NEW EXCERPT: Boystown 6: From The Ashes – by Marshall Thornton


Written by Marshall Thornton

** Graphic m/m sex **


I had him face down on the bed, head shoved into the pillow, back-arched. I held onto the veneered headboard with both hands and fucked him in an aggressive way that in some states was classified as a felony. Owen Lovejoy, Esquire was enjoying the hell out of it.

He was too tall to be considered short but too short to be considered average, which put him on the tall end of short. He had dark hair cut conservatively, nice copper eyes that were made bigger by the large, round, tortoise-shell glasses that kept slipping down his nose as I fucked him. His body was squat and athletic, like a wrestler or a boxer, even though I knew for certain he didn’t do either of those things. Long hours and take-out food seemed to be his only health regime.

His ass was perfectly round, especially when he lay on his stomach, and he lifted it up to meet me as I thrust into him. I’d been fucking him for what seemed like hours. He’d come maybe ten minutes before. I wanted to come. I was tired and the room was hot with radiator heat so I was sweating like we were mired in the dog days of August.

I pushed all thought out of my head and concentrated on the way my dick felt sliding in and out of his ass, the little gasping whimpers he let out, and the sexy arch of his back. A minute later, I could feel myself getting close, muscles contracting, cum flowing through me, and then a few brief seconds of silence, release, blissful emptiness. The French call it la petite mort, the small death. But I don’t think it’s like that. It’s more like life, before I screwed it up so bad.

I caught my breath and pulled my dick out of him. He flipped over and said, “I made a mess of the sheets. I came twice.”

“You paid for them. I don’t think I can complain.” On his second visit, Owen had arrived with a set of nice permanent press polyester and cotton sheets from Carson Pirie Scott . I lived in a place called the Hotel Chateau where you could rent rooms by the hour, the day, the week, or the month. The rooms were furnished right down to the bedding. Bedding that wasn’t up to Owen’s standards.

The Hotel Chateau was located in a six-story, yellow brick building on Broadway with a mod sixties neon sign and steel awning stuck on one end of the building. I lived in a single room with no kitchen. The sallow yellow paint had bubbled off under the window and the drapes had a groovy brown and black pattern that hid the mold growing up the back of them. There was a double bed, a dresser, and a small metal table with two chairs. In other words, the place was thoroughly disgusting. But it was a hundred and ten dollars a month and I could walk to work. That gave it an appeal.

Abruptly, Owen said, “I keep hearing that this is what causes AIDS.”

“What is?”

“Sex, dear. What we just did.”

“Do you wanna stop coming to see me?” I asked, completely unconcerned with what his answer might be. Well, maybe not completely. It would be inconvenient if he stopped coming around.

“No. I mean, if you’ve got it then you’ve already given it to me. Right?”

“Or vice versa.” I really had no idea what he did when he wasn’t in my bed. I mean, aside from being a lawyer and working his ass off. He could have been fucking half of Chicago in shifts for all I knew.

“True,” he admitted. Of course, he knew that Harker had been sick with AIDS when he was murdered. I suppose he was thinking it was more likely that I’d be the one to be handing it out. If it truly was caused by sex, that is. We lay there a minute or so, the sounds of traffic on the street below drifted up. I’d cracked the window a bit to help with the extra radiator heat.

“This is nice pillow talk,” I said, finally.

“Sweetie, I just wondered if you were worried. Are you?”

Was I? It was like I’d been waiting to start dying for a year, well, hoping might be a better word. It was starting to get hard to believe that I would. “No, I’m not worried.”

“It’s mostly in New York and San Francisco, anyway,” he pointed out.

“Is it?”

“I think something like two thousand people have died nationwide. But I don’t think there’s even been two hundred here. If that.”

“Lucky us,” I said, though I didn’t feel lucky. I’d known three people who had it. Two of them wouldn’t have made the death count, though. Harker because he’d been murdered. Earl Silver, Ross’ boyfriend, had officially died of liver disease since it was less embarrassing. So, of that couple hundred, I knew one who’d been counted. Some guy named Robert who’d been Brian’s grumpy roommate. I didn’t like the drift of the conversation so I changed the subject. “You told Mrs. Harker where I work.”


“I told her lawyer where you work. Was it a secret?”

“She came by to see me.”

“I’ll call Buck and tell him that’s not cool.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“What did she want?”

“Her favorite priest died of a heart attack. Except she doesn’t believe it. She wants me to poke around.”

“Are you going to?

“No, I gave that up.”

“You still have your license, though.”

“For another year.”

“When you’re ready to go back to work, I can use you at the firm. In fact—”

“I’m not going to get ready. I just said I gave that up.”

He put a hand on my bare chest and said, “Relax, it was just an offer. Why doesn’t she believe the priest had a heart attack?”

“Because she’s a stubborn old bitch.”


ManLoveRomance Books –


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SPOTLIGHT – Mark Zubro’s gay YA Mystery novel; SAFE

Very special treat for you today with an excerpt from SAFE, the new Gay YA Mystery/Thriller novel from Mark Zubro.

SAFE, by Mark Zubro


In an unsafe world, death and danger stalk gay teens, Roger Cook and Steve Koemer.

Roger Cook is in the middle of his senior year when Kyle Davis, the most picked on kid in his high school commits suicide. Roger agrees to write an article on Kyle for the school newspaper. As he gathers information, Roger realizes the dead boy was gay and may have been murdered. Gay himself, Roger wants to find out the truth, but this leads him to danger and the possibility of love. Roger opens himself to even greater risk while trying to make those around him safe.SAFE


Chapter One

Monday 7:04 A.M.


When I was two feet from the newspaper office door, Darlene Banyon rushed up to me and said, “Roger, did you hear the news?”

I shrugged. “I’m lucky to be awake and moving at this hour.”

“Kyle Davis committed suicide.”

It was early on the Monday after Christmas vacation and only some janitors and a few of the nerdiest teachers were in school. Monday is deadline day, whether or not we just had two weeks of vacation. I planned to finish some final rewrites on my next column before the bell rang for first period.

Darlene Banyon is our editor. She’ll probably be valedictorian of our class. She’s a little overweight and wears a huge assortment of rhinestone-studded glasses. She’s pretty silent, like she rarely says, “Good story” or “Thanks for the help.” I know she takes her job seriously because she’s always after school for hours every day making sure everything is perfect. Nothing gets past her scrutiny.

I guess that’s good in an editor, but I think she could lighten up a little. I know the pressure gets to her. On the days the paper is supposed to come out she snaps at everybody, demanding rewrites and cuts and edits and changes at the last second. If the paper is even a minute late from the printer, she starts slamming things around. She only calms down after a couple of her friends come by and tell her how great the paper looks.

I like her a lot. I just avoid her when she’s in a mood. This year we’ve become friends, and even though she’s dating a guy who goes to the University of California Riverside, we go out for coffee or a soda once or twice a week. We discuss politics, the reason why things happen, the meaning behind events, why people do crazy things, everything. Of all the people I know, she’d be the first one I’d tell I was gay.

Darlene continued, “It was too late to make this morning’s Riverside Tribune. It got posted on a few kids’ pages just an hour or so ago, and now everybody’s sending messages about it.” She showed me her phone.

After I read a couple, I said, “It doesn’t say when it happened.”

“Supposedly, sometime after nine o’clock last night.”

“I was at the basketball tournament all weekend. The final game ran into double overtime. I didn’t get home until late. Nothing was on the Net when I went to bed.”

Darlene snorted. “I’m surprised anybody Tweeted anything. I’m surprised anybody cared. They probably don’t. They probably just love death and gossip.” She gave an angry snarl as we walked into the office together.

In the senior class at Riverside Memorial, we’ve got just under a thousand kids. So you don’t know everybody, but I think we all knew Kyle Davis. Every day he plodded over two miles to school. He could have taken transportation provided by the district, but when he was a freshman, a few other kids had forced him into the back seat of the bus, taken his pants and underwear, and tossed them out the window. Before the bus driver figured out the screams were those of distress, he’d driven half a mile.

They caught the guys who did it, and they got suspended, but Kyle never rode the bus again. Danger lurked as he’d walked down the halls: getting shoved into lockers, his path blocked deliberately, incessantly taunted and teased.

Kyle had been maybe twenty-five pounds overweight, and all of it had added to his baby fat. He was around five foot six, so fighting back, even if he’d wanted to, wasn’t a practical consideration.

At least, I’d never heard of him getting back at his tormentors. He’d never been in any of my classes, but I’d seen him nearly every day, on the way to school, one foot plunking in front of the other, never hurrying. He’d always carried a faded green backpack. Every day as he’d approached what was for him high school hell, he’d looked like an out of shape recruit in the army finishing his first twenty-five mile hike.

Darlene read from her iPhone. “They found him hanging from a pepper tree in the orange groves, somewhere way out past Victoria Avenue near Jackson Street.”

“Does it say anything about him leaving a note?” I asked.

“Nothing here.” She punched a lot more buttons. “Nothing like a police report. Nothing on the Riverside Tribune Web site so far.”

Steve Koemer rushed in, nodded to us, and hurried to set up his laptop. In about ten seconds he was typing away. Steve was our newest staff member, the gofer to do the dirty work nobody else wanted, a junior severely afflicted with teenage uncoordination, terminal shyness, and skinny to the point of emaciation. He dropped stuff all the time. He often made silly mistakes while working on the newspaper program on the computer, but he never made mistakes editing our copy. He wore black-framed glasses. Darlene helped him out a lot, and I’d helped him cover up a couple mistakes he’d made with the computer program. When I worked with him, he was quick to learn and asked intelligent questions. His dad was a preacher for the Witness for Jesus Church.

Bert Blaire, our so-called ace reporter, breezed into the room. He slapped me on the back and said, “Hey, Rog, how’s it hangin’?” He chucked Darlene under the chin and said, “Good to see you, lady boss.”

Darlene swatted his hand away and growled at him. “Next time you touch me,” she said, “you get belted across the room, then I kick your nuts so hard, you won’t ever have to worry about birth control again.”

Bert gaped at her. I’d never seen her display this kind of anger.

Bert said, “Hey, easy. I’m just being friendly.”

She glared at him.

I don’t like Bert Blaire. He doesn’t know when to stop or let things go. I wondered if Darlene might have been working up to her explosion for a while, and her upset over Kyle’s death might have triggered the response. I’d seen and heard her endure a lot from Bert. If I thought she needed my help, or asked for it, I’d be happy to lend a fist or foot to cause Bert any amount of discomfort.

Bert was hosting the annual newspaper staff bash this coming Saturday night. It was a tradition for the seniors on the paper to throw a party for the whole staff sometime during the year. Bert had offered to do all the planning. At his place it wouldn’t be just the newspaper people and their friends. He’d have a mob of athletes, rich kids, “in kids”, plus us regular schlubs from the paper.

Bert walked over to Steve, slapped him on the shoulder, and said, “How’s the stud junior gopher today?”

Steve winced, ducked his head, and stopped typing.

“Leave him alone,” I said.

“You too?” Bert asked. “Jeez, I’m just being friendly. Everybody needs to back off.”

Bert is almost as bright as Darlene. In fact our whole staff is in the top five percent of the class academically. Bert will probably get a four-year academic scholarship to some college even though he doesn’t need the money because his dad owns half of Riverside County.

Usually everybody on the newspaper gives Bert a wide birth because he’s a jerk. Compounding the dislike is the fact that he is one of Mr. Trumble’s pets.

A computer pinged with an incoming message. We all glanced at the clock. Seven twenty-two precisely. The Riverside Drone comic strip appeared in all the inboxes and in text messages. It was anonymously drawn, with lush colors and careful shading. Even better it was bitterly sarcastic about teachers, athletes, popular students, and school administrators.

Today’s strip was about a chemistry class experiment gone wrong with a supervising teacher who resembled Frankenstein’s monster. Mr. Trumble rarely let us print them, but we all looked forward to them. They were cool and funny. Bert hated them. I loved them.

Mr. Trumble is the faculty advisor for the paper. He pretty much wears the same brown pants every day. They’re all shiny so I guess he never washes them. A few times a year, when it’s really hot out, he’ll wear Bermuda shorts with black socks and sandals. He’s an old guy with white hair growing out of his ears and nostrils. In winter when it’s cool, he puts on long sleeve white shirts and sweaters. When it’s warmer, which is most of the year, he has these short sleeve beige shirts with his initials stitched on the pockets. He rarely talks above a whisper, and it’s really tedious to listen to him because he rambles so much, but he pretty much leaves us alone. All he cares about is that we don’t get him in trouble printing controversial stuff that teenagers are supposed to have never heard about, like abortion or AIDS or teen pregnancy.

The newspaper office is about twelve feet by twenty feet, so everything is pretty cramped. We’ve got a bunch of old reject computers, but some of us have laptops and wireless Internet connections. Still, Mr. Trumble watches us pretty carefully on our Internet use. We can get in a lot of trouble if we’re caught on inappropriate-for-school Web sites.

On the left as you walk in, there’s a corkboard wall that has a mock-up of the paper laid out page by page. On the other walls are huge posters from old musical plays: Hello Dolly, Man of LaMancha, Finian’s Rainbow, West Side Story, and some I’ve never heard of. We have those because Mr. Trumble is hot for old musicals. He claims he starred in a couple in college.

After we took a moment to read the strip, Darlene told Bert about Kyle Davis committing suicide.

“Who cares?” Bert threw himself into a chair. “The guy was a fag and nobody liked him.”

“Don’t say fag,” Darlene and I said at the same time.

“Will everybody leave me alone?” Bert asked. He always wore the most fashionable clothes in that casual I-don’t-really-care-how-I-look way that’s popular among people that care about that stuff. I wear mostly jeans and T-shirts myself, with my letterman’s jacket or a sweatshirt if it’s cool out. “You can’t sue me for being a hypocrite. I’m not going to get all weepy over a kid I barely knew, that nobody liked, and that nobody is going to miss.”

Darlene advanced on him and towered over him as he lounged in his chair. Through clenched teeth, she said, “We need to write a story about Kyle.”

“Don’t look at me,” Bert said.

“I wasn’t going to ask you,” Darlene said. “I’d do it myself, but I agreed to help out for two weeks on the yearbook staff, plus my usual duties here.”

Darlene always liked to help people, constantly took on more and more, and was always swamped.

She turned to me. “Roger, would you do the story?”

I wanted to protest and say no, I only did sports, but after Bert’s reaction, I could hardly refuse.

I had strong mixed feelings. I, too, thought, Kyle was gay. I was pretty confident about being gay myself, but not about being open about it. It’s not that if people associated me with Kyle that they’d think I was gay, but I wanted to be careful.

I mumbled a yes.

Ian McCord strutted in. He raised an eyebrow at me and swept a bow toward Darlene. I disliked Bert, but I hated Ian. He worked on the theater, arts, and movie news and reviews. If anybody in the school fit the stereotype of an effeminate gay male, he did. His wrists limped, he swung his hips and sashayed around campus, and he could adopt a lisp at the drop of an insult. Ian’s being effeminate wasn’t the issue. The problem was that he was a total jerk. He was overweight and proud of it, and he liked to tell us in nauseating detail about every new fad diet he tried. He thought he was funny. I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve laughed at some of the things he’s said. I just thought a lot of it was a pile of pretentious nonsense.

Ian often talked about the latest opening he’d been to in L.A. or how this or that play was so ghastly. His reviews of school plays were generally really nasty, even after Mr. Trumble toned them down.

In the realm of emotions, Ian dealt only in superlatives. He was always the tensest, saddest, gloomiest, or happiest, and he let you know which it was in great detail.

He didn’t like me, either. He thought I was a dumb jock. He kept up a string of snide innuendos, which he thought I didn’t catch. I had him figured out. On the days when I wore my oldest, most faded, and tightest jeans, he wouldn’t stop fawning over me, patting me, finding things to come over and talk to me about.

This morning Ian burbled almost incessantly about Kyle’s death, but he had few facts. That never stopped Ian. His up moods annoyed me more than his downs. Ian said, “Did you hear? They’re going to have ‘grief counselors’ in the school.”

What I got from his explanation was that a sort of swat team of psychologists, counselors, social workers, and others were descending on the school so that any kids or teachers affected by Kyle’s death could come talk to them.

“I may go so that I can get out of class,” Ian said.

“You look like you’re ready to weep with sorrow,” Darlene said.

Ian put a hand to his breast. “You wound me deeply.”

“I wish,” Darlene said.

I wanted all of them to shut up. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Kyle’s death, except gay or straight, it was sad.

Ian launched into a long-winded description of the party he went to Saturday night. Others began working. I entered my column on a computer, finished my rewrites, printed it out along with an article of mine, and added them to the cork board, and left.


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What is it like growing up in a Religious Commune? Author Lloyd A. Meeker tells us and more

Lloyd, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction facebook group. 

Let’s start off with where are you from and live now; I recently read a guest blog post where you mentioned you were born in a religious commune; what was it like growing up?

Yes, a farm in Colorado. Communal life is very much like a small village, with most of the familiar boundaries removed – centrally coordinated work, eating together, one theology, very little private space. Organic farming was a big thing for us, and growing as much of our own food as we could. Pretty radical for the late 1940’s. I went through school being “one of those people” from that weird group northwest of town.

That environment shaped me in many ways, pluses and minuses both. Few empathic children can begin training in subtle energy healing at age ten as if it were a perfectly ordinary thing to do, but I was given that incredible opportunity.


Although I went off to college and traveled extensively, I lived my life out of the community’s worldview for the first half of my life. I’d never had any other. When I came out and left, I was in my mid-forties. I slammed into a learning curve that nearly killed me. I had very little idea how the rest of the world actually functioned. Let’s just say some dark years ensued.

While I love wild nature, I now prefer to live in a city where I can walk to most of my daily needs. It seems I’ve dropped anchor in Wilton Manors, Florida. It’s a strange feeling, to be putting down roots in a place I’ve never been particularly drawn to, but it also feels very right. And I love being warm!

As you probably know, writers rarely like to toot their own horns…lol, but what would you say is your greatest accomplishment so far? 

Most of the things I feel best about in my life aren’t things I accomplished on my own. I conducted a community orchestra for eight years. I’ve been sober twice as long as I drank to escape. I’ve been cancer-free for eleven years. I’m working on my fifth novel. I can’t honestly claim I accomplished any of that on my own. Spiritually and physically, I’ve relied heavily on many allies.

I think my greatest accomplishment is that I’m happy, living a life that honors my core truths. The ancient Greeks said you could never call a man happy until he was dead, because you had to know how his life ended before you could say he’d been happy. I’ve got plenty of living to do yet and I’m far from finished as the human being I want to become, but if I died tomorrow, you could still say I was one of the happiest men on earth. I have health, love, family, challenging and meaningful creative work, friends, and plenty of books waiting to be written. All that, plus ocean breezes, sunshine and palm trees—there are hibiscus, lemons and a dozen different kinds of orchid growing on our balcony.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

Sure. I’ve been with my husband Bob since 2002, married since 2007. We both came out late, Bob has three adult children from his first marriage, and I have one. All Bob’s grandchildren live in Paris, so we make an annual trip to see them.

We are very different in background and temperament. He’s an extrovert, I’m an introvert. He loves movies, and I have trouble sitting through them. I prefer watching sports, which he has little interest in. We both enjoy cooking, so we take turns. He likes using recipes, I’d rather wing it. We have a very unconventional relationship, but we fit together so well.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Only guilt-free pleasures for me! I love buskers of all kinds, especially Dixieland and Ceílí musicians; thunderstorms; clover honey on fresh cornbread slathered with butter; the way a kelp bed smells at low tide; poetry, passionately delivered aloud; an occasional dungeon scene—it sweeps away energetic cobwebs not reached by softer brooms; Lord Dunsany’s stories; Stephen Foster ballads; farmers’ markets and street fairs; Cirque du Soleil; a half-hour nap after lunch.

Can you share what inspires and challenges you most in your writing? 

The most inspiring thing for me is when I discover more meaning in a scene than I consciously put there. Something deeply true comes out in a way that is congruent with the character, possibly even essential to him, that makes new sense of some element of the story, gives it dimension that previously had been obscured. That’s pure magic to me, and beautiful.

The challenge is that I can’t make that happen. I just have to keep writing the best I know how, keeping my eyes and heart open for it, should it come. That poetic depth rings so artificial if it’s just contrived cleverness, yet it’s utterly luminous when it’s real.

You released a unique and very enjoyable mystery/thriller titled “Enigma” out from Wilde City Press, which features a rare, but refreshing non-traditional protagonist; a silver-fox private investigator. Russ Morgan also happens to be a psychic empath? What influenced you to create and feature a more mature character in a field traditionally reserved for the youthful?   


Thank you for saying those kind things about Enigma.

Remember in the American version of Queer as Folk when Brian turned thirty? It was an identity crisis—thirty! Doomed to see a wrinkle soon. Ewww. Old. It’s laughable!

I came out in my mid-forties, long after the culture I was just entering had dismissed my market value. To be sure, I take unabashed pleasure in the company of gorgeous young men as much as the next gay man, but I rejected my assigned market niche, which informed me daily I’d already passed my “best consumed by” date.

I’m fascinated by the many and powerful gifts that come only with age—fully engaged with examining and challenging the myths about age that a cynical, petty, frightened and narrow gay pop culture seems addicted to. It’s an especially silly, nasty and cruel form of narcissism, the way I see it. It’s a huge waste—self-defeating, in terms of developing meaningful gay culture.

I confess I have a lot of Russ Morgan in me. I’m letting him make my argument that life really does get better—and much more interesting—after fifty and beyond.

Do you have plans for a sequel to “Enigma” and will gay P.I. Russ Morgan appear again?

Absolutely—I’m working on the next story now. I think Russ has a series in him, and Colorado is a rich setting for his stories—just look at what’s in the news there now—cannabis, gun control, cultural schisms between urban and rural, conservative and liberal. My mouth waters just thinking of the possibilities!

Incidentally, in the book I’m working on now, Russ’ own set attitudes toward age are challenged, because Colin (who is twenty-five and definitely not a self-absorbed twink) won’t leave him alone, and insists on being taken seriously as a relationship prospect. That’s very scary territory for Russ.


You have also published a very mystical mystery/thriller novel, Traveling Light, released by MLR Press, Inc. The plot of the story combines both the earthy visible world with the spirit realm as protagonist, Ian, uses his shamanic abilities to track down his brother’s killer. I sense an overarching lesson to be learned; can you share more of the premise with us?   

Gladly! My favorite soapbox theme.

The overarching vision I write from is that the visible and invisible worlds are distinct but not separate. They interact all the time, and depend on each other to reveal their deepest beauty. They need each other like we need air to breathe, like music must be heard to be shared.

I’m convinced gay men are perfectly suited to accommodate this interplay consciously, to be stewards of that mystical inter-dependence, the passages of giving and taking between the realms. All my stories are grown out of this premise, because it’s the way I experience life.

Have had you ever had to deal with homophobia after your gay novels are released, and if so, what form has it taken?

Not really, but some conversations have ended abruptly when I say I write mystical gay fiction. I don’t care. Given some of the things I’ve survived, I’ve accepted that I’m on bonus time. Whatever time I have left is way too precious to spend caring about what people like that think of me and my work.

Which living actor would you cast to play your protagonist, Russ Morgan, in your P.I novella, “Enigma”?

Ed Harris, but not his overly gaunt version. Yes, give me Ed Harris. Please give him to me!

Last question; I read recently that you’ll be teaching an online class through Florida Romance Writers on some of the differences in the Hero’s Journey for a gay protagonist. Do you have more details you can share at this time?

