Please welcome J. Scott Coatsworth, Michael Murphy, Jamie Fessenden, and B.G. Thomas with the anthology
A More Perfect Union
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States made a monumental decision, and at long last, marriage equality became the law of the land. That ruling made history, and now gay and lesbian Americans will grow up in a country where they will never be denied the right to marry the person they love.
But what about the gay men who waited and wondered all of their lives if the day would ever come when they could stand beside the person they love and say, “I do?”
Here, four accomplished authors—married gay men—offer their take on that question as they explore same-sex relationships, love, and matrimony. Men who thought legal marriage was a right they would never have. Men who, unbelievably, now stand legally joined with the men they love. With this book, they share the magic and excitement of dreams that came true—in tales of fantasy and romance with a dose of their personal experiences in the mix.
To commemorate the anniversary of full marriage equality in the US, this anthology celebrates the idea of marriage itself, and the universal truth of it that applies to us all, gay or straight.
Flames, by J. Scott Coatsworth
Alex and Gio had a big fight, and Alex ran away. Then a fire at home destroyed the life they had built together, and threatened to take Gio away from him.
Alex had always thought love was enough to keep them together. Why did they need wedding rings or legal certificates? But now, with Gio lost in a coma, his mother has banished Alex from his side.
What if Alex’s voice is the only thing that can bring Gio back from the brink? Their memories are all Gio has left, and the urge to just let go is getting stronger.
Still, nothing can keep Alex from Gio's side. If it’s against the rules, he’ll break them. In stolen moments alone together, Alex fights to bring him back, one memory at a time.
Jeordi and Tom, by Michael Murphy
Living as an open, loving gay couple in the rural South isn’t easy—even today.
When Jeordi and Tom move in together and come out to their families, Jeordi's family does not take the news especially well. When yelling doesn’t work, they send in one sibling after another to try to separate the couple. When that fails, they call out their pastor to help Jeordi see the error of his ways. But Jeordi’s love for Tom is greater than anything they throw at them.
When an accident sends Jeordi to the hospital, his family goes too far when they try to keep Tom from visiting his partner. Jeordi and Tom are determined to do everything in their power to gain legal protection so this can never happen again. But when a bigoted county clerk refuses to issue them a marriage license, Jeordi decides a big, bold effort is called for, which is precisely what he sets in moVon so no one can ever separate him from Tom again.
Destined, by Jamie Fessenden
When Jay and Wallace first meet at an LGBTQ group, they have no idea they’ll be dating six years later. In fact, they quickly forget each other’s names. But although fate continues to throw them together, the timing is never quite right. Finally they’re both single and realize they want to be together… but now they can’t find each other! With determination and the help of mutual friends, Jay and Wallace can finally pursue the relationship they’ve both wanted for so long.
It’s only the beginning of the battles they’ll face to build a life together.
From disapproving family members all the way to the state legislature, Jay and Wallace’s road to happily ever after is littered with obstacles. But they’ve come too far to give up the fight.
Someday, by B.G. Thomas
Lucas Arrowood is walking to school on his first day of kindergarten when he meets Dalton Churchill—a boy who stops and helps him tie his shoe. He knows from that moment he is going to marry that boy one day. “Boys can’t marry other boys,” his mother explains, but that doesn’t stop Lucas. He knows what he wants.
He and Dalton become best friends—and then, no matter how much he resists, Dalton falls in love with Lucas. Dalton's very conservative family can't accept that their boy loves another boy, but finally Dalton stands up for love and for Lucas. Still, he declares he won't marry Lucas until it is legal everywhere. He hates the “Commitment Ceremonies” gay men have. They aren’t the real thing. Why bother?
So Lucas waits for his day. The day same-sex marriage finally becomes legal and he can be joined forever with the love of his life.
Flames, by J. Scott Coatsworth
Monday, September 27
There was only this moment. This place. Alex holding Gio's hand, gently because of the burns on the back of Gio's arm and hand. The sounds of the breathing machine came in regular soft sighs.
The little green box held in Alex's other hand--and all it symbolized between them.
All their life together had shrunk down to this moment, this place, this plea. "Please wake up, Gio. Amore mio, svegliati."
Sunday, September 12. Two weeks earlier
Alex was late getting home, and he was in a foul mood from the long, difficult day at work. One of the properties he'd made a bid on had fallen through, and another client had all but called him a bald-faced liar.
