meet mega, the antihero

character introduction: mega

character introduction: mega

I’ve said I have to fall in love with my characters to write well for them, and that’s true. Sometimes it’s love at first thought, sometimes it takes a little while to form an attachment. Every character I write for more than just a scene deserves this love, the ability to see them from all sides and write compassionately about their faults as well as their virtues.

Mega is a character I fell in love with before I wrote one word about him. He reveals himself in Becoming, book II of Secrets of the Senses, and he is my badass. I won’t call him a villain, because he has my empathy – he’s not a one-sided character there to muddy the waters; he has his own path to travel.

He is a bad’un, unquestionably. He’s dangerous, hungry, manipulative, selfish. I love him so much. He might even rank as my most favourite character, and he shows up in more than one book. In book three, Echo, which I’m working on now, his background is revealed. You get to see how he came into being, and what motivates him. I see him as a sympathetic character, because he genuinely has some very valid complaints against the sabball. He has his place in the world, he plays an important role, and he has been unseated from his throne, a seat of respect he rightly earned through virtue of his worth.

I don’t have a physical image of Mega that I can show you, and perhaps that’s all for the better; he’s very much a unique person, based on nothing but his own nature. He’s beautiful, because it’s a necessity of his craft; he’s clever, alluring, funny, menacing. He seduces easily, and those he pulls in do his bidding. He uses them for his own means, and discards their broken bodies. He needs what they have, and has no compunction in taking, because he desperately wants his throne back.

There are a few things he doesn’t understand about his quest, and these are the things that make him a likeable character, because we all do it; we all refuse reason, and pursue and covet and seethe with rage when we’re denied the things we believe we are owed. He’s in each and every one of us, and he’s misleading, and indispensible.

Mega is my boy, he is such fun to play with, and so rewarding to write. Come and meet him in Becoming, won’t you? Let him lure you in, toy with you, adore you, bite right into your flesh. I promise, it’ll feel so good.

becoming

becoming_ryalwoodsFriday was an amazing day. Kind of an understatement – it was a landmark day, historic. I woke up to the news of the SCOTUS affirming the right of all citizens to marry whom we love, wherever we live. Then President Obama delivered a moving eulogy in honour of slain Reverend Clementa Pinckney, so personal and touching and managing to touch on points about the things that divide us, like holding onto weapons and past shames, the symbols of our shortcomings, without politicizing it, yet bringing forth in the wake of tragedy the call to re-examine views and stances with the grace of compassion and positive action.

Oh, and my second novel was released. Which left me standing there, wondering how it fits into all of this – if it fits in at all. What a day for it, yeah? Kind of left me in a lurch. Do I say something, do I keep quiet out of respect for the things that deserve to take precedence? I decided to tweet about it, and leave it at that.

But now, today, I want to say more because it is an achievement for me, and I don’t want it to pass unacknowledged. And yes, upon reflection it does belong, it does apply. The message of Becoming is clear: embracing the inborn yearning of humankind to become more than we are. The fear connected to change, and the will to push through that fear, creating a greater understanding, a richer experience. That is us at our best. We’ve witnessed a huge stride forward as we collectively said yes, it is the will and right of all people to share the greatest gift of our human experience, the inherent ability to love and to express empathy for one another, and to offer the selfless wish of loving kindness for every heart that beats.

Yes, there are those whose fear is so great that they are unable to reach inside for the best of themselves and openly share with their fellow human beings; that is their personal sorrow, a sad burden of ignorance to carry around. But the majority celebrated our step forward to becoming.

At its heart, my series, Secrets of the Senses, is a tribute to our natural super powers: our ability to see ourselves and one another, hear our individual voices, taste our collective passions, feel our personal joys and sadness, our fears and hopes, and breathe freely in the purity of understanding one another. We have five gifts to guide us, and it’s only by engaging fully and opening to our senses—common sense, the sensibility to reason, the knowledge that sensation is how we process and communicate and share in the mutual experience of life—that we advance. When we learn that we can part with the fear and open to fuller engagement, we find our individual lives are part of a whole, and our personal sensations are richer for it.

