The October Goal

October 19th, 2016

In last year’s release of King John, in those final author pages after the novel concluded, I promised something mighty: I would finish The Lost and Founds first story arc (Book 5: Come Back To Me and Book 6: King Daniel) in 2016.


For a guy who produces one novel a year, that seemed deludedly ambitious. (Plus, if you use words like deludedly, let’s go ahead and assume you have issues constructing sentences.) I justified this bold proclamation as achievable because I had already completed a shitty draft of Book 5 (written in 2008), and more than 50% of Book 6 has been written and released (in chunks) since 2012.

This goal seemed do-able.

Might still be.

We will find out. The year, 2016, isn’t over.

Come Back To Me took two months longer to rewrite than expected. Then, there was July’s Lambda Literary retreat, for which I wrote two new chapters of a future book. Then, food poisoning. Factor in my unexpected romance with gardening, which constantly stole time for weeding, watering, thinning, researching, cooking, canning, and photographing every goddamn green thing I pulled out of the ground.


Quite a year thus far.

The October goal was to finish the first (non-shitty) draft of King Daniel before I attended this year’s Gay Romance Lit conference.

I did it.

Tonight, I finished the first (and pretty decent) draft of King Daniel.

Tomorrow morning, I drive to GRL.

I finished in the gazebo on my back deck, under my twinkling summer lights.

I had already packed the car, finished a few small errands around town, including visiting the library for a Batman graphic novel. The house is clean, mail is on-hold. Kitty sitter arrives tomorrow. I photographed squash-colored leaves this afternoon. Tonight, after writing, I ate stuffed peppers (including some surprising green onions which sprouted after my final harvest!), and after a neighborhood walk soon (and who am I kidding–porn), I’ll go to bed early.

This all sounds very Gay Norman Rockwell, and it was. Tonight, at least.

For the past two months, I have declined some pretty amazing invitations–autumnal cookouts, backyard fire pits drinking beer, horror movie nights screaming on the couch, and even a trip north to hug my motel-owning friends. I didn’t realize how much time would be required to meet this goal. My field of vision narrowed to one thing: the October goal.

When I started this series, I didn’t know if I could achieve it. I had a vision. A wall full of ideas and concepts, thematic arcs but completely lacking connective tissue, the only connective tissue essential for a writer: words. I envisioned grandiose plots spanning all six books (and beyond), with inside jokes relevant in the final pages, set up years earlier in the first book, King Perry. I had no idea how to accomplish some of these deludedly intense goals.

When I began, I didn’t know who I was as an author.

I have a better sense now.

I am someone committed to this craft. I’m committed to writing, to words, to storytelling. I make professional goals, and–vegetables permitting–I keep them. This is who I am. I do my best to honor my commitment to readers. And yes, it’s a little early to gloat, considering King Daniel needs reworking. And editing. And proofreading. Then, more proofreading.

I’m not sure this book will come out by late December.


Maybe early January.

I can live with that.

I’d rather break my promise by a month to create an amazing conclusion. I know a little more about who I am as an author these days. I know what kind of books I want to write.

Lest I stray too far portraying myself as some holier-than-thou word tapper, sipping my sarsaparilla root tea, clacking out THE END on the same typewriter Hemingway used, let me say this, gentle readers: fuck that. This past weekend, under pressure, I wrote 11K and the weekend before, 9K. I was frantic. I was in big danger of not making my October goal.

Accomplishing a goal like this isn’t exclusively about the deadline. It’s about committing to yourself. Having a dream of writing novels isn’t enough–you’ve got to commit. Sacrifice some awesome opportunities. Align your life to your priorities. If you’ve ever said, “I’m not smart enough/dedicated enough/whatever enough to write a book,” accomplishing a massive writing goal is more than words on a page.

I’m headed to GRL tomorrow morning.

A huge weekend party to celebrate writers, to celebrate readers, to celebrate readers who are writers, and writers who are readers. We will dance, drink, quietly talk in corners, ask questions of panels, exchange favorite book recommendations, fan-girl and fan-boy and trans-fan all over our favorite word-driven heroes. We will celebrate our successes. We will transform online friends into real-world ones.


I’m gonna drink some beer and chill.

I deserve it. I made my October goal. I am a professional writer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pack my feather boa.



They Danced

June 17th, 2016

Once there was a tribe where every man was the one true king, and every woman, the one true queen. Odd, you may think, and wonder how any work got done in such a society with everyone making rules. But these were not those kinds of kings and queens. They required no throne rooms, no jewels, no gold crowns. They chose to king as they went about the business of living. The gardeners, the blacksmiths, even the tax collectors were fair and just queens (and sometimes kings).

Among them lived the King of Sorrow, a man flooded with dinner invitations from friends who desired his ear for somber conversations. More often than suppers, he was invited to funerals and desolate November teas where he and his host might sit and watch barren tree branches tap the windows at the urging of a brittle wind. After a while, the King of Sorrow would speak, and he always had something beautiful and surprising to say. His listeners were often inspired to work for social justice and to make significant changes to improve their own condition. He was frequently witnessed attending demonstrations protesting cruelty and inequity. He was truly impartial, without any biases, for he visited every single king and queen.

All the Found Ones knew the King of Sorrow—though he sometimes overstayed his welcome—was absolutely necessary for greater love, greater compassion. After all, he was their one true king. The Found Ones liked to give him oranges, as the uneven, craggy texture made him smile.

Despite his many social engagements, he found time to fall in love.

They met in her hospital room. She had lost her child at birth. The King of Sorrow appeared before her with downcast eyes, and said, “I am truly sorry.” She wept and made room in her heart for him, for though he was a stranger, he loved her child as much as she. He promised to never forget her son, whom she had named Aaron.

She was the Queen of Light.

When they attended funerals together, she would release sparrows which darted around the mourners, singing with delight. Instead of an affront, their presence comforted the grief-stricken, who needed the cheery warbling to keep them standing upright. She could make water sparkle for those who felt despondent. She would whisper the word, “blue” in someone’s ear, someone who had just been kissed by her husband, causing that person to look up and see the expansive cobalt sky while taking in a full, deep breath.

Though she had many sisters (and two older brothers) who also called themselves Queens of Light, her particular gift was in details. The single leaf twirling downward. A determined yellow flower boasting its color at the sun.

