Saturday, November 30, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 48 - The End of NaNoWriMo 2019

Scott D. Parker

Well, today is the last day of NaNoWriMo 2019. How did you do? Did you get to 50,000 words? I got mine earlier this week, but the book isn't done. So I'm charging ahead and I'll finish the book. I'd like to get it knocked out in a week, but we'll see.

But back to you. Did those 50,000 words correspond to the end of your novel? Did you fall short? Don’t worry. I’ve done all those things and more. But you might be asking the obvious question: now what?

Well, two crucial things--on opposite ends of the spectrum--must now be done, depending on your answers.

First, when you finish, CELEBRATE! You have just written a 50,000-word novel. Celebrate. Tell people about it. Post about it on Facebook. Tweet your accomplishments. Open a bottle of champagne. Seriously on that last part, do it. Ever since I completed book 2, I have sprung for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. It is a monumental thing if you have written a novel, especially if it’s your first.

Second, if you did not finish, do not castigate yourself. Do not chastise and beat yourself up. Do not do those things. They do you no good and, in all honesty, they hamper your next writing effort. Believe me. I know this one all too well. It wasn’t until January 2013 when I again looked at the past year of not writing and finally turned myself around. I didn’t chastise myself like I had on previous New Year’s Days. Instead, I analyzed what had kept me from writing. Once those things were identified, I was able to skirt around them, avoid them, and I became a much more productive writer.

Now what?

Well, you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Did you participate in NaNoWriMo 2019 just to say you have written a novel, or did you do it because you want to keep writing stories? If it’s the former, good for you. Print it out, bind it if you want, display it proudly, and mark it off your bucket list. Mission Accomplished.

But if you found you enjoyed the process and keep doing it, you must keep writing. Seriously. Maybe NaNoWriMo 2019 took a lot out of you. That’s okay. Take a break for sure. Revel in your success. But make a plan--today--that you’ll start your next book on a certain day. My suggestion: New Year’s Day. Now that you know you can write a novel, do it again. What better way to start a new year than with a new novel. I’ve done it the past few years. It’s a great way to get past the inevitable doldrums I often get in January. It’s like the hangover for all the holidays we celebrate the last 62 days of a year. Make a plan to start a book, and then write that next book. I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you decide to make January 2020 into a NaNoWriMo, but make a plan.

Ideally, you’ll finish your next book by 31 January 2020. Then, do it again. The best way to make it as a writer is to keep writing regularly. The ‘regularly’ is the key part. Writing is a muscle. It needs to be exercised to keep it in shape. And here’s the cool part: the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Even if you don’t do a true NaNoWriMo of 1667 words a day, shoot for 1000. In two months, you can have your next book written. Or a novella in 31 days.

Just keep writing. Make it a habit. If you do, you’ll discover the joy of writing, the ease of writing, and it’ll likely make you happy.

What about the book you just completed? Well, do you want to publish it? If so, get it edited. Ideally, you’d not get a friend to edit the book--unless the friend is a professional editor. Get it edited, make the changes, and then re-read the book yourself. Make those changes.

Now, get a cover. Write a book description. Create your metadata. Determine the price point. Determine your marketing strategy. Format your file. (For this, the company Draft2Digital is recommended because they’ll basically do all the formatting you need for any of the digital marketplaces.) Upload the file to the world.

But those are topics for different days.

Right now, revel in your celebration: NaNoWriMo 2019 is almost over. Congratulations. Now, don’t wait another eleven months to write your next book.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Beau Tackles Nick Kolakowski

Today Beau Johnson brings you A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps from Nick Kolakowski and Shotgun Honey.


“Kolakowski’s got a gift of scratching his readers’ itch for pulpy, gut-wrenching narrative that moves a mile a minute and never lets you go. A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is a hell of a yarn that sets the stage for what should be an essential series for fans of the genre.”
—Angel Luis Colón, author of No Happy Endings and The Fury of Blacky Jaguar

“Ruthless, off-the-wall and surprisingly heartfelt, A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is much more than a heist book, and showcases the skills of an emerging writer in Nick Kolakowski. Featuring memorable characters, a down-on-his-luck protagonist and a story that’s equal parts insane and sincere, Saps is the kind of book you read fast and revisit immediately to savor the experience again.”
—Alex Segura, acclaimed author of Dangerous Ends and Down the Dark Street

