Today I am so pleased to welcome B.G. Thomas to Joyfully Jay. B.G. has come to talk to us about his latest release, Winter Heart. He has also brought along a good to give away. Please join me in giving hi a big welcome!
Winter Heart: A Very Personal Story
Writers are often asked how personal a story is. Did any of it actually happen. Was there a special influence? Sometimes it’s true, but often it is not. Well…. That’s not entirely true. I guess it’s pretty difficult for an author to write anything that doesn’t have something of him or her in it!
But as in my stories, I’ve never had a parent try and steal my inheritance or beat me. I’ve never had a lover commit suicide. I’ve never been kicked out of my apartment in the middle of a blizzard. I’ve never been possessed by a vodou Lwa spirit or abducted by aliens either!
The first of the Seasons of Love novels—Spring Affair—was written in about three months. It took me about four months apiece to write Summer Lover and Autumn Changes. But Winter Heart? The final book in the series. The novel that stars Wyatt Dolan, the real “heart” of my quadrilogy?
I will admit, this book is the most personal story I’ve ever written and there is more of Wyatt in me, or me in Wyatt, than any of my characters. Now it’s not all me. His parents are not mine. I totally sympathize with—and am comfortable with—his religious beliefs, but don’t consider myself pagan.
Once upon a time I was a young man who had finally come out as a gay man. The mother of my child and I had parted in—more or less—an amicable way. I was accepting who I was and was eager to lead my life as a gay man. One night I was at a gay men’s dinner club. I was in a big kitchen crowded with men—gay men!—and I looked across the room and found myself immediately drawn to a slim young man with red hair. Unusual because I am not usually attracted to such slim men, or to gingers. But in this case there was most suddenly no one else in the room. I could hear every word he said, even with all that conversation. In fact, I couldn’t even hear the other men. He said, “Yes, I just graduated.”
And I embarrassed the heck out of myself by crying out—not in a polite conversational voice—”From what?”
Everyone stopped talking and looked at me, including Mr. Redhead. “College,” he said. And thank goodness, I thought at the time. At least it wasn’t high school, which would have put us at like twelve years apart in age.
So we began to talk. It was nice. It was really nice. We left the party early. We went to a movie. We got to know each other. And in weeks, we were living together. He was exciting. He was worldly. He was kind. He treated me like a prince. He held doors open for me. He took me to an extremely expensive dinner; it was so romantic. Right to the point where the waiter poured a bit of wine for him first so he could taste it and approve, then poured mine. Then I was taken to see Les Misérables—third row seats. My every dream was coming true.
Or so I thought.
That dream turned into a nightmare. Soon, and in no time, I was wrapped around his finger. I will never know how he did it, but over a period of time, my entire feeling of self-worth was about how he thought about me, about how he treated me, how he made me feel. I was with him for ten years. He never beat me. He never hit me. He didn’t need to. He let me know in no uncertain terms that the reason we had so many friends was because of him. They put up with me because I was with him. They liked him. It took years for him to be down-and-out cruel about it. He was a master. Brilliant. He made sure I knew that if I ever left him, no one would ever want me. I was too fat. I wasn’t attractive. I didn’t make any money and had no future. I would be alone the rest of my life. And I totally believed him.
There is a happy ending. It took me a really long time, but finally and bit by bit, his spell over me began to unravel. Through church and friends that I began to see really were my friends, I got to the point where I finally left him. I decided I would rather live in a cardboard box in an alley in the snow than live with him one more day.
I never once “tattled” on him. Never told friends and family the things he had done to me—and there was a lot of it. I held my head high and kept my dirty laundry away from public eyes. And then to my surprise all our friends rallied around me. I was shocked to find out that I was the one they like and they put up with him because he was with me.
And then the real shock—the romance/happily ever after ending for my life—after leaving him in July, I met the man who now my husband, in November. And we have been together sixteen years and legally married for two.
All of that influenced Wyatt Dolan. It was all there. Howard is no thin/skinny redhead, but he is my ex in so many ways. His cruelty is the same. His twisting and twining and is the same. The one happy thing I can say is that in real life I dumped my “Howard” instead of it happening the other way….
Now here is the “problem.”
In the first of the three novels of Seasons of Love, Wyatt was a secondary character. I wrote in a “secondary” way about the things that was happening to Wyatt, especially at the hands of his lover Howard. I could stay removed. I could stand back from what was going on inside of Wyatt. Once the story became about him, I couldn’t do that anymore. Especially a romance novel.
And so therefor I had to pay the piper for putting my ex in my story of four friends who are looking for true love. I had to dredge all that crap up. It was some pretty awful crap. Scars that were pretty much heal, scabs gone, and to be cut open, and the knife had to go in deep. It had to do some digging. And if I was going to show my readers why Wyatt fell in love with him in the first place—and I felt I owed that to my readers—I had to show you someone that he could fall in love with. Just writing about all of that was rough. Showing you a good side of Howard? OMG.
