Month: April 2013

Anne Rice Responds to Open Letter; Gay Relationship Advice from Friends; Power of "I Don’t Know"

This is the last post about the Anne Rice incident for a while, but since she responded to an open letter someone wrote with regard to a recent incident involving a blogger and Rice’s fans, I figured I would follow up.

And the simplest way to do that is to provide this link to Rice’s facebook page where she posted a link to the open letter and asked her fans to remain civil with their comments.

It’s interesting to note some of those comments on Rice’s facebook page, because it shows how people have various impressions of how authors/readers should react to reviews. I’ve always believed authors shouldn’t react in public at all…unless of course the reviewer spells the author’s name wrong, or gets something factually wrong with the book.

Rice makes this comment on facebook:

One comment I’d like to make: publishing an extended negative criticism of a a book or a person on the internet is not a private act. It’s a public act. Perhaps sometimes bloggers forget this. Yes, in our culture everyone is entitled to have an opinion and express that opinion on just about everything; and when you make your opinions public, well, sometimes people are going to disagree with you. That is to be expected.

I don’t have any strong opinions about this. It’s the author/reader’s choice to react any way they want (or not react), and I’m not going to tell anyone how to do that.  Because that would fall under the category of none of my business.

Gay Relationship Advice from Friends

I found this article interesting because I often get e-mails asking me for advice about gay relationships, and sometimes I have trouble responding. And that’s because all relationships are different, all people are different, and everyone’s circumstances are different. The best I can do is relate with my own personal experiences with my partner of twenty years.  

But what about taking advice from friends? That’s even more interesting because in my personal life I have basically stopped giving out advice to friends. And the main reason for this is because my advice is always so good, and so right, I get annoyed when people don’t take it. I’m only joking around, of course. But I have learned that unless someone asks for my advice, I keep it to myself. Most of the time people are going to do what they want to do and any advice people give them will go in one ear and right out the other…me included.

But what happens when you fall for someone you never expected, and things are far more complicated then you ever thought they would be? If our friends are there for us they will understand that the person they aren’t too keen on is the person that makes us the happiest. You may think your friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend is the biggest idiot/prick/your favourite insult in the world, but it doesn’t hurt (that much) to whack a smile on and try.

I can’t even tell you how many times that’s happened to me. And I have learned, trust me, whack on that smile and try because if your friend is in love with an asshole there’s nothing you’re going to do to change that. And if this is a good friend, you’ll have to remain silent until he or she realizes they are with an asshole. That’s what usually happens.

You can read more here.

Power of “I Don’t Know”

In this NYT article by Tim Kreider, the concept of not knowing everything is discussed in a way I think all authors can relate to at one point or another. Especially if you’ve ever done one of those blogtalk interviews alone. When you write about something, you’re automatically considered an expert on the topic, and everyone expects you to know all the answers. The problem with that is no one knows all the answers…I could be snarky here but I won’t…and sometimes it’s better to be honest and say, “I don’t know.”

Whenever someone writes to take me politely to task over some unfair generalization, self-contradiction or unexamined blind spot, my riposte is usually something along the lines of: “Hm, yeah, I guess you have a point there.” I don’t always agree with me; I certainly don’t expect everyone else to.

You can get there from here. Although, I have to admit that sometimes it can be very entertaining to ask a so-called expert his or her opinion, knowing full well they don’t have the slightest clue, and watch them circle the airport so to speak. Very rarely will you find someone honest enough to actually say, “I don’t know.” Just watch any politician in Washington respond to a question about healthcare.

NBA Jason Collins Comes Out of the Closet: Cubs Support Him

NBA star Jason Collins coming out of the closet is significant because it’s the first time an active gay male professional athlete in the US has ever done this. I honestly didn’t know that until now. I thought Billy Bean had done it a while ago, but from what I can see he came out after he stopped playing baseball, not during.

