Wednesday, July 29, 2009

RAINBOW REVIEWS AUTHOR EXTRAVAGANZA

August 2009 marks the 2nd anniversary of Rainbow Reviews, THE best review site
online for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender books. To celebrate, we've
lined up some of the best GLBT authors to give away free books all month long on
our new promo blog!

Starting August 1st, we will spotlight a different author each day of the month.
Simply visit our blog, read about the author, then visit the author's website to
answer a question asked in the blog entry. Post your response in the comments
field of the blog and enter to win a free e-book off the author's backlist!

For more information and a list of participating authors, please visit
http://rainbow-reviews.com/?page_id=1542 ~ and bookmark this site, as you'll be
able to find all the blog entries linked here during the month of August!

J.M. Snyder
http://rainbow-reviews.com

Monday, July 27, 2009

Erotica vs. Pornography

I occasionally do book reviews for an online, gay book-review site called Rainbow-reviews.com. It’s a great site, well run, but most of what they review is erotica. I don’t usually review erotica for a couple of reasons: first, much of it not written well (especially the sexual scenes), and second, I simply don’t enjoy the storyline stopping for a few pages while characters have sex. But last week I saw a gay erotica book available for review by a much respected author, and I thought I would give it a go, thinking it would at least be well written.

I’m only forty pages into this two-hundred-page story, so things could change, but what I’ve read so far is making me debate about the differences between erotica and porn.

I’ve always considered the definition of erotica to be a story with a somewhat complex plot and multi-faceted characters who struggle against real human issues. It’s similar to regular fiction only it allows the reader to occasionally peek into the bedroom and see the characters have sex. Porn, on the other hand, generally has thin plots that are there only to carry the one-dimensional characters from one sex scene to the next.

So when I began reading this “erotica” story by this respected author, I was very surprised to see that the first twenty-three pages, two chapters, was one continuous sex scene between three teen-aged cowboys. Chapter three started with one page of describing an older man dreaming in bed before it launched into another sex scene with the old cowboy having sex with an Indian shaman who starts off in the body of a snake and changes midway through the scene to a bear, so the old cowboy was having sex with animals. I’m sorry, this is not erotica, it’s trashy porn. It’s not even good porn. All of the five characters so far, while in the process of sucking, licking and humping each other, had so much chatty dialog that I began to think they were high-school girls. After two pages my eyes glazed over.

Sad to say, I’m forty pages into it and there is no trace of a plot on the horizon. I’m pretty sure I will not finish it, even though I committed to reviewing it. It was billed as erotica, which as near as I can tell, is a boldfaced lie.

Or perhaps my definition of erotica is way off base. I would love to hear from other writers and readers. Do you expect a well developed plot and characters with depth in erotica, as I do? Or are you simply interested in reading about guys getting off and who cares about a storyline? Please leave a comment and set me straight, so to speak.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

EPIC Submissions

In addition to a name change, EPIC, the writer's organization for electronically published authors, has changed their guidelines for this year.

1.Eligible ebooks are those published in English and released for sale between October 1, 2008 and May 31, 2009. This includes self- and subsidy-published books.

2. Deadline for submission is August 15.

Complete information may be found here:

or downloaded here:
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Interview: Carey Parrish, author of The Moving Finger Writes


Since my novel, Island Song, was released I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing life and literature with people who manage review blogs. To date, I’ve met none more pleasant to deal with that Carey Parrish, who manages Web Digest Weekly, one of the better literature blogs on the net. Recently, Carey self-published an anthology of short stories, which I have reviewed on this site. In addition to permitting me the privilege of reviewing his new work, he graciously agreed to an interview. The following is the result of that interview:

Q: When did you start writing and how many books have you published?
CP: I started writing as a teenager but I didn’t begin writing professionally until about three years ago. So far I’ve had two books published. One is a short collection on poetry called Into The Light: Experimentations in Poetry & Prose, and my latest release is an anthology of short stories called The Moving Finger Writes.

Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?
CP: I remember being a teenager and writing little stories that I let my mom and a few of my teachers read, and they all encouraged me to pursue writing, but back then I would read novels by Victoria Holt, Sidney Sheldon, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Ivy Compton-Burnett, and I wanted to so much to write like them. (Laughs.)

Q: Who are the authors who most influence you?
CP: Gertrude Stein is one of the earliest influences I had, in that she took everything she knew about writing and threw it out the window; then she made her own magic with language. Agatha Christie also inspired me, as she could use her intellect to outsmart her readers until she was ready to share the machinations of her mind with them. The authors I mentioned above all did the same, especially Eleanor Hibbert (who was Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, and Phillipa Carr among others) because of her devotion to writing. These were true authors. Most of us are merely writers compared to them.

Q: Do you need to be in a specific place or atmosphere before the words flow?
CP: I do most of my writing sitting on the sofa in my den. (Laughs.) Not all settings are conducive to writing but as long as I have some peace and quiet where I can collect my thoughts, I’m usually good to go.

Q: What’s the strangest source of inspiration you’ve found for a story?
CP: Alice B. Toklas brownies. She called it Hashish Fudge. (No, I didn’t eat any or make any!) Just the description she gave in the narrative before that recipe in The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book gave me an idea for a short story that I wrote but which has yet to see the light of day… 

Q: You recently had a new release hit the stands, anthology of Short Stories called The Moving Finger Writes. Can you tell us a bit about those stories?
CP: These are stories that I’ve written over time, probably around fifteen years! I’ve always loved mysteries and back in the 80’s shows like Tales From The Darkside and Tales From The Crypt were staples of my TV viewing. So these stories are all mysteries except for the last one, which is a holiday tale, and four of them have a supernatural element. I had a lot of fun putting this anthology together and polishing up some of the older stories that found their way into it. I guess you could say that this anthology has something for everyone.

