Monday, April 30, 2012

Dreamspinner Birthday Bash!

Dreamspinner Press turns five this month, and with it comes a huge, month-long celebration that includes sales, giveaways, prizes, and more!

Over the course of the month, all our our titles will be discounted according to how long the author has been with us.

May 1-5, we will offer a 40% discount off all books (including in-stock paperbacks) by authors who signed with us during our first year of business: Rhianne Aile, Eric Arvin (ME!!), Connie BaileyAlix Bekins, Nicki Bennett, Giselle Ellis, Catt Ford, Shay Kincaid, Marguerite LabbeClare London, Dar Mavison, Anais Morten, Chrissy Munder, D.g. ParkerAbi RouxJohn Simpson, Fae Sutherland, Ariel Tachna, Madeleine Urban.

So if there's still something missing in you catalogue: get it starting from midnight EST!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The List

1. Ron Howard is set to direct an adaptation of My Stroke of Insight. Jill Bolte Taylor's fascinating and uplifting account of her stroke and recovery from her perspective as a neurologist. Jodie Foster has been named as being interested in the role. If you haven't seen her TED speech, I highly recommend it. Extremely powerful and moving.

2. Woke Up in a Strange Place won the Best Speculative Fiction award at the TLA Gaybies last week. Woot! Thank you, everyone who voted! To quote Ruth Gordon, I can't tell ya how encouraging a thing like this is.

3. Galley Proof has gone into the process of being translated into Italian. With Simple Men soon to come out in Spanish, I'm sure to find me a hot sexy European boyfriend in no time! Spicey!

4. American Horror Story announced that season 2 will be set at a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. While this is a bit predictable, I'll still be watching. I'm sure it will surprise me in other ways. Word is, it's a-gonna be kiiiinky.

5. I helped judge cutie-pie Tj Klune's Bad Poetry contest in promotion of his new book, Who We Are. You can hear the top three - er, bottom three? - at Tj's site HERE.

6. I don't care much for the B or Apartment C, but James Van Der Beek is great. Give him a spin-off.

7. My short story She's Come Undone - about a harassed mother of a special needs child - is getting wonderful reviews, especially from mothers. It's now available on iBookstore.

8. Review line of the Week: From Fangtasia on Goodreads regarding Woke Up in a Strange Place: ..."a necessary read for anyone entertaining existential questions." Awesome.

Friday, April 27, 2012

On Shelf

It's always so cool to see one of my books on an actual book shelf in a store. Thanks fellow writer and friend (and Lammy Award nominee) Jim Provenzano for spotting this!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

11 Writerly Things About Me

- I've decided to no longer rate books on Goodreads. I'll still have a page there, I just don't like the idea that I'm ripping some other poor writer's guts out with a star. What happens if I meet Anne Rice one day and she sees my two stars for Memnoch the Devil? How could I possibly ever look her in the eyes?

- I don't write romantic fiction. I know I'm published - and proudly - beneath the Dreamspinner banner, but let's be honest. My attempt at writing romance can be summed up with one book, Simple Men. Romance is hard, y'all!

- I will not be angry with you if you don't like something I write. Some of my best friends don't like everything I write. I have a thick skin.

- I make soundtracks to the books I write to keep me inspired and "in theme" as I write. The Jasper Lane books are fun soundtracks to make.

- For about five years I wrote standing up, with my laptop situated on my chest of drawers. Now I have a very comfy chair. And a desk.

- I think my novella "Honeysuckle Sycamore" from the anthology Slight Details & Random Events would make a great animated film.

- I am always terrified and overwhelmed when I start a new manuscript. I am certain I will never be able to finish.

- I base many of my characters looks on the physical traits of various famous people, like Glenn Close ("Cassie Bloom" from Jasper Lane), adult film star Caesar ("Cliff" from Jasper Lane), Emmylou Harris, Rachel Roberts, Pete Yorn ("Baker" from Woke Up in a Strange Place) and Eleanor Bron. Nanna from Jasper Lane is based on a French teacher I had in college.

- I am having issues placing a current manuscript, some publishers saying it's too gay, others saying it isn't gay enough.

- I cannot write without an outline. Especially for the type of story I am currently working on: nine main characters and numerous plot threads.

- Remember that gay comedy adventure/spy book I was going to write? I don't think it's gonna happen. I can't get into it right now. Maybe later.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

EXCERPT: Christ Walks in Blessed Springs

 Sometimes a photograph inspires a writer...

