Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Learning To Samba

Last night I received a cover proof for my third book, “Learning To Samba,” and nearly burst into tears. I don’t know if it was because I was tired from the many hours I’ve put in this week, the lack of chocolate, or that the artist captured the many nuances of the story. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful to her (I think it was Anne Cain) and Loose Id.

Unfortunately, I can’t show you the cover just yet -- it hasn’t been finalized --but I can tell you that it proves the old saying true, that a picture’s worth a thousand words.

Interestingly enough, it was yet another picture that inspired me to write “Learning To Samba,” a picture posted on the Facebook group, Inspired Writing, by fellow author Kayla Jameth.

If memory serves, I was in the middle of edits for “Lauderdale Hearts” before submitting it for approval, in addition to another major freelance crunch when I first saw the picture. I didn’t have time to respond to the image. And yet, I couldn’t get the visual out of my head. It lingered on my mind like a refrain from a song and touched me for some reason I didn’t understand. It spoke to me of love, loss, and deep emotion.

I asked myself if it was the shadows? The look on the model’s face? The sensuality of it all? The picture pulled at my heart and I found myself unable to focus until I wrote down what I felt; which was the point of the exercise.

Without judging myself, without self-censoring, and without fear of repercussion, here’s what I wrote:

He was a foreign exchange student living with my tenants. I knew I shouldn't have crossed that line but Raoul was so fresh, so young, so willing. I could breath again when I looked into his eyes and all the pain of losing my lover nearly ten years ago seemed to release itself from my veins. I didn't want to at first but when Raoul smiled at me and moved his hand away from the only thing remaining to be exposed, I could almost hear my partner's voice in my head, his love in my swelling heart as he whispered, "Go for it! It's time to be happy again. I'll see you on the other side." And as I gasped at the sight of the lovely, naked young man standing in shadows before me I caved. I let him kiss me. His tongue sought mine and his hands seared my flesh where he touched me and gradually possessed my soul one layer at a time.

The seed was planted by Kayla but with those written words, that seed germinated. It was then watered and nurtured by several: Treva Harte, Michele Montgomery, Serena Yates, Kayla Jameth and Kenya Ferreira; to name a few.

Compared to “Lauderdale Hearts,” which took something like 3 or 4 months to write, “Learning To Samba” took a very long time and almost never saw the light of day.

At the time, there were things on my mind already weighing me down. It was a tough period with mental challenges and personal issues I’d been ignoring haunting me at every turn. Like many, rather than confronting the issues, I repressed them.

I sank my teeth into the story to avoid the emotional crap but didn’t count on having to immerse myself into the main character’s position; a man who’d lost his partner of many years and now found himself alone at an age where, in the gay community, you might as well be dead.

It was a demon I had to face, a fear I needed to look at. I can’t tell you how depressed I got, wondering what it was like to lose your life partner, contacting family, friends, neighbors. The thought of going through all his stuff was daunting but at the heart of it all was the knowledge that if I ever survived my partner rather than the other way around, I don’t know how I’d move on; if ever.

On top of everything else the story dragged me into a depth I hadn’t known before, despite the fact that I knew I was only doing what an actor does; tapping internal forces and emotions, whether real or imagined.

Slowly, I pulled out. The story moved on. The character met a hot Brazilian medical student living at his sister’s house and, along with him, I found myself falling in love with the 25-year-old. The further away I got from dwelling on the past and negative emotions, the better I felt.

It’s hard for me to say that the book is only about “X” because it’s layered and textured with my own struggles. I wrote about what I knew: fear, worry, and my love of New York. As for the sex, I’ll leave you to wonder what’s real and imagined. However, I’ll say this: once upon a time, in a magical land called Florida, a 20-something-year-old from New York met a man from the land of Mouse, who pressed buttons he didn’t know existed. The result was eye-opening and gave him said 20-something-year-old a new appreciation for fetish; at least…enough to dabble. Or dribble. Or drool. Or…whatever.

“Learning To Samba” will be released on Tuesday, August 16. It will be available through Loose Id at the following link:

Meanwhile, since I cannot yet show you the cover, here’s the picture that started it all. Thanks, Kayla.


  1. Great story and glad you've got the perfect cover. Love the picture above, very nice.

  2. Wow great post Johnny and now I am intrigued by the cover and the story. Love the picture above.

  3. Ah wonderful!

    I love when pictures become your characters

    :D Cant wait to read Johnny

    I have Lauderdale hearts. I shall be reading that soon

  4. @Sara York: Thank you! I was afraid people would think that was the cover; silly me! I've been running on fumes and didn't realize the picture already had a watermark from where it was taken. As for the cover, OMFG! I truly do think it was bang on.

    @Dawn Robert: Thank you so much! Yeah, me too. I don't know if it made you think of plot bunnies but it definitely got me going!

    @Rawiya: I want to thank you for all your wonderful words and encouragement. You, Dawn, Sara and countless others made my day by taking valuable time out of your day to comment or give me courage.

  5. I don't need to tell you how much I am looking forward to getting my hands on "Learning to Samba." I've been making my delight at your story known from the very first comments that you attached to the original photo posting.

    I think this is hands down, far and away, your best work to date. I know that I am going to love it as well as everyone else who is wise enough to get their own copy.

    T minus 2 days and counting...