Tuesday, December 23, 2008

80% Straight

By A.J. Llewellyn
Waikiki is famous for being very gay-friendly. Honolulu county, which incorporates Waikiki pushed hard for Hawaii to be the first US state to advocate gay marriage and very nearly did so until the Supreme Court overruled the flood of marriages that took place here in 1999.
And now, Waikiki, the gay hub of Hawaii continues to rule the area all the way east from Diamond Head’s Queen’s Surf (named for royalty and a fabled restaurant that vanished along with other Hawaiian staples like Liberty House thanks to the tide of change) to the east and as far west as Eaton Square.
Eaton Square I learned is for serious gay activity – a full-on sex club called PA10 with live sex shows and other naughty stuff…in fact I modeled my sex club in the short story Midnight at Morning’s in the Sanguinary Seductions Anthology on PA10…but I digress.
There’s Max’s, a gay bath house and men only workout club…but try finding a place to buy a gay book.
Go ahead. Try!
I didn’t want to believe it, but I can report after three full days on the frontline that it is disheartening to find that not one single solitary gay-friendly book store exists in the "gay hub" of the islands.
My mate Tony (he of the dithering sexual orientation) told me about a place called 80% Straight an alleged gay book and gift store. After a quick lunch at Murphy’s, the Irish pub in Chinatown (I kid you not) I made my way there yesterday after being rebuffed almost every place I took my paperback copies of my gay erotic romance Phantom Lover and accompanying promo materials. The guys at Hula’s Lei Stand and Bar the most popular gay bar in Waikiki pointed me in the direction of 80% Straight up the road apiece on Kapahulu Avenue.
Oh it’s gay all right. Spanking and fetish magazines galore but the guy at the register was firm in his rejection of “Gay Lidderachure.”
He insisted, “We got out of the book business. It just doesn’t sell.” He admired the cover art of Phantom Lover and my new one Phantom Lover II and suggested I try Borders and Barnes and Noble…who were reluctant to take on new gay books because they said...They Don't Sell.
They suggested I try Aaxtion Bookstore, an adult ‘sex emporium’ I er…immortalized in my gay comedy romance A Vampire in Waikiki.
Aaxtion was interested until they realized the books are gay erotic romance…not straight.In a town known to be so gay friendly that once upon a time gay husbands were considered a class unto themselves…mahu, when mahu was not a derogatory term, it feels almost surreal.
It seems with the passage of time, we gays don’t bloody read!
We apparently like to get drunk, get laid, get massages, we like to slobber over festish rags…but we couldn’t possibly want to read a book!
I am determined to open a bookstore in Honolulu and am more determined than ever that it will have a huge gay and lesbian section. I walked back to my car, parked about nine miles away from 80% Straight and pondered how on earth such a tolerant city edged out things like books.
To be fair, it’s not just impossible to find gay books. Book stores period, are few and far between. There are books in the ubiquitous ABC stores and even the supermarket chain Foodland and I have checked the stock in all of them.
Mostly children’s books, tour guides and, to my surprise and delight paperback reprints of Jack London’s Hawaiian stories and Gavan Daws’s books.
There are some quirky choices too in some of the high end hotel shops: the hot local author is Chip Hughes, a professor at University of Hawaii in Manoa. His series The Surfing Detective, like all the other books are locally published. I have no idea how they are selling.
My mate Tony and I walked in and out of one ABC store after another. The exact same stock is in each one. One particular store owner even denied having any books until I pointed out the same selection of books I’ve been seeing everywhere.
“Bah!” he exclaimed. “You want bettah fo' buy some T-shirts?”
Not anytime soon, pops.
So now, I have left copies of my books with two small independent book sellers, including Native Books which is a truly beautiful store.
As I trudged the streets of my soon-to-be-island home I pondered the mere name 80% Straight. I told my dad what happened when I called him on my cell phone.
“Oh, AJ,” he said, sounding distressed. “Either the remaining 20 per cent jumped back in the bloody closet or you just found your calling.”
Maybe he’s right. I squared my shoulders, marched the rest of the way to my car…it ain’t over until the fat lady’s sung a big fat, glorious aria, baby!
Aloha oe,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Long Bi Bye?

by Craig Burke

I am less about labels than most anyone I know. Now that is not necessarily such a noble thing – it might just be that I am that simplistic, but at any rate I try not to compartmentalize people. I attempt to not think of one as my black friend, or my lesbian friend or my tall, skinny friend but rather as just a friend. But with that said, I admit that when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation, I am bisexual. Now while one might consider me to be a bisexual, I consider myself to be a person attracted to given males and/or females.

The quibble over definitions notwithstanding, proclaiming to either be bisexual, or to be bisexually oriented often does present problems. In the 'heterosexual world' (there's one of those nasty ole labels there) at worst a bisexual is thought of as being perverted, an abomination, and all the other things certain religious evangelicals reserve for those different than themselves, and at best the bisexual is thought of as someone whom is experimenting, attempting to decide what to be when 'grown up'. (By the way 'grown up' is a concept which may be beyond my grasp.) Meanwhile in the 'gay world' (sounds like a wonderful section of an enlightened Disney theme park) those of us who will admit to being bisexually oriented are often looked on with just as much scorn as being someone who is either afraid or ashamed to commit all the way and admit they are truly gay.

