International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

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http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com.

Are you ready to hop?

Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/

Once again, over one hundred bloggers who write or blog about stories featuring LGBTQIA characters and issues are raising awareness about this serious issue by having a blog “hop” about it.

The goal is to get people to recognize homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic discrimination, and take action to stop it.

As always, each blog is offering a prize for visiting their page. I am offering a copy of Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up, edited by Steve Berman (Bold Strokes Books, 2011). I reviewed all the stories in that volume as part of my “Short Story 365″ review-a-day project last year, and I can’t say enough how impressed I was with the quality of the stories it contains and their range.

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What you have to do to win:

In the comments on this or another page on this site, pledge to speak out against homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia. It can be in person, when someone makes a phobic comment in your presence; by using the comments section in social media to call someone on it after they post phobic remarks; by posting or re-posting anti-phobic remarks; by marching to suport equality in your local pride parade next month, or cheering and posting about it from the sidelines (chances are the news media can’t or won’t cover it nearly so well as you can); or any other way by which you will let other people know that you will not stand to see gay, bisexual and transgender persons get bullied, beaten down and lied about any longer. A pledge that you will say “Not on my watch.”

The contest ends at midnight, eastern standard time, on May 24th. Be sure to get your pledge in before the deadline. Also, be sure to leave some sort of contact info in your comment so I can let you know you won. (This was a huge problem last year. It also saves you from having to go back to over one hundred blogs to see whether or not you won anything!)

If you want to know more about me, what I write, and why I write what I do, I encourage you to read the earliest posts on this blog, as well as the first and last of the 365 review project posts (Note: there were 367 posts in all, because *someone*, apparently, can’t count).

And, of course, all the other ones and my published stories, too.

If you tweet about the hop (which you should do, c’mon), be sure to include the hashtag: #HAHABT.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out the other blogs participating in the hop. The link to the main page is at the top of this page, right below the colorful badge.

Review of Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival 2015

SAS Anthology Scaled 2

The latest book in which I have a story is Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival 2015, edited by Amie M. Evans and Paul J. Willis (Bold Strokes Books). It debuted during the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans in March.

Is it gauche to review a book in which one’s own work appears? Perhaps. If so, I am unrepentantly so, having also reviewed the 2013 and 2014 editions of the anthology, as well as Best Gay Romance 2014 (Cleis Press) and Diverse Voices Quarterly vol. 6 Issue 21, despite having stories in each. Oh well. As of this writing only one other person has seen fit to review this volume (huge shout out to ‘Nathan Burgoine). Really, people? C’mon.

I love this anthology series, and this year’s edition did not disappoint. It started off on a very serious, pull-no-punches kind of note with “Gingerbread” by Eric Andrew-Katz. Set in Germany during WWII, it’s the story of a Jewish man who finds himself at the mercy of his ex-lover, now part of the Nazi machine. Brutal, bleak, and disturbing, it’s a hell of a way to open the collection.

The next story, “Wrens Knell” by Kristyn Dunnion, isn’t much cheerier. Stephen is a dead teenager in limbo, a victim of the systemic homophobia that turns schoolchildren, parents and priests into predators; murderers by proxy if not by point of fact.

Frank Perez turns things around with “Hustlers Court.” It’s full of humor and larger-than-life, loveably flawed characters, although I wish the waitress and lone female of the piece, who is described as “the large woman in a mu-mu,” “the mu-mu woman,” and “the large mu-mu lady” (that one four times), had been given a name, in the same way that Wills, Phillip, Benson, JD, Frizzy, Earl, John, Urban, Hoyle, The Oracle, Nox, Lamar, Spinato, Dorignac, and even the bar itself, the Double Play, and its competitors, the Grand Pre and Tiki’s, were all given names. Aside from that seeming blind spot, it’s a gritty, highly irreverent read which I liked very much.

The next story up, “Maple Beach People” by Lee Lynch, feels like part of a novel and really, really, really needs to be turned into one, if it isn’t. I’d buy that book in a heartbeat. The story concerns a network of women, all lesbians, struggling to carve out lives worth living while enduring the oppressive homophobia, misogyny and racism of the 1950s. Who couldn’t empathize with the young protagonist, Luce, as she tries to envision her future?

“What it was Turned Ollie Queer” by Mike Tuohy wins my vote for best story title, but I had trouble identifying with the good ol’ boys of the piece. As with the last story there’s entrenched homophobia and racism; there’s also, though, an outlandishness that’s meant to temper it with humor, only I didn’t trust the majority of the characters and so held my breath through most of the tale, anticipating violence. It did not manifest, thankfully, and a second reading allowed the humor to come fully to the fore.

Next we have the speculative fiction piece “Femorph” by James Russell. The world of the story is one where bodies have obvious dual natures from birth, with one gender asserting dominance and becoming cemented at adulthood, a process termed “calcification”. Aaron is a teenager torn by his desire for conflicting things: the friendship he shares with his best friend Michael, who is gay, vs. the sexual attraction he shares with Michael’s alter-ego Michelle. The thing is, there can be no ambivalence, no shifting back and forth between the personalities inhabiting a body once calcification hits, or the consequences can be fatal. I loved this examination of sexual attraction, gender identity, selfish vs. selfless-ness, and societal expectations, and I hope it finds a wide audience.

I know exactly why I like the story “Fat Hands” by John Kane. It’s because it’s filled with things that remind me of Michael Kearns: Silver Lake, Hollywood, HIV and AIDS, bathhouses, created families, friendships that span decades, and the wisdom of one who has lived life with his eyes wide open. The crispness of the prose elevates the story, rendering what might be maudlin, uplifting and poignant instead. That’s quite a trick.

The next story, “Days of Awe,” is mine. I’d love feedback, if you’ve read it. Moving on, I thought I wouldn’t like “Pageant Girl” by Sam Hawk, because I am not a fan of beauty pageants in general, and ones involving small children tend to make me apoplectic, but I found myself rooting for Elsie and her coach, Bennie. You know what did it? A shared hatred of her biggest competition, Miss Dallas Northeast. In the early nineteen nineties I spent a week in Mesquite, TX. Let’s just say I can relate.

I expected to like “‘Til it Bleeds” by Jerry Rabushka, because I so enjoyed his “Sample Day” in last year’s anthology, and I was not disappointed, though I was thrown for a bit of a loop when the story turned out to have an omniscient POV. It was also rough walking around (mostly) in Kurt’s skin, though I had a hard time identifying why that was. Here is a man who tries hard to figure out his feelings, yet always ends up blaming others for his unhappiness, his loneliness. I’m not sure what his problem is, or how to fix it, but I like him.

Felice Picano’s story “A Perfect Fit” is a time-travelling head trip of an adventure. The hero is sent back several thousand years, in order to investigate the early days of a legend, but as the story events unfold he finds his life and that of the historical figure being conflated. The question arises for the reader: Will he be able to go home? (I’d also like to know if this a fraction of a novel.)

The last story is “Basketball Fever” by Maureen Brady. I admired, first of all, that it has as its protagonists two women of “advanced” age. Charlene and Shoney also aren’t rich or beautiful, and never have been. They’re everywomen who have become friends because their seats as season ticket holders for the WNBA team The Liberty happen to be side-by-side. The thing is, they’ve got a lot more in common than basketball, but fear of rejection keeps them from exploring any potential relationship beyond the sports stadium, right up to and past the last game of the season. Thankfully, they get an opportunity to correct that mistake during a post-season celebration at Madison Square Garden. I loved the affection they exhibit for one another, and the gentle humor that runs all through the story. It’s another one I’d like to see be developed into a longer work.

There you have it. Well, sort of. You can actually have it by clicking here:

http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/9781626393912e.html

No Stopping Saturday

No Stopping Saturday

“Well, this is not how the city normally is,” Dr. Reilly explains. “Don’t get me wrong, I like Thunder and all the rest of the Derby events, but… Let’s just say we collectively lose our minds at this time of year. My fear is you’re going to get an erroneous first impression of Louisville.”

Ehrichto had been surprised to find the downtown area being set up for a crowd, city workers re-arranging sawhorses to block off certain lanes to traffic, and police milling about on foot, their cruisers parked haphazardly across otherwise deserted intersections. From signs posted in shop windows he’d figured out that “Thunder Over Louisville” began with an air show at 2pm and culminated after dark with a sizeable display of fireworks.

“Oh, don’t worry, this isn’t the first time I’ve been to Louisville,” he assures the doctor. “My family is from here, actually. But, now, it is the first I’ve been in town for this ‘Thunder’. I gather it’s quite a big deal?”

The doctor chuckles. “It’s only the biggest annual fireworks show in North America. Is that a big enough deal for you?”

Quarry: Resurrection by N. S. Beranek

Calm before the storm.

KCA with Hollenbachs I took this

The Thunder Over Louisville hype is not what brought Ehrichto to the hotel. He’d been stopped in his tracks by the sight that greeted him at Fifth and Main. For a moment he’d wondered if he was somehow on the wrong block, or if maybe they’d re-numbered the streets, any explanation at all besides the obvious and unthinkable, that they’d torn down the Conway Distillery building. But they had. All the buildings on that block were gone, replaced by an angular structure of light brown brick and soaring green glass capped by a rounded, corrugated steel roof. The building looked for all the world like a giant soup can laid on its side.

He was standing, staring at it in horror when a voice to his left said, “I know, right? It’s the only decent block in the whole damned city. I so cannot wait to get to Man-hattan.”

Link for ordering Saints and Sinners 2015: New Fiction from the Festival.

Order here: http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/9781626393912e.html

SAS Anthology Scaled 2

In alphabetical order by author’s last name, the 2015 Saints and Sinners Short Fiction Contest finalists are:

“Gingerbread” by Eric Andrew-Katz

“Days of Awe” by N.S. Beranek

“Basketball Fever” by Maureen Brady (Winner)

“Wrens Knell” by Kristyn Dunnion

“Pageant Girl” by Sam Hawk

“Fat Hands” by John Kane (Runner-up)

“Maple Beach People” by Lee Lynch

“Hustlers Court” by Frank Perez (Runner-up)

“A Perfect Fit” by Felice Picano

“‘Til it Bleeds” by Jerry Rabushka

“Femorph” by James Russell

“What it was Turned Ollie Queer” by Mike Tuohy

This year’s entries were stronger than ever and the judges found the selection process difficult. With that in mind, for the first time we are also announcing a list of Honorable Mentions. The judges found these stories to be very strong contenders and while they are not being included in the 2015 anthology, we wanted to acknowledge them.

The Saints and Sinners 2015 Short Fiction Honorable Mentions are, in alphabetical order by authors last name:

Tom Baker for “Arianna”

Rich Barnett for “White Paint”

Elaine Burnes for “Auto Repair”

J.R. Greenwell for “A Tongue and a Twerk”

Angel Propps for “Carnations”

Vince Sgambati for “Vera’s Place”

Kacie Stetson for “Nganga”

Karis Walsh for “Transport”

 Order here: http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/9781626393912e.html

Death By The Riverside

“Death by the Riverside” by J.M. Redmann. (Bold Strokes Books, 2009.)

This is the first of the Micky Knight Mystery series. Based on the blurb, I had an inkling I would like it. It turns out I was wrong. I didn’t like it; I loved it.

Right from the get-go, the story was hilarious. Micky is a great character: sarcastic, sharp-eyed, keen of mind, and always, always cool. She’s flawed, very human, and therefore relatable. She’s wounded yet she’s also kind, deserving of a happiness that’s always just out of reach, which of course makes her sympathetic. Beyond her perspective, the author knew exactly which elements would make the story a terrific in-joke without going too far (a bar called Gertrude’s Stein made me laugh out loud), the plot kept me guessing, and plenty of action ensured things stayed lively.

The balance of dialogue to exposition (written in the character’s appealing, ironic tone) was perfect, something I noticed because I’d just read a book where that was not the case, written by someone who should know better, and the result was wooden, recurring, soap opera-type dialogue, as jarring as an out-of-tune instrument. By contrast, there wasn’t a word of this book that struck a wrong note.

One final thought. This story is heavy on what’s termed “gay agenda”. That’ll no doubt put some people off, but it’s one of the things I liked best about it. Similar to the way that someone who likes vampire stories never wearies of hearing a new one, I’m always going to want to read narratives in which a person persecuted for being gay not only survives the abuse but triumphs.This one was great, and I can’t wait to read the next installment.