Sunday Shorts – “More Than Anything,” by Eden S. French

I’m still a little sick today, but after the events of the last couple of weeks in the world of romance, I put myself on a self-imposed deadline of today to start being once again vocal about awesome queer reads.

Luckily? I’d read three awesome queer reads on my recent vacation. The first was Yolanda Wallace’s True Colors. The second was Marshall Thornton’s The Ghost Slept Over (on audio, performed by Jason Frazier). Both were solid, enjoyable reading experiences and made for lovely companions on my trip.

After those two, I sat down with Queerly Loving 2, and it was just sublime. Now, I’m biased to the world of short fiction to begin with, but I sank into these stories, which started with the first one I’m going to talk about today, “More Than Anything.”


Queerly Loving 2, edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz, (ignore the cover image up there, which I realize says “#1”) has eight lovely little short pieces. “More Than Anything” kicks off the collection with a quick one-two punch that I really, really appreciated: it’s a sci-fi dystopia, and the queer is clear and present throughout. This is a story about a world that’s fallen to pieces, gangs rule the decaying city streets, and a tough young woman who can’t help but be a bit larger than life is out there hunting dangers for barter to trade away for her friend’s testosterone. It’s punchy, it’s quick, it’s complete, and it manages to be in turns funny, daring, and compassionate in turn. It’s a world I’d love to revisit, and how often do you say that about a city half in ruin run by gangs of mutants?

I while back I picked the brains of editors to ask how they organized anthologies, and the first story came up quite a bit: it has a lot of work to do, after all. It has to tell the reader so much about all the stories, even when it’s just a single story by itself. “More Than Anything” does that so very well: this collection, the story says, is gonna be awesome, unexpected, and so very, very queer. Buckle in.

I did, and I loved the ride.

Blurb: In part two of Queerly Loving, our authors bring you short stories with characters across the fantastic queer spectrum, with endings that will leave you warm and smiling. Trans love interests, demisexual characters trying to find their way in the world, bisexual characters dealing with a heartbreak in the best way, and lesbians on escapades.

Dragons roar into life, dystopian futures unfold, mermaids enjoy space voyages, and modern-day adventures will curl your toes and make you cheer. There are first kisses, friends that are like kin, and aromantic characters discovering their place among a queer-normative family.

Get ready for your queer adventure.


Sunday Shorts — “Peripheral,” by Jeffrey Ricker

CoverOne of the wonderful things about this lovely internet age in which we live is that I can connect with authors I adore through newsletters and blogs and updates so I don’t miss things.

Except, of course, I then miss things because I’m trying to keep up with newsletters and blogs and updates. It’s a Catch-22.

But that’s one of the things I love about Jeffrey Ricker’s newsletter: it doesn’t drop into my in-box so often that I’m struggling to keep up, it’s concise (hashtag-life-goals), and he often shares wonderful pieces of his writing that I can read while, say, I’m waiting for the freezing to kick in at the dentist because part of my bionic jaw went Sproing! again.

Case in point? “Peripheral.” Subscribers to Jeffrey’s Newsletter (which you can sign up for here) got a lovely e-collection of his short fiction recently. I missed “Peripheral” when it was originally published in UNBUILD walls journal (which you can now click and go read), so happily my e-reader and I sat, waiting for whatever that stuff they inject into my jaw to make it numb to make with the numbing, and I fell into this wonderful character facing his end.

Hobson is a scientist who has sent probes out into the great beyond, and is struggling with getting the connection to work just-so, and at the same time, his own living, breathing connections are also faltering. Added to this? An awful diagnosis.

As is likely obvious from my own writing, I really enjoy stories where characters face uncertain futures (or, more to the point, certain futures where it’s the timeline that’s the only real variable before inevitability) when they’re done a certain way. There can be triumph in a character staring down mortality.

There’s triumph in “Peripheral,” in a fantastic, spec-fic, and lovingly crafted way.

You should go read it.

(And you should go sign up for Jeffrey’s newsletter, too.)


Sunday Shorts — “Stake Sauce” by RoAnna Sylver, a #KrakenFriends2018 title!

