(I rarely note “warnings,” but there are potential triggers here. Beware if you’re vulnerable. – Lou Sylvre.)
Madeira Desouza has a new gay erotic sci fi tale out: Baja Clavius.
This controversial science fiction adventure depicts gay male time travel agents with very bad behaviors. They are violent and immoral men.
A few hundred years from now, these time travel agents work within a top-secret agency located beneath the crater Clavius on the moon. Their time-travel missions take them to Earth in the past where they ruthlessly manipulate man who are targeted for their roles in the outcomes of historical events such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Yesterday I was lost and I died. Today I am alive again. I accept the truth about foregone tomorrows and my resurrections from the dead.
I do not claim to be a believer in a deity or a religion. Yet, I have personally experienced being repeatedly brought back to life after death. Something far more powerful than us human beings resurrected me. And now, everything I have learned about living, dying, and then coming back for more is presented here.
I have been coerced into creating this journal of my experiences. I will suffer if I am less than completely truthful. I will be held prisoner until I have completed this in full.
I work for a top-secret international agency that is so deeply concealed nobody could possibly find it. Baja Clavius is the name of the international base of operations where I live. It is from that base that I travel in time to work assignments on Earth.
Desperate efforts by others to censor this work all have ended in failure. Just to confuse you, others have circulated conflicting versions of this. But I defeated all my enemies who wanted to prevent you for seeing this.
I begin by sharing my memories of being back in my home state of Arizona—on foot trudging through the desert under dark, threatening thunderclouds that do not diminish the hottest day I have ever felt in my entire life. Through an unexpected break in the storm clouds, I see bright white sunlight and the most magnificent color of blue sky. Up there above me a haunting full moon commands my attention.
Sticking out of the landscape under the ominous skies is a mechanical structure apparently made mostly of wood. As I walk closer to the device, it looks to me as though it was created specifically to slow down the process of hanging a man by the neck so that he will experience extended agony before his death.
Hung from a thick brown rope wrapped around a wheel wench is a muscular, shirtless, and barefoot man with his arms unbound struggling desperately to stay conscious as his neck is crushed in the noose. I see his high cheekbones and long dark brown hair that is tied behind his neck into a queue. I watch his bare feet kick the sky.
I notice a pair of unattended video cameras on tripods positioned nearby on the desert floor pointing toward the hanging machine. Why would anyone go to the trouble of videotaping this man’s death by ritual hanging?
I know that I have met him previously. But this man whose name I cannot remember somehow seems to hold a distinct place at the very center of faulty recollections in my brain.
Off in the distance fifty meters or so to the west of my location, I can see four men wearing cowboy attire running away. I must have scared them away when I approached. But they left that helpless man to die on their hanging machine.
He is someone who seems obviously capable of having put up very considerable resistance against this merciless fate. His powerful body attracts my full attention. He looks like he is about thirty years old—the same age as me. His legs wildly swing in all possible directions as I reach the hanging machine. He desperately tries to reach his hands up to his neck as if it somehow were possible to free himself from the noose. But that is impossible! He groans when he sees me as if to try and tell me something.
His faded blue jeans are too tight for him. I stare at his bulging crotch as he dances in the air at the end of a rope. I marvel at his incredible masculinity contrasted with utter vulnerability. This man looks strong and tough. He must certainly be capable of protecting himself against anyone with success. But, not now.
He cannot save himself. He is simultaneously very manly and totally defenseless. This precise opposing combination of traits is, I’m sure, why men watch executions of other men.
His deep, dark eyes remain open, defiantly staring outward into the eerie sky. He resumes his kicking, but much more forcefully now.
His tight blue jeans emphasize his growing bulge. He has attained a full erection ahead of what will be his final ejaculation into his jeans. There is intense humiliation on his face. His body jerks wildly. As he shoots his last load in his pants, his neck cannot withstand the crushing force of the noose. I am stunned because I did not expect to see his body spasms, kicking, and curling of his toes.
Very suddenly, he just stops struggling. His body no longer can fight back against the effects of gravity and the noose that has applied fatal pressure to his vulnerable neck. I watch him desperately try to open his mouth to breathe, but he has no life remaining in him. I am overwhelmed with intense anger and shock as I slump to the ground. I cry without any shame for this stranger. I feel stunned by my sexual attraction to him. It is as if I have lost someone who has been very significant to me and to my life.
Even though I feel instinctively that I have suffered memory loss, I can remember where I work. I especially remember being inside some kind of cylindrical blue machine.
The inside of the circular blue glass machine was filled with a milky white liquid. It was translucent and unpleasant. It smelled like chemicals. I was naked. I felt like I was drowning. But I knew I was not going to drown. Something has taught me that I cannot die. I know with absolute certainty that I do not know death. I live on and on. But, I have so many questions that I cannot answer. Why am I repeatedly resurrected? Will I live forever?
Notes from the Author on Diverse Characters
What motivated you to choose a wide diversity for your science fiction characters?
Both of my grandfathers came from Portugal’s Azores Islands situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 850 miles off the western coast of Europe. I grew up as a cultural minority within the Portuguese community situated midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. So, I definitely come from “old country” roots.
When I first started creating the characters in “Baja Clavius” I imagined that 200 or 300 years from today, people probably would not feel ethnic or cultural prejudice like we have nowadays.
