Chapter 3 is Available!

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Hi, Patreon fans.

Chapter 3 of my new Work in Progress The Road to Redemption is now available on my Patreon page.

www.patreon.com/fefeeleyjr

 

This is a work of gay fiction in the urban fantasy/ post-apocalyptic world. I really appreciate your support and can’t wait to bring this newest book to you all. Check out my page. Oh yeah, the first chapter is free.

Thanks!

F.E.

P.S. I would love your feedback on the story and where YOU think it should go.

 

Beaten Track Radio Author Chat (Jamie Fessenden)

Hi there!

This past Saturday Jamie Fessenden Co-hosted with me on Author Chat Live on www.beatentrackradio.com

If you missed the show – where we discussed the difference between M/M Romance and Gay Fiction as well as Jamie’s books – click the link below and you can listen in.

Also, if you’re an author that would like to co-host with me live on the radio, send me a message via email or through here and let’s get you scheduled.

 

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#OwnVoices need publishers to focus on them (LGBT)

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unsplash-logoCaitlyn Wilson

With the recent fallout concerning the publisher Riptide as well as the fallout around Santino Hassell, there has been an exposure of underlying issues in the m/m romance genre.

These issues include racism, misandry, bi-erasure, trans-erasure, and oddly enough, homophobia inside these books.

Furthermore, there are issues that gay men deal with specifically such as conversion therapy and other such things that authors use as a plot device. Due mostly to the rules of romance combined with privilege, these serious issues are often overlooked or oversimplified.

This is detrimental to the subject matter because it gives the reader the wrong ideas about many aspects and it’s detrimental to the LGBT person who reads this and wonders just how so much could be so wrong in the world.

There are those out there who have no problem participating in the creation of work that perpetuates stereotypes, whitewashes homosexual relationships to make them more palatable, ignores People of Color in gay relationships, writes subjects without doing their due diligence in regards to what gay men experience (The Preacher’s Son), and this idea that fantasy has any business overriding the reality of many.

These issues, including others, are deeply rooted in the genre of m/m romance. They’ve caused widespread arguments before, there have been flare-ups before this, but nothing quite this bad or widespread.

Yet, the problem hasn’t gone away.

Nor will it go away.

Mostly, because like a festering boil, or like a bad tooth, the pain won’t go away until the root cause of the problem is dealt with.

I used to think that this is an issue that could be solved with simple conscientiousness. Yet, I think I may have changed my mind on this. I don’t think that’s enough.

We need publishers or a publisher to focus on LGBT stories from LGBT people – specifically. Whether that is an imprint or a publisher whose sole purpose is to produce this or publishing houses who have a diverse staff prepared to deal with these stories, specifically.

#Ourvoices

Our stories from people who are inside the spectrum of LGBT be they romantic stories or otherwise.

While I think people from all walks of life have a right to write what they want, we need our place to write what we know. What we’ve lived. What we’ve gone through. What we’re still going through. How we see the world.

We need a place to gather specifically for the creation of LGBT work by LGBT individuals.

Right now gay people and gay people’s lives are being used to profit everyone but gay people. That isn’t fair.

#Ourvoices need to be heard. #Ourvoices are important, too. #Ourvoices ought to have a place of their own to grow and flourish.

 

