Monday, March 29, 2010

Contrasting Sexual Dilemmas

I'm grappling with a dilemma that is purely of my own making right now. This post is probably going to sound a little self serving on. I think you'll get the idea as I go along.

In the past couple of days, in discussions with both a prominent Adelaide radio station and the book shop in my home town that is hosting
my official launch, I am starting to fret a little over one aspect of the novel which - I feel - has a legitimate place within it. It serves an important purpose. Although I wonder whether it might begin to work against me.

Early on in
The Hambledown Dream, there is a sex scene that takes place - quite a strong sex scene, in fact. It's fairly explicit in it's presentation to the reader and it leaves the reader with very little to the imagination. While it's not violent per-se, it is graphic - and there is a good reason for it to be that way.

I did little research into sex scenes or how to write them in preparation for my own. I knew what I wanted to achieve from it and it was a scene I wrote completely on the fly. The aim of the scene was to contrast two very different sexual acts that are occurring simultaneously.

One is a very angsty, angry, primal sex scene between the protagonist and his lover. To paraphrase comedian Eddie Murphy "they don't make love - they fuck". And while it is not blatantly violent, this sexual act does flirt very close to the line of violence...but I couldn't cross over it. In the first incarnations of the scene, I actually did cross into some fairly dark and primal territory but I had to pull back. I discovered that I do have limits.

While this is going on, a second and very different act of sexual expression is taking place. But it is a world away from what I have described just now. It is a tender love scene - a gentle and lyrical expression of physical love between two people that has a softness about it, an understated, seductive passion. A truth, if you will.

The scenes occur simultaneously because they serve as the beginning point for a series of revelations my central protagonist bears witness to on his journey through the narrative. It is hard to describe without giving too much of the plot away, but for those of you who have read The Hambledown Dream already, (I hope) you'll know what I'm getting at.

The scene was never meant to be gratuitous, nor pornographic. It was always meant to be strong - to challenge the reader. And, personally, I think I have achieved that.

But here's the dilemma.

In my quest to become terribly wind swept and interesting (i.e. famous), I have put the feelers out into what I would consider some unlikely places. One of those places is a radio station here in Adelaide called
Life FM.

It's a Christian radio station - no two ways about it. And I don't have any problem with that at all. While I don't regard myself as Christian (I would better describe myself as spiritual), I have a lot of friends - dear friends - who are and they are fans of the station. I listen to Life FM sometimes. It's a good mix of mainstream/Christian music, talk-back and news. Very positive, very community focused, not too preachy. And they do very well. They are the number four FM station in Adelaide - which translates into a significant share of the listening audience.

And they have a copy of my book in hand right now, with the intention of reviewing it, pursuant to an on-air interview in the next few weeks.

I have been in regular contact with a presenter there and she seems definitely keen to go forward - provided she can contextualize the book in such a way as would appeal to her Christian audience.

My biggest fear however...

She's gonna hit Chapter 4 (see! self serving - I told you), totally flip out, snap the book shut and bin it without a further thought or care. And she'll possibly email me saying - don't ever contact me again. The sex scene, the depictions of drug addiction and drug use will totally turn them off.

A good friend of mine - Dee, a Christian and prolific supporter of my novel - has assured me that I have nothing to worry about and she reckons they've reviewed far darker material than mine in the past. And when you consider the spiritual progression that occurs in the story line, spirituality becomes the dominant theme of The Hambledown Dream - not the sex or the drugs. Dee thinks I'll have it in the bag.

But still I worry - a lot - and do you know why?

Because I really want this interview.

Being such a prominent player in the FM landscape here in Adelaide, I am sure that a Life FM interview would really push my profile forward and open up a potentially large audience for the book. So, the more I think about it, the more stock I am putting in this opportunity.

