Month: September 2010

Gay Rutgers Student Commits Suicide After Being Harassed

Update: I’m leaving this post up for the weekend because it’s been such a devastating week for so many people and because these events have touched so many people. And here’s a link to my friend Ryan’s blog that goes into more detail and offers links and phone numbers where gay people in crisis can find help: http://aguyinlove.blogspot.com/

I’ve been watching this story all week and wanted to post something about it. My blogging buddy, Ryan, posted about it on facebook. And because Rutgers University isn’t far from where I live it caught my eye. According to aol news, “The Rutgers University student who committed suicide after two students allegedly streamed a video of his gay sexual encounter over the Internet may have reached out for help before killing himself.” It’s worth the time to check out the link and read the rest of the article.

Years ago, in small towns, it wasn’t unheard of to learn that young men, especially effeminate young men, killed themselves for no apparent reason. It was always kept quiet by the family and always swept aside. Everyone in town knew the reason, and no one ever discussed it openly. And it’s obviously still happening today, in spite of what some people choose to believe.

I’ve ranted about how characters in my own books have been reviewed poorly by readers who are living in social dream worlds when it comes to knowing and understanding what it’s really like to be gay. In this post I tried to explain to an online book reviewer that it’s not at all what you see on TV or read in magazines. Gay men, in most parts of the country and around the world, are still facing harassment and all kinds of abuse and shame. They don’t all have options and choices, and some even choose taking their own lives as a way out.

Unfortunately, this Rutgers student took his own life for reasons directly related to the fact that he was gay. He didn’t think he had any options or choices. He probably had no self-esteem and he couldn’t accept who he was. And I know there are many others who either comtemplate or do commit suicide for reasons directly related to them being gay. Even though we’ve come a long way, and there are people living in liberal west coast cities who think young gay men have all the choices in the world, young gay men are still being bullied and harassed.

But there are people working hard to change this. They want to help and offer guidance to young gay people who don’t think they have any choices. We just have to be louder and push a little harder, until all gay people have the same choices and options as everyone else.

New Release by Michael Russell: FIRST FLOOR ON FIRE

Elisa Rolle has been doing an author survey for a while now, discussing what authors read and how these books inspire them. I still haven’t submitted anything to her because my tastes are so eclectic as a reader I’m not sure what to submit.

However, I’m reading FIRST FLOOR ON FIRE right now and I’m enjoying it. It’s not a m/m romance and it’s nothing I’d write myself, which is probably why I’m enjoying it so much. Books like this keep me grounded and connected to the real world. I’m from the Philadelphia area and I know the setting in this book well. And though I love reading m/m romances as much as I love writing them, once in a while I need a good dose of reality, too.

So check this out on amazon. If you’re a fan of the TV show, “The Wire,” or the movie, “Precious,” you’ll enjoy this book by Michael Russell. And remember, you saw it here first.

Here’s the blurb and the link:

First Floor on Fire is a conflicted love letter to dangerous outcasts and misfits.Imagine a Greek tragedy in the North Philly inner city. First Floor on Fire has a passionate anger and emotional complexity that could appeal to audiences who loved Sapphire’s Push (the book Precious is based on) or season four of The Wire. The story centers around Nevaya Briggs, a strong, fragile, complex African-American teenager who must fight a predatory principal who thinks he’s saving her, an abusive mother, a collapsing school system and a violent classmate. Her ally is her openly gay brother Donyair, who must also battle a bigoted world while hiding his affair with his older brother. A seasoned teacher, Ms. Dee, tries to protect Nevaya, but Nevaya has learned to never trust adults. When she rejects her principal’s advances, he manipulates Nevaya’s enemies to exact revenge, and the consequences are disastrous. Every adult in Nevaya’s life has let her down, and she will fight anyone to save herself from getting hurt even more deeply.

RIP: Jill Johnston

Jill Johnston passed away on September 18th and I didn’t learn about it until last night while I was reading “milestones” in Time Magazine. I watch the six o’clock news every night and didn’t hear this mentioned once. But I’m not surprised. The local news seems geared more toward sports fanatics than cultural fanatics these days. Don’t get me wrong. I love sports. But I like a balance, too. And it would be nice to actually get some news while I’m watching the news.

Who is Jill Johnston?

For those who don’t know, Jill Johnston was the feminist author of LESBIAN NATION and a writer for The Village Voice. She started writing a dance column for TVV back in 1959 when it was just a little paper in The Village no one ever thought would last. From there she went on to write several controversial pieces that kept her often at odds with the feminist movement throughout the l960’s. TVV even refered to her as, “the country’s first shamelss public lesbian.”

During a debate in New York in l971, Johnston had a three-way kissing session, in public, with two of her friends, which casued more than a few raised eyebrows then. And I think it would still raise a few eybrows now.

But for me, Jill Johnston was the beginning of an era for gay liberation and equal rights. Jill and other gay people like her started a movement that not only liberated gay people in general, but also opened up doors for books and other cultural mediums that might not exist today if it hadn’t been for their courage.

If you’re l, g, b, or t, I urge you to read her work. If you’re not and you’re interested in the lgbt community, you’ll find her work just as fascinating.

RIP, Jill.

Waiting to Hear From Dalia…

I’m waiting to hear from Dalia!!

Who is Dalia?

Dalia is the talented editor and artist who just finished editing my new short story, SIR, YES SIR, and creating the cover art for the book.

