While I may be making a name for myself as a romance writer, my other great love is horror. It’s hard to pin down the exact moment I became a horror lover, just as it’s hard to say the precise point at which I realised my sexuality. It was a love that developed gradually.
Before I was ever allowed to watch a horror film, I pined for them. They were a forbidden fruit that I was desperate to taste.
I remember dying to stay up late on Saturday nights to watch the horror double bill on BBC2, but my parents were strict about bed times. I managed to catch the odd glimpse on the black and white portable in my bedroom, but my clandestine viewing was usually discovered before I had a chance to enjoy more than a few minutes.
Then, on Saturday 28 June 1980, I was allowed to stay up and watch the first of that evening’s double bill (I had to look up the precise date on Wikipedia). The movie was Night of the Demon (1957) and it remains a firm favourite to this day. It was followed by The Ghoul from 1975, but I was under strict instructions to go to bed before this more modern offering started. I think I managed to watch about half an hour of it on the portable before my older brother came to bed and switched it off. I’ve seen it several times since, and love it.
My horror hungry heart was finally set ponding by Hammer House of Horror. This 13-part anthology series was screened on ITV between 13 September and 6 December 1980, and it was on early enough in the evening for me to see it. It terrified me (I was a sensitive soul) but I loved it! I’ve seen it since and it doesn’t terrify me anymore, but it’s a wonderful piece of nostalgia. At the time though, certain episodes and scenes had me lying awake for hours, reliving them in a state of genuine fear – the doppelganger hitchhiker with the long black finger nail; the werewolves being looked after by a human nanny, played by the wonderful Diana Dors; and blood pouring from a water pipe all over a party of little kids in the episode called The House that Bled to Death.
But my real horror awakening came at the age of 15 when I went with my mother to visit my aunt in California for three weeks, during which time my older cousin rented every horror film available from the video store. I was introduced to The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, The Entityand so many more during those sun-drenched weeks. And after that, there was no looking back. My parents finally invested in a VHS recorder and started renting videos from our local newsagents, and as long as I didn’t stay up past my bed time (and yes, I still had a bed time even at the age of 15/16) they seemed happy for me to watch all manner of horror.
My next golden age of horror exposure came a few years later when my friend Heather introduced me to the sordid wonders of the Scala Cinema in Kings Cross, but I’ll save that for another blog. The Scala deserves a blog of its own.
In my earlier blog I talked about the first time I remembered being aroused by a sexual explicit image of a naked guy. But was this claustrophobic encounter with an erotic image the exact point when I realised I was gay?
Or did my gay awakening start with a kiss – at the age of ten, on the seam where the hard playground of my junior school met the sports fields? I was running, William was chasing. Breathless, I had fallen and William, yellow-blonde hair hanging across his jubilant face – a face I can barely picture now – had fallen on top of me. And then came the kiss – just a rapid peck on the cheek.
‘Why did you do that?’ I screeched – because that was what you did when another boy kissed you.
William responded with a shrug. And then we were surrounded by other boys, clamouring for the game to continue, oblivious to the fact that my world had been set spinning.
When you try and recall every memory of someone, it’s surprising how few you actually have. Someone you think of as so significant has been filed away as a handful of snapshots, adding up to a few minutes or even seconds.
This is how I remember William.
I told him I was gay – although I used the world homosexual – and that he was the cause. So, maybe I’m right to give the answer to that inevitable question as ‘when I was 10.’ This was definitely the first time I told anyone I was gay. It was also the last time I told anyone for a very long time.
I remember clearly the moment I made the confession. We were on the path that led to one of the side entrances to the school. I had run after him, wanting to confess. He seemed to take the revelation in his stride. He was 10 – he probably didn’t understand. I only knew the word because I’d watched an episode of Penmaric, a TV costume drama where the term had been used to describe two men. My older sister had filled me in on the meaning and I had related it to my feelings for William.
