Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sneaker Wave (#Cliff House #cliffclimbing #fear)

by Daddy X

It may have been my second or third day on the west coast, certainly within the first week of arriving in San Francisco. November, 1968. My (now late) brother-in-law and some friends decided to take me out to hike near the famed “Cliff House”, a well-known point of interest in a city filled with fabulous things. 


Amazed at the view but unfamiliar with the terrain, the four of us boldly scrambled down the steep embankment, perhaps 150 feet above the crashing Pacific and jagged rocks below. There wasn’t a danger of falling; our angle of descent wasn’t nearly 90 degrees. Not yet.

The further we descended, the steeper the trail became. A friend and I jumped to a narrow ledge where we could go no further. We’d hit an impasse: a sheer 40-foot drop without benefit of trail or even a handhold. Though not quite 90 degrees—there were several places where a falling body would take a bounce or two on the way.

The two of us screwed around at that level while the others lingered a few feet above. We smoked a joint, explored a few shallow caves that pockmark the cliffs in the area, goofing on the water puddles that gathered there. Water? Puddles?  The thought never sank in. Why would water puddles exist in a cave forty feet above a crashing sea?

Next thing we knew, the two of us were hit by something wet, wild and powerful, slamming us against a rocky wall, filling our shallow cave with frigid water. The depression in the rocks suddenly overflowed with seawater bubbling and swirling around us—then as quickly—drained away. We stared wide-eyed at each other, in shock at what had just happened. I had time to gather my wits and realize I was bleeding down the front of my drenched shirt. Contact with the cave wall had split the skin on my face. We were lucky we weren’t washed away.

We turned to realize there wasn’t a way back up. The two who’d remained above saw our predicament and tried to reach down to haul us back to safety. They couldn’t reach us. We couldn’t reach them. We tried winding a belt around one guy’s wrist. It wouldn’t reach. Affixing two belts together just seemed wrong.

The only way up was over a huge boulder embedded in the perpendicular wall. Only one of us could go at a time. From our lower vantage point, we saw that the boulder was tentatively held in place in unstable sandstone, a thin crack obvious along the perimeter where it joined the cliff.  

The friend (Grattan, now also passed) sharing the ledge with me was a big, tall, strong guy.  I asked him to go first, figuring that he would, in turn, be more capable of lifting me from above. I was relatively smaller and much lighter than he. So he stood on my shoulders and the guys above were able to drag him up, leaving me alone on the narrow ledge.

Without the extra height my back had offered Grattan, it was up to me to get up as far as I could, leap and grab on to the insecure boulder, hugging it until my (very good) friends could hopefully grab me before I lost my grip or the rock broke away. That’s when the crack along the boulder really posed a threat. That rock would either be my saving grace or my downfall. Would it hold?

Grattan, so recently on my shoulders, stared down in a state of overwhelmed panic. I’ll never forget that look on his face. I had to do it. Sooner or later, another wave might strike. I needed to act. It was just a matter of a few feet. I had to make up my mind to just do it. I simply needed to go without hesitation. I had to jump up and hang on that rock in hopes that it wouldn’t come away from the cliff—that the boulder and I wouldn’t go down together.

Needless to say, the maneuver came off fine; I have lived to tell the story. Since then, not a year has passed when someone isn’t killed on those rocks and nearby beaches, as it has always been. Tourists coming from the Midwest and East Coast have no idea, just like I didn’t have any idea. This is not the Atlantic, the Great Lakes or the Caribbean. Pacific sneaker waves will drag a person off without warning. Hence the ‘sneaker’ moniker.

BTW- A ‘Sneaker’ wave figures in my story, “Flukes” a naughty little number available in “Daddy X—The Gonzo Collection.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When I was a child...

