Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Social Media

It appears social media can be as much of a bane-mixed-with-boon experience for athletes and fans as for authors and readers. Read this article published by NPR (National Public Radio) News about some situations generated by the 2012 Olympics.

Clearly, it's time to get a life when you take either books or sports too seriously.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

In Praise of Skillz!

As more and more titles flood the m/m romance genre, I realize how highly I value a certain commodity. It was something I used to take for granted.

Not anymore.

I'm currently reading a novel I've found kind of boring thus far. It's slow-moving and, already, a little too angsty for my tastes. And I'm not entirely sure why the narrator so quickly began obsessing about the other MC, who seems more worthy of suspicion than obsession. (Insta-hots I can easily buy. Insta-bonding, not so much.)

I have plenty of other fiction to read, including stories that contain much more action than this one and move along at a brisker pace. So, each time I catch myself getting impatient and skimming over paragraphs and pages, I turn to another file on my Kindle or one of the print books I have stashed in four rooms of the house.

The attempted diversion doesn't last long. Invariably, I'll come back to that tortoise of a novel.


Because it's so well-written. The draw is as simple yet as complicated as that. This author can write. Thousands of people apparently have tales to tell, but very few are natural wordsmiths. When someone comes along who's so marvelously at ease with the language, and shows such mastery of it, I'm entranced. Hooked. And doubly hooked when I get a few chuckles along the way.

Even when certain sections go on too long (like descriptive scene-setting for the sake of local color, internal monologues, background-info dumps), I still feel driven to proceed. Losing myself in flawless prose has become a luxury, because there's so little of it out there. Engaging stories and characters are fairly easy to find, but smooth, beautifully crafted sentences that are devoid of errors to boot? Uh . . . no. That's a rare and precious thing.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't need Faulkner's or Updike's level of expression to keep me satisfied. Hundreds of pieces of fiction have held my interest and proved enjoyable reads. I'm talking here about something other than a knack for storytelling.

I'd love to name the authors whom I consider verbal artists, but I won't go there. I haven't read the work of every writer in the genre -- far from it, in fact -- so I'd be leaving out many worthy names. I just wanted to applaud the genre's true craftsmen and let them know how much I appreciate their talent. They might not be prolific or super-popular, might not be the biggest moneymakers around, but they're gold to me.        

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I'm at Chicks & Dicks today.

As part of C&D's Abuse Awareness Month, I'm over there today, discussing the issue of sexual molestation. Fact: homeless GLBTQ* youths are at particular risk. 

Please stop by.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The time has come, the Walrus said

. . . not to speak of many things.

Voicing one's opinions, although still a civil right in much of the world, has become a right fraught with risk. Especially if you're part of a fairly insular community.

Lip off, and you can run afoul of the Moral Majority (the definition of which differs from one segment of society to another; liberals have their Moral Majority as much as conservatives do). Or you can run afoul of a Mean Minority (a smaller group of people loaded with bad attitude). In short, you're bound to run afoul of somebody unless your sentiments are a rubber-stamp version of theirs/his/hers, unless your voice harmonizes with whatever chorus is dominant in your vicinity.

I envy bloggers who spout off about whatever is on their minds, without fear of repercussion. I envy their freedom to indulge in pungent commentary and irreverent humor and occasional quirky rants. But those of us who write and/or review books must tiptoe through the blogosphere.

It's the height of irony -- isn't it? -- when word lovers are wary of words.

That's the way it's become. For whatever reason, more and more bookpeople are taking themselves and each other very, very seriously. Step out of line, and you risk being browbeaten or cold-shouldered into a corner. (Don't ask me what or where the "line" is. Dicked if I know. I've seen so many lines over the years, related to so many different issues, I can't keep track of them and certainly can't anticipate their appearances.) Other authors far wiser than I -- and I'm not being facetious -- have either removed themselves completely from the Internet reading community or limited their presence to release announcements, promotional posts, answers to questions about their books, and similarly neutral stuff.

So, given Publishing World's current environment, I've decided to change my online color palette. It's the prudent thing to do. Sunny yellow is safe; beige is probably safer. And, as always, silence is golden. I'll be switching among the three.

