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 here’s my rant for today. And while it’s not a new one as I am sure there is some other gay writer out there blogging that while gay men are constantly striving for acceptance and tolerance from a generally homophobic world, we often are our own worst enemy.
I got to re-thinking about it from this HuffPo interview (from outgoing Ahmed Shihab-Eldin – who’s reports I’ll miss greatly): You can read it here.
I am not limiting this to just the social circle either. I’ll post my thoughts on that topic in another stream of consciousness later cause I got LOTS to say on that topic alone.
Let me make a case for how it even happens in the media:
I was at Comic Con in San Diego (the only one that counts BTW (Sorry NYC – you’ve got B’way – leave So Cal a crumb, will ya?)) once where there was a discussion panel (the room was packed to the hilt – standing room only) for this particular show that was all the rage a couple of years ago (flash forward – it was cancelled shortly there after).
I won’t necessarily name the show because it would be pointless at this juncture since it has long been relegated to the netflix/pirate download universe, but suffice to say that it was a hot show at the time. Anyway, the panel of production crew for this show was asked about the inclusion of a gay character as a secondary lead if not main character of the show. The screenwriters jumped right into the fray and said that they were just in the midst of planning such an arc and they couldn’t wait to get started on it. It would come with the following season – they were sorry that the show had to go three seasons in before they could get to it but they were really excited about it. The audience (even for a few years ago) seemed rather pleased about this little announcement (okay, I’ll confess that it was an LGBT panel that is held every year at Comic Con). The two screenwriters of the show were, in fact, gay and were really happy that they got the green light with this particular arc. All seemed good, right?
Yeah, well, at the time I remember grousing to myself (I tend to grouse alot with unspoken angst over what comes out of these Hollywood types at these events), that why did we wait 3 seasons to get to the damned arc? Why are we left in the closet and have our stories sidelined by our own people? Yeah, i know, they gotta get work too and they’ve got the twat head producers to please who are only in it for the buck (despite all the flowery words about creative process and their vision and all the other hooey they throw our way – it’s all UTTER BULLSHIT).
The following March (on the eve of when this hot show was to start shooting) the show was cancelled. So guess what? No gay character arc, no gay storylines – once again our story is left on the cutting room floor – only worse, this one never got shot to begin with (HUGE STEP BACKWARD, if you ask me).
But it’s not the only instance of this happening – Greg Berlanti (who is gay) of ‘The Tomorrow People” (TTP) said the same damned thing about TTP. When HuffPo asked him about his not having a gay character in TTP he said that one was coming in season two and it was gonna be great (are ya starting to see a trend here?). SO that show got cancelled this past April. So here we are yet again – another fucking blown opportunity. Though to be fair he gives a much more lengthy explanation here. Yet, I can’t help but feel that he could’ve done better. How about this Mr. Berlanti – let’s not ‘wait for a creative moment to put in a gay character that will stick around –
…how about we have one from the VERY BEGINNING THAT’S INTEGRAL TO THE SHOW? Yeah, let’s start with that… whaddaya say? Huh?
The general straight populace isn’t ever going to get used to us if our shit ain’t out there, folks! Are ya listening, Hollyweird?
Next up, The Vampire Diaries –
Now, aside from the fact that Ian Somerhalder’s Damon walks that same homo-erotic line with his other male leads in that Mick Jagger sort of metro-sexual swagger, TVD has had NO GAY CHARACTERS for years now! I was a fan of the show but was growing increasingly bored with the fucking boozing and rampant straight sexual situations that we were being inundated with. Why hasn’t MADD gone after this show? This show has more drinking (even when they were in fucking high school (and DON’T get me started on how 30 something looking actors were just soooo wrong for a HIGH SCHOOL show). I never once bought the vixen trio of Elena, Bonnie and Caroline were EVER actually of a high school age. The casting director shoulda been hauled out and beaten with a wet noodle over that faux pas alone!
Anyway, so in this past season we FINALLY get A GAY CHARACTER (count ’em, ONE – in the whole fucking town of Mystic Falls or where ever they were now going to college – and we have to wait MANY seasons to find ONE?) What the muthafucking ever. And I am just counting the seconds til this new gay guy is bumped off. Cause you know it’s gonna happen. (And no, Glee doesn’t count because the entire premise of that show is gay from word go (and sadly sometimes in the worst way imaginable) – too much sometimes even for me to stomach on a weekly basis – and I have a background in musical theatre).
In fact, I can only think of TWO drama shows where the gay men actually make it to the end and they were secondary or main characters – Torchwood and Spartacus. In the pantheon of TV shows through out the years and we have these two shows to show for it? Okay, then there’s Felix from Orphan Black (BTW, I don’t know if you’re keeping score on this too but it seems that two out of the three shows I’ve named are British imports – only Spartacus is American produced).
Okay, and there’s True Blood – but even with Lafayette (on of my absolute favorites and not just because he’s slightly sterotypical but because Nelsan plays him with such pathos and depth that I am utterly fascinated by his portrayal). The same can be said of Jordan’s portrayal of Felix in Orphan Black. There are subtleties and layers that both actors bring to the table that are truly amazing to watch. THOSE are the types of characters our little gay village need.
And Sidebar: What the fuck is up with Lafayette losing Jesus? That was some messed up shit when their arc so wasn’t over – total missed opportunity. But that season’s writing was the almost the worst of the bunch. That is until the season of Billith. Now that season of TB was just plain out tragic.
Okay, I thought of another show that has a gay character prominent enough to warrant it’s own plot line – that one in Scandal (my daughter watches it religiously and keeps telling me I need to do so too). I was going to watch a marathon and catch up when i got wind of them killing off one of the two gay characters (for dramatic purposes). Yeah, you can bite me with your dramatic elements involving gay characters being ‘sacrificed’ for the dramatic cause. That’s SOOOOO 1980’s Dallas/Dynasty era (and I should know cause I was alive when those shows were running in their original time slots (NOT re-runs)).
In Torchwood we FINALLY have a gay character that can’t die (because he can’t die – it’s in the character write up). So yay for #TEAMGAY, yeah, hold up a minute. Turns out he can die – when the show doesn’t get renewed or languishes between seasons. Pasadena…
So guess what gay producers, writers and actors – be the muthafuckin’ change you want to have happen.
Y’all need to grow a pair and put our shit out there. Sorry if that sounds a bit forced, but I got a little Larry Kramer angst going on here from watching ‘The Normal Heart’ – a bloody brilliant movie – thanks Ryan Murphy for getting it out there. Try to remember what it was like when you were growing up starved for some recognition and figure out how to get it out there. And don’t shoot me that old line – gay characters don’t sell. Yeah, well maybe we have to shove a few down their throats until we get to a point where they become inured to it all. THEN we’ll have achieved something. If gay people can bore the crap out of straights like they do to themselves – then game over – mission accomplished.
But we ain’t there yet – not by a muthafuckin’ long shot.
So there was the first show I talked about, then TTP, then Vampire Diaries. That’s three shows, two of which utterly failed in producing a single strong gay character. While the actor playing Luke on VD seems to be a good one, I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to fall and he’ll get bumped off. That’s the modern message we get from these shows: if we finally do get around to putting one out there – yeah, well, it won’t last. It’s fleeting – just like we want the world to think we are in their lives – fleeting, passing through, an oddity to behold and then eschew like yesterdays bright wrapping paper after a successful party.
So over that way of thinking.
So I am constantly polling around – looking for gay men to satiate my thirst for something that reflects my life or at the very least, a form of my reality. But sadly, we’re still all too absent.
And here’s another little nugget of information – the M/M genre of novel writing is actually quite large and thriving and it’s reader base is primarily made up of women. So why aren’t we looking to satisfy the gay market for these ladies? Why aren’t we killing the both birds with the same literary stone? If we’re studying demographics and how to pitch and sell to them, then why aren’t we looking at these numbers then?
I get that it’s show BUSINESS and not show ART. I get it. But if we aren’t taking the necessary steps to have the same opportunity to bore the crap out of the straight audience because we are now just one of the crew, then how the hell are we ever going to make progress on a storytelling and visual level?
As a gay author, I wonder for long periods about that. Not that it pulls focus from my day or anything, but I do ponder it on the back burner. I only wish the screenwriters and producers who are gay and have dealt with the same struggles we all seem to have in common in this world, that they would do more, fight – hell, if we do have a gay mafia out there in Hollywood – then fucking act like some gay muthafuckin’ blinged out homo-thugs and DO SOMETHIN’ ‘BOUT IT!