Available Again – Prince of the Sea by Jon Michaelsen

A gay paranormal mystery/suspense novella

2017 BEST GAY MEN’S FICTION AWARDG/G Goodreads’ Reading Group


Chapter Two

A lone gnat buzzed about Jonathan’s face. He swiped the air in frustration, more at Paul than with irritation at the pest. He had agitated the insect, which fought to escape and yet managed to fly up his nostril. He plugged the side of his nose and tried to flush the pest without success. Finally, and with apprehension, he swallowed to clear his throat.

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Driven by need deeper than thirst, Jonathan ducked inside through the doorway of the single-story cottage and crossed the threshold to the parlor of the west wing, filled with nautical trimmings and reproduced coastal collections. He tore past the cold fireplace and a sofa draped with an old patchwork quilt. The antique double-door bar cabinet nestled in the far corner reminded him of the days his mother had carted him through the vintage shops peppering the Southeastern Coast. In spite of his mood, he smiled at the memories. He snatched a fresh bottle of booze from the shelf below, tossed a couple cubes of ice into his glass, and filled it half-full of scotch.

Jonathan slugged the beverage, refilled his glass, and then shuffled to the floor-to-ceiling windows facing inland. He thought about being stood up by Paul, the knot in his chest traveling up his neck like a hand closing around his throat. Typical. Paul had become more distant of late and the excuses he tried to pass off seemed contrived at best. They were nearing the end of the relationship, perhaps. Jonathan didn’t know anymore, and it drove him crazy.

Stop with the melodramatics, Jonathan chided himself as he sipped his drink and stepped out onto the porch again. He set his cocktail on the railing, reached high above his head, and stretched his arms before crossing them over his chest and gripping his shoulders. The ocean breeze caressed him as he watched the waves rolling in, whitecaps bustling with the fury of stampeding cattle before crashing headlong into shore. Why did it bother him this much? Should he be surprised Paul chose career goals over their relationship yet again? Jonathan should have seen it coming months ago, but he’d ignored the signs, desperate to rekindle the passion slipping away after years of happiness.

A large cargo ship sailed in line of the horizon. Seagulls and pelicans floated along the shoreline searching for food. Jonathan dreamed of a relationship devoid of friction and financial strain, absent of business dinners filled with false hope and weekend interruptions. He savored his career as a successful scriptwriter, but he abhorred the Hollywood lifestyle.

His drink empty, Jonathan began to turn when something caught his eye. Glancing beyond the beach, he scanned the ocean’s surface searching the whitecaps. Someone was bobbing and swirling about in wide circular motions, dipping beneath the waves and resurfacing. Jonathan observed the head and shoulders of a man who seemed to be struggling to remain above the surface. Adrenaline shot through him like a bullet and panic clutched his chest.

He’s in trouble!

Jonathan scanned the beach for help. A few beachcombers walked in either direction along the sand, some strolling hand in hand, as others huddled in groups with a child or two darting out from the pack to race toward the water’s edge. No one seemed to notice the swimmer in distress. Most followed their downcast eyes, searching the beach for the ocean’s treasures washed up in the tide.


Jonathan raced toward the water’s edge and kicked off his loafers, flailing his arms and screaming trying to attract attention. He ripped off his shirt as he ran, the fabric falling behind in the sand. Pausing to strip off his slacks, he trudged into the sea.

Waves battered him in violent succession, pushing him back, forcing him to lift his knees high to stab his feet into the water to stay righted. When the water reached his hips, Jonathan dove headlong into the churning surf. The smack of cold water against his face and chest sobered him as he pinwheeled his arms through the strong current toward the struggling swimmer.

Where did he go? Jonathan eased up to get his bearings, dogpaddling around and looking for the man. He called out, “Can you hear me? I’m here to help.” He swiveled his head back and forth, searching for the swimmer.

I’ve gone too far, he thought. Jonathan whipped around, turning back toward the beach. The cottage stood farther up the beach than his current position. Fearing the swimmer had disappeared beneath the surface, Jonathan ducked below the water and aimed his body deep, opening his eyes to take a quick peek. The sting of the saltwater forced his lids shut and he retreated.

Jonathan angled his body upward and kicked his feet hard against the strong current. Reaching the surface proved elusive, as the undertow sucked him down. Disoriented and terrified, his lungs begging for air, Jonathan clawed at the wall of seawater to no avail. No matter where he aimed, he couldn’t find the surface. The harder he fought the farther down he sank. Desperate for oxygen, his heart pounding, Jonathan’s life flashed before him.

Is this it? Am I doomed to be another tragic drowning?

Jonathan drifted into a quiet calm from lack of air, his thoughts a random jumble. Why had he charged forth in the first place, foolish considering all the alcohol? What about Paul? Would he be stunned to learn of his death, perhaps feel guilty about refusing to join him sooner? Would his family ever forgive his carelessness?

His chest compressed, expressing the last bit of air from his lungs. He wrestled an onslaught of convulsions as brackish seawater invaded his nose and mouth, his lungs. Arms and legs became lead. He lashed out, each stroke pulling him down until he finally hit the ocean floor.

The undertow snatched him away as his awareness waned. He lashed out in a futile attempt to right himself but grasped onto something slick and supple instead. His fingers slid over the soft object.


Something large and powerful slammed into him from behind. He felt an incredible tug against his body, a whoosh that snapped him back like a bungee cord before he blacked out.


Island myth, or guarded secret…destiny lures Jonathan home.

