You & Me – Available at Amazon & KU

We’re a puzzle made of two pieces.

Landon Larsen is the envy of all the dads in Last Waters, Texas. He’s cool, confident, and put together. He and his son—the high school’s all-star quarterback—have the perfect father-son relationship. He’s such a Super Dad, it’s almost sickening.

Landon’s son and mine are best friends and—of course—Landon is the football Team Dad. And though I know nothing about football, Landon convinces me to volunteer to be closer to my son. Volunteering might give him and me a chance to rebuild what’s broken between us. Now I’m spending all my free time with the team—and with Landon—and the more we’re together, the deeper our friendship grows. My son is opening up, too, little by little. I think I’m getting him back.

There’s just one giant problem.

I’m head over heels for Landon.

I’ve never been attracted to men in my life… until him. Landon draws me in without even trying, and the harder I fight this, the deeper I fall.

Crushing on my son’s best friend’s father must be my biggest parenting failure ever, but I can’t get enough of Landon. Falling for him puts each fragile moment I’ve rebuilt with my son at risk. What would he think if he knew I craved his best friend’s dad? I’m playing with fire, but I can’t turn off these feelings Landon has unlocked inside of me.

Of course, a guy like Landon could never fall for someone like me. It’s pointless to even imagine we could be something together.

So why did I just kiss him?


You & Me is a single dads, friends-to-lovers, bi awakening MM romance, full of dads and their exasperating teenage sons, high school sports shenanigans, and #FoundFamily. Come for the epic love, stay for the forever feels.

Available at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!


Never Stay Gone – Available at Amazon & KU

Six bodies in a single grave… in the same West Texas country where Dakota left everything behind.

Every beat of my heart belongs to you.

Thirteen years ago, Dakota Jennings thought he’d found his forever when he fell in love with Shane Carson. But one afternoon shattered their love story, and both Dakota and Shane left Rustler, Texas, with broken hearts. Even now, Dakota is still feeling the agony of losing Shane. Sure, he’s a Texas Ranger, but that’s not how he wanted to live his life. All he ever wanted was to love Shane.

Loving you is the only time I feel alive.

Shane’s life was supposed to be different than this. There’d been a plan, ever since he was knee-high to his father. But falling for Dakota spun Shane’s world upside down, and for years, Shane has had nothing but the memories of all that he lost: Dakota’s gentle touch, and the sweetness of his lips, and the star-strewn nights they spent wrapped in each other’s arms.

West of the Pecos, there is no law.

When the Rangers get the call about six bodies being pulled out of a mass grave in West Texas, the governor sends Dakota to run the investigation. Dakota heads back to his hometown and comes face-to-face with the last man he ever expected to see again: only now, he’s Deputy Shane Carson… Dakota’s local partner assigned to the case.

There’s nothing Dakota wants more than a second chance with Shane, but so much is stacked against them: six corpses, a murderer on the loose, and history that refuses to stay buried. And the bodies keep piling up as Dakota and Shane try to run the killer down across the West Texas plains.

In a moment, everything changes: the hunters become the hunted, the past fractures, and all Dakota thought he knew comes tumbling down. Secrets break wide open as Dakota remembers–

This is West Texas, and out here, nothing is as it seems.

Big Bend County is a place of beauty and desolation, of secrets and small towns. Where the past and the present collide, and where nothing stays hidden forever.


Available now at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!



The Quarterback – Available at Amazon & KU

Falling for his friend’s straight dad might be the worst mistake Colton Hall has ever made.


Colton’s best friend is gay. He’s not: he’s never been attracted to men. So why the hell is he fantasizing about his friend’s dad? Besides, Nick Swanscott is straight. A devoted father and the best man Colton’s ever known. He deserves more than to be the object of Colton’s crush.


The NFL is waiting for Colton, but he decides to stick it out for his senior year in college before joining the league, a decision that proves disastrous when an injury tears him from the game. In the blink of an eye, Colton goes from being a top draft pick to potentially never playing football again.


But Nick is there through his recovery. He takes care of Colton every day and shows him a future that might hold something more than being a superstar quarterback. Maybe Colton’s life isn’t over.


And Colton’s crush explodes: full-on, head over heels, hopelessly falling in love.


He’s so screwed. He’s got to get these feelings under control. All those dreams of kissing Nick can never become reality. And there’s no way Nick could ever love him back.





Available now at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!



The Jock – Available at Amazon & KU

Wes Van de Hoek clawed his way off his family’s West Texas ranch under the Friday night lights, earning a football scholarship to the state’s best university. Three years in, he has it all: he’s the starting tight end, team captain, and, according to ESPN, maybe the best college football player in the nation. But he’s been keeping a secret from everyone.