It's time I expressed myself primarily through my fiction.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Creative Name-calling: a Rally Cry

Authors and readers need to hone their name-calling skills. It reflects poorly on us when spectators in the Coliseum of Controversy see the same overused epithets -- so tired they hardly pack a glancing touch, much less a wallop -- and the same meaningless amalgams of body parts, growths, fluids, and/or functions.

Troll, homophobe, idiot, hater, asshole, asshat, ass pimple, jerk, scumbag, bigot, troll, douche, douche bag, douche nozzle, sexist pig, misogynist, shamer, blamer, hypocrite, apologist, shit-stirrer, sack of shit, piece of shit, pus bucket, bottom feeder, fuckwad, troll, douche, TROLLDOUCHE SLIMY RESIDUE!


Come on, people, get creative! Start strutting your literary stuff! Any butt-garden dingleberry of an adolescent texter or MySpace gifaholic can toss out terms like the ones above (except maybe misogynist and apologist, although they've still been worn the hell out by book people). So how about:

Jungle rot at the heart of darkness!
Deformed sperm of a demon-spawned sperm whale!
Distillation of the stink at the Canterbury pilgrims' cracks and crotches!
Scarlet alphabet!
Embittered and aging Lolita!
Bestial wet-dream of Sancho Panza!
Blast of Bovary's arsenic breath!
Dirty, calloused finger of a Bradbury fireman!

See? It requires no effort, just a little thought. Your audiences would be so much more entertained -- and end up educated, to boot!

Hell yes, spelling cunts . . . uh, counts!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Excerpt from my WIP, Xylophone

A difficult write, finally nearing completion, about the burdensome secret of sexual abuse (past, not present), and its effects on victims' lives.

Two men in their twenties, quite different men from different backgrounds, end up sharing their experiences with each other, and with a candor they'd never before exercised with anybody else. One is openly gay but quails from relationships. The other is afraid to explore his sexuality at all. There are other issues as well; both young men are psychologically and emotionally scrambled. Coping mechanisms have essentially been holding their lives together, but not particularly well.  

Through a series of painful, cathartic revelations -- not just of events, but of the feelings instilled by those events -- Dare Boothe and Jonah Day take the first steps toward exorcising their demons, learning how to trust again, and possibly forging a profoundly intimate, fulfilling bond. There's no Magical Healing Penis in this story. 

The current-day narrative is in third person. The sections in which the men relate their traumas -- and not in the kind of detail that would constitute kiddie porn -- are in first person. Below is the beginning of one character's tale.         

June, 1999
I saw it from the bus as I was coming back from my first clarinet lesson. First private lesson, that is, with a music teacher who wasn’t my band director. My mother wanted to drive me to and from Mr. Eger's studio, but I told her no. I was thirteen and starting to stretch my wings. Independence felt good.
Only, that’s what put the rainbow and the windows in my path. A sparkling rainbow arching over an otherwise plain storefront, with bluebirds hovering at each end. And display windows packed with a jumble of things that didn’t look new. The sight was captivating. A thirteen-year-old boy—especially a quirky and somewhat rebellious boy like me—couldn’t possibly resist such a lure.
Later I’d think, If only I’d been sitting on the other side of the bus, I wouldn’t have seen it. Over the Rainbow Resale would never have intruded on my life.
I was deluding myself. Seeing the store was inevitable. Fate had made it inevitable. I know that sounds crazy, but I believed that for years.
The following week I got off the bus just a few doors down from the shop. Since I had a bus pass, I wouldn’t have to walk the remaining distance, maybe a mile or so, to my house. This mattered because I was carrying my clarinet. Not that it was heavy, but I was afraid someone might snatch it from me. I was more slightly built than even most girls my age. If I’d been mugged (and it never occurred to me most muggers weren’t after clarinets), I couldn’t have hung on to my most treasured possession.
At first I dawdled on the sidewalk, hugging the case to my chest, and studied the stuff in the windows. A manikin wearing a polka-dot bikini and a Creature from the Black Lagoon mask. A barbecue grill heaped with molded plastic food and a rubber plucked chicken. Painted wood fish and frogs sitting on the rungs of a swimming pool ladder. African-looking busts draped in costume jewelry. An old-fashioned picnic basket stuffed with garden tools. A red bicycle. An alto sax with silk flowers erupting from its bell.
Beyond this summery mad mess, the shop looked dim and dingy inside. But a multicolored OPEN sign hung crookedly on the door. I set my clarinet case at my feet, cupped my hands around my eyes, and peered inside. The ceiling lights were on. I saw shelving units, brimming with merchandise, set at odd angles to each other, and more weird stand-alone displays, and even a few racks of clothing. But no one was manning the old office desk that sat near the wall to the left of the door. It must have been the checkout area, I thought, because a scrolled-brass behemoth of a cash register weighed down a counter behind the desk.
Someone had to be there.