Jonathan’s ten-year relationship with Paul has lost its spark, so in a last-ditch effort to rekindle the passion they once shared, Jonathan rents a seaside cottage in his boyhood hometown; Tybee Island, Georgia, a quaint, tiny coastal islet he abandoned more than a decade or so ago.
But, the romantic surprise backfires royally when his partner rushes off to woo a high-profile client in Chicago, leaving Jonathan alone and broken-hearted. While killing his pain with loads of alcohol the afternoon of his arrival on the beach, nothing seems to ease the gut-wrenching pain.
That’s when Jonathan notices a swimmer caught in a riptide, desperate to stay afloat. Without hesitation, the west coast transplant races to the water’s edge, trudging through seawater before diving headlong into the raucous surf. Soon, he too, falls victim to the fierce undertow, struggling to reach the surface and fearing the worst.
Then a mighty force slams into him from behind, causing him to blackout. When he regains consciousness, Jonathan realizes he is surrounded by horrified beachcombers, all staring at his half-naked body.
How did Jonathan get to shore?
What happened to the drowning man?
And, who is the mysterious old woman gaping at him from afar?

Buy Links: 

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Amazon: Prince of the Sea in print

Audible: Prince of the Sea in audiobook

Smashwords: Prince of the Sea in e-book

About Jon Michaelsen

Jon Michaelsen is a writer of fiction in the mystery, suspense and thriller genres. 
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A born southerner born near the Chattahoochee River, his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was a young boy; where he remains today. His debut mystery novel, Pretty Boy Dead, was selected as a Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Mystery. He is currently writing the second Kendall Parker Mystery, The Deadwood Murders, expected in early 2019.
He lives with his husband of 32 years and two monstrous terriers.

Contact him: Michaelsen.jon@gmail.com

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Excluslive Excerpt: Slip and Slide (Death and Destruction series Book 3) by Patricia Logan


ATF special agents, Thayne Wolfe, and his partner, Jarrett Evans, have gotten into sticky situations in the past but nothing prepares them for the daunting task of being loaned out to a coal mine in West Virginia where Jarrett’s grown up. Investigating a deadly mining explosion may be the end of them yet.

In one of the most beautiful places on earth, Jarrett is familiar with the territory, growing up working in a nearby mine for a couple years before joining the Marine Corps just after high school. When he and his partner encounter a dubious mine CEO, two ATF agents who they’re tasked to investigate, and a good ‘ol boy who has a pickaxe to grind, all they can hope, is to solve this case before ending up dead and buried in that mine.

From the beaches of California, to the coal-rich mountains of Appalachia, Jarrett’s dubious past seems to rear its ugly head wherever they go. Join our heroes as they are forced to face danger, fear, and maybe the most frightening thing they’ve ever faced together… family.


They headed out to a local bar where the hotel staff said the food was good… a place with a pretty nice T-bone which Jarrett wanted, and a great selection of appetizers and salads for Thayne. The concierge told them that some of the locals stopped in there as well as an eclectic mix of those passing through and when Jarrett had asked about moonshine, the concierge smiled and told them that they had a good selection of various flavors made by some of the locals.

“They have flavors?” Thayne asked Jarrett as they sat down at the bar at the Silver Dollar Saloon.

“Not everywhere. Some of the hillbillies’ resist putting anything in there that ain’t in their pappy’s recipe but they can sell more if they can make it appeal to the ladies and they like that flavorful shit.”

Thayne leaned close. “So if I ordered for example, peach moonshine, I’ll get jumped in the parking lot?”

Jarrett snickered, making those deep dimples appear and his light eyes twinkle. “Probably safer than if you asked for a peach Bellini but are you willing to risk it?”

Thayne chuckled just as the bartender walked up. He was a huge man and he was cleaning a shot glass with a bar towel.

“What can I get for y’all?”

“My friend here has never tried moonshine,” Jarrett drawled, letting his accent come out in full force. “Thought since he’s visitin’… it might be the perfect time to change all that. Give him the good stuff, not that tourist trade shit.”

The bartender smiled beneath his long mustache as he raised a bushy eyebrow. “That’ll be two then?”

“Yes, thanks,” Thayne answered. “And a green salad with chicken,” he said, reading off the bar menu.

“Fair ‘nuff,” the bartender replied, turning to Jarrett. “You?”

“T-bone, medium rare and a baked potato, with all the trimmings.”

“Comin’ right up.” The bartender reached under the bar and poured something, finally producing two mason jars filled a quarter of the way with clear liquid. He set one in front of each of them before moving away to put in their food orders.

Jarrett picked up the mason jar, holding it up to toast Thayne. “We drink to those who love us… we drink to those who don’t. We drink to those who fuck us… and fuck to those who won’t.”

Thayne laughed as he watched Jarrett take a long drink of the moonshine as he shot the whole thing down. His eyes squinted, then closed, and then he sucked in both cheeks before opening his mouth and letting out a satisfied “Ahh…”


Jarrett’s eyes fluttered open. “It’ll put hair on your chest, that’s for sure,” he drawled. Thayne lifted the jar and took a deep sniff of the moonshine. There wasn’t much scent to it. He lifted his glass, toasting Jarrett like his partner had.

“Here’s to the ideal woman… who could ask for more? She’s deaf and dumb, oversexed… and owns a liquor store.” He threw back the moonshine as Jarrett burst into laughter. Thayne instantly felt the hot burn of diesel fuel pour down the back of his throat. He gasped and when he was able to cough out a breath, he felt like he could breathe fire. Jarrett clapped him on the back as he sputtered and the bartender appeared in front of his watery eyes. He was grinning like crazy, his mustache twitching.

“That was fun ta watch. Entertain me with another?” the bartender asked with a deep drawl.

Jarrett nodded his head. “Yep. One more before dinner.”