Q: So, if you don’t mind sharing, would you tell us about your latest work in progress?
CP: I actually have two novels in the works presently. One is about reality TV stars who get mixed up with some jewel thieves. The other is about two men who meet in London and their relationship as it unfolds. I’m hoping to have both them ready for release by the late fall or early winter.

Q: Out of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?
CP: In the anthology, my personal favorite is “The Last of Penny,” although “Killer Convent” was inspired by an actual event. Fans of the BBC comedy “As Time Goes By” will recognize the two leads in “The Last of Penny.” “Killer Convent” as I said was inspired by an actual event about two guys down in Atlanta who were robbed by a man who came to their door claiming to be a minister raising money for a charity drive. What can be more unassuming than a so-called holy person? So I took the idea and made a fiction out of it that I think came off pretty well.

Q: Name a book or movie written by someone else that you wish you had written, and why that one?
CP: Don’t laugh, but I wish I had written “Dolores Claiborne.” That book is a masterpiece of writing. It’s a psychological portrait of every character within its pages and you get so lost in it that when you’ve read the last word you wish it hadn’t ended. Also, Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” series is a perennial favorite of mine because of its juicy, delicious storylines and the characters who come to feel like old friends by the time you reach the last book.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
CP: Reading, watching a little TV (I’m hooked on reality shows,) walking, running, spending time with my family and seeing friends, traveling.

Q: What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
CP: I watched “Divas ‘99” once before going to a doctor’s appointment and when I was sitting in the waiting room, thumbing through a magazine, I suddenly realized I had burst into a chorus “The Bitch Is Back”…and that I had audience. It would have been embarrassing if I hadn’t taken a bow. 

Q: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?
CP: Injustice. Hypocrisy. Double standards. Cruelty of any kind. They are all one in the same to me. I can’t stand injustice on any level and I will speak out loud and clear whenever I encounter it. Oh…and anything to do with Rush Limbaugh!

Q: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?
CP: I live in the mountains of North Georgia, in a beautiful place called Dalton, and except for two miserably hot months in the summer it is so beautiful here that it takes your breath away. There is so much history here and of all the places I’ve been I have yet to find anywhere else I’d rather live.

Q: Where can people find your books?
CP: Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.co.uk, Borders I think has them, I saw my anthology at Target.com and was floored by it! I think any of the booksellers can either order them or get them in the store.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
CP: If you have a dream – and I don’t care what it is – go for it because you only live once and life is too short to waste any time. Take it from me, I waited till I was almost thirty-eight to pursue my dream of becoming a professional writer. So take your dream(s) and turn them into realities. Dreams don’t die; people just stop dreaming.

Thanks, Alan! This was a lot of fun!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review: The Moving Finger Writes, By Carey Parrish


Carey Parrish is one of the sweetest, most affable writers you’ll ever meet. So when he suggested that I read/review his new anthology of short stories, I was expecting some lighthearted gay romance or some comedy stories. I was thoroughly shocked to find that Carey writes rather sinister stories in the vain of Stephen King. Who knew this bright sunny guy has such a dark side?

I seldom read anthologies, mostly because I’ve found that I typically only enjoy one or two of the usual six to twelve stories, but I have to slog through the mud to find the gems. So I agreed to review The Moving Finger Writes with trepidation. But what I found here is that I wholly enjoyed each story.

The first tale – The Woman Speaks – is fairly well written, good paced and even though it is was a tad predictable, it was delightful. It’s the story of Jason Connors, a young journalist on the verge of a career breakthrough story, and Violet Vaughn, an aging diva who has a deep, rather startling secret she has lived with most of her life. But is her secret too dark and too startling for Jason Connors? You be the judge.

I found the next story even more pleasing. The Piano involves Mark Booker, who bought a piano from a secondhand shop and got much more than he bargained for. Along with the piano, he inherited the spirit of a long-dead musician. But sometimes spirits can be like unwanted relatives, once they’re in you house, they won’t leave no matter what you do.

The Last Of Penny tells the complex tale of Steven Ballard and William Wilson, both affluent and successful lawyers with a Beverly Hills practice, and the one thing standing in their way of becoming a perfectly happy gay couple is Ballard’s wife, Penny. What lengths will these two men go to rid themselves of a tarnished Penny and find eternal happiness? The answer is marvelously shocking.

Arsenic and Old Cake is my favorite story of this book, both for its characters and suspenseful storyline. It’s a story of greed, crime, and turning the tables. What would you do if you discovered that the bright light of your life, your soul-mate, the person you most deeply love in the world, was suspected of murdering her previous husband, and also plotting to murder you?! This is a delicious little story that will keep you guessing throughout.

Killer Convent is a mystery involving the theft of a priceless painting from a convent, and the murdered guard who stumbled upon the crime scene. When two insurance investigators begin to scrutinize the case, they uncover some rather disturbing clues that all is not what it seems at the peaceful little convent. The results are unbelievable and wild, and very entertaining.

The Portrait is a story of jealousy and black magic. It’s a story a young man who wakes in what appears to be a deserted house, and he has complete amnesia. I found this tale the most disturbing because I once experience something similar, and I found myself reliving that appalling fear of not knowing where you are, or even who you are. The way Perrish handles the weaving together of information to overcome the amnesia is extremely well done.

And what dark anthology would be complete without a vampire story? Darkness and Light tells the interesting story of how the first vampire came to be, and trust me, it’s not at all what you think. It is a highly imaginative page turner.

