Hello everyone! Thanks to Charlie for hosting me once again. This is the first stop I’m making to promote A Winter In Rome, one of the many stories in the Intertwined collection call from Less Than Three Press. Intertwined features poly romances; my story is about a relationship between two men which eventually grows to include a genderqueer person. Craig is the main lead, and as the relationship between everyone develops, he worries that he’s not as interesting or as talented as everyone else around him. Sybil, the genderqueer character, works at a crisis call centre and is in grad school for women’s studies, while Alan is an art professor who Craig thinks is unbelievably talented. Meanwhile, Craig works at a coffee place and failed out of some classes. His life is fun and interesting, but even with all the love in his life, he still thinks something is missing.
The story is set in Toronto, one of the most metropolitan areas in Canada, and Craig’s feelings of unhappiness is actually quite common when living in the city. According to a Statistics Canada report, Toronto is the second unhappiest city in Canada (trailing behind Vancouver in British Columbia). Why does this happen in a place where the business district, school board, fashion industry, the arts, and entertainment industry (a lot of films and TV shows are shot here) are thriving? From my limited experience living in Toronto, I know that when you’re around so many cool people, you start to feel inferior. Toronto is packed with so many talented people that an “imposter syndrome” easily develops and you wonder if you’re good enough or deserve to be there.
How does Craig remedy this? Instead of having him write a bestseller or win the lottery or become a famous actor, I made the choice to have him revel in simplicity. I won’t say exactly what that means (since it could be a spoiler), but I will say that I wanted him to celebrate his life as it was instead of searching for a quick-fix solution. In my writing (and own reading choices), I tend to reject most Hollywood stories that tell me my life could be so much better than it already is. Some change is good, but not everything needs to turn into a competition. Sometimes, it’s not necessary to be the best or brightest–it’s just nice to be there. So Craig learns to appreciate Toronto for what it is: a beautiful city and filled with many creative people, including the two he falls in love with.
And even though I don’t live in Toronto anymore, I still think the Ontario College of Arts and Design, located in the downtown core, is a beautiful building–so much that I based the university in the story off its design and made Alan Winters a professor there.
There are many other gems inside the city (like The Art Gallery of Ontario, Kensington Market, St. Lawrence Market, and of course, The CN Tower), but I will limit my blog post to these few. And thank you, Charlie, for having me again!
Craig is a man adrift, never quite feeling like he belongs or like he’s as successful and settled as those around him—especially his lovers, Alan, an art professor he met while in college, and Sybil, who tutored him throughout his Italian class. When Alan goes to Rome life becomes even shakier and the only grounding point becomes the corkboard of memories Craig creates for the three of them.
By the time Alan returns, Craig isn’t certain how his relationships will change—especially when Alan starts to fall for Sybil, bringing two pieces of his world completely together and leaving Craig worried it will create a world that has no place for him.
We dug my poor car out from the snow, and I wished that I hadn’t put away my mittens and hats earlier that week, thinking that the Canadian winter was done. Most of the snow plows hadn’t gone by yet, making the roads a little treacherous until more cars wore away a path. We stopped at the first liquor store we could find, then ran from our parking spot to the safety inside.
“I’ll go down this aisle,” Sybil said, “and you go down here. We meet in the middle?”
Before I knew it, we were both left alone, wandering around and leaving puddles of snow water in our wake. For a moment, I felt as if I had walked through time, and it was that first winter I had met Sybil. Back then, when I had first started to fall in love with her, I had felt like I was a ship over the ocean, being pulled in two. People, Rebecca especially, used to tell me that’s what being bisexual was like—being pulled in two over the ocean, bent and lost at a fork in the road, and having to decide where to stay all the time. Who do you love tonight? And, more importantly, who are you tonight? I used to think I had to pick being Craig, who was gay and a terrible art student when I was with Alan. Or then I was Craig, who was straight and with Sybil and pretending to speak a language I didn’t know.
But that was the wrong way of looking at things. I loved them both—without issue or complaint. Sometimes, I would imagine my rebuttals to Rebecca’s issues. You’re mixing up identity with love, Becca. Love cannot be measured, or quantified. Love just is. And the paths in the woods are always a false choice. If you were smart enough, if you stay around long enough, I was convinced you could have both. Love both. Now that some time had passed, I knew that this was the only right answer. But I still struggled, just a little bit, when I thought of Sybil loving Alan—and him loving her back. What did that do to all of us? How did that change us? And who did that make me at the end of the day?
“Find anything?” Sybil’s voice stirred me back into the florescent light of the store. She smiled, her coat halfway done up and her cheeks flushed with cold.
“Nah. I got distracted. What did you find?”
She held up one bottle in her hand, and then another. “What wine do you want? Red or white?”
“Both,” I said with a smile. I took a step forward and clasped her chin, kissing her quickly.
“Not here, Craig.” She laughed as she chastised me. “We have to go back to your place before my toes fall off from cold.”
“Alan’s place,” I said.
“Don’t call it that. You’re living there too. It’s yours now.”
“Yeah, sure.” I shifted my feet on the store floor, feeling study. “I guess you’re right. But the wine?”
“We’ll get both,” she said, nodding. “Of course.”
Francis Gideon is a writer of m/m romance, but he also dabbles in mystery, fantasy, historical, and paranormal fiction. He has appeared in Gay Flash Fiction, Chelsea Station Poetry, and the Martinus Press anthology To Hell With Dante. He lives in Canada with his partner, reads too many comics books, and drinks too much coffee. Feel free to contact him, especially if you want to talk about horror movies, LGBT poetry, or NBC’s Hannibal. Find him at francisgideon.wordpress.com.
What’s your favourite city? Comment with your favourite city and your email, and after a week, I’ll randomly select two winners to receive an ebook copy of A Winter in Rome in the format of their choice.