Being a fan of irony, I find it fascinating that some of those gays who for so long in our history have been the target of prejudice and misconception would turn around and apply the same judgments and convoluted reasoning to the bisexuals as had been applied to them for so many years. I can't tell you how many times I have heard a gay person state in some form or other that the true bisexual does not even exist! (This while they look you in the eye.) Apparently a bisexual is just afraid somehow (in this day and age of some enlightenment?) to admit to being gay. Maybe some gays are frustrated that they can not 'out' bisexuals as bisexuals are already half out anyway. But is a gay person telling a bisexual that they do not truly know what they think or feel any different than a heterosexual person telling a gay they are not really gay – they just merely haven't learned yet to deal with an individual of another gender.

And perhaps bisexuals are thought to be obtuse and therefore not able to make a choice as we (there I go identifying myself with a label again) are often thought to be shallow. How many times have I heard, “How can a bisexual ever be trusted?” Now I am giving the benefit of a doubt and assuming that means in the context of a relationship and not just a general concept that bisexuals are not to be trusted in any area or endeavor. Lots of heterosexuals cheat in a relationship and lots of gays cheat in a relationship, and yes, lots of bisexuals do as well, but to state that bisexuals are somehow more likely to be unfaithful is patently ridiculous. Some state that if a bisexual man (for example) is in a relationship with a woman he is going to be 'tempted' by attractive men. Well yes and he can as equally be 'tempted' by attractive women can't he? Some will go on to state that that is precisely the point – that a bisexual has the whole playing field by which to be 'enticed'. While this is true, it only takes one enticement or temptation for a straight, gay or bisexual to be unfaithful.

Which brings me to the point of being (admittedly) bisexual and (allegedly) a writer. So am I a bisexual writer? Well in the sense that I have just stated that I am both it does, but it most surely does not identify me as a writer of bisexual fiction (however see below). There are countless labels that can be placed on me. For example, I am male, tall and skinny, blond, and Scots-Irish to name a few. So should I be known as 'that writer who writes masculine, tall and skinny, blond Scots-Irish books?' I think not! I am a writer who writes about people, plain and simple. Some of them are straight and some of them are gay and some of them are even (horrors!) bisexual.

However, this all does bring me to the point that there is a dearth of good, positive bisexual fiction. I believe there is a market for fiction portraying bisexual characters and that that market has a lot of growth potential. I am excited and humbled that I have been asked by the very far-sighted and broad-minded publisher of Loveyoudivine Alterotica to help create and to anchor a bisexual line called The Best of Both Worlds. I am currently busy writing what is planned as the first of a trilogy of westerns set in the 1880s in the Texas panhandle. This trilogy will be the saga of three characters – a beautiful young woman who inherits a ranch when her brother is murdered, an older sheriff who is intent on seing justice done and a very young cowboy who is there for both of them. The first novel is tentatively titled Palo Duro, (which is Spanish for hard stick, which was used to describe the mesquite trees that were plentiful). While the tone of it will be appropriately 'hot' it is definitely story driven, dealing not only with all the standard western plot lines of good versus evil, but also dealing with the complications of three people whom all genuinely come to care deeply for one another and how their choices can be difficult and can carry long term consequences. While it may not be a happily-ever-after story it is nevertheless about people caring and finding what happiness they can – in other words kind of like real life. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Someone Else’s Family

Current mood: contemplative

Category: Life

On Monday morning, Don Yun Yoon, a Korean immigrant to the United States, left his home in San Diego to go to work. Inside his house were his beautiful wife Young Mi, his 15-month-old daughter Grace, his two-month-old daughter Rachel and his visiting mother in law Suk Im Kim. Three hours later, inexplicable horror occurred.
A marine corps fighter plane from a nearby base, returned from an off-shore training mission. The pilot lost control of the plane clipping the trees above the family home before plunging right into it, killing everyone inside.
In a matter of seconds, Don Yun Yoon lost three generations of his family and has no clue how to go on. As devastating as his loss is, I was impressed and frankly amazed when he stood in tears outside the wreckage of what was once his American Dream and stated that he doesn't blame the pilot, who survived the catastrophe.
My first thoughts were - forgive me for this - he can't be American, he has to be an immigrant. if he was American he'd be lawyered up with some high-profile celeb lawyer who'd already be on the Today Show hollering for Ju$tice.
Don Yun Yoon stood on the street where he lived and spread out his hands. "I don't have any hard feelings. He [the pilot] did everything he could."
His bewildered gaze traversed the wreckage of his crushed life. He said he didn't know how he could cope with the loss of his family. "Please tell me how to do it." His voice cracked. "I don't know what to do."
My heart went out to him and in that moment, I remembered a tragic incident in my family. My Uncle Peter was married to one of the sweetest most wonderful women I ever met. Her name was Helen and when my own mother died when I was six, she fluttered around me and my brothers, always making sure we were included at family functions. They had a beautiful 10-year-old daughter Theoni, who I remember as being both angelic and tough to beat at Vigaro (the Australian street version of cricket).
Helen and Theoni were sitting at a bus stop bench one morning waiting for the bus when a drunken driver did the unthinkable. He veered off the road and slammed straight into my aunt and my cousin, killing them. I did not see much of my uncle after that. He was not a broken man. He was a wraith.
A few years ago, when I was back in Australia for a vacation, I looked him up. He'd long ago given up the family home, given up on life and he was a thin, unhappy soul just waiting to die. He wasn't particularly interested in talking to me, but there is, among those who have experienced deep tragedy, a kind of connectedness. It's a belonging to a club you have no wish to be a member of, but fate's decided you belong to.
After almost giving up on having any type of decent conversation with my Uncle Peter, he suddenly asked me if I think about my mother. "Every day," I said. "I miss her every day." He nodded. He understood.
"What happened to me," he said, looking traumatized as he revisited the past, "Is something so horrendous you couldn't wish it on someone else's family."
These two remarkable men have been dealt vicious blows by life, blows that will forever mar them. I have no doubt Don Yun Yoon feels the same way as my Uncle Pete, but as I watched Mr. Yoon on TV surrounded by his sister, brother and family pastor, I felt certain his future is less hollow, that he will be able to talk about his feelings.
These are different times and I hope the people close to him will encourage him to talk, to help him keep the faith and give him strength. I don't wish this had happened to someone else's family. I wish it hadn't happened at all. I'd like these cruel mysteries of life to be explained, but until that day happens, I can only hope and pray that there is some good, valid reason God makes these decisions. I do believe in the Rainbow Bridge, where our loved ones are waiting for us. I know my Uncle Pete believes in it too.
In the meantime, the inexplicable has occurred. As one of Mr. Yoon's tearful neighbors told reporters, "I can't get over that a family has perished. A young, beautiful family."