“Christ Walks in Blessed Springs”
Eric Arvin

Blessed Springs, KY – Yesterday afternoon the calm of a spring day was shattered by events most likely never before seen. The 50- foot statue of Jesus Christ that blessed Blessed Springs from Blessed Hill was reportedly struck by a freak bolt of lightning and came to life, after which it headed to the community below with large, indiscriminant steps.
The statue, its arms spread wide in acceptance, was erected in the early 1980s, a gift from the Blessed School of Performing Religious Arts. “Christ walks among us,” the Reverend Beedy was heard to quite prophetically proclaim during the statue’s dedication.
Bets Hardy, 60, an eyewitness to the lightning strike and the confusion that then ensued, watched in wonder from her trailer below the hill.
“It was the darndest thing I ever saw!” she said. “The sky just clouded over real sudden like, and then a bolt just hit Jesus right on the noggin. My mother-in-law, Emma Jane, said it was like the hand of God done slapped Christ on the forehead. Well, I don’t know northing about that, but I can say that when I got up this morning I sure as the Dickens wasn’t expecting the Second Coming! And, you know, I’m not one to question how the Lord chooses to reappear, but he sure didn’t look how I was expecting he might. He was so tall and big!”
According to Mrs. Hardy and other eyewitnesses, the statue of Jesus then rumbled down the sloping hill, casting quite a shadow as he came, and destroying a prized campground reserved for a band of Boy Scouts.
“You should have seen the folk scatter,” explained Burl Hadley, 45, who watched the townsfolk from his pick-up at the stoplight. “Big, burly lumberjacks screaming like little girls, and little girls…screaming like little girls, too. But I guess that’s their right. Anyway, it was a hoot! And you know the funny thing? Jesus didn’t trip once as he’s a-coming down that hill. That’s no easy feat, my friend, let me tell you! I’ve been up there drinking plenty of times with my hunting buddies, and we fell on our asses plenty.”
Reportedly, as Jesus made his way into town, the more pious members of Blessed Springs Baptist Church could be seen bowing in prayer and worship to their lord. At one point, it was noted that Main Street became so congested by the worshippers that those caught in their vehicles had to jump out of them and head for the sidewalk for fear of being stepped on by the Christ. “G-d d-mmit!” a man was heard to cry as his new Festiva was demolished. “I meant that literally!”
A truant group of high schoolers seemed less impressed by the spectacle than most. “It was cool,” sophomore Lucas Goiter, 17, unenthusiastically stated. “But the effects were kind of weak. I definitely think Spielberg could have done it better.”
“Or that guy who did ‘Independence Day’,” another of the group, Buddy Friendly, 18, offered. The group agreed with this assessment wholeheartedly.
Still, the more pious of those watching put themselves dangerously in harm’s way as they prostrated themselves in the Christ’s path. They offered prayers and thanks and began to sing hymns until the unthinkable at last happened. The first to be squashed was the church social chair, Rebecca Vancour, 54, as she hit a particularly high note in her hymn.
When asked what Mrs. Vancour’s messy demise at the feet of Jesus meant, the Reverend Beedy replied, “Clearly, she didn’t have the faith that is required of us as Christians. Our Lord has no tolerance for doubt. That’s why the church is here.”
Another witness to Rebecca Vancour’s unexpected and sudden death who asked not to be named became an atheist on the spot. “Jesus is supposed to raise the dead,” she exclaimed, “not raze the dead!”
When it was clear that the Christ would not be deterred by anyone or anything, most of the townsfolk stood to the side and let him pass, many noting that he was a particularly wobbly lord. One man, a town disorderly named Pete Blue (originally from Michigan), who had long been known to have suicidal tendencies and depression, threw himself onto the pavement directly in front of the approaching savior, but was stepped right over without the occurrence of any more bloodshed.
The police arrived on the scene soon after Pete Blue’s third attempt at suicide-by-holy-road-kill and put a stop to it, much to the intoxicated man’s dismay. Chief Harland Parkins, a 5 year veteran of the force, was on the phone with Mayor Huey Hinkle, vacationing south of the border in Tennessee, as they tried to find a solution to the Christ crises.
“Well,” Parkins said. “We were just going to try and trip him or something. You know, maybe do a car pile-up like they do in those monster truck shows. I saw a real big one last time I was in Louisville. That might have worked real good. Being as big and, you know, stone as he is, it’d probably be real hard for him to stand up again. But then old Reverend Beedy said he had a problem with that.”
“You can’t put a hit on Jesus!” the Reverend Beedy exclaimed.  “He gave his life so that you might live.”
“What? And now he wants it back?” the Chief countered.
In the end, the Chief and Mayor Hinkle decided it was best that they not put the Christ down. “It might piss off the evangelicals,” Parkins admitted. “But then, what doesn’t?”
On Plainview Street, at the Hawsome-Dawson Apartment complex, a large gathering of revelers watched from their patios and decks, drinking beer and grilling out as the Christ passed them by. When asked if they were celebrating the Second Coming, Robert Lawrence, a twenty-something in the pharmaceutical business, said, “No, man. We’re just watching the dude take a stroll. I don’t blame him for wanting to get out of this town. Dude’s been on that hill forever. Way to go, big guy! The cool thing is, he doesn’t give a crap about all these folk trying to stop him or praying at his feet. I mean, look at his face: he’s stoic. Hasn’t said a word.”
It was a group of concerned farmers who finally managed to stop the marauding messiah. The townsfolk still followed Him, pious or powerless.
“Something had to be done,” stated Virgil Gunnerson from the jail cell where he and his fellow farmers are being held. “The government wasn’t going to do anything. With all due respect to Mr. Beedy, I’ll worry about Heaven later; I’ve got corn to grow and children to feed. Jesus was heading straight for my blessed fields.”
The group of six is being held for their own safety, according to Chief Parkins. They’ve received death threats from the angry Christian mob.
“I’ve always been a fan of Jesus,” Virgil continued. “But this time he went too far! We did what was necessary. We took the dynamite Roger Corley had been saving in his shed to get rid of those critters that were dogging his fields, and we blew Jesus back to Heaven. That’s all we did.”
“It was probably for the best,” Bets Hardy stated at the scene. “You know it wouldn’t have been an easy life here on earth as a big stone idol. I mean, look what happened the first time around. Hasn’t he been through enough?”
When the smoke cleared from the blast, Jesus-parts lay strewn about Roger Corley’s field. Reverend Beedy says they’ll most likely be preserved as holy relics. He just needs to find a place to keep them since the Christ plowed through the middle of the church. He’s also interested in the Corley farm as a place for pilgrimage. “Whenever Christ dies, there we’ll be,” he stated.
Parkins says it’s unlikely charges will be filed against the Sacrilegious Six, as the farmers are now being called by the outraged band of Christians. “We’ve got our hands full,” said the chief. “Bringing those fellas up on charges is the last thing on our agenda. Besides, we can’t find any of the paperwork that might require. Jesus’ left foot destroyed the office building as he made that awkward turn down Plainview Street.”
The question on everyone’s mind now is, Will Blessed Springs ever recover?
“Of course we will!” town councilwoman Vicki Hubbard, 38, said. “We’re like Lazarus. Remember? He was the young fella that died and was then touched by the Lord and rose. I always wondered how exactly the Lord touched him. But that’s just between me and you.”
The town council has assured everyone that reconstruction will begin immediately, and they would appreciate any free help they could get. Already there have been many people volunteer to help in the repairs of the bank and the elementary school, but the Blessed Springs Baptist Church is having a tougher time, especially with the brand new statue of Mother Mary just behind the alter.
There’s also talk and speculation from neighboring communities of what to do with their own statuary to avoid a similar devastation. The mayor of Trembly City, just 20 miles from Blessed Springs, is recommending to his town council that they take down the musket-carrying statue of Davy Crocket, “just in case.”

from The Blessed Springs Gazette, May 10, 2008.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Oversaturation: or, Bored with Sexy Men?!

