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

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Got a Light?

IcebergWell, I’m having way more fun with NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge than I had with the Short Story Challenge earlier this year, which gave me the boot after Round One. I’ve made it to the Final Round of the Flash Fiction one, and submitted my last 990-word story to the judges over the weekend. Rambling writer that I am, I’m surprised to have made it quite this far in a contest that’s all about getting to the point, but actually the ruthless editing (“Aww, what a sweet thing to say…” Delete!) has been kind of fun.

The assigned genre for this final round was Open, meaning any old genre you want, which I saw first as a blessing, in that it wasn’t “Ghost Story” or “Spaghetti Western”, but then saw as a curse, in that it gave me no direction to go in with the no-help-at-all location prompt — An Iceberg — but have ultimately decided to embrace as a blessing because now I don’t have to categorize the story I ended up with. The assigned item was A Lighter, and it eventually set the scene. Participating writers are encouraged to “interpret your genre, location, and object assignment in uniquely creative ways…” so I’ll either get big points or get disqualified for this one. We’ll find out which in January! Herewith my final entry in this year’s challenge: 

Got a Light?

Of course I knew she was a dude. Just cuz I’m not gay doesn’t mean I have no sense of adventure. She had legs for days and a butt you could eat breakfast off of. I figured if I took her home and fucked her, when we were finished she could flip me over and fuck me right back, and you don’t hit that jackpot every day. That’s what we all loved about the Iceberg: you never knew what was gonna happen, but if you kept your wallet handy and your wits about you, you were guaranteed a wild time.

So named because its street-level frosted-glass cocktail lounge façade revealed nothing of the depravity that hulked beneath as you descended the depths from one sub-basement to the next, the Iceberg was the hottest club in Saint Paul. And it was on the Right Wing’s shit list from opening day. Board it up, burn it down—they didn’t care how they were delivered from its scourge, but Wouldn’t somebody think of the children?! Meanwhile, the queers? The fornicators? The sinners-for-sport? We lined up to get in, to hit the spray-painted stairs and see how low we could go.

I had purple hair, tight abs in a tight T-shirt; I got in no sweat. Clomped down the stairs, blew past the first landing—hometown DJs, go-go dancers, big whoop. The second basement got more interesting. Here the hustlers and the gay-for-pay porn stars took off their shirts and licked their lips, enticed daddies and chubs to pop for a beer or a blow job while the drag queens with the highest hair in the Midwest lip-synched Katy Perry until she would have been sick of the sound of her own voice, had she managed to flirt herself past a bouncer. That’s where I saw her: strong freckled shoulders in a sequined tube top, seven feet tall in platforms, whipping that ponytail around the stage like a propeller, she was as white as any Minnesota blizzard I’d ever shoveled my way out of and called herself Vinda Lou Curry. So she got points for creativity on top of the Perfect Ten her body demanded. When I saw her duck up the stairs after her number, I didn’t think about it, I just followed. She cut between two bars to the back door. I bummed a quick cigarette from some underage twink as he scampered by, hung it from my lip, pushed into the alley. She had a fan club; I elbowed in. “Got a light?” 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:

Continue reading

Fanta, Baby?

Among the highlights of my writing career was last year’s release of my very first Christmas story. It was fun to write, turned out to be a pretty good story, and gave me an excuse to peruse endless photos of hot guys with handsomely wrapped packages, if you catch my drift, wink wink, nudge nudge. It didn’t exactly sell like gangbusters, but I love it, and am in the airline-napkin-note-scribbling stages of making the Holiday Story an annual tradition.

Fanta Sea

Titles are hard. Holiday titles are harder. You want to capture the Christmas/Hanukah/Yule Spirit in three or four words, justify the half-naked Santa on the cover, and somehow tie in at least a reference to the actual story, and Jingle Bell Jock, while obviously awesome, is annoyingly already taken. Following a conversation with my orange-pop-loving nephew about its popularity (or ubiquity, at least) in Latin America, I lit upon the genius idea of setting my next Christmas Story in Mexico and calling it Fanta Baby. That Bad EarthaWhich, as you see, would pretty much be the best idea ever — evoking, as it does, both Father Christmas and That Bad Eartha — if it wasn’t for all those pesky laws about trademarks. My husband pointed them out: You’d have to get permission from Coca Cola. Surely not, I said. For Fanta? I mean, for A Diet Coke Christmas, I can see. Or even for Go Tell It on the Mountain, Dew. But surely Fanta, in its role as cultural shorthand for “orange pop,” falls into some kind of Oh, Go Ahead category? The people who make us capitalize Kleenex and Jetway insist it does not.

So here I am, back at the drawing board, trying to cook up that Perfect Title around which to construct a winter romance. My friend who lives in LA enjoys taking what he terms “sweater-based” vacations in the winter; might he not also enjoy a sweater-based love story, Fleece Navidad? (Can you tell I worked a San Juan turn yesterday and have Latin America-as-setting on my mind?) In addition to being overly-suggestive and just kind of long, Chet’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire seems ho-hum and predictable. O, Little Town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania calls for entirely too much firsthand knowledge of a place I’ve never been; as hot as a dude in a green t-shirt can be, as a title, Green Sleeves is a total snooze; Frosty the Blow Man would have to be all about cocaine, which risks plopping us right back at square one as it relates to infringing uses of the word “Coke.” Because you might otherwise want to read a gay romance about a drug dealer named Frosty. See? Hard.

I guess I’ll just have to go about this the old fashioned way: actually write a story, then shop for the title that fits it just right. Or let I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus just write itself…

 

Can't wait for Christmas? You can get last year's holiday story year-round at JMS Books!

Can’t wait for Christmas? You can get last year’s holiday story year-round at JMS Books!

 

In the Church of the Boys and Mind

Church has never really been my scene. At least not “Church” of the Tuck In Your Shirt, Be Quiet, Now Kneel Now Stand Now Sit Now Kneel variety. Not that I’m against sharing wine and bread as a way to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon, you understand, but I’m gonna want a lot more than one sip, and probably some cheese.

Dane Thorn Birds AlsoIt’s not like I didn’t give it a chance. I rode my bike to church like six Sundays straight when I was in college. Mostly because I had the major hots for Father Greg. He’s handsome and there’s donuts?  Try and stop me. Like every other gay boy who ever saw The Thorn Birds, I even toyed with the idea of becoming a priest. Of living in Rome and talking in Latin; of sharing an ivy-shaded stone dormitory with other mild-mannered, bespectacled youths. Well, you know, mild-mannered until lights out, when they would naturally drop their black robes to the floor in a puddle and let the moonlight trickle down the ridges and pool in the curves of their milk-fed, muscled bodies. Farm-raised bodies from across the world, in every hue of brown, of gold, of pert-bottomed pink… It was Passion that drew me to the priesthood alright, but not one for going to church.

I certainly believe in the Wonders of the Universe, and have seen too many blossoming cherry trees, spewing volcanoes, and giggling babies not to believe that a Creative Force is hard at work in the world. I’ve just never been convinced that the best way to glorify this Force and to celebrate these Wonders was to gather inside a boring old building once a week and struggle to stay awake through Reverend Lovejoy’s lecture on Constancy, sweet constancy.

Not that all churches are boring, of course. Gaudí’s unfinished Sagrada Familia, while not the most interesting of his Barcelona buildings, is certainly eye-catching, and La Sainte-Chapelle is widely renowned as one of the jewels of Paris (if one of her fakes, seeing as how it’s mostly glass…). And then, of course, there’s Powell’s City of Books. Continue reading