Carnival of Lost Souls

Carnival of Lost Souls
By Jana Denardo

Author’s Note: This was written for the 2017 Spook_me challenge on Dreamwidth/Livejournal. You can see my prompt here and he’s even the right coloring for Faolan. This is set in the Lucerna universe that began with the story, Triskelion (which is a freebie, just ask me for it, if you’d like). Happy Halloween!

Summary When Faolan’s sister, Sorcha, lets slip that brave demon-hunting mage Faolan is afraid of clowns, his two lovers, Jason and Derrek, have to know the back story.

XXX

“I will pay you to make him go see the new It.” Sorcha, Faolan’s sister, beamed, wheeling into Faolan’s office.

Jason glanced up from where he’d artfully draped himself on the window-seat. “I’ll take that action.”

“Not going to happen.” Faolan didn’t bother to look up from his paperwork. Maybe they’d take the hint and leave him alone. His two overs, Derrek the werewolf and Jason the vampire obviously had nothing interesting to do other than sit in his office and trade the typical werewolf versus vampire barbs.

“The coulrophobia is strong with this one.” Sorcha giggled.

Derrek twirled his office chair in a circle. “What’s that?”

“Fear of clowns,” Jason supplied.

Derrek looked at Faolan as if he’d lost his mind. “What’s wrong with clowns? They’re fun. How can you be afraid of clowns? You face down demons on a daily basis.”

“Yes, lover, how can you be afraid of clowns​?”

At the smugness of Jason’s tone, Faolan tossed his pen aside. “I never said I was afraid of clowns.”

“I know why,” Sorcha singsonged. No matter how old they got, he and she remained children when it came to teasing each other.

“I will pay you to shut up.” Faolan pushed back from his desk. He wondered if he should just run for it. Sorcha would tell the story, especially if Jason poured on the charm. No, what did he have to be ashamed of? He’d been just a little kid at the time.

“Now I want to know even more.” Derrek stretched.

Faolan sighed. “All right, meet me in the apartment so we can be comfortable and I’ll tell you the story.”

“I’ll buy beer for us or at least make tea.” Derrek jumped up.

“No, you make terrible tea.” Faolan knew once they heard the story they wouldn’t laugh. It wasn’t that sort of tale. Yes, maybe it is a bit silly to be afraid of clowns but he had good reason, and it wasn’t just Spielberg’s awesome Poltergeist to blame. Faolan did, however, wonder how horror movies found a market when everyone knew ghosts and demons were real. His group, the Lucerna, was only one of many organized to fight them.

He wasn’t surprised that Jason and Derrek raced ahead of him to the apartment that they oft-times shared, but Sorcha’s following them was. “You know I don’t need you to tell this story.”

“And miss out?” Sorcha wheeled along in her chair. “Deidre is still at her friend’s house so Mommy has time to herself. And you do need me. I know parts that you didn’t get to see.”

“But you’ve told them to me.” He shrugged. “It’s fine.”

“Unless you plan to get naked and have your boyfriends cuddle you as you tell a scary story.” Her grin bordered on evil.

He rubbed his chin, pretending to contemplate it. She reached up and slapped his butt. Faolan chuckled and slipped inside his apartment. Jason already had a kettle on the stove for them, and Derrek had fetched a beer. The werewolf wasn’t much on tea.

“What do you want?” Jason asked.

“Earl Grey will do.” Faolan sat on the couch and kicked off his shoes. He might as well get comfortable. “I was nine and we were still in Ireland at the time. Mom, Grandma and I were cleaning Great Aunt Mary’s house. She had passed at the ripe old age of ninety-nine, and she liked her collecting, Great Aunt Mary did.”

“That’s putting it mildly. I was there too, but I wasn’t of an age to help much. Mostly I followed Mom around getting in the way,” Sorcha added, parking her wheelchair next to the coffee table.

“Sounds like a boring thing for a kid,” Derrek said, claiming a recliner for himself.

Faolan shrugged. “I was on a quest for hidden treasure. Grandma Brighid promised us treasure.”

“More like lied to get you to do work.” Jason sat next to Faolan, giving Faolan’s knee a squeeze.