“A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is a hell of a ride. Put on the Elvis tunes, or your best glittery suit, and enjoy Bill’s escape from the boys in New York. He’s trying to ditch his life of crime but it’s pretty hard to do when you have a bunch of stolen money in your trunk and a band of people on your tail. Maybe a woman could save Bill’s body and soul, and all that money? Whatever the outcome, Kolakowski’s fabulous writing shines and the twists and turns will keep you reading to the very last page. A wonderful, entertaining read.”
—Jen Conley, author of Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens


Bill is a hustler’s hustler with a taste for the high life. He pulls off big scores for one of New York City’s more vicious gangs…until he suddenly grows a conscience. However, living the clean life takes a whole lot of money, and so Bill decides to steal a fortune from his employer before skipping town.

With a bag of cash in the trunk of his car, Bill heads west, ready for a new life. But all that money makes him a tempting target for some bad people he meets on the road—and if that wasn’t dangerous enough, some old friends are close behind him, and they intend to make a trophy of his head.

Pursued by crooked cops, dimwitted bouncers, and a wisecracking assassin in the midst of a midlife crisis, Bill will need to be a quick study in the way of the gun if he wants to survive his own getaway. Who knew that an honest attempt at redemption could rack up a body count like this?

A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is a gonzo noir journey into obsession, violence, and the power of love.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Dark Yonder

By David Nemeth

Jan Pruitt
The newly released anthology, "Dark Yonder", is more than a bunch of writers toasting the opening of Eryk Pruitt and Lana Pierce's bar, Yonder: Southern Cocktails & Brew, it is also a celebration of the work and life of Eryk's mother, Jan Pruitt, who died in January 2017. Jan "served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB)  from 1997-2016." The NTFB provides 200,000 meals every day to residents of North Texas. A portion of the money raised from the sales of "Dark Yonder" will go to the NTFB.

I don't know what spurred Liam Sweeny to suggest the creation of "Dark Yonder", but kudos to Sweeny as he managed to round up twenty-plus writers from California to Maine and release a smartly-done book within six months or so. Quite an accomplishment.

Many of you will be reading this post while celebrating Thanksgiving (U.S.). If you are getting ready to stuff your belly with turkey (or a vegan substitute) or are in some sort of food coma, why not spend a paltry $12.99 purchase a paperback copy of "Dark Yonder". Not only will you get some great tales of crime and mayhem, in a very real way you'll be helping feed people that are experiencing difficult times.

Below is the beginnings of my story, "Retribution", which is included in "Dark Yonder".

New York closed his eyes, smiled, and fell off his bar stool. The bartender leaned over the bar and scanned the drunk for blood and bones. None, all Eryk saw was New York passed out on the barroom floor. 
“Fucking New York." 
Eryk’s phone vibrated. Lana said that she’d be by after closing. He put his phone away and focused on the problem at hand: New York. He shook his head, turned off the music, and walked around the bar. When Eryk crouched down next to New York to check his breathing, he told the onlookers that he had him. 
“You sure?” someone asked. 
Another voice from behind, “You shouldn’t have over-served him.” Eryk turned and saw Bocce Ball, a bald guy who always paid cash and always, always complained that they covered up the bocce ball pit. Eryk couldn’t remember a time when he saw Bocce Ball playing bocce ball. He didn’t have the patience to deal with Bocce Ball tonight. Eryk stood and announced that Yonder was closing up early. “Sorry, y’all missed last call.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


"How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure."

  That is a quote from the greatest novel about the nature of righteous revenge ever written THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.
  Dumas's epic tale of Edmond Dantes and his quest for revenge reverberates with readers over a hundred years after it was first published because revenge, like love or hate is one of the great universal desires. Every man woman or child has at one time or another contemplated or actively sought revenge.

"Beware the fury of a patient man." John Dryden.

   There are philosophers, clerics, life coaches and "woke" individuals who will tell you that the best revenge is living well. They pontificate on the futility of vengeance. They will tell you to dig two graves or some other pithy statement. And in the larger scheme of things they're right. We should rise above the petty animalistc need to see the faces of our enemies awash with tears as everything they hold dear is reduced to cinders.
 But for a moment let's pretend that we are not so enlightened. For the crime writer revenge is on the Mount Rushmore of character motivation along with love, hate and greed. It's the visceral expression of rage and the literal repudiation of helplessness. For the crime writer, to paraphrase Gordon Gekko, Revenge is good.

