Flash Fiction Monday – Missed Connection

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Missed Connection

Benjamin Kimura sank to the paving stones beneath him as his knees went out from under him.  The clank and rattle of the train were a distant, dim annoyance as he drank in the words Antonia had written.  It rumbled and hissed to a stop as the words swam in front of his eyes.

Why had he never listened before?

Since the moment they met in grad school, Ben had loved Antonio with the kind of single-minded intensity he usually reserved for his beloved books.  So when Antonio slowly, haltingly revealed that he’d been keeping a secret, Ben had seen it as a betrayal. A loss of the man he loved.  A sign that his idyllic life with Antonio had been a farce.

But the book Antonia had published?

Oh, that told a different story.  Because while the names and details had been changed, the soul of the person in the pages was the person Ben had planned to spend the rest of his life with.  The book was a love letter, a reminder of what they’d shared.  If Ben could recognize the love of his life on the pages—despite the changes that took it from being an autobiography to fiction—why couldn’t he see that in real life?  Why couldn’t he see that all of the truly important parts of Antonio were still present in Antonia?

Yes, it was a mind-fuck to go from being a gay man in a relationship with another man to a man in love with a trans* woman, but why did his discomfort have to be a deal breaker?

Why hadn’t Ben seen that Antonio’s revelation was a sign that he—she?–trusted Ben enough to reveal the deepest parts of his—her?—identity?

Fuck, he wasn’t prepared to deal with any of this.  He scrubbed his fingertips against his scalp in frustration, ruffling the thick dark hair that was the legacy of his father.  He froze when he considered his own identity.  He’d grown up in two worlds, blending his father’s Japanese culture with that of his mother—a Caucasian woman from America—all while growing up in London. Ben had fallen in love with a second-generation Italian-Spanish man and his entire world was a hodge-podge of multi-culturalism.

If his parents hadn’t seen beyond the cultural divide, Ben wouldn’t exist.  If Ben had been closed-minded, he’d never have met Antonio in the first place.  So why was he limiting himself? Why was he letting his fears keep him from being with someone he loved?

Ben snapped his tablet cover shut and stuffed it in his rucksack.  Standing, he dusted off the back of his jeans and headed for the exit.  He’d wasted money on a train ticket to Oxford to see his parents—he’d been running to them to escape his confusion—but that wasn’t the end of the world.  Losing Antonio—Antonia—was.

The anxiety in his stomach grew as he walked to the flat they shared.  Lately, it had been filled with strained silence and tense discomfort.

Rather than use his key, he knocked on the door. The person who opened it wasn’t the man he’d fallen in love with.   The long, runners legs Ben had loved to feel tangled against his own were now covered in a gauzy, bohemian print skirt rather than the trousers he was used to seeing.  The soft dark waves he’d loved to run his fingers through were now cut in a stylish, curly bob that looked vaguely flapper-esque and softened the square jaw.

The corner of the mouth he’d kissed a thousand times before—familiar, yet changed by lipstick—trembled.

He stuck out his hand. “Antonia, right?  I’m Ben.”

Her throat bobbed as they shook hands and Ben saw the shimmer of tears in the soft brown eyes he’d fallen in love with.  He continued, not sure if this was the right approach or not, but knowing he had to try.  “I read your book and I’d really like to get to know you better.”

Her voice was husky, softer than he was familiar with, but the words were all that mattered.  “I’d like that.”


I went over the word count this week by a few hundred words, but the story demanded it.

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

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Equals Outtake – Celebration

“Russ?”

He looked from his computer and turned in his office chair to face his husband. Stephen looked vaguely shell-shocked, and the hoarse sound of his name on Stephen’s lips worried him.

Russ rose from his chair, frowning. “What is it, Stephen? Is everything okay?” Oh no, what if something’s happened to Miss Esther? He thought, heart clenching. He knew she wouldn’t live forever, but apart from her arthritis she was quite healthy for her age. He’d hoped they—and especially Stephen—would have her around for years.