“Exactly. Anyhow I was let loose in the attic. I had one job, carry down the boxes to the lower levels of the house where it was cooler so we could examine them without sweating to death. In addition to, uh, collecting, Great Aunt Mary loved cats, cats who were so hoping for mice in those attic boxes.”

“Mom and I got to sort through all the boxes.” Sorcha grinned. “It was kind of fun.”

“Yeah she got to look for treasure, and I got a hernia before I was in double digits lugging a million boxes full of crap.” Faolan snorted. “Great Aunt Mary had this full length mirror, you know the kind that swiveled like on Indiana Jones? I know better to linger on a reflective surface for too long, even then, but I was a cocky kid sure my wand could handle any ghost that might crop up.”

“Phrasing.” Jason said, hopping back up as the kettle whistled.

“You’re banned from watching Archer!” Faolan poked a finger at him. “Anyhow, I paused to look in the mirror as I was struggling along with a bunch of hat boxes.”

”You nearly died for a bunch of moldy hats,” Sorcha blurted out before dissolving into giggles.

“You would have cried.”

“Yes but I’d be sure the headstone read ‘Beloved brother, died for hats’.”

“She’s evil.” Derrek swigged his beer.

“Always. All the females in my family are right down to her daughter.” Faolan twisted on the couch. “Two sugars please, Jason.”

“I’m familiar with you.” Jason brought Faolan and Sorcha their tea, and fetched wine for himself.

“So you looked in the mirror,” Derrek prompted.

“Looked in, posed, pretended he had muscles.” Sorcha flexed her arms in a strongman pose.

“Hush, you weren’t there. You don’t know.”

“I could have been peeking at the door. I was, you know. That’s how Mom and Grandma were warned so fast.”

He rolled his eyes. “I was looking in the mirror, and instead of the wall lined with a million boxes, there was a clown with a balloon right behind me in the reflection.”

“Shit!” Jason’s eyes widened, outdone by Derrek’s stunned look.

“Right? I whipped around but there was no clown. Right then a hand reached out and dragged me into the mirror.”

“At which point you wet yourself,” Derrek said.

“No kidding.”

“I thought it looked like fun because I was so little. I heard the carnival music when Faolan got pulled through.” Sorcha blew across her cup. “I tried to get in before I went to tell Mom that Faolan went to Narnia, and yes I know it’s a wardrobe but what do you want? I was a kid.”

“Weirdo. I’ll tell them about the other plane and then you can tell them about the rescue.”

Sorcha gave him a thumb’s up.

“So crazy Great Aunt Mary had a portal mirror in her attic, and a demon clown dragged me through it. I was dead, and I knew it. The clown had a grip like a vise.”

“And you were a skinny kid,” Sorcha said.

I’m telling this story,” he huffed. “But she isn’t wrong. He dragged my scrawny arse into this circus on LSD. Tents had teeth and eyes. They pulsated.” Faolan shuddered, feeling their vibrations all over again as if he were back there. Jason took his hand. “It had that music, you know the one you always hear with circuses, but put through some warped filter. Everything about the place was warped, the performers, the audience, like it was the circus of the damned.”

Derrek leaned forward, “Then what? This is really real, right?”

“A hundred percent. The clown dragged me into a tent where other clowns were getting ready, putting on their make up, and he tried to force me to sit down. He was going to paint my face, and I knew that once he did, I’d be one of them. I’d be there forever.”

“How’d you get away?” Jason squeezed his hand. “Because I’d notice anything clownish about you.”

“Well some things can get clownish red on him but it’s not usually his nose.” Derrek waggled his eyebrows.

Sorcha flung up a hand. “I don’t want to hear about my brother’s sex life.”

“And I’ve never heard complaints before. Are you trying to say something?” Faolan narrowed his eyes at Derrek.

“That milk has more color than you,” Derrek replied without missing a beat.

“You glow in the dark,” Jason added.

Faolan scowled. “And you two can go find someone else to cuddle up with.”

Sorcha studied them. “Will a vampire and a werewolf cuddle without you in the middle?”

“I thought you didn’t want to hear about my love life.” He turned his glare on his sister. “To get back on track, I might have been skinny but I was like a greased pig when it came to holding on to me. That’s about the only thing that saved my life.”

