From a Veteran on Veterans’ Day

Thank you for the good wishes on Veterans Day.

I was thinking about it last night before I went to bed. With Donald Trump snubbing the WW1 veterans in the centennial of Armistice Day.
He couldn’t go, apparently, because it was misting outside.
Take that for what it’s worth.

Yet, I don’t want to talk about him. He’s everywhere, right now.
He’s sort of like the Spanish Flu that wreaked havoc on the population fo the world during the first World War leading to an unparalleled death toll.
I want to talk about heroes.

I’ve seen this quote passed around on the internet as long as I’ve been a veteran, as long as I’ve been aware of the burden veterans carry post service.
This quote goes like this:

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

I think this has the right intention, but I think it’s wrong-headed.

One of the things that I’ve observed about the veteran, myself included, is that they are everyday people. They are pulled out of the population of this country, or they’ve chosen to serve for various reasons. Sometimes it’s patriotism, sometimes it’s money for school, sometimes it’s just because they have no forward momentum in life and need some stability. Everyone serves for different reasons.

Yet, regardless of why they served, they served. It’s okay to call these people heroes. Most veterans you know today, have served in the middle east in some way or another since September 11, 2001. There have been many battles in both Iraq and Afghanistan that these young people, very young people, fought and died at.
However, again, as I age I realize not all soldiers wore uniforms and not all battles are fought on foreign soil.

Wars come in all shapes and sizes. Ideas are introduced into the mainstream of society and those ideas combat old, established, ways of thinking and have either bolstered the old ways or tore them down.
It’s a success if those ideas that are torn down are so without a shot fired. Without a fist raised. Without violence.
It’s a failure when the opposite happens.

See, war isn’t about success, about victory, war is about failure. As cliche as it is, war is about a failure of people to communicate their ideas in a productive way.
Whether you’re talking about the European theatre of operations in WW1 or the Bridge in Selma Alabama, those were battlegrounds. Those people who participated in those events were soldiers. Those places were where ideas clashed.

And it’s sort of unique, after the rockets red glare finally fades and those that remain to pick up the pieces of their lives and try move on. The love they’re shown and in some instances, the animosity they receive for being brave enough to challenge the old ways of thinking for the hope of something new yanks them out of their humanness.
The effect is the same. Isolation.

When we talk about those people in Selma, or in WW1 we forget or we never really admit that they are human beings. People. Just like us. Depending on who you are and what you believe you either put them up on pedestals as icons of glory or you throw them down into the dirt with pejorative names.
The effect is exactly the same. Isolation.

We extract them from or refuse to accept them into, the whole, into the body, from the tribe.

It’s a burden we veterans recognize, its a burden those in the various civil rights movements recognize, those in the marriage debates recognize, those in the struggle for gender equality recognize, those in the fight for equal wages recognize, those in the struggle for Trans rights, #metoo, all recognize, the journalists, the preachers, the founders, the teachers, nurses, doctors, voting booth watchers, social workers, those people on the bridge in Selma, immigrant organizations recognize, dreamers all recognize.

That heroes walk among us.

So, how do we take care of our heroes including those who fought in foreign theatres?

It’s quite easy, really.

Love one and you can love them by realizing that just like you, they’re human beings.

Happy Veterans Day

Work “Woke” or Perish

When the Supreme Court Decision came down in Obergfell, I thought that I would be jumping for joy, ready to go out and party, ready to fly a rainbow flag in the faces of those who said it, A) shouldn’t happen and B) won’t happen. Gay marriage would never happen inside of the United States.

For over thirty years I, and many in the LGBT community as well as their families and friends that supported them, lived with the pressure of a world where two people who very much loved each other couldn’t take their relationship forward and secure their lives in a meaningful way.

But I didn’t party. I didn’t run around screaming with a rainbow flag. I didn’t even have a drink, a toast, to the Human Rights Campaign and my people who immediately set about getting married by the hundreds.

I took a nap.

The pressure that was on me, that had been on me for years since I came out of the closet, suddenly evaporated in a text from my husband that declared, “WE’RE MARRIED”.

See, we drove 15 hours from deep in the heart of Texas (clap, clap) to Des Moines Iowa a year prior to get married.

I had received a little 500 dollar advance for my book, Objects in the Rearview Mirror, and that Saturday evening, at a gas station, I looked at him and said, “Hey, you want to go?” And we did.

I drove all night through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and finally into Iowa, arriving at a bed and breakfast so tired I was shaking.

