Posts Tagged 'William Holden'

Strange Bedfellows: History and Horror

By William Holden

 

For the past two years, I’ve been involved with queer student life at Harvard University. It’s been a great experience to get to know these students, who come from every part of the world. I dine with them, have fun and fascinating conversations with them. It’s been a joy and privilege to watch them learn and grow. This past academic year, two queer Harvard Law School students approached me.  They asked if I would get involved in what they were calling, The Secret Court Committee. Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Let me shed some light into the darkness.

 

In 1920, the then president of Harvard University formed a committee, called “The Court.” It was formed to investigate allegations of homosexual activity running rampant through the campus. For two weeks the members of the court interrogated over thirty students. The students were asked about their sexual activities, and private lives. The members of the court even threatened the students with expulsion, outing, or public shame if they didn’t turn over the names of other men. At the end of the two weeks, eight students, one recent graduate, and a professor were removed from the university.

 

The records of “The Court” disappeared. No one knew or remembered what happened in May of 1920. It wasn’t until 2002, when someone working on a story for the student newspaper, The Crimson, discovered the documents. They were inadvertently given an unmarked box from the archives. Inside the box was the handwritten notes from “The Court.” After further searching, the library staff found more boxes of documents from “The Court.” It was the first time in eighty-two years anyone had ever seen these documents.

 

For those interested in learning more about this “homosexual witch hunt” there was a student group who used the records in the archives to recreate the interrogations. You can watch the one-hour film Perkins 28: Harvard’s Secret Court. A book has also been written about the events of 1920 and is worth reading. The stories that are pieced together from actual documents will haunt you. Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals.

 

Back to the Law School students, and the Secret Court Committee. Every few years a new student-led group comes together. Their goal? To convince Harvard University to honor the expelled students. Unfortunately, Harvard has refused to honor the students, or even commemorate their lives.

 

o-crimson-soulsSo what does all this have to do with my latest novel, Crimson Souls? It’s the heart and soul of the story (pun intended). People who have followed my writings over the years will be familiar with the name Nate, The Midnight Barker. Nate is a shadow demon. To survive, Nate and his follow demons need to feed off the souls of men. In Nate’s Netherworld, the souls of men come in the form of their orgasms.

 

Nate is a character I created seven years ago for a short story. A year later I found him narrating another story, then another. You get the point; he’s a character who has refused to let me go. So when readers kept asking me questions like, “Was Nate ever human?” or “How did he become a shadow demon?” I realized the reason Nate hasn’t left me alone was that he wasn’t done telling his story. It wasn’t until I began reading the history of the homosexual purge at Harvard did Nate’s background and history reveal itself. In his human existence he, Phineas Nathanial Trescott, was one of the interrogated students, and (like the real life student he’s fashioned after) believed to be the source of the perversion.  Nate (unlike his real-life counterpart) is murdered by the men of the Secret Court and vows to come back and seek revenge on the members of the court and their descendants. And so the story unfolds.

Did I alter historical facts of Harvard’s Secret Court? Absolutely, but only for the purpose of storytelling. I did not change the facts to minimize or lessen the harsh realities of what these students endured at the hands of Harvard’s hate and homophobia. Do history and horror make strange bedfellows? Perhaps, but in using history in this way, I hope to get more people aware of what happened during those two weeks of May in 1920. People who perhaps wouldn’t read a book about Harvard, but who may be interested in a horror novel. Through this book, I’m hoping to keep the memory of these students alive, and with that in mind, I have dedicated this book to them.

Next fall as a new academic year begins, the Secret Court Committee will once again reconvene. It is my hope this time, we can make a difference, and get these students the recognition they deserve.

