Friday Flash Fiction – The Next When

The wonderful Elizabeth Lister‘s Friday Flash Fics challenge continues. Today’s picture suited perfectly for a moment that takes place in Ian’s life shortly after the events of one of the stories in my upcoming collection of short fiction, Of Echoes Born, so I decided to flesh it out a bit for the challenge. I have a feeling you’ll see more of the characters from that collection as these challenges continue.


Flash Friday 3

Ian woke early. Three hours ahead as far as time zones were concerned, he had all the joy of watching the sunrise and none of the grogginess. As far as first days on vacation went, it didn’t completely suck. He had a whole week on his own ahead of him.

He eyed the other side of the bed. Empty.

Okay, he had the whole of forever on his own ahead of him.

That hadn’t been the plan. But this morning? He didn’t mind.

That Ian had a lot to look forward to at the end of the week didn’t hurt. Friends. Big decisions. Huge ones.

The kettle whistled. He made a pot of tea, grabbed a hoodie, and settled on the deck of the cabin, waiting. The pale light in the distance gave way over two cups of tea, living up to the website’s promises. The strait blazed with reds, oranges, golds and, eventually, yellows.

He smiled to himself, thinking of colours, and pushed.

There wasn’t much here, but his gaze caught on the edge of the deck, near the steps, and the world fractured where he looked.

A couple appeared. Much later in the day, and unless he was mistaken, a warmer time of year. He couldn’t quite pinpoint the when, but the two were in their seventies or so, holding hands as they stepped down, the man pausing at each step for the woman to catch up.

Ian rose, holding on to the sight. He followed them down gravel path, and then along the road itself. They were in no hurry. Twice the man pointed at something. The woman would look, often smiling at him after, nodding, and touching his arm.

A bird? A flower?

Ian smiled, content to never know.

They held hands again, walking on.

Ian followed, sliding his hands into his hoodie pocket, feeling the rising sun start to nibble some of the chill from the air. A light rain began to fall—not touching the older couple—and Ian pulled up his hood.

It was getting easier. He shouldn’t be surprised, of course. Not that long ago, it had been second nature to look the way he could look. The colours had never gone, the auras around people, those he couldn’t shut out, but this other thing, this way to see into another when

He’d closed that door.

The couple paused again. Ian almost glanced where the man pointed, but there’d be nothing there. Not in the now.

He’d come a long way down the road with them. A sign ahead noted a curve.

Ian stood still, watching the couple once they started walking again, and only letting go of the vision once they slipped around the bend, a little piece of a sunny when.

The fractures in the air mended.

Even he couldn’t see around corners.

It made him smile.

Ian turned, and started back for the cabin. Breakfast. And then…

Then whatever happened after would happen.

 

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Friday Flash Fiction — Morning After, After Mourning

The wonderful Elizabeth Lister‘s Friday Flash Fiction challenges continue. I missed last week, but I’m back for the third, with this lovely piece of inspiration, below. These involve characters you’ll meet in my upcoming collection of short fiction, Of Echoes Born, from Bold Strokes Books. I went a bit over word count this week, but come on. Look at that guy.


Flash Friday 3

“I have tea.” Michel held up two cups.

Clive barely moved his head, cracking a small embarrassed smile. “You’re a saint.”

Michel put one on the bedside table, turning to go.

“Wait,” Clive said.

Michel stopped.

“Thank you.”

“It’s just tea,” Michel said.

Clive shook his head. He stretched in the bed, and Michel worked hard to keep his eyes on Clive’s face. Shirtless, with the covers so low Michel was afraid to find out what else Clive shucked overnight, the bartender had an actual six-pack. The tattoo Michel had only glipsed fully revealed itself, crossing Clive’s left arm and shoulder, and some of his chest.

Michel felt tiny.

“Not for the tea.” Clive’s grin was somewhere between sleepy and amused. “For stuff I’m only vaguely remembering from last night.”

“Ah.” Michel’s face burned.

Clive shifted—eye contact, eye contact! He picked up the paper cup, taking a generous swallow.

“From NiceTeas?”

“One of Ivan’s ‘recovery’ blends.” Michel nodded.

“I’m okay,” Clive said. “No hangover.”

“That’s so unfair,” Clive said. “I had a headache like you wouldn’t believe, and I only had three drinks.”

“Did I throw my shirt at you?”

“Uh. Not… I mean, yeah, but…” The question tripped up Michel’s tongue. “Yes. It was raining after the wake…” He sipped. Maybe ‘recovery’ worked on brains.

“So you took me home to have your way with me?” With Clive’s hair tousled like that, the smile, and his beard, he was pretty much the sexiest guy ever, and…

Wait. What?

