a life filled with awesome love

"A Life Filled With Awesome Love" Free Excerpt From Cowboy Love Story

I’ve been wanting to post an unpublished Free excerpt from A Life Filled with Awesome Love since before the holidays but haven’t had time. Here it is below. You can check out the other free excerpt at ARe, and read the entire description as well.

In the most basic sense, it’s a vintage gay love story set in 1959 when there was no such thing as gay. It’s also one of my longer cowboy short stories, about 12,000 words.

Then, in the next letter, O’Dell sent a small black and white photo tucked neatly into a brief note that read, “Just so you know and there’s no confusion, this is what I look like. I like to do right by people. It was taken last summer. If you still want the job after this, it’s yours. I’ll understand if you don’t.”


Travis moved closer to the lamp on his nightstand. He gazed at the photo of a tall, slim man in a plaid shirt, a cowboy hat and well-worn cowboy boots. He was standing next to a horse and leaning on a fence. The photo had been taken with one of those old Brownie cameras. Travis’s mother had one just like it. Though Travis couldn’t see his slightly gray hair because of the cowboy hat, he didn’t think O’Dell looked older than thirty. He had a few lines on his face, but they gave him character.


So, Travis pulled out a piece of paper and an envelope and wrote, “I’d like the job. I can start October first. I could start before that, but I’d like a few weeks to prepare and tie things up here. Please let me know if that’s okay.”


A week later, he received a reply from O’Dell in the same unemotional tone he’d been using since he’d replied to the first letter. He told Travis the job was his; he would expect him at the bus stop on October 1st,and that he was looking forward to the their arrangement. He put the word arrangement in quotation marks. Though Travis still wasn’t completely certain, the word arrangement alone almost confirmed what he’d been thinking all along…in quotation marks, he knew there was a hidden meaning. Men like them would not have put anything in writing that could incriminate them, not in those days.


The next day, Travis told his family he’d taken a new job. “I’m going to be moving out the first of October. I’m taking a job as a ranch hand in a small town called Wildflower.” He made his announcement while his father was passing the mashed potatoes to his sister. The sister had been talking about getting her hair double processed.


Everyone stopped moving. The room went silent.

His mom said, “This is sudden.”

His sisters sat there gaping at him as if they couldn’t believe what they’d just heard.

Then, his dad said, “How’d you get this job?”

“I answered an ad in that rodeo magazine,” Travis said. He had trouble looking them in the eye. “I’d like to get out on my own.”


“I answered an ad in that rodeo magazine,” Travis said. He had trouble looking them in the eye. “I’d like to get out on my own.”

“You’re too young,” his mom said. “It’s too far. I want to know more about it.”

“I’ll be working for a guy who owns a small ranch,” Travis said. “He lives alone, and he’s been having trouble getting help way out there. I told him I could start on October 1st. I’m not going to change my mind.”

“It’s too far,” his mom said. “You know nothing about this person. For all we know, he could be a murderer. I’d at least like to see where you will be living.”

“What’s poor Sally Mae Somerloon going to say when she hears about this?” his oldest sister said.

Travis shrugged. Sally Mae and this sister had been good friends in school. “Doesn’t matter what she says, because I don’t really care. I’ve never been serious about Sally Mae Somerloon, and I never will be.” Just being in a room with Sally Mae made his dick go limp. This time, he sent his sister a direct glance from across the table and didn’t blink once.

“You’re not moving that far,” his mother said. She seemed so distressed, she tugged the tablecloth.
 
Before Travis had a chance to object, his dad raised one hand, glanced at his mom and said, “I think it’s a good idea, and I don’t want to hear any more about it. I’m sure Travis knows what’s best for him. If it doesn’t work out, he can always come home.”
Travis took a deep breath and sent his father a smile. If his father knew about him, he never said it aloud. It was the unspoken support he received that night from his dad that he would always both cherish and wonder about.
Of course, his mom tried to speak up in protest, but his dad finally slammed both hands on the table and said, “It’s finished. If he wants this job, he has our support.”

Release Day: A Life Filled with Awesome Love; The Importance of Cars in Fiction

Today is the release of “A Life Filled with Awesome Love.” You can find it here at the publisher, or here on allromanceebooks.com. It’s going to be in most places where e-books are sold, but I know it’s already up on these two already. The other photo below of the 1959 Lincoln is here for a reason. I wanted to show how I think it’s important sometimes to get into descriptions of cars in more detail in fiction.

In the early 90’s there was a novel published by author Mona Simpson…half sister of Steve Jobs whom he didn’t meet until later in his life…titled, “Anywhere But Here.” They also made the book into a popular film. I loved both book and film. But the thing that drew me to the novel at the time was that there was a photo of a big Lincoln Continental on the book cover. That might sound silly to some, but this was a new novel by a debut author and that cover caught my eye and I bought the book for that reason. At the time, I knew nothing about the author. Since then, they’ve redesigned the cover and the Lincoln is gone….a shame and pure cover fail. In the film they used an older Mercedes instead of a Lincoln and that spoiled the story a little for me.

In a recent book I read by Debbie Macomber, there was a long cross country road trip. And even though I liked the book, in spite of the fact that I wanted to push one character off a cliff, I was disappointed that Macomber didn’t get into any detail at all about the car they would be driving across country. Basically, it was described as a rental car. But no actual details, and I have a feeling I know the reason why. With the exception of Mona Simpson, because the Lincoln was so important to the storyline, I find most women authors (and maybe readers) don’t care all that much about cars. A car is a car. It’s something that provides transportation. And unless there’s something vital about that car to the storyline (Anne Tyler does this well) most never mention much about cars at all. There’s nothing wrong with that on the surface.

But the thing is, men love cars, especially gay men. I know one gay publisher who blogs and writes about his vintage car collection all the time. I have so many gay friends in antique car clubs I can’t even count them. And every year around September there’s a huge parade of gay men driving their vintage cars up and down Commercial Street in Provincetown. And Tony and I are no exception. In the past twenty years we’ve had two Jeeps, four Mercedes, Two Jags, and we’re thinking about a Mini Cooper right now. I’m always on the hunt for the prefect vintage Lincoln. I’ve never had a BMW, and I want one. I could go on, but you get my point. Men love cars.  In fact, because a lot of gay men don’t have kids and all the expenses that go along with kids they can afford to indulge in things like cars. And they do.

And I’m always left so disappointed when I’m reading a novel that doesn’t at least give out the smallest details about a car. Men do think of cars as more than just transportation. In some ways cars define us to a certain degree. Not completely. I’m not that shallow. But there is something to it. The personality of someone who drives a Prius is most likely going to be very different from the personality of someone who drives a big Cadillac Escalade. And I think that’s important in fiction, too.

I’m not saying a car in a novel has to be described down to the last fiber. But at least name the make, year, and model. As I stated earlier, Anne Tyler did this well in one of her books where she gave the MC a vintage Stingray (with the divided rear windshield), and that small detail made the character, and it helped move him forward in the plot of the story, too, at the end of the book.

I’m not saying only women authors ignore cars in fiction (obviously Tyler and Simpson didn’t, so don’t get the wrong idea). I’ve seen male authors do it, too. But in most cases, like with Macomber’s book, it would have added another layer to the story for men…and women…who happen to think little details about cars are important. As a side note, I love the cover for “A Life Filled with Awesome Love.” But if I had self-published this one, and I had been designing the cover on my own with full control, I would have focused more on the 1959 Lincoln that’s mentioned in the story. I don’t know if readers notice this, but the covers I’ve designed for my self-published books are vastly different from the ones designed by the publishers. “A Sign From Heaven Above”is a good example. I designed that, without a cover artist. And I made that pick up truck stand out for a reason. I made that guy look like he was praying for a reason.

In this story, “A Life Filled with Awesome Love,” a 1959 Lincoln is featured. I don’t get into much about the car. But I did think it was important enough to the storyline to add that small detail and to ask the cover artist to work the Lincoln into the cover. I’m sure she did her best, and if you look closely you’ll see the word “Continental” there (under his arm :). You might have to strain a little, though. The one MC is meeting the guy he’s going to live with for the first time and he’s not sure about him. But when he sees the guy drive up in a l959 Lincoln, it eases a lot of his fears. As it turns out, the car does not completely represent this character, but it does give the other character something to hold on to in the beginning of the story.

In any event, I don’t think it was life or death for Macomber to go into more detail about the car in her book. I liked the book anyway…even though that one thing disappointed me. But I do think that when writing about men, and gay men, it is important to take cars into consideration. And if the gay male character is one of those earthy vegan simple boy types who doesn’t care about cars, that’s important to mention, too. It explains something important about the character’s personality. And it’s a detail I often find left out of most novels. Think Jonathan Franzen. He usually mentions a car or two and with that one little detail we get a better image of the character.

Here’s the blurb for ALFWAL. It is a vintage story and it is a cowboy/western. I’ll post more excerpts in the future. This one is longer than most of my short stories. It runs about 12,000 words, which I think is a little too long for a short story. But this time it called for it.

It’s 1959 and young Travis Swanson discovers that living in the same small Montana town where he grew up is suffocating. So he devises a long term plan to get out of his situation and change his circumstances, but there aren’t that many options for men like him and he has to settle for the best thing that comes along. In his case, this comes in the form of an advertisement at the back of a rodeo magazine. He answers an unusual ad for a ranch hand job in Western Montana and finds himself communicating with a cowboy named O’Dell Johnston. After a series of letters pass between them Travis decides to take the job and move into O’Dell’s house. But he soon learns that although some things are better than he expected and O’Dell is an articulate lover, some things just don’t make sense. And Travis is not sure he can live with a man who has so many secrets, won’t install central heat, and rarely ever discusses his past…a past that includes the mysterious deaths of the two young ranch hands before Travis.

If You Were Gay in 1959: A Life Filled with Awesome Love

First, if you were gay in 1959 the odds are you were either sipping from the gin pail or in a very good mood. And if you were attracted to the same sex you were homosexual in clinical terms or any number of offensive pejoratives on the street.

