BOOK BLAST: “Damaged Hearts” by Jan St. Marcus.

BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Damaged Hearts: The Boys of Venice Beach, Book 1

Author: Jan St. Marcus

Publisher: SBPRA (Paperback), Blue Ascot Media (eBook)

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance, LGBTQ Romance, LGBTQ Fiction

Trope/s: Hurt/Comfort, First Time Gay

Themes: Rescue Me, Romantic Thriller

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 138 000 words/ 466 pages

It is Book 1 of a planned Series

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Tragic Pasts. Unexpected Love. Unseen Danger.

Blurb

When 19-year-old military veteran Brandon Hawkins is attacked on Venice Beach by a gang of frat boys, he is saved by Michael Angelo Curtis, a passer-by. Michel Angelo was roaming the boardwalk grieving the death of his twin brother six months earlier. The two men’s unexpected encounter forges a strong bond between the damaged and lonely men.

Inviting the homeless Bran to his place for some food and a shower, 25-year-old Michel Angelo finds himself drawn to the younger man. Neither of the men is gay. But before long, their friendship morphs into something like love and takes them both by surprise.

And they have something else in common: The frat boys are out for revenge.

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Excerpt

BRANDON

But a little ways down, the pizza joint is just closing down. They have those ridiculously big slices of pizza and most people who don’t weigh at least three hundred pounds can’t finish their slices. Fuck the hot dogs. Half of a giant slice of pizza will do me just fine. Besides, trying to remember to say “catsup” instead of “ketchup” would make my brain hurt. And if I’m being honest, I do see the frat boy douchebags laughing and being all loud and douchey, but I really want to see if they’ll leave some of their slices uneaten. So I hang back a little and pretend to be looking for something on the ground. After about a minute or so, they drop their slices on the counter and start walking away. Score! I walk towards where they left their pizzas with my head down, like I haven’t noticed what they left for me. They’re about twenty feet away when one of them turns back and clocks me checking out their pizza. The fat one grabs the other one’s arm and points to me. I look up and see them seeing me seeing their pizza. Did that make sense? Fuck it. So anyway, as soon as they notice me, I kind of figure that they are going to be douchebags about their pizza, but I hold out hope. The fat one doesn’t need any more pizza, that’s for sure, but my stomach is getting the better of me, so I speed up a little bit. They’re closer and they return to the counter, beating me there by three steps.

Then the fat one, who seems to be the leader of this fucked-up pack of douchebags, picks up what’s left of his slice and lifts it up in my direction, like he’s offering it to me. Really? Maybe they aren’t such douchebags after all. I lift my eyes and start to smile. I’m going to thank him. I’m actually going to say “Thank you.” I do manage to smile as I approach because I realize that I haven’t said two words to anyone all day. He looks me in the eye and when I start to reach out my hand, he hocks a big ol’ lugey and splats it right on the pizza. Then he holds it out like I still want it. Okay, I know it’s probably gross, but I do still want it. His aim was pretty good and the glob of spit and snot has landed pretty much in the middle of the slice. But I could tear the pizza around the gross part and still have a pretty good amount of food. So I reach for it and he must have seen my eyes studying the pizza because he hocks another one and it lands on one of the good sides. He starts laughing and then his friends start laughing and they’re staring at me and laughing like it’s the funniest thing in the world. Assholes.

I turn around, about to say, “Fuck my life” again when one of the other guys apologizes and offers me his piece. It’s not as big as the fat guy’s, but it still looks good to my hungry young ass. And I can’t believe I am so hungry that I start to walk back over and take it, but I do. You can probably guess that he does the same thing his leader does and hocks a lugey and spits on his piece, too. My stomach growls with as much anger as I am feeling and I turn around and start walking back towards the boardwalk. It’s going to be a long night.

Their laughing stops and I hear a deep voice talking to them. “Why would you do something like that? What kind of asshole do you have to be to fuck with someone who is obviously hungry?”

As I turn around, I see the fat guy step in front of the other guy, who is six inches taller, and the frat-boy leader guy speaks in this bullshit little sing-song voice: “What business is it of yours, asshole?”

