Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Reading/Signing at Different Light Bookstore

Last Friday, I joined Kage Alan and G. A. Hauser at Different Light Bookstore in San Francisco for a reading, signing and Q/A of our latest novels.

I would first like to acknowledge and thank Oscar and the great folks at Different Light for organizing this event. They were very hospitable and made us feel welcome.

This was the first time I’ve done a reading with other authors present. I thought I would be nervous, but being up there with G.A. and Kage had the opposite effect. I suppose it was because I was not the only one on the hot seat. It turned out that our chemistry was fantastic. The interesting part was, that we three write completely different genres. G.A. writes hardcore gay erotica, Kage writes gay comedy, and I write gay drama. Somehow, it all blended into a fun and interesting evening.

I know we all three had fun, and judging from the lively Q&A session, the audience enjoyed it as well. Most of the audience stayed around after the signing to chat with us for another hour after the event.

Please take a moment to check out these pictures of the event.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review: Big Diehl, The Road Home by George Seaton

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Publisher: MLR Press
Pages: 407

After six years of service to his country, during which he saw combat duty in Iraq, Big Diehl has received his discharge from the Army and is headed back to Wyoming. His only goal is to confront his father for the repeated molestations he suffered as a boy. But before he can even things with his old man, Diehl finds himself in the center of a homicide investigation and on the run from the law. When it looks like his “adopted” family in Casper can’t help him, he is comforted by a stray dog, who turns into a true friend. Can Diehl resolve his issues and pick up life where he left off six years earlier? Possibly, but that road home is a long one, with plenty of blind curves.

I happen to think that George Seaton is a very talented writer. I thoroughly enjoyed his first novel, Big Diehl. And although I liked this sequel, The Road Home, I had a number of issues with it, so I’ll get them out of the way up front.

The thing I was most surprised with, was the extensive back story. I expect a sequel to give some back story to set the scene and remind me of a few plot points of the previous work, but this back story droned on for over a hundred pages, recounting everything that happened in book one. Since I had read book one, I found the recap boring and unnecessary. Even for someone who had not read book one, this back story was, in my opinion, not needed, because the author gives plenty of back ground while he tells the current story.

This author has a wonderful and unique voice. His slow, country-twang voice alone puts the reader in the Wyoming territory. But I found myself getting annoyed at phrases that kept popping up over and over and over. I lost count of the times he mentioned “six years” and “tin house” Those and others felt like a mantra popping up every other page. At one point during a bar scene, the author used the term “tipped his drink to his lips” four times on four consecutive pages. These repeats pulled me out of the story each time I tripped over them. That, along with other minor issues with the text, made me think that the prose was not as polished as the original Big Diehl.

The last negative I’ll mention is that this story centers around a homicide, which brought a great deal of tension and suspense to the story, and was good. It really peaked my interest. Yet, I felt that the resolution to the crime came too early in the story and was too easily resolved. It left me slightly disappointed.

That all said, I can whole-heartedly recommend this book to all readers. As I’ve stated above, Seaton’s voice is a joy to read, and the story and characters kept me turning pages well into the night. This is a story about love, and family, and even the bond between humans and animals. There are so many touching scenes that are handled with consummate skill. The characters pull the reader into their issues, their hopes and desires, to the point where the reader is not sure how s/he wants the story to end. This is a worthwhile read for people who place integrity and family above everything else, but by all means, feel free to skip the first hundred pages.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cover Art for my next novel, Butterfly's Child

Hi everyone,

I'm excited and wanted to share. Today I received several mockups of different covers for my next novel, due out in December. I have a favorite, but I welcome everyone to leave a comment to vote on which cover you like best. I'm posting three covers here. All the others were variations of these three. So enjoy, and please let me know which one you like best.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: Pelota By Sarah Black

Reviewed by Victor J. Banis
Published by Changeling Press
ISBN 978-1-59596-839-5

4 ½ stars out of 5

Sarah Black is one of my favorite writers, and like much of her writing, this one is about two young men from different cultures—in this case, Inuit and Basque. Oliver, though he is not Basque, is obsessed with all things Basque. Jack, Japanese American, is equally obsessed with all things Inuit, and neither of them quite fit into the societies in which they find themselves.
When the wreck of a Basque whaling ship is discovered in the arctic tundra, the two young men are separately sent to the isolated and now empty whaling camp of Red Bay in Labrador, to study, from their different points of expertise, the artifacts uncovered in the excavation.

