Hanging by the Moment

also available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble,
Pasha Batalov has lived his whole life doing what a good son is expected to do. He dropped out of school to help run the failing family restaurant, and ever since he’s put up with his difficult business partner, who also happens to be his father. And, of course, he keeps his sexual orientation a secret from his conservative, Russian family. After being closeted costs him his first serious relationship, Pasha resigns himself to one-night stands and loneliness.

But a chance encounter with lost delivery-truck driver, Daniel Englewood, has Pasha questioning all of his assumptions about life. Daniel is sweet, funny, smart, drop-dead gorgeous—and for the last six years, he’s been living with HIV. Pasha worries that he won’t be strong enough to help Daniel if HIV turns to AIDS, but he can’t walk away from their deepening attraction. He also doesn’t know if he can be strong enough to face the hardest task that a relationship with Daniel demands: coming out to his family and friends, and risking losing everything else he holds dear.
I'm donating 20% of my earnings from Hanging by the Moment to HIV/AIDS awareness, because I really do believe that together we can make this an HIV/AIDS free generation. I'm also very happy to spend a couple of hours a day, two days a week volunteering with AIDS Partnership Michigan.


Book Trailer:

You can also visit danielandpasha.blogspot.com/  to hear me read a couple of short excerpts.

I totally did not set out to write a book about living with HIV when I started this one. It was going to be a light fluffy little read about a guy working in the family restaurant--a reastaurant based very much on a real place I used to work, although none of the owners' kids are gay--who meets a handsome delivery truck driver.
Then Daniel "informed me" that he's HIV positive and bisexual, not gay, thank you very much. Talk about spinning my whole world on its ear.

Since the first chapter is available on Dreamspinner site,  here's the second chapter (please note, I put this up before I got the absolute final copy, so there might be a typo that wasn't caught in this draft, or a sentence changed...but if I don't put this up while I'm thinking about it, it may be months before I find the sticky note reminding me to update!)


NATE was on his second cup of coffee when Pasha spotted Belinda Freeman’s beige Kia Sorrento pulling into the lot.

Since Nate and the old man were still sitting at the counter complaining about the world’s problems, Pasha grabbed a couple eggs from the fridge for Belinda’s omelet. Like most of their regulars, she was predictable, breakfast was always an egg white omelet with tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Pasha had just gotten the eggs separated when Ivan joined him in the kitchen. “I’ll finish,” he said. “You go take care of customers.”

What customers? Pasha thought, but there was no point in saying it aloud. He swapped out the white cook’s apron for his black waiter’s apron and went up front to pour two cups of coffee, one for Belinda and one for himself. He set hers on the counter and reached into the pie case to get a creamer for his. Then he changed his mind and grabbed the quart of skim milk instead. He didn’t have his dad’s heart problems—yet—but back in high school, he’d worn size thirty-two jeans. At only five foot six, even that had been considered a little chunky, but these days, he was wearing size thirty-eight pants and he hated it. It made him wonder about that trucker from earlier. God, what was he, some kind of chubby chaser? Not that there was anything wrong with that. Pasha just didn’t want to fall into the category of chubby, even if, when he looked in the mirror, he knew it was true.

The cowbell clattered and Belinda came in, bringing with her a gust of icy wind, a flurry of snowflakes, and a bright smile. “Good morning, gentlemen.”

Ivan returned her greeting in Russian. “Dobryeah ootra.”

“Hi, Belinda,” said Pasha.

“What brings you out in this cold?” asked Nate.

“Work doesn’t stop just because of a little snow.” Belinda unwound the long blue-and-bronze knitted scarf from around her neck, slipped off her coat, and took her usual seat at the counter. “Do you have raisin bread this morning?”

Nyet,” said Ivan. “Not ’til bread man gets here, and who knows when that’s gonna be.” He gestured toward the window and the snowstorm outside.

Like all of their regular customers, Belinda accepted the situation without complaint. “Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving?”

“Bonnie cooked so damned much turkey, we’ll be eating it ’til Christmas!” Nate told her. “I swear, sometimes that woman forgets it’s just us two these days.”

“Your kids not come home?” Ivan asked.

“Marie’s still in Spain with her boyfriend,” Nate explained, his expression souring. “You know, the Canadian.” Nate had yet to call his daughter’s beau by name. “But we got to video chat with Nathan. Couldn’t talk long, but it was good to see him.”

