From the earliest days of our writing as Timothy James Beck, Houston’s OutSmart Magazine has been good to us with articles and reviews. When Tim talked to them about the releases of our edited anthologies Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction and Best Gay Romance 2014, they not only got David Goldberg to interview us for an article, but they made it a cover story that also turned the spotlight on Rescued Pets Movement.

A few days ago I showed you a photo I took of adoptable dog Stouffer, who was the canine model for the photo shoot. Here are more shots I took that day:

Tim waiting for a shot to be set up.
Stouffer posing for Theresa.
Stouffer giving Tim some love while Theresa and John set up a shot.

The magazine is available in Houston now, but you can also read it online and see photographer Theresa DiMenno’s wonderful photographs. We’re excited to think of all the people who might read the outstanding tales in the two collections thanks to the publicity. We also hope Stouffer and all the other RPM dogs available for adoption find their forever homes soon. Those would be the happiest tails of all. =)

Photo by Theresa DiMenno, ©2014.

Click here to read the full article.

Happy Book Lovers Day

The things I learn from Twitter…

In fact, one day on Twitter someone shared that it was Penguin Books’ 75th birthday. Then I found out that if I tweeted a photo of a Penguin book, I might get a free title from the publisher. FREE BOOKS? Sure!

Here’s the book cover I tweeted:

Then Penguin got in touch with me and asked if there was a genre or any titles I was interested in. I perused their lists, sent some possibilities, and a few days later, received this in the mail.

It’s on my stack to read next. Thanks, Penguin and Christina Castro, and again, happy birthday. To the rest of you who love to read and write books, happy Book Lovers Day! Find your favorite publishers and their reps on social media; they’re always sharing details about new works and often even holding contests with their titles as prizes.

February Photo A Day: Upside Down

After checking today’s photo prompt, I planned to go outside to take photos of some roses so heavy on the branch that they’re hanging upside down. But it’s cold (for Houston), and after spending a night without heat and getting our furnace replaced today (Remember that thing about how I have art to sell???), I couldn’t seem to motivate myself to go back outside. That’s when I realized everything on my desk had been placed upside down from my perspective. And while reading is best done right side up, I have a bookmark that shows how reading is also hot from every angle.

Today, it’s all about heat. Thanks for the bookmark, ‘Nathan!

Prompt from FMS Photo A Day.

My Ideal Bookshelf

Each year we exchange names for Christmas on Tom’s side of the family and send our Christmas lists to Santa (some people call Santa “Mom”) to distribute the right lists to the right people, since only she knows who has whose name until gifts are exchanged. This past holiday season I emailed her my list, and directly afterward, my friend Johnnie tweeted a picture of a group of books he called “my ideal bookshelf.” Further information from him indicated there was a book by this name. I looked it up and saw that more than a hundred “leading cultural figures” submitted a list of books they had to have on their shelves, and these lists were turned into illustrations for My Ideal Bookshelf.

“Dammit,” I muttered. “I already sent off my Christmas list.”

I began to write random titles of books that would be on my own ideal bookshelf, but the list grew insanely long. That’s probably why I have so many bookcases. I don’t have any memory of mentioning the book to anyone else; I made a mental note to look for it the next time I was in a bookstore.

Then we received a box of Christmas goodies in the mail that included a beautifully wrapped package for me. When I ripped off the paper, I found:

Santa is not always called “Mom.” Sometimes Santa is called “David and Geri,” and I LOVE THIS BOOK. My 2013 masthead is a photo of my ideal bookshelf (a larger version of the photo is here if you can’t read all the titles). It tormented me to condense my list, leaving off some of the books that I did: Andrew Holleran’s Dancer From The Dance, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and specific poets come to mind immediately. I tried to include books that changed something in me: the way I see the world, the way I see myself, the way I read and write fiction. Even though I’m one edition behind on my dictionary and two editions behind on my style manual, if I were lost on an island in the middle of the sea, those two books could keep me endlessly preoccupied.

Thank you, Geri and David, and indirectly, Johnnie, for My Ideal Bookshelf.

