Hey all… this week, I thought it would be fun to share a few excerpts from my fourth annual short story collection. This one’s entirely contemporary – four MM romances and one found-family tale.
There’s something old (the four MM romance stories) and something new (The Boy in the Band) here for you to enjoy.
Three of them take place around Christmas, and three have transgender characters. And just for kicks, I’ve thrown in the original source image for the cover above. 🙂 Here’s the final:
If you’re so inclined, you can pre-order a copy here (all buy links).
So without further ado:
I Only Want to Be With You
I wrote this one in response to a call for submissions from Mischief Corner Books for queer holiday stories. In addition to the Vonda Sheppard tune from Ally McBeal, it was inspired by a line in Vanessa William’s song Save the Best for Last, which for copyright purposes I won’t quote directly, but which basically said “Why are you being such an idiot with that guy while telling me about all of your hopes and dreams?” MCB published it, and earlier this year I got the rights back, giving me the chance to share it all over again with you, my favorite readers.
The doorbell rang.
Derrek groaned, pulling his blanket up over his head. “Leave me alone, Tony.”
Tony from work had stopped by three times to check on him after he’d taken the week off to plan his mother’s funeral. It was starting to get obnoxious. Tony kinda had a thing for black guys. Derrek really didn’t have a thing for him.
“It’s not Tony.” The voice was deeper, warmer than Tony’s. It didn’t scream gay accountant.
Oh shit. Derrek was in no shape for company, but it was Ryan. Ryan Kessler.
Ryan was practically family. They’d been friends for five years, ever since they’d met at a grief support group. “Coming.” He threw the blanket under the couch and checked himself in the mirror, trying to force his hair into some semblance of combed. Then he dragged himself to the door.
Derrek clearly wasn’t Ryan’s type. Yet somehow, they’d formed a singular friendship.
“Hey, sport.” Ryan stood there in his full glory, looking like that gay soccer player from Spain? Portugal? Cristiano Ronaldo. Clean cut, tanned, and beautiful.
Seriously, Derrek was pretty sure that Ryan glowed and that birds chirped when he entered a room. It all might have been in his head.
It didn’t matter, anyhow. Ryan is with Alex…
The Boy in the Band
The Boy in the Band has a bit of history too. I initially wrote it as one of my first attempts to craft a trans character, and drew heavily on my own experience at Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson, where I was a gay kid deep in the closet. I later rewrote it for a submission call for another publisher’s Young Adult line. They ultimately rejected it, but it’s one I am proud of, especially for the connection of the trials and tribulations of a gay kid in one generation with a trans kid in another. I hope you enjoyed it.
Content Warning: Contains suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, past abuse (flashback), deadnaming, bullying and anti LGBTQ+ violence.
Ryan swung the door to the roof of the Bank of America building open, his hand going reflexively to his back pocket to pull out his cigarettes and the lighter he’d slipped into the pack. His husband Andy hated that he smoked, but it had been a difficult year, capped by the death of his father after a long fight with lung cancer.
He was well aware of the irony.
He liked to come up to the rooftop for a quick smoke at lunchtime. It was the second-tallest skyscraper in Tucson, with panoramic views of “A” Mountain and the Santa Catalina, Rincon and Santa Rita Mountains. He worked on the fourteenth floor as an accountant, a thankless job in a viewless cubicle. Up here, for a few moments, he was free.
Today however, he wasn’t alone. Someone was standing on the ledge of the building, looking down at Stone Avenue sixteen stories below.
He slipped the cigarette pack back into his pocket. “Hey there,” he said gently, afraid to startle the person. It was a young man… maybe fifteen? Sixteen? A teenager, at any rate.
The boy glanced back at him over his shoulder, and then turned back to look at the ground far below once again.
Ryan thought about going to get help—a cop? His boss? But he was afraid the boy might jump before Ryan came back with help…
I haven’t been to New York City since the late Eighties, so this one required a lot of legwork on Apple Maps and Google to try to get the details right. I do speak Italian, so it was a lot of fun to work a bit of the language into this three-way love triangle, and my husband is Hispanic, so I leaned on him and my own childhood in Tucson to inform Enrico’s character. I also want to be that writer who can write an entire (fantastic) novel in a night. Hasn’t happened yet! This one was another Mischief Corner Books submission.
“Vado a letto.”
Dominic stared dreamily out the window at the vibrant ivy climbing the brownstone across the street and at nothing at all. His desk was littered with paper, half-empty cans of Wild Cherry Pepsi, and his iPhone, attached to his ears via a long white cord.
It was another Monday morning in the office.
The sexy male Italian voice on the instructional podcast repeated itself. “Vado a letto. I am going to bed.”