The guy just stands there, hands by his sides, not seeming to be bothered by the fact that there are three of them. Then he laughs. He looks right at the fat-assed guy and laughs.

About the Author

Jan has been a professional writer since he 15 and got a job writing for a local paper in the Washington, D.C. area. Since that time, he has travelled the world and enjoyed a myriad of experiences, meeting interesting people and sharing epic experiences. He is currently a full-time professional photographer and completed his first novel, DAMAGED HEARTS, the first book in a series partially inspired by his experiences living and working in Venice Beach, California.

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RELEASE BLITZ: “Biker Daddy” by Gianni Holmes. Rafflecopter Giveaway Included! See entry below:

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Biker Daddy (The Grimm Tales of Smoky Vale Book 1)

Author: Gianni Holmes

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: Black Jazz Designs

Release Date: January 3, 2020

Genre/s: Contemporary MM romance

Trope/s: May-December/age gap, best friend’s father, motorcycle club, size difference

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 115 000 words/385 pages

It is a standalone story.

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Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

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A biker’s love is poison to the one who captures his heart

Blurb

Grimm

Thirteen years ago, he came into my life as my son’s best friend. Knobby knees and eyes wide with admiration. Six years ago, he exited my life, leaving Smoky Vale behind for good. Or at least so I thought. Now he’s back, and he’s made it clear what he’s after. Me. The President of the Grimm Reapers. His best friend’s father. Now his lover and his protector. But when my life is cloaked with uncertainty, death, and retaliation, how can I keep this beautiful brave boy knowing that my love is poison?

Jamie

My best friend doesn’t understand the way I feel about his dad. My father, the chief of police disapproves of the relationship. My supervisor cautions me against it—that it won’t be long before I end up in a body bag. But one day with Grimm is better than a lifetime without him. It’s a risk I am willing to take because the biker the world knows is not the Daddy Grimm who comes to my bed, ready to bare it all for his boy. Secrets must be confessed, lives must be taken, new paths must be forged. Can we survive the war that’s about to rage in Smoky Vale?

If you enjoy unconventional daddy/boy relationships, toppy twinks, and the high stakes of an outlaw MC romance, one-click today.

 

 

Excerpt

“Rise and shine, Jamie.” I gently patted the cheek of the sleeping beauty in my bed, nestled beneath the comforter, face pressed into the pillow. I was prepared for it to take some time to wake him up. Jamie wasn’t a morning person at all, and he would bitch and complain about getting up at the ass crack of dawn as he had for the past three days.

I was dead serious, though, about him learning to take care of himself if he planned to stick around, so there was no compromise.

He blinked sleepy eyes awake, took one look at my grin, and with a groan, ducked beneath the covers. He was so fucking cute, looking at him made my heart ache. I was tempted to let him get some more sleep. Just half an hour more.

I pushed away the thought before I could give in. Cuteness wouldn’t save his ass if he ever came face-to-face with someone who wanted to do him bodily harm.

“The alarm didn’t even go off,” he wailed under the sheet.

“You kidding me? You snoozed the alarm four times already. Now get up.”

“Just five more minutes,” he begged.

“We don’t have five more minutes. Zak’s waiting for us, and you still need to get to the bathroom.”

“But I’m so tired. You shouldn’t have kept me up last night.”

“You insisted on staying for the party at the clubhouse,” I reminded the lump in my bed. “I had to pry you away when you started dancing on the tabletop, remember?”

The sheet lowered a fraction, and he peered at me. “Zak challenged me.”

I grunted at him. “Jeez, to think a medical student can’t avoid dumb dares. What will the rest of us lesser educated men do?”

“But I’m no longer a medical student, so I can shake my ass from any tabletop.”

I quirked an eyebrow at him “No, you can’t. That’s the last party you’ll ever go to if you don’t get out of that bed.”

The sheet went back over his head. “I’ll sleep some more, thank you.”

When it became clear he wasn’t getting out of bed, I was left with no choice. I scooped him up in my arms, bedsheets and all. He squealed like a stuck pig and squirmed, but I didn’t let him loose. I marched him into the bathroom, then stripped away the covers, leaving him standing in the bathroom with a pillow in his arms, his face registering shock.