"I will hurt you for this. I don't know how yet but give me time. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy and suddenly you joy will turn to ashes in your mouth and you will know the debt has been paid." George RR. Martin.

 Crime fiction is littered with novels about relentless fury that becomes unrelenting revenge.  Murder on the Orient Express is as close as Christie ever got to hardboiled but it's a masterful tale of revenge as the cold dish of yore and the lengths one will go to exact that pound of flesh. The solution to the mystery is of course fabulous but the motivation for the crime is heartbreaking. Mr. Ratchett got off easy if you ask me.
      Now for something completely different Sweet Sweetback Badass Song , often cited as one of the first blaxploitation movies is also a nice and nasty tale of revenge. Melvin Van Peebles imbues Sweetback with a hard won dignity as he seeks revenge not only against a couple of crooked cops but against a society that treats him like little more than a beast.

           "They're all dead. They just don't yet." James O'Barr The Crow..

One of my favorite modern takes on the idea of dark justice is Adrian Mckinty's Dead May I Well Be.. Mckinty combines a tale of illicit love with a story of grim and implacable revenge. The scenes of Michael Forsythe, an Irish gangster, crawling across the Mexican desert the only thing keeping him alive his desire to kill the crime boss who betrayed him will leave you breathless.

      The idea of revenge is taken to the Nth degree by the comic book character The Punisher. Frank Castle becomes the walking embodiment of Nemesis when he sees his family brutally murdered by the Mob. The Punisher is both a thrilling adventure and a cautionary tale. Frank is so consumed with vengeance and punishing the guilty he becomes a bit of a benevolent serial killer. The skull he wears on his shirt doesn't represent the deaths of his enemies so much as it represents the death of his soul.

           "Your knife my back. My gun your head." Final Episode, Asking Alexandre

The Hunter by Richard Stark is one of the great minimalist tales of revenge. Parker's partner and his wife tried to kill him and stole his cut of a robbery. Parker is quite perturbed by this so he goes about getting his money back and killing those who have wronged him. The story has a cool clinical atmosphere and the inevitability of Parker is like a force of nature. He is the rain washing away his adversaries. He is the sea swallowing up their lives.

    "If you hurt that lady you'll never be dead enough." Danny Costanzo Running Scared.

           Two films that have stuck with me for a long long time that explore the toll vengeance takes on all of those involved are Oldboy and Unforgiven. In both there is not catharsis. There is only pain and violence and blood. The guilty are punished because we are all guilty and no one escapes unscathed. As William Munny says. "Deserves got nothing to do with it."

         "Fool that I am" said he" that I did not tear out my heart the day I resolved to revenge myself." The Count of Monte Cristro

       In the end for all the toe curling satisfaction that revenge can bring as we live vicariously through imaginary characters seeking redress of imagined slights the truth is in this drab and plain reality revenge and the seeking of it rots us from the inside out. It twists us into vile things that cannot be trusted with our own emotions. In the real world the best revenge is better left to karma.
    That being said you hurt someone I love and there is no Hell deep enough to protect you from me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

And Thanks Goes To...

With Thanksgiving coming up, I figured I'd mark the occasion here by writing down a few of the lines about writing that have stuck with me over the years.  These are points about writing that either struck a strong chord in me when I encountered them or taught me something I can always refer to. They are writing mind cleansers if you will.

So here goes:

Thanks to the novelist and my old college professor John Gardner (who I had for part of one semester at Binghamton University till he died in a motorcycle crash) for emphasizing in his great book The Art of Fiction that good fiction should be "a vivid and continuous dream" -- a point I've never forgotten since I first read it over 35 years ago and something I try to achieve every time I write a story or novel.

Thanks to the novelist Muriel Spark for her line in Loitering With Intent, where her narrator, who is writing a novel, says that she treats a story "with a light and heartless mind, as is my way when I have to give a perfectly serious account of things." This is an approach, a way of looking at things, that happens to agree with me, and serves as a reminder that being all heavy and somber in fiction doesn't necessarily mean you are being more "serious" or more truthful than a writer handling things quite differently.

Thanks to Clive Barker for something he said in an interview I read years back (I don't even remember where) -- that the more brutal and horrible the events he's describing on the page become, the more elegant he makes his prose. I've always loved this idea of turning on the elegance, the burnished style, during the moments in a story when the things depicted are disturbing and atrocious. Let's say you can create a real frisson in the reader.