He was looking forward to getting home, taking a long hot shower, then crawling into bed.
Alex was startled to find a whole meal, complete with wine and candles, laid out on their dining room table. Gio must have spent the whole day cooking.
Alex was late. He'd been delayed with his angry client, and to make matters worse, his phone had up and died halfway through the afternoon and he'd been without his car charger."
"He was already annoyed when he walked in the door.
"Welcome home, amore," Gio called from the kitchen.
"I had a hell of a day...." He caught a whiff of whatever Gio was cooking.
"Come sit down. I've got everything ready."
The dining room looked like a Martha Stewart production of a telenovella Thanksgiving. "I'm sorry. I'm not really hungry. Things were the shits at work today."
"Sorry to hear that. Have a seat." Gio grabbed his elbow and urged him toward his chair. "Food makes everything better."
Alex was starting to get annoyed. "Look, I'm sorry, but I'm not hungry. I just want to wash up--"
"That's just the job talking." Gio took his arm again.
"Knock it off! I'm not in the mood tonight."
Gio looked hurt, but Alex plowed on, too incensed to stop.
"This isn't some kind of June and Ward Cleaver relationship."
"You have to let go of your stupid, unrealistic expectations of me and this relationship."
Gio frowned. "That's bullshit, and you know it. Just because you had a bad day at work, there's no reason to take it out on me."
He was right. But Alex couldn't admit it. "Just leave me the fuck alone," he said, grabbing his phone charger and storming out. He'd find somewhere else to sleep tonight."
Someday, by B.G. Thomas
“The first time Lucas Arrowood saw Dalton was on his way to his first day of kindergarten. His mother was walking him to school, he was very excited, and his right shoelace was flopping, untied.
“Baby,” said his mom. “Let’s sit down and try to tie your shoe.”
He looked up at her, excitement temporarily quashed. He couldn’t do it. Couldn’t tie his shoe. And he was supposed to be able to. His mother had tried to show him how—over and over again—but he couldn’t get the laces to go where they were supposed to go, and it just fell apart. He couldn’t do it. If his teacher found out, would they make him go home? Would he have to wait until next year? That would be horrible!
“Hey, you can do it. It’s easy!”
Lucas gave a little jump, turned around, and sighed as he looked into the narrow dark eyes of the most beautiful human being he had ever seen.
“Want me to help?” the boy asked, flipping his mop of dark brown hair out of his eyes with a toss of his head. “I taught a bunch of kids last year when I was in kindergarten.”
A bunch of kids hadn’t known how to tie their shoes? That perked up his ears. Lucas looked up at his mother.
She smiled. “Do you want him to help?”
Then he realized something. He did want the boy to help him. He thought he would do anything the boy wanted him to do, even ask his mom to take the training wheels off his bike (which was a big scary because he was afraid of falling and getting hurt!).
“Sit down,” said the boy, pointing to the landscaping wall along the sidewalk.”
“What’s your name?” asked Lucas’s mother.
“Dalton Churchill. Like Winston Churchill. Only it’s Dalton.”
He smiled, and Lucas knew Dalton was the most beautiful boy on the planet.
“Who’s Winston Churchill?” Lucas asked.
Dalton shrugged and got down on one knee before Lucas. “I don’t know. I think he’s a minister. Okay, now, first you pull your laces up and then cross them over, like this.” Dalton demonstrated.
“I can tie a knot,” Lucas said, wanting very much not to look like a complete dope in front of Dalton. Then he frowned. “It’s the other part I get mixed up on.”
“That’s cool,” Dalton said, tying the knot. “Okay…. So here’s the tricky part. First you make a loop and stick it up so it looks like a tree—see?”
Lucas nodded. He wasn’t sure the upward turned loop looked much like a tree, but he wasn’t going to tell Dalton that.
“Then you take the other lace and wrap it around the bottom like this—like a dog running around the tree.”
Lucas smiled. “My neighbor has a dog. His name is Super Mario.”
“That’s a great name,” Dalton said, laughing.
Then he finished showing Lucas how to tie his shoe.
“Wow,” Lucas said.
But then Dalton untied the shoe.
“Hey!” cried Lucas.
“Now you do it,” Dalton said. He nodded. “You can. I know you can. Easy.”