The last story, The Christmas Present, was my least favorite. When a young man flies back to Chicago to visit his brother for the holidays, he befriends an old man, also going to Chicago to visit family. Only the old man’s family members are all dead. It is a tale of loneliness, of the importance of family, and the gift of reaching out to someone in need. It is a very moving story, and could have been my favorite had I been able to silence the editor in me.

As anyone can see, these stories are varied and imaginative. The characters are, for the most part, well developed and their situations interesting. These stories reminded me of a series of episodes from the Twilight Zone. Many were a tad predictable, and almost all the stories had some amount of head hopping (sudden switch of POV), but neither issue, however, was so blatant as to detract from my reading enjoyment. My only real criticism, which did detract from my reading enjoyment, is that all of the stories – some more than others – needs a competent editor with a flowing red pen to crawl through and tighten the prose. To be sure, Carey Parrish is not as seasoned a writer as one expects to find at the major publishing houses, so if your reading pleasure is incumbent on tightly crafted prose, then you may be disappointed. However, if you’re simply looking for some fun, fast paced, interesting and enjoyable stories to entertain you on a sunny afternoon, then I recommend The Moving Finger Writes.

The Moving Finger Writes is available at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, barnesandnoble.com, target.com, and it can also be purchased direct thru Lulu.com.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Notes from THE SYMPHONY OF PUNCTUATION

A friend of mine, Victor Banis, passed me these notes from THE SYMPHONY OF PUNCTUATION by Noah Lukeman. I thought some of you might find it as interesting as I did.

Two principles to keep in mind:

1.) There is great merit in punctuating scarcely, only when you absolutely must. Just as word economy should be strived for, so should punctuation economy.

2.) Let your punctuation unfold organically, as the text demands. Never use punctuation to rescue a poorly constructed sentence...more likely than not, you will need to rewrite, not repunctuate. The sentence itself must do the work.

Punctuating masterfully is an ongoing struggle, and the destination will always be somewhere off on the horizon. But it is a worthwhile journey.

The world of punctuation is a complex one, each mark having its own needs and rules. Some marks will complement each other, and at other times will be in conflict. Punctuation marks are skittish. A rock isn't needed for a ripple effect--a pebble is. Grasping how to use a mark in its own right is difficult enough; mastering how to use it in the context of the content, and in the context of all other punctuation marks, is a lifetime endeavor. When we look at punctuation collectively, we begin to see that punctuation marks, in the right hands, can truly bring out the best in one another. We begin to see that punctuation marks by themselves are like colors in a palette; it is only in the collectie that they become what they are meant to be (to illustrate, the author here uses a lovely passage from Forster's A Passage to India) "Houses do fall, people are drowned and left rotting, but the general outline of the town persists, swelling here, shrinking there, like some low but indestructible form of life."
...Forster uses commas to capture the feeling of a town ebbing and flowing; he also gives us a long sentence, asking us to take it all in at once...best of all he is subtle; the punctuation weaves its way seamlessly through the text, might even be missed if you weren't looking for it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview with Edward C. Patterson


Edward C. Patterson is the author of ten published novels, including such well known titles as The Academician, The Jade Owl, and Turning Idolater. I became a fan of Mr. Patterson after reading The Academician, so it was a pleasure to interview Mr. Patterson on the eve of the release of his newest novel, Look Away Silence. The following is the interview.

Q: When did you start writing and how many novels have you published?

ECP: I started writing when my grandmother gave me an old upright typewriter. I was 8 years old and wrote my first novel at 10, a horrible mess about the Boys Scouts. I didn’t even change the names to protect the innocent. I published my first novel at age sixty and have 10 published novels, 2 books of poetry and a partridge in a pear tree (that is, one book on Independent authoring).

Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?

ECP: My mother was an avid reader and reading is the key to an avocation of writing. My aunt is a poetess and has published a book. It’s the Herrick blood, as I am a descendant of Robert Herrick. When I was younger, every experience I had inspired me to write.

Q: Do most of your stories have gay or lesbian main characters? If so, do you find that writing about GLBT character limits your audience?

ECP: All of my stores have gay characters, although not all my stories are explicitly gay-themed. Since I try my best to transcend genre and treat all readers equally, I have never aimed my work at the gay community. As a result, my readers are just my readers and I haven’t experienced audience limitations . . . yet. Maybe it’s on the horizon, but I certainly won’t strive for it.

Q: Who are the authors who most influence you, both in your early career and now?

ECP: Originally, the British classics — Dickens, Thackeray, Hardy, Conrad, W.S. Gilbert and Austen, and a smattering of Twain and Melville (from my side of the pond). Perhaps the most influential authors now are Steven King and J.R.R. Tolkien — King for technique and Tolkien for structure. I have never lost my affinity for the older mentors, because anyone who loves words will find a complete compendium of creativity there.

Q: Do you need to be in a specific place or atmosphere before the words flow?

ECP: Not really. I write while I drive, because my best work is done in my head. I never use an outline and shun plots as poison. My so-called muse (and he’s cute) shows up whenever he’s summoned. I do have a writing routine which keeps me honest — reading as many hours per day as I write, a striving for 2,500 – 4,000 words a day and music in the background (generally Vaughan-Williams or Elgar). Apricot Veronas also help.

Q: What’s the strangest source of inspiration you’ve found for a story?

ECP: That would be for my novel Green Folly, which will not be finished until 2010. I was at a gay marriage dedication service where the story of Jonathan and David was read as the consecrating passage. On the spot, I concocted a modern version of the story (complete with Saul and the Witch of Endor) which became a play in 1996 (uproduced) and a novel draft in 2001. It’s in the hopper with nine other projects for final revision.

