Friday, May 31, 2013

BEA 2013: Macmillan CEO Says Eric Holder is Incompetent

In a provocative session at BEA 2013, Macmillan CEO John Sargent thinks Eric Holder and the DOJ are incompetent. Here's the reason why. I'm not going into that now, but I did post about it previously. He also made a few comments about Amazon.

What Sargent did say about the pending DoJ suit is that Justice is "extraordinarily myopic. They carried the water for Amazon, when it had 92% of the market." And, he said, they prevented others from coming into the market. "The senior guys, Eric Holder, are just incompetent," he added, to resounding applause. As to the lasting effect of the DoJ case, Sargent said, "There's no way to tell. I have a lot of hope. There are a lot of good signs about the movement to digital." He's been heartened that even with the increase in the number of screens, the growth of e-books is flat. "What is dangerous for us is cataclysmic change. You guys are superb at adapting. You need time to adjust. If it stays flat or declines slowly, we're in good shape."

While I have been following the Eric Holder debacle, and I'm not too thrilled with Holder now myself (far from it), I love when Sargent mentions that the growth of e-books "is flat." I don't know where he gets his info. But I've read a few different things.

Half the time I'm never certain what to believe anymore when it comes to e-book sales in a general sense, but according to the following article the rise in e-book sales seems to be 134% by 2012. This comes from the Publishers Association Yearbook, 2012.

If you check out the above link to my previous post on May 1 of this year I have a quote and another link to the original piece. I'm not saying Sargent is wrong or that he's been misinformed, but I do think that depending on the source these days you're going to get varying opinions on e-book sales that depend on personal agenda. And you're left wondering who's telling the truth.

I have no comment about the DOJ, Eric Holder, or Macmillan. And I'm not thrilled with one huge outlet controlling everything either. But I'm a competitive person and I like the concept of fight to survive. It sounds like Sargent thinks e-book sales are going to remain flat, and then decline slowly. I guess Amazon wasted all that money on the patent for digital resale? I know I'm not handing back my iPad any time soon to read print books. In fact, I purchased six new e-books this week because I've been running low on new titles. My personal library is stocked with affordable e-books all the time.

As to what Macmillan might be up to, Sargent said, "What people want is book-length works that tell a good story. So I don't feel a need to put in film studios in the office, to invest tremendously in the enhanced e-book." Nor does he have any plans to deliver data to glasses. And he affirmed his personal preference for print. "Call me old-fashioned. I prefer a book," he said, to much applause. Sargent also spoke briefly about the ingrained culture of books in Germany, where Macmillan's owners, the two shareholders he has to make happy, live.

Well. I thought an e-book was a book, too. I guess I was imagining things when I finished reading Anne Tyler's last novel on my Kobo. As a side note, I also get a lot of e-mail from German readers who read digital only.

If I'd been in THAT crowd I would have been looking for a back way out of the room. I wonder if Sargent is still listening to records on his HiFi. You know, because that iTunes thing will never take off.

Literary Agent Evan Gregory; Free Excerpt: Daddy Knows Best; New Release

The reason I'm posting about a new literary agent, Even Gregory, is because he wrote a post in March that actually talks about e-publishing, e-publishers, and royalties. To say I'm stunned is an understatement. Most literary agent blogs never even acknowledge the fact that e-publishers exist. Not all. Lori Perkins has been talking about e-publishing for years now, and so have a few others. But I rarely see e-publishers mentioned anywhere else in spite of the fact that e-publishers pioneered digital publishing as we know it today, they paved the digital path for agents and authors and big publishers and never get an ounce of credit, and, more important, they've been entertaining avid readers for a decade now. I read my first digital books from e-publishers on my PC in 2002.

In any event, Evan Gregory wrote a brilliant post about royalties, e-publishers, and advances. He gets into the pros and cons, and he gives excellent examples.

The royalty-only model is, as mentioned by John, not a new model, but its rise in the digital book world is not surprising, nor should its adoption by the larger publishers for the purposes of creating their own low-overhead imprints be necessarily surprising either. The model was born out of desperation by upstart e-publishers who didn't have the initial capital to pay out advances. Even before the rise in popularity of self-publishing, they needed an arrow in their quiver to convince authors to write for them, rather than focus their efforts elsewhere. That arrow was a higher than average royalty, and in some circumstances flexibility on the rights retained by the author. 

You can read more here. I've worked for publishers who have used the royalty only model, and I've been paid advances. (I've also been paid flat fees.) I've been fine with all. If you get an advance, you have to earn out before you get any royalties. If you get only royalties you get paid for how many books you sell anyway. Either way you're going to make money if people read the book, so for me one thing just cancels out the other. In fact, one of the biggest worries I've always had was making sure I earned out with each book when I was paid an advance. I have always done this, too. But I know authors who haven't and that really sucks.

Evan Gregory's blog is called, Flaubert's Pyramid, and he seems to be all over the place in social media. He's affiliated with the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency and you can read more about him there. I would imagine he's at BEA right now and he'll be posting more about his experiences there in the coming weeks. I'm not sure about how he deals with queries or how he takes on clients, but I'm sure that information is out there somewhere. I've always found agentquery most helpful.

It's nice to see someone fresh and new in the arena. It's also nice to see a literary agent actually giving new authors all the advice they need, not just the advice that works for the agent. This, I believe, is the agent of the future.

New Release: Daddy Knows Best

My German editor with Bruno Gmunder Publishing e-mailed me yesterday about a new release date for the upcoming anthology I'm part of titled, Daddy Knows Best. The actual release date is July 10, 2013, and I'll be posting more about that in the future. But I wanted to post a free excerpt today for anyone who might be interested in reading something different over the weekend.

The title of my story is Ring My Bells, and it's never been published anywhere before...even though a hard copy version had been sitting in my files for fifteen years. This is the raw unedited version, and I did have to censor a few things because this blog is rated PG. But nothing more than a line or two, and the set-up to the storyline begins here.

About a year ago the telephone wasn’t working. No dial tone at all; just a soft beep sound when I pressed the talk button, and the small screen lighting up pale green for a couple of seconds. There had been severe thunderstorms the night before, but the electricity hadn’t gone out and there didn’t seem to be any wires down on the property.  Maybe it just had to be re-set, I thought. Unplug the cord and plug it back in a half hour later. I remembered that had happened once before, after I’d left the phone off the hook for a while.

            But after leaving it unplugged for a half hour it still wasn’t working when I re-set it. So with the telephone in my hand, I went down to the basement to see if everything was connected correctly. Attached to wooden beams, I found red, blue, white and black wires all screwed tightly to where they should be screwed. Everything seemed fine. And then I noticed a phone line going to the burglar alarm system, with phone jack at the base of a one square foot, locked metal box. I hesitantly unplugged the phone cord from the alarm box (I hate to touch things I don’t understand), pushed the talk button on the phone and I immediately had a dial tone. The problem, evidently, was with the alarm system; not the telephone.

            It only took one phone call to the alarm company for them to tell me they knew the problem well and they’d send someone out to fix it that day. A surge protector, so they said, had burned out during the severe thunderstorms. Not a big deal was how they’d put it, and as long as I didn’t plug the phone back into the alarm it would work perfectly normal. The same thing had happened to several other homes in my area, so they’d said.

            This all happened very early in the morning, before I’d had time for my ritual workout routine. Though I work at home for the most part, I’m usually up at five thirty or six every day so I can cram an hour workout into the day with weights and cardio. I’m usually dressed, showered and shaved by eight and seated in front of the computer no later than eight-thirty. I’d assumed the alarm guy wouldn’t show up until sometime that afternoon; they usually make you wait all day. So I ran a half hour on the treadmill and then did another half hour with free weights. This routine was strenuous, and often dull; but the workouts kept my waist at size thirty, my chest popping at forty-two inches and my ass hard and firm. The small of my back, which is deeply curved (more so when I arch my back on purpose), is what guys always said they liked most about my body. At twenty-five years old, I like to think that what I do now as exercise will benefit me in the future when things begin change.  

