Tackling the Subject by Jon Keys

As you can tell by now, I enjoy writing stories with cowboys and rural backgrounds. In “Tackling the Subject”, the setting is mostly on a state university campus but Gordy is from the rural area in the Arbuckle Mountains. I think it’s always interesting to take the stereotypes and turn them on their head. Those kind of twists in the story make it much more enjoyable.

I also like to get the details right. In “Tackling the Subject” the part of the story set at the ranch was from memory. I’ve been through the area many times, and I’m old enough to remember when the Interstate was cut through them. More hilly than mountainous, the area is full of rock outcroppings. It doesn’t support many trees, but for miles in any direction the waist high native grass surrounds you in a sea of green. It’s remarkable land to drive through. The vistas aren’t what people expect. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t the Rockies, but some of the views are lovely.

But this was an area I was already familiar with and Google and Google Maps were my friend. I love the street views to discover those little details through the town. But I have a new novel in the works that is about a rancher in the tiny town of Freedom. It’s a legitimate place, but I’d never been there, and what I could see over the Internet didn’t give me the details I needed. So, it was road trip time. The addition of about four hundred miles made an already planned expedition a productive research trip.

Freedom is built along the Cimarron River in what I would call a demanding part of the country. Rolling hills, blood red earth and in the middle of summer the heat came off the asphalt in waves until it looked like shimmering water.  Riding through the country with little more to see than the slow moving cattle and miles of roads so desolate that it seemed as if hours were pasted between meeting the next vehicle. After a short drive on a small state highway, we passed the dilapidated rodeo arena on the north edge of town. We had arrived.

The town was typical of those found almost anywhere. The elms along the side streets were more reminiscent of large shrubs than decades old trees. But their mottled shade seemed treasured if the chairs under them were any indication. People moved slowly under the intense heat and barefoot kids wore the dark reddish tan of those living under the Oklahoma sun.

A few blocks later, the town was framed in the rearview window and the bluffs lining the southern edge of the Cimarron River reached upward from the wide red water which formed a lacework of channels. The cliffs were intriguing with layers of red and gray stretching horizontally from the waters edge upward.

I’m excited about working on “Cimarron” after having seen the site firsthand. It will be another intriguing novel with more pieces of history and environment than I would have thought possible. I hope you enjoy “Tackling the Subject” as much as I enjoyed weaving the background details into the love story.


Sam struggles with issues from high school and his biology tutor triggers them all. Gordy isn’t sure he wants to deal with the trouble Sam represents.

Sam Doherty, a twenty-two-year-old computer science major, is struggling to pass the required classes in biology. While Sam is out and proud, he’s secretly dealing with an assault he suffered in high school. Sam may be the president of the campus Gay-Straight Alliance, but he’s struggling to find balance in his life. When he realizes he needs help with his class, he signs up for a biology tutor, but the guy who arrives for their meeting sets off all his triggers.

Gordy Hager is a biology whiz kid, the best tutor at the University Help Center—and the star tackle on the football team. Sam despises him at first sight. Gordy is the brainless caveman athlete that Sam still has nightmares about. Unable to control his reactions, he drives Gordy away and makes it plain he will never ask for his help. One week and a failed quiz later, Sam knows he has to swallow his pride.

But while Gordy might be a nice guy, he isn’t going to help someone as insulting as Sam. Sam’s determination pays off, and he gets Gordy’s assistance, but his grades are only the first pothole their relationship hits. From their discovery that they both are gay, to supporting each other against family, their connection has more than its share of issues. But when their worst fears come to fruition, they struggle with a way to save Gordy’s college football career and face Sam’s issues of intimacy.


About the Author

Jon Keys’ earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones he can recall reading himself being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in, he started sneaking his mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to his mix of science fiction, fantasy, Native American, westerns and comic books.

A voracious reader for almost half a century, Jon has only recently begun creating his own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy. With interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, he draws from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.


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Tackling the Subject by Jon Keys
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