Category Archives: Life

When nobody reads your writing

386200_2673280425520_1061443511_32785704_1832786642_n.jpgWhenever an article or blog comes out in which an author grumbles about lack of sales, as author Michael Henderson did in this recent article about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, it’s common for people to slam them as whiners who don’t respect reader’s choices to buy other authors’ works, or worse, to claim it’s because their work is obviously inferior.

I don’t like this.

Michael Henderson will probably do just fine thanks to the boost his sales received from the article thanks to wordtree—he’s at least picked up one good review from it—but I’d like to address a few points:

  1. Amazon has over 3 million eBooks available.  It’s illogical to assume that any reader is able to go through that morass of brilliant and god-awful novels and decide which are good and which are not, in his or her opinion.  Readers — and that includes every author I’ve ever known — gather data from other readers they know, advertisements, which ones use companies and which ones don’t, reviews, and what-have-you to select books.  They also browse categories and look at blurbs and covers, but none of these techniques will ever give a reader more than the tip of the iceburg to choose from.  That’s just a statistical fact.
  2. Given what I said above, there is no way to correllate the quality of an author’s writing with how many books they sell, especially if we’re talking about the low end of the spectrum.  Nobody even knows what that means, frankly.  I often think a book is brilliantly written when nobody else seems to like it, and vice versa.  And it’s impossible for any reader to decide a novel is bad if he or she hasn’t read it.  Period.  So if an author’s book has only sold ten copies, it could mean the author can’t string two sentences together (as one reader claimed of Murder on the Mountain), but it could just as easily mean only ten people have read it and they don’t have a large enough influence over other readers to make the book take off.  Assuming a book is bad because it didn’t sell is just another form of blaming the victim:  “It happened to him because he did something wrong.  Therefore, it won’t happen to me, because I know what I’m doing.”
  3. Not all authors are good at selling themselves or their books.  The nature of the profession tends to attract introverts who prefer to be by themselves, writing or reading—not running around to cons and bookfairs chatting readers up, or even getting too social on social media.  Most new authors have no idea this is even part of the deal.  It’s like getting on a flight around the world, being yanked out of your seat, and shoved into the cockpit.  “Didn’t anyone tell you you’re the pilot?  Good luck!”

Having said all that, my advice to authors who aren’t selling well is this:  Don’t bitch about it.  Okay, you can grumble a little, but whatever you do, don’t attack popular authors and complain that their books are crap.  Don’t insist your own books are brilliant—that’s not for you to decide.  And don’t insult readers by claiming they have no taste.  Just realize they need to see you and your work before they can read anything you’ve put out, and the competition for reader attention is insane.

So get out there and be friendly!

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Filed under Life, Writing

Sex Positivity Blog Hop – My experience with slut-shaming

spbhbanner-3I’m posting today as part of the Sex Positivity Blog Hop created by Grace Duncan.  The idea behind it is for romance authors to share positive views about sex, as opposed to the negative views presented so often in the media and in our culture.  I’m a story-teller, so I prefer to discuss things like this as they relate to me personally, as part of the story of my life, rather than in the abstract.  And I’ll use kittens to illustrate my points, because… well, they’re cute.

To see the other stops on the blog hop, go here.

black catI’ve always had a very casual attitude toward sex—it’s fun and I enjoy it, but I’ve never connected it to love.  Love is how I feel about a very select few people in my life, including my husband, of course.  But sex?  I’ve had a lot of it.  Some of it was with friends, and some was with people I didn’t know.  I’ve tried nearly every position I can think of, and quite a few kinks.  Some of it was special, some of it was incredibly hot, some of it was awful.  But only when it was with someone I cared about deeply did it have any emotional power.

I’m not saying this is the way everybody should feel about sex, but it’s the way I’m wired.  Love is love, and sex is for fun.

It surprised me to learn, as I grew older, that some people found me disgusting because of this.  One of the most hurtful things that happened to me when I was dating was when I was on a second date with a man I was very attracted to.  We ended up back at my apartment, making out passionately on my bed.  I assumed this meant we would be having sex soon, so I joked, “I’ll warn you—I’m easy!”

386200_2673280425520_1061443511_32785704_1832786642_n.jpgHe jerked away and said in a disgusted voice, “I’m not!”  Then he left, and I never saw him again.  All calls to his number went unanswered.

