AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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Let’s have a party!

TCM-cover-web Let’s have a celebratory party! Can I throw my own party? Is that a no-no? Because I’m pretty excited about my book, This Charming Man, being released into the wild and we should at least have a drink, right?

Here it is at Amazon and Smashwords (other venues forthcoming).

If you run into me in person I suggest not asking me about it unless you want your ear talked off. It seems like I should have used up all my excess verbiage in actually writing the book, but nope, I still have plenty more to say about the characters and the setting. So brace yourself if you engage me in that conversation.

And I could spend all day thanking Jugum Press for publishing me, adding me to their eclectic cache of books. Even you think you’re not into my book, well there’re probably some books over there you’d like. The editing Annie Pearson did for me was so above and beyond, I’m eternally grateful.

So let’s celebrate, get you a copy of the book and settle in with a drink and a quiet read. After you can come over and I’ll cook and we talk about the book,okay? Or alternately you can go review it in the venue of your choosing and I’ll just be over here drinking and hoping that you liked it.

 


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So this happening

I wrote a book, and now it’s edited, and has a cover, and is going to be a thing you can buy soon. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

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This Charming Man by Ajax Bell

WILL SEATTLE MAKE A MAN OF HIM YET?

It’s 1991 and Steven Frazier has danced away half a decade in the Seattle club scene with his beautiful-but-poisonous best friend, Adrian. Two glittering princes against the world, too high above life to care about what they might be missing.

But everything changes when a chance meeting with older—not to mention handsome—businessman John Pieters, reveals a cosmopolitan world and possible futures Steven’s never considered.

Flashy club clothes won’t impress John, this charming man who knows so much about many things. Motivated by fantasies inspired by his crush on John, can Steven finally fight Adrian’s sick hold?

As he steps out into the larger world, supported by new friends, Steven must prove to John—and to himself—that he’s not a hedonistic rhinestone club kid, but a true diamond in the rough.

KINDLE: Amazon
PRINT: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  |  CreateSpace  |  Find other bookstores
EPUB: Smashwords


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History in the present, in pictures

I hope many of you are already reading The Gay Men Project.  If you aren’t I’m glad to introduce you to it. It is, I suppose, something like Humans of New York, but both larger and more narrow.  I love reading the first person accounts of these men’s lives. How diverse their experiences are, how different.  Seeing the older men talk about the times they came out, how they came out, how being gay affected their lives. And the younger men, not all, but so many saying how being gay is such a small part of their identity, just a thing, nothing to make a big deal about.

I think about this a lot, this split.  I am so grateful, so thankful, that simply being gay is slowly becoming meaningless. Just an aspect of a person, not their entire identity. This is hugely important and the kind of acceptance we’ve been fighting for all these years.  And I feel a little loss in the face of it. ‘Gay’ has never been a homogenous (heh) culture but a mass of connected subcultures and it’s hard to see those dissapear. Yes, the terrible sterotypes, the negative judgements are washing away with them and good riddance.  But there was once a narrative that we are losing. An oral tradition of sorts, codes of conduct, akin to secret handshakes, passed down from generation to generation. And even the stereotypes weren’t all bad, many existed and allowed you to find your own, even when outsiders couldn’t quite see what was going on.

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Truly the need for secrecy was awful.  It existed to keep gay people safe. That there was so much threat, to their jobs, lives, and persons, that it required being hidden was terrible.  Being 40, I lived only on the very far edges of that, heard about, passed down verbally to me, as the history of a subculture. I’m glad the threat is lessening, dissipating. But the stories, the transfer of information from person to person is disappearing too. Becoming ancient lore, mythology, something barely seen. Subtext in old books and movies is lost, without this code and key to understand it. And that part I’m going to miss when it’s gone. It’s becoming a humorous stereotype of all it’s own, gay movies now filled with a greek chorus of older gay men shaking their heads at the youth of today for not knowing the great gay icons, not knowing the struggle.

The Gay Men Project preserves some of this passed on history. You can see bits and pieces of it in older men’s stories, still being shared, in a different way to the next generation.

I also love the diversity of pictures, of people. In an era when gay men’s bodies are becoming as scrutinized and modified as women’s have long been, it’s nice to have a break from the sculpted abs and designer clothes. To see real people shouldn’t be be so refreshing, but it is and it’s a great reminder that being out is what gives us all freedom.  When you can see that these are simply your neighbors, your friends, your family, integral parts of your community. Not monsters or perverts, but average people, it’s so very important to the cause, to equality, to freedom.

So thanks, Kevin Truong, for the work you’re doing to relay this these beautiful stories and pictures.

vintagegay


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Only Lovers Left Alive

tumblr_n61mx7lrnm1r7wwqao1_500Last night I went and saw Only Lovers Left Alive with Darrah.  It was playing, as far as we could tell, only one week, Mon-Thur, two shows a night, at different times each night. At a theater inconvenient to most anyone who would probably be interested in it.  If they could even discover it was playing.  7pm on Thursday and the audience was the two of us, a solitary fangirl (I saw you, ma’am and recognized what you are), and two 50s-ish guys.  I mean I guess the theater can argue the limited run was for lack of interest but, c’mon, Nashville.  Why wasn’t this at the Belcourt,and publicized, like at all?

Still I’m grateful we saw it the theater, and in a quiet theater no less, because it was amazing.  I couldn’t watch the first couple minutes, where everything was spinning.  Too vertigo-y for my delicate brain constitution, but the rest of it was fucking perfect.

I want to crawl inside this movie and live forever. I over identified with Adam’s character, so crawling inside it obviously means Tilda Swinton would be my wife, which is all I’ve ever wanted out of the world. But there’s more reasons than that.  My coworker asked what it was about this morning, and I said, “it was vampire movie, but if I had to use single words to describe it they would be: soft, comfortable, calm and romantic.”  There really wasn’t angst and suffering in OLLA, just a little irritation and exasperation. And of course, the vampire thing.  I started reading Anne Rice and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro when I was 14 or 15.  Yep the vampire thing is kind of over played in pop culture now, but it will always be a huge part of  my emotional and intellectual upbringing.  OLLA was the vampire movie of my goth teenager dreams.  It filled me with the same calm wonder as discovering the Romantic poets did, or finding The Chameleons UK and feeling like someone else really understood my inner world.

The pacing of the movie was oddly relaxing.  There was no real sense of urgency in it, even when people were hurrying to do things. There was tension, but it never felt scary or anxiety inducing.  There was just this pervading sense that whatever came could be handled, somehow.  Which is perfect, if you’ve lived forever and been through everything, sure this too shall pass, you  know it will.  The film was also very much a snap shot. No long flashbacks, only casual discussion of their long past together.  Just here, right now, a small window into a long long life. And everything was left to be inferred.  There was no explanation for vampirism or powers or anything, it was just a given you’d know some parts and figure out others.

And of course now all I want to do is go shop for just the right white leather jacket.  I mean if I can’t marry Tilda Swinton can I at least please be super cool like her?

tumblr_n4zjh1y5fE1sw6awyo1_500I left the theater feeling both calmed and utterly delighted.  I want to write stories like this.  Stories that are merely a slice of life, a small window of a larger tale, but still utterly engaging and interesting. Stories that lack complicated plots but are rich and detailed with character, scene, setting and tone.

I totally recommend OLLA, but watch it undistracted, so you can live in it while it unfolds.


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Almost making it

So ever since I saw the movie I have been thinking about the striped sweater that Kristen Wiig wears on the plane in Bridesmaids.

Of course it’s no longer in stores and all the similar ones I can find are priced way out of anything I can afford.  So I set out to make it.  How hard could it be, anyway?  It’s like three pieces of fabric.

Test run #1 wasn’t the right fabric, but close enough.  I used a shirt pattern I already had and tried to guess about how it should be broken up between stripes and black.  The end result is wearable, although just not quite there yet:

But it’s close and super comfortable and it’s the first tee shirt I’ve ever made!  Sewing with knits is not fun.  Seriously do not like it.  But the end result is good enough that I’m definitely keeping it.  My second attempt I drafted my own pattern and found better fabric.  Alas the pattern fit was wonky and way off and the fabric shrunk like crazy when washed.  Still it is also wearable if not exactly perfect:

So close and yet still so far.  I might make one final run on this.  Redraft the pattern, keep hunting for the right fabric and eventually end up with the unbelievably simple shirt.  Or maybe I’ll just give up and be happy with what I have.  I mean I know how to sew tee shirts now.  A whole new world of sewing is open to me!


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Summer Begins

Scrolling back through entries here I see I’ve often posted at length on the Winter Solstice, but not for the Summer.

Summer begins at 6:09pm.  In Middle Tennessee, the sun today rose at 5:30am, then sets at 8:07pm, giving us 14.6 hours of sunlight.  The longest day of the year.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the Summer Solstice.  Here in Tennessee I feel a little cheated, perhaps because of our latitude.  If I was in Seattle today I’d have a full 16 hours of daylight, being so much further north.  It is one of the glorious delights of the North, the drastic changes in the amount of light make you value the seasons.  It somehow gives you more visible seasonal drama beyond mere temperature changes and plants returning to life.  And yet, even in the Great North I always felt the Summer Solstice to be somewhat bittersweet.

The light diminishes after flaring it’s brightest on this day.  In Tennessee it means less in than it does in the North, as it will never get as dark in winter, so there is less burden to bear on that end.  Indeed, the longest days of summer are still ahead of us, if we are measuring by heat, laziness and availability of good food cooked outside on a grill.  But the light passing has always felt like loss to me.  A downward journey that eventually ends in the darkness of winter.  The beauty of autumn is joy to behold.  As is the desolation of winter in it’s own way.  Still today feel like an ending, a turn we took, walking away from spring. Fortunately spring will return next year, no matter what we do, and on the Winter Solstice we can look longingly at the slow the return of the light,  knowing that spring must come on the heels of the sun’s return.

I don’t know the origins of my dark view of midsummer.  Perhaps growing up so far north, where the loss of the sun means so much darkness.  Perhaps it’s burned in genetic memory from my Scandinavian and Scottish ancestors.  It’s no mystery that the Scandinavian cultures, and for northern European ones, celebrate Midsummer as a massive festival.  Because indeed today feels massive, like the most there is, the best you can have, ALL the sunlight.  And yet it is only today, quickly fleeting, like everything in life.


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What Spain Was Like

“She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien’s theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.”

– William Gibson, Pattern Recognition (full quote here)

Yesterday morning (relatively speaking, to my current sense of time), I got on a plane in Barcelona.  It flew out over the Mediterranean, which was spectacularly blue, and then turned sharply and went directly over Sitges, a town I had visited just days before.  I wept copiously with a great sense of loss as the plane went over the entire length of the Pyrenees, until reached the Bay of Biscay and turned over the Atlantic, towards Philadephia.

I am presently too tired, too soul-lagged to tell you about it.  Indeed I may never getting around to writing a narrative of it, but I promise lots and lots of pictures as soon as I get all 500+ of them sorted and tagged and all that modern day nonsense that allows me to foist my living room vacation slide show on you.  For now my soul is still somewhere over the Pyrenees, perhaps, still dreaming of the Mediterranean.


What Spain Was Like

Spain was a taut, dry drum-head
Daily beating a dull thud
Flatlands and eagle’s nest
Silence lashed by the storm.
How much, to the point of weeping, in my soul
I love your hard soil, your poor bread,
Your poor people, how much in the deep place
Of my being there is still the lost flower
Of your wrinkled villages, motionless in time
And your metallic meadows
Stretched out in the moonlight through the ages,
Now devoured by a false god.

All your confinement, your animal isolation
While you are still conscious
Surrounded by the abstract stones of silence,
Your rough wine, your smooth wine
Your violent and dangerous vineyards.

Solar stone, pure among the regions
Of the world, Spain streaked
With blood and metal, blue and victorious
Proletarian Spain, made of petals and bullets
Unique, alive, asleep – resounding.

– Pablo Neruda