“Anyone else thinking about oiling him up and seeing what happens?” Jason pulled Faolan against him, kissing his neck.

“No one is thinking of that,” Sorcha replied darkly.

“I am,” Derrek muttered.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t have implied he’s Faolan the red-dicked albino reindeer.” Sorcha arched her eyebrows at him.

“Oh god.” Faolan covered his face with a hand. “Just tell them about the rescue.”

“I was jealous, like I said, because I wanted to go through the mirror but when I touched it it was solid so I went downstairs to tell Mom that Faolan was having fun without me.” Sorcha shrugged. “I liked clowns, you see. Mom took one look at Grandma and asked ‘Wasn’t Aunt Mary supposed to destroy a Mirror of Ocala way back when?’ They decided for some reason Aunt Mary kept this one, and they went racing up to the attic. I wanted to go with but of course they wouldn’t take me.”

“Yeah a demented circus from hell is probably not the best place for a little girl,” Derrek agreed.

“Definitely. Anyhow Grandma knew the spell to open the portal. She and Mom charged in, wands ready.”

“It didn’t take them too long to find me. It took me years before I realized they had a tracking spell on me, expecting me to get in trouble like any little boy, especially one with too much power at his disposal.”

“So Brighid and Mom whipped some clown ass?” Jason grinned.

“It was terrifying to behold.” Faolan nodded. “They hustled me back home, and destroyed that mirror like Great Aunt Mary should have eons ago.”

“And no residual clownishness? No urge for greasepaint?” Jason’s grin broadened.

“Not so far so I’m sure it’s safe.”

“Maybe we should strip him down and check for greasepaint.” The tips of Jason’s fangs peeked out.

“I’m not opposed to that,” Faolan assured him.

“While not opposed, I sure as hell don’t want to watch.” Sorcha put her tea cup on the table and wheeled toward the door.

Derrek held it open for her while Jason took his laptop off the table and started tapping keys.

Faolan shot Jason a quizzical look. “Do I want to know what’s up with the computer?”

“Just wanted a little mood music,” Jason replied and Nox Arcana’s Carnival of Lost Souls spilled out of the speakers.

Faolan glared. “You suck.”

“Vampire, duh,” Derrek said, stripping off his shirt.

“Why do I love you guys?” Faolan sighed.

“We’ll show you.” Jason promised.

Faolan had absolutely no objections to that.

Nanowrimo Prep

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything because I have no internet. By the time it’s all said and done, it’ll be out for a month. It’s been an insane month at that. October is always busy for me but I had visitors and that meant getting this place ready for that but I didn’t succeed. So that meant getting mocked by the family for being a slob. Yeah, thanks. I do have the urge when I’m back home this holiday season to go open every one of my brother’s closest and make comments like he did to me. Ah family.

I’m getting ready to do nano. I’m in the wrong head space for this. It’s been a rough semester. I am, however, hopeful because I love these characters and I’m happy to be telling their story. I’ve been plotting this in my head all year but not really outlining it (pantser here). I’ll be writing (and hopefully finishing) <i>These Haunted Hills</i>, set here where I live. I’ve already gotten some nice positive feedback from the folks at Rainbow Snippets on the little bit I’ve already finished. (that won’t count toward the final count).

Brendan is a highly successful author (YA fantasy) who has lost everything a few years before, when his son died of cancer. He’s had an amicable divorce from his wife with whom he’s still friends. He’s come to the Hocking Hills not terribly far from Athens, Oh. He wants to try to get back into life writing a more adult story about a haunted hotel.

Joshua is an ecology professor by day, ghost hunter by night and all around geek all day long. He’s thrilled when Brendan contacted him via his ghost hunting website as he’s a huge fan. Josh promised to help Brendan explore the ghosts of the area for his book.

And I took a page out of a friend’s book and did a Tarot reading to help with the plot and this is what I have.

The protagonist – Ace of Wands – So this would be Josh. It’s a card full of energy and action. It’s a nicely positive card and that is definitely Josh.

The antagonist – Reversed seven of wands – This is Brendan. The core of this one is defensiveness and Brendan is surely that. He’s defending his heart. He has lost his son. He’s divorced his wife. He hasn’t written anything new since his son’s cancer turned terminal. He has to defend his choice to move away from YA writing.

