Traditional Winter Holidays can be tough for a variety of reasons—family pressures, finding the right gift, homesick longing, and haunting memories to name a few. This collection showcases eleven queer short stories, from tender contemporaries to sweet paranormal to far-flung space tales, all designed to make you want to reach for your hot cocoa and your favorite snuggly spot. Come join us for A Holiday To Remember.
Story Blurbs & Info
by Freddy McKay
Life hasn’t been easy for Amir since he fled Iran after a brutal imprisonment. The trauma experienced at the hands of the guards left a dark spot on his soul. The one constant in his life since relocating to Chicago has been his lover—now husband—Esmail, whose steadfast love and support has soothed his wounded heart.
But this Shab-e Yalda, Amir wants to be the one giving his husband something special, because even after the darkest nights, the sun will rise again.
Excerpt from Watermelon Kisses: Waiting in the Dark
Going through traumatic experiences skewed the world once a person came out of the other side of them. Amir knew his views, his perceptions of dangers, had been colored by the time he had spent as a political prisoner. It didn’t matter he also knew the chances of ever being held captive again were small. Didn’t mean he could let go of the scars on his heart. He could smooth them over, bandage them, even make them smaller, but his heart had been changed forever.
Each little scar, each bundle of nerve fiber forever changed, made him the man he was now.
But there were hours, days, weeks even, when Amir wished he could’ve spent his time like the days before his imprisonment. Happy. Content. Stealing sweet, fruity kisses from Esmail. Amir hadn’t been scared then. No, that wasn’t right. He had been, but not like he was now. Back in his days at university, back home in Ahvaz, Amir only had his classes to focus on. That he could do—focus on studying—because it meant he didn’t have to look at himself and see his shame, his desires, his yearning for other men.
Then Esmail waltzed into his life and Amir couldn’t look away.
His heart was Esmail’s. Had been since Esmail sat down next to him in their business ethics class. The way Esmail’s gaze focused solely on Amir and Amir only as he introduced himself and asked to borrow a pen.
Amir’s heart had hammered wildly. His mouth had gone dry. All he could do was hold out his pen and stare. The jolt as their fingers brushed made Amir’s breath hitch and stare even harder than before. Those eyebrows. That perfect mouth. His gentle green eyes. When Esmail cleared his throat, Amir flew out of his stunned silence and quickly into panic. He’d ducked his head and blinked blindly at the notebook in front of him, desperate to figure out if his reaction had been obvious and if he should leave. Quickly.
But Esmail talked to Amir as if the bolt hadn’t happened. Like Amir hadn’t acted like a complete and utter fool. Or an unclean man with unnatural desires. All Esmail talked about was whether their professor actually followed the ideals he preached about in their class.
Then class started and ended in what felt like seconds, leaving a stunned Amir in its wake and scrambling to remember if he had listened at all or took any notes. He hadn’t. Despair coiled in Amir’s chest until Esmail offered his notes with a cautious smile. Over lunch. His treat.
From that day forward, they had lunch together every day, talking over their notes and class, other classes, and eventually their lives outside of university. Lunches turned into dinners. Dinners turned into nights on Amir’s parents’ rooftop overlooking Ahvaz.
Those nights Amir waited for. Anticipated with a growing need building inside him. The lunches and dinners were nice. Time spent with friends Amir never had until Esmail. Their hands and knees brushed every so often, lingered against each other for a fraction longer than necessary, and when they sat at crowded tables with friends, ones where Amir had to press against Esmail to let everyone in, it left him exhilarated and shamed. And Esmail never pulled away. Not from Amir.
But the nights. Oh, the dark, starry nights were they were left alone on Amir’s parents’ rooftop to talk into the hours of the night until the morning sun came were the best. The sharbat, snacking on ajil, or gorging themselves on tahdig while they whispered so they had to lean in to hear each other, played over and over in Amir’s mind. He had been so naive then. No, maybe it had been innocence before the fall.
The first time Esmail caught Amir’s hand, he had thought it was because he’d nodded off and wasn’t listening to Esmail. But Esmail didn’t let go right away. He held on, and his thumb caressed over Amir’s fingers. The movement so small, so right, caught Amir off guard enough he let out a contented hum. But then his brain kicked in and he brought up his gaze to meet Esmail’s victorious one.
Amir had let out a gasp, startled, and yanked his hand away. Only Amir overestimated his panic or strength or both, and flipped the chair, landing underneath it in a world of hurt. Esmail pulled the chair off and knelt in front of him, one arm outstretched, hand palm side up.