Blurring the Line

by William Holden

I’ve been writing now for fifteen years. During those early years answering the question, “What do you write?” was simple. I would reply, “I write gay erotica.” I never thought that would change. I loved writing about men having sex, but the real reason I stayed with erotica was because I didn’t think I could write anything else. Romance, horror, historical, fantasy, and science fiction all seemed so out of reach for me at that time. Over the last three or four years, that standard question (that I still get asked) has become a bit more difficult to answer. I can no longer say gay erotica because my writing has evolved, and my genres have become, shall I say, a little bent. So now when someone asks me that question, my answer is something like, “I write gay erotic, horror, and historical fiction, and sometimes all three simultaneously.”

Blending genres is a challenge, but one I have fully embraced. It has not only allow me to grow as a writer, but also helps me to put a fresh perspective, and outlook on what can sometimes be considered a tired theme or story idea. The crucial thing is that I allowed myself to do it. A few weeks ago I attended the Horror Writers Association/World Horror Convention in New Orleans. During one of my many conversations with the lovely and talented Amber Benson who played Tara in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she mentioned that she never says ‘no’ to anything. She said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that if you say no, you are closing doors before they ever open up to you. That one little word has the power to limit your creativity, and your potential. That was an eye opening moment for me. Too many times I hear fellow writers and artists say “but I’ve never done that before” or “I don’t think I can write that.” I’ve been known to say it to myself over the years, and while I’ve always tried to do something new, it was nice to hear it put in such simple terms.

With or without the “never say no” attitude, I like to think that this blurring of genres happened more organically for me. My contemporary gay erotic short stories began to take on a darker, more sinister feel, and without much effort on my part. It was during one of those darker moments that I created Nate the Midnight Barker. He’s one of my favorite characters and the narrator of four or five short stories.  For those of you out there who have not met Nate, he’s dying to meet you. Pick up any number of anthologies edited by my good friend Jerry Wheeler, and read one of his dark and seductive tales. You can also read a few of his stories in my collection, “Words to Die By” Words to Die By 300 DPIreleased in March 2012. This collection was my first attempt at writing nothing but horror. Of course, I couldn’t leave out the sex all together, so I compromised with my dark half, Christopher. We shared the stories equally; some are erotic horror while other stories focus on the horror without any erotic elements.

Since that collection has come out, I get a new question thrown at me. “How can you write erotic horror, the two are not compatible? How can one be sexually aroused or turned on by fear, or a bloody mess? My answer was always something like, “I think the two make a perfect couple. It works for me.” I think that I scared some people away. I honestly don’t blame them, but for me it did seem a natural combination, like, do I dare say this…peanut butter and jelly.  Another one of those moments at The World Horror Convention was when I learned that fear and sexual desire come from the same part of the brain – who knew? So now when someone asked me that question, I’ll have a definitive answer as my reply. I’m not a total freak after all. Yay me!

So what does all this have to do with historical fiction? Well while writing “Words to Die By” I wrote my first historical piece. It was set in 18th Century London, “From Within the Alehouse He Came.” I was hooked the minute I started that story. I had been doing research on the sodomy trials for about four years by that time, so I just expanded my research to life inside the notorious Newgate Prison, and well that place was enough horror without my having to exaggerate or embellish anything.  When I saw how well that short story worked, I knew I was ready to write my first novel, and that is when I sat down and wrote, Secret Societies, which is set during the sodomy trials of 18th century London. While there were some horrific events during that time, the novel is not horror. It is, however, very erotic and rather nasty as life was during that period. I’ve heard from many readers that they felt the story of Thomas Newton had a romantic quality to it, so there’s another genre to add to the growing list. For those who are wondering, yes, there is a sequel due out spring 2014 from Bold Strokes Books, entitled, “The Thief Taker: A Thomas Newton Erotic Adventure.”

Once I had finished the novel, I knew that I was going to be ruined from doing contemporary stuff for some time. I love the 18th century. It is such a corrupt, yet vibrant and totally rotten place in time, so when I sat down and thought about my next project, I knew it had to be 18th Century Horror, “Clothed in Flesh”Clothed in Flesh cover was born. I might add that there is no sex within the pages of this collection of three novellas, but it’s sure to at least scare the pants off you, anything after that…well you are on your own.

