design fantasy fiction short stories spec fic YA

Steve Berman day at s&

Every day is actually Daulton and Steve day, of course.

Unsilent partner in all SB's endeavors.

But above and beyond all that, today saw receipt of contributor copies of Steve’s new anthology of stories for gay teens (and teens at heart, and gays at heart), Boys of Summer, available any week now—or RIGHT NOW direct from the publisher.

My contribution is “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy,” a long tale (even longer than the title) of a summer sailboat cruise off the Aegean coast of Turkey, in which young Luke becomes enmeshed in multiple strands of multiple variations of the Adonis story.

And also! Originally scheduled for last September, then pushed forward to this July, now rushed into print because why not: The Touch of the Sea, a seaweed garland of fantastical tales of men and the life-giving and -taking ocean. Should be available in print in a week or so, in e-formats not much later.

Besides the cover and interior design (which all the other writers seem to like, yay), my contribution is “Ban’s Dream of the Sea,” a story of a mysteriously ancient city in the sea, its uncanny original inhabitants, and the interlopers from across the ocean who have claimed it as their colonial capital.

And…and…this evening I’ll be attempting to add more sentences and paragraphs to a new story intended for another Steve Berman anthology about which I’m not yet permitted to speak.

short stories Turkey YA

indian summer writing update

This afternoon, probably the penultimate warm day of 2011 if the long-range forecast and my hard-won knowledge of New England climatic patterns are to be trusted, I completed a draft of my third story for the year. Not a short story. At nearly 12,000 words, it’s about midway through the range defined by SFWA for award purposes as a novelette. A summer story.

Literally. The central notion’s been kicking around my head for a few years but I couldn’t find the right angle of attack until Steve Berman issued a call for submissions to an anthology of stories for gay youths to be called Boys of Summer. I commenced serious work in August.

It takes place on and off the Aegean coast of Turkey, where a teenager from Berkeley, CA—third wheel on his dad and stepmom’s midsummer honeymoon—becomes tangled up in the multiplicitous myths of Adonis and, naturally, falls in love with a handsome Turkish lad. At Sandra McDonald’s insistence, it has a happy ending. You don’t want to quarrel with Sandra!

I e-mailed the draft to Steve almost as soon as I could convert it from *.pages to *.rtf. Two hours later he called me. He sees some structural weaknesses and is not especially thrilled by my unwieldy (though justified!) title, “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy”…but assured me I’ve made the sale. The Soliloquy imprint of Bold Strokes Books will publish Boys of Summer next July. Compassionate God willing, and revisions completed by 1 November 2011, “Wheat, Barley” will be part of it (if, grumble, under a different title), in time for my mumblety-fifth birthday.

In other news, I still don’t have confirmation of my plausible fourth story publication of 2011. There are rumors, wild dark rumors, but no unambiguous statements I’m willing to bank on. If it happens, it should happen next month.

But my other three 2011 stories are out there waiting—go get ’em (if you haven’t already)!

  • “The Arab’s Prayer” in M-Brane SF #24 (still available for free download) and the print Quarterly #2.
  • “Captain of the World” in Steve B.’s earlier queer YA anthology, Speaking Out.
  • “Liam and the Ordinary Boy” in Icarus #10, both print and PDF.

And two books, of course. I’ve said enough about those already. (The New People. The Abode of Bliss.)

Must lie down with headache. Massive amounts of copyediting to do tomorrow. And a long chilly winter to anticipate. How I hate being cold. Dread spoils the fleeting warmth.

fiction football (soccer) short stories Turkey YA

praise from an unexpected quarter

Have just seen an advance review of Steve Berman’s inspirational YA anthology Speaking Out from Kirkus Reviews, notorious in book circles for brutal negativity. The one-paragraph review disappoints, not for its expected negativity (Kirkus doesn’t think much of the book) so much as errors of fact—the book has more than one transgender protagonist, Kirkus; the (slim but definite) majority of characters are female; and it’s the reviewer’s innate bias that reads most of the boys as white, not anything in the text.

Still, my pleasure in the following line is not diminished:

In Alex Jeffers’ standout “Captain of the World,” a gay, Turkish Muslim goalie fights back against both racial and sexual harassment on the soccer field.

Bold Strokes Books will release Speaking Out in September.

fiction spec fic The Unexpected Thing work in progress YA

the unexpected draft

Today ought to be one for celebration, except I feel as though I’ve been run over by a truck. Massive, massive headache, nausea, compromised balance. Bleargh. Also I’m too broke to buy Champagne. Maybe when the income-tax refund appears in my bank account.

Around 7:30 (EDT) this morning I wrote the last line of the first draft of The Unexpected Thing. Though tempted, I did not append Fin: it’s not a work suited to that variety of preciosity.

It is, not unexpectedly, enormous. 144,000 words. Set up in fairly standard MS format (12-point type, double spaced, one-inch margins all around) in the typeface I prefer to work with (clean, artful, eccentric but highly legible on screen, and doesn’t make my eyes bleed): 423 pages, exluding title page, divided into sixty-two numbered chapters, themselves parceled out—somewhat unevenly—among thirteen titled parts.

