Friday Flash Fiction: Santa Baby

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in a Facebook group called Friday Flash Fics. We’re given a photo as a writing prompt, with our flash fiction responses (500 words or less) to the photo posted every Friday. And also again I’m late and over the word count. What was this week’s photo prompt, you ask? Well, it’s Santa themed, sort of, but I think I’ll just let the picture speak for itself:

Photo of shirtless man in Santa hat

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Friday Flash Fiction (a day late): The One with the Cat

To recap: I’m in a Facebook group called Friday Flash Fics. We’re given a photo as a writing prompt, with our flash fiction responses (500 words or less) to the photo posted every Friday.

Except this week, apparently, because it’s Saturday and I’m just getting around to posting this. Also, I went over 500 words. Like, way over. The picture that inspired this edition:

Picture of a mountain lion in a bathtub getting its paw scrubbed

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My year of embracing rejection, year-end roundup

At the beginning of 2017, I set a goal for the year of actively seeking rejection. What this meant was that I would send out my short fiction to contests and magazines, apply for fellowships and residencies, and otherwise just get my work out into the world so that other people might possibly read it. Because let’s face it, all those stories aren’t going to get published just sitting on my hard drive and taking up space.

Now that the year’s almost over, how did I do? Continue reading

Friday Flash Fiction: The Bookstall

God help me, I’ve joined a Facebook group. It’s called Friday Flash Fics and presents a photo as a writing prompt, with responses to the photo posted every Friday.

You know, because I haven’t obligated myself to enough things already. But seriously, it’s good exercise for me. I’m not great at flash fiction, so these will probably be more like vignettes or scenes than fully fleshed out stories, but I’ll do my best.

So, here’s the image prompt for this week:

London riverside with Big Ben in background

This made me think of Detours. It’s been six years since my first novel came out. (Time flies, doesn’t it? Sure, it’s been six years, but you can still add it to your Goodreads shelf.) Readers may recall that it starts with the narrator, Joel, coming home from a stellar vacation… in London. Where he met a guy. That meeting happened offstage, as it were. But maybe it went something like this:

The Bookstall

Joel’s hand lingered over the Woolf, an old edition, the slipcover scuffed with a tear in it. If he lifted it to his nose, he expected it would smell musty.

He looked up, staring across the river and trying to calculate how much room he had in his suitcase and whether he should be buying books at all. In the aisle across from him, another man looked up.

It was one of those awkward moments where two people catch each other’s eye—not staring, but obvious that each has seen the other. There’s always two choices: look quickly away and pretend it didn’t happen, or…

“So, what’s caught your interest?” the man asked. It took Joel a moment to realize he meant the book. Joel held it up.

Mrs. Dalloway? Never read it. Wasn’t that a movie?”

English accent, a bonus for Joel on top of the dark hair, the stubble along the square jaw.

“The book’s better,” Joel said. “The book’s always better.”

The man looked surprised. “You’re American.”

“Guilty as charged. What are you getting?”

The man held up a Dan Brown, and Joel’s optimism fell a little. “Wasn’t that a movie?”

The man nodded. “Somehow I doubt that the book is better, but…” He glanced down at the stalls in front of him. “I imagine it’s more gripping than The Joy of Soufflé.”

Joel recognized an opportunity. “Hey, don’t knock soufflés.” He moved to the end of his aisle and circled around to stand next to the man. He picked up the cookbook and started leafing through it. “I make a pretty mean souffle.”

He was only half looking at the cookbook. Glancing sideways, Joel slid his gaze along the man’s torso, taking in the wisp of black hair at the neck of his t-shirt, plain white, on his way down the v of his half-zipped track jacket.

“You’re a cook?” the man asked. Joel shook his head.

“Only to keep from starving. I work in marketing. Do you cook?” I bet we could cook was what he was thinking.

“The best thing I make is reservations.” The man set down the Dan Brown and extended his hand. “Philip.”

“Joel.” The handshake lingered for maybe half a second longer than appropriate, and Joel wondered where the British reserve was that he’d heard so much about. Somewhere other than here, he figured. Thankfully.

“Do you have plans this evening?” Philip asked.

If he had, Joel fully intended to cancel them. “No, why?”

“Would you like to go to dinner? There’s a wonderful Italian place in my neighbourhood.”

In his neighbourhood possibly meant close enough to home that they didn’t have to have dessert out. “I love Italian.”

Philip scribbled his name and number and the address of the restaurant on a receipt he pulled from his wallet. Another handshake, a charmingly crooked grin and Philip was off. Joel watched him walk away, admiring the view, and hoped his vacation might end on a high note after all.

What is your first best destiny?

