Friday, February 27, 2009

Bastards and Pretty Boys

Ex-wife, ex-boyfriend, ex-con, and one screwed-up psychotherapist. So who gets the pretty boy?

Moreover, who's going to end up publishing this m/m contemporary? That's not an issue . . . yet. I'm about two-thirds of the way through Bastards and Pretty Boys.

Edited to add: BaPB is completed and on the Submissions Train.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Post-Oscar Questions

Okay, I confess. I broke down and watched the Academy Awards tonight. First time in years. And you know what? I liked the show! I actually liked some of it a lot (like the juxtasposition of relevant clips from past movies with scenes from this year's Best Picture nominees -- very cool).

Anyway, I was left with some questions. Here they are:

  1. Why hasn't Hugh Jackman been hosting this event for the past ten years (humma-humma-humma) . . . and why can't I do him? (That's not really two questions; one is rhetorical.)
  2. Am I the only person who thinks the whole premise of Slumdog Millionaire is a monstrous copout . . . and wonders if any Dell employees served as extras in the movie?
  3. Why the hell was Heidi Klum in the audience?
  4. Who will remember any of the winners a year from now?
  5. How badly do people sweat and/or itch and/or gasp for breath in those clothes?
  6. Who paid for this shindig?
  7. Am I the only person creeped out by that Benjamin Button movie? And Brad Pitt?
  8. Why did documentaries with less than provocative subject matter (a tightrope walker and a girl with a cleft palate) win awards?
  9. Who picked the clothes for a.) the presenter chick who looked like a 1960s tube of pallid pink lipstick, b.) the doofus with the skewed tie whose suitcoat was ready to pop a button into the camera, c.) the presenter chick whose dress looked like a bad case of corn smut?
  10. Did that kiss they showed from Milk only seem like a squeamishly off-center smooch between two straight guys . . . or was it really?
  11. Do attendees lust after people who aren't their dates?
  12. Why can't I stomach Ben Stiller, and why won't he go away?
  13. How did a spud like Reese Witherspoon ever score with Jake Gyllenhaal . . . and why can't I do him?
  14. Who could dispute the fact that Sean Penn gave the best acceptance speech ever, which began with "You commie, homo-loving sons of guns" and swung into "I want you to know that I know how hard I make it for you to appreciate me"?
  15. Why did Heath Ledger have to die?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Interview with JEANNE BARRACK

My first interview EVER (and, I hope, the start of a series of guest spots) is with Jeanne Barrack. She's one of my fellow authors at Loose Id and will soon be a fellow author at Liquid Silver. My comments and questions, by the way, are in this color.

Jeanne is a native New Yorker, born and bred in Brooklyn and married for thirty-odd years (and they have been odd!) to her high school sweetheart. She now lives on a mountaintop -- a freakin' mountaintop! -- in rural Pennsylvania. Jeanne plays guitar, studied voice privately with a Juilliard coach, and also holds a Masters degree in Music Therapy. She sings everything from folk music to grand opera -- in ten languages, no less, including Gaelic and Hebrew. Not surprisingly, many of her stories draw inspiration from music. Her day job involves music therapy for seniors. [I must add how wonderful I think this is. Music was one of the things that made my mother smile after she'd been stricken with Alzheimer's. Even in her increasingly limited life, polkas still ruled!]

Jeanne's fiction is currently available at Loose Id, Liquid Silver Books, MLR Press, and Aspen Mountain Press. It ranges from urban fantasy to contemporary to historical and includes short stories, novellas and novels. With the publication of The Sweet Flag (at Loose Id), Jeanne added gay erotic paranormal romance to her growing list of credits. Bend in the Road, a recent release, is her first historical m/m work for the highly regarded MLR Press (click on post title). She's also very proud of the inclusion of her short story, "Finally Forever," in the I Do! anthology [see my left sidebar for more info and a clickable link]. Jeanne's goal for her m/m writing are stories grounded in her cultural heritage, be they contemporary, historical or paranormal -- or all three.