The owner of the book store in my home town - who's hosting the official launch of the book in a few weeks time - expressed the kind of squeamishness I'm fearful of during a telephone conversation I had with her, yesterday afternoon. She currently has a review copy as well, which she is reading and she was kind of...breathless...mentioning the sex scene yesterday. Though not explicitly saying - "I think you should warn people on the day" she did say "I think you should warn warn people on the day" (well look at that...did I just do a double negative thingy).

I detected a definite "oh shit - maybe I shoulda read this thing first, before committing to this book event". But outwardly she is sill very much looking forward to the Stuckyvil...I mean...the Moe event.

And here I am worrying about this this when both my grandmothers have put their hands up for a copy of my novel.

I have warned them both though - there is some content within the book that will make their hair curl...without rollers.

But, as my Nana Mayes said to me on the phone recently (bless her world weariness) "I certainly wasn't born yesterday you know"


But, I'll wager they didn't throw the word clitoris around much back in the day.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Praise For The Hambledown Dream.

I am really pleased by the reviews that are being posted for The Hambledown Dream over at Amazon Books including this from John Rasor, author of "Roadkill" (ireadiwrite Publishing) which he posted there in the past 24 hours.

"The Hambledown Dream is a sexy and wonderful love story with paranormal overtones that are just right. It's the story of two men from different worlds - one dying, the other, dead already - as they come together with a common passion for classical guitar, to save each other's souls and find that love of a lifetime, even death cannot deny.

Dean Mayes has woven an intricate and emotional tale of lives drawn together by fate in his beautiful story and carries it through to the end in a fabulous crescendo that will leave you breathless. To call it a romantic thriller would do it justice, and of course, the journey's the thing as it moves through the tawdry jungle of Chicago's drug infested underbelly to the city of Melbourne, down under, for its emotionally charged climax. Hambledown is a well paced read that keeps you in it the whole way through, and a great read for anyone."

Check out this and other reviews over at Amazon Books.


Monday, March 22, 2010

The State Of I.

I sit in the middle another early hour - somewhere in the region of 2am to be exact.

Sleep studies lab tonight... watching over a seven month old with some mysterious poor feeding/poor weight gain/poor developmental issues that are a real question mark right now. It's the kind of thing that would have Gregory House and his team salivating with a clinical/dramatic desire to solve this mystery ala Murder She Wrote. But if I throw in another TV Reference here right now - I'd probably vomit.

The old Bakelite telephone I have in my office at home has probably received more of a workout in the past month or so than at any other time in it's nearly one hundred year life span. It is seriously old - like pre WW1 old.

I purchased it from an antique store in a place called Tyabb in rural Victoria - it must have been a good 6 or 7 years ago. At the time of purchase, the shop-lady showed it to be in good working order, however the journey from there back to my home in Adelaide must have done something to it because I couldn't get the damned thing to work on my phone line in my Adelaide house. A call to the phone company revealed that it was indeed registering a fault on the network so, after a quick search, I found a guy who was a whiz went it came to these old contraptions. He found the original dialer to be so badly corroded that the only option was to replace it.

A Bakelite Telephone - not mine, but very similar to mine.

Good as new.

The black Bakelite telephone has served me beautifully ever since and has proudly sat on my desk next to my laptop, cell phone and PDA. A granddaddy communications device punching ably above it's weight in the digital age.

I have always been a lover of technology - a geek if you will - and I have an appreciation for the technology of yesterday as much as I appreciate the technology of now.

Anyway - another Monday went by yesterday and I spent most of it placing calls on the old Bakelite, following up with people who are (potentially) interested in my novel and keeping the squeaky wheel thing happening. I'm discovering that nothing happens quickly insofar as marketing.

In the case of one major book retailer here in Adelaide, who I've been talking with now for nearly six weeks, the progress has been maddeningly slow. They've expressed a keen interest in doing an event with me (supporting a local author and all that) but I'm finding that I'm doing a lot of chasing. Calling, leaving messages, emailing, requesting return receipts, getting none. As recently as today - after three attempts at speaking to the contact - leaving messages - I finally touched base with the person only to be told 'we're still waiting for the go ahead from head office'.