What’s next for me? Not a clue as of yet. I’m busy writing short horror stories, perhaps for another collection, or not. I have two or three ideas for novels, but nothing set in stone. That’s the fun part of all this for me. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing that I can’t do or can’t explore. Having numerous writing projects piling up around me is what give me the greatest joy, and you better believe all of these projects are blurring as many lines and genres as they can.

The Dark Side

Meet Bold Strokes Books author William Holden and hear about his foray into the world of horror fiction and his Lambda Literary Award finalist novel, Secret Societies.

Words to Die By- Video Trailer

by William Holden


Words to Die By by william HoldenLiberty Editions novel Words to Die By William Holden

Price: $16.95

Genre: Gay Fiction

Release: March 2012

Delve into the darker side of human nature with these sixteen stories by William Holden. As darkness enters the mind through revenge, jealousy, paranoia, or the uncanny operations of a supernatural force, these stories lead you onto new heights of fear… and arousal. In “Felonious Behavior,” Jack Stevens takes matters into his own hands when the police can’t or won’t do anything about the driver who ran him down. In “The Other Man,” a sex doll named Joey finds life through jealousy over his owner’s new boyfriend. “Fear #2 – Hierophobia, The Fear of Priests” tells of Gian, who returns home to confront his childhood fear—only to find that the priest who once terrified him isn’t human, and his destiny is to follow in the priest’s dark footsteps. The human mind is fragile. How much fear one person can handle depends on how deep the darkness runs.

Embracing the Darkness

by William Holden

I’ve been writing gay erotica now for about fourteen years, and I have to say the writing process never ceases to amaze me. As a gay man, I loved reading the old gay pulps from the 60’s and 70’s. As gay publishing changed, I took up reading contemporary gay erotica. I wrote my first short story back in 1998. It was a typical contemporary piece about a young man’s first gay sexual experience. After writing that story I couldn’t stop, the characters and plots poured out of me, and until recently, I was content with writing the same way. So why leave a good thing, right? To be honest, I don’t think the choice was all mine. About two years ago, I received my first message that things were about to change. I awoke at three in the morning to something new running through my mind. This was my first taste of the darkness. A taste I was unfamiliar with, but one I would soon learn to crave. I jumped out of bed and ran to my computer. The following three paragraphs are what came out of me, and still to this day remain in their unedited form.

What causes a mind to sour isolation, loneliness, paranoia? Whatever the cause, I fear I’m losing mine. What began as a passion for the male body, the sex, the sensual heat between two men has turned to something else, something dangerous and deadly. I’m losing control; control over emotions, over desires. What starts out as an innocent anonymous meeting ends in fear, anger, and violence.

 

I need to write – to write everything down chasing the darkness out of my head and onto the paper. I need this to cleanse my body and soul. But the dirt always returns, stronger and more desperate than before. 

 

The room is hollow, empty of life itself. The only movements are a continuous cloud of smoke from the cigarettes and a broken traffic light outside the window. The room shifts and changes with its deep red blinking tones. It flashes in my eyes, over and over. It’s become a part of me, of part of what I am becoming. 

What you see is what came out of me in the wee hours of that morning. On several occasions, I have attempted to clean them up, and to find a proper place for them in one of my stories, but more than two years later those three paragraphs remain untouched. There is something about those words, the immediacy of having to write them down that night, the intense rush of the unknown spilling out of me as the rest of the city slept. Something or someone is not willing to let me make any changes.

What came out of me wasn’t my voice, or at least a voice I recognized. The words, quite frankly, disturbed me. How could something so dark and obviously tormented come out of me? The darkest thing I had written to that point was a watersports scene in a short story some ten years prior. When I showed these paragraphs to my partner that morning, he appeared puzzled by my reaction to them. I remember him saying, “What you wrote doesn’t surprise me at all. You have lived and breathed horror novels and movies all your life. You worship Halloween as if it were the only day of the year that mattered. This is who you are as a writer. It’s the voice all writers look for. It’s a part of you. Don’t walk away from it, embrace it.” I look back at those paragraphs, especially the last sentence and realize that something inside of me, wanted out.

