Monday, August 14, 2017

Family Meal: An Excerpt and Recipe from DINNER AT FIORELLO'S



Although Dinner at Fiorello’s doesn’t contain actual recipes, it does contain a lot of food. Below is an excerpt that shows you our main character, Henry Appleby, on his very first—and very nervous—visit to the restaurant where he hopes to go against his family’s wishes and apply for a job working in the kitchen. 

Read the excerpt, and if you’re intrigued by what Rosalie serves Henry, read on for the recipe. You should note that the Tripe Stew is a dish my Sicilian mom would make—and that I would always turn my nose up at. Now that Mom’s in Heaven, I’m sorry I never gave it a try. It always smelled delicious.

EXCERPT—“Tripe Stew and A Case of the Nerves”

Rosalie, as this must be, seemed like she’d come straight from central casting where the request was for someone who looked like an Italian mother. Rosalie had an upsweep of salt-and-pepper hair and wore a black dress and what Henry mother would call sensible shoes. Her nose was big, her features careworn, but there was something about her eyes, a greenish-brown in color, that exuded warmth and maybe, if he looked really hard, mischief. She didn’t smile. “Did Carmela get your drink order?” she asked.
“Yeah, she’s bringing me some water. And bread.”
“Good. Take a look at the menu and see what you want. The fish today is good. Snapper with olives, garlic, and tomatoes. It’s fresh.”
She hurried away, and Henry opened the menu and began to scan it. He wanted to let out a little sigh. For him, this collection of food was like porn was to some of his peers. Right away, he could see the offerings leaned toward what Henry imagined was southern Italian comfort food—baked manicotti, ricotta pie, braccioli, greens and beans in tomato sauce, a pepper and egg sandwich on “Mom’s homemade bread,” were just a few of the things that set Henry’s mouth to watering.
The menu was like the family photos on the wall. It made him feel like he was visiting someone’s home, sitting in their kitchen, and being welcome. No pretense. Just a suggestion of “we’re so glad you’re here.”
When Rosalie returned, Henry ordered a cappicola sandwich with mozzarella and arugula, also on homemade bread.
“Anything else?” Rosalie asked. Henry noticed she hadn’t written anything down.
“Does it come with anything?”
“Like?”
“Fries?”
The question finally got Rosalie to crack a smile. “We don’t have fries. I can have the cook make you a nice salad, or we got roasted red potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic. Very tasty.”
“Sounds like it. I’ll have the potatoes.”
“Good choice. You could stand to gain a few pounds.” Rosalie looked him up and down.
Henry was surprised to hear her assessment. His mom was always getting on him about watching his calories and carbs.
Without another word, Rosalie turned and walked away. She disappeared into the kitchen. She came back out moments later and set down a small cup full of what looked like some sort of stew.
“What’s this?” Henry asked, inhaling the rich aroma of tomatoes and garlic. “I didn’t order it.”
“On the house. Just something to tide you over until Vito makes your sandwich. It’s what we had at our family meal today.”
“What is it?”
“Tripe with tomatoes and potatoes. It’s good. Mangia!”
Henry wanted to ask, “Isn’t that cow stomach?” but Rosalie had already taken off to wait on another table. He picked up his spoon and moved it around in the cup with more than a little doubt. Hey, if you’re thinking you’re some kind of foodie and today could be the start of a new direction for you, you can’t be a candy ass about trying new things. Just take a bite.
He did. The tripe was a little chewy but had a wonderful meaty richness to it that was complemented by the sauce, which was redolent of tomatoes and garlic. Henry could also taste carrots, onions, and herbs like oregano. He was surprised that it was actually quite delicious, and in no time he had finished the small bowl and found himself wishing for more.
The rest of Henry’s lunch did not disappoint him and continued on its theme of Italian comfort food. Everything he ate was filling, richly flavored, and bore all the signs of being prepared fresh right here on the premises. The bread was a revelation—light, airy, with a golden crust that stood up to the bite. The crust was hard, but in a delightful way.
He pushed his plate away and wondered about dessert. Rosalie, after all, had said he needed to put on some weight. But he was so stuffed—that sandwich was huge—that he was afraid he’d burst if he ate so much as another morsel.
Now came the moment of truth. Of course he’d pay the check; that was a given. But did he have the nerve to do what he’d really come here to do?
Baby steps. He told himself he’d be a fool and a coward if he didn’t at least fill out the application. He could always refuse the job if he decided he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, as the universe expected him to do. That way he could turn it down if they called him, which even Henry knew was unlikely.
Working here would be fun, Henry thought, even if he wouldn’t fit in with his flaxen hair and blue eyes. So what? He could be from northern Italy. They had blonds there, didn’t they?
Rosalie brought him his check. “Take your time,” she said. Henry pulled out the cash he had brought along—no way was he using a credit card for this—and put down enough to cover the bill and a generous tip for the “warm and welcoming” Rosalie.
And then he sat back. Everything he had eaten began to churn. I can’t do it. It’s more than just filling out an application and waiting to see what happens. It’s defying your family. You know they’ll be unhappy, especially Dad. Unhappy? He’d be furious, ashamed, and questioning my sanity.
If I do this, and they just so happen to offer me the job, I will want it. No doubt. And this is not a summer job. It’s not fair to take it under the pretense that I can just leave when school starts in the fall.
So at least you understand yourself now and what’s at stake. No illusions.
He picked up a piece of cappicola that had fallen out of his sandwich and gnawed on it, its rich spices and heat bursting on his tongue. He slowed his breathing to listen to the bustle in the kitchen. Someone shouted, “Throw it away! It smells rotten.” Henry grinned.
He took in all the other diners. They seemed happy, content, their bellies full. Wouldn’t it be something to feed people as his life’s work? Wouldn’t that mean more than managing stuff like portfolios, hedge funds, and other things his dad talked about over the dinner table? Henry was pretty much clueless about what his father did, and worse, he was sure he had no interest in finding out.
Do it.
RECIPE—TRIPE & POTATO STEW