I ran into more men like this over the years—men who initially found me attractive, but quickly dumped me when they found out I’d had a lot of sex in the past.  I was now “damaged goods.”  And because they saw me as worthless—certainly not as someone they could have a relationship with—to offer to have sex with them seemed to insult them.  “How dare you think I would stoop to having sex with someone like you?”

Once, when I went to look at an apartment, the landlord accosted me, pulling me into a dark room and yanking down my pants.  I didn’t want it—I was dating someone, at the time, and I found this man to be repulsive—so I struggled to get free of him, and ended up fleeing with one hand pulling my pants up as I ran.  I told my boyfriend about it that night, and he responded by sneering at me and saying, “That figures.  What did you do to encourage him?”

Luckily I continue dating nevertheless, meeting people everywhere and going online on those free trial chatlines,that helps people meet new people, and then I found Erich.

So, needless to say, by the time I met Erich, I was used to people thinking I was a “slut.”  It wasn’t so much that I thought badly of myself for my sexual history, but I was convinced I’d given up whatever chance I might have had for a permanent relationship.

kitten cuddleThank God for Erich.  Our first “date” was more of a geeky study group for two.  We were both interested in Old Norse, the language spoken by the Vikings, so we met at my apartment to go over some lessons.  When we got tired of that, we ended up making out.  I came onto him, and he didn’t play hard to get or act offended.  He acted as if he was lucky to have found me.  And I quickly realized I was lucky to have found him.

We’ve been together for thirteen years now.  We’ll be celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary this week, in fact.  During this time, Erich has always enjoyed hearing about the sexual antics I used to get up to in my youth.  He hadn’t been quite so adventuresome himself.  But whenever I mention how men used to make me feel there was something “tainted” about me for being so experienced, he pulls me into his arms and laughs.  “Then they missed out,” he tells me.  “I love hearing your stories.  I think they’re hot.”

So I may not be the type of guy every man wants to marry.  But that doesn’t matter anymore, because Erich wanted to marry me.

I wrote about some of this, fictionalized, in my novel Screwups.  What happened to Danny isn’t true—not for me, at least, though sadly it does happen to some high school students.  Some have committed suicide over it.  But his feelings of being sleazy and not good enough to be Jake’s boyfriend—of having screwed up his life—I understood all too well.  And many of the events that occur in the dorm really did happen to me, though of course I’ve inserted my fictional characters into them.  Eaton House did in fact have nude pizza parties, people chasing each other through the dorm naked, and residents posing nude in the lounge for art students.

One thing I left out of the novel was the time I streaked the dorm covered head to toe in nothing but marshmallow fluff.

Ah… good times….

To buy a copy of Screwups, look for it at Dreamspinner Press or Amazon.

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Filed under Bloghop, College, Contemporary, Jamie Fessenden, Life, Nudity, Sex, Sex Positivity

The Equal Rights Blog Hop: Coming Out in the 80s

Coming Out in Small Town New England in the 80s

equal_rights_blog_hop_button-400x398

Welcome to the Equal Rights Blog Hop! Each year, members of the the GLBTQ community and their supporters gather to celebrate the battle for equal rights. This year, thirty different authors have joined in the hop, and there are prizes galore! Be sure to check out the entire prize list at Queertown Abbey and see how you can enter to win the rafflecopter–as well as the Master List of Participating Authors.

I came out in 1983 in Keene, NH, a town with a population of about 23,000.  This was not a great time to be gay in America.  Homosexuality was still classified as a mental illness (until it was reclassified in an addendum to the DSM-III in 1987), and just one year after I came out, a young, openly gay man named Charlie Howard drowned, after being beaten and thrown off a bridge in Bangor, Maine—the town I was born in.

The world was not yet ready for us—for me.

I was actually lucky.  Though I’d spent some time in fundamentalist churches and, not to put too fine a point on it, been seriously screwed up by their loathing of homosexuals, my parents were not mean people.  In 1983, I was living with my mother—a psychologist—and she handled the revelation that her oldest son was gay pretty well.  My problems were self-loathing, taught to me by the church and society, and sheer loneliness.

Apparently, my self-loathing didn’t go very deep, because I was able to get over that within a few years of meeting other gay men and starting to date.  Thank God.  But that first obstacle—meeting other gay men—was a challenge.  Keep in mind, they didn’t want to be found.  Not by anyone who wasn’t gay.  And that made it hard for those who were gay to find them too.