There comes a time in every man's life when he must ask himself: Do I need a parental block on my computer? I'm looking at porn way too much. I'm looking at it even when I'm not in the mood for it. It's kind of like my laptop is my perpetually-boned husband who always wants me to touch him and I relent even when I have a headache.

Lately I've been bored by sex. I feel over saturated by it. I get like this every couple of months. I'm kind of bored with pretty men. There are so many of them - at least online. Being stunning in this culture is not a novelty. Thanks to all our advances in health and cosmetics (surgery), if drop dead gorgeousness was a real condition it would be a plague. We'd have pretty people dropping like flies. Gravestones would read: "Too pretty to live."

I'm not saying I don't enjoy seeing pretty men. Just wander around my blog other blog, Daventry Blue, and you'll see how much I've enjoyed them in the past. Even at my most hum-drum they still inspire a slight lift of the eyebrow - that is, if they're not in a flock, i.e. Tumblr. The Tumblr sites fling such beauty at me so quickly that my eyes glaze over, at least until a photo with something new to offer - a strange pose, prop, or perspective - flits before my eyes. A pretty face or a rocking bod striking the same old pose just doesn't get me going anymore.

And then there's the matter of psyche, of what all that objectification does to my own self-confidence. These models, most of them (if there be a god), are air-brushed and prettified to all hell, and we all know this. Yet still, my gut sinks to my balls when I see some astonishingly handsome well-crafted Hercules with an ass that could hide a star system and a chest that could feed a village. I realize I will never look like that. Then I shake my head and remind myself, HE probably doesn't look like that. If he does he's most likely very lonely because everyone around him is too intimidated to approach him. The poor gorgeous brute.

I discovered a while ago, like everyone else, that my mind is the best tool for erotica. The images on the interweb screen, no matter how jaw-dropping or bizarre, will never measure up to my twisted and fascinating little deviant brain. I can take an image or a face and use it as a muse for a story or a fantasy, but the appeal soon flags and I move on to something new. Some newfound blog with a new angle of lovely men. But my fascination there will pass as well until at last I'm left yawning and sexless...well, not sexless. I mean, I will still have my penis. It just will not be interested in the pretty men on my computer screen.

...but that will pass soon enough.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Have a Gaybie!

Woot! My book Woke Up in a Strange Place won a Gaybie for Best Speculative Fiction! Congrats also to Charlie DavidElliott MackleJerry L. Wheeler,Michael J. Breyette, and Rob Byrnes for winning their categories. Full list of winners here:

I'm so excited I could just spit! Thanks to everyone who voted for me.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

EXCERPT: Subsurdity

Melinda Louise Gold stood upright and proud on the side of the driveway, peering out over the perfectly manicured lawn. Not one blade of grass was longer than another, not a sneaky dandelion was in sight. In front of her she saw order and structure.

“Perfect,” she sighed with a smile.

She had to admit, Frank could cut a good lawn. There wasn’t much else to be said for him, but she hadn’t married him for his personal qualities, had she? That was more to do with Nanna than anything, and -
Mustn’t dwell on that, she chided herself.

His lawn-cutting abilities were admired by all the neighbors. He was meticulous, cutting in perfect lines, and trimming the rose bushes just so, the hedges clean. Unfortunately, Frank hadn’t passed on the trait to their son Patrick. As a result, Melinda absolutely never allowed Patrick to get on the mower. The last time she had asked him to mow the lawn, it was cut so close that it was balded in spots. Her eyes still filled with tears of rage when she thought about it. But that would not happen again. No sir-ee Bob! The only thing that concerned her about the lawn now was how to keep Ruth Goins’ dog from relieving himself on the perfect grass. She discussed this with Ruth­­­­­­­­­­-the old woman hadn’t even had the decency to put in her teeth as they spoke­­­­­­­-but Ruth said that Gayhound had taken a liking to Melinda’s lawn. She’d made it clear to Melinda that she would be darned if she would keep him from his bliss.

His bliss? Why, the very idea of dogs feeling bliss! They peed on fire hydrants and licked themselves. And what was with that name? Gayhound? As if an animal could be gay. Preposterous! Gay penguins and dogs, it was all an agenda. Her own mother had assured her of this, and she would know. Nanna was a member of Focus on the Family, after all.

Thankfully, the country was being led by a righteous man now. He was good with God, possibly even chosen. Melinda had to admit that it was strange he had been struck by a bolt of lightning in the White House Rose Garden. And it was stranger still that it happened on live TV as he was giving a national address on the evils of gay marriage. But add to all that the fact that it happened on a seemingly sunny day, and Melinda was convinced that it was surely a sign. The president had survived. She had convinced herself, as had Nanna, that the bolt was nothing more than God’s index finger giving an overzealous love tap.

She fussed at her shiny blonde hair (that was not mussed) and straightened out the wrinkles from her elegant grey pant suit (that was not wrinkled), satisfied once again by the perfect facade her house presented to the neighborhood. “Look at me!” it shouted every morning.

As she turned to go back into the coolness of her air-conditioned, two-story house with wrap-around porch and a patio out back, she caught a glimpse again of the new arrival on Jasper Lane. Her hand involuntarily went to her chest as if she might calm her heart by the touch.

She had heard from Cassie Bloom that his name was James...James Something-or-other. Melinda welcomed new neighbors. Why shouldn’t she? One shouldn’t judge people before meeting them. She knew that; the Bible told her so. But this man, this James, he ran around Jasper Lane half-naked, with no shirt and only a small pair of green shorts! It hardly hid his...male parts!

