Month: April 2011

Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving

I finished reading Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving late yesterday. I’ve been posting about this book on and off for the past month, and that’s because with my deadlines the only chance I get to read for pleasure is late at night.

I’ve read everything John Irving has ever written. I started reading his fiction in college for a “Contemporary Fiction” class and ever since then I’ve been a fan of his work. I’ve always considered his writing style as untouchable. In other words, if I started something John Irving wrote without knowing it was written by him, I’m certain I’d be able to recognize him at once.

And Last Night In Twisted River was no exception. This book is John Irving at his best, from the tormented tale of Domenic the cook to the unusual circumstances that shape Daniel the writer’s entire life. The book follows Domenic and his son Daniel through the course of a lifetime, from a logging camp on the Androscoggin to a quiet house in Toronto. As in real life…and this is something I love about John Irving’s fiction…there are always certain “things” that follow us around all our lives. Even if we try to ignore these things, they catch up with us when we least expect them. In fact, there’s no place secure enough to hide from certain things. But more than that, we can’t hide from love, sorrow, unfulfilled expectations, achievements, revenge, and grave losses. And many times the only thing that keeps us going is hope…even though we may or may not be very good at hoping.

The cast of characters are as simple and as complicated as in all of Iriving’s other books, especially one character in particular: Ketchum. He’s the crusty old codger we love and hate. He’s the quirky philosopher we wonder about sometimes. And, most of all, he’s the wise one…who makes coffee with egg shells and loves to watch moose dance…that many of us wish we had in our own lives.

But if you’re looking for a quick, simple read, this might not be the book for you. This is a book that’s meant to be read slowly and taken step by step. There are sentences and paragraphs that should be read more than once in order to grasp the full meaning of each individual character. I read about Six-Pack Pam more than once several times. And I kept going back to read about Danny Angel the writer, after Daniel changes his name to Danny Angel the writer, so I could understand his tormented marriage completely.

There are sections where the book becomes political, especially when Daniel the writer starts posting news clippings on his Toronto refrigerator. But this is fiction, not real life. And the opinions and rants are coming from characters who don’t really exist, which makes the political sections more entertaining than anything else.

I could continue for days writing this review. I could write about Injun Jane, fat Carl, Ketchum, Carmella, and poor little Angelu. I could mention the charming Italian flair and the excellent food descriptions where a hint of honey is added to pizza dough to make it sweeter. But I’m going to end here by saying I can’t recommend this book enough to serious fiction readers. You have to start out slowly and build up momentum, but once Irving has you hooked, to the point where you feel you know these characters personally, you’re not going to leave until you’ve read every last word he’s written.

Elton John and David Furnish At the Royal Wedding

As with most posts on this blog, the focus is usually on all things LGBT related. And when I saw this photo of Elton John and his longtime partner, David Furnish, at the Royal Wedding, I wanted to post it for those who didn’t see it.

I think it’s a step forward…every little step counts…toward equality. And though many may not think it’s very important, I doubt Elton John would have openly invited his longtime partner, if he’d had one at the time, to the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana 30 years ago.

It’s taking forever, but times are changing.

HIV, Condoms, and What So Many Don’t Realize

This is mostly for younger people out there, straight or gay, who either don’t know all the facts or don’t know where to get them. But I think it’s important for everyone to know certain things we don’t hear about in the mainstream media often enough. And everything I post here can be looked up and confirmed in more detail, which I’d strongly advise everyone to do.

What prompted me to write this post was a comment I heard about how different things are nowadays with all the new HIV meds (ARVs) and that HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence…it’s a chronic disease. And this is true, and this is wonderful, and people are now living their lives with HIV. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I’ve written a few blog posts about a friend of mine who has HIV and how I helped him get his disability insurance back last year. You can read a few of the posts here along with a few other things I mentioned about HIV/AIDS.

I’ve worked very closely with the AIDS Law Project in helping my friend have his disablity insurance reinstated and it wasn’t easy. I also got to know one of the leading infectious disease doctors in the world while doing this, Dr Jay Kostman. Since then, I’ve asked Dr. Kostman…and his wonderful nurse practitioner, Jodi…many questions while I was researching for my books, and he’s been more than happy to oblige. And frankly, I have never met people more dedicated to helping people stay alive and maintain the quality of their lives before.