Trigger Warnings: Munchausen by Proxy

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I kinda overreacted earlier about a post concerning trigger warnings. The overreaction wasn’t because I was triggered by the subject matter – but I was made angry at the conversation happening surrounding this new age concept and the added weight placed on authors/ publishers to incorporate these things in our work.
While I think trigger warnings come from a genuinely good place in people – the effects do the exact opposite of what they are intended to do.
They are meant to help.
They do not.
They hurt.
The evidence against trigger warnings is mounting and not from mom’s blog or writers corner blurbs – but from medical and psychological professionals.
The first thing we need to address is the easiest. Regardless of our professional lives as writers – we are not licensed medical or psychological professionals.
Nor are our publishing houses.
It is way out of our lane to diagnose or attempt to treat individuals with long-standing mental illnesses. Nor are we capable of identifying them.
Those that say the require a trigger warning still do not require one.
What they need is a C.B.T Therapist. Someone that can help them get over their fear or phobia and break their maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Again – that’s not our lane.
The second bit concerns censorship.
Trauma does happen often, however, Post Traumatic Stress is a rather rare diagnosis according to one article I read today.
And while triggers can send someone into a tailspin – can even cause a panic attack – no one has ever died of one. Ever. Panic attacks or panic disorder is not fatal.
It sucks – trust me. You think you’re dying. However, you are not.
For a trigger warning to be effective, the warning party would have to list all of the things that could possibly set someone off. In short – you’re rehashing the story all over again so that sort of negates the reason for the trigger warnings to begin with.
Furthermore, it stifles the author’s ability to sell. The book becomes a dirty secret and something that is whispered about instead of openly discussed and debated on the merits – according to another article.
In this political climate – that’s chilling as it’s not only affecting the literary world but college campuses as well.
A good professor doesn’t teach a student what to think, they teach them how to think, and the university is designed specifically to challenge deeply rooted beliefs.
There’s virtue in being made uncomfortable otherwise you’ll never experience another way of seeing things. GEtting mad or upset by reading something or a lecture is good for you.
Then there is the abuse of this new thing. People who don’t like certain subject matter, such as a cheating spouse or an interracial couple – have thrown up trigger warnings in book reviews.
I’ve also seen examples where authors issue one of these warnings because of the subject matter such as PTSD and not actually write about PTSD – their character is just a dickwad who treats people like crap.
Then there are the great false equivalences. Saying things like, “Well if you were just compassionate you would do this.”
That’s terribly unfair and backs a person into a corner of ‘Well, I don’t want to be seen that way so I’ll relent or I’ll defend myself.”
That’s psychological manipulation and it’s really interesting coming from people advocating for people’s mental health.
And today, it worked on me.
I blew up. I vented. I declared that I am an artist and HOW DARE YOU…yada yada yada and I come off sounding like a grouchy asshole.
There’s no defending yourself from things like that. It’s already a broken idea.
Art is an act of compassion not only for the artist but for those who view the art. The idea is to connect people on an emotional and often times visceral way.
There’s a reaction.
A laugh.
A tear.
An outburst.
That’s art’s job.
Art is meant to trigger.
Stifling that, or causing the artist to censor himself or herself is cruel and unimaginable in a free society.
The advocates for trigger warnings either don’t fully understand the power of mental illness or they’ve allowed their worldview to be so romanticized in the idea of professional brokenness – the idea of someone healing and getting better through non-holistic methods is a threat to their bottom line as authors.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy? I can’t help but wonder after that because trigger warnings keep people sick.
I don’t think their work really requires a trigger warning. To be honest, a “No diving/ Shallow water” warning might be more appropriate.

The Collective Unconcious (Poem)

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unsplash-logoRedd Angelo

The wind is howling
at seven thirty in the morning
a bitter wind
shoves it’s way down from the north
I’ve walked the dog, 
dressed in Corpus Christi Coture
which consisted of work out shorts
a hoodie, and a robe
before dashing back inside
and now with a cup of Earl Grey
my dog asleep in the corner
the cat asleep on a chair
I come to the altar of humanity once more
to bear my soul
and write my song
as if I didn’t know the dangers
of being naked
to the bitter winds of the world

Lately, my mind
has not been my own
my body
has been in pain
and I’ve spent countless hours
my arms splayed out at my sides
grasping realities
trying desperately to hold myself together
but the reality of my situation is
that I am in the most danger
when I cannot give myself away
when I cannot imbue a part of my soul
in a book, in a story, in a poem
and set it to sail among the many souls
adrift in the collective unconscious

No children, have I, at my age
that fate wasn’t written on my heart
due in part to a hijacked mind
but I do have family among those
who kneel at the water’s edge with me
and murmur their truth to the stars above
that family, no one could take away
not even death
their truth lives on in stories they told
when they in a living way
took time to kneel beside the ever-flowing river
speaking their truth to the firmament
when they bowed their heads to pray.

 

Trumpettes in my books ( I did Nazi that coming)

Yesterday, for the first time in presidential history, Donald Trump spoke at a ‘value voters’ summit hosted by the nefarious hate group ‘Focus on the Family.’

After promising support for LGBT Americans, he ditched them for his base.

Mostly, because his presidency sucks and he needs the support of his base.

I really don’t want to focus too much on what was said there, but he validated this organization that stands against my marriage. He told them that they their homophobia will be supported by him. Pence, a virulent anti-gay former governor, passed a law in Indiana that backfired spectacularly. Jeff Sessions has reversed the governments support for L.G.B.T people.

I’ve never been more worried for my country, for my friends, and for my own life as I am now under this administration.

Yet, here we are.

Often times when someone who is an actor, singer, writer, stands up and says something that his base doesn’t like they are told to shut up and sit down or they’re told to shut up and (______) fill in the blank with their chosen profession.

Get out of politics they say.

Well first off, fuck you.

This administration is a direct threat to my family. This goes beyond politics, this comes right into my home, into my consciousness, and it’s influencing my work. It’s anxiety, it’s fear, it’s rage, and fury.