It took me about a year to go from coming out to finally meeting another gay man.  Any gay man.

A friend of mine had heard that one of the local supermarket papers had personals for gays as well as straight people, so I picked up a copy.  There were a few GWM (Gay White Male) Seeking… hookups, mostly.  I found most of them kind of creepy.  But there was one from a man just a few years older than myself, and he appeared to be looking for someone to hang out with—not necessarily sex.  So I agonized over my response and finally sent a letter that just copied his ad, replacing his age with mine.

Fortunately, Michael thought it was cute.  He called and we arranged to meet in a public place.  Again, I was lucky.  Michael didn’t turn out to be my One True Soulmate, but he did turn out to be a caring, attractive man who made me feel good about myself and, as someone who worked in public radio news, he opened my eyes to the world around me.  And yes, he also became my first lover. For the record, he didn’t seduce me—I pretty much threw myself at him.

It was also through Michael that I finally found the Gay community in Keene.  It turned out they moved every month from one house to another, the next month’s location published in a newsletter distributed only to members, and then marked by purple balloons attached to the house’s mailbox when the time came.

At this time, there wasn’t much of an “LGBT” community.  Gay men did not hang out with lesbians, and the two groups frequently badmouthed each other.  Bisexuals and transgendered people were, I’m sad to say, treated with mockery.  Michael wasn’t like that. He and I rented rooms from a lesbian couple and he had friends who were bisexual, so I learned not to absorb the cliquish attitudes I encountered in the men’s group.  But we certainly weren’t any more welcome at the lesbian group than our landlady and her partner were welcome at the men’s group.

I recall being baffled, at the time.  I couldn’t understand why we didn’t all ban together and recognize we had a common cause.  I can’t tell you how much better things got for all of us in the 90s, when this began to happen.

To enter the grand prize drawing at Queer Town Abbey, please answer this question — WHAT TOWN DID I LIVE IN WHEN I CAME OUT?

Then, go to this link–

http://queertownabbey.com/the-equal-rights-blog-hop-july-4th-through-11th/

What you do next, will be explained there!

 

 

 

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Filed under Bloghop, gay, GLBT History, Jamie Fessenden, Life

My take on women writing MM Romance

SterekThe argument has surfaced again and again over the four years since I first published in this genre:  Are women really capable of writing MM Romance?  After all, it’s about men.  Shouldn’t men write it?

My answer to those questions is a bit complex, so bear with me.

First, a little history.  This is based upon my personal experience, supplemented by some cursory research, so don’t take anything I say as absolute fact.  I would love to see someone do a really thorough history of the genre someday.

I don’t know how old modern “gay literature” is.  I do know E.M. Forster wrote Maurice in 1913 (though it wasn’t published until after his death in 1971).  Blair Niles published a novel in 1931 called Strange Brother, which tells of the friendship between a heterosexual woman and a gay man.   Authors such as Christopher Isherwood and Langston Hughes were also writing in the 1930s, but I don’t think much of it was overtly homosexual.  Gordon Merrick wrote a gay novel in 1947 called The Strumpet Wind. In the 1950s, the gay pulps made a tentative appearance, sometimes as reprints of older novels such as Strange Brother, and by the 1960s, some of pulps had become sexually explicit.  Victor J. Banis was one of the pioneers in this genre with his The Man from C.A.M.P. series, beginning in 1966.

There are too many authors to list in this brief overview, but I’ll add a few more groundbreaking novels here.  In 1970, Gordon Merrick’s The Lord Won’t Mind hit the New York Times Bestsellers List for sixteen weeks.  Then in 1974, Patricia Nell Warren hit the NYT Bestsellers List with The Front Runner, which became an enormous mainstream hit.  In 1980, Vincent Virga wrote the first gay gothic romance, appropriately titled Gaywyck.

Now, most of the authors writing gay novels were gay men, but you’ll note that the author of The Front Runner was a woman.  Another female author, Marion Zimmer Bradley, published one of my favorite gay novels—The Catch Trap—in 1979.  She later wrote other novels with gay characters, as did Patricia Nell Warren.  (Yes, I’m aware of the controversy surrounding Marion Zimmer Bradley, and I’m not saying I approve of everything she’s done.  However, it’s still a great novel.)