My all-male time travel agents working inside the crater Clavius on the moon are from many well-known peoples of planet Earth. I prominently feature a Mexican or Latino hero named Ted Avila. He’s the narrator. The exact heritage of time travel agent Avila in the book is left open to individual interpretation. But although the character’s surname can readily be found in both Portuguese and Hispanic populations today, it is pronounced differently in various places. For example, the “A” in Avila Beach, California is pronounced like in the word apple.
I suppose I may have crossed the line when I created “new prejudices” such as the future society believing gay men are more successful in life compared to straight men, and, a very clear hero-worship of gay men who are celebrities for their sexual prowess. But unlike in the 21st century, nobody in the future society I created is prejudiced based on the color of a person’s skin or ethnic characteristics. Several prominent characters in “Baja Clavius” stand out in this regard. Time travel agent Vincent Wauneka is a Native American Indian born in the Navajo Nation. Markus Tagawa, director of time travel operations, is Japanese American. A second director of time travel operations, Marvin Mainer, is African American.
Madeira Desouza is a gay male author. He focuses upon telling stories about mature, masculine men who are sexually attracted to other mature, masculine men. He steers clear of several deeply embedded traits of American gay culture that can be found in film and in print–eccentric or flamboyant behaviors, alkyl nitrites, dance music, trendy clothing, trendy hair, gay men who think age 30 is old, and so forth.
Desouza’s creative works belong within the bara genre. This little word is shortened from barazuko. Translated from Japanese, it means rose-tribe, which is a code phrase for gay men. Originated in Japan decades ago as gay men created works for other gay men, this genre has not yet been widely embraced internationally. Perhaps this is because bara bara depicts same-sex feelings and sexual attraction to masculine, muscular men who sometimes behave in aggressive, violent, or exploitative ways towards one another.
As both a storyteller and digital artist Desouza explores conflicting and opposing compulsions that all men have. On one side there are impulses men have towards sustaining life, engaging in love, and being attracted to others. In the opposing direction are impulses men have towards being aggressive, engaging in violence, and, causing pain and death. For centuries, artists and storytellers around the world have found inspiration in these two opposing human compulsions that no man is able to resist or impede merely by his conscious will alone.
Lou’s Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to welcome Michael G. Williams.
Michael G. Williams has a new queer sci fi book out: A Fall in Autumn.
WELCOME TO THE LAST OF THE GREAT FLYING CITIES
It’s 9172, YE (Year of the Empire), and the future has forgotten its past.
Soaring miles over the Earth, Autumn, the sole surviving flying city, is filled to the brim with the manifold forms of humankind: from Human Plus “floor models” to the oppressed and disfranchised underclasses doing their dirty work and every imaginable variation between.
Valerius Bakhoum is a washed-up private eye and street hustler scraping by in Autumn. Late on his rent, fetishized and reviled for his imperfect genetics, stuck in the quicksand of his own heritage, Valerius is trying desperately to wrap up his too-short life when a mythical relic of humanity’s fog-shrouded past walks in and hires him to do one last job. What starts out as Valerius just taking a stranger’s money quickly turns into the biggest and most dangerous mystery he’s ever tried to crack – and Valerius is running out of time to solve it.
Now Autumn’s abandoned history – and the monsters and heroes that adorn it – are emerging from the shadows to threaten the few remaining things Valerius holds dear. Can the burned-out detective navigate the labyrinth of lies and maze of blind faith around him to save the City of Autumn from its greatest myth and deadliest threat?
The sun was over the trees at the southeastern edge of the sloped opening in the forest when I awoke. The sun woke me, actually: its rays on my face, the flicker of shadow and light as it played across my closed eyes. I was half dressed: my shoes off, my feet bare, and my coat spread over me in lieu of a blanket. My shirt was somewhere, probably. I wasn’t wearing it, anyway, and my eyes hadn’t opened yet, but I could feel it nearby the way you can sense an old dog by your chair or a former lover on the opposite side of an otherwise perfectly nice party.
My back curled against something firm and supporting and I felt gentle fingers stroke the tufts of silvery black at my temples. Hematite, a man told me once. I would always love him a little for saying that. My hair there wasn’t yet gray but no longer black and when wet it looked like hematite, and he said it like that meant something deep and significant and mystical I didn’t understand. Having someone’s fingers run through it felt good, though. It felt like a happy memory, like something I didn’t expect would happen much anymore if it ever really happened in the first place.
That simple touch was a comfort to me. It’s the most minor thing and, for that reason, the most missed when it’s gone. I don’t go long stretches without being touched, but it had been a while between caresses. This was that: a caress, and more; not exactly sexual but not exactly platonic. It was that happy in-between we call intimate. I made myself vulnerable to other men, and they themselves to me, more times than I can count in my too-short life. It didn’t always work out, though, that my usual flavor of street trade would show basic human kindness in return for mine.
None of that mattered, though. Those guys were long gone. Right that second, someone ran his fingers through my half-asleep hair, intimate and kind and caressing. I felt vulnerable and that was okay. For a few moments I wasn’t dying and I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t lonely and I wasn’t alone. The sun felt good, and the breeze through the branches sounded like Gaia herself telling me to go back to sleep. I thought for a moment I might be okay with dying fairly soon if I got to wake up like this every morning for the rest of my life.