            But that’s also the ironic part about me. I’m usually more attracted to men with silver in their hair, a few lines on their faces, and mature looks. I’ve been known to go weak in the knees for men who have slight middle age paunches. I think men reach their sexiest point around age forty and it keeps getting better as they approach their late fifties. Why I once jumped in between a couple of men in their sixties just to see what it would be like for both of them to tackle me.

            I’m not sure why, but if there is a good looking guy in his twenties or thirties in the room, and a good looking guy in his forties or fifties in the same room, I go out of my way to make eye contact with the older instead of the younger. And it’s always been that way, ever since I was three years old and I used to sit on Uncle Joe’s lap. He would bounce me up and down, thinking nothing of it. And I would get a thrill deep in my body I couldn’t explain at the time. When I kissed him hello or good-bye, I made sure I rubbed my cheek against his rough beard on purpose.

            In any event, somewhere between seven-thirty and eight that morning, as I was stepping out of the shower, the doorbell rang. Knowing it had to be the alarm guy, and wanting to have the problem fixed, I haphazardly dried myself off, pulled on a pair of jeans and ran to answer the door in my bare feet. As I recall, they were faded, loose fitting jeans, which hung slightly below my waistline. I didn’t think twice about not wearing a shirt or having wet hair. It wasn’t a fashion show and I didn’t really give a damn how I looked. At least not until I opened the door and noticed the expression of shock on the repair man’s face, as I stood there half nude, hair still dripping wet, without a care in the world. 

            “I’m here to replace the surge protector,” he said.  But he couldn’t look me in the eye. He did look at my face for a moment, and then his brown eyes quickly examined my exposed torso, before they dropped to the floor. He looked to be about forty-five (maybe a year or two younger), he stood about five feet nine inches tall, and he was bulky and stocky, with a slight paunch. But by no means fat or what I would consider out of shape. And though his head was shaved clean, he had a perfectly trimmed goatee that framed full lips, with just the right amount of silver specks mixed with dark brown. And to top all this off, he wore white V-neck tee-shirt and dark jeans that fastened below his waist in a loose casual way. I glanced at his thick, tan leather tool belt that appeared heavy and awkward and took a quick breath. And when I glanced at a small, gunmetal tool case in his right hand I had to focus on not sighing aloud.

            “Sorry,” I said, with the most innocent voice I could find, wishing I’d at least combed my hair. “I thought you’d be here later in the day. I just got out of the shower and I thought you were someone else.”  The guy seemed decent. He just smiled. I had trouble looking into his eyes for fear he would read my mind and see how I felt about him. 

            He told me he’d been in the neighborhood when I’d called the office, and that he never was quite sure of the exact time he’d arrive for a service call.  He said, “It’s pretty much hit or miss, buddy, depending on how much work has to be done.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

BEA 2013; Ethics for Reviewers; Digital Resale; Social Media and Booksellers

Each year people gather in NYC for BEA (Book Expo America) to check out all things related to book publishing. Here's a condensed version of some of the things happening this year. I went once a long time ago, and found it a good way. In this post I'm linking to articles about ethics for book reviewers, digital resale, and how publishers and booksellers should start hitting the social media trail like all their authors have been doing...especially small start up e-presses.

This week, BookExpo America (BEA) captures the attention of various facets of the industry including myriad conferences to bring together the variety of professionals who will descend on New York City to discuss books from every perspective.

More here.

Literary Ethics for Book Reviewers

This is something that would have fascinated me had I been there. Unfortunately, I have this sad feeling all the right people went and the wrong people missed it.

Valdes asked, “Are there any hard rules that we could put out there?” The panelists concurred that, despite Romano’s earlier sentiments against applying a universal code for reviewers, being honest about biases within a piece is fundamental, and that it’s vital to take a book on its own terms, not those desired by the critic. Sehgal and Romano added that a good critic never misrepresents an author’s argument or exaggerates the flaws in a text.

It's a good piece about objectivity and part. I take the above paragraph to mean that if the reviewer is reviewing an erotic romance novel and he or she doesn't like erotic romance as a rule, he or she should disclose this up front...or at least somewhere within the review. I've read more than a few bad book reviews for erotic romances and I've always appreciated when the reviewer makes this disclosure up front. This way I know where the reviewer is coming from, so to speak.

The part about a good reviewer never misrepresenting an author's argument or exaggerating the flaws in a text can be slightly more ambiguous when it comes to popular online review sites. I agree with it in theory, but I could link to more than one book review where this didn't happen. In fact, I could link to one professional review web site where they've not only exaggerated flaws in a text, but also exaggerated erotic scenes and situations to make authors of erotic romance look bad intentionally. But then I use the word professional very loosely with respect to the web site I'm referring to. The people on this panel at BEA, clearly, are professionals.

You can read more here.

Digital Resale

This gets complicated and I'm not even sure I fully get it right now. But it's something I think we all should learn and follow as the concept of digital resale slowly gains more interest.

Despite a series of court rulings against the concept of digital first-sale rights, ReDigi’s Ossenmacher was on hand to continue to make the case for the practice. ReDigi—a firm that offers a digital resale market for music and is looking to add e-books—allows customers to sell their used digital files (and offers publishers a royalty on the sales), but the proceeds can only be used within the digital economy of ReDigi. Consumers cannot, say, resell old music files and use the money to buy a hamburger. Accordingly Ossenmacher made the case that ReDigi is helping the music business and will do the same for publishers. Indeed, Ossenmacher claims, “Our resellers sell, but they want to get new goods with the funds.” He even claims that “people are buying albums on ReDigi, because they know they can get their money back” after listening to the album. Ossenmacher says that a secondary market in e-books is what consumers want, “and when consumers win, everyone wins.”

This is basically the concept of used e-books. Amazon has expressed interest in this, too, and they now have a patent to do it. When it was first announced a few months ago I posted about it and how a lot of authors went berserk. It would even cover self-pubbed books. If someone who bought one of my self-pubbed books on Amazon wanted to sell it back to Amazon, then Amazon could put it up for resale and make money again on it. I don't know if I would get anything from that resale. Of course if you have .99 e-books on Amazon, I don't see how much cheaper Amazon can sell them...ten cents a dance, that's all they pay me. This sounds more like something large publishers have to deal with at this point. But as I stated, I'm still a little confused about it myself.

You can read more here, but I think the post I wrote in the link above will help you understand it more. If anyone knows more about it, please feel free to comment.

Social Media Matters, Too

This article is interesting because it is focused on booksellers and how they should become more social and take advantage of social media outlets now more than ever before.

Moderator Kirsten Hess, director of events and marketing at R.J. Julia Booksellers, kicked off Wednesday afternoon's panel acknowledging, "2-3 years ago, social media was not important enough to bring up in a business plan." In 36 months, quite a lot changed, as social media accounted for the social portion of Being Social: Reaching Your Customers and Community. Deemed a 24 hour job, the panelists - including Twitter's Andrew Fitzgerald and Ingram Group Content's Amy Cox Williams - varied in their preferred method of social media. Unanimously, each agreed booksellers and authors should understand the viral forums before attempting to navigate them. The Booksmith's Amy Stephenson noted, "Different platforms have different cultures. Learn the cultures first." Fitzgerald, an obvious advocate of Twitter - and Vine - forums, said, "Twitter is a platform you can experiment with because it's in real time. It gives booksellers the opportunity to interact and engage with customers in and out of the store."

