Monday, October 31, 2011

Let The Games Begin!

Well, not yet. Not exactly. But they, or rather…it…will in approximately 9 hours.

I’m speaking, of course, about NaNoWriMo, a 30-day writing competition designed to jumpstart your novel and get those juices flowing. With a word count of 50,000 words looming ever closer, the trick is to sit your ass down in front of the computer and bang away; no self-censoring, no editing, no fretting about “getting it right.”

The man who started it, Chris Baty, was making the point -- at least this is what I got out of it -- that too many of us get bogged down in the minutia of a story. For example, what shade of brown someone's hair is rather than letting it just be brown. Or perhaps turning a phrase that rolls off the tongue effortlessly. We can do all those things later, after we've finished the story. If we do it as we go, unless you're a pro and know what you're doing, most of us who are still fairly new to writing and being published, go back the next day to look over what we've written, decide we don’t like this or that, then get caught up in editing instead of moving forward. We wind up losing momentum and, eventually, interest. It's like falling into quick sand.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo about 10 years ago, after picking up a copy of Baty’s “No Plot? No Problem!” I read the book, found it fascinating, then registered the following year since I’d purchased the book towards the end of November. Unfortunately, after registering, I never did anything beyond that. I blew it off. Looking back, I just don’t think I was ready. I didn’t have the discipline, or a structure that would allow me to get into the mind frame of, “Oh! I have an hour. Let’s fire up this puppy and see what I can spit out.”

With three books under my belt, published by Loose Id, and several others that were self-pubbed, there are still dozens upon dozens -- if not hundreds upon hundreds -- of ideas that continue to roll around inside my brain. And they keep on coming, folks!

Add to this the fact that I’m now 49 and, not to be morbid, time is limited. I want to see if I can figure out a way to write faster before my time comes; whenever that may be.

I don’t know if NaNoWriMo will be for me or not. I have work to do, a partner, pets, friends, sisters and family that call every so often. There are several social obligations thrown into the mix, like birthday celebrations and let's not forget Thanksgiving. Not to mention that it would be nice to take a mental break or I might just have a breakdown. All the same, I’ll let you know in 30 or so days if this was such a good idea.

Meanwhile, I’ve played with Scrivener, a software program that seems versatile and flexible. I think it will come in very handy! I’ve also got my synopsis and some hand-written notes; which really should be entered in Scrivener but I’ll give myself some leeway.

So, off I go. For those who are participating in NaNo, good luck. See you on the other side. For those who aren't, don't be surprised if you don't see a post from me in a while. Except for work, my friends, and my partner, I’m pulling a Timothy Leary. I’m going to turn on, tune in, and drop out until just after November 30.

See you in 30 days!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Taboo Fantasies & Triggers

Disclaimer: This is the first of what I hope will be a small series of posts on controversial sexual fantasies most would consider taboo. Note that the topic discussed is strictly for adults with open minds and might be considered offensive to some. Therefore, if you find such issues to be be a trigger point for you, please leave now and do not read further. It’s a lot like stumbling on a television program you might think has no merit because it shows someone simulating masturbation, orgasm, or because it shows too much ass. Whatever moral struggles you might be battling, it’s usually best to change the channel. The same applies here in this, and any future posts. Right, then. Off we go to talk about…


When I was a boy I remember watching something on television with a pair of twins and became obsessed with having an identical twin. Because it was so long ago I really don’t remember if it was "The Parent Trip" with Hayley Mills or "The Patty Duke Show." I can’t imagine it was them because I was into boys and always have been, as far back as I’ve existed and was able to think. Or perhaps it was Patty and Hayley and I simply changed the sex?

Regardless of who it was, my imagination went into overdrive and, yes, even at that age, I remember thinking how cool it would be to have a twin brother. There were dozens of reasons why I wanted one but the biggest reason was so I’d have someone to talk to. Someone with whom I could share my secrets. Someone who would know me so intimately we wouldn’t have to say a word. We’d each know, instantly, what the other was thinking, feeling, and be there to comfort each other.

For a time, instead of an imaginary playmate like most children, I had an imaginary twin brother. I’d stare into the mirror and talk to him, pushing aside all reason and knowledge that I was really only talking to my reflection.

This was around the time that I was discovering I had a penis and that it felt good to touch myself. It wasn’t long before that imaginary twin brother was in bed with me. We would do things to each other that would make adults cringe, had they known what was on my mind.

