Month: March 2012

So a Dude Wrote a Few Nancy Drew Books…


Last weekend, by accident, I turned on the TV around five on a Saturday afternoon to take a short nap. I love cooking shows for this reason. Nothing puts me to sleep faster. Instead of finding a cooking show, I wound up at PBS watching a half hour interview with the late Mildred Wirt Benson. She was one of the authors who wrote the Nancy Drew books that left such strong impressions on more than one famous woman. These Nancy Drew books were all written by ghostwriters and published with one grand pen name, Carolyn Keene, and no one ever knew it. In fact, this pen name was so well guarded the truth didn’t come out until many years later.

A good deal of the PBS show focused on Edward Stratemeyer, who founded the Stratemeyer Syndicate. He was a prolific author himself who figured out a way to get all his ideas into print, making money at the same time. The SS was responsible for other books like The Hardy Boys series. Mr. Stratemeyer would solicit authors with a short synopsis or plot outline and then contract them to write these books for a flat fee. The SS never paid them a dime over that flat fee and kept all royalties. This isn’t all that unusual, unfortunately. The ghost writers were paid a $125.00 flat fee, and during the depression the fee was reduced to $100.00. Small presses are still doing this today, so don’t be too stunned by this. I’ve been in more anthologies than I can count that paid a flat fee of $50.00, without mention of e-book royalties, and two free copies. At one point, about eight years ago, one small press actually sent out a mass e-mail informing the contributing authors they were reducing the flat fee from $50.00 to $25.00 due to economic hardship. I continued to submit work to them without complaining. As an author who only cares about writing I didn’t have much of a choice and the publisher was slick enough to know this. The authors who contributed to the Nancy Drew books had even less choices and they were happy to get their flat fee.

These authors who wrote books for the SS were all very prolific and they wanted to be career writers. I’m emphasizing this on purpose, because I see a lot of talk on the Internets these days that slam authors who have the ability to write fast. The speed with which it takes an author to write a novel…or any fiction…has nothing to do with the quality of the fiction. And in genre and sub-genre fiction the authors who can write faster usually get more work. The key word here is genre. Not every author is as lucky as Jonathan Franzen and can spend ten years writing a literary mainstream novel and make millions of dollars. Most career authors in genre fiction produce at least four new novels a year, which is a conservative number. It’s not because they are pressured or forced. It’s because they CAN do it and that’s what they LOVE doing.

I could spend days writing about the Stratemeyer Syndicate and all the good and bad it did for both authors and readers. But what I found most interesting was that a man, Walter Karig, wrote at least three volumes of the Nancy Drew series. Once again, Mr. Karig was considered very prolific and he wrote everything from military history to TV scripts. I doubt anyone who read the Nancy Drew books he wrote at the time would have guessed a man had written them. Good writers have little tricks they build with experience. And we’re talking about fiction, not non-fiction based on fact and real life. The Nancy Drew books, regardless of who wrote them, all did one thing: they provided entertainment to young women who couldn’t get enough of them.

The youtube video below is interesting because it gets into a lot of what I just mentioned with a little more clarity. I do find it interesting how surprised the guy is when he talks about how poorly authors were treated back then. Things haven’t changed all that much for career writers. Although I have to admit indie publishing and Amazon have given us more choices than ever before, authors do what they have to do in order to write. This is the main focus and the goal. Those of us who have been there, and are still there in many cases, fully understand why people like Walter Karig and Mildred Wirt Benson did what they did. And these authors prove, more than any other example I can find, that a good career writer can author any book, in any genre, he or she is contracted to do.

Chase of a Lifetime on Kobo, and Amazon Indie Publishing from Catherine Ryan Hyde & Barry Eisler


While I don’t want to bore everyone to death with details about the technical process involved in self-publishing a book on Amazon, I did want to show that one of the things I thought was important was to edit/proof my book downloaded to an actual e-reader. I wanted to see how the e-book would look on one of my own e-readers. I have five and I started with the basic Kobo e-reader with e-ink. I don’t want to assume anything, so I’ll also be testing the book out on every type of e-reader to be sure it looks the same on the most basic to the most recent tablet. And, this is editing that’s more like triple checking because the book’s already been extensively edited and copy edited down to the last line…both before and after conversion. And, “Chase of a Lifetime” is a 60,000 word full length novel, not a short story or novella.

