Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wank Sniffing

A short post to ask a largely rhetorical question.

Why is it that some people have an uncanny ability to sniff out controversy on the Internet? Why are they often people who'll lay low for weeks or months on end, then -- voila! -- pop up as soon as they see an opportunity to add fuel to a flame? Why do they seem to thrive on, even live for craziness, for any chance to contribute to a pile-on, or voice their self-righteous indignation, or don a mantle of superiority?

I've seen a lot of this. Am I the only one who has?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Do you recognize me?

Here's my other claim to fame. *COUGH* 
(Clearly, I'm tired of pimping books and, right now, would rather focus on writing them.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

When is charity justified?

When I nose around the Internet, I occasionally come upon pleas for donations. (To individuals, I mean, not organizations.) These don't crop up very often, and when they do, they're almost always for good causes. Sometimes heart-wrenching causes.

The request I saw today was for someone with a recently deceased adult son. His funeral expenses apparently "turned out to be" more than the parent(s) could afford. Since one of these parents is a publishing industry professional, and nothing was said about her being poverty-stricken, I was left a bit mystified. But it was the implication of an unexpected financial burden that really had me scratching my head -- hence, the scare quotes.

At any meeting with a funeral director -- and I'm speaking from experience -- the costs of mortuary products and services are laid out (no pun) up front. The final tally isn't simply sprung on unsuspecting loved ones following the proceedings. Even more to the point, choices for a funeral are wide and varied enough to fit within almost any budget. Cremation followed by a no-frills memorial service or modest wake is probably the most affordable. A number of my friends have been sent off this way, and there was nothing in the least bit disrespectful about it.

So why (I was wondering as I read this item on Twitter) didn't the parent(s) fashion a funeral that was within their means? Why must they now rely on the kindness of strangers? I don't quite get it.

I think we've all seen online calls for help -- usually, for people who are battling catastrophic illnesses or whose lives have been thrown into disarray by natural disasters. These situations tear at me. I know what a disgusting excuse for a health-care system this country has. I know fires and floods, tornadoes and hurricanes can be devastating. Or losing a job. Or being the victim of a crime or a serious accident. We have no control over such events, and the resulting expenses can quickly spiral out of control. Nobody needs to explain to me why help is necessary.

But help in paying for a funeral whose cost could have been controlled? This I do need explained to me.

Another round of pleas I've seen (yes, a round; they're ongoing) has come from a talented writer who simply decided to stop writing. He was very popular and successful in the not-so-distant past and undoubtedly earned a damned good living. Not only is he no longer writing, he's not doing much of anything. Neither age nor health is a factor. No mental impairment or physical disability is/was involved in the sacrifice of his career or his current lack of employment. He could easily, easily approach most any print or electronic publisher and immediately have a contract, even on spec. Guaranteed. I haven't been able to determine exactly what this person's problem is.

Yet, he has no qualms about asking for/accepting donations from friends and fans -- to pay the mortgage, buy food, you name it. Again, this is incomprehensible to me. I think I'd rather cut off my head than take money for nothing, especially if I was still able, somehow, to generate income on my own.

So where do you draw the line? Are hardship and need mostly subjective? Do they exist primarily in the mind of the person who claims to be experiencing them? Or are there universal, objective standards? Do you ever feel guilty for turning your back on calls for help? Should they be taken at face value? What makes you find some of them specious? (And I'm not talking about the kind of begging that turns up in your spam folder. ;))

I've been wrestling with this issue. I don't like adopting a hard line on anything, except when it comes to hateful fuckwits, but I'm too poor myself to compensate strangers for their questionable decisions.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sentence of the Day

A pair of 'em, actually. (Swear to God, the block quote you see below consists of two sentences.) Have you ever seen such riotous punctuation? And there's more, much more where these came from.*

If I ever start writing like this, you're free to send me brownies laced with rat poison.

Call it the speculative science fiction epic willing to flirt with cosmic pessimism; the eternally recurring saga of the space voyage toward our point of origin or ultimate destiny (they generally turn out to be pretty much identical); the drama of metamorphosis in which animals become human and humans become machines; the proleptic chronicle of a future depicted as so endangered it may not even come to pass, and so unappealing we might well wish it wouldn’t. This in its various cinematic permutations constitutes our theater of dread, cunningly disguised as a game; our stab at a commercially viable form of Wagnerian sublimity: The Twilight of the Humans, an existential cosmic opera-in-progress sketched out in the 1950s in Forbidden Planet and the BBC television serial Quatermass and the Pit, ennobled by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky’s Solaris, and continually reconfigured ever since. 

*Courtesy of the New York Review of Books, full article here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Special Snowflake Syndrome Redux

First-time author Ryan Quinn penned an opinion piece that appeared on June 9 in the Huffington Post. Mr. Quinn, who's always been an athletic guy, was understandably proud to see his sports-related coming-of-age novel, The Fall, reach #2 on Amazon's bestseller list for sports fiction.

The book also hit #1 on another Amazon bestseller list -- that for gay and lesbian fiction. 
In spite of the fact Mr. Quinn happens to be gay, he's not so thrilled about nabbing that spot.
I understand his qualms. He doesn't see his book as a gay story; he never intended it to be a gay story. The novel has straight characters and hetero couples in addition to a gay character -- in other words, the same mix of young people one would expect to find on most college campuses. "The Gay Fiction tent has gotten too big," laments Mr. Quinn, and he believes gay authors and/or books with gay characters shouldn't automatically be shoved into it.

This is an excellent point, and well taken. The one queer character in Mr. Quinn's book (which, by the way, I haven't read) is apparently no more or less important than the other MCs, and his experiences don't either delineate the plot or define the theme.

So far, so good. The author has a legitimate gripe.

However, it's unfortunate Ryan Quinn didn't quit while he was ahead, because he soon goes off the rails and right into Divaland with subsequent statements. Like these:

 . . . Grouping a coming-of-age campus novel (to throw out some more bookseller labels) with titles whose main premise is lusty homoeroticism is a disservice to readers. . . . I don't want readers to come to The Fall looking for erotic tripe and leaving disappointed for lack of throbbing and thrusting. I want readers to come intrigued, and then leave entertained and a little more conscious of this world we live in.

Uh-oh, what happened to my sympathetic understanding? Well, damn, it just left the building! 

"Reasonable and Compassionate Self," I called after it, "what's wrong?"

"Now the dude's talking out of his ass," it answered, and kept going.

I couldn't dispute the observation. Mr. Quinn, it appears, has literally been judging books by their covers and not their content. I doubt he's even so much as read their blurbs. Why do I assume this? Because he makes a point of mentioning the 15 out of 20 Gay Fiction top-listers "that feature [covers with] shirtless male torsos, or men embracing, or both." (Seems to me the logical target for his umbrage should have been publishers and their often-questionable preferences for cover art.) And his concern about "doing a disservice to readers" strikes me as a bit disingenuous. I get the impression, although I could be wrong, he's more concerned about a disservice being done to him and his novel. 

I don't think I've ever written a book -- not since my days at Ellora's Cave, anyway -- whose main premise (emphasis mine) is lusty eroticism, homo or otherwise. And I believe the vast majority of gay fiction/m-m romance authors can justifiably make the same assertion. When readers consider buying my "erotic tripe" -- especially the contemporary tripe -- I, too, want them "to come intrigued, and then leave entertained and a little more conscious of this world we live in." I want this very, very much and work hard to make it happen. Dollars to donuts most of my peers feel the same way.

But . . . maybe we should cut Ryan Quinn some slack.* He is a first-time author, after all, and a lot of writers with literary aspirations are pretty full of themselves when their initial efforts are accepted for publication. I guess it’s understandable** he feels soiled through association with genre fiction.
Anyway, read this article to get the whole picture. Bet you're going to see more blog posts about it. ;-)

And, Mr. Quinn? ====>

* Nah, fuck it. If he's so conscientious a writer, he should be able to choose his words more carefully.

** I’m bullshitting you.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

A Book You've Likely Never Heard Of

Every couple of years, I'll blow the dust off a book -- one of my books -- that isn't in the m/m romance genre and show it off. (I have worn other author hats.) So in case you're unaware of it, I published a novel with Samhain waaaaay back when they first opened their virtual doors. It's a dystopian thriller without an HEA, but it's very much a love story. A multifaceted love story. And it's dramatic. And angsty. Moreover, it bears my first-ever Anne Cain cover, which I adore to this day.

The book never took off -- to say the least -- because shortly after Samhain got up and running, they decided to publish standard erotic romance to the exclusion of everything else. (In practice if not in theory, they pretty much had been doing so right from the start.) My red-headed stepchild was not a good fit in this family and thus ending up languishing in the cellar. Of course, the fact I published it under another name didn't improve its subsequent visibility.

So . . . here it is. Book Utopia Mom had the courage to write a review of this novel. The print edition is available at the publisher's site and Amazon. All e-book formats are also available at the publisher's site, or you can get a Kindle edition straight from Amazon. (It's cheap, too!)

A blurb follows. I believe the first chapter is posted at Samhain.

Books burned, adulterers stoned, gays attacked, government leaders and institutions controlled by a religious hierarchy, visions of a worldwide holy war—is it happening in the Middle East…or in the United States?

Paragenesis is a coalition formed by ultraconservative religious leaders and their devout followers. A man known only as the Summoner, never seen in public, is its leader. As this juggernaut gains momentum, cherished rights and freedoms are swept aside, and the United States becomes a theocracy as fierce and unforgiving as any within the Islamic world.

Two ordinary citizens—Catherine, a divorced woman, and Theodore, her alcohol-dependent former parish priest—set out to find the coalition’s secret nerve-center, the Citadel, gathering whatever information they can by traveling the “Devil’s Railroad” from one resistance group to another. In St. Louis they meet Martin Sovalle, a bisexual man of startling beauty with whom Catherine falls in love and who disappears following a vicious vigilante attack.

Unbeknownst to Catherine and Theo, the Summoner has in fact been luring them to his headquarters for the purpose of playing out an End Time drama he believes God has relayed to him in a series of visions. And Martin Sovalle has become his bait.

What happens once the lives of these four people collide at the Citadel is something none of them—except perhaps the unlikely mystic, Theo—could have foreseen…

Contains controversial material, graphic language, and moderate violence.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Say it loud!

June is Pride month! (It's also Dairy month, but we'll conveniently skip over that. :))

Here's a bit of history from Wikipedia:
In the United States the month of June was chosen to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBT people have had in the world. On five occasions, the President of the United States has officially declared a Pride Month. First, President Bill Clinton declared June "Gay & Lesbian Pride Month" on June 2, 2000. Then, in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, President Barack Obama declared June Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. 
So, a very happy and proud June (and century) to all good GLBTQ* people, wherever you live. Long may you defy the nay-sayers with your joy and love!


Monday, June 04, 2012

Striving for a WIP that's actually "in progress"

The arrival of spring combined with the arrival of a less-than-sunny attitude toward writing has really slowed down the flow of my creative juices for the past couple of months. I started two books, felt the sluggishness set it, waffled between both projects, then set them aside. Many things about the GLBTQ* writing community have recently (and rather seriously) stanched my enthusiasm for it. So I've been disengaging myself from the whole author thing.

Last night I lay awake, thinking about my two stalled WIPs and how I need to get one of them going. I can't publish a story every two to four weeks like some writers in the genre -- a feat that profoundly boggles my mind -- but I should be able to manage something every three to six months. My position on this overcrowded playing field is tenuous enough. I need to keep my name out there. I need to produce, and to the best of my ability.

That final clause threw my thoughts onto another track. Does it even pay to write well? Maybe I should follow the lead of some of my peers and strive for quantity, compose a few tearjerkers or sex romps or chuckle fests every couple of months. There'd be nothing wrong with that. Readers seem to enjoy the output of speed writers as much as or more than that of poky writers. My books thus far haven't exactly blown people away, so I wouldn't have anything to lose.

Stephen King, the decades-long Grand High Master of every bestseller list in existence, seems to imply it doesn’t pay to fuss over craftsmanship. He’s proclaimed that James Patterson is “a terrible writer,” Dean Koontz is “sometimes . . . just awful,” and Stephenie Meyer “can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.” (I have a feeling Steve was pulling his punches when it came to good ol’ Steph.) Yet King readily admits – because really, the facts speak for themselves – their books sell like crazy.

I've seen this in the m/m romance genre too. It's a compelling argument, I realized, for altering my mindset.

After my thoughts took a few more turns (and by then it was 2:00 a.m.), a title for one of my WIPs popped into my mind. Remember that story with the polka band? I decided to call it Xylophone. Unfortunately, along with the title came a premise that's heavy rather than light. So much for altering my mindset. After hours of tossing from side to side and considering how to jump-start my productivity, I landed back at the same place: facing a project which, like Merman, is going to take a while to complete, strain my brain in the process, and yield the same unspectacular results in terms of reception.

Damn, I hate the way my imagination works. I so wish I could just say FUCK NO to most of my ideas, devise a works-every-time formula, and keep capitalizing on it!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Wha . . .? Who IS that dude?

Y'all have probably heard that authors often don't have much control over their cover art. It's an unfortunate fact of this business.

Now, I'll be the first to admit I've been spoiled. I've been graced with some extraordinary (and two award-winning) covers. The one for Carny's Magic is quite nicely done. But . . . but . . . who's that dude in the foreground? Frankly, I haven't the slightest idea. It's like he sneaked in from somebody else's story, because he doesn't resemble any character in this one.

It's been bugging the snot out of me.

So of course, being as spoiled as I am, I feel the need to clarify. Here's roughly how I envision Carny, Peter, Jackson, and Adin (not that it matters; I'm only the author). All the details aren't exact, but these are fair approximations.

His face, his build, his spirit.

This is a lovely Silver Publishing cover.
My character has brown eyes and no wings. :-)

Andrej Pejic would do, too.

This is the image that appears on
the covers of InDescent and
To Be Where You Are,
and it's amazingly accurate.

(Take your pick!)
Top photo is from the cover of Kresley's Cole's
Dark Needs at Night's Edge.
Bottom photo was ganked from M.J. and Piper
at Babes in Boyland.