Banned By Association
Okay, maybe it was my fault.
So I hit a BIG learning curve here. Epically so. Why, you might ask? Because my first work, a novel that was released to the world from several selling platforms, Amazon being just one of them, got BANNED! But since it all took place this past week I didn’t want to do a knee-jerk blog post about it. I wanted some distance from it to sort it out. I’m like that. I can be wordy and preachy when my ire is provoked, but at times, like this time, I was able to quell that rash desire to lash out and opted instead to think things through.
I’m glad I did. And while I might not like Amazon’s decision, I recognize it was theirs to make.
I mean, they’re the big guns in the literary world, like it or not. Even the big publishing houses have to play ball with them. So a little guy like me doesn’t have much pull. I haven’t brought enough money to the table. And I know that it is all about the money.
I mean, I think it is interesting that my book, with a rough sex scene (the hero in the story is raped physically by the bad guy in the series) near the end of the book, could be blocked/banned because of that scene when say EL James 50 Shades (of crap, if you ask me) gets a pass. Though to be fair, I guess rape wasn’t in the cards for that drivel. But what about the Bible? It has rape, pillaging and all sorts of violence spread throughout the work.
TO BE CLEAR: I don’t consider the Bible (or any other religious text, for that matter) to be holy or sacred. They are books like any other – written BY MAN. So yeah, I so won’t get into that debate ’cause to my way of thinking that’s just messing with 9 bags of cray-cray (as my granddaughter says).
But as a newbie author, doing the self-pub thing on my own, I know I have a learning curve ahead of me. I know that my works will stumble and I might make some epically bad moves. I get that it’s part of the process. I don’t expect to be “the next BIG thing” when it comes to literary works. Though to be honest, I do write literature. I write character studies. I find them infinitely fascinating to write from. I want to immerse the reader into the psyche of the character who is telling you the story. All of the inner monologue that we all have in our day to day lives that never gets said to the outside world.
Those monologues are deeply fascinating to me. At times I listen to my own mental ramblings as I interact with others. Not that there are voices in my head – well, okay there are, but they are my characters working out their upcoming scenarios that I need to get sorted before I write them down – I SWEAR!
Anyway, so my first work was out there on all platforms –
- It was meant to be a fluff, fun and slightly scary read as part of my NaNoWriMo 2014 writer’s challenge project that I won last November -writing the bulk in what made it into the published work within 26 days out of the 30 for the challenge. The werewolves have this ease with themselves where sex comes into it because that is how pack life is for them. The sex keeps them rooted to their human existence.
- It was meant to be a story for my very first fan, Michael, who has a penchant for sexy guys and werewolves. I wanted to do some thing for him. I even made him one of my wolves IN the story. He loves it and I couldn’t be happier. The hot and heavy man action was a nod to him.
- Sex within my packs of werewolves (which are ONLY male, btw) is a way of exchanging power. It is a metaphor I am using in that submissiveness doesn’t equate weakness. Sometimes, it actually takes far more courage to be there for another in that way. I wanted to play with that dynamic. My wolves keep telling Hank (Henry) that, as the pack’s new Omega, he doesn’t belong to them – they belong to him!
We’re contacting you regarding the following book:HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega: A Sparrows Hollow Lycanthropic Adventure by Collins, SA (AUTHOR) (ID:5629640)During our review process, we found that this content is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we cannot offer this book for sale. If we identify additional submissions with similar content that violates our guidelines, we may terminate your account or you may lose access to optional KDP services.
To learn more about our content guidelines, please visit our Kindle Direct Publishing Help page at:
Kindle Direct Publishing
Since the work was classified as Erotica, I assumed that the first two sections of this lack of direction was the Pornography and the Offensive Content areas of this little policy write up. But how was I supposed to work with that?
It could’ve meant that ANY of my sex scenes were objectionable, right? I had to question it all. So I went out and offered a “hey, I’m new – what do I do to address this so I can learn from it and not repeat it?” I just wanted something or someone to direct me to what was in violation of the policy.
All I got was this (the bolding and underlining of the email content are mine as I am just drawing attention to what stood out for me when I read it):
We’re contacting you regarding the following title:
HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega: A Sparrows Hollow Lycanthropic Adventure by Collins, SA (AUTHOR) (ID:5629640)
We’ve confirmed that your book(s) contains content that is in violation of our content guidelines and we will not be offering this title for sale in the Kindle Store. As stated in our guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what we consider to be appropriate, which includes cover images and content within the book.
If you wish to re-publish your book(s) with content that meets our guidelines, it will need to be submitted as an entirely new ASIN and go through our standard review process. Previous customer reviews, tags, and sales rank information are not transferable because the title will essentially be a different product.
Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website.
To learn more, please see: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U
We appreciate your understanding.
On the eve of Charlie Hebdo’s monumental 3 million copy release to the world, I find I am still saddened by the loss. As a writer, I can’t help but be moved by tremendous artists and writers being cut down when they clearly had so much more to give us.
I hate that we live in a world of gotcha’s and haters who just spew hate without an ounce of responsibility for what damage they cause in their blind rant. We’ve lost our ability it seems to have civil and reasoned discourse. That is a painful thing to realize. Words matter, the manner in which we use them matter. While I’ve been nothing short of a proponent for technology and the ease it has provided in bringing people closer, I can’t help but acknowledge how much it’s also driven us apart.