Lucas wanted to yell, “No, I can’t!” but he quite suddenly knew he could not disappoint the pretty boy with the beautiful eyes. He sighed. What had Dalton said about a tree? He made a loop with one of the laces.
“Just like that, but the other one. Unless you’re a southpaw.”
Lucas looked up through his own dark bangs. “Huh?”
“Southpaw means left-handed.”
“Oh!” Lucas giggled. “I’m not.”
“Tree!” Dalton ordered, brows knitted together.
So Lucas made a loop with his shoelace.
“Yes!” Dalton said with such enthusiasm Lucas would have thought he’d ridden down to the corner and back on his bike without training wheels. He laughed and then thought about dogs running around the base of trees. A moment later, Lucas had tied his shoe. His mother clapped.
“Yes,” shouted Dalton. “I knew you could do it, Lucas.”
Dalton walked the rest of the way to school with them. But even better, he also promised to walk Lucas to school the next day.
On June 26th, 2015, love won when SCOTUS announced that same-sex marriage ought to be legal, and thus made it the law of the land. In the United States, finally, FINALLY, LGBTQ men and women were allowed to marry their partners. Many of them had been waiting for years, such as George and Jack in Dallas, TX, who married after 56 years of being together.
Let that sink in for a moment.... 56 years, they waited for their love to culminate in I-Dos, something that het couples take for granted. Het couples like Brittany Spears and whats-his-name who got married on a lark in Vegas with an annulment 55 hours later, couples like Kim Kardashian and whatever-his-name who filed for divorce a mere 72 days after their big fancy wedding. Sanctity of matrimony?
When the news broke this time last year, I cried buckets of tears, out of happiness for my friends who were now finally granted the same rights I've always had - to marry the person they loved. I watched the many proposals, ceremonies, and rejoiced with all of them in the face of their happiness.
I raged with them when the likes of Kim Davis (herself married 4 times) and that despicable Judge Roy Moore decided that they didn't have to follow the law and refused to issue licenses. And fought to have the right of bigotry. And lost.
So, here we are, one year later, and the world hasn't ended, and our globe is still turning, and yet, the LGBTQ community is still being persecuted, hated on, with many of them in danger of losing jobs or denied housing because full protection against discrimination still doesn't exist for them in many states. Still fearful to come out, still being murdered simply for who they are and who they love.
But that's not what this book is about. No, this book celebrates four (mostly) fictional relationships, all written by four gay married men, who all bring a unique perspective to their stories, but who all celebrate love as it should be celebrated.
|J. Scott Coatsworth and husband|
Flames by J. Scott Coatsworth:
Alex and Gio have been living together for a while. They're in love, but Gio wants to get married, and Alex doesn't. After a massive fight, Alex runs off to cool his heels.
When a fire nearly takes Gio from him, Alex must confront the fact that as his boyfriend, he has no legal standing, and Gio's mother has him removed from Gio's hospital room.
This was actually a difficult story to read. We see Gio's struggle to come out of his coma, while he remembers certain things from their relationship, and we see Alex's bitter regrets and fears.
There were tears I'm not ashamed of, and I'm happy to report that they do get their happy ending - this is a romance after all.
This was a very engaging story that clearly shows how desperately LGBTQ couples needed this ruling, to obtain the legal rights to care for their partners.
|Michael Murphy and husband|
Jeordi and Tom - Michael Murphy:
Tom and Jeordi live together openly in the rural South, where gay men are still spit upon, and where families tend to want to pray the gay away.
Jeordi's parents are like that - always trying to steer him away from his "sinful lifestyle", and even going so far as to stage an intervention.
None of that goes over well, of course, and it only serves to fuse Tom and Jeordi closer together.
A car accident sends Jeordi to the hospital where his mother, aided by the rest of the family, tries to keep Tom away. They're not married, you see, and Tom has no rights. Just reading about it made me so angry!!
But Jeordi knows what his family is capable of, and he ain't having it!!! I cheered when he read his mother the riot act - good for him!
But there's sweetness too, especially when we get to see the couple on their own and get a glimpse into their strong relationship. They stick up for each other, and they just fit each other.
There's even more bigotry toward them when the author reminds us that in rural Kentucky the Clerk of Court doesn't seem to think she has to do her job and can invoke her religion to deny them a marriage license. I had RAAAAAAGE again!
But Jeordi is not deterred in the least and takes Tom on a magical trip to Washington, DC, where, with the help of a sweet gay couple, they get the wedding they've wanted.
