Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why One Gay Couple Hates "The New Normal"

I've posted several times about how I like "The New Normal." I can identity with most of it, which is one of the reasons why I like it so much. I thought I would be in the majority on this, but last night I found out I was wrong.

Tony and I have two very good old friends, a gay couple who have been together since 1975. They were only in their very early twenties when they met, so they aren't that old now. One is a retired English professor and the other has been working in publishing since the 1970's. We don't see them that often anymore because they live between NY, Key West, and New Hope.

We started a tradition about fifteen years ago where a group of us would get together and celebrate individual birthdays at different times of the year. The birthday group started out with about fifteen people, and now it's dwindled down to just the four of us. Some moved; some passed away. Tony and I were always the youngest in that particular group and we've made a lot of new friends since. But it's nice to get together with old friends you don't see often. In this case, it's like family. As a side note, when Tony was hospitalized in 2007, near death, with pneumonia, these were two of the very close friends who were there when I needed them. You'd be amazed at how you learn who your true friends are during a time of crisis. A lot of people disappear, which you tend not to forget.

In any event, we started talking about gay fiction first. My friend in publishing is always amazed at how straight women have embraced gay fiction in the past few years. He's more concentrated in non-fiction and mainstream fiction, so anything LGBT oriented is a novelty to him. Then the conversation moved on to LGBT TV shows and I mentioned how much I love watching "The New Normal." Both my friends looked at each other and made faces, and then they went into long individual reasons why they don't like "The New Normal" at all.

While they spoke, Tony and I just listened because we both like the show. They seemed to think it's just more stereotypical nonsense that doesn't depict the way real gay male couples live. Again, we just listened without speaking. I found their POV interesting, not offensive. They were especially annoyed...the the point of frustration...with respect to all the talk about gay men having kids on "The New Normal." And it's not the first time I've heard this. Many older gay couples don't want kids, never wanted kids, and can't seem to understand why any other gay couples would want them. In fact, in this case, this older gay couple can't stand kids in general and they will proudly state this to your face. I'm not exaggerating either.

I tend to think this is generational, and for a myriad of reasons I won't get into in one short blog post. But it wasn't just the "kid" aspect of "The New Normal" they didn't like. They thought one of the main characters (can't remember his name) was far too effeminate...which is also why they refuse to watch "Modern Family." And, this part blew me away. My friends thought the gay bar scene in the first episode of "The New Normal" was totally fake. For those who didn't see this scene, it's basically centered around the two characters going to a bar, sitting there bored, and acting as if they are too old to be out in a gay bar. My friends thought it was a cliched spin on straight married couples, and they don't identify with straight married all, not ever. They also thought this was completely unrealistic, especially since my friends are much older and they still enjoy going out to gay bars.

We eventually moved on to other topics, but I couldn't help thinking about how different their reaction was to our reaction to "The New Normal." Again, I think it's generational. It was also difficult to argue the points they were making because I knew deep down they weren't completely wrong. But it really is all debatable. The only reason I'm saying this is because Tony and I have thought about adopting a child more than once. And, Tony and I have been in that bar scene ourselves that was depicted on the TV show and we were both bored to death and we are only in our early forties. So I guess it's hard to please everyone, especially in a community where people are all so very different. I'm also starting to wonder if it will ever be possible to please all gay people at the same time with anything. It will be interesting to see how "The New Normal" moves forward with future episodes. I'm going to be watching closely just to see if I feel the same way in the future as I do now.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Enjoying The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling...

I wanted to post something short about The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling because of a few reviews I saw, including one in the NYT. And based on these reviews, if I were an average reader who was thinking of purchasing TCV, I might be a little confused. I'm not disagreeing with the reviews. I'm just offering another opinion in case anyone is confused. And take into consideration that I've never read "Harry Potter," nor do I ever intend to read HP. So I'm reading J.K. Rowling for the first time with TCV, and I have nothing to which to compare it.

But I know how to vet reviews when I'm shopping for books, and I know how to read between the lines of these reviews to know if I'll like the book or not. I don't always pay attention to the glowing reviews either. Of course it's always a gamble with something new, but I decided to buy TCV based on the negative reviews because most of what I read in those reviews that other people didn't like sounded like things I might like.

And I was right on target this time. I bought the Kindle version late last night and read well into the early hours of Saturday morning. First, the e-book is fine. I read somewhere there were issues with formatting; I didn't find a single issue so far. I did not see any mistakes at all in formatting, nor have I seen any other problems so far. If I do, I will post more about that. But as it stands, the quality of the e-book is just as good as any other I've read before. And I tend to be very particular about formatting based on my own experiences with my own e-books.

So this is a "so far" review, in case anyone is thinking about buying the book but isn't sure. I've only read the first third of the book and these are my far. I like the characters and don't think they are dark and gloomy. I think they are real, and they remind me of a cross between the characters in an Anne Tyler novel, in a Jonathan Franzen novel, and in a Grace Metalious novel. If you don't know who Grace Metalious is, look her up. It's worth the effort.

The storyline begins with something shocking...our worst nightmare...and takes off from there by getting into the lives of people who live in a small town in England, Pagford. Try not to read the Amazon blurb because it gives out a spoiler right away. I didn't read it and I'm glad I didn't. It would have ruined the first two chapters for me. Aside from this, it seems to be about family, about the interaction between couples, and about small town relationships with friends. For those who live in small towns or are familiar with small towns, you'll find yourself relating to more than a few things.

It's also well written and moves quickly. Nothing offensive like so many things I see nowadays in fiction with respect to said bookisms and bad dialouge tags overloaded with adverbs. This writing is tight and concise. There's nothing that will take you out of the storyline. I tend to be particular about these things as well. And when someone like J.K. Rowling writes a novel like this I'm expecting her to live up to her reputation. And so far she has. I don't have one single complaint.

That's about all I can say for now. I will post a full review when I'm finished reading. I hope this might help someone who is thinking about buying TCV but isn't sure because of the reviews they've read so far. It didn't take long for the author to pull me into the story and that doesn't always happen. And I don't have that "I'll keep reading and hope it gets better" feeling. This time I can't wait to pick up my e-reader and get back into it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Frank Ocean - Strawberry Swing

Matt Bomer; White Collar Renewed; Fifty Shades and New Film

According to eonline, USA is renewing Matt Bomer's show, White Collar, plus three other shows.

 The move was expected, as each of those series has proven to be a reliable ratings performer, with the trio ranking among the top 10 basic-cable summer dramas in adults 18-49 (aka the catnip-to-advertisers demo). Collectively, the shows recently helped USA notch a seventh straight win as summer's No. 1 basic-cable network in all key demos. 

It's one of the shows I plan to DVR. I'll have the series manager record it automatically, without fail. Aside from the fact that Bomer is openly gay and breaking gay stereotypes as well as forging a path for other openly gay actors, it's really a good show and he's an excellent actor, too.

In this article, it goes into more detail about the show, with some good photos.

Neal and Peter have seen their fair share of drama this season — and it’s only gotten worse since Sam (Treat Williams) entered the picture. However, as most White Collar fans have come to know, there’s always a level of tension between the two confidantes.

And in this piece it talks about how Matt Bomer could still be in the running for the film version of big book "Fifty Shades of Grey." As a fan of FSoG, and as someone who has recently contributed to a book titled, "Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey," I think Bomer has what it takes as far as acting skills go. And I think he might be able to soften Christian to a certain extent, and at the same time keep him with the cutting edge I liked so much in the book.

And, I hope the people producing this film realize how many women out there read gay erotic romance for the escapism. Speaking from personal experiences because many of these women are my readers, I hope the producers of FSoG don't underestimate the draw Matt Bomer would be to this film. And, as a side note, if two straight guys can star in "Brokeback Mountain," let's spin it around and let the gay guy prove his acting skills in FSoG. I was not disappointed in BM and the straight actors did a wondeful job, and I don't think I'd be disappointed if Bomer plays Christain Grey. I hate to put those labels out there, but they are there and it's just a reality. I admire Bomer's guts to go out and prove himself this way. He's paving the way for all gay guys, not just actors.

The piece also mentions a new role Matt just landed:

Deadline reports that Bomer has joined the cast of Winter's Tale along with Lucy Griffiths - who recently played Alexander SkarsgÄrd's twisted vampire sister on True Blood - and Golden Age actress Eva Marie Saint. The romance, which will mark Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman's directorial debut, is based on Mark Helprin's fantasy novel that splits it story of star-crossed lovers between 19th century and present-day Manhattan.

If you read this article in full you'll see the interesting part Bomer is playing.

Is Sarah Palin Still Eating at Chick-fil-a; Book Reviewer Jerome Whitehead; Whatever Became of "Romfail?"

It looks as though Chick-Fil-A has altered its stand on gay marriage, at least it appears that way at a glance.

Chick-fil-A is looking to put this summer's fast-food culture wars behind it and will no longer donate money to groups fighting to block same-sex marriage—at least that's what gay rights advocates in Chicago are saying. The chicken chain, however, is saying suspiciously little about the whole thing.

You can read more here in an article by Josh Voorhees.

I posted several times about this issue last summer, here, and here. When you click the latter link you'll see a photo of Sarah Palin proudly holding up a big bag of Chick-Fil-A fast food in what clearly looks more like a stand against gay marriage than it does support for freedom of speech.

In any event, now that Chick-Fil-A has changed its stand on contributing money to organizations that don't support gay marriage, I'm wondering if Sarah Palin is waiting in line these days for a big old bag of Chick-Fil-A to prove her point and put yet another spin on a topic that involves civil rights, not so much freedom of speech. Freedom of speech, at least in part, is knowing we can say or write or support anything we want, and I respect that right. But that doesn't mean we are all going to say or write or support a decent, ethical cause. In this case, I don't think it's unreasonable to compare what's going on now with gay marriage to the highly charged civil rights movement in the middle of the last century.

Now, here's a link to a book reviewer, Jerome Whitehead, I recently met through a private message on facebook. He wanted to review one of my books, but only in print. The problem is that even though I have over 90 published works out, the majority of my recent releases are all in digital format...e-books...and all of the older books I've written, or have been in, are not books that I actually own. Believe it or not, the majority of what I've written, including what I've published alone in KDP, are all in my digital library.

But I am going to look around for a copy of something and see what I can come up with. I like/love his most recent review of "Ghetto Medic," by Rachel Hennick, and I'm probably going to buy it and read it myself just based on his review. In this case, I don't think I'll have to vet much. I trust his judgment and the book sounds like something I'd enjoy.

“Ghetto Medic" is the remarkable true story of the life of Bill Hennick, a firefighter and paramedic in Baltimore, Maryland; a city which today boasts the busiest fire stations in the United States. The story begins in 1945, when Bill, aged four, is badly burned in a terrible fire started by an older child playing with matches. When he reaches adulthood, he begins searching for his purpose in life and identifies fire as “the enemy.”

I'm also a huge fan of books set in Baltimore, thanks to Anne Tyler's fiction, and I enjoy that period. You can read the full review at the link provided above. Here's a link to Amazon where the book can be purchased.

There's just one problem. I couldn't find a digital version of the book. And I'm not sure why. The last print book I read was "Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," and I don't feel like spending $16.50 for a paperback, nor do I want to go back to reading paperbacks when I have five devices on which I read now. But the book does look great, so I'm going to have to weigh that decision. I just wish authors would keep up with what's happening in publishing and at the very least release books in both digital and print. I'm guilty of this myself because I don't release a lot of books in print, just digital. But that's only because sales in print do not compare to sales in digital...for me. It's a pragmatic business decision for me. But I don't understand what would motivate an author to ignore digital books nowadays. I hope she reads this post. I will probably order the paperback, but how many others won't?

Finally, whatever happened to "Romfail?"

That's an interesting question, because Romfail just seemed to disappear into thin air never to be heard of again, oh my. For those who don't know, Romfail was this "thing" on twitter that happened a few years ago. From what I can gather, it was orchestrated by Her Royal Highness Jane Litte of the we all know the best books ever written kingdom...mostly books with covers of women in long flowing red gowns. Oh yes, Romfail was big doings back then. It was filled with pithy snarky internet-isms that make most things now pale in comparison. I didn't keep up with it regularly, but I heard about it everywhere I went online at the time. As far as I can recall, I wasn't targeted in Romfail, but I'd stopped all google alerts around that time because I found them too distracting. So I might have been part of the fun for all I know.

And what kind of fun was that?

Well. Every Friday night a group of people...romance fans of the we all know the best books kingdom...would gather on twitter and laugh about books and authors they didn't like. If you interpreted it as parody, it could be quite entertaining in a harmless way. If you enjoyed watching those who only know what good writing is, you lived for Friday nights. If you didn't, it could be psychologically painful at best. One blogger wrote this:

On a final note, I would love to know what kinds of reviews these “mean girls” are receiving for their books. I would like to know how these people would feel if it were their books being offered up for sacrifice, and just how much fun it would still be if it were they who suffered the humility and heartache over having one of their beloved books torn apart—with quotes taken out of context—for all the world to see.

I find the last line of that excerpt interesting, the part about quotes taken out of context. I recently did this in a blog post myself. I took a non-erotic romance that had a woman with a long flowing red gown on the cover, without naming the author, and put my own spin on the book by taking her quotes out of context and making her book look stupid. Of course I don't really think her book is stupid. I actually like what she writes. But it's an interesting concept anyone can do. I had so much fun (I speak in jest; not fun at all) with that book I might even do it again the next time I see it happen to an erotic romance, just for sport. It's not like anyone would begrudge me having a little fun, too...especially with a romance that had a woman in a long flowing gown on the cover.

Then there was this post, this post, and this post. All about Romfail.

If you google Romfail, you'll come up with other related posts that were written back then by people who were, at the time, either anti-Romfail or pro-Romfail. As I said, I didn't get into it because I was too busy writing books. And it's really not the kind of shitstorm I would have gotten into if I hadn't had better things to do. I don't like that kind of cheese on a regular basis. But I do like to go back once in a while and post things like this for those who are new to publishing and those who don't know all the intricacies of navigating the web as authors or readers. Pardon the cliche, but history always repeats itself. And there are some things we should never forgot.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Should Web Site Owners and Social Media Be Held Accountable?

Earlier this week I posted about an incident of Internet crime where a young man allegedly stalked minors on facebook with fake identities and sockpuppet accounts.

Tonight I read this article:

A substitute teacher at a Georgia high school has been fired after he allegedly took photos of a female student in class and posted them to the Internet, authorities said. He is now being investigated by the local Sheriff's office, Fox Atlanta reports.
The teacher, whose identity has not been released, allegedly posted covert photos of an East Coweta High School student to the "CreepShots" forum on Reddit. The subsection, which carries an "18 and over" disclaimer, is devoted to photos of women taken without their knowledge.

When someone on reddit complained and threatened to contact the authorities, this is how the reddit moderator replied:

"When you are outside and in public space, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy," the user wrote, likening photography without consent to the relationship between celebrities and paparazzi.

It's an interesting article that gets into this in more detail, with examples of how Anderson Cooper made comments in 2011 with a similar situation.

I know nothing about Reddit, or what people do there. But it's obviously a web site that does not vet what users are doing or the photos they are posting. If they were, you wouldn't see photos of minors posted in a forum called "creepshots." And I think it's time for them to be held accountable, as businesspeople. I have a sense of humor, I'm not holier than thou, as Joe Konrath would say, but I do think that when "creep" photos of minors are taken in a classroom and posted on a public Internet forum, there's something wrong with the web a business...itself.

Why aren't Internet businesses, like facebook and reddit, forced to follow the same laws other businesses follow. Why are web sites and social media allowed to instigate corruption by allowing users to post sexually suggestive photos of minors, and why are they allowed to encourage fake identities that many times lead to crimes of bullying, victimization, and stalking?

Try owning a restaurant, or a retail clothing store, and allowing some of your customers to put up photos of minors on a bulletin board next to the cash register and see what happens. The business owner would be held just as responsible as the person who posted them on the board. I've owned several service/retail businesses and I took full responsibility for my actions and the actions of my employees at the time, because I knew that one wrong move would involve a lawsuit I didn't want to deal with.

Not so much with Internet businesses. They get away with anything they want, and they do it with a sense of entitlement we haven't seen since the days of the old Wild West. They seem to have free range to post, do, or allow anything they want...even at the cost of someone else's security and well-being. In many cases with minors.

I believe in freedom of speech, and I know personally what it's like to be censored by mistake. All I'm saying is that all Internet businesses, including all social media, should be held accountable if and when something does happen that is questionable. And I think posting photos of young women in classrooms on reddit falls into that catergory.

"One Bride Three Grooms"

I just read a bog post where the blogger mentioned he'd recently moved, and had been to two weddings. Nothing unusual about that. I have one wedding next week, and then two more in November.

It was the comment thread that made me smile:

Comment #1: "Congrats on the big move...and the two new brides ;)."

Blogger reply: "One bride and three grooms!"

Gay Rappers Breaking Stereotypes

In "Four Gay Weddings and a Funeral" I parodied a few things I rarely ever see in films or books. One of them was the entire wedding concept and how it can become frustrating for people (men) sometimes, and the other had to do with rap music. I've posted before about how much I love rap music, and how I would rather suffer the worst torture imaginable than listen to either show tunes or polka music.

It's just my own personal taste, and I often get frustrated when all gay men are shoved into a box and expected to like certain types of music...or entertainment in genreal. (I'm not fond of piano bar either; makes me gag) So at one of the gay weddings in my book, FGWaaF, I provided rap music as the entertainment for a gay wedding. I even wrote a few rap lyrics myself, which was something I'd always wanted to do. That's not only parody to me, that's wishful thinking. I've never been to a wedding with nothing but rap music and would love to go to one.

I also just read a few interesting articles in mainstream print magazines about openly gay rappers. These artists are making changes in ways I never thought I'd see in my lifetime. And I couldn't be more thrilled because I'm such a huge fan of rap.

The hip-hop community is largely dominated by heterosexual men who boast about their sexual conquests with women and their aggressive stereotypically masculine worldview. This is something that isn’t new to the genre, but it doesn’t leave much room for a new point of view in the art of rap storytelling. With the buzz growing around openly gay rap duo, The Freaky Boiz, though, old school hip-hop heads may have to start becoming more open-minded.

And it's about time. This particular article goes on to mention more details about The Freaky Boiz and what they are doing, and how they are changing things. You can read more here.

Snoop Dog has made comments on how he feels about gay rappers, here.

"People are learning how to live and get along more, and accept people for who they are and not bash them or hurt them because they're different," Snoop said.
He commented on how times have changed from when he was first on the come-up in the rap game. "When I was growing up, you could never do that and announce that," Snoop said of Ocean. "There would be so much scrutiny and hate and negativity, and no one would step (forward) to support you because that's what we were brainwashed and trained to know."

It's nice to see him supporting young gay artists this way. It's nice to see him speak up and talk about how the genre is evolving and moving into the future. For those who don't "get" rap music, there's an artistic story-telling quality to it that I've always loved. I also like the fact that it pushes buttons and gets people to think while they are listening to music. Its roots go way back, and very deep.

If you didn't hear Le1F's single, "Wut," this summer, you may want to put down the polka doodle doos and show tunes and see what's really happening in other parts of the gay community. He's going to places where most artists wouldn't have been allowed to go twenty years ago. He's doing it in a sensationalized way, which I'm sure is to get attention, but at the same time he's breaking traditional stereotypes with respect to rap music in general.

 He sashays around in a pair of purple Daisy Dukes and he twirls the long ends of his hat like pigtails. Le1f is a rapper who is openly gay.

It hasn't been easy either:

When it comes to the wrath he’s incurred from the Internet’s crazies, his attitude is simple. “I’m kind of into it now that it’s about me, to be honest.”

Frank Ocean discussed his "Brokeback Mountain" relationship earlier this summer.

Frank Ocean has finally addressed mounting speculation over his sexuality by revealing that his first love was a man.

The US singer and rapper has become the first male hip-hop star to open up about his sexual orientation.

I couldn't find a link to a letter he wrote, but here's a link where you can read the letter. Very poignant words.

These are interesting times in which we're living. Another thing that often frustrates me is the lack of multi-cultural stories within the gay fiction/romance genre. I've written several stories with main characters who are of African descent. Before I met Tony, I dated a man of African descent and it might have lasted if he hadn't been so closeted and afraid to be who he really was. That happened over twenty years ago and we were both very young. I also remember a man of African descent when I was growing up in a small southern NJ town at the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is considered the "gateway to the south." We had a strong southern infulence there, with streets that had names like "Virginia Avenue," and even when I was a child in the 70's and 80's men of African descent did NOT come out of the closet. But we all knew this guy was gay. He wore purple suits and a hat made out of a Clorox bottle. He walked with a swish and spoke with a lisp. They found him dead one night behind a bar and no one ever found out who killed him. It was one of those small town cover-ups.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Joe Konrath Says Sockpuppets are No Big Deal; Man Arrested in New Jersey for Internet Stalking With Sockpuppets

One of the things I've been predicting about a lot of the Internet corruption happening these days is that the law will eventually step in and take over. Charges will be pressed and these Internet crimes will be prosecuted. How Internet crimes are defined seems arguable these days. Joe Konrath seems to think that no one is completely innocent and no one can point the finger at anyone else. In fact, this is what Konrath says in a recent post:

Fake reviews, like sock puppets and trolling and flame wars, will always be part of the Internet and are no big deal.

He's even created a few fake reviews on Amazon, here. He did this on purpose for a reason. He's trying to prove his point and he's speaking about a very small segment of Internet crime. I don't want to take his post or his comments out of context; he's trying to be funny. And if it were all this simplistic and the world were all hopey and changey and peace and love, I would probably agree with him all the way around. And what a wonderful world it would be, indeed.

But I know people who work closely with Internet crime daily and the world isn't like that. The people I know who work in Internet crime scope the Internet daily to help expose child molesters, gambling rings, and stalkers of the worst kind. That's just to name a few, without getting into child porn and drugs. A good deal of this crime is based on Internet anonymity and sockpuppeting. And even though what happens with online reviews of any kind can be labeled as less offensive than the things I mentioned above, it's still sockpuppeting, it's still misleading, and it's still wrong. I know it's less of a crime to steal gum at the drugstore than it is to rob a bank. But it's still stealing. Plain and simple.

In New Jersey a young man was recently arrested for allegedly stalking juveniles with sockpuppet accounts.

Troopers arrested Craig L. Wyatt Jr. of Hamilton Township, according to a press release. He is being held in Atlantic County Jail on $35,000 bail.

The arrest came on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The group alerted New Jersey State Police in July that a Facebook account using the name Jimmy Raketerra sent a threatening message to a juvenile from Browns Mills.

Clearly, this has been an ongoing investigation, as are most Internet crimes these days. This person allegedly used e-mail and social media to threaten juveniles under more than one fake identity and sockpuppet account. I'm not even getting into the ramifications of social media here, and where their responsibility rests. That would be a completely different post altogether. I also wonder if the people who invest in facebook stock realize that the so-called billions of facebook accounts are not all one account with one person. In some cases it's two or three accounts to one person. In others it's far more.

I'm certain this isn't going to be the last time we hear about an arrest like this. And while I wish I could agree with Konrath when he says sockpuppets are no big deal, I can't help but look at the overall picture of the Internet crime we are facing and will be facing in the future and wonder how many more times I'm going to read about Internet corruption being exposed. Because the interesting thing is this...and I know first hand from people who are involved with Internet can hide, you can try to cover all the bases, you can pretend no one will ever find out, but eventually you will get caught. Another thing of which I'm certain is that the young man who was arrested in New Jersey had no idea he'd been under investigation that long.

How many others are under investigation right now? It's something to think about, not laugh about. And that's because on the Internet there's always a trail.

What Is Reparative Conversion Therapy for Gay Males?

Yesterday there was a "thing" floating around social media about conversion therapy and I know the basic principles behind reparative therapy for gay males, but not many details. So I decided to post something about it in case anyone else was wondering. Remember I'm not a psychologist, nor do I want to be one. The comments I've made are only based on my personal experiences.

Here's one web site that says:

"In this major and compelling work, Dr. Nicolosi addresses the issue of changing homosexuality with courage and clinical integrity. Refusing to give in to political pressure and attack, he has listened, instead, to his patients--to their developmental dilemmas and to their developmental needs. Basing the treatment plan on this clinical data and on recent advances in understanding gender identity, he offers hope to the thousands of men who do not want to feel coerced by either their own internal conflicts or by outside political pressures to live a life inimical to who they are and to who they want to be." --Althea J. Horner, Ph.D.

I get what this is saying about "political pressure and attack." I really do. I've posted here more than once about how I'm not fond of a lot of the pressure gay men receive from the loudest voices in the gay community. I do think things like National Coming Out Day can hurt just as many gay men as it can help others. I'm not fond of the label that just because someone is gay he or she must always follow the same politics. And I'm not the only one in the LGBT community who feels this way. However, in the same respect, I have never felt "coerced" by anyone to be gay, nor have I ever felt pressured to be something...someone...I'm not. If anything, I find that this web site about conversion therapy is doing the very same thing it claims others are doing. Putting pressure on gay men in a different way. Some would claim in an unhealthy, unnatural way. And that's because gay is not a choice.

As one 23-year old client explained:

"I've had these feelings and these urgings, but the idea of being of gay person is just's such a strange lifestyle, on the fringes of's something I could never be a part of."

In any event, the excerpt I posted above from a book about conversion therapy by Jospeh Nicolosi is interesting in spite of the fact that I don't buy one single word of it. Yes there are some segments of the "gay" lifestyle that are unusual and they are on the fringes of society. But most aren't. So that's a huge misconception about what it's like to be gay. I don't know where this person got his information, but he must be watching too much TV and seeing the smallest segment of gay people where they aren't always represented correctly. I've been talking about this with an Amish friend of mine who feels the same way about how the Amish community is always represented by TV and the mainstream media. It's always sensationalized in way that's geared toward getting as many viewers as possible.

Of course wiki makes it plain and simple with this:

 Conversion therapy is therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation.[1] Conversion therapy has been a source of intense controversy in the United States and other countries.[2] The American Psychiatric Association has condemned psychiatric "treatment" which is "based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation."[3] It states that, "Ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation."[4] It also states that political and moral debates over the integration of gays and lesbians into the mainstream of American society have obscured scientific data about changing sexual orientation "by calling into question the motives and even the character of individuals on both sides of the issue."[3]

When you read about the controversy surrounding this, it's no wonder The American Psychiatric Association has condemned it.

In fact, the biggest controversy I've seen so far is this:

California wants to ban conversion therapy altogether for gay youths.

Proponents of the law say top mental-health organizations agree that such practices are not only misguided but also dangerous, potentially leading to anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness, and even suicide. Opponents say there is more than 100 years of professional and scientific literature on the subject of sexual-orientation change, offering a strong case that, for at least some people, sexual orientation can be modified.

Talk about an understatement. As it is most gay men have anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness, and suicide without conversion therapy. These stress related issues, for lack of a better term, all stem from the pressure society in general has been putting on gay people for years.

Also in this article, we return to the man I linked to above, Joseph Nicolosi, who truly believes conversion therapy works. He's written four books and it sounds like he's made this his life's work.

But Joseph Nicolosi, who has written four books on the subject and founded the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), says the new law is dangerously constrictive and too broad.

“We don’t believe there is such a thing as a gay teen, because no teen is mature enough to define himself as gay. We’re not out to change them so much as investigate," says Mr. Nicolosi. "The danger of this law is that it tries to kill simple attempts at understanding by saying gayness is static and ‘How dare you try to change someone’s personhood?’ ”

That's convoluted logic, and a selfish attempt to gain clinical information at someone else's expense. No teen is mature enough to define him/herself as ANYTHING. But I can remember being attracted to men as young as three years old. So again, it's not a choice, I didn't define myself at any age, and my sexual orientation doesn't define me completely. It does to a certain extent, but only because society has placed that label on me, not because I chose to be labeled. The only reason I use the word gay is because it's less clinical than homosexual and there's no other word to use...unless I were to use pejoratives.

Here's something where an apology is offered to the gay community by a psychologist who practiced reparative therapy.

 I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some "highly motivated" individuals.

Finally, this is a fascinating read about how Joseph Nicolosi's conversion therapy did not work on someone. It's detailed, and a true story.

It’s true that while in therapy, I did not feel coerced into believing his theories. Like nuclear fallout, the damage came later, when I realized my sexual orientation would not change. I could have told Nicolosi about my thoughts of suicide, my time in the mental institution. I could have told him that my parents still don’t understand me but that I’m grown up now and it has less of a bearing on my life. I could have told him that I married a man. But I realize it wouldn’t be of any use: I’ve changed since I left therapy, but Nicolosi has not. For years I shared my innermost thoughts and feelings with him. Now I want to keep this for myself.

I can only read between the lines of this article. This person didn't have a supportive family like I did. His mother went right to work on curing him and making him straight. My mother, a retired therapist, said she'd always suspected and it didn't matter one way or the other to her as long as I was happy. So while Nicolosi might think he's on to something, I think he should start working on the backgrounds of gay people before he tries to change them. In most cases, that's where the root of the problem stems.

Another thing I find interesting is that I mentioned above where someone quoted the gay lifestyle as being on the fringes of society. And yet, ironically, if the law in California is passed people who support conversion therapy will not only be on the fringes themselves, they'll be on the fringes of the fringes, and breaking the law as well.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Modern "Rake" in New Adult Romance

ETA: Photo from I wouldn't have that kind of moss on my patio or a rake that looked like that. But the photo is free to use.

The modern "rake" in new adult romance is a new concept in many respects. But it's not something that hasn't been done before. It's just a new spin on something that's already been done thousands of times in the past. I don't know if Prince Harry is a classic rake, but he has shown some very exciting rake-ish qualities over the years and I would consider him a harmless new adult rake.

Here's wiki's definition of "rake."

A rake, short for rakehell, is a historic term applied to a man who is habituated to immoral conduct, frequently a heartless womanizer. Often a rake was a prodigal who wasted his (usually inherited) fortune on gambling, wine, women and song, incurring lavish debts in the process. The rake was also frequently a man who seduced a young woman and impregnated her before leaving, often to her social or financial ruin.
The reason why I'm posting about rakes now is because I was asked by a publisher to write several books with billionaire rakes as characters. I almost turned it down. I've never actually written a rake character...not in the literal sense. The closest I've come was with my self-pubbed book, "Chase of a Lifetime," with Cain Mayfield. He's sort of rake-ish, but not what I would consider an actual rake.

But I agreed to do the series and signed the contracts mainly because it IS something I'd never done before. The only thing I asked during the time we went back and forth with outlines was that I could write most of the books with new adult characters set in the present instead of the past. I may do one historical/western. But I'm not sure about that yet.

I also did as much basic research as I could about rakes. It's not like I've never read a romance novel with a rake...I've always loved them. But my goal in this series is to apply the classic rake concept in historical novels to a gay man living in the present. I also wanted all the main characters to be between eighteen and thirty years adult.

I'm a huge fan of a lot of the new adult fiction being written and published these days, and I've already written and published a few new adult gay romances myself. I have eclectic reading tastes, I've never been a genre or literary snob, and I like the idea of combining new adult with gay romance for many reasons. One of which is the technical/writing aspects. I am a snob about writing techniques. I don't like too many adjectives; I don't like overly-written narrative. Adverbs in dialogue tags turn my stomach, and said bookisms (he grumbled, he mumbled, he called) done too many times look ridiculous to me. I find that *kind* of writing in many romances I read and I don't see why a tighter writing styles (and word economy) with less of these awful writerly self-indulgences can't be applied to romance novels. I've been thankful enough to work with more than a few great editors who've taught me a great deal over the years. And tight-er writing is one of those things.

I found that modern rakes are not as simple as they sound. Social standards have changed drastically, so I couldn't get away with a rake who got women pregnant in a new adult romance and still have the same impact an author would have had 100 years ago. In the same respect, I couldn't write about a gay rake who infects other gay men with STDs (although this would, indeed, be the ultimate rake today) without a care in the world. I don't want to go there in romance, so to speak. STDs are way too "cringe-worthy" to me. In other words, I can't make it too realistic because it would wind up too dark. And no one reads romance novels for their darker qualities. We read them for escapism and entertainment and HEA, so they can bring us to places in our minds that are not as dark as the realities of the world we live in today.

So I came up with a character who is the heir to a billion dollar empire that is focused on hundreds of different varieties of chocolate ice cream. He's young, gay, extremely attracted, and can get any man or woman he wants. And he knows this. But in order to get control of his billion dollar empire, he must get a college degree from Harvard University. It has to be Harvard and without the degree he can't take control of the company. For him, this is less difficult than it is time consuming. He never had to study to get a grade, and if he finds something too difficult, he's not opposed to cheating (the best rakes cheat a lot). He's sexually promiscuous, his moral standards are always questionable, and his only goal is self-fulfillment.

Until he meets his new roommate at Harvard, a quirky, dirt poor, geeky guy who wears bad clothes, eye glasses, and gum-soled shoes. He's in Harvard on an academic scholarship he worked hard to get. He's there to study, he's there to work hard at building his future, and he's not there to entertain the whims of his billionaire roommate who doesn't seem to have any moral fiber at all. However, like many romance novels with rakes, the rake finds himself fascinated with the one guy at Harvard who does not show him any interest at all. The rake becomes obsessed with the nice guy to the point of stalking him on social media. I think a good new adult rake would sock puppet, use fake identities, and manipulate people online nowadays. In fact, I know he would from personal experience :)

I'm still learning about rakes as I write. I don't think a day has gone by since I started this new adult romance where I didn't look something up just to be sure about it, with regard to rakes. I also added a few new twists I thought would be relevant to modern day rakes. And even though I've never actually written an awful rake-ish character, I have to admit I haven't had this much fun in years. And I'll post more in the future as I get closer to a publication date.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Own Lame Food Photos...

Just to be fair with regard to the post I wrote earlier this week about bad food photos, here's one of mine. As you can see, I'm no food stylist.

Sunday is pasta, ALWAYS. Tony and I are Italian and that's just the rule. Period.

Sometimes it's homemade pasta. In this case, it's gnocchi in a brown butter sauce with sage. As you can see from this awful photo I took myself, I even elevated the uncooked pasta on a Waterford crystal bowl and it still looks terrible.

This is why I don't post food photos.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How Do You Stay Relevant In a Constantly Changing Environment?

I'm linking to an article where staying relevant in business in a constantly changing world is the theme.

The way things are changing in publishing, I know exactly what this article is talking about. I don't think anyone in any profession can avoid these changes. I even know people with Antique shops who've had to learn how to sell online because that's where a lot of the buyers and designers are going now. Those who didn't bother to learn have become obsolete.

To prepare, Mr. Hallock, 29, spends an hour or two a day at his business, TopFloorStudio in Asheville, N.C., tracking venture capitalists and start-up news, trying to divine the next frontier. He created TopFloorUniversity, where experts teach his employees and clients the latest in app development. When he could not find a good curriculum for information architecture, he and a colleague developed one themselves. As a pretext to learn from the luminaries in his field, Mr. Hallock even produces his own podcast.
This is interesting because if you can at least predict basic changes and figure out where things are headed it gives you the upper hand. I remember making a conscious choice to switch to e-publishing when everyone else in publishing was laughing at it. No regrets. I'm already looking at what everyone's laughing at right now as the next possible trend. No spoilers, though.
You can read more of the article here.   

Friday, September 21, 2012

Guardian Interview with Author Anne Tyler

I often recommend reading Anne Tyler's work for practical see how she writes, to see her technique, and to see how well executed her dialogue is. I've read all her fiction, except for one children's book she wrote with her daughter. I've never been disappointed.

This interview she gave is rare...for her. She doesn't do this often, if ever. And I thought it was both interesting and informative. I learned a few things I didn't the fact that Judith Jones has been her longtime editor for years, and, they've only met four times. This is not unusual. I've never met any of my editors in all the years I've been getting published. It's not that writers are reclusive. It's that we are more behind-the-scenes people than up front people. For those who don't know, Judith Jones discovered Julia Child and rescued "The Diary of Anne Frank."

But the statements to which I'm linking in this piece that come from Anne Tyler are as understated as the clear simple lines in her books.

I found this amusing:

 For some it seems Tyler's work is just too darn "homely" to be a contender for Great American Novel status – adjectives such as "homespun", "heartwarming" and "cosy" pop up alongside the superlatives in reviews – even though books by male contemporaries are meditations on the same theme (Franzen's latest bumper family novel isn't called Freedom for nothing), and twice as long. There's not enough sex for a start. "I would never be in bed with my characters," she says. "I try to show them respect."

It's interesting to me because I'm in bed with most of my characters and I try to show them the same respect in bed...more often than not...whenever I can. I can't help getting into bed with them, so to speak, I write erotica and that's what my readers want. I write for them, not for me. But I get what she is saying. Sometimes it does seem just a little too familiar and I wind up defending them and I have to hold back on a good deal of emotion.

And this is so true:

She says that over the years she learnt "just to go to my room and plug away. It doesn't take very long for most writers to realise that if you wait until the day you are inspired and feel like writing you'll never do it at all."

It's a long article and you can read it in full, here. There's also an interesting recommendation from Tyler about a book she thinks all fiction writers should read.

Blogger Fail: The Worst Food Photo of All Time

One of the reasons why food stylists work so hard at making food look good is because it's not an easy thing to do. I never tackle food here on this blog for that reason. I know I'm not equipped to create a professional, enticing photo with food...or even a tempting photo with food.

And when you're not equipped to publish food photos, and you know nothing about food styling, you run the risk of nauseating your blog readers. I see it sometimes, though not often, on social media and I often have to turn away and take a deep breath because these photos are so unappealing. Food and love go hand in hand and if the love's not there, it's not going to work.

I'm not trying to be a hardass here. I do think amateur bloggers who post harmless photos of food that aren't professionally done deserve credit for at least trying. And most do try hard. They don't claim to be professionals and we shouldn't expect them to be professionals. So those who do this with good intentions, please don't take this post the wrong way. I'm not talking about you.

I am talking about seasoned opinionated bloggers who have been around long enough to know better. I'm talking about bloggers who are aggressive and don't think twice about criticizing other people on a whim. There's nothing wrong with being an aggressive blogger. I love them, I really do. But shouldn't there come a time when experienced bloggers have to take a look at what they are doing themselves and step up the game a bloggers? Or, at the very least, have the good sense God gave a goose to know what NOT to post so they don't make people physically ill with hideous food photos?

I've always looked at blogging in a variety of ways. Some people blog for fun, other's blog to inform, and some blog to entertain. For others, blogging is cathartic...these are my favorites. I think that blogging about food and posting food photos falls into all of these categories at one point or another. And I have seen some great professional looking blogs written by amateur bloggers that discuss food and post food photos and they are always looking for ways to improve. I've always admired them for this. It keeps getting better...moving forward...not getting worse.

I also think that to a certain extent, after they've been blogging for a reasonable amount of time, experienced bloggers should be held accountable for what they publish. In other words, we're all working toward the goal of professionalism in one way or another, and this includes bloggers as writers and designers.

I used to review blogs for and I once wrote a negative review for a gay blogger whom I thought was self-indulgent, inaccurate at times, and an amateur trying too hard. It wasn't what I would call a scathing review. But I did get a little nasty, admittedly. I hated the way the blog was executed, written, and designed. I didn't like anything about it and I was honest about the fact that I couldn't recommend it to anyone. And I was attacked not only by the author of the blog, but by the people who followed his blog. I'm talking about a blogger behaving as badly as it gets after a bad review. I didn't change my review. And I'm sure he's never forgiven me for it.

I'm also sure that some could argue that there is a line between reviewing bloggers and published authors because reading a blog is free and people have to buy books. But that's not always the case with books and reviews. I've seen reviews for free books. I could link to a bad review I suffered once and the reviewer admitted openly in the review that she got the book for free during a publisher promotion. I didn't attack her. I didn't behave badly. I didn't ask my friends and family to attack her. I took it with a smile and I sucked it up like a big boy. And this reviewer had every right to review my book whether she'd paid for it or not. I put it out there and I own my words.I know for a fact that book pirates review and discuss the books they get for free all the time. If you're putting it out there in writing it's fair game for anyone to review or discuss.

I guess the best example of what I'm talking about right now would be to link to a food photo...if you can call it that...I recently saw that turned my stomach ten different ways. Here's the link. Now tell me, does that look like something you'd want to eat? I'm not joking. There should be laws against things like this. If this were airing on the six o'clock news a warning would be announced ahead of time that those with weak stomachs should turn away. 

That's not only the most hideous food photo of all time floating in cyberspace, but it also does a huge injustice to the actual dish itself, Kedgeree. I've had that particular dish prepared in a variety of ways and it's really very good. It's actually one of my favorite dishes. But I didn't have it served up as slop in a frying pan. It was presented on a nice platter, with a simple garnish, and not heaped into a pile of mush that resembles a combination of worms, three kinds of dirt, and a variety of dingleberries. If you look at this photo for too long, you'll wind up finding a few fingers and toes. I could swear I saw a testicle and a few teeth. And, try looking at THIS food photo the next time you have a stomach flu! You'd better be holding a bucket.

I know some will think I'm being too hard on this photo. But the blogger has been around long enough to know better and I think I'm being honest with my review of this photo. Seriously, I'm actually being kind. You're posting a photo of something you want people to eat and you didn't take the time to arrange it on a platter, garnish it, and work a little on the lighting? How shabby is that? Why not just call it: "Filling for Dingleberry Pie."

Now, in order to finalize this point, here's a link to the perfect photo of this dish, when prepared with love and styled correctly. In case you don't trust me, here's another, and yet another. I wish I could post the photos here, but I'm not sure about the copyrights and it's safer to link. It's also nicer to link to the people who took the time to make this dish look as spectacular as it really is. Trust me, if you try it you'll love it, you really will.

Publishers Weekly Review of Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey

I just heard about a Publishers Weekly Review for an upcoming book I'm in, "Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey." The book was edited by Literary Agent and Editor, Lori Perkins, with whom I've worked closely before. She's very demanding, and yet very articulate. I prefer working with editors like nonsense. She balances that out by being just as nice.

I'd also like to say that I've enjoyed working with the people at Bella Books. I've worked with a lot of publishers over the years and I know the drill. But this time, with Bella Books, I've been amazed at the thorough process of getting the book out, from start to finish. When I submit to most anthologies I really never know much about the book until the day it's released...sometimes not until I get the check and the free copies. This time I've been kept up to date on everything.

Here's part of the review:

In this fascinating examination of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, edited by literary agent Perkins, 50 writers—including erotica and erotic romance authors, a matrimonial lawyer, an English professor, and BDSM practitioners—analyze the novel’s game-changing effect on the publishing world. Divided into seven sections—writing, romance, erotic fiction, sex, BDSM, fan fiction, and pop culture, along with a hilarious parody of the story in an “intermission” and an appendix with a suggested reading list—the book thoughtfully dissects the various aspects of the bestseller.

You can read the rest of the review if you follow this link, and the photo to the right will lead you to where the book can be pre-ordered.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How Do You "Disemvowel" Someone?

Technically, you don't disemvowel people. To state that would be vacuous. You disemvowel words...from what I gather. I'd never heard of this term before last night. I was perusing the web and catching up on various blog posts where high drama seems to be out of control sometimes and came across "disemvowel" and couldn't resist looking it up.

Wiki says this about "disemvoweling."

Because disemvoweling makes text legible only through significant cognitive effort, it is used by moderators on internet forums, newsgroups and blogs as a way to limit the effectiveness of unwanted postings or comments, such as rudeness or criticism. Disemvoweling maintains some transparency, both of the act and the underlying word, which would not be the case if the entire offending post is deleted. The word disemvoweling is a pun on vowel and disembowel.[1]

Wiki says this about "disembowelment."

Disembowelment may result from an accident, but has also been used as a method of torture and execution. In such practices, disembowelment may be accompanied by other forms of torture, and/or the removal of other vital organs.

While "disemvowel" is clearly a pun...or just another internet-ism like WTF-ery...that's mainly used by snarkfest bloggers who always know how to get attention by creating shitstorms all over the Internet, you have to wonder about the symbolic association connected to disembowelment.

Even though I'm sure it's not a conscious thought, I have to wonder whether or not a blogger who would post something like this has a few subconscious desires/issues that run deeper than we might think.

You also have to wonder why anyone would go through the trouble of disemvoweling a comment on a blog thread when all they have to do is delete it. That's what most bloggers do. In fact, I've been reading personal blogs, interviewing personal bloggers, and reviewing personal blogs for almost ten years and I have never once seen this word until last night.

Evidently, I've been hanging out in the wrong places.

In any event, I think it's an interesting word. It's not something I would make a practice of doing often...if ever. I'm not big on internet-isms as a rule. They only work once, at best, and get tired fast. But more than that, I would probably remain wary of someone who did practice it. Some think it's a form of censorship.

I didn't know this either, from Urban Dictionary:

The process by which moderators of left-wing Internet blogs and message boards can censor the messages of those who disagree with their views without completely deleting them, thus allowing them to claim that they are NOT censoring messages.

Y cn't hlp bt lv ths snrky ntrntsms, nd, th ppl wh prctc thm nd tk thm srsly :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gay/Lesbian Fiction Book Reviews...

I've been wanting to post about this web site for a while and haven't had a chance. So I'm making time right now because it's a great site and I think it will help readers vet books and make choices.

I'm linking to the homepage, here. The first review right now is a book by author Andrew Grey. Although I haven't read this book, I did collaborate with Andrew last year on another book I won't shamelessly promote in this post. He's a great guy and wonderful to work with.

Here's a blog description:

This blog features book reviews from current and forthcoming books by leading gay and lesbian authors. To find out more about the books being reviewed, please go to the individual author's website. The link is given at the end of each review and on the sidebar. New book reviews will be posted to this blog as they become available.

As far as blogs in general go, this one is simple to navigate, it opens easily, and it's well executed.

TV Show "The New Normal" So Accurate It Reminded Me of Something That Happened to Us

For those who don't know, there's a TV show in the US this fall that revolves around the lives to two gay men...a "married" gay couple who seem to be in their thirties or forties. I've posted here about the show before.

I think last night's episode was only the second to air. I enjoyed the accuracy of the first show and was hoping for something similar for the second. I wasn't disappointed. The two gay men are in the process of having a baby and they're going through all the emotions all married couples experience when they have babies. In one scene they go shopping to some sort of low end discount store and they wind up looking at baby clothes. They encounter a straight couple with a child and the straight man not only bashes them in public for kissing in the store in front of his child, but he then goes on to rip them to shreds for wanting to raise a child of their own.

It was as ugly as hate gets. It was something most gay men can relate to at least once in their lives. And what was even worse was that the gay couple just stood there and took it without fighting back. One of them made a few comments, but he knew he couldn't win. The scenes that followed this scene when they went home were even more intense. It showed how gay couples are treated, with the kind of accuracy that I can back up from my own personal experiences.

When Tony and I met in l992, Tony had just bought a town house in a cookie cutter sub-division in Newtown, PA. Newtown is a nice upscale suburban community with excellent schools, shopping centers, and parks. The moms are blond and drive mini-vans; the dads play golf and drive mid-size American company cars. It's a suburb of Philadelphia and it's also located about eight miles south of New Hope, PA, where we live now. But that eight miles could be a million miles in more than one respect.

I wasn't thrilled about living in Newtown for many reasons. But I didn't have much of a choice. Tony had purchased the house exactly two days before we met and the deal was done. And I liked him and I wasn't going to let a town stop me from getting to know him better. I also had a gallery in New Hope, which was only eight miles away, and I spent most of my time at the gallery, seven days a week.

For those who have never lived in a cookie cutter town house sub-division, it's not always like you see it on TV. For the most part, no one really ever gets to know each other. You see people coming and going to and from work and that's about it. And because most of our friends were from New Hope, not Newtown, we didn't get to know anyone on that street for the seven years we lived there. At best it was a wave in the morning if you ran into someone leaving at the same time you were leaving.

And during those seven years we never thought much about being different from the straight people who lived on that street. We were so busy back then with work and travel we barely had time for a social life. And the social life we did have consisted of friends I'd met in New Hope at the gallery. And, like I said, if you were to drive down that cul-de-sac at any time of the day or night, you'd never guess anyone actually lived there because you never saw people outside for more than a few minutes at a time.

One cold day in December of l998 while I was hanging a huge wreath on the door for Christmas and Tony was outside near the garage, our next door neighbor was outside with his eight year old son putting up lights. I'd nodded hello earlier and went back to hanging the wreath. I didn't give it a second thought.

After I hung the wreath, I went to the front section of the small piece of property and started to clean up a few leaves left over from fall clean up (in town house communities like this you get letters from the HOA if everything's not perfect). While I was doing this, Tony was only a few feet away doing something with a snow blower he'd just purchased. Looking back, it all seems so Norman Rockwell it's hard to believe we actually lived there.

But then something happened that changed the way I looked at that town house community forever. The straight guy next door told his kid to do something and the kid didn't want to do it. So he looked up at his father on a ladder and said, "I don't want to put up Christmas lights. Why can't we just put up a wreath like the fags next door." This was verbatim, from an eight year old. And the only place an eight year old hears that kind of language is from his parents.

Tony and I exchanged glances at the same time and just stood there with our mouths hanging open. The straight guy climbed down the ladder, grabbed his kid, and yanked him into the house without saying a word. Not an apology...nothing.

That same night I said to Tony, "It's time to move. We've been here seven years, we've never fit in, and what happened today is the end for me. We either move to New Hope, where I work and have friends and it's tolerant and gay friendly, or we move to New York or Philadelphia and live in the city. But I've had it with sub-divisions and middle management town house communities."

We listed the town house that week, I took down the wreath and started packing, and we were out of there by April of l999. And I have never missed that place once since we left. Moving those eight miles to New Hope, where there's culture, theater, and tolerance not only changed our lives, it improved them. And even though things have changed a lot since 1999, they haven't changed all that much and I wouldn't move back to a sub-division if my life depended on it.

I hope that "The New Normal" keeps doing what it's doing. It showed that these things do happen to gay people all the time...which is why we live in places like New Hope, not Newtown. I hope the writers and producers continue to discuss the things that affect gay couples in a realistic way, unlike other TV shows with gay characters before them. What happened to Tony and I was not as dramatic as what happened to the couple on "The New Normal," but hate is hate, and when it comes from the mouth of a child it's even worse because you know that child had to learn it somewhere.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Detail About Sockpuppets and How Broad a Topic It Is

There have been many things written and discussed about sockpuppets and reviews in the past few months. Most of the time I'm left slightly confused because I'm honestly not sure where some of these things are going. I've seen bloggers quote the bible, I've seen people comment out of sheer frustration, I've seen a handful of bloggers literally go batshit crazy berserk, and I've seen most go completely blank on the topic altogether.

But most of all I've seen confusion. I just finished reading an article that is totally unrelated to this topic, but in the article the author presented an argument and tried to back it up by saying that "psychologists agree..." And I was left wondering who these so-called psychologists actually are and how many would disagree. Psychology is one of those professions where not everyone agrees, and I think if you're trying to back up an argument you should have the decency to inform your readers with reliable sources instead of broad statements that amount to nothing more than pure bullshit. I was left confused by this article, the same way I've been left confused by so many of the articles and blog posts written about sockpuppets and reviews.

And I don't think I'm the only one who is confused. So I decided to look for links that discuss the sockpuppet issue in different ways that are not exclusive to publishing and book reviews. It's important to state that Internet fraud is not just a publishing issue. It's something everyone either has faced or will be facing sometime in the future.

This link is interesting. It's from The Consumerist and it gets into fake reviews in general and how scientific methods are now being used to sniff out fakes. I highly recommend reading it in full to grasp the magnitude of the issue.

Researchers from the State University of New York, Stony Brook are using statistical methods to detect if a company has been posting bogus reviews online, says Technology Review. The method can't root out individual fraudulent reviews, but it can see where fake reviews are distorting the statistical distribution of say, a hotel's scores. Basically, the method can tell you when something's fishy.

This article talks about the judge in Oracle and Google's Java lawsuit and Google's alleged sockpuppets.

The statement came nearly a month after judge Alsup surprised observers by ordering Google and Oracle to name paid commentators. The judge never spelled out exactly why he’d issued the unusual order, but it looks like he was trying to flush out the financial connections of any of the commentators who had a material effect on the trial.

In another article related to this same topic the judge ordered this:

In an unusual order, issued Wednesday, Judge William Alsup said that he was concerned that the parties in the case “may have retained or paid print or Internet authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have and/or may publish comments on this issues in the case.”

This article in Forbes is titled, "Do Consumer Reviews Have A Future? Why Amazon's Sock Puppet Scandal Is Bigger Than It Appears," and it gets into a lot of the things I've been reading about in publishing for the past few months. I HIGHLY recommend reading this one.

As with any debate between writers, contrary views have sprung up. On his blog, bestselling author JA Konrath used a seductive variant of moral relativism to pen his own version of “The Writer’s Code of Ethics.” Konrath makes the case that ethics is a slippery slope and that punishing Ellory, Leather & Locke was patently unfair because every author is complicit in his own way.

The same article goes on to discuss Konrath's argument in more detail:

Konrath suggests that since there is volition in the act of cutting down a piece of work, whether you do it honestly or maliciously, it is morally and legally the same act. In other words, “it’s allowed.” For Konrath, a system that includes one-star reviews inherently invites reviewers to commit an act of violence against the described product. He suggests that Ellory had a right to publish malicious reviews even if it was a “shitty thing to do”.

This is another flawed argument (the kind you see a lot in college-level debating) because Konrath is conflating two very different types of reviews: an honest negative review and a dishonest negative review. As we’ve seen previously, a fabricated one-star review is not actually allowed; it’s against Amazon’s terms of service. It may also be illegal.

In this piece, "Sock Puppet Spectacular: Are Online Reviews Completely Worthless, or Only Mostly Worthless?" the title suggests the way many consumers are starting to feel. This one links to another article at Techcrunch.

Some years ago, Amazon accidentally revealed a clutch of other authors praising their own work and ripping into others’. Since then, hundreds of other authors have simply bought fake five-star reviews by the dozen.

I found this article interesting because it's not about publishing or book reviews. It's a good example of what's happening in other industries.

During Conrad Black’s recent trial, prosecutors insisted that the former press baron had engaged in unseemly act known as sock puppetry: an Internet user who logs on to a message board or any other Web community under an assumed name for deceptive purposes. It was alleged that Lord Black himself signed onto a Yahoo Finance message board under the handle “nspector” and did battle, trashing speculators shorting shares of Hollinger International.

The one common thread I seem to find in all these posts and articles is that sooner or later the sockpuppet is revealed...or at the very least the intention was revealed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

In One Person by John Irving: Bi-Sexuality, LGBT, AIDS, and Sexual Suspects

The reason I titled this review of John Irving's "In One Person" this way is because it is a book that encompasses all these things and more. It's also about the way people live and die while trying to make sense of everything that happens along the way. In this novel, it's about the life of Billy Abbott, a boy with a quirky mother, a cross-dressing grandfather, and an extended family that never seems to fully understand him. Part of his quest in life is to learn more about his father, a man he's never met...and is never quite sure he ever will meet.

The beginning of the novel discusses Billy's need to learn more about himself...about life...and he tries to do this by reading fiction. His Aunt Muriel gives him hand me down romance novels and when he reads the comments his angry female cousin made in the margins he learns more about her as well. I found cousin Gerry's comments both entertaining and amusing for a variety of reasons, partly because most heroines in romance novels with covers that have women in long flowing gowns are usually self-congratulatory prigs:

"The Heroine was a self-congratulatory prig, who would never let her boyfriend touch her breasts...Gerry responded in the margin with: "I would rub your t--s RAW! Just try and stop me!"

One of the most interesting characters is Grandpa Harry. He's an old Yankee lumberman who LOVES to put on his over-bearing wife's dresses and act in school plays. I won't give any spoilers here because there are a few surprises. But Grandpa Harry plays an important part in Billy's life and is often the only voice of reason in his life.

It's important to understand this novel takes place during a time when the word "Gay" didn't even exist. Here's an example of a conversation Billy has that discusses his attraction to "transvestites." You also have to remember this is before we all became so politically correct.

"My attraction to transsexuals was pretty specific. (I'm sorry, but we didn't use to say 'transgender'...not until the eighties. Transvestites never did it for me, and the transsexuals had to be what they call 'passable'..."

Of course this explanation of what attracts Billy as a bi-sexual is vital to the story with respect to how he managed to avoid being infected with the AIDS virus. If I go into more detail here I run the risk of another spoiler, so I'll stop while I'm ahead. But I do want to say this one thing. This account of what actually happened during the height of the AIDS epidemic is the most accurate I have ever read in fiction. Irving either did a great deal of research, or he experienced all this for himself, because I know for a fact that he nailed it with perfection, from the Hickman catheter to PCP pneumonia. And if you are young and you are LGBT you should read this novel just for the historical facts. You won't hear them anywhere else. I have over ninety published works out in the LGBT genre and I touch on these topics, but it's not a place I want to go into detail about because it's just too painful to revisit.

Billy's relationship with Miss Frost, the town librarian, is unusual and yet believable. As a young adult, Billy's not sure what he is or who he is. He's not sure what Miss Frost is or who she is either. But he's attracted to her and he discovers his love of reading through her. The beginning of his fascination with her begins at the public library and follows him for the rest of his life. As in all Irving novels, it's detailed, quirky, and very civilized. But at the same time edges toward controversial because Miss Frost is a good deal older than Billy.

You can't read an Irving novel without reading a few strong political statements. In this case, a few of those statements were made about the war in Vietnam. And they are issues gay men still deal with on a daily basis to this day.

"I'll tell you when I might take seriously the idea of service to my country," I began. "When local, state, and federal legislation, which currently criminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults, is repealed; when the country's archaic anti-sodomy laws are overturned; when psychiatrists stop diagnosing me and my friends as clinically abnormal, medically incompetent freaks in need of 'rehabilitation'; when the media stops representing us as sissy, pansy, fairy, child-molesting PERVERTS!"

I've often complained about how gay men are treated by some women as pet poodles. But Irving takes it to a completely different level in this novel with one of his characters. To give anymore information would also spoil this part of the book. But giving this example won't hurt.

"They find something they love about you...even if there's just one thing they find endearing."

Followed by this:

"Those things they DON'T love about you...those things they don't even LIKE...well, guess what women do about THOSE things? They imagine they can CHANGE those things...THAT'S what women do! They imagine they can change you..."

I've read a few of the other reviews about this book and I've found them interesting. I have to agree this book is not a fast read and like all Irving novels it takes a while to get into. But I've also always appreciated that Irving's novels take a long time to read because I want them to remain with me as long as possible. And every single aspect of this book is important to the overall story, and I'm glad I'm not the kind of reader who stops reading a book too soon. From bullying to AIDS, from classic gay literature to the paranormal, this novel takes the LGBT experience to a literary level with intensity, humor, and detail. And never in an offensive way.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Double Standard of Prince Harry and Princess Kate in the Press

When Prince Harry got caught with his pants down last month in Vegas I didn't hear anyone from the press trying to protect HIS privacy. The Palace made a short statement that basically said nothing, moved forward, and shipped him off on another tour of duty.

And there's nothing wrong with that. If you are in a position like Harry's and you take off your clothes, the odds are someone is going to take your photo. He has nothing to worry about.

There's also nothing wrong with Princess Kate taking off her top to sunbathe. I doubt most people care one way or the other. It's done all the time in Europe.

But now the press refuses to publish her semi-nude photos and everyone seems to think that's fine:

Media experts in Britain said concerns that Kate's privacy had been invaded would likely mean the images wouldn't be published by the country's newspapers.

They won't get published in this country, and if I was still an editor I would not be publishing them," former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis told BBC radio. "There's absolutely no chance whatsoever that they will be published in this country."

Maybe there are legal issues we're not hearing about, but as it stands I can't help thinking this rings of a double standard. And I'm not buying that security issue nonsense they claim was the reason for publishing the nude photos of Harry. They didn't have to publish those pictures. What I'm seeing is a bottom line: that it's perfectly fine to invade Prince Harry's privacy and publish nude photos of him, but don't touch sweet little Princess Kate and never publish photos of her topless.

I'm all for equal rights for women. And I say if you can publish the nude photos of the man, then you should be able to publish the nude photos of the woman as well. No more double standards for men or women.

You can read more about it here in this article:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cover Preview: Captain Velvet's Velvet Box

Here's a cover preview for an upcoming release with It's a short story with a superhero theme I'll post more about as I get closer to a release date.

Should There Be Old People in Romances?

Whether or not there should be old people in romance novels could be a matter of opinion. And I'm going to tread lightly here because I don't want anyone to accuse me of being shallow. My favorite author, Anne Tyler, has written many glowing novels with older people in romantic situations..."The Beginners Goodbye," and "Back When We Were Grown Ups"...that I've loved. I've read the latter six times.

But these books aren't romances. They are literary/mainstream novels with romantic themes, without much sex. People who read books like these don't necessarily read anything in the romance genre. So knowing how to distinguish between genres comes into play here. In fact, I would bet that many people who read literary/mainstream novels would frown on anything in the romance genre. I'm not making this "genre thing" up. There are reasons why books are classified into genres. One is to keep readers from buying the wrong books. It's a way for sellers to categorize books to keep things organized in bookshops and on web sites where books are sold. And as authors we need to know this so we don't look stupid. Shallow, maybe. But stupid, never.

What prompted this post was something I saw about old people in romance novels. Not old people reading romance novels, but old people as characters in romance the torso in the photo above. Now isn't THAT image enticing? Don't you want to run out and buy that romance and crawl under the covers with it? The article actually said romance, not romantic literary fiction, so I'm assuming, based on the information given to me in the article, that the author was talking about books in the romance genre...or in various sub-genres. It could be a case of an author not knowing what he/she is talking about, but I can only go by the information given to me.

When I read the article that seemed to be suggesting there should be more old people in romance novels, I immediately remembered something a publisher once told me. I'd just been contracted to write a novel about two people who had been in a long, lasting relationship and I was looking forward to the possibilities. But the publisher sent me a follow up e-mail...just to be safe and to know we were on the same page...informing me she didn't want a romance with senior citizens in it. I smiled and replied letting her know she had nothing to worry about. While I do think it's fascinating to read about older people falling in love in literary fiction, it's not something I want to read or write about in a romance.

And that's because romance for me is pure escapism. Especially erotic romance. I know there are kinky web sites for people with fetishes for older people. But I'm not one of them, and I don't think most people who read romance novels or erotic romance novels want to read about two seventy year olds getting it on. I want escapism. I want to be taken to a place where everyone is young and hot and filled with so much emotion I can't stop turning the pages.

Frankly, I get sick and tired of listening to people complain about our youth oriented culture as if it's something new. I haven't had ice cream in five years and I jog five miles every morning all year long to keep my body in shape, and I get tired of people who sit around and complain about how out of shape they are and how terrible our youth oriented culture is. I'm tired of hearing people complain about rich people as well. I like escapist romance novels with billionaires, not poor people. Leave the poor characters for the painful literary novels, thank you. Cher said it best once, and I paraphrase because I can't find the exact quote: "I've been forty I've been fifty; forty was better...I've been rich I've been poor; rich is better."

As I said above, I love deep literary novels with older people who fall in love. I read them all the time. I love literary novels with characters that have fundamental flaws that could be anything from obesity to homeliness. I read them all the time, too. But when I'm reading an erotic romance or a pg-rated romance for pure escapism, I don't want to read about anyone who doesn't have all their teeth or their hair. I don't want to read about gay men with old skin, limp dicks, and gray pubes. That's just wrong. I want my romance characters to be as sexy as I can get them. I want pure escapism to take me away from the political vitriol, the horrors we're experiencing all over the world, and the criminal acts over which I have no control. And if that makes me shallow, I guess I'll just have to live with it.