I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing. I suppose as with anything, it matters in how it is used.
I’d like to say the events of that horrible Tuesday haven’t affected my work, but it has. However small it might be, I write differently now. They are the same stories, the same sorts of characters, the same gay men’s lives I choose to write about. Only now, the stroke is more purposeful. The intent a bit more sharp. Why? Because I won’t be silenced, I won’t have our stories set aside because we may be in the minority.
So I press on. And in a very real way, I can’t wait to see how my work will grow from this shocking set of events. How it will color my perceptions as an author and as a human being in this world. I try to hold onto the light. I try to let it shine. In a world of ever closing darkness, I can only hope my works will reflect that ember of hope I want for my characters and my readers.
My men must shine – with all their faults, their strengths, their foibles. I want to show it all.
#rip #jesuischarlie #freedom #liberty #hope
Paying It Forward – Love Letters to My Gay Brothers – Why I Write
A couple of weeks ago I made some comments from a question posed by an author pal of mine, Jayne Lockwood. We’ve been having an on-going conversation regarding the process of writing, why we write what we do, how it is perceived by others and the process we go through to create what we do. It’s a very rewarding conversation. Well, for me it is at any rate (I can’t speak for Jayne, but she seems to like it – at least so far she hasn’t told me to take a hike and shut the hell up so maybe it’s going good?).
The problem is I said somethings that many women writers took me to task about (both on my pal’s site and on Facebook). Being a father and a grandfather to two women of my own, when women express something vociferously I tend to really take in what they are saying and weigh it heavily. I do this because I fight just as vociferously for my daughter and granddaughter’s right to be equals and have whatever they want in life. Their gender shouldn’t ever play a role in what they do – other than bring their womanly experiences and points of view to any conversation which I certainly believe have merit and weight.
Anyway, one woman in particular really took umbrage with what I said. This despite my attempting to clarify what point of view I was after. Even after explaining myself she still thought my point was “asinine” (evidently in the extreme). Now, being a man, I wanted to do the knee jerk reactionary thing and bash back. It’s an inherently male trait that I am well aware of. It’s why men go to war, it’s why men wage war in the first place, I suppose. But, having the girls in the house I decided to temper that knee-jerk response and really weigh what she said to me. It was written this way:
I’m part of the community of authors who write gay fiction–regardless of what they do or do not have in their pants. I find the gender of the author to be irrelevant and I don’t consider myself to be a part of the ‘straight community’ or the ‘bisexual community’ or the ‘bisexual women married to men who also happens to gay MM fiction’ community. I’m a person before I’m anything else. I’ve read male authors who ‘feminized’ their characters to the point where they are crying every other page and had emotional conversations about love and other crap right after meeting a stranger, as well as women who write male fiction so well that men–gay men–have said they thought the author WAS a man. Fiction should be judged on its own merit–not based on the sexuality or gender of the author–and anything beyond that IS asinine. We need to stop dividing ourselves.
So I sat and thought about what she was saying to me. At first blush, like I said, I reacted strongly to her judgement of my POV being asinine. Then I realized why I was fixating on that word in particular and why I was taking umbrage with it. It occurred to me that it wasn’t the point she was making, because on the whole I agree with her 99%. Why the 1% hold out? Well, therein was my answer. And it was my fault entirely for not being accurate about my first response to Jayne’s query. A point I will come to in my summation below.
With regards to writing, there are various manners of writing. Technical writing, academic writing, literature (with varied genre and sub-genre classifications), etc. So first and foremost I am simply that – a writer. No different than any other. It is a community that I share with the commenter above and with all of the people who have responded on both sides of the discussion (and yes, I had some male writers approach me separately that didn’t want to voice their general agreement with me publicly – those were private and I will not be disclosing who said what – just know that there is still that prevailing difference of opinion out there). But as I say, I am a member of the community of writers. Yet in really examining my feelings on this issue I slowly started to see how I hadn’t clarified my own position or point of view to fully answer my writing buddy’s initial query.
Now to be fair, Jayne and I are doing what we’re doing because we want those surprises in our conversation. We both have bought into the “oh shit, I said that all wrong but fuck me, it’s out there in the heat of the moment and yeah, now I gotta eat crow so pass the damned salt cause this shit is gonna taste hella nasty.” (Sorry, ‘hella’ is a No. California expression that as I write about my teens in the area I live in I use to flavor my boys and girls of my stories – I am staying in the groove with them, so to speak). We wanted these moments in our on going dialog because as writers Jayne and I are all about the reveal. So we sort of know we’re gonna step in it from time to time. I accept that, and in a very real way I am giddy with glee that I did it. Why? Simple: it allowed me to examine where what I said in the heat of the moment came from and why it caused a bit of a shit storm response.
But as I said, I am a member of the community of writers. And it was in that that my answer lay in why I have the point of view I have. It is also where my most vocal critic’s argument runs afoul to my mind. It is the one percent on where I completely and whole-hardheartedly disagree with her and will NEVER give ground on it. You see, I am also a member of the LGBTQIA community. And more specifically, the gay community of brothers that while I rail within it about how badly we can cut and tear at each other when we’re amongst ourselves (bitchy twinky queen much?) I still love each and every one of them because they exist. With them, I don’t feel alone in expressing how I feel what I feel. And herein is why I am writing to finally clarify my point of view. It also serves to finally answer the question for myself on what I am doing here, and why I write.
