Welcome to our third week of celebrating the amazing
This week is all about Hound Dog & Bean, and Red, and Derek, plus a very personal story B.G. has chosen to share with us. And, of course, another chance to win one of his books!
As before, here's B.G.
So this week Sandra has asked to talk about three of my works, Hound Dog & Bean, Derek and Red.
I will start with Hound Dog & Bean. It was writing this book that I found out that something that Connie Willis (one of my favorite authors) once told me. You might have an idea for a story, but it might not be enough. Sometimes it takes two ideas. She was talking her famous multi-award winning novella, The Last of the Winnebago. In that story she took an idea about the future illegalization of motor homes and an idea of the Humane Society gone wild and wedded them together.
With me it happened when I fell in love with coffee, small independent roasters and a ton of information I was learning about the whole culture. I realized I wanted to write a novel about a man who owns his own coffee shop. But I was finding it wasn’t enough for a novel.
I had also adopted a dog and found out a lot about the whole system of no-kill animal shelters. And I began to find out a lot about dogs and their side by side relationship with humankind going back thousands of years. I wanted to write a story about a man who owns a no-kill animal shelter. Good idea! But not enough for a novel.
Then I realized I could wed the two ideas and those two men together!
Hound Dog & Bean is one of my favorite books to date. And it co-stars my own dog!
There’s been little love in H.D. “Hound Dog” Fisher’s life since the death of his beloved mom when he was a boy. Bounced around the foster care system, he ran away as soon as he could… and took the foster dog with him. As far as he’s concerned, only dogs have no ulterior motive, never hold a grudge, and offer unconditional love. Now he helps run a no-kill shelter and leaves relationships where they belong: in the back room.
“Bean” Alexander settled in Kansas City to open his coffee shop after years of traveling. He never expected to open his heart too. When a man with a grudge takes a swing at H.D. while in line at Bean’s shop, Bean jumps to intervene.
So taking a hit for H.D. gets Bean noticed, and H.D. feels obligated to pay a debt. But then the unexpected happens. A series of misadventures causes H.D. to open up—but falling in love makes him turn tail and run. Trust is a tough road to travel. Will good friends, a dog named Sarah Jane, and a bit of folk magic be enough to bring Hound Dog and Bean a happy ending?
H.D.—HOUND Dog to some—Hillary Dameron Fisher to relatives long gone and a foster care system that couldn’t have cared less—realized he should apologize to Elaine, his best friend and co-worker. He knew there had probably been a better way to handle the situation, but dammit, he didn’t like most people in the first place, let alone people like Brubaker. The man had caused a huge scene and H.D. could tell right away that Brumaker would have wound up causing more harm than good to the little dog he had wanted to adopt. His kind were assholes, and they got under his skin fast and in a big way.
But by then he realized that Elaine was standing over him, hands on hips, waiting. The dogs were still barking, although they were calming down. He sighed, thinking of their distress. Sitting up, H.D. shook his mane of dreads from his face. “I’m sorry,” he said.
“For what?” she asked and crossed her arms over her considerable bosom.
“For being such a jerk,” he mumbled, cuddling Sarah Jane close. She had finally stopped trembling.
“What? I can’t hear you H.D.”
“For all that,” he said, gesturing toward the retreating Brubaker.
Elaine shook her head.
“Dammit, that guy was a fuckhead,” H.D. cried. “He was totally wrong for Sarah Jane.” He scratched said dog down her shoulders and back until he found her spot and her hind leg began to twitch.
“I don’t deny for one second that he was a ‘fuckhead,’” she replied. “It was the way you did it. I’m curious, did you notice the nice young couple that turned around and high-tailed it out of here when you and Brubaker had your little tiff?”
H.D. opened his mouth to respond, but any witty repartee he might have come up with died on his lips. His mouth snapped shut.
“That’s what I thought. I’m glad Sarah Jane didn’t go home with that man. I don’t know how you do it—read people the way you do. At best we might have gotten Sarah Jane back and probably worse for wear. But that couple? They radiated good will. We have to find homes for our friends here.” She spread her arms to indicate the pens and kennels, each with at least one cat or dog. There were a rabbit and a tortoise as well. “Listen, H.D., I don’t like the average Joe any more than you do. Give me a puddy tat any day, but people are—”
“A necessary evil,” H.D. finished with an exaggerated sigh. “I know. I know.” He’d heard her say it before, and the fact that she was right didn’t make him any happier.
“You’ve got to stop acting like a big baby,” she said.
