#MondayBlogs: authors and political agendas. We are citizens, too! #amwriting #asmsg

#MondayBlogs: authors and political agendas. We are citizens, too! #amwriting #asmsg

Authors participate in political debates on the same basis as everyone else, but our tools may be different

I’ve been reading articles in papers recommending books to read for the summer, and I find them to be all over the place. There’s the light read, a crime novel or a thriller, suitable to drag along when you’re going to the beach, there’s the biography of this or that accomplished man (usually), then there are the heavy reads about precarious life journeys usually based on reality: difficult childhoods, substance abuse, sexual abuse and what not, and an interesting category: political essays about this or that.

This book isn't about politics per se, but it's political nonetheless, as issues like child abuse, trafficking and slavery are debated. I'm shining a light on issues the LGBT community usually doesn't.

This book isn’t about politics per se, but it’s political nonetheless, as issues like child abuse, trafficking and slavery are debated. I’m shining a light on issues the LGBT community usually doesn’t.

Authors have always written about society in one way or another. We comment, we reflect, but most importantly, we put up this mirror, for people to see themselves in. This weekend, I’ll be in Berlin, attending an author-reader conference, and the one panel I’m doing is about how politics influences writing. Mind you, most of the authors who attend the con are romance writers, and that is maybe the one genre where politics is absent from, probably by design. Romances are about escapism, to make you feel good, and politics, well, is almost an antidote to feeling good these days.

Which is odd. Half a century into my life, I have seen six decades and seen a great deal of stability. When I was born, the war between the west and the east was cold, but things were stable. We did well, economically, as I grew up. Politicians were boring men who mostly seemed to actually care about the well-being of their countries. They seemed to work, honestly for the betterment of society and humanity. Or maybe I was just naïve? When I turned eighteen, the cold war suddenly ended and Reagan and Gorbachev almost did away with nuclear arms after that summit in Reykjavík. When I was twenty-two, the Berlin Wall came down and suddenly, it seemed as if wars were going out of fashion. The Kuwait war seemed to prove that theory. The world, united, fought against a tyrant and defeated him. Then came the wars in Yugoslavia and we began to wonder, is this just the way things are slowly settling down into this new world order? But alas, we quickly began to realize that we’d indeed been short-sighted, naïve. All over the world, war was still raging, people still fighting, and ever new fronts were opening up, from Sudan to Eritrea, the Philippines, all across the Middle East and finally, in 2001, hitting at the heart of the western world, with the attacks on 9/11.

Through all this, the “West”, reunited with Eastern Europe and a more benign Russia, seemed to be stable. The “enemy” was suddenly Islamic terror, and warlords in faraway lands, no longer the evil empire to the east. How wrong we were, and how little we understood just how fragile this bright, new world order was. Suddenly people are questioning the “raison d’être” of the EU, who’s kept the peace in Europe for six decades and running, Poland and Hungary are run by fascistoid governments, France’s historical political parties are all but extinguished after the recent parliamentary election, the U.K. is in turmoil about which way it wants to go, and the heart of the western world has ceased to beat, with a regime combining one man’s sociopathic need for self-praise with a fascist slogan from WWII (America First), while society is so deeply divided that most people cease to even watch/read the news. I look at the past few years in politics and wonder: WTF?

 

Family Ties depicts a family in crisis, one gay, one straight. Highly political as it showcases just how normal, the unusual can be.

Family Ties depicts a family in crisis, one gay, one straight. Highly political as it showcases just how normal, the unusual can be.

As a minority author, I could, of course, depict this grand picture. I could write political thrillers about the state of the world. But I leave that to others. I find reality exciting enough. My mission is still a political one though. Who I am is still not fully embraced by our societies, not even one as liberal as my own. I might not get a job because of who I am. Never mind that it’s illegal to discriminate, but how do you know? And even if you were to know, how do you prove it? My husband and I may be the legal parents and guardians of our son, but every day we see how society (papers, TV, radio, etc.) refers to parenting as a function of primarily motherhood, trying to engage fathers more. Whenever, wherever my husband, my son and I go, we see the glances, the stares. Yes, we’re not a common occurrence. Neither are red heads, but people rarely stare at them.

