Update on “The Grand Plan…”

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Yes, yes yes…

It’s been a while since my last journal – but rest assured, my time has been put to good use. In fact, I’ve been busy with my “Grand Plan 2015” project (see my previous journal entry >here< for more details on that).

So where do things stand?

I set myself three goals to kick things off; World Building, Fleshing out Characters and Visualisation -

1/ World Building;

Here you might expect me to put out a lot of advice about world building, maybe even a How To… sort of thing. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not going to. The reasons why are very simple, world building is a good exercise, but – BUT – it should not be the be-all-and-end-all of the writing process. World building, at best, is about making notes for YOUR use when creating stories about your world. It’s an aid to memory, a reference point – nothing more.

Having had a look around the interweb, there is a lot of decent advice around – but without exception, all of it lacks the most important advice: Any exercise in World Building is about fleshing your ideas out and should only be seen as rough notes.

Ok, so not everyone is going to agree with that. As someone who counts himself as an amateur writer (ok I have been paid for stuff in the past, but it’s not a regular job – yet) maybe I’m not the best authority. On the other hand, I’ve seen so many budding writers get bogged down in World Building that they never did anything with it. Frankly, it’s very easy to get lost in defining the background of your world. Some worlds, some ideas, are massive and defining them… Well, it’s easy to write pages and pages and pages.

If I have any advice, it is; set yourself a limit. Keep it as simple as you can. Do you need to flesh out all the back history in detail? Does everything have to be described done to the most finite detail? No. You need to leave yourself room for changes, because writing a story is a dynamic process.

My own exercise ended up being some 3,654 words long – which was something of a surprise (that’s seven sides of A4 in case anyone is wondering). It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be either. I‘ve never put all the information in one place, never seen it all together – a few things surprised me. I also ended up realising that some things didn’t make sense, so made changes. True to form, I let my bestie have a read of it all and ended up making even more changes after some comments back from him. It was a very fluid process, and one I’m glad I did. Seeing all that information laid out allowed me to explore some other ideas for my story – even come up with a few extra fun plot points as well (more on that later).

2/ Fleshing out Characters;

Oddly, this was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have quite a few characters to “flesh” out – to make notes on. Again, this exercise was all about making notes for reference, to aid the “old grey gloop” in my head. It was also a chance to make sure that the characters weren’t just two-dimensional.

I adapted the character exercise from >here< to answer some basic, and yet important, questions about the people I’m writing about (please note the use of tense there). I have EIGHT main characters, which is more than I normally work with, and I’m up to twelve secondary characters so far.

So, for me, this exercise was not a waste of time.

Having access to some basic notes that I can continue to add to and update as need be is useful.

3/ Visualisation;

Of the three goals I set myself, this was the pointless one.

No, it really is a pointless exercise.

But it is fun.

I started playing around with some ideas of what the “Galadin” looks like. Came up with a couple of maquets as well (ok, for those not in the know a maquet is a small model or study in three dimensions). One of the ideas seems right to my mind’s eye (which, to date, is the only way I’ve seen it before) and I’ll be fleshing it out further, as a “fun side project.”

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Rough idea for the “Galadin’s Pride”

I have a small group of fans on SciFi Meshes who used to follow my 3D work, I may well move this part of things over there. Then again, maybe not… One of the reasons I stopped doing 3D stuff (aside from health) was the small number of asshats on that site. So we’ll see. Again, building a 3D mesh of the Galadin is pointless in terms of getting a story written. The only reason to do it is curiosity – and because, well because I can.

So… That’s the current state of play. What (you may well be asking) is next?

Plotting, because having a rough idea of where the story is going is important. And continuing to write the story.

Ahh, yes… Continuing to write the story…

That was the point of this, after all, to write a long though about idea, put it on paper (so to speak). It felt right to start. Hey, I can do the other stuff on the side. Gives me something else to play with on those days I need to do something a little different.

More… Soonish.

2015, future plans and “The Future”…

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Hail and welcome 2015, a year I once thought I wouldn’t live to see (long story – and my friends may be right that I need to stop saying that and just accept that I’m here and alive, lol).

