Thursday, September 27, 2007

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: An Emotional Survival Kit

(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)

Please read if you just had something rejected:

This is all part of being a writer. Everyone gets rejected. Repeat after me: EVERYONE GETS REJECTED. This does not mean you are a bad writer, or a bad person. Stories get rejected for all kinds of reasons, from just not the right style to a just plain grouchy, or really dumb editor. Take a few deep breaths, do a little research, and send the story right out again - or put it in a drawer, forget about it, remember it again, take it out, read it, and realize it really is DAMNED good. Then send it out again. Never forget that writing is subjective. My idea of a good story is not yours, yours is not his, his is not mine. Because an editor doesn't like your story doesn't mean that everyone will, or must, dislike it as well. Popularity and money don't equal quality, and struggle and disappointment don't mean bad work. Keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying.

Think about the rewards, about what you're doing when you write. I love films, but I hate it when people think they are the ultimate artistic expression. Look at a movie, any movie, and you see one name above all the others - the director, usually. But did he write the script, set the stage, design the costumes, act, compose the music, or anything really except point the camera, tell everyone where to stand? A writer is all of that. A director stands on the shoulders of hundreds of people, a writer is alone. Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Austin, Shakespeare, Homer, Joyce, Faulkner, Woolf, Mishima, Chekov - all of them, every writer, created works of wonder and beauty all by themselves. That is marvelous, special: that one person can create a work that can last for decades, centuries, or even millennia. We pick up a book and through the power of the author's words we go somewhere we have never been, become someone new, experience things we never imagined. More than anything else in this world, that is true, real magic.

When you write a story, you have created something that no one - NO ONE - in the entire history of history, has done. Your story is yours and yours alone, it is unique - and you, for doing it, are just as unique. Take a walk. Look at the people you pass on the street. Think about writing, sending out your work: what you are doing is rare, special, and DAMNED brave. You are doing something that very few people in this entire planet are capable of, either artistically or emotionally. You may not have succeeded this time, but if you keep trying, keep writing, keep sending out stories, keep growing as a person as well as a writer then you will succeed. The only way to fail as a writer is to stop writing. But above all else, keep writing. That's what you are, after all: a writer.

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Please read if you just had something accepted:

Big deal. It's a start. It's just a start. It's one sale, just one. This doesn't make you a better person, a better writer than anyone else out there trying to get his or her work into print. You lucked out. The editor happened to like your style, what you wrote about - hell, maybe even that you set your story in their old hometown. Don't open champagne; don't think about royalty checks and huge mansions. Don't brag to your friends, don't start writing your Pulitzer acceptance speech. Smile, yes; grin, absolutely, but remember this is just one step down a very long road.

Yes, someone has bought your work. You're a professional. But no one will write you, telling you they saw your work and loved it, no one will chase you down the street for your autograph; no one will call you up begging for a book or movie contract. After the book comes out, the magazine is on the stands, the website is up, you will be right back where you started: writing and sending out stories, just another voice trying to be heard.

If you write only to sell, to carve out your name, you are not in control of your writing life. Your ego, your pride, are now in the hands of someone else. Editors and publishers can now destroy you, just as easily as they can falsely inflate you.

It's nice to sell, to see your name in print, but don't write just for that reason. Write for the one person in the whole world who matters: yourself. If you like what you do, enjoy the process, the way the words flow, the story forms, the characters develop, the subtleties emerge, and then no one can rule what you create, can have you jump through emotional hoops. If a story sells, that's nice, but when you write something that you know is great, that you read and tells you that you're becoming a better and better writer, that's the best reward there is.

But above all else, keep writing. That's what you are, after all: a writer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

True Heroes

Where the hell were these great guys when I was getting the crap kicked out of me in high school?

The Grade 9 student arrived for the first day of school last Wednesday and was set upon by a group of six to 10 older students who mocked him, called him a homosexual for wearing pink and threatened to beat him up.