He was a big man, too. Strong, with large muscles that twitched and flexed as he ran. Why, it was repulsive! Immoral even! A man of such an age-surely in his late twenties-running about in the middle of the day with his chest bouncing and his nip-. Melinda couldn’t even think that word! Nipples. She gasped in the realization that she had even thought the word. She had even spelled it in her mind, letter by letter, as she watched the young man approaching with bouncing, sweaty...

No! Melinda, stop!

What should she do? She couldn’t turn and walk away. Surely he had seen her by now. No. She would make her stand and let her feelings be known. It was her neighborhood as well. In fact, it was more hers than his. She had lived in the same house for ten years, for mercy’s sake!

She would put her foot down and tell him to jog wearing something more decent. Maybe he could wear a sweat shirt or a baggy t-shirt that wouldn’t show off his...nipples.

Oh, that word!

As he approached, Melinda smiled pleasantly to show him she was only ever concerned with the welfare of those around her. There were children on this street. Weren’t there? She was sure there were children somewhere. She raised her hand slightly, fingers wiggling with red nails.

“Mrs. Gold,” the young man nodded between heavy breaths. He passed her by quickly and without incident, his feet striking the pavement hard and determined.

“Wait,” she spoke, too low and too late. Her smile faded to a defeated frown.

Next time. Definitely tomorrow, she said to herself as she watched the muscular man’s sweaty back and shoulders push through the humid air. Her hand returned to her chest. She suddenly felt very strange, almost faint. Her heart beat as if it would burst from her rib cage and follow young James Something-or-other of its own accord.

“My heavens!” she declared quietly, trying to banish that nuisance of feeling from her core.

As she watched James run farther down the street to the corner of the tree-lined avenue, a small, ugly blue vehicle rounded the turn. It swerved to the other side of the road as if James were an elephant and the driver was making gosh-golly-darned sure he was going to miss. The car ran up onto a curb and knocked over an empty trash can before correcting and getting back on course. Clearly, the driver was committing the sin of lust.

Melinda shook off her...whatever it was, and walked back into the house, self-consciously glancing from side-to-side. Her painted nails played at the top buttons of her pant-suit jacket. Cassie was coming for coffee. She should start getting things ready.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The List

1. Foot Note: Got me a new brace. It's more comfortable than the last, and not as gaudy. Still hoping for surgery, though. Gotta gotta cut loose!!

2. New favorite shopping site: I can't afford most of the things on the site, but it's all very cool. A Union Jack sofa chair?? Yes, please!

3. BBC America has been running the entire four seasons of Battlestar Galactica for the past year. Every Saturday it has become a tradition for me to watch the series about ancient aliens. Sadly, it is over and I'm nearly as devastated this time as I was when the show actually ended back in 09. What the hell am I s'posed to watch tonight?

4. The painter Thomas Kinkade died last week. I was never a fan of his work (it looked too manufactured to me), but I respected the man's marketing skills.

5. Every evening over on my Daventry Blue site I list "5 Songs Before..." These are chosen by my music library, not me. The feature is proving more popular than the nekkid mens I post. That surprises me.

6. I know Zooey Deschanel is the star and the reason behind the FOX TV show The New Girl, but I'm finding myself much more entertained by the three male roommates.

7. I found out that the Hotel Andaluz, where I will be staying for the GRL convention in October, is freaking haunted! Like really, REALLY haunted! Is ghosties gonna get me?!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

REPOST: Literary Identity

From an early age I have been interested in fantasies and epics, in the surreal and the fractured. The kind of books and stories the quiet kids read. I think this might be because, growing up gay, I felt more of a kinship with that genre of book than with the books I was being assigned to read in school. (The Old Man & the Sea? I’d rather not.) As a young’un I would much rather have lived in Middle Earth than in Middle America. For me Oz wasn’t just a slang term for Australia. In Middle America our heartless woodsmen rarely went in search for what was missing.

Still, as I got older and my thoughts became oft distracted by romantic urges, even the beloved fantasy lands of epic narratives began to lose their appeal. There were no gay characters in fantasy fiction at that time. At least, none I was aware of. I understood that to read the type of adventures I wanted to read and to meet the type of characters I needed to meet, I was going to have to create them all by myself. And so I did, if mildly at first. After all, one does not jump into a gay relationship, fictional or not, without looking around to see if it’s safe.

In my earliest attempts at writing, discretion was the key. I wanted a buffer in case my stories were discovered by my Jehovah’s Witness parents. Rather than boldly stating ‘these guys are in love,’ I learned to insinuate and imply. (Though, even as early as three I had a distinct and rather peculiar fascination with my body, as evidenced by the pornographic graffiti I had scribbled in the pages of the Holy Bible. Oops.)

Like most young gay people of my age in Middle America, I was starved for representation and looked for it everywhere. (I was crushed when I discovered the lead singer of Concrete Blonde was a woman and “Joey” was not, in fact, a gay love song. Oh, my poor little heart!) I did not identify with the characters whose adventures I was reading in the academically regulated books at Southwestern Jr/Sr High School. Sadly, though, I never really expected to. As a gay youth I assumed I would always be on the outside looking in.

The first time I can remember connecting to a book in a deep personal way was John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, which remains a favorite of mine to this day. I saw through to what the straight kids didn’t and to what the teachers would never discuss. I saw the love affair in that book. I recognized it and felt the pain. It was a beautiful experience. It was…cathartic. Yet there was never another book assigned in my pre-college education that dared to confront, or even tip-toe around, the same sex issue. Tennessee Williams wasn’t mentioned once in class. I still wonder what the hell that was about. I mean, it’s Tennessee fucking Williams!

My reading outside of school was a different matter. As I got older and less frightened by the rules of a confining religion, I became more daring in my reading choices, from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple to Anne Rice’s…well, Anne Rice’s anything.

And then there was James Purdy. His work, beautiful and horrific, written in a style that still makes me marvel and grin, taught me that great writing did not need to stay in between the lines. More importantly for me at the time, Purdy’s work – especially Narrow Rooms and In a Shallow Grave – showed me that a gay romance could be just as sweeping as anything written by those depressed Bronte sisters.