“Okay,” I groaned. I didn’t move and I didn’t open my eyes because I wasn’t quite ready for the moment to go away even as I lifted the pin to pop its balloon. “You want something. So tell me what it is. Because if I say yes – if– I may not have much time to hold up my end of the bargain.” My voice dispelled all the magic of the moment, but his fingers were still at my temple, resting there, ready to go back to what we shared moments before. I rolled over and looked up at Alejandro, his purple hair down over half his face as he leaned on one elbow. I didn’t kiss him, but I did put one hand to his jaw and brush his cheek with my thumb. I wondered if he could feel that – really feel it, like skin feels it. “Let’s not pussyfoot around this. You want me to do something. The whole story about the angel and thinking someone was trying to kill you was bullshit, but there was something there, something worth chasing, so let’s have the truth now and get on with things.” I tried to smile at him. His expression was completely blank.
With the hand he used to brush my temples, he laid a fingertip behind my ear, cupping my face with barely a single point of contact. He still didn’t smile, but his eyes searched my face, my own eyes, for something. It occurred to me the correct phrasing might be to say he searched my eyes for someone. I assumed he’d been alive long enough to know a hell of a lot of people, and I would bet a nickel he looked for one of them in me. There are a hundred romantic stories about golems: meat sacks like me throwing ourselves at a golem out of infatuation with their embodiment of agelessness.
If he’d been there before, heard a hundred thousand of us wail about mortality and still willing to hear number one hundred thousand one, he must have a lot of love for humankind. No, I thought, more than that: he must have loved the hell out of oneof us at some point. Maybe he was waiting for that guy to walk back into his life, reemerging from the vast but finite pool of genetic factors we possess as a species. I wondered if I simply seemed close enough to that long-lost lover to pass muster for a night.
I also wondered what made a golem want to get laid in the first place: ever the detective, after all.
“I really did see an angel in Splendor,” Alejandro said. He still wasn’t smiling. If anything, he had the muted seriousness, the understated gravitas, I’d long since come to recognize as the posture of someone telling the truth at long last. I wondered how long it had been. “I swear it to you. I swear it.” He surprised me, then, because he didn’t cry, golems don’t have tear ducts, but his eyelids quivered with the autonomic response to strong emotion. He still hadn’t moved at all, and we were shielded from the breeze so that his hair hung straight down like a perfectly still and settled curtain across half the stage of his face. “And I believe it would try to kill me if it knew I were here.”
Michael G. Williams writes wry horror, urban fantasy, and science fiction: stories of monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He is the author of three series for Falstaff Books: The Withrow Chronicles, including Perishables (2012 Laine Cunningham Award), Tooth & Nail, Deal with the Devil, Attempted Immortality, and Nobody Gets Out Alive; a new series in The Shadow Council Archives featuring one of San Francisco’s most beloved figures, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN; and the science fiction noir A Fall in Autumn. Michael also writes short stories and contributes to tabletop RPG development. Michael strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and mystery with stories of outcasts and loners finding their people.
Michael is also an avid podcaster, activist, reader, runner, and gaymer, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall and Mu Beta Psi. He lives in Durham, NC, with his husband, two cats, two dogs, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.
To set up this exclusive excerpt for a moment, let me explain that at this point in the story Valerius needs to navigate a huge open-air market in the worst part of the city. It’s called the Lower Market Market because it’s a market on Market Street. Most people refer to it as just the Market, or the LM, or the LMM.
Valerius knows he’s going to have to contend with multiple gangs of thieves and enforcers to get from one end to the other, and he’s bribed his way through the first section by performing, uh, favors for a young knife-fighter named Fiono. Fiono has a big mane of hair that reminds Valerius of a lion, and he very quickly starts thinking of him that way.
Fiono is clearly talented as a fighter, but he’s somehow gotten in trouble with his very businesslike criminal outfit, the Hendricks Gang, and been busted down to guarding the boundaries of their turf. Valerius has bribed Fiono to accompany him to their contested border with the next gang, the Busters, who are decidedly less formal in their presentation and conduct. Valerius used to be a criminal himself – he spent years as a sex worker in this same market – but it’s been long enough that none of his old contacts are around and none of his old street cred matters. He’s become an outsider to this system he once called home, and now he needs that system’s worst elements to protect him from the rest of it long enough to follow a lead.
We walked for maybe twenty minutes. Different people here and there greeted my Hendricks protector in various ways. Some of them were rent boys, some were rent girls, some were hawkers whose tone was the forced joviality I recognized as fear on seeing him. I wondered if he were especially cruel. Perhaps he had a reputation as a gifted slicer. From what his partner said, he was bumped back down to working the door because he fucked the wrong person, which meant he’d been high enough up to get knocked down. And, of course, maybe these people reacted less to him and more to the organization he represented.
I tried engaging him in conversation—I told him my name, offered a hand to shake—but he kept walking without even looking at me. Maybe he pissed off a trick who then made trouble to get back at him. Maybe he was mute. I found myself manufacturing a hundred different reasons why a street tough like Fiono would get blown in the shadows by a wrung-out stranger like me, then walk a mile without saying a word. In most of my manufactured scenarios, he did it by choice. I imagined Fiono aloof in that way a teenager might find romantic but I found a little sad. In some of them, it was tragic circumstance: Fiono cast in the role of my One True Love, found too late to save him from the gyro accident that stole his speaking voice; or the damage to his larynx from a case of Child’s Malady had been too severe; or he was born silent and would, like a swan, only speak on the day of his death at which time his voice would be shockingly beautiful.
