☆ Exclusive Excerpt ☆
A car honked loudly right next to him.
Marcos Ramirez practically jumped out of his skin. He loved hanging out here at the Everyday Grind, sitting under the shade of the giant oak tree that towered over the wooden patio fronting the MARRS Building. But the noisy traffic along J Street, just feet away, sometimes got the better of him.
Still today was a good day. He had a new paying client—River City Real Estate, a local company that badly needed to update their circa-2005 website. OK, so he kinda hated this sort of work. He missed the good old days when web design had been an art, when you built sites from scratch with a little HTML and some graphic design expertise. These days it was much more rote. Start with WordPress (or Blogger or Joomla), add a few extensions (or plugins or widgets) and upload a few pictures and boom… instant website.
Plus no one had ever told him that the bulk of his time would go into all the other boring stuff—finding new clients, cold calls, invoicing, tracking and reports. And taxes.
Oh God, how he hated taxes.
But today the sun was shining, the Farmer’s Market was in full swing on the street in front of him, and he had an honest-to-goodness paying client to work for.
He took a deep breath and sipped his extra-hot decaf two-pump sugar-free skinny vanilla latte and dove in.
The next two hours flew by. Although the work had grown a bit boring, he knew his stuff. He found a template he liked and got into the guts of it, redesigning it to match the look and feel of his client’s logo and style. He added one of his favorite database extensions and configured it to handle the fields he needed to import from the old site. Then he downloaded the data from the existing site and imported it to the new one.
Soon he had a rough first draft to ship back to his contact at River City.
“Can you spare a dollar?” a young girl with blond spiky hair asked from the sidewalk below.
“Just a sec.” He rummaged through his wallet and handed her a five.
“Thanks,” she said, flashing him a bright smile.
“‘Welcome!” He downed the last of his now-cold coffee and stood, stretching and working out the kinks in his neck from being hunched over his laptop.
“Working hard, I see,” a guy at the next table said.
He was handsome enough—maybe five years younger than Marcos’s thirty-nine. He had fine features, thick blond hair, and blue eyes and wore a sharp dark-gray suit with a black shirt and yellow tie.
“I always hated that crap.” The guy half-stood and held out a hand. “I’m Dennis.” His smile was just a little too white.
“Marcos,” he replied, taking the man’s hand. Nice firm handshake. “So what do you do?”
“Me? I’m a salesman. I’m in town for the American Cheese Society convention.”
Marcos snorted. “Seriously?”
“Seriously. I represent Swisstown Cheese.” He handed over a card.
“Okay, that’s just awesome.”
“Thanks, I think.” He ran a hand through his thick blond hair. “Can I ask you something?”
Marcos closed his laptop. “Sure,” he said. “Shoot.”
“What is there for a guy to do in Sacramento for the afternoon?”
“Let’s see. Well, there’s the Sac Brew Bike, if you like pub crawls. Or the Crocker, if you like art. And Sacramento has some great theatre, although most of that’s at night.”
Dennis was grinning.
“I was hoping for something a little more… personal.”
Marcos was a good-looking guy. His salt-and-pepper hair had only made him more distinguished, and he wasn’t too bad looking for his age. But rarely was someone so forward with him, at least not out on the street.
He kinda liked it.
“Sure.… Your place or mine?”
Non-exclusive Excerpt (1000 words)
Carmelina ducked into her bathroom one last time, checking her frizzy red hair. It was all over the place, as usual. There was only so much you could do with yourself once you passed fifty, and it was, after all, the first time she’d left the house for fun since Arthur had passed away.
Not that tonight was going to be fun. She was joining the Merry Widows Club—three women who had also lost their significant others. Loylene had invited her, and she hadn’t had the heart to say no.
Loylene was a sweetheart, but she was totally caught up in Tupperware and counting calories. Carmelina had never counted calories in her life—she had her gorgeous Italian hips to prove it.
Marjorie was a bit of a bitch. Carmelina had often wondered if the woman’s husband had died just to get away from her nagging.
She barely knew Violet, who was, as her name suggested, a wallflower who never spoke above a peep.
She kissed Arthur’s photo on the mantel on her way out, the one where he was scowling because they’d been late to dinner for their twentieth anniversary. And true to form, she was late now, due to be at the little restaurant at five p.m.—in just five minutes.