My reading soon sped off into all different directions…all different gay directions, that is. Michael Cunningham, Jamie O’Neill, Geoff Ryman, Maria McCann. I started writing in an attempt to be published myself and my world opened even further, giving me the opportunity to talk to writers I had read, like Hal Duncan, Rick R. Reed, Ruth Sims, Dorien Grey, and Douglas Clegg.

There was a time I became so impressed by what has come to be tagged as “gay lit” or “M/M fiction” that I refused to read anything else. I decided that all my life I had been forced to read fiction that was, more or less, aimed at a heterosexual audience and now that I was able to make my own reading decisions I was going to be a very exclusive reader. I didn’t need Grisham or Dan Brown or any of those straight behemoths. All I wanted to read was gay, gay, gay! And, unlike the film world, I discovered the literary world has never been left wanting when discussing sexuality, from Thomas Mann to Gore Vidal to that naughty bad boy pervert Jean Genet. I filled up my library with books about or for gay men and women. And it was – is – a fabulous library!

Still, I knew I was missing out on some good stuff by my prejudiced reading habits. It took a few years, but eventually I started to read the hets again. I even picked up some Stephen King, something I had vowed never to do for the simple fact that everyone else was doing it. And while I do enjoy the occasional novel by a straight writer, maybe even with a straight lead character, I prefer the books I read to have at least one gay character, and this one gay character must not be the chief bad guy. (You hear me, Orson Scott Card?)

So, I’ve come full circle with my reading habits. I’m back on my fantasy kick again. Only now, the lands I’m visiting – both my own and those of other writers – come to even brighter life because the inhabitants are more diverse than ever. It’s wonderful, too, when a reader writes me to tell me how they have been moved by something I have written. The thought that maybe, in some small way, I have had an influence on someone…well, that’s just about all a writer can ask for. That and a spot on a college syllabus.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

EXCERPT: Books By Covers

One of my personal favorite short stories I've ever written. From my anthology Slight Details & Random Events:

Books by Covers
Eric Arvin

Jimmy stretched his leg muscles on the steps in front of his apartment, releasing the tension for the torture. A good run on this spring afternoon would be just what he needed. It was a beautiful day, offering lovely promises. He could run for a while and clear the obstacles, the hurdles, in his mind. He often wondered when it was the real world started taking control of his psyche, regulating his inner thoughts until they mirrored one another. Had it happened innocently? Little by little? Or was it, as he had always suspected, clump by clump?
Runners don’t like clumps. They’re unexpected. Clumps can make a runner trip and fall.
Forget the world, he told himself. Forget the world you see. Forget the world as it’s reflected in your mind. Clarity. That’s what you need.
Jimmy set off tracking that clarity. He didn’t think he’d truly find it. The answers to his questions and concerns seemed too big. He’d been troubled for weeks after all. Still, a jog could help him think, to ponder. Jimmy needed that alone time. The small college town went on around him - mothers and children on sidewalks, the postman delivering his packages, cars driving leisurely past, college students off campus interacting with the townsfolk. So serene and just so. Like a film set or TV show from the fifties.
Jimmy headed in the direction of the liberal arts school. He had chosen to go to a larger university. Got his BA at a prestigious school up north, but dropped out of grad school before he could get his Masters. He regretted that. But at the time he just couldn’t do it anymore. He had had enough of education. He had been sidetracked by other things. Like the full-time gig at the fashionable clothing store to help pay off his increasing credit card debt. Or the insurance for the sports car he no longer thought of as his baby. Now, though, he desperately needed to get back to school. He envied teachers and college professors who were surrounded by academia at all times. He was in need of a real job, a career. Especially with the wedding coming up. Gunner had his heart set on a house, an expensive house. A house so expensive both of them would have to sell their souls to obtain it. But for Gunner, Jimmy would do it. Jimmy did a lot of things for Gunner.
Sidetracked. Short cuts.

Professor Robbins taught Classic Literature at the college. She was normally a content person. She had a nice, quiet life with a loving partner who she had met at Pride years ago, she had a smart, young daughter, she had a nice home on the college campus, and she adored her students. She loved the looks on their faces when they learned something new. That spark of epiphany that doesn’t happen but every so often; just enough to make it precious and longed for. Yes, she was usually happy with her life’s course. She had designed it.
But as she stared out the window over the heads of the small classroom of students taking an exam, she saw a handsome young man jog by. It wasn’t the man that stalled her really. Her tastes didn’t run his way. It was his seeming physical perfection, his lack of flaws, that captivated her. He looked like a sculpture, the kind she had struggled to create in her undergraduate career. She had so wanted to be a great artist. She studied the classics – Rodin, Michelangelo, Bernini – but she could never quite get it right. All her life it had been her dream to bring life from stone, her hands working an almost divine thing. Like a goddess.
But life in its pushy way convinced her to try other things. It prodded her in a more logical direction. Something which might bring more money and stability. Successful artists are rare, she heard over and over. Art is ever changing because tastes and fads change daily, hourly. An artist would be unemployable, she was told. Especially a sculptor. Who sculpts nowadays? There are machines for that.
He does, Professor Robbins said to herself defensively. This young man jogging. He sculpts his body every day in the gym. Like art, it takes skill, study, persistence, and time. He must be so joyous. The world gets to see his sculpture everywhere he goes. A great artist runs among us today. Don’t you see?
But no one would ever see. No one saw the world and its unfairness as well as she.
She closed her eyes. Dreams leave me alone. I’m happy. I’m quite content.

The college lawn was always Jimmy’s favorite part of the campus. Everyone was carefree as they studied or lounged on the grass. Their minds caught up in frivolous pursuits. Not a notion that things might get worse in the future. He remembered the future in college sounded to him like an obscure idea; something other people thought about. Something that was whispered with hushed dread, but never truly confronted.
Plan for the future? An impossibility. How can one plan for what they don’t know or have never experienced?
Jimmy felt envious of the students on the lawn, of the boys tossing frisbees over the heads of lovers. He wanted to sit among them again, to feel that blissful unawareness. But he also worried for them. How many would survive after college? How many could surmount the world’s bulky hurdles?
Dotting the lawn like wildflowers, the coupled lovers kissing made him think of his relationship with Gunner. Would they stay as passionate? He wanted a life-long romance. (Oh, how Hollywood has ruined that word!) Would it happen? Would Gunner stay with him till the end? Would Jimmy want him to?