Eventually, like everyone else, I outgrew the imaginary. I was stuck being just me as I awkwardly stumbled into adolescence and then adulthood.

And yet, at the back of my mind, the fascination with twins persists. Oh, the thought might submerge itself back into my subconscious for a while but it crops up every now and then. Especially when I come across a really hot and handsome man and I wonder if they have a brother. A twin brother. One that's identical to him in every single way. That’s when I go off on tangents and wonder…what do they do together? Have they seen each other naked? Have they played with each other before? Do they still? Do they shower together. Have they lathered the other's back? Have they shampooed each other? Have they swapped boyfriends? Girlfriends? Do they do other things with each other, to each other? Are they into threeways? Would they include me?

Imagine, if you will -- and feel free to take a moment -- a twin Jake Gyllenhaal, George Clooney, Chris Evans, Mario Lopez (from about 13 years ago), Ben Browder (from Farscape) or my personal favorite, the one and only Daddy I would give myself to if I ever needed a Daddy, Daniel Craig. Or, just imagine the hottest man you’ve ever seen, celebrity or non, and double him. Doesn't that drive you insane with unadulterated, wanton lust? The fantasy is pleasurable enough, isn’t it?

Now, show me a real pair of twins and I go into mental paroxysms of near epileptic proportions. Whether they’re celebrities or not, like Chris Evans who has a gay twin brother -- who wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a Johnny Storm sandwich? -- and even James and Oliver Phelps, who played Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter movies, have made my mind stray despite the fact that they’re not my type at all. There’s just a certain mystique about twins that fascinates me and I know the same applies to many other people, both straight and gay, as proven by several conversations I’ve had with people in real life, on Facebook -- off Wall -- and the most recent, last night in a group.

The conversation started because of a picture I posted. Identical twins with a third in the middle. They latin men, who I believe are 20 or 21, stood shirtless, looking at the camera. One of them has his arm around the non-twin and a hand flat on his belly in what I thought was a very possessive pose. The twin stood near enough to touch, his crotch against the non-twin's backside.

This isn’t the first time I saw them. There’s a scene with them where they’re by themselves. I don’t know what they do. I can’t seem to bring myself to find out. It’s like I’m afraid of what that might say about me. The pictures seem to imply that it’s mutual, side-by-side masturbation. Reading between the lines of the scene description, on the other hand, tells me a different story.

I’ve only watched the scene where the brothers are with a friend and you have no idea how long I sat there, just staring, drooling. All I could think of was, “Lucky fuckers!”

And I longed to be one of them. To be between them.

I've seen others in the past, as well. Falcon had a scene with twins in the 70s. I don't remember their names but they were in the back of the pick-up truck. I came across pictures of them and was stunned by how beautiful they looked together. It seemed so natural and perfect.

In the privacy of my own home, in the security of my lonely brain, I didn’t feel guilty. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’d like to think that it’s simply me, being a sensual creature, aroused by two sexy young men with hot bodies, coy smiles, and beautiful in their nakedness.

Being aroused by twins, to me, is different than watching say, Aitor Crash going at it by himself, with toys, or even with someone else. It just hits a different part of the brain, some primordial spot we’ve all perhaps locked away and don’t bother to look except for in the darkest moments of our lives or when we’re alone. And even then, we probably slink back out of that place hoping there isn’t anyone near who can read our minds or see our thoughts. If that were the case, I think a good portion of the world’s population just might be locked up.

The conversation we had yesterday on FB made me wonder: what is it about twins that becomes a trigger point and sets some of us off while others go, “Eeeew! That’s disgusting and wrong!” Are they secretly as turned by twins but feeling guilty? Are they being judgmental or are we simply perverted? Is there a need within us, some kind of hunger we’re not aware of, that hasn’t been satisfied? Does the taboo-ness of it make the subject more titillating? Is it some bizarre offshoot of narcicism? Or is it as simple as wanting something we’ve never had and probably never will? It would be entirely too easy to say it’s the last so I’m going to say that’s it’s a multitude of things. More than likely, it’s probably also different for each person though I’d be willing to bet there are similarities in our romanticism and sexualization of twincest.