I’ve been mulling over several ideas and projects recently, some of which I was surprised to find were complete – which is something of a surprise, because I hate finishing things. Not because I can’t, but because I hate to let go of projects… Well, for that matter I hate to let go of anything. I’m a fantastic hoarder, or was. Last year Dave (my soon to be husband) and I decided it was time to clean house and get rid of stuff we weren’t using any more.

I decided to extend it to cleaning out folders on my PC and my creative mind as well. Some ideas are never going to be played with; they are never going to go any further than they have with me.

I didn’t get rid of them permanently… Or for that matter retire them… I found somewhere safe for them, somewhere where they can stay and be out of the way of other things. Bit different to what we did with all the material things we got rid of. (We raised around £300 for the British Heart Foundation with all the stuff we sold off and got rid of, not including stuff we gave away as well. No Dom, I haven’t forgotten about those books ;) )

Suddenly, I have space, not only in my house – but in my mind as well, and that mental space has allowed me to explore some ideas I’ve only just started scratching the surface on.

A few years ago, July 2012 if you want to be close to exact, I dug up a half formed idea and decided to reinvent it. I not only reinvented it, I turned it into a challenge as well. I wrote out a single page giving basic descriptions of characters, a setting and nothing more (other than the instruction to make what you wanted of those basics). For the record, I only challenged one person (other than myself) with all this – my favourite writing buddy Dom Murray.

What we both came back with was… Interesting. Interesting in that the “brain-tubes” had been working and we ended up coming up with a similar plot, and interesting in how we approached a sci-fi setting. Which was all to the good.

Whilst I freely admit to being a big fan of science fiction (film/TV/book/comic/etc) it’s kind of my biggest failing as a writer that I’ve never found a way to express one of the ideas I have. Anything else, horror, historic, erotic, romance, western… No problem. But, the sci-fi genera has excluded me. Well, almost excluded me. There was an exception; Fan-films.

I’ve helped out a couple of Star Trek fan film productions, one in the UK and one in the USA. The one in the UK I was the primary “story generator” – the one in the USA, I did a polish on a script, acted as a sort of technical consultant and also created a few 3D models for them as well:

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3D work has been a side hobby of mine for over a decade. My tools of use including 3DS Max, Milkshape and Lightwave. Game mods, fan-film, cover art are just a few of the things I’ve dabbled in with 3D. (Normally with cover-art I use my digital bush and “paint” the picture). Like writing, 3D art/mesh creation draws on a need I have to build. Maybe it calls on the engineer in me, I dunno. As a child my all-time favourite toy was Lego. There was nothing I couldn’t build with them… No item that couldn’t be built and made… Imagination (and sometimes lack of bricks) was my only limit…

Ok, so maybe creating stuff in 3D appeals to the child in me. But I’m pretty ok with that.

Because of my health, problems with my hands (blah, blah, blah) I retired from creating any more 3D models, instead only using those (expensive) applications for the odd logo or bit of cover art. Look at the image heading this blog; it was created as a 3D image that underwent a bit of arty-farty processing to give it the paintbrush effect. Ok, to be honest it’s actually a redress of a scene created specifically for some cover art:

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(lol, I know, I know… I work a lot with Dom Murray.)

So… Where exactly I am I going with is ramble? Ahh, yes…

Aside from fan-film-fiction sci-fi was a genera I kept away from as a writer, regardless of any ideas that happened to pop into my head. Back in 2012 when I set the writing challenge and sat down looking for how I was going to enter this universe I’d created, I found out why I struggled so much with sci-fi. I kept over complicating it. It’s a setting, not the actual story… Once my brain got that point the story flowed.

Ok, I know that’s a bit of a “duh” sort of statement, but sometimes the simple answers elude you. And to be fair, I’ve not had the problem with other any other genera. It was too simple to a solution to be obvious I guess, lol.

That, and I twigged that there was a romance element to the plot, and when it comes to writing romance I have no problems *sigh*

So…

I guess this is as good a time as any to discuss my grand plan for 2015 and get to the point of this rambling monologue. Basically and simply I’m going to play on my strengths; build on the sci-fi idea I have and the story I started about Doyle Jekric and Co – and use 3D to build something I have only seen in my mind’s eye: the ship that gave the whole thing its title, the “Galadin’s Pride.”