Elise watched the man jogging. She wasn’t the only one, but she was most likely the only one not lusting, not hooting and making vulgar noises. A gaggle of girls on the south side of the lawn were doing enough of that. Elise was instead struck by the runner’s resemblance to her high school sweetheart. A twinge of bittersweet remorse enfolded her heart. The chemistry book on her lap suddenly felt heavier, less about her future and more about things left behind.
She was a senior now. She hadn’t seen Bud for over three years. She left him the summer before her freshman year saying she had to go. She had to get out of the small town she had grown up in. There was nothing for her there. Those were painful words to say. She realized they were probably even more painful to hear.
“There’s me. I’m here,” Bud had pleaded.
That wasn’t enough. She didn’t understand why he didn’t understand. She had loved him. And now this runner was breaking her heart and he didn’t even know it.
Elise couldn’t imagine ever feeling the way she felt about Bud toward anyone else. The world was filled with little boys and tiny men. Bud was different, mature. He was as wonderful as any woman could have hoped. He wanted to marry her. She had wanted the same once.
What happened?
She knew she shouldn’t regret her choices. College was always down the road for her in high school. But still, the runner was making it hard to forget lost chances. She tried to look away. She tried to focus on the body, not the face. Bud and the runner didn’t have the same body. Bud was strong from years of farm work, not weights.
Elise imagined the runner had never made a bad choice in his life. Mr. Perfect with his perfect body, his perfectly planned life.
That’s what she chose to believe.

The wedding was only two months away. Still too soon for Jimmy. Not that he didn’t want to pledge himself to Gunner. No, he wanted it more than anything, but there was just so much to do. There was a life neither of them could see that needed to be planned out.
“We’ll get by,” Gunner always said.
Money doesn’t fall from trees. You have to climb up to get it.
All their arguments lately had turned into fights. Fights about money. It could get bad. Fists could fly over money, over what needed to be done with it or how much should be spent when. Whenever Jimmy brought Gunner a gift, Gunner reminded him the money spent could have been used toward the house.
Gunner’s big, beautiful house that he had to have.
Jimmy tried to shirk the thought of that house off, to leave it behind on the college lawn as he ran. But it kept up the pace. Worries seem to be able to do that. They’re more up to a challenge than clarity. Clarity is free and unbothered. It drifts; it doesn’t run.
The way Jimmy saw it, they couldn’t both afford to go back to school. Gunner had already started with his new degree. But to afford that house, they both would have to get much better jobs. And Jimmy couldn’t get a better job without going back to school.
Circles and circles, running in circles.
Jimmy really didn’t want the house. It was very nice. He agreed with Gunner about that. But a nice apartment would have been better. In the long run, a new, larger apartment would be better both financially and for their relationship. Funny how money can take dreams and love apart like disection.
Love is all finances now.
Jimmy ran past the new construction site on campus. A state of the art science building was going up, replacing the old one. He didn’t understand why. The old one was nice. The construction workers were on a break. They whistled and catcalled at Jimmy.
“Nice tits!” one yelled. The others cackled in macho solidarity. There was contempt beneath those laughs.

Bull. That’s what they called him because that’s what he looked like. A big angry bull.
“Nice tits,” his fellow construction workers repeated what he said in a congratulatory manner. As if it were the most brilliant thing ever muttered and they wanted to remember it. They’d repeat the story at the bar that night.
Bull smiled, accepted their compliments, but he didn’t feel like a clever man. He felt full of doubts upon seeing the young man jog past. He wasn’t always a bull. He was healthy and young once too. He had a body others admired at one time just like the runner. Girls loved him. But now, after years of neglect and bad habits that body had disappeared beneath layers of another. Where had he gone? Not this flabby man sitting on scaffolding in the sun, but the man he was, the man he truly was, who had a sense of pride in how he looked. Where had that man gone?
This happened, he thought, as he took a huge bite of his double bacon cheeseburger. Life. Family. Responsibility. Everything that young runner was yet to find, if he ever would. He looked the type to never have problems.
Bull had looked like that once. Had people thought the same of him? That he never had problems? In Bull’s life, things were not handed to him. Things were earned or taken. Lots of things were taken. His little girl after his wife left him; all the money his ex-wife took from him each month; dignity; looks; health.
The doctor told him he’s have a heart attack if he didn’t start eating right. He was too overweight, his cholesterol too high.
Bull looked at his burger. He remembered a time when he was concerned with his health. He should try to be concerned again. But it was hard now. He would never get his body back anyway; he would never find his former self hiding within.
Why try?

Nice tits. Funny. Jimmy smiled, trekking onward toward the baseball diamond. He had to admit his pectorals, though all muscle, did bounce when he ran. Tits are tits to straight men. He could have been offended, but why bother. Those construction workers probably had so little fun in their lives, so little real purpose, that he would allow them their fun at his expense. At least the remark had momentarily distracted him from his problems.
He respected construction workers. Theirs was a hard job. A job with an estimable outcome. Something that might benefit society. Jimmy couldn’t say the same about his own job, his non-career. Managing a clothing store. What was so special about that? Day after day of hearing Little Susie Gotta-have-its gush over designer clothes. All his years of education, of being told by countless teachers that he could change the world, and what? Teachers lie. It’s their job.
The world changes without you just fine. You’re a colonist. A useless colonist. You’re a faceless runner in the Boston marathon.
The college baseball team was at practice. Hot young guys in shorts that molded their asses deliciously. But Jimmy wasn’t in the mood to gawk. Even if he was, he wasn’t too attracted to the younger set anymore. Besides, ballplayers had only space enough in their brains for a few things. Baseball, women, and doping.
Stereotypes play out before us. We accept them because we choose to.
Jimmy wished his mind was that vacant. He wished he could forget everything. Everything but men. Then he’d be a stereotype too. Just what the world wanted. He wished he could forget Gunner for a moment. He wished Gunner’s house away. Fallen down. Burnt down. Torpedoed.
Play ball, boys. Enjoy it.