Q: You seem to know a great deal about China and Chinese History. What is it about your background brought about this knowledge?

ECP: I have a Master’s Degree and doctoral credits in Sinology from Columbia University, my original thoughts at a career aimed at becoming a starving researcher or professor, until I was diverted into a corporate career in marketing. China has always been my love and I use my experience, both the book-larnin’ and the China travel, in many of my novels.

Q: You recently had a new release hit the stands, Look Away Silence. Can you tell us a bit about that story?

ECP: Look Away Silence is a romance in the time of AIDS. During the 90’s, I, like many others, worked in AIDS volunteer services and also, like many others, buried friends. The experience was one that I could have left well behind me, but there were stories to tell, especially the one about Martin Powers and Mathew Kieler, the lovers in this work, who experience the joy of each other and the tragedy of the crisis. I have dedicated Look Away Silence to the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, the NAMES Project and to my fourteen fallen angels. It is my most emotionally lethal work to date, but it was a novel that needed to be written.

Q: So, if you don’t mind sharing, would you tell us about your latest work in progress?

ECP: I am working on The Nan Tu, the second book of the Southern Swallow Series. In the first book, The Academician, we tracked the life of a 12th Century scholar-official, Li K’ai-men, his rise to prominence and his tutelage to the ninth son of the Sung Emperor. The second of the four books covers a period of warfare, intrigue and regeneration of the Sung Dynasty. Li’s charge has become the Emperor, but an Emperor on the run, so the tale is an action-adventure as well as an historical and, like its predecessor, sows the seed to The Jade Owl legend. It should be ready for publication in October of this year.

Q: Out of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?

ECP: Without question – Turning Idolater. It’s a marriage of disparate elements — an Internet stripper, a middle-aged writer, and an original edition of Melville’s Moby Dick. Mix it together with a murder mystery, the grandeur and seediness of New York City and the pageantry of Provincetown, and a world as real as any other and as fantastic as Tolkien’s emerges. This was one work where the characters, once alive and breathing, wrote and finished the work — basically telling me to “hit the road, we’ve got it covered.” I think even if I get to a personal goal of fifty works, Turning Idolater will still call me to its side.

Q: Name a book or movie written by someone else that you wish you had written, and why that one?

ECP: That would be Brokeback Mountain, both the short story and the longer film. It characterizes the most perfect blend of subtext that I have ever encountered, as subtle as the Wyoming scenery and just as majestic. It states nothing and shows everything, baring the soul without prejudice or explanation, to be reconciled by each individual who savors its subtlety and its enormity.

Q: If you could offer one tidbit of advice for new writers, what would it be?

ECP: Focus on engaging the reader, but enjoy the act of writing. Your joy will shine forth in the draft and be anchored in the many revisions you must resign yourself to undertake. Write for one reader only — dream the remote dream, but be content with the single response that will be elicited ten and then a hundred and then a thousand. Be steady in this and shun those who would crush your dream. Only two people matter in this — you and your one reader.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

ECP: I sing and I’m an Opera queen. I enjoy plays and tons of reading. Of course, and I guess this is the old Marketing Director in me, a great deal of non-writing time is consumed with promotion. Ah, you said “like,” didn’t you? Well, even within the necessity of promoting, especially for an Indie author, there are delights — my fellow author community, networks of readers and the mentoring of emerging authors. Those in the vanguard must muster the troops to quality products and processes.

Q: What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

ECP: Stay in the closet until I was 42, and then I popped out like a fucking Murphy bed. Excuse me, can I say the F word? Sorry, if I can’t. Then in the short burst of two years, I made up for four decades. Now that was crazy and we need not go into it. It has furnished quite a bit of material for the books.

Q: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?

ECP: Authors that dish other authors or who publicly take them to task for self-promotion. But what goes around, comes around. Oh, then next comes ethnic cleansing. I’m Cherokee, so it’s personal.

Q: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?

ECP: Home is quite transient. I am officially a resident of the State of New Jersey and travel back there weekly, but I work in Pennsylvania and maintain a place to hang my hat there. My New Jersey citizenship grants me many human rights as a gay man that Pennsylvania denies. As a result, home is wherever my heart is, and currently my heart drifts.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pirate Sites Who Steal From Authors

Two days ago I received an email from a fellow writer telling me he had seen a copy of my novel, Island Song, listed on a pirate site where members could download it for free. I linked to the site and sure enough, there was my book in all its splendor, available to anybody for nothing more than the time it takes to download. I was not able to determine how many copies had been illegally downloaded from this site, if any, but there it was for people to steal.

There were instructions on how to submit a complaint about copyright infringement, and although they made it extremely difficult, I followed the numerous instructions and supplied the asked-for information. That was two days ago, and the site has not taken down the link yet. I have informed my publisher and hope that they can apply more leverage than I apparently can.

I’ve been stewing about this for days. On the one hand I realize that the people who frequent these sites are the kind of tightwads that would never pay for a book, so that my publisher and I are not losing any money anyway.

On the other hand, I work damned hard to produce a quality product and my publisher works even harder than I do. So the idea of people taking our work without paying rubs me the wrong way. For me it’s a moral issue. The fact the people create these sites for the purpose of stealing is a crime. It is no different from walking into a bookstore, slipping a book or two inside your coat, and walking out without paying. It is stealing pure and simple.

And these ebooks are available on Amazon for $4 to $5 dollars. I mean how cheap do you have to be?

Anyway, I’m grateful that there are enough people left on the planet that are too proud to sink to the level of these thieves. Otherwise, writers, musician and artists would stop producing art. I suppose I should feel sorry for these people, because I am a believer in Karma, and I know that these people are only hurting themselves. But I still can’t shake these angry feelings.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Call For Submissions: Steampunk

Lyrical Press welcomes authors to submit their brilliant blending of 19th Century steam power with science-fiction/fantasy. In a word – Steampunk.

