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New Release: Parallel Lines – Mark McElroy

Parallel Lines - Mark McElroy

QSFer Mark McElroy has a new MM sci-fi romcom out (bi, gay): Parallel Lines.

When Thomas’s constant indiscretions wreck his decade-long marriage to handsome Carter Lamm, he wonders how different choices might have made him happier.

In a misguided attempt to help, Ed Williams, Thomas’s Big Gay Role Model, shares a technology that plunges users into alternative worlds: versions of the present day, shaped by different choices. Would Thomas be happier stepping on Legos while juggling a wife and kid … partnered to America’s favorite secretly gay action star … or married to “The One Who Got Away”?

With each jump from life to life, Thomas gets just 24 hours to choose to stay (and likely screw things up with his signature blend of self-absorption and over-thinking) or move on to the next of four “roads not taken.” But with each jump poking holes in the fabric of reality – and with the creator of the jump tech rushing to shut this unauthorized adventure down — can Thomas break his self-sabotage habit, escape collapsing realities, and find the critical path to happiness before his blundering around destroys the universe?

Get It At Amazon | Publisher


Excerpt

Thomas and Carter argued again on the way to the party.

Focused on each other, they drove through a stop sign, almost broadsiding a Providence Bakery delivery van. Thomas, driving, swerved right and drove the car over a curb. Carter, in the passenger seat, braced his palms against the dashboard and prepared for an impact that never came. A bottle of wine, their gift for Warren and Ed, bolted forward from the rear floorboard, shot under the passenger seat, and wedged itself between Carter’s size twelve Oliver Cabell sneakers.

The oblivious delivery driver continued down the road. Thomas and Carter sat frozen, breathing hard. A moment passed, then two. Thomas pounded his fists on the steering wheel, put the car in self-driving mode, and crossed his arms over his chest, sulking. Carter bent down and fished for the wine bottle.

For the rest of the drive: not one word.

###

At Warren and Ed’s party: lights strung from pine to pine, balloons bobbing from bushes, and a not-bad local band playing covers of eighties tunes on the pier.

A hundred people laughed, hugged, air-kissed. Identical waiters—black hair, blue eyes, athletic builds—proffered flutes of Prosecco and trays of bite-size barbecue sandwiches.

The car pulled off the dirt road and onto a thick carpet of pine needles. Thomas glanced at Carter. We’re late.

Carter snatched the bottle of wine. Not my fault.

They followed the sloping path toward the lake house’s sprawling jumble of gables and decks. As they walked under the banner (“Celebrating Warren and Ed—30 Years of Love”), several couples spotted them, bounded toward them, shouted their names.

Hugs for Carter, Thomas thought. He was right. Rick and Stephen, the couple who were always on vacation, squeezed Carter hard and long, despite having seen him last weekend. Alan and Quinn, the May-December pair with twenty years between them, did the same.

The men greeted Thomas, too, but with tight smiles and terse waves, except for Quinn, the gray-haired elder of the group, who gave Thomas a stiff handshake without making eye contact.

“Good to see you two … together,” Rick chirped, saluting them with his drink.

Thomas glared at him.

“Oh my God,” Stephen said. “We’re just back. From Chiang Mai.” He closed his eyes and shook his head. “You must go.”

Carter, head and shoulders taller than everyone else, beamed down at them. “Gimme the one best moment.”

“Riding the elephants. Through the jungle. Eating sticky rice.” Stephen put his hand over his heart. “You must go.”

Carter grinned. “Sounds amazing.”

Thomas fidgeted. “I need a drink.”

“Get whatever you want,” Quinn said, arching a gray eyebrow. “As you always seem to do.”

Without a word, Thomas set out for the bar.

###

On the way, Thomas ran a gauntlet of friends and acquaintances. Most, spotting him, scanned the sky for passing clouds or studied the plates of food in their hands. A few nodded or spoke. Lawrence—the needy, perpetual dieter—looked right at Thomas and mouthed the words, “Are you okay, sweetie?”

Thomas dodged them all, not stopping until he reached the lakeside bar. The twenty-something kid behind the counter—a bear of a guy, as tall as Carter but carrying a lot more weight—gave Thomas a wink. “Lemme guess: an IPA guy.”

Thomas shook his head. “Gin and tonic.”

“Hmmm,” the kid said. “Tops usually drink IPAs.”

“What?”

“Only bottoms drink gin.” The kid waited a beat, then burst out laughing. “I’m just fucking with ya.” He offered Thomas a huge paw of a hand. “I’m Tevin. Like Kevin, but with a T.”

A firm handshake. “Thomas. Like … Thomas, I guess.”

Tevin tossed ice in a glass, doused it with gin. “Okay, Thomas like Thomas.” He looked Thomas square in the eyes. “I kind of like Thomas, too.”

Thomas narrowed his eyes. “You must work for tips.”

Tevin laughed again—a big, genuine laugh that lit up his face and shook his belly. “Dude, I’m no bartender. I was just helping myself to the beer when this hot, curly-haired, older bottom walked up and started bossing me around.” He garnished the drink with a lime and presented it with a flourish. “Fortunately for us, I’m kinda into that.”

Thomas returned the laugh and took the drink. “I’m probably five years older than you. Ten at most.”

Tevin cracked open an IPA and waggled his eyebrows as he poured it into a frosted mug. “I’m right about the rest, though.”

Thomas ran his free hand through his hair. “I gotta get back.”

The younger man came around the bar: sunlight in his beard, grinning that intoxicating grin. He clinked their glasses together. “Urgent craving for cheese and crackers?”

Thomas sipped his drink. Heavy on the gin, like he liked it. “Got a husband.” He held up his left hand, pointed to his ring. “Nine years.”

Tevin drew close, his size making Thomas look less like a man and more like a skinny kid. The younger man rested a huge, gentle hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. “Thomas like Thomas, you know the secret to living your best life?”

Thomas waited.

Tevin leaned in, his lips nuzzling the most sensitive part of Thomas’s ear. “Doing whatever the hell you want.” He pulled away, letting his lips graze Thomas’s cheek, then lingered with his lips much too close to Thomas own. “I want you to go off in the woods with me and boss me around some more.”

The moment hung between the two men: a magnetism, a vibration, a heat shimmer in the humid air. Thomas felt a familiar surge of raw desire: the simple, animal need to feel another man’s skin against his own.

“Let’s do this,” Thomas said.

And then, right behind Thomas, two men screamed.


Author Bio

After escaping his home town of Anniston, Alabama, in a rainbow-hued balloon, Mark McElroy was kidnapped by post-modern minimalists at the prestigious Center for Writers (University of Southern Mississippi), where he earned an MA in creative writing. During that time, he designed and taught in the nation’s first computer-aided collaborative writing classroom, earned his first writer’s paycheck with a wince-worthy comic book script, and began coming to terms with the fact that, despite having been groomed as a fundamentalist minister, he was definitely gay. 
Since then, he’s authored more than a dozen non-fiction books on subjects from Apple Computers (101 Reasons to Switch to the Mac, from Que Books) to lucid dreaming (Lucid Dreaming for Beginners, for Llewellyn Publications). He’s also designed and scripted more than a dozen Tarot decks for publishers in the US (Llewellyn) and Italy (Lo Scarabeo). His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Back in 2000, he was the first NaNoWriMo novelist to draft a novel live, online while the world watched. MadeByMark.com (online since 2000) and MarkMcElroy.com (his professional presence) remain a hub for a tech-savvy little tribe of smart, spiritual, literary, tech-savvy, LGBTQ-friendly folks.

Over the past three decades, to keep the lights on and feed his hungry babies, he worked for big organizations (SkyTel/WorldCom and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta) writing more than 300 corporate video scripts designed to explain complex ideas (like “benefits cliffs” and “red lining”) to people who have the good sense to spend weekends in the park instead of attending conferences on quantitative easing. 

Unlike his characters, Mark lives a quiet and happy life with Clyde (his husband for thirty-one years) and their two rescue dogs, Sunny Day and Windy Day. Parallel Lines is his first novel.

Author Websitehttps://markmcelroy.com
Author Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/mark.mcelroy.378537
Author Mastodonhttps://pkm.social/@markmcelroy

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