Tuesday, May 21, 2013


In writing my entry yesterday, I should have specified that the student Tamlin seduces is a 32 year old adult, not some attractive teen he takes advantage of. Tamlin is NOT that type!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fading to Black...or not...

I face a quandary many authors have faced at one time or another. Does one follow one's characters to the bedroom / back seat of the car / living room floor / beach / jacuzzi etc., or leave it totally to the reader's imagination?

I have struggled with this for as many years as I have been writing fiction, and have come to the conclusion that sex is part of life, and if we are looking in on the lives of various characters, there ought to be no shame in looking in on this part of their lives as well.

One editor puzzled me. Heterosexual lovemaking, described in what I fervently hoped were artful, sensitive terms, was considered "gratuitous." Better I should simply "fade to black." However, to this same person (a straight woman), descriptions of sexual relations between two men were an entirely different matter. There was never any objection to those scenes. Hmmmmm...

Admittedly, one of my gay male characters has been declared "hot" by folks from all walks of life: young and old, male and female, gay and straight. More than once, someone has been known to remark, "Man, I wish he was real!"

He -- Tamlin Marbeck -- is a strange combination of many diverse, possibly contradictory elements. He is a Scot with an incredible accent; tall, dark, and rugged; a bit dangerous; a rugby player; a bass viola da gamba virtuoso. Basically, he's a heady, intoxicating, overwhelming force of nature.

His partner, Neal Bryan, crippled all his life by a birth defect left too long untreated, is every bit as intense, albeit for different reasons. He certainly looks the part of the sensitive musician, but looks are deceptive. In his own way, he may be even tougher than Tamlin.

Neal is the character who has been with me longest, born one Spring morning in 1977, in the carels outside my Algebra classroom. I was supposed to be studying Algebra, but my mind wandered in a different direction. I loved my Algebra teacher, but I hated Algebra. What can I say? And what a coincidence! Neal  also hated Algebra and managed to avoid it completely by being an independently wealthy, orphaned musical prodigy, studying at Juilliard at age 15.

He's changed a bit since those days. Yes, he did end up being a prodigy, though not an orphan,  and attended music school in New York City (Juilliard is implied, but never stated), and commuted from Long Island with his father every day, until he was old enough to move into his own (funded by his parents) apartment. Eventually, he found a life partner, moved in with him, struggled through some really hideous corrective surgery on his bad leg, and established his career. (Teaching, and oboe performance).

His messed-up leg and the way his parents dealt with it ended up being a metaphor for my own asthma, in a visible form, and the way my parents dealt with that. Overprotection was the rule of the day. For both Neal and myself, being as closely guarded as we were, it was a wonder we ever became able to function in the real world.

Since Neal was that brother / alter ego I could look up to, if he succeeded in my fiction, then I could succeed in real life, too. This little charm never worked quite as well as I would have liked, but it was always there as a touchstone and did help to some degree, especially once the stories began to lose the unrealistic idealism of youth.

I find myself once again considering sex in literature, specifically MY literature.

In some scenes, it's just good old honest sex. It's detailed enough to be pleasant, but doesn't take up a whole lot of space.

Then, there's Epic Sex. Every book I have written has at least two Epic Sex scenes that I can think of. Sean and Mary's First Time in "The Balladeer's Tale" will always be a favorite. It's NICE Epic Sex.

One of my other personal favorites is not so nice, and involves Tamlin seducing one of Neal's (consenting adult male) students. Of course, that sort of thing wouldn't have happened at all, if the student had not always had the hots for Tamlin, or if Neal were well and not dying by slow degrees. It's a bad combination of factors, and both parties are sorry for it afterwards.

Epic Sex scenes go on for several pages, not just a few paragraphs. There is the setting of the scene, the establishment of the general atmosphere, and a progression of events leading to the inevitable conclusion. Some say I write this sort of thing well. Some, as noted above, say it's gratuitous.

Do I still feel squeamish sometimes, after writing sex, be it ordinary or Epic? You betcha! But squeamish enough to leave those parts out of my stories and "fade to black?" Hell no! It's part of life, and if I am to be an honest writer, I must embrace it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Revisit, Rewrite

Starting around 6th grade, I discovered I enjoyed creative writing, and was perpetually trying to make up characters and write short stories or long stories about them, and I would also pretend to BE these various people. What would it be like for this or that person to walk down the street, play in the field behind our house, or sit at a desk for an entire school day?

Sometime in 9th grade, one of my people became a sort of brother/alter-ego. He was a better musician than I was, and I could aspire to reach the same goals -- or exceed them. It didn't quite happen for me, and when I realized I would have to think about doing Something Else, this character was still with me, and he wanted me to tell his story.