“Then stop treating me like one,” he snapped.
“Then stop acting like one,” she shot right back.
Neither said anything for a long moment. Finally, Elaine broke the silence. “You know I love you with every ounce of my four-footed heart, right?”
H.D. admitted that he did know that. “You mean a lot to me too,” he replied, carefully expressing his feelings and equally carefully not using the L-word.
He could see she hadn’t missed it.
“I suppose that’ll have to do,” she replied. Then: “Come here and give me a hug, you ol’ hound dog, you.”
H.D. unfolded himself and rose elegantly to his feet. He set Sarah Jane down, then went to Elaine and hugged her. “You do know you mean a lot to me, right?” he asked her.
“I hope so,” she answered.
On impulse, he gave her a peck on the cheek, and when he pulled back, he saw she was blushing. “Forgiven?”
“Of course,” she replied, touching the cheek he had kissed.
Good, he thought. Because there weren’t many people he’d consider calling friends. They weren’t something he squandered.
Of course, he didn’t expect them to stick around either. People rarely did.
Elaine smiled and headed over to an elderly couple who had just stepped in and were bending over a pen with a small German shepherd mix. “Good afternoon,” she said cheerfully. “I see you’ve noticed Dora, then. Excellent choice. Excellent choice.”
Meanwhile, H.D. bent over, picked up Sarah Jane again, and kissed her on her strangely blonde forehead. She didn’t mind. She kissed him back, her love completely unconditional. After all, she was a dog.
And give me a dog over a human any day, he thought to himself.
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Some time back I noticed that Dreamspinner Press sometimes gives away free books. That got me to thinking. My readers have been very kind and loyal to me and it looks like soon I will be able to give up my day job and write full time. I wanted to do something for them. So I checked to see if my publisher would give me the go-ahead to do a free give-away book as well. To my delight they were fully supportive.
But it couldn’t be just any book. It had to be personal. And so I came up with a story from a place deep in my heart. I shared, through a fictional character, something that had happened to me. That was when I finally admitted I was gay and broke up with the mother of my child. I went through this period were I was sort of…mad…at the world and fate and the Universe and myself and maybe even her. I wondered if I had “wasted” my twenties on her. I came to see it was not a waste, of course, and she and I went on to be good friends and stayed that way until her recently and untimely passing.
This story is to honor her and the experience I went through.
The end of his marriage leaves Derek Newton hurt and confused, but it also grants him the opportunity to embrace who he really is: a gay man. While navigating his new life with the help of friends in the local GLBT community, Derek meets Marshall Kenworthy, a man who embodies all his fantasies.
To Derek’s surprise, Marshall is as interested as he is, and they make a date. But a failure to communicate leads to a misunderstanding. The party they attend is not what Derek expected—at all—but Marshall, ever the gentleman, makes sure Derek feels comfortable. As they get to know each other, they see how much they have in common. Derek begins to heal and soon realizes he might thrive in this new chapter of his life—and it just might be with Marshall by his side.
DEREK NEWTON was twenty-nine when he came out the second time. He hadn’t really planned on it, but to do otherwise at this point was, well, pretty silly. It seemed the sensible thing to do. He was gay after all; he knew that now. If he was honest with himself, he’d always known it. It was why he’d come out the first time. He should never have gotten married to begin with. Not to a woman. Of course, he didn’t have to worry about that anymore, now, did he?
He’d gotten the call on his lunch break…. The divorce was final—no fuss, no muss.
“You’re a free man!” cried the voice on the other end of the line—his lawyer, and a man who looked as if he were older than God. A man he’d seen remarkably few times, considering what he’d brought into existence.
Or removed from existence?
Derek had asked his boss if he could have the rest of the day off, hadn’t even had to lie about the reason (his boss was God’s gift to the working man everywhere), and now he sat at a small table outside his (new) favorite coffee shop—The Shepherd’s Bean. His first thought had been to get something with a hell of a lot more kick to it—like about five or six shots of whiskey—but then another part of him, the sensible part, prevailed.
I want to be straight-headed right now, he thought. Straight! He laughed out loud. Wasn’t the fact that he wasn’t straight a big part of what had happened to him and Jen?
But no. That was a part of it certainly. But there was more going on. They’d gotten married for all the wrong reasons—practicalities and “what-the-hells” being two of them, and not good ones either. Their marriage would probably have collapsed if he were as woman-hungry as Toby, the guy who sat in the cubicle next to him at work. Toby was the kind of man who in a different era would have had some cheesecake “girlie” calendar hanging over his desk. Even now the man’s screensaver—one step from a human resources call—was a series of barely bikini-clad women. Derek wasn’t sure how the man got away with it.