They have the place to themselves and, at first, each convinced that his specialty is the more important, they quarrel over the primacy of Basque and Inuit culture. Did the Inuit game of handball come first, for example, or the Basque version, pelota? They challenge one another to a game, but in no time at all they have discovered a game they like even better, and an even more consuming passion, the pleasure to be found in one another’s bodies. With their growing love for one another comes a growing respect for the other’s point of view. Maybe Basque and Inuit do mix after all. Cultures aren’t meant to stand apart.

It is a sweet story, romantic and sometimes intense. The passions the two young men share seem to reflect the wildness of the setting in which they find themselves. The plot is minimal, but the characters likable and interesting. There’s a tendency to offer more information than a reader might want on the two disparate cultures, and here or there it felt to me like the author was in a hurry, but neither of these criticisms diminishes the pleasure of a good story, well told by an author who knows what she is about.

A fine way to while away an hour or so, and highly recommended.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Head Down Editing This Week

I received the first round of edits of my Butterfly's Child novel from Dreamspinner Press yesterday. So starting today, I will be heads down, crawling through the manuscript, approving or disapproving each edit. I have to do about 50 pages per day in order to make the deadline and have it back to them on Monday. And there are tons of edits to consider. It's embarrassing how much I miss in the writing/editing process.

I wasn't expecting these edits for another few weeks. It goes to show how quickly Dreamspinner gets things done. I'm so impressed with them. It does, however, throw a wrench into my plans and goals for this week. Oh well. As they say: No rest for the wicked.

So if you don't see any other updates this week, you'll know I'm still at work, trying to figure out why they added a comma here, a dash there.

But the bottom line is, I should have my forth novel, Butterfly's Child, published sometime in December. And won't that make a nice Christmas present?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing Tip #24: The Controlling Idea

Every good story has a single controlling idea. All coherent tales express this idea veiled inside an emotional structure we call plot. Once a writer discovers that idea, s/he should respect it. S/he should, in my opinion, never indulge in the idea that their work is merely entertainment. A story should convey meaning.

After all, what is entertainment? It’s the ritual of reading or watching a movie, investing tremendous concentration into what one hopes will be a satisfying, meaningful emotional experience. Anything else is just porn.

Plato once urged the city fathers of Athens to exile all poets and storytellers. He considered them a threat to society because writers conceal their ideas inside the seductive emotions of art, rather than present them in the rational manner of philosophers. Plato insisted that storytellers were dangerous people. He was right.

The same is true today. Every effective story sends a charged idea to our brains. Yet the idea is often not at all obvious. In fact, many writers, myself included, end up writing a great deal of a story before it dawns on them what that controlling idea is.

The power of this idea comes not only from the idea, but from the emotional charge that the story generates around the idea. Consider the movie Death Wish, whose controlling idea is that justice triumphs when people take the law into their own hands and kill the people who need killing. Audiences cheered as Charles Bronson stalked Manhattan, murdering thugs. Yet the controlling idea is totally vile.

So does a writer have a social responsibility to cure social ills or renew faith in humanity? I believe that the only responsibility the writer has is to tell the truth as they see it. So when you finish a story. Ask yourself, what is the main idea expressed within the climax, and then ask if that idea is true.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finding a New Perspective to History

I was never one to get excited about writing historical stories. I had an idea knocking around in my gray matter for years, but simply could not get any motivation behind it to actually develop the idea into anything substantial. WWII prisoner-of-war stories had been done and redone. Why do another one?

But then I came across John Toland’s The Rising Sun, The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire. It is a soup to nuts account of the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and every major battle and military decision made until the surrender, all told from the Japanese point of view. I found it riveting. It literally changed how I saw history in a major way. In fact, I now believe that it was the boobs in Washington who were responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was while reading Toland’s book that gave me the realization that the value, at least for me, in writing an historical novel would be to approach it in such a way as to bring a fresh perspective to history that hadn’t been done before, at least not in my culture. That was the key element that had been missing in my thinking.

Toland convinced me to develop my POW story with a voice that equally presented both the American and the Japanese sides, being sympathetic to both, understanding the motivations of everyone, unbiased.

