Archive for October, 2012

I think I’ve been possessed by my own inner demons…


I’ve created a monster, and it might be in me. And I’m scared. It feels like the right time to exorcise my Dan demons, for several reasons: I’m already counting the days until the fear-stivities at my house on Halloween; my new erotic horror novel Combustion is coming out this November (missing the ideal October 31st due date by just a few weeks. Dammit it to hell!); and the way my fingers have been dancing across the keyboard to spell out stories is like the involuntary movement of a planchette across a Ouija board.

I don’t think of myself as an author. I don’t even think what I’m doing is writing. I consider it relating a story; I’m a storyteller. I’m not saying I’m a liar, but I do make shit up. I’m cursed with an overactive imagination. Like, in second grade, I drew a detailed picture of a ghost in chains rising from a grave then told my classmates this was a nightly occurrence in the cemetery next to my house. Granted, my house wasn’t next to a cemetery, but it was haunted. It’s just that, back then, Mom told us not to talk about it to anyone. So I fudged the truth. But now Mom’s gone, so I’ve recounted the happenings in detail on my website. It’s not like Mom can reprimand me from the beyond. Or can she…?

Since I was a kid, I’ve had stories scratching and clawing at the inside of my skull to get out. Yet, when someone says to me, “Oh, you’re an author,” I can’t bring myself to respond in the affirmative. I always reply with, “I have a couple of books published.” I just can’t see myself teaching workshops on the creative process, giving lectures on being an author, penning essays on the art of writing, running in literary circles, or winning any prestigious award. I think I’m too beneath it all.

My intention is not to trash myself. I’m just saying, I have simple tastes. I like what I like—correction. I love what I like—regardless of its worldwide recognition or disdain. I appreciate that erotic photography celebrates the beauty of sexuality, but I’d rather see perverted porn loaded with funky fluids and sloppy sounds. I get the brilliance of Edgar Allen Poe, but I’m more freaked out by a fatalistic urban legend whispered around a campfire. I think The Exorcist is a timeless masterpiece of tension, terror, directing, special effects, and thespianism, but I’d rather watch Night of the Demons over and over again for its 80s cheese, excessive cheap jump scares, low-budget demon gore, awful acting, and the unforgettable moment when b-queen Linnea Quigley sticks a tube of lipstick into her luscious silicone…I mean…prosthetic breast.

My tastes are reflected in the types of stories I get off on telling. Friends advise me to stop with the gay horror porn and write a mainstream novel. I don’t even read that stuff. Why would I want to write it? “But, you have such a limited audience,” they argue. An audience that likes the same kind of whacked, raunchy, gruesome, campy crap I do! What more could I ask for? I’m thrilled when I hear from a reader who appreciates one of my stories, particularly because I didn’t write it to win his acceptance. I wrote it because it was the story I wanted to tell and the story I would want to read. I’m not aiming to be brilliant, poetic, or a master of prose. If, occasionally, I am, it’s totally accidental and I apologize (to myself).

I have no fear of aiming low. Poking around the internet, one thing becomes apparent quickly; no matter what the general public thinks, there is an audience for EVERYTHING. Those who contact me aren’t just readers of my books…they’re me. We live in the same twilight zone. We are obsessed with the same schlock. First thing I learned in Creative Writing 101 was “write what you know.” I write what I know (sex and horror), and certain readers know what I write.

But do I really write it?

I truly can’t explain where the stories come from. The ideas take on a life of their own as soon as they are conceived. For instance, Combustion has turned into something I never expected when I began typing it. Take the city of Kremfort Cove. I made it up for one of my previous stories, yet before I could start location hunting, there was no question in my mind that it needed to be the setting for Combustion. It also became so obvious that for many of the characters from my other stories, their final destination would be Kremfort Cove. As Combustion began to unfold, I realized that Kremfort Cove is where most of the stories still clogging my brain are meant to take place. Now, the bookhas become merely the beginning of a longer series. In the year that it has been moving toward its release date, the next four novels are already finished in their first drafts.

And this is where the possession rears its ugly head…in my head. Like George Lutz in The Amityville Horror, I wake up with a start every fricking night at around 3:15 AM and just lay there for about an hour, my mind filling with specific plot points, scenes, and word for word dialogue for “upcoming” novels. I learn how each novel will begin, how each is going to end. I am informed of what happens in the middle; I might not know the exact path, but I don’t worry. I sit at the keyboard every day, my fingers begin tapping away, and the stories unfold as if I’m watching a movie. I don’t have to stop and think about what’s supposed to happen next. It’s almost like it is being told to me and I’m just repeating it on paper. It’s supernatural, I tell you! I’m nothing more than a portal (which my partner has been saying for years).

This method (of my madness) is haunting me. During the waking hours, thoughts pop into my brain out of nowhere, distracting me from what I’m doing (such as listening to my partner tell me about his day). These probing thoughts explain how certain scenarios are going to play out, why point A is going to lead to point C, and the reason I introduced a seemingly irrelevant character in a book. I’ll find myself in need of a particular type of character for the novel I’m currently transcribing and immediately realize something along the lines of, “Oh, he already exists. A main character two books back had a minor exchange with him!”