I find it interesting that so many of us have -- and still continue to do so -- the fantasy of either wishing we had a twin, being in the middle of twins, or watching them together. My fascination was such that I wrote twin characters into my first book, “Casa Rodrigo.” Fernando and Alonso de Rodrigo are there as children but as adults, I only dealt with Alonso; I left Fernando in Spain though I do mention him in a scene where Alonso misses him greatly after finding out about their father’s indiscretions with a family nemesis.

Because of my fascination with twins, and now my discovery that so many others share in the same -- would this be considered a fetish? -- a multitude of things are running around in my head. Among them, is a sequel to “Casa Rodrigo” where I bring in Fernando, though not for sex; at least, not among themselves.

There’s also a different story, one sparked by a conversation I had with two FB friends while I was at GRL in New Orleans. I see the twins and know what they look like clothed and naked. I have the location, the time period and even their names; okay, so it’s just their last name. I just don’t have the conflict yet. The trouble is, what does one do with such a story? Even if I had the conflict and mapped out the entire story, what’s to say it will get ever get published when so many won’t touch what is considered to be taboo?

I don’t know the specifics about the scene I saw yesterday. I only know where it was filmed and I can tell you that it definitely wasn’t here in the States. Our 2257 laws are very strict and I believe twincest, fantasy or not, would be considered illegal if produced here. I don’t know about the distribution.

And yet, within those boundaries, twincest continues to prevail. Whether right or wrong, natural or un, it’s not for me to judge. You see twins together -- alone or with someone else -- and they continue to titillate us in ways that sometimes no one person can do.

I’d like to think that if I actually had a twin there would be nothing more between us other than a very strong bond; very unlike conventional brothers where that bond is either there, or not. But the truth of the matter is that if I did have a twin, knowing me, and if we were identical in every way, well…let’s just say experimenting would have been very interesting indeed!

In conclusion, I ask, what about you? Do you have a twincest fantasy? If it’s a celebrity, whom would you like to be ravaged by? Whom do you want to devour until you’re all absorbed into one another’s spirits? Do porn twins turn you on? If so, who? Why?

But most importantly, if given the opportunity to have sex with real-life twins who got it on because they enjoyed it would you participate?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gay Rom Lit: Final Thoughts

As I start this post, I’m sitting before my computer, coffee in hand. I’m surrounded by ghosts. It’s the memories of New Orleans and Gay Rom Lit that are haunting me, dancing in my mind like the ghosts in The Haunted Mansion, at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

When I first heard about GRL being held in New Orleans, I thought, oh no. Not there. Any where but there. And not because of spirits. Most of you reading might know why; I’ve either told you in person or you read about it in a former post. For those who might not know, I had a very bad experience in New Orleans the first time I went and vowed never to return.

There were other reasons why I was concerned about going; money worries and the belief that I’m still too new a writer being at the top of the list. Yes, I still doubt myself after three books under my belt and will probably always continue to do so, though I’m trying to get past that.

Up until the very last week before leaving for New Orleans, I still wasn’t sure I would go. In fact, when I purchased the plane ticket, I added travel insurance, just in case. I was even counting down the days on the calendar, knowing I could cancel the hotel a few days prior without being charged. I kept telling my partner I wasn’t sure about the trip, that it was a bad time for me. He just patiently continued to put up with me and point out all the reasons why I should go. As did Treva, Michele and a handful of others.

Then the day finally arrived and I found that what I feared most wasn’t that I’d experience a bad time, or fall, or who knows what; it was that I was going alone.

I should have guess it would be a great experience when, at the Atlanta airport, I found my connecting flight to NOLA to be in the same terminal. How many times does that happen, if ever? In fact, even upon my return home, I never left the terminal. My connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale was at the next gate!

Oh, me of little faith who doesn’t dare to hope or dream. And yet, somewhere along the way I must have dared. I must have dreamed. I must have hoped.

The experience at GRL was truly amazing. I met some wonderful people, both writers and readers alike, who were not only warm and welcoming; they were passionate about the genre we were all there to celebrate. Getting to connect the face with the names of people I’ve chatted with on Facebook and Goodreads was great. Getting to know them -- if only for a short while -- was even better.

While chatting with a few of the writers one night, it occurred to me that we, as writers, have a very unique opportunity. We have the opportunity to help change the way people think and feel about m/m relationships. Yes, what we’re doing is telling stories that entertain and allow the reader to escape or resolve their own issues as they see themselves reflected in made-up characters and plots. At the same time, it’s also a form of protest. Even if it is, as Belinda McBride put it -- at least I think it was her -- protest at it’s most subversive.

