LOOKING… FOR REALNESS IN WRITING

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Watching the season finale of Looking last night hit a little too close to home. I have been in the situation that Patrick found himself with Kevin before. And I reacted for better or for worse, the same way that Patrick did. It was quite honestly uncomfortable watching some of those scenes last night; a mix of what it must be like to watch your parents fight, and a stark reminder of my own personal history.

As much as I rail against the show at times to friends, this is perhaps one of the best, most nuanced depiction of gay men, and gay relationships I have seen on television. It is not all about sex and partying and all the other tropes that Queer as Folk trotted out nearly two decades ago. Instead we are given a group of gay men who love, live, laugh, struggle and persevere through life. There is something truly special about that show. As much as Patrick frustrates me in naivety, I have come to realize that there is a lot of him in me. And perhaps that is the sign of exceptional writing, when you find yourself strangely relating to a character on multiple levels, a character that irritates you.

Now I am a bit jealous, because the characters on Looking, especially Patrick and Kevin, are ones that I strive to create and to write about whenever I try my hand at a new novel or story. I realize that in terms of craft I am not quite hitting the same strides, but this does provide me with a certain benchmark of what I would like to achieve in my writing.

If you are not watching Looking, you should. It is smartly written, with three dimensional characters that shine. It may just find itself creeping into my list of favourite television series one day soon.

CONSUMING BUT NOT PRODUCING

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It has been a bit too long since I last wrote here. As always it seems, real life takes over, and I find myself with very little time or motivation to write. I have been consuming a lot of pop culture lately though, and it has started to inspire me quite a lot.

Over the course of January and February I read The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal, one of the first mainstream homosexual novels to come out after the Second World War, and City of Night by John Rechy, controversial for the fact that it was semi-autobiographical about Rechy’s experiences as a male hustler. The City and the Pillar was an excellent read, while City of Night fell flat for me.

I have been having mixed reactions to television as well. I finally signed up for Netflix, and have been spending far too much time watching stuff on that (but then again, who can claim that they do not?). I watched a documentary on transgender porn star Buck Angel, called Mr. Angel, which I thought was exceptional. Last weekend I watched Getting Go, the Go Doc Project which is a fictional gay love story told in documentary style, which I thought was exceptional. Then there was German gay film, Free Fall. It was awful. I will leave my opinion as that.

I have also been watching HBO’s Looking religiously. The main character Patrick still really gets on my nerves, but I have been finding the second season fairly strong, with some great character work, including a fantastic Doris-centric story last weekend. My issues with the protaganist, I think it has done one of the most balanced, nuanced portrayal of gay men in a long time (though it could serve to step up its game and introduce a lesbian & a transgender person).

So inspired, I hope to finally return to the keyboard tomorrow. Someone please hold me to this?

SO IT’S BEEN A WHILE…

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I had not planned on taking such a long hiatus from this blog. In fact, I had not planned on taking a hiatus at all! I completed National Novel Writing Month at the end of the November, making me a eight time winner, and then promptly got really busy between my two jobs, and then sick, and then even busier with one job. Before I knew it, it was Chrismukkah, and I have not had the time to write.



That changes though, with the new year, and with a new set of challenges. Every year I do something called my “Accomplishments List”. It is not a resolutions list (people constantly fail at resolutions), instead it is a list of things that I wish to accomplish. It is a mix of fitness stuff, travel, personal stuff and of course writing. The writing stuff is the most applicable to this blog, so let’s talk about that.



I will write a novel (big surprise), but it will be my last year of competiting in National Novel Writing Month. Writing a novel in a month is a crazy idea to begin with, but I simply do not have the time anymore. I have a full time career as a government drone, a part-time gig as a Personal Trainer, and a passion to sleep more than two hours a night. So why am I not just saying screw it to National Novel Writing Month now? Glory. My previous “winning” streak stood at four novels before I failed in 2010. I tied that record last year. If I comp(l)ete this year, it will be my tenth time, my possible ninth win, and a five time winner in a row. That is a pretty damn good high to end on.



I am also going to write six short stories this year, posting each as I complete them. They will be rough, they will be first drafts, but they will be something available to consume.

FOREWORD, ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND DEDICATION



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I’m done with National Novel Writing Month. I crossed the 50,000 word mark early this week, and have taken a break from writing. I will go back to finish the story in a few weeks, but for now, I am enjoying not staring at my computer screen all day long. The last two weeks of the contest were difficult for me, but I managed to persevere despite it all. I will post one last excerpt tomorrow, but for now I thought I would share the foreword, acknowledgements and dedication for this project.



