At the Fair

A short bit from the Wine & Song series, written for my newsletter.


David’s back was sweating. A child with a towering cone of cotton candy ran past him, shrieking. A tuft of pink spun sugar ended up stuck to his leg. He looked at Jazz.

Jazz held up both hands. He was trying not to smirk and doing a poor job of it. “All I said was maybe we could stop. I didn’t even have to talk you into it.”

They had gone up to David’s house in Maine for the weekend and passed the little fair on the way into town. It hadn’t seemed like such a bad idea at the time. “It’s nearly October,” David said. “Shouldn’t they all be in school?”

“Probably not at eight on Friday night? Come on, I’ll win you a  stuffed bear.”

“Those games are all rigged.”

“How do you know?” Jazz said.

“Everyone knows that.”

Jazz shrugged. “I used to be pretty good at them when I was a kid. We’ll see.”

“I don’t want a  stuffed bear,” David said, but Jazz was already giving his money to the man behind the counter. In return, the man gave him three plastic balls and gestured without enthusiasm at the five concentric rings at the back of the booth.

Jazz’s first two throws missed even the outer ring. He weighed the last ball in his palm, wound up like a pitcher, and whipped the ball at the center ring. It went through. Colored lights blinked on and off. A tinny tune played. Jazz looked at David and grinned. “You just gotta get a feel for it. So what do you want?”

“To leave?”

Jazz got him a small plush cactus. They walked down the midway in the long dusk. Lights blinked on around them, and carousel horses with shining glass eyes watched them as they passed. “You really want to go?” Jazz said.

David steered him toward the ferris wheel. They bought their tickets and sat, pressed together, in the worn metal seat. It started up with a jerk. They rose into the sky, went around once, and then stopped at the very top. A breeze blew away the sticky evening heat. Overhead, the stars were appearing as the sky faded from blue to purple to black. Underneath them, the fair lights whirled. Some of the kids had sparklers that left trails of light like fireflies.

Jazz put a hand on David’s thigh. Neither of them spoke. David covered Jazz’s hand with his. They sat, swaying, at the top of the world, until the ferris wheel lurched forward and brought them back down to earth.


If y’all have any ideas for short bits like this, let me know. Maybe I will do more in the future. :)

David and Jazz in high school

Someone on tumblr asked me if I’d write a bit about how things might have gone if  David and Jazz had met in high school. At first I was thinking school trip to DC or something, but then I moved David to Duckler because I’m a terrible person and he’d hate it. A lot.


An unseasonably cold wind whistled through the gap where David’s bedroom window wouldn’t shut all the way. David hung over the side of the bed, quilt wrapped around him, to dig through a nearby moving box for jeans and a sweater. It was Monday, his first day at Duckler High School. Classes had started three weeks ago, but he and his aunt hadn’t arrived in Duckler until late Friday afternoon.

When he got downstairs, his aunt was making coffee. She offered him a mug. He ignored it. She sighed but got out of his way so he could reach the cereal boxes.

“How long are you going to keep up the silent treatment?” she asked.

Until they moved back to Maine, where he knew people, where he could go to the stable and ride, where there were things to do and places to see instead of cornfields, cornfields, and cows. He poured himself a bowl of Cheerios and didn’t answer.

His aunt took her coffee into the room at the back of the house where she’d set up her office. She closed the door. She’d always been good at knowing when to leave him alone.

The tight bar of anger in David’s shoulders eased. He poured himself a cup of coffee. At least he had his own car. The bus had been bad enough when he knew everyone and had someone to sit with. Here, with nothing but strangers and unknown school politics, the idea made his skin crawl.

After breakfast, he got into his Jeep, bought from a neighbor when his aunt still had money for that kind of thing, and turned out of the driveway toward Duckler. He passed mainly cornfields on the way, but also a boy about his age with a backpack slung over one shoulder and dirty blond hair shielding his face.

David frowned at him in the rearview mirror for a second. He couldn’t be walking all the way to school. He must be older than he looked and on his way to work, although — David glanced around. To work where? Maybe he was a professional cow milker.

A few minutes later, David saw his destination. It was a low, square building, made of old brick with metal letters over the door that said simply: HIGH SCHOOL. The parking lot held only a handful of other cars. He’d been told to get there early to pick up his class schedule and locker assignment and all the usual crap. The school office, just to the right of the entrance, held a water cooler with a spidery plant on top, some filing cabinets, a strong smell of coffee, and desks for the principal and the school secretary.