Justin Swanscott has three certainties in his life: he’s gay, football is overrated, and he really, really doesn’t like cowboys. He should never have fallen into Wes’s open-range eyes or let his heart run wild when Wes gave him that shy little smile over summer. But he couldn’t stop himself.


Everyone’s asking questions about Wes this season: How is he playing so well? Will Texas be undefeated this year? Will he take the team all the way to the national championship? What’s next for him?


The truth? Wes isn’t dreaming about an NFL contract. His heart belongs to Justin, even though the world wants it to belong to football.


Wes has stadiums packed with screaming fans, ESPN is all over him, and the NFL wants him badly. He’s living under a microscope, and the pressure keeps building as the team keeps winning. Everyone wants something from him, but all Wes wants is to love Justin.


Something’s gotta give.




Available now at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!



The Night Of – Available at Amazon & KU

You’ve heard this story before: a guy supposedly kills himself, but his best friend can’t accept it. He calls in an investigator he knows to take a second look, certain there’s more going on.


I’m the investigator. Secret Service Agent Sean Avery. The guy who called me? My ex, Vice President Jonathan Sharp. And the guy he doesn’t believe put a bullet in his brain?


That was President Steven Baker.


The deeper I dig, the more things fall apart. I’ve got a dead president inside a locked room. A hidden note. A secret gun. A missing CIA officer.


And no one I can trust.


Now Jonathan’s in the crosshairs, and if I don’t figure out what really happened that night at Camp David, the love of my life might be the next president to die.



Available now at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!



Hell and Gone Available at Amazon & KU

One hanged man.
Two vanished cowboys.
Three hundred missing cattle.
The Crazy Mountains are devouring everything they see.

Everett Dawson, Montana’s newest Stock Detective, has been sent from Helena down to the Crazy Mountains. Cattle are going missing in the Crazies and Everett is charged with finding these modern-day rustlers and bringing them in.

When he arrives, he finds a hanged cowboy and a heap of questions. Was it suicide or was it murder? Why are cowboys fleeing the Crazies? Far from a simple investigation, Everett’s case plunges deep into the mountains’ dark past.

Lawrence Jackson, the bad boy who runs the Lazy Twenty Two, was the last man to see the dead cowboy alive. There’s a whole forest fire of smoke swirling around Lawrence, and where there’s smoke, there’s flame… and maybe even murder.

But Everett is drawn to Lawrence, and if he takes the risk Lawrence offers, will Everett find what he craves, or will the Crazies claim their next victim?


What was my Inspiration for Hell and Gone?


I love the west, and living out in the country, and with rural/ranch living. I myself live in a rural area between several farms and ranches, and I spend my time as often as I can working with the horse and the stables scattered around the area. I have a particular fondness for horses, and both follow and admire amazing cutting displays in Western-style equestrian shows. (Cutting, for those perhaps not familiar, is a Western equestrian competition where a horse and rider work together before a panel of judges to handle and maneuver cattle in under 2.5 minutes, called a run. It stems from the Old West cowboy practice of “running a cut through a herd” or “running a cutting horse.” No knives or harm to the animal!)

I love classic Westerns and the mythos of the Old West. I always wanted to write a story embracing that love, and I slowly came up with the idea for Hell and Gone. I knew I wanted to write a modern-day Western, a cowboy mystery/thriller with a hefty dose of gay romantic suspense thrown in.

My first objective was to saturate the novel in life, to paint with words the breathless landscape of the West, and in this case, the Crazy Mountains in southwestern Montana. I wanted the reader to feel like they had fallen into the pages, that they were right there, in those mountains and forests, and living alongside the cowboys and lawmen as they pursued their killers and cattle rustlers.

As for characters, you’ve got two strong men, forces of nature unto themselves, who collide headlong in the mountains. You’ve got Lawrence Jackson, the mountain’s Bad Boy and lead cowboy on the Lazy Twenty-Two ranch. Lawrence has a mouth on him that gets him in trouble every time he opens it, and a temper to match, but he’s got his heart on his sleeve, and he’s damned near screaming for someone to come help before the rustling and disappearances get worse.

And you’ve got Everett Dawson, the stock detective sent to the Crazies to investigate these cattle thefts and the disappearances of cowboys that no one, save Lawrence, seems to want to talk about. Everett, fresh out of the Army after a disastrous series of deployments in Afghanistan, wanted to bury himself in Nowheresville and avoid any messy problems or people. The Crazies, however, are shaping up to be as messy as they come.

When Everett arrives, he finds a hanged man and a confusion about how he died: was it suicide or was it murder? Why was he found on Lawrence’s land? Was Lawrence involved? And is his death connected to the cattle rustling throughout the mountains?

Everett pairs up with Lawrence and rides deep into the Crazies to investigate, all the while wondering if he’s riding beside a murderer.