After a sensory-numbing slideshow of spice merchants, back-alley pinpricks selling unfiltered shit in dirty needles, an arcade of manual games operated by the few kids not out trying to steal dinner, furniture huts, games of dice huddling in gaps, accusations of counterfeiting, and who knows what else, we walked down some rickety steps one at a time.
Fiono, The Boy Lion, nodded in the direction of one of the warrens and turned to go.
“Wait.” My voice was quiet, but I didn’t push my luck trying to sound intimate. He paused. “I may need them to see a little muscle to let me get through. I mean, these are Busters we’re talking about.”
He shrugged, leaned against a post, and a knife appeared between his fingers without his visibly removing it from anywhere on his person. Fiono started picking his nails with it. The knife was tiny, the weapon of a guy who enjoyed feeling a foe’s dying breath gutter out against his own face.
“What’s Hendy trash doing sitting on our curb?”
I looked in the direction of the new voice and saw two women with football bats and bandoliers of knives walk to within ten meters and no closer. The one speaking appeared the older of the two, but neither of them would have qualified as an adult in the Imperial census. Busters will take anybody desperate enough to volunteer, but these two looked like they had skills and intentions.
“He came with me. I need to get to a fruit dealer. Let us by.” I tried to sound proud but compliant: the default state of one who knows he’s been beaten by a larger foe. There was a middle finger in my voice, but my eyes didn’t meet theirs.
“Let you by, you mean. We’re not letting a Hendy onto our turf.”
Fiono turned to go at that, hands up in a gesture indicating very clearly he was done participating in this minor melodrama.
“Wait.” I didn’t try to hide that I was begging. “Please, wait. I need all three of you to go with me, and I’m willing to pay.”
Fiono turned back and stared at me. The Buster who’d done the talking burst out laughing. “You want Busters and Hendies to help you out at the same time? Buddy, you don’t need to work so hard to set up a fight. Usually throwing something will get it started.” She laughed again. “Now come with us, and we’ll figure out how to get you there and how much it’ll cost.”
That’s the thing about the Lower Em. I could have found the place on my own. I could have probably paid off the guards and kept walking, or bluffed my way through, but I needed some muscle for this trip to the fruit dealer. Yuri might have gotten bounced out because he didn’t know what he was getting into, but I did. I needed this guy to see I had friends and, even better, I wanted him to see I had friends in at least two of the big gangs.
“No.” I shook my head. “He comes with me, and we all go together. You and he make nice and it’ll be worth your time.”
They exchanged glances, and the younger one blinked at the older. Apparently, that was enough. The older went from pensive to sneering again. “Alright, buddy boy. I mean, it’ll be a hoot to tell the rest, right? For both of us.”
Fiono met my eyes and shook his head once to the left. No dice. He wasn’t sold.
I walked over and leaned in close enough to whisper. “You do this for me, and I’ll put a smile on your face twice a day for a week.”
Fiono considered for a long second, then stepped forward. This kid was going to get himself in real trouble one day.
The three of us drew stares as we walked. Most conversations stopped, but some others took on new vigor—and new subject matter—as we passed by. There were people who were too stunned to contain their reaction on seeing a kid in Hendy blue walk with two beat sticks in Buster yellow rags. (Busters identify themselves with tufts of yellow woven into complicated braids in their hair.) I heard something metallic clatter against the scaffolding as we rounded a corner. The Busters refused to tell me their names, but they made constant patter with one another. One was in front, the other in back, with Fiono, The Boy Lion, walking beside. They joked with one another, they joked about one another, they joked at my expense, and they openly mocked the surprise of the people around us.
“Wot,” the one in front said to a pottery merchant selling plastic painted with shellac. “You never seen blue before? Look up sometime, grandpa!” The other shot back, “He can’t, when he does, he gets shit in his eye!” and then they both laughed these high, keening, vulture laughs, like harpies from prehistoric times. They snorted and farted and pointed at people, stuck their tongues out, made rude gestures. Where the Hendricks Gang has turned their turf into an operating business environment with sustainability and stability highly prioritized, the Busters keep people afraid and have fun doing it.
I remembered what it was like to be afraid all the time—hell, I still felt afraid all the time—and so I hated them for the way they used fear as a tool, but at the same time, I loved their energy. There was a time when I was the kid on the corner shaking my ass at whatever ganger passed, cracking jokes, taunting the serious ones and encouraging the silly ones. That kind of bravery comes from a place of powerlessness, from having nothing to lose. Everything looked like up from where I was back then, and in its strange way that can be liberating.
A part of me whispered there’s never been anywhere but the bottom, for me, that it’s always been nowhere to go but up. So where did that feeling of liberation go?
I didn’t want to go back to those times. I’m not trying to glamorize living on the street, sucking crusty dick in return for barely enough calories not to starve. I’m not trying to say it’s a party. Having nothing is not the same as having nothing to worry about. A lot of my bravery was a lie I told myself to make it through the night. There was a part of me, though, on that walk, with those three, that missed being able to summon up the bravado, false or otherwise. Only the terrorized can achieve fearlessness.