When Amir found the strength to push through his dread and humiliation and look up, he was met by those gentle green eyes he loved so. There was no hate, no condemnation, no disgust. Only warmth and understanding. Gentleness.
Esmail took Amir’s hand and levered him up, catching Amir against him. There was a perfect moment in time where Esmail’s arms held him close, their cheeks touching, bodies pressed against one another, before Esmail slid his hands up to Amir’s shoulders and stepped back. His smile, that one from the day they met in class was on his lips.
No hate. No condemnation. Just those gentle green eyes.
And under those stars, Amir fell for Esmail even harder than before. Esmail had the strength, the courage to do what Amir had not. The fingertips sweeping over his jaw, rubbing against his beard told Amir everything he needed to know—that Esmail wanted him too.
So the nights, those dark, starry moments where they could be alone, without the prying eyes of the world, became like nectar to Amir. Sweet, desirable, and awakening a hunger inside him before he could even stop to question it.
Holding Esmail’s hand was a lifeline he could never do without once he knew how it felt.
So many nights passed with their hands clasped together, too many to remember. Those nights where Amir waited, watching the stars, hoping for that moment their fingertips brushed against each other before Esmail’s warm hand surrounded his, left Amir bubbling with excitement and need. He yearned for those darkened moments more than his next breath, but Amir had been scared to do more. What if people could tell? The idea of what could happen to Esmail, how they could be hurt, killed, if people knew, held the desire for more back. Until the moment Esmail kissed Amir, tasting like watermelon. Sweet and sticky. Cool and refreshing.
Amir had never wanted anything more than to drown in those kisses, holding Esmail’s jaw in his hands, the scruff of their beards teasing each other. He never thought he’d have more than those stolen moments.
Then Amir’s world turned upside down. A favor for the Americans gone wrong. He only wanted to help. To make the fighting stop, or at the very least lessen so they weren’t living under fear of the extremists muddying Islam. Muddying his people. Amir might not have the best relationship with Allah and his religion, but it was what he had. What he believed. What he wrestled with every time Esmail held his hand.
Humiliation he never dreamed of wracked Amir as he was taken from his workplace in restraints and thrown into prison.
All he did was follow the money. A simple request. A request that turned into a nightmare of epic proportions.
Day, night, pain, more pain. Pitch black darkness. Blinding lights. All of his time captive blurred together after a while. Months of agony, where his body and mind were stripped down and broken apart. Never to be the same. The keloids and scars of his imprisonment saw to that. The memories held Amir captive even more so. A flash. The dark. The sound of water. The cheerful laughter of men. Anything could throw him back into the abyss. Making Amir lose time.
Even after all the months, the therapy, the years that had passed since Amir’s freedom and extraction, those moment where he broke down were a reminder of what he had lost.
Esmail would argue, say they proved Amir lived. That the two of them gained so much more when they fled to Chicago. Alone. Without friends or family. He would have to say those things. They were stuck. Esmail was stuck with a broken man.
Why Esmail stayed, why he married Amir when the courts gave them that freedom, he couldn’t comprehend. There were so many others out there. Smart, beautiful men. Amir had seen more than one stop and admire his husband. Openly. Without shame. Ones not broken like him. Ones who didn’t carry scars inside and out.
Ones who could step out of the darkness and into the light under their own strength.
But Esmail had stayed. He told Amir time and time again of his love. Showed it through his never-ending patience, his understanding. And Amir was weak enough, selfish enough, to hold onto that gentleness. To keep Esmail tied to him.
Amir dropped his hand and twisted his arm, feeling the raised skin on his back. How could Esmail stand to go to bed with him? To make love with him? Thin and thick keloids covered him. Ugly reminders of how people could hurt. But not Esmail. His heart was as pure as the white snow clinging to the bushes outside their condo.
More than anything, Amir wanted to give something back. To show his husband how much his love and loyalty, his gentleness, meant to Amir. To give something instead of take. To remind Esmail, to remind Amir, of better times. Of what they used to be, themselves—before all the bad times—before the pain and humiliation brought down on Amir.
To refresh their memories of nights long gone. Of a time when Amir wasn’t scared of the dark.
He just needed the strength to do it. To step outside the safety of his cocoon. Their home.
Amir glanced around the condo as he stood bundled up by the door. The lights were up. Everywhere he could feasibly put them. He just needed the food. It was why he’d put his red coat on, wrapped the scarf around his neck, tucked into his beanie and shoved his black gloves into his coat pocket. If he could just take that step outside, then Amir could bring a little of themselves back to the present. Give instead of take. To love and laugh instead of fear.
