Writing Wednesday – Flash a Naked Heart

It’s that time of the week again!

I’d hoped to start today’s entry with an update about the NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge, but they’re delaying results fifteen hours. Womp-womp. But I did have the thrilling, not-at-all intimidating realization that if I do make it through to the third round, I’ll have to write my next piece during Naked Heart, which is this weekend.

Womp-womp indeed.

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If you haven’t heard about Naked Heart, it’s an LGBTQ Festival of Words running into its third year this year. I’m looking forward to it, and the schedule was released and posted (it was a bit last-minute to find out what was going on, and some events still have the speakers/readers listed as TBD, but like I said, it’s a young festival).

There are a third less as many panels this year (down from twelve to eight)—replaced by upping the number of workshops (up from nine to thirteen)—but there are always readings to go to as well, and if you’re in Toronto it’s still worth checking out even if you’re a reader rather than a writer. I’m heading down this weekend for as much of it as I can (I’m not speaking or reading) and I’ll have to head out before it’s over (one major downside of events that run late into Sunday is having to leave before the event is over if you’re not a local), but if you’re going to be there, please say hi!

Okay, on to my update-of-progress-in-public-to-keep-myself-honest.


Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks

I’m humming along now. I’m still waffling over the timeline, but I think I’ve finally clicked that it’s okay to skip days if I write a decent transition, and that’s likely the path I’m going to take. This is why we have editors, though. I trust Jerry to say, ‘Woah, ‘Nathan, no.” if I need to hear it. And he’ll be at Naked Heart, so I get to see him soon!

In other words, I’m on track for the end of the month.


Open Calls for Submission

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

On the latter front? Previously this year thus far: January was: 6 submissions (4 reprints, 2 new), 1 acceptance; 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: While I was more or less offline here, I did manage 2 submissions (2 new), and I had 1 acceptance, but all that pretty much happened in October. My goal is to average one a month, and I’m still ahead of that, but only because I started the year off with a bang. Still, it counts. November thus far is zero submissions, but I might have to do one in a hurry this weekend if I make it to the next round of the Flash Fiction Challenge.

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.
  • Apex Magazine—Super-short flash fiction, theme of “Valentine’s Day Invasion.” 250 hard word count limit; deadline November 30th, 2017.
  • Quantum Shift—Annual celebration of quantum-inspired call for flash fiction; 1000 word count limit; deadline December 1st, 2017.
  • 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.
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Writing Wednesday – Prose and Cons (and Echoes)

Hello again! Yes, I’ve been very remiss lately on the blogging front, but in my defence, uh… Actually, I have none. I was working my butt off to hit some deadlines and anything that could go did go, and this was one of them.

That said, the fallout of said working included Can*Con being a blast, getting my first ever short story collection finished on time and delivered to the publisher, and I even managed to submit a few things throughout the time I’ve been offline, too. So, huzzahs all around.

Speaking of Prose, you can now see a particular listing for Of Echoes Born at the Bold Strokes Books website, which, let me be clear, gives me so much joy I cannot tell you. Twelve stories, half of them new, three of them almost novella length, basically, that book is so very full of my favourite things. Check it out. And come June of next year, it can be yours!

Speaking of Cons, Can*Con was great, Naked Heart is next week, and I shall be writing about both when I get back and my final deadline for Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks has passed and I’ve successfully handed it in. There, how’s that for the power of positive thinking? Put that confidence in a bubble and release it to the universe or whatever. Poof.

Now, Writing Wednesdays are supposed to be about me keeping myself honest about my writing and hitting deadlines and submitting things, so here we go…


Of Echoes Born

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So. Pretty.

Done! Well, as done as done can be with a draft handed in to the publisher. Now I await edits, and oh wow did it feel good to do that. I can’t wait for everyone to enjoy Ian, Dawn, Bao, Danya, Michel, André, and all the rest of the characters that wander my noggin and were kind enough to let me let them out onto the page.

And, as I said above, it’s now listed on the Bold Strokes Books website, so if you wanted to pre-order it, you can make that happen right over here, where you can also see the amazing cover done by Inkspiral. You can also see that cover right here because I love it so much it needs to be seen everywhere, all the time.

That guy on the cover is the aforementioned Ian, Ian Simon (or Christian Simon, as he was named at birth), and given the shattering that’s happening all around him, that means he’s currently seeing the future. Or the past.

Did I mention I love that cover?


Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks

I did a thing I’ve never done before, and asked for an extension on a deadline. It’s funny, but I had myself more worked up about this than anyone else, and I gave enough notice that I hoped it would be fine and the result was an amused response from my publisher telling me to take a freaking breath and it would all be fine. So, yeah.

The end result of releasing that stress and pressure is I’ve got about 5k words left to go, some re-organizing of the plotline and smoothing out some of the issues that will cause, and almost no stress.

I cannot stress this enough, but my takeaway here was this: communicate with your publisher, and as early as you can, when things aren’t working right. I know I’m going to make this the best I can now that I have that extra breathing space, and even better? There was no actual delay to anyone’s schedule. Publishers aren’t monsters. Everyone knows everyone is a human being, and holy crap was it worth it not to drive myself mental.


Open Calls for Submission

Okay, so the other thing I do with Writing Wednesdays is keep track of open calls for submission I’m keeping an eye on, as well as track how I’ve done thus far for the year in submitting things for publication myself.

On the latter front? Previously this year thus far: January was: 6 submissions (4 reprints, 2 new), 1 acceptance; 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: While I was more or less offline here, I did manage 2 submissions (2 new), and I had 1 acceptance, but all that pretty much happened in October. My goal is to average one a month, and I’m still ahead of that, but only because I started the year off with a bang. Still, it counts.

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.
  • Apex Magazine—Super-short flash fiction, theme of “Valentine’s Day Invasion.” 250 hard word count limit; deadline November 30th, 2017.
  • Quantum Shift—Annual celebration of quantum-inspired call for flash fiction; 1000 word count limit; deadline December 1st, 2017.
  • 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.

Deaf Writers on Access, Audience, and Achievement.

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Right, so where was I?

Oh! I hadn’t barfed or burped in front of some legends of queer literature, and I’d made it through my reading, and the whole of Naked Heart now stretched before me with zero sense of stage fright, imposter syndrome, or anxiety.

After the reading, I trotted over to Buddies in Bad Times, and settled in to enjoy my first panel of the festival. Deaf Writers on Access, Audience, and Achievement had been calling to me since I first saw it appear on the list, and I couldn’t wait to attend.

Of the four presenters, I’d only really encountered one: Raymond Luczak. Alongside Luczak, for the first time I got to encounter Sage Willow, Maverick Smith, and Carlisle Robinson.

Now, a sidenote before I begin: I used to be somewhat decent at ASL. I qualify that by saying I never quite had proficiency with the actual syntax and structure of ASL, but was capable of communicating with a Deaf young man I used to babysit, and his father, who was hard-of-hearing. I took college courses while I was in high school to make this happen, and worked with the family. Looking back, I probably drove the kid nuts wanting to learn more signs and practice with him when really he just wanted to play with his Transformers, but it was a really solid time in my life in no small part because I’d met the family immediately after moving to another nowhere town, and I knew no one in my own age bracket for months (until high school started).

As soon as the panel began, I realized that those skills—at whatever level they might have been—were pretty much atrophied into non-existence. I could catch maybe one thought in five, and in no time had admitted this to myself and was beyond grateful for the interpreters. Kudos for Naked Heart there, as I can count on one hand the number of literary events I’ve been to that brought interpreters, and I wouldn’t even use my thumb.

The discussion was engrossing, and I loved the intersections at play between the Deaf community and the queer (and especially) trans community that were brought up.

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Crappy photo is crappy. My apologies to the panelists.

Carlisle did an incredible job of describing the active role of engagement those of us can have in the lives of others. It was also Carlisle, I think, who—as a visual artist—mentioned that it’s perfectly valid to keep the ‘in-jokes’ (for example, something funny in Deaf culture that doesn’t ‘translate’ outside). You may want to think of how (or if) you make it accessible, and I liked that—it’s a theme that comes up in writing any culture, and context can be king, but sometimes trusting a reader to figure it out or look it up is fine, and Carlisle mentioned the use of a footnote in one strip, for example. Nothing has to be censored out of a narrative if it’s a part of a culture.

Raymond brought experience and anecdotes about placing ones self in various positions when seeking publication—and also how there’s a hunger for voices you might not even realize exists. He specifically told of people who have contacted him years after a publication to tell him how much the words meant to them, and that was a very moving moment in the panel. Be that from a gay reader or a d/Deaf reader, the result is that presence and experience of encountering someone-like-you in prose, and it’s incredible.

