Day of Silence flash fiction

SafeMy publisher, Harmony Ink Press, began posting flash fiction from Harmony Ink authors in honor of the Day of Silence on Friday, April 19th.

If you’re not familiar with the Day of Silence, it’s an annual protest that’s been held every year since 1996, when it was started by then-student Maria Pulzetti as a protest against bullying and harassment of LGBT students.  As stated in the wikipedia article, “Students take a day-long “Vow of silence” to symbolically represent the silencing of LGBT students and their supporters.”

Harmony Ink decided it would be cool to have participating authors write a flash fiction piece symbolizing silence in some way.  Mine was a modified excerpt from the third novel in the Dreams of Fire and Gods trilogy (called Gods), which is still being written.  You can read it by clicking on the image above.

You might ask, “Why did you wait until the 24th to post this, if the Day of Silence was on the 19th?”  Basically, I didn’t post until today because I was at a workshop with my publisher in Chicago over the weekend and between that and traveling, things have just been too chaotic for me.  Also, due to the large number of submissions Harmony Ink received, my story wasn’t put on the website until this afternoon.

I’ll close this post with a picture snapped at the workshop of some of the Harmony Ink authors in attendance:  Me (James Erich, looking like I just stepped out of the shower, because I had), Robbie Michaels, Madison Parker, Nessa Warrin (YA Coordinator), Jamie Mayfield, and Geoff Laughton.

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Guest Blogger: Madison Parker on Gay Siblings

Play Me, I'm Yours Blog Tour - Madison Parker

Gay Siblings

If you’ve been following me along my blog tour, you know I’ve talked a bit about bullying. One of the things I was interested in exploring when writing Play Me, I’m Yours, was the impact that bullying can have on other family members. In the novel, Lucas has a younger brother named Mason, who is fifteen years old. Because their age difference is only two years, they attend the same high school. Mason is well aware of the taunting Lucas endures, and it greatly affects the relationship he has with his brother. Mason doesn’t have a problem with Lucas being gay per se, but rather the impact it has on his own social life. Mason’s mindset is one of self preservation. He gets angry when people tease him for having a gay brother, and even angrier when people assume he’s gay too. He lashes out at the easiest target—his brother.

I hope readers find Mason to be a sympathetic character. Sure, he’s a brat, but deep down, he’s a good kid. Although much of his internal struggle occurs off-page or is implied through dialogue (both by the things he says and the things he refrains from saying), I think he’s one of the most interesting characters in the novel, and he does show personal growth over time.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that younger sons are more likely to be gay than older sons. Had the ages been reversed (if Lucas were the younger gay brother, and if Mason were the older, straight brother), I think the relationship would have played out very differently. Mason, in that case, would probably be more outwardly protective of his brother. But since Lucas is the older brother, the one Mason is supposed to “look up to”, the stigma surrounding Lucas’s effeminate nature causes a lot of resentment on both ends. Lucas looks at his younger brother as the type of person he’s “supposed” to be—the one everyone loves and admires. Neither brother feels he has anyone he can talk to about his feelings. Their parents come with a whole other set of issues. The saddest part is that everyone means well. They’re all just horrible at communicating with one another, as is the case in many families.

Andy Squared by Jennifer LavoieI haven’t read many “coming out” stories that deal with sibling relationships. Many focus on the reactions of parents and friends instead. One notable exception is Andy Squared by Jennifer Lavoie. In that story, the young gay man has a fraternal twin sister, who reacts very badly to her brother’s coming out. In this novel, her feelings stem from her personal beliefs that homosexuality is wrong, and she has a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that her brother, whom she has always been close to, is gay.

What I have not yet come across in fiction, although I’ve seen some articles and videos about the subject online, are stories of families with multiple gay siblings. Surely authors are writing about that too, and if you have any recommendations for me, please list them in the comments.

Resources, such as “My Brother or Sister is Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual“, published by PFLAG are available to help family members deal with questions and concerns they have regarding gay siblings.

Of course not all siblings struggle with finding out their brother or sister is gay. Some offer unconditional love and support from the beginning, and in some cases, finding out a sibling is gay even strengthens the relationship. In closing, I’d like to share the video “My Brother Does My Makeup TAG! (feat. Brian)“, made by YouTube vlogger Coen with his (adopted) younger brother, Brian. Although Coen is an out-and-proud gay man (see his coming out video here) whose look is the perfect blend of both masculine and feminine beauty, his younger brother, Brian, appears to be completely comfortable with Coen and his love of makeup. I love how playful they are with one another. I also love the part of the video where Brian reaches for a blush brush and Coen says, “Why do guys always like the big fluffy brushes?” and Brian, without even thinking about it, says, “You’re a guy.”

Mason could learn a thing or two from hanging out with Coen and his brother!