Looking back, the French Quarter of New Orleans was probably the most perfect place for the first Gay Romance Lit conference. Just like the m/m stories we write, the city is full of mystery, danger, and allure. Just about anything can happen there, some of it frightening. If you don’t believe me, just ask Treva about her experience overlooking Bourbon Street where someone asked if one man was dead while another demanded that he take off his pants.

Or better yet, think back to that moment when you were walking alone. You turned a corner then looked over your shoulder because you thought someone was there. Tell me you didn’t suddenly pick up speed without realizing, just so you could get to the other side of the street.

And weren’t you just the slightest bit aroused when the breeze came in off the river to caress your skin and laugh softly in your ear?

To me, the Quarter is a 98-year-old whore who dares to go out in daylight. She’s dressed in faux diamonds and garish make-up because she doesn’t give a crap what people think. She’s coy, full of charm, sexy, and quite dangerous. She’s a gritty ole gal who sometimes smells bad and thinks she’s still the glittering belle of the ball. But she's also full of passion and high spirits as she shows off the beauty she once possessed, with the hope of unconditional and requited love she still needs. In the end, isn't that what keeps us all going?

Because I had such a great experience and enjoyed the conference so much, the last day was full of bittersweet moments. I shared a few tears with several people, made some wonderful contacts and gained new friends.

Looking back I realize I spent an awful lot of energy focusing on a past, negative experience that I almost didn’t enjoy the present that unfolded before me while I was at GRL. I had been so concerned with the “what ifs” that I almost missed some wonderful memories. Memories of all the people I met. Memories of their warmth, their hugs, their laughter. Memories that will last me a lifetime. And when I stop to think about it, missing all that truly would have been haunting indeed.

See you all again next year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gay Rom Lit: Day 3

After a full day of running around from one event to the other yesterday, today was a bit rough for me. I truly needed this morning’s Beignets & Café au lait, hosted by Treva Harte and sponsored by Loose Id.

I’m not ashamed to say that I felt like I had a hangover. Nope, not because of alcohol; I didn’t have any until tonight. Let’s just say that after the lovely conversation shared on Facebook with Silvia Violet and Beverly Carr, Creole twins kept running around my mind. No plot bunnies yet, just nuances. Don’t know if it will amount to much, but you never know.

The other thing is that in addition to the Beignet Twins, as I’ve taken to calling them, I went to the bathroom yesterday, turned on the light and one of the bulbs in the bathroom started to crackle and sizzle. I called housekeeping and had to wait for them to show up. They never changed the bulb but at this point I’m like, screw it, I check out tomorrow. After that it's their problem, not mine.

The rest of the day was spent doing a bit more running around, meeting a few more people, and listening to a few more author readings. This time with Belinda McBride, Lynne Lorenz, KC Burn and Tara Lain. I won a few more goodies, too!

Strangely, I even managed some down time and did some more editing on a story I wrote earlier this year, “The Rosas of Spanish Harlem.”

As I write this, it’s a little after 10:00 p.m. central. The festivities at GRL 2011 are beginning to wind down and the MLR Press Wine & Cheese Party is coming to and end. In fact, I can still here a handful of people outside talking and laughing.

Here’s William Prater with a tee-shirt that nearly made me pee my pants with laughter.

Here’s Elisa, from Elisa’s Ramblings, a beautiful woman with a terrificly sexy voice who flew here all the way from Italy.

And speaking of traveling, I know several authors from the UK attended, one of them being Clare London. I think someone mentioned we also had a couple of writers from either Australia or New Zealand. I don’t know for sure since I didn’t speak with any of them.

It’s with mixed feelings that I end tonight because I’ve had a lot of fun and met some really fantastic people. Truly, there are way too many to mention. But I’ll say this: it was great to have established authors who paved the way in the m/m genre share their personal writing experiences. It was just as wonderful hearing from some of the readers who’ve read my work.

I will admit that there’s one big drawback to a convention such as this. Well, maybe two. Oh, alright, three things, although I think this one counts as three by itself.

1. I miss our pugs, Trinket, Googie and insane Lola;

2. I miss home and sleeping in my own bed, although this one is EXTREMELY comfortable and they have great pillows; and finally

3. I miss my partner. More than anything, I miss him; my beautiful man who is my rock, my entire reason for living and without whom…well, let’s just say I miss him and leave it at that.

