Today I am so pleased to welcome Mickie B. Ashling to Joyfully Jay. Mickie has come to chat with us a little about how she got her start in writing, as well as her love for Queer as Folk (Brian, sigh). She has also brought along a backlist book to give away. Please join me in giving Mickie a big welcome!
Blame it on Gale…
Thanks to Joyfully Jay for giving me this opportunity to share a little more about my journey as a published writer in the m/m genre. I’ve stayed away from social media for a long time because I’m an inherently private person, plus I had an EDJ to protect. Now that I’m semi-retired, the chances of being fired for writing what some people consider porn, is zero to none. That being said, I’d like my readers to know a little more about me.
I’ve never hidden the fact that I got my start in fan fiction. What I rarely talk about is how it all began.
“I just saw the face of God and his name is Brian Kinney.”
Like the character Justin from Queer as Folk, I took one look at Gale Harold aka Brian Kinney and fell in love. He was the quintessential anti-hero, the unapologetic bad boy who turned my world (and thousands of others) upside down.
The depth of my devotion (addiction) to this guy was only known to my family who at one point thought I was having a nervous breakdown—I was hooked on a show about gay men. My four sons (all straight) couldn’t understand my interest and gave me the look whenever the show came on the air. I wasn’t about to tell them that watching Brian and Justin making love was one of the most erotic things I’d seen in all my life.
When the show ended on such a sour note, I went into a deep depression; my favorite couple didn’t get the ending I thought they deserved. My sister advised Prozac, and my sons concurred, convinced their mom had truly lost her mind. I spent hours watching QAF reruns and bitched at the writers for doing such a piss-poor job on Season 5. Then I discovered fan fiction. Up to that point, I didn’t even know it existed!
I devoured all the B/J stories floating around on the internet and commented on everything. When I started making suggestions and handing out plot bunnies to one of my favorite authors, she told me I should try my hand at the genre. She liked my ideas, but they were mine, not hers, and she wasn’t about to write my story. That got me thinking. Okay. I can do this. I’ve always loved to read, and literature was my best subject in school. I dabbled in writing back in the day when you had to handwrite everything, and I even took a few courses in creative writing. Thankfully, the trusty old family computer had Microsoft Word, and I reserved a spot (in between my children’s gaming) each night to sit down and write.
My initial stories were rough, and I could have used a good editor, but I persisted and improved with each one. Eventually, I found some lovely ladies who shared my love for QAF and were willing to beta read. They became my online family as did all the readers encouraging me with positive comments each time I posted a chapter.
Even though the show had been off the air for quite some time, I followed all the news on Gale Harold and joined the fans who supported his new endeavors. One of them was a role as Dr. Cukrowicz aka Dr. Sugar in Tennessee Williams’ play, Suddenly Last Summer. When I found out it was at the Roundabout Theater in New York City, I realized it might be my only chance to actually see Gale up close and personal. I’ve copied my Live Journal entries from January 2007 so you can understand the depth of my obsession. Sheesh…
I have completely lost my mind and joined the ranks of the truly obsessed Gale Harold fans!
Tomorrow, I fly out of Chicago at 6:30 in the morning to go to New York City to catch the 2:00 pm matinee of Suddenly Last Summer, and then I’m flying back home at 7:30 at night so I can go to work the following day. This is probably one of the more impulsive, wacked-out things I’ve done in a long time, but what the heck. It’s only time and money, right?
I had to find someone crazy enough to come with me, so I asked son #2 who is a free spirit and will go anywhere, so long as it’s free. He said yes!
That’s all for now. I thought I’d share because I’m so excited I probably won’t sleep one wink tonight!
The next post …
I just got back from New York and reporting as promised. The day couldn’t have gone any better! Our flight was on time, and when we got there, it started snowing lightly, so we knew we were in for a much colder day than expected. Thankfully, my son and I both had heavy coats. The snow stopped right away and although it was pretty cold, the sun was shining and we were standing on Broadway staring at all the lights and the billboards; I was so glad that I had given in to my impulse.
We had quite a bit of time to kill before the play started so we went to the Empire State Building because I promised my son we would go. I’m a big chicken when it comes to heights (I can get on a plane with no trouble at all but tall buildings make me queasy), so I stayed on the ground floor while he went up to the observation deck to enjoy the view. It was so windy and cold his camera almost blew away!
After that we had two slices of perfectly sloppy New York pizza, which I was craving, then we went back to the theater to pick up our tickets. I met up with my wonderful beta, whom I’d never met in person, and a few of her friends. Two ladies were from the UK, and one of them was the amazing writer, Julia, from Midnight Whispers. I was so happy to meet up with fellow Gale lovers, and we sat and had some coffee until it was time to go to the theater.
The most amazing thing happened before my friends showed up. We were at the “Will Call” window when Gale walked in and stood right beside me. I almost had a heart attack; he was so close I could have leaned forward and kissed him with no problem. I almost didn’t realize who he was until I saw his perfect jawline under that funny hat he had taken to wearing. His profile was SO much better in person, and his complexion was flawless. I can’t even begin to tell you how my head was spinning when I finally realized it was Gale. All I could do was stare, and stare, and stare some more—like I was fifteen or something.
He was very gracious to two Japanese fans who were trying to talk to him but they didn’t speak English, and he didn’t understand a word they were saying. Apologizing repeatedly for his lack of understanding, he ended up leaving them because he had to go and get changed for the performance.
The play itself was pretty much what everyone else has written about, so I won’t go into that except to say that Carla really is an amazing actress, Blythe Danner flubbed several of her lines, and Dr. Sugar was incredibly beautiful, as always!
After the play, we stood around the entrance, like the good fan girls that we are, and waited for Gale to come outside and sign autographs. He did, dressed in tight jeans and wearing the hat again. He was very polite and answered everyone’s questions, interacting with most of the people there. I was too embarrassed to get his autograph, so my son, a real trooper all day, grabbed the Playbill out of my hand, and went up to Gale and asked for a signature. He handed it to me with a shake of his head. “You’re crazy, Mom. After coming all this way you should at least shake his hand.”
Yeah right. I was star struck, tongue-tied, and I choked.
As I got deeper into the world of fan fiction, the necessity to hone my writing skills became a priority. I decided to attend a week-long writer’s workshop at Kenyon College in Ohio. I had never heard of them before, having grown up in another country, but apparently they’re quite prestigious in the literary world, and their journal, the Kenyon Review, is highly respected. My week turned into another Brian Kinney moment!
When I got to the college, I was a little intimidated by all the literary types, and quite honestly, I felt out of my league. I had psyched myself up into doing the course because I wanted to improve my writing skills, but I was positive I’d make a fool of myself after eavesdropping on some of the conversations. Then it occurred to me that if these people knew it all they wouldn’t be there to learn and I calmed down. I’d been accepted to this grueling writers boot camp (I had to send in a sample of my writing) so I couldn’t be as bad as I thought.
So there I was with a bunch of strangers who were far more educated than I could ever hope to be. There were seventy-five participants, men and women from all over the country and a few from Europe and South America. Many of them were published novelists, poets, and nonfiction writers, but there were several like me, aspiring writers who were there to learn.
My teacher was Tara Ison, a published novelist herself and a screen writer. Very nice woman, down to earth, not at all intimidating, and a great teacher. On the very first morning of the first day, she told us to write a 500 word “story” in about twenty minutes. She said, “Write whatever you want; it doesn’t really need to be anything specific, just something you’re comfortable with.” Okay, I thought to myself, that’s easy, I’ll write about my two favorite people, something I can do in my sleep, right? So I wrote a Brian and Justin piece, threw in a little sex for the fun of it, and turned it in. Now she said, “Let’s read out loud!”
Oh shit! I almost turned to stone when I heard that. I thought she was going to take the stories and discuss them with us the next day on a one-on-one basis. NOT!! So I’m sitting in a class with four men (a liver-transplant surgeon in his early fifties, a lawyer in his sixties, a thirty-something teacher, and a twenty-something college student) and five other women of assorted ages and professions.
“You want me to read this now?” I asked, sounding panicked.
“Yes,” she says. “Go for it.”
I looked around and all eyes were on me. Well, I started out with an immediate apology. I had no idea if these people were gay friendly or not, but I was about to find out real quick. As I began to read, all fidgeting stopped abruptly, and I think everyone forgot to breathe. By the time I was finished, there was an explosive release of commentary.
“Wow, oh my God, you blew me away, holy shit, where did that come from?”
My teacher smiled and said “That was great. Good job!” Turns out her mother was a big QAF fanatic. After that, I was barraged with questions on my material, and I told them about fan fiction and Queer as Folk. No one knew anything about it, especially the men. They didn’t get my interest, but are we surprised? Anyhow, I was teased a little bit about the erotic content, but everything moved forward until I was told I had to participate in a public reading at the end of the course. In front of all the participants. In an auditorium!
I queried Tara on what I should read, and she said, “Your fan fiction.”
“You’re kidding,” I said.
“No I’m not,” she replied. “If you can’t read what you write, and you can’t stand behind your work, you shouldn’t be writing this.” Right….
I stressed over this for minutes, hours, days, and even lost sleep over it. It was distracting me from my learning, and finally I told myself that Brian Kinney would have no qualms and would have muttered “fuck em all” without missing a beat. I had to get into his mindset and just do it. So on the night in question, I had a big glass of wine for dinner, stood up in front of the crowd, and read my short story, explicit sex scene and all. I blew them away! The applause was unbelievable, and I could feel Brian’s spirit at my side giving me a thumbs up.
After the reading, students and teachers came up to me and asked about fan fiction. I had read a disclaimer before I started my reading. The usual precursor to all my stories—I do not own these characters blah, blah, blah. The evening turned into a big discussion on the pros and cons of fan fiction writers. There were the usual dissenters, considering it beneath them, but for the most part, people were receptive and interested in learning more. I was simply relieved that it was over and I lived to tell the tale.
While I was waiting to board my plane back to Chicago, a complete stranger walked up to me and said, “Aren’t you the soccer mom who read that hot sex scene the other night?”
Grins. My new claim to fame. Thanks to Gale Harold. I give him all the credit.
I’d like to thank my publicist, Joleen, from Parenthetical Author Services for making my beautiful banner and setting up my blog tour. Self-promotion is a daunting business for those of us who rarely stick their noses outside of the writing cave. Having someone do all the leg work is a blessing and gives me more time to concentrate on the creative side of my job. For anyone out there who suffers from my affliction, I’d recommend a publicist to spare you needless anxiety. It’s been a joy to have Joleen in my corner. Here’s her contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mickie B. Ashling is the alter-ego of a multifaceted woman raised by a single mother who preferred reading over other forms of entertainment. She found a kindred spirit in her oldest child and encouraged her with a steady supply of dog-eared paperbacks. Romance was the preferred genre, and historical romances topped her favorites list.
By the time Mickie discovered her own talent for writing, real life had intruded, and the business of earning a living and raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing and the inevitable emptying nest, dreams were resurrected, and the storyteller was reborn.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Mickie loves to travel and has lived in the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East but currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
Mickie is offering up an ecopy of any book from her backlist, including foreign translations, to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Sunday, August 10th at 11:59 pm EST.
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