Fleshing out Doyle, Hammond, Shan, Callum, Heather and Cain with the story idea I have will be nice. Maybe they’ll all shut up after I give them an outing, because they are shouting really loudly at the moment.

As for the 3D side of thing… Yeah, it’s been frustrating not doing that stuff.

I want to do something again. Even if it’s just for me. Although I know how anal I can get when it comes to detail… (It’s sad really, but the hero Trek ship I built for the US fan-film? I built all the rooms behind the windows as well. And the furniture in them. Even the pictures on the wall…) But even if I go overboard on detail, so what? This is something from my mind, something original – not ‘Trek, ‘Wars or any other universe out there. That rust bucket of a cargo ship is going to be realised (in one form or another) and a story is going to be told.

I can work around my “impairment,” work within its limitations – and get myself out of the creative funk I’ve been in recently. It is depressing when you have to limit what you do. But I have been finding ways around things, finding other tools I can use. Talk Type is a massive help. Might account for my rambling though… But that means I can save my hands for the 3D work. Split my time, keep them moving (which I need to do, without overdoing it) and stop myself from going insane from not doing anything.

So watch this space… Things are going to start happening again, world building, character building, storytelling, creating, crafting and even some 3D/art building as well. You know? I’ve gone ahead and started this without chatting with my other-half (a lovely guy called Dave) – or even my writing buddy (the indispensable Dominic Murray). Be interesting to see how they react :)

Don’t know if you can hear my sigh of relief through the interweb, but rest assured it comes with a happy smile as well to be getting back to things.

NaNoWriMo 2014 (sort of)

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If you’re going to go back and give an existing story a second draft/rewrite then it should at least be a story you like.

I’m not going to admit that I like all my stories. In that respects I’m actually a terrible “parent” to my literary creations, because I do have my favourites that I like putting time and energy in to.

As for some of the others…

Well, there’s a damn good reason all writers have a graveyard they don’t like to talk about. You know the place I mean: The place where stories and ideas go to die. It’s a place in the back of our mind’s eye, a place – not exactly hidden – but one we rarely go to visit, because… Well, because it’s where all the dead stories are, where all the half written, unfinished prose has been lain to rest, where forgotten ideas have become overgrown with weeds and vines and are slowly vanishing from sight… Some may refer to it as a creative wasteland, others a dead-zone. For me it is, in very real sense, a graveyard. Because it’s where I lay ideas to rest that are never going to be. It’s where my unfinished stories end up.

It’s not a quiet graveyard either.

Sometimes things don’t go quietly, sometimes I have to, well, “murder” them. But only because I know deep down that they will never be, they will never go anywhere and become anything. If I do “murder” an idea or story of mine, it’s always for its own good (and for that matter, mine).

But damn it, some of them do not go quietly – sometimes they fight back. And don’t get me started on the ghosts…

Just because an idea has been laid to rest, or an unfinished story has been buried, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay forgotten. Some of them like to haunt you, remind you, tease you. And sometimes – sometimes – it’s possible to resurrect an idea/half-finished story and breathe new life into it. I’ll leave that imagery to your own imaginations (Frankenstein and Igor raising a monster story/idea from the dead… Or, a god like being literally breathing new life into it. Take your pick, or even add your own).

A story I thought I was going to bury has kind of surprised me by not being dead at all. In fact, it’s very alive (kicking, screaming and all the rest. Not sure how I missed those signs, lol).

So I’m abusing NaNo this year and writing a second draft of an existing story. In no way shape or form will I promise that it will all be brand new words. If something in the original draft is good, it’s going into the new one. For once I’m not interested in writing fifty-thousand new words – I already have that for this piece. I’m interested in improving and polishing up what is a not bad story and kneading it into a shape I am more happy with.

I know, I know… A second draft should be used to write a second take on something, a redo. Yeah, pretty much that’s what I’m doing, although I am referencing the first draft in places and copy the odd paragraph over as and when. The rest is so far new words. Which is all good.

006j1So this year for NaNo, I’m writing a second draft of a story called “Nothing Perfect” – which falls into my usual type of prose; romance. It’s about a thirty-something year old called Matthew who is a little insecure about a few things (maybe he has a right to be) and the trouble he has accepting that he can be loved for who he is.

