Saturday, December 30, 2006

Work, work, work

I'm getting a lot done this week.

Dan Boyle asked me to do a blurb for his new novel. Flattered doesn't even begin to describe how I felt. I finished reading it last night. Now all I have to do is write a line or two that will make someone want to pick it up. For the record, I enjoyed it. I only meant to read a few chapters to get a feel for it, but ended up devouring the entire thing in two days. Before I write my blurb though, I think I need to sit back and let the themes percolate in my brain for a while.

I've also been slaving away over the rewrite of my novel. Slaving isn't quite the right word. I'm not to that point where I hate the characters or the story, so it isn't a chore to spend time tinkering with it. I do have concerns, though. One is the length. According to the Mad Hatter, the way to tell a story is to begin at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop. Sound advice there, even if it comes from a madman. The problem is that I doubt it'll reach 45,000 words. When I wrote Chaos Magic, the first draft was 116,000 words. I cut it back to 88,000. That seems to be the average length of a novel nowadays. My YA novel feels complete, and yet, I look at that word count and cringe. But what can I add? Just filler. I don't believe in that. I'm hoping for a very understanding publisher....

Another thing I've learned is how hard it is to convey emotional abuse. Physical abuse is so much easier to to write because it comes in bursts of action. Emotional abuse isn't that flashy. It's more like Water Torture, little events and words spread over a long period of time - each incident nothing much, but the sum of the parts is huge. This is where I doubt my writing skills. Am I showing a small event but putting it in context of a larger problem, or is the reader going to think, "So someone said something thoughtless and hurtful. Big deal. Happens all the time. Shake it off, you whining Emo."

My last concern is an epiphanous moment. How do you convey how huge an insight is to a character without going on and on and on that this is A HUGE INSIGHT. I don't want to flog a dead horse, but I don't want to gloss over a big moment either.

Argh! But at least I'm sitting down to my computer and facing it. It's tempting to do something else, anything else, other than deal with my doubts. But since I've been naggingtwo other writers for procrastinating, I can't possibly get away with it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


I'm a huge fan of the scientific historian James Burke and his television series that were on PBS; Connections, and The Day The Universe Changed. Those shows haven't been on for a while, but I still think about the ideas he presented. He is my ultimate dinner companion, someone I'd love to chat with, although I'd prefer he talk the entire time so I could just listen.

In Connections, he follows seemingly unrelated chains of technology and thought and shows how they influence other events and people, finally bringing it full circle. The Day the Universe Changed was more linear, going back in history to the show how present day reality came about. Fascinating stuff, if you're a geek girl like me.

The reason why James Burke is on my mind is that lately I feel I'm a node in a connections framework. Everywhere I turn in the writing world, I run into the same people, but I see them in a different role each time. We're fans, writers, editors, co-panelists, partners-in-crime... so many different aspects but all interwoven. (I have a working theory that a certain person is where all these connections merge. It seems that whenever I explain how any writer/editor/publisher knows another one, his name comes up.) These connections are turning out to be pretty damn useful as I'm talking to more people about putting an erotica writer's conference together. Every person I know in turn connects me to others with knowledge I need. Sometimes the trail even leads back to someone I thought I knew pretty well, and I get to discover a side of that person I never knew existed.

When I started writing, people warned me that publishing is all about who you know. Yes, well, maybe. Connections can't turn crap writing into literature, or guarantee publication, but they sure do help me meet some fascinating people, and hopefully, they'll help me make this convention a reality.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I'm discussing terms of a contract with a publisher, and even though it's been polite (strained politeness), it's wearing me out. On one hand, it's just one story, and it seems silly to be arguing such picky details over my rights. On the other hand, if more writers refused to sign away all their rights for such small sums, we'd all be better off. So I feel as if I'm being stubborn not just for me, but for the sake of other writers who might not know better. Of course, they probably signed away all those rights without understanding what they'd sold so cheaply.


This is not an example of "happily published." I guess I have to decide if my principles are more important than the money (they are - no real decision there) but also if I want to risk my relationship with that publisher.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Writer's Salon

I held my semi-annual writer's salon today. As usual, I cooked enough for two armies and but only invited a battalion. The mimosas were flowing.

One of the advantages of getting writers together is that we talk about publishers and editors. It gives me a better sense of why people choose the publishers they did, and more importantly, if they are happily published. When I started writing my YA novel, I had a publisher in mind, and everything I heard convinced me they are the right ones to offer it to.

I got to talk some with a writer from my new e-publisher. I know that there are more writers in the LA area that work with that publisher, and hope that they can make the next gathering.

It's too bad I only have enough energy to do this several times a year, but at least I run into these people at readings too.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some Nice Mentions

InsideOut BookCLub mentions my story Green Mountain Boys their review of Inside him.

I got my contributor's copies of Best Women's' Erotica 2007 in the mail, and there's a quote from my story Chill on the back cover, as well as some really kind words about in Violet Blue's introduction. Yay!

And it looks like She's On Top will be out in February. My story City Lights is in that one. Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel is already arraigning readings. (Only one so far, in Portland. Alas - can't make it.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When I look at my budget, figure out what I can give, and start writing checks. Some of my favorite organizations:


Celebrates and encourages every facet of femininity without a conformist agenda. Fundamentalist Christian rhetoric against this group made me look closer, and I liked what I saw.

NO AIDS Task Force

Provides assistance for HIV + patients in New Orleans, as well as community education, etc. The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival is tied to this group, another plus. Or give to your local GBLT cause - although I would like to point out that AIDS is not confined to the GBLT community. It's just that while the Christians were dancing in glee over the deaths sweeping the GBLT community, the GBLT community was building infrastructure to deal with patients, funding research, and supporting education. So it's the GBLT community that AIDS patients turn to for help and expertise now, regardless of sexual orientation.

Heifer International

Tired of exchanging meaningless clutter at the holidays? Why not buy a goat for a village? Flock of chickens more your style? How about a llama? Gotta love a llama.
Feel good, and avoid the malls.

Children of the Night

When the adults who are supposed to love and protect a child fail miserably at their responsibilities, you end up with a street kid. Help get those kids into a safe, nurturing environment.

Lambda Literary Foundation

If supporting the arts is more your style, think about donating something to Lambda.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Geek Girl Glee

The vacuum cleaner wasn't working yesterday, so on the pretext that it was necessary to fix it before cleaning the rest of the hovel, I dismantled it.

I love machines. They're so logical. Everything begins as linear motion. Then cogs and belts transform that into circular motion. Nothing could be clearer. All I had to do was understand how the parts worked together and figure out where things went awry. So I got down on the floor with some tools and set to work tracing the problem. Tinker, test, tinker, test. Pure geek girl nirvana.

If only writing stories were so straightforward. Or maybe it is.

Character A does something. (linear action)

Character B complains that Character A is "Always doing that," and "Since we're fighting anyway, I'm going to ambush you with this ancient bit of our history I dredged up too."
(circular, because with this person, no matter is ever settled.)

Character A wonders why Character B is suddenly picking a fight over the way Character A has always done things, while Character B vows never to forgive Character A for being such an insensitive ass. (aha! the conflict!)

I'll have to try out this approach to a story. Characters like gears, meshed together, so that when one moves, another must respond, but they can each only react in the set pattern of their character. It could be a fun exercise. Unfortunately, with the vacuum fixed, I have no more excuses to put off cleaning the hovel. So off to work... right after I figure out why the toaster doesn't brown evenly anymore.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Good Writing

Poorly written books make plowing through my reading pile much easier, and more difficult.

I'm no literary masochist. If a book doesn't grab me by the second chapter,
I fling it. Sometimes I don't even give them that much of a chance.

I made it through four books this week. Far more went flying into the oubliette
that is the underside of my bed. But because I also write, I went back the four I finished and tried to figure out what made them readable. Two were from genres I don't usually read. Three of these books weren't of great writing. Decent, yes, but not great. The forth was an example of nearly flawless craft, but that wasn't what kept me reading.

A great opening line helps. Love In The Time of Cholera has the best
opening line of any novel I've read (Sorry, Mr. Dickens). A little bit
of mystery is good too. (Although I hate it when I finish a literary
novel and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what happened, if
anything.) But what set these books apart from the rest of the pile was
the characters. Within a page, these writers created people with depth
and dimension, people I could see, people I could hear. But the most
amazing part was how few words they had to use before my imagination
took over and filled in the spaces - sort of the way Zen inspired art
uses blank space more than brush strokes, and yet conveys so much

It's a kind of alchemy. They take words any writer could use and transmute them into a unique vision. The best examples of this skill aren't found in literary fiction though. Popular fiction is popular for a reason - because those writers have figured out how to grab readers and put them under the spell of a story. They are Adept class magicians with words. I think I'm going to study their techniques for a bit. It isn't all work though. I'll get to read some thoroughly entertaining stuff, and isn't that the definition of a good book?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Speaking of Writing...