The one problem I found while I was checking things out last night on my Kobo was that the copy editor I hired made changes, got them wrong, and I had to go back and line edit each small thing. They weren’t large. It was more of a matter of style than anything. But since I’m in charge this time and I get the final say, the copy editor isn’t going to do anything to my book I don’t like. Another problem I’m finding is that things like indentations and page numbers tend to get screwed up during the conversion process. But it’s being figured out as I write this post.

Overall, I’m happy with the way the book looks on Kobo. I wanted to be sure people who own Kobo products could download the book on Amazon, too. I won’t get into mobi files or epub files because I doubt people want to know about this. Until I started this Amazon project I didn’t want to know those details. But if I can download a .99 Kindle e-book to my Kobo, iPhone, or Nook, I would imagine anyone else can.

I also want to link to a great post I read yesterday. I was having one of those “what the fuck did I do now” moments with regard to Amazon publishing. So I did a few searches to see how other authors view the process and found a great interview/post between author Catherine Ryan Hide and Barry Eisler. For those who don’t know, Mr. Eisler walked away from a slick deal with St. Martin’s to pursue self-publishing, and CRH is the bestselling author who wrote “Pay it Forward.” The post helped calm me down and took away all my second thoughts (well, not all, but I’m working on them). That may sound dramatic, but I’ve always depended on the collaboration with a publisher and doing it alone for the first time ever after doing it with a publisher for twenty years can be scary. I’m also glad I found this post by CRH by accident. I’ve been a fan and I’ve read her book “Jumpstart The World.” It’s one of the best YA books I’ve ever read with LGBT content. It made me feel much better to know that someone I respect and admire is speaking about the Amazon indie self-publishing process, too.

I’ll keep posting more about the process of getting “Chase of a Lifetime” out next week. I’m shooting for a release of early next week. But I’m not committing to anything yet until I know the book is up and ready. But it will be up for sale sometime next week. It will be on Amazon for the first ninety days, and then I’ll decide whether or not I need to start distributing it anywhere else. I know there’s this mindset that all books should be distributed in as many places as authors can get them. (I’m a huge fan of sites like ARe and 1place for my purchases.) But I also know that most e-book sales do come from Amazon. At least that’s been my own personal experience, not hearsay. At the very least, I will probably try to get it up on the most popular romance sites where e-books are sold.

Can Gay News Networks Survive?

There’s an interesting article here, about whether or not gay news networks can survive the competition. It gets into niche markets, and whether there’s a large enough audience to turn a profit. I read between the lines and wondered about how many in the LGBT community are interested in reading gay news. And I’m also wondering about how many in the LGBT community are being turned off by gay news as well.

Whether corporate-run or one-man shops, the outlook for gay news blogs is that most of them are not turning a satisfying profit.

What’s going on over at Logo, with them focusing on more mainstream programming seems to be an indication that it’s not possible to turn a profit anymore with exclusive gay content. And I’m not sure that’s such a terrible thing. Haven’t we been working towards equality with the mainstream? I’m seeing more and more gay characters in mainstream programming all the time.

Again, there’s the question of how niche is too niche. Among the potential business-side problems for gay news sites:

One of those problems, which is explained in more detail in the article, is that it’s hard to get advertisers in these tight niche markets. Especially since a lot of these gay news oriented web sites are so focused on politics and news. I can tell you from my own experience as a blogger that this particular post won’t get that many hits no matter how much I promote it. But if I write a post about a gay porn star, or even a post about Levi Johnston posing nude in Playgirl, I’ll get thousands of hits in just one day. People want a balance between entertainment and news. It’s always been like that and this is not new to gay news markets.