As I began to map out the story that would eventually turn into my second novel, The Lonely War, I realized that with this balanced perspective, the enemy was not American, English, German or Japanese. The only enemy in my story is war itself.

In researching WWII for my story, I read over two dozen books, stories like Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance, Boulle’s Bridge On The River Kwai, and Clavell’s King Rat. The only book I read that came close to this balanced point of view was Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quite On The Western Front. In that novel, war was the enemy, but even Remarque’s story only presented the tale from the German side.

The main thing I learned while writing the unbiased war story, is that when one goes about presenting history in a way that has not been done before, one grows beyond one’s own boundaries of thought. A new perspective allowed me to develop intellectually, and I suspect, at least I hope, that my novel does the same for my readers as well.

So now I try to apply that idea with all my writing, historic and contemporary, to stretch to find a different angle to tell the story so as to bring a fresh perspective. I suppose this idea might be simplistic to most fine writers of historical fiction, but I must confess it was a revelation to me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Short Story Review: Tell Them Katy Did by Victor J. Banis

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published By Untreed Reads Publishing
Pages: 9

A woman walks home in the early hours after sharing a few drinks at a lesbian bar. On her way, a sexy woman comes up and tells her there are five hoods following. They run and hide in a graveyard, narrowly escaping their pursuers. The woman who saved our heroine turns out to be Katy, but she disappears as quickly as she came out of nowhere. When our heroine visits another lesbian bar, trying to track down this mysterious savior, she finds an unbelievable story behind the woman.

This is a simple story, one that has been told in several different forms. The thing that makes this story immensely enjoyable is the quality of the writing. The author pulls you into the story by the third sentence, and keeps you there until the last word. A mere nine pages, but each page is packed with vivid descriptions and meaning. Every word counts. Remove one word, and the sentence is diminished. Take out one sentence, and the story’s structure falls apart. This is sparse writing at its best. With the fewest words possible, the author takes you on a most enjoyable ride.

I’ve said it before, Victor Banis is a master of short fiction. I can highly recommend this wonderfully told yarn.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Writing Tip #23 The Inciting Incident

When writing a story, one critical thing a writer must determine is how to set the story into action. You see, most stories start with the protagonist in a state of balance. His/her life may or may not be ducky, but it is churning along and the protag has a handle on things. But then some incident occurs – someone dies, an accident, someone drops a sack of money in their lap, they see the love of their life – that takes the protag out of their balance and sets them on this journey we call story.

This event that sets the story into action is commonly called the Inciting Incident. In a hundred-page screenplay, this event almost always happens on page ten. In a three-hundred page novel, it should happen before page thirty. So you see, the writer has a limited number of pages to describe the world the protag is comfortable with before setting the hero off on the journey.

The Inciting Incident must be a dynamic, fully developed event. It must radically upset the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life. This upset must swing the protagonist’s reality either negative or positive.

This, for example, is not an inciting incident: The hero stands in a bar after striking out with several men, and says, “Screw New York. The men are all uppity here. I’m going to L.A.” then proceeds to pack his backpack, stick his thumb out and leave town on a cross-country journey.

If, on the other hand, the hero is standing at the bar when three thugs walk in, one points a finger at the hero and yells, “There’s the bitch that screwed my boyfriend. Waste him!” And the three men pulled out handguns and start blasting while the hero runs out the back door and up the alley. Now the hero must leave town, because the mob is after him, big time. Not only must he flee, but he must keep looking over his shoulder at every step. – This is an Inciting Incident.

Once the Inciting Incident occurs, the protagonist must react in whatever way is appropriate to the character and the setting. There can be a small delay, but then the protag must act.

So the Inciting Incident throws the protag’s life out of balance, then arouses in the hero the desire to restore that balance. Often, the hero thinks of some object or goal that will restore balance, and with well developed heros, they also develop and unconscious desire.

For example, Romeo’s life was churning along. Roselyn had dumped him but he was okay with that because he didn’t love her. But then he sees Juliet, (the Inciting Incident) and he is thrown into turmoil. He must somehow possess her (creating the desired goal) and plans a secret wedding. But then he fights Tybalt, and is thrown into even more turmoil and further away from his goal. In the end, when he believes Juliet dead, there is only one way he can restore balance.