Speaking as a disabled person myself, I find it very difficult being told that the reason my partner loves me is because of who I am. I’m a forty-three year old man who has to use a walking stick to get around, riddled with arthritis, and a fun born-with cardiac problem to boot.

Someone loves me because of that?

Riiiggghhhttt….

Ok, well I know there’s more to me than all that, it’s a part of the tapestry – not all of it (I’m not THAT screwed up, lol). But there was a time when it was hard to see past it and the idea that I was going to be alone in my life seemed very real. I drew on that somewhat last year when I started writing Matthew’s story. Although the big difference between myself and Matthew is that I was born with my problems; his disability came via a car accident. There are a lot of other difference as well, but the point is: I had fun writing it. There was a large element of comedy (believe me, taking socks off when you’re trying to have sex can be a mood killer – trying to take a leg brace off?). I had some fun with it.

In fact, “Nothing Perfect” burned so bright in my creative eye last year that I didn’t wait for November to come round. I didn’t want to wait for NaNo to start it, so I started at the end of September 2013. “Nothing Perfect” became a sort of NotNaNo project and led to an almost melt-down about the way people were doing NaNo, and why should I wait if I have a good idea now.

So having had a crap few months with my health, and having been “told” (does being yelled at count?) to do it this year – what the hell, why not give this story a second take and see what more I can do with it.

In fact, as some of the more keen eyed of you might have spotted with my use of tense I’ve already started… No don’t shoot me, or ask “what the fuck James?” As I’ve already said, the NaNo format is a good one, but not the only one. I am a disabled person with a limit on how much time I can spend in front of a keyboard, so doing it over forty days rather than thirty days is something I can achieve. If I stick to the letter of how to do NaNo, I’m screwed, because I can’t cope with that much typing in one day.

It’s a fine format, but you have to adapt to fit your ability. In 2009 when I first took part, it was no problem. Things have changed. Hell, this journal took me two days to write.

NaNo purists will argue that what I am doing is far removed from what NaNoWriMo is supposed to be.

Fine.

But, you know what? I seriously don’t care. I know far too many people who are doing something similar this year. Hell, the ML for my own region is abusing the format to finish his NaNo novel from last year. So I guess I’m in good company.

So, there you go. My cards are on the table. Who’s going to call me on them?

;)

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PS: My NaNoWriMo profile can be found by clicking here -> LINK

PPS: Please, please, please don’t leap all over my “confession” regarding my health. It’s a part of the tapestry, a few threads – not all of it. There is so much more to me, like the artwork heading this blog, and my NaNo cover-art (my handy work) ;) Those are things I prefer to talk about.

To NaNo, or not to NaNo…

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NaNo 2014

If you used to follow my ramblings on DeviantART, you’ll know that last year (2013) I had something of a melt down with regards to NaNo – aka NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I went as far as deleting my NaNo and Camp NaNo accounts.

My beef with NaNo was not what it stands for, or what it encourages people to do; but rather that regular participants can end up stuck in the mind-set that they only need to focus on writing once a year (or however many times a year NaNo is now running), and do it just for NaNo.

Of course that’s missing the point of what the event is actually about. It’s supposed to encourage people to write, not be the be all and end all of formats for doing so. The NaNo format, 50,000 words written in 30 days, is a damn good one. It helps to focus people’s minds on what they are doing. The target of 1,667 words a day isn’t actually that much when you break it down, but it does add up over time.

But

It should not be the only format that you follow as a budding writer.

If you’ve never written a long piece of prose before, then I encourage you whole heartedly to sign up and take part in NaNo, I encourage you to challenge yourself into writing something new, something longer, than you would normally.

But if your story only ends up being 40,000 words long once complete, you’ve not failed. That 40,000 word complete novella is your masterpiece and something you should be proud of having achieved. And hey, if you do hit, or go beyond the 50,000 word mark; that’s good too.

But if you don’t finish, if you find the format too much, if you find 1,667 words a day – or setting aside only 30 days to write your novel is not enough – or that your story idea didn’t have 50,000 words in it… That’s ok too. Because you’ve learned something from taking part.