Maverick, closer to the start of a publication career, brought a very gentle reminder of how important it is to find and lift from within, and I really loved that note. Maverick had a real “gentle” vibe going on, and it was quite sweet. I want to seek out some of their work.

And, last but by no means least, Sage made me want to be her best friend immediately—Sage has this incredible charisma and attacks identity from so many different angles her answers to any given question had me rethinking all manner of topics.

I couldn’t possibly give you the whole play-by-play, and this doesn’t go anywhere near enough into how incredible the panel was, but I hope it gives you a slight glimpse of how much value there is in these literary events where we can bring people together who don’t often get time together in any environment, let alone a creative, open,  and queer one.

All this to say, I am so glad I took the opportunity to gain access to voices I don’t often manage to encounter. That can be said of the whole of Naked Heart, but if I had to narrow things down to one panel that I found the most personally rewarding, this was it.

I’ve often flirted with including a hard-of-hearing or Deaf character in stories, and out of real anxiety that I would fail on some obvious level, I’ve held off. After the panel’s answer to that very question—how do they feel about representation from outside the community—I’m actually feeling a lot more confident. Their answers were almost word-for-word what I always say when folk ask me about writing queer characters when they themselves aren’t queer. Read up. Educate yourself. Treat the character as a human being. It sounds basic, though it is work, and above all else, don’t make a character who is there to be that identity only.

That character who has been sitting in the back of my head for so long? He’s not inspiration porn (many reminders not to go there, writers). He’s a human being, not a token. So I’m going forward with the character.

Of course, likely I’ll screw something up. But if I learn, and do better, and follow all the damn advice I give to people who are writing queer characters when they’re not queer? I’ll listen to the feedback, and course-correct.

Yeah, that.

Great panel, and huge thanks to Naked Heart for having accessibility.

Speculative Brunch

As you likely know (and will soon likely be tired of hearing), I was at Naked Heart last weekend, and it was freaking amazing. Part of said freaking amazing was being on a reading in the very first timeslot on the first full day of the festival. So, at 10:30 in the morning on a Saturday, Steven Bereznai, myself, David Demchuk, J.M. Frey, Stephen Graham King, Michael Lyons, and James K. Moran got up to do our thing.

Here’s the thing about readings—you’re always, always sure no one will show up, and then half-way through reading you’ll burp, barf, or have some sort of massive nosebleed. (It could be that’s just me, but I have it on decent authority that at least half the people at this reading were feeling at least the jitters, so let me have this.)

Another thing about doing a reading is you’re often sitting in the first row, and you arrive early (of course, all the better to fret) and stare at a display of books.

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Bless you, Glad Day Bookshop, for this bounty that my Mountain of To-Be-Read books is about to receive…

When the event actually begins, it’s not until you get called upon to stand up and face the audience that you realize…

Oh. Look at that. The chairs are full.

(For the record, that’s an incredible feeling, and far, far more often the reality is ‘Oh! Good! I’m outnumbered by audience! Win!’)

That’s what happened. That it happened at the first slot on the first day, opposite workshops on getting an agent and on writing craft, was stunning.

That Samuel R. Delaney and Felice Picano were there in the audience? Well, let’s just say that the whole burp-barf-nosebleed thing felt like a very real possibility. It didn’t happen, but it sure felt likely.

I read from Triad Blood, the very short opening scene with the three guys at the table. I like how it shows their relationship(s), and it lets me drop in the first geeky Curtis Firefly moment, which—to my great relief—garnered laughter in the way it was supposed to. It was a spec fic reading. One assumed there would be Firefly fans in attendance.

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The traditional, if fuzzy, group selfie shot, courtesy of Michael Lyons.

Steven Bereznai‘s book, I Want Superpowers, sounds awesome (hey, you all know how I feel about superheroes, no?) David Demchuk—who pulled double-duty as host—read a really chilling piece complete with witches dining on the flesh of children. J.M. Frey read from her second book (soon to release!) in The Accidental Turn series, which involves characters who pop in and out of our real world from a book not unlike a George R.R. Martin epic. Stephen Graham King treated us to a sneak-peak from the next Maverick Heart book, Gatecrasher, which follows up the awesome Soul’s Blood. Michael Lyons read from his story in an Egyptian steampunk anthology that blended Lovecraftian horror with steampunk and it was creepy as all get out (watch out for the anthology, Clockwork Cairo). And James K. Moran gave us a scene of despair from his haunting Town and Train.

The audience was friendly, the readings were lively, and the anxiety was done right off the bat. Who could ask for more?

