J. Scott Coatsworth’s LGBTQ+ magical realism “circle of friends” book The River City Chronicles is out in audiobook format! And there’s a giveaway.
Everyone in the River City has a secret, and sooner or later secrets always come out.
A group of strangers meets at Ragazzi, an Italian restaurant, for a cooking lesson that will change them all. They quickly become intertwined in each other’s lives, and a bit of magic touches each of them.
Meet Dave, the consultant who lost his partner; Matteo and Diego, the couple who runs the restaurant; recently widowed Carmelina; Marcos, a web designer getting too old for hook-ups; Ben, a trans author writing the Great American Novel; teenager Marissa, kicked out for being bi; and Sam and Brad, a May-September couple who would never have gotten together without a little magic of their own.
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Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour.
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Chapter 9: Sparkle
Brad Weston closed his office door and sat down, thinking about Meghan, the transgender kid who’d just left. So many queer kids were still kicked out of their homes for coming out. Increased visibility was a double-edged sword. The Laverne Coxs and Caitlyn Jenners of the world had inspired so many to speak their truth, a truth some parents just weren’t ready to hear.
His office was a far cry from his last one at the State Capitol, working for a Republican senator, smaller but cozier. He’d left it a year earlier, after he’d come upon a strange medallion that had allowed him see what people around him really thought, and it hadn’t been pretty. This office was warmer and filled with books.
The Sacramento LGBT Community Center was small, located in an old two-story Victorian at 20th and L streets, a block from the heart of gay Sacramento.
Every day, rain or shine, he rode his bike here from his home off R Street. He’d never regretted leaving politics, not even for a moment. Here he could touch actual lives.
Someone knocked. “Come in,” he said. Devon, the front desk volunteer, popped his head in. “Someone to see you,” the young man said. “Says his name is Marcos Ramirez?”
Brad smiled. “He’s our webmaster. Send him on in. You can leave the door open.” He tidied up his desk. He had a thing about organization.
He wondered what Marcos wanted. He hadn’t needed to call the web designer in months. Marcos entered the office, smiling. “Hey, Brad, how are you?”
“Good. Can’t complain. Yourself?” They hugged, and Brad gestured for Marcos to sit.
“The last week has had its moments.”
“How is… Tony?”
Marcos shrugged. “We broke up two weeks ago.”
“Ah.” Marcos was a bit of a Casanova, never managing to make it work with one guy for more than a month or two. He wondered who had broken the poor guy’s heart. “So what brings you in? Is there a problem with the site?”
Marco shook his head. “Actually, I need a favor.”
“Sure. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, I’m great. Look, I took this cooking class on Sunday. It was just something I kinda fell into, but it was pretty great.”
“I never thought of you—”
A train rumbled by outside. One of the reasons the rent was cheap. He waited until the noise subsided.
“—as much of a chef.”
“Seriously. Anyhow, I met this girl there—”
Brad laughed. “That must be a first.”
“Funny. Anyhow, she was a cute little thing… Maybe seventeen? Spiky blonde hair. Marissa.”
Brad stared at Marcos. “You’re not asking me to divulge private client information, are you? You know I can’t.”
Marcos nodded. “I know. But she was kicked out of her parents’ house and has had a rough time of it. And something happened in the class. It was like she came alive. But I’m afraid she’s not going to come back.”
“I’m sorry, Marcos… I just can’t help you.”
“I just want to know where I might find her.” Marcos touched his arm, and the air sparkled.
Brad blinked to clear his eyes. “Why do you care about this so much?”
Marcos broke contact. “I don’t know. There’s just something about her. I was thrown out too when I was a kid.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“It was tough. I just thought if I could help her…”
“It would be like helping your younger self.”
“Yeah. I guess it’s stupid, huh? Sorry for wasting your time.” Marcos stood to go.
“Wait.” He opened his filing cabinet and pulled out Marissa’s file. “These files are private. I can’t share the information with you. I just want to be clear.”
Marcos looked confused. “Yeah, I got that.”
“I think I need a coffee. I’m going to make a run to The Everyday Grind. I’ll be gone for about ten minutes.”
Marcos smiled. He stood and gave Brad another hug. “I understand.”
Brad left the Center, enjoying the beautiful late September day. He ordered his usual decaf latte and returned to his office, feeling better.
When he got back, Marcos was gone and the file was where he’d left it on the desk. More or less.
* * *
Brad put his Schwinn under the stairs in their small but well-manicured backyard and climbed upstairs, hoping Sam had dinner ready. They cooked at home a lot lately—his salary at the Center didn’t pay much, and Sam was still working to get his career off the ground. His first book, Read between the Lines, was due out next month. The advance had been decent, but they had to be careful.
He found Sam in the kitchen. “Hey, handsome,” he said, putting his arms around the younger man’s waist and kissing Sam’s neck.
Sam turned to kiss him back. “Making tacos tonight. Mom’s recipe.”
“Sounds good.” Brad went to hang his jacket in the coat closet by the front door. “Marcos came in today.”
“The web design guy?”
“Yes, him. He wanted to contact one of the Center kids. Hey, can I help?”
“Sure,” Sam said. “Chop those green onions, please. What did you do?”
Brad began chopping. “That’s the weird thing. I told him I couldn’t help him. Confidentiality and all. Then he touched my arm.”
“Oooh, should I be jealous?”
“Of this old thing?” Brad laughed. “No, it wasn’t like that. But I felt like I needed to help him. So I left the file for him to look at and left for a coffee.”
Sam set aside the frying pan and turned to face him. The smell of caramelizing onions filled the air. “Is Marcos a good guy?”
“Yeah.” He laughed “Bit of a slut, but a good guy.”
Sam chuckled. “Then you did the right thing.” He gave Brad a hug, and Brad nodded.
“Now let’s get dinner finished. I plan to reward you for your good deeds later.”
Brad grinned and resumed chopping with renewed vigor.
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a little yellow bungalow with two pink flamingoes in Sacramento. He inhabits the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.
He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.
A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecting their own reality. Scott is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).