The next day, Grade 12 students David Shepherd and Travis Price decided something had to be done about bullying. "It’s my last year. I’ve stood around too long and I wanted to do something," said David.

They used the Internet to encourage people to wear pink and bought 75 pink tank tops for male students to wear. They handed out the shirts in the lobby before class last Friday — even the bullied student had one. […]

They also brought a pink basketball to school as well as pink material for headbands and arm bands. David and Travis figure about half the school’s 830 students wore pink. […]

"The bullies got angry," said Travis. "One guy was throwing chairs (in the cafeteria). We’re glad we got the response we wanted."

David said one of the bullies angrily asked him whether he knew pink on a male was a symbol of homosexuality. He told the bully that didn’t matter to him and shouldn’t to anyone.

The Feeling is Mutual

Gotta share this too-sweet-for-words post my pal, partner, and love, Sage Vivant, just posted on her own Sex, Stories and Silliness blog:
M. Christian is more than just a prolific writer. More than just the most original voice in the erotica genre. More than just the man I am lucky enough to call my boyfriend.

He loves boobs!

And so do I, dammit. And what's more, I think that more is better. (Which is good because my own are pretty formidable.)

Anyway, M. Christian has started "reprinting" via his blog the columns he's written for various Web sites over the years. They never fail to entertain, and are yet another testament to his quirky worldview and beautifully twisted perspective on everything from tits to fetishes to politics.

You gotta love this guy. But hey, hands off. He's mine.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The View From Here: Breasts

(the following is part of an ongoing 'column' I did for Suspect Thoughts, and, no, it's not supposed to make sense: only be weird fun)

I bought a pair of breasts the other day. I’d been putting it off for months – general hemming, hawing, that kind of thing – but then I walked by a body shop, you know, that pseudoskin place down on Maholley Terrace, by the baby fat bakery, and there they were in the window: two of the most gorgeous set of tits you ever did see. Now I know what they say, that bigger isn’t always better, but I’ll tell ya, it’s only the folks who’ve got stuck with little bitty titties are the ones sprouting that kind of stuff. Size, I’ll tell you, is where it’s at.

So I go into the place right, just to get a feel for them – you know what I mean? – and like a pot-bellied nursing fly this sales drone latches right onto me …ssssuuuuccckkk! I had to whip out my pocket knife and ease the blade between his lips and my skull to break the suction. Soon as he’s free – leaving a mean-ass hickey, too – he starts right into it: a hardcore, non-stop, subliminally packed pitch: “Icansee(buy) thatyou’rethe(buy) kindaguy(buy) whoknowsquality(buy) merchandise.”

Lucky for me, my little neighborhood has recently become a spawning group for telemarketers, the ground thick with their gelatinous offal, egg-cases crackling underfoot, so I’d dowsed myself with cheap-ass perfume to ward off their greedy suckers. Once the smell of the stuff got to his ridiculously under-sized brain he’s quivering eyes lost their luster and his lips sagged down to his waist. “Yeah,” he gurgled through his flaccid sucking organ, “what you want?”

I nodded to the hooters in the window. “How much for the tits?”

He signed, his soft body rippling with the action. It was so disgusting I almost wished I hadn’t cheapened myself before becoming – excited he would have sucked by brain out of my skull trying to remove my wallet from my pants but at least he didn’t fart, burble and quiver like three-day-old birthday pudding. “That’s (sigh) the special. Three hundred goobahs.”

I slapped him hard across what passed for his face, sending his sagging organ whipping around his body at least twice – ending with a disgusting smack when his drooling mouth slapped against the side of his head. His cloudy eyes cleared just a bit so I snapped my hand down to his right hip and slugged his secondary sexual organ. Now completely clear, his eyes jerked and buzzed angrily with the stab of pain. You have to teach these parasites whose boss, you know?

“Don’t give me that feculum,” I growled, kicking him in his distended digestive tract. There was obviously a Paramecium World restaurant nearby, because he expelled a good three and a half bowls of wriggling cilia in red sauce: a venerable geyser of clear, watery flesh and crimson fluids that roared up, hit the ceiling, and rained back down -- pelting the entire establishment in greasy, half-digested Catch of the Day.

“How can I help you, Sir?” he managed to say between loud, sloppy licks of the walls, floor, management, other customers, and me.

“Like I said, I’m interested in the tits in the window,” I said, scraping saliva off my new shark-skin jumper.

“An excellent choice, sir,” he said, belching loudly, the action setting his entire body to quivering with a heavy wave-action. I was momentarily fascinated by him, hypnotized, by the rolls of loose flesh and the way they undulated up to the top of his head – momentarily covering his beady-eyed face with greasy skin. “The finest quality of breast there is.”

“How much?” I repeated, knowing that the ballistic discharge of a meal had most certainly purged his memory as well: our previous conversation just a residue on the harder-to-reach corners of the place.

“For you, fine sir, just two hundred and fifty goobahs,” he said, smiling. The effect was disturbing in the extreme.

I swallowed my revulsion and my own breakfast of immature college graduates and slapped him again. This time his face only wrapped partway around his tiny skull – and I filed away the fact that either these guys were getting tougher or I needed to work out a lot more.

“What was I saying? My goodness, I must have forgotten my brain today! I mean to say that those choice items are currently being offered for the special price of two hundred goobahs.”

Luckily I’d remember to shop armed, so I was able to drop the price down to a hundred and fifty by shooting him in the foot. He made the most delightful piercing scream – shattering every toe and fingernail in the place – as he jumped up and down, thin, yellow blood bubbling disgustedly from the wound.

“Sold,” I told him – pointing my weapon between his tearing eyes in case he had any thoughts about offering insurance or, heaven forbid, gift wrapping. Posthaste, my new boobs were out of the window and into a travel-bubble. The creature was even quite civil as he accepted my squirming pile of goobahs and fed it into the maw of the banking worm.

So that’s how I got my tits. Spectacular, aren’t they? I do have to say that I am quite, quite pleased with them – but, to be honest, while they’re loads of fun, I have to admit that the actually shopping was more fun that the tits ever have been. Funny how that is, ain’t it?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Better Than a Hole -

If you have a bit of time, and want to read about people who like to drill holes in their heads, check out the SF side of the great Dark Roasted Blend site for a little piece I did on trepanation.

Yes, you're expected to wince.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Someone believes me!

It's gratifying to see that at least one person is giving my situation with the impostor "M.Christian" the severity it deserves! This comes from my pal Thomas S. Roche over at Eroszine:
Being M.Christian

The Very Bloody Marys author M. Christian, who has contributed his unique brand of clever, edgy and inventive erotic fiction to literally hundreds of anthologies, magazines and websites as well as authoring and editing more than a score of books, writes in his blog that someone has been impersonating him.

The counterfeiter has actually gone so far as to publish a book entitled ME2, the cover blurb of which implies that M. Christian is not a real person, but some sort of "house name" for a cadre of pseudonymous ruffians wreaking literary havoc in today's literary universe. This villain goes so far as to first take credit for Christian's vast literary output and then to write himself a blurb in the voice of "The other M. Christian," which would (maybe) all add up to a rousing literary fraud if it were a) funny, b) clever, or c) amusing, or if M. Christian (the only one) was actually the guy behind it. He ain't. How do I know? Because it's not funny, clever or amusing.

Certainly this scoundrel is not the first to think M. Christian couldn't possibly be one person; after all, his literary output boggles the mind with its breadth of both sexual proclivity and stylistic variety, but while I'm sure that Christian could, at least in spiritual terms, be accused of being a "cadre," and a well-armed one at that, he also happens to be an actual person.

Having been, incidentally, accused of being M. Christian myself in the very early days of my writing career (and he, likewise, having been accused of being me, probably because we're both weirdos from San Francisco who don't like you very much), I feel an eerie sense of déjà vu to now find out that a pigfucker thinks he (or she) can run roughshod over someone's career… to what end?

I'm telling you, if this person turns out to be named Laura Albert…. POW! Right to the moon.

Find out more about M. Christian's writing at MChristian.com.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thomas S. Roche Loves The Very Bloody Marys

Thanks so much, Thomas, for this delightful rave (from ErosZine):
With The Very Bloody Marys, prolific writer and editor M. Christian, best known for his vast contribution to the erotica genre, turns his hand to the melding of the classic San Francisco crime-noir thriller (think The Maltese Falcon) and the steamy, sexy vampire-occult tale (think TV shows Angel or the Dresden Files, or Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series of novels). That it is also an irreverent entry into the San Francisco canon of queer coming of age novels might be unexpected, given that its protagonist is a centuries-old vampire, but that aspect of The Very Bloody Marys is no less satisfying for the main character's age.

The story opens as vampy Valentino wakes up late from his daily nap and prepares to catch hell from his employer, Pogue, who's pretty practiced at giving Valentino hell. Y'see, Val's learning to be a cop, of a kind, part of a cadre of vamps who keep order in each locality, in this case San Francisco. Pogue is the drill-sergeant of vampires, an abusive surrogate father whose brand of tough love evokes in Valentino fear, respect and hatred with equal measure. Seems Valentino's never quite good enough to satisfy Pogue, and that pisses both of them off.

The plot thickens, though, when Valentino shows up at his despised employer's pad to encounter Ombre, a mysterious Gallic figure from a distant vampiric authority. Ombre informs Valentino that something is rotten in Fogtown: a gang of scooter-riding vamps called The Very Bloody Marys have been wreaking havoc in the Castro and throughout the City. Pogue, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found, and Valentino suspects the Marys may be culpable. Indiscriminate slaying of the brand the Marys engage in is exactly what Pogue and Valentino are there to stop -- drain a few too many honeybears and next thing you know, the mortals get their tighty whiteys in a vamp-staking wad.

Ombre seeks Valentino's assurance that things are under control; Valentino gives it to him, but without Pogue he's in way over his head. He goes after the Marys while trying to figure out what happened to his boss; add in a tragic love story involving the love of Valentino's life, and our vampire protagonist has both a complicated puzzle to unravel and an existential dillemma of his own to work on. He does so through the dark alleys of a San Francisco that's queer in more ways than one, a land where the faeries really fly and the twinks' perfect complexions turn way worse than blotchy when they get too much sun.

Christian is known primarily as an erotica writer, or, more accurately, one of the most widely-published authors ever to assault carnal matters. With Marys, however, that fact is evident only in the briskness of his prose and the frankness with which he treats the dark, sleazy side of the city. Far from being an entry in Christian's mind-boggling output of boldly innovative, irreverently nasty erotica, The Very Bloody Marys is a tight genre thriller with a taste for the absurd and a dry wit. But it's also about coming of age; Valentino, as a centuries-old vamp, still has a lot to learn about being a cop, and when confronted with matters of the heart he's as arrested in his development, as vulnerable and at-risk, as any teenager lost in the byways of human relationships.

Equal parts action and introspection, the 171-page thriller cooks along rapidly, following the formulas of the tried-and-true detective novel while at the same time slyly lampooning it. San Franciscans will recognize the details of their city, the smells and sounds of Fogtown after sunset. If you've walked those streets at midnight, you'll recognize them. If you never have, you'll want to book the next flight and maybe bring a cross and some holy water.

Like all the best noir thrillers, Marys is about being apart, alone, isolated; it's about finding a way to bring evil to justice, even if that justice is uglier than the crime; and first and foremost it's about redemption, as Valentino struggles to find his place in the city's nightside and make things right, while keeping his skin.