I crept inside…and immediately heard it. Magical music dancing behind the buzzer sound that wavered from somewhere in the back of the shop. Notes like a fusion of dripping water and muffled bells.
He’d seen me. I didn’t know it then but I know it now. He’d seen me staring enrapt at the junk in the windows, a clarinet case clutched to my heart, and he’d scurried away to set his trap.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wherein I Don My Pimp Hat & Bling

In case you haven't realized it yet, I get pretty enthusiastic about books that blow me away.

So go to this author's site and click on the Novels tab and read about Snap. Wow, what a read! (And yes, it falls within the realm of The Gay.)

Read Brandon Shire's revealing interview with Allen Renfro HERE.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Take solace in this fact:

If these songs don't fuck with your head, nothing will.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Authors, Then and Now

A recent discussion thread got me thinking about the differences between writers' aspirations, and self-images, before and after the advent of e-books.

I started writing fiction in earnest in the late 1980s. Print still ruled, and that meant a formidable uphill battle for any unknown scribbler seeking to get her work in readers' hands. For starters, few houses accepted unagented submissions. Finding a place under an agent's wing was an epic hassle in and of itself -- one that could go on for months and yield nothing. Then, if a writer was lucky enough to secure representation, her manuscript was "shopped around" to different editors -- another process that took months and usually resulted in a string of rejections.

So, just trying to get a book published could be a years-long ordeal that taxed a writer's patience and battered his ego. And it only infrequently paid off. One of the most famous anecdotes in literary history has to do with John Kennedy Toole and his 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. The book wasn't published until eleven years after the author's suicide. In fact, it wouldn't have been published at all if not for the stubborn persistence of Toole's mother, who submitted the manuscript relentlessly, weathered a number of rejections, and finally dogged author Walker Percy until he agreed to read it.

So what's the point of this ramble? Getting published was no cake-walk in the print era. It was a trial by fire. Mere desire wouldn't net a contract. Belief in oneself wouldn't do it either. (Toole certainly believed in himself; he thought his novel was a work of genius. But that didn't keep Simon and Schuster from tossing it back at him.) There were far more failed attempts than successful ones. FAR more. For most aspiring authors, the experience was profoundly humbling, even depressing. It was for me. I quit writing for a decade because of my inability to make any headway.

Now, with the growth of e-publishing and particularly self-publishing, anybody who pens a story simply takes it for granted that story will have an audience. And why not? It's easy-peasy to put one's work before the public. There are few remaining gatekeepers.

However, one of the unfortunate results of such ease is a bumper crop of immature writers with inflated egos and a belief their talent is unimpeachable. An almost childlike and certainly amateurish sense of entitlement seems to have taken hold of electronic-age scribes, many of whom equate publication with a confirmation of their brilliance. Any praise, no matter how unqualified the source (a doting partner, a few members of a fandom, a first-time, eager-to-please beta reader), only bolsters this delusion. I believe that's why there's so much flailing and teeth-gnashing over critical reviews and so much chest-pounding and trumpet-blowing over laudatory ones. Many current writers have precious little perspective. They aren't forced to take stock of their ability, continually reevaluate their output, and learn by trial and error. They haven't been humbled by multiple turn-downs and/or various professional critiques of their level of craft or their potential for popular appeal. Instead, they're used to instant gratification, which comes without any questioning of their readiness for publication.

I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities e-publishing has afforded me. But I'm equally grateful for earlier experiences that stripped away any delusions of grandeur. Were an unpublished writer to ask my advice, the last thing I'd say is "believe in yourself." Before you can even begin to believe in yourself -- and that belief, when it does come, must always be attended by reservations -- you must doubt yourself. It's the only way to clear your vision, the only way to learn and grow.