Collins makes this announcement in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated:

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins says a first-person article. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

Someone has to be first, because I’m certain he’s not the only gay person active in professional sports right now…or in the past. In doing this, and in being so open and honest about it, he’s helping to take away the shame all gay people have been living with for so long. I’m hoping others will follow him and they will stop hiding. And I’m not saying this to single anyone out as gay, or as different. But in doing this men like Collins will help make being gay mean nothing in the future. And being gay will be as normal and accepted as being straight.

In this article, it states the Cubs have been supportive of Collins.

“I think it’s kind of a benign thing,” second baseman Darwin Barney said. “Everyone is connected (to the gay community) in some way, whether it’s a family member or a friend. I have family members that are (gay). That’s the way of life and I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal. I think he’ll be protected just fine and I (wish) the best for him.”

I think this comment from Barney is reflective of the way a lot of people feel nowadays. Others have been just as supportive, including former President Clinton.

“Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities.”

This is a huge event in gay history. I think when people like Collins do things like this it also helps other closeted gay people realize they aren’t as alone as they think they are, they aren’t as odd as they think they are, and they aren’t the only ones who have weathered the storm so to speak.

Maybe Hollywood will follow the same pattern eventually.

You can read more here.

Book Reviewer Attacked by Anne Rice Fans; Catholic School Fires Gay Teacher

A small blogger recently wrote a less than stellar book review for Anne Rice’s Pandora, and when Rice found out about this review she mentioned it on social media and Anne Rice fans ran to her defense creating the kind of firestorm that has caused many bloggers to rethink their comment policy. There’s even a familiar voice to the m/m romance community on the comment thread.

When the blogger/reviewer compared Rice to Stephanie Meyer in the review, one person lashed out with such a vituperative (I love that word) attack, wishing the blogger would get herpes, even I held my breath. And I’ve seen a lot, but I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone wish an STD on a book reviewer.

What makes this review even more interesting is that the reviewer literally chopped the book up, which created yet another topic to discuss on the comment thread.

Last night, I took a craft knife to Anne Rice’s Pandora and I took out every page. I was left with the gutted remains of the cover itself and threw that away. It’s the first time I have ever desecrated a book in such a way and I can’t deny that it wasn’t made all the more enjoyable by how much I really and truly loathed that book.

In an interesting twist, the blogger was remiss in mentioning that she’d already planned to do a craft project with a book, and she rectified this in an update to the post after Rice posted all this on social media and her fans went berserk. In other words, the blogger didn’t start out with the intention of hacking up an Anne Rice book. It just wound up that way, and she posted photos, too…before and after!!

It’s a shame people don’t know that publishers recycle print books all the time. And publishers don’t make pretty boxes out of them like the blogger did. One person pointed this out on the thread, but it didn’t seem to get much attention.

This all reminds me of the third grade. We had a teacher…Miss Clifford…who was the consummate small town spinster of her day. She wore her hair in a bun at the back of her head, half glasses on the end of her nose, and pencil skirts that kept her knees locked together at all times. Miss Clifford was the crafty type. We made Christmas trees out of cardboard and Ivory Snow, Santas out of poster board and velour paper, and what she could do with macaroni and Elmer’s glue would make you scream. And once, we even made a Christmas bell out of used copies of the Reader’s Digest through a primitive form of origami. Photo above to prove it. This is the actual bell and why I saved it I don’t have a clue.

You can read the blog post I’m talking about in full, here.

Catholic School Fires Gay Teacher

When I read things like this about a gay teacher in a Catholic school who was fired because someone read she was a lesbian in her mom’s obituary, the post about Anne Rice and the reviewer above don’t seem quite as important. Frankly, after reading this about the school teacher, I don’t really care if the blogger wiped her behind with Rice’s book, Pandora.

From what I’ve gathered so far, this is not a gay teacher who walked around carrying rainbow flags and equal rights signs. She taught there for years and no one ever questioned her until her mother died and the obit was published.

Physical education teacher Carla Hale, 57, was fired in March after her name appeared in her mother’s obituary, which also noted Hale’s longtime lesbian partner.

You see what I mean. And this isn’t something new. For those who don’t take what it is like for gay people this far, obituaries have been a long standing issue with gay people, and it’s only recently where gay people have been mentioning their partners in public. Just think about the magnitude of that for a moment. Someone in your family passes away, and you can’t even name your partner/spouse in the obit for fear of backlash like what this teacher is now dealing with.