“Come on.” I pulled the pillow out of his arms and threw it back through the door into the bedroom. “You have to be disciplined about this. Your safety’s important to me.”

When his lips turned down in a pout, I gave him another inch. “You play nice, and I’ll suck your dick in the shower.”

His eyes widened, and he smiled. “Why didn’t you just say so in the first place?”

 

 

About the Author

Gianni Holmes is a high school Spanish teacher by day and a naughty but nice writer by night. She loves to watch romantic comedies, especially old sitcoms such as Everybody Loves Raymond and The Andy Griffith Show. She spends much of her time writing or impersonating her characters. Apart from her love of superheroes, she also enjoys cartoons and watches them regularly. She is a single mother who lives with her five-year-old daughter in the Caribbean. Her mission is to write heat with heart, spinning compelling stories that will leave readers wanting more.

 

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BLOG TOUR: “Inheritance” by Gail Z. Martin. Rafflecopter Giveaway Included!

BLOG TOUR

Book Title: Inheritance

Author: Gail Z. Martin

Cover Artist: Lou Harper

Release Date: October 22, 2019

Genre/s: Urban fantasy with romantic elements.

(Note—Characters from my Morgan Brice (MM paranormal romance) books make several key appearances in this book.

Also, a long-time committed MM couple figure prominently in the plot).

Themes: Friendship and established relationships

Heat Rating: 0 – 1 flame (No sex, kissing/hugging for MF and MM characters)

Length: 66 000 words/ 222 pages

It is the fourth book in the series but can be read as a standalone.

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Can Cassidy and her friends find the demon box, stop the killer ghosts, and break the Pendlewood curse before Beckford’s murderous cousins and the vengeful demon destroy them all?

Blurb

Cassidy Kincaide runs Trifles & Folly in modern-day Charleston, an antiques and curio shop with a dangerous secret. Cassidy can read the history of objects by touching them, and she teams up with friends and allies who use magic and paranormal abilities to get rid of cursed objects and keep Charleston and the world safe from supernatural threats.

Caribbean ghosts terrorize Charleston and start racking up a body count. Then Beckford Pendlewood, the heir to a powerful family of dark warlocks, shows up raving about a bound demon locked in a lost box and begs sanctuary. Can Cassidy and her friends find the demon box, stop the killer ghosts, and break the Pendlewood curse before Beckford’s murderous cousins and the vengeful demon destroy them all?

Buy Links – ebook and paperback

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Excerpt

“I have a problem antique I’d like you to take a look at.” The man on the other end of the call sounded rattled. I recognized his name—Alfred Stone, from Stone Auctions—but I didn’t think we had ever spoken, let alone met.

“What kind of ‘problem’ does it present?” I asked. A number of possibilities came to mind. “Questionable provenance? Not sure how to authenticate?”

“I think it’s trying to kill me.”

Well, damn. That kind of problem. “All right, Mr. Stone. Try to stay calm.”

“I just told you, it’s trying to kill me. I heard you…know…about these things. Please, help me.”

Across the store, Teag Logan glanced up to make sure everything was all right. I nodded, and he went back to helping a customer.

“I can come now. Are you at the showroom?”

“Yes. Thank you. And…please…hurry.”

I ended the call and sighed. This might be the first time Alfred Stone had an antique try to kill him, but that made it just another day here at Trifles and Folly.

I’m Cassidy Kincaide, and I own Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina. The shop has been in my family for more than three hundred years. While we’re known as a great place to buy high-quality antiques, the shop is also a cover for the Alliance, a coalition of mortals and immortals who save Charleston—and the world—from supernatural threats. I’m a psychometric, which means I can read the history and magic of objects by touching them. Teag is my assistant store manager, best friend, and sometimes bodyguard—and he’s also a talented Weaver witch. Sorren, my business partner, is a nearly six-hundred-year-old vampire. Together with some other friends with very specialized abilities, we do our best to keep the world safe from dark magic and things that go bump in the night.

“Problem?” Teag asked when the customer left.

“I’m not sure,” I replied. “Alfred Stone just called—from the auction house. He says he’s got an item that’s trying to kill him.”

“You want me to go with you?” Teag pushed a lock of dark hair out of his eyes. His skater-boy haircut and skinny jeans made him look younger than his late twenties. “Maggie can handle the store.”

On cue, Maggie—our lifesaver of a part-time associate—waved to agree from the other side of the store. She was sporting a new bright pink streak in her short gray hair, and it matched her sweater, a reminder—as if I needed one—that she believed in taking risks and living large.

I reached up to slick my humidity-frizzy strawberry blond hair back into a ponytail and shook my head. “Let me go see what the problem is, and I’ll figure out what to do from there. It’s not far away, in case I need to give a shout.”

About the Author

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, SOL Publishing, Darkwind Press, Worldbuilders Press and Falstaff Books. Recent books include Convicts and Exiles, Sellsword’s Oath, Inheritance, and Night Moves. With Larry N. Martin, she is the co-author of the Spells Salt & Steel, Wasteland Marshals, Joe Mack and Jake Desmet series. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance including the Witchbane, Badlands and Treasure Trail series. Recent books include The Rising, Flame and Ash.

Get a free complete short story, Catspaw here

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RELEASE BLITZ: “Kiss Me at Midnight” by Gwen Martin

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Kiss Me at Midnight

Author: Gwen Martin

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: December 31, 2019

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Meet-Ugly, One-night stand

Heat Rating: 5 flames

Length: 7 000 words

It is a stand-alone book.

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Blurb

Aiden is sick and tired of being bombarded by love everywhere he looks. He begrudgingly attends a New Year’s Eve party and is most definitely ready to leave the glitz and glam of Instagram Influencer propaganda behind.

When a chance meeting leaves him covered in champagne by a handsome stranger named Blake, his night starts to brighten up. Blake’s warm smile, smooth talking and killer dance moves loosens Aiden’s bitterness to love and opens his heart to help Aiden ring his bell into the new year.

Kiss Me at Midnight is a steamy New Year’s Eve MM romance featuring midnight kisses, the spirit of the season, and a meet-ugly that turns into a sexy countdown to love. This 7,000-word stand-alone short story contains explicit sex and strong language intended for 18+ readers and is set within the same verse as What Happened in Vegas, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link

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Excerpt

“The hotel I’m staying at isn’t far from here and it provided transportation,” Blake says, tilting his head towards a line of queuing limos.

Aiden holds back a sigh of relief.

It doesn’t occur to Aiden that they’re actually taking a limo to a hotel until they’re actually in the stretched out back, a privacy window sliding down with a bored driver waiting for instructions. Blake rattles off the name of a hotel, an Aiden does a mental check to figure out if it’s what he thinks it is.

Which is a super swanky hotel, is what.

“What the hell do youah, yesdo?” Aiden asks. He’s a bit breathless, because after the window clicked shut, Blake is on him immediately, pushing him down onto the bench leather seat, grinding his hips into Aiden, and driving him fucking wild.

“I work with high end entertainment clients,” Blake replies, his tone too smooth for someone literally dry humping another person. Aiden can feel his hard-on, and every time he does a swivel with his hips it makes Aiden light the fuck up. “It’s really a thankless job. Shall we keep talking shop or can I kiss you now?”

“Kiss,” Aiden demands, ragged and needy. He lifts his head up to meet Blake halfway, their mouths smashing together in desperation. It’s sloppy and searing, and Aiden wants to chase that taste that sends him shivering all over, makes him nearly come in his pants like a teenager.

About the Author

Gwen Martin lives in Florida where the sun is always shining, the humidity is always high, and Disney is just a hop skip away. When she’s not trying to write one of her million story ideas, she’s usually hanging out with her husband and four cats.

Gwen first started writing at a young age, coming up with stories in class instead of paying attention to the math lesson. Since then she has been exploring her love of writing in various fan communities where she has learned how to cultivate character development and romantic interactions.

She has a strong love affair with cold brew coffee, black cats, and nerding out in various fandoms. When she’s not writing, she’s reading everything she can get her hands on, listening to a lot of lo-fi and making playlists, chilling with her four gatos and obsessing about Pusheen. Because it’s always about Pusheen.