The Theme – the Page of Swords – The core here is trying something new, moving on to the next new adventure and that is true of both men.

The Beginning – ten of swords – First off, OMFG WHY do I always pull this card? This card dogs me. But it is perfect for Brendan at the beginning of the novel. He has surrendered to the unpleasant circumstances, life without his son and the arduous task of rebuilding his life.

The Middle – The Magician reversed – The only major arcana in the spread. The search for knowledge and creating change. And in my story’s case a ghost will show them the way.

The ending – The king of wands – it is driven by passion and inspiration

I’m finally ready (okay almost) to send in Blood Red.

I

New Release – The Stark Divide

The_Stark_Divide_Updated-2.jpgThe Stark Divide

By J. Scott Coatsworth

Blurb:

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Excerpt:

“DRESSLER, SCHEMATIC,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

Buy Links Etc:

DSP Publications (paperback): https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-416-b

DSP Publications (eBook): https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-415-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074G2NJP6

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-stark-divide-j-scott-coatsworth/1126901106?ean=9781635338324

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-stark-divide

iBooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-stark-divide/id1266474103?mt=11&at=1l3vtqV

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35834187-the-stark-divide

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/the-stark-divide/

Publisher: DSP Publications
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Length: 284 Pages
Format: eBook, Paperback
Release Date: 10/10/17
Pairing: MM
Price: 6.99, 16.99
Series: Liminal Sky (Book One)
Genre: Sci Fi, Space, Gen Ship, Apocalypse, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer

Author Bio:

Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

Starting in 2014, Scott has published more than 15 works, including two novels and a number of novellas and short stories.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Rainbow Snippets

Running late because I was at the Renn faire all day, broken toe or no broken toe. I have to drive all the way across the state to get there but I’ve been going for years and it’s always fun. Expensive too.

I’m continuing with These Haunted Hills. Josh and Brendan are still at the diner. I fasted forwarded a bit over some of the big foot talk (and just spotted a continuity issue. Ah well since I’m writing this in fits and spurts, that’s to be expected).

Joshua grabbed the hot sauce, dousing his eggs and hashbrowns until they looked like a murder scene. He offered it to Brendan. He used it more miserly.

“And Cass and I thought we’d take you to a site we’ve had good luck with and turn you loose with a recorder, camera and an EMF reader and let you join the hunt if you’d like.”

Brendan stopped mid-chew and swallowed his eggs so fast he nearly choked in his hurry to say ‘yes.’ “That would be awesome.”

If you’d like to play along, Rainbow Snippets is a Facebook community where we post up 6 sentences of one of our LGBT stories every Saturday. It’s been fun and you can find it here. Be sure to check out all the offers! It’s been a great supportive group!

New Release

I owe Cheryl an apologize. I’m rather late with this because things went sideways on me. Still, late is better than not at all so come see Cheryl’s latest.

Author Name: Cheryl Headford

Book Length 214 Pages

Book Name: Shade’s Champion

Release Date: 15th September 2017

Publisher: Extacy Books: Devine Destinies

Sixteen-year-old Shade has spent years imprisoned in a dark cellar after being snatched off the street as a young child. Events since his release have left him traumatised and desperate to die.

Dory is a lively and engaging seventeen-year-old with mental health issues that make him a slave to his dangerously uncontrollable emotions.

When Shade comes to the secure children’s home, Eastbrook; because no one else wants him, the manager appoints Dory as his champion, an appointment Dory takes very seriously indeed.

As friendship turns into something else, something new and exciting, they struggle to find their feet, but every step leads to more complication.

When a spiteful act separates them, it seems their love is doomed before it ever had a chance, but when Dory falls ill, it’s up to Shade to pick up the standard and become his champion, although it might already be too late.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and menagerie of three cats, a dog and a dragon. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close.

Immersed, as always, in the world of fantasy, she maintains a burning desire to share the stories and these days it’s in the form of books which all contain her spark and unique view on life, the universe and everything.

Excerpt

That evening, Dorien had more appetite but still found he couldn’t finish a meal without feeling sick. He’d have to work back up to it.

“You’re looking brighter tonight, Dory. The fresh air did you good.”

“Yes. Max?”