The main reason Hale was fired, after this obit came out, is astounding, especially coming from the Catholic church.

Hale was subsequently dismissed from Bishop Watterson Catholic High School after 19 years of service, with the school citing a morality provision in the contract between teachers and the diocese.

You can read more here.

David Gaughran Discusses Lit Agents, Self-publishing, and Argo Navis

I’ve been busy with deadlines for publishers so I haven’t posted anything on self-publishing for a while, and I thought this article by David Gaughran on Lit Agents, self-publishing, and Argo Navis was something newsworthy for my blog readers who are interested in self-publishing. What is even more interesting is the comment thread that follows this article, and the various reactions from people who either support Gaughran or don’t think he’s quite on target.

I left a comment of my own, which I rarely do in cases like this. But there’s so much hidden misrepresentation lately about self-publishing I didn’t feel right not adding something about my own experiences. I know a lot of you are curious about self-publishing, and how much it will cost you is a huge factor.

Please note that Gaughran isn’t talking about all lit agents; just a few, and he lists them in the article. The gist of the article discusses how some agents are using Argo Navis as a sort of self-publishing service, and he offers examples of AN’s *interesting* terms. Gaughran suggests that these agents are lazy. I have to admit I’d already read an article about AN, and how author David Mamet will be self-publishing with them, earlier this week. I didn’t post about that because I was as disappointed as Gaughran when I heard Mamet would be using AN, through his agent, and I actually just dismissed the whole thing. And this excerpt below from Gaughran’s article is one of the reasons why I dismissed the thought of entertaining Argo Navis for longer than a second or two:

Essentially, Argo Navis are a distributor. They offer a portal through which authors’ work can be distributed to all the various retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo.

In exchange for this relatively trivial service, Argo Navis take a 30% cut. You read that right. After the retailer takes their standard cut (usually also 30%), Argo Navis take another 30% before passing on payments.

Interesting. He’s right. It is trivial. I know because I’ve done it myself. And it’s not worth 30%. For those who don’t know, I self-pubbed a few books last year from the ground up, without a self-publishing service of any kind. I’ve posted a lot about it, and here’s just one.  I mention this because one of the reasons I decided to self-pub in the first place was because I wanted control over certain aspects of my books I could only get through self-publishing. And one of those things was pricing. And if you think that price doesn’t matter with e-books, you’d better think again. Especially when it comes to impulse shoppers. If I had gone with a publishing service like Argo Navis I wouldn’t have been able to offer my e-books at .99. It would have been impossible with a 30% cut.

In any event, the one thing I found in the comment thread with Gaughran’s article was that those who don’t seem to agree with Gaughran point out examples that really don’t make much sense to me. It’s kind of like this: hey these are good guys, they aren’t lazy, they have good reputations, so don’t be so mean to them. Really? We’re talking about books, money, readers, and business here, not where we are going to hold the next church picnic. On the other hand, the comments from those who agree with Gaughran seem to be solid examples based on good, practical business standards, not emotion.

It’s an excellent article, the comments are informative, and I suggest reading it in full if you’re considering self-publishing. I’d also like to mention that self-pubbed authors like me are always ready to help with advice if we can. You’re not alone out there. We’ve been through the trenches so to speak and we know what it’s like to not understand something. And the odds are any *true* self-published author will be willing to help you answer those questions if he or she can. Some of us might even be starting our own self-publishing services sooner than later just to offset some of the nonsense that’s going on with places like AN. And we won’t screw you over and take 30%. That I can promise.

Zach Braff Raises 2 Million on Kickstarter; Josh Radnor’s Nude Photos

When I read this article about Zach Braff raising 2 million dollars on kickstarter I thought about a few of the previous posts I’ve written on kickstarter and the projects associated with them. Up until now, I didn’t even know anyone with the kind of presence Zach Braff has was doing kickstarter. This link will lead you to three posts I wrote in case you’re not familiar with kickstarter. I honestly don’t know how these previous projects worked out, or if the people did raise the money they needed, and I haven’t seen any follow up info to go along with them.

It didn’t catch fire quite as fast as the Veronica Mars movie, but Zach Braff‘s Kickstarter to create a follow-up to Garden State reached its $2 million goal in short order.

On Saturday, the Scrubs star’s project, titled Wish I Was Here, hit $2 million in funding thanks to over 28,000 backers listed on the crowdfunding website.

He’s also doing some interesting things for those who did contribute, which you can read more about here.

Although there are some things about kickstarter that make me wonder, for the most part I think it’s an interesting way to fund an artistic venture. It reminds me of the old, old days when wealthy dowagers would become patrons of the arts. Only this time, with the influence of the Internet and such high exposure, everyone can be a patron of the arts now. I would imagine the secret is to get the word out there if you don’t have the kind of presence Zach Braff has.

Josh Radnor’s Nude Photos

It seems as if Josh Radnor has jumped onto the proverbial bang wagon and now he’s the subject of a nude photo issue. When I saw this earlier today, I have to admit I was a little stunned because I just saw his latest film, “Liberal Arts,” last night (I loved it) and he played such an upstanding respectable part. He looked great in the film, too, with his scruffy beard, and it’s hard to believe he’s 38 years old. He really doesn’t look a day older than thirty…if that.

Celebrities and nude photo scandals seem to go hand-in-hand. The 38-year-old actor’s nude photos were leaked online through hacked phone on Friday (April 26, 2013) and spread across the internet like wildfire. “The FBI is aware of the alleged hacking incident and is looking into it,” an FBI official told the press.

The phone hacking part freaked me out a little. Like they can’t leave the poor guy alone for a minute. What is interesting…and I highly suggest you check out the link…is that Josh’s nude photos aren’t like any other nude celeb photos you’ve seen before. I found them tasteful and elegant. And I wouldn’t have a problem hanging one in my own living room.

Josh Radnor photo attribution, here.

Blogger "50 A Year" Review: Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey

I found a new blogger I love and the blog is titled “50 A Year.” What this means is she tackled 50 books last year, and has decided to do this all over again this year. I like blogs with themes like this, because I’ve always believed this is what personal blogging was intended to be in the first place when it first entered the arena. This one reminds me of a literary version of Julie Powell’s blog about Julia Child, where Powell took on the job of cooking everything from Child’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days.

In this case the blogger is taking on fiction in a year’s time, and she’s done an interesting review of the book Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey that’s an analysis of the novel Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s an interesting review to me because I wrote an essay for FWoFSoG and my piece was focused on how so many in the BDSM world did NOT accept the book very well…all for valid reasons that made sense to anyone in the BDSM lifestyle. Some were vehemently insulted. On the other hand, I also mentioned that I liked FSoG because it was written in a way that expresses common usage more than classic literary merit. I don’t know how else to put that either. And, I know very little about the BDSM lifestyle. Or at least I knew very little until FSoG hit the shelves.

The one thing FSoG has done is put BDSM out there in the mainstream for discussion. It’s so prominent now that my post before this one discussed the differences between rough sex and BDSM. And I never would have guessed I’d be writing a post like that a year ago. You can get there from here.   The only reason I wrote the post was to show that BDSM is, indeed, a lifestyle and an art form. And the book FWoFSoG wasn’t a book designed to praise the novel FSoG, but to analyze it and call out the strong points as well as the weak points.

But when all is said and done, FSoG appealed to the masses in ways that no book has done for a very long time. And I firmly believe this had a lot to do with the fact that the book wasn’t a literary masterpiece from an elitist POV. In any event, I don’t have the link right now, but FSoG did so well for the publisher the success trickled down to bonuses for editors who don’t make all that much money. And, I might ad, without blockbuster hits like FSoG in the publishing industry, there wouldn’t be enough money to publish those elitist literary books that are supposedly well-written and that win awards. If the publishing industry depended only on good taste, they’d be out of business in a year’s time. Think Snookie and “Gorilla Beach.”

