Friday, May 22, 2020

BIG LOVE How I Drew on My Own Experience to Create a Memorable Cast of Characters


Big Love contains three of characters I think I’ve fallen in love more than any characters in any book I’ve ever written. I think that favoritism comes from:
  1. My main characters, two high-school school teachers and a pivotal student, are capable of inspiring deep emotion but at the same time, they’re flawed human beings with whom I think we can all identify to an extent.
  2. They’re all, at least in part, me at different stages of my life and my coming out process. Big Love is not autobiographical, but I believe every writer leaves a personal stamp on each of his or her characters (and they on him!).
So, in this post, I want to get you up-close-and-personal with three brave men whom I believe you'll love as much as I do and tell you about their relationship with me and with the delicate process of coming out.

 Our first character is Dane Bernard. Dane’s a little older than your average character in a gay romance, in his forties, and living a very settled life as a high school teacher, with a wife and two adolescent children, a boy and a girl. To look at him, you’d think he had the perfect, settled life. The American dream, the source of contentment. But look closer and you’ll see a man who’s hiding his most essential self under a mound of shame and secrets. See, Dane is in the closet and thinks that, because of the people he’d hurt if he were honest about his orientation, he can never come out of that closet.

Circumstances unlock the closet door, tragic circumstances (as you’ll see when you read Big Love), but nonetheless Dane has no longer got a reason to keep his gay self a secret. Tentatively, he begins to come out. The events in the book force him to come out quicker than he might have wanted or felt comfortable with, but once he’s out and on the other side, he finds the air there is very much worth breathing and very liberating.

I was Dane at one point in my life. As far as I knew, no one knew I was gay. I was married to a woman, had a wonderful little boy, and was living the perfect suburban lifestyle. No one could see that I wore a mask every day and in my darkest hours felt that no one, not friend or family knew who I was. And if they did, my greatest horror was that they would no longer love me. Like Dane, I eventually emerged from my closet and as it was for Dane, it wasn’t always easy. Like Dane did, I found more people stuck by me and still loved me than I thought would, but some did fall away. So I understood Dane’s pain, his anguish and secrets when I was writing. I also understood how a gay man could successfully function—at least for a time and relatively speaking—as a husband and dad. But most of all, I understood and brought to you, dear reader, the joy Dane eventually found in loving himself and that one special man who comes into his life right when he needed him most.

Our second character is Seth Wolcott. Seth’s what I consider the perfectly evolved gay man. Although he’s not perfect, by any means! He’s still smarting from a recent breakup and he’s prone to falling on his ass, in more ways than one (as you’ll see when you read Big Love). But I said Seth was perfectly evolved and that’s because he’s my counterpoint to the other two characters in the book, Dane Bernard and Truman Reid, who, despite a vast age difference, are both dealing with coming out for the first time.

Seth is the character I wrote who demonstrates what it can be like when you love yourself and live your life openly and honestly. With Dane, who’s facing the potential of his first romantic involvement with another man, Seth is not only an object of affection and desire, he’s a role model—one he can and does fall in love with. For Truman, our bullied freshman, Seth is somebody he can look up to and see that by embracing who you are with no shame, you can lead a normal and happy life.

Like Dane, our married, closeted man, I think I also have aspects of Seth. Like Seth, I’m now pretty settled in my gay existence. I’m actually neither proud nor ashamed. I just am. It’s kind of like my height or the fact that I have green eyes. It’s no big deal and yet it’s everything. It’s simply a fact of life.

So it is for Seth.

So it is for me.

Our third character is Truman Reid. It’s no accident that Truman and I share the same last name (albeit spelled differently). My teenage self and Truman have in common a lot of the same heartache growing up. It’s also no accident that Truman shares a first name of a celebrated gay author, Truman Capote. See the picture of the young Capote? In my head, my Truman looks very much like the beautiful young man Capote was at the time his first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms, came out.

Truman is the character I love most in the book. He’s a mess in some ways and in others, one of the most evolved characters. Like Truman at the start of the book, I endured teasing and bullying throughout most of my junior high and high school years. I know his pain. And when you read the opening scene of the book at the first-day-of-school-assembly and how Truman is terrorized, know that I was recreating something that happened to me when I was Truman’s age.

The difference between Truman and me is that I took a lot longer to deal with my shame and conflict over who I was than he did. I didn’t have his teachers, Dane Bernard and Seth Wolcott, to help me accept myself. I didn’t have Truman’s wonderful mom, Patsy, who said to him:

  “God made you just the way you are, honey. Beautiful. And if you’re one of his creations, there’s nothing wrong in who you are. You just hold your head up and be proud.” 

Although make no mistake—I did have a wonderful mom. She just wasn’t as evolved in her thinking as the fiercely loving Patsy. I suspect—and hope—that you will love Truman as much as I do. And I hope that you will help cheer him on his journey from being a bullied victim to an out-and-proud kid who loves himself fiercely and accepts no less from others.

BLURB
Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay. But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men.

And a new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth himself is starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup. The last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.

As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small-town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.

BUY 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

NEW AND NOTABLE: Finding Fisher by MJ James


Title: Finding Fisher
Author: M.J. James
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: May 11, 2020
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 62600
Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, dark, family drama, hurt-comfort, reunited, tearjerker

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Synopsis


When Ian Fisher walked away from his life a year ago, he had no plans to ever return to where he grew up. However, after a run-in with the cops, he’s forced to move in with his sister Rachel—in his dead parents’ house.

Back home, Ian can’t stop thinking about his ex, Sam. He still loves him and knows Sam loves him too, and he will stop at nothing to convince Sam to face his true feelings. But Sam has moved on. He has a fiancĂ©, and he rejects Ian’s repeated attempts to fix their relationship. Ian deals with those rejections by getting lost in the bottom of a bottle, refusing to face how messed up his life truly is.

