Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lowering the Mask—Showing Your True Self

I had lunch with a friend and former colleague over the weekend, and he talked about "lowering the mask" with regard to school (he's a teacher, too) and, to some degree, his personal life, but after we finished lunch, that phrase swam around my head for a bit. I have to admit, it still clings to my cranium.

We all wear masks. Every single day of our lives, even when we say we're "like an open book." For people to be completely open to everyone all the time seems a bit unrealistic. We need to have that moment when we smile at others when we'd rather be by ourselves in quiet meditation. It's a human thing to do. But, I do believe that it is necessary to lower the masks we wear if we want to have any meaningful relationships with people, including ourselves.

A mask, to me, is a persona that I wear that gives me a thin veneer behind which I can be someone else or at least have that hint of experience where I can be an expert on something, like teaching. Or, it can be that shield I put up when I have to be in a setting where I am entirely uncomfortable. My masks come in many forms, and for the longest time (27 years, to be exact), my greatest mask was as a straight man. I lived behind that opaque, porcelain shell, hiding my true self to everyone, perhaps even to myself. When it was time to lower that mask, I endured a maelstrom of emotion and psychological upheaval that changed me forever.

To some extent, as a teacher, I wear a mask, too. I can't very well go into work feeling bedraggled and overwrought from whatever's been happening in my life—my students see me as their English teacher whose life is much less complicated than theirs. If they only knew. I walk into my classroom every day with a smile and buoyant spirit, hoping that it becomes infectious. Occasionally, I do lower that mask when I speak with students individually or when I know my personal experience will help someone. I have to show them that I am, indeed, a human being, and not some automaton or holographic projection that comes to life when the school opens. It's this mask that is sometimes hard to maintain, especially when I see students in crisis or feel the Atlas-like burden of bureaucracy pressing down upon me. Unlike the mask of "straightness" that I wore to protect myself growing up, my professional educator mask will remain a part of me as it's a vital part of who I am.

I'm sure my proverbial closet has what I would consider a collection of masks I wear from time to time, and they can be crucial to maintaining my sanity. Lowering these masks can be helpful, especially when among friends who understand. One of my most commonly used masks is, "How am I? I'm fine."

How many times have we been asked that question, only to put on a smile (i.e. mask) and lie? Is it worth taking that mask off and allowing that person to see exactly how we feel and what we feel? This mask removal comes with risks. Taking it off to too many people weakens its efficaciousness. Not taking it off enough leaves us miserable and lonely. It's not bravery to deny feelings to those who care about you. It's fear. "What if he doesn't understand?" or "What if she judges me?" or "Do they really care, or was that just a gesture?" The only way to find out just what's on the other side of that mask is to lower it and wait.

Scary, eh? Sometimes, I'd like to superglue the mask to my face, so to speak. Other times, I can't take it off fast enough. But, in either case, I have no idea what will happen when I make that choice.

Ultimately, I believe in my heart that lowering a mask we wear, at the appropriate time, can bring us peace and love, balance and strength. We just have to okay with what we look like without it.

In most cases, the one whose judgment we fear most is our own.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Vance Bastian—Author, Voice Artist, and Odin

Vance Bastian has an impressive résumé: author, podcaster, voice artist, and—yes—I do believe he is Odin, the All-Father (more on that later). Ever since we met, we've both determined that we should have become friends in kindergarten.

When we connected on Facebook, we discovered we had many commonalities including—but not limited to—D&D, writing, and fitness. In fact, his About page for the podcast (see below) had words that caught my attention: gym, "werewolf shaman, a wizard, or mischievous sidhe," "gay superheroes in a D&D game"—I knew he was a brother.

Once I knew he was an author, I HAD to check out his novel Slumberscythe (Outré War Book 1). I'm not finished yet, but it's a story that takes you prisoner right away, but you don't want to break free. You're held captive by his story, and the adventure that unfolds is mesmerizing. I'll have a review when it's done, but I feel like I'm reading a kindred spirit's work. I'm excited for book 2 in the series, Styxgate, as well as another book he's working on, Caesar's Shadow.

In addition, he's "got skills" in the voice department, first as founding host of the 3 M/Musketeers podcast, and his voice work for audiobooks.

That brings me to him being Odin. Here's why: in many of his posts, he makes reference to two corvine advisers, as it were, named Huginn and Muninn. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who lays claim to that except the All-Father himself. Plus, if you check out this photo from his website, isn't this body of a Norse god? Just sayin'.

You can certainly learn more about him via Twitter (@VanceBastian), Facebook, and his site.

In his own words, "[he] writes mostly fantasy, urban fantasy, historic fantasy, horror, and paranormal fiction. When nobody's looking, he's a complete sci-fi geek."

I'd say that's pretty kickass.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Playing Tug of War with Characters

I'm a writer whose inspirational cup overfloweth. You'd think that would be a good thing, right? Sort of. Having the ideas and having the time to write are polar opposites. Currently, I'm working on books employing the Greek pantheon AND the Celtic one. The Task Force: Gaea series is my current series, and I should be working on The Archer's Paradox (book 4) and Of Mortal Bonds (my anthology), but Conall and Aeden from my Celtic WIP, The Quest of Wyndracer and Fyrehunter keep nagging me in their thick brogues: "Come on, we're up for some craic." (craic is Gaelic for fun)

On the other spectrum of Task Force: Gaea, Aleta is glaring, eye brow raised, lips pursed, with her arms folded. Sarah's just pouting. Brandon takes things in stride, but he's uncharacteristically quiet, and Dan is polishing his sword and occasionally looking at me. Of course, this is all happening in my head. Yeah, my characters are active figures for me in my head. I know some of you understand.

Lately, I've been focusing my attention on fleshing out the first few chapters of Conall's and Aedan's adventures. My head's all about Cernunnos and Brigid, not Apollo and Athene.

Instead of the sound of the lyre in my head, I'm hearing trad music with the tin whistle and bodhran.

I think the gods must be angry (Olympian, not Celtic) since I've been ignoring them. I can hear Zeus' rumbling from here. Maybe I need to do some sort of sacrifice or ritual to appease them. Or appease my own guilt. Haha.

I love that I have multiple things going on in my head, but I'm not enjoying having my "kids" thinking Dad doesn't love them. I don't play favorites, but I guess I have been.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October Platform Challenge Days 5 & 6

In keeping with the challenge, I marked that I had joined Facebook & Twitter. I hope that this challenge will keep me engaged and push myself to become a stronger presence as an author.

If you want, follow me on Twitter at and on Facebook at I welcome the interaction!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

2015 October Platform Challenge!

My friend and fellow author Vance Bastian mentioned this to me, and I read through the posts he put on his blog thus far. I'm intrigued by this challenge, actually, and it will get me into something different. I have some catching up to do, so here we go!

Day 1 Challenge (October 1) was Define Yourself as a Writer. I'm using the same format Vance used, so here goes:

Name (as used in byline): David Berger
Position(s): Author, Teacher
Skill(s): Storytelling, writing, editing, and proofing
Social media platform(s)—active: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Social media platform(s)—lurker: Independent Author Network, DitterVerse, Internet Author Database
Accomplishments: Masters degree in Secondary Education, concentration in English, first three novels in a series of five published, contributed to short story anthologies
Interests: Writing, teaching, fitness, reading
In one sentence, who am I? David Berger is an English teacher and author, and someone who loves empowering others.

Day 2 Challenge (October 2) was Set Your Writing Goals

Short Term
  • In October, complete the October Platform Challenge.
  • Finish plotting Of Mortal Bonds by the end of November 2015.
  • Finish plotting The Archer's Paradox by the end of December 2015.

Long Term
  • Publish The Archer's Paradox in 2016.
  • Publish Of Mortal Bonds in 2016 (at least one of the books).
  • Publish Book 5 of the Task Force: Gaea series.
  • Publish The Quest of Wyndracer and Fyrehunter from The DragonHawk Cycle.
  • Complete The DragonHawk Cycle within five years.
  • Contribute to more short story anthologies.
  • Improve my financial stability.
  • Keep my fitness goals consistent yet growing.
Day 3 Challenge (October 3) was Start a Writing Blog

DONE! You're on it!