I must have been about nine years old, perhaps ten. Along with friends from my neighbourhood we would often go for long hikes over the fields close to our home in search of adventure – a stream to ford, horses to pretend to ride, mock bull-fighting with disinterested heifers. The world is an exciting place in a child’s imagination.
There was a disused warehouse where local kids often played, though looking back and now blessed with an adult’s concern for health and safety, I know it was a deathtrap. Lots of abandoned bales of wool just waiting to burst into flames at the first careless flick of a cigarette, unguarded drops, a roof full of rotten beams that we could so easily have fallen through. None of this bothered us, we loved the place. It was our playground, our medieval castle, our jungle, our desert island.
I went there one day with my younger brother and Richard, another boy from along our street. We messed about for a while, and for once we were the only children there even though it was the summer school holiday. We got bored and climbed onto the roof to survey the surrounding countryside. The views from up there were fabulous, I recall. We were spies, unseen, watching what the unsuspecting adults did down below.
A man was approaching, so we watched him for a while. Richard said he knew him, that the man lived on our street, but I told him he was wrong. I knew everyone on our street, this man was a stranger. He was also boring so we soon lost interest and clambered back down to the ground to play some hide and seek thing. The man had disappeared so we just forgot about him.
It was my turn to seek so the two boys ran off. I waited for the obligatory count of ten then started to look for them, walking around the warehouse buildings, peering in doors, behind bales. No luck. Not to worry, my brother could never keep quiet for long. I turned a corner and carried on between two buildings, a space about ten feet wide. I passed a doorway, there was a movement from inside. I stopped turned, expecting to see two small, giggling boys.
The man we had been watching strolled out of the warehouse. I supposed he must have been there all along, though I had no idea why or what he was doing. He spoke to me, said ‘hello’ or some such inane thing. I said ‘hello’ back and asked if he’d seen my brother in the building. He said he hadn’t, did I want him to help me look?
I didn’t. The man wasn’t part of our game. I said ‘no’ and carried on walking.
The next moment I was on the ground, on my back, his hand across my mouth. I was stunned, incredulous. What was happening? Why? What was this deranged man thinking? He shoved his other hand down the front of my trousers, and smiled at me. He actually fucking smiled while he pinned me to the ground and groped me, a ten-year old child.
“Do you like that?” he asked me, wriggling his fingers around in a way I knew was wrong. Just. Plain. Nasty.
I couldn’t answer, I couldn’t get a sound past his hard, heavy hand. I shook my head, all the time kicking and squirming. It did no good, he was three times my size. I was going nowhere. I went limp, desperate, helpless, utterly terrified.
To this day I don’t know what stroke of luck brought my brother and our friend around the corner at that moment. They should have been hiding, waiting for me to find them, but they weren’t. They were there, standing, watching, their faces just two astonished masks. And because they were there, they saved my life, I am quite sure of it. 
The man saw them, his grip on me slackened. I watched his face change, the sick smile slipped, became confused, indecisive. I guess he was weighing up his chances of overpowering all three of us.
The momentary respite was enough. I managed to scramble out of his grip. I got to my feet and I fucking ran, straight at the two boys. I grabbed each of their hands and we all three sprinted as fast as we could, as far from him as we could.
“Scream.” I yelled at them as we raced across the neighbouring fields. “All of us have to scream.” I knew we needed to make a fuss, attract attention, make that crazy bastard think we were a hard target, more bother than we were worth.
We didn’t stop running until we reached the streets of houses about a mile away. Only then did I dare look back. He was nowhere in sight.
We went home. My parents were at work, my gran was there. I told her what happened. My parents were called, and my gran took me and my brother to the police station. The police did their best, used tracker dogs, drove me back to the warehouse to show them exactly where the attack took place. The signs of the struggle were there, flattened grass and one of my shoes – I was almost home before I even realized I had lost it. But there was no other evidence, and no sign of the crazy man.
A day or so later, Richard’s mum came to our house to talk to my parents. She told us that her son had told her that Susan’s dad had had hold of their little girl. Susan was my friend, in my class at school. When asked, I was adamant that the man who attached me wasn’t Susan’s dad. I didn’t even know him, but it couldn’t have been him because that was plain impossible. Even so, my mum phoned the police with the information, just in case it helped with the description. The police went to Susan’s house, they spoke to her dad, but of course it wasn’t him so the matter was dropped.
Months later I walked up our street. I was alone, probably headed for the shop or some such important errand. A man sat on the steps at Susan’s back door. He was smoking a cigarette, I recall. I looked up, and I saw him. That same smile. Identical. I stood for a moment, transfixed, staring at his face, then his hands. He was so similar, so bloody similar it was uncanny. Did he have a twin brother? A double somewhere?
I told my mum about it, and again she contacted the police. There was talk now of an identity parade, and I was glad. If the police could see someone who looked exactly like the man who attacked me, then it would be easier to find the real culprit, wouldn’t it? I would talk to Susan about it at school, ask her if she had an uncle…
Susan never came back to school though. The family disappeared, the same evening that I saw her father on the steps. They just upped and went. It was all very odd.
Only years later, and when I was no longer filtering my version of reality with the childlike certainty that adults we know won’t harm us, did it finally dawn on me just what happened. Susan’s dad knew the game was up the moment I saw him in person. He would have been identified, if not on my evidence then on Richard’s because for some reason that little boy saw it straight away.