Stephen stepped closer, cradling Russ’ face in his hands, his expression impossible to read. “The Supreme Court ruling was announced.”

Russ’ heart took off, pounding so hard it felt like it would leap out of his chest. “And?”

His lips felt dry all of a sudden and he had to lick his lips. He rested his hand against the lapel of Stephen’s navy blue suit, his heart racing as fast as Russ’ was. Their marriage was legal in South Carolina. This ruling wouldn’t change anything, and yet….

“It’s legal, Russ. Everywhere.” Stephen’s eyes seemed even bluer than usual, and he blinked a few times, wetness glistening on his eyelashes. Russ could hear the shock and disbelief in his voice, the echo of Stephen’s younger self who had convinced himself he’d never have the opportunity to marry. Although they’d been married the fall before, Russ knew this governmental stamp of legitimacy meant more to Stephen than he could ever articulate. It mattered to the boy who’d grown up knowing he was different, to the young man who’d been disowned by his family, and the adult who’d never imagined he could marry his partner. “Our marriage is legal.”

Stephen,” was all Russ could manage. He felt Stephen’s lips against his, soft and needy, and he wasn’t sure which of them had closed the distance first. He lost himself in the taste and the feel of the man he loved, remembering the vows they’d exchanged on the beach nine months before. For a moment, he even thought he could hear the roar of the waves behind him and he pulled back to laugh with Stephen about it.

The sound didn’t fade though and he turned his head and realized their co-workers were standing in a circle around his cubicle, clapping. He realized he was grinning and he felt Stephen squeeze the back of his neck as if to say, “I love you”. Russ and Stephen rarely touched in the office, unless they were in Stephen’s office behind a closed door, and they’d both apparently been too caught up in the moment to remember where they were. Russ glanced around the room at their co-workers, shocked by how happy they all looked, how supportive.

“Congratulations!” Stephen’s assistant, Elizabeth, threw her arms around both of them. “I am so happy for you both.” She squeezed them both before stepping back to wipe her eyes.

Russ felt a strange sense of vertigo as the rest of the office surged around them, shaking his hand, clapping him on the back. Dazed, he thanked them, shocked to realize they were all genuinely joyful for him and Stephen. Even Sherry, the office busybody who’d sneeringly seemed to celebrate the rough patch he and Stephen had gone through early in their relationship gave him a small smile and nod.

A few minutes later, Elizabeth appeared with a tray of rainbow colored cupcakes—apparently she’d been planning ahead, in anticipation of a positive ruling—and an impromptu office party broke out. Russ found himself leaning against his desk, holding hands with Stephen as they spoke to Peter, who was Russ’s boss and Stephen’s friend. Both he and Elizabeth had attended their wedding on Hilton Head.

Russ’ phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out to see congratulatory messages from his sister, Addie, and her boyfriend, Joseph.  As he finished his responses to them, a call from his father came through.

“You heard?” Alan asked when he answered.

“Yeah, Dad, I heard.”

“Figured you had, but I wanted you to know how happy I am for ‘ya.”

“Thanks.” Russ’ eyes stung. “I feel pretty damn lucky to have your support.”

Alan scoffed.  “It’s common sense.  I’m only sorry it took the rest of the country so damn long to get there. Sometimes I wish I’d done more.”

“You told me I deserved this.  That’s all I needed,” Russ pointed out.

“I’ll let you get back to celebratin’ but I love you son, and tell that son-in-law of mine I love him too.”

“I will.”  Russ reached out and squeezed Stephen’s hand.  “We love you too, Dad. Thanks for calling. I’m really glad you did.”

His eyes were still stinging as he ended the call and he had to clear his throat when he turned to Stephen.  “Dad sends his love.”

Stephen just smiled. The lingering sadness that used to be in Stephen’s eyes every time Alan expressed his love had disappeared and Russ was even more grateful for his father.