Together, the King of Sorrow and the Queen of Light hosted dances in their backyard, under a tree so green, it was hard to witness directly. He loved it when she twirled him; he lost himself in the dizzying patterns of leaves. They invited friends who stayed as long as they could, enjoying the Turkish dance music and occasional moody crooners from eras past. They especially enjoyed songs in languages they did not understand, for they could focus on feeling the music.

They danced.

Together, they were almost indestructible.


Whose idea was it to leave the kingdom in hopes of restoring Lost Kings and Queens, those who had ventured far from the kingdom and forgotten their true nature? It is not known. “Perhaps,” they told each other, “Perhaps we might help the Lost Ones remember who they were always meant to be.”

They danced among the Lost Ones with their own unique moves, occasionally stumbling, then focusing on each other to right themselves. But they discovered restoring kings and queens was not as easy as they had assumed it would be. Over time, their attempts became more desperate. Instead of relying on the subtlety of birds, she would tell jokes at funerals, pushing too hard to temper her husband’s power. He continued to worship her and loved her by creating more and more opportunities for her gifts to shine.

At some point he became as lost as she, though he assured everyone he was not. “After all,” he boasted, “I still remember my name is the King of Sorrow.” He relied on this memory as proof, which meant he could not see the damage he inflicted, destroying hope. Among the Lost Ones, the King of Sorrow had grown sharper, more persistent. His gift was no longer a gentle and gloomy Spring rain, but had become a raging monsoon. She now laughed at the chaos he had sown, ripping photographs in half, throwing them into the wind.

The Lost Kings and Queens welcomed them readily, gorging on Sorrow as if he were the only dinner guest worth having. She remained at his side, snarking with gallows humor and jokes that hurt, forgetting fully the subtle gifts she once knew.

To this day, the Found Ones remain hopeful of this couple’s return.

They tell their children, if the King of Sorrow finds your heart, welcome him as necessary for life. Weep for the fallen. Shed bitter tears over the unfairness of this brief existence. Take action. Prevent horrors from repeating themselves.

But the key to this couple being restored to glory is the Queen of Light. In times of sorrow, say the Found Kings and Queens, remember her, too. Let her in. While feeling despondent, notice the taste of cold water, the determined agitation of a bug on a June sidewalk. See a mother holding a chattering ten-year-old’s hand and think, “That child is loved.”

Allow your fingertips to explore an orange and imagine each unique bump is someone in the world who knows your grief.

These things do not make the King of Sorrow retreat.

But they do make his presence bearable.

And if you are truly lucky, say the Found Ones, this couple will dance for you, a dazzling pas de deux, both painful and life-affirming, spinning under the tree of life. Open your heart to them, and you may help them remember.

Both of them are necessary, say the Found Ones.

After all, he is the one true king. And she is the glorious one true queen.

0 tree

TEASER from upcoming book: Come Back To Me

March 17th, 2016

This short excerpt is narrated by Malcolm, Vin Vanbly’s older brother. In the previous books, not much has been revealed about Malcolm, only that he is an African-American police officer, roughly twenty years older than Vin. Vin and Malcolm adopted each other as brothers at some point. This excerpt seemed appropriate to share today, Saint Patrick’s Day.


Come Back To Me is scheduled for release in the first half of 2016.


“One night in early March, I came home and found a note in the vegetable crisper. I had mentioned the day prior I needed to use up the damn broccoli. Vin had anticipated me. The note invited me to bar on north Clark street to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. He had written in block letters, PLEASE COME and underlined the words. I joined him that evening, despite how much I hated the day. All day, we answered noise complaints, party complaints, domestic complaints from people so drunk they could barely form words. This day brought out the worst in people, not the best, but Vin had never invited me out for a beer, or even to meet him outside the house, and I could not pass this opportunity.

“Vin had secured a table, no small feat in this crowded establishment, and had my favorite beer waiting for me. I was touched by this small gesture. He nodded. I nodded. We drank for a bit and watched the crazy people get drunker and drunker. Vin said, ‘It’s my birthday.’ I said, ‘Happy birthday.’ Vin said, ‘It’s not actually my birthday.’ After a moment he said, ‘I don’t know when mine is, and I need a birthday. Everyone has a birthday, right? I pick today. I was horrified and I’m sure my expression showed it. ‘It’s a good day,’ Vin said. ‘there’s always going to be a party on my birthday, and people are always happy today.’

“I said, ‘They’re in a good mood because they’re drunk. That’s not happy. Don’t pick this shitty, shitty day as your birthday, Vin. You will regret it. It will fucking haunt you. Vin laughed, and this was a new sound from him—laughter. He said, ‘I might actually be Irish, you know. I mean, look at me. Or maybe I’m German. Or Finnish. You know, blonds.’ I realized at this moment, it was officially, our first real, sustained conversation. But I couldn’t talk him out of it. He had picked Saint Patrick’s Day and he thought it was genius.

“We sat together on Vin’s first birthday drinking beer and conversing. We talked about sports even though it held no interest for either of us. We were hunting for common ground. I did not ask questions about his upbringing or anything to do with his former life. We mostly stared at the people around us and I started telling him my observations. He had made his own observations, and I discovered his talent—which I had suspected—was real. We ordered corn beef sandwiches, because, that’s what you do. Vin insisted on paying for everything.

“After that Saint Patrick’s Day, he changed. He ate more. Left his room. We would go out together and I would teach him how to watch people, watch for what was true, and then the truths behind their true. He already possessed this skill. I enhanced it. Vin always took it too far, further than I would. He would intervene. Once we observed a woman hailing a cab and both concluded—based on her clothes, her hairstyle, and the way she held her umbrella—she didn’t much like her appearance. Before I could stop him, Vin crossed the street to her and spoke to her. She smiled. When he returned to me, he explained, ‘I told her she looked beautiful.’

“Vin was beginning to find his own way.”

King Daniel, Chapters 1-11

February 25th, 2016

Didn’t you sometimes resent J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series? She created this fantastic world that sucked us in and made us care about potions class, an old geezer named Dumbledore, and bewitched furniture. But then we had to wait two years for the next installment.

Two years!

I always wished she provided a tasty tidbit between novels, like a Harry Potter short story.

I’m a slow writer, so between king novels I’m hoping to provide readers with a tasty tidbit. Roughly six months after the last book release (which hopefully is roughly six month before the next full novel), I will make chapters available from the sixth book in the series, King Daniel.

