Blog Tour – Shane Allison – Men on the Make Book Release
Described by editorial reviewer Amos Lassen as, “Tales that are a reflection of the way we as gay men live today. Some of these stories are so hot that I must say that they do not reflect all gay men but might indeed reflect their dreams,” you know you’re in for one helluva rompfest of a book.
On today’s blog post, I had a moment to discuss with Shane Allison his points of view in how the book came together, the views he has on the work itself as well as a broader look at Gay Literature as a whole.
SA Collins (SC): So Gay Sex Confessions. What was the impetus for the book?
Shane Allison (SA): I have always had an interest in gay erotica, and when something centers on being confessional, that’s even more fascinating. Cleis had done some lesbian true confession books I think, but never anything queer, so I wanted to visit that theme.
SC: Was it something you saw lacking in the gay literature arena that needed addressing or was it more of a lark?
SA: I wouldn’t say lacking, just not enough of true gay confession writing. It was a hard book to do because there weren’t too many I guess that had anything to confess, or wanted to confess. There definitely needs to be more books like Men on the Make for sure.
SC: Given the topic, how did you go about sourcing the material? Was it a general call via social media or did you ping gay men in your own social network to contribute?
SA: A general call pretty much. I hoped that there would be those out there that were willing to share their real life sexual experiences with me.
SC: Do you feel there is more to explore with this type of ‘confessional’ scenario with men like us?
SA: Yes, always. Every confession holds something new and exciting. I keep a journal of my sexual experiences, and there’s always something new and great to write about.
SC: Overall, how do you see our voice out there in literature? By and large, my impression is that, like mainstream media, we are woefully underrepresented. Do you feel this is the case? If not, why not?
SA: Good question. I like the idea of new LGBT writers expressing themselves in whatever medium they choose. There are many, many stories that have yet to be told. I feel that we are more represented now than we were a century ago. We have come far by leaps and bounds, and we still continue to make strides. I don’t want the LGBT community to be defined as one dimensional, that we all want to march down aisles in wedding dresses and tuxedos. We are so much more than that.
SC: How do you feel about the M/M romance genre or gay fiction? What is your perspective on why there is such a prevalence of women writing (in the majority) to other women rather than to us?
SA: I don’t mind M/M romance as long as it’s good writing. I prefer mine with a bit of sex mixed in. I don’t really like the term romance because it’s associated with bad writing and watered down work you find in books sold in supermarkets. I get a lot of gay erotica written by women, most of it not so good. I believe there’s this idea that erotica is easy to write, but it’s not as easy as some might think. I get material that comes off very generic and over the top like I wouldn’t know the difference between that and mind-blowing work.
SC: How do you feel we, as gay authors, work to get our words, our voices into the hands of gay men? Do you see it as a systemic issue or more of a cultural or age related issue?
SA: I use to wonder with the state of LGBT bookstores, if we really get out and support the stores. Not just buying books by your favorite authors, but going to readings. That support is so important. With bookstores closing around the country, we have to get the book in the reader’s hand. Whether it’s doing interviews like this, using social media as a tool to get the word out, and doing reading and tours. You have to let them know who you are and what you’re doing. You can’t depend on the publishers and bookstores to do everything. This is especially important in the gay community. Just when I think no one is reading, I get emails from people telling me how much they like what I’m doing.
SC: Given the nature of the work, sexual confessions, what are your influences from a literary standpoint and how do you feel they helped in putting this work together? Or do you see them as separate from the fictional writings you’ve done?
SA: Well, fiction and non-fiction are close siblings for sure. There’s usually a little non-fiction in my fiction, a story loosely based from a true life experience. The Straight to Hell Magazine was a big influence on me. Billy Miller runs it now. That magazine gave me the idea for Men on the Make.
SC: How much of it is, in fact, real – by that I mean, do the men who have contributed to this work, actually say this happened to them or is it more of a coloring of how we as gay men experience our world? It is a metaphor or an amalgam of our experiences? A broad stroke, if you will?
