Love is Proud, and We’re Proud of It

loveisproudI once fell in love with a man in Panama. He had a gorgeous smile, a thing for fried plantains, and the best butt on either side of the Puente de las Americas. In some ways he was more experienced than me, in others very naïve. We flipped for each other, and burned through 18 condoms in our first weekend together.

Luis was funny. Luis was very smart, as witty in English as in Spanish. Luis lived at home, was not out to his parents, and is probably still scared to death of his mother. He lied to his parents whenever I came to town, about where he was going and who he was going to see. He wouldn’t hug me hello or goodbye at the airport—I got a handshake if I was lucky, and he looked over his shoulder before he’d give me that. On my first trip to Panama, our entire relationship was conducted in our mutual friend’s apartment and on her balcony, where we couldn’t kiss in the daytime, lest anyone passing in a speeding car on the busy street three stories below recognize Luis in the arms of another man.

It wasn’t until my second trip that we ventured out to the bar. Nobody had any fear about being seen out at the bar, Luis explained, because no tattle tale’s reputation could weather the inevitable round of And what were you doing there? that would follow any attempted outing. It was a safe space, even if everybody there did know you were a married man making out with a Catholic priest. It was the only public space in which I ever felt Luis relax.

We went more than once, but it’s our first trip to the bar that’s etched across my soul as one of the ten most memorable nights ever to happen to anyone ever pretty much since people invented remembering stuff. The music that night was all in Spanish, poppy and insanely danceable. We might have each had one cocktail, I think there was rum in mine, but it’s hard to merengue on a crowded floor and eat the face off the grinningest man in the club without spilling, and anyways only a crazy person would have stepped out of Luis’ arms just to go stand in line for a drink. We held each other for hours, sweating and dancing and laughing at nothing. I sang along to words I’d never heard. Luis taught me how to unhook my hips and move my feet. He led, he spun me like a top, and the more we danced and the later it got, the longer I wanted to never stop dancing. Sure the sex with Luis was fantastic, but I never knew two people could have this much fun together.

I was already living in San Francisco. I was already flying London and Sydney, New York and Miami. I’d been out for a decade and wasn’t going back into anybody’s closet for anything. Our break-up was crushing, sudden and hurtful, and not long in coming. But that night, dancing in a gay bar—with a guy I hardly knew, to songs I’d never heard before, sung in a language I didn’t speak—I knew uncensored, joy-splattered love for the very first time.

These days I’m not a big bar-goer. But you’d never know it to read my stuff. The Gay Club is the scene of a turning point in more of my stories than I should probably admit. Todd and Josh fall in love in one, Tanner and Clark fall in love in another. Fox discovers his respect for Thumper in a backwoods bear bar, and Esau and Drew engage in all manner of scandalous behavior in a Downtown Denver hotspot. Boys dance, boys flirt; boys propose, boys break up; boys win cash prizes in amateur strip shows and cum surreptitiously in their shorts on the back patio. Like the bar in Panama, the gay bar’s a safe space in M/M fiction, where characters can get up to whatever needs getting up to without having to factor in gawking passersby or the disapproving Dominant Paradigm. (Unless the gawking passerby is into it…)

The shooting in Orlando is horrifying and havoc-wreaking on any number of levels. I’m not here to tell anybody how to feel; I’m pretty sure I don’t know how I feel about it. My husband works at one of the more popular bars here in Denver, and I’m now a 9-1-1 operator—it’s easy to imagine the ways a personal nightmare could unfold in a similar situation here; impossible to know the ways the lives of those involved in or affected by the real-life rampage have been shaken, smashed, and re-shaped. All I do know is I believe in the mission of this anthology: to celebrate queer love so that love may triumph over hate, and to try to get a little bit of money to people dealing with funeral expenses and medical expenses and mental health expenses they never should have had to incur in the first place. I very intentionally set my story for this project in a gay bar yet again, to help reclaim that safe space—for my husband, who works in one; for my friends, who hang out in lots; for all the people falling in love with people like Luis in places like Panama who need a safe space to dance and flirt and suck face and engage in all manner of scandalous behavior.

I was pleased to be invited to contribute to this anthology, and I’m thrilled with the turnout. Proud to count myself among the forty-nine JMS authors—to say nothing of the millions of other people trying to make sense of spinning through space on this big ball of dirt—who believe that love is the answer. That love is stronger—importantly, braver—than hate, and worthy of a safe space, be it a bar or a bookshelf.

JMS Books will donate every penny of the proceeds from the Love is Proud anthology to Equality Florida to benefit the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and their families. So please enjoy the e-book, or better yet, clear a place on your shelf for the paperback, out tomorrow.

