Friday, June 23, 2017

FIRST LINES FRIDAYS: Obsessed

First lines Friday: On the long drive from Seattle to Palm Springs, I heard Duran Duran's song "Hungry Like the Wolf" on the radio. It reminded me of a lot of things, but most of all, it made me think of my first novel, OBSESSED, published in 1991 by Dell and reissued by Untreed Reads in its current ebook format. These first lines explain why Duran Duran and OBSESSED, a book about a serial killer terrorizing Chicago, mash up:

Joe MacAree had just murdered a woman, and all the things he felt when he killed the other four he was feeling right now. How would he describe it? In his journal, he might call his feelings an “elevation of the senses” or “an ethereal quality bringing the world into sharp focus.”

After each killing the reaction was the same. There was a moment of sharp pain right behind his left eye, an instant where the pain was so intense as to block out the act he had just committed, the blood and the ripped flesh…then a moment where brilliant flecks of silver light swam before him, and he could not keep his eyes from rolling, trying to follow the patterns the stars made.

And then the clarity.

As he guided his light blue Honda Accord along Harlem Avenue just south of Chicago, everything seemed more alive, as if to contrast the death he had just brought about. He noticed things he never noticed: the shifting red, amber, and turquoise of the reflections the stoplights made on the rain-slicked pavement. He noticed how the color spread, muted, over the slick black roadway. Even his radio, usually sounding tinny tuned to WLS, seemed more vibrant. He heard the different instruments in “Hungry Like the Wolf” as if Duran Duran were in the car with him, playing.

BLURB
I kill, therefore I am…

Voices slam through the corridor of his wounded mind. The words of his dead sister cry out. His parents' taunts fill the silent room where he sits and waits--waits for the murderous rage, filling him with strength, driving him to kill, to touch the cold flesh, taste the warm blood--to feel alive again… A witness has seen him, but his killing only turns her on and now she wants to protect him. His wife suspects him, but the private detective she hired cannot stop him. Joe MacAree fears nothing--except that he may no longer be human. The thirst that drives him is relentless, moving deeper and deeper into his own shattering, private realm, where each murder is a delicious new gift of life, where revulsion is beauty, and the obsession will never let him go.

"A harrowing ride through cutting-edge psychological horror, this one's got a vicious bite. Rick R. Reed's Obsessed is a twisted nightmare." - Douglas Clegg, bestselling author

Buy OBSESSED (for only $2.51!) here.

Listen to Duran Duran singing "Hungry Like the Wolf" here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My Seat-of-the-Pants Writing Process



Writer friends, does the following resonate? This seemed like such an apt description of my own creative process (from Dennis Lehane's SINCE WE FELL): 

There seemed to be little rhyme or reason as to why one day snatching the correct words from the ether was like opening a faucet and other days it was like opening a vein, but she began to suspect both the good and the bad parts of the process were connected to the fact that she was writing without a map. No plan at all, really. She fell quite naturally, it seemed, into a more free-flowing approach than she ever would have allowed herself as a journalist and gave herself over to something she didn’t quite understand, something that, at the moment, spoke in cadence more than structure.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Writing About Love...and Food


Writing About Love...and Food

Shakespeare said, “If music be the food of love, play on…” I agree with him, except I would paraphrase him “If food be the music of love, cook on…”

People ask why I marry food with love in so many of my stories. One, I believe that food and love, next to air and water, are two very essential things for a happy life. 

Dinner at Jack’s shows how food bridges the gap between love and memory and how providing the care and comfort of good food can solidify a relationship. That’s not just something I believe as a writer, but as a human being.

In the excerpt below, you get a ‘taste’ of the kind of comfort food you’ll find in Dinner at Jack’s and get an insider view into the tenuous relationship between our two lovers, Beau and Jack and how a simple pasta dish begin to forge a spark of recognition and tenderness….


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT (and a recipe!)
Beau neared the bed. He set the tray down not on Jack’s lap, but next to him.

“I have a feeling you’re going to love this,” Beau said softly, staring into Jack’s eyes.

Jack allowed himself, for only a second or two, to stare back, noticing the rich green of Beau’s eyes, which were the color of moss. He tore his gaze away. Something told him it wasn’t right to stare into another man’s eyes that way. There was something shameful in it.

Instead he looked down at the tray. On it was a white bowl filled with little pillows of pasta he remembered were called gnocchi. They glistened with olive oil, dotted here and there with flakes of red pepper. The tang of the cheese, although barely visible on the pasta, rose up to Jack’s nostrils to remind him it was there. Next to the pasta was a plate upon which was piled a mound of greens, it too glistening with a light dressing. Jack could smell the lemon in it, acidic, tangy, making his mouth water.