Foreword


Certain T began with an idea and an image, and initially the two were completely unrelated from each other. The idea, or rather ideas, were to cover topics such as “the next steps” in a relationship and surrogacy of children. I was not sure how it was going to pan out initially. I was in a relationship when the planning for this novel had begun last spring, but by the time fall came around and it was time to seriously commit to the ideas and characters, and then write it, I was single. The “next step” in this case for me, was choosing to take the single path once again. I wrestled with how I would portray the next steps on the page. I wanted to do it in a way that was realistic, but not in a way that would be too close to home for me, or too embittered. I think I did okay in balancing all of that.



The image though, the image was something I had decided on very early on. I had this image in my head of a bearded man who was over six feet tall, probably about two hundred and fifty pounds, and dressed up as a woman. Was not a drag queen, but rather a crossdresser. In the female identity, her name would be Pearl O’Wysdom, and she would provide life advice, or serve the tea (truth) to those who were willing to pay for that advice. Not as a life coach in the traditional sense. No, she would be serving up sass and straight-up life advice in a bar, on gay night. Pearl was born, and from there, a way for me to start connecting the dots on the characters and their stories.



I returned to characters I had previously written back in 2011 for National Novel Writing Month. They still had some story left in them, and in the case of Cooper, has sort of unofficially become the representation of who I am in my thirties. Cooper is more sure of himself than the last time I wrote about him, but that does not mean he is completely put together. He has his flaws, and he is still learning, just as I am still learning.



A brand new character stood out as one of my favorites. Bradley has got a great internal struggle that he is trying find a suitable outlet for in the pages of the novel. He is perhaps the character that goes through the most, and when I had originally developed him for this novel, it was with the idea that he would just be a bit part that served another story. Lo and behold, I start writing him, really enjoy writing him and his part begins to expand from there.


Certain T in the end, was a novel I largely pulled together from seemingly disparate parts adn put together into a whole. It is not quite a mish-mash, but the sums of the parts somehow miraculously made a whole.



Acknowledgements



As always, there is always a number of people to acknowledge throughout National Novel Writing Month. Nine years later, it astounds me the number of people who encourage, influence and just generally keep me going through this contest. Everyone has had a significant contribution, even if I did the bulk of the work, so to speak, in the past month.



To my clients, thank you eternally for your patience, your support, and your cheerleading this past month. I know I have been a bit distracted, but your sessions gave me a much needed forced break from writing, and it always seemed to be at times when I really needed a break. Special mention to those clients who asked how I was doing, not just writing, but as a writer who was juggling a day-time career, a part-time career and writing a novel in a month (what was I actually thinking this year?). Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.



Thank you to Ali. As a first time National Novel Writing Month participant, I had the opportunity to truly mentor a growing writer, and that in turn helped reignite my passion for writing. I hope this is just the first of many competition years for you.



Thank you to Mandi, another incredibly talented writer who I thoroughly love talking about writing to. Your insights are worth their weight in gold, but more importantly your support and passion for the art of writing is something I have never personally known in another person before.



Thank you to Alex for providing some key critiques as I wrote. I may not have implemented everything you said while I was writing, but rest assured I make notes of what you say for further reference, and I will be coming back to it for the revision process.



To my parents and my brother, Andrew, who still think I’m batshit crazy nine years later for doing a contest like this, but especially for coming back to it every year, but thank you especially for not harping at me if I did not return phonecalls or text messages right away.



Thank you to everyone who influenced a character, a plot, or even just a snippet of dialogue. You do not know who you are, and that is intention (I wish not to be sued in some cases), but know that contributions of all kinds and sizes is what helps me the most when it comes time to approach the keyboard.


Dedication



To Mandi. The universe works in mysterious ways. It is not always fair, just, or even kind, but your passion for writing is only exceeded by your passion for life.


THE SECOND WEEK, PEARL AND BRADLEY



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The second week of the contest has been really rough for me. I was hoping to be closer to 40,000 words, but the reality is, I will not even make 35,000 at this rate. The inspiration and the motivation just are not there at the moment. However, I half expected that to happen, and I am willing to ride it out until the upswing hits.



Meanwhile, I have been thinking about a couple of characters a lot this week. Pearl, as a main character has had to remain an enigma. This is on purpose, because I do not plan on revealing her story until the final scenes of the novel. I am hoping that it has a big pay-off, but I have not quite figured out at what point that is going to happen. I have dropped hints and clues a few times throughout the piece so far, but I feel like at some point, and some point soon, I will have to address her story.



