SA Collins

Words and Errata

September 2014

The Problem With Time…

The Problem With Time – 

So I haven’t made any bones about the fact that my very first novel ends on a cliff hanger. Yeah, untested me putting out a book that is one of a series. And I’ve asked my readers to invest in a character that I absolutely love but put through a fucking ringer. It’s just how the story goes.

The final cover artwork. Blood included.

The cover to my first novel – Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot

I know I also said that the story will be what it’s gonna be. No apologies, no regrets.

Yeah, here’s the deal: I still want it to be on its best possible feet. I want quality. While I am writing book two I’ve sort of realized that I am going to probably have book two right on the heels of the first book. It means that I might delay the release a bit so I can have book two right around the corner.

That’s sort of disappointing. But I think it might be the right thing to do to give my first baby the lift it needs to have best chance possible to reach and find its audience. I know that I said I wasn’t so concerned with sales. To a great degree that’s true. I’d rather have readers who absolutely love the work rather than pedestrian ‘meh’ reviews and following.

I am still tightening the first one. But here’s the current dilemma: each book is told from a different character. So how to tell an engaging story that goes incredibly dark but never loses its thread of hope that all will eventually work out, AND tell it in a manner where you are covering a story that is actually much larger than the first book presents.

It all has to do with time. And time in this case is not my friend.

“I know you think this is sudden, Els. But I’ve watched you for two years now. I know what people say; I’ve heard the rumors, too. But I can’t deny it any more; you do it for me, Donahey. Always have; from the moment I saw you on my first day at Mercy High.”

Those words from the football quarterback jock boyfriend, Marco Sforza, is what gives the story its depth. It is what gives it is weight, its history. Which is something else he also says to the love of his life, Elliot.

So when I approached the second book (told from Marco’s perspective) I had the dilemma of do I pick up right from where the cliff hanger ends in book one or do I do what I wanted to do and go back those two years before and actually give the reader what I think the story needs.

While I start out with Elliot starting the story, I always felt it was Marco’s tale to tell. I just wanted you to fall in love with the love of his life so that by the time you get to Marco’s voice, you already know why he loves the man he loves. As a reader, you’ve spent the first book wrapped up in Elliot’s head. If I’ve done my work right you’ll walk away from a very complex and topsy turvy world that Elliot must navigate just to make it to the next day.

The first book is chock full of sexual situations, I didn’t want to shy away from that because that’s how hormonally charged teenaged boys are. My work will always have that honesty in it. My men will always behave like men do. Sex, while not the whole story, when present it does advance the story. It is not there to titillate or make anyone blush. I made sure that the sexual situations had the boys growing from the experiences (good or bad) each time it occurs.

But yeah, time…

So the second book (as it currently stands) goes back two years rather than answer the question that would be on my readers minds. They’re gonna have to wait a bit to get there – why? Because it is important that Marco have his say as much as I know he needs to.

One of the major thrusts of the book is that I wanted the jock in the story to go against type. Marco never questions his love for Elliot (well, not by the time he makes his move anyway). BUT he does quite a bit of second guessing prior to making his move to bring Elliot into his life. Though even in that, it’s not in the way you would think. Marco questions his motives not because isn’t sure about his feelings for Elliot (because he’s actually quite sure about that from the first moment he sees him), but because of something in his own past that colors on whether he thinks he’s the best thing for Elliot – better to love from afar and not cause any damage, than to bust into his life and make a real mess of things. So Marco really is one of the good guys, but to see that you have to get his whole story and a good part of that is how he gets to that moment that starts in book one (where he seduces Elliot). So in a real way Marco’s part of the story is as much a commentary on how gay men (from all walks of life) come to the realization of what it means to be gay in a hetero-sexist world – of what it’s like to swim upstream your whole life.

And Marco is a character that seems to have it all going his way – he’s sexy, he’s gorgeous, he’s rich, he’s a jock – but we soon learn that his world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. Marco needs Elliot to give him balance in his own upside down world. These boys need each other. Only when they’re together is the world right for either of them.