As a gay man I share with my communal brothers the trials, tribulations, euphoric, insanely giddy moments of our community. It is something that we all share regardless of how we all came to the road we are on as gay men. As a matter of record, I have grown to become quite pissed at the “community” of gay men because we spend an inordinate amount of time not supporting each other as we should. Something our lesbian sisters have taught us time and again when they’ve nudged us (they were one of out greatest allies during the whole AIDS crisis in the 80’s and 90’s and continue to do so – for which I am grateful). But the work has to come from within. We, as gay men, must rise above the in-fighting and the bickering that permeates our own community and truly hold each other up. No one else will do it for us. Our allies commiserate with us on how our often our community is maligned and disparaged, but they are allies in the fight for dignity and equality. But they are not the community. That lies solely with my gay brothers and myself.
And herein is why I will never cede ground to my critic’s point on this 1% – where the 1% will always trump the 99%. I know this to be true because it happened to me.
When I was sixteen and dealing with the fullest meaning of what was going on inside of me – my budding emotional responses to the boys around me in school and in my day to day experiences – I felt utterly alone.
I wasn’t a member of the mainstream club.
Now to be clear, I had tons of friends, I had family members who knew about my burgeoning gay life as a young man taking up the reigns in what that meant for me going forward. So I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me in many ways. But let me be absolutely clear about this:
I was alone in a sea of people. People who were there for me in every way than could be save one – they weren’t like me.
I soon sorted out for myself that I craved another gay man’s voice. I needed to know there was a community of men who shared my passions (however varied they were) and also understood implicitly what that meant – from the inside as a man. I was hungry for their words, I wanted affirmation that what I was feeling meant I wasn’t alone. I had my parents and siblings unconditional love and support – for the 70’s/80’s this is rather astounding as there wasn’t much out there for parents to latch onto that what I was becoming was positive in any way. My parents, I suppose, just trusted that I was the same good boy they reared and as such I would apply myself to this new avenue in the journey that is my life. Despite all the love and support they had for me, they could never be what I needed most at this point in my life. I wanted to be amongst my own in the worst way. But I was sixteen. No way for a boy at that age to easily accomplish that.
But I could find a book to hear what they had to say.
So I began looking. I knew that what I wanted from it couldn’t readily be found in a library. Mostly because what I was curious about in my hormonally charged teen boy days, was the topic of sex and love between men. It took me several visits to the bookstores I’d disappear to in the local mall my parents would take my brother, sister and me to on occasion. It almost happened by coincidence. I found some books that were not in the right place on a shelf that was slightly above my eye level, I shifted them around and a book that would become one of my bibles was there – nearly glowing with angels singing it’s praises to me. That book was The Sexual Outlaw by John Rechy.
John’s book was transformative. It was gritty, unabashed writing that spoke to me in ways that no one else could. It was as if his words were for me and me alone. They were powerful, their imagery was stark and bold. I emerged a very different boy with that book. So here we’ve come to why I will never agree with my critic’s point of view. Because it is from my own community of writers: gay men writing about our worlds as we are. Those words I’ve said before but not in the context of how I truly meant them and why. As a boy I wanted that affirmation from my own kind and no amount of brilliant writing, witty and powerful prose from anyone outside of that sphere was going to satisfy. It just simply wasn’t. It never would. I wanted to hear it from the source – not some random author posing what they thought it might be like. I wanted other gay men’s voices in my head. I wanted to swim in them, I wanted to be immersed in their minds, in their worlds, in their lives. I needed to understand what being gay was all about.
John satiated my lustful thoughts. He colored them and gave them such a compelling narrative that I was living and breathing it every time I opened that book. But he didn’t have all my answers – I wanted more. So I sought out others as best I could and I happened again on another gay male author: Gordon Merrick. Merrick satiated my heart. He gave me the perspective of a gay man in matters of love and relationships between men. And you can bet your sweet ass, no woman’s perspective no matter how beautifully written was going to give me that. I wanted a definitive male perspective. And let me be abundantly clear about this – the nature of the writing, the quality of the characters, the style of prose didn’t matter. Not really. It was that I had another gay man’s voice in my head. That belonging to a group of men like myself was paramount — almost more than the work itself. And herein is a salient point I’d like to make to my straight women allies who write about us in the here and now, we may have M/M romance as it is today and many of my critics site that it came from the fanfic/slash fic of the 90’s and that it is from these straight women who have given birth to this genre – yet I say to you all, unless you were doing this in the early 70’s when this book broke and was on the NY Bestseller list, then no, Merrick was one of the first. And he did it at a time when no one else was doing it. I know because I was there. I lived through this period in time. And it could be argued that it existed before him – EM Forster’s Maurice was penned earlier in that century as no doubt there were a few others. These courageous men were the men I craved. Men I could admire, men I could aspire to and say to myself ‘I want a piece of that pie… I want me some of that.’