But the point of this post is that just because there are HIV meds out there doesn’t mean you stop being concerned. You still have to practice safe sex at all times to avoid being infected with the HIV virus. My friend, who isn’t that old, is on permanent disabilty for a reason and his entire life has been altered. I’ve seen this first hand. There are side effects from the HIV meds that are far too long to list here. And each med has a different long term effect on other parts of the body, which in turn leads to other chronic illnesses on top of the HIV. So while it’s wonderful we have these HIV drugs…I’m not diminishing this for a second…it’s not as simple as most people would lead us to believe. There is plenty of information on the Internet if you don’t believe me. All you have to do is a simple search and you’ll see what I mean.

The trouble is most people don’t research what’s going on enough. And the mainstream media only skims the surface and leads people to believe HIV is a simple, treatable illness now. But like any other illness, diabetes for example, living with HIV is a lot more complicated than it sounds. I was shocked while watching an Oprah Winfrey show last year when I heard Oprah admit to one of her guests she had no idea living with HIV was as complicated as it is. I hope she’s learned a little more since then.

And, the HIV meds aren’t cheap. If you’re lucky enough to have good medical insurance you might only have to pay a couple of thousand dollars a year out of your own pocket. If you don’t have health insurance and you have to pay for these drugs yourself, it could run well into thousands of dollars a month, which can bankrupt you very quickly in these times of hope and change. Again, if you don’t believe me, just do a simple search and see what HIV meds cost. You’ll be amazed. The information is out there but you have to look for it.

The best thing, for now, anyone sexually active can do is to take precautions and think before you do anything with someone you don’t know. This is why the characters in my books almost always use condoms, even though it’s fiction and I don’t have to do this. And this is why I’ve always used condoms myself. I personally have zero tolerance for this. I’ve seen too much to take any chances with my life and my health.

Publishing Isn’t Always Like It Looks On The Beekman Boys…

I see a lot of blog posts about how the publishing process works in traditional print publishing all the time. But I rarely see any that show new potential authors how things work in e-publishing. And, I was watching that reality TV show, The Beekman Boys, where the one guy (I’m bad with names…it’s not Brent…it’s the other one) had to go into New York and meet with an editor and discuss the concept for a new cookbook.

I love that show. But I don’t know why he had to meet in person. It looked to me like this was a meeting that could have been handled with a few simple e-mails. I guess this was something to fill up air time on TV and let the viewers know more about the cookbook? And there’s nothing wrong with that…it’s TV…larger than life. But I’d like potential authors to know this isn’t how it works in most cases in the real world, even though this is reality TV. Everything is done electronically now.

And I’ve worked with more editors at print publishers than I can remember off hand. I’ve been working with two e-publishers for the past six years now. I’ve been with for six years, and for almost three. Like with traditional print publishers, the process can vary depending on the publisher. However, it’s basically the same.

This afternoon, for example, I received an e-mail from one e-publisher about the possibility of putting together another m/m romance series. Once the e-mails begin, it becomes an electronic brainstorming session between a few editors, the publishers, and me. It would be nice to meet in person, but I live in New Hope, Bucks County, PA, one lives in NYC, and the others live in Boston. If we met in person each time we had to discuss a new book there wouldn’t be any time to write or publish the book.

And this time I loved the idea they suggested and added my own opinions. Thankfully, they loved my opinions and the brainstorming continued until we had a basic overview of where the books in the serious would be going and where the stories would be set.

It’s all tentative right now. But I’ve found that once the basic concept is there and it begins to breathe, so to speak, it continues to grow in various stages until there’s actually a final product, which is the book.

It’s not always this easy, but most of the time it is. And it’s not at all unlike the brainstorming sessions I’ve had with editors at traditional print publishers. I once went back and forth with an editor at Alyson Books, about seven years ago, to get a short story for an anthology just right. We didn’t even have to pick up the phone that time. We did it all through e-mails and never had to leave our offices.

I would imagine most editors, agents, and publishers communicate with their authors this way, which makes it easier for everyone involved. And it’s never like anyone on TV would lead you to believe it is.

Breakfast with Prince Harry

If I lived in London, I’d be standing out there with everyone else trying to get a glimpse of the Royal Wedding. It’s not that I’m fascinated by monarchs, and I certainly don’t believe anything I read in the press about them…good or bad.