But the romance is only a part of the whole deal. There’s the ever looming threat of homophobia, which is ever present in Elliot’s book, the threat of each boy failing the other – Homecoming is a night that everyone would rather forget and one where not everything is what it seems. A lot went on that night – far more than meets the eye.

But it’s a big story, a complex story. But one that I am finding so rewarding to write. I love my boys, I love the secondary characters (Nick and Angus are my absolute favorite characters that I never saw coming but just blossomed on the page before my eyes).

So yeah, it’s a risk – pulling the reader back from the brink of the cliff at the end of book one, then shoot back two years and retell it all from Marco’s POV. But i can’t think of doing it any other way that would work. I toyed with starting it on the same day as the cliff hanger from the first book and then retell the historical elements as flashbacks but that seemed too contrived. It just seemed like a sell out, a cheap way to do it.

The hubby said I should not concern myself with the wheres and whyfores – and just put it all down. So yeah, I’m taking his advice on this one. He’s my Marco anyway (played for Clemson back in the day – so yeah, I married a football player myself so Marco and Elliot are sort of rooted in my own world too). Maybe he’s right.

Only time will tell…

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I’m a Scrivener, and this is how I do it…

I’m a Scrivener, and this is how I do it…

 

Okay, this one is for all of my fellow authors out there. And fair warning – this is a generalistic overview of this remarkable application. I’ll dig deeper if others seem interested in the offering.

No judgements on anything that you all are doing but just putting out there what my journey has been and the things I’ve discovered. Maybe, just maybe, there is another author out there struggling with Word or some other writing app not knowing that this little gem might be the answer to their problems like it was for me.

I should emphasize that I’ve bought nearly all of the other writing programs (including Microsoft Office, so yeah, Word was in the mix as well – personally Word is about the crappiest program to write documents in long form (such as a novel)), but i understand its ubiquity within the authoring world so yeah, I get why some authors stick to it. I did for a while too. But then it just became unwieldy (I have to use it at work so yeah, I am a power user but word is just bloatware – I wanted more from my writing program).

So my search began: Dramatica, Storyist, Write, etc., I paid and tried them all. None of them had the one-stop shop that I wanted in a writing program, until I found Scrivener. And at roughly $45 (US) it was a STEAL of a program!

If you’re not happy with your current writing environment, might I suggest you take a look at this little screencast and see if it doesn’t appeal to how you’d like to work while creating your next masterpiece.

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I know the video is a bit long but the things this baby can do are astounding. The greatest part – it is TOTALLY one stop shop for authors (no matter whatever your genre or type of writings you do).

DISCLAIMER: In no way am I getting anything by way of a kickback from Literature and Latte (the publishers of Scrivener) for doing this. This is all my own doing. My way of putting out there what I do, and how I do it.

 

Of Note: while all the screenshots I show are from my Mac, the Windows implementation is virtually identical and the files can be used interchangeably between the two platform versions.

 


 

PART I – The Project

 

Selecting a NEW PROJECT from within Scrivener

Selecting a NEW PROJECT from within Scrivener

As you can see the application is pre-configured with templates to assist you with whatever type of writing you do in your personal/professional life. For the purposes of my own journey, I will be focusing this blog entry on the fictional template.  Bear in mind that this is how I am using Scrivener. The application has many options that can accommodate just about any workflow. This is just how I am using it.

So from the Project Template window select Fiction and then Novel.

The new project template.

The new project template.

When you first open a new project you get the picture I show above. This is the new project window and your authoring environment. There are places for index cards to keep ideas flowing, and targeted word counts (if you’re into that sort of thing) to be set. All in all, the interface takes a bit to get used to where everything is. But I will tell you that, in the long run, it is well worth the effort.

The sidebar along the left side has become my “home” base. Everything I do, I do from there. It contains the MANUSCRIPT as well as the RESEARCH binder (in fact the whole sidebar is called the Binder – think of it as your author library, of sorts).