Thayne turned his head, still gasping, and looked at his partner. “You didn’t tell me this stuff packs this much of a wallop.”

“The next one will go down easier,” Jarrett promised. His eyes were dancing as he snickered. The bartender came over and set down two more mason jars. Thayne’s head was buzzing already but he was not going to let Jarrett best him in this game he was playing. He watched as Jarrett picked up the mason jar and toasted him again.

“One shot, two shots, three shots, more… if she’s ugly, shoot some more.” Thayne laughed as Jarrett shot back the moonshine and then slammed the thick glass mason jar back on the bar. Watching him drink was almost as much fun as drinking with him.

“Okay, the last one,” Thayne said. He picked up his mason jar and held it up to toast Jarrett. “No matter how fine, that ass is to hit… remember somebody, is sick of his shit.” He shot back the moonshine and set down the mason jar. Jarrett was right. This time the moonshine went down a lot easier. Thayne watched his lover dissolve into laughter. He looked stunning with deep dimples in his cheeks and his eyes twinkling. Jarrett’s laughter was contagious and soon Thayne was laughing along with him.



Lesbians on the Loose: Tales of Murder, Mayhem and Suspense

Lesbians on the Loose

edited by

Lori L Lake and Jessie Chandler



These tales of murder, mayhem, and suspense by some of today’s finest crime writers will keep you up way past your bedtime!

The lesbians on the loose in this collection are an entertaining mix of protagonists: cops, amateur sleuths, a PI, a judge, a bounty hunter, and one very insightful dog. There’s even an intrepid high schooler and a mystery writer.
Despite greed and grief, rage and revenge, secrets and lies, many of the stories feature humor from a variety of characters trying to find their way in a difficult world–cops who’ve seen too much, revenge seekers, and women who want justice for themselves and others.

You won’t regret going on the lam with these terrific writers: Elizabeth Sims, Carsen Taite, SY Thompson, Andi Marquette, Linda M. Vogt, VK Powell, Kate McLachlan, Lori L. Lake, Lynn Ames, Sandra de Helen, Jen Wright, Sue Hardesty, Jessie Chandler, J.M. Redmann, and Katherine V. Forrest


An interview between the co-editors:



The book trailer:



The buy links:

Bella: http://www.bellabooks.com/9781633040311e-prod.html


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00X08X9A2

Excerpt: Barbara Winkes’ “Indiscretions” – A Carpenter / Harding novel

Indiscretions – A Carpenter / Harding novel


Barbara Winkes


After surviving an attack by a stranger, rookie officer Ellie Harding decides to put herself first and make bold moves in both her career and her private life, refusing to let the traumatic incident get her off track.

Detective Jordan Carpenter faces the decision whether to remain in a disastrous, but long-term relationship or give in to the attraction she feels for her younger colleague. Her partner Bethany isn’t willing to let go, of Jordan or the case, a sadistic killer who murders women for behavior he considers immoral.

Can they find him before he strikes again?


After waking in a cold sweat for the second time, Ellie decided she had enough and got out of bed at 4:37 a.m. Bright and early enough for you, Detective? She hadn’t meant to, but she had already changed habits. For the longest time, she’d wear heels in the morning on her way to work and change back into them after her shift. Lately, the sound of heels on the pavement made her uncomfortable. She knew it would abate with time. Why not hurry the process along? They might not be able to catch the bastard who had jumped her, but if she could assist catching the killer Jordan and her team were after, it would go a long way towards making her feel safer again.

Determined, she slipped into a pair of pumps. Sometime this week, she might even go out with her friends again. If Jordan told her no another time, to hell with her. Ellie would have no problem finding someone else in her pursuit for pleasure.

Jordan wore jeans and a white buttoned down shirt this morning. Ellie had little time to admire her, because they dove into the disturbing reality of the case on the table right away.

“The common theme here seems to be some relationship trouble. This is one thing we know about all the victims so far, a recent breakup. Two of the women straight, one lesbian. The question is where does he find them? Lori Gleason told me she found dates in a chat room. She signed up after her divorce.”

Ellie had done her best to get herself up to date with the facts. Gleason was currently recovering in the hospital. Isabel Hayes’ body had been found behind a dumpster five weeks ago, and the first victim, Eleanor Campbell, had been discovered by trespassing teenagers. The trespassing became rapidly irrelevant, and the high school kids had been taught the lesson of a lifetime in what could happen if you walked into a creepy abandoned building.

“How can we be so sure it’s the same killer?” Jensen asked. “I imagine Hayes would not hang out in the same chat room, for obvious reasons.”

Ellie could see the hint of indulgence on the detectives’ faces. Jordan, however, addressed the question. She pointed to Hayes’ crime scene photo.

“You better hope there aren’t more like him out there. The victims’ injuries are consistent. The rope fibers match. You are right insofar as their life circumstances were different. Gleason preferred the chat room. Isabel Hayes preferred bars. Eleanor Campbell, as far as we know, was the only one in a committed relationship, but the husband’s alibi checks out.”

“He hates women. Sexually active women. Maybe he got rejected.” Ellie didn’t realize she’d said this out loud until all eyes were on her. She shrugged. Ellie had done a lot of reading on why some men hated on women, from her undergraduate days on. A lot of those theories had come back to her lately.

“That’s a possibility.” Jordan’s reaction was rather reserved. “It’s all theory at this point. What we need is to find the link between all those women. They lived in different neighborhoods, but in a relatively small distance. He’s probably local, can’t or won’t travel. I want you to concentrate on the dates from the chat room so far. We have the data from Lori’s computer, every date, every conversation. Look closely for anything suspicious.”

