Tired of being angry.

I used to get so bent out of shape at the writers in this genre. Several months ago, I was fueled with a lot of anger and a lot of jealousy.
The books I wrote – were solid. The reviews, great.
But I wasn’t selling.
And then I would read something that was sort of what someone would refer to as ‘brain candy’ and I would get angry that they were a huge seller.
I was bitter.
I kept asking myself, how is that happening?
I mean, here I am giving people depth and great stories filled with powerful subject matter which was being lauded by those who took the time to read it.
And then I would make 24 dollars a quarter. Twenty-four bucks.
My worth was tied into the money and not the art.
And in that moment I started reading reviews of other people’s work. But only the negative ones.
I danced on other people’s pain when their book got skull dragged through the mud because I was jealous of their success.

And it doesn’t mean that some of my anger wasn’t justified. It was. I had asked a question about the way gay men were depicted in this genre and immediately was set upon by people who instantly accused me of misogyny and told me I should be quiet because I’m privileged – as a man. They completely dismissed and disregarded the fact that I am a queer man and because of that fall under a totally new set of circumstances. And because I am a queer man – when I accepted that label and in turn accepted that lifestyle – what privilege I did have went up in smoke.

Because the truth is – when you come out as gay – even to women – you’re feminized immediately and can sometimes become the butt of some white liberal’s jokes.

I had been summarily dismissed.

I couldn’t write. I couldn’t read it. And for a writer unable to write – that’s agony.

There’s a problem when you toss out words such as privilege and accuse people of things like cultural appropriation and bigotry. Those things are boomerang terms. And eventually, because all things are NOT equal, they’re going to find their way back to you. I watched it happen to an author who accused me of misogyny. He put out a book and got slammed for it, himself.

Because someone, somewhere is always waiting for someone to make a misstep. Someone somewhere who probably couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag is always waiting in the wings to take someone down. And Romance – a genre this is set upon anyway – is always a soft target. And so are it’s writers. There are those who do, and there are those who talk about those who do. We call them, critics.

But here’s the thing. The writer/ critic dynamic is not set apart. We are symbiotic. One cannot exist without the other. And when you have toxic writers or toxic critics – all is left is a total mess that everyone else will go out of their way to avoid. And from the outside looking in, I can see why people would avoid us, or make fun of us. Because, of course, this would happen in this genre.

And social media has made it possible to sit behind the computer in the safety of your own home and say some of the most vile things a person can say to another with anonymity. Things no one would DARE say to another person’s face.

So here’s the thing – you can please some people all of the time or you can please all of the people some of the time. But you will NEVER be able to please all the people all of the time.

So don’t try.

The pressure isn’t worth it.

Write your stories. Do your best. Because in reality, the dream of being the next New York Times bestseller is as much a pipe dream as a gay guy being able to convert his straight best friend into domestic loving bliss.

It’s a fantasy. All of it.

And at the end of the day, some people need a way out of their reality. If this election has taught me ANYTHING – it’s that some people don’t want the seriousness or the heaviness of Queer literature. They don’t to read about someone’s past, or their pain, or the road they’ve traveled. It reminds them too much of what they’ve lived through even if they’re not queer.

People are hurting – and sometimes it’s not the responsibility of artists to reflect the world around them. Sometimes it’s our responsibility to ease the tormented soul. And if werepenguin shifters, MPREG, and GFY is the way out ……I’d rather they take that road that to sit in their misery.

Straight people will NEVER know what it’s like to be gay. Ever. Just like I will never know what it’s like to be a lesbian or a bisexual or an African American. And asking me to know, 100 percent, on point, all the time these nuances of people and personality and background – is the height of privilege, ironically. And we know the difference between someone who tries and those who are in it to make money.

But at the end of the day – so does everyone else .

I’m just tired of being angry. I’ll write the world I see, how I see it, and the things that I’ve experienced. And I’ll publish it. And I’ll be waiting for those who want something more – even if that doesn’t make me a bajillionaire.

But i am done perpetuating hurt. I’m not going to junk punch everyone who wanders over the minefield of wounds this life has given me by mistake.

I’ll just be an artist. And I am totally okay with that. Maybe I’ll be famous when I’m dead. I don’t write m/m Romance. I write queer lit. And that’s cool, too.

To those, I’ve offended in the past. I am sorry.

Academia, Love Me Back 

The following is so ridiculous I can’t believe this actually happened. And in at a University no less.

 

My name is Tiffany Martínez. As a McNair Fellow and student scholar, I’ve presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. I have crafted a critical reflection piece that w…

Source: Academia, Love Me Back

Message in a Bottle (17)

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It’s  been several days since I’ve written my last entry. I’ve been extremely busy lately with the release of a novella I’d worked on for Halloween and have been enjoying a couple of days of stress-free yoga and vegging. But tonight, as happens occasionally, I saw something that caught my attention.

Now I had been following the story of the two brothers Lucas Leonard 19 and Chris Leonard 17, who as Christopher testified were for-  ‘…14 hours…he and his brother were pummeled in their torsos and genitals with an electrical cord.’ during a ‘counseling session’ all because they wanted to leave a church in upstate New York.

Because they wanted to leave a church.

The medical personnel who worked on trying to save Lucas’ life had mistaken him for a gunshot victim do to the amount of blood they’d seen. His brother Christopher survived the attack but will no doubt be damaged from it.

My heart goes out to both of them. But my heart also goes out to so many people across this country who have been made victims to this type of Fundamentalism and abuse over the years. There are thousands of them out there living lives of quiet agony. Many of them trying to get on with their lives. Many of them no doubt having heard of this case, were triggered with their own terrible memories under the lash of unintelligent, uncompassionate, empathyless fundamental zealots that this country allows, to exist.

For the past almost 15 years this country has been engaging fundamentalist zealots of a different religion in the middle east. But what America refuses to acknowledge – or perhaps are unable to face – is the zealots that live here at home. A great deal of those who exist inside of evangelical circles.

Now when we here in the United States think of religious zealots – we instantly turn our thoughts perhaps to Jim Jones or to David Koresh. But the fact of the matter is zealotry exists in many different aspects of evangelicalism in this country. The hard part is believing that nice man in his suit who carries his Bible or the sweet blue-haired lady who lives down the street – are doing things like this. Or who are sending money to Uganda or Scott Lively’s defense fund. Scott Lively will be standing trial for Crimes against Humanity for his influence in Ugandan politics and praises Russia’s antigay stance that he takes credit for.

