March 21 is release day for Joe Cosentino with two new books: IN MY HEART (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star anthology, Dreamspinner Press) and COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK (NineStar Press)
What inspired you to start writing?
When I told my mother I wanted to be an actor, she said, “Take this knife and stick it through my heart.” I did it anyway, and acted on stage and screen with stars like Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Holland Taylor, Jason Robards, and Nathan Lane. You can see me on You Tube in the ABC-TV movie, My Mother Was Never a Kid, about two thirds of the way through. As my students say, “You were cute when you were young!” Anyway, it occurred to me that acting is storytelling in the same way that writing is storytelling, so I decided to give playwriting a try. When I told my mother I wanted to write fiction, she said, “Don’t you have anything better to do?” I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother said that?
Can you tell us a little bit about IN MY HEART from Dreamspinner Press?
My e-book novellas from 2015, AN INFATUATION (Divine Magazine Readers’ Choice Award for 2nd Place for Favorite LGBT Romance) and A SHOOTING STAR did so well that Dreamspinner Press just published them as a paperback anthology.
In AN INFATUATION, loosely based on my high school years and ten-year high school reunion, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again at their ten-year high school reunion, the old flame reignites. Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.
In A SHOOTING STAR, loosely based on my years as a college theatre major, new college theatre major Jonathan meets the gorgeous, muscular, tantalizing, and mysterious upper classroom and theatre department star aptly named David Star. As David grooms Jonathan for college life and for stardom, Jonathan falls deeply in love with him. This leads Jonathan on an inner and outer journey, where he learns some shocking secrets about David, and about himself. As a remembrance story, the novella begins with Jonathan having just received the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Film, as he thinks back to the person who was responsible for his win.
Who is your favorite character from AN INFATUATION? And why?
While the situation is fictitious, Harold is based on me, so it’s a no-brainer! Actually, I really admire Harold’s resilience, honesty, intelligence, wit, and ability to keep going in trying situations. His heart may be broken, but his spirit always stays intact. Harold’s devotion to his spouse, Stuart, is admirable, as is his honesty about his teenage infatuation with Mario. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature.
Which one of your characters in AN INFATUATION did you enjoy writing the most? And why?
Stuart was great fun to write, because he is based on my spouse who is totally organized and a real list maker, but also sweet, creative, and caring. He creates an itinerary for our trips in ten minute time blocks!
Is Mario based on anyone?
Mario is a combination of many supposedly straight, perfect guys who gay guys so easily become infatuated with every day. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature in their special relationship. I also love that Harold and Mario come full circle at their high school reunion.
Tell us more about the main characters in A SHOOTING STAR.
Like Harold in AN INFATUATION, Jonathan in A SHOOTING STAR is loosely based on me, though I haven’t won an Academy Award—yet. He is ingenuous, funny, warm, gullible, and has an open heart. As is the case with Stuart in AN INFATUATION, Barry, Jonathan’s loyal scene partner in A SHOOTING STAR, is loosely based on my spouse. Similar to Mario in AN INFATUATION, David in SHOOTING STAR is a combination of a number of young men I met as a theatre major in college and as a young actor. They were gay, bi, closet-gay, or straight. Each was handsome, muscular, charismatic, sensuous, and almost other-worldly like Greek gods. Though they appeared to hold the world in the palm of their strong hands, they each had a secret weakness. The acting professor, the hysterically hypochondriac Professor Katzer, is a lampooned version of an acting professor I had in college who has since passed away.
Is A SHOOTING STAR the first time you’ve written about college life?
No, my Nicky and Noah mystery series from Lethe Press takes place at Treemeadow College, a fictitious white stone Edwardian New England college. Though the novel is a farcical, gay, who-dun-it, I again was able to think back to my college days and incorporate some of the people and happenings from days gone by. I was also able to use some scenarios, though grossly exaggerated, from my current stint as a college theatre professor/department head.
In DRAMA QUEEN (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary novel of 2015) theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detective more interested in getting into Nicky’s pants than solving the murders, it is up to well-endowed Directing professor, Nicky Abbondanza to use his theatre skills (including playing other people) to solve the case, while he directs a murder mystery onstage. Complicating matters is Nicky’s intense crush on Assistant Professor of Acting, gorgeous Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder. In DRAMA MUSCLE Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills to find out why musclemen are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. In DRAMA CRUISE (not released yet), Nicky and Noah go on a cruise to Alaska, and discover why college theatre professors are going overboard like lifeboats while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship.
Do you have other novellas from Dreamspinner Press?
Dreamspinner Press published A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS loosely based on my trip to the amazing, magical, gorgeous, romantic Island of Capri in Italy, and my gay take on my favorite fairytales, THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND.
Do you write straight fiction as well?
I have a mystery series, the Jana Lane mysteries, with straight leading characters and gay supporting characters. In PAPER DOLL (Whiskey Creek Press), ex-child star Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. She also embarks on a romance with the devilishly handsome son of her old producer, Rocco Cavoto.
In PORCELAIN DOLL (The Wild Rose Press), Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. Her heart is set aflutter by her incredibly gorgeous co-star, Jason Apollo.
In SATIN DOLL (coming from The Wild Rose Press), Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. She also embarks on a romance with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective.
In CHINA DOLL (coming from The Wild Rose Press), Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, enchanted by her gorgeous co-star Peter Stevens, and faced with murder on stage and off.
Since the novels take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s best friends are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels. I am currently writing RAGDOLL, where Jana stars in a TV mystery and again life imitates art.
Why did you write COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK?
My aunt and uncle had a bungalow on the New Jersey Shore. Every summer my family would stay with them. My sister and I had the time of our lives playing at the beach, bay, miniature golf course, trampoline emporium, eating salt water taffy, and dining at our favorite seafood restaurant. All those places and experiences are in the novel in a fictitious place I call Cozzi Cove, a gay resort of eight bungalows in a private cove on the Jersey Shore.
After AN INFATUATION was released, countless readers begged me for more time with one of the characters in it. So that character and his brother are the first guests at Cozzi Cove.
What is a cove?
A cove is formed when softer rocks are worn away by the sun and salty water faster than the harder rocks surrounding them. This creates a gorgeous bay of turquoise water shielded by large rocks in the distance and smaller rocks near the water’s edge.
What is the storyline of COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK?
Cal Cozzi opens his string of seven guest bungalows on Cozzi Cove for the summer. Built by Cal’s great-grandfather, each bungalow is furnished with hand-carved nautical furnishings, and has a stunning view of the bay and lighthouse in the distance. The main beach and boardwalk are only a mile away. Assisting Cal is ginger, muscular Connor, the maid packed with muscles and a roving sponge. This summer the vacationers are two brothers/college students who look alike, but couldn’t be more different. Mario is searching for love, and Harold is searching for lust. A wealthy older couple, Josh and Greg, play matchmakers for their gorgeous son Christopher. Opposites attract as player Tim meets shy Mark, and porn star Chuck Caliber connects with Sean, a virgin romance novelist. Finally computer game designer Arthur has a midnight sea rendezvous with a merman. Even married Cal faces an emotional upheaval when a gay bashing turns into something quite unexpected for him. Since Cozzi Cove is a magical place, the novel is full of humor, tragedy, mysteries, and passions. Everyone has a secret at Cozzi Cove, and nothing is what it seems. Grab your Speedos, suntan lotion, and shades and head to Cozzi Cove. I hope to see you there!
Tell us more about the main characters.
Cal, short for Calvin, is thirty years old, tall, and muscular. His Italian and Scottish heritage left him with striking auburn hair and a strong nose. He dabbled as a professional football player then restaurant owner, but neither was a good fit. After Cal’s parents died in an automobile accident, he found his calling: managing his family’s seven bungalows around the rocky cove in the New Jersey shore town named after his great-grandfather. Sensing Cal’s sexual orientation as a boy, Cal’s father had turned Cozzi Cove into a gay resort. Cal is honored to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Lance is twenty-four, short, stocky, African American with dark hair and dark eyes and amazing dimples. He grew up poor, and worked hard getting scholarships and maintaining good grades throughout school. As a second grade teacher, Lance is off during the summers, his favorite time of year. This leaves him more time to do what he loves most: being with Cal.
Connor, the college student assisting Cal, is packed with muscles and hormones. He revels in Cozzi Cove, and in checking out each resident for a possible fling on the cove.
Tommy, the bald, muscular, tattooed resident of Cozzi Cove who owns the local bar has held a torch for Cal since high school.
The guests are a conglomeration of interesting characters with amazing stories.
Will this become a series?
The second book, COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD, is written and set for release by NineStar Press on April 18.
As a college professor/department head, how do you have the time to write so much?
I write at night after my spouse has gone to bed. I have a beautiful cherry wood study with a fireplace, huge desk, bookcases, and window seat like Martin Anderson, the department head in my Nicky and Noah mysteries.
What is your writing process?
I generally jump up from bed at 3am with a great idea and jot down notes on the pad on my night table. If I can read them the next day, I write a plot summary and biography for each character. Sometimes I write an outline and other times I wing it. I show the second draft to my spouse for his notes. The third draft goes to the publisher.
Is it difficult plotting the clues in a mystery?
It’s an incredible amount of work and also fun planning the clues, red herrings, plot twists and turns, and surprise but justifiable ending. I also keep in mind that a good mystery also includes strong characters, romance, comedy, drama, and interesting locations.
Who is your favorite author? And why?
Armistead Maupin has an amazing flair for writing eccentric, loveable characters with engaging and realistic dialogue.
Do you see your books becoming movies and/or television series?
Yes! Many people say my novels read somewhat like screenplays. I’d love to play Principal Ringwood in AN INFATUATION, Professor Katzer in A SHOOTING STAR, Theatre Department Head Martin Anderson in the Nicky and Noah mystery series, Jana’s agent Simon Huckby in the Jana Lane mystery series, Mortimer one of Cinder’s dads in THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND, and Sean Guile in COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK. I’ll be an extra in A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS just to get back to the gorgeous Island of Capri! Hear that movie and television producers!
How do you deal with bad reviews?
Most of my reviews and reader response have been incredibly positive, which fuel my writing. What a gift it is for a reader to post a positive review on Amazon or Goodreads, relating how something I’ve written has moved them, made them laugh, made them cry, think about something new, or changed their life. I can’t think of anything better. As for the few bad reviews, I don’t read them. As my mother always told me, if you don’t have something nice to say about somebody, don’t say anything. I can’t imagine why anyone would continue reading a book after chapter one if he/she doesn’t like it. Just put it down and read something else. Why attack a book someone has poured his/her blood, sweat, and tears into? As the saying goes, just say no.
What advice would you give to other writers in your genres?
I love reading and writing stories with engaging characters who I want to spend time with. Just as I did improvisation as an actor, I recommend letting your characters talk to one another and seeing what happens! An outline is simply an outline. Don’t be afraid to deviate from it. When a reader finishes a book, he/she should be satisfied that the various parts equaled the whole, rather than the author pulling an ending out of the hat. Finally, while a sad ending is fine, don’t forget the humor! I also love shocks and surprises along the way.
How can your readers contact you?
I love hearing from readers. They can contact me at: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
IN MY HEART (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star anthology) by Joe Cosentino, published by Dreamspinner Press
Avaiable at Dreamspinner Press
AN INFATUATION: With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.
Praise for AN INFATUATION (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for 2015: 2nd Place Best MM Romance Novel, 1st Place Best Cover Design):
"The author executed his storyline with a marvelous precision that would be the envy of many authors. He draws the readers into the lives of his characters, they become real and in turn, their emotions becomes yours." "If you can only afford to buy one more book this year, buy this one.” Three Books Over the Rainbow Reviews
"I really loved this book and having an ending that made me laugh and cry at the same time is testament to the brilliant writing." BooksLaidBareBoys
“I think you will be left breathless with the reality and emotion behind An Infatuation.” Diverse Reader
“Don't miss this one friends, it is a heartfelt story magical in the telling! Thanks Joe for putting your heart on the page for us to savor!” Bike Book Reviews
“Author Joe Cosentino brought just the right amount of humor, angst and honesty to make this short but sweet coming of age story a success.” MM Good Book Reviews
“Joe Cosentino proves there’s more than one way to a happy ending in An Infatuation, a story of first love and heartbreak delivered in a fresh and funny voice.” The Novel Approach
“It’s unusual for me to get sucked into a book in the first chapter but it grabbed me early and I read the whole thing in one day." Nautical Star Books
“I recommend this book to anyone reminiscing about that one that got away.” LoveBytes Reviews
“There were times I laughed and then there were times I cried…unforgettable.” Multitaskingmomma Reviews
“Like an onion, Joe Cosentino's stories have layers. I would really recommend them. This is a Bittersweet novel, but it has laughs-a-plenty despite the sad and ugly lurking beneath the veneer. A truly fabulous read.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews
“The story kept me turning the pages and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.” “I love that Harold found what he was looking for in life and in a partner and love that he has his HEA. Great read.” Up All Night, Sleep All Day
“just the right dose of humor, honesty, and of course, sweet romance” Readers’ Favorite
A SHOOTING STAR: On the eve of the best night of his life, winning an Academy Award, Jonathan Bello thinks back to his one great love, David Star. Flipping back the pages of time, Jonathan recalls his handsome, muscular, and charismatic college roommate. Since Jonathan was a freshman and David a senior in the Theatre Department, David took Jonathan under his wing and molded him, not only as an actor but as a lover. With every wonderful new adventure, David left his joyful mark on anyone with whom they came in contact, but Jonathan soon uncovered David’s dark past, leading to a shocking event. Undaunted, Jonathan celebrates the captivating man who will always hold a special place in his heart.
Praise for A SHOOTING STAR:
“unbelievably beautiful” “a masterpiece” Lovebytes Reviews
“heart-wrenchingly beautiful, that no words I possess in my vocabulary would do it justice” “Again Joe Cosentino drew me into his wonderful world of part fact/part fiction/loosely based on his own experiences world – a world as a reader I love to enter, time and time again.” Three Books over the Rainbow
“A Shooting Star could easily function as a master class in how to write short fiction (or any fiction). Joe Cosentino has provided a work that will leave you thinking and wanting to savor and re-read it again and again.” GGR Reviews
"This is a bittersweet love story, so don’t be surprised if you find tears running down your face when a shining and burning star is extinguished too soon. But, as Joe Cosentino proves time and time again, with his wonderful writing and storytelling ability, love will prevail, and you will smile from ear to ear." Kathy Mac Reviews
“For those readers looking for something a little bit different - dare I say unique? For those readers who like to laugh. For those readers who appreciate the nuances of people and the way each character is different. For those readers who want to read a damn good story - check out this author. I'm glad I did.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews
“Cosentino has another winning heartbreaker with A Shooting Star.” Prism Book Alliance.
“Yes, it is a bittersweet story but it is one that still has hope and love.” Hearts on Fire Reviews
“This story just blew me away.” “If you like something different from time to time, a bittersweet story, actors, college men, and a very sweet romance I highly recommend this.” Cathy Brockman Romance/MM Good Book Reviews
“From the beginning I was enthralled and couldn’t wait to finish the book.” Inked Rainbow Reads
“really grabs you and tugs at your emotions” “unique and enjoyable.” Nautical Star Books
“a sophisticated, enthralling and suspenseful tale with a gothic vibe and a multi-layered execution that will have you sitting up and taking notice. This is polished prose at its best. Intelligent writing, a thought-provoking plot and characters befitting the theater genre make A Shooting Star one of my favorite reads this year.” Love’s Last Refuge Reviews
“a beautifully written story, full of life, love, heartbreak, tragedy, and maybe most importantly, triumph.” Readers’ Favorite
COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK by JOE COSENTINO, published NineStar Press
Available at NineStar Press, All Romance EBooks, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
On Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey shore, handsome Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are open for summer and love. Mario and Harold are brothers and college students who happen to look alike, but couldn’t be more different: Mario is searching for love, and Harold is searching for lust. Josh and Greg, a wealthy older couple, are matchmakers for their son, Christopher. When it comes to Connor, the maid, packed with muscles and a roving sponge, anything can happen. Opposites attract as wild Tim with the secret past meets shy Mark, and porn star Chuck Caliber connects with Sean, a virgin romance novelist. And what will happen when computer-game designer Arthur has a midnight sea rendezvous with a merman? Even married Cal faces an emotional upheaval when a gay bashing turns into something quite unexpected. What secrets and passions lie in magical Cozzi Cove?
Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (NineStar Press), Drama Queen and Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press), An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press) and Porcelain Doll (Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries, and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (Nine Star Press), Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), and Satin Doll and China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press). Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015!
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Excerpt from AN INFATUATION
One Friday afternoon I accidentally ran into my hero in the boy's locker room. I’d had enough of the big guys banging me into gym lockers, pushing me into cold showers, and hanging me from the gym ropes. So I was on my way to give Mr. Adoni a note from Dr. Dlorah excusing me from gym class for the remainder of the school year (due to my highly contagious disease being studied by my doctor in Guatemala, where he could not be reached for the next year).
The locker room smelled of an odd combination of soap, cologne, sweat, and desire. Mario was getting ready for football practice, standing at his gym locker without a combination lock on it. Nobody would dare to break into it (Except for me that one time I smelled his jock strap. Okay maybe it was a few times, but not more than ten.). Mario slid his T-shirt (red today) over his thick, black hair and threw it on the nearby bench. No longer harnessed by cotton, his arm, back, chest, and neck muscles swelled to full size. I was half hidden behind the adjoining row of lockers, wearing my usual green and blue flannel shirt and brown corduroy pants. Mario, who wasn’t looking in my direction, said something really beautiful to me that I will never forget. “Hi.”
“Did you just? Oh. Hi. Hello. Good afternoon. Nice to see you. I mean, change with you.” I looked down at the floor (but cheated a bit) as Mario kicked off his boots, slipped off his jeans then threw them in the lucky locker. His red underpants (briefs) revealed ample manhood. This is better than the newspaper’s underwear ads!
“Good gym class today with Mr. Adonis, I mean, Mr. Adoni.” Did I just say that? “Harold High.”
“High.” How can I get my pulse down to 260?
“Hi.” Mario reached into his locker for his sweat clothes.
Shouldn’t people be doing that for you? “Oh, my last name is High. Like a kite.” How can I stop my arms from waving like an airport flagger on speed?
“Mario Ginetti. Like nothin’ else imaginable.” Mario smiled, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth, and held the sweat clothes in his hands as if he was mortal.
“I know. I watch your body play.” Why can’t I stop talking? “I mean, I watch you play … football … on the field … in your football outfit.” I feel like Michelangelo with his David!
As Mario put on his sweats, I continued to sweat.
“I'm voting for your body … I mean I'm voting for you for president of your … our … the student body.” I need my jaw wired shut. “I’m your lab partner in Chemistry class. Ms. Hungry’s class … I mean Ms. Hunsley’s class.”
His olive-colored face glistened as Mario’s face registered recognition—of me! “I thought I knew you from somewheres. Hey, thanks for doing the lab reports.”
“It’s my honor … I mean my pleasure. It’s fine. If you need help putting up posters for your campaign, I can…”
Having just tied the laces of his sneakers, Mario stood absolutely still. He looked at me as if he was staring into my heart and somehow knew what I was feeling. “I gotta take a wicked piss.”
Can I watch?
“Thanks for helping me out, Buddy.” He slammed the locker door and left.
He called me, Buddy! My heart was as soft and silly as putty that Mario held in the palm of his hand like his soap on a rope.
Excerpt from A SHOOTING STAR
As an Italian-American, I subscribed to my mother’s theory that if someone doesn’t want you to see something, he will hide it in a locked vault covered with cement. So I inadvertently took a quick look at my roommate’s things on the other side of the room. He was incredibly neat. Numerous theater textbooks and play scripts lined his bookshelf in alphabetical order. The bulletin board above his desk displayed artistically arranged programs from various comedy, drama, and musical college productions listing the same male lead in each show: “David Star”.
“Do you always look at other people’s things?”
I nearly got whiplash as he entered the room.
Stammering like a kid caught masturbating by his parents, I said, “I… w-was… ad-m-miring y-your… r-room.”
Though it was a fall September day, he took off his scarf (violet) and rested it on a tall coat-rack, which held scarves in various colors like a department store window display. He was taller than me, with a chiseled, handsome face, and straight, shiny black hair, which fell down his thick neck. I admired his perfectly sculpted muscles, housed in a turquoise designer dress shirt. But what captivated me the most were his piercing crystal-blue eyes—and the enormous bulge in his skin-tight, designer beige pants.
“What’s your name?”
He looked at me like a surgeon examining a tumor. “No, it’s not.”
“It’s Jonathan Bello.” He opened a bureau drawer, pulled out a bottle of hair gel, and tossed it to me. “You should gel your hair.” He opened his closet, revealing a multitude of color-coordinated shirts and slacks, and lay some on my bed. “And you can wear these.”
I looked at his perfectly pressed designer clothes. “Where did you get all these things?”
“They were gifts, mostly.”
“You must have some generous friends…. Sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“I’m David Star.” He took a bow.
Looking back at his play programs, I said, “You must have starred in every play at the college over the last three years.”
“Guilty as charged.”
“What happened to your last roommate?”
“He went to LA over the summer break and started auditioning. He got cast in a new TV sitcom. I hope it takes off. It’s called Cosby.”
“At the orientation session, they said freshmen are housed with other freshmen. How did I get a senior for a roommate?”
His eyes twinkled. “Just lucky I guess.”
“Do you think it was some kind of an administrative error or something?”
“Or something.” He added matter-of-factly, “I asked for a freshman roommate.”
Excerpt from COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK
As Lance rested in bed and Cal was putting on jeans, sandals, and a canary polo shirt, they heard Connor enter the living room and call out to Cal. After giving Lance a kiss on the cheek, Cal begrudgingly left his lover, shut the front bedroom door after himself, and then met up with Connor, who was standing next to the living room sofa.
Connor said, “It’s good to be back at work.”
“How were your grades at college this year?”
Connor shrugged his muscular shoulders. “Pretty average.”
Cal thought, If average is getting Cs and Ds. “I’m guessing you were quite involved with extracurricular activities.”
“One or two.” He giggled. “Maybe, three.”
Cal had a soft spot for the kid. “You did a nice job preparing the bungalows yesterday.”
“I aim to please.”
Cal thought the nineteen-year-old looked like an American flag in cutoff blue jeans that matched his eyes, a T-shirt and sneakers that matched his red hair, and pale skin with freckles.
“How can I be of service to you today, boss?”
Cal ignored Connor’s obvious double meaning.
“Just the usual routine.” Cal wasn’t immune to Connor’s charm, but Connor was a kid, and Cal was a one-man man. “Carry their luggage into the bungalows when the guests arrive. Turn down beds at four p.m.” He attempted to look sternly at the boy. “… Without you in them.”
“Me come on to a guest?” Connor feigned surprise.
“Yes, you, Connor. This is a vacation resort, not the baths.” Cal moved behind his desk. “After today, make up the rooms late mornings and early afternoons. Leave the sheets and towels in front of the garage for the laundry pickup. And don’t forget to sweep out the parking area.”
Connor saluted. “Aye, aye, Capitán .”
They heard a knock at the front door. Cal shouted, “It’s open.”
“Is this the office?”
“We’re informal here,” Cal explained. He typed into his computer, and then motioned for the young man to join him.
“I’m Mario Ginnetti.” He placed a piece of luggage at his feet. “Is it okay to park in the lot?”
Connor seemed to nearly salivate at Mario’s arms in his violet short-sleeved shirt. “You can park anywhere you like.”
Ignoring Connor, Cal said, “Yes, that’s the lot for the bungalows.” Cal handed Mario a key. “You’re in Bungalow One. I’ve got your credit card, so you’re all set.” He took a map from the topmost desk drawer.
“The ocean beach is open to the public and is only minutes away. You can swim, surf, snorkel, or go on a glass-bottom boat there.” He pointed to various black dots on the map. “You’ll want to get some groceries here. Tommy Malone’s is a good bar, and Carla’s is my favorite seafood restaurant. This place has killer ice cream, which you can work off here at the gym.”
Connor interjected with, “If you need help finding anything, just ask me. I’m a native.”
“Or you can come into the office and ask me.” Cal handed Mario the map and then pointed outside. “The cove is private property. You can sit out there all you like. The bay water is calm and warm. As you can see, the view is amazing.”
Connor added with a grin, “Nude sunbathing is permitted.”
Mario was visibly trying to take it all in.
“Any questions?” asked Cal.
Mario’s dimples appeared. “Will the weather always be this nice?”
“From your lips to the sea gods’ ears.” Cal smiled. “The weather report calls for rain, so that means it’s going to be sunny all week. Connor will take you to your bungalow.”
Connor looked like the wolf meeting Little Red Riding Hood as he took Mario’s luggage. “Follow me, Mario.”