The first Gay Rom Lit will end tomorrow morning, at which time they’ll announce the location of the next event. I plan to do it again and, now that I know what to expect, hope to be a bit more active with either an Author Social an Author Reading or some other thing.

As a final parting shot, here's Damon Suede for those of you who asked to see him in his kilt.

Thanks to the organizers -- J.P. Bowie, Ethan Day, Lynn Lorenz, Carol Lynne, Amanda Young and their helpers -- for coordinating and pulling off this amazing feat. It was well attended, everyone was quite passionate about being here and I think it's going to be even bigger next year.

And thanks to all of you who followed the goings ons from my perspective and took time from your busy lives to comment. As it was with those I met this year, it will be an honor to one day meet you as well.

Who knows? There’s always next year, right?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gay Rom Lit: Day 2

Day Two of GRL kicked off bright and early with a “Dine with an Author Breakfast”…at 7:00…a.m. Because I would've had to wake up at 6:00 to at least be coherent enough to function, yours truly graciously did not attend. I did, however, attend the Beignets & Café au lait hosted by Lynn Lorenz, Belinda McBride, ZA Maxfield, Amanda Young and Rick Reed. It was interesting waking up to everyone’s banter while I drank my coffee, considering I'm the one that you can't talk to unless I've had my first cuppa Joe. Everyone else must've either woken up earlier than I did or I REALLY need more time waking up in the mornings. I’m going to bank heavily on the last.

After the beignet event, which was from Community Coffeehouse -- nice piping hot strong coffee without acidic residue -- I hurried off to the author socials where I met and chatted with Louisa Bacio, LC Chase, and William Neale. The picture above, however, shows Lori Perkins (I think!), Tara Lain and Louisa Bacio. The second shows Treva Harte, LC Chase and Kayla Jameth.

Everyone at the socials were absolutely wonderful and cordial. It was really cool getting to chat with them and getting to know a bit about their experiences in the m/m genre.

In addition to author socials, there were author readings as well as publisher spotlights. The only one I was able to attend was with the ladies from Total E-Bound. Unfortunately, I didn’t get their names but they were really delightful to chat with. Alas, I didn’t win any goodie bags but I had a fun time getting to know William Prater a bit more, a young man who is hoping to one day sit down and write his first novel. I also chatted with a friend of his, whose name escapes me at the moment, but I’m sure William will let me know who he was. What I do know is that I liked his penis, which he wore around his neck. And it squeaked when you squeezed it!

Another person I enjoyed meeting was Sharita Lira, who runs several blogs -- among them -- in addition to being a published author herself.

Lunch was at a spot called “The Old Coffeepot,” a place that Jaimie Samms recommended. Since I didn’t have anything interesting, I didn’t photograph it. I mean, not much you can do with a plain omelet to make it look pretty. My choice, not theirs. I was jonesing eggs big time. The waitress who served us obviously thought it was highly odd that all I wanted was a plain omelette, but then she also said I needed to have some more coffee. I couldn’t agree with her more!

The Old Coffepot is a fun spot with a small courtyard and if you don’t like climbing stairs to get to the restroom, I’d recommend you stay away. But it was fun, full of character and quite colorful.

The Riverboat signing was up next. Naturally, I thought it was the riverboat that left from across the street of Jackson Square. Apparently not. We were going to hoof it but hopped a cab and, after what felt like we were going to be dumped into the water by some Nawleans mobsters, we got to the Creole Queen. It was pretty cool to see everyone in one spot. At one point, though, I did have to pull back and just people watch. Everyone was very excited and energetic. Passion to me speaks louder than anything and if the amount of passion that was in the room is any indication, I believe that GRL can only become bigger, stronger, and…well…even more fun!

I’m very pleased that here, I won a goodie bag from Allison Cassatta, containing a bunch of really neat stuff in. But my absolute favorite out of all of them was the Starbucks gift card. Naturally, I had to drop to my knees and show her just how much I appreciated winning her…ummm…stuff. Hopefully, she'll e-mail me the picture and I can post it to show you just how much I appreciated winning her goodie bag.

Sadly, I didn't get to take any pics of the Riverboat. It was all indoors and there was so much to do, so many people to chat with it escaped my mind until I started writing about it. Then, by the time I did, the tour was over and the Creole Queen was docked again.