If the protagonist develops an unconscious desire, this becomes the spine of the story. An unconscious goal is always more powerful, with roots reaching deep into the protag’s innermost self. When an unconscious desire drives the story, it allows the writer to create a much more complex character who may repeatedly change his conscious desires.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Review: Wandering the Rainbow by David Jedeikin

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Holistic Ideas Press
Pages: 304

After striking out in a “committed” relationship, a friendship, and a not so exciting system’s engineering job, David Jedeidin decides to put a little distance between him and his problems. He embarks on a seven-month solo trek around the world. What unfolds is an array of sites and experiences that spans six continents. Traveling as a flashpacker – backpacking with creature comforts – Jedeikin writes about tourist sites, back-alley hangouts, and hooking up in gay nightclubs.

From Big Ben in London, to Table Top in Cape Town, to the ruins at Machu Picchu, Jedeikin’s travels detail everything human in a dozen different cultures. In addition to describing the sites and delving into local hangouts, this travel log gives a very real glimpse of the sometimes lonely, sometimes mind-expanding journey that a lone traveler must face.

The first thing that struck me about this book is the high quality of the writing. The prose is light and breezy, and carries the reader along effortlessly. The superb writing is how this travel log managed to keep my interest all the way to the last page.

As an example of his writing, check out this description of Cairo: “I stare out at the monstrous city, a liquid expanse of lights stretching to the horizon, and ponder the paradox: on the one hand, the cafes, street life, and urban chemistry make it one of the most exciting places on Earth – in many respects, it could be London, Paris or New York with a cultural and climatic twist. And yet…it’s hobbled, a great beast weakened by time and circumstance. Economically the country has been stagnant for decades. It feels as if Cairo is just lying in wait for Egypt to rise again, so it may once more take its place as one of the great centers of the world.”

Jedeikin did a nice balance of describing the sites and blending in his personal experience of dealing with people in foreign cultures. But what I found almost totally missing was the inner journey. Being away from friends and family, dealing with foreign tongues, laws and customs is hard-ass, lonely work. A person goes through radical changes, or should to my way of thinking. But there were only a few places in the book where the author opened up and talked about this inner journey, and how that affected his outlook on the problems he left behind. I was left wondering if the journey didn’t really change him, or if he chose to not discuss those changes with the reader.

Likewise, the author didn’t spend a of lot print giving insights into the local people, their outlook or issues in the world. It was as if he were more concerned about what sites he was seeing rather than the people around him. When he did talk about other people, many of them were Western backpackers like himself, which I didn’t find particularly interesting.

Having twice traveled similar around-the-world journeys myself, one for six months and one for eight, there were few destinations that the author mentions that I have not spent time in – Russia and South America – so I was able to get a pretty clear view of how deeply he delves into the culture at each location. My opinion is that although this book covers an extremely wide range of destinations, it only goes a few inches deep in any one of them. Of course, for Jedeikin to have gone into depth at each spot, the book would have been well over a thousand pages. So perhaps he hit a nice balance to keep the reader entertained.

My enjoyment of Wander The Rainbow is based on a simple and ancient premise: That the experience of other travelers is our best map to a strange land. Jedeikin’s stories will delight you, warn you, make you laugh, perhaps even shock you. He describes a spectrum of adventures that will deepen your understanding of different cultures and enrich your sense of what it means to be human. This is a book I can highly recommend to anyone who dreams of distant lands.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Interview with Ruth Sims, author of Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story

It is my pleasure to present the following interview with on of my favorite writers of M/M fiction, Ruth Sims. She has published two novels, Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story and The Phoenix, along with several short stories.

Q: When did you start writing?
RS: If by writing you mean “making up stories” I think I was doing that when I came out of the womb. Rather shocked my mother! If you mean “putting words on paper” I was six or seven, seven I believe, when I wrote my first novel. It was probably all of three pages long and it opened with the immortal lines “It was spring. There was a horse.” I ask you, how could the Pulitzer and Nobel people have turned down such a story? But they did.

Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?
RS: I can, without hesitation, name my first grade teacher, Miss Swisher. She was, as they said in the olden days when I was young, an “old maid,” or the more polite folks said she was a “spinster.” I was painfully shy and out of place. I could read before I went to school so whenever my classmates were studying See Spot. See Spot run, she arranged for me to go to the school library and help. My fondest smell is that of library paste and books. I was also poor, from a large family. We had no car. My teacher, for years after I left her class, took me to the city library, and to the park on the first day of spring to look for wildflowers. When I was bored with the simple books in the children’s part of the library she lent me books from her own library, so I was reading years ahead of my grades. Sometimes I spent Sunday with her and her family. I even had her sister as a teacher in high school. I owe my mother sincere thanks for many things, most of all for allowing Miss Swisher to “adopt” me, as it were, and give me learning advantages my mother couldn’t.