“How’s he doing?” Pasha asked. Nate’s son had enlisted in the Marines straight out of high school and was currently stationed somewhere in the Middle East. Pasha had had a mad crush on him since the first time they met, not that it would ever go anywhere. Nathan’s politics were a lot like his father’s.

In answer to Pasha’s question, Nate shrugged. “There’s a lot he can’t talk about. It goes with the territory, but you know Bonnie worries.” He stood up and put his coat back on.

“You leaving already?” said Ivan.

“I’m supposed to be at the mall already. Bonnie sent me out of the house this morning with a Christmas list as long as my goddamned arm.” He dropped two bucks on the counter: a dollar sixty-three for his coffee, the rest for Pasha’s tip. He might have been upset about a thirty-cent tip if Nate weren’t so easy to wait on. Or if it had ever been any different.

Ivan brought Belinda’s breakfast to her, then went to refill his coffee cup. Pasha didn’t say a word when he dumped two creamers in it.

Instead of going back into the kitchen, Ivan leaned on the counter. “What about you, you have good Thanksgiving?” he asked Belinda.

“I drove out to Portage to my visit my gran.”

The old man shot Pasha a dark, sidelong look. “See. It’s like I keep saying, Pasha. Holidays for family. Not for staying out all night at bar.”

“I wasn’t out ‘all night.’ I was only gone for a couple of hours.”

Belinda gave Pasha a soft, sympathetic smile. “Any word from your mom?”

Ivan answered for him. “Vera’s still in Chicago. She’s visiting Lena, helping out with boys.”

Belinda’s smile hardly faltered. “That’s awful nice of her.”

Da,” Ivan agreed. “She’s good woman.”

Sometimes Pasha wondered if the old man actually thought he was fooling anyone. Or maybe he’s told the same lie so many times, he’s starting to believe it himself.

“So how’s the rest of the family?” Belinda asked.

Pasha shrugged. “Nadia and the kids are doing pretty good, I guess.” Nadia was his younger sister. She had four children and a paskudnyak, a good-for-nothing, for a husband. Yesterday had been a little rough on… well, on everybody, honestly, but Nadia’s five-year-old son had been hit the hardest. RJ was just old enough to realize that something was wrong, that the Christmas tree wasn’t up in the living room on Thanksgiving like always. He’d asked if it was because Babushka, Grandma, wasn’t there, and wanted to know when she was coming home.

No one would give him a straight answer. Nadia tried to shush him while Dad lied and said she was visiting Lena. Peter, Pasha’s older brother, didn’t say anything; he just walked out of the room, leaving his wife standing there looking uncomfortable. Nadia’s husband remained oblivious, hunched over his DS, just like always. When Pasha suggested maybe they could call Mom to say hi, Dad went ballistic. That was when headed to the bar, where he hooked up with a stranger and got his brains screwed out in a by-the-hour motel. It wasn’t the first time.

Belinda’s voice cut through his unhappy thoughts: “Has Ryan had any luck finding a job?”

Pasha shrugged. “It’s a tough market.” Even tougher when you spend your days playing computer games.

Ivan made a rude noise. “It’s not so tough. Peter got promotion at work. He’s managing supervisor now.” He beamed with genuine pride.

Pasha didn’t get it. Dad had been furious when Peter moved to the other side of the state last year to take that job. Then again, Peter was always the one who walked on water.

“Tell him I said congratulations,” said Belinda. She slid her empty plate across the counter. “I’d better get going. I have to be in West Bloomfield in half an hour.”

“Have a good one.” Pasha didn’t bother writing up a check for her. He just took her money, punched the amount she owed into the register, and handed back her change.

Belinda put a five-dollar bill on the counter. “Chin up, kiddo. It really does get better.”

“Thanks. Take it easy out there. The roads look pretty bad.”

“I will. See you later, Ivan.” She waved to the old man as she headed out the door.

Pasha set her plate into the bus tub. As he was wiping down the counter, the door opened again. He looked up, hoping—but it wasn’t his gorgeous truck driver, it was some couple he’d never seen before. “Have a seat wherever you like,” he told them with a practiced, professional smile. He filled two plastic tumblers with ice water, grabbed a couple of breakfast menus, then followed his customers to one of the tables by the window. Outside, the snow was coming down harder than ever.

BY THE time Samara came in at nine, there was a thick blanket of white covering the sidewalk and lots of gray slush on the road. The storm didn’t show signs of letting up anytime soon, either.

“How bad is it out there?” Pasha asked his cousin.

She scowled as if that was the dumbest question anyone had ever asked. Maybe it was. He was just trying to make conversation.

Thin and gangly, with a long, narrow face, Pasha’s cousin wasn’t what anybody would call a pretty woman. Neither was her sister Lena, but Lena had managed to land herself a husband. When Samara turned thirty, Pasha’s aunt gave up on her ever getting married and talked Ivan into giving her a job. Being the good Russian daughter that she was, Samara took the only position he had available without complaint.

She stomped the snow off her boots at the door and clomped over to the coatrack just outside the restrooms. “Salt trucks haven’t been out yet,” she told Pasha over her shoulder. “It took over an hour to get here.” Normally it was only a twenty-minute drive from her parents’ Bloomfield Hills home to the restaurant. After hanging up her coat and swapping out her snow boots for a grungy old pair of tennis shoes, she trudged into the dish room.


AT TEN thirty, Pasha only had twelve bucks in his pocket—and five of that had come from Belinda—so when his lunch-shift partner called to say she’d be late, he told her not to worry about it. Of course she should have been here a half an hour ago, he thought as he hung up the phone. But Amy was always running late. Ivan let it slide because she’d been with them for seven and a half months, which was longer than anyone else except Samara, who was family, and Sharon, who might as well be. All restaurants had a high turnover rate, but Pasha suspected theirs was higher than normal.

The only customers he had when Amy finally showed up at eleven thirty were Art, Jimmy, and Rueben, a trio of older gentlemen who came in every day. The three were at their usual table at the back of the dining room. Jimmy made a big show of looking at his watch. “You’re late,” he told Amy gravely—but the grin on his face made it obvious he was teasing.

Ivan, who was at the counter reading the paper, turned around and scoffed. “So what else is new? She’s gonna be late for her own funeral.” Amy ducked her head apologetically, but Ivan waved it off. “Maybe for Christmas, I buy you alarm clock.” His tone was gruff, but like Jimmy, he was grinning, teasing her.

“I don’t think a new clock will help,” said Jimmy.

“I swear it was the snow,” Amy pleaded, shedding her coat. Underneath it, her uniform—a white blouse and black pants—was a disheveled mess. “It took me almost half an hour to dig my stupid car out.”

“Yeah, but what time did you start digging?” wondered Rueben.

“I plead the fifth,” Amy responded with a grin.

Pasha just chuckled and took Amy’s coat so he could hang it up on the coatrack by the restrooms.

“We’ll take some decaf when you get a second,” Rueben said to no one in particular.

“You got it,” Pasha answered with a smile. What Rueben actually meant was that he would take some decaf. Jimmy and Art never touched the stuff.

Amy leaned back against the counter next to Pasha as he got the pot started. By then she’d pulled her curly red hair pulled into a haphazard ponytail, straightened her blouse, smoothed her slacks, and tied a black apron around her thick waist. The final touches were dark-red lipstick and a pair of big silver earrings in the shape of Buddha heads. She turned to Pasha. “How was your holiday?”

“Good, I guess. Everyone was there.” Almost. “We celebrated Nadia’s birthday. She was born on the twenty-sixth,” he explained.

“That must be fun.” Her tone was ripe with sarcasm.

“Yeah. One year, Mom had put candles in the pumpkin pie.” At the time, Pasha thought it was funny. Now he wondered whether that was his mother’s odd sense of humor or the illness. He shoved his hands into his pockets. “What about you? You do the big family thing?”

“I avoid big family things.”

“Lucky you.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it.”

AT ONE thirty, Pasha had twenty-seven dollars in his pocket and there was still no sign of Daniel. Which means he wasn’t really interested.

He tried not to feel too disappointed. Why should a guy who looked like Daniel be interested in him, anyway? Or maybe he’d read the whole thing wrong and Daniel wasn’t flirting with him at all. Maybe he was just trying to be nice. After all, what were the chances of meeting Prince Charming in the parking lot?

“Pasha!” Ivan hollered from the kitchen.

Da? What is it?”

“Come cook. I have to go to store.”

Pasha nodded and traded in his black waiter’s apron for a white cook’s apron without complaint. Dad usually left between one and two, either to go home and take a nap or to go to the store, or both. Sometimes Pasha wondered what it would be like to work in a restaurant where they didn’t run out of wheat bread and orange juice halfway through breakfast, or where the owner ran the business instead of running himself ragged. But what choice did Dad have?

For one thing, he could sell the fucking place, Pasha though irritably. But he knew it would never happen. Dad would work himself into an early grave before he admitted it was time to throw in the towel.

As soon as Ivan was out the door, Amy changed the radio station to Doug FM. Their tagline, “we play everything,” was pretty accurate. Adele might be followed by ZZ Top, who might be followed by Sara McLachlan, Lady Gaga, or Taylor Swift. Since the holiday season had officially begun, they were just as likely to play Burl Ives or Bing Crosby. Pasha could do without the latter two. Thankfully, Katy Perry was playing instead.

“Turn it up,” Pasha called to Amy. She was happy to oblige.

Samara poked her head out of the dish room and scowled. “Ivan doesn’t like that station.”

“Well Ivan isn’t here, is he?” Amy quipped back.

Samara turned her glare on Pasha. He ignored her. He liked Katy Perry’s “Firework” and hummed happily along to the upbeat lyrics as he scraped off the grill. He was so engrossed in the music that he barely heard the clatter of the bell over the front door.

“Hi,” he heard Amy say. “Go ahead and have a seat wherever you like.”


Pasha’s head jerked up. He knew that voice—but it couldn’t be.

Only it was.


And he looked even better than Pasha remembered.


HIV Awareness

I was a teenager in the 80's and remember when AIDS first became a topic of discussion on the news and in schools. (I'd managed to miss it back when it was still called GRID; I think I'm glad). I remember being scared and confused and not knowing what it really was, which I think was typical of a lot of people.
Later on, as I got just a little older and started going out to the bars (that would be gay bars) with my friends, I became much more aware of this scary disease that basically meant a slow and painful death to anyone who caught it.
Eventually we as a society began to learn more, understand more, and most importantly make some hugely amazing strides in science and medicine. HIV is no longer a death sentence. It is still scary as hell, of course and it was really hard for me to write about it from Pasha's perspective without injecting my own feelings (I can't wrap my brain around "kids" who think it's nothing). So I gave Pasha some older friends who'd been around and when he and Daniel join a support group for mixed status couples, I included a much older couple, guys who remembered the eighties, just like I do.
During the course of my research, I Googled the question "Would you date someone with HIV?"
Some of the answers I got made me sick to my stomach.

I've blogged about it before; if you want to read, please click here. Not all of the answers were horrible (thankfully) and in the course of my research, I found some really amazing people, like these guys:
Based in the UK, Body & Soul seems to be one of the most "together" organizations I've found online.
Of course, I live in the US and Daniel and Pasha live in Michigan (well, so do I).

One of the biggest things to hit me while I was working on this (especially after Googling questions about dating and HIV), was the stigma that comes along with being HIV positive. Many people who wrote about telling their friends and family about being postive compared it to coming out all over again--only worse. There are so many stories on the Internet about men and women who told lost friends, family, and even perspective friends and partners after they came out about their status.
And it shouldn't be that way. People (at least most people) don't walk away from friends with cancer or diabetes. They don't walk away from someone wit lupus. Why walk away from someone with HIV?
The answer: Fear. Lack of understanding. Lack of education.
I love the Stigma Project's Vision:

The Stigma Project seeks to create an “HIV Neutral” world, free of judgment, fear, discrimination and alienation by educating both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life about the constantly evolving state of the epidemic. We seek to reduce the HIV infection rate through knowledge, awareness, and effective marketing and advertising. Ultimately we see a future where the world is free of HIV/AIDS.

Here's something they recently posted to Facebook:


Being Russian and Gay, Bi, Lesbian, or Trans

It's another subject I've bloged about in conjunction with Hanging by the Moment is the gay rights movement in Russia. The long and short of it is that while here in the US the demand for equality is on the rise, in Russia the demand for anti-gay legislation is skyrocketing (85% of Russians are against equality/gay rights).
Pasha's parents came to the United States from St. Petersburg, one of the first Russian cities to hit the news with anti-gay legislation. I didn't just choose to make Pasha Russian because of the anti-gay sentiment, Pasha is Russian because my own heritage is a solid 50% Russian. My great grandparents came over in the early 1900's and my grandmother inherited a lot of her parents' views on things, including a distinct lack of understanding when it came to homosexuality and bisexuality (and oh boy she didn't get what it meant to be transgender!)
But for all that she was a product of her era, when it came to family...well, family was a different matter. There's a lot of my grandmother (both the good and the bad) in Pasha's father, Ivan. The rest of his family is more or less fictional; all writers take bits and pieces of real life and inject it into our work, but his Pasha's siblings aren't directly based on any real people, honest. His aunt says a few things that a couple of my aunts have said, but I was cherry picking all the worst traits possible--I actually love my aunts (they just sometimes had some odd notions about family and obligation!)
Pasha and his familiy--and my family for that matter--is a pretty devout Russian Orthodox Christian. If you think the Catholic Church takes an anti-gay stance, you haven't heard/seen anything. There was (according to the best news sources I was able to dig up) a Russian Orthodox priest who "married" a gay couple in Russia (it's unclear whether what his motives were). Not only was he defrocked and kicked out, the guy who helped him was demoted and reassigned, and the sanctum (alter area) was completely dismantled because it had been "desicrated".
The church claimed it was remodeling, but no remodel effort had been on the books until after the "wedding".
Writing a Russian Orthodox gay man was a bit of a challenge, then add to it the fact that I'm...well, not Christian. At all. But I believe religion is an important part of peoples' lives (and when I say religion, I actually include Athiest philosophy because while it isn't religion, it's still belief in something, even if that something is science and logic) and I don't think that all my characters should look like me.
They should look like you.
And you.
And you over there, too.

On Being Bisexual

A very minor thread in Hanging by the Moment is Daniel's bisexuality. Some people have the strangest notions about bisexuality. But honest, all it means is that we could fall for a member of the same gender, or a member of the opposite gender--or maybe even someone who falls somewhere in between. It doesn't matter. That doesn't make us fickle or unfaithful, and just because I married a man doesn't make me straight.
I've seen more than a few personal ads (back when I was single and dating) that very specifically said that bisexual people need not apply. And this was mostly from the gay and lesbian community.
Another minor thread running through the novel (that I wish I'd been able to explore just a little more) is Daniel's heritage.

Daniel is an Potawatomi Indian who grew up on Tribal land in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (and yes, he's damned hot!)
One of the many sad facts I learned while doing research is that the Potawatomi language is dying out; children just aren't learning. It's something I can kind of understand. My grandmother and aunts tried to teach me Russian when I was a kid, but yuck, how boooring.... as an adult, I sorely wish I'd paid more attention.

Metro Detroit

Just like in my second novel, Bound: Forget Me Knot, Hanging by the Moment is set in and around Metro Detroit (my hometown). Most of the places I write about are real, to one extint or another (the dinner where Pasha works is 99% fictional; I did work at a little family run dinner that had pretty much *all* the problems Pasha's place has in terms of being constantly out of stuff a dinner should never run out of, but the location, staff, and customers are  either100% fictional or the usual melding of personality traits from my nearest and dearest...or people who've pissed me off, because that's what happens to people who piss off writers: they end up villains, and usually not the cook kind like Darth Vader. No, you piss off an author and you'll end up a cartoon cutout villain that children mock and laugh at).
One of my favorite places--and in face one of the places I do a lot of writing--is the Bean & Leaf Cafe in downtown Royal Oak.  (I totally recommend the cheesecake latte! There's a reason it's Pasha's favorite!)
If you live in the area, you might just see me out walking my dog in Royal Oak this summer! You really can't miss us, he's the one without hair  :D
Here's the song that inspired the of Pasha and Daniel's story:


Michelle said...

Is there a publish date for this yet? It sounds like a book I'd like to read!

H.B. Pattskyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

This sounds like such an awesome book, and I love the issues you bring up in it. Spreading HIV awareness is great, and I loved reading all the posts you have here. You raise some great points, and I'm super excited to read about Pasha and Daniel.


Unknown said...

I read this book from start to finish in just a few hours. I had lunch while reading. I just could not put it down. Wow! I started kind of hating Ivan, but he grows on me. Now he's one of my favorite characters. Thank you for writing such a beautiful and real story.

are you planning to write about Brett and Mark too? I hope they can get their HEA too after everything's they've been through

H.B. Pattskyn said...

Thank you so much! Yes, I am planning on writing about Brett and Mark :)