September meetup; free short story

Two quickies!

First: there’s going to be a Gay Romance Northwest Meetup on September 14 right here in Seattle! I’m so excited. My finances haven’t allowed me to travel for any of the cons happening elsewhere in the country this year, but at least I’ll be able to get my feet wet at a smaller event in my home town. I’m already nervous about meeting some of the fabulous authors who are planning to attend. It’ll be a good thing, right?


neverseelight I wrote this f/f vampire short last winter as part of the Hurricane Sandy charity auction organized by MJ O’Shea and Piper Vaughn. Now I have finally gotten off my butt and added it to Smashwords, where it is free in multiple formats. This was also a good reason to create a “Free Reads” page on my site, which will come in handy once my Love Has No Boundaries story is ready to go public, too.

That’s all the news for now, though, because the weather is goddamn beautiful this weekend and I need to go outside.

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with silver bells and cockleshells

So living in an apartment in a fairly large city, as I do, has many benefits, but “available land to garden” is generally not one of them. (Container gardening on windowsills is right out, because I have no means of catproofing a spot for this, and my boycat is the sort who pushes things off my bedside table every morning to tell me it’s time to get up.) However! Seattle is a city with a thriving community garden program, and I put myself on the waiting list last fall, expecting that maybe by 2014 I’d have some space of my own.

Last Wednesday I got an email that there was a plot available for me in my neighborhood garden and did I still want it. Did I ever! So now I am the proud caretaker of 100 square feet of prime soil and thriving weeds. Okay, slightly less thriving weeds than they were a few hours ago, but still. I didn’t think to take a picture until I’d started working, but here’s the general state of things when I got to the garden to start messing around in the dirt this morning:


The nice clear space in the background there? That’s somebody else’s plot. Mine is the riot of crabgrass, henbit, and miner’s lettuce gone to seed. (With some thriving chives and thyme in that left corner, though. I need to plan some cooking around those.)

But I dug into it this morning, pulling things out, clearing space around the obvious intentional plantings and volunteer annuals, filling up that milk crate repeatedly with fluffy piles of weeds and depressingly small chunks of dandelion taproot. (Dandelion wine, I’m pretty sure, was an act of grim determination: “Well, we can’t kill the stuff, so we might as well drink it. Takes the edge off the frustration a bit.”) Excavating the useful things was kind of an exciting process! There are several strawberry plants, some established and others just starting from the originals’ runners. One corner has a few stubborn potatoes. There’s a little wandering trail of young arugula. I even found a few tiny sprigs of lemon balm, which smells every bit as refreshing as I remember from the garden I had as a teenager. After an hour or so I had gotten about this far:


Clearly there’s still work to do, but it’s progress! And I have a friend coming over tomorrow morning to help with that back corner and maybe a compost run before we dig in and start planting new seeds.

I’m already looking forward to those strawberry flowers turning to fruit.


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This week I have taken my writing procrastination to new heights: I have gotten involved in boutique perfume making.

No, okay, it’s more reasonable than it sounds. I’m friends with the lovely ladies who run ZOMG Smells (“Fine nerdy scents for fine nerdy people!”), and one of them recently had to leave town for a few weeks on urgent family business. So I’m stopping by the lab a few days a week to help the left-behind partner stay up to date on filling orders. Verdict: making perfume is so cool. I feel like an alchemist, searching through the dozens of dark glass bottles to find just the right one to measure out twelve drops into the mixture I’m currently compounding. All that’s missing is the mercury poisoning, and frankly I’m fine with skipping that part.

Because I’m pretty much always thinking about my various imaginary friends, yesterday afternoon as I labeled tiny vials I started thinking about what scents would suit my characters. Keliel, the elf from my Love Has No Boundaries story, is probably Four Seasons in Mighty Contention on Trivial Matters. Tavren, his human mage counterpart, might be The Melancholy Death of Nikola Tesla, or perhaps Magnacephalopoda Aesthetica (they’re not kidding about the nerdy part!). The main character of the novel I have out on submission begins his character arc as Bosie, and ends it Wrestling Tigers While Calling Your Mum Long-Distance. (But only because their catalog somehow doesn’t contain Burning Cities Down to Flee the Authorities. Maybe I should suggest that for next month’s limited edition.)