Play Me, I'm Yours by Madison ParkerPlay Me, I’m Yours by Madison Parker
Published by Harmony Ink Press

Fairy Tate. Twinklefingers. Lucy Liu. Will the taunting ever end? Lucas Tate suffers ridicule because of his appearance and sensitive nature. When he’s not teased, he’s ignored, and he doesn’t know which is worse. His one comfort in life is his music; he feels unloved by everyone. What he wants more than anything is to find a friend.

Much to his dismay, both his mom and a schoolmate are determined to find him a boyfriend, despite the fact Lucas hasn’t come out to them. His mom chooses a football player who redefines the term “heartthrob,” while Trish pushes him toward the only openly gay boy at Providence High. But Lucas is harboring a crush on another boy, one who writes such romantic poetry to his girlfriend that hearing it melts Lucas into a puddle of goo. All three prospects seem so far out of his league. Lucas is sure he doesn’t stand a chance with any of them—until sharing his gift for music brings him the courage to let people into his heart.

Click here to read the first chapter.
Purchase Links

Visit Madison Parker’s Website at www.madisonparklove.com for bonus materials including character sketches, piano covers, music videos, and lyrics for songs referenced in the novel.

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Enter to WinTo celebrate the release of Play Me, I’m Yours, Madison Parker is hosting a giveaway. Enter to win your choice of a free copy of Play Me, I’m Yours or a $10 gift certificate from Rainbow eBooks by leaving a comment below along with your email address. For multiple chances to win, comment at each stop along the tour. Click here for the complete tour schedule. Winners will be chosen randomly on April 23.

Status update on “Gods” – Book Three of “Dreams of Fire and Gods” (and an excerpt!)

Dreams of Fire and Gods: DreamsGods is coming along, so for those who didn’t like being left hanging at the end of Fire, I’m expecting to have the final novel finished this month!

It’s been a challenging novel to write, though.  I now have four threads weaving back and forth, following Sael, Koreh, Donegh, and a new character, Gonim.  Making sure they all arrive at the end together and everything from the previous two novels wraps up properly has proven to be difficult.  I’ve had to extend my deadline with Harmony Ink a couple times.  But I think the end result will be worth it!  I’m very excited by all the plot twists and character development and I don’t think readers will be disappointed.

So, for everyone waiting anxiously for Book Three, here’s a little taste of it—an excerpt from the beginning of the novel, in which we meet the new viewpoint character, Gonim.  Keep in mind that this isn’t a final polished draft, but I think it’s reasonably presentable.  It’s a bit PG, but I promise that there isn’t any more explicit sex than in the previous two novels.

Prologue

Gonim knew he was dying and he welcomed it.  The young acolyte was burned severely over most of his body, after getting caught in one of the firestorms two days ago, and he was in agony.  A carriage had overturned in an intersection and he had rushed to aid the driver and passengers.  But he’d been too late.  A fireball caught them out in the open and only Gonim had survived—barely. 

Father Turs was the only ordained caedan left in the infirmary now, his staff reduced to a few acolytes like Gonim and a couple female nurses.  All the other priests in Worlen had evacuated—those who hadn’t been killed when the temple was incinerated.  The old caedan had done his best for Gonim, covering his burned skin in a healing ointment that relieved some of the pain, and then bandaging him.  But the burns were too severe.  A nurse had given him a potion to help him sleep, but they had little healing potion to spare for someone so far gone.  Now Gonim’s head swam in a haze, the pain still with him, but somehow seeming far away.  Father Turs had prayed over him, but eventually he’d been forced to leave Gonim to suffer in private, while the father attended to others who could be helped.

Gonim was at peace with his life.  He had been devoted to the gods and his duties as an acolyte.  His only regret was that he would die before being ordained.  But no man knew what the Perfect Order held for him.  It was enough to revel in its beauty and accept one’s place in the pattern.

A light appeared to the young man as he contemplated this, drifting into his small room through the window, though it was nearly midnight.  Gonim’s eyes had difficulty focusing, but it seemed to him that a beautiful woman with raven-black hair was walking toward him from somewhere much farther away than the nearby plaster wall.  Her gown was made of rich silks, so sheer that they appeared to reveal much of her body, though cut in such a way as to not reveal as much as it seemed.  Precious gemstones adorned the hem and neckline.  The woman drew close and leaned down to look at him with a gentle smile, while her hand reached out to stroke his hair.  At her touch, all pain left his body.  Had she come to take him into death? Gonim wondered. 

“I am Imen,” the woman said softly, “the queen of the gods.  And you, my young acolyte, have pleased me with your self-sacrifice and devotion to us.”