Both of them were women with dark hair and matching perms and hoop earrings. David wasn’t sure which was which until the principal took a phone call at the desk with her name plate on it. The school secretary gave David his paperwork and told him how to find his first class and his locker. Given the size of the school, David didn’t think he’d have much of a problem.

Finding the locker was simple. Getting it open wasn’t. As he dialed in the combination for the third time, the halls were filling up. He had a cluster of girls applying lip gloss on one side of him and a knot of jocks actually literally tossing around a football on the other. David had gone to private school all his life. His last school hadn’t even had a football team.

One of the jocks, a big guy with red hair and freckles, leaned toward him. “You’re new here?”

“No, you just failed to notice me for three years.” David yanked at the locker, but it only rattled, loudly enough that one of the girls looked over at him. She took in his predicament, didn’t quite roll her eyes, and turned back to her friends.

The jock leaned against his own locker, arms crossed over his chest and probably flexing his biceps on purpose. “Did they not teach you how lockers work at your last school?”

There was some light snickering from the others.

“The lockers at my last school actually worked. I imagine this one’s jammed with cow shit. At least I’ll assume that’s where the smell is coming from.” He looked down at the jock’s boots.

The jock leaned into David’s space. “If you want your locker filled with cow shit, asshole, I can make that happen.”

“Hey, Bud, move your ass.”

The jock and David looked up. Another boy was standing slumped in front of them. David recognized him — the boy from the road. Not, apparently, a professional cow milker after all.

“What do you want?” Bud said, sulky but not actively hostile toward the newcomer.

“I want my locker, dumbass. You think it moved from yesterday?”

Bud grunted. “Fine. Watch out for this weirdo though. See you at practice.” The look he gave David said he’d be seeing him later as well.

David ignored the new guy and dialed the combination in one more time. His hands were a little sweaty now, and he had an unpleasant knot in his stomach. One more try and he’d just leave it and hope this wasn’t one of those schools were you weren’t allowed to bring your bag to class.

“Hey. I’m Jazz,” the boy next to him said.

“Good for you,” David muttered.

“I had that locker last year. It’s weird. You gotta, like, sort of push in and up on the lock? There’s something loose in there.”

David paused. He dialed in the last number. He pushed in and up, and the lock clicked open. He glanced over. Jazz was just watching him, neither particularly friendly or hostile. He’d pushed his hair behind his ears, and David could see his eyes, which were an odd blue-gray color. Unlike Bud, he wasn’t trying to flex, but he didn’t need to try. David blinked and looked away from the curve of his bicep where it pressed against the sleeve of his thin white T-shirt. “Thanks.”

“What’s your name?” Jazz said.

“David.”

“Where are you from?”

“Maine,” David said, going for most recent state rather than where he’d been born. He had a hard time remembering New York anyway.

“What are you doing here?”

“My aunt lost her job and decided to move us to the ass end of nowhere.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s in Idaho,” Jazz said. “This is more like the armpit of nowhere.”

David was too startled to react at all, and then the bell rang and Jazz was gone. David smiled into the depths of his locker for a second before he slammed it shut and headed for math class.


I’m also considering a Patreon for short stories. The contributions would be per story, not per month, and probably only a buck or two per story. I have a poll here, let me know if you’d be interested! :)

wine & song questions

Some questions sent to me by two lovely people on twitter, @missmalaper and @chococriskis

Are you aware there is no physical description of David in any of the 4 books? Can we get a hint?

Heh. I am aware, yeah. I think I got this question on tumblr too last year sometime. In general, I don’t think about physical descriptions unless my beta readers ask me something like, “Hey, so what does this guy look like, anyway?” I’m trying to get better about that; I’m just not a very visual person. And I find it really awkward to describe point-of-view characters. So, David: short, dark, curly hair; light olive complexion; about 5’10” (same height as Jazz).

It’s so good the main theme of the story it’s not the sex though David’s psyche. Are we correct?

Absolutely. It’s about both of them and the psychological progress they make, and the sex is more of a medium for that than an end in itself, I guess.

Can you pinpoint the exact moment when David falls in love? I can pin point the exact moment and of course my bet: when David gives Jazz the ipod at the airport. He is not only taking care of him, he is also assuming Jazz being a pest. 