He gripped his fists together so tightly he could see his knuckles whiten in his mind’s eye. A sudden urge, powerful, rose up, to push the tray very gently, and while smiling all the while—off the edge of the bed.

No! Why did he want to do such a thing?

He couldn’t bring himself to say anything, especially not anything like “This smells amazing” or “Oh my God, this looks so good.” But he could fight the impulse to fling the food, a gift really, to the floor. Or at least he thought he could….

He looked at Beau, then away quickly, to level a glance at his mother, who was all expectancy and hope. Her hands were clasped together, almost as though she were praying. And maybe she was.
Staring down at the tray at last, he lifted it up and onto his lap. He grabbed the paper towel on its surface and tucked it into his collar. Finally he lifted the bowl up and took in a gnocchi.

The flavors danced, truly danced, on his tongue, an explosion of savory heat. He closed his eyes and reveled in how this simple bite of food transported him, made him one with his body in delight… and again, weirdly, nostalgia. He forced the latter away and continued eating, without realizing right away he was also keeping his eyes closed.

When it dawned on him that he was sitting there, gobbling his food down with his eyes shut, his eyelids snapped up. His mother hovered over him, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Beau stood in the background, wearing a subtle but visible smile of triumph.

Those two ignited a tiny flame of rage within Jack. He glared at them. “Do you think a guy could eat in privacy?” he asked.

“Of course,” Beau said. He grabbed Maisie’s hand and led her from the room. They closed the door softly behind themselves.

And Jack found himself eating every bite. And wanting more….

Damn Beau!

Jackson’s Spicy Gnocchi
(Serves 4)

You Need:
8 oz. potato gnocchi
¼ cup good olive oil, more or less
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy filets
1 t red pepper flakes, more or less
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ cup pasta cooking water
Salt and pepper to taste (seriously—to taste! With the salty anchovies and the red pepper, you may not need either)

To Make:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add plenty of salt when you first see bubbles appear.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in olive oil and allow it to get warmed up, a couple of minutes. Throw in your minced garlic and lower the heat. Allow the garlic to simmer and become aromatic, but be careful that it doesn’t begin to brown—you don’t want that bitterness. Add in the anchovy filets and cook for a couple more minutes. You should be able to break up the filets with a wooden spoon, and they should magically vanish into the garlic-flavored oil. Trust me, this will not taste fishy. Throw in your red pepper flakes.
Add gnocchi to boiling water and cook until they rise to the surface of the water. Do not overcook! This will only take a couple of minutes. Remove from water with a strainer and set aside. Reserve ¼ cup of the water you cooked the gnocchi in.
At this point, you can dump the gnocchi in the pan with the seasoned olive oil. Toss pasta to coat with the oil and add your Parmesan. Toss some more, so every gnocchi is coated.
Add in your reserved pasta water a little at a time. You want to loosen up the sauce a bit with this, make it creamier. Your eye will guide you when to stop adding water. You won’t need the whole ¼ cup.
Serve hot.

BLURB
Personal chef Beau St. Clair, recently divorced from his cheating husband, has returned to the small Ohio River town where he grew up to lick his wounds. Jack Rogers lives with his mother Maisie in that same small town, angry at and frightened of the world. Jack has a gap in his memory that hides something he dares not face, and he’s probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Maisie, seeking relief from her housebound and often surly son, hires Beau to cook for Jack, hoping the change might help bring Jack, once a handsome and vibrant attorney, back to his former self. But can a new face and comfort food compensate for the terror lurking in Jack’s past?

Slowly, the two men begin a dance of revelation and healing. Food and compassion build a bridge between Beau and Jack, a bridge that might lead to love.

But will Jack’s demons allow it? Jack’s history harbors secrets that could just as easily rip them apart as bring them together.

BUY
eBook
Paperback
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

LOVE: Defined



"Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident." 

(Louis de Bernières in Corelli’s Mandolin)


Friday, June 2, 2017

NEW RELEASE! FEEL-GOOD TRUE ROMANCE, A Bundle of Four of My Best Gay Romance Titles


Happy to announce my new release!