The Very Bloody Marys is a divine confection with a steaming load of pulpy goodness. It's also got its boots planted firmly in the noir tradition that crosses every sexual boundary in its search for right and wrong. And perhaps most importantly, or most immediately important, it's a deliciously enjoyable addition to three different, and too, too empty, bookshelves: queer vampires, queer noir, and late-night San Francisco adventure.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Drive

(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)

A friend of mine recently called me ‘ambitious.’ I’m still not sure what he meant by that -- compliment or criticism? Put-down or praise? It’s made me think, though, and that’s always a good thing. I’d normally describe ambition as a drive to succeed, a persistence to rise in status, income, reputation, so forth. But what does that mean to a writer? It could be money, but when is money the answer to anything? It could be ‘reputation,' but then a lot of bad writers are well though-of, even famous (are you listening Tom Clancy?). Ambition can also mean a cold-heartedness, a reckless disregard towards anything and anyone that’s not directly related to a goal. God, I hope I’m not that.

I do know that writing is important to me, probably the most important thing in my life. Because of that, I look for opportunities to do it, to get it seen. I rarely let opportunities pass me by: markets, genres, experiments, anything to get the spark going, juice up my creativity, to get my work published. Erotica was one of those things, an opportunity that crossed my path, and that has been very good to me. I didn’t think I could edit a book, but then I had a chance to do that as well, and now have done 18 (or so) of the suckers.

The fact is, opportunities never find you, you have to find them. The fantasy of some agent, or publisher, or agent, who picks up a phone and just calls you out of the blue is just that or so rare it might as well be just a fantasy: certainly not dependable as a way of getting published. Writing is something that thrives on challenge, growth, change: some of that can certainly come from within, but sometimes it takes something from the outside: some push to do better and better, or just different work. Sending work out, proposing projects, working at maintaining good relationships with editors, publishers and other writers is a way of being involved, in getting potential work to at least come within earshot. It takes time, it certainly takes energy, but it’s worth it. The work will always be the bottom line, but sometimes it needs help to develop, get out, and be seen.

Remember, though: “Ambition can also mean a cold-heartedness, a reckless disregard towards anything and anyone that’s not directly related to a goal.” Drive is one thing, but when it becomes an obsession with nothing but the ‘politics’ of writing and not the work itself, it takes away rather than adds. Being on both sides of the fence (as an editor as well as a writer) I’ve know how being determined, ambitious, can help as well as hinder in getting the work out. Being invisible, hoping opportunity will find out, won’t get you anything but ignominy, but being pushy, arrogant, caring only for what someone can do for you and not that you’re dealing with a person who has their own lives and issues, can close doors rather than open them.

I like working with people who know about ‘Chris’ and not just the person who can publish their work, just as I like writing for publications that are run by kind, supportive, just-plain-nice folks. Rejections always hurt, but when that person is someone I genuinely like or respect then I’ll always do something better next time. As I’ve said before, writing can be a very tough life: having friends or connections that can help, both professionally as well as psychologically can mean a world of difference. Determination to be published, to make pro connections at the cost of potentials comrades is not a good trade-off. I’d much rather have writing friends than sales, because in the long-run having good relationships is much more advantageous than just the credit. Books, magazines, websites, come and go, but people are here for a very long time.

I also think that sacrificing the love of writing, the struggle to create good work, is more important than anything else. Someone who has all the friends in the world, a black book full of agents and publishers, but who is lazy or more concerned with getting published than doing as good a work as possible is doing those friends and markets (as well as themselves) a serious disservice. Getting out there is important, and determination can help that, but if what gets out there is not worthy of you ... then why get out there in the first place? It might take some time, might take some work, but good work will usually find a home, a place to be seen, but bad work forced or just dumped out there is no good for anyone, especially the writer.

The bottom line, I guess, is that I really do believe in ambition, both for work and to find places to get exposed, but more importantly I believe in remembering the bottom line: the writing: that the drive to be a better and better writer is the best kind of ambition of all.

Great time -

Not to put the private out in public, but I just wanted to share the great breakfast I had over the weekend with the fantastic Kathleen Bradean. One thing that always delights me about the 'literate erotic' world is the kindness and warmth of the people involved and Kathleen is a wonderful example of that.