As I write this, it’s only 7:45 central. I could easily lay in bed and zonk out. It’s been a long day. But I have one more event to go to and I’ll be damned if I’ll miss it. It’s the Total E-Bound Pretzel Party hosted by Carol Lynn & T.A. Chase.

On a side note, I got to meet the editor for my last book, “Learning To Samba!” It was wonderful getting to meet Corina, who lives here in New Orleans.

And now, I think I’d better go take a quick shower. I don’t think they want anymore stank in the room in addition to the smell of fresh paint and the insane drilling that was supposed to stop half an hour ago! Maybe the ghosts that live here will be as irritated as I am and pull the plugs on the workers.

Perhaps I should light a candle and invoke the spirits.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gay Rom Lit: Day 1

Yesterday afternoon, after checking into the Bourbon Orleans, I meandered off on my own. While going up the stairs to the ballroom, as seen in my previous post, I felt an eerie sensation and got the feeling the place was haunted.

This morning, after volunteering to help blow up balloons with -- please forgive me, I truly suck at names -- Ive (in the gray, pronounced Eve) Jambrea Jo Jones (the tall lady in the back) and Jamie Samms (with the streaks of red in her hair), we were in the actual ballroom itself and I felt the same sensation.

As it turns out, the hotel IS reputed to be haunted. And guess where? If you guessed the ballroom, give yourself a pat on the back since I’m too far away from you to do it myself.

Since I didn’t feel threatened in any way, I continued helping out and had an absolute blast getting to know the ladies; except I really do wish I was better at name retention. My deepest apologies to the two lovely women whose name I can’t remember.

The ballroom, and thus the hotel, is not that old. It was built on the property in 1964. However, before it was a hotel, the site was home to the Orleans Ballroom, the Orleans Theatre and The Sisters of the Holy Family convent.

I was able to go out on the ballroom balcony, which overlooks Orleans Avenue, with William Neale and Carol Lynne; two of the five GRL organizers.

After registration, I met up with Trevah Harte and Belinda McBride. We had lunch at the Royal Deli again. Michele Montgomery, Jeff Arno, and Allison. Kiernan Kelly and her husband Henry (a really cool guy) were there as well.

I had brie and apples and it was absolutely delicious! Served on crunchy french bread, the brie and sliced apples were topped with golden raisins and dabs of spicy mustard. Think of it as bruschetta but with a really huge twist.

And then the fun began. Registration.

We got our badges, along with our tickets for events such as the Vampire Ghost Walking Tour, Riverboat Book Signing Social, etc., along with a goodie full of some sweet items from writers who were attending (including yours truly) and had a chance to schmooze at the Opening Gala.

The interesting thing, at least for me, was actually pulling back and watching everyone. Sometimes I can be gregarious and a bit loud but it depends on the environment. Other times I have to be in the mood. Today, because this was something new, I opted to pull back and mostly watch. That didn’t keep me from socializing, however. I met John, a reviewer, and writers Kayla Jameth, Ellis Carrington and Piper Vaughan. I also got another opportunity to chat with Belinda McBride, Z.A. Maxfield, and Lynne Lorenz.

I met a few other writers but, unfortunately, by this point I was on sensory overload and can’t recall their names. Hopefully they'll understand.

After retiring to my room for a bit of writing and editing, I joined up with the Vampire Ghost Walking Tour, sponsored by Kiernan Kelly, Lydia Nix and VJ Summers. For anyone coming to this city, as with Key West, a ghost tour is HIGHLY recommended. If your tour guide is good, as ours was -- though I did wonder if what he was truly drinking from his bottle was water -- they not only invoke a certain ambiance, but tell you about the rich history of the city. It's also a pretty cool way to get the lay of the town.

As a quick side note, our tour guide mentioned a representative of the Spanish crown, an Irish mercenary by the name of O’Riley. Apparently this general, or whatever he was, assassinated 5 rebels who didn’t like that he was here. Those 5 bodies were laid out in front of the very same church where I fell 14 years ago. I just about shit a brick on the spot.

And now I’m back at the hotel, in my room and winding down. I'm jonesing something sweet big time but I think I'll try and curb that sweet tooth. After all, tomorrow is another day, and it begins with Beignets & Café au lait!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cafe Au Lait

So my first foray out into the Big Easy has, so far, been wonderful. The weather is balmy, with no humidity. In fact, the weather was perfect as I stepped out of the hotel and onto the street to venture out to Cafe du Monde.