But few computers will have Bouwsma Text installed, so when I start sending The Unexpected Thing around to beta readers I’ll have to reset the MS in old standby Times New Roman (a face I find far less readable than everybody likes to claim, and ugly besides, but which has the advantage of closely approximating, in standard MS format, the page count of a typeset book). In 12-point TNR: 477 pages.

But book editors, nostalgic for the days of typewritten MSs on paper, are said to prefer 12-point monospaced Courier (which does make my eyes bleed): an eyebrow-raising 643 pages.

There will be cuts! A lot of them. Ideally, from a marketing standpoint, I’d get the thing down to 100,000 words or shorter. I have some doubts about that—we’ll see what early readers say. The first order of business, however, is to find loose ends and either pull them out completely or stitch them up properly; reconcile inconsistencies; split up at least two chapters that got rather out of hand into more manageable pieces. Symbolic target date for a second draft fit to be shared: 8 May 2011, the narrator’s eighteenth birthday.

Would you like to be among the few, the proud, the beta readers? Drop me a line or leave a comment, and accept my thanks in advance.

But what’s it about, AX, you ask, what’s it about?

If I could tell you in five hundred words I wouldn’t have bothered with the other 143,500. Ha. Ha.

In all sobriety, the arts of the synopsis and the elevator pitch I have never mastered. Beta readers will be begged, please, to help.

The Unexpected Thing is about:

  • two lovely young men who fall in love;
  • their friends and families;
  • the entirely imaginary fifth-smallest sovereign European nation, an island in the Adriatic off the coasts of Montenegro and Albania;
  • the uneasy transition from rule by a divinely appointed aristocratic caste to some form of parliamentary democracy;
  • incursions by gods and other powers into the twenty-first and earlier centuries;
  • discovering yourself to be, unsuspected, a wizard with vast capabilities;
  • being beaten half to death by, first, a god and, second, your own dad and big brother;
  • friendship and enmity and reconciliation, discovery and loss, people and dogs, life and death and, yes, love;
  • Nate and Rusty’s summer vacation.

In other words, just about everything that matters. Except cats! I left out the cats! Jane and Charlotte are incensed* but me, I’m really pretty pleased with it.

* “That dog died almost a decade ago,” they grumble. “It was tragic at the time but get over it.”

Table of Contents

I Turn Sixteen

I Finish out the School Year, Maybe Fall in Love

My Boyfriend and I Have a Day for Ourselves

My Uncles and I Leave the Country, Reach the Island

I Have Impressions of the Town, Make Friends, Maybe an Enemy

I Am Not Myself

We Learn of Deaths in Far Places

We Retreat to the Sunset Villa

Terrible Events in the Commonwealth

I Am, We Are Addressed by Gods

Terrible Events in the Serene Principality

I Am Rescued, Comforted

We Are Happy Boys, All Things Considered

fiction football (soccer) short stories YA

march writing update

This time with real writing!

Last fall my friend Steve Berman sold an anthology idea to the good people at Bold Strokes Books. Speaking Out would collect new stories of YA GLBTQ pride. He asked me to write one of them. Specifically, he said, “Write me a story about a gay Muslim at an American high school.”

So I did! In less than a week! 5400 words about a deeply closeted Turkish-American soccer goalkeeper and the circumstances that lead him to come out to his straight best friend. Some of my writing buddies (who know nothing about soccer and care less) really liked “A Shot on Goal.”

When I sent it to Steve, unfortunately, it turned out that the “deeply closeted” part was deeply problematic for the book he had in mind. My character was too conflicted to be proud of himself. Steve and I went ’round and ’round a bit until I got irritated by his utopian leanings and said, rather dogmatically, that the kinds of characters he was looking for were kids I could admire and sympathize with, sure, but not empathize or identify with, so I expected I couldn’t write a story to fit his brief and didn’t wish to try.

Come 23 February. Steve’s deadline to turn in the manuscript of Speaking Out is barrelling down—book needs to be finished by 28 February and he still has holes. Still irritated—I thought “A Shot on Goal” was a great story and I wasn’t likely to sell it anywhere else—I told him again, no go. Not from me.

Then I tried to take a nap. Hadn’t slept for thirty hours. Now, I’m an heroic insomniac if it’s dark outside but put me in bed during daylight and bang! Last Wednesday excepted. Steve’s problem and my intransigence are rattling around. What if…? What if…? What if the catalytic event during the soccer match in “A Shot on Goal” went slightly differently?

New story—in two and half days! “Captain of the World.” 6700 words. Shares eight or ten paragraphs, some stray other sentences, and the basic set up with “A Shot on Goal” and the characters have the same names. But it’s a different story (more soccer! yay!) with different aims, and after a few tiny changes this one met with Steve’s approval.

Bold Strokes Books’ Soliloquy imprint will issue Speaking Out in November.