I cannot express thanks enough to Glad Day Bookshop, and everyone who volunteered and organized the Naked Heart Literary Festival. It was amazing. If you’re considering going next year, please let me be a voice telling you you should.

Naked

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I tried to spell out some of my Naked Heart Literary Festival experience over the weekend via Twitter and Facebook, but now it’s Monday morning, I’m back home, and it’s time to collect my thoughts, have a tea, walk the dog, and return to the daily routine of my life. And in many ways, I’m doing so with a completely recharged soul after the festival.

I need to explain that a bit.


My life isn’t very much in a queer space. Or, put another way, the vast majority of my interactions are not with queer people. I am surrounded by people with whom I know I am safe—allies in the greatest sense of the word—but for myself and my husband, often we are the queer folk in the room. Not always, no. But very often. Most of the time.

That? It takes effort.

I joke about being an introvert quite a bit, but the truth is—and I think this is a truth for a lot of queer folk—it’s not so cut and dried. Because this weekend at Naked Heart was another reminder that in a queer art space, I relax. I’m not the me looking over my shoulder before I say the words “my husband and I.” I’m not the me who has to judge between saying, “I write spec fic, mostly,” and “I write queer spec fic.” I’m not the me wondering if I’m going to get the “we haven’t had that talk” comment from a parent of a young kid, and thus be asked if I could gloss over parts of my life until they feel ready to “explain” me to their child.

No, at Naked Heart, I am able to be the real, safe, complete me without wondering, filtering, and considering everything I’m about to say. I’ve talked about this at panels and workshops (especially when I’m the only queer guy in the room) in the sense of “kisses goodbye” and “holding hands” in public with my husband. Yes, we can do both things—and we do—but never without that extra step. Where are we? Who is watching? Is this safe? Sometimes the answers to those questions mean we cannot do something as simple as kiss each other goodbye without a risk we’re not willing to take.

Not having that extra layer over every interaction and discussion? It’s a rare and wonderful feeling. It’s the “naked” of the Naked Heart, I think. We can take off our armour. Pull off the masks. Wear the skirt. Use the words we want to use. Be.

As well, the ability to have living exposure to so many queer voices—including some legends of queer literature—is so very humbling. This weekend I read from my second novel, Triad Blood, and when I got up to the stage and smiled at the audience, I realized Felice Picano and Samuel R. Delaney were sitting right there.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so privileged in my life.

Also, y’know, ready to toss my cookies, because “hurr-hurr, vampires and demons and wizards, oh my!” But I got over it. I’m a genre writer, and I feel zero shame about that, and the reality is these men—among so many others—made it possible for me to be standing there and reading my fun and fluffy stories.

I could walk you through the whole program of Naked Heart, and I could tell you panel by panel what it was like, and that’s normally what I do when I come back from a convention. I will do that, but instead I think I’m going to revisit those discussions over the next week or so, while today I’m just going to leave this:

The single theme I most often try to ensure my voice as a queer author carries is simple: You matter. Every queerling, every queer adult—you are loved, and you matter. The world will tell you otherwise. Hell, whole countries will have votes that tell you otherwise, but it’s untrue. Some queerfolk intersect multiple identities and get blasted from multiple sides with the message they don’t matter. Some queerfolk get it from within the queer community itself. But every time I can remind you, I hope you hear me when I say it.

You are loved. You matter.

Naked Heart was a whole weekend of being loved, and mattering.

Naked Heart – Spec Fic for Brunch, Anyone?

nakedheart_websiteheaderIt’s almost time for Naked Heart, Glad Day Bookshop‘s LGBTQ Literary Event, held in Toronto. If you don’t know about Naked Heart, the short version is the event was created last year to amplify love, language, and freedom in the LGBTQ literary community.

The longer version you can check out at their website, linked above.

The event runs from Friday November 11th through to Sunday November 13th, and on the Saturday morning you can, if you’d like, join myself, David Demchuk, J.M. Frey, James K. Moran, Michael Lyons, Stephen Graham King and Steven Bereznai for a Speculative Brunch at 10:30a.m. There’ll be coffee, and there’ll be spec fic. What better way to start the day?

Do check out the whole program. I went to the initial Naked Heart and it was fantastic, and it only shows signs of being better still this year. And right now is your last shot at the early-bird pass. You can absolutely get in to any single event for $5, $10 or $15.
An all-access Festival Pass is $39 in advance, or $19 in advance for youth and seniors.

Hope to see you there!