The best girl in the world

Lady

In my novel Billy’s Bones, I based Tom’s dog, Shadow, on my own dog, Kumar. In Violated, Derek’s quiet, aging dog was also based upon one of my dogs — Lady. This is her story.

When I graduated from college, I eventually found myself living by myself out in a cabin in the woods of Nelson, NH. I had a job and a car, but not much of a social life. It was damned lonely.

So I decided to get a dog. I went to the local shelter and played with several of the dogs there over the span of a few weeks, but I couldn’t find the one I was looking for. I needed an older dog, medium-sized, who wasn’t too hyper, thanks to the fact that my landlady’s mother was 80 and afraid of big dogs.

Then one day I walked into the shelter and there was a new dog out front. They hadn’t even finished her paperwork yet. But she had the biggest, most soulful eyes I’d ever seen, and I fell in love with her immediately.

Lady was at least six when I got her, though we suspected the owner lied and she might be older. She’d been left out in a dog pen with other dogs her entire life, so I had to house train her. Fortunately, she caught on quickly. She also had this weird habit of taking her dog kibble out of the bowl and trying to press it into the wooden floor, scraping all around it with her nose as if she were burying it and hiding it from anyone who might try to steal it from her.

She was very docile and quiet. I wasn’t even sure she knew how to bark, until one morning the landlady opened the door of my cabin and walked in without asking permission. Lady was sleeping on my bed with me, and she immediately leapt to her feet, standing over me and barking ferociously to defend me. (Good girl!)

It’s hard to describe how much I adored her, this little dog I could scoop up in my arms and cuddle like a baby. She was a bit big for that, but she put up with it.

Lady 2When I moved in with a boyfriend for a while, things went downhill for her. He didn’t like dogs. While he wasn’t abusive to her, he largely ignored her, and when she still had the occasional accident inside, he yelled at her — which usually made her crouch down and pee more.  She was no longer allowed on the bed, so I had to buy her a dog bed.

Ultimately, that human relationship would break up, and I’d realize I should never have given in as much as I had. I should never have let my girl be yelled at. I should have fought to keep her on the bed, at my side where she wanted to be. She was my best girl, and she stuck with me through some of the hardest times of my life.

But one night, when my ex and I were having yet another of the arguments that marked the end of our relationship, there was a storm going on outside. When I came out of the bedroom, I asked one of the house guests we had where Lady was. She was terrified of storms. And he told me she’d been running around looking like she had to pee, so he’d let her out.

She hadn’t needed to pee. She’d been panic-stricken. Out in the storm, she panicked and bolted and disappeared into the night.

After a week of searching the neighborhood, calling her name, and putting up “Lost Dog” signs, I woke one night in the wee hours of the morning with a sense that I needed to go to the front door. I went into the kitchen and opened the door to find Lady sitting on the porch. I was ecstatic that she’d found her way back to me. The next day, I emailed everybody I knew to let them know.

But I was celebrating too soon.

A couple of days later, she started coughing. While she’d been wandering around out in the cold, rainy September nights, she’d caught pneumonia. I took her to the vet — who I’m convinced to this day was incompetent, for a number of reasons — and eventually she ended up on oxygen.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, while everyone else watched the bombing of the World Trade Center in horror, I was barely aware of it. Because Lady was dying. I saw her on my lunch break from work, and she looked awful. Her lips were blue, and she was gasping for breath. I held it together as best I could and went out to get something to eat. While I was out, the vet called and told me she’d died. And I hadn’t been there.

Best Girl in the WorldI fell apart. I couldn’t go back to work. I was a wreck for weeks — months. To this day, I still can’t think of that day without crying. I’m crying now.

It was ten years before I could bring myself to get another dog. Lady had been irreplaceable. She was my girl.

The best girl in the world.

11 Comments

Filed under Life, New Release, Pets

What we mean by the term “rape culture”

holding handsI’ve recently been watching a Netflix series called Hemlock Grove, and while there are several moments in it that make me cringe and wonder if I really want to subject myself to it, one in particular stands out. The next paragraph is a spoiler, for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet.

It’s a scene in which Roman—one of the two viewpoint characters—is devastated about his best friend and cousin having sex, so he goes to find a girl who propositioned him earlier. They start to have sex, but he then insists upon tying her up. She’s been having a good time, and she goes along with that. Then he gets more aggressive, manhandling her and yelling at her to tell him he’s “ugly” (because Roman has issues). She becomes frightened and struggles to free herself, begging him to stop while he hammers into her. Then, when it’s over, he uses his psychic abilities to make her forget it ever happened.