What’s Steampunk? You know that movie/comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? That’s Steampunk. It’s the perfect marriage of an era when steam power was in use and science-fiction/fantasy elements. It’s goggles, gears and corsets. It’s fun, adventure and excitement.

Lyrical Press is accepting all forms of Steampunk, with a focus on romance and erotica.

If you’re manically mad about mechanical masterpieces set during the Victorian age we’d love to hear from you.

Sensuality level: All – with a focus on romance/erotica
Length: 30,000 – 80,000 words
Key Characteristic: 19th Century steam power blended with elements of science-fiction/fantasy
Deadline: None

Please follow Lyrical Press’ guidelines found here. Send submissions to submissions @ lyricalpress (dot) com.

Lyrical Press, Inc. is a New York based small press owned by the husband and wife team of Frank and Renee Rocco. Our goal is to provide authors with a reliable and pleasant home for their books and offer readers an eclectic mix of quality titles. LPI publishes in both electronic format and Print On Demand for select titles over 70,000 words.

http://www.lyricalpress.com
email: publisher@lyricalpress.com

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Twitter Etiquette

I had an experience on Twitter yesterday that keeps playing in my mind like an old ’60 toon that I can’t seem to shake. I normally get lots of tweets telling me to link to some site and use their software to get “tons of followers.” Twitter is chocked full of people pimping this kind of software from a variety of sites.

Normally when I see a message like that, I click on that person’s profile and un-follow them, because the last thing I want is someone filling up my twitter with that garbage. But yesterday that message came from someone I’m familiar with, another published writer. I was a bit intrigued by why a writer would be pushing that garbage instead of something related to books, so I clicked on her profile to see how many followers she had piled up with this software she was so hot over. She had slightly over three-hundred followers.

Now my definition of “tons of followers” falls somewhere in the ten-thousand and up range, so when I saw her low number of followers I assumed she had either not used the software she was pimping, or it simply didn’t work as she claimed. Neither option made sense to me so I sent her a message asking why her numbers were so low if this software was supposedly so good.

She shot back a rather snide sounding response that she “didn’t know Twitter was a competition.”

Her response has bugged me all morning. Of course she’s right, it’s not a competition. But if you’re going to litter my, and three-hundred-plus other follower’s, mailbox with spam that either doesn’t work or you haven’t used, then the least you can do is be civil. Don’t you think?

Anyway, her latest book, which had made its way to the top of my to-review stack, is now at the bottom of the stack. Am I being infantile? Probably, and I’m not proud of that action, but I think it’s best for me to give myself enough time to forget about such rudeness before I read her novel and write a review.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Does Networking on Social Media bring in Book Sales?

Every Sunday I go to each of my website, social sites, and blogs to gather hits counts, to tell me how effective I’m doing in attracting readers to my sites. Yesterday I was going down my list of sites, collecting what looked like a normal week’s numbers, certainly not great numbers but well above the traffic I was attracting four months ago.

Last on my list was the dreaded Amazon ranking number for my book Island Song. This is a number Amazon updates daily to tell people where their books ranks in regards to all the other books Amazon sells. A ranking below 100,000 means your book is selling very well, while a number above, say, 800,00 means a mediocre performance. Island Song had been rising well above 1,000,000 for the past several weeks and had reached a pinnacle of 1,550,000 last week, so I was dreading this number.

But to my surprise, Island Song’s ranking number had dropped to 87,000 in one week, and in addition, it made it on the top selling 100 gay books in both Gay Romance at #33, and Gay Fiction at #88. After several minutes of tap dancing around the house, I sat down to see if I could discover why my book got a sudden sales spurt.

What I found was nothing too much out of the ordinary. As I said earlier, all my site numbers were in line with other recent weeks, no spikes there. There were two things that did occur:

1. On my Examiner.com column where I showcase GLBTQ authors and their work, I had posted a book review of Island Song alongside an interview that Carey Parrish had did with me several months ago.
2. My publisher, Zumaya Publications, posted the first chapter of Island Song so that readers could get a taste of my writing for free.

In addition to those to events, I posted twice daily on Twitter and Facebook, giving people the links to my review, interview, and chapter one.

What we found was that the combination of the three, combined with lots of advertising on social media, made the difference. My Examiner.com column received slightly over 300 hits, and the first chapter site received almost 400. Apparently, those people were serious shoppers and were impressed enough to buy the book.

Does social media advertising work? I’m now a believer that if you put the work into it, and have a plan, then the results will come.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Interview: Ruth Sims, author of The Phoenix


Ruth Sims is the author of the highly acclaimed, gay themed novel, The Phoenix, as well as several short stories. She is an accomplished writer and has a new gay-themed novel, Counterpoint, searching for a mainstream publisher.

Q: When did you start writing?
RS: I don’t even remember when it started. I remember making up stories for myself and my little brother to act out, and I must have been about six or so. By the time I was in third grade I was writing things down. I wish some of them had been kept.

Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?
RS: The biggest influence of my life was my first grade teacher, Miss Swisher. I could already read and she arranged for me to work in the school library while the other kids were learning the early basics. I proudly pasted the little pockets in the fronts. To this day the smell of white paste takes me back. She lent me books from her own library because the school books were too easy.
She was a wonderful teacher. We were a large, poor family; we didn’t have a car. For years after I had left her class she came to get me in the spring and we’d go to the woods and look for wildflowers, something I never could have done without her. We had no books in the house. Miss Swisher took me to the public library and got me my first card, opening whole worlds. As a painfully shy, bullied child books were my escape. More than likely I was writing in my head as I read.

