Hope these folks are okay. I went to college in north Jersey, Florham Park, and I used to shop at the Willowbrook Mall not far from Patterson.
I was up late last night consoling a good writer friend who had suffered a bad review. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. But she thought it was and she was devastated.
I told her about this comment someone once wrote about me, below, hoping she’d feel a little better:
Did y’all know Alyson, a reputable GLBT print pub, will be putting out paper editions of two RR books, one of which is by the inimitable Ryan Field? Some coup.
This was a comment left on a review blog by some nasty bitchy woman author about me, roughly two years ago. It was meant to be snide, not as a compliment. I don’t know her and hope to never meet her in person anywhere. I won’t mention her name because I wouldn’t give her an ounce of publicity on my blog. The interesting thing is the post on which she commented wasn’t even about me. And even more interesting, she had no idea that when Alyson bought my book I’d already been published by them in so many books I can’t even count them. I remember when Sasha Alyson started Alyson books back in the day. They were on Plympton Street in Boston. I didn’t know him well. But I knew him. And here this dumb woman had no idea I already had contacts with many publishers and editors long before she ever thought about writing m/m fiction during her mid-life crisis.
I think I helped my friend after I told her this story. I told her a few others, too. By the time we hung up, I even had her laughing. And I hope I taught her the importance of never taking any reviews too seriously. I’m talking about the great reviews, too. They can inflate your ego even when you don’t think they can. And the best thing to do is just keep writing, keep doing what you love, and pay attention to what’s in your heart.
Here’s a sneak peak at my new upcoming release, The Gay Bachelor. This book is longer than most of my others, about 75,000 words. And it deals with falling in love and coming to terms with the past on different levels than I’ve written about before. It also deals with various aspects of being gay, which I’ve drawn from my very own personal experience.
And, for those of you who see the title and wonder, it has nothing to do with the TV show, The Bachelor. I’ve never even seen the straight version of The Bachelor, and don’t intend to any time soon. In this book everything leads up to the fictional TV show, The Gay Bachelor, with regard to auditions. But it stops before the TV season even begins.
As I said, this is a sneak preview and we’re still debating on whether or not to leave it as “The Bachelor,” or add the word “Gay.”
I’m working on a long blog post this week that will be pubbed in a few places. And the question of porn and erotica came up.
I have my own definitions for both. But I’d rather post the wiki definitions right now.
And, keep in mind there is always going to be someone who doesn’t agree, not even with these definitions. Sarah Palin’s daughter’s ex-boyfriend, what’s-his-name, posed partially nude for a Playgirl and Ms. Palin called that porn, which I found interesting because there wasn’t even full frontal nudity.
Erotica: Erotica and pornography
The Naked Maja (c. 1800–1803) by Francisco de Goya.
Distinction is often made between erotica and pornography (the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction) (as well as the lesser known genre of sexual entertainment, ribaldry), although depending on the viewer they may seem one and the same. Pornography’s objective is the graphic depiction of sexually explicit scenes. Pornography is often described as exploitative or degrading.
Here’s the link.
Pornography or porn is the portrayal of explicit sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.
Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, or video game. However, when sexual acts are performed for a live audience, by definition it is not pornography, as the term applies to the depiction of the act, rather than the act itself. Thus, portrayals such as sex shows and striptease are not classified as pornography.
A pornographic model poses for pornographic photographs. A pornographic actor or porn star performs in pornographic films. In cases where limited dramatic skills are involved, a performer in pornographic films may be called a pornographic model.
A distinction is often made between erotica (the portrayal of sexuality with high-art aspirations, focusing also on feelings and emotions) and pornography (the depiction of acts in a sensational manner, with the entire focus on the physical act, so as to arouse quick intense reactions). 
Pornography has often been subject to censorship and legal restraints on publication on grounds of obscenity. Such grounds and the very definition of what is or is not pornography have differed in different historical, cultural, and national contexts.
With the emergence of social attitudes more tolerant of sexuality and with more explicit definitions of obscenity in law, an industry for the production and consumption of pornography arose in the latter half of the 20th century. The introduction of home video and the Internet saw booms in a porn industry that today generates billions of dollars a year worldwide.
And here’s the link to this one.
This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a long time, but wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. So, thankfully, Portia e-mailed me about writing this, as if she’d read my mind, and I decided that her questions were so perfect, I’d just follow them and go from there as if this were an actual interview.
And keep in mind that this is how I handle hopping genres. I know others feel differently. But what works for one person might not work for another. And, seriously, there really is no set rule when it comes to these things. I’ve learned more by trial and error than by planning things out. And after twenty years, I’m still learning.
I’ve noticed that you write different levels of erotica. Some of your work is almost inspirationally sweet, while others are porn on paper. How do you decide how nasty a story needs to be to tell the story?
This is a great question. I have been hopping around various sub-genres for almost twenty years now. At first, I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought I could just write whatever I wanted to write and no one would care. But that’s not always the case, especially with erotica and erotic romance.