“What about Gleason’s ex?” Jensen inquired.

“He’s coming back from a business trip in Europe. I expect him this afternoon. Meanwhile, let’s hope Lori will remember more.”

Ellie got up, but waited until everyone was beginning their own work. Two of the other detectives left. Jordan, sensing her hesitation, came over to her.

“Lori Gleason…was she raped?” Ellie asked. She hated how all of a sudden, her voice sounded small.

“The rape kit came back negative.” Jordan’s tone was calm and detached, but there was concern in her gaze. They both knew that left a lot of other possibilities. “Will you be okay?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Okay then. Go find the perfect match online.”

Ellie couldn’t help it, even the probably innocent suggestion brought heat to her face, and lower regions. What kind of person did that make her? They had a job to do, because some women had suffered far worse abuse than she had, and besides, Jordan had a girlfriend. Reason was not helpful.


“More like a date with the devil,” she said lightly. “Thank you. I really appreciate this.”

“No problem. You still owe me a beer.”

For the next fifteen minutes or so, Ellie kept wondering if she’d really heard her say it. However, her fantasies were certainly not priority. She read pages after pages of emails Lori Gleason had exchanged with potential dates, the tone always ranging from flirty to definitely not safe for work. She felt a bit sick, knowing this was the kind of behavior a man would hardly ever be criticized for. Someone had taken offense, kidnapped, beaten and cut her, would have killed her if the neighbors hadn’t called the police. Because she flirted with men on the internet? Because she enjoyed dating and possibly, sex? The world was fucked up.

She winced at the suggestion of a threesome, and Lori’s response, aware of how easy it was to let one’s own sensibilities and boundaries seep into judgment. As long as they kept it safe, who was she—or anyone—to blame them?

“My friend would like to join us,” Lori had written. “When can we meet?” The date had never come to pass, because of Lori’s abduction. Unless…Ellie stared at the printout until the letters started blurring in front of her eyes. Of course two straight people dating and considering a third party was not the same as Isabel enjoying the lesbian nightlife, except to a sexist murderer it might be. Maybe Eleanor’s marriage hadn’t been that happy after all, and she’d had a secret of her own—they could be looking at a hate crime. Jordan was right. This was a theory, and only one of many possible at this point. They had to stick to the facts.

“I know you’ve been hurt before, and the same is true for me. I want to meet someone who’s committed, who won’t let me down. If you can be that person, I promise you won’t regret it,” said one of the answers Lori had gotten. There might be some people going onto these sites who were honestly looking for a relationship, love. It was hard not to get paranoid. Everybody had something to hide. One of them had sent a poem. Another had promised a trip to an exotic location Lori wouldn’t ever forget.

At least Mr. Threesome with whom the most recent correspondence had taken place, had written emails from his work account. This would be an interesting visit, Ellie thought as she looked up the company, a computer firm, and jotted down the address. The location was right in the center of the circle in which the women had been found.

Jordan, much to Ellie’s disappointment, didn’t send her and Jensen to talk to Lori’s date. Instead, and Ellie realized soon that she was getting the much better deal, she took her to see Lori Gleason. The ride to the hospital was a tad awkward, as Ellie sat straight up, trying not to stare, at Jordan, at her hands on the steering wheel, imagining these hands doing something else instead. She forced herself to keep her gaze straight ahead, focus.

The smells and sounds of the hospital hit her hard. She hadn’t been in here since the night she’d been attacked, and the sensory memories put a jarring halt to her inappropriate thoughts.

There was a uniformed officer in front of Lori Gleason’s room, greeting them briefly. He confirmed with Jordan that no unauthorized person had tried to approach Lori, and they went inside.

Ellie stopped in her tracks at her first look at Gleason. The instant panic on the patient’s face that abated only when she realized her visitors were with the police, the bruises…without a doubt, her injuries were graver than Ellie’s had been, but she had a hard time stopping the unwelcome trip down memory lane.

Jordan introduced her to Lori Gleason, and the woman gave a faint smile that slipped from her face so quickly Ellie might have imagined it.

“How are you today, Ms. Gleason?” Jordan asked, keeping her tone soft, non-threatening.

The blank expression, either from medication or self-protection, told Ellie they weren’t likely to get a lot of information out of her. Gleason shrugged and winced, the movement causing her pain.

“We reached your ex-husband. He was on a business trip, and is coming in today.” The news seemed neither helpful nor upsetting for Lori.


“He wouldn’t do anything like that. We had a good marriage.”

“Why did you get divorced?”

“Am I under suspicion for anything?”

Ellie thought to herself that she probably would have reacted the same way.

“No, of course not,” Jordan reassured her. “It’s important for us to figure out why you were targeted.”

“Don’t you think I know that? I’ve been wracking my brain every waking moment. I don’t know anymore than I’ve told you. You probably saw the chats by now. I’ve had a few dates. Those were decent people, or at least I assumed so. There’s nothing else I can tell you.”

“I know it’s hard,” Ellie said, stepping forward. Gleason shot her a suspicious look. She showed emotion, which, Ellie assumed, was better than lethargy. Maybe she knew something that hadn’t come to mind yet.

“What do you know?”

“I was attacked some weeks ago. Would you mind?” She pointed to the visitor’s chair, and Lori shook her head.

“Why are you telling me this? You got away—obviously.”

“So did you. I want you to know that it will take some time, but details will come back to you, and that’s not a bad thing. It means you’ll be able to work through them, now that you’re safe.”