Keep In Touch With Gwen

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BLOG TOUR: “A Fluid State” by Rob Browatzke

BLOG TOUR

Book Title: A Fluid State

Author: Rob Browatzke

Publisher: Self Published

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza

Release Date: January 3, 2020

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Gay for You/Out for You

Heat Rating: 5 flames

Length: 70 000 words/272 pages

It is a standalone book.

Buy Links

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Patrick and Andrew find themselves faced with a chemistry they cannot deny

Blurb

Patrick returns from a tour of duty to find his son very different. Peter is dressing in girl’s clothes, and his hair is too long, and he’s obsessed with drag queens. None of that sits well with Patrick. Patrick then meets the drag queen Ann Moore, and starts to hang out with them.

Andrew is one of River City’s best drag queens. As Ann Moore, he dazzles adults and children alike. When one of those children’s fathers wants to find out more about what his son is enjoying, Andrew is happy to guide him. It doesn’t hurt that Patrick is ridiculously hot. Hot and straight though.

The friendship that forms is unlikely, and even more unlikely, Patrick and Andrew find themselves faced with a chemistry they cannot deny.

Excerpt

“So,” Andrew said, when they were relocated back to the couch, sitting facing each other, beers in hand.

“So.”

“First off, let me, well, set you straight on something. Kent and I aren’t dating, so don’t feel bad about that.”

“Good,” Patrick said. “I’d hate to have some gay guy come at me for hitting on his boyfriend.”

“Is that what it was? You hitting on me?”

Patrick looked away. “Honestly, I don’t know.”

“Well, what’s going on in that head of yours?”

“You,” he said. “You’re going on in my head. You and only you. Ever since we met. I thought it was all about Peter, but no, it’s about me. You’ve gotten under my skin, Andrew, and I don’t know how to get you out of me.” Their eyes locked. “And honestly, I’m not sure I want you gone.”

“But you’re straight.”

“I’ve always thought that. I’ve never been attracted to a guy before this.”

“Never? Not even in school? Some guys experiment, you know.”

“Never. I’ve looked back and there’s never been anything to make me think I’d ever be into a guy.”

“So you’re into me?”

Patrick’s face turned pink and he looked away. “I don’t know. Yes. Yes, I am.” He swallowed hard and looked back at Andrew. “Look, I know this is out of the blue, and I know what you said at the pool, and-”

“What did I say at the pool?”

“That, you know, that you’re not attracted to me.”

It was Andrew’s turn to blush and look away. “Well, since you’re being honest, I guess I should be too. Patrick, of course I’m attracted to you. You… well, look at you. I just said that to set your mind at ease. I was enjoying hanging out. I am enjoying it. I didn’t want you to freak out thinking I found you attractive or worried that I was going to try to jump you.”

“And it ended up being me that jumped at you.”

Andrew looked at him and grinned. “Seems that way.”

“So.”

“So.”

“Here we are then, both attracted to each other. What do we do now?”

About the Author

Rob Browatzke has been writing for as long as he can remember, and is pretty darn excited for someone else to be reading his stuff finally! When it comes to gay bars and booze and drugs and drama, he knows what he’s talking about. He came out in the mid-90s, and liquor and drama went hand in hand. He has 20+ years of experience working in gay clubs in Edmonton, Alberta, and you’ll always find his love for his other career permeating the stories he tells. Rob is now 9+ years clean and sober, although there’s still a bit of drama once in a while, for old times’ sake.

Rob loves the growing market for gay fiction and m/m romance. There are some incredible authors out there, and it’s important to be able to see in print (or on the screen) stories about people just like us. Coming out, our relationships, the issues we face, we all have stories to tell. And this book is just one of the stories coming out of Wonderland.

Feel free to stalk him online. He’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @robbrowatzke.

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RELEASE BLITZ: “The Road Between” by Patick Benjamin.

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: The Road Between

Author: Patrick Benjamin

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Rebecca Covers

Release Date: December 31, 2019

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance, Family Drama

Trope/s: Friends to lovers, Dysfunctional Families

Themes: Forgiveness, self-discovery, secrets & lies

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 93 000 words/ 281 pages

It is a standalone story.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

Just because you can go home again, doesn’t mean you should.