“Damn, this is one hell of a day, isn’t it?” Peter said, peeling back the cupcake wrapper and taking a large bite.

“It is,” Stephen agreed, nodding. “I keep feeling like I’m going to wake up and find out I dreamed it all though. I was afraid to get my hopes up and now that it’s here….”

Russ knew how he felt. Although he’d always believed marriage equality legislation would pass, the idea that it was a reality had yet to sink in. He’d been smiling so much his cheeks hurt.

“Sorry we disrupted the office,” Russ said to his boss, who shrugged and took another bite of cupcake.

“Hey, this is a historic occasion. If we don’t set work aside to celebrate for something like this, we’re no better than robots.” Peter paused, a thoughtful expression crossing his face. “Why don’t you two call it a day, actually? It’s Friday. Take the rest of the day off and enjoy a long weekend together.”

Russ turned to Stephen who gave him a slow grin, nodding. “I like that idea.”

It was rare for either of them to take any more time off than was strictly necessary, but today, Russ wasn’t going to argue. He thanked Peter with a handshake that turned into a hug, and he got another teary hug from Elizabeth on the way out. In no time, he and Stephen stood on the sidewalk of Midtown Atlanta ecstatic, but slightly dazed.

Russ turned to face Stephen. “What do you want to do? I’m sure Midtown’s going to one big celebration. We could check it out.”

Stephen gave him a thoughtful look. “Maybe we could get together with Marc, Curtis, Jeremy, and Evan this evening to celebrate,” he said, referring to two gay couples they were friends with.

“Sounds nice.” Russ grinned at him. “And what did you have in mind until then?”

Grinning back, Stephen wrapped his arms around Russ’ waist. “Oh, I thought maybe we’d go home and have our own celebration.”

“I like the way you think, husband,” Russ said huskily.

Stephen’s eyes shone as he leaned in to brush their lips together and Russ felt happiness rush through him, filling him with effervescent giddiness. He didn’t think it was possible to be this happy.

Russ had never been so glad to be proven wrong.


I hadn’t planned to write an Equals outtake, but Russ and Stephen are never far from my mind and as I thought about the ruling, their voices were clear and strong.

They’ve always held themselves a little apart from the majority of their coworkers, Elizabeth and Peter aside, but I thought this was the kind of day that would break down that barrier a little bit. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of their celebration.

I assume most of you have read the Equals series already, but if you haven’t, stop by my page on Smashwords and pick up all of the books for free! Just use the following coupon codes to get the promotional price.

Equals – TT73J

Partners– WE93B

Family – TT74F

Husbands – FP59K

Joy, Tears, and a Mental Health Day

I have every other Friday off from the day job and typically, I get up around 7 and go right to work on writing or writing-related things.  I have 972,648 things I could be doing but this morning I took a mental health day.  It was sorely needed–the blood tests revealed that it’s not an easy solution of adjusting my thyroid meds and my depression is that I’m just not coping with life at the moment–so I have a lot of work ahead of me.  Hard decisions and changes that have to be made.  But I can’t make those while I’m feeling overwhelmed and fragile so I set them aside.  Instead, I lazed around in bed until 8:30 reading.  I got up, took a shower, and puttered around the house.

Doing chores didn’t feel like an insurmountable task, so I loaded and ran the dishwasher, put a couple of loads of laundry in, and prepped some healthy snacks and breakfasts for the next week.  I put vitamins in little baggies, because I’m always forgetting to take magnesium, which is not good, because I’m chronically low and that contributes to depression and anxiety as well.  For once I felt like I wasn’t rushed or frantic and it felt good to be accomplishing things without a sense of impending doom and panic.