Day 4 Challenge (October 4) was Claim Your Domain.


I'm ready for more! Stay tuned for the rest of the challenge as October unfolds! Thanks, Vance!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Taking My Main Character Out of the Closet

Growing up in suburban Long Island, NY during the 70s and 80s, I lied to myself every single day. I was (and still am) the eldest of three kids, and the only male child, so the expectations for carrying on my family (i.e. marrying a "nice, Jewish girl") had been placed on me by a mother who had no idea who her son really was deep down. I never told anyone how I felt because I didn't want to get the crap kicked out of me, and in my teen years, I would never have thought to use the word "gay" to label myself. I don't think I even heard that word growing up. I did hear "queer" or "faggot," however, from people my own age, and my step-father (who used to say I was queer because I liked to draw; I just think back then he didn't know what to do with a step-son who wasn't into sports and liked to be creative). I kept telling myself I liked girls, and that I should just do what was expected of me and date them with the hope (my mother's, not mine) that I would marry one at some point. My lies festered within me, and I gradually knew I liked actually guys by the time I was in high school.

I would sneak glances at guys I thought were cute, making sure my surreptitious looks were quick and sly. This side of me could never come to the surface, I would tell myself, because I would lose everyone I held dear. When I started writing, I even kept those ideas out of my personal stories for fear that someone would find what I'd written and discover my secret. I started writing "The Olympus Corps" in high school, and my outer-space fantasy with Olympian gods had all straight characters. It would never have occurred to me to make any character gay or even bisexual. It just wasn't done then.

Even after high school, when I dabbled with my story, even knowing that there were, in fact, gay people at SUNY Albany (having seen the Gay and Lesbian Alliance office in the student union), I kept my characters straight and largely relationship free. At that time, that was the world I lived in—a heteronormative world where nothing else existed. When I came out in 1994, that was all going to change.

Dan Fairmont aka Aegis
It wasn't until I changed the name of the story to Task Force: Gaea—Destiny's Talisman (that title didn't last long) that I toyed with the idea of a bisexual character in Dan Fairmont. At that time, I hadn't even thought about the prospect of publishing the book, so it was all private and personal. Over the years, as the story morphed and developed, I felt something was missing, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Somewhere in the 2000s, I had an epiphany: DAN HAD TO BE GAY.

I had been out since 1994, and I was living in a long term relationship with my partner, so why on G-d's green Earth couldn't Dan be gay? Of course he could. That was when it hit me: my world wouldn't have homophobia. Nope. Not at all. It was a fantasy novel, after all. The world I had created could be whatever I wanted it to be, and that kind of prejudice (or any, for that matter) just didn't need to be there. My story wasn't about a man struggling with his being gay or adjusting to a different society or making strides in a largely heterosexual world. If the Olympian gods could have male and female lovers, then my main character could be a gay man.

Herein lies my issue: I don't market my books to an LGBTQ audience largely. I go to Bent-Con and RainbowCon, two LGBTQ-focused conventions, to sell my books (basically because I'm a gay author), but I don't tag my book as LGBTQ on Amazon. My biggest fear is that people will think it's somehow an erotic fantasy novel, and it's not. Dan has a boyfriend, and, once in a while, they're seen lying in bed together talking, but there's never any intimation of sex. Not even "fade to black."

Yeah, I have a gay main character. Yeah, his father, Apollo (the Greek god), had flings with men. Hell, so did Zeus (Ganymede, anyone?). Why I think people would suddenly run screaming from Task Force: Gaea if they knew the book had a gay character is just my own hang up. I'm certainly not ashamed of my work (or of myself), so I guess it just comes down to the idea that I'm afraid of a future I can't control. They say admitting you have a problem is the first part of solving it. So, to promote as an LGBTQ novel or not... THAT is the question.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...