Still, she was sure she had enough time to check her lipstick one last time.
* * * * *
It was a quarter to six when she finally arrived at the One Speed, the little pizza place the Club had chosen. Despite the fact that she lived just a couple miles away in River Park, it had taken her almost half an hour to get there due to a road project on H Street. And parking had been horrific. If only she’d left earlier.
“Hi girls,” she said, sliding smoothly into the open seat.
The other women had black veils on, something she found a bit morbid. Sure, she had lost Arthur less than three months before, after thirty wonderful years together. But she had given up on wearing black after the first week, and these women had been bereaved for more than a year.
Marjorie gave her a sour look. “You forgot your veil. And you’re an hourlate.”
“Forty-five minutes,” she shot back, picking up the menu. “And I guess I left mine at the dry cleaners.”
Loylene flashed her a perky smile. “Oh, that’s all right,” she said, opening up her large, woven pastel-peach purse. “I brought an extra, just in case.” She handed over a veil that had seen better days—creased and wrinkled and caked with little bits of something.
“Thank you, darlin’, but I won’t put you out. I’ll bring my own next time.” She set it aside.
Violet nodded and said something unintelligible.
“What was that?” Carmelina was starving. She ached to move past the pleasantries and get her meal ordered.
“She said she’s happy you’re here.” Marjorie’s severe tone left no doubt as to how shefelt about the matter.
“Shall we order?” Carmelina said, trying to move things along. “The minestrone soup looks good. I’ll bet all they have to do is ladle that into a bowl.…”
“The ritual first.” Marjorie’s tone brooked no argument.
“The what?” Carmelina asked.
“The ritual,” Loylene said, pulling a small green Tupperware container out of her voluminous purse. She popped open the lid, displaying a bunch of small, folded pieces of white paper, and set it in on the table. “Each of us takes one of these, reads it, and then describes what her husband or…” She glanced at Violet. “…spouse liked.”
Carmelina rolled her eyes. “Does it take long?” Her stomach rumbled.
“I’ll go first,” Marjorie said, ignoring her. She took a piece of paper and read aloud. “Clothing.” She stared off into space for a long moment. Carmelina was starting to worry about her when her eyes suddenly refocused and she smiled mistily. “Tube socks. Martin loved his tube socks.”
“Very good,” Loylene said, putting the box in front of Violet, who picked a piece of paper, and read it quietly.
“Burnt toast,” she said softly with no further explanation.
Carmelina’s stomach rumbled.
“Okay,” Loylene said with a frown. She drew her own paper. “Ah, TV Show. Um… that’s a hard one. He watched so many. Davis livedin front of the television.”
“Hoarders?” Carmelina suggested helpfully. She’d been to Loylene’s house.
“Ice Road Truckers,” Loylene said triumphantly. “Your turn.”
Carmelina obediently took a piece of paper, and then stared at it blankly. Printed on the paper was “favorite kink.” She looked up. All three women were staring at her expectantly. “The 49ers. Favorite sports team,” she lied and shoved the paper back in the box.
Violet’s phone buzzed. “Sorry, I’ve got to take this. It’s Sylvie.” She took the phone outside.
“Sylvie?” Carmelina asked.
Loylene nodded. “Her wife. Violet’s an honorary member. Sylvie’s not actually dead, just working.”
Carmelina shook her head. This had been a bad idea. “Can we just order? I haven’t had a bite to eat since breakfast.” She waved at their waiter.
“First we share the objects we brought that belonged to our spouses,” Marjorie said, pulling out an old pair of athletic socks with red stripes from her purse.
“Oh hell no.” Carmelina pushed away from the table and threw down her menu, ignoring Loylene’s shocked expression. “I’m sorry, Loylene, but grieving at home is better than this.” She stormed out of the restaurant with just the right amount of righteous indignation, or so she would tell herself later.
As she walked back to her car, something stuck to her shoe.
It was a green sheet of paper. She turned it over. “Italian Cooking School—Come Learn From The Best.” It was for a restaurant called “Ragazzi,” and the classes started on Sunday. She looked at the address. It was right across the street.
How had she never noticed it before?
She stuffed the flier into her purse and drove home, where gelato awaited her.
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Scott lives with his husband Mark in a little yellow bungalow in East Sacramento, with two pink flamingos by the front porch.
He spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.
He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.
He runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own reality.