Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cowboys; or, What I Learned About Testicles While Researching a Novel

Just over a year ago I decided that I would address a long standing item on my bucket list and start writing a short novel.  The novel would be a western, of course, and I decided that it should have all of the things that I like to read in westerns- vast landscapes, a love of the wild, eroticism, and occasional gunplay.  A few different plotlines came and went, and eventually I settled on a story of small scale range war and two cowboys, once pards, now foes, who fought that war.  Details came together, but one problem emerged when I just couldn’t wrap my head around writing a female character. What the heck, I know that there is a dearth of good female characters out there, but I would go about solving that problem on my second novel- I just had to write one for now.  So there’s the characters, the conflict, the plot, the gunfight, the sex… ah, now we get to the problem with this novel.

I tend not to write things in order, so I just hopped around the outline filling in pieces.  It hummed along pretty well at first, drawing on memory, personal experience, and other western books and movies.  A hike through Oak Creek Canyon stood in for one location, a shootout from Encore Westerns filled in the gunfight in one chapter, and so forth.  I kept skipping the sex scenes, though, because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how they would work.  There were clear points in the story where the sex scenes should go.  There was a tense almost kiss in the early pages that was easy to write.  I’ve kissed before, and lips are lips.  I took almost all of it from an odd encounter with a friend who may in retrospect not be so lesbian, at least not after a half dozen cocktails.  But the sex?

It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out what dudes do with other dudes.  Tab A, slot B, etc, etc.  Easy enough to find out what it looks like in the vast pornographic engine of the internet.  I could probably write bouncing genitalia, but what I really want to write is characters and how they feel.  This is, alas, a rare problem that is not solved by internet porn.  There was always the option of asking gay friends, but I couldn’t think of anyone I knew well enough to ask real details from.  There is a big difference between having someone over for dinner and asking that someone “so what do you think about while you do it with another dude?”  Finally, I decided to go to the source, as it were, and bought a book of erotic short stories about gay cowboys entitled, appropriately enough, Cowboys: Gay Erotic Tales

I learned two important lessons from reading these stories that I will take with me in my writing.  First, gay men (or the straight women that read gay porn) have a much different view of genitalia than I do.  I figured that there would be some exaggerated descriptions of extraordinary phalluses, and there were a few.  What I was not prepared for was the focus on testicles.  At least once in each story there was a loving description of a cowpoke’s balls: hairy or smooth, high & tight or low & wrinkly, hefty, large, or epic in scope.  There are apparently no small testicles in the land of gay cowboys.  The bigger, the better; I had no idea.

The second lesson that I learned was that even the hack writers that contribute short stories to erotica anthologies are better writers than me.  Really, these things are almost all well written considering that they are essentially porn.  It is amazing the kind of character development that you can spin out in a dozen pages, particularly when half those pages are devoted to fucking.

While I learned a few bedroom (or haystack) gymnastics and some alternate views on genitalia, what I really got out of reading Cowboys: Gay Erotic Tales was the notion that short erotic fiction is still fiction, and you can leave the pages feeling like you’ve been inside the characters, so to speak, even if you did leave those pages a bit sticky.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cowgirls Espresso

I have never had the opportunity to go to a bikini coffee shop.  I suppose that we New Englanders are too stodgy for something like that.  I would love to give Cowgirls Espresso a chance, though.  They have five locations in Texas, California, and Washington, and claims that there are thousands of people interested in opening franchises across the planet.  I’ll believe that when I see it.  They have apparently expanded out past the cowgirl theme, and now have Military Mondays, Cowgirl Tuesdays, Bikini Wednesdays, School Girl Thursdays, and Fantasy Fridays.  Oh my.  Anyone been there?  How’s the coffee?  


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Can’t Stand the Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County

I’m spending this weekend laid up on the couch with an ankle injury, watching old westerns on Netflix and writing for the blog.  I just turned off The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County.  Not worth much of a write up.  Boring.  Boring.  Not funny.  Boring.  Boring.  ‘Nuff said.

Quickshots- Peter Brandvold's Rogue Lawman

I was very surprised by the reading experience of Peter Brandvold’s Rogue Lawman.  From the cover description I was expecting a rollicking revenge story with brutal action scenes.  What I got was quite different.

Rogue Lawman opened up as revenge tales often do, with the horrible act that drives the hero to his task.  Gideon Hawk is a US Marshall, temporarily laid up with a broken wing and dealing cards on the side, enjoying some time with his loving wife and a son that, if he were born 100 years later, we would have called learning disabled.  Frankly, this was a pretty boring opening to what was advertised as a brutally action packed series.  However, when I look back on the book as a whole this may have been the best part.  The tender little family drama in the opening tugged a lot of heartstrings.  The Hawk family’s little imperfections, the troubles of the son, the parent’s acceptance, added a level of every day drama a la Steven King that got me emotionally involved in the story.

Then there were murders, chases, shootings, escapes, more shootings, blah, blah blah.  The action was a little repetitive, and the villain's regular escapes from our hero became predictable and perhaps a little boring.  When I think brutal western I think Cormac McCarthy; Brandvold doesn't hit that standard, but frankly who could?  Okay, James Carlos Blake does.  Also, any scene from the Jonah Hex comic that features Jonah's father.  Also, possibly the old Edge series, but I haven't gotten around to reading those.  

Peter Brandvold is mostly known for these kinds of action heavy books, and he is pretty good at it.  The writing of Brandvold's that I like, though, are the books with a human touch, with clever dialogue, with quirky characters.  He's written plenty of those books, so I'll leave the Rogue Lawman series of fans of rolling 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gangs of Boomtown Brings Westerns to Facebook Games

I have to confess that I have been a fan of the giant time suck known as Facebook games since the day I first made my profile.  Not to the point of laying down money, but I am perfectly willing to provide marketing information in return for a few minutes of fun a few times a week.  I have played sci-fi, gangster, fantasy, and super hero games, but now there is a new western game in beta called Gangs of Boomtown.  What’s it about?  It’s about clicking a bunch of buttons and dressing up your avatar, like they all are, but this time it’s with western duds and western music.  They even have a cool blog.  Check it out!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

All-Star Western Disappoints Again with #7

All-Star Western has finally left Gotham City with issue #7, but things haven’t substantially improved.  Amadeus Arkham is still Jonah Hex’s sidekick.  The action has moved to New Orleans, which is not quite the west.  The new villains are a group of anti-immigrant terrorists in improbably steampunk outfits (with lots of leg, of course).  There are a couple of new additions, or reintroductions, in classic DC western heroes Gunhawk and Cinnamon.  DC is keeping All-Star Western firmly rooted in the Batman family by suggesting that Arkham got the idea for a masked vigilante running the rooftops of a city from these two, although I believe this may be the first time that Cinnamon ever wore a mask.  Jonah Hex’s characterization is still odd.  At one point he runs into a burning building to rescue victims of a bombing; even one of the side characters notes how out of character that is for Hex.

I’d like to blame the writers for fraking this series up so badly, but I don’t think this is their fault.  Palmiotti and Gray could not have suddenly collapsed this badly moving between the Jonah Hex series and All-Star Western.  They write the backup stories in each issue (this one featuring Gunhawk’s origin) and those are well written and engaging.  DC’s New 52 is doing a tough job of realigning 60+ years of comics into something new and marketable, and for some fool reason Jonah Hex got shoved into the Batman family as part of it.  DC would have done better returning Hex to the Vertigo line, which is where Tim Truman and Joe Lansdale did such great work on the character in the 1990’s.

Of course, hypocritically, I will keep buying it, because I get the feeling that the comics publishing world is looking at the sales of All-Star to gauge whether to let another western from a major publisher hit the shelves.  It’s a crappy way to do business, but it is what it is.

You and me both, sister!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Quick Shots- Bikini Roundup

Like a little soft core porn in your westerns?  Give Bikini Roundup a shot.  There is a plot, although not much of one, about two girls that inherit a haunted ranch, and the rich neighbor who wants to run them off the land.  There are lots of good looking people, and two of the three female leads even have real breasts, which is a rare treat in late night Skinemax.  The real reason to watch this if you are a western fan with a bit of a pervy side (and if you are reading this blog there is a good indication that you are) would be the scenes with rodeo rider and former American Gladiatrix Belinda Gavin as Calamity Kate, the sexy ghost haunting the ranch.  She spends the entire film in a leather bra, chaps, g-string, and a cowboy hat.  When the final showdown comes at the end of the movie and he camera pans behind her for the quickdraw, it is quite a sight.  Bikini Roundup plays periodically on Showtime and is worth a late-night watch for a couple laughs and a nice visual treat.