“No!” Michel said. “Of course not. You were a bit…”

“I was a lot.”

“Okay, yes. A lot drunk. My place was close. I couldn’t use my umbrella and help you walk—you’re heavy—and…”

“Breathe, Michel.”

Michel breathed. “Sorry.”

Clive looked around. “I don’t remember you joining me.”

“I slept on the couch.”

Clive’s eyebrow rose. “I fell all over you, you carried me home, I threw my clothes at you—”

“Because they were wet and I have a dryer.”

“—and you gave me your bed?”

Michel nodded.

“And now you get me tea. How’d you know I liked tea?”

“You said you only drank tea when Danya offered coffee after the wake.”

Clive lifted himself into a seated position. Muscles played along his chest and stomach. Michel stared into Clive’s eyes with nothing but prayer and willpower.

“I don’t normally get drunk.”

“You said that, too.” Michel couldn’t help but smile.

“Are you teasing? Is this you teasing?”

“Little bit.” Michel blushed. “It’s okay. You and Hans were close.”

“Like a second father. Or first, honestly, given what mine was like.” Clive took a deep breath. Michel tried not to watch what that did to his chest, and failed.

“Hans was an amazing man. If not for him, I’d never have opened the gallery.”

“Really?” Clive said. “Wait. We talked about that last night.”

Michel nodded, sipping.

“And you called me a hottie?”

Michel choked. He recovered after a moment, and put his cup down. “So, I don’t normally drink, either…”

Clive patted the empty space beside him. “C’mere. It’s Sunday; it’s raining. Relax. Drink tea. Tell me your Hans stories. And maybe a few more confessions. Sober ones.”

Michel stared for two long seconds before he stripped off his shirt, and threw it.

Clive caught it with a grin.

 

Romancing the Capital – August 3rd-5th – Where I’ll Be!


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Hey everyone! I’m off today to Romancing the Capital. If you’re also coming to the awesome romance conference here in Ottawa, here’s where I’ll be over the next three days:


Thursday, August 3rd, 2017 (today!)

  • 4:00 pm – Indie, Publisher, and Hybrid – What’s the Best Choice? – Kanata B Room – A discussion with Milly Taiden, Deb Cooke, Elle Rush and myself, about the options of publishing and the different paths to get
    your book out there.
  • 7:00 pm – Discover a New Author – Kanata A Room – I’m taking part in a multi-author reading, where I’ll be reading from In Memoriam.

Friday, August 4th, 2017

  • 10:00 am – Heroes that Growl…and Bite! – Kanata A Room – Milly Taiden, Eliza Gayle, Heather Long, and myself chat about the heroes who have teeth, or fur, or both.
  • 11:00 am – Exploring LGBTQ Romance – Kanata C Room – Elizabeth Lister, Angela S. Stone, Kristine Cayne, Sheri Lyn and I will chat about rainbow romance.
  • 1:00 pm – Blurbs Against Humanity – Algonquin Room – Bring some laughter, a cheeky sense of humour, and a willingness to win a prize or two, and come play with romance book blurbs from participating authors of RtC, and get one author’s chocolate into another author’s peanut butter. Elizabeth Lister is helping me MC my little game.

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

 

  • 2:00 pm – The Bookfair! This is open to the public. You can meet all the authors, even if you didn’t register for the event, and walk on in to get your books signed. I’ll be at the table with the big rainbow flag.

Sunday Shorts – “The Loft,” by Elizabeth Lister

coverSunday Shorts has kind of fallen by the wayside a bit this year—mea culpa—but I’m going to play some catch-up. I’ve been reading short fiction and novellas with a full on clip this year, but the reviewing part?

Well, as I said: mea culpa.

I try to be the guy who owns up when I fall behind (and having a public blog to hold myself accountable to said goals is one of the ways I do manage to say on track). Between the horrendously endless grey-white of winter and my own mood, I went south, dove into reading, and haven’t been writing much at all, let alone reviews.

So, to be clear: I fell behind, this has nothing to do with the quality of the books I’ve been reading, and I totally need to own my mistake in falling behind.

And speaking of having the guts to take ownership of a mistake, let’s revisit the guys from Elizabeth Lister’s James Lucas trilogy


Revisiting the trio from the James Lucas Trilogy was like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes (okay, maybe more like a comfortable leather harness), I slipped right into this novella.

When a former acquaintance of James’ becomes involved with a shady character and James’ efforts to help him backfire, Tate decides it is up to him to save the day even if it means putting himself in danger.

So Tate makes a couple of mistakes in this short novella, and from there the whole narrative spins forward. One: he allows himself a moment of jealousy when he sees a former client of James’ Loft days speaking with James with an obviously close confidence. That threatens Tate in a way his already polyamorous relationship doesn’t, and it’s from there the stage is set for his ever-increasing well-meaning but bad choices.

When Tate learns James’ old friend is in a troubling and potentially dangerous relationship, he dives into the situation without a lot of forethought, and of course ends up in danger himself.

What Lister does with these three characters is magic on a couple of levels. On the one hand, Lister does her research. Be it consent, contracts, kink of any kind (and there are some rarely seen kinks in this piece—sounding, anyone?), I have never found even a shred of fault in the depiction, which always walks the perfect example of “safe and sane.”

Two, the intersection of these three characters with very different points of view balances the queer mentality really, really well. These men live and breathe and exist in very different circles (I love that Lister writes a character who is involved in the church as well as a character who wants nothing to do with religion), have different ages and life experiences, and have formed a unit that’s strong without making the parts feel weaker alone.


 

In between making school lunches, driving her children to activities and snuggling in front of the TV with her handsome husband, Elizabeth writes very graphic erotica about gay men in love.

Her three full-length novels comprising The James Lucas Trilogy – Beyond the Edge, The Cross and the Trinity, and A Numinous Light – are available to purchase in print and ebook. This series follows the lives of three men drawn together by a mutual enjoyment of BDSM play and an undeniable attraction to each other. Beyond the Edge received an Honorable Mention in the Pauline Réage Novel Award category of the NLA-International Awards, which recognize excellence in writing and publishing about Leather, SM, bondage and fetishes.

Elizabeth is currently working on a series of erotic short stories called The Loft Series featuring the characters from The James Lucas Trilogy. These stories will fill in some details about the year following the events in The Cross and the Trinity, when Tate, Sebastian and James figure out how to live successfully as a cohabiting and committed poly-amorous unit, and let the reader be a fly-on-the-wall for more of their sexual journey together in James’ infamous loft playroom.

Elizabeth has also published two novellas, Exposure and The Crush, available in ebook format only.  She has also written two very sexy short stories, Apartment 1209 and The Beach House, available to read for FREE.

Romance in the Big O

RTCbanner02_300dpiIt’s been a couple of days since Romancing the Capital ended, and I’ve gotten my voice back (finally!) so I thought I’d sit down and try to give you an idea of what it was like (if you weren’t there) and why I can’t wait to go back, assuming Eve Langlais is willing to put herself under the stress of being the sole conductor for the insane train again.

Before anything else? She needs to be called out for the incredible job she did in organizing and setting everything up. In my past life as a bookseller, I spent twenty years going to various book events, and I have to say that for readers, Romancing the Capital is so reader-focused—not to mention overflowing with prizes, swag, and fun—that I’m not surprised it sells out so quickly. When you’re dealing with hundreds of people (all of whom have the wide and varied reading tastes that romance encompasses) making everyone happy and energized should be impossible, but everyone was jazzed and moving and laughing throughout.

I adore romance.

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Spot the queer guy’s bag.

I didn’t manage to make the “bonus” Thursday events for those who’d gotten into town early (His Fluffy Lordship requires me home for evenings), so for me, everything began Friday. First thing on the schedule was our LGBTQ romance panel. Kristine Cayne, Elizabeth Lister, Kayleigh Malcolm, Angela Stone, and myself chatted about the areas of LGBTQ romance that we love (and maybe some things we don’t love so much, such as ‘Gay-for-You’ and a few other clichés, misinformation, and unintentionally erasing stuff), how we started writing it, then notion of “own voices,” the joy of menage stories where—as Kayleigh put it—”the swords cross,” and so much more. There was a lot of laughter, which is huge and always one of my main goals, and to say we have five chronically under-caffeinated authors at the opening panel, I daresay it went well. The author chemistry was awesome (like sitting down with people and thinking, ‘Oh, hi, you’re my new best friends!’), which is always a bonus, and none of us were high-structure people, so basically we ran it by the seat of our pants, and it was far more Q&A-focused than lecture in style.

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You need to hear Angela Stone speak. Need.

After that, I went to hear Angela Stone give her Q&A session on “The Science of Sex” and it was freaking fantastic. She’s a brilliant speaker, comes from a position of passion and knowledge (she’s a nurse) and has exposure to and has worked with youth, adults, people with disabilities, LGBTQ folk… Basically, the breadth of knowledge on display was titanic, and her approachability and humour meant no one was too afraid to ask a question. I learned quite a bit, as did everyone around me, and if you asked a question, you won a sex toy, which was just icing on the cake. She was sort of like Sex Oprah. “You get a sex toy! And you get a sex toy! And you get a sex toy! Everyone gets a sex toy!”

After that, I got to listen to Opal Carew, Anne Lange, Sasha White, and Zoe York talk to the room about erotica at their panel, “Erotica to Make You Sweat.” These ladies sure knew how to talk smut, and I have to say I was really impressed a the range of discourse, heat level, formatting, indie/trad range the authors discussed, as well as their own personal paths from where they began.

RTC - Erotica Panel

These ladies know their erotica.

It’s not often you get to hear that much experience in one place, and I know I came away more the richer. Also, last year, I didn’t get to hear Opal speak once—we were directly opposed to each other at every panel/time-slot we were involved with—so it felt like putting things right. Opal was one of my hand-selling go-tos for so long, it was lovely to have more than a moment to say “hi” in passing.

A break for lunch (where I got to catch up with Elizabeth Lister, since even though we live in the same city, we suck at socializing and not being introverts), and then I dove back into the mix with renewed energy and a full tummy, heading into space for “Space, the New Romantic Frontier” with Viola Grace, Susan Hayes, Eve Langlais, S.E. Smith, and Jessica E. Subject. Oh. My Gosh. My nerd and geek mind was having so much fun with this, and even solely from a point of view of exploring “how much science to mix with how much romance” it was fascinating. To hear some of the experiences of the authors with their brushes with the Science Fiction communities and conventions was also illuminating (as well as depressing and definitely reminded me of the same conversations I have when I mention I write gay speculative fiction—oh, sorry, no, we prefer real science fiction.) These ladies rocked it out of the park, and I want a purple alien, a cyborg, and maybe an abduction would be nice. (Also, I want Susan Hayes’s hair.)

RTC - SF Panel

Science Fiction is Sexy, Damnit!

Then I made a mistake that turned out to be a lot of fun. I know a lot about book covers from the point of view of being a bookseller and knowing what can work from a bookshelf, but not so much from the point of view of an indie author—which I’m thinking of becoming for some short novellas. So I went to Cora Seton‘s “Crafting Covers with Cora” thinking it was about cover design but…

Turns out it was actually crafting covers. Like, physically. So I used a glue stick (I am not good at glue stick) and grabbed a few things from the word pile and some magazine cut-outs and a pair of scissors (also not good at scissors) and… TA-DA!

RTC - Cover Craft

This was my romance cover. About a cowboy who has just suffered profound hearing loss, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hear someone say “I love you.” Or something.

After that I hung out in the corridor and then outside with some authors and readers I wanted to touch base with—I should point out there were still people I missed during this weekend, that’s just how full the darn days are—and headed home to his Fluffy Lordship while everyone got ready for their Cowboy themed dinner.

On Saturday I was once again bright and early guy, hosting a chat on LGBTQ Characters. My goal was to get readers (and authors) thinking about what inclusivity means and how to do it and what it might take to do it well, and I have to say the whole hour flew by and everyone was fantastic. I was stunned at the turnout—I had twice the people as the year before, so I couldn’t quite do my “draw the chairs into a circle” so much as a big banana and the conversations never stopped.

We started by drawing out a pretty basic idea for a typical romance with a lady and a fellow, and I have to say it was a blast brainstorming this part with everyone. For the record, the group came up with this:

  • Heroine: a CEO of a large PR firm.
  • Hero: a younger man, a hockey player from a legacy hockey family, who is a part of the firm and has a reputation (which the PR firm is working on) for being a bit of a player and a party animal.
  • They meet, sparks fly, but of course his family isn’t cool with her (especially the age difference and the fact she can kind of hold part of his public persona over his head), she has to worry about the other people in her company and her reputation.
  • They meet, spark, give into temptation before they learn who each other is, then put everything on hold once they realize what’s at stake, until, of course, they realize how much they mean to each other and the fight for every inch they can get to be seen as the couple they wish to be.

First off, I love the room gave her more power and made her older. Just sayin’.

RTC - Nathan Teaching

I talk with my hands. A lot.

So, then we took that story, and made the romance a gay one. Two men. The insights flew fast and furious about all the things that were different, even if the core narrative remained the same.

  • This would be the first openly gay NHL player, if it happened.
  • Are his parents aware? (I loved that the group decided they were, and although they were supportive, they thought it best he get settled into a career with a team before he came out, as the father would know full well how hard a road ahead his kid would have).
  • The PR Firm heroine (now a hero) didn’t need a lot of tweaking. Likely he didn’t suffer sexism on the rise up to the top, but he would have had some homophobia to deal with, but all in all, a PR firm seemed like a fairly safe environment—though, likely he’s not super-out to the sports teams and sports contacts he has.
  • Their spark and meet and one-night-stand would play much the same, as would their realization of who each other is.
  • If the hockey player was bi, rather than gay, there’s the extra pressure to choose a life that would cause less ripples (and find a girlfriend)—this also led to the dangers of the “Gay for You” tropes and “Bisexuals are Sluts” tropes. Also, I went off on a tangent about how the B in LGBTQ is not silent. Bisexuality exists and needs to be spoken of.
  • Whereas the CEO as a woman might have had a kind of cachet as a “Cougar” and the young hockey player being seen as rather studly in the original story, when you put an older gay man with a younger gay man, likely the press (and the public) are more likely to paint a more “predator” tone about their relationship.
RTC - Nathan and Kadian

Kadian and Me. Love this lady.

And so on and so on. By the end of that exercise, I think I’d achieved what I’d set out to accomplish, which was to point out it’s not just a matter of deciding a character is gay and otherwise everything else doesn’t change, but that a character being queer in any way means there’s potentially a lot of different thoughts to have in the confines of a narrative, even if most of it doesn’t necessarily see the light of day on the page. There was some solid discussions of race and intersectionality, too, and that was flipping awesome (Hat tip to Kadian Tracey for some brilliant insight here).

From there, we basically just did Q&A and it was fantastic, with a lot of people sharing some great real-world examples, and really supporting the notion of “own voices” as the best kind of research for those wanting to include queer folk. Hopefully, we busted some clichés and made the room a bit more confident in approaching their writing with a queer lens. And, as always, I’m totally open to questions and follow-through for anyone who’d like to chat.

After that ended, I dashed over to the other end of the hall and sat down for some Author Speed Dating, which was hosted by Kali Willows and Kacey Hammell.

I have no idea how to describe this beyond organized chaos. It reminded me of being at the height of Christmas Retail, where you’re lucky to have more than two minutes with a customer before you have to help the next person, only you get to sit down. Basically, in the space of two hours, I spoke to sixty readers, all of whom moved one seat along the loop every time Kayleigh Malcolm’s husband Chris yelled “next!” (That man is a joy, by the way.)

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Speed Dating, Author Style!

So it was something like a mix between an elevator pitch and an author chat, and I had the time of my life even as my voice vanished. By the time it was done, I was hoarse. The readers were amazing, super open-minded, and quite a few offered to take a chance on some gay romance after our chat, so I owe Kali and Kacey a huge hug. It’s rare an author has an opportunity to meet with sixty new readers, I’ll tell you.

From there, I had a silent lunch (no voice!) and two cups of hot tea with honey (voice slightly returning!) and then it was time to set up for the Bookfair. The Bookfair was open to the public, and oh my God! When the doors opened, the place filled up immediately and it was more organized chaos. Both myself and my table-mate Elizabeth Lister sold down to a few copies before it was over (So! Awesome!) and it was fantastic. I handed out bookmarks and magnets aplenty, and people were, once again, super-nice. One of my former co-workers brought me cupcakes, so I nearly cried on the spot. It was amazing, and I signed so many books.

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Seriously, it was packed.

After that, even though I’d have to miss the 80’s Night dinner to follow, I had to head back home for His Fluffy Lordship once again, and to be honest, given the state of my voice (nearly nonexistent!), I really, really wanted another cup of tea. Most people were deep in discussion with others (though I did get to have a quick chat with Opal Carew, who was as awesome as ever) and as such I didn’t quite manage a proper goodbye to most, but that meant I didn’t blubber like an idiot, so there’s a positive side.

Eve’s already talking about next year, too.

Me? I can’t wait.

RTC - Nathan Elizabeth and Kayliegh

My author spot was right between Elizabeth Lister and Kayleigh Malcolm. I have all the luck.

 

 

Today! Romancing the Capital – Friday May 6th

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Romancing the Capital‘s first full day is today! I’ll be there all day (I have to go home during the dinners, alas, to take care of Our Fluffy Lordship), and if you’re out and about, please do say hello.

Specifically, today, I’ll also be on a panel:

The Many Shades of LGBT Romance

Today, a panel at 9:00am. Join myself, Elizabeth Lister, Angela Stone, Kayleigh Malcolm, and Kristine Cayne as we chat a bit about the rainbow and romance.  If it’s anything like last year, we’ll discuss penis fencing and likely laugh our butts off. Hope to see you there!

Bookfair reminder!

Also, tomorrow, Saturday May 7th, for those of you who didn’t register for the conference proper, a reminder that the book-fair is open to the public from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. So by all means, please drop on by and check out the authors and see all the romance…