Much to my great gratitude, professors at Virginia Tech can apply for a research leave every six years.  I’ve taken mine for Fall Semester 2018 and Spring Semester 2019, and I’m glad to report that I’m getting a lot done.

In Fall 2018, I wrote five new essays.  “Muslim Food” is about my long enthusiasm for Iraqi and Persian cuisine.  “Confederate” concerns the Confederate-monument controversy.  “Whoremonger” is a piece of what one might call erotic memoir.  “A Ferocious Drag Queen” honors my late friend, Okey Napier, aka Miss Ilene Over.  “Watch Out!  That Queer’s Got a Gun!” details my foray into gun ownership after that Egregious Moron was elected to the presidency.

I’ve put these new pieces into a book manuscript, along with personal essays already published in literary journals and anthologies from 2009 to 2017.  The book’s tentatively called Endangered Species:  A Surly Bear in the Bible Belt, which Lethe Press is planning to publish in 2019.  Jakk Blood, a very sexy cub from Maine, will be the cover model.  Check him out at https://www.instagram.com/Jakkblood/

Along with the essay collection, I’ve also compiled a book of poems, many of them previously published.  The tentative title’s Redneck Bouquet:  Gay Poems from Appalachia.  My hope is that Lethe Press will also release this volume.

After working on LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia since September 2017, my duties co-editing that anthology are finally over. (My co-editor, Julia Watts, was a joy to work with.)  The collection’s in the hands of the folks at West Virginia University Press and is due for release in early April 2019.  In conjunction with that release, I’ll be giving a few readings this spring, at least two of them in Asheville, North Carolina.  I’ll announce further details in future.

Finally, after years of reading Icelandic sagas, Norse literature, and nonfiction about the Vikings, I’m finally plotting out the trilogy of Viking novels that publisher Steve Berman of Lethe Press has asked me to write.  A couple of weeks ago, I began making notes for the series, and in the space of a day, I’d come up with a rough plotline for all three books. My past travels in Iceland, Norway, the Hebrides, and the Orkneys have been super-helpful in giving me ideas for settings.

In the past few months, I’ve read a couple of great books, The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth and The World of Vikings by Justin Pollard, with a foreword by Michael Hirst. What I’ve learned from them will be very helpful as I create my own fictionalized version of the Viking Age.  Relevant reading to come will be Icelandic Histories and Romances, translated by Ralph O’Connor; Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic by Edred Thorsson; Nordic Runes by Paul Rhys Mountfort; Comic Sagas and Tales from Iceland, edited by Vidar Hreinsson; Gisli Sursson’s Saga and The Saga of the People of Eyri, translated by Martin S. Regal and Judy Quinn; and Sagas of Giants and Heroes, translated by Ben Waggoner.

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