A writer friend was in town this weekend and borrowed my couch
overnight. We opened a nice Chianti and talked about writing,
contracts, and writer's conferences.

A couple months back, I mentioned the need for an erotica writer's conference. I think I also mentioned my hesitation to run one - not because I don't want to, but because I have no experience in anything like that. Mucking up terribly in public isn't my idea of a good time. Besides, if I screw it up, everyone would say, "Well, someone tried to get erotica writers together once, and it was a Hindenburg sized fiasco! So no one should ever try again."

Nan wasn't about to let me plead total incompetence. I noticed she waited until after my third glass of wine to bring it up though. She's a great person to bounce ideas off. Intelligent, insightful, ready to volunteer should I ever get this thing moving....

So be warned, fellow writers. If I know that you have experience putting together a conference, or know someone who does, I will hunt you down and mercilessly interrogate you over every minute detail. Or you can very patiently explain to me why this won't work and I'm the wrong person for the job. Trust me, I'm willing to listen.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

When it rains, It Pours

Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6 was just released.

This is an interesting collection because the editor finds many of the stories he wants to include as well as putting out a call for submissions. I would have never submitted Orbiting In Retrograde, but he asked for it.

Three anthologies in a week! Wow! Except that now I realize I only have three
more left in the production pipeline. I guess I should start working on
short stories again, but for now, the novel desperately needs rewriting...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Best Women's Erotica 2007

Looks as if I have another anthology out. Cream and Best Women's Erotica 2007 both in the same month! Challenger Deep in Cream is a favorite for personal reasons, but I think that Chill in BWE 07 is one of my best. It certainly seems to get the strongest reaction from readers. One said, "I felt like I tried to kiss a bus, WHAM!" and another commented (with affection) "You sick fuck."Hehehe.

I looked at the table of contents for BWE 07 on Amazon and saw a lot of names I recognize. I look forward to reading Kayla Kuff's contribution, as well as many others. Can't wait for my contributor's copy to arrive.

Monday, November 20, 2006


This is the sound of my brain exploding.

I wish a had a sound effect for grinding my teeth.

There are few things that drive me as insane as wild accusations tossed like a stun grenade into a group and then, later, the tosser (an apt British term that works both ways) finally asks for the facts. Arrrrrgh! If something appears inequitable, why not ask why rather than making an accusation? But no. Tossers do not ask. Facts are of no concern to them. Besides, facts are quiet things that can rarely be heard over the tosser's chest beating.

I'll admit that I do not suffer fools. My patience for foolishness (and foolishness it was, Amanda. You had the right word.) can be measured in nanoseconds.

Now this tosser has definitively stated that men's cum has no scent. *mumph* That 's the sound of me biting my tongue. Or is it sitting on my hands? Either way, I am fighting the urge unleash the sharper edge of my temper. I came here to vent instead. I guess all these people asking for the real name of "cumflower trees" just like the way they look. (I liked the description of the chamiza tree - "smells like a porn arcade floor.") Nevermind that all of these people seem to believe that the blossoms smell like cum, so therefore cum must have a scent. The tosser says it ain't so.

I wait anxiously for the next pronouncement. Maybe "tis the moon that shines so bright."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Love, Bourbon Street

Cooooooffffffeeeeeee. *groan*

Any amount of early morning "Why Does My Damn Alarm Go Off So Early?" is worth it. The time I spent in the car yesterday was worth it too. (Total of 5 hours if anyone besides me is counting, but that does include commute time to and from work, as well as the drive to and fromWeHo. - And yes, as an Angeleno, macho boasting about the amount of time I spend in my car is mandatory.) I went to Greg Herren's reading for Love, Bourbon Street last night at A Different Light in WeHo.

Greg read from his essay I Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet. Some of the passages almost
made me teary (some days I am such a girl), especially when he talked
about how New Orleans felt like home to him like no other place. Having
moved around a lot myself, I know what it's like when a nomad finds
home at last.

Greg with writer Dan Boyle.

I haven't seen Dan in a long time, so I was thrilled to run into him at this reading.

Greg with writer Trebor Healey.

I run into Trebor all the time, but I'm always glad to see him.

After the reading, Greg, Trebor, Dan, and I went for drinks and talked for a long time. (Did you know that gin fluoresces in black light? Now you do, and so do I. - Okay, geek moment over.) Poor Dan listened to me go on about my novel in progress - a YA novel - and I didn't ask him a thing about his new book. I promise that
when it comes out, I will go to his reading and talk endlessly about it
though. I don't even know the title. I am such a mean drunk.

I could have talked all night with the guys, but alas, the bell tolls for
me too damn early in the morning. So we said goodnight, exchanged hugs,
and promised to meet up at Saints and Sinners.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nothing Else Feels Like...

...holding a book in your hands. More so when you have a story in the book.

I got my copy of Cream yesterday. The book is divided into sections that reflect the monthly themes on the Erotica Readers and Writer's Association website. I was a little amazed to see my transgendered story wasn't with the other transgendered stories. It was in Just Hot Sex, I think.

I also got the contract for another anthology, Iridescence.

And I spent some time working on the rewrite of my novel in progess instead of procrastinating as usual and upping my high score on computer games. In all, a good writer's day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I am Geek, Hear Me Roar

The SO and I took one of those on-line polls to determine which Star Trek Captain we were. He's Kirk. I'm Picard. Only in our hovel would such a stupid matter evolve into a day-long sniping war.

SO: Kirk. Cool. I nailed everything in Federation Space.

ME: You know I did Riker, Troi, and Worf in a four-way. They didn't name it the Picard Maneuver for nothing. Hell, I got Data on call. He's the ultimate sex toy.

SO: Ensigns worship me, on their knees. And you couldn't get Riker, even in his fat phase.

ME: He's my Number One. That's like a primary in a poly relationship. Jealousy has blinded you to the sub-text.

SO: Baldy.

ME: Watch it, or I'll give you a space wedgie of indeterminate size.

SO: In your dreams.

ME: Two words - saucer section. You got a battle bridge? I don't think so, fly boy.

SO: Hey - I can't help it if your ship isn't ready to commit 100% to battle.

ME: Mine made the Kessel run in five point two parsecs.

SO: *wagging finger* No fair jumping universes! You evoke Star Wars, I go Sith on your ass!

It just got ugly from there on. At some point, I realized that we'd entered into a whole new dimension - total geekdom. I would have given up and limped away with my dignity somewhat intact, but hey, I was winning!

SO: Face it, I set the standard for space cool.

ME: Your cheap special effects looked cheesy even in 1974.

SO: Hey!

ME: And I can act.

SO: *sputtering*

ME: *sotto voce* I can't wait until he finds out I'm really Q! Muhahahahahahaha.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Does Ugly Betty Need Some Savage Love?

I don't watch much TV. I haven't had the time the past, oh, five years
or so, and once I got out of the habit, I developed TV ADD. I can sit
through a Premiership or World Cup soccer game, but that's still asking
a lot. (Mythbusters is the exception. I will sit down for a solid hour to watch something get blown up real good.)

So that I'm not entirely dysfunctional in this world, people supply me
with synopsis of popular shows. They sit through the hour, I get the
Hollywood style two-line pitch. That works for me. Lately, guys on one
of my forums have been chatting about Ugly Betty, and their comments
were good enough to arouse my curiosity. I've watched almost three
whole episodes now. That's almost commitment from me. While I sort of like it - the women are gorgeous (I'd like to see a LOT more of that female lawyer, and the sister is hOt), and I can't decide if I love or hate Marc, or (as a forum member said) hate myself for loving him, and the nephew makes my heart sting - several things about the show bug me.

The dialog is horrible. Horrible! No real human being talks like that, and I doubt people from Betty's neighborhood articulate their feelings with passages from therapy texts. Come on writers - it's possible to have a character get the meaning across like that without having them actually say those words. Let the character speak like the character, not like a writer
with an MFA and an unfinished masters thesis in psychology. M'kay?

The physical humor doesn't work. We GET it. Betty doesn't fit in at Mode.
She never will. She's not a sleek antelope bounding across the savanna.
Making her a klutz only makes us cringe. Better writers could make us
ache for her simply from her lack of sophistication. Mode is high
school all over again, and we all identify.

What are ya? A soap opera? I Love Lucy? A drama? A comedy? It sort of works, but mostly doesn't. Moving from slapstick to suspense is sort of like looking at the monkey-fish "mermaid" on display at Ripley's Believe It or Not. I choose not to believe in either half.

Parts of this show reek of the 1970's. The whole storyline with the son being an incurable ladies man with no clue about real women is dated. And the new editor touting women's empowerment? Uh - okay. Somehow the ability to eat spicy food, play pool well, and ride a motorcycle doesn't impress me. The whole era of women having to be more macho than men in order to succeed and to be sexy has thankfully passed - at least in the real world. It may take a while for this show to catch up.

Papi may be the font of all knowledge, but dredging up the life lessons he
taught is so heavy handed that it makes me flinch. It exposes the roots
of this show. And while it isn't bad, it needs a lighter touch. Much
lighter. Writers - listen up - SHOW, don't TELL. Show the respect the
girls have for their father. Don't make us listen to the "I respect
you,Papi" speech.

And the last thing that bugs me - Betty's boyfriend. He has got to go. Oh yeah, he's supposed to help keep her grounded when she's trying to be what she isn't. Except that he's a pathetic,whiny loser who can't take one for the team, or more accurately, one for his woman. If he was ever shown really supporting her when she was down, I'd be all for him. Instead, he uses emotional
blackmail to shame her attempts at success. Which is why I think Betty
needs to start reading Dan Savage's Savage Love
column. If she were to write Savage Love for advice about her boyfriend, I think he'd tell her to DTMF - dump the mother fucker. And by the way Betty - the forum agrees. The accountant you almost dated was a total hottie. Your boyfriend? Not so much.

Another One Bites the Dust

As I was checking the readings schedule this coming week, I went to the
Equal Writes web site and saw that they're closing their doors. I'm heartbroken. I just found this place. It's a fantastic space for readings. I love and support independent bookstores. I buy something every time I walk in, no matter how high my reading stack.

I was working with the owner to offer an erotic writing class. He never
mentioned to me as we looked at the calender that they wouldn't be open
still.Argh ! My lost opportunity isn't the important issue here though.
I've seen books at Equal Writes that I've never seen at other
bookstores. They've offered classes I've never seen offered at A
Different Light, and Skylight is such a far drive for me that I don't
often make the trip.

It looks as if today is one of their last days. I'll probably head down there and make a few purchases. I'll tell the owner how sorry I am, and wish him the best. And in the future, I'll have one less comfortable, safe, well-stocked place to browse for
books. *sigh*

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wrestling temptation

I primarily write erotica. The novel I’m working on isn’t meant to be erotic, but it does have several scenes that have my beta readers worked up. They're asking me why I didn't flesh out those scenes. (and some are begging me to make it more explicit) It would be so easy. I know how to scorch a page. But… that isn’t what I’m trying to do with that story. So why am I tempted?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Novel Angst

High school. You never really leave it. If you're lucky, you move away and find a new circle of friends who didn't know you then. Assuming you have your act together now, you can dupe them into believing you were always a competent person - unless you write a novel that exposes every flinch-worthy moment of your teenage stupidity. Then everyone will know.

Do you think people will buy that disclaimer that the book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to people living or dead is a coincidence? Maybe I should add another line. "I'm much better now. Really."


Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Apologizing for all the wrong things

Rev Ted HAggard offered his version of an apology:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Less than 24 hours after he was fired from the pulpit of the evangelical megachurch he founded, the Rev Ted Haggard confessed to his followers Sunday that he was guilty of sexual immorality.

In a letter that was read to the congregation of the New Life Church by another clergyman, Haggard apologized for his acts and requested forgiveness.

"I am so sorry for the circumstances that have caused shame and embarrassment for all of you," he said, adding that he had confused the situation by giving inconsistent remarks to reporters denying the scandal.

"The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life," he said.

I assume what he's apologizing for here is for being gay. No one should EVER have to apologize for being gay.

What Ted should apologize for, but never will -

Ted's lies probably contributed to the emotional suffering of closeted gays in his church. His comments of hatred probably have contributed to suicides, drug use (!), depression, and self-loathing. He HAS contributed to the denial of basic human rights to people outside his congregation. He HAS influenced people to believe that there is something inherantly evil about being gay. He has probably encouraged gay men and women to marry and live a heterosexual lie, which means that the ripples of his self-loathing reached out in widening circles to engulf innocent men and women in emtionally unsatisfying and damaging relationships. He DESTROYED human souls.

Ted, this is why God put Lies on his top ten list of evil things people do. Ted, your lies have hurt other people. Look past your wife. Look past your children. Look past your cushy job and all that lovely money and oooh, the seduction of power and fall on your knees and beg forgiveness not from your church, your family, or from God, but from the people who dispair and suffer because of you. Then go crawl back in your hole.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


As you can see, I updated the look of my blog. I was never wild about the dark spotty thing, but it was the best of available templates.

I like the new look, but I lost all my links, damn it. They swear they save the old version for you, but conveniently refuse to tell you how to access it once you upgrade. "Was this information helpful?" NO! How about a search function that actually searches on your search string?


I salvaged what I could.

Sneak Peak: She's On Top

Just got a look at the cover for the She's On Top anthology. No release date yet.

This anthology has a special place in my heart. It's the 30th story I've had published, which is an arbitrary number to celebrate, but it feels like a milestone.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Missed My Chance

I was told that a certain nameless Famous Author would be at the fund raiser I went to last night. I would have gone anyway to support the charity, but I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that he didn’t show. I heard that he might be at Saints and Sinners Literary Festival this coming May, and I wanted to encourage him to participate. Saints and Sinners is a fantastic writer's conference - one of the best I've been to. Alas, no Famous Author. Just a good cause, decent food, and an open bar. Ah well - I’ve had worse evenings.

Monday, October 30, 2006


I think I'm ready.

Intricately carved pumpkin - check.
Bags of candy - check.
Costume - check.

The niecelets came over for pumpkin carving, meaning that they found the most difficult design ever in one of those carving kits and then promptly ditched me while I scooped pumpkin guts. Two hours later, they turned off the TV and came to check on the progress of "their" pumpkin. *Snort* My hands are killing me. On the other hand, pumpkin seeds are roasting in the oven right now. Yum.

Bags of candy. We also give out glow bracelets, which the kids go for even more than the candy. Then Mom calls out from the curb, "Take candy too!" Yeah, we all know who ransacks the kid's candy haul after bedtime. The SO wisely decided to hold off until today to buy goodies. That didn't stop me from opening the bags tonight and setting aside a few choice tidbits for myself. I live for my November 1st Breakfast of Champions - 2 miniature Snickers, a roll of Smarties, two Twizzler sticks, and a handful of the peanut butter flavored taffy that comes wrapped in the orange or black wax paper.

Costume. My hair is nearly long enough again to don my old Magenta costume. The problem, I learned from a scary but funny run-in with a hooker in Dayton, Ohio years ago, is that out of the context of the midnight showing of Rocky Horror, my Magenta costume looks a little too much like a "working girl" uniform. (It turns out that a crack addict whore has zero sense of humor when you're sitting at the bus stop on HER corner at two in the morning. Even less so when I pointed out we were wearing the same boots.) Since our hovel is on the corner of a busy street, and we sit on the front stoop to give out treats, I think I'll try a costume with a little less, um, personality. Besides, I can't stand the look of pity from a five-year old Spiderman - that look that says there's nothing scarier than a woman who doesn't realize she's getting a bit too old to be running around in fishnet stockings and a bloody French Maid dress.

L.A. area readings

I usually post these the week of, but I had advance warning this time. THree great readings:

Sunday, November 5th

Patricia Nell Warren launches her latest book, The Lavender Locker Room, with two events on Sunday, November 5th.
Meet Ms Warren, and enjoy her recount the writing of The Lavender Locker Room at the 3 PM reading and book signing at Equal Writes on November 5th. (you can also attend a private dinner with her, which includes a copy of the book. Go to the Equal Writes website for details)

Wednesday, November 15th @ 7:30 pm

The people of New Orleans have always enjoyed a love affair with their city, and only when they came close to totally losing it-in the wake of Hurricane Katrina-did they truly give voice to their love.

Now, two noted editors have called upon their friends from the Big Easy's literary establishment to pen this remarkable book-a "love letter" that takes us into this crazy and wonderful patchwork quilt of a city. With contributions from Poppy Z. Brite, JM Redmann, Victoria Brownworth, and many others, this is a book not just to be read, but to be treasured. Be here to meet Greg Herren and  get "Love, Bourbon Street," signed. (I always love talking to Greg. Not only does he put up with my catty moments - he encourages them!)
Friday, November 17th @ 7:30 pm
 More than an anthology of coming out stories, "From Boys to Men" is a stunning collection of essays about what it is like to be gay and young, to be different and be aware of that difference from the earliest of ages. In these memoirs, coming out is less important than coming of age and coming to the realization that young gay people experience the world in ways quite unlike straight boys. Whether it is a fascination with soap opera, an intense sensitivity to their own difference, or an obsession with a certain part of the male anatomy, gay kids -- or kids who would eventually identify as gay -- have an indefinable but unmistakable gay sensibility. Sometimes the result is funny, sometimes it is harrowing, and often it is deeply moving.
Essays by lauded young writers like Alex Chee (Edinburgh), Aaron Hamburger (Faith for Beginners), Karl Soehnlein (The World of Normal Boys), Trebor Healy (Through It Came Bright Colors), Tom Dolby (The Trouble Boy), David Bahr, and Austin Bunn, are collected along with those by brilliant, newcomers such as Michael McAllister, Jason Tougaw, Viet Dinh, and the wildly popular blogger, Joe.My.God. Be here to meet authors Trebor Healey, D. Travers Scott, Ted Gideonse and Rob Williams and get " From Men to Boys" signed. (Even though this is only two days after Greg's reading, I can't miss an opportunity to heckle Trebor and Trav.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thrills and Chills

I went to Equal Writes in Long Beach today for a session with San Diego writer D.C. Elmore who writes mystery, suspense, and horror. It was a great class. Most of what she said covered writing in general. She took time to discuss works in progress with each person in the room, and she had some insights that went right to my problems with a chapter, so I was very glad I went.

While I was at Equal Writes, I talked to the owner about leading an erotic writing class. The weekend before Valentines Day sounds like a natural. I have to check with Jolie Du Pre and see when she thinks Iridescence will be released. I'd like to have a recent anthology to pitch while I'm leading the class.

While I don't write horror, I've recently taken a deeper interest in it, which is another reason why I went to the class. I've come to believe that horror and erotica are closely related. More than any other genres, they manipulate the reader into physical and emotional reactions. (Don't fuss. All writing manipulates the reader. Don't believe me? Have you ever wept over a chick-lit book? Ever sympathized with a character who was a thief or killer? Think that happened by accident? Erotica and horror are simply less subtle about it, and go for a more extreme reaction.) There's even a subgenre (sub of which, I'm not sure) of erotic horror. Erotic horror doesn't work for me, maybe because while arousal and fear may feel the same physically - increased pulse rate, sweating, increased adrenaline - the emotional reactions are opposite ends of the spectrum. Still, I'm exploring horror and the language it uses to see why it's so effective at pushing buttons. When I better understand that, I think my erotic writing will be stronger.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Jersey Decision

The High Court in New Jersey may or may not have helped the gay marriage movement with their recent decision.

I have an issue with Reuter's headline one this one though. They call the conservatives "Values Voters." Excuse me - but since when is institutionalized hatred a moral Value? And has anyone ever noticed that these people always point to their Bible, not the Constitution, as a reason for these laws? Imposing your religion on me isn't an American Value.

I demand to be called a "Values Voter." I value individual people. I think everyone deserves to be loved. I think everyone deserves equal representation and protection under the law (you know, kind of like the Constitution promises). I'm the one with values. Reuters should call those other people "Venomous Voters."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What a Writer Wants

Friend D. Travers Scott has a great entry on his blog about the thrill of seeing a stranger reading his book.

Success has many definitions. Selling my first story was a victory. Holding a copy of the anthology made it real. Going into a bookstore with a friend, pointing at the shelves, and saying, "I'm in that one, that one, and this one too," is a jolt of happy reality.

None of that is at the J.K Rowlings "richer than the Queen of England" level of success, but I'm sure that the first time Rowlings spotted a Harry Potter book outside a bookstore, it gave her a sense of satisfaction that she still remembers. Hopefully, one day I'll see someone reading one of my books too. That's all this writer wants.*

*although I wouldn't turn down fantastic success or fortune either.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Little Secret is Out

For reasons unfathomable - probably testosterone induced - the SO decided to check over my car before he headed out of town. Did it LOOK like I was hiding a spare cabana boy in the trunk when I threw myself across it and cried out, "I can explain!"

He found my secret stash, damn it.

I promised I'd cut down on my Amazon habit, and I did. I swear I did. But when I go to readings, I have to support friends and the bookstores that provide venues for them. Besides, people give me books. They do. Honest. Complete strangers walk up to me, hand me books, and say, "Oh, you MUST read this." Okay, they aren't really strangers, but some of my friends are completely strange (wouldn't have you any other way, darlings. *mwuah*). I can't explain why I have three copies of Ian Philip's Satyriasis though. Porn amnesia, maybe. Ian worship, probably.

Now the SO knows I'm reading Gay Haiku by Joel Derfner (absolutely wonderful! 10, 36, 36 and 94 are particular favorites) and The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios (geek girl glee!). Thank god the he didn't look on top of the pile o'books stacked on the floor near my side of the bed. I dropped another $30 at A Different Light this past weekend for my latest issues of Honcho, Girls Like Us, and Blue's special Cabana Boys expose.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Reading for GAY L.A.

The reading for Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and
Lipstick Lesbians by Stuart Timmons and Lillian Faderman was standing room only at Skylight last night.

Stuart signing books:

I was glad that I bought my copy at the West Hollywood book fair, because the line to get a copy signed was almost out the door. It was exciting to see that many people turn out. I hope this book is very successful since it relates history that's hidden or unknown even to people who think they know LA and think they know the history of the gay rights movement. While I'm enjoying the stories of closeted Hollywood, the parts of this book that really touch me are the personal tales of everyday citizens such as the women who felt she couldn't report a car accident because she knew the LAPD would at least threaten her and possibly arrest her for being gay - a real possibility given the notorious paramilitary thug mentality of the LAPD.

Trebor Healey, who emceed, models his t-shirt for the event:

Even though I showed up to cheer on Stuart, I was absolutely thrilled to find myself standing next to Malcolm Boyd. The whole time I was thinking, "This man is a civil rights legend! How cool is it that I'm talking to him?" Hopefully my inner dork didn't shine through while we chatted. If it did, he was much to kind to mention it. I'm sure there were tons of other notable people there, and I certainly recognized a number of men in the crowd from other readings, but I haven't matched up faces to names yet. It doesn't really matter. I don't go to these readings to meet famous writers (not that I mind it a bit). I go to support and celebrate books.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iridescence Cover

Editor Jolie du Pre let us have a sneak peek at the cover of Iridescence which is coming out from Alyson sometime this winter. The picture reminds me a bit of Jolie, who is beautiful and smart and so fun to hang out with.

For some reason, my contribution, Tamales, was one of the hardest stories for me to write. The basic idea was good, but I had to twist and turn it over so many ways before I found the right perspective. I can't remember another short story that took that much effort. Hopefully it will flow so well for readers that they won't realize how much polish had to go into it. The first draft of any story is creative, but revision is the craft of writing, and its when I'm cursing and sweating over a piece that I feel like a real writer instead of a hobbyist.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gay Day at Disneyland

I'm not sure who picks the day, or how word gets about, but in the middle of September, I always become aware that gay day is going to be some weekend in October at Disneyland. Most years I can't go, but today, I went with a group that calls itself "The Queerkateers" or sometimes "The QueerScouts."

Most of us wore red shirts, which was how we were supposed to recognize family. Of course, there are always the ones who don't wear red, but it was sort of easy to spot them. If two guys hugged and shared a brief kiss, chances were they were part of the tribe. If a guy walked off Splash Mountain, turned his back to his friend, and asked "did I get wet," and his friend quickly cupped his ass to feel for a wet spot, chances were pretty good neither one of them was hetero. If two women were walking around the park holding hands, a red shirt wasn't necessary.

Then there were the unintentional reds. We had a great time pointing out people in red who desperately clung to wives or girlfriends, as if they'd be dragged away otherwise. I saw some cruising, but for the most part, people were just hanging with friends. You know, like people do when they go to an amusement park - even gay people. Amazing how that happens. Humans acting like the rest of humanity. Not exactly revolutionary, radical, or offensive. Too bad some people couldn't see it that way. I was beside the Main Street City Hall and overheard a couple complaining to Disney staff about gays and lesbians in the park. "They were holding hands! We shouldn't be forced to stand in line with those kinds of people." (Direct quote from the man.)

First off - Gay Day is not an official Disney event. I'm sure Disney would put a stop to it if they could. (Never mind that half their staff seems to be family.)

Second - Some of the red shirts said "Gay Days 2006," but most of us wore whatever red t-shirt we owned, so it wasn't as if Disney could stop people from coming in who wore a certain shirt. The parks has been sued enough times for discrimination and civil rights abuses that they've wised up. (Best red t-shirts of the day "Hi. You'll Do," and, "I'm NOT with stupid. We just broke up.")

Third - As I pointed out above, not everyone who was gay was in red, and not everyone in red was gay.

Fourth - I see GBLT folk at Disneyland all the time on other weekends. If it weren't for the red shirts, would Mr. and Mrs. LittleMind have known who was gay? In their quest to have the lines segregated according to their narrow-minded view of who should be allowed out in public, did they also ask that Mexican families or Muslims be shunted off to the side? And did they stop to think that red shirts were MAYBE 2% to 5% of the entire crowd? I would have loved to have a special queuing area just for the Gay Days celebrants. Fewer feral kids, better eye candy, fun people to chat with in line, and that hour wait for Haunted Mansion would have been cut down to 15 minutes.

I know it's the job of Disney employees to mollify angry guests, but it would have been nice if the lady patiently listening to the couple whine would have said, "We have a rule against unaccompanied minors in the park, and since you two obviously still need to grow up, we're going to have to ask you to leave." Hey - it was Disneyland, the place for fantastic dreams.

Friday, October 06, 2006


I picked up my copy of this book at the West Hollywood Bookfair, but I'll probably try to get to this reading too. I'm several chapters in and enjoying it - even found a mention of a long gone dyke bar in my white-bread slice of suburbia.

So if you're in LA, come on out for:

What: Launch Reading and Party for

Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and
Lipstick Lesbians by Stuart Timmons and Lillian Faderman

Who: Dramatic readings by Priest/author Malcolm Boyd; cult diva Mink Stole; performance badboy John Fleck; and stunning actor Corey Saucier

When: Wednesday, October 11, 7:30 pm

Where: Skylight Bookstore, 1818 N. Vermont Ave, (323) 660-1175

I haven't met Lillian, but Stuart is great company. I'm wishing them all the best for this book.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dildo Diaries!

Molly Ivins has a great (long) feature here called The Dildo Diaries.

that exposes (ahem) the lunacy of Texas dildo laws. Definitely Not Safe For Work, especially if you work in Texas!!!!!

Gosh, some of my favorite sex toys are spatulas and wooden spoons. I wonder how many of those I'm allowed to possess before I go beyond being a hobbyist and become a nefarious criminal? Oh wait. That ship may have already sailed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


My novel Chaos Magic was accepted by a publisher earlier this week.

I should be ecstatic, but I'm wary. About two years ago, a different novel of mine was accepted by a new imprint of a fairly well known publisher. After contracts were signed, they sent a curt notice that they'd decided not to start the new imprint. (Cue a series of nasty e-mails from them which seemed to blame me for making them buy a book they didn't want in the first place - as if I'd forced them to accept it. I guess the idea there was to demoralize me from taking legal action against them. I didn't, but I have a long memory, which makes for interesting moments at parties where I run into their editors who try to hand me their business cards.) Now it's hard for me to believe anything until I see it happen, so the most I can summon up is cautious joy. Hopefully, as the publishing process progresses, my faith will be renewed.

A Day Late and 3,000 Words Short

Until I finish my current novel in progress, I've sworn off calls for submissions for short stories. There were two calls I wanted to submit to a couple months ago. I was able to write something for Iridescence (coming soon from Alyson Books) but couldn't for a GBLT science fiction call.

So I'm at this science fiction convention this past weekend, listening to David Brin talk about the screenplay for his fantastic novel Kiln People, when the perfect plot for a GBLT science fiction story pops into my head. Arrrrgh! Why didn't this happen four months ago? It's not as if my idea has anything to do with movies, screenplays, Kiln People, or David Brin. Nope. Completely unrelated. So why, oh why, oh why couldn't I have thought of this sooner?

Actually, I did. One random little thought that made me raise my eyebrow, but nothing came of it. That thought must have been wandering around in the back of my brain collecting images and other ideas like a dust bunny under the bed until it was big enough that it caught my imagination.

Someone, please, put out a call for another GBLT science fiction anthology! I swear I'll submit this one.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


I'll admit to a gallows sense of humor, but even I raised an eyebrow at bags of Disney's OLD YELLER dog food. Someone at Disney didn't think that one through. I could imagine the ads: If he's a-sufferin', son, you know what you have to feed him.


Please pull that creepy product off the grocery shelves.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Putting it Off

Through the years, as I've gone to writer's conferences, I've learned how to answer the delicate question of, "What do you write?" The two possible answers are speculative fiction and erotica. I get the same horrified expression for both, but when I say erotica, people tend to move to another table. But this weekend I'll be in the world of speculative fiction, and I can let my inner geek hang out.

I'm on two panels for Conjecture this year. Thank goodness they always put me on the bawdy late night panel. It doesn't always start off on the topic of sex, but we can read our midnight audience pretty well and soon boldly go where no earlier panel has gone before.

I'm also on the writing track this year, which is wonderful. Last year, I was one of three published authors sitting in on round table critiques. Reading chapters, writing a detailed critique, and then holding a critique session in person is a lot of work, so I'm glad they aren't doing them again this year and instead went to panels.

The panel I was assigned was Overcoming Writer's Block. I rarely suffer from writer's block, but writer's procrastination is another story. Considering that I have the high score on every computer game in the house, I consider myself an expert at avoiding writing. I have two chapters due to my own critique group this weekend, but am I working on them? Let's just say that my Cubis score has never been higher.

Writer's block, to me, is not being able to create a story. I have no problem with that. There are so many stories in my head - some have been there for years - that I always have something I could be working on. My problem is having something to write but not doing it. What stops me? Different things. Sometimes it's simply a difficult chapter to write. Deeply emotional scenes are physically hard on me. While it takes a reader twenty minutes to read, it takes me weeks to write, and if it's a downer scene, then I'm in a funk that whole time. Sometimes I put off writing because I'm waiting for something to click in that scene and I don't want to waste time putting down words I know I'll delete. Other times I feel that I'm at diverging paths in the story, and I need to get some distance from what I'm writing so that I can see clearly the path that will take me where I need to go.

Recognizing the reasons why I'm not writing is only part of the solution. Finding ways around it are a bit harder. I have my tricks, like skipping scenes ahead to something that grabs me, or simply being very stern with myself, or takign a break to write a short story, but they don't always work. So even though I'm on the panel, I'm hoping to take away some ideas.

Meanwhile - I have those chapters to polish... right after I add a couple thousand points to my Cubis score.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In the Canyons

LA has been described many ways - usually by people who hate it - but here's my version: LA is like a large Japanese teahouse. Each community, each industry, each ethnic group, is a room. While you're in one, you're vaguely aware that the others exist, but it isn't until you wander the hallways that you get glimpses into these other universes that co-exist in time and space with yours. When you meet someone, you connect to all the other universes they touch, and you are their bridge to your worlds. The trick is to keep roaming the hallways and making those connections - because they can transport you to entire galaxies you never guessed existed without ever taking you out of LA.

Last Saturday, I was invited to a party in the hills south of Pasadena. It's been years since I've been into those canyons. It is a different world. A different LA.

In the canyon, at what I hoped was the right place, I found modest sign beside a nearly invisible flight of stairs. After a moment of doubt, I climbed the stairs and found myself on a steep, winding trail that supposedly lead to a house. The trail was lit by dim tubing, and halfway up (at least I hoped I was halfway up by then) I started wondering if perhaps it was a practical joke. There were some scary drop-offs from the side, and no handrail - a good reminder to be sober when I came back down the trail. A couple turn-backs later, around thick California underbrush, I found a house.

I'd met one of the hosts at the Hollywood Book Fair. He's been a music critic and the editor of a fitness magazine. Other guests included a singer, several poets, and some academics who also write, in their words, "Everything." This is the artistic side of LA, a side I seldom get to see. The movie industry overwhelms all the other arts, but they are here. This time I got lucky and looked into the right room of the teahouse at the right time.

It was fun to sit on the floor and drink wine while people read poetry to me, or sang, or offered a performance art work-in-progress. Creative people have such energy around them and I soak it in. Writers I love most, but all arts feed other arts, so it's good to connect with the creators of other artistic worlds and get a new perspective on the world - theirs and mine.

I need to keep an eye out for this niche and delve into it more often. It's probably everywhere around me. I just need to be more receptive to the signs. Or maybe I'll get lucky and friends will keep pointing to narrow trails leading to the hidden houses where artistic LA lives.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Near Truth

The past year has been hard on truth. So many literary fakes have been exposed. The tales of JT Leroy, James Frey, and Kaavya Viswanathan made for interesting reading, but they also pointed out how publishers sell the writer's persona, not the book, nowadays, something I hate. The work is the only thing that matters. Of course, when the deception is exposed, the publishers throw up their hands and say, "We were duped! We're victims here." Uh-huh. Sob into those book sales figures, hon.

Recently, a new poster appeared on a forum I read regularly. She claimed to have breast cancer. The sad saga went on for about two months, with lapses explained away as emergency trips to the hospital. I'm a suspicious person, so I didn't get involved in her story, but many of the forum jumped right in with advice and offers to help. Over time, though, she got a little sloppy about her details. (Note to self: when carrying out some sick minded prank, keep damn good notes. Second note to self: Figure out how people make a buck off these hoaxes. There's no other reason to put that much energy into a lie.) One month she was married and had kids, the next, she was all alone in the world. When some of the less credulous forum members linked up all the inconsistencies and confronted her, she came on under a different name, proclaimed herself a close friend, and posted an obituary culled from the local newspaper. It didn't match up with any of the other info posted, but what the heck, right? Besides, a good corpse is hard to find on short notice. The forum was not amused.

Which brings me to The Night Listener. I read Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City last year. It was probably revolutionary when it was first published, but I shrugged. Every time people swore what a great writer Maupin was, I smiled, nodded, and changed the subject. Even writers I normally trust couldn't convince me to give him another try. Then someone on the forum brought up the book in a conversation about the breast cancer hoax and I thought, well, it's only two days out of my life to read it, give it a shot. Now I'm glad I did.

Everything Maupin said about being a writer made me nod in recognition. I loved the way the main character Gabriel needs to believe in Pete. Most of all, I loved the anger he felt when people around him brought doubt and doses of reality into the fantasy, and the way Gabriel kept searching for new ways to keep the faith. That was so real. That's the way people are. Bringing that kind of truth to the reader is the mark of a truly great book. So I'm highly recommending The Night Listener. Oh, I see you rolling your eyes. Maybe Tales of the City wasn't for you, but trust me on this one. It's the truth. (send me a buck?)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How Small is the World?

A couple days ago, I saw a news flash about a military coup in Thailand.

As much as I hate what's happening in the US right now - the stealth war on the First Amendment, the overt war against gays - and what the US is doing to the rest of the world - how many civilian Iraqis have died? - I fully appreciate that I can take for granted the peaceful transition of power following an election. Not so in other countries. As much as you might debate the outcome of the first election that let W get his grubby little hands on power (don't get me started), when we have an election, the results matter. Even when the party in power loses, all they do is pitch a fit. They don't send tanks into the street and nullify the outcome.

One of my editors lives in Thailand. As soon as I read about the coup, I shot off an email to her in the hopes that she still had internet access. I had no idea what I could do for her if she was in danger, but I had to at least offer. I also alerted our writing list. She got many concerned emails. As it turns out, she was a lot calmer about the situation than I was. Sort of took it in stride.

I'm grateful for the internet for a lot of reasons, but this ability to reach beyond borders out to people I know - if only through the internet - is wonderful. It makes the world smaller, more personal, and reminds me how interconnected we can be.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Fifth Conjecture

I'll be at the Fifth Conjecture Science Fiction Convention in San Diego Sept. 29 - Oct. 1.

This year's theme is women in science fiction, so I'll be sure to wear my Mary Shelley "Who's Your Mama?" t-shirt. It looks as if I may also man (woman?) a table for Broad Universe, which is a list for female science fiction writers and their fans.

Another BroadU list member will be there, and she's talking about getting a time slot for a reading. I'm not so sure how I feel about that. I suppose you could call Red By Any Other Name and Kells horror stories, Orbiting In Retrograde science fiction, Candy Conversation Hearts paranormal, and Sex Karma and She Comes Stars speculative fiction, but Conjecture doesn't feel like the right venue to be reading those. If this other writer gets a time slot, I think I'll take a hint from my t-shirt and read from the book that started it all: Frankenstein.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Amazing Day

I went to the West Hollywood book fair today. Ran into friends who I expected to see - D. Travers Scott and Trebor Healey - and met some people I didn't expect to.

The person I really wanted to see was Stuart Timmons. I met him at a poetry reading a month ago and got very interested in the book he had coming out. Stuart (with Lillian Faderman) wrote Gay LA., A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. L.A. Always seems like a city without history, so I was looking forward to reading about L.A. history in general. I will read it soon and post a review.

Other people I met -

Ali Leibgott. Her The Beautifully Worthless is just the most amazing piece of work. I was so thrilled to tell her that in person.

Jim Tushinski. I told him how much I enjoyed Van Allen's Ecstasy.

Fiona Zedde was a pleasant surprise. After hearing so much buzz about her, it was nice to see that it wasn't hype. I like smart women. I may pick up her book.

Max Pierce's Master of Seacliff isn't coming out for a couple months, but I'm hearing really good advance word on it.

And the surprise of the day - Tony Valenzuela. He contributed to Inside Him also, so I introduced myself as a fellow writer. If we find someone else in L.A., maybe we'll do a reading, but we didn't talk very long about it. At least he's aware that I'm around.

It was a very hot day. We melted. Still, it was everything I like in a day - hanging with writers and celebrating written word.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Oh, I Get It, It's a Profit Deal!

I saw this headline on yahoo news: New prize for unpublished manuscripts, so of course I had to read the story.

I'm not big on writing contests, but I have entered a very few. Randy haiku on Good Vibes, the Rock Me Baby contest on Clean Sheets, and the typewriter contest on Desdmonas.Com. I've placed well, but honestly, I did it so that my name would appear on more Google searches. (Not a problem now, but when I started writing, I wanted my name out there.)

It's not germane to my writing, but my degree is in finance, with an emphasis on monetary theory. The finance degree allows me to make a living where my writing doesn't. Since graduating though, I have evoked the terms "velocity of money" and "money multipliers" only twice. Both times, I used them to point out to art divas that all profit is not evil, despite their starry-eyed Kum By Yah philosophies. (At that point, the discussion went right over their sanctimonious heads and they resorted to spouting more art diva "feed my inner muse" crap.)

The point here is that I'm not anti-profit. How profit is earned, and what's done with it are different matters, but profit in itself isn't good or evil. It's the reason why we bother to get out of bed in the morning.

But since I am a financial type, the first thing I did was throw some numbers into a spread sheet and have a look at this contest. Hmmm. The payout - $100,000 to the winner, $25,000 to second place, $10,000 to runner up, and $7,000 in other prizes, - adds up to $142,000 in expenses, assuming no administrative overhead, PR costs, etc.
A maximum of 50,000 manuscripts will be accepted, at $85 a pop for an entry fee.

He probably won't get 50,000 entries, but there are a lot of desperate writers out there. If he does get all 50,000, his income is $4,250,000. Minus the cost of prizes, he walks away with $4,108,000 profit. All he promises is that:"As the winners' agent, we will nurture them, introduce them to publishers and negotiate the best deal for them," Shomron said.

That doesn't mean you'll be published. It only means you'll have an agent.

You know, for $4,108,000, even minus the taxes, I could start one hell of a small press. For 4 million dollars, I could have a print-on-demand house print your book, slap a sticker on it with the name of my small press, distribute it for free, and still have money to hire a sexy cabana boy for my new swimming pool (outside my new McMansion).

But what if he doesn't get 50,000 manuscripts? What if there are only 45,000 desperate writers with $85 to blow on a shot at $100,000? Profit of over 3.6 million. Even at 1/10th of his limit, 5,000 entries, he clears $283,000 after expenses. Not too shabby. How much do you earn per year? His break even point, by the way, is 1,671 entries (leaving $35 dollars of profit.)

Come to think of it.... where's my spread sheet? Let's think of this as a lottery with an $85 ticket price with a 1 in 50,000 shot at winning the $100,000 top prize. If you were to enter 1,000 manuscripts, and you won, you'd walk away with a profit of $6,500 before taxes. I doubt your entry fees would be tax deductible as expenses, so you'd probably want to max out at 600 entries, which would leave you a tidy after-tax profit of $24,500. Not bad. Is that more in the range of your annual take home pay? Probably. Purely on the odds, if 50,000 people enter, you have a one in 83 chance of winning. But if only 1671 do, your chances pop up to 1 in 2.78. That's better than the California lotto! And hey, with this guy as your agent, you might even possibly sell the book to a real publisher and make a couple thousand on top of that. Sweet.

Who's in?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This Just Added

Trebor Healey sent this announcement to me:

Hope you can stop by and see us if you're at the fair. I'll be reading from my new poetry book, Sweet Son of Pan.

dennis gill healey kearns
mac kinnon valenzuela vavasseur

q u e e r renegades

weho book fair

robertson salon
sunday sept 17
spread the word

Sunday, September 10, 2006

West Hollywood Book Fair

I'm looking forward to this coming Sunday and the West Hollywood Book Fair. Friend D. Travers Scott (One of These Things Is Not Like The Other, contributor to the comic The Book Of Boy Trouble) is on a panel with wunderkind GBLT writer Fiona Zedde and the talented Jim Tushinski (his Van Allen's Ecstay was very good.)

There are a lot of great panels, many for speculative fiction and comics, so I'm having to make hard choices between panels I'll attend. That will get tossed out the window when I meet up with some of the writers I've promised to meet. And that plan will probably change if I run into Trebor Healey (Sweet Son of Pan, Through It Came Bright Colors). My only non-negotiable panel is titled Legacies: Word from Legendary LGBT Authors because Stuart Timmons will be on it. I met Stuart at a reading at Skylight Books by Justin Chin (Attack of the Man Eating Lotus Blossom) and Trebor. Even though I didn't have much of a chance to talk to him, I was impressed. He has a book coming out on the gay history of LA - titled Gay L.A: A History of Social Vagrants, Hollywood Rejects, and Lipstick Lesbians, that is on my must read list when it's released.

Even though this book fair is in WeHo, GBLT writers are (sadly) only a small part of the offerings. If you live in LA, and you love books, check it out. You intrepid reporter will, of course, blog about it, but that's nothing like being there.

Now all I have to do is figure out how I'm going to lug around all the books I know I'm going to buy.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Murk In The Middle of the Novel

Two years ago at Saints and Sinners, I went to a master class taught by Jim Grimsley titled: The Murk In The Middle Of The Novel. I don't think there's a better word than murk to describe how muddled things get when you're two months and ten chapters into a novel. Or as I'm now visualizing it - the forest for the trees.

Writing is sort of like hiking. For most people, the destination is where they begin mentally. "I want to get to this place. How do I get there?" Next they find the trailhead, the place where the path begins. Then they start to hike. The problems arise along the way when the trees close in. It's easy to loose sight of both the beginning and the end.

Referring to my notes from the class, Jim mentioned that one of the problems of writing a novel is that you can't hold the whole novel in your head the same way you can a short story. Exactly! You have to pay attention to where you are while keeping the destination in mind, but there's no room in the brain for the minute details of the entire path. Jim also reminded us that the only direction is forward. Every sentence has to move the story towards the end. No scenic routes, no interesting but useless asides, no looping back stories - just keep moving towards the end.

So where the hell am I?

I knew the story I wanted to tell, which means I began with a clear destination in mind.

Finding the trailhead was tricky. I wrote (and discarded) at least 7,000 words before I knew the best time frame for the story. But once I stumbled on the right opening, the pacing fell into place.

Everything flowed so well the first several chapters. I was in the zone. My vision of my destination was still clear in my mind, and I knew I'd chosen the best beginning.

After that, things began to bog down. I hit the murk.

I realized that I'd packed too much, and plot was weighing me down. Time to rummage through the story and discard everything that was nice, but not essential. If it didn't focus on the MC, I chucked it. If it didn't move me forward, I deleted it. Painful, yes, but essential. Out in the middle of the wilderness, it's survival of the fittest, baby. Only a streamlined, unencumbered story can go the distance.

There are writers who believe in beginning a story with no exact destination in mind. They simply head out into the wilderness with blind faith that if they wander around long enough they will eventually stumble onto a story. "It's out here," they mumble, "I'm bound to pass it." They call themselves organic writers. I believe that if you have no idea where you're headed, you won't recognize your destination even if you should, by some miracle or sheer dumb luck, run into it 250,000 words later. It seems so inefficient. (This from the person who wrote 7,000 words before she knew where to start.)

Then there's the opposite side of the coin - the outliners. They plan out each step of the journey before the first step. The problem there is the lack of flexibility. If you march along and never deviated from plan, you can miss some cool, unexpected stuff along the way, like themes your subconscious weaves into the story that only jump out at you during the rewrite. It also assumes that you planned everything perfectly from the start, and no surprises will happen (such as having to dump scads of secondary characters and side plots).

Usually, I have a mental outline, but I keep it very flexible. If it isn't on paper, it can't be set in stone. This time, I put down general plot points and pacing notes in chapter order in my working document, sort of as a head's up of where I needed to go next. It wasn't a full outline, but at least it was a decent map that gave me some idea of the terrain I'd be passing.

As I flounder around in the murk, I realize that the sequence of events needs to change so that I have a steady emotional uphill climb to the end, with a few plateaus to give myself and the readers a chance to absorb the view and catch our breath. But no matter what, I'm keeping my eye on the destination. I'm not letting it move to suit the path. I'm forcing the path to stay on target to the destination.

Now all I have to do is find my way out of the murk and move forward. The end is in sight. Only four more chapters to go! At least I know I can get there from here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mixed Feelings

Zane is a fabulously popular black erotica writer who is fast becoming a cottage industry for ethnic erotica. She put out a call for submissions for short stories for a new erotic anthology titled Caramel Flava, which was to feature Hispanic, Latino, and/or brown main characters. Many writers were put off by the tone of the call for submissions. I was too, but damn if I didn't think of a story, Tomorrow's Saints, so I submitted it. Writer friend Teresa Lamai also submitted something. As far as I know (or anyone would confess) we were the only two from the Erotica Readers and Writer's Association lists who did.

Later, Teresa happily reported that her story was accepted. We all did a happy dance for her as the pay rate for Flava is better than most anthologies, the number of copies being printed approaches a mainstream release, Zane's name has enough power to put those books on the tables at the entrance of a bookstore, and the book might even grab a coveted "featured" display.

Since I didn't receive an acceptance letter, I assumed my story was rejected. Writing rejection letters might not be fun for editors, but it's part of their job, damn it. Was I supposed to wait until I saw it in a bookstore to find out- nearly a year later- when I could have been submitting that story to other publishers? That seems to be the general idea. It truly angers me that some editors treat writers with such disregard. (Which is why I'm usually so careful about who I submit to. Every editor I've worked with so far I'd happily work with again, even some who have rejected stories.)

As I said, I assumed my story was rejected, but to make sure, I sent an email and mailed a formal letter requesting the status of my story. They never bothered to answer. Another serious breach of professional manners. Ugh. So I put them on my "Do Not Submit To In The Future" list. End of story, right? Nope.

A couple months ago I got an email telling me that my story was being seriously considered for Flava II. They didn't ask if it was still available, or if I had any interest in letting them publish it. As irritated as I was, because of the positives listed above, I bit my tongue and decided to wait to see what happened. Strangely enough, Teresa Lamai got the same email. She commented that she thought they had her story in Flava I, but apparently not.

Last night, Teresa posted a comment to the list that she'd received copies of Flava I and her story was in it after all. But - I'm cringing for her - they edited grammatical errors into the first two paragraphs of her story. This is a serious problem. We writers only get a paragraph or two to grab our readers. If the work is unreadable, the reader moves on. While Zane's reputation rests on the sales of several books, Teresa's professional reputation is on the line with that one story - a reputation that the editor working for Zane's publisher damaged. And the insane part is that it's a sin of commission, not omission. The editor changed Teresa's words from beautiful to illiterate. It was done on purpose by people who supposedly know their way around a copy of Strunk & White's.

I'm seriously considering withdrawing my story from submission. These people have not impressed me with their professionalism, and now I fear what they might do to my story. Since they have yet to respond to a letter from me, I doubt they'd notice a formal withdrawal from consideration though. The other choice is to red-line the contract (if I get one) so that I have final say over edits. That won't make me popular with the publisher, but at least it will save me the humiliation Teresa is facing.

By the way - Teresa's story will also be in next year's Mammoth Book of Erotica which is edited by Maxim Jakubowski. I suggest you wait to read it there, where it will appear in it's original, unmutilated, form.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pere Lachaise

I'm writing about my travels out of the order that they went in, so it seems appropriate that the last entry I plan to make is about our first day.

We got to our hotel five hours before we could check in. As is our usual habit, we checked the bags, and went out to scout the city. Instead of wandering aimlessly, I had a destination in mind. It didn't look at far on the map. I should have checked the scale. An hour later, we found the front gates of Pere Lachaise cemetery.

(Some images from the cemetery before my camera died)

There were many gravesites I wanted to visit. Proust, Balzac, Isodora Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Chopin, Seurat... After climbing the first two hills, which were quite steep, the SO admitted that he didn't care to see Oscar Wilde's final resting place. I went on alone. Near Victor Noir's rather well endowed memorial, an older man walked alongside me and talked. My brain was mush from the trip, and my very limited French is atrocious, so I wondered if I should even try to tell him that I didn't understand a word he was saying. Finally, I decided I had to. Apparently, I'm more charming in French then I am in English. Either that, or he has a thing for jet-lagged, unshowered, rumpled women who hike around graveyards. Whatever. I was a little relieved when I finally lost him.

Oscar Wilde's gravestone was a trip. If you go to the Pere Lachiase website, you can see the art deco carving on the top of the monument, but what they don't show is the four feet of smooth granite below it which is covered, on all four sides, with lip prints. Absolutely covered. Unfortunately, my camera died before I got to it, so I don't have my own pictures. I didn't even get a shot of Jim Morrison's unimpressive memorial stone, which I would have missed if it hadn't been for the goth chick in red fishnets leaning against a nearby family tomb.

I found the SO alseep on a bench in the middle of the cemetery, right where I'd left him. We hiked back to the hotel, and even though we were there a little bit before check-in, they took pity on us and let us into the room. I have to say, every person we dealt with in Paris was very helpful, sometimes above and beyond the call of duty, and reasonably friendly. We did mind our French manners - greeting waiters and clerks as soon as we entered a place, and always starting off speaking French - but no one was rude. That being said, I probably won't go back. Italy, however... I'm counting the days until I can get back to Rome.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Good Luck Charms

I must have a natural homing instinct for these kinds of things. Our tour guide in Pompeii never mentioned the proliferation of penis carvings outside buildings, but I found quite a few. It turned into a scavenger hunt for me, which made the whole Pompeii experience much more entertaining. Since our tour guide pretended not to hear my question about the carvings, I had to look up information when we got home. A penis was a good luck charm, (No doubt. Being female in those days sucked.), or to ward off evil (Beware, I wield the dick of death!).

I wondered if these also served as directional arrows. (Hangs right, straight to head - er - ahead.)

Oh look- wine, penises, and food! Talk about a full service restaurant. Or maybe it was a craftsman's shop. The finest in goblets, cutlery, and cock.

I know that the Romans loved their erotic art, and during the excavation of Pompeii, archeologist found quite a bit. We asked our surly tour guide where we could view some of the collection. (Many of the adults on the tour sidled close to hear her answer, but tried very hard to act as if they weren't listening. Pussies.)After giving us a withering glance, she curtly told us that it was housed outside of the main area in a building that was only open on the weekends. Curses! Foiled! I would have liked to have seen prancing Priapus and satyrs knocking it out with nymphs. That was probably my only chance. I don't think I'll ever go to Pompeii again. It was interesting, and worth the visit, but it was touristy as hell, hot, muggy, and I broke out in hives from the volcanic ash in the dust. It isn't a true vacation unless I have a violent allergic reaction to something. I guess I should have brought along my penis good luck charm to ward off evil dust devils.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Past My Comfort Zone

Obviously, I like to travel. I'd rather have experiences than things, which is good, because the hovel is stuffed to the rafters with books, and there's no room for anything else.

The best thing about travel, especially outside the US, is the way it forces me past comfort zones. Going to a grocery store in Rome is not the same as a trip in the US, and the one in Rome is completely different from the one in Paris. I can't take anything for granted. In a small Italian town, they wanted us to put on plastic gloves before handling the fruits and veggies. In another town, we weren't even allowed to touch the stuff until we bought it. In France, we had to weigh everything in the produce section and put price stickers on it before going to the checkout.

Being forced to rethink every small detail of daily life is a great hands-on lesson in point of view. Some people find that unnerving and get angry - huffing about how "they do it all wrong here." That defensive attitude makes learning from the experience impossible. You have to be open to it. Not comfortable, simply open. When I'm pushed past my comfort zones, my heightened awareness makes time seem to slow and everything takes on a ritualistic feel. I have to concentrate on the process. I have to be more observant.

It's a humbling experience to realize that you, not them, may be the one doing it all wrong- for that place. There is no one right way to do anything. There are many ways. Accept that, and it's a whole new world, even when you get back into your comfort zone.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


A view of Montmartre from the Musee D'Orsay after the rain stopped:

We ate lunch in Montmarte between rain showers. Our authentically surly French waiter tried to talk us into going inside, but we wanted to people watch. The waiter shrugged and sat us outside. Immediately, artists swooped down on us like articulated pigeons. Did we want a sketch done? No. They'd do it for free, and if we liked it we could buy it, they cooed. Our waiter came by and shooed them away, but as soon as he went inside, a new flock descended. Our waiter muttered colorful curses (if our French speaking friend was to be believed) and threatened to kick the artists in the ass each time he came by. He was the best part of lunch.

It was late, well after eleven, when we headed back to our hotel. A violinist serenaded us in the tunnels leading to the Metro. There was an accordion player in our car on the first Metro train, and a puppet show in the aisle of the third one we took. The kids were asleep on their feet, but they clapped and begged for coins to tip the puppeteer and musicians. We emptied our pockets into their hands and set them over to drop the coins in the hat. That's my favorite memory of our time in Paris.

Museums in Paris

I suppose you don't have to go to the Louvre while in Paris, but it's such a huge structure that it's hard to miss.

I love museums, but I wasn't all that impressed with the Louvre. There. I admitted it. Said the unthinkable. It simply has so much and is so big that I quickly got burnout. A lot of the collection is artwork Napoleon (and his army) looted while he was terrorizing Europe, and even though the Louvre building is very grand, I had this feeling of being in a plundered booty warehouse.

After a couple hours of that, we strolled through the Tuileries and took the squirrelly nephews and niecelet to a carnival there. While they bounced off the walls of a huge trampoline, we sipped espresso at an outdoor cafe. I noticed a rainbow angle statue, and then a small rainbow flag on the espresso machine, and also a rainbow bear flag on the cooler. Hmmm. Was tempted to ask, but our (very nice) Parisian bartender spoke no English and my French is limited to "Excuse me, Madame, for butchering your beautiful language and taking your valuable time, but could you point in some vague direction that will supposedly get me to a bathroom? I'd be ever so grateful."

After we rested, the member of our party who knew Paris hiked us across the Seine to the Musee D'Orsay. He took us straight up to the 5th floor, where the impressionists paintings were displayed. If I had known, I would have skipped the Louvre and just gone to that museum. Monet, Degas, Van Gogh... it seemed as if every other painting was one I'd seen in an art book. It was simply the finest collection of art I'd seen anywhere. If I had to make the choice, I'd never set foot in the Louvre again.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Ruins of Pompeii

There was so much to see in Pompeii.

I may not be into fashion, but I'm all for this gondolier's Dolce and Gabbana look.

And proof that Paris is for lovers....

Vacation Reading

With the heightened security, we were afraid that we wouldn’t be allowed to bring anything onto the plane with us. Restrictions changed daily. We had only carry-on luggage, but were forced to check it. Our traveling companions went through Heathrow and weren’t even allowed to bring books on board. I vowed to one friend that I’d be willing to take a nibble from every page of a book to prove it was real if security demanded it. Lucky for me, I wasn’t forced to eat anyone’s words, and I got to have my books.

Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty got me from LA to about the middle of the Atlantic. It's a good novel, and I understand that BBC made a movie from it, but I had a hard time being truly interested in the main character.

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go was my companion from Paris to Rome. In the finest tradition of science fiction, this story uses alternate reality to examine the definition of humanity. Strongly recommended.

While in Rome, I read Jim Thompson's The Grifters. This was one of the few times I'd say the movie was better than the book. The novel has an extraneous character that gets in the way. The screenwriter was smart to tighten the focus to a triangle between Moira, Ray, and Ray's mom, Lily. Jim Thompson could write a plot, but he sure tells everything, never showing - which is a big no-no in contemporary writing.

In preparation for Venice, I then read John Berendt's City of Falling Angels. Like his Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this is more a collection of anecdotes about a city and the people who live there than a single story. Still, he has the talent to pull it off - in style. If you’re headed to Venice, I strongly recommend this. My only disappointment was the difficulty of finding English translations of Mario Stefani's poetry, as the story of the poet’s suicide and will captured my attention. Having finished City of Falling Angels the day before we went to see the Peggy Guggenheim collection, I was amused to find books written by Jane Rylands, who came off as a near villain in Berendt's story, for sale in the museum gift shop.

Due to a train schedule problem, we had to head back to Paris the long way - Venice to Milan, Milan to Nice, Nice to Paris. 20 hours. I meant to sleep most of the way, but when you’re traveling along the Mediterranean in Southern France and Monaco, it’s hard to ignore the scenery outside the window. Once the sun set though, I pulled out a book.

I like Raymond Chandler's prose, but his homophobia is laughable. I must read his biography and see if he was gay. His lingering, lavish physical descriptions of men and throw-away details of women raised my eyebrow, but in every one of his novels, he has a beautiful boy but then makes some nasty comment about gay men just to prove his detective isn't turned on. Internalized homophobia? I smell a closet.

After I finished The Big Sleep, I still had hours of train travel ahead of me. Our traveling companions had a galley of Patricia Marx's Him Her Him Again The End of Him. They took pity on me and passed it across the aisle. I think it will be released in early 2007. Patricia is a former SNL writer and other TV shows, as well as pieces in Spy, The New Yorker, Vogue, Time, etc. By the time I finished her novel, everyone in our compartment was dead to the world, so I shut off my reading light and got some sleep too.

Our vacation was almost at an end by then. Good thing. I was down to one book - Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely - and the SO was reading it. The nerve! So I read his Steven Saylor novel, Roman Blood. I got the SO hooked on Steven's series. I'm hooked myself. I love detective novels, and the ancient Rome setting makes it all that more interesting. After I devoured that, I impatiently tapped my foot while the SO finished my book. Incompatible reading speeds do not make for happy traveling companions. The SO was lucky I didn’t rip my book out of his hands. I dangled my copy of the Grifters in front of him, to no avail. As I said, I like Chandler’s prose, so I’m reading through his list. If you’re offended by racism, misogyny, or homophobia, I wouldn’t suggest his work, because it’s rife with it. If you can grit your teeth and get past it, and you like your detectives hard-boiled, go for it.