My guest today is Dreamspinner Press author, Michael Rupured, here to talk about how he became a writer and his first novel, Until Thanksgiving, just released by Dreamspinner Press. Michael is running a giveaway for a paperback copy of the book on Goodreads. Be sure to sign up for the contest! Welcome, Michael, and congratulations on your book! -Shira
Thank you so much, Shira, for hosting me today on your blog, for answering my many questions over the last few months, and for being so generous with your tips and suggestions. The biggest and most pleasant surprise of getting published is meeting dozens of authors who are just as helpful and friendly. They’ve made me feel like a welcome new member of a very large extended family—something I know quite a lot about.
Aunt Toodles, my favorite among twelve wonderful aunts and to whom my first book is dedicated, fervently believed life begins at fifty. That’s when she married her first husband and, for her, settled down. She had a long list of reasons for believing the way she did—or maybe justifications, all of which were drilled into me over the last decades of her life.
Thanks to Toodles, I looked forward to turning fifty with the same level of anticipation that went with turning sixteen, eighteen, and twenty-one. Well. Maybe not exactly the same, but leaving my forties behind wasn’t something I dreaded.
If you ask me, Toodles was right. Since my fiftieth birthday, everything about my life has changed. At 54, I’m the Zumba King of Athens GA and a gay romance novelist—two unexpected twists in a life chocked-full of interesting surprises.
The year I turned fifty, I started blogging. My “fans” (mostly lifelong friends and family members) encouraged me to write a book. I penned a memoir, Glass Houses, and when I couldn’t get it published, joined the Athens Writers Workshop. Members of the group encouraged me to try writing a novel. Until Thanksgiving is the result.
Somewhere in my late thirties or early forties, I gave up on staying healthy. Or maybe it was more that I failed to change. Writing meant spending even more time on my ever-expanding butt. Eating whatever I wanted and writing or watching television when I wasn’t asleep created a me that was overweight, out of shape, and in poor health. Something had to change.
The solution was to eat less and exercise more—neither of which were skills you’d find anywhere in my toolbox. I love all kinds of food and abhor sweating. The imbalance hardly seems fair, but that’s the hand I was dealt.
Then, in August 2011, someone invited me to go to a Zumba class with them. I fell in love with the Latin-inspired aerobic dances and, because it was cheaper than paying by the class, joined a gym. An hour of Zumba was just like going to clubs after I first came out, without all the drugs, alcohol, and… well… men.
esides me, there are maybe five guys here in Athens who turn up at a Zumba class every now and then. But there is only one Zumba King—darling of the Zumba ladies—and that, my friends, is yours truly.
So that’s a little bit about me. Here’s a little something about Until Thanksgiving, scheduled for release by Dreamspinner Press on December 17.
Blurb: 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….
The doorbell’s steady ding, ding, ding woke Josh from a sound sleep. He stumbled out of bed and tripped over an assortment of pizza boxes, dirty clothes, old newspapers, and empty cans on his way to the front door. He saw his friend Linda Delgado through the peephole and opened the door.
“I’ve been ringing your doorbell forever. You up?”
“Does it look like I’m up?” Squinting from the bright sunlight, Josh looked at his arm and then remembered his watch still sat on his bedside table. “What the hell time is it, anyway?”
“Way past time for your sorry ass to still be in bed. You were supposed to meet me at the pool two hours ago.”
He rubbed his eyes. “You could have called.”
Linda put her hands on her hips and glared. “I did. Three times.”
Josh looked over and saw the red blinking light on his answering machine. “Oh. Sorry.” He ran his hands up over his eyes and through his hair, pulling the bangs back, then letting go and shaking his head. “Guess I was sleeping pretty heavy. I went downtown last night and was a little late getting home.”
“Late getting home? Did you get lucky? Is he still here?”
Josh decided not to mention the anonymous blowjob to his one and only friend. Women really didn’t understand about casual, anonymous sex. “No, I didn’t get lucky. Nobody even looked at me twice, much less talked to me.”
“Poor Joshy. Everyone probably thought you were too busy enjoying your little pity party to bother with anyone else.”
Josh shook his head. “Linda, sometimes you’re a real bitch.”
“As your best friend, it’s my job. If I don’t tell your hunky ass the truth, who will?” She looked past him. “Are we just going to stand here on the porch all day and talk?”
Josh yawned and stepped back, opening the door wider so Linda could come in. “Sorry. I’m still about half asleep.”
Linda pushed her way past Josh into the condo. She took three steps, then turned back to Josh. “Jesus Christ! What the hell is that smell?”
Josh sniffed the air. “What smell? I don’t smell anything.”
“It smells like a crack house in here, or maybe a dumpster.” She covered her mouth and nose with her hand and talked between her fingers. “Damn, Josh! When was the last time you took out the trash?”
“Uh. I dunno. Sometime before Ben moved out.”