I know that the argument could be made that this was all before the advent of the internet, that now it’s easy to find them. And yes, you’d be right about that. BUT, herein is the subtle but profound difference, and herein is why I discovered why I write: I still require gay men’s voices. I still want to know why Zachary Quinto is taking umbrage within his own community in the here and now about his perception of how his fellow gay brothers have grown “lazy” with regards to protecting ourselves against HIV/AIDS when we have drugs like PreP out there (he is getting slammed for starting the conversation – I, for one, am THANKFUL that he took the time to pose the question in the first place). I still want to know from my gay brothers what stirs up our shit about things in general. And yes, that information isn’t as hidden as it was back in the day when I was struggling to find affirmation and confirmation that I wasn’t alone. It doesn’t matter – I still want more of my own. I want to know today why Perez Hilton goes off on a fucking tangent and makes an ass out of himself and fails epically, I want to know the struggles of Michael Sam as he tries to elevate us all by simply being and showing us how equal gay male athletes are in the larger sports context.
For me, and I think for a great many within my own community, gay men’s voices will ALWAYS trump another author from outside my community – no matter their intent, no matter the quality of their work, because they simply AREN’T a member of our community. They don’t live it day in and day out. They may write beautifully and profoundly but to my mind, there is still the inherent tick box that says – lovely work but not of our own. It is that nugget of living it that puts it over the edge for me. Not because of the quality of the writing – but that by their very existence they affirm that I am still not alone. I need them. I need them all. Good, bad or indifferent. I need them because together we still have a “community” (such as it is).
Does this mean I think others outside our community shouldn’t write as they do? Absolutely not. I’ve said so time and again even though most of my straight allies took me to task as if that is what I was saying. But in this my absolute truth began to emerge. I began to truly see what kind of writer I am. I’ve begun to define myself as a writer and the audience I am truly seeking. I’ve learned that my road won’t be an easy or profitable one.
I am a writer. Period.
But I write from my own rooted experiences. I write to my sixteen year old self – telling him about what I’ve learned along my varied and roller coaster past. And they are rooted in life, they are my own and my fellow gay brother’s shared experiences. We live them. The situations I put my characters through may be imaginary but they are deeply rooted in my own and my gay male brother’s experiences. Words we’ve shared amongst ourselves. Words that both soothe and harm one another. Love, anguish, hurt, coupled with friendship, camaraderie and bliss filled euphoria (as a sidebar my husband, a brilliant writer himself, rails against my using bliss and euphoria in the same sentence – he said to stop over stating – it’s redundant – I smirk at him and say that in my own way I am railing at convention and want to be over the top emphatic about my blissful euphoria – but this too is why I write). My stories will have strong romantic threads but they are definitely not romance novels. Not in the sense of that particular genre as it stands now. And herein I believe that the genre needs to grow beyond the limitations and restrictions or the genre will wither on the vine and it will grow stale from the same formula cranked out over and over again – merely swapping out vocations and locations to keep things fresh. That can only go on for so long. My men will fall in and out of love. Because that is how we are – but I won’t guarantee a HEA (happily ever after) or even an HFN (happy for now), because it doesn’t work that way in life. This I will not adhere to. That I think is ludicrous in the extreme. In that manner my straight women allies can have at it. It is not for me – but my stories will have strong elements of love and loss. To my way of thinking that makes them infinitely more compelling and powerful if you don’t have a guarantee. End it the way it is supposed to end – not because some prescribed “way it has been done before.” I rail against that too. But then again I come from a community that has had to fight tooth and nail for every inch of acceptance and happiness we can. Where simple expression of affection is ridiculed and denied us. That is a compelling dialog to write from. That is what I will explore and show how we as gay men struggle against that – culled from our own collective pasts.
This is what separates me from the straight women allies in the M/M genre (romantic or otherwise). I am not writing to them at all – and that was an amazing revelation for me. They are not my audience. They can certainly come to the party and I would welcome them with as much humility and humbleness I can muster for their wanting to see what I am all about.
But they are not the focus of my prose.
In that sense, I am a very different writer. I am not writing to become famous, I am not writing to make the all mighty dollar. I am not willing to write to a formula that sells. My stories are what they are. And you can believe that if there are gay characters then those points of view are coming straight from the community of gay men I surround myself with and delve into their pasts, carefully editing out names and distilling the shared experiences for future works. I cull from my own and my gay brother’s lives. So when I put a gay character down – I’ve walked through what makes him tick. I do this for that sixteen year old me and any others out there that are like me. They want that affirmation from another gay man. Because we are gay men.
Men are the object of my desire. Men are the object of my interest. Doesn’t mean I won’t write strong female characters in my stories (I have two very important women in my own immediate family that I must answer to so you bet your ass there will be very few weak women in my tales – I want my girls to know everything they can be as well – I am all about spreading the wealth). But in that, any women characters I create is more from a desire to express what I want my girls to take away from them. Doesn’t mean for one moment that I know what the hell I am writing about them from the inside – I am simply not a member of that community, and I don’t have the gender parts or psyche that make up the foundation for that community. I aspire to do it justice, just the same, but I must embrace that it will never be able to write from that intrinsic truth that comes from within. Are there shared human experiences between the sexes that I can speak to? Certainly. But I have to embrace that I am simply not a woman and being a happy well adjusted gay man – I can definitively say I wouldn’t want to. I am very comfortable in my skin and where it’s been in my life thus far.
But what I am doing is writing to my brothers – love letters of a sort. Words to add to the dialog amongst ourselves. I am putting my words out there in the odd chance that some gay man out there might find it and its contents to be of interest. I’ve come to embrace that it may be in vain. It may never be in demand. It may ultimately come to naught or may rise in popularity after I am long dead and gone. It wouldn’t be the first – EM Forster’s Maurice was only allowed to be published after his death. I am okay with this. I will write either way. Why? Because I am doing it as a matter of posterity. I want my work to be added to the annals of other men in my community, Gay men’s voices. For ourselves, to express what our journeys are to each other. Others external to us may pick them up, others may find them interesting and may even glean an understanding from them from inside the community and what it is like to live within it. This too, is welcomed – but not germane to my craft.
So in a way, I am glad for my critic’s words. They helped me define myself and what I am doing. I wish her nothing but luck with her own journey as well as any other writer out there. The stage is big enough for us all no matter why we do what we do.
What I want out of all of this is to urge my fellow brothers to step up and write about us – we need to define ourselves in a fictional literary sense that are rooted in who we are, as we live it. This is a call to action – to my own community. There are those of my kind out there doing just that. What I want is more of the same. I want to hear what my fellow brothers are experiencing, what their journeys have been thus far. Where have they stumbled, what have they achieved? I am inspired by them – by these men’s voices. They speak to me like no one else can. They enrich me.
Men like Jay Brannan (who I think is one of the most contemplative and imaginative men I have ever had the honor to meet).
Brannan’s work is my go-to. His words give me hope and such determination to aspire to his level of writing. I am enriched to know that as an older gay man, with this young out gay artist our story is in very, very capable hands. He is nothing short of a modern day bard. I have an on-going love affair with his prose. I admire his mind – the truly sexiest part of Brannan’s work. And his voice is like salve to the soul. It’s clarity and beauty is truly astounding. And he was gracious enough to allow me to quote his magnificent work within my own. One gay male artist supporting another. I am deeply humbled by his generosity and creative spirit.
Men like Steve Grand – who has taken his bold take on the mainstream country scene and through his profound presence and sheer will of the struggles of our loves and lives has garnered followers and fans from both within and external to our community. I admire his journey as a whole. It’s brilliant, it’s bright and all encompassing, and I am in awe of it taking off like it has. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him perform live but as a kickstarter supporter of his, I am already part of his conversation, if from a distance. I am still heartened by his journey.
Authors (in addition to EM Forster, John Rechy and Gordon Merrick) like Christopher Rice, TJ Klune, Gore Vidal, Larry Kramer, Felice Picano, Brad Vance, Eric Arvin and the like.
Men like Michael Sam, Jason Collins, and Tom Daley. Men like Dustin Lance Black, Shane Bitney Crone, Zachary Quinto (pictured below), Anderson Cooper, Greg Berlanti, Wentoworth Miller, Matt Zarley, Chris Salvatore, John Barrowman, Ryan Murphy and others – the list goes on. This includes gay men in the porn and sex industry – for many of them are my gay brothers too. Brilliant men who I admire for their minds as much as the work they do because they have productive lives outside of the industry (they are forward thinkers) – men like Colby Keller, Levi Michaels, Antonio Biaggi, Boomer Banks and Rocco Steele (pictured above) – such courageous and brilliant masculinity on display there. Even in this with them, I am inspired. What happens to them is of great interest to me – because it is reflective of my own in one way or another. Men who have to be weary of the world around us. A world where we are slowly seeing a rise in acceptance and tolerance (despite the occasional setback and fucktard conservative voice pushing back). In a real but absurd way, I am okay with the push back. It gives me a treasure trove to plunder for my characters to struggle against. And in that I also rail a bit at my critic’s sentiment above. She laments that we need to stop being so divisive amongst each other. Yet, I can’t help but think that while a lofty goal that may be, I don’t know that we’ll achieve it in what years I have left on this Earth. But again, it’s great fodder to write from certainly. We humans love our drama.
As my good fellow opera singer, Joseph, from my days in Opera once said, “No one wants to come see a happy Opera.” He’s right. Drama springs from life – it both reflects it and informs it. I am a writer of drama. More specifically, gay men’s drama. Might be limiting in scope but with the pathetically few books written by us rooted in our own collective experiences, I’ll stick to that course to add my own to my community’s slowly growing literary library.
I am a gay man who craves the voices of my own. It was that way when I was sixteen, it is that way now. I am thankful for those outside the community who want to write about us. I may even enjoy their work and praise them for what they do (I have done so with my carefully thought out reviews). But ultimately I am inspired and aspire to the men of my own world. I am enriched by their journeys and their experiences. I write to them. I write about them. I am informed by them. This is why I said what I said. I may not have clarified it as well as I should have but that was sort of the point with Jayne’s and my on-going conversation. In a very real way, this slight stumble has helped me define who I am and what kind of writer I am. For that, I can only be grateful.
So my fellow brothers, get out there. Write about us, write about our lives and our struggles, in a literature format. Root it in our lives, as they are or as you’d like them to be. Do it not for profit alone (though it certainly wouldn’t be frowned upon if you did), just do it to ensure our voices are present and accounted for – central to our experiences and our lives. Do it for posterity, do it so our thoughts in this point in time is captured in our own voice. Do it because we need to remind each other – both gently and, at times, purposefully – pressing against our own foibles, follies and prejudices. Teaching and enriching each other to aspire to be better with one another as much as we strive for equality in the greater mainstream community.