Gay news sites may have a unique set of problems because of advertising hesitation. Still, their uncertain future may indicate that, even with a clearly defined niche market and a reliable audience, niche isn’t always the answer to capturing online revenue.

I would like to think that the LGBT community is interested in gay news. I know I am. I know all the gay people I come into contact with are. But I do think that gay news organizations need to stop being so focused on the typical gay agenda and start focusing on the many diverse sides of gay life. For example, not all gay men and women are liberal Democrats. That’s a fact, but the most liberal (and loudest voices) in the gay community fail to recognize this. So maybe it’s time to stop the focus on bashing conservatives and start listening to EVERYONE in the gay community. There’s an openly gay Republican, Fred Karger, running for President and making history and I’ve seen little about it anywhere in gay news. If we change the focus a little and include everyone, it might make a difference in profits when it comes to these niche markets…the niches might just grow a little.

Do We Care About How Literary Agents Feel?

There’s an interesting post over at Dystel & Goderich titled, “An Agent’s Responsibility.” It’s about Dara Lynn-Reiss, her book deal, and her article in Vogue. She’s the mom who allegedly used some pretty controversial methods while getting her seven year old to lose weight. I still don’t think there’s enough information out yet in order to form a strong opinion on this, at least not for me. I’d rather wait until the entire book is published and I’ve read it. I’m also a firm believer in not interfering with anyone else’s parenting skills. I’m not fond of hearsay either.

From the GalleyCat article:

The new book has the tentative title, The Heavy. David Kuhn from Kuhn Projects negotiated the deal with Marnie Cochran. The publisher described the book as “an experience that epitomizes the modern parenting ‘damned if you do/damned if you don’t’ predicament.”

I think the publisher’s description is something that would resonate with all parents nowadays. I see my own family dealing with issues like this on a daily basis. I have a nephew who is eleven and he has the potential to be overweight. My brother and his ex-wife work together to make him aware of this. It’s not always easy.

In these trying times of publishing, where self-published fanfic BDSM books are crossing into the mainstream and being dubbed as “Mommy Porn,” Jezebel is referring to the Vogue article as The Worst Vogue Article Ever.” I think Vogue’s worst article was when Hillary Clinton was running neck to neck with Barrack Obama and Vogue put up a piece about Bill Clinton having a new affair in order to sway the public against Hillary. We all know THAT wasn’t done by accident. So there’s very little about Vogue that would shock me anymore. They are in the business of selling magazines in a time when magazines are failing.

And then Mary Elizabeth Williams decided to chime in with her opinions. She raises some interesting points. I can just see the reviews and ratings popping up on goodreads when this book is published. I hope Ms. Lynn-Reiss is prepared for what is ahead of her. If she’s not, she’s in for an interesting learning experience.

Getting back to the original point. The Dystel & Goderich blog post questions whether or not agents have moral and ethical obligations with regard to various issues, and how they decide which projects to take on. I’m torn on this one. We’re living in trying times and the publishing industry is notoriously left wing liberal. They make no secret of this and never have. But not everyone in America is left wing liberal. And if agents are picking and choosing clients based on their own personal morals, ethics, and opinions, how fair is this to the reading public at large? And does this mean the public isn’t getting all the information and reading material they should be getting because the industry is swayed by personal opinions and people who don’t know how to be objective?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Evidently, an agent decided to take on Dara Lynn-Weiss as a client and he/she didn’t let the controversial subject matter get in the way of a good business deal with an eager publisher. I’m not saying this is right or wrong. But it does make me wonder if there might be a little room for more objectivity in the publishing industry all the way around. I wouldn’t hold it against an agent for repping a client or a book like this. At least not in this situation. But I might think twice about the business ethics of an agent who turned down a book deal because he/she felt uncomfortable repping something that was controversial. Not everything is about sweet happy endings and celestial choir angels singing up above while the heavens open wide, especially in non-fiction. There are many interesting and controversial topics out there I might not agree with, but I also hate to think about what I might be missing because a literary agent decided he/she didn’t personally agree with the subject matter.