Some street kids—real kids, not the Buster teens, and not Fiono, whose age I pegged at twenty—fell in behind us, singing the songs they make up down here about the gangs and life and dangers to avoid. Like kids everywhere, they make up stories about what scares them, what to stay away from, who’s in charge and why. The songs they sang sounded half-familiar to me because they were based on the songs I heard when I was working these streets. They’d been remixed and rewritten over time, the names changing with the shifting tides of gangs and turf, but the tunes and the themes were preserved from one half-life generation to the next. Very quickly our little foursome turned into an informal parade of Lower Market Market street kids singing and skipping and waving scraps of cloth. Fiono looked a little offended as the Busters joined in on the songs, loving the attention, the grand show we were putting on. Like the one said, it would make a great story for them to tell the others. Fiono took himself seriously, though, so all this abraded his sensibilities, his notion of himself as a slicer who was going places.
“Don’t look so sour.” I hit him with a small smile. “They’re making noise because they’re scared of you.” I nodded forward and back. “And of them. If you were nothing, they wouldn’t need to warn each other of your approach.”
Fiono blinked. He’d never thought about that before. He probably was, once upon a time, one of these kids, too, but he’d never let himself examine that experience. He was too young and too focused on gang captaincy or new knives or his own dick or whatever else he saw as the measure of success. Most slicers only wanted to get rich enough to eat when they felt like it and fuck whom they wished, and eventually to die in a close fight after grievously wounding their opponent. I would probably outlive Fiono, given his current career, but he was still a person. He still deserved a moment of kindness as much as the next living thing.
“Don’t try pillow talk with Fiono,” the one in front said with a sneer. “Better’n you ‘ave tried to put a smile on those pretty lips.”
I started to say something smart, I don’t remember what, when I realized we were there: the fruit seller’s stand. Time to get back to work.
More From the Author
I loved writing this scene so much. It really let me dig into the mishmash of cultures and shifting lines of power at work in this seamy underbelly of the city. The Lower Market Market gets to be the place in the city that most feels alive. It practically boils over with activity, with opportunity, and with people taking advantage of each other and watching out for each other and everything between. Seeing all those factions and forces simultaneously entertained and intimidated by an impromptu parade of singing, dancing street kids and a few members of rival gangs made the Market come to life for me in a way it hadn’t in the first draft. It inspired me to go back and rewrite some earlier sections to bring a little more verve into a dingy part of town.
I loved this scene also because it’s a chance for Valerius to realize how far he’s come from the life he had as a teenage runaway – and how far he hasn’t come. After all, he turned to his old methods when he needed a way across, and he didn’t hesitate to do so. He’s still desperate, still just barely making it in a big, bad world full of people eager to gain the upper hand on anyone and everyone who happens to be around. Valerius hasn’t for many years felt afraid in the way he did as a kid, but he’s also starting to wake up to the fact he still does feel afraid all the time. He’s just afraid of different things.
I think it’s important to feature characters who are weak, and who are looked down upon. It’s important because it gives them powerful motivations to succeed, and powerful motivations lead to daring choices and meaningful turns in the plot. But I also think it’s important because that helps us build empathy for the people we think are beneath us in the real world. It’s important to me to emphasize that all people are people, and all people deserve empathy and consideration and respect. Like Valerius, I think almost everyone deserves more kindness than they’re getting, with the exceptions being the very rich and the very powerful. The powerless among us are the ones who most deserve to be recognized as our comrades in the constant struggle to get by. Valerius feels that, and he hopes this moment right here will teach the others to feel it, too. He feels real affection for Fiono, real sympathy, and I think that’s a much more complex and vulnerable and brave reaction to this silent street tough who’s unquestionably killed, probably many times, than simple cynicism would be. I would much rather work to expose what we have in common with those we think are the least like us than just tell another story of someone exactly like me.
What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
I’ve just signed a deal for 4 more books in the world of A Fall in Autumn and will be writing the sequel over the summer. I can’t wait! I expect the second book, to be titled New Life in Autumn, will be out a year from now.
Later this year I have several other works, already finished and coming out from Falstaff Books:
Nobody Gets Out Alive will be coming out sometime soon, probably over the summer. It’s the fifth and final(-ish) book of The Withrow Chronicles, my suburban vampire series about a guy who became a vampire in the 1940’s and has declared himself the boss of all of North Carolina’s blood-drinkers. The series is a ridiculously fun sequence of genre mashups – vampires and zombies, vampires and superheroes, vampires and spy thrillers, vampires and war, vampires and their witch frienemies – telling a story that gets increasingly complex as Withrow slowly but surely learns the world of the supernatural is much bigger than he thought.
I also have the four-novella San Francisco urban fantasy series, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN. It starts with Through the Doors of Oblivion, and it’s about some of the most evocative moments in San Francisco’s history – such as the 1906 earthquake and fire – and witches and demons and time travel and real estate scams. I’m just exceptionally proud of it, and I get to really focus on the features of San Francisco I most adore, which are not necessarily the parts of the city they try to highlight for tourists. I don’t know exactly when that one is due out, either, but it’s made it through the content edits and the copyeditor and it’s now with the proofreader, so it’s getting close!
And, last but not least, I’ve reached the rights-reversion point on a bunch of short stories I sold years ago so I’m possibly going to reclaim those rights and produce an anthology of short stories and nonfiction essays I’ve written for various venues. That’s a maybe, though. We’ll see.