And that, I think, is the biggest lesson we as individual writers need to learn very early on; writers are individuals and have individual ways of writing. You need to find a system/format(/whatever you want to call it) that works for you and not be frightened to adapt formats if you need to. We also need to accept that some stories, no matter how we spin them, are not novel length, but work better as novellas or even just as short stories.

So that brings me back to my question: To NaNo, or not to NaNo… I’ve kind of been “encouraged” (ie kicked up the backside by the other-half and told to do it).

I have plenty of ideas that would love the chance of a first draft. I have a few first drafts that could do with a second draft. And I also have plenty of unfinished stories as well…

So… I’m going to (more than likely) abuse the NaNoWriMo format and write a second draft of an existing story of mine. Yeah, I know… I know… You’re supposed to write something new. But I don’t feel like doing that. I feel the need to work on an existing piece and have another go at it. In fact… Ok, no point in beating around the bush, that’s exactly what I’m going to do; work on a second draft of an existing story.

You know what? I don’t actually care if people think what I’m doing is wrong either. If NaNoWriMo is about anything, it’s getting to people to write – and that’s exactly what I will be doing; writing ;)

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PS: My (new) participants page on NaNoWriMo -> link if you feel so inclined to have a look.

PPS: I guess my next blog will about my NaNo project. Sunday (as in tomorrow) sound good to you my follows for that one? Cause that’s when it’s likely to be ;)

I’m back. No really, I am…

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I’m going to have to say humbug.

Why?

Because in spite of my last proper post (link), I’ve ended up spending more time away from my PC than I planned because of one illness followed by another.

*sigh*

In last month alone I’ve been hospitalised with a major chest infection, only to get home and three days later end up rushing back because of a soft tissue infection in my leg (cellulitis for those interested).

So once again, let me say: *sigh*

2014 is certainly going to go down in my personal history as unhealthy one. No idea why this year should be any different. Maybe it’s just things catching up with me. Or maybe it’s plain old bad luck.

Either way I am back. No really, I am… If you hang on for a moment I’ll prove how back I am with another journal…

8 Steps All Writers Follow When They Edit

James Snaith:

Useful tips and ideas for all us writers!

Originally posted on WordDreams...:

Every author has a different approach to writing. I know this because I read Rebecca Bradley’s wonderful series on how writers do their thing. Each author she spotlights adds a personal twist that intrigues me.

Not so surprisingly, no one’s approach is like mine. Here’s how I write a novel:

  •  Draft out events for the novel in a spreadsheet program like Excel. This gives me room to add columns and rows with new information, new ideas, notes to track an event through the story. Here’s what my spreadsheet for my latest WIP looks like:

plot with Excel

  • JK Rowling’s is low-tech, but still an obvious spreadsheet:

jk rowlings plot

  • Convert the draft to a word processing program like MS Word. Mine is usually 70+ pages.
  • Add details about timing, setting, characters, clothing, transitions, chapter breaks.
  • Start at the beginning and read for flow, timing, pacing. Edit diligently. I do this a day at a time. I…

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Restored, repaired – and perhaps renewed…

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It’s been a fair few weeks since my last journal entry. Ok, months is a little more accurate. Silence can be a powerful thing – and like any void (seems as good a term as any); it tends to be filled up with things that have nothing to do with why such a “void” came to exist in the first place.

My “silence” on here (and in other places) comes down to two things; physical and mental.

The physical is simple; when I was younger my mind/body/hands suffered a lot of abuse, breaks, strains and… Well, life should just about cover it. You name it, I did it, or it was done to me when I was younger. The marks and scars on them are a story unto themselves, (one that I don’t need to dwell on), and there are consequences to that entire story… I’ve ignored them all, foolishly, and nearly crippled myself in the process. I had to stop and get it sorted out, I had to stop ignoring what was going on. Physio, pain medication, splints, surgeries… And of course the nastiest one of all; rest. I’m a writer, so I need to look after my tools better – and that means looking after my hands and not ignoring the problems with them.

And that nicely moves onto the more complicated and hard part of all this; mental.

I think I’ve been very open about the state of my mental health. I have MDD (Manic Depressive Disorder) – aka Bipolar, which I take medication for. There has been years of therapy (some not so good, some very helpful). I’m not crazy. To coin a phrase from a current comedy show “I’ve been tested” – but it’s amazing just how differently people treat/view you for a simple act of honesty. Seriously, if we never talk about these things… Well, I guess we never talk about them, and the mystic, ignorance and misinformation remains about them.