On Friday we became closer, we united in compassion and strength and joy, and didn’t it feel wonderful? It felt like Becoming.

Please accept this little offering as my contribution to the celebration.

secrets in the secrets

wood cuttingIn Murmur, the names of the sabball, the demon-gods of the senses, are taken from compendiums of demons in the Anglo tradition. All except for Fig – I think he just appeared on his own. He’s the first member of my pantheon, there before the rest.

The idea for the sabball (a combination of the Pali word Sabba meaning All, and, well, All) came to me a long time ago when one day I was perusing a compendium of demons (as you do when you’re a morbid young thing) and quickly realized that what made the demons scary and dangerous was their advanced knowledge – they are all experts in some form of higher learning, be it science, philosophy, medicine, et cetera. Makes perfect sense that their power lies in knowledge. And isn’t it interesting that higher thought is the very thing many proponents of ridged laws and narrow viewpoints blame for humanity’s fall from grace? Hmm….

So that’s how my demons were born. I’ve kept some of their recorded characteristics – for instance, Murmur is capable of necromancy, Gaap is a philosopher, Ose’s expertise lies in the liberal arts, and Vine is a warrior. Fig is his hedonistic, earthy self. I’ve also added characteristics, and assigned to each the powers of the senses and the elements, divvied up as I chose. Quite randomly, I admit.

Murmur smell/water

Gaap sight/air

Ose sound/the void (a fifth element found in Indian, Asian and Greek cultures)

Vine taste/fire

Fig touch/earth

Another bit of trivia about Murmur: there’s a little Easter egg hidden in the text. Not something I set out to do intentionally, but it came about as I was writing a particular passage, and had a certain song running through my head as I did.

A little clue: I’m an indie/old school person, so don’t expect to find pop song references in my writing.

my novel murmur out october 11

murmur coverI have a release date for Murmur, October 11, and a beautiful cover courtesy of the lovely Anna Reith – there are links to her blogs in the sidebar.

This is book one of my Secrets of the Senses series. I call it metaphysical fiction. The book isn’t sex-centric like my erotica, though this excerpt contains one little getting-to-know-you scene. It’s really a story about Aonghas, a gifted guy with a skewed view of himself, and pretty much everything else. He works to change that, sometimes with success, sometimes not. As gifted as he is, he’s far from perfect. That’s what I love about him.

I’ll be talking more about Murmur as the release date approaches.

Excerpt from Murmur, Chapter 3

Fog on the moors is beautiful. In that ethereal atmosphere, one can believe himself to be floating in a cloud; the limited sight, the vaporous essence creates a world within a world, at once exciting and playful, and foreboding. On one such evening I walked through the low scrub, careful of my footing, cloaked within the fog and feeling myself to be a phantom traversing an otherworldly landscape. The sky grew darker, the fog thickened with the approach of night. I gave up sight, and navigated relying on other means, other senses—my knowledge of the terrain, my instincts. It was a thrilling experience that brought to full attention all of my being, and I walked with bold confidence.

Continue reading

murmur becoming echo

ode to joy - immortal beloved

ode to joy – immortal beloved

I have a novel coming out in the fall. No, it’s not an erotic novel, but it is a very sensual story. In fact, sensuality is a key characteristic. It’s the first book in a series of five I have planned. The third in the series is the one I’m working on now, it’s my wayward child.

Murmur did not give me difficulties. It came pouring out so quickly, I could hardly keep up with the flow. I’d easily write for 18 hours at a time, and be ready for more. I began it as soon as I had finished writing a book I had started years and years ago.

That first book was the birth of the concept, and I’ll get into what inspired that one at a later time. I began it as a stand alone story, but saw about ¾ of the way through that I could easily expand the initial concept into a series. In fact, it was the only thing to do. Murmur came soon after, and when I had finished, I realized that it made more sense for it to be the first book in the series. So the first book I wrote became second, and Murmur took over first position. Follow?