Q: What was the first story you ever wrote about?
RS: A horse. I knew nothing about horses, but I had read every book about them the library had. I recall the first words: “It was spring.” Brilliant, eh? But I was about eight, maybe nine at the time.

Q: Do most of your stories have gay or lesbian main characters? If so, why do you write about GLBT character, considering that it limits your audience?
RS: About half of them do. The Phoenix started out as a straight Civil War story. It ended up as a gay Victorian. Go figure. It was a long, peculiar journey. Counterpoint, not published yet but hopefully soon, is the only one I’ve deliberately written with gay characters. It’s also the only one where the story came to me more or less as it ended up. The details changed but the story stayed the same. I don’t consider that it limits my audience at all. It may limit the publication prospects, but my readers are all across the board. I’ve heard from many of them, and several have become close friends. God bless the internet!

Q: Who are the authors who most influence you, both in your early career and now?
RS: I’m a creature of the 19th century, actually. I can’t say that my favorite authors are late Victorians or Edwardians, because I have many I love who are alive and writing now. But the most influential, I’d say, were Thomas Hardy, Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare’s tragedies, Flaubert’s Madam Bovary. 20th century: Stephen Vincent Benét, Patricia Nell Warren, Mary Renault, Iris Murdoch. I do not pretend to have either the talent or the intellectual gigantism of any of them!

Q: Do you need to be in a specific place or atmosphere before the words flow?
RS: Not really. The thoughts come constantly, especially if I’m supposed to be doing something else. At least, they come until I sit down at the keyboard. Then they flutter away like moths.

Q: Do you drive yourself, with something like a daily word count?
RS: No. I’m pretty much butt-lazy. I wish I were disciplined enough to write so many words or so many pages. But I’m not. I write in spurts. I’d get more done if I’d be more disciplined about it.

Q: What’s the strangest source of inspiration you’ve found for a story?
RS: An old, dilapidated, creaky chair that belonged to a lawyer I worked for. The other partners demanded he get rid of it when they very expensively redecorated the offices. He refused. The chair stayed. It inspired the short story “The Gypsy’s Curse.” (link to the free story is below)

Q: Your novel, The Phoenix, has been out for a while. Can you tell us about it?
RS: It’s been out longer than you know. It’s had more lives than a tomcat. The straight Civil War story that morphed into a gay Victorian story was published by Sasha Alyson under the title Without Sanction. (I was using a different name then, too.) Sasha sold the company, the new owners ditched many of the books he’d published, mine among them. Eventually I decided I didn’t like a lot of it, revised a lot of it, changed the title, and self-published it in 2004. Then Lethe Press wanted to reissue it and I jumped at the chance. It also gave me the chance to fix a few Americanisms and minor details. From the Civil War days to the present incarnation, took…wait for it, wait for it…about twenty years.

Q: Have you completed other novels?
RS: I’m a very slow writer. I have several others in various stages of completion. A Bit of Earth; Quinn; Cullain; Whom God Destroys; Rain Dancer.

Q: I understand you’re working on another historical novel. Can you tell us a bit about that story and when it will be released?
RS: Most of what I write is historical. Of several unfinished stories only one is contemporary. Counterpoint is my other Victorian gay love story, the only one that was gay-themed from day one, and the most unabashedly romantic of them all. It would be in print by a mainstream press as we speak if I hadn’t taken some very bad advice. It’s now under consideration at another mainstream press. (I hate to be so vague but I really can’t say which one). It’s about a young man with a dream, who will do anything to achieve it, and on the way to achieving it he experiences great love, great loss, and then is lucky enough to love a second time before he reaches the first step of his goal. It’s also about music, something that’s a big part of my life.

Q: Out of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?
RS: I love them all! But if I had to choose, it would be Counterpoint. I feel more of a soul-deep connection to Dylan, Laurence, and Geoffrey than I do for any other characters I’ve ever done. Maybe it’s the music connection. Maybe it’s because I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done. I don’t know what it is, exactly.

Q: Which of your characters would you most like to have an intimate dinner with?
RS: Dylan, Laurence, and Geoffrey. It would have to be all three of them, even though they’re not together in the book. They’re too interconnected to separate. With Laurence I could talk writing. With Dylan and Geoffrey I could talk music.

Q: Name a book or movie written by someone else that you wish you had written, and why that one?
RS: Oh, dear! That is a tough one. Not because there aren’t any but because there are so MANY! I guess if I have to choose one, it would be Stephen Vincent Benét’s John Brown’s Body. It’s an amazing work. A book-length poetic history of the American Civil War that reads like a novel. It’s the only book I know of that tells the story of the War from every imaginable viewpoint, with a different voice and style for each character, from John Brown, to slave, to soldiers and officers on both sides, to the civilians caught up in it… it’s the most awesome book I’ve ever read. It’s the book I’d take with me (along with The Phoenix and Counterpoint, of course!) to a remote island.

Q: If you could offer one tidbit of advice for new writers, what would it be?
RS: My one tidbit has morphed into several. Write. Then rewrite and revise. Then revise and rewrite. And never think your words are written in stone. Never submit a manuscript without having other critical eyes read it first, as many as you can get. The key word is “critical.” Your Auntie Em who thinks everything you do is wonderful is NOT the critical eye needed. Every manuscript can be improved, even if only a little.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
RS: I’m a movie junkie. I have a lot of VHS and DVD movies and we get Turner Classic Movies, where I have discovered how amazingly good some of the silent movies were! No CGIs then, no digital touch-ups. No vocals. They had to act!