But this wedding is history in the making, and I find that fascinating. There’s also a romantic element, on a grand scale, I can’t ignore. And although my books might turn his red hair white, I certainly wouldn’t mind having breakfast with Prince Harry.

Prince Harry Planning Post-Royal Wedding Breakfast at 6amAll Night Party for Prince William and Kate Middleton. But where is Queen Elizabeth?Posted by COURTNEY CHAPMAN|4:02:58 AM EDT |Post a Comment

Prince Harry arrives at Twickenham Stadium to welcome back cyclists taking part in the Dallaglio Cycle Slam Feb. 25, 2010, in London. Harry has completed the Army Pilots Course at Middle Wallop.
(Samir Hussein/Getty Images)Best man, Prince Harry, is taking on an extra role at the royal wedding…party planner.

Prince William’s younger brother is said to be extremely involved with plans for the evening reception, a private party for 300 of Will and Kate’s closest friends and family.

His goal, reportedly to make it an evening his brother and new sister-in-law will never forget.

He’s planning for the celebration to last until 6am, well past the midnight end time when most British weddings call it a night.

ABC royal contributor, Katie Nicholl, reported in the Daily Mail that “sources close to William and Harry have instructed aides to plan a proper ‘knees up’, and courtiers are expecting it to carry on into the next day.”

So don’t expect the austerity of the reception venue to dictate the evening’s mood. Nicholl told ABC News “It may be a party taking place at Buckingham Palace, but rock it will.”

In fact, Buckingham residents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, won’t even be at the evening reception.

The Mirror reports that Prince William’s grandparents will head to Windsor Castle, “leaving their home in the hands of the younger royals.”

Prince Harry has arranged for the DJ to play into the early hours, so for those guests still dancing at the end of the night? A “survivors” post-wedding breakfast at 6 a.m.

According to Nicholl, caterers are preparing bacon sandwiches and “fry-ups.”

The Queen is throwing her own morning reception immediately following Prince William and Kate Middleton’s ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

Looks like the royal couple is getting two royal wedding breakfasts.

Here You Go Donald Trump: Obama’s Birth Certificate

I hope, once and for all, that grand-standing, publicity mongering, anti-gay, Donald Trump finds this birth certificate, released this morning from the White House, satisfactory. You can view the larger version by clicking the photo to the left or checking out the link here.

And please don’t get me wrong with this post. I’m not defending the President and I’m not taking any sides politically. I’m not a political person. But I do support all LGBT issues, and only LGBT issues. There are no gray areas for me when it comes to LGBT issues.

We’ve been asking the LGBT community and their friends and family to boycott Donald Trump’s reality TV show, The Celebrity Apprentice because of his stand on LGBT issues, not because of his rants about Obama’s birth certificate, or because the show is tired and it sux.

But, frankly, I’m glad the White House released this today. I’ve always thought there was something peculiar about Donald Trump just beneath the surface. Seriously, there’s something odd about Trump. When someone’s been married and divorced as many times as he has, he should be the last person to make a judgment on whether or not gays should be legally allowed to marry.

I Wonder How Book Pirates Feel About .99 E-books

With all the .99 e-books out there, I couldn’t help wondering how people who pirate e-books feel about this.

I have, I think, two books on Amazon for .99. An Officer and His Gentleman and Pretty Man. I’m fine with it. No problem. But then I trust my publishers to price my books and I really don’t have any say in the matter.

This .99 e-book thing makes me wonder about book pirates. I know there are people in different countries who can’t buy and download books in different parts of the world, so they pirate. I’ve read their comments in a previous post I wrote and I can sympathize with them.

But not everyone pirates e-books because they can’t actually buy them. Studies show that most books are pirated right here in the US. I’ve also heard there are a lot of other reasons, mainly that readers aren’t sure about whether or not they’ll like a book and before they spend money they’d rather pirate the book first.

Well, you can’t get cheaper than .99 a book. I’m interested in buying Shirley Maclaine’s new non-fiction book and I’m not getting anywhere close to the .99 deal her publishers are charging for her book at 9.99. Seriously. .99 a book beats the price of a hot dog at the ballpark, a cup of coffee at the local bodega, and certainly a gallon of gasoline in these wonderful times of hope and change. Actually, there’s not much you can get for .99 anymore.