“Yeah?”

“What will happen when I’m eighteen? Will I be able to leave then?”

“Is that what you’ve been thinking about? I’m sorry, Dory, I don’t want to crush you, but it’s best you get the picture straight right away. This place is for kids from ten to eighteen. Care orders last until you’re nineteen. That means we’ve got another year of the pleasure of your company. Unless, of course, Dr. Blake assesses it appropriate for you to move on before then.”

Dory’s heart burst with pain. “A…a year?”

“Maybe not. I know Dr. Blake is really pleased with your progress. If you keep working hard you might be able to move on before that. It’s up to you, really.”

“No. No, it’s not. Nothing is up to me. My entire life is controlled by someone else. And they say I have control problems.”

Suddenly, his stomach roiled and he ran for the bathroom.

Dorien sat on the floor in the bathroom and rested his hot head against the cool china of the toilet bowl. He’d never felt so ill in all his life. His stomach hurt and his head throbbed. The arms that clutched his stomach were trembling, as was the rest of him, and worst of all, there was a terrible weight in his chest that made it difficult to breathe. Emotional pain eclipsed the pain in his stomach and head tenfold.

Closing his eyes, he must have drifted, because he could swear he heard Shade’s voice and felt his arms around him. “Shade,” he whispered, then jolted fully awake at the knock on the door.

“Dory, are you okay in there?” Penny’s voice came through the door from a long way away.

“No. Leave me alone.”

“Dorien, are you making yourself sick?”

“No. It’s doing it all by itself.”

“Can I come in?”

“No. Leave me alone.”

“Dory, I’m coming in.”

Sales Links

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WHERE TO FIND THE AUTHOR

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Deep Thoughts

A few months ago Queer Sci Fi ran a discussion about whether the turbulent, ugly political clime had changed our reading and writing habits. At the time I thought, ‘no, not really’ and didn’t take part. However, I keep track of my reading for various reading challenges. Hell, if I were as meticulous about the rest of my life as I am about that reading list, my house would be on Better Homes & Gardens and my novels would be plotted to perfection.

When I looked over it, I realized I had subtly changed my reading habits. I’ve always read more mysteries than anything else but this year that’s almost all I’ve read. As of me writing this, I’ve read 102 book (including manga) and less than a dozen have been YA or fantasy. That was a bit shocking but I thought no more about it.

Then I started reading Seraphina for the Popsugar Challenge read a book recommended by a favorite author. It’s an interesting fantasy with a strong female lead and I set it aside half way through (or maybe a bit earlier than that). It was blatantly about racial intolerance (and one would assume defeating the evil of it but there’s no guarantee). In this case human vs dragon but the implications were obvious and I couldn’t escape thinking ‘if I wanted to be immersed in that, I can turn on the news.’ I just couldn’t finish it. There might have been a happy ending or relatively so but I couldn’t make myself read it.

I meant to write this post then but life intervened. I got busy. And more horrible shit has happened in the world. Two weeks ago I started another YA fantasy, Julia Vanishes. Like Seraphina, it’s an interesting world with a strong female lead…and the story is becoming the loss of freedoms and rights, the turning away/attacking of immigrants as the leadership becomes a theocracy and women are bearing the brunt of it. Yeah, no, I just can’t. Maybe at another time I could read this but right now with Trump and his bullshit, I simply can’t heap fictional misery upon real life.

Now, I know some authors need to use their writing as an outlet for this stuff, to work through their own feelings. In theory in far less turbulent times, I did write one novel where the bad guys were trying to erode the rights of women and homosexuals (about 13 years ago now) but it didn’t work well. I had another which was about racial intolerance before I gave it up. I lost the heart to do it. One of my potential nanos would have featured a new but growing intolerant religion but nope, I just cannot do it. That one is for after nano (maybe for camp next spring) when I can replot the villains.

So I was wrong. I have changed, partially subconsciously. I’ve never really liked dystopias so I thought yeah I haven’t really changed my reading but yes I guess I’ve started avoiding fantasies with sweeping political plots. I think I like mysteries because they’re so small picture, if you will. We’re concentrating on a murder and not the state of the world for the most part. How ironic is it that fictionalized murder is less disturbing to me than fictionalized political/racial strife.