During my puttering, I missed the SCOTUS decision, which makes me a little sad.  But I am too happy about the verdict to let it get to me and the tears are mostly a bone-deep sense of relief and validation. Partly for myself, because life is plenty strange and complicated without the world telling you that your feelings are invalid.  There’s enough bi-erasure out there and knowing that I sat in a weird limbo between having rights and not having them made it so much worse.  It’s a relief to know that I, as a human being, can marry whomever I choose.  And yes, I’m married to a man, and yes, I’d like it to stay that way until we’re dead, but there’s no guarantees of anything and it’s an incredible sense of relief to know that no matter what happens, I’m equal to anyone.

But my joy and tears are also for all of my friends.  For the ones who are planning a wedding in Pennsylvania because Michigan wouldn’t allow them to get married here.  For all of the couples who’ve been waiting to plan the rest of their life until they knew if they had rights or not.  For everyone in the country, who will benefit from this ruling.  Yes, even the haters who are convinced their God will send plagues of locusts and had vowed to set themselves on fire will benefit.  We all benefit.

I am Gay/Straight/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trans I am Human card

My happiness is for my characters too, because although they are in my head and on the page, it doesn’t make them any less real.  Right now Stephen and Russ are celebrating and that thrills me too.

There’s still a hell of a lot to be done.  Both in the wider world and in my own life, but for today, I think I’ll set all of that aside and just be happy.  I’ll read and putter and celebrate with friends and really, who could ask for a better mental health day than that?

Marc talks about M/M VS Gay Fiction #LGBT #Spotlight

A thoughtful, well-written discussion about the differences between gay fiction and m/m romance.

Rainbow Gold Reviews

*****GuestPost

First, how weird is it when you have to talk about yourself in the third person? But yeah, ‘Marc’ will talk about this very hot-button topic, because I read about it all the time and while a lot of people have very valid points, I do think and hope I have something to add to this discussion. I just did an interview with author Larry Benjamin for the blog (which will also be posted today) and while I absolutely agree that some colors in the LGBT rainbow are much underrepresented, and certain types of characters (like flawless, muscle-bound alpha-studs) do appear quite often, I also sincerely believe that M/M Romance is not as shallow as some gay fiction authors assume.

Larry had no issue with me using his interview as a jumping point into this discussion, though and we hope you guys will have some valuable and respectful opinions…

View original post 2,371 more words

Flash Fic Monday – Shift

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Shift

“Goddamn it, Myles Teeter, you don’t get to shift every time you get mad at me. It’s not fair!” Tree roots dug into my back as I wrestled the alligator, my hands sliding on the smooth, leathery skin, wet from the river.

My knee slid in the mud and I nearly lost my grip on the squirming creature under me. “I’m sick as hell of this and it’s cheap way to win a fight. I can’t shift.” I settled my knee square on the squirming tail beneath me and muttered, “Besides, I look like a crazy person screaming at a ‘gator. One day someone I town’s gonna notice and nineteen is a little too young to be labeled a crazy ol’ coot. Bad enough I’m gay and dating an alligator shifter.”

At that, the fight seemed to go out of Myles and I finally got him pinned, one hand holding his snapping jaws shut, the other gripping his softer underbelly. He was small as a gator. Smaller than me, but that’s because he was still young. As he got older, he’d grow upwards of twelve, thirteen feet.

That scared me. I knew he’d never hurt me intentionally, but I was still wary of catching one of the slashing claws or dangerous teeth. And this shifting when we got in an argument shit had to stop. I looked down, staring into the goldy-green eye blinking up at me. Myles had gorgeous eyes when he was in human form but the vertical slit for a pupil he had in ‘gator form always unnerved me. Made me remember that although there was a human consciousness in there somewhere, sometimes there was a real, live reptile around the man I loved.

As I watched, the skin of the alligator beneath me rippled, shifting into a human male before I could blink. Myles shifted fast—faster than most shifters he’d proudly boasted once—and I could never really see his body transition from one to the other. My hand still gripped his chest, but the other was now wrapped around his throat. I was relieved to feel soft, human skin and his pulse beneath my palms, but I let go of Myles so he could turn over and face me.

