Ronald L. Donaghe Winner of The Jim Duggins' Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist award, 2008 SASFEST New Orleans


February 2017...

ColumbusDowntownI've now been living in Columbus, Mississippi, for almost nine months, and as I might have written elsewhere, I did a lot of research about Columbus before moving here. Buying a house using my VA benefits turned out to be fairly easy, which made the move here viable. In these past nine months, absolutely none of my expectations have been wrong about the town. I expected it to be beautiful; it is. I expected the summer to be hot and muggy; it was. I expected the fall to be beautiful; it was. I've yet to experience the entire spring season here, but as the winter months pass, I look forward to it with great expectation as being a season when I can get back to my yard. But perhaps the expectation that was foremost in my mind was that Columbus is a gay-friendly town. It is.

My favorite story is about sitting in a coffee shop one day in downtown Columbus, visiting with one of my neighbors. A guy walked in and took a table. It turned out that he was in the Air Force. There's a pilot training base north of here. One thing led to another and my neighbor asked the guy about where he had come from. Conversation from our table to his continued. He said he was waiting for his fiance to arrive. Later on the fiance came in. It was another man. Had anyone been paying attention to our conversation at other tables, they would have realized that this Air Force man was gay and made no bones about it. I was thrilled. Then it turns out that just around the corner from me, there is another gay couple—another airman and his husband. They are also open with people about being gay. A new bookstore opened in downtown Columbus. They specialize in Southern writers, which interested me, and they are certainly gay friendly. I met the owner of a pub in the bookstore one night, who told me about his business, called The Elbow Room Lounge. I decided to visit. I had seen it across the street from a cafe I like to go to. It turns out that it's a gay friendly place. I got involved in a conversation with the pub owner's mother who was working there and it wasn't long before she was telling me about her travels and she brought up books that she recommended, one called Mississippi Sissy, which of course is gay themed. And as customers came and went, my gaydar was on full alert. While the Elbow Room is a regular pub, with weekly music events, a kind of Mississippi Cheers atmosphere where locals like to come in and interact, I noted that several of the people have to be gay or lesbian. My point is that in the midst of a state that is known for its uber religiousity and its descrimination against blacks and all its poverty and being last on the good lists and first on the bad lists, Columbus, like other towns from here to the gulf is also progressive. I have met intelligent, curious, friendly, well-traveled and well-read people all over town.
Common Threads in the Life...A Done Deal!
The hard copy (paperback) books for A Summer's Change (Books I, II, and III) in the Common Threads in the Life series are now available for order at Amazon. You can select each book in the right-hand column to go directly to Amazon. In the coming few months, I hope to issue new editions of the first four volumes in the Common Threads series, so that all seven volumes are the same size format, as well as with thematically related covers. This series is now complete, and over the last 30 years of writing these novels, the series became a true family saga spanning fifty years from 1965 to 2015; it is Tom Allen and Joel Reece's story, of course, which began when they were teenagers and follows them all the way through to the end of the series when they are in their sixties; it is also the saga of a truly "blended" family, a concept that while true even back in the nineteen sixties was not referred to as a blended family.In the Common Threads series, the blended familyis not necessarily of a racial mix but of blood family, adopted family, opposite-gender married couples and same-gender married couples, as well as those who are considered part of the family by a long association with the Allen-Reece family. I can't talk about the series' end without giving away the story, but suffice it to say that some readers who have stuck with me for the last thirty years know that we have together engaged in an idealistic kind of "what if" story, yes, even a kind of fantasy of how gay people can live truly committed and loving lives with strong values just like their heterosexual counterparts. In this series, Tom and Joel are such a gay couple, and in real life, they have inspired many gay people to aspire to that ideal in their own lives.

CommonThreadsseriespictWriting this series has been a decades-long endeavor for me, and along the way I have met real gay men who have told me that this fictional account has inspired them, has promised that if they are strong and stand up for their own beliefs they can live better, more stable lives. Other readers have reacted differently, some who reveal that they don't share in the idealism. But that's okay. I never intended to try writing a story that pleased everyone. I'm just happy that it pleased so many people, readers who have kept up with my progress in writing this series. And over the years, the antagonism that causes conflict for the characters in the story morphed from antagonistic characters into internal conflict, from violent outsiders to a gentler but still important antagonism from the inside. Over these same years, I have gotten to know my characters at least as well as real-life relatives. I don't have to see my relatives very often, but I know they are alive and moving through their lives in other cities and other states. And that is how real my characters are to me.

The last book in the series ends with the idea that the family will continue. And in a sense, even though I assure readers that there won't be any more books in the series (like volumes 8, 9, 10 and so on), I am already shaping stories that might be considered side-cars in this family's journey—from the series. One is tentatively titled Joe Welling and the Cowboys; another is tentatively titled Granny Mack and the Gas Station in the Middle of Nowhere. I know of no other such fifty-year-long, gay-themed saga as Common Threads in the Life. At first, it wasn't intentional, and then it was intentional, when I began writing the trilogy A Summer's Change to bring the Allen-Reeces up as close to the present as I could get them. The "Common Threads" series title didn't even become part of the series until the fourth book had been written, and I realized that the books reflected common threads that all LGBT people experience to some degree. They have to deal with self-image when they realize they are not like their friends and school mates, when they begin to wonder if they might be gay; they then have to deal with self-acceptance, ridicule from others, ostracism if they are found out, bullying, and being shunned by their families. If not all LGBT people, then most eventually have to rectify the religion they were born into with their lives as queer people in a world that hates homosexuality, transgenderism, and other differences. Yes, LGBT-QI and other alphabet-soup letters is meant to throw out a big net to include all queer people, but even for us it becomes tiresome to keep up with. So we break it down, as I have done in the series. Many gays dream of something truly lasting in their lives, like a husband or a wife or children and living assimilated lives in the communities in which they live. Other queer people don't want to be assimilated. I've attempted to touch on all these threads in LGBT lives.

Common Sons, the first novel
I deliberately chose a setting in the virtual middle of nowhere when I started this series, because I wanted my characters to invent themselves and not have a convenient and ready-made gay subculture to run off to in some bigger city; I didn't want my characters to join a gay ghetto and become just other characters of city life. I deliberately set it far back in time (to the same era in which I went to high school), because I wanted my characters to be their own self-contained world and to be isolated from any pre-fab gay culture.

A Summer's Change (trilogy) the last three novels in the series
But as I drew near the end of the series, I slowly moved the characters toward an awareness of the wider world, toward same-sex marriage and other political issues and let them get out of the desert, if just for a while.

Series Spin-offs
In Joe Welling and the Cowboys, I take the opposite approach. I take a refugee from the gay subculture and move him farther and farther away from it, until he truly finds himself in a milieu of a different sort. And in Granny Mack and the Gas Station in the Middle of Nowhere, we have another refugee of sorts who comes to the end of the road in the middle of nowhere and has only the barest of chances to hand off her grandson to the world before she takes her final bow on the stage of life. —Or maybe that's what these two novels will be about. Some of my fans want more books about Tom and Joel, or about Duke and JP, but as I said I hit the roof of the present time (2015) and there's nowhere to go. So I do hope that these spin-off novels will satisfy my readers when I get around to writing them.

ColumbusMSProgress...Looks like my partner has sold his house in the Las Cruces area, and so now (February 2017) we are making plans and figuring out the logistics for his move to Columbus, Mississippi.

I want to remind you that since moving here, I have been blogging about my experiences living here, in Postcards from Mississippi. I'm continuing to discover Columbus and, when I get a chance to travel outside of town, I discover more of Mississippi.

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Currently, ten of my novels are available on the Amazon Kindle e-reader...
Common Sons
The Blind Season
The Salvation Mongers
The Gathering
Uncle Sean
All Over Him
The Runaway
A Season of Family
The Rest of Their Lives

The Thinking Man—Blog

I've been working on a blog for a few years, but I've never done anything to show it to the world. So, here it is. It's called "The Thinking Man," and in it, I write about subjects that strike me as interesting. I invite comments, and I have no idea if the thing allows me to censor/filter/or even respond to the comments. Here's the link:


My Work
Common Threads
in the Life







Now Published in Kindle

The Journals of
Will Barnett


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