The one BIG takeaway from the sidebar is that anything in the Manuscript area can ONLY be included in the final compilation of your manuscript (be it in any format that Scrivener can compile – which is fairly extensive).

For the purposes of my novel I was able to compile my .mobi Kindle file and the epub standard used by Nook and other readers (including iBooks) as well as a printed manuscript (if required) straight from the application itself. How I set up the structure only made the creation of my final product that much easier. A little foresight goes a long way with this application.

To keep things tidy I moved everything BUT the manuscript files (the sample chapter folder and the subsequent text file that makes up a scene within a chapter). Everything else I dragged down into the Research binder. This way I was sure that the only thing that would compile was just the manuscript.

 

The Binder in Scrivener

The Binder in Scrivener

 

The structure of the manuscript can be what you want it to be but for me I wanted just the title page, my dedication, quotes (if any), preface, and anything else you want to include beside standard TOC which the application will build based upon your chapter/scene structure in the Manuscript Binder.

 

A cleaner Manuscript area by moving the associated template files from the manuscript to the research binder.

A cleaner Manuscript area by moving the associated template files from the manuscript to the research binder.

 

Okay, I guess I should pause a bit on this and explain the two terms I’ve been using over and over here. There are two main sections:

Manuscript:  The body of your work, the novel itself. (Area to be compiled into a final published product)

 

Research: Where you will keep your research. (ONLY research – cannot be part of the compiled project)

I realize that seems like it should be obvious but when you look at the interface for the first time it might be a bit confusing on how to read that sidebar.

Here’s what I consider to be one of the most powerful elements of Scrivener that puts it far and above the competition: The Research binder. This binder is a drag-n-drop binder that can hold just about anything you throw at it. Find something on the web? Drag it’s contents to the binder, or copy the link (whichever you wish). It can even hold audio and movie files if you wish (though that will grow the file size exponentially). But the beauty of this Research binder is that it becomes your repository as you write. You can organize it any way you want. It’s your personal research lab to support all of the things you’ve collected about your world. It’s like your story has its own personal Pinterest.

So back to the story construction in Scrivener. The proverbial and mythic cork board:

The Corkboard about your story. This is accessed by either selecting it from the menu bar OR you can click the manuscript at the binder level and it will bring up the board as you see in this picture.

The Corkboard about your story. This is accessed by either selecting it from the menu bar OR you can click the manuscript at the binder level and it will bring up the board as you see in this picture.

The nice part about the cork board is that you can see your storyboard in the traditional story building fashion that many authors and screenwriters employ when building your story structure. A birds-eye view of the whole thing.

NOW, FOR THE NITTY GRITTY – 

Here’s how I applied all of this to my own novel:

I set up my chapters by creating folders for each – in the beginning they were just Chapter One, Chapter Two (etc) as I just was looking for structure. Later on when I had names for them I just retitled the folders with the name of the chapter and Scrivener created the HTML links in the kindle or epub file for me concatenating the chapter number (1, 2, 3, etc) with my chapter title (e.g.: Chapter One – For the Love of the Q)  with the latter part of that title being the folder title in my Scrivener file. Handy, huh?

If your chapters have scenes or sequences that make up the entire chapter than you just create a text doc for each. The way I handled it was to name the subsequent chapter documents with the chapter and scene number (Scene 01-02 was Chapter 1, Scene 2 and so forth). Like the example I show below:

How I structured my book within Scrivener. Folders contain the chapter titles and the subsequent documents are identified by chapter and scene. This allowed me to know what chapter was what because the chapter folders didn't contain the actual chapter numbers. There's a reason for that - Scrivener puts in the chapter number for you when you compile.

How I structured my book within Scrivener. Folders contain the chapter titles and the subsequent documents are identified by chapter and scene. This allowed me to know what chapter was what because the chapter folders didn’t contain the actual chapter numbers. There’s a reason for that – Scrivener puts in the chapter number for you when you compile.