 

And for as long as we are somehow “special”, “unusual”, and “uncommon”, that’s how long I’ll be writing about us, and my point isn’t to make us something else. Quite the contrary, our struggles, our fears, our fights, our vacations, our everyday lives are just as exciting, just as mundane as everyone else’s. That’s what I aim to show society. To my own LGBT siblings, my gay brethren, particularly the young ones, I aim to show that we are everybody, that we can be anything we want, do anything we want. We can be successful, we can fail. Most importantly, our intrinsic human value will always be the same as everyone else’s. This may not be politically opportune, but it’s my ongoing contribution to make my society, my world, a better place. In this, I am like most other authors, don’t you think?

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. The next issue is due this Thursday. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a wonderful week. This Friday will mark the final post before my summer break. I don’t know when or how I’ll be able to blog. Maybe I’ll write something about our vacation. We’ll see. On Friday, I’ll talk more about the upcoming convention in Berlin.

Thanks,

Hans

Why I struggle with genres and being put in boxes I don’t belong #amwriting #ASMSG

Why I struggle with genres and being put in boxes I don’t belong #amwriting #ASMSG

Genres are a necessary “evil” to help readers find stories, and to help publishers market their books to specific groups, but…

I believe I’ve written about genres and genre placement before. It is something that was extremely important to me at the beginning of my writing career. After a while, my own take on it was a bit more relaxed, but recently I feel a choke hold around my throat from the restrictions it places on my storytelling, and I feel this really strong need to lash out, to free myself. I just don’t know how.

I recorded a video just yesterday about why I am no romance writer. I can’t see J.K. Rowling, Stephen King or Dan Brown ever having this kind of struggle or dilemma. But for a very specific reason, in LGBT fiction we do. It’s due to “gay romance”. If you’re not in this particular part of the writing world, imagine the world of the aforementioned authors completely dominated by “Da Vinci romances” or “Shining / Cujo romances” or even “Harry Potter romances” to the degree that you can’t find the books that are not. In LGBT fiction, that’s our reality…

I’ve always defended romance, and gay romance in particular, simply because it offers so many positive stories, stories I didn’t have when I grew up. That is a huge step in the right direction, and I’ve seen dozens of young men (since 95% of the books are about gay men) with glazed over eyes talk about the importance of gay romance in their own identity building, in gathering the strength to come out, pursue relationships. However, much of romance is more about fantasy, escapism, not reality. Therefore, romance will only take you so far. As soon as you look for something more “serious”, more realistic, you’re our of luck.

An example. Five years ago, when we got pregnant with our son, I was looking for books that dealt with the topic of gay parenting. Not having any real life gay parents in my circles back then, I was really curious about what we were in for. I found a few books about that topic. But not one of the books I read were about gay parenting. No. They were all romances, and therefore only about the parents’ relationship, how they met, the struggles they had to become a couple (where the child sometimes was a hurdle to overcome), their sex life etc. I even read a book about a gay grandfather who fucked his love interest after returning home from a school meeting about his grandson being bullied. I was appalled! I decided there and then, that I would have to find my own path. Fucking as a way of “coping” or dealing with parenting issues just didn’t appeal to me. I doubt it works in the long term. I’d rather be there for my son…

In this book, I not only tell the story from Willem's point of view, but also from Hery's and others. But it's Willem on the cover, and the other main character, the Tafel mountain. Not very romantic...

In this book, I not only tell the story from Willem’s point of view, but also from Hery’s and others. But it’s Willem on the cover, and the other main character, the Tafel mountain. Not very romantic…

With almost two-hundred thousand romance books in LGBT literature, among a total of 230K, finding issue-based fiction is like finding a needle in a haystack. As the author of non-romance novels, I want to make it easier to make my books available to those who look for them, but it’s not easy. But even more than that, it’s really challenging for me as a writer. Because I don’t always decide what genres my books are placed in on Amazon. Their algorithm does that automatically. My books are about gay families, which automatically involves a couple, and thus a relationship. Amazon interprets that as a romance, even though it’s not. I’ve played with more than one genre, I’ve even written Erotica once, a book born from a project of trying to make more money. Alas, if failed, but I managed to save some of the text and turn it into a stand-alone novel.

I’m extremely grateful for my readers, and I know that most of the people who read my books normally read romance novels. Without the romance readers, I’d sell a book a month, instead of a book a day. This is of course also something my publisher must keep in mind in their efforts to push my books. Why publish a book if it won’t sell? On the flip side, of the (few, I’m lucky) bad reviews I receive, they are usually from people with very narrow definitions of what a good romance book is all about. And my books where the relationship is placed in the farthest background (The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, Willem of the Tafel) have been read a lot less than those where the couple’s relationship is more prominent, albeit for specific storytelling reasons, not because it was the relationship per se that is the main protagonist (Jonathan’s Hope, The Opera House).