Wait, the sixth book? Prior to the release of the other books?

I know, I know. It’s messed up. But Vin Vanbly’s tale is odd and the telling of his stories must also reflect this oddness. Just go with it. Part of the grand adventure.

The release schedule:

King Perry (first book) – February, 2012

King Daniel, chapters 1-3 – October 2013

King Mai (second book) – July, 2013

King Daniel, chapters 4-7 – January, 2014

The Butterfly King (third book) – September, 2014

King Daniel, chapters 8-10– April, 2015

King John (fourth book) – September 10th, 2015

King Daniel, Chapter 11 –February 2016

Come Back to Me (fifth book) – prior to July, 2016

King Daniel (sixth book) – COMPLETED STORY, ???, 2016

The chess pieces are on the board. Vin Vanbly. Daniel Connors. The prophecies. The king whose initials are D.C. The Great Remembering. What happened to Vin in 2005? What role does Daniel play in The Lost and Founds? Enjoy exploring the world of the Found Kings in 2013, the year King Daniel takes place.

And if you’re here for Chapter 11, buckle up, Mare. The real show’s about to begin.


  • .PDF file is attached to this post.
  • .mobi file is available (but WordPress won’t let me attach). Email me and ask for it: remembertheking@comcast.net
  • .epub file is available (but WordPress won’t let me attach). Email me and ask for it: remembertheking@comcast.net

All my love,

Edmond Manning

King Daniel – Chapters 1-11 – Edmond Manning


The Wedding Poem

July 21st, 2015

A few months ago, Emme, a reader-turned-friend, asked me if she could pay me to write a short story for her son, something she could give him as a special wedding present. I considered the very cool opportunity but declined. At the time, I was in the throes of researching and writing my big 2015 novel (King John), and writing a short story could prove too potent a distraction. I needed to focus.

I countered with a proposal:  what about a poem?

She was equally delighted. When I declined payment, she insisted on donating money to charity instead, which made the happiness of a wedding poem that much sweeter.

I wrote a questionnaire for her son (Anthony) and his betrothed (Mike) asking them questions: what kind of kid were you? How would you describe your love? What is your favorite color? Where is your favorite place in the world? She forwarded the questions and they dutifully answered. Some of their responses challenged me.

“Our love is like a boulder.”

“My favorite color is blue with green a close second.”

“Our love is like a redwood.”


I wondered how to create something to honor them both and their love. After all, I’m no poet. Sure, I love poetry but I’m just a dabbler. That’s not false humility. It’s true. Also, I am a terrible dancer, but I love to dance. I sing off key, but I sing. I think we should all attempt creative talents we do not possess because it helps us admire those who excel in these areas.

Plus, it’s damn fun.

While crafting their poem, I learned of their courtship: their first date (Mets game), the things each one does which drives the other nuts, a description of the park where they were to marry, and their special wedding clothes. Emme sent me links and background information. I studied their photographs. They seemed like lovely men.

They were married at the end of June. At the reception, Emme presented them with a wedding poem.


Mike, did you ever dream,

as a child, when you thought you knew everything,

did you dream that love would come for you, like a family of redwoods,

standing tall and strong beside you, the fresh, clean heady scent of holiness

swimming inside you, reminding you to love?

Did you dream,

that he would forgive your papers left everywhere,

and that he would love you tenderly, with grace and humor, this man of great integrity?

How could you know?

How could you know that one day,

when asked about your favorite place in the world, you would answer,

“Anywhere he is.”


Anthony, did you ever dream

that love would stop you in your path like a boulder,

relentless in its desire to be loved, to be recognized as loving,

you, who spent your childhood wrapped in book after book, fact after eager fact,

Waiting impatiently for someone to listen to your hard-won knowledge?

And already, someone interested in knowing you, in loving you, was walking his path to you.

A menschlichkeit, a man you would admire for his openness to the good in humanity.

A man who cherishes your clever jokes, your amazing intellect.

Your hard-won knowledge is now fully loved.


As you come together in Preservation Park,

proud Victorian homes admiring with silent majesty two kings in love,

When you catch each other’s gaze,

will you remember the past?

Your first date at Shea Stadium, the day Anthony recalls,

“The Mets lost, but we won.”

In front of the park fountain, on the gorgeous lawn,

will you flash to your future?

Lives pursuing justice, and music, and faith, with gray in your hair?

Living in your own home, a family of two, or four, or possibly so many more?

Or will you see each other in the present on your wedding day?

Anthony in his kittel, dancing with birds, crowns, grapes and vines,

pomegranates, too.

Michael in a clever gray suit, grinning and hungry for this new chapter to begin.

Will you see each other as the men you are today?

Will you say yes to that man, today’s man, and yes to that tomorrow man, too?

Each day you say yes, the sky will be blue, with green a very, very close second.


Did you ever dream, Mike?

Could you have known, Anthony?

That one day, you would love this way?




wedding 1

King Daniel, Chapters 1-10

April 17th, 2015

Didn’t you sometimes resent J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series?

She created this fantastic world that sucked us in and made us care about potions class, an old geezer named Dumbledore, and bewitched furniture. But then we had to wait two years for the next installment. Two years. C’mon, woman, give us a fix! I had always wished she provided a tasty tidbit between novels, like a Harry Potter short story.

I’m a slow writer, so between king novels I’m hoping to provide you with a tasty tidbit.

Roughly six months after the last book release (which hopefully is roughly six month before the next full novel), I will make chapters available from the sixth book in the series, King Daniel.

I know, I know.

It’s messed up. But Vin Vanbly’s tale is odd and the telling of his stories must also reflect this oddness. Just go with it. Part of the grand adventure.

The release schedule:

King Perry (first book) – February, 2012

King Daniel, chapters 1-3 – October 2012

King Mai (second book) – July, 2013

King Daniel, chapters 4-7 – January, 2014

The Butterfly King (third book) – September, 2014

King Daniel, chapters 8-10– April, 2015

King John (fourth book) – September, 2015

King Daniel, chapter 11– January, 2016

The tension in Daniel’s story ratchets up higher in the latest chapters, revealing several of his dark secrets in his ongoing quest to find his kingship. What happened in the garage? Who is DC? What happened to Vin? I hope you enjoy meeting Daniel and exploring the world of the Found Kings in 2013, the year this story takes place.