And during this political campaign, people have gotten a good dose at what that Evangelicalism looks like as 3/4ths of that community have sworn to vote in Donald Trump. And Trump has garnered support from former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann as well as support from Tony Perkins’ Focus on the Family as well as support from Liberty’ University’s President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham. (Liberty University’s Law Center will be providing the defense for Mr. Lively).

Now these young men weren’t gay as far as I know. All they wanted to do was just leave. And what they are now and what we’re left with is an unwilling Martyr and a Confessor for their faith. They were kids. One’s dead and the other may wish he was, right now. For what? For what?!

I’ve grown thin on my ability to swallow down the anti-Muslim/ All Muslims are terrorists bit that we hear especially right now in this goat fuck of an election season. Because we have ours. We have plenty of ours. Right now America may not look like Aleppo, no one’s trying to sweep ISIS out of one our cities like they are in Mosul- but that doesn’t matter to those boys, tonight. They were brutalized by terrorists who wanted them, upon pain of death, to confess their sins and stay in their church.

If America has declared a global war on terror – to not sound like a bunch of inconsistent ideologues – it out to start weeding out this crap here that allows this to happen.

You can read the article about what happened to the pastor and her congregation here. Those fuckers only get two lines on my blog.

I don’t know what the answer is in dealing with these organizations. It happens all the time. But it can’t continue….

The Tree (A ghost story Part 4)

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Okay, so this is it. Part 4 of The Tree. This is the point where you THE READER start to tell me what you think of the story and where you think it should go.  Remember, if your suggestion is chosen, I will send you a free copy of the book in whatever format it comes out in.  Without further ado….

The Tree

 

Chapter 4

 

 

“Who’s all going to be there?” Erik asked as he turned down his sister’s radio. Currently, Adele was lamenting about when she had been young. His sister was pointing at cars they drove passed and singing at them off-key to make Erik laugh.  And he chuckled a couple of times, but his sister’s usually pristine singing voice was cracking and pitching like an old rusty door and it was making Erik nervous.

“Just him and his brothers, I think. I didn’t ask. Why?” She looked over at him disdainfully for what he assumed was the act of taking away her platform.

“I dunno. I just feel kinda out of body at the moment, ya know? Displaced.”

“Well, you just quit your job, loser. I would feel that way, too.” She said laughing. But she cut herself off when he cast her a rueful glance. Reaching over and patting his knee she encouraged him.

“It’ll take a while to settle into a new pattern. You’ve just made a big life adjustment, on top of everything else, including the case you were handling you just went from being dialed up to eleven to zero. It’s going to take some time. Are you regretting leaving?”

Erik shook his head and sighed, “No. I finalized everything today.  I’m just a little worn out is all.”

“I can take you back if you like?”

Erik turned his head and looked at his sister and shook his head. “No. OF course not. Just run interference for me if things get a little crazy.”

“Yeah. IF it gets rowdy we’ll bail. But I don’t see that happening. Jason and Noah are pretty laid back.”

Relaxing Erik put his head back on the headrest and looked out the window. They were driving passed familiar tree lined streets as the sun began to lower in the sky casting everything in golden light. As traffic congested a little, Erin slowed the car down. As they waited, Erik noticed people were on the streets either coming in and out of little boutique shops or sitting out in front eating ice cream or drinking coffee. A restaurant a little further up had folks sitting at tables covered by umbrella’s and waiters dressed in white starched shirts and black pants with crimson aprons stood at various points taking orders.  Erik rolled the window down and the smell of Italian cooking wafted in as well as the cooler evening air.

As he’d prepared for this evening, he dressed in a pair of cargo shorts and a light hoodie and a pair of sandals.  Sure, it was summertime in Michigan as it was all over the rest of the country, but he was used to Texas heat and humidity. Until he acclimated, the evenings would feel downright cold.  But for now, the sweet smell of freshly cut grass, and the faint perfumes of some distant garden wafted in through the window. No, he didn’t regret leaving the way he did. He just sort felt empty. Like a vessel that had poured all its contents out and now waited on a shelf to be filled again.  Filled with what, he didn’t know for sure.

His thoughts shifted back to his former client, Rebecca Johnson. Her dishwater blond hair tied behind her head. The waiting room she they’d been sitting in when news came down that the appeals had failed.  The brief smile on her face. The cold hand that reached across the table to grasp his own when he deflated into the chair he was sitting in.  Her leaning across the table to whisper in his ear. And then the guards who came to take her away.  Erik sat there with a frog in his throat and speechless for what felt like hours as he watched her being walked away.  His brain kicked into overdrive, he went over everything that he’d done. All the research, all the hours spent with experts in the field of mental health…

“You did the best you could.”

Erik watched as the scenery whipped by now that Erin had turned a corner. A mom was walking with a baby in a stroller and an older child on a little blue bike with training wheels was being walked beside by who Erik assumed was his father.  They’re whole life was ahead of them. It was hard to imagine somewhere; someone else’s life would be ending. The thought made him sick to his stomach and he did the best he could to force those thoughts from his mind.

You did the best you could.

            The only hope she had rested in the briefs submitted to a federal appeals court for the fifth circuit. He wasn’t licensed to work in that jurisdiction, so sticking around would have only made him a spectator. Erik just prayed that whoever’s hands his work found themselves in would be far more capable of handling the case than he was.

“That’s bullshit, I handled it fine.”

“What?”

Erik spoke up as he turned his head to look at his sister. She had a worried look on her face. “Nothing, I was talking to myself.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay good.” She said as she pulled the car over and parked it. “Because we’re here.”

 

 

***

 

“Jason, everything looks good. Calm down.” Noah said as he stood next to his brother at the island in their kitchen.  Jason had been preparing everything the night before and came home from work and threw everything together on the stove. He’d been hurriedly barking orders to Noah in the meantime. Noah didn’t understand the big deal. It was a small get together with Erin and her brother Erik.

“I am calm. Pass me the jalapenos please.”

