Saturday, April 21, 2012

Amy Lane: An Alternate Version of My Life




An alternate version of my life

In Chase in Shadow, Chase, the main character, had a picture perfect plan for his life—and it almost kills him.  He’d been living a double life, as a straight and loving boyfriend in one part of his life, and as a gay porn star desperately in love with a fellow model in another life.  He couldn’t handle the pain of being two people, and for a moment, he was tempted by oblivion—and then he tried the harder path, and rebooted his life. Changing the plan in mid-stream and mid-stride saved him, and got him to the place were the real work began.

People ask me: Where do I get a character like that?

Well, it comes down to this. 

When I was writing Chase, I had just heard the final death knell of the job I thought I’d hold for the rest of my life.  I was a high school teacher. 

I didn’t just teach in any high school—I taught in one of the most diverse schools in the state, with a free or reduced lunch rate of nearly 92%.  It wasn’t an easy gig.  I had young mothers in my room, and young wives, and kids who bragged about how many children they’d fathered.  Every year there was the story about so and so being discovered having sex in the bathroom/elevator/crowded lunch room/middle of the prom floor.  Given all of that, when students asked me if they could read my books, I’d get a little background on what they’d read before, and if they were reading The Black Dagger Brotherhood, Anita Blake, Zane or Omar Tyree, I’d say sure.  I mean, it was two guys, right?  Besides that, what else was in there that they hadn’t seen?

I wasn’t even given time to say goodbye—not to my colleagues, not to my students, not to my friends.  I was told to report to the front office where I was read a letter that said my work was pornography, and therefore I may be under criminal investigation as a pederast, and then I was sent home.

Of course that last part about criminal investigation and (it shames me even to type the word, no matter how untrue it is) pederasty was dropped—thank God, because I spent a week getting sick to my stomach just thinking about it.  And when things fell out, it came down to the fact not that I’d let the sixteen and seventeen year old students read my work, but that I let them know I was writing it at all.  Students could (and did!) tell me way too much about their personal lives, but for them to know that Amy Lane even existed?  Well, she wrote pornography, and students should not know. 

I do not write porn.  But during this time, just writing a blog post that stated I did not write porn was enough to get me in trouble.  Apparently, it’s not enough for the world to insist we hide who we are, we have to hide that we are hiding.

It took over a year to resolve the job situation, and when it was over, although I could have fought for my job (and I think my counselor wanted me to) I just walked away.  There was my life, the two parts of it, colliding, just like Chase, and there I was, doing a reboot.  That’s how Chase Somers was born.


Recently, I was doing a blog interview, and I had just finished talking about the debacle of my job (sort of like here).  Eventually, I hit the question, “What would you do if you didn’t write?”

My answer?  “Teach, obviously.  It is, quite literally, what I’d be doing right now if I wasn’t writing.”

I loved teaching.  Most of it.  I loved the students—most of them. I loved the stories—almost all of them.  I even loved my fellow staff members—sometimes.  About 85% of teaching was the stuff that made my blood pump in the morning.  I would wake up thinking, “We’re going to do Hawthorne today.  I love Hawthorne!  And he’s followed by Poe!  And I can use my Death Cab for Cutie lesson plan, and we can read The Raven, and The Devil and Tom Walker and then we’re gonna do—“

I loved them all.  I refused to send the literature home with my kids and just give them the test at the end.  I wanted to make sure those high school students by God loved those poems and stories, that they understood them in their bones. 

I was devastated when I was pulled out of my classroom.  I was.  I spent three months—including Thanksgiving and Christmas and two of my children’s birthdays—“catching up on my sleep.”  Catching up on my sleep my fat white ass! I was wallowing in a full on depression meltdown, and when I surfaced, I could barely fucking walk my body was so defunct. 

Not a great time, no.

But I surfaced over a year ago.  Since then, I’ve been taking aqua classes three times a week and writing up a storm.  I pick up my children from school almost every day.  I make them lunch.  I cook more and eat out less.  After school, I spend time with them that’s civilized and willing, and not wrung out of the time I want to sit in front of the television and block everything out.  I sing to my youngest kids, every night, and not when I can tear myself away from whatever I’m using (television, knitting, writing) to escape my job.  I volunteer in their school.  I actually dusted this last week—I’d forgotten how. 

I’ve practiced saying, “I used to teach, but now I write full time.”

And while I haven’t yet lost a lot of weight, I’m now much more active than I was a year ago.  My body functions better.  I’ve done a couple of marathon days lately that would have thrown me on my ass a year and a half ago, when this started. 

And I’ve gained some perspective on the whole thing.

I loved my job—mostly.  But it was a hard, hard, soul-killing job, with minimal support.  High school students from a diverse and poor socio-economic area are not easy.  I got everything from my lunch to my cash to my iPods stolen.  I was given schedules full of students so difficult that, come spring, when the continuation school would accept new students, more than a third of my class would disappear, leaving the rest of us wondering what to do when there wasn’t a riot in the room.  I had principals that gave me difficult schedules on purpose, because I was going out on maternity leave that year, and they wanted to be dicks.  I had fellow staff members harass me about everything from my gender to my teaching methods to my faith to how often I went to the fucking bathroom in a day.  I had drunken parents screaming at me during graduation because we weren’t letting anyone else in the stadium, and they arrived as the students were walking the stage. 

There was so much that was awesome about my job—and it was all in the students who were the best and brightest, or the warmest and most compassionate, or the most sincere and hard working. 

There is no question that being taken out of that classroom probably extended my life span, even if I had to recover from depression for that to happen. 

So now, a year and a half after I last walked into my classroom and girded my loins and tried to make literature the lifeblood for a new generation, I can take an honest look at where I have been and where I am going.


Where have I been?  I’ve been paying my dues, as both a writer and a student of human nature.  
Where am I going?  Wherever the hell I want. 


Two weeks ago it was New York.  Six months from now it’ll be Albuquerque. Next year?  Who knows? 












What am I doing today?  I’m writing.  I’m exercising.  I’m cooking.  I’m taking care of my children. 





What am I doing tomorrow? 

We’ll see.  I can’t imagine it being any harder to thrive than where I’ve been. 



Chase in Shadow Blurb:

Chase Summers: Golden boy. Beautiful girlfriend, good friends, and a promising future. 

Nobody knows the real Chase.

Chase Summers has a razor blade to his wrist and the smell of his lover’s goodbye clinging to his skin. He has a door in his heart so frightening he’d rather die than open it, and the lies he’s used to block it shut are thinning with every forbidden touch. Chase has spent his entire life unraveling, and his decision to set his sexuality free in secret has only torn his mind apart faster. 

Chase has one chance for true love and salvation. He may have met Tommy Halloran in the world of gay-for-pay—where the number of lovers doesn’t matter as long as the come-shot’s good—but if he wants the healing that Tommy’s love has to offer, he’ll need the courage to leave the shadows for the sunlight. That may be too much to ask from a man who’s spent his entire life hiding his true self. Chase knows all too well that the only things thriving in a heart’s darkness are the bitter personal demons that love to watch us bleed.


Available At:
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36 comments:

  1. Beautifully written. Teaching and working with kids - so rewarding but demanding and draining. Bless you for what you did and do!

    Tom

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    1. Thank you, sweetheart. Harder post to write than I'd expected!

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  2. First off kudos to you for getting out of the depression.

    I could make remarks on how stupid and short-sighted these people are, but I won't, I will just say how thrilled I am to be able to read such beautiful stories.

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    1. Thank you, sweetheart:-) Sometimes the whole thing does feel like the the universe saying, "Write full time!" and kicking my ass out into the world to do it!

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  3. So much I want to say Amy, but don't know how. Instead, I'll just say... thank you for sharing. Then I'll say... *hugs*

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    1. You're very welcome, sweetheart. And (((hugs back:-)))

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  4. Amy, thank you for this beautiful post. There is so much in the world that's just dumb... and so much that's just beautiful. Thanks for reminding us to see the beautiful despite the dumb, and focus on that and how we can spread the pretty around. :)

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    1. Honey, I can't thank you enough for inviting me to post, and for helping me get this ready for submission. It's an honor to put this out here in a way that doesn't make me say, "Oops! Needed an editor!" I can't thank you enough!

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  5. You are so f-ing awesome Amy, keep doing what you are doing!

    Vicki

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    1. Thank you, sweetheart. I'll do my best;-)

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  6. Hi Amy! Sounds like you are in a really good place now. I'm just sorry you had to go through all that. My brother is a teacher and I know how frustrated he gets at times.

    I am glad that you have much more time to write now. I love your stories. The sweet ones and the ones filled with angst. They're all wonderful to me. You are such a talented writer. Never doub that.

    I also enjoy following your blog. You have a great family. Some of the your posts have me cracking up. They always put a smile on my face. :)

    Congratulations on your new release with Aleks. Can't wait to read it. Have a great weekend! :)

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    1. Duh! Meant to write "Never doubt that". :D

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    2. Thank you, sweetheart-- and I knew what you were saying-- it's all good.

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  7. Thank you so much for this post Amy. It's such a humbling honor to be able to read about something so emotionally honest and gripping from your life and realizing that you took that and poured it back into your book. I haven't read Chase yet (I've been told I should only read it right before I have an appt with my therapist) but from the comments of those who have read it, I believe that you're still doing what you did in that classroom, touching and changing lives. So thank you.

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    1. You're very welcome, sweetheart, and thank you. I know that many of us self-educated ourselves about life through our fiction. It would be nice to think my fiction keeps teaching even if I can't.

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  8. I'm so sorry that happened to you! But glad you're in a good place now.

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  9. *hug* Ilu. <3

    Thanks for sharing. My husband is a teacher and I know he could relate to some of this. It can be a soul-crushing job for sure, with minimal rewards. But I am happy you're writing full-time now because yours are the books I look forward to most and yours is the writing style I aspire to. I'll keep reading/supporting as long as you keep putting stuff out. :)

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    1. LOL-- I see now... I'm only loved if I put out! *g* Thank you, sweetheart--I know I've done good when it's something you love. Tell your husband to keep fighting the good fight. It's a really, really important job.

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  10. Big hugs.
    I read Chase in Shadow recently and loved it. And had to try so very hard not to cry (other people about). Depression is horrible. More hugs.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this, though it was difficult for you to write. It was moving to read.

    No artist should have to suffer for their art. It makes me want to rage against the idiocy and smallmindedness in the world. It stinks of the same attitude that had the movie "Bully" being slapped with an "R" rating. Why are we trying to protect the kids from seeing things they're exposed to daily? Counterintuitive...

    Suffice it to say you've filled this writer with sufficient righteous indignation to fuel a few books. And you've also added another book to my Leaning Tower of TBR Books. :)

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    1. Oh no! The dreaded LT of TBR-- I have one myself:-) (I think the next Kindle incarnation should have a graphic of a tower of books... when the Kindle gets too full, the graphic topples:-)

      And thank you. I can't really get too angry about it anymore--or if I do, like in Chase, I put it all in my writing.

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  12. Amy, thanks for sharing your story. I'm a teacher, and I've experienced some of the same frustrations. You were treated unfairly, but I'm glad you are in a better place now.

    In my state, we have a moral turpitude clause in our contract, and it's a very vague clause that can be twisted by the whims of administrators, school boards, etc. Teachers are unfairly held to a different standard. In one county, an elementary teacher's so-called friend took a screenshot of the teacher's private Facebook post and sent it to a local newspaper which printed it. People were in an uproar and demanded the teacher be fired. The superintendent went after her. It was a huge debacle. What was the post? Kiddie porn? A picture of her slaughtering kittens? No. She took the "what sexual position are you quiz," and it posted to her timeline. No students were her Facebook friends.

    Hugs, hon. Your students lost a great teacher.

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    1. Thank you, Eyre-- very much. I know that a number of this community teach--I think my greatest fear has been the teacher who says, "You should have known better!"

      The thing is, I think, so very many social rules were being broken and discarded--by students, staff members, and administration alike-- that the taboo of homosexuality seemed negligible. I was writing about people who loved and respected each other-- the consequences of sharing that didn't seem like they should have been quite so dire.

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    2. That's completely understandable. It's unfortunate that the bigots and the ignorant view something so natural and wonderful as love as being immoral. With all the issues teens face and all the horrible things that happen in the world, it's sad that it's love that people condemn rather than going after the true immorality--hate.

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    3. It was sort of funny-- the administrator who read me the letter said, "I've read your work and it can only be called porn!"

      I said, "Jesus, which book did you READ?"

      And that right there was my first sign that there was no winning this one-- not right now.

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  13. Wow Amy, thanks for sharing the details of such a difficult experience. I find it so frustrating, this whole idea of shame surrounding romance novels, especially m/m romance, as if there is something inherently pornographic about two men together. So maddening.

    I am glad that it sounds like you have come out the other side of all that mess and things are going well for you. You know I just love your books.

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    1. Thank you, sweetheart-- yeah, I do feel like living wells as the best revenge, right? And I can't thank the people in our community enough--people with strong, articulate voices--for making me feel like this was not the end of the world.

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  14. Thanks for this post Amy, for your thoughts and your honesty.
    I wish you all the best :)

    And the book was great :)

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    1. I'ms so glad you enjoyed--thanks for taking the time to comment:-)

      Amy

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  15. I left teaching full-time 3 years ago to get my Masters so I could teach at the university level. I left because I was tired of the politics, teaching to a test and apathy from co-workers who seemingly hadn't had a new teaching strategy in place since 1997. Having said, that I knew some amazing teachers in my school, and miss my students more than I can say, but I am happy now.

    As another person posted, I also had a morality clause in my contract so I always kept my slash writing on the down-low. While I suppose I could tell people now, I still worry I could lose my certification if it was known I wrote m/m books. After what happened to Judy Mays, I'm not coming out just in case I ever want to teach in the public school system again. It's a shame so many teachers have this issue.

    So sorry about what happened to you. I would think having a PUBLISHED writer as an English teacher would be a bonus for an administrator. Stephen King was a teacher when he first got published. But for some reason romance novels (m/f or m/m) are considered pornography, which I find troublesome. It raises all sorts of feminist issues, which is probably better for another post. *g*

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    1. Oh yes, sweetheart-- I could go on myself. And yeah. Leaving education is bittersweet, always I think.

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  16. What Violetta said. Glad you're in a good place now, writing books that get amazing reviews like the one Nikki O gave "Chase".

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    1. Thanks, sweetheart-- I hope for those too!

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  17. Many ((hugs)) to you. So sorry to hear what you went through, and I simply cannot understand it. Glad you've found some peace, and hopefully, if you want, you will be able to teach and help reach young readers again.

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