SA: All of the work are from real life experiences.
SC: Did you find the editing process difficult or easy with this particular piece?
SA: It was easy pretty much. I did have a few questions about some of the stories, but all in all, I think this is a great anthology.
SC: What was your experience like in coming to terms with your own sexuality? Do you believe it influences your work or is your work more illusionary? By that I mean, are you writing from a core set of experiences that you have personally gone through or do you like to dabble in the ‘what if’ of life? A combination of both?
SA: A combination of both really. The true confession work comes to me easier. I’m one of those writers who likes to write about mostly everything that happens to me.
SC: So many who write with an erotic edge to their work do so with a fair degree of anonymity, under a pseudonym. I know I use a nom de plume becuase my name is rather boring and doesn’t quite standout. So I chose to write using a variant of the first character I ever fleshed out – sort of honoring my first creation. Do others in your personal life know about the type of writings you do or are you writing in the closet, as it were?
SA: I use my real name, so folks know. My friends know what I write and edit and they are cool with it. I don’t really go for pen names. I understand it with some people, but I’ve been writing material with sex in it for years and decided long ago that if I was going to be out about it, I needed to be proud of what I do and I am.
SC: Who was the greatest literary influence in your life, and why do you think they made such a great impression?
SA: I started out writing poetry, so poets like Langston Hughes. Later, in my twenties I discovered Allen Ginsberg’s work. His sexual poems and poems he wrote about friends is great stuff. I love his poem, “Please Master.” That one is my favorite poem by him. I had lots of influences. Madonna, poetry, dirty magazines and my own imagination mostly. Whether it’s writing sex or getting in front of a camera, you have to decide to be balls out. You can’t be timid.
SC: What’s next in the pipeline for you – what tickles your literary fancy from an author’s standpoint?
SA: My debut novel, You’re the One That I Want will be out in 2016, so I’m psyched about that for sure. I have all sorts of ideas.
SC: What inspires you? What makes you stop and ‘smell the roses’ in life?
SA: Anything positive inspires me. Other people pursuing their dreams makes me get off my ass to make my own dreams come true.
SC: Anything else you’d like to add?
SA: I know there are folks who want to write in this genre, and the best advice I would give would be to read as much of the stuff as you can get your hands on, the good stuff mind you like the wonderful books Cleis Press does. Read and write everyday. Even if you think it sucks, keep moving forward with it. Don’t think about it too much. It’s more important to get the overall idea out there.
I want to thank Shane Allison for taking a few moments to discuss his current release (out now – see links below) and wish him nothing but success on his new venture. I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for his novel when it drops in 2016.
From Cleis Press –
Want to Hear a Secret?
Nothing is better than a juicy secret, especially one involving what goes on behind closed doors! Men on the Make: True Gay Sex Confessions features the absolute hottest and most unexpected sex: in public, with strangers, threesomes, foursomes and moresomes. What makes these stories collected by award-winning editor Shane Allison even sexier is that they are real-life encounters and reflect gay life today in all its cultural diversity.
About the Editor –
Shane Allison has been published in countless literary journals and publications, such as McSweeney’s, Velvet Mafia, Mississippi Review, New Delta Review, and Outsider Ink. The editor of Rookies, Cruising, and College Boys, his stories have also appeared in anthologies such as Beach Bums, Best Gay Erotica 2014, and The Big Book of Orgasms. He lives in Tallahassee, FL.
My Review –
I think the thing about Men on the Make that I liked was the variety not only in the sex but the way each man relayed the telling. It’s a tapestry of maleness and rutting that is so strong you can literally smell it coming with each turn of the page. Whether Rosen’s Castro ‘forbidden fruit’ boss man, a torrid romp with Daddybear or a bisexual fuckfest in the French Quarter during the height of Mardi Gras, this book pulls no punches, safe sex or otherwise, in how we, as gay men, are varied in our sexual appetites or adventures.