All my love,

Edmond Manning

King Daniel Chapters 1-10

King John

January 7th, 2015

I am Bedouin.

I walk the hard-packed alkali desert in my canyon-brown jubba, the thin, cotton gown flitting over the tops of my exposed feet, tickling them. I feel the scorching heat rise through the barren earth, through my sandals, slowly cooking me on this oven-blasted day. A sturdy rope belt, woven from camel wool, wraps around my waist twice, the excess swinging at my side almost as a lasso. My canvas water bag sloshes at my side. A shorter length of camel wool secures my keffiyeh, the long white sides flowing down my back and sides of my face, protecting me from the brutal desert rays.

I could die out here. We could all die out here.

Sunstroke. Dehydration. A deep flesh wound could kill, so far from civilization and hospitals. The desert cares nothing about our survival. This is my world.

I am Bedouin.

I travel with my thick staff, observing my people, pondering their multi-faceted fates. The sun celebrants, fire worshippers, the partiers, the burn-outs, the techno-geeks, aging hippies, acrobats, metal artists, colossal dreamers, and the in-over-their-heads vacationers. The Mad Maxers. They come to escape. They come to experience something they cannot anywhere else. They come to get laid.

We are Burning Man.

Despite living here for five days, I still haven’t picked my Bedouin name. I haven’t had need. Haven’t talked to many people. But I do like to pretend to be someone else. Should I be…Vinicio Vanabalay. What? No, that sounds almost Italian. A terrible Bedouin name. I need a more Arabic-sounding name. What about…Vanaco. No. How about….Vintalmach. Ick. No, that’s a mess of letters flung together without any regard for their personal safety. This is hard. The Arabic alphabet contains no letter v. In their language, my name couldn’t possibly exist.

V—the touchpoint of two ls clashing, meeting by rooftop in the dead of night, two ninja swords—no.

Enough on the word stuff.

I step aside to let twins pass me, not twins exactly, but dressed as twin bumblebees, both with martini glasses and singing. I will head down Mizzen, a street I have not yet explored and see what I might barter for lunch. Who needs the services of the traveling Bedouin, Vinicio Vanabalay? No, dummy. Too Italian.

I chat with cheerful folks who offer trampoline bouncing to passerbys, the chance to jump high into the blistering sky. I politely decline. I pass southern swamp mucks who have recreated a rundown trailer camp. They call, ‘hey, foreigner’ in their friendliest, redneck accent. I bow. I pass a camp themed around squirrels, which is pleasantly odd, and ahead on the left I see Camp Cuddleville, where lingering hugs evolve into non-sexual intimacy under their RV’s awning shade. May have to return.

A block later, one guy snarls at me, “Go home, towel head,” which I expected, this recent after 9-11. I intentionally chose a Bedouin costume this year to generate and share goodwill dressed as an Arab. We lost lives, New York landmarks, and trust in the world. We most regrow our tolerance, a sturdier crop this time. The world grows smaller each week. We must grow to meet the new ear unfolding with patience and love.

A medium-height, black woman in a silver-flashing skirt, some space-age polymer wrapped around her with sensuous folds, argues loudly with a taller frat man, early twenties, shirtless with burnt shoulders. His spikey blond hair suggests more hair-care product than the haphazard, windblown appearance most burners share. Dozens of silver necklaces fall over and shelter her naked breasts, yet the heavy curve of their undersides reveal thickness and perfection. She defines austere elegance in this harsh environment. I see his abandoned robot-something costume a few feet away, same silver material as hers, already layered in playa dust.

She yells. He sloshes his drink, gesturing wildly and snarks back. She screams louder. He shrinks from her—only for a second—redoubling his yell. Interesting. A few people stop, a small crowd forming. I see others dressed similarly, probably from the same camp, whispering, deciding whether to intervene.

Common enough scene, drunken rowdiness or random expression of fierce emotions, but perhaps I am needed.

I stroll right between them. I must distract their rage.

I jerk my staff above my head and I out-shout them both. “‘Nobody fucks with the Butterfly King’, he would cry in his resonant voice and all rejoiced when he thundered those words, for this meant he would take action against an injustice to his people and so many considered themselves his people.”

It works, for they pause long enough to gape at me.

“The Butterfly King ruled with the gentlest touch, not ruling at all, merely a hand on a shoulder, the soft awareness of his presence behind you as you blew out your birthday candles, letting you know he shared in your wish, whatever it might be. He sometimes paid the rent for those who could not afford it. Those fired from their jobs often found fresh roses delivered the next morning, compliments of him. Next time you go to New York, look for a new kind of graffiti, not spray-painted. Look for the yarn butterflies. This king taught me the lightest, feather touch will enable a certain magic to emerge, an ability he bequeathed me, a simple Bedouin, and I stand in your service, to see if I might offer you butterflies of your own.”

“What?” The frat man is annoyed. “No, go the fuck away, dude. Private conversation.”

“Of course, of course,” I say and bow before them. “Sahib, I am yours to command, yet might I suggest with four minutes of your time, I could change your life direction, making your fights softer and more loving. Four minutes, is all I ask. This, and you must answer my every question with truth.”

“Go the fuck away,” he repeats, his emphasis harder.

“No, stay,” she says. “Help us. Four minutes?”

She wants me to stay if only to defy him. She’s spoiling for the fight. Still, it’s an invitation to stay.

“Yes, beautiful lady, four minutes, if you both agree. And you both must answer whatever I ask, however I ask it.”

She glowers at her lover. “Stay. We agree.”

He scowls and takes a slug of his drink. I don’t work with drunk people, but I don’t think he’s wasted. He’s merely enjoying a cold one as they explore the city streets. Yeah, he’s okay. More importantly, I measured her reaction when I said beautiful lady. I believe I know her story.

“My name is Vinicio Vanabalay.”

Why didn’t I invent a better name?

Butterfly King Release Day!

September 20th, 2014


It’s release day for The Butterfly King, the third adventure in the Lost and Founds series. Vin Vanbly tries to king a powerful man in New York City. But can he pull it off? He’s younger, greener, less sure of himself. Which is dangerous in New York, where anything can happen…


And for those who have been enjoying The Lost and Founds series, you might enjoy a few other links:

I blogged for The Novel Approach this past week, sharing why I (Thunderstorm) New York.

Today, I visited Joyfully Jay and wrote about many of the secrets emerging in The Lost and Founds. Oooooo…secrets.