Thanks to Jorge Luis Borges who in one of his essays says something to this effect: why write a novel of four or five hundred pages when you can say everything you need to say in six or seven pages?  Of course, not everyone, and certainly not me, can pack as much into six or seven pages as Borges can, but I take his words as a constant prompt to condense, shorten, keep things tight.  So many novels you read absolutely do not need to be as long as they actually are.

And finally, let's end this by thanking that tireless office worker, Franz Kafka.  Something of his that I've taken a lot from is this line (quoted, by the way, in Paul Bowles' novel, The Sheltering Sky).  It's a line that's a bit enigmatic and yet, as applied to giving oneself to writing, somehow makes perfect sense: "From a certain point onward, there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached."

One could go on with a list like this, but let's leave it here.  There's plenty, I think, to chew on from these five greats.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Yippee kay-ay!

What is your favorite Christmas movie? Home Alone? It’s a Wonderful Life? Elf? How about Christmas Vacation? When you think of curling up on the couch for a good cuddle and Christmas flick, with popcorn and hot cocoa, do you think of Die Hard?

There are plenty of people who consider Die Hard a holiday movie, but can we really put it in that category?

We’ve been divided for years, okay maybe two or three, over this hot button topic. Some believe that because there’s no Santa or reindeer, and the movie came out in July that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. However, the film takes place at Christmas. There are carols and trees. Holiday travel. 

To put this brutal debate to rest we’ve decided to take the question to some of the brightest minds in our community. 

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?


Ed Aymar


The Unrepentant

Reader, it is not.

Listen, I love Die Hard. I consider it a classic. But it fails to adhere to the one fundamental rule of being a Christmas movie - it doesn't NEED to be a Christmas movie. Die Hard could have just as easily have been set in Easter, or Thanksgiving, or New Years, or National Cat Day. A few jokes would have to be adjusted, and Grumpy Cat would obviously need to make a cameo (R.I.P.), but that's it.

If, say, Bruce Willis had teamed up with Santa Claus and Claus had been indispensable to the plot (Santa was packing and his bag of toys was filled with guns and bombs), then sure. Absolutely. Did they? They did not. The cowards.

Anyway, the point is, that carpet rubbing thing is great advice.

I don’t know!

Joe Clifford


Rag and Bone

The "Is Die Hard a Christmas" movie has always felt a little like a rock-and-roll question. I know. A little tangential. But hold on. It's like the Clash. I know I should like Joe Strummer better. He's way cooler than Mick. But I think Mick wrote the better songs. Same with Keith and Mick (Jagger). Same with Paul and John. John is cooler, but, frankly, Paul wrote the better songs. Which is a long way of saying that I WANT Die Hard to be a Christmas movie. I am on the side of those who think it is. Because that is the cooler answer. But ultimately? I fall on the other (less cool) side.


Nikki Dolson


All Things Violent

Friends, gather ‘round. It’s the holidays and yes Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

Christmas is for family and you know what John McClane is trying to do? Get his family! So, they can be together! Make amends before another year turns. He doesn’t want to be alone, like all those other holidays that wouldn’t work because Christmas is the most stressful family-oriented holiday on the planet and you know what? You show up anyway.

You don’t put the holiday on hold. You don’t watch the game afterward (Thxgiving). You don’t crash after a sugar high (Easter baskets). Christmas? You drive across the country, you buy last minutes gifts, you do whatever you hafta, even if that means making sure someone gets flung off the Nakatomi.

Christmas is about family. Die Hard is about family. Die Hard = Christmas.


Michelle Turlock-Isler

Noir/Crime Super-Fan

Just because a Christmas party was involved does not make it a Christmas movie. I am not a Christmas person so I do not hunt down Christmas related movies. Die Hard is just a good action flick. Great one-liners and suspense. Good guys... Bad guys. Just entertaining.


Eryk Pruitt



DIE HARD is most definitely a Christmas movie if, for no other reason, the opportunity of nostalgia it affords us. After all, is that not what the classic holiday flicks—like It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story—were all about? DIE HARD gives us that nostalgia when:

Sgt. Al Powell stands outside the gas station and reveals gasoline once cost .79 cents

Argyle boasts about his limo’s list of obsolete technology which, in 1988, was top-of-the-line: “CD, CB, TV, telephone, full bar, VHS…”

Ellis’ predilection for cocaine…I mean, how eighties can you get?