There’s no way I’m going to get into the definition of an erotic romance. There are already too many definitions out there and no one needs me to add another. But I do want to address the porn aspect. For me, and I’m only speaking for myself, as long as there’s a storyline it’s not porn. There’s a difference between porn and explicit sex scenes when there’s a storyline. I know some people will disagree with me. I’ve heard some say they want more emotion in erotic romance. And I agree with them. But that depends on who is defining emotion. And it’s all subjective.
I also think being an openly gay man has something to do with the way I see things. I heard a scene in a movie a few weeks ago that explains it perfectly. So I’ll show rather than tell. Two characters are talking about a hot looking guy who just moved into the neighborhood. This is somewhat how it went, not verbatim:
Gay Man gaping at hot guy: “There’s the new neighbor who sweats a lot and smells so wonderful all the time.”
Straight woman sneering at hot guy: “I think he stinks.”
I didn’t come up with this. Someone else did. But I think it’s great example of how different people view things, especially when it comes to sex. And there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s as natural as breathing oxygen.
I also write love stories without much sex at all in them. I consider these modern m/m romances. Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza is a great example. This is one of my own favorites. I enjoying writing it. I felt the emotion the characters felt, and a good deal of the story is based on my own personal experience. But it’s been difficult to get this e-book out there. To make matters worse, another e-book with a similar title to my Strawberries and Cream was published at the same time mine was released, completely by accident, and my Strawberries and Cream took a bit hit. It’s ironic, too, because my Strawberries and Cream was originally published by Alyson Books many years ago in an anothology about first dates. And this is one of the pitfalls of hopping genres. The other author with a similar title is known for sweet, tender romances and her Strawberries and Cream did very well. But once you get branded for writing explicit erotic romance, the people who want nice tender romances won’t read you. And If you do write a tender romance the people who want highly explicit erotic romance get mad at you.
Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza has had many excellent reviews. But I haven’t seen the sales I’ve seen with other books I’ve written that have more sex scenes in them. If I’d known this, I would have published this under a pen name and let it stand on its own. It’s a sweet story and I plan to do more like it in the future. I’m finishing up a historical novella right now with very little sex and I’m trying to figure out whether or not to publish it with my own name or a pen name.
But I never decide how nasty a story needs to be while I’m in the middle of telling the story. I let the characters do that for me. And there’s no other way I can explain that. I’m not one of those writers who controls his characters. They control me. But I do like to balance reality and fantasy. And if the characters might be thinking about doing something nasty, I let them.
Does it make a difference who is publishing?
I think it does…to a certain extent. Almost all of my erotic short stories are published with loveyoudivine.com. I’ve been writing for LYD for almost six years. They were the first e-publisher I started writing with. And I try to keep my stories with them different from what I write for other publishers. There’s usually more sex, but not always. I published Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza with LYD and there’s no sex at all there. And with LYD, I don’t get any rules or guidelines to follow. They leave it up to me.
My novels with ravenous romance are more romantic and they tend to follow a formula. I try to do this on purpose. They aren’t classic romances by any means and I make that clear all the time. But they are romances, from a gay man’s point of view, and I try to put this out there when I’m marketing and promoting the books. I want readers to know what they are getting.
Do you come up with the story first and then shop it out?
Another great question. Unfortunately, it all depends. With Loveyoudivine.com, I have total freedom to do what I want. All the authors have this freedom there. And it’s why I’d do anything for these wonderful people. I’m usually asking them what they think…”Should we do this?” or “Maybe this won’t work.”
When it comes to my books with Ravenous Romance, it’s more like a brainstorming session. I get suggestions from the publishers, we go back and forth about them, and we all agree on a final concept in the end. I love these brainstorming sessions, too. I love the collaboration because I think it adds to the final product. I’m not one of those authors who feels the need to self-publish, not even now when it’s becoming so popular. I need feedback from my publishers and editors, and almost always agree with their experience. I’m too close to my work to be objective.
With other publishers, I do what everyone else does. I query them and hope for the best. Over the years I’ve built a lot of relationships with editors at Cleis Press and Alyson Books, and sometimes they buy my work, sometimes they don’t think it’s right for the book. So I just shop it somewhere else. I’ve had plenty of stories rejected by plenty of editors, but I’ve never had a story that wasn’t eventually published.
And, just for the record, I’ve never had an agent. I’ve always shopped and sold my own work, from US publishers to European publishers. And while it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve learned a great deal and made some wonderful lasting friendships over the years.
Hopping genres isn’t easy to do without getting someone mad at you. And if you use your own name all the time, it makes it even more difficult. I’ve written a few pg rated hetero romances under different pen names, and I find pen names to be very frustrating at best. But there are no set rules for anyone when it comes to this. And I think it’s important to keep it real and give readers as much product information as possible so they know what they are buying and there are no disappointments. And it’s important to remember that no writer, anywhere, is ever going to please everyone.