New Release: September’s Always Gorgeous


Septembers_Always_Gorgeous_400x600“Now that I think about it, you don’t see very many people doing this in November,” I say, rubbing my hands together. I take a sip of my hot chocolate and adjust my scarf.

“Whatever. It’s a gorgeous day.” Esau says. He looks perfectly comfortable in his T-shirt, even if he has muscled up a bit in the chest since it probably fit him just right.

He’s right: for November, it is a gorgeous day. Blue sky and sunshine, the leaves skittering across the sidewalk glittering gold and red. But the sunshine is thin, the blue sky is brittle. It’s a gorgeous day for a hike or a bike ride, anything that gets the blood flowing more than standing around pretending to know how to paint.

The botanic gardens are not at their most lush this time of year. Nothing’s green, nothing’s pink; nothing’s blooming or bursting, nothing’s full or fecund. But we both live close—me just a couple blocks to the east, him a mile or so south—and with my membership, we can rove the grounds anytime we want for nothing.

The painting was his idea. “You know how people do. We should set up easels, paint the flowers.”

“What flowers? It’s November.”

“Paint the koi, then. Branches? Come on, it’ll be fun. There’s beauty in every season.”

“Is that a crack about my age?”

“Oh phew, that was a close one. For a minute there I thought we were going to have to endure an entire conversation without obsessing over age. Nice save.”


“You’re not exactly November, babe, I hate to break it to you. Mid-September, maybe, and September’s always gorgeous.”


When Drew Schilling wakes up with a world-class hangover, he’s not especially proud of himself. He’s almost forty-five years old—really, by now he should know better. He certainly knows better than to bring home a hook-up like Esau Wallenberg. His friendly face, his super-hero physique—charming qualities that appeal to Drew, naturally. In a guy old enough to rent a car. This kid’s barely eighteen. Once they’re out of bed, Drew just wants to send Esau home and forget the whole mortifying incident.

But Esau thinks he’s in love. He’s even talking marriage, but what the heck do we know when we’re eighteen? The kid’s got his whole life ahead of him. And Drew’s got some life left ahead of him, too, thank you very much.

He just needs to figure out a way to undo a huge mistake so he doesn’t have to live it without Esau.

Part of JMS Books’ “Love Wins” series, September’s Always Gorgeous is out today. It’s even 20% off at JMS Books dot com.

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Thanks, JMS Books!


New Holiday Release: It’s Not Yule, It’s Me

Its_Not_Yule_Its_Me_400x600Shannon hates Christmas. Mostly because Christmas hates him. It sure seems like it, anyway: every crummy thing that’s happened to him since high school has befallen him at the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Every humiliating break-up, every high-rise hotel fire—heck, a few years back, one guy he had the hots for up and died. Which goes a long way toward explaining why he’s a whimpering mess when he meets Ben the barista one Christmas morning at his neighborhood coffee house. It doesn’t completely excuse his using Ben’s T-shirt as a handkerchief—while Ben’s still in it—but Ben’s nothing if not a good sport. Ben’s such a bright spot that after a while Shannon wonders if maybe his Christmas Curse hasn’t been lifted. And what better place to test this theory than at Ben’s family festivities? It’s not like Christmas is actually cursed.

Is it?

Find out in this year’s Very Special Holiday Episode, It’s Not Yule, It’s Me. Out today at Amazon, or save 20% off when you get yours direct from JMS Books this week.

For an exclusive excerpt, read on:

Continue reading

New Release: Long Haul (The Mile High Club: Book 2)

On the day the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, Tanner Bradac doesn’t even have a boyfriend, so you can imagine his surprise when he and his buddy Clark get carried away by the celebratory spirit of the day and wind up lawfully wedded husbands. The wedding may have been a light-hearted lark, but Tanner and Clark are willing to give marriage a go. After all, how hard can it be?


And it’s no wonder we use the rainbow flag to signify this community, [Tanner] thought as he and Clark dipped into the flow with people of every stripe. Yuppie couples in khakis, hippie families in bare feet; young men in glittery tutus sporting fairy wings flittered around leather-jacket lesbians, hopeful faces of every age and nation laughing with friends, hugging strangers, and throwing confetti. Probably there were protesters, too—there was always somebody with an axe to grind when the pursuit of happiness was center stage—but Tanner didn’t see any. They certainly didn’t register. This was not a parade that was going to be called on account of any amount of rain, not today, and unless the One Man, One Woman crowd was going to start whacking people with their protest signs, notice would not be paid.”