I had my cafe au lait (sorry, can't remember where the accents go) and plate of beignets. And can I just say? They were DEE-licious. See for yourself. I do believe I might have to pay a few more visits before returning home.

There are certainly a lot of run-down looking people here but it seems to fit the city. It is old. As is, I think, the hotel. It just has a haunted vibe to it. Like someone's watching. From the outside, it really doesn't look like much.

The inside, however, is very pretty.

After walking around a few blocks and just soaking up the atmosphere, I stopped off at a small and funky sit-down deli. I think it was called the Royal Deli. I had a turkey sandwich with goat cheese spread and something I've never had, or heard of, before: sweet potato salad. It was really good! The waitress reminded me a lot of Zooey Deschanel but much taller. Same voice, too!

And now I'm back at the hotel. I hope to start some editing and then, in about an hour, head to the room where the GLR coordinators are stuffing goodie bags.

I've Arrived

I always wish people safe journey when they travel because these days, well, you just don't know. I guess all that karma's come back because both flights were relatively incident-free!

Now I'm checked into the Bourbon Orleans which, incidentally, is right in back of the damn church where I fell 14 years ago! The BO (sounds awful, doesn't it?) is a very nice hotel. I'm on the first floor and it looks like there's construction going on all around. In fact, I can hear the rattling of a drill somewhere near.

The bathroom alone is worth staying here! It's absolutely huge and you can fit several people in sleeping bags; assuming you had to.

I haven't gone out to investigate yet but I'm thinking I might bite back my fear and at least roam the lobby and check out it's amenities. If I'm feeling adventurous, I might even head down to Cafe du Monde. I'm dying for a good cup of coffee and some beignets.

You know? I think this is going to be a pretty cool trip! Now I just have to get used to being Johnny Miles for the next 4.5 days.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Unpacking Butterflies & Setting Them Free

Fourteen years ago, I took a trip to New Orleans with my sister. We were both very excited about going to The Big Easy because of it’s history, the mystique around it, and because of the movie “Interview With A Vampire.” It had come out a couple of years prior and had such an eerie feeling about it I was entranced and very much looking forward to it. In fact, we wanted to go for Halloween but flights were either unavailable or too expensive, as were the hotels.

So we pushed it back and went the week after.

Mind you, this was a trip we’d planned close to a year before. It seemed so far away and I put it out of my mind. And the day finally came to leave. Not only did I feel weird about going, I felt awkward too because if I remember correctly, at the time, my partner and I had only been living together close to 6 months; if that.

My sister flew from New York, while I flew up from Florida, and we met in Atlanta. The closer we got to New Orleans, the more excited she got. I just pretended to be. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I started getting weird vibes. It was like butterflies in my stomach only not in an exciting way. I kept telling myself it was just flying jitters and nerves about going someplace new, compounded by the fact that my partner couldn’t come.

The moment the plane landed, the strangest thing came over me. It was like everything in my body was screaming, “Go away! NOW! Just get back on the first flight back home.”

But I couldn’t do that. Not to my sister. She was totally beautiful in her black, goth dress that looked like something Morticia Addams might have worn, long raven hair and a choker that was almost identical to the one Lily Munster used to wear. I do remember asking her if she felt something weird and she calmly said no.

At the hotel, on Canal and (I think) Rampart, we checked in and were told under no uncertain terms that we shouldn’t leave money or valuables laying around the room. They urged us to use the safe and suggested that if we were going out later that night, we should stick to well-lit streets. They even went as far as suggesting boundaries within which we should stay.

Having already felt ill-at-ease since landing, all this information did not fill me with good will.

Then we headed to our room, where we discovered that there was one King-sized bed, not two doubles like we had originally asked for. My sister and I looked at each other and I said, “Honey, I love you but we’re just not THAT southern.” No offense to those of you who might be southern but I was pissed by that point.

After an annoying conversation with the woman behind the desk that only put me even further at edge, the fiasco was resolved.

Shortly after settling in, my sister and I decided that the night was young. We were in New Orleans, and we were going to walk around. Now, remember that we’re from New York City. There’s very little that frightens us and we know what to do when we feel threatened.