For a while, I was perfectly comfortable with writing and I didn’t care if people mistook my books as romances. In a futile attempt at selling more, I even began to place people on my covers. Willem of the Tafel was my first book with a model on the cover. I felt anxiety and looked for the right model for the longest time before I finally settled on my Willem. It’s still, to this day, my favorite cover. The book didn’t sell. A single man on a cover just doesn’t “signal” relationship. Had I also placed Hery on the cover, who knows, maybe it would’ve. But to me, that wasn’t even on my retina. Willem of the Tafel isn’t about the two men’s relationship. It’s about politics, it’s about society building, racism, global warming and the sacrifices we have to make for society, for the betterment of our species.

In this novel, our two main characters look after Frank, a young child with cerebral palsy and form a family against all odds. The book aims at being a positive role model for young people with disabilities, but I realize that the cover screams something else. A shame for a great story...

In this novel, our two main characters look after Frank, a young child with cerebral palsy and form a family against all odds. The book aims at being a positive role model for young people with disabilities, but I realize that the cover screams something else. A shame for a great story…

For my next novel, Spanish Bay, I figured I’d take that extra step, and actually place the couple on the cover. I’ve lived to regret that decision. I like the cover, but yes, it’s a sell-out of my values. It’s very “romance-ey”, the kissing couple (none of which look like the main characters, and having found the same couple on another cover, although only if you’ve seen the entire series, you’d know), the font of the title… If I ever were to change a cover, this is the one: remove the couple and focus only on the beach, change the font. But at the time, I really tried to please readers who came from that corner of the world. And yes, I do feel like a sell-out.

I haven’t had a person on a cover since, and I won’t again. And it pains me that people read my books through a certain lens that keeps them from seeing the “bonus” I hope to provide. Needless to say, this is something authors have to accept. Once a book is out there, it’s really not up to us to have any views on how readers interpret a novel. I would never tell people how to read a novel. Believe me, people have asked. Yet at the same time, when people stand on the magnificent rim of the Grand Canyon, with one eye covered, they’ll never really get the full impression of just how magnificent the place is, the full depth of field. And if you read Harry Potter as a romance series, don’t you think you’re missing something? I mean there are two couples forming, and Hermione and Ronald have been in it from the get-go… Jinny comes into the picture a bit later, but still.

I said in my video yesterday, that I feel that the whole genres thing also has begun to affect my writing. I consciously dismiss writing ideas that are “positive”, “hopeful” and focus on things that are of a darker quality. When people keep telling you that you’re a cow, you have two choices: either you begin to grow those additional regurgitation stomachs and begin to eat fresh grass or you try to chance people’s perception of you. I try to change people’s perception, and I do so for very personal reasons: I grew up with people assuming I was straight. They assumed I’d get married to a nice girl, produce nice grandkids, become a provider to my family.

When I came out, risking to shatter those illusions, I was told that “it’s just a phase”, that “you haven’t met the right (magic?) girl yet” and “how can you know this?” For me, when people force me into a genre that isn’t mine, I instinctively feel that way I felt when I was seventeen and my parents shoved me back into the closet and threw away the key. They felt they knew better than I, they felt that their word weighed more than mine, and since I was a minor, I had no choice but to acquiesce. As a middle-aged man, I no longer feel the need to let others tell me who to be, how to be, what to be. I finally have the chance to be me, and that includes being the author of gay (and sometimes LGBT) fiction. Simply because I say so.

Readers, do you care about how your authors place themselves in genres? How do you find the books you read? Authors, what is your take on genres? Do you feel restricted by genres or do you find them helpful in your writing? I’d love to hear how others view this…

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a wonderful weekend. Next week will be the last week that I write before I break for my summer vacation.

Thanks,

Hans

#MondayBlogs: When authors don’t do their research

#MondayBlogs: When authors don’t do their research

Plot holes, oddities and other (near) misses which could easily have been remedied

I read a lot, at least when I’m not writing, and most of the books I read are amazingly written. But every now and then I come across a book that is, for all intents and purposes, not finished yet. The research is sloppy (if researched at all), there are plot holes etc. Why? I do a lot of research into my novels, recently even traveling to the area that is included. But even when I can’t go to the area, the research conducted is extensive.