But getting the food required leaving the condo. Required him to step outside into the cold, and walk under the cloudy sky to the store. It meant seeing and interacting with people.
Panic suffused Amir, creeping along his arms. His breathing hitched as his heart banged painfully against his sternum. He wanted to leave, to pretend to be normal for a day. To be the man Esmail had fallen in love with.
So he gulped, pushed back the tide of emotions threatening to drown him. To stop him from being the man he wanted to be…the man he had been.
They dulled, humming just in the background, making Amir aware of every single sound he made before it dropped into a tolerable buzz. Before he could change his mind again, Amir grabbed the doorknob and pulled.
Cool air blasted against him, making Amir flinch. He fluffed his scarf bigger, covering more of his neck and jaw. He took hold of his little cart and stepped outside, the door creaking shut behind him. Amir took a moment to breathe while locking the door, pushing away the dizziness, the fear of being so exposed.
Groceries. All he was doing was getting some groceries. To make a meal, a real meal, for his husband so they could celebrate Shab-e Yaldā like they used to. With good food and sweeter kisses.
Just like the watermelon kisses they shared years ago in their happy little bubble overlooking Ahvaz—when the world, when the nights, weren’t so scary.
Freddy grew up in the Midwest, playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since Freddy was small and throwing worms at other kids, except worm throwing has been replaced with a healthy geocaching addiction. Freddy enjoys traveling and holds the view a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.
Freddy’s contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place – Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Freddy’s story, Internment, tied for 3rd Place – Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Freddy’s steampunk/SF story, Feel Me, was a Finalist and honorable mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards for SF. And in 2015, Freddy’s urban fantasy Snow on Spirit Bridge was also a Finalist and honorable mention.
For more information on Freddy’s work, please visit or email:
But To Love More
Mel finally gets to go home for Christmas. In his absence, his hometown has changed, and Carlos, his best friend’s little brother, is all grown up and interested in a relationship. But Carlos has his work cut out for him since Mel’s having trouble seeing past the little brother part and his big brother, Aldo’s determined to keep them apart.
Foster Bridget Cassidy is a rare, native Phoenician who enjoys hot desert air and likes to wear jackets in summer. She has wanted to be a fiction writer since becoming addicted to epic fantasy during high school. Since then, she’s studied the craft academically—at Arizona State University—and as a hobby—attending conventions and workshops around the country. A million ideas float in her head, but it seems like there’s never enough time to get them all down on paper.
Corey’s Christmas Bundle (Atherton Pack 5)
Being pregnant is not all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you’re male and a shifter. Even though the world now knows about wolf shifters, their male’s ability to bare young is still a closely guarded secret. Since Corey’s pregnancy is now visible, he’s been stuck at home working on code and waiting for company to drop by. Problem is, though, the human government wants to know where Corey is.
As Christmas and Corey’s due date draw ever nearer, Ben devises a plan that will not only get Corey out of the house, but allows the wolves of Atherton Pack to give the community some Christmas cheer.
Toni Griffin lives in Darwin, the smallest of Australia’s capital cities. Born and raised in the state she’s a Territorian through and through. Growing up Toni hated English with a passion (as her editors can probably attest to) and found her strength lies with numbers.
Now, though, she loves escaping to the worlds she creates and hopes to continue to do so for many years to come. She’s a single mother of one and works full time. When she’s not writing you can just about guarantee that she will be reading one of the many MM authors she loves. Feel free to drop her a line at email@example.com anytime.
For more information about Toni’s work, please visit:
Safety Protocols For Human Holidays
As a security officer on an interspecies ship, Growlan Raskli’s experienced in heading off species-specific aberrant behaviors in order to keep the peace. But when her captain asks her to find out what’s bothering their sole human crew member, Raskli’s out of her depths. She hardly knows anything about humans and she’s not a psych doctor.
Something’s definitely upset Human Jen, something to do with human holidays. The more time Raskli spends studying humans and interacting with the intriguing Human Jen, the more personal the assignment becomes. Determined to lift the dark cloud from Human Jen, Raskli will do whatever it takes—within safe parameters, of course.