BLURB
Delve into some of Rick R. Reed’s classic feel-good romances with this bundle. In Chaser, self-proclaimed chubby chaser Caden DeSarro finds in the perfect man in stocky, bearded Kevin Dodge, and a one-night stand leads into the relationship they’ve both dreamed off. But when Caden returns from a business trip to find Kevin with a new body makeover, is this really the same man he fell in love with? In Hungry for Love, Nate Tippie’s curious sister Hannah and kooky best friend Marilyn set up an online profile on a gay dating site, with Nate as the model. When Brandon Wilde falls in love with the man he’s been chatting with, Nate and Brandon just might have a chance at the love they’ve been searching for—if they can find their way out of the mess Hannah and Marilyn have made!

When the state of Washington finally makes gay marriage legal, Duncan Taylor proposes to his boyfriend, and doesn’t get the answer he’d been hoping for, in Legally Wed. Giving up on love, Duncan determines to marry gay-man-loving Marilyn instead, but wedding planner Peter Dalrymple may be just the solution Duncan has been yearning for. And in Dinner at Fiorello’s, Henry Appleby’s family has his life all planned out for him, but he takes a chance at living a bit of his dream with a summer job at Fiorello’s. Vito Carelli, a chef at Fiorello’s, has a tragic past, but when these two cooks collide in the kitchen, they might just find what they need to break free.

BUY:
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon Kindle


Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Submission: SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES

Just submitted my latest novel, SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES (a love story with science-fiction overtones) to Dreamspinner Press. Wish me luck! Here's a little taste from the first chapter:

EXCERPT
If he couldn’t sleep, he might as well take the opportunity to go outside, enjoy the warm breezes and what appeared to be a deserted beachfront.

He dressed quickly and silently—even though he knew he needn’t have bothered since Cole was beyond waking—in a pair of cut-offs and a Dr. Who T-shirt. He slid his feet into flip-flops, grabbed his keys off the dresser, and headed for the front door.

Other than the steady whoosh of traffic on Sheridan Road to the west, the night was quiet. Rory wished he’d checked the time before heading out, but judging from the silence all around him, he’d guess it was the wee small hours of the morning, maybe two or three a.m. This was Chicago, after all, there was usually someone stumbling around, even in blackest night.

But his street was empty. The tree branches and their leaves cast shadows on the silvery pavement beneath his feet because of the moon’s brightness. His footsteps, even in flip-flops, sounded extra-loud as he headed east, toward the beach.

At the end of the street, there was a cul-de-sac where cars could turn around, and beyond this, a set of stone steps that led down to the sand. Rory stood at the top of the steps looking out at the sand and water, the pile of boulders just off-shore, that Cole promised he’d swim out to the next day with Rory. A white lifeguard chair, empty, sat crookedly in the sand, leaning as it sunk to the left. The moon shone brilliantly on the water, laying a swath of golden light upon its gently undulating surface. If Rory looked at this light just right, perhaps squinting a bit behind his glasses, he could almost imagine the light rising up, like an illuminated fountain, from the water’s surface.

He took the steps quickly and was on the sand in seconds. He kicked off his flip-flops and sighed when he felt the cool sand squishing up between his toes. He looked around himself once more, paying particular attention to the concrete that bordered the beach, to assure himself he had the gift of a city beach all to himself.

And he did! He did.

He tore off his shirt, set it down, and then removed his glasses, placing them on top of the T-shirt. With a little cry, he dashed toward the water, a small laugh escaping his lips. He stopped briefly at its edge, gasping at the icy cold of the waves, even this late in the summer, as they ran up to meet him, lapping and biting at his toes. And then he took a deep breath, waded in up to his knees, and paused to consider if he really wanted to go whole hog.

What the hell?

He waded in a little farther, until the bottom dropped out from under him suddenly and instead of the water reaching just to the top of his thighs, hit him just above his belly button. It was freezing! And Rory knew there was only one solution: get full immersion over as quickly as possible.

He raised his hands over his head and dove as a wave rolled in toward him. The world went silent as he went under, the murky depths of the water almost black. He held his breath as long as he could, swimming outward. His mother’s voice erupted in his head, scolding, telling him to go back to shore, because it was late and there was no one around. What if he, God forbid, got a cramp?

Rory shushed his mother and continued to swim toward Michigan or whatever was directly opposite, hundreds of miles away. He swam until he felt his lungs would burst.

And then he surfaced, shaking the water from his hair. The first thing he noticed was how full immersion had done the trick—he wasn’t exactly warm, but the water temperature was at least bearable.

The second was the light on the water. It had changed to a strange pale radiance, a shifting, silvery opalescence that, in addition to his recent underwater swimming, left him nearly breathless.

He trod water and hazarded a glimpse up at the sky, expecting to see the moon and perhaps that bank of clouds that had managed to elude him earlier.