Hello! A couple of days ago, I did an interview with RoAnna Sylver, and we talked characters, rep, and inspiration. Today I want to focus a bit more on Stake Sauce (Arc 1: The Secret Ingredient is Love. No, Really).

I read this over the last week leading up to the Kraken Collective anniversary celebration (which includes nineteen fabulous queer spec fic titles on sale, and you should check it out), and it was a freaking blast.

The thing is, RoAnna Sylver has a way of balancing tones with real finesse. Like, on the one hand, we’ve got a former firefighter (like, the hop-out-of-a-helicopter type) who has suffered major loss and is now a mall security guard, and on the other, we’ve got a pink-haired vampire who thinks drinking blood is gross.

No, really.

And really, really centrally? It’s so phenomenally queer. Like, rep all over the place, done so darn well, and building on a foundation of the “Family of Choice” thing that I’m always seeking.

Anyway. Go. Buy. Read. And right now? It’s on sale, so everything’s coming up you.

Those two facets: someone dealing with loss, PTSD, pitch-perfect disability rep and a fun, fresh take on a creature of the night? In RoAnna Sylver’s hands, they blend. This book is alternately fun, dark, twisted, and amusing. It’s one of the most unique urban fantasy books I’ve ever read, and that’s a genre I adore already.

The Cover of Stake Sauce, by RoAnna Sylver, shows a leather bracelet bearing hand reaching out of a box labeled "This Machine Kills Fascists." The box also has a rainbow pride sticker on it, an anarchy symbol, and a little skull and crossbones.

Jude used to leap out of helicopters to rescue/protect people from terrifying infernos. Now, by day, he protects the local mall from rowdy teenagers who ride their skateboards inside. By night, he protects the the parking lot, and the rest of Portland, from undead, bloodsucking creatures of the darkness. Or would if he could find them.

But he’s just about ready to give it up (living with PTSD and pain from the traumatic event that cost him a leg, a friend, and a lot more is hard enough), when something crashes into his life. And his window.

It’s one of these creatures of the darkness – and he’s a lot less scary than expected. More cuddly, with dark fuzzy wings, and neon-bright hair.

His name is Pixie, and he refuses to bite anyone. Assault/murder/draining fluids isn’t punk, even if being a vampire really kind of is. He’s very hungry by now, and the much bigger, meaner, deadlier vamps kick him around on the nightly. Jude would love to find and fight some actual undead bullies. And Pixie could use some help staying… ‘alive.’ Time to make a deal.

Together they fight crime. And maybe even heal.

Of course, life still sucks when you’re a vampire who refuses to suck blood. Fortunately, there’s a really interesting new barbecue restaurant in the mall, with an intriguing new recipe. (We hear that the secret ingredient is… love. No, really.)

Sunday Shorts — “Shoots and Ladders” by Charles Payseur

Something a bit different today for Sunday Shorts, in that I’m here to chat about a story I found online, Charles Payseur’s “Shoots and Ladders.” Click the title right there to go read it. I’ll wait right here.

Now, I bumped into Charles Payseur via twitter (he’s at @ClowderofTwo) and he’s a force for good in the world of short fiction and queer rep both. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know how much I love short fiction, and so finding someone like Charles is a freaking treasure trove for me.

And he’s flipping talented to boot.

bullet-408636_640There’s a lot to love about “Shoots and Ladders,” not the least of which is the casual queerness. I cannot tell you how much I love reading spec fic pieces where a bisexual character just gets to breathe, where there’s a slice of queerness, yes, but the queerness isn’t the tale in and of itself (not knocking those, either, but come on: the damn future can be queer, and I’m sick to death of it not being remotely so).

This tale doubles down with something I freaking adore: alternate realities, done through a personal lens. The narrative voice is brilliant, the iterations we join the character through are painted so clearly (and with such an economy of words) that even while I was reading I was marvelling. I love that feeling.

Finally, the tone. Oh man, handling that level of dark and light, bittersweet, or whatever you want to call the dichotomy at play here between exploration and a brutal (potential?) nihilism, it just freaking sang. Gah.

I’d be furiously jealous, but I was too busy being impressed.

Sunday Shorts – “Overgrowth” by Anita Dolman


Available from Morning Rain Publishing.

I’ve been working my way through Dolman’s Lost Enough story by story, a tale a week or so, for a while now. The collection as a whole has the feel of a dessert wine in that sense (and I mean this in a good way): I want to savour it, one small sip at a time. I’m not finished the collection, and it’s likely I’ll come back to it again before this year’s Sunday Shorts are done, but one story just smacked me in the middle of the forehead so much.

“Overgrowth” is a tale of vengeance, but to be clear it’s not just that by any means. At the story’s open, we meet Jules as she steps from her imagination during a wander to a childhood refuge to the reality: the slowly decaying farmhouse she and her friend played in is not doing well, and this may be a final visit.

Dolman weaves a complexity to Jules’ thoughts and character. She sort of snuck up on me, painted in light touches until suddenly I was looking at a full portrait of well deserved anger and fury, but the shift from those small strokes of her past to the dawning realization of where she is now—and why—both builds steadily and takes the reader completely by surprise. Her motivation to strike out at someone who abused her felt all too realistic, and far too easy to understand.

And the ending? Immensely satisfying. I put down Lost Enough after reading “Overgrowth” with a deep feeling of yes I’ve rarely felt, and a reminder of the power of things like #MeToo.

If only more justice was served in this style.

Written with style and elegance, this collection of short stories and flash fiction takes you on a journey of discovery. Set against the stark realism of the vast Canadian landscape, each piece highlights life’s compelling moments in the most poignant ways.

From broken youth to healing seniors, from love lost to relationships found, the stories explore the complicated and uncomfortable while embracing the incredible diversity found in humankind. This dynamic collection touches on cultural distinctions, the LGBTQ community, immigration, Indigenous peoples, and the marginalized aspects of society, opening our hearts to what’s lost or yet to be found.

Sunday Shorts — “Das Steingeschöpf” by G.V. Anderson

Found in Wilde Stories 2017, “Das Steingeschöpf” has so many balls in the air, juggled effortlessly, that it’s going to be forever bookmarked in my mind for when people ask me “Isn’t short fiction limiting?”

No. No it is not.

Anderson’s story handles an alternate world post-WWI historical setting (as WWII is about ready to explode), a queer main character where their queerness is not the narrative in and of itself, magical realism, gargoyles, world-building, style, and a complete narrative arc all with just sixteen pages.

It’s freaking brilliant.

Now, without spoiling anything from the tale, it’s about a very particular sort of stone restorationist—one who has the ability to work Queckstein, a particular kind of stone that can absorb life and memory and gives birth to living gargoyles. This young man is barely out of his training, and comes face to face with a piece of living art, and an opportunity to work with—and repair—a gargoyle crafted by one of the greats. It may be beyond his skill, however, and he’s already fighting the stigmas of being one of Germany’s hated peoples. But is the chance too great a temptation?

Wilde Stories 2017 has so many wonderful tales in it, I’m sure I’ll revisit the anthology again with my weekly mini-reviews, but in and of itself, “Das Steingesdchöpf,” makes this year’s anthology a must read.

A man named Turing visits a museum to see its rarest automata; during the Plague Years, three artists seeking to express a voice for their friends lost to AIDS unwittingly create life; a far-future restaurant offers patrons questionable cuisine; an immortal assassin may be one step closer to a paranoid king, despite his unspeakable precautions; the very existence of a mysterious and ancient golden android challenges a clergyman’s faith…

Wilde Stories showcases the previous year’s best offerings in gay short fantasy, science-fiction, and horror. This edition includes award-winning and critically acclaimed authors Sam J. Miller, A. Merc Rustad, A.C. Wise, Martin Pousson, and more. The stories in this, the latest volume in this annual series, challenges the definition of life and infamy, existence and reputation, were chosen by Steve Berman, the premier editor of queer speculative fiction for more than a decade. Contains the World Fantasy Award-winning story by G.V. Anderson!

Available from Lethe Press, and wherever quality LGBT fiction is sold.