It’s a fun way of shifting gears, and thinking about characters from a direction I don’t normally while doing a productive thing entirely unrelated to putting words in order. Maybe that’ll help me get past the writer’s block I’ve been having lately.

And even if it doesn’t, hey. Alchemy.

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coming soon…ish

I swear the hardest part of publishing is the waiting period in between finishing up work on a story and having it go on sale. But here we are! At this point it looks likely that my next release will be my contribution to this year’s Daily Dose collection from Dreamspinner (I could be wrong; I have a story in the pipeline with ForbiddenFiction, and they don’t get release dates finalized far in advance, so maybe that’ll hit sooner). My Daily Dose story will be out on June 1, though:


(Someday I’ll write a Daily Dose/Advent story long enough to get an individual cover, too.) The theme for this collection, as you can probably tell, is sports! So I wrote sci fi, since that’s what I do:

Luis Delgado, a boxer, and Davey Taylor, an artist, live in a future when Earth is home to the destitute and the only chance for a better life is found among the colonies that orbit the once-great planet. Davey has the opportunity to make a name for himself with an art sponsorship on the Luna Minor colony, but he needs to get there first. Luis may have the answer, but it means choosing between his career and his future together with Davey.

They’re good kids! And I’m looking forward to sharing them with everyone.

…In other coming-soon news, I’m a few thousand words into my contribution for Love Has No Boundaries, the mid-year free fiction event put on by the Goodreads M/M Romance group. If you’re a member of the group, you’ll be able to read some excerpts and info about what’s in store in my story—I’m doing a little thread hop with some other group members, and my first contribution is scheduled for tomorrow, right here in this thread.

I’d better get back to work on those boys, really—I’ve been sick this week, but porn and tide wait for no man, or something like that. Onward!

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reading standards

Well. Most of my corner of the internet is making noises about Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads this week. I’m trying not to panic too soon but I’m wary and not pleased; I really like Goodreads, and if it goes the way of Stanza or Shelfari I’m going to be really disappointed.

More than that, though, I’ve been kicking around an attempt to define my frustrations with reading in m/m. I was fussing at a friend earlier this week and suggested that maybe my standard needed to be “would I still read this if the characters weren’t gay?” …That’s not quite right, though. If the main characters in Alex Beecroft’s The Blessed Isle weren’t gay, what remained of their story probably wouldn’t draw me in. But I loved that book, devoured every sentence like a mouthful of the most elegantly crafted dessert. Her command of her prose is inspiring, and an utter delight to consume.

Other things I’ve picked up have been less thrilling. I tend to skip most contemporaries, in part because the setting doesn’t interest me, but also because if I never read another “omg, I’m gay? do I have to like musicals and interior decorating now?” passage—or even another “just so you know, being gay doesn’t mean I like musicals and interior decorating” passage—I won’t feel like I’m missing anything. Those passages always feel to me like hand-holding for straight people, coaxing them toward the shocking revelation that queers are real people with a variety of personalities and interests. I figured out that I wasn’t straight when I was 13. I’ve had two decades to come to terms with the fact that I’m still an individual rather than a template. I don’t want to read books that include the Meeting Your First Gay Person primer. I’m sure they do good things for some people, but I am not their audience.

…Which is not to say that my chosen spec fic genres are free of problems either. I love fantasy settings but I’ve seen too much d&d worldbuilding, too many cases of “of course gays are persecuted,” too many cases of “women make babies and stay out of public life, duh,” far too many cases of “religion exists to punish those horrible gay people,” and definitely too many cases of “oh no what are these strange feelings for a person of my sex that Nobody Has Ever Felt Before.” It all just feels so cookie-cutter after a while. Give me variety! Give me worlds that seem like interesting places to escape to. Give me queer heroes who have other struggles in their lives than “oh no queerness???” Give me stories where gay characters face an enemy other than homophobia: yes, we deal with that shit a lot, but it is not the only struggle in our lives.