This is one of those short posts that will explain why I’ll never be one of those popular bloggers, like the dudes who write blog posts with titles like, “What Was Your All Time Favorite Book?” or “Do You Think You Have What It Takes To Be An Overnight Sensation?” The odds of me ever having a writing contest here are slim to none. And I think linking to an array of other articles on the web in one blog post is just lazy blogging. And let’s face it, posts about querying literary agents is so last Friday my face hurts just thinking about them (describe the damn book; give your contact info; if they don’t like it move on to another agent and try again…easy-peasey).
But when I do find something I think is genuinely interesting, I share it here. And there’s this new book out titled, Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation, by Simon LeVey. I haven’t read the book yet, but I intend to when I have more time.
I just saw this and wanted to post about it. I’m thrilled to see that things are changing for once in a positive direction. Of course it would also be nice to see the LLF add e-books, too. But I have a feeling that’s going to take a long time. Like most of publishing, there are still a lot of people who have yet to embrace e-books and many who don’t even understand them. I even know one or two people who think e-books are a passing trend and will die out. Who knows? All I do know is once I switched to an e-reader I never went back to print…for a variety of reasons, most having to do with the higher quality of my reading experience with an e-reader.
This is what the LLF says about e-books: Books available in eBook format alone are not eligible. Interesting mind set, especially with amazon’s .99 e-books doing so well. You have to wonder if some of these nice folks are living under rocks. I’ll post more about that in the future.
For now, I’m thrilled to see that Lambda has added the changes, especially this one: These awards will be open to all authors regardless of their sexual identity. Even though I don’t enter award contests, ever, (It’s a personal thing for me…I’m not writing to win awards and I never did write to win awards…I don’t even enter the Rainbow Awards and I’m one of the jurors. And anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love Elisa Rolle, the person who started the Rainbow Awards.) I’m thrilled to see the LLF do this.
Here’s the link, and below is the article.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 29, 2011
CONTACT: Dr. Judith Markowitz, LLF Co-Chair
(773) 769-9243, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lambda Literary Foundation Announces
New Guidelines for Lambda Literary Awards Submissions
For its first 20 years, the Lambda Literary Foundation accepted submissions for the Lambda Literary Awards based solely on a book’s LGBT subject matter. That policy changed in 2009 to restrict the awards to self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer authors. After two years of implementing the LGBT-only policy, the queer book community remains sharply divided about limiting Lammy nominations to LGBT authors only.
In its review of the LGBT-only policy, the LLF Board of Trustees took into consideration LLF’s mission statement
The Lambda Literary Foundation nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers.
and core provisions in its Bylaws. The Board also noted that the large majority of finalists and winners of the Lambda Literary Awards have been LGBT authors, but not all of them. There have also been a small number of outstanding books about LGBT lives written by our heterosexual allies.
In addition, the LLF Board solicited opinions from individuals in the LGBT book community, including publishers, authors, important donors, readers, and casual supporters. Those opinions represented both sides of the issue and were, in many cases, intensely held.
After careful consideration of all these factors, the Board crafted a new policy designed to honor excellence in writing about LGBT lives. The new policy has three components:
LGBT authors will be recognized with three awards marking stages of a writer’s career: the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one gay man and one lesbian), the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize (to one male-identified and one female-identified author), and the Pioneer Award (to one male-identified and one female-identified individual or group)
Awards for the remaining Lambda Literary Award categories will be based on literary merit and significant content relevant to LGBT lives. These awards will be open to all authors regardless of their sexual identity
All book award judges will be self-identified LGBT
“We fully understand the importance of this issue and the extent to which it has divided our community,” said LLF Board Co-Chair, Dr. Judith Markowitz. “Resolving these strongly-held differences was not easy. We worked carefully keeping in mind the best interests of LGBT people, writing, and writers.”
She continued, “The policy we’ve crafted recognizes that those opposing viewpoints are actually contained in LLF’s mission. We hope that the result of our deliberations promotes healing and strengthens LGBT writers and literature.”
The revised guidelines appear on the LLF website. They are effective immediately in preparation for the 24th Annual Lambda Literary Awards to be held in New York City in early June 2012.
The Lambda Literary Foundation nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers. LLF’s programs include: the Lambda Literary Awards, the Writers’ Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices, and our comprehensive website, http://www.LambdaLiterary.org. For more information call (213) 568-3570.
Last night I was going through my yahoo e-mails and found this photo from someone who lives in Provincetown, MA. The photo is of a tree that went down, thanks to Irene.
What surprised me the most is that this storm had such a wide range. When the Philadelphia area and north was getting hit at the peak of the storm, it was still down in North Carolina. But I’d assumed it was going to pass The Cape by. At least that’s how it looked on TV. Evidently, P’town got their share, too. I hope none of the businesses suffered. It’s a tough place to run a business and these extreme weather patterns don’t help things.