Derek blew over his coffee to cool it down and took another sip.
It was a beautiful Indian summer day—just last week Derek’d had to switch his thermostat in his (new) apartment over from air to heat. He’d needed to break out his fall jacket. And today he was sitting under trees ablaze with orange and yellow and red, drinking coffee, staring out into the busy city street, wearing a short-sleeved shirt, his windbreaker left in the car.
He was thinking about his eight years with Jennifer Clauson and how happy their (his) families had been when they’d gotten married. He saw Jen in his head, looking radiant—like a princess bride from a Disney animated movie—in her wedding dress. He remembered the “I dos” and lifting her veil and the kiss and the applause (and feeling a strange discomfort at the crowd’s celebration). For one moment he was on that beach in Cancun, walking hand in hand with her, a moon on the horizon, its silver reflection on the water. He could feel his whole married life ahead of him. Hopes. Dreams. Children, maybe? He could smell the ocean salt in the air. Hear the waves crashing—
That was the sound of traffic.
He was sitting outside a coffee shop, and he was alone. He knew he should be happy. He and Jen had parted equably enough. Still friends somehow. He had his whole life ahead of him. He was only twenty-nine. Almost thirty.
And then that thought snuck up on him. Again.
His twenties. Gone. Stolen from him.
But had it been a waste?
Had Jen “stolen” the “best” years of his life? Had he thrown them away? Had their years together really been a waste? The thought would surface in his mind over and over again—but it didn’t feel… right. Waste?
Yet didn’t all the articles say that a man’s twenties were his sexual peak? Wasn’t it all supposed to be downhill from here?
And what the hell am I thinking like this for?
How could those years with Jen be a waste? They’d been happy! And it was more than eight really. It was ten years counting the years he’d known her—his best friend—in college.
And now here he was, sitting alone outside a coffee shop and thinking: Failure. I’m a failure.
Twenty-nine and two relationships crumbled and gone. Failed. Failed in love.
Alone. I’m alone.
And for anyone who has ever read one of my books, now is when the magick hits, and his life makes a very sudden turn, and romance blooms! Sometimes you have to be torn down before you can really grow into who and what you are really meant to be.
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Red came about in a very funny (and bad) way. Every year since I started writing professionally, I have written a Christmas story. And I was ready to write another one. A rent-boy story of all things! And Dreamspinner wanted as story too. So once again I poured my heart into a holiday story, but decided to make it a New Year’s story instead. Then, after weeks of working on it, I found I had made the most unprofessional of mistakes I could have made. I forgot to read the submission guidelines! OMGosh! For that holiday season, DSP wanted stories from all over the world—anyplace but the United States. Well this story was firmly entrenched to Kansas City. The city was a character in the novella. There was no way for me to re-write it.
Luckily DSP liked it so much they decided to put it out a few weeks after the holiday season.
Leslie “Red” Parks was pretty surprised to find he was considered attractive enough to be a male escort. And once he started and the money came rolling in, he found he didn’t want to stop. For the first time in his life, people truly want him, and he likes that. A lot.
Kirk Toliver has never thought of himself as desirable either—which is why he is single. That, and he has spent years of his life caring for his ill mother. Before she passed away, she made him promise he would splurge on something crazy with the money she left him. So what’s crazier than hiring a male escort?
But neither expected that one night together could lead to what was missing in both their lives.
LES “RED” Parks spotted his client almost immediately, even in the crowded bar. Partly because the gentleman—Kirk Toliver—had e-mailed him a picture that actually (miracle of miracles) looked like him. Thirty-five (a real thirty-five and not an online thirty-five, which were often two entirely different things), blue-gray eyes behind thick-rimmed, rectangular glasses, and a thickish but well-trimmed beard. The type of man who blended in with a crowd, rarely noticed.
But Red would have known the man was his new client even without a picture. It was in his posture, in the look on Mr. Toliver’s face. The man was nervous. It radiated, pulsed outward from him in waves. As Red approached, he saw an empty cocktail glass on the small round table in front of Toliver, and he was all but gulping down the contents of another. As he did so, their eyes locked over the rim of the glass, and Toliver’s dark brows shot up almost comically.
It was hard not to laugh—but Red managed. First meetings were always tricky, and as nervous as his new client obviously was, how might he take laughter?
Red did smile, though. Gave the man a friendly nod.