So the bastard ran. He grabbed his family and he ran. 
I had a close call that day, it could so easily have ended differently. If he'd managed to drag me out of sight, if my brother and Richard hadn't got bored of hiding...
To the best of my knowledge my attacker was never caught, though I doubt I was the first of his victims. And probably not the last.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hanging On in Your Universe

Sacchi Green

The older you get, the more close calls you have, and the more likely it gets that you’re at fault. Okay, maybe I should amend that to say the more likely it is that I’m at fault. But if we limit the definition to things that aren’t one’s fault, the one event that sticks in my mind the most involves driving. Well, to be frank, the ones that are my fault mostly involve driving, too, or at least those are the ones I remember (and, hopefully, learn from.) I must have had non-automotive close calls, but maybe my mind just doesn’t hold on as well to memories that don’t involve large metal entities traveling at high speeds.

I’ve been trying hard to remember other incidents, because I’m just about sure that I’ve mentioned this one here before, in detail, but so far I’m coming up empty—maybe my mind helpfully blocks out the worst ones—so here goes. The fun part, and there was one, sort of, comes after the almost-crash itself.  (And the "universe" part comes way at the end.)

It was at least ten years ago. Ten years plus and quite a few cars ago, although the car in question, a Taurus station wagon, did survive for several years afterward. I was driving, with two family members as passengers, in the passing lane of a crowded multi-lane highway in New Hampshire, heading south. There was a high concrete barrier to my left, and a very big tank truck coming up on my right. The traffic was so heavy that changing lanes was just about impossible, but the tank truck, apparently not even seeing my car, tried it anyway, moving into my lane more or less ahead of me, but not far enough ahead. There was nothing I could do but slow down as much as I could, which wasn’t much with cars close behind me, and hang on hard to keep from hitting the concrete barrier as the big wheels of the tank truck scraped all along the side of my car, leaving a deep crease and smashing my right-hand rear-view mirror.  He must have known he’d hit me. He moved to the right as soon as he could, and I followed, trying to get him to pull over into the breakdown lane, but he did everything possible to get away, eventually dropping back when I couldn’t because of the traffic behind me.

We got his license number and the company name on his truck, and fifteen miles farther along we pulled off into a huge rest area just before a toll booth (also the site of a State of New Hampshire liquor store.) We called the State Police, and just before a trooper arrived, we saw that very same truck pull in to the parking lot and park some distance away, as far as possible from the buildings. He didn't see us, and I would have missed him if I hadn't append to see him driving in the long access road.

When the policeman arrived we pointed out the truck, and told him about where the incident occurred (we’d noticed the mile posts along the way.) He was brusque at first, not believing that we could possible know it was the same truck after all those miles—until he saw that the truck driver was doing something odd to his wheels. He was spraying the tires with some sort of cleaner, and there was still paint from our car on them when the cop got to him.

I almost felt sorry for the guy. Another cop arrived. They called the company he drove for and he was immediately fired. There’d apparently been some other complaints and he was on the edge anyway. The police inspected his whole rig in great detail and found enough illegal aspects to arrest him even without our complaint. They told us later that they were determined to put him in jail and not let him drive any more in New Hampshire after what he’d done. If we had hit the barrier there would have been a catastrophic pileup of crashes on the crowded highway, while he would have sped away unscathed.

How did I feel while it was happening? What did I think? I couldn’t let myself feel. I could only hang on, resisting the pressure trying to force me toward the cement wall, refusing to panic—and focusing on every fraction of a second that wasn’t yet total destruction.

We were soooo lucky. The elderly relative in the back seat would never go with us to New Hampshire again, but I don’t know how much the incident had to do with that. My younger son, who wasn’t with us at the time, got possession of the car after that, and drove it for a couple of years, with people assuming, I’m sure, that the deep, wide crease down the side was his fault. He didn’t seem to care.

Close call. So close. Sometimes I wonder whether the multiple universe theory is true, the one where in some one of an infinite number of universes everything that could happen does happen. Are there universes where we did crash? Where any of my close calls, of anybody’s close calls, turned out differently than we’re aware of in this universe? Or do we skip from universe to universe instantaneously so that we’re always in one, if there are any, where we’ve survived?

It doesn’t matter, any more than the theory that we’re all part of a huge computer simulation, because there’s nothing we can do differently in any case. We still feel pain, and fear, as well as pleasure and joy. We work with the laws of nature, of physics, of whatever, that we’ve been dealt. And when there’s nothing we can do but hang on, we hang on. And hope.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Almost Not a Cat Person

When I think of “close calls,” I tend to think less of what could have been, and more of what could almost have not been.  So, rather than thinking, “What if that car accident had been worse and I was paralyzed,” I tend to think more like, “What if I hadn’t walked into the store that day and met that person?”

Perhaps the most prominent example of this presently in my life is my second cat, Shadow.  (I suck at picking cat names — this was picked by a little girl who took care of the cat before me.)