My Army training kicked in. I was taking that hill. I was delivering my fiancee to the steps of the courthouse or wherever it was we had to and marrying the crap out of him. 🙂

When, on Monday morning, we stood hand in hand out on the lawn of the Bed and Breakfast and said: “I do.” (The owner had been ordained in that state specifically for the purpose of marrying gay folks) I cried.

After I woke up from my nap, I imagined a world that would soon follow. A world where we wouldn’t call it “Gay Marriage,” it was just plain, ordinary, marriage. The world was moving forward in a positive direction and everything would be fine.

Yet, I had a deep down fear in my gut. Something from our (and by our I mean the World) history that reminded me that one step forward for mankind was often met with a fierce push and a stumble.

Enter Donald Trump.

Since the 2016 Presidential Election a great big, black, shadow has descended over our country. Rumors of Russian involvement in our elections, ongoing Federal Investigations, Vice President Mike Pence and his anti-LGBT record as governor of Indiana, the removal of the thin mask of conservative Evangelical Republicans, and soon thereafter – the deportation of “Illegal Immigrants”, the separation of families, the forced psychopharmacological drugs on children, and according to NBC News reported tonight: Their brief saying that the Civil Rights Law does not ban discrimination over sexual orientation. Of course, the head of the Justice Department is a known racist, sexist, misogynist dinosaur by the name of Jeff Sessions. A relic of Southern Aristocracy, of Slavery, and Jim Crow, and the dehumanizing aspects of a repressive and violent time.

As a writer, as an artist, as a human being, these past two years have been very difficult to say the least. My country doesn’t feel so much like it’s taken a stumble back. It’s more like the shove landed America flat on its ass.

It’s been difficult watching the rise of violence against minorities of all walks of life in our country. From those murdered in Charleston, to those NFL players who being of African American descent kneeling at football games to bring attention to the arbitrary murder of people by rogue policing, to the videos of violence, verbal abuse, and recorded phone calls of white people calling the cops of others because this is their time to shine.

All the things that they wanted to say, do and put out there toward those who are different, whereas in the past the culture of America had kept their mouths shut, now parade boldy into the light of day.

That pressure has returned. Ten fold.

The fear is excruciating.

I am now on benzo’s and Zoloft just to make it through the day without shaking apart, recently diagnosed with a panic disorder, I feel every single minute of every single day.

Yet, I cannot NOT work.

It’s impossible for me.

It’s impossible for me as a queer writer to not do what Nina Simone said we should do and that was to reflect the world around us.

Angela Rye, a CNN commentator, and activist, said something that stuck in my brain since the first time I saw her speak. In this era of ‘wokeness’ the backlash of Donald Trump, you might say, in many different areas in our socio-political culture. She said it wasn’t enough to ‘be woke’ but to ‘work woke’.

She says, “It’s pointless for us to use our talents to understand what’s going on and not apply what we’ve learned to action,”. You can watch her explain it here.

Now, she’s referencing Timesup, Metoo, Black Lives Matter etc. but it makes me think, especially with all this added pressure, that this should be applied everywhere.

It’s not enough to know what the issues are, we have to do something about it.

Recently, I wrote a blog about the way gay men are viewed in a segment of literary fiction called M/M or Male/ Male Romance and received ten kinds of holy hell from people, some of them my friends, most of which aren’t gay – talking about how wrong I was, or how misogynist I was, or whatever they had to use to defend not their writing per se, but the way they depicted gay men in their work.

It amazed me how fast the backlash was. It amazed me, the think pieces people wrote to defend themselves, and either aggressive or passive aggressive messages I received telling me, a gay man, what was up from people who loved to proclaim their ‘wokeness’ and their progressiveness.

It’s also amazing to me that should shit get as bad as it potentially could, “they” aren’t going to care whether those writers are gay, bi, lesbian, trans, straight or otherwise when all hell breaks loose.

They didn’t like the idea that I objected to a subgenre of books that relegates gay people to animals or animal-like behavior such as dogs. Or, that I object to the types of books akin to Holocaust porn, concerning gay people and conversion camps.

I have felt isolated before, I’ve been and have felt cut off before, discriminated against, etc. but after that blog went live – I’ve never really ever felt my minority status that much before. Ever.

I think it’s essential for gay people, black people, any sort of minority to reclaim their power. Artists, it’s essential to use #ownvoices to authenticate the work that you do. I think if there were a time publishers, magazines, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hollywood, to let themselves be flooded by these minorities and their stories – it’s now. It’s time for us artists on the fringes to not just be woke, but to do like Angela said, “…and work woke.”