Not really, because it happens in October and I haven’t finalized my materials yet. I’ve been obsessed with the Hero’s Journey for decades. When I first realized there was a heteronormative overlay to the myth’s structure, I was offended. Then I realized, hey—straight people have their version, and we need ours. It’s incredibly exciting to explore the similarities as well as the differences.

On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre want to know.


Find Lloyd A. Meeker on the web:

Sitting down with a long celebrated Writer of Gay Mystery & Suspense. My Interview with Author Mark Zubro

I have been making up stories since I was about eight or nine; writing them down since about ten years old (this is a guess since my mother actually reads my postings from time to time). The first “A” I can ever recall getting was in an English class where we were asked to “make up a story”. The rest, as they say, is history – though it took me almost forty years to consider publishing, and I’m glad I did.

The reason for my ramble is because twenty years ago, I marshaled enough courage to write a fan letter to an author of gay mystery novels I really enjoyed reading, asking advice for a gay writer just getting started. Remember, the old fashion way of putting pen to paper, signing your name at the bottom, affixing a stamp and knowing you’d never get a response? Well, believe it or not, I actually received a response dated March 18, 1992 (yes, I’ve kept the letter all this time!) from the writer who responded with a full page of advice, who was none other than Mark Zubro.

Please join me (excuse my giddiness) as I get to interview one of my favorite gay mystery writers, who helped to influence my own writing.

Where do you live? City, town, island, country?

Mokena, Illinois, USA

Writer’s rarely like to toot their own horn. Seriously! What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

Having twenty-five books and five short stories published, and the first volume of my great gay sci-fi epic – after working on it twenty-three years, is just out; these are my greatest accomplishments.

MZ_Alien_QuestWithout getting too personal, can you share a little about your home life?

Mostly I read books, write books, nap, and eat chocolate (Jon:I am so there!). Not always in that order, but pretty much that’s it. I’m good at dull and boring. They say ‘be the best you can be’, ‘find out who you are’, ‘do what you’re good at’. Well, I’m good at dull and boring. It’s who I am and I’m comfortable with it. (Recommendation – read Quiet by Susan Cain – great analysis of this.)

Where do you write, and in what format? (computer, tablet, paper, recorder)

I write in my office on a PC. I can do corrections from my editor on the PC. I haven’t learned to do them on the MAC yet.

What inspires and challenges you most in writing?

The most challenging thing in writing is making myself sit down and to get to work. That hasn’t changed in all these years. The old cliché, boring as it is, 90% of life is showing up, is true. I’ve discovered that writing is a whole lot more like real work than most people realize.

The most inspiring thing or things: well, with most mystery writers – okay, with me – we are very busy getting even with people we don’t like. Any number of women have told me they wrote their first mystery to get even with their ex-husband. And with a gay person, there are just a whole lot of homophobes out there who need their comeuppance. There’s not a lot any of us – okay, me again – can do about the homophobes, not in real life. But in my mysteries, by gosh, they can have all kinds of problems. In fact, if you are racist, sexist, homophobic, or a school administrator in one of my books, if you aren’t the corpse – and you are quite likely to be – but if you aren’t, then rest assured bad things are going to happen to you by the end.Asimplesuburbanmurder

I’m also inspired by other people’s stupidities. For example, if the gun nuts are right and we all have to be armed to the teeth, then what happens if at a convention of gun nuts if…oh, wait, that’s the beginning of the plot for the next Paul Turner mystery. I can’t tell you more because I don’t know more. I’ve only got a paragraph done on it. And I won’t be starting on (the novel) until I finish the new Tom and Scott, which I won’t be starting on until I get done with the edits on the books coming out in the next few months.

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers (and fellow writers) really want to know. Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

It’s changed over the years. I used to start a mystery and not have a clue about how it would end. I’d follow the characters as they bumbled through the world looking for a solution. I’d realize over time, that if this event happened in the early part of a book, then there must be an explanation somewhere near the end of the book. So, no outline and no notion except what logic dictated.