Let me back up and say that I am NOT a cat person.  At least, I wasn’t one before.  My partner wanted a cat to keep him company since he works at home all day, and since I was the anti-cat person, it fell to me to pick a cat for us.  I avoided it as long as I could, but if I ever found myself in or near a pet store, I would inevitably wander by the cats.

Whisky, Day One
There was one cat that finally got my attention.  He came with the name Whisky and he was a humane society cat from a small town.  I walked by the windows of the cat display and Whisky immediately got up and rubbed his face and body against the glass, desperate to connect with me.  I asked to meet the cat and instantly fell in love.  I got my partner to drop everything and join me at the pet store.  Two hours later, my partner was stunned that he was going home with a cat on his lap.

The three of us lived happily.  Whisky loved exploring his new house and getting to know his new family.  I immediately became a cat person, something I never thought would happen.  (This was the first “close call” with cats.  If I’d not wandered into that specific store and if Whisky hadn’t made a deliberate attempt to connect with me, I might still be cat-less today, and our house would still feel empty.)

A couple months after Whisky settled into his new life with us, a friend of my partner told us about a homeless cat that was looking for a family.  Since this person knew we were new cat owners, he thought Whisky might need some company in the form of a small, black kitten named Shadow.  The friend knew a family that lived on a rural farm property and a kitten, who had obviously been an indoor cat until very recently, had wandered onto the property.  They suspect someone drove out to the country, opened the car door, dropped the kitten at the side of the road, and drove off.  (It sounds horrible, but last year I saw someone do just that downtown.)  The kitten desperately needed a new home, as it had been living in the woods around the farm for a few weeks and the barn cats were beating him up and not letting him on the farm.

Shadow, Day One
A couple weeks passed after the friend made that request.  We never heard about the cat again, so we figured it had gone to someone else and that was probably a good thing—we were in no position to adopt another cat.  When we finally decided firmly that, no, we would not accept the cat if the question came up again, my partner got a phone call from this friend.  “I’m coming back to the city and I’ve got the cat with me.  Meet me at my place because I can’t take him inside because my cats will be mad at it.”  The decision had apparently been made for us.  There was no question of if we could take the cat; we were being told to come pick it up.

My partner went and met his friend and took the cat.  He was a mangy little thing—stinky, scrawny, and crying nonstop.  The first night with him was a nightmare; to prevent transmission of worms or fleas or anything, we had to keep him alone in a small room and we heard his desperate plaintive cries through the whole house.  The next day we took him to the vet and he screamed the whole way there, with a yowl that sounded distinctly like “Hhheeelllppp…”

We told the vet that we had decided we couldn’t keep the kitten, but we would make sure that he was healthy before we re-homed him.  (I didn’t feel right not taking care of this kitten’s health when I had the means to do so.)  And since he was living in the woods for a few weeks and, we believe, neglected by his first home, there were a few medical issues to take care of.

We took Shadow home and put him in his private room again.  He had to be kept separate for several days until we were certain there was nothing he could transmit to Whisky.  Whisky would spend his days on the other side of the door, hissing and snarling.

As the weeks passed as we took care of Shadow’s health issues and we got him fixed, we began the slow introduction of bringing him and Whisky together.  It was a disaster.  Whisky was horribly mean and attacked Shadow regularly.  The stress and tension of all four of us—humans and cats—was incredibly high.  (Also, at the time, my grandmother was in hospital and nearing the end, only adding to the negativity in my environment.)

We had to get rid of Shadow.  That was the only solution to all of this.  If we could go back to being a one-cat house, then the stress would be gone and I could deal with the other issues in my life.

Just when we were at our breaking point with Shadow, everything suddenly changed.  Whisky stopped attacking him and Shadow stopped his non-stop full-throated whining.  (Coincidentally, this was the day before my grandmother passed away.  She was worried about us and the cats, so I was able to tell her that everything seemed to suddenly be going okay and we could make this work.)  We had no understanding of why everything had magically changed, but it did.  All of the problems just seemed to have evaporated overnight.

Now Best of Friends
Shadow was still a very timid kitten.  We’re pretty sure that in his first home, not only was he neglected, but he was likely locked in a small room, ignored, and given no stimulation.  Over the months since then, Shadow has grown increasingly confident and continues to learn how to be a cat.  (It’s only a few months ago, after he turned about a year old, that he discovered that it’s fun to go under blankets.  Until that point, it absolutely terrified him.  I literally had to teach this cat how to be petted, as he was so desperate for human contact that he would squirm so much when anyone petted him, that petting soon became impossible.  I also had to teach him how to sit on my lap and how to play with toys.)

