Book Spotlight: Mulligans by Charlie David

Mulligans
(2nd edition)
by Charlie David
Date Released: May 25, 2016
Dreamspinner Press

About Mulligans
When an unexpected attraction grows between Chase and his best friend's dad, Nathan, will it have profound effects?

Chase never had many friends, but at college, he meets and forms close ties with straight jock Tyler Davidson—a connection he fears he’ll lose if he tells Tyler he’s gay. Keeping his sexuality secret becomes harder for Chase as he joins Tyler and his family at their idyllic lake house for the summer. It grows more and more difficult for Chase to avoid Tyler’s attempts to set him up with girls, and he’s tired of making excuses. Chase is ready to embrace the man he is, but he’s afraid of what it will cost him.

The Davidsons seem like the perfect family, but Chase soon realizes there’s trouble in paradise. Tyler’s dad, Nathan, has done everything to make a good life for his wife and children—including suppressing his sexuality and denying his needs for years.  But like Chase, Nathan is growing weary of living a lie. What begins as an offer of support from Chase grows into an unexpected attraction that will have profound effects on everyone. Chase and the Davidsons are about to learn that there’s no such thing as a perfect family, but that perfection isn’t a requirement for friendship and love.

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Read my five-starred review of Mulligans.

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An Excerpt from Mulligans
The best place in the house was not in the house at all. It was on top of the house. Nathan noticed Chase’s eyebrows arch even higher as he leaned a ladder against the house and climbed up, his beer bottle stuffed in the back pocket of his jeans so he could have a two-handed grip. Nathan turned and held the ladder in place when he reached the top and waved down to Chase. “Come on up!”

He smiled, watching Chase place his own beer in a back pocket and make his way up the ladder. Nathan reached out and gave Chase a hand when he reached the top rung, and then for a second almost let go; there was a warmth there he hadn’t expected.

This was Nathan’s favorite place in the house, one he’d only shared with Tyler previously. The roof had a very gentle slope, and Nathan crossed it to where two lawn chairs lay covered with fallen pine needles and leaves. He shook them off and unfolded the chairs to face the lake far below. Chase settled into the seat beside him and pulled the cap off his beer. The summer sun was just beginning to set, and the sky was a brilliant tie-dye of orange, red, and mauve.

“Makes you feel kinda small, doesn’t it?” Nathan finally asked, interrupting the quiet between them.

“Yeah. I guess if we only get to live once, you want to make sure you’re doing the things you want. It goes by so fast.”

Nathan couldn’t help but laugh. “You have no idea.”

Chase continued, obviously lost in his own thoughts. “I guess I just want to leave my mark somehow, make a difference….”

“Like with your painting?”

“Maybe, I don’t know.”

“Well, what would you want to change?” Nathan asked.

“I don’t know. Just stuff,” Chase answered, his gaze locked on the lake.

“Sounds like some heavy… stuff,” Nathan said and then allowed another silence to pass between them.

“I guess I’ve just been thinking about, well, what are you supposed to do if you like someone and there’s a possibility it could upset someone else?”

“Why would it upset the other person?” 

“Well, maybe the other person always imagined you with someone else and so they’d be disappointed. But maybe it’s not worth risking their disappointment because what if the person you like isn’t even who you’re supposed to be with in the end?” Chase asked, only occasionally looking at Nathan out of the corner of his eye.

“Is this about Christie?”

“No! That would make it so much… easier.” Chase shook his head, an ironic grin shaping his mouth. They fell into a silence again. Nathan wasn’t sure which questions to ask and could only guess at what the problem might be. The sky had given up its bright orange hues and was dressed in the light purples of twilight when Chase finally spoke again. “Was it weird getting married right out of high school?”

Nathan was taken aback by the new focus of the conversation. “I don’t know about weird. It’s just what happened.”

“So you never dated anyone else, then?”

Nathan shook his head. “We were planning on going to different colleges, but then… I guess when Stacey got pregnant, when we got pregnant, well, we knew we loved each other and so the decision was kind of made for us.”

“Do you ever wonder if you picked the right person? I mean, how do you know?” Chase asked, looking over at Nathan.

If it weren’t for the earnest expression in the young man’s eyes, Nathan might have been tempted to tell him to mind his own business, but the sincerity there convinced him otherwise. “No. I mean, yes, sometimes. Choices have to be made at the time, and you make them and then your life becomes your life. One day I wake up and I have a wife, a job, a house, and a couple of kids and it’s like, when did that happen?”

Chase held his stare and nodded, seeming to comprehend the immensity of his experience. But how could he? He was a college kid.

“I sometimes wonder, if I was a teenager now instead of back then, if I would have made different choices,” Nathan confessed.

“Like what?”

“Just different. People are a lot more open-minded now.” Nathan took in the absurdity of the situation. He was a man in his late thirties, sharing the very problems that had been weighing on his mind with his son’s best friend, a young man practically half his age. Why was it so easy to talk to Chase? He felt an inexplicable bond and simultaneously an unsettling sense that he was talking to a 2.0 version of himself. “I’ve never talked about that with anyone before.”

“Your secrets are safe with me if mine are safe with you,” Chase promised, then looked down smiling.

“What?” Nathan asked.

“Nothing,” Chase laughed. “You just look like Tyler when you’re deep in thought like that.”

“You mean, he looks like me,” Nathan corrected. “I’m the original.”

They laughed and watched as the first stars began to appear in the night sky. Nathan enjoyed the easy nature of their time together. It was as simple to carry on a conversation with Chase as it was to sit in silence and just be. It looked like he and Tyler shared a taste in the company they liked to keep.

“I’m gonna call it a night. I want to get down that ladder while I can still see it.” Chase laughed as he stood and made his way over to the edge of the roof. “Thanks for the beer, and the chat.”

“No problem, it was nice. I’m glad you ended up staying in tonight,” Nathan said, following Chase to the ladder.

Chase looked up at Nathan as he began his descent. “Me too. Good-night, Mr. Davidson.”

Nathan climbed down and pulled the ladder away from the house. He watched Chase cross the yard and enter the guest cottage, flicking on its lights. Mr. Davidson. What are you thinking, old man? Nathan entered the house and was surprised at how foreign it all seemed. All the collected knickknacks from over the years seemed to stare at him like alien things. Stuff, stuff, everywhere just stuff, and this was his life. A life that had been fastidiously designed, and as he looked around he realized how little it all meant to him. He was becoming detached. He loved his family very much, but the idea of pulling around the weight of all these years of memories and mementos seemed a burden.

Nathan grabbed a golf magazine off the coffee table in the living room and lay down on the couch. He flipped mindlessly through the magazine, barely registering the lush green courses and players profiled inside. He wasn’t even halfway through when he tossed the magazine on the floor and shut his eyes. Resting his hands on his chest, he tried to regain the peaceful quiet his mind had captured on the roof. He lay there, resembling a corpse except for the deliberate, slow rise and fall of his chest as he tried to encourage a meditative state. After a few minutes he was successful, to a degree. The chatter had stopped at least, and what was left was a slow parade of images, some captured from memory and some imagined.

Nathan’s eyes almost opened as he felt an unexpected sensation. He felt his body. He was really feeling it; he was aware of himself all the way down to his feet. He wiggled his toes and felt the socks around them. He felt the denim hugging his thighs and the cotton collar of his polo shirt gently pressing against the back of his neck. It was so simple and yet sensational. He’d been living in his head and had been denying the existence of his body, and he’d been doing it for so long he couldn’t even recall when it had started.

Warmth gathered in his chest and spread slowly through his body. He could almost detect the tiny hairs on his arms and legs responding as the energy passed through him. The warmth collected in his stomach and moved down into his pelvis. Nathan felt the denim getting very tight there, and he realized he was very, very horny. As the parade of images continued to scroll through his mind, he slid one hand down his body and stroked the front of his jeans. He slid the other hand up and under his shirt, dragging it over his chest, imagining the whole time that the hands belonged to someone else. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had pleasured himself, and the thrill of doing it in the open of his house added to the rousing danger of it. Being a family man was a lot different from being a bachelor. You couldn’t just pull it out whenever you got the urge. That was the curious part; he rarely even felt the urge, as if he had neatly folded up his sex drive and packed it in a box. He didn’t have to face it or deconstruct the sexual images in his head. He was free to focus on every other aspect of his life without distraction. And it had become easier over time. As a young man in his teens and twenties, all he could seem to think about was sex. As the years went on, it had become easier and easier to just ignore.

He unbuttoned the top of his jeans and stuffed his hand in, grabbing himself firmly. This was not so easy to ignore, and the urgent excitement in his gut made him clench his jaw and squeeze his eyes shut. He wanted the intangible temptations in his mind desperately, and he also desperately wanted them to leave him alone. Nathan exhaled a long frustrated breath and opened his eyes, letting them adjust to the reality of the room. The wooden beams on the ceiling, the rich merlot window dressings, and the faint smell of the leather couch beneath him. He pulled his shirt down and removed the hand from his pants, but it did little to relieve the hard-on straining distinctly against them. He’d go to bed, he decided, and swung his legs down off the couch.

Nathan entered the bedroom and noticed Stacey was already sleeping, a book fallen against her chest and her reading lamp still on. He crossed to the closet and undressed, throwing his shirt and jeans over a chair. He was already beginning to feel more himself as he slipped into the washroom and dressed his toothbrush with paste. Temptation got the best of him, and he soon had one hand in his boxer shorts as the other one brushed. He closed his eyes again, imagining another’s firm grip around his balls. His breathing became rapid and shallow as he brushed harder and stroked faster.

“Nathan?” He heard Stacey call in a half-asleep voice from the next room. He pulled the hand out of his shorts and rested it on the sink, panting. He bent over and spit into the sink and rinsed his mouth. He looked in the mirror and smiled sardonically at himself.

“Yes?” he answered as he flicked off the washroom light and crossed to the bed.

“Are you coming to bed?” Stacey asked, closing her book and setting it on the nightstand.

Nathan answered by climbing in and turning off the lamp on his nightstand. Stacey turned and did the same. Nathan rolled over and curled into Stacey, rubbing his fingers along her arm. He pressed against her, and Stacey turned with surprise.

“Nathan?”

“You want to mess around?” he asked, already letting his hands rove over his wife.

“Now?”

“Or… we don’t have to,” Nathan answered, stopping his hands in place.

“No, I’d like to. But are you sure?” Stacey asked.

“Look, do you want to or not, Stacey?”

“You’re not all that attractive when you’re grumpy,” Stacey accused, crossing her arms and leaning back against the headboard.

“Forget it.” Nathan turned onto his side away from Stacey and stared at the wall.

“Come on, you just surprised me, that’s all.”

“I said forget it. I’m not in the mood anymore. I’m going to sleep.”

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A Note from Charlie David
One of the most common questions asked by readers and from people who’ve seen the film is, “Did this happen to you? Is it your story?”

Thankfully and honestly the answer is no, although I think like all storytellers I drew on my life experiences and some of the most loving and interesting personality traits of people in my own life. Stacey, for example, was named after one of my best friends in high school and is a tapestry woven of four women in my life: my own mother, my grandmother, my manager and best friend Linda Carter, and a friend through my extended blended family—Sandy Webster Worthy, who graciously opened her home to me as a squatter as I penned this book. Each of these women is formidable, strong, and the epitome of a matriarch. Their personal lives and the lives of their children are one and the same, which is simultaneously an enriching experience and the source of a certain “loss of self.”

Stacey, like these women, brings comfort and stability through food and presenting only the positive, whenever possible, to her children. I think the empty-nest syndrome that all mothers face can be a point of crisis in their lives. I happily report to you that these women are each finding things to be passionate about and regaining a solid sense of the powerful women they are, post-child-rearing.

In the film, the role of Stacey is played by Thea Gill. We had first met through a director friend, Richard Bell, and then were able to work together in Hawaii on two seasons of the TV series Dante’s Cove. I timidly handed her the script for Mulligans one day over lunch and asked if she’d read it and consider the part. I of course had been a longtime fan since her work on Queer as Folk. The episode where she has an affair with the artist has always stuck out to me as having truly captured the inner turmoil of having a secret affair. Of course in our film, she would be on the other side of the knife….

The only other role directly inspired by my life is Tyler, played in the film by Derek James. Derek is one of my best friends and coincidentally is Linda Carter’s son. (Yes, the same woman previously mentioned, who produced the film with me, is my business partner and manager. Being best friends with someone AND his mother—well, it’s certainly been an interesting journey, but that, my dear reader, is another book to come….) Tyler and Derek are essentially one and the same. The extremely charismatic, handsome, charming, and funny guy you see in the film is very close to my best friend in real life. This is in no way to take away from the fantastic job he does in the movie. Comedy is a gift bestowed on few in my opinion, and Derek got it in spades.

Nathan in a way is a doppelganger of myself. It’s a reflection on the road not taken for me in trying to live a closeted life. When I was growing up, I always sensed that I was different and desperately wanted to fit in. But no matter how I tried, I always sensed I stuck out. Part of wanting to “be like others” was going through various phases of acceptance with my sexuality, starting with denial! The response to Nathan’s story has been the most poignantly rewarding, as both men and women who’ve come out later in life have resonated with his journey of self-discovery and ultimate acceptance.

We work-shopped the original scripts for the film in Vancouver through the Cold Reading Series, a supportive group of actors, writers, producers, and directors who come together with a live audience to hear new work. Actors are cast on the spot and sit in a semicircle on the stage of the character-filled Anza Club to read the script “cold”—no preparation, no performance—just living and breathing the words as they are. This is an extremely valuable tool for a new writer like myself because I was able to see and hear my story come to life. I was fortunate to workshop the script over the course of two summers and was able to sit in the back of the theatre making notes and drinking beer. Did I fail to mention that? Oh yeah, we drink through this process, just to calm the nerves, of course. In the beginning I drank a lot and wrote little, mesmerized by the magic of hearing actors speak words I’d written. As the series progressed, I wrote more and drank less… okay, I drank about the same but discovered the true value in working with a positively constructive group of like-minded individuals.

The founder of the Cold Reading Series, Lori Triolo, introduced me to actor Dan Payne. They had recently worked together on the Canadian television series Alice, I Think, of which Dan was the star. After seeing Dan read, I knew he was the major contender for the role of Nathan. He had the same easy humor, charisma, and showmanship as Derek—and they looked alike. Some actors previously had presented Nathan in an almost lecherous way. The line here is really drawn in the sand and it’s an easy misstep for an actor to go from relatable to creepy. The intent in the story is never to imply pedophilia. Chase is a grown man, about to enter a master’s program in university. The age difference is important obviously but this is not a “Come here little boy, I have candy” situation. There is enough unfounded media attention thrown at statistically unwarranted correlations between pedophilia and homosexuality. They are far from one and the same. Pedophilia is a disease and homosexuality is a beautifully natural expression of sex and love.

There is, however, a commonality in both gays and lesbians for one partner to sometimes be significantly older than the other. By “significantly,” I’m speaking of approaching or greater than a ten-year range. I think this isn’t uncommon in heterosexual couples either, but we may see more of it in the LGBT population simply because of cases just like Mulligans. Men and women coming out later in life feel like they are experiencing their youth again and are therefore attracted to a similar youthful energy. LGBT youth, often coming from unsupportive homes, and sometimes in fact estranged from their families, seek the comfort and security that someone older can provide for them. It’s not always, but sometimes, a subconscious replacement for supportive parenting.

At any rate, Dan Payne brought vulnerability and honesty to the role without compromising his masculinity and in the process added a whole new slew of male fans to his extensive female fan base. If you haven’t seen his calendar, check out his website and you’ll see why it’s so easy to fall in love with the man.

The role of Birdy was sheer whimsy. She was like a sprite in my mind, spreading her humorous and sage advice at just the right moments. Any subconscious inspiration was most likely gleaned from my younger sister Colleen. She always seemed acutely aware of “what’s really going on” even from a young age and was never afraid to speak up to our commandeering father. In fact she was always ready to have an adult conversation with anyone from the time she was three.

We truly lucked out in casting Grace Vukovic for the role. She was a fresh face on the roster of the talent agency I own with Linda in Vancouver and coincidentally was family friends with Thea Gill. Thea had in fact known Gracie her entire life and held her in her arms as an infant. Grace was an absolute pro on set, arriving every day fully prepared and never failing to make us laugh.

These are the Who’s and What’s but why did I tell this story? First it came from a place of necessity, I suppose. Linda had given me sage advice when I was deciding to come out. I’ve always dreamed since being a little boy of having a career like Tom Cruise—he was my absolute hero. I knew by coming out I was potentially smashing that possibility forever—which I’ve found was actually infinitely more important than following the inauthentic path already laid out by the likes of Rock Hudson, Tyrone Powers, Sal Mineo, and countless other actors who were slaves to the Hollywood system and what it dictated society would accept. Now is a different time, a time of change and growth, and the trail I’m trying to create will hopefully benefit the next generation more than it could ever benefit myself. Linda’s advice was that by coming out I would surely lose some roles and gain some roles (which has proved true thus far), and the best thing I could do was to create my own work.

I had written a few screenplays before Mulligans, but they involved underwater sequences, explosions, and basically the parting of a sea…. Not realistic as a first feature, but I was dreaming big as I’m apt to do. Linda said, “No explosions, no car chases, no animals, few characters, few locations—and roles for you and Derek. Go.”

And so I went and the first incarnation of Mulligans was a frat comedy—seriously. But as I continued to imagine and explore I found that the true core of the story didn’t lie with the characters Derek and I would play at all, but rather in the relationship between the parents. I tried to create an engaging story that we could realistically manifest into our first full-length film and to keep the explosions within the drama and dynamics of the family.

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About Charlie David
Charlie David has been a host for E! Television, NBC, OutTV, LOGO, here! TV, Pink TV, EGO, Fine Living and Slice Networks on such shows as FYE!, SpyTV, Crash Test Mommy, and his travel series Bump, which shot 120 episodes around the world and garnered a Hugo Television award. He has appeared as musical guest on VH1, BBC, CBS’s The Early Show, and dozens of radio shows.

In 2005, Out Magazine recognized Charlie in the ‘Out 100’ at their gala in New York. In 2007, the Philadelphia Film Society awarded Charlie with their Rising Star Award. In 2008, the Festival del Sol in Gran Canaria awarded their Best Male Actor Award to Charlie and the male cast of A Four Letter Word. Formerly in a rock band… okay, actually it was a boy band, Charlie opened for Destiny’s Child, Pink, Snoop Dogg, Rick Springfield, and the Black Eyed Peas.

A love of storytelling led Charlie to start Border2Border Entertainment Inc., a production company whose film and television credits include Mulligans, Judas Kiss, Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride, I’m a Stripper (series), Studlebrity, and Positive Youth. Border2Border Entertainment’s films have been licensed to Showtime, Super Channel, HBO Canada, MTV/LOGO, Sundance Channel, Condé Nast Entertainment, The Movie Network, Movie Central, Encore Avenue, and OutTV in North America as well as finding a worldwide audience through international distribution partners.

Charlie is a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts and his current passions include motorcycle cruises, high adrenaline encounters with wildlife, SCUBA diving, and sports. He resides in Montréal and Toronto, Canada when he’s not living out of a suitcase.

Connect with Charlie
Pinterest | Audible | YouTube | Vimeo | Goodreads

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