Writing Wednesday — Just Another Winter’s Tale

CoverI have a surprise announcement today, in the form of an e-book anthology of holiday stories. Just Another Winter’s Tale was the brainchild of Matthew Bright (he of the brilliant Inkspiral Book & Cover Design), and is a gathering of seven wee tales of the holiday by myself, Matthew Bright, Nicholas M. Campbell, Michael Thomas Ford, Roy Gill, Gene Hult and Paul Magrs.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog entry re-telling the story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and that story, “Dolph,” is my addition to the collection. Since I wrote the entry, I’ve had people ask me if they could have it in e-format, and now thanks to this collection, the answer is yes.

You can find Just Another Winter’s Tale on Amazon.

So! Apart from that awesome news, Writing Wednesdays are supposed to be about catching up on writing projects, and I gotta tell you, I’m still in a holding pattern of deciding what to work on next. I have so very many ideas, and that’s a good thing, but I’m going to let it sit a bit longer before I put together a pitch for Triad Magic and schedule out what I’m planning for the year ahead.

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Open Calls for Submission

On Writing Wednesdays I also track open calls for submission I’m keeping an eye on, as well as keeping honest how I’ve done thus far for the year in submitting things for publication myself.

Previously this year: January was: 6 submissions (4 reprints, 2 new), with 1 acceptance (new) and three acceptances (three reprints); in February was bare minimum: 1 submission (1 new); March brought 1 rejection, and 1 submission (new); April saw 1 submission (new) and 1 acceptance; May: 1 submission (new), 1 acceptance. June: BUZZ! (Let’s not talk about that). July: 1 submission (1 new). August: 1 submission (1 new). September and October: 2 submissions (2 new), and 1 acceptance. November: 1 submission (1 new). December has been 2 submissions (1 new, 1 reprint) and 1 acceptance. So, I officially managed to submit something at least twelve times this year, but not quite at once-a-month pace near the end there. Also, soon I’ll find out if I made it through to the next round of the NYCMidnight Flash Fiction contest; if I have, I’ve got one more flash fiction piece to write.

And now, the open calls:

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul—Various titles, various themes, various deadlines, 1,200 word count limit.
  • Mischief Corner Books—Open to submissions for various themes, including Legendary Love, Everyday Heroes, Cowboys and Space; these are open rolling calls, so no deadline.
  • NineStar Press—Open to submissions for various length prose, paranormal, science fiction, fantasy and horror; Click “Currently Seeking” header for details; word count limit variable.
  • Spectrum Lit—This is an ongoing patreon flash fic provider, 1,500 hard word count limit; LGBTQ+ #ownvoice only; ongoing call.
  • Best Gay Erotica for the Year, Volume 4—Cleis Press; 2,500-5,000 word count limit. Original stories strongly preferred; deadline January 5th, 2018 (but the earlier the better).
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to F*** Them—Circlet Press; Erotic short stories with magical beasts and shapeshifter tropes; 3,000 to 7,000 word count limit; deadline February 1st, 2018.
  • Lost—NineStar Press. LGBTQIA+ romantic pairing. Both HEA and HFN are acceptable, Click “Lost” header for the theme. 30k-120k word count limit; deadline April 30th, 2018.
  • Happiness in Numbers—Less than Three Press; Polyamorous LGBTQIA+ anthology, non-erotic polyamorous stories that explore the idea of “Family”; 10k to 20k word count limit; deadline April 30th, 2018.
  • MLR Press—Quite a few different themes are open; 10k to 40k word count limit; deadlines vary, but the earliest right now is April 30th, 2018.

 

 

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Card Carrying

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Three of our recurring cards, hanging on the string.

I’m struggling with the Christmas cards this year. (Please note this post doubles as an apology for any late Christmas cards you may receive).

I normally enjoy writing them, and I sit down, put on some music, and go through the stacks of cards from last year to make sure I haven’t missed anyone from my list. That’s a “life hack” thing that I read once, and it turned out to have a hidden benefit.

The actual reason to keep all of last year’s Christmas cards, tucked in a box for the next year, was to keep track of who sent us a card. Not that Christmas cards are some sort of an earned or owed thing—we have a list of names and addresses we send to, and if someone doesn’t send us a card, it’s not like we strike out their name with red pen or something—it’s more a gentle reminder of people from the previous year, and a chance to double-check we haven’t forgotten someone by some accident.

But the first year I realized there was another reason to do this was the year I pulled out my husband’s card from his grandmother the year before. She’d passed that year, and this card was the last from her we’d receive.

So it went back up on the string.

36492203It might be a facet of my queer life, but I had losses of loved ones early on. It’s something that sneaks into my writing more than a little (heck, even in Handmade Holidays, the illness and passing of a parent is a major plot point for one of the main characters), and there’s a reason so much of the magic or psychic abilities I often give my characters provides them with second chances to speak to loved ones, or to make something right that went wrong.

There are multiple last cards on that string now from people we’ve loved and lost, and although it’s bittersweet to hang them every year, it does feel very much like receiving a message from them again, and there is happiness in the memory. Carrying that memory throughout the year is a little easier with a yearly reminder.

In fact, the first time I met my husband’s grandmother, it was her 90th birthday. Thanks to jet lag, I was up very early, and I wandered into the front parlour of the home she shared with her daughter and her daughter’s partner, and I hadn’t noticed she was there (she was so quiet). After I jump-scared myself when I saw her, we had a little chat—I was so nervous, because I was meeting my boyfriend’s grandmother, for crying out loud—and at one point, she pointed to her display of birthday cards and said, “There were more last year.” She got a little frown, like this was somehow an insult, but then her face cleared. “Oh. No. That’s okay. They died.”

I think of that every year when I hang her final Christmas card to us, which she sent with love to both of us. She was a lovely lady.

Also? She had the most amazing penmanship. Seriously. I’ll try to keep that in mind while I chicken-scratch my way through the cards this year.

Monday Flash Fics – It’s an Honour

Monday Flash Fics provides an image every week to spark an idea. This week, I immediately thought of my somewhat-superhero story, Light, and the main character, Keiran, who is a bit telepathic, sort of telekinetic, and really gay and who refracts light when he uses his telekinesis, which makes for a handy, if less than subtle, disguise.

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It’s an Honour

“I don’t get it.”

“I’m not sure it’s the kind of thing you get,” Callum said. “I think it’s just what it is.”

I frowned. I titled my head one way, then the other. One of the poles changed from blue to purple.

“But it’s a bunch of poles,” I said, trying hard not to sound too negative. “A bunch of poles that light up.”

“Well, it suits the theme,” Callum said. “I mean, for you-know-who.”

“I’m not Voldemort, Callum,” I said.

“Okay, it’s for you. I mean, nobody knows that, but it is.” Callum stomped his feet. “Also, it’s freezing. Can we maybe stop and get coffee?”

“Sure,” I said. But I didn’t move.

“Kieran?”

“Sorry.” I took another long look. Still a bunch of poles with lights inside. One of the poles, glowing green, turned yellow. The purple one was still purple. I sighed, then turned to go. Callum was already leaving the small park.

“I think you’re supposed to be honoured,” Callum said, once I caught up to him.

“I guess.” It was an homage to me, after all. That was pretty cool. And I’d been excited when it was announced. It’s possible I’d been thinking about what it might look like too much and the grand reveal was…

Well. It was a bunch of metal poles with lights.

There wasn’t even a heroic statue.

“I wanted a statue,” I admitted.

Callum laughed. Loud. Like only a big brother could. If he wasn’t such a great guy most of the time, I’d’ve probably reprogrammed his brain by now. Maybe make him think he was a hamster.

“Shut up,” I said, imagining him running on a wheel.

“You realize that doesn’t make sense, right?” Callum said.

I frowned. “How so?”

“No one knows what you look like!” He held out his hands, wiggling his fingers. “You get all…sparkly. You’re like…walking glitter.”

I stopped walking. “I can’t believe you came up with something worse than Disco.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Doesn’t matter. It didn’t have to be an accurate statue. Just… y’know…” I sighed. “Not glow sticks.”

“Kieran,” Callum said, touching my shoulder. “I love you like a brother, but—”

“You are my brother.”

“—you’re being an idiot.”

“Would you consider that a great monument if it was dedicated to you and your…uh…academic greatness?”

“If my academic greatness saved lives? Yes. I would.” He squeezed. “I’d consider it an honour.”

Well, now I felt like an ass.

But then Callum grinned. “A really, really, really ugly honour,” he said.

“You do think it’s ugly!”

“Bro, it’s hideous.” He laughed. “But it’s meant well.”

I turned and looked. When the lights were orange and purple, it did no one any favours. Even the snow looked gross.

“You saved people,” Callum said. “That’s really more important.”

He was right.

“Now can we also save my life before I freeze to death?”

No one was around, so I teked a snowball at the back of his head. He whirled, then whirled back and pointed at me. “Kieran,” he said, his tone full of older-brother warning.

I glanced left and right. No one was around.

Multiple balls of snow rose around me.

“Don’t. You. Dare.”

I dared.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Shorts – Sock it to Me, Santa! by Madison Parker

CoverRyan is assigned to Jamie Peterson for his class’s secret gift exchange. If word gets out that he has to make a handcrafted gift for flamboyant and openly gay Jamie, Ryan will be the laughing stock of the school. It’s a good thing no self-respecting boy would be caught dead in a craft store, because otherwise he’d be at risk of being spotted when his mom drags him to her weekly craft workshops. He hopes Jamie will appreciate all the trouble he’s going to for this assignment. Finding the perfect gift is gonna be tricky. Jamie deserves something good, though, after all the crap he has to put up with at school. At least, Ryan tells himself that’s the reason he’s putting so much thought into the gift. It couldn’t be that he has feelings for Jamie, could it?


This was a totally adorable little holiday short that I picked up because I saw Jennifer Lavoie had read it and loved it. Sock it to Me, Santa! is a short, sweet, lovely little Christmas story about a young man in high school who ends up facing his feelings—and coming out—thanks to a tie, a spider ornament, a sock monkey, and a out-and-proud classmate named Jamie.

Ryan is given Jamie’s name for a three-week ongoing Secret Santa where the gifts have to be handmade and all the pieces can’t cost more than $10. He’s freaking out. What if people find out he made something for Jamie? What if people think he enjoyed doing it?

What if he did?

This was just the right level of angsty and cute, and even the brushes with homophobic bullying felt real without overshadowing all the joy in the piece. If you’re looking for a mostly completely upbeat little short about a boy coming to terms with himself, and getting brave enough to stand up for others as well as himself, this is it. That it’s also got a dash of the holiday spirit just added the shining snowflake on top for me.

For the Krampus Lover

I’m not a reader of horror, but I do occasionally read tales from the darker side of prose, and I had a good run this year with books that are more bloodthirsty, or creepy, or unsettling than usual. So, again, as I try to take some time to discuss great books I read this year for other readers (or, as it’s the holidays, for those buying for readers who like books with a dark turn), here are some titles I think it would surprise me not at all to find in Krampus’s sack, alongside some terrified (but deservedly punished) children.


coverI love urban paranormal, and to find an urban paranormal series set in Sydney is just an added bonus. Beginning with The Beast Without, Christian Baines’s Arcadia Trust series delivered a gripping follow-up with The Orchard of Flesh. Reylan is a vampire (sorry, blood-shade) unlike any I’ve read before, and where Beast got a bit grimmer and darker than most urban paranormal I’ve read, Orchard doubled and tripled down. Baines has a gift for twisted psyches, playing the supernatural to expose the human evils at play, and a talent for turns of phrases that leave you shuddering even as you turn the page.

That isn’t to say lovers of Urban Paranormal who also like their books to have a slice of the erotic will be let down, as that’s there too, just through Baines’s lens of the darker side of the psyche. And in this second volume, there’s not just lust and bloodlust, but a protectiveness against something so powerful that even Reylan might not be able to keep those he cares about from coming to harm.

I also started Baines’s Skin, and though I’m not finished it yet, I can already tell you at the half-way point it will fulfill the loves of readers who lurk at the corner of darkness and desire.


coverOhmigosh, this book. First off, Michael Thomas Ford never met a genre he couldn’t nail, and Lily nails the twisted, dark, lesbian, folk-tale-ish retelling vibe completely. That’s a thing, by the way, not just something I made up. Honest.

Lily is a brilliant character who is facing life with a terrible gift: by touch, she sees how someone will die. It’s a gift that seems completely without merit, and it also brings her nothing but anguish from the moment it first manifests at her father’s touch. What follows is a fantastic weaving of Baba Yaga, folklore, carnival sideshows, and a twisted and tangled journey where Lily has to risk it all to find a way to happiness, while she is surrounded by those who would use her, abuse her, or lead her to greater darkness.

You can get this one on audio, which was performed to freaking perfection by Pyper Down and chilling to listen to, or in gorgeously illustrated volumes from Lethe Press. It is so freaking lovely.


coverI can’t resist a good short, and don’t believe anyone should, so this next piece of just-a-shade-darker-than-my-usual-fare from Matthew Bright being a short fiction piece will likely not surprise anyone.

I loved this. The Library of Lost Things is full to the brim with a slightly off-kilter weird fiction vibe that, in the hands of a skilled writer such as Bright, is entirely endearing.

A library of lost works? A librarian with a dark desire for those of zero imagination or expansiveness to sort–without reading–those works? Rats who’ve nibbled enough fiction to learn polysyllabic verbiage? And maybe, just maybe, a little bit of romance of a forbidden sort? Bring it.

Oh, and because even though all of that should be enough, if for some reason you still need more, allow me to point out you can read it for free, at Tor.


coverAnother piece of shorter fare, The Head I listened to as an audiobook via Audible. The audio performer really did a great job of sustaining the off-kilter vibe of the story: A woman finds a head in a garden, and the head starts to speak. She doesn’t call 911, despite her initial freak-out, and what develops between her and the head (who can talk, and drink, and seems otherwise pretty ‘together’ for a head without a body) is a relationship that might just spell doom.

The narrative voice of this short piece has a kind of drip-drip-drip of tension to it. It starts off weird, and almost a little silly at first, and the listener has at least a little amusement when considering the heroine (who isn’t completely socially adept, and is, frankly, falling for a head). But that amusement fades into something that chills, then darkens and then, so gradually it’s almost an unnoticed shock, steps right into a horrifying conclusion. I had no idea which way the tale would turn, and I enjoy that feeling when it doesn’t feel like a cheap trick, and at no point did The Head feel like a cheap trick.


coverA collection of weird and dark and horrific (and sometimes all three), Seventeen Stitches has a worthy place on any weird fiction or horror lover’s shelf. I’ve read enough Sean Eads to know, upon starting his collection, that I was in for a mix of dark and disturbing tales. With Seventeen Stitches, however, Eads often dialed up both beyond my expectations.

As I said, I rarely read horror, and when I do read horror, I shy completely away from zombies as something I know I will never enjoy. Given that many of the stories in Seventeen Stitches are ones I could describe as horror, and more than a few of those are also zombie stories, this collection left me more than a little off-balance, but honestly, the whole had me disturbed in a good way, and like I said, for those of you who like things a bit dark? Eads is there for you.

Waiting. Probably smiling and making little humming noises, too.


coverInsatiable is the first novel-length Derek Maclaine story, and it is so undeniably Jeff Mann that it leaves me struggling for a good term. The dichotomies that Mann handles so deftly: pain and pleasure, dubious consent and erotic release, death and renewal, vengeance and justice… I don’t know anyone else who can write a character so violent, so fueled by anger and vengeance and a passion for defending his own that completely engrosses me. Derek should be terrifying and horrifying in turns, instead, in no small part I think due to the setting and contemporary placement of the villains being so recognizably representative of everything that seeks to ruin both nature as well as certain political slants that have never been friendly to queerfolk, I cheer him on. I want to see him rain death and destruction down on those around him. He’s a vampiric Magneto, and he’s right, and I want him to make the world safer for his kin, and all those he protects, to hell with the body count.

If anything, Derek evokes the Green Man and the Horned God he worships: of nature, yes, but of the merciless tooth and claw sort. And if he also happens to be a leather daddy with more than a passing interest in bondage and BDSM..? Well, in Mann’s capable hands, even the most deadly scenes have a habit of turning erotic, and that’s just another dichotomy to watch him skillfully juggle for the reader. Indeed, there are many kinky, unapologetic odes to leather and hairy bodies and knots and gags that those seeking erotica are bound (no pun intended) to be satisfied on that level alone.