Shadow and Whisky now get along very well.  Whisky still picks on Shadow now and then — but Shadow also encourages it.  Quite regularly, I’ll see Shadow hit Whisky on the head several times and then flop on the floor in front of him, waiting to be attacked.  But after their playtime, they're often found snuggled together in their cat bed, or grooming each other in the kitchen.

Shadow was the bigger “close call” of the two cats.  We were determined to give him up.  We told everyone that Shadow was not staying and that he would need to find a new home—for his safety and our sanity.  He needed to live with someone who was prepared to give him the attention he so desperately needed.  He got very close to being moved into a new house with a new family.

But by waiting as long as we did, because of those medical issues, we accidentally gave him the time to adjust to his new life and settle in.  If we had moved quicker, he would be somewhere else.  It's really because of a persistent ear infection (which has since cleared) that he stayed long enough to carve out his place in our home.

Shadow is now an integral part of the family.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Erotic Love & Carnal Sins: Confessions of a Priest (co-written with Sandra Claire). He is also the publisher and co-founder of Deep Desires Press, a publisher of erotica and high-heat-level erotic romance. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Snippet of a Close Call

For about six years, maybe more, I've had a vampire story which I keep putting aside in favor of other stories (and cover art). I desperately want to finish it, but there are some gaping holes in the actual storyline which I've not managed to plug yet. I have bunches of scenes, and a start, and a finish... but my arc has more missing segments than a dissected millipede.

What I've discovered by re-reading the parts I've already written, though, is that I'm in love with both leads again. Susana Solos is an early-thirties career detective whose hatred of paranormal beings stems from a tragedy many years before, when she'd just graduated from the academy. Ryan (who for some reason doesn't yet have a surname!) was a police officer who was turned vampire against his will. They're forced to team up and the sparks fly (who'd a thunk it?!)

This particular snippet takes place on top of a skyscraper. I haven't settled on a city yet, but after my trip to the US in September-October, I'm leaning toward New York.

All the usual caveats apply, of course. Unedited, unfinished, unpolished...

* * * *

“You have to go so close to the edge, blood-boy?”
“Aw, sweet. You’re worried I’ll fall?”
“I’m worried I’ll push you.” I couldn’t keep the waver out of my voice. Ryan clearly noticed it, too.
“So it’s heights for you, huh? And smiling, of course.”
“What the hell are you—”
“Your biggest fears.” He stood on one leg and leaned way over the side. “It’s weird how phobias lose their edge when you discover they no longer have any power. Like when you realize you’re stronger than your father. And angrier. And it’s only habit that keeps you cowering.”
I couldn’t remember a time Ryan had spoken so freely.
“Daddy issues, deadman? Surprised you haven’t, y’know… dealt with that already. Bleh bleh and all that shit.”
He stood straight and adjusted his shoulders, casting off something invisible. Women’s intuition is nothing like vampires’ glamor, but suddenly there was a little crack I could wedge something sharp and irritating into.
“I mean, you’re lucky in a way, Bloodster. You can pass judgement on your daddy without worrying about hypocrisy.”
“Fuck you, Solos.”
“No, really. You know…'cause you’ll never be a daddy.”
At first I thought there was a chopper flying in from a distance. Then I realized it was Ryan. Growling.
Next thing I knew I was dangling over the edge of the building, suspended by the throat in the hydraulic grip of a pissed-off paranorm.
“You think just because it’s illegal that I won’t kill you, Solos?”
He emphasized the concept with a squeeze of his fingers. I grimaced, but managed to suppress the groan welling up inside me.
“Just make sure you do it all the fucking way, tick-boy. None of this half-assed undead shit.”
He darted his tongue across his mouth, his eyes wavering as he caressed the tips of his fangs. I knew enough about these freaks to know those points were like miniature cocks. That for him, licking those sharp little pricks was like rubbing himself.
“Getting off on something, leech?”
His eyes changed. They seemed to cross just a little, like his focus shifted to something an inch in front of my face. He stepped back and lowered me until I could get my toes onto the edge of the roof, but kept me leaning back over the abyss. 
“Let go of me, deadman. I dare you.”
It felt as if his fingers rippled against my skin. A beast beneath his skin searching for a way through. His breathing grew slower and deeper. I thought for a second he was actually going to pitch me down to the street.
“Shut up, Solos.” It was barely more than a whisper. “Calm down… and shut up.”
“What do you care how calm I am?”
“Shh...” As he brought his other hand up to the line of my jaw he winced. Like he was fighting his own actions. He pressed his thumbs in against my neck on both sides and made circles, running his skin across the flesh beneath. Like it was my pussy and he was searching for my clit.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I was still supremely aware of the yawning mass of nothing behind me, and I needed for him to either drop me or pull me back to safety. My heart was pounding with the stimulation of imminent death.
Then it came to me. With every thud of my heart his eyes wavered, his breath pulsed. Like the throbbing of orgasm. He could feel my blood.
“You gotta be kidding, vampy! You’re getting off on me?”
Now his voice took on an almost serpentine sibilance. “You can’t possibly understand, Solos. It’s nothing to do with you. Right now you’re just a drug to me. It doesn’t matter how much of a bitch you are.”
A shudder passed through his body, loosening his grip, and I slipped backward slightly. A burst of adrenaline kicked through me and he sucked in a guttering breath, turned his face to the sky and bared his fangs. The primordial fear of predators gave me an extra kick in the heart and he moaned in response. He made small choking sounds, his face slackened, and I was sure I was a goner. Then he winced and pulled me forward, throwing me to my hands and knees on the concrete of the roof.
I heard him land on his back right beside me and I glanced over. He had tiny spasms wriggling through him, like nervous tics. Shrugging one shoulder. Balling his hands. Working his mouth.
His breath punched in and out for a moment. A final sough of release gushed from him and signaled an end to his epileptic dance.
“Was that what I think it was, Bloodster?”
“You don’t… understand us… at all, Solos.” A couple more ragged breaths. “Blood is not just our food. It’s… like our faith, and our dream, and… well, it’s like sex was when we were human.”
“So you really were getting off on my pulse?”
He simply nodded.
“You didn’t just come did you?”
“Y’know, Solos, if you truly want to fight us, you really should get to know us better.”
“You did! You fucking pervert!”
He shook his head. “It’s not like it is between humans. Or I suppose, it’s not like it is for a human male. I didn’t just shoot my load or anything. It’s more like for the human females. It’s a rippling sensation that passes through–”
“So, what do you call it? A goregasm?”
“That’s cute. Fuck you.”