As I write this out I’m coming to the conclusion that there’s a parallel here with straight fantasy’s rape-of-female-characters epidemic. Yes, true, this is a problem that many people in this demographic deal with. But writers: please stop acting like a female character’s sex, or a gay character’s sexual orientation, are the only possible reasons for them to be hurt or struggles for them to deal with. We’re still people. We still want to prove our theories and fight our dragons and find our treasure and discover our magical talents. We are not defined solely by the prejudices against us. Let us face other challenges.

There’s another tangent here about the importance of speculative fiction in suggesting that our society’s current prejudices are not universal, but I’m already wandering. I’ll save that bit for next time.

And if you have any recs for really strong queer spec fic that does the things I’m asking for—especially if you have recs for f/f that does this—I would absolutely love to hear them.

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spring! when a young writer’s fancy turns to thoughts of… new projects?

The days are getting longer! We’re getting occasional sunlight in Seattle and the first trees are starting to blossom. My energy and enthusiasm generally hits a slump during the dark season, but now that we’re moving into brighter times, I’m feeling my gears start to turn again.

Just in time for Camp NaNoWriMo! Which I’m looking forward to—I love the structure of having a group of people to write with, but November is always a terrible month for me to do it. April, though? Yes please.

I have two projects on deck for the occasion, I think: first, I have a story to write for the Goodreads M/M Romance group, which is having their annual summer story event right now (prompting and claiming is still open!). I picked up a delicious fantasy prompt inspired by a painting by Omu Upied (who is wonderfully talented, gosh, go browse that gallery). There will be magic, D/s, and rescue missions, and I get to write a main character discovering that submission can be an uplifting, joyful experience. Yum.

The second project has no deadline, so I’m going to try to get through the prompt story first, but I’m excited about the second one—I’ve been thinking about trying to put together a story for Loose Id for a while, and pondering what kind of storyline I’d want to write for them. This week I got ambushed by an idea for an amnesia story that I think I’d have a lot of fun with! So that’s also on deck.

Of course, ideally this will mean that I’ll go into April with my current WIP—the space lesbians—fully drafted and ready to rest for a bit before I revise it. So I’d better get back to writing! They still have some highly illegal cargo to deliver before they can get down to the fun stuff.

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“Cultural Hospitality” and full collection MASKS OFF TOO! now on sale!

Release day!


Cultural Hospitality is now available direct from Torquere, with third-party options coming soon. This was one of the most straightforwardly fun stories I’ve written in quite a while — the submissions call wanted vampires and masquerade balls, both of which already felt like deeply self-indulgent ideas for me to play with. So I piled on some interspecies romance, a bit of literal intoxication, and the sweetness of “I didn’t think I could have this happy ending, but I was wrong,” and basked in the entire writing process.

If you, too, can’t get enough of sexy vampires in fancy costumes, try the entire Masks Off Too! collection. Mmmmm.

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the long dark teatime

I woke up this morning to both of my cats investigating me curiously, purring in the hopes of coaxing my hands out from under the blankets and into petting range. I got up and went to turn on the computer & make coffee. I stood there in the kitchen assembling my delicious caffeine delivery mechanism and I thought, “I really like my life.”

I really like my life.

It’s so good to have that feeling back. I have chronic depression; I’ve lived with it to more or less success for the last twenty years. I finally started managing it with medication when I was 31, and the difference it made in my quality of life was staggering. Suddenly I could spend all of my energy on doing things, instead of having to reserve about a third of every day’s processing power for just “no, we’re not going to give up.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started submitting work for publication the next year. All was going great, right?

And then I lost my job in November. I probably started going downhill within a few weeks, after the elation of “I don’t have to keep doing that anymore!” wore off. Looking at it now I’m pretty sure I was in trouble by the end of December, when I slept through a doctor’s appointment and then couldn’t summon the energy or the determination to call and reschedule. I missed a New Year’s party with friends because the idea of being in a room full of people made me want to cry. I felt like I wanted to sleep all the time, no matter how much I’d just been sleeping or how little I’d done since I got up. By late January one of my friends was asking if I’d considered talking to my doctor, since it was pretty obvious I wasn’t doing well. I kept telling myself it was fine, though, or if it wasn’t fine then it was understandable and I should just tough it out and it would get better. It was all in my head!