That was my first introduction to the dark half that was living inside of me. As I became more comfortable with this new persona, I named him Christopher. He quickly became my shadow, never leaving my side. He showers with me, goes to work with me, and has haunted my dreams almost every night since. The stories in the collection “Words to Die By” are his. They are about the darkness that lies in all of us. For the characters in these stories, the moment of embrace is violent, painful, and at times deadly. For me, that moment of embrace was a gift, and one I hope the readers will feel, accept, and perhaps through Christopher’s stories reach deeper into themselves to embrace their own darkness.

 

Stay Tuned for the Video Trailer Tomorrow…

Squelching the Sophomore Slump

Jerry L. Wheeler

This year has been quite heady for me, but it all really started in September 2010 when my first anthology of erotica, Tented: Gay Erotic Tales from under the Big Top, was published by Lethe Press. It got some great reviews, but gay circus erotica is—to say the least—a niche market, and I was ecstatic to simply get my firstborn out into the world.

And then it became a Lambda Literary Award finalist.

I had put it into nomination with faint hope and $35.00, and I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was when I checked the website the morning the finalists were announced to find that Tented was among them. Coincidentally, I had been contacted by the judging coordinator of the Lammys to judge another category, so the Lammys loomed large for me. I made reservations and plans to go to NYC.

I lost. Or as my friends say, I didn’t win.

And I was okay with that. As the losers (or not winners) on all awards telecasts say when the cameras are on, “It’s just an honor to be nominated.” And it was—especially for my first book out. My powers of rationalization then took over, and I considered how difficult it would have been for my next project to measure up had I actually tripped my way to the stage and took home an award. Losing (or not winning) never looked better. But Tented had achieved some measure of success, and I had to make sure the next book was up to snuff.

As my introduction to Riding the Rails suggests, a personal experience with sex on trains led me to want to do a whole anthology with that theme. There’s such a wonderful connection to the past with trains, not to mention so many opportunities for sex, that I  knew authors would be intrigued by the concept. And if my authors are intrigued, so are my readers.

With all my anthologies, I strive for themes not normally explored in erotica. Whenever I encounter a list of Calls for Submissions, I’m chagrined by the lack of variety in those calls—it’s all daddies and college boys and twinks. I like something new and different—like circus sex (and yes, there were clowns in that book). And train sex. And restaurant sex (that’s the book after Riding the Rails, called The Dirty Diner, due out July 2012 from the wonderful people at Bold Strokes Books).

And, apparently, authors enjoy writing for those calls. I received some amazing stories for Riding the Rails—historical stories, time travel stories, interplanetary stories, psychological stories, even a story about a sex angel. Of course, it helps if you have a core group of authors to work with. I usually put a closed call for submissions out simply because I like knowing the people I work with. It seriously cuts down on the drama. But again, you have to keep things fresh, so I’m always adding and subtracting names from that list.

And Riding the Rails has some of the best and brightest names working in erotica today, featuring established favorites (Jeff Mann, Dale Chase, William Holden, Gavin Atlas, ‘Nathan Burgoine, Rob Rosen, Hank Edwards, Rick R. Reed, Erastes), up and comers (Joseph Baneth Allen, Jeffrey Ricker, Daniel M. Jaffe, Jay Neal, Dusty Taylor) and first publications (J.D. Barton) with an incredible array of stories—some hilarious, some bittersweet, some romantic, some creepy and some flat-out weird. But all of them have the hottest sex you’ll ever see on trains.

My cure for the sophomore slump? Come up with a creative concept, surround yourself with as much talent as possible, edit with scissors instead of pruning shears, find a supportive publisher and …

… maybe this year I’ll get to use that acceptance speech.


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