Thanks so much, Kathy, for inviting me to your blog to talk about my new m/m romance/thriller, Until Thanksgiving. I’ve been on Cloud Nine more or less since August when I signed the contract with Dreamspinner Press.
Six months later, I’m still riding the same wave. From seeing the cover for the first time to the release, every step in the process of becoming a published author has been more exciting than the one before. And this is just the beginning. Who knows what’s still to come? That I’m here to talk about a book with my name on the cover proves anything is possible.
People often ask how I managed to land a deal for my first novel. I could write another book with my answer. Several successful authors have already done so, and as I set about writing Until Thanksgiving, reading a few of those books was helpful. But my real education started in March 2011 when I joined the Athens Writers Workshop.
My advice for aspiring writers is to join a good critique group. I’ve heard a million horror stories about writers groups and would guess no two are alike. Lucky for me, the first one I found was a perfect fit—double lucky considering it’s the only one I know about in Athens.
In our group, members submit up to 5000 words of a work in progress. We have about ten days to read all the submissions—usually three or four, but sometimes as many as six or more. At the biweekly meetings, we focus on one submission at a time, going around the table offering our opinions, comments, and suggestions.
From the beginning, that the other writers knew more about writing fiction than I did was abundantly clear. Though we would read the same things prior to our meeting, the comments they made revolved around aspects of writing I’d never even heard of before. I was a sponge, soaking up as much as I could at every meeting.
Eventually, with the encouragement and support of the group, I started Until Thanksgiving and began submitting 5000 words at a time for critique. Being the focus of the discussion is like laying naked on the table as the other members look you over with magnifying glasses, flashlights, and lifting tools to explore various and sundry nooks and crevices. I ain’t gonna lie. Sometimes it even hurts.
The experience is more than a lot of people can take. Knowing that the comments are intended to help me write the best possible book makes it easier to take the criticism. And nearly two years later, the core members of the group—the ones who keep coming back for more abuse—are among my best friends in the world. Without them, I never would have tried to write a novel or been able to get the one I did write published. That’s why I dedicated Until Thanksgiving to the Robot Unicorn Cult, more commonly known as the members of the Athens Writers Workshop.
Title: Until Thanksgiving by Michael Rupured
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, M/M, Erotic, Romance, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 232 pages
Josh Freeman knows his best days are behind him. After his partner of seventeen years has an affair with a younger man, Josh buries himself in takeout boxes, half-smoked joints, and self-pity until his best friend gently kicks him in the ass and encourages him to try out a new job in Washington DC—at least until Thanksgiving.
Though DC has its share of troubles, specifically in the form of a murderer targeting gay men, Josh soon discovers its charms as well. Unlike his old home, DC is crawling with men who want to date him—apparently he’s not as overweight, out of shape, or over the hill as the man he once loved made him believe. In particular, Josh would love a chance with relocation expert Thad Parker, but Josh is sure Thad is seeing someone, so he looks for love elsewhere. He tells himself he and Thad don’t have anything in common anyway.
Then Josh learns Thad really is available. Maybe they can work it out after all. Suddenly the future seems bright again. Of course, Josh doesn’t know he’s the murderer’s next target….
Thad Parker stood with a small crowd waiting at Gate 13 for Delta Flight 3313 to arrive from Lexington, Kentucky. Thirteen had always been his lucky number. He had been born at 1300 hours on January 13, 1963, and considered his thirteenth year to have been among the best of his childhood. That was the year he’d realized he was more interested in boys than girls and had gone to spend the summer with his Uncle Philip.
The flight had landed. Thad watched for the Jetway door to open, and when it did, he held up the sign he’d printed off from his computer the day before: Josh Freeman. He knew Mr. Freeman was transferring from the Lexington branch of Walker, Cochran, and Lowe to be the new national communications director, but little else. As the sole employee of the relocation and travel division of the firm, it was Thad’s job to help Mr. Freeman find housing in Washington, line up the movers, and otherwise help with his relocation from Lexington.
He watched the passengers coming off the flight, smiling benignly at the men, knowing one of them would be Josh Freeman. An obviously gay middle-aged man with gray hair and a faded pink golf shirt that almost covered his sizeable paunch looked at the sign Thad held and smiled. Thad smiled back and hoped he wouldn’t be spending the rest of the afternoon fending off the man’s advances. If so, he was in for a very long day.
“Hello. I’m Josh Freeman.”
It took Thad several seconds to realize the voice had not come from the pink-shirted man. He turned toward the source of the voice and gasped. A tall, tan, ruggedly handsome man with thick brown hair smiled and offered his hand.
Thad looked at the hand for several seconds, then along the darkly tanned forearms to the athletic chest and the dazzling smile before he fell into an impressive pair of soulful puppy-dog brown eyes. He reached out slowly and shook hands with the man. A high voltage jolt traveled up his arm, then forked to send a tingling sensation rushing to his scalp, all ten toes, and the fingertips holding the sign bearing the man’s name. He felt his knees go weak, and until he saw the group of girls walk past holding hands and singing, would have sworn he heard a choir of angels.
“Welcome to Washington, Mr. Freeman,” he stammered. “I’m Thad Parker, your tour guide for the next twenty-four hours.”
“Nice to meet you, Thad. Can you call me Josh? Mr. Freeman is my dad.”
Normally Thad would have laughed. Instead, he mumbled, “Okay.” He knew he was staring but couldn’t look away. Something about Josh Freeman had knocked him for a loop. He realized too much time had passed. An awkward silence he was at a loss to fill stretched on because he couldn’t think of a thing to say.
Josh broke the silence. “Any idea where I go to pick up my luggage?”
