


RS: Joe Wheaton and I have been together for over 18 years.  We were married in May, 2004.  We planned on being the first to sign up at Becket Town Hall, but two women beat us to it.  

Richard Stevenson and I are both published by MLR Press, and you can find both of us there.