It’s easier to see Sacré-Coeur from The Arc the Triomphe than vice versa. But you have beautiful views from the elevated vantage point of the famous basilica. Photo: Aarya through Wikimedia Commons

Let me exemplify. You write a scene taking place in Paris. Your protagonist resides in a hotel up on Montmartre, near the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, with a beautiful view over Paris, looking southwest. Describe what you see? Landmarks, rivers etc. Well, given that we are in Paris, what would you see from the elevated vantage point that the place provides? Yes? No? Well, allow me to help, since I’ve actually been both in a hotel in that scene and seen the view on many occasions: You see you see the Louvre, Bois de Boulogne, you see the islands in the Seine with the Cathedral Notre Dame (almost due south), the impressive tower of Montparnasse, you can spot Le Trocadéro etc., but most importantly, you see the Eiffel Tower, probably the most important sight in Paris. However, you may not see the Seine, or only a tiny sliver, because of the buildings that are in the line of sight. The same is true for e.g. the Arc de Triomphe, impressive if you stand on the Champs Elysées or any of the other streets approaching it, but from afar? You might not be able to spot it.

Whether your readers have been to Paris themselves, or not, is not essential. If they have, they’ll relive wonderful memories of vacations past, if they haven’t, they most likely will have seen a picture of Paris, either in a newspaper, on TV or in a movie. Now, follow me a bit further: imagine a story where the protagonist is looking over Paris at night, relishing the sights. The author beautifully describes the views but forgets to mention the Eiffel Tower… Would you notice?

Where’s the Eiffel Tower? Didn’t you just say you could see it? I did, but it all depends on the angle and where on Montmartre you stand… It’s around the corner to the right, the people in front can probably see it. Whether you see it, or not, you’ll need to let people know why! The devil is in the details… Image: Neo007 via Wikimedia Commons

Well, would you notice if an author described London without Buckingham Palace? New York without Manhattan? How could something like this happen? I can only assume two things: the author hasn’t been on site, and they haven’t done their research. Because you can’t go to certain places and not notice these things. I once wrote a scene on a Caribbean island involving a jetty and a path leading to that jetty from the airport terminal. However, I hadn’t been on the island myself, and my research online was inconclusive. I couldn’t be 100% sure if the pathway was leading all the way or if there was a fence in the way somewhere. I was lucky. Three months after I published the book, I was on site to walk the walk myself. This was a tiny detail, and nobody would’ve noticed if you hadn’t been on site. Pathways from small airports are not common knowledge, other things are.

See? You can see it, it’s just a matter of vantage point.

Colloquialisms are another pitfall. While English is a global language, there are countless local varieties in its use, and even native speakers don’t always catch the finer details. I’ve made mistakes myself in this area. Color me very embarrassed. But I’ve also seen authors use fairly well-known terms the wrong way, by the wrong people, in a failed effort to sound a certain way. Thing is, the devil is in the detail.

One more example: plot holes. What if your story has a plot hole you are aware of? How likely do you think your readers are going to see it, too? Particularly if you mention it in the book as an inconsistency? Make it a “thing”? Leaving it unresolved is just going to get people confused. Keeping a story “plausible”, “credible”, “believable” is important, even if you write fantasy or science-fiction.

So, how do you avoid such mistakes? The easy way out is to write about that which you know, which is probably the easiest way. I’ve read books from authors that all play out in the same city. Or, you could make up a town, thus making the story more generic. I did that in Jonathan’s Hope. Or, you have to do your research. I got myself into a lot of trouble when I decided to use a street called “fifth avenue” in my most recent book. No, not New York, but the character makes that reference, too. And then you begin to research where, if at all, such a place exists… It affected the rest of the book immensely because that bloody place is in a state that affected my protagonists in many ways.

Do mistakes like that affect your enjoyment of a book? Sadly they do. Particularly when there are many such mistakes in one single story. Does all the blame fall on the author? No. Unless they self-publish. I’ve seen how some publishers are more thorough in their editing, and there are some publishers I avoid these days, simply because they don’t care enough about the quality of the works they publish.