* * * * *
Has there been anybody in your life whom you’ve considered a mentor? Or just inspirational?
My parents and my mom in particular, were my first inspirations to write. But I didn't become serious about tackling to get something published until after my mom's sudden passing. I found a small notebook of hers while going through her effects and it was filled with poems and short stories. She'd always written programs and parodies for her synagogue's sisterhood productions -- but when I found the notebook I realized she'd had ambitions she'd put aside. I decided that I'd try to realize my writing ambitions that day.

What brings you more satisfaction—singing or writing?
Oh that is a very tough question. They satisfy different parts of my creativity. I've always sung -- from the time I was three years old and recorded "The Song from Moulin Rouge" at Coney Island with my mom. Unless I'm singing a song that I've written, it is an interpretation of someone else's words and music, but bringing my own special take on a piece is incredibly satisfying. I sing in quite a few different languages and I find that being able to perform in say, Irish or even German, broadens my worldview. What is perhaps music's one up on the written word is that even listening to the melody alone can convey a profound message.

Taking words and turning them into a manuscript that communicates a story and message about characters I've created in my head is very heady stuff. And of course, the written word remains after the ephemeral notes die away. So I guess I'm going to fudge and say they bring me equal -- though different types -- of satisfaction. What makes me the happiest is when I can incorporate music into my stories. I've done this with most, in fact, *all* of my work to some degree or another.

What do they have in common?
Communicating ideas and emotions to impact on others' lives. I'm thankful that I can sing and share this with others. My folks always told me my singing was something I shouldn't ignore. I hope, even though they passed away before I even thought of writing professionally, that somewhere they're also proud of my following my dream.

You’ve written contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance, m/m and m/f. With which genre do you feel the strongest connection?
All of them! LOL Actually historical perhaps because even when I've written paranormal stories and contemporary ones, in all but two works, I've incorporated a strong historical subtext.

Which do you think has proved most popular with readers?
My m/m story for Loose Id, The Sweet Flag, seemed to hit a chord with many readers. And my first contemporary paranormal, No One Else on Earth, also for Loose Id.

You have a variety of fascinating (to say the least!) Jewish heroes in some of your stories. Why is it important to you to put a distinct cultural stamp on your work?
I grew up in a fairly observant Jewish household in Brooklyn, where there are more Jews than in Tel Aviv. I also was fortunate to have parents for whom not only the religious aspect of our family was important, but also the cultural background -- including music and stories.

Although I love reading about heroes and heroines from all walks of life and from all over the world, like many minorities, I also search for characters with whom I can identify even more closely. Outside of mainstream women's fiction, I found very few Jewish characters in *current* romances that were portrayed in a positive or identifiable light, if at all. I think people tend to forget that Jews are a minority because we can *blend* in and there are those who assimilate so thoroughly they become absorbed in the mainstream culture.

I love diversity of all kinds -- history, literature, music, culture, accents -- everything. I feel that by writing memorable (hopefully) Jewish heroes and heroines, I can share if even in a very small way, to introduce the incredible wealth of knowledge, culture and history my parents, grandparents and ancestors offered.

The distinct cultural stamp in my work began with The Sweet Flag -- a gay paranormal romance -- and continues with Bend in the Road, a dual novella work from MLR Press that is set during the 1880s in a traveling Yiddish theater troupe and concerns two gay couples.

Do you think romance fiction in general is too racially and culturally homogeneous? Are readers ready to embrace greater variety?
For the longest time, I did feel that romance fiction in general was quite racially and culturally homogeneous, BUT, this is changing very quickly and I truly believe we have the growing e-book publishing industry and writers to thank for this. It's far easier to find and purchase an ebook that reflects diversity. The problem is to balance the presence of different life styles and cultures without presenting this information in a negative manner.

Which of your characters, if any, have grabbed you and won’t let go? Why?
Again, this is tough question because I always fall in love with my latest characters. One of the supporting players in "From Stage to Stage," the second story in Bend in the Road, grabbed me and will tell his own story later this year.