When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality in the early eighties, I devoured every gay novel I could find—not that I could find many.  Most of what I discovered was in the bargain bins of the local used book store.  Those books were mostly dreary depictions of gay men living lonely lives, having sex with strangers, and resolving to die alone.  Often they died prematurely of AIDS or violence.  As much as I love The Front Runner, which depicts a wonderful, loving relationship between two men, the ending is horrific.  These books depicted a bleak future for a teenage boy just coming out of the closet.  It got to the point where I flipped to the end chapter of every book I picked up to make sure the main character and his love interest were both still alive before I purchased it.

Fortunately, there were exceptions.  Gordon Merrick novels ended happily, though they were so obsessed with physical beauty and enormous cocks I couldn’t really apply them to my life.  I did stumble across a novel called Tory’s by William Snyder which ended happily, though again the main character was rather vapid and obsessed with physical appearance.  There was one wonderful YA novel by B.A. Ecker called Independence Day which had a positive impact on me.  It depicted a boy my age who was in love with his best friend.  The ending saddened me, because they didn’t end up running off into the sunset together, but the fact that his friend embraces him when he comes out was a big deal.  I have no idea whether B.A. Ecker was male or female, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Ecker was female.  I’ve already mentioned The Catch Trap, which was wonderfully romantic and ended happily.

And it was written by a woman.

At this time, I had no doubt that I preferred female authors.  It seemed to me that the male authors of gay novels were either depressed or obsessed with penis size.  I wanted romance.  And for that, I turned to women.  (Later, I would discover Mercedes Lackey’s Last Herald Mage trilogy, which couldn’t be said to be happy, really, but was definitely romantic.)

Then in college, I discovered an entirely new (to me) source of gay stories—slashfic.

I’m sure most people already know the term, but basically it’s fiction written by fans of a particular TV, movie, or book series who pair up their favorite characters for sexual escapades.  The name “slashfic” derives from the slash put between the characters when people talk about the stories, such as “Kirk/Spock.”  (There can, of course, be multiple characters—it doesn’t just have to be two.)

I never wrote fanfic or slashfic myself, but I saw it online.  At the time, the World Wide Web didn’t exist.  My college wasn’t even on the Internet until near the end of my time there—we were on something called BITNET.  (Which is a fascinating subject, but not relevant to this discussion.)  All of the stories I read were distributed on a text-based service called LISTSERV.

While I didn’t write slashfic, I did write original stories on a vampire fan list and I was on a Star Trek fan list, among others.  The authors who posted their works of fiction—whether based in the universe of Star Trek, or Anne Rice, or entirely of their own creation—were largely amateurs.  I don’t mean that in a negative sense.  Some of them were very good.  (Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favorite fantasy/science fiction authors, began by writing Star Trek fanfic.)  But most were unpublished at that time, like myself.

And another observation:  most of these writers were female.  Yes, I’ve seen rants about how this is a stereotype and completely untrue, but I’ve found at least one study in 2010 that seems to have some good data.  It could all be bogus, of course, but if it’s correct, we’re looking at about 78% of fanfic writers being female.  And if we’re talking about the sub-category of slashfic, which often (though not always) involves two male characters getting it on, it seems reasonable to assume a largely female authorship.  Gay men no doubt write some, but I think the percentage is low.

What does this have to do with MM Romance?

Not to put too fine a point on it, MM Romance—in my opinion—does not owe its origin to mainstream gay fiction.  It comes from slashfic.  I’m not saying it’s the same thing as slashfic.  Certainly not.  It’s evolved away from its origins.  MM Romance is original fiction and much of it is well-written and professional.  But it descended from slashfic, and the gender demographics haven’t changed a lot.  The majority of writers are still female, and the majority of readers are female.

Mainstream gay fiction is still out there.  It’s actually expanded a bit to include lesbian and transgender fiction.  But I confess, I still find much of it dreary.  I picked up a book not long ago that was was full of critical accolades in the first pages.  I read the first chapter, grew suspicious, and flipped to the end.  Yes, the love interest was dead, the victim of a gay-bashing.  Of course.

I don’t need that crap.

I want romance.  And for that, I turn to MM Romance, which has always been a genre dominated by women.  Always.  There has never been a time when the majority of writers in this genre were gay men.  So the question of whether women should be writing MM Romance is utterly absurd.

