Monthly Archives: October 2010

I hate writing villains

By That Sin Fell The Angels may be the first story I’ve written which really gets into the head of the villain.  Usually, I restrict the viewpoint to the main character or the main character and his love interest (the secondary character).  The antagonist, if there is one, is usually observed by these characters, but we don’t actually experience his or her thoughts. 

In this novel, however, the story is being told from the point of view of Terry, a closetted music teacher at the High School; Jonah, a gay student; and the Reverend Isaac Thompson.  Isaac is the direct antagonist of Terry and indirectly affects Jonah, through the guidance he gives Jonah’s mother.  He’s an extremely difficult character for me to write, for three reasons.

Firstly, his viewpoint is pretty far removed from my own.  He’s a fundamentalist Christian who sees sin in everyone and feels that this needs to be confronted head on.  Compromise merely leads to sinners continuing to sin, and ultimately being damned to Hell.  Therefore, he rejects all of the things that I personally think are essential in a community of people with diverse beliefs — attempting to find common ground, accepting that there is more than one way of viewing things, being open to compromise.  Isaac does legitimately want to help people, but he goes about it in a way I could never condone.  I do have a dogmatic streak in me that often manifests itself in arguments about certain subjects (translations of Icelandic Sagas, for instance), so I can tap into that, but Isaac’s narrow-minded view of things often makes me want to hit him.

Secondly, he keeps wanting to be a parody.  The attitudes and views he represents are often repugnant to me and the temptation to portray him as Bigotted Bible-Thumping Preacher #5 from a catalogue of movie and television cliches is strong.  I think there’s a natural tendency for us to lampoon our enemies, and this character represents people I do consider to be the enemy — people who are bound and determined to interfere in my life and make sure I can’t live peacefully and happily in the manner I choose.  People who’s ignorance and hatred of those who differ from themselves leads teenagers to take their own lives in despair.  So I’ve been struggling to make the man intelligent and present his arguments in a logical fashion.  And I’ve used the grief he’s experienced over the loss of his family to explain in as sympathetic a manner as possible, why he is the way he is.

Thirdly, he doesn’t like the other characters.  This is particularly tough for me, because I’m a sap.  I love happy endings.  I love silly romantic movies and I cry when the main character realizes there really is a Santa Claus, even though everyone knows there really isn’t — especially the filmmakers who are pocketing the money I paid for a DVD of their hackneyed factory-produced crap…

Uh…where was I?  Oh, yeah.  One of my biggest problems, when I’m writing a story, is that I want everyone to fall in love with each other.  I want the story to end with one big puppy pile of people hugging and kissing each other, all wrongs forgiven and all malice forgotten.  Because of this, I frequently discover that a story has lost momentum, because I had the characters sit down and talk like reasonable human beings and iron out all the major conflicts between them.  With nothing left to fight about, there isn’t much of a story left.  I then have to go back and unravel all of that communion and empathy, so they can go back to hating each other for a bit longer.

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Filed under Young Adult

“Naughty or Nice” Advent Anthology

I would like to encourage everyone to purchase the Advent Anthology “Naughty or Nice” from Dreamspinner Press!  Well, maybe not everybody — it’s gay holiday romance with a highly erotic element, so if you’re under 18 or that’s just not your thing, it’s probably not for you.  But for everybody else…

Naughty or Nice

It’s $39.99 if you purchase it during the month of October, but it goes up to $49.99 in November and $64.99 on December 1st. That’s for 31 stories delivered to your inbox, one a day, for all of December. If you were to purchase each story separately, the total would come up to about $90.

At any rate, it contains my short story “The Meaning of Vengeance,” so it’s got to be great!

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Filed under Christmas, General, Viking

My author’s bio page is now up at Dreamspinner!

Dreamspinner Press has put my author’s biography up on their site now, and the Advent Calendar anthology that contains my Viking short story is listed underneath it:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_356

If you click on the anthology, then expand the “Excerpt” section underneath that, you’ll see my short story “The Meaning of Vengeance” listed among all the other stories, along with a brief description.

I admit to checking their site daily for this to show up.  It hasn’t been long since I gave them my bio — just over a week — but I’ve been going nuts waiting for it to appear.  Now I can finally point to a website and say, “Look!  I’m published!”

Well, almost.  You can place an order for the anthology (please!), but it won’t start arriving in your inbox until December 1st.  Then throughout the month, you’ll receive a new story every day!

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Filed under Christmas, General, Viking

“By That Sin Fell the Angels”

While waiting for NaNoWriMo to begin in November, I’ve been attempting to finish up a YA novel I put aside last July called “By That Sin Fell the Angels” (a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII).  It’s a difficult one for me to write, since it involves teen suicide and young people struggling with the fundamentalist Christian attitudes they’ve been raised with. 

I spent some time in this type of environment as a teenager and, frankly, it led to me contemplate suicide, if not actually attempt it.  I have journal entries from that time in which I kept analyzing my dreams and reactions to other boys and girls, looking for hints that I was outgrowing my homosexual tendencies.  I would celebrate any sign that I might be growing attracted to girls, despair about erotic dreams I was having about boys, and try to rationalize my feelings.  I prayed constantly to be cured.  But eventually I had to acknowledge that my sexuality was not going to go away.  It was part of me and I had to learn to live with it.  Unfortunately, I was so deeply ensconced in the literal interpretation of the Bible that it was impossible for me to find acceptance of myself as a gay man in those pages.  Eventually, I turned away from Christianity.

