I’ve been asked more than once where I get ideas for my anthologies, and I have to say that inspiration comes from a number of places. My latest release for Bold Strokes Books, Tricks of the Trade: Magical Gay Erotica, however, is the first that was inspired by a story idea—that I ended up not writing.
My best writing buddies William Holden and Dale Chase and I were at Saints and Sinners in New Orleans in 2011, sitting on Bill’s balcony at Lafitte’s Guest House laughing uproariously at something, when a thought suddenly struck me.
“What about,” I said, apropos of nothing, “a guy who’s into BDSM falls in love with an escape artist who can get out of anything Daddybear puts him in?”
“What about it?” Bill answered. True smart-asses are born, not made.
“Ooooooh,” said Dale. “That could be fun.”
And, indeed, I thought so too. But after a couple attempts, I decided I couldn’t write it. I hadn’t the passion for, or a detailed knowledge of, BDSM. But the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, inspiring a whole anthology about escape artists and magicians and tricksters that I called Tricks of the Trade. But I needed someone to write the damn anchor story.
Enter Jeff Mann.
Jeff and I have been friends ever since I fell in love with his History of Barbed Wire, which introduced me to the BDSM kink. Sexually, it does nothing for me but his passion for it was evident in that (and most all) of his prose. So, I approached him with the premise of the story. To my delight, he loved the idea and a few months later, he had written my anchor story, “Inescapable.” I sold the book to Bold Strokes and put out a call for the rest of the stories.
Whenever I put out a call, I’m always amazed by the kind of work that comes back in response. I have a closed call list that consists mostly of authors I’ve either worked with in the past or those whose work I’ve enjoyed. And I’m always adding new names, but even my old reliables confessed that they had trouble coming up with something they thought worthwhile.
While magic seems like an easy subject to write about at first, making it credible is more difficult than it looks. But the thirteen authors in Tricks of the Trade made it look as easy as pulling a rabbit out of your hat. In addition to Bill Holden and Dale Chase, who supplied me with marvelous tales (Bill’s “The Magic Lantern,” about revenge on a turn-of-the-century homophobe and “Manly Magic,” one of Dale’s wonderful Western stories), ‘Nathan Burgoine turned in his usual bravura performance with a cruise ship time travel illusion called “Transposition,” Lewis DeSimone gave me a creepy tale called “And Now, For My Next Trick,” Rob Rosen got right to the point with “In Through the Out Door,” and Todd Gregory served up a wonderful meal for the feast day of Hecate called “Let’s Just Kiss and Say Good-Bye.”
Jay Neal took time out from putting his own collection of short stories together to weave a terrific tale about Victorian lapdances called “The Mesmerist’s Assistant,” Joseph Baneth Allen suppied an Atlantean illusion with “Old-Fashioned Expectations,” and Ralph Seligman churned out a hot story about a magician on vacation called “Magic Takes a Holiday.”
I’d never worked with Xavier Axelson, Mel Bossa, or Logan Zachary before, but I approached them because I’d enjoyed other things of their I’d read. Xavier gave me a beautifully lyrical story with a djinn called “Sons of Orion,” Mel (who should have won last year’s gay romance Lammy for Split) did a great story called “The Assistant” about a street kid who does magic to earn his living, and Logan came up with the creative concept of a magic duel during a job interview with “The Magician’s Assistant.”
The amount of talent in this book is staggering, and it was my pleasure to put it all together. Just as I hope it will be your pleasure to read it. So dim the lights—well, all of them except the one you read by—cue the music and let the show begin.
There’s magic between these covers.