So, to my critic I say this – I agree with you up until we talk about my community from within. Then it is my own brother’s voices that hold sway, that have that nugget of truth, that sense of community that only they can speak to because they live it every damned day. It is our world – inherent to us because of the perceptions about us that we have to embolden or deride where they are true or are rooted in prejudice and bigotry. In this they will always hold my interest to a greater extent than any other voice out there. I may not agree with what they have to say but goddamn it, I will be thrilled that they are out there saying it – if anything just because it is still an affirmation that we matter, that our voices matter and should and need to be heard – from us – from the source itself. Only then, through our expression of our lives as they are, no matter the format of expression, will the narrative be central to our collective life’s experiences. I am tired of just sitting on the sidelines. What little years I may have left (I have recently reached my half centennial mark), I choose to be as forceful in presenting our world from our collected experiences as I can.
Others may claim that this is xenophobic in nature. It is not, I can assure you. I am being patriotic within my own community – there is a difference. I do not write against the mainstream heteronormative but rather try to embolden our own collective voices from within and champion them – doing what I can to promote and encourage them to do more and, at the same time, try to raise my voice — though not at the expense of others. And a word to those who would argue against that, they would be exercising the grandest form of bigotry.
If others, outside of our community, want to learn from my journey then great – I welcome them. But I write to my brothers. They are my love letters to them. I may not know them individually, I may not know their journeys or the road they walk in life, but if they stop and bother to tell me, I will always spare a moment to listen. That sixteen year old self is still hungry for their words, their thoughts, their minds. It is a hunger for which I never want satiated. When I take my last breath the only regret I want to have is that I’ll want more but be denied access in what is to come. That is what I will lament and rail against but know that it is for naught. Life just doesn’t work that way. I get that. But I lament the brilliant and colorful lives I will never know – lives to come that will be beyond my mortal reach. So I write from a fictional perspective to create those worlds that would explore what I crave from those voices as yet unheard.
Love letters to my gay brothers. I cherish each and every one of you. I admire your spirit, your courage and your minds. It is a love affair I am all to happy to be a part of. It is a love affair I never want to end.
I know no other way.
Growing up in the Kool-Aid house…
“I’d rather have a crap load of kids over my house because at least I’ll know what my kids are up to…”*
So I got a rather interesting response from yesterdays emotive vomit (I really was all over the place with that). I swear I try to keep it in check but hey, that’s why I called the blog Errata – cause it’s chock full of musings, errors and all, meanderings, and down right what the fuckeries all over the damned place.
It isn’t meant to show off my writing prowess.
It’s more of a series of brain flatulence or random stream of consciousness of whatever strikes me.
So anyway, back to the comment from my last entry – I brought up my wacky crazy family life (not that it necessarily detracts from your ball of whacked that may be your family – just sayin’ I got my own that made me the overall freak fest I can be from time to time).
So I guess there comes a time to acknowledge that.
We were the Kool-Aid house – and if you need a clarification of that pop-culture ref then you probably ain’t gonna get what I’m on about in this blog entry.
When we were young we had all of the kids over to our house from the neighborhood. It wasn’t unusual to have 10 or 12 of us running around getting into all kinds of strangeness. I mean once we held a funeral for a cockroach. Yeah, a cockroach. I mean, who does that?
We did…that’s who. It was more about the spectacle of a Roman Catholic styled funeral and the pageantry of everyone who attended and the morose feelings the assigned mourners had. The matchbox coffin was rather inspired as I recall it – covered in tin foil and carefully crafted marker designs. This roach went out in style!
Then we got bored with it and tossed the damned thing on top of an ant hill and watched those fireworks for the better part of an hour as those ants devoured its carcass.
We also decided one particular summer (I think I was like 11 or 12 at the time) where we all (the kids on our street) had decided enough was enough – we went on chore strike. We outfitted our bikes and wagons with big propaganda signs protesting doing chores (even if we really copped to the fact that our parents were rather generous with our allowances – we were just bored and it was something interesting to do – commiserate with our union brethren, ya know?).
Yeah, we were a bit strange. Goonies didn’t begin to cover it – though I will admit that when that movie came out we totally thought we got ripped off. Only we were far more gooned out than those normal assed kids were. They went Spielberg Hollywood. We were the ones keepin’ it real.
We had the whole homie swagger goin’ on. We were freakishly goonie – but we were cool doin’ it.
So yeah, my being gay – coming out to my parents – eh, not so much of a out of the box thought. Not that I was swishy or anything but my parents just loved us unconditionally and (more importantly) meant it! It was more important for me to be happy with who I was than for whatever hopes they had for me.
I remember my parents saying that – “If you’re happy and your not hurting anyone else or they aren’t hurting you, then I’m good with it.”
Cool, huh? Yeah, my parents rocked.
That’s not to say that everything was a bed of roses… well. it sorta was but, as with those beloved flowers, there were thorns along the way. In fact, some things that tripped us up were buried and germinated back then that now, some forty some odd years later, are only just sprouting and quickly testing the ties that bind us.
One of my sibs is having a tough time. He’s the middle kid with serious middle child issues. They’ve always been there. They’ve always been thorny to deal with. He often masked it with humor – a good sign that there’s an underlying problem.
