That’s a Wrap: UK Meet

Now that I’m back home, have a couple days’ rest under my belt, and have had time for reflection, I figure after all the handwringing I did over going to my first convention, I probably should say something about how it went.

In a word: incredible.

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A Piece of Me

I’m over at Diverse Reader today talking about my feelings from before the UK Meet, and sharing something I’ve held close to the vest since the beginning of my career. Take a peek and drop a comment. Come say hello, maybe make a face with me.

Will You King Me?

Today I have invited Edmond Manning to stop by and give us a little taste of his upcoming new release, King John, part of The Lost and Founds series, which is one of my all-time favorites. If you haven’t read it, you should run to get King Perry now while you have time to catch up this week. You’re welcome.

King John coverVin Vanbly, the strange and unpredictable narrator of The Lost and Founds, meets the men he kings in some unusual ways. In the first book, King Perry, Vin randomly meets a handsome investment banker named Perry at an art gallery and invites him to participate in a King Weekend. Of course, Perry has no idea what those words mean. In the second book, King Mai, Vin and his “target,” Mai Kearns, have been corresponding on AOL and through email for several months. Vin shows up in Mai’s hometown and stalks him for a month before finally meeting him in person. In The Butterfly King, we learn that Vin discovered the author of a magazine article he enjoyed. After a snail-mail exchange of several months, Vin decided to king this powerful man from New York.

In King John, the fourth installment of The Lost and Founds, Vin and his weekend guest meet in a very unconventional manner. In fact, when they meet for the first time, they do not even exchange names.

The excerpt which follows introduces Vin and the Purple Sarong Man to each other as Vin strolls around the weird and wonderful annual desert event known as Burning Man. Vin is dressed in traditional Middle Eastern gear: a long robe and a long head dress.

* * * * *

It’s impossible to catalog the thousands of people, some naked, some close to that state, others body-painted with handprints on their thighs. This very second, I am passed by a constant parade of burners on bikes, beat-up bikes, tall bikes, and now, at this second, a man bicycles by, wearing a top hat and a wedding veil and camo shorts. A cloud of churned dust chases in his wake. No point chiding him. The hard crust in this ancient lake bed is dust-free until you step on it. With each footstep, every crunch, alkaline dust is manufactured. More than see the white dust, I feel it sting my cheeks.

“I beg pardon, Bedouin man.”

A man at my side touches my elbow. I turn, half expecting to see Alan or Helena.

It’s not.

This man is fair, his hair mostly red-brown—more brown perhaps than I first perceived—and his face dusted lightly with freckles. Shirtless and wearing a purple sarong. Thirty, maybe? Thirty-three? He fits my definition of postathletic, someone who used to work out, maybe used to be chiseled but decided that’s simply not his style anymore. I hope he slathered his pale skin in sunscreen. Hopefully, he sunscreened the tops of his ears, which stick out a bit. Did he stop me for a reason? Did I drop my Popsicle stick?

He smiles, nervously, as if he must deliver bad news. “I waited until you finished your Popsicle.”

Waited?

“May I help you?”

He smiles, broadly now. “It’s you. The king maker.”

What?

I shake my head and smile. “No, friend, you’re thinking of someone else.”

How does he know me?

“No,” he says. “It’s definitely you. Your eyes flinched, a little. Almost imperceptibly, but I was watching for a tell. It’s you, mate. You’re the king maker.”

He’s English. English accent. Do I know any English guys from Burning Man?

I chuckle. “Sorry, friend. You mistake me. I am a simple Bedouin.”

He says, “Also, you didn’t ask me who or what a king maker was. You instantly denied it. Which means you already know what I mean when I say ‘king maker.’”

My heart beats faster. What does he want?

“Shalom,” I say, bowing.

I turn away, careful not to appear too eager to leave. If I stride too hard, it will look like I wish to escape. If I give any sign of confirmation, he will chase me. Instead, I pleasantly meander, just another burner appreciating theme camps, lost in a crowd. Chill, Vin. But hurry. Get away from him. I hear a xylophone nearby, maybe three or four of them, a xylophone band. The music sounds like the letter x to me. I’d stop and listen, but I have to get away from this guy. He was cute, though. I like a guy with big ears.

I travel only one more block before I see the same shirtless man, in his purple sarong, standing in the makeshift street before me. How the fuck did he manage to get in front of me? I approach him slowly, and he watches my every step, anticipating my racing away. When I get close, he speaks.

“You’ll find the English are not easily dissuaded. I worked arse over elbows for two full burns searching for you. Finally gave it up this year.”

“‘Arse over elbows’ isn’t British slang.”

“English slang,” he says. “It is if an English person says it.”

He grins at me, happy and lopsided.

Is he crazy? Is he…unhinged? Something feels off-kilter about this situation. Something isn’t right.

He laughs. “I invented it. You like, yeah?”

Ah. That’s it. He’s not English. Everything swirling around him says “not from England.” Years spent analyzing split-second reactions means I know things almost immediately, and I often don’t know how I know it. I can’t articulate why I’m so sure, but he’s not English. So, why pretend?

