Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival 2014

Here's a mix of absolutely shameless self-promotion and a new thing I'm trying: promoting others! The latest collection features my work and the genuinely queer work of other proud + loud lunatics. Here's a synopsis:

Voodoo John by James Russell (Warning: I'm talking about the stories in the same order they're in the book. The fact that I'm discussing my own story first is based on this, rather than being an intentional act of vile douchebaggery.)

A ne'er do well inheritance baby on extended holiday in Nawlins faces a mysterious voodoo curse that drains his finances, wits, and (gasp!) his good looks. To break the curse he must admit he believes it's happening and admit he needs help, before he is drained completely.

Mum's the Word by Jeff Lindemann
Jeff's characters live in a hyperbolic caricature of the South that almost needs subtitles. (Yew = you, whut = what, etc.) The genuinely unhappy characters have a lovable quality that reminds me of Peanuts: you know the football is getting pulled out from underneath them, but you can't help root for them anyway. This year's story takes an awesome left turn at the end, one I won't spoil.

Eleusis by Robert Hyers
Surrealism was an unofficial theme this year. Hyers' story begins with characters gay readers will recognize: raver boys being cunty with one another. From there, it gets trippy. Hyers deals with a truth gay authors are sometimes reluctant to tackle: sometimes, victimized people become quite vicious. (I've never taken "vicious queen" as a compliment.) The protagonist Adam's journey takes him to the source of his viciousness: a past he hasn't made peace with.

Sample Day by Jerry Rabushka
I was happy to see Jerry back in the competition this year. The first year I entered, he won (meaning I didn't), so naturally I wanted to hate his story (2012's "Wasted Courage") but it was a fucking masterpiece, as is this year's entry about a broken vet trying to learn to love again. It's a shame how topical the story is, but that's the fault of people a lot more powerful than Jerry. (No disrespect intended, his prose is buff and hairy and will take advantage of your purdy mouth.)

Stinkbug by Rich Barnett
A struggling Rehobath Beach author is visited by Truman Capote reincarnated as a stinkbug. If you aren't reading based on that, there's something wrong witchu brain.

If on a Dark Night Two Strangers Should Come by William Hawkins
The surrealism continues in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We follow the speaker and another drag queen named Brazil on a quest for poppers and amusement among the ruins. The generation gap figures greatly in the failure of these characters to treat each other with basic human kindness. The story unapologetically rails against the notion that disaster brings people together. These characters are on a demented Dover Beach, alone on a darkling plain, beneath failing levies.

Corset by Sally Bellerose
An addict has to choose between her lover and the addiction that has her as tightly bound as the title object. Surrealism again figures heavily, as you can't help but root for broken people against steep odds. This was the winning story, and you'll see why. Bellerose is completely unafraid to let her characters act and interact on the page with zero author interference.

The Dark Symphony by Eric Andrews-Katz
And then we travelled to Victorian England, where a gay love story suggests the origin of some of history's most twisted monsters. The viciousness of a victimized character is once again a theme. I'm underselling this one in the hopes of not spoiling some fine twists.

Love Thy Neighbor by N.S. Beranek
Tolerance is a struggle. Beranek's story reminds us of this, as gays in various states of closeted and half-closeted work to understand (or simply avoid) one another in claustrophobic small town U.S.A.

Beanstalk by Clifford Henderson
Jack and the Beanstalk + forbidden lesbian romance. Again, if u not readin', check u brain.

Rhinestone Magic by J.R. Greenwell
Tackiness and glamour clash in the best possible way as change creeps, rather than sweeps, across a western Carolina town. Another reminder that tolerance is something we all struggle with.

The Red Coat by George E. Jordan
It all starts with a chance encounter on the streets of Nawlins. I know it's been my drinking game word, but surrealism pops up one last time, as this Nawlins tale is set during whatever passes for winter in the Crescent City. The main characters have an innocent genderless nature that hides another fantastic plot twist I won't spoil.

I was honored to be a part of this collection for the third year in a row. (Reading it afterward keeps me off the ledge as I return to my pedestrian, bill-paying life.) This was my first paid gig as an author and my first time placing in a national contest, so I'm waving my Bronze (or Silver? We'll flip for it N.S.?) with unabashed pride. Below is the link to buy. See everyone at Tennessee Williams in 2015!


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