Friday, March 16, 2018

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY: Writing Horror AND Love Stories

The public sometimes sees two of me—one is the “Stephen King of gay horror” and that me writes books like A Demon Inside, Blood Sacrifice, and Third Eye. This Stephen King character is grizzled, bearded, and grumpy. You don’t want to meet up with him in a dark alley.

The other me is much lighter, in terms of psyche. That me is a gay romance writer. This guy, who is clean-shaven, has a smile for everyone, and is generally in a good mood, writes love stories like Chaser, Legally Wed, Caregiver and Dinner at Home.

These two me’s have seldom been left alone in a room together and when they have they have managed to produce books that are a hybrid of the two, books like Dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe and Bashed. Those two combine the sometimes-at-odds with the other combination of horror and romance.

For the first time ever, the two me’s sat down in a café in Seattle’s free-spirited Fremont neighborhood (neutral territory because the horror me likes the big troll statue living under one end of the Aurora Bridge). In order to keep things, um, straight, the following interview uses HM to indicate Horror Me and RM to indicate Romance Me. And yes, you can romance me, anytime….

HM: So what are you doing here? Must you show up everywhere I want to be? Christ, I can’t get a moment by myself.
RM: Sorry, but it’s a free country. I can be anywhere I want. What’s that? A cappuccino?
HM (rolls eyes): It’s a black coffee. Drip.
RM: Well, I’m having the crème brulee latte.
HM: You would (snorts).
RM: I detect a note of disdain here.
HM: Well, there’s more than a note, Miss. Why are you sitting down at my table? Did I invite you?
RM: No, but I belong here as much as you do.
HM: Getting back to the disdain, I have disdain for you because you are taking over my personality and stealing my reputation. Before you happened along with your little love stories, I was doing quite well for myself writing about blood, gore, and things that go bump in the night. You know, mapping out nightmare territory. I had my author photos taken in cemeteries. People knew me for throwing a good scare into them.
RM: And they still know you for that, which is something you’d realize if you took a good, hard look at yourself. But I am here to tell you there is room for more than one writer under this rapidly-thinning head of hair.
HM: But why? Why romance? It’s the antithesis of everything I stood for.
RM: Not really. Romance, like horror, is ultimately about strong emotion. Fear, like love, is universal. So, we are not as different as you’d like to think.
HM: I’m not so sure about that. I write about people being killed, people being haunted, monsters, ghouls. I don’t see how that’s much like your la-di-da romance tales.
RM: Think of the emotions involved. The rising sense of excitement, the increased heart rate and perspiration, the breathlessness. All of those are present with both fear and passion.
HM: Okay, I get it. I get it. But does that mean you still have to step on my toes? You’re ruining my reputation.
RM: Just like with love, sweetheart, there’s room for variety, for harmony. I think we can coexist.
HM: But you seem so much more powerful lately. Just look at the books that have come from you over the past year.
RM: You’re right.
HM: Why is that?
RM (pausing to consider and take a sip of his latte): Maybe it’s because I’ve reached a different place in my life. I’ve reached a place where the stories I want to tell are about something other than the terror that life can bring, but the joy that life can bring, too.

See, for years, when you were really my dominant force, I was consumed with finding love in my own life. And I came close many times, for one reason or another, it never worked out. That is, until I met Bruce. He was the one. The perfect fit. The soul mate. The one with whom I can’t imagine not spending the rest of my days.

Once I was secure in my own personal romance, only then was I free to write about others’. Does that make sense? I needed to confront my fears (not just the ghastly, curl-your-hair ones), but the ones about being alone, about maybe never making that connection that was more than just passion, but family.

HM doesn’t say anything for a long while. He sips his coffee and eyes me, like I’m some sort of alien—not the illegal kind, but an invader from another planet. The kind he might write about. For a moment, I am afraid, he will fling the coffee into my face, but then a strange thing happens—he begins to fade away, just like the ghosts in the stories he used to pen.

Just as he’s about to disappear completely, he stops in mid-transformation and eyes me.
HM: I get you. You were who I always wanted to be. But, although I am fading away before your very eyes, I am not disappearing.

I am merging with you.

Note: This post originally appeared at OnTopDownUnder Reviews.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


Hooray! Yesterday, I wrote "The End" on my latest novel, BLUE UMBRELLA SKY. I will be doing a final polish and turning in to Dreamspinner Press early next week. Letting go is always bittersweet: 2 parts joy, 1 part despair. I was inspired by my new home and this book is about a man moving to Palm Springs to begin a new life after his husband passes from Alzheimer's. He not only finds abundant blue skies, but a neighbor called Billy Blue, who offers him a second chance at love, if only he'll take it. Here's the first page, as it now stands: 

Milt Grabaur stared out the window of his trailer, wondering how much worse it could get. The deluge poured down, gray, almost obscuring his neighbors' homes and the barren desert landscape beyond. The rain hammered on his metal roof, sounding like automatic gunfire. Milt shivered a little, thinking of that old song, "It Never Rains in California."

He leaned closer to the picture window, pressing his hand against the glass and whispering to himself, "but it pours."

That window had given him his daily view for the last six months, ever since he'd packed up a life's worth of belongings and made his way south and west to Palm Springs and the Summer Wind Mobile Home Community. This same picture window, almost every single day, had shown him only endless blue skies and sunshine.

Milt had begun to think the expanses of blue, lit up by golden illumination, would never cease.

Until today.

At about three o'clock, that blue sky, for the first time, was overcome with gray, a foreboding mass of bruised clouds. Milt wondered, because of his experience in the desert so far, if the clouds would be only that-foreboding. The magical gods of the Coachella Valley would, of course, sweep those frowning and depressing masses of imminent precipitation away with a wave of their enchanted hands.


But the sky continued to darken, seemingly unaware of Milt's fanciful imagining and yearnings. At last, the once-blue dome above him became almost like night in mid-afternoon-and the first heavy drops-fat beads of water, began to fall, first a slow sprinkle, where Milt could count the seconds between drops, then faster and faster, until the raindrops combined into one single, and Milt had to admit, terrifying roar.

Friday, March 9, 2018

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY: Bashed, Hate Crimes, and a Love that Transcends Death

Cover art by Aaron Anderson

Do you believe that real love never dies? 

That's the premise behind my ghost/love story from Dreamspinner Press, Bashed. Bashed is a haunting blend of romance and suspense, wrapped up in a timely story that could have been ripped from today's headlines.

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.

1st Edition published by MLR Press, March 2009.

The GLBT Roundtable of the American Library Association gave it a highly favorable review and recommended the book for public libraries.

In part, the review said:

"A gripping thriller told from multiple points of view, Bashed delivers what readers have come to expect from Rick R. Reed: a violent and emotionally wrenching tale of realistic horror. The story is told by three characters: two perpetrators of a horrifying hate crime, and the man who survived the attack...The violence is graphic, as is the sex, but neither is gratuitous..."

Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback
Amazon Kindle
Amazon paperback
Amazon audiobook

Friday, March 2, 2018

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY: MUTE WITNESS--One of my Most Disturbing Books

"The abuse of a little boy turns a community against a loving gay couple, and nobody comes out of it unscathed."

Mute Witness is a hard book to classify. The publisher files it under mystery/thriller, but there’s also some romance and a more than generous dash of horror—of both the real life variety and, in one instance, the supernatural. If I could make up a genre for Mute Witness, it would be redemption. The book’s all about finding redemption and how love can lead us there.

Sean and Austin have the perfect life: new love, a riverfront home, security. Their love for one another is only multiplied when Sean’s eight-year-old son, Jason, visits on the weekends.

And then their perfect world shatters. Jason goes missing.

When the boy turns up days later, he’s been so horribly abused he’s lost the power to speak. Immediately small town minds turn to the boy’s gay father and his lover as the likely culprits. What was a warm, welcoming community becomes a lynching party out for blood. As Sean and Austin struggle to stay together amidst innuendo, the very real threat of Sean losing the son he loves emerges. Yet the true villain is much closer to home, intent on ensuring the boy’s muteness is permanent.

From DSP Publications (ebook)
From DSP Publications (paperback)
Amazon Kindle

Monday, February 26, 2018

How to Let Go of the Books You Write

Letting Go

It takes two to tango. And it takes at least two to make a book. Just like a play needs an audience to fully come alive, a book needs a reader for precisely the same reason.

One thing I have to constantly remind myself as a writer is that, once I have written the words, ‘the end’ to a story is that I must let go. As much as I labored over the book, dreamed about it, had conversations with myself about it, agonized over word choice, character hair color, continuity, repetitive words and phrasing, the time comes when the book meets the public which signals that it’s time for me to step aside.

A book is a conspiracy between a reader and a writer. The reader has to bring it to life through his or her imagination. The wonderful thing about that whole process is that my story can become so many different stories when filtered through each reader’s unique frame of reference. I have no doubt that no matter the care I take in describing characters and setting, each reader sees them differently because each of them come to the table with different experiences, biases, and memories. All of those things have a bearing on the triggers my words pull in a reader’s mind.

It’s really quite a lovely process when you think about it. And maybe the readers out there reading this blog never really considered the vital work they play in every book’s success or failure. Writers provide a roadmap, signposts, but it’s really up to the reader to run with it, to make of it something real, a mind movie for one.

What’s my point? I guess it’s to share with you a little of what motivates me as a writer and what, for me is both a blessing and a curse. See, when I am working on a book, which is almost always, I am alone with those characters, immersed in their little world, consumed by their passions, their fears, their desires, their comedies of errors. I have never been one for sharing much of my unfinished work with anyone else. That would somehow be wrong, at least for me. In order to create, I need to be able to slip into a world inhabited only by my characters and me. It’s always a bittersweet moment when I write the words, ‘the end’ and know I am moving on. Sure, there will be editing, the thrill of seeing the cover design, the agony of trying to help craft the blurb, but once you type ‘the end’ it means just that. You’re giving your characters and their world away.

I think it’s very difficult for some writers to realize that once they’ve ‘given birth’ to a book that it really no longer belongs to them. It belongs to the readers, the reviewers, the world. If you create with publishing in mind, it’s a harsh reality to accept—your book no longer belongs to you alone, but it’s gone off into the world, much like a child finally moving out of the house. Once you let go, you also must let go of trying to control what happens (same for books, same for kids).

And that’s hard. You hate to see your book suffer at the hands of people who don’t understand it, you celebrate it when someone ‘gets’ what you were trying to say.

But you must let go. The book is a piece of the world now and takes on a life of its own. Remember what I said earlier? A book is a conspiracy between a writer and a reader and the reader, each in his or her own way, makes the story his or her own.

I guess what prompted all this was a discussion recently at one of my publishers’ forums wherein authors were discussing, once again, how to respond to negative reviews and downright nasty ones, and the prevailing wisdom, at least to my mind, was with silence. I agree.

It’s harsh but true: writers must let go. Your stories are no longer your stories. If you’re very, very lucky, they are many people’s. Take comfort in that.

Visit my Amazon page for a look at ALL the books I've let go of.