Something Indie: Creative Consciousness and More…

The Amazon page to which I’m linking contains the self-published work of a writer I know personally, Curt von Dornheim. I used to edit for him when I was still taking on clients on a selected basis. We became good friends after that and his work has been very inspirational for me, both in private and professionally as a writer.

I’m linking because I know his work…both fiction and non-fiction…and I always enjoyed editing it. The non-fiction is sort of spiritual new age without getting too deep or too complicated in technical jargon. It’s more feel good reading about self-esteem than it is fact based on research. He’s more than qualified to do this. He’s a retired minister and he ran a “Creative Consciousness” workshop in Key West for many years. I met him when he moved back up north and settled in New Hope because he wanted to be closer to doctors in Philadelphia and New York.

His fiction is m/m with a POV from an older gay man. It’s not erotic and it’s more focused on the love and emotion than the sex. “The Wings of Fate” is my favorite, which you can find on Amazon, I think, as a free download if you belong to that Amazon Kindle club thing. But all of his indie e-books are priced very fairly and I know the content is good because I’ve read them all.

He’s also very well read, in both non-fiction and fiction. I saw someone on a social network the other night make a blank statement that you don’t have to be a good reader to be a good writer. I disagree completely. If you don’t read good fiction you’re not going to know how to write good fiction. I’m not talking about content and subjective subject matter now. I’m talking about the techniques of crafting fiction and the more physical aspects. To say you don’t need to be a good reader to write good fiction is like trying to open up a high end retail store without ever having been inside Gucci. It just won’t work, and only time and experience teaches people things like this…the things that can’t be learned in a classroom.

The only thing I can’t promise with Curt’s books is the quality. And that’s because I didn’t do the copy editing nor did I help him get the books out on Amazon. He started doing this about a year after I told him I just didn’t have time anymore for freelance clients. So in this respect, with regard to quality and editing, I can’t make any promises. I haven’t read the self-published e-books up on Amazon. I’ve only read the raw manuscripts. And I know from my own experience with Amazon Kindle publishing sometimes words and “things” get mixed up during the conversion. But I do look at it this way: in Curt’s case, even if there are a few mistakes in editing they aren’t going to be huge, and the content is well worth the effort. You’re going to take away a lot more than if you read a bad book without any mistakes.

Joan Rivers and Bethenny Frankel: Gay Men Aren’t Pet Poodles

(Update to post: You can see how much reality TV I watch. I was informed I spelled Ms. Frankel’s name wrong. I will make that change. If I missed one, please forgive my grave error.)

Poodles and gay men are two of the most misrepresented groups in the world. When most people think about poodles, they think about prissy, high-strung dogs who yap all the time and prance around in silly haircuts and rhinestone collars. When most people think about gay men they think about what they’ve seen on TV shows and films like “Sex in the City,” where every strong woman has at least one effeminate gay friend to hang out with. Trust me on this, poodles are nothing like that and neither are gay men. I have two poodles and the reason why I have them is because they are one of the smartest, strongest breeds out there. I used to show Irish Setters in obedience. I got tired of losing and got myself a poodle. Whenever I stepped into a ring and I saw either a poodle or a German Shepperd I knew I was screwed. Poodles can also be as vicious as Pit Bulls, and they prefer to be outside catching snakes instead of inside on fluffy pillows. And, like gay men, if you cross a poodle not only will he snap back fast but he’ll never forget you crossed him.

But this isn’t about dogs. A few things prompted this post. The first was a comment I read a few weeks ago by an older gay author and book reviewer whom I admire a great deal. He read an article where someone asked Joan Collins how she feels about gay men and she allegedly replied by saying something about how much she loves gay men and never likes to go anywhere without one. The gay male author I admire posted something like this in reply: “Why do I now feel like a pet poodle.”