Noah picked up the jar and limped over to where Jason was at the stove. He had to admit. The house smelled great.  The roasted tomatoes, ground beef, chicken, and choro beans made his stomach grumble. The tortillas were being warmed in the oven, guacamole and salsa were already on the dinner table along with every topping known to man.

“You’re just like mom used to be.” Noah chuckled as Jason took the jar.  Jason cast him a withering look that made Noah grin.

“Erin’s been here before, dude. Plenty of times. Is this because her brother’s coming?”

Jason shrugged his shoulders as he set the jar down and picked up the spatula and turned the ground beef over.

“Noah, would you set the table?”

Noah sighed and headed for the cabinet. “Yessem boss.”

Jason asked from behind him. “How’s the new prosthetic? I see you limping.”

Noah opened up the cabinet and pulled out four plates. “It’s got my leg sore. But the doc says that takes time anyway to get used it. But it’s better than the last one for sure.”

“Cool.”

Noah turned his head to see Jason turning off the burners and felt a pang of love for his brother. When he got home from Iraq he was pretty banged up. He’d lost his right leg in an I.E.D. blast when his Humvee drove over a mine.  He remembered driving, he remembered being given orders to patrol in Fallujah, he remembered turning a corner, and then waking up in Germany. As he’d opened his eyes and looked around the room he found Jason with his arms crossed, head tilted back, snoring in a chair that he would later discover had been brought in for him because he refused to leave. Noah watched him for a while until he snorted himself awake and locked eyes with him. He’d never seen his brother cry like that before nor since.

Noah grabbed the plates and pulled them down before walking them over to the table and setting it.  He grabbed a handful of silverware on his way and a few napkins as well. The cloth ones, not paper towel. Jason wanted this done right, and Noah was going to make sure that was how it was going to be. Besides, he wouldn’t have been able to afford his new leg hadn’t it been for Jason and his dad who helped pay for it.

“You said dad’s not coming over, right?”

“Nope. The old stud muffin has another date tonight with Silvia. He said not to wait up.”

Noah stopped what he was doing, “Gross.”

Jason laughed as he made his way over with a couple of plates heaping with taco filling, “I know, right?”

Just then Noah heard the door open and the sound of Erin’s voice, “Hello? Oh my God, that smells amazing.”

Jason’s face lit up as he left Noah standing at the table to go and greet their guests. Noah loved seeing Jason so happy with her. He deserved it after all he’d given up to take care of Noah after his injury.  Noah took the opportunity to walk over to the fridge and pull out four bottles of Dos Equis that he’d bought on his way back from counseling this afternoon.

“Hey, Erik. Glad you made it.” He heard Jason say as he put the bottles down and watched as they came into the kitchen. Erin was in the lead, then Jason who given his size took up most of the doorframe and when they walked through he locked eyes with Erik. Noah could tell right away he was Erin’s twin. But where her features softened and made her pretty, his were refined and made him extremely handsome. A strong jaw, full lips, green eyes, and a head full of tousled blonde hair.  Their eyes locked and suddenly Noah felt his mouth run dry and his heart kick start in his chest.

“Erik, this is my brother Noah. Noah, Erik.”

The man walked forward and extended his hand and Noah shook it and heard himself speak.” Hey, welcome home. Jason tells me you’ve just returned.”

“Yeah. Thank you. And thanks for inviting me over.”

Noah heard that and just stared at him for a moment. Jason cleared his throat and snapped him back to reality and spoke up. “Sure, man. Mi casa es su casa.”

Erin said, “You didn’t have to go through all this trouble, babe.”

Noah was taking his seat and wanted to come off nonchalant, “Are you kidding me? He’s not happy unless some dead animal is being sacrificed in your honor.”

Erin and Erik both laughed as they took their seats. Jason rolled his eyes and pulled his chair.

“It’s the way it should be.” Erin said.

Erik rolled his eyes, “Lord, don’t give her anymore ideas.”

Noah grinned as Erin slapped his arm.

“I’m not that bad.”

“No you’re not.” Jason said kissing her before sitting down next to her. Erik was on Noah’s left.  After the took their places, Jason told them to dig and they made quick work of passing everything around. As bowls passed to Noah and to the left, their fingers occasionally brushed and their eyes would connect before moving on.  As the dug in, mostly in silence save for the occasional satisfied grunt, the clink of silverware to scoop of the remnants of food left on their plates, and the occasional setting down of a beer bottle, dinner was had in silence. Once over, everyone sat back with satisfied bellies. But before they could get comfortable Jason asked if they would rather take the party outside to the pool. Everyone agreed and Noah made sure to grab the case of beer before they went.

Erik lingered for a second, “Hey, you need a hand?”

Noah smiled and turned from the fridge to see Erik glance down at his leg and then back up.

“Is that titanium?”

Noah felt his face color as his back stiffened. He hadn’t’ dated since he’d been home. Hadn’t hooked up or gone out to any club. He’d wrapped himself in the comfort of his brothers and sisters who were like him. And now he really didn’t know what to say. His mouth opened, and it shut and in the end Noah just nodded.

Erik reached out and took the case of beer from him, but placed a hand on Noah’s bicep. His grasp was gentle, but firm as he looked Noah in the eye. There was no judgement there. No smattering of over indulgent sympathy either. In Erik’s eyes, he saw something familiar, what was it? Weariness? Perhaps Exhaustion? Either way, it was mixed with compassion.

“Hey. I didn’t mean to be rude. Do a lot of people stare?”

“I don’t mind. Yeah. The kids are usually cool about it. They think I’m part machine or something. They’re open about their curiosity. Adults, however, don’t usually know what to do or say. So, they just stare.”

“It’s been my experience that most people are fucked in the head.”

Noah laughed out loud. All the tension he’d been feeling melted away. Erik looked shocked at first by his bark of laughter, but his face softened into a wide grin.

“Yeah, people are pretty fucked aren’t they,” Noah asked as he made his way over to the cabinet and pulled down a bottle of Johnny Walker.

“Do you have any coke for mixing?”

Noah turned around and saw Erik in the fridge. “Man, after my own heart.”

Erik grabbed the unopened two liter and pulled it out and set it on the island smiling as he did so.

“So, Texas huh?”

Erik sighed. “Yeah, Texas.”