As for Bradley, he surprises me. He is a lot of fun to write, but I am starting to notice that a lot of his scenes seem repetitive. In the editing stage I imagine a few of his scenes will get cut out entirely, but for the time being his character has actually been more fun to write than I had originally thought.



All the other characters are around, I am writing them, and they really are not standing out or causing me troubles, so I suppose they have been serving their purpose.







Bradley went out that night. He had an itch that needed to be scratched, and it could no longer be ignored. He went to a bar first, and was not able to pick up, so moved onto a another bar, by the time he struck out on the third bar, he was becoming not only restless, but a little desperate as well.



 He did not want to end up here, but he honestly had no other choice. He had heard about this place from a conversation between two gay guys in a bar several months ago. It was where you could go for anonymous sex. Go in, get what you need, get off and then get out. The location and the actual idea did not really appeal to Bradley but he desperately needed to get off, and there were no other outlets around him presenting themselves.



 Bradley stepped through the non-descript door. He was not even sure from outside the building if he was at the right place or not, but upon entering knew he was at his destination. There was a front desk area, that looked more like a coat check alcove. There was someone standing behind the counter and Bradley approached cautiously. The guy behind the counter, not much older than Bradley himself looked up from the magazine he was casually flipping through.



 “First time here?” The guy asked, as he absent mindedly flipped another page. “Rules are up there,” he said pointing to a list or rules and regulations. “It’s twenty dollars, and you can stay as long as you want. Hot tub is broken though, so you might as well skip that. If you want to smoke, we’d prefer you use the outdoor balcony on the second floor instead of traipsing in and out of the main door.”



 Bradley nodded quietly as he reached into his wallet and pulled out a twenty dollar bill.



 “If you need condoms are packets of lubricant, you can find them throughout the building. Lockers are down the hall and to the right. They are a quarter each. Any questions?”



 “Is it busy?”



 The guy behind the counter raised an eyebrow. “You missed the happy hour orgy, if that’s what you’re wondering,” he replied sarcastically. Bradley frowned in annoyance, and the guy noticed. “Thursdays aren’t typically our busiest night,” he explained. “There are a few guys… I noticed that there was a circle jerk going on a little while ago in the dry sauna. Might want to check that out.”



 “Thanks,” Bradley mumbled and he made his way down the hall. He stored his valubles in the locker and took the key out of the lock. He saw a small sign tha indicated keys for private rooms, and he grabbed one, while searching the doors around him for numbers. Finding the corresponding room, Bradley slipped inside.


NANOWRIMO AND MUSIC



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Anyone and everyone that knows me personally knows that I am obsessed with music, to almost OCD levels. It becomes particularly bad during the prep and writing stages of National Novel Writing Month, because I am that kind of guy who likes to have a soundtrack for his novel. It usually starts with a long list of potential tracks and over the course of the month gets whittled down to something that would fit on one or two CDs as a soundtrack compilation.
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This year, the list started at 716 songs. I currently have it down to 298 songs. Still a long way to go…



And now, an excerpt:



Pearl got her customary drink and made her way over to her table. She sat down, draping her purse over her chair like she usually did. “Already a line up,” she remarked before looking up to see Josh sitting in front of her. “Didn’t you see me last week?” She asked.



 “Yes.”



 “And didn’t I help you then?”



 “You did… mostly.”



 “You know I’m not technically a therapist, right?”



 “I do.”



 Pearl sighed. She had a feeling this guy was going to be one of the rare ones that just kept coming back because it was easier that shelling out a hundred and fifty bucks an hour to lay out on some over priced psychiatrists faux leather couch. “Right, then… Josh, right?”



 “You remember that?” Josh asked with surprise.



 “No, your ID is sticking out of your wallet a little there,” she said gesturing to Josh’s brown leather wallet placed in front of him. “I can see a J, an O and an S… it was just a lucky guess.”



 “Oh,” Josh replied with a slightly embarrassed look on his face.



 “Don’t worry about it sweetie… so what is it this week?



 “Well, there was this guy last week…” Josh began, before pausing for a moment.



 “Most stories begin that way around here, it’s gay night after all. It’s the second sentence of the story that I’m more interested in,” Pearl pointed out. “That’s usually the one that tells me where our conversation is going to end up.”



 “Well, we were at a bar, and there was this guy,” Josh repeated. “I approached him and we started talking.”



 “This sounds promising.”



 “And then he asked if I wanted to give him a blowjob.”



 Pearl leaned in, anticipating the next sentence as though the story being told to her was a suspense novel. “I told him I wasn’t,” Josh concluded.



 Pearl sat back in her seat. “Not exactly the ending I was looking for,” she remarked.



 “My life isn’t a porno,” Josh replied defensively.



 “Maybe it should be.” Pearl could tell that Josh was taken aback by her words. “Listen, Josh, honey… you’re nineteen. Most boys your age, gay, straight, whatever, have already stuck it in as many moist holes as they could at this point, and yet you’re holding back. If it’s not for religious purposes, than what is it? You’ve got to get over it.”



 “So if I have standards I suddenly have to get over them?” Josh protested.




 Pearl considered that for a moment. “Yes.” She could tell that Josh had gone from looking upset to looking downright pissed off. “Listen, honey, you’re saying on the one hand that you want to get laid, but on the other hand you’re letting your standards run your life. I’m not saying you should’ve blown the guy last night, because he does sound like he was a pig. But what I am saying is that you need to find a balance between standards and expectations. That is where your true struggle lies.”



 “So what should I do then?” Josh asked.



 “Just get yourself out there!” Pearl said. “It sounds like to me that you’re spending so much time trying to figure things out, that you’re not getting yourself out there! Meet people, let them get to know you, and then, if the physical attraction is there, let them in…. literally, in that case.”



 Pearl watched as Josh’s shoulders sagged slightly. “I know it’s not easy,” she added. “I’m a pretty private person, myself. Josh, if you don’t want to be alone, don’t isolate yourself. Now, you know the drill,” she said gesturing to her drink. “Can I expect you same time next week?” She further inquired as Josh slipped the required money underneath her glass. That elicited a smile from Josh. “Go out. Have fun,” she urged as Josh slid out of the chair.



 “Thank you,” he said, before walking away.



 “Next?” Pearl said simply, as though she were holding court. A jockish looking guy sat down in front of her. “Not often I get hand-delivered a fine speciman such yourself,” she remarked as he settled into his seat. “What can old Pearl do for you?”



 “I have this problem with my boyfriend,” he said.



 “You have a boyfriend?”



 “Yes.”



 “I would’ve pegged you for being heterosexual”



 The jock smiled. “I get that a lot.”



 Pearl laughed. “Well, honey this just proves the existence of god, if he put a gay man into that body. But enough about my religious beliefs, what’s going on with you boo?”



 “It’s my boyfriend. We’ve been together for about six months now. Everything is good, but there’s one lingering issue…” The jock looked on either side of himself to make sure no one could overhear what he was about to say. To ensure he was not heard he leaned in a little closer to Pearl. “I really want to bottom for him, but he insists that I should be the top in the relationship.”



 Pearl nearly burst out laughing, but managed to contain herself. “I’m sorry… the jock is a big nelly bottom?” She said in a voice just low enough that only he could hear her. “Jesus, take the wheel!”



 The jock blushed in response. “He’s just a really great guy, and he’s… well, he’s got a really nice big dick. All I can think about is him putting it in me, but every time I asks, he brushes me off on that point, saying that I should be the dominant one.”



 “How does he identify himself, honey?” Pearl asked, trying to regain her composure and provide the best advice that she could to the client in front of her.



 “When we first started dating he said he was verse, but he’s not once been a top in our relationship.”



 “Is this a dealbreaker for you?”



 “I’m not sure,” the jock replied. “I mean, it’s something that I really want… maybe even need from him, and I feel like I’m not getting it.”



 “Then you need to tell him that,” Pearl urged. “A relationship is about getting what you need and want from the other person. If you need that big dick of his to plow you three ways to Sunday, then you need to tell him that’s what you need. Do you love him?”



 “…. Yeah, I guess so.”



 “Does he love you?”



 “I think he does… I’m not really sure, we haven’t really talked about that, yet,” the jock admitted.



 “It sounds to me like you guys need to work on more than just the sexual roles in your relationship, you need to talk about your communication roles as well. Tell him how you feel. Tell him what you want out of the relationship. You can still be that strapping guy for him, even if you do get in touch with your emotions. And then tell you want that big dick of his up your butt!”



 The jock laughed nervously. “Honestly, that sounds like sound advice to me… thank you,”



 Pearl smiled. “Money goes under the glass, you and you come back with a question anytime,” she said. It was now the jock’s turn to smile as he slid his payment under her glass.


HALFWAY THERE!



