Tugging at Your Heart Strings

Disney Wonder cruise ship sails under the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to the Port of San Francisco

As you may have learned in my previous post, I got Romance for a genre in the latest round of NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge, which is kind of my thing. Our assigned object was a map, our assigned location was a tugboat, and we had 48 hours to write a 1,000-word story; I was like, I got this, and I cranked out what follows. I was pretty happy with the way I worked the map into the story, but as I was snipping my first draft down to size (and rushing the ending), I realized that the tugboat was more “this thing that exists” than any kind of true “location,” so I went back to the drawing board. The second story was a smash (in my own mind — results for this round are a week or so away yet), but I kind of like these guys — if you’ve read my stuff, you know this isn’t my first redheaded Romeo — so I’m sharing their story just because, as the guy who wrote it for them, I feel like it’s kind of my job. Enjoy what my “Documents” file calls

Tugboat Romance A

“A tug?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“What do you mean, ‘they’re sending a tug?’ I’ve docked this beast in Mazatlan a hundred times. I was here last week.”

“Yes, Captain. I remember. Welcome back. Order of the Port Authority, I’m afraid. Please standby; the tug’s on its way.”

Annoying. Andreas wasn’t the Captain of the Cavalcade, but he was the Second Mate, which often seemed to be a euphemism for Jackass Who Steers the Boat Into Port When the Captain’s Too Drunk to Do It. They did keep calling him Captain; maybe that’s why they were sending the tug.

There was nothing for it but to wait. He was dying to drop anchor and get back to sulking in his room, but there was plenty of time for that. There was no question Keith was the man of his dreams. The question that did nag, of course, was, Then why did you sail away from him, you fool? Continue reading

Clark Parker Bums a Smoke

Playing Clark Parker’s best friend in the school play was one thing, but finding the nerve to socialize with him at the cast party is quite another. And he’s coming this way…

My latest entry in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge is a 995-word romance. As a romance writer, I am of course much more familiar with the genre than I’ve ever been with, say, horror, which made this story harder to write than the first two in this competition because there was pressure for it to be perfect. But of course that pressure came mostly from myself, so I set it aside, imagined the Cutest Boy in School, and wrote the best Very Short Romance that I had in me this day. And threw in a little Music Man, just to be on the safe side.


Our group was given Romance for a genre, a tugboat for a location, and a map for an object. I’m gunning for big points on creative use of prompts…  😉 Enjoy

Clark Parker Bums a Smoke

Where they got the idea to use a maritime motif for the playground, I’ll never know. We’re a hundred and eighty miles from the nearest navigable river, six hundred from the coast; hell, they even drain the pool for winter and half the spring. And it’s not like it’s a pirate ship or the Love Boat. No, the centerpiece of Agnes Schmidlap Park is about two-thirds of a wood-beam tugboat plying the gravel, two sun-baked old tires hanging off the side. You know, for authenticity. Some mayor who owned the meatpacking plant fifty years ago probably wanted kids to grow up thinking hard work was the ultimate fun. Help tug our town to success! Too bad they shut the plant down like ten years ago. God, I can’t wait to graduate and get out of here.

Six weeks to go. Meanwhile, tonight’s the “cast party” for The Music Man, which means a keg in the park and enough teenager tequila barf to float this tugboat. It was a fun show and all, but I’ve been playing Marcellus to Clark Parker’s Harold Hill since rehearsals started in February; if I have to spend five more minutes within arm’s length of his shimmery hair without running my fingers through it, I’m worried the effort’ll break my elbow. Here on the prow of the tug, I can at least lust after him from afar, without his goody two-shoes “concern” about me smoking.

Except now he’s walking over here. And he’s carrying two big red cups full of beer. Is one for me? Do I hide mine? Chug it? Marcellus had lines to bounce off Harold; I have fuck-all to say to Clark Parker.


“Hey.” OK, that wasn’t so hard.

He offers me a cup. “You need a beer?”

Mine’s full. “Yeah. Thanks.”

I flick my butt into the night, hoping he won’t start up.

“Can I bum one?”

