Another Friday, another flash fiction piece! As mentioned previously, 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.
This one’s a little tamer than most—which may be a good thing. Facebook actually flagged me for the one that went with “Santa Baby.” Prudes. Hopefully this one won’t raise anyone’s ire:
This story was a step outside of my comfort zone, something that my editor Greg Herren has always encouraged me to do. He’s commented how funny it is when writers are approached to contribute to an anthology outside their usual genre, the frequent response is “oh, I don’t write mystery/noir/horror/erotica/literary clown fiction.” (I made up that last one, but it’s got potential, don’t you think? No? Just me? Let’s move on, then.)
Where was I? Oh right, stepping outside of your comfort zone. Instead of responding “I don’t write that,” Greg told me, you might consider “I’ve never tried that before.” You never know what you’re going to enjoy writing.
I submitted the story “Multiverse” to Phoebe Journal, the litmag of George Mason University, for their fiction contest. While it didn’t win, apparently the contest readers liked it enough that they named it their Reader’s Choice entry. Here’s the first bit:
You learn about the multiverse theory from your Facebook feed, when a story about it appears above a photo someone posts of your best friend from high school. It’s unexpected, that photo. He’s in his forties, like you, and he looks almost the same as back then…and yet, not. It takes a moment to pinpoint: His smile doesn’t reach his eyes. He used to smile with his whole body, his eyes most of all. Not now.
His sadness makes you wonder, and the multiverse theory makes you think about worlds in which you tried to kiss him….
It’s not a long story at all. You can read the rest of it here. There’s more fabulous writing available there, too.
I’m not so much proud of this story as bemused by it. It seemed to be one of those that emerged almost whole, unbidden, out of the ether. Mind you, I don’t really think writing works that way. A kernel of this idea has been in the back of my mind since—well, since high school, if you must know. It just needed the right spark to catch fire, honestly. Lucky for me, a friend’s Facebook post (back before I ditched my personal Facebook profile) provided the necessary catalyst.
I also need to thank my friend, fellow writer Ruth Daniell, for her valuable feedback on it before I sent it in. (Ruth is a fantastic writer, by the way; you should read anything she publishes.)
Oh, this one was so much fun to write. I love writing bad guys as much as actors love playing villains, I think. I mean, admit it: Who do you think had more fun playing their character on Dynasty, Linda Evans or Joan Collins? Exactly. So, gay supervillains? Bonus!
The best part of this, though, was probably the editing process. Tom Cardamone really had great feedback that helped me improve the story and make it darker and “a little more Arkham,” as he put it. After I finished this, I considered revisiting the characters later, maybe a reunion of sorts between Marcus and the good doctor.
I’m still wondering who would come out on top in that confrontation….
Marcus Harris had never seen the woman standing in the visitor’s vestibule adjacent to his cell, but her white coat, worn over a charcoal business suit, blared “psychologist.” She wore glasses and kept her curly blonde hair shoulder length. Sitting in the plastic chair reserved for visitors (who never came), she crossed her legs and settled a clipboard over her knees. When she smiled at him, it was completely unconvincing.
“I’m Dr. Emily Wheeling,” she said. “The warden asked me to come see you this morning and ask you a few questions.”
You never forget your first, right? This story was the first one I ever published. It still holds a special place in my heart, but when I looked at it now, it struck me that I didn’t realize at the time how long it was. Over 8,000 words? Seems excessive to me now. I’m a more concise writer, I think.
This story originally appeared in the anthology Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction edited by R.D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert and published by Cleis Press. A lot of the authors in here have become friends of mine, as have the editors.
This story may have established a pattern for a lot of my future stories, in that they too revolve around love and somehow manage to work dogs into the equation.
You may recall that recently (I think it was August? Wow, where has the time gone? I know, I know, it doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s us who travel through it in a linear fashion, but wow do I seem to be traveling through it quickly lately).
Wait, what was I saying? Right. I mentioned recently that I have a story coming out in the second issue of Foglifter magazine. Well, guess what? The issue’s out!
Pretty, isn’t it? In addition to me, it includes stories by some other writers I know, including Ed Moreno and Celeste Chan, who are both lovely people I met during the Lambda Emerging Writers Retreat in 2014. My copy is on its way, and I can’t wait to read what everyone else has written. (Have I also mentioned Jewelle Gomez is in this issue too? OMG.)
There’s a story of mine, “You Ride the Bus,” up and live now at The Citron Review for their spring issue, which features queer-themed writing:
After a while you start to take note of the drivers you encounter. There’s the one who drives very carefully when the bus is packed, and the one who drives like he’s Sandra Bullock in Speed. One always looks tired; another always looks in the mirror as if he suspects the passengers are up to something. This one’s chatty. That one plays the “please move to the rear of the bus” recording way too often.
There’s one who smiles at you whenever you get on board. He has a tattoo sleeve on his right arm; it peeks out from underneath his shirt and you wonder how far up his arm it goes, and if he has any in other places.