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I crossed the twenty-five thousand word mark this afternoon. I am officially half done the contest (even though the novel itself is not half completed). That is all I have for today, other than another promised excerpt!
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Bradley upon receiving word that he had secured the internship, went out to celebrate. It was strictly against what his beliefs had been growing up, but as Bradley had learned while in being away for university studies, sometimes the world contained grey areas. Exceptions to the rule, and areas that required a little bit of leeway. He went out to a bar nearby the apartment he rented with a few other guys, and had a beer. He nursed it slowly, knowing that it was the only one that he should have, and took stock of the other patrons.



 There was one group in particular that caught his eye. They looked like university students themselves, but one guy in particular had his attention. A little shorter than his five foot, eleven inches of height, and with brown hair a little longer than his, he had an innocent face that looked as though it could use a little corrupting. Bradley smiled at the guy the first time they locked eyes before bringing the beer bottle to his lips and taking a sip.



 They eyed each other for several minutes until the guy came up to Bradley’s table and sat down beside him. “I can’t help but notice that you keep looking at him,” he said with a shy smile. It was apparent to Bradley that he had been pressured by his friends to come over and approach him. There was something strangely endearing about that. A part of him was like that once. He hated that part of himself.



 “Oh yeah?” Bradley finally said, bringing the beer bottle down to the table. “Maybe I was just looking in your general direction.



 “I saw the look in your eyes though,” the guy replied in a hopeful tone.



 “What look would that be?” Bradley asked, trying to play as coy as possible, but realizing the facade was going to fade quickly.



 “I’m Josh,” the guy said, extending his hand in attempt to switch gears on the conversation.



 Bradley accepted it, suddenly very amused by Josh’s attempt at taking control of a situation and conversation that he clearly never had. “Brad.”



 “It’s nice to meet you, Brad. What brings you in here tonight?”



 Bradley gestured to his beer bottle, nudging it with a single knuckle. “Just here tonight to celebrate a little.”



 “Oh? What are you celebrating?”



 Bradley was becoming annoyed with Josh’s cheerful disposition. “I landed an interview with an architecture firm, and got a job offer.”



 “That’s great! So you’re an architect?”



 “One step closer,” Bradley confirmed.



 Josh smiled in response. “Mind if I join you in that celebration?”



 “It all depends on what you’re into.”



 “I’m sorry?



 “Well, I’m celebrating tonight, but drinking really isn’t my thing all the time,” Bradley admitted. He leaned in close to Josh, so that there was barely two inches between their faces. “What I could really go for is a blowjob right about now.”



 Josh pulled back defensively. “I’m sorry…” he stammered, “But I think you have the… wrong idea.”



 Bradley sat back in his seat. “Didn’t seem that way, but fair enough.” He grabbed the beer bottle once again and for the final time brought it to his lips. He finished off the contents and set the bottle back down onto the table. “Later,” he said simply as he rose from his seat and grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair. Without looking back, he strode out of the bar, less satisified than when he had walked in.



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 Josh sat there, watching as Brad picked up his jacket and left bar, the last of his words stinging in Josh’s ear. He had actually thought by the glances that they had exchanged that perhaps he would have been an approachable guy. Instead, it turned out that he was just like all the others. Josh sighed and rose from his chair in frustration to return to his friends.



 “Did you know that guy?” Guillaume asked. “That conversation looked a bit intense there for a minute.”



 “No, it was just some rando.”



 “Listen, we were all thinking of heading over to Barrymore’s after this,” Guillaume announced. “It’s retro nineties night there tonight.”



 “How is that even retro? We were born in the nineties,” Josh pointed out.



 Guillaume shrugged his shoulders in response. “It was just a suggestion if you wanted to get out of here.



 Josh nodded. “Sure, there doesn’t seem to be much here for me anyways.”



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 Bradley opted to walk the twenty minutes back to his apartment. He was feeling accomplished for having secured the internship, he was feeling disappointed for his celebration plans being kiboshed for the moment, and most importantly, he was still horny. He could feel his penis swelling in his underwear, and the sensation was driving him crazy. He was going to have to find an outlet somewhere.



 He knew of a place not far from his apartment, but the thought of going in actually induced fear and shame within him. He felt as though crossing that threshold was more than just a physical transformation. It would require a change both body and soul for him. It was a tranisition that he was not ready for yet, so he carried on to his apartment. He returned to find the entire place in darkness. His roommates had clearly gone out for the night.



 Bradley generally objected with the lifestyle choices that his three male roommates held. They partied too hard, did not study enough and generally acted like prehistoric men. Yet, as much as it probably disturbed his parents that he lived with such men, it served a particular purpose to Bradley. It allowed him the security to go about his life, outside of the watchful eyes of his family, and usually casted attention away from his own activities, and that suited Bradley just fine.