Thank you so much for having me – I really appreciate your and your readers’ time and attention. I hope you enjoy A Fall in Autumn and I would love to hear from you about it!
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Folks who sign up for my monthly newsletter get a free short story and can read the ongoing first draft of a story set in the world of A Fall in Autumn but in our time rather than 12,000 years from now. Give it a shot! I keep marketing to a minimum and try to focus on rewarding your interest with new content.
And thanks again!
Thanks to the author and OWI for including us in the tour! Michael, I hope you will visit again. Thanks, readers for comeing by. Comments are always welcome.
Romance Across the Rainbow welcomes O. E. Tearman, who is on tour with a unique futuristic sci-fi—sounds fascinating!
O.E. Tearmann has a new MM (trans) hard sci fi/cyberpunk tale out, book one in their “Aces High, Jokers Wild” series: “The Hands We’re Given.”
Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.
Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.
Life’s a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you’re given.
The dark shapes of three drones flitted over the junkyard, blotting out the stars. Aidan desperately turned the keys, slamming his foot on the accelerator. The truck’s engine finally revved. Kevin flung open the passenger side door and leapt inside. “Go, go, go!”
Aidan slammed it into reverse and hit the gas. They jumped backward. Once the truck was far enough away from the fence, he changed gears and wrenched the wheel around. They bumped and rattled into the night as fast as Aidan dared without the headlights on. The heat of the engine would make them easy to follow for the drones’ thermal cameras, but the short-range guard drones couldn’t go too far from their base of operation before their programming called them back. Aidan just hoped they could outrun them.
He gripped the steering wheel so hard it hurt. He could feel the suit tightening down against his skin. His heart pounded in his chest. Kevin’s breathing was ragged beside him. Another burst of bullets sprayed the ground right in front of them. Aidan yelped and yanked the wheel to avoid getting hit. The truck jittered to the side. Aidan slammed on the gas. The desert night sped past in a blur of blue and red under the starlight. Slowly, the whir of rotors faded into the distance. Aidan’s grip on the steering wheel began to relax. Kevin pulled his tab out of the bag and set it on the dashboard, watching as the screen flipped through the security channels they’d hacked into, keeping track of the location of dozens of drones.
Finally, Aidan pulled up under an overhang of red rock and cut the engine. The wide-range security drones were due to make their fly-over soon. Better to stop for a while and recover, get back on the road when it was safer.
They sat in silence for a long time, listening for rotors over the quiet buzz of the night insects. Aidan rested his arms on the steering wheel and propped his chin on his wrist, watching the star-studded sky.
“You all right?” Kevin breathed. At some point during the drive, he had deactivated his slick suit.
Aidan sighed and leaned back so he could manually flip his face screen up.”Yeah. Think so. Banged my knee pretty bad. Your shoulder?”
“Bruised. Doesn’t feel severe.” Kevin shrugged.
“Um, good,” Aidan whispered eventually.
So. They were alive. They’d gotten out with most of what they’d gone in for.
At the expense of a bad bruise across Kevin’s cheek, that or worse to his shoulder, and an action that could have caused so much more.
Slowly, some of his anger seeped back. He took a breath. “You scared the hell out of me back there and acted like a complete gamma, Kev. Don’t do that again.”
Kevin ducked his head in a slow nod. “I’m sorry, Aidan. I—When I saw you like that, I guess I panicked.”
Aidan sighed. Kevin was normally so level-headed. He’d been utterly cool on-Grid, when Aidan had been scared shitless.
So why had he acted like this out here?
On the tab screen, the red dot of a drone approached their location. They waited in breathless silence as the long-range drone passed, not even the sound of whirring to announce its presence. The red dot moved out of range.
Aidan breathed out. Kevin looked up with a smile. So close. They were so close.
“That’s the last of them. A very fine night’s work if I do say so.”
Aidan tried to smile, but it faltered. “I didn’t get the holo board. That was the part we needed most.”
Kevin smirked as he pulled the bag up from the floorboard and into his lap. He rifled quickly through the materials they had managed to grab, yanked, and pulled out the board with a wink.
“Oh, I don’t know about that.”
“What? How…?” Aidan breathed, feeling the wave of defeat that had been threatening lift.
“Fell down the pile when you did,” Kevin whispered, grinning. “I simply grabbed it up. After all, I am the requisitions officer. Snatching things is my forte.”
A rush of joy shot through Aidan. They’d done it. They’d gotten everything. Nose to nose with Kevin, he grinned.
“Holy shit, we- Holy shit! You… wow. Kevin, holy shit! This is like one of your vids!”
Kevin’s eyes glittered like silver in the low light. “You know, if this is a vid, I know how the scene ends.”
“Yeah?” Aidan asked, still giddy with relief.
Kevin was still smiling, his teeth white outlines in his grin. And he was leaning closer. Aidan could feel the heat of his skin, his breath.
“Heroes always get a kiss at the end of the adventure. That’s the convention.” Kevin tipped his head, eyes holding Aidan’s. “Would the hero like a kiss?”
Aidan froze. Was Kevin actually… Was he…?
He wet his lips. His voice escaped as a whisper. “Am I supposed to be a hero?”
Kevin’s smile was soft now, and he was so very close. “I don’t see anyone else in the driver’s seat. So you must be.” Then he pressed his lips against Aidan’s.
Kevin’s lips were hot. Aidan’s brain turned inside out. Kevin was kissing him.