To serve 4, you’ll need:
2 lbs. pre-boiled tripe, cut into bite-sized strips (you need to pre-boil it for about an hour, just to tenderize it)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
Olive oil
A couple tablespoons white wine
8 oz. can of whole tomatoes, crushed up with your hands
4-6 small potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Bay leaf
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, dried thyme
Parmesan for serving

Directions
1. In a large, heavy pot, sauté onion, carrot and celery in olive oil until soft, making sure not let any of them brown. Season with salt and pepper as you go.
2. Add the tripe strips and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes to allow it to take on the flavor of the aromatics. Then add white wine, raise the heat, and let the wine cook off.
3. Add tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them to the pot, together with the bay leaf and herbs. Mix everything well and cover the pot. Turn down the heat to low and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the tripe is tender and the sauce reduced. About halfway through the simmering, add the potatoes, mix them in, re-cover the pot and continue simmering. When the tripe is tender, if you find the dish too liquid, uncover the pot and raise the heat to reduce for a few minutes, until you have the consistency you like. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
4. Eat with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil on top.

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

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

BUY 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

He's a Real DREAMBOAT


Sexy. Surreal. Short: My new story, "DREAMBOAT" now available in the Amazon Kindle store for only .99 cents!

BLURB
Do you ever wonder where the dream people come from? Those people who appear in our dreams yet we’ve never seen elsewhere? So begins the story of a young man visited in recurring dreams by his personal vision of a dreamboat. His exotic, Latin ideal man is swarthy, sexy, and ripped and knows exactly the right ways to please our hero. The dreams are surreal and sexy...but what happens when our hero encounters his dream man in real life? A short story by Rick R. Reed, a writer praised by the Lambda Literary Review as a "writer who doesn't disappoint."

EXCERPT
I turned and looked toward the mattress on the hardwood floor. A man lay amid the cream-colored sheets, his dark skin a contrast to the color and texture of the linens. His eyelids were at half-mast, looking both sleepy and lustful at the same time. The lids shadowed the palest green eyes I had ever seen, all the more brilliant in contrast to his dark (Latin?) skin. He smiled and his perfect white teeth and full lips lit up his stubbled face.