Feel free to add your favorites in comments, or if you put them online somewhere, give me a link. Book love is great love–and reading is hot!

Button Sunday

Some way overdue thank-yous here. First, to my buddy Rob E in St. Louis, who sent me a scarf with a bold print for possible doll fashion along with bottle caps for my paintings. The scarf is already packed away with my fabric, but it sat on the desk next to me for a couple of days before I really scrutinized it, and then I started laughing because I was reminded of Diane Wiest’s character in the movie The Birdcage as she puzzled over a provocative design on some dinnerware. The scarf depicted people doing all kinds of naughty things, so the fabric must surely be used for some future fashion event. Thanks, Rob.

Another friend, writer Jeffrey Ricker, has temporarily relocated to Canada to pursue his MFA. But he sent me a couple of St. Louis mementos to add to my collection:

Pressed pennies from the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Thank you very much, Jeff! And the dog card makes me happy, too.

It’s funny how old and dear friends come back into our lives when we need them most, and such is the case with a good friend from my high school and college years, Jim S. I won’t embarrass him by describing how much our ongoing conversations mean to me. Recently, he sent the most wonderful package of goodies to Tom and me: these clever steeping tea mugs, along with some tea blends, and honey from BACK HOME to sweeten our tea.

The honey is from a beekeeper in a rural area where I lived many years ago, though I don’t think Jim knew that. Check out the tea products and blends from The Tea Spot. If there’s not a retail supplier near you, you can also order from them online. Saturday morning provided the perfect chilly weather for Tom and me to enjoy the Bolder Breakfast blend of Black Tea, Pu’erh, and Chocolate. It was divine and went well with our brunch of eggs, grits, bacon, biscuits (with more honey!), and grapes.

By the way, from The Tea Spot: Our full leaf teas include organic and Fair-Trade Certified™ estate teas and signature blends. Committed to giving as we grow, 10% of each sale is donated in-kind to cancer wellness and community programs. A gift with heart from one of the best hearts I know; thank you, Jim!

Our friend, writer and blogger Josh Helmin, was in Houston last week and came by The Compound to have dinner with us. He and Tim graciously agreed to pose for a Reading Is Hot photo holding two new novels by other author friends of ours.

Josh is holding Greg Herren’s Timothy. Greg sent me a copy before anyone else could buy it, and I was honored to read that he dedicated the novel to me because of our shared love–as teenagers and beyond–of romantic suspense writers like Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, the incomparable Mary Stewart, and Daphne du Maurier. Tim’s holding Famous Author Rob Byrnes’s third in his hilarious caper series featuring Grant Lambert and Chase LaMarca and their entire gang of misfits, Strange Bedfellows.

To bring this full circle, I received a photo from Rob E who reminded me that reading is also sensible WHEN it’s hot, as this was what he was enjoying in the middle of the Midwest’s recent drought.

Y’all know how I love writers, and I want to share Indiegogo projects from a couple of my writer friends.

Author, webmaster, and columnist Linda Gentile founded Markeroni in 2003. Markeroni is the oldest website that helps people find and record historical markers and landmarks. Markeroni is a history resource with more than 150,000 landmarks in their database and 31,000 with a Catalog entry. Markeroni is in need of an upgrade, so Linda’s raising funds at this Indiegogo site. If a few people contribute even a modest amount, this resource can be updated and made more accessible to the public. If you can’t contribute, you might become a Markeroni member, or share the link on your Facebook and Twitter sites. Linda and all the Markeroni volunteers are a fun and passionate group, so thanks for any support you can give them between now and October 31.

Another Indiegogo project with funding that will close on October 31 is Michael Thomas Ford’s prospective novel Lily. Here’s how Lily begins:

On the morning of her thirteenth birthday, Lily kissed her father and knew that he would be dead by nightfall. The image of his death dropped into her mind suddenly and without warning. As her lips touched his she saw behind the thin skin of her closed eyes his face, pale and wet, rising up from the waves surrounded by caressing fingers of sea grass, and she screamed.