How does all this play out when you are ready to compile? Like this…

 

The compiled epub/nook edition of my novel. The chapter numbers are inserted for me by Scrivener. The titles are the names of the folders within the Scrivener project file.

The compiled epub/nook edition of my novel. The chapter numbers are inserted for me by Scrivener. The titles are the names of the folders within the Scrivener project file.

 

So now you do what you want to do – write. Right-clicking on the chapter folder or the previous scene document and adding as necessary to flesh out your great novel.

 

Sidebar: In a future post (not to far off from now, I promise) I’ll reveal one of the wonderful things about Scrivener – Snapshots! They are a writers dream! Look for it…

 

While your writing you can always check on the project status and can set target marks while you write to keep you on track.

The Project Status dialog box. Helping you stay on track with targets and projected printing and ebook formats word/page counts.

The Project Status dialog box. Helping you stay on track with targets and projected printing and ebook formats word/page counts.

So we’ll jump ahead several months or so (if you’re like me it takes a few months to get things going to where you’re ready to publish (even if its just to beta readers as a preview or pre-flight test of your ebook offering).

 


 

Part Two: The Compiling

Once you’ve got it to where it needs to be then it’s time for compiling it into a final product (either as an e-book offering or a printed manuscript). Here are the offerings when it comes to compiling in Scrivener.

The compilation dialog (epub options being shown here)

The compilation dialog (epub options being shown here)

This is where the magic truly is within Scrivener. This dialog allows you to customize and publish to various epub and printed formats. The example I am showing above is for my current forthcoming novel “Angels of Mercy.” But the options are pretty far reaching:

Publishing options to compile your great masterpiece and put it out there into the world.

Publishing options to compile your great masterpiece and put it out there into the world.

One caveat to this whole epub thing: you will need to get the kindle gen (generator) installation file from Amazon and install them onto your PC/Mac to enable the Kindle publishing/compiling option. But once you’ve done that, then you’re all set with regards to publishing the Kindle edition of your novel. Cover art work? Covered with Scrivener. Build of the chapters and how you handle it is entirely under your control. What you include, how you include it, all managed by the compilation dialog.

The best part though was that all of this was at a remarkable price of $45 (US). That’s the part that I still can’t get over for me. Having poured through them all and trying my best to work with other vendors offerings (at a much steeper price for the software) I was really taken with how much power this program wields for the author’s buck.

Is it right for everyone? I can’t answer that. Some writers are just too entrenched. But if you’re not entirely happy with your writing solution, I say give this little writing gem a gander. What I’ve written here is merely the tip of the iceberg (as they say) on what this program can do. In the coming weeks I’ll try to lift the lid on various aspects of how Scrivener works (where my exposure and usage of it has taken me thus far). I am still trying to discover new ways to use it and I’m finding at each turn the application as risen to the challenge and then some.

I hope you find this write up helpful and as always, I am free to any comments or questions regarding the app.

Again it is available from the folks at Literature and Latte in the UK.

$45 US (Mac version)

$40 US (Windows version (v 8.1 ready))

Word has it they’re working on a linux version but I don’t know where they are in the process of releasing that version to the masses. Demo versions are available for downloads to try before you buy.

Lastly, their tech support is very responsive as I’ve never had to wait more than a day to get some traction on whatever I was dealing with. In addition, they have a very active and prolific forum/support board that is also of use. When you couple all of that with the video’s posted online you get quite a lot for your $40-45 (US).

Leave any areas you’d like me to post about in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Until next time… PEACE!

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Errata from the Cliff – what a view it is!

Errata from the Cliff – what a view it is!

 

View of the Bixby Bridge - not too far from where my book "Angels of Mercy" takes place.

View of the Bixby Bridge – not too far from where my book “Angels of Mercy” is set.

 

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.

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The Haze and Maze of Social Media

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.

This one surprises the hell outta me... I like it, but I don't know what it means.

This one surprises the hell outta me… I like it, but I don’t know what it means.

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 –

1) China

2) USA

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!

你好

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!

Cheers!