Your political choices are also a threat. Maybe you voted for fiscal responsibility, party loyalty, or the republican party that once was – you know, the one that used to stand for freedom and liberty.

However, the failure of Trump to move any sort of policy forward, legislative or otherwise, and the narrowing of his support to his more virulent fans, has caused him to shift over to the evangelical hate groups with bullshit names like “Focus on the Family.”

logic

The amount of cognitive dissonance required by you to vote like this and then curl up with one of our books, or books written about gay people, knowing you’ve made our lives that much harder – is beyond the pale.

And yet – here it is. There are other books you should probably be reading. Mein Kempf comes to mind.

Or perhaps some poetry, one in particular by YEATS comes to mind:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Sound familiar?

There’s a lot of scared and hurt people out there. A lot. There’s no telling what this will turn into since the world has decided to lick the proverbial boots of authoritarianism. And once again, we’re engaging in a fight for our survival.

I am reminded of P!nk’s lyric, “I’m not here for your entertainment. You don’t want to mess with me tonight.”

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This idea that people shouldn’t speak out, especially those who are trying to create a brand for themselves, or make money applies to those who are more interested in that side of the equation.  And you may find writers out there who write this stuff and still think like you do. However, that’s evident in the kind of work they put out anyway and it always has been.

These aren’t just books. These are people’s lives. Fictional characters developed from running a pen over the scars people carry.

Thank God, I and so many more of us out there are artists. And Art requires that we honestly reflect the world as it is. So, quite frankly your money is no good here anymore.

Please leave. You’re uninvited. It’s just you and your hand tonight.

 

 

9 published works (poem)

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Jilbert Ebrahimi

walking on shattered glass
all that remained of my life..
I stood in the midst of my turmoil
storms had come
and all around me chaos 
reigned in fragments
of my sanctuary

I stood there
hands shoved in my pockets
afraid to take another step
for fear of cutting my feet
all that I was and would be
had exploded into unrecognizable
shards

I didn’t know what to do
I cried for a bit, called out for help
but no answer came
and as the wind swept the curtains
inside the hollowed out home
I’d never felt so lonely

I dried my eyes with my sleeve
cold from the wind and the rain
I found a red tape recorder
I’d been given for Christmas
laying at my feet

kneeling down I cleared a spot
until I had a place to sit
then, with recorder in my lap
I recounted the wolf like
screaming of the wind
and pounding of fists
of thunder and rain

there alone and in the dark
I told my story
nine times
Over and over
adding detail to some
removing names from others
but each time telling the truth

I fell asleep at some point
My head resting on my right arm
the left clutching the recorder
i curled up inside myself
with my truth pressed against my heart

When the dawn woke me
and voices calling out my name
jolted me from a fitful night
filled with nightmare images and ghosts
who’d leaned in to whisper
in my ears
stories children shouldn’t hear
but ones this one knew by heart
I yelled out for God

When I was swept up
I’d realized in horror
that my recorder had been handed
off
and someone had pressed play
in silence of those who’d come
I heard an old man
telling my nine truths back to me

It was motionless in the ruins
No one moved
I couldn’t even hear myself breathe
The world should hear this
The one who held me whispered softly
when the tape ended
I turned to my head to look my husband in the eyes

They did.
Where do you think the storm came from?
He gathered me to him
and in silent reverie
walked me out into the morning sun

Confidence in Writing – Be true to who you are and what it is you do.

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Writing is an art form and like all works of art – is deeply personal and not for the faint of heart.

Those who write books, regardless of genre, usually find themselves hearing certain things once their first book is released. Often, they are on an emotional high for having accomplished such an enormous task. They are inundated with new and other authors in the same genre wanting to be friends on social media, fans, they start networking through different book review sites, they are introduced to the headache of campaigning and marketing to ‘get their work out there’, etc.

Most writers that I’ve met are introverts. They’re watchers, observers of human behavior. They are the wallflowers at a party. They are the ones who may not be able to stay in a crowd for very long before their social batteries wear out, myself included.

So once we lie to ourselves and type “The End” on our manuscripts – it’s usually a couple of weeks before the quietness of our lives are suddenly interrupted with everything that comes along with writing.

Those who befriend us – when they hear we’ve written a book – often say bullshit like, “I could do it. I could write a book when I have the time.” Blah blah blah – yeah, okay. Let me know when you’re finished pumpkin. We all know these people. And their words often begin to bring us off that high of finishing something.

But they’re not the only ones.

