4 Stars, Anthology, Cleis Press, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: Best Gay Romance 2015 – Edited by Felice Picano

Title: Best Gay Romance 2015

Author: Anthology – Edited by Felice Picano

Publisher: Cleis Press

Pages/Word Count: 244 Pages

At a Glance: A great collection of short stories with something for everyone.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Gay romance is coming into full bloom in the wake of the Defense of Marriage Act’s fall, and the literary world is giving this full expression. New series editor Felice Picano is one of the top gay writers in the world with many awards and much critical acclaim to his credit. Picano has written novels, plays, and major nonfiction works and he is at his finest when it comes to the subject of love. In Best Gay Romance 2015, he gathers a sweepingly romantic collection of short fiction that is long on love (and sex).

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Review: Anthologies of short stories are always great, because when you’re in the mood to read but not wanting to commit to a full novel, you can take your pick of stories. It’s also a great way to discover new authors. This anthology was a special treat to read for several reasons. First, it’s a Cleis Press anthology, so I knew it was going to have a good selection. I had enjoyed their BGR books from other years and have yet to find one that disappoints. Second, the editor is Felice Picano. I’ve read his works before, and it’s always high quality, so I knew that this collection would have excellent selections. And finally, many of the authors in this collection I’ve already read before and enjoyed, so I knew even if the unknown authors were a miss for me, I was sure to have several fantastic stories that made up for it. Lucky for me even the unknowns were chosen with care, and this anthology really does have a bit of everything. From a novel with demon-induced time travel to a story with Jane Eyre appearing in it, you’ll find at least one—but most likely several—stories to enjoy.

Normally when I review an anthology, I like to review each story, but there’s just too many to do with this one. I will say that each story was enjoyable, but I’ve pulled my top three for review.

In “Discodemius” by Jerry L. Wheeler, Kevin attempts to summon the demon Azmodeus, but gets a different one instead, that sends him back to the 70s. Trapped there for two months, he finds love, only to have it ripped from him when the demon, Discodemius, sends him back to his own time. It seems like that’s it for his love, but is it?

I enjoyed this story because it was so unexpected. I’ve read Jerry Wheeler before—and had the wonderful opportunity to meet him and hang out—and he has a great sense of humor that translates well into his writing. I had been expecting another traditionally romantic story, but this one had elements of the fantastic that sucked me in. I laughed at the demon Discodemius, and laughed when Kevin was “entertained” by being sent back to the era of the disco. There is tension when his time is up, but a twist at the end had me laughing again, this time at the demon!

“Reader, I Married Him” by Michael Thomas Ford was perfect. If you’re an English major you know where that line comes from, and as soon as I saw it in the table of contents, I knew I would love the story. I was not mistaken. Though the story itself takes place during a single night, the title clearly lets the reader know that the story of Adam and Jay is far from over. And I really wish I had the entire book to read! I love that Adam is into Jane Eyre, and Jay is referred to as Bertha Rochester by his lady landlords (he lives in their attic apartment). The two of them just click so well, and it felt authentic reading it. Too bad there isn’t more!

Finally, “The Kingdom of Haeven” by Eric Andrews-Katz. This story is not what it appears to be. It seems, on the surface, to be a sci-fi story, but after reading it—and bursting into tears—I went back to reread the beginning and was hit with the beautiful intricacy of the story. It gives the brief glimpse of General Tyler and Captain Wilyem as they discover whether or not Tyler has been named the new king of Haeven after the passing of the previous king. After massive over-population on Earth far in the future, two new planets are settled with gay men moving to Haeven and lesbians moving to Minervite. I was deeply touched after reading this story. The twist at the end was as unexpected as it was heartbreaking.

TNA_Signature_Jennifer







 

You can buy Best Gay Romance 2015 here:

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Excerpt and Giveaway: Best Gay Romance 2015 from Cleis Press

Cleis Press

The Novel Approach welcomes Cleis Press today, with an exclusive excerpt and giveaway of their new anthology, Best Gay Romance 2015, edited by Felice Picano.

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Best Gay Romance 2015Blurb:

Gay romance is coming into full bloom in the wake of the Defense of Marriage Act’s fall, and the literary world is giving this full expression. New series editor Felice Picano is one of the top gay writers in the world with many awards and much critical acclaim to his credit. Picano has written novels, plays, and major nonfiction works and he is at his finest when it comes to the subject of love. In Best Gay Romance 2015, he gathers a sweepingly romantic collection of short fiction that is long on love (and sex).

Buy Links: Cleis Press | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble

Dividers

EXCERPT: Super Service by Michael Roberts

My front door was wide open and so was my mouth.

The vision in front of me wore an immaculately white crewneck T-shirt that hugged his chest as if it and the torso had fallen in love and intended to cling to each other as closely as possible. I couldn’t blame the T-shirt. A fanciful image, peut-êtrè, but the sight made me absolutely giddy.

His jeans were washed, pressed, loose fit and somehow more sensual than if they were skin tight and composed mostly of patches, holes and loose thread.

He was looking down at a clipboard in his hands, and the top of his head was sexy. The light-brown hair was short and one small tuft wasn’t properly combed, and this imperfection was endearing. I asked myself how I could swoon over a man whose face I hadn’t yet seen. He glanced up, and everything was a gorgeous picture with the doorway as frame.

He appeared to be in his early twenties. His nose was aquiline and his lips were firm and his eyelashes were lovely little creatures that had wandered onto the symmetry of his features.

“Mr. March?” he asked, and I could tell from his tone and from the expression on his captivating visage that he had said the same thing earlier and I hadn’t heard, so taken was I.

“Yes,” I answered, “that’s me. That’s I. I’m him. I’m he. I’m March.”

There was a beat of silence, after which he said, with a slight smile that could have meant so many things, “I’m Reggie. I’m here about your cable television.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my cable,” I said, nearly blushing at the double entendre, bereft to know that there thus was no reason for him to stay, that he soon would pass out of my entranced vision. I didn’t want to tell him that I knew nothing was wrong with the cable because I’d been watching a Lifetime movie with Heather Locklear.

“I’m here preventatively,” he improbably said. “I want to make sure nothing goes wrong in the future.”

“Oh,” I replied and continued to stand like a dunderhead in the door until Reggie raised his eyebrows interrogatively. I sort of squeaked, “Oh,” and stood aside to let him into the apartment.

“Where’s the TV?” he asked, and I wordlessly pointed.

Reggie rippled toward the living room. His upper body flowed beneath the white cotton, his thighs reluctantly releasing the denim as he moved. He bent over to inspect the cable connection, and I was mesmerized by the smoothness of his bejeaned rear end. I reflected that I was a man somewhere in his thirties with a certain level of sophistication and intelligence and savoir faire, and therefore I should not be subject to such emotional overload, and then Reggie squatted in front of the wall plug-in, and the fabric embraced the semicircles of his ass, and I was utterly lost.

“Were you watching this?” he asked, nonjudgmentally, indicating Heather’s shock as she realized that her sister was in fact her brother and guilty of at least three murders, including the one of the Pekinese.

“Phhh,” I said dismissively with an airy flip of my hand. “I was trying to find that special on Etruscan art.”

“I hope it gets shown again because I’ve got to commandeer your set for a while.”

“Fine, fine,” I assured him. “Fine. I’ll just…” I gestured in the direction of my easy chair. Was there, heaven forbid, a porno mag on the side table or a gossip sheet, something that I perused as an alternative to my regular intellectual pursuits? Good, there was a Henry James novel that I’d been trying to read for two years. I sat down and opened the book and attacked the first chapter, the first sentence that went on for three pages.

“Is there another TV?” asked Reggie.

“In my bedroom,” I told him, “through that door. And also one in my roommate’s bedroom, that way.”

I could see him in the corner of my bedroom with the set, and although nothing was occurring but his turning things off and on and fiddling with wires, he was also turning me on.

Next, he went down the hallway and over to Travis’s room and out of view. He was out of view even when I got up and tried, ever so casually, to see him. I was, irrationally, jealous.

Irrationally because, for one thing, Travis wasn’t even there, so nothing was happening, unless, of course, Reggie had thrown himself on Travis’s bed, as if he were in a different Lifetime movie and was rolling about lasciviously, running his hands up and down his marvelous body, and I was becoming vaporous, and I needed to put the brakes to the fantasy train on which I found myself, though, yes, if Travis were there, he probably would be admiring Reggie’s construction; what breathing gay male wouldn’t?

Travis and I had been, at various stages in our relationship, lovers, buddies, cronies and maybe soon to be crones, now, for the moment, closest friends. Someday, we would be like old dogs who would sniff each other’s butt and realize that we had been on that route before, many times before, and we would pad harmlessly to the fire and lie down to sleep, our legs twitching in remembered romantic pursuits, and people would no longer be able to tell us apart.

But we weren’t at that point, yet, and so I was indulging in absurd resentments over a roommate who was away from the city visiting another friend. I didn’t know if I was suspicious of Travis’s succumbing to the charms of his buddy, whom I knew to be attractive and about whom I myself had the rather-more-than-occasional lubricious thought, or envisioning Reggie’s enticements having their sway over Travis if he were here, which he wasn’t, and what if he found Reggie to be more alluring than me—which, all things considered, was possibly not impossible—oh god, my head was aching, and I sank down into my chair and sat on Henry James.

The doorbell rang.

One paid the price for living in an apartment building in which the lobby door didn’t ever completely latch, allowing all sorts of interlopers to, well, interlope.

I sprang up.

Then a part of me sprang up farther. In the hallway stood a man who was stocky in a linebacker sort of way—I’d learned a few things about football from a former lover who was into sports and sportsmen, which was why I still had a Pavlovian response to men who looked like athletes. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt that was trying to meet the challenge of keeping its wearer’s upper section encased but had partially given up. Two buttons were open over intriguing curvatures, and biceps that had biceps were about to burst the seams. His work pants were of a matching gray-green color with front pockets that gaped over hefty, muscular thighs.

He was examining a clipboard in his hands, and the top of his head was sexy. (The scent of déjà vu and the not-unpleasant tang of perspiration wafted across my quivering nostrils.) His thinning dark-brown hair was in a brush style. I asked myself how I could be so enamored of a man whose face I hadn’t yet seen, and he glanced up and answered my question.

His face was also athletic—as if it had been in scrimmages in which the opposing team had wreaked some havoc but had not damaged his innate good looks. The tip of his nose angled a bit and a small scar creased his jawline. He was probably in his midthirties.

“I’m Ken, and I’m here about the plumbing,” he informed me.

“My plumbing’s all right,” I said, and I very nearly added, “according to my latest doctor’s visit,” but I didn’t. Suddenly, I felt as if I were in one of those experimental films that play with time and sequence and I didn’t know the script.

“Are you Mr. March?”

“I think so.”

His aspect didn’t change—well, there may have been a flicker of a smile.

“Actually, it’s not your plumbing, but some of the apartments below yours. There’s a problem that we think may have started farther up, and we’re trying to find out where.”

“That’s logical,” I said, although that wasn’t true—in fact, I thought I saw logic’s tail disappearing at the end of the hallway.

“So if I may, I’d like to look under your kitchen sink.”

I wanted to say, “Yes, and I’d like to examine your pipes, too,” but I didn’t. Instead, I said, “You may,” feeling as if I were in a fog.

“Well…” he said, and indicated that perhaps it would be best if I got out of the doorway and let him into the apartment.

“Of course,” I said, and moved. He reached down and picked up his toolbox, and when he had entered, I led him into the kitchen, glad that I had washed the dishes and emptied the trash.

He opened the cabinet beneath the sink and lowered himself headfirst into it. Soon he was lying on his back, his upper half inside, his lower half sprawled along the floor. I stared down at him.

His thighs weren’t all that stretched his pants.

“That’s okay,” he muffledly said, “you don’t need to hang around.”

And groin gawk, I told myself under my mental breath.

“I’ll call you if I need anything,” he added.

I retreated. It wasn’t enough that his bottom section was spread before me and that his crotch was jam-packed, making my own crotch tight, but his legs were the sides of a triangle and the apex was richly round, distracting my exit. I bumped into the kitchen doorjamb and tried to get out of the room before he noticed my awkward egress and emerged from the cave of my cabinet, wrench in hand. I continued to back away into the living room to my chair and sat on Henry James.

I may have squawked, and I rose precipitously up as if Henry had pinched me. Simultaneously, the doorbell rang. I stifled a second squawk and went to answer.

Continuing my descent into the anthropomorphic, I nearly bleated like an alarmed sheep. At the door was a man in painter’s clothes, with a spot of ochre on his fly. He was looking at a clipboard in his hand, and the top of his head was of course sexy, his hair combed in a sort of Elvis Presley fashion and glistening in the hallway light. Hadn’t I been in a scene something like this one not long ago? When he glanced up at me, I saw that under the painter’s cap, he was attractive: he had a mustache and was young looking, middle twenties, except for wrinkles around eyes that were a penetrating shade of blue, and I did not want to be thinking about penetration, and I said, “Uh?”

“I’m Frank,” he responded, although responded may not be the right term—how do you respond to “Uh”?

“I’m a painter,” he said, rather unnecessarily.

“I didn’t—” I said, and he said, “I know, but your landlord—” and I said, “It’s rather busy here,” and he said, “Oh, I’m not painting today; I’m just checking things out,” and so was I, and I said, “Uh.”

He waved a set of paint samples at me, and I nodded, having run out of things to say. I let him into the apartment, wondering when the tea party was going to begin.

As he went past me, I smelled a subtle cologne, certainly not eau de Sherwin Williams, and that was odd, but I got distracted by the fact that his work clothes fit his body so well, and he had a fittable body. He walked with a certain insouciance, a certain swing to the hips, that one wouldn’t—or at least I wouldn’t—have associated with a housepainter.

He flashed a grin that left me weak from top to bottom and in between, and he headed toward a hallway, and I wandered to my easy chair and sat down on Henry James.

I tried to read the Henry James, which might have been written in a foreign language. Henry James has that effect on a lot of people. But a lot of people are impressed by Henry James, and I find that the mere mention of the author or his books, whether or not one has actually read Henry James, can be useful in cruising a certain kind of target.

I didn’t know how many times I’d struggled through the first sentence when Ken came into the living room and coughed discreetly. I jumped a few feet and said, with my sang as froid as I could muster at the moment, “Yes?”

“The problem may be in the bathroom,” he said, “so may I…” I vaguely indicated the way, and he went in that direction.

I settled back to Henry James’s confusing syntax.

“Mr. March,” Ken called after a few minutes.

I marked my place with a finger, superfluously, since getting back to page one would present no problems. “Yes?”

“Would you come here? I want to show you something.”

I put Henry James on a table—I’d sat on him as often as one should sit on Henry James in an afternoon—and walked to the bathroom and went in. I said, “What do you want to show me?”

He shut the door and faced me and replied, “This,” and pulled down his pants, and his hard cock jutted out.

It went very nicely with the décor of the bathroom.

“Do you like it?” he asked, and I said, “Ahhh…” or maybe I said, “Ummm…”

Whatever I said seemed to encourage him, for he said, “Would you like to try it?”

Of course I would. I was alive, wasn’t I?

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Allen Mack, Austin Bunn, Chuck Willman, David Pratt, Erik Orrantia, Felice Picano, Glen Retief, Jason Schneiderman, Jeff Mann, Jeffrey Ricker, JMS Books LLC, Lewis DeSimone, Mark Canavera, Paul Alan Fahey, Perry Brass, Philip Dean Walker, R.W. Clinger, Rob Byrnes, Rodney Ross, Tom Mendicino, Wes Hartley, William Henderson

Who Is The Other Man? We Have Twenty-One Men Here Today To Tell You, And There’s Also A Giveaway

Touch. By touch we are betrayed and betray others. – Wallace Stegner

Monogamy has been rather fluidly practiced over the centuries, the shape of it changing with the times and the attitudes of each generation. And let’s face facts; there was a double-standard for a very long time, a time when it was not only socially acceptable for a man to have both a wife and a mistress, if not mistresses, but was also, whether by lack of choice or indifference, tolerated by the wife. Of course, there was also a time when there were laws in place that forced men to marry for the sake of social conformity, while keeping their male lovers a well guarded secret. As a matter of fact, there are stories in this very collection that clearly bear witness to the reality that in our ever progressing times, we’re not so very far away from those years of enforced denial.

How many conflicting and complementary cogs are there in the behemoth machine we call relationships? Monogamy and infidelity, commitment and betrayal, loyalty and deception. Trust and love and sex and an emotional bond are all part or parcel to the arrangements we forge with each other when that initial attraction transforms into the instinct to connect with another human being on something more than a physical level. We willingly enter the fray and in that moment, with so much on the line, we become a locus of and susceptible to temptation. And whether we succumb or resist can be the difference maker in the bargain we’ve struck to love someone and to be loved in return.

Is monogamy a natural human state, or is it a concept which sounds lovely in poetic theory but is not practical in the reality of interpersonal relationships? Is there a thinly drawn boundary line between sexual infidelity and emotional infidelity? We all know sex and emotion are mutually exclusive propositions, so once we’ve committed ourselves to someone, can the physical line be crossed without betraying the emotional bond forged with a partner? Are their certain acts, kissing, for example, or being with someone else more than once, that, if they are subtracted from the equation are capable of warding off the consequences of infidelity? Or is cheating, cheating? Is there a difference between an excuse and a reason and, if there is, does that difference matter? These are just a few of the many things I reflected on while reading The Other Man, and the conclusion I came to is that monogamy is a personal practice and relationships are as unique as the people involved in them. There isn’t a set of one-size-fits-all rules to accommodate every relationship, but one thing I learned for sure is that everyone ought to be sure he’s on the same page of the story before a twosome becomes anything more than that.

The twenty-one men who’ve shared a brief segment of their lives in this confessional collection—whether the author was the Other Man, suffered the fallout of the Other Man, or overcame the Other Man to go on to have a fulfilling and long-lasting relationship—each have offered stories that are honest, sometimes even brutally so if my tears were any indication. There were stories that made me laugh out loud, stories that provoked examination of my own thoughts and feelings about monogamy, and throughout the entirety of this book that I absorbed in a matter of hours, I applauded the generosity of each author for sharing his memories, some that I’m certain were painful to revisit.

Husbands living a double-life, HIV and AIDS changing the landscape of sexual liberation, falling in love and falling out of love, attempted suicide, drug abuse, witnessing the wreckage of friends’ relationships, and coping with the reality of being an outsider in one’s own relationship—these images are each present in many of the stories in this collection, but there is more here too; here there is also affirmation that monogamy is not always the fulcrum of longevity, but that it’s communication and communion which are the key.

The crux of more than a few of these stories was often not a case of “the one that got away” but, rather, was a case of “the one I never truly had,” and they each resonated with me in their own telling. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, or guilty, in these glimpses of lives and loves, and sometimes losses, but the names are all that have been withheld from the reader. They are candid, sometimes poignant, and always resonant with personal truths the tellers of these tales have shared with the reader, which, in all honesty, made me feel like the “other woman” in their relationships at times.

Each author has resurrected a part of his life and shared it so openly that I couldn’t help but wonder if, at some point in the not so distant future, there will be a man out there who reads one of these essays and thinks to himself, this is me on the page, and begins to remember that time with fondness or regret.

I loved this book as much as I’m willing to admit without seeming mildly insane. I can’t recommend it highly enough, if for nothing more than it might just make you feel a little and think a lot.

You can buy The Other Man here:

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As part of this feature for The Other Man, Paul Alan Fahey has generously agreed to participate in a giveaway of an E-copy of the book to one lucky winner! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment, including your email address, on this post and you’ll automatically be entered in the contest. All entries must be received by 11:59pm Pacific Time on Thursday, June 6, 2013. The winner will be chosen by Random.org and announced on June 7th.

When I finished reading The Other Man I couldn’t wait to ask Paul if I could invite all the participating authors to answer a single question that niggled at the back of my mind while reading this book: “How difficult was it to write your essay, considering the thoughts and feelings involved and the fact you were sharing them with strangers?” I’m so thrilled each of the gentlemen agreed to reply; the following are their responses.

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“I wasn’t worried about revealing my past to readers. I was more nervous that I portrayed the world of Off-Off Broadway showcases harshly or unsympathetically. I also worried about portraying unsympathetically a former lover who is no longer alive to tell his side of the story. So I tried to be hard on myself, too, perhaps to compensate!”—David Pratt, author of “Way Off.”

“For my contribution not so much…although, now that I’ve been asked, I do come across in it as a little too covetous. Watching a friend, once coupled, become a single, and getting a vicarious whiff of those possibilities, probably put my nose more out of joint than I realized. He kissed handsome strangers impulsively. I cleaned litter pans dutifully.

He was still dancing at last call. We debated if Happy Hour would keep us out too late.

A brand-new boyfriend will leave the room to break wind. Your life partner proudly pre-announces his fart. Wow. Thanks for asking. I want a divorce.” —Rodney Ross, author of “And Then There Was One.”

“All writing when it’s published is shared with strangers. The readers of our essays in The Other Man are not so much strangers as new friends who are only just getting to know us. Telling our new friends what happened is what we were intending when we were writing it all down. So, it’s all good.” —Wes Hartley, author of “Three’s A Charm.”

“It was very difficult for me to write about the incident that I included in The Other Man: it touched on some extremely sensitive areas of my life, some of them stemming, I have finally realized, from my early childhood and later adolescence. As a writer, I had thought about some way to use this material, but always skirted around it. The Other Man was a way to open it up and deal with it.” —Perry Brass, author of “A Pitiless Love.”

“It was somewhat difficult, in particular because I didn’t want to hurt my present partner’s feelings. On the other hand, he already knows a great deal about my complicated past, and I’ve already published some memoir and quite a few poems about that adulterous affair, so I really had very little left to hide when I wrote “Thomas.” —Jeff Mann, author of “Thomas.”

“Publishing memoir is hard, because you are putting yourself and your loved ones out there in the world, dirty laundry and all. I have hurt many people’s feelings over the years by exposing the truth in print, and that has been tough. Writing memoir isn’t emotionally difficult at all, no matter how traumatic the memories. The challenges are all literary and technical. People struggle to believe me, but I say over and over again, at the computer keyboard I am a writer, not a therapy patient!”—Glen Retief, author of “The Rival with a Thousand Faces.”

“Writing my essay was actually quite easy, though our story has a happy ending that’s lasted 13 years. It’s one of our favorite stories, but one we only share with people we know very well. Going public with the story was fun—we figured the statute of limitations had expired on any hurt feelings.” —Jason Schneiderman, author of “The Hat Prize.”

“Writing about our earlier days was fun—then came the betrayal. Not to over-dramatize, but bringing back those memories was like stoking the embers of long-dormant emotions: shock, pain, anger, humiliation. The flames receded again, gradually and with some effort.” Allen Mack, author of “Just Wally and Me.”

“I had to take a step back and review my notes from the many extreme hours of therapy.

Such reflections of those mind-and heart-splintering sessions broke me while writing the essay. Tears were shed during the construction of numerous sentences. At moments I couldn’t believe a stainless-steel scalpel had almost severed me from the man I had truly fallen in love with. A special someone I am still with today.” —R.W. Clinger, author of “In the Brokenness of Summertime.”

“That wintry night in Chicago was fairly easy to recall, even with the passing years and the fact I was pretty inebriated through most of it. The hardest part was coming face to face with that clueless, hedonistic kid I was at the time. Some years ago, I took a stab at writing a much shorter piece about this incident, and it was subsequently published in a Canadian journal—I figured no one knew me up there. Now older, and a bit wiser, sharing who I was back then didn’t seem such a big deal. —Paul Alan Fahey, author of “Where Are You Going To?”

“It was difficult, but mainly because it was ten years ago, and I had to sift through my journals and old emails to recall specific details and what I was feeling at the time (luckily, I’m a pack rat when it comes to correspondence). Of course, I’ve changed the names (or in some cases omitted them entirely) and vagued up the details a bit, but the core experience is still there. And if I worried too much about what strangers think, I’d probably never set down a single word, fact or fiction!” —Jeffrey Ricker, author of “What If.”

“This essay was, by far, the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. No question. At the same time, it was a wonderful trip (for me) into the past and a lover I was much more compatible with—on every level. This made the experience both heart-warming and gut-wrenching, often at the same time. But this was an important essay for me to write; it was time, after all these years, to get the truth out and “free myself” from the feelings of guilt and longing that have haunted me for more than two decades.” —Chuck Willman, author of “Turbulence.”

“It was an extremely difficult piece for me to write. I have had several brushes with infidelity in my life, but I chose to write about the hardest one to see if I could scrape the marrow out of the experience and make it hurt less. It didn’t work. I wrote the piece in one day—sitting on the terrace of a friend’s penthouse apartment—writing and rewriting and rewriting until I had said everything I needed to say. Then I promptly drank a bottle of red wine by myself and cried myself to sleep. The next day hurt no less, and the story hadn’t been expunged. But at least the story was out into the world for others to comment. There is no relief in that fact, but there is a lifting of shame.”—Mark Canavera, author of “Complicity.”

“Frankly, I agonized over this essay. I’ve published several autobiographical pieces before, but this one was different. My essay in THE OTHER MAN details a part of my life that I’ve discussed with very few people. I’ve come to terms with that period and have long since forgiven myself for the mistakes I made then, but writing about it is another story. I’ve exposed things about myself in the past, but when it comes to other people I’ve usually hidden behind the mask of fiction. I’ve changed circumstances, created composite characters, moved settings around. That’s one of the great things about fiction: you get to rewrite your life. What made writing this piece so hard was the sense that I was publicly breaking a confidence with “Nathan” (the pseudonym I use in the essay for my partner in “other man” crime). For people who knew us both then, Nathan’s identity will not be hard to decipher. I haven’t spoken to him in 20 years (if you read the end of the essay, you’ll know why), and I don’t know whether he ever told his partner what was going on between us. I would hate for this essay to be the way he finds out. Even though it’s all long in the past, I suspect that reading this would hurt both of them. When all is said and done, though, the writing of this piece was somewhat healing for me. And having it part of this collection also helps: it shows me that I’m not alone, that there are many others who’ve gone through similar experiences. As with all my writing, there’s also the hope that by discussing this publicly, I might help someone else who’s going through the same thing right now. If I’d had this collection in front of me 20 years ago, I might have acted differently and saved myself a lot of grief. Maybe now I can do that for someone else.” —Lewis DeSimone, author of “Last Tango in Cambridge.”

“This is the first time I’ve really written about my partner who died a while ago. He was my soul mate, which is rare in life to find. And we had a decade and a half together. So I really have no complaints. I never knew how to write about him at all, it seemed like such a large and complex subject, and so I haven’t done so in the past. But approaching him and our relationship from this particular angle was really helpful for me and it opened all those years as a subject. I don’t know if and when I’ll write about him again, but I’m glad to have gotten something in print about him.” —Felice Picano, author of “The Child.”

“Yes, writing my story was hard. Looking at my reflection in the mirror of the past is difficult—I made some ugly, unfortunate mistakes. I have to learn from my errors and accept my humanness in all its imperfection. I have faith in others’ ability to do the same.” —Erik Orrantia, author of “Ballad Echoes.”

“Not difficult at all for me, but my partner of many years is a much more private person and was a bit squeamish about my shouting from the rooftops that I spent three years prowling the dirty book stores of North Carolina. At least it was before phone cameras and Instagram so there are no photos.” —Tom Mendicino, author of “Any Resemblance to Actual Persons, Living or Dead, Is Entirely Coincidental.”

“My essay began as a series of one-page letters written for one person. Only after I realized that all I had left from that relationship—of that person—were the letters did I realize that they needed to live somewhere other than on the page. Putting the essay together was like excavating what I couldn’t—or felt I couldn’t—say out loud. Sharing the story with strangers is easier than thinking that nothing good will come from the experience other than the changes it created in my life.” —William Henderson, author of “You Without Me.”

“One of my favorite writers Paul Monette has this line, “Everyday, when I sit down to write, I try to write more honestly than the day before.” All the essayists I love and admire—from Monette to Edmund White to Anne Lamott—seem to be able to do that, without turning their pages into confessional taffy. So “Husbands” wasn’t hard to write. I started taking notes on all the experiences half-way through because I knew I wanted to explore them. I don’t write to say what I think as much to find out what I feel, and the mysteries of the piece were genuine riddles for me. The hard part is being honest without utter self-involvement. And the trick there, as another teacher of mine Adam Haslett told me, is “sometimes language can solve things.” —Austin Bunn, author of “Husbands.”

“It’s always scary committing the truth—or at least the truth the way you see it—to paper, especially when revisiting an unpleasant part of the past. But ultimately I found the experience to be cathartic. On reflection, I realized that a lot of good came from the bad.” —Rob Byrnes, author of “A Brief History of the Divorce Party.”

“I started this piece some years ago when I was actually still in the middle of another phase of the relationship/affair. Partly because it was fresh and I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings on it in the moment. But even more because writing about it helped me process the experience from the distance usually provided by character and story. I didn’t care about strangers reading it at all. The only person I’ve ever been scared about reading it was the object of my affection, the subject of my story. Now that I think about it, I also wanted documentation of it just so I could never forget that yes, this one time, there was a guy, and I was in love.” —Philip Dean Walker, author of “The Other Side Of The Game.”

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