On White Privilege

The events of the last few weeks have been disheartening.  I am really worried about where this country is headed in terms of race relations.  Of course, social media has been a source of both inspiration and frustration.  And one theme that keeps appearing is that of “white privilege”.

What surprises me is that some people, typically white males, will argue that white privilege doesn’t exist.

Speaking as a white male, I know that it does exist.

I can go for a run any time of the day and not fear getting stopped by the police.

I can wear a hoodie and walk around a strange neighborhood and not fear getting stopped by the police.

I can drive my truck anywhere I want. I can probably even roll through a stop sign and not get stopped by a police officer if he/she saw it.

There are many, many things I can do and not worry about getting pulled over or arrested.

I cannot imagine what it would be like not to be able to do those things.

The proponents for the absence of white privilege often use the argument that they know what it’s like to walk into a bar filled with the Other.  They know what it’s like to drive into a neighborhood in South Tucson and have people stare at them funny. And I laugh at these arguments.

They have the choice to leave.  And, more importantly, these events happen so rarely that one cannot simply compare those to what it is like every day of the week. Knowing that when you leave the house in the morning, you will be scrutinized by law enforcement, simply because of the color of your skin.

On the other side of the coin, I’m sickened and saddened by the events in Dallas last night. Five police officers killed, by a sniper who admitted to negotiators that he wanted to kill white people, particularly cops. My dad was law enforcement, my uncle was law enforcement, and some of my good friends are police officers. I’ve spent my entire life around police officers.  Good police officers who would willingly do anything to protect and serve.  It is understatement to describe how I felt this morning when I read the news.

What is the answer?

I don’t know if there is one. I’m scared a race war will break out. I’m scared that more police officers will be targeted. I’m scared for my friends who are non-White.

I’m hoping to see open dialogue. I’m praying for compassion.


“Teddy” – Update

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since “Room 108” was self-published on Kindle.  Some of my friends have been reaching out asking about new material.  One even asked me to name a character after her.  I will.  All of this is extremely flattering and I feel like I’ve been letting people down.

A short update on “Teddy”: I’ve been working away on this for a year.  What started as a short story last summer turned into a novella this last month.  And while I thought I had an end in sight, the characters kept developing and the story line kept going.  Some times these things take on a life of their own and I just try to keep up.

It is a ghost story.  Not to divulge too much, but it is a story about a young couple with a toddler.  As the title indicates, the new and unexplained presence of a teddy bear begins to cause some unrest in the family.  That’s all I can say 😉

And all those other short stories in my head are still hanging out and fermenting. But all my time as been devoted to “Teddy”.  They’ll come when I have time.

On a side note, I recently came across a poem I wrote ten years.  I had submitted it then to the Paris Review and proudly told one of my literary friends.  He laughed and said good luck, they only publish poems by established poets.  Sure enough, I got a rejection slip in the mail.  Last month I re-submitted to it a small webzine that specializes in poetry. A month later, I got another rejection letter.  I promptly re-submitted it.  It’s still being reviewed. I’m not perturbed.  Poems are really hard to get published. I even tweaked this one a little because it was a little melodramatic.

I often look back at who I used to be and smile. I wish I knew then what I know now.


“All that Ever Was” – Autobiographical memoir or Fiction?

Or both?

“All that Ever Was” is the novel I’m working on.  It’s sometimes frightening how some personal experiences seep into the thoughts and actions of the characters.  We’ve all heard the adage: Write what you know.

Maybe this why my initial forays into writing were fantasy, science fiction and horror.  I could make stuff up.  All of it.  Though, in retrospect, some of it was influenced by fantasy novels and terrible horror movies.  The kind my sister and I would rent on VHS at the local video store.  An examination of the cover and a cursory look at the plot on the background, usually covered somewhat by a “Be Kind. Rewind” sticker, was all it took.

Cleaning some office space last month, I encountered these early writings.  I think I started when I was 12 or something.  I remember spending hours on the computer, just writing. I kept everything.

Now however, there are so many experiences, experiences I’ve accumulated over the years that have colored my writing. I do write what I know.  Loss.  Happiness.  Grief.  Anger.  Personal battles.  These all come out.