While Angel Martinez is the erotic fiction pen name of a writer of several genres, she writes both kinds of queer fiction – Science Fiction and Fantasy. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author’s head) Angel has one husband, one son, two cats, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate. For more information on Angel’s work, please visit:
Website: Erotic Fiction for the Hungry Mind
Secrets & Silk
Quiet, strait-laced David Appleton thinks he’s going to have a problem at work. A new co-worker discovered his secret in the locker room. Unable to confront someone, David let him walk away. Now he worries everyone will know his deepest held secret. A secret hidden under his signature vest, tie, and trousers.
Since walking in on his co-worker, CJ O’Connell tries to get a moment to speak with the shy David, but nothing works. His last hope—the Secret Santa Gift Exchange party. Perhaps a special gift can peel away the secrets.
A quiet one, Nicole Dennis curled up with the latest book of a favorite author. Since the beginning, there were these characters in her head, worlds wanting to be built on paper, and stories wanting to be told. She began writing during class and continues to this day. Now she can let others into her imagination and worlds that always celebrate the love between two or more people within LGBT, paranormal, and fantasy.
During the day, she works in a quiet office in Central Florida, where she also makes her home, and enjoys the down time to slip into her imagination. She is owned by a semi-demonic tortie calico, affectionately known as Fat Cat. For more information on Nicole, please visit:
GoodreadsQ&A with Nicole Dennis: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/50397-q-a-with-nicole-dennis
Goodreads Profile: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2791975.Nicole_Dennis
It’s Christmastime and the snow is falling. Restoring an old Victorian manor has been keeping contractor Brett Hawkins busy. The project’s meant to be complete by Christmas, but there’s no way he can get it done in time, especially with the big day right around the corner.
Meanwhile, his beloved Manuel Aguilar is grappling with depression, and he’s consumed by guilt that it’s kept him from putting up the decorations. But his biggest concern is that he may be ruining the holiday for Brett. As Manny struggles, unable to recognize his own courage in every small gain, Brett has a surprise that may help break depression’s hold.
I have my mom to thank for so much. First of all, she fostered a love of reading. According to her I’ve been reading since I could hold a book and I got my first library card at age 3. Growing up I used to read 100 books a year, but of course, that doesn’t happen as often since there’s writing to do and a day job.
Secondly, I have to thank her for always pushing me to keep chasing my dream of being an author. Who else am I going to bounce ideas off of, and she helps me when I get stuck. Suppose you could say she’s my biggest fan.
When I’m not writing I enjoy time with my dog, tending my garden, baking sweet treats, walking through crunchy fall leaves and blankets of cold snow, playing video games, and reading! I’ve a fondness for horses and blankets (is it possible to own too many?)
And yes, some days I still wish I was Batman. For more information about Kassandra and her work, please visit:
Christmas Eve Craigslist Killer
The public library’s computer geek, aka Travis, is content skirting the edges of social interaction. He’s fully committed to being a boring, twenty-something IT guy who likes his office more than people, a guy someone like Connor would never fall for. Connor, who works on the library floor as a page, is outgoing, social, and charming and everything else that stands for “fun.”
An interaction between the two at the library on Christmas Eve has Travis accidentally mentioning that he failed to find this year’s hottest toy for his nephew. Immediately, Connor goes on a quick hunt online, and finds one. The only problem is that the Craigslist seller is hours away and Travis is sure spending hours in a car with quirky, handsome Connor can only end badly.
Jill started writing back in the day of notebook paper and erasable pens (blue ink is best), when her mom’s typewriter was out of ribbon. Then she graduated to a word processing program in MS-DOS, then WordPerfect. Her computer sadly caught the Blue Screen of Death and all was lost. She stopped writing for an extremely long time, because “life.”
She lives in the upper Bible Belt, rolls her eyes a lot and drinks enough wine to consider it a sacrifice to the gods that her kids won’t need too much therapy down the road.
A while back, Jill picked up writing again with a woman’s site and the writing fever spiked. But she’s actually new to publishing, so there may or may not have been more wine involved recently (only one glass was harmed in the making of this story and it was a mason jar so…bygones).
Nick is not looking forward to his second Christmas without Sammi, his gorgeous ex-fiancee. She left him on New Year’s Eve, a week after their engagement, and he still doesn’t know why.
A chance meeting whilst out Christmas shopping reveals that Sammi is now Sam, a transgender man. As the reasons behind their break-up become clearer, Nick cannot make sense of his new feelings. He is shocked by the deep attraction he still has to Sam, and what that says about himself.
It will take Nick’s straight-talking family, and Sam’s guiding hand, to help him discover that gender is no barrier to love.