See - what happens is - the book store has a program supporting local authors - they help in organizing and hosting an event (i.e. a book signing/meet the author) and they secure funding from HQ to submit a purchase order to my publisher for stock. But it all happens fairly slowly and patience has never been one of my stronger virtues. I'm still being told that this all will happen...but part of me is having doubts.

I spoke again to a local FM station here in Adelaide who expressed interest in talking to me about my book and I have supplied them with a copy to review. There is one catch though, that is knocking my confidence off kilter. The station is a Christian focused one, which in itself isn't a concern for me. However the novel is quite dark in the beginning, contains a fairly graphic sex scene and also has some fairly strong language. I fear that these may work against me in terms of the station's philosophy. The novel does have a strong spiritual thematic string as well though and, as a good friend of mine - who herself identifies as a Christian - said to me today, most modern Christians are fairly progressive in their thinking and are broad minded (she, btw, loved the novel).

So I dunno...I furnished them with a copy from my own batch which I paid I'm taking a leap of faith here. Time will tell.

After what I regarded as a completely bloody shambles - that being last Monday, I consider today...well now yesterday have been a much better say.

A couple of unexpected things happened today that made me smile. Two libraries - one here in Adelaide and one across in Melbourne are intending to purchase the book for their collections. This kinda spun me out because, thus far, I hadn't given much thought to libraries. But I'm told there are opportunities to do events with them as well so I'm going to consider this as another option for getting the word out.

I sat back in my chair after I had done as much as I could do by late in the afternoon and considered my old Bakelite telephone. What conversations had that phone facilitated over the years? What news had it been a silent witness to? What momentous occasions, haunting tragedy, trials and tribulations had it transported down it's wires over the many decades of dedicated service it has performed? It has accumulated nearly a century of communication mileage...

And what the hell is Bakelite anyhow?


Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Dream People" - Inspirations For The Characters In The Hambledown Dream (Part 5 - Lionel & Ruth Broadbent).

Every once in a while, a television program comes along that absolutely and positively hooks me. A program that I will move heaven and Earth not to miss because it is that good. It's well written. The characters are endearing, real - they could be characters you could know in real life.

The long running British television series As Time Goes By is one of those programs - and it is the source of the inspiration for two of the characters who play a small but important role in the life of one of the central protagonists in The Hambledown Dream.

Lionel and Ruth Broadbent are an older couple who own and run the general store in the seaside village of Hambledown. They have lived their for many (indeterminate) years and are fixtures in the local community. They have their ear to the ground on most of the goings on in the town and act as a sort "buffer" against some of the more crazy gossip that circulates. It is said that much of the gossip begins and ends with them. While the bohemian and free-spirited Ruth spends a good deal of her time pursuing a semi professional photography business, her loving and dedicated husband Lionel runs the popular general store. Together, they also keep a watch over a recently bereaved Sonya Llewellyn, who is trying to carry on with her life after losing the love of her life.

Whether it is to lend an ear and pour her a coffee when she drops by on her early morning walks with her dog Simon or to offer help with resurrecting her grand father's failed law practice, Lionel and Ruth delicately balance their relationship with a quietly grieving Sonya - trying to nudge her back to life again whilst allowing her the latitude to "feel" things out.

British Actor Dame Judi Dench - The
Inspiration For Ruth Broadbent.

British Actor Geoffrey Palmer - The
Inspiration For Lionel Broadbent.

As the story develops, Lionel and Ruth's support becomes paramount when events in the story lead Sonya towards having to make a decision about moving beyond her comfort zone. Her turmoil - in the hands of anyone else - may well be handled very badly. But in the hands of this very sage couple, Sonya comes to realize that their friendship could well be the most important thing in helping her negotiate her way forward.

So in developing these characters, I indulged in a little favoritism in looking to that wonderful series As Time Goes By and it's central characters of Jean Pargeter (as portrayed by the irrepressible Dame Judi Dench) and Lionel Hardcastle (as portrayed by Geoffrey Palmer). I even borrowed his name - probably a little too indulgent I know - but for me, it just fitted. These two characters have featured in another, unpublished work, that sits in a dark and dusty folder in my office at home and in a similar sort of role. However I wanted to feature a duo that would be a sort of support to Sonya - who is trying to go on with her life in the aftermath of Denny's death. They are protective of her in the sense that the Hambledown locals recognize her as her grand father's descendant - a man with a damaged reputation in the village - and they more than anyone else can see Sonya's drive to succeed. There is a lovely banter that goes on between the two of them - in much the same way as Lionel and Jean from ATGB. It is witty and warm, a little churlish at times but when events surrounding Sonya converge to a critical junction - Ruth and Lionel pull together as a united team.

I have a very great affection for them both and they rank among my favorite people in The Hambledown Dream.


Monday, March 15, 2010

The Prism.

They say that you should live your life with no regrets. I don't know who says it really - but I have heard it a bunch of times in my life time. I have often said myself that I have no regrets. I've said it loud and proud and have emphasized that were it not for all the life experiences I've had up until now, I would never be able to rough house on the living room rug with my 3.5 year old son or hold my 5 month old daughter in my arms and do little fishy kisses on her cheek and have her giggle with delight.

But the fact is...

I do have regrets - a lot of them and sometimes, when I am feeling particularly low, those regrets amplify into something much more acute. The failures I have wrought within my adult life haunt me and consume me. The darkness of those failures is oppressive. Worse than that though - they can actually carry with them a familiar comfort.

That's actually really twisted...but it's true.

The sum of my regrets and failures weigh me down at this moment, after what has been a frustrating day.

Mondays are always a struggle for me - in part because, from the moment I wake up (which is usually anywhere between 6am and 7:30am), I know that it is going to be at least 25 hours before I will be able to lay my head on a pillow once more. It's the nature of my job right now - permanent night duty as an ICU Nurse. I do this for reasons that are partly my own but because I am sort of forced to (it's a long story and I don't have the energy here).

But Mondays are also the one day where I sit in my downstairs office and work my pre-WW1 Bakelite telephone (yep - you read that right) in an effort to try and market my novel - to try and get people interested in it - book stores interested in it. And that's what I did today - spoke to newspapers, magazines, book shops (the latter of which was following up on calls and emails from last week). The results were in a word...deflating. I feel as though I achieved very little and in some cases the ambivalence towards my novel actually bordered on hostile. I am not a marketer. In fact it makes me feel like a greasy, used car salesman.

Today wasn't a good day.

In the past I've alluded to a distinct lack of support for my endeavor from those closest to me. It has been distressing. Well the ambivalence from even those quarters has ramped up a notch in recent weeks to the extent that now it is being put to me that this novel is bad for me as a partner and father. My long held dream, something that I have coveted for most of my adult life is seen as a burden and, actually a source of resentment. I balance my responsibilities well - I am certain of that. I am constantly checking to ensure that I do...

Like I wasn't a good day.

I stare now, through the window of my ICU cubicle upon a city where I've never truly belonged. I am a stranger here, an "Englishman in New York" to quote Sting - just because it seems fitting right now. I have resided in Adelaide for 16 years but I've never, truly felt at home here.

I don't actually know where I feel at home sometimes...

In the depths of the night, when my bio-rhythms have spun off their axes and they are interrogating me once again - why haven't you settled down to sleep yet? - the old wounds of my past settle upon me and I am powerless to not carry their burden.

There was another life...before this one. Nothing as romantically supernatural as I have portrayed in my writing but it was a life which I treasured. But I was forced from it - involuntarily. At a time when I was trying desperately to salvage the broken pieces of it in some vain effort to fix it.

The door was shut.

But as I walked away from that door it opened unexpectedly.

"I'm so sorry. I was wrong! Please give me another chance! Dean! Please!?"

I stood at crossroad. And the path I chose led away from that door. Without touching my hand to the handle I had closed it and locked it. But it hollowed me out and I was empty for the longest time...

I often catch myself wondering. What might have been, what is right now...but I brush those thoughts away brusquely...guilty for having allowed them to coalesce in the first place. It's not fair to the life I live now.

Regret, guilt, shame...

Sometimes I feel as though I want to go to sleep for a year. Seal myself up somewhere where there is no light, no sound and I can can just disappear.

Tomorrow will be a new day.

I will shake off the shackles of my torment for now and refocus...somehow....

For now...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Official Announcement "The Hambledown Dream" Is Officially In Print.

March 11th 2010

Following on from a successful digital launch in January 2010, ireadiwrite Publishing and Dean Mayes are extremely pleased to announce the official release of Dean's break out novel "The Hambledown Dream" in print for the first time.

Dean and Michelle (of ireadiwrite Publishing) have been working tirelessly over the past couple of months to bring this edgy, timeless and romantic story of love, loss, redemption and salvation to the printed page and proud to present the novel in trade paperback.

The Hambledown Dream is available at Amazon's Book Store right now for $19.95(USD) plus shipping.

As Dean and Michelle work together to bring the novel to the attention of major retailers both in the United States and Australia, great reviews and sales are expected. In line with the official release Dean
sat down with author Anne Riley to talk about the novel, his inspirations for writing and his hopes for success. Watch her site for that interview in the coming days.

Author and friend, Anne Riley.

# # #

ireadiwrite Publishing is a digital and now print press featuring new writers of literary fiction and poetry across a wide variety of genres. Our books are available in eBook sellers worldwide and in our own online store in multiple, non-DRM formats. The Hambledown Dream is ireadiwrite Publishing's first print project and we hold great hopes for this beautifully crafted novel.

"The Hambledown Dream" by Dean Mayes, now available in print from Amazon Books.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This has been done before, but...

I couldn't resist the opportunity to do it again. As the cooler months approach down under, you can bet that I'm gonna be spending a lot of time out in the back yard with my little firepot blazing, a bottle or three of fine South Australian red wine and possibly a Charley Pride CD in the player in my shed. And I will be cooking up a storm...


Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Dream" People - Inspirations for the Characters in The Hambledown Dream (Part Four - Samantha Barrett).

When putting together a list of core characters or refining a set of characters, it becomes important to remind yourself that each character must serve the story in some way. There has to be a reason for them being there otherwise they are not making any useful contribution to the story nor are they influencing the other characters in any meaningful way. Redundant characters can really bog the story down.

The character of Samantha Barrett, Andy's colleague from the Pub, was one I had a little difficulty defining initially and for a while she served really only as a peripheral character who was without purpose. It really maddened me though because I knew I wanted Sam in the story and I knew that I wanted her to serve the story in a meaningful way - I just couldn't get a handle on her. Hell, I couldn't even visualize her in the beginning.

It's funny then, when chance friendships with people turn into something wonderful. A good friend of mine and I were chatting online one rainy afternoon when I was stuck indoors and I think she must have been showing me some happy snaps from a recent trip. As I was browsing the pictures it suddenly hit me - this vivacious young woman, who is quite bohemian and soulful - is the perfect Sam. From the hint of a Southern twang (something I had decided on before I cracked the nut) to the whimsical outlook on life - everything that I needed to imbue a sense of being into Samantha was right there in my friend Jessica Pohlner. And so the basis for Sam became a reality and everyhing flowed from there.

Samantha is the bright spot in the dark and smoky bar where she and Andy both work. She is outgoing, is good at her job and, despite Andy's destructive nature when first we meet him, Samantha genuinely likes Andy. She senses the conflict within him at the beginning of the story - his revulsion towards the nefarious part of his life - even if Andy himself doesn't.

Samantha is also a devotee of alternative medicine and is studying a course in this field. In itself, the course isn't necessarily significant, however it becomes a key point of distinction - a device if you will - when Andy's change begins and people react to it. Where other reactions are negative, laced with suspicion and doubt, it is Samantha who senses another reason for it and tries to understand it.

Samantha's role as a supportive influence in Andy's life, also as a motivator for him to take his first steps towards fully embracing his gift, is an important one. She has her own motivations for doing so which are revealed subtly throughout the story and it softens some of the darker elements of the Chicago scenes.

I call Jessica Pohlner a friend though I have never actually met her beyond the online sphere. She is a remarkable young woman who has worked diligently over the past few years and who is now working towards a Nursing degree (*thumbs up here*). She is witty*, kinda world weary - even though she's still in her early 20's and she has a sassiness about her that makes for a great character influence. Jessica is also a thinker, a ponderer and it is this quality that I found most appealing because it is what drives Samantha in the story - a need to understand the world around her.

Friend & Witty Woman, Jessica Pohlner - inspiration for the character of Sam in The Hambledown Dream.

Jessica really helped me flesh out the character of Samantha and made her a small but very important part of the story telling in The Hambledown Dream. For that alone, I feel fortunate to know her but Jessica is a wonderful person who I am sure will go far in life.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Songs That Inspired The "Dream" - Come Alive - Foo Fighters.

The beginnings of what I like to call Andy's "awakening" were written with this fantastic song by the Foo Fighters in mind. I featured a short description of the song in "The Hambledown Dream" that was designed to serve as a musical accompaniment to the internal battle that Andy was waging with himself.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Dream" People - Inspirations For The Characters in The Hambledown Dream (Part 3 - Andy DeVries)

I'd taken a break from this little series of articles but I thought it would be a good idea to kick it along again as I think it's a worthwhile part of my story's telling and it gives you - the reader - an idea of the thought processes that have gone into the development of my characters.

Andy DeVries was a character who was central to the story, right from the very beginnings of the idea that has now become The Hambledown Dream. He was the individual who first germinated in my mind and I felt I had a real sense of him, even before I had a name for him.

Likewise, the idea of a character who is, at first glance, irredeemable but who has the spark somewhere deep inside of him to make a profound life change in his life was one of the earliest ideas that I had. All he needed was the oxygen in order to coax that spark to life - a spark that, as the story progresses comes from a fairly unlikely place.

Andy DeVries is a fairly "ugly" character when we first meet him. He is emaciated, he hides his features under stringy and long hair, black mascara - sometimes lipstick too - and fairly gothic/emo clothing. An insatiable desire for drugs fuels his destructive existence and, at the outset, Andy is not a character who we want to like. Yet there is something about Andy that prevents us from totally writing him off. He has an uncanny talent for classical guitar and he walks a delicate tightrope, trying to juggle two worlds - but is failing. Then he arrives at a critical point, where the very foundations of everything he has come to know about life is shaken irrevocably and we bear witness to something profound.

In imaging the character of Andy DeVries, I sought to have in my mind someone who is very much a Chicagoan, someone who embodies an idea of the potential we see in Andy from the earliest scenes of Andy's journey - but in saying this I have to stress that the person I eventually used as a physical template in no way represents the actual character of Andy as he is when we first meet him.

Dean Carlson is a Chicago stand up comedian and writer who, from a relatively young age, has established himself as one of Chicago's most interesting and painfully funny individuals. He has explored his rather hard knock existence to date, through his comedy which is laced with an acerbic wit and a surprising poignancy that I have not found in quite the same measure in any of his contemporaries.

Chicago Comedian & Writer Dean Carlson.

Dean Carlson possesses a very streetwise, yet urbane presence and a simmering ruggedness just under the surface which, to me embodies the Andy DeVries that we see develop from a crucial point in the narrative of The Hambledown Dream. He possesses a world weary intelligence and this translates into his comedy seamlessly.

I have had the opportunity to work with (from a great distance) and talk to Dean quite a lot over the past couple of years and I like Dean a lot.

His qualities make him a an ideal physical representation for Andy in the novel.

You can follow Dean through his entertaining blog "Unhigherable".