Aloha oe,

Release date: By 2006-12-12

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Brick in the Wall

Every incident in our life is a brick in the wall of who we are, and it is interesting, especially for a writer, to stop to examine them carefully every now and then.

On going through my A World Ago blog ( , a compilation of letters written to my parents while I was in the Navy so very long ago, I realized that there is one letter missing, and since it dealt with one of the more memorable incidents of my checkered military career—my very reluctant trip to a Naples brothel—, I really can't let the story pass.

So, come with me back in time once more, back to my days aboard the great grey hulk of the grand old aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ticonderoga, anchored in the Bay of Naples.

I was somehow "elected"…how or by whom is lost in the mists of memory…to accompany three of my shipmates from the Commissary Department to go ashore and find a location for our Division Christmas party. (I know there is a letter in the blog dealing with the party itself.)

Upon getting off the liberty boat and beyond the guarded perimeter of Fleet Landing, we were immediately surrounded by the hundreds of always-present "guides" eager to assist American sailors find various forms of wholesome entertainment. We somehow settled on one to whom we explained our mission: to find a restaurant to host our party. He packed us all in a cab and headed off up into the hills to a place he had in mind—one from which he obviously received a hefty fee for bringing in business and, after half an hour or so, we'd made arrangements for the party.

On the way back into the city, the guide asked if we would like to make the acquaintance of some "beautiful women" he knew of.

I'd anticipated—and dreaded—something like this ever since we got off the ship, since I was with three red-blooded heterosexual sailors. "Sure!" my buddies agreed enthusiastically. I just sat there, wishing I could somehow open the door and throw myself into oncoming traffic. But I was trapped.

Our guide gave directions to the taxi driver, who took us God-knows-where, and pulled up in front of the door to a house which was indistinguishable from the solid row of identical buildings which stretched off endlessly in both directions. The guide urged us out of the taxi, which then took off, leaving us…and particularly me…on a strange street in a strange part of a strange city.

I was numb with dread. There was no way in hell I was going to join in the coming festivities, but to let my shipmates know I would rather shoot myself than engage in heterosexual sex could result in something I could not even bring myself to contemplate: being exposed as a "queer", thrown off the ship in disgrace, given a dishonorable discharge and shaming my parents and relatives…being gay in the Navy was (and is) definitely not a good thing.

But back to the story. The guide knocked on the door, which was opened by a typical, drably-dressed Italian woman anywhere from 40 to 60 years old, who looked us over without reaction and stepped back allowing us to enter. We found ourselves in a medium-sized room I assumed to be a combination living room and parlor. I don't recall seeing any indication that there were other rooms, but I'm sure there were. In the center of the room was a large, heavy wooden table on which the woman had been ironing clothes.

There was a plain sofa against one wall, and on the opposite wall a rocking chair in which sat an old man, rocking back and forth, smoking a pipe, and paying us not the slightest bit of attention. A young boy about nine years old played with some sort of toy on the floor. After looking up briefly, he, too, ignored us.

The guide urged us to sit on the sofa as the woman returned to her ironing. She had not spoken, and did not speak, a single word. When we were seated, the guide told us he would go round up the girls and bring them back, and without another word, he left.

And there I sat, surrounded by three ravingly heterosexual United States sailors, one nine year old boy, one 40-60-year-old woman, and an old man in a rocking chair smoking a pipe.

Deathly silence. The boy played, the woman ironed, and the old man rocked and smoked. Some time later…I have no idea how much later, since my stomach was in my throat and I was fervently praying for death…our guide returned. He was followed in by six women of mixed ages and sizes, including, inexplicably, a dwarf.