Q: Who are the authors who most influence you?
RS: Jack London, Stephen Vincent Benét, Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Hardy, Gene Stratton Porter. More recently, Patricia Nell Warren, Mary Renault, and Pat Barker. I think of them all, Benét’s “John Brown’s Body” had the most long-lasting effect. What an amazing book: the American Civil War told in verse, with a different narrative voice for every character, both real and fictional, black and white, and both sides of the conflict! I loved (still do) the old story poems, like “The Highwayman” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “The Hired Man.”

Q: Your debut novel, The Phoenix had two wonderful characters. What was the inspiration behind Kit and Nick?
RS: I was afraid you’d ask me that, because I don’t know. Well, that’s only half true. Nick was always in it, and through all the years and all the variations, he didn’t really change, except that he finally convinced me he was gay. He was always solid, earnest, serious, with more than a small streak of the Puritan in him. Kit, however, was originally just a bit player. Can you even imagine Kit accepting a “spear-carrier” role? Obviously, he wasn’t happy. And gradually and irresistibly he took over the story. Oh, and one other small thing changed. It went from being an American Civil War story (heterosexual, yet) to being a Victorian gay love story. Go figure. I have a blog article about that called “How To Turn a Straight Civil War Story Into a Gay Victorian Romance In Just Twenty Years.” Anybody who wants it, may email me at It’s free.

Q: Counterpoint Dylan’s Story, has garnered several excellent reviews, including my own. Can you tell us about the story?
RS: Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story is about passion. Not sexual passion, though there is that too in the course of time and relationship, but the passion to create. Dylan is a young man who knows he was born to compose new music for a new century, and it is the consuming passion of his life. It’s about the passion to believe in yourself and your dream and be willing to fight both God and the devil for it. It’s about the love of one man for another even if it means living together in exile. It’s about the gentle passion of friendship and believing in someone else. It’s also about a loss so devastating a dream dies, and it’s about the reawakening of that dream. Most of all it’s about people.
I dearly love this story and the people in it, and I think it’s the best thing I have ever written. To my delight, it has been nominated for the 2011 ALA Stonewall Award.

Q: I understand it took several years to bring Counterpoint Dylan’s Story to print. Can you tell us why it took so long?
RS: I started it in the mid-80’s! I can’t go into too much detail without making this a major spoiler, but I can say that I listened to the insistent advice of someone who told me no one would publish it unless I eliminated one key event that occurs halfway through the story. Unlike Dylan, I didn’t have enough confidence in my own work, and I believed to her. As a result I spent several years rewriting the story from start to finish, over and over, trying to make the event in question “go away.” In fairness to my questionable advisor, I should say that I, too, wished the event would go away. Finally, two Australian friends read both the old and the new versions, and said, in effect, “Enough already! Go back to the original! This last one is okay, but the original is a thousand times better.” I listened. Less than a year later it was finished, except for minor tweaking. Less than a month after submitting it to Dreamspinner, I had a contract. Less than four months after submitting it, I had a book.

Q: If you don’t mind sharing, would you tell us about your latest work in progress?
RS: I have a half dozen, and none of them are close to completion, but I’ll restrain myself and mention just two: Whom God Destroys is a very unromantic, dark story of an Edwardian serial killer in London who makes Jack the Ripper seem like a choirboy. The psychotic protagonist is also a slight, pretty, very accomplished female impersonator with an outsize ego. Hannibal without the cannibalism?
Mahrime (mah-ri-may): Forbidden is a story of two young Rom (Gypsy) men in England. It’s a love story, but also tackles the class prejudices and anti-Gypsy laws and attitudes. It’s giving me a chance to use the mountains of research I unearthed when I was writing about Geoffrey in Counterpoint.