“Thought you just did. Maybe you should get around in rubber gloves. Save you some embarrassing moments.”

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Bright Side of Rejection

by Giselle Renarde

It always bugs me when I rant to a friend and they tell me to "look on the bright side." I don't want to think about silver linings when I'm ranting. I just want to rant.

But after a few weeks or months or years go by, I can usually look back on whatever I found rant-worthy and realize I learned something from the experience. That's especially true of business affairs.

Like most writers, I've been on the receiving end of quite a few rejection letters. I've never been one to rant about rejection. When you're a creative, rejection's part of the profession. But it used to make me sad. Of course it did. Doesn't anymore, by the way. If you're just starting out in the writing business and you're wondering if the sting of rejection ever lessens, well, yeah, it does.  At least, it has for me.

That said, I don't send manuscripts out to publishers as much as I used to.  I was browsing through a calendar from a few years ago, and I found there was a period when I was sending out one manuscript per day. These weren't all novels, obviously. There were lots of websites that published erotica back then. And I submitted short stories to erotic anthologies, when I tend not to do much anymore.

Now I self-publish most of my work. Why, you ask? Not because I can't get published. My work has appeared in nearly 200 short story anthologies. I've been published by 2 of the Big 5, plus Oxford University Press. I'm nothing special, but I have accomplished that much.  Did it pay the bills?

Not so much.

Does self-publishing pay the bills?  Well, actually, it does. It isn't easy. In fact it's a lot of work. I've had to acquire a multitude of new skills. So the money aspect is a big one, but you know which other factor is up there with money?


I just don't trust most publishers anymore. I've been shafted too many times, by presses large and small.

When I started writing, I submitted work to every call for submissions I saw. I've had poetry published, and an academic paper, and a touching anecdote in Chicken Soup for the Soul. If they were offering money, I could whip up a story. (Although I never was paid for that academic paper, come to think of it.)

Over the past decade I've been published by... you know, I've lost track. Probably a dozen websites, more than 20 small presses, the aforementioned big wigs, Hustler Fantasies. One of the biggest reasons I publish my work myself instead of taking my writing to publishers is that... well, first of all, most of the small presses I used to work with went out of business. Almost ALL the websites closed down.

Of the few publishers who do still hold rights to some of my books, three no longer pay me. And not because my books don't sell! Deadbeat publishers come up with all sorts of reasons for falling behind on author payments. "Oh, I'm so disorganized! I don't have time to keep track of these things! I'm terrible with spreadsheets!"

Alternately, there's: "What are you talking about? I don't owe you money."

Or my personal favourite: simply failing to respond to any email I send over the course of YEARS.

I won't name names because the funny thing about deadbeat publishers is they can always seem to find money for lawyers. And there's one publisher in particular that has been incredibly litigious and very much a deadbeat press, and I can't help remembering being so disappointed, many years ago, when I submitted a book to them... and it was rejected.

A close call indeed.

Giselle Renarde is an award-winning queer Canadian writer. Nominated Toronto’s Best Author in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, her fiction has appeared in well over 100 short story anthologies. Giselle's juicy novels include Anonymous, Cherry, In Shadow, and The Other Side of Ruth.

Want to stay up to date? Visit
Sign up for Giselle’s newsletter:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Little Fishes

Walking by the canal in my town, feeling a little as though I’ve lost my way, watching the water flow.  Sitting on the bank, thinking about words. Rock.  Stone.  They mean the same thing, but the feeling behind them is so different.  What I would expect to find at the bottom of this water is a stone.  “Stone” sounds like water and somehow like permanence.  Smooth and eternal.  A rock is what you hit things with.  A rock is solid, but in a severe way.  On and on, watching the river flow.

I remember Houma, Louisiana, my road days.  When I was much younger, and mortality was a concept on the horizon, not yet something you hold at arm’s length by drinking pomegranate juice and hoping.  Houma on the afternoon of a rainy morning and now the sun all out and shining and the ground damp.  The old brown Chevy with our stuff in the back heading to the next town and my friend Casey at the wheel.  And up ahead a tight curve under a tree with flowers on the road, and the great bayou to our right.

Casey was a guy.  In those days most of my friends were guys, when did that change?  I talk to men functionally, but my closer friends always seem to be women.  Its women I can talk to, its women at my age who seem to be the ones full of curiosity and ideas and skepticism.  Women seem so much more alive, or is that just some prejudice on my part?  Men can be so much like rocks.  Women can be so much like stones.  Smooth and water worn by time.  Men so often are not worn by time as broken by it.

Casey begins to touch the pedal to slow down.  He is a good driver, he must know to slow down.  Am I talking to him to much?  What is happening?  The big heavy car, a real land yacht, has just hit the curve too hard and is careening off the road.  We ‘re on the river bank traveling way too fast, the tall wet weeds whipping at the door frames .  These things happen very slowly in the frame of our being.  There’s no sense of panic, though I am sitting in the passenger seat, a passive observer as a passenger on a falling airplane might be an observer of vertically rushing clouds.  Casey, it’s his problem to solve.

He jinks around something in the weeds, which tips the van at a sharp angle on the descending river bank and we’re traveling now on two wheels. 

I’m sitting here on the canal bank, watching the water move just a little ways below my feet.  Its not a strong current.  If I tip my trifocal glasses just right, they’re hopelessly bent up so you have to arrange them on your nose like a Disney character, if I arrange them right I can see small fishes nipping at things near the stones, the big smooth stones below.  They don’t know there’s water.  They don’t understand that reality.  That’s amazing.  What of us?  We more or less know there’s air, but we don’t float groundlessly in it except in dreams.  We see fish and we see birds, floating, flying and being in three dimensions in ways we can only imagine.  But we want to imagine.  Its what we have.  I look at the fish.  Bending over the water, the fish see my hovering shadow, the omens of an unseen, unknown world for them above, a world that has the power to affect their water and end their life without their comprehension and move away from the shadow as a man might move away from a ghost.

The front wheel hits something hard and fast in the tall grass and the left side of the car goes airborne.  In these moments time doesn’t slow down, but there is a fascination that keeps you sane and calm and makes time seem to slow down.  The kind of calming fascination a monk might spend years trying to achieve on a meditation cushion, given to you like a kind of gift, or maybe a consolation for the terror which is waiting on the fringes to be admitted.  What you have in this moment is a kind of stoned reverie “Wow, the van is tipping over.  This is amazing.  I wonder if we’ll go into the water?”  The water with the little fishes who don’t know an iron meteor is headed for their calm, suspended existence.

The car hits the water.  The forward impact crushes the roof which crushes the wind shield and brings a rush of glass and swamp water into our faces.

Little fish, little fish.  I put my hand in the water and the cold sends zings of attention up my arm.  The fish move away from my fingers, never taking their eyes off them.  What is like to have eyes on the sides of your head?  Do you see the world with one eye at a time, blindly?  How much of the world do you see like that?  In this moment I feel sorry for the fishes, for their limitations, for the narrowness of their scope.  They mate, but do they feel lust?  Do they feel desire or only impulse?  Do they know beauty, or do weeds only hide the food they eat or the animals that eat them?  What is the world to a fish?  It is only that dimension, with the occasional shadows from a above, and sometimes a fish hook that brings them suddenly and violently into that world of killing sunshine and air.  Our meat made senses were designed for survival.  Spirit and beauty came later as a kind of luxury.  That luxury is the birthright of our species, wherever we go.  Or however dire the moment  is.

The water soaks us upside down; my belly comes up hard against my seat belt, stopping my forward pitch, facing into the sharp edged water and mud and then dangling upside down like a fish on a hook.  I hear Casey yell “Let’s get out of here!”.  There’s fear in his voice, but also determination, a man solving an important problem, not a man begging for his life.  Its nice when its like that.  It’s the kindness of dark destiny, the possibility of a good death.  A good story if you get out of this shit storm alive, human beings make you beg.  Deadly accidents are urgent puzzles that challenge character.  A good man likes that.

I’m holding my breath by now and the water is over my face.  I’m Houdini in the chained up trunk at the bottom of the Hudson river wrestling off the handcuffs, getting ready for my Ta-Dah! of liberation, as perfectly in the moment as a Zen master.  One good thing in our favor, it was a hot day on the bayou.  We’d had our windows down.  My belt snaps free.  One of my sneakers is coming off.  I grab it with my hand as my belt clears and dumps me, still holding my breath, free floating in the swamp gunk.  I slip out the window and there is sunshine above me and a feeling of exhilaration and triumph.  I’m getting out of this.  One more day.   It’s not even my car. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Avoiding Close Calls (#deadlines #stress #dreams)

Cliff warning

By Lisabet Sarai

I dream about missing deadlines. My plane has already boarded, while I’m not even finished packing. I’ve got to teach a class in ten minutes, starting with the quiz I use to make sure everyone arrives on time, but I’m still half an hour from the university. Then there’s the classic anxiety dream where I realize I have an exam scheduled today, yet somehow haven’t studied or attended class for a full term astonishing given how long it’s been since I graduated!

While these aren’t exactly nightmares, their regular recurrence testifies to my concern about the issue. In the real world, I work hard to avoid this sort of close call.

My DH and I are the kind of people who arrive at the airport more than the recommended two or three hours prior to departure, just in case we encounter some unexpected obstacles. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging around in airport restaurants, gates and lounges. On the other hand, in four decades traveling around the world, I’ve never missed a plane (though we almost didn’t make a connecting flight on a recent trip to China, due to poor planning on the part of the airline).

I spent sixteen years in school and university. In that entire period, I don’t remember ever turning in a late assignmentor “pulling an all-nighter”, as we used to call it. I’d start tackling homework or term papers the very day I learned about them. Now, when I have a commitment to produce some sort of work, I plan my schedule way ahead of time in order to make sure I can fulfill my promise. Occasionally I’ll experience problems and discover my effort estimates were too optimistic. I don’t react well to that sort of stress, as my long-suffering DH will attest. And when I have a challenging deadline, one I fear I can’t meet, I seriously suffer.

Not everyone is like me. (My students, in particular, seem to feel little distress about upcoming deadlines.) I’ve met people who seem to get a thrill out of living on the edge, cutting their margins to the absolute minimum, gleefully living one day at a time without concern for tomorrow’s looming responsibilities. I’d like to say that I envy them their lack of tension, but honestly, the prospect of being like that fills me with horror!

Our topic this fortnight is “Close Calls”. Some readers might argue that almost missing a deadline, or a plane flight, doesn’t capture the real meaning of the term. A close call, they’ll say, is a near-disaster that could not have been anticipated or avoided. My experience with the landslide in Peru, the subject of my post here when our topic was “Near-Death Experiences”, might qualify. Almost being discovered in flagrante by a parent or authority figure could be an equally good, though less severe, example. Having the condom break the day before you ovulated would definitely fit the topic. If you have any control, though, it’s not really a close call.

I’m not completely convinced. Obviously external circumstances cannot be predicted. The drunk driver who almost but not quite totals your car may be beyond your control. The earthquake that levels the town while you happen to be away on business; the fanatic who barges into the movie theater to mow down a dozen people, after you decide at the last minute to see a different film; the brick tumbling off a building that lands on the sidewalk two feet ahead of you; these all represent lucky escapes from dire events that could easily have impacted you. No deliberate action on your part could have prevented the terrible outcomes you barely avoided.

However, I think that some “close calls” are the direct result of the choices people make. People take risks, choosing to ignore the potential consequences. Indeed, risk can add to the excitement. I considered writing a quickie for this topic about having sex in a public place and nearly being caught. (I refrained, figuring Daddy X could do a much better job.) Without the danger of discovery, public sex wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

Some people prefer to push things to the limit. They don’t start on assigned work until the night before it’s due. They show up at the exit gate five minutes before it closes. They enjoy tempting fate.

Not me. I’m a pussy when it comes to stress. I recognized that I can’t control the universe, but I’ll do whatever I can to avoid close calls in situations where my actions make some difference.

Then I’ll write stories about those of you who dare to thumb their nose at danger. You’re much more interesting.