Why did Nassi grab me? He's cocky, vulnerable, smart, adorable and very, very lonely. He sprang from the lyrics of an old Yiddish song called "Papirossin" or "Cigarettes." The singer is a young man who sells cigarettes on the street corners. I ran with the idea and turned it into something quite a bit different. ;~D

What historical periods/places fascinate you the most?
I love the 19th century, pretty much the entire period as it changed from a fairly insular world to a world where people traveled more easily from one corner to the other.

How did your interest in the Celtic era and peoples get started?
Ah, through the music at first. Back in the 60s when folk music was so popular, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were big in the field. I heard one of their songs on the radio and that was it. Melodically and lyrically it struck a deep and abiding chord in my heart. I identified with the Irish history of partition, discrimination and their love of words. Remember, when the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages, Irish monks were preserving so much of what might have been lost.

Even the Irish language shares some words that are similar in Hebrew. The minor chords of traditional Irish music are shared by Jewish music. The more I read of Irish history, literature, the more I fell in love. I studied Gaelic in New York, competed in Irish music contests and honeymooned in Ireland. Both my Terran Realm books for Liquid Silver -- The Shimmering Flame and its sequel, A Perfect Symmetry -- are solidly rooted in Irish history and legend. A Song of the Sidhe took its inspiration from an old Gaelic folks song. I'll also be writing a dark fae story about a lesser known Irish sidhe.

Do you have any sequels planned for any of your books?
Yes, indeed. A Perfect Symmetry, a sequel to The Shimmering Flame, comes out early this spring from LSB. I'm also working on a sequel to The Sweet Flag for LI. And there'll be a connected story, though not a straight (LOL) sequel to Bend in the Road.

Do you have any unrealized dreams you care to share?
I've wanted to sing with Antonio Banderas ever since I heard him in the film version of "Evita." He was better than Madonna!

Any aspects of your life that might surprise your readers, fellow authors, and publishers? (You don’t have to divulge the stuff that would surprise your husband!)
Other than the fact that I can whistle like a bird, I think I've pretty much bared my soul!

What’s your view of the afterlife?
I believe in one.

Do you feel you’ve had past lives?
Yes, I think I was Irish in another life!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Beginnings of Stories

Sometimes, when I'm sitting alone on the deck on a summer's evening, I'll start writing and continue writing until the light wanes. These dashed-off beginnings don't usually evolve into anything; there's invariably more important work to tackle.

Other authors likely do this, too -- engage in a kind of stream-of-consciousness fictional interpretation of their moods or current situations or environments. The snippet below is an example. I've always been intrigued by the genre called "magical realism" and, someday, would like to explore it. (I've always been intrigued by Drollerie Press, as well, and would love to get something published there one day!)

So here's an untitled scrap. It ended with the bloom of night. The porchlight was too weak to write by, and any room within the house would've destroyed this odd little vision.

* * * * *

Just before the deer began to move, the sky looked like watered silk. Its color wasn’t even. A large, faded patch in the northwest gradually deepened to cornflower blue in the southeast. There was a pinprick in the fabric. Arcturus, perhaps, shining through the rent threads. Or maybe Vega.

I didn’t know anymore. Couldn't remember.

Light silently seeped away. The determined chorusing of small creatures, hidden within weeds and grasses, signaled its passing. Swallows moved to their nests, relinquishing the air to bats and harrying insects.

I waited for the deer. Sometimes their steps were tentative, almost awkward. Sometimes they bounded confidently between the pines. Sometimes they paused, turning amber-bottle heads to look in my direction. Sometimes they were oblivious of me.

A moth fluttered past, close to my face. I fancied I could feel a delicate dusting of powder on my eyelashes. Why, I wondered, did they carry powder on their wings?

The sky’s color sank to indigo. Dull light from somewhere limned the jagged silhouettes of the pines.

I wished upon the still, yellow spark in the sky. Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight ...

“It could be a planet, you idiot,” I whispered, and then finished the rhyme. I could be as idiotic as I wanted; there was no one around to judge me.

The night, or something concealed by it, spoke. I believed the deer had arrived.

“Why are you here, Darien? Why are you here?”

“I don’t know.”

“You must know something.”

“I believe I was ... cast out.”

“From where?”

“The place I thought was my home. The place I was born to. Where I ran with a dog named Brownie and built fires against the dark and laughed as the juice of ripe berries trickled down my chin.”

“You were wrong for that place?”

“I must have been.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Naughty New Romp from Changeling Press

My new story from Changeling is part of their Snowfires series -- fanciful, titillating tidbits that celebrate, let's say, imaginative sex. So don't expect all kinds of heavy from Fire-and-Water Gate. It features a male water elemental and the female fire elemental who's struck his fancy. But how can they get together without evaporating and extinguishing each other? Well, meeting in a wizard's Magick Circle might be just what the paranormal doctor ordered!

Click on the post title for more info.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The book nobody wants is now...WANTED.

Yeehah! Third time's a charm. InDescent apparently doesn't violate the editorial standards of Liquid Silver's "Molten Silver" GLBT line, so there it shall be published. Jackson Spey and Adin Swift will once again appear on the world's stage. (Well, at least the little ebook-world stage, which is plenty good enough for me!)

This brings up some interesting aspects of the writing biz. I believe I've mentioned them before, but they bear repeating. A relationship or even story arc can't always be carried to completion at a single company. There are a number of possible reasons for this.

Sometimes companies fold. Sometimes they're horribly mismanaged and/or their owners turn out to be turdwads; as a result, writers fall out of love with them and choose to go elsewhere. Sometimes, it's simply a case of "wrong fit."

Although Jackson and Adin had their first significant encounter at Ellora's Cave, they couldn't have subsequent encounters there. The HEA or HFN ending to any EC book cannot be compromised. So, I couldn't bring these two men together without dragging Adin's girlfriend into the mix -- something I staunchly refused to do. (Loony as it sounds, the characters resisted it, too.) It was at Changeling Press, in the novella Obsessed, that Jackson and Adin got together. Securely ... if you know what I mean. ;-)

BUT Changeling couldn't take InDescent. At nearly 70k words, the novel far exceeds their length limit. And because of its unconventional plot construction, it wasn't appropriate for Loose Id, either. (Understand that I have great respect for both companies and fully appreciate their rationale. EC's, too, for that matter. Their editors make decisions, as they should, in accordance with their companies' guidelines.)

So, I toddled along with my oddball book in tow. A speed bump here, a roadblock there. It's part of the business. Not every book is appropriate for every publisher, and no writer should blame a company for adhering to its business model. Writers can, however, throw blame at snotty, self-important editors who autonomously make decisions based on personal whim rather than professional standards. Those are the true villains in any given submission drama. Thank goodness they're few and far between.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What should I do next?

Being at a crossroads always makes me a little crazy. I have a book coming out on February 24 (so that's a done deal), just sent its sequel to my editor (so that, for the time being, is out of my hair), and have an offer in the works for yet another title (so that won't go anywhere for a while). I have promo and guest-blogging obligations in the near future. But I need to start writing again. I can't not write. So ... where to direct this drive?

There are three conceivable sequels I could begin. There's a whole new genre I'd like to explore (and reading I'd like to do in preparation for this exploration). There's a contemporary story, or potential story, clamoring for expression, so I've started jotting down notes about it. And, to complicate matters even further, there's yet another possible project--one that presents a whole new challenge--I'd like to pursue.

I'm drawn to all these options, and I wish, at times like this, I had five different brains and ten sets of hands. Knowing what readers want most would help, but I haven't a clue. Some are forthcoming about their preferences. Most, unfortunately, are not.

I'm under no specific contractual obligations, which only adds to my confusion.

Help! I'm drowning!