Hmmm. I don’t think I can, really, but that’s as good a bet as any. It was a long process for him, an accretion of small moments, and I don’t think he could pinpoint it either.

What is the most difficult thing for David, get his routines ruined by Jazz or getting used to a young man who is still growing up? I mean, David has a steady personality but Jazz is in his 20’s and he has a long way to be walked. I don’t know if this question has any sense.

They deal with this quite a bit in the next book (The Air We Drink), actually. David is settled in his life, and Jazz is just starting out, and I’d say that’s definitely one of the larger issues between them.

Are we going to know a little more about Ian? I think he is a character with a lot of potential. And I pity him. 

Again, yeah, in the next book! :) There’s a bit more of him, and he and Jazz have nearly a whole conversation without being obnoxious to each other.

Do you think Jazz was one of the cool kids in high school? Sometimes he acts like one and certainly he has a history but he also has a very sweet heart and strong values. I mean, he almost never fucks it up. 

Yeah, I mean, more or less? He played football and was pretty good at it, and he got along well with the other guys on the team and probably got invited to parties. Not top-tier cool, but fairly popular and well liked.

I wanna talk about that time, David’s being a, oh surprise, little shit not saying he is overwhelmed by Jazz’s slap or maybe not overwhelmed, just weaponizing that moment. When he says Jazz he’s been hurt and he is not cool with what happened between them. Jazz’s heart breaks so hard. Would David be capable of doing that again now they have a safe word?

Good question! This required a lot of thought…and I think it’s unlikely, because David knows how much it would hurt Jazz and he’s really trying not to do that, but…you know, David’s kind of an asshole, and sometimes he says and does things without really thinking them through if he’s upset about something. I don’t think he’d do it again on purpose though.

I think Jazz has a compulsive need to test the boundaries. I mean, for example, in the fourth book, when they are in Jazz’s town and Jazz almost throws his relationship over his friends’ faces and his father’s and, of course, David notices. I think that’s something he shares with David and something that it will probably get him in trouble but also he doesn’t do it for himself. When Jazz has to stand up he is always for the greater good, eg: the band, saving a cat or giving credit to his relationship, and I think that’s what marks his behaviour as “healthy” and marks David’s as “unhealthy”. Again not a question, I know. What do you think?

David’s behavior is unhealthy primarily because so much of it is self destructive. Jazz’s behavior could easily get him into trouble (and probably will someday), but he’s doing it (usually), as you say, for the right reasons, or at least ostensibly for the right reasons. There’s also a lot of insecurity and aggression behind the things he does, but he’s young. As he gets more self confidence, a lot of that will probably settle down.

I guess I have to ask you about the consent thing. The very beginning of the story has a mild approach to David’s behavior. The reader knows it’s not healthy, David knows it’s not healthy but I think he is beating the bushes not asking even once for professional counseling. Were there any of it in his past and it wasn’t good and that’s why this possibility it’s not even suggested by anyone?

It probably has been suggested to him – Angie would have brought up the idea to him at least once, and it was probably also the topic of David and Ian’s only serious fight, but I think David would literally rather die than see a psychiatrist. Jazz might talk him into it eventually, but that’s years down the road.

Most important question: are you going to break our hearts in the next book?

Would I do that? :) :) :)

Btw, these are my friend’s comments while reading the next book…

Your Breath My Wine Excerpt

Screenshot 2016-07-14 11.07.14

Your Breath My Wine, Wine & Song #4, will be out late July / early August of this year (2016 if you are reading this in the future)! This is an excerpt from Chapter 2.

Your breath my wine

David went into a sex shop to buy a set of graduated dildos. He’d meant to order them online, but Jazz had mentioned it again at breakfast and then texted him at lunch. When he got an idea in his head, he usually wanted to get started immediately if not sooner. David would’ve put it down to his youth – and did, out loud – but he couldn’t remember ever having been that impatient himself.

He walked along aisles of brightly colored toys. The floor was black granite tile, and arty glass light fixtures hung from the ceiling. The last time he’d been in a sex shop was in the 1990s. It wasn’t the seediness of it that had bothered him, but the grunge, the dirt in the corners, the unpleasant customers fingering the wares. He’d bought less than he’d intended and washed it three times when he got it home.

This was a marked improvement. Not only did they have the set of dildos he was looking for, they’d set it out next to a series of videos that was apparently meant to teach someone how to take it up the ass with minimal discomfort and fuss.