SAC

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Finding Your Voice… Then Sticking To It

Finding Your Voice… Then Sticking To It

 

Today I’ve been mulling things around. I do this, as I am sure you do it too, from time to time.

 

But here’s my dilemma, of sorts: I’ve gotten caught up (with my mental ramblings) in a conversation going on with other gay authors and the lack of our representation within the M/M genre and what that means to our voice within our own community. By that I mean real gay men’s voices writing about our own experiences, or at the very least experiences that reflect the reality we all live in. I mean you can have gay vampires, weres or what have you and still have it rooted in what we, as gay men, have to deal with in our lives. How we feel, how we cope.

I know I’ve preached from the Rechy alter before. I just love his work, I have since I was a boy. There are others, but he was the first one I found – sentimentally clinging to his work more than any other, I suppose. The hubby actually found his website out on the net. Well, that’s sort of redundant, isn’t it? Where else would one find a website? Isn’t it funny how I’ve been such a pro-Rechy reader that I never thought to see if he had a website? That really fascinates me. The idea that I can be so vocal about something that has dominated my views on reading for so long and never once seeking him out on the web. I think I know why that is and I’ll come to it anon.

I suppose that some part of it has to do with what I’d built up in my head that was his allure. Well, I’d like to think so – he’s one helluva sexy man – Hollywood sexy. If anything, I am still that 15 year old boy who found Sexual Outlaw on a low shelf in the Gay and Lesbian Studies section of a bookstore. Believe me, I was just as surprised that there was such as section like that in 1979. But there we were…me in my shorts and t-shirt on a hot summer day, and there it was in all of its seedy and semen soaked glory:

 

The Sexual Outlaw as I saw it in 1979.

The Sexual Outlaw as I saw it in 1979.

 

I know I’ve written before on how amazing this work is and how it saved me from plunging headlong into a wanton and lascivious chain of sexual exploits. Exploits and adventures that in that era (we’re talking the cusp of the HIV pandemic) might just as well have killed me. I know I’ve covered that before. What I haven’t said is that while that book “opened doors and windows I never dreamed existed…” (paraphrasing Patrick Dennis’ Auntie Mame now), it also allowed me to mentally and sensually let myself fall into the main character’s exploits. Okay, I’ll be blunt about it. I rubbed several of my own creative juices out while reading it. It was like heady, sperm filled porn to me and I was fucking hooked. The odd thing was, it wasn’t porn by any stretch of the imagination. I was titillated all right, but only because I had no other outlet to explore the sex that was contained in that book.

But it was more than that too.

When my parents found out about me, when I confirmed it to them, my dad didn’t really have a huge reaction to it. Just told me that sex with a woman was pretty damn great, but if I wasn’t into that, then maybe sex with men might be great too. And that was about it. Conversation over. It wasn’t like I couldn’t bring it up again with my dad. I didn’t have a problem with that, nor did he, it seems. My dad was pretty goddamned awesome. I’d like to think he knew that. But even with a great male figure in my house to give me guidance and unconditional love, he was right in thinking that he didn’t have much in the way of advice with what I was dealing with inside.

That’s where John came in. John Rechy became my mentor, of sorts. Not that I put any of the responsibility on him. I wouldn’t presume to think such a thing. But I needed something, mind you. I needed someone male to give me a heads up on what was out there and how it sort of worked. I needed a primer. Sexual Outlaw became that primer. He was like my kinky Mr. Rogers (wow, there’s GOT to be some therapy in that statement somewhere), and I soooo wanted to be a part of his neighborhood.

 

John in all of his Hollywood glamor glory... who wouldn't idolize that?

John in all of his Hollywood glamor glory… who wouldn’t idolize that?

