What Are AmberPax™ Collections?

Simply put, AmberPax™ Collections are groups of five stories centered around a specific theme. Each story within an AmberPax™ is released individually, on the same day as the others, and can be purchased separately, but these five stories can also be purchased as a single unit (the full AmberPax™) at a discount, currently 25%. Generally, an AmberPax™ is similar to an "anthology" of stories, but instead of the titles being released in only a single volume (file), they are also available individually. These AmberPax™ Collections are sold exclusively through our website and only in electronic format.

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Connecting through Correspondence: Family Obligations by Vivien Dean & Rick R. Reed

Tate D’Angelo always believed he knew who his father was. Beloved doctor, devoted husband and father, a kind soul...these were the words shared by everyone who came to his funeral. So when his father’s old college buddy, Randy, approaches him after the service, Tate expects to hear echoes of the same.

What he gets, instead, is almost a lifetime’s worth of letters that tell him so much more and cause him to view his father—and his family—in a whole new light.

The truth, about a secret love kept buried for decades, astonishes him. Overwhelmed by grief and confusion, Tate’s unsure if he can bear hearing how the lives of these two men entwined over the years, but he reads on anyway, discovering more to value, more to respect, and most importantly, more to love about the man who raised him.

Though collaborating isn't new to either Vivien or Rick, Family Obligations marks the first time they've worked together on the same side of the editorial page. With the opportunity to post today, they decided writing emails to each other was the best and most fitting way to introduce Mark and Randy to the world. Enjoy!


Dear Vivien,

It was a thrill working with you on Family Obligations, because the story—about love thwarted by time and societal prejudices—is, I think one of the most emotional I’ve ever worked on. I appreciated that we were on the same page with this one.

I have long been haunted by one short story, E. Annie Proulx’s lyrical, powerful, and tragic “Brokeback Mountain.” I remember reading the short story many years ago (in 1997!) just after it was published originally in the New Yorker magazine. It stayed with me through all the years, partly because Proulx’s prose is so spare, yet poetic, but also because the story, at its core, could have been mine, since I too was a closeted, married gay man, filled with secret longings and wearing a mask for the rest of the world.

Our story, “Family Obligations” has a lot in common with Brokeback, even though it’s totally different. It too is a story about two men who fell in love while young and vibrant, and then because of their own and society’s expectations, were kept apart through the years. Yet, their love was so strong that they could never manage to break the hold they had upon each other.

The story itself was an emotional journey, wasn’t it? Both for our characters and ourselves. I remember as I read over passages as we wrote the story back and forth via e-mail and just sobbing; I felt our characters in my gut and in my heart, and my tears just rolled. Call me a big baby. I admit it.

Writing the story with you was a collaboration I will never forget—and will always cherish. I feel as though you and I went on a journey with our characters and that somehow has left a strong bond between the two of us.

Thank you for working with me. I can only hope our readers will be as deeply moved by our story as we were.



Dear Rick,

Since these emails are getting put out there for our readers to see, the first and probably most important thing I want to say is THANK YOU. Getting to work with you on Family Obligations was not only a privilege, but a gift. I have admired your work for years, and you probably didn't know this but when I got to meet you at EPICon in Las Vegas a few years ago, I was more than a little starstruck. I don't think I managed to get much more than a greeting out to you all weekend, I was so nervous. Not through any fault of yours, of course, because you were so friendly and warm, but because my brain forgets how to work with my mouth in those situations. That has changed, thank goodness, but it was still an incredible honor when you asked me to do this story with you.

While on the surface Mark and Randy's story might seem to reflect more of your experiences than mine, I have always felt connected to it in a way that I think will forever be unique to us. I'm a compulsive letter writer, so the choice to tell the bulk of the story through their correspondence felt like coming home. Reading someone's letter opens a door into his life in ways you don't get with straight prose. Certainly, writing them is a more intimate experience. Combine the two? I was pretty much a goner for these guys from the start.

Every time I opened my email to read another response from you, my heart was in my throat. More often, I'd get teary at how raw the emotions felt. Hell, I even cried when I had to do the final pass through for publication, ages after we'd finished edits. It was that much a part of me.

More than the format, though, is the fact that this is a story about choices, and that's something we can all relate to. We make decisions in our lives every day, some that mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, some that will color every day that comes after until we don't have a tomorrow anymore. Our reasons vary. Sometimes it means making a sacrifice. But always it means moving forward, taking that next step whenever possible.

I treasure this step you allowed me to take with you. Mark and Randy live in a special corner of my heart, but the spot you've created with your artistry and generosity burns just as brightly.

All my best,


Family Obligations by Vivien Dean & Rick R. Reed is now available at Amber Allure.

If you'd like the chance to win the entire pax collection, just leave a comment on today's post. On Saturday, a winner will be picked at random from all the comments made this week on the blog. Comment on all, and that's multiple chances to win!


  1. I loved this story. And it slays me that I can't write about one aspect of it because, you know, spoilers! But as a woman closer in age to Mark and Randy than to Tate, my thoughts were full while reading of all the gay men - and women - who were denied or were unable to have what lives they should have had together. Am so thankful times have changed so much (especially after yesterday! *fist pump*) but there likely will always be stories like Mark and Randy's. So sad, but yet... :) Quiet now. No spoilers!

  2. Thank you, Carolyn. It is kind of ironic this story came out the same week that DOMA was struck down. I am so glad you liked the story--I am really proud of it.

  3. Gosh, this is enough to break anyone's heart -- this idea of a hidden love, but how many times has this happened in recent history? How much love has been sacrificed in the name of 'family obligation'? Being from the south, I know of several family members that married because they had no choice, and were so miserable. Maybe, in today's world, there will be fewer and fewer of those kind of heart breaking tales.... Thank you for writing these wonderful, necessary stories.

    Jim Evans