I’ll reveal more as it gets closer to the release date, I just wanted to offer a bit of a touchstone for my Third Book rants.

talking about stories for boys: vienna to prague, 1926

trainIt may seem odd, but part of my inspiration for Vienna to Prague, 1926 is the writing of P.G. Wodehouse. I’ve talked about Wodehouse before. He’s one of my very favorite authors, certainly in my top 10. How this man can turn a phrase! It’s sublime. He writes about the silliest of silly upper crust Englishmen (and women) of the 20s and 30s, and that’s where I grab hold.

Roland is such a guy, though he’s showing his darker side in this story. This isn’t the happy-go-lucky oblivion of a Wodehouse character, this is the underbelly – the sex, drugs and jazz that doesn’t surface in Wodehouse’s work. Truth be told, it’s the language of Wodehouse I’m paying tribute to – not with finesse or elegance, merely with a few nods to his phraseology.

I see Roland as one of those ultra privileged, old money lads who hasn’t a clue – or a care – about others. He’s young, beautiful, his family is powerful, his knowledge of the world rather sheltered and confined to prep schools, universities that act more as boy’s clubs, and parties, parties, parties. He meets Henry Robert Jenkins on a train, and his first inclination is contempt.

Henry is middle class, married with two kids, and very closeted. The encounter with Roland is a bit of a mindblower, upending his world. The question is, will he ultimately benefit from this brief but provocative encounter?

I love stories set in the 20s and 30s, but always in the back of my mind are questions about the realities of life at that time. Gay men were in danger – legal, scandalous, ruinous danger. But there were also friendships, clubs, and loving and successful relationships going on behind closed doors. So which one will have a shot at true love when all is said and done?

Oh, no no! I don’t tell you. It’s more fun if you decide.

coming soon: stories for boys anthology

I have a collection of nine shorts on the way, titled Stories for Boys. In anticipation of the book’s release, I’m going to talk about some of them here, beginning with Jude the Unsure.

Yes, it is indeed modelled after Thomas Hardy’s novel, Jude the Obscure. Hardy did not write happy stories, but they are compelling. His characters are often dealing with societal restraints that hold them back from their dreams and desires. Hardy’s Jude longs to be a scholar, but he is limited by 19th century low expectations from the working class, and as he enters into his teens, other things *ahem* rise up to distract him. Suddenly he finds himself saddled with a wife he does not love, and a life he never wanted.

He does, however, want his cousin, Sue. They share an attraction that wasn’t considered scandalous for the period, but was rapidly falling out of favour. She marries another man to escape her own desires. In fact, she ends up running from desire altogether, troubled by her feelings about sexuality.

My Jude and his stepbrother, Alexander are struggling with similar obstacles. Their association as family is definitely a hindrance, and Jude is also troubled by his sexuality – he doesn’t seem to know who he is. The difference between Hardy’s Jude and mine is the difference in societal structure from then to now.

In his novels, Hardy pummels institutionalized systems such as marriage, religion, and higher education as the privilege of the upper class, by pummelling his characters, who struggle within these constraints. We’re still feeling a lot of restriction from these same things, but more and more, the structures are being recognized as outdated and oppressive, not just to the marginalized, but across the board.

But they’ve definitely left a mark. Old standards are hard to shake off, and some people will choose to remain confined within them because they see no other way. So how does someone manage to get out from under? That is what Jude and Alexander are confronting.

That is the inspiration, and the underpinnings of the plot. Lucky for me, I’m not held back by moral restrictions on explicit sex in literature, as Hardy was. Jude and Alexander are free to explore their desire for one another as they work their way through and around the obstacles. Hurrah for that!

This is one of my favourite stories I’ve written. I love paying tribute to the things that inspire me, and Thomas Hardy in particular is a novelist who has left a lasting impression with his poignant stories. His work was a great influence in my understanding society as both victimizer and victim of its own self-inflicted rules.

Jude the Unsure:

He hesitated for a moment, then his lips parted against mine, kissing me back. I was in heaven. His was the first male mouth I had ever tasted, and I eagerly took in the experience—the scratch of his stubble on my cheeks and chin, the firm softness of his lips, and the flavor of him, sweetly pungent and sensual and unmistakably masculine. He put his hand on the back of my neck and I was ready to fall onto the bed with him, explore his body with my hands and mouth before I gave myself to him, let him push up inside me and fuck the innocence right out of me. But instead he pulled me away, pulled his lips from mine and slid back, shifting his eyes to the floor.