Tell our stories the way we know they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

M/M Romance is largely homophobic without the Bible verses

I was driving around in town today running some errands with my husband and talking about the latest dustup in M/M Romance.
It’s this thing that happens every year, like Burning Man, or Christmas without the lights and the indie music scene. ((It’s more like “The Purge,” as people grab their pitchforks and dive behind bunkers to defend their turf over a blog written or a comment made.))
Across the parking lot from where we were, turning into a Wendy’s was a church van of Baptists. All these people piled out dressed in jean skirts and shirts and ties and it reminded me of when I was part of that religion passing out free tickets to heaven. As a kid, I was pretty miserable in that organization very much like that one and the reason for that was it was homophobic. It was also misogynist, racist, and a high control environment (cult), but being a young man questioning his sexuality, it was pretty much a suck ass religion that I got away from as soon as humanly possible.
We were talking back and forth, my husband and I, when the truth smacked me in the face as to why I am as miserable as I am being a writer.
M/M Romance (or Male/ Male Romance) is largely homophobic. They’re just homophobic without the cherry-picked bible verses screamed at you from in front of a bank, or at a mall, or at your Uncle Joe’s house, yet it retains the power of white privilege and superiority.
I read and shared a blog written by an acquaintance of mine who landed on the genre with both feet. I didn’t quite agree with what he had to say, but there were a few valid points made and one I completely agreed with was over the issue of its subgenre MPREG (or male pregnancy).
Now M/M Romance has been around almost a decade, I’ve been a part of it (or on the fringes really) for about 5 years.
Yet, like I said, these blow-ups are sort of an annual thing. Someone (usually a gay male) is overwhelmed at some point about the stereotypes thrown on gay people in this genre of fiction. Sometimes those stereotypes are more cliche’s concerning the subject of romance and sometimes, they’re blatantly homophobic.
Let’s take MPREG for instance. Let me show you an example of what I mean:

Once you parse through the badly written …whatever that is, you can somewhat ascertain that a man walks into a bathroom where an “Omega” (the one supposed to get pregnant by his alpha) is so “in heat” that he has to bang himself with a vibrator.  It’s pretty gross this idea of dehumanizing someone. The concept of alpha male/ omega male is nothing more than the literary way of walking into a redneck bar with your boyfriend and a well-meaning but slightly inebriated associate asks, “Which one’s the guy and which one’s the girl?” And I think I’m being nice.

Gay people have been accused of the inability to love. It’s been called lust and relegated to nothing more than ‘rutting’.  This not only reaffirms that stereotype, it makes the “omega” completely unable to control his basic bodily urges and ‘destined’ to breed with the Alpha male. Which, is kinda rapey, and it’s kinda misogynistic since the sword-wielding Scotsman, Sword Wielding Nobleman, Sword-wielding (Fill in the blank), a lot of whom looked like Fabio, has moved over from Het Romance to gay people’s lives and are now superimposed.

When this is brought up, or any of the other problems within M/M Romance is brought up  such as racism, sexism, bi-erasure, etc by a gay person, person of color who is a reader, bisexual reader, etc we get a variation of this:

 

“We raise your flag high even if it doesn’t represent us on a personal level. We share your stories. We fight for you. We are your mothers, your teachers, your nurses, your doctors, your best friends…

We fight for you to love who you want to love. Sometimes we have to fight our husbands, our fathers, our brothers, our bosses because they don’t believe in what we do in our hearts. Because we fight for you.

Do we use mm romance and gay porn to get off?! Hell yea… but before that… men used the beauty that is a woman in passion or in pain or in humiliation or two women together to get off long before het women discovered cocky boys…

So this bisexual woman who is also a mother, best friend, lover, rainbow flag supporter, porn watcher, smut reader will continue to be me and read and watch whatever the fuck I want and you can sit in your corner and judge those who never once judged you.”

Well, thank you for being a somewhat decent human being…

but

I could make this much shorter, here it goes: “I like the kind of sex you have, even though the heterosexual males in my family find it gross, so I write about it in books and I’m making a ton of money even if we’re not exactly accurate about who it is you are. I am bisexual, I really don’t have a dog in your hunt, but since we’ve been fetishized since time immemorial, it’s totally cool for us to do it to you as well, and remember we vote.”

Are you helping me or are you holding me hostage?

I kinda feel like it’s the latter.

The oppressor’s motives have changed but it doesn’t mean the oppressor’s damage is in anyway contained.