He patted the bed, inviting me to join him. I hesitated, the window at my back, feeling a strange sense of foreboding. He certainly looked inviting: his hard, muscular body sculpted from tawny granite and dusted with coarse, curly black hair. He cocked his head. “Come on, sweetheart.” His voice was deep as he sang a lyric from an old reggae song, “The bed’s too big without you.” He reached beneath the sheets and that’s when I froze.

ONTOPDOWNUNDER REVIEWS
Go in expecting the unexpected and I have no doubt you'll enjoy it as much as I did. Highly recommended.

BUY
Amazon Kindle

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Crafting the Blurb: SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES



Blurbs are always one of the more difficult part of the publishing process for me. I never know if the hook is going to intriguing enough. Here's the official blurb for SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES from Dreamspinner Press (out summer 2018). From this, would you be interested in reading the book? "What if your first love was abducted and presumed dead—but returned twenty years later?

That’s the dilemma Cole Weston faces. Now happily married to Tommy D’Amico, he’s suddenly thrown into a surreal world when his first love, Rory Schneidmiller, unexpectedly reappears.

Where has Rory been all this time? What happened to him two decades ago, when a strange mass appeared in the night sky and lifted him into the heavens? Rory has no memory of those years. For him, it’s as though only a day or two has passed.

Rory still loves Cole with the passion unique to young first love. Cole has never forgotten Rory, yet Tommy has been his rock, by his side since Rory disappeared.

Cole is forced to choose between an idealized and passionate first love and the comfort of a long-term marriage. How can he decide? Who faces this kind of quandary, anyway? The answers might lie among the stars…."

Monday, July 24, 2017

HIGH RISK and the Anti-Heroine


High Risk is one of my oddest books because it features an anti-heroine, a damaged woman who's a sex addict. You could reasonably say she brought on the horror that befalls her in the pages of my book.

Her journey is filled with terror, tension, and suspense, but even I will admit Beth Walsh isn't an easy character to like or root for.

Yet I hope that sympathetic and discerning readers will peel back the onion skin of Beth's personality and see her for who and what she is at her core--a damaged soul who's desperate for love, with no real knowledge of how to get it.

I encourage you to come along with Beth on her harrowing journey toward redemption in High Risk. I like to think you won't soon forget her...or her story.

BLURB
A secret sex life... 

A handsome, twisted stranger... 

And a journey into a nightmare. 

Beth Walsh seemed like such a demure housewife. But while her attorney husband was away at work, she engaged in countless encounters with strangers...until she met the one stranger who would change everything--for the worst. Abbott Lowery was every woman's dream; but the monster lurking inside his handsome, chiseled exterior was terrifying. And Beth's behavior is about to unleash the rage and madness inside. High Risk is a story of secrets, tainted histories, murder, and kidnapping--with an ending so searing and brutal, readers will be left breathless.

BUY
Amazon Kindle (if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read High Risk for free!)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Getting the Cover and Blurb Right: SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES

I just finished up blurb and cover forms for my upcoming novel, SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES, which is a gay romance with an alien abduction hook. Dreamspinner Press, my publisher, always does a beautiful job with both the cover and the blurb, but it's forever a chore to wrestle my thoughts down to make them coherent and useful for the blurb writer. Below is my suggested blurb for the book (which should be out next summer), and attached are some of the pictures I sent to inspire my cover artist.

TENTATIVE BLURB What if your first love is abducted, presumed dead, and then returns twenty years later?
For Cole Weston, that’s the dilemma he faces. Now happily married to Tommy D’Amico, he’s suddenly thrown into a sense of the surreal as his first love, Rory Schneidmiller, returns. Where has Rory been all this time? What happened to him the night, two decades ago, when a strange mass appeared in the night sky and he felt himself being sucked upward? Even Rory has no memory of those years. For him, it’s only as though a day or two has passed.
Rory still loves Cole with a passion unique to young first love. Cole has never forgotten Rory, yet Tommy has been his rock, with him since Rory disappeared so long ago.
Cole is forced to choose between an idealized and passionate first love and the comfort of a long-term marriage. How can he decide? Who faces this kind of quandary, anyway? The answers lie within the pages of SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES…and, perhaps, within the stars themselves.
Look for SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES, summer 2018.