“Jason said you bailed out.”

Erik put the case of beer down and pointed to a pair of glasses on the dish drainer. Noah set the bottle down and reached over and grabbed them and brought them back. Opening up the liquor bottle Erik poured a double shot in each before opening the Coke. Noah watched as he filled both glasses, stuck his finger in each to kill the foam, and then topped them off. Noah knew enough with working with vets what a warrior looked like. His mannerisms, the stiffness of his spine, the sharpness of his gaze as he poured the drinks. He knew what someone looked like after a long battle and Erik was giving off all the telltale signs of it. He was stiff. Mechanical. And his brow was creased as a frown touched the sides of his mouth.

“Yeah, I bailed. Got to be too much. I quit my job. Moved back home to live with mom and dad. Sexy huh?”

Noah smiled, “I live with my dad and my brother. It’s not that bad. We’ve a tendency to seek out a floor beneath us when the world decides to pitch us over the side and we’re in a free fall.”

Erik snorted. “That’s what it feels like, alright.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

Erik handed Noah his drink and offered a roguish smile. “Nope. I want to get a buzz on and flirt with the hot guy with a peg leg.”

Noah laughed and held up his glass in a toast. “Avast ye matey, yo ho!”

They both took a long sip of the drink. Noah could taste the liquor and felt its slight burn on its way down.

“Are you two coming outside or what, “Erin called.

The two men exchanged a glance and then took their drinks and mixes out onto the patio where Jason and Erin were sitting around the in-ground pool. Side by side they sat with their feet in the water, causing ripples to go out in all directions. Jason had stripped his shirt off and Erin had removed her top and lounged back in her pink bikini, the sundress she’d worn wadded in a ball along with Jason’s shirt, behind them. Erik set the case of beer and the mix stuff beside his sister as he removed his shirt. Noah was shocked at how pale his skin was underneath. Almost like porcelain, except for a little red at the shoulders where he must’ve gotten sun earlier. He sat down next to Erin, whose skin was brown from the summer sun. His stomach wasn’t a six pack, but it was flat and hairless. Noah shook his head to jar himself away from staring and caught sight of Jason giving him a knowing grin.

Erin and Erik were talking and Noah stole the opportunity to flip his brother off.  He opted not to take off his own shirt, but did grab a lawn chair and removed his prosthetic. Jason stopped grinning and made a motion to stand up, which caught the attention of Erin and Erik to his embarrassment, but he waved Jason back down.  He leaned the leg against the patio table and sat down immediately on his butt before removing his sneaker from the left leg. He scooted quickly across the patio to sit on the opposite side of everyone. His foot touched the water and caused him to shiver.

“Oh shit, Erik you have my drink.” Noah said. Erik grabbed his drink as well as Noah’s, parted company with his sister, and walked over to his end of the pool and sat down beside him.

“Don’t you think your gonna burn?” Noah asked quietly.

“Huh? Oh, I dunno, probably. I was out swimming earlier this morning in the creek behind our house. My shoulders got a little bit. But I don’t think it’ll be too bad, sun’s already going down.”

Noah, at a loss for what to talk about, swished the water with his left foot.

“So, Jason tells me you’re a therapist.”

“Yeah. I work with returning vets down at the V.A.” Noah said giving him a side glance.

“Do you like it?”

Noah nodded. “Yeah. It’s satisfying.”

“I can imagine.”

Noah took a drink. “Did you like being a lawyer?”

Erik looked down at his feet now, “I did for a long time. I was good at it. I was better than good.”

“So, what do you plan to do now?”

Erik chuckled, “That’s the million-dollar question everyone keeps asking. I’m not sure exactly. I’m still kind of processing that I told my boss to take a hike. To ‘take this job and shove it’, more or less. School, maybe. I might look for a job here doing manual labor. But if I don’t walk into a court room for the rest of my life, it’ll be too soon.  How long were you in the service?”

“I joined when I was 17, after my mom died.  I was in a lot of trouble, in and out of school, Dad and Jason were fighting a lot over me. So, I figured I would join up. I spent six years in.”

“How long do people actually stay in?”

Noah shrugged. “Some stay for one contract which can be anywhere between two and four years and get out. Some stay for twenty.  Others …well…”

“Stay their entire lives.”

“You could say that.”

“Was it bad over there?”

“It depends on how you look at it. Was it crazy? Oh, yeah. It was nuts. Was it worth it? Yeah. The people were amazing. The Iraqi people I mean. I had made a couple of friends after a time. A couple of interpreters.”

“Where are they now?”

“Feisal and Fadi, they’re cousins, live in Dearborn now. We hang out every occasionally. They love it here.”

“Oh, I bet,” Erik said looking at the clear water. He took a sip of his own drink before looking over at Noah. His green eyes and Noah’s locked for a second and there it was again. His heart lept into his throat and he felt off balance.

“I think it’s really great what you do for those guys.”

Noah thought for a second about what Jason had said about him losing a trial. When Noah prodded Jason shook his head, and told him it wasn’t his story to tell. But now he wished Jason had divulged something so he didn’t feel like he was walking into a potential mine field.

“I am sure what you did for your client was pretty great, too.”

Erik flinched and turned his eyes from him to the water. “Not great enough.”

Noah turned his head and yelled at Jason who was now putting lotion on Erin’s back and talking, “Hey dude. Bring that over when you’re done.”

“Here. I’m finished,” Jason said and raised his arm to throw it. Noah set his drink down real quick and suddenly the bottle was up in the middle of the air. He caught it expertly and thanked Jason who’d gone back to talking with Erin.

He opened the bottle and squeezed a small amount of coconut scented sunscreen in his palm.

“Okay, turn around and put your back to me,” he instructed Erik.

The other man’s eyebrows went up, but he did as ordered. As soon as he turned Noah rubbed the lotion into his hands and began to rub his back down with it. While not defined, Noah could feel the muscles under his back as he worked the lotion in.

“Hey, is that scarification,” Noah asked leaning forward. On Erik’s right shoulder there was a red mark that looked like three dots and underneath were three long what looked like scratches.

“Huh? Oh, no. That’s a birthmark. Weird huh? Erin has one, too. Same shoulder.”

Noah was impressed, “Wow. Jason said you were twins, I just didn’t know twins shared birthmarks.”