Kevin had started kissing him.
This was real.
He leaned into the warmth with a pleasure that was almost pain. This was only going to be a second, but if only this second would last.
Softly, Kevin drew back. “Was that okay?”
Kevin’s whisper barely made it through the buzzing in Aidan’s brain. He gasped in a breath. “Um, okay. Yeah.” He swallowed hard and forced himself to sit up. “We-we should get going home…”
Kevin nodded, eyes still holding his as he drew away. “I suppose we should.”
Aidan Headly wasn’t always the adorable anxious wreck of a commander who’s currently running the Wildcards in the Aces High Jokers Wild series. When he first appeared in my brain before I had any inkling of what his story would become, he was far, far different. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore how he became the character he is today.
Originally, Aidan was meant to be an antagonist of sorts. In his first story (which, thank goodness, never went anywhere), he was one of two point of view characters in a world that, in retrospect, was incredibly poorly conceived. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that he was in the majority instead of the minority. In this original storyline, Aidan was still part of a rebel group, but he wasn’t a leader–and this group wasn’t fighting for freedom.
As second-in-command of this rebel group, Aidan was a confident sharpshooter and spy who would often go on dangerous missions into enemy territory with his sister, Naomi. He was a post-operative trans guy with a little bit of a wild streak.
Not at all what he is today, right?
When I started to put together this new world and storyline, Aidan began to shift. He initially was going to be a side-character as I focused on his sister’s storyline, But then I got too invested in his and Kevin’s relationship and changed directions. I decided I wanted him to be pre-op so I could explore my own dysphoria and discomfort in fiction. So he got a binder and a hormone regimen. He developed anxiety and depression as I realized those things in myself and started to learn to cope with them. In many ways, Aidan became a reflection of myself on the page instead of the vague character I’d originally imagined. With some additional kick-butt leadership and fighting skills.
He continued to grow and evolve as The Hands We’re Given went from rough draft to published book. At one point, I wrote his depression as so bad and so deep that it began to eclipse every other aspect of his personality. Obviously, that had to get toned back and tweaked. He had a bit of a pendulum swing between being a competent leader and hiding in his closet before things settled out into what I hope is a good balance.
There are some traits that stayed the same throughout this evolution, of course: he’s still a rebel, he’s still trans and gay, and he has a similar voice to when we started out. He still cares deeply for his friends and companions, and will still stick his neck out for them.
No matter how much Aidan changed through the writing process, he has always been close to my heart. I’m proud of the way he evolved and became the character who’s out in the world today. It’s a little like watching a kid grow up and sending him out into the unknown.
All I can do now is hope my readers enjoy his adventures.
O.E. Tearmann lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, in what may become the Co-Wy Grid. They share the house with a brat in fur, a husband and a great many books. Their search engine history may garner them a call from the FBI one day. When they’re not living on base 1407 they advocate for a more equitable society and more sustainable agricultural practices, participate in sundry geekdom and do their best to walk their characters’ talk.
Today, Romance Across the Rainbow joyfully welcomes J. Scott Coatsworth and his blog tour for his new release, Ithani. So good to have you here again, Scott!
The final MM sci fi book in J. Scott Coatsworth’s “Oberon Cycle” trilogy is out – “Ithani”!
Time is running out.
After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani–the aliens who broke the world–have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.
The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.
Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the power to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise…
Venin stood under the dome of the chapel, the waters of the Orn rushing past the small island to crash over the edge of the crater rim, where they fell a thousand meters to the broken city of Errian below.
The Erriani chapel was different from what he was used to back home. The Gaelani chapel in Gaelan had sat at the top of a tall pillar of stone, open to the night sky, a wide space of grass and trees that intertwined in a natural dome through which moonlight filtered down to make dappled shadows on the ground.
This chapel, instead, was a wonder of streaming sunlight, the columns a polished eggshell marble with glimmering seams of gold. Red creeper vines climbed up the columns, festooned with clusters of yellow flowers that gave off a sweet scent.
Both were bright and airy, but the Erriani chapel lay under a dome supported by fluted marble columns, a painted arch of daytime sky and the rose-colored sun blazing overhead.
The last time he’d gone to chapel had been with Tazim, before his untimely death.
Long before the troubles that roiled the world now.
Something drew him back. A need to reconnect with his past. To bridge the gap between then and now, between who he was and who he had become. Taz would have liked this place.
The chapel here had survived the attack, while much of Errian had not. The city below was a jumble of broken corrinder, the multistory plants that were the main building stock for the city. They would grow again, but the sight of the city’s beautiful white towers laid low struck him to the core.
So had Gaelan looked, after the flood.
Venin turned back to the chapel and unlaced his boots, baring his muscular calves before he approached the fountain that splashed at its center. The cool flagstone beneath his feet sent a shiver up his spine, and green moss filled the gaps between the stones.
Some builder whose name was lost to time had tapped into the river itself to make the fountain run, and the water leapt into the air with a manic energy around the golden statue of Erro, before falling back down to the pool.
Venin knelt at the fountain’s edge on one of the well-worn pads, laid his hands in the shallow water, and let his wings rest over himself, making a private place to pray.
Erro and Gael, spare us from danger and lift us up into the sky with your powerful wings. He gave Erro deference, being that this was his chapel, but he hoped Gael would hear him too. The god of his own people had been known to intervene in mortal affairs before, and if what Quince had told them about these ithaniwas true, they would need all the help they could get.