They walked in the door, smiling at my shipmates (I, unlike J. Alfred Prufrock, neither knew nor cared if they smiled for me), and walked completely around the table, twice: merchandise on display. Our hostess ironed, the boy played, scooting out of the way to allow the girls to pass him, and the old man smoked and rocked, totally oblivious.

One by one my shipmates made their choice and got up and left. "How about you, Roge? Pick one." "I will," I said, lying through my teeth. "You go ahead." We agreed to meet back in front of the house in an hour.

After my three friends had left and I declined to make a selection from the remaining girls, they also left.

And there I sat. Alone. In Naples, Italy. In what was not a whorehouse but a staging area. Alone and utterly invisible to the woman ironing and the old man smoking and rocking. The young boy, however, showed some interest and soon came over to me, as though I were some endangered species in a zoo. We soon engaged ourselves in a game of "what's this?" exchanging English and Italian names for things like "nose" and "finger" and "shoes".

And the time passed. And passed. And passed. And finally, when I could stand it no longer, I got up and left and somehow made my way back to the ship.

The next day I ran into one of my companions on this little adventure. "Have a good time, Roge?" he asked, grinning.

"Great," I said. I lied.


The above is an excerpt from Dorien Grey and Me (

(picture: The Fleet's In by Paul Cadmus.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beyond the Reef

Every writer has a book or story they cannot forget. It's that one screaming at them from the bottom drawer. The one that just didn't get it's shot...forgive me for boasting for just a moment, but I am still absorbing the news that I am an Eppie Awards Finalist for my gay erotic fiction novel, Beyond the Reef.

I love each every book I write, they are pieces of me. But Beyond the Reef is the biggest piece of all because it is my most personal story.

And I wrote it 15 years ago.

As I drove up the California coast yesterday to take my wonderful editor Heather and her sister Colleen to lunch to thank them for all their hard work at my Phantom Lover book signing last week, I thought about how far my book and my work has come. Beyond the Reef was a book that actually saved my life.

I was deeply depressed when I wrote it and Frank Truelove, the hero of the tale, a man born of rainbows kept me so focused on being happy that I forgot about being depressed. I wrote the book and found a lot of interest in it at the time, but I could not sell it.

The premise was simple: a lonely, chubby woman has a fantasy man so real to her and so obviously fictional to her friends and family, she's as shocked as they are when he materializes in her shower one day. He is her perfect man. He knows everything about her...and he just won't go away.

I had a kick-ass agent, a hot premise and people told me, a good book but although I almost sold it several times, even had an early draft optioned as a screenplay - it languished. And then the book withered on the vine.

Earlier this year, I took out my old manuscript and I realized the genesis of the tale was still workable. Then I "ate a piece of crazy pie" as my wonderful friend, author Stephani Hecht would say and completely changed it.

I turned what had been a straight romance into gay erotic romance and that is honestly when the book came to life.

When I originally wrote it, nobody in Hollywood was writing gay stories. Not for public consumption, anyway. Like everybody else, I was trying to write mainstream. I was going for "high concept" as the marketing people like to say.

I wrote it from a woman's point of view and Frank was still Frank but once I dropped the veil and wrote it from my own perspective, it changed.

My publisher Tina Haveman of eXtasy Books snapped it up. Martine Jardin's cover art for the book was gorgeous.

And now, I am stunned to find myself in the company of five amazing authors in the GLBT category. The divine Cat Grant, Angela Benedetti, Kimberley Gardner, Tory Temple and Rick R. Reed. I fully expect Rick to win, but I don't care. Beyond the Reef was not only published, it was a best selling novel, it has received some of the sweetest reviews of my writing career. And now it's up for an Eppie.

I received a beautiful email from Rick yesterday and it touched me when he said how happy he was to be going head to head with me in this race.

I wrote back, "I'll take you any way I can get you, Rick!" I'm sure he rolled his eyes. We often exchange emails and he remains one of my very favorite authors to interview for Dark Diva Reviews. I enjoy his humor and his brilliance, though how such a nice man writes such scary, creepy, twisted thrillers constantly amazes me., I will not think about the sheer genius of his book Orientation which is in a class all by itself. I will just think about how far Beyond the Reef has come and I wonder if somewhere out there beyond a different reef...Goddess Pele is chuckling because sometimes, just sometimes, the last piece of fruit left on the tree is a juicy piece of fruit indeed.

Aloha oe,


Friday, December 5, 2008

The Burnt Place

It was just a big old farmhouse that had been burned at some time in the past and never rebuilt. We moved there when I was 6, maybe 7. Eleven of us, plus mother and father. We moved there from The Streetcar. My younger brother (I was number 10) was born in The Streetcar. No, it wasn’t moving. It had been parked on an empty lot, and where the conductor once sat was a sort of stove made of bricks, that served for cooking and heating. There isn’t much room in a streetcar. Elbow to elbow, ego to ego. To stretch, you turned inward. What an enormous space the mind is.