I say, “Although no forests grow nearby, metaphorically, you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“The king’s kiss, mate,” he says. “I witnessed what you did. As I passed those two fighting, I heard you cry out ‘nobody fucks with the Butterfly King.’ After two burns searching for you, I had become attuned, listening for any overheard conversations of kings. I know other Found Kings come here. The rumor is, they use Burning Man to gather and make plans in secret.”

“Rumors, huh?”

“Burners talk.”

My heart pounds. How the hell do I get out of this?

“You mistake me.” My resolve grows weaker.

He folds his arms before him. “Which begs a few questions, yeah? Why is it important to these Found Ones to gather in secret? What are they planning?”

I try to appear bored. “You lost me.”

It’s true. Some Found Kings come to Burning Man every year. Liam told me Perry’s coming this year, which terrifies me. I don’t know if I’m ready to see him, though three have years passed. Am I over him?

People navigate around us, and as it’s clear he’s not letting me go, we move out of the main pathway. We are passed by pirates, nymphs, and four men in tutus. A man wearing a Batman cloak and bat headgear strides past us without pants or underwear. Ah, shirt cocking. Kinda weird, but it’s all good. Radical acceptance.

He says, “Three years ago right here, I met Liam, the Dolphin King, late one night around a fire drum. He revealed to me, and a few others, his extraordinary tale—his forty hours spent with a garage mechanic who promised to reveal his true kingship.”

I say nothing.

“You kinged Liam. Right here at Burning Man. All of us standing around the fire drum could somehow sense the truth of it, though none of us knew what a kinging was. The longer into the night he spoke, the more Liam transformed, like some half god revealing himself. He finished his tale as the sun rose, so we all held hands to greet the dawn. I can’t tell you how this night impacted me.”

I say, “You were doing drugs, weren’t you?”

“Yes.” He doesn’t hesitate in his reply. “But I wasn’t hallucinating. I know what I saw.”

I’m not sure what to say.

“Please, mate,” he says. “I spent the next two years searching for you, yeah? No leads. As a bit of a last resort, I found Liam’s restaurant in San Francisco. He refused to put me in touch. He told me, ‘that’s not how it works.’ Said hunting for you disrespected the organics. I said, bollocks, and once again, I searched at the next burn. No results. This year, I decided to enjoy myself. Forget about finding the king maker. Then, I happen to stroll by as you’re yelling a king story and teaching two people the king’s kiss. How is that possible?” He takes a step closer. His eyes are earnest. “Please don’t tell me I’m wrong, or it’s not you. For two burns, I searched. Please be honest with me.”

Something feels off in what he told me. On the other hand, he’s not wrong. Lying to him is not the right move. I must respect his journey.

Though I fear I know what he will want from me, I must let it happen. “Okay. You found me. What do you want?”

Standing close, I see his eyes fill with tears. “Would you—would you king me?”

Damn it. I knew he would ask.

* * * * *

 

Edmond Manning is the author of the romance series, The Lost and Founds. The books in this series include King Perry, King Mai (a 2014 Lambda Literary finalist), The Butterfly King, and King John. King John takes place at Burning Man.

* * * * *


Release Date: September 10, 2015
Formats Available: eBook (mobi, epub, PDF) and Print
Pre-order:
King John eBook on Amazon
King John Print edition on Amazon

Giveaway: FOR 24 HOURS ONLY, one lucky commenter will have the chance to win an ebook copy of King John. Don’t miss your chance to win this remarkable book! Leave a comment telling us what you think Edmond Manning’s King name would be, and you’ll be entered to win! Then, on September 10th, when the book is released, you’ll have a shiny new ebook waiting for you. Easy peasy.

* * * * *

King John Blog Tour:

Mon, Sept 7      My Fiction Nook

Mon, Sept 7      AJ Rose Books          pre-release excerpt #1

Tues, Sept 8      Thorny, Not Prickly   pre-release excerpt #2

Wed, Sept 9      Love Out Loud          pre-release excerpt #3

Thurs, Sept 10   Facebook Release Party, 7p-9p Central, hosted by Bike Book Reviews

Fri, Sept 11       Reviews by Amos Lassen

Sat, Sept 12       Vanessa North.com

Tues, Sept 15    MM Good Book Reviews

Wed, Sept 16    The Novel Approach

Thurs, Sept 17   Purple Rose Tea House

Fri, Sept 18       Posy Roberts.com

Sat, Sept 19       Zipper Rippers

Tues, Sept 22    Joyfully Jay

Wed, Sept 23    Boys In Our Books

Thurs, Sept 24   It’s About the Book

Sat, Sept 26       Love Bytes Reviews

Sun, Sept 27      Sinfully Addicted to Male Romance

Tues, Sept 29    Molly Lolly

Wed, Sept 30    Coffee and Porn in the Morning

Wed, Sept 30    Stumbling Over Chaos

Thurs, Oct 1      The Blogger Girls Reviews

Sat, Oct 3          On Top Down Under Reviews

Sun, Oct 4         The Hat Party!

Mon, Oct 5        Prism Book Alliance

Tues, Oct 6       Jaycee Edward.com

Wed, Oct 7       Hearts on Fire Book Reviews

Kim Davis and Why Throwing Her in Jail is Not the Answer

Okay, there’s a lot of information flying around about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk denying to issue marriage licenses since SCOTUS made same-sex marriage legal in every state. I’m going to try to summarize the information to date. I also have an opinion on why throwing her in jail for contempt of court is not a good idea.

Short summary: SCOTUS ruled in June same-sex marriage was legal in every state. Kim Davis, the circuit clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples in response, citing her sincerely held religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is against God’s will. Four couples, two straight and two gay, sued her after several attempts to get marriage licenses. A federal judge, David Bunning, found that Davis’s religious freedom was not being violated because she’s still able to attend church, pray openly, minister to people she’s ministered to for years, and otherwise continue practicing her Christianity. She appealed the decision to the 6th Circuit Court that oversees the federal court where the ruling came down. Bunning granted her a stay while that appeal was being considered. The 6th Circuit Court upheld Bunning’s ruling and ordered her to begin complying with the law by August 31, when Bunning’s stay expired. Davis filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, and was denied. Today, September 1st, the plaintiff couples returned to the circuit clerk’s office for their marriage licenses, only to be denied again.

The most common question I see is a variation on this theme: Why hasn’t she been fired? She’s not doing her job!

She can’t be fired. She’s an elected official. Just as a President of the U.S. has to be impeached, so does she. She also could be ousted by a recall election (think Gray Davis, the governor of California in office before Arnold Schwarzenegger took the spot). An impeachment wouldn’t begin until Kentucky lawmakers are back in session in January 2016, unless a costly special session is convened. These things take time, so in the meantime, Davis sits in the circuit clerk of Rowan County office as head honcho.

Now that she’s continued to defy court orders despite SCOTUS denying her appeal for a stay on Judge Bunning’s ruling that Davis’s religious freedoms are not being violated, what happens next?

The lawyers for the plaintiff’s in this case have filed a motion for Davis to be held in contempt of court for defying a federal ruling (Bunning’s, though she’s also in violation of SCOTUS’s Obergefell decision in June). They’ve requested financial penalties stiff enough to make Davis comply as opposed to holding Davis in the county jail.

I believe there are two reasons for this:
One, as satisfying as it would be to have a Kim Davis mugshot, her incarceration would make the religious right howl in indignation, giving Davis the martyrdom she’s being set up to shoulder. She is the face of all the anti-gay opposition to same-sex marriage in this country. They need their poster girl and she’s IT for the moment. I bet a little digging, and we would see she’s being financially backed by right-wing lobbyists who want to have leverage to pressure their lawmakers for legislation regarding more religious freedom protections. It wouldn’t surprise me to find she’s also getting help from organizations like the Family Research Council, (or especially the FRC, who could be trying to save face after the Josh Duggar debacle, if they weren’t already broke).
Two, as my wife-to-be said so succinctly, making Davis pay stiff penalties would cut into the salary she receives for doing a job she’s no longer performing, and if she bleats about it, it’s harder to sympathize with someone who will appear greedy to keep money paid by taxpayers she’s actively suppressing. Not to mention, a significant fine would feel like a balancing of the scales to those taxpayers paying toward her salary who disagree with her stance.

Another common thread I’ve seen is how can she propose to uphold the sanctity of marriage when she’s been divorced three times, and is on her 4th marriage?

Yes, there’s a lot of hypocrisy in that particular detail, given that one of the couples she’s denied repeatedly have been together for 17 years and she hasn’t seemed to hold onto a husband that long (I don’t honestly know the duration of her marriages, so while that’s what people might be thinking, it’s not fact that she’s been in shorter relationships than the two men in question). However, her personal life is not the issue here. Her personal beliefs may be the root cause of this shitshow, but protesters supporting the discriminated against couples would not be furthering the cause by slinging mud about Davis’s past marriages. Why? Because we’re demanding she refrain from judging the marriages she’s supposed to be giving licenses for, so judging her marriages would make us just as hypocritical.

What’s all this mean?

All I know is if it takes too much time to boot Davis from her elected position, other circuit clerks in defiance of the SCOTUS ruling (thinking Casey Davis, who is no relation to Kim Davis, but also resides in Kentucky) could begin doing the same, and then we’d have a Kim Davis situation in multiple states. We’ll probably see a rise in legislation anyway to protect religious freedoms much like what Indiana and Arkansas have passed this past spring, and it’ll be more two steps forward, one step back for LGBT protections. In the meantime, the more time it takes for Kim Davis to be impeached/recalled from her position, the longer the denied couples have to sit in limbo.

They could just go to another county, some of you might be thinking.

They could. But they shouldn’t have to. They live and pay taxes in Rowan County. They contribute to Rowan County’s economy by shopping and conducting business there. They have just as much right to a marriage license as heterosexual couples (who are also being caught up in this mess), so while going to another county would end with them legally married, that’s not the point. As strong as Kim Davis’s convictions are, so are the couples’ waiting for a license. They have the right, as ordered by the Supreme Court of the United States, to get married in every county, every state of the union.