The book flirts with men moving out of their comfort zone all for the thrill of a busting a nut in a public place, or in a seedy apartment. Sometimes love is in the mix, other times, not. It’s a cornucopia of semen laden and male musk filled orgasmic tales. Or I guess you could argue, tails. Some are better told than others, some with more stylized method of evoking that raw sensuality and male musk that seeps from the page. As with most compilations it has its high points and thankfully, very few that don’t quite make that high mark. It’s a more even work than I expected. In that I was thoroughly pleased with the effort.
This is by no means a romantic influenced compendium of male experiences. This is out and out rutting and sexual gratification. Tales of the need to seed. The darker and seedier side of (gay) male sexuality. That’s not to say that there isn’t some more subtle flavors like angst, confusion, desire percolating at the edges of these men’s confessions that heighten the emotive quality of the tales. There most definitely are. I agree with Allison when he says that there needs to be more work of this nature out there. That’s true. I think our voices, no matter the expression of them, needs to be heard. As with our heterosexist opposites who have no problem bathing us with their hetero-normative sexually laden world in the media, there does need to be more of who we are as gay men. Bold and honest work. Men on the Make is an attempt to close the gap on this. I think gay men, while we often experience so much of our lives in varied and unusual ways – sometimes throwing caution to the wind just for a good fuck, we aren’t always so quick to share those experiences. It’s something that Shane laments a bit in compiling the work. I think society has taught us to be a bit reserved with the sharing of this aspect of our lives. Men on the Make is a strong contender to balance that underrepresentation of our sexual lives.
Where you can get a copy –
Men on the Make
True Gay Sex Confessions
Edited by Shane Allison
$15.95, Trade Paper
216 pages, 5 ½” x 8”
Publishing on September 6, 2014
From Amazon US
From Cleis Press
[NSFW] Men of Courage – Men of Colors
Dealing with the internal emotive pain we men bear.
So my Human Sexuality class at school kicked me squarely in the rubber parts. I sorta love it when that happens. Not cause it causes emotive pain on my part – I am just not into S/M (not that there’s anything wrong with it – I get the whole endorphin release shit that comes out of the pleasure/pain dichotomy).
So a couple of blog posts ago I entered a small section regarding the (young) men in that class that went a little bit like this…
… the young men tried to project that they were über cool with it. They had it down. They were bonafied stud material.
Some of those young men walked in with no small degree of swagger – all tatted up and seemingly confident in their skins. Their body language professing their assumed comfortability with the topic and their prowess in the bedroom (or whatever room is at hand).
Yeah, normally I am trying really hard in a new situation to be a bit more open minded and accommodating as everyone in a new class room scenario gets acquainted. It’s how I was brought up. Be warm and welcoming as you can be or as comfortable as they’ll let you. No need to be pushy about it. right? I mean, we’re all going to be spending quite a bit of time talking about (whisper mode):
And for me, of course, that meant I was focusing on the man on man S-E-X.
Not so for most of the guys in that class. But here’s the rub: I got a little surprise from a guy in class – all tatted up with full sleeves and across the torso, up the neck to his jawline – complete leg ink work too. I didn’t think there was much of him that wasn’t covered in color. From his walk and demeanor he looked like he’d seen and experienced a helluva lot for his young years. He was decidedly young – except for the eyes. His eyes were weary already with a hard life. My heart sort of went out to him without realizing it.
He was the one I had commented before leading the straight male brigade in the classroom. A guy he buddied up with sat one aisle over from him in the next seat and they already started to form a bond. I always like watching two guys do that. Men can do this rather easily. We have to. That brotherhood thing is really something fierce. If we can find common ground and it clicks – it’s pretty fucking intense. I’ve written about this before, and there’s plenty scientific evidence to support this trait amongst males in general.
A part of me felt excluded but I came to realize I was the one doing the excluding. That became apparent when the professor broke us up into smaller groups and the two guys turned to me and asked if I wanted to be in their group. We gathered two other men and a single woman into our little discussion group.
