Exclusive Excerpt: Pretty Boy Dead (A Kendall Parker Mystery Book 1) by Jon Michaelsen

Blurb:

2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist – Gay Mystery

A murdered male stripper. A missing go-go dancer. A city councilman on the hook. It’s a race against time for veteran Atlanta Homicide Detective Kendall Parker to solve the vicious crime, but when the investigation takes a sudden, disastrous turn resulting in the death of a suspect in custody.  But when a local print reporter with ties to the beleaguered cop threatens to expose a police cover-up, Parker will be forced to make a life-changing choice; stand firm for law and justice, or betray the brotherhood of blue.

Cover Design: Elizabeth Leggett; Publisher: Lethe Press

Exclusive Excerpt

“I need to see you.” Slade had whispered loud enough so his editor could hear. Slade stopped short of entering the room.

“Not now, Calvin,” Marsh snapped, gesturing with irritation at the others at the meeting table. “Can’t you see I’m in a meeting?”

Slade disregarded the group and rushed to the editor’s side. He leaned down close and whispered a few words into the man’s ear. The two men engaged in whispered conversation and ignored the aggravated stares of the other executives. Marsh had heard enough.

“Who covered the Crater case?” Marsh blurted out to the men seated around the table. “The death of Councilman Keyes’ aide?”

“Greenfield,” said the Metro editor from the end of the table.

“Get him. Adams.” Marsh barked orders. The city deputy editor snapped his head up from his doodling on the pad. “I need two of your best junior field reporters, a couple of top-notch research assistants and throw in a few green clerks. We have a hell of a lead to authenticate before word leaks to the other networks. Have everybody meet in the war room in fifteen.”

Marsh capped his Waterman pen, picked up the papers on the table before him and shoved back from the table, signaling the end to the meeting.

The war room was a large conference room on the same floor as most of the staff clerks and journalists. Used for departmental meetings and occasionally reserved by print staff thrown into crisis where timing proved critical, it was a think tank for senior field reporters, editors, copy writers, researchers and common clerks working together at breakneck speed to draft a blistering front-page story, a scoop that required swift action and exceptional writing skills. An eight-foot table with folding metal chairs, topped with dual triangle-shaped speaker-phones for conference calls, filled the center of the room. Flat screen monitors tuned to local and national news programming were hung on the walls.

Everyone gathered as requested, poised for instruction and ready to roll up their sleeves. Young clerks were brought in to run errands for the troupe during what might become a multi-hour marathon of making photocopies, getting coffee, fresh donuts, fetching take-out, distributing afternoon snacks, everything to keep the group focused and on track.

Slade perched at one end of the table and outlined the events responsible for bringing them together. Reading from typed pages with scribbled highlights, he brought the assembled staff members up to speed on the story. Based on the facts presented, those gathered believed the victims indeed knew one another, and the video from the fundraiser proved they both had connections to the councilman. Their job now was to confirm and source all the facts, authenticate the details, and fill the gaps for tomorrow’s front page.

Slade organized his pages of notes under the managing editor’s direction, who doled out the assignments to each participant. Everyone relished the adrenaline rush associated with what might well be the hottest story of the year. Covering the city councilman had proved mundane of late, but connecting two dead bodies to the man would fire his unpopularity factor into the ozone. By 9: 00 p.m.,

Marsh approved the third draft and gave Slade the okay to contact Councilman Keyes at his home in Buckhead for a comment. The top brass listened in on extensions as Slade dialed the number. A recorder engaged before the first ring and Keyes answered.

“Councilman Keyes, this is Calvin Slade with the Journal. Can I have a moment of your time?”

“I told you before I have nothing more to say, Mr. Slade. How did you get this number? You know what this is? It’s harassment. I’ll have you thrown in jail if you don’t stop pestering me.”

“I am required to inform you, councilman, this call is being recorded. I think you’ll want to listen to what I have to say.”

“Are you serious?” “We’re running a story in the morning detailing a connection in the murders of Jason North and your office aide, Lamar Crater. We’ll be including a photo of you taken at the Fox Theatre fundraiser speaking to the Piedmont Park victim. We’ll also be running down the young man’s affiliation with the male strip club, Metroplex. It’s our assertion you have knowledge of their deaths, enabling you to be blackmailed to kill your proposed legislation banning alcohol sales in nude dancing clubs in the city.”

Silence. Slade heard a few heavy intakes of breath as what sounded like a drawer opened and closed before he spoke when it became clear that Keyes still remained stunned. “Councilman Keyes, with all due respect, you must know I am calling you out of professional courtesy. I want to give you an opportunity to share your comments with the public who elected you. We will be going to press soon—”

Keyes’s words exploded through the receiver. “Your assertion is preposterous! Who put you up to smearing my name with the primary coming up? What gives you the right to call my home with such an asinine claim? My lawyers will hear about this!”

Slade steadied himself and repeated his offer. “Councilman Keyes, with all due respect, I am calling you out of courtesy. I want to grant you an opportunity to share your comments with our readers. We will be going to press soon…”

“You can go straight to hell, Mr. Slade.”

Slade felt his face burning. “We’re going to press soon, sir. Just give us your side of the story and I’ll personally guarantee—”

“You’ll hear from my lawyers!”

 

Buy Links:

Lethe Press: http://tinyurl.com/Lethe-Press-Pretty-Boy-Dead

Amazon

eBook: http://tinyurl.com/Ebook-Pretty-Boy-Dead

Print: http://tinyurl.com/Print-Pretty-Boy-Dead

 

 

Exclusive Excerpt of Drama Luau, the fourth Nicky and Noah mystery, by Joe Cosentino

Blurb:

Theatre professors and spouses, Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, are on their honeymoon at a Hawaiian resort, where musclemen in grass skirts are keeling over like waterfalls. Things erupt faster than a volcano when Nicky and Noah, along with their best friends Martin and Ruben, try to stage a luau show. Nicky and Noah will need to use their drama skills to figure out who is bringing the grass curtain down on male hula dancers—before things go coconuts for the handsome couple. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining fourth novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and aloha!