There’s a moment in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (the best of the Star Trek films, if you ask me) when Spock offers Admiral Kirk command of the Enterprise. Spock has captained the ship as a teacher of cadets on a training cruise. If they’re going into combat, though, Kirk should take command. Kirk demurs, but Spock gently and logically persists. Eventually, he says it was a mistake for Kirk to accept promotion to the admiralty. “Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny. Anything else… is a waste of material.”

This line is one of two that has stayed with me since I first saw the movie in 1982. (The other line, also from Spock, is: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” I don’t always agree with that one, however.

(Have I mentioned that I’m a huge nerd? Huge. MASSIVE. You may not have caught that yet.)

Answer the question, Spock.

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Yes, Coming Out Still Matters

I usually try to confine my posts here to writing, books, and Captain Janeway, but It’s National Coming Out Day in the U.S., and I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that I’m gay.

Gay gay gay gay gay.

Like, realllly gay. (Seriously, ask me about my Wonder Woman bracelets sometime.)

But anyway. Does something like that still matter? Yes, if you’ll pardon my language, it fucking matters. Continue reading

Five Things I Learned by Failing at This Novel

They (that ambiguous, omnipresent “they”) always say that you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes. Unfortunately, it’s true. Equally unfortunate for me, I just got reminded of that recently.

I’ve been talking a lot about the as-yet-unnamed sequel to The Unwanted over the past three years. Recently, I came to a decision: I’m shelving it. Or rather, putting it in the drawer. Well, even that’s a metaphor. It consists mainly of a collection of files on my hard drive that I’m going to drag into a folder labeled “Abandoned.”

No, really, I have a folder labeled “Abandoned.” See?

My "Abandoned" folder contains all my failures

There’s tons of stuff in there. TONS, I tell you.

Here’s the thing, though. I feel pretty good about this decision. I wish I’d come to it sooner, as I’ve gone back and forth on it several times in the last few months. In the process of making the decision, though, I realized a few things:

Don’t go back to the same dry well.

The Unwanted got some nice reviews, including a really positive one at the American Library Association’s GLBT Reviews website. I’m really proud of that one. But the book didn’t really find a significant audience, certainly not in the way that would justify going back and revisiting these characters (and working out just how to get some of them back on the stage for a sequel). There’s also the risk—and this alone is not a reason not to write a sequel—that what happens to them in a follow-up novel could alienate readers who were perfectly happy to let the story end where it did.

I’m not gonna lie. I think I knocked it out of the park with that book. If it ends there, I’m happy.

Don’t fall for the sunk costs bias.

Like I said, I’ve been working on the sequel for well over three years. You might think after that long, I’d be in the frame of mind to just get behind this thing and shove it across the finish line. But that would mean at least a few more months before I had a draft I felt comfortable turning in, and then another several months with all the requisite edits, proofreads, and so on before it even came out. Of course, the job doesn’t end with publication day, either. There’s promotion and readings and everything that goes into getting a book noticed and in people’s hands. 

This is not me complaining. I love doing that stuff. And this isn’t me complaining about The Unwanted not being the success I’d hoped it would be. This is me working out tough choices about where to focus my limited time and resources for the good of my writing practice.

Don’t wait to start on the next thing.

I might feel bad about the decision to shelve something I’d worked on for three years if I hadn’t already started four more novels in the meantime. One of them is in revision, another is a very rough, incomplete draft waiting for me to sift through it, the third is a forty-five page story that I wrote in grad school that doesn’t want to be a short story, and the fourth is an idea that’s just starting to take shape in a composition notebook. If I find myself wondering “what now?” I know I’ve got options.

Don’t draw your self-worth too much from any one project.

Or any one part of your life. In addition to my aforementioned facility with ardha chandrasana, I’m a pretty good cook and a more than passable bread baker. I’m also not half bad at Scrabble and, according to a former boss, I have an unusually good recall of the Associated Press Stylebook. When a writing project is giving me fits, I know that I can go into the kitchen and bake a cake and make buttercream frosting with my eyes basically closed, and I can get a batch of homemade pickles started, no problem. I may not be able to string two sentences together at times, but at least I won’t starve. Also, I can hold plank for two and a half minutes, which helps counteract the cake.

Don’t throw away anything.

I could just as easily have dragged all those files to the trash folder and clicked “empty trash.” But I didn’t. Even though the novel won’t ever see the light of day in its current form, there’s something in it that kept drawing me back… and I don’t think it had anything to do with Jamie and Billy. There’s a story within it that’s not the one that I was trying to tell, but it’s one that I might want to try telling later.

This year has pretty much been about embracing rejection. And I would say that embracing failure is a companion on the journey, and maybe the more important one. Do the things that seem impossible. Write the stories when you don’t know how they’ll end. Fail bigger. Fail often. Try again. Eventually succeed.

What I don’t regret is spending more time with these characters, even if it was just them and me. I’m still very fond of Jamie, Billy and Sarah. I don’t think that’ll ever change. I hope it never does.