Another reason why I’m posting about this is because I was asked to participate in a TV reality show a few weeks ago. A producer in Hollywood contacted one of my publishers and asked if she could recommend someone. My publisher recommended me and the producer contacted me right away. From what I gather, it’s a reality show about romance authors…romance authors in general, not just m/m romance authors. I answered a few questions, replied nicely, and spent a lot of time thinking about this reality show over that weekend. Ultimately, after I answered the basic questions, before it went any further, I declined and thanked the producer for considering me. I did this partly because I’m a writer, not a TV personality and I love what I do as a writer. I also declined because I’ve seen the way these reality shows represent gay men…very poorly…and I didn’t want to wind up as someone’s pet poodle. I think you feminists out there can relate to this with regard to beauty pageants, and the way women have always been represented (or misrepresented) in beauty pageants. I was never a fan of beauty pageants for this reason. It’s basically the same reason why I declined on the reality show.

The main reason why I’m writing about this now is because Tony and I accidentally watched two reality shows on TV this week I rarely ever have time to watch. One was a show by someone I’d never even heard of until I watched the show and googled her name: Bethenny Frankel. The show is about Bethenny Frankel’s life (a reality TV diva from what I gather), in general, with the same quasi reality theme all these shows have…even though it all looks completely staged and there isn’t an ounce of reality to it.

But there was nothing else on, so we didn’t switch the channel. In one scene, Bethenny and an older woman with a very negative attitude go shopping. And guess where they go? That’s right. To the gay guys who own a posh high end furniture gallery in New York. I think Ms. Frankel even commented about how much she loves to visit her “boys,” (meaning her gay male friends) on her way into the gallery. This scene mirrored every single offensive “Sex in the City” scene with gay men being treated like women…just one of the girls…I’d ever witnessed. Tony and I watched for a few minutes, rolled our eyes, and promptly changed the channel. You have to understand where we are coming from. Tony was a corporate executive who traveled the world for twenty years until he started his own company. He worked with strong women in corporate and they always treated each other with mutual respect. No one, trust me on this, ever treated Tony the way Ms. Frankel treated the gay guys who owned that store in New York. If they had, they wouldn’t have been able to speak for a month (smile).

And Ms. Frankel’s show wasn’t even that bad, at least not considering other shows I’ve seen. I wouldn’t even be writing this post if I hadn’t watched the Joan Rivers, “Joan and Melissa” show last night. Again, Tony flipped to the channel by accident and we wound up watching something we normally wouldn’t watch. I’m a fan of Joan Rivers. She’s been around for a long time and I respect her survival instincts. Of course I believe her show is as much about reality as I believe the candidates running for President right now. But it’s not a bad show either; I like bologna. Some of the lines are hysterical. I was enjoying it…and then the classic gay guy pet poodle came on and Tony and I wound up rolling our eyes again. In Joan’s show, the gay guy is a middle aged comic who opens for Joan before she goes on and does her act. I’m sure he’s paid well for what he does. He’s just one of the girls, which is classic in regard to how reality TV shows and Hollywood have been treating gay men for years. In last night’s show, this guy put on his make up and went to a bachelorette party with all the women, and Joan actually referred to him as the “sister” she always wanted to have. Evidently, he doesn’t mind this at all.

Now I do know this is a combination of generation gap and money. Joan comes from a time when the only openly gay men were the most effeminate and enjoyed being treated like pet poodles…for a buck. Again, I’m not knocking these guys because they did what they had to do to survive in a world where there weren’t LGBT rights. No one talked about diversity and tolerance back then. In some ways, it’s still like that to this day and we, as gay men, have a long way to go in the self-esteem department. Joan also knows how to get a laugh and what people will laugh at. And gay men behaving like prissy women are right up there at the top of the funny ha-ha list in stand up comedy. They all do this; it’s not exclusive to Joan Rivers. And we all know there is no limit to how far anyone will go when it comes to making money.

The most interesting thing about all this is that some of the most powerful gay men in Hollywood were not openly gay and they were not treated like pet poodles. Joan Rivers and Bethenny Frankel wouldn’t have treated Rock Hudson or Merv Griffin that way. I do know that there are, indeed, gay men who like to be treated like one of the girls. I’m not slamming them in this post and I really don’t care how they choose to live their lives. I want to make it clear that I’m not discriminating against them. It’s just that I often wonder where the Al Sharpton hero is for the gay male community when someone does or says something offensive with regard to gay men. I’ve always been the first one to laugh at myself. I wrote about a burping dick once and I’ve been writing parodies for years. I think I have a sense of humor. But I also think it’s time that we stop laughing at gay men the same way we have stopped laughing at people of African descent, or Asian descent, or any descent for that matter. I don’t like it when things get PC and people have to stand on guard constantly. But there should be some lines drawn so all gay men aren’t misrepresented and exploited to the mainstream public in such obvious ways. We’re fighting for some serious rights and we need to be taken seriously in order to get them. I feel strongly about this with regard to the way women are treated, too. I just don’t comment about it often because I’m not a woman and I don’t feel I have the right to do this.

I’m also no one’s pet poodle. Neither is my partner, Tony. I would rather go to a funeral than suffer through a bride’s bachelorette party…even if Joan Rivers was paying me to do it. Just the thought of going to a bachelorette party makes me want to scratch my nuts and spit on the sidewalk in retaliation. I’m not one of Bethenny Frankel’s “boys.” I don’t like to shop, arrange flowers, or pick out fabrics. I like fast cars, straight vodka, and a good cigar every once in a while. I like sex with men, but that doesn’t make me a woman. I don’t like to gossip, shop for anything, or listen to Broadway show tunes. I know more than a handful of gay men who are just like me and feel the same way I do. And for every single gay man who doesn’t mind being treated like a pet poodle…or who is willing to be treated like one for money…there are at least ten more who wouldn’t allow it to happen.

AnthonyLAND: Blogger Anthony Romero

A reader passed me a link to this blogger and I wanted to mention him in a quick post. Before I get into his blog, I’d like to state that this is not for the faint of heart (smile.) The blog contains explicit adult content, so if you’re only interested in schmaltzy m/m romance (which I do love at times), this might not be the web site for you. Or, if you feel superior and you like to turn gay men into toy poodles and call the “boys,” as I know some do, stick with the fake gay stuff that’s out there.

But if you are interested in all things gay male oriented, from literary novels published by fine companies like Cleis Press to the wonderful m/m romances you might find at 1placeforromance.com or Allromanceebooks.com, and you are open to all aspects of gay male culture without passing judgment or feeling superior and quasi literary (had to get that shot in, and only because I see so much bullshit about these quasi “literary” types who don’t even have clue 🙂 then by all means check out AnthonyLAND. You will not be disappointed.

This blog, as I remember it in the beginning, is what blogging is really supposed to be about. It was created by Anthony Romero, and this is what his profile says:

“Model, performer, lovable jackass. Anything I say can and will be used against you.”

His posts range from his own erotic videos to a few great personal posts about his life. He writes about his diet and his work outs. One post in particular I read recently was about how disappointed he was with a recent dog boarding experience. I have two dogs, and his post resonated with me because it is the exact reason why I NEVER board my dogs or trust anyone with them.

I’d also like to add that the reader who sent me his link also sent me an attachment of a short erotic story Anthony wrote. It was absolutely excellent. His fiction is what gay fiction is, and should be, all about. Not only is the natural writing talent there, with room to be nurtured, the voice and tone of his material surpassed anything erotic I’ve read in a long time. I hope he continues to write and pursue getting his fiction published. I think we need more guys like him writing gay fiction to keep the genre both alive and authentic, and I’d be willing to bet most of my serious readers would agree with me.

Here’s an excerpt from one post about his diet and workout routine, and the photo above is the example he’s talking about.

Some of the things I say come from my own experience and research, but by no means are the only right way. I take no responsibility for anyone hurting him or herself. Take everything you read here and anywhere with a grain of salt; however, while I may not be a professional, I do have a bit of knowledge (here’s proof 😉