The idea to give Tanner and Clark a not-so-gentle shove down the road to lawfully wedded what-have-we-done? came to me on the day the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Straight people have been legally leaping before they look at least since Nevada became a state, and I figure the Obergfell ruling leveled the playing field where rash relationship decisions are concerned. I knew I wanted this second book to focus on Tanner and Clark, but I also wanted to keep it around 20,000 words, and when I took my first crack at their story in April, they were still just friends by 19,500. I tried to sex-scene them into falling in love, and the ensuing night in a divey 50’s diner-themed hotel room was even kinda hot, but it felt tacked on—my loyal beta readers never agree on anything, but they all agreed on this. When SCOTUS handed Tanner and Clark the chance to get married, my problem was solved—at last, an opportunity to plunk them down in the middle of a relationship, whether they were in love or not.

I wrote this story before The Kentucky County Clerk Who Shall Not Be Named, lest it prolong her fifteen minutes, was the only person in the world Facebook seemed able to share posts about. This story’s not really about social acceptance of or opposition to same-sex marriage, but rather about how two young people try to tape the map together when the roads they’ve been traveling along merge without warning into one. And as the Kentucky debacle devolves into another Westboro photo op in the race—exceptionally competitive this year, or is it just me?—to be crowned the Most Appalling American of 2015, it occurs to me that that’s rather the point of this story, like so many queer romances before it: no matter how “firmly held” someone you’ve never heard of’s opposition to it may be, love barrels along. Some days it marches, head held high, other days it straggles resentfully; it clatters and clangs to the top of the really steep hills, then zooms along the straightaways, top down, scarf a-flutter. Love doesn’t even ask permission of the people it’s messing with—it can hardly be bothered to scoff in the general direction of any busybody third party with the temerity to think she gets a say. Let people be opposed; let people picket; let people (pointlessly, in this instance, as it’s been legal there for 10 years) move to Canada—Tanner and Clark will still have to figure their shit out. Marriage isn’t about what reactionary elements of society approve or disapprove, and neither is this story—it’s about two dudes jumping off a bridge just to see if love will catch them. Which may well make them seem crazier than a Kentucky county clerk, but hopefully more fun to read about.

haul-250Our friends at Eyes on Books have very helpfully organized a mini blog tour to herald this story’s release. For exclusive excerpts, author interviews, and your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card, tag along!

Long Haul is available today from JMS Books.

Thanks, JMS Books!

Thanks, JMS Books!

Of All Days to Seize

brush-your-teeth-1588915Well, so, hooray-ishly, it’s NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge time again. It’s my favorite writing contest because I love writing to a prompt, and because last year’s sixth-place finish netted me my cutest favorite satchel (in which I found a forgotten chocolate bar from Nicaragua just the other night — it’s the prize that keeps on giving!).

In the first of the three rounds, we get to combine scores from two stories, which can only be a good thing for me, as I’m not much of a suspense writer. Taken on the whole, romance is actually kind of the opposite of suspense — like what, they might not end up together? — but I’m not going to make excuses for this story. I wrote it, I fiddled with it, I abandoned it in favor of another idea, then came crawling back and submitted it. If only it was as suspenseful as the wait to see if it scores…

You get 48 hours to write a story of 1,000 words or less. My groups prompts were Genre: Suspense, Location: Dentist’s Office, Object: Blank Check. What happened with them (with 2 words to spare) is this:

Of All Days to Seize

Porsha knew every inch of the old Victorian. She’d been running Dr. Sanchez’s dental practice out of the high-ceilinged historic home for four years, and you couldn’t find a cheerier, more innocuous space. During the day. She’d never had occasion to tiptoe around it by herself in the dark until tonight, and suddenly every coatrack was a shadowy thin man waiting to catch her in the act. She was letting her imagination run away with her. She was not letting her guilty conscience run away with her, as Keith would have suggested. Mainly because she wasn’t doing anything all that terrible, but also because shut up, Keith—she’d be as glad to leave him behind as any of the rest of it.

It wasn’t like she’d planned this. She bought supplies for the staff kitchen at the Costco over by her house, she’d snatched up the smiley tooth material for the waiting room curtains from the craft store bargain bin; Dr. Sanchez reimbursed her by check all the time. She hadn’t purposely asked Dr. Sanchez to cut this particular check right as Mrs. Derani came bursting through the door clutching a cheek the size of a softball and moaning about the pain, the pain! Heck, Porsha had been home and on her second glass of chardonnay before she’d even remembered dropping the checkbook back into the drawer amidst all the hullaballoo, the signed, blank check with her name on it biding its time on top of the stack. Dr. Sanchez may as well have written Now’s your chance on the Memo line. Continue reading