The real question is, can men write it?

Gay men, in fact, often find it frustrating to write in this genre.  They sometimes pour their hearts into a manuscript, writing about gay characters dealing with the difficulties gay men face every day, only to have it rejected by publishers of MM Romance because there isn’t enough romance in it.  Or (somewhat ironically) female readers will rate a story badly because there isn’t enough sex in it, which can make us feel as if we’re prostituting ourselves.  And while there are a few gay men on the top of the charts, there are far more women up there, there are other business like make up but is because the products are directed mainly to women, products you can see online as in this Truffoire Review: My Experience with the Perigold Collection. Depending of the use women give them to these products, since there are products for totally different purposes as a semi permanent makeup for long duration and that is easy to get at https://www.coronamicroblading.com/.

The fact of the matter is, MM Romance may be about gay men, but it isn’t really ours.  The genre is full of tropes that often baffle and frustrate us—all couples must be monogamous, despite a very large percentage of gay couples having open relationships; the only real sex is penetrative anal sex, despite the fact that many gay men don’t like it—and many gay men have difficulty writing them.  Not only that, but many gay men have difficulty reading them. Hence the reason this argument of women writing MM Romance keeps surfacing.

(Also, I am not trying to imply that all gay men agree about… well, anything.  Whenever I talk about how tired I am of seeing anal sex written about as if it’s the ultimate expression of love for gay men, I get some men praising me and some men snarling at me for tromping all over something they happen to love.)

But grousing about the problems in the genre overlooks one other key fact:  without it, most of the gay authors currently publishing in MM Romance would not be published, or at least they would have to resort to self-publishing.  This isn’t to say MM Romance authors, whether men or women, aren’t up to snuff when compared to mainstream authors.  I think many of us are.  But the gateways to mainstream publishing are jealously guarded.  An author nearly always requires an agent to get into a mainstream publishing house, and agents themselves take on only a small percentage of the authors who submit to them.

MM Romance publishers have provided another avenue for gay male authors—a lot of gay male authors.  It’s been a boon to us. Like any market, it has restrictions as to what sells and what doesn’t sell, and it does little good to complain about that.  We have to adapt to what sells if we want our stories to sell.  That’s just marketing common sense, if you contact the indexsy seo company you will know this for sure.  And at least some male authors have been successful at it.  We do, after all, like romance too.

Ultimately, if there are things gay authors don’t like about the MM Romance genre, we’re in a good position to affect some change within it.  Not by ranting, necessarily.  (Yes, I’m guilty of ranting—frequently.)  But by depicting ourselves honestly in good stories.  If our stories are good, they’ll have an influence.  Also by talking about ourselves honestly with other authors in the genre.  Female authors aren’t the enemy.  They want their stories to be authentic.  The best do their research and hang out with gay men so they can accurately represent us.  But of course, “gay men” isn’t really a unified group of people—and the information we impart about our lives is often contradictory.  And they’re bound by the market too.  They want to sell their books.  So change comes slowly.

Overall, when I talk of “changing” the MM Romance genre, I’m not talking about a genre in need of a complete overhaul.  This genre has been good for the LGBTQ community.  It’s expanded our acceptance with both readers and publishers, and it’s influenced the way a lot of people vote on gay rights issues.  I have no doubt that it’s expanded the acceptance of same-sex marriage in this country and others.

So I like the MM Romance genre.  I’ve found a home there and made a lot of friends there.  Any good author will have an influence upon his or her genre, even if small, so of course I hope to do so someday.  But if I do, it will be through the quality of my work—not through any misguided attempts to drive women out of the genre and claim it as my own.

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Filed under Drama, gay, Life, Romance, Writing

Can we please kill this whole Top/Bottom thing?

Warning:  this blog post contains frank discussions of gay sex.  

Imagine this scene from a straight romance novel:

Harold gazed longingly into Marjorie’s eyes and whispered, “I’ve been waiting all night long to get you into a sixty-nine.”

Marjorie took a quick sip of her wine in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into her cheeks.  She gazed out over the city skyline and breathed in the warm night air, giving herself a moment to think.  Normally, Marjorie considered herself to be a missionary-style woman, but for Harold she could be flexible.  “Yes,” she gasped finally, “that sounds really hot.”