Jayne Lockwood has been writing for most of her life, starting with really bad poetry as a teenager, usually railing against nuclear war (it was the 1970’s.) There followed a couple of novels, long since consigned to flames (probably just as well, TBH,) and the hazy idea that maybe one day, she would get something published. Her first successful writing assignment was for the college newspaper of the County College of Morris, in Randolph, New Jersey, where she studied Journalism.
Since then, Jayne has been involved in projects closer to home, working closely with other authors to continue to develop their writing. Two pieces of her prose can be found in Chalk Road, a collaborative anthology from local writers, sponsored by Wycombe District Council, and she has invariably been involved in a writing group, as well as running a local book group.
She has also had five Black Lace titles published by Virgin Books, under the pseudonym, Savannah Smythe, and has collaborated with glamour celebrity, Abi Titmuss, to produce 10 Fantasies, Abi’s collection of short stories.
Jayne has also published three M/M erotica stories, Lexington Black, Docklands Diamond and My Boyfriend Is A Dog, under S A Smythe. In addition to that, she writes book reviews for WROTE Podcast, a forum for LGBTQ readers and writers. She helped set up the podcast in 2015 with fellow writers, S A Collins (sacollins.com) and Vance Bastian (vancebastian.com) and is proud to say the podcast is going from strength to strength.
The Cloud Seeker is Jayne’s first mainstream novel, and draws upon her background as a Chilterns woman and her affection for the US, where she lived for two years.
Soon after, she rediscovered the very first manuscript she started back in 1996. After many hours of updating, it was finally published on Amazon. Closer Than Blood is a tale of hit men, blackmail and forbidden passion, set in Manhattan. Both novels are currently available as ebook and paperback, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and many on-line book retailers.
She always has at least one novel in the background, and at the present time she is working on her first science fiction novel, working title Euphoria, based on the nuclear bunker near where she lives.
For more information about Jayne and her work, please visit:
A Piece Of Ourselves
Balancing holidays between two families can make cheerful celebrations into chores. Carson Benedetti’s mom has overscheduled the Christmas holidays and she’s more than insistent that boyfriend Tynan Harris come into the family fold. There’s so much to do Tynan can’t find time to bring Carson over to his own family and he feels like they are being left in the dust.
After dating for nine months, and with their relationship becoming more serious, Tynan’s patience is sorely tested by the multitude of Benedetti family traditions keeping them busy. Tynan needs to figure out how to find some breathing room, split their time more fairly, and make Christmas more than just tradition by rote.
Tray Ellis grew up across from an empty field, where she spun a lot of imaginary adventures, helping to prepare her for a lifetime of writing. When she isn’t writing, she stays active by hiking, cooking, stacking the odd cord of wood in the shed, baking, and being too busy to keep her home in any semblance of order. Currently she tries to find a balance between the logical way she thinks and the flights of fancy she often daydreams about. Mostly, the daydreams are winning. For more information about Tray, please visit:
I Only Want to Be With You
Derrek is dealing with the recent, unexpected death of his mother. He’s been alone for five year since his husband Will died, and he’s ready to find someone new and to start living again. Ryan lost his partner, David, in an auto accident, and is dating Alex, who doesn’t treat him right.
Derrek can’t figure out why Ryan won’t see what’s right in front of his face. Why does Ryan come to him to talk about all his hopes, dreams, and fears, then go home to Alex?
If Derrek can figure that out, they might just have a shot.
Scott is the admin for the Queer Sci Fi site. He has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.
Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”
Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before – and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.
A New Year On Vega III
On the colony planet Vega III, everyone knows Beck—outgoing, fabulous, and genderqueer—and nobody notices Anil, the quiet plant biologist. But when Anil finds Beck hiding in his greenhouse, lonely and missing Earth, it’s Anil who is able to comfort Beck by letting them talk about what they miss most—the feeling that comes with celebrating the holidays with loved ones, especially New Year’s Eve.
The two of them are drawn to one another, but both of them are hiding secrets about their sexuality. With trust between them already on shaky ground, Anil’s elaborate plans to cheer Beck may well backfire.
I write all over the fantasy and science fiction spectrum, including (so far) secondary-world fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, Gothic, historical paranormal, spaceships, and various unholy mashups of these.
I grew up in Alberta, Canada, but now live in an old house in Toronto. My other current passion is contra dance, a social/folk dance done to live Celtic and roots music. My favourite places in the world are the Canadian Rocky Mountains and a little valley in Norway. In my other life, I edit non-fiction for the government. For more information, please visit or email: