Well, today’s the day. Or, I guess, the first day. If you pre-ordered “Felix Navidad” from the Bold Strokes Books webstore, you should find it in your in-box as of this morning! If you pre-ordered elsewhere, it will be available on the 13th of December, because Bold Strokes Books does this awesome “first of the month if you order direct” thing to give you a wee head-start.
Felix doesn’t do impulsive anymore. But attending a friend’s wedding reminds Felix he’s the only one of his friends attending solo, and recent losses have him thinking he’s swung too far in the not-impulsive direction.“Felix Navidad” by ‘Nathan Burgoine; Cover Art by Inkspiral Design
So, impulse decision number one? Cutting in on a dance with handsome farmer Kevin, the ex of one of the grooms, for a spin at the reception. Impulse decision number two? Planning his first holiday vacation off work. Christmas in Hawai’i will be a gift to himself.
When dancing doesn’t work out, Felix keeps high hopes for his vacation right up until the first flight cancellation. After bumping into a stranded Kevin, who lost his flight home, Felix gives impulse a third try: Why not drive to Toronto together? But after ice rain strands them halfway, it looks like Felix isn’t going to get to give himself his gift after all. Instead, this Christmas is a small cabin—and Kevin.
Four Holidays, One Village
I can’t believe I’ve written four holiday novellas. One of them was for April Fools’ Day, sure, but if you’d asked me, years ago, if I’d ever be penning a Christmas-themed romance, I’m pretty sure past ‘Nathan would have laughed in your face. Between my own situation and working Christmas retail for a couple of decades, Christmas and I were not really on speaking terms for quite a while. But I did have traditions—they just didn’t really look like the traditions often seen in Christmas holiday films and books, and eventually, a conversation with Fiona Riley and her wife at the Bold Strokes Books writing retreat nudged me into giving it a shot.
Side-note: Fiona’s amazing holiday themed novella “A Christmas Miracle” just got a solo-release this year at the BSB Webstore, and is also available now in audiobook! Check it out! I loved all three of the novellas originally packaged in All I Want for Christmas, and all three are now available as solo novellas and in audiobook.
The result of that conversation with Fiona and her wife? “Handmade Holidays” happened. “Handmade Holidays” is probably my most personal novella, in that the vast majority of the traditions included in Nick’s life throughout the fifteen years the story spans are lifted right from my own life. I bought a tree and forgot ornaments. I had a friend give me my first ornament. I started collecting ornaments on a yearly basis. Our chosen family Christmas included an ornament swap. And so on and so on… I wanted to write a story that showed a queer Christmas like the ones I celebrated. And after “Handmade Holidays,” I hadn’t really thought I’d step back into holiday romance at all, really.
“Faux Ho Ho,” on the other hand, happened partly because my husky had blown my tendons to bits (still love him, but oh that dog), which meant smaller projects were more likely to reach a conclusion, and partly because I’d never written a “fauxmance.” I love fauxmance, or the fake dating trope, and I’d thought of an idea where I wanted to explore another facet of being queer during the holidays: the partially accepting family. Silas’s sister is great. The rest of his family? Not so much. And that’s a familiar experience for a lot of queer folk. Tossing in an over-the-top fake dating trope and a family wedding made the whole thing all the more high-stakes, and I had a blast breaking as much of the “advice” I’d seen floating around about writing romance, most notably “don’t include any politics,” which is laughable when you’re writing queer romance because of the whole “queer people are political by virtue of existing” thing.
Then a throw-away line about an April Fools’ Day prank in “Faux Ho Ho” wouldn’t let go, and “Village Fool” turned out to be doable for a March release (in time to be in hand for April Fools’ Day itself) and I got to tell what I think is probably my highest-cringe, largest dose of second-hand-embarrassment story ever. And the trope of “doesn’t realize they’re writing to the person they have a crush on” is a minefield of cringe and embarrassment. Owen spending the morning accidentally texting his smooth and sexy thoughts about his crush to his crush was both a delight and excruciating to write—I couldn’t help imagining myself in his boots and oh gods no!—and that time I also got to touch some of the realities of being a queer dude who isn’t jacked, some body issue thoughts, and what it’s like to have to go to the gym in a way that was very uncomfortable, and the absolute joy—sorry, that was supposed to read torture—of physiotherapy. If I was going to have to spend months and months trying to make my arm work again, it was at least going in a story, damnit.
And there they are in a row. Didn’t Inkspiral Design do an amazing freaking job?
So. that brings us back to “Felix Navidad.” As you likely picked up from the blurb above, for Felix I got to play with a time-honoured trope of holiday romance: forced proximity. Felix ends up stuck in a cabin with Kevin instead of going on his Christmas vacation, and of course that turns out to be something wonderful. There’s also the added dash of “this guy is the ex of a friend,” and “there’s only one bed” (but there’s a couch). That latter trope I did something I ended up very nervous about, and I hope it lands well with readers. I’ll have to wait for time to tell on that front. From the queer point of view, “Felix Navidad” was in many ways my ode to those who came before, via the character of Danya, an older gay man who Felix is taking care of in his role as a nurse practitioner. When I first came out, the queer community—especially the bears and the drag queens—were the reason I made it at all, and I can’t overstate the importance of movements like The Village Legacy Project. Danya talks a lot about community, organizing, and taking care of each other in “Felix Navidad” and those words are from my heart, especially these days, where so many are so willing (and able) to erase us.
Now, if you’ve been around my blog or social media feeds for any length of time, you know I love to listen to audiobooks, and especially during the winter months, while walking the husky—yes, even though he blew my arm to pieces I still love him and walk him and feed him treats—and holiday audiobooks are a particular favourite. I have so many comfort listens (and re-listens) that I could go through all of December, four Husky walks a day, and still not run out of books to listen to, and I add to the list every year.
If you have a holiday audiobook list, I have great news. I was already incredibly freaking blessed to have Giancarlo Herrera perform the audiobook version of “Handmade Holidays”—I can no longer think of those characters without hearing his performance as “their” voices—and this year he came back and did a freaking phenomenal version of “Faux Ho Ho”! You can find “Handmade Holidays” at pretty much every option for Audiobook sales, while “Faux Ho Ho” is available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.
I wish I could offer every single book I have in audio format, but I am beyond chuffed these two holiday romances are both out there for your listening pleasure.
And there you have it. Three Christmases and one April Fools’ Day later, and the gang who meet up at Bittersweets to chat over coffee and also get together to play board games and D&D have all met their special someone, and this journey that started as a chat in a pool at a writing retreat turned into four novellas. If you’d like more time in the Village, my collection of spectulative short fiction Of Echoes Born is also available from Bold Strokes Books, which includes more than one short story set in the Village, and one novellette, “A Little Village Magic,” with multiple people you’ve seen in “Handmade Holidays” and elsewhere, as is A Little Village Blend, a romance novella which takes place at NiceTeas and has a dash of magic—and a husky!
But for now, it’s probably time to tell my brain “good job!” and move on from holidays, right?
You know, I’ve always really liked Hallowe’en…