50 Shades of Gay

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.

*sigh*

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…

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