The Burnt Place had lots of space. Outside, the fields and pastures, a creek, a barn and a spring house. Inside, charred beams. Stairs that went nowhere. Rooms without ceilings, one missing two walls. It had ghosts. We are a family of ghost-seers, believers in the intangible, dream pursuers. Book people, too, readers. Bibles and library books and borrowed books and comic books and school books. All those words. “Come play with us,” the laughing words cried, and a delighted little boy took them to his heart, splashed in the creek with them and cavorted in the woods and drowzed in the sunlit pasture, conspiring in their seduction. “There is a place, at the roof of the world,” the honeyed words whispered, “The wind at your back blows down from the high Himalayas and at your feet, in a vast, green valley lies the ancient kingdom of Chin. Come, let us take you there.”

A writer is born.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dipping My Toes into the Electronic Pool

Ebooks are a bit of a new phenomenon for me. I haven't quite been won over to reading them yet, but I have dabbled in writing them. See, with eBooks I have a little more freedom than with print books, which need to be approximately 60,000 to 70,000 words to make a print run feasible. Ebooks, being electronic, don't have that limitation. Writing an eBook allows me the freedom to bring to the world those stories that may be a little long for a print antho or magazine, but too short to be printed as a book you hold in your hands.

Case in point: my new release from Amber Allure (the GLBT division of Amber Quill Press). It's called FUGUE and it weighs in at a breathless 11,000 words, which means you can read it in one sitting quite easily, provided you don't get distracted. If books were subject to the movie's rating system, it would probably be given an NC-17 or maybe even a triple XXX. It covers bondage, torture, dungeons, whips, chains, hot wax, masks, and a whole lot more. You know, your standard wholesome Disney-type fare.

But is it art?

I like to think that even though the whole story is about sex, it's about a lot more. It's about the places people go in their minds to endure physical pain. It's about why some people are willing to become submissive to the point of letting themselves experience hurt and immobility...and what rewards such an experience can hold.

But mostly, it's about love between two men, and the not always sharply defined lines between master and slave.

I hope you'll give it a read. You can order it here.

To give you a little taste, here's a short excerpt:

...Shackles embrace my ankles, keeping me anchored to the cool, damp floor. This sense of immobility ratchets up the tension and anticipation, and these feelings war within me, causing tingles throughout my body in much the same way as the restraints holding me in place do. I ache for something to happen, yet know I am powerless to bring anything about. Patience is a virtue I have learned, honed in its tutelage now for several years.

Ever since I met my master. That man of mine. The one I love. The seer and deliverer of pain, of pleasure, of love…and discipline.

Waiting. Anticipation pulses like a drug, pounding and surging through my body, binding me more thoroughly than these cuffs, chains and shackles. The air against my naked body is especially cool, its dampness almost like a second presence, like an icy caress. Part of the chill comes from the fact that I am bereft of hair; earlier, he shaved me clean, right down to the hair that sprouts between the cheeks of my ass. He has clamped my nipples, and the bite of the steel hurts and, at the same time, keeps me in a constant state of arousal. My balls hurt as well; he has pulled them low with metal cuffs that twist around the top of the sac, gripping and tugging….a constant, dull ache.

This is true love.

Yet all this dull sensation of pain is but a prelude to the full symphony of hurt that's on its way. I keep my eyes shut tightly; a lazy smile moves across my lips, disappears.

Waiting. Anticipating. Almost overriding the pedestrian ache of my constraints is the roaring of my blood in my ears, the pounding of my heart, the quickening of my breath, all of these racing with each little noise I hear. My mouth is dry with want, with need. I almost ache to shout out into the murky light: "Hurry! Hurry! I almost can't bear you making me wait like this. The anticipation is too much. It's torture even I don't want. Hurry!"

But I don't dare. I keep my own counsel and stay mute. A good slave knows his place, knows when to groan, when to scream, when to whimper, and when to sigh. And now, in this waiting, is not the time.

Behind me, my master busies himself, arranging lashes on a table: cat o' nine tails, bullwhip, riding crop, and even a wooden paddle with holes drilled in its smooth oak surface that transports me back to junior high school. I remember being in seventh grade detention, the paddle whistling through the air, singing through those holes as the gym teacher, Mr. Wright, brought it down hard on my adolescent ass, not knowing that the pain he was delivering was also filling me with the most delicious pleasure, or that my dick was hard and dripping in my jeans. Had he known, would he have continued?

Would it have been a kind of pleasure for him, too? Thinking about such a prospect makes my dick hard even now.

My master comes up to stand behind me, firm touch of his hand on my chest, then moving away. His hands are warm and strong. I am his.

I smell the leather: deep, musky, manscent.

Leather aroma deepens as he pulls my head back and I close my eyes. Leather fills my senses until it's all that exists. My master slides the hood over my face, obliterating this dusky space where we will be together, making me his and his alone.


Order Fugue here.

Check out my most recent releases on Amazon:
Dead End Street:
High Risk:
Deadly Vision:
In the Blood:

Find me at:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dating for the Single Writer

I'm beginning to think that the process of getting new novel writing ideas is a bit like dating. Ideas are a bit like men. Some of them get introduced to you by other people and you make polite noises while thinking 'OMG! I couldn't spend five minutes in his company without trying to kill myself!'

Some are handsome and pleasant to be with and generally really nice. And you think 'well... yes... maybe', and turn the idea over in your head for a little and find out that yes, there's potential there. You could live with this idea for a time, and it wouldn't be too unpleasant. It has depths, you could possibly get a novel out of it. And yet that vital spark is missing. You like the idea but you don't have any chemistry with it.