Lori’s expression spoke volumes. At this point, it would be hard for her to believe she’d ever feel safe again. Ellie could sympathize. “I’m sure the last thing you want right now is for us to bother you with questions,” she continued. “I hated everyone who asked me about it, I wanted them all to forget about it, so I’d be able to. First of all, I learned it doesn’t work that way. Second, we want this man in prison, so he can never hurt anyone else. So, if there’s anything you can think of, that comes back to you, please let us know.”

“It was dark. He was wearing a mask. I woke up in that basement, and I never saw his face. I’m trying, damn it.”

“I know.” Ellie suppressed the urge to take the woman’s hand. There were situations when touch meant no comfort, on the contrary, it could make a person want to jump out of their skin. “Please know that we’re doing everything we can. You beat the son of a bitch already. You lived.”

Due to a coincidence, but still. Ellie had the uncomfortable feeling that the woman was able to read her mind. They both had been lucky to benefit from the quick thinking and kindness of strangers. What did it mean? The world wasn’t ever safe, no matter how much you tried to prepare for the worst.

“Did they get him?” Lori asked, startling her. “The guy who attacked you, was he arrested?”

Ellie was tempted to lie to her, but she thought the woman deserved better. “No.” Lori’s face fell. “Which doesn’t mean anything for your case. He left traces, people like that make mistakes. We’ll catch him. I promise.”


EXCERPT: Done To Death: Lambda Award Finalist Charles Atkins – Lesbian Mystery

Done To Death


Charles Atkins


Chapter Two

Barry Stromstein felt the migraine coming. His vision had wavy lines around the edges and it was hard to focus on Lenore’s face. There was her trademark auburn bob and arresting green eyes; admittedly, her hair was wavering to the right and, at the moment, she had four eyes. He heard her words, but struggled to put them into sentences. Just nod and smile, he told himself, hoping he could make it through, knowing it was her perfume – Lenore’s ‘Possession’ − that triggered what was blossoming into a headache that if he didn’t take his Rizatriptan in the next ten minutes would leave him desperate for his bed and a dark room for the next three days. ‘Right,’ he parroted her last sentence, ‘local color . . . petty jealousies, fun characters.’

‘Are you even listening?’ she asked. ‘I don’t think you’re getting this, Barry, and to be honest, your first treatment I wouldn’t use for toilet paper. Bargain Bonanza? What kind of crap project is that? We’re not cable access. You either pull this together fast, or I’ll give it to Carrie. And if that happens . . .’

He wanted to scream, and he knew she wasn’t kidding. ‘I’ve got it, Lenore,’ and, struggling to find the words, he blurted, ‘you want blood, guts, expensive tchotchkes and scenic New England. Kind of Antiques Roadshow meets The Hunger Games on the set of Gilmore Girls.’

There was a moment’s pause. ‘Hallelujah!’ she said, closing the space between them.

Her perfume, like a wave of noxious gas, engulfed him. He had to get out of there. ‘I’m on it.’ He backed away, ‘I’ll have something on your desk by morning.’

‘That’s a good boy,’ she said. ‘And Barry, if you don’t . . .’

He took that as his cue and, holding his breath, bolted from her inner office. Half-blinded by the oncoming migraine he raced out of Lenore’s penthouse suite and down the hall. He bypassed the elevators and flew down eight flights of stairs, his thoughts fixed on the pill in his upper desk drawer. He sprinted to his offices and banged his knee on a glass top desk in the reception area.

Celia, his secretary, looked up, ‘Oh crap,’ she said. ‘You’ve got migraine eyes.’

‘Yeah,’ he said without stopping, the words thick on his tongue. It was always the same. First the vision went, then his words, and then came the actual headache, like a vice squeezing his eyeballs while a steel pike pounded into his brain. He jerked the drawer open, grabbed the little blue box, pulled out the ridiculously expensive pills, fumbled at the packaging and finally popped the melty lozenge under his tongue. It tasted like chalk and like something trying to be a pastille mint, but bitter and metallic. He closed his eyes, and heard Celia as she quietly walked around his corner office closing the blinds and shutting out the spectacular views of Central Park and midtown.

‘Do you want me to cancel your afternoon meetings?’

9780727883742 DONE TO DEATH


‘You got it . . . you should go home.’

‘Can’t. Need to come up with a new concept. She hated Bargain Bonanza. Give me forty-five minutes. Wait!’ Still tasting the pill’s remnants on his tongue, he thought through Lenore’s directive. ‘Tell the team to toss everything on Bargain Bonanza but the locale . . . I think that’s still OK – in fact, I know it is. Tell them blood lust and collectibles, and to be ready to pitch by one. And no one’s leaving till we have a winner.’

‘Will do. Anything I can do to help?’

‘No . . . it’s just got to run its course. Thank God for the magic melt-under-the-tongue pills.’

‘It was her perfume, wasn’t it?’


‘Why don’t you tell her?’

Barry looked at his assistant through hooded eyes. ‘Seriously?’

‘Right,’ Celia shrugged, as her phone rang. ‘Hope you feel better,’ and she shut the door.

Just breathe, he told himself, his head in his hands, his eyes shut tight. Let it pass. What a bitch! After three years with Lenore, Barry had no illusions. Either he came up with an acceptable pitch in the next twenty-four hours or he could take his résumé and try to find another producing job in an industry where thirty-five is over the hill and forty is washed up, and he was thirty-eight. To the outside world this was a great gig, a high six figure salary, bonuses, a team of young and energetic wannabes snapping at his heels. His NYU Alma Mater, Tisch School of the Arts, wanting him to take interns, holding him up as an exemplar of someone making it in the entertainment industry. And in a single day it could all turn to ashes. Lenore was desperate to stay on top . . . of the ratings, of her celebrity, of everything and everyone. She was hunger personified, a gaping maw always wanting more. ‘She’s a monster.’ He cracked his eyes open, and thought of his one point five million dollar apartment that was barely eleven hundred square feet, with a tiny patio, two modest bedrooms − one for him and Jeanine and the other for three-year-old Ashley. He pictured his gorgeous wife and their little girl, with blond ringlets that would darken with time, bright hazel eyes − they were his two treasures, his salvation. You have to pull this together.