Mike is an award-winning novelist who’s written more than fifty books for both young readers and adults, in genres ranging from humor to horror, literary fiction to nonfiction. He’s one of my favorite writers, so I really want to see Lily happen. It’s a bold new endeavor that won’t happen without funding; you can read more about what you’ll receive at the different levels of giving at the Indiegogo site. Again, if you can’t give, please share the link on your social networking sites.

Thanks on behalf of Linda and Mike.

Legacy Writing 365:204

For the past few weeks, I’ve been importing some old photos into my iPhotos for various reasons. I found this one from 2009: one of Tim’s early foster dogs, Tyson, with the late Rexford G. Lambert and Tim on the couch with a mystery. Remember the Reading Is Hot Campaign? Whatever happened to that? You don’t send me photos anymore…

I would like MORE PHOTOS, please. Do I have to do all the work here just because it’s my blog?

You, your favorite animal, your child, a sexy stranger at a table in a sidewalk cafe–I want to see what they’re reading. Because READING IS HOT. And my email address is right there on my sidebar.

Thank you, gray skies

Do you see this? Do you know what you’re seeing? Yes, it’s a daisy, but that’s not what I mean. It’s a daisy with RAIN on it. Real rain. From the sky. The sky that has been giving us gentle rains off and on for hours. After months of almost no rainfall–and when it did rain, it’d almost always be a short blast that went away quickly and turned the environment into a sauna–this persistent light rain is so welcome. Except to Rex and Margot.

Speaking of Margot… Writer ‘Nathan Burgoine is having a contest. If you photograph your animal with any book by an author with whom ‘Nathan appears in an anthology and give him the link to the photo on your blog, FB, Twitter, whatever, you’ll be eligible to win a FREE BOOK. He explains it all better than I do in the contest link I provided above. I’m disqualifying myself from winning Fool For Love (I seem to have several copies already), but as examples, I give you:

Margot hiding from the rain by staying in bed with Felice Picano’s wonderful Like People in History. Felice’s short story in Fool For Love is “Gratitude.”

Guinness is not hiding from the rain, she’s always this lazy, and who wouldn’t want to curl up with Paul Lisicky’s Lawnboy? Paul’s story in Fool For Love is “Two Tales.”

‘Nathan’s story in Fool For Love is “Heart.”

Mississippi: magnolias and murder

I personally have always found Mississippi to be laid back in all the best ways, beginning from the early days of my childhood in the northern part of the state to my visits to the beautiful white-sand coast featured in Three Fortunes in One Cookie. But magnolias and mint juleps can be deceiving, and writers Jeannie Holmes, Carolyn Haines, and Dean James–writing as Miranda James–have penned some tales to show you a more sinister side of my mother’s home state.

Jeannie Holmes, Carolyn Haines, and Dean James at Houston’s Murder By The Book on Saturday, July 16, 2011.

Holmes introduced her urban fantasy series featuring vampire Alexandra Sabian and her arrival in Jefferson, Mississippi, in Blood Law. The second in the series presents a new peril for Alexandra in Blood Secrets, with a killer known as The Dollmaker. I haven’t read these yet, but the books’ descriptions are enticing–though the doll thing may make me reconsider whether I want bins of Barbie and her friends in my attic.

Fans of Haines’s Sarah Booth Delaney series will be going with Sarah and her assistant Tinkie to Natchez, Mississippi, to investigate robbery, kidnapping, and possibly murder in this eleventh installment, Bones of a Feather. In more good news, Haines’s publisher has contracted her to write at least two more books featuring these Mississippi Delta sleuths. I swear I could listen to Carolyn’s stories as long as she tells–and writes–them. Also, be sure to check out her web site to learn more about Good Fortune Farm Refuge, her organization that rescues and places animals in adoptive homes.

I last featured Dean’s Cat in the Stacks mystery series back in May with the signing for his second, Classified As Murder. Fans of Dean (and his alter ego Miranda James) will be glad to know he’s just finished writing the third in the series and is beginning the fourth. Both will be out next year, and you can count on my letting you know when they’re available.

Find a shady spot and take a literary trip to the Mississippi of these three authors’ imaginations: no mosquitoes, just mysteries.