After weeks in the hospital—the victim of a viscous hate crime—and learning of Sam’s upcoming wedding, Ian has no choice but to fix his life to show Sam that he can be the man he needs. But rehab changes Ian, and he just might be ready to say goodbye to Sam forever.

Through addiction, violence, and self-preservation, Ian must learn to accept himself if he hopes to win back the man he loves.

Excerpt


Finding Fisher
M.J. James © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Waking up in your own vomit sucked. For Ian Fisher, sleeping facedown in the previous night’s dinner was more the norm than not. He had lost count months ago how many times he’d been jackknifed over a toilet as the sun came up, regurgitating the pain of the day before. Every single time, he remembered exactly how shitty his life had become and how bad he had fucked everything up. As last night’s brew rumbled in his gut and he started to come around, things sure as hell smelled like any other day.

The rancid stench of stale beer that had stewed in stomach acid all night; the sour smell of piss-soaked pants, still warm against his crotch; the chalky taste of God knows how many different drugs clinging to the walls of his mouth. The all too familiar odors crept up his nose and down his throat, and Ian pulled himself off the floor. He stepped over people he didn’t even know as he hugged the wall to the bathroom, ignoring the merry-go-round he could never get off. He had to piss. And puke. No time to choose so he did them both at once. Warmth snaking down his leg and the putrid stink slapping him in the face only made him heave harder into the toilet. Chunks of—shit, what had he eaten?—something plopped in the grungy bowl, the rot and funk watering his eyes. He shut off his brain like always, letting his body fend for itself until the torture ended. After emptying his gut, he slid to the floor and curled into the fetal position; the tiles cool against his skin.

What the fuck am I doing?

He had asked himself the same question before, hundreds of times over the past year or so. Each time, no answer. Just silence. This time, if he closed his eyes tight and blocked out the nausea and the pain and listened close, he could hear a faint voice, a whisper, repeating over and over in his head:

Stop, stop, stop.

He opened his eyes. The carnival ride that had become his life had begun its last revolution, the spinning slowing to a manageable speed. He gripped the bowl he’d just poured his guts into and pulled himself up. He rested against the rim, the chill of the porcelain blanketing his back in goose bumps. He wasted a quick second wondering where his shirt had disappeared to before shaking the thought from his head. No doubt the shirt was trashed, sopping wet with his own sick.

Though he took longer than last time, Ian somehow managed to stand. His newborn-like legs threatened to give him one last fuck you as they shook and wobbled. He braced against the vanity, eyes focused on a half-squeezed toothpaste tube, an old Tampax box, a couple of empty condom wrappers, anything to stop the urge to say “fuck this” and dunk his head in the toilet again. Once he had his center of gravity back on track, he raised his head.

Big mistake.

His reflection in the scum-streaked mirror hanging over the sink scared the hell out of him. He had aged well beyond his 24 years. Like something straight out of The Walking Dead. Like he had been rotting for, well, a year. Because he had. A slow, painful one. A deliberate one. A rot from the inside out. The decay had started deep, quiet and stealthy and hidden, but had begun to show around the edges, reaching the surface so others could see what he had known all along. He couldn’t ignore this anymore. Time to choose: stop the rot, or let death consume him.

He slid achy hands over the faucet and gave the chrome fingers a slow turn before scooping up the cool water and drenching his face. Over. And over. And over. More water. Deluges of water. His eyes burned like a son of a bitch, but he kept up the onslaught. He scrubbed and scrubbed as he splashed, more desperate than ever to be clean. He needed a shower.

Nope. A shit idea if ever he had one. The room still spun like a top, and his legs were itching to give out on him. He kept drowning his face at the sink instead until his brain worked again. Well, as good as possible since he still floated in a cloud of crap left over by whatever the fuck he had ingested last night. A couple more handfuls of water before he picked up a towel and pressed the cotton against his face. He lingered over his eyes, scared to see his haggard reflection again. Every cell in his body wanted to turn around, walk out, and get drunk again. High again. Mind-numbingly wasted again.

No. Fuck that. Do it.

He dropped the towel and stared at himself. Stared hard at his reflection. The deep-set, blackened eye sockets. The sunken, pocked cheeks. Chapped lips. Greasy hair.

“Fuckin’ loser,” he eked out, his voice a jagged rasp, wedged between a whisper and early morning smoker’s growl. He punched the mirror. Again. Again. Over and over until glass crawled deep under his skin and pushed blood from his veins.

He couldn’t do this anymore.

Shit. He couldn’t remember the last time he had thought those words. Not in the past year, for sure. He hadn’t wanted to think dick in the past year. Just get drunk. Stay drunk. Get high. Stay high.

But now…

Ian shook his head. Crammed his hand in his pocket and pulled out salvation.

“Fuck it.” One last glance at himself as the drug-of-the-moment skated over his mind and wiped out thoughts of fixing anything.

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Meet the Author


I’ve always wanted to be a writer (like most writers, I’m sure) but not until the last few years have I taken it seriously. I was always told growing up that I had to get a job and “earn my keep,” so I pushed my dream of writing a book to the back of my mind and entered the workforce. Fast-forward many, many years and here I am, trying to make a go at it.

I stumbled across Blogger in 2010 and my world of writing exploded. I have met (via the web) so many amazing writers and industry professionals and book bloggers that have passed on their wisdom and experience and successes and failures. So many, in fact, that I have no excuse to sit down and write out the stories living in my head. Which is what I’m now attempting to do.

I enjoy reading more than most other things (well, except maybe for writing. And TV. No way am I giving up my TV) . OUT OF THE ASHES is my first foray into the world of adult m/m and I am loving it!

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