The youth had no doubt that she was speaking the truth.  Never had he seen a human woman of such surpassing beauty!  Never had he been so overwhelmed by a man or woman’s mere presence!  She could be nothing other than a god.

“I wish to grant you a boon, my faithful warrior,” Imen purred, as she traced a finger along his cheek and down the side of his neck.  The flesh there was blistered and her touch should have been agonizing, yet Gonim felt nothing but pleasure at it.  “First, you must tell me… Are you willing to die for me?”

Gonim could imagine nothing nobler than to sacrifice himself for his goddess.  In a paroxysm of religious fervor, he attempted to speak, but he had breathed in some of the flame and his throat was too scorched to choke out even one word.  Imen seemed to sense this and she bent her face near his.  Then she blew gently into his mouth.  Where her sweet breath touched, his flesh was healed, and as he exhaled, Gonim found himself able to say, “Yes, Your Majesty!”

She smiled, her face seeming illuminated from within, as she straightened.  “Then you shall.  But not today.  There is much to be done.”

Imen stepped away from Gonim’s bedside and a stooped old woman Gonim hadn’t even known was in the room with them came forward.  The crone held a small rolled-up strip of leather, which she laid down on the edge of his bed and unrolled.  Fastened to the inside of the strip by small loops were the tools of a seamstress—shears, needles, rolls of thread, and measuring tape.

While Imen stood silently nearby, the old woman set about her business, humming an unfamiliar tune.  She chose a large needle and threaded it with a thread that shimmered and flickered as if on fire, and then she held it aloft in one hand, while her other slid Gonim’s blanket down to expose his naked chest.  She picked up the shears and with a motion so quick Gonim barely had time to flinch, she stabbed him in the chest with one of the blades and snipped his sternum open.

Gonim felt the cut, yet it was oddly painless.  Though he had difficulty raising his head, he was able to tilt his face so that he could watch as the old seamstress snipped open his chest cavity.  Blood welled up in the wound, but did not gush out or spray as he would have expected it to.  The woman set the sheers down on the mattress and slid her hand into the wound, where Gonim could feel her fingers groping…until a sharp, intense pain made him cry out.  He wondered if Father Turs would hear him screaming and come to investigate.  What would happen then?  Would Imen kill him for intruding?  Gonim bit down on his screams, fearing that possibility, but it was impossible for him not to grunt and whimper in agony.

Then the pain grew more and more severe, until Gonim’s vision began to grow dark and he thought he was going to pass out.  The seamstress withdrew his beating heart from his chest and held it up as if inspecting it. 

“Your Majesty,” she said in a dry, rasping voice.

Imen plucked a large ruby off the neckline of her dress and stepped forward to drop the jewel into Gonim’s open chest cavity.  Instantly, the pain ceased.  Gonim settled back onto the mattress and sighed in relief as a warmth emanated from the ruby and flooded throughout his body.  He almost didn’t notice, when the seamstress snipped the arteries of his heart and cast the organ aside. 

The old woman stitched his chest back together with the needle and fiery thread, but Gonim no longer bothered to watch.  The warmth flooding through his body spread throughout his limbs, easing all pain, energizing his exhausted muscles, and pooling pleasantly in his groin. 

When the seamstress had finished her work and left Gonim’s bedside, taking her tools with her, Imen extended her hand to the youth.  “Come.”

Hesitantly, Gonim raised his head off the pillow.  He felt no pain and, looking down at his chest and stomach, he could see no trace of the severe burns that were killing him just a short time ago.  Indeed, there was also no trace of what had just transpired—no blood, no cut on the skin of his chest, not even a scar.  Gonim sat up and put his bare feet on the stone floor.  Not only were there no traces of his injuries, but he felt stronger and healthier than he’d ever felt before. 

He stood and faced the goddess, who regarded him with a triumphant smile. 

“You are very beautiful,” Imen said, looking him over as she circled around him.

Gonim had been wearing nothing at all under the blankets, his kilt having been burned beyond saving, and he had stiffened a bit when the warmth flooded his groin.  This embarrassed him, but the goddess did not seem concerned about it. 

“The magics of Harleh Valley cannot prevent me from entering, if I choose,” Imen continued in a voice as smooth as warm honey, “but there are times when a subtle approach is best.”

She stopped in front of Gonim and placed her hand lightly upon his breast.  It felt hot against the young man’s skin and caused him to become even more aroused.  “This body is now my vessel and I will safeguard it.  Go to Harleh!  Be my eyes and ears, where others are now useless.”

Gonim was beyond being confused by what was happening to him.  He didn’t know whether to be elated or terrified by the goddess’s charge.  “Y-Your Majesty,” he stammered, “what shall I do in Harleh?”

Her laugh was the first unpleasant sound to come from her mouth since appearing to Gonim.  “That, my warrior, will depend upon what you find there.”