And if he is, why is he pulled toward Lawrence, craving him in a way he hasn’t craved in man in years?

It’s a fast-paced thriller/mystery, saturated in cowboy and Western atmosphere, and hopefully a fun ride for readers.

I had a hell of a time writing this novel and I hope everyone enjoys Hell and Gone.





A Time to Rise Is Now Available!

Pick up the Second Edition, the Author’s Preferred Edition, today!

History says the Knights Templar were destroyed in 1307.

History is wrong.

Vampires haunt the sewers beneath Rome, revenants desecrate graveyards, ghouls devour helpless passersby, and incubi stalk dark alleys and seedy nightclubs in Italy’s capital. Deep in the Vatican, a brotherhood exists, sworn protectors of the earth, and they stand firm against monsters from the dark depths. Operating in secret and silence, they protect our world from the sinister, the etheric, and the evils that exist beyond the Veil.

But it’s a lonely life, and Alain Autenberg knows that more than most. His lover was ripped from him years ago, and he vowed never to get close to another soul again. Even when the loneliness presses down on him, and his empty heart cries out for something more.

Something more comes in Cristoph Hasse, a new soldier arriving in Rome to serve in the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Young, brash, and fitting in at right angles everywhere he goes, Cristoph struggles in the murky, deceptive labyrinth of the Vatican. Propelled forward by a past he can’t understand, Cristoph collides with Alain, and both men crash headfirst into the darkest secret of the Vatican…and of the world.



Available now at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!



It’s Time – Kris & Dawood after Whisper


Hello! Welcome this bi-weekly edition of Bauer’s Bytes. 🙂 It’s been a hectic year! How is it almost June!?

This week, we’re going back to Whisper, and following Kris and Dawood as they build the first steps of their new life. If you haven’t read Whisper, turn away! Spoilers within!

Happy Reading!


Kris watched sunlight slant through the skylights, shine on the rows of men and women prostrating and murmuring their final prayers. Arabic whispered across the masjid. He could just pick out Dawood’s baritone, the rich depth of his speech. After ten years without hearing his husband’s voice, Kris was greedy for the sound, lapping up his every breath, his every soft utterance that slipped from Dawood’s lips.


“Oh Lord, keep Kris and Behroze in your care. Watch over every beat of their hearts. Fill their souls with peace and joy. Help me be the best man I can be for them.”


Kris swallowed, his throat tight. Dawood bent forward again, touching his forehead to the carpeted floor. Others were finishing their prayers, rising and slipping toward the masjid’s foyer to collect their shoes and their coats. They passed Kris, sitting against the side wall and waiting for his husband. Watching. Always watching.


It was their routine. Kris went with Dawood to the masjid at least once a day for prayer, and every Friday for group prayers, and then the prayer group Dawood led. Dawood did the rest of his devotions at their new home, converting one of the four bedrooms into a prayer room. He’d even added a chair for Kris to sit in, joining him as much as he could, as much as he wanted. Dawood’s life was completely open to Kris, in every way.


Kris had flung open his life to Dawood as well. He’d thought it would be difficult, rewinding time, falling back in love with a man who had become almost a stranger to him. Who was the battle-hardened, scarred and mountainous warrior that wore David’s face but answered to a new name? He’d thought it would take time to find their equilibrium again.


He’d thought wrong. Dawood – David – had never left him. Their atoms had never forgotten one another, their skin, their breath, the feel of each other sharing the same bed. He’d never forgotten the heat of Dawood’s skin, the way his fingers played in the small of Kris’s back, dancing there in rhythms only Dawood knew. He’d never forgotten the curve of Dawood’s shoulders, the play of his muscles over his ribs.


Or the way they could communicate without saying a word. How one look could speak volumes, reveal the inside of his own heart to Dawood. And just one look, one brush of Dawood’s hand against his, spoke the same.


Picking up where they left off, a world, a war, a funeral, and a decade between them, was as effortless as being with David had always been before. Dawood’s prayers marked time in their new life, and between his whispers in Arabic, his pleas to Allah for joy and peace for Kris and Behroze, they traded memories like photographs, rebuilding the years they’d missed. Dawood’s time in the mountains, the simple memories of sun and farming and children playing. How his faith had renewed, planted in a place of peace, and how he dedicated his soul to Allah so that he could be with Kris again.


Kris spoke of darkness, the years at the CIA, the missions with SAD, the brutal extremes his life had devolved to. Fight or fuck; it was the only way he could feel.


“But Mike and you became friends.” Dawood had laced his fingers through Kris’s. “He brought you happiness, at least. Yes? You had some happiness?”


Kris had nodded. “Yes. It wasn’t all bad. There were… better times.”


Flashes of Dan streaked through his mind, bullets that pounded the back of his brain. Dan, cradling his hand against his chest, hovering over him, kissing him so slowly he thought he’d burst. Dan, who told him he’d loved him, that he’d wanted the best for Kris. Dan, who’d betrayed everything and everyone Kris had ever held dear.


More than anything, it was the betrayal of his values that cut the deepest. Dan knew, God he knew, more than anyone, the price Kris had paid through the long years of the War on Terror. The prices they had all paid.


Dan had never loved him at all. He couldn’t have, and then done what he did.


During the days, Kris and Dawood poured their time into rebuilding a home within their new house. A quiet place on a tree-lined circle, it was the solitude of their old home but within walking distance to Dawood’s mosque. They redid every room, laughing as they traded swipes of paint on cheeks or chests, as they kissed against the wet wall, fell to the tarp on the floor. Made a mess, and had to start over.


Dawood laid hardwood in their home after spending an afternoon with Tom at Home Depot, learning how to pick the best wood, how to lay it flat, how to align baseboards and bull noses to finish the edges.


How did everything in their lives fit into their bodies, into their hearts? Kris had watched Dawood cut and measure the floorboards, a dark cherry, and slot them into place as the sun streamed in through the back windows of their home. How had their hands and eyes and bodies absorbed everything? Had they truly lived through Afghanistan? Thailand? Zahawi? Had they fought two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, chased evil around the globe? Had Dawood truly been a ghost for ten years?


How did they end up here, in the sunlight, with ocean blue walls and crown molding, cherry floors and a bed they could get lost in, cradle each other close and lose the thread of time within?


At least once a week, they met up with Mike and Tom. The Tap Room, and his and Mike’s old bar haunts, faded. Almost overnight, Kris slipped back into domesticity, into coupledom, and he and Dawood traded dinner dates with Mike and Tom, traversing between their homes in a well-worn path across the Potomac. Mike had a billion questions for Kris, as if he finally had the keys to unlock the mysteries of Kris’s past. They sipped beers and lounged on Tom’s back porch, Kris whispering of his past as Dawood and Tom debated law and philosophy, foreign policy and humanitarianism. Tom and Dawood spoke until Kris was dizzy, following the threads of their conversation forwards and backwards in time, through the nature of humanity and the problem of evil, of justice in an imperfect world, and how to be a good man when life seemed to swallow one whole.


Mike hugged him tight every time they parted. “I’m so happy for you,” he’d whisper in Kris’s ear. “You deserve this. You deserve this happiness.”


Kris had flicked at the ring on Mike’s left hand. It, and a matching one on Tom’s left hand, had appeared one day. “You deserve this, too.”


Mike, as always, flushed. He’d asked Kris to be his best man, and, to absolutely none of Kris’s surprise, Mike was going all out for his wedding. Kris had patiently listened to him compare venues against the benefits of eloping, listened to his fears, which came out after several beers, and held him up through the insecurities that tore at his heart.


Kris’s wedding band gleamed, an anchor for his soul. He’d never take it off, not ever again. He would never not be Dawood’s.


And Mike would never not be Tom’s. He saw the truth in their love, saw echoes of him and David in their flames and passion. Him and David, and him and Dawood. Love was a mobius strip, a circle without end, a wrinkle in time that bridged two hearts for eternity.


He’d been David’s, and now he was Dawood’s. He’d fought wars, invaded foreign lands. Held life and death in his hands. Buried his love, and pointed a weapon at his love’s head before he pulled him from the Potomac. Laid down every night and put his heart and his life in his love’s hands, and begged whatever God there was for another day at his side. Always another day.




Kris opened his eyes, back in the masjid. Dawood, fresh from his prayers, waited in front of him. The rest of the men and women had filed out, and Imam Youssef was laughing in the foyer, in a beam of sunlight, with another married couple, two women from Georgetown. The rainbow shahada glittered behind the trio, prisms dancing over the tiled floor.


How was this his – their – life? From wreckage and ruin to this?


Dawood held out his hand. “Habibi, is everything okay?”


Nam, ya rouhi.” Kris took his husband’s hand. Stood. He kissed Dawood, slowly, his soul falling into place, sliding against Dawood’s. Sliding into where he was always meant to be. “Everything is perfect.”


They walked together toward the exit, waving to Imam Youssef. “How were your prayers?”


“Good.” Dawood squeezed Kris’s hand. “I pray for you. For your happiness. And that, hopefully, I will be the one to bring you that happiness.”


“You do, ya rouhi.” They walked together into the afternoon, into the deepening sunlight. The earth kept turning. Life kept moving.


“I want to finish the trim in our bedroom this evening.” Dawood spoke as they walked hand in hand down the street, heading back for their home. Plans for the trim, the walls. The bathroom. Plans for their future, a life he was building with his two hands and his love.


Kris stopped him in the middle of the sidewalk. He spun Dawood, turning him to face Kris. Dawood stopped speaking mid-word, his lips freezing as he stared into Kris’s gaze.


“Let’s work on Behroze’s bedroom next,” Kris said softly. “It’s time. Let’s bring him here.”


Dawood pitched forward, resting his forehead against Kris’s. He sighed, a prayer on his breath, blessings and gratitude wrapped in one. “He’s ready. He wants to meet you, habibi.”


Dawood and Behroze had been emailing every day, long messages in Pashto and Arabic back and forth. Kris read them over Dawood’s shoulder, watching a father and a son build a life out of shattered memories and a future neither of them expected. Imam Youssef had agreed to mentor Behroze, to teach him to become an imam as long as Behroze committed to the principles of their mosque. Behroze had never known such a path was open, or that his father, the star fixed in his sky, would walk his own life with another man. Would love another man.


But he wanted to come. He wanted to meet Kris. He wanted to be a part of their world.


And Kris wanted him to be in their lives. He was greedy, hungry for everything. For Dawood, all of him, all of the minutes and moments he had missed, everything that had shaped the man who stood before him now. He wanted this life, all of it. Behroze, Dawood, Afghanistan, and everything in between.


“It’s time, ya rouhi,” Kris repeated.


Dawood held his gaze, staring into the bottom of his soul. “I love you,” Dawood breathed. “So much.”


Kris smiled. “Ana bahibak, ya hayati.”


Timestamp: After the events of Whisper


Is it Worth It? – An Expanded Scene from A Time to Rise


Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, we’re going back to A Time to Rise, which, if you haven’t read, that’s okay! I am getting ready to re-release A Time to Rise very soon, and to celebrate, I wanted to share an expanded scene from the novel.

Alain Autenburg, a Swiss Guard with dark secrets of his own, has been assigned to mentor Cristoph Haase, a young first year Swiss Guard with a chip on his shoulder. Cristoph and his commander, Major Bader, have gotten off on the wrong foot, and Cristoph’s attitude lands him on punishment detail. Alain, as his mentor, tries to reach the younger man…



“How’s football going?” Alain sat on his usual stoop, the cold of the ancient stones seeping in through his black suit pants. Overhead, the single lightbulb droned in the Swiss Guard’s ancient punishment closet. For hundreds of years, deviant guardsmen had pulled punishment duties in the stone cell, a hollow of bitten-off curses and sweat-stained stones scarred from centuries of manual labor.


Cristoph, as always, was hunched over the wooden block, carving up old uniforms into scraps with his hand axe.


Cristoph shrugged. A scowl marred his features, making him look even more Germanic in the play of shadow and light. “S’alright,” he mumbled.


Alain reached inside the plastic shopping bag he’d dropped at his feet, from the Annona, Vatican City’s supermarket. He usually made his rounds there when he was reduced to ketchup and stale bread, his milk long past its due date, and his fridge and cupboards bare. He would circuit the market once, throwing odds and ends in his basket as the nuns stared and the other priests doing their shopping crossed themselves before moving away.


Today, he’d gone inside in the sunlight, not skulking in the dark just before it closed. He heard three Hail Marys as he walked the aisles.


Alain tossed Cristoph a bottle of Fanta. “Heads up.”


Cristoph fumbled, but caught the cold soda and managed not to slice himself with his hatchet, either. He stared, first at the bottle, then at Alain. “Aren’t I supposed to be suffering on bread and water alone?”


“That’s the Navy. Here, you’re supposed to meditate on your failings before God in fast, before you accept the Eucharist in contrition.”


Cristoph continued to stare.


Alain unscrewed the top of his own soda. “Breaking down old uniforms is hard work. I know.”


Finally, a flicker of interest in Christoph’s eyes. Alain grinned. “I’ve been in your shoes. The trials of youth are the same for any young man, aren’t they? Inside these walls, the Vatican is a world removed from everywhere else. The air is different. Even time moves slower. But just over the gate… Rome.” Alain winked.


“‘There’s sin in Rome’,” Cristoph droned, repeating an old line given to the recruits from the Swiss Guard chaplains through the years. “‘Enough to bury your soul.’”


“There was a good wine bar in the Campo Dei Fiori. Lunch spot and café by day…” Alain shrugged, winking. “Thrilling place after the sun goes down. I may have enjoyed myself there a night or two.” He grinned, even as the old pain sliced through him, right up his gut.


Him, and his lover, sneaking out of the Holy See to blow off steam, to shake off the darkness and try to recapture a bit of normalcy. Father Lotario helping them sneak out of the Vatican, winking at them both to have fun, and if they were going to sin, to sin boldly, to sin well.


They always staggered their return to the Vatican, to try to avoid being caught together. His lover had made it back one night, was waiting at the barrack’s door for Alain to sneak back to their shared quarters. But the guards had caught Alain, and he’d been marched to the major’s office, to Best’s office, then. Thirty days of punishment detail fell around his shoulders.


His lover had sneaked in to see him every day, bringing sodas and company and his smiles, his laughs. His share of the punishment. They had been together in everything, had thought they’d be together for all time.


That old pain was dulled, now. Dead, Alain whispered in his mind. He’s dead. Everything we had. It’s dead. Every time he repeated the truth, the rip in his soul seemed to wither, the tears frayed almost to the point where the cut was no longer distinguishable. It was just a wind-worn flap of decay and ruin inside of him, roughened edges where something had once been, but was no more.


“We were specifically told not to go to the Campo.” Cristoph arched an eyebrow at Alain as he down a chug of his Fanta. “Very specifically.”


Alain shrugged, snapping back to the present as he smoothed his trousers, the wrinkles formed from his long days and nights. “I’m certain that has nothing at all to do with me.” He winked.


Was this history repeating itself? Was he playing the part of the friend—the lover—in coming to ease the burden? No. Cristoph was too young. He was too angry. There was too much fight in him, and he’d break Alain, split him in two. Cristoph was a force Alain couldn’t fight.


He couldn’t fight the living.


Besides, he was Cristoph’s mentor. He was just trying to show him some grace. Some compassion, in a world that seemed to have desiccated and fractured under the weight of history and time.


“So, tell me about this football team. I hear we’re somewhat decent.”


“The Vatican fire brigade has won the state championships for four years in a row.” Cristoph went back to hacking away at the uniforms. “That’s an embarrassment.”


Alain smothered his smile. The Vatican state championship was the ragtag competition between the various football teams in the Holy See. Firefighters, gendarmes, Swiss Guards, seminarians, a few teams made up of the younger members of brothers from the dozens of religious orders scattered throughout the Vatican. The World Cup, it was not. Skinny priests’ legs, blindingly white from never having seen the sun beneath a cassock or a suit, raced pell-mell across a pitch tucked into the Vatican Gardens, beneath the topiaries and the flowers tenderly arranged in the Papal coat of arms, and beyond the pope’s private vegetable garden.


That the pope’s soldiers, the Vatican military might, weren’t number one was an embarrassment. The firefighters were burly Italians, generations of Romans whose fathers had been Vatican firefighters, and whose fathers before them were as well. A few Greeks were thrown in, Eastern Catholics, strong as bulls, built for barreling through the opposing team.


Shame rang like a bell in the Swiss Guard barracks and the canteen whenever football was brought up.


“Tell me. Who is playing this year?”


“Zeigler and Muller are the strikers.” Cristoph shrugged. “New recruits I met during training.”


“Where have they put you?”


“On the bench. I’m on punishment. I’m not allowed to play.”


“Do they have any idea how good you actually are?”


“How do you know how I play?”


Alain demurred. He pursed his lips, smoothing out another wrinkle from his knee. His suit was starting to wear thin. He’d need a new one. “I can tell.” His eyes flicked up. Met Cristoph’s.


Corded muscles clung to Cristoph’s frame, long, lean lines of legs and arms, the hint of abs when his white undershirt rode up. A body carved in the gym, yes, but honed to perfection through physical action. Running. Fighting. Football. Fucking, even. How would Cristoph look, spread out on his sheets—


Alain swallowed, shifting. “I looked up your military record. You were on the pickup league in your spare time on your humanitarian deployment in Africa.”


Cristoph flinched and turned away. He hammered at the old uniforms again, shredding them to pieces with brute force instead of slicing them with the hatchet.


Alain stared. “The football? Or Africa?”


“I don’t wanna talk about it.”


Alain stared at the stones on the far wall, covered in darkness. “Captain Ewe is the captain of the team, yes?”


Cristoph grunted again. His axe slammed into the wooden block, shredding a uniform to ribbons, red, yellow, and blue fabric tumbling to the dust around his feet. He was ruining the perfect squares he was supposed to make. Major Bader would be furious.


“You’ll get your chance to play at the next practice. Show them who you really are.”


Cristoph paused. His arm, mid-swing, sagged, and the axe blade embedded in the edge of the chopping block. He exhaled, his shoulders slumping, his fingers rolling over the threads ripped free from the shredded uniforms. “Is… it worth it?”


Alain looked down. He scraped his sole against the dust-covered rocky floor of the ancient closet. They were in a corner of the barracks untouched by time, save for the droning lightbulb piped in during World War II. Other than that light, they could be anywhere, anytime. History stretched forward and backward, waves of time riding up around Alain, cresting higher and higher on Cristoph’s barely uttered words.


Is it worth it?


Nights spent wading through blood, hip deep in it, the stain impossible to erase. Nights facing down dark creatures, ghouls and wraiths and revenants, dead things that didn’t stay dead. That came back from beyond, that crawled out of nightmares. Creatures of darkness that stained his soul with doubt.


Nights alone, standing on the edge of nothingness and forever, like a gargoyle perched on the very edge of a cathedral. No, clinging to the tiniest edge. But did he want to let go, or did he want to hang on?  


Is it worth it?


He’d been Cristoph, once. On the cusp of being a man, on the cusp of the rest of his life, certain that an assignment in the Vatican, in the heart of Rome, was the grand adventure he’d been waiting his whole life for.


He would have been a good Halberdier. He would have served with distinction, moved up the ranks. He would have made major, he knew it. All he wanted was to serve, to do the right thing.


If only everything had been different.


Is it worth it?


What would he have become had he turned his back on it all? Had he left the morning after his world had ended, the morning after everything had shattered, and he’d been drenched in every drop of blood that had once pumped through his lover’s veins. After he’d held his dead love in his arms and watched the life fade from his eyes. He’d have gone back to Switzerland a disgrace, a failure from the Swiss Guard, dismissed from the most prestigious posting in the Swiss military. Sworn to secrecy by the Pope himself, and yet quietly excommunicated as well. He’d have been no more than a shade, a shadow like the ones he hunted. Would he have even lived through the rest of the year? Without Lotario, without their duties. Would he have held on to life at all?


But what life was he living now?


Is it worth it?


The weight of a sword falling on his shoulders, an invocation in Latin. A sacrament. A blessing, and a curse. His memories intruded into the present, warm and full of grace. He’d only wanted to serve, always and only to serve. To save. To do the right thing.


Alain licked his lips. Dust, from centuries past, ground over his skin. “It is worth it. Don’t turn your back. Don’t welcome the darkness into your life, Cristoph.” He cleared his throat. “You can have friends here. You can make a life. If you want to.”


Cristoph peered at him from under his eyelashes, across the shadows and the buzzing lightbulb covered in grime. Hesitation shimmered the air around him, questions pouring from him. What had he gotten himself into? Alain could see, suddenly, as if he’d laid out a deck of cards, how Cristoph’s life had unfolded. Always being slightly at odds from the world, never quite fitting in. Trying to hide all the wrong parts of himself. Trying to make an impact, make a difference. Do something good. Trying to apologize for his existence through the brashness of his fists, the boldness of his attitude. Fuck the world, and everyone in it, his spread would say. Crossed with, I’m so alone. I don’t know what to do.


What would Alain’s say if he read his own cards? Would they look the same as Cristoph’s? Aching loneliness? Heartbreak at the center of his soul? His would undoubtedly reveal the hermit’s cross, the recluse’s turn away from the world. Let the world pass me by. Let me turn into a stone gargoyle as the years roll on and on.


What did Commandant Best see in putting them together? What in all of the earth, all of the heavenly glories, did he possibly see?


They were two broken men, outcasts from the world, from the Vatican. If Cristoph was looking to him for advice, he was asking the wrong man about what choices to make for a good life.


How had Cristoph ended up in the Vatican? From the bloody streets of West Africa and his humanitarian deployment during the Ebola outbreak to the Holy See? Who had put the thought in his head—the Swiss Guards? What was he searching for here? Why not London, or Paris, or New York? Why had he thought he’d find his answers here?


“Do you play?” Cristoph finally asked, breaking the silence. His hatchet slammed down on the block again, shredding red, blue, and yellow fabric again. “Football?”


“Not for many years.”


“Do you ever watch the games?”


“I haven’t.” Alain shrugged. “I’ve been busy. There’s always something going on,” he said, stretching, trying to work out the kinks in his back, his neck. He saw Cristoph, saw his expression shutter, close down, the heavy frown curl back over his forehead. “When you play,” he said softly. “I’ll come.”


Finally, Cristoph smiled.


Timestamp: Missing Scene from A Time to Rise, soon to be re-released.


On Writing Islam


“Indeed, Islam began as something strange, and it will return to being strange just as it began. so glad tidings of paradise be for the strangers, the ones who are righteous and are guided by Allah.” ~ Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

When I started writing this novel, I set in my heart that I wanted to write an honest, heartfelt depiction of David’s Islamic experience. His journey into and out of the faith, explored against September 11, 2001, the greater War on Terror, and the existential shock that has pulsated through the Middle East since. I wanted to delve deep into what it means to be a Muslim, to love Allah with one’s whole being, to live to the rhythms of Islam. To embrace an Islamic and Arab identity.

I hope my attempt has succeeded, at least in part.

One of the most frequent questions I am asked by editors and proofers, following Whisper, is, “Are you Muslim?”

At the time of this writing, no, I am not. However, to dive deep into the soul of Islam and attempt to portray the faith with any shred of justice, I felt it was only appropriate to go to the very center of Islamic studies.

To that end, I enrolled in an Islamic seminary as a visiting student, and I still am a student.

The imams and scholars have warmly welcomed me as a seeker, opening their arms, their hearts, and their minds to my journey of understanding. I like to think, in some ways, we have helped open each other’s minds in certain areas.

I am queer, gay, and (loudly) out. My husband and I do not hide our relationship. We take what comes with that, all the ups and downs. In Islam, homosexuality as a personal identity is—at present—considered haraam, or forbidden, by the majority scholars. I stress “as a personal identity” because that is the crux of many current discussions about homosexuality in Islam.

The Islamic faith, as practiced in many countries, bifurcates the genders and enforces strict gender segregation. A homosocial culture for men is thus created, where men find their emotional, social, and oftentimes physical needs satisfied by other men.

This duality can be hard for Westerners to grasp. To study homosexual behavior and homosexual identity in strictly Islamic societies, it’s necessary to put aside all understandings of what it means to be gay in the West, or to identify as LGBT as a Westerner.

Homosexual behavior—men having sex with men—does not lead directly to a gay identity 100% of the time. This is true everywhere. Homosexual behavior occurs often in environments where there are no females, and, as human beings, men seek physical and emotional connections with other men. Prison is a classic example of such behavior. Some male boarding schools, and some military units as well, foster this kind of homosocial behavior.

In devoutly Islamic societies, it can be common for men to have sex with other men and NOT label their behavior as part of a homosexual identity, or of themselves as gay. For readers of my Executive Office series, Uncle Abdul, the fictional Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the uncle to my character, Faisal al-Saud, remarks on how ‘it is not unheard of’ for men to slake their lust with other men. In Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, Northern Africa, Pakistan, and even Afghanistan, sex between men is relatively common.

However, these men are expected to marry wives, father children, and hold on to their straight identity. (Being “gay” is not even a consideration.) These men are not “gay”, in the sense that they identify as a man who desires and loves other men to the exclusion of women. To them, and to the society they inhabit, they were only expressing their physical desires.

In Kabul, it was once said, “men are for sex and women are for babies.” The Taliban used to have pool parties where they ogled each other’s bodies and figures beneath their swim suits, and many Taliban members would then retreat to have sex with each other—all men. In the West, we’d most closely link these behaviors to the idea of “helping a buddy out” sexually. Something done, but not emotionally meaningful.

The cognitive dissonance, and the current struggle in present ideological Islam, is when a Muslim man wants to grasp a gay identity and wants to live their life as a gay man (much like Faisal chooses to do).

There is wide variance in how repressive an Islamic country is to a man claiming their gay identity. Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Egypt are three countries where owning a gay identity and wanting to live openly as a gay man can get you arrested and/or killed. Lebanon and Bahrain are two of the most open countries; in Bahrain, being gay is legally allowed and protected. In Lebanon, the courts have ruled that Article 534, which prohibits people from having sexual relations that “contradict the laws of nature” cannot be used against LGBT persons. Thus, in Lebanon, being gay is de facto legal as well, by court precedent.


So, am I a Muslim today? No.

Am I an Islamic seminarian? Yes.

Could I, one day, see myself as a Muslim? Yes, to the extent that, through my studies, I now nurture a burning desire to be a voice for peace, love, and acceptance within the Islamic world.

Muslims for Progressive Values is a small but growing voice in progressive Islam. With chapters around the world, MPV is a “human rights organization that embodies and advocates for the traditional Quranic values of social justice [bringing together] an understanding that informs our positions on women’s rights, LGBTQI inclusion, freedom of expression and freedom of and from belief.” ( MPV’s vision states: “[We] envision a future where Islam is understood as a source of dignity, justice, compassion and love for all humanity and the world.”

What does being a Muslim mean to me?

To me, to be a Muslim is to be at peace with the universe. To have internally surrendered to Allah, to be in a constant state of surrender to Allah, to His love and compassion, and to the universe. To be in harmony with what Is.

To be in a state of Islam is to hold the faith of Allah in the center of your soul.

Today, Islam is experiencing a revolution, one as existential as the Reformation was to Christianity. Muslims and non-Muslims are struggling to answer questions about Islamic identity, the intersection of Muslim faith, politics, and society, and how to reconcile Islam’s past, present, and future. The question of gay identity in Islam, and LGBTQ acceptance, is but one of those issues Islam must address and reconcile. I firmly believe that there is acceptance within the faith for all human beings, no matter their race, ethnicity, color, creed, gender, or sexual preference. It is my firm belief that there is a welcoming place in Islam for all LGBT peoples.

We just need to get there.  


 Selected text from Author’s Notes of Whisper