One of the best compliments I got about “Favorite Nephew” was from my aunt.  She wrote a beautiful summary on facebook about how we have a tendency not to confront some of our obstacles and the possible repercussions.  She got it. She got what I was trying to share.

“When the heart grieves for what is lost, the spirit rejoices over what it has left.”

What is left?

The desire to share, the need to make something “bad” into something “good”, creativity, increased awareness and sympathy towards those who are feeling the same way.

Two nights ago, I sat down with my laptop and attempted to bring in a third character.  It was tough.  I’ve written from a female’s perspective before, so that didn’t make it tough.  It was trying to show how integral she was to the story, a story that up until then, revolved around two very strong male characters.  However, once I imagined her sense of vulnerability, it started to come out.  Within 20 minutes, (I think, I lost track of time), I had written 2-3 pages about her: a harried woman, well aware of her emotional limitations.  More importantly though, she fit.  Like a puzzle piece.  Her role, her thoughts, her actions, fit perfectly with the story.

It’s hard to stop and look for the good that is left.  But it’s important that we do.

Finding time and Journaling

It’s been a pretty busy few weeks. Work, gym, work, gym. I’ve been trying to work both jobs and find time to write. I’ll even make a note to myself to take my laptop to bed with me and just write something. Anything. But then I forget and fall asleep.

All is not lost. I’ve been journaling like a preteen on the eve of a sleep over or junior prom.  I’ve been doing this since I was a freshman in college.  I go through spurts.  There’s years that are unaccounted for.  But whenever there’s a period of intense stress/grief/anger/sadness, I’m back to it.

It’s old school.  Meaning that I use a pen.  I find that this slows me down and I’m able to get my thoughts out. It’s not coherent.  It’s messy as hell. And I’m sure a psychoanalyst, preferably of the Freudian school, would have a hey day.

There is no audience (thankfully) except myself.  So I dont have to watch my grammar or worry if I’ll hurt anyone’s feelings.

So while the short story and my novel is on hold, I’ll journal.  It’s the act of writing that is important.  It’s the act of articulating concerns that is important. It’s the creation of a thought, or specifically, the recreation of a thought or action. It eases the guilt of not doing what I want to do. It also reins in, for a brief moment, all these thoughts.

Self Publishing (and the ease of writing gay porn)

One of the challenges of self publishing is that you don’t have the weight/power of a publishing house working for you. Essentially, the author needs to do the work for him/herself. Which means I become a pain in the ass on facebook and twitter (#noshameinmygame). I try to post things on facebook periodically. Usually if I’m excited about a jump in rank or if I’m offering something free for a short period.

Twitter is an entirely different breed though. Initially I was pleased by how many followers I picked up once I started following self publication sites. Then I realized most of those followers were as relentless as some of my facebook friends marketing their pyramid schemes. One guy sent an email to every one of his followers daring them to read some of his novel.

I unfollowed him after that.

There’s a fine line between shamelessly promoting yourself on social media and being respectful of friendships.

Unfortunately, I do see a jump in downloads and sales when I post something on facebook. So it works.

When I was promoting the free weekend for “Favorite Nephew” on twitter, I used the hashtag #gaylit.  Ten downloads before I even posted on facebook. Wow. Then I took a look at what books my viewers were also looking at. Titles like “My Daughter’s Boyfriend”, “Gay Locker Room Adventures, Part 2”, and “Hot Bartender”, all with covers of half naked men.

I can imagine the reader’s surprise when they found out that my story is about a lesbian. No pornography, no nakedness (though Nathan goes swimming, I don’t mention his wet, tanned, and supple body, pulling through the water effortlessly.  His swimming shorts clung to his muscular buttocks. His strokes were indeed something to wonder at and I couldn’t help but imagine those youthful arms wrapped around me.)

Nope, just a plain story about a lesbian.

“Teddy” is coming along and I really want to have it done by the end of the summer.

Time Management

I’ve got three short stories brewing. One is about ten pages completed but I hit a wall. I’m trying to develop one of the characters and I’m going nowhere. The character in question is a two year old and it’s been more than forty years since I experienced that. I have family and friends with toddlers, so I’m thinking about my experiences with them. I just have a feeling any parent reading this story will know that I dont have a kid.

Overall though, it’s a good story. I think. I’ve been thinking about this one for a while. Most of my stories start out as ideas, then story lines as I try to sleep at night, then “pen to paper”.

Time is an issue though. I work a typical 8-5 job. I try to get to the gym 4 times a week. When it’s not over 100 degrees, I get to the field and practice my hammers and weight for distance. I try to spend time with my girlfriend and our dogs. I’ll also admit to a slight addiction to GTA V. My goal is to start bringing my laptop to bed at night and just write. Write something. And during my breaks at work, I’ll do some editing.

It’s tough.

On Reviews

Not a sore point. Just a point. I hate leaving reviews on Amazon. I hate getting emails from Amazon reminding to leave a review. I do understand the importance of it though.

Periodically I make one of my short stories free for a weekend. I do ask the reader to leave a review. So far: 2 reviews for “Cold Call”, 2 for “Room 108” and 1 for “Favorite Nephew”.

I understand people are busy. I do.

I just hope that is what it is about. And not a “Yikes, Derek is my friend and this story really sucked and I dont want to tell him that and I also dont want to lie. So I just wont do anything.”

Finally putting this stuff out there took a lot. It’s like that matzo ball hanging out there, saying “I love you” to someone and they dont reply. It’s like the sound of crickets in a room.

On influences

I’ve been thinking about this for some time. Who and what influences my writing?

Let’s start with the “what”?

I’ve always had an active imagination. I can’t think of a time in which I didn’t get lost in my thoughts. But, to be honest, most of the ideas that I get for my short stories come from dreams.

“Cold Call” came from a dream in which I had walked into someone’s house, unbeknownst to them, and encountered a woman, with her back to me, crying at the kitchen sink.

“The Shrine”, which is still being written, came from a dream in which I was hiking in the desert and came across a wooden door in hillside. And for some reason, there were baseball caps scattered all around the base of the door. This story is turning into something Lovecraftian.

Yes, that’s a hint.

Who are my influences?

In my early teens, I read everything I could by Stephen King. “‘Salem’s Lot”, “It”, and “Pet Semetary” remain some of the scariest things I’ve read. ‘Salems Lot is one of my favorite books. His propensity to create so many characters, with their thoughts, stuck with me. Characters. Believable characters. Characters like you and I. So when something nefarious occurs, you believe it. That could happen to you. It could happen to me.

Other influences would be Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and M.R. James. I love the “old style” writing of James. Just classic ghost stories. No gore, no violence, just a simple story.

Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story” is another masterful piece. It’s long and well developed. So much attention paid to the story, you can’t help but appreciate the work.

More recently, Joe Hill. His writing is very similar to his fathers in that the characters are so well developed.

I think other influences could be noted: movies. In many ways, I try to present my story as one would see on the screen. Blunt, to the point, and perhaps surprising. The only problem with that is that there is very little suspense or follow up. It just happens.

For example, in “Room 108”, the protagonist, Tessa, finally has a day off. She is alone in her apartment, concerned about the events of the last few weeks. She draws a bath:

“She slipped into the tub, gasping slightly as the hot water wrapped itself around her.  Once her body adapted to the temperature, she slipped in deeper, letting the water climb to just below her ears.  She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, inhaling and noting the odd scent of the hot water.  Soap and shampoo residue from previous showers, with a hint of bleach from a cleaning two weeks ago.  She submerged her head fully into the water and listened to her heart beat in her ears.  Her hair draped over her shoulders as she sat back up into the tub.

Her eyes were still closed and she could feel her muscles loosen, especially around her shoulders, which had been tight the last three days.  Every morning she would awake with a slight headache from the tension in her back and this relief was helping a lot.

“Sometimes the water is too hot.”

Someone spoke to her.”

To the point. No suspense. The reader, I hope, doesn’t expect that. Just like a good horror film. There are too many gimmicks in films now and for a seasoned viewer like myself and many of you, I already know in advance when something is to occur. I dont like doing that in my writing.

Take a read and leave a review on amazon:


Maybe that will be my next blog post….wondering about the lack of reviews.

Until then.