That's the situation I was in with my idea for the novel I was going to write to follow up my Age of Sail novel, False Colors, which is coming out in April. I thought I could do a novel about an 18th Century Ascendancy family setting in Ireland, and the son falling in love with a young man of an ancient Gaelic family who is in one of the many proto-IRA movements of the time.

And it's a nice idea. It's got conflict, it's got that handsome 18th Century setting that I like so much, but for some reason it just didn't set my heart pounding.

Some ideas are gorgeous young heartbreakers who promise to show you a good time, and then leave you in chapter 5 in a compromised position with a long slog ahead and no support. Alas, the one I'm writing at the moment is showing all the signs of this. 'Boys of Summer' seemed to be such a heart-throb when I thought of the idea, but that was in August at the sea-side, when I was surrounded by tanned, lithe surfers. Now that I've brought it home, and it's winter time, I can't quite remember what I saw in it.

Though of course, it may be that the relationship is salvageable if I put enough work into it. If only there was a 'Muses Guidance Service' where you could go and talk these things out!

On the other hand, some ideas are the sort that you refuse to meet for a long time because you know they're not your thing. Then one day suddenly you see them across the room and go 'ooh....!' Your stomach tingles and you think 'ooh yes. Glamour. Enchantment. Potential. Chemistry.' There's no accounting for that 'love at first sight' flash of inspiration.

The problems come afterwards, when you discover that the 11th Century setting that looked so fine on a cursory glimpse is a time you know nothing about. That pairing you thought was so perfect would be really hard to justify in that context. And where would the conflict come from?

But if it's The Real Thing, the problems themselves become a challenge you enjoy conquering. The research that looked so formidable for the idea without a spark looks like a pleasure and an adventure instead.

Why, having specialised in the mid 18th Century, have I suddenly been swept off my feet by an idea from the 11th? I don't know. Possibly it will turn out to be another heartbreaker and leave me high and dry with 10,000 words and nowhere to go. But you have to take the chance, don't you?

Writing, like love, offers no guarantees that what you start will hold out to the end. But it would be so much worse not to start it at all.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Self-based Protagonists - Truth or Dare?

In a recent BLOG, a question was raised concerning writing novels based on an author’s direct experience. The crux of the matter was whether an author could remain objective while presenting situations that they had personally lived through. Would an author gloss over darker detailed to obscure their own warts, dimming the truth by shining it up? On that BLOG, I gave a cursory answer that needs elaboration in light of my own direct-experience novel — Surviving an American Gulag.

Early drafts of Gulag were written in the first person, and although I assumed the name of Winslow Gibbs, I set out to express my thoughts directly to the reader through terse narrative — a narrative that I must admit was biased with a gay agenda. This is a case where the author has an axe to grind and does it at the expense of the reader’s enjoyment (it is a novel after all) and an overlay of themes that dull the senses to any compromise or rebuttal. I was marching through Georgia like Sherman, burning the world with my own opinions. I thought I was being objective. I presented myself as a fat slug, who went through an Army hell to survive, but in the end, I lost objectivity — that objectivity being the truth of novel authoring, which is to bend the truth for the sake of characterization and the reader’s pleasure.

In the case of Surviving an American Gulag, I decided to recast the work in the 3rd person and draw the self-based protagonist — Winslow Gibbs, as any character that emerges from my pen. As a result, Winslow observes and experiences far more than I ever did, and without all the gay preaching. "It is what it is." The work is about surviving, not victimization. It presents basic hurdles that all young American men need to face — questions of sexuality, patriotism, loyalty, companionship, and peer pressure. In the 3rd person, I found warts I never knew I had until now — forty years after the fact.

Ultimately, an author needs to distance themselves from personal experience to engage the reader. In my opinion, the creative process is hampered when the author develops a character from the inside out. I must enjoy my characters and the situations that beset them. If I can’t enjoy the landscape, how can I expect my reader to sign on for a really good read? As Private Avila says: "There are white lies, black lies and pink lies." Well, there’s a fourth lie — a highly crafted, premeditated one. It’s called — a novel. Happy reading.

Edward C. Patterson
visit me at Dancaster Creative

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Internalized Homophobia

Many years ago, before I met the Jewish American Prince of Darkness and settled down with him, I had a single date with a clinically depressed psychologist named Abe. I remember talking with him about the book I was writing at the time, which became Mahu Fire.

I told him that the big early action in the book was a bomb going off at an event celebrating gay marriage, and that I was going to have my hero's best friend, Gunter, killed in the blast. I wanted Kimo to have a real motivation to solve the crime.

Abe was horrified. He kept insisting that it was my own internalized homophobia that made me want to kill off a gay character. No matter how much I argued about character development and plotting, he was adamant.

That was our only date, but it did make me reconsider killing off Gunter. I was thinking about Abe the other day because I'm working on the fifth book, and once again, Gunter has an important role to play.

I'm glad, now, that I didn't kill him off. But Abe's comment does make me wonder, sometimes, if I still have any remnants of that internalized homophobia. I know, for example, that my early dislike of effeminate men was rooted in my own issues-- if I was friendly with such a person, would others think I was "like that" too?

