Guest blog from Rick R. Reed
Blue Umbrella Sky is about recovering from loss and finding new love—and it’s about starting over in a new place. That’s something I’ve become very familiar with. I just counted up and, in my 62 years on this earth, I’ve had twenty-five different addresses!
I grew up in eastern Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachians, wandered west to Chicago, where I stayed for over twenty years, continued west to Seattle, where I spent a decade. In June of 2017, I traded gray, drizzly skies for sunny blue ones—swapping majestic pines and lots of green for Joshua trees, cacti, and sand. Bustle for quiet.
Blue Umbrella Sky is the first novel I’ve written inspired by the desert surroundings of my new home. Every move, whether it’s across town or across the country, is a kind of starting over, no matter who you are. It’s a headache, but there’s also hope, like at the start of a new year.
A new beginning in a new place was the simple inspiration for this story. Briefly, I saw two men, one young, one a little older, who were both in need of new beginnings, but also in search of love, whether they realized it or not right away.
I also wanted to make the desert a sort of secondary character in my story as well. The Palm Springs area is a place many, many people have come to begin again. It’s full of transplants—retirees, sunseekers, those who want great weather and a slower pace. It’s ideal for a story about recovery, redemption, and finding something new to nourish one’s soul.
The mountains all around, the arid landscapes, the endless reaches of impossibly blue skies all come together in the book—and in real life—to create a kind of spiritual home.
I hope you’ll come along on my journey to what I believe is a very special place.
Billy paused to take in the panorama.
He breathed in the mountain air, savoring the relentless sun, a golden orb directly above his head, beating down, warming, loosening his muscles.
Below, all of Palm Springs spread out, an urban desert sprawl. The airport, the green spaces, the clusters of homes, the golf courses, the commercial areas. Beyond, the desert displayed its barren ocher beauty, dotted here and there with pale green vegetation strong enough to survive the harsh sun and wind. The windmills, thousands of them, towered like bright white sentinels, some of their propeller blades turning. Billy had always deemed these turbines magical, something out of a science fiction story.
His gaze swept over what now was home. He was the king of the mountain.
Despite feeling like a king, though, Billy realized it would never happen.
Milt would never return the feelings Billy had been harboring for him ever since the very first moment he’d laid eyes on him, struggling alone to move in to his trailer.
Billy had tried. He really had. But every subtle hint he’d drop, every longing glance he’d send Milt’s way, every awkward but pointed touch, Milt met by laughing off or turning away or, the very worst, with a glance that clearly said no.
And yet Milt really seemed to like him! There was a sense that they were becoming best friends.
Perhaps that was all they were destined to be. Billy could just about manage to live with that consolation prize, but in the dark hours of the night, when he’d stand outside in the desert heat with a moon casting its silvery glow over the trailer park, he’d wonder if maybe he wouldn’t be happier gently but firmly cutting Milt out of his life. After all, sometimes it seemed like their growing friendship was, instead of a consolation, a hot point of pain, a tantalizing glimpse of what could never be.
Yet he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Milt made him smile.
Made his heart race.
Made—sometimes, when he was alone, eyes closed, muscles relaxed, fantasies firmly engaged—his dick hard.
Why oh why had this guy had such an effect? He was a good bit older. Really, he wasn’t even all that remarkable-looking. Sure, he had a sexy kind of daddy thing going on, with his salt-and-pepper buzzed hair and close-cropped beard, his gray eyes that seemed to possess unfathomable depths, but honestly, if he were in one of the gay bars on Arenas, he’d look like almost every other man present.
Why couldn’t Billy move on? Find a guy who wanted him, who was attracted to him, who wanted to be more than just buddies. The desert was full of likely and hopeful prospects.
Why was there this torture? This hope? Both things were doubly painful to Billy because he felt he had to endure them in secret.
It was almost enough to drive him to drink.
And sometimes he’d imagine dropping by Milt’s with a fifth of vodka, something good like Stoli or Grey Goose, pouring strong and steady for both of them and watching the sun go down as their brains became fuzzier and fuzzier. Imagining a hand landing on a knee, a sorry/not sorry bump of shoulders, an impulsive kiss that just missed the recipient’s mouth and then the aim would need to be rectified….
When those fantasies became too intense, Billy would find himself in need of an AA meeting, which he could almost always find, just down the road at Sunny Dunes.
Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published
fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as
“heartrending and sensitive.”
Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…”
Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com.
Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their rescue dogs, Kodi and Joaquin.
He will be presenting both horror and contemporary fiction during the author readings (Reading B1 and Reading A3) – Check the full schedule HERE!