The market, publishers, sales or the lack thereof, editors, and other artists – can suck the marrow of creativity out of your bones faster than anything. In short – the joy of writing has a counter balance and that is in the sheer misery of post production sharing of your work.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been recovering from a string of just shitty circumstances and shitty people that makes the idea of opening up a word document an act of sheer insanity.

It was a culmination of people that made me doubt myself and who I am as a person. See, I identify as a writer. Writers write. And I often identified as a m/m author or gay fiction author.

I’ve been published several times over, I’ve received glowing reviews, and while I may not be the lead story in gay fiction – story wise – this dude can hold his own.

And I’ve always been okay with that. I’m not the most famous name out there. I don’t make much in the way of money, but I’ve always been okay with catching four and five star reviews from people who love my work using that to justify the idea of writing as a career.

I love the idea of touching people’s lives with my work.

However, the past couple of weeks have made something VERY clear to me. Genre specific writing, especially in m/m – sucks. Having to create a world based upon arbitrary rules that surround romance is so destructive of creativity. I mean, how many times can you tell the same fucking story?

Man meets man, man loses man, man gets cute man back?

I totally get why Prince (God rest his Purple Soul) turned himself into a symbol.

The book industry blows chunks because its a fucking machine that devours.

It takes a writer, an introvert, and throws them into the spin cycle of frantically trying to navigate the egg shell laden floor of having to deal with everything that comes after writing “The End” in a book.

No one wants to fucking do this. At all.

It’s a place no one wants to be because post production can be nice to you one minute – it can turn on you and since you invest so much of yourself in the work – can rip you to shreds.

You end up feeling like a slave and the industry feels like a master with a bad temper. And in m/m romance that machine is bloated in identity politics and ambitious authors who dance on other people’s misery be they other authors or the subject matter they write about. In the midst of all this – gay voices are being drowned out in favor of mass production of the same novel repeated for the millionth time – because that’s what is setting the market and publishers go in that direction because – well – capitalism.  Add in the stupid and often insipid drama kicked up by someone who is a D list celebrity (more like Z list) – fuck me with a cactus, batman. No thanks.

Telling an author “This action by your character wouldn’t endear them to the reader,” as a reason why the book won’t be contracted and sold without a rewrite, is garbage. It’s like “So what? There’s a moment of actual humanity?”

Erasure of gay people’s range of experiences , even the bad ones, robs them of equality and robs the reader of learning something more than gay people have sex and fall in love.

There is more to us than that. Far more.  And having to remind people of that – is too exhausting for words.

Also one shitty, bitter, and angry editor who tells you ‘you have no ear for writing’ can wipe all the good that has happened in your writing career.

So – after a couple of weeks of trying to pick myself up off the floor – I’m erasing the idea of writing to a genre, to a publisher, and to an audience.

Essentially, I’ve opted to do my own thing. Yeah, I’m bitter.

But I didn’t used to be. Writing used to be fun. It used to be fulfilling. And I think I’ve been wrong headed about all of this.

I am no longer going to ‘going with the flow’ – not that I’ve really been in that mindset anyway.

I am erasing the m/m author, gay fiction author, and even author for awhile.

I’ll be a writer. There’s passion in that. Truth. Realism. And the ability to reach out of the ether and touch people on my terms and in my time. Make real connections.

I am a writer. I know what I can do and what I do, I do well.

So for other authors out there feeling the sting of industrialized book writing. I feel ya.

The only advice I can give you, that I am taking for myself, is Bill Shakespeare’s age old advice, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” Fuck everything else.

If you have a creative ability – that is something that can’t be taught. That’s a gift to be cultivated. Avoid everything and everyone that wants to chew through that. You may not get rich but you’ll be happy.

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you want to be a writer? Prepare for crippling doubt.

motivation

 

Do you have that novel in your mind that you’ve always wanted to write?

Do you have that great storyline you think should be made into a screenplay?

Do you have that autobiography you’ve been thinking about sitting down and hammering out now that you’ve reached a place in your life where you have the time?

Good.

That’s step one.

Now comes step two.

Fear of failure.

I have a quarter written manuscript that I have poured my heart and soul into for the past several months sitting open on this very computer right now. I’ve had people read over it. I’ve had my publisher read over it. I’ve read over it a number of times.

And, not to toot my own horn, but I love it.

And so did everyone else.

But today as I was reading back over it once more to capture the feeling of the story I am trying to tell I found – before I knew it – in the midst of a black hole of despair.

Nothing triggered it.

I was happy all day today.

I got up, kissed my husband goodbye, walked the dog, had breakfast, worked out, caught up on social media, sat down to read and get to work –

and BANG!

There it was.