Today, I admire those guys, because they were the ones who could never hide who they were, and had to be strong just to be themselves. I've tried to give Kimo that admiration and respect as well.

And if you're out there, Abe, hope you're feeling better.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Question of Bambi Stern - Symbol or Stereotype

Lately, there has been some discussion on the character of Bambi Stern in my novel Cutting the Cheese. Bambi is a hefty Lesbian, who smokes cigars, wears a man's suit and fedora, and is motivated by cocktail weenies. She is also the president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists of New Birch and Sipsboro. The character has caused some anxiety (not to say, resentment) in some quarters of the Gay Community. Of course, the novel is my "bad boy" work, which goes out of its way to highlight many of the more outrageous foibles found in the Gay Social order. Without doubt, the various characters are based on people I met when I first emerged from the closet.

The community, being mapless otherwise, has created its own clue set for any newbie on the scene, who would need a pink compass for navigation otherwise. So, while some characters like Kelly Rodriguez, the snippy hustler or the even cringing Paddy can be received with wicked laughter, when some confront Bambi Stern, the portrayal cuts just too close to the bone. Harumph. Stereotypes. Truth be told, of all the characters in Cutting the Cheese, Bambi Stern is closest to the real life Lesbian she is based upon.

When I first came out of the closet and took up the mantle of Gay Activism, I was set to my first important task - cutting blocks of cheese into small cubes to be served at an executive board meeting. It was an important task, because it tapped into the heart of gossip and provided my first glimpse into the nelly, campy world. It scared the bejeebers out of me. Then I was comfronted by the president of the group, who roared with her bull-moose voice, slapped all the fairy backs and was famous for having made an entrance at a fabled party by strutting down a staircase wrapped in naught but cellophane. If I left Bambi Stern out of Cutting the Cheese, I might as well scrapped the book. Of course, while most readers find outrageous humor by looking in the mirror, some do not, and had even suggested I withdraw the work from review. One reviewer stated (code) "there were issues with this story that took away from my complete enjoyment." Such reaction only encourages me to step up to the plate and dish out some more. Thin skins beware.

The question here is "what is a stereotype?" I often wonder about this. Is a stereotype a cruel set of crude and rude attributes grafted on scapegoats to make them bigger targets, or are they a collection of traits that communities adopt for identity? It's a fine line, but having caroused at Gay Activist meetings and at the general mayhem of a Gay Pride celebration, my observations record that members of the gay community tend to slip into camp whenever they feel the need. It's the yellow brick road to our own private OZ. Therefore, Bambi Stern and her Edward G. Robinson cigar manner is a living, breathing reminder to my gay friends (and enemies) that we haven't cornered the market on self-righteousness. We need to be proud of identities no matter how much cellophane we wear. 'Nuff said? Not nearly.

Edward C. Patterson
Dancaster Creative
Cutting the Cheese

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Men Need Romance Too

Men Need Romance Too

by Erastes

When I first had the idea to write a gay historical romance I decided to do a bit of research to find out whether there was such a thing as gay romance (yes, but not much) and whether people would:

1. publish it
2. buy it
3. read it
4. like it

I wasn't sure of the answers, even though I did as much research as I could do.

I was told so many things and they all turned out to be wrong.

- That only women wrote it (wrong)
- That only women read it (wrong)
- That gay men wouldn't read a gay romance book by a woman writer. (wrong)
- That I'd never sell it (wrong)
- That there had been an attempt in the 1980's ("Gaywyck" by Vincent Virga) to kick-start such a genre (true)
- but it had fizzled out (wrong)

I had a gut feeling that that gay men would read gay romance as opposed to – or in addition to, gay porn. I read both - why not men? From my fanfiction days I knew that a lot of women liked it, but even there male writers were rare.

When I looked on the net I found one site "Romentics" established by two gay men, Scott and Scott, who were so disillusioned by the paucity of gay romance in the gay fiction world that they decided to start up their own publishing house, and it's doing pretty well, too, by the looks of it. I got in touch with them and they were very helpful. However, even they said that it was difficult to get the stuff accepted by the publishers.

From the first page of Romentics Website:

"Gay men may be more willing than ever to claim their inner Cinderella and read up on Prince Charming. Certainly, most people's everyday lives could use a little more charm and a lot more prince..."

So it was after Standish was released, and when I started to receive emails from male readers, I found they were more than happy to have some romance in their novel.

I punched the air, I felt so bloody amazing. I replied to them, and I voiced my concerns. I couldn't say "Are you gay?" because it seemed rude, although it also seemed rude for me to assume it, too, but I said that I was glad they'd like it, and that I was worried that men wouldn't read it.

"Are you KIDDING?" they said, whole heartedly. "Why wouldn't we read it?" One man, a member of a large internet book club said that he knew at least ten other men who were reading Standish and reading it slowly because they didn't want it to end.

I can understand this, not for any big headed reasons about my book, but merely for the point that the gay historical romance is a rare beastie.

I got talking to a tutor of creative writing - his son was gay - and he often bewailed the fact to his father that there were no gay romance books, no Mills & Boons, no Harlequins, no books where he could read - knowing that gay men like him could find love and end up happy ever after.

Going back a few years, gay "romance" seemed to be separated into distinct categories.