Nowadays, it’s different, sort of; still no outline, really, but I know, usually early on, (what) scenes that I want to put in the book. For example, in the next Tom and Scott, I know there are two murders. One many years ago. I know who didn’t commit that murder, although I don’t know who did. But the person who didn’t commit the murder thinks he did. Tom has to figure out, discover that this person didn’t commit that murder. How he does that, I have no idea. So, I’ve got a structure that I now fill in that leads to the conclusion I want. Sometimes when working this way, lots of things have to be rewritten, changed, and edited. And I have no idea who did the second murder. I’m pretty sure it’s not the first guy, who is innocent of the first murder, but I’m not absolutely sure he didn’t do it. I’ll have to see. (Jon:Confusing to say the least. I doubt most readers realize how much goes into developing a tightly woven mystery, suspense/thriller.)

SorryNowIn the Paul Turner example above, I have the whole gun-nut convention thing. I also know I want a scene in the book at home where Brian, Paul Turner’s older boy, has gone to college. His younger son, Jeff, four years younger, misses his older brother, but would never admit it (OMG, I have loved Jeff all these years since first reading, “Sorry Now”. I love the way you have developed his character; so real and true, regardless of his challenges). But the younger boy has taken to wearing his older brother’s letterman’s jacket. It’s a tender, nostalgic moment that I want in the book. I have no idea where it fits in with the plot, with the momentum of the book, but I think it’s important to show Paul as a loving dad, and I think it’ll fit. And then, in that same to be written in a year or so – Paul Turner – he needs to confront one of his colleagues who betrayed them in… Well, again, I don’t want to give too much away.

With so much releasing and in the works, how do you deal with the constant distractions such as blogs, FB, promo and real life (like that dreaded daytime job)?

I wrote twenty-three of the books while I was teaching full-time. During those years of being published while teaching, I was also president of the teachers’ union in my school district. So there was always a paper to grade, or a student to help, or a teacher in need of assistance or union contract negotiations with the school board; well something. But I’ve discovered with writing, there is always an excuse not to write. Always. It can be trivial or monumental, life changing or mundane, but there’s always an excuse. It goes back to an answer to an earlier question, making myself write every day is the key.

As for promotion, I know a few authors who get their book published and just think the world will then rush to buy their books. Then, there are those of us who slog through every promotional possibility we can find. It’s part of the job. The writing is the key, but selling is vital, painful as that can sometimes be, and I’m an intensely private person (again – read Quiet by Susan Cain – brilliant book on just this very subject), but I do the promotion. I try to do it right. I learn new things; all this techno selling for example.

How do I get them all done? I don’t know. I just plod through. I get one thing done and then I go on to the next.

You have two long-running serials, affectionately known by fans as the Tom & Scott series and the Paul Turner mysteries. How do you sustain the awesome Paul Turner, gay Chicago cop/investigator series and the incredible couple, Tom & Scott, series to keep them fresh and to keep fans returning?

There are several key elements to keeping them fresh. I rotate writing them – one year a Tom and Scott, the next year a Paul Turner and so on. Tom and Scott novels are written in the first person; Paul Turner in third person. This is a big help in switching my mind into the different worlds, the structure of the books themselves. Tom is, by definition an amateur sleuth. This brings into play what I call the “Jessica Fletcher syndrome”. No cop in his right mind would allow an amateur such access. The ‘too interested’ person is, in your average cop’s mind, at the top or near the top of the suspect list.

BlackblueAlthough after all these years, I think it would be a hoot, in the very last final two hour episode, if it was revealed that Jessica did them all. But, that’s just me. The point here is, I have to always give Tom a reason to be involved and an in. This influences the whole plot. The Paul Turner books in that sense are simple; it’s his job. But being his job brings in its own set of complications.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Have I mentioned chocolate yet? Can chocolate ever be mentioned enough?


On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time answering questions fans of the genre are would like to know.  Will you share a little about your current release and/or WIP?


My current release is Alien Quest, a volume of one gay sci/fi epic and love story set in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. An alien comes to Earth and enlists the help of a gay waiter to assist him in his quest to capture the evil scientist from his home world. They have numerous wild adventures as their relationships blossoms. The next book in the Paul Turner series, Pawn of Satan, will be out at the end of October 2013. My first young adult book, Safe, will be out in January 2014.

Where to get Mark Zubro’s books: