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Friday, August 2, 2013

It's time to embrace your weird side.

Welcome to August!
Get ready: it’s about to get a little weird.
When you’re visiting this blog in August, expect to see and wonder about the unexpected. The sublime and surreal. Do orange-scaled aliens feel true love? How would they use their curling split tongues and feathery hands to show that love? Perhaps inter-species love isn’t your thing. Perhaps you’re more into adventure stories– bombs ticking down to the last seconds, treasures only discovered by the right combination of courage and plucky man-on-man love.
August celebrates the month of the strange, romance beyond the normal parameters.
The unusual.
 Yaoi, steam punk, sci-fi.
Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to zero-gravity lovemaking. August is your month to sip your chilly Tang (astronauts’ favorite drink) and read by the pool under the hot sun, contemplating life on an alternate planet.
If you’ve never been much interested in sci-fi or steam punk, in August, look twice and this time, say, “Hmmm. Maybe.”
I myself revel in unusual worlds, unexplored kingdoms of the imagination. I never really written about astronaut sex, no, I write what some have described as ‘twisted fairy tales.’ I guess it depends on your definition of twisted. Is it twisted to seduce a man in a sensory deprivation cell inside Alcatraz long after visiting hours are over? Is kidnapping a baby duck twisted? How about spinning a fairy tale of a kingdom where every man is the one true king?
August is the month to try something different from your normal palette. Go ahead and take a lick of that different-flavored popsicle. This month, new flavors like raspberry chocolate raisin or licorice cherry. True, you may not love it. Maybe steampunk will never be as good as your go-to Rocky Road but who knows? You might find an occasional indulgence here. Go ahead and take that second lick.
Are you willing to explore the different flavors of seduction?
The title character of my latest book (King Mai) does not. Mai Kearns is a realist. He lives by stats and predictions with numbers. He’s a Midwestern farmer who is about to lose the farm. He’s got to pay attention to rainfall percentages, erosion rates, and the number of family-owned farms declaring bankruptcy in the tough economy. He needs to be heads down. Practical. Frugal. Weather the storm. Forget about crazy adventures.
He doesn’t.
Mai establishes an online friendship with a stranger known as Vin Vanbly. After finding a spark of physical and emotional connection, the two continue to chat for several months before they reach a critical change in their online relationship.
Mai asks Vin to ‘king him.’
What does that even mean?
One August weekend, Vin shows up for a forty-hour weekend devoted to kinging Mai. If you happened to read the first book in my series (The Lost and Founds), you know what happens next: Vin Vanbly narrates a seductive tale of golden kings and their off-beat exploits, tales of legend, while dragging his charge through heart-wrenching emotional experiences, designed to exhaust and embiggen (It’s a word—Simpsons make it real) embiggen the man until he sees himself differently, a man of incredible grace and power. A man of sparkling possibilities imbued with ancient wisdom. A king, if you will.
If you didn’t read the first book in the series, no problem. You can start with the second book and fit right in. (Of course, if you dig starfish, carbonara pasta, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz prison sex, you may want to also want to check out King Perry.)
Not all of us are cut out for that kind of adventure, and that’s okay. Some folks may never give yaoi or steam punk a try. It takes all types, right?
Early in the first chapter of my tale, Mai rethinks his decision for this ‘King Weekend.’ Crazy adventures are really not his thing. In the excerpt below, Vin learns a little more about why Mai said yes. (And for this passage to make sense, you must know story takes place in 1996.)

Mai squints at me, still unsure. Already his unrelenting sharpness passes. “You know, Vin, when I read your AOL page I thought it was a fun story. Every man is the one true king, every woman the one true queen. They all have funny names, like, the King Who Loves Turtles and Summer Squash Queen. I liked how they greet the dawn and live these hilarious adventures. Cute. But…but I didn’t know you took this shit so seriously.”
I look him in the eyes. “Sure you did. In late May, you finally broke down and asked me to king you. You used the word please. You weren’t kidding around.”
“Yeah, but…” His voice trails off and he glances at the crumpled paper in his hand. After a few seconds he asks, “Did you know there’s an AOL chat room where they talk about you?”
Uh oh. Not this again. “Yeah, I’ve seen it. I don’t ever go in there, but I know it.”
“It’s a member-made room. They call themselves the VV. Back before I met you, an AOL buddy said it was bizarre and suggested I check it out. In the VV room I chatted up this black guy from New York City. He refused to tell any details about his weekend with you. Just told me if Vin Vanbly ever sent me a formal King Weekend invitation in all block letters I should say yes. I kept probing him for details and he kept repeating, ‘If invited, say yes. Say yes.’”
I wonder who Mai chatted with from New York. Rance? Tim? Derry? No, not him. Derry doesn’t interact much on the World Wide Web. Huh. I wonder. Can’t get snagged by this right now. Snap out of it, Vin. A King Weekend requires every ounce of my full attention, my absolute focus. Despite more than a dozen kingings under my belt, I must remain hyper vigilant. Every step of this journey is perilous, even if I act casual.
Mai looks at the note again. “Did all those guys in the VV chat room go through crap like this? Did they have to do whatever you said all weekend?”
“Nobody has ever gone through what you’re about to experience. Each weekend is unique. But yeah, they got the same invitation. Same basic rules. Complete submission to my will for the entire weekend. You’re free Sunday at noon.”
In a hesitating voice, he says, “I talked to more than the New York guy. I talked to a few of them. They believe in this king stuff. They believe.”
I’ve got to change the direction of this conversation. I don’t like discussing details from past weekends or the men whom I carry in my heart.

Despite the exuberance in planning these King Weekends, the last sentence reveals that ultimately, Vin is a private man. If you read King Perry, you saw one side of Vin, mysterious and cool. If you read King Mai, you see a softer side of Vin, a man in love and lonely, a man fighting the personal demons seeming to gallop alongside his every move.
Perhaps that’s what’s best about a month of strange tales and exotic locations—experience a shocking new perspective. Perhaps love on a rocket ship is necessary to explore a side of ourselves we don’t often see. Maybe watching two blushing Japanese boys discover their hearts also opens us up to a new flavor of love.
I think so.
And isn’t that why we read new fiction, whatever our favorite genre? Don’t we read to explore new worlds that we probably ought not visit, I shouldn’t be here, this isn’t my thing…I’m not into—
What if you said yes to the month of August? Say yes to an unconventional love story, and let it set you ablaze in the searing sun.
This month, Guys Love Romance Too gives you the opportunity to explore some unusual titles. What will you do? Click away and go back to your normal world? Or will you look at the opportunity to adventure and respond like a sensible Midwestern farmer who once upon a time, took a chance, and said, “King me.”

Edmond Manning is the author of King Perry and now, King Mai. (You need not have read that first book to enjoy King Mai.) Unusual emails are welcomed at: Drink Tang.

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