Andy Gallo on Lambda Rising, old gayborhoods, and his new release Better Be Sure (guest post)

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Better Be Sure

Andy Gallo has a new contemporary MM romance out: Better Be Sure.

The Edge of Extinction?

Thank you, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for letting me come visit today.

For those of us old enough to remember, there was a time when the gay ‘areas’ of major cities were predominately gay; Castro in San Francisco, Oaklawn in Dallas, West Hollywood in L.A. Hillcrest in San Diego, Boystown in Chicago—I could go on, but you get the point. They had gay bars, restaurants, books stores, coffee houses, places had rainbow triangles to let you know they were gay friendly or gay owned.

In D.C. the area was ‘Dupont’—the area around Dupont Circle.  Lambda Rising (the gay book store) was there, ‘toy’ stores, a few gay bars, restaurants etc. But once that area became gentrified (meaning a lot of LGBT people moved into a dicey area and fixed it up), the ‘gayborhood moved. First to ‘P’ Street (which still has a strong presence) then further east to ‘Logan’ and now ‘Shaw.’ With each move, new ‘gay’ businesses sprung up, but not as many. Some remained enshrined in their old locations, others moved with the clientele and some—like Lambda Rising—closed up shop. 

The last—the demise of Lambda Rising— is something of a phenomenon (or perhaps better said, a tragedy to people of my generation.)

Greater acceptance of LGBT people brought with it a willingness to carry things we wanted. Soon Barnes and Noble carried our books and people could go to the closest book store instead of making a special drive into the heart of DC. Then Amazon sprang up and we could have it delivered to our homes.

In response to declining sales, Lambda Rising first closed its satellite stores in Baltimore MD. and Rehoboth Delaware. Then it closed its main location in DC. Oscar Wilde’s in NYC is gone. A Different Light in San Fran and L.A. is closed. Giovanni’s Room in Philly closed, but recently reopened in a slightly different configuration. But by and large, the stores are gone or going.  Part of it is obviously due to eBooks and Amazon’s ability to mail things to your home, but that only happened because Amazon carries our books in the first place.

Acceptance is great, and it is what we want, but the unexpected side effect is the loss of ‘our’ neighborhoods. For me, going Giovanni’s Room in Philly was a pilgrimage of sorts after I came out. I wanted to read books with positive gay characters. Mainstream bookstores had some, but only the newest or best sellers. Giovanni’s Room had hundreds. It also had ‘those’ magazines and books that you needed to keep in the bag until you were home – hey, they sold and helped pay the store’s rent.

Being a destination of sort meant people lingered once in the area. I know I did. I didn’t go that often, so I took advantage of the special trip. I went to the friendly coffee shop, maybe if it was later in the day, I’d meet friends for dinner at a LGBT owned restaurant and by that point, we’d go out to the bars/clubs. All because I was there.

Now, I order my books online for the most part, from LGBTQ publishers when able. There are no issues going to local restaurants as a couple. No one really cares – at least not in my area of the country. And because going to a gay bar is a trip all its own now, visits are much, much less frequent. (Having a child is also a huge reason not to go, but we cut back well before ‘lil q was born.)

It’s something of a double-edged sword. We want to be accepted and treated equal, but that equality means the ‘us’ only businesses we created to fill a need lost the ‘need’ they filled. Instead of being the only outlet, they became quant, quirky, something to do that was different. Sadly, that hasn’t proven to be a sustainable business model.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. One the one hand, how great would it be for our children’s children to read about ‘the good old days’ when gay book stores and businesses were common and ask, ‘why did you need those?’ If that happens, it means they didn’t know a world where marriage equality doesn’t exist. But for those of us who remember these places, they were our refugee from the less than accepting world we lived in.

This is somewhat reflected in Better Be Sure. The conflict isn’t Jack wants to take his boyfriend to the fraternity formal but is afraid his fraternity won’t accept him. They already know and don’t care. In fact, his brothers are pressing him to do it. Even his rival isn’t his enemy because Jack is gay. The problem is his date isn’t out of the closet and Jack can’t really understand why.

