Thanks, Charlie, for inviting me to talk about my very first novel, Until Thanksgiving, a m-m romance/thriller now available from Dreampsinner Press that takes place in Washington DC in the late 1990s. And congratulations for your many Reader’s Choice nominations! I’ve cast my ballot and am keeping my fingers crossed for you.
As recently as 2010, writing a novel was just one more thing on a rather long list of stuff I never thought I could do—along with medaling at the Olympics, fixing things around the house, and thinking in a foreign language. Sure, I’ve always loved to write. Journaling, letter-writing, and publishing articles in academic journals for nearly thirty years have helped to improve my writing ability. That kind of writing comes easy for me because it doesn’t—or shouldn’t—involve making things up. The idea of trying to write a novel was enough to make my head explode. Misconceptions about the process and a lack of technical know-how kept me from even trying.
In 2010, with a lot of encouragement and support from my friends, I wrote a still unpublished tell-all memoir that was all tell. I didn’t know about showing until I joined the Athens Writers Workshop in early 2011. A few months later, I started my first novel. Until Thanksgiving is the result.
I hear first novels are often autobiographical. That’s true for me…or at least, was when I started writing. Addictedwas the working title, with the addiction being the main character’s thing for relationships, leading him to fall in love at the drop of a hat with all the wrong men. I still do, but that’s another story—except to say that I’m currently between husbands. My contact info is below.
The problem is thatstory, in and of itself, lacks tension or stakes or a reason to care whether or not Josh ever finds love. Never mind that my life, interesting as it has been, isn’t the stuff of novels. Enter Adam Gordon who Josh antagonizes, not knowing he’s already killed three men. Lo and behold, I was making stuff up, and having a ball doing it.
What’s next? I recently finished a prequel (After Christmas Eve, set in 1966) and am sifting through ideas to decide which to focus on for my next novel. I’m thinking maybe I’ll do something set in the seventies or eighties, but it’s hard to predict what I’ll do until I sit down and start writing.
Excerpt (Note: this is Chapter Two. You can read Chapter One here: http://rupured.com/2012/12/17/a-release-party-southern-style/):
The doorbell’s steady ding, ding, ding woke Josh from a sound sleep. He stumbled out of bed and tripped over an assortment of pizza boxes, dirty clothes, old newspapers, and empty cans on his way to the front door. He saw his friend Linda Delgado through the peephole and opened the door.
“I’ve been ringing your doorbell forever. You up?”
“Does it look like I’m up?” Squinting from the bright sunlight, Josh looked at his arm and then remembered his watch still sat on his bedside table. “What the hell time is it, anyway?”
“Way past time for your sorry ass to still be in bed. You were supposed to meet me at the pool two hours ago.”
He rubbed his eyes. “You could have called.”
Linda put her hands on her hips and glared. “I did. Three times.”
Josh looked over and saw the red blinking light on his answering machine. “Oh. Sorry.” He ran his hands up over his eyes and through his hair, pulling the bangs back, then letting go and shaking his head. “Guess I was sleeping pretty heavy. I went downtown last night and was a little late getting home.”
“Late getting home? Did you get lucky? Is he still here?”
Josh decided not to mention the anonymous blowjob to his one and only friend. Women really didn’t understand about casual, anonymous sex. “No, I didn’t get lucky. Nobody even looked at me twice, much less talked to me.”
“Poor Joshy. Everyone probably thought you were too busy enjoying your little pity party to bother with anyone else.”
Josh shook his head. “Linda, sometimes you’re a real bitch.”
“As your best friend, it’s my job. If I don’t tell your hunky ass the truth, who will?” She looked past him. “Are we just going to stand here on the porch all day and talk?”
Josh yawned and stepped back, opening the door wider so Linda could come in. “Sorry. I’m still about half asleep.”
Linda pushed her way past Josh into the condo. She took three steps, then turned back to Josh. “Jesus Christ! What the hell is that smell?”
Josh sniffed the air. “What smell? I don’t smell anything.”
“It smells like a crack house in here, or maybe a dumpster.” She covered her mouth and nose with her hand and talked between her fingers. “Damn, Josh! When was the last time you took out the trash?”
“Uh. I dunno. Sometime before Ben moved out.”
“That was more than three weeks ago. Can’t you smell it?”
Josh sniffed again and shrugged. “Not really. Maybe a little when I first come in. You get used to it.”
Pinching her nose and holding her hand over her mouth as she kicked through trash and clutter, Linda made her way into the living room. On the coffee table, empty cans and glasses surrounded an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts and the tail ends of an uncountable number of joints. Linda kicked a bunch of dirty clothes and old newspapers off the sofa and onto the floor to clear a place to sit.
She looked slowly around the living room, her eyes jumping from mess to bigger mess as she took it all in. “So this is what three weeks of wallowing in self-pity looks like.”
Josh cleared himself a spot on the sofa, knocking over a half empty glass of what might have been milk as he sat down. “I guess so.” He picked a small pipe from the table. “You mind if I catch a little buzz before we hit the pool?”
Linda sighed. “Sure. Why not?” She glanced around the room again. “I may even have to join you.”
He was more than a little surprised. Since divorcing a guy with a deep affection for cocaine who everyone thought could easily have passed for Josh’s brother, Linda rarely got high. Josh retrieved the jewelry chest his mother had given him for his twelfth birthday, and after knocking a bunch of cans to the floor, cleared a spot for it on the coffee table. He opened the chest and took out a nearly empty bag of pot to replenish his pipe.
“Guess I’ve been smoking a lot since Ben left.”
Linda glanced around at the filthy, cluttered condo. “No shit. Too bad getting high doesn’t inspire you to go on a cleaning binge.”
“Ben usually did all the cleaning.” Josh filled the pipe and offered it to Linda.
Linda hesitated. “When in a frat house, do as the frat boys do.” She took the pipe, fired it up, inhaled deeply, and held her breath before returning it to Josh. “Are you going to tell me about your night downtown?”
Josh took a big hit and then exhaled. “There’s really nothing to tell. I had a couple of drinks, took in the drag show for a while, then watched a bunch of people I don’t care to know dancing to music I’d never heard before. It was a good time.”
He looked at Linda. Two years younger than Josh, she was still beautiful, with short raven hair, olive skin that quickly tanned a dark brown, and dazzling blue eyes. Their mothers had been best friends. They’d grown up together, and Josh could tell she knew there was more to his story. She looked at him and cocked her head. “Did you run into Benjie and David?”
Josh shook his head. “No. They weren’t there.” He relit the bowl and took another hit.
“That’s good.” She reached across and pulled his chin around so she could see his eyes. “You know you’re going to run into them sooner or later, don’t you?”
Josh returned his attention to the pipe. “Not if I can help it. David knows Ben has trouble keeping it zipped. The Bar is the last place they’d be.”
He loaded the bowl again and handed it to Linda. Having outgrown the youthful crowd of regulars, he and Ben had long ago quit going to the Bar Complex. In truth, the decision to avoid the place had been less about the young crowd than Ben’s wandering eye.
Linda snorted. “If David was that smart, you and Ben would still be together.”
“Yeah, and if I was smart, we would never have hooked up.” In hindsight, Josh should have seen it coming. Ben had left his previous lover to be with Josh. If they’d do it foryou, it was only a matter of time before they’d do it to you.
“Do you miss him?”
Josh looked at her. “I don’t know, maybe. Part of me is glad he’s gone. It’s like a big weight has been lifted from my shoulders.” He shrugged and looked at the floor. “Maybe I should become a monk. Then I could put all this celibacy to good use.”
Linda laughed. “You’re not really the celibate type.” When he didn’t laugh, she slid closer to him and wrapped an arm around his waist. “Thought any more about that job offer?”
Josh draped his arm across her shoulder and rested his chin on her head. “Not really.”
Walker, Cochran, and Lowe, the law firm where he worked, had offered him a promotion to national director of communications. The catch was he’d have to transfer to the Washington, DC, branch of the firm. Ben had been opposed to the move, but what he thought didn’t matter anymore.
Linda leaned her head into his neck. “Why not go? It’s a great opportunity for you, and there’s no better time than now to get the hell out of Dodge.” She sat up, pushing him away. “You should go.”
Josh looked into her eyes. He couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been part of his life, and he loved her like the sister he never had. More than her words, the concern for his well-being he saw on her face told him she was serious.
But he couldn’t imagine life without her, especially now that his love life was over. If he couldn’t have a lover, at least he had Linda. Being single without her to keep him company was just unimaginable. He set the pipe in the ashtray and stood up.
“Come on. It’s a beautiful day outside. Let’s not waste it in here chitchatting about work.”
Linda laughed and shook her head. “If you insist.”
“I do. Let me jump into some trunks.”
Josh returned a few minutes later in navy-blue swim trunks, a white T-shirt, and flip-flops. “Ready?”
“I was ready two hours ago,” Linda smirked.
Josh Freeman knows his best days are behind him. After his partner of seventeen years has an affair with a younger man, Josh buries himself in takeout boxes, half-smoked joints, and self-pity until his best friend gently kicks him in the ass and encourages him to try out a new job in Washington DC—at least until Thanksgiving.Though DC has its share of troubles, specifically in the form of a murderer targeting gay men, Josh soon discovers its charms as well. Unlike his old home, DC is crawling with men who want to date him—apparently he’s not as overweight, out of shape, or over the hill as the man he once loved made him believe. In particular, Josh would love a chance with relocation expert Thad Parker, but Josh is sure Thad is seeing someone, so he looks for love elsewhere. He tells himself he and Thad don’t have anything in common anyway.
Then Josh learns Thad really is available. Maybe they can work it out after all. Suddenly the future seems bright again. Of course, Josh doesn’t know he’s the murderer’s next target….