The question jarred Thad back into reality. “Yes, sir! Baggage claim is right this way.” Thad talked as he walked. “Since it’s too early to check into the hotel, we’ll drop your luggage off at the office before we start checking out apartments. Will that be okay?”
Josh nodded. “You’re the boss. Just tell me what to do.”
Where do you want me to start? A barrage of erotic images flew through Thad’s mind, surprising him. He’d met lots of men, including some real lookers. None, however, had ever pushed his lust button quite the way Josh had managed to do with just one look from his dreamy brown eyes.
“I’ve found four apartments that seem to meet your criteria, all within walking distance of the Walker, Cochran, and Lowe office. Would you rather take a cab to the office or ride the Metro?”
Josh practically skipped down the terminal. “Let’s take the Metro. We have cabs in Lexington, but I’ve never ridden on a subway.”
“Then Metro it is.” Thad smiled. Josh’s obvious excitement reminded him of a kid preparing for his first ride on a roller coaster.
Josh retrieved his badly beaten Samsonite suitcase from the baggage carousel. Thad and everyone else in the airport couldn’t help but notice the silver duct tape on all four corners of the olive-green bag.
“Sorry about the luggage. My ex got the good stuff.”
Single. The absence of wheels and a pulling handle made Thad wish Josh had opted for the cab ride. Since he hadn’t, Thad hoped any friends who saw him focused more on the handsome man he was with than the antique bag he carried.
Inside the station, he showed Josh the Metro map and the route they would follow to reach their destination. Thad thought the way Josh asked questions was cute, like he was preparing for a big test.
On the long ride up the escalator from the Dupont Circle Metro station, Thad instructed Josh to stand to the right like a true Washingtonian so people in a hurry could pass, rather than stand in the middle like a tourist. Never mind that anyone seeing Josh’s shabby suitcase wouldn’t be fooled for a minute.
At the top, Thad indicated the direction they needed to go. “We need to cross through Dupont Circle to get to the office.”
As they walked, Thad explained that Dupont Circle was a park, a traffic circle, and a neighborhood. The popular park was anchored by an enormous, two-tiered marble fountain surrounded by benches and a well-landscaped grassy area in the center of the giant, four-lane roundabout that connected Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire Avenues, P Street, and Nineteenth Street. The neighborhood included nearly two hundred acres and extended several blocks in every direction from the fountain that marked its center. As they crossed through one of several sidewalks that dissected the landscaping, Thad pointed out the sidewalk that ran along the perimeter of the park and the old men engaged in intense battles on concrete chessboards. The fountain roared in the background.
Thad gave Josh a tour of the Walker, Cochran, and Lowe headquarters that ended with his new office. Considering he wasn’t an attorney, Josh’s office was nice, with a big leather chair behind a large oak desk, a seating area with comfortable-looking upholstered furniture, and a window overlooking the Dupont Circle fountain. His tattered suitcase was oddly out of place in the luxurious setting.
Over the next few hours, Thad took Josh to see apartments in several properties in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. He listened as Josh peppered the property managers with a thousand questions they couldn’t possibly answer, with a drawl heard more often in the mountains than on any plantation.
Having helped dozens of transfers and new hires relocate to DC, Thad had learned to start with the worst option. Most people came to Washington expecting accommodations similar to that available in the smaller cities they were leaving behind. Checking out two or three less desirable options first made getting them to like his first choice a lot easier. Cute as he was, Josh was no exception.
After Josh signed the lease and wrote the check for the deposit, Thad took him back to the office. He pointed out the CVS drugstore as a landmark for the intersection of Dupont Circle and P Street, two blocks from Josh’s new apartment. Minutes later, they were back in Josh’s office at Walker, Cochran, and Lowe to retrieve his luggage.
“Ready to go to your hotel?” Thad asked.
“Yes, I’m beat.” Josh picked up his shabby suitcase. “I really appreciate you showing me around today. I was afraid I’d have to make another trip up to find a place before the move. The apartment is great.”
Thad talked as they left the building, heading east around the traffic circle. “You’re most welcome. The West Park is one of the best in the area.” He didn’t need to know Thad lived just a few blocks away. Not yet, anyway. “Tonight you’re staying at the Carlyle Suites on New Hampshire Avenue. It’s an old art-deco hotel with a fun atmosphere. I think you’ll like it.”
Thad gave Josh a rundown of his itinerary. “You’re having dinner with the partners at Vidalia—one of my favorite restaurants in the city. They’ll pick you up from the lobby of your hotel at seven o’clock.”
Josh fought back a yawn. “Great. It’s only four now, so I can squeeze in a nap before I get ready.”
“Tomorrow morning, I’ve arranged for a limousine to pick you up from the hotel at eight o’clock to take you to the airport. Your flight leaves at nine thirty. You’ll have plenty of time to get checked in and find your gate.”
Josh smiled. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Be fine? You are totally fine just the way you are. Thad paused for a minute to remember what he’d been talking about. Oh, yeah. “I’ve already lined up a moving company for you. The representative should be in touch with you next week to set up all the details.” He reached into his shirt pocket and handed Josh a business card. “If there’s anything else you need tonight or when you get back to Lexington, don’t hesitate to call.”
Finally they reached the entrance to the Carlyle. Thad fantasized about going in and showing Josh to his room.
Let me get you out of those clothes and tuck you in for that nap.
“Well, this is it. You’ll need to check in at the front desk. The reservation is in your name with all the charges direct-billed to the firm.”
Josh took Thad’s hand and shook it. “I really appreciate you showing me around today. You did a great job.”
“Happy to help,” Thad said, releasing Josh’s hand as another jolt shot through his system. “I’m really looking forward to working with you over the next few weeks.” And he meant it too.
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