Today, Pat Henshaw is here on a visit! She’s here to talk photography and When Heart Becomes Home. Welcome, Pat!
Before the pandemic began and after we had retired, my husband and I joined a photography group. We really enjoy this group not only for the information about our cameras and the variety of ways we can use them but also for the prompts which make us see the world around us in different ways.
For example, one of the more recent assignments was to take photos emphasizing negative space. Negative space is the blank black, white, or single color between objects. The point of the exercise was to make the negative space say something.
In writing, authors might compare negative space as what happens between the brilliant beginning of the novel and the last chapter. Something will happen there to tie the opening scene to the ending, but when the writer first sits down, those details are nothing but negative space. Oh, sure, there might be a glimmer of something here and there, but for the most part it’s what a lot of authors call the “murky middle”.
That’s pretty much how our negative space photo started out. We have some vertical blinds that looked like perfect negative space to me. But what could we use to make the negative space into an interesting photo instead of just wide open white?
Like I do when I’m writing, I made up an idea for the photo as I went along. Why couldn’t the negative space be ethereal? A link maybe between two semi-solid forms? But what forms? I looked around the house. Was I trying to make the photo look like negative space with bookends? Maybe the connection between thoughts? Or people?
We have a lot—and I mean a lot!—of books to choose from, but I wanted something deeper than books, although on second thought I like the idea of the negative space tying two seemingly dissimilar books together. A dictionary and a thesaurus? A murder mystery and a paranormal? A classic and a gay romance?
Instead of all these great ideas, I used my husband and myself. In the photo, the negative space is joining two shadowy people. The photo is ultimately a love story.
As far as writing goes, what am I working on now?
Currently, I’m starting another Heart/Home novel about a former cop who was wounded in a robbery gone wrong and who is now recuperating in Spindrift, California, a small town on coastal Route 1 near Mendocino. He’s prone to sudden brain glitches that incapacitate him. Worried about him, his parents persuade him to share his house with an artist who’s fresh out of a horrible relationship. As well as writing that book, I’m planning the next Foothills Pride books and a holiday short story. In other words, I’m still writing and loving it. And, yes, my husband and I are still in the photography group.
Is there a time limit on love and forgiveness?
Fifteen years ago, Manny didn’t show up to take Wes to the Shelby High School prom as he promised. Instead, Wes found Manny’s letter jacket at their meeting spot without a note or any explanation.
From college to his current job in Monterey, California, Wes has carted the jacket around as a memento of his teenage love and rejection. This year he decides enough is enough. He’s attending the high school class reunion, returning Manny’s jacket, and going home free to find the real love of his life.
When Manny sees Wes at the reunion tour of the new high school facilities, he’s determined not to let his teenage lover leave without them clearing the air and possibly getting back together.
Through reunion activities such as a quiz bowl, meet-and-greet meals, and a formal banquet with a prom-like ball as well as outside activities like the quinceañera of Manny’s niece, Wes and Manny work through the lies and misunderstandings of the past.
With so much to reconcile and forgive on both sides, will they end up together? Or go their separate ways with only memories of the past?
I agreed to meet Manny at Mama D’s.
Mama’s was a hornet’s nest of memories. My mother and I had lived above the diner from after I was born to when I left to go to college in LA. I never really knew another home. So going back to Mama’s was a step back in time I wasn’t sure I wanted to take.
As I drove up, I searched the windows above the diner. They stared back at me, curtainless black holes. Had Mama not rented to anyone after my mother moved out to marry Raymond? I’d never asked.
Then I was stampeded with memories. The façade of the café morphed from familiar and comfortable to alien and shabby. While Manny got out of his truck, I sat and willed myself into being calm.
I’d known when I had decided to come back for the reunion I’d be walking over ground strewn with pebbles, glass, and potholes from the past. I hadn’t counted on how difficult it would be on some of those old roads.
Manny turned around and asked, “You coming?”
Mentally, I tightened my armor, picked up my shield, sheathed my sword, swallowed once, and said, “Lead on.” I could do this. I could.
Picking up the bag with the albatross of a jacket, I opened the door and stepped outside into Mama’s parking lot. I could do this. I could.
Unlike The Trap the night before, Mama’s was dead inside. After looking around and seeing no one, we walked to the back and sat in a booth along the wall with empty tables as our only companions. The booth had been my home, the place I’d colored placemats, raced Matchbox cars, done homework, and met my friends. Others could sit here—but only if I wasn’t in town.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t little Gordon Westerhouse. Or is it Gordon Tilman now?” Bernice, the waitress I remembered from fifteen years ago, didn’t seem to have aged at all. She had seemed ancient then and looked the same now.
“No, not Tilman, Bernice. Mother took Raymond’s name, but he didn’t ask me to. I don’t know what I’d do if he did.” I grinned up at her. “Um, and you can call me Wes or West now.”
She nodded. Her emaciated face with its beady eyes behind red rhinestone rimmed glasses glowed more pale and haunted than I recalled. Long ago, her rail thin body seemed to roll across the floor. Now she glided like a ghost.
I glanced around at all the empty tables and felt bad she was here waiting on us. Couldn’t they just close tonight and tell us to go home?
“Maybe we should leave and let you shut down and have a night off?”
Bernice started laughing. It was a strange kind of gurgle mixed with a cough.
“Um, Gor…Wes, they aren’t open. Mama’s is closed tonight. For us.” Manny was whispering as if he didn’t want to startle me.
What? Once again I was caught by the unexpected. My carnival ride had taken an unexpected and unseen dip. I gulped a deep breath to corral and expel the butterflies and went through my emergency procedure. I’d done more panic breathing in the past day than in the last fifteen years. Going to Shelby High had been bizarre, but coming back for the reunion was throwing me even further down the rabbit hole.
Manny had asked Mama’s to be open only for us tonight? How romantic? Or didn’t he want to be seen with me? We were in a back booth.
“Mama and Bernice asked me to bring you by tonight. They wanted to see you.”
Manny looked a little embarrassed, as well he should, since I was thinking he was the one who wanted to see me and revisit one of the places where we used to hang out together.
I should have known I was building something from nothing. Hadn’t I learned the castles I dreamed of with Manny were built of sand?
Bernice had been following our byplay and nodded at me with a grimace screaming for me to be cautious and to look before I leapt. Then look again before I moved. I nodded to her, and she gave me one of her skeletal grins. She nodded back.
“What can I get for you fellas?”
While we ordered, I pulled the grocery bag holding Manny’s jacket closer to me. I didn’t want it to trip up Bernice as she marched back to the kitchen to post our order.
Before he and I could start talking, Mama herself appeared.
When I stood, I kicked the bag toward the wall as she held out her arms for a hug. She scooped me up and hugged me into her apron. She still smelled of a delicate balance of burgers and Tide. I could catch a whiff of either while I was working or cleaning the condo and immediately be back here with Mama’s arms around me.
“Oh, honey. It’s so good to see you. Your mother says you’re a big editor in Monterey now. Who would have thought?” She stopped talking and stared a moment down at the booth. “I can see you now sitting back here scribbling away in your notebooks. In the beginning, I would never have picked you out for this one. But there you two were, day after day, pretending like nobody knew you were together.”
She cuffed Manny on the shoulder.
“And him a teacher. I would have bet money he would have taken over from his daddy.”
Manny gave a little huff someone might have interpreted as laughter.
“Nobody’s ever taking over from my old man, Mama. He will outlive the Earth.”
We all smiled because it was true and a little scary. Although I’d never met him, I’d heard the rumors about Pedro Garcia and how tornados and earthquakes ran away from him. He’d been a young mover and shaker for the United Farm Worker movement and was a wealthy land owner now. He was a legend.
“It’s so good to see you all grown up and successful, Gor…Wes. Bernice says we have to call you Wes now, yes? Well, you boys, enjoy your dinner.” She started to turn, but gave me a final hug instead. “Come back and visit us more often. Once in a decade or so isn’t enough. We’re always open to you.”
I coughed at the pressure she’d put into her hug.
When she let go of me, I whispered, “Yes, ma’am. Thank you for opening tonight.”
She gave me a huge whap on the back, and I sat down winded.
For a few moments, Manny and I let her visit gel between us.
Title: When Heart Becomes Home
Author: Pat Henshaw
Publisher: JMS Books
Publication date: March 20, 2021
Length: 65,255 words
Genre: Gay Interracial Romance
Pat Henshaw website: https://www.pathenshaw.com/book/when-heart-becomes-home/
Queeromance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/when-heart-becomes-home/
Pat Henshaw, born and raised in Nebraska, has lived on the U S’s three coasts, in Texas, Virginia, and now California. Before she retired, she held a number of jobs, including theatrical costumer, newspaper features reporter and movie reviewer, librarian, junior college English instructor, and publicist. She also loves to travel and has visited Canada, Mexico, Europe, Egypt, and Central America as well as almost all fifty US states.
Now retired, she enjoys reading and writing as well as visiting her older daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren on the East Coast and playing havoc with her younger daughter’s life in NorCal. She thanks you for reading her books and wants you to remember that every day is a good day for romance.
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