I'm going to take this even deeper and state that I think those who are running small e-presses should be actively involved in all avenues of social media now. You're not too grand; you're not above it. Authors do this routinely and it's become a way of life for us. I happen to enjoy social media, so it's never really a chore for me. I love the interaction, but there are limits to what I can do, where publishers can take things to another step. I have noticed that almost every single one of the small e-presses I work with have failed to figure out how to use social media in an effective way. And those small e-presses who have figured it out seem to be doing far better than those who don't do social media.

In other words, get out there and work it a little. Your authors are doing their best to support and promote your books, and you should be doing the same thing. If you don't, you're short-changing your authors and your readers. I don't want to know about your family outing or your vacation to the islands on facebook. I want to know all about your newest releases and all the fine and wonderful things you have planned for your readers.

Jesse Eisenberg in Fifty Shades; Writer's Prefer Self-Publishing?

Jesse Eisenberg in Fifty Shades?

In one of the douchiest interviews I have ever seen, Jesse Eisenberg goes after a young journalist with such a snarky superior attitude he comes close to bringing her to tears. After I saw the video, I couldn't help thinking Jesse Eisenberg might be the best choice to play Christian in Fifty Shades of Grey. He certainly does know how to be abusive for sport.

Here's what the interviewer, Romina Puga, had to say about it on the ABC News web site, after the fact. She also writes an account of the interview, verbatim.

My goal at the press junket for his new movie Now You See Me was to loosen him up and have some fun -- but I should've known better. He didn't let me make him look like anything other than who he wanted me (or the public) to see. I caught him smirking at my attempts to be funny a few times, but he would immediately catch himself and insult me.

You can read more here.

In this piece, the author takes it a step further by getting into sexism and some of the things I talked about yesterday in my post about facebook's new stand on hate speech against women. I understand this far better than straight men because I'm openly gay. Gay men often experience the same brand of attitude from straight men, which isn't all that different from what most women experience. It's not as intense, but it's still there.

Which, yeesh, and watching the video instinctively kicks to my Tumblr-bred knee jerk reaction of “Wow, what a sexist dick,” since Puga is a woman asking admittedly silly questions. Would Eisenberg have given this level of crap to, say, Billy Bush on his dumbass Access Hollywood show?

Forget about Billy Bush, I'd like to see Eisenberg pull a stunt like that with any of the women on The View...or Oprah. Now that would be entertaining TV. Here's a link where you can watch the actual video and see for yourselves.

And why not Jesse Eisenberg in the Fifty Shades film adaptation? If Michael Douglas can play Liberace I'm sure they can come up with a make up artist that could make Jesse Eisenberg attractive enough to play Christian. And like most of the films Eisenberg has been in previously, he wouldn't even have to act all that much. In fact, the interview with Puga could be Eisenberg's screen test: privileged male creep with past issues goes after bright young woman with good intentions.

I have a feeling male celebrities with too much attitude and not enough style should seriously watch out for Romina Puga in the future. You don't let people get away with that brand of abuse more than once in a lifetime. Ten years ago I would have reacted the same way Puga reacted during the interview with Eisenberg because I'm basically not confrontational by nature. But if it happened to me today I would eat Eisenberg for lunch.

Writers Prefer Self-Publishing

This next item is interesting to me because I've been having this same conversation with a fellow author in e-mails all week. When I started to self-publish my fiction over a year ago I had no idea what I would encounter, or whether or not I would like doing it alone. It began as a humble venture, and in many ways it still is.

While there was much anticipation over Goodreads founder Otis Chandler's post-Amazon-acquisition update at this year's IDPF 2013 Digital Book Conference at BEA, it was Writer's Digest publisher Phil Sexton who might have stolen the day, with the results of a survey of author reactions to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. The Writer's Digest survey found "hybrid authors"—writers who have published both ways—repeatedly embracing self-publishing over traditional houses, most often citing better pay and greater creative control when self-publishing.

I couldn't agree more with the survey. And it's not just for creative control with me. I like the control I get with self-publishing from business angle as well. I like knowing I have control over things like book prices and where the books will be distributed. I like knowing I can do my own promotional events that I think my readers will appreciate. I don't even mind the customer service part. And the creative control is equally as important. I had something ripped from a recent book by an editor that I thought was one of the most emotional scenes in the book. I thought readers would have loved it. And the editor thought it was too over the top because he worked in the ER one summer in college. I had to buckle to his taste, not mine. I had no choice. But I would have done if very differently had I been self-publishing the book...and I think reviewers would have received the book much differently. Sometimes the author really does know best, especially when it comes to knowing what his or her readers want.

What isn't mentioned in this article...and I haven't seen mentioned how small start up e-presses are going to deal with authors discovering the benefits of self-publishing. Will the small presses be able to survive for the long term? Will these small start up e-presses who are all so gung ho that began before self-publishing became so popular be able to draw bestselling genre authors the same way they have in the past? Or will they all wind up shuttering eventually due to the fact that they can't compete with the prices? I have many thoughts on this topic, and I will be posting about it more in the coming months.

The main factor for me is that I've been around for twenty years, and I plan to be around for twenty more. I can't honestly say I feel the same way about any of the small e-presses out there. In an industry where you don't get much security it's nice to know you can at least depend on yourself.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Author Alleges B&N Plays with Bestseller Lists; Facebook and Sexism; Van Gogh's Ear

An author I don't know recently posted something on Goodreads about how she thinks B&N might be playing around with books on bestseller lists.

Barnes and Noble appear to be manipulating their Nook bestseller list. They seem to have issue with either self published books or books containing erotic content, or both, and they don't want them being too visible on their site. From what we can gather, there seems to be an artificial wall in their rankings, somewhere around #125, and any books they deem unworthy cannot rank higher, no matter how many copies they sell. My two titles are both currently affected by this, as are Cassia Leo's USA today best selling Shattered Hearts books, and several other works.

These are very strong allegations and I have no comment. I rarely bother to check my ranks or numbers on B&N because most of my sales come from other web sites where e-books are sold. But I have been thinking about something new, a brand new web site where I can sell my own books, set my own prices, and deal with my own clients/readers with my own brand of customer service. It's the author working as a businessperson in these changing times. I encourage all authors to start considering this. I think it's the only way to go in the future.

Frankly, I've been doing this brand of customer service all along with my indie books. I think I've even posted about this before. I get e-mails all the time from readers about issues they have with web sites where e-books are sold and I just deal with the complaints myself. It's easier than dealing with some of these web sites that really don't give a damn, I wind up with happier clients/readers, and I get to sleep better at night knowing I did my job well. I encourage readers to contact me about these things. It's part of my job.

As for bestseller lists, I've posted about those before, too. Though I know nothing about how B&N does things, I do know I've never been able to figure out how a book that can be number one on a bestseller list (not on B&N) doesn't outsell books that never made these so-called bestseller lists. This has happened to me more than once. The numbers don't add up anywhere.

We're living in interesting times. You can read the blog post in full here.

Women, Action & the Media

There's a new facebook page titled, Women, Action & the Media that seems to be centered around  sexism and things like hate speech. I haven't clicked "like" yet because I'm not sure if men are allowed to join. But here's something from a recent update.

Facebook has already been a leader on the internet in addressing hate speech on its service. We believe that this is the foundation for an effective working collaboration designed to confront gender-based hate speech effectively. Our mutual intent is to create safe spaces, both on and off-line. We see this as a vital and essential component to the valuable work that Facebook is doing to address cyber-bulling, harassment and real harm.