What’s wrong with this scene?  I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it:  they’re not even in the bedroom yet, and they’re already negotiating positions!  Who would do that in real life, except perhaps two people negotiating a BDSM scene?

Yet, if we change the two main characters to gay men….

Harold gazed longingly into Mark’s eyes and whispered, “I’ve been waiting all night long for you to top me.”

Mark took a quick sip of his wine in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into his cheeks.  He gazed out over the city skyline and breathed in the warm night air, giving himself a moment to think.  Normally, Mark considered himself a bottom, but for Harold he could be versatile.  “Yes,” he gasped finally, “that sounds really hot.”

Sure, for men, right here it’s a little raunchy, but no more than other scenes I’ve read in the genre.  It now doesn’t seem all that unusual.  Why?  Because gay men often negotiate who’s the top and who’s the bottom before they have sex, or at least that’s what’s going through their heads.  Right?

Well, um… no.  Not really.

coin_wideOkay, I can’t claim to speak for all gay men.  Perhaps some gay men do this.  But honestly, I’ve been out since 1983 and over the thirty years since I came out, I’ve had lots of sex.  I’ve topped; I’ve bottomed; I’ve done other things I have no intention of talking about in a blog open to the general public.

Do you know what I haven’t done in all that time?  Declared myself a “top” or a “bottom” to anybody.

Ever.

Nor have I ever thought to myself, “I’m a top,” or “I’m a bottom.”  Is this because I’m “versatile?”  No, it’s because I’m just a guy, and when I have sex, we go into the bedroom (or wherever said sex is going to occur) and just go at it.  At some point, somebody might ask, “Would you like to fuck me?” or “Can I fuck you?”  Imagine!  Actually asking what your partner is in the mood for!

Yes, I’ve known men who would never let anyone fuck them.  Although these guys often refuse anal sex, period, because they find it repulsive or just don’t happen to like it.  (I’ve already discussed the fact that not all gay men are into anal sex in a previous blog post.)  What it has almost never been is because they are “bottoms” who never like to “top.”

Sure, they may have a preference.  Just like straight men and women have preferences.  According to Wikipedia, an examination of over 55,000 profiles of gay men on the popular hookup site gay.com “showed that 26.46% preferred top, while 31.92% preferred bottom, and the largest group (41.62%) preferred versatile.”  In other words… nothing.  We might as well call it split down the middle with 42% not caring either way.  And it’s about as useful as polling straight couples about their favorite position.

But my main point is, straight men and women don’t identify as the sexual position they prefer, so why should gay men?

And don’t even get me started about “pitcher” and “catcher.”  I don’t know the origin of the phrase, but I’ve rarely heard it issued by someone who wasn’t disturbed by the idea of gay sex in general.  I’ve certainly never heard gay men refer to each other that way.

Now, I suppose the gay “scene” is different in the cities and in various parts of the country.  I can only really talk about the way things are in my area, and age makes a difference as well.  But these aren’t terms I want to be associated with.

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Filed under gay, Life, Romance, Sex, Writing

What’s up with all the nudity?

1486897_239607046199651_1288080316_nMost readers who pick up a M/M Romance novel aren’t terribly surprised to find out that the characters take their clothes off, at least for the sex scenes.  That’s pretty much expected. But a number of readers/reviewers have expressed surprise at just how much nudity my adult novels contain.

Tom and Kevin in Billy’s Bones are naked whenever they’re in the house alone, or outside in the yard.  There are so many people wandering around naked on the grounds of the Temple in Murderous Requiem that even I’ve lost track of how many.  And dorm life in Screwups appears to be one big, hedonistic romp, with people streaking, stripping, and partying without a stitch on. Do I really think that’s realistic?

Well, actually, yes.  I do.  All of these were loosely borrowed from real situations I’ve been in.

Like my favorite science fiction author, Robert A. Heinlein, I’m a nudist.  (Don’t worry—I won’t be posting pictures.)  How this happened, I’m not quite sure.  I was an extremely shy teenager who had difficulty looking people straight in the eye, never mind taking his clothes off in front of everyone.  But at some point in college that changed.

Body image was a big part of it.  I was skinny as a toothpick and I thought that made me unattractive.  Then one night, sleeping over at my boyfriend’s apartment, I decided to be bold when I went downstairs for a drink and just wear my underwear, even though his friends were watching TV in the living room.  I cut in front of them and they whistled at me.  “Stop making fun of me,” I said.  The response I got was a slightly lecherous, “Oh, we weren’t making fun of you.”