All of this and more was why it took me a year to write Winter Heart.
But rest assured, Winter Heart is a romance novel! While Wyatt had to go through tons of crap—like I did—he also gets his love. The love he deserves. The lover who will treat him the way he should be treated. The man who will love him. Love him truly. Deeply. Just like my husband loves me.
And I hope you will be there to watch a man who had been hurt so badly finally meet his knight in shining armor. You’ve waited a long time. I believe I’ve given you all that you’ve been waiting for.
And now an excerpt. Wyatt was alone on Christmas Eve, and feeling lonely. And then his next door neighbors—including his best friend Sloan (from Spring Affair) come to the rescue….
“You know you didn’t have to do this,” Wyatt said as Max helped him out of his coat and then got a good laugh at Wyatt’s shirt himself.
“Nonsense,” Max said and chuckled again. “We’ve got plenty. There was no sense in you being alone.”
That almost made Wyatt cry.
The house was lovely. They’d put up a big tree—live, but plantable of course. Max was as green as they came and explained that he liked having a living, breathing tree in the house and was excited about the idea of planting it as soon as he could. As for the rest of the decorations, it was all very gay with only a nod to the traditions. Wyatt decided he could have hardly done better. Lots of huge purple and blue and silver ribbons everywhere. No crèches. Not even an angel on the top of the tree, but some kind of bird instead. Max was more Buddhist than anything; Sloan had no real religious feelings one way or the other. Wyatt suspected all the decorating was more for Logan than anything else. That and habit. He’d read in some Gallup poll recently that only about 50 percent of the people who celebrated Christmas did so for any religious reasons. The rest just celebrated because that’s what you did—like setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July or decorating and hiding eggs on Easter.
Dinner was a huge turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings, all the traditional side dishes—including mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, yams, Waldorf salad, and not one, but three pies. Wyatt was simply grateful that the turkey wasn’t tofu (Max was about two steps to the side of being vegetarian). That and to have been invited in the first place. He hadn’t realized how much he didn’t want to be alone today until the boys showed up at his door, or even more, until he was sitting at this table. It didn’t even bother him that he was the only single person there (well, not too much). It all came with a comprehension that he’d been secretly (secret even from himself) dreading spending the day in his big empty house filled with echoes of Christmases past.
Howard celebrated Christmas big-time, although Wyatt was the one who wound up putting up and taking down the considerable decorations. Except for the outside lights of course. Howard took joyful charge of that. Plus Wyatt was afraid to stand on a chair to change a light bulb in a ceiling fixture (which naturally had been one more thing Howard made fun of him for).
But at least Howard’s celebrations drowned out the earlier echoes— Wyatt’s family Christmases. They’d been even bigger than Howard’s— without Santa Claus or anything to do with the big man in red—and included lots of Baptist church services.
Wyatt could remember just exactly when Christmas had stopped being fun and turned into something almost scary. It was when his father had the accident—one that could have killed him. An eerie accident. One that convinced his father that God had given him a second chance and that he should turn away from his wicked life and rejoice in Jesus.
This had all been early in Wyatt’s childhood. Right before he went into first grade, in fact. His father denounced the existence of Saint Nick (along with all those heathen, idol-worshiping Catholics’ false gods) and made it a point to teach Wyatt the true meaning of Christmas. That Saint Nicholas was something pagan and evil. Wyatt’s little sister Wendy hadn’t had a real chance to believe in the jolly old elf even that long.
The Dolan household had Nativity sets all over the place— every room, every nook and cranny. There was even a night-light in the bathroom with the Christmas star shining down on the silhouette of a manger (Wyatt had found it nearly impossible to take a bath and especially pee when he was little, wondering if the baby Jesus could see him from his manger).
There were still presents to be sure, but it was clear that it was in honor of the wise men who brought the Christ Child gold, frankincense, and myrrh—and not for some profane celebratory ritual.
When Wyatt was in fourth grade and realized that the three kings didn’t come to Jesus in the stable, but later, he’d almost said something to his father. But even at ten years of age he’d figured out that discretion was the better part of valor—especially when it came to his father’s religious conversion. He certainly didn’t point out that the visitors weren’t kings at all, that there weren’t necessarily three of them, and that “wise men” almost certainly meant astrologers. Astrology was something that was not tolerated in the Dolan home. His father even crossed out the horoscope in the newspaper with a big black magic marker (which bled through and often made doing the crossword puzzle impossible). If astrology was evil, as his father claimed, how had it led the wise men to Jesus? And if God hated fortune-telling, then why would God create people who were able to do such things?
He’d had so many questions but found the minute he asked them, he was punished and told he was a sinner that needed to pray for forgiveness. “Wyatt, you okay?”
Wyatt gave a little start and turned to see that Logan was looking at him curiously. He cleared this throat.
“Yeah. Just got lost in thought there.”
“Was it a bad thought?” Logan asked quietly.
“I…. No. Just….” Wyatt sighed. “Just distracting.”
Then to his surprise, Logan squeezed his knee. “If you need to talk, let me know.” The gesture touched Wyatt. This young man, not much more than a boy, was offering to be an ear. It was incredibly sweet. This “boy” was going to make a fine man.
“Thanks,” Wyatt replied.
Then from Wyatt’s left: “Would you pass the mashed potatoes?” Sloan asked.
Wyatt nodded, forced a smile, and passed.
After dinner, Wyatt had two pieces of pie—cherry and chocolate pecan—and they watched A Christmas Story. It was nice to be in a room full of laughter. There was eggnog too. With whiskey. Then, just as he was getting ready to leave, Sloan told him he needed to wait.
“One more thing.” Sloan reached under the tree and pulled out a purple-and-silver-wrapped flat box. He smiled and handed it over. “Happy Yule,” he said. Wyatt’s eyes went wide.
“Sloan! I thought we’d all agreed to the Secret Santa thing.” Which was true. Wyatt had gotten Asher’s name and found a lovely tallit—a Jewish prayer shawl—and hoped it was the right choice. They were supposed to get together on Sunday to exchange gifts.
Sloan smirked. “Come on, buddy. You’re my best friend! Open it.”
Wyatt bit his lower lip and swallowed hard. You’re my best friend. He fought the tears and turned the box over and tore the paper off. He saw it was a shirt box and lifted the lid. Inside was a turquoise T-shirt. Wyatt pulled it out only to see there were two. “Sloan!”
Max chuckled. “Look at them.”
Wyatt unfolded the first one to see the words I Like My Men Beary Hairy. He let out a joyful laugh. “Oh guys! This is a riot!”
“Look at the other one,” Logan cried excitedly.
Wyatt grinned and pulled out the second shirt. This one had the classic picture of Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer. Only what he was saying was decidedly not his classic words. “I Want You To Pull My Finger,” he was saying. Wyatt burst into laughter. “Oh my gods! This is hilarious!” He jumped up, pulled off his Christmas shirt—not caring in the least to be bare-chested and chubby-bellied in front of his friends— and pulled the Uncle Sam shirt on. It fit perfectly. “I love it!” He dashed out of the room to the sound of his chuckling friends and went into the bathroom to check his reflection. And yes. Perfect. He loved it. Loved both the shirts, and ran back to tell his friends just how much he loved them. Both the shirts and all four of his Christmas companions.
“Thank you,” he all but shouted and fiercely hugged everyone.
They even sent him off with a piece of the eggnog pie!
And when Wyatt went home, he found the big house was just a little less lonely. Yes, he was the only one there. But instead of seeming like a mausoleum, it felt like a home. It was almost like the ghost of Sloan’s mother—who had always been so kind to him—was still there.
“Gods, I hope not!” he exclaimed. Because how many times had he walked around the house naked and sat on the couch and jerked off to stories on porn sites?
Well, he hoped she averted her eyes.
For over ten years, Wyatt Dolan defined himself as the lover of Howard Wallace. Howard made sure Wyatt’s self-worth depended on that role. So when Howard dumps him, he is lost at sea in a storm without a rudder. If it wasn’t for his supportive friends, he doesn’t know what he’d do. Finally, after a series of disasters, he escapes to Camp Sanctuary—a sacred place to him—where he can be alone, try to put his past behind him, and find a new direction for his life.
Kevin Owens is a lonely man. He is very intelligent—several apps he created have gone on to make him a comfortable living—but he is also quite shy and is uncomfortable making conversation. The death of his dear friend and former lover after a long illness leaves him grieving, confused, and adrift. Then a dream guides him to Camp Sanctuary, only to find that the one cabin with a wood-burning stove has already been reserved. And worse, by a man he’s had a secret crush on for years—Wyatt Dolan.
When a snowstorm knocks out power at the Camp, Wyatt and Kevin must share the same cabin to stay warm, and very soon, magickal things begin to happen.
B.G. is a novelist and blogger. Every day last year he made and entry in his blog. “365 Days of Silver,” where he found something every day to be grateful for. You can find it right here: https://365daysofsilver.wordpress.com/
B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn’t matter the genre. He has gone to conventions since he was fourteen years old and has been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was child; it is where he finds his joy.
In the nineties, he wrote for gay magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. “The sex is never as important as the characters,” he says. “Who cares what they are doing if we don’t care about them?” Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. Gay men are what he knows best, after all. He submitted his first story in years and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days.
“Leap, and the net will appear” is his personal philosophy and his message to all. “It is never too late,” he states. “Pursue your dreams. They will come true!”
B.G. has brought a choice of any of the first three books in the series to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Wednesday, October 26th at 11:59 pm EST.
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