Q: You’ve written two historical novels, both in a similar time and place. What is it about 19th century England that captures your imagination?
RS: I think the main appeal is that it’s close enough to us in time that it feels almost contemporary but it’s far enough in the past that I don’t have to deal with my characters having cell phones and Twitter accounts. I do have one w.i.p. set in America in 1910-1930 era, and one contemporary (Rain Dancer), which is my second crime story. As for “why England” I guess because it’s both familiar and exotic to a Midwesterner, and I’ve always loved English authors, movies, and humor.

Q: Both your novels are rather emotional. What’s the secret of writing a gripping drama?
RS: Well, I’m no expert; I didn’t go to college so I haven’t studied any of it to know what the proper way is, but I can tell you how I do it. When I draft I put in everything. When I revise I take out most of it. It’s like making maple syrup. They tap the trees to get the clear sap and then boil it and boil it and distill it until they have the wonderfulm golden brown food of the gods.
It’s alarmingly easy to slip from drama into eye-rolling melodrama. In a draft, that’s just fine. But in the revisions, even though a character may be inwardly flailing about with some great soul pain or tragedy, I pare the outward actions to small, homely acts that are universal. A word, a clenched jaw, a gesture such as closing the eyes of a dead beloved brings everything home to the reader. I really think when it comes to portraying emotion, the old saying “less is more” is very appropriate. Restrained, taut writing involves a reader but purple prose is annoying and, unfortunately, sometimes makes a reader laugh in all the wrong places. I believe that reading everything aloud (in private of course) is the biggest help of all. Your ear might catch what your eye misses.

Q: You have written several short stories. One I read, The Lawyer, The Ghost, and The Cursed Chair, was delightful. Do you have a preference for writing short fiction vs. novels?
RS: I love short stories. I’ve always said I wasn’t very good at them, but Jay Hartman has convinced me otherwise, and has published four of them so far. My first favorite authors were the short story masters. They knew just what to put in and what to leave out. “The Lawyer, The Ghost, and the Cursed Chair” is one of my pets. It used to be much shorter, but every time I read it to a group of people another piece of business would occur to me, and since it was “never going to be published anyway” I kept adding to it (thus breaking my own rules)! My most recent one, “Song on the Sand,” I think may be the best thing I’ve done second only to Counterpoint. I believe Jay is going to enter two of them, “Song on the Sand” and “Burma Girl,” in the competition for the prestigious Pushcart Prize.

Q: If you could offer one tidbit of advice for new writers, what would it be?
RS: I’m repeating myself here… Read aloud. Read with all the feeling your characters are feeling. Laugh. Shout. Cry. Threaten. Cuss. Yell obscenities. Joke. Baby talk. Whatever your words say. Just make sure you’re not in a crowded restaurant or walking down the street or sitting in a car beside a patrol car with the windows down while you’re doing it!

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
RS: I’d like to say that when I’m not writing I’m hang-gliding or getting full-body tattoos or roaring cross-country on my Harley, but when all is said and done, I’m just a little old lady from the Midwest. I like to be with my family, go to local amateur theatre productions, listen to classical and Romantic music, pet my old cat or my older husband, whichever is closest. I like to read, bake (especially bread; it’s not as beautiful as what my mother used to make but it smells like heaven). I also love to watch old movies, in particular silents, which I’ve come to love via Turner Classic Movies. I love sending and getting email from readers and friends. And I enjoy talking, sometimes about shamefully trivial things. And ok, I’ll admit it, I like funny, dirty limericks.

Q: Had you not become an accomplished writer, what other occupation would you have most liked to tackle?
RS: Accomplished? I certainly have you fooled! The truth is, I’m just a self-taught storyteller and a very slow one, at that. Like Dylan and his music, I’ve only ever wanted to do one thing. Maybe I’d like to teach school—but only if I could do it my way, without all the bureaucratic crap teachers have to deal with. Or maybe I’d be a good psychotherapist. No chance of being a world-class surgeon because I can’t stand the sight of blood and icky things, not to mention I’m klutzy.

Q: Do you enjoy writing, I mean, do you find it fun?
RS: The initial drafting is work. Research is fun. Revising is (usually) fun because then I can play with the words, it’s like a game. The many years I spent trying to alter the course of Counterpoint were closer to agony than fun. But for the most part, yes, it’s fun. Of course the “funnest” part of writing is getting to know other writers and the wonderful readers who have written to me. Many of them have become good friends.