While I won’t go into the details of what was revealed (because we had an agreement in class that we wouldn’t) what I will say is that these young people truly astounded me with their candor. I’d like to think I engendered some of that as I made it clear about my family life and how my parents raised me that whatever topic was at hand at the dinner table – we talked about it. No subject too sacred. I think these guys got that. They liked the camaraderie.
But here’s the rub, here’s where my tatted new found friend (at least I’d like him to be for the duration of the class) kicked me square in the teeth (mentally, that is). In the course of our conversation he relayed how he discovered what sex was about, the abrupt way it was foisted on him at a very young age. The neglect and abandonment he clearly felt to be thrown into that heady adult world well before his teen aged years and mind could wrap his head around it. As if that weren’t enough to lay bare what he’d gone through in those very early years, he expressed how something traumatic had happened to him that relates to the course work (something we’ll study later on) and how his mother, rather than being supportive at a time when her son probably desperately needed it – she laughed at him.
Fuck. Me. Running…
I couldn’t imagine that sort of response to a child (even if by this time he was 13). For fuck sake he’s still struggling at that age to sort shit out – laughing is not going to give him what he needs to feel like he’s safe to sort it out. The pain from that moment was evident in his eyes.
Gone was the impression I had of cockiness and swagger. I mean he could definitely put that essence out there. He had it in spades, but for that one moment, he laid it bare. The pain clearly there. Fuck me, that was courage, that was. I knew he’d done some time, even before he said it. I can usually tell those things. Incarceration does something to men that hardens them in a way that only serves to point out how fucked up our “rehabilitation” system is and how epically we’ve failed as a society to see to our own.
Yes, there are some truly bad seeds out there – chemically imbalanced from some sort of birth defect. But those are very, very rare. I think that a great deal of the men (and women) who have had to deal with that harsh aspect of life were put there by forces that were much bigger than themselves, and they were just trying to get along as best they knew how, and with what little support they had to do so.
But here, this young man, reset my every impression about him in those few brief moments. And in that he rose. He said everything very quietly, very intently, with focus. Laser like focus. He said he had a little boy on his way. He and his girlfriend (or wife – we never did clarify) were expecting. Those bright eyes focused and darkened a bit, and he said very pointedly that he was going to make sure he did right by his boy and that he’d never feel that way or that he would ensure that the boy would grow up know how to treat women right. Not make the mistakes that he himself had made (and clearly regretted).
Powerful. Potent. A part of me was humbled by his journey.
And let’s be clear – While I don’t have a single tattoo on my body, I admire those who do. These men of words and images. They fascinate me in ways that I can’t begin to describe. And it’s not the whole bad boy thing that used to accompany it. No, it’s more that they have the courage and fortitude to emblazon their thoughts and desires that are so deeply felt onto the fabric of their skin. They are emotively expressing what it means to be male in their lives with the single canvas they’ve been naturally gifted with – themselves. That’s bang on brilliant in my book. It’s not about the pain they endured to get inked up as much as my classmate did. It was that there was care or thought behind what they expressed and had etched into themselves. It’s a very beautiful thing.
I’ve had it far easier than he. Sure I had trials and tribulations to deal with on my own path to bring me to that moment in that class, but nothing quite like the path that this young man had endured.
I am gonna write about a character like that at some point. It might be skewed to fit into the worlds I write, but he impressed me greatly. His courage and fortitude to rise above what life had handed him, this man of colors, emblazoned on his skin, was awesome. And it was decidedly male. As a writer, nothing is headier than that to me.
In addition to this whole thing, my teacher has asked for assistance from a technical sort of level, and given that is my area of expertise, I offered to assist. Hey, I got out of an exam for my troubles – so what the hell, right?