It’s hard, delving back into the bigottry of fundamentalist churches such as Assembly of God (which used to be my church).  This is why I put the novel aside this summer.  It was painful and unpleasant.  Every night, after writing, I had to remind myself that this was no longer my life and I could leave it behind on my computer.  I had a wonderful fiance and a house and my life was good.

I decided I needed a break from it, even though the writing itself was going well.  And that was probably best for my mental state.  But at the beginning of this month, I grew curious about what I’d written so far.  So I read it.  And it was good!  Strange, a bit surreal and disturbing, perhaps, but engrossing.  And it needed an ending.  So I began working on it again.

To my surprise, the relentlessly dismal tone of the novel took a significant turn for the better at the climax of the story.  Suddenly, these characters who seemed bent on their own destruction were finding ways to resolve their issues.  And I realized that, of course, this is how it has to be, if teens reading it someday are to take away any hope from it.  A character stated at one point in the novel, way back in July, “When push comes to shove, love usually trumps belief.”  I realized when I wrote that, that it might end up being what the novel was trying to “say.”  And now I know that it is.  Perhaps that isn’t always the case in real life, but often it is.  And it should be.  Always.

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Filed under Young Adult

NaNoWriMo

I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo ( National Novel Writing Month ) this coming November.  I did it last year and, though I didn’t quite make it to the 50,000 words needed to “win,” I did produce a not-half-bad Victorian Christmas romance novella that I was able to finish up and submit to Dreamspinner Press.  That will be my first published novella, come December 2010.

Since I’ve written a few YA novels and currently have no idea where to market them, I thought I’d tackle another adult novel this time.  Not “adult” in the sense of pornographic, but simply in the sense of having central characters who are out of High School.  In this case, they’ll be about 35.  Dreamspinner does like a certain level of eroticism in their publications, so there will be sex.  But I tend to keep that to a minimum, preferring romance, innuendo and foreplay to blatant sex scenes.  That’s not at all a condemnation of authors who do like graphic sex scenes.  It’s just a personal preference. 

Anyway, my story this year is an occult mystery, a bit in the “Ninth Gate” or “Name of the Rose” vein.  It involves a 700-year-old manuscript of an alchemical mass by a student of Marsilio Ficino, a 15th-century Italian occultist who wrote about the occult properties of music (among other things).  He was also, incidentally, gay.  Oh, yeah — he was also the first person to translate Plato from Greek to Latin, making that philosopher’s works available to Europe.  Remember how everybody was obsessed with Aristotle in “The Name of the Rose?”  That was because Aristotle had been translated into Latin, at that time (13th-century, if I recall).  Plato was pretty much a non-entity, until Ficino did his translations.

So we have our hero working on translating an ancient manuscript in a religious commune which is somewhat akin to the Ordo Templi Orientis that Aleister Crowley founded.  Then people start dying.

I’m attempting to plot the mystery out before NaNo starts.  Otherwise, I’ll get bogged down in the intricacies of the plot.  Once November 1st kicks off, you have to churn out a minimum of 1,666 words per day, in order to hit 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th.

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Filed under Mystery, NaNoWriMo

Hello world!

I thought about changing the name of this first post to be something more original, but as a computer geek, I appreciate the “ancient” tradition of your first program in a new computer language being something that just prints the words “Hello, world!” on the computer screen.  So I’ll leave it as it is.

My name is Jamie Fessenden, and I’m a gay man living in southern New Hampshire who writes fiction with gay central characters.  I’ve just signed my first publishing contracts, so, as of December this year (2010), I will be able to officially call myself an author.  I’ve been doing it for a while, of course, but without anything actually published, there was always that nagging voice in the back of my head, adding the caveat, “Well, sort of…”

Dreamspinner Press  will be publishing my short story “The Meaning of Vengeance,” about two men in Viking Age Iceland who, as the sole survivors of a fifteen-year blood feud, chose to put the feud behind them and end up falling in love.  Dreamspinner will also be publishing my long novella, “The Christmas Wager,” a Christmas story that takes place in Victorian England.  I’m incredibly excited to be working with Dreamspinner and hope to publish many more stories with them, in the future.

Since “gay marriage” (I prefer the term “marriage equality”) is now legal in the state of New Hampshire, my fiance and I are going to be married in a Victorian-themed wedding this November, after having been together for nine years.  We’ve already bought a wonderful house together on nearly eight acres of land and adopted a lovable oaf of a black lab, so my life is pretty fantastic, right now. 

I’m a moderately prolific writer of gay fiction, so I intend to use this blog to talk about stories I’m working on and hopefully promote stories that get published.  I have a few young adult novels that are in various stages of completion.  I’ll be shopping those around soon, though at the moment, I’m at a loss as to where to send them.  And in November I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo again, knocking out the adult murder mystery I’ve been outlining.

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Filed under Christmas, General