T.J. Masters
Passionately Writing. Writing Passion.

m/m romance

Community? What Community?

I first encountered the m/m community of readers, writers, publishers etc. a little over four years ago. I was enthralled by the fact that everyone was so warm and welcoming. Writers who, on the face of it were competitors, appeared to be the best of buddies and generally supportive of each other. It was a bit of a culture shock to discover that the majority of the community were women, both readers and writers. I welcomed the inclusivity of it all and I am happy to say that I have made some wonderful friends in the group.

Recent events have tarnished that point of view. We have endured dramas coming along one after another: catfishing, women writers, male writers, book piracy, LGBTQI rights, trolling and back-stabbing. At present the community sucks. I sometimes wonder how we have the hypocrisy to call ourselves a community at all.

We are supposed to be a community of writers and readers brought together by creativity and craft. I love the fact that social media has closed the distance, allowing our readers to interact with us, but expectations need to be managed. Writers need to write and we all have our own styles, our own values and beliefs and they should not be held to ransom or publicly trashed by readers who have a different set of beliefs or expectations. In my experience it is not uncommon to read a book that does not grab me in the way that others might. I do however, appreciate that there will be other readers out there who may love it. I simply close the book, chalk it up to experience and seek another author who may be writing what I want to read.

Even in our little community there are as many different styles of writer as there are readers picking up their books. We don’t have to love each other’s work but the least we can do is respect it and appreciate our shared endeavour. Surely the idea of a community is that a group of disparate individuals can come together in mutual respect and support for each other regardless of individual styles or circumstances? When you are aspiring or struggling, you need the group. When you are successful, the group needs you.

The biggest issues appear to be those outside the realms of the craft. The world in general has been brainwashed to accept dumbed down politics which includes bigotry, intolerance, bullying and the cult of personality. Our small world reflects that and I fear that the actions of a minority will tear apart all that is good about our community.

Wow, I hear you say. Tim is turning into the classic grumpy old man. Well yes, I may be, but somebody needs to stick their head above the parapet. I do not rant without reason and I am driven by two principles. Firstly I believe in the famous words of Edmund Burke:

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’

I cannot stand by and do nothing while our community destroys itself. Secondly, and to support that stance, I turn to the words of the poet Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

So forgive me while I rage!

The m/m genre is being hijacked by sexual politics. In our rush to highlight and to defend the rights of each sub-group, we are losing sight of the real goal of equality. There can be no place for homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, ageism or any of the other prejudices which we see every day, even in our own community! In a misguided attempt at defending their own particular in-group, I fear that some of us end up expressing the kinds of prejudiced views we are surely trying to stamp out.

 As a gay man I have spent the last 45 years struggling against homophobia, misunderstanding, bullying and even physical attacks, but always with the same goal in mind: equal rights. Not equal rights as a gay man, but equal rights as a human being. There is a fundamental difference here. I am not a man who identifies as gay. That suggests some choice in the matter. I am a gay man who identifies as human. I just want to be equal.

It is my belief that in our struggle to be identified under one letter of the alphabet or another, we actually compartmentalise ourselves and fragment our power. Of course that causes a problem for our allies. It’s quite clear that bigotry is alive and kicking in our community just as it is in the world at large. If you wish to be part of a community then you must respect the whole community.  An ally of one part of the group must be an ally of all. The goal for all must be equality for all. Equal human rights. We cannot pick and choose which flavours we like from the sweetie jar, or which are our favourite letters of the alphabet. By definition, the politics of equality must be about global equality.

And by the way, respect for the rights of others needs to start with respect for ourselves. Anyone who posts licentious images of men’s sexual organs or of men having sex together is no ally of gay men! We may write about such things in the context of a story but the posting of graphic images is insulting to the imagination of our readers and offensive to a great many gay men. You would not tolerate such sexualising of women so when did it become okay to do it to us? The same goes for anyone who delivers salacious accounts of their own sexual activities. Where is your self respect? It used to be said that those who boasted of their sexual encounters probably weren’t getting any, while those who were getting it didn’t have the time to talk about it.

Our community has a unique opportunity to be a beacon of excellence for equality and creativity. Of course we should discuss the politics but that needs to be done in a climate of mutual respect and understanding. There is always a place for debate and discourse in civilised society when empathy and understanding replace aggression and offensive language. Maybe we need a mission statement or a manifesto and if anyone has any ideas along those lines I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, lets play nicely. Lets be open to tolerance and inclusion. It’s time to grow up kids! Let’s show the world how it’s done.