“Yeah. It’s common really. Mom said when we were small, as we were learning to talk, we made up our own language. We’d invert words. It drove her crazy,” Erik said. Noah began to work into the muscles on his back, along his neck, and Erik quit speaking. Opting instead to drop his head and lean back into his hands. He was all knotted up along the shoulders and the back of the neck.

“God, you’re all sorts of mangled up in here,” Noah said as he felt some of the knots starting to break up. He didn’t want to squeeze too hard and hurt him. But he had to admit that the feeling of his muscles made his cock heavy in his shorts and his heart beat hard against his rib cage.

“Yeah, I’m sure. God that feels good.”

“Hey you two, why don’t you get a room,” Jason yelled over. Erin laughed and Noah realized they weren’t out here alone and let his hands drop. Quickly, he stripped out of his own shirt and leapt into the pool. The cold water hit his body, and his erection, and made him gasp. But as he bounced on his one leg, he was thankful for the interruption.

The Tree – (A ghost story Part 3)

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Welcome back to part 3 of The Tree. I  hope you are liking the story so far. You may have noticed that there are some errors and misspellings around but that’s only because this is as raw a manuscript as it gets. All the editing, formatting etc. will all come later on. But I do hope you are enjoying the story thus far. So, without further ado – The Tree – Part 3 .

 

Chapter 3

 

The house was relatively quiet at two fifty-two in the morning. The large hallways of the colonial house sat dark, save for the green light from the microwave and the tick tock of an old clock above the entry way to the kitchen. Moon glow filtered in through the windows. The only noise that could be heard was Mr. Rhodes deep snoring that echoed through the entire first floor. Upstairs, one bare leg out of the covers, one arm tossed over his head, snoring just like his father- just not as loud- was Erik. In his room, decorated with pictures of him as he grew up, his pennants in sports, his high school diploma, and school banners. His mother hadn’t had the heart to come in and redo the room. Every time she’d made up her mind, she made it into the room hell bent on making it a sewing room , ended up waxing nostalgic, turning back, and shutting the door. Before his father had gone to bed, he poked his head out on the back porch to tell Erik that Grandpa’s old radio was in his room in case he had a hard time going to sleep.

“I haven’t slept with a radio on in a couple of year’s dad. But thank you.” He said grinning from ear to ear and blushing a bit given Jason and Erin were still there.

After kissing his sister goodbye and hugging Jason, he wandered upstairs, stripped down to his skivvies and fell into a liquor induced deep sleep. A warm wind blew into the bedroom from an unseen place ruffling the bed clothes briefly. It lingered over his sleeping form before darting right, fluttering the pennants on the walls, before settling in front of his grandfather’s old radio. The dial clicked on lighting the front of machine with a pale-yellow light. Immediately music poured out broken by static. However, the dial slowly began to turn to the left. The orange bar in the center moving over to the lower end of the radio frequency until it reached the bottom. The room was now filled with static, white noise before a voice whispered out. It was male.

“Erik?” It said piercing out into the dark room.

“Erik?”

In the bed, across from it, bathed in yellow light, Erik mumbled in his sleep and turned his head his brow furrowing.

“Erik?”

“What grandpa?” he asked in his sleep.

“Be strong, son.  Stay by your tree. Use your gift. Don’t be afraid of it,” the voice said.

“Use it by the tree. ‘Kay.”

“I love you. Your grandma says hello.”

“mhmmm, ‘kay. I love you. ‘llo G’ma.” he said and began to snore. The radio cackled for a second longer before the dial turned and it went off. The warm wind backed away from the unplugged machine, back to the sleeping form and lingered for a moment before leaving the room and down into the house. The entire event took seven minutes to play out. Downstairs the kitchen clock read, three a.m. The only sound in the house now was the deep snoring of his father.

 

 

The next morning dawned bright and early. As Erik surfaced from a fitful sleep after having dreams that were splintered like a broken mirror, with images that were disjointed, he felt a little disoriented. There were images of the woman he’d defended in court, the sound of music playing, a black woman with gold coins in her hair, his grandfather, and several other things he couldn’t quite remember as he opened his eyes. Doing so, didn’t help the disjointed feeling either, instead of staring at the white walls of his apartment in Houston, he was staring at a window and the little dust particles that rained down like fairies dancing in the morning sun. He could hear birds singing and the distant buzz of a weed eater beyond as the smell of bacon frying.

I don’t live with anyone he thought to himself and immediately sat up his heart racing in his chest. He looked around the room quickly and the events of the day before came racing back. And although it looked to be a glorious morning, his heart sank a little in his chest. He was back in his room, back in his parents’ house, jobless, over the age of thirty, and a woman was going to die because of his ineptitude. Erik slumped a little as his shoulders drooped as he began to make a mental list of the things he’d have to take care of today.

A knock on the door sounded twice before the handle was turned and opened. Erik, before he could speak, was able to pull the covers over himself as his mom poked her head in.

“Good morning sunshine.” She said with a grin. Susan Rhode’s hair, perfectly cut and brushed out in public was standing straight up on her head in spots and flat in others. It must have been early.

“Hey, good morning. What time is it?” He asked.

“Seven a.m. I figured you’d still be asleep.” she said stepping in. She was still in her bathrobe.

“No, I’ve got some things I need to get done today. Some phone calls and stuff.” he said running a hand through his hair. His mom came in and sat down on the edge of his bed with a smile on her face.

“What?”

“Oh, nothin’ just that your father said you’d told him that you didn’t sleep with a radio on anymore. I guess grandpa’s old radio came in handy.”

“I didn’t have a radio on last night, mom. And by the way, how can you hear anything with the symphonic range that is dad’s snoring?”

“Honey, I’m a mother. Your father’s snoring has been going on like that since we’ve been married. But when you kids were little, I could hear you or Erin calling my name when you’d had a nightmare or when you were up and about when you shouldn’t have been. Your momma ain’t lost her touch.” she said and Erik couldn’t help but grin.

“Your breakfasts still amazing?”