Wait… what?  Really?

Over the next few years, my shyness fell away.  I lived for a short time in an apartment with two other people, and we decided clothing would be optional.  Then I moved into a dorm which subjected me to co-ed bathrooms, where people of either gender might be stepping into or out of the shower when I walked in.  I was exposed to streaking, skinny dipping, nude snow angels, and posing nude in the lounge for people to sketch.

Ah… those were the days.

At one point, I was dared to strip naked in a hallway, cover my entire body with marshmallow fluff, and run through the dorm.  I don’t know how many people gathered for that event, but I estimate it was at least forty. So much for shyness.  Although I have to say this about it:  when you’re covered with marshmallow fluff, you kind of feel like you have clothes on.

Since then, I’ve been to nude beaches, nudist resorts, and clothing-optional pagan gatherings.  So, yeah.  Even though age and weight gain has taken its toll, I’m still pretty comfortable in my skin.  So does this mean I’m going to use my novels to push some kind of evil nudist agenda?

Well, not deliberately.  But you write what you know.  And all of my main characters are me, in some guise or other.  Tom in Billy’s Bones, Jeremy in Murderous Requiem, Danny in Screwups—they’re definitely me.  But so are Kevin, Bowyn, and Jake to a lesser extent.  What isn’t me is filled in from other people I’ve known.  I rarely write a character who isn’t based in some part on a real person.

There are characters in my stories, of course, who wouldn’t be caught dead naked.  Isaac in By That Sin Fell the Angels, Susan in Billy’s Bones, Paul in Screwups.  But those characters are probably the least like me.  Susan Cross is based on my mom.  My mom doesn’t run around naked.

At any rate, the best I can say is, if it seems weird to a reader that my main characters are completely at ease without their clothes on, that’s simply because it doesn’t seem weird to me.  Will I change it to make others happy?  Probably not.  But if I write a scene in which my main character goes to work naked and his corporate boss says, “Hey, Joe!  How’s it hanging?  Oh, never mind—I can see for myself,” I do hope my editors will point out that this probably wouldn’t happen in real life.

At least, not in New Hampshire.

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Filed under Jamie Fessenden, Life, Nudity, Writing

Guest Blog: Coming Out at 35 by Posy Roberts

Spark_headerbanner

Is there an ideal age to come out? I have a friend who watched her middle school son come out to his school a few years ago. In 1989, a classmate of mine waited until he left for college. I know adults who are still not out for one reason or another. Stonewall polled people and found younger people are coming out much earlier than their older counterparts did. There is no right answer, but there are certainly circumstances that make it harder for people.

Pretend you’re a bisexual man, and even at the age of thirty-five, no one knows this except for the boyfriend you dated in high school. Everyone thinks you’re straight. After all, you dated only women—as far as they know—married a wonderful one, had kids with her, and on the outside, everything seemed picture-perfect until you asked for a divorce. You ended up separating for the same reasons as many couples around, because after you had kids, you and your wife slowly fell out of love. So why would anyone think you were anything but straight?

Nothing drastic needs to change in your life just because you’re bisexual. Unless you fall in love with a man, the same man who stole your heart when you were a teen. He’s the one person you’ve never been able to get out of your head either.

Spark, book one in my North Star Trilogy, is about second chances at love with that special someone who got away. Kevin Magnus kept his bisexuality such a close secret because his father never would’ve approved of having a son who was in any way different. When Kevin left home for college, he dated women, and eventually Erin, the woman who would become his wife.

Now that Kevin has reconnected with Hugo Thorson, Kevin has a very new reality to face. How does he come out? And he will eventually have to come out, he realizes, especially after he sees how out Hugo is. There’s no putting Hugo back in any closet, and Kevin would never want that either. He loves this new, freer Hugo, but Kevin is reticent.

After essentially living the life of a straight man for years, how do you come out? Kevin really has no clue how to manage it. As a father, it means more than simply declaring that he’s bisexual. He has to think about how to explain this to his children. Starting to date a man could be confusing to them. And how will Erin handle the news? He’s concerned that his newly revealed sexuality might affect his custody of the kids. Beyond that, he has to consider how friends and family will take the news.