I spent my late teens/early twenties struggling to do so, but no matter how hard I tried, I could never come up with a convincing female character to go with him. In the Fall of 1984, as I walked beside Minnehaha Creek (in Minneapolis) one fine evening, I suddenly knew what was wrong with everything I had written up to that point. The character made it known to me, that night, that he was not interested in women. He was gay, and as I scuffed through the leaves, I had a lovely mental vision of him with the man who would become his partner.

This led me down some pretty uncomfortable paths as I worked intermittently on my first novel over the course of 16 years. Finally, in the year 2000, I had all the pieces in an order that pleased me, and I self-published the novel under a nom de plume. It had a small, select (mostly gay male) following for a time, as did its sequel. Occasionally, I still get a nice piece of fan e-mail.

Not being a good self-promoter at all, the books are out there, but have not sold many copies. It has been a number of years since I last perused the pages of either one, but over the last few days, I began to wonder about those stories again. Kindle readers have become very popular -- heck, I even have one, myself, finally, after resisting for a number of years -- and Amazon makes it pretty easy for an author to share their work.

I thought print-on-demand was a good way to go back in Y2K, but it's a rare person who wants to pay 20 bucks or more for a paperback, no matter how well-written the story. Since both novels clock in at almost 400 pages, the cover prices were $18.95 and $20.95, respectively. They are nice editions, not cheap grocery store trade novels that fall apart after one reading, but still, they are paperbacks.

Kindle books are a lot cheaper, and they take up less space.

Re-reading novel number one, I have found, much to my relief, that it isn't bad at all. Very much a first novel, yes, but I still like my characters, and I still like the way they go about things. I find I want to revisit them and tweak the manuscript, with the intent to make it available as a Kindle book in the not-too-distant future.

It took me awhile to find my submission copies in my computer archives, but I finally did find them, and I'm excited about whipping them into shape. Maybe once I've done that, I can finally begin to work seriously on the third book in the series, which has been complete from point A to point B for a few years now, but I needed more life experience before I felt I could handle the topics of aging and approaching demise in a convincing manner. At age 51, I think I'm there.

Will I still use my nom de plume? Probably. It still resonates. I'm still very much attached to "him." Plus, living in a small town and having a relatively ordinary existence, I'm too chickensh*t to publish any of this under my real name. At least for the time being. We'll see what the future holds.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Say hello to the Badass Barefoot Leather Babe and her Really Nice Bassoon!

I have not played in years, but after thinking I heard a bassoon in the bass line of "Is the Sky the Limit," I suddenly wanted to play again. This is not the first time a brush with Grant Hart's music has prompted me to dust off an instrument I haven't played in awhile, so I figure I'll go with it and see what happens. I've gotten as far as ordering some new reeds, so as soon as they arrive, I'll give it a whirl. It's going to take a bit of time to build up my chops again, but it will be worth it if I end up being able to, say, use the bassoon for simple bass lines in my own recordings.

Grant, predictably, will not tell me if I really heard a bassoon or not, but what he did say leads me to believe I'm right.

"It might not be a bassoon, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck..."

So, I do think we have a bassoon line in the song. That warm, reedy timbre cannot be faked or synthesized. Now, what I want to know is if Grant played it himself, or called someone else in to do the job. Since he seems able to play every instrument he puts his hand to, I'm guessing he also played the bassoon line. Hopefully, the credits on the album will reveal the truth!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Witnessing a Birth

Well, that's what it felt like at noon when I received a very interesting e-mail from a Grant Hart fan.

People, we have a release date for "The Argument." I think I will be counting the minutes to July 22nd!

Not only do we have a release date, we have a publicity page.

And if you scroll down past the charming publicity photo and very well written article, you will find Soundcloud links to two (non-downloadable) preview tracks: Is the Sky the Limit, and Letting Me Out.

The latter track rips along at a fantastic pace, sounding a lot like Buddy Holly, but listen to the wry humor in the lyrics. This is the part where Satan is bargaining with Sin and Death to let him out of hell to wreak havoc upon the earth, and thus begin sending along lots of unfortunate souls to keep the two evil ones' appetites satisfied. Heavy subject matter, but a really danceable tune. Whoa!

This brings me to Is the Sky the Limit. Oh. My. God. I listened to it for the first time, via headphones and iPhone, while attempting to eat my lunch in the cafeteria at work. I ended up trying not to weep over my sandwich. I have loved the song since I first started hearing Grant play it live, just himself and his guitar. But this -- the full band arrangement -- finally hearing what Grant intended, completely -- words fail.

I know how hard he has worked. I know how many challenges and roadblocks he had while trying to bring the project to completion. To use a childbirth metaphor, it was probably the longest transition stage on record. Want to push...need to push...but it's not time yet.

Finally, he DID get to push, and hearing Is the Sky the Limit for the first time was like watching a newborn burst forth into the world. Grant did not simply work on a project. No. He grew it, he shaped it, and now, triumphantly, he has BIRTHED it.

Now, to have the patience to wait for the release so I can hear every single bit of it! That's not going to be easy...