Friday Flash Fics — Sand & Shore

Today’s Friday Flash Fics shot made me think of “Time & Tide.” That story is set in my fictional town of Fuca, British Columbia, where some of the families have a connection to various elements, and it first appeared in The Touch of the Sea. So I thought revisiting the fellows a little while after the events in the story was in order.

Flash FridayHe’s staring out at the ocean again.

I know I shouldn’t worry, but it’s hard not to. I mean, given what happened with his mother, and who he is, I guess worrying isn’t completely out of the question, but he swore the ocean hasn’t called to him since he decided to stay in Fuca, and I believe him.

So, it’s not that I’m worried the ocean will take him. Really.

It’s more that I don’t know what the ocean is saying to him now.

It’s easy to put a smile in place, though, and it’s not even false. Because he’s here. He’s staying here.

With me.

“Hey you,” I said.

Dylan turns, and a ghost of something passes over his face for just a second. I know he’s been crying, but I don’t think he’s upset or sad.

Even though we’re close to the water, I reach out and take his hand.

As usual, the sea reacts. The next wave splashes up high at us, even though it crests gently everywhere else along the beach. Dylan laughs, and that’s when I feel it, too.

It’s changed.

That splash—the ocean—it felt different.

Not painful, not willful, not even pleading.

The next wave comes in, and Dylan wraps his arm around me before I can pull away. I throw my own arm around his neck.

When the ocean touches our feet it sprays up at us, a jet of water.

Playfully.

That’s it. That’s the difference.

“That’s new,” I say.

“I think we’ve come to an understanding,” Dylan says. He kisses my forehead.

The next wave barely splashes at all. In fact, it almost feels like a loving squeeze around my ankles. Closer to what I feel from rivers, which speak to me the same way the ocean speaks to Dylan.

It’s… loving.

“I like this understanding,” I say.

“Yeah.” Dylan squeezes me, too. “So. My agent thinks the sundial piece is worth recreating, in multiple towns.”

“Of course she does.” I try not to be too harsh about her. She’s kind of a force of nature, and Dylan’s successes are in some ways owed to her. “But if it means travel, I hope you told her it would have to wait.”

“I did. But it doesn’t. I can work from here. Also, there’s a little gallery all the way in Ottawa that she knows. Features queer artists, she said. I could work some pieces for them, too.” He grins down at me. “Apparently? She was nervous I’d get all settled and content and never sculpt again.”

“Someone needs to tell her artists don’t have to be tortured.”

“I don’t know. You’re still trying to get me to cut down on coffee.”

“It’s not in the hundred-mile diet.”

“See? Torture.”

We stand in silence for a little while. The ocean strokes our feet.

“I’m just kidding about the coffee.” I bump my shoulder against his. “You know that, right?”

“I know.” He smiles.

“Want some?”

“God yes.”

We head back to our new home.

Behind us, the ocean says something to him that I can’t quite hear. Ahead, though, I can feel the river as it leads to the strait, like little shivers of happy laughter.

It feels like that a lot these days.

 

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Interview with ‘Nathan Burgoine

Yesterday, an interview with Corey Alexander went up on Corey’s Book Blog. It was a brilliant experience, and in case you missed it, here’s the link…

Corey's Book Corner

I am excited to have ‘Nathan Burgoine here today talking about his upcoming m/m romance release, Saving the Date which is out this Friday! This story, which he co-wrote with Angela S. Stone, centers a gay trauma survivor who wants to give himself a new memory, a positive memory, to associate with the anniversary of his queer bashing. It’s a short meet-cute erotic romance with a matchmaking theme, and it centers a one night stand.

NathanBurgoineA Bit About ‘Nathan

‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. Since then, he has had dozens of short stories published. He has also released two gay romance novellas, In Memoriam, and Handmade Holidays. ’Nathan’s first novel, Light, was a finalist for a…

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Writing Wednesday — Submit!

Last month I struggled with submitting my goal of “one thing a month” but I pulled it off at the last moment. This month, I’ve still not sent anything off yet, but there’s a week left. Also? I got a rejection, so, y’know. The writer’s life.

