QSFer Jamie Fessenden has a new book out:
It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.
At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.
Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open to eternal damnation—and for a second tragedy to follow.
1st Edition published by Itineris Press, August 2012.
THE FIRST thing that went through Terry’s head when his cell phone buzzed at three in the morning was Oh God, it’s Dad’s heart again! But the voice on the other end of the phone wasn’t his sister. It was a young man—a teenager, by the sound of it.
“Hey.” A quiet cough and then, “Hi. Is… this the gay men’s group?”
It was and it wasn’t. Terry hadn’t given out his personal cell number in connection with the group since he stopped printing up flyers over three years ago. All the “regulars” had it, of course. But they knew better than to give it out. If they wanted to introduce someone new to the group, they’d just bring him.
“How did you get this number?” Terry asked, sounding a bit more curt than he’d intended. But part of him suspected this was a prank—a teenager finding one of the flyers and calling to see if the fags were still holding their meetings, his friends snickering in the background….
“I’ve had it for a while.” The voice sounded distant. Not like a bad phone connection, but just… far away. “I guess I shouldn’t have called.”
Something in the young man’s voice disturbed Terry. The kid sounded so… lost. Maybe it wasn’t a prank, after all.
“No, wait!” he said quickly, before the boy could hang up. “This is the gay men’s group. But do you know what time it is?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s just… it’s so quiet and cold here. I wanted to hear another voice.”
Jack came out of the bedroom. The moonlight coming through the living room window softly illuminated his beautifully sculpted naked body as he crossed the floor to Terry’s side. “Who is it?” he whispered, concerned. “Is it your dad?”
Terry shook his head. He put his hand over the receiver. “I think it’s one of my students.”
That wasn’t such a far-fetched conclusion to jump to. Terry didn’t recognize the voice, but Crystal Falls Regional had fewer than a hundred students, all told. Chances were good this kid had been in Terry’s music classes at least one semester.
He wasn’t surprised to see Jack’s eyes go wide. Terry wasn’t exactly out at the high school where he taught. Gay rights might have come a long way in the past decade, but that didn’t mean the school board would look kindly on a gay teacher. Did the kid know who he was talking to? Terry hoped not.
But he was less worried about that at the moment than the sound of desperation in the boy’s voice. “Look, don’t worry about it. You needed someone to talk to. I understand.”
“No,” Jack whispered, and Terry could practically see his lawyer hackles rising. “You tell him to talk to his parents or the school guidance counselor. Then you hang up.”
The guidance counselor? The same guy Terry had heard laughing about Eric Jacobs being a “fag”?
“I had sex with another guy. A bunch of times.”
“Okay,” Terry said carefully, ignoring Jack. “Was it something you both consented to?”
The boy laughed bitterly. “Why would that matter?”
Oh God. Not a rape. Or molestation. Jack was right; Terry wasn’t trained to deal with shit like that. “Look, son. Maybe you should—”
“I mean, yeah, we both wanted it, but he’s not saved. I’m the one who knows the Bible better than… well, practically anybody. I should have been the one to save him. Instead, I brought him down even more.”
Christ. The kid was a Bible-thumper. Terry really wasn’t prepared to deal with that. He’d turned his back on religion decades ago. He could barely remember anything he’d read in the Bible, apart from the passages he was always hearing the religious right spout off. And he couldn’t claim to know those well, either.
“I’m not really a religious man myself,” he said, floundering. “It’s never made sense to me that God would have a problem with two”—he almost said consenting adults—“people doing something together they both enjoy, and that really doesn’t affect anybody else.”
“What are you telling this kid?” Jack hissed at him. “If his parents have told him that homosexuality is wrong, and they find out you’re telling him it’s okay, that’s corrupting a minor!”
Terry waved his hand at him to be quiet. The boy was at some kind of crisis point, and Terry couldn’t just turn away.
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Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple short pieces in his high school’s literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest, but it wasn’t until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. He then began writing novels and published his first novella in 2010.
After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard, and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie recently left his “day job” as a tech support analyst to be a full-time writer.