It seems very facebook oriented, and geared toward promoting facebook as much as it is geared toward promoting the cause. And that's because all this started on facebook. I find this ironic since so much of the hate speech we see these days happens on facebook. And so many fake accounts and fake identities exist it's hard to trust anything on facebook at all. I've always maintained that if everyone on facebook was forced to join with their real name and real identity we'd see less of these issues. But then again, more than half the people using facebook would disappear and social media stock would crash.

In this article facebook admits something may have been wrong.

Women’s groups have complained to Facebook about misogynous content in the past, but pressure on the company escalated last week when a collective led by Women, Action and the Media; Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism Project; and Soraya Chemaly, a writer and activist, published an open letter asking Facebook executives to “ban gender-based hate speech on your site.”

At least they seem to be doing something about it. I'm sure the fact that a few large advertisers like Nissan said they would back out if something wasn't done helped give them a little nudge.

Facebook is also that social media web site where anyone can report gay content of the purest kind, and gay members of facebook have their accounts shut down without an explanation or warning. It's also a web site where someone can report you and your content and facebook will put up a warning each time someone wants to check out your web site. You don't have to actually do anything wrong either. In other words, facebook doesn't believe in the good old fashioned American concept of innocent until proven guilty. I think everyone in Cupertino was absent from school the day they discussed this. With facebook you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. And only if you can get one of those organic facebots out in Cupertino to actually acknowledge you.

I know this sounds like a positive thing. But I know social media well, and what worries me is how many innocent groups and users will be targeted now. I despise anything associated with hate speech, abuse, or rape culture. However, I do know there are a lot of nasty corrupt people on facebook who use issues like this to hurt innocent people. And, things can often be distorted or misinterpreted by those who don't understand. I had a book released with rough sex between vampires and several people thought it was BDSM, because they didn't know the difference between rough sex, fictional sex with vampires, and the actual BDSM lifestyle (there's a huge difference between rough sex and BDSM). So this new concept on facebook should be interesting. And my advice to everyone on facebook would be to watch every single thing you say from now on, because freedom of speech as a concept is becoming less important as each day passes.

For those who might be interested, here's a link.

Van Gogh's Ear

This is one of those things I have always loved. Van Gogh's Ear is an annual anthology that celebrates the arts in a very unusual way. If I ever win the lottery, it's the kind of thing I could spend the rest of my life doing.

Founded by Ian Ayres, Van Gogh’s Ear: Best World Poetry, Prose & Art is an annual anthology series devoted to publishing powerful works by major voices and innovative new talents from around the globe. The goal of Van Gogh’s Ear is to make each volume a real eye-opener that stirs people’s emotions and ignites their imaginations. Experimental work is warmly embraced. Taboos extremely encouraged.

Although I've never actually submitted something to them, I've always been tempted. I like the part where they say taboos are encouraged. It's hard to define great art because all art is so subjective, but I've always believed things like this help distinguish art from commercialism.

You can check them out here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Problem with Behind the Candelabra Is With the Reviews

My Problem with Behind the Candelabra is with the reviews I've read, not the film...and that's why I waited a few days to write this post. After I watched it on HBO on Sunday night I wanted to think about it for a while and see how it related to my own experiences as a gay man. I also wanted to see how others reacted to it in reviews and comment threads. What I found is interesting.

First, I thought Behind the Candelabra was well executed from a gay historical POV, and because it focused on what happened between Liberace and Scott Thorson according to the memoir Thorson wrote. In other words, if a memoir about this time period in Liberace's life had been written by Liberace I'm certain we would have had a completely different POV and film. But the fact remains this film came from Thorson's POV.

I also thought Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, and everyone else in the cast did excellent jobs. The sets were accurate, the time period was depicted well, and the costumes were amazing. I think they even handled certain issues with accuracy, especially when they mentioned near the end of the film that if Thorson had been able to legally marry Liberace he would have walked away with a much higher settlement than he did. Because he wasn't allowed to legally marry Liberace he got basically nothing...which is not the case with straight couples like this when they divorce. Just look at the divorces Johnny Carson went through. Same time period; similar situations. Only Scott Thorson wound up with pennies compared to what Carson's ex-wives walked away with. The fact that this was mentioned in the film was important, but in a small way only gay people would detect. Gay divorce happens; many gay men (and women) get screwed over because they don't have the same legal protection straight couples have. But that's another post.

In the film, it's also mentioned how Liberace wanted to adopt Thorson. That was NOT unusual during that time period. That was a great loophole many gay couples used back then to protect each other. I know two older couples who actually did this in the 1980's after both couples were put in medical situations where they didn't have control...or even visitation rights. So the only recourse, at the time, was for one to adopt the other. I don't think that's legal anymore...but I could be wrong. However, it did happen and in the gay community there was nothing unusual about it.

To sum things up with out rambling on, I found Behind the Candelabra to be one of the better films depicting gay men of that time period. The only flaw I found with respect to the film was when I started to read the reviews, and how some of these unlikely reviewers received a film about gay men who lived during that time period. And not one single reviewer mentioned either of the two things I just mentioned above.

Here's what I'm talking about:

 It seems cliché to call Michael Douglas and Matt Damon brave for playing Liberace and his one-time lover, Scott Thorson, in "Behind the Candelabra," airing at 9 tonight on HBO.

Cliché, and perhaps homophobic, given the implication that playing gay represents a huge risk for straight actors. Playing a gay man isn't brave. It's acting.

No, no, my dear. We just had this thing online called the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia because this does actually exist and it's not cliche. The homophobia is still there, and this is the reason why so many gay actors do NOT come out of the closet. It's why so many young straight actors hesitate to play roles. So don't be so naive, and don't naturally assume that the you're living in a world of hope, love, and change and that little birds are flying over the heads of all gay people in the US. And if you don't believe me, check out this post I wrote recently about reactions to Matt Bomer playing straight in Fifty Shades of Grey. The comments I'm talking about were left by people on social media. I still face this kind of discrimination/homophobia all the time as a gay writer in the publishing industry.

Playing gay is still BRAVE...especially for those real gay actors who have not come out of the closet yet. Of course it's acting, but it's still acting with risk. And it took two seasoned actors like Douglas and Damon to actually pull it off in Behind the Candelabra...and to actually be secure enough with themselves to do it.

This same review continues to devolve:

Damon subtly shows how Scott talks himself into an attraction. Liberace is so welcoming – and Douglas so ingratiating and reasonable-sounding as his character urges a young man he just met to move in – that Scott almost forgets seeing Liberace's last boy toy escorted out as Scott arrived.

Once again, my dear, you're wrong. And that's because you don't know how these things work in real life. This is about a very young man with very limited means who sees someone who can change his life. It's about a very young man with a confused background who has no money who sees someone who can give him things no one else could possibly ever give him...or that he could ever get on his own. I've seen this myself in my own circles many, many times. A sixty year old attorney takes in a twenty year old shop clerk, or a sixty year old trust fund baby takes in a twenty year old mechanic. Remember Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil? Thorson was not moving in with Liberace to live happily ever after.

And I can tell you one thing for certain: you do see hot eighteen year old gay men with sixty year olds who have money, but you NEVER see hot eighteen year old gay men with sixty year olds who are poor. Liberace was not trying ingratiate Thorson by sounding reasonable. Liberace was showing Thorson how he could change his life with his power and his money. Plain and simple. And I think both Douglas and Damon handled this very well, right down to the scene where Liberace takes off his hair.

This next review written by Gail Shister misses a few fundamental points about the reality of gay life in the time period in which Liberace lived. She's local to me and her columns have been annoying me for many years...since the days she wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The sad irony is that Wladziu Valentino Liberace—”Lee” to his friends—fought to the very end to present a heterosexual public persona. (As if.) He claimed it was for the sake of his audience, comprised mostly of older straight females.

Nope, Gail. The sad irony is that you *assume* Liberace didn't want to come out of the closet. The reality is that he couldn't come out because if he had he wouldn't have had a career at all no matter how talented he was. It isn't that he wouldnt' come out. He couldn't come out. There's a difference. We're talking about the days before gay was even used in reference to homosexuality. Interestingly enough, Gail Shister is clearly old enough to know this and yet still chooses to ignore it.

This review also devolves into more nonsense.

Now here's a real gem of a comment in another review for Behind the Candelabra, written by someone named Chris Baggiano.

Their relationship, again, felt more initiation than actuality, never seeming as natural as a relationship that close should feel – never reaching the heights of James Franco and Sean Penn in Milk. Because the chemistry wasn’t quite right, the relationship between Liberace and Scott was called into question. Instead of Liberace having a magnetic, almost sooth-saying, quality to his personality, the viewer had to figure out why Scott was so madly in love with him in the first place. And with Soderbergh not shining the spotlight too heavily on one particular aspect of Scott or their relationship in the movie, it shows that Soderbergh was very reliant on the chemistry between Scott and Liberace.

Are you joking? Seriously. You can't compare this to James Franco and Sean Penn in Milk because the two are completely different relationships. I didn't have to figure out why Thorson was with Liberace. It had nothing to do with a magnetic "sooth-saying" quality. The lack of chemistry between Liberace and Thorson, which is something I've also read in other reviews, doesn't really make sense at all. Because there isn't supposed to be a strong romantic chemistry between two people who are in a relationship like this. And the chemistry they did have in the film seemed perfectly normal to me. Again, I've seen these relationships before in real life and the way Liberace and Thorson were depicted was absolutely on target.

I could give more examples of how reviewers missed the point of Behind the Candelabra because they simply don't know how these types of relationships work, but this post would wind up way too long. What Soderbergh did with this film was allow viewers in the mainstream to actually see how a segment of gay life really was during that time period. And, to some extent, what it's like today. There are some gay men and women who are victims of their circumstances. And both Liberace and Thorson were victims of their individual circumstances. They needed each other for different reasons in order to survive. I do think there was some emotional connection between them, but not the same kind of emotional connection you would find in Milk.

There are a lot of people in the mainstream commenting on Behind the Candelabra who should tread with care, because they don't seem to know all that much about gay culture or how some gay people live. This is why I tread with care when it comes to writing book reviews on historicals. I don't know enough about them to comment on them. You can't put all gay people into a box and expect them all to be the characters on Glee or Modern Family. We are very diverse. And just like older straight men who wind up with much younger straight women, the same thing happens in the gay community. Only the younger gay men can't marry the older gay men and get settlements or an inheritance.

Soderbergh and everyone else associated with Behind the Candelabra did a great job by turning this story of Liberace's complicated relationship with Scott Thorson into something I have no doubts actually happened in real life. There wasn't one single scene I could NOT imagine happening. I've seen it all a before, up close and in person. And the way this film has been reviewed so poorly by people like those I've linked to above is really the only thing I can find wrong with it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Contest Winner...s Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia

This year's Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia was even more exciting than last year's and I just chose a winner for the contest, plus I've decided to add a consolation prize for those who commented and didn't win.

The winner's name was simply chosen from a hat. It was Sophie Bonaste, and I'll be e-mailing her two e-books in a few minutes: Chase of a Lifetime, and Chase of a Dream (Unabridged Version).

And because everyone left such nice comments, and participated in the HAHaT event, I felt bad there could only be one winner so I've decided to send those who didn't win a consolation prize. I'll be e-mailing them one of my ravenous romance e-books, The Bachelor.

I noticed a few people didn't leave me e-mail addresses. If you still want a free copy of The Bachelor, please contact me here,, and I'll send you a copy.

(Update: If anyone didn't receive a copy from me, please e-mail me and let me know.)

Once again, a huge thanks to everyone who followed all the blog posts. It's a great event that supports a cause we all need to worry about at times.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Free Excerpt: Silicon Valley Bad Boy

Memorial Day is all about remembrance and respect for those who have died in service. I have always taken these things very seriously and I have nothing but absolute admiration for those in the military who have served, and continue to serve, the US faithfully. These are some of the most awesome people on the planet, men and women. I also get a lot of e-mails from readers in the military and I'd like to post this free excerpt of an upcoming book as a show of thanks. And for those who don't know, "Cherry Soda Cowboy" is still being offered for free on

Have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day!!

This book is a little different from other books I've written because there's a mystery suspense angle where the main character winds up being stalked. The MC is a tech billioniare who built his empire on a social media web site called And the interesting thing is he's never actually met anyone socially on his own web site. The excerpt is from the beginning of Chapter Two. It's the raw version, before I sumbitted it to the publisher, and I haven't even proofed it yet.