I know a lot of m/m writers and for the most part, they’re fairly benign. However, when it get’s bad, it gets fucking awful. So awful, this little genre off in the midst of the literary sea usually only garners public attention when a nuclear bomb blast goes off. And that’s usually a honey, someone’s been a racist, a publisher decided to put up a website dedicated to the slave trade to promote books and had pictures of slaves you could sell and trade (Yes, that slave trade), or someone or a group of someones has been running a catfishing scam claiming to have terminal cancer and raised thousands of dollars in fraudulent gofundme money.

Not only were these authors writing ‘gay’ characters, they were also posing as gay men themselves.

Now, I am not saying that change hasn’t come to m/m. It has, by socially conscious people screaming and demanding to be heard. People who read something and react like the book about a gay man’s father who opened up a gay conversion home who really did it out of an act of love and gay people should appreciate that.

Fuck. All.. The. Way. Off.

However, the change hasn’t happened fast enough. Just like I had to flee the Fundi Baptist Church of my youth, it’s time for me to bail on anything really associated with M/M Romance even though, as a writer, m/m has become so powerful anything I produce will be viewed from that lens. It’s the default of queer fiction. And that’s not a good thing.

So, to my gay brothers out there who are readers, who are perhaps thinking about finding a publisher for your manuscript, you may want to avoid M/M Romance altogether. It isn’t about you. It doesn’t represent you, and you’re really not that welcome. Or, you are, if you know to keep your mouth shut.

I never learned that lesson.

 

 

 

 

Memoirs of the Human Wraiths (Book Trailer)

Hi everyone,

I am really happy to present to you my brand new book trailer for the rerelease of my trio of ghost stories, Memoirs of the Human Wraiths, on June 15th, 2018.

These three ghostly tales center on three different gay couples struggling against the forces of evil.

The Haunting of Timber Manor
Objects in the Rearview Mirror
Still Waters

I hope you enjoy them!!!

Follow the link to watch the trailer,  here

You can order the books here 

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my Patreon account and help me make great LGBT content! www.patreon.com/fefeeleyjr

See ya there!

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.

 

Diversity in Books (Radio Show)

I am the host of a Saturday Afternoon Radio Show for Beaten Track Radio. This is last week’s show, “Funk with Freddie.” The subject was over Diversity in books.

Listen here:

Join us this week at 12 noon CST (5 p.m. GST) as we delve more into the subject of books and music.

www.beatentrackradio.com

((The opinions are not necessarily those of the radio station))

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Book Sale for Closer

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/775332
 
Available in Ebook and Paperback. Audio coming soon!
 
“Gripping, creepy, and plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.”
 
“An incredibly well-devised page turner. “
 
“If you like your love stories with a supernatural element, you should like this one.”
 
My new novel, Closer, is on sale for 3.00 at Smashwords. Follow this link and the code is RAE50 before you check out.
 
WATCH THE TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1DrBTMHs0o

New Book Trailer (Closer)

 

 

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Hey all,

 

I am super excited to bring you my latest novel, Closer:

Maplewood, Vermont is a picturesque town filled with unique shops, unique homes, and a quaint familiarity all centered around a lake with an unusual history.

Legends, old as well as Urban, float around like the mist that hovers above the lake at break of dawn.

But they’re just stories, right?

Hayden Moore’s life was destroyed when his husband, Malcolm, was murdered. Giving up his job as an assistant district attorney in Boston, Hayden moved to the little burg of Maplewood to recover.

A new life.

A fresh start.

However, something underneath the water is stirring. Something rotten. A deadly secret wakes underneath the black waters of Lake Veronica so disturbing it haunts the nightmares of the local residents.

It’s coming closer…

March 1st!

Watch the Trailer 

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.

Poetry Book (Review)

The first book review for my new Poetry book happened today.

Five stars!

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“This is a book of free-form poetry, containing the poet’s musings about nature, youth, seasons; reminiscing about family, lost loves, faith and religion, and life in general. Some are profound, others less so, but I think poetry, like music, speaks to each of us in a different way.

Personally, I prefer poetry that rhymes, but my standards are pretty high. In my opinion, the best poem in the English language is “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, and nothing will ever top that. The rhyming and alliteration is that poem is beyond brilliant, but Poe was a genius beyond compare. Free-form poetry, on the other hand, is more like short artistic essays about feelings and moods. Having said that, some of the poems in this book of poetry will provoke a very emotional response. For me, there were several that I enjoyed; the ones about trees and nature, and those about lost loves, but the ones that moved me the most are ‘The Rain Remains the Same’ and ‘The Man by the River’. If you enjoy poetry in general, you will enjoy this book.”

To read it on Amazon follow the link here

To purchase your own copy click the link here