Blurb

Television personality, Parker Houston has spent a lifetime following that motto: Running away at seventeen and vowing never to return to the small country town that made growing up gay, practically unbearable. But when the death of a loved one forces him home for the first time in twenty years, Parker has to reconcile the life and the people he left behind. Unearthing secrets and conflicts long buried.

While trying to mend the fractured relationships within his complicated family, Parker meets Bryce, a cocky rancher with a womanizing past. And although the friendship seems unlikely, neither man can deny the explosion they feel when their two worlds collide.

Excerpt

Prologue

Twenty years since I’d left.

Camouflaged by a thick perimeter of poplar trees, you would miss it if you blinked. Even travelling ten clicks under the speed limit. Buried at the bottom of a steep valley, River Bluff was accessible only by a narrow gravel road. So unremarkable and insignificant, that if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t have found it. At the base of the way was a single sign, “Welcome to River Bluff, Home of The Grouch”.

Every August, the town held a contest. Townsfolk nominated the rudest, most inconsiderate and overall “grouchy” members of the community. They declared the person with the most nominations “The Grouch”. For the next year, the winner attended every community event, with an excuse to be rude to everyone in their path. The Grouch participated in every social event — everything from the annual chili cook-off to high school graduation. The title was quite a big deal. As a child, the message was completely lost on me. Now, as an adult, I recognize how bizarre it was for a town to take pride in their unpleasantness. In many ways, River Bluff was a strange place. On the surface, it and its residents seemed utterly safe. Underneath, things were perilous.

Everyone knew each other and each other’s business. Everyone loved each other, yet no one could stand each other. If you were struggling, people would arrive at your door to offer you small scraps of their wealth. If you were successful, even more people would arrive at your door, demanding their cut. The entire community walked a thin line between socialist and militant. If an outsider had a conflict with a resident, the town would band together. They would pick-up their pitchforks to drive away the unwelcome beast. The same was true for any resident who challenged traditional thinking or practices. One could best compare the town mentality to a cult. Either you were one of the faithful, or you were an unwanted skeptic.

In River Bluff, belonging or not belonging was a concept as basic as age. There were only a few roles in which to fit. Boys were football players and girls were cheerleaders. Men worked on farms or in the oil field. Women stayed at home or worked in the town’s restaurants and bakeries. Of course, there were a few exceptions. Educators and physicians could be either male or female, but those positions came with their own sets of challenges. They required a degree. Once you left River Bluff to pursue one, you were seldom welcomed back without scrutiny. In fact, to my recollection, not a single teacher from my youth had been an original resident. They had been transplants from larger cities. Fresh out of university, with no choice but to take a position in a town no tenured educator would accept. For most of us, only a few specific roles were acceptable. That left little room for individuality.

I was aware of this truth whenever I would play dolls with Tanya Caldwell from across the street. Or whenever my mother would catch me reading “Nancy Drew” rather than “The Hardy Boys”. Or whenever I skipped football tryouts to audition for a school play. Or when I received the awkward looks of judgment from children and adults alike. That felt constant. They realized early, as did I, that I was not one of them. I did not belong. I did not behave, think, speak or even walk like them. I was different. Alien. It was that simple.

I was six years old when people first began to see me in this way. I was eight years old when I started to notice for myself. I was in the third grade, and our teacher had given us all an easy assignment. We were to present to the class a report about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Most of the kids spoke about their parents or other members of their family who inspired them. Brandon Jones wanted to be a mechanic like his father. Stacey Zimmerman wished to use her grandmother’s pie recipes to open a bakery. Jonathan Wilkins planned to take over his grandfather’s farm. Tamara Lane’s greatest ambition was to be a mother. I wish my aspiration had been so simple. It wasn’t. When the teacher called my name, I skipped to the front of the room and proclaimed that I wanted to be Oprah Winfrey.

I realize now how absurd a life goal that must have been to a group of children, especially a group of children with such rational and regular goals. I also realize now, how hilarious it was for a skinny white boy to declare that he wanted to be a strong woman of colour. At the time, it had been the truth. Well, almost the truth. I didn’t want to be Oprah. Instead, I wanted to be like Oprah – which was a notion I could have articulated better. I wanted a job in television. Doing what, I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to be somebody special. I wanted success and fame. I wanted love and admiration. I wanted to be a household name, and in 1989, there was no more prominent household name than Oprah Winfrey. So, in my eight-year-old mind, I wanted to be Oprah. This proclamation acted as the catalyst for the decade of torment that followed.

I soon realized that “different” meant unwelcome. It started naturally enough, with innocent pointing, stares and laughter. Other small torments evolved from there. One boy learned how to make ‘spitballs’ from his older brother. Soon all the boys in the class had hollowed-out pens and shredded pieces of paper. Walking the halls became like storming the beaches of Normandy. I endured whatever shots they fired at me. Some days I would get home from school only to discover that the back of my shirt looked like a papier-mâché project.

By Junior High, things had escalated to acts of violence and vandalism. Another, far more offensive term also replaced my name — Faggot. It was the early nineties, so few teachers took issue with the slur. Few of my teachers took issue with anything other students did to me. One January day, someone broke into my gym locker during Phys-Ed and defecated on my jeans and sweater. Nobody batted an eye. I spent the rest of that frigid day in my sweaty gym clothes and walked home with bare legs. When I arrived home, my father had been so furious with me for “allowing” myself “to be a victim” that he blackened my eye. Then he forced me to launder my soiled clothes by hand, in the bathroom sink.

Robert Houston was a proud man, strong and quick to anger. He despised weakness and strived to purge it from me thoroughly. By force if necessary. One summer, I had woke to find the word ‘Fag’ spray-painted, in several places, on my brand-new mountain bike. I didn’t want my father to know that I was a victim, once again. So, I spent my allowance on a can of black house paint and used it to cover the graffiti. House paint is not intended for aluminum. He saw it and raged.

“How could you destroy a two-hundred-dollar bicycle?!” He demanded, furiously removing his belt. He proceeded to lash me all over my body; across my arms, my back, my legs, even my face. He was often unpredictable in his anger. I never really knew what would set him off or if the severity of punishment would suit the crime committed. It was during those long, summer months at home that I counted the days until the fall semester would begin. I preferred the Devil I knew and could predict.

By senior year, I realized that I was not alone in my exile. Of course, there were others like me, whose differences made them easy targets. I could see them getting shoved into their lockers. I could hear the profanities being slung at them. And they, in turn, bore witness to my struggle. Even though we rarely spoke to each other, we were a brotherhood. We were bound together by our shared experiences and common enemies.

Most outsiders strived for a life of anonymity and blending in. I did not. I grew independent and opinionated. I knew that nothing I could say or do could put me lower on the social hierarchy, and that gave me strength. I decided that if I had to be on the bottom, I would make sure they could hear me at the top. I spoke up, and I spoke out. I drew attention to the town’s lack of gender-neutral youth programs. I rallied for the creation of a peer support presence in our school and a plethora of other causes. The protest against pickled beets in the cafeteria had been a personal victory for me. I argued often and hard and realized I was good at it. I served as captain of the debate team, which was where I felt my most authentic and brave.

I had planted in myself, a seed of success. If it had any hope of blossoming, I knew I had to get out of River Bluff. I had to nurture my individuality and empower my spirit. I was raring to experience the world beyond. So, two days after graduation, I loaded a single suitcase onto a Greyhound bus, Toronto bound. I didn’t leave a note, and I never looked back.

Until now.

Twenty years later.

About the Author

Patrick Benjamin has always had a passion for books. Growing up in rural Alberta, Canada, books were often the only escape he had from his simple small-town life. Patrick loves the way books can transport readers into different worlds and times, and expose them to experiences and types of people they wouldn’t normally encounter. His favourite stories, have always been those with strong, relatable characters. Stories that refrain from painting their characters with perfect brush strokes, and instead present their characters as fully rounded, real people — complete with their own imperfections, humours and motivations. Those are the types of Characters he aims to create, and its their stories he wants to tell. This is his first novel.

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Continue Reading RELEASE BLITZ: “The Road Between” by Patick Benjamin.