And don’t forget the redemptive arc for the policeman who accidentally shot and killed an unarmed kid.

All of this, and the movie ends with Vaughn Monroe’s version of “Let It Snow.”

You say “DIE HARD  isn’t a Christmas movie” and I say “Yippee kay-ay motherfu—“

Sunday, November 24, 2019

19 Crimes, or Wine with a Story

By Claire Booth
This weekend, I experienced a multimedia, full-blown, immersive, slightly unsettling history lesson--with booze. I loved it, needless to say. The wine is called 19 Crimes, after the list of offenses that got you forcibly transported to Australia by those heartless Brits in the 1700s and 1800s. And it has an app. Now, there might be lots of wine companies out there that have apps (I'm certainly not up on my wine marketing enough to know), but this hook is ingenious. You focus in on the wine bottle, and the mug shot on the front starts talking to you, telling you the convict's story in ghostly animation.

You can read about a few of the convicts here. And you can find out more about the quite good wine here. I wouldn't normally plug a company, but after giving me such a good old-fashioned storytelling experience in such a high-tech way, I think these folks earned it. If you end up buying a bottle, let me know if you agree.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 47

Scott D. Parker

The third full week of November also counts as the third full week of NaNoWriMo 2019. Still having fun yet?   I know I am.

This week's writing sessions were mainly action scenes. The hero of my tale got himself in a heap of trouble--as heroes are supposed to do--and he's not out of the woods yet.

The one thing I'm consciously doing with this book is the process of cycling. Here's how that works. I write in the morning. When I open the Chromebook, I re-read the stuff I wrote on the previous day's afternoon session, revising, editing, tweaking as I go. On those lunchtime sessions, I review the morning's writing. By the time I get to the blank part of the screen, I'm ready to forge ahead. It's a pretty decent way of writing...and nothing new. Really. But I'm actively doing that this time. Unlike earlier books when I sort of winged it.

The process had paid dividends. It's made for a tighter writing process, one that, by the time I finish this manuscript, will need less editing that normal. That's a huge bonus.

And I should hit the 50,000-word mark before Thanksgiving, but I'm not sure the book will be done by 30 November. I think this book will be more than 50,000 words, which brings up an important question: What is more important: finish the book or finish the 50,000 words in November?

Here’s why. If you can conceivably complete the book by the end of November, then go ahead and get there. If you don’t think you can make that deadline...but do think you can complete the book a few days after 30 November, then make the adjustment. Because, when you get right down to it, the reason you started NaNoWriMo in the first place was to complete a book. The 50,000-word mark was only a trick, a hack, to get many writers started. Your book may only be 45,000. If so, then congrats! You’ve written a book. Your book may actually not be done until you get to 95,000 or more. Your book is your book. Do your adjustments as you see fit.

But this last week of NaNoWriMo 2019 is the final push. You can do it. I did it. I'm doing it now. Millions of others did, too. Come back next week and we can discuss what to do when you successfully reach your own end goal.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Static from Beau

This week, Beau Johnson takes a look at American Static, from Tom Pitts.

"An absorbing and highly charged story of violent payback with considerable collateral damage." -- Kirkus Reviews


After being beaten and left for dead, Steven finds himself stranded alongside the 101 in a small Northern California town. When a mysterious stranger named Quinn offers a hand in exchange for help reuniting with his daughter in San Francisco, Steven gets in the car and begins a journey from which there is no return.

Quinn has an agenda all his own and he’s unleashing vengeance at each stop along his path. With a coked-up sadist ex-cop chasing Quinn, and two mismatched small town cops chasing the ex-cop, Steven is unaware of the violent tempest brewing.

Corrupt cops and death-dealing gangsters manipulate the maze each of them must navigate to get to the one thing they’re all after: Teresa, the girl holding the secret that will rip open a decades-old scandal and scorch San Francisco’s City Hall.

Steven finds Teresa homeless and strung out as their pursuers close in and bodies begin to pile high on the Bay Area’s back streets. Hand in hand Steven and Teresa lead the mad parade of desperate men to edge of the void.

American Static is a fast paced crime thriller with a mystery woven in. It’s played out against the backdrop of Northern California’s wine country, Oakland’s mean streets, and San Francisco’s peaks and alleys, written by one of its favorite sons, a man who knows the underbelly of the city like no one else. American Static’s prose has been compared to Elmore Leonard, Richard Price, and Don Winslow.

