Errata from the Cliff – what a view it is!
So I’ve been contemplating cliff hangers lately. Probably because my first book ends on a major cliff hanger. I’ve heard (via anyone who has an opinion on the topic) opposing opinions on this. Some lobbying for just putting it (my book- Angels of Mercy) out there. My fear: that I’ve asked readers to invest in my character (the main character that the book is dependent on his POV) only to have something happen that threatens the investment that my readers will have put in at that point.
But then I think about authors who have written their first novel of a series and it ends in an unresolved or even a cliff hanger state and their readers came back for book two. I mean, they had to start somewhere, right?
Take Rowling, for example. Sure, Harry’s story is hardly a real cliff hanger series (well, except maybe for the last two books which sort of were real cliff hangers because he Muggle/Wizarding world was upended on both sides so yeah, those last two could be argued were cliff hangers). By that I mean that the books all had a serious situation to deal with that the characters had to cope with and resolve. And each book ended with Harry being returned to the safety of his uncle and aunt’s home in Little Whinging. He was relatively safe for another summer, THEN all hell would break loose, so to speak.
So yeah, HP is not a perfect example in my pursuit of how I should handle my series (Angels of Mercy) because my story (my first novel published anywhere) ends on a d00zy of a cliff hanger. I was a little concerned that I might piss off my new readership and since it was my first story, I might not get them to come back again. Part of me hopes they will. I’ve been told by my beta readers that they would read the second book without a doubt. So I know I have something. But again, I am untested by the masses out there. Betas are fine but they aren’t the whole enchilada and I’d be remiss in my due diligence in sorting this out if I didn’t cop to that. So yeah, while I like what they’re telling me about how solid my writing is, and how engaging my characters are, there is the potential that there will be others out there that won’t like the whole leaving you on the edge of a cliff with nary a hope in sight (it ends REALLY dark).
I had lunch with one of my beta readers and he made a comment to me – why not pose a teaser at the end? An interesting prospect. The second book is told by the boyfriend of my main character in book one. That’s sort of the point in this series: the entire tale is told from three boys perspectives. Book one is Elliot, book two is his boyfriend Marco’s turn, then the last by Marco’s brother, Pietro. Each boy retells the same sequence of events only advancing the timeline further down the road towards the final resolution. It’s a very thought out process to put each of these boys in play to tell this big tale of a love between two boys and the foibles that they encounter (both trivial and fatalistic in nature) to get to their Ever After, Happily.
This isn’t something new that I’ve been toying with in the back of my mind. And okay, I guess I’m good with if it doesn’t sell out the door right away. A really great post from a self-pub expert out there (thebookdesigner.com) explains how I need to keep working at expanding my social media reach but also accept that if my book is well written, well executed and well edited, it should find its audience. It may not be this year, or next, but during that time that it might languish in relative obscurity I need to press forward with everything that I can to put my name out there – only by marketing ME can I hope to garner interest in my work. Also, I needed to sort out why I have a site at all. I need to take a look at what am I offering readers by coming to my site.
Thus, I’ve sort of turned a new leaf. I am honing in on not only why I am writing my novels but why I associate with other authors and readers. I am going to try and bring something else to my readers. I don’t know how I am going to do it, but I know that my success as a writer sort of depends upon it. I want to discuss with other writers in my genre their craft, their approach, their point of view on why they write what they write and most importantly, why do they feel so drawn to do so. I know there’ll be the usual – well, because I can’t think of any other way to be. I am a writer – plain and simple. Somehow, if I do my job correctly, I think there’ll be more interesting reveals down the road for some of these authors on why they are passionate about what they do. In a very real way, this can only enrich us all by having this dialog.
So yeah, my buddy authors out there – I just might be tapping on your shoulder to have such a dialog on my site. Get a real feel for what you do and why you do it. I know why I am in the mix – as they say, but I’d so like to hear why others feel the drive to do so as well.
Should make for some very interesting conversations.
The Haze and Maze of Social Media
Okay, I’m a techie. I mean, I work in the IT world and all of its variety of devices, servers, and networking security ins and outs. So you’d think that I’d understand how and why my website stats are what they are. But I don’t.
I check my stats on this site from time to time. My audience is growing – steadily. Not bot combing either. These are actual human web surfing hits – not bot or spider crawls (at least not that I can tell). If they are then they’ve got some serious smart spiders now.
I checked it today, you wanna know what I found?
Apparently, I am BIG in China.
As of today (September 11th) my stats are just shy of hits for the entire month of August. So I know I am gonna surpass it in a day or so. So yeah, my audience is growing. But why China? It’s not like my stuff is in Chinese. I don’t think its Baidu doing the crawling.
But China surpassed the good ol’ US of A this week. Here’s the rundown –
3) France (this one I can sort of understand because well. they’re French for Chrissake)
4) Canada (I LOVE me my Cannucks!)
5) Some EU country (What the fuck does THAT mean?!)
The Ukraine is next and THEN Great Britain. Sorta wacky weird how this whole thing works. It sort of reminds me when a good friend and I did a short lived podcast back in 2006. We were BIG in Scandinavia. HUGE even according to our stats. Why? I had absolutely no idea. Russia even makes the list. I like Russians. I even went to visit there (this was way before the whole let’s hunt down fags and kill/humiliate them that is going on now). I feel for my queer Russian brothers and sisters. I wish I could do something to make it all better for you. I really do. Being gay is hard enough, having to live with it in your world, I just can’t fathom it.
I’d like to think it is my writing (like my forthcoming Angels of Mercy book) that keeps them coming back (because they are repeat followers – not just drive bys). But somehow I think it is the “Inspirational” gallery that keeps them coming back. Who knows. Well, really I guess I could dig deeper and find out. The analytics are there. Just not so sure if I wanna know. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s Marco and Elliot that keep them coming back. I am gonna post another chapter and this weekend I am going to put out a novella form of my forthcoming book that can be read on any e-reader (epub and kindle formats). so keep an eye out for it.
So yeah, I’ll just keep posting like I do. Just going with my gut on this. I tweet, I post on Facebook (which is where most of my links seem to come from), and I blog here.
So, I guess I’ll give a big shout out to my followers in China!
I hope I did that right. I used Google Translate so please forgive me if I said something stupid like “I will eat your dog” or something insane. I’m just trying to do my best. That wasn’t what I was trying to say at all – just wanted to say HELLO!
Anyway, I’m not going to go prattling on about all of this. I just thought I’d give a shout out to my followers beyond the US borders. You’re the best!
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…