“Can I help you with anything, sir?”

David turned to the shop assistant with the bright smile and the snake tattoo wound around her neck. “No, thank you. These are all I needed.” He held up the dildos and followed her to the counter to pay while she told him with enthusiasm about the solid craftsmanship behind them, the silicone, the sizing, and did he need any lube?

“We have plenty,” he said.

“Carrying case?”

He stared at her for a second. “Do they seriously make you try to upsell dildos or are you doing this on your own initiative?”

She gave him a sheepish smile. “Well, bit of both? The case is pretty useful though. Otherwise they all just rattle around in the drawer and sometimes you lose the size you want.”

“All right. Carrying case.”

While she was getting it for him, his phone rang. “David Cross.”

“Good afternoon, sir. This is Salter County Hospital. I have this number on file for a Mr. Jasper White?”

David paused. “I’m sorry, he’s not here right now. Can I take a message?”

“It’s about his father. Could you ask him to call us back as soon as possible?”

David agreed that he would. The tone in the woman’s voice had been urgent. Alive then, and probably not critical or she would’ve stressed the time factor. David paid for his dildos and carrying case and walked out onto the street, already dialing.

“What?” Jazz said when he answered. “Can’t talk. I’m unloading like a billion tubs of mayo.”

“It’s important. Take a break.”

 

 

 

Fiction: Xenotype

A kidnapped alien scientist and a down-and-out telepath find love. In a tank.

Near-future sci-fi tentacle porn romance. If that doesn’t make you want to read this, then…you probably shouldn’t. If it does, have fun!


Xenotype

Ven woke as the overhead lights flickered to life. He feigned sleep. His only movement came from the faint currents in the liquid that filled his tank. Two humans entered the building. The taller one was called Dr. Ingram. The other was a stranger.

Their footsteps echoed off rusted metal walls. Ven could feel the vibrations in the liquid that surrounded him, just palpable over the static roar of the ocean outside. He eased himself into the stranger’s mind to use her eyes and ears. He had learned that Ingram’s mind was not a pleasant place to be.

“This is it?” the stranger said, with a gesture at Ven. “You called me back from Luna Station for this?”

“Nobody made you come, Staite.”

“Do you have papers for this thing? Have you had it xenotyped? If you’ve dragged me into something shady again – you know it’s hard enough for me to get funding as it is.”

“Always a tough audience.” Ingram grinned, or at least displayed her teeth. “What if I said this creature was capable of telepathic communication? Maybe then you’d be glad you were my first call?”

Staite gave Ven a sharp look and then gave Ingram a sharper one. “Potentially interesting, but I need my subjects to be capable of communication on a higher level than ‘yummy school of fish, turn right at the next reef.’ ”

Continue reading

4 steps to writing every day

This is an answer to a question I got on tumblr, which was about tips for finding time to write on a regular basis, despite the pressures of work, etc.


I am self employed though, which means that I don’t work at a soul crushing job all day, or at least it means that I only crush my own soul? And that does help. But writing on a regular basis is a lot like being self employed, in that it’s mostly about goal setting and time management, so when I decided I wanted to get more writing done, that is how I approached it.

The steps below are more or less that ones that I followed, only I’ve left out my whining and repeated failures. The most important things are to keep trying and make sure that you love what you’re writing. Those will help a lot.

1. Pick a number of words that you want to write every day

This number basically doesn’t matter. When I started doing this, I started at 300 words per day, but you could start with 100 or 50 or 2 sentences. The important thing is that it’s something you feel you can accomplish without wanting to throw your computer out the window or at the heads of your loved ones.

2. Find out how long it takes you to write that number of words

I’d recommend actually timing yourself rather than guessing, but maybe you are a better guesser than I am. You will get faster. It’s just practice. And remember that they don’t have to be good words on the first draft; that’s what editing is for. “Every first draft is perfect because all a first draft has to do is exist.” (Jane Smiley)

3. Find that amount of time in your daily schedule

This is the hard part, obviously, but once you do it, once you know objectively that you have X amount of time to spend on writing, actually doing the writing becomes (slightly) easier because that is The Time for Writing, not for walking the dog or planning how to take over the world using your duck army or worrying about bees or whatever. If you can make this the same time every day, it becomes even easier because it gets to be a habit. Habit lowers our initial resistance to starting something, even when we’re tired and run down and hating life.