Venin’s wings warmed.
He looked up in astonishment to see the statue of Erro giving off an intense golden glow. His mouth dropped open, and he stood and stared at its beautiful male curves and muscles. Maybe the gods were answering him.
Venin reached up and touched the statue’s outstretched hand. The shock knocked him backward onto his ass, and he hit the ground hard, slamming into one of the marble columns.
Venin groaned, stunned, and reached back to feel his wings and spine. He seemed to be in one piece.
Taz would have laughed his ass off at the whole thing.
After a moment he sat up cautiously. He wrapped his arms around his legs and stared up at the statue, his chin on his knees.
The glow was gone.
Did I imagine it? He stood and felt the back of his head. A lump was already forming there. That’s gonna leave a mark.
Something had changed. Venin didn’t know what yet, but he was sure of that much.
He pulled his boots back on and laced them up. With one last suspicious glare at the statue, he turned and stepped out of the chapel, taking a deep breath of the moisture-laden air.
Then he leapt into the sky to soar down to the broken city.
Guest Post: Full Circle
Sometimes things come full circle.
Six years ago, I was an unpublished wannabe writer who had lost his way, knocked down by an across-the-board rejection of his first novel two decades before. I had gone almost twenty years without really writing, following other paths, but always wondering what might have been.
I ran across Robert Frost’s famous poem today, one I haven’t read in years:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
For years I lived with the doubt—the thought that I had taken the easy path, the road more traveled. Could I have made it as a writer, if I had just persevered two decades ago? Or were all those editors right?
Was I a talentless hack? My words, not theirs.
We were on vacation in Seattle, and Mark found out that one of his favorite authors, Rick Reed, was doing a reading at the University Bookstore. We decided to go, and ended up getting four authors for the price of one.
Rick read this really off the wall tale about gay guys and cats… even he said it was “either the best thing I have written, or the worst.” But although it was strange, it was still great to hear him read from his own work in progress—a real live published author.
One of the other authors at the reading was Lou Sylvre. I remember her well. She had such a presence, such an authory something that was immensely appealing to me. She read from one of her “Vásquez and James” books. I remember going up to her and telling her how I wanted to get back into writing, and how much I had enjoyed the reading.
After that, I started writing again, thanks in large part to a kick in the pants my husband gave me. But that reading was an inspiration—meeting these four amazing authors lit a fire under me to become like them.
Fast forward to last fall, when I was boarding a shuttle bus on the way to the annual Dreamspinner Retreat in Orlando—and who should I run into?
We’d both traveled different roads over the previous five years, roads that were not without their twists and bumps, but suddenly here we were.
And she remembered me!
This time we were both on the published author side of the fence.
We hit it off, and we hung out together and had a great time together at the retreat. And I told her how much she had inspired me.
Sometimes things come full circle, and we find ourselves in the place we always dreamed we would be. I’ve published six novels now with a seventh on the way, and twenty novellas and short stories. I am the author I wanted to be, six years ago in a brightly lit bookstore in Seattle.
And Lou Sylvre, who was there when it started, was also there to welcome me into the pantheon of writers. It’s kinda poetic, pardon the pun.
I finally took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.
Scott lives with his husband of twenty five years in a Sacramento suburb, in a cute little yellow house with a brick fireplace and two pink flamingoes out front.
He inhabits in the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into science fiction and fantasy by his mom at the tender age of nine, he quickly finished her entire library. But he soon began to wonder where all the queer people were.
After coming out at twenty three, he started writing the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Crown Books. If there weren’t many queer characters in his favorite genres, he would will them into existence, subverting them to his own ends. And if he was lucky enough, someone else would want to read them.
His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently than most – he makes connections between ideas that others don’t, and somehow does more in a day than most people manage in a week. Although born an introvert, he forced himself to reach outside himself, and learned to connect with others like him.
Scott’s stories subvert expectations that transform traditional science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something different and unexpected. He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark.
His romance and genre fiction writing brings a queer energy to his stories, filling them with love, beauty and power. He imagines how the world could be – in the process, he hopes to change the world, just a little.
Scott was recognized as one of the top new gay authors in the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and his debut novel “Skythane” received two awards and an honorable mention.
You can find him at Dreamspinner here, Goodreads here, on Amazon here, on QueeRomance Ink here, and on Facebook here.
Note from Lou: Congratulations on the release, Scott, and thanks for that wonderful guest post, which touches my heart. I’m very glad you took that less traveled road and we met upon it. Thanks OWI, and thank you readers for stopping by. As always, comments are welcome.
Vasquez Inc #4—A Shot at Perfect (Click to preorder)
Vasquez and James Vol. 1—Click the cover to buy!
Vasquez and James Vol. 2—Click the cover to buy!
Adult Content Disclaimer:
This blog is not pornography, however it will from time to time include material suitable for adults. If you are not of legal age in the country where you live, please leave the site. Thank you. Others, proceed at your own discretion, and please enjoy!
Sunset at Pencarrow—New Zealand Romance by Sylvre and Barwell (Click to Buy)
Click to buy QSF 2019 antho, Migration!
Click to buy QSF 2018 antho, Impact
Falling Snow on Snow—Seattle, Snow, Music, Love (Click to buy)