Homophobia absolutely still exists, and I don’t mean to suggest it’s been eradicated. There will always be some who don’t approve. But a lot of the trails have been blazed. There are fewer and fewer ‘firsts’ to be achieved. And much like the ‘mainstreaming’ of LGBTQ fiction, the conflicts in our books are inching toward the same ones found in general fiction.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about this new world. For now, I’m content to recognize it and see where it goes.

[Optional For The Tour Host]

In addition to the tour wide contest, at each stop on the blog tour, Anyta and I are giving away eBook copies of (Un)Masked) – which we co-wrote – and Leo Love Aries – the first book in Anyta’s Signs of Love series. To be eligible, leave a comment below and tell us something unique about your region that might be different from other places. We’ll pick one winner for each book*

  

  

*Readers are eligible to win one eBook during the tour and one of the three grand prizes.

 

Blurb:

When the stakes are this high, you better be sure you can win.

Jackson Murphy lost his parents to a boating accident, but they’re never far from his thoughts. He attends the same university as his parents, joined the same fraternity as his dad, and even lives in his father’s old room, along with his adopted brother Marcus. Life brightens when he meets the man of his dreams.

Edward Knowles trades full-time college for working during the day and community college at night when his father’s factory closes. He intends to stay deep in the closet to keep his job in heating and cooling. But Jack pushes all his buttons.

Jack’s college rival challenges him to bring a date to the upcoming dance. He goads Jack into accepting even though failure means he and Marcus will lose their room and Jack must leave the fraternity.

Jack is falling hard for Ed, but Ed will never agree to go the dance. Ed—not knowing the stakes of the wager—has also made it clear that Jack taking another man will end their romance.

With pressure from friends and enemies alike, will Jack hold on to his legacy… or his heart?

Dreamspinner | Amazon | Amazon NZ | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes


Giveaway

Andy is giving away a $25 Dreamspinner gift certificate, two audio codes, and 3 $5 Amazon gift cards with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4756/?

We’re also giving away an eBook copy of (Un)Masked and one copy of Leo Loves Aries, by Anyta Sunday. Comment on the post below or a chance to win.


Excerpt

Jack’s phone buzzed, and he swatted the sound away. Too early in the damn morning. Another buzz. He drowsily pulled himself from sleep. Across the room, Marcus mumbled in his sleep.

Jack checked his phone, body surging to life at Ed’s name on the screen.

Ed: Morning!

Ed: Oh, crap, it’s probably still too early for you.

Jack couldn’t type back quick enough. Ed writing to him this early in the morning, that had to mean something, surely.

Jack: Nah, I’m totally awake. Why?

Ed: Just finished a job. Am close to Harrison….

Jack was already scrambling out of bed, messaging one-handed while he emptied his drawers for a clean shirt.

Jack: Send me your location. I’m in desperate need of caffeine. Bet you could use some too.

Ed sent a grinning dog and his location. Eighteen minutes later, Jack walked into the local Starbucks. He scanned the almost empty store and caught Ed’s broad shoulders at the counter.

Jack strode over and clapped the guy on the shoulder, giving it a lingering squeeze. “I have an eerie sense of déjà vu.”

Ed’s warm shoulder shook as he chuckled. “I haven’t mowed you down yet.”

“No, no, that you haven’t.” Their gazes snagged, and Ed definitely swallowed. Probably too early—in the day and their friendship—to tease.

Jack rocked back on his heels, dug his wallet out of his pocket, and ordered.

When they both had their drinks, they sank into armchairs in the corner of the room.

Ed’s gaze kept dipping to his chest, and Jack’s lips tipped up behind his mocha. “How was your morning job?”

“I was extremely motivated to get the job done quickly.”

Jack’s grin widened, and an ill-timed sip ended up rolling down his chin. He swiped it off. “Do you often have jobs close to Harrison?”

“Not as much as I’d like.” Ed rubbed his palm over the arm of the chair.

“I mean, a lot of the time I have to drive out farther.”

“Well, any time you’re nearby….” He raised his cup.

Ed glanced at his chest again. “I like the look.”

Jack followed the sweep of Ed’s hand and—fuck. His shirt was inside out. “Right. Of course.”

Ed leaned forward in his seat, amusement lighting his eyes as he took in the rest of him. Shivers skittered through Jack, and he held his breath. “I totally woke you, didn’t I?”

“Busted.”

The deep laugh Ed gave made it all worth it. “So you’re a high-ranking anchor in your fraternity?”

Jack snorted at the muff. From the way Ed stared at him, it was hard to tell if he’d done it on purpose or really had the term mixed up.

“We prefer to pronounce it ‘archon,’ but either way, I’m one of the fraternity leaders, yes.”

“Do you like it?”

“Which? Being in the fraternity or being an officer?”

“Both.”

Of course he’d want Jack to answer both. “Yeah, for the most part. I mean, there are a couple guys I wish weren’t my brothers, but that’s how it is.”

“How’d you pick that fraternity?”

“There wasn’t really any other option.”

Ed’s brow furrowed. “I thought Harrison had a lot of fraternities.”

“No, not like that.” Jack waved his hand and shook his head. “My dad, both of them were in Pi Kappa Phi. Marcus and I grew up hearing all the stories about their days in the house.”

“Wow, that’s cool.”

“Yeah, they met when they were freshmen and were friends until… well… until my parents died.” He thought he’d been ready to deal with the issue, but confronted with it, he froze.

Ed scooted up on his chair, leaning forward. “You okay, Jack?”

Jack rubbed the ring at the chain around his neck and drew in a calming breath. “Yeah. Yeah.”

Ed seemed to realize Jack needed a change in conversation, because he abruptly started telling Jack how his sister had woken him last night screaming murder. She’d gone to the bathroom at night, and when she walked back to her room, someone was in there, rustling the sheets.

Ed had launched into her room with a bat only to be confronted with their cat. The first time the cat decided not to be shy. In the middle of the night, rolling around Becky’s bed. They laughed so hard, they needed to make a cup of hot milk to settle down again.

“Sounds like you’re a good guy to have around… wayward cats.” And panicking… friends.

Ed sipped his coffee. “What about you?”

“I like to think I’m a good guy to have around too.”

“I’m sure you are.” Ed set his coffee down. “Look, about last night….”

Jack clasped his cup, muscles rigid. Here it was. “Yeah?”

Air blew into the café along with a group of rowdy hipster students toting stainless steel cups. Jack shuffled forward on the cushion to hear Ed better, but Ed’s gaze strayed toward group and his mouth flattened.

Jack cursed the interruption, but it was clear the moment had passed.

“What are your plans the rest of the day?” Ed asked instead.

“The rest of the day?”

Ed laughed, and Jack soaked it up.

“Class, bantering with Brittany—she’s awesome—frat meeting about the spring formal, messing around with the guys. Might squeeze some actual study in there.” A lot of study, actually.

“Messing around with the guys?”

That piqued your interest, did it? Jack smirked. “Play a bit of ball if the weather holds. Get out the PlayStation and hit the video games if it doesn’t.”

“What’s the spring formal?”

Jack groaned. “The bane of my life.”


Author Bio

Andy Gallo prefers mountains over the beach, coffee over tea, and regardless if you shake it or stir it, he isn’t drinking a martini. He remembers his “good old days” as filled with mullets, disco music, too-short shorts, and too-high socks. Thanks to good shredders and a lack of social media, there is no proof he ever descended into any of those evils.

Andy does not write about personal experiences and no living or deceased ex-boyfriends appear on the pages of his stories. He might subconsciously infuse his characters with some of their less noble qualities, but that is entirely coincidental even if their names are the same. And while Andy leaves the hard sci-fi/fantasy for his alter ego, Andrew, in his mind a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good relationship.

Married and living his own happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days raising their daughter and rubbing elbows with other parents. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.

Author Website: https://www.andygallo.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/andygalloauthor/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/92829509-andy-gallo

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A MelanieM Release Day Review: Better Be Sure (Harrison Campus #1) by Andy Gallo

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Harrison Campus Story

When the stakes are this high, you better be sure you can win.

Jackson Murphy lost his parents to a boating accident, but they’re never far from his thoughts. He attends the same university as his parents, joined the same fraternity as his dad, and even lives in his father’s old room, along with his adopted brother, Marcus. Life brightens when he meets the man of his dreams.

Edward Knowles trades full-time college for working during the day and community college at night when his father’s factory closes. He intends to stay deep in the closet to keep his job in heating and cooling. But Jack pushes all his buttons.

Jack’s college rival challenges him to bring a date to the upcoming dance. He goads Jack into accepting even though failure means he and Marcus will lose their room and Jack must leave the fraternity.

Jack is falling hard for Ed, but Ed will never agree to go the dance. Ed—not knowing the stakes of the wager—has also made it clear that Jack taking another man will end their romance.

With pressure from friends and enemies alike, will Jack hold on to his legacy… or his heart?

While reading Better Be Sure (Harrison Campus #1) by Andy Gallo, I can’t begin to count the number of times something about either an aspect of the situations these characters founds themselves in or the dialog/conversations I got pulled into (that involved multiple people)  made me reflect just how well author got their ages and timing right.  Even as I might have gotten frustrated over their fears getting the better of communication, I got it.  Boy, they are young, dealing with peer pressure, stress, and well, just stuff.

Gallo obviously understands this age, these young men, and makes us feel it too.  It rings of authenticity from the tight bonds of fraternity brothers through the ages to that of adopted brothers through trauma and devastation.  Better Be Sure covers a range of topics, from coming out to bullying to self acceptance, and grief, even clinical depression.  Plus formals, townie versus college, family stress, homophobia, and so much more.  Gallo set himself a huge agenda here and almost pulled it off perfectly.

I think only that he tried to do too much in the end kept this from a higher rating but really it’s so good.  The characterization alone makes this story easy to dive into.  You fall immediately into love with these true to life, complicated, moving young men trying to get through school and their fraternity life.  That includes tests, a formal, dating, a bully, and for Jack, the fact that he’s still dealing with the traumatic death of his parents four years ago.  It’s left him with having “episodes” which read like clinical depression, which is one of my issues here with the story.

Jack clearly has needed therapy dealing with not only the tragic loss of his parents but the horrific material free for all and monetary squabbling that ensured after they died.  The combined emotional impact on Jack was devastating.  Only his adopted family, including Marcus, saved him.  But even with all the mentions of his multiple breakdowns, never it is mentioned the need to get Jack help.  I do understand at that age you can’t be forced to accept help,  but I wish that more had been made of this element, especially since it’s such a big part of Jack’s story.  And the “episodes” he continues to have throughout the story, never exactly calling them what they are.  For me, that is actually one of the reasons this story didn’t get a 5 star rating. I just wish this had been explored a little more thoroughly.

I never joined the Greek life at my college, having flown the Freak flag myself, but I have faith that Gallo gets that right too.  It feels like it in the dynamics that goes on the the fraternity and between the big and little brothers. But I do remember the “townie vs college” aspect of it and that’s dead on.  From both perspectives!  How that brought back memories.  Weaving all this into his characters made for deeper personalities and gave us young men we feel we know.

Tight bonds are everywhere here and not just between young men.  Jack’s best friend is also a young women, one of several of strength in this story. It’s a great cast of characters and I loved spending time with all of them.  So I’m thrilled that this is just part of the beginning of a series.  I will be happy to follow each one as it releases.

Better Be Sure (Harrison Campus #1) by Andy Gallo is a terrific contemporary new adult romance, and a great start to a new series.  It’s one I definitely recommend.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  I so connected to that cover.  That is Jack all the way.  Great job.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 211 pages
Expected publication: March 26th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB07NNL34L7
Edition Language English
Series Harrison Campus #1