It’s a chemical disorder that affects mood and perception (keeping it simple) – it’s not contagious (although it may well be hereditary – yes mum and dad, I’m looking at you both). With the right help it can be managed – and by that, I mean it’s like any other condition that can be managed with medication and a forms of therapy. It wasn’t caused by anything, it was something I was born with (like my eye colour).

I have good days, I have bad days.

The good days… I imagine are like most other peoples good days, with the exception that I can be very, very, hyper. The bad ones… Decades of therapy and I still find it difficult to explain the darkness, how it haunts me, taunts me, follows me, drowns me at times… And my darkness was fed for a long time by a “monster” (calling them a “person” belittles the rest of humanity, “monster” is a more apt term), who had a hand – pun intended – in what happened to m when I was younger. (And children, I can tell you that story had a happy ending of sorts, because that “monster” is no longer with us).

So dealing with the physical problems my hands have has also meant dealing with (facing?) the mental problems (memories?) – which meant taking a step back from things for a time so I could deal with them and feel…

Well, not so crap about them (again, keeping it simple).

I wasn’t dealing with the problems I had with my hands because I didn’t want to talk about what had caused them… Sounds so ridiculous and simple…

But…

It’s not so simple. It never is. But, I’m getting there.

Things are healing, getting “better,” although to be fare that’s something of a relative term, but maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and should stick with “yes, things are getting better, and I’m getting back into things again. And my hands are doing fine as well ;)”

So yes, I’m back and confessing again… writing as well (the joy!). It’s a good place to be at the moment.

Coffee table guest chat with Dominic Murray – Part 2.

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What do I mean by “this is Coffee table guest chat?” – I mean that I sat down and actually chatted with the guest rather than just interview them. This is a little longer than a normal blog, but I hope you bear with it and enjoy :)

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Someone recently suggested that as an openly gay writer I have a responsibility to the LGBTTQI community at large. I was a little surprised by this, and the more I thought about it, a little annoyed. The fact I write is not connected with my sexual orientation. I was writing long before I realised I was gay. Neither do I wish to be confined to writing about just one subject for the rest of my writing life. In fact, my last published story was about a straight guy.

What I write is fiction – character driven mostly. In order to be able to write what I do, I have to be able to engage with those characters. If you can’t “connect” with the character you can’t write about them. Not all the characters that spawn from my fervent imagination are actually gay. The majority of them may well be straight…

I don’t know.

I mean, I’ve never sat down and taken a census of them.

Should my sexual orientation drive what I write? Looking at the subject of my last guest blog I think we all know the answer to that one (NO!). So why does being gay automatically mean I have to become a spokesperson for a community? Maybe the truth is, we ask people to stand up and speak for us to challenge the very perceptions of who we are.

I liked to once again welcome my friend, fellow writer and blogger, Dominic Murray to gab with me for a while about this;

James Snaith (JS): Welcome back! Let’s dive right into the deep end on this: Do you think as an author yourself – and an openly gay man – you have a responsibility to write fiction that better represents us?

Dominic Murray (DM): That’s a very good question. I don’t feel that I have a responsibility to write good gay fiction. But I often naturally find myself writing about gay characters who have real relationships. I don’t write for other people – I write for me. I think I have a responsibility, as an author, to write good fiction.

JS: I agree with you on that score. I find it…insulting when someone suggests that I have a wider responsibility. It’s not why I write, but I find myself writing about gay characters – because, well, I can relate to them.

DM: And why shouldn’t we write about gay people? I have written about straight characters – male and female – but it’s natural to me that I end up with a gay protagonist.

JS: I’ve written both myself. A character that bugs me a lot (Jack) is a straight boy. It was as much a surprise to me as anyone when he ended up in bed with a woman. Romance is universal – but maybe it doesn’t have to be full of tropes. Such as the “fit man, with a well toned body.”

DM: I think it’s important to find new and fresh things to do with stories. I think it’s important that people disabuse themselves of the image that you – man or woman – have to look a certain way. I think it’s harder in gay erotica to move away from men with fit bodies – and that a man’s body can be represented in different ways – but in gay fiction? There should be more ‘diverse’ body types.