One problem, the survey is a series of open ended questions on sexual experiences. Now, given that most scientific oriented surveys are stipulated and built upon common answer questions (Gender: M/F – that sort of thing), this one seems to present a problem that could skew (at best) the results or (at worst) be nearly impossible to draw any real tangible evidence with which to adequately report. So yeah, while I think the idea of gathering other’s experiences is rather a treasure trove of ideas to mine from, obviously I will keep my eye to the task and our original agreement of non-disclosure of specifics.
But all of this got me to thinking about sex – and in particular – sex of the M/M variety.
In my stories, the men have already moved past the am I gay or not. That quest, while each journey can be rather interesting doesn’t always inspire me to write. I’d much rather come from the standpoint of – They’re together (already) – so then what happens?
Of course there’s gonna have to be forces that conspire to draw them apart. We humans love our drama (even when it devolves into melodrama) – no one comes to a happy Opera, right? What would be the point? We respond to strife. We respond to rising above adversity.
And part of me is just tired of all the straight pairings going on. I want a much more queer world. Jeezus, I’d like it to be come so common place that the social construct would just become inured to it like most straight couplings. See people for being people rather than the sex they’re having, ya know, sex with.
But sadly, my new friend in class is not the only one to bear pain. Despite how much we’ve progressed – we still have instances like this:
[NOTE: This video exhibits extreme violence against a gay person by HIS PARENTS – it is as horrid as it is reprehensible. BE WARNED!]
A gofundme.com fund has been set up to support this unfortunate young man (Daniel) and he has responded to those generous and caring people. If it truly takes a village to raise a child, then this village rose up and met that challenge. Daniel’s response to what has happened to him from the greater global community follows the horrific exchange between him and his parents:
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Please give what you can to this young man as he is truly alone at this point from what I can tell. Let him know that there are others in this world who will embrace him and give him the respect and love he deserves.
We must truly stamp out this abhorrent and reprehensible form of parenting and child rearing. If the village must rise to meet the challenge, then rise we must. I truly hope that Daniel (and so many others like him) find a helping hand in this world.
It is what has been burning within me – what has been pressing at my insides to help people like Daniel who are forced out of the only home they’ve known.
I truly want to find a way to contribute to that cause on a very personal level. I just feel this desire to let them know – I see you, I feel for you and I want to help.
While Daniel might be coming out of the worst part of his life over this, it won’t be the last time we hear of such a story.
It’s those poor souls I am terrified for. Those poor kids who don’t deserve what’s coming. It’s to them that I think about often.
I know it may sound cliche, that it might even sound trite, but if I won the lottery, I know I’d put a good chunk of it aside to do something about this. I’d want my legacy to be that I rose up and provided a path for others as unfortunate as Daniel.
For their sake, I’d like to think I’m up for the challenge.
Until next time…
Angels Hiding in Darkness…
Random thoughts as I write volume 2 of my Angels of Mercy series. Establishing my angelic boys in the world I’ve built for them. Pondering what it means and why these things and man on man sex matter as I continue this journey.
I know my journey is different from other authors. I know that many won’t get what I am on about. But you see, I have this need to write from somewhere deep in my gut – yeah, not so different from any other author, right? So what’s the diff?
Simple: My success at it has very little to do with it’s marketability. If it succeeds on that front, all the better. But it is NEVER going to be a requirement. My stuff may never sell. So not the point for me.
I write because these are stories I want to write. These are stories that matter deeply to me – they are my worlds, they are my characters and they are unapologetically who they are. Again, I get that many authors take this stand.
But my boys are a hot mess – and I have little interest in holding to the m/m romance genre as it stands currently. And they are a product of this internet rife with porn age. They are products of the social media world where a sixteen year old boy can have more followers on Twitter than Justin Bieber (and there is such a boy). Internet celebrity, while I rail against celebrity for celebrities sake, is fascinating to me. Surely they are filling a void that the regular media channels don’t fulfill.
So my boys have to deal with that.