I’ll post more about the book as it gets closer to release. But I wanted to thank Dalia right now for working so hard and being so damn talented. When I get links to her blog and her info, I’ll also post them here so if anyone’s interested they can check her out, too.

I write fast. If I had to I could probably write a novel in a week. My personal best is three weeks and that was tiring. However, when it comes to cover art I don’t know which way to look for help.

And when someone like Dalia comes along and I see how excellent she is in both areas of e-publishing, I think it’s time to applaud!

What is the Problem with Parenthesis?

I don’t totally get this. There seems to be some kind of ban on using ( ) I haven’t heard about (smile).

I have a degree in English from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florham-Madison Campus, I’ve been reading novels all my life, and I’ve seen ( ) used time and again. In Anne Tyler books, I think her funniest, wittiest moments were done with the use of ( ). In stream of consciousness literature it’s essential to use ( ).

So why is it that I can’t seem to get one single story or novel past a copyeditor without being slammed for using ( )? I don’t do it often (bigger smile). I swear I don’t. I only do it when I want to insert something into the text that’s not related but what I think is important to the reader.

There seems to be this ban against ( ), because it slows the reader down. At least this is what I’ve been told by copyeditors in their twenties. I never object either. I’m nice that way. Unless it’s something that’s going to change my story completely I let them have at it with a huge smile on my face. After years of writing, this falls under the category of life is just too damn short.

But I can’t help wondering who started this rumor about ( ), and that we have to race through novels and if there’s a set of ( ) in the way it’s going to slow us down and ruin the entire book. I agree they shouldn’t be used too often, like adverbs and overusing the word that. But I have a feeling it’s the same person who thinks dialogue tags shouldn’t be used anymore and the reader should have to suffer through figuring out who is speaking from page one (huge smile).

How Can President Obama Help Us With Bad Book Reviews?

This post was prompted by a facebook post I read late last night. A young author received a bad review and he was absolutely devastated. I felt bad for him. My heart broke. But there was really nothing I could do other than offer support. Every author has to learn how to deal with bad reviews in his or her own way.

I’ve been lurking around the Internets long enough to have experienced all kinds of book reviews. For the most part, I’ve been thankful. But I’ve had a few bad reviews, too. One in particular was for AMERICAN STAR. It was ripped to shreds in a quasi satirical review that left my jaw hanging. Not because of the bad review or for the fact that there was a technical glitch beyond my control as an author that left a character’s name mispelled throughout the book. And not because the reviewer didn’t spell my name right (smile: you have to love Irony in this case). But because the book is a satire. This is clearly written in the blurb. And I didn’t understand the logic behind roasting a book about pop culture that is already a roast about pop culture. I’m almost tempted to add the link here just so anyone reading this can get a good laugh. (Ah, what the hell. Here it is.)

If you’re going to put yourself out there on the Internet, in any capacity, from business person to author, you’re setting yourself up for criticism of all kinds. And you’d better be ready to take it. Everyone has an opinion and almost everyone feels the need to share it in public. I’ve been sexually harassed by one very popular gay book reviewer to the point where I had to block him from all my social networks. I’ve even had my books slammed on amazon because reviewers didn’t like the prices, which are completely out my control. All I can say is it comes with the territory. And, most book reviewers are excellent, they truly love what they are doing, and they care about their readers. So there is a bright side as well.

When I read the young author’s facebook post about his bad review, I couldn’t help thinking about President Obama. These days it seems no matter what he does or says he’s getting slammed from all sides. How he takes all this criticism is anyone’s guess. And no matter how bad it is he still manages to get up every morning, face the day, and continue running the country with a big smile for his critics. It can’t be easy. And when you think about his criticism compared to a silly little book review, it just can’t compete.

So if you’re a new author and you receive a bad review. Take it in your stride. If you plan to continue writing, the odds are you’re going to get more bad reviews in the future. And they will always be written by someone who knows it all, knows how to manipulate an audience, and feels compelled to express his or her exhaulted opinion for the sake of literature around the world and throughout the universe. And when you think about how the President deals with criticism like this on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, it’s comforting to know it could always be worse.

Do Gay Men Like Being Called Boys?

I’ve seen it and heard it all my life. Straight people, without meaning harm, referring to a gay couple as The Boys. I know a successful attorney who has been openly gay all his life and straight people refer to him as one of the boys. It doesn’t matter that he can buy and sell them ten times over. It doesn’t matter that he has more education and more life experience. In their eyes, he’s a boy, not a man.

In my lifetime, I’ve been called a boy many times. At parties, the wife will shout, “The Boys are here.” It’s always been used as a term of endearment, and no one meant any harm. But it always made me cringe. When I was younger it wasn’t so bad. But as I get older and gain more life experience, I find it more insulting than anything else. I’m not a boy. I’m a man.

And I can’t help wondering how other gay guys feel about this. It’s so unconscious it’s never actually discussed. There’s a popular TV show called The Fabulous Beekman Boys. These guys don’t seem to mind. They make their goat cheese; one has a bestselling book out. The could have called the show The Beekman Guys or The Beekman Men. They could have omitted the word fabulous altogether. But they chose the word Boys. Did it even occur to them they didn’t have to be called boys? I’m not even going near the word fabulous. I don’t use it often enough to care.

Maybe I’m reading too much into all this. I never corrected anyone for calling me a boy. But lately I’ve been thinking about doing it just to see what kind of reaction I get. You tend to get that way as you get older. But try calling Donald Trump a boy and see how he reacts.