“Your damn right. But next time don’t play the radio so loud you’ll wake the dead.” she said as she stood up. Erik was still confused and after she left, he tossed the blankets aside and stood up. He walked over to where his father had placed the radio and picked it up. It was an old thing, barely held together with duct tape. It also had a tightly bound piece of Reynolds Wrap tin foil shoved into a hole where the antenna had been years ago. The dial was turned off, and the frequency was turned all the way to the right. He reached down absently for the chord and picked up the other end of it.

“The damn thing wasn’t even plugged in mom.” He said to her absent form. Shrugging his shoulders, he set the antique back down on his desk and looked out of the window. He first caught sight of his tree and the river that gently made its way beneath it and felt his heart stir a little. He thought of the things he had to do, again, and felt his heart kick start.

“They may be shitty, but they won’t be so bad in the shade.” he said quoting his grandfather and then, biting his lower lip he felt a giggle escape as he turned to his dresser for summer clothes he’d left behind when he visited. You know, just in case.

Ten minutes later and clad in a pair of swim trunks and an old t-shirt, he made his way down the stairs and into the kitchen where his mom and dad were eating breakfast. He greeted them with a smile as he made his way over to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup. His cell phone beeped at him and he barely gave it a glance when his father told him it’d been ringing off the hook all morning.

“I’m sorry, I should have turned it off last night.” he said making his way to the table where they sat.

“What are your plans for this morning?” his mother asked handing him a bowl of fried potatoes. He took it happily.

“Honestly? I am going to be on that damn thing most of the morning, I suppose. I have to get a lot taken care of.” he said as he placed the bowl down and reached for the scrambled eggs and sausage that was on a platter.

“Can’t it wait for another day?” his mom asked.

“I guess it could. But I guess it’s probably better to rip it quick. I have to call the apartment complex and tell them I am breaking the lease and will have to authorize a payment for that. Call a moving company and set up a time for them to come and get my stuff and pay to have it shipped here along with my car. I need to call the office and let them know I’m alive and maybe deal with some last minute things for them. So, it’s going to be a busy morning.” he said as he diced up the meal in front of him and heaped it all together. He took a mouthful of food and almost moaned in pleasure it was so good. His impulse was to eat fast. To shovel it down like he did when he was working. But he mentally forced himself to stop, to chew, and to appreciate where he was.

“Do you have enough money?” David asked leaning over the table.

Startled by the question, Erik stared at him for a moment. He had quite a bit of money, actually. The years had been good to him. A natural, his bosses called him as they’d worked on several cases. He’d lived cheap, especially in the last several months with the murder case. Texas lawyers all signed up for defense attorney work if they wanted it, it was a way to get their name out there in larger circles.  But after this last case, he’d be damned if he went back to represent some high dollar divorcee who wanted to keep their millions safe or the other party who wanted half of what the other person had. It all seemed so laughably insane.

His mother and father stared at him as he stared back. He shook his head. “I’m good, dad. Thanks.”

“Okay, let me know if you need a little help.” he responded and it made his heart melt. His father had retired a couple of years ago and mom followed a couple of years later from her banking job. They’d done well, even managed to skirt the 08 collapse mostly intact and what they’d lost was made up again with good investments and a rebounding economy. But there was no way Erik would ask them for money.

“Okay.” he replied. He didn’t need their money. time and home and company…. well, he’d take as much of that as he could get.

A couple hours later, out under the shade of his tree, he went through the text messages that were left since his departure from Houston as he sat under the shade of his favorite tree. There were messages from his former co-workers from the majority of the people he liked. There There were even a couple from people who’d just started at the firm and were hoping to be kept in the loop of what had happened. He didn’t respond to any of those. The one he did respond to was from Erin who flat out told him he’d be attending a barbecue over at her boyfriend’s house tonight and to wear something cute, Noah was going to be there.

Erik rolled his eyes and typed back a message: I’ll go, but I’m not looking to hook up. What time?

Erin: Five thirty. I’ll come get you.

Erik: Ok. I’ll be ready.

With a grin on his face, and the sweet summer morning breeze around him, he settled in and started the unpleasant task of unwinding the ball of razor wire that had become his life. As he sat there, with his back to the trunk of his old tree, he hung one foot over the little cliff above the river and felt an attachment to the earth he’d not felt in a long time.

Minutes turned to hours. Brief phone calls turned into extended ones filled with pleasantries and platitudes, a couple of times he had to fish out his wallet to authorize payments, and give detailed instructions how he wanted his things shipped. He took time in between calls to relax, to remember to breathe, and not to get worked up.  After confirming with his former employer- who at one point raised his voice- that he wasn’t coming back, they relented and asked if he wanted to be kept abreast of the case he’d been handling. And to also warn him that it was likely to garner national attention.

“Well, if I am going to see it on Joe Scarborough in the morning, I think I’ll be alright.” Erik said.

“Man, but you were our star. Two more years and you would have made partner. You had a GIFT!” Roger said, his Texas twang making the word sound like gfyt.  

            Use your gift.

            A chill cascaded down Erik’s back. He turned his head to look up at the solid oak he lay back on and something rattled around in his head. What? A memory?

“By the tree.” He muttered.

“What was that?” Roger asked.

“I said working for you all been the gift, a real blessing. I just, I know I shouldn’t have walked out, not like that. But, I had to. Sometimes you just know when it’s time to go.” He said, partially placating his boss’s feelings and partially trying not to sound like the weirdo he suddenly felt like. A few minutes later, after telling his former boss where to send his final check, he hung up and set the phone down by his side.  Leaning back on the trunk of the tree, he stared out over the creek.  It was high and the water was quickly moving. There had been stories about people drowning in the undertow. Some Kayakers who tipped over when they paddled the creek after heavy rains. But right now, it’s clear water looked so inviting that Erik stripped off his shirt and stood up on the bank of the river.

It was deep in some parts, shallow in others, and just to be careful he slid down on his butt until the drop wouldn’t hurt him and he launched himself with a triumphant whoop into the water. It was cool, so cool in fact that it sort of took his breath away. But as he surfaced, he exhaled happily and swam a couple of times between the shores. HE felt the water ripple pass him, wanting to take him further downstream, and it sluiced over his body like a gentle lover welcoming his beloved back home.

Erik found a shallow spot and stood up, wiping his face. He could taste the mineral of the water on his lips. It tasted the same as it always had. And the water felt as it always did even though more years had passed since he’d been there than he’d like to count. In his mind, he could still hear the laughter of he and his friends, or see his grandfather and grandmother as they talked to his parents on the bank of the river as he and Erin swam safety in their eyeshot on fourth of July picnics and Memorial Day. Dad would barbeque and by the end of the day their faces would be sticky with butter from corn on the cob and sauce from ribs, their bellies would be full, and the walk from the bank to the house would feel like miles. He remembered being swooped up in his parent’s arms or his grandfather’s before being carried into the house and the next thing he knew; it would be morning.

Erin and he spent almost every single day together. They were unalike a lot of their friends and their siblings. There seemed to be no competition between the two. They didn’t vie for their parent’s affections or attention; she’d been Erik’s body guard and he’d been hers all through their lives.  When one got in trouble, the other usually got into trouble for getting mouthy with their parents.  When their friends came over, it was the two of them, or neither of them. All through grade school, middle, and high school they were together. Only when they became adults did she go on her way to be an engineer and he a lawyer.  They only thing they didn’t share was his love for that old tree.

He waded through the water to where a portion of the root system had burst through the sloping wall and he pressed a hand on it. “It’s okay. Not everyone has to understand.”

When he was a boy, he’d had his friend Jeremy over while Erin had the flu and the two boys were playing on the ice. They’d spent the day sliding on their shoes and falling, building forts of snow, and played generals as they lobbed snowballs over at each other. He remembers Jeremy’s mom stopped by to pick him up and after the boy had walked up the embankment and had been long gone, Erik had decided he was too cold to be out here alone. He’d crossed the ice one final time to pick up an errant hockey stick that served as the flag post for his snow fort and on his way back, he’d stepped into the center of river when he heard a deafening crack.

As he passed from the surface into the water, it felt like his whole body was being stabbed by a thousand needles. In pain and in shock, he accidentally exhaled his breath as he was pushed by the quick undercurrent. He tried to surface but all his fists found was the sheet of ice on top of him. In sheer terror, he inhaled a lungful of water as he pounded away at the barrier between him and the much-needed oxygen just a few inches above his submersed head.  As black dots began to form in his vision and he began to drift asleep, he felt a whoosh and a massive displacement of water as the ice next to him exploded.  With what little strength eh had left he pushed himself over and surfaced gasping for breath. He expected a hand to haul him out but once his vision swum back into focus there was no one there. He dragged himself to the short and saw that a massive tear width wise had been placed in the ice.

Erik remembered looking up and seeing the tree above his head that had been covered in snow and ice, was now barren. And as he ran up the embankment into his house to warm up, he could have sworn he saw water running down the trunk when he ran passed.  Shivering almost uncontrollably, he was forced to stop his inspection and book it back into the house. When his mother saw him she screamed out in horror, and swept him into the house, and toward the bathroom screaming at her husband that he wasn’t to go back out on to the ice ever again. Of course, he did. But he never went nor stayed out there alone again.

“Why did I forget that?” He murmured as he stood waist deep in the water.  A way off in the distance, he heard  cheerful voices making their way closer. He knew that revelers often traversed the length of the river getting in at one point and drinking all day before being picked up further downriver. To avoid having to speak to them and to avoid getting too much sun on his pale skin, he slugged up the side of the embankment using the tree as a banister as he made his way up. He patted his friend on it’s flank before bending over and grabbing his cell phone and deposited shirt before making his way back into the house.  He glanced back over one more time before he went inside to see the tree standing as it always had, leaning gently out over the river and toward the sun.

Learning to be grateful ( Under construction)

I have so much to be thankful for. It’s so hard when you hear some shady shit not to react. So today, I’m just gonna sit in this space where I know what’s really going on. Sorry but some of this may be NSFW.

I can write my ass off. I know that sounds self-aggrandizing – but I am good at what I do. Whether or not that shit sells is irrelevant. My reviews speak for themselves .
I am healthy- I quit smoking, I work out every day. I do yoga and try and clear my head and find my center. And I find it. And I lose it. And I find it again.
I’ve been working on myself – introspection has brought forth a lot of breakthroughs that has lead to some hurt but also a lot of healing as well.
I have a few close friends- a tight group of people I associate with. Mass groups of people and being in large groups don’t make me feel popular. It makes me feel like I am strapped to an atomic bomb that’s waiting to go off. Too much anxiety.
I am not perfect – I fuck up sometimes. I say some stupid stuff sometimes that I don’t mean in the heat of the moment. But I embrace my mistakes and own them. So trying to hang shit over my head is sort of worthless. I’ve implemented parts of a 12 step Alcoholics Anonymous program for sanity’s sake. I come from a world of secrets and secrets when they get too deep eat away at you like cancer.
I have an amazing husband. A great marriage. We work hard on making each other happy. And like Beyonce says, “When he fucks me good I take his ass to Red Lobster.” I get that statement 100 percent. I’ve known a lot of gay relationships that don’t make it because of outside influences and pressure and I can’t guarantee 100 percent that we will – but if there is one attribute I have is bullheadedness. I take my vows extremely serious.
There are times I’ve been a misogynist, a bigot, a racist, or how about worse- a homophobe. But there are times everyone has. I’m not afraid to own that. But the difference is I have a constant dialogue going on in my head trying to fix these things that I find errant. Just because I have this conversation going on here – on occasion – don’t mean that chapter has been closed and that book written. Can you say the same? It’s called change. You should probably look that up.
I am both arrogant and humble. Sinner and Saint. An educated fool. There is a paradox of life that I’ve embraced and I’m cool with that and recognize I’ve no more ‘arrived’ than anyone else and understand that everything I am can be taken in an instant. That’s just life. And I’ve had the rug ripped out from underneath me on several occasions. That shit will keep you humble.
And just like every other time in my life – I’ve learned to be thankful for it. That’s the hard part. Finding moments like that – even when everything is fifty shades of black – something to be grateful for. And what I am MOST grateful for is those who’ve stuck it out with me over the course of these couple of years of writing. That means the world to me.
I am grateful to my friends – my loyal readers (all seven of you), my life.
But if I’ve offended anyone in the past. Let me take a second and apologize for you that I am a work in progress and I am always trying to better myself.
But as far as I am concerned, that’s over with. It’s time to move on. I am all about love these days. That’s the only way to fix anything. But when the sun sets, even if I were to lose everything, I got me. I got this. Because I am me. And what is that? A powerful, intelligent, passionate gay man who’s navigated this world with as much grace and dignity as I could. I am myself. In the end, that’s good enough for me.