He and Jeanine, a contestant on his last successful show, Model Behavior, had no more than a two month cushion in the bank and no family safety net. To Barry’s blue collar Jersey parents and Jeanine’s, who survived crop to crop on their Iowa farm, they were the affluent ones.

His phone buzzed; Celia’s voice came through the speaker. ‘Barry, it’s Jeanine, do you want me to tell her you’re out?’

‘No, put her on.’

The line clicked.

‘Hi sweetie,’ Jeanine’s husky voice even better than his magic pill.

Barry closed his eyes, ‘Hey babe, what’s up?’

‘It’s kind of stupid,’ she said. ‘But I felt like I should check before blowing twenty-five hundred bucks on a pocketbook.’


‘I know you’ll tell me just to do it. But I’m looking at all the other high-end real estate agents and the ones who get the million dollar sales are all carrying Chanel or Birkin. It’s part of the uniform − a Chanel suit, a pair of Louboutin pumps and a Birkin bag.’

‘Then do it,’ he said.

‘You’re sure?’

‘Babe, if you need it, you need it.’

‘What’s wrong?’ she asked.


‘What triggered it?’

‘Lenore’s perfume.’

‘That bitch! Are you going to be OK?’

‘Yeah, actually just hearing your voice helps.’

‘Why don’t you take the rest of the day? Screw the purse, I’ll pour you a bath, give you a massage . . .’

Barry let Jeanine’s words fill his head. He imagined her soft hands kneading his tense shoulders, the tickle of her silky curls against his skin. ‘That would be what the doctor ordered, but I can’t.’

‘Barry, tell me what’s wrong, and I’m not just talking the headache. What’s going on?’

He didn’t want to tell her. He hated this crushing sense of failure, of letting her down. He also knew she wouldn’t let up until he told her. ‘She hated the pitch.’

‘Barry, I’m so sorry. What’s the backup plan?’

‘Working on it now. I’ll come up with something.’

‘And if you don’t? What did she say? Tell me, please.’

‘Don’t worry about it. It’ll be fine. Everything’s fine. Really. It’s just the headache couldn’t have come at a worse time. But I got to my pill in time, it’s passing. You know me, it’s all about pulling rabbits from hats. I want you to go out and buy that pocketbook. Because you know what they say?’


Remembering advice from one of his first mentors in the industry. ‘The more you spend, the more you make.’

‘You’re sure of that?’

‘Absolutely. I’m going to want to see that purse when I get home. Although don’t wait up, it’s going to be a very long night.’

‘I love you Barry,’ Jeanine said. ‘And that has nothing to do with a pocketbook.’

‘I know. But I want you to have it. I want you and Ashley to have everything, and I’m going to make damn certain that this next pitch blows Lenore away.’

‘OK then . . .’

He heard the concern in her voice. It was like a knife. ‘I’m going to make this work.’

‘I know you will.’

‘Buy the pocketbook.’


‘I love you.’

‘I love you too,’ she said, ‘and I hope that bitch Lenore drops dead.’

‘Please God no,’ he said. ‘Without Lenore there will be no Birkin bags.’

‘Fine, then I guess she can live. And Barry . . .’


‘I am going to wait up.’

After he hung up he felt a familiar tingle that pushed against the migraine. Eight years into their marriage and ten into their relationship, just her voice made everything right. If she wanted a Birkin bag, he’d make damn sure she’d get it. Lenore trashing Bargain Bonanza was not the end of the world . . . not yet. With his eyes closed he hung on to the sound of Jeanine’s voice. How did you get to be that lucky? It was time to get to work.

He glanced at his monitor and braced for the stab of pain the light would send to his head. He squinted and focused on unread emails. His vision was clearing. The pill was doing its trick with the pain − holding it back. Sure, he’d have a headache, but he’d gotten to the med in time. Just function, he told himself. That was all that mattered − function, come up with something brilliant − Antiques Roadshow meets The Hunger Games on the set of Gilmore Girls − pitch it and get Lenore to love it. In spite of everything, he chuckled. ‘That won’t happen.’ In his three years with Lenore she didn’t love anything, and even when she did, she’d never let you know. ‘I expect brilliance,’ is what she’d say. ‘It’s what I pay you for.’

            Celia, who pre-screened his emails, had divided them into files. He started in with those related to the now tanked Bargain Bonanza. There was one from the field agent who’d been scouting locations − Grenville, CT being a front runner, as Lenore had a country place in Shiloh, the town immediately north. There were several from agents who represented prospective hosts they’d approached, and a small stack from assorted locals at the various sites. He flipped through a couple from freelance show runners and field producers, two of whom he knew well, one he’d gone to school with, Jim Cymbel.

He opened Jim’s.

Hey B:

            Wanted to get back with some ideas for your killer new reality show − Bargain Bonanza. Where the market’s saturated with these flea market contests, it’s a tough sell getting a new boy to float to the top. I’ve got several ways we could do this. I’d love to talk it over and see if we could make a marriage.

            Love ya . . . and Jeanine.        


He thought about calling, but only as a last resort. Sure, Jim wanted to help − help himself to Barry’s job. Because that email − and several others in his queue − were a lot like the one he’d sent to Susan Grace, the woman whose offices he now occupied. Last he’d heard she’d fallen down the industry food chain to where she couldn’t even get pitch meetings.

He looked back at the screen and shifted from prospective producers and their promises to deliver fresh ideas, scanning the ones from talent agents − waste of time till you know what you’re doing. He scrolled past the smattering of locals at various sites. Those were a crap-shoot, everything from mayors and first selectmen, wanting Lenore’s reflected glamour in their town, to B and Bs and prospective locations eager to sign lucrative deals.

His eye caught on one headed ‘Cash or Trash − Lil Campbell’. ‘That’s as lame as Bargain Bonanza’ – but he clicked it open anyway.

Dear Mr Stromstein:

            This is in response to the email I received about my syndicated antiques and collectibles column, ‘Cash or Trash’. Yes, I’d love to set up a phone time to talk about one of my favorite things − my hometown Grenville, CT, the antiques capital of New England (possibly the world). The thought of having a Lenore Parks show feature our town is a thrill. Feel free to call any time − the home number is the best, but I do carry my cell.


            Lil Campbell


He replayed his Hail Mary pass that Lenore seemed to like − Antiques Roadshow meets The Hunger Games on the set of Gilmore Girls. Scenic Grenville, in the Litchfield Hills, fit a third of the equation. Through hooded eyes he dialed Lil Campbell’s number and pressed the button for speaker. He leaned back and waited for an answering machine.

‘Hello?’ A woman’s voice answered.

‘Hi, this is Barry Stromstein, of Lenore Parks Productions. I’m trying to reach a Lil Campbell.’

‘How strange is that? I had literally just dialed your number when you popped up on call waiting.’


‘Talk about synchronicity. Do you mind if I put you on speaker? My partner Ada Strauss is with me and we don’t often get calls from TV producers.’

‘That’s fine,’ he said. ‘So what got you to dial?’

‘You’re kidding,’ she said. ‘The thought of having even a single episode of a show shot in Grenville would be a big deal. I mean several of our dealers have been experts on other shows, but nothing in the town itself.’

‘Right,’ and Barry recoiled at the familiar scent of want. ‘So,’ falling into his familiar role of gatekeeper to the brass ring, ‘what makes Grenville special?’

He listened as this Lil woman extolled the town’s beauty. He’d seen the pictures and knew she wasn’t lying. It would be a dream to film: the changing seasons, lovingly preserved Colonial and Federal houses, the tidy greens with their romantic bronzes and ancient cannons. Fine, it’s pretty, he thought, lots of places are pretty. And sure, it probably fulfills two out of three − Antiques Roadshow and the set of Gilmore Girls. He imagined bringing Jeanine and little Ashley out for the shoots; they’d love it. His thoughts drifted, and he made polite noises as though he were paying attention as Lil Campbell talked about the two hundred antique dealers, the weekly flea market and active council − God save me from active councils. He’d heard enough. He gently cleared his throat. ‘It does sound like a place to consider,’ he said, and prepared to launch into his kiss off.

‘Lil, don’t forget to tell him about the murder rate,’ a new voice popped in.

‘Excuse me?’

‘The murder rate,’ this other woman, with a slight New York accent, repeated. ‘Grenville had the highest per capita murder rate in Connecticut for two years running. And if you think about it, all of the victims were in some way connected to the antiques industry, although in that horrible fire at the assisted living center it was mostly that doctor.’

‘Which doctor? And I’m assuming you’re Ada.’

‘Ada Strauss. Long story short: it was a huge Medicaid fraud, we’re talking millions, that centered on this doctor − who apparently was both an antique clock collector and a hoarder. We’d see him every week at the flea market. It wound up as an arson slash multiple murder at one of the biggest assisted care facilities in the state. And, considering the total population of Grenville is twelve thousand, it doesn’t take much to bump our numbers up. That pushed us to the top for 2011, and in 2010 there was a serial killer who was taking out high-end antique dealers. Come to think of it, another doctor − what is with them? That one was a dentist. The freaky thing is he actually worked on a crown for me that came off when I was eating a crème brulée . . . sorry, too much information. Although both Lil and I barely made it out when he torched his place.’

‘What? Wait a minute!’ Barry was forward in his seat. ‘Not too much at all.’ His complacency and the throbbing in his head had suddenly been blown away like leaves in a storm . . . meets The Hunger Games. Ding ding ding. ‘Tell me about the murders. It seems like you know a fair amount about them.’

‘Please, we were there . . . I mean really there, as in almost got killed. You see Calvin Williams, the psychopathic dentist, had a lifelong crush on Lillian, and apparently his mother, who had Alzheimer’s, had been selling off the family heirlooms to local dealers who’d essentially robbed her blind.’

Barry was mesmerized as plots and twists fell from this Ada Strauss’s lips. A town filled with competing dealers, a supply of merchandise that was hotly contested, corruption, bribes, small-town scandals, a child-molesting dentist . . . murder. Too good to be true. He tried to picture Ada Strauss. She sounded a bit older, knowledgeable and funny. At one point he interrupted her, ‘Do I have your headshot?’

She laughed, ‘Why would you?’

‘Right . . . not an actress or on-screen personality, I’m assuming.’

‘Hardly. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember Strauss’s department stores.’

‘I remember them.’ He laughed. ‘I remember my mother putting us in matching caps so she wouldn’t lose us during the back to school sales.’ He felt a twinge of regret. She might be too old for on-screen talent, or she could be a total dog. ‘You’re that Strauss . . . and Mr Strauss?’

‘Passed several years ago.’


‘You didn’t kill him. But it’s kind of you to say.’

‘You’re quick.’

‘You’re surprised.’