The night was a bit humid but breezy and not too warm. We went down to the main drag that runs along the river; I can’t remember the name but I know it was where Cafe du Monde is. We’d heard about their chickory coffee and beignets so, naturally, it was the first place we hit. Along the way however, people kept asking us the time. Of course we knew what time it was but our response was always the same: Sorry, we don’t have a watch. It’s what you say in New York because sometimes the person asking is working with someone else and is trying to distract you.

On the way to Cafe du Monde, we felt as if we were being followed. Even my sister, who is far less afraid of things than I am, was a bit worried.

We got to Cafe du Monde, put the experience behind us, and were grateful nothing happened.

The following day, we must have explored just about every block! We were mesmerized by the architecture and the “feel” that it was such a haunted place. The weather was beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions. We bought tickets to a local production of “Dracula” for the following evening and were thrilled to have purchased tickets to a walking “Interview With The Vampire” tour.

That night, we did one of the ghost tours, which I highly recommend. We met across from Jackson Square and the group was led by a man with a top hat, a cape and a cane. He was totally decked out and my sister and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. Things were definitely improving, despite the fact that earlier in the day, there were certain blocks where we’d turn and I felt as if someone were watching us. Yet when I turned to look over my shoulder, there was no one there.

And then, just when I thought things were looking up, the following morning came.

We were in front of the church and we’d just had breakfast at, I think it was called Madelaine’s. We were set to go on the vampire walking tour and we were quite excited about it! So there we are, standing in front of the church trying to figure out which way we needed to go to meet up with the group. My sister thought we should go one way and I thought we should go another. Except that when I turned, I feel. I was no where near the curb. I did NOT have anything to drink. And I didn’t even feel like I was falling. All of a sudden it was just like, oh, that’s weird. That tree’s upside down.

Not even the cop, who was just coming out of a bakery with -- and this is the truth, I swear -- his coffee and donut, stopped to help.

Fast forward back to the hotel where I spent the day in bed with my leg propped up while my poor sister walked Canal Street (or is it Avenue?) looking for a drugstore to purchase an ace bandage, aspirin, and a few other things for me. Somehow, she was able to get our money back from the walking tour but Dracula wasn’t buying back their tickets. So off we went, with me hobbling along.

The performance turned out to be really awful but what was worse was that my ankle was by now the size of a large grapefruit. I was in excruciating pain and, though I hated to admit it, suggested to my sister that she stay at the hotel and I would cab it over to the nearest hospital, which I think was Tulane.

And do you know what they had the nerve to ask me at the hospital once my sister (who insisted on coming with me) and I arrived and I was with doctor alone? They wanted to know if I’d been drinking when I fell. I hadn’t touched a drop, though I don't think they believed me. And then the had the audacity to ask me if my girlfriend had pushed me. I was like, Whaaaaaat? What kind of a place IS this?

Turns out I tore ligaments in my left foot (I’d already torn ligaments in my right foot five years before that) and was put in a cast, given crutches, and my sister and I called our trip short. Luckily, we’d gotten travel insurance and got some of our money back but the damage was done.

Needless to say I had a bad experience with New Orleans and vowed never to return. Ever.

And yet, here I am, two weeks shy of a full fourteen years later. It’s the night before I head back to New Orleans, this time for the Gay Lit Retreat. For those who don’t know, the GLR is the first of it’s kind, designed specifically as a forum where fans of the m/m genre can meet their favorite writers and…well, mingle and schmooze!

I must confess I’m a bit more than leery; not about the mingling and schmoozing. I think I’ve got that down. I think it’s because of the memories that kept flooding back and I kept repressing. Oh, and coincidentally, my partner wasn’t able to take time off to come with me this time, either. I guess New Orleans isn’t in his future; at least not now.

The other reason why I’m leery is because I don’t know what to expect at GLR. I keep second guessing myself: Should I have gotten swag? Should I have signed up for a reading? Should I have volunteered to sponsor a breakfast, a lunch, or a dinner? And then, of course, there’s the little kid inside tugging at my shirt and looking up at me.

Will they like me?

Ahhh, ain’t fear a bitch?

Frankly, bad memories and experiences aside, deep down I’m very excited. I’ll be seeing Treva again and I’ll be meeting, for the first time, readers and fellow writers with whom I’ve already shared so many things on Facebook.

I hope to see you there. If you see me first, come on over and say hello. I promise I won’t bite or push, but I just might creep into your head!

Safe travels, everyone.