This is why I’m convinced I couldn’t possibly be an author. When I talk to writer friends, they tell me they have this idea for a book but can’t find the motivation to sit down and start it, don’t know how it begins, and aren’t sure how it ends. Huh? I would think that if you’re compelled to write something, starting would not be a stumbling block! Inevitably, these friends enthusiastically say, “We should write it together!” Yeah. Tried that once, ended up writing the whole thing myself then got “this is cool but it’s not what I imagined.” So, friend, what exactly did you imagine, and why didn’t you write it? Needless to say, my standard answer to such suggestions ever since is that, unfortunately, I’m not a writer, merely a guy who tells naughty, gnarly stories.

And I will continue channeling these sexy spooky stories until the overarching plot connecting them all is ready to be laid to rest. I’ve already been clued in to how the series is going to end. Right now, I don’t know how many tales need to be and are going to be told before that end comes. I don’t actually have the time to stop and think about it because the Dan demons are running the show (they’re kind of pissed I stopped as long as I did to write this). I don’t question them. I don’t doubt them. They’ll tell me what’s ahead when the time is right. I just continue to follow my spirit guides on this journey toward the unknown.

The Language of Love

Award-winning author Rachel Spangler speaks romance in many languages. Well, at least two.

To Be Continued

Sophia Kell Hagin, author of the award-winning novel, Whatever Gods May Be, gives us a glimpse into the upcoming sequel, Shadows of Something Real.

The Amazon Trail

Finding Something Good Without Looking For It
    Now and then a spate of serendipity comes along. The stars align, one can’t believe one’s good fortune and we live in a benign, even benevolent, universe for a lovely while. Last night was one of those times.
I was invited to read at an event called “Wordier Than Thou,” in St. Petersburg, Florida. Tiffany Razzano, the spirited and inspiring editor of the LGTBQ blog in the local alternative paper, “Creative Loafing,” organizes this occasional gathering for the gay writing community in the Tampa Bay area. It’s held in a small space called The L Train Theatre Lounge which serves as both a performance space and a wine and beer bar.
Readings are not among my favorite activities. For one thing, I can’t sit still that long. For another, they take a lot of preparation and exhaust me because of the emotional duress that accompanies getting in front of an audience. This reading was different. To tell the truth, they are all different because once I’m there, I meet other readers and writers and my world expands. Gay people are an incredibly diverse and talented bunch.
I met a woman who practices spoken word performance, something so far from my sphere of reference I had to ask for an explanation. I met another woman who has plans for a lesbian speed dating service. I met a PhD candidate who works in a new independent bookstore that, amazingly, opens at 6:30 a.m. And I listened to a singer called Cuba Luna whose throaty voice was thrilling.
As if those gifts weren’t enough, I turned a corner from a hallway into the performance space and came face to face with two friends from Nottingham, England. As I recall, I looked from one to the other literally gaping. What were the chances that I would finally agree to read on a night that they would be visiting in the vicinity. That they would stumble across a Tweet announcing the reading. That they would be willing to leave the beach and tackle the insane Tampa Bay traffic. That they would be in the front row with my sweetheart to cheer me on during the reading. No way!
Way! This is just how we happened to find what we hope will be our retirement home in the Pacific Northwest. Not that we’re retiring anytime soon. We’re simply never going to move again, so when we do retire, that’s where we’ll be living.
We were actually in Oregon to visit our friends the Handydyke and the Pianist. As we plann to move back there eventually, we stopped in to see my old realtor and she kindly printed out some places to look at, to get a sense of the market. The last place we checked was a manufactured home. My sweetheart had not gotten out of the car to walk around any of the other houses, but this time, maybe because it was the last, maybe because the stars were aligned just right, she did. Then she called me to join her.
She was looking at a distant view of the Pacific Ocean. I can’t begin to describe how far out of our price range a view of any ocean, river, lake or pond is for us. But there it was, gray-blue, wild, an unobstructed and unobstructable view from this hilltop house. As we peered in windows and walked the miniscule, miniscule grounds, the next door neighbor headed our way. Not to shoo us off the property, but with key in hand,  smiling, friendly, eager to let us inside. Afterward, we sped back to the realtor.
The next morning we were at the mortgage office, applying. By that afternoon we had our insurance binder. Everyone was available just when we needed them. We are thinking positively that the lender will give us its blessings and we’ll be crossing the country soon. In the dead of winter, of course, leaving an unsold house behind us, but no matter how much I worry about such little details, by hook or by crook, that’s our hilltop house, that’s our future.
The UPS guy confirmed it for us this afternoon. Out of the blue, he delivered a package from our auctioneer friend. Last month, when a family member was going through a rough patch, we sent her a care package from a teddy bear company, with a bit of chocolate and the like. I hardly have to say that’s exactly what the auctioneer sent us on a whim, because the  bears reminded her of us.
Just in case I had doubts, and despite my aversion to Facebook, I went to friend one of the incredible lesbians we met last night. On the top of her page was the word serendipity—and the definition: “Finding something good without looking for it.”


Coffee Talk

Bold Strokes Books author Melissa Brayden discusses her November release, Heart Block. And there’s coffee.

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Bold Strokes Books author Robin Silverman isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues.

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