In the window’s reflection, he could just make out his boss, Dante, in the office behind him. Dante was behind his desk, his handsome Italian features drawn tight in concentration. “I’d like to vado a letto with him,” Dominic whispered.
“What?” Kristen was at the desk next to his. She looked vaguely annoyed at the interruption, frowning at him.
He pulled out the earbuds. “Nothing,” he said, smiling privately. “Just a little Italian study time.”
She grinned. “Still doing that, huh?” She glanced over her shoulder. “He’s out of your league, you know.”
“Shut up. At least he plays for my team.”
“If he’s even single.” She stuck her tongue out at him and went back to work…
When Mischief Corner Books issued a call for stories called Escape From the Holidays, I couldn’t resist. And how much farther can you go and still stay on Earth than Antarctica? This story also marked the flowering of my status as a climate activist author—hopefully wrapped in a great story that makes it go down a little easier. This one took extensive research on Antarctica and how scientists survive there… I am indebted to Cool Antarctica’s slang page for helping me get the language right.
It was the start of the end of the world, but Col Steele didn’t know it yet.
The rhythmic whomp whomp whomp of the helicopter’s rotary blades matched the beating of his heart.
I’m here. I’m really here.
He pressed his face to the glass, eagerly taking in the landscape below, capturing the view in his phone. There was no cellular network here, of course, and he had his Sony A73 packed away for the real work, but his phone was good enough to record his own personal memories.
The sparkling blue and white of the Ross Ice Shelf spread out before him, almost indescribable in its frozen beauty. The ice seemed to stretch on forever here in the South, as they called it. On the ice.
The copter had left the Southern Explorer a few minutes earlier, taking off from the grey deck and passing over a span of cold ocean water, where a waddle of penguins played in the Ross Sea.
The cliffs of the Ice were white enough—and tall enough—to put the cliffs of Dover to shame with their splendor.
Col checked the temperature gauge on the console. It was a relatively balmy Antarctic day, with the temperature hovering just below zero Fahrenheit.
“First time?” His pilot, Joseph, steered the copter over the ice field with practiced ease.
“Yes. Not yours, I assume?”
“Nope, I’ve done the run to Amundsen–Scott more than a dozen times, people and cargo. Been out to Bettencourt three times now.”
Col nodded. Tad Bettencourt was his benefactor—a billionaire who was keenly interested in the science and effects of global climate change.
He picked me. Out of more than two hundred research scientists, the man had chosen Col to be the next fellowship scientist to join Javier Fernandez at Bettencourt Station for a six-month internship.
It was still sinking in…
What would a December anthology be without a little holiday charm? Ten was written as part of a project on the Twelve Days of Christmas but was never traditionally published. I put it out on its own as a short story in 2018, and am thrilled to once again have it available. It was a joy to write, and includes a lot of my favorite places in my hometown of Sacramento. If you live here, you’ll likely recognize more than a few. A suitable end to a collection of stories about love.
December 15th – Bryan
Sundays were the worst.
Those lazy, quiet mornings, sitting in the big bay window seat across from Ari with our legs entwined.
That happy time was long gone.
Instead, I was waiting out on the sidewalk, leaning up against the railing of the MARRS Building boardwalk. The wind blew chill, going right through my windbreaker, and the sky was slate gray. It never snowed in Sacramento, but it sure seemed to be trying.
I stuffed my hands into my jacket pockets, wishing I had a pair of mittens. As an Arizona boy, I wasn’t used to the cold, even Sacramento cold.
I stood at the corner of 20th and K in the heart of gay Sacramento, waiting for a guy named Bryan. Spelled with a “Y”, of course. We gays are nothing if not predictable.
Christmas music played from speakers in the eaves of the building behind me.
My husband Ari had passed away on New Year’s Eve the previous year. He’d been hit by a street-racing Mercedes when we were crossing J Street, and it had been twelve agonizing days in the hospital before he took his last breath.
Three seconds. That’s how far behind him I was, checking something on Facebook. I didn’t even remember what it was.
Three goddamned seconds.
After a year of being alone, of beating myself up for those three seconds, I’d finally decided that it was time to start dating again. Ari was gone, and nothing would bring him back. He would want me to go on.
Still, my heart wasn’t in it.
My mother was sick with worry. Every day I got a call or a text or an email asking if I was okay.
Ari would want me to have someone again.
I was thirty-five, and all alone.
I’d challenged myself to go on ten dates in ten days—maybe I’d find someone new. If not, at least I’d have a reason to be alone.
And so, Bryan.
He was twenty-five, hung, and had no head, at least if his Grindr profile was to be believed.
What was it about gay guys and their abs?…
I hope you enjoyed these!