To create a relatively honest social media web site where everyone used real names and there were no sockpuppets or fakes wasn’t always realistic. Most of the time it seemed impossible. One way Shannon tried to do this was by only allowing users of to sign up with one e-mail address and one password. In other words, the e-mail address used to sign up could only be used with one specific password, and users were not allowed to create multiple accounts with that e-mail address. He also stated in the terms of service that multiple accounts with fake names were not allowed and that anyone who did this was in violation of the terms of service and could atomically be banned from the site forever.
            Unfortunately, most people who know how to navigate the Interwebs have more than one e-mail address. And there was no way to battle the corruption one hundred per cent. The best they could do at was to handle each complaint and do an investigation as they came in. Shannon had a department in one wing of the building that only focused on this kind of corruption. Each complaint was taken seriously, by trained professionals. Each person who lodged a complaint was treated with respect and they always received a prompt reply from someone at And each time a user with multiple fake accounts was spotted he or she would be banned from the web site forever. Or at least until they figured out a way to change their IP addresses.
            For the most part, even though Shannon could not figure out a safe way to keep the sockpuppets and online criminals completely away from, customers were never taken for granted. And in turn had managed to garner a splendid reputation based on the fact that they cared about people. And Shannon knew this. He would have posted a basket of kittens on the logo it he thought it would bring him more users and advertisers.  
            The basic premise behind was for people to set up an account to meet and fall in love with other people. It wasn’t like so many social media web sites where family and friends and co-workers met up to socialize online. was strictly for romantic relationships, and it focused on the emotional aspects of romance and love. There was an open area, but no adult only area. had taken criticism as being a company that censored because there wasn’t an adult only area. But Shannon figured there were already so many other web sites for adults only, and so many other places that focused on sex and porn and explicit images, he wanted to be a place where people looking for emotional relationships could go. There were no religious affiliations; people of all denominations could join. There was no discrimination. And, most of all it wasn’t a place for people to go to promote themselves in any way for profit. Although the site was free to use and all their profits came from advertising, users were not allowed to promote their businesses or their hobbies. Amateur authors and small start-up publishers of the e-age were not allowed to promote unless they paid to advertise. It was strictly a place for friendly social interaction between people over the age eighteen. And if a user was caught promoting something for profit and he or she wasn’t a paid advertiser, he or she was banned.
            One other thing unique about was that nothing was segregated according to sexual preference. Shannon had thought long and hard about this when he’d first started the web site. He’d ultimately decided not to put labels on people. If they wanted to state they were gay, straight, or bi-sexual in their profiles they were allowed to do that. But if they didn’t want to state anything, that was fine, too. Of course they had their fair share of issues in this department, too. A gay guy would try to start a relationship with a straight guy and the straight guy would e-mail a complaint about it. In some cases, there were women who tried to start relationships with gay guys and the gay guys would e-mail complaints. In almost every single case where anything of this nature happened, it only took a few short, polite e-mails to calm everyone down. No one was banned for this kind of behavior unless they at least received a warning first. If there was one thing Shannon had learned, most people actually were good-natured and they did have good intentions…even if those intentions were misguided at times.
            Though Shannon did not actually have his own legitimate account at with his own name and profile, he did have several accounts with fake names so he could check things out as a customer and see how the site worked from a customer’s point of view. Of course he had to break one of the golden rules of his own web site in order to do this. But he had rationalized this by claiming it was the only real way to see how the web site was working. He also kept this to himself and no one else at the company knew it. And, he never did anything harmful to anyone. The last thing he needed was for something like this to leak into the mainstream. It would have undermined all the things claimed to be against.
            After Justin left his office the morning they’d had sex on Shannon’s desk, Shannon made a cup of black coffee and sat down at his computer and logged into the web site with one of his fake names. He never grew too involved with other users; he wasn’t doing this to meet people on an emotional level…or any other level. His motives weren’t to lie and lure people into relationships with bad intentions. But sometimes he came across a user that made him stop and think twice.
            On that particular morning, he logged in with the name Jarred Stern and found another private message from a user named, Terry Hughes. He clicked the private message box and read: “Hey, man. Just checking in to see how you’re doing today. Haven’t talked to you in a while and I miss you. Hope everything’s cool with you. Terry.”
            This was one of those times when Shannon had to stop and think. He’d met this particular user about six months ago and he’s been attracted by the tone in his writing voice. It sounded strong and deep and unpretentious. And Terry had posted a few photos of himself standing around a group of other guys in a gym. All the men were shirtless, and Terry was the best looking one. He had a can of juice in his hand and he looked directly into the camera with a half-smile. To see him at a glance it was impossible to know his sexual preference. He had short light brown hair, strong patrician features, a well-built body, and two dimples when he smiled. He also seemed to live an interesting life. His hobbies included football, baseball, rowing, and swimming. He said his age was twenty-seven and claimed he worked for one of the large tech companies in Cupertino. If Shannon had ever dreamed about the perfect man, Terry would have been the man he’d always imagined.
            So he clicked again and wrote him a reply: “Everything’s good here, man. Just hangin out. Thanks for asking. Jarred.” He’d used his middle name, Jarred, with this fake account. The last name, Stern, had been his mom’s maiden name. It made it easier to remember. The extent of their conversations had never gone beyond these simple pleasantries. He’d only replied to be polite.
            Then Shannon dismissed Terry and he went directly to his main page to see what was going on. Unless users wanted to talk in private, all discussions were public. Someone named Becky was having a friendly conversation with a guy named Paul. He’d been following them for a few weeks. They seemed to be getting to know each other better each time they connected. That day they were talking about finally meeting up and getting together face to face for the first time. Shannon smiled and wished all the users were as sane and decent as they were. He’d had them both checked out thoroughly and neither of them had multiple accounts, fake identities, or played any games.
            About a half hour after he replied to Terry, he glanced up at the top of the screen and noticed he had another private message. He didn’t interact with anyone else, so he figured it had to be from Terry again. Sure enough, he clicked and read this: “Was wondering if you’d like to get together sometime, buddy. We’ve been connecting for a while. We could meet up and just get to know each other. No pressure. Just asking. Terry.”
            Shannon noticed he’d changed his profile photo. He clicked the photo to enlarge it and gaped at Terry standing on a dock, in bare feet and baggy swim trunks, holding a fishing rod. Everything about him was perfect, from his big toe to the top of his thick brown hair. In that photo he could have been posing for a fashion magazine branding outdoor lifestyles.
            For a moment, Shannon stared at the photo and wondered what Terry would be like in person. The one thing Shannon had never done was meet a user of in person. But that’s also because none of the users he’d come across had ever piqued his curiosity in quite this way. He thought about what would happen if he actually wound up meeting a man and falling in love with him on As far as publicity went, he couldn’t think of a better way to promote the web site. And if nothing actually did work out between them, no harm done. He glanced at the photo of shirtless Terry and pursed his lips. He figured it was in the best interest of his company to find out what it was actually like meeting someone you met at
            So Shannon clicked and wrote him a reply. “Let’s meet at Harridan’s at six tonight. We can get a drink. It’s never usually crowded at that time. If you don’t know where it is, let me know and I’ll give you directions. Jarred.”
            Less than five minutes later, Terry replied. “I know where it is. See you at six, buddy. Terry.”

Out of the Closet Thrift Stores; Cloud Atlas and Yellowface

I don't know who started these stores, but Out of the Closet Thrift Stores have me hooked. I heard about them on social media because we don't have any in the Philadelphia area, and a friend of mine in New Hope who used to live in NYC told me he's been there before. Through a search on their web site I found the closest store to me is in Brooklyn, and I think this is going to be a destination point one weekend this summer.

You can donate and it helps support the AIDS health care foundation.

Each store offers free confidential HIV testing.

And among other features that include shopping, they have pharmacies, too.

At the very bottom of the web site's home page it says this:

"Cutting Edge Medicine and Advocacy Regardless of Ability to Pay"

I have friends who are HIV+ and I'm acting POA for one. HIV meds can run into thousands of dollars each month and many people can't afford them. Obamacare isn't helping them least not yet. So whenever something like this does come along I think it's important to get the information out there.

You can check out the main web site here to find out more, or if there is one in your area. I think they are even in Europe now.

Cloud Atlas and Yellowface

Spoiler alert.

I wrote a post in December about the movie, Cloud Atlas, and how they blatantly used yellowface. At the time I hadn't seen the film, but I did see it last night and I wanted to follow up on the December post.

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) came out in protest and they only watched the trailer. The Vice-President of MANAA came out with this statement:

"If, in the making of this complex movie, the creators of Cloud Atlas can make creative leaps in time, place, characters, race and gender, why can't they also take a creative leap in the casting?"

I also mentioned a few tactless remarks actor Jim Sturgess made on Twitter about playing yellowface.

You have to wonder what's going on inside HIS head. But I'm not commenting anymore about Sturgess or his tweets, and you can read more at the link I've provided above to my original post.

But I did want to say that after watching the film last night on demand, I'm glad I didn't bother going to see it in a theater where I would have been forced to pay full price. It wasn't the worst film I've ever seen like some critics have suggested, and I did try to find a few redeeming points. But it was one of the longest...I think three hours. I started to fast forward certain scenes around the time I had 70 minutes left, and I didn't have any problems following the story while fast forwarding, which means it could have been edited differently. (When will some people realize the length of a movie or a book doesn't mean it's going to be better? That's why editing is an art form. I'm starting to think this lack of editing both in books and movies is the true sign of a novice.)

I rarely discuss politics anywhere because I don't think it's my job to do that, but I am NOT a right wing conservative, trust me on that. In Cloud Atlas, I think they pretty much covered every single left wing issue Hollywood loves to sensationalize, and they even had two gay characters playing the tired melodramatic suicide storyline in the days of old. In other words, it felt contrived, as if they were pulling issues out of a hat knowing these issues would affect people...or manipulate them. The problem is these things have already been done time and time again. And I would have preferred to watch two gay characters who weren't cliches. At least they didn't use and sensationalize the bully angle.

But, there's really nothing wrong with any cliche if the message is positive throughout the film, however, with all these other things going on in the background...from slavery to gay...for the producers to use yellowface completely blew me away. But more than that, two of Hollywood's biggest loud mouths are in the film, Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon. Those two have been spewing their politics for years, and they agreed to be in a film with yellowface? Seriously. Did Sarandon lose her picket signs?

