Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: A More Perfect Union


Summary:
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States made a monumental decision, and at long last, marriage equality became the law of the land. That ruling made history, and now gay and lesbian Americans will grow up in a country where they will never be denied the right to marry the person they love.

But what about the gay men who waited and wondered all of their lives if the day would ever come when they could stand beside the person they love and say, “I do?”

Here, four accomplished authors—married gay men—offer their take on that question as they explore same-sex relationships, love, and matrimony. Men who thought legal marriage was a right they would never have. Men who, unbelievably, now stand legally joined with the men they love. With this book, they share the magic and excitement of dreams that came true—in tales of fantasy and romance with a dose of their personal experiences in the mix.

To commemorate the anniversary of full marriage equality in the US, this anthology celebrates the idea of marriage itself, and the universal truth of it that applies to us all, gay or straight.


FLAMES
Prologue
Monday, September 28
THERE WAS only this moment. This place. Alex holding Gio’s hand, gently because of the burns on the back of Gio’s arm. The sounds of the breathing machine came in regular soft sighs.

The little green box held in Alex’s other hand—and all it symbolized between them.

All their life together had shrunk down to this moment, this place, this plea. “Please wake up, Gio. Amore mio, svegliati.”

Chapter One
Saturday, September 12. Two weeks earlier
ALEX WAS late getting home, and he was in a foul mood from the long, difficult day at work. One of the properties he’d made a bid on had fallen through, and another client had all but called him a bald-faced liar.

He was looking forward to getting home, taking a long hot shower, then crawling into bed.

Alex was startled to find a huge meal, complete with wine and candles, laid out on their dining room table. Gio must have spent the whole day cooking.

Alex was late. He’d been delayed with his angry client, and to make matters worse, his phone had up and died halfway through the afternoon and he’d been without his car charger.

He was already annoyed when he walked in the door.

“Welcome home, amore,” Gio called from the kitchen.

“I had a hell of a day….” He caught a whiff of whatever Gio was cooking.

“Come sit down. I’ve got everything ready.”

The dining room looked like a Martha Stewart production of a telenovella Thanksgiving. “I’m sorry. I’m not really hungry. Things were the shits at work today.”

“Sorry to hear that. Have a seat.” Gio grabbed his elbow and urged him toward his chair. “Food makes everything better.”

Alex was starting to get annoyed. “Look, I’m sorry, but I’m not hungry. I just want to wash up—”

“That’s just the job talking.” Gio took his arm again.

“Knock it off! I’m not in the mood tonight.”

Gio looked hurt, but Alex plowed on, too incensed to stop.

“This isn’t some kind of June and Ward Cleaver thing.”

“I just—”

“You have to let go of your stupid, unrealistic expectations of me and this relationship.”

Gio frowned. “That’s bullshit, and you know it. Just because you had a bad day at work, there’s no reason to take it out on me.”

He was right. But Alex couldn’t admit it. “Just leave me the fuck alone,” he said, grabbing his phone charger and storming out. He’d find somewhere else to sleep tonight.

ALEX WOKE, still groggy from the immense amount of alcohol he’d consumed the night before.

Where am I? Memory slowly returned through his aching brain. The Super 8 Motel. It had been close and cheap, and he hadn’t wanted to go back home after the binge he’d gone on.

He sat up and pulled back the motel sheets and bedspread from his naked form. If Gio had been mad at him before, he’d be livid now. And he had the right to be.

The cow skull in the watercolor painting on the wall glared down at him as if in judgment.

God, his head was pounding. He stumbled into the bathroom and ran the water until it was hot. Then somehow he managed to get himself into the shower. He breathed in the steam deeply, and the pressure in his head abated a little, enough that he could start to think.

There was no choice other than to go home and face the music. This whole thing was his mess—he’d made it, and he’d have to live with it. But he could delay his hour of reckoning, at least for a little while longer. He stayed under the warm spray, letting himself forget what waited for him at home.

Eventually the water ran cold and he had to leave the shower.

Alex dried off and checked himself in the mirror. He didn’t look too bad, considering. The eyes were a little red, but they’d have to do. He rubbed his temples with his thumbs, willing the pain to go away.

Alex didn’t have a fresh change of clothing with him, so he pulled his old ones back on. He could change when he got home.

Then he noticed his phone where he’d plugged it in to charge upon reaching his room. At least he’d remembered to grab his charger on his way out of the house.

He had it on Do Not Disturb because he hadn’t wanted to talk with Gio last night, not in the condition Alex had been in. He unplugged the phone from the wall charger. It was fully juiced up now, so he activated it, and a flood of texts and messages arrived.

Jesus, had the Paxton deal gone south? He’d hate to lose that commission.

The thought fled his mind as he scanned the texts. Most were from their friend Oscar.

Alex, they’re calling me. Something happened to Gio. Where are you?

On my way to the U of A Medical Center. Hope to see you there.

At the hospital with Gio. It’s bad…. Alex, where are you?

By the time Alex read the last one, he was at the car, fumbling to find his keys in his briefcase. He fished them out and hopped inside, not bothering with checkout. He threw the case in the passenger seat and peeled out of the motel parking lot.

“Hold on, Gio, hold on,” he whispered to himself. “I’m coming.”

He reached the University of Arizona Medical Center in record time, thanking the traffic gods when he didn’t have an accident and wasn’t stopped for a ticket. He parked his car in the first visible spot in the garage and jumped out, not even bothering to lock it, and ran toward the hospital lobby. A couple walking past shot him a sympathetic glance, but he ignored them.

There was only Gio.

He reached the front desk, panting, hands outstretched on the cool surface as he fought to catch his breath. “I’m looking… for… Giovanni.”

The woman at the desk put her hand on his. “Calm down, sir. Catch your breath.”

He closed his eyes for a second, willing himself to be calm. “Better?” His eyes threatened violence if she didn’t say yes.

She seemed to sense his urgency. “Giovanni, you said?”

Alex swallowed hard and nodded. He took a couple of deep breaths and tried again. “I need to find Giovanni Montanari.”

“Let me look,” she said, her voice full of sympathy. “When was he brought in?”

He checked the messages on his phone. “I don’t know. Late last night, maybe?”

She nodded. “Okay, I found him.”

“How is he?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I can’t tell you that. You’ll have to talk to the doctor.”

“He’s still alive?”

She nodded again. “Yes, sir. He’s in the burn ward. Take the elevator down that hall”—she pointed—“up to the third floor. Then follow the signs.”

He ran down the hall toward the elevator. Burn ward?


JEORDI AND TOM
Chapter One
WHEN THE front door of the trailer slammed shut with a loud bang, followed immediately by an animalistic howl of rage and frustration, Tom knew Jeordi was home. He snickered and shook his head.

“Hey, babe,” Tom called out. “I forgot this was the day you were going to visit your parents. It went that well, huh?”

One glance at his boyfriend told Tom all he needed to know. Despite the scowl and look of anger and frustration on Jeordi’s face, it only took one glance at the man to ignite the most sensitive parts of his nervous system (and everything connected to it).

He couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Jeordi. He wasn’t handsome in the New York runway model sense, but was handsome in the real man sense. Jeordi turned heads every time he walked down the street, although he consistently missed the many glances people cast his way.

All Jeordi saw when he looked at himself was that he wasn’t tall, and he felt his ears were too big. Tom daily told Jeordi that he was the most studly man he’d ever known—and he quietly gave thanks that the man was all his.

Tom felt two strong hands wrap around his waist as he stood at the sink in their kitchen. Carefully setting down the dish he’d been washing, he leaned his head back against his boyfriend’s solid shoulder, brushing his smooth cheek against Jeordi’s fuzzy cheek—fuzzy not from a beard but from a strong five o’clock shadow the man dependably had every day by late afternoon. Jeordi hated it, but Tom loved it and loved rubbing one part or another of his body over the stubble.

“Love you, babe,” Tom whispered. “I’m glad you’re home.”

“Why?” Jeordi whispered into Tom’s ear. “Why? Why? Why do I keep subjecting myself to the same crap?”

“So, they didn’t throw their arms open and tell you they’ve joined PFLAG and ask for your advice on what to wear in the next Pride Day parade?”

Jeordi snorted. “Um, that would be a great big no.”

“What did they do this time?” Tom asked.

“Prayed—and then some. They tried to have some kind of healing service to rid me of the evil that had ‘grabbed ahold’ of me, to quote my mother. They said they needed to cast the devil out of my body.”

“Oh, isn’t that special,” Tom joked.

“Not so much,” Jeordi disagreed.

“Was it just your parents?”

“Oh, no. That’s what made this one more frustrating. They had their minister there. He brought a backup minister—poor kid looked freaked out just being in the same room with a known homosexual. Don’t know what he thought was going to happen.”

“They upped the ante, I see,” Tom said.

“Oh, there’s more,” Jeordi said.

“More?”

“Hell, yes. They had some of my more uptight brothers there with them this time.”

“They succeeded in getting any of your brothers to be in the same room at the same time? How the hell did they swing that one?”

“Don’t know. Must have been one hell of a bribe. They, of course, brought their wives, I guess to show me how a good strong Christian heterosexual marriage works. They pissed me off so much I slipped and asked Beau how he could take part in something like that when he’d been off screwing half the women in the county. He didn’t appreciate it. I guess his wife didn’t know he was a hound dog she needed to keep on a tighter leash.”

Tom stopped what he was doing and dropped his head back, deep in thought. “Hmm, your brother Beau would look damned good in a collar—and naked,” he said. “Now, if you maybe added a blindfold, put him on his knees with his hands cuffed behind his back—now that’s just freaking hot. Maybe I should call his wife and give her a few suggestions. How do you think she’d take that? I’d be doing it strictly to help her out since I doubt she’d ever come up with an idea like that on her own. And of course I’d need to be there to help her, you know, to consult.”

“Don’t go there,” Jeordi warned with a chuckle. Beau was beautiful, but unfortunately he knew it and wasn’t at all opposed to spreading his beauty around to any and all women who’d have him. “At least that got the two of them out of the whole ritualistic crap my mother had planned for the weekly visit.”

“Two down, ten to go,” Tom said.

Tom turned around and wrapped his arms around Jeordi, kissing his neck. “I love you, babe,” he whispered into Jeordi’s ear as he held tightly to his man.

“I’m so glad you do. My family certainly doesn’t."

“Oh, they love you. They just don’t understand it because the playing field has changed since you came out,” Tom said.


DESTINED
Prelude
1994
JAY AND WALLACE were convinced they met for the first time in 1999, but they were wrong. They’d met five years earlier than that, in 1994. But neither of them remembered.

Jay had just graduated from college with a computer science degree and found himself a job two hours west of the university doing tech support for a mail-order company called PC Connection. A coworker found out he was looking for an apartment in the area and told him his wife managed an apartment building. So that was how Jayson Corey ended up in Keene, New Hampshire, in the midnineties with a job, an apartment, and no friends to speak of.

He was social enough. He made some acquaintances at work. The support department went out for drinks every Wednesday night after work, so he got to know his coworkers a bit better. But apart from work, he didn’t have much in common with them. And none of them were gay.

There was a gay men’s group in town, so Jay went to one of their meetings. The men were nice—and some were pretty cute—but he didn’t immediately connect with anyone. In retrospect, perhaps his friends in college had been a little on the fringe. They’d introduced Jay to role-playing games, medieval banquets, fire dancing, skinny-dipping….

He could imagine some of these guys skinny-dipping—and that was pleasant to think about—but they clearly wouldn’t have fit in with his friends back at UNH. He supposed it might be time to move on. After all, he wasn’t in college anymore. But that thought didn’t cheer him up at all.

Then he saw the flyers on the table. They were largely flyers for other gay groups in New England, some too far away to appeal to him at present. But one intrigued him. It was a flyer for Gaynemede’s Crossing, a group for “gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, and trans pagans” in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jay wasn’t a very religious man, but he’d attended some Wiccan gatherings in college. The circles had been peaceful and beautiful experiences. He found the thought of dipping a toe back into that scene intriguing, especially as a contrast to the stressful, high-tech business environment he now worked in. And Cambridge was just north of Boston, about an hour’s drive away.

HIS FIRST attempt at going to the group was a dismal failure. He’d never driven in the Boston area, and he wasn’t prepared for the chaos in and around the city. He drove an hour to get there, then spent another hour driving around hopelessly lost, until he finally found himself on a highway heading north, passing an abandoned car in the breakdown lane that was literally on fire. He said, “Fuck it!” and kept going until he hit the New Hampshire border. Then he went home, vowing never to try anything so foolish again.

But one month later, he was back on the road. Jay wasn’t sure why he was so determined to go to this one group, but this time he was armed with better directions and a phone number.

He got lost again. As the beginning time for the meeting came and went, he found himself at the ass end of Boston, surrounded by crumbling, mostly empty buildings and road construction. He had no idea where he was, though it resembled a portal to the underworld. Eventually Jay came across a Dunkin’ Donuts that had a pay phone. He dialed the number for the group, and a man answered.

“Hello?” Wallace said, having no idea he was about to hear the voice of the man he was destined to marry.

Frustrated, his nerves stretched to the breaking point, Jay skipped over romance and went straight for, “Where the hell are you? I’ve been driving around looking for you guys for forty-five minutes!”

“Um… do you know who you’re calling?”

Jay hesitated. Maybe he’d dialed the wrong number. “Sorry. Is this Gaynemede’s Crossing?”

“Oh. Yes.”

“I wanted to come tonight.”

“The meeting’s almost over.”

When Jay spoke again, he was embarrassed to hear a catch in his voice, as if he were on the edge of tears. “I drove all the way from New Hampshire….”

“Well, where are you now?”

Jay wasn’t sure. But he described the Dunkin’ Donuts and the bridge outside, and his suspicion that it led to one of the nether hells. To his surprise, the man recognized it.

“Gods! How on earth did you end up all the way down there?”

“I have no idea.”

The man on the phone was silent for a long moment, and Jay waited for him to say “Sorry. Better luck next time.” Then Jay would have to find his way back home, having failed again. He braced himself for it.

But instead the man said, “You’ll need to turn around and head back the way you came, until you cross the bridge into Cambridge.” Then he proceeded to give Jay directions and describe the neighborhood and what the storefront looked like.

Jay had no idea what the man’s name was or what he looked like. But he knew he loved him.


SOMEDAY
1991
1
THE FIRST time Lucas Arrowood saw Dalton was on his way to his first day of kindergarten. His mother was walking him to school, he was very excited, and his right shoelace was flopping, untied.

“Baby,” said his mom. “Let’s sit down and try to tie your shoe.”

He looked up at her, excitement temporarily quashed. He couldn’t do it. Couldn’t tie his shoe. And he was supposed to be able to. His mother had tried to show him how—over and over again—but he couldn’t get the laces to go where they were supposed to go, and it just fell apart. He couldn’t do it. If his teacher found out, would they make him go home? Would he have to wait until next year? That would be horrible!

“Hey, you can do it. It’s easy!”

Lucas gave a little jump, turned around, and sighed as he looked into the narrow dark eyes of the most beautiful human being he had ever seen.

“Want me to help?” the boy asked, flipping his mop of dark brown hair out of his eyes with a toss of his head. “I taught a bunch of kids last year when I was in kindergarten.”

A bunch of kids hadn’t known how to tie their shoes? That perked up his ears. Lucas looked up at his mother.

She smiled. “Do you want him to help?”

Then he realized something. He did want the boy to help him. He thought he would do anything the boy wanted him to do, even ask his mom to take the training wheels off his bike (which was a big scary because he was afraid of falling and getting hurt!).

“Sit down,” said the boy, pointing to the landscaping wall along the sidewalk.

Lucas sat.

“What’s your name?” asked Lucas’s mother.

“Dalton Churchill. Like Winston Churchill. Only it’s Dalton.”

He smiled, and Lucas knew Dalton was the most beautiful boy on the planet.

“Who’s Winston Churchill?” Lucas asked.

Dalton shrugged and got down on one knee before Lucas. “I don’t know. I think he’s a minister. Okay, now, first you pull your laces up and then cross them over, like this.” Dalton demonstrated.

“I can tie a knot,” Lucas said, wanting very much not to look like a complete dope in front of Dalton. Then he frowned. “It’s the other part I get mixed up on.”

“That’s cool,” Dalton said, tying the knot. “Okay…. So here’s the tricky part. First you make a loop and stick it up so it looks like a tree—see?”

Lucas nodded. He wasn’t sure the upward turned loop looked much like a tree, but he wasn’t going to tell Dalton that.

“Then you take the other lace and wrap it around the bottom like this—like a dog running around the tree.”

Lucas smiled. “My neighbor has a dog. His name is Super Mario.”

“That’s a great name,” Dalton said, laughing.

Then he finished showing Lucas how to tie his shoe.

“Wow,” Lucas said.

But then Dalton untied the shoe.

“Hey!” cried Lucas.

“Now you do it,” Dalton said. He nodded. “You can. I know you can. Easy.”

Lucas wanted to yell, “No, I can’t!” but he quite suddenly knew he could not disappoint the pretty boy with the beautiful eyes. He sighed. What had Dalton said about a tree? He made a loop with one of the laces.

“Just like that, but the other one. Unless you’re a southpaw.”

Lucas looked up through his own dark bangs. “Huh?”

“Southpaw means left-handed.”

“Oh!” Lucas giggled. “I’m not.”

“Tree!” Dalton ordered, brows knitted together.

So Lucas made a loop with his shoelace.

“Yes!” Dalton said with such enthusiasm Lucas would have thought he’d ridden down to the corner and back on his bike without training wheels. He laughed and then thought about dogs running around the base of trees. A moment later, Lucas had tied his shoe. His mother clapped.

“Yes,” shouted Dalton. “I knew you could do it, Lucas.”

Dalton walked the rest of the way to school with them. But even better, he also promised to walk Lucas to school the next day.

Author Bios:
B.G. Thomas
B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn't matter the genre. He has gone to conventions since he was fourteen years old and has been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was child; it is where he finds his joy.

In the nineties, he wrote for gay magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. "The sex is never as important as the characters," he says. "Who cares what they are doing if we don't care about them?" Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. Gay men are what he knows best, after all. He submitted his first story in years and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days.

"Leap, and the net will appear" is his personal philosophy and his message to all. "It is never too late," he states. "Pursue your dreams. They will come true!"

J. Scott Coatsworth
Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with crayon illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.

Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”

Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before – and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.

Jamie Fessenden
Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple short pieces in his high school's literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest, but it wasn't until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. He then began writing novels and published his first novella in 2010.

After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard, and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie recently left his "day job" as a tech support analyst to be a full-time writer.

Michael Murphy
In a world of so many things, how do you settle on just a few? All my life I've been interested in everything around me, wanting to see new places, meet new people, tell new stories. Writing has been the culmination of a long term dream. Being a part of the Dreamspinner family is priceless beyond compare. Anytime I'm asked the question of who I am I have to stop and try to decide how in the world to answer. I might biologically be middle age, but inside I feel like a randy teenager anxious to explore the world. Dreams of writing have been a part of my life since I was five years old. Two of the greatest influences on me as I was growing up were my two grandmothers. Both were strong women who had unbelievable burdens thrust upon them when they were widowed very early in life. Both of these incredible women loved stories. They loved reading stories and telling stories, and the stories they had to tell were incredible. For as long as I can remember I've been writing stories. What has been different over the last five years is that I've finally been brave enough to allow someone else to read what I'd written. When that happened I found that others liked what I'd written which made me beyond happy. In addition to writing, my other love is photography. Taking photos of some of the beautiful men of the world is my current focus. With any luck, one of those photos will grace the cover of a Dreamspinner novel in the near future. My partner and I have traveled the world, trying to see as much as possible. When not traveling, we live in Washington, DC with our best friend, a throw-away dog we adopted twelve years ago. To pay the bills, I am Director of Information Technology for a national organization based in Washington, DC. While I'd rather be writing full-time, I haven't figured out how to make that a viable option - yet.


BG Thomas
TWITTER  /  BLOG  /  iTUNES  /  KOBO
AUDIBLE  /  GOOGLE PLAY  /  AMAZON  /  B&N
ARe  /  DREAMSPINNER  /  GOODREADS
EMAIL: bg_thomas@livejournal.com

J. Scott Coatsworth
FACEBOOK  /  TWITTER  /  WEBSITE  /  B&N
GOOGLE PLAY  /  SMASHWORDS  /  ARe
EMAIL: jscottc@me.com

Jamie Fessenden
FACEBOOK  /  TWITTER  /  BLOG  /  KOBO
GOOGLE PLAY  /  ARe  /  SMASHWORDS  /  B&N

Michael Murphy
EMAIL: writer@gayromancewriter.com



AMAZON US  /  AMAZON UK  /  B&N
KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  GOOGLE PLAY  /  ARe


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