In my personal life, I have a teensy experience that pales in comparison to this, but it made me very empathetic to this experience. Just like a lot of bisexual people, I assumed I was straight until I was faced with my very evident attraction to another woman. It was years before I said anything to anyone, and by that time, I was married and had a kid. I’m still married, but that’s not to say that my husband’s mind didn’t dance around like molded Jell-O on a hot summer’s day when I told him. It took him a while to adjust. It was just that his perception of me had changed.

There are no easy answers, Kevin quickly realizes and he knows he needs to take time to get used to the reality that living as an openly bisexual man dating a man is a completely different experience than living as a closeted one. Hugo needs to be patient with this process as well, and it is a process that takes more than one book to resolve. Spark is just the beginning of that journey.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 28 of Spark. You can read Chapter 1 here . This is the first time Kevin is coming out to a friend, even if his mouth gets away from him.

“I’m actually dating the guy he said all that shit to.” The words just mindlessly tumbled out of Kevin’s mouth in a rush, and he gripped his hair tightly until it hurt, mentally kicking himself for allowing his panic to get ahead of his logical thinking. But it was out there now.

“Oh man! That makes it about a hundred times worse.” No judgment. Nothing bad happened.

“Tell me about it. And I can’t get a hold of Hugo.”

“Shit. I’ll let you go so you can get to him.”

“Dena?” Kevin could hear worry straining those two syllables.

“What is it, Kevin?” She sounded concerned.

“Please promise me you won’t say anything to Erin?”

“Okay?”

“No. She doesn’t know I’m bisexual. No one does, and I’m not ready to say anything yet. I shouldn’t have said anything to you. I don’t know why I did. I’m not thinking straight.”

“Kevin, that’s your secret. If I’ve learned anything over the years from my brother, it’s that coming out has to happen when you’re ready, and it doesn’t happen all at once. Kevin?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m glad you felt comfortable enough with me to share that. I’m sure it wasn’t easy if this was the first time you’ve told anyone.”

Suddenly his quick call to make sure Mike got home was turning into a therapy session.

“I’ve known since I was sixteen. I was with Hugo in high school. He was my first boyfriend and my first.”

“And you’re back together? How romantic.”

Blurb:Spark2

In their small-town high school, Hugo and Kevin became closeted lovers who kept their secret even from parents. Hugo didn’t want to disappoint his terminally ill father, and Kevin’s controlling father would never tolerate a bisexual son. When college took them in different directions, they promised to reunite, but that didn’t happen for seventeen years.

By the time they meet again, Hugo has become an out-and-proud actor and director who occasionally performs in drag—a secret that has cost him in past relationships. Kevin, still closeted, has followed his father’s path and now, in the shadow of divorce, is striving to be a better father to his own children.

When Hugo and Kevin meet by chance at a party, the spark of attraction reignites, as does their genuine friendship. Rekindling a romance may mean Hugo must compromise the openness he values, but Kevin will need a patient partner as he adapts to living outside the closet. With such different lifestyles, the odds seem stacked against them, and Hugo fears that if his secret comes to light, it may drive Kevin away completely.

Posy RobertsPosy’s Bio:

Posy Roberts lives in the land of 10,000 lakes (plus a few thousand more). But even with more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined, Minnesota has snow—lots of it—and the six months of winter makes us “hearty folk,” or so the locals say. The rest of the year is heat and humidity with a little bit of cool weather we call spring and autumn, which lasts about a week.

She loves a clean house and she hates mold, that’s why she always contact the experts from Mold remediation atlanta, even if she can’t keep up with her daughter’s messes, and prefers foods that are enriched with meat, noodles, and cheese, or as we call it in Minnesota, hotdish. She also loves people, even though she has to spend considerable amounts of time away from them after helping to solve their interpersonal problems at her day job. Also one of the best ways to clean your house is with attic cleaning seattle.

Posy is married to a wonderful man who makes sure she eats while she documents the lives of her characters. She also has a remarkable daughter who helps her come up with character names. When she’s not writing, she enjoys karaoke, hiking with best buy montem hiking poles, and singing spontaneously about the mundane, just to make normal seem more interesting.

Read more at http://posyroberts.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/posyroberts11

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PosyRoberts

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Filed under Blog Tour, gay, Guest Blogger, Life, New Release, Romance, Writing, Young Adult