 

rainbow book reviews blog hop topic: what does writing glbtq literature mean to me

Time to hop to it with Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop, August 24-26! I’m looking forward to meeting so many talented people.

From reading everyone else’s blogs, looks like I did the prize thing wrong – typical of me. So include in your comment the name of the first fictional character you fell in love with and I will give away a copy of my ebook short, Revolving Door at random.

Also, I’m having a love/hate relationship with Blogger – mostly hate, because it doesn’t want to take all of my comments. Frustrating, since I’m reading and enjoying all of your blogs. When I get back to a decent connection on Tuesday, I’ll revisit some of the blogs I’ve been having trouble with.

What does writing GLBTQ literature mean to me?

There are many reasons why I’ve chosen to write literature featuring gay characters, from the prurient to the purposeful. Intellectually or aesthetically, what’s not to like about two (or more) beautiful men being beautiful together?

Everything I do is an opportunity to play, and invite others to play along. I first began writing stories involving gay characters to entertain my friends. They weren’t finding the scenarios they wanted to read, so I took their requests and wrote what I call “one offs” – short stories around those themes. I found that I liked it, and was rather good at it. From there I took off on my own, creating characters who are gay, bisexual, and who transcend gender, and providing worlds within worlds to give them the freedom to tell me their stories. Often it does seem like that – my characters guide me and I follow along, capturing their words and actions.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of several communities in which people are open and encouraged to be themselves in whatever respect. I am in great favor of breaking barriers and coloring outside of the lines, and I love people who never hesitate to be who they are and do exactly as they want and need for themselves. I find it inspirational and energizing. The personal freedom in turn opens creative freedom. I am unlimited in what I choose to explore in my writing, and how I choose to express myself.

I write stories with the purpose of entertaining, of course, but also to support and cheer people on to reveal those wonderful, inspirational sides of themselves that I so admire. Hardship and pain involving sexual identity is not my subject. I cannot assume to imagine, much less write about, those very visceral stories and so I leave that to those who can rightfully and artfully express them. For me, it’s about taking subjects and inspirations I respond to, and creating stories around those. My pieces are odes to authors, to literature and art and music I admire, to commonly held metaphors and belief systems – things that I love, things that fascinate me, and that we as a culture experience collectively and as individuals.

Right now I’m working on a five book series that I’ve fashioned as a metaphysical adventure. Vampires and werewolves and things of that nature are fun and have their place, but I wanted to develop a series around the metaphysics of the natural world – things that seem fantastical, but are in fact knowable and relatable and subject to mastery in the hands of those who are attuned to their nature. It’s meant to be empowering and inspirational as well as just a fucking good time, playing around with the unexplored and uncovering unique secrets and powers. A metaphor, if you will, for the powerful nature and unique experiences of gay men. They’re very sensual stories, I’m looking forward to sharing them.

I also have the loftier personal mission of blurring the lines between genres. I don’t like labels. Gay lit, romance, fantasy, classic lit – I know I’ve been put off by some of these labels, and I also know I’ve missed out on some really wonderful stories because of it. These are unintentional limitations to the power of the written word to reach across boundaries and invite people to discover new spheres, different ways of thinking, and to gain new passions. I don’t consider what I write to be exclusionary to anyone, and I want to encourage people who haven’t explored so-called gay lit titles to delve in and experience life through my characters.

out now: revolving door by ryal woods at mlr press

Matt is still attached to his former lover through a bond of secrecy and obsession. He wants to break the bonds, Leo works to keep him entrapped.

This is Matt’s account of their latest encounter: his longing for strength to resist Leo, his giving over, and the battle within as they play this longstanding game of wills, from initiation to inevitable conclusion. This time he’ll break the rules, and stop Leo before he can make a quick exit.

Because Matt isn’t so innocent: it’s a double play, they’re both participants. Will breaking the silence be enough to break the spell?

Available at MLR Press, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other outlets