He settled on his back between my knees and I lowered my body until I straddled his hips. I crossed my arms over my chest and glared down at him. “I’m tired of this, Myles. If you’re mad at me, fine, we can argue it out or wrestle or whatever the fuck you wanna do, but it’s gotta be as a human. You don’t get to turn into a ‘gator. That’s cheatin’.”

Myles grimaced. “Sorry, Dalton.”

“I love you, goddamn it, and I think I’ve been pretty understandin’ about this shifting and all, but this is where I draw the line. You fight me as a human or I’m outta here, you understand?”

He nodded, expression uncharacteristically serious. “I understand. I don’t wanna lose you, Dalton.”

I sighed and uncrossed my arms, leaning down to kiss him, muttering against his lips, “If you don’t behave I’m gonna turn you into a pair of shoes and a belt.”


Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Father’s Day

I didn’t have a chance to talk about my mother on Mother’s Day, so combining these two posts will have to do.

My parents are awesome.  Not perfect or without faults, but they try very hard to be good people.  Even when we screamed and fought when I was growing up, I knew they loved me.  I never questioned that.  I knew they wanted what was best for me, even when we didn’t agree what best was.

I have them to thank for growing up feeling loved and supported.  I can thank them for my love of travel and for exposing me to so many new and interesting things in the world.  I can thank them for my love of cooking and different foods.  My love of animals.  And especially, for my love of reading and writing.

Specifically, since it is Father’s Day, I want to talk about the things my dad taught me. I can thank my dad for teaching me how to work with power tools, how to work with wood, that frogs aren’t scary like I first thought.  He taught me to swim, ice skate, and ski.  Hell, he taught himself to ski while he was teaching me.  How many people can do that?  He taught me that good men respect women and celebrate their intelligence and success.

My creativity came from him.

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This is my favorite picture of me with my parents.  It’s from my wedding.  My mom and I are pretty silly looking in it, but my dad, he looks like a big dork.  And I love him for it.

So Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Looking forward to spending the afternoon with you.

Brigham’s Recommendations – “Kneel, Mr. President” by Lauren Gallagher

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Summary:

Sworn to have their lover’s back, front, or any other side that needs covering.

Secret Service agent Kent Sinclair, head of POTUS security, thought himself prepared for every contingency. Until the First Lady—a woman who barely tolerates his presence—approaches him with a request that startles the hell out of him.

Carlene Broderick is frightened. With the weight of the country and impending war on his shoulders, her husband, James, is buckling under the strain. The key to helping him cope is the name he calls out in his sleep—and it’s not hers. It belongs to his fellow ex-SEAL team buddy. His ex-lover. Kent.

Without hesitation, Kent plunges into treacherous emotional territory, only to realize it’s not really him that James needs. The Commander in Chief needs to give up complete control in the bedroom.

To relieve that much pressure, Kent and Carlene must work together and declare a truce that rapidly heats up into something more. Something that leaves James caught deep in forbidden territory—torn between his beloved wife and the man he’s never stopped loving.

Warning: Contains three forty-somethings discovering whole new sides of themselves, a rejuvenated marriage, and plenty of kinky fun. All brought to you by an ex-SEAL in a wetsuit, a bisexual President, and a First Lady with a tattoo on her ass.

Review:

I don’t often read or review M/M/F books, but if there’s one author who’s guaranteed to always write a stellar story, it’s Lauren Gallagher (aka L.A. Witt in the m/m world).  The title and the premise of the story intrigued me, but if it had been an author I respected less, I would have doubted her ability to pull it off.  A menage BDSM story taking place in the White House? That’s a challenge to make believable, but this author did a beautiful job.

