Novel / 97,000 Words / 393 Pages
Genres: LBBTQ+ Contemporary/Literary
LGBTQ+ Identities: Gay, FTM Trans, Bi, Gender Fluid
Keywords/Categories: trans, transgender, FTM, gay, bisexual, bi, bi-racial, gender fluid, Thailand, gay parents, Black Lives Matter, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, interracial relationships, disability, contemporary, literary, LGBTQ, new release, announcement, giveaway
(Not a Romance)
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.
Warnings: Racism, homophobia
📚 Exclusive Excerpt 📚
The sound of waves filled the room, exploding and receding, hitting the rocks, sloshing, withdrawing, on and on like the rhythm of life. The air was perfumed with the tropics. An unnerving bird call had drawn Augie out of a dream, “kowell, kowell,” loud and incessant, sounding like someone in distress, nothing he had ever heard back home. It stopped a few seconds, and then revved up again, over and over, leaving him with no chance of going back to sleep. Severe jet lag. Not just a difference of hours. Was it one or two days they’d lost on the calendar?
A hint of rosy light crept in through the sheer curtains. He slid out of bed, put on a pair of shorts and a tank top, and slipped out the door into the damp air, into the twilight where resort workers took pains to make everything perfect. Women in long skirts of Thai silk filled the basins at each doorstep with fresh water and arranged frangipani, hibiscus, and orchid flowers to float on the surface. A gourd was placed alongside so that guests could bathe their sandy feet. The pool attendant rolled up red towels and assembled them in a large basket to look like petals of a rose while beyond him, the shadows of silent restaurant workers darted back and forth in the open-air dining room, preparing the breakfast buffet.
He stepped lightly along the walkway with accent lights on either side scattered amongst hibiscus, torch ginger, bat flower, and jasmine. Red lanterns hung from the trees above him. He heard the bird again, loud and very close, but he couldn’t see it. The woman who had checked them in padded by with a clipboard, smiled, and greeted him. “Sawatdee kaa.”
“Sawatdee krap,” Augie answered. “Could you tell me what that bird is?”
“Oh, this is Asian koel. Male singing for husband…I mean, wife.” She giggled at her mistake and put one hand over her mouth. “Always in the morning. Hope it not wake you.”
“No, no. It’s the jetlag mostly.”
They bowed to each other, and Augie walked out onto a giant flat rock between two small beaches. He drew near to the edge where the waves crashed, his mind repeatedly asking where he was, not catching up to the location of his body, half in one world and half in another. The koel continued with its mournful call. “Kowell. Kowell.” It was past the witching hour, but the forces of imagination were still strong. He slipped into the character of an international man of mystery who had fled to a far corner of the earth, a land full of intrigue and possibility. A cryptic message on his phone told him to rendezvous with an unknown agent. He would be notified of the place and time.
Someone approached from behind, and for a second, he thought an assassin was going to push him into the sea, onto the rocks lurking below the surface. He would fall lax into the depths. No one would know. Fear spun him around to face his fate, a prickling sensation seizing his spine.
“Hi, Dad. Did I scare you?”
Augie smiled at his son and unclenched his fists. “No. Only surprised. What are you doing up?”
“I heard you go out.”
“He’s still sleeping.”
“How are you doing with the time change?”
“It’s weird, right? It’s still yesterday at home.”
They sat on a wooden bench painted with morning dew, looking out on the Gulf of Thailand under an overcast sky. Across the bay, lights twinkled while the rosy horizon bled to pink.
“This place is really cool,” said Colton.
“You like it? I thought you might.” Colton leaned toward his father, and Augie wrapped his arm around him.
“I’m sorry if I’ve been a problem lately.”
“Being your age isn’t easy, everything changing. And I guess having two dads makes it more complicated.”
“Not that much. Only if you break up.”
“Why would you say that?”
“I hear you and Papi fighting sometimes. It would be my fault.”
“Oh, no, honey. If Papi and I ever separate, it won’t be because of you.”
Colton tensed. “You mean there’s a chance it might happen?”
“Not even close. What I mean to say is there are very few things in life that are certain and forever, except for our love for you of course. Couples have disagreements. It’s normal.”
Colton settled back into the crook of his father’s arm, satisfied, relaxed. “Do they have elephants on this island?”
Augie laughed. “I don’t think so. We’ll have to wait until Chiang Mai.”
Colton’s breathing slowed, and in a minute, he was asleep. Colton had always been an affectionate boy, but he wondered how much longer he would be able to cuddle with his son like this. He was on the verge of manhood. Other parents had told him that the next few years were going to be tough, and for a father of a Black son, terrifying. He wanted to always keep him close, but he knew he couldn’t. He wasn’t looking forward to those late nights when Colton would be out with his friends, worried something might happen. He took a deep breath and inhaled the innocence of his son.
Also by Vincent Traughber Meis
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About the Author
Vincent Traughber Meis grew up in Decatur, Illinois where he got his start writing plays for his younger sisters to act in for a neighborhood audience. He graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans and worked for many years as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, publishing many academic articles in his field.
As result of his extensive travels and time abroad he published a number of pieces, mostly travel articles, but also a few poems and book reviews, in publications such as, The Advocate, LA Weekly, In Style, and Our World in the 1980’s and 90’s. He finally arrived at his true writing love: novels and short stories.
Five of his six published novels are set at least partially in foreign countries and his book of short stories focuses on countries around the world. Several of his novels have won Rainbow Awards, and his most recent novel, The Mayor of Oak Street was awarded a Reader Views Silver Award. He has published short stories in a number of collections and has achieved Finalist status in a few short fiction contests.
When he’s not writing, he works in the garden and travels with his husband. He lives in San Leandro, California.