I really enjoyed reading that part of the story and was happy for them.
|Jamie Fessenden and husband|
Destined - Jamie Fessenden:
Jay and Wallace first meet at an LGBTQ group, but quickly forget about each other. Until they meet again, but Jay's not single... until he is, and they embark on a relationship. The author tells us that this is basically the story of him and his husband, and I was fascinated to read it.
It's a sweet story, despite the many setbacks the two men encounter, and it was ever so lovely to read about them. Very enjoyable, and I felt incredibly close to them both, especially considering what I know of Jamie and his husband Erich via Facebook.
Very well written and engaging.
|B.G. Thomas and husband|
Someday - B.G. Thomas:
Lucas meets Dalton on the first day of Kindergarten, and it's love at first sight. He tells his mother that he's gonna marry that boy some day, and is not deterred when his mother tells him that boys can't marry boys. Lucas will find a way.
Their teenage years aren't easy, especially since Dalton's family is very conservative, but eventually Dalton, who by that point has also fallen hard for Lucas, stands up for himself and his boyfriend.
Still, marriage isn't possible, not where they live, and a commitment ceremony isn't what Dalton wants. This causes some discord between them, but Lucas keeps waiting anyway.
Until the day comes, that sweet day when they can get legally married after waiting so many years.
A beautiful story.
All four stories in this anthology are worth reading, my friends. I'm happy I did.
** I received a free copy of this book from one of the authors. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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Meet the authors:
B.G. Thomas lives in Kansas City with his husband of more than a decade and their fabulous little dog. He is lucky enough to have a lovely daughter as well as many extraordinary friends. He has a great passion for life.
B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction, and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn’t matter the genre. He has gone to literature conventions his entire adult life where he’s been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was a child; it is where he finds his joy.
In the nineties, he wrote for gay magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. “The sex is never as important as the characters,” he says. “Who cares what they are doing if we don’t care about them?” Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. Gay men are what he knows best, after all—since he grew out of being a “practicing” homosexual long ago. He submitted a story and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days. Since then the stories have poured out of him. “It’s like I’m somehow making up for a lifetime’s worth of stories!”
“Leap, and the net will appear” is his personal philosophy and his message to all. “It is never too late,” he states. “Pursue your dreams. They will come true!”
J. Scott Coatsworth:
Scott has been writing since elementary school. After leaving writing for twenty years, Mark, his husband, told 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 site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.
Mark and Scott have been together for twenty four years. They met at the Pacific Center, an LGBT center in Berkeley, California, in 1992. They dated for two weeks, and then Scott moved in with Mark, and the rest is history. They run their own business together, study Italian, and are almost never found apart.
Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple of short pieces in his high school's literary magazine, but it wasn't until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie published his first novella in 2010, and has since published over twenty other novels and novellas.
After legally marrying in 2010, buying a house together, and getting a dog, Jamie and Erich have settled down to life in the country, surrounded by wild turkeys, deer, and the occasional coyote. A few years ago, Jamie was able to quit the tech support job that gave him insanely high blood pressure. He now writes full-time... and feels much better.
Michael Murphy met his husband Dan thirty-four years ago during a Sunday service at MCC in Washington, DC when a hot, smart man sat down beside him. Due to a shortage of hymnals they had to share. The touch of one hand on the other in that moment was electric. Sparks flew that day. Though neither had planned it, they spent the day together followed by the night. From that day, for more than three decades they’ve rarely been separated, each finding in the other their soul mate.
In the District of Columbia, where they lived, marriage became possible in early March 2010. The minute it happened they were in line to get a marriage license, only to be stumped because the license required the name of the person who was going to marry them. There was such a sudden rush of same sex couples wanting to get married that the office already had a two-month backlog before an appointment could be secured. Since they weren’t at all convinced that the Congress wasn’t going to step in and do something stupid to take away this right, they started calling everywhere to find someone who would marry them. It might be legal, but finding someone to marry them was proving to be a challenge.
When an article appeared in the newspaper telling of a small, local United Methodist Church that had decided to go against general church policy because marriage equality mattered deeply to them, a conversation started. After a series of emails and phone calls, suddenly they were seated with two retired UMC ministers who were willing to risk it all to do the right thing. A few days later, license in hand, surrounded by a handful of friends and their best dog, Shadow, they were finally legally married.
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