Mr. Toliver lowered his glass and smiled back.
Cute, Red thought. In a geeky sort of way. The smile transformed him, actually. You need to send out pictures where you’re smiling.
“Mr. Toliver?” Red asked.
“Kirk,” the man said, standing quickly and almost overturning the little table. He blushed, grabbed at it to keep it upright, the empty glass rolling and nearly falling off its edge. He rescued it and said, “Call me Kirk. That’s my first name.”
Red knew that, of course. He would never have agreed to meet the man without that information and a hell of a lot more.
Kirk held out his hand, and Red took it. “I can’t believe you’re here,” Kirk said.
Red nodded. “Of course I am,” he replied, gracious—the way he’d been taught. Yet even now, after a year, it was hard to believe someone was looking at him the way this man was looking at him. Like he was famous or something. And he wasn’t. He was a kid from small-town, USA—that’s all. Very small town.
Could he have ever imagined this life back in high school? The answer, of course, was no.
Red moved to sit down and was charmed when Kirk zipped around to his side of the table and pulled the chair out for him. He was used to men twice Kirk’s age making such a gesture, but not a man in his midthirties.
This close, he could see Kirk really was a nice-looking man. Not People magazine’s sexiest man of the year, but not plain after all.
So why me? Red wondered. It couldn’t be that the man was hard up. Kirk didn’t exactly stand out in a crowd, but he was hardly an eyesore. Yes, he was wearing some pretty dorky looking glasses, his suit had to be at least ten years old, and the slight strain of the buttons over his belly said there would be no washboard abs or gym body revealed when Red got him undressed. But he was cute in his own way. Bears would fight each other for the chance to take him home.
Of course being a bear, or bearish, didn’t mean one was attracted to bears.
“Can I get you something? To drink?” Kirk smiled again, a slight tremor in his voice.
Red almost said Lagavulin. Asking for the expensive Scotch seemed to please most of his clients—let them know he wasn’t some down-on-his-luck street hustler looking for enough money for his next fix. But he wasn’t so sure it would have the same effect on Kirk. As a matter of fact, the man’s clothes didn’t speak of wealth. Not even an upper-middle-class lifestyle.
Could Kirk afford what he’d told Red on the phone he wanted?
“Rum and Coke,” Red said instead.
Kirk nodded quickly and practically ran to the bartender.
Red wiped hands already starting to sweat along the legs of his slacks. Meeting new clients always made him nervous—So don’t worry about being nervous, Mr. Toliver. You’re not the only one!—even though he’d established a pretty safe routine (learned from his mistakes as well as advice from others) and figured out his method of operation. He didn’t pretend it was the way professionals in New York or Singapore or Paris did things.
Kirk was back with their drinks. “I hope Bacardi’s okay,” he said, sitting down.
Bacardi. A premium. Not the standard, low-end well liquor. Maybe he’d misjudged the gentleman.
“Bacardi is wonderful,” Red replied.
Kirk held up a lime. “I didn’t know if you liked yours with, and I didn’t want him to ruin your drink if you didn’t like—”
Red smiled broadly, and Kirk went silent as if someone had clicked a mute button on the man. Red shook his head. “No lime. Thank you.”
Kirk’s mouth did the fish-out-of-water thing, and then he cleared his throat. “God,” he said in a voice so low that had they been at The Male Box—a bar that turned its speakers up to the blasting point—instead of The Corner Bistro—a piano bar—there would have been no way Red could have heard him. “I can’t believe it….”
“That I don’t want a lime in my drink?”
“That you’re here. That I’m here. Sitting with you. I can’t believe I’m doing this.” He reached for the knot of his simple navy blue tie, adjusted it so that it was actually slightly askew, ran a finger under his collar as if it might be just a bit too tight.
“Well, you’re here,” Red assured him. “I’m here.”
Kirk smiled again, but the corners of his mouth seemed to war slightly, and he got a strange look on his face. It reminded Red of his mother’s dog—one she had rescued, one that had been abused, always worried that it was about to be smacked instead of petted.
What’s your story, Mr. Toliver?
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And now Sandra has asked me for a personal story. Goodness this took a long time. Did I talk about first love? Did I talk about discovering my first husband cheated on me? Many times? Did I tell how R is my knight in shining armor and in many ways saved me? How I found my dog Sarah Jane? It was near impossible! Ironic because I am so happy to share personal stories. So was it so hard to figure out what to write about?
So how about my first kiss?
THAT kiss? The one that told me something that research, books, talks with friends, nothing else had been able to tell me?