Trevor watched the muscle man jog past. He was readying to practice his swing but the pitcher wasn’t ready. Trevor had seen the runner before. He must be from town, he thought. A townie. Townies like being around the college boys.
Trevor didn’t understand why he couldn’t look away. But when the muscle man came into view he had to watch. He was mesmerized by the mass of the man. He felt an uncomfortable tightness in his shorts. Thank god for his jock strap or the guys would think he was getting a boner staring at the muscle man. They couldn’t see it, but he felt it. Usually that excitement was a good thing, but he felt bothered by it in this instance.
I’m not gay. I’m not gay. But I bet he is.
Earlier in the day Trevor had taunted a classmate at lunch. One of the gay kids, out and open about it at the small college.
He was asking for it. It’s just teasing. He’ll survive.
Trevor was certain the kid was looking at him, leering. The kid wanted him. All the gay boys had a thing for him. He was sure about that. So this muscle jogger must have a thing for him too.
Were there such a thing as gay vibes? Homo-radio waves? Maybe the runner was sending his waves to Trevor.
Why did he feel so bad after he mocked the gay kid? After he called him names in front of everyone. The kid deserved it, right? Like this runner. Flaunting himself in front of the college boys. Trying to get noticed.
Which way’s the gym? Follow me to the locker room.
Trevor couldn’t stop watching the runner’s chest. How it bounced and moved. Beautiful. Could another man be beautiful?
Did I just think that? Why am I hard?
Trevor didn’t hear the pitcher say he was ready, though he rose the bat at the sound of his voice. His attention was still on the runner’s chest and his own crotch. But he definitely felt the pain as the ball nailed in the testicles.
Oh, God! I’m gay.

Jimmy stopped near the woods that bordered the campus. He needed a rest from all the voices in his head. All the ‘what-to-dos’. He took a deep breath and let in decision. It flowed through him like clarity. He knew what he had to do because there was simply no way around it. Appearances be damned.
They would make it past this bump in the road. He and Gunner would have a great life together and their wedding would be gorgeous. As big as Gunner wanted. They’d splurge. They’d use the money they were going to use for the house.
The house they would not be getting.
Gunner could hate him for a few days. That was preferable to Gunner hating him for the rest of their lives simply because finances had driven a wedge between them. Jimmy would explain this. Somehow, Gunner would understand. Surely, he would. Gunner was short-sighted but he wasn’t ignorant.
“And,” Jimmy thought, “it’s my life too. I’ll make him happy without a house.”
They could even go to school together. Both of them. Classmates.
But first he would have to think about when to break the news he had received that morning.
The doctor said, “Jimmy, you have a lump on your testicle.”
God, when to tell Gunner! He’ll fold. I know Gunner. Know him like a book.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

REPOST: Death in the Hospital

Posted this on my other blog last July concerning something that happened to me while I was in the hospital with a deadly case of pneumonia in September 2010 (I can't seem to keep away from those places!). I post this now because of a convo I had yesterday with my friend Stacey:

I thought I'd share another of the strange occurrences/hallucinations/visions I had last September when I was in the hospital for a month with a deadly strain of pneumonia. Again, it felt as real as real. As real as me standing here and typing this post.

I saw, in this state, that I was no longer in my hospital room. I was in a bed, but the bed was in the attic of a Victorian home. I didn't actually see the outside of the house, but somehow I just knew it was Victorian. The furniture was all of that period, as was the clothing of my nurse, Lilly. She wore her long dark hair (which in reality was cut short) swept up into a knot on the top of her head. She wore a long dark, chekered gown which had a lace neck that went all the way up to just under her chin. I remember her checking on something beside my bed, though there were no electronic items in sight. I guess my mind blocked them out to favor the vision. All the noise around me was water-logged.

My mother sat on the other side of my bed toward my feet, dressed in Victorian wear (she loves the period) and reading from a book. I'll say right now that I have never been a fan of anything Victorian. The style of fashion and architecture has never appealed to me, so I'm still a bit confused as to why this vision came to me in such a manner.

So, there I was. In a Victorian era house instead of a hospital room. And it hit me. I was dead. That's the thought that came over me suddenly. I am dead and they aren't telling my mother I am dead. It was the strangest feeling. I was shocked yet relieved. And I felt like I was waiting on something to happen so I could move on to...somewhere. But first I needed someone to tell my mother I was dead and I was so upset they weren't doing so. And I was so certain. I was so certain I was dead.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

REPOST: The Evolution of Friendship

Wrote this back in 09 on Daventry Blue

Even old friends fade away when you get seriously ill. I discovered this a while back. That moment that you tell them that you are sick and there’s a chance that you might not recover, an invisible wall begins to go up. From that day forward, you will be seen as “different from them” even after you recover. Tip-toes and egg shells. That’s the feeling.

I had some very good friends in college. The best I’d ever made. But even those friendships could not shout through the invisible wall of illness. By the time I was better (never well, but better), the distance was too great to repair most of the strained relationships. There was so much space between us. Too much had happened in our lives. We were different people who had experienced different realities.

Death and illness are the most unwelcome of things in a young person’s reality.

Every so often I will be contacted from someone I knew in high school or college via Facebook or one of the various forms of slightly annoying, cloyingly urgent messaging services. (You must answer it! You must!) The usual banter ensues: what are you up to, how’s life, etc. I try to put off saying “I had brain surgery” for as long as possible, but eventually it has to come out. You’ve no idea what an amazing bug-be-gone that is. Usually, I never hear from said friend again. It’s happened quite a few times.

Honestly, though, I can understand the need to back away from illness. I sense the awkwardness even over the internet. People’s experiences with illness echo down through the years. To see a sick friend, someone who had once been so vibrant, can’t help but resound in someone’s head “This was your father or grandmother. This could be you.”