Also, if you missed my introduction to The Butterfly King, this may be a good place to start, a character sketch of him on Gay List Book Reviews.

The Butterfly King: Chapter 1

September 18th, 2014

Hello! This Saturday, the third book in The Lost and Founds series, The Butterfly King, is published. I hope you enjoy this preview, the first half of Chapter 1.


Lying on the top bunk of this cell, facing the wall covered in years of angry scribbles, I hear them. When I lift my head, the cheap mattress crinkles. The white-painted wall feels greasy to my touch. Down the hallway I hear the metallic screech from a jail door opening and then, a few seconds later, slamming shut, a loud clanging chord, echoing finality and the irreversible truth that you are guilty. Why? Because you are here, the New York City Police Midtown North Holding Facility. You must be guilty.

Cliff’s footsteps clip along at a brisker pace than normal, but not anything close to hurrying. Clip-clack, clip-clack. Those are his black cop shoes. He’s just a regulation New York City police officer, doing his job—clip-clack, clip-clack—getting dangerous people off the street. I cannot hear the second set of footsteps, yet I know a man in handcuffs walks at Cliff’s side. And if there’s one thing I know about my new cellmate, the Butterfly King, he’s dangerous. Men of power always are, perhaps more dangerous for ignoring that power.

The shuffle from the Butterfly King’s shoes finally reaches my ears and the sound is both satisfying and unnerving. He is here. Terrance is here. His King Weekend begins now.

My heart pounds while I lie with my back to the cell door, listening to the twisting metal in the lock. The door rattles, then opens, the metal swinging quieter than the one down the hall. I oiled this one. My plans aren’t affected if the door creaks but the sound might spook Terrance during critical seconds where a single background noise might impact his decision.

I’m probably overthinking this.

This Midtown station is one of the few remaining precincts to still use actual metal keys, which is why it works for tonight’s purpose. I’ll never know how Cliff got the clearance to make this happen, this incredible ruse. This isn’t his precinct. He must have called in a serious favor or promised one, anything to get rid of his obligation to me.

“Get up.” Officer Cliff Showalter’s words are crisp, like the clip-clack of his regulation black shoes. Clip-clack. I hate that sound, the official sound of being locked up. Long nights listening for the clip-clack of adult shoes in a juvie hallway, timing my escapes. They could never hold me for long.

I can’t make this too easy. Must not appear too agreeable.

Without moving, I imagine Cliff’s tightly drawn face, narrow, suspicious eyes and the short military buzz cut he maintains. I can’t believe how much he’s aged since the last time I saw him. Of course, that was a few years ago in Chicago. In Chicago, I informed him he owed me a favor of serious magnitude. Magnitude. What a great word, heavy and solid, like a brick you could throw through a window. I think New York aged him. That or the magnitude of what happened in Chicago.

Cliff kicks the bed frame with the side of his foot. “I said get up. Get the fuck up and stand over there where I can see you. No funny shit, Ghost.”

Without a word I roll over. I stare at them both, beholding the furious mess who will become the Butterfly King. He affords me the same unrelenting stare I give him, unsettled new cellmates trying to impress each other. I find defiance in his chocolate eyes, the slightest menacing sneer, his game face, which does not fool me. He’s terrified. Behind his furrowed brow, I see a man defeated by circumstances, hard edges worn smooth by pointless resistance. Already I visualize my fingertips brushing the side of his skull, hair cut so close to the head it’s almost a skin cap. I want to touch his luscious skin, so beautifully dark.

Jesus, Vin, lust after him later. It will be hours before he lets you near.

Terrance’s nose is thick, a big fat nose in the middle of his thick face, and I like it, the satisfying strength of width. His lips are full, so beautiful that I find myself wanting to kiss him over and over, the delicate maroon-ish color inside his lips, the color of raspberry kisses.

He sees me studying him and shoots me a lockup glare suggesting, none of your damn business, a jail salutation which also doubles as the standard New Yorker greeting. Terrance doesn’t realize I know he supervises data entry employees in corporate America and has never been to jail. He has no idea what to do, how to act. He’s working with instinct, pretending to hate me to ensure I keep my distance.

I roll off the bed. “Why do I have to move? I didn’t do anything.”

“Stand there,” Cliff says and he walks Terrance to the opposite side of the cell.

While Cliff’s back is turned I move just out of his sight.

Cliff raises Terrance’s bunched arms. “I’m taking off the handcuffs.”

I fiddle with the door, waiting for Cliff to catch me and yell. We rehearsed this with strangers a few times yesterday, random perps, until Cliff nailed the timing. If this opening gambit doesn’t go perfectly, the entire weekend is lost.

Cliff glances over his shoulder. “Damn it, Ghost, get where I can see you.”

I comply and slouch along the bars until I’m squarely within his line of vision again. Terrance angles his body enough to catch what’s happening. If his new cellie is going to try something stupid, Terrance wants to be ready. I cannot see the front of him, but I can tell he’s rubbing his wrists where the metal cuffs shackled him because I see his thick arms moving rhythmically, the lime green dress shirt ill-concealing his massive biceps. I’m going to suck on that beautiful muscle.

Fuck yeah.

Terrance says, “My phone call?”

“You’ll get it.” Cliff backs up. He jerks our cell door closed, creating the strong but dull sound of metal striking metal. An involuntary panic races through me. I remind myself I am not truly arrested, that this is part of the show. But I’m locked in a cage right now, and rats hate cages.

Don’t panic.

“My brother’s a lawyer.” Terrance rubs his wrists absently. “So you’re going to tread carefully with my civil rights. I have no complaints about my treatment, officer, no problems. Just show me proper respect.”

That’s a lie. His older brother died two years ago. Interesting he would choose brother instead of father, mother, uncle, or even lover. He chose his brother.

“You’ll get your call,” Cliff says without expression. “Once you’re processed. We’re backed up right now, so cool your jets. I’ll come back for your information and statement when we get caught up.”

“How long will this take?” Terrance asks with an impatient edge. “I have plans.”

Officer Cliff retreats down the corridor that led him here. Over his shoulder, he says, “I’d cancel your plans if I were you.”

Clip-clack, clip-clack, his sharp black shoes tackle the cement. I hate that sound.

“Hey, cop, I want a phone call, too.”

Without turning he says, “Shut up, Ghost. Nobody wants to hear from you.”


