Table of Contents

Book Cover
Trigger Warnings:
Racism, homophobia


A group of coastal California residents battle wildfires, racism, and their own demons in five distinct narratives set in late 2019 and 2020.

The book is populated by a cast of diverse LGBTQ+ individuals who struggle to find love, comfort, and fulfillment. As the novel progresses, characters interact across the separate narratives and are brought together for a birthday and a disastrous Black Lives Matter demonstration.

A man returning to the horrors that made him leave Mississippi, a blind gay man flirting with love, an FTM transgender starting hormone therapy, a woman struggling to protect her sons from her husband’s surge to right-wing politics, and a teenager with two gay dads searching for his Black surrogate mom paint a disturbing tableau of modern-day America.

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Guest Post By Vincent Traughber Meis

I have always enjoyed writing fictional characters who are very different from me in age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and culture. It is a challenge that thrills me. I have written many Latinx characters and though I speak Spanish, I am very much a product of the North American Midwest. I have written Black characters though my genealogy tells me I am 99.7% of Northern European background. I write lots of heterosexual characters though all indications are that I am homosexual. I have written a transitioning FTM character though I identify as cisgender. I have heard other writers express that they would never presume to write a character of a different race/ethnicity. A former editor gave a novel I wrote with lots of Black characters to a Black sensitivity reader without telling them my background. Apparently, I passed, and she wanted to proceed with the book. I don’t plan to stop writing diverse characters, but I always keep asking myself if I am being authentic. In my life, I’ve had the great fortune to have people in my personal life who reflect diverse backgrounds. They are my family, friends, and partners. They influence the characters in my head.
My latest project is to write a Young Adult novel with the protagonist being a fourteen-year-old of mixed race. Full disclosure: this is a spinoff of my novel First Born Sons and one of the main characters from that novel takes center stage. Here’s a little sample of the novel that will come out next year, Colton’s Terrible Wonderful Year: “Josh said we should go over to Target to check out the latest video games like Jedi: Fallen Order or Outer Wilds. We found the cabinets where they keep the games and Josh’s eyes got as big and shiny as the game discs we so treasured. He whispered that they forgot to lock the cabinet. We looked around and saw the salesperson had a line of people at the register, but a security guard had his eye on us.
Josh put an arm around my shoulders and said, “Cole, why don’t you take a walk a few aisles over to the…whatever…hardware section?”
He nodded his head slightly toward the guard. “To get him off our asses.”
“Why me?”
Josh tilted his head down and looked out of the corner of his eyes. “Dude.”
With one word and a sly look he communicated everything. Josh was white, blond, blue-eyed, the whole nine yards. Though Fer was Mexican, he wasn’t so obvious, and I don’t mean to sound racist. He was taller than most of the Mexican kids at school and had lighter skin because one of his grandparents was from Galicia, Spain. But me, I was Black. Half-Black to be precise. I had the kinky hair, medium dark skin, and facial features of the surrogate mom who had me for my dads.
Josh’s plan worked like a charm. I walked toward the sports section and picked up a basketball. The guard stood at the end of the aisle and none too subtly watched me. I went to the automotive section and started looking at the cell phone holders. Yeah, like I had my own car at fourteen. There he was down the aisle. I glanced at him, and he picked up a bottle of car wash, examining the label. Getting back to what made that day different, that day strange, was the racism. Sure, there had been other examples in my years on this planet, people making racist comments either deliberately or out of ignorance. But what happened in the Target store hit me up the side of my head and said, “Hey, man, you’re Black and this is your life.” I had this tingling feeling going up and down my spine and my face felt hot. There were three of us in a public situation, but I was the one they followed, and Josh recognized it as a given. “Fuck it,” I mumbled and walked a couple of aisles down, drawing the security guard further away from my friends like my skin was a magnet.”



1 Fire

August 2020


Each step took him closer to safety, one uncertain foot in front of the other, his biceps straining as he shifted the heavy load in his arms. On either side of the unpaved road he traversed, thick groves of redwoods towered above him and the forest air wrinkled with dust and heat and smoke, causing his useless eyes behind dark glasses to burn. But his legs knew the way, knew the number of steps to the nearest house. If the neighbors weren’t there, he would have to make it all the way to the main road and hope for a passing car to pick him up.

A gust of hot wind rushed through the trees, and he heard the snap of a branch, followed by a thump on the ground. He picked up his pace, his breathing growing heavier, sweat trickling down his sides. He shifted the load again and hugged the equipment to his chest, things he couldn’t leave behind, the tools of his trade, his work, his life.

A few minutes earlier he had been in a groove at the desk in front of the window, headphones on, crafting a set for an upcoming Zoom dance party called Apocalypse. Making a killer set was essential for people unable to go out, afraid of the virus, surrounded by wildfires, and bored with political discourse. They longed to dance, move their bodies, get their sexy on even if it was in a little Zoom window. With outlets of entertainment shut down, people spent excess income on pricey headphones and ear buds. He took that into account as his fingers danced over the knobs and levers, adjusting everything by sound and feel, pumping up the bass to shake their brains, rattle their hearts imprisoned in ribcages of discontent.

His goal was to make them feel something, and he hunted for songs allowing extreme panning, mixes that bounced the sounds back and forth from ear to ear, playing with space and width as the music traveled through their heads. Getting them on their feet and shaking their asses made him happy, gave him a reason to go on when the darkness around him pressed in.

The odor of burning, pungent and slightly sweet, had wafted in the open window, filled his nostrils, and snapped him out of the trance he fell into when manipulating pitch, timbre, texture, volume, and duration, pushing one up, another down. He removed the headphones and through the lingering pulsation in his ears heard the incessant chirp notifications from his phone. Five messages. They all told him the same thing. The fires were getting close. Get out. He unplugged his headphones and the controller from his laptop, gathered everything in his arms, felt his way to the door, and negotiated the steps to the ground.

A car approached, still a couple of hundred yards away, and his panic subsided. As it was the last house on the road, someone had to be coming for him. He breathed easier, and the playlist returned to his head, the order and choice of songs. The gravel crunched under his feet to the beat of the extended dance mix version he had found of the R.E.M. song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” a trite but obvious choice for the set. The car got closer. He tilted his head. Though his ears recognized most of the cars that came down the road, this one was different, heavier.

The vehicle stopped. Two doors opened, and the sounds of unfriendly steps, the vibration of danger ground toward him. Two men, he guessed. His spine tingled with the all-overs as Granny used to say.

“Stop right there!” a man shouted. “Put your shit on the ground and raise your hands.”

The command brought a brutal end to the tunes in Lamar’s head like a needle scratching across a record. “What? Who are you?” Lamar continued his trudge forward.

The two cops turned to each other with confused expressions. The older officer with a thick mustache that hid his upper lip on a round face and a rookie who looked as if he spent way too much time admiring his blond good looks in front of the mirror at the gym unsnapped their holsters and put their hands on their guns. The senior cop growled, “I said stop. On your knees.”

Lamar’s spirit tumbled into a muddy hole of fear. It had been four years since he had nearly lost his life, attacked by men with guns and robbed of his laptop with all his stored music. This time his files were backed up, but he wasn’t about to lose the couple of thousand dollars’ worth of equipment in his arms without a fight.

“I don’t know who you are.” A murder of crows cawed a bitter song high in the trees above them. They could see what he couldn’t, looking down on the classic scenario of a Black man facing the police with their guns drawn, barking orders that made no sense.

“Stop where you are. Are you deaf?”

The birds cawed panic and flew away.

“No, but he’s blind,” said a voice from behind the officers. The younger one swirled around and pointed his gun at a man walking up the road. Byron’s long hair blew wild in the wind and his beard was thick from not shaving since the beginning of the shutdown. He liked to joke that he now looked like the Unabomber. When Lamar hadn’t responded to his call, he had rushed out of the house in a dirty T-shirt and sweats and jumped in his car, a disheveled cavalry to the rescue.

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Vincent is giving away a

$20 Amazon gift card with this tour


Vincent Traughber Meis started writing plays as a child in the Midwest and cajoled his sisters to act in performing them for neighbors. In high school, one of his short stories won a local contest sponsored by the newspaper. After graduating from college, he worked on a number of short stories and began his first novel. In the 1980’s and 90’s he published a number of pieces, mostly travel articles in publications such as, The Advocate, LA Weekly, In Style, and Our World. His travels have inspired his five novels, all set at least partially in foreign countries: Eddie’s Desert Rose (2011), Tio Jorge (2012), and Down in Cuba (2013), Deluge (2016) and Four Calling Burds (2019). Tio Jorge received a Rainbow Award in the category of Bisexual Fiction in 2012. Down in Cuba received two Rainbow Awards in 2013. Recently stories have been published in three collections: WITH:New Gay Fiction, Best Gay Erotica Vol 1 and Best Gay Erotica Vol 4. He lives in San Leandro, CA with his husband.

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