When I had my surgery, many of my friends came to offer support. This was kind and unexpected. I hadn’t seen some of them for a couple of years. After the surgery, though, we’ve pretty much vanished from each other’s lives completely. Diverging paths. Again, it was expected.

My biggest issue in dealing with my illness had nothing to do with my past friendships, but with people I knew (family and therapists) who kept continuously telling me how I SHOULD look at things. I hold to the belief that no one has the right to tell you how you SHOULD feel about something, in fact, they have never experienced anything on the realm of you’re going through. It just doesn’t seem possible to me for most people to have the empathy to understand. If you want to give a trauma victim hope, find someone who knows where the victim is coming from. I don’t want a drop-dead gorgeous doctor telling me I should be happy to be alive. Fuck off, Mr. Perfect!

I had a doctor at the physical therapy hospital I was recuperating at in New Albany, Indiana tell me that I was a lost cause. He said this having woken me up at two in the morning, examining my legs for movement as if he were checking on livestock. I don’t know if he thought I was asleep or not, but I wanted to knock the shit out of him for his flippant remark. I also had a physical therapist at the very same hell hole tell me to not expect too much in terms of recovery. Needless to say, this dampened my spirit. But only for a bit.

You see, I’m a stubborn bitch. I knew I had a strong will. I also knew that every body was different. No two people react the same to any given treatment. After having laid in that damn place for three weeks, sometimes only allowed out of bed (and I counted) 15 minutes day (far less than I knew I should or could be doing), I checked my floppy self out of the hospital against their wishes. I was walking in a week. I was back to the gym within a month.

When I was in that soul-sucking den, I didn’t get a single visit from a friend. At the time, it didn’t occur to me because I was so intent on getting better. But now, I understand that as a turning point. Maybe my friends sensed it as well. One life was ending, another beginning. I understood that certain friendships had to be put to rest because the person who I had become could find no further growth in many of those relationships. I could see clearly the artificiality of certain connections I had once thought so important.

So, here I am. It’s been lonely at times, the recovery, this new Being, and I hope in the end it will be worth the sacrifices. I feel like I’m starting to surface again, but it’s not going to happen overnight. I have different friends now, but I still miss the old ones sometimes, and the old me. It’s like standing at a door that’s about to shut for good and waving to everyone on the other side. No words of goodbye (because what words can describe that ache in the throat), only smiles and nods and thoughts of what had been but can’t ever be again.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The List

1. I've settled on my next writing project: a spec fic epic titled Terms We Have For Dreaming. I've been waiting to write this for a while. I needed to be in the right place. More info later.

2. My short story She's Come Undone is now available through Untreed Reads. You can get it on Amazon, etc.

3. I booked me a fancy nancy hotel room for the GRL convention in New Mexico this October. Fancy. Nancy.

4. Madonna's newest collection MDNA is a lot of fun. I've been listening to it non-stop the last few days. In fact, I'm listening to it right now. It's not Ray of Light, but it's much better than Hard Candy.

5. Grimm is struggling for me. I think it comes down to the main character's partner and also his wife. I'm just not into them.

6. Ima be a judge for fellow writer Tj Klune's upcoming Bad Poetry Extravaganza. More info HERE. Win some stuff!

7. While I loved the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, I have to say the prequels have very little interest for me. I would be much more interested in a series that takes place the same time as BSG, but focuses on a renegade band of survivors left behind on Caprica after the Cylons chase the fleet across the stars. Now THERE'S a series.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

REPOST: Grabbing Myself Inappropriately

Reposting another of my "Greatest Hits" from Daventry Blue:

I like playing with my tits.

Seriously. They deserve the love. My chest - my pectorals, if you want to get all manly about it, being that some guys get squirmy saying anything remotely feminine about their bodies - has always been there for me. Even when I have been very ill and have taken weeks, even months off my workout routine to recover, my chest, or some shadow of it, has remained. And when I returned to my workouts my chest has always been the first body area to respond. It has perked right up. Good morning! For this reason, it's always been my favorite area to hit in the gym, and maybe, in some deep psychological way, this is the reason why I'm so drawn to illustrations of heavily boobified men.

Not that I'm the only one. Straight guys are just as interested in another guy's huge chest as us gays. I remember once in college, when I was at the peak of my bodybuilding, I was running on a treadmill. The treadmills in the college gym were lined up against a three foot high dividing wall between the weight room and the basketball courts. Sometimes in the spring, when it rained, the baseball team would have their practice inside. One day, as I was running, wearing a so-tight-it's-silly tank top, I caught the eye of one of the players at batting practice. He was directly opposite me ad so I was unavoidable to his sight. Well, he was nearly killed by the first pitch. I had distracted him. I couldn't help but smile as he tried to recompose himself under a wealth of embarrassment. Ah, good times...

This is not to say that I don't appreciate the rest of the male form and don't try just as hard to achieve some sort of symmetry between the rest of my body and my chest. But, as any fitness fiend will tell you, every body's makeup is different and some parts just don't respond to training as well as others. It's rare to find anyone who has perfect symmetry without some cosmetic help. If you do find them, give them a dirty look from me.

My thighs respond well to my workouts, though with my weak ankle I can't hit them as hard as I'd like. Everyone wants a nice ass. For me, "nice ass" means bubbly and round. I was recently watching the Disney film Tangled. Cute movie. I really liked the animation style. While watching I found myself quite enamored at first by the hero, Flynn Rider. Yet when he descended the walls of Rapunzel's tower I noticed, "Somebody done erased that boy's ass!"What is it with Disney? None of the heroes have much booty at all. But the villains? Well, the two twins chasing Flynn were...Yowzer! And lets not any of us forget about Gaston fromBeauty & the Beast! ("He's such a doggone strong and handsome brute!") I guess, though, until Patrick Fillion starts making animated films we'll never see truly objectified men in that art form.

That's a shame too, because... wait...what was I saying? I was just distracted when I gave myself a reach-around. Ah, yes. T&A. It's not just for straight men anymore.