Q: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?
RS: Unfairness, injustice, and cruelty committed in the name of religion. I don’t care whether it’s Christianity, Islam, or what. It’s wrong to use the mantra “God says” or “Allah says” to justify meanness and hatred. That’s all I should say because if I say more I’ll get on a soap box. I would just like to add that I’m not speaking as an outsider. I am a preacher’s granddaughter. I grew up immersed to my eyeballs in religion.

Q: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?
RS: The house and the town are both small-town working-class Mid-America, straight out of Norman Rockwell, and the only town I’ve ever lived in. We bought our house ten years ago partly because it has a floor-to-ceiling bay window that looks out upon hickory trees, and a backyard with a half acre of assorted trees that we call the woods. We have a parade of critters – mostly whitetails that stand around outside the garage door waiting for corn in the winter, a red fox, woodchucks, wild turkeys, the obligatory squirrels and chipmunks, cardinals, woodpeckers, hummingbirds and various other feathered and furred beings. I love toads and am always happy when we find a toad or a turtle. The house is comfortably cluttered (to me) and horribly messy (to my husband, aka “Mr. Clean-on-Steroids”). I expect it’s somewhere in between. The appliances are almost forty years old but still working, and as long as they work, that’s good enough for me.

Q: Where can readers find more of your work?
RS: Everything that has been published is, of course, available on Amazon, and also through the publishers’ websites. I know everybody knows where Amazon is, but here are the publishers’ sites:
The Phoenix -- Lethe Press 2009 – scroll down; you’ll find it
Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story – Dreamspinner Press 2010 --

My four short story e-books are at – search by my name or the title:
The Lawyer, the Ghost, and the Cursed Chair
Mr. Newby’s Revenge
Burma Girl
Song on the Sand

And there are two FREEBIES:
“Tom, or an Improbable Tail” at
And “Mariel” at (Blithe House Quarterly)
I also have a short story “Legend of the Mountain Ash” in the charity anthology I Do Two. All proceeds go to Lambda Legal to help with the fight for marriage equality.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
RS: I always like to end an interview with this plea to readers:
When you read something that moves you, or makes you laugh or cry, or widens your world or…well, really, anything you simply enjoy, please let the author know! Not just me (though I treasure every letter from a reader) but my fellow fiction authors, too. We are crazy people involved in a lonely and crazy profession. We spend time alone with people who don’t exist in the real world. We talk to them and they are real to us. In my case, I nurture them for years! Then we send them out into the world… and unless we hear from readers we feel like we’ve sent them out into a cold, uncaring void. Not even your mother will appreciate your words quite as much as a lonely writer, pecking away on a keyboard somewhere.

Thank you, Ruth, for sharing with us. All the best with your new release.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Alyson Books Goes Digital

Alyson Books, one of the oldest and most respected LGBT publishers in the business, has been in financial trouble for years. Alyson has not published new print books since fall 2009. In fact, Here Media, Alyson’s parent company, has had the publisher on the auction block for some time. Yesterday, after months of being unable to arrange the sale of Alyson Books, Here Media announced that Alyson is dropping its print book program and will restructure as an e-book only publisher.

Don Weise, Editor in Chief, has unsuccessfully tried to generate funding to acquire the publisher. Weise and Here Media were unable to come to terms, and with this restructuring, Weise will leave the company.

John Knoebel, v-p of consumer marketing at Here Media, said he doesn't expect Alyson to begin publishing e-books for nine to twelve months. Not surprising considering Alyson has never published a single ebook.

Alyson plans to reach out to the authors it has under contract to give them the option of getting their rights back or moving ahead with Alyson's digital program. "We know authors are working in different circumstances," Knoebel said. "We hope some will stick with us."

This turn of events will most likely have a huge impact on glbt publishing. Not only for writers, but also for lgbt independent bookstores, who depend on quality paperbacks to stay in business. It makes me wonder how much longer independent bookstores, which have served the gay communities well over the years, will be able to keep their doors open.

It’s a shame that Here Media is not considering Print On Demand, which would allow them to print paperbacks as well, but only ones that have already sold. Many small POD publisher are making that business model work well.

You can read an expanded Publisher's Weekly article by pressing here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Queer Magazine Online's Author of the Month

Queer Magazine Online was gracious enough to name me as their author of the month for October. In celebration of this honor, they posted a recent interview with me. Please take a minute to read it at:

Also, check out these cool banners that author Bryl Tyne created for me: