Saints and Sinners 2016 Finalists and Runners-up

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The latest book in which a story that I wrote will appear is Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival 2016, edited by Amie M. Evans and Paul J. Willis (Bold Strokes Books). It will be released during the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans in April. This judge for this year’s contest was Ellen Hart, award-winning mystery author of the Jane Lawless and Sophie Greenaway series.

In alphabetical order by author’s last name, the 2016 Saints and Sinners Short Fiction Contest finalists and runners-up are:

Chris Arp for “A Man A Man”

Rich Barnett for “The Most Unusual Sweet Potato Competition

Sally Bellerose for “Discretion, 1957”

N.S. Beranek for “Do Unto Others”

‘Nathan Burgoine for  “Sweet William” (Runner-up)

Bryan Collins for “The Weirding Path”

Darrow Farr for “Last Dance”

John Florio for “King of the World”

Aaron Hamburger for “Loo Rolls”

Jerry Rabushka for  “Trumpet in D”

Carol Rosenfeld for  “Fallen Angel”

Vince Sgambati for  “Emmas” (Runner-up)

Thomas Westerfield for “Mr. Sissy in Sin City”

Andrew Willett for “The History Professor”

The winner will be announced soon.

From the website, http://sasfest.org:

The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival was founded in 2003 as a new initiative designed as an innovative way to reach the community with information about HIV/AIDS, particularly disseminating prevention messages via the writers, thinkers and spokes-people of the LGBT community. It was also formed to bring the LGBT literary community together to celebrate the literary arts.

The Festival has grown into an internationally-recognized event that brings together a who’s who of LGBT publishers, writers and readers from throughout the United States and beyond. The Festival, held over 4 days each Spring, features panel discussions and master classes around literary topics that provide a forum for authors, editors and publishers to talk about their work for the benefit of emerging writers and the enjoyment of fans of LGBT literature.

Hotel Monteleone

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Site of the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival and Saints and Sinners Literary Festival.

About SAS (from their website):

The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival was founded in 2003 as a new initiative designed as an innovative way to reach the community with information about HIV/AIDS, particularly disseminating prevention messages via the writers, thinkers and spokes-people of the LGBT community. It was also formed to bring the LGBT literary community together to celebrate the literary arts.

The Festival has grown into an internationally-recognized event that brings together a who’s who of LGBT publishers, writers and readers from throughout the United States and beyond. The Festival, held over 4 days each Spring, feature panel discussions and master classes around literary topics that provide a forum for authors, editors and publishers to talk about their work for the benefit of emerging writers and the enjoyment of fans of LGBT literature.

For more, visit  http://sasfest.org/

 

Short Stories 365/252

“Storyville 1910” by Jewelle Gomez from Saints & Sinners 2010: New Fiction from the Festival (Queer Mojo).

We’re taking a small detour because the next story up in Night Shadows and this one are both part of The Gilda Stories. I skipped reviewing this story in January because the author was the guest judge for the Saints and Sinners New Fiction contest  which I’d entered, and it seemed like a conflict of interest.

I was not expecting the anthology to include a vampire story, and it was a welcome surprise. I like some vampire stories quite a lot. That is to say I like vampire fiction that reads more like historical fiction and makes a lot of social commentary as it goes.

Go figure, I really like this.

The story is set in the New Orleans district called Storyville, the city’s red light district, created by politicians to keep undesirable businesses out of the tonier neighborhoods. Gilda is a vampire who started life in 1850 as a slave. She’s come back to Storyville looking for one of the two vampires who gave her refuge and immortality after she escaped the plantation. Instead, she finds another character from her past (and an actual figure in New Orleans history). They’ve barely had a chance to speak when there’s a knock at the door. They discover two half-frozen young girls on the doorstep, and soon learn that they fled an abusive boss in a nearby brothel. Of course they give them refuge, and of course the girls’ abuser comes after them. The drama provides a perfect framework for the author to tell us all about Gilda’s life after the plantation, and comment on the mistreatment of people of color and women in this country. It was fascinating and prescient, as only history can be. Consider this passage:

“But the world had gone crazy since Jack Johnson won the heavyweight championship. White men wrapped up their worst hatred and insecurities in the black boxer’s win over his white opponent earlier in the year. Gilda didn’t want to engage with another one who blamed the world’s ills on a black man’s success.”

Naturally, I added the collection to my list of things to read.

Short Stories 365/135

“The Red Coat” by George E. Jordan from Saints and Sinners 2014: New Fiction from the Festival (Bold Strokes Books).

Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.

The story that closes this collection offers a delightful stroll through the darkened streets of the French Quarter. Perhaps because I had just spent days wandering down those streets, studying rows of Creole cottages, I was able to see, with perfect clarity, the enchanting setting of this story.

John is a transplant from Kentucky, in New Orleans because his work required his relocation. It’s the holidays and he is all alone when he meets an alluring, androgynous creature named Desiree. The sun has set and it is getting cold, so he offers him or her a ride home. To his surprise, Desiree accepts, and John soon finds himself utterly captivated by his new acquaintance.

I had the pleasure of speaking with the author before a panel discussion at this year’s Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. He told me he has many more such stories waiting to be committed to paper, stories that are chock full of his memories of New Orleans from decades ago. He told me he isn’t sure he will write them down. What a shame it will be if he doesn’t.

Short Stories 365/131

“Corset” by Sally Bellerose from Saints and Sinners 2014: New Fiction from the Festival (Bold Strokes Books). Contest winner.

Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.

Jackie and Regina have been together for forty years. In fact, tonight is their anniversary, and Jackie doesn’t have a gift for Regina yet. It’s what she’s supposed to be out doing: getting a gift and picking up some Chinese takeout, only the store was sold out of the CD player she could afford to buy. At the start of the story she’s at the restaurant counter, placing her order with the proprietor, Mac, and having a silent war with herself. Mac confirms what she already knows is true: there’s a poker game going on in the back room. He tries to warn her away, reminds her that she doesn’t gamble anymore, but Jackie feels the unspent cash burning a hole in her pocket. She argues with herself, points out that if she played and won, she could get the nicer model of CD player for Regina, and wouldn’t that be a good thing? Wouldn’t that justify the decision to give in to old urges?

The scene is so vividly drawn that you can hear the voices in the back room and feel Jackie’s shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat. You know she’s going to sit down at that card table, and you know there’s going to be hell to pay because of it. The other players are interesting, fully drawn characters with back stories of their own. I could read a lot more about Jackie’s dealings with them.

And when she does, finally, get home? Well, then we get a portrait of true love, because the bloom doesn’t stay on the rose forever. At some point you look around and it’s not new and exciting anymore. Maybe the other person has habits that drive you a little crazy, and not in any good way. Maybe they have habits that are flat out dangerous, that could bankrupt you and put you both out on the street. That’s when you find out if you really, truly love them. It’s not the “for better” part, it’s the “for worse”*. Regina must love Jackie because she still sees the good in her beyond the bad, the dangerous. And Jackie sees the positive side of Regina, who embodies the word “irascible.” They’re each far from perfect, and committed to one another for the duration.

Saints and sinners indeed.

* Yes, here I am referencing marriage. I consider these two characters to be just as much married as any two persons ever have been. As you might imagine, I am eager for our government to stop bowing to the religious beliefs of one rapidly decreasing segment of our population and start granting full citizenship to all citizens.

Short Stories 365/130

“If On a Dark Night Two Strangers Should Come” by William Hawkins from <em>Saints and Sinners 2014: New Fiction from the Festival</em> (Bold Strokes Books).

Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.

This story starts with the narrator recounting, more or less faithfully, the story of Jupiter and Mercury’s encounter with Baucis and Philemon, from Ovid’s Metamorphises, as an entry to telling us about a particular night in New Orleans. Hurricane Gustave has just unleashed its fury on Baton Rouge, everything feels out of joint, and everyone is restless. He tells us the night began at a birthday party for the boyfriend of a friend, but things took an unexpected, unpleasant turn, and he’d found himself in a cab with an acquaintance, heading to the home of his much older lover, Mickey, looking for drugs.

There are some very funny moments in this story and some poignant passages, too. “I led us there and wondered how many times you had to walk up to a house before you were walking up to your house” is a fantastic way to convey the ongoing nature of their relationship and something of his feelings about it, too. We learn that he and Mickey first got together in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, another period of time when everything felt off-kilter. Is it the return of that restless energy that leads the narrator to take the actions he does next? Or could it be his awareness that Mickey is the one more invested in the relationship, is possibly even falling for him? I’m not sure the Baucis and Philemon story really illustrates this one, and I don’t much care. The ending is surprising and the characters would not leave my mind after the story was done. There’s much more I’d like to know about them.