Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving

I finished reading Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving late yesterday. I've been posting about this book on and off for the past month, and that's because with my deadlines the only chance I get to read for pleasure is late at night.

I've read everything John Irving has ever written. I started reading his fiction in college for a "Contemporary Fiction" class and ever since then I've been a fan of his work. I've always considered his writing style as untouchable. In other words, if I started something John Irving wrote without knowing it was written by him, I'm certain I'd be able to recognize him at once.

And Last Night In Twisted River was no exception. This book is John Irving at his best, from the tormented tale of Domenic the cook to the unusual circumstances that shape Daniel the writer's entire life. The book follows Domenic and his son Daniel through the course of a lifetime, from a logging camp on the Androscoggin to a quiet house in Toronto. As in real life...and this is something I love about John Irving's fiction...there are always certain "things" that follow us around all our lives. Even if we try to ignore these things, they catch up with us when we least expect them. In fact, there's no place secure enough to hide from certain things. But more than that, we can't hide from love, sorrow, unfulfilled expectations, achievements, revenge, and grave losses. And many times the only thing that keeps us going is hope...even though we may or may not be very good at hoping.

The cast of characters are as simple and as complicated as in all of Iriving's other books, especially one character in particular: Ketchum. He's the crusty old codger we love and hate. He's the quirky philosopher we wonder about sometimes. And, most of all, he's the wise one...who makes coffee with egg shells and loves to watch moose dance...that many of us wish we had in our own lives.

But if you're looking for a quick, simple read, this might not be the book for you. This is a book that's meant to be read slowly and taken step by step. There are sentences and paragraphs that should be read more than once in order to grasp the full meaning of each individual character. I read about Six-Pack Pam more than once several times. And I kept going back to read about Danny Angel the writer, after Daniel changes his name to Danny Angel the writer, so I could understand his tormented marriage completely.

There are sections where the book becomes political, especially when Daniel the writer starts posting news clippings on his Toronto refrigerator. But this is fiction, not real life. And the opinions and rants are coming from characters who don't really exist, which makes the political sections more entertaining than anything else.

I could continue for days writing this review. I could write about Injun Jane, fat Carl, Ketchum, Carmella, and poor little Angelu. I could mention the charming Italian flair and the excellent food descriptions where a hint of honey is added to pizza dough to make it sweeter. But I'm going to end here by saying I can't recommend this book enough to serious fiction readers. You have to start out slowly and build up momentum, but once Irving has you hooked, to the point where you feel you know these characters personally, you're not going to leave until you've read every last word he's written.

Friday, April 29, 2011

HIV, Condoms, and What So Many Don't Realize

This is mostly for younger people out there, straight or gay, who either don't know all the facts or don't know where to get them. But I think it's important for everyone to know certain things we don't hear about in the mainstream media often enough. And everything I post here can be looked up and confirmed in more detail, which I'd strongly advise everyone to do.

What prompted me to write this post was a comment I heard about how different things are nowadays with all the new HIV meds (ARVs) and that HIV/AIDS is no longer a death's a chronic disease. And this is true, and this is wonderful, and people are now living their lives with HIV. But it isn't as easy as it sounds.

I've written a few blog posts about a friend of mine who has HIV and how I helped him get his disability insurance back last year. You can read a few of the posts here along with a few other things I mentioned about HIV/AIDS.

I've worked very closely with the AIDS Law Project in helping my friend have his disablity insurance reinstated and it wasn't easy. I also got to know one of the leading infectious disease doctors in the world while doing this, Dr Jay Kostman. Since then, I've asked Dr. Kostman...and his wonderful nurse practitioner, Jodi...many questions while I was researching for my books, and he's been more than happy to oblige. And frankly, I have never met people more dedicated to helping people stay alive and maintain the quality of their lives before.

But the point of this post is that just because there are HIV meds out there doesn't mean you stop being concerned. You still have to practice safe sex at all times to avoid being infected with the HIV virus. My friend, who isn't that old, is on permanent disabilty for a reason and his entire life has been altered. I've seen this first hand. There are side effects from the HIV meds that are far too long to list here. And each med has a different long term effect on other parts of the body, which in turn leads to other chronic illnesses on top of the HIV. So while it's wonderful we have these HIV drugs...I'm not diminishing this for a's not as simple as most people would lead us to believe. There is plenty of information on the Internet if you don't believe me. All you have to do is a simple search and you'll see what I mean.

The trouble is most people don't research what's going on enough. And the mainstream media only skims the surface and leads people to believe HIV is a simple, treatable illness now. But like any other illness, diabetes for example, living with HIV is a lot more complicated than it sounds. I was shocked while watching an Oprah Winfrey show last year when I heard Oprah admit to one of her guests she had no idea living with HIV was as complicated as it is. I hope she's learned a little more since then.

And, the HIV meds aren't cheap. If you're lucky enough to have good medical insurance you might only have to pay a couple of thousand dollars a year out of your own pocket. If you don't have health insurance and you have to pay for these drugs yourself, it could run well into thousands of dollars a month, which can bankrupt you very quickly in these times of hope and change. Again, if you don't believe me, just do a simple search and see what HIV meds cost. You'll be amazed. The information is out there but you have to look for it.

The best thing, for now, anyone sexually active can do is to take precautions and think before you do anything with someone you don't know. This is why the characters in my books almost always use condoms, even though it's fiction and I don't have to do this. And this is why I've always used condoms myself. I personally have zero tolerance for this. I've seen too much to take any chances with my life and my health.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Publishing Isn't Always Like It Looks On The Beekman Boys...

I see a lot of blog posts about how the publishing process works in traditional print publishing all the time. But I rarely see any that show new potential authors how things work in e-publishing. And, I was watching that reality TV show, The Beekman Boys, where the one guy (I'm bad with's not's the other one) had to go into New York and meet with an editor and discuss the concept for a new cookbook.

I love that show. But I don't know why he had to meet in person. It looked to me like this was a meeting that could have been handled with a few simple e-mails. I guess this was something to fill up air time on TV and let the viewers know more about the cookbook? And there's nothing wrong with's TV...larger than life. But I'd like potential authors to know this isn't how it works in most cases in the real world, even though this is reality TV. Everything is done electronically now.

And I've worked with more editors at print publishers than I can remember off hand. I've been working with two e-publishers for the past six years now. I've been with for six years, and for almost three. Like with traditional print publishers, the process can vary depending on the publisher. However, it's basically the same.

This afternoon, for example, I received an e-mail from one e-publisher about the possibility of putting together another m/m romance series. Once the e-mails begin, it becomes an electronic brainstorming session between a few editors, the publishers, and me. It would be nice to meet in person, but I live in New Hope, Bucks County, PA, one lives in NYC, and the others live in Boston. If we met in person each time we had to discuss a new book there wouldn't be any time to write or publish the book.

And this time I loved the idea they suggested and added my own opinions. Thankfully, they loved my opinions and the brainstorming continued until we had a basic overview of where the books in the serious would be going and where the stories would be set.

It's all tentative right now. But I've found that once the basic concept is there and it begins to breathe, so to speak, it continues to grow in various stages until there's actually a final product, which is the book.

It's not always this easy, but most of the time it is. And it's not at all unlike the brainstorming sessions I've had with editors at traditional print publishers. I once went back and forth with an editor at Alyson Books, about seven years ago, to get a short story for an anthology just right. We didn't even have to pick up the phone that time. We did it all through e-mails and never had to leave our offices.

I would imagine most editors, agents, and publishers communicate with their authors this way, which makes it easier for everyone involved. And it's never like anyone on TV would lead you to believe it is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Here You Go Donald Trump: Obama's Birth Certificate

I hope, once and for all, that grand-standing, publicity mongering, anti-gay, Donald Trump finds this birth certificate, released this morning from the White House, satisfactory. You can view the larger version by clicking the photo to the left or checking out the link here.

And please don't get me wrong with this post. I'm not defending the President and I'm not taking any sides politically. I'm not a political person. But I do support all LGBT issues, and only LGBT issues. There are no gray areas for me when it comes to LGBT issues.

We've been asking the LGBT community and their friends and family to boycott Donald Trump's reality TV show, The Celebrity Apprentice because of his stand on LGBT issues, not because of his rants about Obama's birth certificate, or because the show is tired and it sux.

But, frankly, I'm glad the White House released this today. I've always thought there was something peculiar about Donald Trump just beneath the surface. Seriously, there's something odd about Trump. When someone's been married and divorced as many times as he has, he should be the last person to make a judgment on whether or not gays should be legally allowed to marry.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Wonder How Book Pirates Feel About .99 E-books

With all the .99 e-books out there, I couldn't help wondering how people who pirate e-books feel about this.

I have, I think, two books on Amazon for .99. An Officer and His Gentleman and Pretty Man. I'm fine with it. No problem. But then I trust my publishers to price my books and I really don't have any say in the matter.

This .99 e-book thing makes me wonder about book pirates. I know there are people in different countries who can't buy and download books in different parts of the world, so they pirate. I've read their comments in a previous post I wrote and I can sympathize with them.

But not everyone pirates e-books because they can't actually buy them. Studies show that most books are pirated right here in the US. I've also heard there are a lot of other reasons, mainly that readers aren't sure about whether or not they'll like a book and before they spend money they'd rather pirate the book first.

Well, you can't get cheaper than .99 a book. I'm interested in buying Shirley Maclaine's new non-fiction book and I'm not getting anywhere close to the .99 deal her publishers are charging for her book at 9.99. Seriously. .99 a book beats the price of a hot dog at the ballpark, a cup of coffee at the local bodega, and certainly a gallon of gasoline in these wonderful times of hope and change. Actually, there's not much you can get for .99 anymore.

No Left Turns...

Someone sent me this earlier today and I figured I'd post. In today's crazy world, with everyone fighting over politics, it's nice to read something that makes you think of the good old days.

This is a wonderful piece by Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and president of NBC News. In 1997, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. It is well worth reading, and a few good chuckles are guaranteed. Here goes....

My father never drove a car. Well, that's not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car.

He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.

"In those days," he told me when he was in his 90s, "to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it."

At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in:
"Oh, bull!" she said. "He hit a horse."

"Well," my father said, "there was that, too."

So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car.. The neighbors all had cars -- the Kollingses next door had a green 1941 Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford -- but we had none.

My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines , would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.

My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we'd ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. "No one in the family drives," my mother would explain, and that was that.

But, sometimes, my father would say, "But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we'll get one." It was as if he wasn't sure which one of us would turn 16 first.

But, sure enough , my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown.

It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn't drive, it more or less became my brother's car.

Having a car but not being able to drive didn't bother my father, but it didn't make sense to my mother.

So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father's idea. "Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?" I remember him saying more than once.

For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps -- though they seldom left the city limits -- and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.

Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn't seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage.

(Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)

He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin's Church.
She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish's two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home.

If it was the assistant pastor, he'd take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests "Father Fast" and "Father Slow."

After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he'd sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening, then, when I'd stop by, he'd explain: "The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored."

If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out -- and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, "Do you want to know the secret of a long life?"

"I guess so," I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.

"No left turns," he said.

"What?" I asked.

"No left turns," he repeated. "Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic.

As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn."

"What?" I said again.

"No left turns," he said. "Think about it.. Three rights are the same as a left, and that's a lot safer. So we always make three rights."

"You're kidding!" I said, and I turned to my mother for support.

"No," she said, "your father is right. We make three rights. It works." But then she added: "Except when your father loses count."

I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.

"Loses count?" I asked.

"Yes," my father admitted, "that sometimes happens. But it's not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."

I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.

"No," he said " If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off another day or another week."

My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90.

She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102.

They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom -- the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)

He continued to walk daily -- he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he'd fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising -- and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.

One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news.

A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred."

At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer."

"You're probably right," I said.

"Why would you say that?" he countered, somewhat irritated.

"Because you're 102 years old," I said.

"Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day.

That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.

He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said: "I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet!"

An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:

"I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."

A short time later, he died.

I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.

I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life, or because he quit taking left turns.

Life is too short to wake up with regrets.

So love the people who treat you right.
Forget about those who don't.
Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a chance, take it and if it changes your life, let it.
Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.


Why Is the Subject of Sex Always Ignored on Most Publishing Blogs?

I'm not talking about the kind of sex in the books I write. Although I purposely keep this blog G-rated, I write erotic romances that would never cross into the mainstream. And, I make no apologies to anyone for what I write. Frankly, I think people like reading about sex in novels, and as long as it's done with discretion (and sometimes a sense of humor)there's nothing wrong with adults who read sexy novels.

Sex is part of life. A huge part of life. It's how we all got here and it's something most of us think about a lot during the course of a day. As a matter of fact I once read that the two things people lie about the most are sex and money.

And yet in all the years I've been reading publishing blogs I've rarely ever seen sex mentioned in blog posts that are written by literary agents and editors. And when it is mentioned it is either laughed at, with that snide funny-ha-ha nervous school girl laugh, or it's dismissed as insignificant. Hell, I posted the other day about a book reviewer who sneered and actually crossed her legs reading one sex scene...a sex scene that's in a bestselling romance book out right now.

I've seen literary agents post about queries and the query system with the kind of passion most normal people in the world save for sex. I've seen publishing blog posts where sexy book covers are trashed, on purpose, as if there's something wrong with good looking people showing off their bodies. I even read a blog post once where the blogger, a literary agent who reps authors without impressive sales rankings, not only made a point of saying he wasn't interested in erotic novels but that he despised them.

You have wonder about this thought process in a general sense. Millions of good, wonderful people out there are buying and reading erotic romances and novels across the board and yet you'll only see a rare few in the mainstream, gatekeeping sector of publishing industry discussing it openly. And when they do, many times they are laughing at it. It reminds me of the politicians we read about who are condeming sex all the time and then we find them sneaking around in public bathrooms or hiring hookers. These publishing bloggers, literary agents included, have to be getting it least I would hope they are.

There are plenty of blog posts written about YA novels, MG novels, and children's books. So many I could gag sometimes. I see them all the time, and frankly they put me to sleep. I think they put most people to sleep, but no one ever comes right out and says this openly.

I've read sexy scenes written in mainstream literary novels. Jonathan Franzen wrote quite a few in his latest book, and so did John Irving. They both did it well and their books sold well. And yet I'll go to an agent or editor web site or blog and I'll see the same old cheesy blogs posts being recycled about those hideous query letters and how important it is to spell the agent's name right.

Personally, I think if these bloggers in publishing concentrated on human sexuality with regard to fiction a little more, in a tasteful, discreet way (at the very least,) we'd all be a lot better off for it. And I think the bloggers would, too. You'd see a lot less complaints about query letters and a lot more blog posts about how much fun life can be sometimes. You'd also see a lot less cheese being handed out to people interested in getting valid information about the publishing industry. There's a reason why Jackie Collins sold millions of books and Betty Jean Primrose of the ACME Literary Agency only sold a couple of hundred.

And although I often think there are some in the publishing world who would like to see sex completely disappear from the universe, I doubt this is going to happen any time soon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Are You Getting Conflicting Advice From Publishing Blogs?

I'd like to point out a few examples of conflicting advice new writers often see on publishing blogs. And I'm including my own blog in this as well. I just post what I know, not what everyone knows.

It's not that anyone is giving out bad advice on a blog. At least I hope not. Most think they are giving out great advice.

But there are, especially in publishing, always going to be conflicting opinions. And no matter how much you read, there's always going to be someone with a different opinion who thinks they are 100% completely correct...and they never back down (smile).

This past week I wrote a post about John Irving, with an excerpt from his novel, LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER, about "write what you know." In the novel, the main character, Danny Angel, is a writer and the main character is not fond of Hemingway or the theory of "write what you know." Here's the excerpt again in case you don't feel like clicking the link.

This kind of question drove Danny Angel crazy, but he expected too much from journalists; most of them lacked the imagination to believe that anything credible in a novel had been "wholly imagined." And those former journalists who later turned to writing fiction subscribed to that tiresome Hemingway dictum of writing about what you know. What bullshit was this? Novels should be about people you know? How many boring but deadeningly realistic novels can be attributed to this lame and utterly uninspired advice?

And in this blog post, written by literary agent, Rachelle Gardner, I read about the six things writers can learn from Hemingway.

Of course Ms. Gardner is right. There are many things writers can learn from Hemingway. Just as there are many things that can be argued about Hemingway's style and technique. There's no clear cut, definite right or wrong here.

Then I read another publishing blog this morning where an ex-literary agent is giving advice about how having the wrong literary agent can be worse than having no agent at all. And the post ends with a line that suggests writers only get one chance with one manuscript.

I do agree that an agent client relationship should be built on trust and respect. And there are some questionable agents out there. The ex-agent isn't totally wrong by posting about this.

But WTF?

You don't get just one chance. As authors the most wonderful thing about publishing is that you can have many chances, many times. I know this from my own personal experience and I know this from a good friend who has been a literary agent for over thirty years now. Unfortunately, my friend doesn't blog. I wish he would. But it's not his thing...because he doesn't have to promote himself anymore.

The moral of today's post is this: please take all the advice handed out on publishing blogs as lightly as you can. No one knows everything, no matter how great they sound. And, from what I've seen so far, the bloggers who seem to think they do know it all, know the least.

Blogging is a form of social media, and most bloggers use blogging as a means to promote themselves in one way or another (trust me, none do it out of the goodness of their hearts). I do promote here all the time, admittedly, with announcements about my books and reviews for my books. It's what I'm supposed to do as an author.

But I also try to balance my posts with information that isn't related to my books or my publishers. And I never, never, claim to know it all when it comes to publishing. And that's because as an author I care about other authors. And when I see them getting bad advice, it galls me.

There are no set rules in publishing.

People are going to disagree all the time.

Most of never get only one chance as a writer...NEVER. Unless, of course, you read a silly blog post, written by a self-promotion monger, who leads you to believe you only get one chance at having your book published. And I'd hate to see this happen to anyone. Because what you believe in your heart is usually the way things will turn out in the end.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Last Night In Twisted River...The Androscoggin

According to my Kobo, I'm 90% finished reading LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER by John Irving. And, once again, like all Irving's novels, I hate to see it end.

And because this was the first John Irving novel I've read on my Kobo e-reader, it was a new experience for me. Actually, I planned to read this particular book on purpose. I figured if I was going to get used to a new e-reader I wanted to have an old friend with which to do it.

And I don't have any complaints at all, not with the Kobo or with LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER.

This isn't a review of the book. I'll do that eventually. But whenever I read certain authors I always do a little research about where the books were set. In this case, a good deal of LAST NIGHT IN TWISTEd RIVER revolved around a logging in camp along the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire. And the images of this part of the world were written so well, and with such detail, I'm going to drive there this summer when I'm in Maine again.

And I can't recommend this book enough to other readers or authors. I'm from a school of thought that truly believes writers get better by reading well-crafted novels like LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER. In other words, don't just read the books in the genre in which you write. Branch out and read more literary novels to see how novels are created. You may agree with some things; you may disagree with others. But you'll walk away with knowledge you can't find in a classroom, a crit group, or from any online source that offers writing advice.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!!

When A Book Reviewer Has To Cross Her Legs...

Some blog posts can be short and sweet.

Just like this one.

Earlier today I read a blog post about an erotic romance. Actually, this was a review on a review site I don't frequent often. And it wasn't a very positive review, to say the least.

But I'm glad I went there today, because the reviewer was so shocked, and so completely taken aback by one particular steamy scene in the book, she had to cross her legs.


*I thought so as I shuddered and crossed my legs.*


A review well worth my time. And I ran right over and bought the book.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Five Diamond Review From Got Romance Reviews

This was going to be a one post day, but I was just tagged on facebook with this review from Got Romance Reviews.

I'm mostly thrilled now that I can put up the Got Romance Banner here on the blog. I love that banner, and I've never had a book reviewed by them before. And I'm also happy because this short story e-book, STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM AT THE PLAZA, is one of the few works of fiction I've ever written in the first person. It's also one of the few books I've written with practically no erotica. Oddly, it's more difficult for me to write something with emotion that doesn't have erotica.

Big thank you to Jillian over at Got Romance Reviews!!

I loved this story. Flat out adored it. The emotions were so pure and the writing was some of the best I've seen, which is refreshing and gave me the opportunity to enjoy the story without my internal editor flashing. Telling a story in first person POV can be tricky, since the reader may not get a sound idea of what the character telling the story is like, except through his eyes. However, the author did a superb job of giving the reader a very good visual of who Kellan is. And the descriptions of the other hero, Jason, were so detailed, with layers that proved how great a writer Ryan Field is.

The story itself was a wonderful, if very short, journey of discovery. Kellan wants more than sex...he wants a deeper and more meaningful connection. The fact that he finds it right under (or above, as the case may be) his nose, is so perfect. Truth is stranger than fiction and even though this story is fiction, I was able to suspend disbelief without any problem whatsoever because I truly wanted these two men to find and fall for each other. Kudos to the author and I'll definitely be looking for more from him. This earned every diamond!

Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving, and Write What You Know

I'm finishing up John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River and I've been dying to post the following excerpt from the book. And, just so this is clear, this not John Iriving's personal opinion on the subject, "write what you know." I have no idea how John Irving feels about "write what you know." This is John Irving's character's opinion about "write what you know," Danny Angel the writer.

I know I've heard, from teachers and crit groups, that fiction writers should always "write what you know." Thankfully, I never paid attention to any of them. (There's always been a lot of bad advice out there, and now more than ever the Internet has expanded this.) I've always believed fiction should be larger than life.

I'm not commenting on the character Danny Angel the writer's opinion any further. I'm just blogging about it because I think a lot of new writers wonder about, "write what you know," and when I read this I thought I'd share it. I think it sums up the concept of "write what you know" better than anything I've heard or read in years (smile to all the creative writing teachers out there).

This kind of question drove Danny Angel crazy, but he expected too much from journalists; most of them lacked the imagination to believe that anything credible in a novel had been "wholly imagined." And those former journalists who later turned to writing fiction subscribed to that tiresome Hemingway dictum of writing about what you know. What bullshit was this? Novels should be about people you know? How many boring but deadeningly realistic novels can be attributed to this lame and utterly uninspired advice?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

COLLEGE BOYS Wins a Gaybie Award

An anthology I'm in, COLLEGE BOYS, edited by Shane Allison, just won a TLA Gaybie Award for Best Erotic Fiction, here.

My short story in this book is titled, "Off Campus, Man," and I've read all the stories and like them a lot. The book can be purchased here, and below is a product description.

Is it any wonder that college boys are the stuff of fantasies the world over? These dreamy hunks stride across campus, stirring lust in their wake. Whether toweling off after a swim, lurking in the library stacks, or engaging in some male bonding at the frat house, these gorgeous undergrads are good for page-turning, arousing action. An explicit collection of gay erotica, College Boys explores the first feelings of lust for another boy, all-night study sessions with a classmate, and the excitement of a student hot for teacher. This steamy collection relishes the joys of self-discovery and the revelations that happen when a young man has freedom to pursue his interests—in bed and out. From coming out to falling in love, these stories of sexual awakening will evoke trembling, heart-pounding, sweaty-palmed excitement. Featuring the top erotic authors Rob Rosen, Simon Sheppard, Neil Plakcy, Christopher Pierce, Rachel Kramer Bussel, and more. With searing male-on-male action and wickedly inventive writing, these stories are more provocative, authentic, smart, edgy, and hotter than gay erotica published anywhere else.


Sometimes we think of things we wish we had done after a book or short story e-book has already been published. And while I was going through files this morning looking for a pdf for STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM AT THE PLAZA I wanted to send to a reviewer, I read a quote inside the book I wished I'd used as the tag line on the cover of the book.

It's too late to do anything about it now. But if there were a way to change it, this is how the tag line would read:

Excerpt/quote from "Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza" ..."People born with money often spend a lifetime apologizing for it; whereas people who earn their own money spend the rest of their lives making other people apologize to them"...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Words Matter!! By Johnny Miles

Check out this guest post by author, Johnny Miles, on Rebecca Leigh's writer's

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Today is a very special edition of TELL ALL TUESDAY. My guest is a man you’ve met here before. JOHNNY MILES. In the past you’ve been introduced to him as a fabulous gay erotic romance writer. Now, I introduce you to him as someone who wants to teach us how much WORDS MATTER. Take it away, Johnny . . .

Check Out 1placeforromance

There's a web site where you can buy romance books from your favorite authors called 1placeforromance. None of my ravenous romance books are there, but all of my short story e-books with love you divine are there. I like the way this site is so simple and easy to navigate. So I figured I'd give them a shout in case people don't know they are around.

I also like the product descriptions, which is important nowadays when buying anything online.

Literary Agents and the Query System

I rarely ever comment on things like this. But I get a lot of e-mails from new authors who are always asking questions about querying and I often refer them to literary agent blogs where there's tons of info.

First, I think there are two good aspects regarding the query system. One, learning to write a good query is great's a skill that can prepare authors for many things. After this blog post, I'm writing a new blurb for my next book in the Virgin Billionaire series, and querying taught me how to do this. Two, queries are a connection between the author and the so-called gatekeepers and they give new authors hope. We've all heard the stories about how an author queried an agent and found representation. It happens; it's not urban legend.

I'm not going to get into how to write a query in this post. The best thing authors can do is check out agent guidelines and follow these guidelines to the last letter.

However, I think it's important to mention the query system never worked for me. At first, I thought it was because I was doing something wrong. I practiced; I sent query after query. But all were either rejected or weren't acknowledged at all. (Frankly, I prefer not hearing a negative response. I know writers disagree. But I always figured if you're not interested in what I'm selling, I don't need response is fine with me; no offense taken.)

So I decided to write a mainstream novel, which is something I don't normally do...ever. And, low and behold, when I finished and started querying this novel, I actually received a positive response from almost every agent I queried. Most even asked for pages.

The only problem, which I already suspected anyway, was the novel sucked. Pure cheese!! This novel is still in my files, sitting and waiting for me to spruce it up and make it something I think my established readers will enjoy. The novel was neat, clean, well-edited, and I thought the writing was okay. But the story lacked something I couldn't pin point. I'm still not even sure, which is why it's sitting in my files.

And the agents I queried agreed. After reading the pages, they all passed on the full manuscript.

But, and this is important, what I learned through this experience was that I wasn't querying the wrong way at all. My queries worked. It's just that the agents I was querying, with my steamy erotic m/m romances with happy endings, were agents geared toward mainstream publishing. I could have queried them with Anaïs Nin and they still would have rejected me. They wanted "awesome" and "yummy," two words that aren't part of my vocabulary, and I was sending them "hot" and "sexy."

By this time, I already new I was doing something right because I'd been selling short stories to all the lgbt presses for many years. I'd already established relationships with many editors and I rarely had a rejection with any short story submission to a publisher. But the literary agents I queried simply were not interested in anything I sent (other than the awful mainstream novel I wrote,) not even the literary agents who repped so-called "gay/lesbian." The gay/lesbian fiction they wanted was the same old brand...the violin and sad sack story about how awful it is to be gay, blah, blah, blah...and that's not what I was trying to sell. It's not what I wanted to write. I wanted to write about what I always wanted to read growing up. I didn't have an unhappy childhood, thankfully, and I wanted to write happy endings.

I don't want to turn this into my own personal story. I just want to let other authors know the query system isn't always for everyone, especially when it comes to m/m erotic romance. I honestly believe an author could query every single literary agent in the world, with the best m/m erotic romance ever written, and they'd still get rejected.

And, it would be nothing personal. Authors can't blame literary agents. Sometimes they like an author and the author's work, only they just don't know what to do with the author. But authors can take advantage of all the new opportunities that are out there now. In other words, if you're writing erotic romance of any kind, spend more time querying e-publishers than literary agents. One, you'll make more money because the contracts are standard and extremely uncomplicated. Two, you'll be able to build a lot of publishing credits and a nice fan base.

Here's another tip. Don't knock digital self-publishing and 99 cent e-books. I have had new authors send me their manuscripts, I've read these manuscripts, and the books are excellent. I've been more than happy to help promote them. One self-pubbed author I know is constantly on all the best selling romance lists. Another is building a solid career in, of all things, YA fiction after he received nothing but rejections from agents. And his book is an amazon bestseller now.

Take advantage of the changes that are happening right now. You can still query agents, but don't spend all you're time doing this. It's bad for the mind and the creative process, and it will burn you out.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Short Story: In Honor of "Pink Toenail Sunday"

It seems there is this "issue" about pink toenails. There's even a facebook page now, with an event promoting something called "Pink Toenail Sunday," which is going to happen on May 1st.

So in honor of "Pink Toenail Sunday," I'm posting excerpts from my short story, "I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus." It's a short story from a ravenous romance anthology, where the main character has this harmless little fetish for painting his toenails "tipsy pink." And I thought it would be perfect in honor of "Pink Toenail Sunday."

Here's an excerpt from the beginning, so you can see what I mean about the "tipsy pink" toenail polish.

On Christmas Eve, Dennis crossed to the cosmetics counter in Macy’s to buy a last minute gift for his sister-in-law, Doloretta. She was spending the holidays in New York with Dennis and his partner, Mario. Dennis and Mario weren’t legally married, and she wasn’t officially his sister-in-law. But he’d always referred to her this way.

They had already bought presents for Doloretta, but Dennis wanted to give her something special; just from him. And he wanted it to be something pretty and feminine and girly. She’d recently gone through a bad divorce and he’d noticed that she’d lost incentive. She’d been in New York for over a week and she’d spent most of her time in the house watching their ten year old twin girls. It looked as if she hadn’t had her thick black hair styled in months. And she’d lost so much weight since he’d seen her last her clothes drooped from her shoulders.

Dennis figured an expensive bottle of perfume might make her smile. After Christmas, he was planning to take her to his favorite salon for a complete makeover. She was the only family Mario had left, and Dennis loved her as much as he loved his own sister.

But when he reached the cosmetics counter, something else caught his eye. He stopped and stared; his eyebrows furrowed and he rubbed his chin. Beside a small white Christmas tree that had been decorated with gold ornaments, there was a flashy nail polish display. The display shelves were a bright, gilded material, with sliver sparkles and dots of platinum. The gold shelves were lined with small bottles of nail polish, and all the bottles were shaped like delicate little pears. At the top of each bottle, there were two thin gold metal leaves. The silver sign above the display read, “Blushing Pearls of Pink, For the Softer Side of You.”

Dennis looked to the left and looked to the right, then he lifted a bottle of nail polish and pressed his lips together. Even though the display was garish, the bottle itself was simple and had been done in good taste. He turned the bottle upside down and read the label. This particular shade was called, “Embraceable Blush.” He turned it around again and smiled; his face felt hot and flushed and his pants felt tighter. Holding this small bottle of nail polish reminded him of his early days with Mario. This was before they’d adopted twins, had full time careers, and monthly mortgage payments on a Brownstone in Brooklyn.

He returned the bottle to the shelf and reached for another. He turned it upside down and read the bottom. This one was called, “Tipsy Pink.” When he shook it a few times, he noticed the color was the most unusual shade of pale pink he’d ever seen. It reminded him of a combination of the notepad he had at home in a kitchen drawer and the bottle of his favorite fabric softener, with flecks of platinum and subtle white sparkles.

While he was staring at the bottle, someone said, “It’s just gorgeous, isn’t it. It’s my favorite shade in the collection.”
Dennis looked up and blinked. There was a thin young man on the other side of the counter smiling at him. He spoke with a heavy lisp and batted his eyelids too much. He was wearing a white shirt, a pink tie, and black dress slacks. His bleached hair had been combed up on both sides to form a slick, blunt wedge at the top of his head. There was a diamond in his left ear and a sliver bolt through his nose. His eyebrows had been plucked into dramatic arches and his entire face glistened with silver sparkles.

Dennis jerked his head and said, “It’s very nice.” He had a full erection in his jeans by then and he was glad he’d worn a waist length coat that day.

The young man smiled and said, “I love this shade so much I bought it with my employee discount last week and I’m wearing it on my toes right now.”

Dennis blinked again. He put the bottle down on the counter and rubbed his jaw, wondering why this sort of thing always seemed to happen to him. People were forever telling him the most intimate details about themselves. He smiled and said, “Ah well, isn’t that nice.” Though he was openly gay himself, and had been since he was in college, he was never quite sure how to react to an overly effeminate gay man. They always seemed to expect more from him than he could give. But he didn’t have their sense of wit; he didn’t know how to banter with campy quips. Dennis had always been conservative and quiet. He didn’t use female pronouns with his male friends and he didn’t refer to other gay men as “sister” and “girlfriend.” He didn’t think there was anything wrong with gay men who did this. But it didn’t feel comfortable to him.

The young guy stepped back and lifted his leg. He rested it on top of a stool and said, “Do you want to see how it looks. I can take my shoes off and show you.”

Excerpt: The Skater Boy

I just checked out the final digital draft of my new short story e-book, THE SKATER BOY.

It's scheduled for a May 6th release, and I wanted to post an excerpt here first.

When Bradley Klinger moved to the little town
of Mt. Saint Hope in upstate New York, he never
imagined that a twenty-one-year-old in a hooded
sweatshirt would follow him home one night on a
skateboard. He was forty-five years old by then
but said he was in his mid-thirties and no one
ever questioned him. His brown hair was still
thick and wavy. His voice still soft and smooth.
He worked out daily and watched what he ate,
holding onto whatever youth he had left.

Before he moved, he donated all of his loosefitting
polo shirts and his “dad” jeans to charity.
He stopped using words like “dungarees” and
“underpants” when he went shopping for new
low-rise jeans and tighter T-shirts. He wasn’t
denying his age. And he wasn’t planning to buy
a skateboard and get a tattoo. But he wasn’t
ready to look and sound like an old man yet

Mt. Saint Hope was a quirky town, stippled
with art galleries and trendy boutiques. And it
was at the foot of the Berkshires, within driving
distance from Manhattan. Some people moved
there because of the scenery, some moved there
because of the artistic surroundings. But Bradley
decided to move there mainly because Mt. Saint
Hope was that rare mix of quiet small-town living
with a large gay community.

On his first Sunday morning in town, he went
for a proper brunch at a local gay restaurant
called Marlow’s. As he waited for his food, he
noticed the young owner of Marlow’s, Jared
Branford, standing near the kitchen door.
His head went up and his eyes opened wide.

Jared reminded him of the young man he’d
always wanted to be (or could have been). If you
stood them both side by side in a dark corner and
dressed them in the same baggy clothes, they
could have been brothers.

Jared’s head went up, too. He kept looking
over his shoulder in Bradley’s direction, smiling
and nodding. Eventually, he walked over, patted
Bradley’s shoulder with his wide palm and said,
“Hey, buddy, you’re new here, aren’t you? I’m
Jared. My partner and I own this place.”

Bradley’s lips turned down. He hadn’t
planned on the fact that Jared might have a lover.
Bradley lifted his head and forced a smile then he
cleared his throat and said, “Ah well, yes. I’m
Bradley. I just moved into town.” He had trouble
finding his voice; it sounded shaky. And when he
lifted his hand to shake Jared’s, he almost
knocked over his water glass.

“Where are you from?” Jared asked, looking
him up and down. His eyes were dark brown and
his lashes long. But there was nothing feminine
about him.

David Mixner Isn't Letting Donald Trump Off the Hook

I've posted so many things about Donald Trump and how he feels about legalizing lgbt marriage, the links would be too long to list. Just do a search at the top of the blog if you're curious. Trump's attack on the lgbt community is the worst I've ever seen.

I came a across this David Mixner article today and had to share. I'm posting a link and the entire piece.

But more than that, I'm hoping all people who are lgbt and who support the lbgt community start speaking out now. We need all the voices we can get this time. Because if Trump actually does run for President...nothing would surprise me anymore...and he wins, we're all screwed.

Donald Trump can't seem to get anti-LGBT rhetoric out of his mouth fast enough. Almost daily now this resident of New York City has a new tirade about LGBT citizens. First he condemned marriage equality. Not content to just state his opposition to full equality he had to continue and say that the concept of same sex couples made him feel creepy. Then he played the famous right wing martyr card and proclaimed to a bunch of Tea Party folks how hard it was to be anti-gay and live in New York.

Really, Donald, Really? All those tax breaks, special exemptions and circumventing normal processes were tough on you? You have taken New York City for a ride financially and you have the nerve to complain how hard it is to be "anti-gay and live in New York City." You can't travel around this city without seeing your bigoted, out-of-control ego stamped on building after building.

Being a firm believer in free speech, I know "The Donald" has every right to express his hateful views and still do business in the city. However, this city and its people do not have to continue to bestow any respectability on this man. Whether he runs for President or not, he has proven that he is willing to preach hate, disrespect a huge number of NYC citizens and stop at nothing for personal power and acknowledgement.

Let him speak out but it is time to pull the rug out from underneath him in New York. Please to our friends in the fashion industry - stop inviting him to your shows and front row seats. Let's see the arts community rise up and not greet him backstage or give him good seats at the theater. Let him sit in back. All those of you who run charities do you really have to kiss his ass and honor him at your banquets? For New York City's elite society, do us a favor and stop inviting him to your private dinner parties. Hey, Mayor Bloomberg time to look to see if this man and his companies are abiding by all of New York laws. While you are at that, Mr. Mayor, please no more tax breaks since that means your LGBT citizens have to help him make money to spread his message of hate.

New York, it is time to enforce your laws against this man. Stop inviting this preacher of hate to your events, tables and homes. Please let your fellow LGBT citizens know that your support is not one of just convenience but one of deeply held convictions that you put into practice in your daily living. "The Donald" does not deserve your respect, time or support. It is just as simple as that.

Some of My Top Favorite Romance Review Web Sites

I'm speaking as a reader now, not a writer. As most of my past blog posts will prove, I'm a shopper. Especially when it comes to books. And while I'm shopping for books I always check out several online book review sites to see whether or not I'm going to make a purchase. And I don't always base my purchases on the most excellent book reviews. Oddly enough, I sometimes purchase based on less than stellar reviews simply because I have a feeling I'm going to like the book much better than the reviewer did. This is a gut feeling with me, and I've never been wrong.

Here's a list of my favorite review sites:

Elisa - My Reviews and Ramblings is a review site written by Elisa Rolle, and I like the international flair. I've also met Elisa in person and I know she's a smart, dedicated reviewer. I also know she has the love.

Top 2 Bottom Reviews - I love this site. It's on top of everything when it comes to m/m fiction and I actually link to it here on the blog. I also know they have the love when they read and review a book.

Joyfully Reviewed - Whenever I'm in doubt, I know I can't go wrong reading the reviews on this web site. And because I like to read books that aren't always m/m fiction, I get a lot of good information here that I normally wouldn't have access to on my own.

Coffee Time Romance - As the logo says, "Your one stop shop for books and authors on the web." I like the style of this blog/site. It's a fun place to go, filled with smart reviews and lots of color. You can't feel bad after checking out this site. And, it's all about the romance.

Gerry B's Book Reviews - Even though Gerry never gave me a five star review for anything, I like his book review site a great deal. He gave me a three star review, which wasn't glowing, but I "got" what he was saying and I knew he "got" what I was writing. I respect Gerry, which is important. I think Gerry's reviews come from the heart and I think he reviews with a touch of old world style we don't find often on the web. I check it out often, especially when I'm thinking of reading a historical. I don't normally read historicals and I've learned I can get a lot of info just by reading Gerry's reviews.

Reviews by Jessewave - As the title suggests, this is a review site that focuses mainly on m/m fiction with adult themes. One of the things I like most about this site is that it focuses a lot on some of the new self-published authors out there. Again, I go to Jessewave to learn who is publishing what and where. And I've never been disappointed.

These are just a few of my favorites...sort of the top six. But there are a few more I'll post about in the future.

What I don't like on a review site is boring and drab. And I despise snark unless it's done with flair. And so far, I have not seen any snarky review sites that are actually written by people smart enough, rich enough, or have enough style to be snarky. Quasi-snark is a put-off for me. Being witty isn't something you can fake. You either have it or you don't. And most of the time these so-called witty, snarky review sites comes off as mean, and they become havens where other mean people slither around.

Another thing I don't like on a book review site is too much information. I've been in publishing for a long time. I don't need to know detailed, technical publishing information on a reader review site. It's boring, and I don't think most readers care. I want to know about books; I want ratings and reviews so I know how to purchase. I don't want to read recycled links to other publishing posts in PW by a blogger somewhere in the middle of nowhere who is really a frustrated publishing professional who missed his/her calling in life. And, many times, after reading a few of these publishing oriented posts on these review sites, I'll check out the facts with a good friend of mine who has been a NY literary agent for over thirty years, and most of the time the facts are either misleading or wrong.

So, if you're looking for good online review sites, there are plenty of them out there. Especially for romance books, like the sites I listed and linked to above. And if anyone has any they'd like to mention, please feel free to comment. I'm always looking for something new.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kobo Look Book

I've posted before about my Kobo e-reader. I love it because it's simple, it's fast, and it really feels like I'm reading a print book. Though I still read print books as well, I actually prefer the Kobo e-reader to print books now.

I've been watching the Kobo Look Book at my local CVS pharmacy for about six months now. I heard CVS was going to carry it for the Christmas season, and they've sold most of them out by now. But I've been watching closely. This morning they had a few left, and they'd reduced the price from 149.00 to 49.00.

Even though I'm not one of those people who buy new appliances and gadgets just for the sake of buying them because they are new, that's a deal that's just too good to pass up. So I bought a Look Book and it's charging right now. I'll post more about it when I get to know it better. The Look Book is a lot like Literati, from what I've heard and read, and it's back lit, unlike my regular Kobo.

But at 49.00 I don't think you can go wrong, especially since the lowest Kindle I've seen is priced around 114.00.

"I Love You Phillip Morris," and Donald Trump

I know this sounds like a strange title for a blog post. But I watched "I Love You Phillip Morris" last night right after watching Donald Trump in a news clip.

Trump gave a speech in Florida and he started ranting about the President's birth certificate. Blah, blah, blah...I've already posted about this and I'm not going there again.

The reason why Trump fascinates me so much is because of his hard stand against legalizing lgbt marriage. And this lack of protection, for lgbt couples who've been together for years, can be financially devastating when a life partner dies. This issue is simply too important for lgbt people to ignore...on so many levels.

I'm not going to get into how I feel about Trump on a moral or ethical level. He's made a lot of his money in gambling. And I'm not a huge fan of legalized gambling of any kind, not even lotteries. And, I'm not a fan of Trump's own questionable marriage record, especially since I personally know many lgbt couple, men and women, who've dedicated their lives to each other without being able to legally marry. Which is something Trump seems to take for granted: his record speaks for itself. And, like Trump is so fond of saying all the time these days, I also went to a good college, received good grades, and I'm a relatively sane person.

But after watching "I Love You Phillip Morris," I couldn't help wondering whether or not Trump really knows any gay people that aren't like the characters in "I Love You Phillip Morris." I know he lives in places where there are many gay people. But I can't help wonder if he knows that the people in films like "I Love You Phillip Morris," aren't all like that. I know the film was based on a true story. And there are actually gay people out there like this. I've met them myself and I'm not very impressed with them. When I see them I smile and try to move on as fast as I can. But we're not all like that.

I actually did like "I Love You Phillip Morris" in spite of the tone of this post. I thought it was very entertaining. But I'd like films like this a lot more if there were more of a balance. In other words, the lgbt community is very diversified. And we're everywhere, not just in Florida, California, and New York. I know many gay Republicans, most of whom are extremely disappointed by Donald Trump's harsh words against civil rights.

I think Trump might want to pay more attention to who and what the lgbt community is all about...on a realistic level instead of the pop culture level he's obviously so used to seeing. Because he's definitely missing something very important.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Short and Sweet Post About Blogging and Promoting a Book

This post is simple. It just happened to me and I want to get it down before I forget about it.

And, of all places, it happened to me on a literary agent blog.

The agent in question was promoting a client book and the book looked more than interesting. I never would have known about it if I hadn't seen it on the agent's blog.

But there weren't any links in the agent's blog post. So I had to trek over to Amazon myself and do a search to find out more information.

I know. Big deal. It took me all of twenty seconds to do this. But that's because I had twenty seconds to spare tonight. If this had been a Monday morning, I wouldn't have bothered and the author would have lost a sale.

Don't be shy about adding links to blog posts when promoting books. You're not being pushy and you're not going to offend anyone. What you're doing is making it easier for the reader to find the book you're trying to promote, read about it, and then buy it.

On the Road, by Kerouac, Now a Movie!!!

ON THE ROAD is the only book I keep on my nightstand. At all times. And not just because it defines the Beat Generation, or because Jackie Kennedy loved it. For me, it's the way in which the book was crafted and executed. The New York Times said is was, "the most beautifully executed, the clearest and most important utterance" of Kerouac's generation.

I've also always been interested in Kerouac because of his relationship with Allen Ginsberg, another writer who was part of the Beat Generation. In this article it says, "When he (Ginsberg) met Jack Kerouac, those latent gay feelings were at last brought to the surface. The two became occasional lovers, often sharing a bed after a long evening of discussion and wine together." Although this information is rarely discussed, I can't help wondering more about both men and the kind of relationship they shared.

Here's the article from The New York Times:

Many consider Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” sacred text. The novel was, after all, originally typed on a scroll.

Translated into 40 languages, millions of copies of the Beat generation classic have sold worldwide since the novel was published in 1957, placing it among the 20th century’s most influential books.

When it comes to the big screen, however, “On the Road” has faced a Kerouac curse. Past efforts by Hollywood to adapt the author’s work have been failures.

Now, somewhat quietly, “On the Road” has finally been made into a movie. The $25 million production, shot in San Francisco, Montreal and other locales, is scheduled for release this fall.

The movie is expected to be of keen interest in San Francisco where the Beats and their old hangouts are a cottage industry. Each year, thousands of people flock to North Beach to visit the City Lights bookstore and the bar Vesuvio or to gawk at Kerouac artifacts in The Beat Museum.

But with so much interest comes anxiety.

Adapting any beloved book for film is perilous and apt to irk fans, especially when it’s a literary classic where the language itself played a starring role — something not easily translated onto the screen. “On the Road” is particularly daunting since the provocative ideas that defined the novel — casual sex and drug use and a rejection of materialism — are unlikely to raise eyebrows with today’s multiplex audience.

The creative team from another counterculture road movie is leading the project: the director Walter Salles and the screenwriter Jose Rivera from the award-winning Che Guevara biopic “The Motorcycle Diaries.”

The cast is peppered with actors with box-office appeal, including Kristen Stewart of “Twilight” fame, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen. The two male leads, characters based on Kerouac and his fellow flâneur Neal Cassady, are played by lesser-known actors, Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund.

In July, before filming began near the primary sets in Montreal, the cast and crew went through Beat boot camp — three weeks of immersion with Kerouac experts.

One “drill instructor” was Gerald Nicosia, author of “Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac,” considered by many (including William S. Burroughs) to be the definitive Kerouac account.

None of the cast and crew were old enough to remember the Beat era, so Mr. Nicosia, of Corte Madera, approached the sessions as if he were teaching ancient history, “like I was bringing them the Holy Grail.”

He said the actors were especially intense, knowing they would upset a lot of people if they didn’t portray the characters accurately.

At the camp, Mr. Nicosia played an audio interview that he recorded in 1978 with Lu Anne Henderson, Neal Cassady’s young wife, on whom the book’s character Marylou is based. That conversation is also the basis of “One and Only: The Untold Story of ‘On The Road,’ ” a new book by Mr. Nicosia out this fall.

Could the cast and crew dig, er, relate?

“They’re all very unconventional in their own lives,” Mr. Nicosia said of the actors. “If you’re an outsider, you understand what counterculture is about.”

This striving for authenticity is a stark contrast to many past efforts to film Mr. Kerouac’s work.

His novel “The Subterraneans” about an interracial love affair was turned into a 1960 movie starring George Peppard and Leslie Caron (note: they’re both white). And in 1980 “Heart Beat,” about Kerouac’s life, was derided by critics as having about as much literary substance as a Tic Tac.

Mr. Nicosia said concerns that “On the Road” would be similarly botched have thwarted past attempts to make such a movie. (The film’s producers did not respond to requests for comments.)

Concerns remain. Joanna McClure, a Beat poet who was immortalized as a character in Kerouac’s novel “Big Sur,” is curious about the new film, but said: “It was the writing that was so exciting. How do you make that into a movie?”

Ms. McClure also wondered whether today’s young movie audience, which she described as obsessed with “trying to get into corporations,” could grasp a story about shunning worldly possessions.

“It must make a nice fairy tale for them to think about,” she said. “People wished they lived in a world where that could happen.”

Yet in San Francisco such wishes still resonate.

Gravity Goldberg, editor of the local literary journal Instant City, said many of the submissions she receives today are inspired by Kerouac.

“I think his influence, consciously or not, slips into the work of all these semi-autobiographical bar-hopping, nirvana-through-a-bottle-of-J.D.-seeking writers,” Ms. Goldberg said.

Whether Hollywood success finally comes, or not, the beat goes on.

Scott James is an Emmy-winning television journalist and novelist who lives in San Francisco.

Friday, April 15, 2011

About This Kobe Bryant Comment...

I've been treading in waters I usually don't tread this week. I write romance novels and I don't like to go here. But if Kobe Bryant can call someone a faggot in public, I find it hard to not write something about it.

I read an article by a sports columnist, David Whitley, who writes for, about the Kobe Bryant comment. This is the title of the article: Was the NBA's $100,000 fine of Kobe Bryant a case of political correctness run amok? And I found it interesting the way Mr. Whitley didn't actually come out with anything substantial. Yet the title of the article suggests poor unfortunate Kobe Bryant was treated unfairly when compared to other comments made by other athletes in the past.

Here's what Whitley thinks: In the wake of the NBA's $100,000 fine of Kobe Bryant for using a gay slur, David Whitley thinks the league needs to go a better job of defining its policies on punishing players for their words.

Considering Kobe makes $24.8 million a year, $100,000 wasn’t nearly enough. That said, I can’t help wondering whether political correctness factored in. Would Bryant have gotten off easier if he’d slurred a different group?

And here's what I think: Blah, blah, blah... Helen Thomas was forced to retire in disgrace for a comment she made about Jews. If Barbara Walters slipped even slightly with a slur like Kobe made, they'd bury her. And we all know what happened to Don Imus after he made a racial slur. And I personally don't see how it's possible to weigh one negative slur against another. A slur is a slur and it doesn't matter who the "group" is. In fact, anyone in almost any other position in America would suffer far worse than Kobe Bryant did with that insignificant little fine.

But the bigger picture here is that Mr. Whitley seems to be ignoring a serious point. It's not about being politically correct, especially when you call someone a faggot, which is what Kobe was fined for. It's about something far deeper. It makes me wonder what Kobe Bryant is all about. I don't use slurs against anyone, in public or in private, because I know it's wrong. And I think most people would agree.

There's a certain amount of arrogance that goes along with a high profile position like Kobe Bryant's, especially with professional athletes. Unfortunately, fans tend to put them up on a pedestal and these irresponsible, arrogant people take advantage of the position as often as they can. Because they know they can, or, because they simply don't know any better. Either way it's wrong.

I understand where David Whitley is coming from. And Mr. Whitley made it clear he doesn't support what Kobe said. But I couldn't disagree with Mr. Whitley more. If it were up to me, there wouldn't be fines for professional athletes like Kobe Bryant in cases like this. They would be fired on the spot and held accountable for their actions and words. Zero tolerance. After all, if you're making over 24 million bucks a year, the least you can do is take responsibility for what you say.

If it happened to anyone else, they'd be fired. I can't even imagine what would happen if a school teacher called a child a faggot in a classroom. But we put Kobe Bryant up on a pedestal and all he gets is a fine that means nothing to him.

Sex and Taxes

It's that time of year again. I heard this morning on the radio we have until Monday to get the taxes in because it's Emancipation Day in Washington, DC. How this holiday thing works, I don't know. It's only a holiday in Washington. But at least it gives people a few extra days.

And if you're in the mood for something to read that blends well with taxes, this anthology might be perfect. I have a short story in there, and I know a few of the other authors as well.

Nothing is more boring than computing how much you owe the government. In honor of this grueling annual task, we've brought together 9 sizzling hot tales of wicked ways to distract an accountant or conduct your own special audit with the IRS.

After reading about these vampire accountants (yes, you read that right) and tax cheats on who cheat on their wives, doing your taxes will take on a whole new meaning.

This anthology includes stories by:

Jen Bluekissed
Lisa Lane
Ryan Field
Hobert Glasse
Peter Sheehan
Eve Carpenter
Bryce Wood
Rachel Kenley
Jamaica Layne

Does Grammar Matter All the Time?

I'd like to think grammar matters all the time in books. But I do know, and understand, language and communication change all the time and grammar evolves. I went to private school, with old guard teachers. Ending a sentence with a preposition was strictly taboo. But I do it now, sometimes, because I know what it's all about.

But I'm not talking about grammar in books right now. I'm talking about grammar in every day communication, especially on social networks. In most cases, grammar doesn't seem to matter much anymore. Just watch Judge Judy once in a while and listen to the way people speak. Even Judge Judy rolls her eyes and lets them get away with it. If she didn't she wouldn't have enough time to make a judgement. And, in all fairness, the people on Judge Judy aren't promoting publishing related notices. The world has become more casual in every respect, and I don't expect perfect grammar from everyone.

But this morning I received a facebook notice from someone who should know better. This is how the sentence was worded:

What do you think of the blank blank me and Betty Loo are trying to do at blank blank?

I would imagine this sounds harmless to most people reading this blog post right now. But it's wrong. So I pulled this from a web site to show why it's wrong. And, from what I remember in grammar school, we're talking about the very basics here.

Grammar mistake number two: Me and my boyfriend went to the beach, is incorrect. You wouldn't say, Me went to the beach, so why say, Me and my boyfriend.... A way to correct this is to put the person you did whatever with first. It becomes harder to say, My boyfriend and me went to the beach, because when you say, went to the beach, it won't sound right and you will automatically think, I went to the beach. Then you will say it correctly. My boyfriend and I went to the beach. (Me and (whoever)... is gaining more and more acceptance and may someday be considered proper grammar.)

We all make mistakes. I do it all the time (God bless my copy editors). And I'm not trying to sound like the grammar police. But when you're sending out a notice to hundreds of people who are authors, and this notice is publishing related, it might be a good idea to double check the grammar before you hit send.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

YOU NEVER CARED by Michele Montgomery...a Free Download, Too!

I had the privilege of reading Michele Montgomery's new story, YOU NEVER CARED, and I was pleasantly surprised. I'm a fan of a lot of Michele's books, which include one of my all time favorites, TONY AND RYAN. But this book, YOU NEVER CARED, really drew me in because the storyline revolves around young adults, social images, and bullying. And, as always, Michele's books are written with a neat style that keeps the story moving forward at all time.

This line hit me fast: I never realized what my words and actions could do to another person. This is where the magnitude of what he's been doing hits Jordon, the one who is telling the story.

This time the story is told from the bully's POV, and how he regrets his decisions. He's tired of being what his father thinks he should be. And he's tired of trying to live up to everyone's expectations of what they think he should be. But more than that, he knows in his heart he's been wrong all along. And, this is why I love Michele's work. It's filled with emotion on all levels.

Another line that stopped me short for a moment was this: That was the worst of it for me at that moment, watching Samuel deal with the loss of the guy he loved, and it was all because of me. Jordon's talking about Sammy's dead lover, Casper. And I could feel Jordon's regret as I read this.

Once in a while we read something that inspires us. YOU NEVER CARED did this for me. This is a story about facing demons and regret, growing up and learning tolerance...even if it's a little too late in some cases. And that every single action in the universe...karma...causes a reaction in one way or another. But most of all, it's a story about redemption. And it's never too late for that.

Here's a quick blurb, and the story can be downloaded for free here.
I can't recommend it enough to all readers.

Jordan is a golden child—wealthy, popular, the self-professed ruler of the senior class. Jordan is also a bully, a bully whose group of friends mercilessly tormented seventeen-year-old Casper for being different, for being poor, for suffering silently. Random acts of abuse from his classmates were par for the course in Casper’s life, until one night, the bullying evolved into a hate crime and he, unable to endure, longing for peace, finally took his own life.

You Never Cared is the heartbreaking tale, told in Jordan’s words, of a life stolen, of love lost, and of a soul compromised. But ultimately, it is a story of forgiveness and redemption. As Sammy, Casper’s friend and lover, attempts to cope with the anguish of his boyfriend’s loss, Jordan attempts to own his part in the crime, trying to make amends but knowing his only hope is to carry on Casper’s legacy, to work to build a better future for boys and girls who, like Casper, just need a strong voice to encourage and stand up for them.

Purchasing Used Books on Ebay For More Money...

Here's something I don't get. If anyone wants to comment and explain, I welcome their thoughts.

Sometimes people point me to web sites where my books are being sold. And this morning someone pointed me to ebay, at this link, where bidding just ended for THE VIRGIN BILLIONAIRE.

I have no problem with anyone selling my books on ebay. But what I don't get is why anyone would spend more money on ebay for a used book when they can get a new book on amazon cheaper.

Maybe I'm missing something here. If I'm not, then I hope readers are aware of the fact that most my books can be purchased at amazon in print, not just as e-books. And from what I've seen today, they can be purchased cheaper.

I'm not sure, but I would imagine my used books are also for sale on amazon. Which makes me wonder even more why anyone would bid on, and buy, a used book on ebay for more money.

This might fall under the category of reader beware. If it does, please check out all your book buying options before you make a purchase. As a reader, I never buy the first book I see, print or digital. I shop around first to see who is offering the best deal. Most of the time, like them or not, it's amazon when it comes to print books.

New Release Today: Young, Hung, and Hitched...A Gay Honeymoon Romance

First, a little back story. This book, YOUNG, HUNG, AND HITCHED, was originally titled, "Gone With A Wink." (Nothing to do with Gone with the Wind.) It was actually a suggestion from a reader on facebook. I liked it. The publisher liked it. So they contracted me to do it.

But as time went on, in the middle of writing the book, both the publisher and I decided the original title wasn't right. So I sent them ten different title suggestions: five romance oriented and five more erotica oriented. I asked them to decide and said I'd be fine with anything they chose.

Being that this book is about two young gay men in love who are planning their wedding and honeymoon, I thought the title worked well. And the fact that they are taking a cross country road trip with a huge silver trailer makes the "hitched" part even more symbolic. And, once again, as with most of the titles of my books, this one was chosen with a certain amount of humor as well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I came across this web site a short time ago and fell in love with it. At the time, I was doing a little web research for a book that concentrated on gay marriage, GAY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and I've been following it ever since.

On March 8, Ron Wallen lost his husband and partner of 58 years, Tom Carrollo, to leukemia.

Even as he grieves, Ron also faces the loss of the home he and Tom shared. Unfairly denied the Social Security coverage his husband earned -- payments he would receive were it not for the so-called Defense of Marriage Act's "gay exception" -- Ron cannot afford to keep his home.

The sad truth is that Ron's story of discrimination isn't unique. Doug Gentry, married to a Venezuelan citizen named Alex Benshimol, faces the possibility of being torn apart from his husband because DOMA treats their marriage with contempt. If Doug and Alex weren't gay, Doug could sponsor Alex for American citizenship but, because of DOMA, they are treated as strangers under federal law. "It's gut-wrenching," Doug says.

Couples send us stories like these -- each heartbreaking, each infuriatingly unjust -- and the remedy is clear: We must overturn DOMA now.

Freedom to Marry has worked closely with members of Congress on a bill to repeal this discriminatory law, which denies married same-sex couples federal protections that touch every area of life -- from birth to death, with taxes in between.

We stood with congressional leaders a few weeks ago when they introduced the repeal bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, in the Senate and House. But now we need to grow the support, make the case, build momentum, and add co-sponsors to the bill.

Will you take action now? Ask your senators and representative to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act. Send a letter today:

On behalf of couples like Ron and Tom and Doug and Alex, and because discrimination has no place in America, Freedom to Marry will not stop until we've wiped this discriminatory law from the books. But we can only do it with your help.

Thanks for all you do,

Evan Wolfson
President, Freedom to Marry

Digging Through the Vines

I know this is going to sound like the beginning of a bad novel. But it's the truth: It was a long, cold, snowy winter here in Bucks County, PA. And there haven't been many sunny, warm days yet. But at least the daffodils are in bloom. I have a difficult property, two acres of woods, and I get a little obsessive about it...the same way I get obsessive about my books. Each year in the fall, I try to plant at least three hundred more bulbs. And I plant them in out-of-the-way places, so I can see them in bloom from every room in the house in the spring.

This was the batch I planted this past fall, in the middle of an ivy/pachysandra patch that wasn't easy to dig through. I was worried I didn't go deep enough because of all the roots and vines. But they popped up, as usual, without any problems. It's just too bad they won't last more than another week.

I can't help thinking about how these bulbs always remind me of writing and publishing. When you're a writer, you dig through vines and rocks and all kinds of obstacles all the time. I won't even get into the rejection all writers deal with. But, sooner or later, if you keep digging, it's always worth the effort!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Philadelphia Book Fair

Here's a list of events going on this week at the Philadelphia Book Fair. I'm going to try to make a few myself, with any luck. And here's a link for other events later this week.

Harry Potter Film Festival: The Chamber of Secrets
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 3:30PM
Northeast Regional Library

This event will be held in the Meeting Room. For information, call 215-685-0512.

Northeast Regional Library | 2228 Cottman Avenue | Philadelphia, PA 19149-1297

Drawing and Comics Workshop with Amy Ignatow | The Popularity Papers
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 4:00PM
Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library

Local author Amy Ignatow is an illustrator and teacher with a storied past that includes stints as everything from farmer to air-brush body artist. Her bestselling debut novel, The Popularity Papers, follows fifth-grade best friends Julie and Lydia on their quest to become popular. At this special comics workshop, Ignatow will teach children the art of drawing comics, as well as discuss and sign her own work.

For additional event information, call 215-685-7424.

Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library | 125 South 52nd Street | Philadelphia, PA 19139-3408

Poetry Writing & Dance Program with Barbara Tait
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 4:00PM
Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library

Come dance with us and express yourself writing poetry! Barbara Tait—a dancer, poet, and playwright—will present a poetry writing and dance program for children ages 7-11.

For additional event information, call 215-685-2150.

Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library | 68 West Chelten Avenue | Philadelphia, PA 19144-2795

Music by MTM (Many Thoughts of Music) Band
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 5:45PM
Parkway Central Lobby

Featuring Eric Mabley on keyboard, Ron Starley on drums, and the Free Library’s own Alfred “Moe Joe” Moore on bass, Many Thoughts of Music is a gospel and jazz jam band that has performed throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. With a sophisticated and well-polished sound, these talented musicians get the crowd moving for a reliably good time. Find out more about them on their MySpace page.

Philadelphia Noir with Carlin Romano, Asali Solomon, Duane Swierczynski, and Jim Zervanos
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 6:00PM
Skyline Room

Deemed “corrupt and contented” by journalist Lincoln Steffens in 1903, the City of Brotherly Love’s underbelly is exposed in this anthology of brand-new crime stories by local authors. Part of Akashic Books’ award-winning series of original noir anthologies that started with Brooklyn Noir, Philadelphia Noir is “a collection enhanced by an unerring sense of place [...] that will please the most discriminating lovers of the dark side,” according to a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews.

Critic-at-large for the Chronicle of Higher Education, editor Carlin Romano was a literary critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years. Asali Solomon is a West Philadelphia native who was selected as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” for her first book of short stories, Get Down. Duane Swierczynski is the former editor-in-chief of the Philadelphia City Paper, the author of several crime thrillers including Expiration Date and Severance Package, and a writer for Marvel Comics. Jim Zervanos is the author of the critically acclaimed novel LOVE Park.

Donald Bogle | Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 7:30PM
Festival Main Stage

A professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and the University of Pennsylvania, Donald Bogle is the foremost authority on African Americans in film. His books, which include Dorothy Dandridge; Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks; Primetime Blues; and Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams have won awards and wide critical acclaim. In Heat Wave, Bogle traces screen star Ethel Waters’ life from her childhood years of poverty in Chester, PA, to her success in Hollywood—where she became the second African American ever to be nominated for an Academy Award. Bogle recounts with detail her stint in black vaudeville, her turbulent personal life, and her hard-won success as a Broadway musical comedy and dramatic star.