That said, this month I’ve been working on line edits for Saving the Date (and then the release thereof), front/back matter for Of Echoes Born, so… y’know, still writing!

Also, I’m heading to Hawai’i soon, so basically that’s giving me life.

I’m kind of hoping to write on the flight there, and some of the time I’m there. Last year, I ended up with quite the word count by the end of the vacation, and a whole short story.

Also! The 9th Annual Bold Strokes U.K. Book Festival has been announced (click the link for more details) and I’ll be there! Check it out, especially those of you in the U.K.

BSB UK Retreat


Triad Magic

I got some major mental work accomplished on Triad Magic over the last couple weeks, and while that didn’t translate into a major word count, I feel better about the problem I was having (organizing the plot and the order of events was giving me a struggle).


Faux-Ho-Ho

Did I mention I was working on all sorts of stuff for Saving the Date and Of Echoes Born? Because that.


Other Short Stuff

Like I said? I got me a rejection. Woo.

So that makes the yearly total to be: January: 1 submission (a reprint); February: 1 rejection.


Open Calls for Submission

I also try to list off calls for submission I find (and find tempting) every week on Writing Wednesdays, so without further ado:

  • 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.
  • Multipartner Anthology—ERWA/Excessia; Multi-partner erotica; 4,000 to 10k word count limit; deadline March 1st, 2018.
  • War on Christmas—ChiZine; Deranged and demented stories and poems that snap back against holiday schmaltz; 500 to 5,000 words; Deadline March 4th, 2018.
  • What’s Your Sign?—JMS; Looking for queer astrological-based romances; 12k words or more; Deadline March 31st, 2018.
  • Tru-Romance: Love in the Age of PrEP—Beautiful Dreamer Press; stories involving the impact the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis regimen has on the standard model of romance fiction; 4,000 to 7,000 word count limit; deadline April 15th, 2018.
  • Lost—NineStar Press. LGBTQIA+ romantic pairing. Both HEA and HFN are acceptable, Click “Lost” header for the theme. 30k to 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.
  • Artefacts and Alchemy—Edge Books; Tesseracts 22 is doing a historical magical realism theme; 5k word count limit; deadline May 15th, 2018.

Saving the Date — Scars

Cover

Now available for pre-order.

I had a fantastic conversation with someone today that got me thinking about scars, and specifically the role of scars in Saving the Date.

When I made the choice to write Morgan as a character with violence-inflicted scars, I made the choice to also write him as someone who doesn’t have a positive relationship with them.

Why? Because my scars aren’t beautiful.

They don’t make me stronger. They’re not a map of a victory in my life, or a trophy I proudly carry. They’re twists of knitted flesh put there by violence.

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had the following conversations:

“I really can’t see it.” This is the one on my chin, under the beard I always wear, revealed on the very rare occasions I shave. And while I’m glad it’s faint enough that some people can’t see it at a glance, believe me, I know where to look. If I’ve shaved and look into a mirror, it might as well be neon green.

“If people stare, let them stare. It’s their issue, not yours.” That’s…untrue. So, no. I’ll keep my shirt on, if it’s all the same to you.

“You should show people you’re not angry/upset/ashamed/whatever by your scars.” Why, exactly, is this my job? Also, you’re assuming I’m not angry/upset/ashamed/whatever. On any given day, I might be.

“They’re a part of you, and therefore special/awesome/wonderful/magical/some-other-positive-adjective.” I’m curious: would you say that about a tumour? I mean, that would be a part of me, right?

Now, before I come across too bitter or mean—too late?—I’m not a fool. I do understand these sentiments are coming from a good place. They’re meant lovingly. Our society as a whole is pretty darn critical of bodily “flaws” and scars are no exception. People who fight negative associations with scars are generally trying to reinforce how flawless=beauty=good not a good message. I completely agree with fighting the flawless=beauty=good message. But telling someone they’re wrong about how they feel about their own scars starts to feel off. Anthems about how you should love your scars, or how they’re amazing/awesome/beautiful? If I don’t feel that way, are they saying I’m wrong?

It can feel like it.

Scars also get put into terrible categorizations of whether or not they’re shameful, or tragic, or brave, or—my personal frustration—“inspiring” depending on how they were made.

Don’t even start with me with that inspiring nonsense.

So how do I feel about my scars? How did I write Morgan to feel about his scars?

Conflicted, for the most part. Or, on the best days, as close to a neutral détente as possible. I feel almost entirely the opposite about my scars as I do about my tattoos, and that’s as good an analogy as I can often offer someone: my tattoos are there because I chose to put them there, they are willfully induced memorials. When I see my tattoos, I see choice and remember choice.

My scars are the opposite. And my queerness is conflated with my scars.

Now, I can hide most of them. That little irony is not lost on me, as a queer guy. There are some—my knuckles/hands, the back of my neck—that I can’t cover, but people rarely comment on those: lots of people have scars on their hands. I sport a beard, so my chin is covered. And it’s not like having your jaw reconstructed leaves outward signs, other than having a way, way better smile and straighter (fake) teeth than I ever had before.

But my queerness is also the why.

I don’t love my scars. I don’t believe I ever will. What I have managed is that neutral détente, and it was hard won. They were put there by hate, and are an enduring, life-long reminder of that hate. I get why other people want me to think of them as a victory, or a badge of honour, or a trophy of survival, and I suppose in some literal sense they could be those things, but they’re just as much a reminder of what happened. And what happened was awful, not my choice, and certainly not worth it in some nebulous “made me stronger” philosophical way.

(And don’t dare take this opportunity to say “Everything happens for a reason.” I wrote a whole novella about that particular phrase.)

Other people will—and do—disagree with me. That’s fine. They’re not wrong about their scars.

I’m not wrong about mine.

Morgan is fictional, and as a queer man writing a queer character, I’m always nervous of accidentally putting forth some idea as “speaking for all” when I’m not. That nervous feeling doubled down with Morgan. Morgan is actively seeking out a one-night stand, through a matchmaking service, on the anniversary of his bashing. He’s trying to rob the calendar date of some of its power. He is seeking out being touched despite knowing it will be difficult. Some survivors do this.

Some don’t.

Both approaches are valid.

I did a lot with Morgan very consciously. He makes the first move in the story, precisely because he wants a good memory to associate with the date. He makes mistakes in the story, going a bit too fast and not communicating well at the beginning. He struggles with touch, even though he wants touch. He has a very mild shutdown, and works his way back out of it in no small part thanks to being with someone who can recognize the signs and talk to him. He relaxes partly because it’s a one-night stand service, clients are vetted, and the stakes and risks are low. He gets in over his head emotionally for the same reason. He makes assumptions about how the man he’s with feels about the scars. And throughout it all, he’s very aware that even a successful night won’t mean some sort of miraculous healing event has happened and never again will he be bothered by self-doubt or self-image.

But my goal with Morgan—the success of which I will have to leave up to the readers—was to show a happy ending coming to someone not in spite of how they feel about their scars, nor because of how they feel about their scars.

It just happens to someone with scars.

 

Monday Flash Fics — Temporal

Today’s Monday Flash Fics photo struck me as a wee bit historical (the hairstyle, the glasses, a stack of DVDs and video games and books and the watch and a man reading a physical newspaper), so I decided I’d found my Joey Brown. If you want to see him as a younger man, meeting someone very strange, he first appeared in another flash fic piece, Argot Status Green.

Flash Monday

Temporal

Joe closed the newspaper with a sigh. Bad news, worse news, and…

Stop it. Stop thinking like that.

He checked his watch. The day was running away from him, but he’d earned the sloth. He was home late last night after the clinic. His volunteer hours had turned out to be more like a volunteer day.

And night.

Making positive into a positive.

He rubbed his eyes. Maybe another cup of coffee.

He leaned back on the stool, considering, and one of his sandals fell off his foot.

“If I believed in omens,” he said. “I’d be waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Someone knocked on his door.

Joe frowned, then shook his head. If it had been someone from outside the building, they’d have called to be buzzed in, so it probably meant it was Delilah from across the way. At least he didn’t need to find clothes. Delilah was the butchiest dyke he’d ever met—and he’d met many—and wouldn’t so much as blink if he wandered around naked. He was wearing underwear and sandals. It would be fine.

Well, underwear and one sandal.

Another round of knocking drew him from his half-reverie.

“Sorry,” he said, and put down his paper. He crossed his kitchen to the door to the apartment and undid the locks.

When he threw open the door, he froze.

It was him.

“Joey Brown,” the man said.

Joe croaked something, swallowed, and tried again. “You.”

The smile was completely disarming.

“May I enter, Joey Brown?”

Joe took an involuntary step back. He sounded the same. He looked the same. Like, identical. Okay, maybe he had new clothes—he still had that hat, though—and he looked a whole lot less like…whatever he’d looked like, but… It was him. The beard. The eyes.

“Ahn,” Joe said.

Ahn smiled. “Hello.”

Joe closed the door. “I didn’t… I wasn’t sure…” He shook his head. What happened to complete sentences? He used to know how to do those. “You’re back.”

“Nine point six years,” Ahn said.

“Right,” Joe said. “You did say that.” It hit him he was standing in front of Ahn in his underwear and one sandal. “Uh. Let me put some clothes on.”

“Okay.” Ahn was looking around the room.

“Be right back,” Joe said. He went into the small bedroom and grabbed some sweatpants and a sweatshirt. He put the single sandal back on, too. He ran his hand through his hair a few times, eyeing his reflection.

Ahn looked exactly the same. Like, exactly. Who kept the same hairstyle for ten—sorry, nine point six—years?

When he came back out into the room, Ahn was standing by his computer, and he had his hand on top of the monitor.

“How did you get into the building?” Joe asked, then winced when Ahn looked at him with a mild widening of his eyes. “Sorry. I don’t mind. It’s just, there’s a buzzer…”

“Ah, I did that wrong.”

“You look exactly the same,” Joe blurted.

Ahn regarded him for a long moment. It looked like he was deciding something.

“Ahn?” Joe said.

“I am,” Ahn said.

“Pardon?”

“I am. Exactly the same.”

Joe frowned, and climbed back onto his stool. “You’ve lost me.”

“I did not. I sought you out. I need help.”

“You have a very strange way of speaking, you know that?”

“I do. I am learning, but I will improve.” Ahn let go of his computer. “You are well?”

“I am.” Joe frowned. “And you knew that already, didn’t you? How did you know that?”

Ahn eyed the books on his bookshelf. “Many of these are scienctific fiction, yes?”

Joe nodded. “Yes.”

“Temporal?”

“Temp…” It took him a second. “You mean time travel?”

“I mean time travel.” Ahn nodded. And he smiled again. “I am glad you are well.”

“Ahn, what exactly does that have to do with anything?”

“Joey Brown,” Ahn said. “I need your help. With something temporal.”

Joe’s other sandal slipped from his foot.

 

 

Saving the Date — Excerpt

Hey all! As this is the week leading up to Saving the Date‘s release, I thought I’d take today to give you a teaser of Morgan, and where he’s at before the story begins. One of the things I wanted to accomplish with Saving the Date was to show how Morgan, as a survivor of violence, was working with a therapist (and had a supportive friend network) and has been doing so for years. One of the things I find frustrating in fiction is the “magic fix” of a relationship. The reality is often quite the opposite, so I wanted to at least have it on-page that Morgan has been working for three years.

Cover

Available to pre-order now!

“I was thinking about the whole Christmas for Misfit Toys party thing my friends do.”

“Christmas for Misfit Toys?” Theresa raised one eyebrow. “Do we need to have the don’t-refer-to-yourself negatively discussion again?”

“It’s  tongue-in-cheek, I promise. It’s the party we take turns throwing for us queerlings who haven’t got a family holiday to welcome us. Have I never called it that before? That’s what we named it. It’s evolved into a pretty big party. And it occurred to me I’m ready for that.”

“You’d like to have a party? On the fifteenth?” Theresa’s tone had softened, which gave him confidence.

“Yes,” Morgan said. “Well, no.” He shook his head. “Not a party. But…I want to go out. I want to do something else. I don’t know. Basically?” He leaned forward, knowing he wouldn’t shock Dr. Macedo. “I’m ready for a date. Preferably a sexy date.”

Theresa tapped her chin. They’d discussed all manner of personal details in the last three years. Morgan’s body image after acquiring scars noticeable enough to garner comment. The conflicted emotions around sex and attraction, given the kind of man Morgan found attractive, conflated with the image of  the man who’d beaten him.

“So, you’re organizing a date?” she said.

Morgan shook his head. “No. I guess I figured I’d hit a bar. Dance. I’m not going to drink.” He held up a hand, forestalling that particular objection before she could make it. “But I want an organic opportunity to meet someone, and maybe—if it goes well—take them home.” He shrugged. “Then, next year, when the day rolls around, maybe I could remember the date instead of the bashing. Or at least as well as. What I want out of this is a stronger memory.”

Theresa leaned back in her chair. She tapped her lips with one finger She smiled.

Morgan felt a tension he’d been trying hard not to show release from deep within his chest. His shoulders relaxed, and he found himself smiling back at her.

“I’m proud of you,” she said.

Morgan wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but those words weren’t it. His eyes filled, and he had to swallow, hard. “You are?”

“Morgan, you’ve worked your butt off. First your physical recovery, and then even harder through your emotional recovery. It’s safe to say I’ve never met anyone as willing as you to face your demons and do what you had to do. I’m pleased to see you taking this step. You’ve got a healthy awareness of your own limitations, and I happen to agree. This could be a decent way to rob the anniversary of some power.”

Morgan grinned.

“However….”

His grin evaporated.

She held out her hand. “No, hear me out. I’m not disagreeing.”

“Sorry,” he said.

Her smile returned. She leaned back and opened the top drawer of her desk. “I’m not sure a random potential hook-up is the way to go.”

“Okay.”  Was it weird to hear the sixty-year-old woman say “hook-up”? Yes. But more to the point, if a bar night wouldn’t cut it, then what? He didn’t want to use an app. Too many  built-in assumptions about where the night would lead. He wanted the opportunity to bail.

Just in case.

“As you know,” Theresa said, “I do a lot of work with sexual assault survivors, and I’m also involved with sexual advocacy work for persons with disabilities.”

Morgan nodded. It had been one of the reasons he’d been referred to her. He’d never had a surfeit of positive body image, always felt too skinny, and the less said about being a freckled ginger, the better. Toss in scars, physical therapy, and the reality of having the crap beaten out of him and being left to bleed in the snow by a guy who’d inspired the thought, “Wow, he’s hot,” prior to the attack?

Well. Sex had become a minefield.

But Dr. Macedo had walked him out of it, with only one or two explosions along the way.

From the drawer, she pulled out a small, elegant business card, tapping it once on the top of the desk before offering it to him. Morgan took the card and read it.

“Madame Evangeline?” He raised his eyebrows. “Madame? As in…?”

“It’s a matchmaking service,” Theresa said. “But if you’re asking for a memorable night, trust me when I say you’d be far better served this way. It’s better than leaving things to chance, no?”

Morgan looked at the card. “There’s no phone number.”

“It’s a referral service. Word of mouth.” She smiled again.

“So you’ve…?” Morgan wasn’t sure where to go with his question.

“Madame Eve is how I met my husband,” she said.

“Wow. Okay. Not trying to get married, though,” he said. “Like you said, I know where I’m at right now. I’m figuring out how to be good in my own skin.”

“I think you’re not giving yourself enough credit. Again.” She nodded. “But yes, it’s a date. And with Madame Eve at the helm? Definite potential for a sexy date.”

He nodded, glancing down at the card.

“Okay.” He felt a thrill in his stomach. “Yes.”

Theresa smiled. “I’ll connect you. There’s a bit of a questionnaire.”

“Is there a checkbox for ‘Please no violent bigots’?” he said.

“I promise you, that’s not something you’ll need to worry about.”

Morgan held the card, heart thudding.

Thing was? He believed her.