Then it got bad enough that I couldn’t write. My head was still full of stories and I had no problem coming up with new scenarios I wanted, but I’d sit down to turn any of those stories into words and just despair. Every sentence felt like I had to drag it through knee-deep toxic sludge just to bring it to the page. Being unable to produce words made me miserable. When my (extraordinarily patient) friend asked about the doctor again, I finally made an appointment.

I got a prescription for more exercise, more vitamins, and a little tweaking in my pharmaceutical assistance. And today? I’m awake, I’m pleasantly sore in most of the major muscle groups from my shoulders to my knees, and I really like my life.

Time to open one of those stalled documents and make exciting things happen.

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trawling the wasteland

It seems like there’s a direct inverse relationship between how much I’m writing and how vividly I dream — like there’s a limited pool of imagination for me to draw from, and if I don’t use it up during the day then it will have to spill over when I’m asleep. Things have been terrible on the writing front lately, which means a few hours ago I was being hijacked into some kind of vigilante gang in either a steampunk Old West or else a post-apocalyptic wasteland; it’s hard to get dream-brains to concentrate on delineating those things clearly. I definitely remember the electrified katanas that the gang used to mark up the captives they wanted to recruit instead of kill (I got a really swank scar down one cheek). I remember that the first mission I did with them involved setting a trap for someone in a corral for their mutant livestock. I remember agonizing over where I was going to find a source for more shotgun shells before we headed out on our next mission.

I’m pretty sure I can blame that last bit on the fact that I’ve been playing Fallout 3 lately (yes, five years late — it took me a while to get over my reliance on turn-based systems). It’s neat stuff, and cool worldbuilding, with a gaping “no wait” in the middle that I keep coming back to. At character creation you can set the hero’s race and gender, so I made my Lone Wanderer a black woman. So far that has had zero effect on gameplay and only cosmetic effect on the game’s flavor — my in-game father has a black character model instead of the white version screencapped in the game wiki, and sometimes character dialogue addresses me with gendered terms. On the one hand, I really appreciate the ability to not get smacked in the face with bullshit, the ability to HAVE a hero who isn’t Generic White Soldier Dude. The fact that my black lady Wanderer gets taken seriously just as much as somebody else’s white man version. On the other hand, the history set up by the Fallout series makes this feel super weird.

See, Fallout takes place in an alternate universe that split off from ours in the 1950s, and clung to those social and stylistic norms despite its differing technological advances. The cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s — with everything that meant for race and gender relations — never happened. All of the relics the player can find from the pre-war era, right up to the year 2077, feature fresh-faced gender-normative white kids. One of the songs that plays on the in-game radio is a 1948 recording called “Civilization” that is a classic riff on the “common sense from savages” style of racist comedy (“bingle bangle bungle, I’m so happy in the jungle, I refuse to go”). But despite having that all over the backdrop, it’s inexplicably absent in the foreground.

I don’t blame the developers for not wanting to tackle prejudice in a foregrounded way when they’re creating a work designed to entertain. I am a huge fan of escapist entertainment where the crap people do to each other constantly in real life is no longer an issue — I think it serves a hugely valuable purpose, and probably there should be more posts about that at some point. But when you start your worldbuilding with a historical era full of problems, whether it’s 1950s America or Victorian London or early imperial Rome, then you owe it to your audience and your craft to figure out why you’re not tackling that stuff. There are multiple right answers to that question, but leaving it blank doesn’t get you any points.

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Vampires. In masks. IN SPACE.

Three weeks until release day for Torquere’s Masks Off Too! anthology, and the simultaneous release of the individual shorts. I’m looking forward to it.


I had a blast with my story; the call already felt self-indulgent enough — vampires in masquerade! — that I figured I should just go all-out and add more things that I find fun. So “Cultural Hospitality” features handsome aliens, size difference, and intoxication, and a longstanding crush finally being requited. Yum.

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