F.E.

Feelin’ this pretty hard today.

Between Us – My first foray into the World of Self-Publishing

between-us-2

 

I am super excited about this.

Back Story: Last year, I think, I wrote a short story called “The Scarecrow” for Halloween and posted it for free on my Facebook Page, Goodreads Page, and blog. I really loved the story, I loved the freedom of writing something short and not having the pressure of sending it off to a publisher to wait the 9 weeks or so before I got word on whether or not it was approved.

I also liked the idea that I could be as crazily creative as I wanted to be without feeling the urge to have to explain myself to an editor etc.

This year, I wanted to do the same thing. However, my husband asked me ‘You work so hard on the stuff that you write, you spend hours plunking away at it, so why are you just giving it away.’ I guess he’s right. So this year, I decided to write another short story and self-publish it to Amazon.

And I realized a couple things

  1. I really appreciate the work my publisher puts into putting out novels. I had people volunteer to edit and volunteer to make cover art for me and I love them dearly for it. However, mistakes were made and some stuff was missed. It’s an imperfect book.
  2. I’m probably never going to be a J.K Rowling. And I have to be okay with that. I write a niche subset of a niche genre. And while my books are good (All above three stars in review) they don’t call to a large audience.
  3. This is something I think I am going to do every once in awhile. The Amazon experience is pretty painless. Load up this, fix this, do this, hit this button TA DA! And so, once in a while when I feel a short story going on in my head, I’ll throw it up on Amazon perfectly imperfect. Because, let’s face it, Amazon lets you do it for free, but editors, cover designers etc. are expensive. And for some, prohibitively so.

 

Anyway, if you like gay romance and spooky stories I have one for you. I am totally excited about this little story and look forward to writing more. Here’s the blurb:

When Jeremy, a tall, hunky, ladies man begins to explore his bisexual attractions, he realizes he loves his best friend and college roommate Roger.
Roger secretly loves Jeremy back but is holding on to a secret of his own. A terrible one.
On Halloween night both men are invited to a party where the truth of each other will be revealed in a horrific way. Will they survive a night of terror? Or will it rip them apart forever?

Buy the book by following the link. Thanks!

And most of all, Happy Halloween!

F.E.

Message in a bottle (part 16)

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

 

It’s been a few days since I’ve written my last entry into this thing that i started doing for reasons of self-preservation.

Mostly, because for the past several days I’ve felt pretty light. Relieved in a way. The stars all seemed to align for me and I allowed myself to see the truth – the whole truth – for the first time.

And it broke my heart. I’m thirty-five years old.

But there is a part of me that feels like he’s seven years old. And despite my size and weight and years on my face, that five-year-old is still very much a part  of my life. That seven-year-old boy who’s name is Freddie- boy (that was my nickname). That little boy who was born on April 12th, 1981 the third child and first born son.

From what I understand I would introduce myself as ‘Freddie boy’ to people I would meet.

Today, I just call myself Freddie. Frederick makes me sound like I have money and Fred makes me sound like I know how to work on cars. Neither of which is true.

I’m poor and clueless when it comes to anything under the hood.

Before I cut off communication with my family, my mother had sent me a few things that she’d collected over the years and in that letter was my first letter to Santa Clause.

On the front, it said: To Santa to give to God.

It reads: I love God and I can see why you love me. Please take this (the letter ) to Jesus.

I had it worked out in my little five-year-old head that, of course, Santa knew God and Jesus they all lived ‘up north’. To me, that was the Holy Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and Santa Clause (Sorry, Holy Spirit).

But the part that says, “I can see why you love me,” is something that’s given me pause.

I can see why you love me. Because I’m Freddie-boy and EVERYONE loves Freddie boy, duh.

But it’s interesting how as a child I knew that I was loved by Jesus. I knew it.

Despite the abuse, despite the craziness that was Detroit, despite the worn out heart and mind of this thirty-five-year-old man. I am thankful for my parent’s faith in regards to teaching us about Jesus. Not the fundamentalism, no. That ruined Jesus for me and for many others, I think, and probably is strong enough to give Christ himself pause every once in awhile and ask, “Am I really like that?”

Because despite all of this along with my obsession with love that I’ve carried with me all my adult life, I feel like I never stopped looking for God. I never stopped looking for Christ. Even factoring in the fact that I’m gay, I’ve yet to be convinced God doesn’t exist and Christ isn’t a part of my life.

Mostly, because I met God once. He fishes off the beaches on Crystal Beach (near Galveston) and he owns a raggedy four by four. He helped pull me out of the sand once when I was stuck and no one else would help me. He didn’t look like he had a lot of money, and his hair was curly and stood up in every direction. But he pulled up, got me out of rut I was in and got me back on the road before waving and disappearing from sight. He looked poor.

And he didn’t yell at me for getting stuck.

And he didn’t want any money although I had a pocket full of cash.

So if the ‘least you do for these you do for me’ means the least you do for someone who’s in a bad way means you did something for Christ. What does it mean when the least does something for you?

Like I said, I met God that day.

I cried all the way home.

Maybe it’s good that that five-year-old is still in me. Wanting to believe. Believing despite everything. I just wish I could say, “I know why you love me,” with that much assuredness. That little kid saw in himself something of value. He was Freddie Boy.

I want to be Freddie Boy, again.

 

I was beautiful today (Poem)

I was beautiful today
with my earbuds in and songs in my head
songs that reminded me of autumns long ago
rock and roll anthems that taste like spices and smell of earth
or maybe it’s the fall sun that caused colors to jump out at me

There were no dark shadows
to clouds over my head or over my heart
and felt lovely against my warm skin as I breathed in the sweet air
with bruised and healing lungs

Today I was free
with a smile on my face as music dripped from my lips and the sun upon my brow
I walked with certainty upon the ground with my shadow behind me
I was neither lost or saved but I sure was found
today in the courtyard of my little apartment
under the cloudless sky – I was beautiful – as I walked in the morning sun