But the moon was gone. Or at least hidden.

Is this real?

Rory couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He actually slipped under for a helpless moment because both his arms and feet stopped moving. He came back up quickly, sputtering and spitting out lake water, gaze fixed on the sky. “What the fuck?” he whispered.

Was what he saw natural? Like, as in a natural phenomenon? What was above him appeared almost like some membrane, formed from gray smoky clouds, but alive. It rose up, mountainous, into the night sky. As he peered closer at the form, it seemed to almost breathe, to expand in and out. And within the gray smoke or fog, figures seemed to be spinning. They were black and amorphous, almost like shadows brought to life. The fact that the cloud—or whatever it was—had an otherworldly silvery light from below didn’t make the figures any more distinctive.

This can’t be real, Rory thought. I’m back at the apartment right now, sound asleep next to Cole. That pizza really did a number on me. Rory knew his notions were simply wishful thinking.

The membrane or cloud or whatever one wanted to call it was as real as the moon had been above him.

The black figures, spinning, began, one-by-one, to drop. They were too far distant for Rory to hear any splashes, but he could plainly see that some of them were disconnecting from the membrane-or-cloud-or-whatever-one-wanted-to-call-it and plopping down onto the placid surface of Lake Michigan.

Because of its immensity, Rory was unable to determine if the thing above him was close by or distant. It could have been hovering directly overhead. Or it may have been as far away as downtown or even the western edge of Indiana. Perhaps it was some industrial disaster thrown up by the city of Gary? Perhaps it was a military experiment, a new kind of aircraft?

And, of course, Rory, ever the science fiction geek, came to the last supposition almost reluctantly, because it terrified him—perhaps it was some sort of alien vessel, a UFO in everyday parlance. The kind of thing Rory had both dreaded and hoped to bear witness to almost all of his young life.
He stared at it in wonder, lost for a moment in time. He hoped that he would gain more clarity on what the thing was, but the longer he stared, the more confusing it became. Was it some freak of nature? Some hitherto unseen cloud formation? Was it really a spaceship beyond his or anyone’s really wildest imagination?

Whatever it was, he was certain it was heating up the water around him, which led him to the conclusion that it must have some powerful energy to heat up a body of water as large as Lake Michigan. What had been cold now felt almost as warm as bathwater.

And that scared Rory just as much as this monstrously huge thing in the sky above him. What if the water continued to heat up? What if it reached some boiling point and he would be poached alive in it?

What if the black, shadowy beings he witnessed spinning within the mist meant him harm as they dropped from the cloud? What if they were, right now, swimming toward him, all bulbous heads and soulless gray eyes?

He shuddered, in spite of the warmth of the water around him. He leveled himself out, lowered his face to the water, and began the fastest crawl he could manage to shore, which suddenly seemed almost impossibly far way.

And a new fear seized him as he paddled, panting, through the dark water—what if something as prosaic as drowning claimed him? Would they ever find him?

What would Cole do when he woke at last, to find himself in bed and alone? What would he do as the sun rose, lighting up their little love nest, and there was no Rory?

Rory didn’t want to see the thing anymore. Just looking at it induced in him a feeling of dread so powerful, it nauseated him. So he kept his face in the water, only turning his head to the side every few strokes, to grab a breath of air, until he neared the shore. He squatted low, panting hard, in the shallows and at last hazarded a glance up at the sky.

It was empty.

Save for a muted orange glow from light pollution and the moon, now distant, there was nothing in the sky. Rory crawled from the water and plopped down on the damp sand at the lake’s edge.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Brokeback Mountainish Story with Vivien Dean: FAMILY OBLIGATIONS


I have long been haunted by one short story, E. Annie Proulx’s beautiful, powerful, and tragic “Brokeback Mountain.”

I remember reading the short story many years ago just after it was published originally in the New Yorker magazine. It stayed with me through all the years, partly because Proulx’s prose is so spare, yet poetic, but also because the story, at its core, could have been mine, since I too was a closeted, married gay man, filled with secret longings and wearing a mask for the rest of the world.
My story (co-written with the fabulous Vivien Dean), “Family Obligations” has a lot in common with ‘Brokeback,’ even though it’s totally different.

It too tells a story about two men who fell in love while young and vibrant, and then, because of their own and society’s constraints, were kept apart through the years. Yet, their love was so strong that they could never manage to break the hold they had upon each other.  

