I rewrote Chapter 38 this morning

and then this afternoon, I rewrote it again. I had closed the manuscript last month; I’d celebrated the finish with a reading in Medellin and whiskey in tall glasses. Since then, I’ve launched my new career as publisher. I’m busy at my new job; there are marketing plans to coordinate, distribution decisions to settle, and the cover art design to complete. I’ve even hired Red14 Films out of Los Angeles to make the trailer—yes, the trailer—even a book needs a video and a YouTube channel to compete for legitimacy these days.

writing is invention Reinventing Chapter 38 for the miracle of a better story. 

So, while I work at my publishing job the manuscript sits dormant, but ready for release and a public life in the very near future. Impulsively, I cracked the spine yesterday. I was suddenly motivated by an immediate curiosity; after eighteen months, thousands of sentences, and four long weeks since I keystroked the final change—was The Bachelor Chapters really complete?

 After a month-long hiatus, I found that the story flowed smoothly, reading exactly as the page-turner I planned for. Until I crossed over to Chapter 38, and that’s when I saw it: somewhat clumsy, slightly confused and missing the mark. Chapter 38 was not bad, but I immediately realized it could be so much more. I’ve no doubt that the few people who’ve read the manuscript will applaud the change, and the rest of you who haven’t would feel the same if you had.

 The sweet miracle of writing is when the invention of ideas transfers from whimsy or opinion to solid form. When I set out to rewrite Chapter 38, I responded to the fact that something was lacking in the chapter—but I could not have told you what was missing, and I sure didn’t have a plan to correct it. Fixing becomes faith in a writer’s repertoire, something I experienced over and over again as I crafted the story. That may be the thing I love the most about my new art form. I have faith I will be able to concoct miracles of invention—everyday that I write—with only a laptop and expertise of the English language.

 Today I present my latest miracle; The Reinvention of Chapter 38. I surprised myself with the arc of the chapter and where it landed. I am beholden to another satisfying miracle of invention from my miraculous writing life.

 

CHAPTER 38 from The Bachelor Chapters: A Thinking Woman’s Romance

Shaun Madison was twenty-seven years old, but I didn’t know that the night he drove me home from Jason Sinclair’s party. Later, when he told me, somehow I heard twenty-nine. In 2005 I still had a bias against men in their twenties because of the obvious; they are men in their twenties.

 It’s just a fact that this is the apprentice decade of adulthood; it’s ground zero for getting it right and amateurs are everywhere. And then there was my own personal handicap; I had missed the entire decade from a heterosexual perspective. Twenty-something year old men were foreigners to me. I didn’t speak their language and I was certain there was no reason to learn.

Already though, younger men swarmed in and out of my bachelor chapters, discrediting forever the myth that heterosexual desire is aimed exclusively at queen bees below thirty. It was on my first date with Tyrone, when he confessed to his irrepressible erection, that I began my tour of duty with the proud army of men who saluted God’s truth; older women were just about as hot as it got. From that point forward, the thirty-something’s made it clear that they wanted me, and I instantly discovered that this is the decade where men perfect marathon sex.

I dated men of all ages, but the way things trended, my lovers were younger. I would have been labeled a Cougar if that title had existed in the early years of my bachelorhood. When I was inevitably accused of it, I rejected it like I’d rejected the unsavory booty-call. These were slams that stunk just as much as slut, casting women who have sex as lecherous or desperate. My title was bachelor, a term that elevated promiscuity to social acceptance.

The younger men in my life either preferred older women or did not discriminate. After Shaun Madison, it became clear that I could consider men from every adult decade for my bachelor pool. Born in 1979, this Jamaican American, Buddhist-mediating chef and Kama Sutra-inspired lover walked into my world, and gave me reason to revise my bias. We stood on opposite sides of a twenty-one year age gap, but with the grace of destiny, we stretched across that divide into a sensational sexual fit.

As the years moved along, and my collection of men expanded, I began to think of their birth years as vintages. The year 1969 was a good one for me, and over time, I continued to add spicy reserves from that season to my collection. Worthy varietals from my birth decade, the 1950’s, were in dwindling supply. Still, I continued to uncover those select Super Tuscan’s that shattered expectations, their silky flavor a mouthful to remember. Most of my tastings were from the 1960’s and 1970’s, and never a green batch among them. I was just lucky that way, like I had a filter that trapped quality.

I had almost crossed over into my fifth decade when I was tempted by the bouquet of an earthy 1985, an adventurous surfer-boy, while both of us were vacationing on the Pacific Coast of Panama. My surfer buddy was barely twenty-two when he smoothly hit-on me after dinner one night. He laid a steamy kiss on my lips, than strung a rosary of kisses around my neck. His passion was absolute and my arousal was immediate. The man was hot, and he had me, until that same passion broke the spell. “Do you know how sexy you are?” he whispered, before bringing me in for another kiss. I couldn’t answer with his tongue in my mouth, but I did the calculations. My tempting ocean athlete had been having adult sex for a mere twelve months: I’d been in the same club for twenty-eight years. Liberated I may have been, but the consequence of his question came at me like a bucket of ice water upended; in the shock of social context, the heat was just gone. I’d bumped into a virtual border and found a line I could not cross: the anti-age blow that I was older than his mom. We all draw the line somewhere; as individuals it’s our call. But in society others draw the lines and call the shots. We call those boundaries normal, but it’s a fact of history that sometimes normal is in need of a change.

“How old were you when you first had sex with an older woman?”

That was something I asked all my young lovers, and I learned quickly I was never the first—far from it—their experience had been initiated years earlier, always as adolescents. “I was fifteen; she was twenty-eight.” “I had just turned seventeen, and she was forty-one.” “I was dating her daughter—I think she was thirty-nine.” Of course I was stunned: until I heard it every time. My sex-positive bachelor lifestyle had uncovered a secret sub-culture of women breaking taboos—and often the law. These teenage lovers had adopted a code of silence: not because they felt odd about their desire for older women, but because they had to protect their adult lovers from the consequences. I was often the first person they had ever told.

If these were adult men with teenage girls we would label them predators and charge them with rape and put them in jail. By contrast, the truth expressed by all of these adult men was gratitude. They were grateful for their sexual apprenticeships. All these men were masters at sex, and every single one was proud he’d been trained. They felt fortunate to have studied early, that they had learned a valuable skill, and that they had become great lovers for the rest of their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I picked Barcelona

then bought my ticket and I arrive in ten days. My editor, Stacey Donovan, returns The Bachelor Chapters on July first, the same day I endure the time travel of a Cartagena-Bogota-Atlanta-Barcelona itinerary. Why Spain? Why not? I thought, as I looked at a map of the world, and realized I could be anywhere at anytime.

It only seemed practical that I close the book in the shadow of another sexy backdrop. Such is my life that practical is defined as selecting the next exotic spot where I will lay my head and unpack both my bags. I worked more than two decades in corporate manufacturing to fund this reality, and if you think this is as cool as I do then I have three simple words to get you on the same track: stash your cash.

Spain beckoned because she hosts the mother tongue of the language that I slowly—so slowly—have decided to make my own. I’m not a fan of the culture, but Barcelona prevailed, because everyone has told me it’s not “like” Spain. Whatever that means, I aim to find out from my fifth floor walk-up in Barrio Gràcia. The bohemian enclave is also home to the training ground where I will interrupt my writing regime each day with a short walk—and an intense workout—at the Pole Dance Factory. That pretty much sums up my current lifestyle; I’m a globe hopping, memoir-scribing, pole-dancing bachelor. I can’t imagine at this moment that my life could be any other way.

I know that The Bachelor Blog pole-tuck over bocagrande subscribers and Facebook friends think the book is done and are confused that I’m announcing yet a third round with the manuscript. But three rounds are the minimum, and it’s time for the final refinement. I will reflect on Stacey’s editorial notes, inflect the upcoming revision with deeper clarity, and then claim the treasure of a final document. In the process my education grows; I’ll learn again what a writer can miss, or overstate, in spite of the systematic scrutiny applied to that second draft.

The three-draft model was laid down for me elegantly yesterday, when I watched an online conversation between writers Neil Strauss and Tim Ferris. Strauss explained that the three stages of a manuscript aim to satisfy three audiences, and the first audience for the first draft is simply yourself. This is the colossal and uncensored mind-meld that becomes the sturdy architecture for all that follows: this is the making-something-from-nothing phase—and making it something enough to vie for an audience. There is a celebration when phase one wraps: and in my case, with a first book, I was certain The Bachelor Chapters was almost there. Hah! That innocence is behind me forever, but the memory will always be sweet. I sat my butt down for seven months, connected 72,000 words, and made a book. That felt just as potent as it sounds.

In the second writing, the audience sharpens and broadens: this draft is for the reader. The editor leads when this work begins. She has meticulously excavated the first manuscript, and her findings both shock and flatter. Two comments I remember clearly as I write this: “I have no doubt the author can find an audience and a publisher for this book…” and then, “Although much of the book reads quickly and easily… I don’t feel there is a reason to read from one chapter to the next.” Doble-hah! I was confused, but I bet on her experience, and decided to consider every opinion she provided.

Why would anyone want to read it? The answer, I learned, is in the storytelling. If a story is told well, even the content can be mundane, but still, the reader is satisfied. There is reconstruction to the original architecture here; some rooms are expanded, while others are abandoned. Efficiency rules—every word, paragraph, and chapter is in service to keeping the reader in the page. I adored this phase; it had become a puzzle, and my job was to locate the connecting pieces. I learned that trust and action collaborate in this stage, and that failure is not possible. The action is simply sitting down to write; the trust is self-perpetuating, because answers follow action. Until finally, another celebration—I wrote a book! The words sound the same, but the inflection couldn’t be more different; the book I’ve rewritten has been made for a reader.

It was serendipitous that I stumbled upon the Strauss-Ferris conversation on the cusp of my next revision. I know there will be changes ahead; I’m anticipating minor repairs, after rigorous scrutiny. But Strauss offered priceless insight when he pointed to the audience for the third manuscript; this final draft is for the haters.

Hello, real world! Of course, this is what follows—anticipating the criticism that is coming—and securing the document against cheap shots, as well as thoughtful ones. I prefer to avoid haters, but suddenly they have value; I will conjure those voices to fortify my own.

The Bachelor Chapters will invite particularly ruthless remarks, because at the end of the day, this is a story about female liberation: controversial in some circles, and nothing less than heretical in others. There will be name-calling, damn it. It will get personal. I’ve laid so much bare in this story—and trust me when I tell you there is no shortage of opportunity for a hater—hell, maybe even a fan—to be offended by what I’ve written. Living is offensive: burdened by difference, power, injustice and even innocent misunderstanding. And this is a story about living: told out loud, with intelligence, wit, and honest detail. Which is what makes The Bachelor Chapters not only an easy target and a story worth telling: but also a story worth reading.

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