Readers, what is your experience? Is this something that bothers you when you read? Authors, how do you research your stories? Have you made mistakes you’re ashamed of? Let’s hear from you…

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

 

My new novel, Disease, is almost ready: here’s what I learned #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

My new novel, Disease, is almost ready: here’s what I learned #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

Every book, every story, is different in its inception, its creation. Disease is no different

As I write these lines, my printer is working overtime in my office, printing the 58K words, spread across 127 pages A4 that contain the manuscript of Disease, my latest novel, Opus 15, if you prefer. Before I send it off to my publisher, I want to read through it one last time, make sure that all pieces fit as they should, make sure I haven’t forgotten anything, missed any typos etc.

Now I know that my editor will sigh at the many grammatical errors I make, and I’m not sure using Grammarly (the free version) helped me much. While it did find a couple hundred things to fix and many for which I’m grateful, there were also some suggestions that were far too outlandish to be taken seriously. In fact, “seriously?” was a phrase often used today as I had to split my novel into six smaller documents to check with the tool provided for my Apple.

The cover for the audio book of Family Ties, my first novel and my first audio book.

Here’s the thing though. This is my eleventh novel, and I haven’t printed a single one of them before. Never. Not once. Why now? I wanted to make sure it is in as perfect a shape as possible before I send it off. Not grammatically, I know I can never match the linguistic skills of my editors and native speakers, no, but as a story.

When I started working as a writer and novelist, back in 2013, I was naïve, and my mind as blank as the page I used to write those first sentences of Family Ties on. Family Ties, my very first novel, was written in two weeks. Jonathan’s Hope followed within another two weeks. I was carefree, I had nothing to compare my writing to, I had no reviews to worry about, no reviewers. I knew no publishers beyond those I had worked with in my non-fictional writing, I knew nothing about the LGBT writing arena and how warped it is with its enormous skew toward romance.

I simply sat down and wrote my stories. Alas, I quickly began to learn. I met other authors, talked to them, befriended some. I learned about marketing, about being in it for the long-term, and gradually I adapted my writing. My third novel was simply that, Opus 3, for the longest time, until my cover artist, who had read the manuscript, cried out in desperation and helped me find a title, The Opera House. My fourth novel was inspired by a book that included travel. I love to travel and set out to write such a story, yet life in its mysterious ways intervened, and Opus 4 became my darkest and most important work to date, The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, dealing with some of humanity’s deepest and darkest horrors, that of child abuse, trafficking, and pedophilia. It was a difficult book to write and in that year, it was the only fiction I published.

I sometimes write about politics in my books, and in Willem of the Tafel, it’s both about climate change, and racism. Who could have guessed, when I wrote this in 2015, that it would be such a burning topic today?

Exhausted from the emotional turmoil that Haakon put me through, I didn’t write for several months until a dance performance inspired me to write about our planet and the environmental issues we face. It was a very different book to write, as I was unable to draw from experience. I have, for obvious reasons, not lived five centuries from now. The research was excruciating, and as is customary with Sci-Fi, the mix of science and fiction is challenging, making that which is extrapolated, guessed or imagined, believable. I think I did alright.

I could go through all my eleven novels, the short stories and my other books, but alas, I won’t bore you with that. I do feel though, that I have come to a point in my life, in my author life anyway, where I feel this is the right thing to do. May the trees forgive me for printing on them. Will I be more thorough reading on paper than on a screen? I do not know. In the past, I’ve always proofread my manuscripts on both my laptop and my phone, to get a different experience. I know that my editor even lets the PC read the texts to her, to get a better feel of how it sounds. She finds that she is better capable of picking up errors after several read-throughs.

Disease is different, not just in how I edit, but also in how I wrote the story. A first person account is always challenging to write, this is a sick man’s diary of sorts, a journal of things he experiences as his disease progresses, as well as memories from the past, a first person account of Alzheimer’s really. It is complemented with commentary from his partner, who finds this journal after it’s all over. We sort of get two views of everything that happens. Not always, but where I felt it was necessary, where it added to give the reader a better picture.

The real challenge of writing about Alzheimer’s is, of course, the “insanity” of it. As writers, we fear plot holes, we fear inconsistencies (getting names wrong, timeline jumps etc.) When you write about Alzheimer’s, you suddenly try to incorporate such elements, on purpose. It’s a risky business, as you never know if the reader will understand, appreciate it or simply DNF… The same is true for the language per se, the difficulty of simplifying a language as the disease progresses. Will it be natural enough to readers or will they attribute it to poor writing, or worse, to poor editing and proofing? A nightmare, just to think about it.

So yes, this is a book that has me worried, and maybe that is why I want to do it justice. I also want to do my protagonists justice, Hunter, Ethan & Amy. I’ve grown quite attached to this family since I first began writing about them on February 21, 2017, at 12:22 pm. For once, I feel I also have plenty of time. The manuscript isn’t due at my publisher’s until the end of July. Disease is set for an October 26, 2017, release from Beaten Track Publishing. I hope to have a cover for you soon, and then I’ll create the book’s own page here on my site.

Now, before I let you all off on a well-deserved weekend, tell me, what are your experiences with writing? Once a pantser always a pantser or does your writing evolve, change, from book to book? I’m curious!

Have a great weekend. We’re celebrating Pride this week, and if the sun is shining, we’ll be watching the big Pride parade downtown tomorrow. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

I can’t even write a wedding without politics getting involved #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

I can’t even write a wedding without politics getting involved #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

I wrote a wedding scene. A beautiful one. Then I had to re-write it

I’m in the editing mode of my latest WIP “disease”. I finished the first rough draft yesterday and went back to the beginning, reading through it again, adding bits here and there, checking the time line etc. There is a wedding scene in the book (two actually), and I really like it. Only it doesn’t work. Insert colorful expletive here. Because here’s the problem, allow me to demonstrate:

A straight writer writes straight wedding scene:

  1. write couple
  2. write officiant
  3. write scene
  4. move on to next scene

A gay writer writes gay wedding scene:

  1. write couple
  2. write officiant
  3. write scene
  4. wait, hang on, could we get married in that geography? At that point in time? What sort of “marriage” could we get?
  5. [colorful expletives] as extensive research begins
  6. research concluded, delete the scene, start over

I wrote this beautiful wedding scene, right here, in the town of Amalfi in southern Italy, when… Photo: Max Pixel, Creative Commons Zero

I’m not joking, and this is just a tiny morsel of the complications of writing LGBT fiction. We are in a constant battle to keep up with legislation, this ever-changing monstrosity where one day we’re granted civil rights only to be hauled off to execution camps the next, re Chechnya. The couple in my new book get married, only they don’t, as I had to painfully realize today, because of where I later placed them in world geography, I blame it on 5th Avenue, a geography that did not allow them to get married until Obergefell two years ago. So, back to the drawing board, research your state legislation, and find a way to rewrite the scene so that it matched not only the legal requirements I needed in terms of what I was aiming at later in the story, preserving the emotion of that scene while still being historically accurate. I’m telling you, being a gay writer sucks at times! And this is just one aspect.

I just had another long discussion about why relationship (or romantic) stories are so popular with the gay community (at least those of us who read), and why our “need” as gay men is different from the expectation of a straight female reader. Women reading gay romance do it primarily as an escape, a nice fantasy to escape to without the stereotype role models still largely at play in het romance (damsel in distress, alpha male to the rescue type). For us, romance isn’t an escape, it’s a possibility. Does that make sense? For eons, and way into the 1980s, the expectation we had on gay characters in novels was to die, often horrific deaths. We were the villain or the misunderstood freakshow of movies and books. We died. Best that could happen to us, along the lines of the old adage “only a dead Indian is a good Indian”.

Alex and I tied the knot in 2004 and saw our "partnership" upgraded to a marriage in 2009. The first five years remain unrecognized by t.he state. 

Alex and I tied the knot in 2004 and saw our “partnership” upgraded to a marriage in 2009. The first five years remain unrecognized by t.he state. 

As recognition of the fact that we had a heart and a soul began to root itself in society, and our struggle for equality began, so began our thirst for new stories, more hopeful stories. We wanted to read about us getting married, having families, children (or not), and to be happy. It was no longer a fantasy (which we wouldn’t have read because that would’ve been too cruel), but a possibility, a hope, something that might actually come to fruition. Do you see the difference? To us, reading about love and relationships is not about escaping reality for a few hours in the comfort of a good book, it’s about our future, a distinct possibility, a reality even for many of us. I hope that makes sense.

To exemplify the rapid changes, what about this. In this country, the royal court would send out greetings cards to centennials and couples married for sixty years or more, a diamond jubilee. By the time Alex and I get our card from His Majesty (or Her Majesty presumably), we would have been married for sixty-five years. Why? Because the first five years were a “civil union” and thus not recognized as marriage to this day. Not that I care much for a postcard from Stockholm, but still… The discrimination lives on.

Anyway, I will have to spend the next days and weeks editing my story, and hopefully, make it work. But today was a sad day, realizing that my beautiful wedding scene was just “pretend”. [Final colorful expletive] I feel very sorry for my two characters, and I may yet have to find a way to make it up to them…

Have a good weekend. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

 

 

Writing about a disease and the challenges it poses to the author #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

Writing about a disease and the challenges it poses to the author #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

Dementia isn’t just any disease, and writing about it is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done

I’m about two thirds through my new novel, disease, and I think some of you already know by now that it is a story about living with Alzheimer’s. I’ve had personal experiences with this disease, as both my mother and several other relatives have died from it. But particularly following my mother has given me profound insights into the inner workings of this wretched disease that eats people’s brains from the inside out.

I’m not going to give away the plot of the book here, besides, knowing my own brain’s inner workings that would be utterly futile. I am, after all, only about two thirds through, and lots can happen between now and the end. I decided early on that I would write from my protagonist’s point of view, and I think if you know anything about dementia, that makes it pretty clear why it is so challenging.

My mother giving me a bath. This was decades before the disease took her. Photo: private

As the disease progresses, memories are lost, people no longer have the capacity to do certain things. My mom for instance wasn’t able to iron clothing any more, she’d just forgotten the different steps needed to e.g. iron a shirt. The same with cooking, something my mom had done with great pride (and excelled at) for decades. It goes without saying that my mom suffered from that, immensely, although, and that makes my mom’s case unusual, we never talked to her about it. This has to do with very specific circumstances in our family, but by the time my mother was finally and officially diagnosed, it was too late. She would not have accepted the diagnosis.

People often say that Alzheimer’s is not the patient’s disease, but the disease of the loved ones. And those surrounding Alzheimer patients often tend to undo much of the tell-tales. My father would for instance take mom out to eat to smooth over the fact that she was no longer able to cook. That way, it never became a “thing”, never got awkward. Mom could simply claim she didn’t have to cook any more. And similar tactics were used in a number of areas. And even we children were accomplices. How do you tell your mother she’s basically “a nut job”? Well, you don’t. You don’t tell anybody they’re “crazy” or “nuts”, no matter how incoherent they are, how little sense their statements make. You just don’t, and it is probably easier to tell a stranger they’re behaving strangely than your own mother…

I have lots of material. At the same time, I’m an author of fiction, not the author of an Alzheimer biography. And the challenge lies primarily in the decision I made early on, to write this story from the patient’s perspective. “Aaah!” I hear you think. And you’re right. This does complicate matters, particularly if I were to take it to stage III and the end thereof, where the patient ultimately succumbs to the disease, loses the ability to speak, the ability of their bodily functions until ultimately, the body shuts down. Needless to say, this is not the fate of all Alzheimer’s patients. Many pass away from various other illnesses and afflictions before that happens.

But, and this is really the challenging part. How do you write the challenges of things like aphasia, or losing your vocabulary, how do you write that which the character no longer remembers?

Well, here’s how I do it, and since I’m not entirely finished with the novel, there may still be changes that need to be made, both to the overall approach and to details. In the first draft, I’ll just write the story as it comes to mind. It’s how I’ve always worked and it’s how I’ll finish this one, too. I need to trust my instincts, my artistic talent (or lack thereof, if you believe the trolls online). Once that first draft is done, and I hope to be able to finish that first draft by the end of this month, I’ll have roughly two months to edit the story, and I think this time it’ll need some heavy editing, making sure the language is simplified as I move along in the disease’s timeline. I may even have to build in some inconsistencies, even what to a reader may appear to be plot holes. Because such is the disease. It’s going to be an interesting novel, for sure, not to mention quite the challenge for The Queen of Unconventional Happy Endings.

Speaking of queens… We are about halfway through the Big Gay Fiction Giveaway:

Go, claim your copy now and discover new characters to love and cherish!

Have you been to the website to claim your Instafreebie copy of all those amazing books that are available this week? I’m participating with my most important work to date, The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, a novel about child abuse and trafficking, and I’ve already had almost one thousand claims, so I’m very pleased. Not bad for such a deep novel next to all the sexy and fluffy romances. Have you gotten your copy yet? You have four more days! Don’t miss this.

Have a great weekend, I sure hope I do, particularly if the weather stays as warm and sunny as it’s been these past twenty-four hours. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

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