Look who’s full of surprises. “You don’t smoke.”

“I do all kinds of stuff.” Did Clark Parker just wink at me? That’s definitely worth a cigarette. Continue reading

New Release: The Sugar Shack

If I haven’t already written here about how the discovery of queer fiction written by queer people rocked my teenage world and changed my young gay life, I probably should. And then I moved to San Francisco, which had a gay bookstore — it’s a miracle I was able to cover my rent.

Would you like cheese with that Danish?

Would you like cheese with that Danish?

One of my first finds at that gay bookstore was a book of “Fairy Tales” (get it?), which depicted two men in codpieces on the cover with a castle in the background and was subtitled, “Traditional Stories Retold for Gay Men.” Not every story in it is a masterpiece, but it is a lovingly curated collection, and for a guy like me who was waiting for his prince to come along (Harry Windsor? Felipe Bourbon? That rascally Frederik of Denmark? Each Charming in his own way, and I wasn’t trying to be picky…), it was reassuring to know that being cursed by evil queens and kissing frogs was all part of the process for us, too. Also, modern retellings of fairy tales have enjoyed something of a resurgence these days, and never let it be said that I’m afraid to jump on a bandwagon.

The_Sugar_Shack_400x600As it revolves around two of my passions, namely free food and fat guys, Hansel and Gretel has always been my fave. I’ve long wanted to write my Big Gay Version of it, especially as one modern rewrite after another has ignored Hansel’s heroic appetite, but how do you “gay up” a story about a brother and sister of which the main themes are cannibalism and child labor? By highlighting the edifying bonds of love within the families that we choose for ourselves and making the witch a chubby chaser drag queen, it turns out. Or at least that’s how I did it. The Sugar Shack is the resulting story. I wasn’t sure I had the guts to write it, and for a while I didn’t have the guts to submit it, but JMS Books believed in it — and put a really hot cover on it — so I’m happy to tell you it’s available as an eBook, starting today!

Hansel is an aspiring photographer. His pal Gretel is a Drag Superstar—or will be, she’s convinced, the moment she’s discovered by…anybody. When they stumble upon The Sugar Shack, Gretel gets a gig and Hansel a new admirer in club owner, drag diva Sugar Rush. Hansel could never love a man who looks like a woman, but he eats everything else Sugar puts in front of him—will he eat those words, too?

Buy it here! All JMS Books New Releases are 20% OFF during their first week on the shelf!

For an exclusive excerpt, read on:

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Chivalry is Dead(ly)

Jumbo Beauprez hates coming to the dump because he’s lazy, OK, and not because he’s scared of whoever—or whatever—has gutted three people there in as many weeks. Although he probably should be.

DQ Chili Cheese

In the stories I usually write, any sense of Horror usually only crops up when the guy my main character is crushing on turns up wearing black shoes with a brown belt. In my recent acquaintance with NYC Midnight and their short fiction challenges, however, the genre has demonstrated a tendency to pop up. (My first NYC-mandated Horror outing can be found here.) And I’m not gonna lie: Horror scares me. I don’t read it, I don’t watch it — hell, I don’t even dress up for Halloween (unless it’s in a crafty Halloween sweater from the ARC with a ghost appliqued on it, such as the jazzy number I did sport last week). I didn’t have the confidence to post this story in the critique forum during the judging (I was too scared, get it? Horror…?), but this morning I learned that poor Jumbo here helped me advance to the next round of the Flash Fiction Challenge, and so I’m sharing his story here for those who may wish to read it as my way of thanking him for taking one for the team.

For this particular challenge, my group was given Horror for a genre, a garbage dump for a location, and a two-way radio for an object. The max word count was 1,000. Please enjoy

Chivalry is Dead 

Jumbo Beauprez hates coming to the dump. Yeah, it’s right by the Dairy Queen, but that only sounds like a bonus—when his gut’s so full of soft serve and chili dogs that it’s hard to breathe right, it makes pulling something like a solid cherry waterbed frame out of the bed of his truck a pain in his ass. You haven’t slumped into a 46-inch waist at 27 years old cuz you’re Mister Let’s-Lift-It. But the thing made him seasick even when he was banging Natasha on it. If she thinks she’s too good to hang around, he sure can’t see a need to flop through one more night like a flounder. He sleeps on it all day anyhow—he’ll be just fine on the couch.

Point is, the dump sucks cuz he’s lazy, not cuz he’s a pussy. Of course three murders in three weeks in a town the size of a Wal-Mart are gonna make the news, and yeah, he Googled “disemboweled” to make sure it doesn’t mean what he thought it meant—it does—but he’s lived here all his life. If anybody hated him enough to kill him, they would have done it by now. But just cuz he ate chili dogs in his truck doesn’t mean he came here for a Sunday picnic, either. He leaves the engine running and the lights on and hurries around to wrestle with the squeaky tailgate and get this show on the road. He huffs, he puffs, and the sweat pours out from under his ball cap; every time he has to reach around and yank his jeans back up over his ass, he bangs his other hand between the frame and the truck. He’s cursing Natasha and the waterbed she rode in on while he pants and pulls. If he jumps half out of his skin and squeals like a bitch at the beepity beep of an unseen walkie-talkie and a canned call for help, it’s only because it comes from out of nowhere, and startled’s not the same thing as scared.

Still. What the fuck? When it beeps again, he notices the yellow and black plastic two-way radio seemingly cast off at the base of a pile of refrigerator parts and car seats. He gets close enough to hear whoever’s got the radio’s partner beg her own handset for Scott. “Scott? Where’d you go? How do I get out of here?”

Another reason Jumbo hates the dump: what kind of county needs a landfill three times the size of the nearest town? Everyone Jumbo knows has at least one story of getting too looped at the dump to negotiate the maze out, and Chimpy Fortescue’s had to spend the night here twice.


But Jumbo’s just been dumped himself, he knows: Scott ain’t comin’ back to check for messages. If he hadn’t gotten you lost on purpose, he wouldn’t have left the walkie in the weeds when he bailed, Jumbo telepathically counsels the hapless disembodied voice. Good luck, Sister.

He’s not getting involved. He’s throwing a bed frame onto the nearest pile of somebody else’s shit and getting the hell out of here, is what he’s doing. What he wishes he hadn’t done is stoop close enough to ascertain that the walkie-talkie is still in someone’s hand, while the rest of what he figures must be Scott is nowhere around. Shit. Continue reading

The NaNoWriMo of Paul Revere

Ex Marks the Spot CoverNovember has arrived, and along with it my favorite Festival for the Mad, National Novel Writing Month. Yes, thirty days of coffee-quaffing and work-shirking and burying wacky background characters in gaping plot holes in the name of cranking out a 50,000-word novel started on Saturday. It’s my favorite month of creating dangerously, and this year, all bets are off. I’m breaking copyright laws faster than they can write ’em (not really, as the story is private) by writing a spin-off of Romancing the Stone, having fallen in love with the idea of Joan Wilder and Jack T. Colton’s gay son (“Jem,” who else?) getting in trouble trying to follow in his folks’ famous footsteps. The story is set in Cuba, a country I’ve never seen, and the plot twists are so unexpected I have no idea what they’re going to be yet: I still have to cook up a treasure, a gang of thugs to go looking for it, and a reason for it to have anything to do with Jem, but the game is afoot. At all events we’ve got a love interest and high hopes for a Joan Wilder cameo; you kinda gotta figure the rest of the words will write themselves. 42,600 of them, if I’m lucky — that’s what I’ve got left to go.

If you’ve read any of my novels, you know I love a good prologue. Like Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile, Jem’s story starts off with an unrelated scene from Joan Wilder’s latest crowd-pleasing historical romance novel. Stone starts in the Old West, Jewel starts on a pirate ship, and I was stumped trying to think up more cliché romance time periods. So I thought covers: long dresses, puffy shirts, big pecs and ponytails on him and her… Eureka! The American Revolution.

Here, then, in the spirit of kicking off a whole month of Write Whatever Works by rewriting American History, is an excerpt from my fictional version of (already-fictional) Joan Wilder’s Love’s Revolution:

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