The word Smith dba ’Nathan Burgoine

’Nathan BurgoineEnough of tooting my own horn. I’m going to sing someone else’s praises for a while.

I met ’Nathan Smith (who publishes under the name ’Nathan Burgoine) in May of 2009 when Michael and I went to the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. I knew a little about him already at that point, because we’d both just had our first stories published in the same anthology, Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction, from Cleis Press. He wrote a story titled “Heart” that is still one of my favorites from him.

At this point, I should warn you that ’Nathan writes stories that will make you cry. Keep Kleenex® handy when you read him.

We spent a lot of time that weekend hanging out with ’Nathan and his husband Dan, and it kind of felt like we were going through Writing School orientation together: this is how you give a reading, this is you signing your work for the first time, this is your life slowly starting down the track that you’ve had in sight for more years than you can count. For me, it was a relief not to be going through that alone, and to have made a fast friend who could say, “I know exactly what you mean.”

The thing about my circle(s) of friends is how often their members live in farflung cities. If I’m lucky, I get to see some of them once a year. In many cases, years go by before we’re able to catch up in person. The irony, when I started grad school in Vancouver, was that though we were both in the same country (’Nathan lives in Ottawa), I was actually farther away from him and Dan here than I was in St. Louis.

Still, most every year we’ve caught up in New Orleans and talked about writing, living, dogs, cats, and why coffee is so much better than tea. (I’m kidding about that last part; we don’t talk about it, though coffee is obviously superior.)

I’m sure ’Nathan lost track of the number of times people asked him, “When are you going to write a book?” ’Nathan loves short stories; he loves writing them, reading them, telling people to pick up this fantastic anthology he’s been reading, and on and on. He’s got more than two dozen of his own stories in print, perhaps most notably in the recent anthology This Is How You Die, where his story is the lead-off in this sequel to the Machine of Death anthology. He’s so good at writing stories, he doesn’t have to write a novel, and really, I don’t think writers of stories should feel pressured or be expected to think of their work as a springboard to a novel. Stories are wonderful creations in their own right and are, if you ask me, a lot harder in some ways.

That being said, the next time someone asks “When are you going to write a book?” ‘Nathan can say, “Oh, I already did that.”

Light‘s about Kieran, an unlikely superhero. An unlikely gay psychokinetic superhero (and how often do you get to say that?) who can also refract light in spectacular and sometimes blinding ways. He has his hands full with a fundamentalist preacher/prophet who decides to bring his message of hate to Pride Week and things get violent. If that weren’t enough, there’s also Sebastien, who takes a liking to Kieran and who also has Pilot, who might be one of my favorite dogs in fiction. He’s certainly my favorite of the moment.

I can’t wait to read what ‘Nathan comes up with next.

Who got mentioned in Library Journal? This guy!

Hey, it's got a hottie on the cover....There’s an article in this month’s Library Journal by Ellen Bosman titled “Opening the Fiction Closet.” Imagine my surprise when my friend Cindy (by way of my other friend Joe) told me that my novel Detours got a mention in the article, which is about the growth of queer fiction and how collections development and readers’ advisory staff at libraries can identify contemporary works worth acquiring.

So, I’m worthy!

Along with my book, also mentioned were Jameson Currier’s The Third Buddha (which I’ve read and is excellent) and Trebor Healey‘s A Horse Named Sorrow (which is on my to-read list), among many others including Ali Liebegott and Stacy d’Erasmo (both of whom I’ve read and enjoyed). Jerry Wheeler’s review site Out in Print also gets mentioned as a resource for finding what’s new and good.

I believe a version of this article will be available online at reviews.libraryjournal.com soon that will also address series books. I’ll update this post with a link when that goes live. Right now, the article is exclusive to their print edition, but I just couldn’t resist pointing it out now, because BLATANT SELF-PROMOTION!

UPDATE: And here’s the article!

Un(Face)booked, sort of, or "I have the attention span of a—ooh! Shiny!"

So, recently, my friends may have noticed, my profile on Facebook disappeared. It’s been a long time coming. For the past several months, people have had to put up with me grumbling and, occasionally, outright shouting whenever I’d log in. I couldn’t help it. Someone would post something so patently false that I’d be compelled by a sense of righteous indignation (and years of training in journalism) to do the most basic of research online to point out, politely, that they might want to check their facts.

Then there are the endless pleas for homes for stray animals—on the other side of the country. Or the world. It’s like trying to one-up Sarah McLachlan, which I can barely take on the best of days. Seriously, my computer needs a USB box of Kleenex as a peripheral.

And politics. Don’t get me started on politics.

And yet, I couldn’t tear myself away. I’m not blaming Facebook. (No, really. I’m not.) The fault is not in my stars, but in myself. I suffer from a heinously short attention span, so I’m easily distracted. I know it’s not uncommon; I’m the sort of person who will go online to look up something—say, how far Galveston is from the Johnson Space Center—and three hours later I’m looking at Google photos of the Texas City disaster from 1947 and a friend’s Flickr set of the beach at Galveston and I still haven’t finished writing the sentence that involved getting from the Johnson Space Center to Galveston.

Um, not that this actually happened (on Monday).

Facebook was the same way. Log in to check if there are any messages and surface an hour later after finding and commenting on eleventy million vegan chili recipes (none of which are as good as mine, of course, but still) or barely containing my (admittedly impotent) rage at the most recent injustice in the world.

Still, I didn’t quite want to hit the self-destruct button. I’m a writer, after all, and a queer writer just getting his start who’s published by a (wonderful) independent press at that. (Insert obligatory BLATANT SELF-PROMOTION to please buy my book here.) My audience, it goes without saying, is not huge, and I value all of them. But I do know of one or two writers who aren’t on Facebook. And last year, when my friend James cut the Facebook cord, I wondered if I could do the same.

Besides, I’d been a split personality on Facebook for a while as well. In addition to my profile, I also had a writer’s Page that kept up with the comings and goings of what I was working on (and, when I’m lucky, publishing).

A couple weeks ago, two things finally conspired to drive me over the edge: the Trayvon Martin trial, and a friend’s somewhat messy breakup.

Click. Boom.

It’s not like I’ve abandoned social media, of course. I still spend some time on Twitter, where I find that 140 characters is ideally suited to my attention span. And killing the Facebook profile means I can’t go comment on everyone else’s photos and profiles, so it’s kind of like forcing myself to focus. (You know what else helps? This program.) It serves to keep me from going out and searching for diversion and distraction.

Um, not that I’d ever do that (daily).