Here's a link titled, "Did Cloud Atlas' Yellowface Problem Help to Sink It at the Box Office?"

 It's official: Cloud Atlas is a flop. At least in the United States. Made for a reported $100 million, the book adaptation barely scratched $10 million in its opening weekend — but some observers say the film could make a tidy profit overseas, where most of its funding came from. Still, it's hard not to ask: Did the film's controversial use of "Yellowface" — white actors wearing clumsy makeup to make them Asian — alienate its natural audience Stateside?

Here's another article at Jezebel that says it all better than I can:

Again, it all comes back to representation. Until there are types of humans other than white men who appear as the leads in pretty much every form of entertainment always, shit like this will be A-OK. I remember in Margaret Cho's terrific memoir, I'm the One That I Want, she recounts watching white people on TV when she was a kid and waiting to grow up and become white. (That might not/definitely isn't verbatim as I read the book in 2001 as part of my "Ladies in Comedy" bookclub that lasted for two months.) Reading that was heartbreaking, and it's not the only time I've heard that sentiment. Until more people of color are on our screens playing all the same roles - every lead, every supporting role - now reserved for white people, this shit will continue, and this shit is ugly, lazy, and inexcusable.

The only reason I bothered to watch Cloud Atlas in full was to follow up on the original post. And I waited until it came out on demand. (Tony's still upstairs watching the end...poor thing fell asleep halfway through and he wants to get his money's worth :) The yellowface issue really did bother me's insulting to the point of painful. I would like to think that we've reached a point in our society where these things don't happen anymore. Evidently that's not the case. Of course they gave excuses as to why they used yellowface, and some of those excuses aren't bad at all on the surface. But no matter how you try to twist things around to make them look and sound good the fact remains that it could have been done differently and I wouldn't even be writing this post. This is one instance where I don't think anyone can be too politically or socially correct.

There is one scene in Cloud Atlas I did find amusing. There's a sleazy old publisher who has a rough-neck type of author with a new book out. The book is tanking and the rough-neck author thinks it's because of a bad review a professional book critic gave him. This rough neck author is so bitter about the bad review he actually carries a copy of the review in his pocket everywhere he goes. And when the bitter rough-neck author is at a party and he runs into the critic who gave him the bad review he does something I didn't expect. He grabs the reviewer by the neck, drags the reviewer to a balcony, and tosses him off the side. The book reviewer drops hundreds of feet to his death, and there's even a great scene where the book reviewer's lifeless, ruined body splats on the sidewalk. They even show you his blood.

Now that's what I call a badly behaved author, and I can't help but wonder if the producers were slightly prescient.

If I were a professional film critic I would probably stay away from the producers of Cloud Atlas at parties, especially those parties being held in skyscrapers.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Is the B&N Nook Doomed?

Earlier today I read an article about ten things that will disappear within a year, and one of them was the B&N Nook. The others were interesting, too, like Volvo and Martha Stewart's magazine. In fact two of the products on the doomed list were print magazines.

In any even, this article about the Nook is interesting. It's doesn't say the Nook will disappear within a year, but it doesn't have very high hopes for it either.

The Nook, which is currently having some modicum of success and showing nice growth but is far from profitable, is based on the Android operating system. Google’s Android operating system. I predict that over the course of the next two years that we’ll see Microsoft /quotes/zigman/20493/quotes/nls/msftMSFT-0.09% convince the Nook guys to try a hybrid Android/Windows operating system or that they’ll convince the Nook guys to ditch Android entirely for Microsoft’s Windows 8 for tablets.

I used to post a lot more about my e-readers (Kobo products). But I've stopped posting about dedicated e-readers now basically because I don't use them much anymore. They've been sitting on top of the hutch in my dining room for months now and I'm not even sure if they have a charge.

I use my mini iPad and my iPhone to read almost everything now. It's more convenient, and that's the only reason why.  It's interesting how it seems like only yesterday everyone was talking about their e-readers.

You can read more here about the Nook.

Friday, May 24, 2013

"The Bling Ring" Soundtrack; Openly Gay Frank Ocean

I've had this link about The Bling Ring soundtrack and openly gay Frank Ocean in my in box for over a week now and other things kept popping up that trumped it. But I do like to mention openly gay performers as much as I can so that the people who read this blog who aren't openly gay (for their own personal reasons) see that things are changing.

In other words, I hate to label Frank Ocean and single him out as gay. In a perfect world I wouldn't do that. But I do know that there are many gay men of all ages out there who are still struggling with coming out. I always think people like Frank Ocean and Matt Bomer inspire them. At least that what they tell me in e-mails.

In any event, there's a new film called The Bling Ring and the soundtrack is supposed to be excellent. I've read about this in several places already and being a huge fan of Frank Ocean and his music I can't wait until it's released.

 "The Bling Ring" features unruly teenagers robbing the homes of A-list celebrities, so it's only appropriate that the movie's soundtrack presents a lineup of A-list musical acts to underscore the glamorous film.

And they aren't screwing around. There is an A-list that you don't often see in film sountracks.

Even more fitting is the song selected to close "The Bling Ring": Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt's collaboration "Super Rich Kids." Part of the song's refrain finds Ocean singing, "The maids come around too much / Parents ain’t around enough / Too many joy rides in daddy’s Jaguar / Too many white lies and white lines / Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends / Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends."

You can read more here, where there's a list of songs from the soundtrack. The film will be released June 14, and the soundtrack on June 11.

Sex Slaves Want Resignation; Benjamin Leroy on Queries; Women who Love Gay Fiction

Sex Slaves Want Resignation

This is something I never knew. Thousands of women were forced into prostitution during WWII in Japan. And now it seems two former Korean sex slaves in their 80's want the resignation of Mayor Toru Hashimoto because he actually tried to justify this act of sex slavery and prostitution.

The women, who did not appear in public, said in a statement they were heartbroken by Hashimoto's "outrageous comments" and didn't want to be seen contributing to a less-than-sincere apology.

Instead, they demanded that Hashimoto, 43, apologize and resign as mayor of Japan's second-biggest city.

It's a fascinating, heartbreaking piece from the sex slave angle in itself, but when you read about how someone actually insulted these women and tried to justify these actions of the past it will blow your mind. I have always been a proponent of legalized prostitution. I actually do believe we all have the right to do what we want with our own bodies, men and women. However, there is a huge difference between forced prostitution and legal prostitution. One is a choice. The other is taking away a fundamental choice that leaves the kind of emotional scars that never go away.

I hope he does resign.

Benjamin Leroy on Queries

If you haven't experienced the fresh hells of querying a literary agent, I suggest you read this post. I don't want to turn this into a negative thing. I truly don't. There are excellent agents out there who handle the query process with professionalism, and they never insult you or treat you like an inferior. I've had both good experiences and bad with queries (mostly good). And I am very pro-agent.

For a long time the query letter was the only lifeline between authors and publishers. If you didn't have an agent the odds were your books would never be pubbed. Although it's still like this to a certain extent with large publishers, there are many new authors out there, both pubbed and un-pubbed, who have been paving the way in indie publishing for other authors. I even include the recent announcement from Amazon with Kindle Worlds here. Fanfic authors deserve credit, too, because they are constantly building readership in spite of the obstacles.

In any event, learning how to actually work the query process is a good thing for authors. You learn how to write tight book descriptions and you learn how to handle rejection as well. But while I think it's a good idea to query widely and to research agents, I also think it's a good idea to query and explore all your options as an author nowadays. And you do have other options besides querying.

Benjamin Leroy has a list of the top things you shouldn't do when querying an agent. Some are good, others annoy me. This is one that I find a little tired now. But it's not the worst thing I've ever seen.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t tell me your book is a “guaranteed bestseller” because nobody knows that kind of thing and if you’re delusional about that, you’re going to be delusional about a bunch of things and I’m too old to deal with that.

A lot of new authors tend to do this...make promises like the one above. They don't mean any harm. They are nice people hoping for the best. I've had more than one calls for submission for anthologies of my own and I've worked with a lot of new authors. I tend to enjoy their innocence. I like meeting them and I don't think they are delusional. But this is also where new authors have to be careful. There are vipers out there who don't have the time or patience for newbies. Try not to be too innocent. You don't get points for that from everyone. So this is good advice from's excellent advice. But it's good in the sense that it proves how insulting the query experience can be sometimes and how careful you have to be while querying.

There's a simple reason why a scorpion will always sting: it's in their nature.

Women Who Love Gay Fiction

I've had excellent responses to the calls for submission that I released in January for my upcoming anthology, The Women Who Love to Love Gay Fiction. Yesterday I replied to everyone who submitted and I told some of them their stories will be included in the anthology.

This is going to be different than most anthologies in many ways. And not just because of the theme. The authors who will be included have given me a wide range of stories that cover all kinds of territory I found fascinating. And one author submitted three short stories in an almost short story trilogy fashion. At first I thought I would only take on one of the stories. But once I started reading them I wanted to find out what happened to the characters, and I decided to publish them all back to back.

I'll post more about this with excerpts in the coming weeks. I haven't set an exact release date yet, but I will do that very soon. I originally thought it would be August, but things are moving along so well it might even be sooner.

On another note, here's a great link to the Alumni Association of Princeton University that will lead you to a video about Gay Marriage.

During the Every Voice conference for Princeton's LGBT and ally alumni, Hayley Gorenberg '87, Deputy Legal Director for Lambda Legal, discusses the strides made in the marriage equality movement and what needs to be done in other realms such as the trans-rights movement and HIV-AIDS rights.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Amazon Sells Fan Fiction; Nude Cumberbatch Shower Scene in Star Trek

This week a lot of places on the interwebs went berserk with Amazon's recent announcement they will be selling fan fiction. It's going to be called "Kindle Worlds." I want to get into what fanfic is, how it's different from parody, and what some of the details are with this announcement from Amazon.

Although I know very little about fanfic or fandom, my first thought was how can they do this legally? From what little I do know about fanfic, it's always been a genre that's been shared and not sold for monetary gain. It seems the crafty people at Amazon have figured out a way to avoid this, and it looks as if what they are doing is perfectly legal. Keep in mind. This is NOT parody. This is fanfic and the two are completely different. My books like An Officer and His Gentleman and Pretty Man are highly erotic parodies of mainstream straight stories that I wrote to be satirical accounts of mainstream fiction with gay characters. The titles alone are parody. If I had wanted to write fanfic, I would have taken a gay story, like Queer as Folk, or Brokeback Mountain, and written tender loving romances based on them in alternate worlds. But I didn't want to do that: my statement was more political as a gay writer who was tired of the way gay romance is treated in the mainstream. And the odds of me ever writing a novel based on any *gay* story are about as strong as me wearing dad jeans in public.

For those who know nothing about fan fiction, you can read a good description here.

Here's how Amazon can do this legally.

The company has secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment division for Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar; Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard; and Vampire Diaries, by L.J. Smith. All three are also incredibly successful TV shows in their own right, which should add to the interest both from fans and aspiring writers.

In other words, right now you can't just write any fanfic. It has to be based on one of the above. I do see more in the future, though. If there's a market for it, they are ALL going to cash in on it. And if this is what readers want, no one can blame them.

This is the actual announcement from Amazon. Get Ready.

Get ready for Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group's Alloy Entertainment for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, with licenses for more Worlds on the way.

This next blogger makes a few good points.  There was a m/m romance that came out a little over a year ago that spawned an epic shitstorm in the m/m community with readers and reviewers because many alleged that the author of this book basically copied everything from a gay film. There were even chapter by chapter examples given comparing this author's m/m romance to the gay film...even song lyrics. It was NOT parody. This m/m author and the publisher have gone on to become very popular in spite of this, will be very popular at the upcoming Gay Rom Lit in Atlanta, and that particular book seemed to sell very well to m/m romance readers. In other words, the readers want this, and if that's what they want I see no issue. However, as this blogger below states, it's not all that fair to those who are true to fanfic. And what about the fact that readers can get great fanfic for FREE, and have been doing so for years?

The weird thing is what happens to that comfortable space that separated canonical from non-canonical. Like, one assumes that the fan-fic remains officially non-canonical — and yet, people are paying for it. And getting paid in return. Which lends a kind of intellectual and emotional legitimacy to it. And allows for a very weird thing to happen: it lets the licensed fan-fiction to become, in theory, bigger than the material that spawned it.

I wish I could say I did, but I don't have any strong opinions about all this...except this next part bothers me. Is Amazon trying to define porn now? Evidently, there are a few stipulations that sound a lot like censorship to me.

Though there is another reason that this might not be as successful as Amazon is hoping. From the content guidelines: “We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.” It’s unclear whether this is the same as Amazon’s normal ban against “pornography” that doesn’t include the huge amount of erotica that they publish, or a higher standard imposed by the licensing agreements. But one thing is for sure – a lot of the fan fiction that people would be willing to pay for includes “graphic sexual acts.”
You can read more here.

The typical ban against pornography on Amazon is basically the same as it is everywhere else. I listed these things in my upcoming anthology, The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance.

Standards apply: No Incest, rape, underage characters, or bestiality.

But does this apply to Amazon's "pornography" rules with fanfic? Or is Amazon and the people they are in partnership with in Kindle Worlds going to define "porn" for us? It should be interesting to see how this plays out.

In any event, fanfic does sell and readers seem to want it. Fifty Shades of Grey, which is allegedly fanfic based on Twilight has proven this. And the example I gave above about the m/m romance author proves this as well, too. He has built quite an epic following. And if this is what readers want, Amazon is going to give this to them. The hard part for me is that if anyone wants to read good fanfic, and I do believe there is good fanfic out there, you can get it for nothing. Only most people don't know about this, and they will be shopping at Amazon to pay for their fanfic.

If you do a simple search, you'll see what I mean about how this announcement has ignited tons of opinions. Here's one more link I found interesting, because this person also wanted to know how Amazon found out a way to sell fanfic legally.

I personally am not the biggest fan of fan fiction, as some of you might know. But rest assured that the Scanners "Head Asplode" pic I've used to lead off this article doesn't come from a place of distaste as much as pure shock at Amazon's insane, bold, and genuinely brilliant plan to sell legal fan fiction.

Nude Cumberbatch Shower Scene in Star Trek

This next article talks about a nude shower scene in Star Trek with Benedict Cumberbatch. Why they would remove a scene like this passes me by.

"We had a scene with him where we saw him actually take a shower," Abrams told Conan O'Brien. "It's not in the movie but we have this. It's one of those things we ended up cutting." In true Abrams fashion, the brief moment plays against the backdrop of Star Trek-ian dramatics, with water showering over Cumberbatch as he stares ominously. (Maybe thinking up his next move?)

I'm just glad it wasn't a nude shower scene of Chris Pine they'd cut out. I know this isn't huge news. But as an erotic romance author I find these little things both interesting and silly sometimes. We're not watching Star Trek just for sexual reasons. We like it for many reasons. But the fact is that Cumberbatch and Chris Pine are extremely attractive men and if they had faces like mud fences we most likely wouldn't be watching Star Trek. So why the need to always cut out what might be a great sexy scene? It's not like we want Chris Pine or Cumberbatch to drop the soap or anything in the shower.

E.L. James photo attribution here.