But William just wanted to be a 10-year-old boy– kick a tennis ball around the playground with his mates; play kiss chase – with girls; talk about how much he fancied our teacher, Mrs Waterlake. If he fancied Mrs Waterlake, why had he kissed me? I don’t think Mrs Waterlake even liked William that much. I’m sure I saw her sigh once when his hand shot up for the tenth time in one lesson.
But one lunch-break I told him I loved him in the playground and he said he loved me too. I thought this was it, that William was finally admitting his feelings for me.
‘Don’t send me a Valentines card though!’ William laughed. I laughed too, although I didn’t see why not. The next day when I mentioned our joint declaration, William said he’d been joking.
I had a girlfriend at the time called Jane-Anne. Poor Jane-Anne was so earnest about our relationship. We would take her dog – an old mongrel called Joe – for walks over the park and talk about when we were married, how many children we would have, what we would name them.
I went along with it all, although I felt nothing – no pre-pubescent butterflies, or yearnings. Jane-Anne had dark, straight hair down to her waist, large hazel eyes and a mouth that seemed permanently pursed with indignation.
She sensed, I realise now, that my heart wasn’t really in our relationship. I failed every test. When she asked if I thought she was beautiful, I’d reply, honestly, that I thought the new Charlie’s Angel was beautiful, but that Jane-Anne was very pretty. I did like looking at beautiful women. I loved the idea of a woman who was both beautiful and tough. Wonder Woman took my breath away. But it wasn’t a lustful admiration.
But then neither were my feelings for William based on anything carnal; I was a genuine innocent, with a regular early bedtime that protected me from anything post-watershed TV might have had to offer – I’m not sure how Penmaricand its homosexual heroes slipped into my awareness, but even they were just two men who loved each other – I never really thought about them having sex. So, perhaps this wasn’t the beginnings of my sexuality taking form. Wasn’t it just a platonic crush, like millions of other boys have, who go on to be totally heterosexual?
It was an intense crush though. A lot for my 10-year-old brain and heart to take. I thought constantly about when I could return William’s kiss.
We were walking home in the dark from school when the opportunity arose. William’s younger brother, Andrew, was with us, but other than him the road was deserted – we’d stayed late to rehearse for the school play. I kept whispering that I was going to do it – and I don’t remember him objecting – not to the idea of the kiss itself, just the presence of his brother.
William lived on the corner of Brompton Road, less than two-minute walk from my house. As he and Andrew stopped opposite the entrance to his road, looking left and right as they prepared to cross, I planted the kiss on his cold, smooth cheek.
I turned and walked away the second my lips left his skin. My legs weighed nothing and I thought I was going to fall. I made it to the driveway of my house and glanced back. William was laughing and rubbing his cheek.
William had a birthday party a week later. I wasn’t invited.
‘My mum says I can’t be your friend anymore,’ William told me when I protested, ‘Andrew told her about you kissing me.’
‘You kissed me first,’ I hissed. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I just sloped back to my desk, already carrying the weight of loss, and hurt – and the taint of guilt and self- hatred that would mark me as an outsider throughout the remainder of my school life.
If my love for William was platonic, then maybe it wasthat porn magazine that ignited my early realisation that I was gay. I remember that we hid it under some leaves near to the Hollow Tree, planning to come back for another furtive flick through its charged pages.
And then we’d raced each other back to the road. And for a while, feet thumping on the hard, dry ground, wind whipping my face, heart pounding, I wasn’t queer or straight, I was just a 12-year-old boy running across a park.
As promised, here’s the opening few pages of my latest gay erotic romance, Hard Lessons. No sex in this bit, I’m afraid but you do get to see the first meeting between the two hot guys who end up falling for each other.
If you want to read more, you can pre-order your copy now and it will be a sexy surprise come 1 October when it’s officially released. Enjoy!
During the taxi ride from the train station to the interview location, Jake began to wonder if his decision to escape London—and his ex, Matt—had been such a good idea. He wanted a change of scene, some time away from familiar places that held painful memories of himself and Matt together, but maybe he’d gone too far. He’d been in the cab for twenty minutes and, apart from one collection of cottages and a general store, he’d seen nothing but fields. He tried to relax and enjoy the scenery. If the job didn’t feel right or the location was just too remote, he didn’t have to take it. It might not even be offered to him.
On paper, it looked perfect—a two-month, live-in position at a large house in Somerset, teaching basic reading to a student. Jake assumed the pupil was a young child, maybe about to start school, whose parents wanted to give them a head start. The agency hadn’t given much away, which would normally have annoyed Jake, but the trip to Somerset had been paid for, including overnight accommodation if he wanted it. Any time away from the flat that he still shared with Matt until he was able to raise the deposit for his own place, was welcome.
Breaking up with Matt wasn’t the only challenge he’d had to face this year, and it was only March. He’d also lost his job as a copywriter at a small advertising agency. It had been his first job since university and he’d loved it, but the company had been forced to make cutbacks and he was the most junior person there and the last one employed. It was a case of last one in, first one out, and there was no redundancy as he’d not been there long enough to qualify. Three days after he’d received that bombshell, Matt had delivered the news that he was in love with someone else and felt their relationship had run its course.
So, here he was heading to an address in the middle of nowhere, hoping for two months of escapism while he worked out what to do next with his life.
“Nearly there,” said the driver, making Jake jump.
“Oh, great,” he replied.
“He’s a nice bloke, Mr. Foley,” said the driver, eyeing Jake in his rearview mirror. He was a gruff older guy, who had barely spoken since meeting Jake at the station. Five minutes later, he steered the car off the road onto a dirt track, which ended at two tall iron gates. The driver opened a window and leaned out, pushing an intercom button set in one of the brick gateposts.
“Hello,” said a female voice.
“Got a visitor for Mr. Foley.”
There followed an electronic buzz and the gates swung inward. This was all much grander than Jake had been expecting. The mud track turned into a driveway, bordered on either side by trees and dense shrubbery. The drive wound around to the right on a steep uphill gradient and, as the taxi reached the top of the slope, Jake saw the house. It wasn’t quite a stately home, but it was impressive. The central section looked old. Jake was no expert on architecture, but judging by the red brickwork, arched windows and intricate decorative details around the main porch. He guessed it dated back at least one hundred and fifty years. Neo-Gothic, he thought it was called. In contrast, on either side of the original house, two modern wings had been built—three floors of glass and metal with huge arched windows dominating the top floors of both. It was a bold statement, risky even, but Jake liked it. He was looking forward to meeting the Foleys, whom he assumed had helped devise the design concept.
“Here you are,” said the driver, pulling the car up a few feet from the stone steps that led to the front door. “The fare is all paid for on Mr. Foley’s account.”
Jake momentarily struggled with the dilemma of whether to offer the driver a tip. Deciding that the driver was earning far more than him right now, he made a hasty exit from the vehicle. He didn’t look to see if the driver was showing his disapproval at the lack of a gratuity but hastened up the steps, pausing at the towering front door.
He half expected to see a bell rope, like out of some old horror film, but instead, set in the wall to the right-hand side of the door, was another intercom. Jake took a deep breath, wondering why he felt so nervous over an interview for a temporary job, and pressed the buzzer.
He waited a few seconds, but no voice responded. Should I press again? While he was deciding, the door was flung open and a woman, wearing a fitted woolen dress and adorned with chunky but expensive-looking jewelry, stood smiling at him.
“Jake?” she asked, pushing some of her thick blonde hair away from her face, perhaps to get a better look at him or maybe to offer a better view of herself. Jake guessed she was around thirty-five—or possibly older but ageing well.
“Mrs. Foley?” he asked, stretching out his hand.
“Miss Foley,” she replied, gripping his hand in both of hers and pulling him into the hallway. “I’m Nathan Foley’s sister. But please call me Alice.”
“It’s good to meet you,” said Jake, taking in the expansive space.
The hallway retained numerous original features, including a stone floor and a dark-wood staircase set against a bare brick wall to the left. A huge chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling, like something from The Phantom of the Opera.
“Don’t judge,” said Alice, following Jake’s gaze. “It came with the house and we didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. It’s also worth a fortune.”
“Oh no,” said Jake hastily, “I like it.”
“I prefer the modern parts of the house,” said Alice, gesturing him to follow her across the hallway and up the stairs. “Nathan’s in his office. He said to bring you straight up.”
Nathan’s office was on the first floor in the modern west wing of the house. The door was made from a light wood set with several frosted-glass panels down the center. Alice gave three sharp knocks and a deep voice called, “Come in.”
Alice pushed the door open.
“Don’t let him bully you,” she whispered. “He’s very sweet really.”
How to totally unsettle someone, thought Jake, but he offered Alice a smile and stepped into the room.
Nathan Foley sat on a two-seater couch, not behind a desk as Jake had expected. He was in his early thirties, Jake guessed, dressed in jeans and a white shirt, sleeves rolled neatly up to reveal muscular lower arms. As Jake approached, Nathan remained sitting, legs wide apart, one arm draped across the back of the sofa, as if cozying up to an invisible date.
“Hi,” said Jake, holding out a hand. “I’m Jake Holden.”
Nathan finally leaned forward and grasped Jake’s hand, before gesturing to a chair opposite the couch. He smelled of expensive cologne and his handshake was firm.
My latest male/male erotic romance is available to pre-order now over at the Pride Publishing website and on most online retailers. Here’s the official blurb to whet your appetite. I will post some exerts over the next few weeks to really get you going!
When recently single Jake heads off to rural Somerset for a job interview as a reading teacher, he’s expecting his pupil to be a child, but it’s the handsome and charismatic property dealer Nathan Foley who needs his help. Their relationship quickly becomes sexual, and Jake worries he is rushing into another relationship too fast. And, as the heat between them intensifies, Jake begins to question Nathan’s motives.
Adding to the confusion is Nathan’s bitter older sister, Alice, who seems to have taken an instant dislike to Jake, as well as a strange man who Jake spots wandering around the grounds of the house.
What is Alice’s problem? Who is the handsome stranger? And are Nathan Foley’s feelings entirely genuine? Perhaps Jake is the one who is about to learn a hard lesson.
It’s the inevitable question that really shouldn’t be inevitable anymore, but it still gets asked. The woman asking this time is sincere, however, genuinely interested. It’s just her way of getting to know me, the man she’s been sat next to at a dinner party, and the three white wines she’s consumed in the past hour and a half have given her the confidence to put the question.
I have several stock answers. The easiest is just to give an approximate age. I usually say ‘when I was about 10’, which invariably elicits a surprised, ‘Really? That’s young.’ If I’m feeling a little more confrontational, I’ll reply with a question of my own, ‘I’m not sure, when did you realise you were straight?’ This inevitably causes so much confusion, the conversation briskly moves on. Or ends.
On this occasion, I go for option number two, not to be confrontational, but because I actually like this woman and I’m curious to know what her answer will be – plus I’ve had three glasses of red wine, so I’m up for a discussion. As I hoped, she takes time to consider my come-back, but then just agrees that it’s very difficult to give an exact time and date.
When I get home, I wonder what my answer would be if I were to really try and give a complex, honest response. The fact is, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the exact time that you realised your sexuality – whatever the sexuality might be. I have a series of mentally recorded moments that I assume are relevant to my personal growing awareness that I was gay.
I remember one of the first times I was aroused by a sexual image of a man. It was when I was 12 and I found my first porn magazine in the Hollow Tree over the local park. I was with Gary Donaldson as I usually was back then. I don’t know why – he made it quite clear that if I dropped dead he wouldn’t really care. His gaze was generally void of expression and if the subject of friendship ever came up, he’d dismiss it with a curled top lip as if admitting to actually liking someone repelled him.
Even Gary showed some excitement at the find, however. He tried to grab the magazine from me, grunting like a pig with the exertion, but I was stronger than he was – not something I could have said about many people – and I held it tight until we were sitting in the belly of the tree.
The Hollow Tree was a stalwart feature of the park. It stood at the edge of a small copse – a thirty-second run from the play area in one direction and the tennis courts in the other.
That’s all it was, a dead tree with a hollowed-out belly, about head height to a 12-year-old, easy to climb into with a well-placed foot and a gentle heave upwards. Two small people could just about fit into the hollow, as long as they were happy to share each other’s breath.
Normally this wouldn’t have been such a pleasant experience – Gary’s breath stank of pickled onion flavoured Space Invaders. But with the magazine between us, intimacy was not an issue. And as we flicked through the sexually explicit images, neither was breathing much anyway.
‘Cor! ’ growled Gary, his usually dull eyes blazing through tortoiseshell rimmed glasses. ‘I’d shag her!’
The woman in question, spread across the page like a dissected biology experiment, looked like she might oblige.
Although I made the right noises and lewd comments, I found nothing attractive about any of the women featured in the grimy treasure. It didn’t stop me looking – I was 12 years old, and curious. But it wasn’t until a picture sent in by a reader, showing herself and her boyfriend posing boldly for an invisible photographer, both naked and aroused, that I felt a genuine surge of pleasure.
When I was 21 I met the editor of a gay porn mag in The Black Cap in Camden Town and told him one of my fantasies was to pose naked for a photographer. Well, a few weeks after meeting him, he turned up on my doorstep with his camera equipment and said: “Get your clothes off then.”
It was a horny experience to be sure, although by this time I’d had sex with the photographer several times, so there wasn’t that thrill of being naked in front of a stranger and the cold eye of a camera lens.
Interesting fact: Back then, around 1989, UK porn mags couldn’t show erect cocks. There was a rule that they couldn’t be standing at more than 90 degrees, or something. So, when I became aroused, I had to push my boner down the side of my thigh.
The images look so amateur now, but I’m happy I did it. In the late 80s magazines like this one were the only contact many people had to the gay world so I was glad to do my bit to bring some pleasure to some isolated gay men.
I’m not sure I’d bring them quite as much pleasure if I repeated some of these poses now. Maybe that’s something for a future blog. If you’d like to see more of me aged 21, add me on Snapchat and I’ll be happy too share. Username Skingwriter.
If you enjoy reading sexy stuff, please check out my male/male erotic romance novellas The Black Mask and Hard Lessons. They are available direct from the publisher’s website or from Amazon UK and Amazon USA, and other online sellers.
At the age of 50, I thought my career was probably going to hobble along at the same pace until I retired, but I decided to take a risk and return to the world of freelance writing after 12 years as a full-time journo on a magazine. I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough. But I haven’t wasted the free time that has suddenly become available while I wait for all those editors to whom I’ve pitched ideas to come back to me. Instead, I decided to take a stab at writing some erotic gay romance. Why not?
I wrote the first draft of The Black Mask in a few days, then spent a few more editing it. I finally bit the bullet and submitted my 10,000-word story to Pride Publishing. I didn’t expect anything other than another standard rejection. Instead I received an encouraging email from one of their editors, suggesting some changes that would make it more suitable. It was all good, constructive feedback, and I was more than happy to take it on board. It was just nice to have someone actually take the effort to respond!
The whole experience of working with the company has been positive. The editing process was great fun. Never before have I been asked to consider swapping the word ‘boner’ for ‘raging hard-on’. I also learned a lot about my own bad habits as a writer, something that I will take with me when I continue to write in other genres.
The upshot is that The Black Mask, a tale of love, lust and superheroes will be available to pre-order from the Pride Publishing website from 14 May and will go on general release on 25 June.