BLURB
Tate D’Angelo always thought he knew who his father was: beloved doctor, devoted husband and father…. Everyone at the funeral shared the same glowing stories of a kind soul. So when his father’s old college buddy, Randy, approaches him after the service, Tate expects to hear echoes of the same.

Instead, he gets a lifetime’s worth of letters that tell a different tale and cause him to view his father—and his family—in a whole new light.

The truth, about a secret romance kept buried for decades, astonishes him. Overwhelmed by grief and confusion, Tate’s unsure if he can bear learning how the lives of two men entwined over the years, but he reads on anyway, discovering more to value, more to respect, and most importantly, more to love about the man who raised him. 

BUY

EXCERPT
It wasn’t until three days after the funeral that Tate thought again of the strange encounter with his father’s old friend outside the funeral home.
The past few days, what with the funeral and keeping his mom company and taking care of his own family obligations, had left Tate drained. He had fallen into bed each night exhausted—and quick, heavy, and dreamless sleep followed.
But today was Friday, and Kelly had taken Claire out to a park in Coconut Grove for a play date. Tate had the house to himself and wouldn’t have to return to his veterinary practice until Monday.
He sat down at the iMac they had set up in the study and plugged in the thumb drive Randy had given him at the close of his dad’s viewing hours the other night.
A PDF came up, and the computer asked if he wanted to open it. “I want to open it, of course. Come on!” he whispered to the computer. He chuckled. He’d inherited his great well of patience from his dad.
There was no explanation, no preface.
There was simply the first letter. The handwriting was his dad’s. Even if the penmanship had gotten sloppier over the years, his backward-slanting script was still recognizable.
Tate wasn’t sure what to expect—or why this man Randy had chosen to share such personal items with him. He figured there was only one way to find out.
He began reading.

June 5, 1973
Dear Randy,
Well, kid, it’s been three days, fifteen hours, and twenty-seven minutes since we graduated and I last saw you. But who’s counting?
I don’t know how often I’ll be able to write, what with starting medical school and planning for my wedding. But I wanted you to know that I was thinking of you and, oh hell, how very much I miss you.
I know this is hard. I know you wanted something else. But it just can’t be. The world doesn’t look kindly on two men as a couple, especially if one of them plans on being a pediatrician. And besides, as I’ve told you, I love Sharon in my way. She’s a great girl, and I know she’s crazy about me. We have a good relationship, and I can foresee a great future with her.
Oh shit, who am I trying to kid? She’s a wonderful woman and I do love her, with all my heart. But I love you, Randy, more. And… she can never know this. It would break her heart. It would break mine.
But I still ache when I think of leaving you just as dawn was breaking the other morning, looking up at you standing in the window of your apartment, watching me, your hand pressed against the glass.
I wanted so much to turn around, to just say “fuck it all” to a world that disapproves of something as pure and honest and passionate as what we shared. I wanted to run back up the stairs and into your arms, to cover you with kisses, and take you back to bed—one more time.
Could you see that on my face? Could you see the longing and the pain?
I don’t know what will happen with us, I only know I hope to hear from you sometimes. I can’t, much as my head tells me to, just sever all ties with you. It’s a dangerous game, but a world without you in it, in at least some small way, is a world I can’t bear living in.
My heart won’t let me say good-bye, not completely.
I know that’s not fair to you, but I also know a handsome guy like you, with such talented hands, will not be alone for long. You too will find a nice girl and settle down, have kids, just like I plan to do.
And who knows? Maybe there will come a time when we can all get together with our families. Maybe, after a while, these desires we have for each other will be replaced by friendship and respect, edged out by the love we have for our wives.
I hope so. But today I am missing you and wishing, so hard, you were here in Miami with me.
I start my summer job waiting tables at a little seafood place on the beach tomorrow—and med school awaits at the University of Miami in the fall.
Take care of yourself, Randy, and please, no matter what, don’t forget what we shared. I know I won’t.
Much love,
Mark

Tate sat back in the desk chair, feeling as though his breath had been knocked out of him. His heart hammered in his chest, and his hand, poised over the mouse, was shaking.
His father was gay? Where did that come from? He loved another man? This Randy? Was this some kind of joke? He peered again at the scanned handwriting on the screen and knew it was his father’s own. And he recalled Randy’s face outside the funeral home. Even in the shadows, Tate could see the naked pain on his face.
Tate laid his head on the desk, and the tears, hot and stinging, came from nowhere. Had his father’s whole life been a lie? Had he loved them at all? Or were they just a convenient cover-up, the “proper” thing to do?
“Kelly, Kelly, why aren’t you home?” he whimpered.
After a while he read on.

BUY

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