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When a Reviewer "Gets" You: M4M


I just love it when a reviewer "gets" a book. Such is the case with reviewer, Michael, at Diverse Reader on my latest, M4M: 

"Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret. This is, perhaps, the worst kept secret in all of human existence. Every man, woman, and child know it, but rarely, if ever, talks about it. As if discussing it will open Pandora’s Box and hasten its inevitable arrival.
That secret is this: We all get older.
Now, how each of us deals with this varies from person to person, culture to culture, community to community. Some cultures, like the Japanese, revere the generations that came before, while others would rather pretend they don’t exist.
Something happens within the gay community after your thirties that you never saw coming while you were in your twenties. Your priorities change. Life is no longer about saving money for bar nights or going out until the wee hours of the morning, getting up with three hours of sleep, and going into work. Nor is it about finding “The One”, or even “The One For The Night.” Life is about making the mortgage or rent payment, putting food on the table, and figuring out what to watch on television. Because of this shift, the friends you had in your twenties and thirties, the ones you thought you would have throughout your life, may disappear. Eventually, unless you’re partnered up, you can end up feeling alone. There’s a sense of irrelevance, and you look back at your life and wonder how you got here, what you could have done differently. It’s not something that happens on purpose, or even with your knowledge until you finally notice.

Now, As a newly single gay man in his forties, Ethan, the main protagonist, is feeling his irrelevance. He’s been alone for so long that that sense of loneliness has become a second skin that he would live to shed. But how do you meet someone when you don’t go to the bars anymore?" 

Read the rest of the review here: https://diversereader.blogspot.com/2017/07/release-day-review-m4m-by-rick-r-reed.html 

BLURB
Finding and keeping love can be a challenge in the modern world of blogging, social media, and online dating, as one man will learn in this trilogy.

VGL Male Seeks Same
Poor Ethan Schwartz. At forty-two, he’s alone, his bed is empty, and his HDTV is overworked. He’s tried bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find each other, but it never works out. Maybe he should get a cat?

But his life is about to change…

NEG UB2
Poor Ethan. He’s received the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s HIV positive. Until today his life was perfect, with a job he loves and Brian, who could be “the one.” The one to complete him and fill his lonely life with laughter, hot sex, and romance.

But Ethan’s in for another shock. Could Brian have infected him?

STATUS UPDATES
Alone again, Ethan wonders if life is worth living, even with a cat. When an old nemesis sends a Facebook friend request, Ethan is suspicious but intrigued. It seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around, and the changes might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life… and love.


BUY

Monday, July 10, 2017

It's Release Day and M4M is Now OUT!


So excited to announce that my romantic trilogy, M4M, is now available wherever books are sold. If you've read the original version of M4M, published by Amber Quill Press, please know that this version has not only been extensively revised, but also includes a whole new one-third of the book, "Status Updates" that completes the love and life journey of our romantic underdog, Ethan Schwartz. I hope you'll pick up a copy!

BLURB
Finding and keeping love can be a challenge in the modern world of blogging, social media, and online dating, as one man will learn in this trilogy.

VGL Male Seeks Same
Poor Ethan Schwartz. At forty-two, he’s alone, his bed is empty, and his HDTV is overworked. He’s tried bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find each other, but it never works out. Maybe he should get a cat?

But his life is about to change…

NEG UB2
Poor Ethan. He’s received the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s HIV positive. Until today his life was perfect, with a job he loves and Brian, who could be “the one.” The one to complete him and fill his lonely life with laughter, hot sex, and romance.

But Ethan’s in for another shock. Could Brian have infected him?

STATUS UPDATES
Alone again, Ethan wonders if life is worth living, even with a cat. When an old nemesis sends a Facebook friend request, Ethan is suspicious but intrigued. It seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around, and the changes might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life… and love.


BUY