New Release: Diary Dates

 

DiaryDatesFSThis Saturday saw the release of my latest story Diary Dates by Dreamspinner Press as part of their Christmas in July promotion. The story centres upon postgraduate student Andrew Chin who arrives in London not only to study, but to explore life away from his traditional family in Singapore. His adventure begins at the airport, where he finds the diary of a wealthy British businessman and endeavors to return it.

James Howard is twice Andrew’s age, and he’s not used to selfless youngsters. Despite a rocky first meeting, the two develop an unlikely friendship as James introduces Andrew to the city. James is looking forward to the festivities leading up to Christmas in London and maybe a celebration with Andrew. But will a nasty bout of the flu ruin their romantic holiday?

Not if Andrew has anything to say about it.

Excerpt

Andrew remembered the diary. Eager to get it back to its owner, he called the number he’d found in the book, but it went to voice mail.

A well-spoken masculine voice confirmed that it was the phone of James Howard. Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Andrew hung up while he decided what he was going to say. In the end he left a simple message telling Mr. Howard that he had found his diary at the airport and wanted to return it as soon as possible.

Jenny suggested they go out, so they left everything and ventured out into the busy London streets. After walking around, taking in the sights, they grabbed a sandwich for lunch from a coffee shop. Just as they were trying to decide where to try next, Andrew’s phone rang and he recognized the number on the screen as the same one that he had dialed earlier. Feeling a little nervous, Andrew answered. “Hello?”

“Hello, yes. You left a message earlier about my diary.” The man sounded business-like.

“Oh, yes, I think you left it at the airport. How can I bring it to you?”

“Thank you for calling me. My whole life is in that book. I will pay you a finder’s fee, of course. Can you bring it to me at my office?”

“I’m sorry, what is a finder’s fee?” Andrew had never heard the term before.

“I will pay you a reward for bringing the diary to me.” The man sounded a little impatient.

“Ah, no, Mr. Howard, I do not want any reward. Just to give your book back to you.” Such a thing had never occurred to Andrew, and it was certainly not what he intended. “I have only come to London today, but if you can tell me where to come so I will bring the diary to you.”

“My office is near Euston Station. Can you come there?”

Andrew remembered the name from the journey earlier. “Yes, I think that is not far. When can I come there?” He hoped that the man would not say now, because Andrew needed to go back to the flat to collect the diary first.

“I’ve got meetings this afternoon. Can you come at five o’clock?”

“Yes, sure.”

“I’ll text you the address. When you come to reception tell them who you are. They’ll be expecting you.”

“Okay, Mr. Howard. I’ll go there at five o’clock.”

For a moment Andrew thought the man was going to hang up without saying anything more, but then he suddenly asked, “Can you tell me your name?”

“Oh, sorry, sir. My name is Andrew, Andrew Chin.”

“Chinese name?”

“Yes sir, I arrived from Singapore today.”

“Okay, Andrew, I must go. Thanks for contacting me.”

“No problem, Mr. Howard.”

The man at the other end had already hung up. Andrew, in his usual kind way, assumed that the man’s abrupt manner on the phone was just because he was a busy, important person.

Andrew told Jenny what was going on, but she said she couldn’t go with him because she was having a tryout for a waitressing job later. A text from Mr. Howard provided Andrew the address of his office. After looking it up, he decided that he could make his way there on his own.

They wandered the streets for another couple of hours and then went back to the flat so that Jenny could get ready for work. While he was waiting, Andrew looked up James Howard’s company on the Internet. It was a world leader in technical ceramics and Mr. Howard was the company’s CEO.

Jenny had warned him that he would arrive at his destination far too early if he left just after four, but he was nervous about being late. So it was that just half an hour later he arrived at the address and found himself in front of a modern office building.

He still had another twenty minutes to wait for the appointed time. Not wanting to be seen yet, he carried on walking until he reached the end of the road, where a low wall marked the boundary of another building set back a little from the road. Sitting himself down on the wall, Andrew took off his rucksack and removed Mr. Howard’s diary in its protective plastic bag.

Beyond the initial search for the owner’s details, Andrew had left the book unopened. Once he had realized that the book was a diary, it became a private thing. Now, however, the thought that the diary was about to pass out of his hands again nudged Andrew to take a look at it. If nothing else, he wanted to see whether the diary would give him any clues about the man he was about to meet.

The thick band holding the book closed was essential, since it held so many loose bits of paper and business cards between its pages. Removing this carefully, Andrew ran his slender fingers over the spine and cover. The black surface felt almost like fine leather, although it was too thin to be real. All the entries in the diary were neatly written, probably with an ink pen. This idea seemed a bit old-fashioned, but at the same time quite stylish. The multiple appointments on almost every page showed that this James Howard was indeed a busy man.

One of the most telling things was the odd pages, which were full of doodles. These were either geometric patterns or tiny drawings, but all quite neat. Maybe some of those meetings were not so interesting.

Another curious observation was that there was little difference between some of the weekend pages and those for the weekdays. Did this man never take a day off?

DiaryDates_FBbanner_DSP

Dreamspinner buy link:

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/diary-dates-by-tj-masters-7305-b

Also available on Amazon and ARE

Breakfast at Timothy’s

Release date Wednesday 24th February 2016

My first new publication of the year will be released this week as part of the Dreamspinner Press Anthology: Simmer.

Simmer_FBbanner_DSP

Anthology description: There’s no denying preparing and eating food can be a sensuous experience and an experiment in pleasure. The men in these stories are about to find out just how satisfying it can be. From spicy to sweet and everything in between, things are heating up in the kitchen… and in the diner, on the food court, over the Internet, and even at a breakfast booth beyond the stars. Join them as they touch, taste, sample, and savor their way to steamy romance and maybe even a happy ever after that will last long after the dishes have been cleared.

As a confirmed foodie I could not resist the opportunity to write a story for this anthology. The book is packed full of great foodie stories from some amazing authors (see list below) and has recipes to match each romantic tale. Since my favourite meal of the day is undoubtedly breakfast the story gave me the perfect opportunity to pull together some great themes.

breakfastattimothys_FBprofile_OptizimedForFeed (002)Breakfast at Timothy’s begins with 24 year old post-graduate geology student Connor Wilson calling on his professor for a breakfast meeting in the hope of persuading the eminent man to be his academic supervisor. The professor lives in the village of Grantchester just outside the University city of Cambridge, England. Professor Timothy Shaw is a 46yr old highly respected geologist who has developed something of a personal mythology although his personal life appears to be a bit of a mystery.

Over the space of one week and a series of early morning breakfast meetings at Timothy’s home, attraction simmers between the two men and eventually it boils over into steamy passion. The student is seduced by food and the charm of the very fit older man. When his dream comes true it takes a surprising turn and yet  appears to be better than he could have ever hoped for.

Available now to pre-order as a paperback or ebook from Dreamspinner Press 

Anthology stories:

The Cake by Ann Marie James
All Is Well by Dale Cameron Lowry
Another Saturn Monday by R.A. Thorn
Man of Steel by Rob Rosen
Breakfast at Timothy’s by T.J. Masters
A Second Season by Tali Segel
Kneading You by C.S. Poe
If You Give an Incubus a Cookie by Ki Brightly
Moon Cakes by T. Neilson
Tortilla Pie by Rick R. Reed
Taste of the Forest, Dark and Sweet by Charles Payseur
Operation Wild Thumb by Tray Ellis
And Everything Nice by Ada Maria Soto

It’s a Gay Thing: Changing Expectations of Marriage Equality

Ten days ago in Ireland, for the first time anywhere, the question of marriage equality was put to the popular vote in a game changing referendum. I could not be more proud of the Irish people for their resounding “yes” to allowing same-sex partners to have true equality with heterosexual couples when it comes to marrying. Already cross the world other nations where the people have dreamed of such a thing, they are now demanding to know why if Ireland can do it, why can’t they. Hopefully we will soon see the present roll call of 20 nations allowing Marriage equality grow, as the ripple becomes an unstoppable tide of change.

Personally, I dislike the term ‘gay marriage’ because it suggests something for gay people. Actually, it is about equality with everyone else. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. I do absolutely believe that gay people should have the right to marry, to live as a committed couple and to raise children if they so choose. Of course while I celebrate the these advances I still question why human rights need to be voted on at all. Surely rights are just that and not open to choice.

I believe also that we should have exactly the same rights and the same range of options to choose from as everyone else. As human beings however, it is the choices we make and the way we adapt them to fit, which defines us. I would be infinitely saddened if I thought that all we had achieved was the option to simply live in an imitation of a traditional heterosexual marriage. I’m not knocking traditional marriage. It certainly has its place in society both for gay and straight couples. It should always be one of the options available.

However, (you knew that was coming didn’t you?), I firmly believe also, that homosexual couples have much to teach some of their heterosexual peers about maintaining healthy long-term relationships which are not defined nor dependent upon legal contracts. Of course we are surrounded always by heterosexual couples who have maintained happy, long term marriages which work. My sisters and I are all in long term committed marriages and none of us have any experience of divorce. I put that, in part, down to the example given by our parents who are about to mark their sixtieth year together.

When I look at my own relationship of thirty-three years, I have to admit, that the option to marry simply comes as an affirmation of what we already have together. Maintaining a long-term, same-sex relationship is a very different business to a heterosexual one. In a world of rapid social change we may have things to teach others about the dynamics within a modern marriage. Rest assured that I am not in any way questioning the validity of traditional marriage. I am concerned however that for many people the traditional format does not work and I am dismayed that we all too easily walk away from relationships which might well work if other options were to be considered.

Many years ago I was having a late night conversation with a group of fellow teachers about our various relationships. My colleagues listened to my somewhat radical ideas about what kept relationships both fresh and solid. Generally they accepted the validity of my thoughts whilst mostly stating that those ways were not for them That is just as it should be. The one response which has stayed in my mind over the decades since then was a dear friend who summarised my views with the words “It must be a gay thing.” I suspect for the many, that is still the case, but, for the few, it is time to consider other options or other formats which may take us away from the trend towards marriage being treated as a disposable item.

Long before reaching the point of marriage, most gay men and women have been through an early life which very much dictates their approach to relationships. Whether or not we have had an easy time of coming out, there will be some period of reckoning with our own sexuality. Even if we are happy with that, most of us live in a world which still forces us to go through the constant pressure of controlling other people’s perceptions of us. Whether at home, at school, or in the work place we are constantly weighing up the cost of either hiding or revealing a core part of ourselves.

Hopefully the end result of this struggle is a stronger more resilient person, but then comes the next step. For most people, the desire to find a shared love is an irresistible force. This search has to overcome both internal and external obstacles and it often drives us to create or to find supportive communities. This tends to make gay people the strongly social animals that many people see them as.

Once a gay person does find a true mate, there then comes the whole challenge of building a partnership. The coupling can have many of the same difficulties and pitfalls facing straight couples. Some other challenges however are unique to gay people and are not so surprising when you examine them. Most difficulties come down to how we handle the accepted norms and social legacy of single gender pairings. Ladies, it does not take much reflection to come up with an idea of standard male behaviour including strong attitudes and a desire to dominate. Now double that and imagine two such men trying to establish roles in an all-male household.

How about the emotional openness which is part of the attraction of a woman? Try doubling that and ponder on the consequences. Of course it is precisely these challenges and the strategies we develop for managing them, that can make same-sex couples so strong and resilient.

As gender roles in society become more fluid it is possibly traditional marriage which needs to accept change. I believe that same sex couples have a head start with these challenges and as such we have a lot to bring to the table. Of course it would be foolish to deny that same sex couples can’t learn from our straight friends too.

Marriage in its current, widely accepted form, needs to move with the times. Traditional marriage needs to reach a new level of maturity and could do worse than to look at the existing norms for many long-term same-sex couples. I have mentioned the fluidity of roles, but there are other areas which the gay community seems to have developed different behaviours too. These may include less anger in times of conflict, more freedom in money matters, or the recognition that there are other attractive people out there to admire and comment on. There is even a different approach to things like sexual experimentation and so called infidelity.

It will take several generations for heterosexual relationships to reach the place where gay and lesbian partnerships are today, but it will happen. There may be set backs and detours along the way and I don’t expect it to be a smooth ride.

We must continue the fight for equal rights throughout the world and we should all cherish our meaningful relationships whether they are conventional, traditional or otherwise. Let’s expand our list of options and move forwards as loving and caring human beings without the fetters of out-dated convention. There is no doubt that at the end of the day, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

This Blog post first appeared in shorter form on the Lovebytes Reviews site in my monthly guest blogger spot.