JS: I agree. How did you feel about the primary character in “Nothing Perfect” – the fact that he wasn’t a: in perfect shape and b: was disabled?

DM: I have to say that it was a breath of fresh air! Again, it was the sense of realness – of honesty – about it, and the fact he was well-written and presented with no apology made it all the better.

JS: One of the characters you created for your “Gay-To-Zed” anthology (the “Michael and Xuan” story) was an older gay man who was dealing with the loss of his partner from a heart attack. It’s actually unusual for a story to feature an older gay man as its protagonist. It was a standout story in the book. The character wasn’t looking to replace his lost love, but was still trying to deal with what had happened. I really loved that story. Really loved the way you wrote Michael. It felt very real to me.

DM: I think I wanted to play a little on the idea of the older, predatory, gay man and his young lover – a very definite and damaging gay stereotype – with Michael.

JS: That too comes across very strongly in the story. It’s one of the reasons I found it fascinating. That his grief would lead him to obsession, to chase something he maybe can’t have.

DM: There is also a wider story there that was perhaps too ambitious to be presented as a short – probably why there is not a satisfactory ending.

JS: Certainly several stories in that book could do with an expansion (hint hint).

DM: When you compare him with “Keelan” – the older, predatory ‘bear’ (in one of the other stories) – then you get a definite sense of variety.

JS: The Keelan story very much fits the Alpha/Omega dynamic. Although there was something else about it…

DM: It does, but that isn’t all that he is – something which I tried to bring out in the narrative.

JS: I have to say, it was a very “hot” story. Do you find it hard to write sex scenes between two men?

DM: Oddly, as I’ve got older I have found it more difficult to write explicit sexual scenes. I’ve purposely avoided writing them in the last couple of stories I’ve produced. In the current story – “Here Comes The Rain Again” – any scenes tend to end at the bedroom door (with one exception).

JS: Would you say that’s because it’s harder to write something that is based on actual personal experience, and there is a worry about sharing something that could be interpreted is being about you personally?

DM: *snort* After “Gay-to-Zed” I think I’m a bit past that. Besides, if I wrote about my own historic sex life people would die of boredom! But, yes, I think when you read sex – because it’s such an intimate part of life – the natural instinct is to wonder if the author is writing from personal experience.

JS: Do you think this is why male authors who write gay fiction tend to write about broader topics, and not just a “general m/m romance erotic” story?

DM: Perhaps they know that being gay is not simply about who’s swinging off your cock. That you can have a three dimensional existence that is not only about what’s gay or not.

JS: For instance, you mentioned Perry Moore’s debut novel “Hero” the other day.

DM: I did – and I like his presentation where the gay aspect of the protagonist’s character and burgeoning relationship is not the be-all and end-all of the story. Take that away and he still remains a well-rounded character and the story remains something that I would read.

JS: In your current story, “Here Comes the Rain Again…” you’ve created a character called Ryan who’s on the cusp of coming out – although he’s hardly been hiding away in a closet given his, um, level of “experience.”

DM: I don’t think that Ryan self-identifies as gay. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t messed around with other guys. I’m not sure if that makes him extremely, achingly modern with his view on sexuality (although I suspect not) or just a bit of a prick – or somewhere in the middle!

JS: Certainly in one of your after-sex scenes it’s clear that Ryan has been the passive partner in bed (the bottom) – something he had no problem with and certainly no discomfort from. I know you don’t like using tropes (such as first time bottoming experiences are always “amazing and fantastic”), which is where I got the inference that he was a lot more experienced than he was letting on.

DM: That’s true. There’s also an element of just because he’s had experience in being a bottom doesn’t mean that the ‘top’ had to have been a man. But, yes, Ryan definitely has a history, and Matt isn’t his first time at the rodeo, so to speak!

JS: A girlfriend with a strap on? Well, it does happen! I don’t speak from personal experience of course. Mind you I used to know a guy who’s wife liked to do that to him, and he enjoyed that as well (why do people always feel comfortable telling me things like this)… But you’re not using it as a way of one character dominating the other.

DM: Oh definitely not!

JS: Ryan is very most certainly calling the shots in your story.

DM: At the present time, yes. At the beginning of relationships I think its natural to be a little … elastic with things you tolerate. And there’s a certain amount of obsession coming from the other main character – Matt.

JS: That’s one of the main problems with the way romance is always portrayed in fiction. The roles are very static from page one. That’s what makes it feel so unreal – so contrived. The reality is that relationships can be very fluid – things change, dynamics take time to build. They don’t happen straight away.

DM: There may be balances that shift in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be true equal partnerships.

JS: If romance should be about anything, it should be about a partnership.

DM: One could be cynical and say that in this age of self-obsession and instant gratification, the concept of a true partnership is the fantasy!

JS: Is that why you write it? Is that why we’ve both gravitated to it?

DM: Perhaps it is, after all. But then I’m rather lucky in that respect – as you are.

JS: Very true. We don’t see enough of it in the world – get to read about it, get to see it on TV. It tends to be all about the instant gratification. Not what happens next. The prince and princess get married and live happily every after… End of story. But I think what happens next, is the actual story.

DM: A marriage is not a wedding. A relationship is not just about getting laid.

JS: It’s not just about two people getting off. Romance is something far more subtle, more lasting, harder to define at times. It’s interesting that within the whole story we’ve been writing together the only (so far) detailed sex-scene is one without gratification. The scenes not seen, but spoken of, are far more gratifying.

DM: Because I don’t think the very act of sex is important (in this instance). I think – with what I know about your story and your characters – that there is a level of importance to it, but in a different way.

JS: I prefer to write about intimacy, rather than the “get down and lets fuck” sex scene. Intimacy is far more potent I think, far more interesting.

DM: Certainly that’s the way I see it. Even within “Gay-to-Zed” there’s often a long lead up in a lot of the stories before you get to the fucking – and in some of them there’s not even any fucking of any kind. Yet that doesn’t detract (I hope) from the latent eroticism.

JS: Depicted eroticism is far different from depicted sex – and sex in general. I think sex, especially depicted sex within books, robs it of intimacy. When you make it all about the sex, you lose something between the characters. Relationships are never just about sex. And that brings me back what we talked about the other day, and why I think in general that a lot of romance fiction is no better than porn at the moment. It’s not about the intimacy between two people; it’s just about getting them to have sex.

DM: And if all you’re doing is manoeuvring people into doing that, haven’t you lost something as a writer?

JS: Exactly. I don’t want to read a book where Man A meets Man B – they flirt, have sex, drama, have sex, drama, sex again, break up and then realise they love each other get back together. Oh, and then have sex again.

DM: Especially when it’s followed by another in the same series of Man C meets Man D…

JS: Do you think this is one of the reasons you keep coming back to write romance fiction? Are you attempting to write the genre as it should be (when it comes to m/m fiction)?

DM: I can’t say that I had some kind of epiphany and made a conscious decision to right some terrible wrong. I wouldn’t peg myself as a romance writer above any other genre – but at the same time life is about relationships with other people, and the way in which that dynamic manifests itself is inherently fascinating to me. It would be nice to get away from such labels as “gay author” and “gay fiction”. I aim to write strong fiction that just happens to be about men!

JS: What plans do you have for future projects, and what themes would you like to tackle next?

DM: I have a few ideas rattling around in here – some of them have been there for a while. There’s the space opera, some supernatural fantasy, a 1980s crime mystery series (to be co-written with a friend) … And then there are the potential ‘spin offs’ from “Gay-to-Zed” – the “Michael and Xuan” story you mentioned earlier for starters. I’m not sure that I sit down and think to myself “Today I’m going to write about this”, it’s just not the way that I work. I write about people and I write about conflict. I’d hate to be so reductive that all my characters simply exist to represent a particular archetype or theme.

JS: I know what you mean, I write what I write – without thinking that it has to be about a particular subject or theme. I hate being bound that way. Well, we’re short on time again so I’m going to have to stop things here.

Thank you for coming back, and again for the chat. And again, thank you for being my first victim, umm, guest blogger!

Please go show Dominic Murray some WordPress love, and please have a look at Part One of this chat. I hope you all enjoyed this insight into a fellow blogger and myself as well.

More soon :)

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