But I digress. This is a great review with good insights. You can get there from here, and below is an excerpt from the review. I think it brings up some valid points and I recommend reading it, especially if you didn’t like FSoG. I have to agree with the reviewer, too. At first I didn’t think FSoG warranted that much analysis either. I really didn’t, and I hesitated a while before I agreed to do the essay for FWoFSoG. However, each essay is different, each is written from a different POV, and my essay talked about how so many other reviewers felt less than thrilled about the actual BDSM aspects. And this review talks about all this in more detail.

Second, another of the writers made the point that, however sexually liberating the book may be, it also encourages toxic relationships. Sure, you can have mind-blowing sex, but it comes hand in hand with stalking, emotional manipulation and a total lack of mutual respect.

Is Rough Sex Considered BDSM? A Rough Scene from Fangsters

Whether or not rough sex is considered BDSM is not always simple to define in a few sentences, and that’s because there are so many broad generalizations out there you can go blind trying to compare one to the other. And I want to state up front that’s not what I’m trying to do in this post. The only reason why I’m going near the topic right now is because of e-mails I’ve been receiving from readers who wanted to know my opinion. Without going into details or linking to anyone specific, something did spark this discussion recently and I thought it necessary to talk about it in a general, clinical sense.

But I want to make it clear that I’m not an expert, I’m not into the BDSM lifestyle personally, and I only know about BDSM from research I’ve done for a few books I’ve written that contained BDSM. And even then I’ve only written a few, like Jonah Sweet of Delancey Street. In that particular case I had to do research (G-rated; academic; not actual hands-on, so to speak) with someone I knew who was into the BDSM scene and has his own “playroom.” I’ve also done extensive research for an essay I wrote on BDSM in the non-fiction book, Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. So while I’m not personally into the scene, I do know a little about it from an outsider’s POV.

This is how Wiki defines BDSM:

BDSM represents a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, role-playing, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who don’t consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community and/or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Interest in BDSM can range from one-time experimentation to a lifestyle, and there is debate[by whom?] over whether a BDSM or kink sexual identity also constitutes a form of sexual orientation.

I would suggest reading the entire article in full to get the most basic concept. It’s clinical, it’s impersonal, but it’s accurate from what I can tell.

It’s a very broad topic with a lot of gray area for those who are not really into the scene/lifestyle, and yet for those who are there are fundamental aspects that can’t be ignored. And I make no claims to define anything relating to BDSM right now. I wrote my books that contained BDSM with great care to make sure I followed the rules of those who are into the lifestyle. So far I haven’t seen any reviews that slammed it, and that was my biggest worry when those books were released, especially Jonah Sweet. It’s also why I don’t write about BDSM very often. I feel comfortable with the topic, but I don’t feel comfortable with my own lack of personal experience with BDSM. In the same respect, I’ve never been a fan of that old saying, “Write what you know.”

I do, however, think there is a difference between what’s considered BDSM and rough sex. To imply that there isn’t would be an insult to those who are into the BDSM lifestyle, and an insult to those who aren’t into BDSM but like rough sex. Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing a lot of confusion about this for a while now by those who speak without thinking, and I wanted to discuss it just so I have a point of reference where I can guide people when they e-mail me.

When I think of rough sex, like a scene I wrote in Fangsters: Clan of the Jersey Boys, I don’t think along the lines of BDSM or the lifestyle. If I were thinking along those lines I would make it clear and I would explain that it is BDSM just so it would be clear to readers that I’m not insulting those who are into BDSM and the lifestyle. As I said, I’ve written about this before and I’m not a complete idiot on the topic. You don’t have to know how to bake to enjoy a good cake. I found the reseach fascinating and I have absolute respect for those into the lifestyle. In the same respect, I also know that people engage in rough, pleasurable sex play without the structured elements of BDSM, and it’s usually something that just happens without talking, explaining, or getting into any detailed rules or regulations. At the most basic level, rough sex is NOT a lifestyle. Sometimes it just happens. As a side note, it can happen in bad ways, too. But I’m not getting into that because it’s off topic. I’m talking about people who enjoy rough sex, and where no discussion is needed to enjoy it.

Here’s a pg rated excerpt of a rough scene from Fangsters that’s not actually BDSM. Fangster is not now, nor has it ever been a BDSM book. Once again, I want to make that clear to readers: Fangsters is not a BDSM book. Take into consideration this is happening between two vampires and not real people, it’s been clearly established in the book that these vampires do get rough sometimes because of their superhuman strength, but never is it mentioned once they are into the BDSM lifestyle because that would be insulting people who are into BDSM:

Digger had always been easy to manage in this respect. Anton slapped him, punched him, pulled his hair, and lifted his bottom half off the bed. He choked him a few times and twisted his head. Digger didn’t speak much aloud, but he didn’t complain about being handled in such a rough way either. By the way he moaned and sighed, as if he couldn’t catch his breath at certain points, no one would have thought he was experiencing anything other than pleasure. Though all this only took five or six minutes, Anton caught a glimpse of Leo watching them in action, with one hand on his chest and the other over his mouth. The poor guy looked as if he’d gone into shock.

Notice how I underlined that one sentence above. Now, anyone can see that the evil vampire Digger is not in pain and he’s not suffering. He’s a vampire; he can’t feel pain and suffering like humans, which is also established in the book. That’s plain and simple. Did I need to talk about this and refer to this scene as BDSM? I could have played it safe and done that. But would that have been overkill? I don’t think it would have been authentic to a paranormal book, and I don’t think people who are into the BDSM lifestyle would have been happy about that. BDSM is real; the lifestyle is real. The character, Leo, who is watching, is only in shock because he doesn’t even know these two are vampires yet. He’s also very submissive and this is explained well in the book, too. I don’t consider this BDSM. I don’t think anyone who understands the basic fundamentals of BDSM would consider this BDSM. I consider this rough sex with vampires. And this aspect of rough sex, though I won’t go into detail about it here, is something I do know from personal experience. It happens sometimes. It’s not planned and there are no discussions about consent. And it has about as much to do with BDSM as a lifestyle as Mary Poppins.

In this article I found on the topic of the difference between rough sex and BDSM, the author explains it this way in a piece actually titled, BDSM Is Not Rough Sex.

In BDSM nothing happens during a session that hasn’t been discussed first. there are rules and regulations. Wynter describes what she does as a ‘craft’, anyone interested exploring BDSM should go back to school.

As you can see, BDSM is a far more complicated topic with rules and I would even go so far as to say it’s an art. And the one thing I learned from my experience in doing research about BDSM is that I never want to disrespect the people who are into the lifestyle because I also think of it as an art. I don’t paint or sculpt, and I think of that as art. I feel the same way about BDSM. I don’t do it, but I appreciate the art form. The problem is there are too many who don’t understand what BDSM is all about.

In this next article to which I’m linking, the author seems to get angry that people consider BDSM and rough sex the same thing. She gives good examples, and states why she gets frustrated about it because she’s not into BDSM and she is a fan of rough sex. I can’t post any examples here because of copyright violations. But I really do think this article is worth reading in full if you aren’t sure about the difference between rough sex and BDSM. You will have to sign up, but it only takes a minute and it’s just basic info. It’s worth the time.

And one of the reasons why it’s important to know the difference between rough sex and BDSM is because books like Fifty Shades of Grey have popped up recently and people who know nothing about BDSM have suddenly become ten cent experts. They think a slap on the bottom is BDSM, or a twist of the neck is BDSM, and it’s far more involved than that. The problem is they know nothing at all, and FSoG is NOT the book on which to base any serious BDSM examples. In fact, the topic of my essay in Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey talks about this in more detail, and how people into the BDSM lifestyle were insulted by FSoG.

And then, sometimes, you just have to use your own good instincts and common sense. I do think most people know the difference between rough sex and BDSM, and I wanted to add that so I don’t insult them as well. It’s not a topic I ever thought I’d have to get into here on this blog, but sometimes things come up in this Internet age and you just have to address them for the sake of clarity…and piece of mind. I welcome any comments from anyone into BDSM. All comments are treated with discretion and absolute privacy.