1. Porn (the one handed goodness from publishers like Starbooks)
2. e-books (Lots of it there, with an emphasis on fantasy)
3. High Literature (At Swim Two Boys, The Charioteer, Maurice, Wicked Angels etc)

Thank goodness for them all, say I.

.... But... There was nothing much to compare with "Love's Savage Splendour" or "His Faithful Heart" or whatever. No "formula" (and yes I hate that word too, even though I write romance) romances. There *are*, however a very few writers writing it, but so few of us that each book is snapped up and read voraciously by an eager audience of women who like gay romance, and gay men themselves. Then they wait (im)patiently for the next one to come out. They are active, they share books and recs, they post on Amazon to share their new finds. They are passionate, and there's not enough of it to satisfy their voracious appetites.

Slowly the publishers are catching on. Let's hope that trend continues. In this financial climate, we all need romance - not just the men!


Friday, November 21, 2008

The Reluctant Muse

The Reluctant Muse by Dorien Grey

I invited my muse over this morning to talk about selecting a topic for this blog entry. Normally, I don't need his—and yes, all my muses are male—help on what to talk about, but after having headed off in various directions only to have my eyes glaze over in less than a paragraph, I decided I could use a little help.

"You got a beer?" he asked.

"Its eleven o'clock in the morning," I pointed out.


I got him his beer.

"Now, about today's blog," I began.

"Did you watch Lost the other night?" he asked, sitting on the couch and putting his feet up on the coffee table.

"Yeah," I said. "But I wasn't thinking about a possible blog topic when I watched. What do you suggest?"

"Nothing…I just wondered if you saw it. Good show. I still think Jack and Sawyer should run off together."

"You want me to write a blog about Jack and Sawyer getting it on?"

"There are worse topics."

"Well, I'm not sure anyone would be interested in reading about my erotic fantasies."

"So what do you want to write about?" he asked.

"That's why I called on you. You're the muse."

"You don't have to do a new blog every day."

"I know, but I hate to have someone take their valuable time to come to the site and not find anything new. I'm afraid they won't come back."

He took a deep swig of his beer and started flipping through a magazine. "You worry too much," he said.

"I was thinking of maybe doing one on the pets I've had through my life."

He glanced up from the magazine and raised an eyebrow. "Oh, there's a winner. I bet it'll end up with you getting all puddle-eyed, won't it?"

"Well, I'd hope not. But it's true they all died."

"Death's a bummer," he said.

"Yes, but it's a part of life. It's part of my life. It's part of everybody's life."

"So's a good laugh. You should try for that a little more often. Or at least a grin."

"I'm not Henny Youngman," I said.

He gave me a blank look. "Who's that?" he asked.

"Forget it," I said. "The point is, I can't think of a single thing to write about for tomorrow. You're my muse! Are you going to help me out with this blog or not?"

He finished his beer, stifled a belch, tossed the magazine back on the stack with the others, and got up, heading for the door. "I just did," he said. "See 'ya."

And with that he left.

Originally posted on Dorien's Blog HERE

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homage to that Old Chestnut - Moby Dick

My first post to this lovely new Blogsite. Since this is about gay writers, and Herman Melville was tres gay, and since I have written a novel emulating his themes, I believe this is an appropriate tidbit.

Ever since I picked up Herman Melville’s tale of the Whale, that great leviathan of beauty and destruction, I have been struck by the sheer poetry of Moby Dick. It teams with detail, buoyed up by a natural elegance that truly makes it a literary treasure.

In my novel, Turning Idolater, the title of which comes from Melville’s work and intones the ability (or inability) to compromise, I blend unlikely elements using Melville’s basic theme that each life is a journey that needs to come to terms with earth’s organic unity. The sea is prominent in the work, but instead of Melvillian detail — nine hundred shades of white and every knot that can be tied for any reason, I developed the characters along a different course – a Dickens course. Smashing Dickensian characters into Melvillian amplitude gives the work a unique feel. Add to that the juxtaposition of romance and mystery, a good, old fashion whodunit (here a herring, there a herring – mostly red, but some a shade of pink), and the reader is provided with a memorable experience. The dichotomies are further maintained by placing the sleazy world of Internet porn beside the hoity-toity universe of literary circles.

Finding the balance between many diverse elements is the shell surrounding this nut, but at its heart is Melville and the sea. Young Philip Flaxen’s voyage across an uncharted ocean in a vessel that leaks like the Dickens and flags in bad weather provides the reader with a hero’s journey. Philip is taxed by the many anomalies that he cannot digest, yet somehow he remains afloat. In hindsight, I have achieved what I wanted to achieve. Besides my usual attention to the reader’s needs, I sought in Turning Idolater to fire up old Melville, who is sometimes more admired than read — to reach down and scrape off the Pequod’s barnacles — bring it ashore for a modern day inspection. I am happiest when a reader tells me, as they have, "Now that I have read about Philip and Tdye and Sprakie and Old Charlotte, I think I’ll pick up Moby Dick again and give it another try." For every chapter in Melville that drones on about the nine hundred shade of the color white, there are others that sing:

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."

It’s a fine clear day, mateys, and the dolphins are calling, the gulls leading the way. You only need to be Turning Idolater to see your way clear through this damp, drizzly November.
Edward C. Patterson - dancaster creative