Most of the M/M genre doesn’t play with that. Most of them write using formulas and stoic writing narratives that unless the writing is uber crisp and engaging I just yawn and take a pass. The implied rules are that whatever theme is prevalent in the genre is what everyone is writing about. Shape shifters, vampires, etc. They’re all in the mix because it’s simply not enough to write about young men who are coming out their confusing teen years and find the wherewithal to establish themselves as confident in their sexuality. To embrace it whole heartedly. To even revel in the messiness that boys often get into and not bat an eye whilst doing it.
It comes down to this for me. I want to give back. When I was sixteen I found my way into a Walden’s Bookstore (remember them?). Or sometimes it was a B. Dalton – another one that has long since bit the dust. Anyway, there I was – fully cognizant that I was a gay boy struggling to figure out not only how I was going to work my way into the big gay world I just knew was out there, but I was in desperate need of a primer. I needed a gay daddy figure to show me the ropes.
Head out of the gutter now, we’re not discussing BDSM (though I have no judgments for those that do partake of that scene – even I can see the sexiness in it). No, what I am talking about was some real honest man on man instruction guide on how things were going to go for me. What was out there.
So yeah, there I was at 16 and knowing what I was but having not a single clue about how to go about it. The upshot? I could drive and I had a part-tine job which meant money in my pocket.
Then something magical and mysterious happened: I found a book.
City of Night by John Rechy.
This book gave me exactly what a 16 year old (hormonally charged) gay boy wanted. I wanted a primer on what was out there. I mean, I loved my parents and they were great. Never once did I ever feel like my home life was ever in question. I had the unconditional love – that part was secure. Just not a road map of where I could go with the whole thing. Remember, this was way before the internet and online porn sites aplenty that permeate every corner of our media and information laden lives.
But back then – this was all I had. It was gritty, it was dark and deeply hormonal. It spoke about the emotions and urges I was going through that I couldn’t talk to anyone about. I mean, it’s one thing if your a straight boy and wanna talk about boning some chick you think is hot. Imagine having that exact same conversation and your buddy tells you he thinks he could so get into boning Susie Whats-her-name and looks to you and all you have to say is, “Yeah? I’d so rather be popping one up your ass or down your throat, but hey, that’s just me.”
So wouldn’t go over very well, no matter how much hotness cred you were trying to give your best bud that you thought his ass and cock you spotted in gym had your blood boiling.
So yeah, I only had John Rechy in my court. But what an ally. His world was gritty, it was emotively volatile, it was gripping from the very first page. I drank it in like a parched man to a river. Then I found the other two books of his that would also color my young gay life: Numbers and The Sexual Outlaw.
This was at a time when promiscuity wasn’t the most prudent course. HIV and AIDS were just making themselves known – well, I say known but no one really knew what that meant. Without a doubt, those books changed my life. Without a doubt, those books saved my life. That was when I learned unequivocally the power of writing and the written word.
In the course of writing this blog entry my mother called to give me an update about the state of my brother’s current drama. I’ve blogged about it before so I won’t go into the details at this juncture again. What I will say is that, and you’d have to know my mother and me, we ramble quite a bit over the course of our conversations. We’ve always been this way. Somehow, in the middle of hearing about my brother’s woes, we ambled over to when it was like for me growing up and figuring things out in my life. Trying to sort out why I write the things I write.
Why M/M erotica? Well, in reality, I don’t really look at it from that standpoint. Sex and men are hard to separate. We think about it constantly. It’s just built into us. To varying degrees I’ll grant you – as it is with all facets of life. But the urge is still the same. Men feel the need, the burning need to do what we’re built to do. It’s why porn has the industry it does. I am sure some women enjoy it but they are far outweighed by their male counterparts – I don’t believe anyone would seriously challenge me on that.
We have porn because of that sexual drive that ekes into every corner of who we are as men. I see it every day. The furtive glances from the guys I work with when one of the cuter girls happen by. Married or not, their eyes rove. I know my sex – and sex is what’s going on in those looks.
