Today I've invited my good friend Michael Rupured over for a visit. Michael is someone I love to just kick back and chat with, one of those warm, sweet men I want to adopt for a brother. I just finished reading his first novel, Until Thanksgiving, which combines a tender love story with a tense thriller about a serial killer of gay men in Washington, D.C.. I just loaned this one to my husband, who loves thrillers. Today Michael is talking about his journey to becoming a published romance author.
My dear friend, Tali. Thank you so much for inviting me back to your blog to talk about my new release and for the countless things large and small you’ve done for me since I signed on with Dreamspinner Press. There’s so much to know! I’m much farther up a rather steep learning curve than would otherwise have been the case thanks to you, M.A. Church, Eden Winters, Charlie Cochet, Shira Anthony, Chris T. Kat, Jana Denardo, Michael Murphy, Rodney Ross, and others who keep looking out for me.
In meeting so many different writers, I’m struck by the different routes each has taken to becoming a published author. Some started out writing original novels, perhaps in m-m romance, but not necessarily. The stories I hear share common threads, with twists and turns that make each one unique.
At damn near 55, I come rather late to the party. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I spent more than thirty years doing research for my future career as a romance novelist—work that continues as I find myself between husbands. That my experiences would provide rich fodder for a series of novels didn’t occur to me until a short time ago.
A love for reading, inspirational teachers, a vivid imagination, and a compulsion to write—these things I have in common with the writers I’ve met. A long career in academia helped me to polish my technical writing skills, but any non-work application—aside from journaling and writing letters to friends—never occurred to me. My creativity came out through gardening and other outlets.
The turning point came in 2008 when I started blogging as the Crotchety Old Man. Instead of reading what I’d written to gain knowledge—the primary focus of most of my writing to that point—visitors to my blog wanted to be entertained. Talk about a change! I experimented and got a feel for what I did and didn’t like to write as well as what people wanted to read.
My commitment to post at least three times a week soon had me running out of content. In a desperate moment, I wrote about my wild and reckless twenties. People loved it. One post became a series of posts, and then I’d written several series, each more popular than the one before. I’d found my voice.
With everyone encouraging me to write a book, I wrote a memoir called Glass Houses. Glass is a family name—so I have a better claim to the title than many who have used it before me. My friends thought it was a masterpiece. Agents and publishers, not so much. When I kept getting rejection notices for my heart-warming story, I joined a local writers group for help.
That was in March 2011. That summer, with guidance and feedback from the writers in my group, I started writing my first novel. Until Thanksgiving is the result. The blurb and an excerpt appear below. You can buy your very own copy here:
Follow me on Twitter (@crotchetyman) or see what I’m up to at my blog (http://rupured.com). Drop by and say hello. I’d love to hear from you.
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....
Josh Freeman left the Bar Complex well before last call. Except for the hustlers that prowled the streets behind Lexington’s one and only gay bar, nobody noticed him leaving. A rough-looking kid in a tank top and jeans sized him up and walked toward him.
“Looking for some company?”
“No, thanks.” Josh kept walking. The gravel crunching under his Justin Ropers didn’t cover the laughter the boy got from the other hustlers. Josh wasn’t hard up enough to pay for sex. Yet. The cold shoulders at the bar had been bad enough.
He unlocked his red Toyota Celica. Gay life in Lexington, Kentucky, had changed. The bar crowd that evening was nothing like the good old days, when the place overflowed with good-looking, readily available men—before AIDS and the siren call of gay meccas like Atlanta, San Francisco, and New York. That school was out for the summer didn’t help. The class of ’97 had moved on, and the class of 2001 hadn’t yet come to town.
Going to the Bar had been a mistake. Josh hadn’t talked to anyone and nobody had talked to him. He wasn’t surprised. Unless he needed help crossing the street or had fallen and couldn’t get up, the college boys shaking their stuff on the dance floor had no cause to talk to him.
He started the car and headed to Jerry’s Restaurant for a late-night snack, smoking the rest of the joint he’d left in the ashtray. Smoking pot kept him from feeling so lonely. These days, he smoked so much he didn’t really feel anything.
“Table for one?” asked the waitress, chomping her gum and tugging on a severely strained bra strap.
“Table for one” sounded like a life sentence. Absent enough money to justify the sugar daddy label, he had slim to no chance of finding another lover.
“Here ya go, darlin’.” The waitress plunked down a food-stained menu and a glass of water. “Can I get ya some coffee or something to drink?”
“Water is fine, thanks.”
“Ready to order or do ya need a few minutes?”
“I can order. I’d like a J-Boy plate.”
“Sure. I’ll be right back out with that for ya, darlin’.”
A tiny spark of hope still glimmered, enough to get Josh off the couch earlier that evening and into the shower. By ten o’clock, he’d whipped his hair into a look, fingered through some gel, squeezed into his best jeans, and donned a Polo golf shirt for a solo night out on the town.
The waitress returned with his food, interrupting his thoughts. She set the burger, coleslaw, and mountain of crinkle-cut fries down in front of him. “Ya gonna save some room for hot fudge cake?”
Josh was tempted to say yes. He could eat whatever he wanted now. What difference would it make if he got big as a house?
“No, thanks. I’ll be doing good to eat this.”
“Well, just let me know if ya change your mind.” She left the check on the table and headed to the hostess stand to seat a group of punk rockers that had just arrived.
Josh glanced at his watch and noticed it was after one o’clock. The bars had closed, and a line waiting for tables had formed just inside the door. He wolfed down the rest of the burger, finished off the slaw, and made a noticeable dent in the mountain of fries. After leaving two bucks on the table for the waitress, he picked up the check, settled with the cashier, and returned to his car.
The J-Boy plate had filled him up, but left him feeling just as empty as before. Instead of going home where he belonged, Josh headed for the bookstore.
He parked under the trees at the very back of the parking lot, smoking a cigarette and watching guys coming and going through the bookstore’s rear entrance. A steady stream of cars cruised slowly through the parking lot. Now and then the cars paired up, driver’s side to driver’s side, for quick conversations. If the drivers connected, a two-car convoy headed to a secret rendezvous for a hookup. More often, both cars returned to the parade circling the bookstore in search of a hot encounter.
After seventeen years with Ben Dixon, Josh was single. It wasn’t his fault. He’d done everything right. The idea of cheating never even occurred to him. As far as Josh was concerned, once you decided to move in together, death was the only way out.
He thought Ben agreed. In a way, he did. Ben didn’t want the relationship to end, either. Not the relationship with Josh or the relationship Ben had on the side with his coworker, twenty-five-year-old David Hicks. That Josh considered David to be a good friend added insult to injury. In one fell swoop, he’d lost two of the most important people in his life.
Oh well, Ben is history. No more lies. No more worrying about what’s going on behind my back.
But the absence of gnawing paranoia was a small comfort in the face of reality. Josh knew his best chance for finding the love of his life was now behind him. Downhill was the only direction left for a single, middle-aged gay man.
He locked his car and made for the rear door of the bookstore. When he crossed the threshold, the scent of Pine-Sol punched him in the nose. There wasn’t enough cleanser in the world to cover the smell of all the sex that went on in the cubicles making up the dim back half of the store. The brightly lit front of the establishment featured dirty magazines, an eclectic collection of pornographic videos for sale or rent, and a wall of dongs, dildos, and other sex-related paraphernalia.
A dozen small cubicles with coin-operated video players featured an assortment of porn. Scattered throughout the dark maze connecting all the cubicles lurked maybe a dozen horned-up men. Some were married and popped into the booths for the blowjobs their wives refused to deliver. Most of the rest were there to oblige. The way they leered made Josh uncomfortable.
Never a lurker, Josh stepped into a cubicle and dropped some quarters in the slot to watch some gay porn. On the screen, an obviously bored African-American plowed the ass of a homely white dude who tried to act like it hurt. Neither performer was likely to win any acting awards. Josh pushed the button and the scene changed to a blond frat-boy type blowing a hairy, muscular white guy.
Fearing what he might sit in, Josh ignored the wooden bench seat and remained standing. The black plywood walls of the booth were riddled with holes of various sizes, none part of the original construction. Smaller holes allowed for spying on the action in the neighboring cubicle. Larger openings served more illicit purposes. Every few years, the police raided the place and the owner would board up all the holes. New holes reappeared in days.
Watching the action on the little screen gave Josh a hard-on. When a finger appeared through a baseball-sized opening on the right side of the booth, beckoning, he figured what the heck. Getting off was getting off. He went over, lowered his pants to his knees, and stuck his cock through the hole into the warm, wet mouth waiting on the other side.
Josh concentrated on the video, imagining the frat boy sucking his dick instead of one of the leering men he’d seen outside the cubicle. He dropped more quarters in the slot, then focused on the video and the mouth milking him through the glory hole. Soon Josh was pounding the wall with his hips. The sound attracted bystanders to the holes in surrounding cubicles to see what the noise was all about.
Josh felt the beginning of his climax tingling in his balls and groaned. The hot mouth working urgently on his throbbing cock quickly produced the desired result. On still trembling legs, Josh zipped up his pants and headed home to his empty bed.
Thanks for visiting, Michael. You're always welcome to stop over. :) If anyone has any questions for Michael, or just want to know if he's relating personal encounters with serial killers, drop a comment. He's always ready to share a story.