Advance Praise for American Static:

“American Static is a stunning achievement and nobody could have written it but Tom Pitts. Pitts ain't just the real deal: he set the mold for what the real deal is, and the rest of us are just plastic copies.” —Benjamin Whitmer, author of Pike and Cry Father.

“American Static grabs you by the collar and drags you through a dirty, dangerous tour of San Francisco. Tom Pitts serves up noir just the way you want it—dark, relentless, and inevitable.” —Rob Hart author of New Yorked, City of Rose, and South Village.

“American Static is a remarkable novel, a ride with brilliant twists and turns and a relentless momentum, racing to an ending both unavoidable and unexpected.” —Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball.

“American Static is a hot dose of pure adrenaline that will leave you gasping for breath and begging for more.” —Owen Laukkanen, author of The Forgotten Girls.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Gurl, be a Man!

Look at this charmer, sitting there in his straw hat, amidst the taupe-tiled spotlit minimalist bathroom of his graciously appointed midtown apartment and displaying his collection of male cosmetics.

Kyle Lee (for it is he) popped up on my Twitter feed this week, on what happened to be International Men’s Day.

Now, I need to be clear here: He – and his odious little quote – popped up on my Twitter feed. And I got angry. I rarely get angry on or about something I see on Twitter these days, and I try very very hard (and of late pretty successfully) to avoid becoming part of any of the Twitter torch-wielding outrage mobs.

But as I sat reading how Kyle – in an article with the New York Post about the increasing market for male cosmetics – commented that he would “be embarrassed to go to the makeup department in Bloomingdale’s because [he]  think(s) it screams ‘gay’ or ‘feminine’” – I got angry and I allowed my righteous anger to encase me like a tea-tree and geranium-scented seaweed body wrap.

Kyle, the article proceeds to announce, is “a hat designer who runs his own brand, He is gay but says that he doesn’t like being stereotyped”.

And to that – while still angry, and before I’d had a chance for a more considered response – my only reaction was: “Stereotyped? Afraid of being Stereotyped? GURL, I KNOW YOU’VE GOT A MIRROR. TAKE A LOOK IN IT COS YOU ARE FAR LESS CHARLES INGALLS THAN YOU ARE NELLIE OLSEN!”

Then I realised that (a) I was being vitriolic and (b) most people won’t get my Little House on the Prairie references, because most people weren’t stuck indoors watching reruns of the show from the ages of six to sixteen because going outside meant there was a good chance someone would spit at you, throw something at you, ignore you, laugh at you or just call you a Pansy with the tone of disgust that, to this day, makes my stomach clench with a mixture of anxiety and fear.

And you know what else that tone used to cause in me? A wave of self loathing.

And that, quite frankly – that self-loathing – is evident in Kyle’s comment. He thinks being ‘gay’ or ‘feminine’ is something to be ashamed of. Because the world has told him, since he was a little boy playing Milliner while the other boys were playing fireman, that ‘that’s a girl’s job’ or ‘those are girls’ toys’ and he’s – despite the fact that he claims to be an out Homosexual (though the words ‘and proud’ are oddly missing from his description in the piece) – still, deep inside himself, is aware that he’s, at best, silly, and at worst, disgusting.

And that – once I got over the anger that someone who looks like the Mayor of Gaytown could actually say something so stupid – made me quite sad.

It was international Men’s Day, a day when we were encouraged to consider what it means to be a man, and to reflect on both the positive elements of being a man and the negative. But I found myself thinking about what it means to be ‘feminine,’ and why that would be perceived by someone like dear Kyle as something unpalatable.

Cos we all know this isn’t just men. Girls, too, are constantly shoehorned into preconceived notions of what it means to be a girl or to be feminine. Like baking and pink unicorns, you’re a little princess. Express an interest in wearing boots and growing up to be a vulcanologist, you’re… less so. But whilst society has expended a fair degree of energy on trying to address this gender stereotyping where girls are concerned, there’s still a message sent to boys that to be anything other than a rufty tufty manboy is a cause for concern.

In my life, I have had female role models who went out to work for their families and brought home a wage; who fought like lionesses for their pride and for what was right. My father was a stay-at-home parent for many years, making breakfast lunch and dinners for my brother, mother and I, and who took the time to sit with me and do my homework. They were people in an economic situation that forced them both to take on roles that neither had expected they would when they were growing up.

But they took them on, because they were pragmatic, loving, and giving, and because they were a partnership. They cared about their loved ones and they cared about themselves, and they saw nothing embarrassing, nothing shameful about being who they were and doing what they needed to do.

But poor Kyle, and people like him – and I include myself in that – are… well, some of the more discredited psychological opinions on homosexuality used to assert that it was a result of a retardation of emotional and or sexual maturation. We never really grew up, therefore we were never really able to leave same-sex crushes or sex for pure pleasure as opposed to the concept of sex as the means of procreation, behind us.

Bullshit, of course, and yet… and yet there is an element of truth (there’s an element of truth in most things, except in any statement that begins “Donald Trump is a Genius because…). The pervasive childhood linkage is one of abuse. And we never leave it behind.

If you’re told every day, either explicitly or via the fact that your culture, your world simply does not reflect you, that you are less than, that you barely exist, it’s easy to retain, for the rest of your life, a strand of that “Worthlessness” running through your DNA.
It’s a scar, and like physical scars brought on by childhood physical abuse, it will probably never entirely vanish. But you can learn to see it for what it is: a reminder of how things used to be and not of how they have to be forever. Someone with a physical scar can look themselves in the mirror and know that they are stronger and more beautiful for having survived and thrived from that trauma, or they can hide in dark rooms hating their appearance and avoiding people who might see the scar. They can liberate themselves from their past, or they can allow that scar to become a whole new form of abuse – self-perpetuated abuse, this time.

And those who bear the spiritual scars of the jeering mocking hatred of a society that tells boys ‘it’s shameful to wear makeup’, or ‘it’s disgusting to want to hold another boy’s hand’  can be the same. They can see it for what it is, or they can allow that shame-scar to make them embarrassed to be seen as “too gay”.

And yet. And yet.

I was afraid of being ghettoised. I wanted the books to be seen as ‘not just gay’. I was afraid I would be looked down on by the industry or that I would lose out on opportunities if I was ‘the gay one’, or that all I would ever be allowed to be was ‘the gay one’.

Can you see where this was coming from?

Somewhere deep inside of me – so deep I’d basically forgotten the cavern even existed – voices were telling me that “Gay” wasn’t as good as “Straight,” that being seen as only a “Gay writer” would be limiting, that being “the gay one” would, in some way, make me less than the other writers I knew.

I was Kyle Lee (minus, it must be said, the natty chapeau, but have you looked at the price of those fucking things? All I’m sayin’ is Kyle doesn’t need to sell many of those each month to pay for his taupe tiling and selection of cosmetic products). I was Kyle Lee and it took a lot of therapy and a few tragedies for me to realise what I truly hope he discovers soon: Nothing* you do is ever shameful if what you are doing is being an authentic open version of yourself.

Full disclosure: I have a spotlit taupe bathroom, a cupboard full of products (Kyle, girl, call me: I got some coupons for the Shiseido counter at Bergdorfs) and a pre-disposition to hating myself because I was trained to.

But you know what? I try to love myself, and I try to love other people, no matter how masc, femme, fat, thin, black, white, latino, asian, bald, hairy, camp or butch, dull or sparkly. Because if we – LGBTQI people – are ever going to stop the world hating us, are going to stop politicians and bigots trying to destroy our pride and erase us once more, we have a long and constant battle on our hands, and it’s going to have to start close to home.

(*within, obviously reason: I mean, shopping for foundation and powder is not shameful; wearing white after Labour Day ought to be grounds for a justified Homicide defence).


Derek Farrell is the author of 6 Danny bird mysteries. “Death of a Diva,” “Death of a Nobody,” “Death of a Devil,”and  “Death of an Angel” can all be purchased from the usual e-stores or directly from the publisher here. The fifth, “Come to Dust,” is available exclusively as a free download from his website . The sixth - Death of a Sinner - is a Fahrenheit69 Tete Beche Novella and is published in a joint edition with Ko Perry’s “Everything Happens.” It can be purchased here

His jobs have included: Burger dresser, Bank teller, David Bowie’s paperboy, and Investment Banker on the 80th floor of the World Trade Centre.

He’s never off social media and can be found at.
Twitter: @DerekIFarrell (
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