I have a buddy who is happily married to a man he loves whole heartedly. They love each other, they complete each other. It’s a very beautiful thing. They also have an open sexual relationship and actually find joy in sharing other men in their lives. They are honest and open about it and work at it as adults should who are confident enough in who they are to know that they will be there for each other no matter what. They’ve been together for ten years now and they act around each other as if they had just started dating.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch the two of them. Embracing each other and yet knowing that the way to do that – and to remain true to how they are that they were open enough to clear the air about how their lives were going to be with regards to love and sex. I admire them. I am sure it’s not always easy. But the love they have for one another is palpable.
They’re two rough and tumble boys that have matured into sexy as hell men. And they embrace who they are.
So anyway, back to my writing. It was important for me to write from that perspective. I want to write books I wanted desperately to read when I was young.
It isn’t enough that it’s just about the romantic feelings. As a young man (teenager) sex was important to me even though I hadn’t had any at that point. To deny young gay boys the gratification that what goes where and why, and to let them know that those ‘nasty thoughts’ (which by the way are NOT nasty at all… they’re human, folks… I am so over the fucking moon pissed off about how we infantilize young men). I am not postalizing pedophilia in any way – let’s be clear about that. But if a boy (say around the age I was) wanted to become sexually active and the opportunity presented itself with another boy at the same school? Well, personally, if everyone involved was safe and sane about it, no coercion involved, then I’d be down for it. Boys feel those urges when puberty hits. While I understand they may not have the emotional maturity to handle it, sometimes, especially with regards to young gay boys, experimentation is probably the only recourse for them if it presented itself.
It’s why I grouse when YA novels never seem to cover this subject adequately. These boys are having sex – if the internet is to be believed, some of them are having enormous amounts of sex and what’s more they are posting it online. To think that we can’t put down what really goes down in a teen sexual situation is just plain ludicrous. The shit is going to happen if it’s going to happen and writing about it or reading about it will not promote it.
What it will do, in my opinion, is tell these boys who don’t have the means that they are not alone, that there is someone out there who feels just like they do. Someone out there may find Elliot Donahey (my protagonist in Angels of Mercy Volume 1) and how he processes having not only a boyfriend for the first time in his life, but the jock stud that every girl is after might give them hope that their dreams of an Ever After Happily is in the cards for them.
Rechy’s work allowed me to vicariously live through those tumultuous times of the 80’s and 90’s when HIV was nothing short of a death sentence. Sure I experimented myself. My first boyfriend and I evolved to having an open-ish relationship. In the end it wasn’t even a consideration of why we parted company – that was something else altogether. The openness in the sex wasn’t an issue at all. So I get my buddy and his hubby. I really do. I fully support them and how they’ve defined it for themselves.
Those are the stories I want to write.
Those are the characters and the sexual scenarios I want to put out there because they are born of experiences either I went through or friends of mine did.
Those are the books that have to be out there somehow. Because those were the books I would’ve wanted to read. Stories that are emotively and sexually charged – pulling no punches in either department. The emotive moments were equally important, but the words that had the power to stimulate my erotic mind and allowed me to vicariously live through the sensations that the character goes through when he’s fucking or being fucked. The draw they have to cum (and I deliberately use that spelling because for me it is inherently crass and male (not that all males are crass – but we have it within ourselves to be so)). The desire they have to seed and for it to be a big hot mess. Cum play is just one element I explore with these boys. Again, this was drawn from personal history and my own explorations.
These are the stories I would want to read. They are honest in scope and in expression of thought. Elliot is all over the map – thoughts and emotions roil around like a tumultuous ocean. He wavers, he is adamant, he hides and he comes out swinging. Gay boys have to. We bob and weave our entire lives. We live in a world, that while it grows with increasing acceptance and tolerance, where we are constantly reminded that we are not the same. We are not in a relationship that can honestly and without fanfare be expressed in the course of a TV show or movie that still doesn’t cause a stir.
Every time I see two straights going at it in a series or TV I am so over it. And before any detractors flip lid over that position, think about it for a moment – It literally soaks every form of media around us.