Robin Williams had his own demons to grapple with. My brother does too. He has a great sense of humor but it had a definite edge to it. Something that now has led to some serious and debilitating outcomes that the family is trying to sort out along with him.
I hope he comes out of his current trauma a stronger person. It’s gonna get a helluva lot darker before he ever sees some light. It’s not a good situation. I find I think about him a lot. We aren’t close (not my doing – he pushed nearly all of us away over the years). I want more than anything to be there for him, but I know I am the last person he would ever want there. It’s just how it has played out. I have had very little part of his life over the last twenty years. I’ve kept in touch through my sister and mother (dad passed 15 years ago) to see what he’s up to as they live in a different city from where I am in the SF Bay Area.
He’s always felt the need to compete with me (though I often said that out doing him was never my goal – I compete with one person in life – ME). I am tough enough on myself, believe me, I don’t even need anyone else to bring it. I do it enough all on my own, little brother.
But it still hurt that he pushed me away. To be completely sidelined to just one email a year if I was lucky. Often even that wouldn’t happen. The message was clear – I wasn’t wanted in his life. Message received.
But I wish nothing but love and hope that he makes it through okay. That he’ll be all right. I don’t want him to go through any pain – but I know he will.
I don’t know if I could’ve done something different. If I could’ve but didn’t then I would wish I could go back and set it right. But I know I can’t and I know it won’t happen. But it doesn’t detract from that singular wish.
Wow, that went down a dark road, didn’t it? I swear sometimes I don’t know where I’ll end up with these things. I start with one thing and the stream just takes me downstream to some end goal.
I didn’t start this out to go dark. I swear – I guess it’s just where my heads at, at this point.
Goes to show ya, it never hurts to spread the love… even if it’s from a distance and over digital bit and bytes.
Love ya, bro.
PS – * The quote in the title came from my dad when he was asked why we had so many damned kids at our house. My dad rocked.
So I know it’s been a while.
Life inserted itself fully. There was work to be done. There was more writing and editing. Honestly, I don’t know what I am doing most of the time. I know what I like and I write to that. It’s a contemplative and fairly lonely existence. It is not something I talk freely about. Not that I am ashamed of what I do. I’m not. Let’s be clear about that.
I think that I needed some distance from my last long winded entry. Turning 50 was much bigger than I wanted it to be. Not in the celebrations or in the thick of the moment – they were all well and good. They are what made me what I am today – a collection of experiences and moments that have molded (for better or worse) into the man I am today.
There’s the hubby, our girls, the two cats – all the hallmarks of domesticity. Yet I burn with other thoughts and ideas. I have men coming up to me (in my mind – head out of the gutter now) who have their stories to tell. They burn with it too. I try to put passion into what I do. Tweaking it here, imbuing it there.
So I heard back from a publisher yesterday (one that I had to ping several times to get ANYTHING from them – something the hubby kept asking “Do you really want to work with a group of people that you constantly have to chase down?”) The hubby has a point. I write fiction that is predominantly gay in nature – it’s what I know. It’s what I am passionate about because in a sea of how we are not like everyone else out there (the heterosexual norm) I think our voices are important enough that I can’t help but write from that perspective.
Anyway, the publisher didn’t get what I was doing. They took a pass on the material. They didn’t get that it was more of a character study than a standard cookie cutter narrative. They’re obviously looking only at the profile margin. I am not there. I never want it to be about the money. The comments back weren’t even that helpful. They were conflicted (rushed and fantastical vs. prose that broke momentum – I mean, what the fuck do you do with absurd commentary like that?). It was very evident that they didn’t even really read the material or try to understand what I was doing. It is not your standard cookie cutter formulaic m/m romantic fair. It was never intended to be that. I know it’s different – THAT’S WHAT I AM TRYING TO DO! Jesus, it was evident to me that publishers don’t have a fucking clue what the market will bear.
I have given the book to people I’ve just met – who don’t know me well enough to know what I am fully about or about what voice I am trying to put out there. In each and every case thus far I have heard how they have emotively connected with my protagonist. How his inner monologue was what pulled them in. They got it. THAT’S the audience I am after. Not some housewife who wants to be swept cursorily away on some cookie cutter adventure for a few hours on some vapid inane storyline that will be instantly forgotten the moment the last page is flipped.
I have two beta readers who have read it and both are not avid readers. Both have said that my characters stayed with them. They loved that they knew so much about them that they wrote back and said that they felt real to them. They both said that this was the first book they’ve gotten through that they actually read like a fiend to finish it. One of which hasn’t read a book in 20 years. But he read through mine like a bullet train with no signs of stopping – almost in one sitting. So there is something there. I can feel it.
Another one is a young man in Britain who I met through a LGBT support site. He’s smart, bright and funny. He’s also hard on himself. My heart goes out to him in so many ways. He embodies my main character (Elliot) in so many ways. He told me that he identified with him and that the voice is very much where his head is at and it rang true for him. He’s in his early twenties (just beyond where my main character is). But the publisher doesn’t consider the market really. They look at statistics, they look at data. And I get it that its supposed to be the business of selling. I get that it’s supposed to be about the bottom line.