 

I explored that part of my sexuality. I had anonymous sex in the park, I had encounters with nameless men. I had sex. Quite a bit of it too before I ever had my first boyfriend. No one knew about this, of course. I put on a very good face to friends at school and the new gay social friends I’d made. But I still found time to have anonymous sex. I was careful – well, insofar as I could be back then. I didn’t go off to some john’s house or somewhere I knew could literally be a dead end. Yeah, there was a degree of fear in the whole equation. But that also heightened the sexual tension. It made it come alive. That wasn’t Rechy’s fault. I’d already had those thoughts, those desires. Rechy just gave me the wherewithal to admit to them, to embrace them to some small degree and let me know that I wasn’t half crazy with the thoughts and feelings I’d been having. Somehow, I’d survived. Somehow I got very lucky. I know that, believe me I do. It’s not something that I would advise anyone else of doing either.

Women don’t get how powerful and potent testosterone can be. How intoxicating and bewildering and utterly dominating it can be within a man. I saw a documentary on men and their penises called Private Dicks. It was a somewhat humorous way to look at men and how they view their dicks. Sort of the Vagina Monologues but the men’s side of the fence. There was a trans (F to M) man in the film named Spencer. Spencer had spent part of his life as a woman. After the sexual transition, he became acquainted with testosterone very intimately. He said to any woman who was watching it that having been a woman and now was a man, he could say without a doubt, that women have no idea just how potent and powerful that hormone drives men to do what we do.

He’s right about that. It is potent. It is powerful, heady, and lusty. The need to seed is intense.

Anyway, that’s what I want to explore with my own writing. That incredible rush that men get when our sexual potency is heightened. That’s why Angels of Mercy doesn’t shy away from my boys sex lives. It permeates the book because that’s how teenaged boys are. If they could have sex they would – no questions asked. Marco and Elliot have quite a bit of sex in the book. It’s honest. It’s forthright and it is unabashedly male in all of its splendid semen laden fornication. I did quite a bit of research on the topic – mothers would be surprised just how much their teenaged gay boys are having sex – and how much of it they’re posting online. And just to be clear, there was no under-aged stuff within my research. All 18 and above, but there were several postings from these boys that it became quite clear they’d been at it (posting their sexual encounters) for years. Marco and Elliot toy with that as well – sex and social media. These are boys of the internet porn age. They act accordingly but not beyond the realm of their natural characteristics. I don’t call upon the reader to make a huge leap of faith when Marco or Elliot explore their sexual relations. The sex happens organically, as it should.

But, as my hubby keeps reminding me, it is NOT erotica in the sense that I am writing sex to titillate – because he’s quite clear that I am not. The sex Marco and Elliot is very hot and heavy, but it also drives the story forward as these two boys discover how sex becomes another character in their story. The sex they have is varied and pointed and sometimes downright angry. I didn’t want to shy away from it. It’s also why I think it will never get picked up by a traditional publisher. I think it warrants a decent publisher. I believe in the work that much, but I am also a pragmatist – there are too many cards stacked against a ‘gay’ novel already. To use cum play like I do because my boys are into it is definitely pushing the envelope too much. But again, it is a very intrinsic part of who they are – both as a couple and individually.

In Elliot’s book (Volume One of the series) I never really allow Elliot to give voice to how his orgasms are. He says that he has his orgasmic release, but he never gives it any weight – you never get to experience it from his perspective. It’s always about Marco’s ejaculate that Elliot fixates on. For Elliot, it is all about Marco’s release. That’s very much a theme between them. Elliot talks a lot about every time Marco makes love to him. How much he applies himself to learning what pleases Marco as a lover. But Elliot never gives his own desires much voice. My husband says many times over (as he’s had to read it many times over) that what I have is a character study of these men’s lives. Their lives happen to coincide with the love they feel as they come together – BAM! Like a head on collision of two bullet trains – it’s hard, fast and intense – almost to the point of being violent. The hubby also says that I shouldn’t ever refer to my work as erotic. He thinks it is far more than that because of all the little things I’ve woven into Elliot’s psyche. The hubby ought to know – being a retired psychiatrist himself.

Maybe he’s right.

The hubby also did something else: he looked up Rechy’s website and sent me a bunch of blog entries he’d posted. Several of which I have opposing points of view on. I guess this is why I cringed when the links to the blog entries were in my inbox. I knew what he was trying to do. He was trying to get me to see why Rechy’s work meant so much to me and how far I’d gone into left field – over thinking elements of my work when I should be just concentrating on the work itself and not the minutiae that surrounds it. He also knew the temptation to reach out to Rechy would be too great. I knew then as I stared into the iphone this morning at all of those links to Rechy’s site, why I’d never looked him up.

Fear – plain and simple. Over the years I’d built Rechy up as a monolithic mentor. He’s never been anything of the sort, just to my 15 year old eyes and in my 15 year old heart. I sort of fell in love with him through his works. He was my first (virtual) boyfriend. I know how that sounds. But I remember that feeling that Rechy was talking directly to me, because I needed it. I needed someone. Sexual Outlaw was it. Then it was City of Night, then Numbers. Yeah, I pretty much did them all. Rabid about it, I was.

So yeah, I was fearful that whatever I’d say I know I’d embarrass myself somehow. And I am not usually like that. I come from theatre and opera. Working with big names in the industry is second nature to me. But John Rechy is different. No one wants to be thought of in those epic monolithic tones. He’s human, same as the next guy. I get that, I do. But my romanticized 15 year old self, yeah, he’s not so convinced. It’s this duality when it comes to him that colors what I write. It’s that strong voice that I am constantly striving for, trying like hell to lock it down for myself. Try to make my own mark – no matter how big or small it may turn out to be.

So yeah, fear… fear that I can’t or fear that I won’t. But I know I have to try. Writing is what I want to do. Writing is what drives me each and every day now. I could lament on the years that I did nothing with that passion, but I’d much rather concentrate on the here and now, right? Rather than the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s…huh?

I hope it wouldn’t be fear of something that I’d say or write – though thinking on it now, yeah I could so gush all over Mr. Rechy and it wouldn’t be pretty. I’d go all Japanese fangirl on him, I’m sure. I wrote him a decent sized email this afternoon (and felt immensely guilty for doing so right after I sent it). He’s a busy guy, I am sure he didn’t need me to prattle on about my life to him. I know I embarrassed the fuck out of myself. I sort of liken it to being that Japanese fangirl walking up to one of those waifish boys from One Direction and just well, sort of fall apart. There might even be some tears involved. How fucking embarrassing would that be? Uh, VERY… he’s gonna think I am some sort of fucktard and will investigate the steps he’ll need to take to ensure his safety from my impending fangirl moment.

Let me lay that to rest for ya, John – I’m too damned embarrassed already. I’ll stay put under my rock if it’s all right with you.

But it’s done now. I’ve had my say to him – thanking him for the inspiration, for being a guiding light in my young gay boy life to the man I’ve become today. I suppose actually, in some strange way he’s left such an imprint upon me that some part of me that was 15 has never grown up. Like a sexually driven Peter Pan, he’s still tucked in there. I still get giddy when I open Sexual Outlaw now. That same feeling never fails to rear its head when I open that book. I immediately go back to that moment when I first found it. My skin sort of tingles, knowing what’s in those pages already – the surprise has long since worn off – only to be replaced by something far greater: my younger self. I am there, trapped and forever lost in those words. Words I can’t fully escape, nor would I ever want to. They’re what gave me the courage to seek out my own voice in this world. Outlaw gave me the balls to seek it out for myself.

So yeah, I may have just fangirl’d all over John (sorry!) in that email I sent to him (I am too afraid to even reread the copy in my sent mailbox because I know I’ll cringe). How teenaged girl can you get? Not that I am disparaging teenaged girls – on the contrary, I am commiserating with them. I’ll take the embarrassment. At the very least I can say that I’ve had my say on it. I’ve told him what his works have meant to me – let the chips fall where they may, right?

Fifty years in and I am still trying to sort out my own voice. I think I am close. Angels of Mercy is helping me get there. And when I do find it, by the gods, I will make sure I stick to it and never let it go.

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