Swimming upstream, remember?
Yeah, well, this pink gayboy salmon is gonna start taking nips out of those that swim downstream. I don’t have to buy into that hetero-normative play in life. It’s secure enough in the human condition that it doesn’t require my support or proliferation.
My worlds will be gay oriented because that is my real existence. Straight people will cross into those worlds because that is how the world works. I get that. I would be ape-shit cray-cray not to include it. But it will sooooo not be the focus of my work. There are more than enough on the printed/digital page to read about that.
That’s probably why my gay boy hero in the story comes from the Jock quarter. I wanted a story for one goddamn time to be that the jock is rock solid in who he wants and won’t take no for an answer. Marco Sforza is dead set on Elliot as the only one for him. Their world would seem letter perfect. The first book begins to bear that out.
But as with all drama, these boys don’t have an easy path to their Ever After Happily. Forces conspire to separate them. The boys have their allies. There is definitely a Team Sforza-Donahey. They aren’t alone, even if at times they feel like they are. But that’s how heady love is. That’s how it goes sometimes. While you may know deep down inside that you’ve found your one and only, others in your world may not be so comfortable with that.
My villain is also über sexy in that straight hetero-normative way. He’s a womanizer, he tosses the girls he bangs like used Kleenex to the ground. I think the phrase I use is: “Still smelling from the last pussy he banged.” Yeah, that’s Beau Hopkins. Tall, dark, handsome as all fuck but with a heart as black as pitch that pumps the sludge of tar. And he absolutely hates faggoty boys like my Elliot. He is the quintessential preacher’s son.
I ended volume one on a helluva cliff hanger. My beta-readers were all up in arms about that. They wanted to know WHAT HAPPENED NEXT. So I guess I got something here. We’ll see.
As for me, if I like it, if I feel proud of the effort and am not embarrassed by it at all, then I am good with it. It’s a success on that all by itself.
My Angels may be in the dark, hidden, remote for beta-readers eyes now. But not for long. Book one is in the can – still polishing it here and there. But I am also sourcing my ISBN’s and galley art with a cover artist. Then I’ll explore the marketing facet and promotions venues. I’ve even sorted that it will also be offered on my website directly. I am willing to invest in my own work enough to do the whole she-bang. I am down with it all.
It may come to nothing, but if my readers thus far are spot on with their assessments and their desire to know what happens next, then maybe, just maybe I’ll get it there.
Maybe my boys will be heard – they will walk out from the darkness.
It might be a nice thing after all, if my Angels got to see the light…
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…
31 Days of Brannan – Day 24
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Today’s Playlist – Relax your neck (and breathe through your nose)
I’ve always wanted to play this video. I am a big Margaret Cho fan. So the idea of Brannan and Cho whooping it up together – no matter what they did, I just knew I’d be entertained, was beyond anything I could’ve hoped for.
Seriously, it’d be the same thing if it was him and Sandra Bernhard – Now there’s a conversation I’d like to be a fly on the wall for…
Anywho… so Cho and Brannan. Or how about Cho and Jay? Yeah, they could be Jay-Cho (sorta riffing on J-Lo) – no? Just me? Okay.
But doesn’t that just sound like the ultimate gay chat show moniker?
Groan every early morning with Jay-Cho!
But just think of the solid life advice that would just pour forth from these two? It’d be a cult I’d be happy to join, I can tell you what.
Anyway – some sound solid cock sucking advice here and who doesn’t need that in life? I mean, we’ve all done it…
This is advice you can actually do something with. Nothing like those vapid infomercials on TV. This shit would actually help a brother get ahead in life. Oh, brother, do I need to stop here.
The Always, Then & Now Tour…
Please check out his site with links for his upcoming shows. I am definitely a late comer to the Brannan bandwagon whenever he pulls through my city. But now that I am going this year, I am making it a goal never to miss when he swings through town. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity as well. Also be sure to check out his web store at the following link.