Q: Had you not become an accomplished writer, what other occupation would you have most liked to tackle?
RS: I’m not an accomplished writer and as old as I am, it’s unlikely I ever will be. The only other thing I’ve wanted to work at was music, but I lacked both the required discipline and the talent. I guess if I’m an accomplished anything, it’s Grandma.

Q: What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
RS: I’ve done stupid and I’ve done ill-advised, but I’m too shy and repressed to ever do crazy.

Q: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?
RS: Religious fanatics regardless whether they call themselves Christians, Muslim, or anything else.

Q: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?
RS: It’s not big and it’s not fancy or new, but it has a huge dry basement and we live in tornado alley. Nuff said? We have a small woods and a dozen deer that show up every fall and winter. Last night—in the middle of the summer, yet—I looked out and saw three large bucks, one of which looked like The Great Prince of the Forest, moseying across our front yard. We also have a fox and a toad. I love toads. Not frogs. Toads.

Q: Where can readers find you, websites, blogs?
RS: http://www.ruthsims.com – read reviews, excerpts, watch the video trailer, sign up for the newsletter, etc.
my book review blog: http://www.reviewsbyruth.wordpress.com/

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
RS: I’m very proud of my few short stories—and the ones below are all FREE (I love free. Don’t you?)
1) TOM: or, An Improbable Tail AllRomanceEbooks: http://tinyurl.com/bknlb6

2) "Mariel" -- Blithe House Quarterly http://www.blithe.com/

3) "Mr. Newby's Revenge" Fall 2008 archives--MystericalE at http://www.mystericale.com/08

4) “The Gypsy’s Curse” free ebook on Lulu http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/the-gypsys-curse/7196269

5) There’s a contest the month of July at Coffee Time Romance
http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/ContestPage.html Win an autographed copy of The Phoenix or bookmarks with the gorgeous new cover.

Alan, thank you so much for the interview. I have really enjoyed it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Book Review: The Phoenix by Ruth Sims




Reviewed by Alan Chin



This compelling Victorian saga brings together two men. The first, Kit St. Denys (starts off as Jack Rourke), grew to the doorstep of manhood as a gutter rat in the slums of London. He suffered from poverty, a weakling brother, a prostitute mother, and a brutally abusive father. The one silver lining in his life was, by luck, that he established a connection with the theater, and began an acting career that would eventually lead to fame and riches, but only after Kit’s mother leaves them, his brother dies at the hand of his father, and Kit stabs his father in a vicious fight. To hide Kit from the law, a rich theater owner adopts him and changes his identity.
The other man, Nicholas Stuart, was destined to follow in the footsteps of his father, a poor village doctor. Nicholas however, runs off to study at the university, and becomes a highly qualified surgeon, respected by peers. He opens a clinic for London’s poor and lives a frugal, passionless life, until the day he accompanies friends to the theater and sees Kit St. Denys on stage. Nicholas is entranced by Kit, and when an act of luck brings him to Kit’s dressing room after the play, the two men are enchanted by each other in such strong terms that their budding love transcends time, distance, and a host of obstacles.

Narrated in the manner of a 19th century novel – primarily told, not shown – the characters are kept at a slight distance from the reader. But this didn’t keep me from caring about the characters. The protagonists are complex, flawed and completely sympathetic. Indeed, I wanted more. There were several secondary characters that I would have like to have seen expanded, and even with the two lovers, there were episodes in their lives that could have benefited by drilling to a deeper understanding.

In keeping with a historical novel told in the 19th century manner, there are no detailed descriptions of sex. I found that refreshing, and there certainly was no need for it. Kit and Nicholas’s love and need for each other was the focus, not what went on behind the bedroom door. Still it was a passionately told love affair.

Although I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of historical fiction, I found The Phoenix a satisfying read. Beyond the normal romance plot twists, is the convincing story of two men in turmoil, and their only chance for survival is to cling to each other, which of course is not always the case. The many varied plot twists kept me turning pages while pulling for both protagonists. There were times when I felt the storyline was too predictable, and there were certain elements about the ending that were disturbing, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this story. I have no reservation in recommending this book to anyone.

http://ruthsims.com
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Monday, July 6, 2009

New Group Formed to Sponsor Native Arts

Finally, a new foundation to support the work of American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native artists has been established, formally opening its doors on April 21, 2009. With an initial $10 million from the Ford Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation will be the first permanently endowed national foundation of its kind. And although 10 million is not a lot to spread around to all the deserving artists, it's a step in the right direction. Kudos to the Ford Foundation.
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

All Romance™ Needs You for the 28 Days of Heart Campaign to Bene

During the month of love, when everyone's attention is focused on matters of the heart, we at All Romance www.allromance.com want to help fight the number one killer of women, heart disease, and we need your help and your submissions.

Beginning February 1, 2010, we will release one new short story per day for the entire month. All proceeds from the sale of these shorts, which will be offered exclusively on AllRomance.com as individual eBooks and also bundled into 4 eBook anthologies, will be donated to the American Heart Association (www.americanheart.org).

The 28 stories will be chosen from submissions received between July 1 and October 31, 2009. Any author who has an eBook available on ARe, or whose publisher lists eBooks with us, is eligible to submit. Submissions must be 10,000 to 20,000 words. The preferred heat rating is 4 or 5 flames, though stories rated a hard 3 flames will also be considered. An explanation of the flame rating system can be found on our site. We are looking for a wide variety of themes and sub-genres, as long as the story is a romance.

The stories selected will be reviewed by an editor and provided with cover art, but please make sure submissions are as polished as you can make them before submitting. Previously published stories will be considered only if all rights have reverted back to the author and the story is no longer available for download elsewhere. Backlist and contact info for the authors whose work is chosen will be listed in the back of their story.

Submission details can be found at the link on the All Romance Home Page that reads Publishers/Authors http://www.allromanceebooks.com/publishers.html

Questions should be emailed to cat.johnson@allromanceebooks.com. Final selection of participants will be made and announced in November 2009.
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Glbt Writers and Readers Launch Revolutionary Online Community


“Identifies Revolutionary Online Community as Vision of Veteran Glbt Author. For first time, Writers, Artists, Publishers Unite in Retail Environment Independent of Traditional Bookselling Industry.”

Adelaide, South Australia – June 25, 2009 Bestselling gay author Mel Keegan has masterminded a web-based cohesive organization combining the skills of writers, publishers, editors, agents, reviewers and artists in the GLBT community to provide an unprecedented public access portal to independent- and small-publisher titles. GLBT Bookshelf is an online resource
designed to counter the perceived discriminatory practices of major players in the book retail scene.

Frustrated by the infamous “AmazonFail” fiasco of early 2009, in which the online retail giant was suspected of attempting to deny GLBT literature the benefits of its promotional systems, Keegan conceived of an online community in which all such systems were circumvented -- replaced by “community promotion” with direct links to authors’ and publishers’ pages.

Keegan is highly motivated toward the success of this venture. “Nothing convinces you to act like being forced to the margins of an already marginalized community. In a way the AmazonFail business was a desperately-needed kick in the pants. Now we have a public contact venue and direct sales channel which is not dependant on the big boys, their promotional tools, their advertising -- not even their search engines.”

In creating GLBT Bookshelf, Keegan set out to answer the needs of most GLBT writers and artists: Create a place for their works to be cataloged, described and sampled, linked to their publishers and independent sales pages -- and promoted by joint funding amounting to peppercorn contributions from community members. In this way, all writers benefit from wide media exposure while no individual foots the advertising bill.

The site takes the form of a “wiki,” where users sign up (free) and a pilot page is created for them. They then use editing tools to flesh out their pages with text, graphics and video. They develop their own virtual website within the wiki, which is built on the EditMe engine, operated by EditMe.com.

Visitors find authors, titles and publishers via multiple, categorized contents lists, as well as the fully-featured Search function. The site features user forums, book reviews, author pages, and directories for publishers and cover artists. A free PDF user’s manual is available, and the public launch is underway.

After just one month GLBT Bookshelf boasts around 200 “authors and others” online. Writers are booking low-cost advertising in high-traffic page locations, months ahead. More than 1000 user-pages have been created, and 500+ books are currently cataloged. Projected growth rates suggest this is the tip of the iceberg.

Visit GLBT Bookshelf, and watch for developments in the months ahead. While it remains early days, Mel Keegan is highly optimistic. “We could be seeing a quiet revolution in GLBT book marketing, in which the community takes its fortunes into its own hands. Technology has freed us from the restrictive practices of the traditional industry -- the Bookshelf is the joint venture of a lifetime. We must evolve new ways of thinking to take full advantage of our opportunities.”

Mel Keegan lives with an eccentric family in South Australia and is the author of more than 25 books. “The Deceivers” won the Stonewall Fact and Fable Award in 2003, while “Death’s Head” was nominated for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1992. GLBT Bookshelf is the culmination of Keegan’s creative vision.


For more information:
PO Box 270, Brighton, South Australia 5048
0420939219
http://www.glbtbookshelf.com
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Screenwriting is affecting my ability to read novels

After my weekly screenwriting group meeting yesterday, I found myself in an interesting discussion that I want to expand on here. All of the other members of my weekly group write only screenplays. I believe I am the sole member who also writes short stories and novels. One of the members asked me if writing screenplays has affected the way I write prose. It’s a question I’ve been thinking about for months.

The short answer is decidedly yes. With writing fiction prose, one has license to delve into lush, intricate, poetic description. With screenwriting, most descriptions are abbreviated to bare bones. For instance, a description of a male character in a screenplay could be: ‘Ed Harris, 50 yrs old, quick with a smile.’ You never give a physical description unless there is something that affects the plot. Of course, that kind of character introduction would never do in fiction prose. Locations are given even less importance. The rule of thumb is: a 2 line description for a main character, 1 line description for a location. It takes getting used to, to create a vivid description in less that a dozen words, but it’s fun – like writing haiku.

Also, in fiction prose it is expected that the writer delve into at least one character’s thoughts, and most do that with several characters. In screenwriting, you only write what a character does or says. If you can’t see or hear it, it doesn’t go into a screenplay. That means the writer has to show everything through dialog or actions. For example: you can’t say, ‘John was furious,’ you have to show John putting his fist through the wall.

What I’m finding is that my prose is altering. My descriptions are getting shorter, more compact, and I’m focusing much more on the storyline action that describing things. I like to believe that my writing is becoming stronger because of it, but time will tell.

The drastic change is not so much in my writing, but in my reading. I’ve become intolerant of novels with long flowing descriptions that don’t add to the action flow. I still love to read well-written description, but I can no longer tolerate mediocre prose, endlessly describing something that needs only a short sentence, or the narrator telling me everything instead of showing me through action. There are many writers who don’t trust their readers enough to let the reader paint his/her own visual picture of a person or scene. Fewer still who show actions and let the reader determine the motives behind the actions.

Screenwriting is ruining my ability to enjoy mediocre writing. I’m finding that I analyze while I read, and I’ve become intolerant of wordy authors who try to impress with flower descriptions and endless telling vs. showing. My list of favorite contemporary authors is becoming rather slim. I’m not sorry about that. I only hope that I can alter my own writing to adhere to the new standards that I hold others.