“That was more than three weeks ago. Can’t you smell it?”
Josh sniffed again and shrugged. “Not really. Maybe a little when I first come in. You get used to it.”
Pinching her nose and holding her hand over her mouth as she kicked through trash and clutter, Linda made her way into the living room. On the coffee table, empty cans and glasses surrounded an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts and the tail ends of an uncountable number of joints. Linda kicked a bunch of dirty clothes and old newspapers off the sofa and onto the floor to clear a place to sit.
She looked slowly around the living room, her eyes jumping from mess to bigger mess as she took it all in. “So this is what three weeks of wallowing in self-pity looks like.”
Josh cleared himself a spot on the sofa, knocking over a half empty glass of what might have been milk as he sat down. “I guess so.” He picked a small pipe from the table. “You mind if I catch a little buzz before we hit the pool?”
Linda sighed. “Sure. Why not?” She glanced around the room again. “I may even have to join you.”
He was more than a little surprised. Since divorcing a guy with a deep affection for cocaine who everyone thought could easily have passed for Josh’s brother, Linda rarely got high. Josh retrieved the jewelry chest his mother had given him for his twelfth birthday, and after knocking a bunch of cans to the floor, cleared a spot for it on the coffee table. He opened the chest and took out a nearly empty bag of pot to replenish his pipe.
“Guess I’ve been smoking a lot since Ben left.”
Linda glanced around at the filthy, cluttered condo. “No shit. Too bad getting high doesn’t inspire you to go on a cleaning binge.”
“Ben usually did all the cleaning.” Josh filled the pipe and offered it to Linda.
Linda hesitated. “When in a frat house, do as the frat boys do.” She took the pipe, fired it up, inhaled deeply, and held her breath before returning it to Josh. “Are you going to tell me about your night downtown?”
Josh took a big hit and then exhaled. “There’s really nothing to tell. I had a couple of drinks, took in the drag show for a while, then watched a bunch of people I don’t care to know dancing to music I’d never heard before. It was a good time.”
He looked at Linda. Two years younger than Josh, she was still beautiful, with short raven hair, olive skin that quickly tanned a dark brown, and dazzling blue eyes. Their mothers had been best friends. They’d grown up together, and Josh could tell she knew there was more to his story. She looked at him and cocked her head. “Did you run into Benjie and David?”
Josh shook his head. “No. They weren’t there.” He relit the bowl and took another hit.
“That’s good.” She reached across and pulled his chin around so she could see his eyes. “You know you’re going to run into them sooner or later, don’t you?”
Josh returned his attention to the pipe. “Not if I can help it. David knows Ben has trouble keeping it zipped. The Bar is the last place they’d be.”
He loaded the bowl again and handed it to Linda. Having outgrown the youthful crowd of regulars, he and Ben had long ago quit going to the Bar Complex. In truth, the decision to avoid the place had been less about the young crowd than Ben’s wandering eye.
Linda snorted. “If David was that smart, you and Ben would still be together.”
“Yeah, and if I was smart, we would never have hooked up.” In hindsight, Josh should have seen it coming. Ben had left his previous lover to be with Josh. If they’d do it for you, it was only a matter of time before they’d do it to you.
“Do you miss him?”
Josh looked at her. “I don’t know, maybe. Part of me is glad he’s gone. It’s like a big weight has been lifted from my shoulders.” He shrugged and looked at the floor. “Maybe I should become a monk. Then I could put all this celibacy to good use.”
Linda laughed. “You’re not really the celibate type.” When he didn’t laugh, she slid closer to him and wrapped an arm around his waist. “Thought any more about that job offer?”
Josh draped his arm across her shoulder and rested his chin on her head. “Not really.”
Walker, Cochran, and Lowe, the law firm where he worked, had offered him a promotion to national director of communications. The catch was he’d have to transfer to the Washington, DC, branch of the firm. Ben had been opposed to the move, but what he thought didn’t matter anymore.
Linda leaned her head into his neck. “Why not go? It’s a great opportunity for you, and there’s no better time than now to get the hell out of Dodge.” She sat up, pushing him away. “You should go.”
Josh looked into her eyes. He couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been part of his life, and he loved her like the sister he never had. More than her words, the concern for his well-being he saw on her face told him she was serious.
But he couldn’t imagine life without her, especially now that his love life was over. If he couldn’t have a lover, at least he had Linda. Being single without her to keep him company was just unimaginable. He set the pipe in the ashtray and stood up.
“Come on. It’s a beautiful day outside. Let’s not waste it in here chitchatting about work.”
Linda laughed and shook her head. “If you insist.”
“I do. Let me jump into some trunks.”
Josh returned a few minutes later in navy-blue swim trunks, a white T-shirt, and flip-flops. “Ready?”
“I was ready two hours ago,” Linda smirked.
My blog: http://rupured.com