4. Guard it with your life

(This will be especially difficult if you have kids.) Remove any distractions that you can possibly remove – phone, email notifications, maybe turn off your internet, close your tumblr tab, etc. Ideally, you want a time when nobody will bother you. That can be hard to find but, in times of trial, Tina Belcher comes to us speaking words of wisdom:

[gif from Bob’s Burgers]

Literally me. I do most of my writing in the early morning before my clients start emailing me.

You could also check out The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and Lifelong Writing Habit by Chris Fox.

I hope some of that was helpful, and good luck! :)

Marcin teaches Kev how to shoot

A tiny story fragment written for a request someone sent me on tumblr. Kev and Marcin are from ‘In Case of Emergency’ in Love Under Fire.


Kev clutched his takeout coffee cup to his chest. A tendril of steam rose up through the hole in the lid and was immediately whipped away by the wind. “Why are we out here in the middle of nowhere at the buttcrack of dawn?” Kev said. “I was gonna ask earlier. Did I ask earlier?”

“No. You asked why I’m so cruel and why you weren’t still in bed and then you begged for coffee.”

Kev raised his coffee cup to Marcin, who ignored him and started pulling guns out of a bag. “Uh,” Kev said.

“I was going to take you to a firing range,” Marcin said. “But in the end I decided it would be more practical if you learned on the weapons you’re most likely to encounter.”

Kev looked over the guns laid out on a fallen tree. There were three: two handguns, one small and one larger with a silencer screwed onto the end, and some kind of small assault rifle. “These are yours?”

“Yes. The rifle and the suppressor are both illegal in this state.” Marcin paused. “And I don’t have a handgun license. But that’s slightly beside the point. You do still want to learn how to shoot?”

“Yes,” Kev said. He burned his tongue getting as much coffee inside him as soon as possible and then set the cup down. “Okay. Wow. I’m awake! Let’s do this.”

*

Twenty minutes later, Kev’s wrists felt numb, his shoulders ached, and his ears were ringing. They’d used earmuffs for most of it, but Marcin had wanted him to hear how loud it was without them. It was loud. It was fucking loud. Which he’d remembered from the warehouse, sort of, but a lot his memories from that day were kind of hazy. The silencer (suppressor, Marcin insisted) was his new favorite thing.

“So when do I get my own?” he said.

“You don’t. Not any time soon.”

“Then what’s the point of all this?”

Marcin sat on the fallen tree and leaned back on his hands. “I’m teaching you to use my weapons because they’re the ones most likely to be close by if you need to defend yourself. Because you are most likely to be in danger if you’re with me.”

“But if you’re there, why wouldn’t you be the one–” Kev stopped.

“If I’m capable of defending you, of course I will,” Marcin said.

Kev got a vivid mental image of himself pulling a gun off Marcin’s dead or wounded body. He shook out his hands and looked out across the frosted grass at the targets. He could feel Marcin watching him, probably for signs of panic.

“Okay,” Kev said. “You better show me again.”

i’m too late for christmas

IMG_1767

Posting this too late for Christmas, but I wish you all a happy new year. :)

(So do Heloise and Pavlov, but the baby wendigo would probably just bite you and crawl off somewhere to take a nap.)

new book – Love Under Fire

Hi guys! I’ve got a new book out: Love Under Fire, a collection of three gay romance novelettes, two of which contain chess, two of which contain firefights, and all three of which contain explicit adult content.

After the Dust is the story that was published in the Silver & Gold age difference anthology (links to buy this here). Sleeping was previously published in Shousetsu Bang Bang, and some of you guys have asked if I was going to put it out in ebook form – well, I am, and I have, and here you go. :)

love-under-fire-sm

LOVE UNDER FIRE [purchase links]

After the Dust
Zev is an aging Navy SEAL who’s fought for his country on three continents. Julian is an unemployed ex-prostitute with massive student debt and a chess obsession who plans to be president someday.

Sleeping
Ex-con Rey Vales gets cut up by a would-be mugger. The free clinic is open late and Dr. Lovely is even more lovely than his name suggests. It’s a pity his temperament doesn’t match his outward appearance.

In Case of Emergency
Kev Liang waits tables and occasionally deals coke at a trendy midtown restaurant. When a gunman breaks into the kitchen, he’s surprised to find that his mild-mannered favorite customer (and secret crush) has some serious underworld connections.


links of the month