Doubt. Self doubt.

I have been published multiple times. I get some pretty good reviews. While I am not the biggest seller out there – I know that at the end of the day – I can tell a story. And a good one at that.

And most days that’s more than enough to keep me going.

But today, I felt like a fraud. A poser. A no good craptastic punk who couldn’t string two coherent sentences together.

When my husband came in, and we had dinner, he noticed I was upset and inquired about it like a good spouse does.

“You go through this every time you write,” he said shaking his head and looking upon me with a gentle gaze of patience.

He’s right. I do go through this and so will you. Over and over and over again.

It is the loneliest feeling in the world to try and create something you’re not 100 percent sure the world wants or will treat well once you’ve handed it over.

I am not going to give you a pep talk, espouse one of those OBNOXIOUS one liners on those OBNOXIOUS motivational posters in offices the nation over. You know which one’s I’m talking about. Those posters that, when you’re having a bad day makes you want to punch someone….yup, them.

I am not going to tell you that what you’re working on is important, that it will be well received, that you will make a million dollars, and your work will one day be taught in universities.

Because all of that may not be true. Hell, it most likely won’t be.

But I will tell you , that feeling you get when you’re up late at night hovering over your laptop, sitting at your desktop, or scrawling through a notebook curled up on the couch – when that moment of terrifying self doubt washing over you – is completely normal.

I’ll also advise you not to finish it for the enjoyment of the world. Finish it for the satisfaction of saying, “I did that.”

That’ll mean more than anything.

I did that.

And if you still don’t feel better go burn one of those fucking posters in effigy.

 

Gay For You (GFY) Revisited

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(Photo by Jorge Gonzalez)

A gay friend of mine earlier posted a semi-rant over GFY and the main point he was trying to make was that sexuality – for a lot of people isn’t fluid.
The science is clear that homosexuality is built into the genes and epigenetics of human beings.
GFY does a disservice to people – not because of the trope but because of the easy explanation of so-called sexual fluidity.
Those who’ve taken umbrage to this subset of a subset of a subset of this genre do so because they’re so used to the world outside telling them that they can change or that who they are isn’t natural – that when they see this, this reinforces that mindset.

If sexuality is in fact FLUID – you can CHOOSE to be straight.  Or at the very least be in a straight relationship.
But there is a two-pronged problem here.
The first is the aforementioned.
The second, however, is telling people what they can write and telling readers what they can read.
We run into a constant problem here.
GFY – is high fantasy.
It isn’t real and anecdotal evidence to the contrary is just that. Anecdotal.
And then people – writers- get defensive over their work, readers get mad because they’re being ignored and the entire thing descends into a flame war.
It is irrefutable that a writer can write what he or she wants. That is crystal clear.
But there is often a distance between what one CAN do and what one OUGHT to do.
GFY – as a subset – isn’t going anywhere.

The market eats those books up like cookie monster eats cookies. And to be honest, it’s a cash cow that authors have found and it would be dumb to give it up.
Screaming about that does zilch – other than causing a bunch of stupid drama and then, unintentionally sells a bunch of books people were angry over.
But instead of slapping sexual fluidity in place of actual research and understanding of human sexuality may assuage some people’s feelings about the subset and make them less angry about feeling like not only do they have to watch out for the crazy preacher down the road who thinks they can change and the ignorant author who happens to agree with them in their work.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about gay people – it simply means that you should fear your subject. And with that trepidation approach it with respect and the dignity they deserve like you would someone of a different race.

Sexuality is as ingrain as skin color, eye color, blood type….
I can guarantee you some straight person doesn’t wake up one day, no matter how much they may like another person of the same gender and think, “I want to have sex with him/her.” Or – if a gay man and a straight man have a very close emotional relationship – doesn’t mean that they’re going to have a sexual one.
Are there sexual fluid people? Yes.

But they are not gay. They have their own special set of circumstances that should be highly respected. As do bisexual people who’ve really been done a disservice by this subset.
None of these things should be flippantly brushed aside to get two hot guys into bed.
GFY – will remain a high fantasy, especially for gay men who fall in love with their best friend. But it’s a fantasy that should be broken. Because there is nothing but heartache and disappointment down that road – unless the gay guy can come to understand that his buddy’s heterosexualness is just as ingrained in him as gayness is ingrained in the gay guy.
After all – he was born that way.
Unconditional Postive Regard dictates that we love people for who they are no matter what. Gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual etc. etc. instead of fighting over the labels and over the words – maybe we should start listening to those who say, “This is my truth,” and accepting that and being compassionate about that when we reflect it in our work.

We can evolve this into something better than it is.