I told him to say something like that, something telling me to fuck off, but wow, those words hurt, a truth like a bee sting. He’s right, nobody wants a call from me. Nobody. No foster family, no real family, no nobody. Cliff was not pleased when I appeared on his front stoop four weeks ago, explaining it was time to settle his debt.

A metal door clangs open. The same metal door clangs shut. He’s gone.


A feeling rushes through me, delight but gushing faster, more like thrilled. Malcolm would welcome a call from me. Unlike Terrance, I still have a big brother. I have to keep remembering that, reminding myself. I’m twenty-six which means we’ve been brothers for five years. I guess it’s hard to—

Jesus, focus up! Talk for god’s sakes.

“Hey,” I say. “Got any smokes?”

“You’re kidding me.” Terrance turns to face me, and his sharp, beautiful eyes reveal disdain. “Are you fucking with me?”

“What? No. I mean, yes, I was fucking with you. I don’t smoke. But it’s a nice way to say hello when you’re in prison.”

“Holding facility,” he says, appraising me. “This is not prison.”

“Holding facility,” I say. “You’re right. I’ve been here before. These eight cells are in an old branch on the first floor. The modern cells are on the second and third floors. They mostly use this for night court overflow. They haven’t updated this floor with electronic doors or fancy technology. There’s not even video. Nobody cares if you’re in here.”

He says nothing. He looks down the corridor recently vacated by Officer Showalter.

I say, “I was going for funny, asking you for smokes. I guess you didn’t think so.”

“No,” he says with clarity in his tone. That single world is an invitation for my silence.

I say, “I’m Ghost. Well, that’s the name I use. My real name is boring and this is more fun, like a fun nickname. I gave it to me myself. What’s your name? Ghost is bad-ass for a nickname, isn’t it? Kinda gangster, right?”

He turns and stares at me. I stand with my arms behind me, yanking on the jail bars. I hope I convey how bored I am. I can’t be sure how I come across. I know I look younger than I am. Standing here in my faded, red T-shirt and jeans, I bet I look like I’m twenty-one or twenty-two.

“I’m busy,” he says. “Don’t talk to me.”

“Oh yeah, okay. You’re busy. Sure, I get it. You have somewhere important to be.”

He tilts his head as if studying me, but then closes his eyes, showing me he’s so unconcerned by my presence he feels safe. He puts on a good show for a man who has never been in jail his whole life, not even once. You don’t fool me, Terrance Altham.

“Was it a date? Are you late for a sexy date?”

He says, “Be quiet.”

Already, his voice commands in a kingly way. The power in him, it’s swirling and jagged. Unfocused. But wow, up close, it’s already there and so strong.

“I’ll be quiet,” I say. “That’s not hard. Not for me.”

He turns from me and holds his own counsel.

“I can be quiet,” I announce to no one in particular. “But it’s so boring. You know? So boring to be quiet. What are you in for, running drugs?”

He flinches and his skull tightens at the neck. The thick roll at the base of his skull is his tell. That’s going to be helpful all weekend. Read the muscles on his head.

I say, “I bet you’re in here for drugs.”

He turns to face me. “Don’t talk.”

“No, okay,” I say. “I will. I mean, I won’t. Talk. I just wanted to know. Drugs?”

“Not drugs. Now shut up.”

“Because you look like a drug guy.”

“Officer,” he cries out. “Officer, I must request you process me now.”

His voice rings down the corridor. Strong, like a metal bar. His voice, wow, so solid and clean, rich baritone and with such a polish. He’s practiced, like a theater major, careful enunciation when communicating all the meanings of an intended phrase. His calling for the guard is as much of a warning to me as it reflects his great desire for his own freedom.

“Boy, you must be in a hurry.” I walk to stand next to him.

He steps back.

I must disarm him with the unending flood of my idiocy. “I’m not in a hurry. I don’t care. Which is good, because I’ve been here for three and a half hours.”

He forgets to be irritated with me. “Three hours?”

“And a half.” I walk away, back to the bottom bunk and sit on it. “Three and a half. This is your bunk. The bottom one.”

His face displays no reaction as he watches me. “You’ve been here for three and a half hours? They haven’t processed you?”

“Yeah.” I lean back and lay my head on my hands as I contemplate the springs above me. “I like the top bunk. Not only for sleeping. I like to be the top. Do you like to get fucked?”

“What?” he asks.

“I like to fuck,” I say, shrugging. “You’d have to be into it, too. I would never push myself on someone who didn’t want me, but I do like to fuck black guys. I love the beautiful color of a black man’s skin. I could go on and on about all the beautiful shades of brown. Just saying, so, you know.”

“Don’t talk to me,” Terrance says, his face tensing. “I don’t want you to talk to me. Or out loud.”

“Okay, that’s not a problem. I like quiet but you never answered my question if you’re busted for being a drug lord.”

“Yes,” he says. “I answered. Quit asking me.”

“Oh, sorry. I thought maybe you were because you give the appearance of one.”

He raises himself to full height, six foot two. Or maybe three.

With each consonant prickly, he asks, “Did you just say I looked like a drug lord?”

“Well, not your face. Your face is really handsome. I like your big, thick nose.”

He takes a breath and turns away.

“Your wallet. You still have your wallet. You’re wearing a watch. That’s what I mean. If cops think you’re a drug guy, possibly of some importance, they won’t process you until they’re absolutely sure of the charge and that they can make it stick. Every cop knows you don’t make slip-ups with a New York drug lord. Every t is dotted, every i is crossed.”

He does not speak for a moment. Finally he speaks. “T’s are crossed, i’s are dotted.”

“No, t’s are dotted. It’s a line from a television show I watch a lot. I watch British TV from the BBC. That’s the British Broadcasting Company. I said that because not everybody watches British television. Not that I assumed you’re not classy enough to watch British TV. I’m sure you are. Even drug lords like British shows. You know what they call British sitcoms? Britcoms. Cute, right?”

Studying the back of his neck, I see the subtle shift of tension. I’m pretty far under his skin already, and I’m the least of his worries.

He asks, “What are you in for?”

“Wow, now who sounds like a prison cliché?” I turn to face the wall. “You have a lot of nerve criticizing my ‘got any smokes’ joke.”

He says nothing in response, perhaps bored of conversation already.