I had this female friend. A very close friend. In fact we slept together sometimes, but weren’t girlfriend and boyfriend. That’s another story. She is however the first person to say to me, “So Ben, do you think you might be gay?”
We talked a lot and she knew I was a huge Dirk Benedict fan (he was the real Starbuck). In fact, I had a scrapbook filled with his pictures. I was all but obsessed with him and their was only an inner voice that was letting me know why. I showed her my scrapbook and that’s when she asked me. I was shocked. I wanted to know why she’d asked me. She pointed out two things. Not many guys had scrapbooks of guys. And two, the nipple of the 8.5 x 12 picture seemed to be a little…worn.
I was so embarrassed but she let me know it was no skin off her nose and that she saw nothing wrong with being gay, or what we assumed at the time as bisexual since I was having little trouble sleeping with her after all.
Then I was at this science fiction convention and it was the first afternoon and I was running around saying “Hi” to my friends and stopped to chat with one in particular named Dezzy. She did this amazing leather work. Bad jewelry and badges and all kinds of stuff. But today she had this simply beautiful blond young man with her, someone around my age.
After I hugged her he said, “Hey! I’m going to get jealous!” I explained he had nothing to be jealous of, that this hugging was normal and I wasn’t interested in Dezzy that way. She leans in and whispers in my ear, “I don’t think he’s jealous about you.” I froze. I wandered off. Did she mean what I thought she meant?
So I went back to talk to her awhile later and asked if she could step away. She told me I could talk in front of Jeff. His name was Jeff. *sigh*
I told her I had to talk to her alone and when I asked what she had meant by her remark, she said, “What did you think I meant?”
“Is…is Jeff gay?”
“He sure is. And he thinks you’re cute.”
Later, heart in my throat, I went to him and soon we were hanging out. I can’t remember a single thing we talked about. However, at one point we were walking down this staircase. WindyCon in the Chicago-land was a big convention in those days and with all those people, waiting for a elevator could take forever. But we were—19? So we took the stairs. We were going down them. He was a head taller than me. I was one step up (behind) and he suddenly stopped and turned around and that put us face to face.
And he kissed me.
It was light and sweet and sexy and I swear my heart stopped. My legs buckled. He had a hand on my hip and sort of caught me and was amused (but in a good way).
And I knew.
There could be no doubt.
I was gay.
That kiss hit me like nothing “sexual” ever had in my entire life. All that kissing with that woman? Fun. But nothing, nothing, like this simple kiss from a man I had only known a few hours…. I couldn’t get over it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I think about it to this day.
That a simple quick kiss from someone I barely knew threw my heart out of whack like all those kisses from someone I cared deeply for had never been able to do.
That kiss has found its way into many of my stories.
I wish I knew what happened to Jeff Fish. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to track him down. No luck. I suspect…. But, ah, no. This is all about romance!
And I will never forget that first kiss as long as I live. I feel it today.
How’s that, Sandra? Will that do?
Until next week!
That'll do, Ben, that'll do. :-)
About B.G. Thomas:
B.G. Thomas lives in Kansas City with his husband of over nine years and their fabulous little dog, Sarah Jane. He sees his wonderful daughter just often enough to miss her when she isn't there! He has a romantic soul and is extraordinarily lucky to have many friends.
He loves science fiction & fantasy, horror, romance and more, has gone to SF&F conventions his entire adult life, and been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He is a “Star Trek” and Joss Whedon fan from way back!
He has written all his life, it is where he finds his joy. In the 90’s, he wrote for gay magazines, but stopped because they wanted him to cut out story and romance, and write only sex.
Then through a few friends, he discovered the growing market of M/M Romance and was thrilled beyond words. FINALLY, a way to write the stories he always wanted to write. Adventure, romantic comedy, science fiction, and more, but with gay characters. And he wouldn't have to fade to black! People wanted to read the erotic as well. Plot and sex! HURRAY!
B.G. Thomas very much believes in The Law of Attraction and that "thoughts become things." A lot of things all started happening at once. He heard the words, "Leap, and the net will appear," and something re-kindled inside. He sent out a story and was thrilled when it was almost immediately accepted.
He believes that we are divine expressions of the Universe, each and everyone. "It is never too late!,” he states. “Pursue your dreams! They will come true!"
Thanks for joining us again this week. Come back next week for our Grand Finale, with info about the Seasons Of Love series (and B.G.'s newest release, Autumn Changes), our Author Q&A, plus one final chance to win one of his books.
Until then, happy reading!!