His usual defenses were down. There was something here − at least he hoped there was. You’re desperate, Barry, this is a reach. ‘Is there any way I could get you – I mean the two of you – into the city for a pitch meeting this afternoon?’

‘I have no idea what that is,’ Ada Strauss said. ‘I mean aside from what you read in Jackie Collins novels. Lil? What do you think?’

‘We could be there in two hours. It’s the middle of the day, and traffic shouldn’t be bad.’

‘Fantastic!’ And he gave them the address.

After they hung up, he buzzed his assistant. ‘Celia, we’ve got an Ada Strauss coming in from Connecticut. I want some test shots, and get Jason to get her on tape. Have her talk about anything: antiques, murder, whatever.’

He hung up and realized his headache was gone. Please, he thought, feeling the dangerous seed of hope take root. Please, please, please.




Interviewing the enigmatic “Have Body, Will Guard” creator, Neil Plakcy

This week I get to interview one of my favorites, the ever enigmatic and delightful, author Neil Plakcy – interview by Jon Michaelsen;

Neil, where do you live?

A townhouse in Hollywood, Florida, a mile or so inland from the ocean, with my partner and our golden retriever.

Writers rarely like to toot their own horn; seriously! What would you say is your greatest accomplishment? 

I think it’s the way that I combined the coming out story with the mystery in Mahu, the first of my mystery novels about Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka. I’d read a lot of gay mysteries by then, and all the detectives had already been out in their personal and/or work lives. I wanted to show how the process of solving cases can relate to a hero’s figuring out his own life.

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

I’m a college English professor, so a great deal of my life revolves around reading and writing, often with my dog curled up beneath my desk. I try to write for an hour or so every day, usually stopping in at Starbucks on my way to school. I use the voice recorder on my phone for funny bumper stickers and snatches of description. I get a lot of inspiration for my golden retriever mysteries just from watching my dog. (His royalties come in the form of treats and belly rubs.)

What inspires and challenges you most in writing? 

I’m a romantic, and so I’m continually thinking about how we fall in love and how we stay in love in the face of obstacles, both internal and external. For my Hawaii mysteries, I’m inspired by life in the tropics (which I experience in Florida), by news of the islands, and by all the unique characteristics of Hawaii – everything from sexy paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) to leis to surfers and a hundred other cool things.

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

I work on a principle I learned in graduate school, based on screenplay structure. I start out with one or more characters in a situation, then look forward to the first plot point, about 1/3 of the way through the book, when something changes the trajectory of the story. For example, for Kimo in the Mahu series, it can be discovery of a clue that sends the investigation in a different direction. I work my way toward that point, writing scenes and moving the story forward, and hope by the time I get there I know what the second plot point is, another third of the way through. By the time I get there, I hope I know who the villain is, what his/her motivation is, and what the climactic action is going to be. But that doesn’t always happen, and sometimes I have to go back and rethink the plot to make it work. I can’t plot out too rigidly or I get bored – writing is hard work, and my reward for the work is learning how the story comes out. If I already knew before I started, I wouldn’t have the motivation to do the work. I usually do at least three drafts of a book – more if I have lost my way and have to rethink.

natural_predators_100You currently have some highly popular gay mystery/thriller series known to fans as the “Mahu” and “Have Body, Will Guard” mysteries, the latter with more of a romantic angle. How do you sustain serialized, continuing characters? 

I love these characters, and love seeing how their lives evolve. In the Mahu books, Kimo is going through the arc that many gay men do – coming out to himself and others, making gay friends, starting to date, falling in love, having love drama, finding Mr. Right and settling down, then dealing with all the issues that come with couples. Now he and his partner are becoming dads. All that feeds into the mystery plots—I try to give him cases that will challenge him based on where he is in life.

In the Have Body, Will Guard books, I’m walking a tightrope between romance and adventure. I wanted to write the kind of gay heroes I didn’t see much in contemporary fiction – strong, daring and smart, committed to helping others. But at the same time I recognize they’re a couple in love and I look for ways to challenge them. What if a client is attracted to one (or both) of them? What if Aidan, the former teacher, considers giving up being a bodyguard to return to teaching? A fan mentioned to me a while ago that while the Mahu books have a lot of family background, Aidan and Liam exist on their own. So their next adventure brings them into contact with their families – and highlights their different feelings about family.

You also have published numerous gay romance and erotica titles; can you share any that have mystery/thriller/suspense sub-plots?

Mi Amor, one of my romance novels from Loose Id, has a subplot involving Russian gangsters, and my self-pubbed The Russian Boy is about the theft of a painting. The Guardian Angel of South Beach, a novella from Loose Id, is about a gay guy who takes some magic pills that bulk him up to become a crime-fighter.

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

I’ve been very fortunate to have experienced little overt homophobia – but I live and work in a very liberal environment.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Dark chocolate. Microbrewed beer. And time to myself!

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

As I mentioned, I write multiple drafts of books. So right now I have a solid first draft on my computer for GHOST SHIP, the next Mahu Investigation. A powerboat carrying nuclear material washes up on the shore of Oahu, with a young couple and their infant twins dead. As a new father himself, Kimo’s very moved by this case and investigating it takes him out of his comfort zone.

The next Have Body, Will Guard, THE NOBLEST VENGEANCE, sends Aidan and Liam to Turkey and then back home to New Jersey as they protect Aidan’s distant cousins from danger.

I’ve also finished a draft of the next golden retriever mystery, and I’m working right now on a romance follow up to this year’s LOVE ON SITE. I’m having a lot of fun creating sexy love stories for a group of recent college graduates on South Beach.

love_on_site_150On 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 really want to know.

Find Neil Plakcy on the web: