Monday, October 29, 2012

Early Literary Influences-A Guest Post by S.A. Garcia

After taking a brief break for GayRomLit and a few other sidetracks, I'm back today with Early Literary Influences. Today's post is by S.A. Garcia, who has heartfelt sentiment to share about books that meant a lot to her at an early age. 

Take it away, S.A. 


I need to write about Gordon Merrick and the brave writers who made me feel like less of a freak. That might sound odd, but big revelations really impact a teenager’s mind. Many years ago, well, thirty-four years, to be exact, I discovered Gordon Merrick’s novels, which taught me plenty about gay male sexuality. His books revealed to me that explicit romances about gay males were actually being published.

Talk about a huge revelation!

Merrick’s novel “The Quirk” introduced me to his writing. I remember peeking at the novel in the bookstore and almost screaming in delight. Books like this were being written? I felt like I broke through a wall into a wonderful new world. I feared the cashier would snatch the book from my hand and kick me out of the store. Instead she took my money and handed me the bag.

I floated out, mind awhirl in glory.

Let me back track a bit. Before I discovered Gordon Merrick, I read a wide range of novels. Historical romance (including bodice-rippers), sci-fi, fantasy, horror— I read pretty much everything aside from contemporary fiction. This aversion heavily influenced me when I started writing my stories. Face it, I didn’t care what happened in the real world. I lived in it and like your average shy, bright geek, didn’t find much to like about the world aside from my geeky friends and my loving family. At least my parents accepted their weird daughter. They didn’t care when I hid in the finished basement creating fantasy art or sat on the back porch scribbling stories in my notebooks. They never viewed me as rebellious or odd. Little did they know!

I started writing what I’ll call slash at around age fifteen. I didn’t know what I wrote had a name! Why did I write about men in love? I still haven’t figured out the real reason. I’ve pondered over ideas about not accepting my own sexuality and compensating how I felt about women by writing about men, but that could all be a load of nonsense. More likely I just loved the idea of guys conducting a passionate romance. Wait, how’s this theory: as a fledgling lesbian, perhaps I wanted to desexualize men by placing them with each other.

Okay, go ahead, laugh. I would have made one helluva lousy psychoanalyst.

Time to steer back into the pavement. This detour is too bumpy. After I discovered Gordon Merrick, I purchased the Peter and Charlie trilogy. At least those books had a happy for now ending. Then I encountered “The Lord Won’t Mind”, a tearjerker of a book I still can’t read without crying a river. Then again I still cry when Frosty the Snowman melts or when the Velveteen Rabbit awaits the bonfire. Damn, I’m tearing up just thinking about that story.

Give me a minute here. *sniff*

Amazing how the Velveteen Rabbit still triggers my tears. There’s a future post!

I need to move along before something else sets me off. For the most part, Merrick did not write gay HEA. I’m not a critical student of his work, just a reader, but he often had the attitude that gay men didn’t deserve a happy ending. I can forgive him for that because he at least assured me people wrote passionate, flamboyant romances about gay men.

Then I discovered John Rechy. Damn, what a different perspective. Rechy wrote about rough and tumble sex, of drag queens, of a hard reality that didn’t jive with Merrick’s romances featuring handsome men in tragic love. “City of Night”, “The Sexual Outlaw”, “Numbers”— what eye opening books for a suburban geek. These books stripped the gay male experience down to raw, hard passion and desperation.

Larry Kramer's “Faggots” turned out to be a mix of the two authors. When I read it, I didn’t know what a fuss it created in the world of literature. I remember the story depressing me.

There I was reading and scribbling, creating a mix of fantasy and contemporary for my own private pleasure.

Until AIDS really started ravaging the community. I can point to this as when I stopped writing any contemporary stories. In the mid 1980’s, the concept of AIDS defeated my modern day romances. Writing fantasy allowed me to ignore the tragedy. I played the writing ostrich.

Odd how I never wrapped my head around the problem until this week. In the late 1980’s I did write a story where one man tried to kill himself. The character feared he had infected his lover because he had been deliberately raped by an insane AIDS-infected ex-lover. The story reached a point where the abused character was wheelchair bound after his suicide attempt. He was recovering. I never finished the story. Those poor characters, stuck in limbo.

I wanted my romances to take place in Gordon Merrick’s non-AIDS world, where everyone was handsome and tragic. Odd how Merrick killed off people due to heartrending love or a need to sacrifice.

Brutal reality killed off gay men despite anyone’s effort.

Which leads me to me finally writing my first contemporary intended for publication, “Cupid Knows Best”. I followed the rules. When my men met in bed for the first time, they performed the safety ritual.

I am determined for them to have a happy ending. Sorry, Gordon, my guys deserve HEA. No matter; thank you for opening up a whole new world to the shy geek girl who thought she dwelled alone in her gay romance world.

Sounds like a great place to introduce readers to Carl and Marcelino from “Cupid Knows Best.”


When it comes to his professional life, photographer Carl Conrad is at the top of his game. He molds impressionable minds at university by day and jets off to Paris for gallery showings on long weekends. Unfortunately, he pays for it with his disastrous personal life: Carl kicked his boyfriend to the curb after one too many punches, so now it's just him and his hamsters, one of which he suspects may be a space alien.

Then Cupid takes pity on Carl and hits him where it hurts. It takes Carl all of three seconds to fall head over heels in lust with set design student Marcelino Moya, despite the man’s questionable—okay, deplorable—fashion sense. Convincing Marcelino to give him a chance is the hard part, but Carl is up for the challenge, pun definitely intended.

Marcelino plays hard to get, but he isn't immune to Carl's charms. Carl talks him around to dinner, dating, and eventually moving in. There's just one tiny word standing between Carl and perfect happiness. Why won't Marcelino say it?


Wow, quite an eager crowd gathered outside Manny’s battered brick exterior. I politely weaseled my way toward the front and wagged my fingers in greeting. Bernie, the six-foot-eight bouncer, gave me his usual bone-splitting hug. I never told him that each hug tried snapping my ribs. The confession made me sound like a dainty wimp.
“Yo, Carl, my man, it’s been too long. I heard about you finally ditching Martin. Let me warn you, he slithered in here two nights ago. I almost denied him entrance, but he acted pretty tame.”
An agonized groan slipped out. I shook my head. “My ex is the proverbial bad seed. Big boy, if Martin attacks me tonight, I’ll count on you to save me.”
“Shhiiittt, like you need saving, buff boy.” Bernie’s massive coffee-toned hands gripped my biceps. “More like I’ll need to pick up Martin’s teeth before I toss his sorry ass out the door. My hands tell me someone works out on a regular basis. See, Carl, you gotta learn to throw the first punch.”
“What can I say, I’m a dedicated pacifist.” I winked at Bernie’s laughter and entered the dense noise and body-filled atmosphere. Tonight the club appeared packed, beyond packed, infinitely packed to the max. Of course that was the point; a body wanted to dance as close as possible to the sweet target of its aching desire. Forget cheek-to-cheek; tight dick-to-dick action ruled this mayhem.
Bernie’s lover, Rasheed, towered over everyone else at the bar. He monitored the sweaty action while slipping drinks to his favorites. The ex-football player-turned-club owner acted like a trusting kitty, but if a patron broke Rasheed’s strict rules, he turned into a tiger displaying honeydew melon-sized paws. Rasheed liked this artsy-fartsy flake because I appreciated arguing about old movies. Over the years I had turned into the classic patron who dropped in on bleak February weeknights for the company, most recently when Martin had traveled on business. My paranoia sickened me, but too often I suspected Martin’s business involved other men.
My self-censor bitch slapped my dismal thoughts. Not tonight. Absolutely not. Tonight I needed to relax and enjoy the pretty young scenery dancing in communal bliss.
Murmuring “excuse me” while pushing forward helped me wade through the masculine mass. I maneuvered until I caught my friend’s interest. Rasheed laughed in greeting and held out his ridiculously large hand. The two slender men blocking the bar hastily cleared away from the imposing thick arm jutting past their startled ears.
Rasheed merrily gripped my hand and half dragged my body onto the damp bar top. Ouch, ouch, ouch! “Carl C, here you stand, back among the living, yes sir, no longer tied down to the psycho nut named Martin.”
Weird, what newspaper ad had trumpeted my newly single status? “Hello to you, Rasheed.”
Rasheed’s sharp gaze ran over me. He whistled in approval. “Mmm, yeah, lookin’ fine, Carl, lookin’ like you expect a little prime action tonight.”
My ego wiggled in glee, but I shrugged off his words. “Naw, I’m here to watch.”
My reply received a mocking snort. “What an old spoilsport. Yo, the usual?”
I nodded and held up my pointer finger. “In celebration of the new semester, please make my drink a double.”
Rasheed rolled his jet-black eyes. “Sweet hot celebration indeed. Sleek young boy flesh crowds in here. Hmmph, tonight my sappy Bernie let in a few too many youngsters. He’s always a softy when school first starts. I can’t wait until he becomes picky about his prize boys and stops setting me up for a major bust.”
“Come on, you think the police would bust a former football star?”
“Yes, I do.”
I shrugged in dismay. “What the fuck is this world coming to?”
“Damned if I know!”
We shared a laugh. I twisted around to observe the crowded dance floor.
Hubba-hubba on high, my internal lens soared into action: click, whir, and cue telephoto zoom to hot wet nirvana. What a shocker.
No way. Lust soared into red alert and tried strangling me. No shit, I saw, I saw. Ouch, I didn’t need a heart attack. Falling to the floor wouldn’t help Cupid’s wacky plan, although with this packed crowd, I’d remain standing even when dead.
Sheer joyous amazement stiffened my cock. Across the packed dance floor, up on a little platform, a delicious young blond gyrated against Marcelino. I watched their dance in rapt admiration. Blondie artfully shook his long flowing hair. Tasty. Ha, ha, enjoy my Marcelino now, sweet blondie, because in a few minutes, you are being replaced. I knew exactly what I planned to say. I had pulled the same stunt when I wanted to meet Martin. Of course now I wished that someone had stopped me. A wise soul should have nailed my damned feet to the floor. The gruesome ache would have felt less painful than suffering Martin’s unexpected white-collar violence.
Come on, no more dwelling on Martin’s abuse. Not tonight. Instead I admired the glowing future swaying mere footsteps away from me. A broad smile claimed my lips. I accepted my drink from Rasheed and sipped the cool liquid. The potent alcohol warmed my belly and bolstered my courage. Ahh.
Gin and tonics reminded me of Ibiza’s wild beaches. During our yearly spring vacations, my first serious lover, Ian, had adored sitting on a tranquil terrace sipping gin and tonics while watching the frolicking beachgoers, which included a much younger me.
My sharp wince shook the lazy image from my mind. Great, not the time to bring another failed relationship into focus. Time for mental rescue. The potent drink barreled into my system. Blam: every nerve ending tingled in giddy release.
I winked at my friend and leaned across the drink-stained bar top. “Rasheed, my dear friend, I must withdraw my earlier words. I see my sweet destiny. I am off to claim him for my own.”
Rasheed shook his massive head  in measured amusement. “Carl, you be one crazy fuckin’ hippie dude. Your sweet destiny. Christ in a sparkly purple sidecar, you talk exactly like a lovesick little girl.”
His insult failed to defeat my merry grin. “Gee, thanks.” I slid my ass off the stool. Little girl status didn’t describe me, but Rasheed spoke the truth; damned lovesickness infected my soul.
Another real-time hallucination kicked in. My body swam through thick, loud water. I moved confidently like an old shark sliding among flashing bright young guppies. Closer, closer; somehow the lively crowd parted without me having to kick, punch, claw, or rip off any pretty heads from necks. They instinctively let me skim along. The happy dancers smelled my deep, feral need. Closer. Closer.
I paused for a second. I mindlessly allowed the tight, sweating bodies crowding my space to push me around in their sexy rhythm. Before I attacked, I needed to admire my glorious prey. Damn, tonight my erotic film star had dressed for wanton sex. His heroic body sported a simple black silk vest over a strategically ripped purple silk tank top. Dark flesh peeped through the rips. Skintight black linen trousers completed his outfit. Basic. Tasty. Yum, pleasing to see at least Marcelino understood how to dress for serious seduction. Why did he dance at Manny’s? My mind ticked off other gay dance clubs closer to where Marcelino lived.
Logical answer: sly Cupid had urged Marcelino across Manhattan to me. Oh yes indeed.
My admiring eyes narrowed in fresh focus. Under the sheer material, a thin silver chain traveled between two glittering silver rings attached to dark nipples. My fingers ached to pull the chain and stop his sweet sex train. Watch out, the hungry shark planned to derail the sexy express right into his waiting flippers.
This shark swam around the platform and floated up three steps. My fingers captured Blondie’s slim right arm. I leaned in close and whispered in his delicate pink ear. His golden hair almost filled my mouth. “Sir, the man you are dancing with is wanted by the police for questioning. I advise you to step away and let me take over.”
Blondie’s head twisted. His startled wide blue gaze fixed on me. What a tender cutie. He smelled good too, fresh and minty. If fair Marcelino acted as crazy as Martin, I’d keep this prime young hottie in mind.
No, if Marcelino acted crazy, I planned to become a sad monk, a dweller of the No Romantic Luck Brotherhood.
Blondie uttered breathy little words. “Oh my. Okay.” Poof, tender Blondie vanished like pale morning mist touched by the waking sun. Perfect.
A confused Marcelino already reacted to my sneaky backdoor appearance. “What the—Professor Conrad?”
I assumed the standard position before Marcelino and started swaying to the music. “In the flesh.” Hopefully soon to be buried in hot flesh.

S.A. Garcia’s info:
Dreamspinner Releases including Cupid Knows Best:
Silver Releases:

Facebook: Sandra Ann Garcia
Twitter: @SAGarcia_Writer

Thanks for reading and hugs to Eden for granting me a therapy session.


  1. THE VELVETEEN RABBIT has *destroyed* me my entire life...a friend's daughter asked me to read it to her one night, and I had to put on voices so I wouldn't get all weepy in front of her. Yikes.


    1. Yep. I can't even think about it without tearing up.

  2. I feel bad that I've never read The Velveteen Rabbit. Now I'll have to go correct that oversight.

  3. Eden, here's a link to an online version of the original 1922 book.

  4. oh yes!! The Velveteen Rabbit.... ;A; what the heck was that... omg... I cried rivers.. LOL...
    but.... v___v errghh.. I haven't read any of those others... LOL..
    But the book that really impacted me, was Target by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson. It was unlike anything that I had ever read before. Like... I used to read Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider very kid books, but after that one... It completely changed the styles and genre's I read. Now I read every/anything so long as the cover and blurb interest me. lol
    But more than that, I like to read more and more books that have depth and can really make me cry. and FEEL for the character.


  5. Sigh. I've really got to do more reading. Judi, if you'd like to do an Early Literary Influences post about some of your favorite childhood books, you're more than welcome to.