On December 21st I have a new book coming out that’s titled,”A Life Filled with Awesome Love,” that’s set in a remote western town, takes place during 1959, and has a story that revolves around a younger gay man trapped in impossible circumstances. So when I wrote “A Life Filled with Awesome Love,” I took into consideration how difficult it must have been for young men who lived in small western towns to meet other men like themselves.

From what I’ve heard from older gay men I know, one of the biggest reasons why men who were attracted to other men moved to large cities was because they didn’t dare come out of the closet in the small towns where they’d grown up. I just happened to set my story in a western town because it’s a love story with two cowboys. But I could have set it anywhere in the US, from the deep south to the smallest town in Vermont. And from what I read in e-mails from many of my most discreet readers, things haven’t changed all that much in those small towns.

Although the Internet has many issues to work out yet, one of the most freeing things about it is that it’s opened up a whole new world for people in small towns who are gay and can’t come out. I’m keeping this ambiguous because it’s not just men; it’s everyone in the isolated part LGBT community. And one of the things I find interesting about writing stories set in time periods like the 1950’s is that there is a lot more hope for LGBT people when you compare then and now. And from what I gather, a lot of these people feel connected with the books and articles they read in digital format. So those of you who claim you love the smell of print books and you’ll never give them up for e-books, take a moment to fully understand the impact e-books have had on gay people living lives where they just can’t come out of the closet. My iPhone is something I use often and love, but I know someone who thinks of his iPod as his lifeline to the world.

In any event, I could ramble on about this forever. So here’s the story description and an excerpt from “A Life Filled with Awesome Love.” I don’t think the excerpt I’m using now will be posted anywhere else. And I will post more when the book is released on December 21st. It’s not actually a Christmas story, but there is a Christmas scene at the end.

  

 
 
Description:
 
It’s 1959 and young Travis Swanson discovers that living in the same small Montana town where he grew up is suffocating. So he devises a long term plan to get out of his situation and change his circumstances, but there aren’t that many options for men like him and he has to settle for the best thing that comes along. In his case, this comes in the form of an advertisement at the back of a rodeo magazine. He answers an unusual ad for a ranch hand job in Western Montana and finds himself communicating with a cowboy named O’Dell Johnston. After a series of letters pass between them Travis decides to take the job and move into O’Dell’s house. But he soon learns that although some things are better than he expected and O’Dell is an articulate lover, some things just don’t make sense. And Travis is not sure he can live with a man who has so many secrets, won’t install central heat, and rarely ever discusses his past…a past that includes the mysterious deaths of the two young ranch hands before Travis.          
 
 
Excerpt:
 
At times, Travis felt invisible. As he watched everyone else’s life move forward, his didn’t seem to move at all. At other times, he felt their eyes on him, as if they were scrutinizing him and wondering why he seemed so different from other young men his age. He didn’t look different; he didn’t sound different. To see him at a glance, no one would have looked twice. But he knew the people closest to him were wondering about him, and he wasn’t sure what to do about that.

Whenever Travis thought about the future, he felt uneasiness deep in his gut that lasted for hours. He knew he had no future there.

His only viable option was to marry the girl who lived up the road and settle down just like his mom and dad. He’d been dating her for two years. Her name was Sally Mae Somerloon, and she worked at a local bank as a teller: a pinched-face girl with wide hips and thick ankles. It would have been the easiest thing for him to do. But he just couldn’t seem to get rid of that uneasy feeling deep in his gut every time he thought about what his life might be like twenty years from now.


So, he started looking for other ways out. Though his options were limited, he figured if he could move away, at least he’d be able to live his own life in peace and quiet without having to live up to anyone’s expectations…in a place where no one knew him. He knew the things his family wanted from him were never going to happen. He’d begun to reach a point where going out with the insufferable Somerloon girl up the road caused his heart to race in a way that left him both terrified and depressed. At times, he felt so overwhelmed, he thought he might lose his mind. But most of all, he didn’t want to wind up being that peculiar old bachelor in the small town where he’d lived his entire life.

Then, one afternoon in late August of 1959, he went to the dentist’s office and found an interesting advertisement in the classifieds of a rodeo magazine he’d read millions of times in the past. He found the ad in the help wanted section at the back of the magazine and read it aloud in a soft whisper. “Strong, young man willing to work for room, board and a small salary on a small ranch. No experience needed. Just easy to get along with and looking for privacy.” The mailing address was in western Montana, far enough from where he lived right now to start a new life on his own.

He glanced back and forth to make sure no one was watching, and then he tore the ad out of the magazine and put it in his pocket. Later that same night, he replied with a note and dropped it in the mailbox the next morning on his way to work. He kept the note brief; he mentioned he had experience as a ranch hand and that he didn’t mind privacy. At first, he didn’t expect anything from it. The only reason he’d answered the ad was because it might be a way out of the situation he was in right now. In fact, he forgot all about it the moment he dropped his letter in the mailbox, and he went right back to his normal routine.

A week later, he received a reply. When he came home from work and his mom handed it to him and asked him what it was, he shrugged and said, “Just a letter from a fella I knew at work. He moved away last year.” Then, he put the letter in his back pocket, sat down in his usual seat at the table and read it later that night when he went to bed.