“Rising” on the Stoned Crow Press Website

Stoned Crow Press is a new publishing venture that my writing group is putting together. While in the process of starting a print press, we’re working on a website where we feature the work of our members and others.

Recently, a piece of my short fiction was published there. It’s an experimental piece called “Rising” which follows two young queer boys who have run away from their neglectful and abusive homes. I’m in the process of expanding it into a YA novel.

Read “Rising” here!

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Devils That Have Come to Stay Cover Reveal

It’s getting close to my book’s release date! It’s completely exhilarating, knowing that something that existed only in my brain will become a real object out in the world, with people pushing for its success. Recently, my publishers sent the cover to me. Here it is!

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German Vice and Stoned Crow Press and Getting Closer to My Book Release

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. But in the interim, I’ve been keeping busy. My book is getting closer and closer to publication–I am currently looking over the final PDF before it goes to the printer. And my writers’ group has begun another blog, Stoned Crow Press, where you can find some more of my writing (more links to follow). And, probably most importantly, this little ol’ blog got linked to on German Vice for–what else–my discussion of James Joyce’s poop fetish. It’s my internet legacy.

Here are a few books I just picked up, on top of all that. Queering up the bookshelf never felt so good! queer reading

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The Fluidity of Gender Roles in the California Gold Rush

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As many of you know, I wrote an acid western, and anti-western a few years ago which will be published in February. And not a small part of that acid western conveys queer themes — which may seem antithetical to the western genre. I beg to differ.

The typical Western features any number of problematic tropes–savage Indians, noble expansionists, women as saint or prostitute. But one of the most enduring is the hyper-masculine cowboy. The epitome of male energy, the cowboy swaggers about defending the sanctity of women, engaging in good-guy/bad-guy shootouts, looking and acting stoic. The cowboy was brave, pioneering, resourceful, a hard worker and occasionally a hardscrabble philosopher about all these things–all that a man should be. And the cowboy is certainly, undoubtedly straight.

Bullshit.

For various reasons, the Old West, especially the Old West of the California Gold Rush, was a queer place. For one, compulsive heterosexuality was an import of colonialism (a pretty poor one, when the chips were stacked against it, as we will discuss in a moment). Before colonization of the west, many indigenous peoples of North America had firmly entrenched gender roles called “two-spirit” (among other gender-variant positions in their societies). Two-spirit people were, simply put, bodies that hosted both a masculine and feminine spirit. Two-spirit people moved between traditional gender roles, and dress, and often had specially assigned social roles. The role has been reclaimed today as a First Nations/Native American queer identity.

As for the men who traveled to the West from various other places, the hyper-male cowboys of the traditional Western–women often didn’t make the journey with them. With this lack of female-identified people among their camps, some men took on those roles–often men of color, disabled men, and men of lower social standing. Journals of the time are ripe with homoeroticism, and cross-dressing was not infrequent. As it turns out, that masculine man of the Saturday matinee needed someone to cook, to clean, to love him. And as white women were few and far between, and women of color were often erased completely, other men were often the ones to fill that role.

The Old West has been handed to us as a time of total yang, of a masculine energy so complete that it supposedly formed a nation. In reality, the California Gold Rush was a time when the roles of gender were blurred, and seen as the largely false social construct they are in many ways. When I chose to write a novel in that time period, it was this blurring and uncertainty that I chose to focus on. In doing so, in creating an anti-western, I think I give a more accurate portrayal of the time than many books and movies considered iconic of that time period.

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Book Jacket Copy!!!

The Director of Sales and Marketing from my publisher just emailed me with this book jacket copy. It’s gonna be what goes on the back cover of my book when it comes out next February. I’m so excited to share it here!

 

A tale that turns the American western on its head.

 

California, late 1848. A nameless saloonkeeper has been alone for months while his wife, Joanna, is in Coloma caring for her ailing mother. Joanna’s letters, which tell of her mother’s nervous health crisis and the destruction of the surrounding land, have become darker and stranger. Meanwhile, the saloonkeeper witnesses several unexplainable events—voices speaking in strange languages in places where he sees only familiar faces, the mysterious death of a creekful of fish, a Stranger with a mouthful of gold teeth, and a dying Native American man who trails white feathers everywhere he goes.

 

The fields of Sutter’s Fort, near where Joanna is staying, haunt the saloonkeeper’s dreams, and soon he decides he must leave the sanctuary of his saloon and travel to her. Caught up in a journey north, the saloonkeeper witnesses the sometimes horrifying, senselessly violent shifting Gold Rush landscape. Amidst the chaos, he finds his only refuge in thoughts of Joanna. But when his troubled past emerges in glimpses he struggles to repress, the nameless traveler is left with a decision that will change not only his life but the lives of everyone around him.

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I’ll Surreal Your Ism

Here’s a snippet from a short story I just started writing, and a picture of a cat for your viewing pleasure. :)

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The kitchen table was a chasm above which floated their coffee cups, the sugar bowl, their plates of eggs, their napkins. Neither of them could reach a hand across it to touch the other, neither could reach around the sides where the absence in one empty chair was wider and deeper even than the hole between them. They went on eating, slowly, raising forks to mouths, as if the void were not there.

 

“Pass me the ketchup,” Paul said, reaching.

 

Emily’s hand across the chasm was pale, soft. She held the bottle in a light grip, and he could see how little she cared that at any moment it might slip from her hand and fall forever.

 

“Thank you,” he whispered. It echoed all the way down the hole despite the low volume of his voice, bouncing as it went.

 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 

Paul’s face began to burn as the sentiment repeated itself over and over.

 

“Stop,” he whispered.

 

Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.

 

Across the table, Emily stared on as if only silence were ringing around them. She reached above the chasm wordlessly and picked up a newspaper that floated there. Once, when they were first together, they had done crossword puzzles at moments like this. That had stopped for years years ago, but in the new quiet, Emily had tried to resume their old habit. She picked the paper up now, folding it over itself so that the black and white squares glared up from it, lighter in their contrast than the grainy newsprint should have allowed. A wan smile crossed her face.

 

“Eight letters, second letter ‘e,’ ends with ‘d,’” she said. “’Left desolate or alone.’”

 

“Abandoned, rejected, neglected,” he thought aloud, knowing they were all wrong. The hole between them replied to these thoughtless attempts with silence.

 

“Bereaved,” he replied, finally, with the conviction of a kill stroke.

 

Bereaved. Bereaved. Bereaved. Bereaved.

 

Emily filled in the letters and put the paper down where the table should have been. Where the paper floated quietly.

 

*

 

 

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Book Haul

Here’s another one. I’m picking up books faster than I can read them. But this time around there’s Murakami, Calvino, Flann O’Brien, and more. How could I resissssssst?

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