Someone on the IMDB forum asked, “Why does everyone make such a big deal out of the rape scene?

What’s even more disturbing than the fact somebody felt the need to ask a question like that is that the majority of those who responded didn’t get it either. They insisted that, since she’d been okay with having sex with him to start with, it couldn’t be rape! The fact that she gets frightened and begs him to stop doesn’t factor into their opinion. Apparently, once a woman gives consent, it can’t be taken back, no matter what the man does!

There were some who pointed out how absurd—and wrong—this idea is. But it seemed clear to me the majority simply didn’t believe it was “rape,” unless a person being forced to have sex against her (or his) will if she (or he) instigated the sex.

This is just one example of what we call “rape culture”—the prevalent belief that rape is “no big deal.” The belief, by both men and women in our society, that consent isn’t really important, as long as the victim isn’t seriously injured or “probably enjoyed it.” You might recall an incident in the news several years ago in which some high school students undressed an unconscious girl at a party and posted photos of them inserting objects into her vagina. Even newscasters were defending the boys, because it was just “a prank,” and they didn’t “really hurt her.” Never mind how traumatized she was when she discovered what had happened. She was making a “big deal” over nothing, people insisted. (I also feel compelled to point out, there are tons of photos online of young men being stripped by their buddies in college when they’re passed out drunk and having things done to their genitals. But this is considered even less worthy of note—except that most of us find it funny.)

It’s difficult to define sexual boundaries in a society where this behavior is considered acceptable by a large percentage of the population. It wasn’t until 1991 that a man forcing his wife to have sex with him against her will was even legally considered “rape.” Before that, the law in this country supported the idea that a wife was required to have sex with her husband, regardless of her feelings. And sadly, the idea persists among the general population. Donald Trump’s special counsel recently declared, “You cannot rape your spouse.” He was wrong, on a legal level, but the true tragedy of that statement is people still believe that.

We’re having a very hard time convincing everyone in our society that sex needs be consensual. Always. There aren’t exceptions.

Why is this so hard to fathom?

ViolatedFSDerek Sawyer thinks he has it all—a high-salaried position, a boyfriend, a dog, even a new cabin on the lake—until a business trip with his manager and best friend, Victor, shatters his world.

One night of drunken horsing around in their hotel room leads to the most intensely personal violation Derek has ever endured. As if the humiliation of working under his attacker every day isn’t enough, Victor reports Derek for sexual harassment. Now he’s without a job, without a boyfriend, and the mortgage on the cabin is due.

Officer Russ Thomas has worked with rape victims before, and it doesn’t take him long to sort out the truth in Derek’s tale. With his support, Derek finally reports the crime, months after it happened. But restraining orders and lawyers further Victor’s anger toward him, and even though a relationship develops between Derek and the policeman, Russ can’t be there to protect him all the time.

BUY LINKS:

Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6713

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Violated-Jamie-Fessenden-ebook/dp/B0131KQ5S6/

AllRomanceEbooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-violated-1856103-149.html

7 Comments

Filed under Drama, gay, New Release, Rape, Romance

“Violated” is now available!

ViolatedFSMy new novel Violated has just hit the shelves! And the early reviews are pretty good. Check out what Caroline had to say at Prism Book Alliance!

This is probably the most difficult novel I’ve ever written. Yes, Billy’s Bones was a tough one, but it wasn’t hard to write, for the most part. A relative had gone through something similar to what Kevin experienced with repressed memories, and my mother is Susan Cross. Well, not really. But she’s a psychologist who works with victims of abuse. I was able to consult with her, and yes, the character of Susan Cross was based on my mom.

But I’ve never been raped, and though I do know some people who have been, most don’t like to talk about it in detail. I did find a friend who was willing to open up to me for the sake of the novel, and that made all the difference. And of course, I talked to my mom about it—she’s a smart woman.

I put a trigger warning in the beginning of the novel, and that wasn’t just to be sensational. The last thing I want is for someone who’s been through an experience like this to be further traumatized by one of my novels. But I hope my attempt at a realistic depiction of rape and its consequences can shed some light on the subject, and perhaps even help some people.

bigstock-depressed-man-sitting-on-top-o-48751034BLURB:

Derek Sawyer thinks he has it all—a high-salaried position, a boyfriend, a dog, even a new cabin on the lake—until a business trip with his manager and best friend, Victor, shatters his world.

One night of drunken horsing around in their hotel room leads to the most intensely personal violation Derek has ever endured. As if the humiliation of working under his attacker every day isn’t enough, Victor reports Derek for sexual harassment. Now he’s without a job, without a boyfriend, and the mortgage on the cabin is due.

Officer Russ Thomas has worked with rape victims before, and it doesn’t take him long to sort out the truth in Derek’s tale. With his support, Derek finally reports the crime, months after it happened. But restraining orders and lawyers further Victor’s anger toward him, and even though a relationship develops between Derek and the policeman. Russ can’t be there to protect him all the time.

BUY LINKS:

Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6713

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Violated-Jamie-Fessenden-ebook/dp/B0131KQ5S6/

AllRomanceEbooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-violated-1856103-149.html

1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Drama, gay, Jamie Fessenden, New Release, Romance

Guest blog: J. Scott Coatsworth on his novel “Between the Lines”

BTL CoverI wanted to thank Jamie for inviting me to stop by his blog for my tour – I’m excited to have not just one, but two new novellas coming out in the same month.

Between the Lines is the first, my political mm-romance magical realism story set in my current hometown of Sacramento.

The Homecoming is much different – I call it my spaceman-wolfman story – set a few centuries in the future, exploring what might happen when man comes back to Earth.

I’ve known Jamie for a little over a year, but in that time he’s become a close friend. We hang out a lot on Facebook, and he’s one of a handful of friends I trust to give me guidance on my cover designs, my story ideas and much more.

Being a writer can be difficult. You don’t get into this business to make money. Some people manage to put together a living from it, and a lucky few make it big. You have to do it for the love of writing, and because you have to write.

Jamie is one of those great, prolific writers that does what he does for the love of the art. He inspires me, and I hope my new works are half as good as what he does.

Thanks, Jamie!

BTL CoverBlurb

Brad Weston’s life seems perfect. He’s GQ handsome, the Chief of Staff for a Republican California State Senator, and enjoys the power and the promise of a bright future. And he’s in a comfortable relationship with his boyfriend of six years, Alex.

Sam Fuller is Brad’s young, blond, blue-eyed intern, fresh out of college, running from a bad break-up, and questioning his choices and his new life in politics. To make things worse, Sam also has a thing for the boss, but Brad is already taken.

While looking for a gift for his boyfriend, Brad wanders into a curiosity shop and becomes fascinated by an old wooden medallion. Brad’s not a superstitious man, but when he takes out the medallion in his office, he sees the world in a new light. And nothing will ever be the same.

Excerpt

It began with a medallion.

The piece was a simple wooden disk, hand carved with the shapes of leaves and forest boughs and polished by centuries of use, giving it a patina of great age.

It sat upon a small green velvet pillow—the kind jewelers sometimes use, rather unsuccessfully, to enhance a plain necklace of false pearls. The kind you might expect to find on your grandmother’s settee, in a slightly larger size, embroidered with “Home Sweet Home.”

Yet there was something compulsive about it—something hidden in the dark crevices of the carving, filled with the dust of ages.

At least that’s what Brad would recall years later, when he thought back on the first time he saw it: the moment when the lines of his mundane life suddenly snarled, snapped, and ultimately recombined into something quite different.

Of course, he didn’t know any of this at the time.

Buy Links for Between the Lines:

Dreamspinner:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6645

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Between-Lines-J-Scott-Coatsworth-ebook/dp/B011A0STW4/

All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-betweenthelines-1840887-143.html

Buy Links for The Homecoming:

Less Than Three Press: http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=95&products_id=929

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Homecoming-J-Scott-Coatsworth-ebook/dp/B012U86JFO/

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-homecoming-31

Author Bio

Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.

Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”

Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before – and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi (http://www.queerscifi.com) site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.

Website:  http://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Fantasy, gay, New Release, Occult/Paranormal, SciFi

Train to Sevmash

Davis-croppedI’ve just turned in the short story I was writing for an anthology: Train to Sevmash.

This was an interesting one for me. It began with the idea of doing a Cold War spy story about an American agent posing as an officer in the Soviet navy so he could get access to a secret project aboard a submarine. The submarine was being built at Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk by a scientist who’d defected from the USA to the USSR.

The story was coming along, though it seemed a bit large for a short story with a 10,000-word limit. Then I decided to expand upon the opening paragraph, which mentioned how he’d infiltrated the base by killing a Russian soldier on his way there and stealing the man’s transfer papers. That seemed like an interesting short scene I could add at the beginning.