Insatiable is an all-too-rare sort of read for me, and almost especially so at its darkest and most visceral: here, the queers gather and face off against literal demons of capitalism and conservative politics, and together this pack of powerful, merciless queer people prove they are exactly that: powerful, and merciless.


 

Friday Flash Fics – Nice Kitty

So for this week’s Friday Flash Fics picture, our fearless leader Elizabeth Lister chose the image from that awesome meme making the rounds. It’s a joke, of course, that the man posted about finding a lost cat and washing it after feeding it three cans of tuna, but as Elizabeth noted, there’s a handsome wrist there, and c’mon, how could we not try to write something?

My entry once again returns to Matt and Jace from “Bound” in Not Just Another Pretty Face and Triad Blood and Triad Soul, and makes mention of Taryne, a druid you meet briefly in Triad Soul who runs an animal rescue operation.

Flash Friday

Nice Kitty

“Jace?” Matt called. He hung his jacket on the hook by the front door. Just being in Jace’s small home relaxed him.

“In the bathroom,” Jace said. “Come on up.”

Matt smiled. Maybe there was about to be bathtub hijinks? Jace’s tub wasn’t large, but Matt would give it every attempt. He took the stairs two at a time, and pushed open the bathroom door, ready for anything.

Except…

“Don’t freak out,” Jace said.

Jace was shirtless, which Matt liked. But he was shirtless because he was apparently in the middle of washing—

“Lion?” Matt said. He pointed. “Or. Wait. Bobcat?” This wasn’t really his area of expertise. It was a wild cat, though. He lowered his hand when the… feline… looked at his hand in a decidedly grumpy way.

“Hey babe.” Jace poured some more water down the animal’s back, rinsing off some of the suds. He was working one of the big cat’s paws.

“Uh. Hon?” Matt said. “That’s… Why?” He shook his head. “What’s happening?”

“Taryne got a call about this beautiful girl here. I was closer than she was. She’s dealing with a coywolf thing, so I handled it.”

“So… This isn’t… a friend?”

“What? Oh. No. Weres don’t lose mass when we shift. She’s way too small to be a shifter.” He poured more water over the cat’s back. The cat pushed its head against Jace’s palm, and… purred.

Actually purred.

“So, you’re giving a wild animal a bath. Do we have these here? In Ottawa, I mean.”

“No, she’s not local. And someone hurt her.”

“What?” Matt took a step forward.

The cat eyed him warily. He stopped moving, but he could see over where Jace was carefully washing the creature’s fur and there were ugly marks across her left flank.

“I can help. If you think she’d let me?”

“Hey,” Jace said. The animal made eye contact with him. “This one? This one’s a friend.”

A warm rush of something passed between his boyfriend and the wild cat. It was almost out of reach, something not-quite-magical, but other enough for it to register to his own magic.

“I didn’t know weres could do that.” Matt took a step forward. The cat looked at him, then leaned more into Jace’s strokes.

“Some of us are better with beasts than others.”

“Good to know.” He eyed the wounds. “Doesn’t look deep. Can you pour some fresh water over it?”

Jace did, and Matt let his magic loose. Water was his element, and he felt the flow touch fur and skin. He nudged it, speaking quiet, calm words of healing. Healing was more an earth magic than water, strictly speaking, but blood and water went hand in hand. All wizards learned how to do what they could. When it came to doing what could be done with water, Matthew Stirling prided himself on his reputation. Magic and water worked to heal skin and staunch the wound. Infection that had begun to take root was washed away. The animal flinched, then relaxed as Matt drove out potential rot.

Matt reached out, flicking the dirty water out from the tub to the sink with a quick nudge of magic.

A moment later the cat’s head was there, pressed against his hand.

Along his forearm, his ink bloomed from a small triangle into images of a wild cat moving through woods, a man with a crossbow and a dog and a crate, and as the vision played out on his skin, Matt took a deep breath.

“So,” Matt said, once his tattoo had collapsed back into a simple triangle. “How do we feel about men who specifically order and hunt wild cats for sport?”

Jace eyed him. “Strongly. We feel… strongly.”

“You’ll probably want to put on a shirt before we go,” Matt said. “But only if you promise to take it off again once we’re back.”