“Nothing,” I say, turning to face him. “I didn’t even do anything. The cops are jagweeds. What did you do?”

He does not face me, but walks to the front of the cell. “Nothing. The cops are jagweeds.”

He sounds tired.

I watch him take a deep breath, raising his arms on the inhale and bringing his fingertips together on the exhale right before his chest. Some form of meditation, I’m guessing. Well, I can’t let that continue. I need him on edge.

“What time is your thing? The one you’re worried you’re late for? You’re wearing a nice dress shirt but faded jeans so it can’t be that fancy. Maybe they won’t care if you’re late.”

He does not turn or respond in any way. He repeats the breath thing and brings his fingers together again.

Damn. He’s gonna be a tough nut to crack. Men like Terrance who stand so close to their kingship represent a particular challenge. They live life within close proximity to the finish line and often feel no need to cross over. They’re happy where they are. Well, if not happy exactly, they have accustomed themselves to living as Lost Kings and see no reason to expect better. What have I gotten myself into? How do I move this mountain ten feet? This time, I guess the mountain really must come to Mohammad.

“Let’s start off better.” I leap from the bunk and cross to stand in front of him, preventing his meditation exercise with his arms. “I’m Ghost.”

He bristles and steps away. He eyes me warily. “We’re not exchanging names. I won’t be here long.”

“Okay. I don’t mind. I don’t get my feelings hurt, because, you know, that’s life in the big city. People are protective, right? Gotta be. I am. I’m real careful about who I talk to. I won’t talk to just anybody.”

The neck roll tenses up again.


I study his frame. He’s a thick man, stocky, sturdy legs like tree trunks, and a chest that is naturally robust. I don’t think he lifts weights to expand his pecs, at least not the way he works those arms. Although hidden tonight, I’ve seen his biceps and triceps—beautiful, fat muscle. Still, he’s not that chunky. He’ll fit through the sewer grate easily.

He resumes staring down the hallway. Can’t blame him. There’s nothing else to do. He takes another deep breath.

Uh oh. I don’t want him calm. I need him agitated. I need this mountain to collapse under an avalanche of bad decisions.

I better get started. I begin by whistling, a combination of a folk song and a 1970s pop hit, something I reworked so the lyrics fit. I wanted it to sound vaguely familiar to him. I memorized three stanzas, which should be more than enough. I switch to humming and then singing under my breath, words still impossible to hear.

“If we’re not going to talk, that’s fine,” I say and hesitate. “But there’s a few things you should know about me. First, I honestly didn’t do anything. Second, they haven’t processed me because they don’t know my real name. I never tell police my real name. Which means whichever cop processes me gets extra paperwork, so they sometimes keep me locked up until a new guy’s shift starts and that person has to process me. They save me for the rookie cops. But if I committed a real crime, they’d process me. I didn’t do anything.”

He says nothing, just does his meditation thing, facing away from me.

“Sometimes, it’s not a guy who’s the new guy. Sometimes it’s a woman.”

He ignores me.

“I’m not sexist, that’s what they call it. The new guy. I think that it’s a—”

He says, “Stop talking. I have to center myself. Create harmony.”

“Okay, I’ll stop talking. I’ll be like a ghost. Silent like a ghost. Which is my nickname. Although, traditionally, ghosts moan and rattle chains.”

He bristles.

I start humming the song again and glance up and down the hallway, more for assurance that everything is as it should be. Empty cells. No video cameras. Yup. We’re golden. I guess you’d call the walls ‘white,’ though that color seems like a distant memory, layer after layer of sweat, grease, blood and anything that can get smeared. The walls are green from the waist down, a tired, used-up green. Dozens of jagged shoe marks scuff the walls, suggesting spontaneous violence. These marks visually remind me one of the best—and worst—things about New York City is anything can happen. Anything.

I stand next to him, once again invading his personal space. “Hey. Wanna get out of here?”

He ignores me.

“I’ll let you in on a secret, which is I’m getting out of here. I’m tired of waiting to be processed. I’m going to escape.”

He steps away, moves the farthest he can, which is not far.

“I’m not kidding. I have a plan.”

Nothing. Not a single reaction. Huh.

“Where is your big party?” I ask in a casual, bored tone. “Were you going to a fancy drug lord party?”

He spins toward me, face wrinkled and snarling. “You racist piece of garbage.”

I’m surprised and I’m sure he sees it on my face. Wow, that was sudden and intense.

I say, “I was kidding. Boy, Mister Sensitive.”

His mouth snaps shut. He stands up tall to his full height. “I apologize. I apologize.”

He turns away.

Dammit, cover the moment. Don’t let him get into shame. “I don’t mind. I understand why you’d say that. A lot of people think I’m garbage.”

“I lost control,” he says, and his voice is softer. He keeps his back to me. “I am under…undue stress. This is not the way of the flexible water and I apologize.”

“Apology accepted.” I make my voice lighthearted. “No problem. What kind of water? Is that your sign? Are you an Aquarius?”

He puts his hands to his face.

I know he’s under a great deal of stress. I put him there.

After several months of correspondence through the mail with an enigmatic millionaire known as Vin Vanbly, Terrance Altham grew intrigued enough to commit to a King Weekend. He agreed to submit for one full weekend, and in return, Mr. Vanbly would restore his kingship, help Terrance remember who he was always meant to be. Mr. Vanbly instructed him to show up at the Waldorf Astoria hotel and provided a black stretch limo.

But as the limo approached its destination, the driver pulled over, gave Terrance a vague warning and drove off. Less than two minutes later, Terrance found himself arrested for reasons as yet unexplained. He hasn’t been granted his one phone call. In another two minutes, he’ll miss his Friday night, 6:00 p.m. rendezvous. The unimaginable wealth available to those who successfully complete a King Weekend will no longer be an option. If there’s one thing that’s important to Terrance Altham of Harlem, New York, it’s money.

Well, that’s not exactly true. But he thinks money is power, and in New York, well, yeah, it kinda is. But money is not his true destination. Nor is power. When I read his published article in the Atlantic Monthly last year, I saw a man in search of his kingship. A king in search of his crown, his kingdom. Through the article, his strong voice rang out, where are my people? Your loyal subjects are all around you, King Terrance. Look around.

I say, “If you want to get out of here, I could take you with me.”

He refuses the bait.

I return to the bottom bunk and lie on the crinkly mattress. I start singing again, a tad louder, loud enough for a word or two to become heard. Same song as before. After a line half-hummed, half-sung, I see his head raise straight up and he slowly turns. Wow, he is graceful. Graceful in all his movements.

“What did you say?”

“Me? Nothing. I didn’t say anything. I was singing.”

He studies me, narrowing his eyes, focusing them. He says nothing, and I swear I see the cogs in his oversized brain debating how far to push this with me.

“I was singing. It’s from a television show.”

He debates this and cautiously asks, “What show?”

The Lost and Founds. It’s my favorite show. It’s on the BBC.”

“The Lost and Founds.” He repeats my words slowly. “Is that what you said?”

“Yeah. It’s a popular show. Probably because it’s British. Have you seen it? They broadcasted four seasons now. British television seasons are shorter, so that’s only, what, twenty-four episodes. Twenty-five. They did a Christmas episode during the third season. It was cheesy.”

I see a tremor near his temple, his jaw flexing. Every one of his gestures communicates strength whether he intends to or not. He turns from me, wrapping both of his meaty paws around the bars. His nightmare is becoming worse.

I ask, “Have you seen it? It’s my favorite show.”

He does not reply.

“I was humming the theme song. Wanna hear?”

I do not wait for a reply before singing my invented lyrics.

“When naught works out and you’re losing ground,
Who finds a man who is lost not found?
When life isn’t right and won’t turn around,
Maybe it’s time for the Lost and Founds.”

He turns back to me, and I see wariness in his eyes and behind that, fear. He’s so tired of being disappointed by life, the unfair tricks and sharp, unexpected turns. He already senses another something bad coming. And he’s right.

Slowly, he says, “Keep going.”

“Vin is the one who can find the lost,
Once you agree to make him the boss.
Secrets revealed when you’re getting tossed.
Through the Eastern Gates, despite the cost.”
Before he can comment, I add, “You have to sing ‘through the Eastern Gates’ a little faster or else the cadence is off.”

He says, “Enough. Do not sing anymore.”

“There’s a third verse.”

“No.” His voice is quiet. “No more. This is television?”

“Yeah. Vin Vanbly is the hero and he goes out and finds these guys and says, ‘Spend one weekend with me and I will help you remember your kingship. I will help you remember who you were always meant to be.’ Over an episode or two they go have adventures in London. Sometimes the country. They went to Wales, once. He also kinged a Scottish guy. That was a good episode.”

“No,” Terrance says. “No. That can’t be right.”

He puts his hands on top of his head, the most expressive expression I believe I’ve seen from him today. He stares into the dingy hallway, the empty cell across from us. I’m guessing worlds crumble inside him, plans, possibilities, dreams. He found himself cuffed and in the back of a police car while on his way to his King Weekend, which turns out is a hoax based on a British television show. This pressure cooker—the arrest, the misleading correspondence, the non-stop chattering of his own personal Ghost—it’s creating unbearable conditions in him, dragging the fear out of its shadowy corners. I hope.

Fear can blast adrenaline, pumping anyone into a state of chaotic frenzy but usually only for a few moments at a time. Fear can paralyze too, but again, it’s a moment to moment thing. But if a man spends his life fighting fear, keeping it at bay with logic and rationalizations, he doesn’t notice fear exacting its toll, draining him, preventing his ability to access true power. That’s the dark wizard’s greatest curse, not draining you enough to notice and fight back, but embedding fear so deeply, you forget to consider achieving your greatness. Tonight, we examine that fear under harsh light.

“That can’t be right,” Terrance says, and I don’t think he’s talking to me. “I never…I never heard of this television show.”

“Do you watch the BBC?”

He says, “I don’t own a television.”

I knew that. I knew inventing a fake television show would work with him. I planned on his subconscious pride in his inability to be fooled, for anyone to fuck with him, a hardened New Yorker. My deception should chisel open that hard shell, expose his vulnerability.

I think. I hope.

Allow Me To Introduce the Butterfly King

August 29th, 2014

The folks at gaylistbookreviews were very kind to offer me a blot spot so I could introduce readers to the main character of my next book, The Butterfly King.

I’ll but a little preview in this blog post…and the link to the full article at the bottom. Hope you enjoy!

My Characters Talk To Me

In the past, whenever I heard some flibbertigibbet author drone on about how ‘my characters talk to me…’ I would immediately roll my eyes. Yes, yes, your character talks to you. They create scenes in your head. Your big-breasted protagonist tells you what kind of gin she likes. Your hung cop narrator describes his mean older brother growing up. I’d hear an author say, “I just put two characters together in my head and just watch. Some days it seems like I’m just recording their antics and they’re doing the writing.”

Oh gawd. Kill me now.

I don’t know why it bugged me so much to hear authors talk about their characters that way. Maybe I thought it seemed disingenuous, pretending like writing was magic. Writing didn’t feel like magic to me. I worked hard on sentence construction, reducing adverbs, trying to find plausible motivation. The idea that you drop off your characters like you might a kid for day care and then “just watch,” seemed to dishonor the work that goes into writing.

Maybe it just sounded pretentious.

Maybe it was jealousy. I had been writing for many years and while I loved pondering characters and how they would get along and interact with each other, I can’t say I honestly felt these characters moving through me in a way that felt like they asserted their own will and presence.

Whatever the reason, it was pretty humiliating when I started feeling characters “talk to me.” Not like voices in my head telling me the neighbors are trying to kill me (though I do have my suspicions). No, one day I found myself arguing with a character, the Butterfly King, and I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. I’m the author. I get to do what I want.’ In my head, the Butterfly King said, “I see.”

I knew the conversation wasn’t over.

With great humility, it’s now my turn to admit a pretentious truth: sometimes characters talk to me.

They argue with me. I argue back.

What changed? Maybe these days I let myself have more fun with characters. Maybe I finally started listening the way an author is supposed to listen. I dunno. I accept this new reality and I’m blushing a little bit, so I’m aware that I’m a hypocrite at least. That’s something.

I’d like to share some ongoing conversation I’ve had with the main character of my latest release, The Butterfly King. Terrance Altham is a 41-year-old middle manager in a white collar job he doesn’t like. He lives in New York. He doesn’t like how his life has played out so far, feeling he was meant for a greater destiny but family obligations kept him from a life where he might have been someone more important.

Who knows? Perhaps he could have even become a king.

Link to the full conversation