I loved the way Kent and James’ past relationship was slowly revealed as the story continued.  I also loved the strength and openness of Kent and Carlene’s relationship. It was the way Kent and Carlene moved past their dislike of each other to work together for James’ sake that intrigued me the most.  The way all of the characters’ feelings for each other changed and grew really grabbed me and was what sold me on the story. The character growth was what stood out for me the most.  The BDSM aspect and the sex scenes were hot as always (Lauren/L.A. has never failed me there!) and the conclusion of the story felt natural.

If I had one quibble about the story it would be that it seemed slightly implausible that they were able to keep their relationship secret and that they weren’t more concerned about being discovered.  That being said, it didn’t detract from the story enough to be distracting and overall I thought Lauren did an excellent job tackling a very difficult plot.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Samhain

No Flash Fic

There was no flash fic for me today, for a number of reasons.

The biggest is that I came down with a nasty cold at the end of last week and am only now feeling semi-human again.  I had planned to spend three solid days writing, but only got a handful of words out.  The most productive thing I did was edit the Motor City Pride pics.  *sighs*

And much like Theo, I’m in a funk.  Mine isn’t a writing funk though.  When I have a chance to write, the words flow quite nicely and I feel good about where my writing career is headed.  But I am depressed. It’s not particularly surprising since RL has become increasingly stressful.  The day job used to be tolerable (if not a dream job) but it’s rapidly becoming an Evil Day Job and that’s causing a lot of problems.  There are other things going on in real life that are equally stressful and frustrating.  Plus, I don’t have a great outlet for dealing with any of it which takes a bad situation and makes it worse.

Lonesome woman on a sea shore.

I’m functional. I can still get out of bed in the mornings, but I am not where I want to be right now.  The interesting thing is, it feels a lot like my depression in high school, which wound up being caused by an undiagnosed thyroid condition. Depression is a symptom of Hypothyroidism.

I was due for my annual checkup anyway, so I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for today. It’s possible that the biggest thing wrong is my thyroid levels. Once I get bloodwork done I’ll have a better idea.  It may be that a minor tweak of my thyroid medication will fix most of it and then I’ll have the energy to fix the rest. *crosses fingers*

Either way it’s something that has to be dealt with.

The good thing about having been depressed before is that I know it will pass eventually.  I may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel at the moment, but I know it’s there.


Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week.  There are some fantastic ones.

I look forward to seeing you next Monday.

Brigham’s Recommendations – “Motel. Pool.” by Kim Fielding

Motel. Pool.

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Summary:

In the mid-1950s, Jack Dayton flees his working-class prospects in Omaha and heads to Hollywood, convinced he’ll be the next James Dean. But sleazy casting couches don’t earn him stardom, and despair leads to a series of poor decisions that ultimately find him at a cheap motel off Route 66, lifeless at the bottom of the pool.

Sixty years later, Tag Manning, feeling hopeless and empty, flees his most recent relationship mistake and takes to the open road. On a roundabout route to Las Vegas, he pulls over to rest at an isolated spot on Route 66. There’s no longer a motel or pool, but when Tag resumes his journey to Vegas, he finds he’s transporting a hitchhiking ghost. Jack and Tag come to find much-needed friends in each other, but one man is a phantom and the other is strangely cursed. Time is running out for each of them, and they must face the fact that a future together may not only be a gamble… it may not be in the cards.

Review:

I can honestly say “Motel.Pool.” is one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time.  It’s been a while since I’ve been sucked into a book and not wanted to put it down.  Jack and Tag were wonderful  and the author did an incredible job creating characters that were firmly placed in their own time period.  The 1950’s came alive through Jack and Tag was the perfect current day man.  And together? Together they were perfect.  The author deftly handled the interaction between a live man and a ghost, which is no easy task.

Jack’s ghostly status was one of the things that kept me turning the pages.  I kept wondering how the characters were going to stay together.  Well, the author took the characters (and me!) on quite a roller coaster ride through their relationship. I sobbed through part of the book and was thrilled with the way the book resolved in a beautiful, plausible way.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Dreamspinner Press