When I began writing it, I instantly knew that was the story I wanted to write—the story of a man ordered to kill a soldier (technically, a sailor), and what happens when he meets his target face-to-face and discovers he finds the man interesting and likeable. Will he go through with it, even after they spend a train trip becoming friends… and perhaps more than friends?

So I set the other story aside and focused on this one.

Train to Sevmash takes place in 1964, during the Brezhnev era and just two years after the Bay of Pigs. It was a time when a gay man had to be extremely cautious about showing interest in another man, and this becomes part of the dance between Agent Jax Colby and Lt. Yuri Veselov, as they spend a long night traveling from Leningrad to Severodvinsk. And the entire time, Colby is aware of the cigarette case in his jacket which carries the means of Veselov’s execution….

 

2 Comments

Filed under Drama, gay, Historical, Jamie Fessenden, Psychological Drama, Romance

“Murder on the Mountain” has won an award!

This past weekend, I was very honored to see my novel Murder on the Mountain win the Bisexual Mystery category at the Bisexual Book Awards in New York!

I’d been planning on attending the awards ceremony, and now I really wish I had. However, travel proved too difficult this time around. Fortunately, author Cecilia Tan tweeted the awards ceremony!

Click here to see the other winners!

5 Comments

Filed under Bisexual, Bisexual Book Awards, Contemporary, gay, Mystery, Romance, Writing

An American spy struggling to conjugate Russian adjectives

bondI study Russian as a hobby these days. I used to take classes in it in college, and not only was the language interesting in and of itself, but my classmates were terrific. There were only eight of us, and we formed a Russian club. We put on dinners of Russian food and got together to study Russian obscenities when nobody was looking. We were a disparate group—Sandy, the former cheerleader who was rushing a sorority; Steve, a jock who was, frankly, gorgeous; Troy, who was pretty much a nerd (no offense, Troy, you were a great guy), and others I no longer remember so clearly. Then me. I was a nerd, too. But we were united by a common interest, and we had a lot of fun. Sadly, as we moved into our second year, we all found other friends and the Russian club drifted apart.

But over the years, I’ve been frustrated, trying to recall words and phrases from a language I once knew at least a little of. It was nearly gone, when my husband suggested I could take a class in it. I couldn’t find any classes (apart from spending a small our retirement savings on Continuing Ed through UNH—don’t even get me started). But I did discover tutors who were local.

So now I go to Barnes & Noble once a week to study Russian with Natasha* for an hour. She’s from Russia, and Russian is her native language, so I know when she corrects my accent she isn’t steering me wrong. And bit by bit, it’s coming back to me. In fact, I suspect I’m already moving a bit past where I left off in college. Of course, from Natasha’s perspective, I’m about the level of a talking monkey. (“Today… it is… warm.”) Fortunately, she’s lived here a long time, so her English is perfect.

So you’re probably wondering about the James Bond logo. That’s because I was recently asked to write a short story for an athology, and my theme was mercy. I agonized over it for a while, and then while I was re-watching the old 1964 Jonny Quest cartoon series, I had an idea: what about a secret agent during the cold war whose mission is to assassinate someone, but he can’t?

This, not surprisingly, led me to James Bond. But Rex Colby, secret agent, isn’t exactly James Bond. He’s a former US Navy man, trained by the CIA to infiltrate the Russian military. He might have shades of Mack Bolan in him, though I haven’t read one of those novels since I was a kid. Colby speaks Russian without a trace of his native Texas accent, and is the perfect man to go onboard a top secret Russian submarine in search of an American scientist who defected to the USSR with the advanced long-range sonar he was developing.

It was an interesting idea, and it might even allow me to drop in some Russian. I love doing that!

When I mentioned this to Natasha during last week’s tutoring session—”Я пишу рассказ об американском шпионе на российском подводном лодке.” (I am writing a short story about an American spy on a Russian submarine.)—I was expecting her to react to it. I was hoping she’d be amused. At worst, I was afraid she’d be offended. After all, the Russians (Soviets) are the enemy in stories like this.

She looked at me calmly and said, “Лодка is feminine, not masculine. It would be российской подводной лодки.

Oh.  Right.

* In case it isn’t obvious, I’ve changed all the names in this post. I’m no fool.

3 Comments

Filed under Drama, gay, Life, Romance, Writing