Excerpt:

The olive-skinned, barefooted muscular men wore loincloths (malo), coconut necklaces, shell bracelets and anklets, and flower (lei) head garlands. With the powerful emerald mountain behind them, the dancers (‘olapa) aerobically executed hand signs, knee sways, and foot stomps toward the turquoise sea (makai), as their deep, full voices chanted to the goddess of the ocean (Namakaokahai). The lead dancer (alakai) and the dance captain (kumu) moved front and center executing their tree in the breeze hand gestures. The dancer helper (kokua) made gestures to the ocean waves behind them.

“Stop!”

The ‘ukulele, steel guitar, and bass accompaniment ended. The dancers slouched and looked toward the rows of tables and chairs facing them.

“Kimu, stand further upstage.”

“Nicky, they don’t know what upstage and downstage mean.”

“Thanks, Noah. Kimu, stand behind the other dancers, so Kal and Ak are the focus of the dance.”

That was me, Nicky Abbondanza, Associate Professor of Directing at Treemeadow College, an Edwardian style private college in the quaint state of Vermont. My husband and the love of my life, Assistant Professor of Acting at Treemeadow, Noah Oliver, is by my side, right where I like him. Why am I directing a luau show at the Maui Mist Resort in Hawaii? Our honeymoon in Maui was a gift from our parents. But when the customers of my parents’ bakery in Kansas became glucose intolerant, and the clientele of Noah’s parents’ dairy farm in Wisconsin found themselves lactose intolerant, Noah and I were left tolerating the bill. So my department head and his husband hit the internet and found this luau show directing job, which came with free airfare, hotel, and food for two. Enticed by the gorgeous tropical location and the gorgeous luau dancers, Martin Anderson, Professor of Theatre Management at Treemeadow College, and Ruben Markinson, director of one of the top gay rights organizations in the country, decided to tag along and keep us out of trouble. Since Martin and Ruben are our best friends, that was more than fine with Noah and me.

Since you can’t see us, I am thirty-six, tall, with dark hair, green eyes, a Roman nose, cleft chin and long sideburns. Thanks to the gym at Treemeadow College (named after Tree and Meadow, the gay couple who founded it), I am pretty muscular. One minor thing. Actually, it’s pretty major. I have a nine and-a-quarter by two-inch penis, which causes Noah to tell everyone we are “going clubbing” when we have sex.

Noah is handsome with wavy blond hair, crystal-blue eyes, porcelain skin, and hotter and sweeter buns than any found in my dad’s bakery. Martin is short, thin, and bald. As an incredible gossip, he resembles an alien looking for a good piece of news to bring back to his home planet. Ruben is tall, thin, distinguished-looking, with salt and pepper hair and two large eyes watching over Martin. Though Ruben would never admit it, like his husband, Ruben revels in the dish too.

I said to the dancers, “The opening (ho’i) number will be fine. Let’s move on.”

Whereas the first dance was an introduction to the dancers, the second number, in honor of the creation gods (Kane and Lono), is a sensual dance, where the muscular dancers get to flex, grunt, and gyrate.

Sitting next to me at the front table opposite the stage, Noah rested a hand on my knee. “Did my character work with the dancers pay off?”

I nodded. “They all seem like characters to me.”

Noah squeezed my hand as the five dancers came on stage, now wearing grass skirts. Kal (short for Kalani), at twenty-five, is tall, strikingly handsome, muscular, the leader of the pack, and he knows it. Ak (Akamu), at thirty-five, was once the stallion of the troupe, but a receded hairline and wrinkles had transformed Ak to dance captain. As leaders, Kal and Ak take focus in the dance numbers, either dancing downstage center or up center on the platform in the shape of a volcano. Pretty ironic since Kal and Ak are ex-lovers and ex-friends.

Current lovers Keanu (dancer helper), at medium height with a growing paunch, and Ahe, young, small, and cute as a button, took their places midstage and looked at each other adoringly.

Finally, Kimu, at medium height with a bull dog face and protruding belly, stood farthest upstage. The only straight member of the troupe, Kimu, said, “Are you girls ready to dance?”

Keanu left his lover, Ahe, and approached Kimu. “What a surprise, Kimu. Liquor on your breath.”

Leader Kal added, “Yeah, Kimu, during the last number you were wavering more than the palm trees near the stage fan.”

Kimu answered, “Hey Kal, is it true that you gave Keanu a pity lei?”

These guys are worse than the divas I work with in the theatre. “Can we please start the number?”

 

Buy Links:

http://myBook.to/DramaLuau

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/711186

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/drama-luau-joe-cosentino/1125994872?ean=2940154062050

Exclusive Excerpt: Listening To The Dead by George Seaton

Blurb:

Jack Dolan has spent almost thirty years solving homicides in Denver, his uncanny ability to speak to the dead learned from his aged mentor whom other cops refer to as Old Grim because of his incredible solve rate. For almost as long, Jack has repressed his sexuality, fearing discovery and likely ostracism from his fellow cops…except for one with whom he long ago severed a loving relationship. When Jack retires to the mountains of Colorado, he discovers the bodies of two young men, naked and bludgeoned to death in a recess off a rutted horse path which he eventually refers to simply as The Place. All of his training, everything he learned from Old Grim is put to the test to find out what happened to the young men… including a call to the man he once loved.

Excerpt

 Late spring and through the first summer that Shy had taken up residence on Jack’s seven acres, the Pinecone Lodge horse wrangler named Tyler showed up at about four p.m. three days a week. During the first few visits, he made sure the geld had healed, and then he began to deal with the horse’s temperament, which wasn’t good. Tyler had already schooled Jack on feeding and basic care and had helped construct a metal round pen for training, cautioning Jack that the horse wasn’t a puppy dog and shouldn’t be treated like one.

“He’s fearful, is all,” Tyler had said after the first time he’d managed to get a rope halter on Shy and dealt with the nervous squeals, stomps, rearing, and tugging on the lead rope. Tyler dug his heels into the ground while calmly saying, “Whoa now. Whoa…”

Jack watched it all, and during subsequent sessions, Tyler patiently and without a word raised in anger, dealt with Shy’s left and right side fears and anxiousness to the point, by the dog days of August, Shy was walking, trotting, cantering on cue, and coming to Tyler when he pursed his lips and kissed.

“You got to work both sides of him separately,” Tyler told Jack when he brought him into the round pen with him and Shy for the first time. “Horse brain works that way. They kinda won’t put two and two together ’til they see it from both sides.”

And so, as the summer passed into fall, as the aspens shivered their leaves to reds, oranges, and golds, and as the land whispered of the freeze to come, Shy’s coat began to thicken until later when the first snowfall arrived, he appeared shaggy and stout. Tyler had yet to allow Jack to sit the horse, saying that would come in the spring.

“Get through the winter, exercise him in the round pen and walk him on the trails when you can. You’ll be on him by July.”

And by July, Jack was atop him, just walks at first in the round pen, and then walks along the flat trail that led to Piney Lake. By mid-July, Tyler had Jack trot Shy for the first time with Jack on his back. He was able to stay on, and Shy seemed comfortable with him. And thereafter, every day, Shy and Jack would leave early in the morning and pass the nearby campgrounds spotted here and there with campers in tents who had yet to rouse themselves from the prior night’s campfire nightmare stories and drinking binges. They’d ride past Piney Lake and along the trails headed east toward the slopes of the Gore Range that peaked with Mount Powell, jagged as a saw’s edge.

Heading home one day at not yet nine in the morning, they came down the trail from a meager summit where Jack halted Shy to look at the scenery below. Piney Lake shone as a blue-green jewel surrounded by the upsweep of purely green pine intertwined with the brown decay of beetle destruction. As they passed a small clearing to their left, half-hidden by the overlap of pine boughs, Shy sidestepped off the trail, then stopped and stood dead still, raised his head, curled his lip, and tasted the air about him. Jack tried to rein him back onto the path, but Shy was determined to keep his distance from the shrouded entrance to the clearing and had turned his head away from it.

Jack had come to respect Shy’s judgment when it came to going one way or the other on trails they’d never explored. A horse’s sense of things in the natural world seemed to Jack to be a reflection of what God had given to the horse: a discernment of sorts that Jack possessed only when laying his hands upon the dead. Shy had saved them from stepping into waist-deep muck within the valley, unstable rocks on the hillsides, and the presences of critters not likely to look kindly upon their passing.

Now, as Jack swung his leg off Shy and tied the reins to the limb of a felled tree, he knew caution was what Shy had shared with him. He stepped to the clearing and looked in. The sun shined directly overhead and lit the interior of the place as though a spotlight beamed a circle upon it. Jack thought he saw something not human, perhaps rag-stuffed dummies both facedown—the legs bent wrong, and the arms unnaturally splayed. The blood, though, spoke its own truth, as it lathered the bodies’ backs and buttocks, the arms, legs, and heads. The blackness of the ground near one’s head and the other’s chest were witness that the bodies had bled mostly from those places. But there wasn’t enough blood to determine if this had actually been the killing ground. The shapes of the bodies, the small hips, the broad shoulders, even the blood-encrusted hair, told Jack these were young men, maybe even teenagers.

Jack stepped into the clearing, taking care to keep to the periphery of the five-foot circle he’d mentally drawn beyond the immediate area where the bodies lay. The urge to touch them was nearly overwhelming, but he knew he could not disturb the scene. He would touch them later. He would speak to them and hope they spoke back. But for now, he kept to the edge of the circle he’d established and slowly stepped around it, a full three-sixty, his eyes focused on anything that might prove helpful in answering the questions he, and he was sure the Eagle County sheriff’s crew as well, would have when he later led them up here. Jack could see signs of blunt force and skin-piercing trauma. But it was the way the limbs spread anywise that he knew this would be an image like no other he would forever hold on to.

Jack sat on his haunches at the end of his three-sixty, looked up at the circle of sky and sun above, then looked back down at the bodies. “We’ll figure this out,” he whispered. “Bless you, boys. I’ll be coming back.” He then stood up, stretched out the kink in his back, and stepped from the place. He knew a search of the hillside, maybe even a search of the valley as well. One hundred yards in all directions was critical, but his call to the sheriff was more critical, and that is what he had to do.

The Boys

Brian Hill and Mark Harris were both twenty-two, and as they danced upon a floor bathed in the colors of the rainbow, the other revelers moved about them while the music boomed with heavy bass and wild treble, the diva’s voice pleading for a never-ending love to come their way. For Brian and Mark, it had, or so they thought. The strobes flashed, and both boys watched the other’s robotic movements with wonderment and smiles. It had been Friday night, and the world had shriveled to this moment, this place of fantasy.

They had met almost a year before, both emigrants from Midwest flatlands to the mile-high promise of Denver and the call of the mountains to the west. They knew their degrees from obscure schools were as marketable as water in a deluge, so they opted instead to move into a Colfax Avenue two-room walkup where the bed folded down from the wall, and the bathroom was the second room. They waited tables at an upscale Denver Lodo eatery where they wore white shirts, black vests and pants, and red bowties. In midautumn, they packed their 2000 Mazda and headed west to Vail where their credentials saw them placed in an even more exclusive restaurant that specialized in red-runny steaks, crispy shrimp, fine wines, and luscious desserts served on crystal plates. Their mornings free until eleven, they skied the slopes of Vail, and their late nights were often spent among other gay boys and girls in the few bars and bistros that welcomed them. They had moved into a single-wide trailer in Avon, only fifteen minutes from Vail. After experiencing their first taste of the mountains, their decision was easy. They would stay there and not return to Denver or anywhere else when the ski season was over. They had what they wanted at this time in their lives—an uncomplicated existence that was more or less a fantasy come true.

One Friday night in late spring, Brian and Mark sat at a table in a bar in Vail, sipped beer, and watched two other boys do the same at a table across the room. They were clearly cowboys or something akin to that, and Brian and Mark were intrigued. The other boys were watching them, too. Pretty soon they were all sitting at the same table, getting to know one another and trading tidbits of their histories. The other boys worked about an hour and a half north of Vail, one at the Pinecone Lodge as a wrangler of horses, the other as a fishing and hunting guide, and they both lived at the Whisper River Ranch a few miles west of the lodge. One thing led to another that night, and all the boys ended up at the single-wide where they got to know each other even better. Intimately, in fact.

But by July, after three more encounters with the wrangler and the guide in Vail, Brian and Mark decided they’d drive up to the lodge on their day off and ride the horse the wrangler had offered them. As they were leaving the lodge’s compound after their ride, the wrangler took them aside and discussed the proposition he had for them. It would be worth two hundred and fifty dollars each if they’d do it. “Just kind of a hide and seek kinda thing,” the wrangler said them, and he mentioned to them, too, that he’d be there to make sure nothing got out of hand.

“We’re not really into that,” Mark told the wrangler.

“Don’t worry,” the wrangler said. “I’ve got their promise nothing heavy will go down. We’ll get you set up at a campsite and, other than the hour or two you’ll be…playin’ the game, you can just take it easy—camping, hiking, anything you want to do.”

Brian and Mark thought about that and decided it might be fun. They’d have to take a couple days off work, but that was no problem. Besides they’d be making money while having some time off.

“Okay, we’ll do it,” Brian said after discussing it with Mark.

“Good. You’ll enjoy it,” the wrangler said. He told them he’d pick them up and take them back so they wouldn’t have to worry about driving.

***

The evening, a Sunday, of Brian’s and Mark’s great adventure was spent in a gray domed tent with the wrangler, Tyler, and the guide, Ben. They drank some, fooled around some, and then shortly after midnight, Tyler and Ben took Brian and Mark to where the game would commence. Tyler told the boys to be aware of where the trail was at all times, and Ben gave them some flashlights so they could see where they were going.

“But the idea is not to be seen,” Tyler told them. And they all agreed Brian and Mark would not turn on their flashlights unless they absolutely needed to and were sure nobody was around at the time.

“You’re sure you’ll be out there somewhere if we need you?” Brian asked.

“A course,” Tyler said. “Just give us a shout, and we’ll hear you.”

And Tyler and Ben stood at the foot of the trail and watched the boys disappear up the hill on a half-moon night.

 

Good-bye 2016 – Happy New Year 2017; My Year in (brief) Review

Happy New Year, everyone!

Gone is 2016, and not soon enough if I might say. It was a year full of wonderful times, and not so good times. The year began on a high note for me as I had self-published my novel, Prince of the Sea, in December of 2015 with the help of author/publisher, Ryan Field and his husband, Tony. I didn’t realize the amount of time and effort needed to self-publish a novel-not to mention the significant learning curve. By the beginning of 2016, I realized that I needed to do something different in order to market the book because sales were very minimal, and I needed to get additional exposure in an indie market saturated with gay and m/m romance stories. Upon the advise of a some fellow authors, I decided to pull the novel from all third-party distribution and go exclusive with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, which unfortunately carried a commitment of three months. Sales continued to be low, even after I’d reduced the price and offered a FREE promotion. I believe much of the problem with sales was due to lack of distribution channels, and a rapidly slowing e-book market not yet evident.

Nearing the end of my commitment with Amazon KU, I felt self-publishing wasn’t for me at this time in my writing career, so I reached out to a publisher I had been watching for  few years. Steve Berman with Lethe Press graciously offered a contract to re-release Prince of the Sea, and I’m so glad he did. My little novel received a greater distribution channel, and received much more exposure with my association with a well-known indie publisher. Even better, Lethe also released Prince of the Sea in paperback, which was something I was unable to offer on my own. And, to top off the year, Prince of the Sea has just been released in an audio version by Lethe, narrated by the very talented Philip Church, and distributed via Audible and Amazon.

2016 also brought some not so good times. Early in the year, I began experiencing near-fainting episodes, and was eventually diagnosed with hyperglycemia. Basically, my blood-sugar would fall low enough to cause dizzy, near-fainting spells. I learned that I am pre-diabetic a few years ago, and I had not been watching my weight closely, or getting much exercise of late. Though I started out the New Year vowing to drop some weight, time eventually caught up with me, and my body let me know just how unhappy it was. So, I got my butt into the gym and within six months, I’d lost twenty-five pounds. The good news is my doctor agreed not to prescribe a daily diabetic med; the bad news, I still have to watch my eating habits, and ensure I eat every few hours to avoid any hypoglycemic episodes. And continue to get exercise.

More bad news came on April 11th. While out with my husband for the afternoon, we got a call from our home security company that our alarm’s motion detector in the finished basement had been tripped; they were sending police. We got to the house at the same time as a police officer, who insisted he enter our home first. He then immediately reappeared onto the front porch and ushered us inside. To our shock, we heard–then saw–the water running down the walls and ceiling from the upper floor; everything in sight was saturated and water was continuing to spill at an alarming rate through the ceiling. Rick raced to to the basement to cut off the main water supply, but the damage was already done. We later determined a water supply line beneath our master bath vanity separated at the connection, and water ran wide open for about five hours, spreading from the master bathroom to the bedroom, closet, beneath the walls to one of the guest bedrooms, into hallway, down the stairs, the walls, through the ceiling of the main floor into the kitchen, dining room, breakfast room, a portion of the living room – then traveled through the floor into the ceiling of our finished basement into the den, our home office (where we run our business) and finally into the storage room.

Once insurance settled our loss, we were able to begin reconstruction in June to the home we’ve been in for twenty-two years now. Yes, you heard right; we’ve stayed in one place so long because we’d had the house built and still love the area of town we live in, which is ten minutes north of downtown Atlanta. With so much reconstruction needed, we got the bright idea to remodel at the same time, first by hiring an architect to design an open floor-plan on the main level, filing for a construction permit and hiring a general contractor. We chose to remain living in the two rooms and one bathroom on the upper floor not destroyed by the water. We have a family; Rick and I, and our four dogs, two of which are senior, so we felt displacement for them would prove too traumatic. Lord, what a mistake that was! What was estimated to take three-four months at most ended up being nine months later when finally had our belongings and undamaged furniture returned to our home from storage.

Our business remained very good throughout the summer, but the stress of our living situation, and the need to be home for various contractors coming and going a daily basis impacted my goal of working out at the gym, and I slowly began to slack off. The summer brought good news, however. With the contract nearing the end of its term for my Lammy Finalist, gay police-procedural novel, Pretty Boy Dead, I also decided to pitch it’s continued publication to Lethe Press. To my great surprise, Steve Berman offered a contract for not only the debut novel in the Kendall Parker Mystery series, but the second novel as well, titled The Deadwood Murders. Release is currently slated for late summer 2017. In the new edition Pretty Boy Dead received a fresh edit, and a new cover designed by the wonderfully talented, Elizabeth Leggett. Pretty Boy Dead was released by Lethe Press in November 2016 in both e-book and paperback. The novel is being recorded in studio for release in audiobook. Stay tuned for the release date in early 2017!

The year end on a high note as we are now settled into our “new” home, sales of Prince of the Sea and Pretty Boy Dead are going well, and we made it through a brutal presidential election cycle! Heading into 2017, I am steadily working on finishing The Deadwood Murders, drafting notes to a sequel for Prince of the Sea, and eagerly looking forward to sharing the release date of an exciting anthology edited by multi-talented Lori. L. Lake titled, TIME’S RAINBOW, in which a story I wrote is included. In this new anthology, contributors wrote our gay ancestors back into history by telling stories about people who managed to find a way to influence their worlds. Alexander the Great was quite clearly gay – surely there were others around him whose stories could have been told, but were suppressed. Bayard Rustin was an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement in the US – until he was discovered to be gay and removed from the forefront. Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote the song “America, The Beautiful,” was definitely a lesbian. Ther must be a story told about her, or the people close to her and influenced by her. How about all the young quasi-trans women who fought in the Civil War, and whose stories have not been told? Stay tuned for an announcement of the release date!

 

Exclusive Excerpt: Lethe Press presents: Prince of the Sea by Jon Michaelsen

I thought I’d offer a taste of the thriller/suspense aspect of Prince of the Sea for those who’ve not yet read my latest novel. This excerpt has never been seen before, so I hope you enjoy!

Short blurb:

Island myth or guarded secret?

Jonathan Lemke thought spending two weeks with his partner, Paul, in a beachside cottage on Tybee Island would rekindle the lost passion of their ten-year union, but a vengeful assailant intent on exposing the island’s secrets soon sets his sights on Jonathan and his mysterious childhood friend.

PrinceoftheSea_800x1200_dpi300_LRG

Exclusive Excerpt:

Jonathan approached the northern tip of the island before dusk for his rendezvous with Lucius. Climbing onto the boulders of the breakwater, he sat and watched the waves at his feet lap the jetty. Sea foam churned through the crevices, bubbling up through the breaks in the rocks. The ocean smelled of salt and seaweed and a hint of fish. He watched the broad beam from the lighthouse sweep the gloomy surface in rotary precision.

Inhaling the ocean’s scent, Jonathan loosened his shoulders and arms, letting the gentle breeze brush against his skin through his open shirt, trying to relax before his friend arrived. Not long after as Lucius appeared beside him like a chameleon from the shadows.

They made small talk for a while, reciting memories from their childhood together, hours of carefree adventures and the many misadventures of note, both glancing out into the abyss when Lucius asked an unexpected question.

“Are you happy, Jonathan?”

Had Lucius sensed his argument with Paul? he wondered. Happy? How does one respond to such a question? Sure, Paul had pissed him off, but he didn’t want to think about it as he hugged his knees and contemplated an answer of his happiness. Had he rushed to judgment before giving Paul a chance to explain? His partner likely had a very good reason for lying, for not wanting to come to the island in the first place. Ten years was a long time with the same person. At least in gay years, he thought.

“Yes…I am happy.” Jonathan flashed a smile that held a moment. He plucked a shell caught between the rocks and rubbed its inner surface between his fingers. “I’m only thirty-two, so I’d like to think there’s much more ahead to achieve in life.”

Tybee Beach2

Lucius appeared dour as he gazed out to sea. Same as last night, he’d shown up wearing white cotton chinos rolled to the calves and nothing else, the fabric fluttering in the breeze like his hair. The glow of the moon bathed his caramel skin in a luminescent sheen, a striking ruddiness that summoned the god of light.

Hugging his knees and turning his head, Jonathan admired the sheath of corded muscle layering his friend’s broad shoulders. Lucius’s back flared like a manta ray, wide at the top and narrow at the waist. Jonathan moved his eyes over the gentle giant, appreciating the sculpted body earned from sheer physical exertion, and not from some gym stocked with high-tech gear or a syringe. The kind of labor required to perfect such a physique eluded Jonathan as he clutched his knees tighter to disguise his growing approval.

He’s fucking gorgeous.

Lucius turned his head and flashed a heart-melting grin. Warmth spread through Jonathan’s cheeks as his embarrassment ignited. If what Lucius had said about reading each other’s emotions and thoughts was true, then Jonathan felt incredibly self-conscious. He struggled to suppress his grin like a goofy teenager out on his first date.

He felt young and virile again when he was with Lucius, livelier than he’d been in a very long time. In fact, his manner bordered on euphoric while they perched on the boulders of the breakwater shoulder to shoulder. They sat in the darkest region of the island near North Beach beneath the light of a thousand stars, glistening like tinsel hanging from the sky. Lighted structures sprinkled the shoreline for miles inland on either side of them.

The giant eye of the lighthouse swept across the water for miles.

“What about you, Lucius?” Jonathan asked. He spoke in a hushed tone, a soft melancholy settling over him. “Have you achieved all you’d hope?”

Lucius frowned, bringing his large hands together. “Jonathan, I have something to acknowledge, an important part of me I should have shared with you long before fate has brought us together again.” He swallowed hard, and Jonathan sensed a tightening in his chest, felt the pain of his friend’s confession.

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“I should have revealed my secret when we were young pups still in the care of our elders, but I feared the anguish learning my secret would have caused you at the time. I am sorry to have betrayed your trust.” Lucius blinked away the moisture in his eyes. “I yearned to share my secret with you, Jonathan, to open my soul like a weeping siren caught on a jagged rock. Alas, my immaturity prevailed.” He swallowed. “You should understand, in my youth I feared my own shadow, unaware of my condition, of my own heritage.” He turned and the moonlight caught a flash of green in his eyes. “Selfish yes, but I feared losing your friendship should I disclose my secret.”

Jonathan listened quietly, the torment of his friend’s words like a mallet to his heart. Lucius had said they could read each other’s thoughts, and yet he felt nothing beyond the misery and despair of his friend. Listening to Lucius spill his truth made Jonathan want to pull the man into his arms and forever soothe his worries. Nothing Lucius could reveal would ever alter Jonathan’s love for the man. He was sure of it.

“Once I matured, my desires grew ever stronger, tougher still.” Lucius turned away and stared ahead. The muscles tensed in his thick neck. “I avoided revealing my troubles to my family. I should have gone to them sooner, but I didn’t understand what I was going through.” He lowered his chin to his knees. “I needed to unburden my heart, and confiding the truth eventually to my family helped banish my soul of its burden.”

Jonathan placed his hand on his Lucius’s shoulder, a gesture of comfort that produced a spark singeing his arm. “It’s okay,” he offered, grinning wide to reassure Lucius. Still, the sensation trailing his arm lingered. “Relax, will you? I think I know what you’re going to say.”

“Do you?” Lucius turned toward Jonathan with brows furrowed, fear and anguish shaping the features of his angelic face.

A spark flashed from behind them. Jonathan started a second before the rock nearest him spit bits of gravel and dust into the air. The next crack sent something sailing past Lucius as it split the water with incredible speed.

Did somebody just shoot at us?

Jonathan didn’t have time to react before Lucius hooked him under the arms and chucked them both into the waves with the speed of a harpoon. The shock of cold water biting his skin paled in comparison to the power now propelling them through the ocean at incredible speed. He had not grabbed enough air into his lungs before plunging beneath the surface and fought to hold onto to the precious little oxygen he had.

What the hell?

***

Fuck. Damn. Shit-fire!

Billy Wayne dove behind the pillars supporting the boardwalk. The walkway led out to the jetties from the public lot at the end of Gulick Street. His back flush against the rough, weathered wooden supports, he sucked the blood oozing from the wound on his hand. The rifle’s trigger had nicked his skin and jammed before he fired off another shot at the two men sitting on the jetty. No matter, he’d seen what he came for.

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After taking a couple of wild shots at the men, the larger of the two, the darker skinned, long haired one, had pulled both men into the ocean with unbelievable agility. They had quickly disappeared beneath the water. Despite the pain pulsing through his hand, Billy Wayne grinned and savored the thought of getting the proof his daddy never got

He’d never doubted his old man, not one bit, but Billy Wayne had needed to see the abomination with his own eyes. All his life he’d heard about what could happen when they were provoked, and now he’d seen it with his own eyes. No human could have leapt from the boulders with such lightning speed and sprinted through the water like a barracuda.

Billy Wayne had to confirm his father’s legacy more than ever. He peered beyond the boardwalk, out toward the jetty. The two men hadn’t surfaced as he’d figured. He zippered his rifle in its gun case and trotted back to his old Ford truck. Pumping the gas pedal, he started the engine after a couple of turns of the key. He slammed the vehicle into first gear and shot out of the lot, fishtailing onto Gulick Street then taking a left onto Meddin Drive. He sped past several cross streets, hung a right onto U.S. 80, the island’s main thoroughfare, and then headed for Tybee Island Marina.

The dock crawled with deckhands in from the days’ haul when he arrived. They were weighing their catch as captains of the boats barked orders. Billy Wayne made his way to a small runabout boat moored in a slip far away from the chaos of the larger vessels. He was known to troll the waters for clams and shrimp to sell to the town’s restaurants, so no one paid him any mind. He glanced over and grunted toward the men working. Most had simply ignored him over the years, fingering him as the senseless offspring of the town crazy. He often arrived at all hours of the day and night, so his appearance after midnight tonight went unnoticed.

Billy Wayne checked out the pouch containing the harpoon gun and several stainless-steel-barbed rods. He sat down hard on the ragged cushion at the stern of his boat and pulled the crank-cord. The motor sputtered to life in a burst of blue smoke when the engine caught and he clicked it into gear. Passing Cockspur Lighthouse at Lazaretto Creek, he headed out the mouth of the Savannah River to the wide shadowy ocean. He was intent on proving once and for all the ancient island myth that had haunted his family for years was real.

Exclusive Excerpt: Prince of the Sea by Jon Michaelsen: Romance Mystery/Thriller from Lethe Press

Blurb:

Jonathan Lemke thought spending two weeks alone with his partner in a beachside cottage would help to rekindle the lost passion of their ten-year union. He’d chosen Tybee Island, a quiet seaside community on the Georgia coast east of Historic Savannah. Jonathan had spent his childhood growing up on the pristine shores of the barrier islet which continues to hold a special place in his heart.

The romantic surprise backfires when Paul, Jonathan’s partner, rushes off to Chicago for the chance to woo a high profile client, leaving Jonathan alone and brokenhearted until a chance meeting with a mysterious and seductive stranger linked to a beloved island legend provides a chance at discovering forever love.

But someone with strong familial ties to Tybee Island is desperate to expose its secrets and avenge a grudge decades in the making. An assailant so threatened by the forces of nature that defy explanation, he will stop at nothing to unmask ancient island lore…even if he must kill to prove it.

Excerpt:

Jonathan slipped on a pair of board shorts and headed out shirtless for a stroll beneath a clear night sky. The balminess skimming off the ocean reminded him of the nights as a boy he’d lain awake in his bed staring out the window at the stars. His window had faced east toward the sea, providing a stellar inky-black canvas for spotting the constellations his grandfather had pointed out to him. Jonathan smiled at the thought of his grandpa who had taught him more about the earth and its natural beauty than any textbook ever did.

Meandering down the beach about half a mile before walking to the water’s edge, Jonathan dug his toes into the sand and felt the granules beneath his feet erode with the retreating water. Moonlight bathed the beach in incandescence as the ocean lapped the shoreline, depositing tiny crabs and shells in the recoil of the waves. His eyes adjusted to the darkness of the sky when he glanced up. He spotted Polaris, the North Star, right away, the first luminary he’d discovered with Grandpa; Ursa Major, more commonly known as the Big Dipper, opposite and more difficult to spot, Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper. Snaking its way between the two was Draco, the dragon, Jonathan’s favorite constellation of them all. Every night before falling asleep, he used to fantasize about the mighty dragon racing across the inky blackness at lightning speed slaying Leo the lion and Taurus the bull. “Ever diligent,” his grandfather used to say, all those years ago. “Protector of the stars and planets.”

That feeling again. Goosebumps fanned out across Jonathan’s chest and snaked along his arms.

The stars shine bright tonight, no?

Startled by the deep, melodic voice, Jonathan jerked around, but the dunes stood alone. A sudden awareness, like a sense of déjà vu washed over him. The hair on his arms prickled. Seeing no one, he shrugged off the strange feeling as having had too much scotch. He turned around to head back toward the cottage.

Jonathan.

He spun around like a frightened animal. Syllables drifted through his mind, forming words into inner thoughts, the sound not his but a voice of long ago. Jonathan saw no one on the beach with him. “Who’s there?”

It is I, Jonathan. Your old friend.

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The voice caused his heart to skip, a warm flush to his cheeks as he stood frozen. “Lucius?” Jonathan said. “Where are you? I can hear your voice but I don’t see you.”

I am here, my friend. The familiar voice urged him forth. Near the palm.

Jonathan spotted a tree with its trunk jutting out of the sand like a giant rocket impaled in the sand. A large image emerged from the shadows. He saw it was the man he’d tangled with before, the same person he’d tried to rescue from drowning. Lucius wore white slacks and nothing else, the fabric fluttering in the breeze. His torso shimmered in the moonlight, the sheen highlighting the toned muscles of his chest and the tautness of his stomach. A simple leather cord hung around his neck, bearing a lustrous stone of intermediate shades of white, pink and brown that fell in the hollow of his throat.

A voice cooing in Jonathan’s head beckoned him closer. The moment seemed surreal, dreamlike. “Lucius, is that really you?” He took a few tentative steps forward. “It’s been so long.”

It is I, Jonathan. The voice wafted. I am here now.

“I don’t understand.” Jonathan stood, disbelieving the voice drifting in his head. “How is it possible I can hear your words, but your lips aren’t moving?”

Lucius chuckled, that same wonderful melodic echo that had warmed Jonathan’s heart all those years ago. I speak in your consciousness, my friend, as can you. I perceive your thoughts and you mine, but only if you allow. Lucius moved forward, his arms outstretched and welcoming. You feel the connection, do you not?

Jonathan stood still. Since returning to the island, he’d sensed something tugging at his psyche, an outpouring of passion eluding explanation, one he had chosen to ignore. Images of the two boys exploring the north shore flashed in his mind. Heat flowed through his body in a large burst, sparking awareness unlike anything he’d ever experienced before.

Seeing his childhood friend ignited a familiar fire within Jonathan. He moved forward like a kid again, the years melting away like ice cream on a beach.

“I think I do.” Jonathan closed the distance between them. He felt giddy and childish. “I feel you and sense your thoughts, yet I don’t understand how that’s even possible.”

“As do I, my dear friend.” Lucius moved his lips for the first time. “We share a mystical bond, you and I, unlike any other.”

Lucius stood well over six feet tall, blessed with wide shoulders and muscular arms, and a trim torso lined with ribbed abs. His brooding eyes caught the moonlight and sparkled like emerald fireflies.

“Was it always so?” Jonathan asked.

“Yes, since we were young pups. You don’t remember?” Lucius laughed and grinned at him. “Your return has brought me much joy, Jonathan. I have missed you terribly, my friend. I always knew you would return home one day.”

Jonathan felt dumbfounded. His family had worked hard to convince him Lucius did not exist all those years ago. They’d said he was Jonathan’s imagination. And now this.

He sensed the mutual attraction. Little had changed between them it seemed, save for their physical size. Lucius stood taller and more muscular, his face blunt and masculine, offset with a straight Nordic nose and razor-sharp jaw, no longer the boy with plump cheeks and a pudgy middle. Long dark hair wisped about his face in the breeze and shimmered in the bright moonlight.

“I trust your lungs have cleared since…”

“What…yes, thank you. It was stupid of me to have gone into the surf, much too rough. But I thought you were in trouble.”

“Jonathan, I meant you no harm. I admit I came inshore to gain a better view, to confirm my intuition that you had indeed returned.” He cast his eyes down. “I did not anticipate you would see me and enter the tide.”

“It’s okay,” Jonathan said. “If not for you, I might have drowned.” He smiled and faked a punch to the man’s right shoulder. “Enough of this. I’m just so damn glad to see you.” He wanted to pull the man into his arms, but sensibility won out.

Lucius offered his hand instead. “Walk with me.”

Jonathan took his friend’s outstretched palm and immediately sensed his incredible strength. The gesture was natural and innate, the act needing no words. He remembered when he and Lucius used to explore the rocks and dunes together for hours on end, forever seeking new adventures or sneaking into the island’s marine preserve to snorkel or skin-dive. Once, they had stowed away on a cargo ship docked in the Savannah harbor bound for China and jumped from the bow of the vessel before it sailed out to sea. He recalled their laughter, guiltless and blithe as they had howled all the way back to the island that day, oblivious to the dangers of their stunt. Thinking back, he cherished those days of naiveté, far from the expectations and responsibilities of adulthood.

They strolled hand in hand along the shoreline. Jonathan was transported back in time and immersed in the reminiscences of their childhood, running and laughing along the sand. He remembered swimming in the green water beneath the pier at Mid Beach and yanking on baited hooks, giggling at the surprised fishermen reeling in empty lines.

A keen perception passed between them after a time. Jonathan felt vibrant and alive, and light on his feet. He didn’t want this moment to end.

Is this happening? Am I actually walking hand-in-hand with the boy—now a man—who once stole my heart, my first crush?

He held the hand of the most beautiful man ever. The touch felt genuine and real, not obligatory or forced, like strolling along with Paul. Joy filled his heart as a sense of belonging that had eluded him of late rushed in like the coming tide. It felt right to be here with this man. Nothing else in the world mattered.

They came across the trail of a loggerhead sea turtle and followed the reptile’s tracks. Lucius spotted her a few feet up the beach and motioned Jonathan forward. She pushed at the thick sand using powerful back flippers to burrow a nest for her eggs. They observed in silence as she worked, witnessing the beauty of nature firsthand. Over the next hour, she spawned a hundred or more white oval shells before covering them with sand and crawling back into the sea, leaving a trail in her wake.

“Tell me something,” Jonathan said as they resumed walking along the beach, at times stopping to marvel at a shell or the shimmering of the moonbeam across the ocean. “Why did you stay? Most of us youngsters went off to universities or moved to bigger cities for better paying jobs, yet you chose to remain on the island.”

“This is my home.” Lucius gestured at the wide expanse before them, the tiny white lights of Little Tybee twinkling in the distance. “Generations of my clan have been reared here, and many more to come. I cannot imagine residing elsewhere. Why should I want to leave the home of my father, my ancestors?”

Jonathan nodded. “What do you do,” he asked. Lucius turned with furrowed eyebrows. “You know, for a career.”

“I am unsure what you mean.”

“You work, don’t you?”

Lucius stared at him, emanating a radiance that clutched Jonathan’s heart.

“Your livelihood. How do you earn a living, you know, pay the bills?”

“Ah, I understand now.” Amusement flashed in Lucius’s eyes, and he appeared coy. “I protect the ocean, its inhabitants and environment. My family has safeguarded the waters and the island for centuries.”

“Oceanography, how cool. It makes sense,” Jonathan said. “You always knew way more about the ocean than I ever did, and you always were an excellent swimmer. Are you affiliated with the Skidaway Institute over in Savannah?” Lucius nodded. “Wow, I’m impressed. That facility is world renowned for its marine research.”

“And you?” Lucius asked. “Did you discover your dreams inland?”

The question seemed odd, though sincere. Jonathan considered a moment before answering. “I suppose so,” he said. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an accomplished writer. I studied creative writing and dramatic arts at the University of Georgia. After graduation, I took out for L.A. after landing a job writing copy for an independent network. After a few years, I was awarded a gig as a screenwriter for Destiny Road. Have you heard of it? It’s this tawdry melodrama chronicling the lives of two feuding families with far too much money for their own good. The show runs on cable, not one of the major networks, but it pays well. We’ve been picked up for another two years, so not bad in a business where ninety-five percent of new pilots each season fail to impress the viewing audiences.”

They slowed and turned toward the sea. “In my spare time, I develop screenplays to pitch to the networks. I’ve got boxes full of rejections to prove it.” Jonathan snickered. “Oh, and there’s this great novel I’ve been working on for years that I’ve got saved on my computer’s hard drive.”

“What is a screenplay?” Lucius asked.

“You’re serious?” Jonathan hoped the shock on his face hadn’t offended his friend. “You know, movies, television, that sort of thing.”

Lucius smiled without a hint of understanding.

“I write stories which are then acted out on film.”

Recognition swept across his friend’s features. “Do you mean Hollywood?”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that.” Jonathan sensed fire below his navel. The man’s innocence was more than sexy, ridiculously tempting. Jonathan struggled to ignore his carnal desires. Lights on a cargo ship headed out to sea flickered on the darken horizon. “You don’t get out much do you?”

“Perhaps not,” said Lucius.

“Are you married now? Have a girlfriend?”

Jonathan actually surprised himself by venturing into personal territory so quick, unsure why he even broached the subject. The syllables crossing his lips sounded lame to his ears, very seventh grade. He wanted to take his words back. He had pried into the man’s love life as if testing the waters of possibility, looking to hook up. No longer available and off the market for a decade now, he wondered why the hell he felt the need to snoop into Lucius’s personal affairs at all.

“I have no one, Jonathan.” The sadness in the man’s words sounded heavy and ominous. “I am alone…except for my family.”

Jonathan fought the urge to pull his friend into an embrace, to reassure him. Lucius must have sensed his worry because he moved in closer so that their arms and hips touched. Jonathan’s stomach somersaulted. Tendrils of delight surged through his body and he turned to shield his flushing face.

A bright star shot across the horizon.

“Did you see that?” Jonathan asked. “The most beautiful sight in the world, isn’t it? My grandfather used to say when a star fell from the sky it meant someone had fallen in love.” He turned to Lucius, pulled in by his green eyes sparkling in the moonlight. “I never understood what he’d meant as a boy, but I do now.” The energy emanating between them grew intoxicating. Jonathan leaned into his friend and drank in the oceanic scent of his skin.

The snap of twigs distracted Jonathan. He glanced back, but saw nothing moving in the shadows. “It’s probably some small animal foraging in the dunes,” Jonathan said, offering a slight chuckle that sounded shallow and unsure. Turning back, he saw the distress in Lucius’s face.

“I should go,” Lucius said.

“Okay.” Jonathan’s mood fell faster than a barroom rejection.

Lucius flinched and stood rigid. He surveyed the dunes and the beach, searching the darkness and making Jonathan uncomfortable.

“Is something wrong? You seem…”

Lucius leaned into him with ease. Jonathan lost himself in the man’s lovely scent and parted his lips to receive a kiss, a stirring caress that left his head spinning and snatched his breath.

Jonathan pulled back, somewhat startled. “Lucius. I—”

What Jonathan wanted to say, what he needed to explain, was that he had a boyfriend, a partner of ten years. Someone he loved very much. But the sensation he’d had just now left him confused. No denying it. Touching Lucius’s lips was stunning, amazing even but… Jonathan yearned for more, holding steadfast in a delirious haze.

Lucius broke the embrace. “Meet me on the rocks at North Shore tomorrow at sunset,” he said. “I will present to you the most amazing view of the stars.”

Another snap of timber caused Jonathan to turn inland. A shadow moved beyond the seagrass lining the dunes. The hair on his arms prickled.

When he turned back, Lucius was gone.

Buy links: 

Prince of the Sea – Print – Amazon http://tinyurl.com/PrinceoftheSeainprint

Prince of the Sea – ebook – Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/hxcfsml

Prince of the Sea – Discount for Print – Lethe Press: http://tinyurl.com/hw7pnlm