My work is epically long for the standard M/M fair. I know it’s not an easy work to market. For god sake you’re inside my main characters head listening to how he processes all of the information that keeps coming his way. And he has issues – it’s what drives the drama forward. But they didn’t get that. I know they didn’t. They just aren’t seeing the work for what it is.
“And it’s only one opinion.” They said. Yeah, it is – and it’s fairly clear that they aren’t invested in finding new talent as they profess to be. They just are struggling to survive selling the same cookie cutter formula (sorry guys/gals I have bought close to 700 books from the genre – as research on what types of stories are out there) and 98.9% of it is pure schlock. It’s absolute rubbish. But they sell what sold yesterday because it’s just GOTTA sell today too. Well, guess what, eventually they will get tired of the same bland Cheerios that you’ve been spoon feeding them. And no, changing the protag from your last best seller from a fireman to a police man doesn’t count as being creative. It’s the same formula. Shake it the FUCK up, will ya? Or the genre will tank.
In short it was a waste of a very long period of time that they could’ve just piped up and owned their fuckedupness in not managing their time well (at one point they actually used deadlines looming as a reason for the delay). They are a small publishing house. If they can’t manage the deadlines they have now and I got added to the mix… see where I am going with that?
So I realized that I’ll either have to keep looking or self-pub it myself. I have author friends who self-pub. It’s not an easy path because the type of stuff I write (while it is deeply rooted in a M/M (sometimes more) relationship slant and thus carries a bit of erotic undercurrent as all relationships do) isn’t mainstream. It isn’t what I think will sell millions and millions of copies.
But is that the type of success I am looking for? I don’t know. I think I’d much rather be successful at putting out something I think is of quality but may fall by and large completely unnoticed by the masses.
I was contemplating all of this when I came upon this little posting on HuffPo Gay Voices on gay men reading 50 Shades of Grey and commenting on it. Gay boys reviewing straight porn/erotica. I thought it was something that would get me to smile a bit. Gay boys have such an aversion to anything lady part wise… so I certainly expected some giggles over that. I got it.
Now here’s the deal – what I didn’t expect was the actual lines from this world-wide bestseller to actually be as badly written as they were. It seemed very amateurish or slightly – awkward when it came to the sex that was portrayed in the book. I am sure that the context helps but the actual inner monologue that they were reading was like some fourteen year old girl was trying to describe a sexual situation.
I was stunned…
See for yourself –
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I like Neil McNeil’s stuff on YouTube. He’s clever and he’s certainly crafty in telling his amusing slices of life (from a gay man’s perspective) and it’s light, it’s funny but there’s also a thread of really bright and innovative moments where he’s pulling back the curtain on how gay men survive in this hetero-normative world we’re immersed in. I think he’s pretty fucking brilliant and I love that he’s unabashedly gay in a big way. I admire his courage and his fortitude to get his stuff out there. He believes in what he does, he’s passionate about it, he doesn’t accept that someone else may not – or rather, he is unfazed by it all.
Then I think about my musical muse for Angels of Mercy (Jay Brannan) and how he doesn’t have a big record company backing him up. He doesn’t have a marketing department or a promotional touring company to do all of his stuff. It’s just him cranking out what he does because he’s passionate about it. And his passion is infectious. It permeates wherever he is.
I need to take a page out these men’s book. They strive forward. They press when the world presses back. So I will continue to develop Angels because I believe in what I am doing. I believe in the nature of the work. I take heart that the people who have read it want to read more (it ends on a cliff hanger – which by the way I was told by a publisher that series of that nature are not really what’s selling). Yeah, that’s why sequels in film and serialized television doesn’t work. That’s why the Potter series languished in obscurity.
Elliot and Marco will see the light. Even if I have to figure it all out on my own. I may not command a huge audience from it all, but in the end they will be unabashedly mine. They will be my boys/men – telling their own stories. Why? Because they come to me in dreams – both waking and in sleep. They have things to say. They have surprises even for me.
The hubby commented that Thomas Wolfe (who wrote the hubby’s favorite book – Look Homeward Angel amongst other things) that he had to shop his masterpiece around and really didn’t understand what he wrote in its entirety until he sat down with the editor who he would continue to work with during his writing career and they discovered the absolute breadth of what he’d assembled. Even he didn’t know what was in there. He just struck a creative vein and went with it.
That’s what Elliot and Marco are to me. Life’s blood in writing. They feed me in ways I had never imagined. I have to finish their tale; I have no choice.
Will it ultimately find an audience (of any kind)? I don’t know. I may never know (hell, I’m 50 – it could take several years or decades before it finds people who get me and what I am on about). I may get recognized long after I’ve expired from this world. I may never see the success. Or it could languish for all time. But ultimately, does it matter?
I need to tell their story no matter what. That’s what matters. It’s the only thing that matters.
Elliot is a sea of conflicting emotions. He’s an out gay kid who is shy and sticks to the shadows to survive the hell that is high school. It isn’t until the brightest light from that hellish world sees him and says – you’re mine – that he has to deal what a life in the light means. It isn’t easy for him – for them both.
But then again, isn’t the work we have to strive for it worth it? Doesn’t it make the attaining and the having all the more sweeter because of it?
So I’ll press on – navigating waters I am not sure I know how to do. But I’ll press forward and figure it out. I have a brain, I have friends and family for support. What more do I need to make a go of it?
Not a damned thing…